Regulatory Reform Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Stringer: I hope to deal with the amendment quickly. The costings issue was dealt with in the debate on the previous amendment. All RROs and RIAs with the costings will be part of the process of consultation. Without repeating all that has been said about transferring responsibility from Parliament and the Government to the courts, this is one of the more unusual amendments that have been tabled. If the Minister has instigated consultation but realises that he must change his proposals and initiate further consultation, he will be a model consulter. He recognises that his original proposals were not quite apposite, so he consults again to obtain more information. The hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire is suggesting that he should then be taken out of the equation.

The Opposition tabled a series of amendments to test us on removing ministerial judgment from the Bill, but they have reached the point of absurdity and I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Page: I thank the Minister for his positive and constructive response. We are starting to prod a nerve when he responds in that way. His officials must be bleeding quietly to provide him with those abrasive words to utter to young and inexperienced hon. Members such as me.

The point is not to take the Minister out of the equation, but to remove the Minister's choice to do this, that or the other.

Mr. Stringer: That is what Ministers are for.

Mr. Page: When it comes to regulation, I sometimes wonder what they are for. They seem to be the mouthpiece of their officials and rubber stamp what their officials do. Ministers do not do their job and hold the line. I am looking the Minister straight in the eye when I say that I have been equally guilty. He is falling into the same trap. As the papers come through, they receive the ministerial rubber-stamp and go on down the conveyor belt. That is the reason for the amendments.

Mrs. Brinton: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Page: I shall certainly give way to the hon. Lady, but I must tell her that the Minister is not going to accept my amendment.

Mrs. Brinton: Instead of taking the Minister out of the equation, perhaps we should bow to his superior judgment.

Does the hon. Gentleman really believe it apposite in Committee to criticise civil servants who cannot defend themselves?

Mr. Page: I accept the hon. Lady's strictures, but something must be done to stop the sausage machine churning out regulations day after day. She was not in Committee this morning--I am delighted that she has joined us this afternoon--and I am more than willing to furnish her with a list of the regulations that has been put on to the statute book during the past four years. They have increased by more than 10 per cent. That is what I am objecting to. Somehow, we must remove those burdens from business.

The purpose of the amendment is to try to tease from the Minister the process whereby consultation will take place and the extent to which the matter will be fully and fairly examined. I asked about costs and the Minister responded to previous amendments, but he has not given as full a picture of costs as I want. However, he has a closed mind and will not accept that there should be a broader and more democratic basis. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman: We now come to the question that clause 5 stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Lansley rose—

The Chairman: I must say that, following the lengthy discussion on a range of amendments on the matter, I shall need to be persuaded, but not by brown envelopes. Very briefly, Mr. Lansley.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Lansley: Would I be anything else? I shall not repeat our discussions on previous amendments, but the Minister is in the business of telling us what it is all about. Clause 5(1)(d) provides for consultation with the National Assembly for Wales where the provision will extend to Wales, and I am sure that that is fine. However, I note—this is a genuine question about something that I do not understand—that the Bill extends to Northern Ireland. I cannot find a consequent provision for consultation with the Northern Ireland Assembly. The explanatory notes have not enlightened me, and I wonder whether the Minister might do so.

The Chairman: That sounds reasonable.

Mr. Stringer: The Bill represents the constitutional settlements with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act will continue. In Wales, where powers have been devolved, the Welsh Assembly must consult. In Northern Ireland, where many regulations have been taken by Orders in Council, the Bill will not apply, but it will apply where legislation has been passed for the whole of the United Kingdom.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

        Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Rooney.]

        Adjourned accordingly at nine minutes to Seven o'clock till Thursday 29 March at five minutes to Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cook, Mr. Frank (Chairman)
Brinton, Mrs.
Brown, Mr. Russell
Bruce, Mr. Ian
Cotter, Mr.
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs.
Gray, Mr.
Lansley, Mr.
Laxton, Mr.
Leslie, Mr.
Moran, Ms
Page, Mr.
Rooney, Mr.
Stewart, Mr. Ian
Stringer, Mr.
Sutcliffe, Mr.
Twigg, Mr. Derek
White, Mr.

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