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What’s going on? May 15, 2006

Posted by Julian Todd in Politics.

Right, I'm completely lost now. This is as bad as when I attended a Liverpool Council Meeting and spent the time flipping through a 150 page agenda never knowing where they were. They had some guy on full time duty giving handsignals for the deaf. But someone with an overhead projector and marker pen pointing at which point in the document they were at would have been helpful to lots of people.

There's lots of fine pontification happening, but what the heck is going on? When do they start changing the Bill? I thought we were going to proceed through the different clauses one at a time, and votes would be happening, like it usually does when I read the debates on-line.

The Today in Parliament transcript is just now beginning to get on-line. Maybe the missing explanation, present on the bits of paper they're pointing at and waving around, will be excerpted into record. In another hour it might roll forward enough to cover the start of this debate.

See the comments for continued notes. 


1. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

We seem to have got lost into a lot of European Legislation discussion. It doesn’t seem particularly relevant to this Bill. It just happens that this New Clause 17 is under discussion, which gives them the chance to sound off about it.

The Speaker has now agreed with me.

2. Watching Them, Watching Us - May 15, 2006

If Bill Cash’s NC17 became law, it would not repeal the European Communities Act 1972, but it could be used to amend or repeal all UK legislation which flows from European Union directives or regulations etc, by Order, without full primary legislation debate.

This would be sneaky way to withdraw from the European Union,.

This seems to go against the grain of most of the Opposition saying that this Bill should only be about de-regulation and not about any primary legislation at all.

3. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

He’s on a bit. It’s quite interesting, but running over re-iteration about Courts and Judges cases which must refer to Parliamentary Acts, and the principle behind the unwritten British constitution.

The question he’s talking about in his prepared speech (which he’s flipping through from the pages in his hands) is about the supremacy of parliament, vs the supremacy of treaties signed by the government (eg the EU treaties).

Whatever this is to do with, it is slightly related to our problem here of government having sovreignty over Parliament through the powers of this reform Bill. But this is a wider point.

4. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

The text of this clause is: “An order made under Part 1 containing provision relating to Community treaties, Community instruments or Community obligations shall, notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972, be binding in any legal proceedings in the United Kingdom”

There’s something important about the word “notwithstanding”, which I don’t get.

I thought normally the govt likes EU leg, because they have authority to negotiate it with other ministers in Europe, and they can bring it back home as a fait accomplis. As they attempted to do with Software Patents.

5. Watching Them, Watching Us - May 15, 2006

David Howarth , LibDem, and Cambridge University law academic,

“It is not the motives of Ministers, it is what the Bill actually says”

6. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

Exactly. Now they’re discussing the “reasonably” word. I find it useful to reverse the statement, when they reject it.

“A Minister of the Crown may by order under this section make any provision which he considers — however unreasonably — would serve the purpose”

The trial by jury situation is being considered, because we know that ministers are quite capable of saying that such a right is an “administrative burden”.

7. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

We’re still on the EU New Clause 17 argument. They seem to think it’s a general situation of explaining that Parliament can over-ride EU legislation.

Acts of parliament can be thought of as merely instructions to Judges and courts on how they will find cases. Bill Cash keeps referring to judgements where Judges have stated explicitly that they always refer to Parliament and never can be over-ruled by an international law. Also pointing out that the consideration of rewriting the Human Rights Act would go against a European Treaty.

8. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

Some unnamed MP is re-running us through the history of this Bill, to make sure that it cannot be forgotten. He says it’s a shame that Jim Murphy isn’t there to see the results of his work: 50 government amendments brought on a Bill that he stonewalled through the first two stages of consideration. It feels like a Second Reading debate, rather than a Third Reading debate.

9. Watching Them, Watching Us - May 15, 2006

Pete Wishart (Scottish Nationalist Party) – this report stage is effectively a 2nd Reading debate on the principles, because there have been over 50 Government Amendments tabled since Committee stahge i.e. it is virtually a new Bill compared with what was originally presented.

He makes the point that there are no clear definitions of important words like “burden” or “legislation” or “enactment” around which the various clauses are founded on.

10. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

The start of the debate has finally got on-line


Now I know that the Speaker doesn’t read out the list of amendments under discussion, as it seems he does in the record.

The minister in charge is Pat McFadden MP, whom I hadn’t heard of:


He entered Parliament last year and was made a junior minister last week. So we have the heavy hitters here!

11. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

The MP speaking has now pointed out that not all regulation is bad. Really. No kidding! And he also says, why can’t the deregulation be handled with an annual bill, like the Finance Bill, which handles all the taxation for each year.

There is absolutely no reason for this Leg Reg Bill to cover taxation at all, because those provisions can go in the Finance Bill.

“There are all sorts of general bills that come through this house to make these changes”

12. Watching Them, Watching Us - May 15, 2006

“why can’t the deregulation be handled with an annual bill,”

That would be sensible, but since that is claimed to be a Tory policy, pehaps that is why it is not done by the Labour Government.

13. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

They’re back onto New Clause 19, the replacement for Clause 1. This is 19:30, after 4 hours debate. The MP speaking is deploring the way he and so many others missed the imporance of this Bill, because it was given such an innocuous name. He’s also reminded of the Civil Contingencies Bill, which they discovered gives the power to any minister to rescind any law of the land during a state of emergency.

14. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

There’s a more logical explanation: They have provisions planned that would not get past the usual Parliamentary procedure without a lot of grief, which is why they need this method to bypass it.

The argument about speed, complexity, on uncontroversial deregulatory matters that cannot be delivered with usual legislative process has been discredited.

15. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

An MP with a red tie has stood up and defended the Bill loudly, saying that the government is fullfilling all its promises to put safeguards. It has nothing to do with all that uninformed talk by the public outside the House.

John Gummer has also asked whether this ruse of proposing an extreme Bill that they knew would not pass, and then rolling back to a less extreme “compromise” position is going on here.

16. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

Some of the MPs don’t want to vote for a New Clause 17 unless amendment (b) to it is going to be passed as well. It’s a good point.

Amendment (b) removes “or” and inserts “and” like so:

“(2) That purpose is removing or reducing any burden, or the overall burdens, resulting directly [or]AND indirectly for any person from any legislation.”

Having it as “or” allows the burden to be reduced for one person (or corporation), while at the same time increasing a burden for a million other people. So he wants the word “and” in there.

Amendment (c) would limit the legislation to the Parliamentary acts. Why should Local legislation be considered less significant, and available to be struck down by a minister answerable to the House of Commons only. Under this Act they could change acts of the Synod of the Church of England.

17. Watching Them, Watching Us - May 15, 2006

How many MPs are there actually in the Chamber of the House of Commons at the moment ? 20 ?

18. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

Maybe a few more. Well, we don’t yet outnumber them ourselves. Although from 60 million of us, it should be possible to.

I bring your attention to Standing Order 41(2):


“The House shall not be counted at any time.”

Wait till there’s a division. Then you’ll see the place fill up like a bag under a coal chute.

19. Watching Them, Watching Us - May 15, 2006

The labour MPs pagers just vibrated and the Minister and whoever is sitting behind him both reached into their pockets to turn them off.

Presumably that means that the herds of lobby fodder are now being summoned from the bars and restaurants to vote soon.

20. goatchurch - May 15, 2006

The Minister is now dismissing all the lettered amendments to his New Clause 19. He says the minister has to act reasonably anyway, so no need to insert the word. He says the amendment (b) would make the Bill more useless than the Reg Reform Act 2001.

He's asked that if it doesn't make a difference, then why not accept it?

The minister says he will "reflect" on amendment (a). David Heath says this is the time for this House to have an opinion on the matter, so why doesn't he "reflect" a little quicker.

21. goatchurch - May 15, 2006


22. Watching Them, Watching Us - May 15, 2006

Has Pat McFadden been cloned from JiM Murphy ?

When he came to the Government summing up on the Tax raising / reduction powers (yes, apparently it can be used to remove taxes by order, but not to increase them)., a backbench Labour MP raised the point that this could and should be dealt with by the annual Budget and Finance Bill, so why was there anything to do with taxation in theis Bill at all ?

Pat McFadden the Minister, then said exactly the same thing, agreeing that any taxation changes would be dealt with in the Finance Bill, but refused to answer why this provsion was in the this Bill at all., just like JIm Murphy did before.

20:25 Now a Division has been called, but there very nearly was no division, as the Deputy Speaker repeated the Question and seemed to be saying the Ayes have it i.e. the Noes were not loud enough, even though the broadcast microphones picked them up.

23. goatchurch - May 15, 2006
24. Unwritten Law - November 2, 2006


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