Clause 14

Compensation Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 27th June 2006.

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Orders and regulations

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I beg to move amendment No. 38, in clause 14, page 9, line 9, leave out from ‘section 5' to end of line 10 and insert

‘may not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.'.

The amendment would change the provision so that orders made under clause 5 are subject to the affirmative procedure rather than the negative procedure. I hinted at this a moment ago, so I will simply put it on the record that it is entirely consistent for the Committee to agree the affirmative resolution procedure for such orders made under clause 5, which is about exemptions, just as we are asked to agree the affirmative resolution procedure for orders made under section 4, which is about the regulator. They are equally important matters. If I were in any doubt about that or if Committee colleagues, whatever their views, were in any doubt, I hope that the earlier debate made it clear how important the matter is. I also hope that the Minister will understand that it is important to me and will be important to my colleagues on Report.

I did not vote on the amendments on trade unions moved by the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire because the right way to deal with the problem is not to close off in Committee the Minister’s power to exempt trade unions, but to give Parliament the right to decide when an order is introduced—automatically and only after a debate and a vote in both Houses—whether she should bring a particular exemption or exemptions to the House. I hope that she will be sympathetic to the amendment and that colleagues from all parties will see the merit in guaranteeing the subject a debate and vote in both Houses. It is important.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Secretary of State (Justice), Shadow Secretary of State

I support the amendment. It is sensible, as I said. It was a bit miserable of the hon. Gentleman not to support my amendment, but I hope that when we return to the subject on Report, I will find an even more felicitous way of putting it.

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs

Any decision to exempt people from a requirement for authorisation cannot and will not be taken lightly. It must be subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny. However, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place, which by all accounts is a robust organisation, considered in detail all the delegated powers in the Bill and approved of our approach to exemptions. In its report, the Committee said of the Secretary of State’s power to exempt by order:

“Negative procedure is usual for exemption orders of this kind and we consider the provision to be appropriate.”

I know that the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey is keen to ensure that parliamentary time is used efficiently. He said during the Committee’s previous sitting that we should avoid secondary legislation if it creates unnecessary work. I suggest that secondary legislation is required in this case, but that an order subject to the negative resolution procedure is more appropriate. I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I was aware that the Lords Committee took that view. This morning, I learned for the first time from my noble Friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire that there are more formerly active trade union Members in the House of Lords than in the House of Commons. I leave Labour colleagues to reflect on the ability of the Labour movement in the House of Commons to represent working women and men in its traditional way. Clearly, new Labour has taken over the Commons more quickly it has taken over the Lords.

I am not satisfied with the result. The Minister is right: I have always been particular in trying to ensure that we do not legislate when we do not need to and that we do not create work that we do not need to do. However, I still think that this is an appropriate matter for compulsory debate and vote. I will seek the Committee’s leave to withdraw the amendment, but I give notice that I intend to return to it. I hope that I can persuade colleagues to support me on Report.

In the interim, I ask the Minister to reflect on whether, having taken advice, she might be willing to  respond positively to what I hope has been a constructive suggestion and approach in Committee from the Liberal Democrats. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.