Monday, February 28, 2005

Will this be the downfall of the assemblies?

Funding Complaint to Council will create national chain reaction

Below is a copy of the complaint lodged today with Sunderland Council.

Please feel free to use it in your local authority area and bring the issues raised to the attention of all your councillors who are assembly members.

12 Frederick Street
28th February 2005

Bob Rayner
Monitoring Officer
Sunderland City Council
Sunderland Civic Centre

Dear Mr Rayner,

As you are aware, I have raised the issue of the legality of the funding arrangements of ANEC/NEA in the past, which led to censure by the District Auditor for breaches of Section 19 of Local Authority Guidelines on Publicity.

It was decided to refrain from a further challenge of the Association of North East Councils / North East Assembly funding issue and certain questions, which remained unanswered, until the referendum had been held and enough time had elapsed from the Government to consider its position following the overwhelming and emphatic defeat.

It appears however, that the regional agenda is to continue regardless of the decision. It also appears that the North East Local Authorities are not taking heed of the result and the rejection by the electorate of a regional assembly.

It is disingenuous to think that the rejection of an ‘elected’ version was in any way favour or support for the ‘unelected’ version.

My concern, and that of many others, is therefore drawn back to what appear to be some very serious misuses of public money. From discussions with the District Auditor and the Senior Policy Advisor at the Standards Board of England and Wales, I understand that I first need to raise the matters with you for investigation.

However, because of the seriousness of the allegations and the implications for other local authorities, I will also be copying in a number of other interested parties in on this correspondence. I also believe that the matter is so serious that it may warrant a Police investigation with a view to prosecutions.

Therefore, I hope that you will treat and investigate the matter thoroughly and with the view that this is simply the beginning of a process that will also be replicated in other authority areas and with other regional assemblies across the country.

There are a number of questions that I wish answered before moving on to the complaint, and the answers will have an obvious bearing on the next stages of the complaint and investigation procedures by outside bodies:

1. Can you confirm that Sunderland Council is aware that both ANEC & NEA are ‘unincorporated associations’ and thereby have no legal personality?

2. Can you please provide details of all the amounts paid by Sunderland Council to ANEC and NEA since their inception?

3. Can you please provide details of all the Sunderland Council’s representatives of ANEC and NEA over the period this money was paid and whether they were present at council meetings when this payment, the ‘voluntary subscription,’ was agreed in the budget?

4. Can you confirm that at all times the Members’ Interest Book had up to date details of membership of ANEC and NEA? If not, can you advise as to when and where the breaches were noted and the date they were corrected?

5. Had the members indicated that they had a pecuniary or prejudicial interest in ANEC or NEA? If not, had you, as the Monitoring Officer, advised them otherwise?

6. Were they ever advised by yourself as Monitoring Officer, or yourself as City Solicitor, or any other official of the Local Authority that membership of an ‘unincorporated association’ whose members are ‘jointly and severally’ liable may have personal financial consequences?

7. Stephen Barber, Director of ANEC/NEA has advised that he informed all members of both organisations of their potential personal liability. Were you aware of this? If so, did you immediately check with all of Sunderland’s members of ANEC / NEA that they required to take independent legal advice?

8. Stephen Barber, Director of ANEC/NEA also advised Sunderland City Council that there was a 'insurance indemnity' in place to cover any potential future litigation / legal challenges to ANEC/NEA’s status and activities.
I have correspondence indicating that you had sight of this.
Can you please provide a copy of this advice / indemnity under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 along with all correspondence, including e-mails, between your Department and Sunderland Council’s Assembly and ANEC members, and your department and Stephen Barber and the North East Assembly and ANEC executive?

9. ANEC or NEA are not recognised as an employer under Section 122 of the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
— Are you aware of this?
— Did you advise Sunderland Council’s ANEC/NEA members of this?
— Did you advise them that as they were the ‘legal personality’ of ANEC, and as such they could face a potential personal liability for those contracts and pensions / redundancies should there ever be a shortfall in the funding stream?
— Following the previous censure by the District Auditor after the behaviour of the Assembly / ANEC, did you conduct any investigations into the behaviour of the Assembly / ANEC and did you monitor its activities and check out its legal status, or did you simply rely on the reassurances of its Director, Stephen Barber? If so, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 can you please provide copies of these investigations?
— Are you aware of any North East Local Authority underwriting the ANEC / NEA’s contacts of employment for their permanent members of staff? If so, which authority?

10. Can you please provide a copy of the Strategy promoting the well being of the City of Sunderland and details of the consultations, which were undertaken detailing how the decision was arrived at that membership of ANEC / NEA would be beneficial to the City?
(i) What is the form that the ‘consultation process’ takes?
(ii) Has the strategy been altered since the misuse of public money and the censure by the District Auditor?
(iii) Has the strategy been altered since the referendum, in order to assess whether public are happy to continue paying money to a ‘regional’ body that they thought they had rejected in the referendum? If not, why not?

11. Can you please provide details, under the Data Protection Act 1998, of all communications (including telephone, e-mail, letter) between your department and myself, and where there has been reference to myself between; your department and the Chief Executive, your department and the Press Office, your department and Trading Standards, your department and Transport and Engineering, your department and the ANEC & NEA, your department and any other City of Sunderland Department and any outside agencies including ODPM & GONE. I would also like copies of all information and communications held individually by these departments.


The complaint which I will initially ask you to respond to, which will require further investigation by outside bodies, dependent on your response is as follows:-

I wish to make a formal complaint, which I will be copying initially to David Jennings, District Auditor and Michelle Witton, Senior Policy Advisor at the Standards Board of England and Wales, because of the potential ‘knock-on’ implications for other local authority councillors and possible legal action.

The complaint is as follows:-

1. I believe that there have been breaches of Section 137 and 143 of the Local Government Act 1972 and Section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000.

The ANEC / NEA cannot be seen to be acting always in the interests of all of the local authority areas in the region, and often decisions or strategies will be to the detriment of Sunderland.

Therefore if ANEC / NEA is beneficial to another area which compromises Sunderland then Sections 137 / 143 and Section 2 cannot hold true.

Can you clarify if this is the case?

Can you detail your monitoring procedure intended to prevent such breaches?

If the promotion or improvement of economic, social or environmental well-being of the local authority area can be potentially compromised then the payment of the ‘voluntary subscriptions’ cannot be authorised.

The recent conflict in Durham County and Districts clearly highlighting this with DCC Leader Ken Manton expressing opposition to the North East Assembly’s Regional Spatial Strategy which favours Tyneside & the Tees Valley.

2. Relates to the Code of Conduct of councillors.
From Part 2.8 (1) of The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (England) Order 2001,
“A member must regard himself as having a personal interest in any matter if the matter relates to an interest in respect of which notification must be given in paragraph 14 and 15 below, or if a decision upon it might reasonably be regarded as affecting to a greater extent than other council tax payers, ratepayers or inhabitants of the authority’s area, the well-being or financial position of himself, a relative or a friend …”

It therefore appears that Sunderland Council’s Members of ANEC and NEA have recorded in the Members’ Interest Book the fact that they are only ‘members’ of the organisations (you will be confirming whether they have all done this…question 4 above). They appear not to have registered a ‘pecuniary’ or ‘prejudicial’ interest.
Can you confirm this?

The members’ financial interest arises because as ‘unincorporated association’ it is the members of NEA & ANEC who are ‘jointly and severally’ liable.

Therefore, if, as it appears, ANEC is not registered as an employer under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 then it is the members of ANEC who have the legal responsibility for contracts entered into by that body.
The liability of the contracts of employment amounts to many hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Therefore, if Local Authorities ceased to pay ‘voluntary subscriptions’ or there was a change of government whereby these bodies were abolished (or both) the liabilities of the members would become immediate and apparent.

Therefore, for the members of ANEC & NEA, sitting as councillors and approving Sunderland’s budget and voluntary subscriptions there is a serious breach of Local Government Act 1972 Section 94 (1) as well as breaches of the Members Code of Conduct.

Section 94 (1) states,
“Subject to the provisions of section 97 below, if a member of a local authority has any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any contract, proposed contract or other matter, and is present at a meeting of the local authority at which the contract or other matter is the subject of consideration, he shall at the meeting and as soon as practicable after its commencement disclose the fact and shall not take part in the consideration or discussion of the contract or other matter or vote on any question with respect to it.”

(The disability could not be removed by Section 97 (5) of the same Act because the ‘influence’ of the leader and deputy leader of the ruling group could hardly be classed as ‘insignificant').

Therefore, under Section 94 (2) of the Local Government Act 1972 it appears that an offence has been committed.

I wish you also to refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions for investigation.

