HL Deb 23 June 1994 vol 556 cc476-520

House again in Committee on Clause 1.

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 1, line 22, at end insert: ("() For the purposes of subsection (1) (b) above, "necessary protection" shall include any protection relating to—

  1. (a) the health and safety of employees;
  2. (b) the economic security of any individual;
  3. (c) the preservation of the environment;
  4. (d) the preservation of wildlife and prevention of cruelty to animals;
  5. (e) conservation and national heritage;
  6. (f) voluntary organisations or voluntary activities;
  7. (g) the promotion of racial harmony; and
  8. (h) the preservation of the moral welfare of society.")

The noble Lord said: The amendment would enable us to test the areas in which the Government may seek to deregulate and/or examine those areas where we have great reservations about their commitment; and, indeed, even about their bona fides. The amendment also seeks to define what shall be included under the term "necessary protection".

I turn to my first submission in that regard. I fear that I shall take rather longer than my noble friend in my introduction as it covers such a wide spectrum. First, the amendment is consistent with what was said by the Minister, Mr. Sainsbury, when the issue was raised in Committee in the other place on 17th February. In reply to an amendment which was seeking to define the term "necessary protection", he said: 'The words 'necessary protection' encompass the protection specified in the amendment 'for the health, safety or economic protection of individuals'. However, the Bill goes far wider and so provides a more appropriate safeguard. Obviously, in addition to the protection specified for individuals, the term 'necessary protection' encompasses the important examples of protection for the environment and wildlife, against cruelty to animals and for our national heritage and the voluntary sector".

In fact, he explained, it encompassed all those important issues. The Minister then went on to say: Turning to the protection of individuals, the term in the clause encompasses not only economic, health and safety protection, but protection of civil liberties and racial harmony … It also encompasses protection for what might be described as moral welfare—for example, under age drinking or child pornography".— [Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee F, 17/2/94; cols. 91–92.]

We are not satisfied that the Bill does these things. That is why we are saying that such points should be incorporated in the legislation. However, if the Minister's argument is that it is indeed all encompassed and yet some of us express a doubt, why not resolve that doubt by accepting the amendment? What possible harm could come from doing so?

Our purpose is to make sure that on the face of the Bill there will be a reasonable balance of interests, because there are often conflicting interests in this field. It is necessary to maintain a reasonable balance of interests and for that balance to be seen to be maintained, as I say, on the face of the Bill. In other words, what we are talking about is removing unnecessary burdens on business while protecting other significant interests. That is where I think the Government fail to address the issue from the very start of their conception of this Bill.

They contacted the task forces and produced this document and the Minister is very proud of the fact that they approached business interests—mostly people who were very supportive of the Conservative Party not only as regards their political interests but also as regards their financial interests as they want to get something back for what they pay. Therefore, the Government identified those interests, in terms of their deregulation, from that source. I say that that was a bad way to start because these task forces are powerful. They are reinforced by a great deal of money and they have a great research facility available to them. When one compares that with the position of consumers, environmentalists or even trade unions, one sees this is an uneven battle ground—if indeed battle has to be enjoined.

I am referring to the controversial issues rather than the wholly benign matters to which the Minister previously alluded. We start from where the Government set the agenda. It is difficult for other people to shift the emphasis towards a more purposeful recognition of the balance. I think that is a mistake. We could have done business with the Government as Even if we discard the argument regarding the Government's bona fides and we accept, against all the evidence, that this Government are likely to act in the utmost good faith and with competence, and if we accept that the subjective ministerial decision still holds sway, that is fine as regards the obvious cases. Of course the Government will say that one needs to have regulations to prevent manufacturers incorporating flammable materials in children's nightwear. There is no problem about that. We would all agree with that. But what about the borderline cases? Those are what we are talking about.

Government supporters tend to argue that bad publicity highlights dangerous practices by businesses and that that should constitute in most instances a good argument for excluding regulations and that the market will yield the truth of the matter. I simply do not accept that, because it is only in really quite sensational cases that publicity tends to come to light. The near misses are not noticed and the promises to behave in future are sometimes illusory. I am not talking about those who engage in the best practices. In other words, we argue that this subjective appraisal by Ministers means that parliamentary safeguards—whatever safeguards there may be—will be undermined by what will ultimately be a fairly compliant majority conforming to the Minister's judgment.

If the Minister wishes to convince the Committee —this whole host of people who are here tonight!—that I am wrong, then the burden falls on him to establish how he will go about balancing costs, safety, environmental considerations and other matters. Ministers in another place have said—we have not heard too much about that yet in this place—that, in any case, anyone has a right to seek a remedy in the courts against abuse. But the trouble with that argument is that it is difficult to go to court these days. Eligibility for legal aid is becoming almost impossible to obtain for large sections of the community. It is not easy to gain access to the courts.

I wish to deal with a few, not all, of the items in the amendment. First I refer to the question of the health and safety of employees. I believe that here lies an important test in terms of the Government's good faith. What they say over and over again when they talk about flexibility —or what they mean by flexibility—is that the only way for British industry to be competitive and to face the challenges posed by other countries, particularly those of the Pacific Rim, is to engage in low wages, low skills, low standards, and so on. That is a philosophy that we not only abhor but one which we totally reject. I believe it is a sure route to the debasement of the dignity of people in the workplace and that it will store up great resentment and, indeed, help to promote political instability at a time of appalling unemployment.

Good employers need sensible regulations because that enables them to be able to withstand competition from ruthless, uncaring and shoddy business competitors. Equally, good employers are entitled to demand that regulations are applied evenly and fairly. That, of course, should include the monitoring of products which are imported from overseas. So they stand foursquare with their employees who are concerned about the erosion of decent standards because they know only too well that that costs jobs and that injuries are expensive not only for a worker and his family but also for the employer and, indeed, the state.

Therefore, enforcement is critical. However, I question the Government's bona fides in that regard as well. That is why we want it written into the Bill. We have seen a steady reduction in the monitoring processes in the workplace. Bad employers are able to engage in bad, unsafe practices which take a heavy toll in terms of injury, notably in the construction industry. Too many such employers exist.

Yet the budget of the Health and Safety Executive has been cut by no less than £30 million for 1993–94. The grant for the training of safety representatives in 1993 was cut by 25 per cent. and by 1995 it will have disappeared altogether. The role of the chairman of the Health and Safety Executive has become part-time, although I know that it has been buttressed by other senior officials. Nevertheless, it is a retrogressive step. Deregulation of wages councils has had the effect of pushing down already low wages to a much lower level.

If the Government assert that they have no interest in repealing any part of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 by order, then the procedures we suggest would wholly protect that objective.

The Government must understand the concerns that are felt throughout industry and which, through representations to us, have been made very evident. Shoddy work practices exist in the worst elements of British industry and permeate the industry from top to bottom. One has only to take, for example, the "Herald of Free Enterprise". That was the indictment that was; made by the inquiry at the time. Shoddy practices existed from the very top right to the bottom. Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd. should really be called Accidental Petroleum. Those cases were the product of over-reliance on unregulated or badly regulated market forces. There has been a great deal of inertia about procuring compliance in a whole variety of areas, not least drivers' hours and rest periods.

We want to know from the Government how they would estimate the cost to the nation of weakening regulations of this character. We say that health and safety are far too important for the Government to take risks with them and should not be covered by Clauses 1 to 4.

What would the Government do if the Health and Safety Commission objected to a deregulation proposal? Would the Government say, "That's it"? I see that the Minister is nodding his head. I am glad that he is prepared to give that assurance. However, nods of the head do not appear in Hansard. Therefore, I should be grateful if he would indicate that clearly.

In relation to the economic security of an individual, the Minister in another place said that that was also encompassed. Again, this is a question of balancing often conflicting interests. The effect of this part of the amendment is to remove burdens on business while protecting other interests. What do the Government say about necessary protection? They say that it has been deliberately left undefined for a good reason. It means what it says. An unreasonable decision about what is necessary protection could be challenged in the courts. That is palpable nonsense. It is not easy to challenge these matters in the courts, as I have already said.

Issues that go to the very heart of the economic security of an individual are touched on by rights of women at work. If the Government are so proud of their bona fides in these matters, why did they go out of their way to object to the draft directive dealing with pregnant women at work and other similar measures emanating from Europe? Was it a question of subsidiarity? Why should it be a matter of subsidiarity in any event? I believe that in this regard the Government are found to be wanting.

As regards the environment, the list included in Chapter Four of Cutting Red Tape includes items such as integrated pollution control, aspects of waste regulation, looser planning regulation, landlord and tenant regulation, less stringent fire precautions legislation, simplified legislation on the safety of sports grounds, controlled deregulation of taxis and I understand that a new waste licensing system has been introduced under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Those regulations will all contain substantial exemptions from licensing. Does the Minister believe that all that will be uncontroversial?

We are deeply concerned about the situation, not least because with existing legislation the Government have scaled down the ability to monitor effectively. We simply do not accept their good faith in relation to the environment. I mentioned that in the course of my Second Reading speech. When it is found to be of benefit to industry, they have said that industry will be permitted not to have to conform for a year or two, or even longer, with the requirements that they thought should be imposed in the first place. The Prime Minister even had the audacity to say that we should go down the route of not properly complying with European Union environmental law.

All the issues to which I have referred seem to me to be critical for inclusion in the Bill. However, if the Minister says that they are redundant because they are all included, I say that that is debatable. In order to put our minds at rest, and also the minds of many outside, particularly in the field of the environment and health and safety, the Minister's remedy is simple: accept the amendment, even if he alleges that it is redundant. I beg to move.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I wanted to ask the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, before the Question was put whether he would deal with the extremely interesting paragraph (h).

Lord Clinton-Davis

Paragraph (h) deals with the preservation of the moral welfare of society. In that instance I took up the words of the Minister in another place. I included that provision because he thought it was important. I also think that it is important. I agree that if the Minister thinks that it is significant, it should be included.

Lord Strathclyde

That is one of the great non-answers that we have heard in the course of the Bill. The noble Lord referred to my colleague in another place who made the comment, but he did not propose to put that phrase into legislation. In legislation it has no meaning. I suspect that that was the point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, was making. It would have been entirely proper for him to do so.

I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, with a long treatise and explanation as to what could or could not be done by the deregulation Bill, or even disagree with him as to what is or is not contentious. If the Bill is passed, that will be decided when draft orders are presented to Parliament by the relevant Ministers. As I have explained time and time again, we shall then see what the procedure is.

When it comes to health and safety provisions, the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, must know that the 1974 health and safety Act already gives most of the powers needed to reform and modernise health and safety law. The Health and Safety Commission has already identified one deficiency in that respect which, following the commission's request to Ministers, is being addressed in the Bill through the provisions of Clause 27.

We shall deal with the more general report which the HSE has provided about the reduction in the overall number of health and safety regulations after full and wide-ranging consultation.

I can entirely understand the wish of the noble Lord to be certain that necessary protection in the areas covered by the amendment would not be put at risk in any way by the power in Clause 1.I should like to assure the Committee at the outset that the Government's deregulation initiative is not about jeopardising necessary protection but about ensuring that where legislative protection is required it is provided in the way which imposes the lowest possible burden on those who have to comply. That seems to me to be a reasonable objective.

By proposing that the order-making power should not be used where doing so would reduce any necessary protection the Government have sought to make that safeguard both rigorous and comprehensive. It is for that reason that the term "necessary protection" is left deliberately undefined. It would certainly encompass necessary protection in all the areas listed in the amendment which we have been debating. The Government consider that all the general areas covered by the amendment are indeed areas in which necessary protections must be maintained. But necessary protection also covers all sorts of other things.

I sympathise with the intentions of the noble Lords in drawing up a list to make clear that certain matters would be encompassed by the term. I have to say, however, that I am not convinced that drawing up such a list is a helpful approach. In drawing up such a list it is almost inevitable that some matters of equal importance would be omitted. Any such omission which we identify now could be added to the list. The difficulty is that we could never be sure that all important matters are included. In the amendment, for example, there is no mention of protection for consumers for public health or for sexual equality. I could go on. It is in any case wrong, in my view, to highlight some such matters while ignoring others.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

Perhaps the noble Lord will give way. If he considers the amendment, he will read the words "shall include".

