LORDS

Improvements needed to law-making process says Committee

08 July 2019

The Constitution Committee publishes its latest report on the Legislative Process: The Passage of Bills Through Parliament.

Background

The inquiry explored the passage of bills through Parliament, the time available for scrutiny, the explanatory materials accompanying bills, and the opportunities for the public and stakeholders to engage with the legislative process. 

Key findings

The report makes several recommendations to improve the passage of legislation through Parliament including:

  • Evidence-taking committees – the introduction of an evidence-taking stage for bills that start in the House of Commons has strengthened Parliament’s scrutiny of bills, while also enabling greater public engagement with the legislative process. It is unsatisfactory that no such process exists for bills starting in the House of Lords. The Committee recommends that the House of Lords should take evidence on bills that start there.
  • Substantial Government changes to a bill late in the process – the Committee raises concerns about the Government practice of adding substantial new material to a bill late in its passage, thus inhibiting appropriate parliamentary scrutiny. The Committee recommends that when this happens the bill, or at least the new clauses, should return to committee stage to ensure that there is sufficient detailed scrutiny.   
  • Legislative Standards Committee – the Parliamentary Business and Legislation (PBL) Cabinet Committee has not always rigorously ensured that bills are fit for purpose for introduction to Parliament. The Constitution Committee recommends the establishment of a Legislative Standards Committee in Parliament, which would to examine explanatory materials accompanying bills and assess their quality and consistency. If they were found inadequate, defective or absent, the Legislative Standards Committee could press the Government for improvements. A Legislative Standards Committee could also express a view about the amount of time needed for scrutiny of a bill, on the basis of its assessment of the bill and having listened to the views of backbench MPs and Peers.

Chairman's comments

Chair of the Committee Baroness Taylor of Bolton said:

"Scrutiny of legislation is Parliament's most important function. We identify areas were improvements could be made to the legislative process, to enhance the quality of scrutiny, to make it more accessible, and to increase the opportunities for public and stakeholder input into the process. We urge the Government and both Houses to work together to make these changes and improve the quality of the laws Parliament passes."

 Further information

Image: Parliamentary Copyright

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