My Anti-corruption Bill

After the success in the Lords of my Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill I’m very happy with the warm cross party support for my new Anti-corruption Bill (thank you Mr Starmer). When adopted it will reverse the damage done by over a decade of corporate lobbying and political donations to the Conservative Party.  

I’ve taken a very modern approach to effective government by adopting similar powers to the Retained EU Laws Bill. The civil service will be asked to compile a register of all laws that have been initiated or influenced by companies lobbying, who gave money to the Conservative Party over the last 14 years. I realise this may well involve thousands of bits of legislation and also the complicated regulatory detail of secondary legislation, which is why it’s important to start the process the day after the election. 

Given the additional burden on the police and civil service of trawling through ex-Ministers’ WhatsApp messages and the guest lists of numerous Conservative Party fundraising events, the list of contaminated legislation may continue growing for several years. That is a lot of corrupt practices for us to examine and make judgements on, which is why the pledge to pass this legislation within the first 100 days is so important – even while the list of laws to be deleted or replaced is still being finalised.

Ministers will need to have the power to assess, reject, amend, or replace all the relevant legislation and regulations passed during the last 13 years. This process can start with the oil and gas industry who donated £3.5m to the Conservative Party last year and funded the election campaigns of various MPs, such as ex chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. The North Sea licences will all be subject to reassessment as part of the anti-corruption review. The Minister will also be able to enact a tight set of  environmental controls, including a zero carbon requirement for any North Sea extraction. This can all be fast tracked via secondary legislation and without the theatre of parliamentary scrutiny. 

One of the major rewrites of legislation will inevitably be planning rules, as property developers account for around a third of donations to the Conservative party since 2010.  I anticipate that all major housing developments will be required to be net generators of energy through the use of solar panels, heat pumps and  appropriate energy standards. This will help people’s bills and help the planet within a few months of the election, as no separate legislation will be required as this can all be achieved by Ministerial decree, once the anti-corruption bill has passed.

It is anticipated that several other key areas of government can be tackled without clogging up Parliament with a long queue of reforming legislation. For example, the negative influence on the UK’s real economy of the banking and financial sector is well documented and, given they are a major source of donations, Ministers will have scope to rewrite the rules that govern the City of London, especially the lucrative hedge fund industry. 

Unlike the current government I wouldn’t risk the rush of a sunset clause losing laws by default because some email got caught in the junk file. No, you can trust the next government to delete, or replace, only those laws they definitely don’t like. 

There are bound to be complaints about the by-passing of parliamentary democracy whenever Ministers are given such dictatorial powers and I admit that I previously voiced similar reservations. However, I think that those MPs who are not Ministers will welcome having several months off each year to spend more time with their money. 

Our parliamentary traditions and laws are built upon layers of precedent and the Retained EU Law Bill is a foundation on which the far ranging powers in this anti-corruption legislation can be built. The current government are awful and corrupt. I’m sure the next one will only do good things. Fingers crossed. 

PS: Happy April 1st 😉

Retained EU Law Bill arrives in Lords

Some 2,000 years ago, the Roman philosopher Cicero said, “The closer the collapse of an empire, the crazier its laws”. That is what we have here. There are families who are starving, people who are freezing in their homes and workers rightfully striking on the streets, but we are debating this dross. Just as the Public Order Bill is an attack on democracy in the streets, this Bill is an attack on democracy here within Parliament. Rather than taking back control, the Government are seeking to take away Parliament’s sovereign power of voting for or against laws and to hand that power over to a chaotic Executive of right-wing Ministers and their civil servants. We have reached the slash-and-burn stage of Brexit. The only sensible thing now is to cut our losses and rejoin the EU.

Continue reading “Retained EU Law Bill arrives in Lords”

My amendment 109 addressing governance gaps in environmental law

Several requirements for the Secretary of State to report information to the European Commission in relation to environmental law have been lost because of the UK’s departure from the EU and the subsequent adoption of new statutory instruments. This poses a serious threat to the effective application of environmental law in the UK and the Government’s ability to achieve their stated aim and manifesto promise of leaving the environment in a better state than that in which it was found. The reporting of information relating to environmental law is absolutely vital to ensure transparency and accountability in environmental policy-making and ensure that government and stakeholders can identify and address environmental impacts. Continuity over time in the information being recorded and reported can also help to reveal trends and increase transparency.

My Amendment 109 would introduce a new clause into the Bill that is intended to address some extensive governance gaps in environmental law that have arisen because of the UK’s departure from the EU. Continue reading “My amendment 109 addressing governance gaps in environmental law”

The Trade Bill Report Stage – My Amendment

20: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause –

“Ratification of international trade agreements

(1) An international trade agreement may not be ratified unless it enables the United Kingdom to require imports to meet standards that are equivalent to the principal standards laid down by primary and subordinate legislation in the United Kingdom regarding food safety, the environment and animal welfare.

Continue reading “The Trade Bill Report Stage – My Amendment”

The Trade Bill: Report Stage – ISDS

If you wanted to convince the public that international trade agreements are a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people, this is what you would do: give foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever a government passes a law to, say, discourage smoking, protect the environment or prevent a nuclear catastrophe… a process known as ‘investor-state dispute settlement‘, or ISDS.
(The Economist, October 2014)

This Trade Bill the government has written includes ISDS…

Continue reading “The Trade Bill: Report Stage – ISDS”

Massive Lords majority to defend rule of law

Green peer Jenny Jones welcomes Lords’ “regret” amendment to Internal Market Bill

  • Jenny Jones: “The Internal Market Bill is part of the government’s executive power grab and the main losers will be the devolved nations and regions”

The House of Lords has today [Tuesday 20 October] passed an amendment to the Internal Market Bill regretting the provisions which, if enacted “would undermine the rule of law and damage the reputation of the United Kingdom.” Continue reading “Massive Lords majority to defend rule of law”

Brexit – what next?

Politicians in the UK have largely wasted the last four years discussing border arrangements, rather than the icecaps melting, rivers flooding and forests burning. The environment and our rapidly changing climate doesn’t recognise legal boundaries or custom checks. Despite the admirable efforts of Extinction Rebellion, Parliament has made few actual changes to end or even limit the damage we are doing to our planet. That has to change and I can only hope with January 31st out of the way, we can focus on promoting the New Green Deal and other essential changes. Continue reading “Brexit – what next?”