Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Special Report



SPECIAL REPORT

18 NOVEMBER 1998

By the Select Committee appointed 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; to report on documents laid before Parliament under section 3(3) of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and on draft orders laid under section 1(4) of that Act; and to perform, in respect of such documents and orders, the functions performed in respect of other instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

INTRODUCTION

1.  This report outlines the work and working methods of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee during the 1997-98 session. We seek to summarise our most important recommendations and the response of the Government and the House to them. We also make a number of recommendations for the Committee's work in the future. These are to be found in paragraph 50, where we suggest that all Government Departments should, in future, follow the practice of responding in writing to those recommendations from the Committee for which they are responsible and paragraphs 64-66, where we make recommendations about the deregulation procedure.

2.  The Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee was established as a limited experiment in the first instance in session 1992-93, following pressure in the House for more thorough examination of the powers which were being delegated by primary legislation.[1] The Committee became established as a sessional committee from the beginning of session 1994-95. In May 1994 the Committee was given the additional role of scrutinising proposals under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. The Committee's terms of reference are set out above. It is not our task to comment upon the merits of bills; our remit is confined to the powers delegated by bills. Our role in relation to deregulation proposals is not so circumscribed, and we find ourselves concerned with the merits of a proposal as we consider whether it preserves necessary protection.

3.  The House of Commons Deregulation Committee has similar functions with regard to deregulation proposals. We have co-operated closely with the Commons Committee, while operating entirely independently of it. In particular, there is a complete exchange of papers between the two Committees, including the exchange of evidence from witnesses, thereby avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort for all concerned both outside and within Parliament. We find this close co-operation between the Committees of the two Houses invaluable.

4.  The Committee was established with eight members, and has continued with that number, notwithstanding its greatly expanded role since 1994. We believe this to be about the right size. Because our work needs to react to the needs of the House, on occasion we need to meet at short notice, and we have always been able to do so.[2]

WORKLOAD

5.  We meet regularly when Parliament is sitting, according to the legislative workload. During the long 1997-98 session we met 24 times and agreed 34 reports[3]—more than the Committee had produced in any previous session.[4] This session most of the Committee's work was on Bills rather than on Deregulation Orders, and the Bills before us included those effecting major constitutional change, including the Scotland Bill, the Government of Wales Bill and the Northern Ireland Bill. The Committee issues separate reports on draft deregulation orders and on bills. This session we reported on:

  • 75 Bills

  • 4 sets of amendments

  • 7 Stage 1 Deregulation orders

  • 5 Stage 2 Deregulation orders

INTERNET PUBLICATION OF REPORTS

6.  From the beginning of this session all the Committee's reports have been published on the Internet on the same day as their paper publication.[5] Given the often tight timetables to which the Committee works we hope that this alternative source of information is helpful.

VISITORS

7.  On 19 May 1998 we welcomed to our meeting Mr Peter Crawford, formerly Clerk to the Australian Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee, on which the Delegated Powers Committee was closely modelled.

8.  On 1 July 1998 we held a joint meeting, at the House of Lords, with a delegation from the Parliament of Victoria, Australia, Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC). Like the Australian Senate's Committee, SARC's terms of reference are broader than our own. In particular, the Committee is charged with reporting on the basic rights implications of all bills. It has sub-committees dealing with both redundant and subordinate legislation, and at the time of its visit was embarked on a review of the Right to Silence.[6]It was stimulating and informative to learn about the work of our Australian counterparts.


1  See 1st Report of Procedure Committee, HL Paper 11, June 1992. The Select Committee on the Committee Work of the House (often referred to as the Jellicoe Committee after its Chairman) recommended the establishment of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee after studying the Australian Senate Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills. Back
2  An extreme example of the need for flexibility occurred this session when Parliament was recalled for two days during the 1998 summer recess to consider the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill. We met on the morning of 3 September 1998, typescript copies of our report were available to members of the House in the Printed Paper Office before the afternoon sitting at which the House of Lords considered the Bill, and the report was published the following day, when the Act received the Royal Assent. Back
3  Including this one. Back
4  Our previous record was the 1995-96 session, when we produced 31 reports. Back
5  Our reports are published at the House of Lords Select Committees Home Page (http://www.parliament.uk), where further information about the work of the Committee is also available. Back
6  Further information about this can be found at http://avoca.vicnet.net.au/~sarc/about. Back

 
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