I trust that you will treat this complaint with the seriousness that it merits and I will receive a full and thorough response addressing all of the points raised in order for the complaint to be taken to the next stage of proceedings.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

Leader of North East Assembly's Criminal Conviction

Complaints are about to be lodged across the region (and across the country) to Local Authorities' Monitoring Officers; the District Auditor; the Standards Board and eventually the Director of Public Prosecutions, about Assembly members 'failing to declare a pecuniary interest.'
When approving the 'voluntary subscriptions' to either the assemblies or local authority associations the councillors 'forgot' to declare that they have a financial interest. As members of an 'unicorporated association' they are 'jointly and severally liable' for any debts accrued by that organisation. Hardly ethical, or legal therefore, to agree to approve the very budgets the cessation of which would give rise to a personal liability!
This should apply to North East, North West, South West, East of England,
and also applies to Directors of a Limited Company, such as SEERA Ltd., if the councillors who are directors sat in on council meetings without declaring a pecuniary interest.
The East Midlands Regional Assembly has a different set up, being funded solely by central government.

Former Mayor of Stockton Council, Bob Gibson is all too aware of the consequences. He has a criminal conviction for 'failing to declare a pecuniary interest' in 1997. Seems like when it is reported that your political career is in ruins it is an important factor in re-emerging higher up the political ladder. Mr. Mandelson is also another prime example.
Bob Gibson is now Leader of Stockton Council and Chairman of the North East Assembly and the Association of North East Councils (ANEC).

The Northern Echo 30/07/1997

A Senior North-East councillor’s career lay in ruins last nights after he was convicted of failing to declare an interest when making decisions about his workplace.

Guisborough Magistrates Court heard that labour councillor Bob Gibson, former mayor of Stockton Borough Council, served on committees last year, that rubber-stamped plans to relocate the factory where he worked as a wood machinist.

Cleveland police’s fraud squad alleged that he used his position within the council to safeguard his job with the struggling company.
He was found guilty on four counts of failing to declare a pecuniary interest, and fined a total of £800 plus £140 costs.

His employers, Crosby-Sarek of Norton Road, Stockton, first approached the council in 1995, after a slump in business forced them to consider relocating their 150 strong workforce and wood furnishing factory to a new site.

In 1996, the firm proposed to move the factory to a Greenfield site, leaving the Norton Road site derelict so that it could be put up for redevelopment by Stockton City Challenge, Stockton Council and government agency, English Partnerships.

Ken Hoy, prosecuting, said, that Gibson, 59, who was mayor of Stockton at the time chaired council meetings throughout July August September 1996 that voted on the relocation proposal.

The prosecution also maintained that Gibson of Appleton Road Stockton did not declare his interest in the issue or that it would directly affect him should it be approved.

The eventual relocation plans for the Crosby –sarek factory never materialised and the parent company premdoor of Canada laid off the workforce and closed the site.

Yesterday, Gibson, who is now unemployed, said: “To say that my fortunes would have been improved by relocating the factory is a total nonsense.

“The plans for redevelopment weren’t even due to be put forward for two-and-a half years. “Last night he was considering an appeal against the convictions.
Detective Sergeant Bob Bussey of the fraud squad said, “ This legislation exists to prevent councillors from abusing their position. “Last night, a spokeswoman for Stockton council said: “We have no comment to make on this matter. Mr Gibson is still leader of the council until March or April 1998. “Today, Gibson is scheduled to meet chief executive George Garlick for a briefing meeting.

Local Government Act 1972 - Section 143

Subscriptions to Local Government Associations.

143.—(1) A local authority may pay reasonable subscriptions, whether annually or otherwise, to the funds—

(a) of any association of local authorities formed (whether inside or outside the United Kingdom) for the purpose of consultation as to the common interests of those authorities and the discussion of matters relating to local government, or

(b) of any association of officers or members of local authorities which was so formed.

(2) In this section “local authority” includes the Common Council.

Local Government Act 1972 - Sections 137

Power of Local Authorities to Incur Expenditure for Certain Purposes not Otherwise Authorised

137. — (1) A local authority may, subject to the provisions of this section; incur expenditure which in their opinion is in the interests of their area or any part of it or all or some of its inhabitants, but a local authority shall not, by virtue of this subsection, incur any expenditure for a purpose for which they are, either unconditionally or subject to any limitation or to the satisfaction of any condition, authorised or required to make any payment by or by virtue of any other enactment.

(2) It is hereby declared that the power of a local authority to incur expenditure under subsection (1) above includes power to do so by contributing towards the defraying of expenditure by another local authority in or in connection with the exercise of that other authority’s functions.

(3) A local authority may. Subject as aforesaid, incur expenditure on contributions to any of the following funds, that is to say —

(a) the funds of any charitable body in furtherance of its work in the United Kingdom ; or

(b) the funds of any body which provides any public service in the United Kingdom otherwise than for the purposes of gain ; or

(c) any fund which is raised in connection with a particular event directly affecting persons resident in the United Kingdom on behalf of whom a public appeal for contributions has been made by the Lord Mayor of London or the chairman of a principal council or by a committee of which the Lord Mayor of London or the chairman of a principal council is a member.

Local Government Act 1972-Sections 94, 95, 96

Restrictions on Voting

Disability of members of authorities for Voting on account of interest in contracts, etc.
94-(1) Subject to the provisions of section 97 below, if a of member of a local authority had any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any contract, proposed contract or other matter, and is present at a meeting of the local authority at which the contract or other matter is the subject of consideration, he shall at the meeting and as soon as practicable after its commencement disclose the fact and shall not take part in the consideration or discussion of the contract or other matter or vote on any question with respect to it.

(2) If any person fails to comply with the provisions of subsection (1) above he shall for each offence be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200 unless he proves that he did not know that the contract, proposed contract or other matter in which he had a pecuniary interest was the subject of consideration at that meeting.

(3) A prosecution for an offence under this section shall not be instituted except by or on behalf of the Director of the Public Prosecutions.

(4) A local authority may be standing orders provide for the exclusion of a member of the authority from a meeting of the authority while any contract, proposed contract or other matter in which he has a pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, is under consideration.

(5) The following, that is to say-

(a) the receipt by the chairman, vice-chairman or deputy chairman of a principal council of an allowance to meet the expenses of his office or his right to receive, or the possibility of his receiving, such an allowance;

(b) the receipt by a member of a local authority of an allowance or other payment under any provision of sections 173 to 176 below or his right to receive, or the possibility of his receiving, any such payment;

shall not be treated as a pecuniary interest for the purposes of this section.

95.—(1) For the purposes of section 94 above a person shallbe treated, subject to the following provisions of this section and to section 97 below, as having indirectly a pecuniary interest in a contract, proposed contract or other matter, if-

Pecuniary interests for purposes of section 94.

(a) he or any nominee of his is a member of a company or other body with which the contract was made or is proposed to be made or which has a direct pecuniary interest in the other matter under consideration; or

(b) he is a partner, or is in the employment, of a person with whom the contract was made or is proposed to be made or who has a direct pecuniary interest in the other matter under consideration.

(2) Subsection (1) above does not apply to membership of or employment under any public body, and a member of a company or other body shall not by reason only of his membership be treated as having an interest in any contract, proposed contract or other matter if he has no beneficial interest in any securities of that company or other body.

(3) In the case of married persons living together the interest of one spouse shall, if known to the other, be deemed for the purpose of section 94 above to be also an interest of the other.
General notices and recording of disclosures for purposes of section 94
96.­­­­­­­­—(1) A general notice given in writing to the proper officer of the authority by a member thereof to the effect that he or his spouse is a member or in the employment of a specified company or other body, or that he or his spouse is a partner or in the employment of a specified person, or that he or his spouse is the tenant of any premises owned by the authority, shall, unless and until the notice is withdrawn, be deemed to ba a sufficient disclosure of his interest in any contract, proposed contract or other matter relating to that company or other body or to that person or to those premises which may be the subject of consideration after the date of the notice.
(2) The proper officer of the authority shall record in a book to be kept for the purpose particulars of any disclosure made under section 94 above and of any notice given under this section, and the book shall be open at all reasonable hours to the inspection of any member of the local authority.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Prevention of Terrorism Bill exposes Metric Martyrs Judgment as 'unsafe'

Christopher Booker's Notebook
Sunday Telegraph
2thth February 2005

The Metric Martyrs have saved Magna Carta
It is one thing for Lord Falconer to brush aside all the legal confusion over Prince Charles's wedding plans simply by pronouncing that they are within the law after all. Quite another thing is the constitutional elephant trap that the Government has unwittingly walked into with its Prevention of Terrorism Bill, which will allow citizens to be placed under house arrest by fiat of the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke.

This drives a coach and horses through Magna Carta, which rules that "no freeman shall be arrested or detained in prison or deprived of his liberty – except by the judgment of his peers". And no doubt Lord Falconer and his colleagues might argue that it would be ridiculous to allow some fusty 800-year-old document to overrule the right of Mr Clarke in the 21st century to imprison his victims without permission of the courts.

What Mr Clarke has overlooked, however, is the landmark judgment given three years ago in the case of the "Metric Martyrs", in which Lord Justice Laws named Magna Carta, alongside the Bill of Rights, as a "constitutional statute", which cannot be overridden by any subsequent legislation, unless this is explicitly the will of Parliament.

