The Undermining the Rule of Law Bill

This comment by David Allen Green on Monday has stuck in my mind.

David also notes that the solution to this constitutional wrecking is political, and the challenge is to make the public care.

One insight that scholars of authoritarianism keep trying to communicate is that governments gather their powers, and erode our rights gradually. We tell ourselves that “it cannot happen here” and that we’d stand up to dictators, but that’s not how these things come about.

Tyranny and arbitrary rule do not always come wearing jackboots and a uniform. “Sometimes they arrive wearing a business suit, mouthing platitudes about public safety” …

Ian Martin, ‘These assaults on our liberty are a step too far’, The Times, 11 September 2020

But what if all the illiberal, rights-abusing, Rule of Law-trashing legislation was included in a single government Bill or Act of Parliament? Would that change our perception of the law?

As an experiment, I have created just such a piece of legislation. Its an amalgamation of three government bills — The Internal Market Bill, the Overseas Operations Bill and the Covert Human Intelligence Souces Bill.

I call it the Undermining of the Rule of Law Bill and you can download the PDF here.

I think there is particular value in retaining the look and feel of the original Bills. The design of documents is important to how they are received and understood. It’s important to understand that these are measures being enacted by parliament.

I don’t pretend that this version is any easier for the public to parse than the original Bills, but its a proof of concept and an incremental step towards the consolidation of all the unconscionable legislation on parliament’s agenda at the moment. I imagine it might also be useful for and researchers to have all the authoritarian legislation in one place. A worthy task for legal professionals would be to iterate this into something that puts the proposals and their implications into plain English, in a single document.

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