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Media Coverage of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Posted by James Hammerton @ 8:43 pm on 9 March, 2006.
Categories democracy and the rule of law.
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Although it hasn’t been making the headlines there have been a few articles in the mainstream media about the Abolition of Parliamentary Scrutiny Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. Here’s a roundup of those that caught my attention:

  • The Times has had two commentary articles on the bill, one by Lib Dem MP David Howarth and another by commentator Daniel Finkelstein. Howarth describes the bill as the ‘Abolition of Parliament Bill’, and comments soundly that:

    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 Guardian has a leader column and its sister Sunday paper, the Observer, has an article by Henry Porter discussing the bill. The leader article suggests that MPs should demand a veto on regulations passed under the bill and that such legislation should be restricted to “non-controversial” measures. Unfortunately this proposal misses a key point — without adequate scrutiny one might not realise that a “controversial” measure is contained in a statutory instrument, plus the government could argue that MPs already have a veto — they can vote against a parliamentary order. The Guardian’s proposals will do nothing to address the fundamental problem which is the lack of scrutiny of such orders. Henry Porter’s article warns that Britain is heading towards a totalitarian state, and has some scathing comments about the government’s responses to the concerns raised by MPs during the debates on the bill.
  • The Sunday Herald has an article by Alistair Carmichael, where he points out that the Scottish Parliament could be abolished under the bill, and noting that the bill is in line with the government’s tendency to marginalise Parliamentary debate whether at Westminster or in the devolved assemblies.
  • Bill Monteith, writing in the Scotsman, points out that voters will have even more reason to be apathetic (should that be antipathetic) should Parliament be sidelined by the Bill. At one point, he comments:

    As if the general duplicity and untrustworthiness of political charlatans is not enough to put voters off, we now have a very low-key Bill going through Parliament that is guaranteed to devalue the effectiveness of our parliaments and therefore the value in voting at all.

    I quite agree.

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