Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Press Release-Hustings Meeting 3rd May

Press Release
Neil Herron. Independent Candidate. Sunderland North Constituency

Wednesday 27th April 2005
Sunderland North Constituency...Hustings Meeting 3rd May
A Hustings meeting for the Sunderland North Constituency is to be held in Room 7 Monkwearmouth School, Torver Crescent, Seaburn Dene, Sunderland on Tuesday May 3rd at 7pm.
The meeting is open to the public and reservations can be made by calling 0191 565 7143. Otherwise, simply attend on the night.
The audience will be able to put questions to the candidates. An independent chairperson is being arranged.
Sunderland Echo have very kindly agreed to help promote and cover the event.
Public buildings are made available free of charge and Monkwearmouth School has been of great assistance in providing the venue. Alan Lee, Monkwearmouth's Headmaster has stipulated only one condition, and that is that all candidates must be invited, which we have abided by.
We can confirm that all candidates have been invited and have received confirmation of attendance from them all.
The full list of candidates standing in Sunderland North is as follows (in alphabetical order):-
Stephen Daughton (Conservative)
Bill Etherington (Labour)
Debi Hiles (BNP)
Neil Herron (Independent)
James Hollern (Liberal Democrat)

Colin Moran (Neil Herron's agent)
07802 448 635
Neil Herron
07776 202045
0191 565 7143
Jim Hollern
Stephen Daughton
Bill Etherington
0191 5108377
Debi Hiles
0781 295 8141
Alan Lee (Monkwearmouth School)
0191 553 5555

Election Lines

Apr 27 2005
By Zoe Hughes, Election Lines..Click Here

INDEPENDENT candidate for Sunderland North Neil Herron reports on his website that his Labour opponent Bill Etherington took leave from his campaign to attend a European conference on global warming.

And it seems he has no doubts about the climate change theory. "He must be confident the world is getting warmer," said Neil.

"When I turned up to hand my nominations in, he'd left his jacket behind at the civic centre."

Police investigate ballot fraud allegations

Police investigate ballot fraud allegations
Staff and agencies
Wednesday April 27, 2005

Police have launched an investigation into a Bradford Conservative councillor at the centre of postal vote fraud allegations, it has emerged.

The Conservative party also confirmed that Jamshed Khan, a councillor in the Labour-held marginal Bradford West parliamentary constituency, has resigned his party whip.

Concerns were raised after the Times newspaper discovered that 13 people from Mr Khan's address had registered for a postal vote.

A further 12 people were found to be registered to vote at a derelict house that Land Registry records show he co-owned until last year.

Mr Khan, insisted the claims were false, and said he would be "seeking legal advice" over the matter.

But West Yorkshire police yesterday said they had launched an investigation into the allegations, following initial scrutiny by council officials.

A Conservative spokesman also confirmed Mr Khan had resigned his whip.

Chief superintendent Simon Wilsher said: "We will be investigating this matter fully to determine if there are any criminal offences disclosed. Mr Khan insisted there were 13 adults living at his home when they registered to vote last year."

He said all the people living in the six-bedroom house had requested postal votes when they joined the electoral roll.

Mr Khan said one of the registered voters had since moved away, and three others were in the US and would return their postal votes unused.

He also claimed he allegations of fraud over the derelict property had "nothing to do with him" because he did not own the property.

He said: "I never owned that other house. There are so many Khans, I do not know what they are talking about."

Mr Khan said he would be consulting his lawyer over the matter, but that he would fully cooperate with any local authority inquiry.

The people he claims live with him in his house are his wife, three sons, two daughters, his aunt, his mother, his brother and sister-in-law.

Mr Khan yesterday refused to speak to reporters at his home in the West Bowling area of the city.

It was reported that Mr Khan also owned a terraced house in nearby Merton Road, where 12 people are registered to vote.

But neighbours said the house had not been lived in for more then eight months.

Simon Palmer, who lives next door to the house, said: "I've been living here since June and I know that during that time no one has been living there."

Mr Khan reportedly sold the property in December

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Founding Father of Modern Democracy an insult to Banana Republics

The Times
April 25, 2005

We insult banana republics
Michael Pinto-Duschinsky

THE JUDGE’S remark that the corrupt practices revealed in the Birmingham voting fraud case would disgrace a banana republic is unfair on many banana republics. It conceals the fact that postal voting is only one of several defects in the mechanisms of British electoral administration and thus of British democracy.

For all the protestations of the police, the Birmingham frauds are the tip of an iceberg. All the major parties have been guilty. In Birmingham and Blackburn it is Labour; in Hackney it was Conservatives and Lib Dems.

1. There is a deep-rooted culture of complacency. In 2001 a friend innocently went to the town hall to sign a postal voting form for her husband. The electoral officer said she was disobeying the law but added: “Go ahead. I’m not looking.”

2. The new Electoral Commission lacks authority to supervise returning officers.

3. Britain has no counterpart to the US Justice Department’s unit that specialises in the prosecution of electoral offences. Whitehall has consistently refused to carry out its enforcement duties. The police wait for complaints but rarely, if ever, initiate investigations.

4. My research for the Home Office in 1986 revealed six million errors on the electoral register. Apparently, things have hardly improved.

5. There is some gross malapportionment of seats. Why does the Isle of Wight have the same number of seats (one) as Orkney and Shetland, with one fifth of its population?

6. The political parties collude in ignoring the legal limits on campaign spending. Since 1924 no MP has lost his or her seat for exceeding the legal maximum. (Thailand and South Korea have better enforcement records.)

7. The worst problems are yet to come. Senior election officials privately acknowledge that the rules for the referendum on the European constitution were hastily devised and will prove almost impossible to administer fairly.

After the Third Reform Act of 1885, parliamentary elections were delayed for months so that preparations could be made to ensure that they were properly conducted. We should have postponed the election rather than relied on finger-in-the-dyke improvisations.

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky is the author
of Electoral Administration in the United Kingdom

The Silence of the Electoral Commission lambs

Daily Telegraph
Second-class democracy

We want an Electoral Commission that roars and frightens the political elite corrupting our democracy. Instead we get the silence of Sam Younger's lambs.

Postal votes are assuming an ominous importance in this election. Applications for these votes in marginal seats have soared, in some instances to three or four times the number granted in 2001. It would be comforting to attribute this to the disinclination of some to use their legs or unduly to put themselves out.

That, after all, is fundamentally why this Government brought the postal vote within reach of all. It feared a reluctant turnout on polling day. It reckoned that Labour had most to lose from this, and so had most to gain from the artificial stimulus of a vote that can be filled in at home.

The Electoral Commission accepted this, but urged certain precautions, some of which ministers have rejected or ignored.

It follows that there is a disturbingly wide gap between the measures taken against fraud in previous elections and the margin left for cheating in this one.

The way of dealing with votes cast at the polling booth was slow but sure. The total of votes had to be counted before any sorting began. The number of votes given to each candidate, added together, had to match that figure. It rendered the smuggling of votes in or out of the count impossible. All this was under the watchful eye of the returning officer.

In this election we have an Electoral Commission code of conduct that discourages but cannot prevent party campaigners from touching postal votes.

"Hopelessly insecure" was how an election court judge described the system after the fraudulent Birmingham elections. He was critical, too, of ministers who described warnings about risks attached to the present system as "scaremongering". They still do so. The risks remain.

So it may well be that, as the election results come tumbling out late on May 5 and early next day, the talking point will not be who is winning but who has been cheating. There could well be a flood of demands for a replay. The Prime Minister, seeking to win advantage, has made a rod for his own back.

There is another consideration. We are likely to have the Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights here to monitor this general election.

How humiliating that is for a country that has supposed it was a model for those aspiring to parliamentary democracy, once a beacon of light to those who suffer from rigged elections.


Assembly 'Is a Waste of Cash'
This is Bristol
11:00 - 22 April 2005

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has called for the scrapping of the South West Regional Assembly. The business organisation, which represents 25,000 small and medium-sized firms, says businesses have delivered a damning verdict on the assembly and would rather the yearly £4million cost was spent on improving public services

The FPB's South West spokesman, Rick Hopkins, said the assembly had abjectly failed to communicate with small businesses, despite the fact it has a remit to drive the economy of the regions.

He said: "Our members are scathing about the performance of the regional assembly and many businesses do not even know it exists.

"The assembly has failed to inform businesses about who runs it, where it is and what it does, even it cost millions of pounds to run and was set up way back in 1998.

"Employers are telling us loud and clear that this money would be better spent on improving transport and public services - not creating more pen pushers in plush offices.

"The FPB believes the assembly has had enough chance to prove itself.

"Its record is lamentable

..a Free Trade Area? Oh how they lied.

The Guardian
Friday 22nd April 2005

Brussels reporter loses battle to protect sources

The European commission has won a legal battle to gain access to an investigative journalist's notes and potentially reveal his sources, in a ruling that could have ramifications for press freedom across Europe.

