Tag Archives: bill

Royal baby expected – just as Royal Family falls into controversy. Funny, that…

The Queen (left): when she announces the legislative programme at the start of every Parliamentary term, how much of it has already been influenced by her? And how heavily?

Considering the apparent enmity between Prince Harry/Meghan and the rest of the Royal Family, I can only imagine that this announcement is a timing malfunction.

Others may take it as an indication that the split wasn’t as big as we were all led to believe.

Either way, it will take some of the heat off the Queen and anyone in line for the throne, who have been the focus of politically-charged criticism lately. So I think this line from the BBC may well be accurate:

The Queen and Royal Family are “delighted”, as the Sussexes say “Archie is going to be a big brother”.

See, it seems the Queen has a lot more influence on the way laws are enacted than we previously thought – especially if they affect her or the other Royals in any big way.

So, for example, she successfully lobbied the Heath government of the 1970s to exclude Heads of State from financial transparency laws.

Other alterations made to benefit the crown or her private interests, or to reflect her opinions, include:

In 1982, she withheld Queen’s Consent for debate on a plan to create a new commission to preserve ancient monuments and historic buildings in England, taking over from an existing royal commission. This meant Parliament was denied permission to discuss the plan.

The Queen ultimately consented to the bill six months later. However, the royal commission would survive for another 17 years. It was merged with English Heritage in 1999.

In 1968, she used the consent procedure to extract a commitment from Harold Wilson’s government that a new law – to apply the same road safety rules to all roads accessed by the public – would not apply to her private estates.

And in 1975 a Bill demanding that those intending to lease land for development would do so through local authorities – in an attempt to secure reasonable rates – was opposed because the Crown Estates believed there was a “financial advantage” to be made from direct dealing.

These are only instances that have become public because the relevant documents were not included – possibly by mistake – in an absolute exemption from release to the public.

This exemption lasts until at least five years after the death of the relevant member of the royal family.

So we don’t know how much influence the Queen has wielded – or continues to wield – and we won’t until five years after she passes away.

And now that Meghan has announced that she has a baby on the way, it seems unlikely many people will care about it for the foreseeable future, either.

Source: Meghan and Prince Harry expecting second child – BBC News

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If the long-awaited Environment Bill has to be delayed, why not use the time to make it useful?

Pollution: the Bill will contain provisions to improve air quality – but not in the immediate future, and the watchdog body it will set up is unlikely to have any teeth.

Do you think it’s bizarre that our government(s) tell us constantly that their actions are for the good of the country, but they always seem to postpone anything for the good of the planet?

The case in point is the decision to postpone, yet again, an Environment Bill that has been waiting for a reading in the House of Commons since 2018.

Campaigners say the delay will harm action to lessen air pollution and improve water quality.

Ministers say the delay is necessary because of the amount of time being taken up by the Covid-19 crisis.

Dispassionate onlookers might say this discussion seems pointless anyway, as Boris Johnson’s government has resoundingly failed to cope with the pandemic on any meaningful level.

The Bill sets out a framework by which ministers can impose new targets on vital issues like air pollution and water quality, waste, resource use and biodiversity, which were previously regulated under EU directives.

But the bill as it stands makes these into long-term targets, meaning direct efforts to cut pollution may be left in limbo.

If passed into law, the legislation will create a new Office for Environmental Protection – a watchdog body that campaigners fear will not be sufficiently independent or powerful under the current bill.

The bill also includes measures to ensure consumers in the UK no longer contribute to the destruction of vast swaths of forested land overseas, through new rules intended to stop the import of goods to the UK from areas of illegally deforested land. UK businesses will need to show that the products they source that could come from at-risk areas – wood, but also soy, palm oil, beef, leather and other key commodities – are from supply chains free from deforestation. Breaches of the rules will incur fines.

So all in all, the Bill looks like reducing, rather than increasing, environmental protections.

It seems to This Writer that, if it must be delayed, then this is an opportunity to do some background work.

I remember hearing that US president Lyndon Johnson used to do much of his work in the backrooms of Congress, persuading (I won’t speculate on his methods) Congresspeople to support his laws – or finding ways to make them acceptable.

