Coalition drops plans to allow Ministers to scrap quangos without consulting Parliament

The Government has abandoned plans to give ministers sweeping powers to scrap quangos without consulting MPs.

From the Telegraph:

The Public Bodies Bill has been proposed by the Coalition to allow ministers to abolish almost 200 public bodies including the Audit Commission and the Film Council.

It would also give ministers extensive new legal powers to order changes to another 150 public bodies using secondary legislation, meaning they could be abolished without further parliamentary approval.

Such powers are often called “Henry VIII” powers in reference to the Tudor monarch’s autocratic rule.

After a report by the Lords Constitution Committee, which said they would give ministers too much power, Conservative whip Lord Taylor of Holbeach told peers that the controversial schedule would now be dropped:

I can confirm to the House that the government have accepted the arguments that bodies and offices should be listed in the schedules of this Bill only where Parliament has given its consent in primary legislation.

This is welcome news, as David Howarth MP wrote back in November:

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.

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  • Ian Goodacre 2nd Mar '11 - 7:11pm

    I agree this is really good news.

    Hopefully Jeremy Hunt’s abolition of the Film Council (the last project it financed was “The King’s Speech” which has already made a huge amount of money and is likely to make a lot more after the Oscars, Baftas etc etc – I hope Mr Hunt is feeling just a little shame!

    Also, from what I’ve read, Eric Pickles’s abolition of the Audit Commission seems to have all the marks of an act of personal political spite, and it would be nice if it could had least be re-considered – but I’m not holding my breath!

    Are there any judicial reviews pending on these two decisions? (c.f. challenges to Michael Gove’s decisions)

    As a Liberal Democrat I feel very uneasy indeed about my party being expected to support decisions like these (cf Tuition Fees – which seems to have been an absolute disaster – with the £6K (not 9K) maximum, subject to satisafactory bursary schemes/free of fees years etc – a compromise which seems to be falling apart already, with the recent statement of intent from Exeter University – a non-Russell group one – which seems in really dire straights over very draconian indeed cuts to its Arts and Humanities funding.

    I’m sure a lot of other universities are in Exeter’s position.

    It would be nice to hear from Simon Hughes on this one.

  • Andrew Suffield 2nd Mar '11 - 7:33pm

    The original proposals were extraordinary in their attempt to appropriate power to the Executive.

    I wish this was extraordinary, but it isn’t. Over the past few years, there have been a surprisingly large number of bills that contained a clause of this form in the first reading. In every instance it was thrown out by parliament, which is completely unsurprising. The fact that they’ve continued to appear after the change in government leads me to suspect that what we have is a rogue bureaucrat somewhere in the drafting process, who is going around adding these things to every piece of paper that crosses their desk.

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