Hans Martin Tillack, the former Brussels correspondent of German magazine Stern, Bertelsmann's weekly news and current affairs magazine, has this week failed in a legal bid to stop the commission looking at his notes, with a European court of justice ruling going against him.

The notes were seized by Belgian police last year, along with address books, copies of hard disks and email records.

The court's decision bodes badly for press freedom in Europe, according to the European Federation of Journalists. The EFJ general secretary, Aiden White, described the ruling against Tillack as "a shocking denial of justice to journalists and their sources".

Tillack now intends to take the Belgian police to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg for the return of his possessions.

Belgian police seized the material in raids on Tillack's home and office in March 2004, after he wrote a series of exposés about alleged corruption in the commission's statistical office, Eurostat.

Tillack was then arrested by Belgian police on the grounds of allegations made by the EC's anti-fraud office, Olaf, that he bribed officials for information, a claim the journalist strongly denies. He has not been charged with any offence.

The well-known Brussels reporter said he was was interrogated for hours without being granted contact with anybody and his treatment sparked worldwide condemnation from media and journalists' organisations.

This week's ruling dismisses Tillack's argument that the commission should not be able to view his notes and could potentially open the way for the identification of the sources of his exposé stories.

"The commission makes unsubstantiated allegations against a reporter and then gets access to his confidential files which potentially compromise anyone who has talked to him. It is a shocking denial of justice to journalists and their sources," said Mr White.

"These allegations already smack of intimidation of a reporter by bullying authority. It is unconscionable that the law allows the commission to get its hands on his confidential files when no charges have been laid and no allegations have been proved."

The journalists' body believes the police will clear Tillack of all the accusations against him, and that the commission should not be allowed to take advantage of the ongoing police investigation to "go fishing for names of his contacts".

But it said that recent changes to Belgian law, which enhance protection for journalists' sources of information would help avoid a similar case to Tillack's in future.

"But that is of little comfort to Hans Martin Tillack, whose professional life remains under a cloud of uncertainty,"said Mr White.

He said it was time the commission and the Belgian authorities cleared Tillack and ended "this unsavoury affair".

Friday, April 22, 2005

Press Release: Independents Day

Press Release
21st April 2005

Neil Herron ppc (Independent) Sunderland North
Independents Day
North East Independent Parliamentary Candidate to Address North East Independent Councillors Group in Durham
Neil Herron, ppc (Independent) Sunderland North is to address a meeting of the North East Independent Councillors Group on Monday 25th April 2005 at County Hall in Durham at 12.30pm.
Councillor Ron Dickie is the Group's Secretary and the members cover the whole region stretching from Berwick to Middleton in Teesdale.
Leading 'No' Campaigner and Metric Martyr is to speak on a wide range of issues but will concentrate on the power of an independent voice, breaking the public's disillusionment with politics and the exposure of the unelected assemblies legal status which could potentially compromise councillors across the region.
Neil Herron states, " It is becoming increasingly apparent that the public is growing more disillusioned with party politics by the day. The only thing that makes politics more interesting is party politicians in fear of their seat. The public are waking up to the fact that they can be represented more vocally by high profile independents. The case of Ray Mallon in Middlesbrough is a prime example. We must remember that democracy is not a spectator sport. What we need is the people realising the power that they have... we are fast approaching Independents Day.."


Colin Moran (Election Agent)
07802 448 635

Neil Herron 07776 202045

Office 0191 565 7143

Ron Dickie NE Independents Group 0191 386 5135

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Surge in region's postal voters

Surge in region's postal voters
The Northern Echo, 21st April 2005, by Tony Kearney

ON the eve of a crisis meeting between police and electoral officials to discuss potential fraud, The Northern Echo has discovered a huge surge in applications for postal votes across the region.

In some constituencies, such as Durham North, as many as one in four votes will be cast in the General Election through the post, and others, including Stockton North, have seen a 600 per cent increase in applications for a postal ballot.

Voters have until next Tuesday to ask for a postal vote, but the rush of applications already means that at least 296,000 votes in the region will be cast through the post box rather than the ballot box - treble the number of four years ago.

Earlier this month, six councillors in Birmingham were found guilty of ballot-rigging in a postal fraud, while last year there was outrage when it was announced the referendum on a directly-elected assembly for the North-East would go ahead, despite Electoral Commission recommendations it be the last all-postal ballot to be held because of fears of abuse.

This morning, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Electoral Commission will discuss further measures to ensure there is no repetition during the General Election campaign.

All-postal votes have been pioneered in the region, with pilot projects in Gateshead held in the 1990s.

In Chester-le-Street, which falls in the Durham North constituency, applications for postal votes have risen from 4,200 in 2001 to almost 17,500 this time, out of an electorate of 68,000.

Colin Turnbull, the district's electoral returning officer, said: "Postal voting has proved to be a very successful and popular method of voting, and encouraging people to engage with the democratic process is something we positively set out to achieve."

He added: "The increase in turnout is clearly good news for democracy."

With almost a week to go before the registration deadline, Darlington has seen applications almost treble, from 2,730 to 8,172. A borough council spokesman said: "The increase is huge and, of course, the figure is likely to go up.

"People have found postal voting a lot more convenient and they are saying so by opting to vote by post."

But fears have been expressed about the potential for electoral fraud, with all parties, with the blessing of the Electoral Commission, advising voters on how to go about getting a postal vote.

Some of the greatest increases have been concentrated in the region's most marginal constituencies.

Durham City will have just short of 6,900 postal votes, almost four times the number last time around; Stockton South will have 11,900 postal votes, up from 3,400 last time; while in Newcastle Central, 22,966 votes will be cast by post out of a potential electorate of 62,700.

Neil Herron, who is standing as an Independent candidate in Sunderland North, said: "There is the potential for the Birmingham situation to be repeated in the North-East."

Sunderland Today

MP said nothing

THIS will be the first General Election for which I am in the country and able to vote. So I take an interest in how my vote may affect the representation of Sunderland North in the House of Commons over the next five years.
The website allows you to search for your local MP by post code and provides a wealth of information about this person. It is linked to the on-line version of Hansard and contains details of such things as the voting records, participation in debates, expenses claimed and interests declared of every MP.
The, until recently sitting, MP for Sunderland North is Bill Etherington and he is seeking re-election on May 5.
According to this website Mr Etherington claimed expenses totalling £126,585 in 2004. This is in addition to his annual salary, which currently stands at £57,485.
Any resident of Sunderland North would expect us to have been well represented in Parliament over the last year. Wrong.
According to Hansard, Mr Etherington spoke a grand total of zero times in the House of Commons in 2004. In fact the on-line and searchable Hansard has no record of Mr Etherington speaking at all in the House of Commons, on any issue, since November 10, 2003!
Does anybody else feel that we are not getting value for money?
I would urge the electorate of Sunderland North to remember this on May 5.
Sadly, however, I feel that the somewhat blinkered "I'm voting Labour because I've always voted Labour and so did my parents, granny etc, etc" mentality will prevail and Mr Etherington will be sitting pretty for the next five years.
It would be nice to have someone who is prepared to open his, or her, mouth for a change.
GS Nichol
Seaburn Dene

Stephen Hughes MEP Goes Native


Labour MEPs vote to end opt-out on working hours

Conservatives in the European Parliament last night denounced what they called Labour "duplicity" towards British business after Labour and foreign communists MEPs joined forces and voted for Britain to be stripped of its opt-out from the Working Tome Directive

In theory the Blair government has pledged to defend the opt-out, which allows 2 million workers to work the hours they choose, and ignore the European Union's mandatory 48-hour working week. The Labour MEP Stephen Hughes - the coordinator, or whip, on labour policy and social affairs for European Socialist members - defied the government position to lead his bloc in voting for a phasing out of the opt-out by 2010.

Philip Bushill-Matthews, the Tory employment spokesman in Europe, challenged the government to explain why it did not rein in Mr Hughes.

Press Release

Press Release
20th April 2005

Labour Candidate, Bill Etherington agrees to a Hustings Meeting
The gauntlet thrown down by Neil Herron, Independent candidate for Sunderland North, to Bill Etherington (Labour) to 'Come out and fight for his seat,' has finally been accepted. The Labour candidate went missing at the last General Election in 2001and never attended any hustings or debates and only turned up on election night. But this time he responded to a request left on his answerphone within five minutes, despite the answerphone message stating that the office was closed until after the election.
Neil Herron states, " The position of being the elected representative for the biggest city between Leeds and Edinburgh is an important, priveleged position. Election to office to represent the people of Sunderland must not be taken for granted and I am pleased that Mr.Etherington is prepared to come out and convince the people of Sunderland that he is worthy of the position. His record and opinions can now be challenged by the public. I expect that the press will do a full analysis of Mr. Etherington's record in Parliament. As for the debate, I am sure that the event will be a very interesting one."
Mr. Etherington confirmed that the only dates he is not available are next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday where it is rumoured that during this frantic election period where every vote counts he is in Strasbourg addressing the European Commission conference on global warming.
The date and location will be confirmed shortly.

