Can the Scottish parliament veto Brexit?

In short: in my completely non-expert opinion, based on plain reading of the Scotland Act and the evidence used to suggest this in the first place, no.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in All Articles. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Can the Scottish parliament veto Brexit?

Tory Peer in bid to limit officials’ right to enter homes

[Hat Tip: Big Brother Watch]

The BBC reports:

It may sound like a Monty Python sketch – but an ancient law allowing people on private land without a warrant if they are following a bee might still apply.

The law, aimed at protecting honey supplies, is one of 1,208 powers of entry in dozens of different Acts of Parliament unearthed by a Tory peer.

Lord Selsdon recently launched a fresh bid to curb wide-ranging powers for officials to enter private homes.

He called for a code of practice to put strict limits on entry powers for all cases except those involving suspected serious crime or terrorism.

Introducing his Powers of Entry Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Selsdon said he had been pursuing the issue for more than 30 years but was not going to let it drop as “it has got into my blood”.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Tory Peer in bid to limit officials’ right to enter homes

The Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill

Would it be nice if our elected representatives were required to be honest? Well, a private member’s bill has just been published which, if it became law, would make it an offence for MPs, members of the devolved assemblies, MEPs and elected mayors (or agents acting on their behalf) to make, or publish a statement they know to be false, misleading, or “deceptive in a material particular”.

Someone accused of this offence can raise the following defences:

  • they did not know, or could not reasonably have been expected to know, the statement was false, misleading or deceptive in a material particular.
  • they had no part in causing or permitting the statement to be made or published.
  • they took all reasonable care to ensure the statement was accurate.
  • they acted in the interests of national security.

If found guilty, they face a fine and being barred from standing for election for up to 10 years.

An offence of making false, frivolous or trivial accusations of deception is also created, punishable by a fine.

Being a private member’s bill it is unlikely to get very far, but would any of our political parties be willing to include in in their manifestos for election? It might provide a means for restoring trust in the political system.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , , . Comments Off on The Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill

Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act

My take on this is now up at the Magna Carta Plus weblog.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act

Some news items

Here’s a brief roundup to help catch up on recent developments in various areas:

Anyway that’s all for now.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , . Comments Off on Some news items

Renew for Freedom

renew for freedom - MAY 2006 - renew your passport

With the passing of the Identity Cards Act 2006, the law enabling the creation of the national identity register (NIR) and accompanying ID card in Britain, No2ID has launched its Renew for Freedom campaign.

The idea is to get as many people as possible to renew their passports during the month of May (i.e. this month!). Those that do so will end up with a passport valid for 10 years and will do so before the point at which renewing passports will entail registering on the NIR.

The government has so far indicated that, from 2008 onwards, passport renewals will entail registering on the NIR and getting a card (though the card, but only the card, can be opted out of until 2010). They are keen to get as many people onto the system as possible. Clearly if the scheme is to be scrapped, it will help to ensure that as many people as possible refuse to register. If the numbers are large enough it will make compelling people to get a card unviable.

Renewing your passport now will therefore enable you to hold out against having to register on the NIR for longer than it would otherwise. Also, renewing now minimises the risk of being compelled to register on the NIR should the government move the timetable forward.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Renew for Freedom

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

I’ve posted this article on Magna Carta Plus as well as here. It follows up on my earlier article on the government’s new enabling bill.

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.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , . Comments Off on Why the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is worse than the Civil Contingencies Act

Another enabling bill…

Back in 2004, I got rather concerned about the Civil Contingencies Bill (now the Civil Contingencies Act[CCA] 2004) which allows government ministers to obtain absolute power by claiming there’s an emergency, albeit on a temporary but renewable basis. There is very little a Minister could not do under the regulations the CCA allows, though the Human Rights Act and the CCA itself are protected from alteration.

Whilst I maintain that the legal situation regarding the CCA is as I describe above, and that the CCA is a dangerous law that in the hands of a ruthless government could be used to institute a dictatorship, it does seem to me that it is somewhat unlikely to be used this way in practice. It would be a blatantly dictatorial act and would be seen as such by both the British population and the world at large, and thus it would require a government that does not care about the image it gives to the world.

