The House of Lords should keep the authority to reject secondary legislation, a report from the Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has recommended.
The committee rejected all three proposals to curb the Lords’ power set out in a government-commissioned review by Lord Strathclyde after a series of defeats in the upper house.
The proposals were either to remove the House of Lords from any scrutiny of secondary legislation, to clarify the restriction on how its powers should be exercised, or to stop the Lords from being able to reject a statutory instrument.
The Strathclyde Review recommended the third option, which would still allow the Lords to ask the House of Commons to ‘think again’ if a disagreement exists.
Following evidence from witness, including Lord Strathclyde, other peers and the leader of the House of Commons, the committee said there are ‘strong arguments’ for keeping the current convention, which allows the Lords to reject a statutory instrument in exceptional circumstances.
Lord Trefgarne, chair of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, said: ‘Several of our witnesses, including Lord Strathclyde himself, raised the issue of the boundary between primary and secondary legislation, and a concern that a lack of detail in acts leaves too much to be implemented by statutory instruments.
‘If primary legislation presented by government is adequately fleshed out, subsequent secondary legislation will be subsidiary in the proper sense of the word, and unlikely to face serious parliamentary challenge.’
He said the current convention should be reaffirmed, in the knowledge that the Lords can make a ‘reasonable judgement’ of if and when it should challenge a statutory instrument.