Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Abolition of Parliament Bill

Any time I tell myself that things can't get much worse, they usually do.

Under the guise of removing red tape and streamlining procedures, Tony Blair wants to give himself sweeping powers without precedent in Britain since our constitutional monarchy was established.

The tiny four-page bill now working its way through parliament allows ministers to

  • Abolish any law they don't like.
  • Change any existing or new law they want to, in almost any way at all.
  • Introduce new laws based on proposals by a Law Commission, with almost any changes they feel like.
These sweeping powers are not to be scrutinised or debated by parliament - there will just be a single chance for parliament to notice whatever is in the small print (while the Prime Minister intones "minor procedural changes - nothing to see here") , and veto it - otherwise a set of completely unscrutinised changes, of a scope which is impossible to predict, will suddenly be part of the laws of the United Kingdom.

The so-called safeguards are weak, and don't affect the central fundamental change to the constitution. The government have only to convince themselves that they are being balanced, and that they really need to change the rules this way, rather than through parliament. They can't raise new taxes this way, and there is a maximum sentence for any new crimes they invent. And they can only remove freedom where they think it is "reasonable". But that's about it, for safeguards. And most of these safeguards vanish if they are just "clarifying" existing law, or if a Law Commission thinks it might be a good idea!

There are precedents, of course. Before the power of the Crown was curtailed by Parliament, the King could rule by decree. And Adolf Hitler had an Enabling Act that allowed him to rule like a dictator. But in a modern democracy, to attempt to abolish parliamentary scrutiny is shocking.

No doubt Blair will offer minor concessions and further insignificant "safeguards". This is not enough. The problem is not the dearth of safeguards (though that in itself is horrific).

No - the problem here is the power to rewrite the laws of a democracy on demand.

Its official and innocuous title is the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, but it has been called the Abolition of Parliament Bill (see Hansard) - Quite simply, granting that much power to the current and all future governments could deliver a fatal wound to our democracy.

Speak out now, while there is time - tell your MP though

What sort of madness has seized the mind of Her Majesty's Prime Minister, Anthony Blair, that he even imagines this is a good idea?

Credit to Old Mother Chaos and Martin from the BLUG list for pointing this out.


Monique said...

I am in no way confident offering you my opinion on UK politics, yet I will say this Bill flies in the face of democracy. I hope and pray it is not adopted. And I repent of the times I have complained of being intellectually drained from participating in democratic dissent. Because truly, what kind of whiner am when I complain about freedom?? Shesh.

RuthySJ said...

It doesn't matter how much we shout and complain, the government will do what they want and everything else will be "swept under the carpet". But we might as well air our views and let them know what we're thinking. you never know for once they might listen - but then they may not!

Paul said...

Sometimes if enough people notice, they back down (at least for a while). Like when Mr Blunkett tried to allow just about everyone (including your local council) access to your mobile phone call records and who you emailed. One version of the story even says that his son read about it, and explained a few of the issues to his father.

So don't give up just yet.