A number of parents have won legal cases in Ireland which prevented their children being returned to England and placed in care on the basis that this would lead to adoption.
This case was an interesting one because the children were not actually in care or even subject to a care order, but that care proceedings were "pending". (Viz an application had been made to court.)
The first test in international public family law is one as to which country has jurisdiction. This is based on "habitual residence". It is now clearly the case that if court proceedings have started in England then the habitual residence is accepted as being in England even if the family have moved to Ireland.
The case has also looked at the question as to whether non-Irish citizens have Irish Constitutional Rights, but without resolving the issue in any way.
The judgment is a long and interesting one that is worth reading for anyone interested in this issue. Where it is wrong is that it sees the Irish and English law as being on the same spectrum. I believe in the long term that it will be recognised both that this is not the case and also that the trend in law has been damaging for children. The trend in law actually has been resisted for millennia and exists in the bible (Job 24:9). There is today as there has been in the past a demand for children from adoptive parents. There is a tendency for the system to respond to that demand by providing children from economically or politically weaker families.
If this all happens in secret then it tends to succeed without challenge, but if it is subject to proper public scrutiny then it is resisted.
What is clear about judicial systems and secrecy is that secrecy undermines the rule of law. At time it may be arguable that the secrecy is more important than the rule of law. However, if that is not the case then secrecy is to be avoided.
My advice to parents facing care proceedings is to follow the law. The law does not prevent people from emigrating when there are no proceedings. People considering emigrating to Ireland need to consider the financial issues. Since the financial crisis obtaining benefits in Ireland has been very difficult. Hence it is only those people with adequate resources that can do this.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 9:55 am11 comments
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Florence wins Radio Prize
See the link for the website dealing with Florence Bellone's winning of the reporting prize for reporting on the English Family Courts scandal.
Quoting from the website: Title of the article Great Britain: The Stolen Children Name of media RTBF The Grand Jury distinguished the report for its investigative merit in highlighting a human rights issue occurring in a highly-developed European Member State. The piece was characterised as ‘a technically impressive, investigative report into shocking and relatively unknown human rights violations’.posted by John Hemming
¶ 4:23 pm1 comments
Thursday, December 22, 2011
St Edburgha's Carol Service
I attended St Edburgha'a carol service last Sunday. Robert Jones has produced some good photographs of the event. The music was good, but I don't think it is available on the net.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 8:31 pm3 comments
On the way to the meeting in London (at which she asked a question of Anthony Douglas which was one of the reasons for which Doncaster MDC tried to have her imprisoned) she saw her daughter and went to say hello.
At a time at which the press would not ordinarily be there on Friday she was given 3 years.
Doesn't seem right to me.
It remains that she has not yet managed to appeal the original family court decisions mainly because the solicitors are holding onto the file.
It is also the case that the promised publication of various documents by the authories promised earlier this year has not happened.
I suppose keeping her in jail will make it even harder for her to challenge the original decision.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 12:11 pm19 comments
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Films of Birmingham in the past
There is a youtube channel Idowish12 which includes a lot of films of Birmingham's past.
CTB and Imogen Thomas
The CTB v Imogen Thomas case raises a number of constitutional concerns about the accountability and reliability of secret justice. On 20th May 2011 the Neuberger Committee reported on secret justice clarifying what should happen. These procedures were not followed (in this case) on a number of occasions. On 2nd November 2011 there was a hearing which was not even listed. On 11th November 2011 the press were excluded without explanation. On 25th November 2011 there was a hearing with a decision for which no judgment was given until yesterday. The court should have clearly discharged the original injunction some months ago.
The key issue, however, is that Secret Justice leads to miscarriages of justice. Secret Justice often means No Justice. In this case it is still unclear whether Imogen Thomas would have been able to prove her case had CTB not been named in parliament. What is clear is that the original injunction would have prevented Imogen Thomas’s lawyers from doing necessary research to find evidence. The law prevents me from saying exactly why.
This is the third privacy case which has been recently shown to start with a miscarriage of justice. I am also concerned that many family cases are known to be based upon unreliable evidence. There needs to be a constitutional review on bringing in accountability and controls on court secrecy. What is clear is that the court itself has a conflict of interest in deciding what is and what is not to be made public.
It now includes the following comments from the British Association of Social Workers: Nishra Mansuri, of the British Association of Social Workers, recognised the whistleblower’s comments and said: “It’s a major concern. The cuts are creating so much pressure for social workers that the right decisions are not being taken.
“We’re storing up so many problems, but the odds are against us.”posted by John Hemming
¶ 12:16 pm5 comments
The whistleblower, a father who works for a large authority in the south of England, said: “We’re being pressured to go against what we think is right for families. “Personally, I’ve written reports and been told ‘You are too positive with this family. We’ll never get it to court unless you make it more negative’. “Although it goes against what you feel is right, you feel under an obligation.” He went on: “In order to get a child through to a child protection conference, we’re told to make the situation look bad, and worse than it actually is. “We don’t necessarily make things up but we can change the emphasis.”
He said these reports were used to take children out of a family home and in many cases placed for adoption. “It destroys families, but the newer, younger social workers see this as the norm, they just want to toe the line with their bosses and that’s worrying.” He also raised serious concerns about council-appointed psychologists biased in favour of their paymasters and what he considered nebulous concepts of emotional abuse and “attachment theories”.posted by John Hemming
¶ 8:51 am0 comments
Friday, December 09, 2011
Europe and the Media - Cameron's Veto
A number of journalists have phoned me to ask my view as to the use of the veto. I think Cameron was right to use the veto on changes to the treaties. It is entirely right that the 17 Eurozone countries resolve how to get greater fiscal unity which is essential for the success of the Euro and consequential success of the UK. However, that does not mean that we have to sign up to that. We should not try to stand in their way and prevent them resolving their difficulties. However, it is not surprising that unanimity amongst the 27 EU states is difficult to achieve.
When I tell the media this strangely enough they are not interested in interviewing me. The story they are looking for is "coalition in trouble over veto". I am not surprised at the editorial approach, however.
The party is saying that he did not use a "veto". I suppose a "veto" is technically different to not agreeing something that needs unanimity. However, the effect is the same.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 11:27 am2 comments
Indeed they have stuck with what he said. Perhaps it wasn't a mistake and he thinks that cleaners earn £11K per week.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 9:09 pm3 comments
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
A difficult hand played well
The Autumn Statement was today. There are some innovative proposals in it (such as using QE for smaller businesses). I was concerned that we continued to protect the poorest in society. The cost of living has gone up substantially. I was concerned to ensure that the full inflation increase of 5.2% occurred for the poorest who find it hardest to make ends meet.
Life is getting harder for many people across the world. However, we need to always remember the effect on the least well off who find it hardest to protect themselves against economic shifts.
To that extent the government has been dealt a difficult hand, but is managing to play to well.
The best test of the economy is to compare it to other similar countries. We are now doing better than countries which suffered from a similar deficit (according to OECD predictions - Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain) and the Eurozone average.
There will always be international pressures on the country. Those are the major cause of our current difficulties. However, we are pulling through.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 1:03 pm1 comments
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Another radio programme in BelgiumThis is another radio programme which looks at the wrongful abduction of children in England done by the state.
It is, however, mainly in French. (including one of my interviews talking about constitutional procedures). It does include a recording of an arrest with french translation.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 5:25 pm1 comments
Friday, November 25, 2011
Referendum campaign on issue of elected mayor
Last night's meeting on the issue of whether or not we have a directly elected mayor was an interesting experience.
In the week beforehand I had expressed concern that there were too many speakers and it was unbalanced. I thought that having equal numbers of speakers from each side of the argument was good practice.
The initial proposal was 7 speakers in favour (plus the chair also being a supporter) and 2 speakers against. I asked James Hutchings to come along, but initially the organisers didn't want him to speak.
Finally they agreed to allow him to speak although Miles Weaver's tweet about it was " I spent far too much time sorting out John Hemming MP tonight & his whims. He is so out of touch, I accommodated his needs but planet, diff?"
Personally I don't think it is a "whim" to ask for each side to have equal opportunities to speak. A balance of 7 (plus chair) against 2 is really nothing even close to equal. Even 7 (plus chair) against 3 is not a balanced panel.
