The number of new laws created under Labour has been the subject of many a newspaper report/book/study in recent years. Nevertheless, Kevin Dowling's brilliant article on this "legislative diarrhoea" (copyright: Chris Huhne) from yesterday's Sunday Times has some terrific new examples that I will share with you below:
Under laws introduced by Labour, if you have failed to nominate a keyholder who can switch off your alarm you are guilty of an offence. You could be liable for a fine of £1,000 and could have to appear in front of a magistrate if you fail to pay a fixed penalty on time.
This is just one of 4,300 offences created by the Labour government since 1997 — an avalanche of legislation. It equates to an average of 28 offences every month since Labour came to power and it is getting worse. Under Gordon Brown, the Liberal Democrats say, the creation of offences has risen to 33 a month.
The Nuclear Explosions (Prohibition and Inspections) Act of 1998 illustrates Labour’s approach. Even before MPs and civil servants spent hundreds of hours drafting and passing the law, common sense would have told most people that it was not a good idea to set off a nuclear bomb.
So far, so amusing. To quote Chris Huhne (again) "most crimes that people care about have been illegal for years. Cutting crime should be about catching and reforming criminals, not creating law.” But there is a much more corrosive element to all this law-making:
Some laws can have drastic side-effects as in the recent case of Philip Bowles, a 60-year-old businessman with no previous convictions who was charged with Vat offences.
Bowles protested that he was unable to mount a proper defence because his money had been seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and his tax records had been taken by administrators.
He was refused legal aid to hire a forensic accountant to examine his confiscated records. He was found guilty of switching a Vat liability between two companies and jailed for 3½ years.
The sad case of Mr Bowles is just one of many examples over the past 12 years of the state creating a criminal from an otherwise law-abiding man. This explosion in "non-crimes" represents a massive intrusion into our liberty and is one of the major reasons behind Big Brother Watch's establishment.
At an event we hosted last month, Dominic Grieve – the Shadow Minister for Justice – said he was committed to introducing a Repeal Act in the first 100 days of a Conservative government; and you can tell from the choice quotes above that Chris Huhne, Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokesman, is similarly opposed to the government's approach. So one has to ask why our current leaders cannot see the gaping flaw in their catch-all approach to legislating?
By Dylan Sharpe