By the back door: Theresa May wants to inflict hundreds of “corrections” (read: perversions) on EU laws before allowing them onto the UK statute book.
This Writer had never before heard of the obscure Committee of Selection – but its members will decide whether the minority Conservative government will be able to pervert thousands of EU laws, without a single vote in Parliament.
The Tories want to pass a huge number of Statutory Instruments (SIs) – legislation that does not require a vote in Parliament as it does not change the broad framework of an Act, but only the details of its operation.
For the Tories, the Repeal Bill represents an opportunity to steal rights from UK citizens – and already the alarm has been raised over workers’ and consumers’ rights, environmental standards and devolved powers.
In the last Parliament, the Conservatives claimed five of the nine MPs on the committee, but officials have advised they are entitled to four only, after their Commons majority was destroyed. Nevertheless, they are insisting on keeping their five representatives.
They have lost their Parliamentary majority; they do not have the right to try to bully anybody – especially as they are trying corruptly to strip us of our hard-earned rights.
And, without domination of the committee, will the Tories press ahead with their underhand plan?
Theresa May is accused of trying to break parliamentary rules in order to ram through controversial law changes after Brexit.
The Conservatives are demanding to pack a crucial decision-making committee with their own MPs, despite losing their Commons majority at the election, The Independent can reveal.
Now Opposition parties plan to join forces to derail the attempted fix, in what threatens to be the first autumn Parliamentary clash over leaving the EU.
Never mind that the Lords were right to block the stupid and unnecessary Tory cuts to tax credits – they dared to defy David Cameron and George Osborne, so they must pay the price, it seems.
So a review of the Lords’ powers is to say peers should lose their absolute veto over secondary legislation like statutory instruments.
You’ll note that we already know what the “review” will say. Clearly it is not an impartial review of the Lords’ powers and the reasons for having them; the word “review” is in fact a euphemism for a dictat from Cameron.
It should be blocked; it represents another step towards the ‘One-Party Nation’ that the Tories want to create, in which every slightest whim that passes through their tiny brains is inflicted on the public full-force.
The question is, in the land of Apathy, can anybody be bothered to stand up to these monsters?
David Cameron is preparing to use the full force of the law to clip the wings of the House of Lords after it blocked his welfare cuts, the BBC has learned.
A review will say peers should lose their absolute veto over detailed laws known as secondary legislation.
Peers will instead be offered a new power to send these laws back to the Commons, forcing MPs to vote again – but will only be able to do this once.
Cameron on the run: The only hunt that the public is likely to support.
UPDATE: David Cameron has withdrawn the planned vote on fox hunting from tomorrow’s (Wednesday) Parliamentary schedule. So much for it being a ‘free’ vote – if he can’t win, he’s not going to let it happen. In fact, his tactic deserves further scrutiny so expect another article shortly.
The Scottish National Party will vote against a bid to relax the fox hunting ban in England and Wales, according to their Westminster leader, Angus Robertson.
David Cameron has been hoping that his announcement of changes, to bring the law in England and Wales in line with that in Scotland, would make it impossible for the SNP’s 56 MPs to oppose them in a debate and free vote tomorrow (Wednesday).
But the Scottish Nationalists, currently in charge of the Scottish Parliament, said they are considering a review of the existing ban north of the border, amid concerns that it is not strong enough.
In that context, Mr Robertson said, it would be in Scotland’s interest for the existing ban in England and Wales to be maintained.
The current version of the proposals, contained in a Statutory Instrument, would relax the law to allow foxes to be hunted by packs of dogs in England and Wales to protect livestock, game birds and wild birds, while “having regard to the terrain” and provided it is “carried out as efficiently as possible”.
Supporters have claimed it would also allow the removal of diseased or wounded foxes – an assertion that provoked anti-hunt supporter Dr Brian May to denounce them as “lying bastards” on the BBC’s Newsnight programme last week.
Mr Robertson said: “The Tory government are refusing to agree to any amendments to improve the Scotland Bill – and imposing English Votes for English Laws to make Scotland’s representation at Westminster second class.
“In these circumstances, it is right and proper that we assert the Scottish interest on fox hunting by voting with Labour against the Tories’ proposals to relax the ban – in the process, reminding an arrogant UK government of just how slender their majority is.”
This is the kind of opposition to the Conservative Government that we need to see.
If the SNP continues in this manner throughout the remainder of the current Parliament, then many of its critics (including This Writer) will be forced to revise their opinion.
A group of (we suspect) Conservative-supporting, Countryside Alliance-supporting ‘pest controllers’. These have already donned their red-and-white ‘pest control’ overalls and mounted their ‘pest control’ vehicles. They are preparing to deploy their ‘pest control’ apparatus – otherwise known as releasing the hounds.
Isn’t it interesting, how legislators can always quote ‘legitimate concerns’ of interested parties when they want to stop something – or (in this case) bring it back?
