Tag Archive: act


InjusticeThe Queen and Prince Charles are using their little-known power of veto over  new laws, according to Whitehall documents.

The Telegraph, January 2013.

At least 39 bills have been subject to Royal approval, with the senior royals using their power to consent or block new laws in areas such as higher education, paternity pay and child maintenance.

Internal Whitehall papers prepared by Cabinet Office lawyers show that on one occasion the Queen vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, which aimed to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament. She was also asked to consent to the Civil Partnership Act in 2004.

In the Whitehall document, which was released following a court order, the Parliamentary Counsel warns that if consent is not given by the royals “a major plank of the bill must be removed”.

Legal scholar John Kirkhope, who fought to access the papers following a freedom of information case, said the document revealed senior royals have “real influence and real power”. “There has been an implication that these prerogative powers are quaint and sweet but actually there is real influence and real power, and totally unaccountable,” he said.

The document also contains a warning to civil servants that obtaining consent can cause delays to legislation. Royal approval may even be needed for amendments to laws, it says. Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, which includes land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, said the findings showed the Royals “are playing an active role in the democratic process”. He called for greater transparency in order to evaluate whether the powers were “appropriate.” “This is opening the eyes of those who believe the Queen only has a  ceremonial role,” he said.

“It shows the royals are playing an active role in the democratic process   and we need greater transparency in parliament so we can be fully appraised   of whether these powers of influence and veto are really appropriate. At any stage this issue could come up and surprise us and we could find parliament is less powerful than we thought it was.”

The power of veto has been used by Prince Charles on more than 12 government bills since 2005 on issues covering gambling to the Olympics.Voag-Logo-34

VOAG Logo (Brick)5High Court rules the police have no powers to force people to give their details, when held in a kettle.

From Netpol.org, June 2013
For years it has been common practice for protesters held in a kettle (police containment) to be forced to submit to police filming and/or provide their details as a condition of leaving.  There have been countless incidents in which protesters who have tried (lawfully) to refuse these demands have been threatened with arrest, or told they could not leave the kettle.   

This should now change, as the High Court has today ruled that the police have no powers to force people to give their details, or comply with police filming and photography, simply because they are held in a kettle. Lord Justice Moses criticised police practice in no uncertain terms.  He stated,

It is unacceptable that a civilian photographer on instruction from the police should be entitled to obtain photographs for investigation and crime investigation purposes…as the price for leaving a containment. Although the common law has sanctioned containment it has done so in only restricted circumstances.

It was not lawful for the police to maintain the containment for the purposes of obtaining identification, whether by questioning or by filming. It follows that it was not lawful to require identification to be given and submission to filming as the price for release.

 The case was taken by Susannah Mengesha, who had attended a demonstration called by Occupy/UKUncut in Picadilly after a trade union march in 2011.  Susannah was there as a legal observer, and became caught in a kettle the police imposed after protesters had moved to the headquarters of Xstrata, a mining corporation in nearby Panton Street. 

After a lengthy period of time, the police containment manager decided it was no longer likely that there would be an ‘imminent breach of the peace’ and began a ‘controlled dispersal’.  Protesters were funneled through lines of police officers to a dispersal point where they were stopped and searched then allowed to leave.  Before reaching this point, however, people were forced to undergo close-up filming by police cameramen, and were told they must provide a name and address or face arrest. 

Both Susannah and other legal observers recorded that the police had told protesters they were using section 50 of the Police Reform Act.  This gives police powers to demand details on threat of arrest, where they reasonably believe a person has been engaging in anti-social behaviour.

In court, the police denied using this power, presumably aware of the difficulties in asserting that a peaceful protest equated to anti-social behaviour.  Instead they tried to defend their actions by claiming that protesters gave their name and address and submitted to filming voluntarily.  A police video was given to the judges to evidence that Susannah had complied freely – but Lord Justice Moses considered that “the video showed the contrary”.

Susannah has stated that she is ‘very happy’ with the judgement, which should change the way the police operate.  She has also forced the police to remove any record of her attendance that night from their databases. She said,

I am deeply concerned by the increasing criminalisation of protest. I do not accept that by choosing to express political dissent people automatically volunteer away their rights to personal privacy and freedoms.

