John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
  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 access, in respect of all public authorities, to include a much wider range of non-computerised records. We currently have no plans to review the Act.
(Harriet Harman, Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs)
 
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
  Tuesday's gas chart
imageforlongtermstorage
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 that yesterday's demand of 373 mcm there will have been some medium term storage used. If it gets colder we could start biting into the short term and that only gives a short period before the safety monitors are breached.

I have put forward some proposals for the government to increase supply, but I think they should be looking beyond the market for mechanisms to reduce demand.
 
  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 2008.(John Hemming)

A:The information requested is available within my right hon. Friend's "First Report to Parliament on Security of Gas and Electricity Supply in Great Britain" (July 2005). This can be found on the DTI's energy website: http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy and in the Libraries of the House. (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 likely (a) average price and (b) total gas consumption within the UK for each quarter from Q1 2006 to Q4 2008. (John Hemming)

A:Wholesale gas prices will vary on a daily basis, determined by market conditions. The Department has not made forecasts of quarterly gas prices.

The Department's scenarios for future gas consumption were reported to Parliament in my right hon. Friend's "First Report to Parliament on Security of Gas and Electricity Supply in Great Britain" (July 2005). This can be found on the DTIs website: http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy (Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State (Energy), Department of Trade and Industry)
 
Monday, November 28, 2005
  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 matter raised is the responsibility of the Office of Communications (Ofcom). Ofcom is the independent regulator for the communications sector, deriving its main powers and duties directly from statute rather than by delegation from the Secretary of State, and accountable to Parliament in its own right. Accordingly, my officials have asked the chief executive of Ofcom to respond directly to the hon. Member and to send me a copy of his response. Copies of the chief executive's letter will also be placed in the Libraries of the House.
(Alun Michael, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Industry and the Regions) Department for Trade and Industry)

Railways
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what (a) regulations and (b) advice (i) his Department and (ii) regulatory bodies within his Department's responsibility have issued to passenger train operators regarding the efficiency of passenger trains in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. (John Hemming)

A:Neither the Department nor the regulatory bodies for which it is responsible have issued any regulations or advice regarding train efficiency to passenger train operators. The Department funds a research programme run by the Rail Safety and Standards Board, in which the Association of Train Operating Companies is actively engaged, which is considering possible ways of reducing the environmental impact of trains. The Department is also co-ordinating the procurement of the replacement of the Intercity 125 High Speed Train and is placing significant emphasis on ensuring fuel efficiency by the replacement. (Derek Twigg, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport)

Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent estimate he has made of the greenhouse gas emissions per distance travelled of passenger trains operating in the United Kingdom.(John Hemming)

A:Greenhouse gas emissions from trains vary significantly according to their size, power requirements and whether they are diesel or electric. The following table provides estimates of CO 2 emissions for average diesel, electric and UK trains in terms of emissions per passenger kilometre assuming average passenger loads:


CO 2 emissions per passenger km (g/km)
Fleet average—diesel - 41
Fleet average—electric - 56
Average UK—electric and diesel combined - 49

(Derek Twigg, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport)

Passports
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications for passports have been rejected when received by post since the new categories of rejection came into operation, broken down by (a) category and (b) passport office. (John Hemming)

A:Since the implementation by the UK Passport Service (UKPS) of new photo standards from 12 September 2005, 597,863 passport applications have been received. For a variety of reasons, UKPS has had to contact the applicant for further information on 119,339 applications. Of these queries, 81,927 applications, that is, 13.7 per cent. of total intake have required new photographs to be submitted.

A breakdown of this information by passport office is shown in the table.

The three main categories of photograph rejection are incorrect paper quality, facial expression and eyes obscured. The UKPS are currently unable to provide a breakdown of these categories by office. The UKPS will shortly be issuing revised guidance to its customers clarifying how the standards should be met to ensure fuller compliance.

Number
Passport application intake 597,863
Queries
London 1,225
Liverpool 21,291
Peterborough 17,729
Newport 22,568
Glasgow 9,679
Belfast 8,882
Durham 37,965
Total queries 119,339
Total photo rejections 81,927
Photo queries as percentage of intake 13.7%

(Andy Burnham, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office)

Train Journeys (Environmental Impact)
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the environmental impact of a journey between London and Birmingham by (a) an electric train, (b) a diesel train and (c) a car. (John Hemming)

A:The following table compares total emissions of CO 2 , the main greenhouse gas, and NOx and PM 1 0 the two pollutants of most concern to local air quality, for representative electric and diesel trains and a car travelling between London and Birmingham. Two sets of figures are provided, one detailing the total emissions for the journey, the other detailing emissions per passenger journey assuming average vehicle loadings.

CO 2 (kg) NOx (g) PM 1 0 (g)

Total journey emissions

Electric train 2,020 4,320 129
Diesel train 1,270 10,800 202
Car 34.2 61.5 2.6

Emissions per passenger

Electric train 5.9 12.5 0.4
Diesel train 9.7 82.9 1.5
Car 21.7 38.9 1.6

(Derek Twigg, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport)

Predictive Diallers (DCA)
Q: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional 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:Two call centres are currently operated by the Department for Constitutional Affairs or its agencies:

The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Call Centre, Leicester,

The Magistrates Court Fines Collection Call Centre, Gwent.

