This is Mike Turvey's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Mike Turvey's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Mike Turvey
Recent Activity
"By contrast, every lawyer, in their heart of hearts, thinks that the very idea of deterrence is unhelpful and, most of the time, pretty specious." No we just know that in crimes such as murder and mansluaghter, where calls for deterrance are so often heard, we know from studying the multitude of cases that it does not work. Most unlawful killings amounting to murder or manslaughter occur between people who know each other, often family, often in a fit of anger or panic. 9 times out of 10 the possible punishment would not even enter the pepetrator's head. For the more cold-blooded cases the crime will only have been committed if they think they would never get caught - the gravity of the punishment is irrelevant.
Toggle Commented Apr 13, 2008 on Judicial aristocracy at CentreRight
1 reply
The judiciary is the bulwark that protects the freedoms of the people from both the might of an over-powerful executive and the tyranny of the "democratic" majority. They are essential to the rule of law and if one actually looks at judgments in detail beyond the sensationalist "human right to gay porn" headlines there is often a great deal more wisdom and common-sense to found in a high court judgment than in the populist claptrap of the politicians. That particular case was nothing to do with a right to gay porn - it was about equality before the law unless there are pressing reasons of public policy to deviate from that principle. In this case no such pressing reason was established. As far as I am concerned, long may the excesses of our executive, the knee-jerk follies of our elected MPs that are spurred on by the sensationalism of Fleet Street be over-ruled by the carefully thought out judgment of a Court. As a democracy we should of course discuss the outcome of particular cases, they may reveal a need to change the law or make it clearer, but let us base that discussion on fact and reason and not the kind of dangerous generalisations that are found in Tim's leading article and many of the comments that follow.
Toggle Commented Apr 13, 2008 on Rule by judges at CentreRight
1 reply
The fact of the matter is that David Cameron pledged to withdraw the tory meps from the EPP without fully considering all the pertinent facts and consequences and listening only to the views of a narrower factional interest than cannot be said to represent all of the views within the party both ideological and pragmatic. An "official opposition" as Dan puts it cannot exist in a multiparty proportional representation system such as that at work in the European Parliament. The only way to get things done for Britain is to work in strong alliances and forcing compromises to influence the critical mass that drives decision making. Barking from the sidelines like UKIP and Roger may be good for political grandstanding but it is detrimental to the defecne of Britain's interest. I am personally relatively pro-European, but I believe that regardless of your ideological persuasion, leaving the EPP is bad for Tory influence in Europe and therefore bad for the representation of Britain interests in Brussels and Strasbourg.
1 reply
Much of the most common criticism of the our membership of the EPP-ED is belied by the following passage from the RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE GROUP OF THE EUROPEAN PEOPLE'S PARTY(CHRISTIAN-DEMOCRATS)AND EUROPEAN DEMOCRATS IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: "5. Members of the European Parliament may become allied members of the Group if they subscribe to the basic policies of the Group of the European People's Party and European Democrats and if they accept the Rules of Procedure (European Democrats). The Members under this Article have the right to promote and develop their distinct views on constitutional and institutional issues in relation to the future of Europe." http://www.epp-ed.eu/group/docs/rules/rules-procedure2007_en.doc This is taken from the 2006 version but is, as far as I can tell, unchanged from the earlier 2003 version. The Conservative Party has always been able to have its own policy on constitutional and institutional issues...
1 reply
Right you are Simon - that was a post-pub half-drunk contribution and I neglected to check my facts! Andrew very sensible approach - I agree entirely.
1 reply
I am dissapointed to see that you still have not responded Mr. Stephenson. Meanwhile it would appear that the BBC has caught Open Europe on the hop for less than accurate reporting: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6235152.stm Glad that you are contributing to the open and honest debate guys... Keep up the good work.
