Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

It emerged over the weekend that David Cameron will be teaming up with Kenneth Clarke this week to make the case for Britain’s continued membership of the EU.

In a speech ahead of next week’s G8 meeting of world leaders in Northern Ireland, Cameron is planning to say that the country faces a battle for its economic future, involving major domestic reforms and greater foreign ambition.

He’s planning to support Britain’s membership of the EU, describing it as part of a “desire to shape the world” by sitting at the “top table” of major international institutions. And he will urge the country to nurture a “sense of opportunity” that was “lacking for too long”.

Cameron’s staunch defence of Britain’s EU membership, a month after Michael Gove and Philip Hammond said they would vote to leave now, will be reinforced by Clarke who will warn that Britain will be “reduced to watching from the sidelines” if it leaves the EU.

The prime minister will indicate his sympathies lie with Clarke and not with his friend Gove when he outlines how Britain can improve its standing in the world.

The prime minister plans on saying: “Membership of these organisations is not national vanity – it is in our national interest. The fact is that it is in international institutions that many of the rules of the game are set on trade, tax and regulation. When a country like ours is affected profoundly by those rules, I want us to have a say on them.”

It’s hard not to feel that Cameron has let this issue completely run away from him within his own party.  I agree with his assessment of the importance of continued membership of the EU, so I have to ask him why he and his party have put it in such jeopardy.

Last week there was much discussion of the state of gender equality as people marked the 100 year anniversary of the tragic death of Emily Wilding Davison.  A lot of the discussion centered on our failure as a nation to properly venerate important and influential women from our past.  In the Observer yesterday people wrote in with their observations about the lack of Blue Plaques to women, including the extraordinary revelation that the plaque on the house of Millicent Garrett Fawcett reads “Henry Fawcett … lived here with his wife and daughter, 1874-1884.”

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

It was quite a week in which to highlight women’s rights or rather the lack of it.  

The week didn’t begin well with some startling comments from Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke and then we heard the news that the number of women claiming out-of-work benefits has hit its highest level since 1996, with public sector job cuts starting to bite last month.

Not only that but the government is making life even more difficult for single mothers whose children are aged seven or above in an ill thought out attempt to encourage single mothers into the workforce.

Instead of positively encouraging mothers to get back into the workplace its policy pushed the figures of the number of women claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) up, as they are stripped of income support once their children turn seven.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 474,000 women were receiving JSA in April.

According to the broad International Labour Organisation measure, there was a rise of 12,400 in the more timely claimant count last month – with more than three-quarters of the increase among women.

It was the 10th consecutive month in which the number of women claiming out-of-work benefits had increased – although there are still more than twice as many men, 994,000, receiving JSA.

The Department for Work and Pensions said part of the rise resulted from rule changes that have seen single mothers shifted on to employment benefits to encourage them to look for a job. The full story is here.

Hundreds of women marched on Parliament to demonstrate against the government’s decision to raise the state pension age to 66 six years earlier than planned.

The protestors converged to demand the government altered its plans to raise the state pension age for women to 66 six years earlier than previously planned.

The event was organised by Age UK who are concerned at the rushed nature of the proposals which will not give women enough time to plan and therefore will plunge scores into poverty, it claims.

Many of the women affected are either carers or in poor health, meaning that working for longer is not an option, Age UK says. It hopes the protest will increase pressure on MPs to vote against the state pension increase.  Details of the campaign can be found on Age UKs website here.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Another week and another clash with Europe, this time it was over the issue of human rights legislation. Britain’s most senior judges have warned that new legislation threatens “the way the entire system of criminal justice in this country works”. They have warned that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected fundamental rules of criminal evidence enacted by Parliament to ensure that criminals do not escape conviction. You can read the full story here.

Whatever the case the ECHR is unpopular here because the Conservative led government is unhappy with many of its rulings. However, I was not surprised that the Government will seek to reform the relationship between the ECHR and national parliaments when it assumes chairmanship of the Council of Europe in November. It follows controversial rulings on sex offenders and votes for prisoners. I blogged on both of these at the time and am more in agreement with the ECHR than the Con-Dems on both these issues.

The usually pro-European Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that the government intended to scrutinise the UK’s relationship with the ECHR following calls from a large number of Conservative backbenchers for the UK to walk away from the ECHR because they are unhappy with its rulings. However, once again these little England Tories show a huge lack of understanding of the ECHR. You can read more on this here.

Sex Offenders, Prisoners and Europe

Labour Party

You couldn’t make it up if you tried. By one of those tricks fate occasionally throws up we have seen two European Court of Human Rights rulings come to the fore in the past couple of weeks.

Prisoners getting the vote and those convicted of sexual offences coming off the sex offenders’ register are not matters to be treated at all lightly. Put these together with a European institution and you have a potent mix. The waters then get very muddied as Tory  anti-European feelings become part of the equation.

I have blogged before about prisoners voting, and I have to say I largely agree with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke in that I have no real objection to giving the franchise to this group of people and believe that in the end most of them won’t vote.

Sex offenders present more complex problems. Protection of the public has to be the main aim of any criminal justice system, especially children and young people and other vulnerable groups. This should be at the forefront of our thinking.

I have to say I have been shocked by those who have sought to turn this into a debate on parliamentary sovereignty with seemingly very little concern for the victims of sexual crimes.

Given that this debate is about public protection, there seems to me little problem with sex offenders on the register being allowed to appeal after a reasonable length of time, perhaps 15 years as is the case in Scotland.  It is, after all, only an appeal not a guarantee that the offender will come off the register, and if handled properly should reflect the offender’s likelihood of re-offending. In other words, a sex offender who is still dangerous will not be removed from the register.

In my worst moments it has seemed to me that the sex offenders issue, something which directly affects lives in the most dreadful way, has been turned into an anti-European tirade and used to attack the European Convention on Human Rights.

As many of you know I used to work for the Probation Service. I therefore know at first hand the appalling damage crimes of a sexual nature can cause. I only hope this Tory-led coalition government and Home Secretary Theresa May in particular will start to see this issue in terms of the victims, those who have suffered so much. It’s about making sure we protect the public to keep the numbers of victims as low as we possibly can, not about her and her government’s feelings on Europe.