To be fair to Marc Reeves who chaired the meeting, his personal views did not show and he did manage to balance out both sides of the argument.
Congratulations really should also go to Neil Elkes for the first two paragraphs of his article here in which he admirably sums up the argument: AN ELECTED mayor could lead the city towards a golden era of growth, confidence and success.
Or the city could be lumbered with a corrupt power-freak and unable to ditch him for four years.
Someone from the yes campaign obviously thinks it is clever to set up a spoof No to a Brum Mayor twitter account.
It doesn't really matter in the bigger realm. However, really we should encourage more questions like that of Nick Drew who asked a key question as to what checks and balances are needed on a power freak. That was a good technical question. To which the answer is that a majority of the council should support the budget and the council scrutiny process should be able to stop things from being done by the mayor.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 1:36 pm0 comments
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Two E-petitions Jersey and the Family Justice Review
People campaigning for the release of Stuart Syvret were having a problem getting an e-petition tabled in support of my Early Day Motion. I, therefore, tried to get a motion tabled. It has taken about 2 weeks (and being raised at two select committees), but we now have the e-petition.
The failure of Article 8
The failure of the UK's judiciary in interpreting Article 8 of ECHR can be expressed as: "Joking about a footballer becomes a criminal offence, but the state is allowed to steal children from poor people at a whim."
Secrecy, injunctions and the rule of law
Court secrecy and injunctions act to undermine the rule of law.
What is interesting in the courts at the moment is the revelation that many of the injunctions that were granted should not, in fact, been granted. A number of these were granted on the basis of allegations that were untrue and have not been substantiated.
One of the problems with secret hearings (and we have still been having some unlisted hearings - something that is not supposed to happen) is that the judge cannot him or herself have confidence that the judge has heard all the evidence that is relevant to the case.
One sided hearings (ex parte hearings) which are held in secret are perhaps the most unreliable forum in which decisions are made. One side puts their case. No-one else (other than the judge and the one side to the case) knows that it is happening. The judge then makes a decision.
It was the case for many interim injunctions that a one sided secret hearing was all that happened and things then stopped.
The other problem I see is when court orders are used to prevent evidence being adduced in other fora.
Hence in a simplistic manner the following of a court order in one case acts to undermine the rule of law in other cases.
I have been quite surprised at the number of processes that have been used to undermine the rule of law. Court orders, secret unlisted and ex parte hearings, contracts, Public Interest Immunity certificates. All of these have been used in a way which has undermined the rule of law.
The rule of law does not mean a Kritarchy. The system has to function in a realistic manner with proper accountability. What that means for the UK is a lot less secrecy.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 12:03 pm12 comments
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The link is to yesterday's debate on fuel prices. I raised my concern that we need to look at the issue of all energy prices in a scarce environment.
I think the idea of having a quota of cheap fossil hydrocarbon would be a sensible way forward as part of an international plan to manage demand and keep down capital transfers.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 4:57 pm0 comments
Friday, November 04, 2011
The Greek non-referendum
The cancellation of the Greek referendum is not surprising. It is, however, a good example of an issue where a government really has no choice.
The problem is that if the alternative route had been taken then at a point people would not have been paid and the problem would be much bigger. Many people would then regret having taken the action that they took (or moreso inaction).
This is the real problem with Labour's proposals for the UK. It is clear to me that they would be disastrous for the economy and would cause greater cuts. However, luckily, they are not being tried out.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 9:49 am3 comments
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Family Justice Review
Unsurprisingly, for a panel dominated by people who run the family justice system and without representation from those who go through it, the Family Justice Review has essentially defended the status quo with a few cost saving tweaks.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 7:39 am4 comments
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Cash is King - and Greece
The Greek referendum will be an interesting exercise. At some point the Greek government runs out of cash. After that point no-one gets paid. I suppose they can start by holding back on big payments, but after a point salaries are not paid, pensions are not paid, suppliers are not paid.
Cash becomes "king" because no-one will give the government any credit unless they are forced to.
The government could print a "new drachma", but I am not sure what that would be exchangeable into.
They cannot simply refuse to pay the outstanding debt because the other countries would not accept that and they cannot isolate themselves.
If they are going to hold a referendum they will need to do this quickly.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 9:25 am2 comments
Press release on trauma centres
This is worth repeating for information:
High quality emergency trauma care moves one step closer The introduction of a regional trauma care system that will see people who suffer major trauma injuries get access to the best possible emergency trauma care moved one step closer today, following the decision to approve the introduction of three designated major trauma centres for the West Midlands, by the West Midlands Strategic Commissioning Group (WMSCG).
The WMSCG, on behalf of the 17 West Midlands Primary Care Trusts, approved the recommendation for a new regional trauma care system to be introduced from March 2012, at its board meeting on Monday 31/10/11.
A regional trauma care system will see people who suffer major trauma get access to specialist medical teams, with all the necessary specialist services available on one hospital site. Patients will have access to high quality emergency trauma care 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Major trauma is the name given to severe injuries which are immediately life threatening such as major head or spinal injuries, amputations, multiple injuries and severe knife or gunshot wounds.
The new regional trauma care system will consist of three trauma care networks with a major trauma centre at the heart of each network. The major trauma centres will be supported by trauma units, specialist rehabilitation hospitals and local emergency hospitals. Three trauma care networks are to be set up in the West Midlands. Each network will have an adult major trauma centre at its heart plus the Birmingham Children’s Hospital will be the regional major trauma centre for children. The hospitals that will become adult major trauma centres are: • The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham • The University Hospital North Staffordshire • The University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire Children will be treated at their local major trauma centre, for example if a child is involved in a road traffic accident in Stoke, they would go to University Hospital North Staffordshire and would only need to go to Birmingham Children’s Hospital if they required specialist children’s consultant’s expertise for example a child who had suffered extensive burns or a serious head injury. They would then be transferred using the West Midlands Paediatric Retrieval Service (WMPRS) and would be escorted by a doctor and/or nurse. Eamonn Kelly, Chief Executive of the West Mercia PCT Cluster and Co Chair of the Trauma Project Board said: “Evidence tells us that to give patients with life threatening injuries the best possible chance of survival they need access to specialist life saving emergency services that are all available on the same hospital site, giving patients faster access to their specialist skills for example neurosurgeons and CT scanners to treat serious head injuries. Specialist rehabilitation services are also extremely important as they help the patient to recover much quicker and reduce disability.” Mr Kelly continued: “Currently we do not have 24 hours a day 7 days a week specialist emergency trauma services across the West Midlands. We know that having a major trauma system could save an additional 60 lives every year in our region. The decision to introduce a three trauma care network system means that we can now start to set up the networks, with a go live date scheduled for March 2012. This will see the hospitals, ambulance service, specialist rehabilitation services and other NHS staff from across the region working towards further improving the quality of care that they provide for trauma patients.”
The decision to introduce three trauma care networks across the region was made following the review of the business case and integrated impact assessment which looked at the four options possible for the region. These documents helped the NHS in the West Midlands to reach their final decision which supports the main aim of ensuring that patients who suffer major trauma injuries receive the best specialist emergency trauma care possible in the right place at the right time, from highly qualified emergency trauma care experts.
Eamonn Kelly finished by saying: “We know that a lot of good work is already taking place but this will give us the opportunity to make best use of the specialist staff and facilities that we already have in the three large tertiary centres across the region and build on that knowledge and expertise to provide the best care possible for those patients who need specialist emergency trauma care.”
During the next eight weeks the NHS in the West Midlands will be talking to their local communities and people who have a special interest in trauma care to find out their views on the services available and how the preferred option will make a difference before the implementation of the system from January 2012 onwards.
If you would like to find out more contact your local primary care trust or visit www.wmsc.nhs.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
posted by John Hemming
¶ 9:23 am1 comments
The Robin Hood Tax (aka Stamp Duty)
Using the name "Robin Hood Tax" is misleading because it implies that it is a new tax.
The UK has had a Financial Transaction Tax for many years. It is called Stamp Duty. The logic is quite simple. For transactions in shares to have any merit then there has to be a legal system. People should pay on an ad valorem basis for this.
This happens in England and in Ireland. England charges 0.5% and Ireland 1%.
My view is a simple one which is that the tax havens piggyback on top of the global systems which are substantially maintained by the higher tax countries. It is, therefore, quite reasonable that such a transactional tax should be paid more widely.