1 reply
Your third way would give us the worst of both worlds!!! How do you think that the free movement of the factors of production is achieved? How do you think other countries will accept our goods without imposing tariffs to combat social dumping? It requires common legislative standards. The mutual confidence needed for mutual recognition cannot be achieved without it. Right now countries like Switzerland have to harmonise their laws in line with Community Law and don't have any say in the making of that Community Law. This arrangement would effectively cost us more sovereignty than Membership does! The very premise of your position is utterly wrong-headed. The only viable ways forward for Britain are 'in' or 'out'. I strongly believe we are better off in - but to benefit fully we need to start taking a lead and engaging more positively and convincing people of the British way. Arguably part of the French Non was down to the fact that we have been succeeding. Others think we are better off out. I disagree, but respect their position. Your third way has no merit to it whatsoever: it is not a compromise - it is a complete capitulation!
1 reply
While I agree with the thrust of the critique given by Mr. Stevenson: that we are being distracted from a number of other key issues; I do feel that some of the points made seem to be made in somewhat simplistic terms and for others I am struggling to find a basis for the assertions in the text of the Contitutional Treaty. 1. Could Mr. Stevenson kindly point me to the article that tells us the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs would "automatically" represent us at the UN. His role, according to my reading of the text, is coordinating Member States positions in international organisations and presenting an agreed EU position at the UN Security Council at the invitation of the UK and France. The supposedly quoted word "automatically" does not appear in either Part I or Part III of the Treaty. 2. Could Mr. Stevenson also explain why, whilst accusing politicians of dodging the question, he avoids mentioning the fact that the primacy of EU law over national law was a well established principle of Community Law at the time we passed the European Communities Act and at the time of the referendum that followed. Like it or not our elected government signed up for this and we gave it our blessing in a referendum over forty years ago. 3. Could Mr. Stevenson also please clarify exactly how he reached the unqualified conclusion that the ECJ would be the highest criminal court in the land. On my reading of the Constitution it would seem necessary to at least qualify that statement by noting that the jurisdiction of the ECJ would be limited to the scope of EU action and therefore limited to financial crimes against the EU institutions and serious crime having a cross-border dimension. 4. Could Mr. Stevenson make some effort to explain his assertion that Justice and Home Affairs vetoes will be replaced by some sort of a fudge? I honestly fail to see how a the ability for a Member State to refer measures to the European Council for a unanimous vote where they "affect fundamental aspects of its criminal justice system" differs in political reality. No Member State uses its veto lightly - if it does so will-nilly it loses credibility. Restricting the veto to matters affecting fundamental aspects of its criminal justice system will hardly change that - these are the only issues it would be used for anyway! It would also seem pertinent to note on this point that the European Convention of Human Rights (to which the EU would accede under the Constitution) provide an external check on the EU ensuring that the minimum standards we already observe at national level apply at European level. Perhaps I am wrong on some of these points and I would welcome any help Mr. Stevenson can give me on these points. Perhaps I am also expecting too much of an opinion peice on an internet blog... But if we are to have 'an open and informed debate' perhaps we should expect more - not only from our politicians but also from think tanks professing a high level of expertise?
1 reply
Anne - if you had actually read the Constitutional text you would realise that it provides for greater involvement of national Parliaments in the legilslative process. Furthermore if as you say (and I agree with you) the people are sovereign as opposed to parliament (as the kind of out-dated Diceyan constitutional theory Denis Cooper was citing suggests), does that not suggest that the people can and should be represented at whatever level decisions are taken. The European Parliament serves to represent the Peoples of Europe either individually or collectively depending how each MEP sees his mission. The involvement of national parliaments would ensure that they are represented individually as well. On this point it would seem that, on closer inspection, you would be in favour of this aspect of the constitution.
1 reply
I agree much of what you say: the European electorates are being treated with contempt on this issue. However I would be interested in knowing what you perceive to be the link between the currently proposed Treaty changes and bad policies such as the CAP and unfair trade barriers and developing countries. The links as I see them are somewhat tenous... Is this just random EU-bashing to score some cheap rhetorrical points and make the eurosceptics froth at the mouth, or am I missing something? I would agree that the Constitutional Treaty include and (presumably its predecessor will include) further conferral of powers in the form of greater qualified majority voting. However this does not contradict the statement by Mr. Blair that it does not change the fundamental nature of the relationship between the EU and its Member States: it will still be based upon conferred powers - that is that powers are delegated to the Union by consent - and Member States reatain the sovereign right to reclaim those powers en masse by leaving the Union.
