Domestic

Radio interview: Lord Owen comments on the current General Election.

Lord Owen is interviewed by David Mellor as part of his LBC series ‘The Election Experience’.

Hear the interview here

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A flexible full-exit timetable, under UK control.

From an LiamHalligan7.5.17
The Telegraph Business, 7 May 2017

 … Amid breathless accounts of the Downing Street dinner last week… Juncker’s spin was presented as the only possible version of events, proof the Government’s Brexit plan is “unrealistic” and “deeply flawed”…
Even if the Brexit talks go well, though, the UK government feels “an implementation period” will be required after March 2019, when the Article 50 window closes and we formally leave. This, too, is in the white paper and will be in the manifesto. To that end… I had an interesting conversation last week with the former Foreign Secretary Lord Owen – an influential Brexiteer who remains one of the shrewdest political analysts around.
Some pushing for “soft Brexit” want Britain, having left the EU, to remain inside the European Economic Area. This “Norwegian option” means on-going single market membership. But it also means accepting continued multi-billion pound annual payments and the EU’s freedom of movement rules. As such, EEA membership isn’t Brexit. Lord Owen agrees with me that EEA, as a final destination, would betray our referendum result. He thinks, though, the EEA membership could be useful during the “implementation period”.
Should the Article 50 negotiations get really nasty, with the EU refusing cooperation on customs clearance and the “mutual recognition agreements” that facilitate trade, UK exporters could face disruption in March 2019. Staying in the EEA for a period, and by extension the single market, would avoid that. Once we’re in the EEA but outside the EU, Lord Owen says, the EEA treaty contains a vital clause that allows us to leave at a time of our own choosing, albeit with a year’s notice.

This avoids any “cliff edge” business nervousness that, Lord Owen fears, could become significant if diplomatic relations sour. Some Brexiteers will view even the transitory use of the EEA option with suspicion. Lord Owen’s scheme may also fall down on legal grounds, as some say retaining EEA membership come March 2019 is impossible. This idea may be worth exploring, though, using the EEA on a strictly time-limited basis, to give Britain what Lord Owen calls “a flexible full-exit timetable, under UK control”.

Access the full  article here: Negotiation over dinner leaves a bad taste

Return to Lord Owen’s EEAA paper here

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Halt the march towards a US healthcare system.

Writing for The Times ‘The Red Box’, 23 January 2017.

…. The game being played between the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, over money is like the rattle of two drying peas in the same pod; they both want to bring to England the costly US healthcare system.

…. Our English politicians, whether Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat, have set a course heading for the costly US system, though only very few ever acknowledge this. They do not seem to realise that the STPs (changes of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan) coming soon are, in private, planning considerable hospital bed closures at a time when the Royal College of Surgeons has said that we cannot manage with less beds. They also plan on reducing services across the board.

These cuts are to finance a costly, predominantly US-designed external market healthcare system that our politicians have been introducing since 2002. They have done this with the support of newspapers who are headlining every NHS scandal. This includes, shame on them, the hand-wringing Guardian. Very few in England are daring enough to admit that the direction of travel is towards a US healthcare system and Red Box should call them out.

….

Why not, in the next budget speech, make all those over-65s who continue to work pay national insurance? It would raise, I am told, over £1 billion. I worked in business for 12 years past the age of 65 and could easily have paid national insurance. My generation were allowed to set mortgages and any related endowment insurance schemes against income tax. It was far easier to become a homeowner at an earlier age then. The elderly still working in England are now, I suspect, ready to pay more to return the NHS in England to the sustainable planned model that they have relied on for most of their life.

Download the full article here: HaltMarchtoUS4

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Lord Owen sets out proposals for a Federal UK Council

Addressing a seminar on ‘Politics post-Brexit’ at Cardiff University’s School of Law and Politics, Lord Owen today (Thursday 3 November) set out proposals for a UK-wide Federal Council in a comprehensive pamphlet drawing comparisons with the German Bundesrat.

Download the pamphlet here: a-federal-uk-council-2

“This pamphlet argues for a focused cross-party investigation of the German federal Bundesrat, without any commitment as to the outcome. It is something which needs to be offered early in the term of office of the new Prime Minister Theresa May, and is designed to appeal to the many Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish people spread across the UK who sense post-Brexit we need a new mechanism to hold the UK together by common consent.

“Providing for elected members at Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont, as well as devolved and decentralized government in England, to participate in a UK Federal Council is a very different and potentially more acceptable form of federal governance. It would involve the devolved London Assembly and the eight big cities in England, with separate representation for County and Borough Councils and unitary authorities in England.

“If the UK post-Brexit is to deepen its unity it is a reasonable assumption that there has to be some kind of structural interrelationship between all its parts and not just an ad hoc series of relationships with Whitehall. National identity, whether it be Scottish, Welsh, Irish or English deserves to be treasured as a binding force, not a divisive one. It all depends on whether we can find the correct balance.

“Referendums will not be in fashion at Westminster after the 2016 EU referendum. A federal UK could become a post-Brexit priority with broader support than would have been conceivable before 2016. If the Prime Minister does not form an all-party convention to consider a Federal UK Council, every possible step should be taken by Labour to negotiate key elements of a Federal UK Council with the SNP first, which then must include as many MPs from all the other parties as possible so as to create legislation for a Federal UK Council as soon as possible after the 2020 General Election.”

