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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 133:


Page 17, line 7, leave out subsection (1) and insert--
("(1) Each Bill shall be considered by the Parliament at the following stages--
(a) a general debate on the principles of the Bill;
(b) a stage during which a committee of the Parliament may hear evidence on and shall consider representations received from interested parties on the subject matter of the Bill, and at the conclusion of which the committee shall report to the Parliament on the evidence and representations it has received;
(c) a stage for a further general debate on the Bill, in the light of the report prepared in terms of paragraph (b) hereof, with an opportunity for members to vote on the general principles of the Bill;
(d) a committee stage for members of the Parliament to consider and vote on the detail of the Bill;
(e) a report stage to consider any amendments subsequent to the committee stage in paragraph (d); and
(f) a final debate and vote on the Bill, at which the Parliament can either pass or reject it.
(1A) A period of not less than three calendar months shall separate the stages of the Bill mentioned in subsections (1)(c) and (e) unless otherwise provided for by a resolution of the Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we are returning here to the issue of how the Scottish parliament will deal with legislation. That issue overlaps the second debate we had at this Report stage relating to a second chamber of the Scottish parliament. As your Lordships know, the Government have set their minds against having any second chamber at all, despite the fact that in this Bill we have clear evidence of the importance of a second chamber, given the number of government amendments, let alone the amendments of anybody else, which have

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been brought forward. Without the Opposition doing anything, it will take the other place quite a large proportion of a day to get through the Government's own amendments.

I do not complain about that because it is an indication that the Government are listening to the arguments. This Bill is important. It is not like any other Bill which we have dealt with and it is doing something quite dramatic to the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom. I make no complaint of the fact that the Government are bringing forward so many amendments. But my point is that that illustrates the importance of having a second chamber where those matters can be debated, dare I say it, rather less dramatically than affairs are usually debated in the other place where there is often a lot more heat than light, whereas in your Lordships' House there is always light and sometimes a little heat.

This clause sets out stages of a Bill in the Scottish parliament. The Government have a contradictory position in this regard. Clause 34(1) sets out three stages of a Bill which seem to me to be entirely a replication of the procedures in another place: there shall be a general debate on the Bill and members can vote on its general principles. That sounds like a Second Reading. There is then provision for consideration of the detail of a Bill. That sounds very much like our Committee stage. There is then a final stage at which the Bill can be passed or rejected. That is certainly the Third Reading in the other place which is fairly automatic compared with the procedures in your Lordships' House. But the Bill says that the standing orders "shall include". I accept that it says that but it is prescriptive. It does not allow the Scottish parliament to start off with a clean sheet on how it deals with legislation. The Bill provides that those procedures must be followed.

And yet ironically, on 28th July when we discussed this in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, said that:


    "the Government believe that it is not for us to prescribe the working practices of the parliament".

Yet this clause prescribes the working practices of the parliament. The noble Baroness continues in col. 1404:


    "The consultative steering group has already begun to consider how the legislative process might be handled by the Scottish parliament. It is very likely to recommend a vigorous pre-legislative process so that proposals for legislation which come before the parliament have been subject to rigorous scrutiny and participation and that the effects of the proposed legislation have been well considered".--[Official Report, 28/7/98; cols. 1403-1404.]

When we discussed on the first day of Report last week the question of a second chamber, the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, said, with reference to how the new parliament will approach the business of legislation,


    "That is why we have set up the consultative steering group established by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. The steering group has already recognised the importance of putting in place procedures to facilitate and encourage prior consultation on legislative proposals. It has endorsed the concept of ensuring that there are strong committees in the parliament able to scrutinise effectively any legislation that is brought before it".--[Official Report, 22/10/98; col. 1587.]

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One of my questions in the course of this debate is whether we can have some indication of the conclusions to which the consultative committee came so that we know, when we look at Clause 34, how the parliament is to approach legislation.

