Clause 57 - Power to amend references to subordinate legislation etc

Elections Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 26th October 2021.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North 2:30 pm, 26th October 2021

I beg to move amendment 93, in clause 57, page 60, line 8, at end insert—

“(1A) Before making regulations under subsection (1) the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.”.

This amendment ensures that the Secretary of State must consult with the Devolved Administrations before making regulations under clause 57.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Clauses 58 to 62 stand part.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North

This is another technical amendment based on proposals that were submitted by the Law Society of Scotland in its written evidence to the Committee, which I know that Government Members have paid deep attention to.

The clause is relatively technical, providing the Government with powers to make amendments to references to subordinate legislation—it goes right down the rabbit hole of the sweeping powers of secondary legislation that the Government are increasingly taking for themselves. Even though this is a relatively technical part of that process, it speaks to the broader principle, particularly as it includes power to amend certain legislation made by the devolved Assemblies.

As Ministers take those powers, it is not unreasonable for us to ask that they be given a duty to consult the relevant Ministers in the relevant devolved institutions, which is what the amendment seeks to do. We requested consent in a previous amendment, which was rebuffed, but surely, in the spirit of co-operation and consensus, the Minister will agree to a formal consultation process. Everybody recognises there is a certain role for statutory instruments and secondary legislation—they are used by the devolved Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—but we have spoken several times in the Committee of the need to enhance scrutiny procedures and to improve the ability of Members of legislatures of all kinds to interact with them.

I hope the Minister will accept the amendment, but if she rejects it, as I suspect she will, I hope she will at least give some reassurances about the ongoing commitment to non-statutory consultation with Scottish Government Ministers and reflect on what these measures mean overall for the devolution settlement. The Government increasingly, at will, just take powers through this kind of clause—powers that until recently had been a more formal part of the devolution settlement and had been subject to more formal or informal consents.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister for Equalities, Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (jointly with Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

The clauses in part 7 make general and miscellaneous provisions. Clause 57 provides for a power to allow amendments to the Bill, or any provisions amended by the Bill in other Acts, where references to secondary legislation become out of date in future. This is a necessary power that would allow, for example, a reference to a statutory instrument that is replaced to be updated to refer instead to the new statutory instrument, to ensure the provisions of the Bill remain workable when such changes occur.

The amendment proposed by the hon. Members for Glasgow North, and for Argyll and Bute, would require the Secretary of State to consult with the devolved Administrations before making regulations under clause 57. The hon. Member for Glasgow North asked for reassurance. This Government are committed to working constructively with the devolved Administrations to ensure that elections work well in the best interests of voters. He will have heard the Secretary of State, who is also Minister for intergovernmental relations, speaking at oral questions yesterday. He works very well with his counterparts in the devolved Administrations, and we should not pretend that things are otherwise in the House of Commons. We will of course liaise with the relevant devolved Administrations over any updating needed due to changes in their secondary legislation, which I think will satisfy the hon. Gentleman’s requirements.

The amendment is overly prescriptive. Some of the updating will relate only to reserved legislation, and some might relate to the secondary legislation of only one of the devolved Administrations, yet the amendment would require a statutory consultation with all of the devolved Administrations each time the power is exercised. That would not be proportionate. I invite the hon. Members to withdraw the amendment.

Clause 58 contains standard financial provisions. It explains that Parliament will pay for any costs that a Minister of the Crown incurs as a result of this Bill, and for any increased costs incurred under existing Acts of Parliament if they arise as a result of the Bill. It also provides that where the Bill increases sums already payable out of the Consolidated Fund under existing legislation, the increases will also be paid out of that fund, and then does the same for increases of sums payable into the fund.

Clause 59 defines a small number of terms used throughout the Bill. It also ensures that where the Bill creates or amends functions of the Secretary of State by amending other electoral legislation, those functions of the Secretary of State will be exercisable concurrently with the Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Clause 60 sets out the territorial extent of the Bill, namely the jurisdictions in which each provision of the Bill forms part of the law. Clause 61 sets out, as is common, that the provisions of the Bill will be brought into force using one or more statutory instruments. Those statutory instruments may bring different parts of the Bill into force on different days. Finally, Clause 62 cites the short title of the Bill—the Elections Bill 2021. These are all technical and necessary provisions and therefore I urge the Committee to allow the clauses to stand part of the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 57 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 58 and 59 ordered to stand part of the Bill.