Freedoms and the European Courts

 

            The Coalition government has been hit by a blizzard of difficult court judgements from the European Court of Human Rights (Convention) and from the European Court of Justice (EU).  They have served to underline just how constrained Ministers and Parliament now are, given the UK’s acceptance of both these jurisdictions. The European Court of human rights has become more activist, intervening in more issues.  The ECJ’s powers were mightily strengthened by Labour’s signatures on the  Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon Treaties.

              There will be some occasions when many UK people agree with the courts’ judgements. There will be other occasions when we disagree strongly. What many will also agree is that the issues they are now settling should normally be settled in Parliament, by MPs listening to public opinion and having to defend their voting decisions to their electors. They should not be decided by judges who do not have to explain what they conclude, cannot be removed from office, and have no need to heed UK public opinion.

              I happen to disagree strongly with the recent judgement on insurance. Men should pay more for their car insurance because on average men take more risks than women. The insurance industry can measure that and reflect it in premiums. Men should receive more generous annuity payments for their pension savings, because on average men live shorter lives than women. Actuaries are employed to work these figures out, to keep the insurance company’s books straight. I do not see that judges have a better approach to running insurance companies. I doubt if the judges will want to be blamed or sued for some money if as a result of disrupting actuarial and risk assessments they undermine a few companies. If they do not want that risk they should keep out of the calculations.

           The defenders of the court say it would be wrong for insurance companies to calculate risks by ethnic groups and to charge accordingly. This is an aunt sally, as no insurance company is doing this. Differentiation by age and by sex is accepted and makes sense for pricing risk. Of course a health policy for an elderly person is dearer than for a young person. So why shouldn’t car insurance for an 18 year old man reflect the likelihood of him crashing?

              The Coalition government is currently introducing a Freedom Bill. It gives them the opportunity to bring the Uk into line with some of these European judgements. For example, the Bill does amend the rules on retaining DNA samples and details taken from innocent people when being questioned by the police. I welcome this change, though again I think it is an issue which the UK Parliament should be able to decide for itself.

               Parliament has expressed itself clearly on votes for prisoners. Time will tell whether it also marhsalls forces to resist the insurance judgement. The growing list of disputes points to the need to change the balance of powers, but this Parliament does not seem to have a wish to tackle it.

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68 Comments

  1. Javelin
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Democracy?

    • Javelin
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      Repeating what I said in earlier posts. I’m a solid Tory, Center right. I think the whole economy has paddled itself into a dead end. House prices have crippled social and economic freedoms. There are no new ideas coming from Cameron, Clegg or Milliband. Politics is frozen. Into this vacuum steps the unelected EU judges, Non-UK politicians and unelected members of the MPC.

      The young benefit most from higher interest rates. They keep house prices lower, encourage savings to give banks more money to lend and reduce the pension burden on them. Instead they have the opposite. High insurance, university fees and immigrants taking jobs. These unelected officials running our lives, when you look at the underlying semantics, are looking after the present at the cost of the future.

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted March 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        And – I know this is unpopular – the decay of religion means that stable marriage, warmly supported as a permanent thing by the whole community, is currently out of the question. That means unstable “relationships” to add to the seething pot of being young in the 21st century.
        No wonder Wisbech is full of drunks every evening.

        • Paul H
          Posted March 4, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

          Not unpopular with me

  2. Tim Carpenter, LPUK
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    To accept benign judgements by an unelected and foreign entity is to endorse dictatorship and Imperialism.

    I do not care how correct the ECHR or the EHRA are, they are fromthe outside and would need the agreement, so consent, of foreign goverenments, peoples and administrations.

    Dictating how insurance works means those who decided it are not competent.

    Prisoner votes? Parliament voted and that is where the argument and judgement lies, not an appeal to some foreign imperial entity or asking for consent from same. That the European Court has an opinion should benas far as it goes – it is an opinion.

    Down that road lies Iraq and appears to lie the future fight now being brewed over Iran.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Clearly an insurance company is best to judge the risks without interference from judges with there damaging, everyone will be the same by EU law “equality” religion. Anything which distorts the true cost of things is highly damaging to the economy as it distorts logical decisions.

    Just look as the mad distorted so call “renewable” energy market and CAP and the mad drive towards, largely untaxed, but usually pointless (with current technology) electric cars. Why does the state want people to buy thousands of pointless electric cars anyway?

