Political parties in Newcastle have united to oppose the Government’s proposed repeal of the Human Rights Act.
The Liberal Democrats and Labour will come together on Wednesday night at a Newcastle City Council meeting and are likely to vote in favour of lobbying the Government to abandon plans.
They also plan to write to Home Secretary Theresa May, expressing concern.
Normally fierce political rivals, councillors from both parties say this move shows the strength of feeling against the proposed changes.
The new Government’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act in favour of a British Bill of Rights has prompted outcry from politicians and legal rights groups as well as several celebrities. However those in favour believe severing the formal link between British court and the European Court of Human Rights would be welcomed.
The Conservatives believe the move would strengthen the powers of British supreme court with less deference to Strasbourg, however the plan was noticeably absent from the Queen’s Speech prompting concerns over a struggle within the Tory party to gain backbench support.
In line with the views of their national parties, both the Liberal Democrat and the Labour parties in Newcastle have submitted motions to the council with deputy Lib Dem councillor Dr Wendy Taylor asking members to reject any proposal made by the Government to repeal the act.
She wants other councillors to agree that these ‘fundamental rights and freedoms’ enshrined in the act ‘are crucial for a fair, free and democratic society.’
“At a time when we are honouring those who fought in the Second World War and the purpose for which so many lost their lives defending our liberty and freedoms, we reject the Government’s proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.”
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Tory plans to pull out of the European Court of Human Rights have been dismissed as a backward step and “a sop to Ukip and right wingers” by North East politicians.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling believes the extraordinary move would restore “common sense” to the British legal system, allowing judges in this country to effectively ignore Strasbourg.
The extraordinary move would give the ECHR no move than an advisory role and hand politicians and judges final say on issues like prisoner voting and life sentences. Mr Grayling also said it would stop terrorists and foreign criminals relying on human rights laws to stay in the UK.
But Labour peer Jeremy Beecham accused the Justice Secretary of pandering to the right wing.
He said: “This is a sop to Ukip and Tory right wingers.
“It was a Conservative Government which led the way on the EHRC, but the present Tory Party has a shocking record on legal aid, access to justice and judicial review and this just another example of its attitude, ironically in what will be the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta.”
Vera Baird, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The Human Rights Act benefits ordinary people on a daily basis and can help victims of crime.
“Recently it allowed two young women, who were victims of the black cab rapist John Worboys, to sue the police for failing to investigate his appalling crimes properly.”
She added human rights law was widely misrepresented in parts of the media and called on Chris Grayling to re-think the plans.
She said: “For instance in 2006 it was reported that police gave fried chicken to a suspected car thief who had fled from police and was besieged on a roof ‘because of his human rights’.
“Surprise, surprise, there is no human right to KFC – it was used as part of the negotiating tactics that encouraged him to come down.
“Nor is there a bar to deporting a criminal because he has a British cat, as Theresa May once claimed.
“Whether a foreign criminal stays or goes is a balancing act, which is far better done in our courts than in Strasbourg.”
But Labour’s Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell believes the country should be given a choice on its relationship with Europe.
He said: “On the whole it’s good to have a Court of Human Rights as they have made some good decisions, but I haven’t agreed with them all.
“Although I haven’t agreed with all the decisions made by the judicial system, I still think we should let the people decide, not the politicians, and have a referendum.”
Chris Grayling made the announcement as the Conservative Party Conference drew to a close this week and as the campaign for next year’s General Election gets underway.
He said: “We will always stand against real human rights abuses, and political persecution. But these plans will make sure that we put Britain first and restore common sense to human rights in this country.”
> Translation – lets make Britain a feudal state where people like me who went to the right schools get to make the law that suits our best interests. Fuck anyone else.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 03 Oct 2014
UKIP has found an unlikely ally in left-wing musician Billy Bragg after a move to host its largest ever rally at the SageGateshead.
The venue’s management was attacked on social media for itsdecision to provide the venue for the party’s spring meeting on St George’s Day in April.
After critics on the social networking site Twitter said the organisation had a “moral obligation” not to allow UKIP leader Nigel Farage to assemble his party on Tyneside, Bragg waded into the online spat to support the Sage.
Responding to online questioning, Mr Bragg – who regularly plays at the venue and was part of its recent poster campaign – wrote: “I don’t have a problem with it.
“We shouldn’t be complacent about UKIP, but denying them the right to hold meetings is not the way forward. Don’t UKIP have the right of assembly?”
> He may have a point – UKIP is home to so many fruitcakes that giving them the opportunity of making prats of themselves in public might be a good thing.
The meeting on the evening of April 23 will be the largest public meeting ever to be held by the party and its “early bird” free tickets have already been snapped up.