Freedom of protest is under relentless attack from the state. Under the new legal aid reforms, protest law judicial review cases such as mine, which are usually the last refuge against oppressive state behaviour, would not have been possible.

Any other protesters wishing to remove data collected in similar circumstances are invited to contact Netpol or their lawyers for advice.  To contact Netpol in strictest confidence, e-mail info[at]netpol.org with a contact telephone number.Egypt, Syria, London, Liverpool, Birmingham: Join The Resistance!

Hands Off Our NHS


The Crimes Of Jeremy Hunt  – Criminal & Social Saboteur 

Jeremy Hunt and The Murdoch Scandal
As Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt hid an Ofcom report recommending that Murdoch’s £7.5bn takeover of BSkyB be referred to the monopolies commission. Following an investigation by MP Tom Watson, Hunt was later found to have misled parliament when he denied having formal meetings with Murdoch’s News Corp executives.

Later In 2010, ‘The Hunt’ managed to wriggle out of trouble again when it was found that he failed to declare thousands of pounds of donations from BskyB, media and arts companies the previous year.

The ‘Hunt’ faced demands for his resignation in 2012, when documents submitted to the Levingson enquiry in to telephone hacking, revealed that his office was secretly passing information to Murdoch during his bid to take over BskyB.  It was described by one MP as “a strait forward criminal offence”.

Jeremy Hunt and The Abortion Debate
After only a month as Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt told the Times in October 2012 that he backs halving the legal time limit for women to have abortions, from 24 weeks to 12. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it was “insulting to women” and they were “speechless”.

Selling the NHS – The Crime Of The Century
The Hunt’s views on the NHS were exposed  in the Guardian last September, when it reported that Hunt attempted to have scenes celebrating the National Health Service removed from the Olympics opening ceremony. MP Andy Burnham told the commons “it proved Hunt didn’t support the core values of the NHS”. In the run up to privatisation, hospitals across the country have already been forced to save £20bn.

Jeremy Hunt’s Health and Social Care Act is set to reorganise the NHS so that it is little more than a logo on contracted out services. The regulations – made under Section 75 of the Health & Social Care Act 2012 – puts competition at the heart of the NHS and brings in privatisation on an unprecedented scale. Regulations will force commissioners to open up to private sector competition any part of the NHS that companies are interested in.

Local health decision makers will be able to do little or nothing to protect local NHS hospitals which will be starved of funds as a result of losing out to private providers. The regulations require all NHS services to be put out to competition “unless the commissioners can prove there is only one provider”.

Lord Philip Hunt, in the House of Lords said: “Parliament was assured that clinicians would be under no legal obligation to create new markets; however these regulations being debated in Parliament provide no such re-assurance”.

Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said recently: “The NHS has delivered what no other health service has managed: universal, accessible, high quality care at a cost far less than comparable health services. These regulations remove the legal framework for a universal, publically provided and managed, democratically accountable health service.”

Crimes Against Surrey
Meanwhile here in Surrey two hospitals out of four are set to close their A&E and maternity departments. The Sutton Guardian reported in January that either St Helier, Epsom, Kingston or Croydon University Hospital will lose key departments. Kingston has already seen A&E waiting times increase following spending cuts last year, the Surrey Comet reported in February.

Lewisham Hospital, a hospital that makes a surplus is to Cut A&E, maternity, children’s and intensive care services. Patients will have to be transported to other hospitals because there will no longer be acute provision

The Surrey Advertiser reported in February that although the hospital was not in debt and had been making a surplus over the last few years, “a 100 jobs are about to go at the Royal Surrey Hospital”.  Who remembers the facical 2005 general election? When Ann Milton, our local MP stood as “Conservatives: Stop The Hospital Cuts”. One wonders where she is now.

Jeremy Hunt has nothing but contempt for us all – even fellow Tories. It was reported that he endorsed Conservative co-chairman Lord Feldman’s characterisation of Tory ‘grass roots’ activists as “Swivel-eyed loons”, describing Lord Feldman as a man of great honour.

Even on the roads Hunt thinks there’s one rule for us and another rule for him. As the Daily Mail found when it snapped Hunt riding through red lights and one way streets last year.

