Author Archives: FJ

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. #2016

On 15 July 2016, I convinced myself to switch off from the world for an evening, ‘nothing ground-breaking would happen.’ That night, I switched on my phone to find the Turkish army had attempted a coup d’état against the government and President Erdogan.

And so is the story of the year that was 2016.

From Brexit and President-Elect Trump to Aleppo and Brussels, we have all followed the major news stories of the past year, through real and fake news.

But here are four stories you might have missed which show 2016 was not without hope.

1. Snooper’s Charter deemed unlawful

In November this year the UK government passed a law, the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016, which gave them shockingly sweeping and unprecedented powers of surveillance. These included the right to retain all our communications data and internet history, as well as the right to hack our communications and devices.

The legality of surveillance laws was challenged in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which ruled that Member States (including the UK until Brexit materialises) may not impose a general obligation on telecomms companies to retain communications data.

The CJEU did not specifically address the IPA 2016, but it means  parts of the IPA 2016 are no longer compatible with EU law and will need to be amended in line with the judgment:

  • governments have a duty to ensure communications data is kept confidential
  • this can only be interfered with for the purpose of safeguarding national security or fighting serious crime
  • national laws providing for general retention of communications data for everyone are unlawful
  • access to data should only be granted where individuals are suspected of involvement in crime
  • a court should review the request to access data

2. Bedroom tax deemed partly unlawful

A year of austerity, 2016 saw the introduction of many unfair measures including the bedroom tax. Introduced in April, the bedroom tax reduced the housing benefit of families with ‘spare bedrooms’ in their homes, to encourage people to move out of homes they are ‘under-occupying’.

A family with two parents, two teenage boys and two teenage girls, for example, are only entitled to three bedrooms. If each of the teenagers had their own rooms, these will be considered ‘spare bedrooms’.

The tax, however, was found to impact people with disabilities and children disproportionately. The UK courts decided the bedroom tax was unlawful for the following:

  • adults who needed a spare room for overnight carers
  • children with disabilities – they should not be forced to share rooms
  • adults with disabilities – they should not be forced to share rooms

3. Hillsborough victory for families

In 1989, 96 football fans were crushed to death at a Liverpool FC football match. The police and media unjustly blamed the fans for the tragedy, claiming they had broken an exit gate and forced their way into the crowded stand, causing a crush at the front.

For 27 years, their brave families fought for the truth about their deaths. Thanks to the Human Rights Act 1998, which protects the right to life and imposes a duty on the police to investigate loss of life, an inquest jury was set up to investigate the Hillsborough Disaster.

The jury concluded the 96 were killed unlawfully based on the following findings:

  • the police owed a duty of care to the 96
  • they were in breach of that duty
  • the breach caused the deaths
  • the breach amounted to gross negligence.

4. UN resolution against Israeli settlements

The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution calling on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Security Council declared Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 had no legal validity. These settlements constituted a ‘flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.’

The Council reiterated its demand that ‘Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.’

Full UN article here.


Weekly News Round-up 09/12/16

UK News

Brexit In The Supreme Court: Everything You Need To Know In Plain English


Full article here.

Private schools in England propose 10,000 free places

Independent schools in England have pushed to restart the assisted places scheme, by offering 10,000 free places to children at state schools in return for a government subsidy.

The move is a response from private schools to the government’s recent green paper on expanding the number of grammar schools, which threatens to strip charitable status from private schools that fail to help run state schools.

The Ofsted chief inspector, Michael Wilshaw, criticised the ISC’s new proposal as not going far enough. “I think they can do better than that and if I was government I would be asking them to do more as a quid pro quo for their tax privileges,” he told BBC Radio 4.

The ISC countered that the move would be the equivalent of building 10 new state secondary schools, and represented a considerable saving for the government.

Full article here.

Segregation at ‘worrying levels’ in parts of Britain, Dame Louise Casey warns

Segregation and social exclusion are at “worrying levels” and are fuelling inequality in some areas of Britain, a report has found. Women in some communities are denied “even their basic rights as British residents”, the Casey Review said.

