29th May 2013: This afternoon at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons spoke during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on a Mid-Term Review of the Stockholm Programme.
"Mr President (Lopez Aguilar), in your Working Document, you mentioned possible LIBE objectives for evaluation of the Stockholm programme. You referred to the now legally-binding Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which "places the individual at the heart of the EU's activities.
"However, the Charter (like the Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights) sometimes proclaims rights that are potentially contradictory. It seems that all rights and freedoms are equal but some are more equal than others, as George Orwell might have said!
"I have often asked experts at hearings how these contradictions might be resolved but they appear to be rather coy about explaining.
"The right of freedom of expression does seem to take second place to making people free from being offended.
"The right of freedom from discrimination seems to be more important than freedom to practise one's religion, at least where the religion is Christianity. The case in England involving the same sex couple and the Christian boarding house keeper illustrated this (the case of Black and Moran vs Bull).
"We must decide on general criteria, with reasons, for deciding which rights take precedence over which others."
29th May 2013: This afternoon at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following speech during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on human trafficking following a presentation by the EU Anti-Trafficking Co-ordinator, Myria Vassiliadou.
"Trafficking, etymologically, refers the transporting of human beings, usually across international borders. However, the United Nations provides a definition, which is copied in the Commission Memo of 15th April 2013. It refers to human beings who have been recruited or transported or harboured by force, coercion or fraud in abusive conditions including prostitution.
"This use of the conjunction 'or' means that girls tricked by grooming (pretended affection) into prostitution comes within that definition.
"This form of trafficking in the United Kingdom takes place in towns and cities in which the same population group is numerous and are disproportionately present among the abusers.
"I'll let you fill in the gaps!
"It is because the abusers and the abused come typically from different population groups that politicians and the police, for many years, denied that there was a problem and threatened people who said that there was with criminal prosecution. Indeed, there was an unsuccessful prosecution of my former colleague in this Parliament.
"Fear of being accused of racism - that witch denunciation of modern times - resulted in the victims - mostly under age and some as young as thirteen - being left to their fate.
"One of the most prominent hypocrites is the current MP for Keighley in Yorkshire, a town in which grooming is rife. In 2006 when he was a Bradford councillor, he denied that there was a problem but he is now trying to exploit the issue by feigning concern.
"Trafficking in the sense of transporting women and girls is a vile crime but we must not forget that there are other forms.
Response from the Anti-Trafficking Co-ordinator:
She conceded that people did not need to be transported across international frontiers to have been trafficked. Furthermore, she said that grooming needed to be addressed even more.
29th May 2013: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons contributed to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) following a Presentation by Michele Coninsx, President of Eurojust.
"I am not an enthusiast for the European Union but I do believe that its institutions should be responsible, in the sense of answerable, to the European Parliament. It is a pity that MEPs more enthusiastic about the EU could not be here to hear you*. I hope that you were not underwhelmed.
"We heard just now (from a French left-wing MEP) the dreadful news that the percentage of asylum applicants granted asylum status had fallen from 70% to only 7%. I say, Don't worry because refused asylum are allowed to stay anyway. They are simply given a piece of paper asking them to leave the EU.
"I believe that you said that 250 applications for the European Arrest Warrant had been subject to quick execution. Were these followed by equally quick granting of bail and trial. I wondered if you had any statistics for bail decisions and the outcome of case following a European Arrest Warrant.
"This is particularly important in view of the fact that judicial checks on European Arrest Warrants are procedural rather than substantive ie.the Magistrates Court cannot reject an application for an EAW for lack of evidence in support of it. There is a great danger that EAWs will be based on flimsy evidence.
"Previously, in the UK, the applicant for extradition had to provide evidence of guilt beyond all reasonable doubt - the same standard of proof as required in a criminal trial."
* At the close of the debate there were only four MEPs present.
29th May 2013: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons contributed to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the 2012 Annual Report of the European Data Protection Supervisor, Peter Hustinx.
Andrew told his fellow Committee members:
"It seems that, in the area of data protection, public policy is moving two opposite directions at the same time.
"On the one hand, legislation is placing more and more restrictions on private companies, private organisations and individuals. On the other, public authorities are using the very real threat of terrorism as a justification for greater and greater intrusion into the privacy of people generally.
"The United Kingdom, for which I realise you have limited responsibility, has recently proposed legislation* that would result in, all e-mail correspondents** of, all telephone numbers called by, and all websites visited by, all computer users and telephone subscribers, to be recorded for two years. It would apply to all individuals, without exception, and not just to terrorist suspects.
"The information gathered would include websites of political organisations and the e-mail addresses of politically active individuals.
"In the United Kingdom, public sector employees are systematically discriminated against on political grounds***, so data gathered could be used to facilitate that political discrimination, possibly leading to employees being dismissed."