Lord Strathclyde

That is the exact point. Although the amendment identifies matters which are included in the definition, there is a risk that the provision could have the effect of narrowing the definition and thus narrowing the safeguard that it represents.

I understand the concerns of the noble Lord. I do not believe that there is any great benefit in having a substantial debate on various specific issues which may or may not make up "necessary protection". That, quite properly, should be left until we have orders before us. However, I hope that I have explained why the amendment is unacceptable.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I fear that the Minister has done nothing of the kind. He has not begun to deal with the point that, according to the Minister in another place, all those issues were encompassed by the Bill. Therefore they cannot be superfluous to requirements. As I have indicated, many people—consumers, environmentalists; the Minister knows them, he must have had representations from them—are deeply anxious about the way in which the Government have failed to define important issues. That has given rise to some of those anxieties. The Minister could have said, "Yes, all right, there is a risk that the words 'shall include' can inhibit further possibilities". Then he can think of the other possibilities that ought to be included. But even then the list would not be comprehensive. So the Minister has been found wanting on that issue. All that the Minister asked is why we did not have one or two other issues included.

I was asked previously about moral welfare. We had in mind burdens which related to public decency, child protection, and adult education—again, matters which seemed to have the approbation of Mr. Sainsbury in another place. I do not say that we have exactly the right drafting. The Minister said that there was some point, to the case that we have argued; he did not deny that. He said that there are legitimate concerns. I believe that he should address those concerns. I believe that he should be given another opportunity to say to the Chamber at a later stage, "Not only are we prepared to consider those anxieties—they are very natural—but we shall ourselves introduce proposals to take on board what is adumbrated in this provision". I am disappointed that he did not do that.

Before I conclude, perhaps the Minister will say, "Yes, we shall consider the matter again". It is no good the Minister nodding his head one way or another, it will not be included in Hansard. I invite the Minister to say something on that.

Lord Strathclyde

It is always my intention, in particular at Committee stage, to be as helpful as possible to the Committee, and to Opposition spokesmen in particular. However, I really cannot see that my answer could be construed in any other way than to say that I believe that "necessary protection" should remain undefined. Seeking to define the phrase in the way in which the noble Lord has done could positively end up weakening it.

Lord Clinton-Davis

That is a dangerous doctrine. It means that ultimately, even though people can go to the courts, it is the courts which have to do the job of Parliament. I believe that that is a thoroughly bad proposition and philosophy. I shall not say that I shall consider carefully what the Minister said. However, I want to give him another opportunity to read Hansard, nods and all. In those circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 6 not moved. ]

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 2, line 3, leave out ("shortening") and insert ("varying").

The noble Lord said: This is an important amendment which I can deal with briefly. In subsection (2), the Bill refers to, reducing the authorisation or requirement by virtue of which a burden may be imposed".

The Bill includes a reference to shortening any period of time. That seems to me to beg the question. It enables me to emphasise once more my interpretation of what ought to happen.

A scrutiny of a specific enactment may merely reinforce the view that the provision is even more meritorious than we had understood previously. Although the measure places a burden on some, it may yield considerable benefits or advantages to others. One should not beg the question because as a result one might find that there was a net benefit from increasing the period during which the enactment, if it were time limited, would remain. The Bill refers to "burden". In my definition the burden, narrowly defined, is imposed.

Using the word "varying" certainly allows shortening as one of the directions in which the measure can be varied. It is a more satisfactory way of drafting and makes the Bill more even-handed.

Lord Strathclyde

One of the measures in the illustrative list may help to explain why Clause 1(2) allows for orders to reduce the period within which a burden may be imposed. We have said that we plan to shorten the statutory timetable for consideration of completed mergers. At present under the Fair Trading Act the Secretary of State may refer a completed merger to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission up to six months after it is made. We propose to use the order-making power to reduce the time limit to four months. That is an example of the length of time during which a burden can be imposed, in the case of a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and reduced to the benefit of companies concerned without jeopardising necessary protection. The effect of the amendment would be in such circumstances to allow the order-making power to be used either to lengthen or to shorten the provision. As this example demonstrates, lengthening the period within which a burden might be imposed could not be a deregulatory change to legislation. It does not therefore fit with the purpose for which we are seeking the order-making power in Clause 1.

I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, seeks to be of assistance, but I do not believe that the amendment helps meet our objectives.

Lord Peston

I thank the noble Lord. I shall consider his argument. The example that he gave was interesting. He stated that it is clear that a benefit would result from shortening the period. In that case he may well be right. However, it suggests to me that there may be corresponding examples where the burden would be reduced by lengthening the time. That is my point.

I need to reflect on what the Minister said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 8 to 12 not moved. ]

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 2, line 26, at end insert ("and provided that no order shall be made under this section if a Resolution is passed by either House of Parliament to the effect that the order shall not be made in the form of the draft laid before Parliament under this section.").

The noble Lord said: As the Committee knows, this is an important amendment standing in my name and I think that it will be well supported on all sides of the Committee, although attendance is a little thin at this hour. The crux of the issue is whether the Minister has said what we believe he said, whether we welcome what he said and whether he is willing to embody what we believe he has said and he thinks he has said in the Bill. I do not intend to speak for long as we discussed the substance of the matter at length under Amendment No. 1.

In its 9th report, the scrutiny committee drew attention first to what had been said in a memorandum prepared by the Board of Trade for the scrutiny committee. The memorandum stated: The Government has made it clear that it would take an adverse recommendation from a committee of either House extremely seriously and in normal circumstances would expect to submit a revised proposal or to withdraw the proposal altogether in such cases". The scrutiny committee noticed that in our Second Reading debate on 6th June the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, had gone rather beyond that and had said that if the outcome: Were a resolution of the House to the effect that the order should not be approved, the Motion to approve the order would not be moved".—[Official Report, 6/6/94; col. 956] Listening carefully, that is what I thought he said today. If he did, he therefore confirms the scrutiny committee's understanding and we have reached the starting point for what to do now.

Here I simply read again the report of the scrutiny committee: We consider the Minister's undertaking to be of significance and we accordingly urge the House to consider whether an amendment should be made to the Bill to ensure that an order against which the House has passed a Resolution will not proceed". We are now turning our attention to that matter. As I see it, assuming that the Minister does not wish in any way to renege on what he has said—and I would not expect him to —the question is whether that undertaking should effectively be enshrined in the Bill.

I know what the temptation will be to the Minister. He will say: "Any amendment, particularly one made in this House, is bound to be trouble. Let's try to avoid it if we can". He may be led to believe that any admission that the Bill as drafted falls short in respect of scrutiny is an admission in some way of failure on his part. I am sure that his officials will say to him: "Minister, do you want to tie your hands irrevocably?" These are the normal thoughts which would go through the Minister's head. However, what I know of the noble Lord leads me to believe that he is a bigger man than that and he will not allow himself to be put off by such considerations. Some Ministers would be—not corrupted, I think— softened by the vanity of power. But I do not believe for a moment that the Minister has been. I believe that his respect for the parliamentary process, despite the contents of Clause 1 and the first part of the Bill is such that he would prefer to satisfy Parliament rather than simply to rest on an undertaking given in the way that he has given it.

I hope very much that we shall hear from the Minister shortly. He need say one simple thing for the debate on the amendment to come to a conclusion. All he need say is that he has read the recommendation of the 9th report of the scrutiny committee; he sees the weight contained therein and, although as far as he is concerned an undertaking is an undertaking, he fully appreciates the extent to which Parliament wants something more. Therefore, he is happy to accept the amendment without further debate or a Division tonight. I beg to move.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I consider this a very important amendment. I have come to regard the Bill as potentially increasing parliamentary control. We have been woefully deficient in our procedure in controlling secondary legislation. What the Bill does, with the acceptance of the Procedure Committee's recommendation, is to institute a procedure, a mechanism of scrutiny of secondary legislation under the Bill. I very much hope that that might be extended generally.

As I venture to point out, what is proposed here is very similar to what was proposed by the Procedure Committee in another place when trying to find an answer to parliamentary control of secondary legislation generally, its increasing volume, complexity and importance.

There is one further point. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that we wish to make a system and close any loophole as regards our final survey and vote against any draft instrument placed before your Lordships. Again, I regard that as a matter of general importance, but we might as well start in this Bill. At the moment, the Bill states in the usual terminology in Clause 1(4): but no order shall be made under this section unless a draft of the order has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament". Either that means something or it means only one House of Parliament. If we fetter ourselves with a so-called convention that we do not vote against a statutory instrument, that means that so far as this kind of formula is used in this and other Bills, it is single Chamber government and the words are completely meaningless.

As the Committee knows, there are certain statutory instruments of a type which need only the approval of the other place. They are mainly financial. That is what we are importing, or are urged to import, by way of a convention. Conventions vary enormously in strength. We can have a strong convention, if it is of long standing, if it makes good constitutional sense and if any breach is likely to be remedied by immediate legislative action.

Lord Clinton-Davis

Would the noble and learned Lord allow me to intervene? He has repeated the term "convention" which the Minister used in relation to our eschewing the opportunity to vote against statutory instruments. It is not really—is it?—a convention but more of a self-denying ordinance.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I am quite willing to accept that. In so far as it has any force at all, it is a constitutional convention in contra distinction to a rule of constitutional law. I was about to give an illustration of a very strong convention; namely, the convention whereby lay Lords do not interfere with the judicial work of your Lordships' House. That goes back well beyond the institution of the Lords of Appeal in. Ordinary. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the last time that lay Peers interfered was in the case of Cobbett in the twenties of the last century. That is a very strong convention, having lasted for a long time, making good sense, and undoubtedly any breach would be altered by legislation.

On the other hand, you can have a very weak convention. There was a convention that when a government were defeated at the polls they did not resign until Parliament met and they were defeated there. That subsisted, I should think, a couple of centuries or more. Again, the noble Earl will correct me if I am wrong. But it was only a convention. When, at the end of last century, Disraeli and then Gladstone were defeated at the polls, they resigned immediately. That reflects the emphasis on the political sovereignty of the electorate as against the legal sovereignty of Parliament. So there was a convention that could be altered at convenience.

The Disraeli-Gladstone convention was observed by subsequent governments. But it was still only a convention. When, in 1923, there was a hung Parliament, Baldwin waited to meet Parliament before resigning. I imagine that that convention will be followed if we ever have another hung Parliament. But thereafter governments reverted to the Disraeli and Gladstone convention. So there you have a very weak convention which is altered at convenience.

An intermediate one was the American constitutional convention whereby a President serves for only two terms. That was instituted by Washington—although he undoubtedly wanted to retire at the end of the second term. But when Jefferson felt obliged to follow him, it became a constitutional convention of considerable strength because it stopped Grant and then Theodore Roosevelt from taking on a third term. But it was still only a convention. Franklin Roosevelt served a third term and the beginning of a fourth. That being so, as soon as there was a Republican majority in Congress, the previous convention of two terms was given legal force.

If you have conventions of varying strengths of that sort, the convention on which the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, relied must be a very, very weak one. There is no conceivable reason why, when both parties have to approve a draft order, only one should do so. That is particularly forceful in relation to this Bill because the draft order is not merely the ordinary run of secondary legislation. It is a draft order which alters primary legislation. So if there were ever a case where your Lordships could disclaim any alleged convention, it is this. It is of very recent origin, thought up, I venture to think, by Whitehall, because it is so very convenient to get any draft order through your Lordships' House and then only risk the whipped majority in another place.

If that is so, the Committee should, I think, declare roundly that it is not barred by any such convention, particularly in the circumstances of this; Bill. I had intended to put down a resolution at this stage to that effect. I did not do so because it seemed to me more appropriate to do it at Report stage in the full House rather than in a Committee, albeit of the whole House. But, subject to advice, and unless the Minister will now categorically say that the alleged convention is a nonsense, I propose to put down such a resolution for the Report stage.

