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the vaguely united kingdom – devolution for manchester? September 21, 2014

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Reading about the Scottish referendum it seemed to me that many of the arguments for independence applied to parts of England beyond London and the Home Counties. Those parts of the country which aren’t doing as well as the South East, the “desolate” parts where fracking has been thought to be acceptable. Places with proud histories and vibrant presents ignored by southern elites. So it’s not a surprise to read on The Guardian’s web pages:

The Scottish referendum has prompted northern English councils to demand more powers from Westminster, with local leaders complaining that England is “totally overgoverned” from London.

market manipulation and sports March 6, 2014

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The UK Treasury has published a news release with the title LIBOR funds to support first Invictus Games in London (details of other payments from the fund to support armed-forces related projects can be seen here). According to the press release the Chancellor said:

I am pleased that we have been able to support the very first Invictus Games in London using the LIBOR fund. We’re using money raised from fines on those who demonstrated the very worst of values to support the very best of values, injured service personnel from around the world. This landmark event will be a real inspiration for future generations.

I have never really understood the rationale for applying these funds in this way. It seems to me that the Government has an obligation to support the armed forces in all sorts of ways and that relying on the happenstance of funds derived from fraud is not the way to go about providing the support. Then again, linking the two quite separate things almost makes it sound as though it was a good thing that people manipulated Libor over many years. What will the UK Government fund with proceeds from the investigations into manipulation in the foreign exchange market, I wonder? Early childhood education? Food banks? The dredging of canals? From this perspective we could say we need more fraud to help more people. But that can’t be right, can it?

more eu (non?) transparency issues November 19, 2013

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Euractiv shows that it isn’t just with respect to conflict minerals that the EU is having difficulty in trying to enhance transparency. The Commission’s proposals in early 2013 (but foreshadowed in 2011) to increase disclosure with respect to social and environmental matters met some organized opposition. The European Council touched on the issue in May in the context of addressing tax evasion (measures on this may be more likely):

The proposal amending the Directives on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by large companies and groups will be examined notably with a view to ensuring country-by-country reporting by large companies and groups

Here’s what the Euractiv article says about this:

“It is strange that they have pulled back on what leaders agreed so recently,” said another source on condition of anonymity. “There is some suggestion that it was very late at night [at the summit] when the leaders made their pledge, and not all of them understood what they were agreeing to!” the source continued.

courts and the executive: control, legal certainty, sub-delegation October 30, 2013

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From the judgment of Lords Mance and Toulson in the UK Supreme Court today in R (on the application of Reilly and another) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The courts have no more important function than to ensure that the executive complies with the requirements of Parliament as expressed in a statute. Further, particularly where the statute concerned envisages regulations which will have a significant impact on the lives and livelihoods of many people, the importance of legal certainty and the impermissibility of sub-delegation are of crucial importance. The observations of Scott LJ in Blackpool Corporation v Locker [1948] 1 KB 349, 362 are in point: “John Citizen” should not be “in complete ignorance of what rights over him and his property have been secretly conferred by the minister”, as otherwise “[f]or practical purposes, the rule of law … breaks down because the aggrieved subject’s legal remedy is gravely impaired”.

review of the relationship between the uk and the eu continues October 21, 2013

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The UK Government has announced a number of reviews as part of its ongoing review of the balance of competences described as “an audit of what the EU does and how it affects the UK.” Contributions are now invited by January 13, 2014 to the review of the single market in services, cohesion, agriculture, fisheries, competition and consumer policy, and fundamental rights. Contributions are invited by January 17, 2014 for the reviews of financial services and the free movement of capital and the EU budget.

eu citizenship report 2013 May 8, 2013

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The Commission announced the report and 12 steps to strengthen citizens’ rights, including strengthening citizens’ participation in the democratic process. The report says that:

Bolstering EU citizens’ full participation in the democratic life of the EU, at all levels, is the very essence of EU citizenship.

How are they going to do this? The Commission is looking into barriers to voting (disenfranchisement when citizens leave their Member State of origin, lack of an EU right to vote in national elections in a host state). And it plans develop a European public space and to publish a handbook:

To raise awareness about EU citizenship and the concrete rights it confers to all EU citizens, in particular their electoral rights, and about the possibilities to participate in the decision-making process of the EU, the Commission will produce and promote the dissemination of a hand-book presenting in a clear, concise and readable way, the rights attached to EU citizenship. The handbook could be distributed by national authorities to every young EU citizen reaching voting age, but also on other occasions, such as the registration of new births, the issuing of passports, the acquisition of a Member State’s nationality,or as material to be included in school curricula, in particular on citizenship education.

