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UK Parliament to be Made Redundant? 607

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the politics-the-same-the-world-over dept.
caluml writes "The Guardian is reporting that the current UK government is trying to sneak a new law though in an innocuously named bill called 'The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill,' which would get rid of that pesky, interfering need to put laws to the Houses of Commons and Lords to approve. There is already the Parliament Act that can be used to force laws through, which was used recently for the hunting bill. " The original coverage is a bit old but the bill is still being tossed around in parliament. The text of the bill is also available via the UK Parliament website.
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UK Parliament to be Made Redundant?

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  • The Parliament Act. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Blapto (839626) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:19PM (#14976599)
    This wasn't snuck in, it's been around for quite some time now. It actually serves a valid purpose as well. Basically, the part that this article refers to allows a government to bypass the House of Lords (an unelected body) after a certain number of tries in a certain time period when trying to pass a bill.
    Anything that goes through the parliament act will generate enough publicity for the public to kick up a fuss about it if they don't like it anyway.
  • by caluml (551744) <slashdot@spamgoe ... g ['re.' in gap]> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:25PM (#14976654) Homepage
    There's also a website [saveparliament.org.uk] that explains in slightly less dry terms than the official parliament website some of the things it would allow MPs to do. It appears to be unavailable at the moment, but check it out when it's back up.
    From memory, it's basically: add or change any laws they feel like, as long as they don't raise taxes, or have jail sentances over 2 years.
    And as for why the opposition parties and UK media aren't mentioning it, I have no idea.
  • by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:34PM (#14976745) Journal
    Excuse me while I stop pissing myself with laughter.

    1. Iraq war. People said no and protested, yet I see troops still there and even helping start it.

    2. More people voted in Big brother than in the general election.. maybe it's just me.. but I don't think many people care about politics.

    Shall we go on? Labour is taking the piss and trying to cut out everyone who's going "oi retards, you're fucking up the country!" and this is just another step on that ladder. Remember Hitler was a really nice bloke on TV, he was the apple of most young girls eyes.. Even pure evil can put on a charismatic alter ego and play nice to the public.

    Don't put money on "the public" turning this over, get writing to everyone you can and do it NOW. This is one small step up a ladder which leads to the Ministry of Peace, other wise known as Camp X-ray or a Cuban jail everyone knows is full of tortured "terrorists" (even though no one can define a terrorist..)
  • by FhnuZoag (875558) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:35PM (#14976756)
    Yes, but the parliament act isn't what is in question.

    What is in question is this new proposed act, that allows any cabinet member to alter any piece of legislation by conducting a single vote with the minimum of debate or discussion. The parliament act is usually only used after ages of battling, so at least we are certain that MPs have looked at and understood what is being passed. With this new act, it would be very easy to sandwich scary ideas into an innoculous looking package, and sneak that through the vote. The worst case scenario is that one such scary bill would be a motion to alter this bill itself - and remove parliament from the process altogether.

    Even if we trust the government not to abuse it, this is still a terrifyingly huge loophole. And in fact, the bill is currently *very* close to being passed. It only has a 1-hour final hearing in the commons, and then it's onto the Lords. And if the Lords don't cooperate, a truly malicious government can use the Parliament act to force it through....
  • by Yer Mum (570034) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:44PM (#14976828)

    See also...

    http://www.libertycentral.org.uk/content/view/395/ index.php [libertycentral.org.uk]

    Which shows an amendment the opposition proposed to protect the British constitution and civil liberties (nothing to do with business reform) from this bill and was rejected in its entirety by the government.

    Which begs the question is why would the government want the ability to change the constitution without parliamentary approval?

  • Constitution? (Score:3, Informative)

    by krlynch (158571) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:54PM (#14976904) Homepage
    A question for our British friends: the Guardian article, at least three times, refers to the "constitutional implications" of this proposed legislation. But the UK has no written constitution (I realize there are charters and precedent and common law heritage and all that, but there is no constitution in the sense that most nations have "A Constitution" that sets out the structure of the government). As I understand it, the "constitution" (little c) of British government is (more or less) whatever Parliament decides it is; there are essentially no fundamental "restrictions" on what Parliament can decide to do. Is the article trying to imply anything more than "constitutional implications" in the sense of modifying centuries of precedent, or is it something deeper that I am not seeing? Thanks!
  • Re:Constitution? (Score:3, Informative)