I have only one further point to make. The convention is of very recent origin—in so far as it is a convention. It did not prevent the Conservative Opposition voting against the Government on Rhodesian sanctions. And there have been one or two other cases where a Conservative Opposition has disregarded the convention. As I said, it makes no sense. It particularly makes little sense in the context of the terms of this Bill, and the sooner we get rid of it the better.

Perhaps I may deal with an argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, in this connection.

The noble Lord takes a great interest in the matter. He asked what, if your Lordships vote against a draft order, happens if the other place votes in favour of it and if there is a difference of opinion between the two Houses? That is taken care of by the specific terms of the Bill which are in common form: no order shall be made unless it has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House. So both Houses have to approve the order in order to give it validity. There is no possibility of a collision. If either House disapproves of the draft order, then the draft order fails. On that basis I respectfully ask the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, not to press his amendment but to wait and see how things go if a resolution is passed that will meet his purpose at the Report stage.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, is right to say that this is an important issue and one we touched upon in an earlier debate. Naturally, I must choose my words wisely when faced with an expert like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. Increasingly this debate becomes an educational experience for me. I very much enjoyed what the noble and learned Lord said.

The amendment addresses a point raised by the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee in its report on the delegated powers in the Bill. The committee drew attention to the wording in the Government's memorandum to the committee on the Bill in relation to the deregulation order-making power that: the Government has made it clear that it would take an adverse recommendation from a Committee of either House extremely seriously and in normal circumstances would expect to submit a revised proposal or to withdraw the proposal altogether in such cases". The scrutiny committee was concerned that those were restrictive words and contrasted them with the assurances I gave at Second Reading that if the outcome of a debate on a Motion in respect of a report from the committee on a draft order, were a resolution of the House to the effect that the order should not be approved, the Motion to approve the order would not be moved".

9 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

Before the noble Lord leaves that point, let me point out that he referred to "normal circumstances". What are the extraordinary circumstances which might cause the Government to take a contrary view?

Lord Strathclyde

It is part of the issue on which I believe—it is probably my fault—that the scrutiny committee was confused. If the committee makes a report to the Chamber in a negative way on a deregulation order, the Minister would have due warning that there was something wrong with the order and in normal circumstances he would remove it. In extraordinary circumstances the Minister could decide not to take the advice of the committee and ask the Chamber to make a decision on the report of that committee.

Lord Clinton-Davis, With respect, I asked the Minister to exemplify what might be extraordinary circumstances.

Lord Strathclyde

What is important is not found in the words "extraordinary circumstances". They are almost irrelevant. Normally, the Minister would take the advice of the committee. What is important is that the Chamber as a whole at some point should be able to have a view as to whether or not the committee was right. Then we reach the situation mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon.

Lord Clinton-Davis

With respect, that is not the situation. The Minister says that in normal circumstances the Government will accept the view of the scrutiny committee but there could be extraordinary circumstances. It is at that stage—not when the Chamber will consider it—that the Government have to determine what are the extraordinary or abnormal circumstances. How does the Minister exemplify that?

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord is making a little bit of a mountain out of this point. It will depend on the circumstances that exist at the time.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I am much obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. Why is he afraid to go directly to a non-approval of the draft? Is it because he is afraid that it might be used in circumstances other than this Bill? I rather fear that it is. If so, it is a reason why your Lordships should vindicate the contrary.

Lord Strathclyde

I wish to deal with the point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. It is a different point from the one put by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. In order to answer it, perhaps I may continue with the procedures that the Government believe will take place.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

May it not be that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and I separately made good points?

Lord Strathclyde

The noble and learned Lord is absolutely right. They are good points; I draw attention in particular to the point made by the noble and learned Lord about the conventions of this Chamber. This is difficult territory for me. It is not the Government who impose conventions, hard or soft, good or bad, weak or hard, or whatever the noble and learned Lord wants to call them. I shall come to that point in a moment.

After the committee has considered a particular proposal, it will make a report to the Chamber. We have always made it clear that at that stage we would expect the Minister to treat such reports very seriously. The passage referred to in the Government's memorandum made clear that in normal circumstances, if a committee had reported adversely on a proposed order, the Government would expect either to revise their proposal or withdraw it altogether. In either case, the draft order would either be revised and come before the committee again or it would be withdrawn. It would not be laid as it stood for approval and therefore the question of a debate would not arise.

I come to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. In exceptional circumstances the Government might consider it appropriate for the whole Chamber to have an opportunity to consider an adverse report from a committee. Before the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, rises and asks, "What might those exceptional circumstances be?" let me say that I cannot tell him what they may be because they may differ depending on the circumstances arising at the time. The point is that at that stage the whole Chamber will have an opportunity to consider the question.

Let us suppose that the committee was not unanimous in its recommendations. That might be an exceptional circumstance. It is an example for the noble Lord, and maybe it will keep him happy. There may be other examples which do not spring immediately to mind. At that point the House would have an opportunity to debate the committee's report on an amendable Motion and to debate the draft order at the same time. It could then vote on a Motion relating to the committee's report. If the outcome of the debate were a resolution of the Chamber to the effect that the order should not be approved, the Government have undertaken that the Motion to approve the order would not be moved. The Minister would then either have to revise his proposals, bring them forward in the form of a Bill, or abandon the proposals altogether. The two passages with which the Committee was concerned are therefore complementary and do not deal with the same stage of proceedings.

Let me turn with some delicacy to the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, on the question of the convention. Since becoming a Member of this House I have always understood that it was a long-standing convention that this Chamber did not vote on statutory instruments.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

It does not go back beyond the Rhodesian sanctions order so it cannot be long standing.

Lord Strathclyde

That is exactly what I was going to say and I am glad that the noble and learned Lord confirms it. Since studying the Bill I have come to understand that the convention is 25 years old. It is a convention of the House; that is all it is, important as it may be. It must be a decision for the House and not for me. As a government Minister I believe it to be a useful convention and I hope that, generally speaking, it meets with the agreement of the whole House.

The point is that, in the event of this process arising, the Government would be mindful of the possible consequences for the useful convention that this House has respected for a number of years if a Minister were to press ahead with a Motion to approve an order in circumstances where the House had already resolved to the effect that it should not be approved. It strikes me, having said that and putting it in the context of what the noble and learned Lord said rather better than I, that the necessary safeguards are already firmly in the Bill—I am sorry, they are not in the Bill; they already firmly exist. Therefore I do not consider that it is necessary or appropriate to amend the Bill as proposed. And I can reaffirm the undertakings already given that, if a resolution of the House is passed that an order should not be approved, a Motion to approve the order will not be moved. I hope that they are viewed as sensible safeguards. I believe the context in which the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, spoke fits what I now reaffirm as the Government's position.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I listened to the Minister with some interest and perhaps I may say at the outset in parenthesis that I hope his belief that the convention is a useful one will be an undertaking from him that it will not be violated when the Government lose the next election in a couple of years' time.

In the context of the Bill I cannot help feeling—I do not have the text of the Second Reading debate with me —that what the Minister said tonight resiles from the evident commitment that he gave at Second Reading.

Lord Strathclyde


Lord Clinton-Davis

The Minister says 'no". I invite him to look at what he said last time. In order to do that effectively he must look at Hansard for today's debate because that is the important comparison In my view, what it comes to is that these extraordinary circumstances amount to no more or less than the exercise of discretion by the Minister on political grounds.

Earl Russell

Perhaps I may be allowed to defend the Minister before he does it himself. I listened to him with great care. I could not hear that he had in any way retreated from what he said at Second Reading. I found his assurances, so far as he is capable of giving them with his present brief, entirely adequate and entirely serious. Nevertheless, that is not the end of the matter.

Much as I valued the Minister's speech, the two most interesting things in it were the two mistakes: the first was his reference to a long-standing convention which is in fact a short-standing convention. Secondly, he: referred to the safeguards drawn up by the Procedure Committee and said that they were in the Bill. He then had to correct himself. That is a vital correction in the Minister's speech.

In regard to the safeguards, the Minister committed the Government for the duration of this Parliament. No government can commit their successor. The Procedure Committee is a body whose membership changes and which may from one Session to another reconsider its; conclusions. Not all noble Lords always know what is to be debated in that committee. Therefore, so far as I can see, the Minister gave us an assurance which we can treat as sufficient only for the duration of this Parliament. That is all he can do. But the duration of this Parliament is not all time and we want assurances which are a little more difficult for another government to change than a mere series of resolutions of the Procedure Committee. That is why I should very much like to see some of what the Procedure Committee has agreed to written on the face of the Bill, where it would be more difficult for a future government—perhaps 50 or even 100 years hence—to retreat from it. That would be of very great value and I hope that the. Government will even yet consider it.

Lord Strathclyde

I am very grateful to the noble Earl for defending my honour in such a way. I must say that I thought it was a bit of a cheap trick for the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, to accuse me of not knowing what I had said when he himself admitted that he did not have my Second Reading speech with him; and I, of course, do have it with me.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My noble friend has a very good memory.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord may have a very good memory, but as the noble Earl explained, the noble Lord was almost certainly wrong.

I fully accept that what we are dealing with is a very serious issue, but it is one for which I am not entirely responsible because we are dealing with conventions of the House which quite properly are for the House as a whole to decide. I believe that the assurances I have given in the strongest possible terms are sufficient to provide against an abuse by any government of this House's prerogative. I believe that that is a very strong statement. I am sure that we shall return to this subject at another stage and I look forward to discussing it then.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

This is an hour of generosity and good will, and for that reason I endorse what was said by my noble friend Lord Russell about the Minister's statements at Second Reading and today. I wish I could say that he had resiled from his remarks on the previous occasion, but, first, I do not think he has and, secondly, it would undermine my argument, which was that, having said the same thing twice, surely now is the time to embody it in the legislation.

The argument is exactly what my noble friend pointed to when he said that the Minister made a slip when he said that it is in the Bill. Perhaps he meant,"I know it ought to be in the Bill"; and if he did mean, "I know it ought to be in the Bill", there is still time for him to put it there. And with a generous interpretation of his mood, his instinct and his innermost being, perhaps that is what we may see at a later stage.

I listened extremely carefully to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I want to say where my anxieties arise. I have insufficient experience of this House to know what is or is not a convention but I have in my gut a feeling that if something has persisted even for 10, 15 or 20 years it has become a convention. Although in the history of Parliament that is a very short period, in the history of most of our lives it is quite a long one.

I also have a sense, but I would very much defer to the noble and learned Lord in this respect, that it would be easier for this House on a Bill of this kind to put in certain safeguards which by common consent, whether they are or are not or ought or ought not to be in the Bill, the House wants. It would be easier to put them in by amendments to the Bill than by confronting the issue in the sharpest head-on way, which is what I understood the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, was proposing. It would be a very transparent step. It would confront the procedures and conventions of the House. It would open the door to other thoughts about whether we should not sometimes vote against the Second Reading of a Bill. It would raise the question of our relationship with another place. These are fascinating subjects to discuss, and I am sure we would be greatly enlightened at the end of it, but the practical fact is that we have a Bill before us and it is in that Bill that we want to have safeguards of a watertight kind and in keeping with what all sides of the House want to see.

I shall read very carefully what the noble and learned Lord said about a resolution to establish a convention, or reassert a convention, or to withdraw from a convention which is not a convention but we suppose that it is because it has endured for some years. I shall look at that extremely carefully and I shall hope that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will reflect on whether his instinct and the instinct of the House should be incorporated in the Bill. I shall hold myself ready to return to the matter at a later stage. That having been said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved. ]

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 2, line 40, at end insert: ("( ) "person" includes individual people acting separately or jointly as consumers").

The noble Lord said: I wonder whether it would be convenient for the Committee to give me permission to speak also to Amendments Nos. 16 through to 19 together.

