The Government Just Doesn’t Get It

She put in an expenses claim for her husband’s porn to be paid by the taxpayer. In return Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has decided that it’s worth ignoring the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the National DNA Database entirely, and is now even going to deny the House of Commons a vote on how she’s to alter her department’s use of it:

Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, has been warned that the government risks further damaging the public’s faith in politics after it emerged that plans for the police to keep innocent people’s DNA profiles for up to 12 years will become law without a Commons vote.

Opposition parties and civil liberty groups united to condemn plans that are being steered through parliament while MPs are distracted by the expenses row.

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats claim the government is seeking to make controversial changes to the national DNA database via a “statutory instrument” because it fears losing a vote that would be required if they were introduced by the more conventional method of primary legislation.

Get this lot out now. Replace Brown with Johnson after New Labour starts its final implosion after the European parliamentary elections, set a general election date for November, with Johnson setting that date for a referendum on proportional representation (PR) which the new Speaker, with an enhanced role of protecting the integrity of parliament, could also publicly endorse. Johnson would still likely lose the final first-past-the-post election, but he would also be responsible for the beginning of the end of this abuse altogether. I don’t think MPs are distracted by the expenses row – I don’t think this constant, illiberal, deceitful abuse of the electorate and parliament is separate from it – it’s all related. Just look at the undemocratic means by which she’s planning to use to get her way:

A statutory instrument has to be discussed only by a specialist committee which meets for 90 minutes and is usually made up of 16 MPs and a chairman. Critics say the Labour MPs who will dominate the committee will be handpicked by government whips and therefore back the Home Office proposals.

Why this procedure is so abusive is explained by Henry Porter:

The general point about statutory instruments is that they greatly increase the power of the executive and allow ministers to avoid unfavourable publicity and critical examination.

The Norton commission in 2000 said that scrutiny of statutory instruments was “woefully inadequate” and that “major changes were needed to existing practice”. This has not happened.

A statutory instrument should be published in draft form giving MPs the chance to look at the measure on its merits and describe in simple terms what it means to the public. A sifting committee should apply a systematic scrutiny and decide whether the measure should be debated. At present, it is left to researchers and individual MPs to ferret out any problems.

To restore power and respect to MPs, statutory instruments should be amendable by either house and both houses should have the power to refer back to the ministry concerned with precise suggestions.

Once the measure becomes law there should be opportunities for post legislative scrutiny to see how it is working in practice.

This government is fully out of touch with what’s moral, both in its attitude towards its own entitlements, and in terms of what legislation is just. Even Blair didn’t ignore the European Court – Smith and Brown must not be allowed to run roughshod over our basic civil liberties and human rights any longer. They must both go, and with any luck they will – with a PR referendum put in place by Johnson, at least setting a requirement for cooperative politics ahead of coalition politics in five years’ time, would Prime Minister David Cameron really have a mandate to repeal the Human Rights Act after all?

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One response to “The Government Just Doesn’t Get It

  1. Agreed on replacing Brown with Johnson. I have a sneaking suspicion that Harman will take over though.

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