1 reply
"EU already has a foreign minister - the Commissioner for External Affairs." This is not entirely accurate - the External affairs have a present three main representatives - The Presidency of the Council (which rotates between Member States on 6-monthly basis). He/she is assisted by Javier Solana the Secretary General for the Council and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). These two represent the EU on areas of high policy - security, defence etc. on the basis of the Treaty on European Union in areas where the Member States have agreed to strike a common position. They can also engage the services of the Commission to assist them if they wish. The Commission's autonomous external role is largely limited to more commercial aspects of foreign policy in line with the competences conferred upon the European Community. Action under the CFSP cannot encroach on Community action.
1 reply
On a historical note it is worth pointing out that a nation of Palestine did not exist before the creation of Israel. The land was part of the Ottoman province of Syria (which was much larger than Syria today). A large number people were dispossessed but those people could be said to be 'a people' or 'a nation' before the birth of Israel. It was the disposession and the accompanying injustices and the rejection of their Arab neighbours that created the common identity of the Palestinian people. Unsurprisingly those people now aspire to nationhood. I would not presume to tell people what to make of this, but it is worth bearing in mind when making comparisons with other areas in the world...
1 reply
A modern rationalised democracy has nothing to do with the mob-rule of the Ancient Greek city-state and has everthing to do with ensuring that decisions are being taken by the best people for the task at the right level. The reason we have elected Parliamentarians and specialised committees within Parliament is because no citizen, however active they might wish to be can have the requisite expertise to make good decisions on every subject without expert assistance. Elections and referenda are about the broad policy agenda and ideological principles. And that is how it should be. To ask the electorate as a whole to take a greater role without the necessary time, information and inclination at their disposal would be profoundly irresponsible. To give an example in the Community where I currently live in the Netherlands, a question was put to referendum regarding a planned tram line. No information was provided regarding demand for tram, its commercial viability, its projected cost, its environmental impact, or its wider impact on other transport links. All of these peices of information are key issues to make even a superficially sensible judgment on the question. But even if you supply the relevant information there is no guarantee it will be comprehensible to ordinary voters. Take the French Government's decision to give every household in the country a copy of the Draft EU Constitutional Treaty. Very democratic you might say, but the Treaty is a 300 page book that you need to have highly specialised knowledge of European law to interpret properly. No wonder they voted no! It was largely incomprehensible to the lay reader and can only be fully understood if it is read in the context of 60 years of legal and political developments! If we want to improve the quality of our democracy we need to start with education and stimulate civic involvement at grassroots level. An interested, educated and involved people not only ensures that politicians are held to account. But for that accountability to be effective we also need to ensure that they are held to account for the right reasons at the right level and by the right people.
1 reply
I am, broadly speaking, a member of the pro-life camp and believe that the situations in which abortion should be permitted need to be drastically reduced. I beleive that this belief is consistent with the more general strand of Conservative thinking that emphasises the resposnsibility of individuals for their actions. However, this is a clearly issue of conscience and any attempt to strike a party line would be highly divisive. Conservative party policy should be to facilitate the debate. We should pledge to ensure a periodic review of law, policy and practice and also ensure that laws do not unreasonably restrict the actions of campaigners from campaigning on the issue. In a recent case before the European Court of Human Rights the UK electoral law was found to have violated the right to freedom of expression of the head of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child by providing for prohibitive spending limit during the election period. This prevented her from distributing objectively presented information relating to MPs voting patterns on abortion issues. Such electoral laws are, to use the Court's vocabulary, "unnecessary in a democratic society" and the Conservative party should ensure that such problems does not arise again.
