Today is the final day for the Lords to retain its status as a self-regulating chamber. Without an agreement about how to proceed with the constituencies bill, ministers are going to impose a guillotine on the House of Lords. This would set a dangerous precedent: the delaying tactics currently at work, although unconventional themselves, can be useful to ignite public debate, bring to light bad drafting, and generally keep the government on their toes.
Giving ministers – not the Commons, but ministers – the power to curtail procedure in the House of Lords is another expansion of the executive at the expense of the only real scrutinizing chamber we have. Far better would be to split the bill, pass the referendum, and then negotiate about concessions for the constituencies. If not agreement is met with the Parliament Act can be used: that is an already tarnished procedure. There will be unexpected consequences of allowing a guillotine in the House of Lords – it will allow future governments to shortcut the Parliament Act, potentially not allowing the Upper Chamber to voice their concerns in a debate. The level of political debate in the media is already woeful, we should not be encouraging the same thing in parliament.
The government has also given the police new powers (they really didn’t have enough powers, did they?) that allow civil injunctions to be used on possible gang members. They would involve a curfew and, if broken, time in prison or a fine: all on the civil burden of proof, not the criminal burden. This is not a serious attempt to curb crime, it is a political gesture. Apart from the obvious fact that banning things doesn’t work, this is just another rebranding exercise. Control orders become T-Pims, ASBOS become injunctions.
Cameron really is the heir to Blair – the executive slowly accrues power over parliament, the House of Lords is mishandled and managed, and draconian powers are introduced in law enforcement. Perception is prioritized over fact, spin and double talk is used instead of informed debate