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Pre-legislative Scrutiny

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 28 April 2011

3. What plans he has for pre-legislative scrutiny of legislation proposed by the Government; and if he will make a statement. (52653)

The Government have made clear our intention to improve the quality of legislation. We have already published the draft Defamation Bill and two draft Detention of Terrorist Subjects (Temporary Extensions) Bills. We have also informed the Liaison Committee of our intention to invite pre-legislative scrutiny on the Financial Services Bill, the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, the House of Lords Bill, the Parliamentary Privilege Bill, and the Political Reform Bill.

I welcome that reply, but can I establish that the Government intend all Government legislation to be published in draft as well as, later, in substantive form for the remainder of the current Parliament, so that pre-legislative scrutiny can take place all the time? That is clearly the best practice.

We are committed to publishing Bills in draft whenever possible, but the aspiration to publish more of next Session’s potential Bills in draft must be balanced against the need to devote sufficient resources to getting this Session’s Bills right. We hope to increase the proportion of Bills published in draft during the current Parliament, and by the end of this Session we expect to have published more Bills in draft than the average number under the last Administration.

As the Government are so keen on pre-legislative scrutiny, can the dear Deputy Leader explain why they did not use the procedure in the case of the Health and Social Care Bill? Would that not have had numerous advantages? It would have prevented the Government from introducing legislation that had not been thought through, it would have allowed the Liberal Democrats to pretend that they were being listened to, and, more important, it might have saved the NHS. Will the hon. Gentleman now apologise for that abject failure, and ensure that the House is given proper time to debate the amendments to the Bill when the Government present them?

I rather like the idea of being a dear Leader, or a dear Deputy Leader. I think it lends a certain cachet to the office.

The serious response to the hon. Lady’s question is that, with a new Administration, it is inevitable that some Bills will not receive pre-legislative scrutiny because they must be put into action. In the case of the Bill that she mentioned, however, a period of reflection is now being entered into, and I think that it will be extremely valuable. It will ensure that we hear the advice of everyone who is concerned with getting the Bill right.