Here in Mid Wales, the county council used to clamp down hard on outdoor musical events, claiming that members had received “a complaint”.
Now the Conservative Government is to hold a vote on a Statutory Instrument (not primary legislation) that would bring back fox hunting, using a backdoor route that would put England and Wales “in line” with Scotland. The pretext? “Responding to the legitimate concerns” of hill farmers.
Would these hill farmers be Conservative voters? Perhaps even Tory MPs?
It’s interesting that this attempt to bypass the Hunting Act – by bringing it in line with the law in Scotland – puts the SNP in a difficult position once again.
Remember when ScotsNat supporters bombarded This Blog with outrage at the suggestion that their MPs should vote on the proposed repeal of the Hunting Act, back in May? Their attitude was that they had a hunting ban in Scotland and the SNP had principles which mean they should not vote on “English-only” matters (never mind that the “English-only” act also affects people in Wales. Wales doesn’t count, apparently).
It turns out the Scottish hunting ban is less effective – and therefore more barbaric – than the ban in England (and Wales); whereas, south of the border, foxes may be flushed out and killed for “pest control” reasons using a maximum of two dogs, there is no limit on the number of dogs that can be used in Scotland. For “pest control” purposes, foxes may be hunted by packs of dogs.
What is the SNP going to do about this? It brings the law south of the border in line with their own. The best we can expect from them is an abstention, allowing the de facto return of the barbaric blood sport that has been banned for the last decade.
Perhaps they should have strengthened their own hunting ban, rather than whining about having to vote on everybody else’s.
What’s the betting that, if the vote is passed, huge organisations of “pest controllers” will meet every Sunday, dolled up in red coats, to send their equally huge packs of dogs out “pest controlling” all over the countryside?
This Writer reckons it’s a certainty.
The Countryside Alliance has supported the proposal (quelle surprise): “These amendments will bring the law in to line with Scotland and ensure that farmers are able to choose how to manage the fox population in the most effective and humane manner,” said Tim Bonner, its head of campaigns.
Here’s comedian Robin Ince’s response to that attitude:
And celebrity wildlife protector Brian May stated, on his website: “If this SI measure is to be used to bring back legalised abuse of foxes, it means the Government have decided that the goodwill of the Countryside Alliance is more important to them than the will of the British Public.
“Historically, Statutory Instruments have only been used to make a minor modification to a law in a non-controversial way. The idea that this device could be used to circumvent the will of the majority of the English people is actually an outrage, and will be viewed by all decent folks as disgraceful conduct by any government, and an abuse of Parliamentary procedures.”
Fox hunting is fox hunting, no matter what label you attach to it. This is just a filthy little underhanded trick to neutralise the SNP.
Hard hat to be worn at all times: Vince Cable will need it to avoid the brickbats his latest comments – and his party’s power-hunger – will attract.
There can be no truer example of the adage that power corrupts, in today’s UK, than that of the Liberal Democrats.
Now neither liberal nor democratic, that party’s leaders are telling their members to do whatever is necessary to keep them in government.
They may be in coalition with the Conservatives now, but the message is that they will seek an alliance with anyone who will have them, if that is what it takes.
For what purpose? We have already seen all the evidence we need that they will abandon any pretence of principles if it will curry favour with a larger, and therefore more dominant, political group. Nick Clegg may have apologised for reversing his position on student tuition fees, but that hasn’t stopped them rising (pointlessly, according to recent revelations).
They have proved to be as susceptible to the temptations of petty crime as anyone else – look at Chris Huhne, praised by Nick Clegg for his skills as a secretary of state, even after he was convicted of perverting the course of justice. That’s a serious crime. Clegg should not be praising anyone convicted of it.
But then, Clegg is in the muck right up to his own chin. He denied prior knowledge of the allegations against former party chief executive Lord Rennard, then had to go back on it. Now there are questions about when senior figures in the party knew of the allegations that Huhne’s ex-wife Vicky Pryce had taken speeding points on her husband’s behalf.
Undoubtedly there is more that we do not know (there always is). Undoubtedly there is more that we will never know.
Do you remember last year’s Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, when the Parliamentary party was instructed to vote against the then-Health and Social Care Bill, because of the harm it would do to the National Health Service if it every became law?
What happened about that? Oh yes… the Conservatives made a few mealy-mouthed promises and the Lib Dems voted it through without a qualm. That, in turn, led to Statutory Instrument 257 – the regulations that proved the Tories had been lying in their assurance that doctors would not be compelled to consider private-sector bids to run NHS services. Those regulations have been withdrawn for a re-write after the public – not the Liberal Democrats – protested.
Because the Liberal Democrats have changed in the last year. There is no similar moral crusade this time around.
Instead, former party leader Paddy Ashdown has told them to do everything possible to secure a second term in power. Commentators have taken this to mean they will whore themselves to whichever of the main parties secures the most seats in the 2015 election (if, again, no party gains a majority).
