As regular readers will know, I have been campaigning against Schedule 7 of the Public Bodies Bill. This is a ‘Henry VIII’ provision, enabling ministers to change primary legislation by orders (that is, secondary legislation). Some schedules of the Bill list public bodies that are to be abolished and others that are to have their functions amended or merged. Schedule 7, however, comprises public bodies that the Government have yet to decide what to do with them. This puts them in a form of living uncertainty – ‘death row’ as one peer put it. They include some quasi-judicial bodies.
I was among those peers voicing objections to the Schedule when the Bill came up for Second Reading and have been campaiging against it since. I tabled motions to remove the Schedule (and Clause 11 that gives effect to it). Opposition to the Schedule came from all parts of the House – the Opposition, the cross-benches (former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, made a powerful speech on Second Reading), and from peers on the coalition benches – I have been approached by various colleagues who are opposed to or worried about the clause.
Had the Government persisted with the Schedule, I intended to push it to a vote and was confident there would be a majority to get rid of it. In the event, the Government have bowed to the inevitable. On Monday, the minister, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, announced that the Government accepted that the Schedule should be removed from the Bill. He has therefore added his name to the motions to take Clause 11 and Schedule 7 out of the Bill. This is a great step forward and deals with the principal (though not the only) problem in the Bill.