Select Committee on Deregulation Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 120 - 124)




  120.  Can I move on to the question of procedural changes? At the moment, as you know, there is a 60 day period for parliamentary scrutiny of a proposal which also gives an opportunity for the public to make direct representations to the Committees. Do you believe that is an important safeguard that we should ensure is retained in any changes which take place?
  (Professor Miers)  Yes, I do. I cannot really see much benefit to be gained by the saving of what will amount to a few days. According to the Government's paper it takes about a year anyway for a Department to activate the procedure. The Committees have completed on occasions their deliberations within the 60 day period with a few days to spare. It seems to me that for the purpose of the Department acting ten days earlier than would otherwise have been the case over a one year process, that is such a marginal saving that it is hardly worth thinking about. The disadvantage, which I think is the principal point—the other is a managerial point—is that with a 60 day period people outside know they have 60 days within which to make representations to you, and you do receive, and the other Committee has received, representations subsequent to an initial report or completion of your initial findings. One question which would arise is how you would notify the general public that you have completed your procedures and no more evidence will be heard or no more representations will be accepted by you. Where you have a clear window of opportunity, it seems to me better to leave that fixed.

  121.  Especially when one considers the burden may well have existed for some time.
  (Professor Miers)  Absolutely, we are talking about burdens which have been in existence for many, many years. It seems to me to be over-egging the pudding to say, "Let's save six days here on the procedure" because the Committees have happened to have completed their business earlier because it was a measure of fairly short compass.

  122.  So the 60 days focuses our attention here, it focuses the public outside and it does give a sufficient time so people could not say, "It has been too brief".
  (Professor Miers)  I would agree with all those, Chairman. I imagine it is easier to timetable, is it not, within the Committee if you know you have these periods of time.

  123.  Do you think that the second stage scrutiny should be dispensed with if neither Committee recommends amendment of the proposals?
  (Professor Miers)  I think you could do without the second stage scrutiny. If there are no amendments proposed and you know that there will be no second stage scrutiny, so you have examined the proposal and are entirely satisfied with it, then I would be comfortable with the idea that that would be the end of it, that would be agreed and would go forward.

  124.  Is there any point you feel we have not covered which you would have liked to have made comment on?
  (Professor Miers)  No, thank you, Chairman. The only one observation I would make, in response to Mr Steen's invitation, is that I have thought about the application of deregulation procedure in other contexts, for example, super affirmatives or dealing with framework legislation. Whether that is something which this Committee might want to press for the Modernisation Committee, to consider might be worth considering. I would conclude on this point, having spent quite a number of years writing about the way in which legislation is made, one of the obvious benefits of the deregulation procedure is the way in which the Committees in both places have been able to exert a degree of scrutiny over proposed legislation, albeit modest mostly, which is absent from much primary legislation. It really is a model of effective scrutiny and in that respect I can understand and I can see why it is that the Government wants to extend it, but I think there are also lessons for other aspects of parliamentary procedure.

Chairman:  Thank you very much. Can I thank you on behalf of the Committee for coming from Cardiff to give us the benefit of your views this morning? I again apologise for the delay in starting. I would just finally say that if there is anything as you are going back on your train to Cardiff which you feel you would have liked us to into account which we missed, by all means write to the clerk. I cannot guarantee what we will do with it but we will certainly look at anything you want us to look at if there is anything which comes to mind. Thank you very much. The next meeting, I did say, is 20 April. Just for the record, we will also be having fairly soon the New Year Eve's Licensing Hours and Casino Deregulation, both of those will be tabled fairly speedily after Easter. The next meeting is 20 April. Thank you very much.

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