Clause 26 - Parliamentary scrutiny

Part of Civil Contingencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 10th February 2004.

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Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry) 4:15 pm, 10th February 2004

I agree with the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) that it is important for us to consider this matter, which was sensibly and correctly raised by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills. We could be dealing with legislation as significant as such pieces of primary legislation as the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, which had to be put in place on an emergency basis.

To be fair, the Government have conceded the point about amendment of the regulations, which I understand was included in the 1920 Act. They have carried forward to this Bill the principle of amendment of regulations, although it is not normal in other legislation, which does not permit amendment of secondary legislation. That raises the issue of the procedures under which such amendments will be debated. I suspect that the answer is that the will of Parliament will prevail. If Parliament wishes to debate the regulations at greater length or to set different procedures for selecting amendments, it has the power to do so. However, the reality is that unless we give a more explicit steer about our expectations at this stage, we will effectively be presented with the normal procedure of an hour and a half and an opaque system for selection of amendments; it is certainly opaque from the point of view of people who try to steer the process and want certain issues debated rather than others.

Let us consider our ability to debate primary legislation and the way in which we can freely table amendments and have them selected. Let us debate such issues, and consider what might be a restricted debate on a subject of, dare I say it, great significance to the ordinary person because of the kinds of powers that will be taken. The Minister has a responsibility to explain the Government's expectation of how we will deal with the regulations once they come to Parliament.