HC Deb 25 January 2000 vol 343 cc147-8
49. Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

If she will bring forward proposals to reform the system of parliamentary scrutiny of secondary legislation. [104979]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Paddy Tipping)

The Procedure Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the scrutiny of delegated legislation, and I shall study its report with interest.

Mr. Baker

May I suggest that it would be sensible to look at the way in which statutory instruments are dealt with? At present, the Committees that scrutinise statutory instruments are required either to reject them in total, or to approve them. Sometimes that means that innocuous changes that are agreed on all sides to be important and valid cannot be made. In those instances, the requirement that the Committee either accept or reject a proposal renders it a sledgehammer used to crack a nut, and causes measures that are faulty to be passed. If the Committees were allowed to amend such instruments, would not that help the Government and the legislative process in this House?

Mr. Tipping

As I said, the Procedure Committee is considering the matter. The Wakeham report also contains some interesting proposals. Statutory instruments that go before a Committee reflect the Government's considered view. Given that, it is a question of whether the Committee supports or rejects them in total.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the method of decision making used by the Deregulation Committee, where Government proposals may be changed, should be used as the norm for allowing a debate if the Euro-Committees make a different decision from the one originally put before them?

Mr. Tipping

The Deregulation Committee has certainly been useful and I believe that in time its role will be expanded. My hon. Friend will know that the Deregulation Committee already looks at statutory instruments, and that the Government take note of its concerns.