House of Lords
Session 1997-98

House of Lords: Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation

The House of Lords Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee was first established in 1992. Its chief concern is with the extent of legislative powers proposed to be delegated by Parliament to Government Ministers. It is required "to report whether the provisions of any bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of legislative power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny". In May 1994 it was given the additional role of scrutinising deregulation proposals under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994.

The House of Commons Deregulation Committee has similar functions with regard to deregulation proposals. The two Committees have co-operated closely, while operating independently. The House of Commons has no Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee.

Working methods

The Committee has 8 members. It takes evidence and meets regularly when Parliament is sitting, according to the legislative workload. As most of its meetings are deliberative, it usually meets in private, but when it meets to hear oral evidence it does so in public, like other parliamentary Select Committees. During the short 1996-97 session the Committee met 12 times and agreed 23 reports. The Committee issues separate reports on draft deregulation orders and on bills.

Further information

Further information about the work of the Select Committee can be obtained from the Clerk to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, Public and Private Bill Office, Westminster SW1A 0PW (Tel: 0171-219 3233: FAX 0171-219 2571).


The Committee takes evidence in writing on each public bill from the relevant Government department. On occasion, the Committee also hears oral evidence. The written evidence-

The Committee does not report on Supply Bills, as the Lords are debarred from amending these. It does not consider consolidation bills because they do not seek to introduce new law.

In examining a bill the Committee:

    (1) considers whether the grant of secondary power is appropriate. This includes expressing a view on whether the power is so important that it should only be one granted by primary legislation;
    (2) always pays special attention to Henry VIII powers - a provision in a bill which enables primary legislation to be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation with or without further parliamentary scrutiny;
    (3) considers what form of parliamentary control is appropriate and, in particular, whether the proposed power calls for the affirmative rather than the negative resolution procedure;
    (4) considers whether the legislation should provide for consultation in draft form before the regulation is laid before Parliament, and whether its operation should be governed by a Code of Conduct.

The Committee's role is to advise the House of Lords; it is for the House to decide whether or not to act on the Committee's recommendations. The Committee itself has no power to amend bills, although amendments are frequently tabled in response to its recommendations. The Committee was formed as part of a move to increase control of the Executive while at the same time to save time on the floor of the House. There is an informal understanding that when the Committee has approved provisions in a bill for delegated powers, the form of those powers should not normally be the subject of debate during the bill's subsequent passage.

In relation to Government Bills, most of the Committee's recommendations to the House have in practice been accepted by the Government, and where necessary have resulted in the subsequent amendment of the Bill concerned. Where the Committee has made recommendations concerning private members' bills its practice has been to raise these matters informally with the member sponsoring the bill in the House of Lords.


Part I of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 created a special kind of delegated legislation, usually referred to as "deregulation orders". Under that Act, deregulation orders may be made by any Minister to amend or repeal any enactment of primary legislation with a view to removing or reducing any burden, if the Minister is of the opinion that this can be done without removing any necessary protection.

The 1994 Act provides for a two-stage process for the parliamentary scrutiny of deregulation orders. In Stage 1, a document containing the proposal is laid before Parliament in the form of a draft of the order, together with explanatory material; and the Committee and the Commons equivalent committee have 60 days in which to report on it. In Stage 2, the Government lay before Parliament a draft order, either in its original form or amended to take account of the two committees' views, for approval by resolution of each House. In the Lords a motion to approve a draft order can be moved only after the Committee has made a second report on it.

The first deregulation proposal was deposited in Parliament on 5 April 1995. The Committee reported on 27 proposals in the period April 1995 - 16 October 1996, and rejected one proposal and recommended amendments to 10 others, which meant that in a majority of cases the Committee recommended that a draft order in the same terms as the proposals should be laid before the House. In the short 1996-97 session the Committee found that amendments were needed to a higher proportion of proposals. It reported on 16 Stage 1 proposals, and 15 Stage 2 draft orders. In seven cases it recommended that a draft order in the same terms as the proposals should be laid before the House. It recommended amendments to 8 Stage 1 proposals. In addition, the Committee reported that it would be inappropriate to proceed with one proposal as there appeared to be a doubt whether it was intra vires - within the powers of the 1994 Act. The Government have always agreed to make the amendments which the Committee has proposed.

In examining a deregulation proposal the Committee considers whether:

    (1) it is intra vires;
    (2) it removes a burden;
    (3) it removes any "necessary protection"; (the 1994 Act requires that the amendment or repeal of existing primary legislation must be done "without removing any necessary protection");
    (4) consultation (also required by the 1994 Act) has been adequate.

    June 1997


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Revised 1 October 1999