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Strathclyde Review

Volume 771: debated on Wednesday 20 April 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will support the establishment of a Joint Committee to consider the recommendations of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, the Constitution Committee and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on the Strathclyde Review (Cm 9177).

My Lords, you get me either way.

We are considering the three reports carefully, one of which was published less than a week ago. We are doing so alongside consideration of the recommendations in my noble friend Lord Strathclyde’s review, on which the three reports are based. We will respond to those reports and my noble friend’s review in due course.

My Lords, does the Leader of the House now recognise, as do the three reports, that to a considerable extent the Strathclyde review was based on a false premise? We are not in this House challenging,

“the decisive role of the … House of Commons”;

what we are doing is seeking more effective scrutiny of Governments’ secondary legislation by both Houses of Parliament. Surely the right way to examine the range of options for Parliament is for both Houses together, MPs and Peers, to do so in a Joint Select Committee. Is the Leader of the House now listening to these three important committees of your Lordships’ House, or is she simply listening to No. 10?

My Lords, one thing that I know that we all agree on, from the many conversations I have had with noble Lords from around this House, is that we must protect this House’s role as an effective revising Chamber that holds the Government to account. I understand some of the points that the noble Lord makes, along with those that have been made by some of the committees of this House, and I will reflect on all the things that have been put forward. I think that it is premature for us to commission another review before the Government have responded to the review that they commissioned from my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. I need to be clear to the House that the Government are seeking something which is in the interest not just of the Government but of Parliament as a whole; that is, that the elected House has the final say on all legislation.

My Lords, yet again, the noble Baroness seems to misunderstand how statutory instruments operate. They are not a matter between the House of Commons and the House of Lords but a matter between the Executive and Parliament. This issue strikes fundamentally at the very heart of what this House does. We have a responsibility to scrutinise not just primary but secondary legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, has already pointed out that all three of these Select Committees of your Lordships’ House, all chaired by government party Peers, have totally rejected all the Strathclyde options. The noble Baroness says that she will reflect on the reports and come back to the House “in due course”. Can I ask her to take her time in reflecting on the information in those reports—they bear weight and are very interesting—but then, in the next Session of Parliament, provide time for debate? However, if the speculation about legislation to enforce Strathclyde is true, will she give an undertaking today for an early debate prior to the Queen’s Speech?

My Lords, as I have already said, the Government are considering carefully all the options that are in my noble friend Lord Strathclyde’s review. We will take account of what has been included in the reports of the various Select Committees of this House. When we reach a decision, we will publish our response, but we have not yet reached our decision.

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right to reflect on these reports, but I hope that she will bear in mind that the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, were to make sure that secondary legislation was dealt with more democratically in Parliament as a whole. Will she therefore take very good note in her considerations of what the noble Lord said?

Yes, I most definitely will. My noble friend put forward three options and recommended one, but what is important for us all to reflect on, as I have said, is that this House has a vital role in scrutinising legislation. That must be maintained in a way that protects our legitimacy and that gives the House of Commons the final say.

My Lords, as the Leader of the House well knows, the three separate committees of this House comprehensively and unanimously rejected the totality of the proposals made in the Strathclyde report. If the House does not recognise that, the committees have wasted their time. I do not believe that they have. They are very thorough reports. The committees took evidence in public, published that evidence and made sure that the whole House knew who they had spoken to—more than 30 Members of your Lordships’ House were involved in that work. That contrasts with one person, a former Cabinet Minister of the present Administration, meeting people in secret, not publishing any evidence, but publishing his report. There is legitimately in democratic terms no comparison between those exercises. The whole House should recognise that. Will the Leader of the House at least guarantee that the House will have the opportunity to debate these three reports and their recommendations and conclusions before any more hasty, erratic decisions are made by the Government about the powers of your Lordships’ House?

My Lords, the Government have not reached a decision yet, so we have not been operating in haste. I say to the noble Lord and to the House as a whole that we currently lack agreement among us about how we can achieve clarity about how we consider secondary legislation in this House. We need to be in a position where we can do our work with clarity, maintain our vital scrutiny role and have the power to reject secondary legislation. My noble friend Lord Strathclyde’s recommended option would retain this House’s power to reject secondary legislation.