Thursday, 10 February 2011

Prisoner's Votes/ECHR/Sovereignty of Parliament/Human Rights/Civil Rights/ Principles

So, the long awaited House of Commons debate on prisoner's votes has ended with a majority of 245-22 in favour of the motion proposed by David Davis/Jack Straw/Dominic Raab. At a rought calculation that means 394 Members of Parliament couldn't be bothered to vote, which includes the Front Benches who abstained. Once the Hansard record is available, which will include the voting record, I will post it as a footnote.

Much has been written on the matter of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and its effect on our lives - nourishing obscurity; and Autonomous Mind in the comments to the post, 'chastised' me - and others - for appearing to have ignored their individual posts. There have been those in the blogosphere who have, quite rightly, made the point that the ECHR and the EU are two different entities, however there is a tenuous link.

Rather than set out the position here, please refer to this briefing note produced by Open Europe, which does the job adequately and explains the 'minefield' that ignoring the ECHR ruling will entail. The tenuous link to which I refer is the facts that (a) the EU is due to sign-up to the ECHR; (b) that the UK, as a member of the EU, is bound by the EU's own Charter of Fundamental Rights; and (c) it is a condition of membership of the EU that all Member States respect human rights. The TaxPayers Alliance (TPA) has also produced a post on the subject of 'prisoners votes' and consequently is also worth reading.

Just what Cameron intended by allowing the 'free vote' on prisoners votes and how he also intends unravelling the problem that he has created, heaven knows. Two posts, written before the vote, are worthy of reading - one by Benedict Brogan and the other by Norman Tebbitt. It is also worth noting that Cameron has created an area of conflict with his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners, in that it is their policy to grant prisoners voting rights - an aspect of discord which will be worth following.

Having listened to the debate on prisoners voting rights in its entirety, it would seem that MPs are confused about the principles involved in respect of prisoner's votes and membership of the EU. Time and time again MPs were heard pontificating about the right of Parliament to make the laws of this land; of 'drawing a line in the sand', thus telling the ECHR thus far and no more. If MPs are so adamant that no foreign court, or anyone else, is going to impose their ruling to allow prisoners the vote; that that is a matter for the HoC and no-one else, the question has to be asked why they are so agreeable for the EU to impose rulings on this country - if as MPs maintain it is our Parliament that should make the law. As proof of this witness the hypocrisy of Dominic Raab who said that it is not pandering to public opinion for MPs to assert their right to make law! Another point that did not get raised in this debate in which MPs maintained it is their 'right' to decide whether prisoners get the vote was whether it might just not be the people's 'right' to decide on this matter.

The TPA is quite correct that the original idea of human rights - one proposed by Churchill and Maxwell-Fyfe - has been 'high-jacked' by the human-rights brigade and the legal fraternity. There appears a misunderstanding between what is a human right and what is a civil right. Applying that distinction to prisoners, yes they have the right to be fed, clothed, housed etc - they are' humane' rights. Where they do not have a right is to the continued benefits of a society whose laws they willingly chose to break.

It is a sad day for our democracy - such as it presently is - that MPs should even be debating the right of Parliament to make laws, something which seemed to have escaped their notice, bar one MP. It is also sad that they could not realise the stupidity of their debate - in that whilst arguing for the right to make the laws of this land, they conveniently forgot the 'elephant in the room' - but then, what is new?

Now can we please get out of this mad-house whose HQ is based on the continent - and at the same time change the occupancy of our HoC whose main claim to fame is being verbally incontinent?

Update: Courtesy of Richard North, EU Referendum, comes a link to Mary Ellen Synon, whose article sums up the stupid situation most admirably! (and it is a must-read link!)

Update (2) Here is the provisional Hansard record of the debate


DAD said...

"It is a sad day for our democracy - such as it presently is - that MPs should even be debating the right of Parliament to make laws, something which seemed to have escaped their notice, bar one MP."

Who was s/he ?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

DAD: When I get the Hansard link will link to it, but from memory Richard Drax?

Autonomous Mind said...

WfW, I promise you I have never chastised anyone for not reading or commenting on any post I've written, and I never will. It goes against my belief in freedom of expression for one and would be insufferably arrogant for another.

I had a wry smile when a colleague come into my meeting with a note about the vote tally. It possibly brings closer the day when some of the sheep in parliament stop and ask themselves 'what the hell did we do to let all this happen?'.

Failing that it will expose to the electorate the incompetence and duplicity of so many MPs who think they can cherry pick the laws and regulations various supranational entities impose on us.

Either way, the political class is becoming entangled in its own web. T'would be nice if the tangle resulted in suffocation.

James Higham said...

Telegraph reported 234-22. No matter.

Now let the battle begin.

James Higham said...

[And I wasn't chastising, by the way - hope you don't think that.]

WitteringsfromWitney said...

JH: Farthest from my thoughts - posted 'tongue-in-cheek'!

AM: Accepted - see next post???

WitteringsfromWitney said...

JH: ps - took the intial result off Twitter.........