国会改革 脱・法制局長官答弁を支持する

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 6, 2009)
Legislation bureau chief should take backseat
国会改革 脱・法制局長官答弁を支持する(11月6日付・読売社説)

Discussions on Diet reform are moving into high gear. The person with his hands firmly on the wheel of this reform is Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa.

"Breaking the domination of the bureaucracy must start at the Diet," Ozawa said. "I also want to revise the Diet Law to make parliament a place where lawmakers discuss policies among one another."

We hope members of both ruling and opposition parties will discuss this issue in detail.

One pillar of Ozawa's Diet reform plan is to remove bureaucrats from debates in the Diet. Ozawa insists that the director general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau should be no exception to this ejection.

According to the Diet Law, some bureaucrats--including the director general of the bureau and the president of the National Personnel Authority--are allowed to attend Diet deliberations as special assistants to the government.

The bureau is dubbed "a guardian of the law" because it presents the government view on interpretations of the Constitution and examines bills in light of existing laws.


Controversial interpretations

The bureau presented the controversial constitutional interpretation that Japan has the right to collective self-defense, but cannot exercise this right. This and some other interpretations put forward by the bureau have undeniably distorted constitutional debates in the past and imposed undue restrictions on Japan's international cooperation and peacekeeping activities.

During the Persian Gulf crisis in 1990, Ozawa, who was secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party at that time, claimed the participation of the Self-Defense Forces in the U.N. force was constitutionally possible even if it involved exercising the use of force. However, his assertion was given short shrift by the director general of the bureau at that time.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said it is strange that the director general's opinion is treated as the be-all and end-all on matters of law. However, Hatoyama does not plan to deviate from the bureau's constitutional interpretation on the right to collective self-defense.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano also said lawmakers under the Hatoyama Cabinet would make constitutional judgments without being swayed by remarks made by directors general of the bureau in the past. This seems only natural. We strongly support the opinions of the prime minister and the chief cabinet secretary.


Lawmakers also to blame

The bureau has so far been treated as if it is authorized to determine government interpretations on the Constitution. This must be corrected. Doing so will require imposing restrictions on remarks by the bureau director general.

However, it is wrong to lay the responsibility for all past Diet discussions on the Constitution with the bureau.

Past administrations ultimately are responsible for that because they punted constitutional interpretations to the bureau, which is just one small section of the Cabinet, and avoided making political judgments to change them.

From now on, lawmakers will be required to make remarks in the Diet based on their own perceptiveness and responsibility--including on changes to constitutional interpretations.

On that premise, it will not be necessary to keep all bureaucrats completely out of Diet deliberations. Bureaucrats should be asked to attend the Diet when details of administrative measures are being discussed and administrative responsibilities are pursued.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 6, 2009)
(2009年11月6日01時15分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-11-06 11:09 | 英字新聞

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