Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 22, 2011

The Monckton Files: Lawyering Up

The saga continues….

Lord Monckton was essentially laughed out of Australia after the Clerk of the Parliaments in the UK posted an open letter asking the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley to stop saying he’s a member of Parliament and stop using their logo.  His Lordship isn’t taking it lying down, though!  He’s found a lawyer to write an opinion that agrees with his assertion that he really is a “member of the House of Lords without a seat or vote”.  Are you just as shocked as I am that he could find a lawyer who would argue his case?  What’s more, Monckton is threatening some kind of legal action against the Clerk of the Parliaments!  Are you just as shocked as I am that Monckton is threatening legal action against someone who has expressed disagreement with his views?  (Note:  If you really are shocked that Monckton would threaten legal action, read this.  It should cure you.)

The issue is that most of the “Lords” (people with hereditary titles or “peerages”) in the UK used to be members of the House of Lords, which is the upper house of Parliament (like the Senate in the USA).  Monckton’s grandfather and father (the 1st and 2nd Viscounts Monckton of Brenchley) were members of Parliament, but then in 1999 (seven years before Christopher Monckton inherited his hereditary title), Parliament passed the House of Lords Act, which kicked out most of the hereditary peers (including Monckton’s father) from the House of Lords.  That is, they were still “Lords,” but not members of the legislative body called “The House of Lords,” which is a house of Parliament.  The House of Lords Act says this:

No-one shall be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage.

But wait!  Monckton claims that he IS “a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage.”  Normally, one would think that would be a direct contradiction, but you can always count on a lawyer to explain why “member” doesn’t mean “member”, or a politician to quibble over the meaning of “is”.  Let’s do a quick dissection to see how this astonishing feat is accomplished.

Much of The Lawyer’s opinion is a smokescreen.  E.g., the Clerk of the Parliaments said in his letter to Monckton that “No-one denies that you are, by virtue of your letters Patent, a Peer. That is an entirely separate issue to membership of the House.”  And yet, a large part of The Lawyer’s opinion is about how anyone who is a British “lord” can be called, figuratively speaking, part of the “House of Lords”.  Since Monckton has explicitly claimed to be a member of Parliament, not just a generic “lord,” all of this is meaningless.

The real meat of the matter is simply the question of whether there is anything to being a “member of the House of Lords” beyond “sitting and voting” in that House.  The Clerk of the Parliaments said this.

I must repeat my predecessor’s statement that you are not and have never been a Member of the House of Lords. Your assertion that you are a Member, but without the right to sit or vote, is a contradiction in terms. No-one denies that you are, by virtue of your letters Patent, a Peer. That is an entirely separate issue to membership of the House. This is borne out by the recent judgment in Baron Mereworth v Ministry of Justice (Crown Office) where Mr Justice Lewison stated:

“In my judgment, the reference [in the House of Lords Act 1999] to ‘a member of the House of Lords’ is simply a reference to the right to sit and vote in that House … In a nutshell, membership of the House of Lords means the right to sit and vote in that House. It does not mean entitlement to the dignity of a peerage.”

The Lawyer quotes a couple members of Parliament who said that, in the House of Lords Act, “membership” referred specifically to the right to sit and vote.  But curiously, The Lawyer couldn’t seem to come up with any quotations in which anyone important said that those deprived of “membership” in that sense were still “members” of Parliament in any other sense.  The Lawyer notes that for a few years after 1999 the expelled peers kept their passes that allowed them to enter the building and… I don’t know… eat in the cafeteria, or something.  But how does that make one a “member of Parliament” any more than the staff?  In any case, the official “Explanatory Notes” for the House of Lords Act explain this issue as follows.

The Act deprives excluded hereditary peers of all the privileges of membership of the House of Lords, including the privileges they enjoyed as members of Parliament. Parliamentary privileges cover various matters, many of which relate to the House of Lords as a whole (such as punishing improper conduct within the House itself), but include some that are personal to individual peers. One of the most important personal privileges is that no action can be taken against a peer for what he or she may say in Parliament. Hereditary peers excluded by the Act also lose the right to be paid allowances and to use the facilities of the House that are available to members, such as its library, research and restaurant facilities. The removal of these rights does not prevent the House from deciding to grant some rights to use the facilities of the House to a hereditary peer under the exercise of its own authority.

