I thank the noble Baronesses for raising this issue and for coming in to discuss further with my noble friend and officials some of the underlying issues at stake. I am well aware that the College of Social Work has strong views on this, although as I understand it the area of social work is not entirely of one mind in how far one needs registration as well as inspection. The questions of registration and inspection are related but not identical. The system of delegation is purely permissive. Local authorities may continue to provide their own services or, as the noble Baroness suggested, delegate to third sector providers or commercial providers in the field. Some do so; many others continue to provide their own direct services. The removal of registration does not mean the removal of inspection.

Baroness Meacher: I thank the Minister for giving way. I understand that a number of local authorities are being instructed to delegate out these services. Is that correct or not? It is what I have been told.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am informed that it is not correct. I certainly have no knowledge of it, but my noble friend Lord Nash assures me that it is not the case, so we are not in that area.

We have an active system of inspection. It is local authorities which are accountable for ensuring that when contracts are signed in this form, the provider is a credible and qualified provider. Having said that, Ofsted is the inspector of such arrangements and it keeps a very active role in watching what happens, receiving reports and then coming in to inspect when reports are provided of inadequate care or the accidents which sadly, as we all know, eventually and occasionally happen. Ofsted shares the Government’s view that registration adds little value and that, in many ways, it risks confusion in the system as to where accountability lies.

It is the Government’s view that accountability lies with local authorities and that Ofsted, for the Government, provides the continuing process of inspection. There are of course issues about the level of risk and the level of burdens in the system.

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab): I have a very small point on accountability, which I proffer to the Minister more in an advisory capacity than a critical one. There are occasions during a ministerial career where, on study, what seems a relatively small decision becomes an obviously profound and very risky decision. That is not to say that it should not be proceeded with—but, having listened to this debate, I have the impression that this is one of them. In the spirit of fraternity, I say to the Minister that if and when, as a result of these changes, there is a disaster with children along the lines of some that we have seen, particularly in the present context, it will not be sufficient to say that the accountability lies with local government. The accountability will come straight back to the Minister and the Government, who have freed this up without adequate protection. We are, quite properly, discussing risk management as regards children, but the Minister should consider the risk management for the reputation of the Government on this issue as well.

5 Feb 2015 : Column 871

5.15 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I recognise that the noble Lord speaks with a good deal of experience, and probably some hard knocks, in this field and others. It is, however, the Government’s settled view that, when determining when to inspect local authorities, it is Ofsted that inspects and the local authority that writes the contracts. Ofsted takes careful account of a range of triggers when considering when to inspect. Among a range of factors, the triggers include information about serious incidents involving children—which Ofsted already gathers directly from all local authorities—complaints and whistleblowing information, and intelligence from other sources. In addition, Ofsted has arrangements to inspect local authorities more quickly where functions have been delegated.

I recognise that this is an issue that we will continue to discuss, but the Government’s position is that Ofsted shares their view that accountability and contracting lie with local authorities, while continuing active inspection lies with Ofsted on behalf of the national Government. I hope that that satisfies the noble Baronesses.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: The Minister and indeed the Government are clearly set on this path, but one of the requests in the amendment is that there should be a review and that this should be looked at carefully. Will the Government ensure that they can review any of these arrangements that are put in place and learn from them?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government will naturally review the relatively recent arrangements that have been put in place. That of course will be for our successors, whoever they may be in a matter of months’ time, but I assure the noble Baroness that all Governments and Secretaries of State are well aware of the risk factor involved in all this; it is an area that any Government have to pay active attention to.

Baroness Meacher: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I thank my colleagues, my noble friends Lady Donaghy, Lady Howarth and Lady Jones, for their persuasive and powerful contributions—and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Reid.

The fact is, as we have made clear, that there are major risks in pushing ahead with these delegated services without a proper risk assessment. I am grateful that the Minister assures us that there will be a review of these delegated services; it would be good to have in writing some information about when such a review will occur and the nature and detail of it, because that is fundamentally important. The reality is that we do not feel assured that local authorities will be able adequately to quality-assure all the organisations out there undertaking these sorts of child protection and other related functions; it is just unsafe. Therefore, a review—frankly, I would call it a risk assessment—is fundamental and, hopefully, any Government in power after May will be able to respond appropriately to that. Even at this very late hour, I have to say that I want to test the opinion of the House on this matter because of its gravity.

5 Feb 2015 : Column 872

5.18 pm

Division on Amendment 32A

Contents 127; Not-Contents 163.

Amendment 32A disagreed.

Division No.  2

CONTENTS

Adams of Craigielea, B.

Adonis, L.

Ahmed, L.

Anderson of Swansea, L.

Andrews, B.

Bach, L.

Bassam of Brighton, L.

Bichard, L.

Blackstone, B.

Boothroyd, B.

Bradley, L.

Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.

Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L.

Butler-Sloss, B.

Campbell of Surbiton, B.

Campbell-Savours, L.

Carter of Coles, L.

Cashman, L.

Chandos, V.

Chester, Bp.

Clancarty, E.

Clinton-Davis, L.

Collins of Highbury, L.

Craigavon, V.

Davies of Oldham, L.

Davies of Stamford, L.

Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.

Desai, L.

Donaghy, B.

Drake, B.

Dubs, L.

Elder, L.

Elystan-Morgan, L.

Farrington of Ribbleton, B.

Faulkner of Worcester, L.

Foulkes of Cumnock, L.

Gale, B.

Golding, B.

Gordon of Strathblane, L.

Gould of Potternewton, B.

Hanworth, V.

Harris of Haringey, L.

Harrison, L.

Hart of Chilton, L.

Haworth, L.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Hennessy of Nympsfield, L.

Hilton of Eggardon, B.

Hollick, L.

Hollis of Heigham, B.

Hope of Craighead, L.

Howarth of Breckland, B.

Howarth of Newport, L.

Howe of Idlicote, B.

Howie of Troon, L.

Hoyle, L.

Hughes of Woodside, L.

Hunt of Chesterton, L.

Hunt of Kings Heath, L.

Jones of Whitchurch, B.

Jordan, L.

Judd, L.

Kennedy of Southwark, L.

King of Bow, B.

Kinnock of Holyhead, B.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Liddle, L.

Low of Dalston, L.

McAvoy, L.

McDonagh, B.

McFall of Alcluith, L.

McIntosh of Hudnall, B.

MacKenzie of Culkein, L.

McKenzie of Luton, L.

Mar, C.

Masham of Ilton, B.

Maxton, L.

