Warning over Henry VIII style law powers


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Plans for sweeping new Henry VIII-style powers would enable ministers to rewrite the statute book without consulting Parliament, a report warned today.

The Lords Constitution Committee said the Government's Protection of Freedoms Bill would enable ministers to create more extensive powers of entry to homes and premises without needing further legislation.

The Government has said the power would mainly be used "to consolidate different powers of entry", but the peers warned that "benign intentions in the future ought not to be assumed".

They accused the Government of trying to create "a very considerable Henry VIII clause to rewrite the statute book other than through the ordinary processes of primary legislation".

"We have consistently raised concerns about the evident tendency of the executive to resort to wide-ranging Henry VIII clauses at the expense of Parliament in general and of the House of Lords as a revising chamber in particular," they said.

"In our view, the current drafting of clause 41 gives rise to more concern when read in the twin contexts of our constitutional history and strong common law tradition, and of a Bill titled Protection of Freedoms."

They added that the Bill "does not strike an appropriate constitutional balance between the executive and Parliament".

Under the current law, Government authorities and agencies are allowed to enter private property for law enforcement purposes under more than 1,200 separate powers of entry.

While reform of this "veritable jungle of law" is long overdue, the committee warned that clause 41 would give ministers the power to issue an order rewriting the powers of entry, potentially bringing in new powers without consulting Parliament.