I ask my noble friend Lord Lansley to withdraw his amendment to Clause 13, and I commend that Clause 3 stand part of the Bill.
Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lexden) (Con)
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My Lords, I have received requests to speak after the Minister from the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Lansley.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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I will raise just two topics. The first is trust; the Minister regretted that the Committee did not trust the Government on this. We have to remember that when very wide legislation is placed on the statute book, it can be used by a later Government to its full extent, whatever the current Government intend—in this instance, in relation to regulator autonomy. We have plenty of examples of that; the most glaring at the moment is the legislation being used to cover the hundreds of statutory instruments on coronavirus restrictions. Very clear statements were made to both Houses of Parliament when that legislation went through about the circumstances in which it would be used. That has been completely ignored to cover the biggest deprivation of civil liberties in peacetime, for circumstances that the legislation was never intended to be used. The Committee is entitled to be entirely sceptical about very broad expressions in statute.

My second point relates to letters. I received one letter, yesterday at 5 pm, so I have not seen many of the letters which have been referred to. It is extremely difficult, when letters come out at 5 pm on a Sunday and we start the next Committee day the following working day, to have any chance of tracking down whether any letters have been issued. As far as I understand it, the Library does not operate in real time and there is no real-time way to interrogate how things are laid there—even if these letters were laid in the Library, which I have no idea about.

The reason Ministers write letters in Committee is that they have failed adequately to deal with an issue at that stage. When the Minister handled the last group of amendments last Wednesday, he said that he would answer it very briefly, as it was getting late, and would write. Whomever he addresses the letter to, when he writes, he is writing to the whole Committee, and it is only right and proper—and this always used to be the case—that all other Members taking part in the Committee get a copy of it. It is additionally laid in the Library so that the rest of the House has access to it.

We have lost sight of how to conduct our business properly—partly because hybrid proceedings make it more difficult for us to run things down completely in Committee, but there are always cases where you cannot run things down in Committee and have to rely on subsequent correspondence. The way the Minister’s civil servants are operating this letter-writing procedure is depriving the Committee of its ability to operate effectively.