It is all about what the process will be. Interestingly, some of us have had the chance to look at a House of Lords report, which recommended some elements that this Bill should include. The report made it absolutely clear that delegated powers will be necessary in some cases, because the sheer volume of legislation needed—some 12,000 pieces of legislation—means that unless we use those powers effectively, the job will simply not be done in time.
The House of Lords Committee, which is not known to be a warm friend of this Government, made two specific recommendations. It recommended that
“a general provision be placed on the face of the Bill to the effect that the delegated powers granted by the Bill should be used only: so far as necessary to adapt the body of EU law to fit the UK’s domestic legal framework;
and so far as necessary to implement the result of the UK’s negotiations with the EU.”
When the Secretary of State introduced the Bill on Thursday, he made it absolutely clear that that was broadly what the Government hoped to achieve. He went further and specified what the legislation would not be about. He made it clear that the powers in clause 9 would be for only two years and that they would make “technical and legal corrections” to deficiencies in the law. He also made it clear that Ministers will not have the power to make major policy changes and that changes will still be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and oversight.
Several Members, mostly on the Opposition Benches, have questioned the definition of significant, what restraint there will be on the Government when deciding what is and what is not important, and what constitute technical and legal corrections. Therefore, there has been a debate, with Members on both sides of the House offering suggestions as to how things can be improved. The Secretary of State has said that he is in listening mode and that he is happy to talk about mechanisms for making sure that the process is fully democratic and open. All that is encouraging and in tune with what my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve referred to on Thursday during his important contribution to the debate. In particular, he said that it is important
“to have an established parliamentary system of scrutiny to ensure that the different types of statutory instruments that will be needed are correctly farmed out. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend”— the Secretary of State—
“is right that the vast majority of them will be technical and of very little account, but some will be extremely important and will need to be taken on the Floor of the House. We need to have a system in place to do that.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 628, c. 407.]
My right hon. and learned Friend did not recommend a specific system, but it seems relevant to suggest here that we already have what is, effectively, a body for precisely this task: the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. We also have a different model, or possibly an additional one. I am talking about what the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is obliged to go through as a statutory requirement: the Social Security Advisory Committee. Some of us believe that we could use a combination of both those bodies. We could use an advisory committee to provide the technical analysis of proposed changes, and the Joint Committee to go through them and approve or disapprove the recommendations.