I've had my first reply from a Bishop member of the Lords regarding my letter about the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. The Bishop of Winchester seems to have replied personally, and he has replied in detail.
The Bishop of Winchester
The Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt
Wolvesey, Winchester S023 9ND
Telephone: 01962 854050 Facsimile: 01962 897088
Email: (email address removed - anti spam reasons)
8 March 2006
Thank you very much for your letter of 25 February with your comments on three current pieces of Government legislation. I was glad to receive this and have noted carefully what you say and particularly take your point that, however well intentioned legislation affecting civil liberties may be, we must be vigilant to ensure that there is no uncertainty or scope for possible abuse by a future Government - a view with which I have considerable sympathy.
Dealing with your concerns in turn, my perception is that while the avowed intentions of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill are unexceptionable in terms of facilitating the deregulation of business, as it stands the Bill gives very sweeping powers to Ministers to enact legislation by Order with inadequate checks and balances, and that further safeguards are needed. I shall follow this as closely as possible, and anticipate that these wider constitutional aspects will feature prominently in the Bill's consideration in the House of Lords.
As for the Terrorism Bill, I have consistently opposed the "glorification" provision and was present in the House and voted with the majority for the amendment removing this.
As for the Identity Cards Bill, I share the scepticism which has been expressed in various quarters about whether the Bill will achieve its intended objectives and I have considerable reservations - both of principle about the encroachment on privacy and the disclosure of information without consent, and also of practical consequence causing me to question the effectiveness and cost of such a scheme. I am afraid, though, that I was not able to be present for the Bill's consideration in the House on 6 March.
With my very warm thanks for your letter and for your shrewd comments,
A very thoughtful and detailed reply - and it's also encouraging that he seems to agree with the points I raised.
This morning I received a reply from the Cabinet Office, from Baroness Amos' forwarded letter. This will be posted later on today... it will need a rebuttal.