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Tighten rules for passing secondary legislation

Comment 13th July 2010

Currently , Acts of Parliament can only be passed by Parliament after a rigorous consultation exercise involving debates in the Houses of Parliament and a final vote.

However secondary legislation which governs the running of local authorities and other public authorities like the police,  is not afforded the same scrutiny. It is passed with little publicity or debate in Parliament with the result that public bodies are handed carte blanche authority to make rules as they please.

As we all know, this has resulted in hundreds of new laws and by-laws aimed at curtailing and infringeing the basic rights of citizens be it with parking laws and court orders, refuse collection, astronomical increases in council tax among others.

Parliament needs to control the passing of secondary legislation in order to protect the rights of citizens and to allow the public to participate in the making of laws that govern their daily lives.

Why does this matter?

My idea is important because it affects the fundamental rights of people in their every day life.

For instance, secondary legislation allows local authorities to pass by-laws without regard to normal democratic consultations and due process.

For instance, in our area of Brent in North West London, New Labour allowed local authorities to use secondary legislation to introduce by-laws to implement parking restrictions without regard to due process. Although these by-laws require councils to conduct a proper  'consultation', the consultation exercise was run by the council and was not independent. In addition, the wording of the 'consultations' was vague, offered no real choice to residents and was not properly publicised.

As a result, many residents did not receive a consultation letter at all and only 11% of those 'consulted' bothered to vote. To top it all, out of the 11% who voted, 45% said 'No' to restricted parking, with many others ticking the 'dont' know' box.

However the Council announced the parking restrictions in its local magazine claiming that 'an overwhelming majority' of residents had agreed to restricted parking! In other words, the entire exercise was a 'fait accompli'. Residents had no right of appeal.

In a similar way, many local councils have made use of their right to pass by-laws to introduce other draconian laws for instance penalties for putting rubbish in the wrong bin etc.

Other New Labour councils ended the democratic system of public and Press access to council debates and decisions have been taken by new 'Cabinets'  behind closed doors.

I believe the only way to stop local councils from infringing our right to a fair consultation, hearing and debate on local matters is to tighten the way that secondary legislation is passed because this legislation allows local authorities to make laws without fair consultation.

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