The Week in Parliament
The most important thing to come out of Parliament this week was of course the Coronavirus Act, which we have written about separately here. With that out of the way, this column can become a Coronavirus free zone!
Actually, that might leave us with a bit of a problem, as outside of that particular issue it has been a very quiet week as Parliament tees up for the Easter recess. In Westminster, the most prominent mentions of consultation outside of [ahem]… that thing, were with regards to the legacy of the Windrush scandal. This week saw the publication of the highly critical report, which was given a response by the Home Secretary, before the House moved on to discuss the proposed Windrush Compensation (Expenditure) Bill. One of the things the Home Secretary was keen to stress was that the compensation scheme being established and enable by the Bill had been arrived at in close consultation with the needs of the community. Several amendments were subsequently introduced to the bill with the goal of mandating this continued consultation, particularly to ensure its continued fitness for purpose and suitability. For the time being, the Minister has not accepted any of these amendments, however it seems likely that less binding promises will be made to ensure progress.
The Lords were primarily concerned with consultations over judicial pensions this week in the aftermath of the McCloud case that we have discussed passim. Discussing the need to re-consult stemming from that case, Ministers have again promised a new consultation coming ‘in the spring’. We’re hoping they might get on with it soon so they don’t end up running out of ‘spring’, given the number of promised consultations in this time scale! There was also an interesting little debate (very little actually) regarding the restructuring of Buckinghamshire Council, where the new Council is absorbing the full range of local authority responsibilities. An opposition peer highlighted the responses to a previous consultation on the creation of a Buckinghamshire unitary authority which very much objected to the idea. No real response was forthcoming from the minister, so it should be interesting to see how the new arrangements go down.
I’m afraid in looking at the devolved administrations I must bring us back down to earth with a bump, as the majority of the (still rather few) consultation mentions were with regard to the Legislative Consent Motions on the Coronavirus Bill. In both the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly a qualified welcome was given to the bill, the qualification being that there would usually be more of an expectation for consultation in developing its provisions. In light of the situation however, it was acknowledged that the need to act had to take priority over the need for political niceties. The Welsh Assembly was silent on the matter, indeed on consultation entirely this week, so no reports from there for now.
As we navigate the troubled waters we are bobbing around in, may I take this opportunity to wish you all good health and safety. As always, if you have any questions or would like to discuss anything further, please drop me a line at StephenH@consultationinstitute.org