John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Sunday, July 31, 2005
  Tornado Moseley Kings Heath Sparkbrook Birmingham Pictures Photographs
The link is to 67 photographs from various sources on flickr.com

The following also have photographs
http://www.martinmullaney.co.uk/tornado.htm Councillor Mullaney's pictures
http://www.martinmullaney.co.uk/tornado-july30th.htm these are Martin's from today which are the more severely damaged areas.
http://peteashton.com/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/content/image_galleries/tornado_gallery_Copy.shtml bbc pictures
http://www.andypryke.com/pub/MoseleyTornado
Birmingham Post and Evening Mail
http://www.flickr.com/photos/brumblebee/29447977/in/set-663795/
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/birmingham/2005/07/319922.html
http://www.flickr.com/photos/brendadada/sets/680458/

I have put this entry in because I am getting a lot of Tornado searches from my entry a few days ago and I thought it would be useful to collate photo lists somewhere. I will edit this entry to add any other photographs. If anyone wants any list added please email me at the usual addresses (either City Council, Parliament or John Hemming and Co - all end up the the same intray).

The amazing picture of the tornado itself taken by the Birmingham Post photographer is quite widely available. There were previous local tornados in 1931 and 1877.

Tonight I went to see the situation in Alder Road which I had been told had particularly suffered. The police have been called in from Smethwick and West Brom to prevent looting.
 
  Tornado Information Point - Church Road/Newport Road
Work continues in the aftermath of the Tornado. There is an information point as above. Clearly certain properties are unusable and may need to be demolished. I understand the local Housing Association (MDCHA) has had to rehouse about 20 families.

When we contacted Government Office on Friday they were not interested, but I understand that the government recognise now that this is something out of the ordinary and are going to be more supportive of the city council.

There will remain, however, a substantial number of real problems to be resolved.
 
Friday, July 29, 2005
  Government calls for removal of John Hemming as Chair of Strategic Partnership (or do they?)
We have been told that next year's NRF for Birmingham will be over £32,000,000. That is obviously good news for the city.

There is a difficulty, however, in that in informal meetings representatives of the government have been threatening to not pay that money to Birmingham unless I am sacked as chair of the BSP.

I confirmed this in an informal discussion with Graham Garbett (director Government Office West Midlands) on Monday this week.

If the government say they will fine Birmingham £32 Million unless I resign of course I will fall on my sword. This is not, however, something that the government should get involved in. I have always had concerns about Civil Servants trying to exclude elected politicians from decisionmaking.

After the discussion on Monday I spoke to Joe Montgomery (director Neighbourhood Renewal Unit) and asked him for his views. He said he would talk to the minister. Joe phoned me on Wednesday, but would not answer the question as to whether or not it was acceptable for me to continue chairing the Strategic Partnership.

Clearly this issue has to be clarified. I was told that I would get a letter from Government Office. Nothing has arrived as yet. The answer needs to be either "yes" or "no". Weasel words that say nothing whilst sly, implied threats of funding cuts are made in confidential meetings are no good to anyone.

Frankly I believe that the government's actions on this are appalling. They are riding roughshod over local democracy. This does not bode well for the future. What I want now is an answer from Government Office. Is it or is it not acceptable for me to remain as Chair of the Strategic Partnership?
 
Thursday, July 28, 2005
  Birmingham Tornado - Moseley and Kings Heath
Local Councillor Martin Mullaney has some photos on his website. The City Council used its new Emergency Management routines. I saw some of the swirling in the wind which was reported to hit 130 mph. I have never seen winds as strong. Climate Change is arguably part of this.

It is easy to find pictures of trees falling onto houses.

And houses that used to have chimneys.

Or a school with no roof at all.

or lots of missing slates which must have been flying all over the place.

Firemen had to break into some places.

What was surprising was how only a small distance from the tornado no damage was done at all.

Top floor rooms in flats suffered as well.

I suppose it is surprising that there is any glass left in this greenhouse.

It will be interesting to review how well the new approach to emergencies has been in the city. Some people have not been able to stay in their properties. The local North Moseley Mosque opened up space for temporary sleep as did the Kings Heath Community Centre.

The next issue will be to try to sort out the issue of whether or not it is covered by insurance or should be covered by a declaration of disaster or something like that(if localised).

I heard tales of children being swept into the air from Balsall Heath Park and will be surprised if there has not been any fatalities. We will be lucky if that is the case.

The Tornado itself, however, only lasted about 3 minutes in any one location.
 
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
  Birmingham Arrests
The arrests in Heybarnes Road were just outside my constituency (and ward). They have, however, had an impact on the atmosphere in the city.

It appears that quite a few of the people arrested have been Somalian or East African. There have been quite a few tensions between Somalians and Kashmiris in recent years. As usual a lot of this arises from economic displacement which drives most of such conflict.

Many of the Somalians are actually Dutch Nationals having come across from mainly Rotterdam, but also other places in continental Europe.
 
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
  Informative message to prevent Silent Calls
Silent Calls are particularly worrying. One option is that instead of silence a record message tells people what is going on so that they don't worry. This still should be kept to an absolute minimum, but it is interesting that the government are considering this option as well.
 
  NRF 2006/7 and 2007/8
The figures for Birmingham's NRF for the next two years have been announced.

The first year is going up from £22,043,488 to £32,266,410 next year which is an increase of £10,222,922 and 46% and then to £37,624,119 in 7-8 an increase on this year of £15,580,631.

I am expecting the usual attempt by the bureaucrats to remove the democratic accountability from the spending decisions.
 
