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September 10, 2015

Elizabeth surpasses Victoria as longest-serving UK sovereign

Elizabeth surpasses Victoria as longest-serving UK sovereign

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

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Queen Elizabeth on August 10.
Image: Mark Owens/Ministry of Defence.

Yesterday, Elizabeth II officially surpassed her great-great-grandmother Victoria, to become the longest-serving monarch of the United Kingdom.

Victoria was queen for much of the 19th century, with a grand total of 23,226 days, 16 hours, and 23 minutes. However, the precise moment in time when Elizabeth reached her milestone remains a mystery because it isn’t known for certain exactly what time the Queen’s father and predecessor, George VI, passed away.

The milestone was the subject of widespread praise from around the world including Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, of which Elizabeth is ceremonial head. British Prime Minister David Cameron said that her reign was “truly humbling” and had been a “golden thread” for British society in the post-war era. He was joined by members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The occasion was also marked in London by a flotilla proceeding down the River Thames. Buckingham Palace unveiled photographs taken by Mary McCartney, daughter of musician Sir Paul, in which the Queen was sitting in the room where she meets the Prime Minister on a weekly basis.

However, the Queen was not present in London because she is currently on holiday in Scotland. She appeared to underplay the significance of the day, only briefly mentioning it whilst attending the opening of a restored railway line in the Scottish Borders region.

Accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, and Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, she met crowds of admirers who had turned out in force to welcome her. The First Minister emphasised the Queen’s “dedication, wisdom and exemplary sense of public service”.



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July 16, 2013

House of Lords approve same-sex marriage bill at third reading

House of Lords approve same-sex marriage bill at third reading

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

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Members of the London Gay Men’s Chorus outside Parliament to celebrate the passage at Third Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
Image: Tom Morris.

A religious protester outside Parliament.
Image: Tom Morris.

Ice cream and cake being handed out at the demonstration celebrating passage.
Image: Tom Morris.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom’s House of Lords passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at Third Reading, the last major step in changing the law to allow marriages between same-sex partners in England and Wales. The bill is to become law this week and same-sex marriage ceremonies are likely to start in 2014.

During the brief debate in the Lords, Peers supporting the law wore pink carnations. Lord Alli, who is openly gay, said because of passing the law “my life and many others will be better today than it was yesterday”. The Lords discussed an amendment to review how to deal with survivor pension benefits due to the same-sex partners of those in civil partnerships. Other amendments the Lords have discussed include a review on whether to allow humanists to conduct weddings, and a review on whether to allow opposite-sex partners to enter into civil partnerships.

A handful of opponents of the Bill spoke during the debate including Lord Cormack, who said: “Those who support the Bill have won; there is no doubt about that. It would be churlish and ridiculous to pretend otherwise and I, for one, would never do so.” Lord Framlingham criticised “the Government’s complete rejection of any meaningful amendments” and said the Bill “is built entirely on pretence. It pretends that there is no difference between a man and a woman. From this deceit have sprung all the problems we have been wrestling with — problems we have failed to resolve and which will bedevil generations to come.”

In summing up the debate, Baroness Stowell said: “I believe that we have brought forward a Bill that is a force for good and that the change it brings about is right and reflects the change in society. However, there is no question whatever that anybody who disagrees with it should in any way feel that their views have not been properly taken into account during our debates.”

A group of supporters of the Bill held a celebration outside Parliament yesterday during the debate and carrying on into the evening. A small number of opponents of the Bill turned up to protest. The celebrations included musical performances by the London Gay Big Band and the London Gay Men’s Chorus, and Ben & Jerry’s provided free ice cream and cake.

A planned demonstration by Christian Concern was cancelled to “conserve energy” as “there will not be a vote at the third reading of the same sex marriage bill on Monday and what happens on that day in the House of Lords will be a mere formality”.



