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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am grateful for the moderation with which the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, moved this amendment and for the revolutionary fervour with which he was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins. Of course, I have very great respect for the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee both as regards its chairman and all of its members, including
In doing so, I do not want to follow some of the wilder revolutionary suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins. When we come to consider secondary legislation, it is noticeable that it is always the Opposition which would like the power to amend it. I did not notice the noble Lord or any of his colleagues, during the period of 18 years when they were in government, suggesting that Parliament should have the power to amend secondary legislation. It is rather like reform of the House of Lords: all sorts of things come out which were very carefully kept under control in a previous existence. I give way to the noble Lord.
Lord Higgins: I do not have the relevant Hansard references with me and I certainly do not propose to try to find them. However, I did actually suggest this on various occasions when we were in government--but, of course, not while I was a government Minister.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Indeed not. It was while the noble Lord was semi-detached and serving as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and the Treasury Select Committee. That is a very different situation.
As to the noble Lord's suggestion that he might table draft amendments to the regulations and have them debated in the Chamber, I have to tell him that he is not the first to do so. In Opposition, I was known to table as an amendment many pages of regulations and then to suggest amendments to my own amendment. That used to confuse people--
However, the difference between affirmative and negative procedures is not as clear cut as may be thought. I say that in the presence of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and my noble friend Lady Hollis, both of whom have a reputation for taking regulations, especially those relating to social security, and bringing them before this Chamber by praying against them. In that way they have secured exactly the same sort of debate that they would have secured if there had been an affirmative resolution, and have caused slightly more fear in government ranks than would otherwise have been the case. I say that because when an affirmative resolution comes before the Chamber, one never knows whether it will be bitterly opposed, but if a negative resolution is being prayed against you certainly know that someone feels very strongly about it.
Therefore, with very great deference to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, its chairman and its members, I repeat the arguments used by the Inland Revenue in its response to the committee. The negative
Lord Higgins: I am most grateful. Can the Minister tell me whether that is also true as far as concerns DSS regulations--that is to say, in switching from one department to another, would this Chamber lose the degree of control that it previously had?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I was going to deal with DSS regulations in due course. It is certainly true that this now becomes a matter which may well be ruled a money matter by Madam Speaker, should the question arise. But the particular regulations for payment through the pay packet are setting up a very similar administrative structure to that for PAYE which is currently in the tax system. The administrative structure is the subject of regulations rather than the principle of tax credits. Therefore, we take the view that it is appropriate for the regulations also to use the negative procedure.
However, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, it is worth mentioning that the powers in social security legislation very frequently provide for regulations to be made by negative procedure. Indeed, I believe that applies to a few thousand a year. These are the ones which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and my noble friend have been known to pray against. If Members of the Committee look at Section 176 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, they will see the occasions when that can happen.
The Inland Revenue has spent a considerable amount of time over the past year consulting various representative groups on details of the scheme which is to be established under this clause. The document published in December and the draft regulations made available have been developed as a result of these consultations. I should point out here to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that the fact that there has been extensive consultation does not mean that it follows that there should be affirmative resolution parliamentary scrutiny. Consultation is a normal part of the process of producing Inland Revenue regulations. Indeed, they are nearly all subject to negative resolution procedure.
Therefore, the Inland Revenue will continue to consult on these draft regulations. I come down to the conclusion that, in this respect and on this occasion, the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee is in error and that it would be better to stick to the procedures which have been used for tax regulation and for social security regulation in the past. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, not to press his amendment.
Lord Skelmersdale: For once, perhaps I may-- I hope, helpfully--come to the Minister's aid. When the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee considered the Bill, I have a feeling that it did not have the benefit of the very helpful drafts of the regulations which the Government currently intend to implement and which the Minister said can still be amended, if
However, if I am right, I believe that that puts a totally different light on the situation. Given the fact that we have these draft regulations before us--I have four copies and I believe that to be a complete set, although I may be wrong--we can all consider them most carefully; indeed, I have done so. We can satisfy ourselves that they will actually work to administer the scheme which the Government are introducing in the Bill. Of course, they will need changing should noble Lords' arguments of earlier this afternoon prevail in another place, but I think the likelihood of that happening is about as high as my noble friend shooting a fox.
Earl Russell: This is a House matter, not a party matter. In this Chamber we have a habit of changing places. However, we should not make too many short-term points on that theme. This is a matter which concerns all of us and one which will continue to do so. Lord Rippon of Hexham, who was the only begetter of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, as it then was, used to feel considerable distress when any argument about the committee and its reports became simply a matter of a party vote. I believe that to be a very reasonable approach to the matter. It is a concern of the whole House, not just a question of short-term party advantage.
However, that way of treating it--in other words, as a straightforward exchange between the Front Benches--can only be avoided if there is a degree of give in the Government's response to the committee's reports. For many years we had a practice whereby the government of the day did in fact accept practically everything that the committee recommended. That avoided party challenge and party dog-fighting; and, indeed, the seeking of party advantage.
Having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, I can see that this is not quite a typical case. Whether that is a full answer to the points raised by my noble friend is another question. Indeed, it is a question which I hope may perhaps be discussed outside the Chamber, before we have to decide whether to return to the issue on Report. For the future, I hope that this very firm blanket resistance to a report from the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee will not be taken for a precedent.
Lord Goodhart: I am grateful for the reply that I have received. However, it is not entirely satisfactory. As regards the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, it is perfectly correct that the Select Committee did not have before it the draft regulations although it had a fairly comprehensive memorandum from the Inland Revenue on the nature of the devolved powers. In any event, I believe that the answer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, sounds persuasive. What the Committee is concerned with, as regards the statutory instrument, is not the form that it presently takes in draft, but the form in which it
I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, said concerning a new procedure. There are very strong arguments for having an intermediate structure between the present system of primary legislation and secondary legislation, in which a fast-track procedure could be used. It would shorten the present stages of public Bills. At the same time, it would make possible some form of amendment. That goes well beyond the scope of the present Bill and it is not something that can be dealt with by the Committee. It is simply a stone thrown into the pond producing ripples which I hope will have an effect in due course.
As I have said, I am disappointed that the Government have not given ground on this matter. I do not propose to divide the House on it today and shall consider whether or not it is a matter that should be brought back at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.