The implications of the UK Deregulation Bill for Wales

17 October 2013

The Draft Deregulation Bill (“the Draft  Bill”) was published by the Cabinet Office on I July 2013. The Draft Bill amends or repeals 182 different pieces of legislation, removing,  what the UK Government terms, “unnecessary burdens” on three key groups: businesses, individuals and civil society and public bodies. The Rt. Hon. Ken Clarke QC MP stated:

“I am as strongly in favour of sensible regulation as the next man, but only where it is necessary to prevent wrongdoing and protect the public. In recent years a mountain of unnecessary legislation has been piled onto the statute book, usually introduced with the most worthy motives. This regulatory burden wastes time and money for hard-working people and ties honest businesses and public bodies in bureaucratic knots”.

The Joint Committee on the draft Deregulation Bill (“Joint Committee), chaired by Lord Rooker, was appointed by both Houses of Parliament on 17 July 2013 to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny into the draft Deregulation Bill and the policies underpinning it. The Joint Committee comprises six MPs and six Peers. It will take written and oral evidence and make recommendations in a report to both Houses. The Joint Committee is required to make its report by 16 December 2013. The Joint Committee has invited interested organisations and individuals to submit written evidence as part of the inquiry. One question is What are the consequences of the draft Bill for the devolved administrations? The Joint Committee has also sought the views of the devolved legislatures, and has agreed to accept evidence from the National Assembly by the 11th October.

The UK Government argues that the main benefits of the Draft Bill would be to reduce or remove burdens on businesses and civil society and facilitate growth; reduce or remove burdens on public bodies, the taxpayer or individuals and to tidy up the statute book by repealing legislation that is no longer of any practical use.

On 7 October the Assembly’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee (“the Committee”) considered an advice note on the Draft Bill provided by Legal Services. This noted that:

“The draft Bill consists of 65 clauses and 16 Schedules.  Most deal with the removal of requirements that relate to specific subjects, which relate to varying degrees to the different parts of the United Kingdom.  As far as Wales is concerned, many relate to non-devolved subjects such as company law, insolvency and international shipping.  Others affect legislation that applies only to England.  More significant are those that affect the law of England and Wales on subjects such as housing and local government.  However, a preliminary examination of those detailed provisions suggests that care has been taken to limit the effect of those changes to England; see for example clauses 20 and 21 that relate to housing”.

However, it was drawn to the Committee’s attention that the provisions relating to Legislation no longer of practical use (clauses 50-57) do raise concerns. Clause 57(2) provides for  a UK Ministerial power to  repeal, by Order,  legislation in relation to any provision made by, or under, an Act the National Assembly but only to the extent that the repeal was an incidental, supplementary, consequential, transitional, transitory or saving provision. As it stands it  would require the consent of Welsh Ministers but not of the National Assembly for Wales. The same applies to Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Law Society of Scotland has also expressed concern about this.

The Committee has written to the chair of the Joint Committee stating:

“We strongly believe that there would be much greater democratic legitimacy if the UK Government were required to obtain the consent of the National Assembly, rather than the Welsh Ministers, before it repealed legislation made by, or within the competence of, the National Assembly”.

Article written by Alys Thomas