Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Regulatory Standards Bill a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
"The Regulatory Standards Bill introduced to Parliament yesterday is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Despite its bland title, the Bill could significantly change the relationship between Parliament and the courts. It would give unelected judges the sorts of powers that courts are not well equipped to exercise, and that should instead belong to democratically elected MPs," says Alex Penk, Policy and Research Manager at Maxim Institute. "Even the Treasury evaluation of the Bill, does not support it."
"The Bill is essentially a re-named version of the Regulatory Responsibility Bill that was analysed in a paper published by Maxim Institute in February. A number of serious concerns were identified by the paper's authors, Dr Richard Ekins and Chye-Ching Huang of the University of Auckland. All of those concerns apply to the Bill that is now before Parliament," says Penk.
"In particular, that paper argued that there was no solid evidence base for the proposed Bill, that it contained unorthodox and contentious principles, and that the role it would give to the courts is deeply problematic. The Bill would allow courts to issue declarations that a particular law does not meet the Bill's principles of good law-making if they think the inconsistency can't be justified. But this means asking courts to get involved in political value judgements. The courts would also be empowered to reinterpret provisions in other laws to make them more consistent with the Bill's principles. A re-interpreted provision could end up looking quite different to what Parliament originally intended."
"While everyone can and should agree with the intention to improve the quality of our law, the Bill misfires," says Penk. "Parliament should vote against the Bill when it comes to its first reading."