MPs want ‘to end flawed bills too big for scrutiny’

Speaker John Bercow is among those who have been pushing for better remuneration. Picture: PA
Speaker John Bercow is among those who have been pushing for better remuneration. Picture: PA
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A NEW code of standards for legislation should be adopted to improve the quality of laws produced by the Westminster parliament, a report by a cross-party committee of MPs has recommended.

The political and constitutional reform committee has warned that wide-ranging bills introduced by governments risk becoming “too big to be scrutinised” properly.

The committee’s Labour chairman, Graham Allen, said poor-quality legislation caused problems for the public when flawed new laws are implemented.

The report said: “We conclude that the majority of poor-quality legislation results from either inadequate policy preparation or insufficient time being allowed for the drafting process, or a combination of the two.”

The MPs accepted that “the introduction of large multi-topic bills is, on occasion, a legitimate and appropriate use of parliamentary time”.

But the report said: “Multi-topic bills risk becoming simply too big to be scrutinised effectively.”

Mr Allen said: “Within this inquiry the committee has considered what we, as parliamentarians, can do to improve legislation. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that poor quality legislation is not simply a problem for parliament, but can be the cause of problems for our constituents.”

The MPs called for a code of legislative standards agreed between parliament and the government, with a parliamentary committee having an oversight role examining the quality of laws.

They called for a delay between the end of a bill committee taking evidence on legislation and beginning the process of line-by-line scrutiny to allow MPs enough time to consider what they have heard and to draft amendments. The report said ministers and parliament should agree a test for identifying constitutional legislation, and the government should explain why any bill has not been published in draft for scrutiny before it comes before the House of Commons or House of Lords.

Commons leader Andrew Lansley said: “Making good law is the government’s objective and my personal responsibility.

“The challenge is to legislate in a way which effectively, simply and consistently promotes the interests of the people we serve, without creating delay or uncertainty.

“Reform has to be tested and proven. There is a need to add value, not just change for change’s sake. In the last couple of years, we in government have made a lot of progress. We continuously aim to deliver better legislation and improve legislative standards.

“More post-legislative scrutiny of acts would help us reach the objective of making laws as good as we can.

“Parliament, government and all political parties can work together to make our law-making more effective and more usable. We will give careful consideration to the committee’s report.”

MPs quids in

Members of Parliament are in line for a pay rise of up to £20,000, in a move that could spark public fury.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is considering an increase of between £10,000-£20,000, although the lower figure is considered more likely.

The hike would be partly offset by curbs to their gold-plated pension schemes and personal expenses.

Speaker John Bercow, is among those who have been pushing for better remuneration, warning that the Commons must attract people from all backgrounds.

Ipsa is due to deliver its initial proposals for consultation next month, although the main changes will not come into effect until after 2015 election.