More likely abuses of the powers in the CCA might occur in the event of a genuine emergency — for example using the CCA to enhance the power of the state with laws that then get backing from a manipulated Parliament, using the emergency as cover. Instituting permanent outright rule by decree using the CCA however is unlikely unless we really do get a would be Hitler residing in Downing Street.

Now, however, the government has a bill going through Parliament which would give Ministers the power to amend, modify or repeal any legislation whatsoever via parliamentary order. This bill is the anodyne sounding Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, and I’ve covered it in detail over at the Magna Carta Plus blog.

The crux of the matter here is that the bill provides a fast track procedure, lasting a maximum of 2 months, with which the government can push through legislation, at best subject to a single vote in each of the Houses of Parliament. The orders cannot be amended and there is very little opportunity for MPs or Peers to scrutinise the orders concerned. And if the negative resolution procedure is used to pass these orders, a vote would be required to stop the legislation, instead of being required to approve it. Note that, typically, MPs and Peers will get just 90 minutes to debate parliamentary orders before voting them and then will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” — no chance of amendment is offered though the government can revise the orders under the so-called “super affirmative” procedure.

Various Acts already give Ministers powers to issue such orders in variously limited circumstances, e.g. to make regulations or relatively small legislative changes, as secondary legislation. This bill would enable them to make primary legislation via these orders. Not one Act of Parliament is protected from being rewritten this way, where the Civil Contingencies Act is protected from itself and cannot be used to alter the Human Rights Act 1998. The orders could thus be used to remove what flimsy safeguards there are in the Bill as it currently stands and could be used to change any legislation from the “anti-terror” laws to the Scotland Act (which set up the devolved parliament).

The likely result if this legislation is passed seems clear to me. A government seeking to ensure it gets its policies implemented will tie MPs and Peers up dealing with relatively unimportant Acts of Parliament and push their favoured policies through via parliamentary order, using their control of the committees to ensure minimal scrutiny and that their favoured procedure is used (e.g. the negative resolution procedure which requires a vote to stop an order being passed rather than to approve it).

See Spy.org.uk for an example of a Parliamentary order being passed without a vote (it renewed the Control Orders legislation) after a short debate. This bill would allow all legislation to be passed under the same procedures!

Whilst the Bill’s powers are not technically as severe as the powers granted under the CCA, they are an affront to parliamentary democracy and would be a major step towards rule by decree. And because there would still be a Parliamentary facade to the legislative process used, the exercise of the bill’s powers would not look so blatantly dictatorial as the CCA, even though the effect might well be the same.

Given the bill’s powers would be permanent powers, not emergency powers, it could be used to gradually and subtly relegate Parliament to little more than a talking shop. For this reason, it may actually be more dangerous than the CCA in practice.

It is also worth noting that the government has further plans for diminishing the ability of MPs to scrutinise the governments actions and hold the government to account.

Other sites covering this bill include:

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Another enabling bill…

The Terrorism Bill 2005: A threat to blogs/websites?

Update: I got it wrong on the committee stage of the bill. The committee stage of this bill takes place over 2 days, the 2nd and 3rd of November. See this link. Sorry for the mistake.

I confess to having taken my off the ball on this one. I didn’t realise the Terrorism Bill 2005 (yes another one!) was in parliament until I heard about the 2nd reading and then was slow off the mark to write about it…

Spy.org.uk have berated the British blogosphere for failing to cover/analyse the Terrorism Bill 2005, which, in addition to enabling 90 days detention of terrorist suspects without charge, they argue threatens websites, bloggers and libraries due to the:

  • vaguely defined offences of “inciting or glorifying” terrorism and distributing a terrorist publication, combined with
  • the power of a police constable, acting on his own opinion that the publication is “terrorism-related”, to issue a notice to a publisher to remove or modify an article within 2 days or be deemed to have endorsed the article, thus rendering you unable to raise the defence that it was provided only in the course of providing an electronic service, you didn’t know it was terrorism related AND you did not endorse it.