She found “high levels of social and economic isolation in some places, and cultural and religious practices in communities that are not only holding some of our citizens back, but run contrary to British values and sometimes our laws”.

Her report highlighted the plight of women in some Muslim communities, who she said were less likely to speak English and more likely to be kept at home. “Misogyny and patriarchy has to come to an end,” Dame Louise said, adding that public institutions must not fear being racist or Islamophobic.

Among her recommendations were that immigrants could take “an oath of integration with British values and society” and schoolchildren be taught British values.

Full article here.

Court rejects bid to halt Southern train drivers’ industrial action

The high court has rejected an attempt by the owners of Southern rail to prevent train drivers from taking industrial action.

The operators of Southern, Govia Thameslink Railway, had argued that the action by members of the Aslef union, which includes an overtime ban as well as impending strikes, was contrary to European law guaranteeing the rights of people to travel and of companies to invest, with GTR being partially owned by the French firm Keolis.

But the judge, Sir Michael Burton, turned down GTR’s bid for an injunction. The company has said the journeys of hundreds of thousands of commuters will be severely affected, with no trains at all expected to run during three days of strikes by drivers next week.

The overtime ban was overwhelmingly endorsed by a ballot of Southern drivers in Aslef. It is part of a long-running dispute about Southern’s plans to bring in more driver-only operated trains. A smaller but clear majority voted to strike as well.

Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, said the legal case by GTR was a waste of money: “Chris Grayling, the secretary of state for transport, said this strike was political. A line which has been parroted by GTR. But it’s not. It’s industrial. Driver-only operation is inherently unsafe.”

Full article here.

‘Prevent’ strategy to be challenged for first time in British high court

The British government’s Prevent strategy is set to face its first legal challenge in the high court on Tuesday. Salman Butt, who is a British-Muslim activist, launched the legal action after he was accused of being a “non-violent extremist” by the British government.

The Prevent strategy has been a cornerstone in the British government’s attempts to curb militancy and stop the “radicalisation” of young people. Despite being lauded as a success by the British government, the Prevent strategy has come under heavy criticism by the Muslim community and senior politicians.

His lawyers will specifically be challenging parts of the Prevent strategy that aim to stop people becoming or supporting terrorism. It will also challenge the definition of “extremism” used by the Prevent strategy and how the so-called Extremism Analysis Unit collected information about Dr Butt.

The case was allowed to proceed earlier this year, after a High Court judge ruled that Butt had a legitimate legal case against the home secretary.

A spokesperson for the British Home Office declined to comment on Butt’s case as the legal proceedings were ongoing.

Full article here.


World News

Legal experts say Turkey went ‘too far’ in coup response

Turkey went “too far” with emergency measures adopted following a failed July 15 coup attempt, a panel of constitutional law experts said in an opinion adopted Friday.

The Council of Europe, also known as the Venice Commission, said Turkish authorities had good reasons to declare a state of emergency in response to a “dangerous armed conspiracy,” but concluded that Ankara’s measures contravened the country’s constitution and international law.

The opinion took particular issue with the collective dismissal of “tens of thousands of public servants” on the basis of lists appended to emergency decrees rather than “verifiable evidence” in each individual case.

The panel observed that people were fired or arrested based on “connections” to a terror group that were “too loosely defined and did not require a meaningful connection with such organizations.”

The expert opinion, which will be made public in full on Monday, also expressed concern from the increase of pre-trial detention without judicial review from four to 30 days.

Full article here.

South Korea’s parliament votes to impeach president over corruption scandal

South Korea’s National Assembly voted by a huge margin Friday to impeach President Park Geun-hye over her role in a corruption and influence-peddling scandal, forcing her to immediately hand over the running of the country to a caretaker prime minister.

But despite the clear condemnation from both politicians and the general public, Park signaled that she would remain defiant even while being stripped of power and would wait with a “calm and clear mind” while the conservative-leaning Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold the legislature’s impeachment motion.

That means that South Korea could be in for a long period of paralysis. The court now has six months to rule, creating a power vacuum in South Korea at the same time the United States is going through its own presidential transition.