It was on this principle that Steve Thoburn was found guilty of the criminal offence of selling bananas by the pound, because the judge ruled that the European Communities Act of 1972, under which metric weights and measures were made compulsory, was a "constitutional statute". It therefore could not be overridden by the later 1985 Weights and Measures Act, which permitted the continued selling of goods in pounds and ounces.

If Mr Clarke wishes to overrule Magna Carta, according to Lord Justice Laws's ruling of 2002, he must therefore make this explicit in his Prevention of Terrorism Bill. Parliament must be given the chance to decide that in this respect it wishes to override Magna Carta.

If Mr Clarke refuses to accept the relevance of Laws's judgment, then, as Neil Herron, the director of the Metric Martyrs Defence Fund, points out, the whole case against the Martyrs collapses and their convictions must be overturned.

Even if, to avoid such embarrassment, Mr Clarke does ask Parliament explicitly to set aside the relevant section of Magna Carta, he will then be advised that the Great Charter was not an Act of Parliament that can be repealed by a subsequent parliament. It was a contract in perpetuity between the sovereign and the people, which Parliament cannot undo.
Whichever way the Government plays it, in its continuing assault on the constitutional rights of the British people, this time it is stuffed.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

How we voted no and meant yes

Northern Echo, Thursday 24th February 2005
Nick Morrison

IT was November 4, 2004, and the voters of the North-East overwhelmingly rejected the idea of regional government. By a majority of almost four to one, they decided they did not want a North East Assembly.
Or did they? Not according to the North East Assembly, they didn't.
"The election was about the way in which the assembly is organised: should it be through an electoral process, or through the process that happens in all other regions? The decision was: we would continue to have the members appointed as they have been," says Malcolm Bowes, assistant director of the North East Assembly.
This is the assembly created by the Government in 1999, one of eight around the country, as a first step towards regional devolution. A yes vote in the referendum would have seen it replaced by an elected version; a no vote meant it was business as usual.
For the last six years, the assembly has been beavering away, almost unnoticed, from the Guildhall on Newcastle's Quayside. Within days of the referendum result, it became clear it was no mere talking shop, producing a planning framework which will shape the future of the North-East for the next 20 years. It may not be democratic, but it has power.
But some of the 700,000 voters who ticked the no box may have thought they were saying goodbye to regional government. If so, they were mistaken, according to Mr Bowes.
"What they said they don't want, is an assembly to be elected. Some of them may have thought they were making a decision on whether they wanted an assembly or not, but that was not the decision they were making.
"The question was: do you want an elected assembly? The answer was no. If you don't want an elected assembly, then you have an assembly that has its members appointed the way they are now. If there was some uncertainty in people's minds, well...," he shrugs.
The assembly has 72 members, 51 of them politicians, predominantly from local councils, the rest drawn from various spheres, including trades unions, business, education and health. It has a budget of around £2.7m, of which £858,000 comes from council taxpayers, the rest from government. About £1m of its budget is split with the Association of North East Councils, which shares the assembly's 32 staff.
Assembly chairman Bob Gibson, also leader of Stockton Council, is dismissive of suggestions it has no democratic mandate.
"I'm not interested in that issue. The assembly will carry on the work that it has been doing, the same as the other seven assemblies are doing. That's all I'm saying on the issue," he says.
But others are not so eager to move on.
John Shuttleworth, an independent councillor representing Weardale on Durham County Council, called for the authority to withdraw its £84,800 annual funding to the assembly in the wake of the referendum result. His proposal was defeated by 70 votes to two, but he's unbowed.
"I can't get my head around why they want to maintain something that is against the wishes of the people. It is just a gravy train with people with their noses in the trough and they haven't a mandate to do anything," he says.
John Elliott, chairman of the North-East Says No campaign which led opposition to the assembly in the referendum, says if the Government wanted an elected regional assembly it should have just gone ahead and then be judged on its creation at the next election.
"Why go to all the expense of a referendum and then just ignore it? It cost £12m for the referendum but it was a total waste," he says. "The regional assembly is a waste of time: it is a quango that interferes, it does nothing of value but it consumes council tax."
For Mr Bowes, the regional assembly means the North-East can speak with one voice, making it more effective in lobbying for extra investment. And he says the Government requirement to produce a regional planning framework means some sort of regional body needs to exist, to produce a consensus between the local authorities.
"You need some sort of representative body to take those decisions, and the most representative body we have currently got is the regional assembly," he says.
The referendum result may have been the end of a dream for Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, but it has not stopped the Government's drive towards regional government. A spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), which funds the assemblies, says some issues need to be co-ordinated over a larger area than a single local authority.
"If the people in the regions are to have a voice and an input to the development of strategies that cross local authority boundaries, then clearly we need regional assemblies to work together for the benefit of their regions," she says.
But this is far from clear to Neil Herron, director of the unofficial North East No campaign. He believes the region's elected representatives, its MPs and local authorities, should be sufficient to tackle the North-East's problems, and for issues which cross local authority boundaries, councils can come together on a temporary basis.
"The regional assembly has no mandate from the people whatsoever, it is an unwanted talking shop," he says.
"This is the biggest political con-trick ever foisted on the people of the North-East, who have got regional government whether they like it or not."
And this is the real problem with the regional assembly, according to John Elliott. Not so much the fact it exists, galling though that is, but that it sends a message to the voters who believed they were being given a choice on whether the North-East should have an assembly.
"They're just ignoring people and then they wonder why people don't bother to vote," he says. "The regional assembly doesn't make any difference: it is the message they're giving that they don't care what people think. They haven't realised the reason people don't vote, and this, more than anything, reinforces that.
"Most people don't feel connected to politicians, and by ignoring that vote in November they're effectively saying we're wasting our time."

Will the Terrorism Bill 'free' the Metric Martyrs?

Press Release: Immediate
Metric Martyrs Defence Fund
12 noon 24th February, 2005

" Will the Terrorism Bill 'free' the Metric Martyrs?"

The Government is trampling over the Rights and Liberties of the People...with an unforseen consequence.
Where can liberty turn?
Charles Clarke, a politician and not a judge, is now to make lawful whatever he says is lawful...However,

"NO FREEMAN shall be arrested or detained in prison or deprived of his or outlawed or exiled or in any way molested . . . except by the judgment of his peers."
Magna Carta, 1215.

If we reference back to Section 62 and 63 of Lord Justice Laws' Judgment at the Supreme Court of Judicature (Queen's Bench Division) February 18th 2002, commonly known as the 'Metric Martyrs' Judgment (full Judgment here ) we can see...I paraphrase but, in essence...

"We should recognise a hierarchy of Acts of Parliament: as it were "ordinary" statutes and "constitutional statutes". The special status of constitutional statutes follows the special status of constitutional rights. Examples are the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights 1689 … Ordinary statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may not…"

Therefore, the Prevention of Terrorism Bill in order to go through Parliament must expressly repeal the relevant section of Magna Carta otherwise, according to the precedent set by Laws, there is no repeal, so no-one can be held or imprisoned without an appearance before a court.
Magna Carta (a 'constitutional statute' cannot be repealed by the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, an 'ordinary' statute). To debate Magna Carta before the full house and expose the fact that it is every British citizen who will be deprived of a fundamental right is not what the Government will wish to do.

This thrusts the Metric Martyrs right back into the spotlight because we are currently using Lord Justice Laws Judgment against 'fines and penalties' imposed by 'administrative bodies'...unlawful if we apply the Laws Judgment because there is no express repeal of the relevant section of the Bill of Rights 1689 (a 'constitutional statute) which states:

"That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void"

which would be required for the 'ordinary' statute (such as the Road Traffic Act 1991 which 'decriminalised' Parking offences) to have force in law. (Press report here)

Metric Martyrs Campaign Director, Neil Herron states, "Whichever route the Government wishes to proceed, one of the two must fall. Either the Metric Martyrs Judgment is correct which will have the effect of no imprisonment of suspected terrorists without trial, and the effect that all 'administrative 'fines and penalties ( such as decriminalised parking tickets, late payment penalties by the Inland Revenue and SORN notices by the DVLA) are unlawful; or the Metric Martyrs' convictions are unsafe. Either way, the Government are backing themselves up a very tight alley and are playing for very, very high stakes the implications of which they have not even considered as they stumble from one constitutional crisis to the next."

Neil Herron
Campaign Director
Metric Martyrs Defence Fund
12 Frederick StreetSunderland
Tel. 0191 565 7143
Mob. 07776 202045

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Another blunder by the Electoral Commission

On Monday 21st February, 2005 our office received a call from Syd Harding of the Electoral Commission. They had a little problem with our accounts. As a Permitted Participant we were required to submit full expenditure details to the Electoral Commission to ensure that we 'did everything by the book.'
The reason for Mr. Harding's call was that in between their office and the copying office certain bits of our paperwork, some invoices for expenditure 'went missing.'
His request was for us to submit further copies.
We have done so and added an extra one...for the time duplicating our work and the price of the further photocopies.
When we receive the £20 we will give it to charity.

It was you who wrote Magna Carta, my Lords. And now you must defend it.

