No-one is likely to forget the political scandals of 2021 in a hurry. Or at least, we all like to think we won’t.
But as scandal follows scandal and outrage becomes our default, it can sometimes be difficult to see the wood for the trees - where SHOULD we be putting our outrage in 2022 to get the greatest effect?
As the year draws to a close, let’s make sure we know where we are and what we can expect from this government next year. From sleaze to second jobs, we increasingly find that our politicians attempt to test the limits of what they can get away with. If the proposed new laws we have spent 2021 campaigning against become law, this Government will have effectively moved those limits to suit itself and to avoid scrutiny.
So, without further ado, here are some Parliamentary Bills to keep an eye on - and what you can do about them.
The Elections Bill
If passed, the Elections Bill would remove independent regulation of the elections process and give government ministers powers to decide who can participate in elections campaigning.
The bill has been debated in the House of Commons, but all attempts to amend it have been swiftly pushed back by the governing majority of Conservative MPs. It is clear they wish to make it harder for campaigners to challenge the Government at election time and to reduce the powers of the Electoral Commission to make sure political parties and campaigners follow the rules.
We expected the bill to be voted on by MPs again this side of Christmas, but it seems that the sleaze scandal caused the Government to press pause. In January, the bill should return to the House of Commons and we expect the Government’s MPs to vote it through. It will then progress to the House of Lords.
The Best for Britain team is working with opposition and crossbench politicians in both Houses of Parliament to mount challenges to this bill and table amendments. Our supporters’ voices reach across parliament and have already influenced politicians from across the parties to look again at this dangerous new law. Thanks to you, parliamentarians have received tens of thousands of emails calling on them to save our democratic rights. We know that if we keep the pressure up the Lords we can make a real difference. We just have to keep going.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
This bill will make many types of protest illegal, will ban us from marching and demonstrating outside parliament, and will also increase police powers for stop and search at protests.
The bill has now gone through Committee Stage in the House of Lords, where several additional Government amendments giving themselves a raft of new powers and creating new criminal offences were rushed through at the last minute. These amendments included the creation of orders which could ban any individual the Government chooses from protesting. Other parts of the bill include clauses which make ‘noisy’ protest illegal and which clamp down on protest that causes ‘unease’ - a term that is not properly defined in the bill and is open to heavy-handed interpretation.
In more positive news, aspects of the bill which would allow the Home Secretary to define the threshold for ‘acceptable’ protest are being reviewed at Report Stage, which commenced on the 8th December and which will continue after recess on the 17th January. This will allow Best for Britain to lobby opposition and crossbench members of the Lords to uphold and introduce valuable amendments to the bill in the next few weeks. Best for Britain's supporters will lead the way in making important (and still legal - for now) noise on this matter.
The Judicial Review and Courts Bill
This bill will ultimately subordinate the rule of law to parliamentary decision-making. The Judiciary would have less power than the Executive - just let that sink in. It would mean that parliament could strike out judicial decisions that it disagreed with and would protect the government of the day from legal consequences for actions the Courts found to be unlawful.
Judicial reviews are a vital tool of democracy whereby institutional decisions can be challenged by ordinary citizens. If the power of such reviews is weakened, as the bill proposes, the public will have fewer means of holding power to account. The bill has gone through a Committee debate in the Commons and we are expecting Report Stage, when more amendments can be tabled, to happen in January. Government ministers are also considering adding amendments to the bill which will allow them to review and invalidate the outcomes of all judicial review decisions if they so wish.
In the new year, the bill will go through its final stages in the Commons and then proceed through the Lords. We know many parliamentarians are seriously concerned about the bill and we are working with supporters to build a concerted campaign to target these parliamentarians and successfully mount a challenge.
The Nationality and Borders Bill
This bill will impose unprecedented restrictions on the lives of asylum seekers and those who help them - something we believe would represent a moral failure on Britain’s part.
From criminalising the means by which many asylum seekers enter the UK to returning asylum seekers to countries where they might not actually be safe, the bill will remove many of the protections that those seeking asylum are currently afforded. Other proposed additions to the bill include making it legal to push back dinghies of refugees attempting to cross the English Channel and offshoring asylum seekers to de-facto detention camps to process their applications. Both of these proposals could result in serious harm to those fleeing peril.
As the bill goes through Report Stage in the Commons and through the House of Lords, we will be working with the media and with politicians to emphasise the importance of Britain maintaining a strong record on human rights.
You can work with us to challenge all these bills - and it is only with your support that we are able to be a strong campaigning force. Find out how you can invest in a brighter future for Britain today by contributing to our cause