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Write to your Lord to Save Parliament October 31, 2006

Posted by James in Politics.
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Remember the Abolition of Parliament Bill? The one back in the spring, which could have been used to end democracy as we know it?

It is still at large, and making its way through Parliament. Thanks to you, it is much less dangerous than it was. But it is still quite dangerous.

Yesterday the House of Lords voted to make the Bill safer. And lost. By just 13 votes. At first we growled and shouted in frustration! But then we realised that there’s another chance. There’ll be a final vote this Thursday.

And you can help.

We’d like you to write to a Member of the House of Lords. Here’s how to do it. It’ll only take you a moment, and this time we know it really can make a difference.

1. Go to http://www.writetothem.com/lords

2. Click “Random Lord” near the bottom of the page.

3. If you get a Labour peer, then click the back button and press “Random Lord” again. No point writing to Government peers on this one. Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Crossbench, Bishops etc. are all fine.

4. Write a letter making the following points in your own words:

* The Third Reading (that’s the last one in the House of Lords) of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is this coming Thursday, 2nd November.

* Explain to the Lord how important Parliament is to hold the Government’s power in balance, and how you would not like to see this Bill passed in a form which would weaken Parliament.

* In the first clause of the Bill, there is a section which says that the purpose of the Bill is to “reduce burdens”. Unfortunately, all it says that the *Minister* must consider whether the change in law he wants to make reduces burdens. This is better than the original Bill at the start of the year, but it is still not good enough.

* Say that you would like the phrase “he considers” to be removed from the Bill, so that any law changed under it must be considered burden reducing by any reasonable person. Rather than by a possibly unreasonable Minister.

(you can skip the last two points if it seems too complicated to explain; the next one is the key one)

* Ask the Lord to attend Parliament on Thursday, and vote for any opposition amendments which remove the phrase “he considers”, or otherwise make the Bill safer.

* Ask your Lord to vote *against* passing the Third Reading of the Bill if the phrase “he considers” is not removed.

* And thank them!

5. Send the letter. You’re done.

More detailed background information about what is going on:
http://bill111.wordpress.com/2006/10/27/house-of-lords-report-stage-debate/
Here is the part of the Bill with the “he considers” section in it:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldbills/161/06161.1-7.html#jNC19

There were just 13 votes in it yesterday. We really can win this one. Thanks to your help!

Please write to your Lord now.

Francis Irving
Campaigns Director
Save Parliament

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Comments

1. Brian D Finch - October 31, 2006

‘Please write to your Lord now.’
Francis Irving
Campaigns Director
Save Parliament

OK… :)

Dear Jesus,

Please come again.
Please save Parliament.
Please vote this time.

Love Brian

2. Brian D Finch - October 31, 2006

THE MEANING OF THE BILL

The Third Reading of the amended Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill in the Lords is scheduled for Thursday 2nd November. Section 1 now proposes that ‘…(1) A Minister of the Crown may by order…make any provision which he considers would serve the purpose [of]…(2)…removing or reducing any burden, or the overall burdens, resulting directly or indirectly for any person from any legislation. (3)…“burden” means any of the following – (a) a financial cost; (b) an administrative inconvenience; (c) an obstacle to efficiency, productivity or profitability; or (d) a sanction, criminal or otherwise, which affects the carrying on of any lawful activity…(8) An order under this section may contain such consequential, supplementary, incidental or transitional provision (including provision made by amending or repealing any enactment or other provision) as the Minister making it considers appropriate.’
As the semi-colon usage above clearly indicates, the ‘carrying on of any lawful activity’ test is only relevant to ‘…(d) a sanction, criminal or otherwise’. Now, lawful activities do not generally carry criminal sanctions. What is going on? Why should the Government pretend to legislate for the removal of criminal sanctions affecting lawful activities? Perhaps the following may help clarify the mud: ‘A Minister of the Crown may by order…make any provision which he considers would serve the purpose [of] removing any sanction, criminal or otherwise, resulting directly or indirectly for any person from any legislation.’ The sole test is what any ‘Minister of the Crown…considers would serve the purpose…’ In short, the clause ‘which affects the carrying on of any lawful activity’ is a MacGuffin. It has no relevance whatsoever to the powers sought in this bill, under which it will be for the Minister concerned to decide what is (or is not, or is to be made) legal by ‘…amending or repealing any [such] enactment or other provision as the Minister…considers appropriate.’
The powers to be granted are not restricted to particular areas of Ministerial responsibility. Any Minister may remove or reduce ‘any burden…resulting directly or indirectly…from any legislation.’ Ask yourself. Who is likely to benefit from this? The poor? Asylum seekers? Trade Unionists? The rich? Suppose a rich businessman wants to employ poor immigrants at less than the minimum rate without insurance or health and safety provisions. What need he do? Find a friendly Minister and bung ‘im a monkey or six to have any legal obstacle to the ‘efficiency, productivity and profitability’ of his enterprise removed. As there is no objective test to be satisfied (the Minister need only assert that he considers his action justified) there can be no legal basis for challenge.
Is this to be the principal accomplishment of the Blair years? Will this Kleptocrats Charter come to represent the final consummation, the veritable apotheosis, of New Labour experiments in societicide? Assisting in the destruction of Yugoslavia, the dissolution of Iraq and the reduction of Afghanistan to the Stone Age are notable achievements indeed. However, they pale before the self-induced Mobutu-isation of a western liberal democracy possessed of an advanced economy, a free press and an allegedly educated population.  While in most Banana republics there is little difficulty in escaping criminal sanctions by means of arbitrary ministerial intervention, none that I know of has ever actually written the possibility into its legal code.  Once again, Britain leads the world.
Lest Scotland imagine that her own wee Parliament protects her from all of this, I should point out that the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill proposes that: ’9…An order under this Part may not, except by virtue of section 1(8) or 2(7), make provision which would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament if it were contained in an Act of that Parliament.’ Section 1(8) is quoted in full above. The wording of section 2(7) is identical. As said sections make abundantly clear, any Minister of the Crown (ie: any London Minister) may make any amendment to any act of the Scottish Parliament, provided only that ‘…the Minister making it considers appropriate. No wonder Jack McConnell’s gas seems to have been put at a peep of late. I suspect Gordon has read him the runes.
Only the unelected House of Lords now stands between us and this abomination. As John Donne wrote, ‘Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.’ The abyss awaits.

