Pre-legislative Scrutiny

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:48 am on 6th January 2004.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Parliamentary Secretary 10:48 am, 6th January 2004

My hon. Friend's intervention is very timely as I turn to that part of my speech.

It is the Government's intention and policy to increase the amount of legislation that is subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. There has been steady progress on that, and I am grateful for the recognition that the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire gave it. The Government's policy is to increase the amount of pre-legislative scrutiny done online in the forums or the ways that he suggests, and that means not just what is, perhaps, superficial online consultation but more in-depth consultation. We recognise the benefits of that.

Of course, as hon. Members would expect, there are some caveats. Sir Nicholas, you will follow with great interest the major caveat, which is that the process of scrutiny is the property of the Committees of the House, not the Government. The Government can encourage and are encouraging it, and I heed what was said about my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I being in a position to influence it. Hon. Members will be interested to learn that my right hon. Friend recently wrote to the Chairmen of Select Committees through the Liaison Committee about the pre-legislative scrutiny process in this Session. Of course, without my giving the debates away, we are beginning work on the fourth session of Parliament, which will begin next October or November.

For their own part, the Government are using online consultation on legislative and policy proposals. The office of the e-envoy is ready to assist Parliament in the use of new communications media, and much work has already been done. As I said, draft Bills are available on the parliamentary website, and all Committees have published their e-mail addresses. It is not just or even primarily legislative scrutiny that can benefit from e-consultation. The Government are willing to consider how they can facilitate Committees wishing to carry out more pre-legislative scrutiny online.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North for raising this important subject and for his energetic and persistent efforts to encourage online consultation. It is for Parliament and its Committees to decide whether and how best to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny online, and the Government will do all they can to help.