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Showing posts from June, 2005

Blight on Sheldon raised in Parliament

The big point about the proposed second runway for Birmingham International Airport is that it is having an effect today on many people living in Sheldon. The uncertainty affecting their properties causes them difficulties if they wish to move.

I don't personally believe that the runway will ever be built, but the uncertainty causes sufficient problems to justify the government revisiting their assumptions.

This is my yesterday's list.

Apart from the usual written question responses, (I am going in further on the issue of the Safer Stronger Communities Fund where the government are being strangely evasive - like many other answers.) there were two debates that on Council Housing and that on Climate Change (see above link).

Housing is in a worsening crisis nationally and particularly in Birminghamm. The government appear to wish to abdicate responsibility for housing.

From local sources:
The Draft HRA Business Plan gives a projected stock loss for the period to 31 March 2010. The…

Two down one to go

In my maiden speech I referred to three issues:The 99 bus, which is being replaced.The proposed splitting of the communities of Yardley by the Boundaries commission which I am pleased to say today that the Boundary Commission have revised.The blight on Sheldon caused by the proposals for the Second Runway - which I am working on.
It is good news that the revised proposals for Yardley Constituency are based upon keeping communities together and traditions that have existed for millenia. The new proposed consituency is Stechford, South Yardley, Sheldon and Acocks Green.

Stealth Tax on Shaving

It may sound superfically odd, but there is a provision in Section 12 of the ID Card/Database bill which means that people could be fined up to £1,000 if they shave without telling the government.

Considering the bill which is on the net at ID Cards bill at Hansard

See the following sections:
Section 12 Notification of changes affecting accuracy of Register
(1) An individual to whom an ID card has been issued must notify the Secretary
of State about—
(a) every prescribed change of circumstances affecting the information
recorded about him in the Register; and
(4) The things that an individual may be required to do under subsection (3) are—
(a) to attend at a specified place and time;
(b) to allow his fingerprints, and other biometric information about himself, to be taken and recorded;
(c) to allow himself to be photographed;
(6) An individual who contravenes a requirement imposed on him by or under
this section shall be liable to a civil penalty not exceeding £1,000.

From Section 1
(6) In this sect…

ID Database and Government

I have been quite busy over the past few days with meetings and trying to sort out technology to demonstrate Iris Scanning (The Panasonic Authenticam). I now have the technology mainly working.

The point about Iris scanning is that it is something that the police could use to determine identity up to a point, but it does not require the establishment of an ID Database. Information could be stored on the police national computer.

At the same time the government's record on the National Insurance Database where they admit freely to having no information about the proportion of fraudulent entries and also deny having any information about how many fraudulent entries have been found, is not good. Why we should trust them to maintain a database which is used to prove who we are is unclear.

Mosquitos in the Paddling Pool

I suppose it has to be global warming. The paddling pool took days to blow up and as far as I know has not actually been used for paddling purposes. Recently, however, there has been a lot of rain which has started filling up the pool.

Various 2-5 year olds were spraying each other with water around it which led me to look in the water which seemed to have mosquito grubs swimming in it (or some other flying insect). Cue "drain the swamp" manoeuvre. Still it is an interesting new issue which does incline one to consider that things are getting warmer.

Poverty and Aid (Justice and Equity)

Response to question:

I have been supporting the Make Poverty History campaign. If we really mean to make poverty history, however, we need to understand the nature of political structures and how this country through its influence can either make things better or worse.

Much of international politics is based upon interests rather than principles. The "Ethical Foreign Policy" that this country was supposed to have involves accepting evidence collected under torture from a country which boils people alive (Uzbekistan).

On a superficial level accepting such evidence seems reasonable. The problem is that it endorses the behaviour which led to obtaining the evidence. The evidence itself is also unreliable. However, the biggest problem is that the patterns of behaviour then lead to further conflict with the UK and the citizens of that country.

Much human conflict is based upon "them and us". The groups that are "them and us" can vary. They can be Shi'a…

Squirrels and Mars Bars

Started the day by seeing off the Make Poverty History cyclists. Richard Burden and I held the ribbon. Lynne Jones (who cycles a lot) had her bike with her.

Lynne and I are both to some extent fairweather cyclists although I did cycle through London in the rain. Lynne brought her bike in by car. Lynne is probably my favourite Birmingham Labour MP.

