The BBC‘s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, has been absent while parliament was on holiday. But she’s back. And it only took her two paragraphs to start attacking opposition MPs.
Writing about the European Withdrawal Bill (the ‘Great Repeal Bill’), Kuenssberg said:
Opposition MPs could field a forest of hostile amendments, proposed changes to the complicated legislation, some frankly to make political points, some to try to make reasonable changes to the legislation.
But nowhere in the piece does Kuenssberg provide any evidence that MPs are trying to score “political points” with their amendments.
The ‘Great Repeal Bill’
The bill, at present, will give sweeping powers to the government. Although intended to make transposing 52,741 EU laws into UK legislation easier, it gives the government Henry VIII powers that would allow it to pass legislation without proper parliamentary scrutiny. And there are worries that these powers will be used to get rid of laws that the Tories don’t like; for example, on environmental protections. There are also suggestions that the government will try and abolish citizens’ rights to sue the government.
The director of human rights group Liberty, Martha Spurrier, has warned [paywall]:
This chilling clause, buried deep in the bill’s small print, would quietly take away one of the British people’s most vital tools for defending their rights… Putting the government above the law renders our legal protections meaningless. It exposes a clear agenda to water down our rights after Brexit.
Given the far-reaching nature of the Great Repeal Bill, it’s unclear what Kuenssberg means by making “political points”. According to Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, there are numerous issues. These include aspects such as workers’ rights. But they also include limiting the powers granted to the government to ensure there is proper parliamentary scrutiny.
Starmer told The Guardian:
These issues are serious, they’re reasonable and we’re very firm about them. So we’re really putting the government on notice.
And in a joint statement in July 2017, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones set out why their parties would be opposing the bill. They called the bill “a naked power grab” and:
an attack on the founding principles of devolution and could destabilise our economies.
This is a bill that could hand the Tories unprecedented power. It is a bill that could erode some of our basic rights and environmental protections. And it is a bill that could have a huge impact on devolution in Wales and Scotland. So we should all want and expect our MPs to make many amendments to this bill.
This is not about ‘political point scoring’. This is MPs responding to a fundamental attack on our democracy. But Kuenssberg doesn’t mention any of this. Instead, it takes her just two paragraphs to have a pop at opposition MPs. And it seems that, just as parliament returns from its summer break, the Tories’ old friend – BBC bias – is just a few paces behind.
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