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Note:Francis Bennion sadly died on 28 January 2015.

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Archive of previous home page items



11 April 2005 - 1992.005



We have just put on the website FB’s fascinating 1992 interview with Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford. Here is the opening-


FB: Bishop, can I begin this interview by asking you - yes or no - does God know you?


RH: Yes, God does know me.


FB: You answer yes to that question. Now I have to ask you to expand on that answer, and help readers to understand what it means to you to answer affirmatively the question Does God know me?


11 Mar 2005 - 2005.014


The following letter from FB appeared on The Times Letters page on 11 Mar 2005:

Stirring up religious hatred


The Minister for Race Equality Fiona McTaggart (letter, March 5) says that the same arguments as those offered against the new crime of stirring up religious hatred have been offered in debates since the 1960s against provisions on incitement to racial hatred.

I disagree. The arguments are not the same. A person cannot choose his or her race, but is free to choose a religion.

The Minister says the new law 'will not prevent criticism of religious beliefs'. I disagree with this also. If I criticise a person’s religious beliefs by saying they are barbaric, cruel, superstitious, intolerant and antisocial I can plausibly be accused of stirring up hatred against that person.

See more articles on Human Rights written by FB


See FB's other letters (more than 100) published by the Times

1 Feb 2005


On 1 February 2005 Francis Bennion sent the following letter to The Times-

I am surprised Michael Gove did not include the name of Peter Brookes in his list of those who lost over the Iraq elections. His debased cartoon today hits a new low in his long series of anti-democratic, unpatriotic depictions. Do they really convey the political views of The Times?


Today's Peter Brookes cartoon shows a large gravestone with the inscription "Victims of the Coalition". Around it, other graves are depicted. A voice from one of them says: "I've got this lovely warm feeling of democracy inside me!". Voices from the other graves echo this. (Click here to see the cartoon in The Times)


17 Jan 2005

FB’s old friend Lord Forsooth defends Prince Harry


Alliance denies deal with Ministers on ban

THE Countryside Alliance has denied it has done a deal with the Government that would allow hunting to continue after February 18 while a legal challenge is made to the ban.

Brian Dooks, Yorkshire Post


In any case, according to former Parliamentary counsel Francis Bennion, author of Statutory Interpretation, the Hunting Act must come into force on February 18 – three months after the date on which it was passed. "The courts have no power to issue an injunction delaying this," he said.

The legal process will begin in the High Court on January 25-26 when the Countryside Alliance will challenge the legality of the Government's decision to use the controversial Parliament Act to force through its hunting ban.

If that fails the Alliance is expected to apply for an immediate injunction to delay implementation of the Hunting Act pending an appeal. At the same time a Human Rights Act challenge will also be launched.

However, Mr Bennion, widely regarded as Britain's leading writer on all aspects of statute law, says there is not time before February 18 for the court to reach a decision on the Alliance's claim that the act was invalidly passed.

He said: "It is inconceivable that the court would grant the proposed injunction before it has decided whether the Act is valid. Anyway, what an injunction does is stop somebody from doing something.

"Nobody needs to do anything to bring the Act into force on February 18. It will happen automatically. The only thing that could stop it is the passing of another Act of Parliament."

Yorkshire Post, 28 December 2004.

Click here to see the whole of FB's letter (published by the Daily Telegraph on Friday, 24 Dec 2004) upon which the above article was based


Bad manners on the Internet


For an example of bad manners recently inflicted on FB, and a general discussion, see Blog FBBB115.

03/12/2004 - 2004.038


The following letter from FB, about the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, appeared in the Daily Telegraph, 3 December 2004:


Sir - Miss Blears is unfair to Philip Johnston. She says his article contains a number of misconceptions, but does not specify what these are. I can find none.


She implies that he alleged that the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 granted the Government "dramatic new powers", but he did not say this. What he said was that the Government "took sweeping powers". This is accurate.


He did not say these powers were new, because, of course, they are not new. Miss Blears is mistaken in saying they have been available to governments only since the Emergency Powers Act was passed in 1920. In fact, they have been available since 1914, when Parliament passed the Defence of the Realm Act (guyed by cartoonists as Dora, a fierce old lady with a threatening brolly).


One might find fault with Johnston for saying the Act is "objectionable" because its powers might be misused by a future government "with scantier respect for democratic procedures than we have been used to". But this does not make the Act objectionable, because it cannot be avoided. We have to trust future governments not to abuse these essential powers.


The media are now more vigilant than ever before, and so are human rights bodies. We have little to worry us on that score.


Francis Bennion, Parliamentary Counsel, 1973-75, Author, Statutory Interpretation, Budleigh Salterton, Devon

29/11/2004 - 2004.134


The following editorial comment appeared in the New Law Journal for 26 November 2004 (page 1746)-


‘Pro-hunt campaigners have launched a legal challenge to the use of the Parliament Act 1949 to force through a hunting ban . . . However, constitutional law expert Francis Bennion said:


“The validity of the Parliament Act 1949 is purely a question of statutory interpretation of the Parliament Act 1911. Section 2(1) of the latter says that any measure passed in accordance with its procedure ‘shall become an Act of Parliament’. This means an Act of Parliament in the full sense. So that is what the 1949 Act is. It is valid, and so is the Hunting Act 2004.”’


