Clause 6 - Document to be laid before parliament

Part of Regulatory Reform Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 29th March 2001.

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Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) 10:15 am, 29th March 2001

There is certainly merit in the arguments of the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) and I congratulate him on doing his homework thoroughly—last night. However, in reality, he is trying to do the work of the Committees of the House and the other place. The points that he raises might well constitute inadequacies in the consultation documents and the consultation itself. However, the Bill's real strength is that it will enable the Committees to detect any such inadequacies at a later stage, should they feel that all the information and the impact on an organisation—whether financial, commercial or otherwise—have not been taken fully into account. In other words, the basic point is that the process will deal with such matters.

The hon. Gentleman raised a number of detailed issues, including the proportionality test, but I shall not attempt to deal with them by working my way through each draft consultation document. During Tuesday's debate, he argued that information should be provided, and I said that one must ask for it before it could be included. However, the real point is that one must have the information.

Sometimes, the information necessary for a proportionate test will be available at an early stage because it became known through the day-to-day workings of the Department, or because—as in the case of the consultation document to which the hon. Gentleman referred—a previous consultation was carried out by the Department prior to producing the document within the framework of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act and, potentially, this Bill. It is simply a question of including as much information as possible when one can, rather than trying to put the cart before the horse. Therefore, the points that were discussed on Tuesday still apply.

I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment because the process itself will extract any inadequacies. The requirement established in paragraphs (i) and (f) is fairly comprehensive, particularly given that every regulatory reform order must be accompanied by a regulatory impact assessment that, as he said, compares the benefits and costs of each option, and considers not merely the proposals' impact but whether they can be implemented differently. The combination of paragraphs (i) and (f), which refer to clause 3(2), and the process through which the Committees will consider whether the information is adequate, will provide as much information as possible and allow both Houses to judge whether regulatory reform orders are good or bad.