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New Clause 19 — Power to remove or reduce burdens

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 15th May 2006.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Chair, Tax Law Rewrite Bills (Joint Committee) 5:30 pm, 15th May 2006

I accept the rebuke. I was going to end by saying that although I do not think that we are going for extreme government—I do not think that we are likely rapidly to see unlikely things happen—we have seen some unlikely things happen. During the past three or four years I have seen processes on the Floor of the House that I would not have believed could take place had I been challenged 10 years ago to say that such things might happen. The Minister dealing with the Bill on anti-terrorist measures calmly announced on Report that he was abandoning its previous wording—that he was going to alter it all in the House of Lords. We spent the timetabled three hours—the entire Report stage—discussing the text of a letter that had accidentally been leaked, and which had given the House some inkling of what that Bill was eventually going to be like. That was, so far, the occasion on which the Government have most clearly demonstrated their extreme contempt for the processes of this House when political pressures are upon them.

Although such dangers might not be imminent on all fronts, they are very real. That is why, although what has been achieved so far is very welcome, it is most definitely not enough. I hope that the Government will accept some of the amendments being pressed on them today, and that this House and the other place will continue in their efforts to ensure that the wording eventually reflects the intention behind the Bill, and that it ties this Government down to that intention only.