Hence I am supporting the extension of this to a global system. I have, however, been quite clear that it cannot be done unilaterally. This would simply move trading around to locations without the transaction tax and actually would be likely to reduce the UK's Stamp Duty revenue.
The Tobin tax is a proposal to also tax currency exchanges. It is a relatively low value tax. The argument is more finely balanced for countries with smaller currencies as they would tend to lose out. However, it could be a good mechanism for raising some funds. It would, however, reduce the number of transactions and hence the funds raised would not be as great as has been thought.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 8:46 am0 comments
Sunday, October 30, 2011
The European Union and Project Creep
There was a good example of Project Creep at one of the European Scrutiny Committees this week.
There is a proposal for the EU to develop its own criminal law and prosecutory apparatus.
This, which we can opt out of anyway, is a good example of project creep.
Matters relating to the various European Bodies are matters of detail. There is, however, a general point. The general point is that of who decides at which level something should be handled. Everyone can agree that subsidiarity means that decisions should be taken at the lowest sensible level. The problem is that if that decision (the decision as to which level to decide something at) is taken at the EU wide level it will tend to want decisions at a higher level.
The prosecutory apparatus issue is a good example of this. There is no substantial reason for developing a formal body of criminal law or prosecutory apparatus at a Europe wide level. There happens to be a common law backstop of a private prosecution in any event.
I also sat on a scrutiny committee previously looking at the EU budget. What was interesting under the CAP is that almost no money was budgeted for tobacco subsidies, but lots of money was given in each year (out turn) in tobacco subsidies.
This is a typical political fudge.
On a completely separate European issue relating to the Council of Europe I did manage to promote the concept of certain resolutions of the Council of Europe guiding the court's interpretation. I think this is the better option. The European Court of Human Rights provides an important backstop against miscarriages in national courts. However, this should still be democratically accountable in some manner otherwise it becomes a Kritarchy.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 8:33 am0 comments
Friday, October 28, 2011
Comment following Sentencing
Obviously no-one would wish to be here. It would have been possible for Christine to have had a prison sentence following the assault in April 2010 (for which she received a caution). Hence a suspended sentence is not surprising.
Had she pleaded Guilty she would have most likely had a conditional discharge. Hence we have to look at the issues that encouraged her to plead not guilty. One aspect is that her story was bought up by a national newspaper in 2010. In theory the PCC rules are such that given that she has been convicted she should not be paid. She was aware of this. It would, in fact, be wrong for her to make a profit out of the process by being paid more by a newspaper than she has to pay in costs and legal fees.
Clearly the financial inducement to be found not guilty was there. I am not saying that this was intentional. It can not be certain that this was the issue that drove her to plead not guilty. However, I do not think defendants in criminal trials should have their stories bought until after the verdict.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 10:24 am4 comments
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Magna Carta 1297 - Article 29
The link is to the currently in force version of Magna Carta article 29 which says: NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor [X1condemn him,] but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.
Paul Tyler on 38 degrees
The link is to Paul Tyler's article about 38 degrees. Those campaigns run by 38 degrees are now in the danger of being simply ignored because their claims are so often untrue.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 7:31 am0 comments
Friday, October 21, 2011
Referendum on Europe
I have posted before about the European Questions. It is sad that the public debate never really gets into any of the details of this issue. There will be a debate on Monday which has a motion proposing a referendum which has as one of it's options a renegotiation.
I would like to make my underlying view clear.
I do not support an "ever closer union". I do see that there is a role for a pan-european organisation dealing with trade and co-operation, but I do not want to see the centralisation of political power into a supranational body.
There has been a tendency for people to either believe that they should be part of the EU and accept everything or not. In fact now it is becoming much clearer that there will be different structures in europe particularly around the Eurozone. That could quite readily result in the non-Euro EU membership being more like the EEA.
Since the introduction of qualified majority voting there has been an ability for decisions to be made without all of the states agreeing to them (aka a Federal Structure). It was Margaret Thatcher that introduced the Single European Act that made the then EEC a federal body. She was the key proponent of a Federal Europe even thought she didn't know this.
The problems with Euro zone sovereign debt and its knock on to banking capitalisation are an issue that the Eurozone countries need to deal with. Once they have dealt with that there will be a need for a renegotiation for the non-Eurozone countries.
It is only when that finishes that it is worth having any form of referendum. Hence I will vote against Monday's motion.
The issue of how to handle Human Rights and the Council of Europe is, of course, a completely separate issue. I am of the view that certain resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should be binding on the European Court of Human Rights. That moves the structure from Kritarchy to a rule of law democracy. That is the change that is needed to deal with some of the absurdities that arise.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 7:59 am2 comments
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Occupy Wall Street and Technology
There are quite a few demonstrations going on about economic exclusion. It is not surprising as a society where the numbers of people who participate in society is continue reducing is not a good society to have.
The error is, however, to believe that it arises from capitalism per se. There is a real problem, but it arises from the economic changes that result from technology.
Whereas in the past large numbers of people used to get reasonably good rates from pay from metal bashing, now machines do a lot more of the work. The people who use the machines make a good living, those who own the machines make a much better living and there are a lot of people not working on the same projects.
If we are going to have greater economic participation we need to respond to that and aim to share out the participation. There are difficulties in doing this in an interconnected world, but it must be recognised.
Firstly, that there is a real problem. There is. Secondly, that communism is not the answer.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 5:42 pm3 comments
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Yesterday's speech on the economy
The link is to the debate yesterday on the economy. I did not mention unemployment in that speech because time was limited and the debate was about the macro economic picture.
Obviously the government does need to work to reduce unemployment. However, that has to fit within the spending envelope which is why I have previously made proposals that reduce unemployment without unsustainable demand from public spending.
The Opposition are complaining that the forecasts show that the Government will have to borrow £46 billion more than was previously forecast. Their solution is to borrow more money. They are proposing to borrow an additional £31 billion in any one year—I think that that is the precise figure. I asked the shadow Chancellor what he thought the limit on borrowing should be, but he did not answer the question. One presumes therefore that he has no idea what the limit is. Well, the limit on borrowing is called the International Monetary Fund, when it has to come to the rescue when the markets will not fund a country’s deficit.
The reality is that the interest rates on deficits matter, because they represent a perception of the risk of non-repayment, and of the possibility that a Government will become insolvent. The difficulty is that, as a country increases its deficit, it also increases that interest rate. Gradually, the interest rate increases on the whole of Government debt, not just that borrowed in one year. If the whole of Government debt is in the order of £1 trillion, 1% of that is £10 billion. That £10 billion has to be found either from additional taxes over time, or from additional cuts. Labour’s strategy would lead to greater cuts or greater taxes in the long term—probably greater cuts.
Let us look at how we have got into this situation. An interesting person to turn to for quotations on this is Lord Turnbull, who was the Cabinet Secretary at the start of the third Blair Government. He said that excessive borrowing started to be a problem from 2005. I quote him:
“It kind of crept up on us in 2005, 2006, 2007, and we were still expanding public spending at 4.5% a year”,
and he argued that the Treasury should have put more money aside. He said last year that the primary reason Britain was
“in the mess that we’re in”
“public spending got too big relative to the productive resources of the economy, by error”.
He added that a loss of output caused by the financial crisis also contributed to the Budget deficit. The mistake is thinking that the problem is caused by one thing alone. There are a number of factors: one is the banking problem; another is overspending by the previous Labour Government.
What we have before us is a motion to deal with a problem caused partly by overspending, to which the proposed solution is yet more spending. In this instance, that means borrowing by the Government for private spending, to be fair, although a cut in VAT on a temporary basis does not generally feed into people’s pockets, but into those of the corporations that do not reduce their prices and do not have to pay so much tax.
In his memoirs, Tony Blair proposed what should have been done. On page 679, we can read him reflecting on what should have been done, consistent with his analysis of the economy:
“In my view, we should have taken a New Labour way out of the economic crisis: kept direct tax rates competitive, had a gradual rise in VAT and other indirect taxes to close the deficit, and used the crisis to push further and faster on reform.”
Tony Blair was clear that Labour should have put up VAT.
