Monday, 26 November 2012

Who is in favour of being a sovereign rogue or pariah State?

 Who is in favour of being a sovereign rogue or pariah State?

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
" - John Donne

David Beckham would not stand a chance alone against a football team made up of 11 players. Nor would 11 players each playing their own game stand a chance against a team playing together.

22 Nov 2012 : Column 745

Voting Eligibility (Prisoners)

12 noon
The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): ...As Lord Chancellor, as well as Secretary of State for Justice, I take my obligation to uphold the rule of law seriously. Equally, it remains the case that Parliament is sovereign, and the Human Rights Act 1998 explicitly recognises that fact. The current law passed by Parliament remains in force unless and until Parliament decides to change it. As Lord Justice Hoffmann put it in a case in 1999: 
“Parliamentary sovereignty means that Parliament can, if it chooses, legislate contrary to fundamental principles of human rights. The Human Rights Act 1998 will not detract from this power. The constraints upon its exercise by Parliament are ultimately political, not legal. But the principle of legality means that Parliament must squarely confront what it is doing and accept the political cost.
Last month, the Attorney-General made it clear in evidence to the Justice Committee that

“it is entirely a matter for Government to make proposals but ultimately for Parliament to determine what it wants to do. Parliament is sovereign in this area; nobody can impose a solution on Parliament, but the accepted practice is that the United Kingdom observes its international obligations”.

Former attorney general says Grayling ‘failed’ test

The lord chancellor has failed in his duty to uphold the law - by proclaiming parliamentary sovereignty over the issue of prisoner voting, according to a Labour former attorney general. 

In a strong attack on Chris Grayling, Lord Goldsmith calls attention to the lord chancellor’s lack of legal qualifications, saying that his predecessors would not have made ‘this mistake’.

Grayling last Thursday responded to a European Court of Human Rights ruling by announcing a draft bill which would give parliament the option of overriding Strasbourg’s decision. 

In a letter to The Times published today, Goldsmith (pictured) says that Grayling’s statement represented the first test of whether he could be trusted to fulfil his duty under the Constitutional Reform Act to uphold the rule of law.

‘He failed,’ Goldsmith says. ‘While solemnly proclaiming that he took that duty seriously he proceeded to do the opposite, telling parliament in effect that it could disregard the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.’

Goldsmith accuses Grayling of mis-citing a dictum of Lord Hoffman in R v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex p. Simms, which concerned the Human Rights Act. ‘The issue here is about compliance with rulings of the Strasbourg court under an international convention we have entered into, which is not subject to parliamentary sovereignty.’

He said that Grayling’s invitation to parliament to decide whether to break the law ‘is hardly upholding the rule of law’.

While the lord chancellor’s advisers may be to blame ‘one cannot imagine former lord chancellors such as Hailsham, Mackay or Irvine making this mistake,’ he says. 

The Commissioner for Human Rights has recently claimed that the UK gave away its sovereignty when it signed up to the ECHR.That is, when it became a team player.

Friday, 23 November 2012

If it walks like a duck...


We can no longer duck making a decision over giving prisoners the vote, Mr Grayling  warned.

22 Nov 2012 : Column 745

Voting Eligibility (Prisoners)

12 noon
The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): I wish to make a statement about the Government’s approach to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on prisoner voting. This is a subject that provokes intense debate, not least in this House. The House will know that, from as early as the case of Hirst in 2004, the Court found the United Kingdom’s bar on prisoners voting to be “general, automatic and indiscriminate”, and concluded that it was, in the Court’s view, in violation of article 3, protocol 1 of the European convention on human rights, which covers the right to free and fair elections.

The previous Government committed to implement the judgment, and issued two consultations which did not resolve the issue.

6 October 2005 - 22 November 2012 and the Hirst v UK (No2) still not implemented dos not indicate any level of committment. The truth is Labour was committed to not implementing the judgment. Arguably the consultations were legally flawed, therefore unlawful. The 4 years and under option was contained within the consultations. Kenneth Clarke attempted to float giving prisoners serving 4 years and under the vote. The idea was withdrawn following strong criticisms. Chris Grayling has revived the idea, hiding the meat between two slices of bread. Namley the "options" of keeping the blanket ban and  6 months or over. The former would be unlawful and the latter would not satisfy the ECtHR that it met the Hirst test. This only leaves the meat.

In the Scoppola case, "the Attorney-General argued in person before the Court that national Parliaments’ discretion to determine policy on this issue should allow for a complete bar on prisoners voting".

More front than Harrods, after 7 years of non compliance returning to rehash the arguments lost in Hirst No2! The ECtHR gave Dominic Gieve a flea in the ear and sent him packing back to the UK. All that is left is to enact legislation to amend s.3 of ROPA 1983.

In prison gangsters made a big play out of saving face. The ECtHR's facesaver is to allow Member States a 'margin of appreciation'.The government is making a big play of this whilst having to toe the line. Sovereignty of Parliament on a piece of elastic does not fool me. This whole saga is going to be political costly for the UK.