More detail can be found here and at the Magna Carta Plus weblog. Note that the committee stage of this bill will be over on Wednesday 2nd November. Time to make use of WriteToThem

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on The Terrorism Bill 2005: A threat to blogs/websites?

The MPs who voted for the ID cards bill.

Noting the project set out in this article at the Samizdata blog, below is a list of the MPs who voted for the Identity Cards Bill on the 2nd reading, which took place on Tuesday 28th June. If they represent you, you might want to tell them what you think of their support for this bill. If so hop over to www.writetothem.com and you can send write a message to be faxed to them.

Michael Taylor’s project above of course focusses on the “behind the scenes” backers, however it seemed to me that making public which MPs voted for the bill would be a good starting point.

The list below is taken from the Parliament website, which records the divisions (votes to you and me) in the House of Commons. The Ayes were:

Nick Ainger
Mr. Bob Ainsworth
Mr. Douglas Alexander
Mr. Allen
Mr. David Anderson
Janet Anderson
Hilary Armstrong
Charlotte Atkins
Mr. Ian Austin
John Austin
Mr. Bailey
Vera Baird
Ed Balls
Gordon Banks
Ms Barlow
Mr. Barron
John Battle
Hugh Bayley
Margaret Beckett
Miss Begg
Sir Stuart Bell
Hilary Benn
Mr. Benton
Roger Berry
Mr. Betts
Liz Blackman
Dr. Blackman-Woods
Mr. Blair
Hazel Blears
Mr. Blizzard
Mr. Blunkett
Mr. Borrow
Mr. Bradshaw
Mr. Gordon Brown
Lyn Brown
Mr. Nicholas Brown
Mr. Russell Brown
Mr. Des Browne
Chris Bryant
Ms Buck
Richard Burden
Colin Burgon
Andy Burnham
Ms Butler
Mr. Byers
Mr. Byrne
Mr. Caborn
David Cairns
Mr. Alan Campbell
Mr. Ronnie Campbell
Mr. Caton
Colin Challen
Mr. Chaytor
Paul Clark
Mr. Charles Clarke
Mr. Tom Clarke
Mr. Clelland
Ann Clwyd
Mr. Coaker
Ann Coffey
Harry Cohen
Michael Connarty
Mr. Robin Cook
Rosie Cooper
Yvette Cooper
Jim Cousins
Mr. Crausby
Mary Creagh
Jon Cruddas
Mrs. Cryer
John Cummings
Mr. Jim Cunningham
Tony Cunningham
Mr. Darling
Mr. David
Mr. Davidson
Mrs. Dean
Mr. Denham
Mr. Dhanda
Mr. Dismore
Jim Dobbin
Mr. Donohoe
Mr. Doran
Jim Dowd
Mr. Drew
Angela Eagle
Maria Eagle
Clive Efford
Mrs. Ellman
Mrs. Engel
Jeff Ennis
Bill Etherington
Paul Farrelly
Mr. Frank Field
Jim Fitzpatrick
Mr. Flello
Caroline Flint
Barbara Follett
Mr. Michael Foster (Worcester)
Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye)
Dr. Francis
Mike Gapes
Barry Gardiner
Linda Gilroy
Mr. Godsiff
Paul Goggins
Helen Goodman
Nia Griffith
Nigel Griffiths
Mr. Grogan
Andrew Gwynne
Mr. Mike Hall
Patrick Hall
Mr. David Hamilton
Mr. Fabian Hamilton
Mr. Hanson
Ms Harman
Mr. Tom Harris
Mr. Havard
John Healey
Mr. Henderson
Mr. Hendrick
