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March 23, 2006

Coming Soon: The Abolition of Parliament Bill

Writing about web page

Yay for inflammatory and sensationalist titles.

Grah for this actually being rather appropiate.

Searching Warwick Blogs for the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill brings up two hits. Not very surprising, because for some reason this thing has had a very low profile in the media. A more paranoid writer might suggest this is by design, since the title of the bill itself is carefully crafted so that a casual reader would instantly zone out and ignore it.

Which is a shame, because this bill is


(wonder if this is going to get past the censors….)

Ok. Let me explain.

The Details

A boot stamping on a human face
What this bill does is allow, in the name of cutting red tape, any member of the cabinet to pass a change in primary legislation by a single vote. That's instead of the ages and ages of debating and discussion and back-and-forth that goes on currently.

What does this mean? It means that your MPs will have very little time to read and understand the content of what they are deciding on. And so, if they were to squeeze something dangerous into an innocent looking bill, there is a good chance of getting it through. Who would oppose the 'Bill to provide sick children with cuddly toys', which just happens to conceal a payload of ID cards?

But this is scratching the surface. Most commentators seem to have a failure of imagination here. Maybe they are scared of contemplating the true horror of what's going on. The opposition have been trying to curtail the power of this bill, by asking the government to make exemptions – rules that cannot be changed without the proper, traditional debate. The government has rejected all of these. What rules do the government want to reserve the right to change without debate? Here's a list: (Highlights are boldened)

Act of Settlement 1700
Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001
Bail Act 1976
Bill of Rights 1688
Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919
Church of Scotland Act 1921
Civil Contingencies Act 2004
Claim of Right 1689
Constitutional Reform Act 2005
Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
European Communities Act 1972
Freedom of Information Act 2000
Government of Ireland Act 1920
Government of Wales Act 2006
Government of Wales Act 1998
Habeas Corpus Acts 1679 to 1862
House of Lords Act 1999
Human Rights Act 1998
Identity Cards Act 2006
Immigration Act 1971
Local Government Act 1972
Magna Carta 1215
Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975
Ministers of the Crown Act 1975
Northern Ireland Act 1947
Northern Ireland Act 1998
Official Secrets Acts 1911 to 1989
Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949
Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986
Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005
Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Act 1706
Public Order Acts 1936 to 1986
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
Representation of the People Acts 1981 to 2002
Scotland Act 1998
Security Service Act 1989
Statute of Westminster 1931
Succession to the Crown Act 1707
Terrorism Act 2000
Terrorism Act 2006
Union with England Act 1707
Union with Scotland Act 1706
Welsh Church Disestablishment Act 1914.

So the government wants the right to create, without debate or discussion, a Britain where you can't vote, where you have no rights to legal representation, where there is a boot stamping on a human face forever.

And what's more, also open for amendment is this bill itself – it would be possible to extend this act to a true Enabling Act, removing Parliament from the process altogether. It would just take our MPs to slip up just once…. And BAM, democracy is abolished.

Let's consider safeguards… What safeguards? All it requires is for the minister drafting the proposal to have adequately considered the dangers. The minister sneaking in the dangerous regulation is given the duty of policing himself. What the government is doing here is asking for what is essentially a blank check, and saying, 'Trust us, we won't do anything bad with it.'

But why, we must ask. Why do you want these powers? Why do you want to have a loaded pistol pointed at our heads, as you claim to continue to protect and serve us?

How not to die

This bill is very close to being passed. The commons have done their first and second sittings already, and it needs only a 1 hour third reading before it's on to the Lords. And if it gets blocked there, then there's the Parliament act to force it through.

Better wake up people, because otherwise, there's no tomorrow.

Also, maybe the Student Union should be doing something about this. I know there's an anti-political mood in the air, but I do think we can have a broad and non-alienating consensus on this issue.

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