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.

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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”.

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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.

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Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act

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

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Some news items

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

Anyway that’s all for now.

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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.

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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.

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