That the Prime Minister (you know, the one with legs) is about to accord herself the powers of a renaissance monarch, might give you pause for concern. This was after all the Prime Minister who tried to push through the Article 50 by Royal Prerogative, until, she got called on that. At first it was tempting to put down the Henry VIII Clause as another English oddity, to be filed next to the King Under the Car Park, Jellied Eels and Piers Morgan. But under closer examination the emerging Powellite political settlement has a more dangerous element to it.
Campaigners from Another Europe is Possible fear that important democratic safeguards will be sacrificed in the process of the Great Repeal Bill which will convert thousands of EU laws into UK law. Under so-called Henry VIII powers they argue, ministers could gain the power to repeal rights, protections and standards outside of parliamentary scrutiny.
Government by Proclamation
Sam Fowles, the author of the briefing and a spokesperson for Another Europe is Possible said:
“The Great Repeal Bill is almost unprecedented in scope, form, and lasting effects. It has the potential to empower the government to effectively legislate without the consent of Parliament. So far, there has been an almost total absence of transparency in the government’s approach. If it is handled with transparency and accountability, then the Great Repeal Bill presents a chance to come together and improve the way this country is governed. But that is not how it has been handled so far. It’s up to the government, MPs, and civil society to come together to put that right. Otherwise a bill aimed at “taking back control” will actually represent the disenfranchisement of ordinary voters on a historic scale.”
‘Transparency and accountability’, they’re not exactly the first words you’d associate with Theresa May’s regime are they?
Nick Dearden, the director of Global Justice Now, one of the organisations affiliated with Another Europe is Possible said:
“We fear the Great Repeal Bill will make extensive use of so-called Henry VIII powers which will allow government ministers to make substantial changes to our legal system without proper parliamentary scrutiny. Even in Tudor times these powers were controversial. Today they could allow ministers to jettison equality legislation, workers’ rights and environmental protections. We know that MPs have an enormous task here, but these changes must happen in a way that doesn’t involve granting Theresa May the powers of a renaissance monarch.”
The Great Repeal Bill is a power-grab, this is the executive taking back control from parliament and concentrating power within No 10.
The Scottish dimension is clear enough and is the carrot being dangled under the title of the strange ‘temporary powers’.
Iain Macwhirter, writing in the Herald has said: “There are reports that the Prime Minister has offered the First Minister “temporary powers” under a Henry VIII clause, no doubt to be called the “Queen of Scots clause” . This clause allows the Prime Minister to alter or amend laws by proclamation, without requiring parliamentary approval. It is so called after the Tudor monarch’s “Statute of Proclamations” of 1539, which allowed Henry to make up the laws of the land as he went along. The statute was repealed on his death.”
He goes on:
“The Great Repeal Bill is expected to include a Henry clause allowing Number 10 to sift through the thousands of directives and regulations passed over 40 years by Brussels and accept or repeal them by proclamation. Anything important, like the single market or immigration law, will be dealt with in a parliamentary bill.”
But who deems what is important? It makes a huge difference whether powers from Brussels are passed to Holyrood or retained at Westminster. In Britain’s shambolic unwritten constitutional slops, nobody really knows, they’ll just make it up as they go along.
Seemingly inconsequential elements of devolved Scottish policy may be under attack. The Scotsman has been leading its perennial attack on Scotland having its own food and agricultural policies, popping up with this editorial last week.
In it they put forward the novel argument that Scotland should abandon its GM-Free status because Princess Anne says so. The paper, which alongside key lobbyists have been putting forward the notion that its somehow essential for Scotland to be committed to GM technology now say: “So the debate over genetically modified crops again comes to the fore with Princess Anne saying the crops have important benefits for providing food and health benefits for animals and she would be open to growing them on her own land.”
I’d love to hear how that came about. “Hello is that the Scotsman? Yes? It’s Anne here, I really feel passionately about the rights of Monsanto and I’m very concerned about the plight of the developing world, can you help men kickstart my campaign?”
With almost a third of food wasted globally it’s hard to see what problem GM food is supposed to solve.
Maybe it isn’t? Maybe it’s just the obsession with technology as a solution to everything mixed with a more general revulsion that Scotland can take innovative or bold policy measures. In fact Scotland is in f=good company with 19 out of 27 European countries adopting a GM-Free policy. With the Scottish food industry being a key and growing part of our economy, this is important.
This is just one of many policies that may be affected if rUK thinks its is in its best interest to haul back powers from Brussels to Westminster, and with no deciding principal at play it will likely be a line by line, proclamation by proclamation process to protect and preserve key aspects of sovereignty.