Over at Liberty Central, Unity welcomes the Goverment being more specific about the burdens that can be removed - namely those of financial cost, administrative inconvenience, obstacles to efficiency, productivity or profitability, and sanctions, criminal or otherwise, for doing or not doing anything in the course of any activity.
What the hell does that last sentence mean? I agree with Spyblog when he says:
This Bill adds to the already strong case for a law which imposes criminal penalties on any Government Ministers, civil servants and lawyers, who dare to use words like "any" or "all" or "every" in a Bill or Order or Regulation, without qualification, caveat or restriction of unlimited powers.Moreover, two major points of concern have not been removed from the bill. The first, long ago pointed out by Spyblog, is that the bill contains the power to amend itself. The second, as pointed out by Unity, is that it gives Ministers the ability to impose criminal penalties with sentences of up to two years.
I have pasted Save the Parliament's latest email bulletin below which summarises recent developments. It is imperative that you email your MP to vote against this abhorrent legislation. Democracy is a slow, sometimes tortuous, process but we cannot allow it to be subordinated to the needs of productivity, however defined.
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Welcome to the fourth Save Parliament bulletin, and if you've only just joined us, welcome to the campaign!
This is the latest update on the Legislative and Regulatory Refom Bill (aka Abolition of Parliament Bill). For more information and constantly updated list of resources, visit the site at www.saveparliament.org.uk.
We have a lot to tell you about!
Since our last bulletin the Government announced a huge climbdown on the bill, recognising there were some concerns and committing to reconsider the bill to fit the 'Better Regulation Agenda'.
Since that announcement we have been waiting for the next move and finally, on 4th May, the Government published a list of amendments which will be voted on in the Commons on Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th.
Our initial reaction to the amendments was literally, "We've Won!" but after careful and detailed scrutiny by ourselves and a number of law professors we have uncovered that the bill still threatens democracy in much the same way.
The Government has added the much requested veto which can be used in the Commons as well as the Lords. They have also limited the bill to regulatory functions.
However, the delegation aspect still remains in the bill and there is only a limited list of excluded acts so as to ensure that core constitutional enactments cannot be amended by order.
The most worrying of the amendments is the use of the Law Commission. A minister may implement Law Commission recommendations 'with or without' changes'. This means the minister can used the bill to amend legislation based on the minister's inital idea, regardless of the recommendation from the Law Commission. The bill also threatens the independence of the Law Commission, which presents a huge threat to civil liberties.
The bill still does not mention business, which means a burden can be anything a minister considers to be such, unless it affects only a minister or Government department. If a minister considers that trial by jury is a burden on the police, it could be abolished, for example.
An addition brought in with the amendments gives the power to abitrarily shuffle around regulatory functions. A good example would be the BBC, whose board of governors could be abolished if a minister so wished.
The bill is still raising concerns about time limits, also. The committee will only have 30 days to consider an order which is not long enough, especially if many orders are introduced around the same time.
What happens now?
The bill is now returning to the main chamber of the House of Commons for it's Third Reading, which is scheduled for the afternoons of Monday 15th May, and Tuesday 16th May. If you have time, you are encouraged to log on to the parliament.uk website and watch the debate live, or read the transcripts the following day on TheyWorkForYou.com.
The debate will proceed like the Committee Stage before, where some amendments are brought before the house which are either dismissed, accepted or voted on. The amendments brought by the minister in charge, Jim Murphy MP, will all pass, and those proposed by anyone else will all fail. The list of proposed amendments is available here: http://www.publications
The amendments will be read or skipped over in the order that they are presented. Clauses 1 and 2 are expected to be entirely replaced. The first amendment in the list is to present a new clause replacing clause 1. When it is "Read a Second Time", it is up for consideration. The subsequent amendments (a)-(e) are proposed amendments to this new clause. These have the potential to change the clause, but they will all be rejected, because the Government believes it's version is perfect. It will then be "Read a Third Time" and inserted into the bill. The game roughly proceeds like that for the remainder of the day.
To follow the proceedings effectively, you may want to print out the version of the bill as it stands before the debate, and tick things off with a pen as they go through and change it: http://www.publications
We will be tracking the progress of this stage as it happens on our blog which you can find at http://bill111.wordpress.com/.
Unfortunately, the way these things are presented makes very simple things highly confusing - perhaps to keep the public uninvolved! Indeed, if you don't understand what's going on we'd urge you to write to your MP and bring the matter to their attention as they are ultimately responsible for the presentation to the public and can change it.
We'll issue another bulletin next week to let you know how things went in the Commons if you don't get chance to look at either of the sites above.
What can you do now?
In the meantime, we strongly urge you to e-mail your MP as soon as possible to express dissatisfaction with the amendments which do not limit the powers in the bill effectively enough. We recommend you urge your MP to vote in favour of any amendments proposed by the opposition parties and vote against the entire bill should they be rejected.
Director, Save Parliament