The Times,
Simon Jenkins (

Where can liberty turn? Charles Clarke is now to make lawful whatever he says is lawful

"NO FREEMAN shall be arrested or detained in prison or deprived of hisfreehold or outlawed or exiled or in any way molested . . . except by thelawful judgment of his peers." Magna Carta, 1215.

It is near incredible than in 2005 ministers of the Crown should need reminding of Magna Carta. There is only one question after yesterday's decision of the Home Secretary in effect to repeal it. How can he be stopped?
The Government's proposed control orders against anyone it considers "a threat" are proof positive of the corruption of power.

Charles Clarke and his Commons henchman, Peter Hain, dismissed all opposition as "complacentand ignorant of the facts", albeit facts they decline to reveal. They seem oblivious of the parallel with powers enjoyed by Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe,Russia's Vladimir Putin, Libya's Colonel Gaddafi and Pakistan's General Musharraf. All pleaded state security to justify executive justice, some with better reason than Mr Clarke.
This is not guilt by association.
It is guilt by imitation.

In the Commons yesterday Mr Clarke appeared to give ground to his critics.He did not. He said he would not impose house arrest on his suspects without seeking a subsequent (not prior) "resolution" of both Houses ofParliament allowing him to ignore the European human rights convention. Bu the would use other powers of tagging and indefinite restriction. The new orders would be subject to judicial review, but with vetted lawyers meeting in camera and without the right to see or cross-examine evidence.
The court is a kangaroo.
Aimed at the IRA, anti-nuclear protesters or anti-vivisectionists, these proposals might seem questionable enough.

In the case of Muslim fundamentalists the Home Office has obtained High Court permission to use intelligence culled by torture. This may come from Syria, Egypt, Iraq or anywhere that takes the fancy of the CIA's policy of "out-sourced"interrogation. Such arbitrary justice by a liberal modern state is wholly unsound. Only the most craven anti-libertarian could be its apologist.We are asked to accept an infringement of civil liberty because Mr Clarke believes, beyond any of his predecessors, that Britain is now "in a state of public emergency threatening the life of the nation" from forces out to"destroy our society".

He claims to have "no way to control terrorists"other than by new special powers. This suggests an extraordinary lack of faith both in the British police and in the robustness of British democracy.

On Monday Mr Hain added his pompous pennyworth. He declared that "the greatest attack on civil liberty in 300 years would be a suicide bomb attack". Apart from grotesquely understating London's ability to withstand a bomb, the remark is historically ignorant and an insult to those who faced the sustained threat of the Second World War.
Mr Hain is clearly not a man who would risk his life to protect liberty, but would risk liberty to protect his life. He has already turned the House of Commons into an over-armed camp, leaving London's public services to their own devices.Dossiers were being published last night to set out this new threat.
We hesitate to ask who wrote them and who edited them. We note only the return to the heart of government of a certain Alastair Campbell, impresario of the Iraq weapons dossiers. Any man who could see nuclear missiles staringat him from the Mesopotamian desert can doubtless find suicide bombersunder every bed and a sarin factory in every mosque.

Two years ago Downing Street tried to scare the nation over Iraq's "threat to Britain" and took it to war as a result. There was no threat.Now the dossier writers are at it again, so that Britons can be branded as a threat to the State on the say-so of the security services. The one safeguard squeezed from a reluctant Home Secretary is that a judge may ask if he, that is his security advisers, were "reasonable" in their suspicions.
But the judge must do so without questioning the evidence or hearing from the suspect.
No lawyer should be party to such a judicial travesty.The yen of the security services for absolute power is traditionally curbed by ministers. The present Cabinet has not done so.

The Patricia Hewitt who in 1982 inveighed against executive arrogance in The Abuse of Power has turned her coat.

The Jack Straw who in 1994 castigated executive prerogative has rejected his past.

The Mr Hain who once claimed that he was"framed" by spies has drunk deep at their trough and found it nectar.

Ministers have capitulated to the blood-curdling rhetoric of the security lobby.

As Lord Hoffmann said last December in opposing the original detention orders, it is ministers who are currently the "threat to society". They are marionettes dancing to Osama bin Laden's tune.

In the March issue of Prospect magazine, David Marquand notes the conversion of the enrag├ęs of the 1970s student and municipal Left into the new authoritarians. The Browns, Straws, Blunketts, Hains and Clarkes combine "a strong dose of political cunning with a remarkable capacity forjettisoning inconvenient principles when the wind changes." They explained their first jettison as being simply to "make Labour electable". Now embedded, they apply to government the habits of autocracy learnt instudent unions and council chambers. Parliament stands proxy for the NUSand the socialist republic of Sheffield. How can Mr Blair lecture Mr Mugabeor the Iranian mullahs on the rule of law when he passes measures such asthis?Last week, to their credit, Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy told MrClarke that they could not be party to such casual draconianism. Securitywas the business of government but the rule of law as commonly understoodwas absolute. Yet the Opposition can put no tanks on the Government's lawn.For its part, the Parliamentary Labour Party is cowering behind the whips.

During the Iraq weapons affair, its leaders cut pathetic figures. AnnTaylor, of the Commons security committee, Donald Anderson at foreignaffairs and Bruce George at defence were Government patsies. The onlyperson to whom they gave a hard time was poor David Kelly. They will giveMr Clarke all the power he wants ­ and rack and thumbscrew if need be.The contrast with the executive oversight displayed in the past year by the American Congress remains humiliating to the reputation of Parliament.Labour backbenchers are like Herdwick sheep, who know only to graze in homepasture. The one time they rebelled in large numbers was when faced with paying higher university fees for their offspring. Any one of them who nowdefends civil liberty is dubbed a maverick (not least by the BBC).Where else can civil liberty turn? The law is no good. It was the supreme court, the law lords, who told the Government its internment of foreigners was unlawful.

Mr Clarke now means to reverse that decision by making lawful whatever he says is lawful.

Such is the thin ice on which freedom skates.The only bulwark that remains is one we never thought to welcome, the ramshackle agglomeration of cronyism and heredity that is the House ofLords. No constitutional evolution has been more remarkable under Labourthan the revival of this place, given a new lease of legitimacy by MrBlair's half-hearted reform. He may have appointed twice as many peers ayear as any of his recent predecessors, but they have shown little gratitude. The Government is defeated in the Lords more often that at anytime in the past quarter century.It must be defeated again. Mr Clarke and Mr Hain want to railroad detentionwithout trial through the Commons in six days. They will doubtless succeed.The Lords is made of stronger stuff. If it can vote against hunting it cansurely vote against the control orders until the election. If the measure is reintroduced by a new government, the Lords should go on defeating ituntil the Parliament Act is invoked. If this is to be the last deed of old House of Lords, I cannot imagine a nobler baronial epitaph than to diefighting for the Great Charter against a dictatorial Crown.

