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Numerical Models of Weather Forecasting

As part of studing energy issues (for more info see my gas blog I have been looking at the weather forecasts.

It is quite interesting how much reasonably reliable information is available on the web. Sites such as Net Weather provide this information as well as referencing other sites such as Wetter Zentrale which is in German.

Forecasters generally start with numerical models of the weather. The charts generated by those models are then available on various net sites. One of the systems most frequently reviewed is the US Global Forecast System. (GFS)

This system takes in standard data for four runs. The four runs are indicated by the GMT time that they take the data from. They are then available about 5 hours later.

One aspect that varies for GFS is that different sets of data are input for each run.
The variations are:
00z - Weather buoy, satellite data, shipping data, country data, NOAA data
06Z - Weather buoy, satellite data, shipping data
12Z - Shipping data, Satellite data ONLY
18Z…

Labour Government Phasing out NHS Dentistry

There is a new NHS Dental Contract. It appears that 1/3 of Birmingham's dentists (120) are likely to refuse to sign it.

The big difficulty is charging (and paying) the same fee regardless of the number of fillings. This seems to be orientated by NICE towards discouraging patients from turning up until they need quite a bit of work.

There are some sensible proposals such as how to handle out of hours work and paying monthly, but underlying it seems to be a desire to phase out NHS Dentistry.

There is also this concept that patients don't have a personal dentist (or GP), but shop around for anyone willing to deal with them on the day.

This seems to be driven my some ideological approach in Whitehall rather than considering the realities in Birmingham.

Blair - government by spin

I think there is a start in a trend of newspapers actually checking out what the government actually achieves.

If we start with Make Poverty History the Independent has done some work entitled "have we made poverty history" this shows that some progress has been made, but nothing like as much as was intended.

Then there is the Banning of Hunting which has resulted in more hunting with dogs.

The legislative agenda was clearly driven by spin. There was a problem with infection in hospitals, so a Bill was announced. Why legislation is needed to do a better job cleaning in hospitals is unclear? Disinfectant would be more useful.

We have "The Respect Agenda". I was summonsed to 22 Whitehall to discuss this. There was the plan to have a "respect action plan", which encountered widespread ridicule.

We are now having Expert Seminars on Respect. At least some people will end up getting some benefit out of it - the consultants running the seminars.

The legislatio…

More December Photos

This appears as an action photo, but is a photo of opening the improved swimming pool at Brays School. Brays do a very good job in improving the quality of life for kids who have particularly special needs. I think the Warnock report is being seen for being simplistic even by Baroness Warnock. Hopefully no-one will ever suggest closing Brays School now.

This is a photo of launching the "hit squad" and switching on the lights at the Yew Tree. It is nice to have some progress being made in the suburbs of Yardley much that I am spending a lot of time dealing with the development at The Swan.

Being a bit soft I allowed the Labour MPs who had turned up at a "photo opportunity" without cameras to use my digital camera and have emailed the photos to them. If only the Labour government showed any willingness to cooperate on Climate Change then we would be making progress. (Aviation white paper anyone)

This is a nice photo of opening the Stockfield CA's new communit…

Police and Health Reorganisations

There are two centralisations going on at the moment. The most worrying is that relating to the police. Gradually it will become less possible to influence the priorities of the police force locally and it will be essentially up to the Home Secretary. Wonder why he likes it?

The Health one is just one of the normal chuck everything up in the air and see where it lands type of reorganisations. Not an efficient way to run anything, but it tends to happen every three years or so and gets back to where it was about 14 years ago.

In theory these things are driven by a need for efficiency. It may be that having a reorganisation makes redundancy easier, but there is no doubt that reorganisations cost money.

Still twas ever thus.

Using a barometer to measure height

Normal Physics exam questions involve measuring the pressure at the two heights to work out how tall a building is.

Alternatively if you want to compare heights of two children you can place a barometer on their heads thus:

This answers the question as to whether my 12 year old son is now taller than my 15 year old daughter (who is 5'10").

Labour Government Kills off Final Salary Pensions

With the tax on pensions introduced early on by the government pension funds were struggling. There always have been tensions between final salary pension schemes and defined contribution schemes. Industry and Commerce find it difficult to cope with the uncertainty of the defined contribution schemes. When inflation was higher it was easy for them to cope as the effect of inflation whittled away the benefits (and costs) of the pension schemes.