Meacher, B. [Teller]

Mitchell, L.

Monks, L.

Morris of Aberavon, L.

Morris of Handsworth, L.

Moser, L.

Nye, B.

O'Neill of Bengarve, B.

Patel, L.

Pendry, L.

Pitkeathley, B.

Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.

Prosser, B.

Quin, B.

Ramsay of Cartvale, B.

Rea, L.

Rebuck, B.

Reid of Cardowan, L.

Richard, L.

Rosser, L.

Royall of Blaisdon, B.

Sawyer, L.

Scotland of Asthal, B.

Sherlock, B.

Simon, V.

Smith of Basildon, B.

Soley, L.

Stevenson of Balmacara, L.

Stone of Blackheath, L.

Taylor of Blackburn, L.

Temple-Morris, L.

Thornton, B.

Touhig, L.

Triesman, L.

Tunnicliffe, L. [Teller]

Turnberg, L.

Turner of Camden, B.

Uddin, B.

Wall of New Barnet, B.

Warwick of Undercliffe, B.

Watson of Invergowrie, L.

Wheeler, B.

Whitaker, B.

Wilkins, B.

Williams of Elvel, L.

Wills, L.

Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Worthington, B.

Young of Norwood Green, L.

5 Feb 2015 : Column 873

NOT CONTENTS

Addington, L.

Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

Alderdice, L.

Anelay of St Johns, B.

Arran, E.

Ashton of Hyde, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Attlee, E.

Baker of Dorking, L.

Balfe, L.

Barker, B.

Bates, L.

Benjamin, B.

Bew, L.

Blencathra, L.

Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.

Borwick, L.

Bourne of Aberystwyth, L.

Bowness, L.

Brabazon of Tara, L.

Brinton, B.

Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Buscombe, B.

Byford, B.

Caithness, E.

Carrington of Fulham, L.

Cathcart, E.

Chadlington, L.

Colwyn, L.

Cooper of Windrush, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Cormack, L.

Cotter, L.

Courtown, E.

Cumberlege, B.

Dannatt, L.

Deighton, L.

Denham, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Dobbs, L.

Doocey, B.

Dykes, L.

Eaton, B.

Eccles, V.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Elton, L.

Empey, L.

Farmer, L.

Faulks, L.

Fellowes of West Stafford, L.

Flight, L.

Fookes, B.

Forsyth of Drumlean, L.

Fowler, L.

Framlingham, L.

Freeman, L.

Freud, L.

Garden of Frognal, B.

Gardiner of Kimble, L.

Gardner of Parkes, B.

Geddes, L.

German, L.

Goddard of Stockport, L.

Gold, L.

Goodlad, L.

Goschen, V.

Green of Hurstpierpoint, L.

Hamilton of Epsom, L.

Hamwee, B.

Hanham, B.

Harding of Winscombe, B.

Harris of Richmond, B.

Helic, B.

Heyhoe Flint, B.

Hodgson of Abinger, B.

Holmes of Richmond, L.

Horam, L.

Howe, E.

Howe of Aberavon, L.

Howell of Guildford, L.

Hunt of Wirral, L.

Inglewood, L.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

Jolly, B.

Jones of Birmingham, L.

Jones of Cheltenham, L.

Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.

Kramer, B.

Lang of Monkton, L.

Lawson of Blaby, L.

Leigh of Hurley, L.

Lexden, L.

Lingfield, L.

Loomba, L.

Ludford, B.

Luke, L.

McColl of Dulwich, L.

MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.

Maddock, B.

Mancroft, L.

Manzoor, B.

Marlesford, L.

Mawson, L.

Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.

Mobarik, B.

Moore of Lower Marsh, L.

Nash, L.

Neville-Jones, B.

Neville-Rolfe, B.

Newby, L. [Teller]

Newlove, B.

Northover, B.

O'Cathain, B.

Palmer of Childs Hill, L.

Pearson of Rannoch, L.

Perry of Southwark, B.

Phillips of Sudbury, L.

Popat, L.

Purvis of Tweed, L.

Randerson, B.

Rennard, L.

Ribeiro, L.

Risby, L.

Rogan, L.

Sassoon, L.

Seccombe, B.

Selborne, E.

Selkirk of Douglas, L.

Selsdon, L.

Shackleton of Belgravia, B.

Sharkey, L.

Sharp of Guildford, B.

Sharples, B.

Sheikh, L.

Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.

Shipley, L.

Shrewsbury, E.

Shutt of Greetland, L.

Skelmersdale, L.

Spicer, L.

Stedman-Scott, B.

Stephen, L.

Stirrup, L.

Stoneham of Droxford, L.

Storey, L.

Stowell of Beeston, B.

Strathclyde, L.

5 Feb 2015 : Column 874

Suttie, B.

Taylor of Holbeach, L. [Teller]

Thomas of Gresford, L.

Thomas of Winchester, B.

Trefgarne, L.

Trimble, L.

Verma, B.

Wallace of Saltaire, L.

Wallace of Tankerness, L.

Walmsley, B.

Wheatcroft, B.

Wilcox, B.

Williams of Trafford, B.

Willis of Knaresborough, L.

Younger of Leckie, V.

5.30 pm

Clause 78: NHS foundation trusts and NHS trusts: acquisitions and dissolutions etc

Amendment 33

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

33: Clause 78, page 66, line 37, at end insert—

“(8) In paragraph 31 of Schedule 4 (NHS trusts established under section 25), as it has effect until its repeal by section 179(2) of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, at the beginning insert “Subject to section 56AA,”.”

Amendment 33 agreed.

Lord Stoneham of Droxford moved Amendment No. 33A:

33A: After Clause 79, insert the following new Clause—

“Information contained in entries of births and deaths

(1) The Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 34 (entry in register as evidence of birth or death) insert—

“34A Searches and records of information: additional provision

(1) The Minister may make regulations for the purpose of enabling the Registrar General—

(a) to carry out, on request, a search to find out whether the Registrar General’s certified copies contain a particular entry;

(b) to provide, on request, a record of information contained in an entry in the Registrar General’s certified copies, otherwise than in the form of a certified copy.

(2) The regulations may authorise or require the Registrar General to charge a fee of an amount specified in the regulations for carrying out a search or providing a record.

(3) The regulations may make provision—

(a) as to how a request for a search or a record may be made;

(b) as to the forms in which a record may be provided.

(4) The provision that may be made in the regulations includes provision for a record to be provided in a form that does not include all of the information contained in an entry.

