To be published as HC 74-vii

House of COMMONS



Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

Ensuring Standards in the Quality of Legislation


Rt Hon Andrew Lansley MP and Adam Pile

Evidence heard in Public Questions 273 - 316



This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.


The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

on Thursday 10 January 2013

Members present:

Mr Graham Allen (Chair)

Mr Christopher Chope

Andrew Griffiths

Fabian Hamilton

Mrs Eleanor Laing


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Rt Hon Andrew Lansley MP, Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Privy Seal, and Adam Pile, Head of the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Secretariat, Economic and Domestic Secretariat, Cabinet Office, gave evidence.

Q273 Chair: Andrew, it is very good of you to come here and talk to us. I appreciate what a busy morning this always is for you to come. It is very good to see you. Congratulations on your new appointment, which is of very great interest to the Committee. You will know that we are looking at a number of issues at the moment. Today, it is particularly about improving the legislative process. We are keen to hear where you, as the new boy, full of radical, reforming ideas, would like to take us. Would you like to make some sort of opening statement?

Andrew Lansley: May I just say a few words?

Chair: Of course.

Andrew Lansley: This is by way of opening on my part, and also to introduce Adam Pile, who leads the group in the Cabinet Office, which is responsible, as a secretariat, for the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee.

Speaking from a personal point of view, I may have been Leader of the House for only four months, but the important work that you are doing, looking at improving legislative standards, is something that all of us, from our various perspectives, have been engaged in for a very long time. As a civil servant, in a former life, I first wrote instructions to counsel 30 years ago. As somebody in the business community, I can remember that we got engaged in trying to stem the rising tide of regulations from Government. When I came into Parliament as a member of the Opposition, I went through the night trying to improve legislation, and saw a great deal of the character of how legislation was scrutinised in Committee-sometimes well, sometimes very poorly.

I say all that because one of the things that I bring to this is that getting legislation right is hard. I hope that that is well understood. I know that it will be by this Committee. It is easy to look at things and say, "If you’d just rendered it into plainer English, it would be fine." Actually, very often, you can try as hard as you might, but sometimes the legislation has to be very specific because, otherwise, it is not clear and none of us wants to create uncertainty in the legislation that we pass, nor even say something that appears on the face of it to mean something but, when interpreted by courts, could mean more than one thing. We have to get these things right. Working at it is a hard thing to do.

I come to this as a reformer by inclination but a conservative by nature. I suppose where that gets me to is that I am always looking for improvement, and improvement is generally available, but it has to be proven, and you have to add value, not just change things for the sake of it. This is an area where I think that sometimes we have to distinguish between reforms that are clearly going to make progress and change things for the better, and proposals for reform that probably would not add value and would not change things for the better. That is slightly in the sense of, "We must keep changing things, imagining that we are improving them as a consequence."

I really welcome your inquiry, which gives you an opportunity not least to distinguish between those things. We come to it with quite a lot of progress already being made. My predecessor, George, and colleagues have made a lot of progress just in the last couple of years. We are very clear, as I just said-we can continuously improve the way in which we scrutinise legislation and we can hope to deliver better legislation and improve legislative standards.

In particular-and I hope this is something we can talk about a bit through the course of this evidence session-as chair of the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Cabinet Committee, which, for these purposes, I will call PBL, if you are happy with the acronym, I am responsible for the strategic planning and management of the legislative programme, with the advice of Parliamentary Counsel. Parliamentary Counsel have clear objectives for the standards that Bills and Acts should meet. I am committed to ensuring that those are in force. I think you have taken evidence from First Parliamentary Counsel and Parliamentary Counsel in the course of your inquiry. In PBL, under George and myself, we have become proactive and forward-looking, asking difficult questions of those who wish to bring forward legislation.

As a Cabinet Committee, it is, to that extent, not immediately transparent. On the work that is put in not just by the Committee, but through the secretariat and through Parliamentary Counsel, in getting legislation to the right place before the point of its introduction, there is a great deal of very hard work that is necessary in order to make that happen. It is challenging in a Coalition as well, because we have the difficult task not only of ensuring that the very limited parliamentary time for the legislative programme is used to the very best effect, but of brokering agreement in relation to legislation not only between departments but between political parties. That means that there are considerable challenges, but nonetheless we have been able, at the same time, to increase the extent to which legislation is published in draft and is subject to pre-legislative scrutiny.

Aside from the question of a legislative standards committee, your Committee have primarily been presented with evidence relating to the preparation of Bills before introduction. That is important, but it is only one part of the life of the final Act. I would be interested to hear from you and this inquiry whether you have identified any potential improvements in the parliamentary processes for scrutinising legislation. In particular, I would look at a number of initiatives that I have been interested in and that we are pursuing: the public reading stage, explanatory statements to amendments, different formats of presenting legislation, interweaving and interleaving. I would also look, I hope, not only at the scrutiny of legislation but at post-legislative scrutiny. There has appeared to be a rather low overall engagement by Parliament and select committees with the processes of post-legislative scrutiny, but that could help us in ensuring that future legislation is as good as we can make it. That, I know, is our shared objective.

Q274 Chair: That was very helpful, particularly your list at the end of things that need further attention. I think we share that agenda with you.

A couple of quick things: Parliamentary Counsel-is that misnamed? Is it not really Executive or Government Counsel? Should not Parliament itself have a legal capability to deploy on these issues?

Andrew Lansley: Of course, Parliament does have a legal capability. When you took evidence from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, as they made clear, there is a degree of interchange between Parliamentary Counsel-I think they have a member of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on secondment to the House on a regular basis.

Adam Pile: Sometimes.

Andrew Lansley: Sometimes-regularly, if not continuously, from my recollection of the Public Bill Office. As an Opposition Member for many years and as a shadow spokesman, I quite often worked with the Public Bill Office to get amendments into shape so that they were effective at doing what we wanted them to do.

Q275 Chair: But more mainstream legal advice about a position, rather than the drafting of clauses or lines?

Andrew Lansley: The House authorities can always work with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, and do so. They do so in preparation for legislation, and they do so continuously throughout the progress of legislation. I do not see the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel as in any sense being something that we reserve for Ministers. It is not that sort of legal advice. It is not the kind of legal advice, for example, that is Privy advice to Ministers; counsel are responsible for the quality of the legislation, and their relationship with the House authorities is an instrumental part of enabling the House to do its job properly, as well as Government.