My amendment, which is simply a replica of the amendment I proposed in Committee--I said I thought I would return to it and indeed I am now doing so--proposes a situation not unlike that in Clause 34; not unlike our procedure here. But before it starts what I would call the parliamentary procedure we are used to here at Westminster, we should have a Bill presented with a general debate on the principles and then another stage during which the committee of the parliament can hear evidence, consider representations from interested parties on the subject matter of the Bill and report then to the parliament on the evidence and representations it received. We then move into what I might call a more conventional Westminster system.

No doubt there will be a lot of lip service paid to draft Bills and so forth. If it is not just lip service, I cannot see any reason why the kind of format suggested in this amendment should not be taken on board. If we are going to be prescriptive--I believe the Government are being prescriptive--we should certainly add in the prospect of draft Bills and the representation and evidence-taking that go with them. In many ways that would get round the lack of a second chamber. I have noticed that outside organisations often use this Chamber more than the other House in order to advance their case because they know that they have a better chance of winning an argument in your Lordships' House than in the House of Commons. Governments of both parties have occasionally found that to their cost.

I am suggesting in this amendment that, as we cannot have a second chamber in the Scottish parliament, those outside bodies ought to have a place in the legislative scheme of things where they can present their case and make their arguments.

The Minister will speak to Amendment No. 134. I have no objection to it. It deals with the fact that not all Bills are new legislation; some are consolidations as we call them here--I presume that is (a),


    "Bills which restate the law".

Others are Bills which "repeal spent enactments" and "private Bills". I have no problem with that.

Amendment No. 134A seeks to make provision for the parliament to be able to introduce emergency legislation. That is sensible. The Minister perhaps includes that in the first subsection of his Amendment No. 134. It is perhaps not so obvious, but we dealt with it in our subsection though I notice that we are dealing with the three stages as set down by the Government. Clearly, if the Government accepted my amendment we would suggest that the five stages could be truncated.

We appreciate that the Scottish parliament may want to enact emergency legislation, though I have to say to your Lordships--your Lordships will not be surprised--that the history of emergency legislation is not one which leads me to believe that the Scottish parliament would be wise to use the procedures for it very often. Your Lordships were dragged back from the Recess in

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September to pass emergency legislation and at considerable cost. I doubt whether that emergency legislation has yet been used. It could easily have waited until we come back in the normal course of events, but that is another argument. I believe that sometimes emergency legislation is flawed. It is government showing a knee-jerk reaction. Dare I say that governments of all parties, when they take such action and bring forward legislation on that basis, very often do not get it entirely right. I would not go as far as to say that they get it wrong, but often they do not get it entirely right. Nonetheless, I believe the provision should be there because the Scottish parliament has such important powers that it may well need to use emergency legislation.

But my main point is that as regards the bulk of the legislation we should go further than just prescribe a system that looks like the House of Commons. We should prescribe, if I may so call it, a pre-legislative stage. That is what my amendment does. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, after dinner. He is more amiable and we are better placed to receive him. In Clause 34 the Government have been a little nannyish in that they are setting out the general debate and so forth. I should have liked them to say that each Bill shall be considered in the parliament using the best evidence available from the Parliament of Great Britain and from Scandinavia and that a system shall be produced which examines the whole of legislation properly. However, I suppose that the best we can expect is that room is left for the Scottish parliament to make up its mind on a great number of new measures.

I also believe that both the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, have done rather well. It is a very good suggestion. The proposal would be a great improvement on the kind of procedure that we have in this House. It would remove the need for the second chamber which the noble Lord considers to be so essential.

The fact is that we are useful in this Chamber because of the imperfections of the other Chamber. That is why we are so essential here and why we and the Scottish parliament should see to it that the first chamber has a system for examining Bills which produces legislation that does not need an enormous number of corrections by the second chamber due to the imperfections of the first.