Then Labour introduce a new levy on final salary schemes. It seems a clever wheeze at the time to underwrite some final salary schemes through other ones. The end result, however, is to put more pressure on companies to close them down.

It is a bit like Labour's tax on fuel. Inevitably this has some effect in putting up costs of fuel. Gordon Brown's removal of ACT at the time seemed to have no immediate effect. The effects was entirely down the line.

The story is in the press today that soon in the private sector the number of peopl…

Birmingham Casino Debate

There has been quite a bit of debate recently about whether or not Birmingham should apply to be a Licensing Authority for a Destination Casino.

The local debate is about whether there should be such a Casino at the NEC or whether it should be linked to the redevelopment of the Blues ground.

The complexity is that if the City Council becomes a Licensing authority then it would only license casinos in Birmingham. The NEC is in Solihull. Furthermore it would have to consider any other applications from within the City - not only one for the Blues Stadium.

My own personal view is that I support proposals to produce a new City of Birmingham Stadium. This could be done in a number of ways - one of which is funded by an in-city Casino.

I am, however, concerned about driving more GDP down the route of gambling as there are problems when people get addicted. People don't always have a good judgement as to probabilities - which is one reason why casinos make money. We do already have a nu…

Labour MPs refer me to Standards Commissioner for asking questions about the weather

I have just been phoned by someone from the national media telling me that one or more Labour MPs have referred me to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner for asking questions about the weather.

Apparently they think I have a financial interest in it.

As all regular readers of this blog will know the weather is important for determining gas usage. I am told they have also approached my Whip about the issue. I have phoned my whip and he says that noone has spoken to him.

I have emailed the Labour MP who is supposed to have complained to find out what he is on about.

Out with the old - in with the new

As with the last post, this post does not actually refer to Charles Kennedy. At my house we have obtained a skip and placed various items around it. Some of the items include some quite nice old furniture that we took into the house when my wife's mother died.

The desired result is being achieved in that people are taking items away to make use of them.

Skips act as localised recycling centres, but do not satisfy government targets.

At the moment there is a really nice wardrobe looking for a home. Interestingly we have actually taken in one item that was brought to the "installation".

As a society we have become very wasteful. Over time with tighter energy availability resources will not be as freely available. This will require the sustainability three Rs to be remembered - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

A Seven and Sixteen Day Weather Forecast from US NCEP Global Forecast System

With a bit of luck the above image will give the next 7 days weather for London - at the point at which you look at this blog entry. At the moment it appears to be turning coldish. Obviously the image will change with the GFS forecasts from which it is developed.

The good news for the government is that it seems that although December will be slightly colder than average it won't be a really cold month.

The following gives various 16 day predictions for the weather at a pressure height of 850 hectoPascals.


Remember that the further in the future you go the less reliable the predictions are.

Charles Kennedy

As someone from the "any publicity is good publicity" stable of politicians I should not be critical about the amount of publicity the party is currently getting. I must admit, however, that it is quite difficult to fathom out what, if anything, is going on.

I have actually been at some of the meetings reported in the media. I wonder if perhaps I was asleep during part of the meetings as the reports of the meetings do not accord with what I heard and saw during the meetings.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 14th December 2005

UK Air Passengers
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what average number of flights was taken by UK passengers (a) in 1997 and (b) in the latest year for which figures are available, broken down by social class.(John Hemming)

A:The results by socio-economic classification for 2003 are given as follows. Respondents in managerial/professional occupations had a higher mean number of air trips than those in lower occupational categories.(follow the link for the data)
(Karen Buck, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport)

Silent Calls (HMT)
Q: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 30 November 2005, Official Report, column 525W, on silent calls, what estimate the Inland Revenue made in 2004–05 of the number of silent calls made from its offices and those of its contractors using predictive dialler technology. (John Hemming)

A:Full information is not available on the number of calls where contact was made but operators were not available and it…

Written Parliamentary Questions: 13th December 2005

Predictive Diallers (ODPM)
Q: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many calls were made from call centres in his Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment he has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres.(John Hemming)

A:The central Office of the Deputy Prime Minister HQ does not have a call centre, and its switchboard does not use predictive diallers when making calls to members of the public.(Jim Fitzpatrick, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister)

Aircraft Emissions/Noise
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what modelling the Government has undertaken of the impact of the trend in aviation's proportion of total UK emissions of greenhouse gases on the costs and reduction requirements of other UK emissions sectors…

Summonsed to 22 Whitehall

The top spending 14 LSPs were summonsed to Whitehall to be told about the "Respect Agenda".