Neither of these call centres currently makes use of predictive diallers and there are no future plans for their use.
(Harriet Harman, Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs)

Special Advisors (Law Officers' Department)
Q: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will list the special advisers in post in the Law Officers Departments, broken down by pay band; and what the total budgeted cost to these Departments of special advisers is for 2005–06. (John Hemming)

A:None, the Law Officers Departments employ no special advisers. (Mike O'Brian, Solicitor General, Law Officers' Department)
 
  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 interruption in the South West gas supply and 1 medium level risk in the South East. At a guess this arises from the relatively low level of removal from storage yesterday.
 
Sunday, November 27, 2005
  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 into the National Transmission System are only 333 which puts a demand on the reserves in the pipes (linepack). This implies that the nominated withdrawals from LTS were too small.

I am meeting up with industry about the energy situation again on Monday. At least they understand the maths behind this even if the government don't. Office temperatures are allowed by law to go as low as 16 C. A reduction in commercial demand by turning down commercial thermostats will have a real effect on gas consumption. The later such an adjustment is made the less of an impact it has. At least the parliamentary estate should turn down the thermostat. Almost all the variability in demand during winter is about heating.

If the market does not reduce demand (and I would estimate that prices have cut demand by about 20 mcm at the moment) then the national grid can start cutting off supplies.

If there is a recognised tightness of supply - which would not formally be done at this stage in any event - it goes through the following steps.

  1. Stage 1 – notice of impending emergency. This indicates that there is a potential gas emergency, but that people might be able to resolve it without cutting off any users.
  2. Stage 2 – declaration of emergency. The OCM is suspended and the
    primary transporter starts cutting interruptible people off.
  3. Stage 3 – firm load shedding. Firm load shedding is divided into three tranches of increasing severity and effect. The three tranches are:
    1. very large end-users (VLDMC) (those taking more than 50 million therms per annum (tpa)(
    2. large end-users (those taking between 25,000 tpa and 50 mtpa)
    3. end-users taking less than 25,000 tpa

  4. Stage 4 – system isolation. The available gas would be allocated to secondary systems supplying domestic end-users;
  5. Stage 5 – restoration. Normal arrangements are restored.
 
Friday, November 25, 2005
  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 maintain supply - if it extends more than 2-3 days of really cold weather.

The short and medium term supply can supply gas at a faster rate, but only for a short period.

The failure to plan energy policy has to be seen as clearly the responsibility of the government. They can blather on about the interconnector as much as they want, but that is only short 10 mcm. The country as a whole is short about 50 mcm on average over the last week.

Everytime I do the calculations I forcast a real crisis in January. I am not isolated in this.
 
  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).
 
Thursday, November 24, 2005
  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 because it is totally insane. The logic is one of commercial confidentiality. I sent an email at 10am today to Malcolm Wicks about this. Later in the day Ofgem announced that they had an agreement with the DTI to get this information.

Not that it helps that much now, but it is good to talk

Well now that I chair the Independent Energy Scrutiny Panel I can expect Steve McCabe to call on me to resign as he did with the BSP.

There is another fun issue about how now Potato Peelings are hazardous waste and have to be disposed of separately from non-hazardous waste. One of the issues is that to produce gas from waste is easier when waste is mixed.

We will have to change a number of rather silly rules that should have been changed in any event. Now, however, it matters.

It has been horribly cold tonight. It would not surprise me if that resulted in some gas interruptions.
 
  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 at 2 on Tuesday. Even if the tankers didn't keep wandering off to Spain this would perhaps give another 10 mcm/d.

The good old interconnector that everyone goes on about was expected to give us 42 mcm/d according to the plans earlier this year. In November it has averaged 22, but on 17/18 it hit 40/41. On Tuesday it was at 33.

Hence you could argue that there is leeway of 11 (LNG)+ 9 (IC)=20 mcm.

We took 54 mcm out of storage on Tuesday. The Rogh LTS has an official maximum of 455 GWh. It has been running at a higher figure than that 469/496/484 (Sun-Tue).

My guess is that has the tap fully open essentially and is maxed out. The pressure peaks at 200 Atmospheres, as the pressure goes down the amount that can come out of this particular source per day will reduce.

There was an interruption warning for Tuesday (South West) and there is one today (North West). Essentially I don't see evidence that anything is going to get substantially better and there is evidence that the weather is going to get worse.

Under average weather conditions, a change in temperature of +/ 1 degree would result in a -/+ 50-60 GWh (5mcm) per day change in demand from domestic GCH consumers. On a typical cold winter day this would probably rise to around 90-120 GWh (10mcm) per day. On an extreme cold 1 in 20 winter day this could be of the order of 160-180 (16mcm) GWh/day

This is the main issue of elasticity in demand. The domestic customers will be primarily on fixed tarrifs, however.

Obviously snow does not help.

On an annual basis the figures for demand are:
Firm supply 625 TWh
Interruptible 105 TWh
Industrials 36 TWh
Power 240 TWh
Export 137 TWh)
(Source National Grid Ten year strategy figures for 2004)

The problem that seriously worries me is that I do not have the figures for the different pattern of demand during winter. Most of the increased demand is domestic.
There is no export.

