Last night I did a live stream video for CEDAWinLAW explaining why I am supporting their campaign for a new Women’s Rights Bill to implement properly the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women which Margaret Thatcher ratified in 1986.
Despite this happening 36 years ago it has still not been properly implemented by the government causing widespread hardship, discrimination and lack of opportunity for millions of women. Recently the UN committee supervising the implementation of the convention has taken the current government to task for its failings though you would not know this from coverage in the mass media.
This to my mind illustrates how marginalised women – particularly elderly and middle aged women – are treated by society.
The good news is that it looks like the Scottish government under Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party leader, is planning to introduce a new bill of rights for women. She may run into a dispute with the Westminster government which does not want devolved administrations implementing UN conventions until the UK government introduced legislation. At the moment there is no sign of the UK government doing this which is why we need a strong and powerful campaign to get it done.
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Last week the Supreme Court delivered a verdict against Scotland’s government that gave Boris Johnson a victory to stop both Scotland and Wales giving new rights to children, women, disabled people and protecting ethnic minorities from discrimination.
The Tories were triumphant that Suella Braverman, QC, the Attorney General, employing the Treasury Devil. Sir James Eadie, to argue successfully that neither Scotland nor Wales could bring forward legislation to implement in full the UN convention on the Rights of the Child nor a European Charter on local self government. The Daily Mail said that it was ” a humiliation” for Nicola Sturgeon and could be used to stop any Scottish referendum. Tories in Scotland accused her of manufacturing a row with the UK by proposing to implement the charter in full.
The decision has implications for three other UN conventions – the Convention on Eliminating All forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw); a UN Convention outlawing racial discrimination and one giving full rights to disabled people effectively saying that even in areas of law already devolved to Scotland and Wales neither Parliament can legislate to implement these rights. The Scottish government was planning to introduce legislation to do this.
The immediate effect will be that Holyrood will have to remove clauses in two bills unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament to take out measures that give extra rights to children or the Queen will refuse Royal Assent to the measures.
Westminster overrides Scotland
The decision basically gives untrammelled rights to the Westminster Parliament to override the Scottish Parliament if it is thought its new law conflicts with lesser rights for children in England.
The issue was argued on constitutional grounds – not on any issues of the rights of any of these groups- who will now be denied these rights purely by the Westminster government saying it is outside the competence of Scotland to legislate in this way.
The judgement was made by five elderly and middle aged male judges and argued equally by a middle aged QC – he is 59 -the same QC who successfully argued before the Court of Appeal that the Department of Work and Pensions had no obligation to bother to tell women born in the 1950s and 1960s that they weren’t going to get their pensions until the age of 66 instead of 60. One is tempted to say ” male, pale and stale” government rules supreme in Westminster- though I may be guilty of ageism.
All male judicial decision
The five judges who unanimously took the decision are
Lord Reed, President, aged 65, a Scottish judge, Baron Reed of Allermuir Lord Hodge, Deputy President, aged 68, Patrick Stewart Hodge Lord Lloyd-Jones, aged 69, David Lloyd Jones, President of the Welsh Law Council Lord Sales, aged 59, Philip James Sales Lord Stephens, aged 66, Lord Stephens of Creevyloughgare, a Northern Ireland judge.
The full judgement ishere. The key phrase is that the changes are outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament under the 1997, Scotland Act which limited the powers of the Scottish Parliament to legislate for certain matters. The judges were careful to say that this was not about the rights of children under the UN Convention only the manner the legislation . This might provide a loophole for the Scottish government.
Nicola Sturgeon the SNP leader and first minister, said in a tweet: ” The current powers of the @ScotParl leaves us unable to full protect children’s rights, even in devolved areas. If our Parliament was independent, no such restriction would apply.
” Anyone thinking this is an abstract argument should reflect that also today, the UK government is taking £20pw from the pockets of the poorest families- making it harder for many parents to provide essential for their children”.
John Swinney, deputy first minister, said: “While we fully respect the court’s judgment and will abide by the ruling, we cannot help but be bitterly disappointed. It makes plain that we are constitutionally prohibited from enacting legislation that the Scottish Parliament unanimously decided was necessary to enshrine and fully protect the rights of our children.
“The judgment exposes the devolution settlement as even more limited than we all – indeed the Scottish Parliament itself - had understood. It sets out new constraints on the ability of our elected Scottish Parliament to legislate to protect children’s rights in the way it determines.
“There is no doubt that the implications of this judgment are significant from a children’s rights perspective. This Bill will not now become law in the form which our Parliament agreed, but we remain committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC to the maximum extent possible as soon as practicable. Whilst the judgment means that the Bill cannot receive Royal Assent in its current form, the majority of work in relation to implementation of the UNCRC can and is continuing.”
What we have here is a warning shot of a huge row which could also become a centrepiece in the debate over the Scottish independence referendum.
For at the same time Dominic Raab, the new justice secretary, wants to scrap the present UK human rights legislation which still allows appeals to the European Court of Human Rights.
It looks like – whatever the spin – is that he wants to take away human rights from women, the disabled, children and those facing racial discrimination- just at the point when Scotland and Wales want to extend them. We therefore have a perfect storm which could end with the break-up of the UK which is why I say this victory by Boris Johnson could backfire. It could end up being a Pyrrhic victory.
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This week the Supreme Court held a ground breaking hearing that could have huge implications for human rights legislation in this country.
The UK government under Boris Johnson took the Scottish government to the Supreme Court to stop them incorporating into Scottish law a United Nations Convention which the UK ratified in 1990 under Mrs Thatcher.
