Category Archives: direct democracy

What did we veto?

Today in the House of Commons I asked the Prime Minister the following question:

Mark Reckless:Would the Prime Minister explain what it is that he’s vetoed?”

To which the Prime Minister responded:

Prime Minister: “I vetoed Britain’s involvement in a Treaty so as a result it is not an EU Treaty. We had in front of this House, we had the Maastricht EU Treaty, we had the Lisbon EU Treaty, we had Amsterdam, we had Nice. All of those were Treaties Britain was involved in as a member of the EU and they were EU Treaties with full force of law. This is not like that. This is outside the European Union. It is an arrangement come to by 25 other countries and we’re not involved, so as a result we’ve safeguarded Britain’s interest which could have been put at risk by a new EU Treaty.”

After all the huffing and puffing of December the make-up of the front-bench today – Nick Clegg smirking next to the PM with IDS staying away – said it all:

  1. We have not vetoed anything and at best have an opt-out;
  2. EU institutions are used by this treaty as with any other EU treaty; and
  3. We have no safeguards and the City is left wide open to EU regulation by majority vote.

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Conservatives and LibDems v Sir Humphrey

Last night I went on Newsnight to discuss tensions in the coalition.

I made the point that we will not allow the LibDems to block the historic opportunity which the Euro zone crisis gives us to take powers back from Europe. Beyond that though, I had a very friendly discussion with Norman Lamb, Nick Clegg’s chief of staff.

We agreed that the coalition needed to learn from the health bill, where the Department of Health just ploughed on, using backbenchers hand-picked by the whips, to push through Committee provisions about which many Conservatives as well as LibDems had serious concerns.

Very often ‘the LibDems won’t wear it’ is just Sir Humphrey’s latest excuse for inaction.

This has been most obvious to me on policing, where Whitehall is trying to retain central control of police budgets, despite our agreement with the LibDems that we would set up Police and Crime Panels specifically to oversee Police and Crime Commissioners and their budgets.

Civil servants claim in the legislation that the Panels will be able ‘to veto’ Commissioners’ precepts, but the reality is that Commissioners must only ‘have regard’ to what the Panels say. The substantive power in the event of a dispute, to hold a local referendum on the level of the police precept, is given to the Secretary of State.

The Conservatives and LibDems both want to make the police democratically accountable locally. We have two of our most impressive ministers involved in Nick Herbert and Greg Clark, with whom I co-authored a 2005 book ‘Direct Democracy’.

Yet, despite this, the current position in the legislation, although I hope that we may yet agree an amendment to the Localism Bill to correct this, is that Whitehall civil servants will still sit on top, hoarding power. Their judgment on whether a local police precept may be excessive would trump that of both the democratically elected Commissioners and the oversight Panels which are meant to be restoring local democracy to policing. Sir Humphrey would be proud.

Mark Reckless MP: At Last, Democracy Is Coming To Policing

Police

Originally posted on ConservativeHome

Today and tomorrow the House of Commons will put its finishing touches to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.  It is a long title for one key reform, putting a directly elected individual “in charge” – as the Home Secretary put it on Monday – of each police force. That reform will have huge ramifications as power in policing shifts from the Chief Constable to the elected Commissioner.

Unsurprisingly, the Chief Constables don’t much like that. However, unlike police authorities, which have spent public money fighting their own abolition, most Chief Constables, if not necessarily their Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), accept very professionally that it is for elected politicians to set policy under which they operate.

Police authorities are generally considered to have been the weakest of the ‘tripartite’ pillars of police governance, the others being the Home Office and the Chief Constable.  Our plan to deal with that, which I passed to Douglas Carswell to develop further when he replaced me at the Conservative Policy Unit in 2004, was to transfer the police authority powers to people who are elected, so as to reinforce those powers with a democratic mandate.

David Cameron wrote that plan into our manifesto in 2005 and has evangelised it ever since, so much so that he appointed the hugely impressive Nick Herbert as Police Minister, having seen him make the case for democratic control of policing when leading the thknk-tank Reform. The Prime Minister then promised in July 2006 that “We will enshrine operational independence in legislation”. 

It is unfortunate that some concessions have since been made to ACPO, but any apparent increase in Chief Constables’ powers will surely prove illusory once they face Commissioners empowered with a democratic mandate. If this bill fails to give the elected Commissioners the power they need to deliver what the public wants, then they will come back and demand that power, and Parliament will give them the power, as we have for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

I will nonetheless make the case today and tomorrow for us to get it right first time, to give the elected commissioners the powers they need now, and to give a clear steer to the courts that, in the Home Secretary’s words, the elected commissioners must be “in charge”. Chief Constables must of course make operational decisions regarding investigations and arrests independently of politicians, but it is for the elected commissioners to determine policy and set priorities.

Moreover, if panels of elected councillors are to scrutinise elected commissioners and potentially second-guess their budgets, then we shouldn’t need the Secretary of State to third-guess that process. It may make sense to give the Secretary of State a reserve power to require a referendum if a local council wants a really excessive council tax increase. For policing, that power would surely better be exercised in extremis by the Panel which will scrutinise the police budget and represent the local councils and electorate which would pay for a referendum. 

David Cameron, Theresa May and Nick Herbert are truly driving home the Direct Democracy agenda with the police. They deserve our support.

Mark Reckless MP: Taking action to support victims of anti-social behaviour

PoliceMark Reckless said that for far too long anti-social behaviour has created havoc in communities across Rochester and Strood. Research found there were more than 10,000 incidents a day in 2008-9 across England and Wales.

