The House of Lords Constitution Committee today published a report on Parliament and the Legislative Process.

The report proposes improvements in the way primary legislation is scrutinised (pre-legislative, scrutiny of bills and post-legislative scrutiny).

The Chairman of the inquiry, Lord Norton of Louth, said:

"Parliament and Government have an overwhelming responsibility to citizens to ensure laws are fit for purpose."

"While the parliamentary scrutiny system has been improved in recent years, there is still a chasm between where we are and where we should ideally be."

"Our report offers cost-effective ways to improve Parliament's scrutiny of bills at all stages of the legislative process and to encourage input from the public."

"We find it unacceptable that once legislation is passed it seems to go into a black hole. At the moment the emphasis is on getting a measure passed rather than assessing the effect that it has once it is the law of the land."

Pre-legislative Scrutiny

The Committee welcome the increasing number of draft Bills available to Committees to scrutinise.

Many joint Committees have found Government Departments are more open to improving the Bill at this stage.

The Committee Recommend:

  • The Government should publish Bills in draft unless there is a compelling reason not to.

  • The Government and the Liaison Committee of the House of Commons (with input from the Lords, possibly in the form of a Joint Liaison Committee) should decide which draft bills should be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny.

  • The outcome of Government consultations should be made available to pre-legislative Committees.

Scrutiny of Bills before Parliament

The Committee Recommend:

  • Improvements in the material made available to Parliament and a clear statement of the purpose of a Bill and the criteria by which it can be judged to have achieved its purpose.

  • Parliament should consider the use of business/workload Committees.

  • Every bill should at some stage be subject to scrutiny by a Committee empowered to take evidence (both in and outside Westminster).

  • Committees should have resources to commission public opinion polls and set up e-consultation as necessary.

The Committee favour bills being carried-over between Sessions provided that they have been subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. (The Bills should be subject to a 14 month cut-off period from the time of introduction.)

Post-Legislative Scrutiny

The report emphasises the importance of both Government and Parliament monitoring Acts to determine whether they have fulfilled their intended purpose.

The Committee Recommend:

  • Whatever Department sponsored the measure should within a set period conduct a review, including consultation with interested bodies, to see if it was effective and to identify any areas where the Act is not working as intended.

  • Committees should be able to commission independent research on the effects of an Act and hold an inquiry if it is felt the Act is not working as intended.


1. The members of the Lords Constitution Committee are: Lord Acton, Lord Elton, Lord Fellowes, Baroness Gould of Potternewton, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, Baroness Howells of St. David, Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, Lord Lang of Monkton, Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, The Earl of Mar and Kellie, Lord Morgan and Lord Norton of Louth (Chairman)

2. For copies of the report or request for interviews contact Jillian Bailey, Press & Publicity Officer (Committees) on 020 7219 8659.