14.The importance of an adequate and timely Impact Assessment (IA) to support policy and explain its consequences was highlighted in several of our reports just before the summer recess. Following his statement of 19 July exempting time-limited pandemic statutory instruments from either an IA or consideration by the independent Regulatory Policy Committee, we wrote to Paul Scully MP, the Minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy responsible for government policy on IA provision. (The full correspondence is published in Appendix 1.)
15.As well as expressing concerns about the lack of impact assessments in pandemic-related instruments, our letter drew attention to several significant instruments where the IA had not been available at the time of scrutiny and in one case did not follow for six months.
16.Effective parliamentary scrutiny is undermined by departments’ failure to provide adequate information alongside an instrument. An IA is intended to inform and underpin policy development. We are therefore concerned that the policy implemented by instruments which are not accompanied by an IA may have been decided in the absence of critically important information.
17.The Minister’s initial reply was disappointing. We therefore wrote again in September seeking further explanation. The Minister’s letter of 7 October was more substantial, and we welcome his support for the provision of good quality and timely information alongside statutory instruments.
18.The Minister’s letter also refers to a consultation on the reform of better regulation. We have some concerns about proposals to “streamline the process” and whether they might reduce the quality and usefulness of the information provided. We await the Government’s further proposals with interest.
19.In our 13th Report, we published information on two instruments that effected the transfer of the functions of Public Health England to other bodies. One of the bodies identified in our Report, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), subsequently told us that the CQC was not in fact involved. The information in our report was drawn from the Department of Health and Social Care’s Explanatory Memoranda (EMs) accompanying the instruments. A letter of explanation and apology from the Minister is published in Appendix 2 and the EMs have been replaced. This example acts as a reminder to departments of the importance of ensuring that all material laid before Parliament is both accurate and up to date.
20.In our 11th Report, we raised concerns about these draft Regulations which propose to replace a legislative process for updating lists of recognised third countries and third country control bodies in relation to organic standards with an administrative process. As we have previously raised concerns about a loss of parliamentary oversight and a shift of power from the legislature to the executive, we wrote to the Rt Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons. We received a response from the Lord President and from Victoria Prentis MP, Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
21.We found that the Minister’s response did not fully address our concern about a loss of parliamentary oversight and asked for further consideration of the issues we raised. We received a second response from the Minister which was subsequently withdrawn by the Department after the Committee had agreed to its publication. We are now publishing a revised response by the Minister, alongside our earlier correspondence on the draft Regulations, at Appendix 3. While we note that the draft Regulations do not propose to change the technical criteria by which equivalence of third counties and third country control bodies will be assessed, our key concern remains that final equivalence decisions by the Secretary of State will in future be made administratively, rather than require legislation. We continue to take the view that these decisions should be subject to parliamentary oversight.
3 See for example draft Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021, SLSC, , Session 2021-22, HL 40 and SLSC, , Session 2021-22, HL 50.
4 Covid-19 Business Regulatory Easements, 1. , 19 July 202
5 Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, ‘Reforming the framework for better regulation’ (22 July 2021): [accessed 13 October 2021].
6 , Session 2021-22, HL 70.
7 Public Health England (Dissolution) (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2021 () Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Transfer of Public Health England Staff) Regulations 2021 ().
8 SLSC, , Session 2021-22, HL 52.