Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Localism Bill – Commons committee stage


There has been a raft of interesting judicial decisions recently, which have been the subject of several posts here over the past few weeks. This has distracted my attention from the rather more mundane contents of the Localism Bill, to which I hope to return over the coming weeks.

The committee stage of the Bill commenced on 25th January, but two sitting days were wasted in useless question-and-answer sessions with ‘witnesses’ (representatives of various interested organisations). This comparatively recent innovation is a complete waste of valuable parliamentary time, when debate could have been proceeding on the provisions of the Bill itself. I doubt very much whether this useless exercise left the members of the committee any better informed about the detailed provisions of the Bill, which it is the committee’s job to examine and amend.

Debate on Clause 1 of the Bill eventually got under way on 1st February, and it will be some time before the committee reaches the planning provisions in the Bill (Part 5, comprising clauses which are presently numbered from 89 to 120, and Schedules 8 to 13). The committee must complete its deliberations by 10th March, a bare five weeks away, which is a woefully inadequate time allowance for the proper scrutiny of this massive Bill, which contains a total of 207 clauses and 24 schedules and runs to 406 pages of text.

I will keep an eye on the committee proceedings when Part 5 of the Bill (and the corresponding schedules) are reached, but I fear that very little improvement will be achieved in what already appears to be a poorly drafted Bill.

© MARTIN H GOODALL

1 comment:

Mark O'Sullivan said...

I agree about the procedures. Indeed, the way that recent governments have stuffed their legislative programmes (sometimes it feels as if it's simply in pursuit of media coverage), and the way sabres have been rattled recently over guillotining the Lords, it can only be a matter of time before we start finding serious problems of faulty legislation.

Maybe some sort of prior challenge process would help, requiring provisions which are repetitive or of feeble effect to be more rigorously justified. I wonder if the planning enforcement provision in the present Bill would fail such a test.