Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

9 January 2008

English Justice Ministry: The real reason why they broke up the Home Office

Last May, when they split up the Home Office into two government departments – the continuing Home Office and the Justice Ministry – it was all supposed to be about arriving at a more rational division of responsibilities, enabling the respective departments to deliver their objectives more effectively. Hence, the Justice Ministry is now responsible for the administration of the whole justice system, particularly the courts, prisons and probation service. The Home Office, on the other hand, retained responsibility for crime-prevention and -detection strategy, the anti-terrorism effort / homeland security, and immigration control and the defence of the UK’s borders.

What they didn’t say – and I can’t remember any media comment picking up on this at the time – is that the Justice Ministry’s and Home Office’s areas of responsibility, with only a few exceptions, map on to the functions that have been devolved to the Scottish Government (in the shape of the Scottish Justice Department) and those that have been retained by the UK government respectively. The Justice Ministry is, then, in effect the English Justice Ministry; OK, technically the Justice Ministry for England and Wales, as there is only one justice system for both countries.

I say there are a few exceptions. One of these is the Justice Ministry’s responsibility for constitutional affairs, and particularly for administering the UK’s devolved system of government (ensuring a proper and effective division of responsibilities  and co-operation between UK and devolved government departments) and the running of elections (but presumably only UK-wide elections, and local elections in England and Wales, not Scotland-only polls). So one of the Justice Ministry’s few UK-wide responsibilities is to ensure the smooth running of devolved government. This expertise must indeed have served it well when it came to dividing up the Home Office itself into two departments: one UK-wide and one, err, effectively ‘devolved’ – relating to England and Wales only, but not in name.

Not in name, that’s for sure: you’d be hard put to find many references, in all the descriptions of its activities on its website, to the fact that most of its responsibilities cover only England and Wales.  Take the press release greeting its establishment, for instance, where all the introductory general blurb contains no reference to England and Wales at all, leaving the impression that the Justice Ministry’s responsibilities are UK-wide, which they overwhelmingly are not. And, as just noted, even some of those UK-wide functions are concerned with the division of responsibilities between the UK and devolved governments.

The distorted impression cuts both ways: some of the continuing Home Office’s responsibilities relate to England and Wales only, not to the UK as a whole. But again, you always have to look beyond the general information to become aware of this fact. So, for instance, the Home Office deals with the police service in England and Wales only, not in Scotland (the Scottish Justice Department deals with that). But you have to look towards the bottom of the page detailing the Home Office’s organisational structure to be alerted to that specific fact, where a link takes you to a separate website supposedly providing information about the UK police but which is of course limited to England and Wales.

Actually, that must be it: what those specialists on the constitution and devolution at the (English and Welsh) Justice Ministry have really built up a store of expertise about is designing government departments that are effectively England-only units but where the impression is strongly maintained that they are UK departments! Let’s re-name it the Department for Double-speak: run an English ministry but pretend so hard that it’s a UK department that not only the public but you yourself begin to believe it is one! After all, if people became aware that so many of the government’s departments dealt with English matters only, they might start thinking it was logical and fair for those departments to be accountable to the English electorate and an English parliament.

I suppose it should not be a matter of any surprise, then, that the Justice Ministry (the English and Welsh one, that is) is presided over by that overseer of the government’s programme of constitutional reform and arch-enemy of English devolution, Jack Straw. What hope is there that the reforms he may eventually propose will be anything other than an attempt to set the inequities of the current devolution settlement on a more permanent and seemingly legitimate constitutional footing – especially as one of the very raisons d’etre of the Justice Ministry is to maintain a rigid, but artificial and inconsistent, divide between UK / British departments on one side (even if they’re in effect English ministries) and devolved (non-English) departments on the other. Devolution and England: never the twain shall meet, it appears, under the auspices of the Justice Ministry – even though it itself is effectively a devolved English department.

Clearly, then, there’s little prospect of justice for England while England is not even allowed to administer justice in its own name.

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12 Comments »

  1. One day we’ll catch up with New Labour and the Tories that go along with it.
    When will you write that book. I’m hoping members of the Witangemot stand for election to an English Parliament. The present incumbents are the enemy within.

