Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Ninth Report


Affirmative powers

  16.    There are two delegated powers in this bill which are subject to affirmative procedure. The first is a power to postpone the date of the referendum (clause 1). The second is a power to make the necessary arrangements for the conduct of the referendum (clause 4(2)). This power extends to the application or modification of any enactment, but this is consistent with similar legislation, including the recent Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Act 1997.[1]

Part II

  17.    Part II of the bill deals with advice on electoral arrangements for Greater London. Clause 7 empowers the Secretary of State to direct the Local Government Commission for England to submit to him a report recommending, inter alia, the electoral areas into which Greater London should be divided and the number of members that should be elected for each electoral area. Clauses 8 to 10 give the Secretary of State further powers in relation to the report.

  18.    Individually, clauses 7 to 10 contain some very significant powers, for which no parliamentary control is provided. The explanatory memorandum to the bill explains that under Clause 7, "The Secretary of State's direction to the Commission must specify the total number of electoral areas and the total number of members for which the recommendations are to provide." Clause 8 deals with the preparation and submission of the report and Clause 9 empowers the Secretary of State to direct the Commission to review its recommendations and to submit a further report making revised recommendations. Clause 10 grants further wide powers to the Secretary of State to give directions to the Commission. Taken cumulatively, the powers in Clauses 7 to 10 are very wide indeed, and could enable the Minister significantly to affect the outcome of the Commission's reports by the way in which he exercises his discretion. Bearing in mind the fact that the bill is dealing with a wholly novel procedure, the Committee considers that the affirmative resolution procedure is justified for these powers.

  19.    In respect of Clause 2 of the bill, the Department's explanatory memorandum explains that orders under this Clause will be subject to affirmative resolution procedure to "reflect the fact that, although the matters to be dealt with in the Orders are essentially technical and procedural, they are nonetheless sufficiently important to merit the scrutiny which will follow in consequence of their being debated in both Houses." The Committee agrees with the Department's approach to orders made under Clause 2, and invites the House to consider whether, by parity of reasoning, a similar approach should be adopted to the powers under Clauses 7 to 10. While it is true that further legislation will be needed if there is to be established a Greater London Authority, the advice of the Local Government Commission obtained under this bill will clearly have a strong influence on that bill and Parliamentary input at the outset appears to be the wiser course.

Electoral arrangements

  20.    Neither the bill nor its explanatory memorandum explains whether the electoral arrangements provided in Part II will be made before or after the referendum has taken place. The Committee assumes that they will be made after the referendum, as not insignificant amounts of public money will be involved. The House may wish to seek reassurance from the Minister on this point.


  21.    The Committee wishes to draw the attention of the House to the potential width of the Secretary of State's powers under Part II of the bill and the case for subjecting them to Parliamentary control. There is nothing else in the bill to which we draw