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May 22, 2013

Same-sex marriage passes third reading in House of Commons

Same-sex marriage passes third reading in House of Commons

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Maria Miller: “Let us make equal marriage possible because it’s the right thing to do, and then let us move on.”
Image: Department for Work and Pensions.

The UK House of Commons voted yesterday to approve the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at third reading, with 366 MPs supporting and 161 MPs opposing. The Bill proceeds today to the House of Lords. The legislation continues to draw strong criticism from right wing Conservative MPs and has caused political trouble for Prime Minister David Cameron.

Opponents of the Bill led by Tim Loughton MP submitted an amendment to allow opposite sex couples to enter into civil partnerships, which were introduced in 2004 as an alternative to marriage for same sex couples. The government warned that Loughton’s amendment was an attempt to wreck the passage of the Bill. Sir George Young, the Conservative chief whip, asked Labour whips to oppose the amendment despite the Labour Party previously supporting the amendment.

A Labour Party source quoted in The Guardian said they “had an eleventh hour appeal from the government that they did not have the numbers to defeat the Tim Loughton amendment” and that Labour leader Ed Miliband considered it an “overriding priority […] to ensure that the bill gets on to the statute book. Ed and Yvette Cooper will therefore be voting against the Tim Loughton amendment. We expect a large number of MPs to join Ed and Yvette. Since there was a genuine threat to the bill Ed decided the best thing to do was to act in this way.”

A rival amendment put forward by the Labour Party would bring in a review of whether civil partnerships ought to be extended to opposite sex couples but would not delay the implementation of marriage for same sex couples. This amendment was approved 391 to 57 by the Commons.

Opponents of the Bill including David Burrowes and Peter Bone are hoping the House of Lords will reject the law: Burrowes stated Lords would have the right to reject the bill as “there was no clear manifesto commitment, no coalition agreement, no green paper — just a sham consultation”. The Conservative Party’s 2010 “contract for equalities” reads, “We will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.”

Norman Tebbit in 2008.
Image: James Robertson.

In an interview with The Big Issue, former cabinet minister and Conservative peer Norman Tebbit expressed concern about the possibility that a law legalising gay marriage would cause confusion regarding royal succession: “When we have a queen who is a lesbian and she marries another lady and then decides she would like to have a child and someone donates sperm and she gives birth to a child, is that child heir to the throne?”

Tebbit also argued the new law “would lift my worries about inheritance tax because maybe I’d be allowed to marry my son. Why not? Why shouldn’t a mother marry her daughter? Why shouldn’t two elderly sisters living together marry each other?”

During the debate, Gerald Howarth referred to Conservative MP Margot James as representative of an “aggressive homosexual community”: “I warn you, and MPs on all sides of the house, that I fear that the playing field has not been levelled. I believe that the pendulum is now swinging so far the other way and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further”. Howarth’s comments sparked a trending topic on the social networking site Twitter.

David Cameron has been on the political defensive since rumours circulated that Conservative Party co-chairman Lord Feldman referred to Conservative activists as “mad, swivel-eyed loons”. Conservative Grassroots chairman Miles Windsor remarked, “This week has begun a civil war in conservatism, it may rumble on for years — but as things stand, Nigel Farage is winning it at a stride.”

Maria Miller, the government minister responsible for equality, tweeted after the vote on the third reading: “Just won Third Reading vote of Equal Marriage Bill – After all the hard work, its moment to be proud of. It’s the Right Thing”. Labour MP Diane Abbott said: “I did not think I would live to see the day this reached third reading.”

On BBC Radio 4, David Cameron welcomed the passage of the bill: “I think we should think about it like this — that there will be young boys in schools today who are gay, who are worried about being bullied, who are worried about what society thinks of them, who can see that the highest Parliament in the land has said that their love is worth the same as anybody else’s love and that we believe in equality. I think they will stand that bit taller today and I’m proud of the fact that that has happened.”



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March 15, 2010

UK government plans to replace House of Lords with elected chamber

UK government plans to replace House of Lords with elected chamber

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Monday, March 15, 2010

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The Westminster Palace, House of Lords on the left.
Image: David Iliff.