(5) This section does not affect the entitlement under this Act of any person to a certified copy of an entry in the Registrar General’s certified copies.

(6) In this section, “the Registrar General’s certified copies” means the certified copies of entries in registers sent to the Registrar General under this Act or under any enactment repealed by this Act and kept in the General Register Office.

(7) Section 30(4) applies for the purposes of this section as it applies for the purposes of section 30.”

(3) In section 39 (regulations), in paragraph (a), for “and 10C” substitute “, 10C and 34A”.

(4) In section 39A (regulations made by the Minister: further provisions), in subsection (5), for “and 10C” substitute “, 10C and 34A”.”

5 Feb 2015 : Column 875

Lord Stoneham of Droxford (LD): My Lords, I am pleased to move this amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market. She deserves all the credit for having raised this issue in Committee, and for having spotted the opportunity for it to be included in the Deregulation Bill. She is very grateful for the discussions that she has had with our noble colleague Lord Wallace to move it forward, and we are pleased to have the Government’s support for her amendment. Unfortunately, she is overseas on parliamentary business this week and is very disappointed not to be here, not least to lead her initiative to success.

As my noble friend said in Committee, civil registration records, which include records of birth, death and marriage, date back to 1837. Regardless of their age, the only way in England and Wales to access this information is to buy a certified copy, a certificate, at a cost of between £9 and £10, depending on whether the certificate is purchased from the General Register Office, which holds the national data set, or from the local register office for the district where the event occurred.

The principal purpose of this amendment is to allow records to be available other than in the form of a certificate. Many family historians and genealogists do not actually need a certificate but merely the information contained within it. The thinking is that by allowing information, particularly from the older record sets, which is of most interest to such groups, to be made available in alternative formats, it would be cheaper and quicker to obtain, as it is already is in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where they operate a system where records are considered historic at 100 years, 75 years and 50 years for births, marriages and deaths respectively, which allows them to treat access to the older records in different ways. In a similar vein, this clause enables information on birth, death, marriage and civil partnership records in England and Wales to be provided in different ways, based on factors such as the age of the record.

The clause has been deliberately crafted as a paving amendment to allow the Government full opportunity to consult on the best way in which to bring in changes to how records are accessed. It will provide the Secretary of State with the power to lay regulations to define how a person may access these records, the type of product that can be issued, how the record is to be provided and the amount of fee payable. This would, for example, allow older records to be viewed online, similar to the systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland, or for the introduction of plain paper extracts to be offered to customers who do not require a watermarked certificate.

The clause would therefore provide a gateway to introducing new products and services relating to birth, death, marriage and civil partnership records. It would accept that any change to the current product and services could not happen immediately; there would need to be a full analysis of the options for implementation, decisions around funding and consultation with key stakeholders. Any change is likely to mean IT system changes. However, the clause lifts those legislative restrictions that have tied the Government’s hands in this area for many years and this is a major step forward to greater and more flexible access.

5 Feb 2015 : Column 876

Finally, these powers will apply to copies of entries in the records held by the Registrar General, which means that it would be for the General Register Office to provide any additional products enabled by the powers in this clause. The new clause does not extend to cover local registration services. However, the current ability for an individual to purchase a certificate from either the General Register Office or a local register office will remain. This change would provide wider access to historic records and would be of great interest and benefit to the growing number of people who pursue an interest in genealogy, and in particular to those looking into the history of their families. As my noble friend Lady Scott told us in Committee, one website alone—Ancestry—has 2.7 million subscribers.

Genealogists from across the world want to trace their ancestors back to these islands. The Irish and Scottish Governments have been much quicker than the English and Welsh Governments to appreciate the great tourist value in people looking for their roots. In Ireland, you can get essential information for €4; for Scotland you can order online from the Scotland’s People Centre. The General Register Office issues thousands of historic copies at £9.75 a copy, but does not make a profit. Putting this information online would fit in well with the Government’s deregulation agenda. The issue has been approached on several occasions in the past 30 years. Public consultation showed overwhelming public support in 1999. The General Register Office proposed a whole package of changes in 2005, but it was too wide-ranging for a regulatory order. This paving amendment will enable action to be taken to widen access to help people access information about their family histories going back 200 years. It is time the English and Welsh caught up with the Scots and the Irish. I beg to move.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government are delighted by the discovery by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, of an example of potential deregulation that they had not themselves unearthed. We are therefore very glad to welcome, and accept, this amendment, on which the Government have worked with the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, to refine. We are sorry that the noble Baroness is currently working very hard in the Caribbean. I hope it is not too cold there.

This amendment will achieve a long-standing government policy objective of providing greater flexibility over how, and in what form, records of birth, death, marriage and civil partnership may be accessed. It will provide powers for the Secretary of State to make regulations that will introduce a legal demarcation between those older records of genealogical interest and modern records relating to living individuals. We all recognise that the interest of the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, in this issue comes from her own active interest in researching family history. That interest is shared by a very large, and increasing, number of people across the country. As the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, said, the amendment will bring the system in England and Wales in line with those already in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It will also bring access to civil registration records up to date by

5 Feb 2015 : Column 877

providing much easier access through 21st century technology, and will meet the information access expectations of today’s society.

Importantly, by introducing order-making powers, the new clause is flexible and enabling, and will allow the Home Office time fully to consider and consult upon the implications of any change prior to the laying of regulations. We therefore welcome this workable and balanced piece of legislation, which supports government objectives such as Digital by Design, transparency of data and improved public services. We are therefore very happy to accept the amendment.

Amendment 33A agreed.

Amendment 33B

Moved by Lord Stoneham of Droxford

33B: After Clause 79, insert the following new Clause—

“Information contained in entries of marriages and civil partnerships

(1) After section 65 of the Marriage Act 1949 (searches of indexes kept by Registrar General) insert—

“65A Searches and records of information: additional provision

(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations for the purpose of enabling the Registrar General—

(a) to carry out, on request, a search to find out whether the Registrar General’s certified copies contain a particular entry;

(b) to provide, on request, a record of information contained in an entry in the Registrar General’s certified copies, otherwise than in the form of a certified copy.

(2) The regulations may authorise or require the Registrar General to charge a fee of an amount specified in the regulations for carrying out a search or providing a record.

(3) The regulations may make provision—

(a) as to how a request for a search or a record may be made;

(b) as to the forms in which a record may be provided.

(4) The provision that may be made in the regulations includes provision for a record to be provided in a form that does not include all of the information contained in an entry.

(5) Before making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State must consult the Registrar General.