I used the opportunity to bend Richard's ear about EDM 225 (Moor St Railway Station). We do need some action from Labour MPs on lobbying for Birmingham.

Then the normal Advice bureau at which one of the issues was Sheldon Squirrels. One proposal which has been implemented is cages with mars bars to trap the Squirrels.

A standard (BCC) treatment for "squirrels in the loft" is Radio 4. The theory is that in listening to a talk radio station the Squirrels decide the loft is occupied and leave.

In the mean time we are told that the law requires that captured Squirrels are killed rather than released in Sheldon Country Park. That…

New information source for those interested

I was thinking about what people may wish to do to get copies of my responses to various consultations and the like. Clearly these things will be in the final papers, but it would be silly to post them to the blog as there would be too much text.

I have, therefore, established a YahooGroup

This group called imaginatively johnhemming has a files section from which you can obtain information. Furthermore it operates as a discussion forum for any public discussions about issues that I am campaigning on (eg Silent Calls, Hydrocarbon Depletion, Family Tax Credit etc).

The first message anyone posts is moderated by me (to stop spammers), but after that it is generally unmoderated although if anyone abuses the system I shall simply exclude them. People do need to Join to access the service, however.

"Answer the question"

I have got an answer about Council Tax.

They claim, however, that "The Government do not set a target increase in the amount which local authorities can raise from council tax". The only thing is that the government do have an expected increase figure. Now I need to find out exactly what that is called and put that in.

What is this to do with the Standards Board

Labour believes a powerful weapon in persuading working-class voters not to back the BNP is to label it as "Nazi" and now a landmark ruling by the Standards Board for England has allowed the description.

It should not be a matter for the Standards Board to decide whether or not the BNP can be called Nazis. The reason this is the case is that the Standards Board actually regulate the words that Councillors use on leaflets.

The demise of the small shop

This is a question I have asked. I tried to get called under the question relating to the Supermarket Code of Conduct, but was not called.
"What plans does the Minister have to deal with Monopsonys and Oligopsonys particularly in reference to Supermarkets, disintermediation and the demise of the small shops?"

Watch out for lots of references to Oligopsonys.

Early Day Motions

I am not quite sure what this link will do as it appears that the parliament server uses cookies.

Through the EDM Web Server one can find all of the current Early Day Motions. I have "sponsored" 7 which means I have written 7 and proposed them and others have seconded them.

I am working on a database of EDMs with comments to enable me to work out which others to support. In the mean time I have signed a couple.

I put two more EDMS in Yesterday. One related to Family Tax Credit (the same issue as below). The Employments Right Act 1996 has been pointed out to me. This act basically means that before an employer can deduct overpayments from wages "there is a general rule that an employer must not act in such a way as to undermine the employment relationship or to breach trust and confidence. In the light of this general duty, the best advice for an employer is to discuss the overpayment with the employee and propose repayment over a reasonable period of time depending up…

Prayers in the House of Commons

At the start of the day there are prayers in the House of Commons. This is more important to MPs because if you pray you can book a seat on the benches for the day.

Any time after 8am when the chamber opens an MP can, themselves and not on behalf of another MP, collect a little green card, write their name on it and slot it into a little slot on the green benches.

Then at prayer time (when the business starts) they arrive. The card in on the bench. They put it back into the slot and pray. If they are not there at that time they lose their reservation.

Wednesdays is a day upon which lots of people wish to reserve a seat you do, therefore, see far more people praying.

No 13 - lucky for some

One thing missed from the last week was that we now have a replacement for the 99 bus which will be a more frequent 13 service. This will cover the parts of the route that have no service.

That was resolved at a meeting on Friday last, but things got a bit busy with journalists camped out all over Birmingham after that.

London Olympics

Paul Rowen (Rochdale) and I attended an event to support the London Olympic Bid. Notwithstanding the lack of support for Birmingham's Bid or Manchester's bid we supported the principle in terms of supporting the UK as a whole. London should reciproicate at a later stage.


Part of the process involved meeting up with Jonathan Edwards

Just days before Olympic gold triple jumper Jonathan Edwards flies to Singapore as part of the London 2012 delegation hoping to bring the Olympic Games back to Britain for the first time in 64 years, John Hemming MP has added his/her support to the 2012 campaign.

John Hemming MP said "If the IOC awards London the Games on 6 July, it will be a fantastic day for the whole of the UK. Hosting the Olympics is a great honour and will bring real benefits up and down the country.

