25 April 2006
More safeguards needed on new powers in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, says PASC
In a report to be published on 25 April 2006, the Public Administration Select Committee calls for the Government to make changes in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill when it returns to the Commons for report stage.
The Committee supports the aims of the Bill, which are to give a more proportional way of implementing the regulatory proposals, and non controversial Law Commission reforms, but considers that the powers the Government seeks are disproportionate.
The Committee notes that the Bill will give ministers power to amend almost any legislation in almost any way. The Government has undertaken not to use the powers given inappropriately, but the Committee warns that over the long term it all too easy for such undertakings to be broken.
The Committee says that “if Government wants broad powers, it must accept that some matters should be off limits.” The Government has already said it will consider placing a Parliamentary veto on the use of these powers on the face of the Bill; the Committee welcomes this but says more safeguards are needed. At the minimum, certain statutes or subject matters need to be excluded. As the Bill currently stands, Orders to implement Law Commission proposals can make changes to common law and are not subject to limits on the penalties they can impose. The Committee says “It is Parliament’s responsibility to make new law, and significant proposals for such law should be made as primary legislation, however eminent and expert the body which recommends them.”
Mr Jim Murphy MP, the Permanent Under Secretary at the Cabinet Office, has said he is “now looking into making the power more clearly focused on delivering better regulation objectives”. The Committee says that it will not be able to judge whether any new safeguards are adequate until it sees precisely what is proposed.
The Chairman of the Committee, Tony Wright MP, said:
“There are welcome signs that the Government intends to make real improvements to the Bill. I am delighted that the Minister appears to have accepted that more safeguards are needed, but my colleagues and I will be scrutinising the Government’s proposals to ensure those safeguards are adequate.”
The Report includes earlier correspondence about the Bill, now made public.
Notes for Editors:
This is the third Select Committee report on this bill. The others are Regulatory Reform Committee, First Special Report of Session 2005-06, Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, HC 878, and Procedure Committee, First Report of Session 2005-06, Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, HC 894. The first gives a detailed analysis of the provisions of the current bill, and the way in which it relates to previous legislation; the second deals with the procedural implications of the bill.
The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005. Its terms of reference are to examine the reports of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen, and to consider matters relating to the quality and standards of administration provided by Civil Service departments, and other matters relating to the Civil Service. The
Membership of the Committee is as follows: Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), Mr David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), Julia Goldsworthy (Lib Dem) (Falmouth & Camborne), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Grant Shapps (Con) (Welwyn Hatfield), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)
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