Draft Bills In Parliament that you may not have heard about…


As a self-confessed legal nerd I often check the Parliament Web pages for  draft bills that may eventually become law; and consider how they could affect clients, the economy and ponder whether they stand any chance at all of receiving royal assent.

Many of my readers will have heard of the Academies Bill, but I dare say that the majority will not have heard about Allhallows Staining Church Bill, or the Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill or the Former Metal Mines Bill.  Further details of these proposed laws can be found on the parliament.co.uk web site, and I set out a few details of some choice selections below:

Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill is a Private Members’ Bill proposed by Mr Philip Hollobone, and it had its first reading in the House of Commons on 30 June 2011.   The purpose of the proposed law is “to regulate the wearing of certain face coverings; and for connected purposes”.

s.11 provides as follows:

Subject to the exemptions in subsection (3), a person wearing a garment or
 
other object intended by the wearer as its primary purpose to obscure the face
 
in a public place shall be guilty of an offence.
A “public place” is as defined in section 9(1) of
 
the Public Order Act 1936.

Those important exemptions set out at clause 1 (3) are:

A person does not commit an offence under subsection (1) if the garment or
 
other object is worn—
 
(a)    pursuant to any legislative or regulatory provision;
 
(b)    as a necessary part of any activity directly related to a person’s
10
employment;
 
(c)    for reasons of health or safety;
 
(d)    for the purposes of a sporting activity;
 
(e)    for the purposes of art, leisure or entertainment; or
 
(f)    in a place of worship.

I am not convinced that this private members bill will make it onto the statute books.

Former Metal Mines Bill – another private members bill, this time proposed by Tom Blenkinsop. This Bill was introduced to Parliament on 9 February 2011 under the Ten Minute Rule. This allows an MP to make his or her case for a new bill in a speech lasting up to ten minutes. An opposing speech may also be made before the House decides whether the bill should be introduced. If the MP is successful the bill is taken to have had its first reading.

Private Members bills are often not printed until close to the second reading debate – which seems to me to be rather contrary to open government. However, the summary states that it is a “Bill to give the Coal Authority responsibility for preventing adverse environmental impacts from former metal mines; and for connected purposes“.

Freedom of Information (ammendment) Bill  sponsored by Tom Brake, was not moved for debate on 17 June 2011. The order to read the Bill a second time lapsed. There is no sign of when the Bill will progress further. The Bill had its First reading on 7 September 2010 through the Ten Minute Rule.

It is described as a ” Bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to remove provisions permitting Ministers to overrule decisions of the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal; to limit the time allowed for public authorities to respond to requests involving consideration of the public interest; to amend the definition of public authorities; and for connected purposes”.

Health and Safety Consultants (Qualifications) Bill sponsored by Chris Chope and is expected to have its second reading debate on 9 September 2011.

It is described as “A Bill to introduce qualification requirements for health and safety consultants; to provide accreditation for such consultants; and for connected purposes”.

Lip-reading Bill – The sponsoring member (Ian Lavery) has nominated 4 November 2011 for the second reading. As the House is not expected to sit on this day it is unlikely to be debated on this date. The sponsoring member may choose another day for the second reading.

Described as: “A Bill to require lip-reading to be classified as an essential skill for the purpose of skills funding; to require the Secretary of State to ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing have access to lip-reading classes provided by local learning providers at no cost to the learner; and for connected purposes”.

London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (amendment) Bill – due to have its report stage and third reading on 8 September 2011.

The Summary states:

The Bill makes a small number of technical amendments to the advertising and trading, ticket touting and traffic management provisions of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006. These amendments cover:

  • the seizure of articles which contravene advertising and trading regulations
  • the parliamentary procedure and notice periods required when new advertising and trading regulations are introduced
  • the penalty for unauthorised sales of Olympic tickets
  • traffic regulation and enforcement during the Games.

Medical Insurance (Tax relief) Bill – sponsored by Peter Bone, the bill aims to “provide for tax relief on medical insurance premiums”.

Onshore Wind turbines (proximity of habitation) Bill – introduced in November 2010 and is expected to have its second reading debate on 20 January 2012.