Noble Lords


Lord Peston

Thank you. Perhaps I may add that, the Committee having agreed to that, I do not propose to move or to speak to Amendments Nos. 17 or 18. My new group therefore becomes Amendments Nos. 15, 16 and 19.

Two of the amendments seek clarification and I hope that the Minister will help me on them. The first concerns the need to define "person" in line 12 of Clause 1.I have had conflicting advice and I should like to know what the Minister thinks. I was first advised not to worry, that "person" definitely does include consumers "acting separately or jointly" and covers what they do. I have been advised subsequently that that is not the case. If the Minister can say, first, that "person" does include consumers and otherwise covers what they do, then there is no problem there.

I now turn to Amendment No. 19, which concerns a matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. He interpreted some remarks of mine as meaning something much more interesting than I had intended. Because he did that I thought that I would get further clarification from the Minister. He had assumed that I was concerned about the Act itself being self-referencing. In subsection (5) (c), "enactment" means, an enactment contained in this Act or in any other Act passed before or in the same Session as this Act and could include deregulation and contracting out. He appeared to say that he thought it did not. My advisers have said no and that this Act could be self-referencing —in other words, the Minister could see whether any part of the Act itself imposed a burden and he could change it. If the latter is the case this becomes one of the most extraordinary—if not the most extraordinary—Act of Parliament that has ever been brought before this or any other House. I would like to know what is the Minister's response to that. That is a logical question and, like my first, related to a simple definition.

My third question relates to Amendment No. 16. It is put forward as an example of exactly why I believe this proposal to be inappropriate. The amendment states: 'Act' does not include any legislation concerned with the supply of medicines". Perhaps I may take Members of the Committee through what I have in mind here. In this country we have extremely tight rules and regulations concerning the testing of drugs for their therapeutic efficacy and danger to patients. These rules and regulations are immensely burdensome to the pharmaceutical industry. Perhaps I may declare an interest. I have at least an indirect connection with that industry, which I believe serves this country extremely well both in terms of its innovative skills and its contribution to the balance of payments. So far as that industry is concerned, my credentials are good.

One of the problems which that industry has is that, because of the rules and regulations to which I have referred, there is a long time-lag between the discovery and the marketing of a new drug or product. I am certainly willing to consider the proposition that these rules and regulations which we use for testing are too bureaucratic and ultra cautious. I am willing to consider that. But other Members of the Committee who will remember thalidomide and other drug tragedies will take the opposite view. There are certainly two sides to the question.

Where I agree with the Government is that regulation in this area must be scrutinised. If it were established that these rules and regulations were excessively burdensome then we must look for some other way of dealing with the matter. My point goes back to my view expressed in remarks at the beginning of today's debate in Committee; namely, that we can and should deal with this kind of problem using existing procedures. The relevant department should look at the law on drug testing and, if it feels that it is ultra burdensome, there should be put before Parliament a normal amendment of the law or a new set of regulations or both.

I believe that we should look at regulations and see if they are excessively burdensome. This particular matter is an example of the way in which we should look at them, using not the procedures of a Bill of this kind but normal procedures. That is the reason why I have included in the amendment: 'Act' does not include any legislation concerned with the supply of medicines". I am interested to hear the noble Lord's response to the definitional question of Amendment No. 15, to the logical question of Amendment No. 19 and to the substantive question of Amendment No. 16. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, for raising the question about the self-referencing Act. An Act that can be used for the amendment of itself would be a kind of legislative mantis. Before the matter proceeds we require an assurance that that is not the case; otherwise, I have no idea what we might be doing.

Lord Strathclyde

That remark gives me the right kind of invitation to join in the debate. I am grateful to the noble Lord for grouping the amendments because they deal with the same points.

The advice that the noble Lord has received that the word "person" includes consumers is correct and, therefore, the amendment is unnecessary. The word "person" is defined in the Interpretation Act 1978, which gives standard definitions for all legislation, as including a body of persons corporate or unincorporate. The same Act also provides that words in the singular include the plural. The result is that "person" in the Bill already includes single individuals and groups of individuals acting jointly. Moreover, the word is not limited to the acts of a person in any particular capacity; thus it includes individuals acting as consumers as much as in any other way.

The noble Lord is correct in the interpretation of "otherwise": it covers what people do and covers what they do other than in the carrying on of a trade, business or profession. In other words it includes what they do as consumers. We touched on that point earlier in the mini-debate between my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham and the noble Lord, Lord Jay. I hope that I have now clarified the matter.

I should like to move on to the very interesting question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, in his amendment that, 'Act' does not include this Act". The amendment would have the effect of preventing use of the deregulation order-making power to change any of the provisions in the Bill. It is not sought to make the power available to amend future legislation. Future legislation can be framed with deregulatory objectives in mind, with an awareness that circumstances may change in the future. In some cases, therefore, the Government may wish to include in individual places of primary legislation aspects that could be changed in the light of future circumstances.

For legislation that is proceeding this Session and for measures being enacted in the Bill, it would be unnecessarily complex to provide separate mechanisms in each case to deal with possible future changes. Indeed it would be impossible in relation to Bills that have been passed this Session.

Some examples may illustrate why it is desirable for the order-making power to be applicable to measures in this Bill. The new striking-off procedure is drawn in such a way as to provide necessary protection. We recognise, however, that circumstances might change in future in a way which might mean that aspects of the provisions could be amended without removing the necessary protection. We would want to be able to use the deregulation power to make such changes, subject to the safeguards, in particular consultation scrutiny, which we have provided.

There may also be small detailed changes to Chapters III or IV which may be appropriate because of technological advances in the future. Rather than providing separate mechanisms in each case to ensure that such changes could be made in the future it seemed that a more sensible way of proceeding was to ensure that matters provided elsewhere in the Bill would in future fall within the scope of the deregulation power.

That explanation deals with the situation generally, but I do not think that it was a specific point that was being raised by noble Lords. I suspect that they were concerned as to whether we could use the order-making powers to amend the order-making powers themselves. The answer to that question is that that would not be possible primarily because the provisions of Chapter I of the Bill do not impose a burden or authorise or require the imposition of a burden and therefore they do not fall within the scope of the order-making power. Furthermore, Part II of the Bill could not be amended by using that power because it also does not create burdens. That was a fuller explanation than perhaps the noble Earl and the noble Lord required, but I hope that it has been useful.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Monkswell

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He made a statement just now that, if the Bill becomes an Act, Part I would not impose any burdens—

Lord Strathclyde

It does not.

Lord Monkswell

The Minister says, "It does not impose any burdens". In fact, written into Part I is a consultation procedure and mechanisms to consult with interested parties. It could be argued that that process of consultation is itself a burden. The fact that one has junk mail from the Government to which one has to respond is yet another burden of government. It could be argued that way.

Lord Strathclyde

No, because the consultation is not an end in itself. The purpose of Chapter I is to provide for deregulation-making orders. Therefore, the power in Chapter I is not itself a burdensome imposition. That is why one could not use the order-making powers to amend the order-making powers.

Earl Russell

I am afraid that I am back to the point that I made on the first amendment, which was that the concept of a burden is a subjective one. I have some sympathy with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. If we are to have, as is perfectly possible, an annual trawl around business for powers that need deregulation, the returning of the forms would be widely regarded in business as a burden. The mere need to face constant change can also be regarded as a burden. People suffer from what the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, described as "innovation fatigue". The Bill has suffered throughout from using the word "burden" as if it were an objective fact. In fact, a "burden" is something that is perceived very differently by different people. We have a real problem here.

Lord Strathclyde

I have nothing else to say.

Lord Peston

I should like a response to another amendment but, to make again my joke of last week, perhaps I slept while the noble Lord was speaking to it.

Lord Strathclyde

Which amendment?

Lord Peston

The one relating to the pharmaceutical industry and matters of that kind, Amendment No. 16. If the Minister is not briefed on it, I can wait until another day.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord is absolutely right. This amendment raises basically the same point that I have already made. The noble Lord asks that the, 'Act' does not include any legislation concerned with the supply of medicines", but it is all part of what would be decided in the Minister coming forward with a deregulation order. Before he can put forward a proposal, the Minister would have to be of the view that a particular measure would not remove any necessary protection. Consultation is required with representatives of those likely to be substantially affected. We then go through the procedure. Therefore, there is no point in excluding, for instance, the supply of medicines. The deregulation order-making power would be subject to the test that is set out in Clause 1.

Lord Peston

I thank the Minister for his reply. I was particularly pleased that he made a statement which will appear in Hansard concerning Amendment No. 15 on consumers. I thank him warmly for that.

I am a trifle worried about the self-referencing question. The Bill certainly says that this Act is one of the enactments that this Act covers. The Minister repeated that. The point that was raised leads at least to the logical possibility that the order-making power could be used to amend, or propose to amend, parts of this legislation should they be thought to impose a burden. Examples have been given by my noble friend and the noble Earl showing that consultation itself, desirable though it is, can be extremely costly. One might then say, "We'll amend the thing to leave out the consultation bit because that is the burden", but we would find that most unattractive. I shall return to the issue of self-referencing when I have looked more closely at what the Minister said—

Lord Strathclyde

Perhaps I may comment on the example that the noble Lord gave. In order to use a deregulation order-making power to remove the consultation requirement, the Minister would first have to consult on it. Presumably, the consultation would indicate that it was not a good idea.

Lord Peston

That is the whole point. I know that the Minister is not as interested in logical puzzles as I am. However, he would consult on the consulting and we would have what is called an infinite regress. That is why I worry about the Bill as it stands. That is the kind of thing that I enjoy but I realise that other Members of the Committee do not find it amusing to consider.

As regards the pharmaceutical issue, my point is to attempt to draw a distinction, as in some way the noble Lord did this afternoon, between what one might call boring, tedious, irritating, small regulations that we wish to deal with and issues that are much bigger and should not be dealt with in this way.

I have made my point and I shall not move the other amendments. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 16 to 19 not moved. ]

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 2, line 47, at end insert: ("( ) "Act" does not include any legislation concerned with the unlawful eviction or harassment of a tenant by a landlord;").

The noble Lord said: The amendment would have the effect of excluding legislation concerning harassment or the unlawful eviction of a tenant by a landlord. One of the aspects of the clause that gives rise to a great deal of anxiety is the effect that it could well have on accommodation in the private rented sector.

Perhaps I may put the issue into perspective. In England and Wales 1.7 million households are in the private rented sector. It is the Government's intention to try to expand the number of private tenants. If that takes place, the ineluctable consequences will be that the problems of private tenants will increase. They will need additional help with the many problems that they face. Each year, 150,000 private tenants face all kinds of difficulties such as burglary, trespass, threats, verbal abuse and violence emanating from their landlords.

Since the provisions of the Housing Act 1988 came into force in 1989, most new lettings by private landlords have been made on assured shorthold tenancies, frequently providing tenants with as little as six months' security. Those provisions are making it extremely difficult for private tenants to enforce their legal rights; for example, getting repairs carried out or preventing harassment from taking place.

Another problem is that market rents are causing massive hardship to tenants of the new lettings, in particular elderly tenants living in fair-rented tenancies who are finding their rents escalating as a result of pressure from local market rents. Landlords run businesses but too many of them display an unbusinesslike and unprofessional approach to those responsibilities.

We say that it is essential that Ministers alone should not change any aspect of the delicate balance between landlord and tenant which is contained in the legislation covered by this amendment. We say that, whatever the safeguards, changes of this kind should be made exclusively through primary legislation. It is important that that should be the case, in particular because by comparison private tenants have far fewer and weaker legal rights than local authority or housing association tenants.

In addition, is extremely difficult and expensive for private tenants to enforce the legal rights that they have. I have referred to the problem previously in terms of eligibility for legal aid, which is seriously constrained these (Jays. We are talking not only about the poorest members of society, who may find it less difficult to obtain legal aid, but about people who have a slightly higher income.

Therefore, I should like to ask the Minister how he proposes to deal with that situation. In addition, how do the Government propose to go about consulting private tenants, if in fact they have any intention of so doing? Whom does one consult? There are such disparate interests involved. There is no questioning the fact that private tenants represent a very diverse group of people. I do not know how the Minister would propose to go about consulting them in any way that would be adequate.