    by paulkman (962983) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:00PM (#14976964)
    The "constitution" of the UK is basically just that, centuries of precedent. Some stuff is written down (like the Magna Carta), but for the most part, it's all tradition. In this sense, parliament itself has placed restrictions on itself by acting the way it has for several centuries.
  • by whoniverse (880278) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:12PM (#14977046) Homepage
    The short answer is: history. Here's a slightly longer answer: Unlike the US, the UK political system is a result of historical changes over centuries, and is not a coherently thought-through system. Until devolution a few years ago, the UK Parliament was the only legislative body in the entire country. The Devolution process gave away some of parliament's powers to new parliaments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. However the three don't have equal powers to each other - the reasons being a combination of history (Scotland has always had different laws to the rest of the UK as it joined when the two nations shared the same King, whereas Wales and Ireland joined by means of English conquest), popular feeling (the Scots were more in favour of devolution than the Welsh), and the needs of the peace process in Northern Ireland. There have been plans for various powers to be devolved not to a new English Parliament, but to the nine English regions (which are comparable in both size and population to Scotland, Wales and Nothern Ireland, whereas England itself is massive compared to the other parts of the UK). However, this devolution hasn't got a large amount of popular support compared to the pressure for devolution from the other nations of the UK, the North East had a referendum on a regional assembly, but that gave a no vote. The only part of England with any devolved power at the moment is London. There are some arguing for an English Parliament, but there aren't very many of them - most people in England would think of it as a waste of money, because England makes up the vast majority of both the land and the people.
  • by jafac (1449) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:17PM (#14977084) Homepage
    Because, by allowing the charade of Congress/Parliment to continue, we still have the illusion of Republican systems of government, when in fact, we have dictatorships.

    When my kid is in school learning about how great the US is, and how we're great because we're free, will they teach him that we're not actually free any longer because of a tacit approval of abdication of our rights? No. Because we have a "congress".
  • by jregel (39009) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:20PM (#14977106) Homepage
    I heard about this over the weekend and wrote to my MP this morning. Use FaxYourMP to get your message through. Text below:

    Dear David Drew,

    I am hoping you can reassure me concerning the proposed Legislative and
    Regulatory Reform (LRR) Bill which I saw reference to on TV over the
    weekend and was featured on Radio 4 this week.

    My understanding is that the Bill will enable Ministers to reform
    legislation without referring directly to Parliament and that MPs and
    Peers will not have the ability to modify problematic proposals in the
    way they do at present.

    Parliamentary scrutiny is at the heart of the democratic process and
    any action that weakens the powers of influence of MPs is of great
    concern to me.

    Please can you help clarify what the Bill will allow and whether you
    will be supporting or opposing it.

    Yours sincerely...
  • Re:Please... (Score:2, Informative)

    by syzler (748241) <david@nosPam.syzdek.net> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:27PM (#14977155)
    ..don't give the U.S. government any ideas. Not that they seem to feel like they need congressional approval now, for that matter.
     
    I am slightly confused, did I misunderstand my government and econmics class in high school or did you? I could have sworn that Congress was a part of the U.S. government. You basically said that the government does not need governement oversight.
     
    Maybe you really meant this:
     
    ...don't give the Executive branch of the U.S. government any ideas. Not that they seem to feel like they need congressional approval now, for that matter.
     
    Just to be clear, the U.S. Government is made up of three branches. They are the Executive, the Legislative (Congress), and the Judicial branches. Each branch is a part of the government. No single branch IS the government (regardless of what a certain administration thinks).
  • by Sarisar (842030) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:30PM (#14977183) Journal
    It's true, our second chamber is unelected. Lords become members by a complex mixture of appointment, religion, appelation, hereditary entitlement and self-election, which frankly I can't work out.

    It's simple. Donate^H^H^H^H^H^H Loan money to labour [theregister.co.uk], get a peerage. [bbc.co.uk]

    Shame I don't have a spare million or two lying around. Could do with a peerage...
  • by Shimbo (100005) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:44PM (#14977281)
    And as for why the opposition parties and UK media aren't mentioning it, I have no idea.

    They have. Here's some links:

    http://www.conservatives.com/tile.do?def=news.stor y.page&obj_id=128487 [conservatives.com]

    http://www.libdems.org.uk/government/story.html?id =9824 [libdems.org.uk]

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/ cmhansrd/cm060321/debtext/60321-05.htm#60321-05_sb hd3 [parliament.uk]

  • Already in Canada (Score:4, Informative)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @09:06PM (#14977436)

    The Powers That Be in Canada, both Federal and Provincial, can already pass a law without running it by Parliament. It's called an Order in Council [about.com]. Theoretically an OIC is used for little things like political appointments, but it can be used for big things too.

    If anybody objects, there is always the Notwithstanding Clause [justice.gc.ca] (it's Section 33). It was used for Bills 101 and 178 in Quebec, and Alberta keeps threatening to use it against same-sex marriage. It's been used a number of other times too.

    ...laura

  • Actually (Score:3, Informative)

    by Andy Gardner (850877) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @09:14PM (#14977492)
    2) There is less homocide per capita in the US, then in Brittian. So while homocide by firearm is higher, out overal numbers are lower, a lot lower.

