Poisonous Matter And Polluting Effluent
Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
When this matter was being considered on consolidation advantage should have been taken to strike out words from previous legislation which should have been regarded as obsolete. The words that I have in mind appear twice in Clause 4—namely, "containing fish". Clause 4 deals with the important subject of pollution, which everyone is anxious should be dealt with efficiently. Subsection (1) reads:
The inclusion of the words "containing fish" brings us to the ridiculous position that if a watercourse is already so heavily polluted that it does not contain fish because fish cannot live in it, it is not an offence to continue polluting it."any person who causes or knowingly permits to flow, or puts or knowingly permits to be put, into any waters containing fish or into any tributaries of waters containing fish, any liquid or solid matter to such an extent as to cause the waters to be poisonous or injurious to fish or the spawning grounds, spawn or food of fish, shall be guilty of an offence."
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but he is beginning to argue a point of substance. With his long experience he will know that he is not entitled to do so. I understand that he is referring to the actual wording in the original legislation, and we cannot alter that this afternoon.
If you would be so good as to look at the Long Title, Mr. Thomas, you will see that the Bill, among other things, repeals certain obsolete enactments. I would have thought that over the years the continued inclusion of the words "containing fish" would be regarded as obsolete. I hope that the matter will receive further consideration by the Government.
I reinforce the point already made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) It is true that the Committee is deeply in debt to a small number of Members who take a deep interest in these highly technical matters. They make a considerable sacrifice of their constituency interests to be present on these occasions I hope that the Government will not adopt again the practice that has been adopted this afternoon of bringing forward these matters for consideration on a Friday, adding to the already heavy burden which those with specialist skills have to bear. I should be grateful if the Minister would convey those remarks to his right hon. Friends who are responsible for these matters.On the drafting point of non-substance which my right hon. and learned Friend has made, it is true that this measure repeals certain obsolete enactments. I presume that my right hon. and learned Friend's remarks will be taken into consideration.
If the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) will allow me to say so, he is possibly the most experienced Member of the House in this area of legislation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will know that it would be impossible for me in a consolidating measure to deal with points of substance.As regards the point of substance which the right hon. and learned Gentleman made in his first intervention, which was reinforced by the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), I will pass it on to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. Obviously the wishes of the House should be taken into consideration. Although consolidation measures are frequently uncontroversial by their very nature, I appreciate that from time to time they raise technical points. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has proved that today. I shall certainly pass on his remarks to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, and also to the Lord Chancellor and the Law Commission, in order to see whether account can be taken of the point that he has made in any future legislation.
I was hoping that my hon. Friend would be able to assist those of us who have been following this Bill with interest. It is an important Bill and I entirely support the remarks made by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton). I was hoping that my hon. Friend would be able to be clearer in his definition of the term "waters" as used in Clause 4, but I take the point that, under your ruling, Mr. Thomas, this is allied to the point of substance which the right hon. and learned Gentleman was making, and that I cannot press the matter with my hon. Friend.
These consolidation measures are very difficult for everyone. They are so narrow. We cannot argue the whole case all over again. This is consolidating the law.
I entirely appreciate your ruling, Mr. Thomas, and do not wish in any way to dispute it, but I ask you and the Parliamentary Secretary, and perhaps the Joint Committee on Consolidation, to bear in mind also that obsolete enactments which fall due for consideration as to whether they should be repealed are enactments which deal not merely with form, with words, but with points of substance, and that the Joint Committee and the consolidation procedure are set up with a view to repealing obsolete enactments whether they are points of substance or not.We are in a dilemma. If a thing is of substance but not obsolete, we cannot deal with it; if it is of substance and obsolete, I submit that we can.
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Obviously, everyone who occupies the position I am now in wants to preserve the rights of hon. Members, but ever since I came to this House—and the right hon. and learned Gentleman arrived the same day—I have been fighting against these consolidation measures to try to speak in the debate—and I have not succeeded.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 5 to 24 ordered to stand part of the Bill.