Badger Demonstration - speech from Saturday
More information about Badger vaccination.
Further progress on fair trials in the family courts
story in the Daily Mail reports on This case (Re NL (A child) (Appeal: Interim Care Order: Facts and Reasons)
where Pauffley J has looked at the issue of a case in the FPC where the Justices basically rubber stamped a document from the local authority. Another important case is Re C (A Child)
where the president of the Queens Bench supports a call for proper procedure to be followed in terms of dealings in the court of first instance.
The President of the Queen's Bench Division:
- I agree with both judgments. Having seen the judgments in draft, Ms van der Leij has expressed concern about the comments at paragraphs 10-11 of Macur LJ and paragraph 36 of Aikens LJ dealing with the e-mail exchanges subsequent to the hearing. She observes that "it is by no means unusual for practitioners in the Principal Registry to e mail district judges directly seeking clarification of matters raised in a hearing". It is one thing, if invited, to make submissions in relation to the terms of an order provided that every communication is copied to every party; it is another to express dissent and seek to engage in further argument. If that is not unusual, it is important that the problems which it generates should be recognised and that the practice should cease. First, it suggests (even if it is not the case) that advocates can go behind the scenes to resolve issues in favour of their clients and, as Macur LJ observes, will give rise to allegations of 'stitch up'. Secondly, it will encourage litigants in person (who do not have the same understanding of the law or practice) to adopt a similar approach thereby disrupting the finality of the judgment of the court and generating continued uncertainty.
Progress is being made. If we can stop corrupt legal advisors and advocates from undermining their own clients that would help as well. However, a key to this is getting evidence that is reliable. (as I say in the Daily Mail article).
Last Year's Mawrey Judgment in Woking
I have had this
judgment pointed out to me. The election commissioner was the same person as handled the election petition in Aston and Bordesley Green. This was a case where the criminals were Lib Dems. I shall extract some parts of the judgment:
The judgment is worth reading as a whole.
11. Sadly, therefore, this is yet another case where the United Kingdom's shambolic electoral system has led to an election being challenged on the ground of widespread fraud.
- The Birmingham judgment was the first arising from mass electoral fraud resulting directly from the introduction of postal voting on demand. I had hoped that, by drawing attention to the flawed basis of the scheme and the opportunities it had created for vote-rigging on an industrial scale, public and Parliament would be alerted to the problem and that something might be done about it.
- I was wrong.
- In Slough, where the problem of roll-stuffing came to the fore and where the combined effect of a wholly insecure registration system and postal voting on demand had allowed the creation of phantom armies of 'ghost voters', once again I hoped that some action might be taken.
- I was wrong again.
- Nine years have passed since the fraudulent Birmingham election and five since the Slough judgment. The media and the public are fully alive to the threat that electoral fraud poses to our democracy. The politicians are in denial and, it must be said, the approach of the Electoral Commission would appear optimistic even to Dr Pangloss.
- I concluded the Birmingham Judgment with the words:
"The systems to deal with fraud are not working well. They are not working badly. The fact is that there are no systems to deal realistically with fraud and there never have been. Until there are, fraud will continue unabated."
- And the Slough Judgment with:
"It would have been pleasant to conclude this judgment by saying that this had now all changed. But I cannot. Despite the 2006 Act, the opportunities for easy and effective electoral fraud remain substantially as they were on 4th April 2005."
- And here we are again.
Local Government Finance Debate
This is the debate:
This is me arguing my view that spending cuts should be in proportion of spending power.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I thank the Minister for meeting MPs from Birmingham to look at this issue, and I congratulate hon. Members generally on highlighting the difficulty of working out what a fair system is for allocating local government finance. The Government have focused on percentage reductions in spending power. Does the Minister agree that, after incentives, looking towards the reduction in percentage spending power, not absolute spending power, provides an equality of pain that gives us a way forward? It takes into account the fact that in areas like Greater Birmingham, where people work in Birmingham but live around it and require services from Birmingham but are not contributing towards—
Brandon Lewis: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman made that point in the meeting we had. As I said to him, I will happily go through it in more detail over the next couple of months, meeting him and officials to look at some of the ideas he is talking about.
