Public Bodies Bill – the continuing debate

Lord Norton

I agree with Lord Knight’s assessment of the Public Bodies Bill.  It is making slow progress through the House.  This is in part because of time being taken by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill and also because peers are keen to discuss the bodies included in the different schedules of the Bill.  A number are proving especially controversial.   The attention given to the Bill’s provisions are entirely appropriate. 

The Bill raises signficant constitutional issues, not least because of the provisions of Schedule 7.  This constitutes a Henry VIII provision, a point I have developed in a previous post.  It enables ministers to repeal primary legislation by order.  In other words, a body established by statute – having been considered by Parliament in some detail – can be removed by an order moved by a minister, which may receive little or no debate in Parliament – possibly no debate in the Commons and debated but not voted on in the Lords. 

The Constitution Committee, as Lord Knight, mentions issued a critical report on the Bill, one that largely shaped debate on Second Reading.  Schedule 7 has few friends in the House.  I have given notice of my intention to oppose it remaining the Bill.  I have support from all parts of the House.  Not only does it appear largely friendless in the House, it does not appear to enjoy glowing support from members of the Govermnment either.  When Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, appeared before the Constitution Committee last month, we asked him about Henry VIII provisions.  He made clear that he rather agreed with the criticisms of them expressed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and he referred to the quasi-judicial bodies included in Schedule 7 which the Government have now agreed to remove.  However, not only did he concede that they should come out, but added: “I have already said that we have taken out of Schedule 7 a whole raft of bodies in my area that really should never have been there in the first place.”

For good measure, he also said:  ” I would have thought that to put something in the schedule just in case some future Government wants to vary the statutory powers, with the wisdom of hindsight I would have said that you’ll never get that through the House of Lords.  But there we are.”

With friends like that…   Like Lord Knight, I suspect the Government may be close to conceding that the Schedule (and Clause 11, which gives effect to it) should be removed from the Bill.  In respect of this Bill, I think the House is doing exactly what it should be doing.

7 comments for “Public Bodies Bill – the continuing debate

  1. Lord Blagger
    05/02/2011 at 9:21 pm

    You’ve passed Ermächtigungsgesetz acts in the past.

    Why are you getting upset about the current acts as a consequence?

    If you’ve failed in the regulation of parliament in the past, what’s your problem now?

  2. Gareth Howell
    06/02/2011 at 2:53 pm

    Schedule 7. This constitutes a Henry VIII provision,……. It enables ministers to repeal primary legislation by order

    And I agree with neither.

    The above was itself only a matter of received opinion.

    The schedule does not seem controversial at all, just thoroughly ill worded, for whatever purpose.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      07/02/2011 at 12:30 pm

      Gareth Howell: Schedule 7 is a Henry VIII provision – as detailed by the Constitution Committee – and certainly is controversial, as witnessed by the comments of former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, the current Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and acknowledged by Ken Clarke; which is why the Government has moved already as far as it has to amend the Schedule. The wording of the Schedule is such as not really the issue.

  3. Gareth Howell
    08/02/2011 at 11:28 am

    I have given notice of my intention to oppose it remaining (in)the Bill.

    Certainly for professorial tidiness that is wise to do.

    The wording of the Schedule as such is not really the issue. No! and it would make a useful philosophical study to examine the real meaning of them (the wording)and noble Lord Woolf and Judge’s response to them, and their purpose in doing so.

    It can not be the purpose of legislators to discuss the totally confused meaning of the parliamentary draftsmen’s words, only to delete the Schedule itself.

  4. Gareth Howell
    08/02/2011 at 11:30 am

    Oops sorry

    I have given notice of my intention to oppose it remaining (in)the Bill.

    Certainly for professorial tidiness that is wise to do.

    The wording of the Schedule as such is not really the issue.

    No! and it would make a useful philosophical study to examine the real lack of meaning of them (the wording)and noble Lord Woolf and Judge’s response to them, and their purpose in doing so.

    It can not be the purpose of legislators to discuss the totally confused meaning of the parliamentary draftsmen’s words, only to delete the Schedule itself.

  5. Carl.H
    10/02/2011 at 7:16 am

    It certainly appears the Government does not have a lot of faith in Quango’s, possibly correctly I don’t know, but then you can find this:

    Tuition Fees
    “Any institution wanting to charge more than £6,000 per year will have to negotiate an annual access agreement with the Office for Fair Access (Offa).”

    “Offa, which was set up in 2004, had never imposed any such sanctions thus far, which begged the question whether it would be sufficiently robust with universities in the future.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12409428

    Lib-Dems = Candy from kids.

  6. MilesJSD
    milesjsd
    25/02/2011 at 2:14 pm

    What tangled webs you do weaave !

    However, spanking-new and up-to-speed Caroline Lucas (Lower House, Greens) speaks for us shut-outs as well as for all those be-layered sideways and upwards members around and above her there:

    1. Give the People a pre-explanation, in the Peoples’ language, of each Issue and Matter as you come to it;

    and de-mystify rather than further-fog matters, as you go along.

    (JSDM’s paraphrase).

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