The Government yesterday announced that it was not going to proceed with its proposal, as currently set out in the Public Bodies Bill, to allow ministers to decide the fate of some 150 Quangos without recourse to Parliamentary scrutiny.
The Bill is at committee stage in the House of Lords and will, when enacted, confer powers on Ministers in relation to certain public bodies and offices. These include powers to abolish and merge certain specified bodies and to modify the constitutional, funding and operational arrangements of other specified bodies. The relevant bodies are those listed in one of six schedules, according to their pre-determined fate.
However, if adopted in its present form, the Bill would also provide for a further 150 bodies and offices to have their future role and/or existence determined by ministers. Clause 11 gives ministers the power to move bodies from schedule 7 to one of the other schedules by way of secondary legislation.
This proposal prompted much debate and concern about the role of the executive as it represented a significant delegation of power to ministers. It would have created a means by which the executive could have made some fundamental changes to the roles and powers of the relevant public bodies without proper debate and consideration by Parliament.
By announcing its intention to remove clause 11 and schedule 7 from the Bill, the Government has accepted that public bodies should only be subject to constitutional change where Parliament has given its express consent via primary legislation.
The change will be welcomed not only by the public bodies listed in schedule 7 but also by legal commentators concerned about the ever-increasing devolution of powers from Parliament to the executive.