Friday, December 31, 2004

Ripple effects in Syria

Belgravia Dispatch has an interesting post on the hope generated in Syria by the forthcoming elections in neighbouring Iraq.

The Iraqi election next month may be evoking skepticism in much of the world, but here in northeastern Syria, home to concentrations of several ethnic minorities, it is evoking a kind of earnest hope.

"I believe democracy in Iraq must succeed," Vahan Kirakos, a Syrian of Armenian ethnicity, said recently. "Iraq is like the stone thrown into the pool."

We've heard reports like this many times, particularly in respect of Iran and Syria. But if, as the report relates, Mr Kirakos is now confident enough to (illegally) challenge the Assad family's hold over the Presidency, then there has already been a massive change for the better.

Decline and fall

Good spot by EU Serf:

Tax advisers are warning multinationals against locating their headquarters in the UK, in a move that could erode its status as Europe's top destination for inward investment. Tax specialists say the UK is losing ground to other European countries, which have reduced their tax rates and created more business-friendly tax regimes.

Time to join the exodus to New Hampshire?

Punishing innocent bystanders

Continuing the government tradition of punishing innocent bystanders rather than those who are actually guilty, Licensing Minister Richard Caborn is now going to require all night takeaways to be licensed.

"Late night takeaways are often a magnet for violence and anti-social behaviour on Friday and Saturday nights as beered up revellers spill out of bars and pubs at the same time in search of a burger or a doner.

"From next year we're going to give local residents a say in whether they have a late night chippie or kebab shop on their street corner by bringing them under control of the new Licensing Act.

"This will help stop a night out turning into someone else's nightmare."

Why can't they just deal with the "beered up revellers"? Some poor soul who is trying to earn a living by providing a useful service at unsocial hours is first going to have to deal with yet another layer of bureaucracy, and then, when the police fail to deal with rowdy behaviour, will no doubt have his livelihood taken away.

Gongs for business

The Englishman has some amusing excerpts from the Prime Minister's daily press briefing on the New Year's honours list. The post is too long to quote in full so read the whole thing.

Clearly some segments of the press reckon that these are awarded for loyalty to the PM and as a consolation prize for failure rather than for public service, which will surprise nobody in the UK. Interesting also is that one questioner thought that there were too many awards for the business community.
Asked why there were more business people in the list than usual, the PMS said that there weren't. The percentage of awards going to the business community was about the same as in previous lists.

Which doesn't quite stack up with this article from The Times.
WITH some notable exceptions that may only serve to prove the rule, the New Year’s Honours List failed to shower business and the City with glory.


Toasted tory

James Kirkup writing in the Scotsman voices similar sentiments to my post here.
NO MATTER how long it is postponed or how dignified a send-off is arranged, Conservative MPs are currently united in one belief: Michael Howard is toast. Whether it is in the summer, at the autumn conference, or early in 2006 before the referendum on the European Constitution, the Conservatives will soon need a new chief.

The top candidates appear to be David Davis, Liam Fox and perhaps even a return for William Hague.

It's hard to imagine anyone other than David Davis as Prime Minister. And he opposes ID cards. The campaign starts here.

Interesting T-shirt

New Tory leader required

Tory bigwig David Cameron has an article in today's telegraph in which he relates how he has been inspired by Margaret Thatcher's claim that Labour will never understand the importance of liberty under the rule of law. He thinks he might use this in the preamble to the next Conservative manifesto.

Which is fine and dandy but doesn't really tally with the party's support for compulsory ID cards. At the end of the day Michael Howard can't oppose ID cards because he supported them when he was in government. And the party's claims to support liberty are hollow when it is supporting ID cards.

Solution: a new party leader.

Dangerous politics in the Netherlands

The Weekly Standard has a good review of the Netherlands' problems with Islamic terrorists.
Many discussions of the Netherlands suggest that the country's multicultural model is "under threat." Maybe that was true a year ago. Now it would be more accurate to say there is a society-wide consensus that it has failed.

It is frightening how many Dutch politicians require a close protection detail or are in hiding. Could it happen here?