Perhaps if the Tories currently working on the Environment Bill – Rebecca Pow is named in the Guardian report – spend the spring and summer polishing it up to ensure that there are quantifiable short- and medium-term targets, and their new Office for Environmental Protection actually has the clout to live up to its name, then the amount of discussion time in Parliament could be cut down, the Bill could sail through and everybody will be (belatedly) happy.

But that may be too much like common sense.

Source: Fury as long-awaited UK environment bill is delayed for third time | Environment | The Guardian

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New Bill is ‘lost opportunity’ to put the Armed Forces Covenant into law

No respect: Boris Johnson showed contempt for our Armed Forces by laying his wreath face-down at a Remembrance Day ceremony. Now his government will show contempt by failing to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into law.

How many times must the Tories let servicepeople down before military personnel (and former members of the services) realize the Tories are not their friends and don’t deserve their vote?

People in the military tend to have Toryism drummed into them from early training days onwards. It was no surprise when military personnel were found to have been using images of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for target practice a few years ago.

But it is bizarre, when the Tories take every opportunity to let our squaddies down.

Case in point: the new Armed Forces Bill. The Tories are saying it will enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law, to ensure that armed forces personnel, veterans and their families are not disadvantaged by their service when accessing key public services like health care, education and housing, but are treated fairly.

Sadly, the Tories can’t even treat them fairly in discussing this law about them.

You see:

The Bill will not enshrine the covenant in law at all.

Instead, the Bill introduces

a legal duty for relevant UK public bodies to have due regard to the principles of the Covenant

– which means very little in real terms.

Labour’s John Healey has it right:

“As it stands, this bill is a missed opportunity. It does not put the Armed Forces Covenant properly into law to ensure Forces personnel and veterans suffer no disadvantage in access to services, nor will it put right the long-term failings in the military justice system.”

No doubt our forces personnel won’t know they’ve been hoodwinked until they are back in civilian life and try to access the services they’ve been promised.

Source: New legislation to help ensure fair treatment for armed forces – GOV.UK

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Lords inflict two defeats on government over ‘spy cops’ bill – but Keir Starmer could have made it three

Keir Starmer: he thinks the government and its agents should be above the law.

The Tories bid to allow spies working for government agencies like the Financial Conduct Authority to commit crimes like murder and rape without fear of prosecution has been foiled by the Lords.

Peers supported amendments to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill as follows:

Peers inflicted two significant defeats on the government on Wednesday evening over a bill to regulate the use of undercover informants, passing amendments to stop them participating in murder and rape, and to curtail the use of children as informants.

The government was also defeated by 299 to 284 on an amendment from the peer Doreen Massey, which proposed explicitly banning those acting undercover from being allowed to participate in a list of serious crimes, including murder, torture, rape or other sexual offences as they gained information.

Ministers had ruled out introducing such a list previously, arguing that creating a list of forbidden offences could give terrorists and serious criminals ways to unmask infiltrators by asking them to engage in such banned activities.

Campaign groups welcomed the result, arguing that it would put the UK on a par with similar western countries in setting clear limits.

Sadly, this result is notable for another reason – Labour leader Keir Starmer’s unacceptable support for the Bill with all immunities against criminal prosecution intact.

If he had whipped Labour to oppose it in the Commons, it would never have got as far as the Lords. But he didn’t.

Worse still, after former shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti put forward an amendment to remove immunity from prosecution for crimes from government agents who commit them, saying there would otherwise be a “grave risk” of human rights abuses by undercover agents, Starmer whipped Labour peers to abstain and it failed:

Peers were debating the bill at the second day of its report stage. On Monday, an amendment from Shami Chakrabarti seeking to strike out immunity for undercover agents acting within authorised guidelines was defeated by 309 to 153, after the Labour leadership chose to abstain.

It seems clear that this former Director of Public Prosecutions thinks the government and its agents should be above the law.

It is an unacceptable attitude for any potential national leader to have.

