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Lord Goodhart: As a former member of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform, and as someone who took part in the debate to which the Minister referred, I naturally welcome the Government's acceptance of the principle that clauses on consequential amendments should require that the affirmative procedures be used when there is any amendment of existing primary legislation.
The sunset clause did not arise from any recommendation in the Select Committee's report. It was a personal recommendation by my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf. As I recall, I expressed some sympathy with it during the debate. Obviously it has considerable implicationsthey go well beyond the Billas to whether there should be a general principle of sunset clauses. Certainly, I find that the arguments in favour of three years rather than one year have considerable force. At this point, I would not like to commit my colleagues to supporting the amendment that calls for a sunset clause on Report, but we could do so.
In relation to what was said by my noble friend Lady Anelay, the Government could save a great deal of legislative time if they asked departments to get together and try to find a more common approach to the wording of such clauses. If a clause hitherto unseen of such a nature appears on a Bill, it is necessary for the Opposition to question why it is worded as it is. If the clauses will recur, it would be in the Government's
As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, the sunset clause was not a recommendation from the Select Committee but the personal proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. It was an interesting proposal. He has thought about the subject a lot, and I am sure that it will be followed up as time goes on. In this case, my noble friend has a good point in that a sunset clause could have a place in the Bill, albeit one involving a longer period as the Minister illustrated that a year was probably too short in this case. I look forward to seeing what happens on Report.
The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asked whether the Government would always use the procedure in future, and gave the Courts Bill as an example. I refer to the response of my noble and learned friend Lord Williams of Mostyn when he was asked the same question. He said:
Could there be more unified wording? As ever, I am advised that we cannot make commitments for the whole of the Government, which seems a great shame. Nevertheless, I recall the discussions on the then Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill when Parliamentary Counsel said that what was suggested as an amendment made no significant difference, and/or that its wording was appropriate for the circumstances. That may have been right, or perhaps that is what Parliamentary Counsel would have said anyway.
Without wanting to signal anything particularly major, I shall say that we shall correspond with the Lord Chancellor's Department on the issue, to see if there is any scope to reduce needless variation and focus the variation where it is essential. However, I do not invite the Committee to get overexcited about the product of that reflection. Of course, it may not be completed by Report, given the time that some such processes take.
At heart, the issue is whether one can be certain that one has identified all the consequential and incidental amendments that might be necessary. The second question is whether the consequence of not doing so is serious or trivial. The debate will probably have to focus around those two points, although I and others may need to consider further matters before we return to the subject on Report.
In short, I am signalling that we will consider the points made without signalling that we shall necessarily find a meeting of minds on the sunset clause, or that one should necessarily expect a standardised wording on such issues in the near future, if ever. However, we will certainly consider them.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am very grateful to noble Lords who have participated in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, made the point that it was important that there be a presumption in favour of the use of the affirmative resolution when scrutinising later changes to primary legislation. In response, the MinisterI too shall quote part of a speech in a momentreferred to the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House, who appeared to brush sunset clauses aside.
As I read the debate, and then watched it on the parliamentary channel, it appeared that the noble and learned Lord suggested that it would become overburdensome if sunset clauses dealt with both secondary and primary legislative changesif they topped off everything after one year. I hope that my proposal of three years is a far more positive way forward. In the interim, affirmative resolution will be used for changes to primary legislation, but certainly three years will be a helpful way forward.
I direct the Minister to the helpful quotation that came my way from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. He referred to the recent work in the Grand Committee on the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill, and in regard to 50:50 recruitment in the post-Patten proposals he said:
I was selective about my quotation and the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, was absolutely right to ensure that the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, was correctly quoted. I said that the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, gave his support to sunset clauses. What I should have added was that he said:
"(5A) A statutory instrument containing such an order which adds to, replaces or omits any part of the text of an Act is not to be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament." Page 60, line 28, after "instrument" insert "(other than an instrument to which subsection (6A) applies)"
Page 60, line 30, at end insert
"(6A) A statutory instrument containing such an order which adds to, replaces or omits any part of the text of an Act or of an Act of the Scottish Parliament is not to be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Scottish Parliament."