17 July 2010

Gordon Brown was a dangerous tyrant

So said Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge in his speech at the annual dinner given for the Judiciary by the Lord Mayor of London. 

Actually, that is not what he said. He said King Henry VIII was a dangerous tyrant, and that the Statute of Proclamations of 1539 was the ultimate act of submission by Parliament, in that it gave the king's proclamations the same force as acts of Parliament.

Judge was perhaps too tactful to remind his audience, which included Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke, that the Enabling Act passed by the German Reichstag in 1933 conferred the same powers on Chancellor Adolf Hitler. And that more recently, in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has obtained the same powers (also called 'enabling') from his suborned and intimidated legislature.

But he was not so tactful when he went on to point out that the last parliament passed a large number of acts that granted Gordon Brown and his henchmen similar powers. Specific examples Judge cited were:

The Banking (Special Provisions) Act 2008 granted the Treasury the power to make:
(a) such supplementary, incidental or consequential provision, or
(b) such transitory, transitional or saving provision, as they consider appropriate for the general purposes, or any particular purposes, of this Act

But the power goes further. It expressly provided that an order may
(a) disapply (to such extent as is specified) any specified statutory provision or rule of law
(b) provide for any specified statutory provision to apply (whether or not it would otherwise apply) with specified modification.

Underlining the gravity of this, Judge observed (my italics): "So we have an Act of Parliament which expressly grants to the Treasury power to disapply any other relevant statute bearing on the provisions of the 2008 Act or indeed any rule of law."

The same process is at work with section 51 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. This enables any Minister of the Crown, by order to make such provision as he or she considers appropriate in relation to any provision of the Act. The order may:
(a) amend, repeal or revoke any existing statutory provision,
(b) include supplementary, incidental, transitional, transitory or saving provision.

Judge commented (my italics again): "So the new constitutional arrangements can be revisited by ministerial order, directed not merely to amendment repeal or revocation of any provisions in the Act itself, but directed at any of our existing statutory provisions."

He failed to add that every item of EU legislation rubber-stamped by Parliament contains similar 'enabling' powers, conferred not on elected ministers, but on anonymous bureaucrats.

As Lord Judge says, this is a matter of the utmost seriousness. The Coalition have promised a "Great Repeal Act", but it will be prepared by the unconditional Europhile Ken Clarke, so there is no chance whatever of a democratic renewal.

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