The intent of the Act, therefore, was to remove ALL privileges of membership, even though the House of Lords retained the right to give whomever they wanted access to the facilities.

The Lawyer then pulls out his trump card.  He cites the very case, Mereworth v Ministry of Justice, that the Clerk of the Parliaments cited to prove his case!

Lord Mereworth brought a declaratory action by which he sought orders allowing him essentially to exercise the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords notwithstanding the Act. While various authorities were cited in the claim there is no mention of the important Mayhew judgment, discussed earlier. The claim was unsuccessful. However, Lord Mereworth won one point that is crucial to the present discussion. The Court held that the Act, though it had deprived the excluded Hereditary Peers of the right to sit or vote, had not revoked the Letters Patent that created those Peerages and the consequent membership of the House of Lords.

Note the careful… one might even say “lawyerly”… language.  The judge said that the House of Lords Act did not revoke the “letters patent” that created hereditary titles “and the consequent membership in the House of Lords.”  In other words, back when titles like Monckton’s were granted, membership in the House of Lords was a “consequence” of the grant.  But nobody seems to have ever claimed that the House of Lords Act revoked such letters patent–only that the Act revoked this particular “consequence” that used to go along with them.  Clearly, this is another red herring.

In fact, as the Clerk of the Parliaments noted, the judge in the Mereworth case said, “In a nutshell, membership of the House of Lords means the right to sit and vote in that House. It does not mean entitlement to the dignity of a peerage.”  Was the Clerk reading the judge’s opinion wrong?  Did the judge really mean (but fail to explicitly say) that one could still be a “member” of the House of Lords in some other sense?  I can’t read his mind, but I can offer the following excerpt from the case summary by The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales.

[S]ection 1 of the 1999 Act intended to remove the right to receive a writ of summons which alone would entitle a hereditary peer to sit and vote and hence be a member of the House of Lords. The reference to “a member of the House of Lords” was simply a reference to the right to sit and vote in that House, it did not mean entitlement to the dignity of a peerage.

Did you catch that?  The “and hence” means that the right to sit and vote in the House is what makes one a member of the House of Lords.

I’m guessing that none of this will ever make it to court, and if it does, Monckton will get thrown out on his ear, just as Lord Mereworth was.  But that’s not really the purpose, is it?  Monckton feels that he simply must, at all costs, keep up the appearance that he is the victim of a political vendetta, and not, well… off his nut.

The sad thing is that he doesn’t really need to go to all the trouble.  Monckton can always get away with this sort of thing among his constituency, meaning the likes of Anthony Watts and the denizens of his blog, who actually listen to His Lordship.  Their gullibility is nearly limitless.  Watts writes, for instance, that those who have criticized Monckton for being a fake member of Parliament “didn’t like the message, so they attacked the man,” ignoring the fact that it was Monckton who first presented himself as “a member of the Upper House of the United Kingdom legislature” to pad his résumé as someone to be taken seriously in the political debate about climate change.  If a fake doctor appeared in court as an expert medical witness, would the opposition be out of line for pointing out the fake credentials?

When I became about the fourth scientist (including one climate change contrarian) to point out that Monckton had been (among other things) using fake temperature projections to discredit the IPCC, Monckton responded on Watts’s blog,

Some have said that the IPCC projection zone on our graphs should show exactly the values that the IPCC actually projects for the A2 scenario. However, as will soon become apparent, the IPCC’s “global-warming” projections for the early part of the present century appear to have been, in effect, artificially detuned to conform more closely to observation.  In compiling our graphs, we decided not merely to accept the IPCC’s projections as being a true representation of the warming that using the IPCC’s own methods for determining climate sensitivity would lead us to expect, but to establish just how much warming the use of the IPCC’s methods would predict, and to take that warming as the basis for the definition of the IPCC projection zone.

You read that right.  He actually defended his misrepresentation of IPCC temperature projections by claiming that it was ok for him to ignore “the values that the IPCC actually projects” and instead recalculate them based on “the IPCC’s own methods”.  But of course, I had already shown that he wasn’t using “the IPCC’s own methods”.  He was using the wrong equation (not meant for time-series projections) and feeding in the wrong data (he miscopied the IPCC’s CO2 projections).