The scandal centers on allegations that the famously aloof Park — the country’s first female president and daughter of military strongman Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s — took advice from a secret confidante on a wide variety of topics, including North Korean policy and her wardrobe.

Prosecutors said that the confidante, Choi Soon-sil, a lifelong friend and daughter of a shadowy cult leader, used that relationship to enrich herself by at least $70 million and gain advantages for her family. Choi has been indicted on charges, including abuse of power and extortion, and is in detention.

Full article here.

Uzbekistan is about to get its first new president in more than a quarter-century

Uzbeks went to the polls Sunday in the first election since the death of longtime autocratic leader Islam Karimov. In a sign of continuity with his quarter-century of authoritarian rule, the vote seemed to have only one possible outcome.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev, a veteran politician who has served as the nation’s prime minister since 2003, was poised to win Sunday evening, with the elections commission in the Central Asian nation of 31 million reporting more than 70 percent turnout by 5 p.m.

Mirziyoyev will become just the second president of Uzbekistan since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Karimov, who died of a stroke in September, ruled the country virtually unopposed, and often brutally, for 27 years.

Mirziyoyev has made some tentative steps to show that his rule may not be as severe as under Karimov, who jailed his political opponents and in particular cracked down on Muslim groups under the pretense of battling Islamism. In one case, he was accused of ordering several prisoners to be boiled alive.

Mirziyoyev has indicated that he may relax tensions with Uzbekistan’s neighbors and will consider economic reforms for the country’s overregulated economy.

Full article here.

Weekly News Round-up 25/11/16

UK News

Legal aid cuts have created a ‘two-tier justice system’ benefiting the wealthy, damning report finds

The Bach Commission on access to justice states that poor people are being left without advice or professional support due to cuts which strictly limit the type of cases for which which legal aid can be applied.

Changes to eligibility rules mean most cases involving housing, welfare, debt, immigration, medical negligence and family law no longer qualify for assistance.

Labour’s shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said: “Since 2010, the Conservatives have implemented unprecedented cuts to legal aid – putting justice beyond the reach of thousands. There is much of substance in the report, which will be welcome to all those who value the principle of access to justice.

“I am particularly excited by the idea of enshrining in law a minimum standard for access to justice. A basic threshold for access to justice has the potential to be a historic advance in our law which could improve the lives of thousands.”

Full article here.

Sikhs in UK are ‘invisible to government’ despite hate crime increase

According to the UK Sikh Survey 2016, almost one in five Sikhs has encountered discrimination in a public place over the past year and one in seven has directly experienced workplace discrimination.

The report found that Sikhs who wear religious iconography or clothing are most likely to experience abuse, with men more vulnerable than women. The most common places where discrimination is experienced are airports and public transport.

The report says the government and public bodies have “systematically failed the minority Sikh community by not adequately responding to the disproportionate impact of racism and hate crime targeting Sikhs since 9/11”.

Hate crimes against Sikhs are wrongly recorded as Islamophobic incidents by police suggesting religious illiteracy and throwing doubt on the accuracy of recorded data, it adds.

Full article here.

Top judge urges tougher community service as alternative to prison

Fewer criminals should be jailed and tougher community punishments developed as an alternative to imprisonment, the lord chief justice has urged.

“There’s an awful lot we can do to avoid sending certain people to prison provided that the orders are properly carried out by the probation and rehabilitation companies,” he said.

“The prison population is very, very high at the moment. Whether it will continue to rise is always difficult to tell. There are worries that it will. I don’t know whether we can dispense with more [offenders] by really tough, and I do mean tough, community penalties. So I would like to see that done first.”

His comments come as jails in England and Wales endure a turbulent period. This month thousands of prison officers staged a walkout amid claims the system was “in meltdown” after a rise in violence and self-harm incidents in jails. There are more than 85,000 people in prison in England and Wales.

Appearing before MPs on the justice select committee on Monday, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd also warned there was a shortage of high court judges partially because of cuts in their pension rights and that up to 40 would need to be recruited by over the next few years.

Full article here.