Pakistan openly sold nuclear technology

From Janes Defence Weekly:
When Pakistan opened its first international arms exhibition in the port city of Karachi, something was amiss. It was November 2000 and there, among defence industry stalls offering tanks, missiles and rifles, was the booth of A Q Khan Research Laboratories (KRL). The display contained a range of conventional military products, including defence electronics and anti-tank missiles. However, KRL is also a top nuclear weapons laboratory and its employees were distributing stacks of glossy brochures that promised technology for producing a nuclear bomb.

Several KRL officials provided positive assurances that all had government approval for export.

The cat may already be out of the bag.

Tenth flat tax economy

The Adam Smith Institute reports that Romania has switched over to a flat tax , and is now the tenth country enjoying the benefits of this simplified system. Let's hope there's more to come.

Still not even a murmur of interest from UK politicians though.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Animal rights activists target Oxford donors

The Guardian reports that animal "rights" activists are targeting Oxford University's donors as part of a campaign to stop the building of a new neuroscience building.
[T]hey are not going to have the money to finish building their new animal
research laboratory, let alone fill it with animals to be butchered," said
Speak, which said letters and emails should be "polite".

This story needs careful watching. If donors are harassed and threatened a la Huntingdon Life Sciences, it will represent a dangerous expansion of the terror activities of the animal rights loonies. Can the blogosphere help stop this, I wonder. Thoughts anyone?

On donations to charity

The mainstream media seem to be getting a bit uppity about the level of donations to the Tsunami relief made by America.

The Scotsman:
But the US has so far only pledged £18 million despite being seven times richer than Britain.

The problem with this is that government pledges are less than one half of the equation. With one US business alone collecting nearly $4m, and individuals also pledging millions directly to charities, the implication of meanness by Amercans in the linked article is indefensible. I've always thought that the tendency of Europeans to congratulate themselves on their generosity based on the level their governments spend on overseas aid is silly. It's hardly generosity when you are compelled to pay up! Generosity is when you put your hand into your own pocket and hand over your hard-earned cash in person.

It's interesting that none of the Amazon operations outside the US (in the UK, France, Germany, Japan, and Canada) seem to have set up a Tsunami relief operation. Perhaps management thought people in these countries were too stingy?

Article on the hate speech legislation

The Times has a good summary of the issues with the religious hate speech legislation by John Scriven, chairman of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship. (Registration required).
Prosecutions under the proposed law will require the consent of the Attorney-General and this raises the further issue as to whether the law would be used as an instrument of government policy, rather than being impartially enforced. The courts may, in practice, require a high threshold for finding someone guilty of the offence but, even if they do, there could still be a serious effect on freedom of expression because of the fear of prosecution, especially since the maximum sentence is seven years’ imprisonment. There could also be attempts by religious groups to use the law as a means to silence criticisms. The proposed new law can therefore only increase tension between religious groups and restrict the freedom of us all.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Guardian on the Sikh play

The Guardian interviews an actor in the Sikh play Behzti:
The violent protests that led to the closure of the controversial play Behzti
were the result of a failed attempt to work with Sikh community leaders, a
leading actor in the play has said.

The play was performed to community "representatives" and some changes were made. This appears to have given these members of the Sikh community the idea that they had a veto over the contents of the play, and ultimately over whether it was performed at all.

If the Birmingham rep took a clear free speech stand on the play, this might never have happened.

Michael Gove on BBC bias

Michael Gove has an interesting article on the BBC's left wing propensities in Today's times.
Radio 4 sounds reassuringly conservative and bourgeois, but it is the voice of the Left.

Gove's problem is that as a Conservative candidate in the next general election, his criticisms can easily be brushed off: "He would say that wouldn't he". How much more impact he would have had if he had mentioned any of the blogs which cover BBC matters, like Biased BBC or Last Night's BBC news.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sikh men silencing a sikh woman

Butterflies and Wheels has an interesting comment on the Sikh play Behzti, picked up from BBC Radio 3's Nightwaves programme.
[Participants on Radio 3's Nightwaves ] did point out that there weren't any Sikh women in those protests at the theatre, and that what the riot in fact was, was a group of men silencing a woman.

