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This page provides occasional items, linked to the original articles, as we attempt to keep up with the rapidly changing situation on civil liberties.
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Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006

Posted by James Hammerton @ 1:09 pm on 24 November, 2006.
Categories political liberties, democracy and the rule of law, British politics, accountability.
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The Abolition of Parliament Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill was passed by Parliament back in October and is now the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006(LRR Act).

The Save Parliament weblog has responded with a post suggesting that, whilst they still had concerns, the final approved Act was much improved on the Bill and far less dangerous. Thus they argue it no longer deserved the Abolition of Parliament Bill label that various critics, myself included, had been using:

“(David Howarth) described the Bill in its earlier stages as the abolition of Parliament Bill,but now it is not. It has been filleted, dissected, deconstructed and reconstructed. It is now a better Bill because … lame-brained arguments … have been abandoned by the Government. … At that time, it was a thoroughly bad Bill that did things that were way beyond its stated scope. Now, it has been brought back under control.”

As he points out, the Bill is vastly better than it was when it was first proposed, and we have you to thank for that. This Bill was not just fixed by MPs discussing in Parliament, it was fixed by you, the general public, applying pressure to your representatives, and raising the profile of this Bill so that it could not be ignored. You should all be very pleased that we got as much fixed as we did.

So does this mean we need not worry about the LRR Act any longer? A hint that all might not be well can be seen in one of the comments, from someone called Dave Gould, on Save Parliament’s weblog:

I shall be getting my MP to write to David Howarth to find out why he thinks it’s now “under control”.

It still looks like ANY amendments/revoking of our constitution can be make by secondary legislation with the small proviso that it has to be passed by a committee of hand-picked Labour MPs first.

The argument that constitutional changes eg abolishing elections can be blocked in a judicial review is dubious at best. And who is going to fund these judicial reviews?

The crucial question then is what does the LRR Act (which has Royal Assent now) actually say? The following is an overview of the main points of the LRR Act as it relates to legislative power:

  • Section 1 sets out a broad power for Ministers to make any provision they consider would serve the purpose of removing or reducing a burden or reducing the overall burdens of any person affected by a piece of legislation. A burden means any of the following:
    • A financial cost,
    • An administrative inconvenience,
    • An obstactle to efficiency, productivity or profitability,
    • A sanction, criminal or otherwise, which affects the carrying out of a lawful activity.

    On the face of it, this is a very broad power. E.g. could abolishing jury trial in favour trial by judge, be considered as a measure to reduce burdens (both financial and administrative) on jurors and those running the courts? However there are “safeguards” to consider…

  • Section 3 sets out pre-conditions that the Minister must consider satisfied before making orders under the Act. These are:
    • that the policy objective cannot be achieved without legislation,
    • that the effect of the provision he makes is proportionate to the policy objective,
    • that the provision strikes a fair balance between the public interest and the interests of anyone adversely affected by it,
    • the provision does not remove any necessary protection,
    • the provision does not prevent any person from continuing to exercise any right or freedom which that person might reasonably expect to continue to exercise,
    • the provision is not of constitutional significance.

    A key point to note about this is that all of these preconditions are a matter for the Minister’s judgement, thus he must consider that these preconditions are met. However, they do provide scope for opposition when the orders are scrutinised and any judicial review might be able to argue the preconditions were not met. The key question in considering the impact of section 3, is therefore how much scope for scrutiny and judicial review will there be?

  • Section 4 restricts the power to delegate legislative functions such that they can only be delegated to government ministers, people who have had legislative power delegated to them in prior legislation or office holders or bodies created by the orders. It also restricts such delegation of legislative powers such that they have to be exercised via statutory instrument if they are delegated or confered on ministers of the crown.

    Note that an order under this LRR Act can confer legislating powers on office holders or bodies created by the order itself, thus cutting Parliament out of the loop completely.

