The report, released as part of the Committee's ongoing inquiry on the legislative process, criticises the increased use of delegated powers by the Government. The Committee says that the seeking of broad delegated powers that permit the determination as well as the implementation of policy is "constitutionally objectionable", as is the use of such powers to create criminal offences and establish public bodies.
Alongside the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, the Committee has identified an increasing and constitutionally unacceptable trend for the Government to seek wider delegated powers. The Committee argues that the Henry VIII powers, which permit changes to primary legislation through secondary legislation, are a departure from constitutional principles.
While delegated powers are necessary to allow Parliament to focus on important policy frameworks and leave detail to secondary legislation, the Committee says that the Government should not seek broad or vague powers simply for convenience or flexibility. The Committee states the Government must provide a compelling justification for all delegated powers.
The Committee concludes that scrutiny of statutory instruments is an essential part of Parliament's work, and that the Government must take more account of parliamentarians' concerns when deficiencies are identified. If it does not do so, in exceptional circumstances Parliament should use its powers to block such instruments and require the Government to think again.
Chairman of the Committee Baroness Taylor of Bolton said:
"We are very concerned about the increasing use of broad delegated powers by successive Governments. Delegated powers should not be sought purely for the convenience of the Government, especially where it is hard for Parliament to assess how they might be used.
"Parliament has rarely rejected secondary legislation, and this remains the right approach. However, such restraint may not be sustained if the Government persists in the inappropriate use of delegated powers. We remind the Government that defeat on a statutory instrument need not be considered momentous or fatal. The Government can always lay a revised instrument the following day to respond to Parliament's scrutiny and correct deficiencies."