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New Clause 19 — Power to remove or reduce burdens

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 15th May 2006.

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Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development) 7:00 pm, 15th May 2006

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who has great experience in these matters. His words will be listened to carefully by the Government. He is entirely right that, when we start to scrutinise Bills—I credit the Select Committee chaired by Andrew Miller for providing that function—we see some of the sinister applications of some of that legislation. That is exactly the case here, with what we first presumed was an innocuous Bill. The Government proposed to give themselves almost unprecedented powers to change almost any law by order, rather than having it debated on the Floor of the House. While the Bill was in Committee, the then Minister in charge told us to trust him and that he would never consider highly controversial legislation, without even telling us what "controversial" was. When we asked him to include that in the Bill, he refused. Not having that in the Bill means that the statement is not worth the paper that it is not written on.

The Public Administration Committee weighed in with its concern. I applaud it for saying that the Bill

"gives the Government powers which are entirely disproportionate to its stated aims."

The Committee also wanted to place things beyond the Bill's reach and warned diplomatically that the Government's undertakings that they would limit the use of the powers were meaningless unless they were written in the law. I congratulate the Committee on those remarks.

A week ago, there was an announcement that there would be further amendments. That was the same night that the Government faced a humiliating gubbing at the hands of the local English electorate. The amendments mean that it is almost like we are considering the Second Reading of the Bill. The debate does not feel like the remaining stages; it feels like a Second Reading.