That is why we believe the amendment is unnecessary. It is a good suggestion for noble Lords to look at, but we cannot support putting such detail into the Bill. It is nannying the Scottish parliament to a quite unnecessary degree. The Government themselves have gone too far, but we shall put up with it if they show some regret.

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9.30 p.m.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, in that case I immediately show regret. It is a matter of balance as to how far one goes in indicating a general framework which is required and necessary and how far one leaves a degree of flexibility to the parliament itself. We cannot support Amendment No. 133. I appreciate that the noble Lord wants to ensure that the parliament has sufficient opportunities to consider and vote on the Bills before it and I agree with that. I also agree that it is important that the parliament should hear and consider the views of the bodies interested in a Bill. However, it is not for us to prescribe the details of the working practices of the parliament. The Government cannot accept these amendments which intrude too far. It must be for the parliament to decide on its own procedures, including arrangements for the scrutiny of legislation, and to put in place appropriate standing orders. That is why I have no difficulty in saying that there is no incompatibility between what I am saying now and what my noble friend Lady Ramsay said at an earlier stage. It is clearly for the parliament to put in place its own working arrangements. However, we think it necessary to provide a rudimentary, basic framework that the standing orders should address as a minimum.

We have put in three minimum stages of parliamentary scrutiny. They will apply to the vast majority of Bills of the Scottish parliament. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, indicated, they include a general debate on the Bill with an opportunity for members to vote on its general principles; consideration of, and an opportunity to vote on, the details of the Bill; and a final stage at which the Bill may be passed or rejected. The whole point is that that is not the be all and end all of it. That is the minimum requirement. Further details should be left for the Scottish parliament to decide.

Reference has been made to the consultative steering group which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has set up. It is, indeed, considering the details of the processes of legislation and of scrutiny which will build around the basic framework that this Bill requires. Previously, we said that the report would be ready by the end of the year. Things are moving considerably faster and we can now be more optimistic. We think that the report will be ready by Christmas! The parliament will have the recommendations of that consultative steering group to help it in framing its standing orders, but it is very much a matter for the parliament to decide on its own procedures and working practices as long as the minimum provision is satisfied in terms of the three stages that we have identified in this Bill. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Amendment No. 134 replaces the current provision in Clause 34(2) which allows standing orders to modify the provisions about stages of Bills which are set out in Clause 34(1). The second part of the new provision clarifies the types of Bill for which different provision may be made. Essentially, the Bills to which the provision applies are those for which the procedure needs to be simplified--the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, identified most of them--such as consolidation Bills,

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statute law repeal Bills and private Bills. At Westminster, special procedures exist for similar classes of Bill either in statute or in standing orders. The first part of the new provision enables standing orders to make provision to enable the parliament to expedite proceedings in relation to a particular Bill. That will be appropriate where a Bill is needed in an emergency. I have a great deal of sympathy with the points made on that by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay.

I note that the noble Lord has tabled an amendment to the Government's Amendment No. 134. However, the Government are unable to support that amendment. As I have explained, the government amendment would ensure that for certain classes of Bill the parliament can provide for different procedures. The Opposition's Amendment No. 134A would mean that even the special categories of Bill for which special provision is made in the Government's Amendment No. 134 would have to go through the three stages provided by Clause 34(1), although I appreciate that the amendment attempts to provide that there need not be any delay between the stages. That does not in our view provide sufficient flexibility for those categories of Bill.

I turn now to the Government's Amendment No. 137. This is a technical amendment. Paragraph 5 of Schedule 3 requires standing orders to provide, in effect, that a Bill which affects Crown interests shall not be passed unless the appropriate consent has been signified. The amendment ensures that the reference to the passing of the Bill in that provision includes the approval of a Bill once it has been reconsidered by the parliament under Clause 34(3). Such reconsideration would occur where the Judicial Committee has found a provision of the Bill to be ultra vires or the Secretary of State has made an order in relation to the Bill under Clause 33. We have reached the position where I have to indicate that we cannot accept Amendment No. 133.


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