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UK Parliament to be Made Redundant? 607

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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  • by Blapto (839626) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:21PM (#14976628)
    Probably poor form to reply to my own post, but in reference to the Parliament Act, it's worth having a look at the Salisbury Convention to see why it isn't as powerful as it sounds.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:41PM (#14976804)

    I don't think I need to write to my MP on this one: he's already strongly and publicly criticised the bill for the insult to democracy it is, and indeed a group of professors of law from our local university (which, for the benefit of US readers, means a lot of very highly placed academics in the UK) wrote to a national newspaper to express their support for his opposition. I do believe in contacting my representatives, but in this case his view seems pretty solidly on the right side of sane.

    As for who would write the laws, it would basically be ministers, i.e., senior politicians appointed by the current administration and generally drawn from the ranks of both houses of parliament. This is basically carte blanche for the administration, once elected, to pass its laws without scrutiny or opposition from the other political parties. Technically, IIRC, the bill does allow for a couple of hours of debate, which is just about long enough for everyone to sit down... :-(

    When you consider that this bill could be used to pass several pieces of legislation that have recently proved highly controversial within the house (ID cards and draconian "anti-terrorism" measures among them) you can see how dangerous it could be.

    Then consider that under our first-past-the-post electoral system, the current administration was empowered based on only 22% of the population's support. They didn't actually win the popular vote in England at all, and they have relied repeatedly on Scottish MPs to force through controversial legislation that won't affect those MPs' own constituents because it only applies in England.

    In other words, this bill would essentially hand executive authority to a group of people who are not directly elected to such responsibility, but rather appointed by another group who can have as little as 1/5 of the population supporting them, and with that they can impose their will over the other 4/5 and their duly elected representatives challenge. Why would this disturb anyone?

    (Then again, we live in the land of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act, the Serious Organised Crime Act, The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act and most recently the Civil Contingencies Act, which collectively have stripped away pretty much almost every freedom and right that UK citizens enjoyed prior to the current administration being elected. What more damage can they do?)

  • by caluml (551744) <slashdot@spamgoe ... Dm.org minus bsd> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:49PM (#14976869) Homepage
    Indeed. TB seems to think he knows better, and when the houses rightly reject his bills, he wants to have some method for forcing them through.
    Has he forgotten that England has suffered terrorism before, and survived without removing everyone's civil liberties? Yes [wikipedia.org], there [google.com] have [google.com] been [google.com] terrorists in the past. *

    * Subject to your point of view.
  • And We Aren't? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dankling (596769) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:55PM (#14976912) Homepage Journal
    Anybody with a high school degree education in US Government knows that our government was purposefully made to be redundant.

    It's called Checks and Balances and it's why our government is still in operation (though many will argue its effectiveness). We separate the powers of law making between the senate and the house and give the president a veto. Wow, Redundant! We even have these crazy people that can even interpret these laws in crazy ways so as to fit the current times.

    Recap: Bill goes through house and senate, gets signed by president then gets interpreted by judges. And who's complaining about only a second body of redundancy in England?

    Nobody Even Likes Them!

  • The same indeed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rick Zeman (15628) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:57PM (#14976941)
    Watching, I reflected that this was truly how democracy is extinguished. Not with guns and bombs, but from the inside by officials and politicians who deceive with guile and who no longer pretend to countenance the higher interests of the constitution

    Hello, George W. Bush.
  • Hm. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mattpointblank (936343) <mattpointblank@LIONgmail.com minus cat> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:59PM (#14976950) Homepage
    If GCSE History serves me correctly, didn't Hitler [1] do something like this? Some bill that granted him "emergency powers" over the Reichstag that meant he could pass laws on his own? One step closer to dictatorship we step..

    [1]Note that I'm not equating Tony Blair to Hitler or Labour to the Nazis or anything, just an interesting co-incidence..
  • by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:59PM (#14976959)
    Because the Governor-General is no more a political office than the Crown is. The appointment is made with the "advice" of your Parliament anyway, which basically means the Crown appoints whomever its told to appoint. It's as democratic as your Prime Minister.

