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Save Parliament Bulletin: Report Stage of the Abolition of Parliament Bill May 25, 2006

Posted by Phil in Politics.
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Hi everyone,

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.

Community Forum

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.

Dissecting the Government’s Arguments May 17, 2006

Posted by Phil in Politics.
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Murky.org has a great post talking around a number of comments from various sources and then goes on to dissect a letter from the Cabinet Office which I'm sure those of you with Labour MPs have received.

Day 2 Live Blogging May 16, 2006

Posted by Phil in Politics.
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The inability for us to live blog the debate today has been met very well by SpyBlog is doing a great job of it! Much kudos…

Day One Is Over May 15, 2006

Posted by Julian Todd in Politics.
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Unfortunately no one on this site can be on duty for Day Two, so there will be an open thread for anyone to post their comments, or link to another site that live blogs that 6 hour extravaganza tomorrow.

What have I learnt?

Quite a lot, really. There's something that doesn't quite work with Live Blogging a staged debate — it's difficult to add anything constructive to what a number of very eloquent and well-prepared people are saying. It's also over a very long time, and will all be available tomorrow on www.theyworkforyou.com where you are encouraged to go post any comments.

What I have tried to do here is similar to the commenting on that website, which has never really taken off either. In the long term, we need is to get the Bills themselves into a proper computerized system on which we can watch the changes, and narrate our feelings.

That is where it really happens.

The debate we — outside of Parliament — have had on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, has far exceeded what was going on inside the House and especially the Standing Committee until now. Today we have seen Parliament change their schedule and hold a debate to catch up with our debate.

Never forget that. There is much much more to democracy than simply voting in general elections. We need to watch everything carefully at all times. We need to watch the laws they pass, the laws the try to pass, and every piece of regulatory change they think they can slip out at five o'clock on a Friday afternoon when everyone has gone home. Now we will need to watch the new channels for unchecked and unaccountable legislation that this Bill is set to open up.

Ding-ding-ding-ding Clear the lobby! May 15, 2006

Posted by Julian Todd in Politics.
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The speaker stood and said we will now do the Second Reading on New Clause 19. he did an Aye and No calling.  It sounded like more Ayes, but when he asked a second time, the Noes shouted much louder.  Then he said "Clear the Lobbies" and the microphones were turned off. 
Three minutes later they turned the mics on again for a few seconds to redo the calling, and for the Tellers to be appointed.  All the MPs who weren't there at the debate now have seven minutes to come in and pack the vote.  

Presumably the microphones are off to respect the MP's privacy as they make their decision about which way to vote on this important matter.  

What’s going on? May 15, 2006

Posted by Julian Todd in Politics.
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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. 

New Clause 19 debate now begins May 15, 2006

Posted by Julian Todd in Politics.
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The introduction is complete. The Conservative opposition guy (Oliver Heald) is now able to make his set piece speech. He has thanked, among others, the blog sites for getting this far.

You can read this speech when it's typed onto the Hansard. Some good bits, some bad bits of party politicking about labour party regulation.

He does say that this bill was almost entirely constitutional in nature, rather than a proper deregulation Bill

See the comments for continued notes. 

The debate begins May 15, 2006

Posted by Julian Todd in Politics.
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The home office questions finished at 3:30pm, and the house became empty. It goes down from about 70 to 40.

The program motion amending the motion on 9 february was amendmended by a voice vote in the first 3 minutes of the debate. It extended the debate to 2 days.

So much for those program motions if they can be changed verbally just like that as they go along. Why have them at all?

The govt says: "This is the third time since 1994 that the government has had to push through a measure like this." And then blamed huge changes due to Globalization, and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.
I don't know the name of the MPs. Someone asked, could we see the shopping list from all the departments of the changes they want to see happen under this Bill? No such list has been seen.

See the comments for continued notes. 

The Set of Amendments May 15, 2006

Posted by Julian Todd in Politics.
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The debate for the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill will commence at 2:30, and can be watched on Parliament TV

It will begin with a 45 minutes discussion of the timetable for the debate, after which there may be a vote, and the timetable presented by the government at the start of the 45 minutes will be passed.

I've been shown the hurried new set of amendments by former Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong, which has been incorporated into the current hugely complex running order of amendments. Without this document, little of what goes on will make sense. It uses up a lot of paper. I have printed out the current version of the Bill in its Enabling Act form.

Most curiously, all the amendments that were formerly propsed by Jim Murphy now have Armstrong's name on them. There must be a whole other room in Parliament where this gets sorted out, which we don't see the transcripts from.

Most interesting is her motion NC26, which says: "An order under this Part may not make provision amending or repealing any provision of (a) this Part; or (b) the Human Rights Act 1998".

This bears a great deal of similarity to NC3 and several others, as well as being pretty similar to New Clause 7 that was rejected by the Standing Committee on 9 March.

Leg Reg – Third Reading – Live Blogging May 15, 2006

Posted by Julian Todd in Politics.
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Today is the first day of two days of debates on the floor of the House of Commons on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. I will be live-blogging the first day from the comfort of my own office after lunch. Please watch with me on Parliament TV from about 3:30 onwards (after Home Office questions).

We have already won unprecedented victory by the fact that this debate will last two days. Never expect acknowledgement from the government that they have been beaten over anything — it's some sort of saving-face instinct that's so deep it cannot be rooted out. But here are the facts:

One of Thatcher's innovations, the Parliamentary Guillotine Motion was passed for this Bill on 9 February 2006 which specified that, no matter what important matters were being showed up in the debates, the Standing Committee would complete its review of the Bill by 9 March, and the Report Stage and Third Reading of the Bill would be polished off on floor of the House of Commons by the end of the day on which it had started. Indeed, on the day the Standing Committee had concluded — after having changed nothing — David Heath MP said in Parliament that the Bill was so important they needed two days to consider it. The leader of the House at the time, Geoff Hoon replied that this matter had already been settled by the programme motion. However, when he came to announce the timetable two months later, we got two days. Normally I'd be able to point to a "(Programme) (No. 2)" motion in Parliament which would rescind the previous order, but I can't find it. Maybe it's just being ignored.

The timing makes quite difference. There are about 100 amendments ready to be discussed on this Bill, some of which us, the public, the ones who effectively over-ruled Parliament and got this two day debate, probably support. Then there are all the government amendments at the head of the list which take priority. In a short debate, this is all they'd get through. In a longer one, they might have time to reach New Clause NC14, which defines the meaning of "controversial" in a way that a Minister can't abuse by the usual trick of believing the unbelievable.  

I hope to see some of you here.  We'll drop a reminder to the email list when it starts so anyone can join in.