There are reasonable ideas behind the "respect agenda", but merely writing a "Respect Action Plan" is not one of them. We were told (having made the point that the government have demands for a large number of plans - Community Strategy, Local Area Agreement, Robust Improvement Plans - all covering the same area) that we would not be told to produce a "Respect Action Plan".

The point was emphatically made that the government is driving much of the agendas of the LSPs, but in a counterproductive manner.

Interestingly the government have started to argue that everyone should do what Birmingham has been doing. This is, of course, the same goverment as that which has argued that we should stop doing what we have been doing and centralise everything.

I wonder sometimes if the Government have compelely lost it.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 9th December 2005.

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will bring forward proposals to amend section 34 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to permit the courts to draw adverse inferences from the failure to mention facts in post-charge interviews for terror-related offences. (John Hemming)

A:A detainee may not be interviewed about an offence after they have been charged with it or informed that they will be prosecuted for it unless the interview is necessary for the reasons set out in paragraph 16.5 of PACE Code C (Detention, treatment and questioning of persons by police officers).

We are considering whether such provision best suits the needs of achieving a successful outcome to an investigation and intend to publish a consultation paper on this issue in spring 2006. That paper will also consider the existing caution provided for in Code C, paragraph 16.5 and the potential for extending that to the caution given to a suspect …

Habitual Residence Test

I have asked a few questions about this. They relate to someone who moved from Acocks Green to Thailand on retirement. He had worked as a bus driver for about 35-40 years and retired to Thailand.

He would like to return, but his pension is not enough to live on. He cannot however, get any support from the government regardless of the fact that he has paid uk tax for decades.

Written Parliamentary Question: 8th December 2005

Ethiopia/Eritrea
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are planning to take to respond to the tension between Ethiopia and Eritrea; and what action it plans to take to support the United Nations Security Council resolution imposing economic sanctions on the two nations if they do not return to the conditions of the peace plan signed in 2000. (John Hemming)

A:We remain concerned at the continuing tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea over their disputed border. We continue to underline to both parties that there must be no return to war; that the decision of the Boundary Commission is final and binding, and must be implemented; and that they should engage in dialogue on all the issues that divide them.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1640 (2005) allows Ethiopia and Eritrea 30 days to respond to the demands made of them in the resolution to withdraw troops from the border area, and for Eritrea to lift the ban on UN helico…

Cameron's first outing

Today was David Cameron's first outing at leader of the Tory Party. He has placed his agenda fairly and squarely in the middle of the privatise everything camp.

There is a political debate to be had as to what the best way of managing things is. We are having an experiment within the Health service of pushing it in the direction of a market economy. At the same time many in the private sector feel that there is too little regulation in the sphere of energy and that there should be more government involvement to maintain energy security.

If, and it is a big if, we have a Gas Crisis this will be a Gas Crisis for which the inactivity of government is responsible. We already have a tight situation in the NHS which can be lain at the feet of Adam Smith idealogues.

Myself I do not think driving the political agenda further in the direction set out by Cameron today is helpful either in practise or in terms of winning elections.

Written Parliamentary Question: 7th December 2005

Habitual Residence Test
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 30 November 2005, Official Report, column 613W on the habitual residence test, whether someone who has paid sufficient national insurance contributions to qualify for contributory benefits is subject to the habitual residence test for non-contributory benefits. (John Hemming)

A:Yes; all claims for income-related benefits are subject to the habitual residence test. (James Plaskitt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions)

The Pre-Budget Report

If Gordon Brown were to permit the assumptions behind his predictions to be made public perhaps they wouldn't go this far wrong.

When I get some time I need to try to work out what is happening separately to private and public sector GDP. The impression is that the private sector is in a recession, but the public sector not.

Similarly superficially it appears that Labour have gone for reducing the public sector as a proportion of the GDP, but it will take reading the detailed papers - which I might be able to do tomorrow, to work out what is really going on.

It is also unclear whether raising the tax take from the North Sea will act to further undermine the UK's Energy Security. It might and it might not. Working this out takes some time.