    Comment by tally — 9 January 2008 @ 9.00 am | Reply

  2. You seem to be overlooking that the Ministry of Justice was formed by folding part of the Home Office into the Lord Chancellor’s Department and the latter has only ever had jurisdiction in England & Wales (not that stopped Mrs Thatcher from appointing Lord MacKay of Clashfern, who was a Scottish lawyer, as Lord Chancellor – Lord Goldsmith, who is Scottish, had, at least, practised at the English bar). Scotland has had its own legal and judicial system ever since the Act of Union in 1707, they are not the products of devolution.

    Comment by John Smales — 9 January 2008 @ 7.45 pm | Reply

  3. Thanks for your comment, John. My point was that the net effect of the changes was to separate out the English and Welsh components of the Home Office that matched those that had already been separated out into the Scottish Justice Department. As a consequence, we now have what looks like a devolved English Justice Department, although of course it is not devolved and they do everything to create the impression that it is a UK-wide department, which it mostly isn’t. This typifies the way that the government carries on pretending that departments and laws that relate to England only still involve UK matters; and this is part of the effort to deny any separate institutional and constitutional status to England, and to make England Britain.

    Comment by David — 10 January 2008 @ 5.33 am | Reply

  4. The whole system is arranged in an attempt to justify control of matters affecting England by MPs elected in devolved areas, particularly Scotland. MPs’ authority in a democracy rests solely upon the grounds that they are chosen by their constituents to act on their behalf as their representatives. People in devolved areas do not require their MPs to deal with devolved matters on their behalf and their MPs do not answer to their voters for actions they take on devolved matters. They therefore have no right to deal at all with such matters. The fact that they are allowed to do so is fundamentally unconstitutional and undemocratic, much more important than the West Lothian quibble.

    Comment by Denis Latimer — 10 January 2008 @ 4.51 pm | Reply

  5. […] values. First up was Michael Wills, the ‘Constitutional Renewal Minister’ at the (English) Justice Ministry. Essentially, he’s the one overseeing the whole project. He outlined the government’s […]

    Pingback by British Values on ‘The World Tonight’: A Very English Debate « Britology Watch: Deconstructing ‘British Values’ — 26 January 2008 @ 7.13 am | Reply

  6. What you really need to do is think outside of our own borders.

    Look closely how the EU is being changed to a one style fits all empire, and that every other country in Europe has a Justice Ministry and a Home Office style Interior Ministry. that is the true mapping.

    Following the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, there will come the ratification, and part of the ongoing planning in Europe is the breaking down of countries into mere regions of europe, further broken down into LAU’s (Local Administrative Units).

    As Scotland is a region, so is Wales, and have already had their justice and interior departments formed under the guise of devolution, but England is being split into 9 regions, and each English region will have its own government, currently RDA’s, complete with a justice and interior department.

    These articles will explain further

    http://thejournal.parker-joseph.co.uk/blog/_archives/2007/11/26/3377011.html
    and
    http://thejournal.parker-joseph.co.uk/blog/_archives/2007/7/12/3088674.html
    and
    http://www.englandsrdas.com/rdaregions.aspx
    and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regions_of_England

    Comment by IanPP — 28 January 2008 @ 2.59 am | Reply

  7. Thanks for the comment, Ian. I was aware that these regionalisation plans had been toyed with. Do you really think they’ll go ahead even if the English people reject them (assuming we’re offered referenda in which to do so)?

    Comment by David — 28 January 2008 @ 3.41 am | Reply

  8. […] Britain that has existed up to now and of the nationhood of the British. GB and his chums at the (English) Justice Ministry are embarked on a process of fundamental constitutional reform that is intended to result in things […]

    Pingback by Gordon Brown and the Appropriation of Britain « Britology Watch: Deconstructing ‘British Values’ — 29 January 2008 @ 9.29 am | Reply

  9. David,

    As you see, we are not being offered any referenda.

    Equally, our supine MP’s have endorsed the European regional view by rejecting the Clause 9 amendment to the Lisbon Treaty.

    A few days ago, John Redwood wrote about a number of amendments, co-sponsored by himself and Bill Cash MP, to the Lisbon Treaty Bill. The single most important was Lisbon New Clause 9 (as it shall henceforth be known).

    New Clause 9

    “Notwithstanding any provision of the European Communities Act 1972, nothing in this Act shall affect or be construed by any court in the UK as affecting the supremacy of Parliament”

    New Clause 9 is the most comprehensive. It reasserts Parliamentary sovereignty, on the basis that Parliament has granted the EU certain powers within the UK, so Parliament can modify or repatriate those powers at a later date if it wishes.

