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The Week in Parliament

It’s going to be a fairly short one this week- it’s been a bit dry in the legislatures. Nothing from Wales, nothing from Scotland. Perhaps the biggest news story this week is the delay of the Environment Bill, which looks set to not now pass before the autumn session. Just in time for a certain climate conference perhaps? The Environment Bill looked to be the progenitor to a lot of climate related consultation, but for now it’s on the back burner. Keep an eye out for its return later this year.

Westminster

In the last couple of weeks there has been a minor cabinet reshuffle- so minor in fact that most probably haven’t noticed it. Alok Sharma, who until 8th January was juggling the twin positions of Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and President of the COP26 Climate Change Conference has been relieved of the first of those two positions and will now focus exclusively on COP26. His replacement as Secretary of State is Kwasi Kwarteng, something of a rising star in the party. Kwarteng’s appointment has been record-breaking on several levels, primarily by way of being the first black male Secretary of State. I believe he may also have set an additional record by undertaking one of the quickest u-turn after appointment.

After news of Government moves to reduce workers rights now we have left the EU broke the Government was quick to deny the reports. The Financial Times claimed that the government were consulting business leaders on ending the 48-hour working week, changing break rules and potentially removing overtime pay from holiday pay entitlements. Naturally, there was an outcry, with opposition politicians describing the plans as a disgrace.

Given their initial denial (though they did a few days later, rather sheepishly, admit that they were looking at them), it was then perhaps slightly surprising when the new Business Secretary turned up on Robert Peston’s show to tell him that the review wasn’t happening anymore. The cancellation of the consultation got me thinking- what is the best way to cancel a consultation? Is there a best way? Obviously in the best of worlds a consultation is so well prepared that there is no need to cancel it, but if you do, then how should you? Answers on a (disinfected) postcard to the usual address please.

Northern Ireland

Continued interesting debate at Stormont about the problems with legislating during Coronavirus. The inability to properly consult on regulations before they are made, it was acknowledged, had had impacts on the legislative process. Interestingly, the NII Executive (at least if their statements are to be believed) seem to be taking a slightly different tack to the London Government. Whilst in Westminster the habit has been for Government to make the regulations, then if they’re lucky Parliamentarians get to see them long after they would have any opportunity to do anything useful to them, in the Assembly the minister highlighted the importance of allowing extra debate time for members to debate regulations, to ameliorate concerns over the lack of stakeholder consultation. Given some of the failings of the UK Government’s regulations over the pandemic, perhaps they might be well advised to look at the NI model.

About the Author

Stephen serves as the Institute’s Legal and Parliamentary Officer. Before joining the Institute Stephen studied Law at Bangor University and pursued a Masters’ degree in Aviation and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal. After this, he returned to London and was called to the bar in 2016 at the Honorable Society of Gray’s Inn, before deciding not to go into practice and move towards public policy work instead. Within the Institute, Stephen provides legal, political and policy analysis of UK and global current affairs of interest to consultors and consultees.

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