Response from Mr. Hustinx:
He said that he could not comment on what was going on in the United Kingdom. He did say that he sometimes advised member states but he did not say whether or not he had advised the United Kingdom on this matter or, if he had, what that advice was. He added that the e-mails of EU employees might be monitored but he did not say whether this referred only to e-mails from EU computers or to their computers at home.
* This is the Communications Data Bill, which was introduced in June 2012 but withdrawn to be re-drafted in December 2012. It looks as though it might re-emerge as the result of the horrific murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich. The suspects for his murder were, of course, known to MI5 already so this legislation would not have been necessary to keep them under surveillance. The fact that they were not kept under effective surveillance was probably because MI5 employees had something better to do - like keeping tabs on completely law abiding British Nationalists.
** We are told that GCHQ would not be allowed to scrutinise the content of e-mails or telephone calls, without a warrant.
*** It is, in fact, only British Nationalists who are the victims of this discrimination.
29th April 2013: Last Thursday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons spoke during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) following a presentation by Mr Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol and Mr. Gilles Kerckhove, the European Union’s Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator.
"Mr. Wainwright said that a significant number of terrorists and would-be terrorists had been arrested going to and from Syria. Does Europol keep a watching brief on governments of, and state institutions in, member states that hint that they might step over the line between humanitarian help (which is praiseworthy) and financing and arming terrorists (which is not!).
"Mr. Wainwright also referred to action being taken against websites that support terrorism or incite violence and that action must be applauded. However, are you careful to distinguish between those sites and other political and religious sites that might say and write things that offend us but do not incite violence or support terrorism. That is a distinction that is made in the United States with its First Amendment and we would do well to emulate it.
"Both speakers referred to lone wolf terrorists unconnected with others, such as the appalling gunman who launched an attack on a religious school in France and the even more murderous Breivik. How can people without links be prevented as distinct from simply being detected and apprehended after the event?
"I, too, found the term home grown terrorist interesting. It is not used to describe Irish Republicans committing offences in Ireland or Basque ETA terrorists committing acts in the Basque country. It seems that the term home grown is a euphemism – home grown as distinct from home-descended. I shall leave you to comment on that!
Mr. Wainwright did not comment on my first question. With regard to the second he said, “We rely on national governments to define terrorism and violent extremism”. He did not comment on the First Amendment.
Both uttered platitudes about my third question, which is about all they could be expected to do!
In response to my fourth, they were both very apologetic for using such a term, with the implications that it clearly had. They obviously thought that I was some kind of political correctness zealot ready to denounce them with the ‘R’ word. In fact, I was praising them for being frank and urging them to be franker. They really should have done their homework on me!
26th April 2013: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on IT Security.
"I am not a computer expert or even a computer enthusiast. Indeed, I have reached an age at which I find even turning on a computer as difficult as tying my own shoe laces. However, I found the explanation by the Rapporteur extremely interesting, especially his explanation that breakdowns in IT systems are as often the result of natural phenomena as they are the result of deliberate actions by hackers and others. In particular you mentioned the flooding of a cellar in Sweden that resulted in the railways being interrupted for three days.
"IT has played a wonderful role in improving communications. To what extent is it possible to have a non-IT back-up for all communications so that life does not come to a halt if there is a problem with an IT system.
"I could make an analogy with motor cars. Previously cars were simple and if the battery was flat, we could always push start it. Now with modern cars, we have to call a mechanic out at 2 o'clock in the morning.
"Modern technology should improve on previous systems and supplement them but should not become an exclusive substitute. We might occasionally have to rely on yesterday's technology."
Response from the Rapporteur
He said that until shortly before the railway communication system was interrupted, Swedish railways had got rid of thirty steam engines on the ground that they were not needed. However, two remained and were used during the interrupted period. The others could have been used to advantage.
26th April 2013: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on measures to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.
"I have the greatest sympathy with the content of the explanatory memorandum. All laundering of money from illicit activities must be discovered and stopped.
"Money from illicit activities must not be allowed to create and consolidate assets in legitimate business.
"Money from neither legal nor illicit business must be allowed to finance terrorism. How do we stop it? Well, as the apocryphal man said when he was stopped and asked for directions, "I would not have started from here".
"The writer of the explanatory memorandum was refreshingly frank: "The breaking down of barriers facilitates not only legitimate business but also money laundering and financing of terrorist activity."
"The removal of borders under the Schengen Agreement and the adoption of the single currency have made money laundering and terrorist financing and activity much easier.
"Border controls do not have to be intrusive and it is not necessary to stop every vehicle but the ability to do so would be a deterrent to some and lead to the detection of others .
"Of course, we cannot blame the EU's single market and single currency for all or most money laundering.
