Dr Dan was invited by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to join a delegation of visitors from Sierra Leone to talk about our legislative processes here in UK Parliament. The visiting delegates were members of the Committee on Health and Sanitation from the Parliament of Sierra Leone.
Dr Dan was delighted to talk to the group about the important role of gathering evidence in Public Bill Committees and how, as a previous Minister, he guided the Care Bill through the various stages of Parliamentary scrutiny. As a Minister, a key part of taking legislation through Parliament is to manage questioning and feedback on the merits of a Bill, from members on all sides of the political arena.
It is often thought that legislation only gets talked about in the House of Commons Chamber, when in fact it receives a significant amount of scrutiny and input before it reaches that stage. Before any Bill comes forward, there are many discussions within Government around how the different parts of the skeleton, so to speak, will fit together. For example, how they are funded and any potential legislation will impact upon or relate to other areas of the Government machine. At these early stages of the proceedings, interested parties or organisations can feed into the process to put across any concerns or positive feedback they may have about the proposed changes. This can either take the form of written evidence or oral evidence, which the Public Bill Committee will then consider.
One of the most important parts of this process is when the Bill is discussed literally line by line, or "Clause by Clause". The Minister responsible for steering through the Bill will take each Clause through individually and if there is disagreement over any element, a vote may be taken to reach agreement.
The visitors from Sierra Leone confirmed that they found the meeting fascinating and that there were certainly some practices which they hope to take back with them, particularly around bringing in independent experts to help scrutinise the decision making process, to ensure that legislation is well thought out and effective in the long run.
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