After it had been looking at statutory instruments for 2 years, the Committee had formed impressions of how the various Whitehall Departments were going about producing regulations. We also took oral evidence from three Departments – the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Home Office. The report, The Management of Secondary Legislation, gives examples of good and bad practice from across the Whitehall and made 20 recommendations on how the quality and planning of regulations might be improved.
The Government response left much to the initiative of individual departments. Two years later the Committee returned to the issue to see whether Departments had indeed made progress.
The Report “The Management of Secondary Legislation: follow-up” was published on 12 March 2008. As well as the Committee’s own observations of over 2,000 more statutory instruments it included oral evidence from another two Departments on how they approach secondary legislation: the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). Broadly it made the following recommendations:
- Departments need to take a more active approach to ensure that senior policy officials systematically check the material they intend to lay before Parliament for efficacy, accuracy and completeness;
- Non-compliance with the 12-week consultation requirement should be exceptional and always explained fully. The analysis of a consultation exercise is not an afterthought but should drive policy. The full analysis should always be available when the SI is laid, as should any other supporting documents. EMs should better and more accurately summarise the results of consultation;
- Departments should routinely produce and publish plans for the secondary legislation to be made in consequence of a new Act: this could lead to less and better focused legislation.
- More resources should be devoted to consolidation and simplification, at the very least to the publication of on-line consolidations; and
- The Minister for Better Regulation could do more to publicise and encourage the setting of (measurable) policy objectives and success criteria in impact assessments, and the regular adoption of post-implementation review.