Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Overstepping their bounds

Currently the Law Commission is conducting a review of the regulatory framework for the sale and supply of liquor. Today it produced the first report from this review - a study on Alcohol Legislation and the Conscience Vote [PDF], laying into political parties for producing "incoherent" alcohol policy by leaving it to "the unpredictable whim of the chamber".

It's an interesting study, and it makes some good points about the history, sociology, politics and effects of the use of conscience votes. Conscience votes are unpredictable, they sometimes lead to messy policy, and they are usually a sign of political cowardice on the part of the party. But at the end of the day, that is ultimately their decision to make. What policies a party adopts, how it adopts them, and whether it has a policy position on a subject at all are matters solely for that party (and ultimately for the electorate who will judge them on it). They are no business of sniffy unelected technocrats with their own policy barrow to push. And in the end, even the Law Commission accepts this, saying in its recommendations

The use of the conscience vote is not a matter for the Executive Government and therefore the Law Commission makes no recommendations to it.
The Law Commission has exceeded its brief here, and grossly overstepped their bounds. They should apologise to Parliament, and to us, for misusing public money to try and manipulate our political process and undermine our democracy.