    Besides, some people see an advantage of separating the Head of State from the Head of Government. In the US it would be refreshing to be able to have the Head of State present to solemnize some event, without having to invite the current idiot in the White House who will use the occasion to push whatever's presently on his political agenda.

  • by user24 (854467) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:38PM (#14977245) Homepage
    You see, the thing is, the Lords (at the moment) have a birth right to be there. They can say whatever they want without fear of parliamentary whips putting pressure on them to to stop conflicting with the current party's views, without fear of being kicked out, and without fear of losing their next election. That's why they're a good thing, because they have the chance to oppose laws even when the majority of parliament is for them. Apart from the Queen (who needless to say only perform a cursory duty), they are the only impartial group in the government. I agree that they are definately more conservative, and generally represent only the upper class white citizens (as seen in their rejection of the anti-hunting legislation), but that's better than their not being there at all. imho. ianal.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:42PM (#14977263) Homepage Journal
    Believe it or not, there are those of us who, regardless of party affiliation, think the principle of checks and balances is more important than the politics and personalities of the moment.
  • Re:Bloody MC (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:45PM (#14977288)
    I say: absolve the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and revert all power to HRH Elizabeth Regina. We'll then all get along splendidly. (Or at least untill Charles takes the thrown.)

    You laugh, but even at his most old-fashioned and controversial, Charles's opinions usually make more sense to me than a lot of what the current lot have been doing. Frankly, we'd do better with the old-fashioned approach for the next few years...

  • Re:Paranoia (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:48PM (#14977306)
    As for protesting against it - not sure what they can officially get away with, don't think I'd want to find out first-hand either...

    Well, if you protest outside the Houses of Parliament, you're now breaking the law and subject to arrest, for a start.

  • by user24 (854467) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:00PM (#14977387) Homepage
    well, yeah, they're not impartial in that sense but they're free from enforced political affiliation, or at the very least less partial than the rest of the government.
  • by Liam Slider (908600) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:12PM (#14977472)

    Indeed, technically, it is the Queen that rules Britain...the government that has been granted it's position continues to exist only because it promotes order within her realm and she is thus satisfied with it's function of keeping the country from falling into utter chaos. Technically. If that government were to grossly step out of line it is entirely within her authority to remove it, or at least bring it back in line.

    Ultimately though, it comes down to the People. If they won't support the Queen in her actions then very quickly you'd either find her removed (given past examples in Britain, this would likely involve plenty of bloodshed and one dead monarch) or a slap on the wrist given and an illusion of a limitation of the Monarchy's powers (which would merely be the creation of a new government with expanded authority, that again merely exists because it keeps the Monarchy satisfied the nation is running properly...technically).

  • by Captain_Biggles (935196) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:16PM (#14977501)
    You act like this president, Supreme Court and Congress are like the ones that came before them: that they respect government. They don't.

    Ah yes, the good old days of respect for government. Like when FDR decided that if the Supreme Court rejected his policies, he'd just make it bigger (using his own appointments) until the required number of justices could reach an agreement. Or when pretty much every administration since the creation of the FBI has used that agency to spy on political enemies. Or endless porkbarrel projects created amidst bribery and backroom dealings.

    That respect for government? Or did you mean some other time when politicians haven't been hopelessly corrupt?

    Hey, don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of Bush. But putting the "other guy" in office has never solved these problems. Something much more drastic is required at this point.
  • by Theatetus (521747) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:23PM (#14977552) Journal
    In a practical sense, I expect that this is quite similar to one of the roles the Supreme Court has in American politics.

    The US Senate wasn't elected for about 150 years. In theory it allowed Senators to be immune from political pressures and the public passions of the moment. In practice, as political parties in the US got more powerful the Senators became pawns of the state parties.

    Still, I have to say the Lords have been doing Good Things for the most part lately, and maybe there's nothing inherently wrong with having a brake in place against the public mood of the day. God knows we could have used one in the US over the past 5 years or so...

