Orders of the Day — Clause 4 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th May 1971.
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 3, line 37, leave out from '1889' to end of line 43 and insert:
'(which provides that the expression "sheriff" shall, as respects Scotland, include a sheriff substitute) shall have effect as if for the words "sheriff substitute" there were substituted the words "sheriff principal"; and the said section 28 shall not apply for the interpretation of this Act'.
I suggest that it may be for the convenience of the House to consider at the same time the sub-Amendments to Amendment No. 1, in line 3, after 'effect', insert:
'for the interpretation of this Act'
and in line 4, leave out from 'principal' to end of line 5; and Government Amendment No. 7.
In effect, Amendment No. 1 re-writes the provisions of Clause 4(3), which is designed to amend the provisions of Section 28 of the Interpretation Act, 1889 by bringing it into line with the new terminology introduced by Clause 4(1) with regard to sheriffs. The 1889 Act used the traditional expressions "sheriff" and "sheriff substitute". The Bill introduces the terms "sheriff principal" and "sheriff".
Clause 4(3) as drafted falls down, however, in that while it has the effect of providing that in future enactments the provisions of Section 28, as amended, will apply, it does not provide that a similar result will be reached in subordinate legislation.
The purpose of the Amendment is to re-write Section 28 in such a way that it will apply to future legislation and also to subordinate legislation.
It would be wrong to apply the Interpretation Act to the provisions of the Bill, for this reason. The Bill does not use the expression "sheriff" in any general sense. On the contrary, it repeatedly draws clear distinct ions between sheriff and sheriff principal. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate to invoke the provisions of the Interpretation Act.
The first criticism of the two sub-Amendments tabled by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) is that they would confine the effect of the Interpretation Act to this piece of legislation only, precluding its application to all future legislation, a result which, I am sure, the hon. and learned Gentleman would not want. The other criticism is that they would introduce in terms the application of the Interpretation Act to the provisions of this Bill, which in my submission would be wholly inappropriate.
I accept the clear exposition of the Government Amendment which the Lord Advocate has given, but I think it unfortunate that its wording lacks clarity. I agree that Clause 4(3) as it stands did not meet the purpose and intention which the Government now seek, and I accept that Amendment No. 1 achieves that object. My difficulty is that the wording is obscure and, in a certain sense, contradictory, for there is something odd about saying, on the one hand, that Section 28 shall have effect in a certain respect, and then saying that it shall not apply in respect of the interpretation of the present Bill. I quite appreciate that the point is to exclude the Interpretation Act from application to the Bill. The Lord Advocate has made that clear. That is the obvious meaning of the Amendment.
The Amendments tabled in my name are probing Amendments and are meant to highlight the opposite of what the Government are seeking to do. I seek to bring out that fact that on one meaning the effect of the Government's Amendment might be self-contradictory and therefore I have put the opposite meaning, that is, to apply specifically the Interpretation Act to the Bill. However, I entirely accept the Lord Advocate's explanation and that the proper intention is to exclude the Interpretation Act completely from the interpretation and construction of the Bill. It does not help matters, but it is important to be able to use the old terms and to talk about sheriffs substitute and sheriffs principal. I therefore do not wish to move my Amendments.