Select Committee on Procedure First Report


(a)In June 1996, the Procedure Committee laid before the House a report on delegated legislation. ... With minor modifications, we support the recommendations in the 1996 report [printed as an Annex, at page xix below], and are strongly desirous of seeing them implemented. We believe that this package of recommendations is a modest and workable attempt to tackle the deficiencies of the existing system. We do not consider that the recommendations, if implemented, will add to the overall workload of the House or necessarily result in longer sitting hours. The recommendations should be seen, we believe, as an integral part of the programme of modernising the work of the House (paragraphs 1 and 4).
(b)In our view the trends revealed by [recent] statistics reinforce the case for the reform of the existing system of scrutiny (paragraph 28).
(c)The extent of any changes in the pattern and quantity of delegated legislation arising from devolution is a matter which we will continue to monitor. However, there is no reason to think at this stage that changes attributable to devolution require any re-assessment of the conclusions and recommendations in the 1996 report (paragraph 31).
(d)Even if SIs of a kind which are currently taken in committee or on the Floor were to be transferred to Westminster Hall, we do not believe that this would constitute a "solution" to the problems relating to scrutiny of delegated legislation which our predecessors identified, or that it would weaken the case for a sifting process to assess the appropriate level of scrutiny for individual instruments; at best it would transfer the problems themselves to a new setting (paragraph 33).
(e)We very much welcome the support of the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords for the recommendations in the 1996 report (paragraph 40).
(f)With regard to the Royal Commission's proposal that the sifting of SIs should be entrusted to a Joint Committee, we consider that this might be a sensible way of avoiding duplication of effort, but measures would need to be taken to ensure that recommendations relating to Commons business were taken by the Commons members of any such committee alone (paragraph 41).
(g)The activities of the European Scrutiny Committee, European Standing Committees, the Deregulation Committee and the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee have continued to develop during the four years since our predecessors reported, and form a valuable contribution to the effectiveness of Parliament. Almost every element of the 1996 report's proposed reforms in the field of delegated legislation has been pioneered in one or other of these committees and shown to be eminently workable (paragraph 51).
(h)The package of proposals first put forward in 1996 was deliberately designed to be realistic, not Utopian (paragraph 52).
(i)The existing system of scrutinising delegated legislation is urgently in need of reform. We concur with our predecessors' description of that system as "palpably unsatisfactory" (paragraph 53).
(j)We endorse the package of proposals put forward in the 1996 report. [These are] aimed not at increasing the burden on the House but, by means of the sifting mechanism, at targeting the House's existing resources more effectively. As several of our witnesses pointed out, they do not represent a radical departure from the existing procedures of the House but rather seek to build on them (paragraph 53).
(k)Our inquiry has raised a number of major issues relating to Parliament's treatment of delegated legislation. Some of these remain to be explored more fully (paragraph 54).
(l)In the interim, however, we believe that the most important thing is to make rapid progress in implementing the 1996 proposals (paragraph 55).
(m)In two respects those proposals, as originally advanced, would require primary legislation. We do not believe that the implementation of the other, very important, changes which our predecessors proposed ... should be delayed while time is found for appropriate bills to be brought forward (paragraph 56).
(n)We note that there is no reason for the Government to await primary legislation before initiating a "super-affirmative" procedure, at least on experimental lines. We recommend that such an experiment be conducted (paragraph 57).
(o)We support our predecessors' recommendation (never implemented) that there should be a full day's debate on those proposals (paragraph 58).
(p)The written and oral evidence we have received supported the 1996 proposals strongly. The proposals have now been endorsed by the Procedure Committee under both a Conservative and a Labour Administration, as well as by the Royal Commission on House of Lords Reform and by the Chairman's Panel in the House of Commons. We believe they represent a significant contribution to the process of modernising Parliament, and we press the Government to accept them as a matter of urgency (paragraph 59).

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