For a full statement of FB’s views on the validity of the Hunting Act 2004 see FB's article 'Is the New Hunting Act Valid?' published in Justice of the Peace on 27 November 2004.

22/11/2004 - 2004.033

Making Less of Lessing

Doris Lessing is a white authoress of note. She had the privilege of being brought up in one of the best parts of the British Empire, Southern Rhodesia, in the good old days before it became Zimbabwe and was raped by the robber Mugabe. Now she has the impudence to tell Exeter schoolgirls that the great British Empire was on the same level as Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy. The following letter from Francis Bennion was published in the Spectator on 6 November 2004-

I am an Englishman living near Exeter. I was interested to learn from Jane Gardam’s review of Doris Lessing’s Time Bites (Books, 23 October 2004) that the latter had told girls of Exeter School that when she was young ‘there was the Soviet Union, Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini of Italy, the British empire’ and now rejoiced that ‘they are all gone’.
I am 81. For me there was (or were) also these things. I spent five years of my youth fighting Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini of Italy in company with many brave young men and women from various parts of the British Empire. I captained a Wellington bomber of 221 Squadron when the other four in the crew were all Australians.
They would have been surprised to be lumped with the enemy in a sour condemnation like this.

Doris Lessing's reply was published in the Spectator on 20 November 2004

Sir: If Francis Bennion (Letters, 6 November) had troubled to read what I had written instead of what someone else said I had written, he would have seen there was no rejoicing, sour or otherwise, when I listed some of the great powers that loomed over my youth — Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, the Soviet Union (our ally in the war, as it happened), the British empire — and said they had all vanished. All of those seemed set to last. I could have added the other European empires: Franco. Salazar racism enstructured in certain nations, like South Africa. My point, which I had thought it unnecessary to labour, was that certain contemporary great powers will probably disappear too, no matter how impregnable they seem now.
Francis Bennion cites his war service. I, being female, was merely having babies, but my family has more than done its bit. My father lost a limb and his health in the trenches. My mother nursed the wounded from 1914 to 1918. My brother. Harry Tayler, was sunk in the Repulse by the Japanese (yes, there was that empire too, I nearly forgot), my son John Wisdom fought for good ole Smithie who was defend white supremacy in former Southern Rhodesia. I knew many of the ‘brave young men and women’ fighting Hitler, as of course anyone of our age was bound to have done.
Francis Bennion says he is 81 years old, an Englishman living near Exeter. Well, I am 85, an Englishwoman (with Scottish and Irish tinctures) living in London.
Doris Lessing London NW6

Francis Bennion's reply is-

It is obvious from her response that Doris Lessing is celebrating the passing of the British Empire and also lumping it together (as of equal guilt) with Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy (now she adds the wartime Japanese Emperor Hirohito).

It was this lumping together I was objecting to, and for that reason citing my Wellington bomber crew consisting of four Australians. It was because Doris Lessing apparently conveyed her unpleasant views to an audience of Exeter schoolgirls that I mentioned that I live in Exeter and therefore have an interest. Where she lives is irrelevant.

3/11/2004 - 2004.024


The Times goes ‘compact’


Never again will I feel a surge of pride at seeing my humble missive perched in the top left hand corner alongside some majestic editorial.


As one who has been published over a hundred times on your letters page, I feel sad at a change which robs the Times of its civilised spaciousness.


Lead letter published in The Times on the day following the last broadsheet edition of the newspaper, 1 November 2004

25/10/2004 - 2004.031

How to ditch your partner





C. W. W. from Eastbourne wants to know how to break the news to his girlfriend that he is moving on – by email or text message?

Francis Bennion, Budleigh Salterton, Devon: “In a case like this, computers are cowardly and cruel. Try cooling off gradually, rather then the icy plunge. Cancel a date now and then on inadequate grounds. In time the penny will drop.”

Letter published in The Times (Modern Times), 23 October, page 53

18/10/2004 - 2004.029

Means tested


You report that Gordon Brown insists on a National Health Service which is free at the point of need – even for patients who can well afford to pay (Other views, 5 October). Why then does the Chancellor of the Exchequer insist on means-testing for pensioners?

Letter published in The Times Public Agenda, 12 October 2004, p. 16.


Magna Carta

“Concerned strictly with particular rights, Magna Carta did not make statements of general principle about liberty which are characteristic of the founding documents of other nations (the American Declaration of Independence for example) and which are then left to the interpretations of judges or other bodies.”

Ronald Butt, A History of Parliament: the Middle Ages (Constable 1989), p. 62


This confirms my longstanding opposition to Bill of Rights formulations as opposed to specific provisions spelling out rights (and duties) with detail and precision. See my earlier letters on this subject, T018 (1978) and T024 (1980), which were published in the Times.


To see my other letters to the Times (more than 100 to date) visit the "Press Letters" section of my website.