As with the pensions £5bn tax raid a few years ago raising the tax take from part of the economy undermines other aspects. The pensions raid gave a short term gain and a long term damage to pensions. That is even though the stock market did …

Written Parliamentary Question: 6th December 2005

Gas
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the estimated gas production from the UK's own resources is for each quarter from Q1 2006 to Q4 2008.(John Hemming)

A:The Department does not make projections of gas production on a quarterly basis. It does publish projections of annual production from the UK continental shelf, in the form of ranges, at http://www.og.dti.gov.uk/information/bb_updates/chapters/Section4_17.htm. For 2006 to 2008 the latest projections of production available for sale (i.e. net of producers' own use) are 85–95 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2006, 80–90 bcm in 2007 and 75–85 bcm in 2008. By comparison, net production in 2004 was 94.5 bcm and is likely to be around 89 bcm in 2005. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State (Energy), Department of Trade and Industry)

Gas
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when his Department first provided information to (a) Ofgem and (b) the national grid about gas production problems in the Nor…

pre-Budget Report - NHS in financial crisis

The problem faced by the NHS in trying to stick within budget 2/3 of the way through the year is it is quite difficult in a staff intensive service to find easy savings.

That is why hospitals have been told to use targets as maxima rather than minima.

In Birmingham it is the Sandwell and City Hospital Trust that faces a substantial end of year forecast deficit of £5,100,000. Finding this in 4 months means savings or cuts of an annual equivalent of £15,300,000. That is quite difficult.

The problems arise from changes enforced centrally.

Written parliamentary Questions: 5th December 2005

Habitual Residence Test
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will revise the habitual residence test to take into account the length of time claimants paid tax in the UK before moving abroad. (John Hemming)

A:The habitual residence test is working well preventing access to income-related benefits, such as income-based jobseeker's allowance and income support, ensuring that they are only paid to people with reasonable ties to the United Kingdom and who intend to settle here. Someone, with a right to reside in the UK, will be more likely to pass the habitual residence test if they have previously lived and worked in the UK and have returned to resume their residence here.

Someone who has paid sufficient national insurance contributions to satisfy the qualifying conditions for contributory benefits will not be subject to the habitual residence test. (James Plaskitt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions)

Data Protection
Q: To ask the Minis…

UK Gas Shortage

I have received some criticism from Labour about being concerned about the UK Gas Shortage.

It is quite clear that there is a shortage of supply. The impact of this shortage is mainly resultant from the ambient temperature. The colder it is the worse the impact.

More importantly the government can act to minimise both the possibilities of a Gas Emergency and also the impact of a gas emergency. I have put proposals to the government for action. Every day they delay makes things worse.

Whilst it is warm, as now, they should be maximising imports and ensuring that they go into storage. When it is cold they should still be maximising imports. Decisions were taken by Ofgem (that the government has to accept responsibility for) that have impact on supply security (such as UNC044).

Furthermore, the government could act to reduce demand at peak times. There are many places that are kept at far too high a temperature. Commercial operations are considered to be the same as the residences o…

Written Parliamentary Question: 2nd December 2005

Predictive Diallers (HMT)
Q: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many calls were made by (a) his Department and (b) Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment he has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers by his Department.(John Hemming)

A: In respect of the Treasury, I refer the hon. Member to the Financial Secretary's reply of 15 November 2005, Official Report, column 1209W. The Treasury does not use predictive diallers.

HM Revenue and Customs was created as a legal entity on 7 April 2005. Of the two former Departments, HM Customs and Excise did not make use of predictive diallers during the period.

It is estimated that the Inland Revenue—and contractors acting on its behalf—made around 7.5 million calls using predictive diallers during 2004–05…

Best to ignore ministers

The head of the school that ranked top of today's primary school league tables attributed her success to "ignoring" most of the Government's flagship literacy and numeracy strategies.

The problem with Tony Blair's central planning system is that it gets things wrong. There is no sense swapping things around all the time in accordance with the central fads.

For example the real problem with examinations is that they are continually changing the way they work. This undermines their credibility as an objective, absolute system.

Similarly they are at it again reorganising the health service into either 3 or 1 PCT for the whole of Birmingham. My own view is to leave things alone with potential the option for areas to locally decide to evolve structures. Birmingham Social Services had a major reorganisation to fit with the PCT boundaries. Now the PCT boundaries are changing.

Written Parliamentary Question: 1st December 2005

Predictive Diallers (DEFRA)
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many calls were made from call centres in her Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment she has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres. (John Hemming)

A: Defra does not use predictive diallers. (Jim Knight,Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Taxman makes 300,000 nuisance calls a year

A written parliamentary question by Silent Calls Campaigning MP John Hemming has revealed the shock fact that the government is making at least 300,000 nuisance calls a year.

