Update on Legislation

On pages 33-34 (in Ch 1) we identify a number of Bills before Parliament that seek to reform aspects of the British Constitution. A number of these Bills have now been passed and are therefore Acts of Parliament. These include the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 and the European Union Act 2011.

Both measures were hotly contested in Parliament and aspects of them were resisted by the House of Lords but, in both cases, the legislation has been enacted in accordance with the Government’s wishes. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act contains a provision (s 7(4)) requiring a review of the Act to take place in 2020. Conceding this was the Government’s way of resisting an amendment that had been passed by the House of Lords (but rejected by the Commons) that would have subjected the entire Act to a “sunrise” clause. That is to say, that the Act would have had effect after the 2015 election only if Parliament positively so resolved. There is no such clause in the Act as passed.

On the European Union Act 2011, see also pp 342-3 (in Ch 5 of the book). The “sovereignty” clause that had caused so much fuss in the House of Commons was re-worded during the Bill’s passage, but the differences are (I think) technical: in any event see now s 18 of the Act.

The other measures mentioned on p 34 remain before Parliament: that is, the Public Bodies Bill, the Scotland Bill, and the Protection of Freedoms Bill. We can expect the Public Bodies Bill and the Protection of Freedoms Bill to be enacted before the end of the current parliamentary session (i.e., before the middle of March 2012); but the further passage of the Scotland Bill may be subject to the views of the Scottish Parliament, as well as of the Westminster Parliament, and its future is not quite so certain. More on this here as developments unfold, no doubt …

Another Bill before Parliament of relevance to British Government and the Constitution is the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill. This is the legislation designed to replace control orders (under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005: see pp 784-87 in Ch 11) with new measures of executive control, to be known as TPIMs. TPIMs are “control orders lite”; the similarities between control orders and TPIMs are much more significant than the differences. Both the House of Lords Constitution Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights have published reports rather critical of the TPIMs Bill, arguing that the reforms to control orders are insufficient; but there appears to be little political appetite in either House for the recommendations these committees have advocated to be taken further. If anything the Bill is likely to be amended so that TPIMs will resemble control orders even more closely!



Update on Legislation