Gale`s View – 7th September 2011
About ten years ago the BBC Today” programme, with characteristic self-importance, took it upon itself to run a ballot to promote a Private Member`s Bill in the House of Commons.
Notwithstanding the fact that it is no business of the BBC to instigate, or interfere in, legislation of any kind the editors of this flagship” current affairs programme enlisted the services of a tame” government (Labour) Member of Parliament who undertook to introduce The Today Listeners` Bill` to the House.
Shock! Horror! To the dismay of the Polly Toynbee Fan Club the Great British Public voted, by a devastating majority, to bring in a bill to allow a householder or home-owner to use whatever means necessary and available to protect their property from intruders. This became known, wholly inappropriately as it happens, as The Tony Martin Bill” after the reclusive farmer who shot dead a teenage burglar that had broken into his property and who subsequently received a criminal conviction for his summary execution of his tormentor.
Not surprisingly the liberal elite that generates Today”, and the compliant MP, ran a mile from the verdict that the electorate” had inflicted upon their ill-thought-through gimmick. It was therefore left to another parliamentary populist”, one R. Gale (North Thanet) to pick up the baton and run with it. The bill, of course, went the way of all private member`s legislation and ran into the buffers of parliamentary opposition. The cause, though, remains alive and if the Conservative wing of the current coalition has real gumption then the spirit, if not the letter, of the desire to allow a person to protect their own property and home may yet find its` way into law.
The purpose behind this very lengthy preamble is to draw attention to the fact that some people never learn.
Following in the footsteps of power to the people” The Coalition has decreed that the plebiscite will be allowed, by petitionary ballot, to determine the subjects of some parliamentary debates. Notwithstanding the fact that the government has already found it necessary to resist motions put forward for debate by the Business Committee of the Back Bench it is now open season on the public e-petition web site. Given the BBC experience it should come as no further surprise to anyone that heading the public priority for debate is likely to be the reintroduction of capital punishment for murder followed by calls for a referendum upon continued UK membership of the European Union.
As the last Member of Parliament to introduce a serious amendment to reintroduce the death sentence as the maximum available penalty for murder (not bring back hanging” – but we`ll save that for the moment) I would personally welcome another debate. The government will, of course, rest upon the correct defence that we cannot reintroduce capital punishment because the (last) Labour Government signed us up to the Human Rights Act which precludes it”.
This means that we need, first, to repeal the European Human Rights Act and to introduce, as is Conservative policy, a British Bill of Human Rights in its place. The Coalition and the parliamentary numbers game mean, as indeed they would in respect of a similar vote upon Membership of the EU that we are unlikely, at present, get either past the House. Quite simply, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party would unite to defeat us.
So what is the point of the e-petition debates? To give a subject an airing without any possibility of legislation? Yes. To bring about legislative change in line with the wishes of the electorate? Er…..sorry….no!