Vote buying

Under the headline Hunt community goes on war footing, The Times reports on the preparations made by the hunting fraternity in advance of the ban coming into force.

Hunters have been warned that they should carry passports for their horses during a hunt. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insists that horses must have their passports when they are away from the stable.

Checks should also be made to ensure the roadworthiness of all cars, vans and horse-boxes and that they are properly taxed and insured.

Hunts have even been told to remove all antique hunting memorabilia from hunt premises, because this equipment “might be construed as dedicated entirely to illegal purposes”. A network of defence solicitors is being drawn up.

This is so depressing. It really does bring home the fatuousness of the whole grubby vote-buying saga that was the hunting ban. Tony Blair wants to be remembered as a radical reforming prime minister. I think his opportunity is gone though. Future generations will remember him as the prime minister who tried to sell off people's freedoms to buy himself a few votes.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Brainwashing 101

Following my post on the suppression of free speech at the University of St Andrews, Mike SC emailed me from the USA to recommend the independent documentary "Brainwashing 101" about attacks on dissenting views by means of speech codes on American campuses.

Visiting Instapundit on a regular basis, I've been aware of the film for a while but have never quite got round to watching it. Tonight, with Mrs Bishop out with the girls and the baby Bishops asleep, I got my chance.

It's really very good. Sort of like a celluloid Mark Steyn column, with the ability to make you laugh and spit feathers at the same time. The courage of some of these students is amazing. I found myself wondering if I would have been able to stick to my guns in the same way if I were in their shoes. Now, perhaps. When I was 20? I don't know. In the situation where the academics have almost complete power over you, a British student is powerless. An American knows at least that they have the protection of their constitutional rights and organisations like FIRE who will stand up for them.

It's funny. Glenn Reynolds recently put up a post saying that it had been a good year for free speech. Not here it hasn't.

And talking of stinking...

Sir Robert MacAlpine, one of the companies that bid for the construction contract on the new Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh is suing the Scottish executive. They claim they were passed over for the contract in favour of Bovis Lend Lease who put in a bid £1.4m higher. Indeed the huge disparity in the bids had originally lead to Bovis being eliminated from the shortlist. They were later reinstated by Barbara Doig, the civil servant managing the project.

This follows an earlier case where damages were paid by the Executive because the construction contract for an ancillary part of the project was not awarded to the lowest bidder.

And that followed the awarding of the architecural work to a practice that had been eliminated from the shortlist but were later reinstated by the same Barbara Doig.

For this to happen once could be construed as a SNAFU. Twice looks like incompetence. Three times looks much, much worse.

Was there a cover up?

There is a good letter to the Times today about the papers that Sir Alan Budd was unable to find during his enquiry. This is the full text.
Sir, A fax generates its own (facsimile) copy upon transmission. Four faxes are missing, which means that eight separate pieces of paper, in two separate offices, are not available. Yet Sir Alan Budd “does not believe any attempt was made to destroy, conceal or withhold information” (report, December 22).

Quite. It stinks.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Rewarding wrongdoers

According to Guido Fawkes, Tony Blair has rewarded "Swampy" Blunkett for abusing his position,lying, sleeping around, fiddling his expenses and so on by letting him keep his Belgravia house and chauffeur driven car.

Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime?

On Fiona MacTaggart and Sikhs.

Samizdata has this article on the Home Office minister, Fiona MacTaggart, who has failed to condemn the riot, threats and intimidation which closed down the play Behzti in Birmingham. Perry de Havilland states that this is a display of moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

There is another factor at play here though. Fiona MacTaggart (who incidentally is a former director of Liberty!) is MP for Slough, a town with a large Sikh population. I think that a better explanation may be that she is merely a grubby political opportunist trying to secure votes for next May.

On second thoughts grubby political opportunism is not really very different to moral and intellectual bankruptcy is it?

Beautiful bridges of the blogosphere

Brian Micklethwaite posted a picture of the new Millau Viaduct here. This prompted this response from Andy Wood. Which reminded me of this photo; which is my entry for the Blogosphere Beautiful Bridge competition.

