Six laws the Conservatives have tried to pass without approval from the House of Commons

Six laws the Conservatives have tried to pass without approval from the House of Commons

Swathes of significant new legislation - making profound changes to rules on everything from fox-hunting and benefit changes - have been passed since the election without debate on the floor of the House of Commons.

They have been fast-tracked by the Conservatives using "statutory instruments" - parliamentary devices that opponents claim are forcing through contentious laws while minimising any backlash.

Statutory instruments were first introduced at the end of the 1940s as a way of freeing up parliamentary time by allowing procedural changes to laws to be made without a full debate and vote in the Commons. About 3,000 are issued each year.

Their use has been described by the shadow First Secretary of State, Angela Eagle as an attempt to "govern from the shadows" and dominates Tuesday morning's Independent:

1. Tax credits

George Osborne tried to force through £4bn of cuts to tax credits using a "statutory instrument". The measure was not even debated in the Commons and it was only when the Lords threw it out that the Chancellor was forced to back down.

2. Fracking

Fracking will be allowed under English National Parks and World Heritage Sites after ministers used a statutory instrument to give it the go-ahead without a parliamentary debate last month.

3. Fox hunting

Ministers tried to bring back hunting via the back door using a statutory instrument but were forced to drop the measure after the SNP announced it would side with Labour and Tory rebels to block the move.

4. Voter registration

Ministers defied the advice of the Electoral Commission and used a statutory instrument to bring in individual voter registration a year early.

5. Maintenance grant

Up to half-a-million of the poorest students will lose their entitlement to maintenance grants to study at university - after the Government forced through the cut using a statutory instrument that was not even debated on the floor of the Commons. Labour will attempt to get the cuts overturned today.

6. Winter fuel payments

Late last month the Government announced it would withdraw winter fuel payments from British pensioners living abroad using a statutory instrument. The move is not due to be debated in the Commons.

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