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Baroness Hamwee: On the new arrangements, as a member of the Procedure Committee which made recommendations to the House as to the publication of the Marshalled List and the publication of the groupings, I am sure that if noble Lords feel that the arrangements are not working well that committee, when and if it is appropriate, will look at them again. I am probably entirely out of place in saying that as a mere member of the committee, but I know that that has been the approach of both the working group appointed by the Leader of the House and the committee. I was very glad to receive the Marshalled List early.
On the late delivery of the letter from the chairman of the Environment Agency, I simply say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, that perhaps he was lucky to have received a letter about this afternoon's proceedings at least before the proceedings took place. Frequently, I receive correspondence after a debate has taken place.
Perhaps I can, not too obsequiously--I hope it will not be held against me on future occasions--congratulate the Minister on what he personally has achieved in ensuring that this afternoon we have before us amendments which do so much to rectify the position which we all acknowledge was unsatisfactory. One can only imagine what may have gone on behind the scenes. I suspect that the Minister had a substantial hand in what we have before us. I am sure that the House is very grateful to him for that.
On Amendment No. 1, I have often been on the side of those who have proposed a purpose clause when that purpose clause has been at odds with the real purpose of the Bill. So often it is a device for debating, early in the proceedings, the policy to be incorporated in the Bill. This afternoon we are in a
Perhaps the Minister could answer one question. I am a little ashamed to ask it, given, as I say, that I have taken part in other debates on purpose clauses. Technically, will a purpose clause restrict subsequent provisions of the Bill? In other words, will it be a guide to the enforcers of the system, or will it prevent orders which are outside the narrow confines of the purpose clause so that the purpose clause will override the later provisions dealing with the order-making powers or, at any rate, constrain their application?
Lord Skelmersdale: As a newcomer to this Bill, but I hope a fairly objective one, I observed from listening to the debate over the past half-hour that we are in effect presented with two purpose clauses. One is that moved by my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith and spoken to by my noble friends Lord Renton, Lord Jenkin of Roding and others and the other is the Government's Amendment No. 3 which seeks to make the Bill read:
I hope the Government realise that we are trying to help them and to protect the sovereignty of both Houses of Parliament--at any rate that of another place. The Minister relies upon amendments that he tabled after our original Committee stage and claims that they declare the purpose of the Bill. They do not. All that they do is slightly elaborate the regulation-making power upon which the Government rely to give the Secretary of State the power to turn primary legislation into subordinate legislation, as to which Parliament can only say yes or no.
The noble Lord relied upon the work of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, which has done great service to this House. But I feel bound to point out that on this occasion its conclusions are a trifle
"and ambit of legislation, together with any important governing criteria, should be clearly specified within the primary legislation and not simply left to the exercise of delegated powers". In the last paragraph, having said that it was not to be regarded as a precedent, the committee tried to help the Government in the clarification of the power to make subordinate legislation which they have so far put forward.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: Behind all the arguments crystallised in this amendment is a general consideration; that is, that there is no question but that delegated legislation is far more convenient to the Executive and particularly to the officials. It is an appalling bore for Parliament that your Lordships and the other place insist on going through a Bill line by line. In our House we repeat that three times and in the other place it is again twice. We can amend Bills freely. The great advantage to the Executive of subordinate legislation is that it cannot be amended. That is probably the sticking point.
There have been repeated efforts to argue that Parliament--in particular your Lordships--may not reject secondary legislation. Happily, that was rejected. On 20th October 1994, your Lordships specifically asserted that our power to reject subordinate legislation was quite untrammelled by any convention. It is true that your Lordships will not be inclined to exercise that power frequently, but that power exists. One of the circumstances where it will be exercised is where a Bill is a skeleton Bill and it is only in the subordinate legislation that we get the enacting provisions. In those circumstances, your Lordships would be fully entitled to reject any of the regulations which you feel are inappropriate.
We are singularly fortunate in having the Select Committee. From the outset it has been a strong committee. It was originally presided over by the late Lord Rippon of Hexham, and we now owe a great debt to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon. I see the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in his place. He was an original member of that committee, and my noble friend Lord Ampthill, who is also doing duty here, has been a member throughout. We are very much in its debt.
I echo what has been said; that is, that we owe a debt also to the Minister, who has gone quite a long way to meet the fully justified criticism, even though only implied, of the Select Committee. That should not go unrecognised.
One comes to the purpose clause. As I understand it, a purpose clause is an aid to interpretation. The noble Baroness asked the Minister what was the effect of a purpose clause. He will correct me if I have it wrong, but in any case the Lord Advocate has recklessly put himself in the line of fire and is available to give an authoritative legal opinion. It undoubtedly has some subsidiary effect in limiting, particularly in the other place, the scope of amendments that might be made.
I have no objection to this purpose clause as it seems to me to be useful; but there is another way of doing it in this Bill and in every Bill; that is, to use the Long Title. The great advantage is that otherwise the Long Title serves no purpose whatever. In this case it is a Bill to,
We are still at a Committee stage. Perhaps I may suggest that the noble Lords, Lord Dixon-Smith, Lord Renton and Lord Jenkin, consider withdrawing their amendment and that the Minister will consider withdrawing his to see whether a common purpose may not more advantageously be declared by re-framing the Long Title.
If the Long Title is left as it is, it is quite useless. No doubt it can be said that it provides employment for draftsmen, secretaries, typists, printers and bookbinders, but otherwise it serves no useful purpose at all. I hope that the suggestion might be considered of declaring a purpose in the Long Title. That bears on the question asked by the noble Baroness, because it is undoubtedly the law, whatever the answer is to her question, that the Long Title is merely an aid to interpretation and available only to resolve an ambiguity. I doubt very much whether a purpose clause does anything more, but I see that the Lord Advocate is in his place.
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