"After trying to pretend they didn't use predictive dialling, they finally admitted on Tuesday that the taxman made 7.5 million calls in 2004/5 using a predictive dialler. The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) code called for a limit of 5% of these to be silent, nuisance calls. It is clear that the taxman made at least 300,000 (4%) nuisance calls in 2004/5. The government claim that 'Full information is not available on the number of calls where contact was made but operators were not available' that is because they do not want to admit that they contribute to the many millions of times that people are disrupted and caused anxiety by 'silent calls'." said John Hemming

"Ofcom produced new guidelines on 31st October, but the tax man is still "considering" Ofcom's g…

Russian gas dispute puts European supply at risk

This story is about a dispute between Russia and Ukraine. This has the potential to affect UK gas supplies through the interconnector. It has the potential to reduce our supplies by 25 mcm/d.

That, of course, would cut into Medium Term Storage and possibly short term storage.

LTS withdrawals are continuing apace even though demand is relatively low for the temperature at about 370 mcm/d.

I have set up another blog at GasIssues.blogspot.com to transfer that particular issue to the other blog.

This will enable me to avoid one issue dominating this blog. To be fair if we do hit the buffers on this (which I would say is still a 50:50 chance) then it will have a massive impact on the UK. Even now substantial economic damage is being done. Hence I make no apologies for being concerned about the tightness of the gas supply demand balance even though I am still doing a lot of other things.

Written Parliamentary Question: 30th November 2005

Data Protection
Q: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will increase individuals' rights under the Data Protection Act 1998. (John Hemming)

A:The Data Protection Act 1998, which accurately reflects the requirements of the Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC), puts in place a firm regulatory structure to ensure the legitimate processing of individuals' personal data. It provides substantial rights for individuals in respect of their personal data, including the right of subject access, the right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress, the right to prevent processing for the purposes of direct marketing, rights in relation to automated decision-making, compensation for failure to comply with certain of the Act's requirements, and the right to have data rectified, blocked, erased or otherwise destroyed in certain circumstances. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 also extended individuals' right of subject a…

Tuesday's gas chart

This is the chart of long term storage.

The real problems arise whenever either of the safety monitors is breached. Short term storage (LNG mainly) allows the handling of peaks in demand. It can run at about 47 mcm/d for about 3 days. Medium term can run at 28 mcm/d for (now) 15 days and long term can run (now) for 70 days at 45 mcm/d.

The safety monitors exist at 22% of LTS, 13% of MTS and 22% of STS to ensure that if the system cannot cope with demand that it shuts down sensibly. If domestic customers were ever to be cut off that would
a) Cause major hardship ... and
b) Take some time to reverse as you cannot just switch the gas back on again
(pilot lights and all that).

Hence the system is designed to ensure that whatever happens we should not have to do that.

This means (see earlier) that big consumers are cut off first (such as the electricity generators).

The real problem is that during Winter although we can use LTS for 70 days we should not be having to use it now.

My guess is…

Passport Photos

The Home Office claim that their automated systems can recognise a 4 year old from photographs of that 4 year old with their mouth closed and eyes open when they were 2 weeks old.

I accept the argument that babies should have passports (although we coped for centuries with children travelling on their parents' passports). However, I cannot believe that it is necessary to be as picky about the photograph of the child.

In the mean time over 13% of passport applications are rejected because of the photo not satisfying the government's new conditions.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 29th November 2005

Gas Production/Supplies
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will assess the merits of stipulating a requirement for gas wholesalers to contract for a minimum supply percentage from outside the UK's own resources to guarantee supply levels through interconnectors and liquid natural gas shipments. (John Hemming)

A:The regulatory/commercial framework for the gas supply industry, overseen by Ofgem, gives strong financial incentives for companies to have sufficient gas supplies, on a day-by-day basis, to meet their contractual commitments. It is in companies' interests to source gas supplies from a diverse range of sources and supply routes. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State (Energy), Department of Trade and Industry)

Gas Production/Supplies
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the total imported gas capacity in millions of cubic metres which will be available per average day in each quarter from Q1 2006 to Q4 20…

Written Parliamentary Questions: 28th November 2005

Child Protection
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many children have been placed on the child protection registers by child protection committees as a result of an allegation of Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy in each year since 2002; and how many of those children were taken into care. (John Hemming)

A:The Department for Education and Skills does not collect this information, as 'Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy' is not a recommended category for registration on child protection registers, nor is it a ground for the making of care orders under section 31 of the Children Act 1989. (Maria Eagle, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Children and Families) Department for Education and Skills)

Silent Telephone Calls
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in what circumstances those making silent telephone calls will not be subject to action from Ofcom following Ofcom's publication of a new policy on silent calls. (John Hemming)

A:The matte…

Mothers fear social services

One explanation many gave was that they were afraid that health visitors would call in the social services, leading to the possibility they would lose their children.