I also managed to get Labour's position confirmed:
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): If the Labour party wins the general election it proposes further cuts. What formula would it use to identify the equity or fairness of any distribution of cuts?
Andy Sawford: The Labour party has said that we accept the Government’s spending plans, but what we will not do is cut in such a fundamentally unfair way. I will come on to what the Labour Government will do.
later he said: "Hon. Members have asked about the next Labour Government’s plans. We will not be able to stop the cuts or turn back the clock, but we will put fairness at the heart of the relationship between central and local government, and at the heart of our approach to local government finance."
He would not, however, give any details as to how Labour would approach the issue of the distribution of cuts. I think it is possible that they may come to a conclusion not dissimilar to that which I have argued.
Other MPs also tried to draw Labour on what they would actually do (with a similar lack of success)
Mr Graham Stuart: I am grateful to the shadow Minister for giving way; he is being most generous. I notice that he did not respond to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) about where Labour would make cuts. On the issue of need, density was given four times the weighting of sparsity, even though there is no link between density of population and increased cost and delivery of services. How was that fair?
Andy Sawford: If the hon. Gentleman will be patient for a moment, I will, of course, come on to what Labour will do if it forms the next Government. On sparsity, I took part in the debate that he and others led last year, which I thought was excellent. I recognise many of the issues that he raised and there is a sparse rural authority in my constituency in East Northamptonshire. The formula should of course take account of rural sparsity, as well as urban deprivation. There is always a debate to be had about fairness within the system, but what is critical is that the part of local authority funding with fairness at its heart—notwithstanding the debate that will be had—is now being eroded, so the opportunity to ensure that funding is fair and according to need is being lost.
I am making some progress in arguing that cuts should be linked to spending power (as a proportion). However, it is important to note that MPs for rural areas continue to express concern that their spending power per person or per dwelling is much lower than urban areas even though many rural areas are quite poor. Their argument is that they get lower services as a result. My view is that a system based upon spending power is more likely to get consensus (which will never be 100% anyway).
The big issue for Birmingham, however, is that if Labour win the general election there will be further cuts in support for local government. Hence Birmingham has to plan on the assumption of Liam Byrne's note from the last government to David Laws "Dear chief secretary, I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left."
I don't like cuts. I accept that there are some politicians who wish to see state spending as a proportion of GDP driven lower. I take the view that a 40% or so figure is not unreasonable. What is now clear is that the government's policies are based upon necessity rather than an ideology of cuts.
English Refugees in France - The Brown Family in Caen
This is a video I produced yesterday for a family now living in France
Their story has been reported in the Sunday Telegraph and last appeared on Sunday in Christopher Booker's column.
French Judges conclude English Local Authority is wrong
story relates to a french case where the judges have indicated that an English LA is wrong. That is added to the Italian case reported before Xmas and a number of Irish cases.
When you add this to all the foreign governments complaining this should have a bit more concern from government. It is true that progress is being made and now more appeals are being given in England and Wales. In fact it may appear that the system is getting worse when actually it is getting better. In the past the appellate system basically didn't work. It is now starting to work, but it has a long way to go. The appointment of non family judges to family court of appeal cases is clearly having a positive effect as well.
Miscarriage of Justice Compensation - why I agreed with the Lords
I rebelled against the party whip today voting to keep the lords amendment 112 on Miscarriage of Justice compensation. My reasons are that the government position shifts the burden of proof. The lords amendment, which was supported by the majority of law lords basically creates a threshold which is that a conviction with the new evidence would be guaranteed to fail.
I did not support government or opposition on the amendment in lieu. I think it marginally improves the wording, but creates a mixed message as I am unhappy with the burden shifting.
Ireland starts opening up family courts
story from Ireland highlights a number of issues. Obviously there is a lot about this case (I am not aware of the case myself) which is not known.
In essence, however, it confirms my advice that the authorities in Ireland will apply to take children into care at the request of English authorities whether or not they would ordinarily take the children into care were they not to be English families.
Interestingly, however, the courts still follow the law from time to time in Ireland. I am aware of cases where the Irish courts have not followed the law properly.