The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill - time to do something
Banality slips beneath the radar so much more easily than excitement. Call something "The Religious Hatred Bill", people sit up and take notice. Call it "Administrative" "Legislative" or "Regulatory" something or other, no one notices for hell, and you can slip all kinds of nonsense through. Why do you think the fictional Department in Yes, Minister was The Department for Administrative Affairs?
Anyway, the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is bloody dangerous, potentially far more so than any other piece of legislation currently before parliament. Yet because it sounds boring, no one cares. Most MPs haven't got a clue about it. So it's time to enlighten them.
Via EU-Serf (and the fact that we're agreeing on this should be some indication of just how dangerous the bill is) comes a very handy breakdown of the problems with the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, and a request that you contact your MP asap to ask them a few questions and get them thinking about the bloody thing, rather than merely ignoring it through boredom as most seem to be. Here's a few samples of possible questions you could ask when you contact your MP:
Why does the Bill give the power to create new law, including new criminal offences, to the Law Commissions, which are unelected quangos appointed by Ministers?Most people think politics is boring. That's precisely why politicians get away with so damn much. Time to wake them up people - because this particular bill could do all MPs out of a job...
If the Law Commissions are supposed to be staffed by impartial technical experts, why are Ministers taking the power to amend the recommendations of the Law Commissions before they are fast-tracked into legislation?
If the Bill gives Ministers powers to charge fees by decree, is that not a charter to bring in unlimited stealth taxes?
As the Bill permits an order to be made by a Minister under the Bill provided its effect is “proportionate” to his “policy objective”, since when in our history as a democratic country has a Government Minister’s “policy objective” directly received the force of law?
If the Bill allows Ministers to “amend, repeal or replace legislation in any way that an Act might”, does this not give them an unlimited power to ignore a democratic Parliament and legislate by decree?
Update: Never thought I'd say this, but thank God for the Tories - it seems they're on the case.
Update 2: From the comments, a very handy, easy to understand (.pdf) briefing paper from lawyers at Clifford Chance, "Henry VIII Redux - The government's new law-making powers", just to prove it's not just bloggers who are concerned about this:
"The bill will permit the Government to... change any piece of secondary legislation... Secondary legislation implementing Law Commission proposals may, additionally, amend the common law. The Bill would also permit such secondary legislation to give Ministers, and other, powers to make legislation, not subject to the new procedure...In other words, this Bill gives them the power to give themselves more powers as they see fit, and the only restriction placed upon them is their conscience. These are politicians we're talking about - they don't HAVE a conscience. Be afraid.
"The Minister may only make an Order under the Bill where he considers that the conditions set out in clause 3(2), 'where relevant, are satisfied'... The bill does not require the conditions are met, but rather that the Minister considers that they have been met, where relevant."