The UK government plans to replace the House of Lords, the upper house of British Parliament, with a duly elected one to make it “legitimate.” Ministers working on this proposal plan to style this new chamber loosely on the United States Senate.

Transport Secretary Lord Andrew Adonis said on a BBC show, “The time has now come to make it legitimate in the only way that a legislative assembly can be legitimate in the modern world, which is to be elected.” He assured that there would be “firm proposals” for an elected House of Lords in the Labour Party‘s manifesto for the general election in May. He added “We can do it in this country as most democracies do it: We’d have two chambers, both of which are elected but with the government accountable to the first chamber.”

The Sunday Telegraph has leaked a plan which reveals that the 704 seats would be reduced to 300 seats and its members elected under a system of “proportional representation“. This new chamber would no longer be known as the House of Lords and citizens will have the privilege to remove incompetent members through a “recall ballot“. The paper reported that each member would serve up to fifteen years and one-third of the chamber would be elected during the usual general elections. The salary is reported to be around £65,000 per annum. All members should be UK residents and fully domiciled for tax purposes.

The Lords scrutinise and revise government legislation and are seen by the public as an undemocratic house or a place for the aristocrats and political appointees. The chamber currently has around 740 members. 92 hold hereditary seats, and 26 are Church of England clergy. The rest are appointed for life.

Former prime minister Tony Blair, with the 1999 House of Lords act, had expelled hereditary peers from the upper house, apart from the 92 permitted to remain in the House on an interim basis. Another ten inheritors were created life peers to be able to remain in the House. Lord Adonis commented that this expulsion had “fundamentally transformed” the chamber into a “workmanlike assembly”.

A spokesman for the Conservative Party (which is the opposition party) alleged that Labour was playing politics with the electoral system by introducing such proposals before the General election despite having thirteen years to reform the Lords. “We will work to build a consensus for a mainly elected second chamber to replace the House of Lords,” he added.

For centuries, the House of Lords had included several hundred members who inherited their seats; the 1999 Act removed such a right. The Act decreased the membership of the House from 1,330 to 669. The Labour Government is expected to present a bill to remove the remaining 92 hereditary peers from the House. It also introduced in 2009 the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, which would end by-elections to replace hereditaries, removing them by steady reduction instead of removing all of them outright.


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January 13, 2010

European court in Strasbourg rules UK\’s Terrorism Act in breach of human rights law

European court in Strasbourg rules UK’s Terrorism Act in breach of human rights law

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crime and law
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An international court in Strasbourg issued a ruling yesterday that powers allowing UK police to stop and search anyone without reason are in breach of European law. The European Court of Human Rights deemed powers contained in the Terrorism Act 2000 denied the human right of privacy.

Under the European Convention of Human Rights people in the UK are granted the right to privacy, although their government felt that the threat of terrorism meant that the breach of this was justifiable and allowable under exemptions in the Convention. Previously, the powers have been unsuccessfully challenged before the English and Welsh High Court, upheld by those nations’ Court of Appeals and finally upheld again before the UK’s House of Lords.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act allows the Home Secretary to designate an area for use of the powers for a certain period. If this period was more than a month then at the end of the month then the Home Secretary can renew them. The entirety of Greater London has spent several years with the powers in effect. Under the Act, the police do not need to have any reason to search whoever they like and have the power to confiscate articles they believe to be of use to terrorists. They can also make arrests if these are found.

Yesterday’s ruling was made in a case brought by Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton, both stopped outside a military exhibition in London’s Docklands area. Gillan was stopped while cycling past and kept there for twenty minutes while journalist Quinton was ordered to stop filming even after showing her press card. She claims to have been detained for roughly thirty minutes at the scene, while police claim she was there for five minutes. The court awarded €33,850 (£30,400) to cover the costs incurred by bringing the case.

UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson expressed disappointment at the ruling and stated that an appeal will be launched. Chief Constable Craig Mackey of the Association of Chief Police Officers said that while this appeal was pending Section 44 of the Act would continue to be used by police.

The court found that the humiliation and embarrassment of searching people in public was a clear breach of privacy as well as criticising that the way power was authorised did not require a test that its use be “necessary,” merely “expedient.” The court singled out London’s designation under the Act as an area where the powers could be used continuously since it became law as an example of why this was not appropriate.

Further criticism in the ruling was aimed at the idea that the decision to search could be “based exclusively on the ‘hunch’ or ‘professional intuition’ of the police officer”. The judgement added that “the absence of any obligation on the part of the officer to show a reasonable suspicion made it almost impossible to prove that the power had been improperly exercised,” with no judicial oversight. Racism was a further concern, with the court expressing a fear that the powers could easily be used in a discrimminatory manner. Four times as many blacks and Asians have been searched compared to whites.



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November 20, 2009

UK lawyer comments on court case against Boeing over London jet crash

UK lawyer comments on court case against Boeing over London jet crash

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Friday, November 20, 2009

The scene of the crash
Image: Marc-Antony Payne.

On Thursday, ten of those on board British Airways Flight 38 launched a case against Boeing over the accident before a court in Illinois. They are suing over an alleged flawed design that allowed an ice buildup to bring the 777 jet down at London’s Heathrow Airport. Scottish advocate Peter Macdonald spoke to Wikinews, commenting on the case and explaining the surrounding legislation. He has experience of litigating aviation accidents.

Although investigations are ongoing, the United Kingdom’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has issued interim reports indicating ice buildup on an engine component. As the jet passed over Siberia on its journey from Beijing, China it encountered significantly reduced temperatures. The AAIB has determined that the fuel was at a temperature below 0°C for an unusually long duration. This is believed to have caused water in the fuel — which met all relevant international standards — to have frozen into crystals.

A build-up of ice developed on a component called the fuel/oil heat exchanger. This restricted the flow of fuel to the engine, resulting in an “uncommanded engine rollback” — a loss of power — on approach for landing. Investigators initially struggled to produce enough ice under test conditions but later discovered that at high concentration, fuel can form ice at very low temperatures in enough quantity to seriously restrict fuel flow. This does not occur when fuel demand is lower, as the hot oil then becomes sufficient to entirely melt the ice. It was only when extra fuel was pumped in from the tanks for the landing that the crystals became a problem. The fuel/oil heat exchanger is a dual purpose part designed to simultaneously melt fuel ice and cool down engine oil by passing oil pipes through the fuel flow.

Cquote1.svg If I am correct that it is a product liability suit, then the fact that this is the first such accident matters not Cquote2.svg

—Scots lawyer Peter Macdonald

The crew of the aircraft were praised for their handling of the emergency, avoiding the airport’s perimeter fence and nearby houses to crash land short of the runway. None of the 136 passengers and 16 crew were killed but some of those suffered serious injuries, including broken bones and facial injuries. Some were left unable to fly and there were cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The crash was triggered by highly unusual circumstances; the first AAIB report noted that cold fuel behaving in this manner was an “apparently hitherto unknown phenomenon.” As part of the investigation, data of 141,000 flights of 777s equipped with the engine model involved — the Rolls-Royce Trent 800 — was reviewed without finding any relevant circumstance similar to the accident flight, although there was later a similar incident in the United States in which the aircraft continued safely after repowering one engine; the second did not lose power.

Given the circumstances surrounding the case, Wikinews asked Peter Macdonald if the plaintiffs intended to prove that Boeing knew or should have known the Rolls-Royce powerplant was dangerously defective by design. “I rather suspect that there may be product liability legislation in place in whichever US jurisdiction is being used,” Macdonald explained. “Such statutes normally do not require proof of fault, nor do they require proof of knowledge. All that you have to show is that there was a defect in the product which caused the losses concerned… If I am correct that it is a product liability suit, then the fact that this is the first such accident matters not.”

