The government tears up the Bill of Rights

It is typical of this government that Parliament should not be meeting on this day of all days.

On 13th February 1689 “the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons assembled at Westminster” presented a declaration to the new sovereigns, King William and Queen Mary.

<a href=’http://www.johnredwoodsdiary.com/2008/02/13/the-government-tears-up-the-bill-of-rights/889/’ rel=’attachment wp-att-889′ title=’williamiii1.jpg’><img src=’http://www.johnredwoodsdiary.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/williamiii1.jpg’ alt=’williamiii1.jpg’ /></a>

This declaration, known as the Bill of Rights, established Parliamentary supremacy over the Crown in important areas, and guaranteed Parliament’s freedoms .It did so that the people could practise the religion of their choice, avoid arbitrary manipulation of their laws and require redress of ills before they had to pay taxes.
The Declaration included amongst other articles:

“That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of the laws by regal authority…is illegal

That the levying of money for or to the use of the Crown ….without grant of Parliament…is illegal

That the raising or keeping of a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with the consent of Parliament, is illegal

That election of Members of Parliament ought to be free

That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament

And that for the redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently”

This new settlement was designed to put an end to the rule of James II and of any other King who thought he could govern without Parliament, raise money without Parliamentary approval, suspend the laws and manipulate the army.

It proved effective. All subsequent monarchs had to acknowledge Parliament’s power, and seek accommodations with Parliament when they needed money, wanted to amend the law or wished to drive through important changes in the nation.

It is sad that today’s Parliament allows itself to be regularly suspended, to be timetabled into subservience on crucial matters, sidelined by Ministers who tell the media before the Commons, and overruled by Brussels. If Mr Straw wants a new constitutional document, he could do worse than enforce the provisions and spirit of the Declaration of Rights, one of the central documents to emerge from our predecessors’; struggles for liberty and free speech.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

12 Comments

  1. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted February 13, 2008 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Just a point but James II did not just want freedom for Roman Catholics to practice their faith – he wanted it for Protestant non conformists too . It was a top down coup – not glorious and not a revolution either . This so called great event sowed the seeds of bloodshed in Northern Ireland as the two sides that meet on the bloody fields of Boyne then years later fought it out with terrorism and punishment beatings . James II was no despot – he was just loyal to his faith . Also the supporters of his son King James III & VIII ( 1701 – 1766 ) went into battle in defence of the legitimate monarchy in 1715 , 1719 and 1745 -46 with much loss of life . Yes it was good that basic freedoms where enshrined in law but the event itself & some of the unintended results where not good and James II was not all bad . He did not want to be Louis XIV mark two while William of Orange dragged us into the wars against Louis XIV which if The Battle of Boyne had gone the other way we could have stayed out of as James II & VII would hardly fight the one who had effectively restored him . Just think of the lives that would have been saved as a result . As a Roman Catholic I think my fellow bretheren suffered enough already under the Tudors . How can admirers of Henry VIII & Elizabeth I justify what happened to St Thomas More , St John Fisher , St Edmund de Campion et al ? Mary I was not as bad as either her father or sister . The reason people think badly of so called Bloody Mary and love Henry VIII & Elizabeth I is that the history of that period was largely constructed in Protestant universitys by people with a disdain for those they regarded as ‘ Papists ‘ . Reading Eamon Duffy’s book The Stripping Of The Altars might help correct some unfair views that some seem to have……….

  2. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted February 13, 2008 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Just a point but James II did not just want freedom for Roman Catholics to practice their faith – he wanted it for Protestant non conformists too . It was a top down coup – not glorious and not a revolution either . This so called great event sowed the seeds of bloodshed in Northern Ireland as the two sides that meet on the bloody fields of Boyne then years later fought it out with terrorism and punishment beatings . James II was no despot – he was just loyal to his faith . Also the supporters of his son King James III & VIII ( 1701 – 1766 ) went into battle in defence of the legitimate monarchy in 1715 , 1719 and 1745 -46 with much loss of life . Yes it was good that basic freedoms where enshrined in law but the event itself & some of the unintended results where not good and James II was not all bad . He did not want to be Louis XIV mark two while William of Orange dragged us into the wars against Louis XIV which if The Battle of Boyne had gone the other way we could have stayed out of as James II & VII would hardly fight the one who had effectively restored him . Just think of the lives that would have been saved as a result . As a Roman Catholic I think my fellow bretheren suffered enough already under the Tudors . How can admirers of Henry VIII & Elizabeth I justify what happened to St Thomas More , St John Fisher , St Edmund de Campion et al ? Mary I was not as bad as either her father or sister . The reason people think badly of so called Bloody Mary and love Henry VIII & Elizabeth I is that the history of that period was largely constructed in Protestant universitys by people with a disdain for those they regarded as ' Papists ' . Reading Eamon Duffy's book The Stripping Of The Altars might help correct some unfair views that some seem to have……….