1 reply
"Politicians need to get out of management. They need to accept that their role should be to set high level policy but leave detailed control of services to experienced professionals" I agree with much of what you say, but the dilemma for politicians is that they not only held accountable for high policy failures but also for failures in management. Hence the temptation to meddle - no one wants to be held accountable for actions or ommissions he has no power to control. It would seem that the answer would lie in ensuring a clear division of competence between Ministers and civil servants. On the basis of this division of competence, Ministers could then be accountable by Parliament and the nation for high policy decisions and an independant scrutiny body could hold the civil service accountable for management decisions. Communication between the scrutiny body and the relevant Parliamentary committees would be vital to ensure that blame is fairly apportioned. The Parliamentary Committees should also be able to request or perhaps even require an investigation by the investigatory body. The independence of the scutiny body would be vital to ensure the continued independence of the Civil Service from excessive political interference and a potential culture of patronage. To ensure the scrutiny body's independence, a quasi-judicial model could be adopted. This could combine the functions of an Adminstrative Tribunal and a Court of Auditors. Its personnel would thus comprise both high-level judges or jurisconsults and experienced public sector accountants of unimpeachable integrity. This would allow the scrutiny body examine both financial and budgetary matters effectively. To facilitate the scrutiny body's work there would need to be a further independant investigatory body (which would also be independent of the scrutiny body). This would ensure a healthy separation of powers between those gathering evidence and those scrutinising it. The personnel of the the investigatory body would be constitued of a combination of experienced police officers, lawyers and accountants and would have access to sector-specific experts. Thus the responsibility would thus be laid squarely at the door of the most deserving party. Ministers would be far less tempted to tinker with the well-oiled civil service machine because there would be a well-trained mechanic on hand who could check the machine over if there are some concerning leaks or if its starts to look a bit too greasy...
1 reply
Yes, thank you Dr. Fox, an inciteful series with some interesting comments about countries that perhaps we don't hear enough about in the media or general political discourse. Sri Lanka in particular is a beautiful country and its people (from all communities) are some of the nicest I have met. As the former colonial powers Britain and, to a lesser extent, the Netherlands and Portugal have the kind of weight and credibility that could be used to drive the parties towards resolving their differences peacefully. I would urge you, though happily it sounds like you need little encouragment, to give the topic some serious attention when we return to power.
1 reply
And to address the broader point you raise, you are right to say that this and many other things about the EC/EU have not been well communicated over the years. The CFSP was never put directly to the people in a referendum but it did go through Parliament. Admittedly the whipping process did little to enhance the standard of that particular democratic stamp of approval but we only have our domestic political system to blame for that. Likewise over the years it has been convenient for UK politicians to blame their own controversial policies on Brussels. Some of the most far-reaching pieces of EC legislation are Directives which set out a framework within which Member States are free to fill in the gaps with implementation measures at national level. This often leaves room for so-called 'gold-plating' whereby the national authorities make the rules more restrictive than the EC consensus requires them to be. It is then easy for the gold-plating to be blamed on Brussels and the press don't always investigate because they do not necessarily understand the complex legislative process and, that aside, blaming Brussels sells papers. Moreover, some politicians misunderstand what a measure means for the UK and other less-scrupulous politicians may simply misrepresent what a measures means for the UK to chalk up some cheap column inches. This is not to say that everything that comes out of Brussels smells of roses, it doesn't. But our politicians and media have often seen it to be in their interest to criticise things for the wrong reasons or more than they perhaps deserve. But can we blame this lack of understanding entirley on the media and the politicians? Perhaps not, perhaps as responsible citizens we should have been digging deeper. The sad thing is that many of the criticisms voiced in the UK are, when one looks at the facts, either not relevant or no longer relevant. We are often missing the real issues through a lack of information, mis-information and dis-information. But I think that on a blog like this and elsewhere we, as responsible and interested citizens, should not let these past failings get in the way of our having a more thorough and informed debate about the real issues. Only then can we have a real impact, only then will we be taken seriously by our European partners, and only then will we be effective in shaping the future of Europe in line with the Conservative values we share with many parties across the EU.
