UK Government Sets itself above the Law

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Jason, Mar 1, 2009.

  1. Jason

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    BACKGROUND
    The former chief of Royal Bank of Scotland who led the bank to disaster has an enormous pension, and lots of people are unhappy about this. However he has a contract to justify it, and the pension was specifically accepted by the government when they intervened in the bank. If there is an objection to him drawing his huge pension it has to be resolved by the courts. Probably there isn't one.

    TODAY
    UK deputy prime minister Harriet Harman has come up with the following:
    "Sir Fred Goodwin should not count on being 650,000 pounds a year better off, because that's not going to happen. The prime minister has said that it is not acceptable, and therefore it will not be accepted. It may be enforceable in a court of law, this contract, but it is not enforceable in the court of public opinion. And that is where the government steps in."
    Harman keeps up pressure on ex-RBS boss | UK | Reuters

    The prime minister has not distanced himself from this comment from his deputy.

    The UK government is claiming that it can act without reference to the courts. This is dictatorship. If they can get away with this they can cancel the next election.
     
  2. pym

    pym New Member

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    We had to put up with that constantly these 8 years gone by.......
    The American people have spoken.
    Change is happening.
    VOTE......Get everyone you know to vote also.
     
  3. HazelGod

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    The phrase I've highlighted is the legal crux in play here.

    Without your government - which represents ostensibly the will of your citizens and actually their tax moneys - interceding to save RBS, it likely would have ceased to exist. Mr. Goodwin would be able to count on drawing exactly nothing from his pension were that the case.

    As the continued existence of his pension is now predicated by the taxpayers of the UK, your government absolutely has standing to amend the terms of its content and disbursement...and they would be remiss in their duty to represent the interests of your citizens if they did not re-examine all such contracts.
     
  4. Jason

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    Goodwin's pension is determined by a contract, as is that of all RBS employees, including the most humble. The government accepted this in October. It is possible that the legal boffins will pick over the details and there may be some sort of reduction, made through the courts. But it has to be done through the courts.

    To make a legal change now to deprive him of his pension would be retrospective legislation, which is not constitutional. I don't want Goodwin to get an enormous pension, but there has to be respect for the checks on the powers of politicians.

    Newspapers have made the comparison between Goodwin and the last individual the government treated in this way, David Kelly. David Kelly was a civil servant who suggested that the case for WMD in Iraq was not proven, and who was hounded by the government. His death certificate says he committed suicide. I don't think Goodwin deserves his pension, but I don't think anyone deserves a vindictive media campaign against them led personally by the prime minister and senior ministers, and now with a statement that they are willing to break the law (or break the constitution to change the law) to get him.
     
  5. dong20

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    Slight corrrection needed; Harriet Harmon is not deputy PM, nor a cabinet member. Gordon Brown has yet to appoint someone to that office, one which isn't mandatory. She is deputy leader of the Labour party, but that's not the same thing.

    There was some reporting that Fred The Shred was not actually entitled to such a pension in the first place, so the legality of such a contract may fall. Personally I think proving that may be impossible.

    Harmon is skating on thin ice here. But saying the Government steps in and plays an enforcement role in the 'court of public opinion' is merely a soundbite and a cheesy one at that. This is more damage control for the incompetent handling of RBS (and other) bailouts than any earnest attempt to 'do the right thing'.

    I'm sure it was a carefully weighed tactical move, to make HMG look like the good guys (oh ... the irony) but to pull it off it requires 'Fred the Shred' to have a conscience. Fat chance of that. That said, HMG as majority shareholder in RBS may be able to exert some leverage. One can only hope.

    Essentially, HMG has to be seen to be doing something ... anything even though it's likely all that will result is column inches and much faux indignation it's good PR for HMG when it's needed most. It also distracts people from all the other stuff they're screwing up.

    Strictly, well constitutionally actually - authority to dissolve parliament and call (or not) a General election doesn't fall to the PM, it falls to the Head of State who can dissolve parliament at his or her whim. True, it's not happened sice Charles I but ...

    Personally, given all the other blatantly illegal stuff HMG do and have done in recent yeara, I think you're overstating the significance of this. I'd like to see Fred's pension slashed, it's an affront, but if it's legal then those that allowed it show also pay. Which I have no doubt they will ...
     
    #5 dong20, Mar 1, 2009
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2009
  6. dong20

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    I agree.