Cquote1.svg [Rolls-Royce] would be liable for a defect in terms of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 Cquote2.svg

—Peter Macdonald

Macdonald went on to discuss the international legislation and how it interacts to the plaintiffs and the three companies involved — Boeing, British Airways and Rolls-Royce. Only Boeing is currently named in an action over the case. “There are several reasons why the plaintiffs will wish to sue Boeing in the States,” he said. “Were the plaintiffs to seek redress in a court in the United Kingdom, it is unlikely that the relevant part of Boeing would be subject to jurisdiction here.” He also pointed out that “US damages are generally higher than English damages.”

“As to whether Boeing should settle, that all depends upon the basis of the action. If it is a fault [negligence] based action, they will be able to defend it. If fault is not needed, that is why they would want the action dismissed, forcing litigation in the UK.” In the UK, a product liability suit “would ordinarily be directed against the importers, i.e. British Airways… It would be a simple matter to sue BA here [the UK] for the physical injuries and their financial consequences,” said Macdonald. “That leaves RR [Rolls-Royce]. I assume that the engine was made in the UK. They would be liable for a defect in terms of the Consumer Protection Act 1987, Part I.” This piece of UK-wide legislation states that “where any damage is caused wholly or partly by a defect in a product [the manufacturer] shall be liable for the damage.” Damage includes injuries.

This picture from the investigation demonstrates the effects of ice buildup on the part in question

US courts decide international jurisdictional issues under the Jones Act, passed as a result of Bhopal litigation, “which makes it much more difficult for a foreigner to sue in the US if the accident did not happen there… My restricted understanding of that is that it is likely that it would be difficult to remove an action from a US court where the aircraft was made in the US.” He further pointed out that the court would require there to be an alternative court with jurisdiction over the issue. “It may well be that the relevant part of the Boeing group is not subject to the jurisdiction of the English courts… I have seen cases where it was made a condition of the grant of an order under the Jones Act that the defendants would submit to the jurisdiction of a court in Scotland and that they would not take a plea of time bar in the even that an action was raised within three months of the court order.”

He then addressed the international law with regards to what could be claimed for against air carriers such as BA. In a previous case against the same airline, Abnett v British Airways, the House of Lords ruled in 1997 “that the only remedy for an injured passenger on an international flight is to sue under the Warsaw Convention, Article 17, incorporated into our law by the Carriage by Air Act, 1961.” The Warsaw Convention governs liability for international commercial airlines. At the time, the House of Lords was the highest court of appeal in the UK, although it was recently replaced by the Supreme Court. The Abnett case referred to British Airways Flight 149, in which Iraq captured the aircraft and occupants when it landed in Kuwait hours after Iraq invaded in 1990. Peter Macdonald represented Abnett in this case.

The Convention “provides a remedy for “bodily injury”. Interestingly, the term only appeared in the final draft of the Warsaw Convention. There is no mention of the term in the minutes of the many sessions which lead up to the final draft. It was produced overnight and signed later that day.” This term creates difficulties in claiming for mental problems such as the fear of flying or PTSD, although Macdonald points out that “there is a large amount of medical literature which details physical and chemical changes in the brains of people who are suffering from PTSD.”

In King v Bristow Helicopters, heard before the House of Lords in 2002 “held that PTSD was not a “bodily injury”, but expressly left the door open for someone to try to prove that what is known as PTSD is the manifestation of physical changes in the brain which have been brought about by the trauma. Such a litigation is pending in Scotland.” Macdonald is acting in this case.

Actions against Boeing are not bound in this way, as the Warsaw Convention only applies to airlines, making the States an attractive place to sue due to the issues with demonstrating jurisdiction against the relevant part of the Boeing group in the UK. Another reason why the plaintiffs would prefer to sue in America is that in the UK “there would be liability [for BA], and that would be subject to a damages cap. An action in the US [against any defendant] would probably have the same cap, but is likely to award damages more generously in the event that the cap is not reached.”



