Clause 95

Part of Localism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 17th February 2011.

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Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Labour, Greenwich and Woolwich 2:45 pm, 17th February 2011

I had not intended to contribute to this debate, but I feel that I have to say something. What the Minister has been saying is, in many ways, admirable. He is clearly wrestling with difficult issues and trying to come up with the most sensible solutions, and I wholly support that. However, this is an abuse of the legislative system. We are considering legislation, and the convention is that the Government come forward with agreed policy, and the detail of how that policy will apply should be available for the Committee to scrutinise so that we can satisfy ourselves that their properly defined proposals will work. We simply cannot do that. We have been asked in this whole section to accept a series of assurances from the Minister that he will consult, think further and make changes. Unless he does that to an extraordinarily tight timetable—when I asked him a question on an intervention about the timetable, he was not able to give a precise answer, and I am not surprised—we simply will not be able to do our duty. We cannot properly scrutinise, because we are presented not with clear, defined policy and the detailed definition of how it will be put into effect but a series of thoughts on what is, clearly, an evolving policy. The Government are ruminating, thinking, considering the matter.

I welcome that. In many areas, I hope the Government will go on thinking, because, frankly, a lot of what they put in the Bill is not adequate and needs further thought,  but I wish they would have done that thinking before they presented a Bill to Parliament and asked us to scrutinise it. Frankly, it makes a mockery of the scrutiny process in Committee. We simply cannot wrestle with the detail because we do not know what it will be.