Strathclyde Review under scrutiny…

Lord Norton

At the end of last year, Lord Strathclyde, the former Leader of the House, of Lords, undertook a review, at the behest of the Prime Minister, of how the House deals with secondary legislation.  The review was prompted by the House not approving (though it did not reject) the tax credit regulations.  The review was published in December.  When debated in the House, it came in for severe criticism. As I argued in the debate and in a post on my blog, the review is fundamentally flawed.  It derives from a false premise – that there is a convention that the House does not reject secondary legislation (there is no such convention) – and the focus was flawed.  It took the House of Lords as the problem, whereas the real problem is the executive seeking to use secondary legislation to achieve policy goals, thus by-passing the need for primary legislation and extended parliamentary scrutiny.

Today sees the publication of two reports on the Strathclyde Review.  One report is by the Constitution Committee, on which I serve, and the other is by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.  Both provide powerful critiques of the review.  As the Constitution Committee argues, the review was focused on the wrong questions.  ‘It consequently addressed the wrong issues.  We believe that the more serious concerns arising from the delegated legislation process are rooted in the relationship between Parliament and the executive’.  The Delegated Powers Committee reinforces this assessment.  Lord Strathclyde came up with recommendations, each one designed to limit the power of the House of Lords in dealing with secondary legislation.  As both committees recognise, if you limit the power of the House of Lords, you do not strengthen the House of Commons (which does not have the time to engage in sustained scrutiny of secondary legislation) – you strengthen the executive.  That is why Lord Strathclyde’s review is not some minor technical report – it is actually quite dangerous in seeking to constrain the capacity of Parliament to call government to account.




2 comments for “Strathclyde Review under scrutiny…

  1. MilesJSD
    29/03/2016 at 6:39 am

    Lord Norton – thank you, it is a near-gordian-knot constitutionally-inaccessible “cancer” on all of our houses.

    This ‘secondary-legislation’ procedure and scrutiny-limitation is simply “stupefying” to any would-be sustainworthy-permanently-low-income-participatory-democrtacy ciizen or individual;

    I mean, where the heck is there any “democratic flow chart” that we can all gain ‘sense’ from ?

    I mean, the Constitution and “Rules” act as Trade-Winds for the sails of the miniscule-few bloated-rich, whilst “whirlpooling” all the majority of us wojuld-be-democratic-citizens “down the drain”.

    You are the Expert on Democratic-Procedure and History; where is our
    ‘ The Citizen’s How-To-Self-Democratize Map & Flow-Chart of 24/752/Lifespan British Democracy’ ?

    { I mean, if we havn’t one such, then “our democracy” happens way above our heads, on the other side of God’s Heaven-Hereafter, and/or beyond our reach deeper than Satan’s Hell Itself }.

  2. MilesJSD
    31/03/2016 at 8:46 am

    This ‘level-of-legislation & therefore of constitution’ “puzzle’ also raises in one’s mind the question of Democracy’s continuous need to be self-improving: both the abilities of the People (continuously) and the fitness-for-purpose of the Constitution and of Legislation (continually).

    For instance, what ‘survival’ legislation would be required to both “emergency-wise” limit every individual to the one-sufficient-weekly-income (of the currently-legislated £150 per week); and (probably) urgently up-date the constitution for the longest-term ?

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