The remit of the Committee in relation to delegated powers is “to report whether the provisions of any bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of legislative power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny”.
Delegated powers are frequently included in the Bills presented to Parliament by the Government. These powers allow Ministers to use ‘delegated legislation’ (usually in the form of statutory instruments or SIs) to do things which would otherwise need another Bill. The powers are often practical and sensible: for example, a Bill may set out all the key elements of a policy, but allow a Minister to make minor modifications to the policy as circumstances change over time, by making a set of Regulations.
The Committee considers Bills when they are introduced into the Lords (at present there is no equivalent committee in the Commons). The Government provides a memorandum for each Bill, identifying each of the delegations, its purpose, the justification for leaving the matter to delegated legislation, and explaining why the proposed level of Parliamentary control is thought appropriate.
The Committee examines whether the delegations in each Bill are appropriate. The Committee is careful to restrict its consideration to the delegation in question, and not the merits of the overall policy.
The four levels of Parliamentary scrutiny are: none; ‘negative’ instruments, which are only debated if a Member specifically requests a debate; ‘affirmative’ instruments, which must be approved by both Houses of Parliament; and the rare two-stage ‘super-affirmative’ instruments.
The Committee’s recommendations are made in reports to the House, usually before the start of the Committee stage of the Bill.
The Committee also examines drafts of Legislative Reform Orders (LROs) laid under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. Again, the Committee do not examine the merits of the policy in question. The Committee's role here is to examine whether the tests set out in the 2006 Act appear to have been met (these include, for example, a requirement for thorough consultation), and whether the proposal is appropriate to be delivered by an LRO.
The Committee also examines documents and draft orders laid before Parliament under or by virtue of section of
7(2) or section 19 of the Localism Act 2011,
5E(2) of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004,
- 85 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998,
- 17 of the Local Government Act 1999,
- 9 of the Local Government Act 2000,
- 98 of the Local Government Act 2003, or
- 102 of the Local Transport Act 2008.