On Friday 24th May, The VOAG, together with the Surrey United Anti-Capitalists and the Kingston branch of the GMB union, hunted “the Hunt” down at Surrey University. He was there to deliver a speech to students. Unfortunately for him, the welcome he received was not quite the one he had expected. More people came to protest than came to hear his bull-shit.


Friday’s Hunt the Hunt was just a warm up for the main event. On Saturday June 15th, we’ll be hunting the Hunt again, this time in Farnham, his own constituency. There are coaches arranged from London. Hospital campaigns at Ealing, Hammersmith & Charing Cross, Kingston, and Whittington hospitals are all arranging coaches. Campaigners from Hackney, King George and Central Middlesex will also be attending the event, together with campaigners from around Surrey and Hampshire. Join the Facebook event page for more info and details: https://www.facebook.com/events/500290676696673/

Call 07846008703 or email: huntforhunt2013@gmail.comVoice Of Anti-Capitalism In Guildford

The Battle Of The Beanfield: 27 Years On 

June 1, 2012
Today year marks the 27th anniversary of the infamous police attack on travellers on their way to Stonehenge in an incident now known as the Battle Of The Beanfield.

“What I have seen in the last thirty minutes here in this field has been some of the most brutal police treatment of people that I’ve witnessed in my entire career as a journalist. The number of people who have been hit by policemen, who have been clubbed whilst holding babies in their arms in coaches around this field, is yet to be counted. There must surely be an enquiry after what has happened today.”-Ken Sabido, ITN journalist. 

Twenty four years have passed since the defining moment of the Thatcher government’s assault on the traveller movement – the Battle of the Beanfield. On June 1st 1985 a convoy of vehicles set off from Savernake Forest in Wiltshire towards Stonehenge, with several hundred travellers on their way to setting up the 14th Stonehenge Free Festival. But this year English Heritage, who laughably were legally considered the owners of the Stonehenge Sarsen circle (built several thousand years before by god knows who), had secured an injunction against trespass naming 83 people. This was considered legal justification enough for a brutal assault on the entire convoy. What followed was a police riot and the largest mass arrest in British history.As the Convoy made its way to the Stones the road was blocked with tonnes of gravel and it was diverted down a narrow country lane, which was also blocked. Suddenly a group of police officers came forward and started to break vehicle windows with their truncheons. Trapped, the convoy swung into a field, crashing through a hedge.

For the next four hours there was an ugly stalemate. The Convoy started trying to negotiate, offering to abandon the festival and return to Savernake Forest or leave Wiltshire altogether. The police refused to negotiate and told them they could all surrender or face the consequences.At ten past seven the ‘battle’ began. In the next half hour, the police operation “became a chaotic whirl of violence.” Convoy member Phil Shakesby later gave his account of the day: “The police came in [to the grass field] and they were battering people where they stood, smashing homes up where they were, just going wild. Maybe about two-thirds of the vehicles actually started moving and took off, and they chased us into a field of beans. 

By this time there were police everywhere, charging along the side of us, and wherever you went there was a strong police presence. Well, they came in with all kinds of things: fire extinguishers and one thing and another. When they’d done throwing the fire extinguishers at us, they were stoning us with these lumps of flint.”By the end of the day over four hundred were under arrest and dispersed across police stations around the whole of the south of England. Their homes had been destroyed, impounded and in some cases torched.

THE VAN GUARD?
In today’s surveillance society Britain it is seems inconceivable that festivals like the Stonehenge Free Festival ever happened. At their height these gatherings attracted 30,000 people for the solstice celebration – 30,000 people celebrating and getting on with it without any need for the state or its institutions. The festivals themselves were just the highpoint of a year-round lifestyle of living in vehicles. As one traveller said at the time, “The number of people who were living on buses had been doubling every year for four years. It was anarchy in action, and it was seen to be working by so many people that they wanted to be a part of it too.”Having seen off the miners strike – the first casualties in the plan to re-order Britain according to neo-liberal economics (or as it was known locally – Thatcherism), the state turned its force on a more subtle threat. This time not people fighting for jobs and a secure place in the system but people who rejected that system outright. Although prejudice against travellers was nothing new, the traditional ‘ethnic’ travelling minority represented no significant threat to the status quo that couldn’t be dealt with by local authorities. But to many of the millions left unemployed by the Thatcher revolution, life on the road looked increasingly appealing. This was inconvenient for a state determined that conditions for the unemployed be miserable enough to spur them into any form of low-paid work.

