From The Independent: Tory Government plans to introduce voter ID checks are to be challenged in court on the basis they deter people from voting.
From Business Insider: Theresa May’s government has been found in contempt of parliament after it refused to comply with a motion passed by MPs demanding that it release the full legal advice on the prime minister’s Brexit deal.
MPs voted by 311 to 293 to find May’s government in contempt on Tuesday afternoon. It is the first time a UK government has been found in contempt by MPs in parliamentary history.
From the Morning Star: Jeremy Corbyn exposed Theresa May’s hypocrisy in her withholding of Brexit legal advice yesterday by surprising her with a letter she had sent to the last Labour government that demanded they publish the legal advice they had received over the Iraq War.
During Prime Minister’s Questions the Labour leader urged the PM to reveal to MPs the “warts and all” legal advice on her unpopular Brexit deal so that they can make an informed decision over whether to let it pass through parliament on December 11.
He said she should “practise what she preached” and told MPs that she, as shadow leader of the Commons, had written to the then PM Gordon Brown in 2007 to demand the legal advice on invading Iraq.
From The Independent: The government has been accused of “unforgivable cowardice” after it emerged experts hired to test cladding in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire were banned from criticising Theresa May.
From The Independent: The Home Office has admitted that people have been wrongly denied UK status after it illegally demanded DNA evidence in a breach of its own policy.
From The Times: Charities and companies working with Universal Credit claimants have been banned from criticising or harming the reputation of the Tory work and pensions secretary Esther McVey.
[Read article on The Times website…] (paywalled, but free registration grants access to two articles per week)
From The Guardian: The final plans for revamped parliamentary constituencies have been published, which would cut the number of seats in the House of Commons from 650 to 600, proposals condemned by Labour and electoral campaigners as unfair and pointless.
Labour has fiercely opposed the idea, and with some Conservatives expected to rebel it remains by no means certain that the plan, which has to be approved by parliament, will be put into effect. The government has not yet announced a timetable for presenting the proposals to parliament.
Initial proposals for constituencies in England and Wales brought calculations that the changes could cost Labour 23 seats, with the party calling it “gerrymandering”.
Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Cat Smith, said the final recommendations amounted to “an undemocratic power grab”. She said: “With no plans to reduce the number of ministers, the government is weakening the role of parliament and creating unprecedented levels of executive dominance at the expense of backbenchers, when parliament is meant to be taking back control. Cutting the number of MPs by 50 as we prepare to leave the European Union is further proof this government is clamouring to tighten its grip on power.”
From The Guardian: A total of 164 Windrush generation people may have been wrongly removed or detained, according to detailed analysis by the Home Office of almost 12,000 immigration cases.
The home secretary has said he will apologise to 18 Windrush people who the government believes were “most likely to have suffered detriment because their right to be in the UK was not recognised”. The narrowness of the official apology was immediately condemned as worrying by Amnesty.
A review of 11,800 cases identified 18 where the home secretary said he believed his “department is most likely to have acted wrongfully”. Eleven of those 18 voluntarily left the country, some having been served with enforcement papers informing them they had no right to be in the UK; seven of them were detained but subsequently released without being removed.
In each of those cases the individual is believed to have come from the Caribbean before 1973 and stayed in Britain permanently but they were unable to prove they were a permanent resident.
However, the Home Office acknowledged that it was looking at 164 cases where people had been either wrongly detained, forcibly removed from the country or mistakenly told they must leave the country. Officials said the precise circumstances in which some of the 164 had been detained or encouraged to leave were not yet known, which they said is why official apologies were only being made to 18 people for the moment.
Anthony Bryan, 60, who spent five weeks in immigration removal centres over the past two years despite having lived in the UK for more than half a century, said he had yet to receive a letter of apology from the home secretary.
From The Observer: On 17 December last year, Paige Smith stood on a bridge above a road in north London. “I don’t remember too much, just standing there, looking over the edge, thinking ‘I’m just going to jump’, but then two police officers – I don’t know where they came from – managed to talk me down.”
