Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Twenty-Ninth Report




64.  The Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 provides a two-stage process for the parliamentary scrutiny of deregulation orders. A document containing the proposal is laid under section 3(3) of the Act in the form of a draft of the order, together with explanatory material;[28] and we and the Commons equivalent committee have 60 days in which to consider and report on it. The Government then lay under section 1(4) of the Act a draft order, either in its original form or amended to take account of the two committees' views, for approval by resolution of each House.[29] In the Lords a motion to approve a draft order can only be moved after we have made a second report on it.[30]

65.  The deregulation process thus provides for an important two-stage consultation procedure. Section 3 of the 1994 Act requires the Minister, before making a deregulation order, to "consult such organisations as appear to him to be representative of interests substantially affected by his proposals". Further consultation takes place when the Committees of each House invite the submission of oral or written evidence. Effective consultation is essential to maintain confidence in the deregulation system and to ensure that proposals have been tested by the opinion of those who would be affected by them.

66.  One of our tasks is to decide whether consultation has been adequate. We have used two criteria here: first, the extent of the consultation; secondly, the time allowed for responses. We have criticised certain proposals which have come close to failing one or other of these tests, and one - the Draft Deregulation (Sunday Dancing) Order 1995 - has actually failed.

67.  Unlike the House of Commons, this House has not made a Standing Order setting out our scrutiny task in detail and regulating our work.[31] Our scrutiny of deregulation proposals is governed therefore by our terms of reference and by the 1994 Act. The first deregulation proposal was deposited on 5th April 1995. Since then, this Committee has only rejected two proposals.[32]

68.  As we said in our last special report, the main thing to be said about the Deregulation procedure during the present session is that it has been comparatively little used. This session we reported on two Stage 1 Deregulation orders and four Stage 2 Deregulation orders - a sharp drop from the exceptionally busy 1996-97 session,[33] when we reported on 16 Stage 1 proposals, and 15 Stage 2 draft orders.

69.   We are glad to record, as we did in our last two special reports, that the Government have always agreed to make the amendments which we have proposed to deregulation proposals. As a result, second-stage scrutiny, when a draft order is laid for approval by both Houses, has invariably been straightforward.

Draft Deregulation (Millennium Licensing) Order 1999

70.  The proposal for the Draft Deregulation (New Year Licensing) Order 1999 was laid before Parliament under section 3(3) of the 1994 Act on 13 April, and would have allowed registered clubs and licensed premises to serve drinks throughout the night of each New Year's Eve. We reported on the proposal in our 18th report, dated 16 June 1999.[34]

71.  Our conclusions on the stage one proposal were as follows:

"In an unprecedented situation, it is difficult to come to a firm conclusion as to whether necessary protection would be maintained under the proposal. We have concluded that, in order to guarantee necessary protection, in so far as this is possible, that in laying the second stage deregulation order before Parliament the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Health should justify the Government's claim that the emergency services will be able to cope with the likely effects of the deregulation order over the Millennium period.

Furthermore, we consider that Parliament does not have sufficient evidence to agree to the deregulation proposal for each New Year to come. We accordingly recommend that the draft order be amended so that it applies to the Millennium New Year's Eve only. In the light of this experience consideration could then be given to a further deregulation proposal applying the extended licensing hours to all future New Years."

72.  We also suggested that there would be no need for "restriction orders" if the proposal were limited to the Millennium New Year's Eve,[35] although we did not formally recommend the amendment of the draft Order to that effect.

73.  The Government amended (and renamed) the draft Order so that it applied to the Millennium Eve only. In addition, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Health provided the assurances which we had requested that in their view the emergency services will be able to cope with the likely effects of the relaxation of the licensing laws during this 36-hour period.

74.  The draft Order was thus amended as we recommended, with the exception of our suggestion that the provision for restriction orders was unnecessary for an Order relating to the Millennium Eve only. In amending the draft Order the Government retained the provision for restriction orders, but omitted the power to revoke or vary such orders and the provision as to their duration. We were satisfied with this approach, and in our 24th report were able to report that the draft order was now in a form satisfactory to be submitted to the House for affirmative resolution.

Proposed Amendments to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994

75.  In March 1999 the Cabinet Office issued a consultation document on its proposals to amend the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. We reported on those proposals in our fourteenth report of this session.[36] The Government's response to this report is published in our twenty-eighth report of this session, together with brief comments by the Committee.

76.  In September 1999 the Regulatory Impact Unit issued a further consultative document, "Proposals to Improve the Quality of Enforcement Services: A Consultative Document on Section 5 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994". We commented on this document in our twenty-eighth report of this session.[37]

28   Stage 1. Back

29   Stage 2. Back

30   Standing Order 70(1)(b). Back

31   See Commons Standing Order 124A. Back

32   The first proposal which the Committee rejected was that for the Draft Deregulation (Sunday Dancing) Order 1995 (15th Report, session 1994-95, HL Paper 102). In the 1996-97 session we reported that it would be inappropriate to proceed with the proposal for the Draft Deregulation (Civil Aviation Act 1982) Order 1997 as there appeared to be a doubt whether it was intra vires. Back

33   That session was a short one, of about five months. Back

34   HL Paper 73. Back

35   Paragraph 34. Back

36   The House of Commons Deregulation Committee also reported on the proposals. Back

37   HL Paper 111. Back

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