Q276 Chair: But as a Backbench Member, while inspiration arrives, I have never felt that I have had an intimate relationship with Parliamentary Counsel, even to the extent, for example, of trying to draft a Bill-having open discussions with them on drafting a draft Bill on something that is very close to the Committee’s heart on a recent report. You did not get the sense that there was a desire to engage actively in anything other than the wording around the Bills.

Andrew Lansley: Of course it depends. In all these discussions it is very important to distinguish between policy and drafting. Very often, people think they want to engage with Parliamentary Counsel on drafting but, in truth, they want to engage with officials and Ministers on policy. When the policy is clear, and if Ministers have agreed what the objective is, the role of Parliamentary Counsel is to ensure that that objective is given the best possible effect.

Q277 Chair: Conceptually, this is about whether Parliament is an equal and a partner, and can make a serious contribution, rather than being at the tail-end of a process that begins at, and is largely within, the Executive-and then there is an add-on at the end. There is a very different sense of the relationship from the former to the latter.

Andrew Lansley: There may have been, in the past, a sense in which Government sought to make its decisions-Government proposes; Parliament disposes. The assumption may have been in the past-I have seen it-one of Government, when they introduce legislation, not expecting anything to happen to it, and expecting it simply to be voted through, thank you very much. That is not how we do things now. We do things on the basis of pre-legislative scrutiny. The publication of draft Bills is more frequent now than it has been in the past. That gives an active process of engagement for parliamentarians and the public in getting the legislation to the right stage, even before the formal scrutiny begins, and the formal scrutiny is an active partnership in getting legislation right.

Q278 Chair: On pre-leg scrutiny, other than emergency things and things related to terrorism or war, would you have an objective that all Bills should undergo pre-leg scrutiny?

Andrew Lansley: There are Bills for which pre-legislative scrutiny is appropriate and Bills for which it is not appropriate. It is literally something where you have to consider the merits and the circumstances of any individual Bill. I am sorry-I simply cannot countenance the idea that every Bill must be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. I will give you an example from the last few weeks. You would say, "Oh, it is emergency legislation," but on the Mental Health (Approval Functions) Bill, it was very clear-we had to deal with it very quickly and there was no opportunity for pre-legislative scrutiny.

On the debate this morning in business questions about pre-legislative scrutiny on the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill, it was announced in the autumn statement, and there is a clear timetable. When you look at the Bill, it is actually a very straightforward piece of legislation. We will see when we come to the further stages, but I did not detect that the debate was about the drafting of the Bill. The debate was about the policy of the Bill.

Q279 Chair: Do you think that we are about there, that we are about right on pre-leg scrutiny and the number of Bills, or is there a direction of travel to increase the number over an appropriate period of time?

Andrew Lansley: All our objectives, all our efforts, are devoted to trying to maximise pre-legislative scrutiny. We have made good progress. How many Bills-10, is it?

Adam Pile: Eleven in the first Session and 13 in this Session.

Andrew Lansley: Thirteen in this Session-of course this is-

Q280 Chair: Is that a majority, Mr Pile?

Adam Pile: It is not a majority, but it is a good number. It is more than there ever has been.

Andrew Lansley: And that is 13 in a single-year Session.

Q281 Chair: It is a relatively new invention. It sounds as though it is going in the right direction.

Andrew Lansley: There is a cycle to these things. Any Government would expect that, in the first Session of a Parliament, there would be a number of Bills that are very unlikely to get pre-legislative scrutiny, because they will be derived from manifesto commitments, and they are very likely to be taken through as part of the immediate requirements of the programme. In the last Session of a Parliament-we have not reached that stage yet-there must always be some possibility that any Government will look to achieve legislation before the end of the Parliament, and there may be difficulties in getting to the point of having quite the scale of pre-legislative scrutiny that we would look for. Nonetheless, we are trying to get the maximum pre-legislative scrutiny we can.

Of course, pre-legislative scrutiny has different characteristics. Some is very formal. For example, when we were preparing the draft Care and Support Bill, we had an opportunity not only for the formal pre-legislative scrutiny, which is happening now, but for what was very like a public reading stage at an earlier point. When we can, we do.

Q282 Chair: Wanting to ensure that things are dealt with before the end of the Parliament-and it is now a five-year Parliament-and keen to make sure that the Coalition ticks off a lot of the commitments that it has made to the public, one of the key things that has been raised with me by Members of the Committee was that, the other day, when the mid-term review was published, there was a mention of the creation of a House business committee, which should apparently, according to the pledge, have taken place by the coming May. It has not quite happened yet, but will happen-it is being held up because this Committee is having a look at the concept. I just needed to make clear to you, Andrew-I will drop you a line about this, obviously-that the Committee would not want to be the excuse for the Government not meeting its Coalition pledge to deal with this issue in a timely way and create a House business committee as it promised to do.

Andrew Lansley: But I hope the Committee’s expectation, which I welcome, would be, looking at the Wright Committee recommendations and reviewing them-substantial progress has clearly been made through the Backbench Business Committee on giving Members of the House considerably extended opportunities to bring forward debates of a kind that are not at the behest of Government but at the behest of Backbench Members. That has clearly substantially improved that. It therefore seems perfectly reasonable to look at the Wright Committee recommendations in the light of the experience of those changes. We have made progress. The question is, how can we add value to that? I would not want to do things that pre-empt and negate the purpose of your further look at what this might consist of.

Chair: I can guarantee you, Andrew, that we will move with great expedition on this issue, so that you are enabled, if you wish, to meet the Coalition promise of bringing something forward before 10 May 2013. That will be a matter for Government, whether it wishes to meet those promises or not, but this Committee will not stand in your way and will not be an excuse for inaction, which I am sure we can explain at greater length in writing.

Andrew Lansley: Very good-I look forward to hearing from you.

Q283 Fabian Hamilton: Hello, Andrew. It is nice to see you. My colleague Nick Raynsford, among many others, noted in his evidence to us that there was no consensus on the role of legislation. He said, "There is widespread confusion about the purpose of legislation, with many media and political commentators seeing it as evidence of action-‘something must be done’-or as a test of a Government’s political standing (the ability to secure passage through both Houses of Parliament-rather than its likely effect and impact."