    While highly undesirable and in 'contravention' with normal practice in English Law, retrospection is constitutional so long as retrospection is expressed in the Act at Assent, or in any enacted amendment to existing legislation. Essentially, it amounts to a demonstration of the supremacy of Parliament, under the constitution. It's uncommon, but not unprecedented.

    Applying existing legislation retrospectively where it does not allow, is another matter entirely.

    Retrospective criminal liability was challenged as contravening Art 7 of the ECHR, although it was ruled not to be so in some cases ... taxation law for example.
     
  7. B_spiker067

    B_spiker067 New Member

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    Dig and dig and they'll find something criminal with RBS and this guy. Sue the man for fraud or malfeasance.

    Tell him you will unless he concedes +80% of his pension.
     
  8. kalipygian

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    How can something be unconstitutional when Britain does not have a constitution?
     
  9. eddyabs

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    Not true K....we do not have one written constitution such as the USA, but a series of constitutional acts. In our democracy, it is believed that one written constitution (such as in the US) would be (as such), a block in the fluidity of our democracy.....it is not set in stone.

    Therefore changes made to our unwritten constitution can be made by a simple majority in the Houses of Commons and then ultimately by Royal Assent.

    Also, let us not forget the Magna Carta signed by King John in 1215, I was taught at school that this famous (in our great history) charter was influential in the development of constitution, including that of the United States....if you Wiki it, you'll find the sentences;

    'Magna Carta was arguably the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world. The Magna Carta influenced the development of the common law and many constitutional documents, including the United States Constitution.'

    So, we do have a constitution, different to yours in that we have a constitution that evolves/is allowed to evolve.

    Edit: dong should probably explain this!
     
    #9 eddyabs, Mar 2, 2009
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2009
  10. bigman420

    bigman420 Member

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    How's this legal? Socialism in action.
     
  11. dong20

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    It's a common misconception and Eddy explained it well enough. I would however argue that the constituion is not so much unwritten, as uncodified.

    The British Constitution (as a constituional Monarchy) is rooted in a number of core principles - the Sovereignty of Parliament, the Rule of Law, Unitary State, Judicial Independence and Separation of Power. The last of these being [perhaps] a little 'fuzzy' and becoming fuzzier.

    There are a few more clearly identifiable elements:

    • Magna Carta (now mostly repealed)
    • The Bill of Rights
    • The Settlement Act
    • Parliamentary convention
    • Almost a millennia of Case Law
    There are numerous other acts and such like, although many of these tend to merely reinforce the above rather than assign or revoke specific rights in themselves some are key acts in their own right; Parliament Act of 1911, the Representation of the People Act of 1918, The Statute of Westminster, most especially the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act and more recently, the House of Lords Act of 1999.

    You may ask why I omitted the Human Rights Act of 1998. Well it's because the inclusion of the ECHR into British Law was considered [to a degree] 'irrelevant' - in part because of the tradition of 'negative rights' - that which is not forbidden, is allowed.

    The 1998 act primarily required that courts interpret statutes in a manner compatible with it [the ECHR], and that subsequent British legislation was also compatible with it. Although it only applies to Public Bodies ... there is an implied duty for Jurists to act in accordance with it when considering civil matters.

    That said, I still welcomed it and it's proven a useful club with which to bludgeon recalcitract HMG departments when they attempt to ride roughshod over precedent and basic human decency.

    The ECHR/HRA also opened the door for UK Courts to 'challenge' [but not ignore] Acts of Parliament where these are deemed 'incompatable' with it - allowing it theory a Judicial Review of Primary Legislation, something previously 'banned' under the convention of Parliamentary Sovereignty. It also allowed defective legislation to be remedied more quickly where it was deemed fundamentally at odds with it.

    Many were [and are] up in arms at the idea that Brussels could override the British Parliament, although that's not really the case - by which I mean it's not that simple - but it's certainly proven a useful political football, and led to some spintering of traditional, monolitic political party structures.

    Parliamentary Sovereignty has been further 'diluted' by partial devolution of power to the 'regional' assemblies (Scotland, Wales and N.I.). That said, while these assemblies have the power to pass primary legislation in matters within their own spheres of influence, such power derives from Westminster and they remain subject to suspension by Westminster at any time.

