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Lord McCarthy: Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him one question. He made a number of statements after he said what the Government had in mind before he turned to the questions of the noble Earl,

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Lord Russell, and before he went on to answer Amendment No. 50. My query is: was this new matter? Was this a new policy that he gave us or was he just rehashing and re-reading bits of the White Paper? Is there something new that we should read with great care?

Lord Inglewood: There is nothing new. It is all contained in the memorandum.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: Before my noble friend finally sits down, can he say whether there is any precedent in any previous legislation for providing that words in the Bill shall,

    "have such meaning as may be prescribed"?

Are there any precedents for that, or is it a new expedient?

Lord Inglewood: Yes, this is not the first time.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: Can the noble Lord say where the precedent is to be found?

Lord Inglewood: In order to give chapter and verse, I shall write to my noble friend.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: Will my noble friend the Minister possibly consider not opposing—or not having a Division—on the amendment at this stage? I find it difficult to support the amendment as it stands. I wish to see these terms enshrined in primary legislation for the reasons I gave briefly. The amendment does not in fact achieve that result. This is a matter of some importance. It transcends the actual importance of the Bill. I wonder whether my noble friend can possibly reflect on the matter and avoid a Division at this stage.

Lord Renton: Before the noble Earl informs the Committee of his attitude, I wonder whether he and indeed the whole of the Committee will bear in mind that my noble friend Lord Inglewood has given us a very long and detailed statement which he asks us to consider on the question of whether or not there should be secondary legislation to fulfil the Government's intention.

As I listened to my noble friend, I concentrated as hard as I could, but I found it impossible to reach a conclusion. Therefore, I think that perhaps we might agree on both sides of the Committee, including my noble friend, not to take a decision on this matter now but give ourselves time to study carefully and in detail what my noble friend said and if necessary come back at Report stage.

Lord Shepherd: I am a member of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. On behalf of my colleagues on that committee, I apologise to this Committee. For circumstances which I think are reasonably well known, we were not able to produce very much more than what is available as an interim report to the Chamber. Since becoming a member of the committee—I have been there from the outset—I have become more and more conscious of the fact that regulations impinge more upon the ordinary citizens of the country than does primary legislation. Yet we spend hours, if not days, on primary legislation and take a cursory interest in regulations and orders.

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We also have a convention in this Chamber that we do not vote against orders. I know that we adapted a new system—it was when Conservative Peers were on this side of the Chamber and I was on the other side—by tabling resolutions to an order. That left it open to the Government to proceed, but it was a clear indication that we were only prepared to allow the orders to go through provided the Secretary of State had regard to what was moved by your Lordships in the resolution.

I do not remember a Bill of this nature in some 40 years. Primary legislation has a role and delegated legislation is an essential part of it. But delegated legislation should be broadly the implementation of that which is contained in primary legislation. Therefore, how does one deal with it in this Chamber? This Bill is basically a skeleton Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, referred to it as a foundation Bill, but they mean the same thing. We have little idea of what the end product will be of the powers being given. We have had a debate this afternoon in terms of what is "actively seeking employment". There is no real definition, even from what I heard this afternoon, from anyone as to what is active pursuit. The noble Baroness referred to her difficulties, as did my noble friend Lord McCarthy. I am sure that if we were in our 'forties and 'fifties and lost our jobs with Shell, we would have difficulty in finding suitable employment.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: I would.

Lord Shepherd: I am sure the noble and learned Lord could take on almost any responsibility and do it most effectively. But I come back to this fact. If this Bill were to proceed as it stands, we would need to look at the procedures for examining orders and regulations in a great deal more depth than we now do. I do not see that as a procedure which should apply to all delegated regulations. But in a Bill of this nature Parliament should have a closer look at what is being proposed.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said that the joint committee on delegated statutory instruments possesses certain powers, but those powers are extraordinarily limited. It can consider the vires and the extent of the powers being exercised. But when one has, as it appears in the Bill, powers being taken with no limits either at the beginning or at the end, I do not know how the committee could ever seek a judgment. Therefore, if the Government wish to pursue this Bill in its present form—I would hope that they would take note of the pleas from many quarters of this Committee—then they should make some effort, despite the difficulties which I can understand, of putting more on to the face of the Bill. That would form a synergy with the delegated powers committee. They would be providing a great service to Parliament and to the people affected by the legislation.

This matter will need to be considered between now and Report stage. I do not know how much the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee will be able to contribute. The size of the task is immense. We are limited in resources as to what we can propose as alternatives other than making broad-brush recommendations. It is not within the powers of this Committee or your Lordships at Report stage to bring

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forward anything but amendments which only touch the surface of the problem. The real problem lies in the way in which the Bill is constructed. If the Government, between now and Report, make an earnest endeavour to put on to the face of the Bill a clearly stated case, then the orders will fall naturally with it. If they do not do that, this Chamber and another place—I can only speak for this Chamber—will have to look at the way in which orders are considered and finally approved by us.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls: I cannot go all the way with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, to whom we listen with care as a former Leader of the House and a member of the committee which looks into these matters. As I understand it, in giving advice to the Committee he said that no delegated regulation should differ from the general scope as set out in primary legislation. The noble Lord indicates that that was the message he wanted to convey. But that does not allow the Committee and the Chamber to work as effectively as it must.

Primary legislation can only take into account circumstances of which Parliament is aware at the time it enacts the primary legislation. The value—and the only value as I see it—of delegated regulations is that they can take into account at a later stage new circumstances which may have arisen after the primary legislation was put in place. On this occasion the opposite of what the noble Lord recommended should be the case. My noble friend Lady Faithfull gave two examples. It may well be that more examples of that sort will show themselves. In the light of that, there should be power to table regulations which will amend the primary legislation to meet the special needs of the examples we have just given. For that reason, I cannot go all the way with the noble Lord.

Lord Shepherd: I thought that for once the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, was on my side of the argument, but then he rather spoilt it. Will he agree with this? It is important that the first regulation is the right one. Later on we can improve by flexibility, by changes of what was the first regulation; but it is the first regulation that is important, particularly when one is establishing, as we are now discussing, a specific issue. If the noble Lord is willing to go along with that, for once we shall be in agreement.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: Will my noble friend be able—if he cannot do it now, at any rate at the next stage—to let your Lordships know whether there is any precedent in previous legislation for such a wide provision as that contained in this clause? The words,

    "have such meaning as may be prescribed",

are extremely wide. I do not recall—I am not an expert in these matters—any other statute where that provision is in such wide terms. Perhaps my noble friend can tell us whether that is so and which statute contains it.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: For the sake of the record, as I have been involved in this argument, I wish

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to state that I wholly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and respectfully wholly disagree with my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls.

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