Huge rise in hospital beds in England taken up by people with malnutrition

The number of hospital beds in England taken up by patients being treated for malnutrition has almost trebled over the last 10 years, in what charities say shows the “genuinely shocking” extent of hunger and poor diet.

Official figures reveal that people with malnutrition accounted for 184,528 hospital bed days last year, a huge rise on 65,048 in 2006-07. The sharp increase is adding to the pressures on hospitals, which are already struggling with record levels of overcrowding.

Critics have said the upward trend is a result of rising poverty, deep cutbacks in recent years to meals on wheels services for the elderly and inadequate social care support, especially for older people.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said, “these figures paint a grim picture of Britain under the Conservatives. Real poverty is causing vulnerable people, particularly the elderly, to go hungry and undernourished so much so that they end up in hospital.”

“Our research reveals a shocking picture of levels of malnutrition in 21st-century England and the impact it has on our NHS. This is unacceptable in modern Britain.”

Full article here.


World News

Turkey’s Erdogan warns Europe that political snubs could set off new migrant crisis

In March, a two-part agreement was reached to cut the flow of migrants: Turkey would stem the flow of migrants traveling by sea to Greece in exchange for incentives including fast-tracked membership talks, billions of euros in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.

The European Parliament’s resolution — made in response to Turkey’s sweeps — is nonbinding and does not force E.U. leaders to change their policies toward Turkey. But it prompted an angry response from Erdogan, who claimed that European leaders “betrayed” their promises.

In Turkey, pro-government forces have arrested or dismissed tens of thousands of people — from high-ranking military figures to teachers and civil servants — after a failed coup in July. The crackdowns have prompted a sharp outcry from international rights groups and others. But Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has claimed the West has failed to stand by its NATO ally in a time of need, and he has resisted appeals to ease the purges.

Turkey’s president warned Europe on Friday that his nation could unleash another migrant crisis in the West, sharply raising the stakes after E.U. lawmakers called for a suspension in membership talks with Turkey.

“If you go any further, those border gates will be opened,” Erdogan said in a televised address, making specific reference to Turkey’s border crossing with E.U. member Bulgaria.

Full article here.

Japan and South Korea sign long-awaited intelligence-sharing deal

Japan and South Korea signed a long-awaited intelligence pact Wednesday, agreeing to share information on threats from North Korea without having to use the United States as an intermediary.

Washington had been urging its two closest allies in Asia to put aside their historical differences so they could cooperate against their common enemy in the region amid stepped-up missile and nuclear tests by the North.

The pact, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, was initially to be signed in 2012 but was postponed because of opposition in South Korea, where memories of Japan’s colonial aggression remain strong.

The deal remains controversial in Seoul, where opposition parties are strongly against it and want the defense minister dismissed for signing it.

It is also unpopular in Beijing, where China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the deal Wednesday, saying that South Korea and Japan were “locked in a Cold War mind-set.”

Full article here.

Weekly News Round-up 18/11/16

UK News

Investigatory Powers Bill: ‘Snoopers Charter 2’ to pass into law, giving Government sweeping spying powers

The main objections to the bill centre around the vast new powers that the government is given to spy on its citizens. It includes powers to force companies to make their phones less secure so that they can be listened in on by spies, and others that would allow the government to ask companies like Apple and Google to help them break or hack into phones.

Perhaps the most controversial measure will require internet service providers to keep detailed information on their customers’ web browsing for the last year. There will be no way of opting out of that and the data will be collected on everyone, leading to fears that it could be stolen and leaked, especially given the huge scale of the Talk Talk hack earlier this year.

Despite criticism from almost every major technology and internet company – including usually reticent ones like Apple – and from senior parliamentary committees the legislation has received little opposition in parliament. The House of Lords’ agreement to the text now means that it just awaits Royal Assent [a formality], at which point it will become law.

Full article here.

Challenges to Heathrow runway and HS2 to be hit by law lifting cap on legal costs

Environmental legal challenges face being hit by the “chilling effect” of new government rules that remove a cap on claimants’ costs, according to campaigners, lawyers and politicians. They warn that the changes could deter organisations and individuals challenging projects such as fracking wells, HS2 and the Heathrow third runway for fear of racking up huge court costs.