    Leave the markets largely alone other than when unfair competition occurs – Lord Patton’s propaganda organisation the unfairly subsidised BBC for a prime example.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      On insurance I assume any good financial advisor will have to advise clients: Do not buy a male annuity or female life cover in the EU as they are perhaps 20% over priced due to the absurd EU law just buy them abroad or not at all as they are, on average, just throwing money away.

  4. Disorganised1
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Alas, given the desire for European Unity expressed by our coalition partners, and the many europhiles in the party I cannot see these sensible precautions being actioned.
    Courts cannot decide the laws of the land, though the mish mash of new laws introduced by the last government would perhaps indicate that Parliament is not the place to do it either, at least those laws can be altered according to circumstance and will of the people.

  5. Eric Arthur Blair
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    “They have served to underline just how constrained Ministers and Parliament now are, given the UK’s acceptance of both these jurisdictions.”

    Don’t wish to be pedantic, John, but would like to point out that the political class have accepted those jurisdictions, not the people.

    Parliament has turned the lawful men of England into rebels and freedom fighters.

    “The Coalition government is currently introducing a Freedom Bill. It gives them the opportunity to bring the Uk into line with some of these European judgements. For example, the Bill does amend the rules on retaining DNA samples and details taken from innocent people when being questioned by the police. I welcome this change…”

    How about the bit about rounding up everybody who has ever been committed of a crime – let’s say TV license dodging – and dragging them out of their beds to have their DNA taken, no matter how long ago the crime or misdemeanour occurred? Do you support that, too?

    Taking people off and ‘Freedom Bill’, my left foot!

    It’s double speak for a (word left out) plot to round us all up.

    Reply: I made clear in the Commons I want the Bill to further in restoring lost freedoms.

  6. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    In many countries there is no differentiation between sexes for car insurances, which seems quite o.k. to me because there are many careful male drivers and also a few reckless female drivers. Why being prejudged for being male?
    This gender differentiation wouldn’t reduce the number of car accidents nor would it improve driving behavior.
    The best premium incentive to achieve that would be to lower premiums for accident-free driving records.

    • Mark
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      I suspect that there are cases where a male who shares some other attribute used to discriminate risk as a female might be considered the lower risk.

      You are wrong about the wider impact of gender differentiation, however. If young men are charged higher premiums then significant numbers of them will be simply priced out of driving until they are more mature and their premiums drop. If their premiums are subsidised by overcharging safer young women, then more young men will drive, and more young women will be priced off the road – so the result is we have more dangerous drivers and more accidents – many of them serious because inexperienced drivers tend to take silly risks.

      • Graham Cook
        Posted March 3, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        In reality it will increase the number of young people who drive without tax and insurance for whatever reason.

      • Huw Clayton
        Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        ‘If young men are charged higher premiums then significant numbers of them will be simply priced out of driving until they are more mature and their premiums drop.’

        If that were true, it would be helpful. There are three flaws in the argument:

        1) Experience rather than age is the significant factor – I was a far better driver at 19 than at 17, because I clocked 15,000 miles in the meantime, and rather than learning how to drive a car – which is what driving tests examine – I learned how to drive on a road (I appreciate you did sort of address this).

        2) New male drivers of any age have a sad habit of showing off (not saying female ones don’t, but they tend not to do it by 75mph drag races on ordinary roads). I’m therefore not convinced simply delaying the age at which they could do so by inflating insurance premiums would help matters.

        3) Most importantly of the lot, it is not that young male drivers do not drive because they cannot get insurance – high premiums mean they drive without insurance. Given the low likelihood of their ever being actually caught unless they hit something, this may seem a reasonable risk. However, it is precisely those drivers that can’t get insurance that are most likely to cause accidents – which is a real problem for the rest of us (particularly if, like me, you have a struggle to pay your own insurance and can’t be without a car). My guess is that this ruling will lead to a large rise in the number of uninsured drivers, with a corresponding hike in premiums to the rest of us to pay for the risk of being hit by them. See the law of unintended consequences.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      And they should start by assuming that a young driver will be sensible and accident free.

      If they have accidents, or start racking up the points for speeding, fine – jack up their premiums. But the 3k to drive a 12 year old 1000cc car is a complete rip-off. Legalised extortion.

