Tag Archives: parliament

Labour & Article 50

In my report back from Labour Party Conference, I predicted that the fault lines caused by the Brexit Referendum would become a potential fatal debate for the Labour Party. Today the Independent reported on a speech by John McDonnell, in which he argued that Labour would not oppose an Article 50 bill and would use moral pressure to ensure that the Brexit terms negotiated were acceptable to Labour. Jolyen Maugham argues in the New Statesman that promising not to oppose Article 50, or not to amend it disarms the PLP, it will have no leverage on the Tories who are still putting the interests of their party before that of the country.

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Article 50 & Parliament

The BBC reports that the High Court states that the Government needs Parliament’s permission to trigger the EU’s Article 50 Brexit process. The article is silent on whether Parliament has to express its will as a Law or joint house resolution; I’ll leave the last word to others more qualified, but I don’t think there is any other way to undo previous Parliamentary dispositions other than to pass a new law, which involves four readings and a committee stage in the Commons and the same in the Lords and potentially whatever we call the Conference process to resolve disagreements between the Houses.

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It’s not just the West Lothian question

This made me laugh, Vernon Bogdanor, one of Britiain’s foremost constitutional scholars writes about Cameron’s proposals for English Votes for English Laws. He points out that Ulster Unionist votes deprived Labour of Commons majorities in 1946 and 1964, he neglects to point out that they also voted with the Tories in the confidence vote that brought down the Callaghan Government. Interestingly short memories the Tories and their press supporters have. It adds to the evidence that the Tories aren’t interested in democracy; this is about entrenching Tory power.

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pictfor: democracy 2.0

Last night I went up to Westminster for a Pictfor meeting; this time, Parliament 2.0: How can the internet revolutionise British Democracy. The panel speakers were, Jaan Priisalu, Director General of the Estonian Information System’s Authority, Katie Ghose, CEO, Electoral Reform Society & Ruth Fox, Director, Hansard Society, while the meeting was chaired by Stephen Mosley MP, it was kicked off by the John Bercow MP, the Speaker. The centre piece of Bercow’s speech was an introduction, for me at least, to the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy which is reviewing Representation, Scrutiny and the legislative process. Jaan Priisalu talked about Estonia’s e-voting paltform, while Ghose and Fox spoke about democratic engagement.

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Oh Shit! You mean spying on everyone is illegal?

Better change that then! In April, the Court of Justice of the EU, ruled that its 2004 Data Retention Directive mandating Information System Services Providers to store all their records for 12 months was declared incompatible with the EU’s Fundamental Charter of [Citizen’s] Rights. It and all the national laws implementing the Directive need to be reviewed to see if they remain legal. Last week, the Government announced that it planned to introduce new laws to plug the gap. This is to be called the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill/Act. (DRIP) which they plan to pass in less than ½ a week using emergency provisions and the agreement of the Labour front bench.

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The politics of intervention in Syria revisited

raf typhoons

The Guardian run a retrospective story on Parliament’s decision not to use British military force in Syria after the chemical weapons attacks there. One of the threads in the story is that the old division of powers between the executive and legislature has been irreparably changed. In my mind the precedents and the development of Law needs to be put in the context of the decisions taken about Suez, the Falklands and Iraq, the latter two military interventions both having Parliamentary debates before military action. It should also be born in mind that the US used to have a similar  disposition but changed their laws after Nixon’s escalation of the Vietnam War.

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Parliament debates the Bedroom Tax

On the 12th November, the Labour Party used one of its opposition days, to debate the so-called Bedroom Tax, which reduces the amount of Housing Benefit paid to council house tenants deemed to be under occupying their homes. It was generally reported that the Labour Party won the debate, although not the vote. As I finished my article on Rachel Reeves’ interview on being tougher than the Tories, I decided to watch the debate on Parliament TV, hoping that in the light of the Labour Party’s unequivocal commitment to repeal this measure, she could reshape the the debate on welfare and establish a position of compassion.

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Who watches the Watchmen?

In the continuing story of the NSA and their five eyes attempts to do to the world what the GDR’s Stasi did to East Germany, someone finally asks how did we let GCHQ capture and process the internet traffic of the British people, those using the transatlantic internet cables and using the decryption technology to spy on allies and diplomats engaged in economic talks and treaties. On the 31st October, Julian Huppert MP with cross bench support from Tom Watson MP and Dominic Rabb MP managed to get time in the Westminster Hall committee room to debate Parliament’s oversight of the Intelligence agencies, specifically GCHQ, but let’s not forget our old friends, the burglars at MI5.  The debate was broadcast on Parliament TV, and transcribed in Hansard here. Both the Video and Hansard report the debate verbatim, and so if you want to hear what the MPs said, then you’ll have to use those resources. The rest of this article is a personal comment on the meeting.

