Save Parliament Bulletin: Report Stage of the Abolition of Parliament Bill May 25, 2006Posted by Phil in Politics.
Welcome to the fourth Save Parliament bulletin, and if you've only just joined us, welcome to the campaign! We have a lot to tell you about!
This is the latest update on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (aka Abolition of Parliament Bill). For more information and constantly updated list of resources, visit the site at http//www.saveparliament.org.uk and in particular, the blog:
What just happened?
After pushing the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill through the Committee Stage without changes in March, the government conceded that this was a very important bill. They made significant changes, and allowed two days for debate. This was still not enough time to air all the objections.
After our initial optimism, we have gone over it carefully, and decided that it's not much better than before. For example, the Bill still allows the government to rewrite any law, provided they can claim that at least one of the things they are doing will 'remove a burden'. It would still be possible for jury service or Habeus Corpus to be removed by order. Many of our complaints still haven't been dealt with.
You can look at the new Bill at:
Don't be fooled by its brevity. Section 1(7)(a) says: "Provision may be made… [for] conferring functions on any person (including functions of legislating or functions relating to the charging of fees)".
This short sentence is all it takes to give ministers the power to appoint anyone they choose to make law. This has been described by some MP's as "sub-delegation" but it is no such thing. The minister can confer a power to write laws which they would not have a power to do themselves without Parliament's consent. This is an entirely new and extraordinary executive privilege. To make this point clear, see the vote they held during the debate where the MPs voted against a new clause that would have made someone, who had been given the power to rewrite the law, accountable to Parliament.
What can you do?
There is no way this Bill will get through the House of Lords in its present state, since it appears that members of the upper chamber tend to read what's before them, and take as much time as they like. The Lords will make changes to this Bill. This Bill will return to the Commons. The MPs will be asked to revert these changes by voting.
The changes are likely to be similar to what had been proposed and rejected during this two day debate of the Bill. Your MP may have voted for or against those changes. We have a list of the votes that were made by MPs on the Bill so far, and the direction they would have voted had they wished to save Parliamentary scrutiny.
Using the link above, you can find your MP by entering your postcode, and see exactly how they performed on this handy table. (Technical note: the policy "abstains" for votes that replaced one clause with another, or on something that was irrelevant.) You are encouraged to click on the individual votes and read them, and check the corresponding debates on theyworkforyou.com. To get a flavour of how it happened, check out the live blogging of the debate on the 16th. (http://www.saveparliament.org.uk/campaign/liveblogging.php)
Now is a good time to write a quick letter to your MP, after they have declared their vote and can't deny what they've done, and before they are given another chance when the Bill comes back from the House of Lords. You can use the http://writetothem.com webpage, or send it by mail. You can be quite specific in your letter, and it depends on how your MP voted.
If your MP scored above 85%, they are completely with us, and are either Conservatives or Liberal Democrats (sadly we haven't managed to bring any Labour MP's fully over to our side yet!) Write a letter to thank them, if you like.
If your MP scored above 57%, they are also with us, but may have missed many of the votes. If they were "absent" in between votes at which they were present, they probably abstained. (They don't record a difference between absence and abstention.) You can check a vote they abstained on and if you feel they should have voted for it, ask them why they didn't.
Almost all other MPs voted against Parliamentary scrutiny, though check their comparison table because they might have missed all the interesting votes, or mixed stuff up like Jeremy Corbyn MP.
In particular, if your MP scored below 20%, then there's work to do. Pick a vote and write a short letter telling them your feelings, asking for their justification, and requesting that they consider voting against these powers when they get a second chance.
The interesting ones to consider are Division 232, where your MP could have voted against the requirement that ministers act "reasonably"; Division 234, where your MP could have voted against the requirement that ministers had to implement law commission reports "without changes", so they couldn't cherry-pick them; Division 238, mentioned above; and Division 240, where your MP could have voted against giving the committee overseeing an order complete freedom to reject it.
On one final note, we've added a forum to our site where you can post your MPs responses and talk about what you've been doing to campaign against the bill with other supporters.