Henry VIII powers to be dropped
1 March 2011
Proposals for much-criticised powers which would have given ministers broad powers to alter statutes with little or no debate are to be dropped.
The proposed changes were dubbed “Henry VIII” powers as they would have given the executive powers similar to those of the 16th century tyrant. Lord Taylor of Holbeach told the House of Lords:
I can confirm to the House that the government have accepted the arguments that bodies and offices should be listed in the schedules of this Bill only where Parliament has given its consent in primary legislation.
Many will see the concession as a victory for the rule of law and ministerial restraint. As I have posted, the House of Lords voted against the Public Bodies Bill for a second time in November, making concessions likely. The Lords were influenced by the Select Committee on the Constitution, which took a very strong line indeed in its report on the bill, exclaiming:
When assessing a proposal in a Bill that fresh Henry VIII powers be conferred, we have argued that the issues are ‘whether Ministers should have the power to change the statute book for the specific purposes provided for in the Bill and, if so, whether there are adequate procedural safeguards’. In our view, the Public Bodies Bill [HL] fails both tests.
Opposition to the extra-ministerial powers has been almost universal within the legal community. Commentator Joshua Rozenberg called them “staggeringly wide“. Afua Hirsch at the Guardian said the Bill was a “vampire law”, and the Law and Lawyers blog sounded the alarm that the bill will amount to a “permanent extension to Ministerial powers exercisable with quite minimal Parliamentary oversight.”
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