Archive for November 2009
It is very hard to get any understanding of what the Lisbon treaty seeks to do from reading or listening to reports in the UK media.
There is a useful website which gives more information in a relatively digestible form at http://europa.eu/lisbon_treaty/glance/index_en.htm.
Before you make up you mind whether the changes effected by the Lisbon Treaty are good or bad, it is worth finding out what the Treaty actually says.
The final steps in the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty have been reached with the appointment of Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy as President of the European Council, and the British Baroness (Cathy) Ashton as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. She will chair the meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council. She will also hold the post of Vice-President of the European Commission.
In addition, and less publicized, French Pierre de Boissieu, the current Deputy Secretary General of the Council of the EU, will become its Secretary General.
The Queen’s speech, delivered on 18 November 2009, has been widely hailed as the starting point for the General Election campaign – to be held in 2010.
There are two measures of particular interest to those following developments in the justice system and the machinery of government. First the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill – which started its parliamentary process in the 2008-9 session – will continue to make progress in the coming session. This Bill contains a complex collection of measures of a rather technical nature, such as ‘putting the Civil Service on a statutory footing’ and giving new responsibilities to Parliament regards the ratification of treaties – both activities which are at present outside direct Parliamentary control.
In addition a draft House of Lords Reform Bill will be introduced; this will clearly not become an Act before the General Election. Its eventual fate, after the election, is currently impossible to predict – though it is more than likely that House of Lords reform will remain an item of unfinished business for some time to come.
Two Bills which received Royal Assent on 12 November 2009 are relevant to the procedures for introducing law reform measures recommended by the Law Commission.
First, the Perpetuities and Accumulations Act 2009 implements a Law Commission report published in 1999! It deals with a highly complex and detailed set of rules designed to prevent property being tied up for ever (with the risk that it becomes less economically useful than it might be). From our point of view, what is interesting about the Bill was that it used an experimental procedure designed to ensure that ‘non-controversial’ Law Commission Bills got through the Parliamentary process more quickly. These had been agreed by the Law Commission and Government in 2006.
What the Bill demonstrated is that even technical ‘non-controversial’ measures can quite easily become controversial.
In addition, the Law Commission Act 2009 also received Royal Assent. This requires the Lord Chancellor to report to Parliament annually on the progress of Law Commission reports and should ensure that its recommendations do not simply get lost in the government machine as does currently happen.
Public attention on events in Parliament has recently been focussed on the Queen’s Speech and what legislation Parliament may be considering between now and the 2010 General Election. But this may leave some wondering: what happened to the measures that were being considered by Parliament during the last Parliamentary session which ended in November 2009.
Royal Assent – the final formal stage in the legislative process – was given to 13 Bills, which then became Acts of Parliament. The full list is set out at http://news.parliament.uk/2009/11/royal-assent-12-november-2009/.
During the whole of the 2008-9 Parliamentary session, a total of 24 Bills were enacted. Thus over 50% were passed in the final rush.