Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Fourteenth Report



HOUSE OF LORDS DELEGATED POWERS AND DEREGULATION COMMITTEE STATISTICS BY SESSION
 
1994-95
1995-96
1996-97
1997-98
1998-99 (to 31 March 1999)
Number of stage 1 deregulation proposals reported on
8 (incl. one which the Committee recommended should not proceed)
19
17 (incl. one which the Committee recommended should not proceed)
7
Number of stage 2 deregulation orders reported on
2
21
14
5
2

6.  Unlike the House of Commons, the House of Lords has not made a Standing Order setting out our scrutiny task in detail and regulating our work.[8] Our scrutiny of deregulation proposals is governed therefore by our terms of reference and by the 1994 Act. In considering proposals for deregulation orders we examine, in particular, (i) whether it does indeed reduce a burden on business; (ii) whether any necessary protection is maintained; (iii) whether adequate consultation has been carried out; and (iv) whether it is within the vires of the Act.

REMOVAL OF A BURDEN

7.   One of our tasks is to satisfy ourselves that a burden is being removed by the deregulation proposal. In most cases deciding this has not been difficult. In some cases the burden to be removed has been small.

MAINTENANCE OF NECESSARY PROTECTION

8.  The 1994 Act requires that the amendment or repeal of existing primary legislation must be done "without removing any necessary protection". In many cases social changes or the passage of time has meant that the reasons for the original protection had disappeared. Several proposals have, however, caused us concern on this account. For example, we reported on three such proposals - the Draft Deregulation (Consumer Credit) Order 1997, the Draft Deregulation (Industrial Assurance Acts 1923 to 1948) Order 1997, and the Draft Deregulation (Licence Transfers) Order 1997 - in our 21st report of the 1996-97 session.[9] In respect of all three of those draft Orders, we recommended amendments which we considered essential to the maintenance of necessary protection.

CONSULTATION

9.  The deregulation process provides for an important two-stage consultation procedure. Section 3 of the 1994 Act requires the Minister, before making a deregulation order, to "consult such organisations as appear to him to be representative of interests substantially affected by his proposals". Further consultation takes place when the Committees of each House invite the submission of oral or written evidence. Effective consultation is essential to maintain confidence in the deregulation system and to ensure that proposals have been tested by the opinion of those who would be affected by them.

10.  Consultation is thus at the heart of the deregulation process. One of our tasks is to decide whether consultation has been adequate. We have used two criteria here: first, the extent of the consultation; secondly, the time allowed for responses. We have criticised certain proposals which have come close to failing one or other of these tests, and one has actually failed.[10] We have asked Departments, when fixing the time allowed for replies —

      — to make allowances for holiday times;

      — to allow enough time for representative bodies which have been consulted in turn to consult their members;

      — to remember that when local authorities are consulted, officials will need to consult elected members before replying; and

      — to take into account that staff in voluntary organisations may be few in number and that replying to a consultation document can impose a considerable extra burden on them.

11.  We have found it necessary to express reservations about several consultation exercises carried out by Government Departments on deregulation proposals. For example, in our report on the Draft Deregulation (Betting and Gaming Advertising) Order 1997, we expressed our concerns about the Home Office's consultation exercise. This proposal fell into three parts. Whilst we were satisfied that there was adequate consultation on the first part of the proposal, and with some reservations concluded that consultation in respect of the second part of the proposal was adequate, with respect to the third part of the proposal, we considered that the Home Office's consultation in relation to cinema advertising of betting offices was not adequate. The proposal as originally drafted would have allowed betting offices to advertise in the cinema, although neither the Explanatory Memorandum nor the Home Office's consultation paper had referred to this possibility. We considered that in relation to cinema advertising of betting offices, the provisions of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 had not been complied with, and recommended that the proposal be amended to prohibit cinema advertising of betting offices.[11]

12.  In the light of concerns expressed about the proposal in the reports by this Committee and the equivalent Committee in the House of Commons, the Order was amended so that it relates only to bingo. The second stage draft order was consequently renamed to reflect the fact that it does not cover more than one form of gaming. Also in response to the reports of the two Committees, the draft Order has been amended to restrict the advertising of betting offices to advertisements "published in a material form". This would allow advertisements in documents such as newspapers, journals, posters and mailshots, but it would make unlawful advertisements for betting shops shown in films in the cinema or by means of electronic media such as the Internet. The Home Office decided not to bring forward in this Order the second of the three proposals contained in the original draft Order to allow on-site advertising of amusement-with-prizes machines. The Committee was therefore able to report that the revised draft order was in a form satisfactory to be submitted to the House for affirmative resolution.[12]


8  See Commons Standing Order 124A. Back
9  HL Paper 70. Back
10  The Draft Deregulation (Sunday Dancing) Order 1995 (15th Report 1994-95, HL Paper 102). Back
11  15th Report (HL Paper 42). Back
12  In its 21st Report (HL Paper 70). Back

 
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