You have probably mainly answered this, but do you agree, as I am sure you do, that there is a need for improved legislative standards? If so, do you agree with the Hansard Society that the deficiencies result from a combination of the volume of legislation, the attitude towards it and poor preparation?

I suppose there are two questions there, one of which I think you have mainly answered.

Andrew Lansley: I have no doubt. We do share a view that we need to be clear about legislative standards, the nature of what legislative standards we are looking for, and to try to secure continuous improvement in that. That is what we set out to do, and I think we are making progress on that. We would all like to do less and do it better. The doing less bit is always hard, but it is one of those areas where I would say that it is in the nature of Government to fill-and we will doubtless fill-the legislative time available in Parliament. There are substantially more candidates for legislation than there is time available. To that extent we are continuously, inside Government, in a process of seeking to challenge whether legislation is genuinely required, and we will certainly try to secure that. We are continuously trying to challenge the assertion that legislation must happen now and must happen in this form, and that it sometimes does not have the time that we would like for scrutiny. We live in a world where sometimes things just have to be done, and they have to be done to a timetable. Select committees-not this one-will be sitting there, saying to Ministers, "Why have you not done this thing by 10 May 2013?" They might say, "Actually, we could not do it because legislative time was not available." That will sometimes be true.

Sorry-I am digressing slightly-but it does get to the point: we are going to try to do less and we are going to try to do better. That has been true for many Governments in the past, and we will continue to work on that. We do that inside Government. I hope that what you will increasingly see through pre-legislative scrutiny is that we do that in partnership with stakeholders and Parliament itself in making that happen.

I read what Nick was saying when he came before you. On that particular point, more active post-legislative scrutiny would help. We have legislation that has been passed and not acted upon, we have declaratory legislation that has had no impact, we have had people trying to revisit the same issue over and over again as the years pass, through different legislative routes, and not getting the desired result. The more that it can be made clear that those kinds of approach are not the right approaches to legislation, the better it is to hold that mirror up to government generically-no particular Government, but government generically-and say, "If that hasn’t worked in the past, why do you suppose that that is the proper way to legislate in the future?" We know what law is for. Law is for the purposes where we require things to happen. It is where we allow things to be spent, we require people to do things and we penalise them when they do not do them. Therefore, it is not something that should be entered into ill-advisedly.

Q284 Fabian Hamilton: I agree, and I must say that one of the very few things that I had sympathy with while we were in power-one of the very few things where I had sympathy with what the Conservative party said at the time, in opposition-was that we had too much legislation. Sometimes, some of it was not very good. On that issue of poor-quality legislation, does the Government recognise that sometimes even its own legislation is not as good as it should be? Is this a problem that is recognised by Government and, indeed, by the Civil Service?

Andrew Lansley: We are continuously looking for improvement in legislation. It is very important to understand what we mean by "not good enough". The simple fact that legislation is amended when it is in the House should not be taken as evidence that it is not good legislation.

Fabian Hamilton: No-absolutely not.

Andrew Lansley: Is it going to do what it is intended to do? You must continuously distinguish between what is policy and what is the process of drafting and legislative standards. Changes in policy resulting from further consultation and so on are going to happen in legislation. We would like it not always to be the case, but it is very often the case that we introduce legislation and need to amend it to take account of the results of further consultation and the like. Sometimes, we necessarily, for timing reasons, introduce legislation and know that we are going to have to amend it at a later stage. You could say that the amendments are clearly evidence of the inadequacies of the legislation in the first place. Well, no, they are not really. We have been clear about the scope, we have been clear about the need for amendment and the amendments will come forward, hopefully, when it is in a better state-rather that than rushing the legislation and introducing it other than in the appropriate form. It is better, sometimes, to amend it when you have the legislative drafting absolutely right.

Q285 Fabian Hamilton: Would you agree, though, that Opposition parties have a role in improving the quality of the legislation? Sometimes-most of the time-they might totally disagree with the policy, but on those rare occasions when Opposition does agree with the aims of the Government, surely it has a role in trying to make that legislation better. Yet, in my experience on the committees that I have sat on, it is very rare, either when we were in power or under the current Coalition Government, that the Government will accept a sensible amendment by the Opposition that is designed to make the legislation work better, in its opinion.

Andrew Lansley: My experience of standing committees is probably like yours. Opposition often seeks to challenge.

Fabian Hamilton: Of course.

Andrew Lansley: By their nature, many amendments are not designed to be accepted by Government. That is quite understood. Does that mean that they do not sometimes give pause for thought? Governments do respond-this is true in this House, and it is perhaps slightly more customarily the case in another place-to the scrutiny, even if not necessarily accepting the amendments. That is where quite often, on Report in both Houses, quite a lot of the structure of amendments is the consequence of exactly that kind of challenge, and that is fair enough.

I am reminded about the role of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel as we go through legislation.

Adam Pile: You asked if the Civil Service recognised that we can do things better. Yes-definitely. One of the things that my team does each year is work with Parliamentary Counsel to do an annual lessons-learned exercise. It is almost a stock-take. We sit down with Bill teams, Bill Ministers, Parliamentary Counsel lawyers and the business managers. We discuss what worked well and what did not work well, identifying examples of best practice. Because Bill managers and Bill teams turn over each Session, it is our job to pass that knowledge on. We are constantly looking for areas where we can better, including reaching out to the Opposition, as you mentioned. Examples we have found are sharing draft statutory instruments during the passage of Bills and draft guidance. It is our job constantly to recognise where we are falling short and hopefully improve that.

Andrew Lansley: If you are looking at explanatory statements on amendments, for example, we have had some work on that. I do not know if you have had occasion to look. I remember when the Report stage of the Small Charitable Donations Bill came before the House, in early December I think, I thought that I was quite good at reading legislation, but when I read the amendments that were published on the Order Paper with the explanatory statements alongside them, I realised that I got much more out of it. Previously, the Order Paper had not really told me much about the amendments on Report. That was rather encouraging as an innovation. It requires not only the Government to do this but the whole House-those who have not been on the Committee and are not familiar with the Bill, on Report-and enables them to see where the Opposition are coming from, if the Opposition or other Backbench Members are putting amendments down. For them to put an explanatory statement alongside would be very helpful.

