Save Parliament Blog
Our campaign blog provides news & comment related to the ongoing campaign against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. The full blog, including comments, is hosted over at WordPress with a full RSS feed available here.
House of Lords
As SpyBlog reports, the House of Lords has been debated the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. We are not exactly certain yet as to what amendments have been tabled or made but it does appear as though the Labour lord at the forefront has tabled for clause 3 to be removed with allows the implementation of law commission recommendations with or without changes - one of our primary concerns.
This could be a sign that the Government is attempting to make the much needed changes to make this bill safe.
Guest Article, House of Lords Debate
The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (aka the Abolition of Parliament Bill) is being debated in the House of Lords today and we have a guest article to coincide with the debate. If you'd like to follow the debate you can watch the House of Lords live at www.parliamentlive.tv.
There’s something fishy about the progress of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is getting its second reading in the House of Lords tomorrow, and by fishy, I mean an old, putrid fish, rotten to the point where you reel back in disgust, obviously. 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”.
Well no, anyone still possessing logic, which this Bill tends to destroy, must be thinking at this juxtaposition. The government have surely not “got it badly wrong”. They have so far managed to get this Bill through all three readings in the House of Commons. “They” wanted to “gold-plate” their powers, and “they” have almost managed to do so. All that remains between us and a virtual dictatorship now is the House of Lords, whose sterling dissection of the amended Bill managed to hit precisely one headline last week, and whose own existence is under permanent threat. You could, rather more convincingly, argue that the government have got it very right, if the stench wasn’t threatening to overwhelm you.
One supposes that Lord Holme, having looked with clear eyes at the truth of the Bill, and dared to speak that truth through the miasma of lies, diversions and empty promises with which the government have managed to get to this stage, was overwhelmed. And the Bill really is too much, even for people who have become used to it. The amendments, as the Lords’ report points out, do not do what the government assured people they would do. So where are the wild cries of horror which originally greeted the Bill’s contents, once those contents became understood? Where are the lawyers, the commentators, the bloggers and the campaigners whose passionate defence of our democracy meant that the government had at least to make a pretence of amending the Bill? Exhausted, dispirited, and hoping that the Lords will somehow get it right, one suspects. Not to mention taken entirely by surprise, yet again, by the government’s impeccable timing.
The government’s tactics so far have been simple, and effective. First they tried to get the Bill through without any publicity at all. When its contents were finally exposed, they delayed a response, then grudgingly announced that they would consider changing the contents. Once the cheers of delight and relief had died down, and the Bill’s opponents, believing they had won a victory, took their eye off things, the government struck. The third reading came out of nowhere. MP’s were given three days to study the last set of amendments before voting on them. Now the Bill is in the Lords. "Already? No!" was the common reponse from the lawyers I spoke to, including the commercial lawyers Olswangs, who had described it as “unnecessary, sinister and undesirable”, and the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship who, along with other faith groups, had been campaigning against it.
“It’s nothing to worry about” a minor civil servant was telling me yesterday. “All that will have happened is that they tried to give themselves as much power as possible. There’s nothing sinister in that. It’s just a practical matter”. And in the meantime the government – or the executive, rather, since this Bill is generated and backed by both Blair and Brown – have lied, and lied again to get this Bill through; lied about everything from its overall purpose to its fine detail. "They should have known that was constitutionally questionable" said Lord Holme. He had just accused the government of wanting to seize legislative power; of course they must have known it was “constitutionally questionable”. We all need to face up to facts, it seems, and instead here we are, still holding our noses in denial.
Save Parliament Bulletin: Report Stage of the Abolition of Parliament Bill
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. (/campaign/liveblogging.html)
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.
Dissecting the Government?s Arguments
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
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
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!
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?
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
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
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.