The Wicked Witch’s Revenge

The House of Lords

Yesterday, the House of Lords passed a second amendment to the Brexit Notification Bill by 366 votes to 268.  See this report in the Guardian: “House of Lords defeats government for second time on article 50 bill – Peers back Labour-led amendment by 366 to 268 to give parliament veto over final outcome of Brexit negotiations” and see also this report in the Financial Times: ”

This was a necessary and proper amendment to ensure that Parliament rather than the Executive has final control over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.  The Bill will now return to the House of Commons for the two amendments passed by the House of Lords to be considered.

may99The Torygraph Telegraph has this: “Lord Heseltine sacked over dinner after Brexit rebellion but he admits ‘I’ve never even met Theresa May’“.

It has to be said that under Mrs May the Conservative Party is every day losing credibility as a “One Nation” party and morphing into something resembling UKIP.  It is an increasingly worrying scenario.

 

One Nation Wisdom -v- UKIP Style Isolationism

It is worth comparing  Lord Heseltine and Mrs May’s respective political careers.

(1) Lord Heseltine was born in 1933,  Mrs May in 1956 (Heseltine +23);

(2) Lord Heseltine entered Parliament in 1966,  Mrs May in 1997 (Heseltine +11);

(3) Lord Heseltine served under the leadership of   Prime Ministers Heath, Thatcher &  Major (all good leaders of the Party , Mrs May under Duncan Smith and Cameron (both failures);

(4) Lord Heseltine has held  ministerial portfolios from 1972 to 1997 (25 years)  while Mrs May has held ministerial portfolios from 2010 to 2016 (6 years);

(5) Lord Heseltine has held  the portfolios for:  Aerospace and Shipping, Trade and Industry, the Environment, Defence, First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister while Mrs May has only held portfolios as Minister for Women and Equalities and Home Secretary.

In short, Lord Heseltine is older, vastly more experienced,  and much more likely than Teresa May to understand the risks of Brexit.  As a reward for doing his duty as a legislator, Mrs May has sacked him from some advisory posts.

As Paul Goodman writes on his  Conservative Home Blog: “Thatcher didn’t dare sack Heseltine. But now May has done so.” and he concludes:  ” Advisers are not Ministers, and so Heseltine’s defenestration was not formally necessary.  But May clearly felt that a signal must be sent pour encourager les autres.  As someone or other once put it, there is no alternative“.

It was good to see that there were a commentators on the post who felt differently:

(1) “Michael Heseltine would clash with Theresa May . He is man of principle, she is an empty self-serving creepy little bureaucrat. He is man who clearly understands the big picture in terms of prosperity and International security .She understands nothing but fatuous tokens like bringing back Grammar schools. He is one of heroes of Conservatism who fought the real danger of a relapse into collectivism , she has sold the Party out to UKIP with its BNP entryists and appointed a collection of perhaps the stupidest people to be found in any advanced Western country . – Michael Heseltine is everything a Conservative should be and once was, the sort of man you want on the board , to drive a Company forward with his vision energy and charisma . When I think of the tawdry light weights that are now floundering in the chaos they helped create it sickens me beyond all words that the very spirit of the old Conservative Party is no longer wanted. – He is concerned at the mess we bequeathed to young people. She is concerned about controlling the flow of paper clips and being able to tick off her fellow minnows . – This is a disgrace and a day of shame.”

(2) “And so the lurch to the Right continues, in an attempt to hoover up the swivel eyed ones from UKIP. Shame, I like Hezza, he talks sense as a moderate Conservative.

(3) “I respect Heseltine and his right to speak (and vote) according to his beliefs. It’s a shame that his years of service to party and country did not prevent him from being removed as an advisor to the government over this issue.  Also, quoting a French proverb seems inappropriate when we are presumably proposing to take back control of our language.  In my opinion the Lords have done parliament a service in reminding members of the commons that the bill as currently worded means that they would only have two options at the end of the Brexit negotiations, take the government deal or WTO rules. It will now be up to the commons to decide whether they want to reconsider this issue.  This is what we pay members of the Commons and the Lords to do, review, revise and approve legislation put forward by the executive.  I am not saying that the amendment is right (or wrong) but that taking back control of our country from the EU means that Parliament actually has to decide how we are going to be governed and the limits Parliament wishes to put on the executive.

Another Heseltine thread on the same site had these two comments:-

May , it seems , cannot stand to have an old and respected Conservative stick to what has been Conservative Policy since the 60s. She is clearly insane.  Michael Heseltine is a hero a principled man and an example to the invertebrate done nothing wafflers who infest government today , an inspiration to us all and if this is his last act on behalf of the country it was a fitting end to a quite magnificent career . That he should be treated this way …….. sickening.

The firing doesn’t make much sense. His skills and experience are as valuable to the government today as they were yesterday. An effect of the firing is to warn other people that they too will be fired if they think for themselves. But that’s what what weak leaders do, and it leads to a weakened government which is less and less able to recognize, create and implement disciplined and robust policies.

