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Consolidation Legislation

Volume 933: debated on Monday 13 June 1977

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asked the Attorney-General what steps have been taken to implement recommendations 48, 49 and 53 of the Renton Report on the preparation of legislation dealing with consolidation.

Draftsmen with the necessary aptitudes though without previous experience in the drafting of current legislation in the United Kingdom have been and continue to be employed on consolidation work. Their output has included some of the consolidation Acts passed in 1975 and 1976, as well as some consolidation Bills yet to be introduced.

With regard to recommendation 49, I understand that the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills is ready and able to sit in two divisions should the need arise. Recently, however, the volume of consolidation legislation has not necessitated this.

On the general progress of consolidation work—recommendation 53—the Government accept in principle that the pace of consolidation should be accelerated. But the scope for such acceleration is limited by competing demands on draftsmen and lawyers in Government Departments. The need for economies in public expenditure necessarily affects recruitment of draftsmen by the Law Commission and the Parliamentary Counsel Office. It has, however, been possible this Session for draftsmen in the Parliamentary Counsel Office to give additional help in the preparation of consolidation Bills.

Is the Solicitor-General aware that it is now two years since the Renton Committee reported and that it is not immediately obvious that the pace of consolidation of statutes has increased markedly? I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for indicating that there has been some small increase in consolidation, but is it not important that the rate of consolidation should be substantially increased? If it means that more parliamentary draftsmen should be employed, should not the Government give important priority consideration to that?

That accords ill with some of the comments that we have heard from the Opposition about the limitation on public expenditure. Another limiting factor is parliamentary time.