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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 08:02 GMT


UK Politics

Legislative winners and losers

At least 80 acts of Parliament have been given royal assent since Labour came to power

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott may be among those celebrating after the Queen's Speech if his transport bill is included in the government's new timetable of legislation.

It is popularly perceived that Mr Prescott, who heads the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, has been among the ministers who have not had their fair share of legislation included in this government's two previous Queen's Speeches.

In fact the DETR benefited from four acts of Parliament being passed in 1999 and a similar number in the previous year.


[ image: John Prescott's department has benefited from environmental legislation]
John Prescott's department has benefited from environmental legislation
The majority of the acts were more concerned with environmental matters or devolving power to the Greater London Assembly - areas which were previously governed by the old department of the environment.

The transport side of the DETR has done less favourably. The Railways Bill was one of the two bills which fell in the 1998-99 session of Parliament.

But it is not as if Mr Prescott is losing out to his cabinet colleagues.

There have been at least 80 acts that have received Royal Assent since Labour came to power and around a tenth of them have been devoted to the DETR.

The Queen's Speech
During the 1997-98 session there were 53 government bills, of which 52 received Royal Assent and the one that did not, the European Parliamentary Elections Bill, was reintroduced and passed in the 1998-99 session.

In the last session of Parliament, 31 government bills were introduced and so far 28 have received Royal Assent.

How other departments have fared

The Treasury has had a similar number of bills passed to the DETR but many of these are bills which must be passed on an annual basis, such as the Finance Bill, or Budget.

The Department of Social Security has had a modest number of acts passed so far despite the reform of the welfare state being at the heart of Labour's modernising agenda.

The controversial Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill only just made it on to the statute books.

The bill, central to Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling's reforms, only completed its passage through Parliament after a "ping-pong" battle between the Commons and the Lords with only a few days to go before the end of the parliamentary session.

And David Blunkett's Department of Employment and Education had only two acts affecting it passed in 1998 and two acts in 1999.

However, one winner could be seen as the Home Office.


[ image: The Scottish Parliament now creates the majority of Scotland's legislation]
The Scottish Parliament now creates the majority of Scotland's legislation
Jack Straw's department has been involved in about 10 pieces of legislation passed since Labour came to power, ranging from the ban on handguns to powers to this year's Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act.

The Home Office also looks to be a winner in this year's Queen's Speech.

It has been predicted that Mr Straw's proposals for freedom of information legislation and a new criminal justice bill will be included in the next session of Parliament.

But ministries which consider themselves to be losing out may take comfort from the departments which have seen their powers devolved to assemblies in Scotland and Wales.

There will be no solely Scottish bills in the Queen's Speech or any legislation that affects only Wales.

In the past, the Northern Ireland Office has been affected by more new acts than most departments.

That includes the emergency anti-terrorism measures introduced when Parliament was reconvened during the summer recess following the Omagh bomb in 1998.

It will be a mark of the success of the peace process whether the UK Parliament continues to legislate for the province or its legislation is made by its own assembly.



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