  • by (negative video) (792072) <[me] [at] [teco-xaco.com]> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:24PM (#14977558)
    I realise it's a legacy of centuries past, and I realise that it's 'historically important', but create a 'house of lords' museum and get yourselves a proper senate for the love of democracy.
    Democracy consists of you and your neighbors deciding most of what government does to you. An elected senate dictating tiny details of everyday life to people hundreds of miles away is not democratic. Every matter being a national winner-takes-all battle is not democratic.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:51PM (#14977697)
    Democracy is a means to an end. Not the end itself.

    Or at least that used to be the idea before all you George-W and Woodrow Wilson worshippin fools got stuck in your rut.

    We'd be much better off with a House of lords. Probably not as well off as a simple repeal of the 17'th ammendment, but still better off than we are now.
  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:55PM (#14977717) Homepage
    Impartial? Nonsense. They're only accountable to their own interests.

    Well, yes, of course. However, as they don't have to worry about being re-elected, they can say what they think and vote for what they really think is in the nation's best interest instead of pandering to lobbyists and campaign contributors. In that sense, at least, they're more likely to be impartial than an elected official.

    It's the same idea as the Romans used in having members of their Senate (Their "conscript fathers" as they were sometimes called.) serve for life. By taking away the need to curry favor for re-election, they were expected to be able to put themselves above the special interest groups and work only for the good of the state. To some extent, it worked, because the senators took their responsibilities seriously.

  • by MooUK (905450) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @09:26PM (#14977872)
    Since I'm technically registered in two locations (though naturally I can only vote once in a given election) I've written to both the MP for where I live at uni and the MP from back home, with similar text to yours. One of the two is a long-standing Member and a well-respected Deputy Speaker, who's known for listening to his constituents, so I'll hopefully get a response.

    I suggest everyone reading this writes to their own MP, though I recommend NOT using identical text.
  • by dark_requiem (806308) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @09:45PM (#14977937)
    Guns are a tool, few would claim they offer liberation in and of themselves. A gun can be used to liberate, or oppress. Also, few people actually advocate a direct violent assault on the agents of the state. Simply begin refusing its orders, stop paying taxes, seek private services to replace public "entitlements", and wait for the government to come for you. Then you use your guns.
  • by shaneh0 (624603) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @09:47PM (#14977943)
    This may have been covered in a comment already, but I didn't see it.

    People are discussing the mechanisms in the UK and Canada to pass a law w/o running it thru parliment, and my understanding of these mechanisms is that they work much like "Executive Orders" do in the US.

    The president can sign an executive order and it becomes the law of the land. It can be circumvented by Congress and the Supreme Court, but not easily.
  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @09:57PM (#14977976) Homepage
    You're telling me that the Lords infallibly divine what is in the best interest of the Kingdom, and do that, instead of serving their own interests, which may or may not be in the best interest of the Kingdom?

    No, I'm not saying that, and you're not crazy. What I was saying is that because the Lords don't have to worry about re-election, they can vote for what they think is in the country's best interest. Naturally, being human, they also take their own interests into consideration, but they don't have to worry about pleasing either the voters or the campaign contributors.

  • by masdog (794316) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [godsam]> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @10:04PM (#14978006)
    Hmm...interesting. This is how the US Senate should operate. Damn 17th Amendment!!
  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @10:35PM (#14978139) Journal
    Impartial? Nonsense. They're only accountable to their own interests.

    Granted. Now the real question: How does that separate them from the elected types?

    Note: Getting re-elected is still their own interest, so anyone saying "elected officials are accountable to the voters" automatically fails.
  • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @10:45PM (#14978185)
    They provide stability and reason to the system. That's why there's two houses in a system. They can decide if a law is really good or bad, not just fashionable. That tends to be Conservitive in the correct useage of the word.. getting changes by them means they have to be Real changes, it makes the system more resistant to changes.

    as an aside, that's the problem with the US govt right now. We NEED the senate to be appointed by state governments and not elected. Having senators elected sounds more democratic, but makes the federal govt unaccountable to the states that make it up. Hence, the feds make laws completely out-of-touch with the real wishes of the country.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @10:55PM (#14978245) Journal
    Having an elected upper house somewhat defeats the point of having one at all. There is a huge benefit to having an unelected one. They can not enact bills without the agreement of the lower house (which is elected), so they are unable to simply further their own interests. Conversely, they provide a check on the tyranny of the majority that representative democracy so often leads to by not being subject to the whims of the majority.

