Tuesday 17 August 2010

Lord Pearson resigns as leader

This is not news exactly but here is the link to Lord Pearson's statement in which he explains his course of action. One might ask whether this blog will carry on functioning and the answer to that is unclear at this stage. However, there are certain things that do need to be done - this blog will catch up with Lord Pearson's activity in the House of Lords before the recess. This should have been done before but the present hiatus in political activity is a good time.

Friday 30 July 2010

UKIP wins appeal

As the BBC reports quite fairly UKIP has won its appeal against the Electoral Commission's appeal against the original judgement.
The UK Independence Party does not have to forfeit all of a £367,697 "impermissible donation", the Supreme Court has ruled.

UKIP received the money from a donor who was not on the electoral register.

The party was initially told to forfeit £14,481 but that was increased after the Electoral Commission took the case to the Appeal Court.

UKIP's victory at the Supreme Court lifts the threat of financial ruin that was hanging over the party.

But it represents a defeat for the Electoral Commission which was pressing UKIP to return the full amount donated by retired bookmaker Alan Bown.
Lord Pearson greeted the news by reminding everyone what UKIP's task is: to get Britain out of the EU.

Iain Dale posted his support for the decision and his worries about the Electoral Commission and the way it makes decisions.

For those who are interested, here is a link to both the judgement and the press summary.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

It must be deliberate

To clarify the government's position and the possibilities of any reform of the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries Policies, Lord Pearson asked the following question:
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Henley on 12 July (WA 97), which European Union countries support their position on reform of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies; and what voting power those countries have in the Council of Ministers.
There is a reason for that careful phrasing: as decisions are taken on qualified majority voting (QMV), a highly complicated system, which countries and how many votes they have in the Council of Ministers is of vital importance. Can reforms be carried through? Will there be enough votes for it?

HMG decided to ignore the question and produce irrelevant and well-meaning waffle:
There is broad agreement across the EU about the case for reform of the common fisheries policy, including the need to decentralise and simplify the current complex regulations. Few, if any, member states support the status quo, though views vary as to the changes needed. A draft legislative proposal will be published in 2011 and the UK is fully engaged in dialogue with other member states, the European Commission, industry, environmental NGOs and scientists to establish common ground for reform.

The UK's aim of a competitive, thriving and sustainable agriculture sector is supported by all member states. The Government are starting to consider their detailed position on reform of the common agricultural policy beyond 2013. Individual member states' positions will become clear in their responses to the European Commission's communication on CAP reform later this year.
This tells us nothing about the countries and their voting power should any question of reform arise.

As for there being broad agreement in favour of reform either of the CFP or the CAP, one cannot help wondering why, if that is so, there has been such a singular lack of it in the last three and a half decades.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

A new Bill

Lord Pearson introduced a new Bill to the House of Lords, which was read for the first time yesterday. This is a formality that enables the Bill to be published and laid before the House properly.

A Bill to make provision for establishing a committee of inquiry into the economic implications for the United Kingdom of membership of the European Union.

When is a loan not a commitment?

When it is made by EU member states in contradiction of the EU's own rules. Or so it would appear from the reply made to Lord Pearson's Starred Question yesterday:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take under Article 125 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to ensure that neither the European Union nor any member state shall be liable for or assume commitments of another member state.
Lord Sassoon's reply was:
My Lords, at the emergency ECOFIN meeting on 9 May, EU Finance Ministers agreed that up to €60 billion of emergency finance can be provided to any EU member state in accordance with Article 122(2) of the EU treaty. At the same time, euro-area Finance Ministers agreed a €440-billion package of assistance to be provided through a special purpose vehicle. Both these actions are consistent with Article 125 of the treaty.
Before we go any further, let us sort out what these Articles actually say. They are in the Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Article 125 seems clear on the subject:
The Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of any Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project. A Member State shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of another Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project.
Article 122(2) is equally clear but is not entirely in agreement:
Where a Member State is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may grant, under certain conditions, Union financial assistance to the Member State concerned. The President of the Council shall inform the European Parliament of the decision taken.
Whether the difficulties Greece is experiencing are caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences is a moot point but that is the way this is being read and Lord Pearson does have a point when he says that the EU is breaking its own rules.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply, which does not square with the Government's Answer of 14 June when they agreed that no member state should be allowed to bail out another. Are not the proposed bailouts yet another example in a long line of examples of Brussels riding roughshod over its own legislation? Going slightly deeper, does not history teach us that trouble lies ahead when a regime feels free to break its own laws with impunity, when it is supported by a puppet court, and when its people are powerless to get rid of it? Is that not exactly what we now have with the European Union?
Ah, says Lord Sassoon, this is not a bail-out, it is a loan.
The one thing I agree with him on is that Article 125 does indeed rule out any bailout. However, no bailout has been proposed or implemented under Article 122(2) or any other article because what have been proposed are loans, which are fully permitted under Article 125.
The trouble is that Article 125 does not talk of bail-outs but of commitments and a loan is a commitment, except, presumably when it is not.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Not too late

At a short notice Lord Pearson has been asked to be interviewed on today's World at One on the subject of the proposed French ban on the burqua in public.

Friday 9 July 2010

All responses seem to be woolly

Presumably, the reason for the continuing woolliness of answers in the House is that it is the same civil servants who write them. But one would hope that occasionally Ministers would look at them and point out that what is supposed to be a response is nothing of the kind, even to relatively non-contentious questions.

Lord Pearson put down a Written Question on what must be a relatively non-contentious issue though the lack of clear response makes one wonder what is being hidden:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the value for money of their funding of £1.5 million to the Sarsen Housing Association in Cornwall for 20 affordable homes.
The response was a little odd in that it stated the obvious without replying to the question:
Grant funding to Sarsen Housing Association to provide 20 affordable homes was provided through the Home and Communities Agency's (HCA) National Affordable Housing Programme.

Funding was made available through a competitive bidding basis where bids were assessed against four main criteria, value for money-in terms of total public subsidy per home and per person housed, design and quality standards, deliverability and local and regional priorities.
So what assessment has been made?