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you will then have the right not to work on any Sunday once three months have passed from the date on which you gave the notice. Your notice must

be in writing ;

be signed and dated by you ;

say that you object to Sunday working.

for three months after you give the notice, your employer can still require you to do all the Sunday work your contract provides for. After the three month period has ended, you have the right to complain to an industrial tribunal if, because of your refusal to work on Sundays, your employer

dismisses you, or

does something else detrimental to you, for example, failing to promote you.

Once you have the rights described, you can surrender them only by giving your employer a further notice, signed and dated by you, saying that you wish to work on Sunday or that you do not object to Sunday working and then agreeing with your employer to work on Sundays or on a particular Sunday.'

(5) The Secretary of State may by order amend the prescribed form set out in sub-paragraph (4) above.

(6) An order under sub-paragraph (5) above shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

Effect of rights on contracts of employment

12.--(1) Any contract of employment under which a betting worker who satisfies the conditions in paragraph 2(1)(a) and (b) above was employed on the day before the commencement date is unenforceable to the extent that it

(a) requires the betting worker to work on Sunday on or after the commencement date, or

(b) requires the employer to provide the betting worker with work on Sunday on or after that date.

(2) Except as provided by sub-paragraph (3) below, any agreement entered into after the commencement date between a protected betting worker and his employer is unenforceable to the extent that it (a) requires the betting worker to work on Sunday, or

(b) requires the employer to provide the betting worker with work on Sunday.

(3) Where, after giving an opting-in notice, a protected betting worker expressly agrees as mentioned in paragraph 3(1)(b) above (and so ceases to be protected), his contract of employment shall be taken to be varied to the extent necessary to give effect to the terms of the agreement.

(4) The reference in sub-paragraph (2) above to a protected betting worker includes a reference to an employee who, although not a protected betting worker for the purposes of that sub-paragraph at the time when the agreement is entered into, is a protected betting worker on the day on which she returns to work as mentioned in paragraph 10 of Schedule 13 of the 1978 Act (maternity).

13.--(1) Where a betting worker gives his employer an opting-out notice, the contract of employment under which he was employed immediately before he gave that notice becomes unenforceable to the extent that it

(a) requires the betting worker to work on Sunday after the end of the notice period, or

(b) requires the employer to provide the betting worker with work on Sunday after the end of that period.

(2) Except as provided by sub-paragraph (3) below, any agreement entered into between an opted-out betting worker and his employer is unenforceable to the extent that it

(a) requires the betting worker to work on Sunday after the end of the notice period, or

(b) requires the employer to provide the betting worker with work on Sunday after the end of that period.

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(3) Where, after giving an opting-in notice, an opted-out betting worker expressly agrees as mentioned in paragraph 5(5)(b) above (and so ceases to be opted-out), his contract of employment shall be taken to be varied to the extent necessary to give effect to the terms of the agreement.

(4) The reference in sub-paragraph (2) above to a protected betting worker includes a reference to an employee who, although not a protected betting worker for the purposes of that sub-paragraph at the time when the agreement is entered into, is a protected betting worker on the day on which she returns to work as mentioned in paragraph 10 of Schedule 13 to the 1978 Act (maternity).

14. If

(a) under the contract of employment under which a betting worker who satisfies the conditions in paragraph 2(1)(a) and (b) above was employed on the day before the commencement date, the employer is, or may be, required to provide him with work for a specified number of hours each week,

(b) under that contract, the betting worker was or might have been required to work on Sunday before the commencement date, and (c) the betting worker has worked on Sunday in that employment (whether or not before the commencement date) but has, on or after the commencement date, ceased to do so,

then, so long as the betting worker remains a protected betting worker, that contract shall not be regarded as requiring the employer to provide him with work on weekdays in excess of the hours normally worked by the betting worker on weekdays before he ceased to work on Sunday.

15.--(1) If

(a) under the contract of employment under which a betting worker who satisfies the conditions in paragraph 2(1)(a) and (b) above was employed on the day before the commencement date, the betting worker was or might have been required to work on Sunday before that date, (b) the betting worker has worked on Sunday in that employment (whether or not before the commencement date) but has, on or after the commencement date, ceased to do so, and

(c) it is not apparent from the contract what part of the remuneration payable, or of any other benefit accruing, to the betting worker was intended to be attributable to work on Sunday, then, so long as the betting worker remains a protected betting worker, that contract shall be regarded as enabling the employer to reduce the amount of remuneration paid, or the extent of the other benefit provided, to the betting worker in respect of any period by the proportion which the hours of work which (apart from this Schedule) the betting worker could have been required to do on Sunday in the period (in this paragraph referred to as "the contractual Sunday hours") bears to the aggregate of those hours and the hours of work actually done by the betting worker in the period.

