Mr. Bercow: I cannot help but think that the choice of example is not well advised. In apparently celebrating the fire regulations, is the hon. Gentleman aware that they are the subject of growing controversy? I received only a few days ago a detailed and persuasive complaint about them. I suggest that he is a little more cautious in his praise.
Mr. Stringer: In publishing the list of possible regulatory reform orders, which we did when the Bill was introduced, we quoted fire regulations as an example of what an order could simplify. Many people involved in commerce and business are not satisfied that fire regulations are clear. In many cases, that is also true of the fire service. They exist in more than 120 pieces of primary legislation and 120 pieces of secondary legislation. What makes them ideally suitable for a regulatory reform order is the fact that people are dissatisfied with them, not that they are very politically controversial.
The hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Page) outlined the details of the Committee's procedures and explained some of the difficulties that might be encountered. He asked two direct questions: first, whether the Committee would have the resources to enable it to carry out its business, and the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire made a similar point; and secondly, whether the Committee would have the right and power to force Ministers to attend. Both issues are a matter for the House. I understand that extra legal resources have been made available to the Committee. I also understand that, in the past, the House has exempted hon. Members from an obligation to attend when they are asked to do so. However, it would be an unwise Minister with responsibility for a regulatory reform order who refused to attend to say why he or she wanted it.
I am well aware that it is part of the Minister's style--not dissimilar to that of his celebrated colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office--to act as an impartial umpire, if such a person exists. I wonder whether I can tempt him to express an opinion on the vexed question that was highlighted by speech of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Cotter) and in the interventions of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). Should members of the newly formed Committee enjoy security of tenure from the start of a Parliament to its end, or should that be attendance dependent?
Mr. Stringer: That is a matter of resource and, like the ability and right of the Committee to force hon. Members to attend, is a matter for the House. When the House has appointed Members to this and other Select Committees, it has done so for a full parliamentary Session. I cannot remember the exact words used, but they are to the effect of "until the House otherwise decides". So the House
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley for his work on the Committee. I also thank the Committee for its work on the Standing Orders. I am not at all embarrassed to agree with it on most things and to take its opinion into account when the Government reach their conclusions.
In proposing the amendments, the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst demonstrated an almost perverse and paranoid attitude towards the consensus building that the Committee uses when it accepts deregulation orders. Members from all parties have worked on a consensual basis, which has made for some good deregulation orders. He criticised my comments by saying that it is conservative to rely on what has happened in the past. If that was all we were doing, I would agree with him, but it is not.
We have considered whether the superaffirmative process that creates deregulation orders, which was established by the previous Conservative Government, has produced good law. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that that is the case. If he really wants to make an argument based on the evidence, he has to show that the procedures on which we are building have failed because of the quorum of five that has been applied to the Committee since its inception. Clever though the right hon. Gentleman's speeches are, he failed to show that the previous process had failed. The fact that we are building on that process bodes well for the future of the Committee under the 2001 Act.
Mr. Stringer: The right hon. Gentleman agrees. The third amendment in his name, which the Speaker did not select for discussion by the House, would have given a minority of members of the Committee, from the Conservative party or any Opposition party, a right of veto. He proposed that if Opposition Members did not turn up, the Committee could not work. That would not be a sensible or democratic way to proceed.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there was a problem with the sub-Committee having a quorum of only two because that is not a satisfactory number of people to make law. However, the sub-Committee has to report to the Committee, which has to lay the orders before the House.
A. That Standing Order No. 141 (Deregulation Committee) be repealed and the following new Standing Order be made--
(1) There shall be a select committee, called the Deregulation and Regulatory Reform Committee, to examine--
(i) every document containing proposals laid before the House under section 3 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 (the 1994 Act) or under section 6 of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 (the 2001 Act);
(ii) every draft order proposed to be made under section 1 of the 1994 Act or section 1 of the 2001 Act; and
(iii) every subordinate provisions order or draft of such an order made or proposed to be made under sections 1 and 4 of the 2001 Act.
(2) The committee shall report to the House, in relation to every proposals document referred to in paragraph 1(i) of this order, either
(a) that a draft order in the same terms as the proposals should be laid before the House; or
(b) that the proposals should be amended before a draft order is laid before the House; or
(c) that the order-making power should not be used in respect of the proposals.
(3) The committee shall report to the House, in relation to every draft order referred to in paragraph 1(ii) of this order, its recommendation whether the draft order should be approved.
(4) The committee may draw the special attention of the House to any subordinate provisions order or draft order referred to in paragraph 1(iii) of this order, and may report its opinion whether or not the order or draft order should be approved or, as the case may be, annulled.
(5) The committee may report to the House on any matter arising from its consideration of the said proposals, draft orders or subordinate provisions orders.
(6)(A) In its consideration of proposals the committee shall consider in each case whether the proposals
(a) appear to make an inappropriate use of delegated legislation;
(b) remove or reduce a burden or the authorisation or requirement of a burden;
(c) continue any necessary protection;
(d) have been the subject of, and take appropriate account of, adequate consultation;
(e) impose a charge on the public revenues or contain provisions requiring payments to be made to the Exchequer or any government department or to any local or public authority in consideration of any licence or consent or of any services to be rendered, or prescribe the amount of any such charge or payment;
(f) purport to have retrospective effect;
(g) give rise to doubts whether they are intra vires;
(h) require elucidation, are not written in plain English or appear to be defectively drafted;
(i) appear to be incompatible with any obligation resulting from membership of the European Union.
(B) In the case of proposals presented under the 2001 Act, the committee shall also consider whether the proposals:
(j) prevent any person from continuing to exercise any right or freedom which he might reasonably expect to continue to exercise;
(k) satisfy the conditions of proportionality between burdens and benefits set out in sections 1 and 3 of the Act;
(l) satisfy the test of desirability set out in section 3(2)(b) of the Act;
(m) have been the subject of, and take appropriate account of, estimates of increases or reductions in costs or other benefits which may result from their implementation; or
(n) include provisions to be designated in the draft order as subordinate provisions;
and in the case of the latter consideration the committee shall report its opinion whether such a designation should be made, and to what parliamentary proceedings any subordinate provisions orders should be subject.