THE WORK OF
64. The Deregulation and Contracting Out Act
1994 provides a two-stage process for the parliamentary scrutiny
of deregulation orders. A document containing the proposal is
laid under section 3(3) of the Act in the form of a draft of the
order, together with explanatory material;
and we and the Commons equivalent committee have 60 days in which
to consider and report on it. The Government then lay under section
1(4) of the Act a draft order, either in its original form or
amended to take account of the two committees' views, for approval
by resolution of each House.
In the Lords a motion to approve a draft order can only be moved
after we have made a second report on it.
65. The deregulation process thus 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.
66. 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 - the Draft Deregulation
(Sunday Dancing) Order 1995 - has actually failed.
67. Unlike the House of Commons, this House has
not made a Standing Order setting out our scrutiny task in detail
and regulating our work.
Our scrutiny of deregulation proposals is governed therefore by
our terms of reference and by the 1994 Act. The first deregulation
proposal was deposited on 5th April 1995. Since then, this Committee
has only rejected two proposals.
68. As we said in our last special report, the
main thing to be said about the Deregulation procedure during
the present session is that it has been comparatively little used.
This session we reported on two Stage 1 Deregulation orders and
four Stage 2 Deregulation orders - a sharp drop from the exceptionally
busy 1996-97 session,
when we reported on 16 Stage 1 proposals, and 15 Stage 2 draft
69. We are glad to record, as we did in our
last two special reports, that the Government have always agreed
to make the amendments which we have proposed to deregulation
proposals. As a result, second-stage scrutiny, when a draft order
is laid for approval by both Houses, has invariably been straightforward.
Draft Deregulation (Millennium Licensing) Order
70. The proposal for the Draft Deregulation (New
Year Licensing) Order 1999 was laid before Parliament under section
3(3) of the 1994 Act on 13 April, and would have allowed registered
clubs and licensed premises to serve drinks throughout the night
of each New Year's Eve. We reported on the proposal in our 18th
report, dated 16 June 1999.
71. Our conclusions on the stage one proposal
were as follows:
"In an unprecedented situation, it is difficult
to come to a firm conclusion as to whether necessary protection
would be maintained under the proposal. We have concluded that,
in order to guarantee necessary protection, in so far as this
is possible, that in laying the second stage deregulation order
before Parliament the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for
Health should justify the Government's claim that the emergency
services will be able to cope with the likely effects of the deregulation
order over the Millennium period.
Furthermore, we consider that Parliament does not
have sufficient evidence to agree to the deregulation proposal
for each New Year to come. We accordingly recommend that the draft
order be amended so that it applies to the Millennium New Year's
Eve only. In the light of this experience consideration could
then be given to a further deregulation proposal applying the
extended licensing hours to all future New Years."
72. We also suggested that there would be no
need for "restriction orders" if the proposal were limited
to the Millennium New Year's Eve,
although we did not formally recommend the amendment of the draft
Order to that effect.
73. The Government amended (and renamed) the
draft Order so that it applied to the Millennium Eve only. In
addition, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Health
provided the assurances which we had requested that in their view
the emergency services will be able to cope with the likely effects
of the relaxation of the licensing laws during this 36-hour period.
74. The draft Order was thus amended as we recommended,
with the exception of our suggestion that the provision for restriction
orders was unnecessary for an Order relating to the Millennium
Eve only. In amending the draft Order the Government retained
the provision for restriction orders, but omitted the power to
revoke or vary such orders and the provision as to their duration.
We were satisfied with this approach, and in our 24th report were
able to report that the draft order was now in a form satisfactory
to be submitted to the House for affirmative resolution.
Proposed Amendments to the Deregulation and Contracting
Out Act 1994
75. In March 1999 the Cabinet Office issued a
consultation document on its proposals to amend the Deregulation
and Contracting Out Act 1994. We reported on those proposals in
our fourteenth report of this session.
The Government's response to this report is published in our twenty-eighth
report of this session, together with brief comments by the Committee.
76. In September 1999 the Regulatory Impact Unit
issued a further consultative document, "Proposals to Improve
the Quality of Enforcement Services: A Consultative Document on
Section 5 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994".
We commented on this document in our twenty-eighth report of this