The Guardian has this: “Michael Heseltine says Brexit is ‘man-sized’ task for Theresa May – Tory sacked as government adviser explains why he led Lords rebellion – and is chastised for comment about PM“.

It would be highly desirable if a sufficient number of Conservative Members in the House of Commons were to stand by the two very sensible amendments approved by the upper house.  It is about time the Wicked Witch got her comeuppance.

 

 

More on the Brexit Notification Bill

Parliamentary Ping Pong

It looks increasingly likely that there may be some parliamentary ping pong as Teresa May seeks to get her Brexit Notification bill through Parliament unamended.

EU Citizens’ Rights

The Torygraph Telegraph has this: “Tory Eurosceptics join calls for Theresa May to pledge EU citizens can stay in UK after Brexit“.

The Guardian’s Sunday sister paper, The Observer has this: “Leading Brexiters urge May to guarantee EU citizens right to remain in UK – Pressure mounts on the PM within her own ranks to jettison an ‘unacceptable’ bargaining chip policy” which includes this:-

The MPs add: “EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU are aware that their fate is subject to the negotiations. They do not want to be used as bargaining chips, and the uncertainty they are having to live with is not acceptable. Notwithstanding the assurance given by the home secretary, we recommend that the UK should now make a unilateral decision to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK.”

The Financial Times has a similar report: “May urged to guarantee EU nationals’ rights before Brexit talks – Commons committee calls on prime minister not to use foreigners as ‘bargaining chips’“.

The source for all this is the 2nd Report of House of Commons Select Committee for Exiting the European Union  which includes some prominent Brexiteers and which is well worth reading.  Not only does it call for the unilateral guarantee for EU Citizens in the UK but it is also very critical of the 85 page Home Office form for acquiring permanent residence.

After their evidence session, the 3million carried out research into what other EU countries require of applicants to qualify for a permanent residence card. The UK form is 85 pages long and has to be completed in hard copy.  The next longest is the Danish form at 12 pages. The average of 25 European countries is four pages. The French have a form that can be completed online.  Anne-Laure Donskoy noted that “France is the grandfather of bureaucracy. Knowing that the UK has overdone it compared to France is remarkable.” The process in the UK costs £65 while the average across Europe is £28.26.

The Financial Times runs an article on this: “EU citizens face 85-page ‘nightmare’ Brexit Britain form – Foreigners living in UK left in ‘limbo’ by onerous red tape for residence.

Wolfgang Münchau  writes in the Financial Times: “A primer for Europeans in post-Brexit Britain – The 85-page permanent residency form is a nonsense“.

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Teresa May – The Wicked Witch of Westminster

The fact of the matter is that the Home Office approach to all immigration matters,  including the free movement rights of EU Citizens,  is the product of Teresa May’s long tenure as Home Secretary and, as one might expect from the Wicked Witch of Westminster,  it is designed to be oppressive and to provide reasons (whether valid or invalid) to remove as many migrants  from the UK as possible –  if need be by harassment and by frightening them into leaving.   The Home Office approach is often challenged in the Immigration Tribunals and appellate jurisdictions (sometimes going as far as the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights) and it is common knowledge that one of the Wicked Witch’s list of objectives in taking the UK out of the EU is to end the possibility of the UK Courts referring issues to the European Court of Justice and thereafter to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.  In essence her approach is that no person , whether UK citizens, EU Nationals or aliens should have any rights that she finds inconvenient.

The Present Home Secretary

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Amber Rudd – Closing  UK borders

Unfortunately, Mrs May’s successor as Home Secretary is The Rt Hon Amber Rudd PC MP, who has only been in office since 16th July 2016 (see her Wikipedia entry here). One wonders how someone educated at Cheltenham Ladies College and the excellent  Queen’s College in  London  followed by reading history at Edinburgh can, despite her first class education, end up as as the Nasty Party latest Nasty Home Secretary.  There can be little doubt that she was chosen to hold the office of Home Secretary because she was considered to be willing to continue the policies of her predecessor.

Ms Rudd quickly blotted her copybook with her speech at the Conservative Party Conference:- see this report in the Guardian: “Amber Rudd announces crackdown on overseas students and work visas – Home secretary outlines plan for students’ rights to be tied to quality of course as she tries to cut immigration before Brexit

Next, she went on to make a mess of dealing with the Dubs amendment on child refugees: see this in the Independent:  “Amber Rudd claims reports Government is not helping child refugees are ‘fake news’ – Home Secretary they have settled thousands of children in the UK and the Dubs amendment was only a ‘one off‘”

trumpvstoadIt is interesting to see that Ms Rudd chose to use “fake news” an expression more usually associated with Mr Toad and the wild wood weasels and stoats of the Trump Administration.

See also: Martin Rowson on Amber Rudd’s plans for foreign workers – cartoon.

