My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress is being made with the production of Statutes in Force, and whether enough qualified staff are available to enable this important work to be accelerated.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for asking this Question. The work known as Statutes in Force is now five-sixths complete. As the editorial work on the remaining sections has been finished, it would not be practicable to accelerate publication. This is expected to be completed by late 1981.
My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for that largely satisfactory reply. Is he aware that until the completion of Statutes in Force each parliamentary draftsman has to have his own up-to-date and complete set of revised statutes based on 1948 as the starting point, and further that this means at least 4,000 amendments each year to that set, plus the addition of at least another thousand pages a year? Therefore, the information that my noble and learned friend has given us about the completion of Statutes in Force is indeed welcome.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend. I have always taken a great deal of interest in this publication. It was not exactly my invention, as the White Knight said, but I think I was one of the midwives who brought it into being.
My Lords, is not the near completion of this work a matter for immense gratification and gratitude to those who have been engaged upon this arduous and often unrewarding work?
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble and learned Lord. I absolutely agree with him. When complete, the edition will comprise 124 subject groups alone, and that is an enormous undertaking. I hope it will provide—if they can afford it—the practitioners and the parliamentary draftsmen with a working copy of the statutes which will save them an immensity of time and labour because what they will have will be virtually a loose-leaf copy of the statutes kept up to date.
My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord whether we are reaching the stage where we can get microfilm of these valuable documents?
My Lords, I do not know about microfilm. What we have is an up-to-date technological method of typesetting. It is computerised. I am not sure whether microfilm would be much help.