The provisions of the Bill will not apply to changes in the legislation affecting the responsibilities of local authority or housing association landlords vis-à-vis their tenants. Such responsibilities would have to be amended or repealed through primary legislation. We must ensure that private tenants are put on exactly the same basis and are not dealt with differently from local authority or housing association tenants. I beg to move.

Lord Strathclyde

I shall not follow the noble Lord down the path of having a debate about the role of the private rented sector. I do not believe that it would be relevant to the Bill under discussion, which is a Bill to deal with deregulation. Deregulation orders can only come to this place under the procedures that have been mentioned. However, I join the noble Lord in welcoming the fact that there are now 1.7 million people in the private rented sector. I hope that that situation will improve. It is a magnificent way of providing housing and has brought untold benefits to hundreds of thousands of families who would otherwise have to put up with being tenants of their local authorities.

The point, when dealing with all such matters, is that the Minister concerned would have to be of the view that a particular measure would not remove any necessary protection and that consultation was required. The noble Lord asked, perfectly sensibly, whom one would consult. Fortunately, that is not my problem; it is the problem of the Minister who, having decided that there is a burden, believes that it would be suitable for the deregulation order-making power. First, he would have to satisfy himself that he had consulted with the right number of people; secondly, he would then have to approach Parliament and justify his consultation to the respective committees in both Houses. If they were not satisfied that the consultation had been appropriate, for exactly the kind of reasons quite properly put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, then, presumably, they would report adversely and ask the Minister to amend the proposal, to withdraw it or even to make a statement that such a matter would be much better dealt with under primary legislation.

There may well be aspects of the legislation concerning landlords and tenants which could be of a very minor nature and which would, perhaps, be most suitable for the deregulation order-making power. However, the amendment would effectively exclude that possibility. I believe that it is much better to rely upon the very real parliamentary safeguards that are built into the Bill, rather than seeking to amend the legislation in a piecemeal way depending on what special cause leaps into the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, or, indeed, that of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, as was the case with the earlier amendment.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I find the Minister's response somewhat puzzling. He said that the amendment is not relevant to the Bill. He also said that he was delighted by the fact that we have so many private tenants. However, that is not relevant. I can assure the Minister that some benefit from the situation while others do not; indeed, some people are deeply reluctant to accept the fact they have ceased to have local authority landlords. But, of course, others take a different view on the matter. It is not quite so simple.

However, that is not the point. As the Minister knows very well, the essential point is that local authority and housing association tenants and landlords must have primary legislation to determine their rights. That is the situation. It cannot be changed without primary legislation. How then can it be fair and equitable that this growing number of private tenants should be dealt with in a different way?

On the matter of consultation, the Minister says, "That is not my responsibility: it will be the housing Minister's responsibility. I want nothing to do with that". But that is really not good enough. We must have some idea, when we are considering questions of consultation, how meaningful the consultation is. That is this Minister's responsibility. Perhaps there are horizontal responsibilities in this regard as far as Ministers are concerned, but the Minister is carrying this Bill and therefore he has to explain and answer the point that I have just made. Is it quite impossible to consult with tenants' organisations because of the disparities and diversities that exist? If that is right, there should be no question of their being included in the Bill.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord has slightly misrepresented what I said. My point was that it was not my responsibility to make sure that the consultation was a success because I am not the Minister who is of the opinion that there is some over-burdening requirement that needs to be dealt with in the deregulation order-making power once this Bill becomes an Act. Of course I have to justify the statutory provisions for consultation which appear in Clause 3(1) and I shall do so when we get there. But to the specific question that the noble Lord raised, the Minister must, by statute, consult such organisations as appear to him to be representative of interests substantially affected by his proposals, and so on. He must also justify that consultation to Parliament. It is through the parliamentary process that the ultimate test will be conducted of whether or not the Minister has done so.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The difficulty with that is that what the Minister would do in those circumstances would be to assert to the scrutiny committee that, in fact, it is not possible to consult with tenants of this kind. There is no body with which he can easily consult and therefore he should be excused from so doing. That is our anxiety. I think the Minister has given a thoroughly unsatisfactory response to the points that have been made here. If he wants to deal with the issue later on —I understand why he might want to when dealing with the question of consultation—I wish to inform him that I shall put precisely the same question to him, over and over again if necessary, until we get some sort of answer. At the moment we have had no answer at all except that he can perhaps give answers dealing with his own immediate responsibilities.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, has had an answer. He may not like it but it is an answer.

Lord Clinton-Davis

That is subjective, is it not? I believe that not only am I dissatisfied with that answer but I am sure that anyone reading it would be dissatisfied. I know most people—I speak objectively here—would agree with me, as they usually do. Having heard what the Minister has said, and having been totally unconvinced by him, I will reflect further on the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 2, line 47, at end insert: ("( ) "Act" does not include any legislation concerned with the conservation of flora, fauna or the national heritage or the prevention of cruelty to animals.").

The noble Lord said: The essential concerns that we have here in relation to wildlife and conservation give rise to this amendment. I am quite sure the Minister will say that he does not intend that this should fall victim to deregulation under the power, but we think that it could and we think that the consequences could be very profound indeed.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 could, to the extent that it was judged a burden on business, clearly be a candidate for deregulation by this route. Controls such as those in the Water Act 1989, which protected flora and fauna from the effects of privatisation—for example as a result of the sale of previously public land for development—could be endangered in the future. The legislation underpinning the protection of habitats and rare species could at some point in the future constitute a burden on business which a government were tempted to remove. The protection of historic buildings from unscrupulous or shoddy development could be weakened and safeguards against cruelty to animals could be reduced.

Each of these areas poses hard choices for society as regards the balance between conservation and development, or the protection of minority interests against majority interests. The point is that the choice should be made and it should be made in an open way allowing for proper debate and the weighing of the options. Primary legislation should not be vulnerable to removal or modification under a speeded up secondary legislation procedure, however carefully drawn. This amendment seeks to exempt one vitally important group of safeguards from this possible danger. I beg to move.

Lord Strathclyde

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, accepts that very similar considerations apply in this case as to his previous amendment and to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, concerning Pharmaceuticals.

It is true that potentially some of the cherished protections which the noble Lord mentioned could at some point be subject to a deregulation order-making power by the relevant Minister if we pass the Bill, because matters are excluded only if they offer necessary protection or are not burdensome.

I know that noble Lords opposite are opposed to the Bill in principle and therefore provide these extra hurdles which have to be jumped over. However, I cannot help the noble Lord further than I have already. I am sure that he accepts that and that he and I will not be able to agree on the situation. Ultimately it could be a matter for parliamentary procedure, but no Minister would come forward with highly contentious and controversial proposals unless he was absolutely certain that they fulfilled the obligations in Clause 1.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The answer is much the same. It is equally unsatisfactory, but I shall consider the matter further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 22 not moved. ]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank moved Amendment No. 23. After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

( "Order-making power to be renewable

.The power to make an order under section 1 above shall lapse three years after Royal Assent, but shall be renewable, by a Resolution of each House of Parliament, for a further period not exceeding three years, and shall be so renewable at the end of any such period.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 23 would add a new clause following Clause 1.I hesitate to delay the Committee long at this hour. We have a lot of work still to do.

I simply draw the attention of the Committee to the dramatic opening, which we all recall, of the 8th report of the scrutiny committee in which the committee said that the powers conferred by Chapter I or Part I were unprecedented in times of peace. I do not believe that either at Second Reading or in today's discussions that startling statement has been challenged.

In pursuing the matter in its 9th report, in its first paragraph the scrutiny committee said that in view of its unprecedented nature: we urge the House to consider whether the bill should be amended to provide that the powers to make deregulation orders under Chapter I of Part I should lapse three years after Royal Assent, and should then be renewable.

The amendment standing in my name simply attempts to give substance to that thought.

A constant theme running through our discussions has been that, whereas we would trust what the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has said and, on this occasion, the intentions of the Government, who can predict what the future holds? In three years time the same set of men and women will not be sitting around in Downing Street. Even different Ministers see their role differently. This debate and the undertakings given here could begin to fade away.

It is also the case that we all admit—and I admit— that those of us who have been critical of Clause 1 because of our anxieties about the abuse of power and the diminution of the authority of Parliament may prove to be wrong. The new scrutiny arrangements are not yet completely in place. It may be that those procedures have worked well, or they may have worked badly. It seems to me entirely sensible that in a period of time —three years seems about right—we should review what has happened. It would be congenial if those of us who are opposed to the provisions of Clause 1 are persuaded by experience, or Ministers who are enthusiastic about Clause 1 are persuaded by a different experience, that the procedures in the Bill are unnecessary or have worked badly.

One of my worries is that the provisions for consultation may mean that the government of the day are more occupied with consultation outside the House than with consultation inside Parliament. Experience may show that the burden falling on Ministers and officials will be greater, with the greater volume of consultation, and with the need to follow carefully the procedures which the House has laid down. The course which many of us would have greatly preferred is simply to have the provisions in the Bill from Clause 5 onwards, and to introduce, as I suggested earlier, an annual Bill which would bring matters of deregulation to the attention of Parliament.

That is in the future. I cannot predict where we shall stand. I only know from experience that it will not be where we stand now. We shall perceive the issues differently having learned from our experience. Given the scrutiny committee's recommendation, the amendment provides an obvious, new clause which the Government should accept in the spirit in which it is moved. I hope that we can move on rapidly by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, saying that it is nice for him to say yes on one occasion today, and that this is the occasion. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, that the proposal is better than the current situation. However, the support that we give is entirely without prejudice to our wider objections to the concept underlying the Bill.

Having said that, I believe that the Minister would improve his position considerably if he were to accept the proposition.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

It is an unusual Bill and the scrutiny committee has produced a report which the amendment seeks to implement. The Bill is not only an unusual Bill; it aroused considerable disquiet, including among supporters of the Minister. One has only to think of the notable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, at Second Reading, and the speech today by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff.

So far the Minister has resisted every single amendment, in some cases certainly with cogency and good cause. However, this amendment is very much a test of whether he is prepared to show any flexibility. The Bill shows certain signs of being a compromise between Ministers; and certainly any junior Minister handling a Bill of this kind is in some difficulty. However, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is absolutely responsible for the Bill to your Lordships' House. It is entirely up to him what amendments he accepts. This is certainly one amendment which should be accepted.

10 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, loves to put words into my mouth and I am grateful to him for doing so. He may well be right that the legislative burdens or the parliamentary procedures which we are imposing on Ministers under this order may be far more burdensome than the normal legislative route through this House. That remains to be seen and it will be up to individual Ministers to decide. I agree with something which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, said earlier about giving far greater parliamentary control over secondary legislation and deregulation order-making powers. He is absolutely right. He is also right in that I am responsible for the Bill from the Government's point of view and for its passage through this House. Therefore I take careful note of what is said in the Committee, particularly by the noble and learned Lord.

There is a theme running through two or three of the amendments this afternoon dealing with safeguards and protections. In answer to the first amendment, I have explained what those safeguards are, what commitments the Government have made and what the Government have accepted in terms of recommendations already made by the Procedure Committee: namely, extending the period of scrutiny from 40 to 60 days. I have proposed amendments to which we shall come later.

We see the need for an ongoing deregulation order-making power. We believe that the circumstances which led us to identify a need for a special mechanism are likely to continue. We intend to continue to review legislation in order to identify cases where provisions can be amended or repealed so as to remove or reduce burdens without removing any necessary protection. We expect this process to continue to give rise to proposals to change primary legislation in modest but useful ways. That is the balance of convenience, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, called it in his concluding remarks in his Second Reading speech.