That’s really likely to work.

governing for the rich November 19, 2012

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Naked Capitalism explains how banks are ensuring they won’t be subject to the Basel 3 tougher capital rules despite public pronouncements by the G20 that they would implement reforms to financial regulation. And the Financial Stability Board has only published peer reviews of implementation of transnational standards for 6 countries so far – the last reports were published in January 2012. These are the reports that are supposed to keep the G20 countries honest about implementation.

Part of the story that’s being sold is about how all of the new rules are going to make it harder for consumers to borrow money. But (too) easy credit was part of the problem.

Meanwhile, David Cameron (speaking to the CBI) says he wants to stop people going to court to challenge what the government is doing. The press has been reporting this aspect of the speech. Making it more expensive to initiate judicial review is part of the idea. Cameron says the point of this is “to make people think twice about time-wasting.” But it also means it will be harder for those with fewer resources to challenge government than for those with greater resources. The rich can do as much time-wasting as they like (provided they act quickly). Of course, speedy action is also easier for those with more resources.

But Cameron also wants to limit consultation:

Consultations, impact assessments, audits, reviews, stakeholder management, securing professional buy-in, complying with EU procurement rules, assessing sector feedback this is not how we became one of the most powerful, prosperous nations on earth.

I think becoming one of the most powerful and prosperous nations on earth had something to do with invading countries far away and exploiting the people who lived there.

It’s not an accident he gave this speech to the CBI, because the whole message is about promoting business. And we can be sure that banks and other large businesses will continue to have the access necessary to make their views known.

eesc on participatory democracy November 15, 2012

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From the press release:

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has called for the full implementation of Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty as a means to strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the EU and avoiding the rise of extremism in Europe. Investing in Article 11 will help bring citizens closer to the EU project and provide the platform for the institutions to listen and better take into account the views of its citizens. The EESC should be a key player in this process.

The opinion should be available from this page.

mid-week medley November 14, 2012

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SEC and DOJ publish a Guide to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the SEC publishes a Small Entity Compliance Guide to Conflict Minerals Disclosure. FSA consults on Implementation of the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive. EBA consults on prudent valuation.

The European Commission proposes legislation to increase the number of women on corporate boards (because non-binding approaches have not worked) (details here):

The Commission has proposed legislation with the aim of attaining a 40% objective of the under-represented sex in non-executive board-member positions in publicly listed companies, with the exception of small and medium enterprises. Currently, boards are dominated by one gender: 85% of non-executive board members and 91.1% of executive board members are men, while women make up 15% and 8.9% respectively. Despite an intense public debate and some voluntary initiatives at national and European level, the situation has not changed significantly in recent years: an incremental average increase of the number of women on boards of just 0.6 percentage points per year has been recorded since 2003.

Viviane Reding says it is a “historic day for gender equality.” Why a targetof 40% represents equality, I am not sure.

The EU has set up a competition for young people (8-24) to go to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

is meaningful citizen participation in government possible? October 23, 2012

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After the Presidential debates – endless reiterations of the same rather meaningless and often misleading slogans – where the viewers of the debates are encouraged to make their voting decisions on the basis of who performed better in the debate it’s complicated to think about the idea of citizen participation in government. But there’s lots of information available about the Presidential candidates, even if it’s hard to slog through the sludge of representation and misrepresentation. Making decisions about the downballot is even more complicated.

This isn’t the only election happening right now:

In the UK there’s an experiment going on to have elected Police and Crime Commissioners to hold Chief Constables and police forces to account(under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011). Elections are to be held on November 15th and there’s some rather scary advertising going on with posters for bus shelters suggesting that criminals want voters to stay home on November 15th. And video ads with the same message:

This is a bit odd- as if the police will just stop fighting crime if people don’t show up to vote. Especially as funding cuts are a larger problem for the police than any lack of citizen participation in voting could be. Presumably the ads are about emphasizing the idea that it is important to be tough on crime. And they suggest the crimes it is important to be tough on are scary ones such as vandalism, burglary, and mugging. Not financial crimes such as fare dodging and fraud.

And making people aware of the fact of the elections doesn’t help them to decide who to vote for. There’s a website which will have information about the candidates as of October 26th. But you can see the list of candidates elsewhere, for example at the website of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

In Humberside John Prescott is a candidate. But there are a number of other candidates: Godfrey Bloom (UKIP), Simone Butterworth (Liberal Democrat), Paul Davison (Independent) (“I retired this year after 30 years with Humberside Police as a Chief Superintendent in charge of policing the East Riding”), Neil Eyre (Independent) (“Most people don’t want politics and policing in the same melting pot”), Matthew Grove (Conservative) and Walter Sweeney (Independent). Matthew Grove says that Gordon Wasserman, the Goverment’s advisor on policing and criminal justice, says he is the “ideal person” to be the PCC. But that’s because they are both conservatives. So how can citizens decide whom to support?