|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I suppose to a limited extent this debate is my fault. What now appears to be an important constitutional principle--that we should not deal with inconsistencies and anomalies--was not thought by anyone to be significant in Committee when no amendments were put down to that effect. It was not thought by anyone to be significant on Report when no amendments were put down to that effect. However, the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, in debating an entirely different amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, on Report thought that the matter was a jolly wheeze and that he would throw it into the argument. That is my fault as I rather brushed him to one side and said that I would deal with the amendment before the House rather than with his intervention. I virtually invited him to put down an amendment to this effect. He has done so and I cannot complain, even if I feel a little like Lord Randolph Churchill.
The amendment cannot be taken entirely seriously. There is no dark secret behind the term "inconsistencies and anomalies". Clause 1(1)(d) makes it clear that we want the power to be able to encompass reform aimed at eliminating anomalies and inconsistencies as part of the reform of legislation. That will be useful in larger reforms of overlapping legislation where regulatory regimes rub up against each other. Of course, most inconsistencies and anomalies would already be covered under paragraphs (a) to (c) as removing them would entail the levelling up or down of some burden or another.
But some instances do not fit in with the concept of burden. If one statute requires a notice to be given on a Tuesday and another, for no good reason, on a Wednesday, even though both refer to the same category of information, it is not increasing or decreasing the burden to bring them into line, but it removes an inconsistency or anomaly.
The two words are closely linked. However, it is sensible to include them both. An inconsistency may occur where one provision tells you to do one thing and another tells you to do another. If one piece of legislation states that all London cabs must be black while another states that all London cabs must be blue, that is an inconsistency. An anomaly occurs not so much where two pieces of legislation clash, but where they fail to make the proper provision intended. If a licensing regime treated all businesses registered before 19th February in one way and all businesses registered after 19th February in another, what is the status of those businesses registered on 19th February itself?
The provision to deal with inconsistencies and anomalies will be helpful to Ministers in bringing forward any proposals resulting from the recommendations made by either or both of the Law Commissions which specifically refer to the removal of anomalies. Of course, any such proposal would have to fit in with all the other requirements of the Bill, including the removal or reduction of a burden, but could be used to iron out those inconsistencies and anomalies that grow up over time in any body of legislation.
The ante has been raised on this to some extent by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, who says that the measure is far too wide. He asked me which of the 51 examples it applies to. I am not sure that it applies to any of the 51 examples that we have so far, although I think that inconsistencies and anomalies might well appear if we went into the detail of the legislation that would have to be changed. The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, in intervening on my noble friend Lord Borrie, said that such measures could apply to football supporters as opposed to rugby supporters or cricket supporters. Such provisions would never get through any of the other tests applied to regulatory reform orders.
Noble Lords opposite forget that not only have we had safeguards in the Bill from the beginning against widening the scope of the legislation in dealing with burdens but that the safeguards that we have against the wide use of the powers were enhanced by the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, on Report which the Government accepted.
The measures we are discussing simply do not bear the construction put upon them by noble Lords opposite. They constitute no more than a small completion of the task which may well be necessary to tackle significant burdens. To remove them may cause difficulties and the Government could not do other than resist such a step.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in the context of the amendment. However, if I may say so, the Minister's response to my amendment was typical of a theme which has run throughout the Bill; that is, to contrast the assurances of Ministers with what is actually written on the face of the Bill.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Viscount does not listen to me. I said that even if we had been accused of giving assurances that were not on the face of the Bill, the fact that we accepted the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart--the noble Viscount must recognise this point as his party did not oppose them--means that the assurances are now on the face of the Bill.
I return to a point that was much better made by my noble friend Lord Lawson. The issue concerns the use that is made of the powers. The powers are wide. They could be used to clear up small anomalies. I recognise that by removing the provision one would remove the power to clear up anomalies, but only anomalies that do not impose a burden on anyone. I suggest that that kind of anomaly should go to the bottom of the queue.
If I may say so, that is proved by the fact that of the 51 measures that the Government have produced as examples, the noble Lord was unable to quote even one which would impose no burden and would constitute just an anomaly. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, was quite right. It would indeed be a minor shame not to be able to tidy up these small points. However, that is not what the Bill is about. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made no attempt whatsoever to explain how the measure on the face of the Bill would prevent legislation as regards the examples that I mentioned.
It could be said that to ban one field sport but not others could be inconsistent and therefore, according to what is written on the face of the Bill, that approach could be said to be an anomaly. The normal procedures for primary legislation could be bypassed. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was reduced to relying on imaginary examples of black cabs and blue cabs. I have not seen the legislation that states that all cabs must be blue. The noble Lord has not tried hard to address the serious criticisms that have been raised by my noble friends and by myself. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|