(5) Government (continued)
(j) Office for Budget Responsibility Bill
The purpose of the Bill is to establish an independent body – the Office for Budget Responsibility – to make economic and public finance forecasts which the chancellor would have to rely on in formulating the Budget and Pre-Budget Report.
(k) Parliamentary Reform Bill
The main components of this Bill include:
- a referendum on a choice between First Past the Post and the Alternative Vote as the system for electing MPs;
- cutting the number of MPs by 50;
- redrawing constituency boundaries;
- fixed-term five-year parliaments, with the next General Election on 7 May 2015 – the Prime Minister could only dissolve parliament earlier if 55% of MPs vote in favour;
- where an MP is judged to have engaged in serious wrongdoing, allowing constituents to petition for his/her ‘recall’. If more than 10% of electors sign the petition, then a by-election will be held in the seat.
(l) Parliamentary Privilege (Draft Bill)
Following the Trafigura debacle last year, and then MPs/peers citing it to avoid police charges over their expenses, this Bill should clarify the law relating to parliamentary privilege, which at present is primarily set out in Article IX of the Bill of Rights 1689 which provides that “freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any place or court outside Parliament”.
(m) Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
The main elements of this Bill are:
- Directly elect individuals to oversee police force budgets and and strategy.
- Introduce a dedicated Border Police Force.
- Overhaul the Licensing Act to give local authorities and the police stronger powers to remove licenses from, or refuse to grant licenses to, any premises that are causing problems. The Bill also proposes to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price. It would also allow local councils to charge more for late-night licenses to pay for additional policing, giving them powers to shut down shops or bars persistently selling to children and doubling the maximum fine for selling to children to £20,000.
(n) Political Party Funding
Under the current legal framework for funding of political parties, there is no limit on the level of donations that individuals or organisations may donate. The government will pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to remove “big money” from politics.
(o) Public Bodies (Reform) Bill
The purpose of this Bill is to abolish, merge or transfer quangos back into government departments. This process had already been set in motion by Labour who had planned to scrap 155 guangos initially. The Bill will allow public bodies to be assessed every three years, as opposed to the current five, against the following test: ‘Is the function technical; does it need to be politically impartial; and do facts need to be determined transparently?’
(p) Public Services
The government wants “radical reform of public services” by allowing “social enterprises, charities and co-operatives” to take over some of their functions. The government also wants to open up “public services markets” to allow social enterprise, charities and co-operatives to bid to run public services. As part of this initiative, it wants to give public sector workers the right to form employee-owned co-operatives and bid to take over the services they deliver. New measures should be in place by the autumn.
(q) Scotland Bill
This Bill would implement recommendations of the Final Report of the Commission on Scottish Devolution (the Calman Commission), including increased powers for the Scottish Parliament over tax and fiscal policy.
(r) Terrorist Asset Freezing Bill
Following a Supreme Court decision earlier this year quashing secondary legislation used to implement terrorist asset freezes, Parliament passed temporary legislation to maintain the UK’s terrorist asset freezing regime. This legislation expires on 31 December 2010. This Bill would put the UK’s terrorist asset freezing regime on a securer legislative footing.
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