My MP, Michael Gove, has responded to my letter about the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. Overall it's a pretty satisfactory response, I think.
I have some concern about the level of 'concession' that he, and by extension, the Tories, would deem appropriate, but that remains to be seen
16th March 2006
RE: LEGISLATIVE & REGULATORY REFORM BILL
Thank you for your letter dated 25th February concerning the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.
The Government claims that the Bill is designed to reduce regulation, red tape and bureaucracy. I believe that we would all support this aspiration, but unfortunately the Bill fails to deliver. There is no reference in it to deregulation. Instead, a wide power is granted to Ministers to amend, repeal or introduce new law, using a fast track Order making power. It extends the powers available to Ministers, whilst relaxing the constraints of Parliamentary scrutiny.
Conservatives have been active in the debates in Parliament about this Bill. Oliver Heald MP, Shadow Constitutional Affairs Secretary, has called for clear safeguards, so that the Bill concentrates on deregulation and only allows Ministers to use the powers in the Bill for non-controversial changes. The Bill is currently before a Committee of the House and it is possible to follow these proceedings via the Parliamentary website, www.parliament.uk. Oliver Heald has described the Bill as "a major move away from primary legislation towards Government by Ministerial edict" That is why our Team is putting forward dozens of amendments to the Bill and arguing strongly for their inclusion.
Following concerted pressure from Oliver Heald in Committee, and his letter published in The Times on 28th February, the Government has agreed to table amendments to write a clear veto for the Regulatory Reform Committee over any order into the Bill. This was described by the Minister in charge of the Bill, Jim Murphy MP, as a "great concession", and certainly goes some way towards allaying my concerns.
I can assure you that we are continuing to work hard to ensure that the necessary safeguards are built into the Bill and that Parliament is not sidelined.
Michael Gove MP
I looked at the Times, and am probably missing the obvious, but I could only find this letter which was published on the 2nd March from Oliver Heald. On the 1st, Jim Murphy writes a case for the bill, which makes me wonder if he's looking at the same draft as the rest of us.
The only article I could find for the 28th was this one, which concludes:
Until now, ministers have recognised that the parliamentary process is a necessary element of a democracy, and that it may even improve the quality of legislation. It speaks volumes for the ever-increasing arrogance of this Government that it has introduced the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill and does not even understand the opposition to it.