  • Section 5 prevents orders being used to create, abolish or vary taxes, however it explicitly allows their application to be varied. E.g. it would be possible to extend VAT to items not currently taxed this way for example.
  • Section 6 prevents criminal penalties of more than 2 years in jail or a fine of level 5 being imposed by an order.
  • Section 7 prevents powers authorising forcible entry from being enacted via the Act.
  • Section 8 protects the Human Rights Act (HRA) and part 1 of the LRR Act itself (all sections up to section 20). This brings the LRR Act into line with the Civil Contingencies Act (CCA) which has similar protections for the HRA and the CCA itself, and was not originally in the bill.
  • Sections 9, 10 and 11 prevent the LRR Act from being used to legislate in areas devolved to the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh assemblies.
  • Sections 12 to 18 set out the procedure to be followed. The Minister must first consult with various people he considers appropriate (big deal), and then lay out a draft order in both Houses of Parliament with an explanatory document and recommendation for which of the following procedures to following:
    • The negative procedure. Parliament has 40 days to object before the order is made, either by one House passing a resolution against it or for a committee of either House to recommend rejecting it, whereupon it will fall unless the same House rejects the recommendation. The committee can only report with its recommendation after 30 days and before 40 days have passed.
    • The affirmative procedure. Parliament has 40 days to approve the order in both Houses. A committee of either House can, after 30 days and before 40 days, recommend abandoning the order in which case a resolution rejecting the recommendation is required.
    • The super-affirmative procedure. Parliament has 60 days to approve the order, or recommend changes. The Minister can enact a revised order if Parliament approves, or the original order if Parliament approves.

    Note that the Minister can recommend a procedure but either House can insist on a more stringent procedure, e.g. if the Minister recommends the negative procedure, either House can insist on the affirmative procedure or the super-affirmative procedure. If he recommends the affirmative procedure they can insist on the super-affirmative procedure. 30 days are allowed for each House to change the procedure otherwise the Minister’s recommendation applies.

    Also, orders cannot be amended by Parliament, only accepted or rejected, and even the super-affirmative procedure keeps the government in control of what finally appears in a revised order.

Overall it seems to me that the Act is a mild improvement on the Bill, e.g. its legislative powers can’t be used to amend the foregoing powers and procedures, and the Human Rights Act is protected. The powers are drawn more tightly, but unfortunately are still framed to a large degree in terms of the judgement of the Ministers creating the orders. The level of scrutiny afforded to LRR Act orders is about the same as that in the original Bill, though House committees can report on such orders they’re likely to be controlled by the government and the timescales themselves will prevent adequate scrutiny. The ability to use LRR Act orders to cut Parliament out of the legislative loop is still there, if more difficult to use.

I see nothing to stop the abolition/curbing of jury trials being enacted via these orders, other than a vigilent Parliament (the European Convention on Human Rights applies to many countries that don’t have jury trial, thus the HRA isn’t going to stop that). By the time a judicial review comes into play it’s a fait accompli to be overturned only if the Minister is found to have acted outside his powers.

I think the LRR Act now deserves the label “Undermining and Sidelining of Parliament” Act. It should be repealed. If Parliament is having difficulties coping with the legislative load that’s an argument for cutting down on the amount of legislation pushed through it, not making it easier to push legislation through by reducing the opportunities for scrutiny and for amendments to be made.

Inland Revenue cocks up, causing a bankruptcy but is not liable for its mistakes

Posted by James Hammerton @ 6:40 pm on 22 October, 2006.
Categories democracy and the rule of law, British politics, accountability.
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Hat Tip: Tim Worstall

Another example of how unaccountable the various organs of the British state can be, in this case the Inland Revenue which is apparently immune from prosecution and therefore cannot be held liable for its mistakes. From this report in the Telegraph (emphasis mine):

Andrew Simmonds, QC, said that the Inland Revenue had been responsible for a 52-day “negligent” delay that had helped push a builder to the brink of bankruptcy.

However, he ruled that the tax office is immune to prosecution by individuals and businesses, unlike other public services such as hospitals and police forces. Neil Martin, 38, became the first person to sue the Inland Revenue, now known as Revenue & Customs, for alleged negligence or administrative incompetence.

The builder, from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, said that his business had been plunged into a cash flow crisis after a delay in processing a crucial form.

Without the form, part of 1999 anti-fraud legislation called the Construction Industry Scheme, contractors could not pay their bills without subtracting tax at source, which caused a cash crisis for the company.

Mr Martin now faces personal bankruptcy after being left with a swingeing tax bill of £250,000 along with substantial legal costs.

