Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

31.35In the House of Lords, there is a committee to inquire into the merits of statutory instruments.1 It was originally called the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee but was re-named in 2012 to reflect the widening of its responsibilities to include the scrutiny of orders laid under the Public Bodies Act 2011. The Committee consists of 11 members. Its terms of reference are to consider instruments subject to affirmative or negative resolution in the House of Lords (subject to the same general provisos which apply to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments) and to determine whether the special attention of the House should be drawn to an instrument on the grounds that it is politically or legally important or raises issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House; that it may be inappropriate in view of changed circumstances since the passage of the parent Act; that it may inappropriately implement European Union legislation; that it may imperfectly achieve its policy objective; that the explanatory material laid in support provides insufficient information to gain a clear understanding about the instrument's policy objective and intended implementation; or that there appear to be inadequacies in the consultation process which relates to the instrument.2 The Committee is also responsible for reporting on draft instruments and memoranda laid before Parliament under ss 8, 9 and 23(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 for as long as there is power to make instruments under those provisions (see Chapter 32).

The Committee can report an instrument to the House under one or more of the grounds set out in the previous paragraph; or produce a short overview paragraph for the information of the House; or clear it without comment. The Committee seeks to consider instruments within 12 to 15 days of laying, in order to leave plenty of time for Members to give further scrutiny to negative instruments within the 40-day prayer period. The Committee welcomes written evidence on instruments which meets this timetable. If an instrument raises exceptionally important issues and the timetable for parliamentary consideration allows, the Committee may issue a more general invitation to submit views, or hear oral evidence, for example from the responsible Minister.3

The Committee is also empowered to examine and report on general matters relating to the effective scrutiny of statutory instruments.4


  1. 1. LJ (2003–04) 66.
  2. 2. HL 115 (2002–03); LJ (2002–03) 547; House of Lords Procedure Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2013–14, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, HL 167. See also para 40.50.
  3. 3. For example, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Twelfth Report of Session 2009–10, HL 70; Fifth Report of Session 2009–10, HL 32.
  4. 4. For example, Merits Committee, Thirtieth Report of Session 2008–09, HL 180.