On 8th, 14th, 20th and 22nd January 2014, seven bishops took part in votes on amendments to the Government’s Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, during its Report Stage.
On 14th October 2013, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, and the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, both received answers to written questions on the European Union’s Justice and Home Affairs Measures.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord McNally on 29 August (WA 318), what guarantees they sought from other member states, prior to their decision of 9 July to opt out of 130 European Union Justice and Home Affairs measures, that the United Kingdom would be able to opt back in to various police and justice measures.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Protocol 36 does not provide for guarantees to be obtained from Member States and no Member State would have been able to have given such a guarantee. We therefore did not seek any such guarantees from Member States. However, the issue has been discussed in meetings with our EU counterparts at both Ministerial and official level.
However, Protocol 36 to the Treaties places an obligation on the UK and the Union institutions to, “…seek to re-establish the widest possible measure of participation of the United Kingdom in the acquis of the Union in the area of freedom, security and justice without seriously affecting practical operability of the various parts thereof, while respecting their coherence”. Given this, we are confident that we will be able to reach agreement on a sensible final package of measures that the UK will formally apply to rejoin.
Final agreement is subject to approval by the Council in the case of Schengen measures and the Commission for all others. Continue reading “Bishops of Derby and Wakefield seek clarification on UK’s position on EU Justice and Home Affairs measures”
On 5th August 2013, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, received an answer to a written question on European Union Justice and Home Affairs measures.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, prior to their decision on 9 July to opt out of 130 European Union Justice and Home Affairs measures as provided for by the Lisbon Treaty, guarantees were provided by the European Commission that the United Kingdom would be able to opt back in to various police and justice provisions.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Protocol 36 to the Treaties places an obligation on the UK and the Union institutions to, “…seek to re-establish the widest possible measure of participation of the United Kingdom in the acquis of the Union in the area of freedom, security and justice without seriously affecting practical operability of the various parts thereof, while respecting their coherence”. We are confident that we will be able to reach agreement on a sensible final package of measures that the UK will formally apply to rejoin.
Of course it is not possible to predict the final outcome of the discussions with EU institutions, but following the Governments announcement on 9 July the Commission made clear in a press release that it “respects the UK Government’s choice to opt out, which is in line with the Treaty, and welcomes the UK intention to also opt back into certain measures”.
On 29th July 2013, Lord Sheldon asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce the number of suicides of children in prisons. The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Guildford: Would the Minister care to comment, in the light of the reports of HM Inspectorate of Prisons of May this year on the increased violence at Ashfield and Feltham—it is 10 years to this month since the Commission for Racial Equality produced its report on Feltham—on the desirability of the elimination of the use of batons and routine strip searches in juvenile prisons?
Lord McNally: Every inclination I have is in that direction. Carrying on the policy of the previous Administration, we have tried to make sure that order and discipline in young people’s institutions of various kinds are maintained with the minimum of physical intervention and with the maximum attention on trying to manage difficult situations. A lot of the training addresses how the staff themselves are able to manage down situations before they become violent. However, we also have a duty of care to our staff and a duty of care to other inmates in these institutions, who may become victims of uncontrolled violence.
On 17th July 2013, Lord Bach moved a motion to regret on the Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) Regulations 2013.The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, expressed concern that the level at which permitted disposable capital was set would render some older people in particular less capable of securing legal aid without selling their homes. He hoped that if vulnerable people’s access to legal representation were damaged by the regulations the government would change course on humanitarian grounds and not defend the regulations on the basis of a flawed ideology.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, a key reference in this Motion of Regret is to “vulnerable people”, which is why this non-lawyer dares to stand amid such legal luminaries and feels a bit vulnerable himself.
A civilised country is one where we are all free under the law and where vulnerable people are not left defenceless against unjust treatment by another person, organisation or even an agent of government. Vulnerability is relative, of course, but the calculations that inform the regulations under discussion concern people who may be a very long way, as we have heard, from financial comfort and security, and may have multiple other needs. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich raises concerns with civil legal aid reforms”