Gas Consumption by sector in Tera Watt Hours in 2003 was
DomesticIndustryCommercialPowerEnergy Industry
385.985183.305101.825324.863108.171

Without the storage we would be short of the order of 50 mcm (about 550 GWh) a day.
Only 10% of the annual demand (ignoring export) is interruptible and 50 mcm is just under a 1/7th of supply.

That is if everything else remains equal, of course. This still implies a sufficiency for domestic customers.
 
  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 organisations including specialist services provided by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Forensic Science Service. These services have the capacity available to facilitate investigations of terrorist offences through the provision of a range of forensic services and techniques. These include the recovery and analysis of DNA, which can assist in the identification of offenders and victims, the analysis of explosives and the recovery of data from electronic devices. Resources are allocated by the organisations as needed, with priority given to terrorism investigations and prosecutions. (Charles Clarke, Secretary of State, Home Office).
 
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
  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 Scientific Adviser, is reviewing a large number of issues through its Horizon Scanning Centre and Foresight programme. Energy is one of these issues.

The selection of future Foresight projects requires that the projects must tackle issues which look ahead at least 10 years, are driven by science and technology, have outcomes that can be influenced, are not covered by work carried on elsewhere, require an inter-disciplinary approach and command support from other organisations.

It is too soon to consider the range of scenarios that might be explored in any of these future projects. Energy contingency planning is primarily carried out by the DTI's Energy Group.(Barry Gardiner, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry)
 
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
  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 grow by 2 mcm today and a further 6 mcm tomorrow. With the injection into the linepack the possibility of service interruption in the South West has faded. What the country needs is for the sun to shine a bit more otherwise the prognosis is not looking that healthy.

Clearly the market is has woken up to reality with prices going up a further 50p (per therm) to £1.70. I wish that the government would wake up over this issue.
 
  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.
 
Monday, November 21, 2005
  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
gasdemand
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 Campaigning MP John Hemming has revealed that the demand today is running at more than 20 Million Cubic Metres (mcm) greater than the normal seasonal demand and that gas supply is clearly constrained.

"The basic assumptions for capacity in the National Grid's Winter Outlook 2005 is 357 mcm/d excluding storage. Gas usage on Sunday (20/11) was 353 mcm as opposed to a seasonal normal of 326 mcm (ie 27,000,000 cm more than normal for this time of year). The forecast demand today is 375 mcm. This is already over the basic capacity assumption.

"Sunday's supply, however, was only 275 mcm from beach as opposed to the forecast 303 mcm a shortfall of 28 mcm and 32 mcm from the interconnector a shortfall of 10 mcm. This left 56 mcm being taken from storage. The average 7 day flow is 269 mcm from beach and 33 mcm from the interconnector. This implies an average Sunday shortfall of 50 mcm and weekdays at 70 mcm."

"On Saturday 393 GWh was withdrawn from long term storage and on Sunday 469 Gwh was withdrawn. The average rate is 431 GWh. Long term storage has 34198 GWh currently which is 26392 greater than the safety minimum of 7806. This rate of flow could be sustained for 61 days. There is 6565 GWh in Short and Medium Term which is 5173 more than the safety margin of 1392 which gives an additional 12 days. This gives a total of 73 days if nothing changes."

"Clearly things will change. However, it is normal practise for demand to peak around 14th Jan. If we are producing less gas than was originally estimated and also consuming more then there is need for the government to come clean on natural gas. I am not saying that we should press the panic button as yet, but at least we should find out where it is."

"At a guess I think quite a few people switched on their central heating last week."
 
Saturday, November 19, 2005
  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 MPs that calls for this practise to end.

ENDS



EDM 1047 REDUNDANCY PAYMENTS

Hemming, John
That this House notes that the Government is considering cutting statutory redundancy payments to people aged over 41 years as a result of an EU directive; believes that it is more urgent that the Government reviews the redundancy payments due to Cabinet Ministers who could be entitled to a tax-free generous golden goodbye every three weeks; and calls on the Government to act to change the law so that the practice whereby it is possible for Cabinet Ministers to make more money by continually resigning than staying in post ceases, and equity between people within the Cabinet and in the country as a whole is introduced.
 
Friday, November 18, 2005
  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 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 Treasury has no call centres. (John Healey, Financial Secretary, HM Treasury)
 
Thursday, November 17, 2005
  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).
 
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
  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 never forget the 1981, or was it 1982? honours list.”
- Julian Critchley
“All those people who say that there will never be a Single European
Currency are trying to forecast history.”
- Kenneth Clark
“The British public sees with blinding clarity.”
- Michael Heseltine
“You know what they say, don’t get mad, get angry.”
- Edwina Currie
“We are not wholly an island, except geographically.”
- John Major
 
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
  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.
  1. 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.
  2. There is a question as to the standard of proof for remanding into custody. There does not appear to be an issue here.
  3. At the moment intercept evidence cannot be used. There could be changes made to home office guidance to facilitate this, but it would have to have a lower evidential value as there could not be a facility to chase the links to it.
  4. A different caution is used pre-charge and post charge. The post charge one does not include the element which is "But it may harm your defence if you do not mention now something which you later rely on in court" Changing this should not be an issue. It appears to be an issue for the police.
  5. The PACE code may need to be modified slightly to facilitate post-charge interview, which is already allowed.
  6. There needs to be more forensic capacity.


None of the above areas for potential change cause substantial difficulties with civil liberties, but they do increase the number of tools in the police toolkit.

