Thursday, March 27, 2008

Just When You Thought it Was Safe...

Remember the Legislative & Regulatory Reform Act 2006? That was the one where the Government unsuccessfully tried to slip through a measure effectively designed for Ministers to bypass Parliament whenever they felt like it.

Well, it's back in the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill. Spyblog has the story HERE. What it means is that we could soon be ruled by Ministerial Decree. Time for all good men (and bloggers) and true to come to aid of democracy, methinks. Here's what the draft Bill says...

Part 6
FINAL PROVISION
43 Power to make consequential provision

(1) A Minister o the Crown, or two or more Ministers of the Crown acting jointly, may by order make such provision as the Minister or Ministers consider appropriate in consequence of this Act.

(2) An order under subsection (1) may --

    (a) amend, repeal or revoke any provision made by or an Act;

    (b) include transitional or saving provision.

(3) An order under subsection (1) is to be made by statutory instrument.

(4) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (1) which amends or repeals a provision of an Act may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(5) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (1) which does not amend or repeal a provision of an Act is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

23 comments:

Man in a Shed said...

Why do they want to do this ? How does it relate to orders in council - if at all ?

Anonymous said...

Democracy is always an administrative inconvenience.

Patrick said...

Iain,

See my comment over at Guido's.

Read section 4 very carefully.

Anonymous said...

... Patrick.... having read section 4 and section 2 very carefully... tell me what the difference between 'repeal' and 'revoke' might be

Slim Jim said...

It's hard to believe the arrogance of this government. You would think that their position in the polls would make them a wee bit more cautious about such attacks on democracy. Perhaps they know they are terminally ill, and are just doing as much damage as they can. Or maybe they're just plain stupid? I do hope the young Cameron and his chums make much political capital over this.

Patrick said...

Anon 11:10,

I don't know.

It seems to me that the effect of all of this is to compress the time required to change the law.

The suggestion that ministers could willy nilly dictate new law by fiat is clearly not true as everything would require approval by both houses (with presumably the Lords being a much tougher nut to crack).

What I think it does achieve is a 'defendable' further (slight) weakening of parliament and an slight extension of power into the hands of the executive. Quite unsurprising with this mob!

No doubt more additional shitty power grabs will follow - and on the bolied frog principle we will all be too bored to notice.

dizzy said...

Patrick, you should go and read Spy blog.

dodgy downing st said...

The aftermath of 'regime change' in the UK is also going to be messy.
The Conservatives will have to gradually move this country back towards democracy and the rule of law.
Yes, our rogue regime does have weapons of mass distraction.

iCowboy said...

@Anonymous

Acts of Parliament are 'repealed', Orders are 'revoked' - same thing, different names - and probably two lots of lawyers billing for them.

David Boothroyd said...

You seem to have missed the important limitation that such orders have to be "in consequence of this Act". The Constitutional Renewal Bill has limited purposes in the long title: repealing certain sections of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, removing most of the Attorney-General's powers to intervene in individual cases, putting the Civil Service on a statutory basis, and require Treaties to be submitted to Parliament.

If it isn't a consequence of any of these things, then no power will exist for Ministers to do anything. It can hardly be said that there is much this power can be used on, but there's always a chance that the draftsmen will have missed another power of the Attorney-General, or a mention of the Civil Service which needs correcting, on their trawl for connected legislation.

In other words, false alarm.

Anonymous said...

Will the Tories vote against this?

Patrick said...

Dizzy,

Thanks for the prompt and I have now read the Spyblog piece in full quite carefully.

Don't get me wrong - I hate this government with all the fury of anyone with a house, a car, 2 kids, a mortgage and a functional brain.

I do also, however, believe in reading exactly what documents say. The spyblog piece seems to focus entirely on the disfunctional procdures in the house of commons. Fair dinkum - but section 4 does say BOTH houses. I just don't think the Lords are such an easy pushover. Yet.

Watch this space while Jack Straw or some other socialist mong dreams up a way to elect the lords and make them slaves to a party whip also.

Gman said...

That's it Boothroyd, keep on shilling, keep shilling for this lot in charge. Do you remember the old you? The principled fighter against the 'evil' tory government??
Do you realise what you have turned into?
Are you not in the least bit ashamed of what your government has turned into?

Little Black Sambo said...

David Boothroyd performs a very useful function on this blog, know what I mean?

Anonymous said...

Boothroyd get back to the brown office please. Your appeasement of this lot makes me sick.

This is what I believe will happen. It will get through. Then near a general election some alleged threat will occur and this Act will be invoked and we will have this shower in charge for as long as they wish!

Can anyone see our countrymen and women rising up in anger? Not on your nelly. As long as they can carry on as normal they will not bat an eyelid!

We are doomed!!!!

Peter Harrison said...

Much as I disagree with David Boothroyd about many things, he is correct on this one. Orders have to be "in consequence of this Act". If they are not, anyone can get them overturned with a judicial review.

Even in this limited context, I am not convinced this is a good idea and would like to see these provisions voted down. However, this do not allow Magna Carta to be revoked by ministerial diktat as Spyblog suggests.

judith said...

We cannot rely on the Lords anymore, this Govt has been whittling away at their powers since 97.

And since so much legislation now comes from the EU, and is nodded through the House of Commons, it can be honestly asserted that NuLab have done a great job of handing us over to Brussels, trussed and stuffed.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I tire of the British public. Boothroyd is right. Spy blog is wrong. It's not a matter of political opinion, it's a matter of legal fact.

Find a lawyer. Any lawyer. This is a standard mop-up clause at the end of any Bill. It's legalese for "if there turn out to be any slight technical oversights in this Bill that stop it working as it's meant to, we don't have to pass a whole new Bill to correct that".

It does not, not, not allow anything more than that.

Head of Legal said...

Yes, David Boothroyd's right that the power here only extends to making consequential amendments. It's not a wide power to amend legislation - not at all like what the "Legs and Regs" Bill proposed a couple of years back.

If ministers want to amend an Act using this power, they'll need (see subsection(4)) Parliament to pass resolutions backing their amending instrument.

And if after that, you think their instrument makes changes that go further than what is simply consequential, then judicially review them. If the courts agree they'll quash the instrument.

David Boothroyd said...

Could I direct everyone's attention to section 24 (3) of the District Courts (Scotland) Act 1975, which has been happily sitting on our statute book for 32 years? I may be wrong but I don't recall anyone suggesting Harold Wilson abolished Parliament. Indeed the Bill received an unopposed passage at Second and Third Reading in both Houses.

Anonymous said...

Oh no! The Football (Disorder) Act 2000 has a clause letting a Minister alter "any enactment, instrument or document."!!!

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2000/ukpga_20000025_en_1#l1g3

This clause is identical to the one causing such a fuss.

brian w said...

I still don't trust this lot, it hates democratic decision making!

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

anonymous @ 2.29 PM. You say, 'Find a lawyer. Any lawyer.' I am a lawyer and I have spent many years interpreting statutes. This clause is not restricted to "slight technical oversights." That may be the intention, but that is emphatically not what it says. It is too widely drawn. It may be a bog standard Henry VIII clause but it is no less objectionable on that account.