As reported by the Daily Mail today:
Unelected bureaucrats will be handed draconian new powers to hit people with fines of thousands of pounds without ever needing to find them guilty.The paper isn't exaggerating.
According to the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill as it currently stands, a "fixed monetary penalty" may be imposed by a regulator
where the regulator is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the person has committed the relevant offence.So unprecedented extra-legal powers are to be conferred onto - well, onto whom, exactly? The paper mentions 27 regulatory bodies, but according to Section 36 of the Bill, powers will be conferred on a list of 27 "designated regulators", plus any other body which
has an enforcement function in relation to an offence ... contained, immediately before the day on which this Act is passed, in an enactment specified in Schedule 6.Schedule 6 lists 142 pieces of legislation going as far back as the 1930s, from the Accommodation Agencies Act of 1953 to the Zoo Licensing Act of 1981.
In other words, this is a bureaucratic land grab on a scale which the Mail's journalists have failed to comprehend: the wholesale empowerment of our state machinery to deprive us of our property without trial.
The only other mistake the paper makes is to assert that this further curtailment of our rights and protections is hidden away in "the small print". In fact, it is the vestiges of the government's promise to "lift the burden of red tape on business" which barely scrapes into the bill.
Subsection 1 of Section 70 (out of a total of 75) states that regulators must not
(a) impose burdens which are unnecessary, or (b) maintain burdens which have become unnecessary.However, as Subsection 2 makes clear:
Subsection (1) does not require the removal of a burden which has become unnecessary where its removal would, having regard to all the circumstances, be impracticable or disproportionate.So even this sad afterthought looks unlikely to lead to one single piece of red tape being undone.
To add insult to injury, the first part of the bill is concerned with establishing a new regulations quango called the "Local Better Regulation Office".
For the government to claim that this hideous law amounts to a lifting of red tape is typical of the contempt in which it holds the electorate.