Committee (5th Day) (Continued)
Clause 20: Regulations: general
134ZA: Clause 20, page 22, line 8, leave out “does not apply in relation to any power to make regulations under this Act” and insert “has effect in relation to any power to make regulations under this Act as if in subsection (2)(a) of that section, after “section 30)”, there were inserted “which must require that a report setting out the conclusions of the review is published within the period of three years beginning with the day on which the regulatory provision comes into force””
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would remove the disapplication under the Bill of section 28 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (duty to review regulatory provisions in secondary legislation) to the powers to make regulations under the Bill, and add a requirement to publish a review within three years, following the concerns expressed by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee in paragraphs 65 and 66 of its 28th Report ‘Losing Control?: The Implications for Parliament of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.’
My Lords, I will move Amendment 134ZA and speak to Amendment 134B.
We have had pretty extensive debates over the past four days in Committee about how we need to improve the parliamentary involvement of both Houses on this framework, skeleton Bill. These two amendments shift the Committee’s attention to the existing scrutiny procedures which, while generally regarded as inadequate, do at least provide some level of scrutiny, and therefore hold the Government to account. However, even with these existing procedures, the Government are, as I shall explain, behaving increasingly casually and often ignoring existing statutory obligations.
Amendment 134B concerns impact assessments, which are required to be produced at the same time as the relevant regulation is published. Amendment 134ZA is concerned with post-implementation reviews. Together, they implement two of the recommendations made in the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee’s report, Losing Control?: The Implications for Parliament of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.
I will deal first with Amendment 134B, concerning impact assessments. This requires an impact assessment to be laid simultaneously—an important word—with the laying of each regulation. Impact assessments were introduced by the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015—I think my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe was the Minister at the time. The impact assessments are to be produced whenever the impact of a particular regulation exceeds £5 million.
A good impact assessment should inform policy development and evolve with it. This enables both Houses of Parliament to see and evaluate the various methods for dealing with a particular policy issue that the Government have thought about and then explains why a particular selection was made to give the policy effect. No less important, publishing an impact assessment in a timely manner gives people outside Parliament who will be particularly affected by a proposal a chance to make their views known. This narrows the gap between the governors and the governed, which some people feel has grown in recent years. As people often say, law that has been consulted on is often better law and is nearly always better-accepted law, because people feel that they have a chance to make their views known.
I will give two examples of the sorts of issues that are affected by how the Government have been rather casual about impact assessments. The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) (Revocation) (England, Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022 may sound a dull title, but in this the Home Office was going to revoke the ability to license a chemical because it could also be used as a drug. The Home Office believed that there were only 65 firms that used it and would be affected by it. When they produced the impact assessment, they found that there were about 7,500. Therefore, the effect of the impact assessment was to make sure that those 7,500 firms were not deleteriously affected.
My noble friend the Minister will no doubt say that this shows that the system is working—to which I would reply that it is effective when the impact assessment is provided. Too often, impact assessments are produced too late to be effective or, in some cases, not produced at all. Let me give an example of each, briefly: first, on an impact assessment being too late to be effective.
The Committee will recall that a big decision was made about whether we should require care home staff to be compulsorily vaccinated. There was considerable concern about how many members of staff would resign as a result, either because they had religious beliefs against vaccination or because they were young women concerned about the impact on their fertility. When the regulation was published, no impact assessment was provided at all, so the SLSC asked the Minister to give evidence and explain why. The regulation having been published in late June, he came to see the committee in July and, after what I like to think was a fairly thorough grilling, he agreed and undertook to bring forward an impact assessment. He did, but he brought it forward in November. By then, everybody had been vaccinated or had not been, and the reason for producing the impact assessment was completely vitiated.
As an example of the latter—no impact assessment at all—a Minister from the Department for Transport told the SLSC, during an evidence session on the draft Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations:
“It did not cause delay because the regulations went through without the impact assessment.”
In the committee’s report, titled Losing Impact: Why the Government’s Impact Assessment System is Failing Parliament and the Public, there are 20 or 30 examples. I have given just a couple to show the extent and prevalence of the problem.
Each department has a Minister responsible for making sure that SIs and their attached impact assessments are produced properly and to time. Each of those Ministers reports to a Minister at the centre. Until two or three weeks ago, my noble friend Lord Callanan was that luckless Minister trying to corral this herd of cats. He gave evidence to the committee and he said that he was keen to prioritise, and I do not doubt that at all, and that
“because we have no statutory means of enforcing the writ of impact assessments, we are relying on peer pressure to encourage and cajole departments to do it”.
