HC Deb 22 June 1964 vol 697 cc185-7
Mr. Woodhouse

I beg to move, in page 6, line 1, to leave out from "instrument" to the end of line 2 and to insert: (2) A statutory instrument made under this Act by the Secretary of State (other than one containing an order providing for the addition of a substance to the Schedule to this Act) shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. (3) A statutory instrument containing such an order as aforesaid shall not be made unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. In debate on Second Reading and in Committee the point was made that in view of the wide powers given to the Secretary of State by Clause 6 to add substances to the Schedule, and the resultant uncertainty as to what substances at some future date might be so added, it would be reasonable that Orders making such additions should be subject to affirmative Resolution procedure. In Committee, I undertook that the Government would introduce an Amendment to that end.

The effect of the Amendment is to require any Order providing for the addition of substances to the Schedule to be laid in draft and to be approved by an affirmative Resolution of each House of Parliament. Orders removing substances from the Schedule and Regulations made by the Secretary of State under powers given to him by Clause 1(1) will be subject to annulment by a negative Resolution by either House.

Mr. K. Robinson

On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I welcomed the undertaking given by the Joint Under-Secretary of State in Committee and I now welcome its implementation. I am sure that this is the best way to deal with the matter. I hope, looking briefly ahead to the following Amendments, that this will not involve the hon. Gentleman in future in too many Statutory Instruments, particularly too many requiring the affirmative Resolution procedure.

Sir H. L instead

In Standing Committee I questioned whether the undertaking given by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State was necessary and I still question whether the Amendment will improve the Bill. But no back bencher will ever oppose too strongly a proposal from the Government that power given to them should be subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure and, therefore, I shall not take my objections far. But I do wish to put on record two reasons why I think that the Amendment, basically, is not a good one.

First, if one looks over the whole range of medicine and drugs legislation, I think that I am right in saying that this is the only Bill in which a drug or poison is added to a schedule by an affirmative Resolution. As I said in Committee, perhaps the only reason I welcome this proposal is that it will add confusion to an already confused state of affairs, which will, perhaps, make complete amendment of the law rather more necessary and desirable.

Secondly, I think that the affirmative Resolution procedure is probably a mistake, because this House is always complaining that it is overworked and has to deal with too much detail which would be better delegated to others. A committee considered Ministers' powers 20 or 30 years ago, when drugs and poisons were given as a typical example of something which the House should delegate to Ministers because the matter was so technical that the House was not equipped to deal with it positively.

Here again, we have a good example of the House saying that it wants to be rid of detail and to delegate it to a Minister or some other body, yet cheerfully accepting the positive duty of adding something of a highly technical nature to a highly technical list. I feel that the House should not have to give positive time to deal with such a matter. It would be better to leave it to the Secretary of State, with reserve power in the hands of the House if it wished to use it to object to what he proposed to do.

This being an offer on a plate to the House on behalf of the Executive, the last thing that I would wish to do would be to oppose such a gesture, but the two objections that I have mentioned are worth putting on record.

Amendment agreed to.