Embargo: Immediate Thursday 8th June 2006
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659
LORDS CRITICAL OF GOVERNMENT OVER HANDLING OF LEGISLATIVE AND REGULATORY REFORM BILL
A report published today by the House of Lords Constitution Committee criticises the Government for its handling of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill and in particular its failure to give the bill proper pre-legislative scrutiny.
The Committee label the consultation process 'lamentable' in failing to make clear the full extent of the Governments proposals as they eventually emerged in the bill; and expressed concern at an apparent lack of co-ordination, described as 'an indictment of the processes of policy-making and legislation'.
The Committee contrast the approach taken to the 2000 Regulatory Reform Bill, where pre-legislative scrutiny was commended as a 'model of the process', with that of the new bill where there was no pre-legislative scrutiny and the Committee stage of the bill was not taken on the floor of the House of Commons.
The bill was designed to give Ministers the power to change the law for the purpose of 'reforming legislation', and would significantly alter the relationship between Parliament and Ministers. It is described as having 'first class constitutional significance' which, in a country with a written constitution, would require an amendment to that constitution.
The report welcomes Government concessions made during the final stages of the bill's progress through the Commons but states that they do not go far enough, and further constitutional safeguards are necessary.
Commenting on the report, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, Chairman of the Constitution Committee, said:
"While simplifying the amendment and repeal of regulations is a fine aspiration, the Government got it badly wrong this time. They wanted to give themselves power to change any law with the minimum of parliamentary involvement, thus gold-plating their powers. They should have known that was constitutionally questionable.
"Our main conclusion is that constitutional change, particularly, should be made only by parliament through primary legislation, not Ministers using delegated powers. The simple fact that Ministers failed to recognise the profound constitutional importance of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill does not inspire confidence that they would not use delegated powers to introduce constitutional change in the future, without even realising what they are doing.
"The way this bill has been handled shows that with our unwritten constitution simple legislative proposals can drastically affect our law making system and the fundamental relationship between Parliament and Ministers.
"While we are pleased that the bill has been improved to some degree in its passage through the Commons we are still not convinced that it strikes the right balance between enabling worthwhile legislation and ensuring effective parliamentary scrutiny."
Notes to Editors
1. The report is published by The Stationary Office:
Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, House of Lords, Select Committee on the Constitution, 11th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 194, ISBN 0-10-400875-X, Price £9.50
2. The full report will be available shortly after publication online at:
3. The members of the Constitution Committee who conducted the inquiry were:
Lord Holme of Cheltenham (Chairman)
Earl of Sandwich
Lord Smith of Clifton