Huhne's list of "completely bizarre" offences: disturbing a pack of eggs etc.

by Stephen Tall on December 6, 2008

As the House of Commons debates the Queen’s Speech, Lib Dem shadow home secretary Chris Huhne highlighted some of the more ludicrous examples of Labour’s legislative incontinence – here’s an excerpt from his speech as recorded by Hansard:

We are to have the 26th Criminal Justice Bill and the seventh Immigration Bill from this Government since 1997. Various of those Bills have been shovelled through this House so hastily that whole sections and clauses have not been considered at all and have had to be reviewed in the other place. We now know from parliamentary answers to questions tabled by Liberal Democrats that no fewer than 3,600 new criminal offences have been introduced by this Government since 1997, yet extraordinarily, the Home Secretary—who, sadly, is no longer in her place—assures us that one of her key priorities is to reduce the need for police paperwork and bureaucracy. The extraordinary creation of offences by the Government is massively complicating the job of law enforcement and of the whole criminal justice system.

Some of these offences are completely bizarre—for example, the offence of causing a nuclear explosion. The idea that anyone might cause a nuclear explosion without killing anybody, and therefore being subject to a possible charge of murder, is extremely far-fetched. It is perhaps reassuring for some on the Government Benches that were there to be a nuclear explosion that did not kill anyone, the perpetrator could, indeed, be charged. Other of the new offences include: wilfully pretending to be a barrister; disturbing a pack of eggs when instructed not to by an authorised officer; obstructing workers carrying out repairs to the docklands light railway; offering for sale a game bird killed on a Sunday or Christmas Day; attaching an ear tag to an animal where it has previously been used to identify another animal; landing at a harbour without permission a catch that includes unsorted fish. I could continue that extraordinary list of new offences.

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It must be intuition, but I was just about to offer (a first) posting on exactly this delicious exchange between Chris Huhne and the tremulous Straw.

My offer arose because, after the alleged comments by our leader I decided to run through Hansard and find out what the mentioned MPs were doing in the daily slog of their portfolios.
I thought this one a real gem. For other readers it can be found on the parliament website, 04 Dec.2008, 1.28pm.Hansard Column 172.
My favourite was “offering for sale a game bird killed on a Sunday or Christmas Day”

I thought Chris made an elegant meal of Straw, who saw no humour in any of this;

“The hon. gentlemen is either making a trivial debating point or a serious point”

And ended up by asking us to provide a list of the 3,600 offences and suggest which we thought should be scrapped!


by Elizabeth Patterson on December 6, 2008 at 7:28 pm. Reply #

I watched bits of this too and thought that Straw’s request for a list of those offences Chris H wanted rid of was the last refuge of a scoundrel (this from a man who I consider the only Labour big hitter worthy of any sort of admiration). I thought Chris had him on the ropes.

by Chris Stanbra on December 6, 2008 at 8:46 pm. Reply #

“Some of these offences are completely bizarre—for example, the offence of causing a nuclear explosion.”

This was passed in the post 9/11 “emergency” anti-terrorism legislation which David Blunkett said was urgently needed to close loopholes.

There area AIUI (and I’ve never tracked things through to check) some offences which have been repealed without ever coming into force.

by Hywel Morgan on December 6, 2008 at 11:11 pm. Reply #

Switching the ear tag of an animal which has been declared disease-free to one which hasn’t?

Fishing out endangered species and hiding what you’ve done in an “unsorted” batch?

Spreading salmonella by interfering with eggs declared as contaminated with it?

Gaining some advantage by claiming qualifications you don’t have?

Sorry, these things don’t look “completely bizarre” to me.

I’m happy if the argument is that they’re all covered by other laws, there isn’t the need to introduce the new specific offences, but, I’m sorry, the “ha ha, isn’t this funny?” line suggests to me someone who hasn’t thought through the rather serious issues that might be behind these things.

by Matthew Huntbach on December 7, 2008 at 9:19 pm. Reply #

Surely the fishing one is European legislation which the UK can’t repeal anyway? Or is this a bit of gilting legislation?

by Hywel Morgan on December 7, 2008 at 10:58 pm. Reply #

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