  3. David Hannah
    Posted February 13, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Given that Parliament has been emasculated by successive governments since 1973, is it any wonder that contemporary Ministers treat it with such contempt? Voters will too, as the recent trend in electoral turnout testifies. After all, we cannot elect our real rulers, can we?

    Call me cynical, but there really is no chance of a new constitutional document along the lines of the original 1689 Bill of Rights is there? Our current venal political class are not interested in liberty and free speech

  4. Posted February 13, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    The simple problem is that Parliament has given so much power to the Prime Minister. What we have is a presidential system maintained by a House of Commons majority. As long as the majority party can be kept mostly "on side", the executive has almost limitless power.

    What we need is a way for Parliament to hold the Prime Minister to account and for that we need to separate once more the executive, legislature and judiciary.

  5. Posted February 13, 2008 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    I recently found Sean Gabb's "Cultural Revolution: Culture War" illuminating on this subject, and despite his low opinion of the Conservatives, I recommend it for its description of the neo-Marxist rescue hypothesis and the Gramscian ideological hegemony:
    http://www.candidlist.demon.co.uk/hampden/culture

    What we need is a return to liberal democracy, but first we need the electorate to realise they don't live in one.

  6. mikestallard
    Posted February 13, 2008 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    The problem – to return to the History for a moment – was whether to support Catholic France (James II) or Protestant Holland. The second was by far the better deal – it brought a huge navy, freedom for the East India Company (at the cost of the Indonesian trade in spices), a very powerful king and queen (I visited his palace, Het Looe (?) which, of course, is modelled on Versailles!) and a union of the two foremost Protestant powers against France. Result: the seven years' war where we wiped the floor with the French.
    Not at all a bad deal.
    Shame that the present Labour know nothings are giving the entire settlement away.
    PS I am a Catholic convert myself!

  7. Atlas shrugged
    Posted February 14, 2008 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    Right on Steven Baker

    Personally I don't read Sean Gabb much, because I don't need to. I know most of it all already and agree with every word. In fact his opinions are so close to mine I sometimes think he is reading my mind.

    Sean is the only person I know that can be 100% correct and 100% depressing both at the same time. Apart from myself that is.

    John I would be interested in knowing, first that you have read Seans Work and secondly even more interested to know your opinion.

    You often seem to be the only half libertarian still in the CPP. It would be nice if you could assure me that this is not the case. I meet libertarians all the time within the party membership. In fact if anything their number seem to be growing at a faster rate then ever. Is this also your observation, and why does this not SEEM to be reflected in the shadow cabinet ?

    Unlike Sean I still have a tiny piece of hope left in my soul. Sean is after all still recovering from the death of his closet and dearest friend. When Ron lost his fight the fight also went from Sean. Which for me has made a very sad situation forever more heart breaking. When one lover of freedom dies it is very sad indeed when one also gives up, it is one of the saddest things of all.

    Also John; David Cameron and Boris Johnson have both said that they are both libertarians at heart. Claims I would dearly love to believe. I would very much appreciate if you could also give me your personal opinion on this matter.

    I warn you in the nicest possible way that the membership is not going to be as patient as we have been in the past. If we dont see something pretty sharpish WHEN David is elected, especially on the civil and economic liberties side of things, many of us will be gone, and we will NEVER EVER come back. Thats a promise.

    Reply: I have not read Sean's work. I believe David Cameron is considerably more liberal than the present government, and will want to remove some of the worst intrusions into our liberties. He and George Osborne have both been enthusiastic about my deregulatory proposals which would would cute away some of the gross over government we currently experience.

  8. Posted February 14, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    The Bill of Rights is recognised to be Statutes of the Realm (& therefore a 'Creature of Parliament' & subject to repeal or amendment by Parliament), However, it must not be forgotten that the Declaration of Rights is NOT a 'Creature of Parliament' and is NOT subject to amendment &/or repeal by any parliament.

    The Declaration of Rights is the property of the People and the Crown, and this document stands in its own right as evidence of the Contract made between the People of England and the Crown of England, in the full absence of any parliament.

