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Clause 1

Volume 951: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1978

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Manner Of Administration Of Oaths

Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

This is a consolidation Bill, but it seems a great pity that it does not consolidate the law on this subject. This is a complaint that I have made before. I do not think that the consolidation process of the House is being properly done if we are leaving law surrounding one subject inadequately covered by a consolidation Bill.

For example, Clause 1(1) states the form of the oath in the case of the New Testament and the Old Testament. It gives the appropriate words which should be used, but it goes on to say:
"followed by the words of the oath prescribed by law."
This is just one of those occasions when surely the words prescribed by law ought to be included in the statute which deals with this subject. For that reason, I believe that Clause 1(1) is quite inadequate to deal with the point, as is subsection (3), which states:
"In the case of a person who is neither a Christian nor a Jew, the oath shall be administered in any lawful manner."
Here again, there is no assistance to anyone who looks up the Oaths Act to see what is the legal definition of an oath with regard to what is a lawful matter.

I am delighted that someone has actually shown interest. As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is purely a consolidation measure. The clause to which he refers merely reproduces the identical section which is embodied in previous legislation and which is existing law. Therefore, whether or not the hon. Gentleman considers that the law is inadequate is a matter which, unfortunately, cannot be discussed on this consolidation Bill, fascinating though it might well be. All that the Bill does, as in the case of any consolidation Bill, is to put in one enactment the existing law which is embodied in several other enactments. The Bill does exactly that.

What the Bill should do is consolidate the law. That is the purpose of consolidation Bills. Instead of that, the tendency has been to consolidate only certain statutes. If the process has to be consolidation of the law, it should certainly be the duty of those responsible to gather all the law relating to the subject and consolidate it and not leave us with little Bills of this kind which only amend the law, because a lot of it is contained elsewhere in different statutes. As a result, we do not have a comprehensive statement of the law in one consolidation measure.

I shall, of course, pass on to the appropriate sources what the hon. Gentleman has said The Bill has been before the Joint Consolidation Committee. It has been carefully scrutinised by it and by another place. The Bill consolidates the statute law. However, I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern. I assure him that I shall pass on what he has said to the appropriate sources, who, I have no doubt, will read it with great interest.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 to 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without amendment.