Its a wooden bridge in Guangxi province in South Western China. I took the picture there on a trip there in the early nineties.

Dong Bridge Posted by Hello

More on those BBC loans

DavidH tells me that the BBC has now drawn down the loans I posted about here.

A bit of digging on the EIB site unearthed this page which shows that one of the loans was made to BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC group. Its purpose was to support their investment programme. I guess (but I'm not sure) that this means buying up of intellectual property ie programme rights.

The EIB site FAQ section says that:
The Bank’s policy is to ensure that its funds are used rationally, in the interests of the project it finances and in the interests of the EU.

(my emphasis)

So that much appears clear. The EIB believes that the BBC is working in the interests of the EU.

More on freedom of speech

This article shows how the proposed UK thoughtcrime laws will stifle free speech. Non-moslems in Australia can essentially be found guilty for quoting from the Koran.

(Via Melanie Philips)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Can I have one for Christmas?

Staff Sergeant James King has designed a new truck. I don't think anyone will be cutting him up on the roads!

Iraqi election analysis

Roger L Simon links to an excellent piece by Amir Taheri on the main players in the Iraqi elections.

All the main Arab Sunni parties have entered the race. In fact, Arab Sunnis make up a disproportionate share of the 7,200 candidates.

This is a popular election, and the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want it to succeed.

Golly. All the main Arab Sunni parties have entered the race. Did I miss something? I thought the Sunnis were opting out big-time. Must be getting to much news from the Beeb.

A licence to offend

"Freedom of speech is not a licence to offend people. "

Jasdev Rai, Sikh Human Rights Group

Yes it is.

Three cheers for Neal Foster

From the BBC:

The manager of a second Birmingham theatre company says he is prepared to stage a play cancelled after a violent demonstration by the Sikh community.

Neal Foster, of the Birmingham Stage Company, said the decision to cancel the play had been made by "cowards".

Well, not everyone is cut out to be a hero but Neal Foster deserves everyone's support in his stand. In particular the Home Office and the police should make it abundantly clear that they will deal with further threats to the play with the full force of the law.

Mr Foster should also, I think, try to get a film made of the show and get it put on the web so that it gets maximum publicity.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Software patents

The Public Whip is asking for your help in fighting the introduction of a European Software patent regime. Read the link at the top of the page for a good introduction to the subject.

Reconstruction work in Iraq

Via No Pasaran this interesting gallery of photos of British soldiers' reconstruction work in Iraq.

A legend retires

Delia Smith is retiring. The measure of her importance in the history of British cooking is that she ended the primacy of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management which had lasted for a hundred years since its publication in 1861. Her retirement is much regretted but very much deserved.

More on Swampygate

Melanie Philips thinks that the Swampygate affair is symptomatic of a deeper malaise in the Blair government.
If this is all true, the implications for the integrity of government are extremely serious. Such eyebrow-raising collective amnesia and the disappearance of key documents strongly suggest a cover-up has taken place at the heart of the Home Office.


Googling the news

One of my favourite internet hobbies is to watch the television news with Google by my side. When I come across an interviewee I have never heard of before, I check them out on Google to find out a bit more about them. This is particularly rewarding with Channel Four News.

Tonight's piece on the Rumsfeld letter signing imbroglio featured an in interview with someone called Sue Neiderer who was clearly very upset that Rumsfeld hadn't signed her letter of condolence personally. A quick googling shows us that she also:

is a prominent member of an anti-war organisation called Military Families Speak Out
accused the military of misleading her son into enlisting and
heckled Laura Bush (and was arrested for her pains).

Now none of these things make her a bad person, and surely everyone feels sympathy for her loss, but to present her as simply a grieving mother, upset by Rumsfeld's use of a signing machine, is dishonest reporting by Channel Four.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Freedom of what information?

I always felt that the Freedom of Information act was going to be a bit of a damp squib because of all the exemptions it contained. Now it appears that the government is going to take a belt and braces approach to the whole issue by deleting as much of the information as possible.

