HC Deb 11 June 1976 vol 912 cc1994-6
Mr. Powell

I beg to move Amendment No. 81, in page 43, line 41, at end insert— '(6) An order under subsection (5) shall be subject to annulment by a resolution of either House of Parliament in like manner as a Statutory Instrument, and section 5 of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 shall apply accordingly'. Since this matter was considered in Committee the Government have considered the precedents. I am told that it is unusual for a commencement Order to be subject to the negative procedure.

I am well aware of the not unnatural resistance of all Government Departments to allow instruments unnecessarily to be subject to the prayer procedure, although we who represent Northern Ireland seats, especially with last night's debate in mind, are naturally jealous of unprayable Orders. However, the fact remains that commencement Orders have been regarded in general as a category as non-prayable Orders. None the less, I do not think it right that on that ground alone we should accept that the Order bringing this measure into effect should be exempt from the negative procedure.

Throughout the procedures the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), was insistent that it would be the preparation of the ground for the operations of the agency and the full understanding of how it was and was not going to operate that would have a great influence upon its success, and that he was not going to rush into setting up the agency after the coming into effect of the Bill. We welcome that assurance for we believe, as we understand the right hon. Gentleman did, that from the moment the agency is assembled it will be a considerable time before it is wise to put into operation the effective provisions, or the teeth.

The appointment of the appointed day is in this case a political act, an act of judgment with considerable political overtones. That is why I bring before the House, as it was brought before the Committee, the proposition that exceptionally this commencement Order should be subject to negative procedure. That means that the Minister will know that he will have to defend to the House the political judgment of the time at which he chooses to embark upon the operation of this machinery.

Mr. Concannon

The amendment is identical with Amendment No. 160 which was moved in Committee. If my memory serves me correctly, that amendment was negatived, not withdrawn, but I undertook to reconsider the matter.

In spite of all the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, it would be contrary to normal practice and to principle to make the commencement Order subject to the negative resolution procedure. There is nothing so fundamentally different about the Bill as to justify a recommendation that normal procedures should not be followed.

It will be some time before the commencement Order is introduced, because of the arrangements which have to be made for the agency and its staff. We should not make a special occasion of the Bill. When Parliament passes a Bill it gives consent to it, and there is no need for Parliament again to consider it.

Mr. Powell

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has confirmed what his right hon. Friend said. I recall that it is not only a question of the agency getting itself into working order but also of there being due time for public preparation for the Bill to come into effect. In consideration of the fact that the necessary period will not be scamped, which is clear from what the hon. Gentleman said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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