(2) Where, under the contract of employment, the hours of work actually done on weekdays in any period would be taken into account in determining the contractual Sunday hours, they shall be taken into account in determining the contractual Sunday hours for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1) above.

Proceedings for contravention of paragraph 10

16. Section 22B and 22C of the 1978 Act (which relate to proceedings brought by an employee on the ground that he has been subjected to a detriment in contravention of section 22A of that Act) shall have effect as if the reference in section 22B(1) to section 22A included a reference to paragraph 10 above.

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Dismissal on grounds of assertion of statutory right

17. In section 60A of the 1978 Act (dismissal on grounds of assertion of statutory right), in subsection (4)(a), after sub-paragraph (ii) there shall be inserted "or

(iii) Schedule 4A to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963". Conciliation

18. In section 133 of the 1978 Act (general provisions as to conciliation offers) at the end of subsection (1) there shall be added

"(f) arising out of a contravention, or alleged contravention, of paragraph 10 of Schedule 4A to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963".'--[ Mr. Paice .]

New clause 3

Duration and expiry of Chapter 1 of Part I

.--(1) Chapter 1 of Part I of this Act shall expire with the end of the period of five years beginning with the date on which it came into force unless it is continued in force by an order under subsection (2) below.

(2) The Secretary of State may by order provide that Chapter 1 of Part I of this Act shall continue in force for a period not exceeding twelve months from the coming into operation of the order. (3) No order under subsection (2) above shall be made unless (a) a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament together with a list of proposals to be made for orders under section 1 of this Act ; and

(b) the draft has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.'.-- [Mr. Fatchett.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Fatchett : I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : With this, it will be convenient to consider Government amendments Nos 97 to 100 and No. 24.

Mr. Fatchett : New clause 3 relates to what I consider to be the most important issues in the Bill. In many respects this is a strange Bill. The meat of the sandwich is the deregulatory measures that we have spent considerable time debating, but the outside of the sandwich includes provisions which cause me constitutional concerns on privatising and contracting out civil service functions. The other side of the sandwich relates to the new powers taken under the first four clauses--the so-called Henry VIII powers.

The new clause aims to limit those powers to a five-year period. We consider that to be unsatisfactory and second best. I made our position clear in the debate on the report of the Select Committee on Procedure. We object in principle to any Executive taking powers to repeal primary legislation by order. On that issue, a great divide exists between us and the Government. The new clause does not heal that divide, but in a sense reflects and builds on the current position. Sadly, we have lost the argument on principle.

This is an important constitutional issue and it is sad that fewer hon. Members are present than for debates on Sunday racing and Scottish off licences. The new clause relates closely to the powers of Members of Parliament, which in recent years have been substantially eroded. We should be jealous of our power to make Ministers of any political party accountable to the House. That is the principal point underpinning clauses 1 to 4 and it is reflected in new clause 3.

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We oppose in principle the use of order- making powers to repeal primary legislation. Last Wednesday, the Leader of the House said that the Bill contained certain safeguards--that the powers can be used to deal only with what are called deregulatory orders and only in circumstances which satisfy the provisions of the first four clauses. He drew our attention in particular to the need to remove a burden and said that necessary protection should be given. As members of the Committee who considered the Bill will know, those words have become the golden formula of the Bill. Unfortunately, however, they are not subject to any objective test to verify them and to ensure that the Bill will be used in particular circumstances. They are not scientific, but are the essence of political debate and controversy. It is crucial that we recognise that the mechanism in the first four clauses is dependent not on objectivity but on subjectivity and is therefore open to political debate and controversy.

Hon. Members have expressed different opinions about the nature of the burden of necessary protection in relation to health and safety at work, fire safety provision and continuous licensing for heavy goods vehicles and coaches. Such matters are the stuff of political debate. There is nothing wrong with that, but the stuff of political debate should be dealt with through normal procedures rather than through a mechanism which pretends towards objectivity.

