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Clause 14 — Short title and commencement

Part of Bill Presented — Sustainable Energy (Local Plans) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 1st July 2009.

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Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 6:30 pm, 1st July 2009

I beg to move amendment 5, in page 9, line 39, at end add—

'(4) This Act and any Statutory Instrument made under this Act shall cease to have effect on the first anniversary of the day on which the Act is passed.'.

We might get a little squeezed in the Third Reading debate, so may I take this opportunity to extend the usual courtesies to the Secretary of State and his staff? We on this side of the House have sat through many discussions over the past few days and we are very grateful for the courtesy and reasonableness with which the right hon. Gentleman has treated us and entered into those discussions. It has been an exemplary way of handling what has been a difficult and controversial Bill. We and others believe that it has been hurried through but, given all those pressures, we could not have asked for more courtesy and reasonableness in the manner of its handling.

Colloquially, this amendment is a sunset clause—a notion often discussed in this House, but insufficiently and rarely applied to legislation. Variations of the amendment were used for emergency powers granted by the House to deal with issues such as terrorism. It is a very sensible instrument for any piece of legislation that is unduly controversial and which may have unforeseen consequences.

This is such a Bill. There can be no doubt that it has been hurriedly cobbled together, and perhaps even more hurriedly rushed through this House. It is very rare to have Second Reading, Committee and Report on three consecutive days. A Bill of this magnitude and consequence will have effects that none of us will have been able properly to understand, even after the vigorous debate that we have enjoyed. It therefore makes good sense to put a natural expiry date on it, so that in a year or so the House is required to come back and take a look at how it has worked.

There may be court cases, changes in the behaviour that we can display in the House, and effects on right hon. and hon. Members, and possibly even our staff, that we have not envisaged. It is simply sensible and uncontroversial to allow us to look at the Bill in the cold light of day after it has been in place for a year, and so inevitably after there has been a general election. Nothing could be worse than making bad law and letting it lie on the statute book. The surest way of making sure that bad legislation comes back before this House is to make its return automatic by passing a sunset clause. Thereby, if the Government of the day wish to renew the Bill, believe that it has been of value and is working, or believe that it should be amended, the Bill can be started again, have its sunset clause triggered, or be brought back for amendment.

I urge the House to do something that it always says it would like to do, namely agree to a sunset clause. Let us do it and just see how it works, so that the Bill, which is likely to be agreed to, can come back in a year's time, and we can see whether the House looks upon it as we have done this week.

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