Back to work this week on my Select Committee, Merits of Statutory Instruments. Our job is to scrutinise weekly the delegated legislation made under the authority of an Act (that is, the detailed stuff that makes the Act work) and see if any of the statutory instruments fail to achieve their objectives, or should be drawn to the attention of the House because they have exceptional policy implications or inappropriately implement European legislation or are otherwise defective. We also look in general at the way these statutory instruments are made and communicated to those who are affected. We study over 1000 of them each year, and friends who come to my home at the weekend are amazed to see the pile, several inches high, which is delivered each week for me to go through over the weekend. There are about a dozen Lords on the committee and each of us brings to bear our individual expertise on the legislation.
We have certainly had some successes. We managed to delay Home Information Packs for a while, and were sorry not to have been able to persuade the government to drop the idea altogether. We blocked the building of a mega casino in Manchester. This week, we spotted that the Department for Transport has attempted to exempt domestic train services from some new duties contained in European rail passengers’ regulations – namely, about information to be provided to passengers, obligations in the case of cancellations and delays, security and complaints. For once, the carrying out of some European law would be truly beneficial, so why should the Department fail to implement it? We seek an explanation.
And some really good news. A statutory instrument has ended the obligation to set a deadline after which we could no longer refer to imperial units. We can now carry on indefinitely referring to miles, yards, feet, pints of beer and milk! This is so welcome to those of us educated before metric measurements and to all those who still think of babies in pounds and ounces and land in acres. It takes a possible burden off business too.