Highlights from the proposed legislation:
Border and Immigration Bill
Increases powers of immigration officers – including cash seizures – and capacity to take biometric details of foreign nationals. Covers the whole of the UK.
Plays to “angry of Tunbridge Wells”, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong.
Child Support Bill
Replaces the Child Support Agency with a new body. Covers the whole UK.
Amen. Having dealt with the CSA, I can vouch for its unfit-ness for purpose. On more than one occasion during protracted telephone calls with the CSA, I’ve nearly given up the will to live. When you recount your tales of woe to those unacquainted with the CSA, you immediately notice the looks of disbelief that cloud the faces of your audience. No-one genuinely believes a government agency could be this incompetent. The truth is that words cannot do it justice.
Climate Change Bill
Sets out measures to cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 60% by 2050. Also establishes an independent Carbon Committee to oversee this.
Plays to “anxious of Hampstead”, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Concessionary Bus Travel Bill
Gives free off-peak travel for over-60s and disabled people on local bus services in England.
Social justice. File alongside free TV licences, free eye tests, winter fuel allowances and the rest.
Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill
Sees the National Consumer Council, Energywatch, Postwatch and the National Consumer Council will be joined. Estate agents will have to keep records, for inspection by the Office of Fair Trading. They will also have to join a redress scheme. Applies to the whole UK, with certain exceptions.
Good news, although a full-scale replication of Scottish law governing freehold transactions and regulation of estate agents would do me. In fact, is there any area of Scottish law that is inferior to its English and Welsh equivalent? I can’t think of one.
Corporate Manslaughter Bill
Would create a specific offence of corporate manslaughter, which would make it easier for prosecutions of companies. Carried over from the last session, and has been in the pipeline for years. Applies to the whole UK.
Let’s get this one done at last. Those at the top get paid the big bucks for a reason. I think the prospect of 20 years bird will help to focus the minds of C-levels when it comes to guaranteeing the safety of their consumers and passengers.
Criminal Justice Bill
Creates an offence of possessing violent pornography and creates new powers to tackle anti-social and violent behaviour. Primarily covers England and Wales.
We’ve discussed this one previously. It’s tricky, but if you’re the target market for makers of violent pornography, you’re part of the problem. Consensual S&M need not be trapped by such a bill if the legislation is drafted correctly. Not that I have any vested interest here.
Enables trials to be held without a jury in “serious” fraud cases, where this is agreed by a High Court judge. Applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Again, controversial for obvious reasons, but I’m broadly supportive. The right to trial by jury should not be circumscribed lightly, but asking 12 men and women who might never have seen a balance sheet before to rule on complex fraud cases beyond their understanding, has nothing to do with dispensing justice. The third greatest poet of all time said: “A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.” This was never truer than in cases such as these.
Greater London Authority Bill
Transfers powers and responsibilities to the London mayor, including those relating to staging the 2012 Olympics, providing homes and combating climate change.
More power to Ken. What could possibly be wrong with that?
Local Government Bill
Devolves the making of by-laws to councils and gives them powers to enforce these through fixed-penalty notices. Creates a single inspectorate for local government. The bill is likely to cover England only but its exact extent is unclear.
If this means I won’t have to dodge dog shit as I take my children to the play-park, which itself consists of slides and swings covered top-to-toe in graffiti that would make the Marquis de Sade blush, then good.
Northern Ireland Bill
Provides for the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and devolved institutions.
I await the detail, but there will hopefully be some legislative provision such that the Assembly will not, in future, be allowed to collapse when one of the parties decides it is time to take its ball home. The democratic process is owned by the people, not any one group of MLAs looking to pull the rug out from under it whenever the going gets a bit tough. And stop the pay of any MLA not showing up for work. Which part of “public servant” don’t they understand?
Raises the state pension age from 65 to 68 by 2046 and restores the link between the state pension and average earnings. Reduces the number of years it takes to build a full basic state pension to 30. Creates a delivery authority for pensions. Covers the entire UK.
What a veritable box of delights.
Did you see Tony Blair in the post-speech debate? Did you start to feel as sorry for David Cameron as I was feeling? Can you imagine, after the cheers had died away, what the collective thoughts of the parliamentary Labour part might have been? Can you guess at the chatter in the bars? How many who previously might have been expected to say, “Thank God that’s the last one from him,” were contemplating Gordon Brown at the dispatch box 12 months hence and thought to themselves, “What have we done?”.