I kept my ballot paper for the Labour leadership election; I did not think it was right for me to fill it in. One interesting thing about that ballot paper was that it came along with the manifestos of the candidates. I looked at the entry for the shadow Chancellor, who said that he had been “leading the fight” against the VAT rise. Last year, he led the fight against the VAT rise; now he says, “Yes, we need the VAT in the long term”, as at least the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) recognises; he must have managed to persuade him.
What question needs to be asked? The Government have a strategy, and the strategy is reducing the deficit. There are obviously difficulties, given that the solution must be worldwide. Is it therefore right to follow the Labour party’s example and borrow yet more money—another £31,000 million a year—increasing the debt and potentially increasing the need for rescue in the long term, or should we keep on with the strategy we have? My view is that we should keep to the strategy that we have got.
This is the earlier intervention where Ed Balls (unsurprisingly) did not answer the question I asked: John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Whatever the Government’s policy, the Opposition’s policy is to borrow more to increase demand. Is there a limit on the borrowing?
Ed Balls: I will return to the hon. Gentleman and his party in a moment. They gave the Government some very good advice 18 months ago, but unfortunately it was not heeded. posted by John Hemming
¶ 8:20 am0 comments
Friday, October 07, 2011
Lyndon Green - quick off the mark
I presented Tescos Computers for Schools at 10am this morning and Lyndon Green had tweeted a picture of the event within 2 hours.
Where is the Official Solicitor?
I link to the judgment released today where Wall P recognised that he erred in law in imposing a suspended sentence on Elizabeth Watson when he released her.
It has recently been drawn to my attention that the Official Solicitor is supposed to act to protect people convicted of contempt of court. I wonder what they have been doing.
Obviously they may have been involved in this particular decision, but it is not clear who drew Wall P's attention to his mistake on this case.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 10:41 am1 comments
Sunday, October 02, 2011
Referendum on Europe - the Spanish Question
I have previously posted this diagram of European Bodies:
It shows the complexity of the different bodies in Europe. There is a debate going about whether or not to have a "referendum on Europe".
The first question of course is what the referendum is about. There are those people who would like to leave all of the European bodies in the diagram (except perhaps the Common Travel Area - which isn't in the diagram).
If, then, we are to have that that brings in the question as to what happens to those UK citizens who would be required to return to the UK if the referendum passed.
Do they get a vote?
I would call this the Spanish Question. That is because there are a lot of UK citizens in Spain. Many would have to return if we left the EEA. This applies throughout Europe.
I think they should have a vote on this very significant issue. They are entitled to vote in General Elections so this is not an unreasonable suggestion. Many have paid many years of taxes in the UK then retired abroad. They should have a vote as to whether or not we leave the EEA.
If we don't leave the EEA then most of the rules remain the same it is just that we have to follow the rules of the EU without taking part in setting them.
Hence it is clear that any referendum should be on EEA membership rather than EU membership.
Of course if people are concerned about the European Court of Human Rights then that is the Council of Europe and not the EEA.
So a proper and conclusive referendum covering all the bodies in one question is probably the right answer.
However, it remains that we need to have confirmation of the answer to the Spanish Question in relation to any referendum.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 9:13 am2 comments
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Adoption figures reports
I have linked to the BBC report on the numbers of babies adopted from care. There have always been very few of these as they are basically the babies that are abandoned at birth.
I am not sure myself that the Government are right to regret that fewer babies are abandoned at birth. I would think that it would be better if they were not abandoned. However, that is the government's view.
Similarly it is not enough to just look at the figures for adoptions. We need to look at what happens with the children. There has been a movement away from children returning to their parents, perhaps this is being reversed. We don't know.
Hence really there is not a lot that anyone who fully understands the care system should say. That, of course, does not stop Martin Narey from saying: "The numbers are disappointing, but the tide is turning."
posted by John Hemming
¶ 10:08 am8 comments
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Tuition Fees and Labour
The news that Labour support the increase in tuition fees to 6K at the lower end, but not the higher end to 9k is an odd piece of news.
Basically under the coalition scheme the graduates in the bottom half of earnings are not affected by this proposal. Those who would benefit are those who earn in their life time more than the 52nd percentile.
In fact many of these would hardly be affected (those at the bottom end) and it is the higher earners that really benefit, but not the top earners.
This is an interesting political placing. We are trying to benefit lower earning households. Labour are trying to benefit the upper middle earning households.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 8:55 pm1 comments
John Hemming and the Sisters of Jazz at the Lib Dem Conference
For those interested in Jazz here are three of the numbers the band played at the Lib Dem Glee Club on Tuesday evening.
Contradictions in Judgment in re: Watson  EWHC 2376 (Fam)Doncaster v Watson has been published in which Wall P says: "The first myth I wish to explode is that a person can be sent to prison "in secret". Nobody in this country is sent to prison for contempt of court "in secret"."
He also makes reference to:  EWCA Civ 248 Hammerton v Hammerton in which it is clear that someone was sent to prison "in secret". Hence he is wrong in that someone 'can be sent to prison "in secret"' and he has given an example of it. The contradiction is referred to in his own judgment.
I know of other more recent cases where people have been sent to prison in secret. Obviously I cannot name them here.
It is quite clear that secret trials are less reliable than those subject to public scrutiny. The key accountability of the judicial system (as a whole) is transparency and public accountability.
Prosecutions for Contempt are for all intents and purposes criminal prosecutions. People have been imprisoned in this country after a secret trial and with their identity subject to reporting restrictions. This is not in accordance with the rules, but it happens.
Vicky Haigh's trial for asking a question at a meeting which I chaired in parliament was subject to reporting restrictions that prevented her from being identified.
My view is that for the system to operate properly and for justice to be done that such criminal prosecutions should occur without reporting restrictions save as to any material that relates to any underlying care case.
I am doing some research into wider jurisprudence here to identify what the norm is throughout Europe, but it remains that this country has been locking people up in secret and shouldn't.
We also need to look at the reliability of the appeals process. There are many problems here, not least the general resistance of the secret courts to timely production of transcripts of judgments (and refusal to allow parties to record the judgments to produce their own transcripts).
posted by John Hemming
¶ 6:32 am18 comments
Thursday, September 22, 2011
The First Amendment at the Lib Dem Conference
I spoke at a number of Fringes at the Conference. This was with the Freedom Assocation about the first amendment. posted by John Hemming
¶ 1:13 pm0 comments
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Greece and the Euro
The situation in Greece does seem to be coming to a head. If they don't sort their problems out then they won't have money to pay their liabilities.
I would argue that any country that has had to have a rescue of any form has gone through a form of bankruptcy. However, it is only at the point at which they really don't have any way of paying for things that they have the effects of insolvency in that people don't actually get paid.
In terms of international law they will still owe the debts that they have. Hence there is no rational route through which they would not comply with the proposals from the Eurozone.
It really does not matter how much the unions in Greece protest. They need to find a way of paying for their liabilities. They won't get an improved deal if they don't stick by the deals they have done to date. Creating a "New Drachma" still does not solve the issue of the liabilities they already have.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 5:26 pm0 comments
the NHS and Social Care bill amendments
Publicwhip (under new management) have now published the divisions. It is worth explaining the meaning of the amendment divisions pushed by Labour (as what they saw as the key issues).
replace "secure" with "provide or secure". This was one of the debates floating around driven in part by 38 degrees who have not helped their credibility. Basically the proposal is that if a new hospital is needed that the Secretary of State sets up a new NHS trust which provides the services. The amendment argued that potentially the Secretary of State should directly provide the services. I don't quite get the idea of that given that commissioning has been the approach for the NHS for decades. Hence it was really an unnecessary amendment.
Nadine Dorries' advice amendment The principle that independent advice should be available was important, but stopping BPAS and the like from giving advice was silly. It also wasn't something to deal with in primary legislation. She managed to lose more support by speaking for far too long and she even managed to get Frank Field to vote against the amendment.
I am not going to comment specifically on the Watson case.
I have always had and remain to have three concerns about the issues relating to Vicky Haigh. The first two were public.
Firstly, I was concerned that there was an attempt made to jail her for talking at a meeting in parliament. The meeting was one at which Anthony Douglas was answering questions and I was chairing. She asked a question of Anthony Douglas. When she asked this question she did not name herself, her daughter or her ex-husband. However, this was used by Doncaster as a reason why she should be imprisoned. She did name Doncaster.