WHEELS ON FIRE
The propaganda directed against the so-called ‘peace convoys’ by all sections of the media created an atmosphere which allowed draconian action. The Beanfield was not an isolated incident. The Nostell Priory busts of the previous year were a vicious foreboding of what was to come. Months before the Beanfield a convoy-peace camp site at Molesworth was evicted by police acting with 1500 troops and bulldozers headed by a flak-jacketed Michael Heseltine, then Defence Secretary. In 1986 Stoney Cross in the New Forest saw another mass eviction. At the time Thatcher said she was “only too delighted to do what we can to make things difficult for such things as hippy convoys”. This attempt to create a separate yet peaceful existence from mainstream society was to be ruthlessly suppressed.Over the next ten years – notably with the Public Order Act 1986 and the Criminal Justice Act 1994 the whole lifestyle was virtually outlawed. As John Major said at the Tory Party conference in 1992 to thunderous applause: “New age travellers – not in this age – not in any age”. The CJA removed the duty of councils to provide stop-over sites for travellers and regular evictions began to punctuate traveller life. But it wasn’t all one way, thousands stayed on the road and the free festival circuit was infused with fresh blood from the rave scene. Even after the massive crackdown that followed the Castlemorton free festival the convoys in many cases moved onto road protest sites.

Ultimately however travellers were forced to adapt – abandoning the garish war paint of the hippy convoys for more anonymous vans, moving and taking sites in smaller groups. Many went abroad or were driven back into the cities. However, despite the worst excesses of the cultural clampdown, travellers remain all over the country. Many are now in smaller groups, inconspicuous and unregistered. It’s become more common for vehicle dwellers to take dis-used industrial sites blurring then lines between travelling and squatting. 

The fact that Stonehenge is now open again on the solstice might – on the face of it – look like a victory. But the event is a top-down affair complete with massive police presence, burger vans and floodlights – a far cry from the anarchistic experiments of the 70s and 80s. A smaller gathering had been permitted just down the road at the Avebury stone circle over recent years with the National Trust taking a far more lenient stance on live-in vehicles than English Heritage. But even there, since 2007, there’s now a ban on overnight stays on the solstice. 

Much of the festival circuit these days is in the hands of profit-motivated commercial promoters apart from the growing shoots of a range of smaller festivals, who continue in the spirit of people-led celebrations of community co-operation. But festivals today are also mostly buried under an avalanche of red tape and security, health and safety requirements – The Big Green gathering saw its security costs treble in one year (2007) as they were told to ‘terrorist harden’ the event.

When popular history recalls the pivotal moments in the mid-80s for Thatcher’s Britain, the Battle Of The Beanfield rarely adequately takes its place alongside the Miners Strike and Wapping. For UK Plc, travellers became – and remain – another ‘enemy within’, to be dealt with by organised state violence, like all others who have found an escape route from a society subordinated to profit, where freedom had been reduced to a series of consumer choices.

* For the definitive account see Andy Worthington’s book ‘The Battle Of The Beanfield’ – www.andyworthington.co.uk

The Shrewsbury Pickets And The Criminalising of Trade Unionism.

By Peter Farrell, Shrewsbury Pickets Campaign, April 2012
The essence of the Shrewsbury pickets and their jailing, was not just a Tory Government seeking revenge on trade unionists for the defeat inflicted on them in the early 70s by the National Union of Mineworkers over wages; or the Transport and General Workers Union (now UNITE) for the dockers defeating them over the Industrial Relations Act. Or that building workers, traditionally poorly organised, had organised a 13-week national strike, and had virtually shut down every site in the country and had won a large pay increase.

The necessity to launch attacks on the working class and their organisations lay in the break-up of the post-Second World War economic agreement to stabilise capitalism. Europe had waged war and its industries and economies and cities lay in ruins. The United States financed the rebuilding of the world’s economies. It was called the Bretton Woods agreement, named after the town in New Hampshire, USA, where a new international monetary system was set out. The US dollar replaced Sterling as the world’s trading currency on the basis of Washington’s gold reserves. The working class had returned from the slaughter of war being told they would return to a land fit for heroes. They swept the Tories from office in a landslide victory for Labour on a mandate to build homes, jobs, better wages, schools, a National Health Service.

They had to borrow on a massive scale – the USA economy dominated. The probelm was that the amount of cash loaned no longer matched the amount of gold the USA had. A 2-tier system developed and gold prices began to rise. In particular the Oil producing countries weren’t happy to be paid pieces of paper which no longer could be guaranteed. So in 1971 came the break-up of Bretton Woods – and inflation began to rise. Wages were eroded, oil prices soared fuelling  increased production costs .

In order to compete and cut production costs on the world markets the need for wage cuts was deemed vital. But this meant that the Trade Unions had to be stopped from defending their members’ wages. Laws limiting wages had to be backed by laws stopping TU’s from taking action to defend these. The NUM smashed the wages laws and the TGWU dockworkers defeated the Tories after blacking containers which were taking their jobs.

Defying the Industrial Relations Act, the dockers continued blacking a container port. Five dockers were arrested and imprisoned in Pentonville jail and became known as the Pentonville 5. Dockers stopped work bringing ports nationally to a standstill. An estimated 60,000 workers surrounded Pentonville prison amid the threat of a general strike as more and more workers stopped work, forcing the Tories to release the Dockers. The Dockers’  leader Vic Turner, knew that there was only one answer – as the Dockers had demonstrated – that was action by the whole TU movement. The TUC and other major unions refused to mobilise their members in solidarity with the dockers, and sold out.

The Shrewsbury Pickets were then doomed to remain in prison. Des Warren’s book “The Key to My Cell” was so named because it revealed the key to their cell lay on the desk of the TUC. This book is a must for Trade Unionists wanting to understand the trials and the conspiracy. It is all in there. Des Warren did what should have been applauded by the TUC, UCATT and TGWU – but the top leaders of the trade union movement accepted them being criminalised by a State Conspiracy. 

As Des Warren stated from the dock at the trial, “we are all part of something bigger than this trial. The Working Class movement cannot allow this verdict to go unchallanged”. He led the way in refusing to except anything other than he was a political prisoner. Des was given the longest sentence of all the pickets, 3 years. During his imprisonment he spent 6 consecutive months in solitary confinement; during four and a half months of that time he wore only a towel around his waist. He was in solitary another 2 months, as well as at other times. On 36 occasions he was put on report for breaches of discipline. Des was moved 15 times between 12 different prisons – every attempt was made to try and break him, and inflict misery on his wife and children. 

From prison he led the fight for Justice and yet every attempt to mobilise union support was met with either lies or deceit by the official TU. Because the State had used charges alleging criminal conspiracy, the TU and Labour leaders used that to squirm out of doing anything, saying Judicial reviews and an incoming Labour Government would release them. Des and Ricky Tomlinson – who had been jailed for 2 years – had decided when they were sent down not to except the sentence and fight back. Apart from “Key To My Cell”, the defence QC, John Platts Mills, in his book “Muck Silk and Socialism” and Jim Arnison’s book on the trials, the fit-up was ignored by the media. John Platts Mills wrote, the trial of the Shrewsbury pickets is the only case I know of where the government has ordered a prosecution in defiance of the advice of senior police and prosecution authorities. Police had accompanied the pickets from site to site and saw no reason to intervene, no arrests were made. 

But Building contractors had complained to their federation, who complained to Tory MPs who complained to the Home Secretary. The 2 police forces involved, North Wales and West Mercia, questioned some 800 witnesses before deciding that proceedings couldn’t go ahead because it was impossible to identify any wrongdoers. The home secretary, in defiance of the advice he had received ordered the police to bring proceedings and in February 1973, 31 men were arrested, and 24 were prosecuted some 6 months after. Throughout their imprisonment there were numerous strikes and calls for action for their release. The most famous being the campaign launched by Wigan Builders Action Committee, which marched from Wigan to London demanding a general strike to get them out. It culminated in a demonstration in London with over 5,000 workers marching.