The extract is from a BBC story (see link) about mothers fearing the involvement of social services. There was an important change in court procedures which started on 1st November which allows people who have been through the family courts to tell others (but not the media) of the details of their case.

The problem is that we have ended up in a surreal world where when allegations are made without evidence that there is a need for the subject of the allegations to prove their innocence. If they do not prove their innocence and then continue to deny the allegation they suffer, if they accept the allegation they suffer.

Eric Pickles has put down an EDM about this issue. There is a need for a wider scrutiny of what is done in the name of child protection.

In the mean time we have the first "high level" risk of in…

Blair's "winter of discontent"

This winter seems to building into a winter of discontent. The health service is facing substantial problems. The government's solution seems to be to reorganise it. We in Birmingham face either 1 PCT or 3 PCTs. In essence we are going back to a single health authority for the city - a situation much like it used to be about 10 years ago.

The withdrawals from storage appear to have ebbed for the weekend with demand running about 20 mcm lower and hence the withdrawals runnning about 20 mcm lower.

It remains that domestic customers are last to be cut off and that we will have enough gas to keep that going. However, any gas shipper (utility) short of gas is going to have to pay a system price something like 4 times what they would have done previously.

Actual demand yesterday is reported at 351 and forecast for today is 352 (mcm), but Monday jumps to a forecast of 374 - which should take withdrawals from long term storage back up to maximum. At 1pm, however, the forecast flows int…

Why so little comment about Gas

What was interesting about today was that the 7 day rolling average of extracts from storage which includes last weeks outy/inny now predicts a number of days less than 100 for breaching the safety monitors.

The feeling I have is that people believed the National Grid's Winter Outlook 2005's prediction of 303 from Beach 42 from the interconnector and 13 from Grain. The fact is that Beach and Grain together have only managed to peak at 302 (on 23rd) and the interconnector struggles to get close to 42 even on nominations let alone physical flow.

The sums of money are quite big and I expect some large sums of money to be made and lost when the dust settles.

I will be interested to see what the demand is over the weekend. Weekend demand is about 20 mcm less than weekdays, but cold weather makes a real difference.

If beach manages to keep up to the 300 that it hit on Wednesday it will be doing well. However, in cold weather we risk that all the supplies including storage cannot main…

Withdrawal eases for a day

Thursday's withdrawal eased slightly to a net 338, but Friday's nominations (remembering that the day does not finish until 5.59am tomorrow morning) are running at 445 at Rough.

One key figure will be Today's demand. Today is a colder day which will have higher demand. The output from Beach and Grain has tipped up to just over 303 (still under the National Grid's forecast).

Independent Energy Scrutiny Panel

I have been that busy with matters (specifically relating to Gas) that I have not managed to talk about the launch of the IESP.

I held a meeting with various stakeholders inc Chemical Industries Association, National Farmers Union, Energy Institute, Ofgem, New Energy Foundation and Powerswitch to review the fossil fuel situation. This has been planned before it turned out there was gas calamity.

It was agreed that we should form the IESP to challenge the assumptions behind figures provided by various players (Government, Regulators, National Grid etc etc).

It is very clear that the figures provided as part of the Winter Outlook 2005 were substantially in error. Not only that but it was a shock. It was such as shock that it appears that Malcolm Wicks did not even know on Wednesday.

One of the things that arose during the meeting was that the DTI were refusing to provide information to Ofgem about gas field problems. In the circumstances it sounds totally insane. That is probably beca…

Gas Crisis: Urgent Question

The link is to hansard for my supplementary question to my urgent question about gas.

Basically the situation is that the National Grid are taking gas out of Long Term Storage at the maximum rate. (and did so on Tuesday as well). I quoted the figures for Sat/Sun/Mon.

This is not sustainable and if all else remains equal (viz temperatures remain the same, supply is the same) then we breach the safety monitors and have to start shutting down parts of the network by cutting off people on interruptible supplies (industrial users) in late December early January and keeping them off until March.