Individuals and organisations who bring such cases currently pay no more than £5,000 and £10,000 respectively of defendants’ costs, in addition to their own costs. Under the Ministry of Justice’s plans published on Thursday, there will be no fixed cost, and the costs could go up or down, depending on the claimant’s finances.

The government argues that the changes would still allow valid challenges and checks on public authorities, but deter ones without merit. But groups involved in supporting and bringing such judicial reviews warned the move would put off valid future cases.

Full article here.

British Medical Journal calls for legalisation of drugs

The British Medical Journal has called for the legalisation of illicit drugs for the first time.

Prohibition laws have failed to curb either supply or demand, reduce addiction, cut violence or reduce profits for organised crime, the journal argued, saying the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ had been a failure.

It said the ban on the production, supply, possession and use of some drugs for non-medical purposes was causing huge harm.

“There is an imperative to investigate more effective alternatives to criminalisation of drug use and supply,” the BMJ said in an editorial.

The editors called for doctors to be at the centre of the debate on alternative policies to promote health and respect people’s dignity.

Full article here.

Scots and Welsh can have say in Brexit court case

The Scottish and Welsh governments are to be allowed to intervene in the Supreme Court battle over how Brexit should be triggered.

The government’s appeal against the High Court ruling that MPs must vote on triggering Brexit will be heard in the Supreme Court from 5 December. It will last four days, with the decision expected in the new year.

Counsel for the Scottish Government is being invited by the Supreme Court justices to address the court on the relevance of points of Scots law, so far as they do not form part of the law of England and Wales.

Full article here.

World News

Russia snubs International Criminal Court amid scrutiny of Crimea annexation

Russia appeared on course Wednesday to become the latest nation to snub the International Criminal Court, following the approval of a report by a U.N. human rights committee that condemned Russia’s “temporary occupation of Crimea” and accused Moscow of rights abuses and discrimination in the peninsula, formerly controlled by Ukraine.

The decree to formally withdraw from the ICC, signed by President Vladimir Putin, also could be a preemptive move to buffer Russia against future claims of war crimes related to its military intervention in Syria.

The move marked the latest defection from the international court, which prosecutes cases involving genocide and crimes against humanity, and raised further questions about the tribunal’s role as a forum of global conscience.

In recent months, South Africa and two other African nations, Burundi and Gambia, have announced plans to leave the court, which is based in The Hague, amid widening complaints in Africa that the court has disproportionately focused on the continent and its leaders. The United States is among a handful of nations that remain outside the court, with U.S. leaders fearing membership could open the door to prosecutions against American military personnel and others.

Full article here.

China tells Trump climate change is not a Chinese hoax

President-elect Donald Trump’s four-year-old Twitter claim that China created the “concept of global warming” to render U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive has elicited a response from the Chinese government.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin repudiated Trump’s accusation on Wednesday, telling reporters at United Nations talks in Marrakesh, Morocco, that U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush started the global warming conversation by supporting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change during the late 1980s, according to Bloomberg News.

Trump has also said he will get rid of the EPA and pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which scientists say would have major global ramifications. The D.C.-based think tank Climate Interactive told The Post’s Chris Mooney that the U.S. emissions reduction pledge would account for more than 20 percent of the combined emissions cut among all countries in the accord.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who helped negotiate the Paris accord, said at the Marrakesh U.N. talks that the outgoing Obama administration plans to fight Trump’s intent to withdraw.

“No one has a right to make decisions for billions of people based solely on ideology,” Kerry said, via Bloomberg News. “Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It isn’t a partisan issue for our military. It isn’t a partisan issue for our intelligence community.”

Full article here.

EU unveils new security check system for travellers

The European Union on Wednesday unveiled plans for a new system of security checks on travelers permitted to enter Europe without visas in an effort to crack down on extremists.

People from 60 visa waiver countries, including the U.S., will have to pay 5 euros ($5.36) and fill out an online form to obtain clearance to travel within Europe’s 26-nation ID check-free area.

The EU’s security commissioner, Julian King, said that “by spotting problem individuals and stopping them from coming, we’ll enhance Europe’s internal security.”