I hope that my noble friends Lord Callanan and Lady Neville-Rolfe—she is going to reply—are pleased to see Amendment 134B riding to their rescue by inserting the words “at the same time” into the clause. It says that
“under this Act … laid before Parliament, the instrument, or draft instrument, must be accompanied at the same time by a regulatory impact assessment”;
in other words, no impact assessment, no regulation. By any measure, the level of parliamentary scrutiny of the outcome of the Bill is low. If the Government avoid producing IAs at the right moment, promptly, it will be another nail in the coffin of scrutiny. That was my amendment on impact assessments.
My Amendment 134ZA concerns post-implementation reviews—PIRs. I have long since lost count of the number of times I have sat in committees or in the Chamber and heard Members of your Lordships’ House say that post-legislative scrutiny is a really important way of holding the Government to account. It measures performance against promises; it provides a Bill’s institutional memory, as to what worked and what did not; and it enables those outside Parliament to understand the effect, deleterious or otherwise, of any particular regulation. In essence, PIRs are post-legislative scrutiny for regulations.
Sections 28 to 32 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act, to which I have already referred, require that any regulatory provision that passes the impact assessment test—the £5 million threshold—should be reviewed five years after commencement and every five years thereafter. Despite this being a statutory provision, it is something that we are very far from being able to rely on. We took evidence from Christopher Carr of the Better Regulation Executive. He suggested that between only 25% and 40% of regulations that required PIRs were getting them. In fairness to my noble friend, he wrote to say that he thought the figure was 72%, so I put that on the record.
However, with Clause 20(5) the Government are writing off the PIR system. It has gone. I strongly believe that this is a mistake. PIRs, properly conducted and publicised, play a very important role in monitoring, and so improving, government performance. If they play an important role in general, they do a great deal more in the particular circumstances of this Bill, because all parties, even the Government, recognise that we are entering terra incognita—unknown territory—with the provisions of the Bill. It is impossible to foretell how these decisions, inevitably taken quickly under the pressure of the 31 December deadline, will work out in practice. It must surely be sensible for the Government and Parliament to have in place a formal process to review the real-life results. This amendment simply restores the requirement for there to be a PIR, undertaken and published for each regulation, three years after the regulation comes into force.
To conclude, an age ago—actually a week ago, but it feels like an age ago—in my remarks on Amendment 32, I said that during my three years as chairman of the SLSC
“I have seen the sands of power and influence trickling through Parliament’s fingers”,—[Official Report, 2/3/23; col. 433.]
weakening Parliament’s relative power against the Executive, the Government. This is yet another example of mission creep on behalf of the Government. It is wrong in principle and in practice, and I hope the Government think again. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for his very comprehensive review of two important amendments. It is a shame that we have got to the last sands of the Bill here. I am not going to add to what he has said, particularly on Amendment 134B, but I have a question that formed when I read the Bill in the first place: why is Clause 20(5) in the Bill; in other words, why did the Government actively choose to disapply this process? What made them think that they want to do this?
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say, with all the assurances that we have had that most things would stay the same and therefore not require the treatment that the noble Lord just described, this would not be an onerous task. However, if there was wide-scale revocation of regulations—including those that go beyond tagging the ears of fighting bulls, reindeer and all the others we are told about—that have an effect in the United Kingdom today, and if there is reformation, another word for change, a great deal of reviews would be required for those regulations to continue. Why was it decided to include Clause 20(5) in the legislation as drafted?
My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to support the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson. It has been a frequent occurrence on my part because of his excellent work on the committee that he chaired; there have been some excellent reports that I think have done a great service to this House. I am not going to repeat the points he has made; he has done an excellent introduction. I just want to seek clarification from the Minister in relation to his response to the committee.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, that this is a requirement that should be undertaken. But the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, confirmed that instruments laid under the REUL Bill which make “significant policy changes” will be covered by an impact assessment. Is that a qualification of when impact assessments will be provided? Who is saying what a “significant impact” is? Surely the purpose of the impact assessment is to assess whether there is a significant impact, so somebody is making a judgment beforehand. I think that is something that we really need to challenge the Minister on. I hope that tonight he will be able to make a very clear commitment that statutory instruments will be accompanied by an impact assessment. I think it is quite clear that is what Parliament intended, and certainly what I think the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, intended.
