Japanese Diet Scraps Hague Convention Bill

November 17, 2012

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T121116004864.htm

 

Many important bills being shelved, scrapped

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Many important bills were hastily passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday, including a bill allowing the government to issue deficit-covering bonds, ahead of the imminent dissolution of the lower house.

However, there are quite a few important bills that were scrapped or shelved, such as a bill for Diet approval of Japan joining the Hague Convention, which stipulates procedures among member states to resolve international child custody issues. A bill to introduce the My Number system, which would provide each person with a unique identification number, also was canned.

During a debate with main opposition Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he could dissolve the lower house Friday. After that, the LDP and its opposition coalition partner New Komeito softened their stances regarding Diet affairs.

At its plenary session on Thursday, the lower house passed bills such as the deficit bond bill and a revision to the National Pension Law, which will reduce pension benefits that are currently 2.5 percent higher than they should be in deflation-adjusted terms in three stages from October 2013.

These bills were enacted after being passed in the House of Councillors on Friday.

In order to resolve as many bills as possible, both houses held two plenary sessions Friday.

The issue of electoral reform of the lower house, which was the main point of concern before the dissolution of the house, became complicated, as two separate bills were passed in the lower house.

The Diet affairs committee chairmen of the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito met Thursday morning to discuss how to handle two separate bills related to electoral reform of the lower house, submitted by the DPJ and the LDP.

During the meeting, they compromised on various points. First, they agreed to drop from the DPJ-sponsored bill a plan to cut a single-seat constituency from each of five prefectures in the lower house without increasing other prefectures’ single-seat electoral districts.

However, they decided to keep in the bill another provision to reduce the number of lower house seats contested through proportional representation and then to partially introduce a new method in the proportional representation system that benefits small parties.

The three parties’ Diet affairs committee chairmen then agreed to put both the modified DPJ-sponsored bill and the LDP-sponsored bill to a vote. The LDP bill also includes trimming five single-seat constituencies in the lower house.

Following their negotiations, the lower house’s special committee on establishing political ethics and revising the Public Offices Election Law voted on both bills separately. The modified DPJ-sponsored bill was passed with the support of the DPJ and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), and the LDP-sponsored bill was passed with the support of the LDP, Komeito and the DPJ. Subsequently, both bills were passed in a plenary meeting in the lower house and were sent to the upper house for a vote.

In the upper house, which is dominated by opposition parties, only the LDP-sponsored bill was passed and enacted, resulting in the plan of trimming five single-seat constituencies being realized ahead of other issues.

The three parties did not narrow the two bills down to one, out of consideration for DPJ members who insist on the party-sponsored proposal to cut the number of lower house seats contested  through proportional representation.

Meanwhile, a bill to approve the nation’s participation in the Hague Convention and another one to implement its membership were scrapped.

Among the Group of Eight industrialized nations, only Japan has not ratified the treaty, because of a lack of Diet approval.

Western countries see the situation as problematic, prompting concern that scrapping the bills may invite criticism from the international community.

Regarding bills related to integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, a modified bill to introduce the My Number system, which was largely agreed upon by the three leading parties at the previous ordinary Diet session, was scrapped.

The three parties have given up on submitting a bill to promote regenerative medicine to prevent the bill  from being scrapped. The bill aims to encourage research on the topic using induced pluripotent stem and other cells and put the findings into practical use.

“I’m extremely sorry about this. We have no choice but to submit the bill to the next ordinary Diet session,” said Chikara Sakaguchi, Komeito member and former health minister who played a central role in compiling the bill.

On Thursday, the Noda Cabinet approved legislation concerning local civil service reform that will grant local government officials the right to collective labor agreements, one of the fundamental labor rights. The legislation was submitted to the lower house.

The labor right was promised in the DPJ’s policy pledges and organizations supporting the party have been calling for submission of corresponding legislation. This had prompted criticism from the LDP that the promise was merely an electoral ploy.

(Nov. 17, 2012)

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