HC Deb 01 August 1961 vol 645 cc1121-2
10. Mr. Arbuthnot

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if he will make a statement on the inquiry which took place into the operation of the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, arising out of the undertakings given in the debate on the Leicester (Amendment of Local Enactments) Order, 1959; and what action Her Majesty's Government propose to remedy the shortcomings of special order procedure, to which attention was drawn during that debate from both sides of the House.

Mr. Brooke

The Government propose that Orders under Section 303 of the Public Health Act, 1875, such as the Leicester Order which gave rise to the inquiry, should revert to the Provisional Order procedure, but that the Special Parliamentary procedure should be retained for other types of Order, subject to certain possible amendments. I will, with permission, circulate a detailed statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement: The main criticism made during the debates on the Leicester (Amendment of Local Enactments) Order, 1959, was that the Special procedure provides only limited opportunities for the Parliamentary examination of Ministerial orders. An order subject to the Special procedure is not scrutinised in detail unless a petition for amendment is presented, and amendments may then be made only so far as they are needed to give effect to such a petition. The Leicester Order was made under Section 303 of the Public Health Act, 1875, which gives wide powers to amend local Acts by order. Originally such orders had to be confirmed by means of Provisional Order Confirmation Bills, but by Order in Council in 1949 they were made subject to the Special procedure. The Government have come to the conclusion that the order-making power in Section 303 is so wide that Special Parliamentary procedure is not apt for the consideration of orders made under it. They therefore intend to seek amendment of the Order in Council of 1949 so that orders under Section 303 of the Public Health Act, 1875, should revert to the Provisional Order procedure. This means that such orders would once more be scrutinised by a committee of each House and would be subject to amendment whether or not petitions had been presented. The great majority of orders to which Special Parliamentary procedure applies are not, however, of this character. They are orders whose purpose is the application to local circumstances of a general policy formulated within a framework laid down by Parliament. The Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, was passed with this type of order particularly in view. The purpose was to provide a procedure which would be speedier and cheaper for promoters and opponents of orders than the Provisional order procedure; and which would, at the same time, enable general issues to be considered in the appropriate place—on the Floor of the House. For orders of this kind the Government considers that there continues to be a need for the Special Parliamentary procedure, and that it should be retained in substantially its present form. A number of minor modifications to the procedure were suggested during the course of the inquiry, some of which would involve amendment of the 1945 Act. It does not appear to the Government that there is an urgent need for legislation, but they consider that, if the occasion presents itself, further consideration might be given to three possible changes: (1) to make it easier for petitions of general objection to be referred to a Joint Committee (except in the case of Scottish orders which, if opposed, will already have been inquired into by Parliamentary Commissioners); (2) to allow petitions to be accepted in certain circumstances even though presented out of time; and (3) to extend the resolution period. It has been suggested that each House might be helped if their attention could be drawn to any special point raised by an order subject to Special Parliamentary procedure, and that this might be achieved by means which do not involve legislation. I am taking this up with the appropriate House authorities.