The error the government made was to ignore the need for justice to be seen to be done as well as done.
 
  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, Department for Education and Skills)

Gas Supplies
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what contingency plans the Department has to ensure the continued supply of gas in the event of a domestic gas supplier ceasing to trade.(John Hemming)

A: Since the implementation of the Utilities Act 2000 licensing schemes and standard licence conditions in October 2001, Ofgem has had the power to appoint a Supplier of Last Resort (SoLR) for all customers, domestic and non-domestic, in both the gas and electricity markets. This power is essential to ensure that all of a failed supplier's customers have continuity of supply.

Under the current licence conditions Ofgem can require any licensed gas supplier to become a SoLR and take the responsibility for supplying gas to customers of another supplier whose licence has been revoked. For customers whose annual consumption is reasonably expected to be less than 73,200 kWh the authority can direct a supplier to be a SoLR. For customers whose annual consumption is reasonably expected to be between 73,200 kWh and 2,196,000 kWh the authority can only direct a supplier to be a SoLR with that supplier's consent. There is no provision for appointing a SoLR (by consent or otherwise) for customers whose annual consumption is reasonably expected to be more than 2,196,000 kWh.

Once appointed, a SoLR will initially be supplying the customer on a deemed contract. This deemed contract will cover the period from appointment until customers have agreed a replacement contract with the SoLR or another supplier of their choice. There are licence obligations to ensure that the prices charged under a deemed contract are not excessive. A SoLR's deemed contract must also allow for its termination when the customer chooses to take a supply from another supplier. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State, Department for Trade and Industry)

Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the total quantity of carbon dioxide released by (a) overground and (b) underground trains in (i) 1984, (ii) 1994 and (ii) 2004.(John Hemming)

A: The table provides estimates of all carbon dioxide emissions from the rail sector for 1984, 1994 and 2003. Figures for 2004 are not yet available. It is not possible to disaggregate these data to provide separate estimates of overground and underground train emissions.

The estimates include direct carbon dioxide emissions from diesel trains and indirect emissions from all other sources and operations connected with the rail sector. Indirect emissions include emissions from the production of electricity allocated to the heavy and light rail sectors including London Underground and non-traction use of electricity for rail lighting, signalling, stations and offices.

Total direct and indirect CO 2 emissions from rail activity (million tonnes of CO 2 )
1984 5.2
1994 6.5
2003 5.3

Source:

DEFRA
(Derek Twigg, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport)
 
Monday, November 14, 2005
  Bring the trophy to Brum
We do need to encourage English and British teams to see the merit of parading in Birmingham. Birmingham is far more accessible to the much of the country than London and we would do a better job than Trafalgar Square.
worldcupcropped
"When we win the world cup - bring the trophy to Brum", says John Hemming MP.

"I have been talking to the FA about parading the trophy in Birmingham when England win the world cup. We can do these things properly.", he said.

John Hemming has been talking to the FA about alternative locations to Trafalgar Square. He met up with the scorer of the hat trick Sir Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup and the FIFA world trophy at a meeting in Parliament at which this issue was discussed."
 
Sunday, November 13, 2005
  The Terrorism Act applies in Northern Ireland as well
artilleryflats
Does this mean that the government will be trying to get rid of all of the Murals.

(The link is to the Bill as it stands on the parliamentary website.)
 
  Birmingham Remembrance Parade 2005 Photos
I always attend the Remembrance Parade in the centre of town. It has been held in Centenery Square for some years now. I took a few photos this year. It is sad really that noone does a digital portfolio as it is an important part of Birmingham life.

There are remembrance parades in other parts of the city, but the city centre one is the key one. Liz Lynne presents a wreath on behalf of the MEPs and Steve McCabe does one on behalf of the MPs. The Lord Mayor represents the Councillors.

The service is normally presented by the Bishop, but his deputy stood in as he has gone off to York.
clerics
The clerics and Lord Mayor.
onparade2
These are the representatives of various mainly military groups with the regimental banners if appropriate.
onparade
These are serving members of various groups such as the fusilliers, TA and other uniformed groups including cadets.
Public and Legion
This is part of the General Public and part of the Legion.
bigpoppies
Observant visitors will note that it is not only Councillors, MPs, Lord Mayors and (Deputy) Bishops who wear the larger poppy, but also veterans.

It is rather sad that no-one does a proper collection of photos. This event is a key event for many people. Normally one or two people collapse during the event having made such a physical sacrifice to attend. On this occasion I only saw one person requiring medical attention, but noone should underestimate the importance of the remembrance day parade.

The square was a bit cramped. Not sure what the sheds were for, but c'est la vie.

One unusual thing about the West Midlands is that the Fire Service have a pipe band with bagpipes. The rumours are that there was a bit of spare budget one year and someone decided to have a pipe band. It is actually quite nice as they play well and it makes a change from the other bands (such as the Salvation Army and other military bands). That is not to be critical of the other bands, however.
 
Saturday, November 12, 2005
  Terrorist spotted in House of Commons
terrorist and king
One of these people may be breaking the law (soon). The gentleman on the Right is playing "King James I" and is entirely safe. The gentleman on the Left is playing "Guy Fawkes" and could be at the risk of being guilty of glorifying terrorism.

