Monday, November 13, 2006

The Abolition of Parliament Bill

The other day, a client and friend of mine was asking me about what illiberal measures this government had introduced, why I thought that they were such a bunch of total cunts. One of the examples that I gave was the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. So, I thought I try to find a neat summation of it and find out where the hell it is at the moment. This Telegraph article does sum it up quite neatly.
And then there is the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is presented as a means of repealing red tape and therefore restricting the reach of the state.

But the Bill, quite simply, gives any minister of the Crown the power to "make provision amending, repealing or replacing any legislation", meaning "any public general Act", or indeed "any rule of law".

It cannot be used to impose taxation or create criminal offences bearing a prison term of more than two years, and there is also a cursory requirement for debate in committee.

But given that the Bill has been nodded through by pliant MPs - even the Conservatives let it by without a murmur, imposing only a one-line whip on the second reading - we cannot place much trust in the vigilance of our politicians.

For the final twist of the Bill's logic is that it will apply to itself: ministers may use its powers to remove its own limitations, and enable the government to make or repeal any law whatever.

The Regulatory Reform Bill is an Enabling Act, identical in spirit to the one the Nazis passed in 1933. On that occasion, Hitler promised that "the government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures...

Of course, Timmy asks the inevitable.
Is this a proof or a violation of Godwin’s Law. All aside from it being absolutely true of course.

For a less jaundiced view, I thought that I would then go and consult Wikipedia.
The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 is a British Act of Parliament enacted in 2006 to replace the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 (RRA).

The bill which became the Act was brought before the British House of Commons in early 2006. As originally drafted, the Bill was controversial, as it would have grant government ministers wide powers to make secondary legislation that could amend, repeal or replace any primary legislation or secondary legislation (known as a Henry VIII clause). The government proposed numerous amendments to the Bill on 4 May 2006 and 10 May 2006, to address certain criticisms of the Bill's scope and lack of safeguards.

The Bill received its third reading in the House of Commons on 16 May 2006, and moved to the House of Lords. After its first and second readings, the bill was reported with amendments on 19 July 2006, before the summer recess. Its report stage in the House of Lords took place on 26 October 2006, and it received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006.

Or, to put it bluntly (and to quote the ever-excellent P J O'Rourke, a man who would make it onto my list of desired dinner guests any day of the week: the chance to see him and Polly Toynbee go at it hammer and tongs would be just too, too delightful).
As we know the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act allow Minsters to enact or alter or abolish just about anything they choose without that tiresome process of actually dealing with Parliament.

Wonderfully democratic of course.

There’s one I would actually add to the list [of questions] though. As PJ O’Rourke pointed out, there are times when the appropriate question is:
"What the Fuck? I mean, what the fucking fuck?"

Quite. As to current progress, I recalled ChickenYoghurt mentioning it a little while back, so a-huntin' I went and got to the Save Parliament Blog. According to them and as of November 8, the Bill has been passed by the Commons.
It looks like it’s all done. The House of Commons debated the Lords amendments for 2 hours last night, agreed to them, and passed the Bill. One new amendment was debated, aimed at making the Scotland Act explicitly exempt from the Bill, but it was defeated.You can see the Hansard record of the Commons debate here, and the note in the Lords records here.

So, it looks like that’s it, it’s all over. The Bill has passed, but it’s much better than it was.

So, can anyone tell me, succinctly, why it is much better than it was? One of the commenters seems to be somewhat sceptical.
I shall be getting my MP to write to David Howarth to find out why he thinks it’s now “under control”.

It still looks like ANY amendments/revoking of our constitution can be make by secondary legislation with the small proviso that it has to be passed by a committee of hand-picked Labour MPs first.

The argument that constitutional changes, e.g. abolishing elections, can be blocked in a judicial review is dubious at best. And who is going to fund these judicial reviews?

It seems to me that this is still a dangerous and unnecessary piece of legislation. It may be better than it was, i.e. it does not quite allow for a dictatorship, but it seems to me that it still sets the groundwork for any malevolent government who was not so keen on getting voted out at an election. Ever again…

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