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Wednesday, April 5, 2006 9:21 PM
UK bill amounts to abolishing Parliament, warn Cambridge law professors


Monday, February 27, 2006

Alexandria Samuel

[JURIST] Six law professors at Cambridge University have warned that an innocuous-sounding bill now going through Parliament would give UK government ministers the power to abolish jury trials, place citizens under house arrest, and rewrite the law on nationality and immigration, all without Parliamentary consent. In a letter [text] published Sunday in the Times of London, the scholars urged MPs to take another at the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill [text], which has already received a second hearing and could be adopted as early as next month, and "recognize the dangers of what is being proposed before it is too late." In the name of enabling ministers to cut regulations for business, the bill provides in clause 1 that:

A Minister of the Crown may by order make provision for either or both of the following purposes: a) reforming legislation; b) implementing recommendations of any one or more of the United Kingdom Law Commissions, with or without changes

Supporters of the bill maintain that the power given to ministers is slight, and note limitations such as a restriction on new crimes invented by ministers, and the prohibition against the creation of new taxes. But in a separate op-ed [text] in The Times, David Howarth, a Reader in Law at Cambridge and also the Liberal Democrat MP for the area, took another view, noting that "All ministers will have to do is propose an order, wait a few weeks and, voila , the law is changed.":

The Government claims that there is nothing to worry about. The powers in the Bill, it says, will not be used for "controversial" matters. But there is nothing in the Bill that restricts its use to "uncontroversial" issues. The minister is asking us to trust him, and, worse, to trust all his colleagues and all their successors. No one should be trusted with such power.

As James Madison gave warning in The Federalist Papers, we should remember when handing out political power that "enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm". This Bill should make one doubt whether they are at the helm now.

The legislative proposal comes at a time when British jurists of various political stripes are becoming increasingly concerned [JURIST report] with undue extensions of power by the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, now in its third term. The Epoch Times has more.

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