Not enough legislation?

Lord Norton

44080Frank Field MP has been complaining that MPs are left with little to do, as the Government has no legislative programme of any note.  He may possibly change his mind when the juggernauts of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill – which had its eleventh, and final, day in committee in the Lords yesterday – and the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill reach the Commons, but even if one takes his statement as to the legislative programme as correct, is there really a problem?  

We have discussed before that there is too much legislation.  The emphasis tends to be on quantity rather than quality, producing bills almost for the sake of it and in response to the feeling that ‘something must be done’.  If there is little legislation, then this is surely a golden opportunity to use the time to discuss matters of concern to MPs and their constituents and to ensure that the Government is scrutinised effectively.

The lack of a full legislative programme should also create opportunities for Members to demand adequate time to discuss the Bills they will be receiving in due course from the Lords.  The Marine and Coastal Access Bill is a massive measure and effectively two Bills in one.  The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill is basically three Bills in one.   The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill is an important measure.  Even with the extenstive scrutiny undertaken by the Lords, it is important that MPs have the opportunity to examine them thoroughly.

7 comments for “Not enough legislation?

  1. Paul
    22/04/2009 at 6:42 pm

    If there is little legislation, then this is surely a golden opportunity to use the time to discuss matters of concern to MPs and their constituents and to ensure that the Government is scrutinised effectively.

    In my view this is unlikely to happen as almost all MPs seem to be more concerned with maintaining their standing with the whips, and within their party, than with what their constituents think.

    Nothing will change until this situation is reversed and links to each party are much, much weaker than they are now. That way MPs can represent their constituents (as they should) without constantly having to consider a third party interest.

  2. Croft
    23/04/2009 at 12:19 pm

    I haven’t heard the governments intentions wrt the Marine and Coastal Access Bill but if as they simply timetable it with no possibility for consideration of anything but the broad thrust of the bill the length or complexity won’t cause the commons much difficulty.

    I’m not sure I entirely accept the premise that there is too much legislation, rather too much government legislation and on too few and ever recurring areas. I doubt letting some of the private members bills have a real shot at a hearing and vote would actually add much to the legal burden as they are often over quite minor matters in the grand scheme of things but may make a big difference in that small area. Other parliaments seem to manage to handle private members bills perfectly well enough along side government legislation without the sky falling in.

    The problems with scrutiny is fundamentally much of what Paul suggests. The governing party can stuff the committees with loyalists, especially since they changed the rules on PPSs, independent scrutiny has been shredded in the commons. I’m not clear enough in the Lords as to the extent to which the whips practice the black arts to influence committees. As I understand the figures MPs are at an all time modern low in terms of membership/attendance of committees which suggests a reluctance to even attempt real scrutiny. I’m not sure how this can change as all governments have interests against being held to real account. Personally I’d prefer the balance of committees to be calculated (commons) excluding ministers. This would punish/squeeze the government for the growth of ministerial non jobs but more crucially tend to always give oppositions a majority and they certainly would try to use the system – as they have few real other levers – to hold the government to account.

  3. Jonathan Hogg
    23/04/2009 at 3:31 pm

    Perhaps if MPs feel they aren’t busy enough they could spend the time dismantling some bad, unnecessary or ill thought-out legislation instead. I’m certain there is plenty to chose from.

  4. Zarove
    24/04/2009 at 5:57 pm

    I believe that elected politicians feel that they have to legislate endlessly, to both undo the predecessors policies if they are of a different party, and to implement whatever the new “Thing” is thats all the rage in Political Circles.

    I wish they’d learn to just hold the post until such a time occurs that action is demanded, and legislate base don need, but such wisdom seems to be dying these days.

  5. Bedd Gelert
    28/04/2009 at 11:15 am

    Since Baroness Miller has become embroiled in the ‘Phorm Phiasco’ I think she should be invited to comment, or post, on this blog about it…

    This disgraceful ‘cyber snooping’ must be stopped – NOW !

    How on earth can Parliament not clamp down properly on something which the EU doesn’t even think is legal ??

    Maybe the Home Office have been ‘captured’ financially by the industry ? We must be told…

  6. 29/04/2009 at 11:23 am

    Yes indeed. Chris Huhne’s phrase ‘legislative diarrhoea’ comes to mind, whilst a solicitor friend of mine informs me that the courts are still trying to catch up with the criminal justice act before the one before last.

    What annoys me is that the lower chamber seems to make such poor use of its time. A good example would be the Policing and Crime Bill, the committee stage of which had to be completed by the end of February. But why, given that we’re now nearly in May with no sign of a date for the Report Stage yet?

    With perhaps less bills than normal for a session of Parliament, surely there should be opportunity to look at proposals in greater depth. Better justice could also be done if a look was taken at the form of legislation, and whether great conglomerates such as the last Criminal Justice and Immigration Act would be better and more appropriately broken down into their constituent parts for their passage through Parliament.

  7. Tory Boy
    30/04/2009 at 1:13 pm

    If there is not enough work for MP’s why don’t they go through the statue book, and repeal all the unnecessary legislation, which is outdated and impracticable. E.g. legislation which says it is a criminal offence not to be found on public green on a Sunday morning practising sword fights.

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