Smith, 24, had been left suicidal by the Kafkaesque nightmare in which she and her Albanian fiance, Fatjon Ballmi, 23, had found themselves since becoming engaged.
Last September, having been together for nearly three years, they applied for a fiance visa for Ballmi but, two months later, the Home Office refused, stating, incorrectly, that Smith did not meet the £18,600 income threshold necessary to bring her partner into the country, a requirement introduced in 2012 by Theresa May, who was then home secretary.
“We never expected a refusal and I took it quite badly,” Smith said. “I was suffering mentally, having been away from my fiance for 11 weeks in total and I tried to commit suicide. I was sectioned, taken to hospital and stayed there for just under 24 hours before they let me go.”
The Home Office had lost a crucial payslip proving that Smith met the criteria. “The payslip was sent to them four times including from my solicitor and MP. The joke of it is they had my bank statements and access to HMRC to see how much I get paid.”
An appeal judge took less than 10 minutes in June to rule that the visa should be issued. The Home Office took another two months to confirm that it would not appeal.
From Full Fact:
In a single day across five councils, twice as many people didn’t vote due to having incorrect ID, as have been accused…
From The Independent: Legal action could be launched against the government over its failure to demand that two members of a British Isis cell will not be executed in the US. MPs are in uproar over not being consulted about the reversal of a long-held policy barring extradition or intelligence sharing in cases where the death penalty may be used.
Responsibility for Windrush deportations rests “squarely on Theresa May’s shoulders” – Caroline Lucas
From Morning Star: Responsibility for the Windrush scandal falls “squarely on the shoulders” of Theresa May for ignoring a report warning her what would happen, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas charged yesterday.
The Brighton Pavilion MP had tabled a written question asking if Ms May, as home secretary, had acted on the Legal Action Group’s prescient October 2014 report Chasing Status.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes responded: ”No specific action was taken as a result of this report.”
The report recommended a number of measures which could have prevented the Windrush scandal, including to set up a special unit to fast-track cases of people living in Britain on January 1 1973.
It also called for the restoration of legal aid for these cases, allowing Commonwealth-born citizens to work, access the the NHS and claim benefits and for Home Office proof of residence standards to be revised.
Another of the report’s recommendations was for “greater openness” from the Home Office about its archiving and destruction policies, and for it to accept that some immigration records could be rendered inaccurate or incomplete over time.
From The Guardian: The Home Office behaved in a “shocking” manner towards two Windrush citizens, Paulette Wilson and Anthony Bryan, both of whom were wrongly sent to immigration detention centres before a planned removal from the UK, despite being continuously resident for around 50 years, a committee of MPs and peers has ruled.
The Home Office displayed an “inadequate regard for the human rights” of those wrongly detained as a result of immigration enforcement, the report by the joint committee on human rights concluded.
Harriet Harman, the committee’s chair, said: “What happened to these two people was a total violation of their human rights by the state’s most powerful government department. It needs to face up to what happened before it can even begin to acknowledge the scale of the problem and stop it happening again.”
From ITV News: Former health minister Norman Lamb has called for the complete legalisation of cannabis – after alleging that “probably half the Cabinet” have used the class B drug.
The Liberal Democrat MP said the Government’s policy towards cannabis represented a “dreadful hypocrisy” and echoed calls from former Tory leader Lord Hague to bring in a regulated market for the drug.
Mr Lamb, speaking after Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a review into medicinal cannabis use, said: “Isn’t there a dreadful hypocrisy in Government policy in drugs more generally.
“Probably most of the Cabinet drink alcohol, the most dangerous drug of all, probably half of the cabinet has used cannabis, possibly even the Home Secretary — unless they’re a group of very odd people.
“Shouldn’t the Home Secretary actually follow the advice of the former Conservative leader Lord Hague, who makes the case for a regulated legalised market and that that is the best way to protect people from harm who at the moment buy from criminals who have no interest in their welfare at all.”
