Friday, June 26, 2020

Ros in the Lords - Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2020, Motion to Approve

Never let it be said that you don't learn anything here at Liberal Bureaucracy. It would be fair to say that a piece of Northern Ireland specific legislation might not normally draw an intervention from Ros, but sometimes context is important.

Ros sits on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, a deeply obscure Parliamentary Committee which consists of members of both Houses, and its role is to consider statutory instruments made in exercise of powers granted by Act of Parliament. One of the key aspects is to decide whether or not a Statutory Instrument is ultra vires or not.

This particular Statutory Instrument had, to put it mildly, drawn some ire from the representatives of Northern Ireland, as well as the anti-abortion lobby generally, and it had been suggested that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments should have acted in a manner beyond its remit.

And so, Ros went into bat for the Constitution and due process...

Baroness Scott of Needham Market
My Lords, I am a member of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. As we received a high volume of correspondence on these regulations — indeed, it has been mentioned in the debate today — I thought it might help the House if I briefly outlined the role of the committee. Our role is to draw the attention of Parliament to statutory instruments on technical grounds, including retrospection, defective drafting and the scope of enabling powers. The merits are strictly not within our scope.

For this order, it is apparent that the strong differences of opinion include on whether it is within the enabling powers. However, the opinion of the committee was that we were unable to report this SI to the House as being outside the scope of enabling powers. This is not to argue that it is within them, but it is to say that these debates need to take place on the Floor of the House to preserve the political independence of the Joint Committee. The merits and the law of this instrument need to be decided by the House in debate, as it is today.

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