Monday, July 25, 2005
  The Birds - Alfred Hitchcock - The Brummy Version
The Council Mouse in Birmingham has been the scene of a "Noughties" version of "The Birds" the film of Alfred Hitchcock about birds attacking people.

In Birmingham .... surprise surprise .... it is Seagulls.

We have three Seagull Chicks (quite large ones), looking for somewhere to park in the Council Mouse Car park

sometimes they pick a parking place where there already is a car such as that of Talib Hussain (the James Bond film star - he was on the credits).

Meanwhile Mummy (or Daddy) Seagull keeps guard.

and if you come close to her babies she attacks

The last photo was taken by me whilst I was being attacked by Mr or Mrs Seagull.

A short time afterwards Councillor Tim Huxtable (known by the Evening Mail as "the Smiling Assassin" because of his track record in stopping councillors' junkets) was the victim of an accelerated avine assault. Perhaps the Seagulls are worried about the fact that he might prevent them going to Austria.

Councillor Tariq Khan (Lib Dem Deputy leader) was complaining about the birds not leaving him alone. Other councillors (not being sure about which type of birds he was referring to) asked him what he was complaining about.

One suggestion is that we put a pile of Sand in the Council Mouse Car Park and then the Seagulls will think that this is the seaside so they need to migrate back to Birmingham and will move out of the courtyard.
 
Sunday, July 24, 2005
  Research Website
I am thinking of establishing a research website to complement this blog. I could do this via my London office webservers. Alternatively it might be worth using some of the various services on the web (all of which are relatively sensibly priced). This would enable the various people I am working with to also maintain sections of the site. We could have elements dealing with all the different campaigning issues.

Does anyone have any recommendations for people who offer web services where different users can access different parts of the site?
 
Saturday, July 23, 2005
  Growth 1.7% year on year
The link gives a list of reports from the Office of National Statistics on GDP. Clearly there are issues about the economic and environmental sustainability of growth. It remains, however, an important factor in government planning.

We are putting together a simple summary of key statistics. The key for growth at the moment is that the growth over the past 4 quarters is 1.7%.

Stories such as This telegraph story compare the actual 12 month figures of 1.7% to Gordon Brown's prediction of 3-3.5%.

This will have a further impact on the government's finances. This chart is useful for looking at the recent past.

Reports in the media indicate the worst 12 month period since 1993. I have not seen the evidence for that, however.

What surprises me is the Treasury's plan to merely maintain their current plan. I understand the argument that we have relatively low national debt. There is, however, a question raised about the long term economic sustainability of their financial planning as well as its environmental sustainability.
 
Friday, July 22, 2005
  Thursday and Friday
I was reviewing research on the Local Government Standards Code and other issues when I found out about the further attempt to cause loss of life on the tube. That seemed to be followed up by some other attempt today.

Sadly there remain people whose agenda rests in attempting to polarise society - including those who have sent out emails purporting to come from religious institutions.
 
Thursday, July 21, 2005
  We cannot have security without justice
I managed to get a number of points raised as questions to the Home Secretary before the Speaker interrupted yesterday.

This question he ignored:
Does he agree that to achieve a calm and peaceful world we need to stand on two legs: security and justice? We cannot have justice without security but, at the same time, we cannot have security without justice. We need to focus on ensuring that justice is done, nationally and internationally, and that it is seen to be done, for example, under international humanitarian law.

He did respond to the point about CCTV. CCTV does operate well to track situations although, of course, it cannot prevent any one event. It can, however, ensure a speedy response and prevent subsequent events (as part of law enforcement).

We do, however, have to be careful not to forget the second leg of justice. Too much of a concentration on security has failed in the past (eg Northern Ireland in the early 70s).

Another point that has missed the media has been that the Kurdish bomb in Turkey was from a group that in Iraq are more supportive of the USA than most. It is a mistake to see such asymmetric bombers as being a united and cohesive group they are not all "on the same side".
 
  Where's Dawn Gone?
My EDM 400 FAMILY TAX CREDIT REPAYMENTS 23.06.2005
Hemming, John
That this House notes that there is a substantial problem with the hardship caused by the clawback of overpayments of family tax credit; and calls for no clawback to occur until the weekly amount of clawback is agreed verbally, by email or in writing by the recipient

Relates to the biggest problem that people face who are on tax credit. The government decides how much money to take from people without talking to them, starts directly debiting it and waits until they squeal.

I wrote a letter to Dawn Primorolo (Paymaster General) on 22nd June, resent it on 12th July because of no response and a month later have still not had a response. I am going to find where her office is and deliver it in person this time.

Much that there is a lot of chaos dealing with tax credits if they changed the system this way it would not cause so much personal grief.
 
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
  Oil company advertises "we're running out of oil" - world says "nothing"
Apart from the linked story, there is little editorial from Chevron's Advertising campaign about willyoujoinus. I also had a very complacent response from the governemnt about when global oil supplies will peak.

The government point to the IEA's prediction of post 2030. They also make reference to the misleading point that the quoted reserves are 30 years plus of production. That is not a relevant issue as what matters to people is what they can use each year. As soon as that figure is constrained then the global economy switches into scarcity mode and resource costs start going up rather than down.

This is where the Uppsala Protocol comes from. However, for the moment we have the government ignoring the issue publicly.

Gordon Brown is also playing games with the current account deficit (Golden Rules etc). I am not quite sure what he is hoping for. The "something will turn up" strategy is not prudent.

Still the whole political agenda has taken a step up in gear. It remains to be seen whether the government recognise that you need two legs to stand for peace. One leg is entitled security and the other justice.
 
