« Home | Self-obsessed lefties pontificate while Iraq burns... » | Israel: still killing, and leaving the blame to th... » | Tabloid-watch: Put a gun to my head and paint the ... » | A certain romance. » | Terrorism and intelligence, or lack there of. » | News of the Screws-watch: No mention of the fake s... » | Closet racists and out in the open racists. » | Front page-watch: Dirty tabloids. » | Mail-watch: Politicial racism gone mad! » | Guardian only newspaper to publish Mahmood's photo... » 

Thursday, April 13, 2006 

Regulatory reform bill to be cut down to size (hopefully).

Both the Financial Times and Grauniad are reporting that the government is to write new safeguards into the The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (aka the abolition of parliament bill), although seemingly only because the chief whip in the Lords warned that otherwise it would get defeated.

Jim Murphy, the cabinet office minister in charge of the legislation, told the Guardian yesterday that including the safeguards would make it impossible to use the law to make constitutional changes. He stressed its sole purpose was to cut red tape and insisted opponents had overhyped its implications.

Tories and Lib Dems had dubbed it the "parliamentary scrutiny (abolition) bill", arguing it was so loosely drafted it could be used to repeal or amend almost any law without the proper scrutiny or approval of MPs, even allowing constitutional changes such as the abolition of the Scottish parliament, on the basis of very brief debates in the chamber and in committee.

They feared that even if the government abided by its promise not to use it for controversial measures, future ministers might be less scrupulous.

At present the protections in the bill only prevent ministers from using it to impose or increase taxation, to create a new criminal offence carrying a sentence of more than two years, or to authorise the forcible entry of property, search and seizure, or compel people to give evidence to police or courts. They would also have to satisfy themselves that the effect of changes were "proportionate".

But Mr Murphy insisted:"It wasn't and isn't our intention to do the sort of things that to some extent have been suggested. There's been hyperbole and ridiculous claims ... This bill is about regulations; it has never been about the constitution. It's about defining the power more precisely to show what it is we seek to do."

He added: "We always said we would listen, and for the last couple of months we have been looking at drafting amendments to do two things: deliver better regulation agenda but also take the constitutional debate off the table.

"It will make it impossible, not just difficult, to do the sorts of things which some people have raised."

Mr Murphy said he also wanted the amendments, which will be tabled when the bill reaches its report stage in the Commons shortly, to ensure select committees could block contentious changes. "Let's see if we can strengthen those powers, so it is not [just] a convention that we won't override them - I think we need a statutory veto on the face of the bill," he said.

Ministers argue all governments have failed to eradicate unnecessary regulation.

Here's to hoping that the government has realised that even it can't get away with such a sweeping law. Even if it isn't used by this government personally in the way that critics have pointed out it could be, there's always the possibility that a government with even less scruples than this one, difficult as that is to imagine, could take advantage of it in the future.

As Chicken Yogurt points out however, not a single amendment critical of the proposed act was accepted during the last committee stage, and the parliamentary select committees can be stuffed with stooges or right-wing libertarian Tories who only see the regulation side of the bill and not the constitutional side. Chick Yog also points out that unless the list of bills here are made exempt from change under the bill, it's not worth the paper it's written, lest for wiping your nether regions with it. Cutting down needless legislation is one thing, make unacceptable changes to passed acts under the pretence of doing so is quite another, and the way this government has pledged to listen and then done the opposite means that any promises that such changes won't happen should not be taken at face value. Parliament may not be perfect, but it's the best thing we've got. Labour needs to learn that, and Blair's control freakery will not be easily forgotten or forgiven. The Save Parliament campaign is here.

Share |

Links to this post

Create a Link


  • This is septicisle


Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates