Monday, 29 March 2010

New website

For those few who have not yet noticed, UKIP has a new website, less cluttered and easier to navigate. You can find UKIP candidates here and get in touch with them directly; the manifesto is here (though it is still a little hard to find) and the individual policies are here. The website is there for all to use.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Abrogation of responsibity

On March 25 there was a response to Lord Pearson's Written Question:
To ask Her Majesty's Government which United Kingdom citizens have been extradited under the European arrest warrant; for which alleged crimes; to which European countries; and how long they have spent in custody awaiting trial.
HMG's response, as conveyed by Lord West of Spithead, was:
The Serious Organised Crime Agency and Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (for Scotland) are the designated authorities in the UK responsible for processing European arrest warrants (EAWs). It is not possible from current systems to break down the number of EAWs received by the UK into nationality, alleged offence type and requesting EU member state. To do so would require a manual examination of all files and incur disproportionate cost. Once a person has been extradited from the UK to another jurisdiction, the designated authorities' involvement in the EAW process ceases.

How long a person is held on remand awaiting trial, whether in custody or on bail, is governed by the law of the requesting state and this can vary from country to country. Internationally accepted standards usually allow for a two-year period of detention before trial, depending on the circumstances of the case. While the UK is unable to interfere in the legal processes of another country, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, if appropriate, will consider making inquiries with local authorities to establish the reason for any delay in trial proceedings for any British national held on remand for more than 24 months.
How nice. We have surrendered our right to examine whether that extradition request is acceptable and, apparently, we have lost all interest in what happens to the unfortunate person thus handed over. Undoubtedly, being part of the EU makes us stronger in the world.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Some useful media links

In case readers missed some of Lord Pearson's appearance in the media, here is a run-down: on March 19 Lord Pearson was interviewed on the Today Programme. He argued that recent figures produced by the Taxpayers' Alliance confirmed that Britain must pull out of the European Union and stop handing over billions of pounds every year, especially when the country's deficit is so large. (Here is, I hope, a link to the MP3 file. Could somebody let me know whether it works or not.)

On Saturday, March 20 Week in Westminster broadcast a debate between Lord Pearson and David Heathcoat-Amory, one of the Eurosceptic Tories, who has argued the case against the Constitution for Europe and the Lisbon Treaty with great clarity and passion but, sadly, cannot quite follow through the logic of his position. Perhaps, one day he will. (Here is a similar attempt to link the MP3 file.)

This was shown on the Daily Politics Show on Friday as well.

Monday, 22 March 2010

UKIP Manifesto

UKIP is the first party to publish its full manifesto, as well as individual policies. This may have something to do with the fact that the party sees no need to wait for the details of the forthcoming budget as a political manifesto should deal with general issues. For anyone who wants to read it, here is the link.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Watch the speech on YouTube

Lord Pearson's speech to the UKIP Spring Conference. as shown on Sky News (in full) can now be seen on YouTube, though in two parts:

Friday, 19 March 2010

Leader's speech winds up conference

This was an important conference for UKIP as the next election campaign is going to be very big. UKIP is in a position to play an important part and, possibly forcing a hung Parliament. Contrary to what some politicians (such as Ken Clarke) say, that would not be a disaster. The real disaster would be one of the main parties winning with a big enough majority to last five years in office.

Lord Pearson ended the conference with a highly successful speech that tackled the main issues: how to deal with criticisms of UKIP and the sort of questions candidates are likely to hear while canvassing. The full text of the speech is here.

There was a good media attendance. UKIP is now part of the main news cycle. Sky showed the speech in full; the BBC showed excerpts; there are reports in all the main newspapers and on the main media outlets. UKIP and what it says can no longer be ignored.

Tomorrow Financial Times will carry a long interview (one of their Lunch with ... series) with Lord Pearson of Ranoch. It follows his career in business and in politics. There is little point in quoting excerpts. Read the whole thing. A word of warning, however. The cartoon attached to the article is terrible.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

UKIP policies set out in the Daily Express

A long article by Lord Pearson in yesterday's Daily Express that sets out what ought to be the issues for this election. (Well, not that long.) It is worth reading in full. Also, it is worth quoting it to all those who ask what UKIP stands for.

Sadly, the main parties seem set to ignore all the issues raised. We shall see what the electorate will think.

All a bit foggy

Another one of the Starred Questions yesterday was asked by Lord Avebury:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on the reductions in support payments to asylum seekers while they are awaiting a decision on their application.
Lord West of Spithead replied:
My Lords, on 5 October 2009, we removed the distinction between rates of asylum support provided to single adults aged 18 to 24 and those aged 25 and over. The new unified rate was based on the lower rate provided to 18 to 24 year-olds, uplifted by 5.2 per cent. The rates paid to children and couples were also increased by 5.2 per cent. We continue to provide the over-25 rate to those who were in receipt of it prior to 5 October 2009, so no individual saw a reduction in their rate of support.
The rest of the discussion was moderately interesting and showed that some noble peers (like their brethren in the Lower House) seem unable to realize that money has to come from somewhere and there is a limit how much the government can squeeze out of the taxpayer.

There is also a problem with numbers of asylum seekers, successful or otherwise. Lord Pearson asked:
My Lords, of the figures given by the noble Lord, how many applicants are successful every year and how many applicants are returned overseas?
Lord West could not, in all honesty, give an adequate reply.
My Lords, I do not have that specific figure at my fingertips, but I think around 13 per cent were being returned and around 30 per cent were successful. Any expert in mathematics can work out that that is not 100 per cent. That is because many of these cases involve dual counting, duplication, wrong names and so on. There are a huge number of those. We have to take into account all of the backlog as well as the people currently coming in. If I have a specific figure for those coming in now, I will write to the noble Lord.
That may give us some idea of what is going on but it is this lack of hard information that makes the whole subject so bothersome to the electorate and so hard for the main parties to tackle.

Lord Myners does not exactly answer the question

As news, "Minister does not exactly answer the question" ranks somewhere around dog bites man and gardener digs soil in surprise. However, there was another example of this egregious non-activity in the House of Lords yesterday.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked HMG:
whether Article 122.2 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union can be used to require them to provide financial assistance to another member state which is "threatened with severe difficulties caused by exceptional circumstances beyond its control".
Hmmm, said Lord Myners on behalf of HMG, maybe yes or maybe no.
Any request for financial support in accordance with Article 122.2 would need to satisfy the specific criteria set out in the treaty and would be
considered on its individual merits by the ECOFIN Council, where it would be
voted on by qualified majority.
Qualified majority means that no country can block it and all countries will be liable.

Lord Pearson then followed up:
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I hope that he will forgive me if I say that illegality under the treaties has never bothered the Eurocrats. Will he give a clear guarantee that the United Kingdom will not, willingly or unwillingly, contribute to any out bail-out of the member states, including the proposed European monetary fund? Will he also confirm whether any such initiative would require a treaty change or whether it could be done by majority voting?
Lord Myners moved on to another Article in the Treaty and, to be fair to the noble Minister, there is a slight contradiction between Articles 122 and 125. That is why we should like to know what HMG intends to do, though one cannot help suspecting that they do not really know themselves.
I do not propose to comment on market speculation about the possibility of a European monetary fund. This is being discussed by the eurozone nations, but the UK is not part of those discussions. However, Article 125 of the treaty is very clear in stating:

"The Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of ... governments ... A Member State shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of governments ... of another Member State".
The rest of the short debate was of some interest, not least Lord Dykes's attempt to move the discussion on to the subject of Nigel Farage's behaviour in the European Parliament and his censure (shock, horror) by another MEP. All one can say is that Lord Dykes's verbose contribution did not go down very well with the House.

Lord Myners was accused of equivocation by Lord Stoddart of Swindon and replied with more equivocation. Lord Anderson of Swansea expressed his sorrow that the Conservatives have not said anything positive about the European Union and Lord Tebbit acquitted the Minister of equivocation:
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I acquit him of equivocation? Can he confirm that in his earlier answers he made a statement that would cause us to believe that, should any costs fall on the British taxpayer in respect of the bail-out of Greece, he would forthwith resign?
It would appear, however, that Lord Tebbit was premature in his assumptions as Lord Myners made it clear with yet more equivocation:
We are talking about European Union support and I have been very clear in my response about that; I have been very clear in my response about what the treaty says.
We can assume, therefore, that if the British taxpayer ends up bailing out Greece or any other member of the PIIGS, neither Lord Myners nor any other Minister will see fit to resign. Another dog bites man story.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Arguments about international aid have little logic

Imagine if a couple of doctors and a senior nurse were dicussing the case of a seriously ill person. Would they proclaim triumphantly: we have had to give him twice as much blood today than yesterday and we are continuting intravenous feeding for much longer than expected, isn't it wonderful? Of course not. The well-being of a patient is not counted in the amount of medication, blood-transfusion and intravenous feeding there has to be but in the speed with which he or she discards the need for all of that.

Not so when it comes to international aid when the amount of money that is pumped into countries or, to be quite precise, their governments that are often the main problem is a matter for self-congratulation. The fact that these countries do not seem to get any richer or more advanced either politically or economically is ignored.

This was the tone of the discussion in the House of Lords when Lord Judd asked
Her Majesty's Government what are their priorities for the future of European Union international development co-operation.
The purpose of the question became clear in his supplementary: it was another attempt to prove that the EU was absolutely essential to the well-being of the world.
I thank my noble friend for that very encouraging reply. Does he agree that the issues of world poverty, together with those of climate change, trade and international security, are so complex that they simply cannot be solved on a basis of national programmes, and that international co-ordination is absolutely indispensible? Does he therefore accept that the EU has a key role to play in this, and that our commitment to its institutions is essential in ensuring that it happens properly?
There followed discussion of the need to send more and more money and aid to developing countries without anyone bothering to enquire why those countries are still in such a bad position and might not aid coupled with protectionist policy have something to do with that.

Incidentally, there were still numerous references to climate change being one of the greatest problems facing the world, as if there have been no developments on that score and no admissions of falsified records and inaccurate analysis.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch introduced a different perspective:
My Lords, further to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, what proportion of our foreign aid is filtered through the European Union and how much of it goes astray? Would it not better to cut such aid and replace it with investment in agriculture and with free trade, which is often denied to the countries in question?
It was not terribly well received as the Minister, Lord Brett, had to admit that not everything in the garden was rosy.
My Lords, we spend money both bilaterally and multilaterally through the EU because the European Union makes policy on climate change, trade, agriculture and fisheries and is therefore in a unique position in terms of aid, trade and foreign policy. I can give a breakdown on the proportions of the money spent. I know that the noble Lord's enthusiasm for Europe is less than total, but international development is one area in which even he could not find much to criticise Europe. He makes the point about fraud, but the truth is that the amount of fraud is very small. The auditors have made a point about inadequate reporting by member states, and in 2009 they named Spain, Italy and Portugal as responsible for 80 per cent of the financial errors. However, actual fraud was found in only two cases among all the irregularities considered in 2008. Methinks that the noble Lord doth protest too much.
Noticeably, the noble Minister did not reply to the second part of the question about free trade and investment. It would appear that those simple remedies are not part of the government's or the EU' purview.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Can we have a real answer?

A few days ago HMG informed us that there were no proposals to create an office of European Public Prosecutor and that they have always opposed the idea. (Well, not always, as this blog pointed out, as they signed the Lisbon Treaty, which proposes that very idea.)

It would be nice to know what HMG thinks now. On Saturday Christopher Hope wrote in the Daily Telegraph:
The Spanish EU Presidency, backed by France and Germany, announced that it is going to propose the creation of an EU European Public Prosecutor next month using powers under the Lisbon treaty.

The move is regarded as "extremely worrying" and is seen as a further attempt to transfer powers from London to Brussels.
It is, indeed, very worrying. Even more worrying is the attitude of the Government that refuses to acknowledge that there is a very great danger of this coming to pass and, therefore, there ought to be some kind of a British policy on the subject. And even more worrying than that is the lack of any kind of comment from Her Majesty's Opposition. Will they veto any proposals for a European Public Prosecutor?

Christopher Hope goes on:
The British Government has consistently opposed the plans but is powerless to stop them going through as they can be passed as long as they have the backing of nine member states under so-called “enhanced co-operation”.

Britain has "opted out" of the system, which means that while the European prosecutor will not be able to bring cases in this country, he will still be able to issue European arrest warrants to force UK citizens to face prosecution in another member state – without asking the permission of the Government or the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer.
That's not quite what Article 86 says, as this blog pointed out in the previous posting and not quite what Marta Andreasen said in her Open Letter to David Cameron. One more question HMG should reply to: what can they do to stop this development, if anything, and do they intend to do it?

The New Statesman outdoes itself in silliness

Apologies for the few days of silence, which had to do with technical problems. The next few postings will deal with the Geert Wilders press conference on Friday, March 5 and media reactions to it.

First off, let us have a look at a particularly silly and unpleasant blog by Sholto Byrnes in the New Statesman. Mr Byrnes and his colleague on the Independent, who he quotes, has no real arguments so his posting consists of insults and sarcasm thrown at Mr Wilders (who, let us remember, cannot wander round the streets of any Dutch or British town freely, unlike, we must assume Mr Byrnes) and at Lord Pearson of Rannoch.

The title of the piece tells you all you need to know about Mr Byrnes's attitude and, presumably, that of the New Statesman: "Geert Wilders and the welcome silence of the majority". This attitude is, precisely, the problem with the whole debate (or lack of) about mass immigration, Islamism and the introduction of such things as Sharia law, which is alien to European thinking and culture. In particular, it ought to be alien to left-wing journalists, what with attitudes to women and gays. But none of this bothers Mr Byrnes - he thinks it is enough to thrown insults around the place:
It is precisely when people hear what Wilders has to say that they can draw the conclusion that he is crude and loathsome. Or in the case of his host, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, just plain silly. Here is Lord P's sage contribution to the debate: "To get these subjects discussed you have to sometimes be a little bit naughty, you have to sometimes say things like 'ban the burka'."
Oddly enough, Mr Byrnes is wrong about his conclusions. One gets the feeling that he has not been paying enough attention. Mr Wilders's visit has attracted a good deal of media attention and if Mr Byrnes could pay attention to anything going on outside his own little world, he would know that Mr Wilders's party is doing very well in the Netherlands. But that is another country and Mr Byrnes does not consider it to be of any interest.