The Cabinet Office has put up a hapless spokesman to try to defend this decision.
"Paying to store outdated records which are no longer any use wastes taxpayers' money," she said.

Clearly the Cabinet Office think we are all stupid. This is electronic information. It is incredibly cheap to store it. Hell, we could have a whip round in the UK blogosphere and in a couple of days have enough servers to store it all! This is just another example of government and civil service working for their own benefit rather than the public's.

As they say on Samizdata: "The state is not your friend"

Ah ha! moment

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has an excellent article on two loans to the BBC by the European Investment Bank. The loans for £66m and £25m respectively are made at zero margin over the bank's own cost of capital. Anoneumouse wonders if this is why the BBC is so pro-European.

He is surely right to do so. What might be interesting would be to get a look at the loan documentation. If there is a formal quid pro quo for the loan this might be the place to find it. If there isn't then why is the EIB, a bank set up with the sole purpose of promoting European integration, lending to the BBC at all?

I wonder if the loan documentationwill be available under Freedom of Information?


The Sunday Times is reporting that there was an attempt by Whitehall mandarins to save David Blunkett by presenting a party line that he had played no part in the visa application. The attempt fell through when one senior official refused to play along with the cover up.

When will they learn that the cover-up always causes more trouble than the crime?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Thought crimes in St Andrews

Having read on Samizdata that one of the student newspapers there was being forced out of its offices by the Union for the crime of having insulted the Welsh, I was pleased to see that the Telegraph has now picked up the story.

It now appears that the Union will allow the Saint to have its offices back once they have been sent away to the countryside for reeduction.
At an appeal hearing on Friday, The Saint was given permission to use its office
once it has signed up to the association's equal opportunities regulations and
its staff have undergone diversity awareness training.

This sort of politically correct nonsense would be unacceptable in a loony left council, let alone in an ancient university where right to free speech is supposed not only to be understood, but indeed to be critical for its proper functioning.

But there's more:
The association also insists that the editor should in future send each issue to
the university's press office to check that it is not in breach of
discrimination policy before the paper goes to the printers.

This makes the Association look less like the Student Union and more like the Soviet Union. The President of the Association, Simon Atkins, claims lamely that he has a duty to protect the rights of all student groups. I emailed him pointing out that there is no right not to be insulted, but have yet to receive any reply.

It's a pity that there is no UK equivalent of FIRE, the admirable US group that helps American students defend their rights to free speech.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Committee of MSPs did nothing of value

From the Scotsman: Counsel for the Fraser inquiry into cost overruns on the new Scottish Parliament building, John Campbell QC, berated the committee of MSPs set up to get the project back under control.
The MSPs responsible were Labour’s John Home Robertson and Lewis Macdonald, the SNP’s Linda Fabiani and the Liberal Democrat Jamie Stone - all of whom served on the progress group but without doing anything of any value, according to Mr Campbell.

A committee of MSPs does nothing of value. Surely he's not surprised.

Theo Van Gogh in his own words

Some of the wisdom of the murdered Dutch filmmaker, Theo Van Gogh, has been translated by Pieter Dorsman at Peaktalk. Van Gogh was often portrayed as a coarse provacateur, which (by his own admission, I think) he was. But the words here show him to be a deeply concerned and thoughtful man.

Please read it.

Via Zacht Ei

Interesting poll of Iraqi opinion

Powerline has an interesting poll of Iraqi opinion about the forthcoming elections, published apparently in an Arab newspaper. This looks very encouraging.

I wonder if I will see the results reported anywhere outside the blogosphere.

The return of DDT

Continuing the "Environmentalists on the run" meme, has a couple of stories about the reemergence of DDT as an insecticide in Africa.

Zimbabwe's pariah status seems to be having at least one good effect. reports:
THE government has re-introduced the once banned DDT for its indoor residual
spray (IRS) programme to control malaria countrywide because it cannot access
foreign currency to buy other effective drugs

However the EU is causing problems over its reintroduction in Uganda. TCS reports:
If Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback is correct, European scaremongering is delaying the
re-introduction of DDT into Uganda.

