Why We Need a Fully-Elected Second Chamber

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I am not a fan of the House of Lords in its current form. My main objection is because it is an unelected body that has real power.

Up until fairly recently, I didn’t pay much attention to it, but over the past few months I have been doing so. This was started when I had a conversation with a member of the House of Lords, and I was appalled at his level of ignorance. As the House of Lords has debated equal marriage my opposition to the House has grown, entirely due to the nastiness of some of its members.

I’m sure that the House of Commons has just as many unpleasant members, but there is a fundamental difference between the two houses: if I really don’t like someone in the Commons, I can work against him or her getting re-elected. In extreme circumstances I could even stand against them. If they get re-elected, then that is democracy in action. The electorate has chosen someone I really don’t like. This happens all the time, and it is a good thing, and a fundamental part of democracy.

But if I don’t like someone in the House of Lords, what can I do? I can sit around doing nothing while they use their prejudices to create law, or I can protest. They might listen. They might not. They don’t have to. I can’t support a campaign that would lead to someone else getting their seat, and I can’t decide to stand for the Lords myself.

An elected upper house could end up with just as many, if not more unpleasant members than the unelected version. The important thing is we, the people who make up the United Kingdom, could act to remove them if that is what we chose, or we could act to add more unpleasant members to, if that is what we chose.

I am a Liberal Democrat. In the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto, the party said it would “replace the House of Lords with a fully elected second chamber” (p 88). I fully agree with this stance.

See also

 

Nick Clegg’s letter from the Leader: ‘Keep winning’

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The latest in Nick’s Letter from the Leader pinged into our emails yesterday just as his speech finished in Brighton. [Well done LibDem HQ!]libdem-ltr-from-nick-clegg

I’ve just had a wonderful three days with Liberal Democrat members at Conference in Brighton.

Until today, I have spent nearly three years asking you to hold firm. Three years urging you to remain steady under fire. And you have.

But in my speech today, I gave you a different message: Win.

Get back out there. Tell our side of the story. And we will win again – on the doorstep, in town halls, in Government. Keep fighting for what we believe in. Keep winning. Building a stronger economy, a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg

Do you know someone who would like to get Nick’s weekly email? Forward this message and they can sign up here:
http://www.libdememails.co.uk/nick

Of course, here in Northern Ireland, we Liberal Democrats don’t stand [currently] despite Nick’s telling us that we (LibDems) would be standing everywhere in the UK at the next general election at conference a couple of years ago. But we get his message from yesterday about what is being achieved by the Parliamentary Party in Westminster. [Not of all it is really liberal of course, but that’s another story.]

 

Violence and fire-lighting is not the way forward #standingwithstewart

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Coat of Arms of Belfast City Council

Coat of Arms of Belfast City Council (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My thoughts and prayers are with all Alliance Party representative and their staff at this difficult time following the decision by Belfast City Council to fly the Union Flag on designated days.

Reports are coming in this evening that a constituency office for Stewart Dickson MLA, the Alliance representative for East Antrim has been set on fire. According to the BBC the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service are at the scene.

As with the protest yesterday that forced Naomi Long MP‘s office to close early, all that these actions will do will be to stop local people from getting the assistance that they so often need with benefit queries, housing, social care needs, passport applications, and other local issues that they so often need help with. The thugs and criminals that have done this must be caught by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and brought to justice.

If any public representative has urged people to come out on to the street and protest, I suggest that he thinks again about the wisdom of this. The matter of the Union Flag has been dealt with by the body responsible in one local government district – Belfast City Council. It is outrageous for so many so-called Loyalists to be protesting in areas of Northern Ireland which are specifically affected by the decision.

I call on anyone with any information to pass it to the PSNI as soon as possible, that the real scum who have done this are brought before the courts.

 

New Standards of Care for People Living with HIV must apply in Northern Ireland as much as England – Michael Carchrie Campbell, HIV Blogger

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With the news that the British HIV Association has published its new Standards of Care for People Living with HIV 2013, which set out to secure high quality care for people with HIV in the UK, at a time when patient numbers are rising and the NHS changes the way HIV treatment and prevention services will be commissioned and provided.