      I do hope that one of these days our young people express their dissatisfaction with the way they are being treated. We are hanging massive, epic debts around their necks they will be paying back all their lives – just to keep our bloated public sector workers in work.

      They have to pay luducrously high house prices – or rents – because, despite Gordon Brown saying (in 1997) “I will not allow a house price boom to put at risk the sustainability of the recovery” – the last government allowed the banks to engineer a massive house price boom and massive indebtedness.

      And, now, they can look forward to 40k debts when they leave university – having had an education that barely equips them to function in the workplace.

      I look forward to the day when they use Facebook and Twitter to start their own revolution here.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 3, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        “And they should start by assuming that a young driver will be sensible and accident free.” despite all the statistical evidence to the contrary I assume – perhaps you would like to underwrite these policies with your money?

        • Mike Wilson
          Posted March 4, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

          Actually all young drivers start out by being accident free. But they are all tarred with the same brush at the moment. Whilst I appreciate that is all part of risk assessment – the premiums faced by young people are now absurd.

          I pay £275 a year to insure a large saloon car with a 3.0 litre engine that will propel it to 145 mph.

          My son pays 10 times as much to insure a one litre banger. Is he 10 times more likely to have an accident as me? I find that hard to believe.

          I would willingly underwrite policies for sensible young people with my money – on the basis that one accident and they’re out. I’d happily cherry pick the vast majority that drive sensibly and make a fortune doing it.

          I would also make it compulsory for new drivers to take the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ driving test and make a 2 hour session on a skid pan compulsory, so they learn how, once a car is out of control, it’s very hard to get it back in control.

          I would also make it compulsory for people, during the written part of their driving test, to view hard core accident footage.

          • lifelogic
            Posted March 4, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

            I suspect on average that they are ten times more likely to claim if they were not companies would be keen to insure them for less and make a good profit.

      • Mark
        Posted March 4, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        If you drop eggs from a height of say 3 feet they remain intact until the hit the ground, when a high proportion of them will smash, but some will survive intact. Now, what would be a fair bet on whether an individual egg will smash or survive? Why is it different with young drivers?

    • wab
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      No doubt everyone agrees that “there are many careful male drivers and also a few reckless female drivers”. That is irrelevant. The question is one of probability and statistics over the entire population of drivers, and a few cherry-picked examples of something one way or the other prove nothing. (The media does this all the time. They want to claim something is true so find one example, as if it is proof.)

      If you have a magic way of figuring out which male (or female) drivers will have an accident and which will not then you have a better estimate of the probabilities than existing insurance companies and therefore you should start your own insurance company and offer rates accordingly, you could make some serious money. Needless to say, insurance companies on the whole do a good job figuring out how to price risk, otherwise they go bust.

      And nobody is claiming that gender differentiation reduces the number of car accidents. It just means that since men (or at least young men) as a whole have more accidents then they as a whole they had to pay more (until now).

      And premiums are lower for people with accident-free driving records.

    • grahams
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      In the UK, driving records heavily influence motor insurance premiums, as do the type of car, the age of the driver, usage of the vehicle and where you live. Fairness does not come into it, nor does prejudice. It is purely a matter of statistical calculation, which is the basis of commercial insurance.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Peter,

      I don’t much care what laws other countries may have on this or anything else, I want the laws of my country to be decided by our sovereign national Parliament – defective though it is – and not by lawyers in transnational or even our own national courts.

  7. Duyfken
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    The judgment by the ECJ covered interpretation of the EU’s Article 5(2) of Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004. That included Article 13(1) EC. Recital No. 18:
    “The use of actuarial factors related to sex is widespread in the provision of insurance and other related financial services. In order to ensure equal treatment between men and women, the use of sex as an actuarial factor should not result in differences in individuals’ premiums and benefits.”

    For any insurance practitioner, that is just daft and it strikes at the very heart of the job of risk-taking. But it seems that it is not the fault of the ECJ alone in producing such an absurdity – the blame should lie mainly with the law-makers.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      “The blame should lie mainly with the law-makers.”

      Indeed it should – the world is as it is, men and woman, old and young are as they are honed by evolution. No law will change this. Ugly people are often discriminated against too are they going to try to address that issue and force people to marry them? Men and Woman are statistically different in almost everything you care to measure – life expectancy, hight, choice of jobs, use of language, general motivations, driving styles, buying patterns, indeed almost anything measurable.