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July 14, 2009

British conductor Edward Downes and wife die in double assisted suicide

British conductor Edward Downes and wife die in double assisted suicide

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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The Sydney Opera House where Sir Edward conducted the opening public performance
Image: Mfield, Matthew Field.

British conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife Joan took their lives at a Swiss assisted suicide clinic on Friday, July 10, 2009, according to a statement from their family. Lady Downes, 74, was afflicted with terminal cancer, and Sir Edward, 85, was nearly blind with increasing hearing difficulties. These disabilities had forced him to give up conducting. Having no religious beliefs, the couple decided against holding a funeral.

The statement read, “After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems. They died peacefully, and under circumstances of their own choosing, with the help of the Swiss organisation, Dignitas, in Zurich.”

Many who knew the couple as friends said that Sir Edward was not terminally ill, but wanted to die with his wife, who he had been with for more than 50 years.

Sir Edward Downes’s children, in an interview with The London Evening Standard, said they escorted their parents to Zurich, and on that Friday, they watched in tears as their parents consumed “a small quantity of clear liquid,” and then proceeded to lie down together, holding hands.

“Within a couple of minutes they were asleep, and died within 10 minutes,” said their 41 year old son, Caractacus Downes.

Sir Edward was well respected in the operatic and orchestral worlds and was particularly noted for his performances of British and Russian music and of Verdi, conducting 25 of the composer’s 28 operas. He had a long association with the Royal Opera House, where he conducted for more than 50 seasons in succession. This did not stop him from refusing to conduct a series of performances of Verdi’s Nabucco there as he was “out of sympathy” with the adventurous production. His approach to conducting was similarly conservative. He wrote “The duty of a conductor should be to present… a faithful and accurate account of the composer’s music as he wrote it, disregarding any subsequent ‘interpretations’, ‘meanings’, or political agendas that may have been attached to it by others.”

It was on Friday, 28 September, 1973, that Sir Edward conducted the opening public performance at the Sydney Opera House, a staging of Prokofiev’s War and Peace by Opera Australia, of which he was musical director. Downes also served as chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Orchestra and principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic.

The family reported that Lady Downes “started her career as a ballet dancer and subsequently worked as a choreographer and TV producer, before dedicating the last years of her life to working as our father’s personal assistant.”

The Metropolitan Police have announced that Greenwich CID are investigating the circumstances of the couple’s deaths. Assisting a suicide is illegal in the United Kingdom.

Over 100 people who wished to die have made the journey from Britain to Switzerland to take advantage of the clinical services that Dignitas offers. British police have investigated many of the resulting deaths, but no family member has yet been prosecuted for helping relatives negotiate with Dignitas and travel to Switzerland. Debbie Purdy, a woman with multiple sclerosis, attempted last year to obtain a ruling from the English High Court that family members would not be prosecuted for helping someone use the service, and in particular that her husband would not be charged should she decide to use Dignitas in future. The court refused as it believed that such clarification is the responsibility of parliament and not the judiciary.

Last week the House of Lords rejected a proposal by former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer to allow people to help someone with a terminal illness travel to a country where assisted suicide is legal.


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June 19, 2009

U.K. MPs\’ expenses to be investigated by police

U.K. MPs’ expenses to be investigated by police

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Friday, June 19, 2009

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According to the BBC, the Metropolitan Police Service of London in the United Kingdom announced today that its Specialist Crime Directorate will start an investigation into members of the U.K. Parliament, or MPs, who have been implicated in the on-going scandal about MPs’ expense claims. The investigation will be overseen by Janet Williams, a former special branch commander and run by the economic and specialist crime command unit.

The House of Commons & Big Ben, London
Image: Carlesmari.

Since the The Daily Telegraph published details of MPs expenses, which ranged from a floating duck house to a pornographic movie for the husband of an MP, there has been public outrage at the claims. Many MPs have been forced to step down at the next general election.

