Monday, 18 November 2013

Legislation in limbo

Thanks to a post on the Lords of the Blog website by Lord Norton of Louth, I now know that there are 147 pieces of legislation, sections or schedules of Acts which have received the Royal Assent since 1977, which are not in force because the necessary Commencement Order has not been made or Statutory Instrument laid. The full list obtained in a parliamentary answer in the Lords is here. (The term "full list" may be a misnomer, judging by Lord McNally's introductory remarks.) The list includes two Acts which had not been brought into force at all. The Mortgage Repossessions (Protection of Tenants etc) 2010 was brought into operation since that parliamentary answer, but nothing seems to have been done about the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 2010.

It is not alone in limbo. The Easter Act 1928 is a famous example. This would fix the date of Easter, but requires the agreement of both Houses of Parliament before a Commencement Order can be issued. Since this agreement has never been obtained (too many bishops in the Upper House?) it has never come into force. However, the reason for the 2010 Act being in limbo is obscure. According to the preface to an explanatory note issued in March 2010 to our legislators (pdf here)

This Bill would disentangle insurance proceeds payable to an insolvent company or
individual from insolvency proceedings. This makes it easier for a person injured by the
insured to access the proceeds of insurance policies payable to the debtor. It is a largely
uncontroversial measure, previously proposed by the Law Commission and Scottish Law
Commission, and, following consultation, has widespread support from the majority of
stakeholders. It applies to the whole of the United Kingdom

The Bill was part of the new, expedited procedure for bringing through Parliament, Law Commission Bills that command widespread consensus and support. It addressed situations of real hardship. It originated in the Lords, where, in committee, there was a reference to a quibble by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, but otherwise nothing to obstruct its smooth passage. In the Commons, it was welcomed by both sides of the House with no debate.  So why has it not been brought into force?

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