The automated system would cross-check travelers against visa, criminal and stolen document databases. The European Commission says filling out the form should take less than 10 minutes. It will be valid for five years and multiple trips. Most people should get immediate approval, although some requests could take 72 hours to come through.

Full article here.

UN official calls on Turkey to release journalists in jail

A United Nations official has called on Turkey to release all jailed journalists, saying their detentions were not commensurate with the government’s needs to protect public safety.

Speaking to reporters Friday at the end of a weeklong visit to Turkey, David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said he understood the Turkish government’s need to take measures to counter terror threats and protect its citizens.

Kaye added, however: “That does not mean that the government has a blank check to do whatever it wants to restrict freedom of expression.”

Turkey has arrested close to 37,000 people since a failed coup attempt in July and dismissed or suspended more than 100,000 others. Kaye said some 155 journalists are in detention.

Article taken from The Washington Post.

Outrage Over Turkish Proposal Protecting Child Marriage

A Turkish government proposal which would pardon some people imprisoned for statutory rape in the past decade has fallen short of passage by legislators.

The proposal would defer sentencing or punishment for sexual assault in cases where there was no force and where the victim and perpetrator were married. Following the defeat late Thursday, the government is bringing the proposal back for consideration next week.

Full article here.

Group says migrant death toll from sea crossings hits record

Four Mediterranean Sea shipwrecks in the past 2 ½ days have caused about 340 migrants to die or go missing, making 2016 the deadliest year on record for asylum seekers risking the dangerous voyage to Europe, a migration organization said Thursday.

The shipwreck causalities brings to over 4,500 the number of migrants who have died or disappeared crossing the Mediterranean so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration figures. The total compares with the 3,770 people reported dead or missing last year, the previous record.

Full article here.

Unrepresented News

Register now for the next event in the ‘Privacy is a Human Right’ series – a screening of the Edward Snowden documentary, Citizenfour.

The documentary is an eye-opening, Oscar-winning exposé of the dangers of government surveillance. You will never again think the same way about your phone, email, credit card, web browser or profile.

Tickets are free:

Weekly News Round-up 11/11/16

UK News

Court rules segregation in faith schools does not offend Equality Act

The issue before the court was whether a mixed school unlawfully discriminated against its male and/or female pupils by making “parallel arrangements” for their education in the same building or by applying a regime of “complete segregation” for all lessons, breaks, school clubs and trips.

There was no evidence that either girls or boys were treated unequally in terms of the quality of the education they received (in the sense of one sex receiving a lower quality of education than the other).

Full article here.

Lib Dem plot to force Government to hold a second referendum on Brexit terms

More than 80 MPs are plotting to stage a Parliamentary vote calling for a second Brexit referendum.

In a move that prompted anger from Conservative ministers a coalition of MPs led by Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said that they now intend to force a vote calling for another referendum of the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU.

Full article here.

Thousands of mothers ‘missing out’ on pension rights

Tens of thousands of parents – and mothers in particular – are in danger of missing out on some of their state pension rights, according to a study.

The reason is that they have decided to stop claiming child benefit. Stay-at-home mothers who claim the payments are given national insurance (NI) credits towards their pension, as if they were still at work.

But since January 2013, any parent earning more than £60,000 has had to pay child benefit back to the government, through the tax system. As a result, some people are no longer bothering to claim it in the first place.

Full article here.

Bedroom Tax Breaches Human Rights Laws Says Supreme Court

A number of disabled people appealed to the Supreme Court over the application of the bedroom tax to their cases.

Mrs Carmichael can’t share a bedroom with her partner because of her disabilities. Under the scheme, her family isn’t entitled to an extra room although a child in the same situation would be.

The Supreme Court said that the difference in treatment between children and adults was a breach of the human rights not to be discriminated against (article 14) and the protection of family and private life (article 8). The policy was “manifestly without reasonable foundation”.

Full article here.

Amazon drivers ‘work illegal hours’

Amazon delivery drivers regularly work “illegal” hours and receive less than the minimum wage, it has been claimed.

