Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Tenth Report


TENTH REPORT



15 MARCH 2000

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.

Government Resources and Accounts Bill

INTRODUCTION

1.  This bill deals with the recondite subject of Government and public sector accounting. The bill contains a number of delegated powers (discussed below) in addition to a commencement power (in clause 28(1) and (2)). The bill also contains a number of references to directions by the Treasury (for example clause 2(1) and (2)) but the Committee does not regard these as conferring legislative powers.

Clause 10

2.  Clause 9(1) requires the Treasury to prepare each financial year "a set of accounts for a group of bodies each of which appears to the Treasury -

    (a) to exercise functions of a public nature, or

    (b) to be entirely or substantially funded from public money."

3.  Clause 10 is concerned with obtaining information for the purposes of accounts under clause 9. Subsection (1) allows the Treasury to designate by order a particular body which falls within clause 9(1) in respect of a particular year for which the Treasury is preparing accounts. A designated body has to provide financial information in accordance with subsections (2), (3) and (5). An order is subject to negative procedure, which the Committee considers appropriate.

Clause 11

4.  This clause provides for the scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor General of accounts prepared by the Treasury under clause 9. Subsection (6) provides for the timetable for this scrutiny to be fixed by order of the Treasury and subsection (8) applies negative procedure in the Commons, which the Committee considers appropriate.

Clause 14

5.  Section 98(4) of the National Health Service Act 1977 requires the bodies to which it applies to prepare summarised accounts. Subsection (1) of clause 14 allow the Treasury by order to remove this requirement from a specified body for a specified year (because the requirement is made unnecessary having regard to information supplied under clause 5 or 9). Subsection (4) applies negative procedure, which the Committee considers appropriate.

Clause 18

6.  Clause 16 allows the Treasury to incur expenditure on public-private partnerships. Subsection (1) of clause 18 imposes an overall limit of £400 million on such expenditure. Subsection (3) is a Henry VIII power to charge that limit. Any order is subject to affirmative procedure (subsection (4)), which the Committee considers appropriate for this Henry VIII power.

Clause 21

7.  Clauses 5(4), 6(4) and 7(3)(c) specify the dates by which action under these clauses has to be completed in any year. clause 21 allows an order to alter the timetables either generally or for specified purposes. While this could be regarded as a Henry VIII power it is severely limited and negative procedure in the Commons (provided by subsection (2)(d)) gives that House effective control over timetables which are of especial concern to it.

Clause 23

8.  This clause is concerned with examination of accounts under clause 6, 7 or 11 by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Subsection (6) allows the Treasury by order to provide for the accounts of bodies not covered by those clauses to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General but only if the body exercises functions of a public nature or is entirely or substantially funded from public money (subsection (7)(b)). Subsection (7)(d) applies affirmative procedure, which the Committee considers appropriate.

Clause 28

9.  Subsection (3) allows the Treasury to provide by order that the provisions in clause 10 requiring the providing of information to the Treasury shall apply "in relation to a body as if it were designated under clause 10(1)". The Explanatory Notes state that this power will "enable the Treasury to require public corporations and local authority bodies to prepare "dry-run" information prior to the formal extension of the coverage of audited and published accounts to the whole of the public sector." Section (4), like clause 10(6), excludes purely Scottish bodies. Subsection (5) applies negative procedure, which the Committee considers appropriate.

Recommendation

10.  There is nothing in the bill which the Committee wishes to draw to the attention of the House.

European Union (Implications of Withdrawal) Bill [HL]

11.  This Bill contains no delegated legislative powers.

Financial Services and Markets Bill - Government Amendments for Committee Stage

12.  During the past two sessions the Committee has, on infrequent occasions,[1] reported on Government amendments when requested to do so by a front-bench member of the House. We reported on this new practice in our Special Report at the end of last session, when we emphasised the need for amendments to be tabled in a timely manner if the House wished us to report on them. Yesterday afternoon we received a memorandum from the Treasury[2] on amendments, some of them only published today, for the Financial Services and Markets Bill which will begin its Committee stage tomorrow. We understand that further amendments containing delegated powers are likely to be tabled shortly.

13.  We considered the amendments already tabled, with the benefit of a note from the Committee's Legal Adviser, at our meeting this morning, when the Committee agreed that they contained nothing which we wished to draw to the attention of the House at Committee stage. We also considered, however, that we should emphasise that we have inevitably considered the amendments at speed, which is undesirable, and that the increasing speed with which the Committee is being asked to work inevitably puts pressure both on the Committee itself and on its limited resources, and may on occasion mean that the Committee's report on amendments is published after the House has considered the amendments.[3]


1   The Committee had only reported formally on amendments on one previous occasion this session, on the Government's Committee stage amendments to the Local Government Bill [HL] (3rd Report, HL Paper 23). Back

2   Printed as Annex 2 to this report. Back

3   This report is also published on the Internet at the House of Lords Select Committee Home Page (http://www.parliament.uk), where further information about the work of the Committee is also available. Back


 
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