I am hoping that this will assist all interested in our care here in Northern Ireland to work for improvement of the service. I notice that The Rainbow Project – I hope that it is TRP in Northern Ireland – replied to the consultation that went towards the final document, I trust that Positive Life will work in the future with BHIVA to ensure that the thoughts of its clients and support workers are shown to the rest of the UK.

I have not seen any actual reference to Northern Ireland in the document, there is plenty about England, and some references to Scotland – but the document says the

set of quality standards [are] for the care of people with HIV in the UK.

All too often organisations in England say ‘national’ and mean England and refer to the UK and also mean England – or at best Great Britain. Even if the Standards of Care are not specifically tied into local commissioning and local health plans I am sure that they can be acknowledged and worked towards nonetheless.

I hope that the local Department of Health, the Health Committee up at the Northern Ireland Assembly and especially the Minister of Health, Edwin Poots MLA will take time to read the document. It is available from BHIVA or by clicking on the document’s cover page to the right.

People diagnosed late have a tenfold increased risk of death in the first year after they are diagnosed when compared to those diagnosed with earlier stages of infection according to the Health Protection Agency. Late diagnosis also increases the risk of HIV related ill-health, of HIV being acquired by others, and significantly increases the costs of treatment.

Professor Jane Anderson, Chair of BHIVA said:

2011 saw the highest ever rate of new HIV diagnoses among Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), a worrying trend that has seen a steady increase since 2007. But HIV is not limited to MSM. New diagnoses of HIV in heterosexuals where the infection was probably acquired in the UK is around 50%, almost double 2002 levels.

The high rate of HIV infection amongst heterosexuals, as well as the persistent trend of late diagnosis is particularly worrying.  Many people are simply not being signposted to take an HIV test.  With a general lack of routine HIV testing being commissioned for general medical admissions and in the general practice setting this is not altogether surprising.  We need a greater emphasis on HIV testing and on all aspects of prevention.

With successful treatment, a person with HIV in the UK can expect a near-normal lifespan. But for that to happen, early diagnosis is vital. Too many people only get tested when their HIV infection is already at an advanced stage, compromising both their own health and that of their partners. 

People with HIV are at risk of ‘falling through the gap’ as the bodies responsible for HIV commissioning and prevention in the new NHS systems find their feet.

BHIVA has published these standards in part to ensure that service providers and commissioners are informed about the treatment people with HIV should expect to access.

With this in mind, we have set out a clear description of what constitutes good care for people with HIV, matching the Standards of Care to the NHS outcomes framework. 

The new Standards also reflect the growing number of people with HIV who have significant social care needs which can impact upon patients’ clinical care and compromise their well-being.

People with HIV should to be at the heart of treatment and care, and be fully involved in decisions about their care both at an individual level and at structural and policy levels.

 Article originally posted on HIV Blogger: living positively

Northern Ireland LibDems AGM

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Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats

The AGM of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats will be held on 30 January at 7.30p.m., in the Premier Inn, Waring Street, Belfast. All party members are invited to attend. Among the items of business are the election of a chair, treasurer, membership development officer, and voting delegates to Federal Conference.

We look forward to meeting up with members there.

Vote Andrew Reeves № 1

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Andrew and Roger Reeves cutting their wedding cake.

Stephen Glenn posted earlier in the week about the Total Politics Blog Awards. Having been somewhat busy this week and also under the weather I only got told about his post when he and I were talking this morning about a project of ours. So, I quote:

Yeah it is that time of year where I have to decide whether I should be upfront and blatant of like Uriah Heep and ever so humble. This year for the Total Politics Blog Awards I have have no such qualms.

GIVE YOUR NUMBER ONE TO

Yeah I’ve lost a great friend and the world has lost a great blogger. Many of my readers will probably also have been readers of Andrew’s blog either because you follow me since I’m a fellow Lib Dem, spent time in Scotland or are a fellow politico. If you did you should also have been aware of Andrew Reeves’ blog. If not Caron has a good summation of what he covered over the last year until his untimely death in early June. As she says “Andrew wrote punchy, pugnacious posts which made their point with all the subtlety of a pneumatic drill.” The most fitting tribute I could have for him is to finish behind him for the first time in the Total Politics Blog Rankings.

So follow the link the survey you have to fill in at least 5 blogs for your vote to count but you can vote for 10. Just remember.