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
  Birmingham W1 - New Street and Medicine
Today I attended a meeting at Birmingham W1 (170 Picadilly) which was to bring people together to promote Birmingham. Five of the Birmingham MPs were there.

There are a number of areas in which we are working to lobby central government on behalf of Birmingham. One is to get New Street Station redeveloped and another is on the relocation of civil service jobs to the City Region.

The important thing is that we are developing the approach of the City Region which includes the hinterland around Birmingham (or commuter belt).

In my meanderings around the corridors of power I have found considerable support from MPs for Solihull, Kidderminster, Bromsgove, Lichfield as well as those from Sandwell and Birmingham (including Sutton).

One lesson from today is to bring someone who knows how to use my camera. Hopefully you will be able to tell which of these three photos I took.

- - IMG_0096
 
  It would be nice to be asked
I was very busy yesterday (hence no blog entry). Meetings in Birmingham (and I put a lot of effort into avoiding inefficient meetings) took a lot of time. I then spent the whole of the afternoon in a meeting of the parliamentary party followed by another couple of events. This left little time.

I then find in the newspaper today that one of our policies is about to changed. Well, if would be nice to be asked about it before it is announced.
 
Sunday, July 17, 2005
  Spare a thought for the families of British Troops
It is important to understand how the families of British Troops feel with every story such as the one relating to 3 soldiers dying on Saturday.

Their worry about their family members at risk every day in Iraq increases. The government's problem (and the problem of the US Government) is that every day the belligerent troops remain in Iraq the problems get worse.

The foolish actions of the US in attacking Falluja in total contravention of international humanitarian law have massively increased support for the insurgency.

The world is full of actions and reactions. Most of the principles of justice act such that anyone committing an unjust act tends to find that it reflects back upon them at a later stage. If people do not take care it gets to a stage whereby the emotional demand for revenge is so great that it overwhelms people's sense of priorities.

Any student of Iraqi history in the 20th Century will note that the defining political issue of the 1920s was military bases. The US show an almost total inability of learning from history.

Sadly as we go into an era of reducing availability of natural resources the stimulus for conflict occurs at the same time as a higher level of tension.

This story about a conflict in Kenya includes the following:
In the past, local tribes have engaged one another in fighting over pastures and water, but talking to residents, one discovers deep-seated hatred for one another that goes beyond competition for resources.

However, it is the massacre that has brought out the extent of this resentment, and even 10-year-old children are talking of revenge.


Plus ça change, plus c'est le même chose.
 
Saturday, July 16, 2005
  The "Fish Base" and Tie Dye
I started the day at Sheldon Community Centre looking at plans for a children's play area, doing a bit of "tie dye" and making a "Fish Base" from which I made a traditional flapping bird that the children found quite entertaining.

After my advice bureau I went to Birmingham's "Birmingham United" event in Chamberlain Square. The Evening Mail and Birmingham Post have been good in supporting actions to make sure that people unite after the attacks designed to divide us.

At the same time politicians have a responsibility to act to ensure that society does not end up further polarised. There are two legs that are needed to any strategy. The two legs can be identified as security and justice. If we have one without the other then we will not be able to progress.

The errors government's have made in the past is to focus on security ignoring justice. That has resulted in things such as a growth of terrorism in Algeria, the growth of the "troubles" in Northern Ireland and many more errors of governance in the past.

At the same time those wanting justice without increased security are also destined to be disappointed.

This issue was clearly understood by many people at the event today. I will be coordinating discussions on this in Birmingham in about a fortnight (when parliament has stopped sitting). Anyone interested in participating should email me.
 
Friday, July 15, 2005
  Written Answers for Today
The government seem to wish to avoid answering the question about the forecasts for government spending, income and deficit. They have referred me to a source for the information.


This is another of today's answers.
"Information from the 2001 Criminality Survey notes that 27 per cent. of prisoners had spent time in care as a child. This is closely in line with the equivalent figure of 26 per cent. as found by the 1991 National Prison Survey."
They are still evading the issue of how many people are not adopted/fostered by families because they make potential adopters jump through too many hoops and they given up trying. There is, of course, a key underlying issue which requires a distinction between those children who end up in children's homes and those who do not.

The other question, of course, is what proportion of people who are in care end up in jail.

Clearly many people are adopted and end up being pillars of the community. The big question is what the consequences are of the current government policy on adopting and fostering.
 
Thursday, July 14, 2005
  Continual Revolution in the Health Service
This written question reveals part of the continual revolution that hits the health service in Birmingham. It ignores the Primary Care Groups and other organisations that perhaps the NHS wishes to forget.

Payment by Results and the plans for 15% of health care to be done by private providers is going to have unpredictable effects on the hospitals.
 
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
  Parliamentary Party Meeting in Cheadle
Every Wednesday when parliament is sitting the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party holds a meeting. This Wednesday's meeting was in Cheadle (it is a three line whip as was the vote on the Religious Hatred bill on Monday).

I came up to Cheadle last night. There are quite a few posters in amidst the green trees at the side of the road. Some are quite big.

There are quite a few of them.

I also saw some rather odd Labour Posters.

It was odd to see Labour Posters in the windows of a training centre. Although it has been closed and the shop is being changed into a bookmakers, it does raise some questions.

The Tories have hit out with a number of rather iffy leaflets. Their last minute leaflet goes on about how close the election is and they raise some scaremongering about a shortage of funds in Social Care and it impact on bus passes. The only thing is that bus passes are substantially an issue for the transport authority which merely shows how little they know about how things work.


Meanwhile back at the ranch. Having spoken to the relevant officer in the relevant department it appears I can give you a picture of my sword ribbon.
 