During the debate on the Procedure Committee report, the impression was given that the deregulation process was an ongoing process--that it could last indefinitely or, to put it in objective and more accurate terms, for as long as the Government last. That is a strange intellectual concept. If the Government introduce legislation which does not pass their deregulatory test, something must be wrong with the legislation. The Minister laughs, but it is a crucial point. Why should mechanisms be built in at this stage to deal with failures that are recognised by the Government ? That is unacceptable and an incoherent argument.

If the deregulation process is ongoing, the way in which the Government describe it becomes crucial. In Committee, we were told time and again that the proposals were modest and limited and that they would be small in number and limited in scope. If so, why do we need the special new procedures ? If we will deal with only a handful of cases each year, many of which cause no controversy--like some of the provisions of the Bill, which were agreed after limited debate and without a Division--why do we need a special procedure ? Is not the answer that an annual Deregulation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill can be introduced, which could be dealt with like any other Bill and on which substantial and quick progress could probably be made ? If the deregulation process is not limited in scope, the argument changes. If we are talking about a substantial number of deregulatory initiatives and about extensive deregulation that will bear down heavily on our constituents--consumers or employees--the argument for a special mechanism becomes weaker still because the Government cannot pretend that we are dealing with matter of fact issues. They are issues of substantial importance and they should be dealt with not through a back door process but clearly and openly and, where necessary, by primary legislation.

The nature of the powers suggests that we should not use the mechanisms in the first four clauses. The powers sought by the Government are either so extensive that the

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first four clauses become increasingly worrying to those concerned about accountability, or they are not extensive, in which case we do not need them. The Government have never answered that conundrum and paradox in their position. Those powers are a substantial and worrying departure.

In Committee, Conservative Members did not seem to recognise the fact that Governments can change. Opposition Members have experienced that process often enough--and painfully--to know that Governments change and that in a long political cycle there are periods of opposition and periods of government. That being so, there is an even stronger case for saying that we should be conscious of the powers of this Chamber and of those of each Member of Parliament. It is our job, as part of this legislature, to make the Executive accountable. It is not a question of whether deregulation legislation is introduced by a Conservative or Labour Administration ; it is a question of the powers taken by one Executive, which will make Ministers less accountable for their actions. Conservatives should not regard this Bill simply as a Bill introduced by a Conservative Administration ; they should regard it as a Bill that could come from any Administration which could then have powers to do things with which they do not agree, whether for ideological or other reasons. The test is what one would feel when in the minority--in opposition. Anyone in opposition would be worried about these new powers being granted to the Executive, and that must always be the test used by Members of Parliament.

8.30 pm

In moving clause 3, I recognise--as we often do--that we are arguing for second best. We are arguing for a measure that I would rather not see on the statute book. I would prefer the Bill to be without the first four clauses, but I am trying to find ways to limit the powers that they contain. Those powers could have been limited by subject--something that we attempted to do in relation to health and safety and other issues--but in this case we are limiting the powers by a period of time. I believe that within five years the deregulation initiative that the Government launched 18 months or so ago will have run its course. The arguments support that, so there is merit in the new clause on practical grounds.

We are debating a key constitutional issue. It is sad that we have been unable to arouse more interest in the Henry VIII powers granted under the first four clauses. When the history of our debates is examined at a later stage--if it ever is--our lack of interest in those powers will seem strange. We should have been much more concerned about the first four clauses of the Bill.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) : There is something deeply destabilising about following the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) who, if I may say so, made a very conservative speech. I agree with him about the glories of some of our constitutional development. When I was a lad, there was a general and perhaps misconceived idea that one understood the law. We had a general view of the law ; it seemed a much smaller thing, more contained and directed towards the objectives of society. We knew, by and large, what was right and what was wrong. We had a feeling for the law.

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My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) emphasised the sheer burden of the flood of legislation, administrative orders and delegated legislation. It is because of that flood that I no longer have any real feel for the law of the land which affects my conduct or that of my fellow citizens and constituents. One therefore understands the drift behind this Bill. Some Members of all parties believe that the House has over-regulated and over-legislated. We understand the Government's purpose in introducing the Bill but, although the new clauses are ameliorating, they do not alter the Bill's fundamental principle, as the hon. Member for Leeds, Central said.