I also agree with him in terms of PIRs. Certainly, I have been on committees where he has made this point before. What we tend to have now under these skeleton Bills—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, made this point—is legislation, then a debate on policy. Well, if it is going to be that way round, these PIRs are even more important and fundamental, particularly as we have heard in this debate. So we certainly support them, and I hope the Minister will be able to answer the question I have put to him.
I thank all three speakers. I first thank my noble friend Lord Hodgson; I know he takes this subject extremely seriously, as do I. It was a pleasure, albeit a gruelling experience, to give evidence to his committee. He knows my personal commitment on impact assessments is substantial; I do believe that they are important. As he said, I did have responsibility for it before the machinery of government changes, and I did my best working with the Regulatory Policy Committee to impress on other government departments the importance of producing impact assessments for some quite major pieces of legislation. Some Secretaries of State have chosen not to. My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, talking from a sedentary position here, has just said, “I hope you produced one for the Procurement Bill”.
So, let me address the points that my noble friend has made on Amendments 134ZA and 134B. I hope to explain to my noble friend why we are taking the actions that we are. Starting with Amendment 134ZA, my noble friend’s amendment seeks to reintroduce a duty to insert review provisions in secondary legislation by removing the Bill’s proposed exemption to Section 28 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015—which, as my noble friend said, was produced by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. It is amazing how these things come around.
It is correct that the Government should commit to review any new regulatory provisions that may arise from the use of powers in this Bill, including by secondary legislation. However, if we were to reintroduce Section 28, there are concerns that at a future date there will be a huge surge in the volume of reviews requiring assessment in a fairly limited window of time, which would put tremendous pressure on the Civil Service and independent resources. The amendment also calls for a requirement for a review within 3 years. This is in fact more frequent than the current review process of five years. It is my submission that, for some policies, a review at this point would be based on too small a data sample to make a meaningful judgment.
Finally, many of the relevant instruments are in an existing review cycle that is due to be undertaken within the next three years. I hope my noble friend will accept that forcing a further regulatory review would create duplicate or conflicting review cycles. Therefore, for new regulatory provisions introduced under this Bill, we are proposing a bespoke approach to our REUL analysis. Where applicable, such as when retained EU law is being amended significantly via a statutory instrument, departments may be subject to additional independent scrutiny. If the expected economic impact of REUL changes is of £5 million or more, departments will be expected to submit the impact assessment for independent scrutiny by the Regulatory Policy Committee, as in general happens now.
Where measures are being sunset, departments will undertake proportionate analytical appraisal. Each department will be expected to produce an aggregate analysis of REUL that it is choosing to sunset. This aggregate analysis will be published by departments. Each department’s aggregate analysis will be divided into groupings, such as “inoperable” or “defunct”. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Fox, will study my noble friend Lord Benyon’s famous examples with great interest for the impact on the fighting bulls of the West Country.
Should the total impact of any grouping exceed the de minimis threshold of plus or minus £5 million, which is the limit used, then the department should submit an impact assessment to the RPC for independent scrutiny. This approach balances efficiency by requiring reviews only where necessary, alongside delivering an ambitious programme of REUL reforms which we hope will deliver real economic benefit for UK businesses and citizens.
My noble friend’s other amendment, Amendment 134B, seeks to introduce a duty for departments to conduct a regulatory impact assessment when they lay a statutory instrument or a draft of a statutory instrument containing regulations via the powers in this Bill. To address the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, properly assessing the impact of government policy is an important principle of good governance, and this Government will continue to be committed to the appraisal of any regulatory changes relating to retained EU law. The nature of the appraisal will depend on the type of changes that departments make and the expected significance of the impacts.
Where applicable, such as when retained EU law is a regulatory provision and is being amended significantly via a statutory instrument, departments will be expected to put their measures through the Government’s systems for regulatory scrutiny, which is the better regulation framework. Where measures are being revoked, departments will be expected to undertake proportionate analytical appraisal. We are currently exploring the appropriate steps we can take to appraise the resulting impacts. Furthermore, the Government have, as the Committee knows, published an impact assessment relating to the Bill as a whole. The noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, referred to it extensively. In addition, an internal exercise is under way between departments and the Ministry of Justice to appraise potential impacts on the justice system from the Bill.
However, given that proper and proportionate cost-benefit analysis will be undertaken by departments in relation to amendments to retained EU law, and efforts are under way to understand potential impacts of sunsetting, I hope my noble friend will agree that there is no need to include in the Bill the amendment that he has proposed. I hope I have been able to reassure him and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister, to the Opposition Front Bench for its support, and to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for his inquiries. Clearly, my interviewing of my noble friend at the committee was not gruelling enough in the light of the answers he has given me, but never mind. I accept the three to five years issue.
