The Sketch: Correct the typos? Pity we can't amend the legislation

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The Independent Online

An amendment order was made to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, yesterday, to correct its typographical errors. The cost may have its own line entry in the Budget. Three or four civil servants, a minister, eight government backbenchers, two opposition members, a chairman, a policeman, a doorkeeper, Hansard, and Her Majesty's Sketch all convened in Committee Room 12.

Were they going to put in a "not" in the clause which says "all offences will now be arrestable"? Would they be taking out the two rogue zeros to allow demonstrations within 10 yards of Parliament? Obviously not. The legislation had been rushed through its stages before the election and the typos are the least of the problems with it. The Act represents a significant transfer of power from individuals to the state. It is this Act which included the clause designed to remove that serious, organised criminal Brian Haw from Parliament Square. The drafting was sufficiently inept to fail in that attempt. However, it did provide for a minibus full of goons to descend on the Cenotaph and arrest the woman reading out a list of the dead in Iraq.

Pleasingly, the notes explaining the corrections needed explanatory notes to correct them as well. David Heath noted a line: "Article 5 of the removes some entries which were included in error in Schedule 17 (repeals)". And then over the page: "Therefore, it would not be possible for a warrant issued under other section 8 of PACE ...". His moving plea (rejected) was for legislation to be written in English. Maybe it's better we don't understand.

"To err is human," Hazel Blears generalised, recklessly. I'd like to forgive but it's not in my contract.

Edward Garnier mentioned that this would be the last time for Ms Blears in the committee; she is tipped to become the next Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The job carries with it two things: a uniform, and a page. We can only hope the page's uniform is compulsory and that her PPS Stephen Pound looks pretty in pink.

In the chamber, John Prescott made a statement about the hell of Hemel Hempstead. The MPs behaved magnificently in very difficult conditions. There was enormous pressure to smear one another with toxic filth, but displaying courage, skill, determination they spread nothing but praise. Nonetheless, the Tories made as much as they could out of "pulling together as a community" and Labour did what it could with "planning and co-ordination", and "investment in the New Dimension". Liberal Sarah Teather put the greatest challenge to Mr P by daring him to repeat the phrase "polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons". One of us in the gallery insists he used the word "hydrocardigans" (possibly the only silver lining in that end-of-the-world cloud).

They did keep saying "It's too early to speculate". But that's defeatist rubbish; it's never too early to speculate.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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