Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Lords should retain power to reject secondary legislation

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) last week published the report of its inquiry into the Strathclyde Review of the House of Lords’ role in scrutinising secondary legislation.

Background

Following the vote in the House of Lords on 26 October 2015 on the draft Tax Credits Regulations, the Government commissioned Lord Strathclyde to conduct a review of Parliamentary procedure relating to secondary legislation. In his report, Lord Strathclyde set out the following three options for reform and recommended the third:

  • Option 1 would remove the House of Lords from any scrutiny of secondary legislation. 
  • Option 2 would re-frame an earlier convention governing the Lords’ power of scrutiny so that its ability to reject secondary legislationwould be “left unused”.
  • Option 3, recommended by Lord Strathclyde, would require newlegislation to remove the Lords’ power to reject a statutory instrument, but also to allow the Lords to ask the House of Commons to “think again”.

Inquiry and published outcome

The SLSC conducted a short inquiry into the implications of LordStrathclyde's review and has published its report today.

The Committee rejects all of the three options for a change to the way the House of Lords scrutinises secondary legislation.

The Committee recommends that the Lords should retain its power to reject secondary legislation, albeit only in exceptional circumstances.

The SLSC heard evidence from a number of witnesses, including LordStrathclyde himself, other peers, the Leader of the House of Commons, Dr Ruth Fox of the Hansard Society and Professor Meg Russell of UCL’s Constitution Unit.

In the light of the evidence, the Committee sees strong arguments for re-affirming the current “convention”, that the Lords should retain its power to reject a statutory instrument. It also sees a need for a broader review of how secondary legislation is scrutinised by Parliament to make it more effective.

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