    This Contract provides the Right of the Crown to Govern, and in consequence of this primary Right, the Right of the Sovereign to invest all and any parliaments with a lawful ability to exist and to take part in the Government of the Sovereign.

    Woe Betide any person and/or any parliament that attempts to interfere with the Contract that was made between Crown & People/s, in 1689 – because the World is demonstrating that Civil War is still the almost inevitable consequence of attempts to impose any form of legalised tyranny!

  9. Atlas shrugged
    Posted February 14, 2008 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    John

    Thank you for the honest reply.

    Although I must say I am slightly shocked that this is the case. He is the current head of the libertarian alliance. But even if he was the head of the KGB I would still expect leading politicians to at least stay in touch with the intellectual debate. Sean is more then furious with the current Conservative party even though he spent most of his life voting for them.

    (Para left out)

    Please do me a favor and read very carefully the link supplied by Steven Baker. It says all there is to say. Sean is basically proposing a counter-revolution, and he is a conservative for Gods sake.

    This should worry the Tory party if not the rest. We are in great danger of a complete collapse of the party political system. As we are maybe only a few years away from left and right uniting against our common enemy which, I am sorry to say, is yourself and the rest of what have now become an elitist ruling class that has no time or respect for liberty, truth, justice, the British constitution, the family, real education, culture, or even democracy.

    In short every single conservative value known to mankind, without exception or qualification.

    Take this seriously because we can now communicate though the internet so the people no longer need traditional organized political structures, though which to express themselves.

    I suggest if you are planning a minor counter revolution when you get into office, that you keep it very quiet indeed. However we the people of this country with free minds of our own, expect things to change from day one. Do not even wait one week. Make sure you make a big difference and fast. You have had plenty of time to think about it so go for the jugular while you can.

    The Conservative Party will only get one more chance. Which means this nation has only one more chance to save itself from the eternal deep dark cold abyss.

    Reply: This comment has been shortened. It is too pessimistic about modern Britain. Of course I want changes, and wish to show that our democracy is still capable of delivering them through the ballot box and legitimate democratic action.

  10. Adrian Yalland
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    John.

    The real sadness is that the 'liberties' which Parliament won against the arbitary powers of the crown have now been handed over to an elected dictatorship in the form of an over mighty executive, who now seem to act in a way often equally as arbitary than any monarch ever did.

    After all, under our constitution, an executive can do pretty much as it wills providing it can whip a majority through the lobby, often claiming the spurious right to do so because they won an election with a manifesto (remember John Major and the Maastricht vote).

    The irony is that most Governments never secure a majority of the popular vote, even though they have a majority of seats. This is one of the only failings of the First Past the Post system.

    It must be frustrating for you as an MP to be fairly emasculated in your ability to scrutinise the Government. Perhaps increasing the powers of committees would be the start of the redressing the balance?

    However, for me the biggest issue is the fact that almost every area of our legal system is now subjecated to EU or ECHR law, and that we have absolutely no ability to sack those who inflict such aweful legislation upon us. At least in the UK, an elected dictatorship can be booted out every four years. In the EU, the result of the vote is meaningless as nothing changes and the drift towards an Eurocracy is relentless!

    As someone who always favours liberties over rights, and believes that we need forst to be 'free from…' before we are 'free to be…..', I am sadly coming to the conclusion that after a decade of New Labour constitutional vandalism, the time has now come for a US style (not Euroepan style) codified written constitution which finally and irevocably enshrines both the Bill of .

  11. Posted February 17, 2008 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    anonemouse, as the Bill of Rights has never been repealed or amended (Bowles vs Bank of England 1913) an opinion reinforced by the Speaker Betty Boothroyd in 1993 (Hansard) though the content of the Bill of Rights was ignored with the passage of the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 then I believe that the signing of the EU Treaty is illegal and would nullify the BoR completely (law of Tort) even basing it on a constitutional argument that Parliament is supreme the BoR (as an Act of Parliament) basically says "if the people are not governed by a Protestant Monarch they are absolved of and ordered to give no allegiance".

    Those looking at trying to object to the EU Constitution (sorry Treaty) would be better looking at whether a) Parliament is going to annul its own existence by signing it under the BoR or if they even have the legal authority to sign it or b) Following the passage of the RoC 1829 Parliament is itself sat illegally and has no lawful authority to sign anything.

  12. Posted February 17, 2008 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    I meant to add: I think the Judiciary would have a field day if Parliament then try to go back and rewrite the law to get around illegal actions.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

    Promoted by Fraser McFarland on behalf of John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page