"In the UK there is a coincident correlation between the 'sensitive' 'enriched' areas in which non-user drug dealers are based and the presence of large numbers of flourishing takeaways that have few customer and taxi drivers who take few fares. What do they have in common? They are both cash businesses."
26th April 2013: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made a Point of Order at the beginning of a meeting of his Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE).
Andrew went into his LIBE Committee meeting yesterday morning at exactly 9.00am, which was the scheduled time to start.
He was the first person to sign in. He was followed within a few minutes by a Hungarian socialist.
At 9.10am the Vice President of the Committee announced that the Rapporteur for the first item on the agenda would be unable to attend and that the Rapporteurs for the second and third items (due to start at 9.20am) had not yet arrived. She proposed that we should wait until they arrived before we started the meeting.
Andrew raised a point of order saying that in the nearly four years since his election in 2009 he could not remember a single committee meeting starting on time.
He told his website:
"We are always running short of time and yet we never start on time. I asked for this to be placed on the record of the meeting.
"I turned up to a LIBE hearing* about two years ago and (unusually) I arrived 10 minutes late. the official greeted me with the words: "We have been waiting for you." These words surprised me until I sat down and found that the panel was present on the platform but I was the only person in the audience. The hearing could not start until I arrived!"
* (At height of the first debate there were just eight of us present).
24th April 2013: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) held on the situation of unaccompanied (immigrant) minors in the European Union.
"We are told that a key principle is that the child's best interests must take precedence - over what we are not told, but complete sentences have never been a forte of the European Union.
"This principle is often interpreted in material terms and the child will undoubtedly be better fed, better educated and richer than if he or she had remained in the Third World. However, it is an ethnocentric assumption that living in Europe, where the child has no roots and no cultural support, is preferable to living in his or her own country.
"If it is, indeed, preferable for them to live in Europe, it must follow logically that we cannot tolerate any children continuing to live in the Third World. We in LIBE must set off en masse for Africa today, in the footsteps of Madonna, the singer (I use the word singer in the widest possible sense) and kidnap and bring to Europe every child in sight.
"Of course, the idea that children would have the resources and the knowledge and understanding to bring themselves to Europe is fanciful. If children are thought to have arrived unaccompanied, they will have been trafficked - by criminals for the purpose of cruel abuse, or by parents and other family to improve their lives.
"Of course, the most pernicious traffickers are those who invent the nonsensical principles of which we have heard this morning, that attract, like a magnet, potentially, the whole population of the Third World.
"These human traffickers are not really concerned about the welfare of these children - they are simply pawns in the game: the game of changing demographically the populations of Europe and ethnically cleansing Europe of its indigenous populations."
26th March 2013: Last week at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate following a hearing of experts in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on Schengen II Border Management.
"Mr Jeandesboz mentioned a distinction that might be made between permissible and non-permissible profiling but he did not elaborate.
"In my view the inhibition about profiling flies in the face of common sense. If a particular population group, however defined, or people from a particular country of origin are disproportionately responsible for some offences, there should be no ban on profiling.
"If grey haired, over weight, retired teachers who have become MEPs are disproportionately involved in human trafficking (as distinct from boring our students to death); and if it is found that elderly, upper middle class ladies, from the English Home Counties, are the predominant element among drug dealers and terrorists (and I have always suspected them of being so): then those groups should be profiled and subjected to more intense questioning and search.
"When I asked, rather timidly, a representative of Europol in a LIBE Hearing on Human Trafficking, a couple of years ago, whether any population groups were disproportionately to be found among the perpetrators or victims of human trafficking, he replied, rather less timidly: “The answer to both questions is the Roma”.
Andrew Brons on the responses his speech received:
"This elicited immediately a response from the Vice President, who was presiding over the debate, that the group that was most disproportionately represented among the victims of human trafficking was the female gender. Well spotted Sophie in t’Veldt. I thought that you were going to say: over-weight and grey haired teachers. I do not think that I have ever been trafficked but I feel that I might have been during my three and a half years as an MEP.
"An East German GUE MEP (rather to the left of somebody who is very much to the left of almost anybody you can imagine) was not impressed by my mini-speech. She said that I was being terribly unkind to the Roma and therefore speaking against the values on which the Union was founded. I do not think that she made clear, which Union’s values were being disregarded.
"I stand condemned for repeating, accurately, the words of an invited expert to a LIBE hearing. I have no way of checking the accuracy of the answer that I received but I did repeat accurately the answer that I received.
"The response was interesting. If Roma girls and women do indeed feature prominently among the victims of human trafficking, should they not be protected. If they are being trafficked by Roma men, should the men not be prevented from trafficking women and girls.
"Is it against the values on which the Union was founded to be opposed to human trafficking and to wish to protect the victims - regardless of the population group (or race!) to which they belong.
"Would you like to play a game of ‘Find The Racist’ – whatever that word might mean!"