So it seems that if the taxman screws up, the victim of said screw up pays the bill, end of story.

Gordon Brown grabs more power for the treasury

Hat tip: Spy Blog.

Gordon Brown has recently introduced a statutory instrument granting the Treasury sweeping powers ostensibly targetted at terrorist financing. Spy Blog’s comments indicate just how far reaching these powers are (emphasis mine):

However, the previous Orders referring to such resolutions specifically against the Taliban and Al Qaida, have been revoked by this Order, so this is, in fact a new, infinite General Power, which the NuLabour Government has grabbed for itself, without any debate about the details in Parliament.

Are they also intending to use it to “freeze the financial assets” of Northern Irish terrorists or so called animal rights extremists, since there is nothing whatsoever in this Order to prevent them from doing so ?

A worrying aspect of this Order is that according to Schedule 1 Evidence and Information the Treasury is only obliged to “take such steps as they consider appropriate”

The Treasury can “designate” anybody, and they are the only judges of what they consider to be terrorist activity or association, for which they do not have to gave any actual hard evidence.

By invoking this Order, the Treasury can demand any document or record from any British citzen or corporate person i.e. banks and financial institutions with subsidiaries in the UK, under a criminal penalty of up to 2 years in prison.

The Treasury can also hand this data over to any foreign Government.

There is also a secrecy provision, if they choose to only tell certain people or financial institutions, and not the general public about the freezing of assets, backed up by a criminal penalty of up to 2 years in prison.

There is a penalty of up to 7 years in prison for people who delliberately continue to allow funds transfers etc. in contravention of the Designation orders by the Treasury.

More over, as SpyBlog notes, section 7 of the order seems to provide a carte blanche to exempt the use of these powers from the restrictions of the Data Protection Act, the Common Law duty of confidentiality, and other protections of the privacy/confidentiality of financial data:

7. An action done under this Schedule is not to be treated as a breach of any restriction imposed by statute or otherwise.

For further details, see the original Spy Blog article and the order itself.

3 articles summarising Blair’s ongoing attack on British liberty

Articles in the mainstream media highlighting the attacks on civil liberties in Britain are becoming more common. Three recent articles that collectively summarise just how far this process has gone are as follows:

You can find much of the legislation documented on this site, e.g. a detailed summary of much of it can be found here, and the Abstracts link at the top of the page will tell you more.

Home Office proposes ASBO-style Organised Crime Prevention Orders

Posted by James Hammerton @ 8:28 pm on 19 July, 2006.
Categories democracy and the rule of law.
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Hat tip: Spy blog.

The Home Office has published a consultation document which proposes a new type of ASBO-style order to be imposed on individuals suspected of involvement in serious crime, called Organised Crime Prevention Orders (or alternatively Serious Crime Prevention Orders).

These orders would be imposed by a High Court judge, after a civil hearing. They could be imposed where it is shown, on balance of probabilities, that the subject:

Has acted in a way which facilitated or was likely to facilitate the commissioning of serious crime. (Chapter 3, page 30 of the consultation document)

Note that:

  • There’s no need to show the subject’s actions were either unlawful or did in fact facilitate the commissioning of serious crime. All that you need do is convince the judge that the subject’s actions could have facilitated serious crime.
  • The subject need not have been charged with or convicted of any offence.

The orders would impose conditions on the subject, breach of which would carry a maximum 5 year jail sentence, just like ASBOs, and the terms of an order would be those the court considers:

necessary and proportionate to prevent such harms in future (also from Ch. 3 page 30).

Examples from the document of possible conditions that could be imposed on an individual include:

  • Restrictions on an individual’s financial dealings, e.g. requiring them to use certain accounts or credit cards,
  • Restrictions on the amount of cash an individual is allowed to carry,
  • Compulsory purchase of their business or property, or requiring individuals to divest themselves of certain possessions the court believes have been used to facilitate the commission of serious crime.

Also, unlike ASBOs, the orders could be placed on businesses and other organisations (on the same basis as for individuals). With businesses, examples of possible conditions that could be imposed include (as well as some of the above powers, e.g, those relating to compulsory purchase of businesses and property):

  • Requirements to remove directors,
  • Powers for the court to direct how the business is conducted and structured,
  • Restricting a business’s activities in certain areas or who they do business with, or
  • Requirements to restructure the organisation.