Source: Lords inflict two defeats on government over ‘spy cops’ bill | House of Lords | The Guardian

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Brexit: now we’re all waiting for Michael Gove to resign. Here’s the reason

Gove: this image was made for a completely different story but… oh, it fits this one so well, don’t you think?

Will he or won’t he?

Once upon a time, after the Johnson government reneged on the Withdrawal Agreement by launching a new Bill that promised to break international law by changing border rules for Northern Ireland that had been agreed with the EU, Michael Gove said a very silly thing.

You can see it in this clip, around 19 seconds in:

Last night it seemed his job was safe, when 357 Tory MPs reinstated those clauses in the Internal Market Bill after the Lords had removed them.

Today? Not so much… Gove himself cut them right back out again, in a desperate bid to appease EU officials who won’t sign a trade deal otherwise.

This is a major defeat for the Conservatives and for Gove in particular.  They all swore that they would never let the EU dictate the UK’s internal borders and they have all buckled under and done as they were told, like a flock of expensive-suited sheep.

And it seems everybody is asking the same question:

He’s really upset the Brexiters…

I mean, really

So it might be just as well for him to take a back seat for a while.

Well – we’re waiting.

And I’ve seen no announcement from Mr Gove – yet.

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Hodge wants ban on social media anonymity – what a great idea! It will curtail fake anti-Semitism claims

It’s the first time This Writer has agreed with Margaret Hodge in years.

She has said the government must ban online anonymity or make social media directors personally liable for defamatory posts, revealing that she receives tens of thousands of abusive tweets a month:

Hodge accused the government of deliberately delaying the online harms bill in order to avoid difficult conversations with powerful social media companies, and said she was prepared to take up a campaign to make sure the law was tough enough.

The Online Harms Bill arises from a White Paper produced last year – and This Site commented on it at the time.

The White Paper – and now the Bill (I expect; I haven’t actually seen any information on it since April last year) proposed a statutory duty of care, to be conferred on media companies including platforms such as Facebook and Google, online messaging services like WhatsApp and file hosting sites.

They would be required to comply with a code of practice, setting out the steps they must take to meet the duty of care. This may include designing products and platforms to make them safer, directing users who have suffered harm towards support, combating disinformation (for example by using fact-checking services), and improving the transparency of political advertising.

They would be expected to co-operate with police and other enforcement agencies on illegalities including incitement of violence and selling illegal weapons.

And they would have to compile annual “transparency reports” detailing the amount of harmful content found on their platforms and what they are doing to combat it.

The government would have powers to direct the regulator – initially Ofcom, with a dedicated regulator to follow in the future – on specific issues such as terrorist activity or child sexual exploitation.

I pointed out last year that the White Paper did not include any measures to stop people creating anonymous accounts.

If Ms Hodge wants to see that happen now, then I am all for it.

It will stop me receiving much (but not all) of the abuse I get from people wrongly accusing me of anti-Semitism after the Labour Party expelled me under false pretences (as shown in court).

But that’s not what was on offer in April last year. As I made perfectly clear, “regulating online media platforms will not stop people posting “harmful” content to them, if there is nothing to stop them from doing so. It is farcically easy to create anonymous accounts, from which to post objectionable and/or abusive content.

“Shut one down? That’s fine – the individual responsible can have another up and running in a matter of minutes, if they don’t have multiple aliases working already.”

And I made that point that “it has been argued that people must have a right to be able to post anonymously, because of personal circumstances that make it important – possibly for their personal safety.”

My response: “Fine. A system can be devised in which people apply for anonymity and the number of people or organisations able to ascertain their real identity is strictly limited. That would allow these individuals to continue functioning in the online world. And it would prevent others from abusing social media platforms. Any posts from an unrecognised anonymous account would be easy to flag up and isolate.”

If Ms Hodge is proposing such a system then I am behind her every step of the way, and never mind all the other differences we have.

Although – as a staunch witch-hunter herself – I wonder whether she would approve of that outcome.

Source: Margaret Hodge calls for ban on social media anonymity | Online abuse | The Guardian

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‘Bill Gates is microchipping you’: Vaccine roll-out prompts return of anti-vaxxer conspiracy flapdoodle

The BBC debunked this hoax months ago but you can expect more, now we have a Covid-19 vaccine.

