New Clause 10 - Power to abolish Public Works Loan Commissioners

Part of Infrastructure Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 13th January 2015.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test 4:45 pm, 13th January 2015

I rise briefly to make what is perhaps a bit of a personal protest about how this particular new clause has been introduced and presented to us today. There are some issues about the lack of scrutiny of it, but I very much concur with my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham that the Minister’s facilitation of meetings to discuss the issue is a welcome way of doing business on the Bill.

The new clause is introduced outside the terms of the long title of the Bill; when the Bill went before the Lords, the new clause was not in the legislation and nor was it on its Second Reading in this House, but halfway through Committee, suddenly it is in the Bill. In order to include the new clause in the legislation, an amendment must be made to include an addition to the long title. I know that that practice has become more common than it ought to in recent years—indeed, the said amendment refers to another clause as well—but I cannot believe that that is a good way of making legislation, and nor does the House of Commons brief guide “Making Laws”. If we have a look at that guidance, it has a jolly little insert box that says:

“Did you know Bills have two titles? The short title…is the one people use to talk about it. The long title…is the one that says what it does. Any changes made to the Bill must conform to the long title.”

Presumably, that guide now ought to be amended to say, “Unless it doesn’t.” That would clarify the matter for visitors to the House of Commons.

I am a little concerned by the Minister’s explanation that amendment 47 is consequential on new clause 10. That cannot be right because that is the amendment that actually adds something to the long title of the Bill. Unless something is added to the long title of the Bill, new clause 10 is not in order. Therefore, new clause 10 must be consequential on amendment 47. In the Alice in Wonderland world that we are now in in terms of long titles of Bills, it might be useful if explanations conformed to the actual strange things we are now doing to legislation rather than put the matter the other way round. At the very least, I would anticipate that the Minister might write to those hard-working people who produce the guides for members of the public about how we make legislation in this place so that they can have an accurate picture of what actually happens, rather than what is theoretically the case according to what we think is the way we go about legislation.