The document proposes using these orders both as an adjunct to prosecution, and an alternative to prosecution where there is insufficient evidence to convict.

I emphasise that all of these things can be done without anyone being convicted of an offence or being proven (even on balance of probability) to have done anything unlawful or being proven (even on balance of probabilities) to have facilated serious crime — all that is required is that the judge be convinced that the individual or business concerned has acted in a manner that could have facilitated serious crime.

It seems to me this sort of power will provide ample opportunity for corrupt officials and unscrupulous businesses to fit people up in order to get hold of or destroy their businesses. After all if a prima facie case gets presented to a high court judge, the subject of the proceedings would essentially have to prove their innocence to prevent being landed with an OCPO.

More on Charles Clarke’s attacks on the media

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:29 pm on 27 April, 2006.
Categories privacy and surveillance, political liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
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Further to my previous article, it appears that Charles Clarke’s article was a condensed version of this speech he gave to the London School of Economics. My thanks go to “TD” on the uk.politics.misc newsgroup for pointing this out. TD’s article is worth reading (they usually are!).

I note the following (in addition to the example TD discusses):

Carr asserts, for instance, that, “damaging GM crops is defined as a terrorist act”. Where is this idea from? Nowhere in terrorism legislation is damaging GM crop fields defined as a terrorist act.

Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism in such a manner that causing serious damage to property to advance a political cause, and influence any government is an act of terrorism.

If you regard destroying fields of crops as “serious damage to property” (which could after all amount to thousands of pounds or more worth of damage) then it follows that anti-GM crop campaginers who engage in the destruction of such crops are causing serious damage to property, for a political cause, with the aim of influencing the government and are thus engaged in terrorism as the Terrorism Act 2000 defines it.

The National Identity Scheme is being introduced to safeguard people’s identities, not track their lifestyle or activities. The information that can be held on the National Identity Register covers only basic personal information roughly the same as that needed for a passport. It will not include details of withdrawals of cash from bank accounts, medical records or even whether someone has obtained a fishing licence.

This is patently false. Section 9 of Schedule 1 of the Identity Cards Act specifies that the information stored in your NIR entry should include information about every occasion on which information from the NIR entry is divulged to another person and every person to whom the information is divulged.

Thus if you register with, for example, a medical clinic and they are required to perform an identity check, then a record of that identity check and the fact that it was the clinic who made it will be stored in the NIR. The government wishes to make access to public services dependent on such identity checks.

Likewise if you go to the bank and carry out a high-value transaction and they check your identity, it will reveal the fact you had your identity checked by that bank to anyone with access to the NIR.

Our passport system currently simply does not record such information. Moreover, a future government could bring an area of life under surveillance by the simple expedient of running identity checks in that area. E.g. requiring identity checks at political protests or meetings would effectively enable the government to record who was at those meetings.

Quite clearly, the NIR will end up tracking people’s activities via the audit trail.

And let me conclude with one of the more ridiculous statements: “The presumption of innocence is no longer a fixed legal principal”. This is complete nonsense. In this country that you are innocent of an offence until proven guilty.'’

With this statement, Clarke neatly ignores the following laws this government has brought in (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • you need not be convicted of an offence to be placed under a control order, and thus you may be curfewed or even placed under full blown house arrest without a trial. The evidence and the accusations against you can be withheld from you thus scuppering your ability to defend yourself from such action.
  • several sections of the Terrorism Act 2000 reverse the burden of proof requiring people to prove their innocence in various matters, see here for details.
  • the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 allows travel banning orders, requiring people to hand in their passports to specified police station, to be imposed without proving they’ve committed an offence.

These are just a handful of the numerous examples of this government attacking civil liberties and pursuing authoritarian policies.

Chris Lightfoot has also made some pertinent comments on Clarke’s speech.

Charles Clarke accuses British media of “poison” in coverage of attacks on civil liberties

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:21 pm on 26 April, 2006.
Categories privacy and surveillance, political liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
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Britain’s Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, recently wrote an article for the Guardian (entitled “Lazy and deceitful”) which can be found at the Guardian website.

