Commons committee backs code of standards for legislation

Parliament and government should agree a Code of Legislative Standards to improve the quality of laws produced at Westminster, according to a report published yesterday by the Political and Constitutional Reform committee.

By CivilServiceWorld

23 May 2013

The report calls for a new parliamentary committee to ensure the code is followed, and to scrutinise the Cabinet’s Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee.

The report notes that there has been “repeated criticism in recent years, from a variety of sources, about both the quantity and quality of legislation.” It concludes that “the majority of poor-quality legislation” is caused by substandard policy preparation; lack of time for drafting; or a combination of these factors.

Committee chair Graham Allen said: “It is important not to lose sight of the fact that poor quality legislation is not simply a problem for Parliament, but can be the cause of problems for our constituents.”

The report recommends that there should be a gap of a week between the end of a Public Bill Committee taking evidence on legislation, and the beginning of line-by-line scrutiny, to allow MPs enough time to consider evidence and the government time to draft necessary amendments. It also calls on government to give an explanation when any bill is not published in draft form for pre-legislative scrutiny; when a multi-topic bill is introduced; and when emergency or fast-track legislation is introduced.

Andrew Lansley, leader of the Commons, said that government has already implemented a number of reforms to improve legislation, such as increasing the number of bills published for pre-legislative scrutiny; introducing the public reading stage; and adding explanatory statements to amendments.

He said: “We will give careful consideration to the committee’s report and respond formally in due course.”

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