By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday in Parliament, Richard Bacon, a Conservative backbencher, tried to introduce a Bill which would repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. One of Mr Bacon's lines of argument was that the legal requirement for Ministers to amend legislation - without a vote in Parliament - in order to comply with European human rights legislation - is "fundamentally undemocratic":
"Under section 10, a Minister of the Crown may make such amendments to primary legislation as are considered necessary to enable the incompatibility to be removed by the simple expedient of making an order. In effect, because the accepted practice is that the United Kingdom observes its international obligations, a supranational court can impose its will against ours. In my view this is fundamentally undemocratic."
Mr Bacon also compellingly argued that the controversial social issues that judges often like to get involved in should be decided by "elected representatives and not by unelected judges":
"[T]here is no point in belonging to a club if one is not prepared to obey its rules. The solution is therefore not to defy judgments of the Court, but rather to remove the power of the Court over us. ... Judges do not have access to a tablet of stone not available to the rest of us which enables them to discern what our people need better than we can possibly do as their elected, fallible, corrigible representatives. There is no set of values that are so universally agreed that we can appeal to them as a useful final arbiter. In the end they will always be shown up as either uselessly vague or controversially specific. Questions of major social policy, whether on abortion, capital punishment, the right to bear firearms or workers rights, should ultimately be decided by elected representatives and not by unelected judges."
By Matthew Barrett
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After last week's reshuffle of the Secretaries and Ministers of State, and this week's reshuffle of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, it's possible to investigate the state of a dying breed: the backbenchers who've always been loyal. The list below features the Conservative MPs who meet the following criteria:
By Jonathan Isaby
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Concerns from Tory MPs about the sentencing aspects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill have been well covered, not least with Philip Davies' ConHome piece on the topic yesterday.
He repeated those concerns in a speech during yesterday's Second Reading debate on the bill, and was part of a small rebellion that opposed allowing the bill to pass that stage.
The bill was given a second reading by 295 votes to 212, but five Conservative MPs voted with Labour in the No lobby:
One issue which has not received so much coverage is the fact that some of the 2010 intake have serious concerns about the proposed cuts to legal aid.
Helen Grant led the charge, saying that the plans to reform legal aid were "brave and bold" (isn't that Yes, Minister speak for "wrong"?) and set out her problems with what is currently envisaged.
by Paul Goodman
I list below every question asked by a Conservative MP yesterday in response to the Prime Minister's Commons statement about Libya. For better or worse, I haven't cited his replies in every case, but his answers on regime change, the arms embargo and the International Criminal Court are of special interest, and are therefore quoted in full.
"Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): As one of the doubting Thomases of the past few weeks, I congratulate the Prime Minister on his success and leadership and offer him my full support. I also join him in paying tribute to Sir Mark Lyall Grant and his team at the UN for what is a remarkable diplomatic success, which hopefully will mark a turning point in the development of these issues at the UN. I am sure the Prime Minister agrees that difficult questions remain. At this moment, however, it is incumbent on all of us to stand behind the armed forces, particularly our airmen, who have to implement the resolution.
Mr James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire) (Con): Yet again, my right hon. Friend has shown a breathtaking degree of courage and leadership. I support what he has said and what he has done. Does he agree that, while regime change is not the aim of these resolutions, in practice there is little realistic chance of achieving their aims without regime change?"
Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): I join others in congratulating the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and all the others who have been involved in securing this very tough resolution, and indeed the building of a broad-based coalition to deal with Gaddafi. Does the Prime Minister agree, however, that in the weeks to come it will be important for the country to know that at the same time as trying to deal with Gaddafi, the Government are also intent on forging ahead, with our European partners, in keeping the middle east peace process revitalised and going, so that we can draw the poison from the well?
He paid a warm tribute to his predecessor, Douglas Hogg, and concluded that his new constituents
Moat-related jokes aside, he went on to address the issue under discussion during the first of two debates yesterday, namely the Middle East:
"were evidently satisfied with the make and model that they had returned to the House for the past 30 years, for they have chosen as their new MP another silk — another dinosaur — and another Member with a wife cleverer and more successful than he is. As Douglas himself has put it,
“the old banger must have been pretty sound for them to have chosen the same make and model again.”
"I caution, though, and certainly add at this juncture that the unoriginal question that has occurred to wags on both sides of the House receives the answer no. I leave that as a puzzle perhaps for my successors, but given that I represent Sleaford and North Hykeham and follow Mr Hogg, many Members will know what question has arisen in their minds."
"Members on both sides of the House well know the physical suffering that the continued blockade of Gaza is causing to a civilian population already laid low by the effective destruction of its infrastructure. Members obviously recognise the unsustainable policies that have been pursued in the past by the Government of Israel, of which I count myself a considerable friend, but which have, whether we like it or not, had the effect of entrenching a de facto Government with a vested financial interest in the maintenance of the tunnel economy that has been created by the blockade.
"My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) spoke about building materials. There is no shortage of building materials available to Hamas. The leaders of Hamas, should they wish to, construct villas, as they do, and have no problem getting cement through the tunnels. It is even possible to get a 4x4 through them. The argument that the blockade is based on the security of Israel is, I am afraid, fallacious, and I join other Members in saying that it should quickly be abandoned. Israel should concentrate on its strengths and on the values that it offers and demonstrates to the world.
"Members on all sides have also been appalled, as have I, by the inability of the Palestinian Government, of whatever colour, to offer security to Israel. There is only one way forward—the two-state solution. Change has to come to Gaza and to the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories established under the Oslo accords. Change is something that we all talked about during the election, but this is a change that is desired by the vast majority of the civilian population throughout the middle east, and indeed in Palestine and in Israel, and is supported by the Government here as well as by our allies, as resolution 1860 demonstrates. It is that resolution with which Israel would do well to comply, as long as, of course, its security is guaranteed, and for that reason I hope that in this Parliament we will have the opportunity of seeing some form of lasting peace — the lasting peace that has for so long evaded previous Administrations in this House and indeed across the world."