In the article, Clarke claims that “a pernicious and even dangerous poison is now slipping into some parts of this media view of the world” and that “In the absence of many of the genuinely dangerous totalitarian regimes, the media has rhetorically transferred to existing democracies, particularly the US and the UK, the characteristics of those dictatorships.”

He castigates various commentators for using terms such as “creeping authoritarianism”, “police state”, “fascist”, “holocaust”, “gulag” and “apartheid”.

However, in the Guardian article, he does not provide any examples of the usages of these words that offends him.

As far as I’m concerned, the government is guilty of creeping authoritarianism, has laid down all the legislative apparatus required for a police state and has pursued policies more commonly associated with fascist states than with democracies. Britain has not become the sort of society we saw in the USSR, Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, but the government has enacted highly authoritarian laws that curb people’s liberties and expand the power of the state.

Even a cursory glance at the “criminal justice” and “anti terrorism” legislation this government has brought in or proposed will reveal numerous examples, such as lowering or reversing the burden of proof, allowing people suspected of crime to be punished without being convicted of an offence, enabling numerous public officials to snoop on people’s lives without independent oversight or accountability and attempts to sideline Parliament and to enable rule by decree.

The other terms I grant do not apply to the behaviour of the current government, or to that of the US.

I have seen someone compare the recently acquired powers of house arrest to those used against people in the apartheid era (see this article), not to demonstrate that Britain is under apartheid but to demonstrate that Britain has acquired deeply draconian laws under this government and to demonstrate how damaging house arrest can be for those placed under it. This is a perfectly valid point to make.

He then writes:

“Writing on these pages, Jenni Russell claimed that “Tony Blair’s administration is removing the safeguards that protect all of us from the whims of a government and the intrusion of a powerful state. It is engaged in a ferocious power-grab.” These are ridiculous assertions, unsupported by any hint of understanding of the balance of powers that
exist in our society.'’

The assertions are not ridiculous, they are a statement of fact. This government has removed longstanding safeguards that protect us from being wrongfully imprisoned or punished.

To take some brief examples, under legislation this government has introduced you can have your assets seized (Proceeds of Crime Act 2002), or be placed under curfew or under restrictions on who you can meet or under house arrest (Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005) using control orders, or be banned from travelling to football matches (Football (Disorder) Act 2000), all without being convicted of an offence.

In the case of control orders, you won’t even get to see the evidence or accusations made against you or who made them.

By removing the requirement to proof beyond resonable doubt that person has committed a crime, and in some cases by even reversing the presumption of innocence, this government has made everyone more vulnerable to false accusations, whether made maliciously or by mistake. The government has thus seriously weakened the ability of the innocent accused to fight false accusations.

In doing so the government has also undermined the reliability of the criminal justice system — by lowering the burden of proof they make it more likely that the wrong people will be targetted and punished in the fight against crime and terrorism, leaving the real culprits free to continue their activities.

Regarding the claim of a power grab, this is fact. Not only does the weakening of the safeguards mentioned above the state more power over the individual by making it easier to jail or otherwise punish him, but the government has been engaging in a power grab in other ways too.

Jenni Russell mentions the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill which, in its current form, would give ministers the power, via parliamentary orders, to alter any legislation they choose and any laws they choose and to delegate legislative power to any people they choose, whilst limiting Parliament’s ability to scrutinise such orders to the extent that at best each House only gets one vote on the orders, at most 60 days to consider the orders and cannot amend the orders. The government can even nominate a procedure be used whereby the order becomes law unless an opposing vote is organised in each House — i.e. without a vote being necessary.

This would give the executive an unprecedented level of power in Britain.

There is also the Civil Contingencies Act which gives cabinet ministers all the authority of an Act of Parliament and the Royal Prerogative — i.e. absolute power under Britain’s system of government — subject to only very minimal restrictions and a need to renew emergency powers every 7 days unless Parliament gives approval for longer timescales. The previous Emergency Powers Act was more limited than this and required Royal consent.

Then there is the Identity Cards Act 2006 which will give the state unprecedented powers to gather information about people’s lives and track them, whilst making it possible for someone to be effectively made a non-citizen by simply deleting, corrupting or flagging their NIR entries or (on a temporary basis) by cancelling their ID cards though the government is obligated to provide a new one. This scheme will give everyone in officialdom ample opportunity to boss people around and interfere in their lives.

