1.We considered this Bill in our 6th Report of this Session. The Government have now responded by way of a letter from Lord Ashton of Hyde, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, printed at Appendix 1.
2.This Bill completed its passage in this House on 21 November 2017 and is awaiting Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill:
3.We draw the House’s attention to one amendment made at Third Reading in the House of Lords, which inserted what is now clause 8 of the Bill. Because we received the Treasury/DWP’s supplementary delegated powers memorandum on the morning of Third Reading, there was insufficient time to report on the matter to the House. Had we had sufficient time, we would have drawn the following points to the attention of the House. Members of the House of Commons may find these points to be of assistance when they come to discuss the Bill.
4.New clause 8 allows the Minister to make regulations setting up a debt respite scheme which:
5.The problem with clause 8 is that it lacks essential content that we would expect to find in a regulation-making power. The clause says that the Minister can make regulations establishing a debt respite scheme. However, clause 8 says next to nothing about the limits of the regulation-making power. Instead the clause passes right on to miscellaneous matters: which parts of the UK the scheme might apply to; different provision can be made for different cases; and consequential provision in the regulations can amend any Act of Parliament (albeit by the affirmative procedure).
6.The supplementary Delegated Powers Memorandum says that the debt respite scheme will be complicated and will require significant research, policy development and extensive consultation. It is all the more important, therefore, that the scope of the regulation-making power should be clear. We would expect the Bill to state explicitly that the regulations can make provision for:
7.It is unclear whether the regulations could:
8.It is noteworthy that the matters on which the Secretary of State may seek advice from the single financial guidance body under clause 7 are stated at length. Although clause 8(3) requires the regulations to take the advice into account (this is by no means the same thing as being obliged to follow the advice) clause 8 is largely silent on the overall scope of the regulation-making power, save for the miscellaneous matters mentioned at paragraph 5 above. Given the Government’s usual practice to spell out in some detail what regulations might include, we were surprised that clause 8 was so devoid of content.
9.We take the view that the regulation-making power in clause 8 is too vague. Its limits should be stated more clearly, particularly since it contains a Henry VIII power to amend any Act of Parliament.
1 Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, (6th Report, Session 2017–19, )
2 We reported on the Bill after its Second Reading in this House: Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee (1st report, Session 2017–19, ).