And just like Stephen, I say

Of course as you have to vote for at least 4 more a preference for me would be appreciated.

Related articles

Northern Ireland asks FCC

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Greater Manchester Police

Are GMP to be trusted with all our details? Image via Wikipedia

In response to the security arrangements announced recently by the Federal Conference Committee of the Liberal Democrats, and following consultation with the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats Executive, I drafted an email which has been sent to FCC on this issue. It is reproduced below for information.

Dear Andrew,

I write on behalf of the Executive of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats and those who are voting representatives to Federal Conference.

The security arrangements which have been put upon the Federal Party members by the Federal Conference Committee apparently at the behest of the local constabulary are completely illiberal and against our Party’s constitution. No outside body has the right to prevent our members from attending our meetings.

The Northern Ireland local party has its own particular concerns about these arrangements as there are a number of problems that we have identified, which I believe will not be exhaustive:

  • Details of dual passports (British and Irish) the details of which for the first time ever will be linked. This has particular problems in that many people will have their name in the British one in English and in the Irish one as Gaeilge (in the Irish language), a fact that will be recorded by Greater Manchester Police and held by West Midlands Police and forwarded to ‘any other police forces’. Does this include the FBI?
  • Further to this, whilst we understand that FCC will have final say for conference, should a Northern Ireland member with dual passports be flagged up by an English, Scottish or Welsh constabulary this may go on their permanent record and permanently affect their  travel between constituent parts of the United Kingdom (to and from Great Britain from Northern Ireland). Our Membership Development Officer, Stephen Glenn, before he was 21 had visited five Iron Curtain countries on a British passport and on his first trip to the United States of America spent four hours in immigration explaining the reasons for these visits. Following this he acquired an Irish passport, to which as an Irish citizen he was entitled, to expedite easy immigration to the United States of America on subsequent visits.
  • Does this therefore mean that Northern Ireland representatives may be adversely affected by a security threat to Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom by a dissident republican terrorist grouping?
  • A senior police officer of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has advised one of our local party executive committee that to ask for the details of both Irish and British passports of those who hold both is both racist and discriminatory under the terms of the Belfast Agreement 1998 (an international treaty), to which Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom is a signatory.
  • Should we recruit new members who may, in the past have convictions or even security records held by police, who are now back in the community following the Belfast Agreement 1998, require accreditation at future conferences, these people will more than likely be flagged as a risk by the police. This would therefore mean that their rights as members of our Party would be denied. This is unacceptable.
  • Another problem is that were a constable to try to check our local party representatives’ local party details using the Federal Party website, he would be hard-pressed to find references to our local party on it. As I have outlined previously to Chris Fox, the link at the bottom of the Federal Party website marked ‘N. Ireland’ goes to the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland’s website. In addition were anyone to check our local party by using our postcode, it will bring up that it is not there. Also by clicking on Northern Ireland on the map on the ‘In your area’ page, nothing is brought up. As I have said to Chris Fox this is not acceptable when we do have a local party operating in Northern Ireland.

I believe that all of these issues are extremely important not only to our Party itself but to the wider representation of society within politics in general. Is our Party, which is founded to ‘build and safeguard a fair, free and open society’ (Preamble to the Federal Constitution (which I believe is still in force or is that another change that will be forced upon us?)), going to be dictated to by an unelected, unrepresentative police force? I was not aware that the United Kingdom had become a police state.

I look forward to receiving your prompt reply on these crucially important issues.

Yours sincerely,

Michael

Michael Carchrie Campbell
Chair
Liberal Democrats NI

David Cairns MP RIP – a man who spoke up for LGBT Ugandans

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David Cairns MP

David Cairns MP

The Labour MP for Inverclyde David Cairns sadly died today at the young age of 44. He had been admitted to hospital in March with acute pancreatitis.

He had a varied life starting out as a Catholic Priest in London and Scotland having trained at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and then the Franciscan International Centre in Canterbury. However, he soon realised that politics were his life and he gave up the life of the parish priest to become a director of the Christian Socialist Movement.CSM

From 1994 he served in that role but because of his previous calling at that time could not enter Parliament as an MP. Ordained Catholic priests were forbidden from being elected to the commons under the House of Commons (Clergy Disqualification) Act 1801 and the Catholic Relief Act 1829.

