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Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Oooh, urk. This doesn't look good. Apparently, the government have proposed a bill that means they can make changes to any law without having to pass it through Parliament or be questioned on it or, you know, anything. Liberal MP David Howarth writes in the Times about it. (And when it's the Times telling me about these things, I'm worried.) Thanks to thessalian for alerting me to this!

LAST WEEK all eyes were on the House of Commons as it debated identity cards, smoking and terrorism. The media reported both what MPs said and how they voted. For one week at least, the Commons mattered. All the more peculiar then that the previous Thursday, in an almost deserted chamber, the Government proposed an extraordinary Bill that will drastically reduce parliamentary discussion of future laws, a Bill some constitutional experts are already calling “the Abolition of Parliament Bill”.

The boring title of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill hides an astonishing proposal. It gives ministers power to alter any law passed by Parliament. The only limitations are that new crimes cannot be created if the penalty is greater than two years in prison and that it cannot increase taxation. But any other law can be changed, no matter how important. All ministers will have to do is propose an order, wait a few weeks and, voilà, the law is changed.

What makes the new law different, however, is not only that it allows the Government to create extra regulation, including new crimes, but also that it allows ministers to change the structure of government itself. There might be business people so attached to the notion of efficiency and so ignorant or scornful of the principles of democracy that they find such a proposition attractive. Ordinary citizens should find it alarming.

Any body created by statute, including local authorities, the courts and even companies, might find themselves reorganised or even abolished. Since the powers of the House of Lords are defined in Acts of Parliament, even they are subject to the Bill.

Looking back at last week’s business in the Commons, the Bill makes a mockery of the decisions MPs took. Carrying ID cards could be made compulsory, smoking in one’s own home could be outlawed and the definition of terrorism altered to make ordinary political protest punishable by life imprisonment.

The Government claims that there is nothing to worry about. The powers in the Bill, it says, will not be used for “controversial” matters. But there is nothing in the Bill that restricts its use to “uncontroversial” issues. The minister is asking us to trust him, and, worse, to trust all his colleagues and all their successors. No one should be trusted with such power.

More from the Times (the full article of this), the Observer, the Sunday Herald (pointing out that the government could now abolish the Scottish Parliament without any problem, if they felt like it), Indymedia and SpyBlog. There's a lot of other stuff out there about it too, but it doesn't seem to have seeped into the wider consciousness.

The Bill won't get through, I expect, but the fact that they're trying it makes me very, very nervous.

It was Jim Murphy who proposed it, it seems. I'm not surprised - the man is an utter wanker. He was president of the National Union of Students when I was at uni, which was just at the time when they were doing away with grants and bringing in loans and tuition fees, and he pretty much ignored the views of every student in the land when drawing up the NUS's plans. He was obviously just using the position for politicking, and he was one of the youngest Labour MPs elected fairly soon afterwards.

(Just made this icon in Paint and Word - I do plan to fix it at home!!)


( 10 comments — Comment )
Mar. 6th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
Oh dear gods... Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. As Howarth says, I knew nothing about it before I saw your post.
Mar. 6th, 2006 03:08 pm (UTC)
I was the same - knew nothing till I saw it on thessalian's blog. Which I should probably credit, actually! Heh...
Mar. 6th, 2006 03:12 pm (UTC)
That is totally scary. How can this lot call itself a Labour government?
Mar. 6th, 2006 05:06 pm (UTC)
They can tell lies, is how. They're getting good at that.
Mar. 6th, 2006 03:17 pm (UTC)
The really scary thing - This law applies to itself. It would allow ministers to amend the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill such that new crimes and taxation clauses are removed.

Why does the government always insist that they're not going to abuse bills that give them way too much power? Do they think they're going to remain in power forever? Maybe this is the point of the bill.

Geoff Hoontotally ignored a question on this.
Mar. 6th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, they always seem to be very "Yes, it *could* be used to do evil things, but *we* wouldn't do that. Look at us. We're cute. We're fluffy. *innocent eyes*" which isn't really what I want from a government!

Geoff Hoon is a scary man. Gah.
Mar. 6th, 2006 03:40 pm (UTC)
Hitler swore he had no terrirotial ambitions!
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 6th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that'd be good :o/ I don't even know if my MP gets to vote - he's the Speaker, Michael Martin. And I have a feeling I heard he was in hospital, anyway.
Mar. 6th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
Bah. Either I saw something along these lines last week somewhen, or I dreamed it, because the entire post you just wrote out is *very* familiar to me - and still gives me cold shivers!
Mar. 6th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
I haven't heard of this, but I'm becoming increasingly concerned by the propensity of superpowers to give themselves way too much social and moral credit. I know here in the States, they're starting to seriously limit abortion rights, they've reinstated the Patriot Act, and Dubya is pushing for a presidential line-item veto power; I'm getting pretty damned tired of government trying to tell me how I should be living.

And I'm getting even more annoyed at them telling me I should be scared all the time.

*steps off soapbox*
( 10 comments — Comment )


bad wolf
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