"Over 1 million pieces of sports equipment used during the Olympics would be passed onto sports clubs and charities after the Games end - as will five temporary swimming po…

Moor St Station EDM 225

That this House calls for the Strategic Rail Authority to expedite the opening up of the new platform at Moor Street Station to use by passengers and trains.

With a bit of luck we should have three Birmingham CC Area MPs signing this soon. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) and I have already signed it and Khalid Mahmood is looking at it.

Tax Credit Clawbacks

There was a quite reasonable statement from the Paymaster General (Dawn Primorolo) about Tax Credits today.

The problem is that if you have a responsive system which changes as people's incomes go up and down then you will end up with some overpayment. These overpayments may from time to time need recovering. There needs, therefore, to be a system for this.

The problem with this is that the government merely take the money out of people's bank accounts and wait for them to complain. Many households are very marginal from a cash flow perspective and cannot afford this.

What the government should do is agree the repayment rate before clawing back the money. I have written a letter (follows) to the Paymaster General to call for this.

Letter to Dawn Primorolo
I understand that currently you are stopping clawback if a dispute is raised.

Would it not be better to only claw back when the recipient has agreed the clawback rate?

Hardship is caused when the clawback rate is too high. At t…

Questions and my intervention

This is the link to today's questions. (Plus my comment on the Religious Hatred bill where I abstained). I don't really like abstaining, but there are times when I don't support either option.

Incidentally it took 15 minutes for my colleague to walk the same distance (he is not affected in the same way by traffic lights).

9.25.83

That's 9 minutes and 25.83 seconds. I have found the stopwatch on my mobile phone and used it to measure how long it takes to cycle from my flat to the House of Commons today.

One of my London team is doing the same route on foot and I should be able to compare times later.

I can understand why many London cyclists take traffic lights as being advisory given that there are so many of them. The distance itself would have taken nothing as long without that. It is also relatively level (a slight downward incline).

New Nuisance Call Angle

An interesting new angle for nuisance calls is people from the USA using computers to phone people in the UK (including those on ex-directory numbers and probably those on the Telephone Preference Service lists) with calls such as "you have won a luxury holiday in the caribbean".

I have a phone

I actually have a phone in my office in London and two of my staff will have passes by about 10am tomorrow.

Amazing!

It is only about six weeks since I was elected and I have a phone. Everything should now follow, of course.

Immediately I was elected, I got a coathanger in the members cloakroom. On that coathanger is a pink ribbon. For my Sword (no not that Sword). A few MPs have indeed got toy swords on their coathangers.

I think I now understand how everything went haywire on Friday. The Evening Mail First Edition (and I think C1) went out with basically a story that we had given them in detail. Everything was accurate and truthful.

They then changed the story in C2. All the other newspapers thought that this had been checked in the same rigorous manner. Sadly, it hadn't. This, of course, after the "mother of all sex scandals", gives potentially the "mother of all libel cases".

We have now spoken to one paper who know they have dropped a clanger. One tas…

Marion and I would like a kitten

It was quite funny really. The News of the World and the Mail on Sunday turned up at my house to see all the preparations for my Daughter's 5th Birthday party. I was out doing things.

Sadly for them all the could find is people preparing to drive to Tamworth for a Farm Party (and no 5 year old because she was with me doing things).

In any event there was a really nice kitten at the farm. Sadly Marion needs to housetrain Patches before we can have another kitten. I would really like a kitten as we have only rescued cats since 1982 when we had a kitten in Kings Norton.

Saturday

Today started with Make Poverty History's march leaving from Chamberlain Square to go to Edinburgh. Then I did the advice bureau and then opened the new pavilion for Manor House Gardens Allotments (arguably the best allotments in the country).

The little girl is my daughter Alice who had her 5th Birthday party today as Ash End House Farm.

A good photo of the cycle ride trio of Lib Dem MPs.


I am still juggling up what I should respond to the "SuperStud Brummie Lib Dem MP" story doing the rounds at the moment. If the newspapers do manage to hunt up 25 girlfriends that I have affairs with perhaps they could give me the names and phone numbers as I have no idea of who they are supposed to be. On the other hand it does trump all the other "sex scandals" I know of. The Daily Mirror have advertised for people to phone them. Oddly enough my wife has been offered £5K for a story by one newspaper and my girlfriend has been offered another £5K for her story by a differe…

EDM 318 - The future of the European Union

That this House notes that the peoples of Europe oppose the concept of an ever closer union and calls for the UK Presidency to be used to develop proposals for a lighter touch European Union with fewer competencies, a smaller budget, and a lesser ability to make impositions on member states.