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
  Standing together against all Terrorism
As usual I started the week with meetings in Birmingham. It is interesting how many rumours there are floating around the city. I even had someone I know shout something to me whilst driving around the middle ring road. The police, of course, need to investigate everything.

Part of yesterday was spent discussing how we in Birmingham need to stand together against terrorism and how the political leaders, faith leaders and other leaders need to work together on this.

Later in the day was the Religious Hatred bill. I support the position taken by Birmingham's faith leaders group which is that we do need something which enables the system to deal with situations (which do exist) where people go around the country campaigning to create division based upon hate.

It does happen that people campaign to create religious hatred leading to violence.
As with Thursday's atrocity once the step has been taken down the wrong path it is very difficult to step back.

It is important that people in Birmingham make considerable efforts to ensure that noone goes off in the wrong direction that of intolerance and violence.
 
Sunday, July 10, 2005
  The police were right
It is important that no chances are taken with people's lives. I have not tried to find out exactly what the intelligence was that led the police to evacuate the City Centre last night. I do, however, support their decision to do what they did.

It meant that I missed the Steve Ajao Blues Jam session in Centenary Square - a slight inconvenience that does not matter. At least I have managed to have a session with Digby Fairweather this week. With a bit of luck we will reunite for the same number (Funny Valentine) on Tuesday week.

Three years ago was the last attempt (by the Real IRA) to bomb Birmingham. My wife passed through the area next to the bomb during the day.

We need to take any threat seriously. That does not mean, however, that it needs to undermine life in any other way.
 
Saturday, July 09, 2005
  When is $25bn not $25bn
I have found where the $25bn figure comes from. It is quoted somewhere by the OECD. Notwithstanding Bob Geldof's claim* that it is related to the Live8 concerts, actually it is a figure that has been cited for some time.

ODA (Official Development Aid) is the net bilateral payment including money paid to international organisations. It is net of money loaned and money repaid. In otherwords if a country is loaned aid then that is added to the gross. If a country repays a loan then it reduces aid for that year.

That does mean that the figure is ultimately adjustable through countries lending some money to an international institution that is then repaid in a later year.

The link is to the Development Aid Committee of the OECD which is the main source of this information.

As far as I can tell the G8 jolly has not delivered anything that was not planned earlier in the year. I would like to pin down exactly where the OECD has calculated the $25bn (out of $50bn) figure.

Perhaps one of my main criticisms of the Blair spin is that there are so many uncertainties and exaggerations that we lose track of basic practical issues and hence fail to deliver.

claim* in case the link changes:
"It's been a long walk from Live Aid's $200 million 20 years ago to Live 8's $25 billion today."

Live8 was an excellent idea, but the main result has been the excellent result of reuniting Pink Floyd for what as a very good set.
 
  G8 outcomes
A list of the Gleneagles documents is available at the link.

The question is what the Gleneagles event achieved apart from encouraging the reformation of Pink Floyd.

On Debt the HIPC (see earlier) agreement continues. This was the agreement come to on 11th June. It basically means that the countries which cannot pay the debt won't have to as long as they behave.

There is an interesting report on the global economy and oil. This basically says we need more oil and countries with oil should allow other countries to invest to find and produce the oil. I presume they are assuming the USGS report on oil availability is valid. I have studied the assumptions in USGS. They basically assume that lots of new oil will be found. (new discoveries and reserve growth)


The Africa Report recognises some of the issues of governance in Africa, but does not fully take on board the Justice and Equity agenda. Item 18 (g) is interesting it says:
Working with African countries to scale up action against malaria to reach
85% of the vulnerable populations with the key interventions that will save
600,000 children’s lives a year by 2015 and reduce the drag on African
economies from this preventable and treatable disease. By contributing to
the additional $1.5bn a year needed annually to help ensure access to antimalaria
insecticide-treated mosquito nets, adequate and sustainable supplies
of Combination Therapies including Artemisin, presumptive treatment for
pregnant women and babies, household residual spraying and the capacity
in African health services to effectively use them, we can reduce the burden
of malaria as a major killer of children in sub-Saharan Africa.

This is a typically blairite type of statement. They will pay something towards the additional $1.5bn, not actually pay $1.5bn. The precision of the targets makes readers feel a real commitment. Indeed Malaria is a good thing to aim to handle.
However, as usual the spin exaggerates the commitment.

Annex II includes the details on aid. Remember that aid includes debt relief:

Financing commitments (as submitted by individual G8 members)
• The EU has pledged to reach 0.7 per cent ODA/GNI by 2015 with a new interim
collective target of 0.56 per cent ODA/GNI by 2010. The EU will nearly double its
ODA between 2004 and 2010 from € 34.5 billion to € 67 billion. At least 50% of this
increase should go to sub-Saharan Africa.
• Germany (supported by innovative instruments) has undertaken to reach 0.51 per cent
ODA/GNI in 2010 and 0.7 per cent ODA/GNI in 2015.
• Italy has undertaken to reach 0.51 per cent ODA/GNI in 2010 and 0.7% ODA/GNI in
2015
• France has announced a timetable to reach 0.5 per cent ODA/GNI in 2007, of which
2/3 for Africa, – representing at least a doubling of ODA since 2000 - and 0.7 per
cent ODA/GNI in 2012.
• The UK has announced a timetable to reach 0.7 per cent ODA/GNI by 2013 and will
double its bilateral spending in Africa between 2003/04 and 2007/08.
• A group of the countries above firmly believe that innovative financing mechanisms
can help deliver and bring forward the financing needed to achieve the Millennium
Development Goals. They will continue to consider the International Financing
Facility (IFF), a pilot IFF for Immunisation and a solidarity contribution on plane
tickets to finance development projects, in particular in the health sector, and to
finance the IFF. A working group will consider the implementation of these
mechanisms.
• The US proposes to double aid to Sub-Saharan Africa between 2004 and 2010. It has
launched the Millennium Challenge Account, with the aim of providing up to $5
billion a year, the $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, an initiative to
address Humanitarian Emergencies in Africa of more than $2 billion in 2005, and a
new $1.2 billion malaria initiative. The US will continue to work to prevent and
mitigate conflict, including through the 5-year, $660 million Global Peace Operations
Initiative.
• Japan intends to increase its ODA volume by $10 billion in aggregate over the next
five years. Japan has committed to double its ODA to Africa over the next three
years and launched the $5 billion ‘Health and Development Initiative’ over the next
five years. For the “Enhanced Private Sector Assistance (EPSA) for Africa” facility,
Japan will provide more than $1 billion over 5 years in partnership with the AfDB.
• Canada will double its international assistance from 2001 to 2010, with assistance to Africa doubling from 2003/4 to 2008/9. As well, the 2005 Budget provided an
additional C$342 million to fight diseases that mainly afflict Africa. The C$200
million Canada Investment Fund for Africa, will provide public-private risk capital
for private investments and Canada will provide C$190 million to support the AU’s
efforts in Darfur, as well as C$90 million for humanitarian needs.
• Russia has cancelled and committed to cancel $11.3 billion worth of debts owed by
African countries, including $2.2 billion of debt relief to the HIPC Initiative. On top of this, Russia is considering writing off the entire stock of HIPC countries’ debts on non-ODA loans. This will add $750m to those countries debt relief.


Although this should not be ridiculed, it does show the spin that is being used to argue the case that the summit has achieved something. The Africa Commission called for an extra $25bn. Noone is, of course, providing figures that allow anyone to calculate how this will actually be achieved.

The press release in April on debt relief says:
Building on the way forward on development we agreed in London, we made progress in preparation for the Gleneagles Summit, including on a case-by-case analysis of HIPC countries, based on our willingness to provide as much as 100% reduction of HIPC countries’ IDA and African Fund debt without reducing the resources available to the poorest countries through these institutions.
So no actual change there then.

The statements on climate change are also nothing to write home about.
 
Friday, July 08, 2005
  Why, what, when?
As with the incidents in New York, Bali and Madrid a question people ask about yesterday's atrocity is "Why?".

The "Why" should be relatively straightforward. For a society which is as peaceful as the British society normally is it is difficult to understand the reasons why people do this sort of thing.

In a sense I picked up more understanding when I visited Lyon as part of a local government based approach to peace in the Middle East. We had a wide range of local politicians including some Mayors who had been in the IDF.

It was quite clear that although everyone there was committed to finding a peaceful solution that this is not the case for everyone in the Middle East. The situation between the two groups is such that some people wanted revenge far more than they wanted peace. At times the lust for revenge is so strong that people resort to terrorism.

A similar situation exists worldwide where disputes escalate from smaller incidents into larger developments.

Atrocities like yesterday's bombings should never be trivialised. They will, however, not directly undermine the British way of life - nor should they be allowed to. The Birmingham Blitz during the second world war killed over 2,000 civilians and injured many more. This, however, was not allowed to undermine life in Birmingham. There will, of course, be a media frenzy on this story for about a week, but life will continue.

Indeed we should not allow such an event to derail ordinary life although we must show our repects and share condolences with the bereaved families.

This does not conflict with people continuing to go to films, plays and concerts. To do anything else would be a victory for terrorism.

Clearly the police are taking the right steps in keeping the sites sealed off so they can identify evidence to be able to identify the culprits involved in this so that anyone responsible can be brought to justice.

The organisers would be clearly aware of the fact that the bombings could not undermine the UK directly. The question is what they were looking for. To that extent I agree with Ken Livingstone that their objective was to divide society. If they can stimulate the UK into an indiscriminate, intemperate response then that has the potential to increase support for the terrorists.

The mechanism is simple. If the UK takes action against people who were not responsible then the families of those will see the UK as their enemy. It is crucial that the UK only takes action against people who can be shown to be responsible for the dreadful deeds. Such action would be seen by the world as clearly justified. I do think that the government understands this issue better now than was the case previously.

We must remain vigilant. However, we must not allow this evil act to derail our society. We must not give in to terrorism.

At the same time, however, Britain does need to think carefully about how it is perceived in the world. In countries in which Britain was seen positively, the attitudes have now changed. By being too closely linked to the arrogant US Foreign Policy, British people are now tarred with the same brush.

We can see this sort of conflict operating in Iraq. The argument used by the UK government against an early withdrawal from Iraq refers to "defeating" the insurgency in Iraq. Even the US government has recognised that the insurgency cannot be defeated in a purely military sense. Their attack on Fallujah strengthened the insurgency by driving more people into the camp of the insurgents. The insurgency is a response to the presence of US troops particularly and also British troops.

This feudal type of battle is very similar to the international disputes that result in terrorism. The actions are often driven by a lust for revenge and tit-for-tat retaliations.

Action does need to be taken, but it must be proportionate action against people shown to be the right people. Otherwise things escalate.

We face substantial problems globally in part from the situation we are currently in with substantial anger (as evidenced at G8) and resentment at the arrogant way in which the world is being run. This will be exacerbated by the materialist society in which we live going through cold turkey as it encounters the withdrawal symptoms from the reducing availability of cheap fixes to the fossil fuel addicted economies.

