COURTS BILL [HL] - CONSIDERATION
OF COMMONS AMENDMENTS
1. The Committee reported on this bill in our
2nd, 7th and 18th Reports of this Session (HL Papers 20, 36 and
102). The Committee has now been invited to comment on amendments
which have been made in the Commons and are now before the House
for consideration. The Department for Constitutional Affairs has
provided a supplementary memorandum which is printed at Annex
1 to this Report.
2. In almost every instance the delegations under
the amendments are, in our view, appropriate and subject to an
appropriate level of Parliamentary scrutiny. We wish, however,
to draw to the attention of the House the level of scrutiny (negative
procedure) which applies to provision relating to regulations
governing the setting of the "prescribed hourly sum"
under paragraph 1(2) of the new Schedule entitled "Discharge
of fines of unpaid work" (Amendment 24 of the Commons Amendments).
3. Under the provision, the Lord Chancellor has
power to make regulations to prescribe the "hourly sum".
The "prescribed hourly sum" will determine the rate
at which the work set by a work order will discharge the fine
imposed on an offender. The number of hours of work that an offender
must perform will be determined by dividing the amount of a fine
by the "prescribed hourly sum". Therefore, the lower
the "hourly sum", the higher the number of hours to
4. The new Schedule gives no indication of the
basis on which the "hourly sum" will be set. Given the
significance of the "prescribed hourly sum" in determining
the amount of work to be performed by an offender, we take
the view that an indication of the principle to be applied by
the Lord Chancellor in deciding the "prescribed hourly sum"
should be explicitly stated on the face of the bill (by, for example,
linking it to the hourly rate of the minimum wage if that were
the policy intention). Alternatively, if such an indication cannot
be specified in this way, then the regulations should, we believe,
be subject to the affirmative procedure.
5. We draw to the attention of the House the
recommendation in paragraph 4 above. There is nothing else in
these amendments in respect of the delegated powers on which we
wish to report.