EDM 318 has achieved limited amount of notoriety in the 2 short days since it was tabled.

Quoting from Ming Cambell later, however: "I want a European Union that is decentralised, transparent and accountable and that protects human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law. There is no other economic association that requires those who wish to join it to satisfy a set of criteria on good governance and human rights. The Copenhagen criteria are unique. No other economic organisation or association requires its members to satisfy such standards of governance. That is often forgotten and not given sufficient emphasis."

There is, of course, no conflict between this and EDM 318.

*EDM - Early Da…

Silent Phone Calls .... Result!!! (Case opened today)

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Investigation against: Promote IT, Toucan Telecom, The Listening Company Ltd, ANT Marketing UK, Thompson Directories Ltd, Fax Information Services Ltd, Firestorm Marketing Ltd.
Case opened: 16 June 2005
Issue: Persistent misuse of electronic communications network(s) or service(s)
Relevant instrument: Sections 128 to 131 of the Communications Act 2003

A “short duration” or “silent call” is a call which is usually initiated by automatic calling equipment ("ACE"), generally used by Call Centres making outgoing calls. The call is terminated by the ACE immediately after the called party answers (usually, because no live operator is available to speak to the called party).

A short duration call may also arise where companies attempt to send fax messages to telephone numbers that are not connected to terminal equipment capable of receiving fax messages. When the call is answered, the called party may hear a series of tones or the call ma…

Oral and written questions

I need to chase up the missing answer to one of these questions where the Annex is missing. Otherwise more progress is being made.

Interestingly the Prime Minister had no knowledge of the problem of "silent phone calls".

Me: "Does the Prime Minister share my concern and that of a vicar in my constituency and many of his parishioners who are irritated by the nuisance of mechanical phone calls, whereby a computer phones them but nobody is at the end of the line? Will he put pressure on Ofcom to use current legislation to ensure that the practice ceases, and review the legislation?"

Tony Blair: "I am not sure whether the vicar's powers or mine are most suitable for dealing with that issue. I agree with the hon. Gentleman's comments although I cannot honestly tell him what I think that the answer is because I do not know. However, I shall find out and get back to him."

Parliamentary Cycle Ride

Early this morning I joined Martin Horwood (MP for Cheltenham), Andrew Stunell MP (Hazel Grove) and a number of other cyclists to cycle from Russell Square to the House of Commons. Led by the metropolitan police it was an interesting experience. Meg Munn MP (Sheffield Heeley) was there was well. She told me that she was going to respond to my speech scheduled for later in the day about MG Rover. Martin Horwood MPAndrew Stunell MP and John Hemming MP

Apart from speaking on MG Rover and Electoral Reform (and putting in a question and EDM) I took a short cycle ride to the Birmingham W1 office which is being used to promote Birmingham and things Brummy.

Rumours are that I get an office tomorrow that I can use (apart from the fact that it probably won't have a phone, filing cabinet, computer or printer).

Fifteen Minutes for the Church of England and Elections

One of today's oral questions was 15 minutes allotted for two MPs to alternate on answering questions on the Church of England and the Electoral Commission.

I thought I might manage to raise some concern about the government's lack of interest in people being disenfranchised by the postal voting system. Sadly, however, the time was up very quickly and it will have to wait for another day.

The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill

The second reading of this bill comes before the House of Commons on 21st June 2005.

This is an interesting issue because of its philosophical complexity. It has the so-called "chattering classes" particularly agitated because of its potential for further constraining free speech.

Free Speech is rightly not an absolute. It is entirely possible to use words published in various ways to cause massive dissent and disorder. It is, therefore, rational for the Public Order Act 1986 and other acts to constrain Free Speech.

People may not be aware of these aspects of legislation. However, they exist and they exist for a good reason.

The big question is whether further legislation is required and what further legislation is required.

There are clearly various types of criticism which can be applied to groups which can be described in a number of ways. Ridicule, humour and other types of offensive words can be used in a number of ways which can be critical of ethnic groups, religious …

They can't be serious

It appears (and I am asking formal questions to confirm this) that the UK does not include the 8MtC of emissions from International Air Traffic in its approx 35MtC of transport emissions although it does include the single 1MtC of Domestic Traffic.

