HL Deb 07 November 1989 vol 512 cc583-4

3 Clause 3, page 4, line 39, leave out 'Part I' and insert 'section 3'

4 Page 4, line 42, leave out 'Part' and insert 'section'.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Employment (Lord Strathclyde)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 3 and 4. I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 6, 7, 11, 16, 17, 19, 35, 43, 44, 323, 324 and 344.

These amendments make minor changes to Part I. Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 replace a reference to the commencement of Part I of the Bill with a reference to the specific provision in question, to allow for the possibility that different provisions in the part are brought into force at different times. Amendments Nos. 6 and 11 improve the clarity of the part. Amendments Nos. 7 and 344 correct minor errors. Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 make references to "accounts" more precise and Amendment No. 19 makes clear how references to the day on which accounts are sent to shareholders and others are to be interpreted. Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 make minor change to the order-making power in new Section 257. They ensure that the power includes the power to make consequential amendments elsewhere in the 1985 Act and in other enactments and to make transitional provisions. The other amendments are consequential.

Moved, That the House to agree with the Commons in the said amendments. —(Lord Strathclyde.)

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, for moving these amendments and for speaking to the comprehensive group which we have on our list. I am also extremely pleased to see the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, taking part in this debate.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, so am I!

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, he did carry the heat and burden of the day when the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, was absent.

In this group, which I believe was agreed with the Government Whips Office, is included Amendment No. 43A. Therefore, in addition to speaking to the grouping which the noble Lord mentioned, I shall also speak to that amendment.

I have no particular quarrel with any amendments in this grouping other than Amendment No. 43. I thought it appropriate to mark my disapproval of that amendment by introducing my amendment. When the appropriate time comes I shall have to decide whether or not I wish formally to move that.

Amendment No. 43 introduces a feature into this legislation which is sometimes known as the Henry VIII feature. That introduces into Clause 18 a provision that the Secretary of State shall make regulations, which is already in the clause, to alter accounting requirements. However, in the words of the Commons amendment he may: make consequential amendments of or repeals in other provisions of this Act, or in other enactments, and". In other words, in making his regulations the Secretary of State may, by secondary legislation, change primary legislation. That has always been a principle which your Lordships have opposed.

As the noble Lord will know, on previous occasions we have had many debates about this. I believe that it is an undesirable principle that the Secretary of State can change Acts of Parliament by orders which are subject to whatever procedure one likes to name. It does not really matter what is the procedure because, even under the affirmative resolution procedure, orders cannot be amended. It is in that spirit that I wish to oppose Amendment No. 43 unless the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, can give me good reasons why I should not do so.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, perhaps it would save time later if I gave a rough guide to the Government's thoughts on Amendment No. 43. That deals with new Section 257 and gives the Secretary of State the power to alter the accounting requirements of Part VII of the 1985 Act by statutory instrument.

We discussed, as did the noble Lord, Lord Williams, the order-making powers at some considerable length at all stages of the Bill as it went through this House. Amendment No. 43 merely ensures that the order-making power includes a power to make consequential—and only consequential—amendments elsewhere, both in the 1985 Act and in other enactments, and the power to make transitional provisions.

We had thought that new Section 257(4)(c), which we have already discussed, gave adequate powers, but on reflection and considering an equivalent provision in the Building Societies Act, we have concluded that it should give the Secretary of State such powers. I know we have not reached Amendment No. 43A, but I hope that explanation gives the noble Lords some idea of our thinking.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, I should like also to say how glad I am to see the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, taking up the cudgels again on this matter after his brilliant appearances on many occasions on a previous Bill. Do I understand him to say that, when we are supposed to construe the words "or in other enactments", the enactments referred to must be associated company law matters, or is it any old Bill? I am not sure whether the noble Lord was saying that there are enactments concerned with company law. If they are not limited to enactments dealing with company law, I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Williams.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, may I very briefly say that these amendments would only be consequential amendments under the power already given under the section.

On Question, Motion agreed to.