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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 Blapto (839626) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:21PM (#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.
    • This is because the Lords have been traditional conservatives, in regards to the administration of government in Britain. That is, they have been a barrier to the kind of radical moves by "New Labour" that characterize the revolutionary and unrepresentative executives of Bush in the US, Howard in Australia and Harper in Canada.

      They wish to preserve the legacy of representation and rule of law that are initiated with the Magna Carta, and succeeding 800 years of parliamentary rule. In fact, many of the Lord
      • by caluml (551744)
        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.
    • Wait a second. I thought that you guys had a Queen or something.

      • The Queen of England, (Or other reigning monarch) is the head of state, and technically controls the armed forces and must also approve any law. They are also the head of the Church of England. In addition to this, they get to be the head of state for nations of the commonwealth such as Australia.
    • by jb.hl.com (782137) <joe@NosPAM.joe-baldwin.net> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:32PM (#14976732) Homepage Journal
      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.

      The public kicks up a fuss about LOTS of things, but they never get listened to. For example: Iraq, ID cards, school reforms...

      The ID cards bill has been rejected by the Lords again and again, because frankly they're sane. But my understanding is this act could well be used to force it through, to the detriment of everyone.
    • This wasn't snuck in, it's been around for quite some time now.

      Well, it's the sort of thing I notice, and I only heard about it yesterday. It's not exactly being debated much in the media here.

    • 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, h
    • 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 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.
    • 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 Beuno (740018) <argentina@gmail . c om> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:19PM (#14976600) Homepage
    Yes, let's get rid of that pesky bureaucracy.
    And while you're at it, why waste time voting?
    Let's get rid of that time-consuming thing...
  • If I lived in the UK, I'd definitely be writing my (UK equivalent) senator and representatives about now... I really can't quite imagine something like that actually getting passed, but governments are, unfortunately, not limited by my imagination.

    One question is: who would actually be writing these laws that would go through without parliamentary approval, if not parliament?
    • 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 wo

  • by Philip K Dickhead (906971) * <folderol@fancypants.org> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:20PM (#14976616) Journal
    In SOVIET BRITAIN, Britannia waives the rules!
  • Errr... (Score:5, Funny)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:20PM (#14976623)
    I hate to be the grammar nazi, but the submitter misspelled "US" and "Congress"...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I live in the UK! How come nobody told me about this?
  • 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.
  • From an American view I'm jealous that you have more than two real political parties, but I don't get why England doesn't have her own Parliament.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    we can make make laws that are more stupid than you. hahahaha hahaha .. ha..
    oh shit, I'm in the uk :/

    ok, now I'm confused, do I make a USA immigration application or start learning chinese?
  • by flyingace (162593) * on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:33PM (#14976741) Journal
    Didn't you guys see "V for Vendetta" over the weekend ?
  • Bloody MC (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:36PM (#14976765)
    It's that damn Magna Carta, you know.

    Once you take the power from the one true Sovereign, who has been selected by God to know what is right for this country, all of this havoc follows in due course.

    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.)
    • 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...

  • They're going to have multiple parliaments so that if one fails they have a backup? Oh wait... that doesn't seem to be what they are suggesting.
  • by Rac3r5 (804639)
    We need something like this in Canada do. Right now we have a representative of the queen here in Canada. It is one of the most retarded and useless positions in Canada.

    Why is somone who is not democratically elected, in a political office.
    • by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:59PM (#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.

      • Besides, some people see an advantage of separating the Head of State from the Head of Government.

        As I recall, the Texas Constitution cleverly made the Lieutenant Governor more powerful than the Governor (on the day to the day basis.) I suspect they wanted a head of state to be different from the head of government, but also to distract people from where power really lies.
    • by hunterx11 (778171) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {11xretnuh}> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:15PM (#14977069) Homepage Journal
      Republicanism is a divisive issue in Canada, splitting people into two opposing sides: those who just don't care, and those who don't really give a damn.
    • 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

      • 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

  • The Queen? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dadragon (177695) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:46PM (#14976847) Homepage
    Well, this is (theoretically) why the monarchy still exists, unfortunatly, too many people have no respect for what power the sovereign has. She can refuse to sign this bill into law, even if Parliament passes it. Too bad she probably won't as that will trigger a constitutional crisis and put the Queen into a political position which they tend to try to avoid.

  • by Too many errors, bai (815931) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:48PM (#14976855)
    "The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battlestation."
  • On the surface this sounds like an attempt to bring back the monarchy. Not all at once, mind you, but just with a different set of people being in power.
  • 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!
  • Why would you need a parliament after the building was destroyed at the end of "V For Vendetta"?
  • And We Aren't? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dankling (596769)
    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

  • The same indeed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rick Zeman (15628) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:57PM (#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 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:59PM (#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..
    • Re:Hm. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JohnFluxx (413620) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:57PM (#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..
    • 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

  • Particularly pesky in this pugilannimous period, practically prone practices such as parliament should be permanently purged.

  • 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...
    • 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.
  • 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 mormop (415983) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @09:54PM (#14977713)
    The UK parliament has been redundant for a long time.

    Back in the days of Margaret Thatcher, huge parliamentary majorities were won on minority votes thanks to the first past the post, 3 party system. If I remember rightly, Mrs. T held a majority in excess of 300 MPs with only 40% of the electorate voting for her. Tony Blair commanded about 35% of the vote when less than 50% of the electorate turned out.

    With a three figure majority and the back-benches filled with career minded sheep, the government can get pretty much anything they want through so the new law is just icing on the cake. What worries me more is the sort of people they hang with. According to the treasury web site [hm-treasury.gov.uk], the following are being flown in by Gordon Brown, the next Prime Minister, to give advice on business in New Britain:

    Bernard Arnault, Chairman and CEO, LVMH
      Lord Browne, Group Chief Executive, BP
      Dr Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO, GlaxoSmithKline
      Bill Gates, Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Microsoft Corporation
      Sir Ka-shing Li, Chairman of the Board, Hutchison Whampoa Ltd
      Sir Terry Leahy, CEO, Tesco
      Sir John Rose, CEO, Rolls Royce
      Robert Rubin, Director and Chairman of the Executive Committee, Citigroup Inc
      Lee Scott, President and CEO, Wal-Mart
      Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Group
      Meg Whitman, President and CEO, eBay
      James Wolfensohn, Special Envoy for Disengagement and Former President of the World Bank

    Yep, that's right. In order to improve the business environment for entrepreneurs and encourage opportunity among the lower classes, Brown is freighting in a convicted monopolist and a horde of bankers and fat-cats some of which are heads of corporations that have been criticised for predatory and/or unfair practises. Hmmmm.. Can't wait 'til the advice starts flowing. "Well everyone, what's the best thing to encourage competition in business"? Patents for everything and tax cuts for the exceptionally rich? Sure thing, no problem now that I can push it through Parliament without a proper debate. Seat in the House of Lords? Two million to you guv but make it untraceable, know what I mean?

    Sick country man, a really sick country.
  • by lebski (931360) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @10:09PM (#14977789)
    Now Blair can't sell peerages to it; he's going to close it. Well I guess that will sort out the corruption but I don't think that's what we had in mind.
  • by shaneh0 (624603) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @10:47PM (#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.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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