Q286 Chair: When you do your annual lessons-to-be-learned stock-take, would you consider writing to Members of Parliament to ask whether they have a contribution they could make?

Adam Pile: There is no reason in theory why we could not do so, but this is not a public exercise. It holds its value because we can talk about those lessons openly within Government and share them in the Civil Service.

Chair: You do not have to read the letters we send back in reply. Some argue that does not happen very often-

Adam Pile: There is no reason why, in principle, that could not happen.

Chair: Just to give Members the opportunity.

Andrew Lansley: The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel-Adam will correct me if I do not get this quite right-also have an exercise underway, do they not, the purpose of which is to look at how legislation impacts. Who does legislation impact upon?

Adam Pile: Better law.

Andrew Lansley: Do you want to say a word about better law?

Adam Pile: I think that Richard Heaton may have spoken a bit about this when he came before you, but it is more or less reaching out to the different stakeholders within Parliament, within the industry and in the third sector, and working out, "Is legislation clear? Could it be drafted in a slightly different way?" That is another exercise of looking at how we do things within Government.

Chair: I appreciate your commitment to consult Members of Parliament on this.

Mrs Laing: What did you call it? I could not hear what you said. Better-

Adam Pile: Better law.

Mrs Laing: Just "better law"? Right-that is exactly what we are talking about.

Chair: It is. We are all trying to do the same thing.

Q287 Mr Chope: Can I come back to your answer in the initial exchanges about the House business committee? Is it still the policy of the Government to set up a House business committee by the third year of the Parliament, as set out in the Coalition Agreement?

Andrew Lansley: Yes.

Mr Chope: That is great. I welcome that commitment.

Andrew Lansley: I will just make this clear-which I think I have done to the House, when asked this question. I will not disguise from you my view that I do not think that it would be on the model recommended by the Wright Committee. It is right, rather-I will avoid the pun-we need to look at what is workable and adds value, and we need to look constructively at how the Backbench Business Committee has already changed the character of the allocation of time in the House and the access that the House enjoys to time for debates not necessarily of the Government’s choosing. That has substantially changed since the Wright Committee produced their report. Being clear about how value is added in relation to where we are now is something that we need to think about, that I need to think about-and, as I understand it, your Committee is going to help us in thinking about it.

Q288 Mr Chope: Looking at the specifics, you identified some current Bills that you say did not really merit pre-legislative scrutiny-the Mental Health (Approval Functions) Bill and the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill. I think everybody would understand that a Bill that is solely concerned with policy is a Bill on which the case for pre-legislative scrutiny is weaker.

On the Bill that is shortly to come before the House on equalising marriage, there is obviously a strong policy element of that, where there are strong views, but there is also quite a lot of deep concern about the detail and the practical effects of the legislation and the wording of the legislation. We heard at business questions this morning from the Church Commissioner that there are already discussions taking place between the Government and the churches on some draft regulations. Surely what is already happening on this Bill makes the case for pre-legislative scrutiny, does it not?

Andrew Lansley: You know that there has been a very substantial consultation in relation to this Bill, even before the point at which we introduce it. To that extent, the policy has been subject to a substantial amount. Clearly there is an issue of trying to make sure that the policy is given clear effect in the Bill itself. When we come to introduce the Bill, hopefully we will have engaged with people to make sure that that is the case. Given the desire for there not to be extended delay in relation to this Bill, it may be that we do not have the formal opportunity for pre-legislative scrutiny that we apply to some other legislation. That may be the case. Nonetheless, we will make sure that we give the Bill proper scrutiny in this House and in another place.

Q289 Mr Chope: You talk about extended delay. It was not even in anybody’s manifesto. The only commitment in the Coalition Agreement was to ensure that there were reciprocal arrangements for the recognition of civil partnerships with other countries. It is right, is it not, that if you went for pre-legislative scrutiny this Session, you could bring forward a Bill at the beginning of the next Session, which would not have to be carried over, and which could be dealt with during the next Session, taking account of the results of that pre-legislative scrutiny exercise?

Andrew Lansley: These are issues, as I said in reply to your Chair’s question, that we consider for every Bill. We consider whether there are opportunities for pre-legislative scrutiny, but we always do it in the context of the management of the legislative programme as a whole. To that extent, sometimes, in order for Bills to make progress and for us to achieve the policy objective of a Bill, we have to proceed on a timetable that does not permit formal pre-legislative scrutiny. However, we are achieving PLS more often now than ever used to be the case in the past.

Q290 Mr Chope: Is there any particular Minister who is responsible for ensuring legislative standards?

Andrew Lansley: I see that as my primary responsibility in Government, but throughout the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee, membership of which is in the public domain, there is a coming together of Ministers who have a degree of responsibility, for example the law officers in relation to issues relating to compliance with the Human Rights Act, and to retrospection and so on. The offences gateway is applied through the Ministry of Justice, so they are responsible for that. The Treasury are looking at it from the point of view of compliance with the rules relating to supply and so on. Business managers generally are looking at this. Each department and each Minister, as I know from my own experience, also has to be directly responsible for the quality of their legislation. Fundamentally, the clarity of policy will tend to drive the clarity of legislation.

Q291 Mr Chope: Do you effectively have a veto? If a Bill is coming forward to your committee that has drafting defects in it, which are brought to your attention or which you see for yourself, would you effectively be able to say, "Hold on, this Bill cannot go forward in its present form because it is-"

Andrew Lansley: My objective is that Bills should not be presented to the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee that are not fit for purpose. We do not operate independently in Government-we are part of Government. We operate collectively. Our job is not to sit there and say no. It is to work with the secretariat and, collectively with our colleagues, to arrive at a point where we can say yes to those Bills that can then properly be introduced. It is an iterative process, and it is part of collective responsibility, so I do not treat it as if we can say yes or no. It is a collective responsibility, and we are fundamentally a committee of Cabinet, so the responsibility is a collective responsibility, which, technically, belongs to Cabinet, not to the Committee itself.

Q292 Mr Chope: So it would be possible, because of the doctrine of collective responsibility, for a Bill to go forward that you, personally and privately, regarded as not being properly drafted?

Andrew Lansley: Of course, Government speaks with one voice, and we all share the same view, technically speaking.

