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Strathclyde Review — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:19 pm on 13th January 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 10:19 pm, 13th January 2016

Okay, I am just going to make one simple point and then I really will move on. We are disagreeing because what happened previously were fatal Motions that we all understood to be fatal. On the Motions tabled in October, one side of this House is arguing that they were not fatal, the other side is arguing that they were. I am afraid that that disagreement is what has led us to have to ask my noble friend Lord Strathclyde to look at this issue and come forward with his report. He is trying to bring forward something which addresses the need of this House that has been outlined since 2000, when my noble friend Lord Wakeham first looked at this matter.

This House is influential when we act in a constructive and nonpartisan way. We do not need vetoes. The impact and effect that we have on legislation is very powerful, and we continue to have a very important role in our effect on the decisions that the Government make in legislation.

Many noble Lords said that this House should give up a veto only if there was some kind of trade-off for the Government to review how they use secondary legislation. This is a very important point. The speeches from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and my noble friend Lady Fookes were very powerful and they make a really important point. I said the same to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, when I delivered the Statement before Christmas. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for acknowledging that any criticism that Parliament may have of Governments for the use of secondary legislation is not new.

I also say to the House that I do not think that things are quite as bad as the House suggests in terms of our approach to secondary legislation—I do not just mean the Government, I mean the House as a whole. There is always room for improvement, but the number of SIs over the past 20 years has been pretty steady.

The committees of this House are very powerful and respected. The committee chaired by my noble friend Lady Fookes does a very good job of scrutinising delegated powers in primary legislation. Very often, the Government respond constructively to its recommendations. In the work that this House does on primary legislation, a lot of the changes that it makes are around the powers. My noble friend Lady Fookes has put forward some good arguments and ideas about how we can improve within government, and I will certainly take those away.

We should not forget that when SIs come into Parliament they are scrutinised by a Joint Committee of both Houses, as well as by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne. The tax credit SIs went through that JCSI, which is chaired by a Labour Member of the other place. In its report, the JCSI did not raise any questions or concerns about that tax credit SI.

Some have argued for a period of delay. Some have argued that it would be essential for us to ensure that we would introduce debates for the House of Commons when it considers secondary legislation. What is important, interesting and helpful to me is that, although there are different views being expressed today about how to operate without a veto, there are many noble Lords at least discussing the idea of not having a veto but having a new power instead of the veto. I am grateful to noble Lords for that response.

As I draw to a close, noble Lords have raised questions about a Joint Committee. I have already said that the work of the Joint Committee in 2006 was incredibly powerful, but I do not believe that right now we need another Joint Committee. We need to look at the options that have been put forward by my noble friend, but I know that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne and his committee have committed to looking at what has been proposed, and I am grateful to him.

As for the Commons looking at this, it is clearly for the other place to decide how it should scrutinise secondary legislation. However, as my noble friend Lord Crickhowell has identified, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee in the other place has committed to look at what has been put forward by my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. It has a hearing next week at which he is giving evidence, so the Commons is also getting on with its consideration of this arrangement.