The law is no longer a glass through which we look darkly in order to have a concept of the soul and purpose of public society. It is probably now a mirror of a very unsatisfactory human being such as myself who has heard the Minister responsible for deregulation say that when we--the Conservative party--first came into office there were about 300 pages of law per annum but that in 1991 we reached about 3, 000 pages. There is no way in which an honourable citizen, mindful of his duties before the law, can have the remotest concept of what that means. We have seen the destructive impact on businesses but the question asked by members of the Opposition Front Bench, and by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) in the debate on the Procedure Committee's report, was why the powers are necessary. Why is there not an annual deregulation Bill to meet the challenges that face us ? We have not received an answer.

In my time in the House of Commons, which is only--or as much as--15 years, I have reached the stage where I have no idea what the law is or, as often as not, where the balance of importance lies within the clauses that form the law. As I said, I am no longer able to advise my fellow citizens on the generality of where we stand before the law. I have seen the balance shift even further not only to Ministers but to what we call the Executive.

The hon. Member for Newham, South has made very valuable contributions to the argument. In many instances, we are talking about administrative law, which is the right of bureaucrats to make law that profoundly affects our lives. We are now giving them the power to unmake law, which may also profoundly affect our lives. Judgment depends on each instrument--some we shall think important and some we shall think unimportant. In the majority of cases, the House has a consensus. We therefore come back to the question : why can we not have an annual deregulation Bill ?

How may I, as a Back Bencher who may not always find favour with the Committee of Selection, ever move an amendment to something which profoundly affects my constituents ? There is no provision for amendment of that rule. I cannot put my case on the Floor of the House. By an administrative device, therefore--that is what I think of statutory instruments--we shall be governing England, Scotland and Wales as we have governed Ulster. The government of Ulster is unsatisfactory. I would not wish that fate on my fellow citizens. We should therefore take this issue very seriously. It is incumbent on the Government to consider why they are trying to tilt the balance further in favour of Executive power.

For many years, I have criticised the incessant drumbeat of guillotines. The folly implicit in them is that by driving legislation and regulation through unconsidered we have created the morass that now governs our lives. The Government's solution is to provide a mechanism by

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which we may "undrive" it through--if necessary, at a heroic pace. We may indeed unwind, almost at a stroke, many of what I would claim are the benefits of the legislation of the 1980s. An incoming Labour Government might delete some of our most cherished contributions to the development of public society.

In the debate on the Procedure Committee report, the hon. Member for Leeds, Central pledged that the Labour Government would unwind certain features of the Bill. I hope that every hon. Member of spirit will give a cheer. Like the hon. Gentleman, I hope that a benign Conservative Administration will not use the powers oppressively ; I also hope that his own party's Administration--should it ever come about--would also honour that notion.

I now pick up a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams, although I do not do so in a spirit of contention. A system which enables us to unwind legislation so rapidly shows how quick a thing legislation is. When I first became a Member of Parliament and someone came to argue about a scheme, I would suck on my teeth, draw in my breath and say that the majesty of the law is such that it would take time because society does not move rapidly. What I might have considered a good idea had to be weighed by my peers, fellow Members of Parliament and fellow citizens. All the stages of legislation--Second Reading, Committee stage and Report--enable the public at large to participate in matters which might have profound effects on their lives.

We should be wary of creating a device which allows us simply to make a law today. We all remember the famous Baker Bills which attempted to meet the disasters surrounding us--the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Football Spectators Bill. I am sure that we can all chant the laws that have so improved our lives and removed menaces. If we can so easily incorporate a law and so easily undo it, why are we talking only about 3,000 pages of law per Session ? Why not have 6,000 pages of law ? After all, what we do on Monday afternoon we can change on Tuesday, and by Thursday we may have yet another view on the matter.

This is the corruption of the majesty of law. If one has no regard or respect for the processes of law or for the instruments that issue forth from it, one undermines civil society. I would argue that one of the corruptions of my adult life is the general contempt in which law is held. I do not know what the law is. When I transgress, I no longer feel it as a transgression. Most of my fellow citizens are increasingly coming to the view that they can disregard the law. That is the crisis on our streets ; that is the crisis in our homes. Yet here we are providing an instrument to make laws on Mondays with guillotines and unmake them on Tuesdays by order after 60 days if they are contentious and after 40 days if they are

non-contentious. The balance is shifting too far, not only from the Opposition to the Government but, more importantly to my purpose, from the House of Commons to the Executive. That is why we should punctuate the matter by saying that it is not right.

