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Showing posts from May, 2006

Much better he plays Croquet

I, for one, am much happier with John Prescott playing croquet than thinking that he may have his hand otherwise on the nuclear button.

There are very few ministers (and I don't think Tony Blair is one of them) who are actually capable of running anything properly. That is the underlying difficulty in which the country currently is. New Labour are good at spinning, but useless at making anything happen effectively - apart from raising taxes and starting illegal wars.

What they actually do is to hardly interfere with the Civil Service and let them get on with things. The problem with this technocratic solution is that it goes badly wrong from time to time ... like ... er ... about now. It becomes the war of the barons with senior civil servants calling the shots.

The idea that John Reid will do anything other than upset his own staff is risible. At least we have the chance of some good leaks from the Home Office now.

One role of government is identifying problems in the public sec…

The Labour Government: Not fit for purpose

The Home Office, the NHS, Tax Credits, The Child Support Agency, the Ministry of Defence, Single Farm Payments ... etc etc.

It is quite clear that the Labour Government are "not fit for purpose".

They have been in government for 9 years and although some positive things have been achieved, there are still many areas that are chaotic.

That comes from their concentration on spin and concealing problems rather than substance.

Crime is taken seriously by Ming Campbell

I am pleased with Ming Campbell's approach on the issue of Crime. To quote from his speech:

A party which is serious about social justice cannot fail to be serious about preventing crime and enforcing the rules.
...
I want to be clear: I support the discriminating use of ASBOs in tackling crime and discouraging anti social behaviour.

Liberal Democrats in local government have used ASBOs to good effect.
...
Penalties should go beyond custody. People like Ian Huntley should not have the vote. If you are guilty of a serious breach of the law, you forfeit the right to elect those who make the law.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 26th May 2006

Connecting for Health
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the status is of the Connecting for Health IT project.(John Hemming)

A:I refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 16 May 2006, Official Report, columns 939-40W. (Caroline Flint, Minister of State, Department of Health)

NHS Finances
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health what formula her Department uses to determine the payment made to each primary care trust under payment by results. (John Hemming)

A:Revenue allocations are made to primary care trusts (PCTs) on the basis of the relative needs of their populations. A weighted capitation formula, calculates target shares of available resources for each PCT based on the age distribution, additional need and unavoidable geographical variations in the cost of providing services. The 2006-07 allocations have been adjusted to reflect non-recurrently the transitional arrangements for PCTs to support the implementation of payment by results. (Andy Burnham, Minister of Stat…

British Armed Forces Federation

A series of reports in The Scotsman has already forced the MoD to admit the casualty figures presented to parliament are inaccurate and many more soldiers have been injured than has been officially reported.

Last Night's Dispatches Programme combined with other media reports shows how ineffectual parliamentary questions have become. It is far to easy for ministers to avoid answering written questions.

It is not surprising that there are pressures within the Armed Forces to create a representative body akin to that of the Police Federation. This does appear to be a necessary step to ensure that the needs of the servicepeople are properly taken into account.

Iraq: Why we should pull out

There is now formally "a government" in Iraq.

As with in the 1920s and 1930s the defining issue in Iraq is "the occupation". (Previously it was RAF bases).

All the political parties are opposed to the occupation. The occupation, however, gives an argument for the "insurgents" to recruit.

The UK government has no real "strategy" in Iraq that is worth the name. They say that they want to wait until the Iraqi security services can cope. However, the presence of the occupying forces makes the situation harder to handle.

They have no clear objectives by which they can measure when they should leave. Hence unless people support an unending commitment then the time to leave is now (or at least in reasonable and safe phases).

Blair's most misleading argument about Iraq was that it was Saddam Hussain or invasion. There were many other options that led to the downfall of the Ba'th without the generation of major hatred against the UK and US gove…

We're off

Well the Pre-Action Protocol on the letter of last week has now been served. This gives another couple of weeks for the government to respond before a claim form is issued.

In the mean time Standing Committee A has continued to dig into the guts of the government's new bill. The amount of additional regulation and record keeping needs to be seen to be believed. Systems are getting more and more complex (such as the Film Tax Relief).

It remains to be seen what impact this new relief will have on the British Film Industry.

