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Last Updated: Monday, 6 February 2006, 16:30 GMT
Red tape law 'must not be abused'
Red tape
The committee wants powers to block some laws being amended
Ministers must not be allowed to abuse proposed laws aimed at cutting red tape, a Commons committee has said.

It wants extra safeguards drafted into the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, due to be debated on Thursday.

The bill aims to speed up the process by which redundant laws are changed and allows them to be amended on ministers' orders, without parliamentary scrutiny.

The Commons Regulatory Reform Committee said it was "the most constitutionally significant bill" for some years.

[The bill] provides ministers with a wide and general power that could be used to repeal amend or replace almost any primary legislation
Andrew Miller MP

It is pressing for the power to monitor all laws amended by ministers, so it can veto any it decides need further parliamentary intervention.

The committee also wants certain laws protected from the changes.

Andrew Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said: "This bill must be scrutinised with particular care.

"Our report recognises that there is widespread support for removing redundant regulation and costly red tape.

"But the problem many people will have with part one of this bill, as drafted, is that it provides ministers with a wide and general power that could be used to repeal amend or replace almost any primary legislation.

Departments blamed

"That can't be right. We need extra safeguards," he said.

The committee also blamed government departments themselves for the need to introduce the new laws.

Mr Miller added: "Our report demonstrates that the current parliamentary procedures are not responsible for delaying regulatory reform orders.

"Our evidence shows that departments themselves are slow in identifying the unnecessary regulations, in bringing the proposals for orders to Parliament and in making the orders once Parliament has made its recommendation on individual reforms."

He said the government should accept the need for departments to be "assessed annually on their progress in removing unnecessary regulations".

Cabinet Office Minister Jim Murphy said the government would consider the recommendations "carefully".

"The Bill is a response to repeated calls on Government to tackle red tape from sources as diverse as small businesses, industry leaders, charities and voluntary organisations, frontline public sector staff, and the opposition parties.

"We recognise the need to get the balance between powers and protections right - and that effective parliamentary scrutiny is essential. We will listen carefully to the views of Parliament and seek its support in achieving the right balance."

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