    It's also worth mentioning - in the context of Judicial Independence - that Judges have been increasingly vocal and more openly hostile to Parliamentary overreaching and to certain acts of legislation.For example,in 2004 the then Lord Chief Justice basically refused to uphold certain elements of a proposed Immigration and Asylum Bill were it to become law. This forced the Government to back down and rewrite it in a weaker form.

    This reminds me of the days when a certain Home Secretary was on the receiving end of a number of unfavourable and unwelcome judicial rulings. He used to sulk like a spoiled child. Not that I always agreed with the decisions from a personal perspective (remember the Bulger case?) but regardless, any Home Secretary is [usually] out of order if he allows public sentiment to override the judiciary. There's a good reason why victims of criminals are not the arbiters of their punishment.

    Having said that, such behaviour tends to go with the job, and the present HS is yet another examplar to those who would seek to learn the skills required to abuse power, privilege and civil rights with comparative impunity.

    All this is a tremendous simplification [with more than a few personal ancedotes] and numerous other events have occured, legislation passed and precedents set that bear on this thing called the British Constitution. Many of which I possess but a passing knowledge or understanding.

    "An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution" by Jurist Albert Dicey is considered a seminal text on the British Constitution. Written in 1885 it's a little out of date perhaps, but it's a solid start.

    I sometimes think that it would be better to have a written constitution but mostly I think it works OK as it is. However I have become far less comfortable in that belief over the last decade as I see the creeping enroachment of Parliament in aspects of [my] life where I believe Government has no business.

    In addition, were a constitution to be codified by any contemporary administration (of any persuasion) I shudder to think what it would include and more troubling - exclude.

    Perhaps, just occasionally, a little 'ambiguity' isn't such a bad thing.:smile:
     
  12. dong20

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    It probably isn't legal, but how does that make it 'socialism' now that RBS is a de facto public body?

    As a taxpayer I take great execption to my money being used to so richly and inappropriately further reward the incompetent, dishonest and already vastly wealthy. It's bad enough I have to vote for them! :rolleyes:
     
  13. dong20

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    "The Prime Minister has said it is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted,” Ms Harman told the BBC.
    ...
    But asked about her comments today, Gordon Brown refused to repeat the assertion, although he told talkSport radio that the Government was investigating 'every possible avenue' legally to reduce Sir Fred’s pension."

    Oops!

    "... George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, backed the use of “any legal measure” to recoup Sir Fred’s pension but accused ministers of acting too late and trying to divert attention from their own responsibility by attacking Sir Fred.

    “This is a bit like trying to bolt the stable door after the horse has itself bolted. It is no good now trying to distract everyone’s attention with this synthetic anger. They had their chance to stop it and they incompetently failed to do so"

    Surely not. I mean, how cynical! :rolleyes:

    Harman cut adrift over Goodwin pension comments - Times Online
     
  14. kalipygian

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    Nobody gets my jokes. I have probably read about 20 times as much British history as US, I'm just starting a book on the Glorious Revolution, and I have Bagehot's 'On the English Constitution', which I have often seen quoted, though I haven't starting reading it yet. Wiki has a pretty good article on the British constitution.

    Reading history does not of course mean a person understands how things are actually done now.
     
  15. dong20

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    I must admit I was surprised, but in missing the joke I took your comment at face value. I hope my reply didn't come across in a negative way and it was only a 'potted history of highlights' - we both know it's a far richer tapestry.

    Anyway, my mistake ... at least in part. In similar vein, I probably know as as much African history than British, although I find reliable source material is rather thinner on the ground!
     
  16. lucky8

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    Well good for them...it's about time someone with authority used good judgment rather than bad "rules", if only ours could do the same
     
  17. Jason

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    The government seems to have taken some steps to distance itself from the Harriet Harman view. But what happens now?

    Goodwin has his pension because that's what his exit agreement says. If there is a legal challenge about it the courts will deal with it - but it is likely that there is no reasonable legal challenge. There have been suggestions that the government should simply not pay the pension and force Goodwin to go to court to secure his pension. Seems to me that if the government took this route Goodwin could end up with some form of damages as well. It may be that now the government will simply forget the issue, and Goodwin will get his pension, and the media will move on to the next story.