(6) Regulations under this section are to be made by statutory instrument.

(7) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(8) This section does not affect the entitlement of any person to a certified copy of an entry in the Registrar General’s certified copies.

(9) In this section, “the Registrar General’s certified copies” means the certified copies of entries in marriage register books sent to the Registrar General under this Part of this Act and kept in the General Register Office.”

(2) In section 36 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (regulations and orders), in subsection (2), after paragraph (f) insert—

“(g) for the carrying out by the Registrar General, on request, of searches of entries in the register and the provision, on request, of information contained in the entries (otherwise than in the form of certified copies).”

(3) In section 9 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (conversion of civil partnership into marriage), in subsection (5), after paragraph (b) insert—

5 Feb 2015 : Column 878

“(ba) the carrying out, on request, of searches of any information recorded and the provision, on request, of records of any information recorded (otherwise than in the form of certified copies);”.”

Amendment 33B agreed.

Amendment 34

Moved by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

34: After Clause 83, insert the following new Clause—

“Recognised bodies

(1) The Administration of Justice Act 1985 is amended as follows.

(2) In the title of section 32 (provision of conveyancing services by recognised bodies) after “conveyancing” insert “or other”.

(3) In section 32—

(a) in subsection (1)(a) after “conveyancing services bodies” insert “or CLC practitioner services bodies”;

(b) in subsection (1)(b)—

(i) for “such bodies” substitute “conveyancing services bodies”;

(ii) for the words from “to undertake” to the end substitute—

“(a) the provision of conveyancing services,

(b) the administration of oaths,

(c) the exercise of a right of audience,

(d) the conduct of litigation,

(e) probate activities, or

(f) the provision of other relevant legal services;”;

(c) after subsection (1)(b) insert—

“(bza) prescribing the circumstances in which CLC practitioner services bodies may be recognised by the Council as being suitable bodies to undertake—

(i) the administration of oaths,

(ii) the exercise of a right of audience,

(iii) the conduct of litigation,

(iv) probate activities, or

(v) the provision of other relevant legal services;”;

(d) in subsection (1)(ba) for the words from “carry on” to the end substitute—

“(i) reserved instrument activities, where the recognised body is a conveyancing services body,

(ii) the administration of oaths,

(iii) the exercise of a right of audience,

(iv) the conduct of litigation,

(v) probate activities, or

(vi) other relevant legal services;”;

(e) in subsection (3)(e) after “those bodies” insert “(including information about disciplinary measures taken)”;

(f) in subsection (3C) after paragraph (a) insert—

“(aa) conditions restricting the kinds of CLC practititioner services that may be provided by the body;”; and

(g) for subsection (8) substitute—

“(8) In this section—

“administration of oaths” has the same meaning as in the Legal Services Act 2007 (see section 12 of, and Schedule 2 to, that Act);

“CLC practitioner services” has the meaning given by section 32B;

“CLC practitioner services body” has the meaning given by section 32B;

“conduct of litigation” has the same meaning as in the Legal Services Act 2007 (see section 12 of, and Schedule 2 to, that Act);

“conveyancing services body” has the meaning given by section 32A;

5 Feb 2015 : Column 879

“probate activities” has the same meaning as in the Legal Services Act 2007 (see section 12 of, and Schedule 2 to, that Act);

“relevant legal services”—

(a) in relation to a conveyancing services body, has the meaning given by section 32A; and

(b) in relation to a CLC practitioner services body, has the meaning given by section 32B;

“reserved instrument activities” has the same meaning as in the Legal Services Act 2007 (see section 12 of, and Schedule 2 to, that Act);

“right of audience” has the same meaning as in the Legal Services Act 2007 (see section 12 of, and Schedule 2 to, that Act).”

(4) After section 32A (conveyancing services bodies) insert—

“32B CLC practitioner services bodies

(1) For the purposes of section 32, a “CLC practitioner services body” means a body (corporate or unincorporate) in respect of which—

(a) the management and control condition,

(b) the services condition, and

(c) the authorised person condition,

are satisfied.

(2) The management and control condition is satisfied in the case of a partnership if at least one of the partners is a licensed conveyancer or a licensed CLC practitioner.

(3) The management and control condition is satisfied in the case of an unincorporated body (other than a partnership), or a body corporate which is managed by its members, if at least one of those members is a licensed conveyancer or a licensed CLC practitioner.

(4) The management and control condition is satisfied in the case of any other body corporate if at least one director of the body is a licensed conveyancer or a licensed CLC practitioner.

(5) The services condition is satisfied in respect of a body if—

(a) the body is carrying on a business consisting of the provision of—

(i) CLC practitioner services; or

(ii) CLC practitioner services and other relevant legal services; and

(b) the body does not provide conveyancing services.

(6) The authorised person condition is satisfied if the licensed conveyancer or licensed CLC practitioner by reference to whom the management and control condition is satisfied, or one of the persons by reference to whom that condition is satisfied, is an authorised person in respect of any of the CLC practitioner services that are provided by the body.

(7) For the purposes of this section—

(a) a reference to CLC practitioner services is a reference to those of the following reserved legal activities in relation to which the Council is designated as an approved regulator—

(i) the administration of oaths,

(ii) the exercise of a right of audience,

(iii) the conduct of litigation, and

(iv) probate activities;

(b) a reference to designation as an approved regulator is a reference to designation as an approved regulator—

(i) by Part 1 of Schedule 4 to the Legal Services Act 2007, by virtue of an order under paragraph 5 of Schedule 22 to that Act; or

(ii) under Part 2 of Schedule 4 to that Act;

(c) a person has an interest in a body if the person has an interest in the body within the meaning of Part 5 of the Legal Services Act 2007 (see sections 72 and 109 of that Act).

(8) In this section—

“administration of oaths” has the same meaning as in the Legal Services Act 2007 (see section 12 of, and Schedule 2 to, that Act);

5 Feb 2015 : Column 880

“authorised person” means an authorised person in relation to an activity which is a reserved legal activity (within the meaning of the Legal Services Act 2007);

“conduct of litigation” has the same meaning as in the Legal Services Act 2007 (see section 12 of, and Schedule 2 to, that Act);

“probate activities” has the same meaning as in the Legal Services Act 2007 (see section 12 of, and Schedule 2 to, that Act);

“relevant legal services”, in relation to a CLC practitioner services body, means—

(a) CLC practitioner services; and

(b) where authorised persons are managers or employees of, or have an interest in the body, such services as are provided by individuals practising as such authorised persons (whether or not those services involve the carrying on of reserved legal activities), except for conveyancing services;

“reserved legal activity” has the same meaning as in the Legal Services Act 2007 (see section 12 of, and Schedule 2 to, that Act);

“right of audience” has the same meaning as in the Legal Services Act 2007 (see section 12 of, and Schedule 2 to, that Act).””