Q293 Mr Chope: If it is the desire of the Government and the Prime Minister to improve the quality of legislation, one thing that the Prime Minister could do-perhaps it is something that we could recommend as a Committee-it would be to give you, as the Leader of the House, the ultimate authority, so that if a pushy colleague of yours said that he was keen to push this Bill forward for political reasons, you would be able to say, "Hang on, mate, this Bill is not in sufficiently good form, and I’ve effectively got a veto on it."

Andrew Lansley: To be honest, I would not ask for that. That would, in itself, seek to create artificial demarcations within what should properly be a collective decision, because it is collective responsibility. I do not think that Ministers would be at all comfortable with the idea. Let us say that a Cabinet Committee Chair or the Committee was to say no. Ministers have responsibility for that policy. They want to know that it has been weighed by Ministers collectively both for its policy implications and for its legislative programme implications. Fundamentally, we exercise a challenge, but we do not do it by standing back and saying no; we exercise the challenge by getting involved.

Q294 Mr Chope: On the role of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, are they helping you, or are they helping the individual departments?

Andrew Lansley: Both.

Q295 Mr Chope: So, the person in charge of that, would their advice be shared across the Government, so that you would see the advice that is being given to the other Ministers in bringing forward legislation?

Andrew Lansley: Absolutely. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel works very closely with departments in the preparation of legislation, and of course in advising me and my colleagues on the PBL about the progress of legislation and its fitness for purpose.

Q296 Mr Chope: You have said already that you think that one role for Parliament might be to improve post-legislative scrutiny. Can you see any other roles for Parliament to help in improving standards?

Andrew Lansley: Yes. I have mentioned some of them. For example, it seems to me that the way in which pre-legislative scrutiny is done is making a big impact. It is not just that it happens, it is the way in which it is done. The Joint Committees, for example, have enabled us to make quite substantial progress in getting Bills into a form that both Houses feel confident about.

As I said, some of the other things, such as the willingness to work with the Opposition on bringing forward explanatory statements on amendments, will make the scrutiny of legislation more effective.

Just to give you an indication of the scale of how Select Committees can get involved, since the election we have published 51 post-legislative memoranda on previous Bills-now Acts. Eight of those projects have been carried through by parliamentary committees or are in progress. There is a big gap. I am not demanding that every post-legislative memorandum should be taken up by a select committee, and I am not suggesting that, if they are not, they are not of some value to us-they are. However, when you look, for example, at the way in which the Justice Committee has taken up the post-legislative memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act-we will have a chance to discuss that, as the House will debate that shortly, on 24 January-that gives you an indication of the value here, which I suspect is not being realised.

Q297 Mr Chope: What about giving Parliament more time to look at these particular Bills, and not being so tight with the timetabling and the guillotining?

Andrew Lansley: Compared with years past, an increased proportion of programme motions-you1 are going have a look at programming, of course-are not being divided against and, to that extent, are proceeding by consensus. In the last couple of Sessions we have had quite a number of Bills-Adam may have the figures to hand-that have clearly been fully scrutinised in committee, even to the extent of committees finishing their proceedings early. Particularly in the last Session, we had a number of major programme Bills to which more than one day was given at Report stage-on eight2 occasions, I think, in the last Session. We are always looking to ensure that we give the appropriate time for scrutiny.

Overall, there is a balance to be struck. One of the things that the House is very keen to do, and which we have been keen to facilitate, has been to provide opportunities not only for the Opposition to choose debates in their time but for the Backbench Business Committee to do so. We have reached a good point now, where the Backbench Business Committee would fairly say that demand for debates of substance can pretty much now be met by that committee in a reasonable time. That is a good place to have arrived at. To go further would of course impact on the legislative time available, which is treated as though it is Government time. People say, "You control that," but we do not control all the time of the House. Government has perhaps half the time of the House. When you have taken in Queen’s Speech debates, Budget debates and other necessary requirements of legislation, the time over which there is really discretion for Government to allocate to debates that are not necessary for legislative purposes is very slim. If we were going to allocate a lot more time to legislation on the floor of the House, something would have to give, and it might be in places other than Government’s time.

Q298 Andrew Griffiths: Andrew, I think you are the perfect person to have before the Committee, having been a civil servant and an adviser in opposition and in Government. You are sort of poacher turned gamekeeper.

If I could quickly drag you back to something you said earlier in response to Chris, in relation to the same-sex marriage Bill, you said that there was not time for pre-legislative scrutiny because of the urgency of that Bill. Could you tell us where that urgency is coming from? Is it coming from Government, from Parliament or from the public? Where do you think that urgency is coming from?

Andrew Lansley: I do not think that I used the word "urgency"-I cannot remember whether I did or not. The point is that sometimes it is important to make progress, and we have policy objectives on which we wish to make progress. That does not always enable us to engage in pre-legislative scrutiny on every Bill. We look at them on their merits, of course. A lot of effort has been put in in response to the consultation to ensure that the legislation is clear, simple and straightforward. The extent to which we achieve that on the legislation when it is published will, I hope, demonstrate that the demand or the requirement for pre-legislative scrutiny has, to that extent, been mitigated by the fact that we have got the legislation right as it is brought before the House.

Q299 Andrew Griffiths: Moving back to the purpose of the Committee today and this idea of good law, you said that one of the jobs is to make sure that legislation is fit for purpose. In your long experience, can you think of some examples of legislation that has come before the House that you thought was not fit for purpose? Could you give us the worst case that you have seen?

Andrew Lansley: To be honest, that is pretty invidious. To be blunt with you, I am not going to reach back into the recent past, for reasons that will be obvious to you, and reaching back before the last election would be invidious. Your inquiry started with the Better Government Initiative and other evidence that was compiled before the last election, so we are not talking about something that is a product of something since the election and, if anything, we are making steady progress, perhaps accelerated progress. That is not the point. The point is that we can make more progress.

Q300 Andrew Griffiths: Do you agree that part of the process of improving legislation is to have a list of what good legislation should look like-a list or tick-box of what good legislation should look like?

