Strathclyde Review recommendations would benefit Government at the expense of Parliament
23 March 2016
The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has published a report, alongside a report from the Constitution Committee, in response to the Strathclyde Review of the House of Lords' role in the scrutiny of secondary legislation.
The Strathclyde Review was set up by the Government in response to the House of Lords' decision to decline to consider draft regulations which would have made significant changes to the thresholds and rates at which tax credits could be claimed, until certain conditions were met.
In criticism of the focus of Strathclyde Review, the DPPRC says that the Review is “based on a misunderstanding about the difference between primary and delegated legislation”. Reflecting serious concern about the fact that successive governments have proposed primary legislation containing broad and poorly-defined delegated powers, the DPRRC also notes that weakening parliamentary scrutiny of delegated legislation, as proposed by Lord Strathclyde “would tilt the balance of power away from Parliament … towards Government.”
Conclusions and recommendations
- The Committee undertakes to ‘sharpen its teeth' and, where substantial powers sought in the bill are not adequately explained, the Committee reserves the right to call in Ministers to justify the powers sought.
- Furthermore the Committee suggests it should be given the power to hold legislation back under a ‘scrutiny reserve' until a proper explanation has been provided.
- A Joint Committee of the House of Commons and House of Lords should be established to reflect properly on the crucial question of Parliament can effectively perform its role in scrutinising delegated legislation.
Baroness Fookes, Chairman of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, said:
“I welcome this Review for shining a spotlight – perhaps unintentionally – on the unfortunate tendency of successive governments to leave substantial issues of policy and principle to be dealt with by delegated legislation instead of setting them out on the face of the bill.
“At best this is sloppy practice, and at worst it gives Ministers far too much power to do whatever they want without sufficient scrutiny by Parliament.
“As a Committee, we are going to be more demanding of Ministers. If they seek substantial and wide powers without adequate explanation, we reserve the right to call them before us to explain themselves.”
- Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee: Response to the Strathclyde Review inquiry
- About Parliament: Select Committees
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