Circumstances will continue to change over the years, as society and technology change. This means that a measure which may confer protection necessary at one time may not be needed a number of years ahead. The illustrative list demonstrates how measures which were once useful can be removed or modified at a later date without removing any necessary protection. For example, advances in information technology have repercussions on Companies House. Changes in social conditions can mean change in what is regarded as constituting necessary protection. Other changes in legislation can also make regulation unnecessary. We may safely assume that technological and social changes will continue in the future to render the protection certain measures confer unnecessary. We would all be able to hazard a variety of guesses about that.

Turning to the question of a procedure of renewal every three years, we have always recognised that the power is a significant and exceptional one. That is why we have proposed exceptional safeguards and constraints on the use of the power—in particular, consultation and the special and unique parliamentary scrutiny procedures. I have explained those. I have also explained the safeguards that the Government propose for use in this House.

I have to say to the noble and learned Lord and to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that I am not convinced that a renewal procedure is really needed. However, I recognise that the noble and learned Lord and other noble Lords opposite have suggested that there is a need and I believe that the issue requires further thought. I am not making a commitment because it would be wrong of me to do so at this stage, but I feel that there is an issue here which needs further enlightenment.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

Listening to the first part of the noble Lord's comments, I made a note that his reply was no reply at all. But he began to redeem himself towards the end of his remarks. I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon. I thought that the latter made an important point when he said that it was a test of whether the Minister could show flexibility. He placed upon the Minister the responsibility for the Bill in the House. From my own experience, I think that the Minister will walk taller, feel lighter and sleep better when he has shown flexibility. Those are brave and necessary actions from time to time and, standing where I do, I have always felt that an attempt to reach agreement and consensus and to listen to others is better than adversarial politics.

I much regret that for the larger part of today the noble Lord has pursued adversarial politics with a congenial pugnacity, if I may put it that way. However, although his final words were hedged around with "if's and "but"s and "no commitment"s, any final words of the kind that he gave suggest unusual flexibility. So, on that very cheerful note, I thank him for what he said and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Preliminary consultation]:

[Amendments Nos. 24 to 26 not moved. ]

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 3, line 35, leave out ("substantially")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 27, standing in my name and in the name of my noble friend Lord Peston. It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I deal also with Amendments Nos. 29 and 31.

This amendment gives the opportunity to test what the Government mean by the word "substantially" in the context of the whole question of consultation. Conceptually, a possible criterion for a substantial interest might be its monetary value, in absolute or relative terms or the degree to which the proposed deregulation might fundamentally alter the nature of the interest. But the measurement is in relation to the effect on the interest, not the effect on the activity that is being deregulated.

More practically, the formulation would seem likely to exclude from the consultation process representative bodies of authorities with a responsibility to the public; for example, the local authority associations. It would be interesting to know what the Minister feels about that. Is the public interest in an area of regulation sufficiently substantial to qualify? If so, how would the consultation be undertaken? I dealt earlier with the question of private tenants in that regard. The Minister gave a very general reply, essentially saying that it would be for the housing Minister at the time to contemplate what was the answer to that. I do not think that that is good enough.

Will direct commercial interests automatically qualify? Would the existence of such direct interests crowd out other less directly identifiable ones? If deregulation means more traffic noise and pollution in one's home area, is a person's interest sufficiently substantial to warrant consultation in that context?

A further curiosity of the subsection is the purpose of the requirement to, consult such other persons as [the Minister] considers appropriate".

The meaning is obscure in the sense that the Minister need only determine the consultation not to be appropriate for no duty to arise. Clearly, those consulted will not be holders of a substantial interest because they are distinguished in this group by the duty in subsection l(a). Would the Minister have a duty to consult the aggrieved resident under this heading instead? Or is it intended to use this requirement to cover bodies such as the local authority associations, which may not be covered under "substantial interests"? All those are matters that require explanation.

The Consumers' Association had some very strong criticisms to make which I should like to put on the record in this House. The association reflected on the nature of the consultation in regard to the preparation of the Bill. I know all about what the Minister says in that regard, but it is interesting to know what the association had to say, because it reflects upon consultation procedures later on. It said: the portents are not good. In the run up to the Bill, some Ministers' ideas about consulting, with 'such organisations as appear to be representative of interests substantially affected by his proposals'… or about the time such organisations may take to respond, were woefully inadequate. For a start, no consumer representations were included on the sectoral task forces, thus allowing industry to set the agenda and ignore areas of deregulation that would have been more in the interests of consumers than business. Secondly, the consumer interest was sometimes only solicited as an afterthought, late on in the day, with extremely short deadlines for response. For example, in a three day period last July over 40 proposals for deregulation emanated from the DTI consumer affairs division; the purpose of the consultations was not made clear; they included fundamental measures such as the Consumer Protection Act and no overall listing was available to check that all relevant consultations had been received".

That is an extremely serious matter. It is the way in which the background to the Bill was developed. Rightly, the Consumers' Association, which is a prestigiously important body, has expressed grave concerns about it.

There is also the question of how one goes about testing and whether an organisation which feels aggrieved because it was not consulted can seek redress. The fact of the matter is that for the most part NGOs of that kind have no money. They cannot test the issue in the courts. They are not eligible for legal aid. How would they seek redress from a government which in fact averted the interests which—the Minister seems to find this matter amusing. Why is it amusing? I should like to know why the Minister thinks it is amusing. Does he just dismiss the Consumers' Association?

Lord Strathclyde

Since the noble Lord himself started to speak to these amendments in a state of mild hysteria, it is very far-fetched of him now to accuse me of having a very mild grin.

Lord Clinton-Davis

By not apologising to the Consumers' Association, the Minister thereby insults them. The fact of the matter is that I am not at all hysterical about this issue. I am annoyed that the Minister should take these issues so lightheartedly. He is talking more quietly than ever. What is worrying the Whip on the Front Bench? He seems to be pointing at something.

The whole question of consultation is a matter of very great importance. The Minister apparently feels that it is a matter of some insignificance. I do not think so. I feel that he owes some explanation to the Consumers' Association, which apparently he will not give. He owes it an explanation not simply because it was not consulted—the Minister says that it is a matter for businessmen to be consulted and not for any other interests at this time—but because of what happened subsequently. He ought to deal with that complaint. It is a matter which gives rise to considerable suspicion on the part of that organisation.

This is a matter which deserves proper consideration. I do not think that I need add anything to the other matters. I hope that the Minister will respond more seriously than he has so far suggested.

Lord Strathclyde

I always take these issues with the utmost seriousness and in particular the matter of consultation. That is why consultation is one. of the requirements in the Bill and is mentioned in Clause 3. It is a very important statutory duty and is not common in dealing with other aspects of legislation.

The noble Lord grouped several amendments together. I am grateful, because they cover a number of relatively similar points, with which I shall deal. First, however, there is the chestnut which the noble Lord opposite has decided is of great concern; namely, the tenants' organisations. He asked whom the Minister would consult and whether he would be able to ask the scrutiny committee to be excused from the requirement.

The Bill obliges the Minister to consult organisations which appear to him to be representative of those likely to be "substantially affected" by his proposal and "such other persons as he considers appropriate". If it appears that there are no organisations representative of substantially affected interests, the Minister should consult such other persons as he thinks axe appropriate to speak for the affected interests. How he should do that in any case would depend on the circumstances of the case. I emphasised that point when we discussed this specific issue earlier.

I reiterate that we see effective consultation with interested parties as an essential part of the procedure we are proposing in Chapter I of the Bill. We believe that good regulation—and good deregulation in particular—involves a dialogue with interested parties. Informed judgments about the desirability of possible changes to legislation cannot be made in isolation. The provisions of Clause 3 as drafted are intended to ensure that an effective dialogue takes place in relation to proposed uses of the deregulation order-making power; and that it takes place in a sensible and appropriate way in each case.

The noble Lord who moved the amendment clearly shares our objective of ensuring effective consultation and therefore we are united in that objective. It does not befit him to try and pretend that the Government are not interested in sound consultation.

Amendment No. 27 would require the Minister to consult not only representatives of those substantially affected by the proposal, but those affected in any way, however trivial. In practice that would be a very difficult test for a Minister to comply with, and would not seem likely to give rise to better consultation. For example, those "substantially affected" by a change in legislation related to building societies might include account and mortgage holders. It would be sensible and reasonable to consult representative organisations of those people. Those simply "affected" by such a change in a more long term and less direct way could be said to include anyone who was considering buying a house at some time in the future, or who was a saver with some other type of saving organisation. Those "substantially affected" by a change to UK company law would be relatively easily identifiable, but those "affected" without the test that the effect should be substantial, could include investors worldwide. It would be impossible to fulfil a requirement to consult representatives of all such investors.

Amendment No. 29 would require the Minister to explain why he had consulted particular parties other than those representatives of interests likely to be substantially affected by the proposals. It is not clear to whom the Minister is to explain himself, and in what form. I should not have thought that a particular explanation on this point was necessary or helpful, given the more general requirement in subsection (4) that details of the consultation and of the representations received would be included in the document laid before Parliament at the beginning of the scrutiny period.

Amendment No. 31 would require the Minister to undertake consultation by means of a public announcement. The nature of this order-making power is that it will be used to make commonsense deregulatory changes covering a variety of different policy matters. But we believe it makes sense to ensure that the consultation in each case can be tailored to the particular proposal. Many consultation exercises will involve a published consultation document, particularly when the proposals are of wide general interest. In other cases public announcement might not be the most effective way of ensuring that those who are likely to be significantly affected give their considered views on the proposals.

Let me finally deal with the issue in relation to the Consumers' Association. I am stung by the concern of the Consumers' Association and believe that it is incumbent upon the Government to justify their proposals not just to the Consumers' Association but also to other consumer groups.

In July last year 39 consultation documents were circulated seeking views on all existing consumer legislation for which the DTI has responsibility. The point is that that was not a consultation on specific proposals for reform. I go back to what I said at the beginning and I suspect that the noble Lord and I are far more united than he would like to think. We both believe in a statutory provision for consultation; we have drawn that consultation extremely widely; the Minister must then explain to Parliament what he has done and Parliament will make the decision as to whether or not that consultation was appropriate.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The Minister indicated that he is sensitive to the interests of the Consumers' Association. However, he did not answer its complaint fully, only in part. One of the points raised was that there were extremely short deadlines for response; another was that the purpose of the consultations was not made clear. It is seeking to say that that does not represent a good augury for the way in which the business of consultation is to be undertaken by the Government if the Bill becomes law.

I agree that consultation is important but the problem arises when one reaches areas where it is extremely difficult to be able to define a body with whom one can consult. Those with business interests will be able to identify what they allege is a burden on industry. They can make their case in a more or less coherent way. They have the benefit of research to justify it, even if the case is not always right. We all know that lobbying concerns do not always approach the matter in the correct way but when they are acting for substantial interests money is no object in making those representations.

However, the position is different with tenants. It is all very well for the Minister to say that because he cannot find the tenants' body which is appropriate in the circumstances he will seek advice from individuals. But that is not the same thing. There is a tremendous difference in balance with regard to the possibility of representations to the Government. That is fundamental. I am tempted to test the will of the Committee. Perhaps I should be more emphatic and say that I will test it and then not bother at this stage. That would have alarmed the Minister no end. However, at this stage I think it would be better to seek leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 28 to 35 not moved. ]

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 3, line 39, leave out ("such").

The noble Lord said: Although I have not given notice to the Minister I think it is obvious that I should speak to Amendment No. 37 as well. No meaning can be given to either of the amendments without the other.

When it comes to a variation of the whole or any part of the proposals the clause states: he shall undertake such further consultation with respect to the variations as appears to him to be appropriate".

I do not see why the Bill says that. If my amendment is accepted the clause will say: he shall undertake further consultation with respect to the variations".