In the same way any boys who ask for "penny for the guy" next year are taking a risk (particularly if they use a sign).

To be fair anyone could be locked up for 28 days whether or not they display a "penny for the guy" sign.

The Violette Szabo museum is also taking a risk as is anyone playing a videotape of "allo allo".

I accept entirely that the Attorney General may decide that prosecuting such people is not in the public interest, but before I dress up in a Guy Fawkes costume I would wish to get an agreement from the CPS not to prosecute.
 
  The Birmingham Poppy
Birmingham Poppy
The above is an example of someone wearing a Birmingham Poppy. There has been a certain amount of Comment about the poppy that I wear in remembrance of the sacrifice of others. The fact is that it is a proper British Legion Poppy. Many men in Birmingham (including the parking attendant photographed in Kings Heath) wear these poppies.

There are also more frilly poppies that are also available. Incidentally there is a key distinction between the Scottish Poppy and that of England and Wales (both were on sale in the Members Tea Room). The Scottish Poppy has no oak leaf and has an attached pin.

Incidentally I bought my poppy in my constituency not in the House of Commons.
 
  Eric Sallies Forth
Friday was another private members bill day. I had turned up for two bills, but only one got through second reading.

The reason for this was Eric Forth. I am not quite sure what he gets out of the process, but he turns up to filibuster the private members bills and as a consequence it becomes harder to get one through the process.

A bill has to have 2 hours debate after which, with the agreement of the (Deputy) Speaker it can be moved that "the motion be now put". For that to pass as a division at least 100 MPs need to vote aye. (That is how Clare Short's bill failed, because only 91 MPs voted aye).

Eric Forth managed to speak for an hour on the Microgeneration Bill before I came into the chamber. There was a bit of the "usual channels" going on about when he may be forced to end. At the end of it he accepted that if he didn't stop talking at 1.30 he would be forced to stop.

Then the second reading passed without a division. The process of a division has two interesting steps. The first is that the (Deputy) Speaker askes for people to say "aye" or "no" and if there are people saying "aye" and people saying "no" then (s)he calls a division. Then they appoint tellers and there is a second requirement for people to say both "aye" and "no". It is after that point that we are committed to a division.

Generally people avoid divisions because they are a nuisance. They require all the MPs to troop through the lobbies. That means dropping whatever they are doing and rushing to the lobbies. First divisions have 8 mins notice and later ones 6. For people with offices some distance away that is quite difficult.

Some debates have 3 hour periods during which it is guaranteed that there won't be any divisions. That allows MPs to wander off to meetings off the "parliamentary estate" or beyond the division bell range.

The division bells themselves are quite interesting as they are based upon traditional solenoids.

The Speaker and Deputy Speakers put some effort into trying to make sure that debates are actually debates and that MPs listen to what other MPs have said and respond to the debate rather than just reading out set speeches.

That means that to speak you need to stay in the chamber for all of the debate until you speak then 2 speeches afterwards and return for the summing up.

Although MPs generally do not respond to the debate it is a good idea to try to work this way. To be fair to Eric Forth he does manage to spend quite a bit of time banging on about each private members bill in a vaguely coherent manner even though what he does is basically a real nuisance. What he did yesterday was to prevent the second bill from getting a second reading.

Although I did not actually vote yesterday I did need to be there. If Eric Forth had thought that there were not 100 Mps supporting the proposal then he would not have ended his speech and a closure would have had to be moved.

Like much of practical politics, if it is clear which way things are going to go then there is less resistance.
 
Friday, November 11, 2005
  Nationaising the Police Force - undermining trust
Gradually Labour have been removing the checks and balances that operate in the constitution. With the gradual nationalisation of the police force we are moving from the historic situation where the home office was responsible for the operation of legal procedures and the rules under which police operated, but did not get involved in operational decisions (apart from in London) to one in which the Home Secretary has at his command the whole police force.

This cannot be seen as a good thing even if a relatively small sum of money is saved. The way in which the police were pressurised into lobbying MPs for the flawed internment proposals is sympomatic of a lack of concern with process and a concern merely about outcomes. Process is important because of the effects that bad process can have on undermining people's trust in the system.

There are getting to be large groups of people who do not trust the system. This is not just Muslim activists and Animal Rights campaigners. History makes many people of Irish extraction untrusting as have historically been trades unionists. Other groups have similar concerns such as Sikhs and people campaigning against injustice in the family courts.

If any one thing could be summed up from this government is it is the superficial unjust way in which it operates. It treads roughshod on people being concerned about administrative convenience rather than quality of life.

The police mergers are just another piece to this particular jigsaw.
 
  Questions the Labour Party cannot answer
There are a lot of questions that Labour cannot answer. I asked two of them during the 3rd reading debate yesterday (see link).

The Terrorism bill is far from acceptable, but we still need to address how to handle the real situation. I am in the process of making contacts within Birmingham to look at the issue so that we might be able to find a consensual way forwards.

There are solutions that assist with what is a very difficult situation. It has to be recognised by the government, however, that detaining people without giving a reason is the last resort. That is what internment is. They try to claim that it is not internment, but from the perspective of anyone outside the process, it is just the same.
 
Thursday, November 10, 2005
  Divisions 84 and 85 - Detention without charge
Division 85 (also the link) is the division for inserting 28 days.
Division 84 is the division for not inserting 90 days (see ante for reasoning).