3. Brian D Finch - October 31, 2006

THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS

AMENDMENTS
TO BE MOVED
ON THIRD READING
————————————————————————
 
        Clause 1
 
        THE LORD JENKIN OF RODING
Page 2, line 2, leave out from “department” to end of line 3
 
        Clause 8
 
        THE LORD GOODHART
THE LORD MACLENNAN OF ROGART
Page 6, line 20, at end insert “; or
(   )   the Scotland Act 1998 (c. 46)”
 
        Clause 14
 
        THE LORD GOODHART
THE LORD MACLENNAN OF ROGART
Page 8, line 6, at end insert “, and
(   )   a statement that in his view the provisions of the order are  
compatible with the Convention rights (as defined in the Human Rights  
Act 1998 (c. 42))”
 
        After Clause 20
 
        THE LORD GOODHART
THE LORD MACLENNAN OF ROGART
Insert the following new Clause—
        “Application of the Human Rights Act 1998
        An order made under this Part shall be treated for the purposes of  
the Human Rights Act 1998 (c. 42) as subordinate legislation and not as  
primary legislation (whether or not it amends primary legislation).”

4. Brian D Finch - November 1, 2006

Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill -
Further Amendments Proposed
————————————————————————

AMENDMENTS
TO BE MOVED
ON THIRD READING
————————————————————————
 
        Clause 21
 
        THE BARONESS YOUNG OF OLD SCONE
Page 12, line 29, leave out “the exercise of the function” and insert  
“determining any general policy or principles by reference to which the  
person exercises the function”
 
        Clause 22
 
        THE BARONESS YOUNG OF OLD SCONE
Page 13, line 2, leave out from “revise” to end of line 3 and insert  
“guidance in relation to the exercise of regulatory functions which is  
appropriate for the person exercising those functions”
Page 13, line 5, leave out “the code” and insert “the guidance”
Page 13, line 10, leave out “the code” and insert “the guidance issued  
or revised under subsection (1)”
 
        Clause 23
 
        THE BARONESS YOUNG OF OLD SCONE
Page 13, line 15, leave out from “revise” to end of line 16 and insert  
“guidance under section 22, he shall prepare a draft of the guidance”
Page 13, line 23, leave out subsections (4) to (6)
 
        After Clause 29
 
        THE LORD KINGSLAND
THE BARONESS WILCOX
Insert the following new Clause—
        “Burdens from implementation of Community obligations
(1)     Subordinate legislation implementing any Community obligation of  
the United Kingdom, or enabling such obligation to be implemented, or  
enabling any rights to be enjoyed by the United Kingdom under or by  
virtue of the Treaties may not impose or increase any burden on any  
person which does not conform with the Cabinet Office Transposition  
Guide.
(2)     In this section—

        “burden” has the same meaning as in section 1(3);
        “subordinate legislation” has the same meaning as in section 29(9)(b);
        “the treaties” has the same meaning as in section 1(2) of the  
European Communities Act 1972 (c. 68) (short title and interpretation).”


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