1 reply
I have to say if you had asked me that six months ago I would have said exactly the same thing, but while researching a academic paper I was actually quite surprised by the polls. In the 2005 Eurobarometer poll (conducted Europe wide, the UK sample of which comprised 1,320 persons, 48% being male and 52% female. 98% of those polled were British) 59% of the UK sample were in favour of a common defence and security policy among EU Member States (with 29% against and 13% don't know); and 50% were in favour of a common foreign policy (with 34% against and 16% don't know). The fifty-nine and fifty per cent is not a glowing endorsement compared to the much higher approval ratings across the rest of the EU but, given the far lower percentage who were against, it is hardly the overwhelming 'no' you (or indeed I) would have expected. Naturally the usual health warning attached to polls applies and naturally the numbers change from year to year (check out http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb64/eb64_en.htm to read the reports in full and check out previous years' surveys) but 2005 is not way off the trend for the UK.
1 reply
"Also, poverty is often the cause of environmental irresponsibility; how can we expect someone to care about the environment when they have to think about where the next meal is coming from?" Quite right, and this ties in to the point made by Ken about over-population. If however we ignore his silly-old-bigoted-tory-please-go-and-join-UKIP-you-are-embarassing-us approach whereby we blame immigrants, the unemployed and the EU for all our problems we might give some consideration to the notion that population growth is linked to development. People have to count their children on both hands in developing countries in part because of the low survival rate. Think back to our great grandparents generation - they also had numerous children because child mortality was high, life expectancy was low and kids brought much needed money from their jobs down the mines or up the chimneys. Since the second world war those factors have become less important and now most families in developed countries have just 2 or 3 kids... Thus if we are to prevent the worst exacerabations of climate change, development (necessarily tempered with clean or cleaner technologies) will have a major role to play.
1 reply
Yes, those who think they could do a better job bringing the rule of law to tribal territories please step forward...
1 reply
"Liam Fox perilously close to advocating a common EU foreign policy. Who'd have thought it?" We already have one. It is called the "Common Foreign and Security Policy" (CFSP) under Title V of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). The interests of EU Countries interests are already converging as a result of the integration of our economies and, in the face of new transborder threats that are specific to the increasingly integrated globalised world like global terrorism, people trafficking and WMD proliferation, it would seem quite sensible to develop this further. But let us not get carried away, the CFSP does not infringe our sovereignty in any way and, most legal scholars agree, no legal powers have been conferred upon the EU institutions within its scope. In practice every decision is taken by consensus and although there is a legal possibility for decisions to be taken by qualified majority voting, any State can force a vote by unanimity if they cite "important and stated reasons of national policy" (See Articles 23 and 24 TEU). "Europe needs to be outward looking and stop being obsessed with internal issues such as the constitution" I agree that the EU needs to more outward looking and I also agree that the Constitution should be binned in favour of a more modest document, however to address this point properly it is important to question whether the EU can be more outward looking without internal reform. There are a number of criticisms that can be levelled at the Union's external policy. Three of the most notable criticisms are as follows: 1. the lack of accountability; 2. the failure on occasion to present a United front in international organisations; and 3. the lack of a credible military capability. 1. Transparency and Accountability The CFSP is very much in the hands of the Member States governments, unlike affairs under the EC Treaty the supranational Commission takes a back seat. The downside of this is that the Member States meet behind closed doors and neither the European Parliament, the national parliaments nor the European Courts have much direct involvement. The national courts only have a role to the extent their national Constitutional arrangements allow Courts to review Foreign Policy measures. While these situations could be improved through informal inter-institutional agreements, it may only be possible to guarantee this accountability on a permanent enforceable basis with additional Treaty changes. 2. Lack of Unity At the moment the complex division of powers in the EU's external policy has given the Commission a great deal of wriggle-room in its perpetual turf war with the Member States. Indeed according to one high-ranking Commission official “There is a First World War fight over the legal basis in foreign policy". The result is a whole series of embarassing Court cases that leave the EU and its Member States looking rather silly and have severely weakened their otherwise considerable bargaining power in the process. Two solutions have been proposed to this problem in the constitution: an EU foreign Minister and further clarification of the division of powers through the amendment of the Treaties. The former is a bad idea: the Union is at its most effective when the Member States and EU institutions are lobbying together on the basis of a common negotiating position. Indeed as Steven Hyett, the Legal Director at the DTI, has pointed out, the UK was able to bring its specific weight in the global financial services industry in WTO negotiations and lobby far more effectively than the Commission. It would seem both unnecessary and, in some circumstances, counter-production to concentrate such powers upon an 'EU foreign minister'. The same goes for clarifying the division of competences. The best solution to this problem is not necessarily more tinkering with the Treaties. We can codify until the cows come home and there will still be room for disputes. Inter-institutional agreements would be a far more flexible and effective way of organising competences than a graveyard full of set-in-stone treaty changes. Such agreements could be tailored to each international organisation or set of negotiations the EU and its Member States are involved in. Ultimately, in order to achieve greater unity in their external representation the Member States and the Commission have to start acting like grown-ups and work together. 3. Lack of a credible military capability On this point I would refer bloggers to the arguments I put forward in the debate following yesterday's entry in Dr. Fox's diary http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2007/06/liam_fox_mps_si.html#comment-71309386. A European Rapid Reaction Force or a similar formation could be achieved without further Treaty changes. Conclusion In conclusion, some limited alterations would be helpful to ensure that the CFSP gets the democratic and judicial scrutiny it warrants, but a full-blown Constitutional Treaty is not at all necessary to achieve unity in external representation or a credible military capability.