Drivers for agencies contracted by the internet giant told an undercover reporter they were expected to deliver up to 200 parcels a day. Some admitted breaking speed limits to stay on schedule, while others said time was not allowed for toilet breaks.

Amazon said it was committed to ensuring drivers drive safely and legally, and are “fairly compensated”.

The retailer could face questions in parliament over the working conditions at the company.

Full article here.

Deliveroo Couriers Look For Employment Rights Following Uber Victory

A group of Deliveroo couriers are set to take legal action if the high profile food delivery company reject their request for union recognition and employment rights.

The latest move comes after private hire firm Uber lost a legal battle in which two drivers successfully argued that they were employees rather than self-employed operators. The Tribunal ruled that Uber drivers were entitled to holiday pay, rest breaks and the National Living Wage.

Full article here.

Gender pay gap means women ‘working for free from now until 2017’

Women will in effect work for free for the rest of the year because of the gender pay gap, which will take 60 years to close at the current rate of progress, campaigners say.

The Fawcett Society called for more action from the government and employers to tackle pay discrimination, job “segregation” and help women into senior posts.

Full article here.


World News

President-Elect Trump

An Unrepresented special on President-Elect Trump will be published soon.

German coalition agrees to cut carbon emissions up to 95% by 2050

Germany’s coalition government has reached an agreement on a climate change action plan which involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95% by 2050, a spokesperson said on Friday.

The plan, which will require German industry to reduce its CO2 emission by a fifth by 2030, and Germany’s energy sector to reduce emissions by almost a half, will be reviewed in 2018 with a view to its impact on jobs and society.

Full article here.

Brazil politicians linked to Petrobras scandal draft bills for ‘self-preservation’

Politicians suspected of profiting from Brazil’s biggest-ever corruption scandal are drafting legislation aimed at letting themselves off the hook, according to the the country’s chief prosecutor.

Brazil’s probe into graft at the state-run oil company Petrobras, which began more than two years ago, has led to charges against nearly 250 people and has already seen the arrest, trial and conviction of some of the country’s most powerful businessmen and political operators.

But bills have been introduced in congress in recent weeks directly aimed at protecting politicians and implicated businessmen from prosecution, while also curtailing the powers of law enforcement agencies to investigate lawmakers.

Full article here.

Rupee note cancellation plunges India into panic

Queues of angry, panicked Indians wound around bank buildings in Mumbai, the financial capital, on Thursday morning, two days after the prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced that 500- and 1,000-rupee notes, worth around £6 and £12, would be taken out of circulation.

Shops, train stations, and taxis stopped accepting 500- and 1,000-rupee notes on Wednesday, interrupting normal trade. Even hospitals, which are exempt from the immediate demonetisation, have reportedly turned down payments in high-value banknotes.

Some complained that Modi’s surprise announcement had completely disrupted normal life. “Nobody is willing to give you change,” said Solanki. “They should have planned this properly instead of springing it upon us.”

Full article here.



Brexit judgment – what does it mean?

On Thursday, the UK High Court decided that the Government did not have the power to trigger Brexit negotiations and needed approval from Parliament before doing so.

Why was this in court?

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union allows a member state to notify the EU of its withdrawal and obliges the EU to try to negotiate a ‘withdrawal agreement’ with that state.

The Government argued that they could use their ‘prerogative powers’ to trigger Article 50.

These are a very old source of law which grants specific powers to the government (technically, the Queen). One example of prerogative powers is the making and unmaking of international treaties.

That is permissible because generally exercising those powers has no effect on domestic law, so there is no collision with parliamentary legislation, and parliamentary sovereignty is not affected.

However, the government cannot use prerogative powers to override legislation. Only legislation can override legislation.

By enacting the 1972 European Communities Act, which took the UK into what was then the European Economic Community, now the EU, Parliament made EU law part of our law.

More here.

What did the court rule?

The court decided that the Government can’t exercise Article 50 (therefore triggering an almost inevitable exit from the EU) without getting Parliament’s approval first.

This is because membership of the European Union has given many rights to British citizens, such as free movement across Europe and rights under the European Union Charter.

