Thursday, November 04, 2010

House of Lords Committee slates the Public Bodies Bill

It appears that, in their haste to reduce the number of quangos that exist, the Coalition or, to be precise, Francis Maude, has rather overstepped the mark. In a savage attack, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution asserts that the Bill "strikes at the very heart of our constitutional system", and "hits directly at the role of the House of Lords as a revising chamber.".

So, what does the Bill do? It grants extensive powers to Ministers to abolish, to merge, to modify the constitutional arrangements of, to modify the funding arrangements of, to modify or transfer the functions of, or to authorise delegation in respect of a very significant number and range of public bodies.

There is a catch, in that the majority of these bodies were created by statute, indeed some of them by Royal Charter, and the idea that they might be abolished or significantly altered in scope or function by ministerial order, rather than by legislative amendment and debate in Parliament, strikes at the notion that only Parliament may amend or repeal primary legislation.

And the organisations affected by the legislation are not a bunch known only to bureaucratic anoraks, they include such 'obscure' bodies as the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Children's Commissioner, the Competition Commission, the Health and Safety Executive and Passenger Focus.

So I think that we have a right to be concerned when the Select Committee concludes;

"We fail to see why such parliamentary debate and deliberation should be denied to proposals now to abolish or to redesign such bodies."

They intend to closely monitor the progress of the Bill. I suggest that we ought to as well...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad someone has picked up on this. It's not so much a Bill as a bundle of ministerial order-making powers to do whatever they want with a very long list of public bodies (most of which have their own enabling Acts etc) set out in the schedules.

I can't help thinking that in another era, current Government Ministers (both ours and Tories, but libdems especially) would be shouting 'abuse of power' and 'executive takeover' from the rooftops if anything like this came before Parliament (think of the fuss over the Regulatory Sanctions Act for example by Howarth et at all).

But we live in strange times!