Order for Second Reading read.
On a point of order. May I raise with you, Mr. Speaker, the question whether this Bill, which purports to be a consolidation Bill is, in fact, a consolidation Bill as all? It purports to consolidate three Acts of Parliament, the 1944, 1946 and 1950 Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Acts, and each one of the Bill which came before the House for the passage of those Acts contained a Clause providing that the Bill, when law, might be cited as the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Act. It would, of course, have been possible for the House to have amended the Title of each one of those Bills during its passage through the House, but this House did not do so, in the belief, no doubt, that those were the correct Titles of those Bills.I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that every Section of an Act of Parliament either makes or declares the law, and that the Section of an Act which declares how the Act may be cited is as much law or any other part of that Act. In a consolidation Bill it is not, I submit, possible to alter the law in any respect; or rather, I should say, it was not possible to alter the law in any respect until the passage of the Consolidation of Enactments Act which we passed quite recently. That Act, as you will remember, Mr. Speaker, gave power during the process of consolidation to make minor amendments with a view of ironing out minor anomalies. This so-called consolidation Bill, however, does not come, as I understand it, under the procedure of that Act—the Consolidation of Enactments Act—and purports to be made under the preceding legislation. Therefore, I would submit that, if it is to be a consolidation Bill, it must not alter the law in any respect whatsoever. My submission is that this Bill, although described as a consolidation Bill, is not one in fact, because it alters the Title—it alters the law by altering the Title, by applying to those three Acts when joined together a completely new Title, which someone had the bright idea would be a better Title for those three Acts—to a Title which has in no sense been considered in the House during the passage of any one of those Bills. That sort of bright idea this House should have had the opportunity of considering. My submission is that, for those reasons, this is not a consolidation Bill at all, and so should not be treated as one. Alternatively—and it is on this point I should also be glad to have your guidance, Mr. Speaker—if, notwithstanding this alteration, this is, in your view, still a consolidation Bill, then I submit that, from that Ruling, it must follow that a change in the Title of a Bill does not change the law, although of course, it will change the effect of a Section in each one of those Acts; and if it does not change the law—if what has been done does not change the law—then I submit it should be open to any Member of this House, notwithstanding the usual rules with regard to consolidation which are set out in Erskine May, to move an Amendment to restore the old Title. If the alteration in the Title has been made in the process of consolidation, that does not, surely, alter the law. Surely it cannot be contended that any amendment to the Title will alter the law. I should be grateful for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on that point. My main submission is that the change which has been made has effected an alteration in the law. If it has not, it is not very easy to know exactly what it has done. I submit that this is not a consolidation Bill, and that it should proceed as an ordinary Bill, although for my part, if it did proceed in that fashion, I should be prepared to give it a Second Reading without debate.
The hon. and learned Member has asked me whether this Bill is a pure consolidation Bill. This Bill comes from another place and has been before a Joint Committee of both Houses, whose Report was unanimous that the Bill was pure consolidation and represents the existing law. Their view, therefore, purports to be that this is a consolidation Bill, and at this stage we must accept that. Accordingly, all that is in order on Second Reading is whether or not the law should be consolidated. I would, however, point out to the hon. and learned Member that, as stated on pages 524 and 525 of Erskine May, he can put down an Amendment and endeavour to satisfy the Chairman of the Committee that it is in order. All I rule today is that the Bill purports to be pure consolidation.
Motion made and Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[ Mr. Sparks.]
Committee upon Monday next.