The United Nations The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty that grants all children and young people (aged 17 and under) a comprehensive set of rights.
It is one of four UN Conventions – the others cover race equality, the disabled – and of course CEDAW- which covers all forms of discrimination against women.
Just like CEDAW the UNCRC has not been properly implemented. It covers everything from the age of criminality of children ,detention of children, rights for asylum seekers children, and the ill treatment of children including issues like using solitary confinement.
A scathing report from Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights in 2009 expressed severe disappointment on how little the government had done and how fine words used by ministers were not put into practice. Since then there has been a big drop in the number of children being arrested and detained but a lot of other issues, including raising the age of criminal responsibility have not been implemented. The report can be read here.
Now Scotland’s decision to implement it – passed unanimously by the Holyrood Parliament – with every party backing it, has infuriated Boris Johnson who ordered his aides to block it.
This is what happened this week – and the Scots were joined by the Welsh – in fighting the government.
Scotland’s Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the move was “politically catastrophic and morally repugnant “.
Her deputy, John Swinney told MSPs during the final debate on the UN convention bill that the UK government’s request that it be amended amounted to a “orchestrated and sustained assault” on Holyrood’s powers.
Step forward Sir James Eadie ,the Treasury Devil, who also blocked 50swomen getting any restitution for lost pensions and told the courts that the government was not obliged to tell anybody the value of the state pension.
He has been engaged by Johnson to fight it and it soon emerged why.
He told the court the case concerned “whether the Scottish Parliament has the legislative competence to subject acts of the UK Parliament with the need to comply with the UNCRC and to assign or delegate to the Scottish courts powers to strike down, rewrite or declare incompatible provisions of the acts of the sovereign UK Parliament”.
The UK Government has said their concerns “are not about the substance of the legislation” but whether the Scottish Parliament has the legal ability to pass the bills. In written arguments, Eadie said: “Both bills, [ there was a local government bill as well] in slightly different ways, purport to bestow upon the Scottish courts extensive and, in part, unparalleled powers to interpret and to scrutinise the legality of primary legislation passed by the sovereign UK Parliament at Westminster.”
Don’t give a damn about implementing human rights
It means in slightly less legal language that putting these powerful UN conventions into Scottish law could lead to the Scottish courts striking down unfair and discriminatory laws passed by Westminster – in this case involving the treatment of children. This is precisely why the government fear CEDAW.
So the game is finally up – and it explains why this government is so tardy in putting these conventions into law. They want to bathe in the fine words of these conventions – but really they don’t give a damn for extending human rights to anyone – whether it is a 10 year old child, a 1950s born woman, an asylum seeker, a disabled person or someone who isn’t the same skin colour as the majority of the population.
As MSP Neil Gray warned: “Not only are they threatening the powers of Holyrood but also the rights of Scotland’s children. Scotland’s Parliament has been under sustained attack from the Tories who have been using Brexit, which people in Scotland overwhelmingly rejected, to tighten Westminster control.
“Now they are threatening to strike down legislation that was passed unanimously at Holyrood.”
The all male judges in the Supreme Court who heard the case are reserving judgement.
So Britain has had its ” independence day ” as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage would have it. And what have been the repercussions.
In 48 hours the pound has dropped to its lowest level since 1985.
Stock markets across the world from London to Wall Street have all fallen.
The Prime Minister has announced his intention to resign before the party conference triggering a Brexit leadership contest.
Jeremy Corbyn is facing a leadership challenge from his own MPs reinforcing the split between the Parliamentary Party from huge swathes of the membership. The shadow cabinet is now splitting as well with eleven resignations so far tonight.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, has said that it is ” highly likely” there will be a fresh referendum on independence from England after Scots voted in every constituency to stay.
Sinn Fein has called for a border poll as a move to a united Ireland. Meanwhile it is pointed out that all Northern Ireland’s citizens are entitled to a Republic of Ireland passport which guarantees them free movement and jobs in Europe.
Spain has made it clear that all citizens of Gibraltar – who voted heavily to remain – could have Spanish EU passports if they took over joint sovereignty of the Rock. This means it could trigger a fresh crisis.
The promise of £350m a month for the NHS if the leave campaign one has mysteriously disappeared.
Britain’s taxpayers have begun a new bail out for the banks with £250 billion of our money earmarked to defend the pound.
The result has been however been welcomed as an ” historic opportunity” in Iran. See this report in a US pro Jewish and Israeli website here. The Islamic state also thinks it is a good idea as they see great opportunities for dividing Europe.
In the last 24 hours the situation has worsened.
In Berlin the six founding fathers of the EU met and decided they would not wait for a leisurely departure from Britain but ask the country to prepare to go this week.
Jonathan Hill ( Lord Hill) the British commissioner responsible for capital and financial markets announced his resignation from July 15. He was the lynch pin for the EU’s relationships with the City of London. See a report here. he is being replaced by a Latvian with strong support for the Euro.
A major rating agency Moody’s has changed Britain’s credit rating to negative while also ruling that the Euro’s credit rating is positive – widening the gap between the two currencies.
Some British people living in Brussels ” in the know” started applying for Belgian EU passports to ensure they had freedom of movement to apply for jobs in Europe. I wonder why?
What seems certain is that in short term prices are likely to go up but that is no problem for those Brexit supporters. some of them were celebrating their new freedom to buy bendy cucumbers without interference from Brussels.
I wonder how they will feel when Independence Day comes around next year.
David Cameron outside Downing Street. Picture courtesy: Guardian
Jeremy Corbyn: Labour leader. Pic credit: Labour List