This is entry No.5, first published on 22 November, of a blog on Public Bodies Reform. Click here to view the whole blog.
The curtain comes up on Day 1 of the Committee proceedings in the Lords tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday 23 November) and no less than 181 amendments and new clauses have now been tabled for debate: see here
The marshalled list of amendments is, not surprisingly, dominated at least in numerical terms by proposals to leave out various specified public bodies from the ambit of one or more of the Schedules to the Bill but perhaps the most noteworthy proposals tabled are the new clauses tabled for the Government by Lord Taylor of Holbeach substituting a form of super-affirmative procedure for the affirmative order-making procedures currently to be found in clauses 10, 12 and 19. This would mean orders being subject to prior consultation (minimum 12 weeks) outside Parliament, then being laid with a detailed explanatory document and with Parliament having the option to require, within a 30 day period, a 60 day examination period prior to any affirmative resolution and obliging the Minister to have regard to any representations, any resolution of either House and any Parliamentary committee report before deciding to proceed to an affirmative resolution, either on the order as originally laid or on a revised order. In essence, this is similar to the procedures for orders under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006: see here. Such a procedure will necessarily slow down the order-making process but, as proposed, the public consultation could take place before the Bill is enacted so helping progress to be made in the interim.
Lord Taylor has also tabled an amendment to clause 8 (No.108) requiring Ministers to consider in deciding to make an order under clauses 1 to 6, the extent to which functions need to be exercised independently of Ministers, this being intended to respond to the concerns expressed at Second Reading about those bodies which exist specifically to act impartially of government.
Amongst the numerous other amendments tabled are amendments from the Opposition front bench seeking to preserve public accountability functions (e.g. audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General), their version of provisions for consultation and super-affirmative procedure and new clauses to require cost benefit justification (No.180) and introducing a "sunset provision" killing off the Bill, once enacted, after 5 years (No.181). Lord Lester of Herne Hill and Lord Pannick have also put their names to a number of amendments designed to constrain the powers of the Bill ,as has Lord Greaves amongst others.
The House will be considering the Bill in accordance with an instruction of 16 November (see here) in the following order: Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clause 2, Schedule 2, Clause 3, Schedule 3, Clause 4, Schedule 4, Clause 5, Schedule 5, Clause 6, Schedule 6, Clauses 7 to 11, Schedule 7, Clauses 12 to 31. After Tuesday, the Committee stage is expected to continue on 29 November and 1 December.