SESSION 2001 - 2002
NINTH REPORT OF THE EXAMINER OF STATUTORY RULES
THE APPROPRIATE COMMITTEES
DATED 22 MARCH 2002
Agriculture and Rural Development
(S.R. 2002 No. 72)
Health, Social Services and Public Safety Committee
(S.R. 2002 No. 46)
Regional Development Committee
(S.R. 2002 No. 65)
Social Development Committee
(S.R. 2002 Nos. 56, 57, 59, 64 and 67)
In accordance with the revised delegations under Standing Order 41 given to the Examiner of Statutory Rules by the appropriate Committees in October and November 2001, I submit my report on the statutory rules listed in the Appendix. At the same time, I am sending a copy of this report to each of the Departments concerned.
All of these statutory rules are subject to negative resolution.
I draw the attention of the Assembly and the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee to the Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowances Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 (S.R. 2002 No. 72) on the ground that they breach the 21-day rule (that is to say, the long established rule of practice applying to statutory rules subject to negative resolution whereby the rule-making authority should allow at least 21 days between the laying of the statutory rule and its coming into operation): the regulations were made on 1 March 2002, were laid on the same date, and came into operation on 6 March 2002.
I asked the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for an explanation: its explanation was as follows-
"1. Thank you for your letter of 5 March 2002 about the breach of the 21-day rule in relation to the above regulations. As acknowledged by your letter, the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee were advised in advance that the Department was likely to break the 21-day rule on this occasion.
2. The main delay in bringing forward the 2002 regulations was that we were awaiting a final draft of similar regulations [Examiner's note: this is a reference to S.I. 2002/271 made on 11 February 2002] being made in England. Following this we were also required to seek legal clearance of our own draft by the Departmental Solicitors Office (DSO) before the regulations could be made. The advice from DSO was not received until 21 February 2002.
3. The limiting factor on this occasion was the need to process payments early enough to ensure that the money allocated to this scheme was used within the financial year. This usually means that payment processing must begin in early March. To have kept to the 21-day rule at this stage, notwithstanding the amendments suggested by DSO, would not have allowed enough compensatory allowance payments to be made to farmers by the end of the financial year. In the end, payments to producers were judged to be of higher priority than adhering to protocol.
4. To mitigate some of the delay the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee were provided with a near final draft of the regulations on 8 February 2002, more than 21 days before the rule was due to come into operation. This was done so that the Committee would still have a reasonable period of time in which to consider the proposed legislation. The Department also agreed that a final copy of the regulations would be provided to the Committee before the regulations were made. This copy was delivered by hand to the Committee Clerk on 28 February and the regulations were made and signed on 1 March 2002.".
So it seems that the Department has explained the breach of the 21-day rule reasonably satisfactorily in this case. In its favour, it laid the Regulations as soon as practicable after making them (on the same date, in fact); and it laid them before they came into operation. As a general observation, I would caution Departments against referring to their legal advice by way of an explanation: see my earlier remarks in Session 2001-2002 Fourth Report, dated 25 January 2002, at paragraphs 14 and 15.
- Accordingly, I draw attention to the Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowances Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 (S.R. 2002 No. 72) on the ground that they breach the 21-day rule, as subsequently explained by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. I also draw attention to the Regulations in passing on the ground that they impose a charge on the public revenues but I am satisfied that they do so under sufficient statutory authority.
- Subject to the points set out in paragraphs 3 to 5, there is nothing in the statutory rules covered by this report that requires to be brought to the special attention of the Assembly and the appropriate Committees under any of the grounds mentioned in Standing Order 41(5).
W G Nabney
Examiner of Statutory Rules
22 March 2002
(The attention of the Assembly and the appropriate Committees is drawn to those statutory rules marked in bold)
Travelling Expenses and Remission of Charges (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 (S.R. 2002 No. 46)
The Domestic Energy Efficiency Grants Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002
(S.R. 2002 No. 56)
The Social Security Pensions (Low Earnings Threshold) Order (Northern Ireland) 2002
(S.R. 2002 No. 57 )
The Social Security (Claims and Payments) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 (S.R. 2002 No. 59)
The Occupational Pension Schemes (Minimum Funding Requirement and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 (S.R. 2002 No. 64)
Century Street, Belfast (Stopping-Up) Order (Northern Ireland) 2002 (S.R. 2002 No. 65)
The Social Security (Claims and Payments and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 (S.R. 2002 No. 67)
Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowances Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002
(S.R. 2002 No. 72)