Dividing and ruling

Northern Echo
Nick Morrison 23/02/2005

Despite the fact its title is enough to make normal eyes glaze over, the regional spatial strategy is the most important issue facing the North-East today. But not everyone thinks it will be good for the region. Nick Morrison reports.
IT was one of the many objections levelled at the campaign to create an elected regional assembly: that the new body would focus on Tyne and Wear and Teesside at the expense of everyone else. It was an objection, along with many others, that ultimately proved successful, as voters rejected the proposed assembly by a majority of nearly four to one.
But now those fears have returned, and it is not an elected assembly, but an unelected one, which is responsible.
The object of concern is the regional spatial strategy (RSS) - an unglamorous name which has perhaps allowed its implications to slip by unnoticed. For it is the RSS which will determine the face of the North-East for a generation. By setting out where industry can go, where new houses can be built, and which roads should be improved, it will have more impact on the region than almost any other single policy.
The RSS was drawn up by the North East Assembly, the unelected body created in 1999 as the first step towards regional devolution. Had last November's referendum produced a yes vote, the assembly would have made way for an elected version. As it is: it is carry on regardless.
After publishing the strategy within days of the no vote, the North East Assembly will agree a final version next week, before submitting it to the Government for consideration.
But already it is clear that one of the most contentious issues is the concentration on Tyne and Wear and Teesside - dubbed the two city regions - in the years to 2021. Equally clearly, the strategy's authors see no reason to change their minds.
This division is most clearly illustrated in house building plans over the next 16 years. The Government expects the overall population in the North-East to remain the same, but the assembly is keen to reverse the trend which has seen people leave the city regions to live in the surrounding areas. The result is that the city regions will see a net increase in the number of homes, while other areas will see a net decrease.
"If your population goes down, everything else goes with it, and industries are not going to come here," says Olive Brown, leader of Wear Valley District Council. "No council should preside over decline but that is what is happening.
"We're being squeezed between the two large conurbations, between Tyneside and Teesside. I realise that they need help, but I do think it is going to be to the detriment of the people in the middle. I really am frightened that we're going to suffer."
If the supply of new houses is restricted, the price of existing homes will rise, beyond the reach of many young, economically active people and reinforcing the trend towards holiday and retirement homes.
The shortage of affordable housing is a key concern for employers. Kevin Maw, managing director of plastic mouldings manufacturer Renham and Wade, which employs 42 people in Middleton in Teesdale, near Barnard Castle, says many of their staff already struggle to afford good housing.
"People already feel conditioned to the fact that we're second class citizens here in any case, but they seem to be blanking out almost the entire County Durham population," he says.
"There is going to be a huge migration of skills even further from the rural areas, and they're going to become old people's communities. Just when people think support can't get any worse, it does."
The disagreement leaves the local authorities in an awkward position. Leaders of all eight councils in County Durham also sit on the North East Assembly, the body which drew up the strategy. And as members of the assembly, although they have to be seen to be standing up for their own areas, they have also bought into the idea of regional government. Even if it means they lose out.
Alex Watson, leader of Derwentside District Council, says the growth of Tyne and Wear and Teesside has been identified as a priority by the Government and the assembly has to accept that. He acknowledges there is no chance of reaching agreement next week.
'There is a strong case to place the city regions at the heart of the drive to promote economic growth, and there is nothing we can do about that," he says. "The rural areas have a serious problem. They're just as important as the cities, although we recognise there is a need to focus on the city regions."
Malcolm Bowes, assistant director of the North East Assembly and responsible for the RSS, is unapologetic about the focus on Tyne and Wear and Teesside. It is only by concentrating new homes in these areas, he says, that the trend of inner city decline can be reversed.
"The main drivers of a better North-East are the two city regions. Most people live in those areas, most people work in those areas, and if you are going to have a successful North-East then those two areas need to be successful," he says.
"If the two conurbations are doing well, there will be knock-on effects elsewhere. There are a lot of positives in this for Durham.
"The idea that Durham is seen as second class is entirely wrong. I can see why people are saying they would like a stable population: there is nothing wrong with being aspirational, but we have to look at the regional picture."
He says the strategy provides a framework for development, which is vital to give inward investors the certainty of knowing where industrial development can take place, and which land is set aside for housing. But not everyone is convinced that such a strategy is necessary.
John Elliott, chairman of Bishop Auckland water cooler manufacturer Ebac, says the North-East economy will only do well when the UK economy does well, and only the Government can bring about economic change.
"If we're going to deal with the North-South divide, which is a real issue, there is only one organisation that is going to do that and it sits in Westminster," he says. "Westminster can shift jobs here tomorrow; the regional assembly isn't going to do that."
And Mr Elliott, who led the campaign against an elected assembly, believes planning issues should be settled at a more local level, and has a more market-led solution to the problem of where to build houses.
"They should build the houses where people want to buy them. Why not let the people who are going to live in them choose? That is how we buy everything else. Real democracies let people decide where to buy houses, they don't tell them," he says.
But this only highlights what many people see as the democratic gap in the strategy: what is the North East Assembly, that it is able to determine how the region should develop, when voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea of regional government? Tomorrow, The Northern Echo looks at how the North-East voted against an assembly, but got one anyway.
* Tomorrow: Why the referendum was a vote FOR a regional assembly.

Inland Revenue Lawyers in Disarray

Wednesday 23rd February
Leaked Information from the Inland Revenue

Two individuals appear to have already used the Bill of Rights Defence in relation to late payment 'fines' by the Inland Revenue...and their lawyers in London are in disarray.

The information disclosed anonymously is that the lawyers have been forwarded two separate instances from individuals using the 'Bill of Rights Defence' against Inland Revenue automatic late payment penalties.

As we know, the Bill of Rights 1689 states:
"That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void;"

and Lord Justice Laws in the Metric Martyrs Case (Supreme Court of Judicature February 18th 2002) stated:
"The special status of constitutional statutes follows the special status of constitutional rights. Examples are the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights 1689...."
"Ordinary statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may not."

It appears therefore, that the Inland Revenue has no lawful authority to impose a 'fine' or a 'charge' without referring the matter to the courts. No wonder their lawyers are in disarray. They have commented that this could see them in the courts for years.
They are worried about a domino effect.

We are awaiting for information from the DVLA who are also abusing the process with SORN administrative body demanding £80 fines! Sorry, but if the Metric Martyrs Judgment is correct, they are up against the same problem.

If anyone wishes to start retrieving information from these bodies then just use the Freedom of Information Act here

Once these bodies... Local Authorities and their decriminalised parking regimes, Inland Revenue, DVLA realise that the public are going to invoke their rights under the Bill of Rights and refuse to pay on a massive scale (we have had over 3000 hits on the relevant sites in a week) then the Government will be forced to address the issue.
Either we are right or the Metric Martyrs conviction is unsafe.

Also, Charles Clarke and his 'terrorism' problem is now attempting to override Magna Carta.
"NO FREEMAN shall be arrested or detained in prison or deprived of his freehold or outlawed or exiled or in any way molested . . . except by the lawful judgment of his peers." Magna Carta, 1215.
Our Constitution has never been under such scrutiny.

Game on boys.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Bill of Rights 1689 explained

A useful site explaining the Bill of Rights can be seen here or here

Metric Martyr's Stitch up explained

Came across this well written piece on another blog and created a link to it. It highlights the implications of the Metric Martyrs Judgment in simple terms.

A Silver Lining from the Case of the Metric Martyrs

For those who find intricate legal arguments difficult to follow I shall try to make this article as easy to read as I can, but I offer no guarantee that it will be anything other than hard going.
A legal ruling was given in 2002 that has enormous potential to do good for the cause of liberty in England. I refer to the case of the "Metric Martyrs" [Thoburn v Sunderland City Council]. If you wish to read the full report of the case you can find it here. The importance of the result has nothing to do with metrication.

Read the rest here

New funding for assembly?

Why are we not surprised at Mr. Foote Wood's suggestion...'cos we were just talking some weeks ago to the Director of the Assembly about that very point! It appears that they are scrambling for a solution to relieve their potential personal liability should everything go pear shaped.

Feb 21 2005
By Ross Smith,
The Journal

Council tax money will no longer pay for the controversial unelected North-East Assembly under new funding plans being hatched by members.
The Liberal Democrats are to propose that the assembly is in future funded entirely by Government.
And The Journal understands that the ruling Labour group on the body is likely to agree to the motion.
The changes would come into effect when the assembly and the Association of North-East Councils are split into separate bodies in the summer.
Liberal Democrat leader Chris Foote Wood is calling for the £860,000 local authority payments to all be channelled to ANEC, which will become an arm of lobbying body the Local Government Association.
Under the plan, the assembly would be completely funded by grants from central government.
The aim is to sidestep critics of the assembly who are calling for councils to stop using taxpayers money to fund it. Mr Foote Wood said: "We recognise there has been a lot of concern about council tax payers' money going to the North-East Assembly.
"If the assembly was abolished, it would take power away from local councils as they would have to go to Government ministers in London instead.
"But the money paid by councils would go to ANEC instead, while the assembly will continue to receive a Government grant of over £1m.
"The assembly is not going to cost the councils anything in future."
A small proportion of council tax money would still need to go to the assembly for legal reasons, but Mr Foote Wood described that as "purely a paper transaction".
Assembly chairman Bob Gibson is reported to have agreed to the proposal, but he would not comment last night.
The assembly was set up in 1999 as a shadow body to an elected chamber.
It has retained responsibility for producing the regional spatial strategy and scrutinising regional development agency One NorthEast, despite devolution being heavily defeated in November's referendum.
A motion to stop payments was recently defeated at Durham County Council.
But the authority threatened to withhold funding in future years after getting what it viewed as a raw deal from the assembly's regional masterplan.
Anti-assembly campaigner Neil Herron said: "We wouldn't be against ANEC getting the money. But it would not need the level of funding North-East authorities are currently paying."
But he is still pressing ahead with plans to lodge official complaints about tax payers' money funding the assembly.

Friday, February 18, 2005

An apology from BBC's Jeremy Vine

I'm sorry

which was followed by:
not at all, sorry about the shortness of the reply - was on air! I am not proud of my giggles, caused (inexplicably) by Mr C's name. On the Bill of Rights I agree with you fundamentally. Jeremy

Original Message
Sent: 18 February 2005 11:57
To: Jeremy Vine Show
Re: Bill of Rights and Mr. De Crittenden

Dear Mr. Vine,

I was somewhat perturbed at your very unprofessional attitude on your programme (1.40pm 16th February) when dealing with Robin De Crittenden. Not only did you mock the Bill of Rights 1689, you failed to even get Mr De Crittenden's first name correct.

What you failed to pursue, and something which your researchers were fully aware, that this wasn't some dusty old forgotten statute, but something which was highly relevant and applicable to the modern day after reference in the case in 2002 Thoburn vs Sunderland...more commonly known as the Metric Martyrs case.

