What delicious irony! Sir Stuart Bell complaining that allegedly ‘retrospective rules’ were introduced by Sir Thomas Legg during his inquiry into the probity of MPs use of taxpayers monies.
There must be near deafening hollow laughter echoing round accountant’s offices this morning – for much of the funds raised from taxpayers into which our MPs dipped so voraciously was raised by – retrospective tax legislation! Specifically the 2004 Finance Act which introduced the ‘pre-owned asset tax’, thus closing a loophole which had been legitimate during the previous seven years, and left many tax payers with tax bills they had not budgeted for and had not reasonably expected.
Even the Times leader thunders ‘Sir Thomas has created a new set of rules and, extraordinarily, applied them retrospectively’.
MPs, are very partial to retrospective legislation when it suits them – not just in financial matters – it allows them to impose their own morality on events long before they had any control.
Take the Adoption Act of 1976 – many thousands of women had rebuilt their lives, and constructed new families after being persuaded by the laws extant when they gave birth to illegitimate children, in an age when there was no support for single mothers, that no identifying information would ever be exchanged. Entire families have been torn apart by that agreement being removed retrospectively. Certainly there have been some heart warming stories as some adopted children have managed to accommodate a second family in their lives, and vice versa, but equally there have been many horror stories.
Likewise the Assisted Reproductive Act which allows to be identified those medical students who had supplemented their grants by taking themselves off into a small cubicle with a pile of Playboy magazines and technically becoming a ‘biological Father’.
The War Crimes Act 1991 and The Genocide Act 1969 are equally retrospective.
Whilst talking of War Crimes, the Nottingham MP Alan Simpson was another whinger out on the whinge circuit this morning. (Yes, that would be the same Alan Simpson MP who was earnestly setting out early day motions demanding better progress under that specimen piece of retrospective legislation – the 1991 War Crimes Act – in July 2006)
“If he thinks that the principle of him (Legg) coming in and retrospectively re-writing the rules would stand up before the courts, then I think he should test it before the courts,” Mr Simpson told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.
They already have done, dear boy, and the principle was indeed upheld – and over a damn sight more than your pathetic £500.
Whilst I agreed with the decision of the House of Lords in R v R – where it was held that it it was no longer part of the law in England and Wales that a husband cannot rape his wife, I was incensed by the decision to charge ‘SW’ with raping his wife in 1990 – when it was not against the law to do so. R v R had been decided by the time of the ‘SW’ trial, so he had no defence to what I agree was a reprehensible act that I do not defend, the fact that he had been charged with something that was not a crime when he committed the act still irks.
‘SW’ took his case to the European Court (SW v UK), where he received no sympathy, and their summing up might be useful to Sir Stuart Bell:
‘There will always be a need for elucidation of doubtful points and for adaptation to changing circumstances’
The Court affirmed their principle that where the law appears to allow something which is inherently and seriously wrong then it should not be an excuse for them to hide behind a legal exception or technicality “because the context is one in which they are only having to face the consequences of doing something they should not have done”.
No succour from that beast beloved of the liberal left, the Human Rights Act or the courts.