2 Chapter 2: Conduct of the Inquiry
11. Following an initial motion in the House of Lords
on 12 June, the Joint Committee was set up following resolutions
of both Houses on 9 and 11 July 2003 respectively
with a remit to report on the draft Bill by the end of November
2003. A list of Committee Members is given on the inside cover
of the Report.
12. Our first meeting was held on 15 July 2003, when
Lord Carter was elected Chairman by acclamation. Because of the
impending Parliamentary Summer Recess, it was not possible for
us to meet again until 9 September 2003. At that meeting, Professor
Anthony Holland and Ms Penny Letts were appointed as Specialist
Advisers to the Joint Committee.
13. We issued a combined Call for Evidence and Press
Notice on 17 July 2003.
This noted that we expected to concentrate our Inquiry on the
following themes in relation to the structure and content of the
- Was the consultation process
preceding the publication of the draft Bill adequate and effective?
- Are the objectives of the draft Bill clear and
- Does the draft Bill meet those objectives adequately?
- Are the proposals in the draft Bill workable
- Might lessons be learned from similar legislation
already implemented in Scotland or elsewhere?
- Are there relevant issues not covered by the
draft Bill which it should have addressed?
- In what other ways might the draft Bill be improved?
14. With so little time available to complete the
Inquiry, because of the Summer Recess, we decided that the deadline
in our Call for Evidence for submission of memoranda should be
set at 1 September 2003. Understandably, this provoked numerous
complaints from those who said they would have great difficulty
in meeting our deadline. We regret the inconvenience caused, but
it was unavoidable: we wanted to allow as much time as possible
for written submissions to be considered before we started taking
oral evidence, but equally realised that we would have to start
taking oral evidence, but equally realised that we would have
to start taking oral evidence as early as possible in September
so as to give as many witnesses as possible the opportunity of
15. In practice, we decided to accept and consider
written memoranda long after the 1 September deadline had expired.
Altogether we received over 1200 separate written submissions,
all of which were circulated to Committee Members and given due
16. Between 10 September and 22 October we held
nine oral evidence sessions at which evidence was given by a total
of 61 witnesses, culminating in evidence from the Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, Lord Filkin,
and the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Ms Rosie
17. Details of the witnesses giving oral evidence
are listed. Transcripts of the oral evidence given are published
in Volume 2 of this Report. We decided it would not be possible
to publish all the written memoranda received, but a selection
is printed in Volume 2 of this Report together with a list of
all those who submitted written memoranda.
18. We are very grateful to all those who submitted
written memoranda and especially to those who spared time, often
at very short notice, to give us the benefit of their knowledge
and experience in oral evidence.
19. It has been a daunting task to assimilate all
this evidence in such a brief time, especially given the complexity
and sensitivity of the draft Bill and the strong opinions expressed
20. We have been greatly assisted in this task by
our two Specialist Advisers, whose expertise, sound advice and
willingness to work under great pressure have been outstanding.
We must also pay tribute to the hard work and skill of the Committee
staff, who are listed on the inside cover of this Report.
21. With hindsight, the deadline set for the Committee
was clearly unrealistic. The delay in publication of the draft
Bill, compounded by the delay in setting up the Committee, meant
that we could do little work as a Committee until mid-September
against a deadline of the end of November. We have worked hard
and done our best but the importance of this draft Bill, and the
complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved, deserved much
more time and careful consideration than we have been able to
22. We recommend that consideration be given
to a new procedure for setting deadlines for Joint Committees
carrying out pre-legislative scrutiny to enable them to give full
and proper consideration to all the issues involved and to allow
those wishing to offer evidence to the Committee a fair and adequate
opportunity to do so.
23. We understand that the timescale was partly driven
by an initial perception that the Government intended to bring
forward legislation based on the draft Bill early in the next
Parliamentary session. We appreciate that this Inquiry has
given the Government much more food for thought about the Bill.
We also recognise that the difficulties and implications raised
later in this Report will need to be dealt with in consequential
amendments. Nevertheless, we would be extremely disappointed if
the Government felt unable to continue to give the Bill due priority.
Those whom it is intended to help have waited long enough and
deserve to have the benefits which the new legislation can bring
in the very near future.
19 HC, Vol. 408, Cols 1481-2, 10 July, HL, Vol. 651,
Col 570, 574, 11 July Back
See Annex A Back