Update on the Deregulation Act and EDF briefings

The Deregulation Act 2015 received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015.

Background information:

In January 2015, the Equality and Diversity Forum submitted a briefing to the House of Lords Report stage of the Deregulation Bill on clause 2 and a briefing to the report stage reading in the House of Lords of the Deregulation Bill on clause 89.

In February 2014, the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) submitted a briefing to the Committee stage of the Deregulation Bill on clauses 2 and 61-64.

Measures in the Deregulation Bill include the removal of employment tribunals’ power to make wider recommendations.

The Bill was published for pre-legislative scrutiny as the Draft Deregulation Bill on 1 July 2013.

The Cabinet Office announcement states that the Deregulation Bill amends or repeals 182 different pieces of legislation, removing unnecessary burdens on three key groups.

Businesses

The Bill frees businesses from red tape by:

  • scrapping health & safety rules for self-employed workers in low risk occupations, formally exempting 800,000 people from health and safety regulation and saving business an estimated £300,000 a year
  • putting a deregulatory ‘growth duty’ on non-economic regulators, bringing the huge resource of 50 regulators with a budget of £4 billion to bear on the crucial task of promoting growth and stopping pointless red tape
  • making the system of apprenticeships more flexible and responsive to the needs of employers and the economy, as recommended by the Richard Review. The Bill will remove a lot of prescriptive detail in the current legislation and clarify the employment status of apprentices. An implementation plan for apprenticeship reform will be published in September.
  • removing employment tribunal judges’ power to issue wide recommendations to businesses brought before them

Individuals and civil society

It makes life easier for individuals and civil society, including by:

  • reducing the period for which someone has to live in their social housing to qualify for Right to Buy from 5 to 3 years, expanding their availability to a further 200,000 households
  • scrapping heavy-handed fines for people who make mistakes putting out their bins
  • deregulating the showing of ‘not-for-profit’ film in village halls and community centres, making it easier for small charities and community groups to hold film nights
  • devolving decisions on public rights of way to a local level, which will cut the time for recording a right of way by several years and save almost £20 million a year through needless bureaucracy

Public bodies

It reduces bureaucratic requirements on public bodies including:

  • removing prescriptive requirements on local authorities to consult and produce various strategies, giving them more freedom from central control
  • freeing schools from pointless paperwork and prescriptive central government requirements

The Bill also brings forward a new mechanism which would allow Parliament to identify and remove uncontroversial legislation more speedily.

Joint Committee on the  Draft Deregulation Bill

The Joint Committee on the Draft Deregulation Bill published its report on the Bill on 19 December 2013. The report recommends that the proposal in the draft Bill to allow Ministers to make orders to scrap legislation if they consider it ‘no longer of practical use’ be removed from the Bill on the grounds that the power is ‘too wide and the safeguards are inadequate’.

The Committee recommend that rather than giving Ministers the power to remove legislation, as proposed in the draft Bill, the Law Commissions should be encouraged to bring forward an annual Statute Law (Repeals) Bill, in consultation with Government departments. This would provide the flexibility to allow departments to repeal legislation in areas of concern to them with the benefit of the expertise and independence of the Law Commissions.

Clause 2 of the Draft Deregulation Bill relates to the removal of the power for Employment Tribunals in discrimination cases, where there has been a finding of breach of the Equality Act 2010, to make a wider recommendation. This clause is a particular concern for NGOs, with the Equality and Diversity Forum believing ‘that the power remaining would “lead to less litigation rather than more” and that if recommendations are implemented properly it could save employers future costs’ (submission to the Joint Committee cited on page 61 of the report).

The  report does not recommend removal of clause 2, however it states that the Committee ‘received large amounts of evidence on this clause, much of which highlighted the fact that the power has been rarely used in the short time it has been in existence’ (p60).

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s parliamentary briefings on the Bill are available on the Commission’s website.