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab): My Lords, Amendments 34 to 40 are tabled to help the Government, the Legal Services Board and the CLC out of a tiny hole, which is why I anticipate that they will shortly be accepted in principle.

Under the Legal Services Act 2007, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers is an approved regulator for reserved activities, probate and administration of oaths. It was designated a licensing authority for alternative business structures in 2011. However, it has recently been realised that the Administration of Justice Act 1985, which created the CLC and set out its powers, restricts the CLC from achieving its full regulatory ambitions and those of the 2007 Act. In particular, the CLC can regulate only licensed conveyancers. Therefore, potential probate lawyers would first have to qualify as conveyancers for the CLC to be able to regulate them. We know that that was never the intention, so the Ministry of Justice prepared the necessary draft secondary legislation to amend the CLC framework under the Legal Services Act. However, the MoJ then realised that the Legal Services Act did not provide the power to amend the 1985 Act. The change therefore needed primary legislation, hence these amendments.

The first piece of tidying-up would enable the CLC to regulate conveyancing bodies for all reserved legal activities for which it is designated, including enabling it to continue to regulate probate services, which it currently does under the transitional period in the Legal Services Act. The second would allow the CLC to regulate individuals and entities for the provision of legal services without them first having to be regulated for conveyancing. At the moment, the only reserved legal activity other than conveyancing is probate. It would seem a nonsense for someone who wants to do probate first to have to qualify as a licensed conveyancer if they had no intention of ever doing that work.

There are two further changes to simplify the appeals process against determinations by the CLC’s discipline and appeals committee. The first would allow appeals to the First-tier Tribunal instead of the High Court; the second would allow the CLC to appeal against its discipline and appeals committee’s determinations. In these amendments there is also a measure to allow the CLC automatically to suspend—not to revoke—the

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licences of practitioners, to protect clients and the public while the outcome of investigations and disciplinary action is awaited.

Finally, on the governing council of the CLC, there is presently a requirement that the number of lay members must exceed professional members by exactly one. To avoid any problems that may arise—for example, by the loss of one of the professional members for any reason—it would seem sensible for the lay majority to be expressed as “at least one”, so that the council’s work could continue with a larger lay majority should one of the professional members be unavailable.

The CLC undertook public consultation on all these changes last year. No objections to this were raised by anyone. I know that the changes have the support of the Legal Services Board and the Ministry of Justice. However, they cannot be achieved via Section 69 of the 2007 Act, hence these amendments, which I beg to move.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness. On this Bill, she wins first prize for length, technical detail and complexity of amendments, with a gold star for achieving this on two groups of amendments on entirely differently topics. I wondered, as I read through both of them and did my best to understand their complexity and technicality, whether the two groups were pushing in different directions: resisting a loosening of regulations on insolvency practitioners, but promoting a loosening of regulations on conveyancers.

The Government welcome the principles behind the amendment and are in full agreement with the noble Baroness that these restrictions should be removed. The Government also agree that the other measures are sensible and proportionate. However, we have some reservations about the exact terms of the amendment and would very much like to take it away and tweak it in various ways, returning with a government amendment at Third Reading. I therefore commit to coming forward with our own amendments at Third Reading to achieve the aims of the noble Baroness’s amendments. I hope that, with that assurance, she will feel able to withdraw her amendment at this stage.

5.45 pm

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: Provided that the Minister does not expect me to read through the whole of his new amendments in great detail to check that they are correct, I am very happy to accept that we will deal with this at Third Reading, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 34 withdrawn.

Amendments 35 to 40 not moved.

Clause 87: Legislation no longer of practical use

Amendment 41

Moved by Lord Sharkey

41: Clause 87, page 70, line 19, at end insert—

“(2) Subject to subsection (7), the provisions of Schedule 21 other than paragraph 43 may not come into force until the Secretary of State has requested the Law Commissions to review

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the legislation to be repealed by those provisions and the three conditions set out in subsections (3) to (5) are met.

(3) The first condition is that the Law Commissions have reported on whether each item of legislation to be repealed by paragraphs 1 to 42, 44 and 45 of Schedule 21 is, or may be, of practical use; or is no longer of practical use.

(4) The second condition is that the reports of the Law Commissions under subsection (3) have been laid before each House of Parliament.

(5) The third condition is that the Secretary of State has, by regulations made by statutory instrument, removed from the list of legislation to be repealed in Schedule 21 any provisions which the Law Commissions have reported are, or may be, of practical use.

(6) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (5) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(7) The provisions of Schedule 21 come into force, notwithstanding that the conditions in subsections (3) to (5) have not been met, 12 months after the Secretary of State has requested the Law Commissions to review the legislation if the Law Commissions have failed to make a report within that period.

(8) In this section the “Law Commissions” means the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission.”

Lord Sharkey (LD): My Lords, I note briefly that Amendments 67 and 72 are essentially technical and consequential.

With one significant difference, Amendment 41 is a repeat of an amendment discussed at some length in Committee. It deals with Clause 87 and Schedule 21, which bring about the wholesale repeal of a huge and hugely varied set of items of legislation, asserting that this legislation is no longer of any practical use. The Government have produced no evidence that these pieces of legislation are in fact no longer of practical use; they simply make that assertion.

There are 84 pieces of primary legislation to be repealed, including seven whole Acts. There are also eight pieces of secondary legislation, making 92 repeals in all. These numbers will rise in a moment when the Minister moves Amendment 42. At this very late stage in the Bill, government Amendment 42 repeals three more pieces of secondary legislation. It is clear that these new repeals will not be subjected to proper parliamentary scrutiny. Like all the other 92 items in Schedule 21, they were not, and will not be, discussed substantively either here or in the Commons, and that is the heart of the matter.

We have before us a proposal to repeal a very large number of items of legislation without any real parliamentary scrutiny and without access to the Government’s evidence that these items really are no longer of practical use. This seemed to the Joint Committee on the draft Bill, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and of which I was a member, to be unsatisfactory. In fact, the Joint Committee recommended that the items in what is now Schedule 21 be referred to the law commissions for independent confirmation that they were in fact genuinely no longer of practical use. We did that because we felt that:

“The skills, research and consultation needed to ensure that Parliament, external organisations and the public can be satisfied that a piece of legislation is genuinely obsolete strongly suggest that the Law Commissions are better placed to conduct that work than Government departments. Added to which, the independence

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of the Law Commissions from Government and their track record since 1965 reinforce the trust that Parliament places in the … Law Commission Bills”,

including statute law repeal Bills.