Then I get quite excited, because I hear about a bespoke approach. That sounds quite good, but then we hear “proportionate” and “only where necessary”. So we will set up something that we all would agree is great—even my successor as chairman of the SLSC, my noble friend Lord Hunt—but then we have so many escape clauses. Although I would not say that it is not worth the paper it is written on, I would say words to that effect. However, it is late. I will read carefully what my noble friend the Minister said, reflect on it, and then decide what further action needs to be taken. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 134ZA withdrawn.
Amendments 134A and 134B not moved.
Clause 20 agreed.
Schedule 3: Regulations: restrictions on powers of devolved authorities
Amendment 135 not moved.
Schedule 3 agreed.
Schedule 4: Regulations: procedure
Amendments 136 and 137 not moved.
138: Schedule 4, page 37, line 37, leave out “1” and insert “(Exceptions to sunset under section 1)”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the Minister’s amendments at Clause 1, page 1, line 7 and After Clause 1. It also makes procedural provision in relation to subsection (1)(c) of new Clause (Exceptions to sunset under section 1).
Amendment 138 agreed.
139: Schedule 4, page 39, line 17, leave out “10” and insert “15”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment, together with amendment 140, would extend the period available to committees of the two Houses to discharge the sifting function provided for under the Bill, as recommended by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee in paragraph 59 of its 28th Report “Losing Control?: The Implications for Parliament of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill”.
My Lords, the horse is running to the stables, so I will not speak for a moment longer than is necessary. I shall speak also to Amendment 140. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for putting her name to these two amendments, and the noble Lord, Lord Hutton, who is not here, for also supporting them. They are concerned with ensuring that a proper amount of time is allowed so that both Houses of Parliament can scrutinise the proposed use of the serious powers given to Ministers under Part 3 of Schedule 4. They again follow recommendations made in the SLSC’s report on the Bill.
The powers are listed in paragraph 7(2) of Schedule 4, and it is worth while noting what they are. They are powers in Clauses 8, 12 and 13 to amend, repeal or revoke primary legislation; powers in Clause 15(2) to make subordinate legislation; powers in Clause 16 to update legislation; and last but not least, powers to create a criminal offence in Clause 15(2). We are talking not about parking tickets but about things that are serious.
The exercise of these powers is under the negative procedure, so unless somebody objects it goes through on a nod; it is not debated at all. However, the Minister has to lay a draft of the proposed regulation explaining why he or she thinks the negative procedure should apply, and either House has an opportunity to recommend that the matters concerned are of sufficient importance to warrant an upgrade to the affirmative procedure, which, in turn, would at least allow the regulations to be debated.
Each House will have a committee charged with assessing whether there should be such an upgrade. The procedure follows that established for the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2108, where the SLSC came to act as sifting committee of your Lordships’ House. Experience under the 2018 Act shows that the two Houses of Parliament generally ran on parallel tracks. Of the 329 proposed negatives under the Act, 50—15%—were recommended for upgrade by your Lordships’ House, and 57—17%—were recommended for upgrade by the House of Commons, and the Government invariably accepted the recommendations from either or both Houses.
Under the procedure of the Act, the period within which a decision or a recommendation to upgrade had to be made was 10 days. Experience under the 2018 Act was that the 10-day deadline could be pretty challenging, depending on a number of things: the business as usual that the committee has going through it, which has to be dealt with anyway in the weekly meeting; the 600 or 700 instruments that go through the committee every year; and the days on which the regulations were tabled or laid because, of course, Friday can be a sitting day or not. It can depend, and the period can be shortened quite a lot if two Fridays are counted as sitting days.
We pointed out in one of the committee’s reports that the purpose of the proposed negatives laid under the 2018 Act was comparatively limited, in that they largely concerned instruments intended to deal with correcting deficiencies in a retained EU law. The Hansard Society has suggested that scrutiny of the proposed negatives under this Bill may well amount to a more substantial function. Dr Fox of the Hansard Society said:
“What we are talking about here would be sifting of retained EU law regulations that delve into the realm of policy. They would be more politically salient than we have seen through the period since the EU withdrawal Act was passed.”