View the full pamphlet here: a-federal-uk-council-2

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“For the first time in 14 years we have the leader of the Labour Party unequivocally committing the party to reversing the legislation which has created in England a broken down, market-based healthcare system

Statement issued by the Rt Hon Lord Owen following Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that he would ‘remove’ private provision within the NHS as part of plans to renationalise the health service.

“For the first time in 14 years we have the leader of the Labour Party today unequivocally committing the party to reversing the legislation which has created in England a broken down, market-based healthcare system: one which is unrecognisable from that which was introduced in 1948 and which still exists in the rest of the UK.

“Surely now the whole Labour movement can combine together, left, right and centre to make this official party policy at this year’s autumn conference.”

Background:

“Jeremy Corbyn’s statement means that the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 and the Health and Social Care Act 2012 under these proposals are, in effect, rejected and will be replaced. This surely must end all Labour’s troubled equivocation over a marketised NHS and provide a political route on which party members and supporters can campaign together. Already in Scotland this is in effect government policy.

“The Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill has been campaigning on a cross party basis for this outcome through successive Private Member’s Bills in both the Lords and the Commons ever since I presented the first National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill [HL] in January 2013.

“It is a triumph for learning together, with cross party grassroots organisations working closely with health and legal professionals with persistence and dedication.”

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Lord Owen on the Chilcot Report. “Let us be courageous enough to face the need to examine this issue in Parliament.”

Read the full speech here: HLIraqInquiry12.7.16

Extracts: It would have been much easier if the former Prime Minister had made an open confession that he had made many mistakes. Unfortunately, on the day of the report, having no doubt had access to it for some time, he produced a written statement of defiance. That defiance – the only word to describe it – cannot be left unchallenged.

He said: “If I was back in the same place with the same information, I would take the same decision”.

If that is left to stand unchallenged, Chilcot will have failed. Let us be quite clear: that statement is unacceptable and it is no honest reading of the Chilcot report.

Some people say that there should be no scapegoating. No, there should not, but it is the duty of Parliament, and particularly the House of Commons, to examine this report and make judgments.

… We now have a body of civil law to represent a civil society. It is for the courts to decide on that for the families of the soldiers who tragically lost their lives, or those suffering appalling injuries, much of which we still do not really know about.

There is the question of bringing Parliament into disrepute. That is why in another place they are perfectly right and proper to examine whether this represents contempt of Parliament.

Otherwise, what do we do? Do we just leave it? How many people ever knew, years on from the Suez crisis, that we had colluded with the Israelis and the French to occupy the Suez Canal? It is absolutely essential that this much is learned, because I am one who believes that we may have to intervene in the future.

I do not want what happened in the aftermath of this war to condemn all military interventions in the future. Let us be courageous enough to face the need to examine this issue in Parliament.

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Lord Owen moves amendment to Queen’s speech in House of Lords to protect the NHS from the effects of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Read the full text here: HLQueen’sSpeechDebate23.5.16

“..the new right to regulate does not provide sufficient protection to the UK Government to ensure that no future government or Parliament will have its ability to increase the public sector provision of services limited..”

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We in the cross-party Vote Leave Campaign, however, share a common democratic commitment. We will restore legal powers and democratic control of the NHS to voters in the UK. If we vote Leave – we will be able to protect our NHS from EU interference.

Lord Owen speaking at the launch of the Vote Leave ‘Save Our NHS’ campaign, Wednesday 6 April 2016

Excerpts: The EU/Eurozone from 1992, in marked contrast to the old European Community of 1975, creeps into every nook and cranny of our life. It is now becoming entrenched in the NHS and this June we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get it out.

We in the cross-party Vote Leave Campaign, however, share a common democratic commitment. We will restore legal powers and democratic control of the NHS to voters in the UK. If we vote Leave – we will be able to protect our NHS from EU interference.

In 2006 the Labour government commissioned a legal opinion on the effect of EU legislation on the NHS. The Health Department’s then commercial director, Ken Anderson, who had been involved with independent surgical treatment centres (ISTCs), told the Financial Times in January 2007: ‘My personal conviction is that once you open up NHS services to competition, the ability to shut that down or call it back passes out of your hands. At some point European law will take over and prevail … In my opinion, we are at that stage now.’

As if recognising the truth of this interpretation on 13 December 2007, with not much publicity, the Department of Health issued a document titled Principles and Rules for Cooperation and Competition, running through which are EU legal positions which have become the law that operates in the UK.

The advisory Co-operation and Competition Panel was reported in the Financial Times to have been applying its interpretation of the law since 2009 – by advising on NHS mergers and handling complaints about anti-competitive practices by hospitals and primary care trusts[1]. In truth, since 2002 the Labour government, the Coalition government and now the Conservative government have accepted an EU market in health.

… We are agreed in Vote Leave, that whatever our political views on the present marketization of the NHS, decisions on the NHS should for the future be for the UK Parliament and devolved administrations to take. It should not be for the European Commission nor the European Parliament.

[1] Financial Times, 27 and 29 July 2011.

Read the full text here: VoteLeaveNHSLaunch – Lord Owen[1]

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