    Yet there are issues here. I don't think the man who was steering RBS when it hit the rocks deserves a pension of this level, and I don't think he behaved particularly well as head of RBS (for example he didn't shout that there were problems). But we've now had a scenario where the government for its own ends has whipped up a public hate campaign against an individual whom they want to scapegoat. Presumably Goodwin and his family are facing long-term personal security issues. More serious is the psychological damage caused to him by being the recipient of this sort of level of public hatred. What the government has done is in my view wrong, both morally and legally. Governments should not try to distract the media from their own failings by victimising a scapegoat. Senior politicians should not threaten to break the law to instigate a virtual lynch mob hanging - Harman's "court of public oppinion".

    The last individual the government victimised as they have victimised Goodwin is David Kelly, who expressed doubts about the existence of WMD in Iraq. Days later Kelly met with a tragic end - the inquest recorded suicide. We now have two examples of a government which when it feels under pressure turns media attention onto individuals, with te government conducting a witch hunt.
     
  18. dong20

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    For her? Nothing much for now ... she's probably done what she set out to do.

    There have also been calls (from Scotland mostly) for him to be stripped of his knighthood. :smile:

    The 'media' may now turn on Paul Myners. They will probably try to 'link' part of his own £4m pension (allegedly from a former RBS subsidiary NatWest) to Goodwin's - implicating him in a 'nod and wink' type deal. It's especially 'interesting' how he [allegedly] 'signed away' the Governement's right to ever alter the terms of Goodwin's pension deal ...:rolleyes:

    There's probably some truth in that allegation to put him at risk, although likely not enough under normal circumstances ...

    The fact that he's an old buddy of Gordon's won't cut much ice either, Gordon is on the ropes and despite denials of responsibility, I can see him [Myners] being hung out to dry.

    To say he didn't behave particularly well is to give the man far too much credit, IMO. While he's not solely responsible for RBS' failure he's primarily responsible for it. Sure, he started off 'well', he was fêted by the city (and HMG) for a while and for the most part, along with so many others - nobody cared about their methods until the truth 'hit the fan'.

    Is a he a victim of unfortunate timing? Perhaps. A victim in any other way? Not really. But like too many in such scenarios, he gets to walk away, typically with a massive payoff and de facto immunity from future investigation. The worst thing is, 'we' continue to let them.

    No doubt, but I doubt they complained about the lifestyle that his activities afforded them until now - and which his taxpayer funded pension will continue to afford them. While his children have my sympathy, he does not - nor his wife.

    A spate of 'bad press' is a small price to pay for a lifetime of financial security, I'd bet. And let's be fair - the 'bad press' is not entirely without merit.

    Pah!

    There had been calls as far back as spring 2008 (perhaps earlier) for him to leave. The word was that he would do so only if required to do so under any publicly funded bail out. And guess what happend!

    It's inconceivable that he didn't see this coming long before that and set out to play HMG for as much he could. He is a cunning, ruthless and likely thoroughly dishonest man - seemingly bereft of honour and decency. By and large I believe in terms of 'PR' and 'damage to his psyche' - he's reaping what he sowed.

    Yes and no, respectively. But it's not the first time, and it certainly won't be the last. There are no good guys in this.

    It was a play, I'm sure of it. No current cabinet minister would dare they're too spineless, though Darling showed evidence of testosterone this last week or two.

    Besides, it's not the first time Harman has played this 'role'. She's quite likely positioning herself for a possible leadership challenge closer to the election. She can use this to say Brown was 'weak' to let Godwin 'get away with it', when she would have taken action.

    It's a lie of course - there's almost certainly no action to take - other sack Myners perhaps and even if there were it'd be mostly unlikely to happen - but that doesn't matter - in the 'court of public opinion' Harriet stood up for the man in the street against the tyranny and stench of corruption and rewarding incompetence.

    True or not, voters love that stuff.
     
  19. Jason

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    What is really worrying is you might just be right. Are we really looking at a future with Harriet Harman as prime minister? If so men on this site better watch out as feminist firebrand Harriet Har-person thinks men are the root of all evil, and probably thinks even worse of men with large cocks. :eek:
     
  20. dong20

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    Well she's issued a denial. However, she went on to say:

    "I do not want to be Prime Minister, I do not want to be leader of the party. I want Gordon Brown to remain PM after the next election as well as before the election."

    Ms Harman said she did not believe Mr Brown would be forced from the leadership.

    "There is not going to be a leadership election. There should not be, and there will not be," she added."

    So, clearly telling the whole truth.:rolleyes:
     
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