Select Committee on Liaison First Report



Report by Mr Barry Field, Chairman of the Committee


  1. In the Committee's view, the deregulation procedure has worked extremely well. Sound proposals by the Procedure Committee for Parliamentary examination of proposals and draft Orders have been refined and developed in practice.

  2. Those likely to be affected by deregulation measures have had direct and effective access to the Parliamentary process, often giving oral evidence to the Committee in public. The examination of proposals has been detailed and exacting, often exposing flaws and problems which have allowed improvements to be made in the draft Orders eventually laid before Parliament. Almost every amendment recommended by the Committee has been made, which also reflects a co-operative approach on the part of Government Departments. The Committee has proceeded on the basis of cross-party consensus; no division has yet taken place.

  3. Although addressed to a specific category of instrument, the deregulation procedure has provided valuable experience in systematic pre-legislative scrutiny by a select committee. In view of the continuing interest in more effective scrutiny of primary and secondary legislation, the work of the Deregulation Committee may provide valuable lessons in the next Parliament.

Report on the Committee's work

  4. The task of the Deregulation Committee is to scrutinise legislation in the form of Deregulation Orders. Details of the scrutiny work carried out by the Committee in this Parliament are contained in the separate statistical summary. The Standing Order to set up the Committee (SO No.124A) was passed on 24 November 1994, and the Committee was appointed on 2 March 1995. The table therefore relates only to Session 1994-95 onwards.

  5. When a proposal for a Deregulation Order is laid before Parliament, the Committee has a period of 60 days[63] in which to consider it and report to the House whether a draft Order in the same terms as the proposal should be laid, whether the proposal should be amended before a draft Order is laid, or whether the proposal should not be proceeded with. By agreement between the Committee and the Cabinet Office, which co-ordinates Departments' deregulation activities, the Government has brought forward Deregulation proposals at the rate of approximately one a week. To date, the Committee has reported on all proposals within the 60-day period for Parliamentary consideration.

  6. The Committee has reported on a total of 32 proposals since it was appointed.[64] It has recommended that one proposal should not be proceeded with, that 13 proposals should be amended before a draft Order was laid, and in 18 cases that a draft Order in the same terms as the proposal should be laid. To date, with the exception of one amendment, all the Committee's recommendations have been accepted by the Government.

  7. Under Standing Order No.124A, the Committee must report on any draft Deregulation Order within fifteen sitting days of the draft Order being laid before Parliament, stating its recommendation whether the draft Order should be approved. The Committee has met this requirement in all cases.

  8. Any proposal laid before Parliament has to be accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum, describing the purpose of the proposal, explaining how it conforms to the requirements of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and giving details of the public consultation on it.[65] The Minister is also required, when laying a draft Deregulation Order, to lay a Statement explaining how, if at all, the original proposal for the Order has been changed in the light of the Reports of the Deregulation Committee and its sister Committee in the House of Lords, and of any representations made to the Department by other interested parties during the 60-day period.

  9. The Deregulation Committee has experienced no significant difficulties in obtaining further information from Government Departments, which, as the promoters of Deregulation Orders, have usually been keen to assist the Committee.

  10. As far as other aspects of the Committee's work are concerned, although the Committee has power to travel within the United Kingdom, it has not done so; and it has not exercised its power to appoint a specialist adviser.

63   This is defined by section 4(2) and (3) of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 (c.40) as the period of 60 days beginning on the day on which the proposal was laid before Parliament, but not including any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which either House is adjourned for more than four days.  Back

64   As of 18 December 1996. Back

65   The Minister is required to provide this information by section 3(3) and (4) of the 1994 Act.  Back

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Prepared 13 March 1997