Neil Herron
0191 565 7143
07776 202045
Notes to Editors
Voting Record ...the elected voice of Sunderland North has not spoken in a single debate in the last year. One of the worst voting records of all MP's with only a 43% attendance record.
Key Votes ... details of important issues and where Mr. Etherington stands.

Full Voting Record

Expenses...better than his voting record.

Early Day Motions as Primary Sponsor don't be surprised.

Contact details for Bill Etherington.

EU Enlargement: Breakfast's Highlights

People's NO Campaign's Colin Moran's Broadcast On BBC Breakfast
Thursday 21st April 2005

We look at the case for and against recruiting from Europe's new members, with films following two bosses who hold completely different opinions.

Colin Moran thinks migrant workers will be paid less
On Tuesday: Tens of thousands of people could come to Britain looking for a better life after May the first. Or at least that's the fear of those who oppose EU enlargement.
But is economic need enough to justify enlargement? Colin Moran is a car dealer from Sunderland.
He warns it'll lead to a two-tier nation and says Eastern European workers will be paid less than British people to do the same job.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Postal vote legal bid is launched

Postal vote legal bid is launched

Legal proceedings over postal voting which could delay the general election are being launched in the High Court.

Birmingham City Council's deputy leader John Hemming is seeking a judicial review of the postal voting system.

It comes after a judge found fraud was "widespread" in the 2004 local polls in the city. He also said there were no effective safeguards in place.

A huge rise in applications for postal voting in 5 May's poll has raised fears about potential fraud.

The main parties are accused of asking voters, especially in marginal seats, to send postal vote applications to them. But they insist the practice is within the rules.

The Electoral Commission code of conduct does allow parties to send out and receive applications for postal ballots, although it says they should not handle the ballots themselves.

Mr Hemming, who is also leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Birmingham City Council and is standing in the Birmingham Yardley constituency, will ask a High Court judge for permission to review the electoral procedures supporting May's general election

He will ask the judge to rule that he has an arguable case which needs to go to a full hearing as a matter of urgency.

He said he was taking the action because of the "very real likelihood" that dozens of votes in inner city constituencies across the country could be rigged.

He claims the absence of a secure voting system breaches human rights by compromising the secret ballot.

'Banana republic'

Mr Hemming had a key role in raising allegations of local elections fraud in Birmingham in an elections court.

At the end of the case, election commissioner Richard Mawrey QC sacked six Labour councillors for vote rigging in two Birmingham wards said the scale of fraud would disgrace a "banana republic".

The Birmingham councillor is calling for all postal votes cast at the 5 May election to be counted separately from non-postal votes.

He then wants political parties to be give permission to check application forms for postal votes and for the period in which election petitions can be raised to be increased from 21 days to two months.


"I'm not trying to defer the general election but if the judge determined it was unlawful and ordered the prime minister to change the law and he didn't and that started bouncing around ... there are a lot of interesting constitutional implications.

"If it is declared unlawful, the question is 'What happens?'."

Police chiefs are due to meet senior civil servants to discuss arrangements for the general election - amid concerns about postal voting fraud.

The talks are being chaired by the most senior civil servant in the Constitutional Affairs Department and will bring together representatives from the Royal Mail, the Association of the Electoral Administrators and returning officers.

The Royal Mail has predicted that around 6.5 million people will vote by post - around 15% of the electorate compared to the 2% who voted by post in the last general election in 2001.

Potential for Postal Ballot Fraud

I was interviewed for local BBC 'Look North' programme the other day where they covered potential problems. Jonathan Rew, Returning Officer for Gateshead Council was also interviewed. They seem to think that there will be no problems. The fact that it is impossible to police any, never mind every potential piece of domestic coercion, influence or intimidation has not even been addressed. This therefore, makes the postal ballot neither safe nor secret. The integrity of our democratic process is at stake and is being undermined by one political party intent on undermining this and our elections will become a farce worthy of a banana republic and not of the founding fathers of modern democracy.

Police invited to Whitehall postal vote meeting

Hélène Mulholland
Tuesday April 19, 2005

A police chief has been invited to take part in Whitehall talks this Thursday on how best to police postal voting, as opposition politicians maintain pressure on the system's openness to fraud.

The talks will coincide with a legal challenge by the deputy leader of Birmingham city council. John Hemming will call at the high court for swift changes to rules surrounding postal voting to prevent ballot-rigging in next month's general election.

The Constitutional Affairs Department said Thursday's meeting was routine and not a crisis response to fears of electoral fraud. Concern has been heightened since an electoral court discovered "widespread" postal voting fraud during last year's local elections in Birmingham.

Although the meeting is routine, a departmental spokesman admitted that the decision to invite a representative from the Association of Chief Police Officers was unprecedented and reflected concerns that the postal voting system required greater safeguards.

A representative from the ACPO has been invited to join a panel consisting of Sam Younger, chairman of the electoral commission, David Monks, representing the returning officers, and Adam Crozier, chief executive of the Royal Mail. The panel meets regularly with the permanent secretary at the Department of Constitutional Affairs during the course of a general election to coordinate activities.

The departmental spokesman said: "It is right to say the postal voting has been an issue of public concern and the very least we need to do is have a chat with people who can do something about it. [Judge Richard] Mawrey's criticism was that the police did not take the issue seriously enough."

Sitting at a special election court, Richard Mawrey QC found "massive, systematic and organised" fraud in the election of six Labour councillors in Birmingham, whose elections he declared void. He said there were no effective safeguards in place to protect postal ballots from fraud.

Mr Mawrey also criticised Birmingham police's handling of allegations of electoral fraud at the time of the poll.

Mr Mawrey's ruling has prompted a call to put in place immediate safeguards to prevent postal vote fraud.

Liberal Democrat councillor John Hemming, who is deputy leader at Birmingham city council, will go to the high court on Thursday to start legal proceedings to seek a judicial review into electoral procedures supporting the May 5 general election.

He will ask the judge - expected to be Mr Justice Collins, sitting in London - to rule that he has an arguable case which should go to a full hearing as a matter of urgency.

Mr Hemming, who is the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Birmingham Yardley, said he had the backing of his party and was taking action because of the "very real likelihood" that ballots in dozens of inner city constituencies nationwide would be corrupted by vote rigging.

The Electoral Commission anticipates that around 6.5 million voters (15% of those voting) will opt to send their vote by post, almost four times as many as the numbers who opted for postal voting in the last general election (3.9%).

Mr Hemming says the absence of a secure postal vote contravenes the Human Rights Act because it compromises the secret ballot.

As there is little time to make radical changes to the system, Mr Hemming is calling for postal votes cast in this election to be counted separately from non-postal votes; for political parties to be allowed to check application forms for postal votes; and for the period in which election petitions may be raised be increased from 21 days to two months.

Mr Hemmings's crusade echoes a similar call made yesterday by the Respect parliamentary hopeful and former Labour MP George Galloway, who yesterday threatened to go to the high court in a bid to suspend postal voting across the country.

The right of any elector to apply for postal vote was introduced shortly before the 2001 election. Until then, only people who could prove they could not make it to the ballot box in person could apply for a postal vote.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Not obliged to pay penalties other than those imposed by a

Message for 'people' in the EU

If you receive a fixed penalty notice for alleged illegal parking in England or Wales, in theory, under COUNCIL FRAMEWORK DECISION 2005/214/JHA of 24 February 2005 on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to financial penalties. Which entered into force on March 22nd, 2005. You can be pursued for that penalty, when you return to your home State.

I would like to inform you, that under English Law you are not obliged to pay a fixed penalty, unless you have been convicted by a court of law. This fundamental freedom is established in the Bill of Rights 1689, where it states: That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction, are illegal and void.

Under section 11 of the UK Human Rights Act 1998, A person's reliance on a Convention right does not restrict-any other right or freedom conferred on him by or under any law having effect in any part of the United Kingdom;

Although, Article 1 (iii) of 2005/214/JHA states: an authority of the issuing State other than a court in respect of acts which are punishable under the national law of the issuing State by virtue of being infringements of the rules of law, provided that the person concerned has had an opportunity to have the case tried by a court having jurisdiction in particular in criminal matters;

I would like to inform you, that the National Parking Adjudication Service in the UK is not a court of Law within the meaning of Article 234 EC, therefore its decision will be in contravention of Article 6 of The European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court of Justice has recently confirmed its previous caselaw according to which an arbitration panel is not a national court or tribunal within the meaning of Article 234 EC. Consequently, the ECJ has no jurisdiction to answer a question referred to it by such a panel.