This can act as a stimulus for greater conflict or we can hope that our governments may realise that arrogance is the enemy of peace.
 
Thursday, July 07, 2005
  Ken Livingstone's Statement
From The London Web Site
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has issued the following statement:

'London has been the target of a cowardly terrorist attack. Londoners have responded calmly and courageously.

'I commend the professionalism, courage of the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London staff, the Ambulance, Fire and other emergency services.

'On behalf of all Londoners, I want to express my deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who have been killed and to all of those who have been injured.

'The Police, transport and emergency services are carrying out well-rehearsed plans to treat and evacuate casualties and protect London against any further attacks.

'The most important thing Londoners can do today is to assist the Police and Emergency Services in every possible way: by staying totally calm, by not travelling until the Police advise that it is safe to do so and by not calling the emergency services unless life is threatened.

'Innocent people coming from all of London’s communities have been targeted by this indiscriminate attack. I urge Londoners from all of this city’s diverse communities and faiths to support one another and stand together against terrorism.'


This is what I heard him say, however:
"I hope you will understand if, after the statement I make, I’m not in a position to take questions and I do not want anything I do or say to cause confusion or misunderstanding in the effort now being undertaken by our emergency services to rescue and save those Londoners who’ve been subject to this cowardly attack. Our thoughts are with those Londoners who have been injured. Our thoughts and the efforts of the administration at City Hall will be to care for them and to care for those who have lost loved ones, and there has been loss of life. I want to thank the emergency services for the way they’ve responded.

"Following the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11th in America we conducted a series of exercises in London in order to be prepared for just such an attack. One of those exercises which was done by the government, my office and the emergency and security services was based on the possibility of multiple explosions on the transport system during the Friday rush hour and so the plan that followed from that exercise is being executed today and with remarkable efficiency and courage, and I praise those staff who are doing that. I‘d like to thank Londoners for the calm way they have responded to this cowardly attack and echo [word unclear – sounds like] the advice of Sir Ian Blair, the commissioner of police – do not travel, take the advice of the police, stay at home, wait if you are not at home until you hear over the radio or television the advice of the police about how you will proceed to get home later today.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a terrorist attack, as has been claimed. We did hope in the first few minutes after hearing the events on the Underground that it might simply be a maintenance tragedy. That was not the case. I have been able to stay in touch through the very excellent communications that were established for the eventuality that I might be out of the city at the time of a terrorist attack and they have worked with remarkable effectiveness, and I will continue to be in touch until I board the plane that takes me back to London in the next few hours. I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at presidents or prime ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old – indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion whatever. That isn’t an ideology, it isn’t even a perverted faith – it is just… indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the IOC – this city of London is the greatest in the world because everybody lives side by side in harmony and Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity around those who have been injured, those who have been bereaved and that is why I’m proud to be the mayor of that city.

"Finally, I wish to speak through you directly to those who came to London today to take life. I know that you personally do not fear to give your own life in exchange for taking others – is why you are so dangerous – but I know you do fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail. In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential. They choose to come to London as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don’t want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our cities where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail."


I see no reason why I should add anything to that.
 
  Communications start seizing up
It seems that the mobile network (tmobile) has seized up as has the landline network from parliament to the outside world. (I cannot phone my London office to check that everyone is OK.) The odd thing is that this link to the net (via Vodafone) is clearly still working otherwise this entry would not be on the blog.
 
  Incidents in London
I was in the press gallery when the incidents initially described as a power surge started being reported. Sadly it does appear to have been some form of terror incident probably linked to the commencement of G8 (much more likely than something linked to the Olympics).

Terror incidents are always particularly sad as they generally increase anger in the world and it is very difficult to take steps back after incidents.
 
  Oil Company Breaks Cover - accepts oil problems exist
Chevron launched http://www.willyoujoinus.com/ on Tuesday 5th July. This is an energy awareness campaign. They make no prediction as to when global supply will peak, they merely recognise the problem.

The big difficulty with predicting when it will peak is that there will only be certainty a few years afterwards. It is, therefore, difficult to be precise. Colin Campbell makes a prediction in his newsletter for Conventional Crude oil of 2006. With prices almost four times what they were in the late 1990s people will pump what they can. There are questions asked about the Gharwar field in Saudia Arabia. People such as Powerswitch are already campaigning on the issue.

The Uppsala Protocol is much tougher to hit than the Kyoto protocol (Kyoto ignores international air flight).

To me the challenge is to get the debate into the mainstream. There is an assumption even amongst organisations such as Greenpeace and FoE that oil depletion is not an issue. It is true that there remain other fossil supplies such as coal, but for the first time in human history we are going into a phase of having to replace fuel supplies with less convenient fuel supplies. The historic trend of wood, charcoal, coal, oil, gas where each step is in some way more convenient will start reversing (wood is a good base for biofuels).

I am issuing two press releases today:
Hemming Welcomes Chevron Challenge
Contact: John Hemming hemmingj@parliament.uk
7th July 2005

John Hemming MP for Birmingham (Yardley) has welcomed a new website about Oil Depletion, which has been set up by the oil company Chevron.

“The issue of Oil Depletion and the question as to when will be the year of peak production is something that oil companies have – until now – avoided discussing.”

“It is a major step forward for Chevron to have created a website which deals with these issues.”