Therefore, only Parliament could take away the rights that Parliament has granted to British citizens through decades of EU laws.

More here and full judgment here.

What does this mean for Brexit?

The judgment does not block Brexit, it simply means that Parliament (MPs we voted for) and not the Government (Theresa May and her cabinet) have the final say on when and on what terms Brexit will happen.

It is likely that MPs will still vote to invoke Article 50. Although the referendum was only advisory and the MPs are not legally bound to act by it, it would be politically difficult to ignore ‘the will of the people’.

The proposed time frame to triggering Article 50 will now almost certainly be later as Parliament will have to debate the issue.

Owen Smith suggested Labour should amend any possible Article 50 bill to include a second EU referendum. However, Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed that Labour is still committed to Brexit. Along with other parties, he stressed the need for Brexit to work for ‘everyone’ and so the chances of a ‘hard Brexit’ have now decreased significantly.

Government reaction to the court ruling

The Government will be appealing the judgment. Given the significance of the matter and the time frame May has set to trigger Article 50 (March 2017), the appeal will go straight to the UK Supreme Court (the highest court in the UK).

Reactions from other political parties

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader:

Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. But there must be transparency and accountability to parliament on the terms of Brexit.

Labour will be pressing the case for a Brexit that works for Britain, putting jobs, living standards and the economy first.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party’s co-leader:

We welcome this ruling which shows that ministers do not have the power to trigger article 50 without consulting parliament.

Parliament must have the opportunity to debate and vote on triggering Article 50, rather than a group of ministers at the top table having total control over this country’s future place in the world.

The Green party will continue to fight to protect free movement, workers’ rights and the vital environmental protections we currently have as part of the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister:

That the UK government is now in the position where the court has ruled against it and is insisting that parliament must vote before article 50 can be triggered underlines the chaos and confusion at the heart of the Tories’ handling of Brexit.

Let’s be clear – the prime minister has not tried to avoid parliament because of constitutional principles but because any vote in parliament would expose the complete lack of a plan for what Brexit means.

In whatever eventually comes forward from the UK government to parliament, SNP MPs will not vote in any way that would undermine Scotland’s interests.

Carwyn Jones, first minister of Wales:

The high court ruling is extremely clear – the UK government cannot trigger article 50 using the Crown prerogative. Indeed, this is consistent with many of the arguments made by the leave campaign themselves about parliamentary sovereignty.

The position of the Welsh government has been consistent throughout – we accept the decision made by the people and will not work against the referendum result – we are working hard to get the best possible exit terms for Wales. However, it is important that votes take place in all four nations to endorse the UK negotiating position. 

For more reactions, see The Guardian.

Weekly News Round-up 28/10/16

UK News

Date set for court challenge to ban British arms sales to Saudi Arabia

A date has been set for a High Court court challenge that could halt British arms sales to Saudi Arabia – amid mounting accusations the country is committing war crimes

Saudi Arabia is conducting a military operation in Yemen and has been accused by UN bodies, human rights groups, and other NGOs of committing war crimes. Reports on the ground say it has bombed civilian targets including funerals, international hospitals, schools, and food factories.

The Government’s own arms export conditions say that licences should not be issued if there is a possibility they could be used to commit war crimes.

Ministers have however refused to consider suspending arms exports to the country – and sensationally claimed that Saudi Arabia is best-placed to investigate its own alleged atrocities. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly cleared itself of any significant wrongdoing when it has investigated its own military.

Full Independent article here.

Northern Ireland High Court rejects Brexit challenge

A challenge to the Prime Minister’s power to trigger Brexit negotiations has been dismissed at Belfast High Court.

A cross-party group of politicians had claimed the country should have a veto on an exit and said the Stormont Assembly should have a say on whether to trigger negotiations with Europe. The Brexit challengers said it would be unlawful to trigger Article 50 without Northern Irish consent and that leaving the EU would undermine the Good Friday agreement, the peace process and other fundamental rights.

But the High Court ruled against the challenge saying that it was not viable that NI could veto Brexit for the rest of the UK.

Full ITV article here.

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