Amendment 41 proposes exactly what the Joint Committee recommended. It refers all the items in Schedule 21 to the law commissions for a safety check before they can be repealed. The Government disagreed with this proposal in Committee. To their credit, at no point have the Government attempted to argue that it is clear, on inspection, that all the legislation proposed for repeal is no longer of practical use; instead, they advance three main arguments.

Their first argument was that Schedule 21, in its original form, had gone through pre-legislative scrutiny. This is the case only if simply being in a draft Bill counts as scrutiny. The Joint Committee was required to work to a quite unnecessarily tight timetable. We did not have time to discuss the items in the schedule and nor did the Commons. The Government’s second argument was that many of the provisions in Schedule 21 came out of the Red Tape Challenge. It is not clear why this is an argument against referral to the law commissions. Leaving aside any scepticism about the rigour of the Red Tape Challenge, the truth is as the Minister acknowledged in Committee. The items chosen for repeal via the Red Tape Challenge had a political origin. This illustrates the point made by the Joint Committee.

Scrutiny by the law commissions has the advantage of being, and of being seen to be, absolutely independent. There can be no suggestion of political interest in any of the judgments about what is safe to repeal and what is not. The Government also argued that,

“government departments are key consultees for the Law Commission in seeking to make these kinds of repeals”.—[

Official Report

, 18/11/14; col. GC 146.]

So they should be. Again, this is not in itself an argument against referral to the law commissions. It simply emphasises the rigorous, wide-ranging and transparent analysis and consultation that the law commissions employ in assessing the case for repeal.

The Government made one other comment about the version of this amendment that we discussed in Committee. They rightly pointed out that it did not impose a duty on the law commissions to do anything with a referral to them and that it imposed no timescale for action. This amendment rectifies these defects. It says that if the law commissions have not reported on the items referred to them 12 months after referral, the repeals may go ahead anyway.

None of the Government’s arguments against this amendment in Committee seemed at all compelling. I do not for a moment doubt that the 95 items for repeal have been examined by the departments concerned. I do not doubt that in some cases there will have been consultation, but we do not know the depth or the rigour of these examinations and we do not know the arguments put forward in consultation. Critically, we do not know how these arguments were weighted by Ministers.

In Committee, I asked the Minister whether we could see any written reports on these proposed candidates for repeal before Report stage. I did not get that but I did get a detailed description of how departments

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assessed candidates for repeal and identification of some items that have been consulted on. I also got a detailed list of why the Government believe each item in Schedule 21 is safe to repeal. I did not get evidence, just summary reasons. That must have taken a considerable amount of work and I am very grateful to the Minister and his officials for that.

However, the problem with this information is that it is narrative. It is useful narrative and a useful summary but it is not evidence and cannot be properly interrogated. It also does not settle the worries about consultation. We still do not know how many consultations took place and with whom. We do not know the quality of these consultations, which is an issue of wider concern than just this Bill. Only a few days ago, your Lordships’ Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee published a report called Inquiry into Government Consultation Practice. The report looks at secondary legislation and some of its conclusions seem to have a more general context. In particular, the report notes that,

“a number of our concerns about the Government's approach to consultation are not allayed: and we are most troubled by an apparent absence within Government, in the Cabinet Office and in individual Departments, of a commitment to monitor consultation practice and to draw lessons of general application”.

There are reasons to worry about government consultations especially when we have no access to them.

The issue here is essentially one of principle. When it comes to wholesale repeals, who can we best trust to tell us that legislation is really no longer of any practical use? Is it the Government, via not only wholly transparent internal processes and a ministerial decision? Or should it be the independent law commissions set up by Parliament to do precisely this and which have a statutory duty to apply the three tests of external expertise, impartiality and independence? The Joint Committee thought it should be the law commissions.

We asked the law commissions how long they would take to certify whether or not the items in Schedule 21 were safe from repeal. They told us it would take between four and 12 months. The Government say that they are confident that it is safe to repeal the items in Schedule 21; they are confident that they are in fact of no practical use. So what exactly is the risk? What is the problem with a four to 12 month delay? What is lost by referral to the law commissions? Nothing is lost, but a considerable amount is gained. What is gained is trust, independent transparent scrutiny, and giving Parliament the confidence that repeal is safe via the mechanism that Parliament set up for that very purpose. Amendment 41 does what the Joint Committee recommended. I beg to move.

Baroness Andrews (Lab): My Lords, as a Member of the Joint Committee I support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, and commend him for the indefatigable way he has brought this issue back on Report. I can confirm that the Joint Committee was exercised about this failure, this deliberate resistance, by the Government to consider the Law Commission for all the reasons the noble Lord set out—transparency, reduction of risk and uncertainty and the opportunity to consider the repeals which were being recommended.

Let me take the House back to the first stages of this Bill, when there was something in the spirit of the original clause which was dropped from the eventual

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Bill, whereby the Minister was going to take upon himself the power to decide which legislation was or was not redundant and to recommend that a whole swathe of legislation should actually disappear from the statute book. Such was the reaction to that that the clause was wisely dropped.

As to the attitude towards the Law Commission, I do not quite understand the difficulty. As the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, said, the Law Commission was absolutely clear that it would be able to deal with and expedite the passage of judgment on the repeals and it would give everyone the security of knowing that whatever was moved for repeal would have that additional scrutiny. That is not to cast aspersions on the ability of departments to make a judgment about what is or is not redundant legislation, but as we have got the Law Commission and that is part of its job, we should take advantage of that expertise and the scope to do that. On that basis, I certainly support the amendment.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, I wish to make three points and I shall end with a question to the Minister.

First, we should record at some point in our proceedings the considerable debt we owe to the Joint Committee for its work in the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, for the work it has done since then in trying to feed into our debates and discussions the intelligence it had gained and the knowledge that it had as a result of that process, as exemplified by my noble friend Lady Andrews’s comments. It once again proves the need for Parliament to think harder about how it gets its legislation together. There is no doubt that, in comparison with a couple of other Bills that I have been involved in recently, the Deregulation Bill is in much better shape. Even though it is a much longer, more complex, Christmas tree-type Bill that has come through, we have found it easier to deal with. If we ever discussed how we do these things, we would conclude that it has been done better.