Some Sanity at last

The decision of the Government to accept Birmingham's proposal to merge only Eastern and North Birmingham PCTs is a glimmer of sensible decisionmaking amidst a fog of incompetence.

It will be an interesting test case to see if consequentially we cope better with the financial problems currently facing the Health Service. The government today were still only talking about Period 6 figures. That is not that surprising as they can adjust the end of year figures in all sorts of interesting ways that will be difficult to bottom out. They then can announce end of year figures that are better than period 9 as a result of "brokerage" where the SHA chucks a bung at a trust in deficit on a one-off basis.

Yesterday and Today involves further discussion of the Report Stage of the Parliamentary Scrutiny (Abolition) Bill. It is clear, listening to the debate, that the government do not follow the complex legal arguments today.

Today I also managed to meet up with people from CSCI an…

Written Parliamentary Questions: 16th May 2006

Millennium Projects
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport pursuant to the answer of 24 April 2006, Official Report, columns 1358–59W, on millennium projects, if she will collect information on the performance of each project; and what monitoring of the performance of each project is undertaken. (John Hemming)

A:Like all lottery distributing bodies, the Millennium Commission takes decisions independently on which projects to support with national lottery proceeds. Under Financial Directions from the Department, the Commission is required to undertake appropriate monitoring and evaluation of projects to make sure that, among other things, lottery funds are being used for the purposes intended, that they represent value for money and that they are delivering the benefits identified in the application to the Commission. Under the Directions, a report on monitoring and evaluation studies carried out by or for the Commission must be included in the Commission's annu…

Musicians Union, Orchestras and Henry the Eighth

A limited amount of debate has been going on about the new "Ministers change law by edict" bill going through the House next week. David Howarth has put down some really good amendments on this which go to the nub of the bill.

It remains that the government are putting down a bill that makes it easier for Ministers to change the law without a full parliamentary procedure. Almost anything could be rammed through with the agreement of two committees and one vote in each house.

The argument is to make deregulation easier. The real problem is that Civil Servants generally don't want to reduce the amount of regulation as this reduces their ability to influence what happens. All proposals for deregulation have to come from the Civil Service (Ministers, but we know how little they have to do with this).

The bill has been called the Henry VIII bill becuase it is about greater power for the crown prerogative (ie government).

In the mean time the Musician's Union have a prob…

NHS - The Perfect Storm

A number of changes are being driven through the NHS which could be considered like the "Perfect Storm".

One most talked about the PbR or Payment by Activity. This has been accompanied by the removal or moreso phasing out of the purchaser protection adjustment. The DH was well aware of what hospitals faced difficulties, but nothing was done until too late.

The financial impact of the new consultants contract was not properly costed by the Department of Health and Agenda for Change also has a substantial impact on costs.

There is a sensible attempt to move care into primary care from secondary care, but this is being done at the same time as everything else and in a relatively insensitive manner in terms of handling staff who could be redeployed rather than made redundant.

The Costs of PFI are excessive and concealed by the use of optimism bias.

There is a bit of good news

The introduction of strong market participants in Foundation Trusts before Commissioning was fully establis…

Letter to Tony Blair

Yesterday I sent the following letter to Tony Blair:

Over the past year I have, as a new Member of Parliament, asked a number of questions of your government. Sometimes this is via a written parliamentary question. On other occasions it is in a letter or an email. Sometimes the questions are asked directly of Civil Servants.

On many occasions I have received a good response within a reasonable time. However, there are frequently situations in which I receive a flawed response, a partial response, an evasive or misleading response or even no real response.

I do believe that your ministers are acting unlawfully in doing this and take the view that these issues should be considered through Judicial Review. I have written to the Cabinet Secretary about these issues, but, at the time of writing, had no response.

I would like, therefore, to summarise all the issues I have identified to date. This will facilitate the judicial consideration of your decision as to how these matters are handl…

Child Protection and Foster Care

There has been some stress about a letter I wrote to the Sunday Times. Although I think the letter is quite clear, I would like to ensure that it is clear. The letter is in bold italics, any comments in normal text.

CONGRATULATIONS on your article Innocent parents accused of abuse (News, April 23). The problems of innocent parents do not stop there.
I think this is quite clear given the multiple cases of miscarriages of justice.