When John Abraham meticulously went through the references in one of Monckton’s presentations,  writing to the authors of the literature cited and asking whether Monckton had fairly represented their work, these authors uniformly wrote back saying that Monckton had misinterpreted them.  Watts posted a number of Monckton’s rebuttals, which included Nazi references and insults about John Abraham’s appearance.  But aside from a few minor points about Abraham’s wording, the only really substantive thing Monckton has managed to say about the affair was summarized in an interview he gave to to a New Zealand TV station.

I’d given him 18 pages of refutation, including example, after example, after example, after example, of him lying to 3rd party scientists about what I had said, then getting understandably hostile comments back, saying, “Well he said that–you know, he’s talking nonsense,” and then using those statements against me.

Great!  Ok, Lord Monckton, can you provide an example where you wrote to one of these scientists, explaining what you really said, and they wrote back to confirm that you had cited their work responsibly?  (Crickets chirping….)  Because that was really the genius of John Abraham’s presentation.  Instead of merely arguing technical points in front of an audience who mostly would not have understood, he just asked the scientists in question whether they had been fairly represented.  Wouldn’t it be easy for Monckton to counter Abraham by doing the same thing?  It would, but I doubt he ever will.

Still, Monckton’s typical deluge of BS was more than enough to convince Watts and his followers, because they are the sort that are really impressed by big words, opaque jargon, and Latin phrases.  Witness Watts’s toadying comment about Monckton’s bombastic threats toward the Clerk of the Parliaments.  “Lord Monckton is quite skilled in oratory skewering. Thus, I had to look up ‘defalcating’.”

Well said, Anthony.  Well said.


Responses

  1. In his latest post defending Monckton, Watts actually had the balls to say this:

    “A lot of the alarmist side of blogosphere (especially John Cook at SkS and Tim Lambert at Deltoid) spent a lot of time trying to distract from the science presented during Lord Monckton’s summer tour in Australia….basically as the tour went on, they didn’t like the message, so they attacked the man.”

    That’s a flat-out lie – John and SkS have never even discussed Monckton’s fake House of Lords membership, or attacked the man. And for Watts/Monckton to accuse anyone else of distracting from the science (especially SkS) is the height of hypocrisy.

    It amazes me that Watts is dumb enough to throw his hat in with the likes of Monckton, but then again, this is the same guy who allowed Steve Goddard to post on his site for several years. Watts isn’t the brightest bulb in the box, nor is Monckton, obviously.

  2. Really, WUWT is being very consistent. Ignore the statements made by people who actually know what they’re talking about, and highlight one random guy who is willing to say what they want and pretend that it is the decisive word on the issue.

  3. [...] times falsely represented himself as a member of Parliament to members of the U.S. Congress, I wrote a blog post detailing why I thought Monckton’s lawyer was… well, acting in a manner consistent with [...]

  4. Be sure to keep up with Anthony Watts and Christopher Monckton at SourceWatch.

  5. I’ve been trying to entice Monckton to launch suit against me for several years by drawing attention to the fact that I believe he committed financial fraud:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/lambert_monckton_debate_on_you.php#comment-2388985

    I’ve repeated essentially the same claim many times before and since, but the good lord always lets it go to the keeper.

    He’s all huff and puff, whether it is his commentary on climate change or his threats of suit. The trouble is, huff and puff is sufficient to sway a significant proportion of the gullible public.

    And Girma Orssengo? [Shudder]. There’s a sad indictment on the institution that saw fit to grant him a PhD… Strangely, his lack of scientific capacity was recalled only this morning when I attended a graduation ceremony for several relatives receiving their floppy hats, and during the Chancellor’s speech about the research process I remembered the blood and tears they (and I, in my turn) expended, where Wormtongue shows no evidence of ever having learned anything during his degree.

    I rue the day he appeared on the Matthew England thread at Deltoid, and we helped him to practise his slipperiness on the matter of signals versus noise.

  6. [...] the Cliffs of Insanity, but we keep listening to no avail for the “splat.”  It was proven that he had been falsely claiming to be a member of Parliament, but the climate change contrarians [...]

  7. […] Monckton hired, about why he is really a member, no matter what Parliament says.  I responded with a post about how ridiculous the lawyer's claims were. […]


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