However, his Labour colleague and fellow Roman Catholic Siobhain McDonagh, for whom he was working as a research assistant introduced the House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Bill which would allow all Clergy except those from the Church of England (due to their Lord’s Spiritual) from being eligible for election. Cairns had already been selected to replace the retiring Norman Godman for his hometown seat of Greenock and Inverclyde. He was duly elected in 2001.

LGBT LabourAs one of the growing number of LGB MPs David was also was also a patron of LGBT Labour and Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS. As the coordinator of LGBT Liberal Democrats Northern Ireland I wish to express my personal and those of the group’s condolences to his partner Dermot, father John and brother Billy, as well as the wider family circle, friends and colleagues at this sudden loss of a man so young.

With the bill to kill gay men in Uganda again top of the LGBT agenda it is perhaps worth remembering these words from David in the Commons’ Chamber last year:

“If I may borrow a phrase from Harold Macmillan and amend it, the wind of oppression is blowing through the African continent today, an oppression aimed largely at young gay men and women. It has become a much more pressing issue; and although it is not confined to Africa, it is in Africa that that dehumanising and brutal oppression is occurring on this very day.

“We are aware of the notorious private Member’s Bill tabled in Uganda by David Bahati that proposes
the death penalty for people who are HIV-positive and engaged in homosexual activity, life in prison for everyone else who engages in homosexual activity, and seven years in prison for people who counsel those who engage in homosexual activity. It is, as I said, a private Member’s Bill, and the Ugandan Government have distanced themselves from it. None the less, even without the Bill, it will be illegal to be gay in Uganda, and punishable by 14 years in prison. The President of Uganda has said that homosexuality is “alien”. In the last year for which figures are available, the United Kingdom Government gave £71 million in aid to Uganda.

“…

“It is not only on the ground of sexuality that countries oppress rights. As we heard from the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr Donaldson), some countries oppress people on the ground of religion, which may be rooted in differences of creed or race. If our international aid budget is rooted in our humanity, it does not come value-free, and it does not come free from a sense that the humanity of everyone must be respected.

“I have not even mentioned the utterly disastrous effect these policies in Africa are having on the rise in HIV and AIDS. If someone who thinks they might have HIV is told that to be homosexual is to be worse than a pig or a dog and is punishable by 14 years in prison, why would they come forward? What possible reason would they have to seek medical help and the method to prevent the spread of HIV? We are funding anti-HIV and AIDS programmes in countries with policies that do nothing to stop HIV and AIDS, and instead contribute to their spread.

“This is a big job for the Government. I do not pretend it is the most important thing on the plate of incoming Ministers, but it is important to millions across Africa whose fundamental human right to be gay or lesbian is being brutally oppressed by regimes. I look to the Government to give a lead by setting out what positive action we can take when our denunciations are brushed aside and doing something about this appalling miscarriage of human rights.

What more fitting to an active campaigner for HIV and LGBT rights than for people to sign the petition to urge Ugandan President Musevini to veto the “Kill the Gays Bill”.

You can sign it here http://www.allout.org/uganda

Northern Ireland deserves better

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Liberal Democrats Yes to Fairer VotesTogether with activists from Yes to Fairer Votes members of the Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland will be attending the event at Belfast City Hall at 1pm.

Last May three of Belfast’s four MPs were elected on a minority mandate, without the support of a majority of their constituents. More than 70,000 votes were wasted, cast for a candidate who never stood a chance of representing their supporters.

Local party chair, Michael Carchrie Campbell said:

Today I am proud to be attending with party colleagues the event that shows that Belfast is joining fifty towns and cities across the country to help win an historic victory for all voters in the United Kingdom. It’s an argument we can’t afford to lose.

The choice in May is between change and business as usual. In Belfast the status quo is not an option.

Further updates to come.

blogged elsewhere – freedom, fairness and responsibility: but not to NI!

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freedom, fairness and responsibility

The three words that we are told by the Liberal Democrat Federal Party website sum up the Coalition Government’s Programme. However, I don’t see how it is promoting any of those when you consider what has just happened to the devolved countries’ finances.

Read more at Gyronny Herald