Andrew Lansley: Being clear about what constitutes the kind of legislative standards that we are looking for is certainly helpful. In a way, tick-boxes are the last thing you need. Many of these are qualitative judgments. You cannot just put a tick in a box-you have to measure it qualitatively. Your inquiry will doubtless draw on the evidence to be clear about the sort of legislative standards we are looking for. I have seen in the evidence that you have had quite a lot of good material relating to that. I think there is pretty much a consensus about that. That is not the point. The point is how we best achieve it. I would urge you to recognise the extent to which we are taking that on board and seeking to achieve it inside Government, admittedly understanding that, by its very nature, that is not as transparent as what happens in public and before the House. We are also doing so with the House.

I know that you have had representations about a legislative standards committee. I urge caution. We have a lot of pre-legislative scrutiny mechanisms available. They can look at policy and drafting alongside one another. Separating the policy of a Bill from the drafting of a Bill is an inherently difficult and potentially dangerous thing to do. The drafting of a Bill is to deliver the policy, and the policy can change. You have to see the two together. That is what scrutiny does. A legislative standards committee, by its nature, could not conceivably do that. Therefore, if you added it in, what would you add in? You would add an additional process. We have quite a lot of processes. We have processes inside Government, and we have processes before introduction and after introduction. I really worry about the thought that we would have yet a further delay occasioned simply by what would effectively be a bureaucratic process divorced from the policy of the Bill.

Q301 Andrew Griffiths: A code of standards, if you like, has been suggested for good legislation. How would you feel about that? What would be your thoughts about implementing a code of standards within Government?

Andrew Lansley: It is the language that drives you to the tick-box approach. If you treat it as a code, you say that somebody must be the enforcers of the code, and so on. Let us be clear. I do not think there is a difficulty or dispute about what the character of these standards looks like-but, by all means, bring them forward. From my point of view, I hope that we are working to it, and if, in any respect, we were not working towards the kinds of standards to which the evidence points, I would certainly want to look at that and make sure that we treat that. I will be blunt about it: my job is to make sure that the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee of the Cabinet ensures that we meet those legislative standards and continuously try to improve on meeting them in the legislation that we present to Parliament.

Q302 Andrew Griffiths: Could you perhaps give us a window into Government? What guidance or advice is available for Ministers and civil servants on ensuring good legislation? What support do you get?

Andrew Lansley: Some of it is publicly available. For example, the Guide to Making Legislation, which I see is here, is publicly available, and it is obviously used. Adam may want to say a word about that. The secretariat works directly with departments, not only looking at individual measures that might be brought forward, but working with departments more generically about the character of legislation. Where departments construct Bill teams, whose job it is to prepare Bills and take them through, the secretariat work directly with those Bill teams.

Adam Pile: A lot of the evidence to the Committee that I have seen has criticised the fact that there are certain things not in the formal remit of the PBL committee or that are not in the Guide to Making Legislation. The way I see it, the Guide is a starting point for us with Bill teams, and the final clearance from the PBL committee to introduce a Bill is the last piece in the jigsaw before a Bill goes in. As the Leader of the House said, there is a whole lot of work that goes on within Government to do that. Some of the suggestions are that the Guide to Making Legislation should make it clear that legislation should be of a good standard. Of course-that is something that we take as a given. I refer to the lessons learned exercise and the better law exercise. We have a House of Commons clerk on secondment, who works with departments and Bill teams to help explain how we can work and engage with Parliament. Before Bills go in, we make sure that they are having the right conversation with the right people so, for example, that they are engaging with the devolved administrations and they are working with the law officers on drafting and constitutionality. A lot of this work goes on within Government. When Bills are being drafted, there is a real stress-testing process, with iterative drafting, going to and from Parliamentary Counsel-"Did you mean this? Did you want this? Have you thought about that?" That does go on but, as the Leader of the House said, it is almost behind closed doors.

Q303 Mrs Laing: Following on immediately from that last point-and I appreciate that this might not be a question that can be answered right now-but do you know how many people are employed as parliamentary draftsmen now, and how that compares with 10 years ago and 20 years ago?

Andrew Lansley: I think that was discussed in the evidence that you had from Richard Heaton, the First Parliamentary Counsel. From memory, it was something like 60 Parliamentary Counsel. The numbers are relatively good now. I will not try to repeat everything that he said, but he was clear that the staffing complement of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel now was, in his view, better than it was at one point in the past and sufficient for their purposes.

Q304 Mrs Laing: That is a comforting answer. It is not right to use anecdotal evidence, but I recall being told, some five or six years ago-

Andrew Lansley: The change has not all been between the last election and now. Some of it-the increase in drafting capability and the number of Parliamentary Counsel-was before the last election but, from memory, if we went back six years or so, there would have been more difficulties.

Q305 Mrs Laing: That is a very comforting answer. I recall being told that we could not get a Bill right, and that was why there were so many amendments coming in at a late stage-because we simply did not have the people to do the drafting work. It is seriously comforting to know that the position has improved. I am not trying to make a party-political point about before or after the election.

Andrew Lansley: No-and, as I say, I think it was improved before the election as well as maintained since. Part of my job is to make sure, with my colleagues, that we do not ask more of Parliamentary Counsel than they are able to do. There is not a limitless demand, but it is pretty near an insatiable demand for the drafting of legislation, so we exercise a degree of control over access to Parliamentary Counsel.

Q306 Mrs Laing: Going back to the more substantial issue of a legislative standards committee, you have indicated that you have seen the evidence given to this Committee by, among others, the Constitution Society and the Better Government Initiative, led by Lord Butler-Robin Butler-who has a lifetime’s experience in these matters. This Committee had some sympathy with the idea of a legislative standards committee. Is your caution-I think that was the word that you used, Andrew, so I am not putting words in your mouth-about the possibility of introducing such a committee based on concern about how it would be used as far as tinkering with policy is concerned?

Andrew Lansley: My caution is based on two basic propositions. First, it must inevitably intrude additional delay. As you have gathered, when we are discussing Bills there is often a drive to achieve legislation by given timetables. We do everything we possibly can to make sure that those timetables accommodate the fullest possible scrutiny, but if you put in an additional whole section of activity or time, which, in itself, is not instrumental to the process, that would really imperil the whole process and create a degree of uncertainty about legislation.

Turning to the other proposition, the most important one, I do not understand how you scrutinise a piece of legislation without understanding the policy as well as the drafting. The idea that you can divorce legislative standards from the scrutiny of the policy seems to me to be misplaced. When I engage with my colleagues, not just on the PBL but well before-way upstream-I do it on the basis that my first job is to understand the policy. I do not try to have a discussion with them about the quality of legislation without knowing what it is that they are trying to achieve, and I do not see how a legislative standards committee could possibly embrace the expertise and give the time in order to understand the policy on this volume of legislation coming through.