It is questionable whether the horrendous 85 page form and the requirements to produce massive quantities of documents is lawful.  Handy Guides for EU/EEA nationals can be found on the Free Movement web site: notably this one:  “Brexit briefing: Securing EEA Nationals’ Residence Rights” and also this: “Can the Home Office force EU nationals to use the official 85 page permanent residence application form?“.

The latest report from the Select Committee may persuade many MP’s not to oppose the amendment to the Brexit Notification bill made in the House of Lords.  It might also lead to the Select Committee taking the Nasty Party’s latest Home Secretary to  to task over the horrendous 85 page residence application form.

“No Deal” – Brexit

The Independent has this: “Brexit bill: Theresa May faces another defeat in House of Lords to stop ‘no deal’ EU exit, peers warn – ‘Given the scale of the previous defeat – and the building up of a cross party campaign on this issue – we are again likely to see the government defeated handsomely’

The CBI is worried:  “Brexit without trade deal would open Pandora’s box, says CBI chief – Paul Drechsler says up to 90% of UK exports to EU would be hit by export tariffs or non-tariff barriers if no deal is agreed

The Telegraph has this on its Premium Pages – (pay to read): “MPs can’t see the catastrophe on the Brexit horizon“.

The House of Lords is expected to continue its scrutiny of the Brexit notification bill today, 7th March 2017 starting at 11 am.  The List of Amendments to be discussed is on the Parliament Website and the amendment which matters is the one on page 2  which provides for Parliamentary Approval of any proposed agreement with the remaining EU Member States.  It is likely to pass in the House of Lords.

If the Lords pass this Amendments and conclude their scrutiny by this evening, the Bill will have to go back to the House of Commons where the Lords amendments will be considered.

Update

At around 6.35 pm today the Lords divided to vote on Amendment 3  on page 2 of the List (i.e. the one requiring Parliamentary Approval of any proposed agreement with the remaining EU Member States.  The Amendment was agreed to by a majority of 366 to 268 (a majority of 98 for the Amendment).

The House of Commons is likely to consider the Lords Amendments on Monday 13th March.  The Government will doubtless try to have both amendments rejected by the Commons.  The Government has a working majority of 17 in the Commons.  One wonders how many Conservative members will be prepared to break ranks.  Hopefully some will have the national interest at heart but it would probably need 20+ Conservatives to defy the Conservative whip.  If either or both the likely amendments are rejected by the Commons, then the Lords will have to think again.

The “Great Repeal” Bill

The Guardian has this: “Peers warn No 10 against ‘sidelining scrutiny’ when scrapping EU laws – House of Lords constitution committee says ministers should not be able to ditch bits of EU law without consulting MPs and peers“.

 This relates to the 9th Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution: “The ‘Great Repeal Bill’ and delegated powers“.   This report (44 pages) is of considerable importance.  The Committee is very high powered and rightly concerned about possible misuse of delegated powers.

As was discussed on this page: “Bad Times are Just Around the Corner” last October – the fear is that the bill will contain Henry VIII clauses.  See this discussion paper from the Public Law Project:  “Why Henry VIII Clauses should be consigned to the dustbin of history“.

 

House of Lords on Brexit bill

Tantantara! Tzing! Boom!

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Teresa May aka The Wicked Witch of Westminster

As anticipated, Teresa May’s European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill rather hit the buffers of the Parliamentary train in the House of Lords yesterday.

Every schoolboy (and schoolgirl) should know from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe (You Tube Video Here), that the House of Lords is composed of “…peers of highest station, paragons of legislation, pillars of the British nation…” which makes the House one of the best revising upper chambers in the world.

The Financial Times has this report: “House of Lords votes to protect rights of EU citizens in the UK – Call for May to ‘think again’ as peers pass amendment to Brexit bill“.

The Guardian has this: “Lords urge Tories to back Brexit bill amendment on EU citizens – Peer says Tory rebels could defy whip over provision to protect EU nationals in UK when bill returns to Commons“.

The full text of the debate can be found in the Hansard Report of the Proceedings  and it is well worth reading the contributions to the debate.  The Lords voted to to amend the bill by 358 to 256 .   A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the EU said it was disappointing that the Lords had chosen to amend the bill when the government’s position on EU nationals “has repeatedly been made clear”.

Yes indeed it has:  the Government seeks to use the situation of EU nationals in the UK as bargaining chips in the negotiations to obtain protection for UK nationals in other EU states which is a disgraceful approach

The Torygraph Telegraph reports “30 Tory MPs could join Brexit Bill rebellion over EU citizen rights, claims peer“. One may hope that the Noble Baroness is right.

The Independent has this: “Government drops threat to abolish House of Lords if it holds up Brexit bill – ‘The Lords has a constitutional duty to perform and it’s right that it does that…I think we have seen a very healthy and vigorous debate,’ a No.10 spokesman said“.

However, when the consideration in the Lords is concluded the bill has to return to the Commons in the process known as “parliamentary ping pong”.  See this page on the Parliament website – Consideration of Amendments.

We shall see what happens but at least the House of Lords has proceeded on an honourable basis.