Lib Dems unveil plan to halt 'legislation overload'

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Indy Politics

The Liberal Democrats set out plans today to slash the number of laws in the UK, accusing the Government of being "addicted to legislating".

At the party's headquarters in London today, Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell unveiled a "freedom Bill" alongside plans to make it easier to repeal Acts considered unnecessary or illiberal.

ID cards, control orders, the retention of some DNA samples and a ban on protests in Parliament Square would all be axed under the proposal.

They are among the 114,366 pages of legislation the party calculates has been passed since 1997 - the equivalent of 205 copies of War and Peace.

Launching the Bill today, Sir Menzies said: "This Government is addicted to legislating.

"In its rush to respond to tabloid headlines Labour has undermined civil liberties, stifled business with red tape and created crises in our public services.

"That's why we need a government that understands that when it comes to making new laws, it is quality, not quantity, that counts.

"And our party is now ready to put that principle into practice."

Since Labour came to power, he pointed out, there had been five immigration Acts, seven on terrorism, 10 on education, 11 health and social care and 23 on criminal justice.

It had also created more than 3,000 new criminal offences at a rate of nearly one a day and passed more than 32,000 statutory instruments.

"The legislation that they have passed runs to more than 114,000 pages. That's the equivalent of 205 Penguin Classics copies War and Peace," he said.

"That's the equivalent of seven full editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. That's the equivalent of 33 pages of legislation per day since May 1 1997.

"This is legislative madness."

Sir Menzies said Parliament "needs to show that it is as serious about repealing legislation as it is about passing it."

"We need to remove excessive laws, and show that by legislating less, we can legislate better."

The Freedom Bill would make it easier to repeal laws - with 10 measures immediately in the firing line, including ID cards, control orders and protest restrictions.

Extradition to the United States "without proper evidence", police powers to disperse groups of two or more people, the criminalisation of trespass areas designated by the Home Secretary, the retention of DNA from people not charged or found innocent of a crime, the removal of a public interest defence for whistleblowers, restrictions on the right to silence under arrest and moves to allow hearsay evidence in court would also be overturned.

But Sir Menzies said they were "only the tip of the iceberg".

"We are prepared to go further and we are actively consulting about other legislation that could be repealed."

He also outlined a three-point plan to ensure Government "does not make these mistakes again".

An all-party Business Committee would take responsibility for ensuring there was enough time to properly scrutinise all future legislation.

Ministers would be required to consider whether it was appropriate to attach a sunset clause to any new piece of legislation, and a Joint Legislators Committee, could act on its own initiative to repeal legislation when it became outdated, unworkable or unnecessary.

The party leader suggested next week's Queen's speech could contain legislation amounting to around 12,500 further pages.

He said: "More bills, more legislation, more bureaucracy. Our test - upon which we will decide whether to support every proposal - is this: does it enhance freedom?

"That is a liberal test. And we will not hesitate to oppose legislation that fails it."