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Inquiry Into Regulation-Making Powers...

Inquiry Into Regulation-Making Powers That Authorise International Treaties To Override Any Provisions Of New Zealand Enactments

‘Parliament needs to be careful not to give away its status as the supreme law-making authority,’ Hon Doug Kidd MP announced today, on the presentation of the Regulations Review Committee’s report on its inquiry into the use of regulations to allow international treaties to override New Zealand laws.

The inquiry examines the limited circumstances in which regulations that can override primary legislation are used to bring international treaties into effect. As regulations are made under authority delegated by Parliament, it is usual for such regulations to be subordinate to all primary legislation enacted by Parliament. In some circumstances, however, Acts allow regulations made under them to override primary legislation.

In September 2000 the Regulations Review Committee became aware of the Child Support (Reciprocal Agreement with Australia) Order 2000, which allowed a reciprocal agreement on child support and spousal maintenance to override not only the legislation under which it was made, but also any New Zealand enactment. ‘We were concerned that this was an extremely broad power,’ Mr Kidd said. ‘We decided to investigate how widespread is the use of provisions granting such powers, and determine whether any principles regarding their use could be determined.’

‘We were relieved to find that such powers are uncommon, but concerned to find several examples of powers in New Zealand law that may be unnecessarily broad,’ Mr Kidd said. The committee concluded that regulation-making powers authorising international treaties to override the provisions of any New Zealand enactment should be used only in exceptional circumstances, in accordance with the principle that Acts should be amended only by other Acts.

The committee makes six recommendations to the Government in its report, concerning the principles that should be applied when the use of such powers are contemplated. The committee has also recommended the Government review some existing legislation to decide whether it accords with these principles. The Government is required to respond to the committee’s recommendations by 10 June 2002. The report also recommends some changes to parliamentary scrutiny of certain treaties.

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