Clarke baldly asserts that it is ridiculous to claim the government is engaged in a power grab or that they have undermined the safeguards that protect individuals from the abuses of state power without even attempting to address the points raised by Jenni Russell, let alone anyone else. It is Clarke who is being lazy and deceitful, not those who are alarmed by the destruction of the rule of law and the accumulation of power by the British state. Much of the offending legislation is documented elsewhere on the Magna Carta Plus site.

Why the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is worse than the Civil Contingencies Act

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:55 pm on 16 March, 2006.
Categories democracy and the rule of law.
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In my earlier coverage of the Abolition of Parliament Legislative and Regulatory Reform(LRR) Bill, I think I have underestimated how much power it gives to government ministers. I now think this bill actually gives more power to government ministers, in practical terms, than the Civil Contingencies Act (CCA).

The CCA explicitly gives Ministers both the powers of legislating via an Act of Parliament and the powers of the Royal Prerogative. However those powers are supposed to be invoked only in an emergency, are time limited to 7 days, albeit renewable, and have various other constraints such as not modifying the CCA itself or the Human Rights Act. There are protections for the courts and criminal offences created under CCA regulations can carry only 3 months imprisonment.

The possibility that the LRR is worse than the CCA was pointed out to me when discussing the bill in this thread on the usenet group, uk.politics.misc. One poster makes the following points:

  • The LRR is designed ostensibly to be used in the normal course of governing, where the Civil Contingencies Act (CCA) is supposed to be used only in emergencies.
  • The LRR can amend any legislation, where the CCA cannot be used to alter the CCA itself or the Human Rights Act.
  • The LRR can be used to delegate legislative power, without apparent limit, to anybody the specified in an appropriate order.
  • The LRR can be used to alter or abolish any rule of law.

The key matter I hadn’t considered fully before is this. The orders under the LRR can be used to confer legislative power on Ministers, such that they would then be able to legislate without any reference to Parliament at all. Given the government’s ability to control Parliamentary procedure (e.g. to ensure the negative resolution procedure is used), it would be possible for such a transfer of power in the favour of Ministers to occur without any vote in Parliament occurring!

This transfer could be achieved by sneaking the measure into a suitably large and convoluted order that implements a policy strongly backed by the governing party, and hoping it will either not be noticed due to the lack of time for scrutinising the order (this lack of time being arranged by the government) or if it is noticed it will be allowed through because the governing party’s MPs and Peers do not wish to abandon a key policy.

Remember there is no possibility for making amendments that would allow MPs or Peers to selectively modify problematic areas of the parliamentary orders. At best a request to revise the order can be made to the government which the government can consider and reject, or for that matter implement in any way it pleases. The Ministers will be in control at every step unless MPs or Peers vote the order down in its entirety.

I thus fear that if this bill passes we will not only see increasing amounts of legislation passed via parliamentary order with little or no scrutiny, but we will see Ministers being given increasing powers to legislate directly without reference to Parliament. The bill really should be entitled the Abolition of Parliament bill. The Abolition of Parliamentary Scrutiny Bill moniker I’ve been using in some posts is thus too mild a description of the threat this bill makes to Parliament’s role.

Yet more diminution of Parliament’s role planned.

Posted by James Hammerton @ 8:47 pm on 12 March, 2006.
Categories democracy and the rule of law.
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Geoff Hoon, the current Leader of the House of Commons is proposing to limit the number of questions MPs can ask:

The right of MPs to table questions is to be curbed for the first time in the history of parliament, according to a confidential document being circulated to ministers by Geoff Hoon, the leader of the house.

He proposes in the consultation document that MPs be limited to 10 questions a day after a huge rise in queries, particularly since the last general election. Part of the blame is being put on MPs’ researchers drawing up a lot of questions.

Yet again we see the government trying to limit the ability of Parliament to hold it accountable. Clearly they do not like their policies and actions being scrutinised.

Patriot Act renewed in the US.

The US Patriot Act, passed after 9/11 with various temporary measures has now been renewed, albeit with a new sunset clause that will make it expire after 4 years. Some extra safeguards have been put into the bill, though it is unclear how much difference they will make.

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