The Week in Parliament
Westminster now seems to be back in more or less full swing, and we are starting to see the return before Parliament of several of the key Government bills trailed before the coronavirus emergency kicked off.
Much of the new legislation is functional enabling legislation related to Brexit (remember that?!). In the Lords particularly, increasing concern is being raised about the Governments legislation, much of which is coming before the House in a relatively skeletal form, with the major provisions to be filled out later using secondary legislation powers, that allow ministers to promulgate regulations without going through the complete parliamentary scrutiny process.
Although secondary legislation has always been a vital part of the functioning of the country, peers have been raising concerns in the house that the lack of detail in primary legislation being brought is an attempt to undermine proper parliamentary scrutiny by denying MPs and Lords the opportunity to have their questions and concerns responded to in the House. In addition, much of the primary legislation is being drafted at present without requiring consultation on the subsidiary regulations- often a key requirement.
Outside of this, and again in the Lords, there has been deep consideration of the proposed Corporate Governance and Insolvency Bill, particularly focussing round the issue of consultation with employees on insolvency related issues. Employers are already required to consult employees on redundancy related matters under the Trade Unions Act 1992, but concerns have been raised that the new bill provides a prime opportunity to strengthen these provisions, given that many companies have historically found it cheaper to not consult and pay compensation than to keep the company going until proper consultation has been undertaken. Here at the Institute we don’t often deal with private consultation, but it seems clear that there are often issues that don’t meet the standards we believe should apply.
The row over the merger of the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has continued to rumble away, with the revelation that the announcement was made without union consultation and that many employees only found out about it from the media. Lord Newby, a Liberal Democrat peer also raised further concerns that of the 400 NGOs that work frequently with DFID, none reported being consulted. Whether these protests end up maintaining their momentum, or whether they fall by the wayside in an increasingly frenetic news cycle remains to be seen.
In the devolved administrations, it was remarkably quiet this week, with no mentions at all in the Welsh Parliament, and only minor ones in Scotland and Northern Ireland, so no dispatches from there this week.
As always, if you have any questions or stories you think I should look at please do drop me a line at stephenH@consultationinstitute.org