Paul Tyler writes…What Acts do we need to reconsider?

Parliament ActsYesterday, I spoke in the House of Lords debate on the Queen’s Speech.  There has been much made of how ‘light’ the legislative programme is, even if it still contains more than one bill a month for the coming session and carries over five (including the gargantuan HS2 Bill) from the last session.

However, I challenged colleagues to consider – if we really are so short of work to do – which Bills from early in this Parliament we might usefully subject to “post-legislative scrutiny”: a review of intentions and consequences.  I singled out the Academies Act (topical this week), the Localism Act (still thought inadequate by many of our local government colleagues) and the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (which foreshadowed the Police and Crime Commissioners debacle).

Doubtless, the media would brand any attempt at such mature reflection as “u-turn” and “failure of flagships”.  Yet to allow examination of whether something has worked or not should be a sign of strength; what is wrong with being prepared to acknowledge success but equally prepared to recognise where a policy hasn’t worked as intended?  I invite further nominations!

* Lord Tyler is the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Political and Constitutional Reform.

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  • Brenda Lana Smith 12th Jun '14 - 3:50pm

    Greetings, Lord Tyler…

    I respectfully call upon yourself—my former MP—to introduce legislation to overrule the legal right on British Overseas Territories to discriminate against trans folk—whether we happen to be UK Gender Recognition Act certificated or not—with impunity…”

    Brenda Lana Smith D.
    Founder of “Stand up for Gender-Variant People’s Rights on Bermuda…”

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 3:58pm

    I suggest the Party review it’s “the gargantuan HS2 Bill” – a majority of the voters don’t want it, the bulk of Lib Dem Voters dont want it (COMRES Poll) – there is an alternative (cancellation or the cheaper HS1 alternative suggested by myself in 2014) .
    Remembering the HS2 route and scheme was a Labour Policy, part of the Labour and Conservative Manifestos in 2010 but not part of the Lib Dem Manifesto approved b y the party.
    Just one of the Coalition policies imposed on the party. [email protected]

  • Steve Griffiths 12th Jun '14 - 4:07pm

    Definitely the Bedroom Tax

  • 1. The Sustainable Communiites Act 2007. It has been completely mangled by this Government through its reforms.

    2. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Part 1 of the Act is about the Lord Chancellor’s role. I do not think the reform has worked and this Government, through the appointment of Chris Grayling has shown why. The justice system has creaked to a halt, barristers have gone on strike and judges are refusing to deal with cases due to a lack of legal aid.

  • James Sandbach 12th Jun '14 - 4:57pm

    LASPO (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) – disaster, just look how many Law Centres have shut – not surprising if you slash 75% of their funding (yes that’s right, 75%!!! not a manageable 20 or even 30%).

  • Don’t see any real reason why the “gargantuan HS2 Bill” can’t simply be rolled over again to the next administration, particularly as it will be debated in the run up to a General Election and so give people in many constituencies more reason to vote UKIP et al. Doing would also leave plenty of room for “post-legislative scrutiny”, an opportunity that shouldn’t be lightly caste aside, given this is the first 5 year fixed term Parliament and hence in some ways setting expectations.

  • Tony Dawson 12th Jun '14 - 6:49pm

    Well, there’s the NHS ‘disorganisation’ Bill. . . . . . 🙁

    For those of you not intimately involved in these matters, they are still trying to work out the boundaries between NHS England and CCGs in this nightmare waste of time which poured small fortunes into the pockets of ‘retread’ managers and has done nothing of worth whatsoever.

  • Stephen Donnelly 12th Jun '14 - 6:58pm

    You should take a look at how the Health and Social Care Act 2012 is working in practice in particular the commissioning of services, the cost and effect of the restructuring, and whether the ‘safeguards’ inserted by the Lords through amendment to the bill have achieved the desired results.

  • Tony Dawson 12th Jun '14 - 8:27pm

    @Stephen Donnelly

    “You should take a look at how the Health and Social Care Act 2012 is working in practice”

    I deal with it pretty much every day. I am a veteran of half a dozen NHS organisations, each of them pushed through by people who apparently listened to no one. Andy Burnham is possibly the worst because he spouts against privatisation of the NHS of which his Party were the principle architects when they required each NHS Trust to privatise a percentage of their work, even if it involved contracts being paid for no work being done.

    With this set of NHS ‘deforms’ the people on the ground are doing their best in the circumstances. The circumstances are not good. Issues like payment for continuing health care make the ATOS assessment of PIPs look good in comparison.

  • Steve Comer 13th Jun '14 - 2:55am

    How about the Bill that set up the Referendums on Elected Mayors in 12 English Cities in 2012?
    That had a provision in it that meant the Mayoral system could never be removed, or subject to a referendum. As Bristol is the only City that voted ‘yes’ it means it is now the only place in England with a Mayor that can never get rid of the post!
    In places there were mayors established on earlier legislation there have been three subsequent referendums, two areas (Stoke and Hartlepool) vote to abolish the post, and one (Doncaster) to keep it. We should amend the law to allow every area to have a referendum on keeping or abolishing the post of Elected Mayor if the demand is there from the public.

    And while were at it we could have a look at just what benefits the public have got (or not) from the change to directly elected Police Commissioners.

  • peter tyzack 13th Jun '14 - 9:23am

    agree with Steve (!).. but also, what about the Elections Consolidation Act, ie whilst paving the way for the reforms we wish to see, we should sort out the absolute plethora of different Acts that govern the running of our elections and ease the lives of our elections officers.. it was talked about but seems to have faded away..

  • Perhaps it would be easier to make a list of bills that *don’t* need a serious looking at?

  • Reflecting Brenda up-thread, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act needs more post-legislative scrutiny than DCMS allowed. It was a messy civil servants’ bill and really hurt the trans community. Hopefully, fixing those problems will be official party policy come Autumn.

  • Steve Comer 14th Jun '14 - 1:48am

    @ Peter Tyzack raises n interesting point about elections. I really question the usefulness of the Electoral Commission in its present form, When I first stood in a Council election I had a few sheets of A4 to fill in. Now Candidates and Agents get pages and pages of bumph (most of which is already available on the website. This year I was agent for 5 candidates, one gave me a signed form which was rejected because he’d used his common sense and ripped off the bit that needed his signature. I was told it was invalid without the accompanying 8 pages of printed gobbledegook – fortunately he took pity on me and printed it off in his office so I could staple the form to it!

    Three years ago the Electoral Commission forced us to verify ballots in such a way that an overnight count finished at 07:00 am the next day, this year we had Electoral Commission guidance on telling which was largely impractical and unworkable. One over-zealous presiding officer even tried to stop one of our tellers speaking to a friend about the local park’s fun day!

    Do we need this quango making work to justify its own existence? Or should it just concentrate on more serious matters?

  • Surely the correct answer the the question “What Acts do we need to reconsider?” is all of them!

    If we are to establish the fifth year as a period of “mature reflection” then we need to go back through all the bills introduced since 2010, including those that got dropped and ask the question. Hopefully many will only need a cursory examination, leaving time to amend those few where implementation hasn’t produced the desired outcome. Interestingly, this process also flags up those areas that will need to be re-addressed by a subsequent administration.

  • I would suggest:

    The Health & Social Care Act, that imposed a massive £3bn reorganisation of the NHS and opened it up to full scale privatisation. I would suggest that, this time, Nick Clegg actually read the legislation before voting for it.

    The Under Occupation Penalty legislation (Bedroom tax) that unfairly penalises low income and disabled people that don’t have the option of downsizing. Oh, and it costs more to enforce than it saves.

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