Most select committees of Parliament have limited power. They have an important role but hey report back to the House or the Executive, which tends to make the final decisions.
But one committee is different – the Regulations Review Committee. This committee has been given some special powers. It tends to be non-partisan and chaired by an Opposition MP (Maryan Street currently).
The Regulations (Disallowance) Act 1989 has a s6(1):
If, at the expiration of the 21st sitting day after the giving in the House of Representatives of notice of a motion to disallow any regulations or any provisions of any regulations (being a notice of motion given by a member of Parliament who, at the time of the giving of the notice, is a member of the Committee of the House of Representatives responsible for the review of regulations),—
(a)the notice has not been withdrawn and the motion has not been moved; or
(b)the motion has been called on and moved and has not been withdrawn or otherwise disposed of,—
the regulations or provisions specified for disallowance in the motion shall thereupon be deemed to have been disallowed
What this means is that rather than requiring the House to debate and vote on disallowing a regulation, the disallowance is automatic if moved by a members of the Regulations Review Committee unless the Government agrees to debate and vote on the motion to disallow within 20 sitting days.
This happened for the first time on the 27th of February. The regulations partially disallowed were the Road User Charges (Transitional Matters) Regulations 2012 as they were found to “make some unusual or unexpected use of the powers conferred by the statute under which they are made and that they contain matter more appropriate for parliamentary enactment”.
Charles Chauvel was the MP who placed the motion on the order paper, and got them disallowed. This would have been with the support of the Regulations Review Committee. Presumably it also had the tacit support of the Government.
I suspect in the past the Government itself has merely amended regulations when the Regulations Review Committee has recommended they do so. It is a first to use the automatic disallowance process.