That does exactly what I assume the Minister wants to do. I do not see why there is this circumlocutory drafting. It is totally unnecessary. I should like to know why the Bill is written as it is. I cannot see any reason for it. Clearly, having varied the proposals, the Minister shall undertake some further consultation. In fact, I am not. sure now whether "variations" is needed. The logical point is clear. I offer these amendments as a way of sharpening up the Bill.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord is right. Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 deal with similar issues. Amendment No. 36 would have the effect of requiring the Minister, if he varied his proposal after the consultation period in any way, to repeat the entire consultation exercise again. We have provided instead that the Minister should be required to undertake further consultation as appropriate in order to avoid burdening consultees with duplicated consultation on variations which are of no interest to them. That is a sensible proposition. If there was a quite wide-ranging deregulation order but only very few of the consultees had a particular problem with which the Minister could then deal, it would be far better to go back to those consultees who had a problem than to go back to everyone he had consulted in the first place.

Amendment No. 37 deletes the words which make it a matter for the Minister's judgment as to who are the interested parties who should be consulted. Reaching a view on who is likely to be affected by proposed changes in legislation is not an absolute science. But somebody has to make a judgment. We have proposed that the Minister should do so and that is right because he is responsible for starting the process in the first place.

But the safeguard is that his judgment can be scrutinised and challenged if Parliament believes that he has not consulted sufficiently widely. In particular, subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 3 require him to lay before Parliament a document giving details of the consultation which has been undertaken and of the results. This will provide a very effective check that consultation has been properly carried out. Redress would be available if any person or organisation felt that they had been unreasonably excluded. Such a person could make representations during the period of parliamentary scrutiny. If they believe that they have been excluded improperly they could also seek judicial review on the grounds that the Minister had been unreasonable in exercising his judgment on who should be consulted.

If the judgment of whom to consult is not left to the Minister's discretion, the test of whether appropriate consultation had been carried out would then become a matter for the courts, which would be impractical. That goes back to the point which my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham made far better than I earlier this afternoon.

Lord Peston

I thank the Minister although I find it hard to persuade myself that he listened to a word I said. If the noble Lord would read the sentence as it would appear, subject to my amendment, it says, he shall undertake further consultation". He is certainly not going to undertake consultations which he does not consider appropriate. He is certainly not going to undertake one which is irrelevant to the changes. The Minister will do exactly what he believes he should do. The words in the Bill, separate from mine, add nothing. I shall not criticise the parliamentary draftsmen because they are people whom I hold in the highest respect. The fact is that if the Bill states that further consultation will be undertaken, that is what it means.

Lord Strathclyde

If the noble Lord is saying that he and I are in total agreement about what the words mean and that he has some concern about them, I am sure that we can sort that out relatively easily.

Lord Peston

I thank the noble Lord. The reason I tabled my amendments is because I believed that "such" and the words, as appears to him to be appropriate appeared to the Minister to have some deeper meaning which I could not follow, but it appears that they do not. The words simply mean that he is going to consult. In that case it is no big deal, if I may use such a vulgar expression, and we shall sort it out. I certainly believe that the Bill would look cleaner if my way was adopted. Having said that, I leave the Minister to think about it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 37 to 41 not moved. ]

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 42:

Page 4, line 8, after ("burden") insert ("(including an estimate of its quantitative scale as it affects those persons referred to in section 1(1) (a) above)").

The noble Lord said: I shall deal with this amendment briefly. It is rather an important amendment which relates again to the meaning of the word "burden" and how the Minister proposes to approach it. I agree that we differ on the matter because I still wish to see the approach in terms of balancing gains against losses and, if you like, costs against benefits, but the Government do not seem to want to adopt quite such a rational procedure.

Essentially, if the word "burden" is to be approached seriously by the Minister and his advisers, then whatever other concepts we have it must involve a matter of scale and quantity. We must be talking here about burdens which are serious enough for this process to be warranted. Whatever we are talking about must be adversely affecting, in a significant way, the persons we referred to earlier.

That leads inevitably to the need for an estimate of their quantitative scale to be put forward. I take the view that if all we are offered in practice is an impressionist view of the matter, and nothing quantitative, that will not do. That is why I have tabled this amendment. In a sense it is a test of the seriousness of how in due course such a procedure would take place. I beg to move.

Lord Strathclyde

The amendment deals with matters to be included in the document which will be placed before Parliament at the beginning of the scrutiny period. It is our intention to ensure that this document should be a comprehensive one which will provide a sound starting point for the scrutiny process. Under Clause 3(4) it already has to include details of the burden which it is proposed to remove or reduce; whether the existing provision affords any necessary protection and, if so, how that protection is to be continued; details of cost savings and any other benefits and, subject to confidentiality provisions, the results of consultation undertaken and the changes, if any, which have resulted.

The amendment suggests that an estimate of the quantitative scale of the burden should be included in the document. We believe that it is useful to remove even quite small burdens if that can be done without removing any unnecessary protection. Even small burdens can cumulatively be important for businesses, charities or individuals. It will be apparent from the description of the proposal what the burden is which is proposed to be removed or reduced. We have already required the document to describe whether cost savings are expected to result and, if so, either the estimated amount or the reasons why savings should be expected. We see no additional useful purpose in trying to quantify the scale of the burden in some other way.

It would be open to the scrutiny committees to seek whatever evidence they wished. If the scrutiny committees felt that quantification of cost savings was an area about which they needed more information, they could request that. We set out the key factors which must be included in the document. The Minister can include further information on a particular measure. We believe that that method will give very full information to the committees which will be scrutinising the proposals and we therefore believe that the amendment is unnecessary.

Lord Peston

I thank the noble Lord. As he correctly states, we will return to the issue when we look more closely at procedures and matters of that kind. There are other amendments which relate to Clause 3(4) (c) on estimates of cost and other matters, which I was not proposing to move because of the lateness of the hour. I draw the Minister's attention to that paragraph because it also states, either the estimated amount or the reasons why savings should be expected". That is not good enough. Let me give the noble Lord an example. When running a business one will frequently have proposals put forward to do one thing or another. One always asks questions like: how much are we talking about? One does not ask: what are you belly-aching about, or what is it that you want to do? Let us get the numbers right. That is not very different from how we would approach the matter. If someone comes to me and says, "There is this burden on our set of funds and we want you, the Minister, to do something about it," my very first question would be, "What are we talking about in terms of quantitative scale? Do not tell me that you do not like this, or it is a burden. How much? What is involved?"

That is why it would be better to have the matter on the face of the Bill rather than to wait for other matters to occur. I have had ample opportunity to make that point, and it is a matter of advice to the Minister rather than criticism of the Minister. He may wish to reflect on the matter; perhaps I shall come back to it again. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No.43 not moved. ]

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 44

Page 4, line 12, at end insert: ("(bb) Whether there is likely to be any impact on the quality and standards of care received by residents in residential and nursing homes if the burden, authorisation or requirement is removed or reduced;").

The noble Earl said: The effect of the amendment would be to exempt from the Bill standards of care in residential care homes and nursing homes. Those are two different types of home with two different sorts of licensing systems. The theory behind the Bill is basically a free market theory. I do not think that the Minister would dispute that. However, when dealing with homes for the ill and especially the old, one has a situation in which there cannot, in any normally understood sense, be a free market. In some senses one is dealing with people who are not in a position to make any choices. In some cases one is dealing with people who do not have the understanding to make choices. To apply strict free market theory to the provision of residential care and nursing homes is not necessarily the right way to go about the matter.

The effect of the amendment would be to ensure that the Bill could not be used to lower standards of care. There is quite a problem relating to standards because there are two different kinds of home - residential care homes and nursing homes - with two different systems of licensing and two different systems of regulation. The amendment originates from the British Association of Social Workers and the Royal College of Nursing, representing the two different systems and, interestingly, offering us a joint amendment. There is an increasing problem with the two different systems of regulation because of the increasing reliance on care in the community. Under the Registered Homes Act 1984, residential care homes are registered and inspected by local authorities, but private and voluntary homes and NHS nursing homes are registered and inspected by health authorities. The difficulty arises when a residential care home, which is not normally required to employ nurses, has a medical problem which involves the employment of nurses. With care in the community, that situation is likely to become more frequent. In such situations, the distinction between the two sorts of home causes problems. It is possible for homes to have dual registration, but since that involves the payment of a dual set of fees, which I think we would all agree is a discouraging feature, it does not happen quite as often as it might.

There is a real need for that anomaly to be reviewed, but when it is reviewed so many questions will arise, so many interests are going to be involved and there will be such a need to hammer out the different points of view, that the procedure of primary legislation would be a great deal more relevant and suitable than an order under the Bill. The amendment seeks to ensure that in that situation, which I hope may arise in the not-too-far-distant future, we shall have the chance to deal with it by primary legislation, as we should. I beg to move.

Viscount Goschen

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, has spoken convincingly this evening of the importance of ensuring that the very vulnerable people being cared for in residential care and nursing homes are properly protected from unscrupulous operators, and those who would seek to exploit or abuse them. I can assure your Lordships that the Government also strongly believe that the legislative framework governing care homes should protect residents from exploitation and mistreatment.

Your Lordships will recall from our debates on Clause 1 of the Bill that the deregulation order-making power could not be used where this would remove any necessary protection. The term "necessary protection" would certainly encompass protection necessary to safeguard the interests of residential care and nursing home residents.

As has been said earlier, in recognition of the exceptional nature of the power provided by Clause 1, the Government have provided a number of checks to prevent: its abuse. An important element in these checks is the requirement of Clause 3 that there should be consultation with representatives of those likely to be significantly affected by a proposal, and that the outcome of that consultation, together with other specified items of information about the proposal, should be laid before Parliament at the beginning of the special scrutiny procedure.

The matters which are required to be covered in the document include whether the provisions which are to be amended by the proposed order afford any necessary protection and, if so, how that protection is to be continued. The document must also include the details of the consultation and representations received as a result. The amendment would add to the matters required to be included in the document which accompanies a deregulation proposal. Information about any implications for the residents of residential care and nursing homes would also have to be included. The provisions as drafted, in particular the requirement of Clause 3(4) (b) to describe how any necessary protection afforded by the existing legislation is to be continued, would ensure that in cases where a proposal has implications for the residents of residential care and nursing homes, these will be brought out in the explanatory document.

I hope that my remarks have reassured the Committee about the Government's commitment to providing necessary regulatory protection for residents of residential care and nursing homes, and our commitment to ensuring that the order-making power could not be used to remove necessary protection where the interests of residents, or any other group at risk, would be affected by a proposed use of this power. This is drawn to the attention of Parliament when the proposal is brought forward for scrutiny. It is not possible to overemphasise that significant statement.

I hope that in the light of the explanation of the provisions as drafted in the Bill the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Earl Russell

I am grateful to the noble Viscount for that reply. Before I take any decision to withdraw my amendment, I wish to probe it a little further. I was extremely interested in what he said about necessary protection. I wish to ask, in particular, whether his comments about the effect of the necessary protection clause on standards of care in residential and nursing homes would, under the purposes of Pepper v. Hart, count as something which could be used in court to interpret the meaning of this Bill. That is an important and technical query.

I have been a little worried about the words "necessary protection" because they seemed to be a little tautological; they seemed to be stating that the Bill should not be used where it should not be used. That is an unexceptionable but not necessarily informative statement. The Minister's statement, in particular if it can be used under Pepper v. Hart, is a good deal more informative.

There is another point on which I should be grateful for some comment. I appreciate that the noble Viscount is in difficulty since the matter involves two ministries, neither of which are in charge of this Bill. Do the Government see a problem, as I do, in the existence of the two different systems of registration? One is through local authorities, which are ultimately responsible to the Department of the Environment, and the other is through the health authorities, which are ultimately responsible to the Department of Health.

Of course, there are always problems where two Whitehall departments share responsibility and communication is not always as good as it should be. I should be extremely grateful if the Minister could give me a clue as to whether the Government see a problem, or, if he is not empowered to do that, he could undertake to bring the point to the notice of his colleagues in the departments concerned.

I look forward to a reply which I hope will have something more to offer. I thank him now for what he may say.

Viscount Goschen

As regards the legal point, I understand that, yes, the statement would be subject to Pepper v. Hart. However, I am not a legal expert and in the ultimate eventuality it will be up to the court to decide.