Monday, April 18, 2005



Western Daily Press, 18th April 2005

Three people have been arrested over allegations that they siphoned off nearly £1million from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, police said last night. Fraud officers were called in after it emerged that £850,000 had gone missing from John Prescott's Government department.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We are investigating an allegation of fraud involving a Government department.

"Three people - a man and two women - were arrested on April 5 and subsequently bailed to return on a date in May. Inquiries continue.

"It appears the offences occurred over a seven-month period beginning in January 2004. This involved hundreds of thousands of pounds."

One or more of the three may have worked within the department. The man and one of the women were a married couple.

It was reported yesterday that the fraud involved a ghost company with a series of cheques being sent to a fictitious employee.





The British Weights and Measures Association regrets to report the death on April 15th of the first metric rebel, Dave Stevens, 60, butcher of Hornchurch, Essex. Dave loved his country and acted with defiance when confronted by those who wish to make us feel like strangers in our own country.

In January 2000, he became the first trader in Britain to receive an infringement notice for selling meat in pounds and ounces; he ignored it with the contempt it deserved. He went to Parliament Square and smashed a metric weighing machine declaring that he would not submit to the European Union regulation which made it a criminal offence to sell goods in customary imperial units.

In June

On June 2nd 2004 Dave Stevens went to 10 Downing Street to present a petition calling on the government to halt prosecutions of traders using pounds and ounces. Accompanying the petition was a pound of bananas, a reference to the pound of bananas famously sold by convicted greengrocer Steve Thoburn in July 2000. Mr Stephens gave the petition personally to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Actually, he did not hand it to Prescott. The bit about Prescott on the website is that Prescott came out the door by co-incidence and Dave asked if he wanted to buy the bananas ... but I guess you can keep the Prescott reference in!

As recently as the January 6th, 2000
Dave marked the fifth anniversary of receiving the first ever metric infringement notice by vowing never to use metric weights. Press, television and dozens of supporters attended his shop to join his celebration of 1,827 days of defiance.

Details of his campaign are described on the BWMA web( site in the News Section.

Dave Stevens is survived by his wife Mandy who supported him in his battle to defend our way of life from dictates from Brussels.

The British Weights & Measures Association is a voluntary organisation that campaigns for choice in measures. It supports the Metric Martyrs (contact Neil Herron Tel: 0191 565 7143) persecuted for selling goods in customary units. The Association assists traders who come into conflict with Trading Standards officers enforcing the EU metrication directive.
Further information contact Mr. John Gardner,
BWMA Director,
Tel. 07986 007994,
e-mail: bwmax@email.cxom - NB there are no "x" characters in BWMA's email address.The two x characters are added to to prevent it being "grabbed" byelectronic programs that scan the web; when emailing BWMA, please key in theemail address without either "x".

British Weights & Measures Association,
11 Greensleeves Avenue,
BH18 8BJ
Tel: (020) 8922 0089 (ans m/c)
Press release issued by David Delaney, BWMA PRO, tel; 01544 267197

Friday, April 15, 2005

Complaint Procedure - John Jones...investigation Ongoing

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2005 11:22 AM
Subject: Complaint procedure

Dear Mr Herron,
Thank you for your e-mail. I repeat, as I said when we spoke, that this matter is being treated seriously by the department and is in the hands of my superiors, including the Director-General, Mr Lönnroth. A formal internal investigation has been carried out and we await its findings, when appropriate action will be taken. I for my part was under the impression that you wished to pursue your complaint through your MEPs, who have accordingly been informed of the investigation under way.

Gillian Colledge

Blair at centre of new row over postal votes

Sandra Laville, Hugh Muir and Peter Hetherington
Friday April 15, 2005 The Guardian

Blair at centre of new row over postal votes

Tony Blair is promoting his party's "farming" of postal vote applications in a national mailshot which defies advice from returning officers that there should be no third party involvement in the process.

Returning officers want political parties to withdraw from the postal voting process in the run up to the general election, in an attempt to restore public confidence in a system which has been undermined by recent fraud cases in Birmingham and Blackburn.

Enclosed in Mr Blair's letter to electors across the country is an application form for a postal vote. On the rear of the form is printed a freepost address in Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for the "Postal Votes Centre" where completed forms should be sent.

On visiting the address, the Guardian discovered the centre was in fact Labour's communication headquarters for the election campaign. Inside a nondescript office, staff sat behind piles of completed postal vote applications - all of which returning officers say should have been sent direct to them by voters except in exceptional circumstances.

Mr Blair is not alone in acting contrary to their advice. Michael Howard, in a personal letter to voters, asks them to return their application forms to a national party centre in Dartford, Kent, while Charles Kennedy requests electors to return the forms to the party's local offices.

With 11 days to go until the deadline to apply for a postal vote passes, a Guardian survey of more than 20 key marginal constituencies shows that postal voting is soaring in crucial seats with small majorities, with applications in some areas up more than 300% since the last election.

In Haltemprice and Howden, where shadow home secretary David Davis is defending a 1,903 majority from the Liberal Democrats, applications have risen from 2,000 in 2001 to 9,800. In the Labour marginal of Kettering, one of the most hotly contested seats in the country, applications have reached 16,000, compared to 3,000 last time.

In Surrey South West, where the Conservatives are defending an 861 majority from the Lib Dems, 10,000 electors have applied to vote by post so far, amounting to 10% of the total poll. In neighbouring Guildford - Lib Dem majority: 538 - there have been more than 14,000 applications, compared to just over 3,000 in 2001. There have been predictions that the total number of postal votes cast in this election could reach six million from a 26m turnout.

The exponential rise in postal vote applications means that returning officers are keen to ensure the process is seen to be as independent as possible. While the practice of channelling applications via the parties is not illegal, the Electoral Commission and Association of Chief Police Officers are advising against it "because of the risks of suspicions that the application may be altered and the risk of the application form being delayed or lost in transit".

The guidelines say "the local registration officer's address should be the preferred address given for the return of application forms". But they go on to say that if an intermediary address is used, forms should be dispatched unaltered to the relevant electoral registration officer's address within two working days of receipt.

It emerged yesterday that the commission had wanted a clear cut instruction to political parties that all application forms should be sent back directly to the local electoral returning officer.

But, after failing to reach agreement with the parties, the commission watered down the demand, so the code only "advises" that this should be done.

Malcolm Dumper, executive director of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said: "The political parties are farming these applications but if the process goes wrong we have to defend it. All the parties need to do is to give people the information about postal voting and tell them where they can download the application on a website and how they can send it in direct.

"Now that there has been this confidence issue and there are suspicions about there being too many people in the process, returning officers would be well advised to contact agents and get them and brief them as soon as they can."

Robin Pellow, acting deputy returning officer for Surrey South West, said political parties had been repeatedly told not to have application forms sent back to them. "We don't want anything done that could undermine public confidence in the process," he said. "As a returning officer we want them [completed application forms] to come straight to us."

Tony Travers, a political analyst at the London School of Economics, said: "What we are seeing is a greater assault on the use of the postal vote which has got out of control.

"The parties are being political and the returning officers are being non-political. Anyone who believes in clean democracy would be on the side of the returning officers."

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Thomas, of Greater Manchester Police, an expert in electoral fraud, said if there was a change in the law this was one aspect which should be addressed.

Last night, all three parties said they would continue with the practice. They said their procedures were drawn up in consultation with the Electoral Commission and that they passed the forms on in two days.

· Serious delays in distributing leaflets to men and women in the armed forces reminding them how to vote are to be investigated by the electoral commission, writes Richard Norton

Postal Ballot Fraudsters...too many eyes watching you now!

Officials suspended over 1,000 unopened postal votes
By Nick Britten, The Daily Telegraph

Two council officials have been suspended after an estimated 1,000 unopened postal votes for last year's local elections in Birmingham were found stuffed in a box at the council's election office.

The envelopes are thought to have been hidden away after someone realised soon after last June's election that they had not been entered. One of those suspended is John Owen, the elections officer and one of the country's leading election experts.

The discovery is certain to raise more questions about the vulnerability of the postal voting system, recently criticised as an "open invitation to fraud" by an election court judge. It will also embarrass government officials trying to restore public faith ahead of the General Election.

Six Labour councillors in Birmingham were suspended 10 days ago after being found guilty of rigging the election in two wards, Aston and Bordesley Green. The judge, Richard Mawley, QC, condemned the system and the Government's attempt to tackle widespread corruption.

The latest episode came after John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader of Birmingham city council, received a tip-off on Tuesday from a member of staff in the elections office that the box was in an archive room.

Mr Hemming immediately called a meeting with the returning officer and the police, after which the West Midlands fraud squad, the council's chief executive and its chief legal officer carried out a raid.