If the desperate situation in Zimbabwe leads to Africans overcoming the DDT ban imposed by the west then a lot of lives will be saved. A lot of lives.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


There will be a short intermission in tonight's blogging as the baby bishop has just been sick on me.

More Middle Eastern democracies.

Today's posting at Belmont Club seemed to fit right in with my optimistic mood today. Wretchard links to several commentators who think that successful elections in Iraq would have serious repercussions in Iran and Syria.

Surely not five Middle Eastern democracies!

I think the concerns over the weeks before the election are spot on. I've thought for a long time that every spare UK soldier should be in Iraq for the run up to the election.

You will not hear about this on the BBC

ABC news, quoting Brig. Gen. John Custer, director of intelligence for U.S. Central Command, says that many of the suicide bombers in Iraq are unwilling participants.
"What we've found in a number of places are hands chained to a steering wheel,"
Custer said. "We found a foot roped into the car unable to escape."

Photos of this need to be published to show the world what these people are like.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Libya heading for democracy?

Well, just possibly. From the New York Times via Roger L Simon.
"Democracy is the future," Mr. Qaddafi, 32, said at his Moroccan-style villa
outside Tripoli, where he keeps a white tiger, Freddo, among other exotic pets.
"We have to be ahead of the world in our region, the Middle East, and not to be
lagging behind, because the whole world is heading toward democracy."

Wouldn't it be wonderful if what the BBC calls the "so-called war on terror" gives the world three Middle Eastern democracies in as many years.

ID cards set to survive Blunkett

The BBC quotes Charles Clarke as being a strong supporter of ID cards.

Anyone got any dirt on him?

Is the environmental tide turning?

The New York Times has an article on Michael Chrichton's new novel in which environmentalists are the villains. Apparently its selling like hotcakes: it's currently number two on the bestseller lists.

Does this represent the skeptic view hitting the mainstream?

Let's hope so.

Advent calendar for the boys

This is naughty!

Update: Should have credited Lurch for this. Apologies for the delay!

ID cards and the Conservatives

The conservative/libertarian end of the blogosphere is buzzing with indignation over the Tories' support for ID cards.

Tim Worstall
Trust People
Freedom and Whisky
Non-trivial solutions
Don't hold your breath

The England Project has formed a "1952 Committee" of Tory loyalists who see this as the final straw.

I felt sorry for the poor Tory candidate who now has to defend this. Still you've got to admire her independence in titling her post "Bad Idea Michael".

Cause for optimism on Kyoto

Amongst all the hype surrounding the climate conference in Buenos Aires, there may be some cause for optimism according to James Glassman of the AEI.
While a superficial glance indicates the extremists are winning, they are, in fact, on the run.

It's funny but I thought that some of the radio commentators were not quite so one-sided in the last couple of days as they have been in the past. It will be interesting to see if John Humphrys tones down his act.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Bye bye liberty

Still over at Samizdata, Perry posts on the latest assault on our ancient freedoms.

Unfortunately Dutch politicians seem to have as little clue about the basis of a liberal democracy as Mr Blunkett.

Secretary Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst has apparently said that MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali should not have made the film Submission [which] was akin to 'lighting a cigarette in a munitions dump'.

No. It's called freedom of speech. He should go.

Hat-tip: Zacht Ei

Idle absurdities

Perry de Havilland writes about the latest silly government effort to "be seen to do something".

You could pass many a happy hour trying to better his collective noun for politicians: "an absurdity".

One thought that occurs to me is "an idleness". After all so much of what Westminster politicians do seems to be driven by an overwhelming urge to pass the time of day. I came across a debate the other day (I didn't keep the link) which appeared to be about forcing private clubs to offer equal facilities to men and women. This is so trivial it defies belief.

Now that Westminster has become in most essentials a regional parliament within the EU superstate, our overpaid political masters have very little to pass their time. Is it time to adopt limits on how many days a year Parliament can meet, as is the case in some American state legislatures? And with remuneration to match?

I vote that Westminster adopts New Hampshire standards. Meet 45 days per year and get to all intents and purposes no remuneration. That should get us out of the EU in a hurry!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

More on home defence

The Sunday Telegraph has a leader on the home defence issue opposite an article by Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP who is trying to amend the law by means of a Private Member's Bill.

