IS POLITICS “A LITANY OF FUTILITY”?

So watching the (mostly dreadful) debate in Parliament today about the riots, Paul Graham Raven (@PaulGrahamRaven) made a comment in a tweet that hoping for progressive change in politics in the “last decade feels like a litany of futility”. Being more of a pint-half-full person and slightly obsessive about the details – I decided to check.

There have been laws passed in the UK in the last decade that I believe are mistaken or downright stupid/wrong [Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005), Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005), Identity Cards Act (2006) – never implemented, various immigration, asylum and nationality acts, UK Borders Act (2007), Digital Economy Act 2010 are just a few of the examples] but in the interests of looking on the bright side – I thought I’d take a look back at the bills passed by Parliament in the last ten years and highlight some of the good things that have come out of our legislature.

This list excludes a lot of things (including many of the progressive changes in taxation and benefits introduced by Gordon Brown/Alastair Darling – that would take an extensive analysis, probably at book length, on their own). And I’m not arguing that everything has been perfect or even that all these laws are problem free.

But I don’t believe that nothing good has happened or that progressive causes have always lost. Could more have been done? Yes, probably. Should more have been tried? Yes, definitely. But has nothing been achieved? No, I don’t think so.

British Overseas Territories Act (2002)
Allowed citizens of these territories automatic UK citizenship.

Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003)
Outlawed female genital mutilation by UK citizens even outside UK borders.

Local Government Act (2003)
Repealed Section 28 laws prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality”

Sexual Offences Act (2003)
Updated the law on a range of sexual offences. Increased protection for victims.

Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act (2004)
Increased rights of unpaid carers of sick and elderly.

Gangmasters (Licensing) Act (2004)
Protection for vulnerable workers.

Gender Recognition Act (2004)
Allows transsexual people to legally change their gender.

Housing Act (2004)
Greater protection for tenants – including the Tenancy Deposit Schemes.

Hunting Act (2004)
Outlawed hunting with hounds.

Mental Capacity Act (2005)
Protection for those with reduced mental capacity.

Animal Protection Act (2006)
Introduced a positive duty of care for animal owners.

Childcare Act (2006)
Brought in greater local authority responsibility for childcare.

Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act (2006)
Dealing with microgeneration, fuel poverty and sets targets to cut carbon emissions.

Consumer Credit Act (2006)
Protection for borrowers from unfair lending practices.

Equality Act (2006)
Outlawed discrimination on goods and services on the grounds of religion and belief and created a public duty on government agencies to promote equality. Accompanied by the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations.

Health Act (2006)
Banned smoking in public places.

Concessionary Bus Travel Act (2007)
Introduced national entitlement to free bus travel for those who are disabled or over 60.

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (2007)
Allowed corporations to be held responsible for actions causing death.

Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act (2007)
To assist victims of forced marriage, or those threatened with forced marriage.

Sustainable Communities Act (2007)
Private member’s bill promoted by Local Works coalition – aimed to protect local communities.

Climate Change Act (2008)
Interesting example of public campaign forcing a government to strengthen legislation.

Education and Skills Act (2008)
Introduced training and skills entitlement for all young people up to 18.

Employment Rights Act (2008)
Greater protection for employees at work.

Autism Act (2009)
Protection for people with autism.

Green Energy Act (2009)
Promotes the generation of energy from renewables.

Child Poverty Act (2010)
Set government targets for “the eradication of child poverty”.

Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (2010)
Removed “Royal Perogative” requiring  treaties and declarations of war to be approved by Parliament.

Some of these changes have made significant differences to people’s lives and have been significant steps forward for long term causes – the gender recognition act, the hunting act, the corporate manslaughter act. It might be that for every step forward there has been a step back, but it’s not a record of constant retreat.

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