Mr Hemming said: "A contact told me that there had been 'Envelope 4s' mislaid during the local elections and not counted. A senior official had requested the votes be burnt once they realised a serious mistake had been made.

"But the people who should have followed that order felt uneasy and stashed them away in a box instead. I was told that on the fourth floor of the elections office, in the archive room, there was a box with 200 Envelope 4s in it."

Envelope 4s are large brown envelopes used to hold postal votes dropped off at polling stations. They normally contain several ballot papers.

Mr Hemming said: "I didn't think anything could surprise me after recent events but we went round and, lo and behold, there was an orange crate high up on a shelf with all these unopened envelopes in it.

"This is more incompetence than fraud, but voters have been disenfranchised and it again casts doubt on the postal voting system. Clearly something very wrong has gone on, which is disturbing."

The missing ballots were believed to cover between 10 and 15 wards, and so are unlikely to have directly influenced a result. They were removed from the elections office and taken to Birmingham's Council House, where they remain unopened.

The council's chief executive, Lin Homer, said: "In accordance with normal city council internal procedures, I have suspended two officers from duty as a consequence of the allegations made."

The investigation is likely to take a week. The Electoral Commission said that it was advising the council on what to do.

A spokesman said: "The returning officer has requested advice from the Electoral Commission in matters relating to electoral law in this incident and we will be helping her as far as we can.

"The normal procedure for challenging an election result is to lodge a protest with the election petitions office, but that has to be done within 21 days of the vote.

"I don't think there are any precedents should any candidate wish to question the result after this problem has come to light."

West Midlands Police said that unspecified documents had been seized, but stressed that it had not launched a formal investigation.

A force spokesman said: "We have provided and are providing support to the acting returning officer. It would appear that this is an internal council matter, but if criminal matters are identified we will carry out an investigation."

In the light of the recent controversy, political parties on the council are considering a request made by the fraud squad to enter the offices in Birmingham during the general election campaign, without a search warrant, in order to check that postal votes are being dealt with properly.

Around 53,000 people in Birmingham have registered for a postal vote for the general election.

However, with three weeks to go until the deadline for postal vote applications, officials expect the final number to be higher.

Help Support the French 'No' Campaign

Send an e-mail to
France Libre

La Souveraineté est une, indivisible, inaliénable et imprescriptible.
Le Secrétaire général April the 14th 2005
Dear all,
On may the 29th 2005, French people will vote on the so called « European constitution ». If the vote is « Yes » it will be the end of democracy and freedom in this country, and it will be the end of France who will disappear in the EU.
For the moment, millions of euros are flown to our opponents to convince French people to surrender, to abandon freedom, sovereignty and that it is desirable to leave the principle of self government and to make France to die!
This is not acceptable! This is not acceptable! Who can accept that France, who as always shown the world the way to freedom, will disappear?
This so called “European constitution” must never come into force! Never! Because it is the institution of a monstrous regime to destroy nations and freedom, based only on primacy of money and not for happiness of people.
In this figure, France must reject this so called “constitution” on may the 29th. . But, in this struggle, facing the power of our opponents, our means are not sufficient.
That is why, we need your help!
Any kind of help is welcome. A huge chain of solidarity must be settled now to support us, everywhere in the world, and throughout all people of Europe who wants to remain free. This is the aim of this letter. Do your best in your country, please! Be sure that France will never forget all those who have helped her to remain alive.
Don’t let France to die! Don’t let France to die!
Remember: if we win, you win! But if we loose, you loose !
Get in touch with us as soon as possible, because we have a suggestion to put all of us in a better position to win. But rush, on may the 30th it may be too late!
Truly yours,
Notice : All donations are to be sent at our address : Alliance pour la souveraineté de la France, 31 rue de la Belle Feuille, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt, France.
“If you do not fight for your rights when you can easily win without to spread blood, if you do not fight when the victory is for you and not expensive, if you do not do so, time will come where you will have to fight with huge difficulties facing you, with a few chances to survive. Again, it may be a worse situation: you must have to fight without any chance of victory, because it is better to die than to live like slaves”
Winston Spencer Churchill.
Send an e-mail to
France Libre

La Souveraineté est une, indivisible, inaliénable et imprescriptible.

Le Secrétaire généra April the 14th 2005
Dear all,
On may the 29th 2005, French people will vote on the so called « European constitution ». If the vote is « Yes » it will be the end of democracy and freedom in this country, and it will be the end of France who will disappear in the EU.
For the moment, millions of euros are flown to our opponents to convince French people to surrender, to abandon freedom, sovereignty and that it is desirable to leave the principle of self government and to make France to die!
This is not acceptable! This is not acceptable! Who can accept that France, who as always shown the world the way to freedom, will disappear?
This so called “European constitution” must never come into force! Never! Because it is the institution of a monstrous regime to destroy nations and freedom, based only on primacy of money and not for happiness of people.
In this figure, France must reject this so called “constitution” on may the 29th. . But, in this struggle, facing the power of our opponents, our means are not sufficient.
That is why, we need your help!
Any kind of help is welcome. A huge chain of solidarity must be settled now to support us, everywhere in the world, and throughout all people of Europe who wants to remain free. This is the aim of this letter. Do your best in your country, please! Be sure that France will never forget all those who have helped her to remain alive.
Don’t let France to die! Don’t let France to die!
Remember: if we win, you win! But if we loose, you loose !
Get in touch with us as soon as possible, because we have a suggestion to put all of us in a better position to win. But rush, on may the 30th it may be too late
Truly yours,
Notice : All donations are to be sent at our address : Alliance pour la souveraineté de la France, 31 rue de la Belle Feuille, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt, France.
“If you do not fight for your rights when you can easily win without to spread blood, if you do not fight when the victory is for you and not expensive, if you do not do so, time will come where you will have to fight with huge difficulties facing you, with a few chances to survive. Again, it may be a worse situation: you must have to fight without any chance of victory, because it is better to die than to live like slaves”
Winston Spencer Churchill.

No apology forthcoming from European Commission official. Brush ready. Carpet being lifted.

----- Original Message -----
From: Metric Martyrs
Cc: Metric Martyrs ; fiona hall ; CALLANAN Martin ; ;
Sent:Friday, April 15, 2005 9:06 AM
Subject: Formal Complaints Procedure

Dear Ms. Colledge,

May I refer you to a copy of an article which I understand appeared in today's Daily Mail. I was under the impression that I would be forwarded details of your complaints procedure along with a written apology regarding the behaviour of one of the Commission's employees following your verbal apology, 'on behalf of your department,' where you categorically stated that Mr. Jones' views were not held by your department. During that conversation you advised me that a complaint was being initiated and you would be contacting me in writing. Can you please advise why this has not happened?
It appears from the quote below that nothing of the sort is going to happen. I do hope therefore, that this matter is not going to be swept under the carpet.
I was also under the impression that the three North East MEP's had been made aware that a formal investigation had been initiated. This also appears not to be the case.
Therefore, I would like a response to my initial e-mail before we instruct lawyers to begin an action against Mr. Jones for his offensive and libellous comments.I hardly think asking for an apology and making a formal complaint about the behaviour of an individual funded by the taxpayer is 'stirring things up.'

"Last night, it appeared that Mr Jones would not be sacked or severely reprimanded.

An EU spokesman said he had promised to make a personal apology. But Mr Jones accused Mr Herron of ‘trying to stir things up’ and claimed his superior had already sent an apology."

Could you also please give details of your superior in order that they be brought into the complaints procedure.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron
Campaign Director
Metric Martyrs Defence Fund
12 Frederick Street

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 10:24 AM
Subject: Fw: Formal Complaints Procedure

Dear Ms Colledge,
I received the e-mail (in red below) from John Jones who I am informed, works for the Translation Service. I understand that you are his superior. Can you confirm this and can you please advise of your formal complaints procedure?
We did offer Mr. Jones the opportunity to apologise. He chose not to. I will make further e-mails available once you make contact.
We will be taking matters to the highest level and are currently consulting our legal advisers and will also be raising the matter with our elected representatives. The press and media will also be informed.
This does not appear to be the face of the European Commission that Commissioner Wallstrom is attempting to portray.
I trust you will appreciate the seriousness and urgency of this matter.
Yours sincerely,
Neil Herron
Campaign Director
Metric Martyrs Defence Fund
12 Frederick Street
Tel. 00 44 191 565 7143

-----Original Message-----
From: Neil Herron []
Sent: Monday, March 07, 2005 11:13 PM
To: JONES John Michael (DGT)
Subject: Re:

youre a bunch of fucking luddites. Metric has to win cos thats what we learnt at school. Long live England. long live metric, with 5 metric units names after Uk scientists and 2 Uk directors of the metre bureau. The imperialists are dead in the water. ps: what in hell are you actually defending? look at great countries like australia and new zealand if you cant stand europe. you luddites in england make me sick.

