Friday 22 May 2009
Thursday 21 May 2009
Wednesday 20 May 2009
The report in the conduct of the four members is available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldprivi/88/88ii.pdf. Only two have been recommended for suspension.
The other report concerns the disciplinary powers of the House of Lords. It concludes that
- The House possesses, and has possessed since before the 1705 resolution, an inherent power to discipline its Members; the means by which it chooses to exercise this power falls within the regulation by the House of its own procedures.
- The duty imposed upon Members, by virtue of the writs of summons, to attend Parliament, is subject to various implied conditions, which are reflected in the many rules governing the conduct of Members which have been adopted over time by the House.
- The House has no power, by resolution, to require that the writ of summons be withheld from a Member otherwise entitled to receive it; as a result, it is not within the power of the House by resolution to expel a Member permanently.
- The House does possess the power to suspend its Members for a defined period not longer than the remainder of the current Parliament.
That report is available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldprivi/87/87.pdf
Tuesday 19 May 2009
There is a new court house at St Albans. It is air-conditioned. In May of this year the Crown Court was sitting there. A case was being tried about pornographic films and books. Stephen Balogh was there each day. He was a casual hand employed by solicitors for the defence. Just as a clerk at £5 a day, knowing no law. The case dragged on and on. He got exceedingly bored. He made a plan to liven it up. He knew something about a gas called nitrous oxide, N2O2 should be inferior character? It gives an exhilarating effect when inhaled. It is called 'laughing gas'. He had learned all about it at Oxford. During the trial he took a half-cylinder of it from the hospital car park. He carried it about with him in his brief case. His plan was to put the cylinder at the inlet to the ventilating system and to release the gas into the court. It would emerge from the outlets which were just in front of counsel's row. So the gas, he thought, would enliven their speeches. It would be diverting for the others. A relief from the tedium of pornography.
'… I am actually in the wrong court at the moment … The proceedings which I intended to subvert are next door. Therefore, it is not contempt against your court … for which I should be tried.'
The judge replied: 'You were obviously intending at least to disturb the proceedings going on in courts in this building, of which this is one … You will remain in custody tonight, and I will consider what penalty I impose upon you … in the morning.'
Next morning Balogh was brought again before the judge. The inspector gave evidence of his background. Balogh was asked if he had anything to say. He said:
'I do not feel competent to conduct it myself. I am not represented in court … I have committed no contempt … I was arrested for the theft of a bottle of nitrous oxide … no further charges have been preferred.'
The judge gave sentence:
'It is difficult to imagine a more serious contempt of court and the consequences might have been very grave if you had carried out your express intention. I am not going to overlook this and you will go to prison for six months … I am not dealing with any charge for theft … I am exercising the jurisdiction to deal with the contempt of court which has been vested in this court for hundreds of years. That is the basis on which … you will now go to prison for six months.'
Monday 18 May 2009
Sunday 17 May 2009
But things go into top gear as election day gets closer. [Sometimes this is referred to as 'the short campaign']. This week I've been calling on doors in the southern part of the East Midlands region. In view of the outrage over MPs expenses I might have expected to need personal protection - but people have been decent.
In addition to the door to door campaigning and leaflet delivery I attended two meetings.
The first was a meeting of the East Midlands NFU (National Farmers Union) in Rutland. A report can be found at http://www.nfuonline.com/x38364.xml. It was a very enjoyable hustings - with some excellent questions.
On Thursday I attended the national launch of the Labour Party's European and County Election campaign. The meeting was addressed by the Prime Minister, then questions taken. Many of the cabinet attended - including David Miliband, Alistair Darling, Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears, Ed Balls and John Denham. There were representatives of local voluntary groups - and students from the Kirk Hallam Community Technology College, where the launch was held. A report and pictures are available at http://www.labour.org.uk/winning_the_fight_for_britains_future_-_gordon_brown,2009-05-14
Saturday 16 May 2009
Friday 15 May 2009
Thursday 14 May 2009
Lord Norton discussed the debate on the "Lords of the Blog" - http://lordsoftheblog.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/public-consultations/
Wednesday 13 May 2009
- Consider if the right claimed is "clear, precise and unconditional" in the European legislation (Primary legislation - the Treaties; Secondary legislation - Regulations; Directives & Decisions).
- If the right arises in a Treaty Article or a Regulation - and the answer is yes. There is direct effect.
- If the right arises in a directive two further criteria must be met:-
- Consider if the date for the implementation of the directive has passed - a straightforward question. If it hasn't there can be no direct effect.
- If it has, then you must consider if the body being claimed against is an "emanation of the State". That term is defined in Foster v British Gas - "a body, whatever its legal form, which has been made responsible, pursuant to a measure adopted by the State, for providing a public service under the control of the State and has for that purpose special powers beyond those which result from the normal rules applicable in relations between individuals"
- If all the criteria are met - then there can be direct effect. If not, then it will be necessary to rely upon
- Indirect Effect - the national court will try to read (interpret) the national legislation to give effect to the right. That may be possible, without doing violence to the language of the national legislation.
- Direct and Indirect Effect can be used when the body or person being sued is the body or individual who failed to give effect to the right. If neither can be used, only one option remains. The Government can be sued for "State Liability". This right first arose in the Francovich case.
