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Bypassing Parliament

by IdiotSavant Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 04:04:15 AM EST

back from the front page.--Jérôme

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

The Westminster System has often been called an "elective dictatorship" on account of the dominance of the legislature by the executive.  However, despite this dominance, laws must still be approved by Parliament, and the executive doesn't always get what it wants (or at least, has to pay a price for doing so).

In the UK, that's all about to change.

A bill currently before the British Parliament - the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill - would grant sweeping powers to Ministers to legislate without Parliamentary approval or oversight. They could do this on any topic, with few limits.  Such legislation could not create new criminal offences with a penalty of more than two years imprisonment, compel the giving of evidence, or allow police to forcibly enter people's dwellings without warrants, for example. However, this allows wide scope for legislation; according to a group of legal experts writing in The Times, it would allow the government to:

  • create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred, punishable with two years' imprisonment;
  • curtail or abolish jury trial;
  • permit the Home Secretary to place citizens under house arrest;
  • allow the Prime Minister to sack judges;
  • rewrite the law on nationality and immigration;
  • "reform" Magna Carta (or what remains of it).

And even the weak limits mentioned above can be bypassed on the recommendation of one of the UK's (unelected) Law Commissions.  The only thing absolutely forbidden is raising (but not lowering) taxes - which is revealing about what the Blair government thinks is important.

The hallmark of democracy is that laws are made by the legislature - not the executive.  While democratic systems allow delegated legislation, this is only on very narrow subjects, and only with the express approval of the legislature.  This bill, if passed, would delegate virtually everything, and remove utterly the prospect of Parliamentary scrutiny and democratic accountability. In short, it would effectively remove democracy itself. It cannot be allowed to stand. Unfortunately, this being Britain, it probably will be.

(Hat tip: Perfect.co.uk)

Good catch, IS. It seems the Blair government is trying to adopt the tricks from their Republican US counterpart by guiding secretive legistlation through Congress.

Spread the word.

by Nomad on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 05:53:36 AM EST
The worst thing about this is that there is no room for an unconstitutionality argument.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 06:10:53 AM EST
With my limited knowledge about the internal dynamics in the Labour party, I have to ask the question: How is the left wing of the Labour party going to react to this? As it is presented here, the whole proposal seems to be almost designed to create a showdown with the non-blairites. On the other hand, the left wing seems to have caved on the ID issue... Anyone have any insight into this?
by Trond Ove on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 12:28:41 PM EST
you need Tory support if you want to defeat the government on any kind of legislation. And the tories, illiberal thatcherite rural scum they are, will happily vote "aye" on this kind of crap. Mark my word, the first government that will enact the privileges might as well be a Tory-led one.

This said, I sincerely hope this is all some kind of procedural trick to force "sleeping brownite cells" to come out so that Blair can somehow renege again on the succession agreement.

by toyg (g.lacava@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 07:38:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like an enabling act to me- a way of creating a permanent state of exception.

Artikel 3
Die von der Reichsregierung beschlossenen Reichsgesetze werden vom Reichskanzler ausgefertigt und im Reichsgesetzblatt verkündet. Sie treten, soweit sie nichts anderes bestimmen, mit dem auf die Verkündung folgenden Tage in Kraft. Die Artikel 68 bis 77 der Reichsverfassung finden auf die von der Reichsregierung beschlossenen Gesetze keine Anwendung.

Article 3
Laws enacted by the Reich government shall be issued by the Chancellor and announced in the Reich Law Gazette. They shall take effect on the day following the announcement, unless they prescribe a different date. Articles 68 to 77 of the constitution do not apply to laws enacted by the Reich government.


In order to gain complete political power without holding a majority in the Reichstag and without the need to bargain with their coalition partners, the Nazis devised the Enabling Act. The Act was envisioned as the mechanism to circumvent the Reichstag by granting the chancellor and his cabinet authority to enact legislation without the Reichstag.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 01:48:15 PM EST
Weeeeee, that stinks !!!

And I thought V for Vendetta was just a cool graphic novel and a good opportunity to see Natalie Portman get a close shave.
by Francois in Paris on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 02:01:32 PM EST
Could Tony Blair be committing political suicide? Wow!!!!
by messy on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 02:02:50 PM EST
This time it's "legislative". We have seen how the word is used in economic and social policy discussions.

Whenever you hear the word "reform", br afraid. Be very afraid.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 02:22:17 PM EST
Couldn't this get tossed back to the HoC by the House of Lords - I could hardly see the Lords passing this without some sort of protest

"now this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." W. Churchill
by Thor Heyerdahl (thor.heyerdahl@NOSPAMgmail.com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 06:52:07 PM EST
I believe bypassing the Lords is already a possibility under certain conditions? After several reads from the HoC, I think (but I could be very wrong), the Lords are somehow automatically bypassed.
by toyg (g.lacava@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 07:40:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the House of Commons passes the same legislation in two successive sessions (usually about a year long each), then it becomes law without the need for the Lords to approve it.

The exceptions are money bills (where the Lords can only delay things for a month) and bills to extend the term of Parliament (where the Houses have equal power).

by Gary J on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 12:40:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome to 'Murika!

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Sun Feb 19th, 2006 at 10:44:37 PM EST
This is a piece of stealth legislation, to enact major constitutional change without anyone noticing.

It is not in itself as bad as the Nazi Enabling Act. The law will not confer unlimited legislative power on the government. It will not repeal the legal provisions which ensure an annual meeting of Parliament.

However this appears to be moving away from our post-Glorious Revolution constitution and back in the direction of the would be absolute Monarchy of James II. No doubt the executive would be delighted to dispense with Parliament for years at a time, as the House of Stuart was able to do in the 17th century. Perhaps that modernising reform will be the Legislative Reform (Amendment) Act 2007.

by Gary J on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 12:53:55 PM EST
I have found an English historical precedent for primary legislation by the executive.

"During the Tudor period the council grew in importance; it became useful to the Crown as a vehicle for straining prerogative to the utmost. By the act 31 Hen. VIII. the king's proclamation acquired the force of law, and for a short period the king in council had concurrent legislative power with parliament. Henry's statute was repealed by 1 Edw. VI. c. 12 and the legislative supremacy of parliament re-established".

(Extract from the article PRIVY COUNCIL in the 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica).

King Henry VIII and Tony Blair do not look alike, but they share an appetite for unchecked power.

by Gary J on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 04:42:28 PM EST
straining prerogative to the utmost
Yep, sounds like Blair to me.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 04:09:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for posting this diary, IdiotSavant. Strangely enough, I missed it when it was on the front page.
I guess the only reason the French government has not yet implemented a similar scheme is because they are really short-sighted and right now they have an overwhelming majority at Parliament.
So many caveats to the concept of democracy...

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 05:58:20 AM EST
So, what are the parliamentary parties saying about this? Is the Labour ship threatening the backbenchers with taking away their cookies if they ask questions? What are the Tories saying? And the LibDems?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 03:15:15 PM EST
The Lib-Dems are trying to recover from their numerous "scandals," and the Tories are off worrying about well David Cameron's hair looks on television.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 03:41:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean, whip.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 04:25:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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