If this Financial Times report about a promised backdown by the Government over the controversial Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is true, then there is cause for a litt bit of a celebration.
By Jean Eaglesham, Chief Political Correspondent
Published: April 12 2006 22:33
Sweeping ministerial powers in a proposed bill designed to cut red tape are to be curtailed following a row over their constitutionality, the minister responsible said on Wednesday.
Jim Murphy, the cabinet office minister, said the government would back down from the highly contentious plans to cut the bureaucracy burden on business and amend the proposed law, which has been dubbed a shortcut to dictatorship.
Mr Murphy told the Financial Times that the bill, which as currently framed would allow virtually any law to be introduced, amended or axed without full parliamentary scrutiny, will be amended. He said he would amend the legislative and regulatory reform bill “so that it can no longer be misconstrued as an attempt by government to take a wider constitutional power”.
We look forward to reading the exact text of these promised amendments. Will they at all resemble, say, the list of Excepted Constitutional Acts which was rejected ny the Government during the Committee Stage in the House of Commons ?
Will the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act be prohibited from being used to amend itself ?
“At the moment, in clause one, the bill deliberately seeks to take a wide power,” Mr Murphy said. “We’re going to focus that power more on regulatory outcomes, such things as productivity and competitiveness and reducing bureaucracy, rather than replacing legislation.”
The minister also pledged to give a statutory veto to the regulatory reform select committees in the Commons and Lords, allowing them to block proposals to fast-track legislative changes under the new law..
Remember that Select Committees in the Commons are invariably dominated by a majority of Government appointed MPs. The Chairmen of such Committees are also appointed by the Government which pays them an extra Parliamentary allowance. Who knows what the forthcoming reforms of the House of Lords will do to the Lords Committee.Hhaving a veto and no power of amendment, on a "take it or leave it" basis would not be acceptable if the Government sneaks through complicated , multi-part Orders or Regulations, which are mostly uncontroversial, but which contain one or two contentious issues.
We are therefore sceptical about how much of a "safeguard" this is.
The government is “still discussing the shape” of the amendments, which could take some months to finalise, Mr Murphy said. He denied that the move was a U-turn, saying: “It’s the same policy but with reassurance being given to those who have concerns.”
The government wanted a wide power to avoid a repetition of the failure of its last attempt to curb red tape, the 2001 Regulatory Reform Act, which “by general agreement hasn’t been fit for purpose,” Mr Murphy said. The act has proved so difficult to use, in part because of the complex safeguards in it, that only 27 orders to cut regulation have been passed under it.
Who were the idiots who introduced the "2001 Regulatory Reform Act" which is apparently working so badly ? That would be the same NuLabour government which has failed to allow proper detailed Public Consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny on so many of its Bills.
There has been so much spin and media manipularion from this Government, that we will believe it only when we see the text of the safeguards written into the text of the Bill., but this financial Times report does look encouraging..
To what extent has Murky's letter to Jim Murphy and the Save Parliament Blog, and Liberty Central and our own modest efforts and other UK political blois , contributed to raising awareness of this wretched Bill, amongst the "Westminster Village" of politicians and mainstream media correspondents and commentators ?