Now in my 45 years of life it has generally got colder through that period rather than warmer and I (and the Met office) would expect that.

Hence, unless there is a really good reason to see otherwise, that is likely to happen.

I have now managed to source figures as to the detailed inputs into the system.

Our new LNG system in the Isle of Grain that is supposed to produce 13 mcm/d peaked at 6 and was a…

Written Parliamentary Questions: 24th November 2005

Predictive Diallers (DCMS)
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many calls were made from call centres in her Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment she has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres.(John Hemming)

A: My Department does not operate any call centres. (David Lammy, parliamentary Under-Secretary (Culture), Department of Culture, Media and Sport).


Forensic Services
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of whether the forensic services have sufficient capacity available to facilitate the investigation of terrorist offences; and if he will make a statement.(John Hemming)

A: Forensic services called upon to assist terrorism investigations come from a number of organisatio…

Written Parliamentary Question: 23rd November 2005

Police
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will revise the Police and Criminal Evidence Code to facilitate the re-interview of terrorist detainees after charge; and if he will make a statement. (John Hemming)

A: During Report Stage on the Terrorism Bill on 9 November 2005, my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary agreed to look at whether it might be possible to extend the circumstances in which post charge interviewing can be used in terrorist cases. We are currently reviewing existing legislation in consultation with the police and the CPS. (Hazel Blears, Minister of State (Policing, Security and Community Safety), Home Office)

Contingency Planning (Power Supplies)
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what range of scenarios the Government Chief Scientific Adviser is considering in terms of oil and gas reserves for contingency planning purposes.(John Hemming)

A: Currently, the Office of Science and Technology, headed by the Government Chief S…

Gas crisis worsens

With prices rocketing to £1.70p the market knows there is a problem.

On Monday 231 GWh were released from medium term storage and 496 GWh from Long Term Storage. This is actually a faster rate of release from Long Term Storage than is the maximum as defined by the National Grid. This equates to roughly 66 million cubic metres in the day.

This shows a particularly worrying trend as it appears that the system is having difficulty maintaining sufficient supplies for demand. Extrapolating from these figures and making the assumption that the reserves do not go below the safety level, this is only sustainable for 43 days. However, making the assumption that the 3 day rolling average of 604 GWh is applicable then this would allow 51 days. Neither of these figures, however, take us into the peak month for gas usage which is February.

I accept that about 10 mcm has been injected into the pipes, but it still remains that over 50 mcm extra was taken from storage. Demand is expected to gr…

Ambush Defences

I went to a meeting with Andy Hayman of the Met last week. I have also discussed matters with a number of other people involved in the Criminal Justice system.

It does appear that the key issue that drove the claim that 90 days detention without charge is needed is the idea of preventing an ambush defence where suspects don't comment at all during the pre-trial period and then generate a defence at the trial.

The difference in the cautions used pre (and at) charge and post-charge arises mainly from Section 34 b) of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. It is not an entirely full reading of the act and it may not be the case that primary legislation needs to change to handle this, but probably such a change would be useful.

I am still awaiting responses on this from a number of groups of people, but I think this could be a route to avoid detaining people without charge for even 28 days.

Does gas run out in 73 days?

Actually no. Although if you take forwards the extraction rates of an average of 431 GWh from Long Term storage then we only have 73 days of gas left in storage at that rate. Between 50 and 70 million cubic metres of gas is being taken from storage each day at the moment.

Demand has jumped recently

This is a graph of demand from the National Grid.

Clearly as to be expected gas demand has jumped massively in November.

A lot of gas (11 days of total British Consumption) is stored by Centrica and is the Long Term Storage. If this runs short then we would be short say about 60 mcm a day which is about 1/6th of total usage. A serious problem, but not strictly "running out" of gas.

Press Release
John Hemming MP has written to Malcolm Wicks MP to ask him to identify what urgent action the government will be taking given that current extract rates from storage predict that we could run out of stored natural gas by the end of February 2006.

An analysis released today by Energy Campaigni…

Move to Scrap Cabinet "Generous Golden Goodbyes"

A cross-party move to scrap the deal whereby Cabinet Ministers can get 1/4 of their salary tax free every time they resign has been launched with the tabling of a motion in the House of Commons by John Hemming MP.

