There goes Democracy!
I remember a line in the recent movie ‘V for Vendetta’ where the main character says that politicians should be more scared of us than we are of them and it looks as if life is about to imitate art. The innocuous sounding Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill fundamentally changes the way Government creates, amends and removes legislation from the statute book, and if passed it allows ministers to bypass scrutiny and debate by the House of Commons. Don’t like a particular piece of legislation? No problem make a few amendments with anyone asking any questions, wait a few weeks and hey presto!
The Chairman of the House of Lords Committee currently dealing with the Bill said it first. “They (the government) wanted to give themselves power to change any law with the minimum of parliamentary involvement, thus gold-plating their powers,” Lord Holme reported. The government, he then added “got it badly wrong this time”.
The key reason given is one of efficiency even the Cabinet Office see this as the key. Seems a little convenient that as the current Government have seen a number of key policies fall foul of close scrutiny that they should catch an efficiency bug all of a sudden.
The Legislative & Regulatory Reform Bill aims to make it quicker and easier to tackle unnecessary or over-complicated regulation and help bring about a risk-based approach to regulation. The Bill completed Committee stage in the House of Lords on 19th July 2006.
But the effect would be to make the Executive all powerful, able to change and modify the laws of the land just because they felt like it, the only test being “Am I doing the right thing?” History is littered with the careers of politicans who thought they were.
The Government claims that it has no malign intention in introducing the reform to parliamentary procedures. It is just that it has such ambitious plans for deregulation — or “better regulation” as it rather suspiciously calls it — that Parliament won’t be able to cope. The previous Regulatory Reform Act, passed in 2001, was so hedged around with conditions and safeguards that it took longer to produce a regulatory reform order than it did to produce a Bill. So this time, the Government wants more sweeping powers.
During future detailed Commons consideration of the Bill, restrictions on the terms of the new orders will be resisted using the argument that business wants deregulation and government has to get on with it.
What does this argument, used often by the minister during last week’s debate, amount to? An admission that we are now passing so many new laws, so quickly, and so many of them are sloppy, that we don’t have time to debate them properly or reform them when they go wrong. Parliament is drowning in a sea of legislation. Instead of calling a halt to this, the Government is seeking a way of moving ever faster, adding yet more laws, this time with even less debate.
The problem with ID cards, smoking bans and new terror laws is not just the standard liberal one. It isn’t even that they are entirely unecessary, since you can fashion an argument for each measure. It is that we should be reforming and enforcing the laws we have, rather than adding new complicated, poorly thought through laws to the stack that already exists. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill isn’t just a dangerous proposal. It is a flashing red light.
Our legislative activism is endangering our parliamentary democracy and we must stop before it’s too late.
Or am I a nutter?
No Daniel you’re not.