6 pm

My second point is that the substance of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, is irrefutable. I am sure that if the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, had been able to be in his place, we would have a double-barrel effect where he would have picked up on this as well and taken it through. As we have heard, perhaps in ellipsis from the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, this is a bit of a sorry story where an initial attempt to push through a ministerial-led set of repeals was eventually transmuted to the form in which we have it on the page. But of course I do not think that that answers the substantial point, which is that Parliament should have the use of an independent body which has the expertise and impartiality to advise it on matters of taking away legislation. It is all too easy to make mistakes and we are stupid if we do not take the advice of those who have expertise and knowledge in these areas.

My third point is that we have live and practical reasons to consider whether what has been said in support of the amendment moved by the noble Lord is good. I draw the Minister’s attention to the Hansard reports of our brief discussion about the Breeding of

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Dogs Act 1973 and the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999, which I am sure are seared in his memory. As a dog owner himself—even if in a remote part of our United Kingdom—he will no doubt be aware of the intricacies and issues that were brought out by that rather exciting exchange between himself and my noble friend Lord Grantchester. My point in raising this is that it was quite clear that the process of repeal of those two Acts was proceeding in a context in which new regulations, which were in many ways designed to supersede some but not all of the provisions here, were being introduced in a way that was not coherent; a broader span was needed. The noble and learned Lord will not be aware of it because he was not involved, but the department that is responsible for this area was taking through its standing order relating to the introduction of microchipping for dogs. In an exchange, which again I refer the noble and learned Lord to for further consideration, my noble friend Lord Grantchester was able to draw attention to the debates I have just mentioned, but it seemed to come as news to the department that there had ever been an exchange about the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 in the context of the repeals of these pieces of legislation.

The particular question I have for the Minister is whether anyone had actually acted on his kind offer, which I am sure was genuinely made, to ensure that the implications of the regulations which applied from the introduction of the repeal of these Acts would not happen until such time as further consultation had taken place on both the microchipping and the breeding issues which were raised by my noble friend Lord Grantchester in his speeches. We understand from those exchanges only two weeks ago that none of that consultation had taken place.

I have used that as an example and I do not expect a detailed response from the Minister. However, this plays back to what the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, has been saying. This often has a long tail of consequences. I end with a thought inspired by the comments I have made. If we do have a dog, why are we barking?

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) (LD): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Sharkey for moving this amendment. As the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said, my noble friend has indefatigably pursued this issue since beginning his membership of the Joint Committee. Like the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the committee’s work on the whole range of the Bill. I have been involved in only small parts of the House’s consideration of the Bill, but it is evident that the areas that I dealt with in Committee reflected the continuing interest of noble Lords who served on that committee.

With regard to this part of the Bill, the most controversial element of the original draft Bill concerned the more general order-making powers for the Secretary of State. As a result of the committee’s deliberations and recommendations, those powers were removed from the Bill as introduced into the other place.

I hope that I will have more information on the dogs issue before I sit down, but what I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, now is that, following

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our debates in Committee, I did have a meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Trees. It is certainly my recollection that there is to be a consultation. If I can give fuller chapter and verse before I conclude, I will happily do so.

As my noble friend has indicated, Amendment 41 seeks to add conditions before the various items and provisions set out in Schedule 21 can be repealed or revoked. The main condition, as he indicated, is the need for the Secretary of State to ask the law commissions to review the legislation to be removed by these provisions and to report on whether the legislation to be removed has practical use, following which only those confirmed as redundant could be commenced. Perhaps I may say that the Government see the work of the law commissions as absolutely vital in keeping the law under review and recommending reform where it is needed. However, it is important to put this into context by saying that the statute law repeals work is just a small part of the overall work that is done by the commissions. The Government themselves have an important role to play in updating and tidying up both primary and secondary legislation as they develop policies and make new law. This is the role that they have exercised in relation to Schedule 21. If this work did not take place, the statute book would quickly become very unclear, inaccessible and outdated. There would also be an increase in the time and costs for those who use the law and an increase in the risk of their being misled by redundant legislation masquerading as live law.

If one reflects on this, one sees that in almost every piece of legislation there are repeals which the Government invite Parliament to approve. I was just flicking through the current Bill, and I think I am right in saying that, in Schedule 18, there are omissions from the Licensing Act 2003. Is the principle in the amendment that, before there can be any repeal of primary legislation, the Law Commission has to establish whether, because of what else is occurring in its place, it is no longer of any use? I do not know whether anyone has asked the Law Commission whether it sees that as an important part of its additional workload. To be consistent, the principle would have to be that any consequential repeals under general provisions in a Bill may well have to be referred. I am sure that that is not what my noble friend is proposing, but it is, by extension, the implication of what he is arguing here.

The law commissions were not established in order to replace the Government’s role in this area. The law commissions and the Government both have a valuable contribution to make to legislative housekeeping. Would requesting the law commissions to review legislation listed in Schedule 21 be the best use of their resources? I submit to your Lordships’ House that it would not, for two reasons.

First, we would be requesting the law commissions to duplicate the work already undertaken by government departments, because the actual technical work carried out by lawyers in departments and within the law commissions would be very much the same. The only difference in the general approach is that the law commissions would then conduct an open consultation, whereas government takes a more proportionate approach and tries to identify persons or organisations who would appear to have an interest in the proposal.

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Secondly, in practice, the law commissions invite government departments to comment on repeal candidates, as departments have a responsibility for the legislation and policy area in question, as well, of course, as having specific inside knowledge and, no doubt, very good contacts with the various stakeholders and interested bodies. If the law commissions did undertake a review on Schedule 21, then departments which have already determined that the legislation no longer has a practical use would become key consultees in confirming whether the legislation no longer has a practical use. That does not seem to be a useful operation or a good use of resources.

My noble friend asked why the Schedule 21 items should not be referred to the law commissions. As I have indicated, Schedule 21 includes the sorts of items which departments routinely repeal and revoke as part of their legislative housekeeping roles. That complements the law commissions’ repeal work. Schedule 21 also includes secondary as well as primary legislation, while the law commissions’ repeal work has, hitherto, concerned primary legislation.

My noble friend also mentioned the Red Tape Challenge and suggested that items were chosen for political reasons. I accept that there is a political drive to try to tidy up the statute book and to do what we are doing in this Bill and have sensible deregulation but the point is—the heading of the schedule says as much—that these are provisions that are no longer of practical use. This sort of tidying up is an ordinary and useful part of the Government’s work.