Mr Javid responded, saying that on this occasion he did not agree with Lord Hague.
From The Guardian: William Hague, the former leader of the Conservative party, has urged Theresa May to legalise cannabis, saying the UK’s drug policy is “inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date” and that the “battle is effectively over”.
Lord Hague said issuing orders to the police to stop people smoking cannabis were “about as up to date and relevant as asking the army to recover the empire”.
In an article in the Telegraph on Tuesday, Hague says the prime minister should be bold and lead a major policy change because it is deluded to think cannabis can be “driven off the streets”.
Downing Street dismissed the idea. “In terms of decriminalising cannabis there are no plans in that respect,” Theresa May’s spokesman said. “The evidence is very clear that cannabis can cause serious harm when it is misused.”
Separately, the Home Office reiterated that the government “has no intention of reviewing the classification of cannabis” and “it will remain a class B drug”.
Simon Jenkins writes in the Guardian: “What kind of country gets a politician rather than a doctor to prescribe medicine for a sick child? When the home secretary, Sajid Javid, decided at the weekend to allow 12-year-old Billy Caldwell “one bottle” of cannabis oil, his spokeswoman said it was an exceptional case to meet “a short-term emergency”. The only emergency was to the home secretary’s reputation. Britain is like a banana republic, in which politicians, not judges, decide who goes to jail.
“This is inhuman and absurd. The reason for Caldwell’s treatment has nothing to do with cannabis and everything to do with ministerial terror of seeming ‘soft on drugs’. This terror is now archaic. Public opinion has moved on. So-called recreational cannabis is as freely available on Britain’s streets as cigarettes and alcohol. It is available in schools and universities, clubs and festivals. Most British police forces turn a blind eye to modest possession.
From The Independent: Immigration officers have allegedly been promised cake or a box of chocolates for the officer who arrests the highest number of suspected illegal immigrants.
From ScotRef: SNP MP Mhairi Black on the appalling anti-democratic tactics used by Tory MPs in the House of Commons to filibuster out Private Members Bills they don’t like.
(Mhairi was talking on a pro-Scottish independence platform, but whatever your views on that topic this is a good watch!)
Everyone needs to watch this at least once. And I mean *everyone* 👍⚔️🗡️⚔️🗡️⚔️#ScotRef
Posted by ScotRef on Saturday, April 7, 2018
From The Guardian: A controversial trial of forcing voters to show ID could have been illegal because it was incorrectly imposed by ministerial diktat rather than through parliament, senior barristers have said.
The legal opinion by two barristers from Blackstone, a leading chambers in London, concluded that ministers acted beyond the scope of the law in ordering the trial of compulsory voter ID in five boroughs in England at last month’s local elections.
If upheld by a formal court challenge, the view could prevent any further trials or a national rollout of voter ID taking place without the formal consent of parliament, which could prove difficult given objections to the idea.
The scheme, in which people in Bromley, Woking, Gosport, Watford and Swindon were forced to show varying types of ID before being allowed to vote, prompted concern from charities, who warned it might put off more vulnerable groups such as elderly people and the homeless.
It was also criticised as a solution in search of a problem after it emerged that none of the trial boroughs had reported any cases of voter impersonation in recent years.
From Morning Star: Politicians and experts have slammed the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy as at least 1,000 highly skilled migrants are wrongly facing deportation.
The specialists, who are seeking indefinite leave to remain in Britain, are being denied their right to work under a section of the Immigration Act designed to tackle terrorism and threats to national security.
Immigration experts say the highly skilled workers, who include teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and IT professionals, are being refused indefinite leave to remain because they are accused of lying in their applications, according to the Guardian.
They have come under scrutiny for making minor and legal amendments to their tax records or having discrepancies in declared income.
In one case an applicant’s tax returns were scrutinised by three different appeal courts where no evidence of irregularities was found. Basic tax errors allegedly made by the Home Office itself are also used as the basis for refusal.