In an announcement which, presumably for news spin management purposes, was timed to coincide with the Local Elections, the junior Cabinet Office Minister Jim Murphy has published 10 pages of Amendments to the controversial Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill 2006
These Amendments do not allay our concerns about the Constitutional dangers which this Bill presents:
- There is still no explcit limitation, written into the text of the Bill via these Amendments, which would prevent the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act being used to modify itself.
- It will still apply to any Act of Parliament including the Human Rights Act, Habeas Corpus, the Civil Contingencies Act, the various Terrorism Acts etc. i.e. there is still no list of exempted Acts of Parliament as was suggested by the Opposition during the Committee stage.
- It will still apply to any rule of the Common Law.
- The amendments do not change the totally inadequate "consultation" arrangements proposed in the Bill - i.e. the Minister can hand pick exactly who he chooses to consult with, and then ignore their suggestions, on a whim. There is no requirement even to follow the Cabinet Office's own Code on 12 week public consultations.
The only alleged "safeguards" are a strengthened role for some Parliamentary Committees.
We have already pointed out, this would be still on a "take it or leave it basis" when considering an Order, so , if the Order is a multi-part one, covering several non-controversial reforms, with only one or two controversial bits buried deep within it, the chances are that the inevitably Government dominated Committees will just rubber stamp such Orders.
There is talk of reducing the "burden" of legislation or regulation. There is nothing in these amendments which would prevent this or a future Government from "reducing the burden" of say the system of Appeal Courts or the Human Rights Act, etc. by simply abolishing them, by Order.
There is still nothing to prevent existing Primary Legislation from being widened and extended in scope, without full Parliamenatry scrutiny with the opportunity for Opposition amendments, as befits changes to Primary Legislation. This could easily be applied to draconian anti-terrorism powers, which carry a life sentence.
Read the proposed Governnment Amendments (.pdf) and judge for yourselves.