      Clearly interest and aptitudes overlap greatly but they are not statistically the same and never will be – unless the EU decided to start genetically engineering them. Do they have any such plans?

      What is really going on is a constant attempt by the state to justify an ever bigger state “equality” is a very useful too for this malignant industry as no one can be against “equality”,”fairness”, “sustainable”, “renewables” and “rights” can they? So more government expenditure in these areas can be pushed through to the great disadvantage of all – save those thus employed by the state to push this nonsense.

  8. Nick
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    . What many will also agree is that the issues they are now settling should normally be settled in Parliament, by MPs listening to public opinion and having to defend their voting decisions to their electors

    ===============

    That’s a basic deceipt and lie put out by politicians.

    How can we get rid of a politician who does something like this.

    1. We have to wait up to five years
    2. We have to vote for someone else who may be even more unacceptable

    Take the latest.

    You and the liberals both have the right of recall in you manifestos. If we are to believe Nick Clegg that is yet another lie that both the Tories and the Lib Dems told to get elected.

    We have been defrauded as the electorate.

    What we need is the final say on any act. Otherwise its a sham democracy.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      It is indeed a sham democracy it already was to a large degree even before the EU and devolution further weakened the voters powers.

      I always assumed the Oxford PPE course covers this area with a lectures such as “What powers still reside with EU voters and potential methods to address this “problem” while still preserving the illusion of democracy for the people” and “the use of the BBC and the Media to achieve these aims”. But perhaps I do them an injustice.

    • waramess
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Your right, it’s a sham democracy but that is no suprise. It’s a sham democracy with a government that takes more than half what we earn and we make not a squeak. And it’s a government that now takes most of its instructions on new laws from Brussels and we make not a squeak, So, we must like it

    • Liz
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Candidates for election to Parliament are selected by and large by the members of the party – or they are Independent candidates. If anyone wants to influence that choice then they can become a member of a Party and attend meetings and be involved in selecting or endorsing a candidate. In my constituency few members of the Party I belong to turn up for meetings – not even councillors. At the end of the day the Party depends on the membership – if that is small and apathetic then it will be ignored by the leadership and people will say that democracy in this country is a vote every 5 years. It does not have to be like that.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      It’s definitely a sham democracy. Mr. Redwood’s constituency is a good example. He does not have to give a fig about listening to the electorate – he could be a rabid right-wing ‘let’s leave the EU now, let’s hang petty thieves, let’s send all immigrants home’ nutter – and he’d still get voted in by the relatively small number of people that will ALWAYS simply vote Conservative.

      For example, he does not have to listen to me. When I vote Liberal my vote has no affect whatsoever on whether Mr. Redwood is elected. Which is why I don’t waste my time voting.

      Give me a democracy – and I’ll vote.

      Reply: You are wrong. I do listen and seek to represent all my constituents well, whatever their views and voting intentions. Candidates have lost seats with bigger majorities than mine when they have misjudged the mood or failed to do the job properly.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        I get the impression JR does a very good job indeed the problem is that there are so few of his ilk and so little chance to get more into parliament due to the party and EU stranglehold on the process the electoral process and the big government pro EU stance of the BBC.

        • Mike Wilson
          Posted March 4, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

          I didn’t say he didn’t do a good job – I get the impression he is a hard working MP. My criticism is of the system – not of specific MPs. The current first past the post, constituency based, system enables governments voted in by a minority of the people to take absolute power which, by definition, means that the views and votes of the majority don’t count.

          This is really simple and unarguable. My vote does not count under our present system and I don’t like it. You might like it because it allows ‘your’ political party to gain power from time to time – but at least be honest enough to admit it is unfair and undemocratic.

          It makes me smile when I read about Britain acting to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East – could we have some here please?

      • Mike Wilson
        Posted March 4, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        Care to provide an example of a MP who has lost a bigger majority than yours by misjudging the mood. (Failing to do the job properly is a different matter altogether).

        You cannot represent my views because, in many instances, they are diametrically opposed to yours. So are the views of many people in your constituency. You can only truly be said to be representing the views of those people who vote for you and your party.

