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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Fighting for democracy

Research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed that the Government has spent £32m preparing for ID cards before they have even become law. This is despite the fact that the ID Cards Bill is still being scrutinised by Parliament where it has been opposed by Labour rebels, Tories and Liberal Democrats.

In other news the Government is currently piloting the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill through Parliament. As David Howarth MP writes this hides an astonishing proposal. 'It gives ministers power to alter any law passed by Parliament. The only limitations are that new crimes cannot be created if the penalty is greater than two years in prison and that it cannot increase taxation. But any other law can be changed, no matter how important. All ministers will have to do is propose an order, wait a few weeks and, voilà, the law is changed.'

Danny Finkelstein has also written in The Times about this:

In my nightmare, Tony Blair finally decides that he is fed-up with putting Bills before Parliament. He has so much to do and so little time. Don’t you realise how busy he is? He’s had enough of close shaves and of having to cut short trips abroad. He decides to put a Bill to End All Bills before the Commons, one that gives him and his ministers power to introduce and amend any legislation in future without going through all those boring stages in Parliament.

That’s not the end of my feverish fantasy. The new law is proposed and hardly anyone notices. John Redwood complains, of course, and a couple of Liberal Democrats, but by and large it is ignored. The Labour rebels are nowhere to be seen. The business lobby announces that it is about time all those politicians streamlined things, cutting out time-wasting debates. In a half empty Commons chamber, a junior minister puts down any objections with a few partisan wisecracks. Then the Bill to End All Bills is nodded through the Houses of Parliament, taking with it a few hundred years of Parliamentary democracy.

Both the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill and the expenditure of vast sums of money on a measure that has not yet been approved by Parliament are related. They add up to a contempt for the Parliamentary process from Ministers who are fed up of losing the argument. It is a step towards this Country being run by Executive powers from a government that is already guilty of playing fast and loose with the democratic process. It is something that we should resist with every fibre of our being.


I am one of the enemy but I agree with you totally. We have prepapred a list of questions about the "Enabling Act" which we don't think the government can answer.

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