One of the questions aspiring MPs often get asked, especially at selection meetings, is"If you won the ballot for private members bills, what new law would you propose?"
It's a perfectly rational question to ask people who, if elected, would be able to add to the flood of legislation coming out of the Westminster sausage machine. But it makes my blood boil, because one of my strongest motivations for trying to become an MP is the belief that far from needing many more laws, we already have far too many. And the flood of badly thought through, badly drafted, and unworkable bills has been getting worse and worse.
So if I get elected and am successful in the ballot for private member's bills, I won't be trying to pass a new one, but to repeal one of the existing laws I most detest.
Top of my list of the laws currently in force which I would like to see repealed is Section 132 of SOCPA, which bans unauthorised demonstrations within a kilometer of the Houses of Parliament. This is the law under which a peaceful demonstrator, Maya Evans, was arrested and convicted for standing by the Cenotaph and reading out the names of British service personnel killed in Iraq.
The Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill which is currently before parliament would repeal sections 132 to 138 of SOCPA but replace it with alternative restrictions which remain a cause for serious concern.
Today's Sunday Times has an article about the 4,300 new crimes
created by the present government since they were elected in 1997 - nearly a new crime every day they have been in power.
Some of these simply duplicated things which were already illegal and which any sane person would realise would be illegal.
For example, it was quite unnecessary to create a new criminal offence of causing a nuclear explosion, as the government did in the "Nuclear Explosions (Prohibition and Inspections) Act of 1998" because any attempt to do such a thing within UK jurisdiction would certainly already have been punishable with life imprisonment under the Explosive Substances Act of 1883.
Examples of other duplicated or comical new crimes include
- Carrying grain on a ship without a copy of the International Grain Code on board
- Shining a light at an aircraft to dazzle or distract the pilot
- Unauthorised fishing in the Lower Esk River
- Obstructing an authorised person from inspecting apple, pear, peach or nectarine orchards for the purposes of ascertaining whether grubbing up has been carried out
- Failure to attend a hearing by a bus lane contravention adjudicator
- As a merchant shipping officer, falsely claiming a door is closed and locked
- Selling non-native species such as a grey squirrel, ruddy duck or Japanese knotweed
- Obstructing workers carrying out repairs to the Docklands light railway
- Keeping a dog on a lead longer than a maximum length in a designated area
- Using an automatic rail-weighbridge which has a disqualification sticker on it
- Not having a licence for a church concert
- Swimming in the wreck of the Titanic
Laws which were supposedly introduced to protect us from terrorism have been used to check up on parents trying to get their kids into a good school or to stop tourists taking photographs in the street.
You can read the Sunday Times article in full here