Mr. Hepburn
Mr. Heppell
Lady Hermon
Stephen Hesford
Ms Hewitt
David Heyes
Keith Hill
Meg Hillier
Margaret Hodge
Mrs. Hodgson
Mr. Hood
Mr. Hoon
Phil Hope
Mr. George Howarth
Dr. Howells
Mr. Hoyle
Beverley Hughes
Mrs. Humble
Mr. Hutton
Dr. Iddon
Mr. Illsley
Huw Irranca-Davies
Mrs. James
Mr. Jenkins
Alan Johnson
Ms Diana R. Johnson
Helen Jones
Mr. Kevan Jones
Mr. Martyn Jones
Tessa Jowell
Mr. Joyce
Sir Gerald Kaufman
Ms Keeble
Ms Keeley
Alan Keen
Ann Keen
Ruth Kelly
Mr. Kemp
Jane Kennedy
Mr. Khabra
Mr. Khan
Mr. Kidney
Mr. Kilfoyle
Jim Knight
Dr. Kumar
Dr. Ladyman
Mr. Lammy
Mr. Laxton
Mark Lazarowicz
David Lepper
Tom Levitt
Mr. Ivan Lewis
Martin Linton
Tony Lloyd
Ian Lucas
Mr. MacDougall
Andrew Mackinlay
Mr. MacShane
Fiona Mactaggart
Mr. Mahmood
Mr. Malik
Judy Mallaber
John Mann
Rob Marris
Mr. Marsden
Mr. Marshall
Mr. Martlew
Mr. McAvoy
Steve McCabe
Chris McCafferty
Kerry McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy-Fry
Mr. McCartney
Siobhain McDonagh
Mr. McFadden
Mr. McFall
Mr. McGovern
Mrs. McGuire
Shona McIsaac
Ann McKechin
Rosemary McKenna
Mr. McNulty
Mr. Meale
Gillian Merron
Alun Michael
Mr. Milburn
Mr. David Miliband
Edward Miliband
Andrew Miller
Anne Moffat
Laura Moffatt
Chris Mole
Mrs. Moon
Margaret Moran
Jessica Morden
Julie Morgan
Mr. Morley
Kali Mountford
Mr. Mudie
Mr. Mullin
Meg Munn
Mr. Denis Murphy
Mr. Jim Murphy
Mr. Paul Murphy
Dr. Naysmith
Dan Norris
Mr. Mike O’Brien
Mr. O’Hara
Mr. Olner
Sandra Osborne
Dr. Palmer
Ian Pearson
Mr. Plaskitt
Mr. Pope
Stephen Pound
Bridget Prentice
Mr. Gordon Prentice
Dawn Primarolo
Gwyn Prosser
Mr. Purchase
James Purnell
Bill Rammell
Mr. Raynsford
Mr. Andy Reed
Mr. Jamie Reed
John Reid
John Robertson
Mr. Geoffrey Robinson
Mr. Rooney
Mr. Roy
Chris Ruane
Joan Ruddock
Christine Russell
Joan Ryan
Martin Salter
Mr. Sarwar
Alison Seabeck
Jonathan Shaw
Mr. Sheerman
Jim Sheridan
Mr. Simon
Mr. Singh
Mr. Slaughter
Mr. Andrew Smith
Ms Angela C. Smith (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Angela E. Smith (Basildon)
Jacqui Smith
Anne Snelgrove
Sir Peter Soulsby
Helen Southworth
Mr. Spellar
Dr. Starkey
Ian Stewart
Dr. Stoate
Dr. Strang
Mr. Straw
Graham Stringer
Ms Gisela Stuart
Mr. Sutcliffe
Mark Tami
Ms Dari Taylor
David Taylor
Mr. Thomas
Ms Thornberry
Mr. Timms
Paddy Tipping
Mr. Todd
Mr. Touhig
Jon Trickett
Dr. Desmond Turner
Mr. Neil Turner
Derek Twigg
Kitty Ussher
Keith Vaz
Joan Walley
Lynda Waltho
Claire Ward
Mr. Watson
Mr. Watts
Dr. Whitehead
Malcolm Wicks
Mr. Alan Williams
Mrs. Betty Williams
Mr. Wills
Ms Rosie Winterton
Mr. Woodward
Mr. Woolas
Mr. Anthony Wright
David Wright
Mr. Iain Wright
Dr. Tony Wright
Derek Wyatt

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on The MPs who voted for the ID cards bill.