Patrick Mercer's article refers to the case of Brett Osborn who defended himself against a drug-crazed burglar who was trying to molest a woman staying with him. In the ensuing struggle Mr Osborn stabbed and killed the burglar. He is now serving a sentence for manslaughter, his plea of self-defence having been rejected because he failed to warn the intruder that he was armed.

This seems to be at odds with the Kenneth Noye case I linked to below where, although I can't be sure, I think that no warning was given.

If it is the case that it is necessary for a warning to be given in order for a plea of self-defence to be accepted, then I think there is a clear case for the law to be changed, and it is good to see that Patrick Mercer agrees with this.

I still don't like his idea of using a the vague criterion of "not grossly disproportionate" though. His suggestion that forcing the Attorney General to take personal responsibility for any prosecutions under the new law will stop its use in marginal circumstances looks weak to me. The Telegraph's demand for the adoption of the Oklahoma law, looks much better. Indeed I would have thought that it could be adopted pretty much as it stands.
"Any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force against another person who has made an unlawful entry into that dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against the occupant of the dwelling."

The only way I can think to improve it is the insertion of the word "imminently" before "use any physical force". I don't think shooting a fleeing burglar in the back is reasonable.

Conservatives thinking about tax cuts

According to the Telegraph, Oliver Letwin
"...will make "cast-iron" commitments to cut taxes if the Conservatives win the next election."

Given that the Conservatives are pretty unlikely to win anyway, it would be nice if he made everyone sit up by promising a flat tax. It would at least get the debate started.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Not learning from others' mistakes

From The Star Online:

South American nations want to copy Europe and form their own political and economic union.

It's hard to believe that they looked at Europe and said to themselves "That's the way forward". I guess we can at least draw hope from the article's suggestion that it will never get off the ground.

The aftermath of Fallujah

Adventures of Chester links to this story about the battle for Fallujah and the clear up that is now going on there. Worth a look.

Be nice to burglars

Belmont Club is generating a huge number of comments with his posting on how the British are advised to deal with burglars (essentially lie down and hope they don't want to kill you).

It's definitely right to clarify the law, but it seems to me that replacing a requirement of the use of proportionate force with a requirement to use force that is not grossly disproportionate only helps a little. What does "grossly disproportionate" mean? If I decide to bash the burglar on the head before he sees me I would say that's OK. But if I kill him in the process? Actually I would argue that this would still be fine (for me at least), but I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would view this as grossly disproportionate. In fact I heard Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP who is sponsoring the bill to amend the law on self-defence on Radio 5 recently stating just that. Those who argue that the bill proposed will make little difference in reality are therefore right.

Now I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that a better way of framing the law would be in terms of control. The homeowner should be able to use any force, including lethal force, to get control of the situation. Once they have control however they should be able to use only the minimum force necessary to maintain control until the authorities arrive (some time the following week). This would stop angry homeowners passing the time until the police arrive by beating the thief to a pulp.

Within an hour of putting this post up I came across this letter in the Times.

In 1985, householder Kenneth Noye stabbed to death a detective constable who was an intruder in the grounds of his house. The law on self-defence at that time was virtually identical to the current law. In acquitting him (reports, December 13, 1985) the jury found that his actions were reasonable in the circumstances and therefore lawful.

This does seem to put a different perspective on the whole debate.

How do they get away with it?

The Englishman reports on the Animal Welfare Bill currently working its way through Parliament, and is astonished to find that it proposes a raft of new inspectors, regulations, bureaucrats and paperwork. I suppose we should at least commend the committee for pointing out that the assessment of the impact of all this regulation is, er, pathetic.

What struck me was that the bill seems to confer a right of entry without warrant to premises that are wholly or partly used for business purposes. Now I run a small business from my house. So this would appear to mean that if the state thinks I am maltreating my budgerigar, they can now now search the house without my permission. I'm sure that's not what was intended but it appears to be what the bill says.

First post

Because someone has to do something.....