        Reply: Mr Portillo, for example, lost a bigger majority on a large swing. I do represent many people who disagree with me – that is the job of an MP – I take up their cases, put their views to Ministers and form my own views taking into account other ways of looking at the world.

    • Steve Cox
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Our representative parliamentary democracy is a hangover from the 19th and 20th centuries, before the advent of high speed internet, ubiquitous mobile telephones, and instantaneous global communication. To be truly democratic we need to take back some of the powers of representation which have been entrusted to MP’s and change the system to a much more modern and intelligent one with referendums on all populist issues. Only Switzerland currently has such a model that I am aware of, and predictable enough for British MP’s and ministers it’s not even an issue that’s on the table. Instead they tinker in the margins of an outdated and inefficient system, pretending that it’s democratic reform. Unless the Jasmine Revolution spreads to Blighty, don’t expect much of importance to change here.

    • Martin
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      You think recall is a good idea? Supporters of all parties would have this right.

      How would you feel if say Labour supporters in a marginal Conservative seat could recall (at say a time when the opinion polls suited Labour) the sitting Conservative MP over a decision the Labour voters disagreed with? Repeat enough times and a government’s majority could vanish!

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted March 3, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        Depends on the threshold for a recall petition to become effective.

        Set it at 0.1% of registered voters in the constituency and there might be enough committed and bloody-minded Labour supporters to take the petition over the threshold.

        Set it at 10% and they’d soon run out of Labour supporters to sign it, and from then on they’d be trying to persuade members of the general public to add their signatures.

        Few people are so stupid or so partisan or so unreasonable or so fond of elections that they’d sign a petition for an unnecessary election.

  9. Nick
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    On the question of risk based insurance premiums.

    How about having risk based premiums for the NHS?

    If you engage in heavy drinking or smoke, lets ramp up the premium. If you eat too much, lets ramp up the premium.

    Is that acceptable?

    In my view, no. If the government forces people to buy insurance then there should be no discrimination in price.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Nick you say:

      “If you engage in heavy drinking or smoke, lets ramp up the premium. If you eat too much, lets ramp up the premium.”

      An excellent plan – it discourages such behavior, makes people healthier and they pay the true cost of their habits why would anyone be against this. Surely it is better on balance for all that way?

    • Mark
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      The really expensive diseases to die from are things like Alzheimers. Early death from cirrhosis, cancer and heart disease is much cheaper in lifetime health costs – especially when pension costs of longevity are factored in. That might produce some interestingly perverse insurance charges.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted March 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      What about a system where the government doesn’t force anyone, which is based on voluntaryism and non-violence?

  10. Mark
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I pointed up the economic consequences of this yesterday: in summary, we’ll see more road deaths and injuries as boy racers replace staid young girls on the roads as well has higher insurance premiums and more uninsured drivers, and governments will be left to deal with the consequences of inadequate pensions for men if they aren’t moved offshore beyond EU jurisdiction – which would hurt the financing of EU deficits and equities.

    What is equally worrying is that the ECJ appear to have decided that the Lisbon Treaty should be treated much like the US constitution – as a framework against which they feel free to test all laws. It wasn’t supposed to be a constitution, was it?

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    JR: “Parliament has expressed itself clearly on votes for prisoners.”

    We still don’t know if it will make a jot of difference because the executive is wedded to Europe and cares nothing for the views of backbench MPs and even less for those of the rest of us in this so-called democracy.

  12. Anoneumouse
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Lets mount out camels and ride to Damascus

  13. Mike Wilson
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    What would be nice is if the insurers, en-masse, withdrew from insuring anybody under the age of, say, 30.

    The whole idea of ignoring risk assessments because it offends gender equality legislation is, quite simply, stark raving bonkers.

    Time to stand up to the Eurocrat lunatics.

    On the same subject – it is time the insurance industry was investigated, or regulated, properly. There are widespread abuses and rip-offs going on where garages seem to be colluding with companies that have sprung up to ‘manage’ the repairs to ensure that some other insurance company gets stuck with a hire car bill for 6 weeks.

    And, the premiums charged to young people now are quite absurd. When my soon to be 17 year old wants to drive, it looks like I’ll be paying 3k a year for him to drive a 1000 cc car. My son is a sensible lad and I’ve drummed into him that when you get behind the wheel of a car you are potentially in charge of a lethal weapon. A chunk of steel weighing a ton travelling at 44 feet per second (when doing 30 mph) is potentially very dangerous – so you must drive sensibly.