- The criteria for State Liability (amended from Francovich) are
(1) It must be an infringement of a rule of law intended to confer rights on individuals
(2) There must be a "Sufficiently serious breach" In Dillenkoffer - failure to implement the directive within the deadline set out in that directive would of itself be a sufficiently serious breach. Otherwise the breach must be ‘manifest and grave’ – relevant considerations include
i. clarity and precision of the rule breached
ii. measure of discretion left by that rule to national authorities
iii. whether infringement or damage was intentional or involuntary
iv. whether any error of law excusable or not
v. possible contributory position of EC institutions
vi. adoption or retention of measures contrary to Community law
(3) There must be a causal link between the State's failure and the loss to the claimant
Tuesday 12 May 2009
Monday 11 May 2009
"Politicians generally, rather than any one party or MP, will be damaged by the disclosures on MPs’ expenses. They will discredit mainstream politics, reduce turnout and benefit anti-establishment groups. So watch how other parties, especially the British National Party, do in the European elections on June 4."
Sunday 10 May 2009
- Members of Congress avoid difficult votes by engaging in questionable legislative procedures. They employ these procedures to circumvent accountability. They give as an example the way congressional pay rises have been dealt with.
- Members frequently engage in hyperbolic rhetoric. First they employ quick-fix rhetoric in claiming to have easy solutions to hard problems. Second, and inversely, divergent proposals are not debated meaningfully; rather, the consequences are overblown and exaggerated in hopes of demonizing the proponents and killing the proposals
- Members run for Congress by running against it
- The public face of Congress distorts the internal workings of the institution. While ideological extremists bash each other on television as well as in newspapers, the moderates are left to negotiate and legislate.
Is the same true of Westminster?
Again your thoughts on these matters are appreciated.
Saturday 9 May 2009
Friday 8 May 2009
The trouble with representative democracy - is that it does represent us.
Thursday 7 May 2009
You can watch this live at www.parliamentlive.tv at approximately 11.10 (UK time)
1) Is a person of dual Irish and United Kingdom nationality who has resided in the United Kingdom for her entire life a “beneficiary” within the meaning of Article 3 of Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (“the Directive”)?
2) Has such a person “resided legally” within the host Member State for the purpose of Article 16 of the Directive in circumstances where she was unable to satisfy the requirements of Article 7 of Directive 2004/38EC?
and that further consideration of the appeal be adjourned sine die.
Wednesday 6 May 2009
Group Seeks Public Access to Congressional Research
By STEPHANIE STROM
American taxpayers spend more than $100 million a year supporting the work of the Congressional Research Service, a little-known but highly regarded division of the Library of Congress.
But unlike the library itself, the research service is by law exclusively for the use of members of Congress. Only they and their staffs have access to the reports and memorandums it generates, and only they can decide to make its work public.
A nonprofit group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, is leading a fight to change that.
“We think the public should have access to the information that is shaping legislation and policy, especially since it pays for that information,” said Ari Schwartz, the organization’s chief operating officer.
The center has been working for years to gain access to the service’s reports. In a recent informal online survey financed by the Sunlight Foundation together with the center and OpenTheGovernment.org, the research service’s reports were the government documents the most respondents wanted to see.
The center has created a Web site, Open CRS, on which it makes some of the research service’s reports available, but until recently, the only comprehensive source for the reports — there is no public index of them — was a small company, Penny Hill Press. Based in Maryland, Penny Hill Press sells the reports to lawyers, universities, lobbyists and corporations, as well as to Gallery Watch, which makes them available online.
“We wear out a lot of shoe leather and get cauliflower ear on the phone and use e-mail and every other trick we can, and we manage to get virtually all of the new C.R.S. documents,” said Walter Seager, owner of Penny Hill.
Mr. Seager said there were about 20 new documents, including updates to reports, each day. He started the effort in 1992, and he and one of his sons do most of the work finding the reports and updates. His wife, a dental hygienist, helps run the business.
“I’m 70 years old and getting tired, but my son is younger, so this will continue until such time as C.R.S. or Congress does the right thing and makes the reports freely available to the public,” Mr. Seager said.
In February, Wikileaks, an online source of hard-to-get documents, began offering access to 6,780 of the research service’s reports dating to 1990.
Members of Congress may make the reports public, and their constituents can write to ask for copies of reports they know exist.
“Because there was no index until we created one, in most cases, the only reports the public was able to see were the ones that politicians saw as useful to their political agendas,” said Daniel Schmitt, a Wikileaks representative.
Mr. Schmitt would not disclose how Wikileaks has gotten the documents, and he said fund-raising challenges made it difficult for the Web site to continue providing new documents of all kinds.
Janine D’Addario, a spokeswoman for the research service, said that by law, its work is to be exclusive and confidential to Congress. Additionally, a provision in the appropriations bill that finances the service each year forbids it to make its work public.
“That is Congress’s call,” Ms. D’Addario said when asked whether the reports should be made public.
She said, however, that release of the reports would put the research service into an awkward position between members of Congress and their constituents.
“Publication of our products directly to the public could put C.R.S. in an intermediate position between members and their constituents, and it is the member, not us, who represent their constituents,” Ms. D’Addario said.
There is no classified information in the reports, nor any copyrighted information. But Congress has consistently balked at sharing the reports.
“Reports are produced by the Congressional Research Service staff for the education of members of Congress,” Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue in the House, wrote in an e-mail message. “Just as other memos produced by staffers for members of Congress aren’t made public, these are not.”
Mr. Schwartz made it clear, however, that the organization was seeking the public release of only reports the research service produces, not the memorandums it also writes for members of Congress.
A bipartisan group of senators, including John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, has tried for the last decade to make the reports public.
A spokesman for Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who is the new chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said Mr. Schumer was “aware of the arguments for making these reports public” and was reviewing the current policy.
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, who makes several of the reports available on his Web site, has twice proposed legislation to make the reports public, but to no avail. He did so again last week.
“For too long, C.R.S. reports have been available to the public only on a haphazard basis,” Mr. Lieberman said in an e-mail message. “These reports inform members of Congress and their staffs on a wide range of issues. The American people, who pay for these reports, should be able to learn from this same expert analysis.”