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Lord Whitty: If I said "sub-delegated" earlier, I recognise the view of the Select Committee on delegation and sub-delegation. What I am addressing now is both the ability to sub-delegate and the nomination of the bodies to which one should sub-delegate, which indeed is the subject of Amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 12.
Two of the essential ingredients of achieving a fair and effective regulatory system are, first, consistency of approach and, secondly, flexibility of application. It is the responsibility of government to ensure the former by establishing and maintaining a clear framework at the national level, which is the intention of the Bill. But to apply that to specific circumstances requires a degree of professional judgment, technical expertise and local knowledge, which noble Lords tend to advocate in these circumstances and which I think is rightly advocated in relation to the powers envisaged in the Bill.
Hence the power to sub-delegate responsibility is crucial and would allow, for example, conditions implementing the regulations to be determined by those best placed to do so. It is quite clear what the Government's intentions under these sub-delegation powers are. For land-based installations, the appropriate body would be the Environment Agency and local authorities in England and Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland. Off-shore, it would be the responsibility of the Department of Trade and Industry.
In the absence of such a provision on sub-delegation, emission limit values would have to be set in stone in the regulations themselves with no room for sensible case-by-case discretion. Another perhaps trivial example arises in relation to application forms. We could prescribe forms under the regulations but it is possible that different forms may be appropriate for different types of installations and sites. If no sub-delegation were allowed, we would lose the power to enable the Environment Agency, for example, to draw up specially tailored standard forms in discussions with sectors of industry.
I can assure the Committee that it is the Government's intention that only those powers which are best determined by the regulators should be sub-delegated and only to those best placed to make those decisions. However, if we were to delete the general delegation power, there is a clear danger that if
In relation to general delegation and the scope of the regulation-making power of the Secretary of State, I simply repeat my previous contention that, although we will take into account the views of the Select Committee and the views expressed by noble Lords today, we are doing nothing particularly new. I refer, for example, to the Environment Act 1995, where a similar form of words is used in order to allow some degree of flexibility in coverage and scope of regulations. A section of that Act dealing with a sub-delegation provision indicates that provision for anything may be prescribed by the regulations, to be determined under the regulations, and for anything falling to be so determined to be determined by such persons in accordance with such procedure and by reference to such matters and to the opinion of such persons as may be prescribed in regulations. Although we have a slightly more succinct form of words, nevertheless the principle of such general delegation of regulation-making power has existed in previous legislation under previous governments and has, by and large, met with the approval of this House and of Parliament as a whole.
We are not doing anything quite as radical and as dismissive of the responsibilities and rights of this House and of Parliament in general as has been suggested today. In so far as we accept that problems have been referred to and anxieties have been aroused by our proposals, we will by subsequent amendments and by our commitment to look at Report stage at some of these aspects have shown that we are sensitive to these requirements. I should like to end my remarks by repeating that the objectives of the Bill as a whole were widely approved of by this House, that the requirements under European legislation make it necessary for us to provide wide powers and that the requirements of making the Bill understandable to industry and consumers require us to put in a consistent system of regulation. We are doing all of those things. I believe that we can do so with a system of accountability to Parliament that will meet your Lordships' objections.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: The noble Lord asked me whether I would be willing to withdraw my amendment. It has always been my ambition to give Ministers pleasure and I can assure him that on this occasion I shall not press my amendment to a Division. However, I beg him to understand that in nothing that I said is there any objection in principle to what is in the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is unchallenged. We all want to deal with pollution. The worry is that not all of us share the respect and total faith that junior Ministers and their officials have to show in Ministers of State. Secretaries of State are human.