The Divisional Court ruling in the case of the "Metric Martyrs" (sections 62 and 63) said:
"We should recognise a hierarchy of Acts of Parliament: as it were "ordinary" statutes and "constitutional statutes". The special status of constitutional statutes follows the special status of constitutional rights. Examples are the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights 1689 … Ordinary statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may not…"

Thus, the Divisional Court ruled, the European Communities Act 1972, requiring metric, could and must repeal the Weights and Measures Act 1985 (allowing pounds and ounces), because the former was a "constitutional act" and the latter "ordinary". This is the point on which Sunderland greengrocer Steven Thoburn and his co-defendants were convicted as criminals for selling in pounds and ounces.
Herein lies the conflict. If the Divisional Court's ruling is true, every Local Authority, Government agency and police force that fines people through the post, or on the spot, is now acting unlawfully, since the Bill of Rights Act 1689 was specifically classified as a "constitutional Act". The Road Traffic Act 1991 and others like it are, by contrast, "ordinary" Acts. Unless the road traffic acts expressly refer to the fundamental rights laid down by the Bill of Rights Act (which they do not), they must fall by the wayside since, according to the Divisional Court, the Bill of Rights Act cannot be impliedly repealed. It is a constitutional Act that protects our "constitutional rights".

So, if constitutional Acts like the Bill of Rights and the European Communities Act cannot be impliedly repealed, why are local authorities still collecting penalties from the public without conviction? Presumably, local authorities do so because they do not agree with the Divisional Court; they believe that the Bill of Rights Act was repealed impliedly by the Road Traffic Act. But, if this is so, what is the legal basis for prosecuting traders using pounds and ounces?

Also, on 21st July 1993 in the House of Commons the following was stated...
"The House will be aware that following a recent decision by the House of Lords in the case of Pepper versus Hart, the courts now allow themselves to assess the significance of words spoken in the House during the passage of Bills in order to assist the interpretation of statutes. That has exposed our proceedings to possible questioning in a way that was previously thought to be impossible.
There has of course been no amendment to the Bill of Rights and that Act places statutory prohibition on the questioning of our proceedings. Article 9 of the Act reads: "that freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place outside Parliament."

I am sure that the House is entitled to expect when the case referred to by the Right Honourable Gentleman begins to be heard on Monday that the Bill of Rights will be required to be fully respected by all those appearing before the court."

May I humbly suggest that next time you get a fit of the giggles you make sure that you have done your research first then you may have a better grasp of the subject matter otherwise you may end up just simply looking foolish.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron
Metric Martyrs Defence Fund

Trouble at Mill...Wakefield Council acting illegally?

There is a problem here in the fact that Wakefield Council are appearing to underwrite the contracts of employment for the Yorkshire and Humber Assembly. Trouble is that the YHA has no legal personality. Trouble is that there appears to be no certificated registration as an employer. Trouble is that Wakefield Council is breaching the Local Government Act if it is underwriting the liabilities of a body which may not be acting in the interest of the local authority.
Trouble is that it takes a lot of hard work to bring this to the attention of the relevant bodies as they will not go exposing it themselves.
Needs people like Josephine to bring it to their attention. Anyone else can take up the initiative.

Copies to
-Ian Scotter - Regional Assemblies ODPM
-Bernard Jenkins MP
-Andy Mclean/Mark Lingard - The Wakefield Express
-William Green - The Yorkshire Post
-Niel Herron - The NO Campaign
-Austin Mitchell MP
-Shona McIsaac MP
-David Hincliffe MP
-Yvette Cooper MP
-John Trickett MP
-North East Lincs Council

Dear Sir,
I require answers to the following questions before taking this matter further with the District Auditor and the Standards Board of England andWales and I am sure that you will be fully co-operative and give responseswithin the timescale set out in your Code of Practice in dealing with queries and complaints from members of the public.
  1. Are the employment contracts for the employees of the Yorkshire & HumberRegional Assembly held by the Wakefield Metropolitan District Council? If this is correct, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 can you please provide me with a copy of the minutes of where this was actually decided, by whom, and a copy of a contract?
  2. Are these contracts underwritten by the Local Authority members of theYorkshire & Humber Assembly, or solely by Wakefield Council? Again, once clarified, I would like to have copies of this information.
  3. Are any redundancy payments due to any employee of the YHA, underwrittenby the Local Authorities, or solely by Wakefield Council?
  4. Are any of the pension fund obligations of the employees of the YHAunderwritten by the Local Authorities or solely by Wakefield Council?
  5. Can you please direct me to the relevant section in either the LocalGovernment Act 1972 or 2000 where it states that the contractual employment/pension arrangements of a voluntary outside body, are the responsibility of the Council tax payers of the Local Authority membership of that voluntary outside body?
  6. Can you please advise as to which body is registered as the employer under Section 122 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (ConsolidationAct)?

Kind regards

Josephine White


Northern Echo 18/02/2005

YOUR diagram (Echo, Feb 11) showing the present regional government set-up not only confirms my worst fears about the overloaded bureaucracy which we have to support financially, but makes me wonder how anything ever gets done with so many fingers in every imaginable pie.
If advice, information, consultation and financial management has to go through so many tiers to get from top to bottom and back up again, one has to wonder how many bureaucrats are involved in each operation before grass roots society benefits - if it ever does.
It is surely possible to get the job done without such an army of people, at a much lower cost, while taking account of the needs of those who are supposed really to benefit - those at the bottom of the pile.
It's time for drastic streamlining and ditching the myth that all this regional bureaucracy is essential to achieve efficient local government and development. As an individual, I feel as remote from the top of this hyped up pile as I am from Mars. - RK Bradley, Darlington.
THANKS to Chris Lloyd for his balanced article on the future of North-East government.
From his organisation chart, it is obvious that the North-East assembly could be removed without breaking any of the other links.
We are paying for an extra layer of unnecessary bureaucracy - the very thing we overwhelmingly voted against.
Durham's elected council leaders seem suddenly to have become aware that they are being dictated to by an organisation they cannot influence.
The councils have a mandate from the people to do all in their power to remove an undemocratic wasteful assembly. Their loyalty is not to central government but to the people they represent.
With this in mind I would urge them to follow the example of other regions in the country and to reduce, or preferably withdraw, funding from an un-elected talking shop. - B Gobin Spennymoor.
IN REPLY to Tory Jim Tague (HAS, Feb 10), the North-East Assembly does not get £860,000 council taxpayers' money, I do not have a "canny little number" on it (I am unpaid) and I have never "demonised" those who voted no in the referendum.
I am proposing that, in future, no council money at all should go to the assembly.
Mr Tague says nothing about Tory members of the assembly, nor about the many Tories who sit on the region's 100-plus government-appointed quangos.
The Tories want to replace police authorities with single individuals who, once elected, will be in sole charge of our police forces. This will take yet more power away from local councils.
Labour is no better, abolishing regional committees of the Rail Passengers' Council.
Regional development agency One NorthEast (ONE) is a huge quango which spends millions of public money in the region. It is accountable to the North-East Assembly, which includes business people, trades unions, churches and voluntary organisations, as well as local council representatives. The assembly is the only body which represents the whole of the North-East. Abolishing it would kill our only regional voice and take powers away from local councils, ending their right to call ONE to account.
Unelected, unaccountable quangos, all funded by public money, have mushroomed under Tories and Labour. We need a sensible, informed discussion about how to rationalise this expensive, wasteful and undemocratic system and bring it under local democratic control. - Coun Chris Foote-Wood, Bishop Auckland Liberal Democrats.

Find your MEP

Anyone wishing to contact their MEP simply click on the links here or here

Remember that each MEP technically covers the whole region so you will need to write to everyone in your region.
It may be the intention of the 'European Project' to remove scrutiny and transparency from the democratic process, but our MEP's need reminding as to who they are actually supposed to represent.
Excuses that the European Parliament doesn't keep a record is not acceptable. We are not asking the question of the European Parliamment. We are asking it of our elected representatives. We want to know EXACTLY how they voted on each piece of legislation. Anything less is simply not acceptable.

Please forward all responses to:

The People's No Campaign,
12 Frederick Street,
Tel. 0191 565 7143

Investigation: This man wants to hit BT with a baseball bat

The Sunday Times Magazine - 13th February 2005

The financial-crime fighter Jeffrey Robinson fell foul of a complicated internet scam, and paid for it through his telephone bill. Here he tells how he took on the telecoms giant.

This all began innocently about a year ago, when I downloaded a few free tunes from a seemingly benign internet music site. Hidden inside the download was a secret software program designed to hijack our modem and run up my phone bill. Without anyone's permission, a secret dialler reset our computer to ring a premium-rate number. No warnings were given. No service was received. Some of the calls were placed when we weren't home. I wasn't even aware of this invasion of my home and computer until a month later, when BT charged me for 13 premium-rate calls, totalling £120.96, that we did not make.

The sense of having been violated was compounded when I discovered that more than 80,000 people across the UK had complained to BT about being similarly ripped off - and it seemed that BT didn't much care. Its response was, as long as the calls were made from my phone, I had to pay the bill. If I wanted to complain, I must get in touch with the premium-rate number regulator, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards for Telephone Information Services (Icstis).

