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Report No. 60


5.11A. Section 5B (new)-Headings.-

We think that opportunity should also be taken of making it clear that the headings of the Parts or Chapters into which any Central Act or Regulation is divided shall be deemed to be part of the Act or Regulation. Since1 a controversy has arisen in England on the point, this clarification is desirable.

Lord Reid said,2 in the House of Lords:

"A cross-heading out to indicate the scope of the sections which follow it, but there is always a possibility that the scope of one of these sections may have been widened by amendment. But a side-note is a poor guide to the scope of sections, for, it can do no more than indicate the main, subject with which the section deals."

Lord Hodson said, "although there are no cross-headings in the Act of 1928 whereas3 the corresponding section of the Act of 1948, section 322, appears under the cross-heading offences antecedent to or in the course of winding up" the construction of the relevant section ought not to be governed ultimately by a consideration of cross-headings even though some attention may be paid to them."

1. D.P.P. v. Schnieder, (1969) 3 All ER 1640 (1641, 1657) (HL).

2. D.P.P. v. Schnieder, (1969) 3 All ER 1640 (1647, 1643, 1644, 1650) (House of Lords).

3. The Companies Act, 1928.

Viscount Dilhorne said:

"I do not consider that it is proper to infer from the title to a part of the Act and from this cross-heading that the scope of the subject is limited as the respondent contends while I would not suggest that, when one is considering an Act of Parliament, one is not entitled to look at the title given to a part of the Act and to cross-headings, the weight to be attached to them is, in my opinion, every slight and less than that which should be given to a preamble. In Chandler v. Director of Public Prosecution., (1962) 3 All ER 140. Lord Reid said that side note to a section cannot be used as an aid to construction. I agree. A marginal or side-note is inserted by the draftsman as an indication, but not as a definition, of the contents of the section.

"Similarly, in my view, the title given to a part of an Act and the cross-heading to a modern Act, which are inserted by the draftsman and not subject to amendment by the members of either House, are no more than guides to the contents of the part or of the sections which follow. They are not meant to control the operation of the enacting words and it would be wrong to permit them to do so."

Lord Upjohn said:

"It must always be remembered that cross-headings, punctuations and marginal notes are not part of the Bill passing through Parliament in this sense that they cannot be debated and amended as the Bill passes its various stages, in marked contract to the preamble and the long title. These cross-headings and marginal notes are put there in the first place by the Parliamentary draftsman, but as the Bill proceeds may be altered (probably in consultation with the draftsman) by the officials of Parliament to accord with amendments made to the body of the Bill as it progresses.

"what role do cross-headings play in the construction of the Act? In my opinion, it is wrong to confine their role to the resolution of ambiguities in the body of the Act when the Court construing the Act is reading it, though to understand it, it must read the cross-headings as well as the body of the Act and that will always be a useful pointer as to the intention of Parliament in enacting the immediately following sections. Whether the cross-heading is no more than a pointer or label or is helpful in assisting to construe or even in some cases to control the meaning or ambit of these sections must necessarily depend on the circumstances of each case, and I do not think it is possible to lay down any rules."

General Clauses Act, 1897 Back

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