They’ve had a taste of power and found it addictive. “I want it to become a habit,” said Lord Ashdown. What a shame it seems to be the kind of habit we see in users of illegal drugs. They’ll do anything for more.
Ashdown went on to quote the party mantra introduced, to much hilarity in this blog, just after Christmas: “to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life”.
It’s about the least effective soundbite possible, considering the nation’s current circumstances. The economy has been deliberately weakened and society is becoming progressively less fair, thanks to the efforts of Conservative ministers, aided and abetted every step of the way by the Liberal Democrats. If you want evidence, read practically any entry in this blog since it was founded at the end of 2011.
The part about “enabling everyone to get on in life” is particularly sickening, considering the number of chronically ill or disabled people who have died as a result of Coalition policy on benefits.
If you think the above is enough to sink this once-great party for good, think again because there’s more. It goes to the heart of Liberal policy-making and shows that they are prepared to reverse the very best acts of the great Liberals of the past, just to service their own convenience now.
I refer, of course, to the words of Business Secretary Vince Cable.
He wants the government to stop protecting spending levels on the health service, and he also thinks that pensions should be means-tested or taxed.
The introduction of old-age pensions was the first step towards the modern welfare state, in 1907. That step was taken by a Liberal government (yes, the Liberals used to get enough votes to take office on their own). Current Liberal Democrat MPs aren’t fit to clean the shoes of those former ministers (and believe me, in comparison to today, 1907 was a barbaric time).
And of course the NHS was created in accordance with the report of Liberal William Beveridge, who recommended creating “comprehensive health and rehabilitation services for prevention and cure of disease”. The Coalition’s treatment of the NHS constitutes a comprehensive betrayal of that plan.
Incidentally, Beveridge opposed means-tested benefits, meaning that Cable’s plan for pensions runs against established Liberal philosophy as well. It’s also bone-headedly stupid for a member of a party seeking re-election because pensioners are more likely to vote than any other section of society. That’s why the Tories have always tried to avoid hitting them with benefit cuts (although that determination has eroded over the course of this government). Upset the grey vote at your peril!
And let’s not forget that the government’s claim to have increased spending on the NHS since 2010 has been questioned – most relevantly by the UK Statistics Authority.
As we enter the last day of the 2013 Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, then, it seems reasonable to ask: Just what do the Liberal Democrats stand for?
It can’t be the values that made the Liberals great (when they were great) – the current Parliamentary party is betraying those.
It can’t be the values held by the Lib Dems before the 2010 election either – the current Parliamentary party has betrayed those as well.
The only possibility left is that they want power for its own sake.
The government has agreed to withdraw and re-write the controversial Statutory Instrument 257 regulations, that would have led to the privatisation – in practical terms – of most National Health services in England.
The regulations were being brought in under section 75 of the hated Health and Social Care Act 2012, under a process known as ‘negative resolution’. This meant there would be no debate or vote; they would become law 40 working days after they were introduced, leading to the demise of the English NHS as anything other than a brand name.
The government claimed the regulations were drawn up because previous guidance on procurement was set to become obsolete, as they applied to organisation that will not exist after April 1.
But concern was raised by Parliamentarians and more than 1,000 doctors, who wrote to the Daily Telegraph to point out that the legislation would make “virtually every part” of the NHS open to private contractors.
It is notable that the climbdown was announced by Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb, rather than the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt. At Health questions in the House of Commons last week, Mr Hunt had maintained an attitude that there was nothing wrong with SI 257, but Mr Lamb responded to concerns from a fellow Liberal Democrat by agreeing that “clear assurances” had been made in the House of Lords while the Health and Social Care Act was passing through Parliament, and “it is important that they are complied with in the regulations”.
The amendments include clauses to make it clear that clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) of GPs will decide when and how competition should be sought; clearer rules about the exceptional circumstances when only one organisation can tender for a service without competition for the contract; assurances that CCGs do not have to tender all services, and cannot be forced to do so by the regulator (Monitor); and an insistence that competition must not be at the expense of “integration and co-operation”.
In all cases, the regulations would be based on standards adopted by the previous Labour government, when the now shadow health secretary Andy Burnham was in charge of the health department, according to Mr Lamb.
The turnabout has triggered a wave of derision from opponents including Labour’s Health spokesman Andy Burnham, who said Coalition policy on competition was “in utter chaos”, and Stephen Dorrell, Conservative chairman of the health select committee, who said it showed that “the cloud of rhetoric that surrounded the passage of the Health and Social Care Act was so much hot air”.
This is a victory for those who wanted to keep healthcare-for-profit out of the National Health Service. But it is only a battle that has been won – not the war.
We do not know what the new regulations will be. Just because the Coalition says they will be drafted in a certain way does not mean that is how they will end up – we have plenty of experience to show that what the Coalition says and what it does are two entirely different things.
At most, this is a reprieve. Those of us who want services protected must remain vigilant.
And we must hold Labour to its promise to repeal the Act altogether, if that party gains office in two years’ time.
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