Q307 Mrs Laing: In fact, contrary to that view, when Lord Butler and others gave evidence to us on this point, I recall asking them exactly that question. It immediately occurred to me that such a committee could be used for blatantly simple party-political purposes. There were some pretty good answers from Lord Butler, the Constitutional Society and others about how that obstacle could be overcome. Would it not be worth looking at the possibility of overcoming that obstacle to try to facilitate the better making of legislation? You have rightly said that pre-legislative scrutiny does not occur in every case. Sometimes there is pre-legislative scrutiny and sometimes there is not. If we really are striving to have the best possible production of legislation, should there not be a mechanism such as a legislative standards committee, which would ensure that there is always some kind of pre-legislative scrutiny?

Andrew Lansley: In short, I am not persuaded of that. The House will scrutinise legislation. We are seeking to do so through pre-legislative scrutiny. Setting up a legislative standards committee-by its nature, it would end up trying to look at every piece of legislation. I am not sure how it could possibly do so. I have not seen any explanation of how it could import the expertise or have sufficient time to be able to apply itself to the policy of a Bill in order to understand whether the drafting and other characteristics were there. It is my job to make sure that we meet those kinds of standards that you are looking for.

It feels like I am asking you to take it on trust that we try continuously to improve standards. Let me put it like this. At the moment, together with the House authorities, we are looking at how we can make explanatory notes accompany the Bill in a way that adds value to the drafting of the legislation itself, so that people understand the purposes and the structure of the Bill, what each clause is intended to achieve and so on. Alongside that, we do things like looking at the overall impact, at finances, at staffing and so on. What we could do is put in those explanatory notes an introduction-effectively, a recitation of how we have sought to meet the kind of legislative standards that I would anticipate you would see as instrumental to achieving better lawmaking. That would be a way in which we could at least put before Parliament compliance with the kind of checklist that you are thinking about.

Chair: If I can interrupt, Eleanor, I hope, Andrew, that the Committee has a reputation of working closely to try to put forward practical proposals that Government can feel comfortable with. On our track record on electoral registration, local Government and the reports that we have done, we bear in mind strongly-the psyche of this Committee is that we do not want Government to say, "Thanks, but no thanks," to the report. We want to engage so that we are doing something of practical help. I hope you will find that that is the case. If we were to go for some sort of legislative committee, it would have to meet the test that you quite rightly put forward as being practical and helpful, rather than being yet one more bit of process-I do not think anybody wants that, and you can take that on trust from the Committee.

Q308 Mrs Laing: Absolutely. In the spirit of being helpful, let me try to push you a little further along the road. I think I have got this right. You said a few moments ago that clarity of policy drives clarity of legislation. Is there not a quid pro quo there, where clarity of legislation could assist in achieving clarity of policy? Therefore, if the legislation was better and more easily understood and, simply, more clear-why am I looking for other words?-the policy would then be more clear, and that would be politically advantageous.

Andrew Lansley: It is very much an iteration. I remember from my own experience on Bill preparation in the past that the interaction with Parliamentary Counsel is not simply a technical one of trying to turn the instructions to counsel into a text. The nature of the interaction with Parliamentary Counsel often causes policy officials to recognise that they have not necessarily reconciled all the potential policy issues, and you need to achieve that. That is often a substantial part of the process of preparation of a Bill.

What I was saying about explanatory notes is also helpful. We have all sometimes been frustrated in the past, thinking, "I don’t understand what this clause is intended to do." We look up the explanatory notes and find that they tell you nothing more than you can read in the clause itself.

Mrs Laing: Absolutely.

Andrew Lansley: That is not what we are trying to do. We are quite clear: explanatory notes should be factual, and courts should be able to look at them as part of the process, so they should not be argumentative and they should not be extraneous. They have got to be very focused on making absolutely clear what the Bill does. My colleagues in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel are working with the House authorities to see what we can do where that is concerned. That will also be a process. Explanatory notes are the responsibility of Parliamentary Counsel, making sure those are right alongside the Bill itself-it is what we call the Bill product. They have a responsibility for that, and that will help us to be clear, at introduction, that the policy is equally clear as the drafting.

Mrs Laing: That is very encouraging, thank you, and I understand the point that you-

Andrew Lansley: Sorry-I should have mentioned something in an earlier point. We started yesterday-the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel started publishing some of their internal guidance material. They published three of these. In the process of enabling people to understand the way in which departments work and the guidance that is given to them in thinking about legislation-what the Bill team have to understand-there is a lot of existing material that Parliamentary Counsel have that Bill teams and departments have access to. We have now started a process of publishing those. The ones that we have published-I remember reading them. We started with the guidance relating to carry-over Bills, the guidance relating to the application of legislation to the Crown, and the guidance relating to the Queen’s and the Prince of Wales’s consent. We published those yesterday.

Mrs Laing: Ah, yes-the Speaker referred to that yesterday.

Andrew Lansley: There will be more in the weeks and months ahead.

Q309 Mrs Laing: That is very helpful. I understand the points you make, having seen the emergence of Bills from just about every angle over many years. You start off thinking that it is merely a question of translating an idea or practical intention into legislative language, but then discover that it is actually more difficult.

Andrew Lansley: What people do not always fully appreciate is that, as a policy official-and I have been a policy official-you must be very clear about what you want to achieve, and you can think that you know the legislative framework within which it happens but, until you have done the job of Parliamentary Counsel, you do not really understand the legislative framework within which you are working. That business of knowing the whole statute book-from our point of view, we want to make that statute book as uncomplicated as we can get it, which is why the Ministry of Justice lead on the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill and we have quite a substantial Bill going through this Session. That is why we are continuously looking at deregulatory measures, a principal part of which is clearing away all the things that are getting in the way of that.

It is still true-Parliamentary Counsel do an absolutely fantastic job, and I do not envy them how difficult it is to make sure that, when they draft legislation, they do so knowing how it interacts with every existing piece of legislation on the statute book.

Mrs Laing: Which is extremely difficult. I remember discovering that as a first-year law student-which was a long time ago.

