Monday, 27 April 2015

Regardless of the Outcome, by David Lindsay

Regardless of the outcome of this General Election, certain things are bound to happen. But certain other things need to happen alongside them, and those have not yet been considered.

First, what is now the inevitable lowering of the voting age to 16 needs to be accompanied by the requirement that jurors and parliamentary candidates be at least 25, and what is now the inevitable extension of the parliamentary franchise to resident EU nationals needs to be accompanied by the requirement that parliamentary candidates hold British nationality in Great Britain, or British or Irish nationality in Northern Ireland.

Indeed, with that caveat, there would be no reason to restrict the vote to British, Irish, Commonwealth and EU citizens. Let all lawful residents vote, but not stand. Neoconservative objectors would have to explain why they wanted to deny the vote to Americans, Israelis, and subjects of the Gulf monarchs. Paleoconservative objectors would have to explain why the vote ought nevertheless to be enjoyed by every resident citizen of any Commonwealth country, even Mozambique, which has no historic ties to Britain.

Secondly, the implementation of further Scottish devolution, as promised by all parties during the independence referendum campaign, needs to be accompanied by a change in the manner of electing Scotland’s MPs at Westminster.

Each of the eight areas that are used to return top-up members of the Scottish Parliament would elect six MPs, giving a total of 48. Electors would vote for one candidate, and the top six would be elected. Thus could the balance of power never be held by a party that existed only in a place so comprehensively devolved. The same might be said of Northern Ireland, which for this same purpose might therefore be divided into three constituencies, each of two counties, and each returning six MPs by this means.

Thirdly, even a profoundly sceptical Labour Party has now adopted the Conservatives’ 18-year policy of an elected second chamber. A House “of the constituent nations and regions” already exists. It is called the constituency-based House of Commons.

Therefore, let the members of that House elect 100 Senators, either in place of the present elected hereditary peers, or as a new revising chamber. At the start of each Parliament, 25 Labour Senators, 25 Conservative Senators, 25 Senators of other parties, and 25 Independent Senators would be elected. Each MP would have one vote in each of those four categories, with the 25 highest-scoring candidates being elected.

Fourthly, commercial schools are going to be permitted to retain their charitable status. In return for that, in each school’s case, it needs to be required to have been adjudged Good or Outstanding by Ofsted, using the same criteria as for state schools, with the report published, and with the value-added measure applied, thereby requiring that school to demonstrate how it had improved pupils’ abilities.

Fifthly, the status of the Crown Dependencies and of some British Overseas Territories as tax havens is going to be abolished, or at least addressed with some vigour. In that case, students from the Crown Dependencies and from the British Overseas Territories need to be classified as home students for fee purposes. The same ought to apply to serving and former Armed Forces personnel, and to their dependents.

Sixthly, with all parties now committed to retaining the statutory commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on overseas aid, the Statute Law should specify that aid to any given country be reduced by the exact cost of any space programme, or of any nuclear weapons programme, or of any nuclear submarine programme, or of any foreign aid programme of that country’s own. The money thus saved would, however, have to remain within the budget of the Department for International Development.

Seventhly, there is the highly likely abolition of the Crown Prosecution Service. In that case, so to speak, prosecution work needs to become, as historically, something that any firm of local solicitors built into its overall workload, with at least one partner whose specialisms included it.

Eighthly, it is obvious how best to freeze and then reduce rail fares. Over the course of a Parliament, each franchise needs to be taken back into public ownership, with the provision that its fares structure would henceforth be determined by the House of Commons.

Ninthly, the legislation abolishing the so-called spousal veto in relation to the marriage of transsexuals needs to include the right of all couples to register their marriages as bound by the divorce laws in place before 1969, and of religious organisations to specify that such would apply to any marriage that they solemnised, requiring them to counsel couples accordingly.

And tenthly, there is to be legislation annulling convictions for male homosexual acts that would not be criminal offences today. That needs to extend such redress. The offences of rape, serious sexual assault and sexual assault ought to be replaced with aggravating circumstances to the ordinary crimes against the person, with the option of increasing the sentences up to the point of doubling them.

It ought to be made a criminal offence to commit any sexual act with upon any person who was under the age of 18 and who was more than three years younger than oneself, or to incite any such person to commit any such act with or upon one or any third party anywhere in the world. The maximum sentence would be twice the numbers of years’ difference in age, or life imprisonment where that difference was greater than five years.

The question also needs to be asked whether anyone can justly be convicted of non-consensual sex who could not lawfully have engaged in consensual sex. If there is an age of consent, then how can anyone be a rapist below that age? An assailant, yes. But a sexual assailant? How? Nor ought anyone under 21 to be charged with offences on either side of prostitution.

Convictions under laws predating these changes must be annulled along with that of Alan Turing.