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Blair's UK Government Takeover Bill

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 5:46 pm    Post subject: Blair's UK Government Takeover Bill Reply with quote

To read the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, CLICK HERE




The government’s Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill intends to let ministers make up a law, and make it law, without taking it through Parliament first. The Bill is now set for its final reading in the House of Commons. And every Labour MP has so far voted for it.

'We were misinformed' says Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport. In a recent interview he is the first to break ranks and admit this. 'We accepted it at face value. It hadn’t been properly discussed. It didn’t emerge on the radar. We accepted the assurances that it was a deregulatory Bill, with no malign effects.' He was, he added, very unhappy.

To understand how someone like Flynn, a prominent Labour rebel, can be taken in, one must look at the saga of the Bill. Eight months ago no-one had heard of the 'Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill', because it didn’t exist. Instead, launched on July 20th 2005, was something described as a 'Bill for Better Regulation'. It would, said the Cabinet Office, 'speed up the Government’s Better Regulation agenda'. Behind the Bill was an independent body called the Better Regulation Task Force (BRTF). In its 2005 report - 'Regulation - Less is More' - the BRTF recommended that the government introduce a new Deregulation Bill.

The head of the BRTF was a businessman called Sir David Arculus, described in the Telegraph as a 'serial chairman'. He was enthusiastic about his influence on the government. 'I spoke to the Prime Minister and was delighted when he agreed to sponsor our report' Arculus said, in a speech to the Financial Services Authority in 2005. He had been equally delighted when the government accepted all the BRTF’s proposals on the same day their report was published. He was pleased to see the sudden emphasis Tony Blair had put on better regulation in a speech to the Institute of Public Policy. The idea of a new Deregulatory Bill for businesses was welcomed by everyone, apart from a few concerned about the idea of unregulated business.

Fast forward to January 2006, when the first warning rumbles could be heard about something called the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. They came from the commercial law firm Clifford Chance. This Bill would mean, warned their briefing to clients, that ministers would have the powers to create legislation with 'very little scrutiny'. Legislation which then, the briefing continued 'cannot be amended by Parliament.'

At the time, the Bill was getting its first reading in Parliament. It was being presented as the final version of the 'Bill forBetterRegulation'. Yet, in this version of the Bill, there was now no mention of deregulating business. And the word 'Legislative' had crept in from nowhere. Nevertheless, the Bill went through, untouched.

A month later, after the Bill had gone through its second reading in the Commons, some people outside Clifford Chance had actually read it. Bloggers, Cambridge lawyers and media commentators started metaphorically screaming. 'This is the Bill that will kill democracy'; 'This is Hitler!' 'This is Stalin!' The Lib Dems then came out openly against it. So did the Conservatives. 'What we have now', says Conservative MP Oliver Heald, 'is the wide, fast-track power to amend, repeal or introduce primary or secondary legislation by order for any purpose'.

Heald, backed by his party, has tabled several amendments to the Bill. The Regulatory Reform Committee, who have just finished scrutinising the Bill, have also tabled amendments. 'It can’t be right that Ministers be given such wide and general powers to make any primary legislation. We called for extra safeguards to be inserted into the Bill so we welcome the statement made by Jim Murphy' said the committee’s chairman. The statement made by Jim Murphy, the minister responsible for getting the Bill through Parliament, was simply that the government 'will consider the addition of further safeguards'.

As indeed, they might. It is possibly worth noting that, in local government, it is quite common to suggest an idea so outrageous that, after the expected outcry, the administration can gracefully back down – and get their original intentions passed without opposition. But here, this does not seem to be the case. According to Oliver Heald, when asked why the Bill did not contain the orginal recommendations concerning business regulation, Murphy replied 'We have wider ambitions than that'.

The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is an urgent topic. It is due for its third and final reading in the House of Commons around Easter. Over the last few days many more people have become exercised about it, largely because lawyers, journalists and bloggers have kept up the pressure. We now know that it has leapt from mere business deregulation to allowing a government to make up laws without parliamentary approval. We know that the few safeguards currently built into the Bill can be removed once the Bill is passed. 'We will just have to hope that they (the government) come to their senses and realise there’s a great deal of opposition out there', says Paul Flynn. Amendments or not, he will now be voting against the Bill this Easter.

Bill could give British Government Sweeping Powers

By Martin Croucher Epoch Times UK Staff Feb 27, 2006

New powers brought in under a bill cloaked in legal jargon could, in the wrong hands, be used to pass controversial amendements to laws without parliament's consent.

The Prime Minister on Sunday claimed that the government's recent raft of reforms do more to uphold than undermine liberties, as academics struggled to draw the public's attention to a recently proposed bill which has already been dubbed the "Abolition of Parliament Bill".

While the public eye was fixed on the heroic band of MPs frustrating the government over the Terrorism and ID cards bills, just a week earlier a grey-sounding "Legislative & Regulatory Reform Bill" received its second hearing in parliament to a muted reception.

Created for the apparent purpose of cutting regulation for businesses, the bill represents, for many constitutional experts, the greatest threat to face British democracy in many years — since it effectively enables ministers to amend or replace any major law without needing parliament's consent.

David Howarth, Liberal MP wrote in an article in the Times in that "all ministers will have to do is propose an order, wait a few weeks and, voila, the law is changed".

