Secret Prisoners judgment comment
I am pleased with the judgment issued today from the court of appeal.
concern is to stop people being imprisoned in secret. This judgment is an
important step towards that objective. There are three key
Firstly, it recognises that a lot of people are still locked up
without proper public scrutiny.
Secondly, it adds to guidance and
reinforces guidance to stop this happening.
Thirdly, it ensures that
there is an authority that can be used to find out who has been imprisoned if
someone finds out that a secret jailing has happened.
It does not,
however, as yet accept that a secret imprisonment in itself is cause for someone
to be released. That is an issue that I will be looking at in more depth. It
is, obviously, difficult to make an application to court for the imprisonment of
someone in secret as it it is entirely secret no-one will know. Hence it is
difficult to find authorities for this situation.
The problem as I see it
is that people have been imprisoned for things that would not find public
acceptance. To that extent were those imprisonments not secret they would be
stopped. (Which, of course, is not all of the imprisonments, but some of
I would cite as an example the imprisonment of a grandmother for
posting complaints on facebook. This happened in early 2013 in I think
It remains, however, that the government do not seem concerned about this issue. They could easily establish a system to ensure that we know who has been imprisoned so we can check whether a public judgment is given. However, so far they have done very little - although they have reinstated the counting that was stopped.
However, I have managed to get 90% of what I wanted from this case and that has to be seen as a victory.
Parliamentary Motions and Yesterday's debate
Yesterday's debate demonstrated the relatively counterintuitive nature of parliamentary procedure. We had the movement of the "previous question". This did happen in the last parliament. Once.
It wasn't very clever to do this as it merely had the effect of truncating debate. If it gets moved too often we will find that the rules are changed to prevent this.
The most important point is that only a limited range of parliamentary motions have an actual effect. Motions relating to statutory instruments have an effect. Those on european scrutiny issues have a partial effect, but are in fact not binding as the ministers can make decisions in the European Council before such a motion passes. Motions that affect the House of Commons (order of debate, suspending or expelling members, standing orders, committees etc) do have an effect. Those which are in conjunction with a finance bill also have an effect.
However, a motion that says "This House instructs the Government not to extend the European Arrest Warrant" does not actually have any effect on the government ... unless ... the government agrees in advance that it will have an effect. However, a motion that says "this house shall now adjourn" could bind the government on an issue such as the EAW, but only if the government says that it will.
Hence we are actually in a situation where what the minister says is more important than what it says in the motion. That is why yesterday's debate came across so badly.
There is, of course, an issue about having a single vote on all the Justice Issues. That is of course the normal way in which the executive (government) limits the power of the legislature (house of commons) to control its behaviour.
The reasoning behind the issue of what decisions have force lies in the willingness of the house of commons to enforce decisions. With the courts the use of "contempt of court" enables court orders to be enforced. "Contempt of Parliament" has the same effect for parliamentary orders. However, it is now rarely used.
Petition about Acocks Green Post Office
I have extracted and uploaded to Youtube the presentation of the Petition about Acocks Green Post Office.
There are two ways of presenting petitions. One is the process in this video. The other is to simply put the petition in a bag at the back of the Speaker's chair. Petitions are presented at the "moment of interruption" which is just before the adjournment debate. Often the Moment of Interruption is known in advance, but on Monday it happened a lot earlier than planned.