There were numerous attempts to get Justice and answers once Des and others were released, including exposing those TU and Labour leaders and left apologists who sold out. Des had been given Largactyl – a heavy sedative – in prison which resulted in him developing Parkinson’s disease which would eventually cause his early death. Des’s son Nick describes his struggle and his determination and gives an insight to Des in his funny and moving book “Thirty Years in a Turtleneck Sweater”. Many people helped Des and attempts were made for him to go to Cuba for treatment, but he was unable to go because he was too ill.

In 2003 Des Warren was awarded the Robert Tressell Award for services to the working class at the Construction Safety Campaign’s AGM in Liverpool, together with other Shrewsbury pickets.  Des Warren died in 2004 but before he died Mike Abbott who had helped look after him, promised he’d fight to clear his name. So in 2006, after 30 years and under the 30 years’ Freedom of Information act, a meeting was organised with Ritchie Hunter and Harry Chadwick. It was decided that they would relaunch the Shrewsbury Campaign. Meetings were held which were well attended and the beginnings of the present Justice for Shrewsbury 24 pickets Campaign was born. Other meetings were held and more people wanted to help. 

In London following a packed meeting where Arthur Scargil, John McDonnell MP, John Hendy QC, Ricky Tomlinson and others spoke, the London Committee was formed. A National Committee was started and a constitution agreed and things began to move forward . Many of those who became involved were not new to Shrewsbury. In London alone 2 had participated in the London to Wigan march as had Mike Abbott, 4 were full-time UCATT convenors, 1 was chair of UCATT London region, 3 had been involved in Shrewsbury committees in the 70s, and 2 had been involved in the launch of Des’s book .

Considering that UCATT had moved a successful resolution at the TUC. It certainly was not followed up. When the Labour government was approached and Jack Straw was asked to release the papers relating to the case, the National Committee was told that for reasons of national security they could not. Consider Bloody Sunday and revelations that troops murdered 13 civilians, Hillsborough police altering statements, Orgreave police violence. The National Committee has organised a lobby of parliament, 2 Early Day motions, and 2 fringe meetings at UCATT conferences.

Fringe meetings were held at the Labour conference in Brighton, speakers at fringe meetings organised by the Blacklisted Workers Support Group went to the Manchester TUC congress and spoke at 3 meetings. We’ve produced a forty minute DVD which has been shown around the country; spoke at numerous trades councils; recently raised 1,150 pounds towards the CCRC; joint benefit do’s for Blacklisted workers; stood shoulder to shoulder with the 6 months Besna dispute and the Crossrail sackings. We’ve aslso organised meetings with TU leaders and the TUC leadership. We have participated at all the hugely successful annual Shrewsbury pickets marches, through Shrewsbury organised by Telford and Shropshire TUC.

Today the lessons of the Shrewsbury pickets and the state conspiracy and criminalisation of the TU’s are vital lessons for Trade Unionists, who are facing an unprecedented attack on our democratic rights and the very welfare state workers fought for by this coalition. It’s not just simply a case of clearing the names of the Shrewsbury pickets as Des stated from the dock. Victims or Villains, we are all part of something bigger than this trial . The National Committee fully participated in the Criminal Case Review Commission the CCRC. And we fully supports it physically and financally. But the campaign must be wider, involving the whole workers’ movement, it can’t be left to a small sectarian undemocratic group based in the North West. With occasional support of 1 or 2 TU leaders and 1 or 2 MP’s speaking on platforms, no matter how sincere they may be. The TUs could have and should have made available facilities and money for a massive campaign if they really wanted to do something.

We refuse to believe that anybody can separate all the issues that workers face today from the questions of Justice for the Shrewsbury pickets, they are intrinsically linked. Just read the evidence . The National Committee knows from messages that UCATT and UNITE officials – as well as ALL rank and file members – want to see the campaign reunited. The workers movement has been divided time and again, employers always seeks to divide and split campaigns to weaken them. we’ve always left our door open for anyone to talk constructively. Democracy in action is maintaining differences yet fighting the common enemy on decisions agreed by all.
By Peter Farrell, April 2012. (Reproduced without permission)
http://www.shrewsburypicketscampaign.org.uk/