    One would have thought that this was a relatively uncontroversial clause, wouldn’t you? It asserts that the Parliament of the UK, elected by the people of these countries, would always maintain sovereignty and that, at the wish of the people who lend the MPs their powers, the Parliament would be able to repatriate any of the powers lent to the EU through the Treaties.

    Not a difficult concept and one that is absolutely right. I would have fewer problems with the EU, and certainly the Lisbon Treaty, if Lisbon New Clause 9 were included; after all, one of my problems with the EU is that its Regulations, Directives and other instruments are able to bind future governments. This clause would provide a get out.

    Still, all very uncontroversial, right? Because our government would absolutely want to safeguard the people’s powers, wouldn’t they? Well, perhaps not, but you’d expect the Tories, at the least, all to vote for it, would you not?

    Well, apparently not.

    A robustly euro-sceptic MP has just shown me the text messages he received from the Chief Whip’s office yesterday evening. The first, at 19.17, gave Tory MPs a green-light to go home by telling them there would be “no further official votes”. The division on Mr Cash’s clause was called seven minutes later, at 19.24.

    I’ve said it before and I’l say it again: the Tory Party leadership is not EUsceptic and never has been; anyone who thinks that they are is a deluded moron.

    As Vindico says,

    The devious little shits. The vote was 380 against the motion and 48 in support. Just 38 MPs [sic] cared enough to vote to keep Parliament sovereign. Despicable.

    The full voting lists, reproduced below are the names of the only 48 MPs who believe that the Parliament should remain the sovereign power in the UK.

    See Devils Kitchen for the full report.
    http://devilskitchen.me.uk/2008/03/parliament-says-we-dont-want.html

    Comment by IanPP — 11 March 2008 @ 10.11 pm | Reply

  10. Thanks, Ian.

    Hardly any interest in the political press about the fact that parliament voted to ratify the Treaty tonight, certainly compared to the interest last week when there was still a vague hope that we might get the referendum we were promised. And parliament wonders why people are disenchanted with politics. Once we’d been denied a referendum, it was a foregone conclusion that the government would get its way.

    For my sins, I did catch a bit of Today in Parliament this evening, to hear one MP saying that they were prepared to be accountable to the electorate next time round for their decision to ratify the Treaty without consulting the people. Let’s hope they’re given a massive kick up the proverbials to register our disgust. Trouble is, people are so apathetic, and the opposition so gutless, Labour could still get re-elected on an even more dismally low turn-out than last time.

    Comment by David — 12 March 2008 @ 1.49 am | Reply

  11. Trouble is I don’t honestly believe there will be a next time. By 2010 its all over and they know it. No longer a country, England will just be 9 regions of Europe, plus the 3 other regions known as Scotland, N.Ireland and Wales. The destruction of the UK is complete and Parliament will be closed. (We have already been told this, but the excuse given was for repairs to the Palace of Westminster).

    Our only hope now is the Irish, who have their referendum June 12th. The only country in Europe to have one, and only because the Irish constitution insists that every treaty is ratified by a referenda.

    Comment by IanP — 12 March 2008 @ 1.25 pm | Reply

  12. I don’t share your pessimism, Ian. I don’t think the British establishment want to break up the UK. On the contrary, they want to solidify it; and Gordon Brown and his chums think things like a unified British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, a Statement of British Values, a new concept of British citizenship, and maybe a written British Constitution will achieve this – even if the actual powers of the British state are greatly reduced by the EU constitution-treaty and risk being further eroded. They’re too much in love with power and with their dreams of Britishness to give them up completely.

    That said, it’s conceivable they may try to get away with parcelling up England into nine regions, and hence the UK into 12. If the next election does deliver them a large unrepresentative majority, and given the precedent they’ve established of not giving us a referendum when they should (and when they’ve promised), they could well try to introduce ‘elected’ regional government without asking for the consent of the English people. Regionalisation, on one model, is not inconsistent with privileging Britain as the ‘national’ unit over and above the real nations of the UK. Indeed, I would say it’s a precondition for the establishment of a Nation of Britain – albeit one emasculated within a federal Europe: you have to do away with England first.

    Comment by David — 12 March 2008 @ 4.02 pm | Reply


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