Bringing law into effect – or not

62137In a recent post, I mentioned the Question for Short debate I initiated on commencement orders.  As regular readers know, I am concerned by the number of Acts passed by Parliament which have provisions that have never been brought into effect.  If you want to know just how extensive, and what I have proferred as the solution, you can read the debate here or, if you wish to watch the debate – and get some idea of how Grand Committee operates – you can see it here: scroll to 2 hours into the coverage.  As I signal in the debate, I plan to pursue the issue.

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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8 Responses to Bringing law into effect – or not

  1. Jana says:

    A Sunset Act is an excellent idea, and would save a lot of time and confusion. Let’s hope someone brings one into effect one day. 🙂

    • Lord Norton says:

      Jana: I will keep working on it, though it may be an uphill struggle given the attitude of ministers, who may not feel inclined to dispense with their order-making powers.

      • Jana says:

        If ministers do feel that way it is quite silly, especially against the background of the eagerness of some to leap into unwarranted and ill-considered reform of other so-called anachronisms (such as the House of Lords).

        An Act of this kind would not dispense with ministers’ powers entirely, it would merely put a time limit on the exercise of them, and mechanisms could be put in place to allow for extensions of time in appropriate circumstances. It would provide the public with greater confidence in both legislative and governmental processes. The only difficulty I can see is where it might be seen that a minister is handed the keys to hold up, or effectively destroy, an enactment that for whatever reason he is against, but that effect is hardly lessened in present circumstances, and changes of government don’t seem to be clearing these nuisances off the shelves.

        It would also relieve relevant ministers of the theoretical need to consider whether to use a given power that may have been accumulating cobwebs for 60 years. (Not that I’m suggesting they in fact ever bother).

  2. tizres says:

    Is it true that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 won’t be brought into effect until Scotland passes their own version? Regardless, has a date for England and Wales been pencilled in yet?

    • Lord Norton says:

      tizres: I think the intention is to bring the provisions for same-sex marriage into effect in 2014 and for converting civil partnerships to marriage (for those who wish to do so) in 2015.

      • tizres says:

        Er, you think? Probably the best demonstration of the problem given that, if you’re not sure, how the heck are we supposed to know?

        Earlier this year I asked A Public Body for their help on legislation that may or may not affect my business. After a blinder of an impression of pass-the-parcel I was solemnly informed that only the courts can rule. Bit late then, thought I.

  3. maude elwes says:

    Same sex marriage is once again a move of undemocratic ruthlessness on a society that has openly stated, in vast majority, it does not want it. Scotland’s Salmond is turning into the same nasty duplicitous, stay in line creep, we have in the rest of the players.

    Scotland is, as was the rest of the UK, blatantly against this weird and ominous suggestion that homosexual relationships are equal to heterosexual marriage. Which it cannot be, as it does not resemble or have any expectation of resembling, the fulfillment of such union.

    So it having been put on the back burner for the duration is as it should be. Left for eternity if democracy is to rule. Meaning, what and why were the others Lord Norton suggests have not been resolved in fact. Could it be they too were unpopular and seen as miscreant in judgment?

  4. I think the greatest technical challenge resulting from the use of commencement orders to defer implementation may be in their destabilising effect upon subsequent legislation, which must be drawn up having regard to outstanding provisions of earlier acts, but often in ignorance of the full timetable.

    I’ve used this example elsewhere, but perhaps it will serve here to give a flavour of the resulting porridge:

    (e) 2001 c. 11; section 6B was amended by sections 9, 24 and 58 of, and paragraphs 9 and 10 of Schedule 2 and Part 1 of Schedule 7 to, the Welfare Reform Act 2009 (c. 24); sections 31, 113, 118, 119, 121 and 147 of, and paragraphs 56 and 58 of Schedule 2, paragraphs 15 and 16 of Schedule 3, Parts 1 and 12 of Schedule 14, to the Welfare Reform Act 2012 (c. 5) – of which only those made by section 113 (to subsection (1)(b)) are in force. Section 7 was amended by section 14 of, and Part 3 of Schedule 3 to, the State Pension Credit Act 2002 (c. 16); sections 28 and 49 of, and paragraph 23 of Schedule 3 to, the Welfare Reform Act 2007 (c. 5); sections 9, 24 and 58 of, and paragraphs 9 and 11 of Schedule 2, Part 1 of Schedule 4 and Part 1 of Schedule 7 to, the Welfare Reform Act 2009 (c. 24) (of which those made by sections 9, 31 and Schedule 7 are not yet in force); article 3 of S.I. 2011/2298; sections 31, 118, 119 and 147 of, and paragraphs 56 and 59 of Schedule 2, paragraphs 15 and 17 of Schedule 3 and Part 1 of Schedule 14 to, the Welfare Reform Act 2012. (c. 5), none of which are yet in force. Section 8 has been repealed by section 147 of, and Part 1 of Schedule 14, to the Welfare Reform Act 2012 (c. 5), but that repeal is not yet in force. Amendments have also been made by sections 1, 24, and 58 of, and Part 1 of Schedule 4 and Part 3 of Schedule 7 to, the Welfare Reform Act 2009 (c. 24); sections 31, 48, 113 and 147 of, and paragraphs 56 and 60 of Schedule 2, paragraph 12 of Schedule 7 and Part 12 of Schedule 14 to, the Welfare Reform Act 2012 (c. 5), of which only those made by section 113 are in force. Section 9 was amended by section 14 of, and Part 3 of Schedule 2 to, the State Pension Credit Act 2002 (c. 16); sections 28 of, and paragraph 23 of Schedule 3 to, the Welfare Reform Act 2007 (c. 5); sections 9 and 58 of, and Part 1 of Schedule 7 to, the Welfare Reform Act 2009 (c. 24), none of which are in force; sections 31, 113 and 147 of, and paragraphs 56 and 61 of Schedule 2 and Part 1 of Schedule 14 to, the Welfare Reform Act 2012. (c. 5), of which only those made by section 113 are in force.

    Some provisions may live entirely shadow lives, rather like virtual particles in quantum physics, having to be accounted for, yet never formally taking effect.

    Nonetheless, all legislation casts a kind of light on the actions and intentions of government, and I’m personally wary of any supposed simplifications to the legislative process which might to a greater degree leave implementation dates and details to ministerial discretion.

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