Chair: Let us not go there.

Q310 Mrs Laing: No-we are not going there.

Can I have one final shot at seeing if there is a chance that you might consider the idea of a legislative standards committee, or some form of legislative standards committee, as part of what is clearly a drive by you and your colleagues to improve the making of legislation? This Committee has to be fair. We are not just here to criticise and ask awkward questions; we are trying to be constructive. We appreciate that things have improved considerably, and what you talked about in your last answer is terribly important, but will you give it some thought?

Andrew Lansley: Of course I am looking forward to your report, which will no doubt give us a real opportunity to consider all the issues and what you recommend. Referring to the point that you made, Chair, if you are going about it, there are many questions that would need to be satisfactorily answered before you began. Perhaps take this away and think-let us take one or two pieces of legislation that have come through the House recently and ask, at what point would the legislative standards committee have looked at it: at introduction or after introduction? How much time would they have taken? How would that have interacted with the scrutiny that took place? Would it not have been duplicatory? Would it not have added delay? Where would the time have come from? Who would have sat on the Committee looking at it? How would the Members have interacted with the Bill? Who would have been their advisers, and how would that have worked? Probably, the more you looked at it, the more you would have ended up saying that, in order to do that job properly, you would have imported into the legislative standards committee exactly the kind of people, expertise and time that is the stuff of pre-legislative scrutiny now anyway.

Chair: I think this is an extremely valuable exchange. Frankly, it is better to have heard that from the Leader of the House now, rather than in a couple of months’ time, in response to our report. Colleagues who feel strongly about this matter will need to ensure that whatever we do passes the tests that the Leader of the House has helpfully put on the record today. If they do not, those things will not be in the report.

Q311 Fabian Hamilton: Andrew, do you agree that the Government should publish the reasons why a Bill is not to be published in draft?

Andrew Lansley: Pursuant to the point that I made previously about explanatory notes-and I am volunteering this as a further step that we can take-at the point of introduction, one of the things that we could sensibly do within the explanatory notes is look at the kind of legislative standards that we are talking about and demonstrate how they have been met. For Bills, that will include how they have been scrutinised, by what processes and why. If there is a reason why they have been subject to consultation but do not require formal pre-legislative scrutiny, that will be the kind of point that would be made in those explanatory notes. On one or two occasions, I have encouraged a written ministerial statement to be made at the point of introduction. For example, that was done-I thought rather helpfully-with the HGV Road User Levy Bill in order to explain to the House the processes that the Bill would follow. We will look carefully at whether, from time to time, the House should have that kind of formal statement that accompanies a Bill’s introduction.

Q312 Andrew Griffiths: There has been lots of discussion about constitutional Bills, and what is and is not a constitutional Bill. Could you explain to us what procedures there are in Government to identify what is a constitutional Bill?

Adam Pile: It is difficult to say exactly what a constitutional Bill is. There is no one set idea. I notice that some of the evidence has suggested that there should be special procedures for constitutional Bills. To a certain extent, that already happens. They are generally taken on the floor of the House in a Committee of the whole House in the House of Commons.

Q313 Andrew Griffiths: Sorry-you are saying that that is what happens when something is a constitutional Bill-but how do you identify what is a constitutional Bill? Surely there has to be something-if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck-

Andrew Lansley: If it directly impacts on the relationship, for example, between the Crown and Parliament, and if it relates directly to things like the relationship between ourselves and the devolved Administrations, it tends to form a constitutional Bill.

Adam Pile: There is the capacity within Government to deal with constitutional issues in the form of Parliamentary Counsel, with their great expertise in dealing with constitutional legislation. There are the law officers and the territorial offices who provide advice on the devolution settlements.

Q314 Andrew Griffiths: But there is no guidance that says, "This is what constitutes a constitutional Bill."

Adam Pile: To a certain extent, you do not treat constitutional legislation differently; you stress-test all legislation and put it through the wringer. It may be looked at by different people within Government if it has a constitutional flavour.

Chair: I do not know if it is just me, but I can smell burning.

Andrew Griffiths: That is my brain, Mr Chairman.

Chair: If we were all to burst into flames, it would be very appropriate that Mrs Laing asks the final question ever at the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.

Mrs Laing: Before we spontaneously combust? Something like that; it was not going to be that bad.

Andrew Lansley: Speaking as a member of the House of Commons Commission, I hope it isn’t.

Chair: We need a new building. Anyway-go ahead, Eleanor.

Q315 Mrs Laing: There is a distinction now, however, between constitutional Bills and other Bills, because all stages of constitutional Bills are taken on the floor of the House. That happens, and has happened for a very long time, so there must be-

Andrew Lansley: Because a judgment is reached. It is on the face of it-

Q316 Mrs Laing: Yes, and we have sometimes had arguments in Parliament about whether something is or is not a constitutional Bill. Given that it is possible to make a distinction between a constitutional Bill and a non-constitutional Bill-because it happens-is there a case for treating constitutional measures differently, for example requiring more than a simple majority vote to pass a constitutional Bill?

Andrew Lansley: I had not considered that. I am sure, from the point of view of Government, that we have no plans to think in those terms. It seems to me, on the face of it, that that would be looking for something that sought to prejudice the future ability of a Parliament to make a decision. There may be a majority in a future Parliament. One of the principles that we work to is that a Parliament shall not bind its successors. To that extent, you would be seeking significantly to extend the reach of any given Parliament on constitutional measures into future Parliaments. Personally, I am not advocating that.

Mrs Laing: I take that point.

Chair: On that stratospheric note, I would like to bring proceedings to a conclusion. Above all, I thank Andrew Lansley and Adam Pile for giving us their time this morning. We hear loud and clear the message, which I think we practise already, but we will be renewed in our vigour in making sure that the stuff that we produce is something that Government Bills at least can work with if not wholly accept, so that we can make progress on making sure that this House and the other House pass ever better legislation.

Thank you, colleagues.

Andrew Lansley: Chair, thank you very much. Thank you, colleagues.

[1] Note by witness: m y evidence may imply that Political and Constitutional Reform Committee are looking at programming, but this is of course the Procedure Committee.

[2] Note by witness: i n the last Session of this Parliament, seven Bills had two days on Report stage and two Bills had three days.

Prepared 20th February 2013