Cameron’s advisor Norman defends Eton comments

Jesse Norman, Cameron’s advisor has defended comments made in an interview, where he claimed that Eton School’s ‘ethos’ of public service was the reason that many ex-pupils are in major government positions.

Mr Norman is a Conservative MP and ex-Eton boy. He told the Times that other schools simply lacked the commitment Eton has. Soon after the interview, Mr Norman clarified on his Twitter that he did not mean to attack other schools. Previously this week, he had been appointed to Mr Cameron’s parliamentary board. He told The Times that ‘other schools do not have the same commitment to public service. They do other things.’

Mr Norman explained that Eton was largely pupil run, and the result is that the students don’t defer in quite the same way. According to Norman ‘they do think there’s a possibility of making change through their own actions’.

‘Of course they are highly privileged’ he went on. ‘It would be absurd to deny that – but the whole point of what Michael Gove [education secretary] is trying to do is to recover that independent school ethos within the state system, so that people from whatever walk of life can feel that they can take a proper part to the maximum’.

David Cameron is the nineteenth former Etonian British prime minister and he has faced criticism over the number of fellow Eton boys who boast top government positions. To name a few, chief of staff Ed Llewellyn, chief whip Sir George Young, Cabinet Officer Minister Oliver Letwin and London Mayor Boris Johnson’s brother Jo. Both Boris and Jo Johnson were both educated at the Berkshire school.

Mr Norman also claimed that Eton’s ‘old fashioned’ principles were another reason its pupils succeed. “Things like rhetoric and poetry and public speaking and performance are incredibly important to young people succeeding in life,” said the MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire.

He defended these comments by tweeting that his comments were in fact ‘defending one institution, not attacking others’.

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Circus – no animals beyond this point

We all have those lovely memories since we were little and our parents or grandparents would take us to the circus for the first time and we were buzzing with excitement or enthusiasm. Well it looks like we might not be able to do the same for our kids since the government has officially proposed in draft legislation to ban animals from traveling circuses across the UK. The initiative is supposedly created to be in the best interest of the wild animals but the new legislation does not apply to all wild animals and for those who do apply, only if they perform in traveling circus so therefore what is the point of this initiative?

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What animals are affected by this new legislation?

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has determined that animals such as elephants, lions or tigers no longer have a place in the UK traveling circus although these animal were headliners for many traveling circuses and as a result could significantly influence their future. On the other hand, animals such as snakes, camels or zebras could still partake in the usual circus acts. But from my point of view all of them are wild animals, I am curios to learn according to which criteria they classify one animal to be more “wilder” than the other.

Issues with the new legislation

One of the most ambiguous aspects of this initiative is that it applies only for travelling circuses. Therefore if by chance you happen to have an elephant or a tiger and want to perform an act on Britain’s got talent with your animal it would be perfectly legal.  The aim of this legislation is to prevent the abuse or mistreatment of such animals. Prior to this initiative the British government imposed a licensing scheme for all wild animals in order to keep a better control over the wellbeing of these animals.

MPs claim that this ban takes thing a little too far. However the new legislation is set to be implemented from December 2015, allowing traveling circus owners to adapt to the new conditions and make all the necessary modifications. Fines could reach the staggering amount of £ 5000 for those who disobey the law. This modification could mark the end of an era for circus aficionados, the end of circus tradition and could even mean the foreclosure for some circuses. Even so, I am certain that new acts will be invented to fill in for the missing animals which will help little children make beautiful memories as we once did.

Lending power to the people – EU referendum

Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, UK citizens have grown discontented with the fact that their beloved country is a member of the Eurozone. Fast forward into the present and the discontent has reached hard to ignore proportions. As a result UK politicians have decided to ask the people for their opinion on the matter but this task will not be an easy one as it will face many hurdles until it will pass all the required bureaucracy.

The first step

James Wharton was the one who created the bill according to which by 2017 the British people will have to make their voices heard. The referendum bill already passed the first stage, known as the Commons stage with generous support from many members of parliament. However the hard part is yet to come as it will also have to pass through Parliament. Some voices claim that the referendum bill will face strong opposition in Parliament and that its future is uncertain. One thing that is certain though is that UK has grown rather fond of the referendums as they have had them for voting on the electoral system and the devolution for Scotland. This is a clear sign that UK trusts its citizens and is evidence that UK is a very democratic country.

EU Referendum

But why does the UK want to leave the Eurozone?

Leaving the Eurozone brings as many advantages as disadvantages; the problem is deciding which is more relevant for UK’s future. Among the reasons citizens of the UK want to leave the Eurozone we find that the most important reasons are related to spending and to get a grip on the country’s borders. More precisely, stop funding the EU budget and instead spend those vast amounts of money directly in the country and to limit immigrants from flooding into the UK. But there is also another reason which is often overlooked and which I consider to be the most important: regaining the national currency. If you would look closely at the EU member states which were affected be the financial crisis and analyse their recovery process you will realizes that the speediest recoveries belong to the countries with their own national currencies. Needless to say what series of advantages having your own currency has.

The people will have their say

It is hard to say for sure if the British citizens will take all the advantages and disadvantages into account when they will cast their vote but then again this is how referendums work. We can only hope that Parliament will state all the reasons why to stay in the EU and why not to remain in the EU and let the people decide for themselves what is best for them.

House of Lords adds its Opposition to Government over Legal Aid

Former Justice Secretary Kenneth Clark announced last year that, to keep the Ministry of Justice in line with cuts and austerity measures imposed by the Chancellor, that the legal aid budget of  £2bn would be cut by £350m, coming into effect this April.

This was to great opposition and protest throughout the legal sector. Many legal practitioners and bodies stated that the effect of such cuts would be to deny people justice, as people would not be able to afford representation in court. A basic democratic right would be infringed if the legal aid bill was cut, critics warned.

The proposals outlined cuts to mainly civil law areas, including family, personal injury, criminal negligence, immigration and similar. Such areas have a day to day impact on people’s lives, and as such the opportunity to get legal aid for those areas is vital to allow the average citizen the opportunity to get justice, the legal sector argued.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) stated that such cuts would make more people turn to arbitration or alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Critics, whilst approving of the idea to encourage ADR, said it was morally wrong that citizens should be effectively be denied the choice of whether to obtain justice by the courts or by ADR, and be forced by lack of money or representation to go down the ADR route- which might not be appropriate for all claims.

In an interview earlier this month, Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court, gave his own criticism of the cuts. With the absence of legal aid and the ability to get legal representation, Lord Neuberger stated that the amount of litigants in person (LIP’s: claimants who represent themselves in court without a lawyer) would probably rise. He commented that “this will mean that court hearings will last longer, the burden on court staff and judges will increase… and you may find the savings the government thinks it’s making in legal aid will be offset in other costs of courts and judges and court staff in supporting litigants in person.”

The Act of Parliament concerning the proposed cuts went before the House of Lords last week.

In a rare show of crossbench solidarity, the Lords condemned the Bill, with former Labour justice minister Lord Bach calling the government a “playground bully”. The Bill before the Lords contained none of the exemptions initially promised, amongst other failings and criticisms.

Three motions regretting the government’s actions over the broken promises in this legislation were debated in the House- and resulted in a defeat for the government.

Lord Bach’s regret motion was passed by 166 votes to 161- a narrow majority, but a government defeat nonetheless. Baroness Grey Thompson’s (crossbencher) regret motion (concerning legal aid and the disabled) resulted in another defeat; 163 votes to 148. Baroness Scotland (formerly Gordon Brown’s Attorney General- and the first woman to hold the role) spoke out concerning legal aid for victims of domestic violence; her motion was also passed, by 156 votes to 140.

The Bill was eventually passed- but surprising crossbench solidarity and fierce opposition to the Bill was a great political and moral defeat for the government. The stormy passage through the House of Lords and stinging criticism from throughout the legal sector and civil rights advocates shows just how unpopular Mr. Clarke’s legal aid cuts are. The cuts will take effect later this year; but at great political and moral cost the government.

In his interview, Lord Neuberger said that his “worry is the removal of legal aid for people to get advice about law and get representation in court will start to undermine the rule of law because people will feel like the government isn’t giving them access to justice in all sorts of cases… And that will either lead to frustration and lack of confidence in the system, or it will lead to people taking the law into their own hands.”

Even though the Law Lords no longer sit in the House of Lords, on some matters it is if the Law Lords never left the red benches.

Demands for Cut to EU Budget

Leaders of the EU met in the latest two day summit to discuss the next seven years of the EU budget and spendings.  The summit ended however with no settlement between the 27 members.

For the tax year starting April 2010-2011 the British Treasury paid in more than £8 billion to the EU budget.  It is one among 12 other states that pay in more to the EU budget than they get back in the form of funding.

The UK’s David Cameron said to reporters- ‘”When we were last here in November, the numbers were much too high: they need to come down, and if they don’t come down then there won’t be a deal.” He added, ‘“Frankly, the EU should not be immune from the sorts of pressures that we’ve had to reduce spending.”

If the EU doesn’t reach an agreement by 2013 the budget would have to be agreed upon next year, which would put long term projects in jeopardy.  Concern has been expressed that further delays would hinder the opportunity for economic recovery, and the fact that a settlement is taking a prolonged period of time isn’t sending a good message to the rest of the members. A Downing Street spokesperson said it was “in our interest to do a deal” and insisted Mr Cameron was trying to reach agreement. Before formal talks began, Mr Cameron met European council president Herman.  Mr Cameron also had some conversations with other heads of government that are in the same position as he is, this includes: Angela Merkel (Germany), Fredrik Reinfeldt (Sweden), and Mark Rutte (Denmark).

In order to duplicate the cuts being made by national governments across Europe, the UK, Germany and other northern European nations want to lower the EU spending increases. France and Italy target investing as an important part of the EU, as investing is likely to create more jobs, and is better for the future.

With having the proposal for a real terms freeze rejected by MPs in October last year, David Cameron combated pressure to convey a real terms cut in EU spending.  The opposition were joined by many of Cameron’s Tories in defeating this – dealing a blow to Cameron’s policy on Europe.

 

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What leaving the EU would mean for the UK legal system

The vast majority of UK law originates from the European Union. It is estimated that 80% of law currently in action in the UK has derived from the EU, and therefore a British withdrawal would mean huge changes for the UK legislation system.

The signing of the Treaty of Lisbon resulted in a mechanism by which states could withdraw from the EU, as pre-2007, this was next to impossible. This treaty amended the EU founding treaties.

As the UK legislation is heavily derived from the EU, leaving the EU would have a huge effect on the system.  These impacts would begin with the ceasing of the Treaties (TEU and TFEU), which would include as part of those, the fundamental freedoms (movement of labour, capital and goods/services). This would result in the protection of UK citizens living in or intending to live in an EU state vanishing. Residents of the UK will require visas to visit member states, and the rights that derive from the fundamental freedoms and apply in UK courts will be taken from UK citizens.

The whole efficiency of judicial rulings, or case law, would have to be revisited. These were decided and confirmed after a preliminary reference procedure. These case laws are sometimes referred to the Court of Justice of the EU of a question regarding EU law, and this clearly could not occur following a British withdrawal.

Currently, national legislation in the UK is adopted to obey the EU Directives. This could potentially be repealed or amended, depending on which is more beneficial to the UK. Unfortunately, assessing the costs and benefits of keeping those provisions will be a huge and difficult task (given the great number of measures and the methods of how the UK has handled the EU Directive). Arguably, the Financial Regulation and Company Law would be the highest priority measures to be revised. But even these would take years, as revising them would simply add huge amounts of pressure to the workload of the UK Departments and Parliament. Taking on new measures and changing old laws just is not feasible given the current circumstances.

This article was contributed by the LawNinja.

David Cameron on European Union Referendum

In a speech directed at Britain and its future membership of the European Union, David Cameron said he would hold a referendum if he wins the next election. The speech given on Wednesday has had a mixed reception.

Cameron has again stated that Britain must hold a national referendum on whether the public want to stay in Europe, moving a lot closer to mentioning a date, saying using the mandate of the 2015 election he will go ahead with a referendum, this will appease some Conservative MPs and Euro-sceptics. Cameron believes that in the next couple of years that the EU “must agree on treaty change” to in fact to make the “changes needed for the long term future of the European Union”. Labour and the Liberal Democrats believe that gambling the UK membership of the European Union was against national and economic interest.

The House of Commons is likely to debate this in the coming days. Labour is saying that they could accept a referendum, but “not at the moment”.

Germany and France, two of the strongest economies in the European Union, also criticized the UK as taking an “a la carte” approach. Germany in particular asking for compromise from Britain, its Chancellor Angela Merkel asking for the UK to find “common ground” as she believes it is in their best interest for their economies to pick up. The United States also said they believe Britain is “stronger” because of the European Union membership.

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UK Aid to Rwanda Criticised

The government has come under fire for its decision to resume foreign aid to Rwanda, after the African country was accused of supporting rebels involved in fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda, along with Uganda, denies funding the rebels, but the UK government has been accused of a ‘profound error of judgement’. Justine Greening, International Development Minister, was put under pressure to explain the government’s decision by her Labour counterpart, Mr Ivan Lewis, who questioned the motives behind what appears to be curious move.

‘Shambolic’ Decision

Mr Lewis, in his address to Ms Greening, said:

“The government’s policy on this crisis has been nothing short of shambolic, and has seriously undermined the international effort to send a unified and unequivocal message to the Rwandan government that their actions are entirely unacceptable.”

It transpires that Ms Greening’s predecessor, Mr Andrew Mitchell, agreed to unfreeze up to £16million of aid to Rwanda on the day before he took over the post of Chief Whip. The UN accuses Rwanda of supporting a rebel militia group known as M23, a charged that the Rwandan government denies.

Justine Greening Responds

Ms Greening defended the government’s decision to restore aid to the troubled African country, explaining:

“Labour has no ability to really criticise us in relation to, a, tracking results of our aid, and, b, being clear about whether it is being spent appropriately or not. Whenever we have needed to take action to curb aid, we have indeed done that.”

It is notable that Uganda, which stands accused of supporting M23 alongside Rwanda, has had all of its aid from the UK cut after it emerged that much of it was transferred into private hands of government members in the country. The Ugandan government has said it is ‘not happy’ with the decision, but was willing to acknowledge that government aid had been stolen.