    Not according to nationmaster [nationmaster.com]. Which, 'compiles statistics from such sources as the CIA World Factbook, United Nations, World Health Organization, World Bank, World Resources Institute, UNESCO, UNICEF and OECD.'

    Murders (per capita).
    US #24 with 0.042802 per 1,000 people
    UK #46 with 0.0140633 per 1,000 people.

    Murders with firearms (per capita).
    US #8 with 0.0279271 per 1,000 people
    UK #32 with 0.00102579 per 1,000 people

    I'm not drawing any conclusions. Those are the statistics though.

  • Article 48? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Firehed (942385) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @09:49PM (#14977684) Homepage
    Doesn't this seem eerily similar to Article 48 [wikipedia.org] and the Enabling Act [wikipedia.org], which is (in not so many words) what Hitler used to create the Holocaust?
  • by Pete (2228) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:22PM (#14978092)
    Planesdragon:
    Britain is a Parlimentary System, and as such Tony Blair is elected, in truth, only by the members of his particular party.

    Tony Blair is the legitimately elected MP representing Sedgefield. And he's also the legitimately elected leader of the Labour Party, as voted for by the MPs of that party. And you could quite reasonably argue that, as the leader and the "face" of Labour, his party's overall victory in the last three general elections is an additional (indirect) endorsement by British voters.

    None of this changes the fact that he's a contemptible manipulative lying prat with little or no respect for civil liberties or international law - but apparently that is what the majority of the British voters want as their political leader. So be it.

    He doesn't even need to have been a Member of Parliment.

    The British Prime Minister doesn't even need to be an MP? Okay, I know the Brits don't have an official constitution and so the rules on this may not be carved in stone, but that still seems kind of unlikely. Have you got a source for this?

  • by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv D ... neverbox DOT com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:01AM (#14978293) Homepage
    No. England is the opposite of a theocracy, which happens to look identical to one if you aren't paying attention.

    In a theocracy, the church runs the government. In England, the government runs the church. As these both have the same entity running both the church and the government, it is easy to confuse them.

    With England, however, the government runs the church because the church that used to claim authority (The Catholic Church) was asserting too much authority, so they got rid of it. And then, because it was expected at the time, they made their own church, which they have then continued to basically ignore.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:04AM (#14978309) Journal
    Okay, I know the Brits don't have an official constitution and so the rules on this may not be carved in stone, but that still seems kind of unlikely

    Actually, we do have a written constitution. What we don't have is a codified constitution (our constitution is drawn from many sources). The grandparent poster is half right. The prime minister does have to be an MP, however they do not have to be a member of the House of Commons. The procedure for selecting a PM is roughly as follows:

    1. The Queen selects someone and invites them to form a government.
    2. This person must gain the support of half of the house of commons.
    3. If so, they become prime minister. If not, then the Queen goes back to step 1.

    Since the creation of Lords is one of the Monarch's Prerogative Powers, it is quite possible for her to select someone completely random, create them a peer, and then ask them to form a government. For the last couple of centuries or so it has been traditional for the monarch to invite the leader of the party with the most seats to form a government, since they are usually guaranteed support of the majority of the house.

    If, at any point, the PM ceases to have the support of half of the house then a vote of no confidence can be passed. If this happens, a general election must be called and a new government elected. This can happen, for example, if they have a narrow majority and one of their members resigns or dies. At this point a by-election will be called, and their seat contested again. If someone from the opposition takes it then the government can lose its majority.

  • Re:Already in Canada (Score:3, Informative)

    by MagnaDoodle666 (783430) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:30AM (#14978646)
    If anybody objects, there is always the Notwithstanding Clause (it's Section 33). It was used for Bills 101 and 178 in Quebec, and Alberta keeps threatening to use it against same-sex marriage. It's been used a number of other times too.


    The Notwithstanding Clause is used to exempt a law from being examined under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Liberties. This Charter is part of our Constitution and guarantees personal rights such as the right to free speech. Meaning it can allow Parliament to vote a law which is unconstitutional.

    In the US, it would be the same as if congress could be allowed to vote a law which goes against the Constitution, and the judges couldn't do anything about it. To keep things fair, this provision has to be reexamined by Parliament every 5 years.

    So this has nothing to do with giving the executive power (prime minister and ministers) the power to change laws without consulting Parliament. The law still has to be voted by Parliament. So this has no relation whatsoever with the bill proposed in the UK and couldn't be used to circumvent Parliament.
  • by MartinB (51897) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @03:01AM (#14978887) Homepage
    This wasn't snuck in, it's been around for quite some time now. It actually serves a valid purpose as well. Basically, the part that this article refers to allows a government to bypass the House of Lords (an unelected body) after a certain number of tries in a certain time period when trying to pass a bill.

