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Pre-legislative Scrutiny

Volume 534: debated on Thursday 3 November 2011

4. What plans he has for future pre-legislative scrutiny of Government legislation; and if he will make a statement. (78164)

The Government recognise the value that pre-legislative scrutiny can add and we are committed to seeing more measures published in draft. So far this Session, we have published draft measures on Lords reform, financial services, defamation, detention of terrorist suspects, individual electoral registration and electoral administration, and a groceries code adjudicator. The Government expect to publish further measures in draft this Session, including on parliamentary privilege.

I am seriously grateful to my hon. Friend and to the business managers for arranging more pre-legislative scrutiny, which is very important. Can he assure us that, as the plans are laid for the next parliamentary year, starting next May, all Departments understand the benefit of, and the priority for, pre-legislative scrutiny and the disbenefit of introducing Government changes to Government Bills after they have been published?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. That is exactly the point that we repeatedly make to Departments: it is in everyone’s interests including theirs that we have proper scrutiny, because better legislation has an easier passage through the House. Increasingly, we have dealt with measures rather than whole Bills, because when a measure is ready for publication it makes sense for the House to have an opportunity to scrutinise and improve it prior to the publication of a Bill.

Can the Deputy Leader of the House therefore give a guarantee that in future all Bills will have had pre-legislative scrutiny before they get on to the Floor of the House, so that we do not have the debacle that we had over the Health and Social Care Bill?

I cannot give that guarantee any more than the previous Government, of whom the hon. Lady was a supporter, could give it. There will, for instance, be Bills that start in the Lords, where there is a different procedure, which means that they would not be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny in this House. However, it is our intention, wherever possible, to ensure that it happens. Inevitably, there is a slightly different position with an incoming Administration, when it is in no one’s interests for the House to do absolutely nothing for six months while we await Bills for pre-legislative scrutiny.