Democracy Denied? The urgent need to rebalance power between Parliament and the Executive Contents

Appendix 4: Part 3 of the guidance to departments

Practical information about the Committee

[Note: Parts 1 and 2 are set out in Chapter 6 of this report.]

Working methods

The Committee has ten members. The membership of the Committee is set out on the front cover of the DPRRC’s reports and on the Committee’s webpage. It is supported by a Clerk, a Committee Operations Officer and Counsel. The contact details for the Committee can be found at the end of this Part.

The Committee considers and reports on all bills (except consolidation and supply bills). In general, the Committee aims to report before the beginning of the committee stage in the House of Lords, although may on occasion report before second reading. In exceptional circumstances the Committee may report on a bill while it is still in the House of Commons.

If time allows, the Committee also considers government amendments (and certain non-government amendments (see paragraph 32 below)) with significant delegated powers aspects tabled in the Lords. The Committee may similarly consider Commons’ amendments when a bill returns to the Lords.

The Committee is assisted in its examination by written evidence from departments (the delegated powers memorandum), which may be supplemented by subsequent memoranda (“supplementary memoranda”) covering relevant amendments. In exceptional circumstances, the Committee may invite the minister to give oral evidence if it is not satisfied by the explanations provided in the memorandum.

The Committee usually meets on Wednesday mornings. The frequency of meetings will depend on the business going through the Lords. It is likely to be either weekly or fortnightly. Its reports are published either by the end of the week in which the Committee has met or early the following week. Reports may include recommendations for amendment of a bill (but not the precise wording of an amendment) or draw matters to the attention of the House where it is suggested that the House may wish to press a minister for further information.

Where the Committee has no comment to make about a bill, it will, for the record, publish a short report stating this. In contrast, the Committee will only publish a report on amendments to a bill if it has recommendations to make. If the Committee has no comment to make on an amendment or amendments, it will not publish a report.

The practicalities of submitting memoranda

When should the delegated powers memorandum be received by the Committee?

According to the Cabinet Office Guide to Making Legislation, the Parliamentary Business and Legislation (PBL) Committee (a Cabinet Committee) requires a delegated powers memorandum before it will approve a bill for introduction, and this memorandum must be made available to both the Commons and the Lords on introduction of the bill to either House.

As far as the DPRRC is concerned, however, the following applies:

In what circumstances should supplementary memoranda be provided to the Committee?

A supplementary memorandum must be provided when:

Early warning of amendments

Because of tight legislative timescales, the DPRRC’s reports on amendments on a “best endeavours” basis. Where possible, early warning of relevant government amendments should be given — along with:

This is particularly important with regard to Commons’ amendments as the timing of ping-pong is not subject to a minimum interval and can be scheduled quickly.

Where the Committee has been unable to consider a significant relevant amendment, it would assist the House if the minister in charge of the bill were to bring this to the attention of the House when the amendment is being considered.

If a supplementary memorandum is required, when should it be received by the Committee?

Supplementary memoranda must be received on (or before) the day an amendment is tabled.

How should memoranda be delivered?

Memoranda and supplementary memoranda (in the case of the latter, along with the text of relevant amendments) should be sent by email to the address below as a Word document.

Publication of memoranda

Memoranda and supplementary memoranda are published by the two Houses on the parliamentary bills pages.

Format of memoranda

Memoranda and supplementary memoranda should adopt the following format: each legislative power should be introduced by an italic heading which should set out:

The power should then be explained in the paragraphs below the italic heading (see Part 2 of this guidance). Do not give the powers additional identifiers (such as “Power 1”, “Power 2” etc.).

Take particular care:

When a bill which starts in the Lords is returned by the Commons with amendments which introduce significant new delegated powers or significantly amend existing ones, the supplementary memorandum should be structured by reference to the relevant numbered Commons amendments and should not be an updated version of the entire original memorandum.

What happens after the Committee has considered a bill

When will the Committee report?

The Committee report will be published either by the end of the week in which the Committee has met or during the following week, and always in advance of committee stage.

When should a government response be provided?

A government response should be sent to the Committee before committee stage. If, because of tight legislative timescales, this is not possible, then the minister should write to the Committee before committee stage explaining the reasons for the delay and stating when the response will be provided.

What form should a response take and how should it be delivered?

This is a matter for the department rather than the Committee. The usual practice is for the minister to address a letter to the Chair of the Committee which should be sent, as a Word document, by email to the address below.

Publication of the response

The Committee will, for the record, publish the response in an appendix to a Committee report. For the assistance of the House, the minister may also wish to place the response in the Library or send it directly to relevant opposition spokesmen and other interested members.

Will the Committee comment on the response?

It is usual for the Committee to publish the response without remark unless, exceptionally, in the view of the Committee, the House would be assisted by some clarificatory comment.

If the department disagrees with the Committee, what action should it take?

It is for the department to justify its view to the House rather than to the Committee. The function of the Committee is to advise the House and it is for the House to decide whether to adopt the Committee’s recommendations. In forming a view, the House will consider the Committee’s report and any response by a minister to its recommendations. It is unusual for the Committee to engage in correspondence or discussions with a department where the government disagree with the Committee’s conclusions.

Committee contact details and assistance

The Committee contact details are set out below. If departments or bill teams have any further questions, they should not hesitate to contact the Clerk.

© Parliamentary copyright 2021