    Why can’t my son be given the benefit of the doubt when he starts driving? Fine, if he has accidents or gets caught speeding etc. – jack up his insurance premiums – but, the rate we’re going at the moment, none of our young people will be able to drive to get to work (assuming they are not in the 1 in 4 16 to 25 year olds that are (scandalously) unemployed.

    • Mark
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      I suspect that the size of the premium reflects the size of typical claims these days, with injury claims in particular having ballooned under no win no fee terms and favourable judgements. This is perhaps an area where the law has gone too far as well.

  14. Stephen Almond
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Fine words, John.

    I expect any ‘changes’ mooted by the government will end up the same way as withdrawing power from the EU, and cutting the EU budget, open primaries, recall of MPs, slashing quangos, etc.

    How depressing.

  15. oldtimer
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    It seems clear, from the lukewarm response, that the Coalition government is quite content for these powers and judgments to remain with European authorities. Did not last years review of National Security Strategy declare that failure to conclude a treaty at Copenhagen was a strategic mistake? Such a treaty would have enabled an even greater bureaucratic monster to assume yet more control over essential aspects of our lives. For the moment that threat remains in temporary abeyance. In the meantime the European juggernaut continues to roll on.

    All this talk of localism amounts to no more than a few crumbs from the table to keep the natives content, a smokescreen behind which the European Leviathan continues to take yet more control of our lives.

  16. grahams
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I wonder if this anti-competitive court judgment is fully enforceable. It seeks to restrain trade in a global, highly mobile market. Insurance is often purchased via the internet. When I telephone my insurance company, I get through to a helpful call centre in India.

    Is there any reason why personal insurance should not move offshore or, at least, outside the EU? Could the personal insurance side of Lloyd’s not move to Switzerland, where there is already plenty of expertise? Likewise personal annuities.

    Under global trade rules, the European Union cannot forbid citizens from buying insurance elsewhere. Governments can only enforce the judgment in areas that are already heavily regulated, notably motor insurance, by making offshore insurers invalid for vehicle licence regulations. Why would the UK government want to do this, other than to protect local insurers? Why would it want to forbid insurance brokers from putting clients in touch with reliable non-EU insurers?

    The most sensible approach might be for the Council of Ministers to ask the Commission to change the directive under which this judgment was made. Sadly, I cannot see this happening.

  17. Martin
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    The European Court has interpreted the law as passed. Both in the UK and the EU laws are passed that say sex discrimination is wrong.

    The insurance industry is fond of small print, exclusions and all sorts of fancy things that parliament never approved or disapproved of!

    Didn’t the insurance companies expensive lawyers see this one coming?

  18. Geoff not Hoon
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, The British Government has the option to ignore the EC ruling on insurance and pensions and to tell the UK industry to carry on as they are. The EC will impose fines that will seem insignificant to the rest of the money Britain pours into Brussells every hour of every day but at least common sense will apply in the insurance and pension fields.

  19. Simon
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Quote “Men should receive more generous annuity payments for their pension savings, because on average men live shorter lives than women.”

    You are however overlooking the elephant in the room John .

    None of the people making the decisions in Westminster or Europe about pensions for private sector plebs have to rely on annuities themselves .

    The only way we will ever get decent pensions provision for everyone in the UK is to abolish all the existing public sector schemes and replace them with a universal scheme open to everyone .

    We need a proper plan .

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      They have a plan – government by the state sector for the benefit of the state sector with good pensions only for the state sector and all paid for by 50% enslavement of the rest.

  20. David John Wilson
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Summing up how this potentially affects me. As a male I will receive less when I take out an annuity but because I am getting older I will be forced to spend more of this on my annual travel insurance. Proposals like this must either go all the way and deal with all of these differences or leave it to the experience of the insurance industry.

  21. Damien
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    It is unjustified for the UK insurance industry to base premiums on the sex of the driver rather than the individuals driving ability.

