Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Henry VIII resurrected?

The blogosphere has been buzzing with comment about the new Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. The charge is that this bill will enable Ministers to re-write legislation without Parliamentary approval. Famous sausage-machine Clifford Chance have described the Act (probably in a message sent at 2.30 in the morning) as a severe limitation of Parliamentary sovereignty.

There can be no doubt that it is a disturbing shortcut through legislative control. It is not, however, quite as apocalyptic as might be imagined. Owen has quoted safeguards, dismissed as inadequate - there are in fact little more than a description of the grounds for Judicial Review. Fortunately they are not the chief restrictions on the power.

For those brave few that remain, the most important element of the Act:

Section 4

Subordinate legislation
Provision under section 2(1) may not confer a function of legislating on a Minister of the Crown (alone or otherwise) unless the conditions in subsections (2) and (3) are satisfied.
The condition in this subsection is that the function is exercisable by statutory instrument.
The condition in this subsection is that such a statutory instrument—
is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament; or
is not to be made unless a draft of the statutory instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
Subsection (1) does not apply to provision which merely restates legislation.

In other words, for those who dislike reading statute, the new Act merely applies to Statutory Instruments, in restricted areas, and is only exercisable on a vote of both Houses of Parliament. It is an alteration from the current situation, where prospective legislation is 'scrutinised' in committee (or not depending on the committee) to one where altering legislation is devised by the Minister and then voted on by Parliament. It is a reduction in Parliament's power, but not a resurrection of the ghost of Henry VII.


Blogger Murky said...

Linked to you today from

For some reason the 'link' system is a bit of a mystery to me!

3:59 pm  

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