Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation First Report


9 December 1998

  By the Select Committee appointed to report whether the provisions of any bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of legislative power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny; to report on documents laid before Parliament under section 3(3) of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and on draft orders laid under section 1(4) of that Act; and to perform, in respect of such documents and orders, the functions performed in respect of other instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.



  1.  There are two innovations in the presentation of this Session's legislation. Each bill is now prefaced with a ministerial statement about the bill's compatibility with Convention rights and the Explanatory Notes which used to appear on the covers of bills are now published separately (and are now much more extensive).

  2.  The Explanatory Notes give a very full account of the background to the bill. The Notes state that the purpose of the bill is to transfer from the Secretary of State for Social Security to the Inland Revenue and the Treasury both operational and policy functions in relation to National Insurance contributions and related matters. The Notes (paragraph 12) explain that a transfer of functions is normally achieved by an Order in Council under the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975 but that procedure cannot be used here as the Inland Revenue does not fall within the definition in that Act of "Minister of the Crown".


  3.  There is a commencement power in clause 27(3) and (4) which, as is customary, is not subject to Parliamentary control. Subsection (4) of clause 21 allows the Secretary of State to make an order applying subsection (5) rather than subsection (3) to a contract or class of contracts. There is no Parliamentary control over this power but this is appropriate because of the limited technical and administrative nature of the subject matter.

  4.  All the powers in the bill are subject to negative procedure. These powers are contained in clauses 7(1)(f) and (m), 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 (in the new section 170(5) of the Pension Schemes Act 1993), 22 and 23 and in the amendments made to existing legislation by paragraphs 21, 26 and 29 of Schedule 6. The Department's memorandum gives an account of each and the Committee finds is necessary here to refer only to the Henry VIII powers discussed in the next paragraphs.


  5.  Power to amend any enactment (including the bill) is conferred in clauses 22(4)(d) and 23(2). Clause 22 is a power by Order in Council to transfer functions from the Secretary of State to the Board, or from the Board to the Secretary of State. It is limited to the functions listed in subsection (2) and subsection (4) is concerned with "supplemental, consequential or transitional" matters. In this context the Committee considers it appropriate that negative procedure (as provided in the bill) should apply.

  6.  Clause 23 is a power by Order in Council to make provision for Northern Ireland corresponding to provisions of the bill. Again the Committee considers the negative procedure appropriate.


  7.   The Committee has noted the two Henry VIII powers. There is nothing in the bill which it is necessary to draw to the attention of the House.



  8.  The bill's main purpose is to transform the Commonwealth Development Corporation into a public company limited by shares. Initially the government will be the sole shareholder but the intention is to sell the majority of the shares while retaining a "Golden Share" to safeguard certain reserved rights.


  9.  The department's memorandum gives an excellent account of the two delegated legislative powers in the bill. The memorandum also gives an account of certain powers which it describes as administrative. Those powers are not exercisable by statutory instrument and are not subject to Parliamentary control.


  10.  Clause 18 is concerned with the maximum shareholding to be retained by the Crown. Subsection (5) allows the Secretary of State to amend or repeal the clause. An order under this power is subject to affirmative procedure. The Committee considers that the case for the power is made in the department's memorandum.


  11.  There is only one other delegated legislative power in the bill. Clause 24(4) and (5) allow the Secretary of State to designate a company wholly owned by the Crown as a company associated with the corporation for the purposes of clause 20. The memorandum explains the need for the power and the justification for not providing for any Parliamentary control.


  12.   The Committee has recorded the inclusion in the bill of a Henry VIII clause. There is nothing in that or the only other delegated legislative power to which we wish to draw the House's attention.


  13.  This Bill makes provision for elections to the European Parliament in Great Britain to be conducted using a regional list electoral system. A Bill for the same purpose was introduced in the 1997-98 session but failed to be enacted as a result of disagreement between the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

  14.  The Committee reported on this Bill in its 15th report of last session.[1] In that report we commented that the Bill raised "important issues about the way in which elections may be held but these issues are not within the Committee's remit." The Committee's report drew the attention of the House to the Henry VIII powers in the Bill, and considered the negative resolution procedure provided by the Bill for these powers appropriate. It also listed the other powers in the Bill. The report made no substantive recommendation on the powers in the Bill and concluded that there was "nothing else in the Bill to which the House's attention need be drawn."


  15.   There is nothing in the Bill reintroduced this session which the Committee wishes to draw to the attention of the House. [2]

1  HL Paper 92. Back
2  This report is also published on the Internet at the House of Lords Select Committees Home Page (http:/, where further information about the work of the Committee is also available. Back

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