Tag Archives: treaties

Theresa May just embarrassed the UK internationally – twice with one speech

Theresa May addressed the United Nations – and almost nobody bothered to turn up.

This is the result of seven years of Conservative-led government, along with 38 years of neoliberal political ideology: The UK’s international reputation is in tatters and nobody wants to hear what our representatives have to say.

That’s why Theresa May was speaking to a practically-empty hall at the United Nations, when she got to deliver her keynote speech.

What’s the point of telling the UN it needs to reform if hardly any of the UN’s members were listening?

While Mrs May was speaking, This Writer understands that she made a derogatory reference to countries that break international treaties.

It seems she should have checked one such treaty that the UK has signed, before opening her mouth.

The report by the Commons’ International Development Committee states that “the Arms Trade Treaty, along with UK national arms export criteria and the EU Common Position on arms exports, which regulate the UK trade in arms, say that licences cannot be granted ‘if there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.’

The UK sells arms to Saudi Arabia, which is at war with Yemen, so the following is important: “We heard powerful evidence from representatives of humanitarian organisatinos who said that they had witnessed bombing and targeting of civilians and civilian objects on the ground in Yemen, which suggests that there is more than a clear risk of IHL violations by the Saudi-led coalition.”

The report goes on to say: “Several States Parties appear in direct violation of legally binding Treaty obligations by continuing to supply arms to Saudi Arabia where there is a clear risk that they will be used in breach of international law in Yemen.” The UK is among those states.

The fact is well-known so Mrs May was branding herself – and by extension, the whole of the UK – a hypocrite by attacking others for doing exactly what she has been doing: Breaking an international treaty.

Ah, but Mrs May is a Conservative, isn’t she? They don’t think they have to abide by any rules other than those they make up for themselves.


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What you’re not being told about Europe’s verdict on social security

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“Manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.

They are the Council of Europe’s verdict on the UK’s social security system of payments for jobseekers, pensioners and recipients of both short- and long-term incapacity benefit.

The Council, an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation, is home to the European Court of Human Rights.

The finding was made in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European Social Charter. If the UK’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government takes no action to rectify the situation, then the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers may address a recommendation to the UK, asking it to change the situation in law or in practice. This is clearly a weak way of handling a situation that could affect the well-being of many millions of people.

But Council officials say national courts refer to these international standards when deciding on relevant cases, meaning benefit claimants could try to use the Council’s ruling to boost their case for a higher award.

In response, our ever-more-right-wing government could decide to withdraw from its dealings with the Council altogether, meaning our citizens would no longer have recourse to the European Court of Human Rights. Many Tories – like Philip Davies – have long held this desire!

The Daily Mail, of all rags, appears to have done its homework on this, stating: “JSA, ESA (both £67 a week) and pension (about £102) all fall well below the £138 a week, or £596 a month, that the Eurocrats have set as the benchmark.

“Because all three are below a second threshold of £110 a week, they are rated ‘manifestly inadequate’.”

The UK has signed treaties in which it has promised to adhere to the provisions of the European Social Charter, so the Council’s claim that its conclusions are legally binding are accurate.

But the Coalition government has never been one to accept rules made by anybody else, and the DWP – one of the worst offenders (see previous articles on Workfare, work capability assessments for people with mental health problems, and the Bedroom Tax) is trying to claim that the findings must only be “taken into account” (meaning they would be noted, but ignored).

In his own response, Iain Duncan Smith appears to have completely misunderstood the meaning of the judgement, providing yet another example of why he is rightly considered one of the Coalition government’s leading dunderheads.

“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 £204 billion in benefits and pensions last year alone.”

He simply does not understand that talking about the whole amount paid by the government is irrelevant when it is the amount paid on a regular basis to individuals that is at issue.

The Council of Europe states that 40 per cent of the Eurostat median equivalised income is the level at which the benefits should be paid and, as a treaty signatory, the UK has agreed to meet this requirement. RTU’s opinion is of no consequence at all. He is in breach of an international treaty.

The ruling also undermines his claim that many people have made a lifestyle choice to live in comfort on the dole, and his party’s claim that foreign nationals have been immigrating to Britain for purposes of benefit tourism – income levels are too low for anyone in their right mind to consider it.

What nobody is telling you is that this report does not even take account of the changes to the UK’s social security system that were ushered in by RTU’s (we call him that in honour of his ignominious army career – it stands for Returned To Unit, the fate of officer candidates who didn’t make the grade) hopelessly ignorant and hideously draconian Welfare Reform Act.

These are conclusions based on the system before the Bedroom Tax, before the benefit cap, before the flat-rate state pension, and before the one per cent limit on benefit uprating.

The report states: “The Committee notes that these legislative developments (the Welfare Reform Act and the State Pension Reform) are outside the reference period. Therefore, it asks the next report to indicate how these have affected the personal coverage of social security risks – ie the percentage of the covered persons out of the total active population as well as the minimum levels of income-replacement benefits (unemployment, sickness, maternity and old-age).”

In particular, it singles out Employment and Support Allowance: “The Committee of Ministers observed that there was a toughening of the qualifying conditions for the entitlement to ESA on the one hand and a drastic reduction of its duration on the other, which could result in an outright reduction of protection offered by the sickness benefit.

“The Committee of Ministers invited the Government to show in its next report … that the obligations and sanctions under the work-related activity regime are of such a nature as not to unduly limit the protection afforded … to sick persons after the 13th week of sickness.”