1 reply
"Sorry to disappoint but France will ever do what is in France's interest" Quite true, though, I am not sure it is not the only country against whom that particular criticism can be levelled. ;) The point is, there will be occasions upon which our interests coincide - and with Atlanticist Nicolas Sarkozy at the helm that could be more often in the future. On those occasions it would be unfortunate not to have such a major tool at our disposal for a failure to take a lead. It is important to note that such a force would not be the single source of our security and defence: it would just be a major new tool in the tool-box. I don't think such a solution can be described as naive or necessarily Europhile, it is merely pragmatic. And a failure to be pragmatic would not only be a failure to live up to one of the traits that makes our party the great but also a failure to serve the interests of the British people by taking full advantage of our allies. "Germany will ever refuse to send its troops into harms way and the rest will do only that which pleases France/Germany" Possibly true, but, Europe is much bigger than France and Germany these days. The new reality of 27 Member States gives the UK an opportunity to forge new alliances and bring greater bargaining power to bear on the historically powerful Franco-German alliance. This is an opportunity to take a lead that it would be disgraceful for the UK to miss through blind Euroscepticism. On the specific question of Germany, they could become more involved if we could get them some form of permanent seat (not necessarily with a veto) on the Security Council. But that is another debate... "In any event, their collective military capability is still so weak as to ensure that little strategically can be accomplished without the USA" It depends on what you mean by accomplishing strategic objectives without the USA. Achieving things without at least the USA's broad agreement would be impossible - many Member States, not just the UK, would not contenence any such action. Our ability to achieve strategic objectives without the active participation of the US would be strengthened by a European rapid reaction force. The fact is, that if action needed to be taken and the US was too overstretched to participate, this would be highly embarassing for the US if NATO were the only framework through which action could be pursued. It would be expedient for us and less embarassing for our closest ally if we had alternative frameworks through which action could be taken.
1 reply
"Have no truck with any pan-european defence force or rapid reaction corps" Why not? In global security terms, Europe represents untapped potential. At the moment, with the exception of France, most European countries would struggle to field a credible force and make a real difference to world security by themselves. However if those forces were to be united with Britain playing a/the leading role we would have far greater resources to defend our interests and promote global peace and security. Failure to participate would be a missed opportunity and leave our old friends and rivals the French with a monopoly on the leadership of such a force. The argument that this would create friction with the United States is not necessarily true. If we, as the US's closest ally, were to participate fully and ensure that Europe works contructively with the US in the framework of NATO; Europe would be able to shoulder a greater share of the global security burden just as the US has suggested we should for many years. With the rise of India and China, and with Russia flexing its muscles again, it seems likely that the future will be one dominated by players of continental proportions. Britain faces a choice. Do we allow ourselves to be marginalised by these emerging continental superpowers? Or, do we take lead in Europe and form the keystone in the great bridge that is the Transatlantic alliance?
1 reply