----- Original Message -----
From: Metric Martyrs
Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 1:34 PM
Subject: Formal Complaints Procedure

Dear Mr. Jones,
I take it from your latest communication that you are not prepared to apologise for the foul and abusive unsolicited e-mail that you sent us.I take it also, that from your e-mail address that you work, in some capacity, for the European Commission and are therefore using equipment or an address provided by the taxpayer for the venting of your own personal frustrations.
I have no wish to continue the dialogue with you only for you to provide the information requested below.
We will obviously be taking the matter further with a view to legal action.
It is rather distressing for us to receive such an offensive e-mail especially so close to the anniversary of Steven Thoburn's tragic and untimely death however, it is perhaps somewhat fortunate for you that your offensive comments were intercepted by me and were not seen by his widow.
Can you please provide me with details of the European Commission's formal complaints procedure and confirm that you work for the Translation Service and your superior is Gillian Colledge?
Yours sincerely,
Neil Herron
Campaign Director
Metric Martyrs Defence Fund
Frederick Street

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Four-Letter fury of the EU lackey

The Daily Mail, 14th April 2005

A BRUSSELS official sent an abusive e-mail to British anti-metric campaigners calling them ‘ a bunch of f****** luddites’ and telling them to move to New Zealand.

John Jones, a Briton working for the EU Commission as a translator, sent the offensive and ungrammatical message to the Metric Martyrs website last month.

The ‘martyrs’ were four traders who defied EU laws banning them from selling goods in pounds and ounces. They argued in the European Court of Human Rights that being barred from using imperial measures was an infringement of their right to free speech but the case was ruled inadmissible. Their supporters continue to campaign against metrification laws.

Using his Commission e-mail address, Mr Jones wrote: “Youre a bunch of f****** luddites. Metric has to win cos that’s what we learnt at school. Long live England. Long Live Metric. The imperialists are dead in the water. Ps: what in hell are you actually defending? Look at great countries like australia and new zealand if you can’t stand Europe. You luddites in england make me sick.’

He continued his abuse in an exchange of e-mails with Neil Herron, of the Metric Martyrs Defence Fund, who made an official complaint.Last night, it appeared that Mr Jones would not be sacked or severely reprimanded.

An EU spokesman said he had promised to make a personal apology. But Mr Jones accused Mr Herron of ‘trying to stir things up’ and claimed his superior had already sent an apology.

Get after your MEP and ask for their voting record.

The Telegraph 14th April 2005

Champagne federalists

It is not the venality that shocks, but the flagrancy. Presented with achance to end outrageous allowances scams, MEPs voted down every proposedreform. They threw out an amendment that would have provided for thereimbursement of their travel expenses on the basis of actual ticket price.They rejected having to pay their pension contributions from their personalaccounts (rather than, as at present, deducting the sum from their officeallowances). And, most brazenly of all, they voted against having theirexpenses audited.

Whenever they are asked about their finances, Euro MPs tend to say: "Yes, weaccept that there is a need for reform, and we are getting around to it."This is a lie. As Tuesday's vote showed, MEPs have not simply failed to getaround to hosing out their stables; they have deliberately and calculatedlyheaped the ordure higher. An MEP can now make about £800 a week on histravel allowance, based on the most expensive notional air fare rather thanthe Ryanair flight he has actually taken. He can pocket a further £2,400 amonth on his "general expenses allowance", which, after Tuesday's vote,remains unscrutinised. Add in £180 a day for signing the attendance registerand £10,000 a month of secretarial allowance, much of which goes toimmediate family members, and you're talking serious money. All of thesesums are tax-free since they count as expenses rather than income.

The most curious thing is how the vote broke down. The MEPs who voted forreform came, by and large, from countries that are coolest about Europeanintegration, notably Britain and Scandinavia. They were joined by littleEuro-sceptic parties from across the Continent. But the big,Euro-enthusiastic blocs - the Socialists, the Liberals and the EuropeanPeople's Party - all voted for the status quo. On the surface, this seemsodd. After all, one would have thought the Euro-idealists would be keen toimprove the Parliament's image. And so they are - but not if that meanshaving to lift their own snouts from the swill.

No national parliament would behave like this - not because MPs are morevirtuous than MEPs, but because they know they couldn't get away with it. InBrussels, however, there is no public scrutiny to speak of. Turnout hasfallen at every European election since 1979, and MEPs are all butanonymous. They can afford to disdain their constituents. That's enoughgravy: bring on the champagne!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Election boss suspended after postal-votes raid

Birmingham Post
Apr 13 2005
By Paul Dale, Chief Reporter

The elections officer for Birmingham was suspended last night after the discovery of a hidden box containing an estimated 1,000 uncounted postal votes from the 2004 local authority elections.

John Owen, the elections officer, and a fellow member of staff, were sent home on full pay pending an inquiry.

Mr Owen is one of the country's leading election experts and has in the past given evidence to the Government about postal vote fraud.

The votes, in sealed envelopes, were found during a raid by the head of the West Midlands fraud squad, the council chief executive and chief legal officer.

The dramatic events began to unfold during the morning when John Hemming, the deputy council leader, was tipped off by a whistleblower in the elections office.

Coun Hemming, who was at the Council House with police officers in a routine meeting to discuss postal ballot fraud, insisted on going immediately to search for the missing votes. He captured the entire episode on video.

Coun Hemming (Lib Dem South Yardley) said: "I was told by someone that there had been 'Envelope 4s' mislaid during the local elections and not counted.

"There was a plan to get rid of them, but one or more staff were unhappy about this and kept them.

"Envelope 4s are the postal ballots taken to the polling station and collected by the presiding officer. There can be one ballot or 20 ballots in one envelope.

"At the end of the meeting I explained, I had received a detailed allegation and wished to check for evidence and that I didn't want anyone to be able to warn the elections office that I wanted to inspect it with the police."

Coun Hemming said he had been told there was a box with 200 Envelope 4s in it in the archive room.

He said that after discussions with the police and the council's chief executive Lin Homer, who is also the returning officer, it was agreed an inspection would be made of the room on the fourth floor of the elections office.

"I went to the elections office with the head of the fraud squad, Dave Churchill.

"Lo and behold there was an orange crate high up on a shelf. When we took it down it was full of envelopes."

Coun Hemming said the envelopes had not yet been fully examined, but he believed they contained postal ballot papers from between ten and 15 wards.

Mrs Homer said: "Following an allegation received about uncounted votes, I authorised the council's chief legal officer and a police officer to visit the elections office.

"As a result of this visit, certain evidence has been handed over to the police and I have started an urgent investigation into the matter.

"In accordance with normal city council internal procedures, I have suspended two officers from duty as a consequence of the allegations made," she added.

A week ago a High Court judge ruled that six Labour city councillors in Aston and Bordesley Green owed their election in 2004 to a campaign of postal vote fraud. The six were sacked from the council.

Yesterday's meeting between council officials, politicians and police officers heard a plea by the fraud squad to be given permission to enter political offices in Birmingham during the runup to the General Election without a search warrant in order to check that postal votes are being properly dealt with.

The idea is being considered by the political parties.

More than 53,000 people in Birmingham have registered for a postal vote at the General Election on May 5 but, with three weeks to go until the deadline for applications, officials expect the final number to be higher.

MEP's endorse the madhouse

From EU OBSERVER 13/4/05

MEPs water down reform of their expenses system

BRUSSELS - The European Parliament has voted down several proposals for more efficient management and stricter controls of MEPs' allowances.

MEPs on Tuesday (12 April) voted strongly in favour of a report (483 votes to 69) by liberal MEP Ona Jukneviciene, approving the Parliament'sspending in 2003.

The report points to the differences in MEPs' salaries and refers to a common Statute for Members of the Parliament to make the system more"clear, transparent and fair".

However, MEPs refused to set a deadline after which new and stricter,cost-based rules for reimbursing their travel expenses would apply.

"I am very disappointed to see that a majority of MEPs are comfortablewith their expenses regime which is not clear or transparent, and is criticised by both citizens and media", Mrs Jukneviciene told the EUobserver.

"While senior MEPs from old member states prove conservative - feeling that they know this system and don't want to change it after so many years,many members from the new EU countries have fresh ideas and are ready to make the system more efficient".

"However, as they get so much less than their colleagues from western Europe, they view travel allowances as an addition to their salaries,needed for a much more expensive life in Brussels. So, in the end, they oppose a change too", she said.

Mrs Jukneviciene also said that salaries and travel allowances should not be mixed up, as it would not encourage MEPs to work efficiently, but rather to "become stewardesses or pilot assistants - as they have to fly a lot to earn more".

The European parliament has also turned down measures for stricter control of voluntary pension schemes.

MEPs contributions are deducted from public funds, which are not properly scrutinised and the Parliament's pension fund is currently running adeficit of 42 million euro.