The ameliorating new clause has merit, but, as the hon. Member for Leeds, Central said, it is only a second best. The Government are meeting some of the observations made by the Select Committee on Procedure and have improved clause 4, but only marginally. The principle is important and it will not enable me to support the Bill.

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Mr. Miller : It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). His comments, which were reflected in some of the Committee debates, get to the root of the question. My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Dr. Wright) developed a similar theme in Committee. There is concern about the integrity of the House of Commons in the context of the Bill.

My remarks go one step further. There is concern outside this place about the integrity of the House of Commons. Some of the things said today, when reported outside, will give members of the public great cause for concern. I listened, for example, to the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva) who spoke about health and safety legislation and drew parallels with India. It is incredible that we should draw parallels between our regulations and those of a nation in which, in some parts, there are, regrettably, enormous numbers of deaths--way above the number in this country--from industrial accidents, and in which child labour is used.

The hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) referred to getting bureaucrats off the backs of the people. When one analyses what he was saying, one realises that he meant getting bureaucrats off the back of business. It is important that we should consider the Bill in the context of what it seeks to do and that we should not accept the contributions made by Conservative Members tonight in which they have sweepingly suggested that the Bill will liberate the people. It cannot liberate the people when the House of Commons, as an institution, is under threat. The Bill threatens the very roots of our democracy and that is why the new clause is important. It would at least ameliorate the worst excesses of the Bill.

I say with some confidence that a five-year period will not be relevant to the Conservative party because it will not be in power in five years' time. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills has referred to the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) about the Select Committee on Procedure. We take a serious view of the challenge to our democracy and of the need to protect hon. Members from the excesses of the Executive. 8.45 pm

The integrity of the Government is at stake in the Bill. It is a pity that the Minister for Transport in London is not here on the Front Bench. He did not do himself or the House proud, as reported at column 874 of the Official Report of our proceedings in Committee on 12 April. In response to a point I raised, he said that it was okay for hon. Members to say one thing in the House and another thing in their constituencies. If they believe that that is an acceptable standard, it is an extraordinary position, and it illustrates the depths to which the Government have sunk.

Mr. Spearing : I was not a member of the Committee. My hon. Friend has told me something of considerable significance. First, can he give the reference ? Secondly, does he agree that it is not just wrong for a Minister to say that, but wrong for any Member of Parliament, any member of the public and anybody who believes in democracy ?

Mr. Miller : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. The reference is column 874 of the Committee proceedings of 12 April. The Minister said :

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"If my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne has learnt that lesson after only two years in the House, I commend him. It will serve him well in the next 20 or 30 years in which he remains in this place."--[ Official Report , Standing Committee F , 12 April 1994 ; c. 874.]

Such a comment undermines the integrity of this House. The Bill will be seen by members of the public as a further attempt by the Government to take powers that they have no moral right to take. The balance between what is a "necessary protection" and what is a burden on business needs some careful definition. Despite numerous attempts in Committee, the Government refused to define the sectors that were incorporated in the phrase "necessary protection". They refused to say which of the many health and safety regulations were covered by the phrase. Is it all of them or none of them ? I would be happy if the Minister for Industry could answer that point now. He is listening quietly and I am sure that he will respond in the wind-up. Unless the Government can define exactly what they mean by "necessary protection", and unless they can be clear about what those words mean in the context of the burden on business, the only example we have is the example given late one night on the Floor of the House by the Under- Secretary of State for Schools. In an Adjournment debate on the Lyme bay tragedy, when my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) argued the case for the regulation of outward bound centres, the Minister responded by saying that that would be a burden on business. That is the only example that the House has had placed before it in the context of the language used in the Bill. Unless the Minister can be absolutely specific

Mr. Sainsbury indicated dissent .

Mr. Miller : He is shaking his head. I am looking forward to the intervention and the great list of examples. He is not going to give it, I am sure. Unless the Minister can be absolutely precise, the House needs the protection of the new clause. On that basis, I urge the House, with all sincerity, to take on board the point that has been made. The integrity of the House is at stake. The Minister is now thumbing through a book on red tape, which he will wave around, but he will not find in there any of the lists of regulations governing health and safety to which I have referred and he has yet to give, either in Committee or at any stage, a commitment that any of them will be incorporated. In fact, the only example that we have is of exactly the opposite. Whom do we trust ? Whom do the people outside trust ? We cannot trust this Administration on this point or on the Bill, so I urge the House to support the new clause.

Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley) : Until the final words of the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller), I was going to say that I supported the consensus that seems to have developed during the debate. I should certainly like to congratulate the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) on the carefully argued and moderate way in which he advanced his case. There was little in his speech with which I could possibly disagree.

Like my hon. Friends, I warmly welcome the deregulation initiative. It is the motor that underpins the Bill and it is entirely welcome. However, that objective is not in itself sufficient to justify any means that may be used

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to support it. The new clause would set a time limit to the exercise by Ministers of the so-called Henry VIII clauses. In fact, it is somewhat misleading to describe them in that way. Certainly, a Parliament was asked to give Henry VIII powers to rule by proclamation that were much more untrammelled than anything in this context. Nevertheless, one adopts a time-honoured convention by describing such powers under that all-embracing title.

Such a provision, defined as one that enables primary legislation to be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation, with or without further parliamentary scrutiny, is not, of course, entirely new. Nevertheless, I suggest that such a provision has never been advanced in such a way before, even though the exercise of Henry VIII powers has been considered by Parliament on previous occasions. The committee on ministers' powers, otherwise known as the Donoughmore committee, considered that matter when it reported in 1932. It noted that the powers had been rarely used and that they had been used with the best possible motives. I am sure that, today, they are being advanced with the best possible motives again.

However, the committee also stated that the exercise of the power had not, in practice, given ground for complaint. That is an interesting observation and it may well be that there will be few complaints about the way in which the power may be exercised in future. Nevertheless, the possibility exists that the complaints may be extremely great and that they will worry us a great deal in future.

The committee stated :

"The power has been asked for and granted but rarely and always subject to conditions limiting the period of its operation . . . Even with safeguards . . . it is clearly a power which in theory at any rate may be unscrupulously used."

It is not short-sighted to consider the theoretical way in which such powers may be used and one should not be assuaged by assurances about the benevolent motives that underpin them in practice. A case has been advanced over the years for clauses such as this to be used in certain rather more limited ways. Indeed, their use has become increasingly common over the years. It has been recognised that there is a case for the powers to be used, for example, updating lists of threatened species in a schedule of protected wildlife, for upgrading monetary figures to take account of inflation or in respect of consequential and traditional provisions. However, here we will be giving power to amend any other Act of Parliament in the past or in future. I suggest that a general power to create or amend the law, even with limitations, is a power that should give us, as parliamentarians, pause for thought. We should at the very least set a time limit on its application.

As I initially said, the motives that underpin the provision are entirely honourable. Indeed, they are worthy of support. However, means should surely not justify ends and we should as

parliamentarians always consider such means. In the past, constitutionalists have clearly made the point that such a power should not be used simply for convenience. Yet, as has already been clearly shown in the debate, there are alternative ways in which to achieve the Government's ends. It just so happens that this appears to be a rather convenient way in which to do it. It is a great mistake to rely on good intentions and those who have in the past relied on good intentions have often subsequently rued their words and their decisions.

I am also concerned because of the precedent that we are setting. It was something to which my right hon. Friend

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Lord Simon of Glaisdale, a former Law Officer, referred in the other place, in a debate on what became the Children Act. He said : "If we pass this measure, it will be used as a precedent in other measures."--[ Official Report, House of Lords , 6 February 1989 ; Vol. 503, c. 1362.]

I believe that those concerns were reasonable.

The concern here is that the powers that are implemented in the Bill could be used by future Governments in a way that we cannot foresee today. Looking further than that, there is also the possibility that a future Government could use this kind of provision as a precedent for yet further inroads into parliamentary democracy. I was very pleased to hear the hon. Member for Leeds, Central say that that was not the intention of his party and that it rejected that kind of approach to legislation.

It is a fact that most of the changes that are set out in the Bill do not cause too many concerns, even among organisations that are not favourably disposed towards the Government. There is concern, however, because of the perceived threat of undefined and indeterminate changes in future. That is the factor that causes anxiety. As has been said, there is no power to amend statutory instruments. That worries me. I accept that, in devising a special procedure, the Government have tried hard to overcome the objections to which I have referred. At the end of the day, however, it is the Government who will take the decision. There will be no power to amend the legislation that comes forward to replace legislation that has been repealed.

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