Both Baroness Murphy and Lord Soley have commented on the Public Bodies Bill, which comes up for its Second Reading on Tuesday. It is proving highly controversial and there is now a long speakers’ list for the debate. The principal problem with the Bill is what is known as an ‘Henry VIII’ provision: that is, ministers being given power to amend primary legislation by order. Instead of an Act of Parliament being amended or repealed by a later Act, a power is given to ministers to decide to change it. Such changes may be subject to an affirmative resolution procedure, but this is not wholly adequate, given that it involves at best a short debate and vote. There is also the point that the Lords does not usually employ its power to reject an order.
The Bill was discussed by the Constitution Committee on Wednesday and we issued our report on the Bill yesterday. It draws out the constitutional implications of what is proposed and why as it stands the Bill does not embody adequate safeguards.