The Birmingham Mail editorial last night made the key point that Tony Blair had not won the argument.

The underlying issue is complex and as often tends to happen the key legal issues got completely lost. After arrest there are two processes charging a suspect and then remanding in custody. Any constraints on reinterview exist only in the PACE* code and not in primary or secondary legislation.

It, therefore, rests entirely within the control of the executive (the government) to change the guidance to allow terrorist suspects to be charged quickly and remanded into custody. This would get around the difficulties that would be caused by long periods of detention without charge. Let me emphasise that the issue of detention without charge is key. This is not a matter of there not being a trial, but a matter of there being no proper identification of what people are alleged to have done. It is the absence of a charge that makes the government's proposal equivalent to Internment.

My most worrying concern about this was that senior police officers were instructed to lobby MPs. This was not a matter where the police officers were doing what they thought was right, but they were doing what they were told to do. I talk frequently to the West Midlands Police Federation and senior officers and am told what they think about things. I understand, however, that there was lobbying going on via instruction.

Over to an analysis of the divisions:
One tory MP rebelled on the 90 vote and 2 on the 28 vote. 49 Labour MPs rebelled on the 90 amendment and 51 on the 28 amendment. All 62 Lib Dem MPs voted the same way on both amendments. A further 13 Labour MPs abstained on the 28 amendment. George Galloway did turn up this time. The DUP voted with the oppposition and the UU with the government. All SDLP MPs voted with the opposition (from the government benches) all the Nationalists turned up and voted with the opposition.

At the time of writing there is not expected to be a division on the third reading of the bill.

The irony of the whole matter is that next Wednesday there will be a debate about how Tony Blair is being soft on terrorists by allowing people "on the run" to avoid going to court, whilst their victims may have to. He can have it one way or another, but not both ways.


(*PACE - Police and Criminal Evidence Act.)
 
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
  Written Parliamentary Questions: 9th November 2005
World Cup
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport which day in 2006 has been earmarked for the return of the football World Cup trophy to England in the event of victory in Germany.(John Hemming)

A: In the event of the England football team being victorious at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, suitable arrangements to celebrate this success and to welcome both the team and trophy home will be made with the relevant authorities. (Richard Caborn, Minister of State, Department of Culture, Media and Sport).

Wholesale Gas Prices I
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the likely variability of wholesale gas prices during winter 2005–06. (John Hemming)

A: Variability, or volatility, is a normal part of the working of a well-functioning commodity market. Current UK wholesale spot gas prices are determined by the price of oil and the day-to-day balance between demand and supply in the UK gas market.

When the market is tight small changes in demand and supply will have a bigger impact on price volatility than if the market were over-supplied. The balance of demand and supply, and thus the volatility of prices, will depend on many external factors, including the weather and the availability of storage facilities or import infrastructure on a day-to-day basis. In view of the unpredictability of many of these factors it is not possible to make accurate estimates of future price volatility. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry)

Wholesale Gas Prices II
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the impact of the practice of straddling, whereby a domestic retail supplier sells gas at a fixed price and buys gas at a variable wholesale price.(John Hemming)

A: The Government have not undertaken an assessment of this practice. Pricing decisions in the retails gas market are a commercial matter for suppliers.(Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry)
 
  Internment (the 90 days issue)
The amendments on this issue have been "selected by the speaker". He has selected a committee amendment to replace three months with 90 days then 60 then 28.

There is a tactical aspect to this. If the 90 days amendment passed then the others would fall. Strictly the 90 days is an improvement on three months. However, there is a need to vote tactically on this.

The underlying issue, however, remains the same.

If we introduce Internment in England we are likely to see an increase in violence. This could arise from a range of sources. The new laws will apply to Animal Rights Activists who may not kill people, but do damage. They will also apply to a wide range of other fanatics.

There are issues that need to be looked at like the resources available to forensics and issues like facilitating an early charge (even if on a lesser offence). There is nothing in law that prevents a reinterview after an initial charge. The matter that confuses me is why Blair is driving this particular route when there are quite straightforward solutions to a problem that do not cause the same difficulties.

In early morning discussions in the tea room (over breakfast) it was felt that they key issue on the votes will be which way the tory rebels go.

Whatever happens today the real problems will remain. I will be liaising with the Police and the legal profession to find a way forward. This will be necessary as even if the 90 days is brought in the same problems will remain. (and the 90 days will generate its own substantial problem).
 
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
  Graham Stuart and PCD
IMG_0462
This is a picture of Graham Stuart MP for Beverley and Holderness. As with me he uses email a lot and as such needs to use an external mail server (that is external to the House of Commons systems). He, however, cannot get a good enough phone signal in his office so he has to either wander around the garden or sit on this bench at the entrance to the cloakroom to download his emails.

The EDM (860) about this now has 27 signatures.
 
  The Picture Desk
Now and again people ask for pictures of me that they wish to use. I have just uploaded some to flickr so that they are generally available.

If you want a higher resolution version please click on the photo to get to the flickr account.
bigheadbighead2talking2phoneactionshirtsleevestalking
 
Sunday, November 06, 2005
  Reconciling Division 74
One interesting aspect of Division 74 was that Hansard's list of names and the tellers' count differed by 2 votes on the ayes.

