Bearing in mind Cameron has just been lecturing the Chinese on Democracy, please read this, Cross-posted from Witterings From Witney
“Thank you for your letter of the 29th March and for sending me a copy of your letter to David Cameron, which I read with interest.
I can assure you that the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bil will receive a robust opposition from my colleagues and I in Parliament. We recognise this as a devious means by which Ministers will seek to avoid the sovereignty of Parliament. It is another example of the contempt with which this Government holds Parliament and our national institutions.“
“The overnment assures us, the electorate, that it need have no fears, that nothing “controversial” will be done, but there is nothing in the Bill which states that nothing “uncontroversial” will be done. We, the electorate, are being requested to trust the government and its successors. No government should be trusted with such powers and I am reminded of the words of James Madison who, in the Federalist Papers, wrned that when handing out political power, enlightened statesmen would not always be at the helm. One has to ask whether such people are at the helm now?“
“Clause 4 gives that fast-track power not just to a Minister, but to any person. I assumed that that proposed mechanism was designed to build on the suggestion in the Hampton review that regulators’ regulation-making powers should be merged. However when I suggested that the Bill should say that, the Minister replied: “The Bill doesn’t say that partly because our ambitions are wider than that.“
“the powers contained in clauses 1 to 5 and 11 of the Bill as they are currently drafted are not appropriate delegations of legislative power and would grant to Ministers unacceptable discretion to rewrite the statute book, with inadequate parliamentary scrutiny of, and control over, the process.“
“We promised we would restore political accountability for the decisions that affect people’s lives and bring in a new age of transparency in Government….“
“First We Take Westminster”
However, I am not the first to have noticed and commented on this Bill, it seems that the Governments own legal advisors have warned against it.
In a letter from the charity Justice on 12th November 2010, Roger Smith wrote to Dominic Grieve (himself a QC).
The Constitution Committee of the House of Lords was scathing about this element of the bill:
When assessing a proposal in a Bill that fresh Henry VIII powers be conferred, we have argued that the issues are ‘whether Ministers should have the power to change the statute book for the specific purposes provided for in the Bill and, if so, whether there are adequate procedural safeguards’. In our view, the Public Bodies Bill fails both tests.
In that same letter he closes:
“The Public Bodies Bill, as drafted, does not even contain the safeguards in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill which then opposition MPs fought so hard to obtain. The approach of the Public Bodies Bill is particularly astonishing given the weight put on the sovereignty of Parliament by ministers to be instanced in the forthcoming Sovereignty Bill.
In these circumstances, and as legal adviser to the government, I would encourage you to obtain the understanding of the relevant ministers of the constitutional affront which the Public Bodies Bill sets out to perpetrate.
It would certainly seem difficult for a number of those who are now ministers in the Commons to support the bill in its current form given their creditable opposition to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. This raised exactly the same issue of governmental disdain for Parliamentary scrutiny.
The convention that amendment to primary legislation requires primary legislation surely remains, as you and a number of your senior colleagues indicated in opposition, a powerful democratic safeguard – however inconvenient it may be for the government of the day.”
When I posted yesterday that Britain needed a real Leader, I certainly wasnt looking for a dictator with a ministerial junta behind him.
You can read more about this bill and reaction to it on the following sites.
Henry VIII stalks the Public Bodies Bill
November 9 2010, by Adam Wagner, UK Human Rights Blog
A breathtaking Bill of which even Henry VIII would have been proud …!
5 November 2010, Law and Lawyers
Concern over use of ‘Henry Vlll’ powers to overturn acts of parliament
11 November 2010, by Joshua Rozenberg, Law Gazette