On Friday, Parliament published the list of MPs expenses that The Telegraph had received, but with many claims blacked out and redacted. This in itself has provoked surprise and anger with the British public.

The Met was quoted as saying “After consideration by the joint Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service assessment panel the Met has decided to launch an investigation into the alleged misuse of expenses by a small number of MPs and Peers.”

The police did not name any of the people who were to be investigated, but the BBC reported that through its own sources it had discovered that they included Labour members of the lower house of Parliament, the House of Commons, David Chaytor and Elliot Morley, and Labour member of the upper house of Parliament, the House of Lords, Baroness Uddin.

Cquote1.svg the Met has decided to launch an investigation into the alleged misuse of expenses by a small number of MPs and Peers Cquote2.svg

—Met Spokesman

Mr. Chaytor confirmed that the police had contacted his solicitor, and that he expected to be talking to the police within the next few days, to (in his words) “explain my case, explain what happened”, and “clear my name”.

Any expenses claims made will be investigated to see whether they constitute offences. Such offences are likely, by their natures, to be offences under the 2006 Fraud Act, in particular “Fraud by false representation”, as defined in § 2 of the Act. (This covers claims made over the past year, approximately. Any expenses claimed prior to that Act coming into force would have to constitute offences under the Theft Act 1978.) One consequence of this is that only those members of Parliament whose claims might have been dishonestly made will be subject to investigation.

The requirement, that the claim be dishonest for it to be fraud by false representation, means that any MPs’ expense claims that correctly and honestly described what expenses were being claimed, or that were incorrect but not known by the MP to be incorrect when they were made, will not qualify as fraud according to law. An expense claim for (for example) a floating duck house is not fraud under the Act if it really was for a floating duck house, as claimed. Whereas an expense claim for (for example) payments for a mortgage that did not exist would qualify as fraud under the Act, subject to the additional requirement that the person making the expense claim knew that the mortgage that did not exist and thus was making a knowingly false representation about the thing being claimed for.



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January 25, 2009

British newspaper makes House of Lords bribery claims

British newspaper makes House of Lords bribery claims

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The British Houses of Parliament. Image: Mgimelfarb

An investigation by the Sunday Times newspaper has made allegations of bribery against four members of the House of Lords, Britain’s unelected upper legislative body.

The paper says it has secretly made recordings of Lord Truscott admitting to making a recent energy bill more favourable to a client who markets “smart” electricity meters.

The Sunday Times also alleges that Lord Taylor of Blackburn had claimed to have made changes to a bill to help Experian, a credit reference agency. The paper adds that Lords Moonie and Snape had agreed to take payments from undercover journalists.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, the Leader of the House of Lords, issued a statement saying “I am deeply concerned about these allegations. I have spoken to the members who are the subject of them and I shall be pursuing these matters with the utmost vigour”.

The AFP news agency notes that the Lords’ Code of Conduct requires that members “must never accept any financial inducement as an incentive or reward for exercising parliamentary influence”. The Sunday Times says that there have been “persistent rumours” that lobbyists have switched to concentrating on the Lords rather than the Commons because “MPs are under greater scrutiny”.



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August 27, 2007

Prescott to stand down as UK MP

Prescott to stand down as UK MP – Wikinews, the free news source

Prescott to stand down as UK MP

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Monday, August 27, 2007

John Prescott, former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is to stand down as a Member of Parliament after the next general election.

Mr Prescott, 69, who has been MP for the constituency for Hull East for 37 years, made his announcement for at a weekend garden party. Stephen Brady, chairman of the local Labour association said, “John told us he would not be standing again. People paid tribute to his long service. It was an emotional event.”

Prescott, recently took up the post of head of the Parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe. It is suspected he may enter the House of Lords and has been reported that he sold his memoirs for £300,000.

There has also been speculations over who will replace Prescott as an MP. Amongst the people who have been mentioned are Prescott’s son David Prescott and Chris Leslie, an aide to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

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