Unless privacy or security or constitutional safeguards are explicitly written into an "enabling Bill", such as the dreadful Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill 2006, they are worthless. Judges and Courts can only make Common Law precedent within the constraints made by the Primary Legislation. If, as in this case, there are infinite "Henry VIII" powers, then our democracy is at risk, due to the unconstrained power of incompetent or corrupt or fanatical politicians.
This Bill has been going through the rubber stamp process which is laughingly referred to as Standing Committee A of the House of Commons.
The Conservative and Liberal Democrat Opposition front benches have tried to highlight some of the immense constitutional dangers inherent in this Bill, but they have been as totally ineffective as when the Government had a much larger majority. All opposition amendments have been withdrawn or have been lost when it came to a vote.
This Bill is not a Labour party manifesto promise, and it should be rejected by the Commons and or the Lords, since the NuLabour Minister in charge of it, Jim Murphy, has not listened to any of the learned criticisims whatsoever.
There is nothing wrong with the idea of removing old, obsolete legislation, after proper consultation and debate, but this Bill goes far beyond that idea, and far beyond the existing legislation which was brought in by this Government to do just that, the existing Regulatory Reform Act 2001. The Regulatory reform Orders under this Act have not been held up by lengthy Parliametary scrutiny which somehow needs to be short circuited, but by the indolence and inertia of Ministers and their Civil Service and Quango / NDPB empires.
If NuLabour is not planning to abuse such infinite powers, then why are they so opposed to writing some simple safeguards into the text of the Bill itself ?
For example, the Government has rejected the Opposition amendment which would have created a Schedule of Excepted Acts:
Even the power to use this legislation to amend itself is not excluded !
The Acts referred to in section (Excepted Acts) are—
Act of Settlement 1700
Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001
Bail Act 1976
Bill of Rights 1688
Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919
Church of Scotland Act 1921
Civil Contingencies Act 2004
Claim of Right 1689
Constitutional Reform Act 2005
Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
European Communities Act 1972
Freedom of Information Act 2000
Government of Ireland Act 1920
Government of Wales Act 2006
Government of Wales Act 1998
Habeas Corpus Acts 1679 to 1862
House of Lords Act 1999
Identity Cards Act 2006
Immigration Act 1971
Local Government Act 1972
Magna Carta 1215
Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975
Ministers of the Crown Act 1975
Northern Ireland Act 1947
Northern Ireland Act 1998
Official Secrets Acts 1911 to 1989
Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949
Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986
Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005
Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Act 1706
Public Order Acts 1936 to 1986
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
Representation of the People Acts 1981 to 2002
Scotland Act 1998
Security Service Act 1989
Statute of Westminster 1931
Succession to the Crown Act 1707
Terrorism Act 2000
Terrorism Act 2006
Union with England Act 1707
Union with Scotland Act 1706
Welsh Church Disestablishment Act 1914.’.
Surely any amendments to such fundamentally powerful constitutional or national security related Acts of Parliament should only be done through the full debate and opportunity for amendments afforded by Primary Legislation and not, as envisaged by the Legiislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, simply on a "take it or leave it" basis, by Order of a Minister, who, by definition has a majority in Parliament or in a Committee ?
Hopefully bloggers such as Murky and Bloggerheads and websites such as Liberty Central might just raise a bit of interest within the Westminster Village of journalists and politicians, who seem to have been distracted by comparitively minor scandals surrounding Tessa Jowell, or now the death of the the far more honourable John Profumo CBE, or even the far less important Education Bill.
We are running out of time, before yet another repressive "rod for our own backs" is created, possibly with the best of intentions, by this NuLabour Government.
Please contact your Member of Parliament e.g. through the WriteToThem website or directly, and put political pressure on them to stop this Bill entirely or to insist on proper constitutional safeguards.