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THE CONSOLIDATED,STATUTES

ARE THEY AN ACCURATE EPITOME. SOME INTERESTING FACTS. It will be remembered that during the last session of Parliament the Consolidated Statutes of New Zealand were enacted. By the enactment of the Consolidated Statutes the law of New Zealand, with the exception of Native Land laws and certain other laws, was epitomised into four bulky volumes from the fifty or sixty volumes in which it was previously embodied. The effect of the enactment of the consolidated laws was to issue one Act of Parliament embodying the whole law of this country, and the Enactment Act expressly repealed all the separate laws which had been enacted. To quote the words of the Enactment Act itself, "In the construction of the Act the enactments of which it is expressed to be a consolidation shall be deemed to be repealed by it." If that be so, a very important question arises, namely, is the consolidation accurate? What was the belief of Parliament when it repealed the old and enacted tne new (consolidated) Statutes? Obviously, Parliament had no conscious intention of altering the law as it then existed. On the contrary, it •was the deliberate intention of Parliament merely to enact the existing law in a move coinnvodious form. If, then, tne consolidated law be not an accurate consolidation of the laws consolidated, if follows that Parliament has unwittingly enacted alterations oi our law without following the rules of procedure laid down by itself for the enactment oi new legislation. Do the Consolidated j Statutes enact new law, then, or do they not? That is the question which a "Star" reporter has in the past day or two been putting to leading lawyers in the City. Some objections to the Consolidated Statutes are of a temporary character. In a sense they are not material objections. And in a sense they are, because, as already stated, the object o£ the consolidation is to present the law of this country in a more commodious form. Thus, every practising lawyer has annotated every section of the old volumes with references to cases decided by them. He has yet to make these annotations in the new volumes, and k apt to grumble at the work involved in doing so. Again, in the Consolidated Statutes the clauses are grouped differently, and it takes time to get used to the new grouping, so that lawyers have to search in I the new volumes for that which they could at once place their fingers upon in the old. Nevertheless, broadly speakI ing, objections of this kind are not maI terial. Time will remove them because time makes all of us familiar with what ut first appears strange. But if such objections cannot be fairly made the ground of an indictment against an accurate consolidation of the law, however strange it may appear, as compared with the uncon3olidated statutes, any alteration of existing law which the Consolidated Statutes may embody is a very serious ground of indictment, because it means that our law has unconsciously, so far as Parliament is concerned, been altered. It is to he regretted that inquiry indicates that there are grounds for believing that the consolidation is inaccurate. Naturally enough, the lawyers' who have supplied us with the proofs of inaccuracy about to be enumerated are unwilling that their names should be divulged. But the public may rest assured that every instance quoted has been gathered from lawyers of established repute. Before entering into particulars, however, the general opinion of a Judge of the Supreme Court, which has already been published in the Kew Zealand Press, may be again quoted, because, for obvious reasons, it is of peculiar interest. In the Court oi Appeal the other day, Mr. Justice Edwards said: " The consolidation of statutes has done this —it has provided plenty oi work for the lawyers. Formerly some of us knew, or thought we knew, something about the law. Xow we're quite sure we don't know anything of it at all. This consolidation is purely for the good ol the legal profession; it is not for the benefit nor convenience of the judges, because it has increased the labours of the judges to an enormous and outrageous extent. It is glaring, absolutely glaring!" Some instances of particular alterations of the law effected by the enactment of the Consolidated Statutes may now be quoted, the premiss being allowed that these do not necessarily represent all the changes which have been made. In the Distillation Act the procedure under the Customs Law Act has now been imported, but it cannot always be made to apply. Under the Tramways Act, 1594, it was provided that a poll on any tramways question should be decided by a vote of one-third of the ratepayers voting against the proposal. In other words it was not necessary for those who favoured the proposal to go to the ballot box. But the schedule to the Consolidated Act ol 190S brings these polls under the provisions of the Local Polls and Election's Act. A marginal note in the Consolidated Statutes imports into the Arbitration Act of 1890 clauses 14 and 15 of the English Act. The Commissioners Act of 1804 is amended in the Consolidated Acts. Under the old Act it was provided that an order might be made for costs, but to recover them it was necessary to sue. In the new law the order for costs has the force of a judgment in the Magistrates' Court. The Motor Regulation Act has been so altered in the use of the word " road" as to prevent motorists from passing through certain localities if the looal authorities object. Certain amendments have bpen made in the Licensing Acts, and words have been imported into the Harbours Act. These examples by no means exhaust the list. Theiß are only a few whi.-h hnv:so far come i>iidrr the notice of soma loc.il lawyers during the short time tlie Consolidated statutes have been in use. The question is not whether theso amendments are good or bad, but whether it was the conscious intention of Parliament to give effect to them or not. Another cause for complaint is the re-naming of Acts and the re-arrange-ment of sections, which in the a-bsence of an index, makes it well-nigh impossible to find what is wanted.

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THE CONSOLIDATED,STATUTES Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 92, 19 April 1909

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