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Nick Clegg's Great Repeal Bill is indeed great – but who thought of it first, asks Charles Moore.
- The origin of Great Repeal Bill
This week, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, invited members of the public to suggest laws that could be abolished in his forthcoming Great Repeal Bill. Addressing the readers of this newspaper, he explained that, under New Labour, thousands of unnecessary new laws and regulations were passed, "and it is our liberty that has paid the price".
But if you google "Great Repeal Bill", the top entry, from Wikiversity,   makes no mention of the Liberal Democrat leader. It rightly attributes the idea to Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Harwich, and the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, who proposed it, in 2008, in their book called The Plan.
I mention this to draw attention to where this Government's good ideas are coming from. The Carswell/Hannan repeal proposal itself descends from thinking which I first heard advanced in the early 1980s at the free-market Institute for Economic Affairs   by the director, Ralph Harris, who was made a peer by Margaret Thatcher. Lord Harris of High Cross – who decided not to take a coat of arms with his title because he could see no way of depicting Adam Smith's "invisible hand"  on it – set up a "Repeal Group" in the House of Lords. Naturally, the Liberal Democrat leader has not revealed the geneaology of his excellent scheme. [links not original]
So it would be fair to say that the zeal for repealing laws and rules, and the ingenuity in doing so, comes from the Right. This, of course, makes such reform suspect in polite society. As chairman of the think tank Policy Exchange, I notice that the BBC refers to us as "Right-wing" when it wishes to convey disapproval of our policy work, "centre-Right" when it is including us for "balance", and without any political label when it likes what we are saying.
So great is the taint of being "Right-wing" in the eyes of the BBC, the bureaucracy and academia that it is almost like being non-white in apartheid-era South Africa. Any idea so labelled is condemned to a life of "separate development". This is a problem of which Mr Cameron has been very conscious from the beginning of his leadership. He believed he had to get back on terms with the chattering classes in order to get a hearing at all. [links not original]
The Great Repeal Bill is making it simple, doing without something. It may have been more or less affected by the 1973 energy crisis, Schumacher (1973) and Sober (1975). The simplified yang, the magnified yin. The less explication of written law, the more implication of unwritten law and "invisible hand," the metaphor that seized Ralph Harris and perhaps even Margaret Thatcher. The metaphor itself is an "implicature" (Paul Grice 1975), "implicit meaning" (Mary Douglas 1975), or "creative imagination" (Michael Polanyi 1975), covered with the face value or explicit meaning. (Incidentally, these three 1975 authors are as Oxonian as Thatcher.)
- How has Wikiversity become the source of the top entry regarding the Great Repeal Bill? It is because Google orders the entries according to the citation statistics, which is its strategy to win against Yahoo.
- Great Repeal Bill
The Great Repeal Bill is intended to abolish many restrictive laws and regulations believed to hamper individual freedoms, society, and businesses in the United Kingdom. Members of the public are able to add to the list of laws and rules to be repealed in the draft of the Bill below. You are also highly encouraged to join the debate about why certain legislation should be included (or excluded) from the Great Repeal Bill.
This experiment in direct democracy allows ordinary citizens to have a direct say in drafting of legislation, which is believed to be the first of its kind.
- w: Institute of Economic Affairs
The core belief of free-marketeers is that people should be free to do what they want in life as long as they don't harm anyone else. They say that on the whole, society's problems and challenges are best dealt with by people and companies interacting with each other freely without interference from politicians and the State. This means that government action, whether through taxes, regulation or laws, should be kept to a minimum. IEA authors and speakers are therefore always on the look-out for ways of reducing the government's role in our lives.
- Since 1975, the idea of interaction had been all the vogue, perhaps inspired by the cybernetic or human-computer interaction, e.g., The Interactive Encyclopedia System (1983).
- The metaphor "invisible hand" suggests the existence of the submerged mass of an iceberg, the subconscious, the unconsciousness, the implicature of the meaning, the implicit function, the hidden variable, the mechanical reaction, the chemical reaction, the nuclear reaction, the reflex reaction, the yin of the yin and yang, and so on and so forth.
- w: John Hoskyns#The Stepping Stones Report, 1977
... best known as a Policy Advisor to Margaret Thatcher while head of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit from May 1979 and April 1982. Prior to this he acted as a Policy Adviser to her and the Shadow Cabinet from 1975-79, during which time he produced the important "Stepping Stones" report of November 1977.
... started a business career at IBM UK Ltd (1957-64), before founding the Hoskyns Group Ltd where he was Chairman and Managing Director (1964-75).
The Stepping Stones Report, 1977
Without any political experience, he dedicated the year of 1977 to analysing what he considered to be wrong with the UK; this was called the Stepping Stones Report. [...] He created a diagram that showed how all these problems were interlinked.