I was hoping that the Solicitor-General would have given some introduction to this rather important Consolidation Bill. I regret that it is a consolidation and not a Statute Law Revision Bill. I do not consider that the law as it stands ought to have been consolidated. I am aware that this consolidation of the hire-purchase law comes about in pursuance of an undertaking by a Minister of the previous Government and covers practically all the existing hire-purchase Acts, from that of 1938 to that of 1964. But it would have been better if this had been a Statute Law Revision Bill, because anomalies and ambiguities have appeared since the 1964 Act was passed.
The Joint Committee had before it a letter from the Law Society to the Lord Chancellor drawing attention to these. The Committee could not deal with the matter, of course, because it was dealing with a Consolidation and not a Law Revision Bill. I cannot deal with its merits here, but I hope that in the near future this branch of the law will receive attention for the purpose of statue law revision and that the points in the letter from the Law Society will be taken into account.
The Bill is unsatisfactory as a consolidation Bill because it omits two important parts of the hire-purchase law. It omits the Advertisements (Hire-Purchase) Act, 1957, and Part III of the Hire-Purchase Act, 1964, dealing with unauthorised disposal of motor vehicles by hirers under hire-purchase agreements, an important part of the hire-purchase law which one would expect to find in a Consolidation Bill.
When certain parts of an Act are repealed, how does the public refer to the part which is unrepealed? This may be a small point, but the question was asked by the Joint Committee. How in future will the 1964 Act be printed if only Part III remains unrepealed? The Committee was told that nobody knew. There seems to be no rule about this. Perhaps the Solicitor-General can tell us what happens to Part III if that is the only part which will remain in operation, for we shall not want to go on printing the whole of the Act if all the rest has been repealed.
This difficulty about reference to a Bill which has been part repealed frequently arises. It is even further complicated in this consolidation Bill by the fact that the old law is kept alive for agreements made before 1st January, 1965. This means that we are not really consolidating the law in this Bill. We are, perhaps, consolidating a part of the law for the future, but we are leaving in operation the existing Statutory Instruments, unrepealed, so far as they apply to agreements entered into before 1st January, 1965, and which may continue in operation for a matter of five or six years.
I do not know why the magic date of 1st January, 1965, has been chosen. What happens to agreements which are made after the 1st January, 1965, but before this consolidation Bill comes into operation? In that respect, I suppose that the Consolidation Bill is retrospective back to 1st January, 1965. Although one might assume from the fact that it is called a Consolidation Bill that it consolidates all the law relating to hire purchase, it does not consolidate the law relating to hire purchase agreements entered into before 1st January, 1965.
I think that it will cause a lot of confusion and be one of the most unsatisfactory Consolidation Bills that the House has ever seen.