I presume the 8MtC is calculated on the basis of the next hop.

The total emissions is about 150-160MtC so this is 5% of the total.

No wonder they don't think an increase to 14MtC will have any impact on the UK's Kyoto figures - the Kyoto figures don't include international air traffic.

Another "wet" answer from the government.

If you build on a flood plain you will get flooded. That is why they are called "Flood Plains". So the government still want people to build houses in locations that will get flooded.

Certain aspects of the natural environment cannot be resisted and we should not try.

"The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister wish to see a reduction in the amount of inappropriate new development in flood risk areas."

Of course they are not answering the question.

The government's plans on exclusions are not joined up as usual. Certain children cause massive problems. Making mainstream schools deal with them merely brings everyone else down. They also are still into making schools readmit children expelled by the head.

The government's schizophrenia over air travel is demonstrated by this answer. The chances of building a second runway at BHX are negligable, but it is still causing blight on the citizens of Sheldon.

Where's the abstain button

Yesterday was the first day that I abstained on a vote in person. What I am asking is "where is the abstain button". In the City Council there are six ways someone can cast a vote, for, against, pressing the asbstain button, sitting in the council chamber too frightened to press any button, somewhere else in the building and actually unavailable.

I see it is actually possible to vote both ways on an issue if you run, but that does not seem the best mechanism. The problem is, however, that when you are present, but abstain it is difficult to record this.

In the mean time we have learnt that it is a lot harder finding a place within which to spend a penny. There is an interesting thing behind it. Public Toilets are an important public service (particularly for elderly gents), but across the country they are being flushed away. In all regions there are fewer from 6,087 in 2000 to 5,539 in 2004. We may be a wealthy country, but it seems beyond the country's ability to …

More answers to questions

It is interesting watching the government squirm on their plans to phase out supply teachers and replace them with Classroom supervisors.

The Answer on teacher assuaults shows one of the reasons why people are leaving the teaching profession.

The Answer on postal votes shows that the normal turnout of postal votes is about 78-79%. Clearly we don't know the answer for 2005 yet.

They have generally avoided the issue on the rest.

UK population from Census 2001 59M

So the UK population is 59M and there are 73M entries in the National Insurance register (It is allocated at the age of 16 automatically). Some people with NINOs will live abroad, but there are so many rumours floating around about fraud it is amazing.

NINOs are used both to receive tax and pay benefits and one would hope, therefore, that the government would make some effort to ensure that the register is OK.

Information about NINOs

This fits within the context of the debate about an ID database. In one sense we already have two. One is the National Insurance register.

Superficially, there are 73 Million live records on the National Insurance register and according to the census in 2001 there are 58,789,194 people in the UK. 3,486,253 are 0-4, 3,738,042 are 5-9 and 3,880,557 are 10-14. That leaves 46,684,342 of ages 15+. At a guess with just under a million a year there are say 46M people of ages 16+ and a National Insurance register of 73M.

Figures as high as 16M have been quoted f…

Four more answers

On the Tsunami the issue of the slowness of the original response remains, but a relatively low proportion of government budget is being recycled back to the UK government.

On the relative merits of Pelicans and Puffins which is an important national issue to anyone who has to walk across a road. The Government claim that Puffins cause less vehicle delay, but they are in practice really nasty things to use for pedestrians (as I experienced yesterday at the Bus Mall).

So there are 73 Million live accounts on the National insurance register, but they have no idea how many are false.

Nor do they know how much people pay in pubs to get new false NINOs.

The DTI has made it clear that they told the press MG Rover needed a bridging loan

Cat number 5

This is Lightning being chased/followed by Waif. My cat photographer has finally emailed me the picture.

ASPO bring forward prediction on peak oil to 2006/7

The Association for the Study of Peak Oil are continually trying to predict when the production of crude oil will peak throughout the world.

This is known as a Hubbert Peak named after the Geologist who predicted the peak of production of Crude Oil in the US which he predicted for 1971 from 1956. He was quite a way out on the prediction of global peak predicting it for 1996.

The biggest problem in terms of predicting the global peak of production is that you can only be certain that the peak has been reached about 3 years after you have passed the peak.

