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Business of the House

Volume 823: debated on Tuesday 28 June 2022

My Lords, I recognise it is unusual for a Member to bring forward a point of procedure but this is an unusual situation. The Procurement Bill started in your Lordships’ House and had its Second Reading on 25 May. The first of five Grand Committee sessions is planned for next Monday. It is a complex Bill with significant ramifications for the whole country. Today the Government tabled 342 amendments to their own Bill. These amendments change a wide range of clauses running right through the Bill. Contrary to the Cabinet Office’s Guide to Making Legislation, not a single amendment has a Member’s explanatory statement, and I cannot see an updated Explanatory Memorandum, nor an impact assessment.

The timing and scale of these amendments are cynical and against the spirit of good legislation. We are used to undercooked legislation, but this Bill is only party formed. To deal with the situation properly, I ask that the Government do what they could, and should, already have done: withdraw this Bill, revise it, produce all the necessary new supporting documentation, and then have a new Second Reading for what is, in effect, a new Bill. Given that Report probably will not surface until October, there is time to do this properly.

My Lords, the noble Lord has made a very reasonable request in the circumstances. This is yet another example—and I have raised many in the past—of the Government treating Parliament with contempt. It is something up with which we should not put. It is just not acceptable for the Government to behave like this, as if we, the Parliament of the United Kingdom, are a creature of the Executive; we are not.

The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is absolutely right. It is happening everywhere: the so-called Bill of Rights, which is not a Bill granting rights but a Bill taking rights away, is being introduced in the other place without any pre-legislative scrutiny, in spite of the fact that three committees have requested pre-legislative scrutiny. It ought to be done. This is the cavalier way in which the Executive are treating the legislature, and if we do not stand up against the Executive, this democracy is not something that we can be proud of.

My Lords, I am going to be brief, because we have a lot of important business to do. On normal occasions, the way to address these issues is for the usual channels to discuss them, and I certainly have not been approached by the usual channels on this. However, I have some sympathy with the noble Lord, as well as some experience, having taken through well over 200 government amendments on a Bill previously. I found that the way to get that through well and with agreement in that case was to have plenty of engagement outside the Chamber. I gather that the noble Lord has already met the Minister this morning, and since then more information has been provided, particularly in the shape of a Keeling schedule.

I am told that a lot of these amendments—the majority—are technical, and I do not mean technical in a way that is trying to avoid the issue. The others are explanatory. But if we have proper engagement before Committee—and, of course, five days of Committee are planned, two of which have extended hours—there will be plenty of opportunity to scrutinise these amendments. I know that the Minister is more than ready to engage further with the noble Lord, so I am certainly of the opinion that he will be ready and able to give the Bill the scrutiny it deserves.