House of Lords Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments


20 May 2004


The House of Lords Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments has raised concerns about Government proposals to allow the London Borough of Camden to publicise planning applications on its website but not through local newspapers, in a report published today (8th Report, HL 96, Session 2003-04).

The Report draws the proposals to the attention of the House and, if taken up by a Member of the House, could lead to a debate in the Chamber.

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

"The Committee has brought these proposals to the attention of the House because of its concern over the changes that would result to publicity arrangements for planning applications. Electronic communication is a fact of life for many in our society today, but there are still large numbers of people for whom more traditional media, such as newspapers, are their main source of information."

The proposals are contained in the Town and Country Planning (London Borough of Camden) Special Development Order 2004 (SI 2004/1231), which the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has laid before Parliament. Scheduled to come into force on 31 May 2004, the Order would allow Camden (as the local planning authority) to drop newspaper advertising for planning applications which did not accord with the development plan, and which would affect a public right of way. These applications would have to be advertised on Camden's own website instead.

Despite the ODPM's view that the change should lead to an increased public awareness of planning applications within Camden, the Committee is concerned that not all those likely to be affected by the planning applications covered by the Order will find it as easy to consult a website as to read a local newspaper. It comments that there is a risk that public awareness of planning applications in Camden may be reduced as a result, and not increased.

ODPM has indicated that the possibility of extending electronic communication to other types of application (such as listed building and conservation area consent) is being considered within Government. The Committee is concerned that any such extension might risk a reduction in public awareness in these areas too.


1.The Committee was appointed by the House of Lords on 17 December 2003. The third report of the Committee set out its plans for enhanced scrutiny of secondary legislation (Third Report, Session 2003-04, HL Paper 73).

2.The Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords [House for the Future, Cm 4534 (January 2000)] recommended that a "sifting" mechanism should be established, to identify those statutory instruments which were important and merited further debate or consideration. The Report of the Leader's Group on the Working of the House (HL Paper 111, Session 2001-02, April 2002) took up this proposal and  the House agreed this on 27 February 2003.

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.


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