Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Debate? That's soooo last century, my dear

Following on from Dave and others, the following was sent (in duplicate – to both constituency and Parliamentary addresses) to the (Dis)Honourable John Robertson MP.

Dear Mr Robertson,
I am writing to protest against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill currently passing through Parliament. All that I have read and heard indicates that this bill will have sweeping, and very dangerous, constitutional implications. The Bill gives ministers power to alter any law passed by Parliament, limited only by those crimes that carry a prison sentence of greater than two years and tax-raising legislation. However, in its current form, the Bill applies even to itself so it could be used to alter itself to remove those paltry restrictions without any Parliamentary approval.

Although this Bill will make ministers' lives easier by cutting out debates in which they have to answer awkward questions, I would urge you to look long and hard before removing a vital part of the democratic process. This Bill will make a mockery of Parliament, neutering the (already too limited) oversight role that it has over the Executive. Parliament should be there to examine proposed legislation and to improve it so that badly thought laws cannot be passed. The Commons is already failing in this role, and only the (ironically unelected) House of Lords is standing between the Executive and its insatiable desire to gather power to itself. And this Bill could depose the Lords, since their power is granted by Acts of Parliament.

The Government claims that the Bill would not be used for controversial matters, but there is nothing in the Bill to enforce this, and, frankly, I have no trust in any individual minister of state to limit themselves when applying this. Only the full machinery of Parliament, with all its checks and balances can do this. To quote James Madison in The Federalist Papers, we should remember when handing out political power that “enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm”.

So I urge you once again to vote against the Bill when it comes before the Commons, or, at the very least, ensure that its powers are severely reduced.

Yours Sincerely,
Rajnish Bhaskar.

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