Arcane delegated legislation needs radical reform, not a plaster over a gaping wound
The House of Commons Procedure Committee announced its proposals for a new “sifting committee” to be set up. This committee would determine whether delegated legislation arising from the EU (Withdrawal) Bill requires further scrutiny by MPs.
Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, said:
“The Procedure Committee’s proposals, while recognising the need to fundamentally rebalance power away from ministers, put a plaster over a gaping wound. It’s hard to imagine how this piecemeal reform will bring the root and branch changes that are so desperately needed. The whips’ power is conspicuously left untouched, and the changes proposed are only temporary. For there to be proper scrutiny of Statutory Instruments in the House of Commons, power has to be taken from both the government and the party whips, and put in the hands of Parliament.
“Yes, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill makes the need for change more urgent, but that change is needed even without it. For years campaigners have been calling for root and branch reform of a system that leans heavily on arcane procedures at the expense of democratic scrutiny and accountability. The Hansard Society’s ‘Taking Back Control’ set out how Parliament should pragmatically reform the scrutiny of delegated legislation, offering robust proposals that could feasibly be implemented right now - even with the time constraints posed by Brexit.
“In a democracy power must be balanced with accountability and scrutiny. If the government wants delegated powers on the untold scale it is asking for, it must submit itself to robust scrutiny by Parliament. We welcome that this will be a continued area of focus for the Committee, but if now is not the time for reform then when? There is a real impetus for reform at the moment and the Committee must not let this opportunity pass by. Unfortunately, the piecemeal reforms proposed by the Procedure Committee do not go near enough to achieving an acceptable level of scrutiny for delegated legislation on such an unprecedented scale.”
In June 2017 Unlock Democracy won funding from a consortium of trusts and foundations to coordinate civil society’s response to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. That civil Alliance currently has over 70 members, reaching thousands of organisations. More information about the Alliance can be found here: https://repealbill.org/