Don’t be surprised if your Facebook and Twitter feeds start filling up with nonsense about the new Covid-19 vaccines being used to exert sinister control over you.

Mrs Mike read one out to me today. It claimed that Bill Gates is putting a trackable microchip into each dose of the vaccine so he can see what we’re all doing.

It’s an old hoax, folks. The BBC debunked it in May:

The head of the Russian Communist party … said that so-called “globalists” supported “a covert mass chip implantation which they may in time resort to under the pretext of a mandatory vaccination against coronavirus”.

He didn’t mention Mr Gates by name but in the US, Roger Stone, a former adviser to Donald Trump, said Bill Gates and others were using the virus for “microchipping people so we can tell ‘whether you’ve been tested’.”

A YouGov poll of 1,640 people suggest[ed] that 28% of Americans believe[d] that Bill Gates want[ed] to use vaccines to implant microchips in people – with the figure rising to 44% among Republicans.

Rumours took hold in March when Mr Gates said in an interview that eventually “we will have some digital certificates” which would be used to show who’d recovered, been tested and ultimately who received a vaccine. He made no mention of microchips.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says: “The reference to ‘digital certificates’ relates to efforts to create an open-source digital platform with the goal of expanding access to safe, home-based testing.”

Don’t be fished in by these nonsense stories.

They are attempts to harm you, by people who do not have your well-being at heart.

And you can be sure that they are dreaming up more trash as I type this.

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Johnson told to drop parts of plan to break international law – after Lords defeat

It seems Boris Johnson is living up to his new nickname as a #ShapeShiftingCreep once again.

He has just suffered a major defeat in his plan to break international law – contradicting his own EU Withdrawal Agreement, signed in January – after the House of Lords carved huge chunks out of his Internal Markets Bill before sending it back to him:

According to the Huffington Post:

Peers voted by 433 to 165 to strip out clauses in the Internal Market Bill which would allow the UK to renege on its obligations in the withdrawal agreement signed with the EU.

The defeat, one of the largest of any government in the Lords since hereditary peers were slimmed down in the 1990s, means that Johnson will have to weigh up whether to reinsert the clause in the House of Commons next month.

In another overwhelming show of strength, the Lords also voted by 407 to 148 to remove any breach of the northern Ireland protocol in the EU withdrawal treaty.

Senior Tories went on to tell Johnson his best course of action is to “quietly drop” those parts of the Bill that the Lords have excised.

The Evening Standard said Tories including Theresa May’s ex-chief of staff Gavin Barwell, former chancellor Ken Clarke and former Conservative Party leaders William Hague and Michael Howard all voted against Johnson’s government:

Lord Barwell told the Standard: “I don’t see any positives that come from those clauses.

He said the clauses were affecting the UK’s ability to get a trade deal with the EU and “rule out” any possible trade deal with the US while “damaging relations” with the new Joe Biden administration [in the United States].

After the vote, Johnson’s government insisted it would not back down and would re-table the clauses when the bill returns to the Commons in December.

Ah… but then there was the issue of Joe Biden. The new US president, who claims Irish ancestry, has said he will take an extremely dim view of any UK legislation that harms the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.

And it seems certain that he would have made that clear when Johnson telephoned to congratulate him on his win in the presidential election:

Johnson now faces a hard choice: reinstate the controversial – illegal – clauses and face the wrath of Biden, or quietly let them drop and face ridicule here in the UK.

He is a weak prime minister – who allows public perception to sway his decisions. I think we all know how this will end.

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EU to begin court action after Johnson misses deadline to explain international law breach

Self-satisfied: Boris Johnson sat speechless but smirking when Ed Miliband ripped apart his justifications for breaking his own treaty. Johnson doesn’t care about the law. He doesn’t care about what breaking it will cost because he won’t pay. You will.

The fact that he couldn’t even be bothered to respond to a ‘letter before action’ from the European Union demonstrates Boris Johnson’s contempt for the law – and the reason he should not be a member of Parliament.

