House of Lords Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments


2 February 2004


The new Lords Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments published is first report today, Monday 2 February 2004, announcing an inquiry into its working methods.

Much of Government policy is implemented by secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments). Over recent decades, the volume and importance of secondary legislation has increased significantly. The task of this new Committee is to scrutinise the policy behind that legislation as it passes through the Lords.

The workload of the Committee - about 1,500 statutory instruments a year - will be substantial. The Committee has therefore decided to begin with a brief inquiry into its working methods. The Committee will consider how it can perform its scrutiny function, alongside other Parliamentary scrutiny committees, so that it can contribute as effectively as possible to the work of Parliament in holding Government to account. The inquiry will be completed by Easter.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Chairman of the Committee, said

“I am delighted to be chairman of this important new committee. With the growth in secondary legislation, I have no doubt that the Committee will make an invaluable contribution to ensuring the proper scrutiny of Government by Parliament. The Lords is, I believe, particularly well suited to the detailed examination of legislation that this Committee will undertake.”


1.   The Committee was appointed by the House of Lords on 17 December 2003.

2.   In January 2000, the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords recommended that a “sifting” mechanism should be established, either by way of a joint committee or a Lords only committee, to identify those statutory instruments which were important and merited further debate or consideration (Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords, A House for the Future, Cm 4534 (January 2000), Cm 4534). The Report of the Leader’s Group on the Working of the House, published in April 2002, took up the Royal Commission’s recommendation and recommended that a committee be established to examine the merits of every statutory instrument subject to parliamentary scrutiny (HL Paper 111, Session 2001-02). In its 1st Report of last session (HL Paper 57, Session 2002-03), the House of Lords Liaison Committee agreed that, with effect from this session of Parliament, such a committee should be established. The House agreed a motion to approve the report on 27 February 2003. On 16 June 2003, the House, on a motion to approve the 3rd Report of the House of Lords Procedure Committee (HL Paper 115, Session 2002-03), agreed the Committee’s terms of reference (HL Hansard, 17 December 2003, cols 1156-57).

3.   Membership:

Lord Addington
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Chairman)
Lord Armstrong of Ilminster
Lord Jopling
Lord Boston of Faversham
Lord Methuen
Viscount Colville of Culross
Earl of Northesk
Lord Desai
Viscount Ullswater
Lord Graham of Edmonton

4.   Terms of reference:

“To consider every instrument which is laid before each House of Parliament and upon which proceedings may be or might have been taken in either House of Parliament, in pursuance of an Act of Parliament …with a view to determining whether the special attention of the House should be drawn to it on any of the following grounds:
(a)  that it is politically or legally important or gives rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House;
(b)  that it is inappropriate in view of the changed circumstances since the passage of the parent Act;
(c)  that it inappropriately implements EU legislation;
(d)  that it imperfectly achieves its policy objectives.”

5.   The Committee will complement the work of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments which provides a technical scrutiny of statutory instruments, considering issues such as vires and the drafting of an instrument.

6.   The report is available on the Committee’s webpage at

Christine Salmon
Clerk to the Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments
House of Lords  London  SW1A 0PW
Tel: 020 7219 3233  Fax: 020 7219 2571