The Committee recommend that rather than giving Ministers the power to remove legislation, as proposed in the draft Bill, the Law Commissions should be encouraged to bring forward an annual Statue Law (Repeals) Bill, in consultation with Government departments. This would provide the flexibility to allow departments to repeal legislation in areas of concern to them with the benefit of the expertise and independence of the Law Commissions.
Recognising that a supplementary mechanism may be justified, the Committee suggests that, if a new order-making power is to be created, then it should be by way of amendment to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 and not created by a new Deregulation Bill.
The Committee also considered the provisions in the Bill which require regulators to have regard to promoting economic growth in the way they operate. The Committee supports the provision but stresses, in its report, that it must not be used to undermine the independence of regulators. The Committee suggests a provision to that effect should be made clear on the face of the Bill.
The Committee also draws attention to a number of the other clauses in the draft Bill. In particular, the report supports new measures with regard to the recording of historic rights of way, although recognises that there are broader rights of way issues which need to be addressed.
The Committee notes that witnesses expressed disappointment that the draft Bill did not have more meaningful proposals to really tackle the challenges of deregulation, which it recognised as being at the heart of many of the problems facing the UK economy. It comments that it hopes that this is just the first of several Deregulation Bills.
Commenting Lord Rooker, Chairman of the Joint Committee said:
“Having looked at the Draft Deregulation Bill in some detail and taken evidence from a wide range of witnesses, we do not think it is appropriate for Ministers to be given power to scrap legislation by order on the subjective test that it is 'no longer of practical use'.
“There is a risk that to give Ministers that 'Henry VIII' power would undermine effective Parliamentary scrutiny. We also felt it was unnecessary when the Law Commissions currently have the power to put forward outdated Bills for abolition anyway. We recognise that the Law Commissions will need to make changes to their working practices in order to produce more frequent and more responsive Statute Law (Repeals) Bills. The Government should work with the Law Commissions to streamline the process for bringing forward these Bills.
“As for the duty on regulators to have regard to economic growth, while we support the broad principle behind this and found most regulators do not oppose it, it is important that it is not used by Government to undermine the independence of regulators in the way it is implemented. It might be helpful if that provision were explicitly included in the Bill.”