Interesting the issue of peak oil is something that BBC website vistors believe by a substantial minority (because it is 44% out of 10 candidates) they would wish to see more coverage on the TV.

Ay the moment ASPO predict a peaking in Conventional Crude oil of 2006 and all crude oil in 2007. This is about 3 years earlier than the last prediction.

One of the key debates is whether there are enough global fossil fuels to hit Kyoto going up

T…

The Hidden Question of the NHS

Apart from rationing (see yesterday) which is not being discussed widely, the planned movement from Secondary to Primary Care is also something that has stayed out of the public domain.

Much that the government claim that "The Department does not estimate changes in hospital bed numbers." They are well aware that there is a plan to reduce spend in secondary care (and bed numbers) and increase it in primary care.

At the same time the crisis with GP retirement is increasing. They are also transferring more and more activity to NHS Direct. For example the out of hours GP service is being put through to NHS Direct.

Anyone who knows what happens with NHS Direct knows that they almost always send people to Accident and Emergency.

We then end up with NHS direct going full circle and putting people back into Secondary Care (I had to wait 3 hours for my 4 year old's illness to be handled recently between middnight and 3am.)

I wonder sometimes where the money is actually going.

NICE supports age discrimination

From the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (see link)

Draft proposals for health rationing.
Recommendation 6
With respect to age (section 5.1):
• however, where age is an indicator of benefit or risk, age discrimination
is appropriate.

Recommendation 7
When setting priorities there is no case for discrimination on the basis of
gender or sexual orientation unless these are risk factors for benefits, risks, or
both (section 5.2).

Recommendation 14
Priority for patients with conditions associated with social stigma should only
be considered if the additional psychological burdens have not been
adequately taken into account in the cost–utility analyses (section 6.5).


The above recommendations raise a number of issues, not least the question as to exactly when "age discrimination is appropriate". I can understand the risk issue, but the benefit issue is not clear.

What I have difficulty understanding is what "risk factors for benefits, risks or both" exist for gen…

Where is Plan B for the Dutch Nee?

From the FT:
Yet there was a common theme in both countries: voters think the EU has become too large, too distant and too undemocratic.

The reality of life is that generally most voters do not notice what is happening that much until it affects them personally. The changes made recently in the European Union have culminated in a situation that will gradually cause more and more stress unless the EU is reformed.

Firstly, we should not aim for an "ever closer union"
Secondly, as the EU gets wider it should get shallower not deeper.

The history of EU reform has been the generation of some form of codged together proposals and then their sale to the citizens on the basis of "its this or nothing".

Whatever proposals people come to need to be based upon some structure that does not result in creeping centralisation.

Nederlander zegt overtuigend 'nee' tegen Europese grondwet

"(Novum) - Nederland heeft woensdag een duidelijk 'nee' laten horen op de vraag of de Europese grondwet moet worden ingevoerd. Rond middernacht waren bijna alle stemmen gesteld. Daaruit bleek dat 61,6 procent van de kiezers de komst van de grondwet verwerpt, terwijl 38,4 procent voorstander is. De opkomst bedroeg 62,8 procent."

What the referenda are showing is a clear lack of trust in the "European Project".

The big question, however, is whether there will be any attempt to draw in the European Institutions and reduce their powers.

One of the things I have always seen as an objective would be to be much more restrictive about the "competancies" of the European Union. There needs to be a mechanism to determine subsidiarity which has a bias against centralisation rather than a bias for centralisation.

Clearly anyone working in the EU institutions will be more positively inclined towards them.

One suggestion I have proposed is that a directive is no…

Hogere opkomst dan bij stemming Europarlement

I don't know how long this link will last.

Selecting part of the original article:
"Het opkomstpercentage voor het referendum over de Europese grondwet is woensdag aanzienlijk groter dan vorig jaar tijdens de verkiezingen voor het Europese Parlement. In Den Haag had tot 14:00 uur 23,67 procent gestemd tegen 14,74 procent bij de Europese verkiezingen."

A rough translation is that the turnout for the European Constitution Referendum in Holland is greater than that for the last European Parliament elections.

There is a point that the political elites are turning people off politics by not being aware of people's practical concerns on the ground. Part of that arises from the failure of politicians to deliver and the creation of ever more complex systems by which people have to live their lives.

There is an opportunity of changing the direction of the European Union away from "ever closer union" and instead towards what I call "L'Europe de plusiers fromages…