The Eurosceptic party has previously held a North East conference in Tynemouth but Nigel Farage will be speaking in person at this event.
> If anywhere in Tyne & Wear was going to host a UKIP conference, you’d have bet on it being Tynemouth 😉
After by-election successes across the country, Mr Farage has said he hopes to make considerable gains in May’s local and European elections.
Messages left for the Sage online from the public prompted the organisation’s general director Anthony Sargent to clarify his stance on hosting political events.
The music and concert venue has previously been booked to hold the meetings of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats and Mr Sargent said: “Picking and choosing between political views would be an indefensible position and that really would be letting the local community down.
“We need to give these people a platform, then trust the democratic process to separate the wheat from the chaff. We have no opinion on UKIP nor do we on the Conservatives, Labour or Liberal Democrats.”
Quoting political philosopher John Stuart Mill, he added: “There’s a very basic freedom of speech right in the UK which is prized by the British whether or not you agree with a set of opinions. It’s a foundational right living in Britain that you have the right to express yourself.”
One critic of the planned conference, Alan Verth, wrote on Twitter that Sage needed to consider its “moral obligations to community” while a user of the site calling himself Trevstanley called it a“disgusting” move and would not be visiting the Sage again.
Mr Verth wrote: “I’m not happy with my home town hosting this as it goes against everything I stand for.”
Newcastle-based singer Gem Andrews, who released her debut last year, also took to Twitter to ask people to campaign against UKIP meeting on Tyneside.
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has disowned proposals from one of his MEPs for Muslims to be asked to sign a charter rejecting violence.
Gerard Batten, who sits on the party’s National Executive Committee, said he stood by the “charter of Muslim understanding” which he co-authored in 2006 and which states that parts of the Koran which promote “violent physical jihad” should be regarded as “inapplicable, invalid and non-Islamic”.
His comments sparked criticism from Muslim groups and UKIP’s political opponents.
The Conservative leader in the European Parliament, Syed Kamall, who is himself a Muslim, left a letter on Mr Batten’s empty seat at the Parliament chamber in Strasbourg, sarcastically offering him a guarantee that he had no intention to commit acts of violence.
Mr Farage said: “This was a private publication from Gerard Batten in 2006 and its contents are not and never have been UKIP policy.”
> Fruitcakes, the whole lot of them…
Source – Newcastle Journal 06 Feb 2014
This article was written by Owen Bowcott, for The Guardian on Wednesday 29th January 2014
The level of UK benefits paid in pensions, jobseeker’s allowance and incapacity benefit is “manifestly inadequate” because it falls below 40% of the median income of European states, according to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
The finding in an annual review (pdf) of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European social charter is likely to provoke a fresh dispute between the government and European legal structures. Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, dismissed it as “lunacy”.
> Can a man increasingly suspected to be more than a little insane himself comment on lunacy in others ? Discuss…
The Council of Europe, which has 47 member states, said the conclusions were legally binding in the same way that judgments relating to the European convention on human rights had to be applied by member states.
However, the DWP suggested the findings merely had to be “taken into account” by British courts when assessing claims. The difference of interpretation is likely to lead to lengthy disputes when ministers attend the next round of meetings in Strasbourg.
In the report’s most critical section, the council’s European committee of social rights said: “Even if the minimum levels of short-term and long-term incapacity benefits, state pension and jobseeker’s allowance satisfy the requirements of the European code of social security, they are manifestly inadequate in the meaning of article 12§1 of the charter as they fall below 40% of the Eurostat median equivalised income”.
It added: “The committee notes … that short-term incapacity benefit stood at £71 (€85) and long-term incapacity benefit at £94 (€112) per week. ESA and jobseeker’s allowance stood at £67 per week (around €321 per month). As regards the state pension, it stood at £102 (€490 per month).”
Britain was one of 38 countries criticised by the committee on Wednesday, all of whom were found to have violated the regulations in some manner. Other countries were deemed to have made more breaches.
Duncan Smith said: “This government has made great strides in fixing the welfare system so that spending is brought under control. It’s lunacy for the Council of Europe to suggest welfare payments need to increase when we paid out £204bn in benefits and pensions last year alone.
“Whether for short-term needs or longer-term support, millions of people find that the welfare system provides a valuable and fair safety net when they need it most. And thanks to the triple lock, pensioners are now benefiting from a state pension that represents the highest share of earnings in over 20 years. This is meaningful support helping people every single day.”
> It’s interesting to speculate about whether IDS actually believes the stuff he spouts. He certainly seems to get very touchy when anyone contradicts him.
I suspect he currently falls into that grey area of insanity – not quite insane enough to be sectioned, but on the other hand, if he was already inside an institution, they wouldn’t let him out.
Source – Welfare News Service 29 Jan 2014