Henry VIII powers to be dropped

1 March 2011 by

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 themstaggeringly 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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5 comments


  1. We’d all love to see the back of unnecessary and costly guano’s that do nothing but suck money from the public purse and give jobs to the boys.

    As they’ve done in the past, with the media spotlight fixed on an external crisis and our very own Prime Minister sticking his nose in when he can’t keep track of the domestic situation, we have our ministers creeping around the corridors of power trying to exert their influence and deal another blow to democracy.

    We had Jo Moore suggesting that the death of hundreds of innocents would provide a good smoke screen to hide councillors’ expenses; we’ve had David Cameron getting the taxpayer to foot the bill for his “personal snapper” (as reported by the Mirror 17/11/2010); we’ve had Fox Hunting debates obscuring anti-terror legislation in the form of the Proceeds of Crime Act (which has in itself done more harm to the democratic process by removing presumption of innocence) and now this Public Bodies Bill.

    We have to ask if this is the “transparency” we can expect from the government? Ministers have proven themselves to be arrogant, dishonest, greedy and self-serving; legislation permitting them to exercise more powers without scrutiny must not be allowed.

    Sir Ivan Lawrence Q.C. in his condemnation of the Proceeds of Crime Act said, “a law more draconian and manifestly unjust than anything ever devised by a state in modern times”. He continued that this, “legally complicated, draconian and unjust system” has come about “mainly because Parliament does not spend enough time, or use enough care, in vetting the laws put before it by civil servants and politicians – goaded as they are by the tabloid press with little understanding of the consequences of what they do”.

    So we have clear evidence that Parliament do not spend enough time vetting new laws, do we really need to give them an excuse to be “out of the loop” further?

  2. Tara Davison says:

    Excellent news for the Peoples rights.

    Let us hope they will also now look at removing the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and sequel and restore the Presumption of Innocence to the British People.

  3. UKFreeNews says:

    Thank heavens for that and many thanks to all of the Lords who in this case acted as guardians for our nation.

  4. ObiterJ says:

    It is good to hear this. Cannot prove any causal link of course between blogging and this happening and it is maybe extremely unlikely that any of their Lordships read our blogs (or perhaps one or two do). Nevertheless, it is a good outcome and shows that occasionally our sclerotic old Parliament can bite just a little. It is not quite yet – “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything” – (As You Like it – Shakespeare).

  5. Huw Sayer says:

    Excellent news – good for democracy, accountability and justice.

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