In the wake of the Referendum on Britain’s EU membership, the House of Lords Constitution Committee has launched an inquiry into the UK legislative process and invites the submission of evidence on key questions in relation to the preparation of legislation for introduction in Parliament.

In 2004, the House of Lords Constitution Committee published a report on Parliament and the Legislative Process. Following on from that report some time later, the House of Lords Constitution Committee launched a year-long inquiry on 16 September 2016 to consider how legislation is prepared by Government and scrutinised by Parliament.

The inquiry will be undertaken in four distinct stages:

  1. Preparing legislation for introduction in Parliament;
  2. The passage of legislation through Parliament;
  3. The delegation of powers; and
  4. Once legislation receives Royal Assent.

For each of these stages, the inquiry will consider how outside organisations and the public are currently involved in the process and how their role can be developed, including the possible use of assistive technology. The Committee will also consider the potential impact on the legislative process of the UK withdrawing from the EU .

As part of the first stage, the Committee invites written evidence in relation to the preparation of legislation for introduction to Parliament.

The questions the Committee is inviting evidence on include:

  • The effectiveness of current arrangements for delivering clear, coherent, effective and accessible draft legislation;
  • The improvements that could be made to deliver better and more understandable laws;
  • The impact that Brexit may have on the volume and type of legislation Parliament considers; and
  • Whether new technologies may be deployed to support the development of legislation and allow better consultation.

The Chairman of the Constitution Committee, Lord Lang of Monkton commented:

"How legislation is created and scrutinised is of vital importance. We need to ensure that bills reach Parliament in the best shape possible so the Parliament's limited time is not wasted on tidying up poor drafting or correcting ill-thought-out policy. It is increasingly being said that our laws are becoming too long, too complicated and that there are too many of them.

"The public and those affected by changes to the law increasingly expect to have a direct input into how those laws are made. We are interested to know how this can be facilitated, how their input can be most effectively used, and whether new technologies offer opportunities to improve that process.”

The need to consider this now is, of course, brought into sharp relief in view of the as-yet unknown impact of the Referendum on Brexit; a key argument in favour of which was greater self-determination in the setting of domestic laws. Three months on, there is no clear plan as to how this can be achieved and there remain more questions than answers.  On 2 October the Prime Minister announced at the Conservative Party Conference that she will soon put before Parliament a “Great Repeal Bill” which will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 from the date on which the UK formally leaves the EU.  It is intended that the Bill (once enacted) will also convert the existing body of EU law into British law and give Parliament the power “to amend, repeal and improve any law it chooses”, subject to international agreements and treaties.

Contribution of evidence in relation to the questions raised at this first stage of the inquiry from all sectors will be valuable in developing the direction of travel in this crucial area and can be submitted online here until 16 October 2016.

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Posted on 05/10/2016 in Legal Updates

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