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Is piracy really the most important issue facing the creative industries

Today, Parliament released the “Culture” select committee’s report “Supporting the Creative Industries”. The headline pursued by most media outlets is that Google’s efforts to limit copyright infringement by its ‘users’ is, to quote the committee chairman, John Whittingdale, “derisory”.  This is reported by Computing, which extends Whittingdale’s quotes which demand further action from Google which is erroneously singled out as the single largest source of piracy and thus the single largest source of damage to Britain’s creative industries. Peter Bradwell of the ORG, and Paul Bernal of UEA cover the report and its impact, in Peter’s case on the ORG Blog, in an article called, Culture Committee copyright report one-sided and simplistic and in Paul’s case on his blog in an article called, Supporting the creative economy?. The ORG verbal evidence to the committee is available as a video here…, on Parliament TV. Enjoy the show and Peter’s persistant return to statistics and facts

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In the nick of time, a Hero arose (II)

Yesterday was an important day in the British History.

If you don’t know the story, David Cameron, the Tory Prime Minister, had recalled Parliament, two days early to get permission to ‘intervene’ in Syria and punish the Syrian government for their alleged use of chemical weapons and the British Parliament said “No!”.

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Clean Politics, a bit of Ed, a bit of me

Ed Miliband makes his speech; the autocue is here at Labour List. This speech more than most, one must read his words, everyone else will add their spin. So, here’s mine, by my reading, the key points for change are,

  • Affiliation Memberships by Trade Unions are to be based on consent.
  • A new code of conduct for candidates in internal elections and selections, (we have one now; so who’s fault is it that it isn’t good enough?)
  • Limiting expenditure  including  gifts in kind and 3rd party expenditure internal elections and selections (Good idea, the devil’s in the detail).
  • Regulation of CLP/TU teaming agreements (again an incremental reform; I’d like to see the evidence that the current agreements are being abused.)
  • He proposes that MP’s should be prohibited from having second jobs, (Yes please,  and include the Mayor of London in this proposal.)
  • He proposes that unspecified measures should be taken to clean up lobbying and conflicts of interests in Parliament (Perhaps the Labour Party should expel the worst offenders, and include Peers in the list.)
  • He proposes that Labour’s candidate for London Mayor is to be chosen by supporters, not members. (Why would we want the advice of people who won’t join?)

He also refers to the opening out of policy making since his election as Leader. This is delusional, moving policy initiation to a ‘bit bucket’ on the web is not extending policy making.

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#FreeGary to stay in the UK

Today, Theresa May announced that she was prohibiting the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States on computer hacking charges. She did this via an announcement to the House of Commons which can be watched on www.parliamentlive.tv. I come to the conclusion that she’s a class act. I also watched her yesterday dealing with Parliamentary Questions on the #snooperscharter. PQs are difficult for the opposition, the government always gets the last word, and so with only one intervention it can be desperately hard to get one’s point across; it’s too easy for a Minister to ignore the question and answer one they want too. Today she announced, in an hour long question and answer session that

  1. she was exercising her right of prerogative to stop the McKinnon extradition
  2. she was going to introduce new procedures to ensure that British Citizens get to be prosecuted in the UK for crimes committed in the UK
  3. she was not planning to demand that the US, (or other extradition counterparties) present their evidence to UK courts
  4. she would seek to end politician’s role in extradition process

Her decision is taken because on review of the evidence she believes that McKinnon’s Human Rights would be breached if he were to be extradited to the US. She has received medical evidence that he was a significant suicide risk and his European Convention , Article 3 rights, the right to life would be at risk.

I am deeply unsure that this makes good or fair law.

She has abdicated the fundamental tests of extradition, that it must be a serious crime in both states to the courts; the treaty prohibits that British Courts from evaluating the evidence to determine if there is a British legal case to answer, the Home Secretary can now only use prerogative to defend a suspects Human Rights, and she wants to give that away.

Despite this most MPs on both sides of the house seemed pleased, although some Labour MPs raise the issue of Babar Ahamd and Syed Talha Ahsan who may have both benefited from forum bars since their alleged illegal acts cannot have taken place in the USA; they have never been there. Despite this, their families expressed their solidarity with McKinnon and his family.  Only Alan Johnson MP raised the issue that when the medical evidence was reviewed in an open court, it rejected the arguments that McKinnon was too ill to face trial, or punishment, in the USA.

Keith Vaz made a good argument that the British Courts should evaluate if there is sufficient evidence that there is a case to answer, and that politicians should keep the prerogative power to ensure that extraordinary clemency in the case of McKinnon or extraordinary vengence in the case of Pinochet can remain part of the system. (Although the last case didn’t work so well, did it; but that’s because Jack Straw left it to the judges.)

Yvette Cooper made a very balanced speech, welcoming the ruling, offering parliamentary   … » Read more …

Communications Data Bill, it’s the technology stupid

Alec Muffett, the convener of the London Meetups, and an ex-colleague of mine at Sun Microsystems has submitted evidence to the the pre-legislative parliamentary consultation, unlike Jimmy Wales he was not summoned to Parliament, but did publish his evidence for as all.

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