We Liberal Democrats welcome Lords amendment No. 160, which improves the Bill by seeking to reassert the role of the other place. It is a matter of great regret that the Government are attempting to freeze the second Chamber out of considering important regulations. The Minister argued that we are talking about a matter of financial privilege for this House. That sets a dangerous precedent for other regulations, and is not consistent with the consideration that the Lords give to other issues, such as council tax and business rates, which are both collected locally, and the business improvement district levy. Why should the CIL regulations be any different from regulations on those issues?
The Government have rightly removed the Secretary of State from the list of CIL charging authorities, so it is clear that we are talking about a matter for local determination, and not national taxation. The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee accurately reported that the receipts from CIL are not to be paid into the Consolidated Fund, but will be spent by the receiving body. Crucially, it also reported that key clauses that the legislation will leave to regulations are not obviously financial. The regulations relate to liability for the charge, charity law, rights of appeal and compensation, all of which are issues of legislative principle, not financial privilege.
Baroness Hamwee, my colleague in another place, argued that the provisions are so ill thought out that clause 207 should be excised altogether and brought back in another Bill, when Ministers know what they want to do. Instead, the Government have tried to put the charge on the legislative express train, whose final stop will be a 90-minute debate in a tiny Committee of this House.
Unfortunately, this is not the first assault on the role of the other place; Ministers have had a go at doing the same thing before, with proposals to thwart the role of the House of Lords in deciding on secondary legislation. The Joint Committee on Conventions looked into the issues in detail in 2006, and comprehensively rejected the case for impeding the ability of peers to say no to regulations on occasion. Indeed, it found, quite specifically:
"There are situations in which it is consistent both with the Lords' role in Parliament as a revising chamber, and with Parliament's role in relation to delegated legislation, for the Lords to threaten to defeat an SI. For example...when the parent Act was a 'skeleton Bill', and the provisions of the SI are of the sort more normally found in primary legislation".
Part 11 of the Bill is so skeletal as to be positively emaciated. That is why we tabled amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 160—to restore the basic right of a second Chamber in a bicameral Parliament to reject, in the last resort, a legislative proposal of which it does not approve. Ministers sometimes seem to forget that statutory instruments are legislation and should be treated as such. It is only right to treat them in that way, in terms of process, because we get better regulations as a result. The amendment is a welcome step forward.
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