Blog

Lifting the Lid: The Prison and Young Offender Institution (Amendment) Rules 2015

10 Nov 2015
null

Our ‘Lifting the Lid’ blog series aims to open up the delegated legislation process by revealing the stories behind some recently published Statutory Instruments. This week: The Prison and Young Offender Institution (Amendment) Rules 2015.

Joel Blackwell, Senior Researcher, Hansard Society
,
Senior Researcher, Hansard Society

Joel Blackwell

Joel Blackwell
Senior Researcher, Hansard Society

Joel conducts the Society’s continued research into the legislative process, the effectiveness of Parliament in scrutinising and holding the executive to account and the public’s engagement with politics.

He is co-author of 'The Devil is in the Detail: Parliament and Delegated Legislation'. Prior to joining the Hansard Society in 2014, Joel was a Political Consultant for Dods Parliamentary Communications and has also worked at the Electoral Commission. He graduated from Bristol University in 2005 with a degree in Politics and Social Policy.

Get our latest research, insights and events delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter

We will never share your data with any third-parties.

Share this and support our work

Up on the committee corridor this morning (10 Nov) was the rather innocuous looking First Delegated Legislation Committee where a group of MPs considered the Prison and Young Offender Institution (Amendment) Rules 2015.

This in fact represented the third attempt by Parliament in 16 days to block a Statutory Instrument (SI) and follows hot on the heels of the two controversial votes in the House of Lords on Tax Credit cuts and Individual Electoral Registration.

However, unlike the two SIs considered in the House of Lords, the SI debated today has very little chance of making it to a substantive vote on the Floor of the House due to a number of ‘quirks’ associated with the scrutiny procedure allocated to this type of instrument.

The Prison and Young Offender Institution (Amendment) Rules 2015 amend a previous instrument from 1999 following the outcome of a recent Supreme Court judgment which found that arrangements allowing prison governors to authorise segregation of a prisoner for periods longer than 72 hours were unlawful because the 1999 instrument required such decisions to be taken under the authority of the Secretary of State.

The revised rules allow governors in a prison, or young offender institution, to authorise continuing segregation beyond 72 hours for a period of up to 14 days (authority for which can be renewed for subsequent periods of up to 14 days). They also provide additional safeguards including a requirement for the Secretary of State to give permission before decisions can be taken to continue segregation beyond 42 days.

However, organisations such as the Howard League for Penal Reform have expressed concern over the amendments, particularly regarding the delay in the requirement for external review of a segregation decision from 72 hours to 42 days.

The Rules are subject to the negative procedure which means that it will become law on a stated date unless a ‘prayer’ motion (so called because of the precise wording used in the formal motion) is passed in either House annulling the instrument. If a member of either House wishes to reject a negative instrument they have to do so within 40 days of the instrument being laid before Parliament.

In the House of Commons, any member can table a ‘prayer’ as an Early Day Motion (EDM). These are motions for which no fixed parliamentary time has been allocated, and therefore whether they are heard is entirely in the hands of the government. If the official opposition tables a prayer motion there is some chance that it will be debated as the whips and business managers can seek to negotiate time for debate through the ‘usual channels’. This was the case with the prison institution Rules in which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn successfully tabled a prayer motion via an EDM on 26 October.

If time is allocated to debate a prayer on the Floor of the House of Commons, MPs have up to 90 minutes to debate the instrument before voting on the question that the SI be annulled. However, the prayer motion relating to these Rules was referred to a Delegated Legislation Committee because the government successfully moved a ‘motion of referral’ last week. This means that today’s debate (also the final day of the SI’s 40-day scrutiny period) in committee was held on a non-fatal motion ‘that the Committee has considered the instrument’ so the prayer motion still has to be moved to the Floor of the House for the substantive annulment question to be put. This almost never happens because there is no requirement for a subsequent motion to be tabled even if today’s consideration motion was negatived.

Even though the 40-day scrutiny period will have ended, a motion could still be tabled calling for the rules to be revoked rather than annulled, although it would be incumbent on the opposition to use one of their allotted debate days for this to occur. An added complication is that, by then, the Prison and Young Offender Institution (Amendment) Rules 2015 would have been in force for over two months and given that the Ministry of Justice plans to review the impact and success of the amended procedures early next year, the opposition may perhaps be less inclined to pursue revocation after November recess.

Blackwell, J. (2015) Lifting the Lid: The Prison and Young Offender Institution (Amendment) Rules 2015 (Hansard Society: London)

Latest

Blog / ‘Brexit Freedoms’ Bill: Is Jacob Rees-Mogg planning to give Parliament more control over Retained EU Law?

How Parliament will scrutinise changes to Retained EU Law (REUL) has been a matter of concern since the Government announced it would introduce the ‘Brexit Freedoms’ Bill. The Minister for Brexit Opportunities has now suggested Legislative Reform Orders (LROs) as a possible solution. But what are LROs and what would this mean for scrutiny of REUL?

21 Jul 2022
Read more

Blog / When is a 'cross-party Committee' no longer cross-party? The case of the European Scrutiny Committee

The long-term near-absence of Labour participation in the work of the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee means that the Committee is not operating as a fully cross-party Committee. Especially given the way in which the Committee’s role is changing since Brexit, this needs fixing, fast.

21 Jul 2022
Read more

Briefings / The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill: Delegated Powers

The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is scheduled for its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on Monday 27 June 2022. This briefing on the delegated powers in the Bill analyses six areas of particular concern and proposes ways they might be mitigated during the Bill's passage through Parliament.

24 Jun 2022
Read more

Reports / Compendium of Legislative Standards for Delegating Powers in Primary Legislation

The scope and design of the delegation of legislative powers in any Bill affects the long-term balance of power between Parliament and Government. The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee (DPRRC) scrutinises all such delegation. This report distils standards for the delegation of powers from 101 DPRRC reports from 2017 to 2021.

25 Apr 2022
Read more

Blog / Finding grace under pressure? Ukraine’s parliament at war

After over 70 days of total war, the first 43 under the very direct threat of bombing, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council), has undergone a significant transformation in terms of procedures, political orientation and constituency work.

13 May 2022
Read more