So, it's no surprise to see that the fuckers are at it again... [Emphasis mine. UPDATE 07/2012: behind the Times paywall, but found archived (or mirrored) here.]
Plans to force cigarette manufacturers to introduce plain packaging — assumed to have been dropped in Alistair Darling's Pre-Budget Report last year — have been quietly revived, The Times has learnt.
A group of cross-party backbench peers have made amendments to the Health Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, with a view to restoring the proposal.
Lord Patel of Bradford, Baroness O'Cathain, Lord Walton of Detchant and Lord Faulkner of Worcester have tabled amendments to the Health Bill at the committee stage in the Lords that would allow the Health Secretary to ban or restrict the sale or supply of tobacco products if they are sold in packaging that does not comply with regulations.
If passed, the Health Secretary would also be allowed to dictate the colour of cigarette packs, their shape, the trademarks displayed on them and any labelling.
This is NuLabour's standard tactic—learned, no doubt, from the evil fuckers in the EU who are adept at this sort of thing—of proposing something ridiculous and then pretending to drop it.
What they then do is to pass a law that allows them to go far, far further because, unlike the previous incarnation, this new clause doesn't define what the law actually is.
Each one of these clauses is, in effect, an Enabling Act in that it enables any designated minister to change the law without having to argue the case through Parliament—and thus ensuring that has no right to vote on it.
Often, the media miss it entirely: after all, legalese seems to be designed to bore the living shit out of anyone brave enough to try to trawl through it, c.f. the EU Constitution. Further, one is generally looking for a particularly illiberal measure made explicit within the law itself, not an all-encompassing clause that allows a minister to decide that the law is whatever they say it is at any given time.
A couple of years ago, bloggers scored a hit when they introduced the MSM to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, known colloquially as "the Abolition of Parliament Bill". This would have allowed the government to change any piece of legislation via ministerial fiat—in other words, without having to go through Parliament. After a concerted protest from both the MSM and the blogosphere, the Bill was watered down into a slightly less terrifying form.
But the fact is—and this is another tactic that the government have learned from the EU bureaucrats—that so many Bills similar to the one described above have now passed into law that the Abolition of Parliament Bill might as well have been passed as originally mooted anyway.
This is the really terrifying thing about NuLabour: they have pushed though thousands—tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands—of new laws, many of which contain these mini-Enabling Acts. And the Civil Contingencies Act is only the most egregious of these; there are others which allow ministers to remove our liberties on a whim.
Sure, they are far smaller matters, but taken together they all add up to an Executive wielding power with no brakes upon it: statutory instruments are bad enough and would, were your humble Devil in charge, be rendered illegal—these Enabling Clauses are, quite simply, the fence-posts for a totalitarian regime.
Blogs such as EUReferendum continually highlight how Westminster has become little more than a regional EU council, but in truth our MPs are in the process of being rendered utterly impotent by our own government.