The Bill is summarised as: “The Bill would give powers to local authorities to specify in their neighbourhood development plans (defined as in the Localism Bill) a ‘recommended best practice set-back distance’ between onshore wind turbines and habitations. It includes recommendations for this set-back distance, calculated as a multiple of the turbine rotor diameter”.

Police Reform and social responsibility bill – proposed by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and had its third reading on 20 July 2011.

The bill is summarised as: “The Bill covers five distinct policy areas: police accountability and governance; alcohol licensing; the regulation of protests around Parliament Square; misuse of drugs; and the issue of arrest warrants in respect of private prosecutions for universal jurisdiction offences.

Key areas

  • replaces police authorities with directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners, with the aim of improving police accountability
  • amends and supplements the Licensing Act 2003 with the intention of ‘rebalancing’ it in favour of local authorities, the police and local communities
  • sets out a new framework for regulating protests around Parliament Square. Relevant sections of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 would be repealed and the police would be given new powers to prevent encampments and the use of amplified noise equipment
  • enables the Home Secretary to temporarily ban drugs for up to a year, and removes the statutory requirement for the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to include members with experience in specified activities
  • introduces a new requirement for private prosecutors to obtain the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions prior to the issue of an arrest warrant for ‘universal jurisdiction’ offences such as war crimes or torture. The Government’s aim in introducing this change is to prevent the courts being used for political purposes”.

Protection of Freedoms Bill – is awaiting its report stage, and is summarised as:

The Bill includes a wide range of measures.

Key areas

  • brings in a new framework for police retention of fingerprints and DNA data, and requires schools to get parents’ consent before processing children’s biometric information
  • introduces a code of practice for surveillance camera systems and provides for judicial approval of certain surveillance activities by local authorities
  • provides for a code of practice to cover officials’ powers of entry, with these powers being subject to review and repeal
  • outlaws wheel-clamping on private land
  • introduces a new regime for police stops and searches under the Terrorism Act 2000 and reduces the maximum pre-charge detention period under that Act from 28 to 14 days
  • restricts the scope of the ‘vetting and barring’ scheme for protecting vulnerable groups and makes changes to the system of criminal records checks
  • enables those with convictions for consensual sexual relations between men aged 16 or over (which have since been decriminalised) to apply to have them disregarded
  • extends Freedom of Information rights by requiring datasets to be available in a re-usable format
  • repeals provisions (never brought into force) which would have allowed trial without a jury in complex fraud cases
  • removes time restrictions on when marriage or civil partnership ceremonies may take place”.

Referendums Bill – had its first reading in July 2010, and is summarised as being: “A Bill to provide for minimum turn-out thresholds for referendums; to impose restrictions on holding elections and referendums on the same day; to facilitate combined referendums on different issues; and for connected purposes“.

Rights Bill – sponsored by Philip Hollobone and described as “A Bill to set out certain principles in a United Kingdom Bill of Rights; to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998; and for connected purposes“.

Snow removal bill – had its first reading in July 2011, and is summarised as: “A Bill to provide immunity from prosecution or civil action for persons who have removed or attempted to remove snow from public places; and for connected purposes“.

United Kingdom sovereignty Bill – This Bill was introduced by Christopher Chope, and the Parliament web site gives this rather sad addendum: “This Bill was stood over at its second reading on 18 March 2011 because fewer than 40 MPs were present. The Bill can still progress through the House. The second reading debate will be on a date to be announced”.

The Bill seeks to confirm the sovereignty of the UK Parliament by prohibiting the Government from signing, ratifying or implementing a treaty or law which increases the powers of the European Union over the United Kingdom, unless it has first been approved in a UK referendum.

If enacted, the Bill would override the requirements of the European Communities Act 1972, the rule of prerogative, the rule of international law, and any other Act of Parliament, unless the latter expressly stated to the contrary. The requirement for the Queen to withhold Assent from a Bill without a referendum first having been won would seem to interfere with a constitutional personal prerogative of the Crown.

Review by Philip Henson, Partner at award-winning law firm Bargate Murray. www.bargatemurray.com

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