In January this year there were 5263 reported incidents of anti-social behaviour across Kent. It’s time now for a fresh approach that properly supports victims and helps the authorities to act quickly and effectively.

The current tools and powers created by the last Labour Government are too bureaucratic and do not work effectively against anti-social behaviour. Recent statistics show that more than 56 per cent of ASBOs issued in 2009 were breached, many more than once.

On 7 February the government launched a consultation setting out a series of proposals to tackle anti-social behaviour:

• Easier to use powers made available to the authorities.
• More streamlined system – replacing the current 18 formal powers with just 5.
• Real and meaningful penalties for perpetrators who breach the terms of their punishments
• Greater powers for communities and residents to make sure the authorities take action.

The five powers under consultation are:

• Community Triggers – local agencies will be compelled to take action if no action is taken after several people in the same neighbourhood have complained or one individual complains three times
• Criminal Behaviour Orders – issued by the courts after conviction, would ban an individual from certain activities or places. They would require them to address their behaviour, for example attending drug treatment programmes. A breach would see an individual face a maximum five year prison term;
• Crime Prevention Injunctions – designed to nip bad behaviour in the bud before it escalates. The injunction would carry a civil burden of proof, making it quicker and easier to obtain than previous tools. For adults, breach of the injunction could see you imprisoned or fined. For under-18s a breach could be dealt with through curfews, supervision or detention.
• Community Protection Orders – comprising one order for local authorities to stop persistent environmental ASB like graffiti, neighbour noise or dog fouling; and another for police and local authorities to deal with more serious disorder and criminality in a specific place such as closing a property used for drug dealing; and
• Police ‘Direction’ powers – a power to direct any individual causing or likely to cause crime or disorder away from a particular place and to confiscate related items.

These proposals to reform the anti-social behaviour tools and powers are just one part of the government’s new approach to anti-social behaviour that includes:

• Directly-elected Police and Crime Commissioners to restore the link between police and the communities they serve
• Street level crime maps and local policing information that allow the public to see exactly where crime and ASB are committed in their neighbourhood;
• A new approach for handling complaints of ASB that will be trialled in eight police forces. The new system for logging complaints will make it easier to share information, helping to quickly identify and protect vulnerable victims;
• Plans for social landlords to speed up eviction of tenants who commit persistent ASB, announced by the Housing Minister earlier this year; and
• Baroness Newlove’s work, the Government’s Champion for Active Safer Communities who is working to empower communities and drive up local activism.

Mark Reckless said:

“I fully support this commitment from the government to fight back against anti-social behaviour with stream-lined but more effective powers, and real, meaningful penalties.

Labour’s ASBOs totally failed to deal with the levels of disorder that we have witnessed across Rochester and Strood. I was shocked on Monday to hear Vernon Coaker, shadow police minister, claim that under Labour ‘anti-social behaviour became less of a problem’. I think this shows just how out of touch Labour are with the real concerns of people in Rochester and Strood”.

Mark Reckless MP: The Case For An In/Out Referendum On Europe

Speaking yesterday (1st February 2011) in the House of Commons during the debate on the European Union Bill, Mark Reckless MP puts forward the case for a straight In/Out Referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union.

Invitation To Join The Government Of Great Britain

A country is at its best when the bonds between people are strong and when the sense of national purpose is clear. Today the challenges facing Britain are immense. Our economy is overwhelmed by debt, our social fabric is frayed and our political system has betrayed the people. But these problems can be overcome if we pull together and work together. If we remember that we are all in this together.

Some politicians say: ‘give us your vote and we will sort out all your problems’. We say: real change comes not from government alone. Real change comes when the people are inspired and mobilised, when millions of us are fired up to play a part in the nation’s future.

Yes this is ambitious. Yes it is optimistic. But in the end all the Acts of Parliament, all the new measures, all the new policy initiatives, are just politicians’ words without you and your involvement.

How will we deal with the debt crisis unless we understand that we are all in this together? How will we raise responsible children unless every adult plays their part? How will we revitalise communities unless people stop asking ‘who will fix this?’ and start asking ‘what can I do?’ Britain will change for the better when we all elect to take part, to take responsibility – if we all come together. Collective strength will overpower our problems.

Only together can we can get rid of this government and, eventually, its debt. Only together can we get the economy moving. Only together can we protect the NHS. Improve our schools. Mend our broken society. Together we can even make politics and politicians work better. And if we can do that, we can do anything. Yes, together we can do anything.

So my invitation today is this: join us, to form a new kind of government for Britain.

Download the Conservative Party Manifesto 2010 – Click Here

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Police Held To Account

PoliceThe conviction of Commander Dizaei of the Metropolitan Police this week emphasises that the police are properly subject to the law in this country and that it will be applied to them just as to everyone else.

When a police officer behaves badly, then members of the public should know that, if they report that behaviour, their complaint will be taken seriously and, where the evidence supports it, action will be taken.

One of my duties as a member of the Kent Police Authority is to help sample complaints which have been considered locally by our professional standards department and to make sure that they have been dealt with in the way that my electors would expect.

Whilst Sir Ian Blair as Metropolitan Commissioner, quite wrongly, initially tried to avoid independent scrutiny of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell, he was not allowed to get away with it. By contrast, Kent Police have been open to – and welcomed – very extensive independent scrutiny following complaints regarding the Climate Camp policing.

It is essential that the police be held properly accountable to the public. The justice system worked this week and, hopefully soon under the Conservatives, the public will also get the chance to elect those who oversee our police.

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