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European Scrutiny

Volume 493: debated on Thursday 4 June 2009

2. What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of arrangements for the scrutiny by the House of legislation brought forward under the European Communities Act 1972. (277947)

EU legislation, as I am sure the hon. Lady knows because she has been around for a while, is transposed into domestic law by a variety of means, including primary legislation, secondary legislation under the 1972 Act and other secondary legislation. We continue to keep the effectiveness of all those methods under review and are happy to listen to proposals for improvement.

The hon. Gentleman will be well advised to take advice from his right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House on the charm factor when responding to questions. He may or may or not be aware that the Government are considering removing part of the draft Flood and Water Management Bill that is before the House and introducing it in secondary legislation under the 1972 Act. Does he share my concern that that process does not allow for the same parliamentary scrutiny as a Public Bill Committee? It is highly regrettable in that regard. The legislation is not contentious, and that is why we should expedite and introduce the main—not a draft—Flood and Water Management Bill, rather than use secondary legislation, which is not subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny.

I did not intend to disparage the hon. Lady; I was merely trying to reinforce the view—of the whole House, I am sure—that she has considerable experience and expertise and brings wisdom to all her comments. She has made an important point, although she has completely and utterly misunderstood the Government’s intentions on the particular issue in question. As she knows, we are committed to providing a draft legislative programme, and we will publish it in the not-too-distant future. We will consult on it around the country so that people will be able to put their views on precisely how we should proceed with the measures. We have also introduced the whole process of pre-legislative scrutiny, which gives the hon. Lady the opportunity to make precisely the points that she has made.

Today, the whole nation should be looking at what is coming out of Europe that will affect this country. One of the crucial things to recognise is that transposing European legislation is a passive act of turning what comes concretely from Brussels into facts on the ground in this country. Should not the crucial message to the House and the Government be that we must ensure that that legislation is well and truly scrutinised before it is firmed up in Europe, so that when it comes to this country it is in a form that we can make best use of?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, of course. However, we often transpose EU legislation into UK law not through statutory instruments but through primary legislation. A classic example at the moment is the Coroners and Justice Bill, which transposes large elements of the services directive. Similarly, it is sometimes appropriate for us to bring forward provisions such as the Swine Vesicular Disease Regulations 2009 through statutory instruments; we want to ensure that, after consultation, there is clarity and swiftness around the country in respect of such provisions.