So I phoned Icstis, or at least tried to, only to discover what tens of thousands of other victims were doubtless discovering - that its numberis engaged from dawn till dusk. BT may have been counting on this - victims complain, they're shunted off to Icstis, they can't get through, a red notice arrives from BT threatening dire consequences, the victims pay up, and BT is paid for calls that its customers never made.

The problem this time is, I'm not a polite British gentleman. I'm a New York street kid. I don't turn away from a fight. This is the story of a big corporation that has walked away from its responsibilities. Take a deep breath - the tale is going to get complicated. It is the nature of a scam, and especially one as successful as this, that the tale is going to get complicated.

I rang the Icstis press office, from whom I learnt that a serviceprovider called B&B Services LLC operated the premium-rate number that got me.Your scammer might be different, but the con will be much the same. B&B leased the number from a UK network operator, Redstone Communications Ltd. Unfortunately, getting information out of Icstis is a laborious process. This may be because complaints have increased by 500% in the past year -in large part owing to these secret diallers and BT's laissez-faire attitude. I paid BT what I legitimately owed it, omitting the £120.96 of amassed charges for calls which I had never made. Along with my cheque went a note reminding BT of a basic responsibility to its customers - its "duty of care" to protect us from criminal activities - and warning: "The non-authorised use of my phone to generate costs without my knowledge and without my approval constitutes fraud."

BT answered with a form letter that basically said: we hear what you're saying but cannot do anything about it. It simply told me to contact Icstis. The company categorically refused to admit a "duty of care",which it has both morally and in law. The letter, signed with an illegible squiggle - so that I couldn't argue with a real person - rambled on for two pages about how BT can't be held responsible for premium-rate scams. Then came this odd disclaimer: "BT would like you to know it does notwish to profit from this type of problem. BT takes only £1.85 per £100 worthof calls, the remaining revenue going to the service provider, and BT has pledged to donate its share of the revenue to Childline."

What I hadn't bothered to tell BT was about my own expertise in financial crime and money-laundering. After three books on the subject (The> >Laundrymen, The Merger and The Sink), plus consultancies with law enforcement around the world and countless speaking engagements, I knew that whether or not BT wanted to admit it, they had specific obligations as defined by various UK criminal statutes.

With tens of thousands of people around the country suffering the same fate, BT was possibly handling millions of pounds worth of money that could be dirty. Someone needed to identify the people behind these cons, and to get BT to face up to its responsibilities. To do that, you have to follow the money. I looked at Redstone Communications. Formerly known as Redstone Telecom, the Hampshire-based company provides information-technology services to corporate customers in the UK and is run by a man named Ian Brown.

In 2002 the company nearly went broke and was forced to sell its national telecom network - to BT! Today, Redstone resells network products on behalf of BT, which means BT has an interest in Redstone, making BT's claim - that it only has a 1.85% stake in premium-rate calls -ratherless than the whole story. Redstone, in turn, could be entitled to as much as one-quarter to one-third of this potentially dirty money. How much of that then gets returned to BT through some book-keeping process? I cannot tell you. But I'm working on it.

If you judge a company by the company it keeps, Redstone does not emerge well. According to an Office of Communications (Ofcom) report for the Department of Trade and Industry, published in December 2004, Redstone has been linked to more offending service providers than any other communications provider in the country. Among the service providers fined by Icstis for the period of January to September 2004, 15 leased lines from Redstone. Second on the list, Intelliplus, was involved in 10 cases. BT was involved in three. That said, Redstone's clients' fines amounted to more than 23% of the total.

Leasing a premium-rate number to someone who becomes the subject of a complaint is not a crime, but Ian Brown at Redstone, and Ben Verwaayen, BT's chief executive, don't always seem to know to whom they've leased premium-rate numbers. And that becomes important, as "know your customer" is one of the statutes in the European money-laundering regulations.

Well, I'm going to help Brown and Verwaayen with some information about their customers. Again, you will have to bear with me, because premium-rate scams are complicated, and fraudsters who do not wish to account for themselves are rarely easy to find. But if you follow the money after it leaves your bank account for that of BT, then leaves BT and moves from country to country, you will get to where the authorities need to go.

It became evident that Brown and Verwaayen didn't know anything about B&B when I looked into that company. Its address is c/o Ilex Trust Services, a formation and financial-services agent in Lugano, Switzerland. The nominee director of B&B is Andrea Melera, who happens to run the Ilex office. During my initial phone conversation with Melera, he claimed that B&B was a New York State company. That's true, but it is a nonresidential company with two dead-end "mail-drop" addresses, one in Albany and one in Queens. That says to me, someone doesn't want Verwaayen, Brown or anyone else knowing who they are. So I rang Melera again. This time he admitted that he'd set up this well-constructed duck blind and that the people hiding behind it were northern Italians. When he wouldn't identify them, I asked if his clients would speak with me. He assured me they wouldn't.

But he insisted they weren't crooks, although his "due diligence" - the effort he is required to make to properly identify his customers - consisted mainly of seeing various forms of ID and copies of utility bills. He acknowledged that B&B operated internet porn sites, which used premium-rate numbers, but he maintained that everything was above board. Except it wasn't. Ilex received about 500 complaints from UK customers alleging premium-rate fraud. Consequently, Melera said, B&B authorised him to repay anyone who complained. The total repayments came to about £30,000. Melera also admitted what I already knew: that Icstis had penalised B&B £100,000, and that the company had paid the fine. Icstis records confirm that B&B operated its Redstone-leased premium-ratenumbers from December 2003 to March 2004, before being shut down for malfeasance by Icstis.

Specifically, it had violated paragraphs 4.3.1b of the Icstis code of practice (taking unfair advantage of any circumstance which may make customers vulnerable); 4.1.3 (unduly encouraging unauthorised calls); and 7.2.3 (which includes, among other things, failure to disclose information about call volumes, patterns, revenues and details of services operating on particular premium-rate numbers).

Despite the fact that Melera has since resigned as B&B's nominee director, he maintained to me that B&B had done nothing illegal; that no premium-rate calls were made without users' consent; that pricing information had been clearly displayed; and that an active agreement from users had been required. His protestations wear thin. B&B claimed to monitor unusual call patterns, but never provided any evidence to support this. Nor did B&B provide any evidence that their dialler software complied with Icstis requirements. In my case, nobody ever asked my permission. I never gave any consent, nor would I have. Too many members of the public have sworn the same thing: that they never agreed to connect to B&B's premium-rate service and that the dialler made repeated calls without their knowledge or consent. Disputed bills on file with BT and Icstis show systemic repeat calls, and are irrefutable evidence of a scam.

When I suggested to Melera that paying the fine and refunding complaining. customers had been an expensive venture for B&B, he said that the £130,000 paid out amounted to less than 1% of the business B&B did during those four months. He disclosed that premium-rate numbers accounted for about 600,000 hits on the company's porn sites, averaging £10 to £12 per hit. That's a turnover of £6m-£7.2m. And even if Verwaayen and BT only admit to taking 1.85%, that's still £111,000 - £133,200 of tainted money. How much more went onto Redstone's accounts and from there into BT's, I don't know. But I do know that B&B is only one of several significant offenders.

So B&B was fined, barred from access to premium-rate services for two years, and ordered to refund all complainants. Melera wanted me to believe it paid up out of goodwill. But that's also nonsense. It paid out so it could re-enter the market two years later if it so wished. That is, if the people behind it are not already back in the market. There are hints that they might be using UK premium-rate numbers under different names. According to one informed source, they are still in the internet-porn business, operating similar scams in other countries.

In my case, I did not claim money back from B&B, because my solicitor advised me not to. My contract is with BT, which billed me for calls I had not made. It is thus up to BT to reclaim any monies it paid to Redstone, and up to Redstone to reclaim any monies it paid to B&B. Having established a money trail, I turned back to what Verwaayen and BT knew about the scams being operated. The company had been receiving complaints about dialler fraud for at least two years. If it had only received a few dozen, that may not have indicated something was a miss. Perhaps a few hundred might have tipped the balance. But what conclusion, other than some kind of criminal activity, can a reasonable person make after more than 80,000 complaints?

Verwaayen and BT must be on very thin ice, given these warning signs. Furthermore, a BT press statement noted: "Once we find out that a site is illegal or fraudulent, it is shut down immediately." Another acknowledged that the company had discussed the matter with the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, "So they can do a criminal investigation." (A source inside the unit says that BT has been informed that use of secret diallers is a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, contravening section 1, which prohibits unauthorised access to a computer, and section 3, which prohibits unauthorised modification of the contents of any computer.) And on its website, BT refers to the problem as a "scam", one dictionary definition of which is: "A fraudulent business, a swindle". Therefore, having publicly stated that it knows this is illegal, BT's donation of 1.85% to charity may be less altruistic than it seems.

What other conclusion can any reasonable person make but that BT was trying to wash its hands of suspect money? But before anyone can give anything away, they must possess it, and knowing that you are in possession of the proceeds of crime is a criminal offence in itself.

