3 Conclusion and recommendations |
16. We have considered, as the Leader of House
invited us to do, whether there is a case for explanatory statements
to be "a mandatory part of the scrutiny process".
His proposal is that explanatory statements could be voluntary
at committee stage but mandatory at report stage.
17. We agree that the value of explanatory statements
is enhanced by more widespread use of the process. We recognise
that there are benefits to be gained from wider use of such statements,
and we would encourage all Members to provide explanatory statements
to amendments wherever possible.
18. We cannot, however, support the Leader's
proposal to make explanatory statements mandatory at report stage.
We are concerned that a mandatory requirement would restrict opposition
and backbench Members from tabling amendments and would therefore
be damaging to the House's ability to scrutinise legislation.
We note the views of the Clerk of Legislation on the matter
but consider that they underestimate the resource burden which
a mandatory requirement would place on Members. That burden would
be felt particularly acutely by the Official Opposition, who table
a significant proportion of non-government amendments but do not
have the resources available to Government to assist with drafting
explanatory statements. Were additional supportfor example,
in the form of extra Short moneyto be provided to assist
Members in preparing explanatory statements, then the question
of whether explanatory statements should be mandatory at any or
all stages of a bill would warrant further attention, but we cannot
recommend such an approach to the House as matters stand.
19. The evidence from the pilot suggests that
there are few downsides to a permissive approach. The cost to
the House, as estimated by the Public Bill Office, in terms of
printing and staff resources, is relatively minor. Our last report
on this issue concluded that "Previous attempts at embedding
this facility in the culture of the House have failed because
of lack of take-up from Members",
but the Public Bill Office told us that "Members are generally
willing, even keen, to provide explanatory statements with their
Explanatory statements perform a useful function and allowing
their more widespread use should underline their utility.
20. We reiterate our earlier conclusion that
the experimental basis on which explanatory statements have been
permitted in the past has led to some uncertainty at times and
has not enabled the facility to become part of the culture of
the Commons. The
time has come to conclude the experimental approach and allow
the culture of explanatory statements to embed itself. We wish
to create a permissive environment where space is provided to
backbench Members, the Government and the Opposition to ensure
that explanatory statements become an accepted norm of the legislative
21. We recommend that Members
be permitted, on a voluntary basis, to table explanatory statements
on amendments to all bills at both Committee and Report stage
from the start of the 2013-14 Session. The guidelines for the
tabling of such statements should be the same as they were for
the most recent pilot, subject to any changes which may be agreed
from time to time by the Speaker to deal with any minor difficulties
which may arise.
20 p.20. Back
Para 16 (p.17). Back
HC (2010-12) 800, para 27. Back
Para 13 (p.17). Back
HC (2010-12) 800, para 30. Back