Government urged to deliver on its commitments for Queen’s Speech
19 February 2021
Chair of the Liaison committee Sir Bernard Jenkin has written to Jacob Rees-Mogg on legislation awaiting time in the Government’s legislative programme.
The Liaison Committee (the Committee of all the Select Committee Chairs) is calling on the Government to prioritise:
- Environmental Protection
- Animal Welfare (Sentencing)
- Courts, Prisons and Probation
- Health Service Safety Investigations
- Forensic Science
- Banning Conversion Therapy
- Stronger sentences for drivers who kill or seriously injure
Passing the Environment Bill should be a Government's priority, given the gap that now exists in environmental governance following the end of the transition period.
Provisions in the Bill respond to recommendations the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee have made across a range of inquiries in recent years.
Both Committees conducted pre-legislative scrutiny of the first part of the Bill in 2019 and have continued to monitor its progress during the current Session.
Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee have also conducted pre-legislative scrutiny on the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, which increases sentences for some animal cruelty offences.
This Bill will implement recommendations from the Committee dating back to 2016.
The Committee completed pre-legislative scrutiny on the relevant provisions in 2018 but the Bill has yet to complete passage through the House.
The Justice Committee have held a number of sessions with the Lord Chancellor on the Sentencing Bill announced in the last Queen’s speech.
The subject of sentencing, and post-sentence and post-custodial provision has also come up repeatedly in the Committee’s running inquiries into the Probation Service and Court Capacity.
The Committee understands the Bill is now likely to touch on all the Ministry of Justice’s major policy areas—Prisons, Probation and Courts.
An indication of both the final scope of this Bill and its likely timing are becoming increasingly important.
Sentencing drivers who kill or seriously injure and banning Conversion Therapy
The Petitions Committee continues to receive very popular petitions on stronger sentences for drivers who kill or seriously injure and on banning the practice of Conversion Therapy.
The Government has committed to act on these issues but legislation is yet to be introduced.
The Government’s response to the Petitions Committee’s report, The impact of COVID-19 on maternity and parental leave, suggested that many of the Committee’s recommendations would be addressed in a forthcoming Employment Bill.
The Work and Pensions and Women and Equalities Committees have similarly called on Government to prioritise the bill for Parliamentary scrutiny.
A new UK research funding agency
The Science and Technology Committee published report on a new UK Research Funding Agency.
Establishment of the agency has been mentioned in the last two Queen’s speeches, but firm proposals have yet to be brought forward.
In the last Parliament, the Committee also called for the Forensic Science Regulator to be placed on a statutory footing.
The Government has expressed support for such a proposal in the past but time has not been found for the legislation to proceed.
A private Member’s Bill on this issue had been through Committee in the current session but now looks unlikely to pass due to the suspension of Friday sittings.
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has consistently called for reform of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
While draft legislation was published in 2016, the proposals have not been taken forward.
An early indication of the Government’s intentions in this area would be welcome, as would any opportunity to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of new draft legislation.
Health Service Safety Investigations Body Bill
The draft Health Service Safety Investigations Body Bill underwent pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of the House of Lords and House of Commons from May to July 2018.
The Bill was subsequently introduced in the Lords, although it had not progressed passed Second Reading prior to Dissolution.
The Government’s recently announced White Paper on reform of the Health Service includes proposals to establish a statutory Health Service Safety Investigations Body.
The Chair of the Liaison Committee urges the Government to consider the recommendations of the Joint Committee in implementing these proposals.
Chair of the Liaison Committe, Sir Bernard Jenkin said:
"The Government’s programme has been understandably impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. But now that this is closer to being under control, we would urge the Government to deliver on its commitments to and demands from select committees on other vitally important legislation which committees are keen to see brought forward."
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