A letter signed by six Cambridge professors of Law, also to the Times , argued that the bill gave ministers the power to abolish jury trial and place citizens under house arrest.

If the bill becomes law the only restrictions on these newfound powers will be any new crimes invented by ministers will be not be able to have sentences of longer than two years, and that ministers will not be able to impose new taxes.

Mr Howarth argued that the bill was paradoxical in that it also gave ministers the power to amend the bill itself, so once brought in, ministers could remove these restrictions and give themselves unlimited powers. One blogger likened it to the "Enabling Act" brought in by Hitler, which he used to dispense with democracy altogether.

The six professors wrote that they "hope that other MPs, on all sides of the House, will recognise the dangers of what is being proposed before it is too late".

The government however is said to have claimed that the bill is merely for tidying up existing legislation rather than for bringing in controversial new laws. However Mr Howarth claimed that this "tidying up" could take the form of making ID cards compulsory, banning smoking in one's own home, and "the definition of terrorism altered to make ordinary political protest punishable by life imprisonment".

In an article in last Sunday's Observer , entitled "I don't destoy liberties, I protect them" Tony Blair promised that ID cards would not be made compulsory.


ALLAN Watt is correct to be concerned at the imminent approach of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (Letters, April 3). There has been a deathly and mysterious silence on this measure since it first surfaced in the press some time ago. Information appears to be at a premium and the public have been kept in ignorance about one of the potentially greatest threats to democracy since first-past-the-post voting was introduced.

It would appear that, on any convenient whim, the government will be enabled to change the existing law to suit its own purposes and without going to the trouble of consulting parliament. This is pure and simple dictatorship. Already I squirm when I read that Tony Blair has decided that such and such will be introduced, or stopped or forbidden. I squirm because what is meant is that he will try to persuade parliament to pass the required legislation. Although noting the easy way he gets his will with Labour voting-fodder desperate to keep their jobs it may well be right.

But if this bill goes through he will be able to change the law as easily as he changes his mind. Why bother with a parliament at all? This is outrageous and I keep waiting to be told that I have mis-heard what is intended. Blair on an extended leash from parliament is insufferable. If he is allowed to run loose what hope is there for democracy in the United Kingdom?

And a quick word, if I may, to Ruth Wishart. An excellent article on the finances of electioneering. What a pity she didn't read it before she wrote her last two paragraphs where she turns against all she has said.

Political parties are out of touch with the electorate. They cannot persuade us they are fit to be voted for, they cannot persuade us to join the numbers of the faithful, and they have been found out over loans/bribes from the rich.

So they propose that the taxpayer should pay for their ridiculous over-the-top posturing at election times. The idea that the taxpayer should pay for this rubbish is preposterous. Most people are totally unaffected by the hype, as Ruth Wishart says. And I am expected to pay for it? Think again, my parliamentary chums. Dwell again on the question of how you can possibly justify 600-odd MPs, a house full of Lords, 120-odd MSPs and half a million Goths sitting in council chambers. And you think we should pay? On your bike.

Alan Sinclair,40 Switchback Road,Bearsden.


Maxim Institute - Friday, 31 March 200

Parliament's position as the supreme law-making body is under threat in the United Kingdom. A Bill that some have dubbed the "Abolition of Parliament" Bill could give the United Kingdom government an unprecedented ability to make law and could nullify the doctrine of the separation of powers.

This doctrine traditionally stops the government and the judiciary from encroaching on Parliament's law-making powers. However, the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill would, if passed, fundamentally alter the balance of power between the Government and Parliament in the United Kingdom. This could have important implications for New Zealand as our constitutional system is based on the United Kingdom model. Changes in Britain could create an impetus for similar change here.

This Bill is a Labour Government Bill. It recently passed its second reading in the House of Commons and is now being considered by a Standing Committee. If passed, it would give Ministers of the Crown the power to amend, repeal or replace any legislation simply by making an order. Therefore the Bill would give law-making power, usually the prerogative of Parliament, to the Government. The danger of concentrating power in the hands of the Government is obvious.

The Bill does contain some restrictions. For example, orders which impose or increase taxes could not be made, Ministers would have to be satisfied that certain pre-conditions were met and they would have to consult interested parties before introducing an order. At a minimum, there would need to be no specific Parliamentary disapproval of the order, and, in some cases, Parliament would have to give specific consent to the order. However, the restrictions would not provide the same degree of protection as the normal legislative process. Nor would they give Parliament its usual and proper place in that process. In some cases, there would not even be Parliamentary debate on the proposed order. In addition, the powers contained in the Bill could be used to extend its own operation, including removal of the restrictions, thus increasing the power given to Ministers.

Not surprisingly, politicians, leading academics and senior lawyers have all expressed serious concerns about giving this type of power to Government Ministers. Proponents of the Bill claim that its powers will only be used for 'uncontroversial' matters but these claims are rightly viewed with scepticism.

The Bill has the potential to fundamentally shift the balance of power between the Government and Parliament in favour of the Government. By enlarging the Government's law-making power and undermining the role of Parliament, the Bill puts democracy itself at risk. New Zealanders should learn a lesson from this, and be ready to oppose any similar measures if they surface in this country.
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