Last week I wrote about the Public Bodies Bill and the power grab it makes to let the government change the law in future without proper Parliamentary control, similar though on a smaller scale to what Labour proposed previously with the so-called Abolition of Parliament Bill. David Howarth echoed these concerns at the weekend:
The Public Bodies Bill might not presage the end of parliamentary democracy in the way the 2006 Bill did, but it is a sloppy, lazily drafted bill that assumes, just as the 2006 Bill did, that those in power are all good chaps who would never abuse the powers assigned to them. It must be radically amended before it becomes law.
Yesterday, in an unusual sequence of events, the House of Lords showed its own dislike of the proposals, as Lord Norton has reported:
Lord Lester of Herne Hill [a Lib Dem] moved a pavement amendment for a later amendment to limit ministerial powers. In the light of the minister’s assurance that he would look again at the issue, Lord Lester sought to withdraw his amendment but as some peers objected, the question had to be put. In the event, the amendment was carried by 235 votes to 201.
The procedural process all ended up rather topsy turvy but there is good news in the widespread hostility in the Lords to the provisions, especially in the light of the report published yesterday that the government amendments on this issue so far do not yet go far enough:
The House of Lords Delegated Powers Committee Sixth Report on government amendments to the Public Bodies Bill, published today, has found that Government amendments brought forward so far to the Public Bodies Bill fail to address concerns about parliamentary scrutiny raised in its earlier report.
The Committee draws attention in the report to the ‘exceptionally broad nature’ of the powers proposed to be delegated to Ministers and finds that the Bill ‘has not been amended effectively to specify or limit the purposes for which the powers in these clauses may be exercised.’ The Bill therefore ‘remains a skeleton Bill, despite the enhanced procedural requirements,’ the report states.
The Committee has particular concerns about the proposed power in clause 11 which covers 150 bodies or offices. The report says, ‘If the House can find no over-riding reason or exceptional circumstances which justify the inclusion of clause 11 and Schedule 7, the Committee recommends that they should be removed from the Bill.’