The noble Earl raised the distinction between residential care and nursing homes. The question of the statutory distinction between them was among the matters raised with the Department of Health as part of its review of regulations affecting business. Like other suggestions that have been received, it will be considered.

Earl Russell

I am grateful to the noble Viscount for that further reply. I believe that he has given me everything that he is empowered to give. I thank him and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 45 to 49 not moved. ]

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 50:

Page 4, leave out lines 23 to 28.

The noble Lord said: I realise that Amendment No. 50 is a long-winded way of saying, "Omit subsection (5) of Clause 3". It could have been done much more easily.

I tabled the amendment because I am pretty sure that it shows a difference between the Minister and myself, which I should like to illustrate. Subsection (5) says that where the Minister is giving details of representations that he has received he, shall not disclose any information".

In my view, that should not be the case. If people make representations, it does not seem to me that we should, even remotely, write into law that they can say, "I should like to make a representation on this burden, but I don't want anyone to know that it was me who made it. It is up to me to give consent as to whether they know or not". That is an absurd state of affairs. It is possible that I have misunderstood the provision, but it seems to read that way. It states that the Minister, "shall not disclose any information … except… with the consent of that person … or in such a manner as not to identify that person". Looking at it again, I must say that it is rather circumlocutionary and that makes me even more worried.

The main point that I should like the Minister to comment upon, despite the lateness of the hour, is a very simple one. If you wish to make representations on a matter that concerns you, then you must do it in the public arena. If you are worried that this might cost you something, then do not make representations; in other words, you cannot play the game if you are not willing to pay the entrance fee. That is really what I am saying. It is possible that the Minister agrees with me and that he may say that there is no problem in that respect. But, nonetheless, it is an important point. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux)

I must inform Members of the Committee that if Amendment No. 50 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 51.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord has interpreted the subsection absolutely correctly. It does mean what it says: its purpose is to protect confidentiality. We have learnt that that is the best way to consult. We discussed earlier our overall objectives to consult; indeed, we need to consult widely in order to obtain the right feedback. That is a necessary safeguard for consultees. It is intended to encourage a frank and open response to the consultation, even when the response involves material which may be commercially sensitive. It also enables the Minister to give Parliament the substance of such responses if that can be done in a way which does not identify the author.

I should also add that such provisions are common; for example, I have in mind Section 133 of the Fair Trading Act 1973, Section 28 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Section 38 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987. If confidentiality cannot be guaranteed, the consultation exercise is likely to be much less full and, therefore, less useful to both the Minister and Parliament. In that case, we may well end up not getting the matter right. That is the purpose of the provision. With that explanation, I suspect that the noble Lord may, however regrettably, agree with me.

Lord Peston

I understand the Minister's response. I know that the appearance of such a statement in a Bill is not unusual. However, the Acts to which the Minister referred are not ones with which I was involved. I also understand the technical point involved. However, this is my opportunity to say how concerned I am about the matter. If we were to go into such matters, I would get up and ask the Minister whom he had consulted. He might then have to say to me, "I am sorry, but under this section I cannot tell you precisely who. I can tell you the class of people involved, as long as I do not identify them". I might then go further and comment, "I have heard that you consulted so and so"; whereupon the Minister might find himself in a difficult situation where he has to say, "Well, I can't tell you because of that provision".

That is the consultation part; that is the Minister reaching out and asking questions. I can just about live with that in terms of the argument that the noble Lord has put forward. But there is a second part. Supposing, for example, I ask the Minister, "Who has made representations to you?" That is a different question in that regard. It is not a case of asking the Minister, "How have you reached out?"; it is a question regarding those who have, so to speak, reached in. Again, the Minister could say, "I am afraid I can't give you the answer to that question. I can tell you generally the class of people who made representations and, in broad terms, what they have said; but I can't tell you specifically who".

I must say that I find the situation objectionable; indeed, if it were not so late and if we were not having a slightly confrontational exchange—although, it is not that confrontational—I believe I could even persuade the Minister that what I say is worth considering. It is a proposition in open government. I take the Minister's technical point: they will not say if they will be found out. But, equally, if they want to make representations and if they want their views to be felt, they really ought to be willing to place the matter in the public domain. I will not press the point tonight and I well understand why governments do this sort of thing, but I do think it is a most unhappy and unsatisfactory state of affairs. But I have been able to go on record on that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 51 not moved. ]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Parliamentary consideration of proposals]:

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendments No. 52 to 54:

Page 4, line 41, leave out ("forty") and insert ("sixty").

Page 4, line 42, leave out from ("Parliament") to end of line 47.

Page 5, line 1, leave out ("periods of forty and") and insert ("period of).

The noble Lord said: These amendments give effect to the Government's commitment to extend the period provided for the parliamentary scrutiny of orders under the deregulation order-making power to 60 days in all cases. I very much hope that this will meet with the approval of the Committee. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 52, 53 and 54 en bloc.

Earl Russell

I would like to welcome these amendments very warmly indeed. They are a very helpful contribution to the Bill. But, in the process, with the usual tendency of Opposition Benches to look gift horses in the mourn, I should like just to probe one small point on which I expect to get a reassuring answer. It is one I have mentioned to the noble Lord before. It is the definition of the 60 days. It is my understanding, looking at subsection (3), that these 60 days refer only to days when the House is sitting and that they do not, as has sometimes happened with other limitations of 40 days, include days when the House sits only for judicial business.

During the Summer Recess, when there are a certain number of days when the House sits for judicial business, that can of course be a point of some significance, especially as there are also judicial sitting days during Prorogation. If I am right in my construction of subsection (3) —that this refers only to days when the House sits for legislative business—then this is a small change in parliamentary practice but one which I would regard as very welcome indeed and as a further earnest of the Government's good faith. I very much hope that I am right in that interpretation. I am waiting with a great deal of interest for the answer.

I am sorry to raise a point which may at this time of night seem quite a small one but it is one which arises in a number of other contexts and it may possibly cause a good deal of confusion sometimes where one has a point which needs consultation which cannot take place during September when it is really quite hard to get hold of people on occasion. I observe that a great deal of discussion is being caused by this. I am sorry, I did believe I had given the Minister notice that I was going to raise this point. I had no intention of catching him short by it. I had no intention either of prolonging the Committee's business.

Lord Peston

I thought the noble Lord would like to hear from me as well, and then speak once. I hope the Committee has noticed—particularly the Minister—that I have not said anything during today on the subject of safeguards and scrutiny. I am saving my ammunition on that because I believe that not until we have been through the whole Committee stage of this Bill will any discussion of safeguards and scrutiny have any meaning, and that is why I have refrained from joining in on any of that. But I rise partly to tell the noble Lord that there will come a day when I shall have a lot to say on safeguards and scrutiny. Having said all that, I think 60 days is better than 40 days and, if we want to play number games, 80 is better than 60, etcetera. However, I shall not press that at this hour. I simply want to say that, in welcoming 60, I am not committed to anything on the subject of scrutiny and safeguards yet.

Lord Strathclyde

I am grateful to both the noble Earl and the noble Lord for their welcome to these amendments and I owe the noble Earl an apology. He did in fact give me notice that he was going to ask me this question. I have to confess that I forgot about it approximately 30 seconds after he had given me that notice. However, I have now received some inspiration as to what the 60 days means in parliamentary terms. I am not sure that this explanation will give the noble Earl a great deal of comfort, but he will at least know what he is dealing with and the nature of the beast.

The 60 days applies only to days when both Houses are sitting. It includes days when another place is sitting for legislative purposes or this House for judicial purposes. Therefore, I suspect that it is the same definition as that which applies to 60 days in other circumstances.

Earl Russell

Perhaps I may give the Minister notice that I may return to the matter at another stage of the Bill and thank him for the trouble that he has taken so far.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendments Nos. 53 and 54:

Page 4, line 42, leave out from ("Parliament') to end of line 47.

Page 5, line 1, leave out ("periods of forty and") and insert ("period of).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 55 and 56 not moved. ]

Lord Monkswell moved manuscript Amendment No. 56A:

Page 5, line 10, leave out ("either House of Parliament") and insert ("the House of Commons")

The noble Lord said: I wish to move a manuscript amendment. For the convenience of the Committee, I shall also speak to manuscript Amendment No. 56B:

Page 5, line 10, after ("document") insert ("which has been made following consideration of any Resolution or Report of. or of any Committee of, the House of Lords.")

I apologise to the Committee for introducing this matter at this late hour and in this manner. However, it arises from the debate we had earlier on Amendment No. 1 and the Committee's decision not to agree that amendment.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that scrutiny of draft orders and supporting documentation by each House of Parliament shall be in sequence rather than in parallel.

In our debate this afternoon the convention of this House not to vote on parliamentary orders or delegated legislation was raised. We also heard how Ministers depend on their party majority in the other place for their authority. That gives us a clue as to why the convention not to vote on parliamentary orders in this House has emerged.

If the House of Lords votes in one way and the House of Commons votes another way, there is a clash between the two Houses of Parliament. In that case the Executive —the Government—is not held to account. To hold the Executive to account we must recognise that the Executive is answerable to the House of Commons. The amendment that I am now moving would enable the House of Lords to advise the House of Commons and the House of Commons, having taken into account the views of the House of Lords, to advise the Minister. The Minister is then in the best position to lay orders that will gain the approval of both Houses of Parliament.

This proposal is modelled on the sequential consideration of primary legislation that we currently use. It does not interfere with the right of either House to arrive at its own decisions. It seeks to prevent confrontation between the House of Lords and the House of Commons and recognises the primacy of the House of Commons in our parliamentary democracy in holding the Government to account, and it seeks to highlight the need for the expertise of this House to be taken into account. I beg to move.

11 p.m.

Earl Russell

We have again the invocation of an extraordinary procedure where an ordinary procedure already exists. Disagreements between the Houses used to be rather more common than they now are and a procedure has been evolved to deal with them. It is the procedure for a conference between the Houses. It normally used to take the form of the appointment of a Select Committee drawing on the membership of both Houses which would then negotiate the matter upstairs and in private and usually come to an amicable resolution. That procedure is on the books. It can be revived at any time we like. It might solve some problems.

Lord Strathclyde

With the leave of the Committee, I accept the apology which the noble Lord gave for invoking this rather extraordinary procedure of coming forward with a manuscript amendment. In all the Bills with which I have dealt over the past few years, this is the first time I have come across the procedure. I hope that it does not become a habit with the noble Lord.

Let me explain how we envisage that the process will work. Once a proposal has been laid before Parliament, the scrutiny committees in both Houses will start their work. This will be done in parallel. The Procedure Committees in both Houses have suggested that the scrutiny committees should have power to confer as well as to meet concurrently for the purpose of taking evidence. That fits in more with the procedures suggested by the noble Earl, as I understood them.

Once the scrutiny committees have made their recommendations, the Minister will reconsider his proposals in the light of what the committees have said. In that way, any differences of view may well be reconciled by the Minister revising his proposals. Ultimately, it will be for each House to decide whether it agrees with any concerns which may have been expressed by the committees or others about the proposal. If, in the end, either House objects to the proposal the order cannot be made.

We do not believe that making the process sequential rather than contemporaneous will help. If there are fundamental differences of view, it might well be that primary legislation would be the only means of activating the change, as the different stages would enable differences between the Houses to be resolved.

The effect of the amendment would be to make the Minister have to take into account only resolutions from the House of Commons, or its committees, but not those of this House. I am not sure that that is the way in which we ought to deal with this situation. I am glad that the noble Lord has given us a chance to explain that situation. I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Monkswell

I thank the Minister for graciously accepting my apologies on behalf of the Committee. I thank him, too, for his explanation as to how the Government envisage the procedures working. I am not sure how our procedures will fit in with the procedures of the House of Commons, and the validity—in terms of the will of this House and the will of the House of Commons—of a joint committee.

However, I shall study in Hansard with interest the remarks of the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Manuscript Amendment No. 56B not moved. ]

[Amendments Nos. 57 to 60 not moved. ]

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Viscount Goschen

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.