Lord Renton: The Minister referred several times to the need to comply with the European Union directive, which is made abundantly clear in the explanatory notes. However, by the method used there is no compliance. The first line of Clause 1 states:
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: The Minister always puts his case for the delegated power most attractively--but not today. Of the noble Lords proposing the amendments one is a former Secretary of State and the other a departmental head, speaking with exceptional authority. The Minister says that the Bill has wide approval. So it has in the sense that we all deplore pollution and want it effectively controlled. That is not the question. The issue is whether we should proceed to that objective by the normal parliamentary principle of an Act of Parliament or revert to executive government by decree. I say "revert" because at one time in our history--under the Stuarts--that was the mode of legislation.
A few years ago we celebrated with acclaim what is called the Glorious Revolution, which asserted parliamentary government as opposed to executive government by executive decree. Not for the first time, we are reverting to that. During the 1920s and early 1930s, we saw the growth of government by decree. That aroused considerable apprehension. That was perfectly natural because, as Alton said, power tends to corrupt. The first corruption is the quest for greater power. Bureaucracies are particularly prone to that, as we are seeing today.
The growth of executive decree in the 1920s and early 1930s led to the Donoughmore-Scott report, which placed some hindrance on what had been happening before. Governments became much more cautious-- I say governments because I am not speaking of one party--about arrogating to themselves the right to government by executive decree.
This is not the only Bill in question. The Access to Justice Bill has also been subject to extremely strong criticism by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. My noble and learned friend took note, however belatedly, and recently there were extensive amendments reinstating parliamentary control
If the Minister does not do that, the proper course would be to carry the widest amendments. We can see then what the Government propose in their place. This matter is of profound constitutional importance. Are we to surrender on such a matter parliamentary government to bureaucratic government by decree? Nothing in the European legislation compels us to proceed that way and we should not do so.
Lord Shepherd: The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has made that speech on numerous occasions and it has, by and large, been supported by the House. I was one of the original members of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. I am delighted that under its present chairman--the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon--it has the same virility and perspicacity in looking at matters of parliamentary importance, particularly the way Bills are drafted.
I, too, have been rather anxious during my years in this House about the degree in which delegated powers have been sought. One has to recognise, too, that legislation has become infinitely more complicated than it was in my early days. Therefore, given the manner in which the provisions are used, it clearly becomes more useful, and at the end of the day more under the control of Parliament, if it is done by delegated legislation.
Delegated legislation is, and always has been, a problem for this place but not for another place. If Ministers take and use powers that are unacceptable, it is for Parliament to say: no, we shall not pass the legislation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, suggests that this matter should be taken away for consideration. I suggest that there is another approach. The Minister made some graceful noises as to the sympathy that the Government have, particularly in regard to the report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee.
The noble and learned Lord was rather angry that the Minister had not produced amendments. Although I do not see him in his place, I remember my old friend, the noble Lord, Lord Short, when he was Lord President and I served under him on the Cabinet Committee that dealt with legislation. The Lord President was grumbling mightily about the delay in the presentation of a certain Bill. I was rather surprised at the way in which the parliamentary draftsman retorted to the Lord President, who is someone of distinction, "Well, Lord President, it is very simple. If you want the Bill now you can have it, and it will be a bad Bill. If you want a good Bill, you have to wait for it". If the Government had wished to respond in that way on what is a technical and difficult matter, clearly they could not have done so between Second Reading and Committee.
I suggest that we should simply allow this matter to proceed. This has been a useful debate. I make one suggestion to the Committee and to the Minister. The Bill has only just begun its passage. I am sure it will receive a great deal of further examination both here and in another place. Perhaps we could do some useful work, and not only in pursuing these matters in this Chamber. If the Minister were willing, let us say, to see the chairman of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee and Members of this House to have a broad discussion as to the Bill's drafting, to see whether it can meet the parliamentary requirements, that would be far better than voting the Bill down and in effect destroying it, then having to start again and introduce a new Bill, possibly with the same problems. I suggest that we resist the temptation placed before us by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and that we proceed, on the understanding that if the Minister is willing he will invite the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, and other Members who may wish to discuss the matter with him to see whether the problem can be resolved off the Floor of the House.
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