I have some great difficulty with this from a constitutional perspective. The First Amendment to the US Constitution is specific about people's right to petition government. In the US that has been considered to involve all three estates of the constitution. In asking a question at the meeting I chaired Ms Haigh was petitioning the legislature and the government (Anthony Douglas is the Chief executive of a government agency).
It is really worrying if people are threatened with jail for complaining. It is even more worrying if they are threatened with jail for simply naming the bodies they are complaining about without identifying themselves.
This right is actually in the UK constitution in Article V of the English Bill of Rights. It refers to the Monarch, but in essence the Monarch is the whole of the state.
"That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;"
Back in the late 1600s and early 1700s parliament used to act to protect people against whom action was taken or threatened for petitioning parliament - even if a formal petition had not been written. I think it should do so again.
Secondly, the authorities were threatening to take Vicky's baby at birth. I do not think that was a reasonable threat to make.
Thirdly, Vicky should have a right to appeal the original fact finding decision. Wall P (the judge dealing with these two hearings) makes an issue of the fact that she has not yet made an application for permission to appeal the decisions.
One thing Justice for Families does is to help people do is to make appeals (which starts with an application for permission to appeal). It was the case that Vicky's lawyers told her she could not appeal. It is still the case that she is being prevented from appealing - simply because her lawyers are refusing to give her her case file - claiming that they need to keep the file so that the LSC will pay them.
Hence there is nothing that can be read into the fact that no application for permission to appeal has been made yet.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 8:05 am25 comments
Thursday, September 01, 2011
Abortion and advice
There is quite a debate going on about an amendment that Nadine Dorries is promoting to the Health and Social Care Bill.
The first problem I have is that I have looked on the parliamentary website to find out precisely what the amendment is. I cannot find it. Hence it is difficult to comment precisely as to the amendment itself.
There are some simple principles, however.
It would be better if there were fewer abortions. The best way of achieving this is improved contraception. If a women is to have an abortion then the earlier this happens the better.
If, however, a woman has decided to have an abortion then she should not be forced into undergoing a long counselling process.
There, should, however be independent advice and counselling available for those who want it. Those advisors who work for providers are clearly subject to a conflict of interest. However, that does not necessarily prevent them giving advice.
To me the key is to ensure that women are made aware of various sources of advice. The advisors themselves will tend to have a range of views.
Martin Narey has talked about persuading women to go to term and have the child adopted. I am uncomfortable about anything that involves pressurising women to do this although of course it is an option as it has been in the past.
NHS ReformsWhy does the NHS need updating? The NHS is a national treasure. But despite the best efforts of staff, the NHS could deliver better care for patients. Right now around one in four cancer patients are only diagnosed when they turn up as emergencies. So although the NHS is good, it could be better still.
What is the purpose of the bill? To update the NHS to give every patient the best possible health care by trusting family doctors, nurses, and other health experts to work with local people to decide, design and deliver the right health services to meet local need and deliver world class healthcare. The Health and Social Care Bill is designed to give every patient the best chance of surviving an illness like cancer, and the best quality of life if they have a long-term condition like diabetes.
It is basically about more control for patients, greater power for doctors and nurses and less central bureaucracy.
The Coalition’s plans to update the NHS will give patients the best-possible care, on the NHS.
When a local hospital feels that they can provide diagnostic tests more conveniently to patients in the community, they will be free to do so.
If local GPs see that there is a significant need for physiotherapy services in their local area, they will be able to organise local clinics for their patients – rather than giving them a default option of having to travel to a hospital miles away.
When a GP feels that a patient with serious diabetes is in danger of not managing it effectively, they will be able to make sure the patient has the support to remain independent – preventing unnecessary emergency admissions to hospital.
When frontline nurses feel that they can deliver better care to autistic children in partnership with a local charity, they will be free to make this happen.
When a local community decides that they want a new health clinic or walk-in centre, their local council will be able to work with the local NHS to help achieve this.
Our plans to update the NHS in detail The power and responsibility for decisions about NHS services will be transferred into the hands of doctors and nurses at the frontline, instead of remote organisations few people have heard of. This means that the NHS’s money will no longer be spent by ‘Primary Care Trusts’. Instead a wider range of experts (clinical commissioning groups) will be given the power and freedom to make decisions about health services for their local community by, for example, including nurses and specialists on the boards of clinical commissioning groups.
To prevent political micromanagement, which has damaged patient care, responsibility for overseeing the NHS at the national level will be passed to an independent NHS body – the NHS Commissioning Board. This will stop politicians constantly interfering in the NHS. And we will do away with the top-down targets which do not improve care. We will instead focus on what matters to patients the results and quality of care. This means whether they survive cancer, whether they get seen when they need to be, and whether they are supported to remain in work.
To give local communities more power, we will establish health and wellbeing boards in all local councils, with the responsibility of planning local services, jointly with the NHS and social services. These boards will publish a new ‘health and wellbeing strategy’, setting out the ways in which local NHS and social services will be improved in every local area.
To give patients more power, we will allow them greater choice anywhere they want which meets NHS standards, so long as the treatment doesn’t cost more than it would do on the NHS. This means that charities and social enterprises will be able to provide services to NHS patients, free of charge, either together with the NHS or on their own. It also means that the private sector will be able to provide NHS services free-of-charge, and we will establish a strong economic regulator to make sure that no-one is behaving unfairly. Any decision about where to be treated will be for the patient himself or herself, in partnership with their doctor, and as now no-one will pay for their NHS care.
To help patients and GPs decide where the best services are, we will give everyone more information about the quality of care each hospital and health service delivers. And we will establish a powerful new watchdog – HealthWatch – which will make sure that patients’ views about their local NHS and social services are listened to.
Changes to the Bill following the ‘pause’:
Among the key changes announced include:
Wider involvement in clinical commissioning groups. A wider range of experts will be given the power and freedom to make decisions about health services for their local community by, for example, including nurses and specialists on the boards of clinical commissioning groups.
Stronger safeguards against a market free-for-all. The health care regulator Monitor’s core duty will be to protect and promote patients’ interests, it won’t be required to promote competition as if it were an end in itself.
Additional safeguards against privatisation. We will never privatise the NHS, and will create a genuine level playing field to stop private companies ‘cherry-picking’ profitable NHS business. We will ensure that competition is on quality and introduce additional safeguards against price competition.
Evolution, not revolution. We will allow clinical commissioning groups to take charge of commissioning when they are ready and able, and a more phased approach to the introduction of Any Quality Provider.
Greater information and choice for patients. The Government will make clear that the people who make decisions about local services have a duty to promote patient choice. And following current pilots, the Government will make it a priority to extend personal health budgets including across health and social care.
Breaking down barriers within and beyond the NHS. A new duty for clinical commissioning groups to promote joined up services both within the NHS and between health, social care and other local services.
Investing for the future of the NHS. We want all providers to make a fair contribution to the costs of education and training of NHS staff, but we will introduce changes carefully and take the time to develop the details right.
My own view is that the adversarial nature of family proceedings have made the whole process much harder to resolve and if any lesson is learnt from this that needs to be learnt.
I have also been criticised for the behaviour of Elizabeth Watson. There are a large number of people in England who are unhappy about the way the legal system operates. She is one of them.
I work with some of these people, but I do not work with others. Elizabeth Watson did contact my office. I advised her to obey the injunction and that her behaviour would be likely to result in her being jailed. I ended up having to ban her from being able to email me. I do not accept any responsibility for her behaviour. The court papers applying to imprison Elizabeth Watson were issued before I raised Vicky Haigh's case in the House of Commons.
I remain of the view that it was wrong for the authorities to attempt to remove Vicky Haigh's daughter at birth and that it was wrong for them to try to imprison her for speaking at the meeting in the House of Commons.
Vicky Haigh - yesterday's court hearing
Yesterday's court hearing brought into the public domain more about the case relating to Vicky Haigh.
It, however, has not brought into the public domain all of the issues relating to this case and the judiciary retain control of those aspects of the case.
I am not making any statement as to the details of the underlying care issue. The Judge who took the hearing yesterday was also the judge in P, C and S v The United Kingdom. The link gives the case report from ECtHR on Bailii. In this case the decision was found to be in contravention of a fair trial on a procedural basis.
The same judge (Sir Nicholas Wall) was also a judge in the case which is now RP v The United Kingdom. I have considerable concerns about the way that particular case was handled by the judges concerned.
It remains that I am making no public comment about the underlying care case in respect of Ms Haigh. However,
1. Even if the court's decision is 100% accurate - does that warrant the removal at birth of Ms Haigh's baby. I don't think so.
2. Is it right to set out to imprison someone on the basis of what they have said to a Member of Parliament. I don't think so.
We now have someone imprisoned for 6 months for recording a court hearing and someone else imprisoned for 9 months for talking about court secrets. I think these sentences are excessive at least. In terms of the recording of a court hearings this always appears to be more about protecting the revenues of the transcription services than ensuring the fairness of trials. We do need to review the law from the perspective of allowing independent recording of the audio of court hearings.
Who, What, Why: How dangerous is firing a gun into the air?
The rebel advance into Tripoli has been celebrated with gunfire
Libyan rebels have celebrated their advance into Tripoli by firing guns in the air. How hazardous is this?
It is, unarguably, an emphatic way to display one's jubilation.
Shooting an automatic weapon into the sky to signal an occasion one welcomes is a popular practice in much of the world, as the footage of Libyan anti-Gaddafi forces seizing the main square of the capital city has demonstrated.posted by John Hemming
¶ 6:24 pm4 comments
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Six months for recording a court hearing - Norman Scarth
The link is in Russian about the imprisonment of Norman Scarth who is actually 85. He has a complex history including a court hearing which found that he used a chainsaw to fight off bailiffs when he was 75. [a court judgment which is disputed see comments] However, that does not justify imprisoning him for 6 months for recording a court hearing (see the link and ask google to translate it if your Russian is not up to it).
Because he has been held such that people cannot get to him to sign paperwork an application for a writ of Habeas Corpus was made today. This has been adjourned until next week.
The English judicial system is really not good at responding to major abuses of human rights by the judicial system.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 4:04 pm56 comments
Looting, the Riots, Families and the Role of the State
I described the events last week as a "game changer". I think they are as they highlight the substantial numbers of people who basically don't feel a personal commitment to following the rules of society and are willing to simply fight their own corner.
There seems to be a dispute between those who argue that it is a question of poverty and those who argue it is a question of discipline and law and order.
The problem is that actually it is both. Given a static situation in terms of discipline if there is greater poverty then there will be more people tempted to break the law. At the same time poverty in itself does not require that people don't follow the law.
Hence we need to look at both aspects and not pretend that either aspect doesn't matter.
The high levels of youth unemployment we see today are a problem. What the statistics have concealed, however, is that there have been growing numbers of people who are "economically inactive".
The jolt to the economy caused by the mistakes of the past which resulted in the credit crunch and recession has increased unemployment. What is behind this, however, is a more general increase in the numbers of economically inactive people.
Technology is the driver for much of this. Let us ignore for the moment the limits on availability of resources which will be constraining economic activity further in the future. There is actually a limit as to what each individual can consume and consuming more does not necessarily improve the quality of life. However, technological changes have made it possible to produce goods and to some extent services with far fewer people.
Even in supermarkets there is now a personal checkout system which weighs the goods that people buy so that there is no need for someone to operate a cash register.
My own view is that we need to look carefully about how to create more jobs. For example the quality of service on buses was historically better with a conductor. However, that increases the cost of the service. On the other hand having conductors who otherwise would be unemployed is a benefit for society. It makes an argument that it is worth the state agreeing to use some of the state's savings in terms of lower costs to provide a partial subsidy to the costs of providing conductors.
The wider question of quality of life for society as a whole has to be given a greater importance. We can have a society which has a small number of people working very hard and a large number of people on benefits. On the other hand we could try to share out the workload to have a better quality of life. I take the view that the latter is required. It would also be good to look at having a mechanism to ensure that organisations that provide services to the state also have some people in employment from the long term unemployed. Similarly this had wider benefits. Obviously we need to avoid doing anything that undermines international competitiveness. However, we need a greater focus on ensuring that people have opportunities to participate in society. This should apply to everyone not only those who have broken the law.
In a similar manner bringing back schemes like the Community Programme is something that does offer a mechanism of creating a more positive society rather than one of pure dependency. Our tax and benefits system should also encourage part time working. At the moment many part time workers are prevented from claiming in work benefits because they don't work enough (24 or 16) hours a week. It is far better for society where possible to have two people in work rather than one in work and one on benefits.
Doing all of the above, however, would not deal with the issue of the looting. That in part is because of the development of a subculture which has no commitment to the rule of law. This also goes hand-in-hand with a reduction in social capital.
A certain concentration on the existence of gangs and their role in the looting has occurred recently. What this ignores is that gangs are the inevitable consequence of the decay in the rule of law. There is always a balance between the rule of law and the rule of person. The gang acts as a group which has a tribal loyalty to the gang and it is controlled by the gang leader. This model is quite common. Some countries maintain this model as the underlying political structure (eg tribal areas). Other countries, however, have strengthened the rule of law and reduced the rule of person. This has moved away from a feudal structure towards what most people are used to in the UK.
Gangs develop where the rule of law has weakened. If a teenager feels under threat from other teenagers at school because of potential violence on the bus (which has no conductor) then that teenager can look for support from the gang. What the gang offers the teenager is the protection of a threat of retaliation from the gang against anyone who threatens the teenager. The weaker the discipline in a school and after school on the bus the stronger the development of a gang structure. Alternatively if the teachers provide the protection to the school children then there is less of a pressure on children to join gangs.
It gets worse when the gangs offer an alternative career path to low paid jobs or unemployment. We have seen in many cities how you then have disputes between gangs. The shootings which are normally called turf wars are more often retaliatory attacks, debt collection, rows or situations where someone has been shot in error as a bystander.
The question then is how to encourage people to develop a respect for the rule of law and be willing to hold back on their own wishes because of conflicts with others.
This is the area in which the intervention of the state has undermined families. Babies have no understanding of the rule of law. The first key development psychologically is that of attachment. At the moment the actions of the state create many children with attachment disorder, but the unaccountable nature of the child protection system conceals this.
As children grow older they need to learn to take into account the desires of others. That starts out with the rule of person in the home. Their parents are the authority figures who are "in charge" and they need to learn from their parents about how to behave. They also learn from being in school and at play.
There does need to be some constraint on the way parents and teachers deal with children. However, the greater the constraint then the more that parents and teachers are undermined as authority figures. At the same time this allows children to learn that they don't have to do what others say. This means that the habit of considering the response of others to their actions (and particularly the response of the rule of law) is weakened.
It is, therefore, important for society that the state intervention in families that undermines parents is kept to a minimum. The question is how to determine that minimum. It is easy to identify situations which intervention is appropriate. Peter Connolly's case (Baby P) is clearly one in which intervention was necessary.
It is important, however, to clarify the situation in respect of how parents are allowed to discipline their children. There are family workers who argue that parents should not shout at their children or say no. I think that these family workers should not do this.
Susan Pope's case reported in the Daily Mail was a good example of a damaging intervention.
I have sadly seen lots of cases where the state has intervened in a family to undermine the parent (or parents) and done damage as a result.
If we consider the high proportion of children who were arrested during the looting who were in care we can see that state parenting is not of a high quality. Whereas I agree that if intervention is warranted it should be done at an early stage rather than a later one, firstly we need to ensure that intervention is not damaging.
Social Workers tend to be left to their own devices when dealing with families. This gives them too much power. There needs to be much clearer guidelines as to when intervention is appropriate and what intervention is appropriate.
Some children need a firmer approach to discipline than others. Applying, therefore, the same standards to everyone results in some children being less willing to adjust their behaviour than others. The approach needed has to be identified on an individual basis and is best done by the parent.
The Conservatives have picked upon the issue of marriage as being somewhere in this. This again is an over simplification. It is obviously better for children for their parents to both remain in their lives and ideally together. However, it is not the case necessarily that having more people being formally married will achieve this. There are situations in which a single parent creates a better environment for children than other situations where the parents are together. Furthermore a small financial benefit to marriage as opposed to couples living together will not have a massive impact on people's decisions.
There is a wider question as to whether it is right to have a system that financially encourages couples to separate. England is known as the divorce capital of the world because it often provides a large financial return to the applicant for divorce. A review of family law needs to look as to whether this is of a social benefit.
I did raise the issue of the undermining of parental authority with the Prime Minister last week. His response was positive. However, this is an area where the details are very important and I am unsure that people are managing to think outside the tramlines of conventional wisdom.
The looting, the police and politicians
I know there are people who are critical of the police. My own view is that I am supportive of the police action last week. It is always possible to dig little holes into someone's performance, but normally futile.
I think that Chief Constable Chris Simms of the West Midlands Police did a good job throughout the week and his management assisted in both bringing orders into the situation and also keeping things calm when they could have become much more difficult. I have personally thanked a number of the rank and file and our thanks as society should go out to them who have put themselves in harms way to deal with a difficult situation.
We must also thank Tariq Jahan for his efforts that assisted in dealing with a tragic and dreadful situation that could have been the flashpoint for further problems.
David Cameron and Ed Milliband are both doing speeches today. I think they need to get into the details of the issues. I would be interested in knowing how many of the children involved were wards of the state.
This Article is worth reading although I do not agree with everything in it.
The State in the UK has been undermining parental discipline for quite some time. It should not be surprising, therefore, that situations like that which arose last week involve children as well as adults.
In privatising the use of force so that parents are prevented from keeping their children in off the streets a much more dangerous situation has been created for the children.
The argument that force or violence should not be used by parents to control children is flawed. It results in more extreme force or violence having to be used to control the situation when the same children encounter the police.
The best and the worst
The best people I met on my tour around the city centre were those who had come to help clear up. This is a photograph of the volunteer clean up crew.
Thanks to the efforts of the city council's staff who started work at 6am most of the mess had been cleared up by this point.
The aftermath of the worst is really looking at the attempts to steal a cashpoint machine.
All we had was an attempt to loot things. This does not warrant dressing up as anything more than this.
I am now updating my earlier post following meeting with The Chief Constable, other Police Officers and The Deputy Prime Minister.
The looting and vandalism (which is a concentration on looting and "free stuff") is done by ill disciplined youths who are out to get a small amount of money and get up to mischief. Nothing more should be read into it or the other events other than the event in Tottenham which was the catalyst. It is not as technically driven as people think although there is some organisation going on. It is not the serious gang members because the amounts of money involved are generally not worth the risk of being caught and punished.
I support the police strategy of maximising arrests and prosecutions.
Although we do need to find jobs for people generally (not only for young people) that is not related to these acts of theiving. The government needs to back parents and schools in creating a disciplined environment and ensure that the criminals involved are caught and punished.
Where does it go from here
This is always the test of chart readers. There is obviously an international element to the recent market movements. There is also recognition that even the US cannot simply fund demand on increasing debt.
I think there is also an August over-reaction as a result of many people being on holiday and people closing out positions. However, to hazard a guess I would not expect the market to go below the 2010 low.
I may, of course, be wrong. A goodly amount of weekend doomsaying could push the market lower. I think there is a 40% chance of bottoming out below the 2010 figure, but I am with a 60% chance of it bottoming out above that.
I think, however, that Labour's whinging about the government's policy of managing the deficit (too much too quickly) is now essentially proven to be wrong.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 4:01 pm0 comments
The Adoption Target and its effect today
The Sunday Express today has a story about how over a thousand children each year continue to be wrongly adopted as a result in part of an error in calculating the adoption target.
There is a lot of misinformation spread by civil servants (and parroted by ministers) about the adoption targets.
Each English Council with childrens services responsibility had a specific local target known as BV PI 163 or PAF C23. (Those are "Best Value Performance Indicator" or "Performance Assessment Framework".)
This was calculated as the number of children adopted from care each year by that local authority as a percentage of the total number of children that had been in care for at least 6 months as at the 31st of March of the same year. (The years go from 1st April to 31st March same as the financial years).
All local authorities had specific funding to encourage adoption and some also had financial rewards from the government for hitting their local target.
From April 2006 the adoption target was redefined to be a permanence target which included Adoption, Residency Orders and Special Guardianship orders.
This was scrapped from 1st April 2008.
The target, therefore, had the effect of skewing local authority decision-making up to and including the year that ended in 31st March 2008 (which is called in the stats 2008).
The first government lie is to pretend the target only lasted until 2006. It was redefined in 2006, but lasted until 2008.
Some local authorities (eg Merton) still have such a target. These targets, however, are not nationally agreed.
The mathematical error is to have as the numerator (children per year) and the denominator (children). This does not give a percentage. A percentage is a dimensionless number. This gives a dimension of (per year).
The problem is that it was generally thought that the proportion of children being adopted was in fact relatively low when it was far more common.
An example of this error of thinking can be seen in Ofsted's APA of 2008 or Alan Rushton's paper from 2007.
Nevertheless, it would be wrong to think that any wholesale moving of children from birth families into adoptive families is taking place. Adoption from care concerns just a small proportion (6%) of all looked after children in England (Department for Education and Skills, 2005) and so remains a relatively uncommon solution to the needs of these young people.
The problem is that the proportion is not a "proportion".
If we take all the children that left care aged under 5 in 2005 (4,200) we find that 2,100 were adopted. That is 50%.
Realistically as children get older they are less likely to be adopted. Those children that go into care above 10 are often those that do so because their parents cannot cope with their behaviour. It is, therefore, unlikely that they will be adopted.
In 1997 2,000 under 5s left care, but only 640 did so through adoption. That is a lower percentage (because a higher proportion went home to their parents). However, it is still 32% which is a lot more than the 6% figure that is quoted.
The argument that was put by the government is that they were dealing with children "languishing in care". Superficially you could say that there was an increase in the number of children leaving care and those were those which ceased languishing in care (again looking at those aged under 5). However, you find in fact that the difference between the number taken into care and that leave care still remains at about 2,000 per year (although 2010 was in fact 2,800).
What you find, in fact, is that when the pressure for adoptions started (which was actually earlier than the adoption target) that the numbers taken into care also increased. There are anecdotal reports of local authorities looking for potential adoptees (called by some practitioners adoptible commodities).
Hence what was a laudable objective was based upon a misunderstanding of the statistical picture. Furthermore there is a continuing problem.
Practice has not substantially changed although there has been a relatively small drop of in permanence numbers (which includes a higher reduction in adoption numbers, but still to a much higher position than pre the adoption target).
As far as the under 5s are concerned the 2010 figure was 2,000 compared to the 2005 figure of 2,100.
Furthermore we now have the nonsense from Martin Narey who compares the historic numbers of theoretically voluntary adoptions (in an era before better contraception, abortion and changing social attitudes led to large numbers of babies being born inconveniently and being adopted) to those forcibly removed from families through the use of some corrupt experts and a legal environment which is biased against non-institutional parties.
The Government Minister is also calling for more adoption from care without having any evidence base to identify which children it is that need to be adopted.
There is undoubtedly a big problem with reactive attachment disorder. This appears to be caused at times by babies being removed at a very early age and then getting insufficient personal attention.
Whether this policy will be shifted before enough of the people who have been through it create an outcry is unclear. A lot of damage is being done - particularly to the children - by a policy based on mathematical errors and a lack of intellectual rigour in policy setting.
The real flaws in the decisionmaking remain hidden, however, by the secrecy in the system and desire to protect the backs of those people who earn money from the system.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 11:46 am13 comments
The videos are well produced and deal with the real issues. They are quite emotive, but what they say is real and not a misrepresentation of the situation.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 7:25 pm1 comments
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
What Price Privacy
"What Price Privacy" is the name of a report written by the Information Commissioner published on 10th May 2006.
It gives details of what prices people charged to obtain information (often illegally) about other people.
I have always been more concerned about how the press obtain information than what is reported. However, it is worth looking at the report and in particular Table 1 on page 24.
TABLE 1: Tariff of charges in Motorman Case Information required Price paid to Price charged to ‘blagger’ customer Occupant search/Electoral roll check (obtaining or checking an address)not known £17.50 Telephone reverse trace* £40 £75 Telephone conversion (mobile)* not known £75 Friends and Family £60 – £80 not known Vehicle check at DVLA £70 £150 – £200 Criminal records check not known £500 Area search (locating a named person across a wide area)not known £60 Company/Director search not known £40 Ex-directory search £40 £65 – £75 Mobile telephone account enquiries not known £750 Licence check not known £250 * Both these involve tracing an address from a telephone number.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 3:35 pm0 comments
Ofcom's broadband map
Ofcom have produced a map of Broadband availability. The link is the link to it. The real problem, however, is that it does not indicate what someone should expect in some of the really large counties such as Powys.
Broadband will vary across such counties so it is more of a management tool than a tool which really explains what someone should expect if they move to somewhere in such a county.
It is, however, something I find vaguely interesting so I thought I would repost it.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 9:22 am1 comments
Launch of Jazz Festival in Birmingham - Digby Fairweather and John Hemming duet This was the second time I have played with Digby Fairweather at the Jazz Festival. It is always a pleasure to accompany him.
Sadly, however, I have my duties to perform in London and as such will not be able to attend most of the festival. I am hoping to find some time to sit in at some of the summer events in Birmingham, however.
Questions and Answers Ed Milliband Style
This interview was quite surreal. Whatever the question was the answer was essentially the same. posted by John Hemming
¶ 5:47 am1 comments
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Labour support 20% VAT
Yesterday's finance bill.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I have found it odd recently that some private health insurers will pay those whom they insure to use the NHS. If that is the habit of private health insurance, where does the hon. Gentleman think the saving to the taxpayer is in allowing this tax relief?
Michael Connarty: I did not want to cite that example, although it is a good example of what happens when people use private health care and take resources away
---- John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I have found it odd recently that some private health insurers will pay those whom they insure to use the NHS. If that is the habit of private health insurance, where does the hon. Gentleman think the saving to the taxpayer is in allowing this tax relief?
Jonathan Edwards: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I am in a different party from those on the shadow Front Bench and we do not normally negotiate on the clauses we table. I can only assume that my staff are more effective.
Richard Banks, the chief executive of UK Asset Resolution, said that the UK economy faced a tsunami of repossessions once interest rates rise. Increases will come sooner rather than later, partly as a result of the VAT increase. The increase in inflation has come about for a variety of international reasons, including the slow devaluation of the pound and increases in basic food and oil prices, but we have a 2.1% increase in prices across the board and I am sure that many businesses have racked up their prices by greater amounts. The increase in VAT is adding to the inflationary pressures on the economy and it therefore seems strange that the Treasury is using a fiscal measure that is playing its part in increasing inflation and will inevitably at some stage lead to a tightening of monetary policy, creating a further major headwind for the economy. It is the economic equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot.
John Hemming: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on being more efficient than the official Opposition. However, he is proposing to reduce VAT in this financial year, which would mean an increase in the deficit and therefore an increase in the borrowing. Where would we borrow the money from and how much interest would we pay?
Jonathan Edwards: As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, I am proposing a temporary cut and I am endeavouring to convey that the priority of the Treasury should be securing sustained economic growth. In my view, the increase in VAT is hindering that. That is my key point.
Older people and pensioners who thought that they had enough to live comfortably for the rest of their lives now find themselves with very little interest but high inflationary costs in their everyday life. The Government’s attempts to save money by changing indexation from the retail prices index to the consumer prices index means that any benefits people receive are lower than the real world cost, rather than keeping up with it.
Families who are stretched by the costs of their daily living are dealing with wage freezes but finding that the cost of living is rising dramatically. Young families find it hard to save to buy a house, and others live in worry about the base rate increasing and being unable to cover their mortgage. The VAT change last year is reported to have taken £450 from each family with children across the UK.
The UK economy is not growing and people’s standards of living are being compromised. Confidence amongst individuals and families is falling—that is key when we are looking at future economic growth prospects. Economic growth forecasts are being downgraded by all around except the Government and the unanimous response to today’s revised figures is that we are in for a period of subdued growth at best. As I say, the situation now is different from that of nearly three years ago when the VAT cut was first used as a part of fiscal policy. Back then, we were preventing the situation from getting worse and the recession from deepening; now we are looking at how we can generate growth. Part of the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ reason for backing policies such as a temporary VAT cut is that there is a time frame—people can see an end and know that they must spend to take advantage of it, as advocated by my new clause 9.
John Hemming: On the point about hitting the poorest hardest, does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that the poorest people, those on means-tested benefits, receive an up-rating for the cost of living, which is in fact in excess of the extra VAT, and so benefit by 1% in excess of the extra cost of VAT?
Mr Hanson: When the Conservative party, supported by Liberals who at the general election opposed VAT increases, imposes VAT increases, it does so on businesses and on jobs and hardest on the poorest people in our society. I will now give way to the Minister so that he can explain that.
John Hemming: I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ian Swales), who is an accountant, that on the basis of expenditure deciles, VAT is a mildly progressive tax. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, whose name appears above unselected new clause 16 which would put VAT up to 20% once things improve, why the Labour party, having opposed VAT at 20%, now believes that it should be at 20% in the long term.
Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We are not going to get bogged down in the VAT figures. We need to talk about the new clauses in the group. We are drifting into parts where we should not be.
Mr Hanson: I remind the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) that new clause 10 calls for a review of the impact of value added tax on businesses and families over the next three months. Labour Members voted last week for a temporary reduction in VAT. Labour policy is to have a temporary reduction to tackle the real issues that we all face in our constituencies in relation to jobs, living standards and the future of our businesses.
John Hemming: My right hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Vince Cable) was quite clear when he said that the party did not rule out an increase in VAT, when he was asked that specific question—[Hon. Members: “Oh!”] The then Chancellor supported an increase in VAT to 19%, and the present Opposition now support a long-term VAT rate of 20%. The reason why they will not support new clause 9 is that the change it proposes is not temporary but permanent. Labour Members cannot criticise us for accepting a long-term VAT rate of 20% if they want the same long-term rate themselves. There is an argument about whether the stimulus that would, admittedly, result from a temporary cut in VAT would be in the long-term interests of the country, but it is a complex one. However, it is clear that we need to keep the deficit under control.
We have heard criticism from the Opposition today that the Office for Budget Responsibility has indicated that we might be borrowing more money than was originally forecast. The Opposition criticise us for the fact that the OBR forecasts higher borrowing. The Opposition’s solution, however, is even higher borrowing. They identify a problem and then put forward a policy proposal to make that problem worse. It is an absurd situation.
The real problem that economies face, as we see with the situation in Greece, is that as the deficit goes up, the people lending the country money to keep it going become increasingly concerned and the interest rate goes up, so it is not just the amount of interest on the amount of deficit in each year that goes up, as the rate of interest goes up, too. That is why people end up in the state that Greece has ended up in.
Ian Lucas: The hon. Gentleman ought to have listened to the debate earlier, particularly to the very good speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell), who explained that for every pound that is spent in the construction sector, £3 is injected into the economy. That would lead to three times as much being put into the economy for every pound spent in the construction sector. That means we should encourage that sector, not decimate it as the Conservatives are doing as we speak.
John Hemming: We should remember that VAT does not apply. I declare an interest, as a VAT-registered person. People who understand how VAT works will know that people who charge VAT can reclaim it on their inputs. We have to look at the details. On the hon. Gentleman’s further point, yes, there is an economic multiplier that has an effect. As demand is increased, there is a multiplier effect. At the same time, we have to look at the long-term effect on the deficit, the debt and the interest paid. As interest rates go up, wider damage is done to the whole of society.
It is true that in an ideal world we would not have higher rates of VAT. In an ideal world everything would be nice, and there would no problems and no difficult decisions to take. We have to get a balance. It is very pleasing to see that the official Opposition now accept that VAT should be 20% in the long term.
Clive Efford: There used to be a time when the hon. Gentleman was fond of quoting the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which called the VAT cut “an effective stimulus”. As for the construction industry, does he not recognise the figures showing a 19% increase in the number of business failures in the construction industry in the first three months of this year—since the increase was imposed?
John Hemming: There is no VAT on new build. The hon. Gentleman’s party believes that the VAT rate should be 20% in the long term; I thank him for agreeing with us about that.
The Government, essentially, have to bring the deficit under control to keep interest rates under control—and that is what we are doing.
Several hon. Members rose —
Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Is the hon. Member giving way, or has he finished?
John Hemming: I thought I had finished.
Mr Deputy Speaker: That is good enough for me.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 5:21 pm0 comments
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