    You may have seen in recent years how easy it is to cower the electorate with the thread of 'terrorists.' The majority is willing to give up personal freedoms in order for the government to protect them from a spectre. If the majority feels this way, and the upper house is elected by any means then it becomes easy to pass such laws.

    Oh, and don't say that a codified constitution would protect the people from such things. As we can see in the USA, the constitution must be interpreted by individuals, and these individuals are susceptible to the influences of their time.

    I have had the opportunity to observe the debate in both houses during my time in London, and met with members of both houses. At the end of the experience, I am usually left wondering why we put up with the house of commons. Individually, I know a few members who are rational and reasonable individuals, but when you put them together you get a room full of idiots. I believe Gilbert and Sullivan said it best when they said each MP 'has got to leave his brain outside.'

  • Re:Hm. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JohnFluxx (413620) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @10:57PM (#14978259)
    Funny you should mention this. They were talking on the radio about how we shouldn't teach about Hitler in schools anymore (UK) because it leads to tensions between us and Germany.

    Not that I'm so paranoid or anything to think that they don't want us to draw parallels here..
  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:14PM (#14978359)
    why would a modern nation have an unelected governing body in the 21st century, let alone the 20th?

    Have you looked at how the US Electoral College system works? They can appoint anyone they like as president.

  • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:18PM (#14978382) Homepage Journal
    Oh yes, because OUR system works so well [evote.com], with those Senators getting down on their knees and puckering up to any large corporation with a few million bucks every six years. (Granted, they don't seem to be as blindly bad as some members [cnn.com] of the House, but that's a pretty low bar [allheadlinenews.com] these days.)

    The UK system of government undoubtedly has its share of problems, but the House of Lords isn't it.

    Except for the fact that it's not a sort of thing that you can just create (it's more something that you can only have, if it's been in existence since before the rest of the government formed) I'd say that it wouldn't be such a bad idea to do something like that here, in my more exasperated moments. In theory, it's a pretty good idea -- a bunch of people who aren't subject to the whims of fat-walleted corporate/PAC pimps and who have no other function in the government aside from taking the longest possible view. (Arguably this is the function of the USSC here, I suppose.)

    The purpose that our Senate was originally supposed to serve, namely to be a brake on the other half of the Legislature, it seems to regularly fail to do; each party's House and Senate contingents seem to be in lock-step on all but the smallest details (you generally have to get down to the wording of particular bills to find differences between Senate [harvard.edu] and House [harvard.edu] versions, the intent is rarely very different on major issues). So I'm not sure that I would be dismissing the concept of a House of Lords so quickly. If I were a UK citizen (subject?) I'd be awfully reticent to throw away anything that might act as a brake on the rest of government, however anachronistic it might seem. If they were trying to drag the entire country back to the 17th century I might feel less cautious, but it doesn't seem like there's any evidence of that.

    However bad you think your government is now, with enough meddling it could always get spectacularly worse in a hurry.
  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:44PM (#14978476) Homepage
    The only reason I have to think that they put the national interest first is that they've opposed a number of very bad bills in the last few years. They've been more interested in preserving civil rights than Tony Blair has, and he's elected.

    I agree with you in general, however, that their own interests are going to come first. I don't consider this the best of all ways to run a government, but it does seem to work OK. I don't consider it to be broke, and see no reason to tinker with it.

  • by Moridineas (213502) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:00AM (#14978751) Journal
    I don't see the world groaning, I think it's doing pretty well actually.

    Let me say I'm SHOCKED that when you google "gore won recount" you get sites that say that. Why, according to google you get 667,000 of them! But when you type "bush won recount" you get 2,230,000 hits.

    What's that tell us? Absolutely nothing. That's the stupidest metric in the world. Read the articles, read the standards, and read the recounts. The data is out there, and analyzed by multiple organization. Hell, check Wikipedia even, if you don't believe it.

