Author Archives: James Harper

Opinion: Torture – taking back control of the debate

Following the publication of the Senate report into the CIA’s treatment of detainees during the ‘war on terror’, David Cameron said ‘Let us be clear. Torture is wrong, torture is always wrong’. This is undoubtedly a powerfully attractive view for anyone of a humanist disposition, concerned to condemn all violations of basic human rights.

But there is a nagging problem – the British public seem not to be so sure. A survey by Amnesty International in May this year showed that 30% of Britons believe that torture can sometimes be justified, and that 44% believe we should not rule out its use altogether – more than in Russia and China, countries where torture is endemic.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 34 Comments

Opinion: Assisted dying

LilyThe Assisted Dying Bill returns to the House of Lords this week following high-profile interventions by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby , and his predecessor-but-one, George Carey.

While the bill may receive a second reading in the Lords, it stands little chance of progressing in the Commons. This is because key MPs, including David Cameron and Nick Clegg, are firmly against it. I respect the sincerity of Cameron and Clegg’s concerns, but I also believe their stated views show that they have not approached the issue in the right way. It is vital that any debate in the commons is open and honest, and not skewed by prejudice or emotion. MPs could do worse than begin the debate by considering the views of the two archbishops, which actually advanced the quality of the public discourse quite significantly.

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Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 17 Comments

Opinion: Thinking about “foreign criminals”

Watching the recent episode of ‘Dispatches’ on Channel 4 entitled ‘Inside Immigration’, got me thinking a bit about attitudes towards ‘foreign criminals’ in the UK. The idea of the programme was that undercover reporters worked as temps in the UK Border Agency’s processing offices and gave the inside story on the chaos and disorganisation there.

Halfway through, during a ‘pause for thought’ about the real consequences of maladministration, the narrator piped up: ‘Gabriella’s story as a shocking example of what the human cost can be when things go wrong’ at the UKBA’. But the story was somehow not what I was expecting- …

Posted in News | 9 Comments

Opinion: We must prevent another immigration “legacy”

Is there an amnesty for illegal immigrants? Keith Vaz seems determined to prove that there is, although so far without success. But the reality behind the bluster is rather more serious.

In 2007 the Home Office ‘found’ (or so the apocryphal tale goes) 500,000 asylum cases which had not been dealt with, ‘lying around’ in a room in the depths of Lunar House, Croydon.  This backlog was termed the ‘legacy’ of unresolved asylum cases.

A new department was set up and given the grisly task of looking at and resolving these cases, some of which had been untouched for over 10 years. …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Opinion: Immigration service must do more to protect human dignity

The UK Border Agency’s recent decision to hire G4S and Serco to deliver the housing scheme for asylum seekers is not only a bad one in its own right. It is symptomatic of the deep inadequacy of an organisation that exists purely to deal with people, but which lacks the same standards and people-focused ethos we expect of other organisations responsible for looking after human beings.

Last week we discovered that asylum seekers in the Midlands have had their doors painted red by the company responsible for housing and accommodating them, G4S. G4S did not think this would be a problem. …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments
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  • User AvatarToby Fenwick 23rd Dec - 1:11am
    Hireton: I don't get your riff on the NHS. Not only is the English NHS not being privatised (whatever that means - the NHS has...
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    Stephen W I think you are confusing promises with predictions -- understandable, since both are usually expressed with the same tense. But the difference can...
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    Tim Hill, I'm glad you agree with my comment. The pictures could have come from a bygone age. Well pre-suffragette. It's almost Whitechapel (the series)....
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    Hugh - As you say, given the present fee arrangements an extended course is pretty unattractive now (even with a paid year), that applies across...
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    Tim Hill Your on! I think it's one of the hardest seats to call, but I fancy the Tories to take it. The RSPCA is...
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    Nothing 'normal' about Sutton's schools - it appears to retain a selective grammar school system.
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