Skip to main content

Statute Law (Repeals) Bill [HL]

Volume 700: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2008

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

As your Lordships will be aware, one of the statutory functions of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission is to promote the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary enactments. In fulfilment of this function, the Law Commissions have over the past 40 years presented to Parliament 18 reports on statute law repeals with draft Bills attached. The 17 previous reports have resulted in the repeal of over 2,000 whole Acts and partial repeal of thousands of other Acts. The present Bill proposes the repeal of more than 250 whole Acts and the removal of obsolete provisions from nearly 70 others.

The repeals in the Bill are set out in Schedule 1. They are in 11 parts. The areas covered range, alphabetically, from “Armed Forces” and “County Gaols” to “Town and Country Planning” and “Turnpikes”. They include six Acts to finance the building of workhouses in the London area, including an 1819 Act to build the one in Wapping mentioned by Charles Dickens in The Uncommercial Traveller. There are also 12 obsolete Acts relating to the affairs of the East India Company in the period 1796 to 1832.

Your Lordships will wish to know that the Law Commissions have consulted fully with interested bodies on all the proposed repeals. This Bill and its predecessors play a valuable part in the work of modernising and improving the statute book. I am sure that your Lordships would wish to join me in thanking the two Law Commissions for the very careful and detailed way in which they have set about this important task. I should also like to thank those who have been consulted by the commissions for their contributions.

As some of the repeals relate to devolved matters in Scotland, a legislative consent Motion has been lodged with the Scottish Parliament, in accordance with standard practice. If your Lordships are content to give the Bill a Second Reading, it will be referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills in the usual way. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Bach.)

My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on introducing this very worthy Bill which, as he said, adds another 200 whole Acts to the 2,000 or so that have been repealed over the past few years as a result of the work of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission. I offer my congratulations to them as well.

I was amused that in referring to some of the historical anomalies being repealed by the Bill, the Minister mentioned those relating to the East India Company. The first six of those relate to the East India Company and the Nabobs of the Carnatic Acts, whereas the seventh relates to the East India Company and Creditors of the Nabobs of the Carnatic Act. I do not know what happened to the finances of the nabobs of the Carnatic in that time, but perhaps the noble Lord will be able to discover the answer when he attends the Consolidation Bills Committee.

I also note with amusement that some of the Acts being repealed were passed by the current Government as recently as 2003—from the Home Office, we have parts of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and parts of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. I again appeal to the Minister and the Ministry of Justice, the department he represents, to consider passing fewer Bills—perhaps starting with the criminal justice Bill which is currently before the House. There might then be fewer to repeal in due course.

My Lords, I regret to see in the schedule the repeal of the Chester Castle Gaol and other Buildings Act 1807. I know that jail well. What I do not see in the Bill is the repeal of a provision that is widely believed to appertain to Chester, that any Welshman caught within the walls in the hours of darkness will be summarily executed. Perhaps that has gone in an earlier statute law repeals Bill. I assure the Minister that I shall look into it to ensure that it is not still relevant.

We welcome the Bill and the work of the Law Commission. We are working with the Government and others to see how the Law Commission’s recommendations can be brought into operation much more quickly and by a simplified procedure. We applaud this Second Reading.

My Lords, will there be any recommendations on consolidation before the Bill is sent to the Joint Committee? I ask because I am a member of the committee.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, I do not believe that there will be an attempt at consolidation in this Bill. I am grateful particularly to the Front Benches opposite for their welcome to the Bill. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, is upset by the mention of the jail to which he referred. I shall ensure that its inclusion in the Bill is carefully looked into to see whether that is appropriate or whether it should be excluded. But I am grateful for his comments.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for his support. He specifically mentioned the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and pointed out that it was passed under this Government. I can at least assure him that the East India Company Acts were not passed under a Labour Government. However, Sections 37 and 38 of the 2001 Act—I know he will want to hear the details, even if the House wants to move on—were intended to repeal provisions. They became spent when their respective repeals took effect at Royal Assent on 14 December 2001. So I do not think that that Act and that course can be used to blame this Government. But I congratulate him on a good try.

My Lords, would the Minister be good enough to tell the House what the oldest Act on the statute book will be after this Bill is enacted?

My Lords, I had no idea but my noble friend Lord Rooker has come up with an answer. I think that that is minors spelt with an “o”. If I am wrong about that, I will write to the noble Lord.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.