Pre-legislative Scrutiny

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:37 am on 6th January 2004.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 10:37 am, 6th January 2004

I am sure that I can allow that to happen in just a moment, Sir Nicholas.

I agree with the hon. Member for Nottingham, North: the point that has been made is perfectly fair. In Committee, one often finds it necessary to have a debate about the principle of a clause, perhaps in a debate on an amendment that is the first in a group relating to that clause. When one is undertaking such a debate, the issue is not detailed scrutiny or the wording of the clause, but the principle of the clause. It may be necessary to find some way of teasing out an overall public opinion about the principle of a clause from the more detailed points about it, variations to it, and so on. However that is only a point of detail. We should continue online scrutiny side by side with the other methods of pre-legislative scrutiny, such as taking oral evidence and the like.

The number of draft Bills under the Government has been 32 so far, excluding this Session, in which I believe that there will possibly be 12 and certainly 10. It is good that we have built up the number from about two or three a year to about 10 or 12 a year. I hope that that can continue, though not if the Select Committees are overloaded, but rather on the basis that we can have enough Joint Committees, ad hoc Committees and so on to draw together the expertise of both Houses. However, we should still allow Select Committees to continue their important work of scrutinising the whole breadth of work that a Department does, not just that on one Bill. I warmly welcome this debate and congratulate the hon. Member for Nottingham, North on bringing it forward.