The Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee says that UK Ministers should not be able to make law in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Government. But the Committee also argues that there must be a process for MSPs to scrutinise Scottish Ministers’ decisions before consent is given.
The Committee has published its first report on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and makes a series of recommendations.
In particular, the Committee says that Ministers should not use the broad powers conferred on them under the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to make policy changes. Moreover, Ministers should not legislate in a way that undermines the opportunity for Parliamentary scrutiny and public engagement.
Commenting on the report, Delegated Powers and Law Reform Convener, Graham Simpson MSP said:
“We are strongly of the view that the Bill should be amended so that UK ministers can only legislate in devolved areas with the consent of devolved governments.
“However, there needs to be a process for the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise Scottish Ministers’ decisions before consent is given.
“Legislation can be taken through by different routes and we want governments to co-operate when deciding how to handle these decisions and we want legislatures to be able to scrutinise those decisions.
“We also note that there is specific protection for the Northern Ireland Act and we think that should also apply to the Scotland Act 1998.
“It is essential that legislatures have an opportunity to apply thorough scrutiny to regulations made under these powers. The scrutiny process should not be compromised.
“Good law will only be made where Parliament can scrutinise it and where the public has a proper opportunity to shape it.
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The Explanatory Notes to the Bill state that the Bill performs four main functions. It:
- repeals the European Communities Act 1972;
- converts EU law as it stands at the moment of exit into domestic law before the UK leaves the EU;
- creates powers to make secondary legislation, including temporary powers to enable corrections to be made to the laws that would no longer operate appropriately once the UK has left the EU and to implement a withdrawal agreement; and
- maintains the current scope of devolved decision-making powers in areas currently governed by EU law.