House of Lords Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments

Embargo: 10.00am on Wednesday 19 March 2008
Contact: Ashleigh Witcher 020 7219 6640


The House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee has today published a report on the Government’s proposal to set up two “single-tier” local authorities in Bedfordshire from April 2009.

At present, local government in Bedfordshire comprises Bedfordshire County Council: Bedford Borough Council; Mid Bedfordshire District Council; and South Bedfordshire District Council.

The Government have laid before Parliament the Bedfordshire (Structural Changes) Order 2008 which, if approved, would set a date of April 2009 when Bedfordshire County Council, Mid Bedfordshire District Council, and South Bedfordshire District Council would be wound up. 

From April 2009, local government in Bedfordshire would consist of two single-tier or “unitary” local authorities: Bedford Council; and a new Central Bedfordshire Council.

Bedfordshire County Council have applied for judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision in July 2007 in favour of Bedford Borough’s re-structuring proposal. The High Court’s judgment is awaited.

The Committee recognises that it will fall to the existing councils to ensure that the re-structuring is effectively delivered by a deadline only twelve months ahead. While the Government have justified the deadline as necessary to minimise uncertainty, the Committee has commented that uncertainty will continue for so long as the outcome of the current legal challenge by the County Council is not known. 

In its report on the Bedfordshire (Structural Changes) Order 2008, the Merits Committee reviews the process that the Government have followed in deciding on the current proposals for re-structuring local government in Bedfordshire, and draws on comments made to it by local councils. The Committee has reported the Order on the ground that it gives rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest.

Notes to Editors

1. The Committee report is published by The Stationery Office as HL Paper 79. It is available online at:

2. The Bedfordshire (Structural Changes) Order 2008 is the seventh Order laid before Parliament under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. In December 2007, the Government laid five Orders which related to local government re-structuring in Cornwall, County Durham, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire. The Committee reported on these Orders in the 7th Report of 2007-08: see:

In January 2008, the Government laid an Order to re-structure local government in Cheshire. The Committee reported on this Order in the 10th Report of 2007-08: see:

3. The House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee was established in 2003 and began work in April 2004. Its task is to examine each statutory instrument presented to the House and to draw attention to any which deal with matters of significant public policy interest or show defects in certain areas. The Committee's Reports are intended to inform the scrutiny process of the House of Lords, without seeking to determine what view the House will finally take of individual instruments.

4. The current members of the Merits Committee are :

Lord Filkin (Chairman)
Baroness Butler-Sloss
Lord Crisp
Baroness Deech
Viscount Eccles
Lord James of Blackheath
Baroness Kingsmill
Lord Lucas
Baroness Maddock
Baroness Thomas of Winchester
Lord Tunnicliffe

For copies of the report please contact Ashleigh Witcher, Lords Press Officer, on 020 7219 6640.