Furthermore, the 200 or perhaps fewer demonstrators share Mr Byrnes's lack of interest in anything outside their own little world - they were protesting against the BNP and the EDL (English Defence League) neither of which organizations was there. Rent-a-mob had not heard of other countries either.

Do try to read the comments on the posting. Mr Byrnes's readers do not seem to agree with him. What is the world coming to?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Still no clarity

This blog has already pointed out that HMG is not very forthcoming or transparent about its intentions about the European Public Prosecutor.

On March 1 Lord Pearson's Written Question on the subject was published:
To ask Her Majesty's Government ... what stage any proposal for a European Public Prosecutor has reached; and whether they will refuse to opt into or veto it in due course
.The last part of the question did not really get a response. Lord West said on behalf of HMG:
There is no proposal at present to create a European Public Prosecutor (EPP). The Government has consistently opposed the creation of an EPP.
Yes, but will they veto it? After all, it is not entirely true that they have consistently opposed the creation of an EPP. They have signed up to the Lisbon Treaty, which states in Article 86 of The Consolidated Version on the Functioning of the European Union
In order to combat crimes affecting the financial interests of the Union, the Council, by means of regulations adopted in accordance with a special legislative procedure, may establish a European Public Prosecutor's Office from Eurojust. The Council shall act unanimously after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
The rest of the Article elaborates on procedure and purpose. So, it is not entirely true, as Marta Andreasen pointed out to David Cameron, that there have been no proposals. There is a general proposal in the Consolidated Treaties and once something is in the treaties, that something is intended to become part of EU legislation. However, Britain can veto the proposal. Will HMG do so when it comes up more definitely?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

UKIP is not alone

Back to the vexed subject of the burqa. The Financial Times reports that neither UKIP nor President Sarkozy are alone in wanting to ban the burqa.
More than half of voters in four other major European states back a push by France’s Nicolas Sarkozy to ban women from wearing the burka, according to an opinion poll for the Financial Times.

As Mr Sarkozy presses ahead with plans to ban the wearing of the burka in public places, the FT’s latest Harris poll shows the move is not just strongly supported in France, but wins enthusiastic backing in the UK, Italy, Spain and Germany.
From the poll we see that 70 per cent favour a ban on the all-enveloping garment with a veil (niquab) in public places in France, 65 per cent in Spain and 63 per cent in Italy. The percentages were somewhat lower in Germany and the UK - 50 and 57 per cent respectively.

In discussing the story, the FT showed its lack of understanding that the burqa is not just an item of clothing that some women choose to wear. It is a symbol and the reality of a system in which women have far fewer rights. Their word in courst is worth half of that of a man; they have no right to education or free choice in career or marriage; it is very questionable whether they have any decision in whether they want to hide themselves completely away from society around them.

Yet the article says:
The strength of feeling in the UK and Germany may seem particularly surprising. Britain has a strong liberal tradition that respects an individual’s right to full expression of religious views. But here, some 57 per cent of people still favoured a ban. In Germany, which is also reluctant to clamp down in minority rights, some 50 per cent favoured a ban.
The burqa is not a religious symbol or apparel; it is a cultural one and its purpose is to negate and defy the very liberal tradition and individual freedom that is referred to in that paragraph.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Start the week

The gap in postings had a very positive effect on the discussion in the comments sections. So far only one person, who posted a completely irrelevant comment anonymously, had to be warned. No need for comments moderation so far.

The week is starting well in that there is plenty to read and see on the UKIP website. The third of the regular Leader's Letters is up with news of party organization, campaign intentions and the press conference for Lord Monckton. You can also see a video of the conference on the site.

Here is a press account of Lord Monckton's comments and responses. And just to remind everyone here is UKIP's Energy and Environment Policy. We have shown ourselves to be sceptical of the whole concept of man-made global warming and of the idea that western economies should be bankrupted to try to prevent this alleged trend. That does not mean we do not care about the environment, pollution or the coming energy crisis.

It should be noted that evidence has shown throughout history that the best way of dealing with environmental problems and pollution is through private property and economic growth. The poorer a country is, the less likely it is to cope with those problems, small, large or catastrophic as the recent earthquare in Haiti has shown.