Clause 71 - Regulations and orders

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 27th February 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

As we have said on numerous occasions, in connection with the Bill and at every available opportunity, we regret the tendency for the power of regulations and orders under successive Bills to be made subsequent to the Bill's passing. We hope that here they will be made by an affirmative order of each House, as clause 71 indicates, and that there will be opportunities for any statutory instrument to be debated by each House of Parliament.

For the record we repeat that we would prefer most of the powers to be exercised under the Bill to be written into it rather than left to implementation by statutory order. One need only look at the issuing of statutory orders in the Library and those laid before Parliament to see how many there are. This is an increasing tendency, particularly over the past five and a half years, and it is one that we regret. We hope as far as possible to have an opportunity to scrutinise the orders made under the Bill. We invite the Secretary of State and the Department to make a self-denying order rather than an increasing flood of statutory instruments. I hope that the Under-Secretary will take the opportunity to confirm that that is the Government's wish.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

When handling any primary legislation, we regularly have this discussion about which powers are taken by secondary legislation. This clause provides the procedure for making regulations and orders under this part of the Bill. In general, all orders and regulations will be subject to the negative procedure. That means that they will be laid before the House and can be annulled by a resolution. As the majority of regulations in this part will be based on Home Office precedents, affirmative resolution instruments would be unnecessary.

Orders under clause 70 would amend other enactments to allow the transfer of the existing British Transport police to the new authority. They would therefore involve the taking of so-called Henry VIII powers. The orders will include employment issues, and it is therefore appropriate that they receive Parliament's approval via the affirmative procedure. At the appropriate time, the House will have an opportunity to discuss them.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am extremely disappointed by that honest but unsatisfactory answer. I repeat as vigorously as I can that while we welcome the opportunity to follow the affirmative procedure in regard to what the Under-Secretary referred to as the Henry VIII orders, we deplore the fact that other orders will be laid before the House by negative procedure. To us, that is an entirely unsatisfactory procedure, and the Opposition will remain vigilant as ever in ensuring that any order, regulation or statutory instrument laid before the House which we feel is inappropriate will be prayed against.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I assure the hon. Lady that the practice is exactly as it was before 1997, when her Government were in power—[Interruption.]

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I shall not mention the aside made by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge. The tendency since 1997 is borne out by the numbers, which demonstrate a wholly unacceptable increase in the use of orders. The order-making power in clause 70, particularly in respect of employment conditions, is appropriate and welcome. Will the Minister confirm that pension provisions are also included and will be dealt with through the affirmative procedure? We have expressed on behalf of the British Transport police serious concerns about the pension provisions.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

Just to give the hon. Lady the ability to curtail her comments, I can assure her that matters relating to employment and pensions will pass through the affirmative procedure.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for that confirmation. We shall pray against every conceivable order that we believe to be inappropriate and laid through the negative procedure. The Bill provides an opportune moment for the Department and the Government to break with tradition in that respect. On coming to power, the Government's motto was ''new Labour'', so I invite them to introduce a new procedure to ensure that all regulations and orders, particularly those passed under clause 71, are in future laid through the affirmative procedure.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 71 ordered to stand part of the Bill.