A long debate

Lord Norton

As Baroness Deech has explained, we had a long debate on Tuesday on the Second Reading of the Public Bodies Bill.  We rose shortly before midnight.  Over 55 speakers participated.  Had each taken the 15 minutes to which they were entitled, we would have gone on for several more hours.  In the event, most speakers limited their contributions to ten minutes or less.

Some speakers focused on specific proposals in the Bill, not least those affecting particular bodies, but there was a clear theme throughout the debate: namely, that the ‘Henry VIII’ provisions of the Bill were unacceptable.  Though speakers accepted the ends of the Bill, there was little or no support for the means.   The report of the Constitution Commitee (see my earlier post) was frequently cited.   There was a powerful speech by the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, indicating that the inclusion of certain bodies in Schedule 7 of the Bill undermined the constitutional principle of the separation of the executive and judiciary.  By the time he sat down, it was clear that the Bill could not survive in its current form. 

I focused also on the constitutional aspects and why the Bill as presently drafted was inadequate and why Schedule 7 would have a chilling effect on the bodies listed and with the potential to undermine their capacity to operate independently of government.  The need to be independent is essential, not least for  bodies which may have to adjudicate in cases to which the Government is a party. 

In replying to the debate, the minister, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, bowed to the inevitable and announced that the Government would be bringing forward amendments to the Bill to meet the concerns of the House.

8 comments for “A long debate

  1. Howridiculous
    11/11/2010 at 12:31 pm

    Dear Lord Norton,

    As I mentioned in response to Lady Deech’s post, I listened to most of the debate and thought it was absolutely excellent with the most powerful speeches being about the general constitutional point rather than particular bodies.

    I too was impressed by Lord Woolf’s speech but think Clause 11 and Schedule 7 should be removed in their entirety rather than just have certain bodies removed from Schedule 7. If some were taken out of the latter, it would make the life of those left in even more difficult as people would think they were definitely to be amended in the future.

    I think the suggestion in your speech of a Public Bodies Bill every Parliament is an excellent one and very much hope that a way can be found to have Clause 11 and Schedule 7 removed from the current Bill.

    Howridiculous.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      12/11/2010 at 11:12 am

      Howridiculous: Many thanks. I shall be seeking in committee to have Clause 11 and Schedule 7 removed from the Bill. I’m pleased you like the idea of a Public Bodies Bill every Parliament.

  2. tory boy
    11/11/2010 at 1:20 pm

    Lord Norton,

    I was sad to hear of the death of Baroness Carnegy of Lour announced today by the Lords Speaker. I know she has taken leave of absence but she was very active in the house during her career not least recently on the Marine and Costal Access Bill. As Lord Norton used to sit with her in the chamber (when the Conservatives were in opposition), why did she take leave of absence? Had she been ill for a while?

  3. Lord Norton
    Lord Norton
    11/11/2010 at 2:03 pm

    tory boy: Yes, it was very sad news. She was always an active member of the House, not least in raising matters relating to Scotland. As you say, I used to sit next to her. She was not only a dedicated member of the House but also had a good sense of humour. Recently the demands of travelling each week all the way to the Lords became, I gather, a little too much for her and she took leave of absence. She will much missed.

  4. Senex
    11/11/2010 at 5:25 pm

    For those peers wishing to brighten our lives:

    http://newenergyfocus.com/do/ecco/view_item?listid=1&listcatid=32&listitemid=4556&section=Solar

    And for those finding things taxing:

    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/ots_taxreliefsreview.htm

    Some relief?

  5. Gareth Howell
    11/11/2010 at 5:39 pm

    inclusion of certain bodies in Schedule 7 of the Bill undermined the constitutional principle of the separation of the executive and judiciary.

    I may have missed a link to the Bill. I wonder why the above is so, and which the Bodies are?

    The importance of the subject is currently out of all proportion to public interest in it so far.

  6. Gareth Howell
    11/11/2010 at 6:00 pm

    inclusion of certain bodies in Schedule 7 of the Bill undermined the constitutional principle of the separation of the executive and judiciary.

    I wonder why the above is so, and which the Bodies are?

    The importance of the subject is currently out of all proportion to public interest in it so far.
    ==================== =============

    Looking generally at the Bill, it would seem that the effect will be to give the Permanent staff far more power to advise the minister.

    Far from one member of staff having day to day control over the meaning of the word “Bicycle” in the Road Traffic acts, the senior permanent staff will have the power to advise the minister of the value of all aspects of the Board or commission itself, including its very existence.

    Lord Woolf’s remarks are invariably very learnéd and I shall endeavour to consider the implications of Schedule 7, which applies itself to all the other schedules, apparently with adverse effect.

  7. Carl.H
    11/11/2010 at 11:16 pm

    Hmmm seems like Ministers will be not only able to bypass Parliament but the Electorate too !

    “The government will be able to transfer some powers from Britain to the EU without a referendum under new proposals, despite promising the public would get to vote on any such move.

    The new EU Bill says a minister will be able to simply state the transfer of power is not significant enough to merit a referendum in some cases.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11736570

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