This is not just an internal parliamentary matter, because outside voices want to make themselves heard. We had a long and passionate debate led by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, about the environment, and we can see that if there is a proposed negative about the environment—just to take one area—there may be a number of outside bodies that wish to write to the SLSC and the sister committee in the Commons explaining their views. It is likely to attract quite a lot of attention in various of the areas that we will be looking at. The committee will then need time to assess the quality of those submissions and to meet before reaching a conclusion as to whether an upgrade was appropriate.
Given the likely volume of the draft regulations to be scrutinised, together with their likely importance, it seems right that there should be an additional five sitting days in which the committee and outside bodies can make their views known to the House of Commons sifting committee and your Lordships’ House. That is the reason for these two simple amendments to change “10” to “15” in the two places where “10” appears in the Bill. If the Government do not intend to try to marginalise further Parliament’s involvement in the Bill, I can see no reason why they cannot accept this very small and important amendment. I beg to move.
I thank the noble Lord for his excellent introduction. As very much a new girl on the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee now being very ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I put my name to this amendment because I am convinced by his arguments for this basically very modest and very practical pair of amendments. The arguments are based on experience, as the noble Lord has explained. Earlier today, the Minister indicated that it is the Government’s intention that a substantial number of pieces of legislation will be revoked and reformed and that we are not looking at a situation where there would be some exceptions to carry over.
Given the very tight time constraints—the Minister made it quite clear in an earlier letter to us that even he thought it was ambitious—we can confidently expect that the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee will face something of an avalanche of legislation towards the end of the year. For it to get its thorough job done properly, there needs to be this simple expansion of time available from 10 to 15 days; otherwise, the danger is that the committee will have to act in a way that is precautionary and might well make more comments necessary than if it were given a little longer to consider it. I urge the Minister to take this into account and to accept this amendment at a later stage of the Bill.
My Lords, in January I had the privilege of being appointed chair of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. In that capacity I support these amendments in the name of my noble friend and predecessor Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts—a very difficult act to follow, as he has just demonstrated once again. I greatly welcome the participation of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, who has already brought a ray of sunshine to the committee in dealing with some difficult and challenging problems.
Supported by our team of brilliant and highly experienced advisers, the committee reports week in, week out on secondary legislation laid before Parliament, covering every conceivable aspect of policy, directing your Lordships’ attention to the most notable instruments and providing valuable information in support of subsequent debates on those instruments.
As we have heard, under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 the committee was charged with an additional function—the scrutiny of what are called proposed negative instruments laid under a new sifting mechanism. The committee had 10 days to report on these proposed instruments and, to its immense credit and that of its staff, it rose to the considerable challenge of meeting that demanding deadline under the leadership of my noble friend.
As we know from the committee’s recent report on the Bill, however, this was not an easy matter. As the report warned,
“depending on the day of the week on which a proposed negative has been laid, meeting that 10-day deadline could be challenging.”
This Bill makes similar provision for a sifting mechanism. It will apply to the exercise of powers under Clauses 12, 13 and 15. As with the 2018 Act, the Bill does not name the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee as the committee to be charged with this sifting function. That is, of course, a matter for the House.
I know your Lordships will understand that in making the following points I do not mean any discourtesy or to pre-empt any decision of the House. Under the sifting mechanism in the Bill, the reporting period is again 10 days. If that period represented a challenge under the 2018 Act, which involved regulations with the limited purpose of dealing with deficiencies in retained EU law, how much greater will be the potential challenge where regulations under Clause 15, for example, may make “alternative provision” for secondary retained EU law? Such regulations may well require the sifting committee to probe further into the new policy underlying the alternative provision—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, I understand, and reiterated by my noble friend a few moments ago.
That in turn may include the committee having to solicit further information from departments and consider submissions from outside bodies before it can come to an informed and considered view. I realise that my noble friend the Minister may well be worried that, in giving any concession here, he might open the door for a read-across into other departments, but this is a very special case and I want to make it clear that there is no read-across here.
The capacity of the SLSC to meet a 10-day deadline has been amply demonstrated. The committee would not expect the full 15 days for every proposed negative instrument—far from it. What is being asked for in Amendments 139 and 140 is an extension of the deadline in recognition of the fact that the Bill has the potential for generating more complex and far-reaching policy changes, through instruments subject to the sifting mechanism, than the 2018 Act has. From time to time, there will also be occasions when the longer period is needed if the House is to receive the full benefit of the opportunity for more effective parliamentary scrutiny that the sifting mechanism provides.
I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister and his colleagues will accept the force of the argument and take these considerations seriously. At the end of the day, we all want Parliament better to do its job in the public interest, so I support my noble friend.