When MPs vote they first walk into rooms around the North (Aye) and South (No) of the chamber of the House of Commons. Then they walk out of those rooms. As they walk through the doors out of the rooms (lobbys) they are counted by "tellers".

There are two tellers on each exit. One supports aye and the other supports no so there are four tellers in all.

Inside the lobbys there are people sitting at three high desks with lists of names and they tick of the names of MPs as they walk past them.

Clearly you can count the name listed as well as count the people leaving the rooms.

Your party gets stressed if you don't vote with it. That can result in all sorts of sanctions the strongest of which is removing the whip and, therefore, potentially preventing you from standing with the party at the next general election. (cf Howard Flight).

The question, of course, on this was where are the two other votes. Were there two MPs who managed to vote without getting their names recorded? Alternatively did the tellers manage to count extra people.

It is interesting also that the Ulster Unionist voted with the Government, but that the DUP voted against.

Ten Conservatives didn't vote (one more than the 9 I had been told of and not all of them were paired). George Galloway didn't vote. 21 Labour MPs didn't vote (including one minister), 2 Lib Dems didn't vote. Two SDLP didn't vote (one did against the government), the Five SF members never vote. 32 Labour MPs voted against the government (including the two tellers for aye who didn't actually vote per se, but were tellers)

This shows the vulnerability of the Labour majority as there are an easy (9+1+2+2) 14 more votes that can be found against the government.

The question now is how hard the Labour whips now go around twisting arms for next week.

The point about Labour's majority is that one should ignore the votes from Sinn Fein because they never turn up and, therefore, their majority is more like 71 than 66.
 
Saturday, November 05, 2005
  Saturday's Casework
I had two items of casework today that related to people hiding their business identify. If you trade as an individual "Sole Trader" you are supposed to tell those people who you are dealing with what your real name is.

If people have a problem with your business they need your name and address to take legal action. It appears that people are getting around this by concealing their names.

I have also received permission from Thailand to publicise the case of a UK Citizen who wishes to return to the UK. He was a bus driver and worked for 30 years paying taxes in Birmingham. His pension although quite high in Thailand is not enough to live on in the UK. However, he is caught by the "Non-habitual resident" rules in that he cannot get housing benefit in the UK to top up his pension. This also hits people who go abroad for work then return to the UK.

In essence there is a concept of a "social contract" whereby people pay taxation and expect support in return. That concept has been gradually eroded by the means testing of benefits and the like. This undermines people's trust in the system.
 
Friday, November 04, 2005
  Written Parliamentary Question 4th November 2005
Cataract Operations
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cataract operations have been performed by the independent sector on behalf of the NHS in each year since 1997; how many of these operations in each of these years have required the national health service to provide a follow-up service to patients with needs relating directly to their operation; and what the mean cost has been to the NHS of each such follow-up procedure each year. (John Hemming)

A: As part of the centrally procured independent sector treatment centre (ISTC) programme, Netcare has delivered over 18,000 ophthalmology procedures since February 2004. The Department does not collect figures on the cost of follow up treatment that may take place in the national health service, but all independent sector providers, working under the ISTC programme, have agreed local level service agreements to ensure suitable follow-up care arrangements for patients. (Liam Byrne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)
 
  DTI to Study Peak Oil
Energy Campaigner John Hemming MP has written to Malcolm Wicks MP to ask him to reveal more details of the planned "peak oil" study that was flagged up by the head of the Department of Trade and Industry's energy markets, Claire Durkin

Ms Durkin said on Wednesday "We can expect that an investigation will be announced within the next few weeks aimed at allowing a more open discussion on the arrival of "peak oil," the point at which worldwide oil production begins to decline,"

She was speaking to an industry gathering at London's Energy Institute. Durkin said that although the peak is widely acknowledged as inevitable it isn't an immediate prospect. "There is no imminent danger of global oil production peaking," she said, as new technologies and growing supplies outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting countries will meet market requirements. "

The speech comes as a diffuse coalition of geologists, economists and activists have been warning that global production could decline as early as 2007 as major oilfields mature. The government's acknowledgement of the problem was seen as an encouraging sea change by Chris Skrebowski, editor of the Energy Institute's Petroleum Review and proponent of the peak oil argument. "The Americans are waking up to peak oil, so now the UK is following their lead, but the government doesn't want to talk about it in case they scare people," Skreboswki said.

Skrebowski criticised Durkin's point that the DTI's role was to provide a stable environment for exploration investment rather than push oil majors to spend. He suggested the government had simply committed itself to letting oil companies solve the government's problem for them.

John Hemming MP said, "it is good that both the DTI and the Chief Scientific Advisor have recognised the need to give serious attention to this issue. I do think the DTI are being over optimistic and I have asked questions about the range of scenarios being considered by Sir David King. At least, however, the government has stopped turning a blind eye to the situation."

"I would like to know from the DTI, however, what the terms of reference of this study will be and how it will be made open to public scrutiny."
 
Thursday, November 03, 2005
  The Natives they are restless
Having treated Labour MPs as mere lobby fodder for many years it does appear that they are getting a bit restless at the moment.

Charles Clarke recognised that the government could actually lose parts of the terrorism bill in the House of Commons and so moved into consensus mode.

It is all rather odd actually as it is difficult to work out why the government are doing what they are doing with the Terror Acts.