Bad timing for scraping Strasbourg, Another surprise vote was the rejection (by 350 to 208 votes) of the suggestion that Parliament should decide on its own seat, even though MEPs approved a note pointing out that the cost of it sitting in three countries is estimated to come to more than 200 million euro per year.

Mrs Jukneviciene had originally suggested a paragraph directly proposing that Brussels would be "the most logical location for a single seat".

However, MEPs adopted an amendment due to concerns among French deputies about the possible negative impact of such a move on the referendum on the EU Constitution in France at the end of May.

"We all had to admit that the timing for such a message would not be very good", commented Mrs Jukneviciene.

However, she added that she did not see it as a realistic proposal even after the controversial referendum.

"I don't think French MEPs look further and consider such a decision even in a middle or long-term perspective"

New fears over postal vote fraud

System nears crisis point as main parties are told to stop interfering

Hugh Muir, Sandra Laville and Audrey Gillan
Wednesday April 13, 2005 The Guardian

The three main political parties were yesterday urged to withdraw from active participation in the postal voting system amid fears that public confidence in the process has reached crisis point.

Returning officers and officials from the Electoral Reform Society have called on Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to place strict curbs on their activists to ensure there is minimum party intervention in voting procedures. They have reiterated that, except in very limited circumstances, there should be "no third party intervention".

However, the Guardian has established that party officials and candidates are still seeking to involve themselves in the process of applying for postal votes by sending forms directly to electors and asking them to complete and return them to their offices.

The practice is not illegal but, in the light of the scandal in Birmingham - where a judge found rogue Labour activists and candidates tampered with forms - it is now heavily frowned upon

In the wake of the Birmingham case, in which Richard Mawrey QC found the postal-voting system was "wide open to fraud", guidelines were issued to political parties by the Electoral Commission and the Association of Chief Police Officers, warning them to steer clear of involvement in postal voting.

"Because of the risks of suspicions that the application may be altered and the risk of the application form being delayed or lost in transit, the local electoral registration officer's address should be the preferred address given for the return of application forms," the guidelines said.

But some candidates are flouting this advice. In a personal letter to voters in east London this week, the Labour MP Oona King told them to fill out the enclosed application form "and return it to me at the address shown", adding: "Then you can vote from the comfort of your own home."

Challenged yesterday by her opponent, the Respect candidate George Galloway, who accused her of "corruption of the democratic process", Ms King's office said: "It has always been the case [that we ask voters to send application forms to us] and it has been for around 10 years. We have a strict code of conduct."

In Brent East, the Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather sent voters an application form and urged them to "return the form to the Liberal Democrats using the envelope enclosed".

Lord Rennard, chief executive officer of the Liberal Democrats, said the party was acting within Electoral Commission guidelines. He said: "There is no suggestion of any postal voting interference whatsoever in this case."

But returning officers expressed frustration yesterday that parties were still getting involved in postal voting.

Peter Woodward, electoral services officer at Cardiff city council, said Labour and the Conservatives were culpable. "We have had electors talking to us saying that they were not happy with the way this was being done, they felt political parties were pushing them. There is a suggestion from some residents that they have been not exactly pressurised but heavily encouraged into applying for a postal vote and sending it through the party involved. We are not happy about it."

In Newham, east London, Mary Bradley, acting returning officer, said: "I think it would be more wise for politi cal parties to stay completely clear of the postal voting system in view of what has happened recently."

Experts believe up to 6m of the 44m votes likely to be cast on May 5 will be postal votes and, in marginal constituencies, they could be decisive.

The warnings came as the scale of alleged electoral fraud in the UK emerged. A survey by the Crown Prosecution Service, released to the Guardian, revealed there were 39 ongoing investigations into fraud, including cases where criminal charges have been made and those where lawyers were examining police reports.

Police forces in Woking, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Bradford and Burnley are investigating claims of postal voting fraud.

Police in Birmingham were told yesterday to start a new criminal investigation into the six Labour councillors who were found guilty of "massive, widespread organised" postal-voting fraud at last June's local elections. A CPS spokesman said prosecution lawyers had asked police to investigate "with urgency".

Election officers said they were anxious to rebuild confidence. One senior returning officer said voters had contacted his office seeking to relinquish their postal votes and regain their right to vote at a polling station.

Malcolm Dumper, of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said: "We have had an electoral system in place for more than a century built on trust and we now find ourselves in a position of being ridiculed in other countries because our process is flawed."

Did all the British MEP's vote against?

By David Rennie in Brussels, The Telegraph
13th April 2005

Members of the European Parliament rejected moves yesterday to clean upscandal-ridden arrangements for their travel allowances and expenses. Theirdecision prompted anger and disbelief from British MEPs, who voted forproposed reforms.

In a series of votes carried by a margin of six to four at a full session ofthe parliament in Strasbourg, MEPs resisted proposals for audits of theiraccounts and turned down calls to impose sanctions on those found to havedefrauded the taxpayer.

The votes "gave an all-clear to embezzlement", said Chris Davies MEP, theleader of the British Liberal Democrats in the parliament.

Mr Davies expressed particular disappointment after his fellow MEPs voted tocontinue a trust-based system for payments into the parliament's privatepension scheme.

The scheme is wide open to fraud. MEPs who choose to join can pay up to £664a month into their pension plans, with their contribution deducted fromtheir office expense account, not from their salary.

In theory, MEPs then reimburse their office accounts for pensioncontributions but no checks are carried out.

"I reimburse my contribution every month but there is no need to presentreceipts for office expenses and there's no audit. You could use theallowance for any purpose you like," said Mr Davies.

The parliament also voted to maintain its travel allowance scheme. By buyingcheaper fares in advance, or using budget airlines, a British MEP couldeasily make up to £500 profit in a week.

Brussels e-mail calls Metric Martyrs 'Luddites'

By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent, The Independent
13 April 2005

The European Commission is investigating the conduct of one of its Brussels staff who sent an abusive e-mail to the leader of the "Metric Martyrs" describing him and his members as a "bunch of fucking luddites".

The e-mail was written on Monday 7 March at 5.55pm, by a British man working in the Commission's translation department and ends with the remark: "you luddites in england make me sick."

The message has provoked outrage among hundreds of supporters of the Metric Martyrs, who since 2000 have campaigned to retain imperial weights and measures. Neil Herron, the former fishmonger who heads the Metric Martyrs Defence Fund, said the e-mail was particularly offensive because it was sent to him on the anniversary of the death of Steve Thoburn, the greengrocer who was imprisoned in 2001 for selling bananas in pounds and ounces.

The Commission is investigating the behaviour of John Jones, the translator who admitted sending the e-mail. Mr Jones acknowledged the e-mail was "inappropriate" and said he would make a full apology. No decision had been taken in regard to disciplining Mr Jones but because Mr Jones's comments do not represent the views of the Commission, the affair was being treated as private and there would be no official apology from the Commission.

The e-mail goes on to claim the martyrs' case is weakened by the fact Australia and New Zealand have workable full metric systems and a number of metric units have been named after British scientists. Mr Jones claims: "imperialists are dead in the water ... Blocking progress and natural development is undemocratic and unpatriotic."

In an exchange of e-mails with Mr Herron, Mr Jones adds: "I don't suppose you see any link between the inexorable rise in living standards in the UK over the last 30 years and Britain's membership of the EU? Well, you wouldn't, would you. Imperialists I have spoken to invariably hate the EU and see metrication as a product of Brussels."

"Your motto is: don't confuse me with the facts, I've made up my mind. And, as for your insults, if you need to resort to them ... then you've really lost it, haven't you? So who's the real loser? Don't bother replying."

The e-mail

* youre a bunch of fucking luddites. Metric has to win cos thats what we learnt at school. Long live England. long live metric, with 5 metric units named after Uk scientists and 2 Uk directors of the metre bureau. The imperialists are dead in the water ... you luddites in england make me sick.

Friday, April 08, 2005

It makes EU wonder!

An e-mail forwarded to us. A little reminder of the arrogance of the organisation we are up against.

Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2005 7:08 PM
Subject: RE: Metric martyrs

Dear Mr *****,

It must be underlined that there is currently no disciplinary hearing or procedure. Neither is there a procedure "towards or against" Mr. Jones.

The administration has investigated the facts and the Appointing Authority, which is the Director general of ADMIN, will consider if and, if so, what measures have to be taken.

Best regards,

Valérie Rampi

-----Original Message-----
From: Name Withheld
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2005 7:29 AM
To: RAMPI Valerie (PRESS)
Subject: Fw: Metric martyrs

Dear Miss Rampi,
Any news on Mr Jones' disciplinary hearing?
Mark *****

----- Original Message -----
From: *****
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2005 5:19 PM
Subject: Re: Metric martyrs

Dear Miss Rampi,
Thank you for your reply I look forward to hearing of the outcome of the investigation.
Yours sincerely
Mark *****

----- Original Message -----
To: Name
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2005 4:11 PM
Subject: Metric martyrs

Dear Mr *****,
The Commission has opened the formal investigation of this process. The matter will be dealt appropriately once we have the results of the investigation.