If Verwaayen and BT took legal advice that charitable donations somehow exonerate them, then they are living in a fools' paradise. Being knowingly in receipt of money fraudulently obtained from its customers also means that BT must ensure that its customers' money does not go to criminals. That's a principle of English law called "constructive trust". If BT passes money on to bad guys, when there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the money is the proceeds of crime, it is potentially guilty of a crime. As I see it, BT could be open to the charge of being involved in money-laundering if at any stage it knows or suspects customers are victims of a premium-rate scam. Money-laundering can be defined as the acquisition, possession or use of the proceeds of another's criminal conduct.

The regulations in the UK apply to assets derived from criminal conduct regardless of value. Receiving, handling or transferring £120.96 that is the result of criminal conduct - or is reasonably suspected to be the result of criminal conduct - is the same as receiving, handling or transferring £120m in drug money. I believe that BT has come close to violating the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002, specifically sections327 (Concealing etc), 328 (Arrangements) and 329 (Acquisition, Use and Possession) of criminal property, including money. By passing suspect funds along to Redstone, it has probably "arranged" and "transferred" the proceeds of crime. The same goes for Redstone, which passed money along to Malera and Ilex. Here, too, the "constructive trust" principle comes into play. In turn, Malera and Ilex could be subject to UK money-laundering statutes, which do not limit offences to those only taking place in theUK.

If BT or Redstone had reported suspicions or knowledge of money-laundering to the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), that might be a partial defence. But a source inside NCIS says they didn't, at least not during the relevant period. If any of them have since filed reports to NCIS, that's called "defensive reporting" and anyone who understands the money-laundering regulations also understands that defensive reporting is tantamount to an admission of guilt. Even if they had reported their suspicions, BT and Redstone would not be entitled to continue handling these monies.

Yet, knowing that certain dialler fraudsters have been banned by Icstis because they were in direct violation of the codes, and in the face of so many complaints of fraud, BT continues to insist on its right to collect unpaid fees derived from highly suspect premium-rate activities. In some instances, it has threatened to shut off people's phones for nonpayment. That BT has paid money to Redstone before collecting from its own customers - leaving itself exposed to the loss - is BT's problem, not its customers'. While other phone companies caught up in this scam maintain their bullying stance against individual members of the public, BT does at least takes a different attitude when confronted by people with connections.

One man with connections, Sir George Young MP, has taken up dialler-fraud complaints with BT. "Where I have pursued individual constituency cases with BT, they have not taken the customer to court. They have not charged the customer. They have exercised their discretion not to pursue the matter," says Young. "But BT doesn't want anyone to know that." Add in the possibility that, by playing the bully, BT could also be in violation of an offence under statute 40 of the Administration of Justice Act 1970, which deals with the unlawful harassment of a debtor - and one can seewhy it backs off when confronted by someone with legal clout.

Complicating matters for BT and Redstone is the fact that UK money-laundering laws dictate behaviour for solicitors, accountants and bankers who know or suspect that laundering is taking place. Given the publicity surrounding dialler scams throughout 2004, solicitors, accountants and bankers acting for BT, Redstone or any other company involved with this might already be exposed. To demonstrate how seriously the government takes money-laundering these days, penalties set out in POCA for violation of sections 327, 328 or 329 can amount to imprisonment for up to 14 years, a fine, or both. Additionally, solicitors,accountants and bankers have further responsibilities, as set down in statutes and codes of practice by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and their own professional bodies. Besides that, there's a potential for intervention by the new Assets Recovery Agency (ARA). Under UK law, the ARA brings civil suits against offenders to reclaim the proceeds of crime.

With hindsight, BT and Redstone, Melera and B&B, and all the others involved with dialler scams, might wish they had paid more attention to the 80,000-plus victims across the UK when they had the chance. Wilful blindness is no defence. "Not my problem" is no defence. "I wasn't sure what to do" is no defence. "Call Icstis" is no defence. "We are a huge corporation with political connections and are arrogant enough to think we are beyond the law" is no reason why BT should go unchecked.

In the name of responsible journalism, I fired off a series of letters Verwaayen and Brown, giving them every opportunity to set the record straight. Letters to both were answered with bland responses from flunkies who ignored the serious points I raised. The response on Brown's behalf was. in my view, idiotic. Because Brown and Redstone don't usually deal with the public, perhaps they feel able to fob off public concern.Verwaayen and BT are different.

While Verwaayen may have skirted round my questions, I already knew the answers. I asked Verwaayen, considering the fact that BT is still pursuing the collection of highly suspect charges from an apparent premium-rate scam, how does BT justify pursuing fees of this kind? The answer is, it can't, really, because pursuit of illegal money is a violation of the law. Redstone is not exempt from this either.

I asked Verwaayen, by collecting monies obtained through scams, how does BT avoid leaving itself open to possible criminal sanctions; and/or the UK's various money-laundering laws which, among other things,specifically prohibit the possession of, handling of and/or movement of moniesobtained through criminal acts? The answer is, it can't, because its laissez-faire attitude opens it to very serious criticism.

I also asked Verwaayen, how does giving BT's share of premium-ratecharges exonerate BT from potentially being in violation of the law? The answer is, of course, it doesn't. After speaking to Verwaayen and eliciting BT's response to my charges - that it can never tell whether or not a caller has intended to contact a premium-rate porn site - I received a letter from BT offering me a £100 credit on my phone bill. Needless to say, BT's offer was robustly refused.

Because some people take criminal behaviour seriously, tomorrow morning I will make a formal complaint to the police against BT, Redstone, B&B,Ilex and others for money-laundering and theft-act violations, plus aiding and abetting criminal enterprise. Victims who feel equally aggrieved can do the same, knowing that, under UK law, allegations of criminal behaviour must be investigated.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Pro Forma Letter to MEP's

Your name and address

MEP’s Contact Details


Dear ……….....

I contact you regarding voting in the European Parliament.

I write to you as one of your constituents and I am somewhat concerned as it appears that there are no records on yours or your party's website regarding your personal voting record in the European Parliament.

Can you please inform me as to where to look to find the following information?

1. Your personal voting record on my behalf in Brussels and Strasbourg
2. Details of itemised legislation voted on by yourself
3. The direction your vote was cast on each and all occasions you have participated.

Regardless of record keeping system of the EU Parliament, I believe that all MEPs have an absolute duty to keep a personal record and make that record available to constituents who may wish to view the information. Transparency and accountability should be the foundation stone of anyone in an elected position. Could a constituent expect anything less?

Finally may I enquire about your constituency surgeries?

Do you hold them regularly and the date of the next one?

Thank you in anticipation of your reply

Yours sincerely,


To find your MEP click here

The Pensioners’ rallying cry should be: No link, no vote

The Journal- Today's Voice of the North17/02/2005

Many people and groups protested against Tony Blair’s policies at the Labour conference in Gateshead.
The protesters, good people though they may be, were infinitesimal compared to the group that didn’t protest, I refer to the old age pensioners.
Nearly 11 Million strong, this section of the populace has within its capabilities the power to make or break any government in this country.
The vicious Tory government of Maggie Thatcher broke the link between pensions and the cost of living. If this link were restored today it would mean an increase for every pensioner of between £46 to £50 a week.
In spite of his promises Tony Blair has consistently refused to do this. The national and regional leaders of the Pensioners Association should demand a public statement from Mr that if Labour is returned to office it will do just that. If this promise is not forthcoming before polling day the association should call upon all pensioners to withhold their vote from the new Labour Party.
No Link! No Vote! Should be the rallying cry. If the pensioners’ leadership is not prepared to do this then they are just as bad as Tony Blair himself.
James Fitzpatrick

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Raising concerns over plans for homes

The Yorkshire Post 15/02/2005
From: Peter Greenhill, Parkside Avenue, Cockermouth, Cumbria.

THE latest mouthing from the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is in a document entitled Moving Forward: the Northern Way.
So far nobody can understand the reasons for it. It does, however, talk about a total of 1.5m northern homes being under consideration for demolition, of which 400,000 might be rebuilt. So what about the remaining 1.1m?There is opposition to this proposal from organisations which work to protect our heritage, namely English Heritage, the Department of the Environment and local authorities, who all agree that the average cost of refurbishment would be £38,000 per house – almost half the cost of re-building the homes.But to keep this sort of opposition at bay, Mr Prescott has decided to use the unelected regional assemblies to spearhead this assault on what are in many cases, serviceable and occupied properties.I need hardly remind readers that there was the matter of a referendum in the North East to decide whether or not to have a North East Assembly. The "No" vote was one of the largest votes against a serving government.It was also suggested by Mr Prescott that if this happened, the whole programme for regional assemblies would be cancelled. But as with so much else, that promise has been squashed, and we are now going to see these undemocratic regional assemblies taking on the wholesale demolition of properties for no apparent reason other than what is referred to as "low demand" or "market failure" – whatever these phrases mean.In addition, some over-salaried twerp has suggested that "this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the North to shape its own destiny by bringing about change".Well, if shaping is required, we will certainly have a lot of rubble and bricks to do it with.People should ensure their MPs know about the depth of feelings against this.

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