Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Twenty-Ninth Report



1.  As modern legislation has become more and more complex, the use of delegated legislation has increased. Far from being an experience unique to the United Kingdom, this phenomenon is probably common to most Commonwealth Parliaments. At Westminster, despite the efforts of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, there is a widespread belief that the provision for parliamentary scrutiny of delegated legislation can be substantially improved. Firstly, delegated legislation is not referred, where appropriate, to Select Committees on specific subjects for detailed scrutiny. Second, Parliament has no power to amend delegated legislation. Third, the House of Lords does not in practice vote against it.

2.  But even if House of Lords procedure for the consideration of delegated legislation was altered in each of these three respects, scrutiny of delegated legislation will always to some extent be influenced by the nature and extent of the powers themselves. We believe that it is important for a revising chamber to scrutinise not only the exercise of delegated power, but also the grant of the power itself. This is what we, as a Committee, seek to do.

3.  This report outlines the work and working methods of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee during the 1998-99 session. It has been a particularly busy session, and there have been a number of new developments in the Committee's work. In addition, we have given both written and informal oral evidence to the Royal Commission on House of Lords reform, and have been involved in the Government's consultation on the revision of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. In this report we have therefore sought to highlight the main issues which have arisen. We also make a number of recommendations for the Committee's work in the future.

4.  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.


5.  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.

6.  In its first Special Report on the future of the deregulation procedure, published on 22 April 1999, the House of Commons Deregulation Committee commented on its name, in the following terms:

"We note that one of the key tests of a Deregulation proposal is that it should remove or reduce a burden; this will continue to be the key test for any proposals brought forward under the proposed extensions of the order-making power. Although the work of the Committee will therefore continue to be concerned with deregulation, we do not feel that the name properly reflects the complexity of the work that we will be undertaking. Whilst seeking to remove burdensome regulation, we will also become engaged in a more complex consideration of regulatory principles. One possible change of name could reflect the work of the Better Regulation Task Force ... We recommend that consideration be given to changing the name of the Deregulation Committee."[2]

7.  Whilst we do not recommend a change in the name of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee at present, the House may wish to keep this matter under review, particularly if there is a change in the name of the House of Commons Committee.


8.  The Delegated Powers Committee was established with eight members, and continued with that number throughout the first six sessions of its existence, notwithstanding its greatly expanded role since 1994. In our last special report we said that "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." At the beginning of the present session our membership was augmented so that we now have 10 members. We believe this to be the maximum number of members to enable the Committee to continue to operate with the effectiveness and efficiency which the House both expects and deserves.

9.  Although the Committee's members are drawn from all the political parties and the cross-benches, it regards itself as having a constitutional role and operates in a non-partisan way. Our practice is to reason issues through, and by so doing we have never needed to divide in the seven sessions of our existence. We nevertheless believe that we have always met the need for clear advice in our reports.


10.  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 - more than the Committee had produced in any previous session. This session we met 22 times and agreed 29 reports.[3] As was the case last session, most of the Committee's work was on Bills rather than on Deregulation Orders. The Committee issues separate reports on draft deregulation orders and on bills. A table outlining the work of the Committee since its establishment is printed as annex 1 to this report.

11.  Because the Committee is involved in legislative work, its reports have to be produced very quickly - much more so than for most other Select Committee reports. Our reports, including the evidence section, are prepared for the printer as camera-ready copy,[4] and are usually published both in paper and electronically the day after the Committee meets. To facilitate this, most Government Departments submit their memoranda on computer disc. The Committee has also accepted evidence submitted by e-mail.

12.  There are times - particularly when the Committee has been asked to report on Government amendments - when next day publication is not quick enough. On these occasions it is our usual practice to make typescript copies of the relevant report available to the Minister and front bench spokesmen. If necessary, typescript copies are also made available in the Printed Paper Office.

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   See paragraph 56 of that report. Back

3   Including this special report. Back

4   In addition to assisting speedy publication, which is clearly for the convenience of the House, the use of camera-ready copy in the production of our reports makes them cheaper to print. Back

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