Uncharacteristic but very welcome—I hope he does not take that the wrong way.
We support this measure, for the reasons that have been very well laid out about giving stakeholders a chance to get involved. We do not think that accepting one of these amendments or something like them would affect the Government’s ability to fulfil their objectives.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, made some good points about the argument regarding practicality, based on experiences laid out very well in the committee report. I thought her concerns about the unintended consequence of sticking with 10 days—that it might actually make the process slower because more things would get referred—were strong. Her point about the need to probe policy that may come about as a result of the SIs coming from this Bill has persuaded us as well.
I would have thought this was something on which the Government could accept a change and bring something back on Report. If they do not, we will be happy to work with noble Lords on all sides to try to table something ourselves. I think this may perhaps be an occasion where the Government could show willing, and listen and respond positively.
I thank the speakers. We have finally reached the last grouping, which is a source of considerable relief.
Amendments 139 and 140, tabled and ably moved by my noble friend Lord Hodgson, both propose introducing further scrutiny procedures for legislation made under powers within Clauses 12, 13 and 15. Both amendments would essentially do the same thing: they propose extending the period of time after which legislation is made under these clauses and is subject to scrutiny from the House of Commons and the House of Lords as part of the sifting procedure. Specifically, they seek to extend the time limit within which both Houses can make recommendations on the appropriate procedure used for the instrument laid as part of the sifting procedure.
As drafted, the relevant committees of the Lords and the Commons have 10 sitting days, as both my noble friends and others said, to make recommendations on the appropriate procedure after an instrument has been laid. This is actually in line with the level of sifting under the EU withdrawal Act. I note my noble friend’s comments that it was not enough time, but I was impressed by the incredible work that the committee did during that time and I do not recall it being a particular issue.
The sifting procedure has been purposefully drafted as a safeguarding measure, which allows for additional scrutiny for the use of the powers, while retaining the flexibility of using the negative procedure where there are good reasons to do so. However, the Government do recognise the importance of ensuring that legislation undergoes the appropriate level of scrutiny. It is certainly something that I am personally committed to.
I thought both my noble friends Lord Hunt and Lord Hodgson made powerful arguments, so I will undertake go away and reflect. I will probably have to do some difficult work to convince the business managers of this; they want to manage their programme of SIs accordingly, so I cannot make any promises. But I assure my noble friends that they made powerful arguments, supported by others across the House, so we will have a look at it, because the appropriate scrutiny is important. There will be a big programme of statutory instruments. I know that there are lots of suspicions about the Government having some malevolent objectives in all this, which is not the case, but it is important that Parliament has its say.
If my noble friend will withdraw the amendment this evening, I undertake to go away and consult further with colleagues in government and the business managers and see what we can do on this.
I am grateful for all the support for this amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised the issue of the precautionary principle: if in doubt, upgrade it if we do not have enough time to think about it. I think that is very important. My noble friend Lord Hunt rightly pointed out that it will depend on what committee does it. It might choose not to use the SLSC, but the 15 days would apply, whichever committee it was taken to, so I do not think it is taking anything for granted. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, again for her support from the Labour Front Bench.
I say to my noble friend the Minister that, when you spend a lot of time on the Back Benches pushing hard on a door, if suddenly the door is opened you fly forward, all out of control. I am very grateful to him for agreeing to take this away and think about it. I am sure that, with his persuasive powers and his commitment, which he has given to the SLSC in the past, about the proper level of scrutiny through assessments and so on, he will be able to persuade the business managers, the Bill team and whoever else has to be persuaded that this amendment should be made. I am very grateful to him for concluding Committee on an upbeat tick, and with that I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 139 withdrawn.
Amendment 140 to 141A not moved.
Schedule 4 agreed.
Clause 21: Interpretation
Amendment 142 not moved.
Clause 21 agreed.
Clause 22: Commencement, transitional and savings
Amendment 143 not moved.
144: Clause 22, page 23, line 40, leave out subsection (5)
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment removes an exception from the Clause 1 sunset. The exception is contained in new clause (Exceptions to sunset under section 1).
My Lords, if Amendment 144 is agreed, I cannot call Amendments 145 or 146 for reasons of pre-emption.
Amendment 144 agreed.
Amendments 145 and 146 not moved.
Clause 22, as amended, agreed.
Clause 23: Extent and short title
Amendment 147 not moved.
Clause 23 agreed.
Bill reported with amendments.