John Hemming has also tabled an Early Day Motion about Oil Depletion:

EDM419 SUPPLIES OF CONVENTIONAL CRUDE OIL
That this House calls on the Government to recognise the increasing evidence for a global peak in conventional oil production in the near future, noting that this event means that global oil supplies will begin to decline terminally and that in turn an increase in global oil demand will not be met, that unconventional oil and alternative fuels will not be able fully to meet the growing gap between supply and demand and thus that will be the end of cheap and abundant oil with ever more challenging consequences for transport, agriculture, employment, the financial system, peace and security; and calls for the Government to acknowledge that as a peak in production is inevitable it must begin planning now.
(currently 10 signatures see edmi.parliament.uk for further information)

and

Top ten toilet vandals revealed
Contact: John Hemming MP hemmingj@parliament.uk
BTA: Richard Chisnell enquiries@britloos.co.uk
7th July 2005

The top ten authorities for vandalising public toilets have been flushed out by a parliamentary question asked by John Hemming MP for Birmingham (Yardley).

Comparing the number of public toilets in an authority in 2002 and the number of public toilets in the same authority in 2004, it has been possible to work out what proportion of public toilets have closed.

The London Borough of Hillingdon comes out as the country’s top toilet terror having closed 11 of their 18 public toilets, leaving less than 40% open. Second is Thurrock, closing 43% from 14 to 8. The London Borough of Barnet is third with a cut from 12 to 7.

Mansfield from 10 down to 6, Calderdale 29 to 18, Havant 11 to 7, North Kesteven 11 to 7, West Wiltshire 11 to 7, Bexley 15 to 10, and Brent 9 to 6 follow closely behind in the league, cutting at least a third of their conveniences.

“This is not just inconvenient”, said Mr Hemming, “this causes substantial problems for many people who have to plan their days based upon what facilities are available.”

“The blame for this situation has to rest primarily with the government, however. They have created a situation in which they force Local Authorities to respond to central targets – and there is no “toilet target”. It is new Labour’s fault that the toilets are going down the drain.”

“The answer, however, is not to introduce “toilet targets”, but instead to reduce the number of targets so that Local Authorities can respond more to Local Needs.”

John Hemming is working with the British Toilet Association to ensure that the importance of public toilets is recognised.
 
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
  Congratulations to the Olympic Bidders
The organisation of the Olympic Bid has been good (see earlier photo) and there is clearly an attempt to have a bid that is for the whole country. With the strong transport links between Birmingham and London we are in a good position to work well as part of a national Olympics operation.
 
  Voila Deux Chaises

Two chairs in Room 403 Star Chamber Court nerve centre of attempt at world domination. Note hidden persian cat.

I have spoken to the people who deal with permission for photography and am clarifying what can be photographed without a permit and what cannot on the parliamentary estate.

Somewhat miraculously I now have parliamentary note paper both in London and Birmingham and have an integrated casework system working again in London, Birmingham and ... on the train. All we need now (on the train) is toilets that work properly.

In London and Birmingham, however, I am still waiting for the Parliamentary Computers and printers. Luckily I managed to buy an inkjet printer at PC World in London and have an inkjet printer I bought in Birmingham a while ago.

Much that the office is quite small, Star Chamber court is a very good location for proximity both to the Chamber and Westminster Hall as well as the press gallery. I note that the journalist have been refused permission (again) to take their jackets off when in the reporters gallery.

Furthermore I managed to get The Birmingham Post before breakfast. There is a newsagent near my flat that sometimes gets today's paper today, but normally gets yesterday's paper today. I was getting The Post in the internal mail delivered to my office at about 3pm. However, by the trick of having it put with my pink ribbon (for the sword) I can pick it up on the way in.
 
  First Lib Dem in The Prayer Cards Queue
Having come in early to have breakfast, (It is possibly to buy a breakfast in the House of Commons from 7.30am which is slightly earlier than many of the cafes outside.) I find myself in the strange position of being the first Lib Dem in the queue for prayer cards. This is probably because it is unlikely that the Prime Minister is actually answering questions at Prime Ministers Question time. He is probably on a plane in between Singapore and Gleneagles although he may still turn up.

The rumours were amongst the tories that John Prescott was answering, that is probably because he is answering the questions after prayers and will still be there.

However, it remains to be found what the situation is.

Yesterday's news that the City Council Housing Department now has one star makes the good case against Stock Transfer. Labour's solution to housing problems was to get rid of housing. Our solution is to resolve the problems.

A city restaurant has also won the national curry award. We do have a wide range of cuisine and having experienced Chinese food in Edinburgh last weekend I can be quite certain that Birmingham is better for Chinese food. This is probably the case for most types of restaurant, but given the 6 hour drive to Edinburgh I don't think I am going to check all of these things out.

This answer about Health Service Reorganisation shows the process of continual revolution in operation. It appears that there will be further changes soon with plans to reorganise the 4 Primary Care Trusts into three or 1 depending upon who you talk to.

This answer on looked after children shows the impact of a number of factors which have long term consequences.
 
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
  More homes needed
The debate a while ago about Council Housing has now been reported in the local press.

The fact that there will be 10,000 fewer low cost houses to rent 5 years from now, however, has not been reported. One of the most frequent issues at my advice bureau is the unavailability of housing to rent at a reasonable price. It means that people on 10-12K generally have difficulty finding somewhere to live.
 
Monday, July 04, 2005
  Steve Ajao Benefit at the Prince
Last night I went to one of the Steve Ajao benefit gigs. Steve is a local musician who was in a road accident recently. There was a really massive turnout in the back yard of the Prince of Wales Pub (on Alcester Road).

Steve used to play a regular gig at the Moseley Arms in Highgate. I am hoping to play a number at one of the other benefit gigs myself. I did turn up to do a number at the Moseley Arms once.
 