    I'm not a huge fan of Bush for what it's worth--but imho he's better than the alternatives.

    I guess I'll go back to the fascist media that's controlling what we read and write even now..EVEN NOW!!! Good thing I'm happy, or all these lies you think I'm swallowing (but the data doesn't support) would give me indigestion.


    Oh, just as a sidebar--buzzword parrot? let's check your post
    Fascist? check
    conspiracy? check
    elite? check
    lies? check
    propaganda? check

    Yep, that's about the litany of left-wing attacks, I wonder who truly IS a buzzword parrot here? Any thoughts?
  • by Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @03:45AM (#14979091) Homepage

    I already posted this, but its worth reposting IMHO...

    They can decide if a law is really good or bad, not just fashionable.

    Okay let me see if I got this straight here. You have a bunch of unelected rich kids who decide what becomes law or not in your country. And thats okay with you. To quote Michael Collins, how did you people ever get an empire? People with very little in common with the common man (and I know a couple of these space cadets personally, so trust me on this) who can't be sacked, whose vested interests are, well, incredibly vested, who leant a new respectability to the concept of inbreeding, these are the yahoos you want with a veto over your laws. Their qualifications? Right surname. Now, I'm not saying this proves English people like to take it up the arse or anything, but it does lend a significant mass to the theorem, taking us one step closer to critical...

  • by KeensMustard (655606) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:15AM (#14979249)
    The ability to fight against abusues when no other choice has been given to you.

    There's other choices, they just take more courage.

    It also make a very big global statement about the government whose people must fight with violence to be heard.

    What we will hear is "there's a bunch of barbaric terrorists who are addicted to violence and are being legitimately suppressed by the government". Your ideology is inseperable from the ideology of ETA, or the IRA, or the Mujaheddin. If you want world support, protest using peaceful means, a commitment to peace demonstrates you are the good guys. Nobdoy cares if yet another violent insurgent group goes under.

    Whose to say the people sriving those tank dn't feel the same way as the people who ahve to lash out towards there leader?

    They (the army) are far more likely to be sympathetic to your cause if you aren't shooting at them. Or shooting at others, for that matter.

    You get 100,000 armed people storming key places where the government is ran, and kills all the leaders, you now have a ew form of government that can arise.

    Yes - it's called a dictatorship. often with the adjective 'brutal'. Happens all the time.

    If you get a million people armed and angry at the government, the effectiveness of thos 'tank' will be negligable.

    Tanks shmanks. Cluster bombs. The US accidently killed 14000 people in Afghanistan recently, mainly through cluster bombing. Imagine then, a deliberate attack. A deliberate cluster bomb attack by a moderately sized airforce on a crowd of one million would kill enough that the rest would slink away in fear.

    If your not armed, what options do you have that you don't have when you are armed?

    Your integrity. The ability to win sympathy. The ability to win the day and at the same time, uphold the principles of democracy. If you must win your way through violence, you've most likely lost already.

  • by jeremyp (130771) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:27AM (#14979280) Homepage Journal
    Okay let me see if I got this straight here. You have a bunch of unelected rich kids who decide what becomes law or not in your country.
    Not exactly. The House of Lords cannot make new primary legislation, it can only amend legislation brought up by the (elected) House of Commons. Even then, the House of Commons can effectively overrule the amendments.
    And thats okay with you. To quote Michael Collins, how did you people ever get an empire? People with very little in common with the common man (and I know a couple of these space cadets personally, so trust me on this) who can't be sacked, whose vested interests are, well, incredibly vested, who leant a new respectability to the concept of inbreeding, these are the yahoos you want with a veto over your laws. Their qualifications? Right surname. Now, I'm not saying this proves English people like to take it up the arse or anything, but it does lend a significant mass to the theorem, taking us one step closer to critical.
    Most of that is no longer true. The House of Lords is now largely an appointed chamber (appointed by the government and opposition of the day). Bizarrely, even in the recent past when it was packed with hereditary peers, it generally served to correct the more extreme ideas of the government of the day. Even now it seems to be the only thing standing in the way of our sorry government turning this country into a police state.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN