Immigration Bill - Constitution Committee Contents

Henry VIII powers and the Sewel Convention

10.  The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee will no doubt report to the House on the proposals for delegated powers contained in the Bill. There are provisions for a number of Henry VIII powers in the Bill, all of which are subject to the affirmative procedure. Some of those powers are relatively limited.[5] Others are much broader in scope. We do not intend to comment on the detail of those powers, although we urge the House, as always, to ensure that the need for such powers is justified and that their scope is limited to the minimum necessary to achieve their objectives.

11.  We wish to draw the attention of the House to a wider point in relation to those powers. Clauses 10, 11, 15 and 39-42, which relate to illegal working in respect of licensed premises and private-hire vehicles; orders for possession of properties; and the transfer between local authorities of responsibility for relevant children, only have effect (in some cases because the legislation to which they make amendments only has effect) in relation to England or England and Wales.

12.  However, clauses 10, 11, 16 and 43 provide regulation-making powers so that the provisions made or given effect by clauses 10, 11, 15 and 39-42 can in substance be extended to Northern Ireland and Scotland (and, where relevant, Wales). The formula used in clauses 10, 11, 16 and 43 is that the Secretary of State "may by regulations make provision" in respect of Northern Ireland and Scotland (and, where relevant, Wales) which "has a similar effect to" the English provisions. Clauses 11, 16 and 43 are Henry VIII powers: regulations made under them can "amend, repeal or revoke any enactment".[6]

13.  The UK Government's view is that clauses 10, 11, 16 and 43 do not engage the Sewel Convention, so Legislative Consent Motions (LCMs) are not required.[7] We note that this view has been disputed by some interested parties. For example, the Law Society of Scotland has stated that regulations authorised by clause 10 "would alter … licensing law, which is a devolved matter", and that "the effects of the proposals are not incidental to devolved matters" so that "consultation with a view to seeking the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament should be initiated".[8]

14.  The House may wish to ask the Government to justify its view that Legislative Consent Motions are not required for clauses 10, 11, 16 and 43.

15.  The power to make regulations that have "a similar effect to" provisions contained in the Immigration Bill is vague. In its Delegated Powers Memorandum, the Government seeks to make the case for the use of secondary legislation in this context in the following way:

    "In order to make the provisions relating to private hire etc. licensing effective in Scotland and Northern Ireland it will be necessary to make some detailed modifications of Scottish and Northern Ireland legislation. Also there are specific provisions in both Scotland and Northern Ireland which may require consequential amendments to make the scheme effective. This will require detailed input from the devolved administrations, which might itself be consequential on Parliament's views on the amendments relating to England and Wales. It is considered appropriate for the changes for Scotland and Northern Ireland to be made in secondary legislation, therefore, once Parliament has approved the main concept of the scheme with reference to the existing amendments suggested to private hire etc. licensing legislation."[9]

16.  It is not clear why, given that primary legislation has been deemed to be appropriate in England or England and Wales, secondary legislation is considered to be appropriate in Northern Ireland and Scotland (and, where relevant, Wales). Although regulations made under clauses 10, 11, 16 and 43 must be made under the affirmative procedure, the degree of parliamentary scrutiny that they will receive is less than that which primary legislation attracts. If, as the Government acknowledges, the Bill's provisions will need to be adapted to the legislative and policy environments in the devolved nations, legitimate concerns arise in relation both to the degree of scrutiny that the subsequent regulations will attract and the discrepancy between the levels of scrutiny to which those provisions relating to England (set out in primary legislation) and those relating to other areas of the UK (to be detailed in secondary legislation) will be subjected.

17.  The House may wish to consider whether the differential legislative approaches adopted in respect of England and other parts of the UK, and the difference in the degree of scrutiny that this implies, are appropriate.

5   See clause 13 and schedule 3, para 1; clause 29 Back

6   Clause 10 permits the amendment, repeal and revocation of enactments of the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales, but not acts of the UK Parliament. Back

7   Explanatory Notes to the Immigration Bill, Annex B.  Back

8   Written evidence to Public Bill Committee on the Immigration Bill:  Back

9   Home Office, Immigration Bill: Delegated Powers Memorandum (1 December 2015) para 23. [accessed 22 December 2015].This passage concerns clause 11. A similar case is made elsewhere in the Delegated Powers Memorandum in respect of clauses 10, 16 and 43.  Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2016