This is entry No.34, first published on 29 March 2011, of a blog on public bodies reform. Click here to view the whole blog.
The second day of debate on the Report stage of the Public Bodies Bill in the Lords yesterday (see here) saw the Government lose two divisions, firstly (by 225 votes to 162) on an amendment to remove the Youth Justice Board from Schedule 1 (bodies which can be abolished by order) and, secondly (by 198 votes to 191), on an amendment to insert the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council and also the Civil Justice Council into Schedule 2. Whilst these latter bodies are still in Schedule 1 and the Government remains intent on their abolition, so rendering the second of these defeats rather less interesting, the deletion of the YJB from Schedule 1 is really quite striking. As at the Committee Stage, all contributions to the debate other than the Minister's were against the Government, with Lord Woolf notably describing it as a sacrilege to take out of the civil justice system something that works and introduce something that has not worked and not been tried. Lord McNally for the Government made clear that he had no concessions to offer and that the Government did not concede that the establishment of an executive agency would be appropriate or proportionate.
A further division was held in relation to an amendment concerning S4C which the Government won (162 votes to 197). The debate on that amendment allowed a detailed discussion to be held in relation to that body and Welsh language broadcasting. Later debate on other amendments yielded further insights into the Government's position on the OFT and Competition Commission (now added to Schedule 2), the Library Advisory Council, the Broads and National Park Authorities (the consultation on them will now be held after the local elections), Passenger Focus, Ofcom, the Advisory Committee on Public Records, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority.
In addition, though the amendment did not appear actually to have been reached, Lord Taylor of Holbeach for the Government indicated at the end of the debate that he had added his name to, and signified Government agreement to, Amendment No.72 which will introduce a sunset provision into the Bill by providing that reference to particular bodies in the Schedules will lapse after 5 years. A Government amendment (No.60) was also passed enabling (but not requiring) orders made under the Bill concerning a particular public body also to remove that body from the Schedules, thereby removing the Damocles sword which would otherwise still hang over such a body once it has been dealt with by such an order.
Those interested in the general subject of sunset clauses may also be interested to study the new BRE Guidance on sunset regulations which the BIS Minister, Mark Prisk announced in the Commons on 22 March (see here)
The report stage will next continue on 4 April.
Here is an updated scorecard of amendments considered on Report:
Agreed: 1,6,8,11,19,20A,22,25,26,28,30,32,34B,35,37,42,44,45-47,51,53,55,57,58,59 and 60
Not moved: 12,17,18,21,21B,23,24,27,33,34,36,38,41,43,48,50,52,54 and 56
Withdrawn: 3,4,5,9,10,16,20,21A,21C,31,34A,39,40 and 49
Disagreed: 7,13,16A and 29A.