We understand that the official concerned has acknowledged that this e-mail was inappropriate and will send an apology to Metric Martyrs.

The views expressed were of a private nature and certainly do not reflect the views of the Commission.
Best regards,

Valérie Rampi

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

North West Conservative Councils have balls...Time for the 'Southern Softy' Councils to stand-up

The Conservative Councils in the North West have had the courage to give their notice of withdrawal to the North West Assembly...but in the South East they have made all the noises, and over 70% of SEERA's appointed councillors voted to disband the Soth East Regional Assembly,... BUT none of the Conservative Councils have the guts to withdraw. All talk and no action. Seems like you have to look northwards to see proper action.It's in your hands, Southern Tories to deliver a crushing blow to Prescott. Time to stand up and be counted.
Monday, 4th April 2005
Trafford vote is blow to Prescott's dream
TRAFFORD council is to pull out of the North West Regional Assembly - a move which has sent shock waves through local government.Councillors in the Tory-controlled borough backed a move to withdraw from the body next year.And this will deliver another blow to John Prescott's dream of strong regional government, after the Deputy Prime Minister's plans for elected assemblies were rejected by a referendum in the north east last year.The NWRA is responsible for regional planning, overseeing the work of major regional institutions such as the Northwest Development Agency, and supporters say is an important mouthpiece for regional interests inWhitehall and Europe.The unelected body is made up of councillors, trade union officials and members from business, the voluntary sector and universities.Trafford's decision casts doubt on whether the borough will host the assembly's annual conference, due to take place later this year.

Trafford council leader Susan Fildes said: "The assembly is an unelected and unaccountable body which costs a lot of money."When the no vote was delivered in the north east, it was quite obvious there was no future for the North West Regional Assembly, or any otherregional assembly.Chamber"I believe strongly that local people should be represented by local councillors, not regional quangos."

Sale Moor councillor Christine Bailey said. "This assembly does nothing of real worth."People round here don't even know that is exists, and that they are payingfor it."The assembly is an expensive debating chamber for political insiders. If it disappeared tomorrow, nobody in the real world would notice it was gone."

Coun Derek Boden, leader of the North West Regional Assembly said: "We would be very disappointed to see Trafford council lose its influence over regional decision making."The assembly will try to ensure that the interests of Trafford residents are considered when it sets regional priorities, but this would be easier if there were local representatives taking part."I hope that Trafford councillors reconsider their decision."

According to the North West Regional Assembly, Trafford is one of a number of Conservative-controlled councils which have announced they are leaving.
The others are Macclesfield, Ribble Valley and Fylde, along with WestLancashire district council. Under Assembly rules, any council must give formal notice by March 31 ofits plans to withdraw. It is then allowed to leave a year later.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Electoral Commission and their lawyers in crisis talks

The Electoral Commission has been hit with a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for full disclosure of their designation decision for those campaigning for a 'No' outcome in the North East Elected Assembly Referendum last November.
We are aware of the request.
Their deadline (20 working days) expires today.
Our sources reveal that there are a lot of raised voices coming from lawyers and officials sitting around a table in Trevelyan House over what can and cannot be released, even at this late stage.

Do you think that they would dare withhold anything which may prove damning?

Are they aware of what information has already come into our hands?

Would the Electoral Commission, and Commission Chairman, Sam Younger survive another humiliation.

Remember that we raised all the concerns over the safety of all Postal Ballots during the European Elections when 600,000 papers arrived late. Did the Electoral Commission flood the area with observers and officials? Did they do spot checks? Did they call us back when we raised all the concerns? They did nothing of the sort. The washing of their hands would have made Pontius Pilate blush.
Were they at all interested in anything which may bring them into conflict with the Government?

Even when the Government, Prescott in particular, arrogantly rejected their recommendation that all postal ballots never be used again they did nothing. The Chairman and the officials should have resigned in disgust. They did nothing of the sort.

The integrity of our democracy is at stake. We should be deafened by the roar of the Electoral Commission lion damning the Government's contempt for democracy. Instead we hear the silence of the lambs.

Your time is up Mr. Younger. A copy of the Guardian is in the post.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Allegation of Racketeering, Fraud & Illegal your Local Authority!

Gerald James
Address Withheld

2 April 2005

Michael Haworth-Maden Esq
District Auditor
4th Floor
Millbank Tower

Dear Mr Haworth-Maden

London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames

You may recall I wrote to you in July 2001 regarding the above Borough and its parking schemes in this and other areas.

I drew your attention to various matters in a series of correspondence but you and your colleagues like M/S Ann Shore your Audit Manager opted to do nothing.

In your letter of 13th July 2001 you pointed out that you were “concerned with the financial transactions of the audited body in the year of audit, including assessing the overall arrangements that audited bodies have established to secure probity, legality and value for money in the use of resources”.

I believe a very serious problem has arisen regarding the accounts of the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames and probably all the authorities in the London area including the London Council under Mayor Livingstone.

Revenue from parking and congestion charges has become a major source of income and there is considerable evidence that the revenue is not only illegal but that it has been applied wrongly for purposes not permitted by law. A third problem is that there is now considerable evidence of racketeering, illegal conduct and fraud by these authorities who use agents or parking companies like, in the case of Richmond, Sureway Ltd.

Recently I had reason to draw the attention of the London Borough of Richmond to the judgement by Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Crane in the Metric Martyrs Judgement of 18 February 2002. This Judgement involves the Bill of Rights 1689 and would seem to invalidate arbitrary parking fines or charges totally.

I would stress the same problems arise with Mayor Livingstone’s congestion charges.

For simplicity I enclose the relevant letter I wrote to the Chief Executive of the London Borough of Richmond, M/S Norton on 3 March 2005.

That letter had certain enclosures, which I also herewith enclose: -

A) Photocopy of a penalty charge
B) Extract of Bill of Rights 1689
C) Extract of the Metric Martyrs Judgement of 18 February 2002 referred to above.

The effect of the judgement appears to invalidate parking penalty charges unless imposed by a court. Clearly that has severe repercussions for all local authorities with parking revenue of this nature.

In other words the accounts past and present are likely to be inaccurate if not fraudulent as they do not comply with the law emanating from the February 2002 judgement in relation to the Road Traffic Act 1991.

The second problem appears to arise from the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act under which councils receive the power to designate on-street parking spaces for permit holders and to charge for the area of those spaces.

It is quite clear under the legislation that charges ­must not be levied to raise revenue but only to make appropriate traffic management provision. This was underlined by the High Court after a judicial review of an early CPZ.

There is evidence Councils are using this legislation s to raise revenue as a simple parking tax. Again accounts have not been qualified or reported on to reflect the breach of the law.

The third matter relates to a documentary television programme shown on ‘Dispatches’ on 3rd march 2005 at 9pm on Channel 4. The programme “Confessions of a Parking Attendant” involved undercover reporters filming and recording illegal and fraudulent operations of 3 councils in the London area and their fraudulent agents or parking companies to whom parking supervision is contracted. There was widespread evidence of racketeering, fraud and unacceptable and illegal conduct as agreed between parking companies and council officials.

Much of the revenue raised was illegally raised by deliberately illegal and unacceptable procedures and practices.

Again this raises serious question over the accounts as monies raised illegally or fraudulently cannot be retained and must be repaid. This in turn would alter or qualify the accounts of many councils for many years as they could not retain the proceeds of crime or civil breaches of the law.

One of the reasons much of the information came to light was the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This allied with good undercover work exposed serious illegality, criminality and misconduct of a financial nature.

I am therefore requesting you to look into all theses aspects of council finances related to parking revenue, particularly and specifically in the context of London Borough of Richmond but also generally. I do this in the public interest as I realise it indicates possible misconduct or misfeasance in public office by councillors and officials and indicates most councils accounts and inaccurate, fraudulent or in need of qualifications in this regard.

I would suggest you view the Channel 4 film or programme of 3rd March 2005.

You will also recall London Borough of Richmond refused me details of the Sureway Parking contract previously and the related arrangements. They seem to be dragging their heels now although it was requested some weeks ago under the Freedom of Information Act. I have listed the documents attached to this letter and look forward to hearing from you regarding what action you propose to take. It would seem you are legally obliged to take action and should have done so already.

If you are in any doubt about the Metric Martyrs Judgement and the points it raises for parking revenue and the treatment of such in councils’ accounts, I would suggest it is incumbent on you to state a case for an opinion by the High Court.

As regards the Dispatches programme it would seem appropriate for you to call in the Police.

Many thanks

(G R James)

Blog Archive

only search Neil Herron Blog