Recently Terror Acts have been used to deal with heckling at the Labour Conference and a woman walking on a cycle path.

The Violette-szabo-museum could be guilty under the act for celebrating the sabotage that Violette Szabo committed in France as a British SOE agent during the second world war.

The eternal problem is that of defining "terrorism" - something which the government are not doing that well at.

The government's other substantial failing is in not understanding that they really need to act in a way that does not increase the amount of terrorism in the world. I am not sure that they understand that they have some material part of the responsibility for creating a world that is less peaceful.
 
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
  Those Blunkett Calculations
As far as I can tell if the standard rules apply David Blunkett got a payment of £15,000 for resigning on December 15th and will get £18,000 for resigning today.

There has been less than 11 months between the two dates. The normal ministerial extra salary is 74K. For 11 months he would get, therefore, 67K. However, if you gross up the 33K tax free that comes to over 50K and he has done 6 months of work as a minister which is 37K. In other words by resigning twice during this period he has earned a gross equivalent of 87K as opposed to what would have been 67K had he merely kept his nose to the ministerial grindstone.

That, of course, is a mild exaggeration as clearly his ministerial extra ceases from now onwards - not that he was that short of the funds from the various "jobs" that he had after resigning as a minister, which were the cause of him resigning this time.
 
  Make Poverty History

Clearly cabinet ministers who leave through the revolving door to the cabinet picking up a tax free payment of £18,000 each time are not likely to have a problem with poverty.

Having failed to be called at oral questions to ask the Prime Minister how often he thinks it is fair for a Minister to receive such a tax free severance payment I then went to meet up with the Trade Justice Lobby - see picture. Sadly my camera battery ran out of power - much like the country may this winter - resulting in few good photos.

At least someone in the government is being sensible
Energy Campaigner John Hemming MP has welcomed the revelation today in an email to John Hemming that Sir David King, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the government, is doing some scenario planning on Gas and Oil Reserves.

"We have had lots of bland statements from the government that everything is well. However, the CBI and a number of large energy using companies share the concerns I raised in early September that there could be gas supply difficulties this winter."

"I am pleased, therefore, to hear that the Sir David has agreed to look at the range of possibilities for gas and oil reserves globally."

"We know that the UK's production of oil peaked in 1999. We, however, will not know when global oil production will peak until a few years after it has peaked."

Sir David King said in an email to Mr Hemming: "I am fully aware of the need to do scenario work - from worst to best case - on oil and gas reserves and our ability to be prepared for each of them. This is something I currently have in hand."

John Hemming said, "It is good to know that the Chief Scientific Advisor has his head screwed on the right way. Clearly he is taking the right action even if the government themselves wish to keep their heads firmly planted in the sand."

In the year 2000 the UK government predicted that oil production would peak in 2015. The Association for the Study of Peak Oil predicts that oil production will peak in 2010. Conventional crude oil production is thought to have peaked globally (by ASPO) in 2004, but non-conventional sources are likely to grow for a while.

Energy Campaigning MP John Hemming working with the campaign group Powerswitch will also be running a month of events to highlight the issue of Peak Oil Production during November 2005.

Culminating on 23rd November with a peak oil summit in the House of Commons the campaign will be highlighting the need for the government to be open about calculations as to when global oil production will peak. Professor Kenneth S. Deffeyes a geologist who is Professor Emeritus at Princeton University made a recent prediction that 24th November 2005 could be the date of peak global oil production. Although the true date of peak global oil production will not be clear until a few years after the date we are highlighting that date to emphasise the fact that a debate is needed as to when it will occur.

Given the likelihood of massive hikes in gas prices this winter and the experience of recent hikes in oil prices the market is signalling that peak oil could be close. The key question is not one of "running out of oil", but when production peaks so that in subsequent years less oil is consumed.
 
  Written Parliamentary Questions 2nd October 2005
Road Bypasses/Usage
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the total kilometres travelled by private motor vehicle users on roads in England and Wales in (a) 1984, (b) 1994 and (c) 2004.(John Hemming)

A: The total kilometres travelled by private motor vehicle users (comprising cars, vans, motorcycles/mopeds and taxis) on roads in England and Wales is estimated as (a) 396 billion kilometres in 1984, (b) 561 billion kilometres in 1994 and (c) 619 billion kilometres in 2004. Data for 1984 are not directly comparable with 1994 and 2004 due to methodological changes.(Stephen ladyman, Minister of State, Department for Transport)
 
  EDM 860 - Internet Access from House of Commons
I placed EDM 860 on the order paper to raise the issue that MPs cannot get email from outside the Parliamentary Estate if they are attached to the Parliamentary Network.

That is because the Parliamentary Communications Department blocks port 110. Quite a few more technically able MPs who handle their own email, rather than having it forwarded to a member of staff, use more advanced systems than are available via the House of Commons.

Having circulated an email to all MPs I find one MP who uses a G3 connection like myself (but a different service provider) finds he has to wander around to get a signal to get his email. Quite a few MPs find that the rules developed by the Parliamentary Communications Department prevent them doing their job properly.

I work hard to make it relatively easy for constituents to contact me. The facilities established at substantial cost to assist this tend to prevent it.

I believe that if enough MPs sign the EDM then some cables will be replugged to make it possible to use the system to a fuller extent.
 

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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