Johnson’s Internal Market Bill (which is still not yet a law) breaches his own EU Withdrawal Agreement, that he signed in January.

If made law, the Bill would overrule the withdrawal agreement Johnson signed, by banning border checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain which are set to commence under the agreement from 31 December.

Johnson had signed up to the union’s customs code to get a deal, but now says Britain should be exempt from parts of it.

The European Commission confirmed on Tuesday that the deadline to respond to the letter has now come and gone without a UK response, meaning the court action against the UK will move to the next phase.

Tory government ministers have already admitted in parliament that the bill will break international law, but say the policy is justified because the law would only be broken in a “limited and specific” way.

We’ll see how that argument plays out in court. Badly, This Writer would expect. After all, a burglar breaks the law only in a “limited and specific” way, by breaking into people’s houses and stealing their belongings. If he’s prosecuted for it, he’ll still end up in prison.

To UK readers: how does it feel to be living in a rogue, outlaw state?

Source: Brexit: Boris Johnson misses EU deadline to explain breach of international law | The Independent

‘Spycops’ law will be used to spy on Labour, its MPs and trade unions. Why did 167 Labour MPs support it?

Another blunder: Keir Starmer’s insistence on allowing a law that would allow the government to undermine his party has created a rift between him and an ever-increasing number of his MPs.

It is already being labelled as a major rebellion against Keir Starmer’s leadership: 34 Labour MPs defying the party whip to vote against the controversial so-called ‘Spycops’ Bill that would allow government agents to commit crimes.

The real question about it, though, is: why so few?

Labour has been targeted by the so-called Establishment in the UK – probably from its beginnings as a political party. This includes espionage by the nation’s intelligence agencies.

We all know about famous incidents such as the Zinoviev Letter, which contributed to the fall of Ramsay MacDonald’s first Labour government. It was a forged communique allegedly between the government and the Communist government of Russia, written by people whose identities remain uncertain…

… but it was published by the Conservative Daily Mail, and it is widely believed that this was on the urging of the SIS – the intelligence service of the day.

Another famous issue is the MI5 file on Harold Wilson, which was opened when he first entered Parliament in 1945 and recorded his contacts with communists, KGB officers and other Russians.

It was opened because of concerns about his relationships with Eastern European businessmen. Can you imagine MI5 opening a file on Boris Johnson, over his relationships with oligarches from Russia?

Ultimately, none of the information in the file can have amounted to anything because MI5 never tried to use it to undermine him – despite his own paranoia about this in his later years.

Clearly there is a precedent for the security services – which are predominantly staffed by right-wingers – using every resource within their power to find ways of undermining the Labour Party.

And by abstaining on a Bill that allows government agents to commit crimes in order to achieve their aims, 167 Labour MPs including the party’s leader, Keir Starmer, have just handed them another such resource.

It’s undemocratic and dangerous – the kind of legislation created by a dictatorship in order to ensure, by fair means or foul, that no rival organisation can ever topple it.

But some good may come of it accidentally – the possible removal of Starmer as party leader.

Around 20 of his MPs rebelled against his demand to abstain on the Bill’s second reading. Yesterday (October 15), 34 defied his whip – including eight who resigned from front bench roles to do so:

 

Much of this can be attributed to Starmer’s own attitude, which suggests that he actually supports the Bill’s demand that government agents be allowed to commit any crime without fear of prosecution for it later – any crime at all, including the murder of the Tories’ political opponents:

Discontent with his lack of opposition to the worst Tory government in history is growing, and already there are rumours of a leadership challenge in 2021:

Political developments are strange; they don’t happen the way anybody expects – unless that person is very far-sighted indeed.

The Zinoviev Letter led to the fall of a Labour government – but only in a roundabout way. Labour’s vote increased in the general election; it was the collapse of the Liberal vote that allowed the Conservatives their victory.

It would be ironic if now, nearly a century after that attempt to end a socialist government, a piece of legislation that legalises espionage against the party that formed that government actually led to its re-founding as a socialist organisation once again.

That is the only comforting thought I can raise from what is, in all other respects, a disaster for democracy.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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