  Live8 - over to Us
If Live8 achieved nothing else at least it brought Pink Floyd back together and what a set was that.

Seriously though (and the above is a partially serious point) it is now over to the politicians to deliver on the agenda of making poverty history. It remains, however, that there is a need for Justice and Equity in the developing world as well as the rest (indeed more importantly).

Being a relatively cynical politician, however, I am unsure what actually will change as a result of the jolly going on in Gleneagles at the moment. G8 is very high profile, but has no proper constitutional function. Most of the event is determined in advance. There is an interesting amount of debate that goes on around it, but I am not entirely sure where it leads.

The UK government's hypocrisy on Climate Change is evidenced by the Air Transport White Paper and its assumptions of massive growth in Air Travel (and the consequent carbon emissions). Whilst the UK government remains committed to the predict and provide mechanism for Air Flight there can be no credibility in Blair's "commitments" on climate change. This is a simple point that is irrefutable.

I trogged up the motorway with my family to Edinburgh over the weekend which allowed us to participate in some of the MPH activity. Not being able to leave until after the advice bureau prevented us from getting on the March. Walking down the Royal Mile it was sad to see many windows boarded up on a prophylactic basis. I can understand McDonalds doing that (although I did not see that), but a Chip Shop?

Then again going back yesterday there were loads of police vans going up from various areas including the West Midlands "Crime is Down" vans and the petrol stations were refusing to sell petrol in cans.

The challenge from Wednesday is handed back to the politicians, however, to keep an eye on government and ensure that they actually deliver on Africa and Climate Change (being as politicians could never deliver on a Pink Floyd reunion gig).
 
Saturday, July 02, 2005
  So far so good
Somewhat miraculously the parliamentary bureaucracy has now started grinding more effectively. I now have three phones [and two desks] in my (small) office (note to self: the rules permit photographs of the office, one for the blog in the future). I have an ethernet cable into the parliamentary network.

My casework system which works for me as an MP and as a Councillor is still on the City Council network. However, a link has been created between the parliamentary network and the council network which means I can now do casework using the laptop provided by parliament. I am also now training my team in the operation of the casework system and gradually things are getting sorted out. Within 28 days I am told we may even have a printer.

Had I not visited PC world about a month ago and bought a £200 rechargeable injket I would still be waiting to be able to do any casework.

The Parliamentary Network as with many corporate networks is paranoid about security to the extent that they prevent access to standard ports. TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) is one of the part of TCP/IP which underpins the Internet.

There are a large number of different "ports" all of which have specific functions. For example mail out is on port 25, web (http) is on 80, secure web (https) is on 443, telnet is on 23, ftp is on 21 (and 20).

POP (the Post Office Protocol) is on port 110. This is the port that everyone uses to download their email. (Outlook express etc) The Parliamentary Communications Department don't allow that port to be used. Knowing this and knowing that hell would freeze over before they saw sense I bought a mobile internet "power user" account. This works all over the place on a mixure of G3 and GRPS. The default account allows 50Mb of data per month. June, however, was 100Mb. I wonder what the bill will be.

I am almost at the stage where I can start motoring on some of the campaign issues that I have been working on over the past month. My plan is to identify about 10 issues that I keep chipping away at these include:

Combined with the work I am doing as Chair of the Birmingham Strategic Parternership and my regular work (about 2,000 cases a year) as a representative for Yardley. That, I think will keep me particularly busy. I take the view that as a backbench MP it is possible to achieve change as long as you are clear as to what change is needed and more importantly which organisation has to change. Too many politicians stand up and spout off about things in the vain hope that things just might change. Relatively small changes in procedures can have a quite large impact. The changes I am campainging for relating to Silent Calls and Family Credit alone would affect positively the lives of millions of people.

Relatively minor issues like speeding up the signalling at Moor Street Railway station are things I can handle as cases. Other things such as Make Poverty History are issues where I am merely another voice echoing what others are saying. It is entirely valid for me to echo on these matters, but there is a limited amount of time and I need to focus my efforts to achieve results.

I am also trying to make effective use of communications technology (the internet mainly) in doing all of the above. I find it particularly interesting how the readership of this blog ebbs and flows. (The month of June is the peak so far at 3,495 readers) The link above gives access to readership statistics, that does not, however, cover all the readership because of rss links and the like. I find it particularly interesting how the blog appears quite high up on google searches. For example if you search for an image of "startrek" the blog is in position three.

Parliament provides a budget of gross £84,000 for staff. I also have some volunteers assisting in the office in London. Gradually over the summer I am appointing people to various roles. This will enable me to formalise the campaigning strategy as identified above.
 
Friday, July 01, 2005
  Thursday poverty and regeneration
There are a number of areas in which there are very strong feelings worldwide and there unreconciled disputes.

One is the aspect of globalisation and "free trade" vis a vis protectionism. The government are clearly committed to globalisation. The consequences in terms of jobs being exported and challenges such as the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investments are continually brought to the fore.

My own view is that a balance is needed between different ideological positions. A process which involves a too rapid sequences of changes undermines the quality of life. Economic and Political power both tend to be centripetal which in itself brings in a factor which is ignored in the debates about globalisation.

The EU itself can readily be a single market without imposing a "one size fits all" economic model.

The pressure of other activities (bringing correspondence up to date - casework etc, meeting on Europe, general admin and G8 debate) prevented me attending much of the debate on regeneration which is another area in which the government have a very muddy approach.

Unusually today (Friday) I am remaining in London to go to a meeting about Local Area Agreements a scheme which Birmingham has been given the opportunity to aim for a pilot scheme.
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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