Regulatory Reform Bill [H.L.]
Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Minister of State, Cabinet Office; Labour)
My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, I do understand the rationale of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. The order-making process which the Bill sets out--the process is in the 1994 Act; the scope of the Bill is wider than the 1994 Act--is plainly an important procedure. It depends upon a close working relationship between the Government, the scrutiny committees and each House. I do not think that the noble Lord's point would be met simply by a report from the scrutiny committees or Parliament--a somewhat vague phrase. If there is to be a consideration of how the Act is working, the Government should be compelled to say how they see it working. That process is not suited to adversarial politicking. The right approach is for the Government to set out how they see the Act working, with a free flow of information from the committees and Parliament.
Having said that, I do not think that it is appropriate to put the report requirements on the face of the Bill. However, I can and do undertake on behalf of the Government that a Minister of the Crown will report to this House three years after enactment--I say three years rather than two years; I am not sure that that is a critical point between us--on the operation of the regulatory format should it become an Act. I undertake that that report will cover the operation of the order-making process and any associated constitutional and procedural issues. As the debates to date have indicated, these are areas of key concern to your Lordships' House. It is right that the government of the day should address them fully.
After that first report, it would be for the government of the day and the House to decide on the need for any further report. The timing, scale and scope of the next report seems to me a matter best decided after that. I do not think that it would be right for such reports to reopen matters of policy which had been debated fully during the consultation, scrutiny and approval stage of the order-making process. There would be no point if a reformed regulatory regime order was working smoothly. Indeed, it could cause uncertainty. But the process--how the system is working--needs to be looked at.
I hope that I have reassured noble Lords, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, about our intentions and that our views are the same. Our undertaking could not bind future governments. It would be helpful to the House if the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, were to indicate the attitude of her party were it to be confronted with the need to produce a report. The House would be reassured if the noble Baroness indicated that it would be the present intention of her party to produce a report at the appropriate time.