There remain a substantial number of children who die at the hands of their carers
This does not refer to "foster carers". It refers to "carers". That includes parents, other guardians, people who are caring for them temporarily on behalf of their parents. The overwhelming majority of foster carers are good people who I have absolutely no criticism of. I even started the process of looking at fostering children at some stage myself.

while social workers deal with the Alice in Wonderland world of fabricated or induced illness and Munchausen synd…

Birmingham Election Results

I have been sent a list of the results for the city that I have not checked and which does not include the result for Kingstanding.

It makes it possible, however, to calculate the percentages across the city for all parties. I also have found 2002 and 1998 figures.
Party199820022006Labour44.139.931.0Conservatives31.930.426.4Lib Dem18.321.622.1BNP11.0Green4.4

There were some Green and BNP candidates previously, but I have not tried to get the city wide totals. The citywide results show a movement towards extremes and a fragmentation of the mainstream vote with only the Lib Dem Citywide vote standing up against that. The point about the Citywide vote is that it is comparable as the boundaries of the city have not changed even though ward boundaries have changed.

It remains to be seen whether there will be one or more election petitions this time (one from mathematics the others potentially from fraud). It appears that personation has been the name of the game this time rather than posta…

Written Parliamentary Questions: 5th May 2006

Primary Care Trusts
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much money had been committed by each primary care trust to purchasing private services at the end of December 2005; and how much has been budgeted by each primary care trust for such activity for the financial year 2005–06.(John Hemming)

A:The information requested is not collected centrally. (Liam Byrne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)

Gas Supplies
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of 19 April 2006, Official Report, column 675W, on gas supplies, if he will provide his Department's detailed calculations based on the IMF data and the Royal Bank of Scotland data which were used as the basis for the statement on German gas prices. (John Hemming)

A:The information is as follows:

As at December
2004 2005
IMF Data: Russian Natural gas border price in Germany (US$/thousand cubic metres) 156.24 250.56
RBS Data: US$: Euro exchange rate 0.74596 0.84371
Conversio…

Labour vote fragments in Birmingham

An initial glance at the results for Birmingham shows the Labour vote fragmenting.

For example they lost the Moseley and Kings Heath seat to the Lib Dems. Labour had only 31% of the vote. However, the opposition to Labour was fragmented and we had about 33% of the vote - enough to win, however.

Because of the boundary changes comparisons need to be made to the all up elections, but that is relatively difficult because sometimes parties (eg UKIP, Green, BNP) only put up 1 candidate in those situations.

There are two comparison techniques the largest vote technique and the percentage of overall vote technique. Both of these have their problems.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 3rd May 2006

Queen's Flight
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total cost was of the Queen's Flight in each of the last four financial years; how much of these costs were (a) fixed and (b) variable; and how many miles were flown by the Queen's Flight in each year. (John Hemming)

A:The total cost of the 32 (The Royal) Squadron in each of the last four financial years and the breakdown of these costs into (a) fixed and (b) variable costs are shown in the following table:

Fixed and variable costs for 32 (The Royal) Squadron £ million Financial year Fixed costs Variable costs Total
2002–03 20.2 5.0 25.2
2003–04 14.5 4.8 19.3
2004–05 11.7 4.6 16.3
2005–06 11.4 5.8 17.2

We are not able to provide a figure on how many miles are flown by 32 (The Royal) Squadron as this information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (Don Touhig, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Veterans), Ministry of Defence)


Millennium Projects
Q:To ask the Secretary of State…

Labour and Government

I was always amazed that the Labour Party got away with accepting a loan from Bernie Ecclestone that effectively changed the law on advertising smoking. Bernie got "access" the ability to influence the argument rather than a formal legislation for loans deal. The end result is, however, the same.

We now have a mass of issues Bernie Ecclestone's Loan for a law change - seriously bad in terms of governmental integrity.
Patricia Hewitt's overall mess with the NHS - a very bad consequence for the population as a whole
Charles Clarke and the prisoners. I cannot really understand how he is hanging on. This is clearly within his direct remit.
Phil Woolas and the claim that the government have no policy assumption about the Council Tax.
Tony Blair, Lord Levy and Loans for Peerages - now where has that gone
The War in Iraq. We must not forget this situation.
Overpayment for pharmaceuticals, Labour do get funded by pharmaceutical companies. See Guido
The general refusal to answer que…