Voters will be given the power to rewrite laws under Tory plans to transform the way parliament works by importing a popular scheme championed by Barack Obama in last year's US election.Bless the little darlings. They sitll think that evoking the name of Barack Obama somehow produces magic stardust to shower them all. Perhaps they should ask the IOC about that, not to mention the many people in the United States who are turning against the President.
William Hague will tomorrow announce that the Conservatives will introduce a new stage for parliamentary bills, known as the public reading stage, that will allow voters to reject and rewrite clauses.
In any case, what Barack Obama promised last year is irrelevant. So far, he has not even kept to another promise that there would be a breathing space with every important Bill before the President signs it. Instead, complex and wide-ranging pieces of legislation has been and are being rushed through, with the President expressing distaste for the fact that Congress insists on taking its time over such matters as the
Turning to the idea as it is supposed to work in Britain, Mr Hague will be proposing the following:
The first and main debate – the second reading stage, in which the broad principles of the proposed new laws are debated on the floor of the Commons – would be held in the normal way.Well now, where shall we start?
But once MPs have held this debate, the bill would be thrown open to voters before it is considered line by line at the committee stage. A website would allow voters to comment on and rewrite the broad principles of the bill, and individual clauses.
Contributors would rank comments so the most popular suggestions appear at the top. This is similar to mixedink, which allows voters to argue for and against various policies and suggest their own ideas.
Let us get the obvious point out of the way. Those parts of EU legislation that happen to require Parliamentary Acts cannot be rejected by anybody in this country - not the House of Commons, not the House of Lords, not the electorate. So, that's out.
Secondly, we elect MPs to legislate on our behalf and to read those Bills line by line for the Committee and Report stages, not to put them airily up on some website in the vain hope that somebody will come along and produce some interesting ideas for them to chew over.
The problem we have at the moment is that Bills are badly drafted and rarely debated properly in the House of Commons. It is left to the House of Lords, a revising Chamber whose members do not get salaries merely expenses for the days they spend in the Chamber (not in committee rooms or reading briefs) to go through those Bills and to amend howling errors. On several occasions the situation was so bad that the Government produced scores of its own amendments as late as the Committee or Report stage of the Bill's passage through the Lords. Even so, there are far too many pieces of legislation that are completely stupid, unworkable and destructive. Putting the Bill on a website between the Second Reading and Committee is not going to alter that fact.
When confronted with this MPs have been known to
Thirdly, the people who are likely to respond with their suggestions will be the usual suspects, in particular lobby groups or, as they are known nowadays, stake holders. They would have submitted suggestions at an earlier stage - the Green Paper, the White Paper, the consultation or the draft Bill stages. It is right and proper that individuals and organizations should be consulted on the drafting of legislation but once it has been drafted it is up to our elected representatives and the Second Chamber to read, debate, amend and pass it. That is the purpose for which they are elected. I cannot help feeling that MPs have forgotten this.
This proposal is not so much a copy of Barack Obama's, which was something completely different but an attempt to replicate the EU's ideas of organized civil society. The EU (the supreme legislator for this country) does not believe in parliamentary democracy. It lays out legislation programmes in the form of five or ten year plans and proceeds with them regardless of such details as national or European elections.
To prove its "democratic" credentials, every now and then the EU proposes some form of inter-active legislation when "organized civil society", otherwise known as lobby grops funded by the EU itself, can take discuss or suggest laws and regulations or amendments to existing ones. By proposing a similar system William Hague hammers another nail into the coffin of parliamentary democracy.