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We’ve Won! Or Have We? April 22, 2006

Posted by bill111 in Politics.
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Reports in the Financial Times and the Guardian suggest that the government is backing down on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. We have our reservations.

The recent reports are in response to a letter from Jim Murphy, the Minister responsible for the bill, to Andrew Miller, chairman of the Regulatory Reform Committee. In the letter Mr Murphy acknowledges that “concerns have ranged from government being able to use the power to abolish trial by jury to repealing the Magna Carta.”

We welcome Mr Murhpy’s “intention” to “remove any cause for concern that the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill could ever be used for anything other than achieving our better regulation objectives” but question what this will mean in practice, as no details of the proposed amendments have yet been declared. Is the Government fully determined to allay the concerns of ourselves and close to 3,000 supporters, now signed up to the Save Parliament campaign, after he branded them as “wild accusations.”

According to Mr Murphy, “some of the debate about this legislation has been quite hysterical.” Why he considers the debates to be ‘hysterical’ is baffling. Many of the arguments against the bill are derived from a letter to The Times from 6 Cambridge law professors in which they specifically warn that the bill would allow ministers to “curtail or abolish jury trial” and ““reform” Magna Carta," amongst others. The government has still not explained why the Bill needs to create so much more power than they suggested was sufficient in their consultation last year.

Mr Murphy failed to mention many of the other concerns about the bill including the ability to delegate powers to individuals. David Howarth, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, says the Government “needs to remove from the Bill the means to grant unlimited legislative power to one person,” a view which we share with great enthusiasm. The potential here for abuse is enormous, something the Government have so far failed to address.

The Government has instead promised to “give a statutory veto to the regulatory reform select committees in the Commons and Lords,” a ‘concession’ already promised over a month but which is simply not enough, as pointed out by David Heath, Liberal Democrat MP for Somerton and Frome, who stressed the need for the “safeguard of a genuine parliamentary veto that can be exercised by opposition parties to block fast-track procedures.”

The Government has made several promises with this bill but promises are not sufficient. This bill needs a full rethink and thorough amendments. Jonathan Djanogly, the Conservative Shadow Solicitor-General, said: “We do still need to see the detail of the amendments” and until we do we simply cannot trust that the Government truly has backed down over the bill.

It is a testimony to the uprising over this bill that the Government has now decided to take a step back and re-consider the reach of the bill. As David Howarth mentioned, "It is a disgrace that they had attempted to rush through the legislation in such a fashion."

Save Parliament will continue to campaign for amendments to be made, and to raise awareness of the Bill and its implications, until the Government has given firm commitments to limit the scope of the Bill. The campaign continues…

What can I do?

  • You can write to your MP, telling him/her you disapprove of the bill.
  • Tell your friends about the bill and this site.
  • Distribute leaflets around your school/college, place of work or even in your local town.


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Comments

1. jax - April 22, 2006

Yes, I still have my reservations, and will be keeping a watchful eye. Never heard back from my mp about it either.

2. Dave Gould - April 22, 2006

Do not cling to false hope!

We have been in the exact same situation before, with the Civil Contingencies Act, the ID Card Act etc. What Murphy will do is announce this amendment hours before the Third Reading which will con enough New Labour MPs into voting for it. “Con” I say because the amendment will not do what Murphy says it will do.

For example, the amendment might say that an independent commission (but chosen by the Govt) will decide when Bills can be scrutinised.

We’ve been here enough times before to know that New Labour will use every trick in the book to give itself such powers.

3. Save Parliament Blog » New Report Demands Ammendments - April 25, 2006

[…] We welcome and support the reports conclusions which we hope the Government will take into account whilst they re-think the bill. […]

4. corneilius - April 26, 2006

The deeper question is perhaps, what does such an open attempt at a grab for powers beyond the stated remit of ‘easing the red-tape burden of business’ imply about who Tony Blair thinks he is, and who are they that have promoted this grab for such powers?

5. corneilius - April 26, 2006

And of course resistance to this bill ought to continue untill it is quashed utterly. In no form or shape ought power to legislate be in the hands of a mere minister, it is the remit of paraliament, as peoples representatives and of common-sense public discussion, to arrive at such decisions. None else!


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