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The Editor

The Daily Telegraph 1 Canada Square London

May 10, 2002


Stephen Robinsons A free country (May 10) is substantially correct but a few details need to be added. It is, indeed, true that the Government, by laying down Statutory Instrument 843, is trying to by-pass Parliament on a matter of great seriousness and is openly defying the constitutional decision in the House of Lords. The SI actually came into law on April 19 without any discussion and without the text being openly available on either the parliamentary or DEFRA website. It can be annulled within 40 days of the day it was laid before Parliament - a purely formal procedure - that took place on March 28.

One should note that the SI is putting into British law an EU Regulation that would normally become that without any intervention by Parliament. (A free country?) The need for a separate Statutory Instrument is explained by the amount of gold-plating it achieves. Far from putting this country in line with European legislation as Lord Whitty said, the SI gives far greater powers to DEFRA officials than any other countrys regulation does to its ministries.

However, it is untrue that the Lords cannot debate or vote on the Statutory Instrument. They will debate it on Wednesday, May 15 during a Prayer to Annul, put down by the Countess of Mar. If they wish, the peers can divide and vote out the Statutory Instrument. But will the Government take any notice of it if they do?

Yours faithfully