This week in Parliament

Actually, make that ‘two days in Parliament’ as it’s recess from Wednesday.

Today is Culture Media and Sport questions, followed by an Urgent Question on Ian Tomlinson’s death, from Emily Thornberry, followed by a statement from the Home Secretary about policing, followed (finally) by the last day of the Academies Bill. Before we get to the Academies Bill though there is the formal First Reading of two Bills, from Zac Goldsmith. The first is on Local Referendums. The second is on Recall of Elected Representatives. He may well be wishing he hadn’t put in for them now…

Tomorrow the end of term fun and games will be provided by Nick Clegg at Deputy Prime Minister’s questions. Normally we’d start at 2.30pm on a Tuesday, but it’s at 11.30am. Rumours that this is so he doesn’t miss his after lunch nap are, I’m sure, unfounded. This is what’s on the Order Paper:

*2         Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South): What discussions he has had with Ministerial colleagues involving elected 
              representatives at regional and local level in decision-making by Government departments.
Chi Onwurah (Newcastle Upon Tyne Central): What assessment he has made of the effects on constituency cohesion of parliamentary constituency boundaries which do not follow existing administrative boundaries.
Mr David Amess (Southend West): What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the system of voter registration in Great Britain.
Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South): What progress he has made in his consideration of the West Lothian question.
Jim McGovern (Dundee West): What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive on preparations for the proposed referendum on the alternative vote system.
Karen Lumley (Redditch): When he expects his proposals for fewer and more equal-sized constituencies to be implemented.
Ann McKechin (Glasgow North): What criteria will apply to redrawing of the boundaries of urban parliamentary constituencies in Scotland under his proposals for fewer and more equal-sized constituencies.
Chris Leslie (Nottingham East): What assessment he has made of the merits of holding the proposed referendum on the voting system for election to the House of Commons on a date other than 5 May 2011.

No Question 1, that must have been pulled. And quite a Scottish theme. Then he has 15 minutes of Topical questions.

After Clegg we have Attorney General Qs. I’m at no. 8. I was meant  to be asking what was being done to address the very low prosecution rates for rapes where the alleged victim is a person with disabilities. (They’re even lower than in other cases, especially where people with learning disabilities are involved). However, my question has been butchered by the Table Office, and it now reads thus:

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East): What assistance the Crown Prosecution Service gives to people with disabilities who are giving evidence as victims in rape cases.

Which isn’t quite what I was getting at, but if they get to me I’ll get a supplementary Q too. The Attorney General may also get pushed to explain more on why the Government has dropped its anonymity for rape victims proposal. (I’m on BBC Radio Bristol this evening at 5.10pm, talking about that).

After questions have finished there’s the Annual Energy Statement, and then a general all-afternoon adjournment debate on  whatever people want to talk about. Usually no shortage of takers, as it gives people a chance to talk about local issues.

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  • Max Morris  On July 26, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Lots of stuff about rape today. Clearly it’s a very important issue. The low conviction rate when disabled people are involved is worrying, and it’s a real shame that your question got butchered. Another big group which I don’t think gets enough support are male rape victims. I say this from first hand experience, and from accounts by my friends. Male rape victims (particularly men who recieve sexual abuse from women) aren’t taken seriously by the police. In fact, I’ve heard of young men being told they’re ignorant and stupid because “women can’t rape men”. (Trinity Road Police Station)

  • thebristolblogger  On July 26, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    It’s not low conviction rates that are the problem. The jury system is extremely sound on rape – and on most issues – and it is one of the shining lights of our democracy.

    It’s the CPS that’s the problem. They won’t put cases before juries.

    Look at the Tomlinson case. A jury would undoubtedly convict PC Harwood for manslaughter (at least) tomorrow given the opportunity.

    But for some reason we have a situation where government lawyers know best …

  • cim  On July 27, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    thebristolblogger: “It’s the CPS that’s the problem. They won’t put cases before juries.”

    Their current success rate at trial for rape cases (those where the defendant doesn’t plead guilty initially) is 38%, so they lose more than they win (which is not true for most other serious crimes). Counting guilty pleas their success rate at trial is better but still low by comparison.

    They need to start winning the “easy” cases they currently cherry-pick more consistently before they’ll feel able to take on the more difficult cases to prosecute that make up the vast majority of rapes.

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