    The insurance industry could work with the manufacturers to allow all the option of an in-car driving monitor which could then be reflected into the drivers premium for the next year. As a careful driver I cannot see why I should subsidize the reckless irrespective of their sex. No doubt some will say car monitors are intrusive but we already live in the country with the most cctv and most of us use mobiles and GPS which monitors our movements. Such monitors would have the added benefit of tracking stolen cars and eventually reduce the number of thefts and improve detection and conviction rates. Who knows the insurance industry might then reduce our premiums?

    Regarding the amount of parliamentary time that is being devoted to the prisoners vote issue my view is that it is disproportionate and illogical given the economic concerns facing the nation at this time.

    I do have wider concerns on the democratic deficit that seems to be getting wider in the EU which I would like our government to raise as a matter of importance.

    • Simon
      Posted March 4, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Damien ,

      The “democratic deficit” can’t be addressed .

      It is inherent in the whole “project” and Britains political class is at the forefront of it .

      You can’t polish a turd .

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted March 4, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Not at all sure I fancy an “in-car driving monitor” due to the potential for abuse

  22. Bob
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    My insurance broker told me that insurance premiums are now set by a government quango similar to the FSA. I didn’t believe until I recently tried to insure a new car and found that all the quotes were within a hair’s breadth of each other. The final confirmation for me was when I found out that third party fire and theft is now more expensive that fully comprehensive. Only a civil servant could have dreamt that one up.
    The reason given was that if you insure third party, you must be a young reckless tearaway, regardless what your birth certificate or your long driving record might indicate.

  23. Alte Fritz
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    It seems odd that our government urges democracy on Egypt and Libya and simulataneously denies its own people and even its own legislature a say in matters of varying significance but which affects everyday life.

    One will find no shortage of people in Egypt and Libya who would regret the departure of Mubarak and Gadaffi, more on the former, I am sure, because they were regarded as benevolent. just as benevolent, say, as the ECHR.

    I find the Coalition’s ostensible failure to understand public opinion quite staggering, not even one year into its term. This week our Prime Ministers looks favourably at using the military against Gadaffi just as the redundancy notices go out. Does he not see how that plays on the high street or in the pub?

    Ultimately this erodes respect for politics, and encourages proponents of direct action.

  24. Martyn
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Surely there is little point in blaming the foreign courts for this and similar other issues? From Heath onwards successive governments have progressively handed over the right for this nation to govern itself to others in Europe.
    Since it is impossible to believe that successive governments did that out of stupidity or simple carelessness, it must be that Parliament(s) knowingly and with due intent did transfer almost their authority to Europe. And is that not where issues such as this begin and end?

    • Jon Burgess
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      I have to agree.

      Mr Redwood, your party is as complicit in this as Labour and the Lib Dems, but at least Labour and the Lib Dems are clear in their support of the treason of giving away sovereignty to an unelected foreign power. As you are only too aware, your party consistently says no to these things in public whilst eagerly signing up to them in full and whispering yes in private. Why do you still put up with it? I say again, what good has it done and is it doing you or your country by remaining in the Tory party? Can’t you see all this does is help to maintain the (need I say, inaccurate) illusion that the Tories secretly hate the EU and want the UK out, when in fact the opposite has so blatantly been the truth of the last 40 years? No anti EU party will ever coalesce unless you and your like minded colleagues leave the Tories to help found it. So what are you waiting for?

  25. GJ Wyatt
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    spot on.

    And “I doubt if the judges will want to be blamed or sued for some money … ” seems a pretty good idea to me . I haven’t heard of judges being sued before.

  26. Bazman
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Why should anyone subsidise anyone else? Older drivers are being creamed of by insurance companies and why should they pay for young people who have accidents?
    Tracking should used to implement toll roads with a policy of zero tax on fuel and the abolition of road tax putting the tax fairly and squarely on the person using a particular road at any given moment. The principal could also be extended to the TV licence with the present technology the charge being for whatever channel is being watched at that time.
    My point is that the tax burden should be paid by the people using a particular service and not by mass taxation. I mean why should a Bentley owner pay the same VAT and taxes as a car 20 times cheaper and don’t get me started about mansions. How much tax must you have paid in order to buy a mansion? Collective pay bargaining and the unions are the cause of this financial crisis. This is fact as I have read it on the internet and seen it on Fox news, who also say offshore banking and music piracy are not the same. Offshore banking is good for everyone and can’t be stopped, but music piracy can if we all where prosecuted for it except he advertisers that use these sites.
    Ah! G&T time fellow Philanthropists.