When my noble friend proposed a very similar, although not identical, amendment in Committee, I argued that there would be no requirement for the law commissions to report on the legislation contained in Schedule 21, with the result that the obsolete law could simply remain on the statute book. I note that my noble friend has attempted to address this point by introducing proposed new subsection (7), but I have some difficulty in following the pattern through. The amendment requires only that a request be made by the Secretary of State to the law commissions to report on whether the provisions are redundant. The law commissions would in turn accept or decline the request.

If the intent is to provide a safeguard, then I am not quite sure that that will be carried out. If the law commissions either decline the request or fail to report to Parliament on the provisions within 12 months—and no doubt if they decline the request, Parliament will still have to wait for 12 months—the schedule will then simply be commenced. It is unclear exactly when the provisions are to be commenced if a request is accepted and the law commissions report to Parliament that the provisions are redundant. There does not seem to be a very clear way in which these provisions would be commenced.

My noble friend also referred to evidence and consultation, and he acknowledged the work that had been done by officials in going through all the paragraphs in Schedule 21 and indicating why they were there—whether they were redundant, had expired, had served their purpose, had been superseded by other legislation or were no longer relevant because they related to an activity that was no longer taking place. It is difficult to see what more evidence could be needed. For example,

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in paragraph 7, we believe that the provisions that have been repealed in the Industry Act 1972 no longer serve their purpose and are no longer relevant. That is because the Shipbuilding Industry Board (Dissolution Provisions) Order is not relevant because the board itself has been dissolved. I am not sure what more evidence you can actually get than the fact that the board no longer exists. If it does not exist, whom does my noble friend think we should be consulting? That is the nature of many of these provisions, such as paragraphs 10 to 12, covering the British Steel Act 1988. What was British Steel plc is now wholly owned by Tata Steel, so the Government’s shareholding provisions are redundant. Paragraph 12 repeals a saving provision for four sets of historic iron and steel pension regulations that are now redundant and no longer have any practical effect. That is the nature of these provisions.

Amendment 42 gives further illustration. My noble friend indicated that it had been brought in very late but it relates to three instruments that were identified as being spent during the rail theme of the Red Tape Challenge. The Department for Transport had originally believed that the revocation could be delivered by secondary legislation. However, legal investigation during the drafting of the revocation instrument—and this underlines the thoroughness with which officials go through these matters—identified vires issues which meant that this could proceed only through primary legislation. A number of similar instruments have already been included in the schedule. That is the reason for the proposed insertion into the Bill at this stage.

I will explain. The Railways Act 1993 (Extinguishment of Relevant Loans) (Railtrack plc) Order 1996 extinguished the liabilities of Railtrack plc in respect of specified loans. These loans were initially made to the British Railways Board and subsequently transferred to Railtrack plc as part of the privatisation of the railways. As many noble Lords will recall, Railtrack plc was placed into railway administration in October 2001 and acquired by Network Rail in 2002. The Railtrack Group PLC (Target Investment Limit) Order 1996 fixed, for the first time, the target investment for the Government’s shareholding in Railtrack Group plc. That limit was expressed as a proportion of the voting rights exercisable in all circumstances at general meetings of Railtrack plc. Following the entry into administration of Railtrack plc, Railtrack Group plc was placed into members’ voluntary liquidation in October 2002 and finally dissolved in June 2010. Railtrack Group plc no longer exists and that is the essence of why we are putting these kinds of provisions in.

When I sat on the Benches opposite, both here and in the other place, I was on the receiving end of technical problems with amendments standing in the way, but I think that in this case there are serious technical deficiencies, not least because I am still not certain how, even if a clean bill of health was returned by the law commissions, these provisions would come into effect. More relevantly, it is part of the work of government to keep the statute book in a tidy and orderly fashion. Thorough work has been done. It was presented initially to the Joint Committee and subsequently went through both Houses. It is on the basis of not wanting to duplicate work that has already

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been done, and of trying to avoid a somewhat odd situation where the law commissions would consult government departments to see whether they agreed that these matters were no longer of practical use when in fact the only reason they would be consulting was because the government departments had said they would no longer be of practical use, that I do not believe it is a good use of resources.

Before I sit down, Defra officials have confirmed that before commencing the particular repeals with regard to the Breeding of Dogs Act, there will be consultation as the issue generates a considerable amount of interest, as the noble Lord indicated. I urge my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Sharkey: I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. Earlier in the afternoon, I heard that the Government had referred the laws on busking to the law commissions. When I heard that, my hopes rose, but, clearly, that was the limit of their willingness to refer things to the law commissions.

Having listened carefully to the Minister, I am not quite sure that we were talking about the same thing at times. The point is not that the Government should not repeal legislation; of course they should. The point is that Parliament should be able to scrutinise proposed repeals. The fact is that some of the repeals that are proposed will need scrutiny. The Government were able to trot out examples such as laws on the keeping of pigs or the flying of kites—the usual stuff that, on inspection, appears to be safe to repeal—but they did not mention, for example, item 18, which is the Nuclear Industry (Finance) Act and the implications of that, and the consultations that went on.

As for the duplication of work by government departments and the law commissions, it seems entirely clear that the existing work by the departments will have the effect of speeding the review by the law commissions. It will be extremely helpful to the law commissions to have transparent access to the inner workings of the departments when they make these assessments.

The problem is that it is now very late. If we were working on normal time, it would now be 10 o’clock or so. At this point, with the Chamber fairly empty and the clock registering the normal weekday equivalent of 10 o’clock or quarter past, I feel with some regret that it would be inappropriate at this stage to divide the House.

I end by saying that I believe strongly that Parliament in general should be given every opportunity to examine in a timely way repeals proposed by the Executive. I regret that on this occasion it will not be possible. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 41 withdrawn.

Schedule 21: Legislation no longer of practical use

Amendment 42

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

42: Schedule 21, page 220, line 8, at end insert—

“Subordinate legislation relating to railways

22A The following Orders are revoked—

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(a) the Railways Act 1993 (Extinguishment of Relevant Loans) (Railtrack plc) Order 1996 (S.I. 1996/664);

(b) the Railtrack Group PLC (Target Investment Limit) Order 1996 (S.I. 1996/2551);

(c) the Strategic Rail Authority (Capital Allowances) Order 2001 (S.I. 2001/262).”

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Amendment 42 agreed.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

House adjourned at 6.17 pm.