"The Government", he said, "is planning to cut redundancy payments made to people over 41 next year. In the mean time they have a scheme whereby a cabinet minister gets £18,000 tax free for resigning. This arises from an act of parliament passed in 1991. The end result for David Blunkett is that he got more cash for resigning than he would have got had he stayed in post."

"This situation is indefensible. Payments for loss of office should take into account how long the office has been held. If people are popping in and out of the revolving door that leads to the cabinet office then they should not get a generous golden goodbye every time they 'pass go'.

Mr Hemming has tabled an Early Day Motion with the support of Lib Dem and Conservative MP…

Government in Nuisance Calls Cover Up

Although John Healey MP says that "The Treasury has no call centres", the linked Departmental Report for 2004 from the Inland Revenue on Page 10 refers to their use of predictive dialling technology. The Inland Revenue is a non-ministerial department that reports to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hence if I had asked him about his "departments" perhaps I would have received a different response.

I have now asked the question again as "departments (including the Inland Revenue)"

Written Parliamentary Question: 18th November 2005

NHS Finances
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of NHS bodies are insolvent. (John Hemming)

A: No NHS organisations are insolvent. All national health service organisations have sufficient funding to pay their bills within a reasonable time. (Liam Byrne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)

At-risk Children
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many children were on the at-risk register in each local authority in England at the end of each council year since 1989.(John Hemming)

A: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is available from the Department's website at:

hhttp://www.dfes.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/VOL/v000553/index.shtml
(Beverley Hughes, Minister of State, Department for Education and Skills)


Predictive Diallers (Treasury)
Q: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many calls were made from call centres in his Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being m…

Take the government gag off license objectors

EDM 996 OPERATION OF THE LICENSING ACT 2003

Basically if an application is refused or withdrawn and varied slightly then a completely new set of objections needs to be sent to the council. This makes life harder for objectors. There should be some balance on this whereby previous recent comments are taken into account appropriately.

I have moved an EDM on this (see link).

Written Parliamentary Question: 16th November 2005

Predictive Diallers (Ministry of Defence)
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many calls were made from call centres in his Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment he has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres.(John Hemming)

A: None. Predictive dialling technology is not used by the Ministry of Defence.(Don Touhig, Parliamentary Under Secretary, Ministry of Defence)

THE WISDOM OF THE TORIES

These are source from another blog, but that blog takes some time to load hence I have copied the original here. He entitles it "Remember when governments were stupid rather than nasty".

“Political suicide can end a career.”
- John Major
“Suicide is a real threat to health.”
- Virginia Bottomley
“Anyone would think we were living on some island somewhere.”
- George Walden
“It’s not the future I’m talking about, I’m talking about tomorrow.”
- John Gummer
“The trend in the rise in unemployment is downward.”
- Gillian Shepherd
“The more important things are more important than the less important
things.”
- Stephen Dorrell
“When the IRA plant such bombs, it proves they can scare people, it
proves they can kill people, it proves nothing.”
- Peter Bottomley
“We said zero, and I think any statistician will tell you that… zero
must mean plus or minus a few.”
- William Waldegrave
“Who Sadam Hussein kills, dies.”
- Jeffrey Archer
“There’s no smoke without mud being flung around.”
- Edwina Currie
“I will nev…

Justice needs to be seen to be done

The truth of the situation appears to be coming out of the woodwork. The police were asked for how many days they would like to have pre-charge and they said "up to 90". Blair then picked on this as a totem with which to batter the opposition.

The real problem is that it is the wrong question. The right question is what changes should be made to the criminal justice system be that legislation or guidelines to deal with maintaining both justice and security.

I have been working on this with people in Birmingham and went to a meeting with Andy Hayman of the Met. The basic point is that someone should be charged as soon as possible on an evidenced basis then remanded into custody.

Following discussion with senior police officers in London and Birmingham as well as lawyers it appears that the issues are as follows.
There is a question as to what the standard of proof for charging is. It is not thought by the police that there is an issue here.There is a question as to the sta…

Written Parliamentary Question: 15th November 2005

Ministers (Severance Payments)
Q: To ask the Prime Minister how many severance payments a resigning Minister is entitled to within any 12 month period. (John Hemming)

A: Severance pay is payable in accordance with section 4 of the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991.(Tony Blair, Prime Minister)

Predictive Diallers (Department for Education and Skills)
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many calls were made from call centres in her Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment she has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres.(John Hemming)

A: The Department for Education and Skills does not use predictive diallers within call centres. No calls were made using this facility in 2004–05. (Bill Rammell, Minister of State,…