Amendment 36B

Part of Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 23 March 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour 5:30, 23 March 2023

My Lords, this is neither a wrecking amendment nor a probing amendment; it is a most reasonable amendment. Why? Because some of us who have constitutional concerns about skeleton Bills and Henry VIII powers do so because, even with affirmative procedure, Members of Parliament and Members of your Lordships’ House are not able to amend secondary legislation, unlike Bills. The ability to improve the legislation just is not there. If that is going to be the case here, because we cannot persuade Ministers that these matters, if necessary in extremis, should be dealt with in primary legislation, what are we going to do instead?

If there is to be any possibility of improving minimum service level agreements and the regulations that impose them, there needs to be a statutory amount of time on the face of the primary legislation so that parliamentarians, while they will not get the process they get when a Bill goes through Parliament, will know that they will have at least a month to look at what is proposed and then try to speak to Ministers, write to Ministers and raise questions in each House. That, in some small way, would be an attempt to compensate for the fact that this is not primary legislative procedure with the ability to table amendments, divide the House and so on. This seems totally reasonable to me and a constructive amendment in the face of these Henry VIII powers that have caused such concern to the various august committees and the noble and learned Lords who normally sit with the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe—he is a bit lonely at the moment. It is totally reasonable.

I cannot understand what the objection could be to just being clear, even if informally, that there will at least be this amount of time to be able to improve the regulations. I think Hansard will record that the Minister, in answer to me on a previous group—it may have been a slip—said that Parliament can improve the regulations. Actually, it cannot, but by this kind of stipulation it could, at least informally, make its attempt.