    To separate out the two issues you're conflating:

    The Parliament Act is there to prevent the unelected Lords from blocking legislation which the elected Commons has a mandate to implement. By convention this means the content of the goverment's election manifesto.

    Now the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill means that not only will the Lords not be able to oppose Government policy (in the manifesto or not), this will be extended to the Commons.

    Or, to put it in constitutional speak: the Executive usurps the power of the Legislature, and neuters the capacity of the Judiciary.

    Yes, our freedom-loving government is plainly tired of all that mucking around attending Parliament, and persuading MPs to support its bright ideas. In future (so goes the vision), our beloved, trusted ministers will be able to amend, replace and repeal legislation by fiat. The only restrictions are that ministers can't impose new taxes (but can introduce new fees. Po-tay-to/Po-tah-to), or introduce prison sentences longer than 2 years.

    So could HMG decide to make ID Cards entirely compulsory? Could they require all public services to be disposed of to PFI? Could they abolish the Scottish Parliament? Yes, Yes and Yes (they couldn't impose laws in devolved matters, but they could abolish the whole thing).

    And the checks and balances on ministerial absolutism? Erm... none. The minister merely has to consider a vaguely written checklist and be personally satisfied that's it's a Good Idea overall. Because ministers are of course entirely impartial judges of their own proposals. It's already being called The Abolition of Parliament Act [toque.co.uk] as Parliament simply won't be able to scrutinise legislation in advance or block it. But it's also an Abolition of The Judiciary Act as the courts can't challenge Ministerial Orders after the fact on the basis of being disproportionate or removing freedoms and protections from the citizenry as long as the Minister can show that he/she has thought long and hard about it. Presumably the fact that Ministers are genetically incapable of thinking like this won't help...

    Separation of Powers? We've Heard of It

    Anything that goes through the parliament act will generate enough publicity for the public to kick up a fuss about it if they don't like it anyway.

    Which, as the Executive can impose what the hell it likes without the checks and balances of an adversarial Parliament, can be entirely ignored except for the 3 months before an election.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @04:34AM (#14979069)

    You should listen to the Radio 4 Today [bbc.co.uk] programme. John Humpreys brought it up a couple of weeks ago between 07:30 and 08:00, when I suspect many people are listening.

    I make a point of listening to Today. It's the best journalism we have on a UK broadcast medium.

    When I stopped watching TV in 1996, I started listening to Radio 4. It was a very good choice.

  • by maubp (303462) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:16AM (#14979143)
    Note that I'm not equating Tony Blair to Hitler or Labour to the Nazis or anything, just an interesting co-incidence..

    I am: I've just written to my local MP (who happens to be a conservative):
    Dear ...,

    The "Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill" recently came to my attention, thanks to a piece on The Guardian's website.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/ cmbills/111/06111.1-4.html [parliament.uk]

    Having looked at the proposed text of the bill, it bears chilling comparison to Hitler's 1933 Enabling Act, which allowed him and his cabinet to enact laws without the participation of the Germany's parliament.

    Please can you help clarify what the Bill will allow, as by my reading it is disturbingly broad with very few limitation, and whether you will be supporting or opposing it.

    Yours sincerely, ...


    Fellow Brits - write to your MPs www.writetothem.com [writetothem.com]
  • by professionalfurryele (877225) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:44AM (#14979331)
    You are missing the point. THe point is that the first house provides the fear of the electorate, and second house provides the defence against special interest groups. Look at the disaster the American system is becoming because senators are terrified of elections. All the calls to pass legislation to protect children from violent video games crap and the like.
  • by illtud (115152) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:12AM (#14979400)
    What is in question is this new proposed act, that allows any cabinet member to alter any piece of legislation by conducting a single vote with the minimum of debate or discussion.

    *No*, that's the *status quo* (almost). The new Act will allow a cabinet member to alter any piece of legistlation *without recourse to parliament*. Ie, without a vote! Read it. Listen to the screams of those who have been attending the backwater committee stages that have been cooking this up. This is an unprecedented move to bypass parliament altogether to punish it for standing in the way of the government's 'reforms', hidden under the cloak of 'deregulation'. Only 'controversial' changes would have to be voted on in parliament, with the ministers themselves deciding what is 'controversial'! If this passes, Jim Murphy's name may well go down in history as the man who killed democracy in the UK.

    If you think this sounds like hyperbole, just check it out yourself.
  • Enabling Act (Score:2, Informative)

    by pjc50 (161200) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:07AM (#14980306)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enabling_Act [wikipedia.org]

    (Parliament has been slowly losing legislative control for years due to the increasing volume of European legislation which it may not override)

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