  27. Kenneth
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps, as this is a cross-party matter and a matter for Parliament as a whole. Could the Speaker be persuaded to act as a convener for those MPs who are concerned over this matter? Surely this is a matter beyond politics.

    I think that if MPs could agree to restrict the terms of reference to Parliamentary sovereignty and not stray into the actual decisions that have been made (that is avoid politics!), then a strong cross-party committee could perhaps be formed that will have clout across all parties and outside of the normal party structure.

    I have been one of very few people who felt over many years that MPs pay has been too low for the job they do. However, there will come a time when, if Parliament is no more than a regional council – i.e. when it has conclusively lost it sovereignty – my views will swing the other way and I will be calling for MPs’ pay to be cut.

  28. Kenneth
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I think the insurance decision has made the court look foolish.

    Perhaps, without normal democratic checks and balances, people start to lose their sense of justice and judgement.

  29. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    If I were to walk into the judge’s chambers and tell them how to behave, I should (quite rightly) be thrown out.
    So why do they insist on poking their noses into insurance about which they have absolutely no idea.

  30. BobE
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    John, Why do you object to AV? (I know its off topic but its the only way I can Ask).

    This is how I see it.
    An MP will have to get 50% of his constituancy. This is good.
    There will still be one MP in an area, but they will have to speak for the majority of your community. They will have to work harder and try to represent more of their constituents’ interests. And they won’t be able to take the people for granted any more.

    If no candidate commands 50% support, the last placed candidate drops out and their voters’ second preferences come into play. This continues until one candidate has majority support.

    An AV ballot paper will look exactly the same as it currently does. Instead of only putting an ‘X’ in just one box, you will be able to put a ‘1,2,3…’ and so on in as many boxes as you please. You can vote for as many or as few candidates as you like. If you only want to support one candidate, you can – just mark an ‘X’ as you did before.

    This looks good to me, so why are you against it?
    BobE, Region 6, EUSSR

    Reply: It will encourage even more politicians who go for the common consensus, to avoid losing second and third preference votes of people who do not support them, and will deliver the decision in all marginal seats into the hands of the minority who vote for fringe candidates.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 4, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      There’s still over four years until the next general election, and before then the economy may recover strongly and so may the popularity of either or both of the coalition parties.

      But I’d say that on the basis of the Barnsley result the Tories and the LibDems are going to need each other’s support for either to have any chance of participating in the next government.

      The previous assumption that AV could help Labour and the LibDems to gang up on the Tories may no longer be valid, now that the Tories and the LibDems are widely seen as “partners in crime”.

      It wouldn’t affect you in Wokingham, but you may like to consider whether it would then turn out that the Tories had shot themselves in the foot by successfully opposing AV.

  31. brian kelly
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I find myself more and more frustrated and fed up to the back teeth by the increasing frequency and the – mostly, to me – unwelcome judgements of the ECHR and ECJ. I saw something today on an EU tv news programme about a ‘citizens charter’ which is wending its way to a conclusion in Europe. I don’t think I have heard this referred to before. I wish I had seen the whole broadcast. I don’t think I will like this, either, when we suddenly find that we are signed up to it. What is it? Or has my cynical mind ran ahead of itself.

  32. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    We will only get these courts off our backs if we stop recognising them. That means renegotiation of our relationship with the EU or unilateral action.

  33. sjb
    Posted March 4, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Parliament passed legislation that allowed the following: indefinite retention of biometric data; stop and search without reasonable suspicion; 28-day detention without charge; sophisticated identity cards that would have provided an audit trail of places the cardholder visited; proliferation of cctv; schools taking biometric data from children without the parent’s consent. Some of the Acts such as RIPA and SOCA were promoted on the basis of fighting terrorism and/or serious crime. However, local authorities used RIPA for more mundane purposes such as dog fouling, planning enforcement, and even spying on a family for two weeks to see whether they lived in a school catchment area.

    Let us assume that Parliament reverses some of these measures. Now suppose the Coalition collapses and Labour are returned to power. There is nothing to stop them reintroducing the measures; after all, many of their number will have supported the original legislation.

    When fundamental rights are engaged I would rather trust the courts to protect my liberties than a Parliament sadly increasingly populated by lobby fodder and dominated by the Executive.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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