Serious question on the Totalitarianism Bill deflected

In a shameful display, Geoff Hoon (Labour) deflected a perfectly reasonably question upon the 'Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill' from David Howarth (Lib Dem).

Aside: See all my writings on this topic here

David Howarth said:

I hope that the Leader of the House has had a chance to read a letter in The Times today from six professors of law at Cambridge university, expressing their concern about the extraordinary powers granted to the Government by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is now widely known as the "Abolition of Parliament Bill". Will he take steps to rescind the decision of the House last Thursday not to consider the Bill in a Committee of the whole House but to take it upstairs? Surely, given the Bill's massive constitutional importance and the seriousness of what part 1 does to the House's powers, all Members should have the opportunity to discuss it in detail on the Floor of the House.

To which Geoff Hoon replied:

I know that the hon. Gentleman is on temporary, sabbatical leave from the university of Cambridge. We are delighted to have him here for a relatively short time while he represents the people of Cambridge. I hope that he did not stimulate that letter in The Times from his former colleagues in the law faculty at Cambridge university. I know that he is a distinguished lawyer and anxious to get back to academic life as soon as possible, but before he does so he will of course have the opportunity to debate the Bill in Committee in detail, and we look forward to his observations.

Thus using his answer to make pot shots and irrelevant points, whilst ignoring the substantive issue at hand. Shame.

On the 'They Work For You' site, Francis Irving commented:

He doesn't answer the substantive point which David Howarth raises - that the proposed Abolition of Parliament Bill (the so called "Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill") is of sufficient constitutional importance that it should be debated on the floor of the house.

Instead, he starts irrelevantly discussing the potential results in Cambridge at the next General Election (3 or 4 years away). He goes on to imply that law academics shouldn't comment on a law with significant constitutional impact.

Neale Upstone says:

David Howarth asks a serious point about democracy in this country, and Geoff Hoon uses it to take pot shots.

Frankly, that doesn't surprise me, when what has gone on the last few hears in the Labour government has eroded so much of the freedom they're preaching to the rest of the world about.

I could not agree more. Geoff Hoon's response may have shown 'good debating skill', but it was disgraceful.

David Howarth has written on this subject in The Times

This letter is being sent to David Howarth:

Dear Mr. Howarth,

I am writing to you as I have great concern regarding the "Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill". I was very pleased when you raised this in parliament, saying:

"I hope that the Leader of the House has had a chance to read a letter in The Times today from six professors of law at Cambridge university, expressing their concern about the extraordinary powers granted to the Government by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is now widely known as the "Abolition of Parliament Bill". Will he take steps to rescind the decision of the House last Thursday not to consider the Bill in a Committee of the whole House but to take it upstairs? Surely, given the Bill's massive constitutional importance and the seriousness of what part 1 does to the House's powers, all Members should have the opportunity to discuss it in detail on the Floor of the House."

In contrast, I was appalled my Mr. Hoon's reply, which seemed nothing more than an cheap attempt to sidestep the question, to cast aspersions upon your character and to score points.

"I know that the hon. Gentleman is on temporary, sabbatical leave from the university of Cambridge. We are delighted to have him here for a relatively short time while he represents the people of Cambridge. I hope that he did not stimulate that letter in The Times from his former colleagues in the law faculty at Cambridge university. I know that he is a distinguished lawyer and anxious to get back to academic life as soon as possible, but before he does so he will of course have the opportunity to debate the Bill in Committee in detail, and we look forward to his observations."

This piece of legislation, which is woefully out of the public eye, has the potential to be one of the most, if not the most damaging piece of legislation passed by this government. I would encourage you to keep up with your efforts. Please allow me to emphasise that I am concerned that such laws could be abused by some future Government, and that even if the laws are made with the best of intentions now, the potential for such abuse must not be built in.

Geoff Hoon himself is getting this letter:

Dear Mr. Hoon,

I am writing to you as I have great concern regarding the "Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill". Mr. David Howarth raised a point in reasonable point regarding this bill in parliament:

"I hope that the Leader of the House has had a chance to read a letter in The Times today from six professors of law at Cambridge university, expressing their concern about the extraordinary powers granted to the Government by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is now widely known as the "Abolition of Parliament Bill". Will he take steps to rescind the decision of the House last Thursday not to consider the Bill in a Committee of the whole House but to take it upstairs? Surely, given the Bill's massive constitutional importance and the seriousness of what part 1 does to the House's powers, all Members should have the opportunity to discuss it in detail on the Floor of the House."

In contrast, I was appalled by your reply, which seemed nothing more than an attempt to sidestep the question, to cast aspersions upon the character of your fellow MP and to score political points.

"I know that the hon. Gentleman is on temporary, sabbatical leave from the university of Cambridge. We are delighted to have him here for a relatively short time while he represents the people of Cambridge. I hope that he did not stimulate that letter in The Times from his former colleagues in the law faculty at Cambridge university. I know that he is a distinguished lawyer and anxious to get back to academic life as soon as possible, but before he does so he will of course have the opportunity to debate the Bill in Committee in detail, and we look forward to his observations."

It is disturbing that you don't seem to acknowledge the seriousness of the concerns which surround this bill, and I would encourage you to give it the parliamentary hearing that a bill of this magnitude deserves.

Please allow me to emphasise that I am concerned that such laws could be abused by some future Government, and that even if the laws are made with the best of intentions now, the potential for such abuse must not be built in.

Further Reading: