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.
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.
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.
We should not "sell ... justice"
This is relevant to the Clarkson injunction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Available on Video hereThe 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.
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. here
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.
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.