That’s going to be tricky for RTU – the last figures his department deigned to release showed that an average of 73 people a week were dying after going through his ideologically-motivated work capability assessment.

As stated at the start of this article, “manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.

They describe the performance of his department in looking after the needs of British taxpayers who have fallen on hard times due to unemployment or illness – and also its treatment of pensioners.

They also describe, in the opinion of objective outsiders, his own performance as a British government minister.

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Failings over race earn Theresa May a figurative rap on the knuckles – twice!

Bad taste in the mouth, Theresa? Not nearly as bad as the flavour that faced British citizens, wrongly accused of being illegal immigrants because of your race vans.

Bad taste in the mouth, Theresa? Not nearly as bad as the flavour that faced British citizens, wrongly accused of being illegal immigrants because of your race vans.

Anyone with an ounce of brain in their head knew the Home Office was going to be banned from using its advertising vans again – the ones telling illegal immigrants to “go home”, in the language of “knuckle-dragging racists”, as Owen Jones so memorably phrased it.

That is, anyone except everyone working at the Home Office, including the Secretary of State – Theresa May.

The Advertising Standards Authority ordered the Home Secretary not to put the vans on the streets again, saying the phrase “go home” was indeed a reminder of a racist slogan and “clearly carries baggage”.

The authority also said the posters on the vans referred to inaccurate arrest statistics, claiming there had been 106 arrests in the area in the past week. The ASA said this was misleading as it did not relate to accurate arrest statistics for the specific areas where people would have seen the vans.

They were out in Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow – areas the Home Office believe many illegal immigrants live and work.

The report stated: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told the Home Office to ensure that in future they held adequate substantiation for their advertising claims and that qualifications were presented clearly.”

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The ASA had received 224 complaints about the vans from individuals, campaign groups, legal academics and the Labour peer Lord Lipsey, who is from Vox Political‘s home constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire, we’re proud to say.

But in an impressive display of tightrope-walking the ASA said the van campaign was not offensive or irresponsible. While the “Go home” slogan had been used in the past to attack immigrants, its report said, the Home Office was now using it in a different context.

Oh! Well, that makes it perfectly acceptable, doesn’t it? Never mind the possibility that nobody seeing those vans in the street was ever likely to consider such a nuance, it was “unlikely to incite or exacerbate racial hatred and tensions in multi-cultural communities” because the intention was different!

What about the message implied by these vans – a message that was clearly pointed out by commentators at the time – that Conservative-leaning voters should treat with hatred, suspicion and contempt anybody who is not a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant?

What about the way they encouraged suspicion that another person may be an illegal immigrant?

What about the way the Home Office Twitter account spent the week-long pilot period in which the vans were traipsing round London tweeting messages about the number of illegal immigrants it wanted us to believe had been detected or turned themselves in? Can we believe those figures, if the number on the vans themselves was fake?

What about the photographs transmitted by the same Twitter account, of suspects who had been arrested, before they had been charged? Does anybody remember if any of these people were the white Anglo Saxons mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago?

What about the spot-checks at railway stations, where anybody who was not clearly white could be stopped by immigration officers wearing stab vests who demanded to see identification proving they were in the UK legally? How galling was it for British citizens – people who were born and raised in this country – to be faced by a flak-jacketed fiend who (it is claimed) became unreasonably aggressive when challenged over their right to behave in this manner without direct cause for suspicion?

What about the fact that the Home Office undermined its own arguments by being unable to reveal the different ethnicities of the people who were stopped – information that was vital in determining whether they had been breaking the law?

What about the fact that all of this effort was hugely out of proportion when considering the number of illegal immigrants it was likely to net? Forget forced labourers who are brought into the country but kept hidden by criminal organisations – these are not responsible for what happened to them and their cases are likely to be part of criminal investigations into the people holding them captive. Who does that leave?

And what about the possibility that this was not about illegal immigrants at all, but a sop to all those people – many of them Daily Mail readers, we expect – who believe that immigration of any kind is out of control? These are people who need to get to grips with the facts. As reported by this blog and others back in August, the UK has a lower immigrant population than almost any ‘developed’ nation; they are assessed via a points-based system, only seven per cent are asylum-seekers and only a third of asylum claims are accepted. They do not have access to most of the benefits available to UK citizens and what they do receive are nowhere near the same value. They are one-third less likely to claim those benefits, meagre as they are, than UK citizens.

The Unite union has been seeking legal advice over this matter, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has also been investigating this. It will be interesting to see what they say.

But a rap on the knuckles over bad information is a good start. Naughty, naughty, Theresa May!

On the same day, the Home Secretary – along with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling – faced questions from two Lords committees on the UK’s 2014 opt-out from EU police and criminal justice measures, as part of a reopened inquiry.

If this opt-out is exercised, the Coalition government has listed 35 measures that it would seek to rejoin, and it is these that prompted the Lords to reopen their inquiries.

Parliament’s own website said they were likely to face questions on how they defined the national interest in selecting the 35 measures the UK would seek to rejoin, and whether the changes will break the UK’s obligations to European arrest treaties.

And there were questions to be answered on whether non-participation on measures dealing with xenophobia and racism (the issues at the heart of the matter with the advertising vans) sent an “unfortunate” signal to other EU member states that the UK, under a Conservative-led government, no longer regards those issues as important.

Fortunately for Theresa May, these proceedings do not appear to have been made public.