John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Monday, June 30, 2008
  Warning: Mobile Internet Bills On Holiday
Ofcom have released the associated Link - worth reading if you use mobile internet on The Continent. Vodafone have reduced their roaming internet charges to about 12 Euros a day (check their info for details).

It is easy to get caught out on this issue.
  Justice Ryder's speech (and other things)
This is a link to Justice Ryder's recent speech. It is worth reading (if you are interested in these issues). Along with James Munby he is one of the few family court judges who have some idea of the problems inbuilt into the system.

The difficulty is getting a wider recognition that change is needed. Not only that but a recognition that a different type of change is needed one which brings greater accountability into the decisionmaking rather than one that uses more computers.

Family Law Week also carry details of Lord Justice Hughes' endorsing the House of Lords position on fact finding (which was that facts need to be found).
Saturday, June 28, 2008
  Post Office Closures
Those who wish to see a bigger picture can look at Flickr for it.

The process of reducing the Sub Post Office network from about 18,000 to 4,500 outlets is continuing with silly decisions to close down profitable outlets continuing to be made.

This is the local councillors from Acocks Green and Springfield Wards (Springfield is in Hall Green Constituency) campaigning to keep Shaftmoor Lane Sub Post Office open.
  SSAP 24
With the market taking a turn for the worse SSAP 24 will start causing difficulties again. Too many of the aspects of our financial system are self-reinforcing. That results in a gearing effect on changes.
Friday, June 27, 2008
  Local Government by-election results
Results: Thursday 26th June 2008.

Blackpool UA, Park
Con 977 (55.2; +28.1)
Lab 448 (25.3; -8.1)
BNP 218 (12.3; -4.8)
LD Sue Close 97 (5.5; -8.5)
UKIP 30 (1.7; -6.7)
Majority 529
Turnout not known
Con gain from Lab
Percentage change is since May 2007

Burbage PC, Lash Hill
LD Maureen Lynch 612 Richard Flemming 610 (71.2)
Con 248/239 (28.8)
Majorities 364/362
Turnout 29.4%
LD hold x 2

Hexham TC, Leazes
Con 620 (67.7)
LD Lindsay Travis 296 (32.3)
Majority 324
Turnout 33.4%
Con hold

Welwyn Hatfield DC, Hatfield Central
Lab 425 (33.2; -8.3)
LD Hazel Laming 329 (25.7; +10.5)
Con 319 (24.9; -18.4)
BNP 138 (10.8; +10.8)
Ind 69 (5.4; +5.4)
Majority 96
Turnout 28.5%
Lab gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2008

Hatfield TC, Central
Lab 422 (33.1)
LD Hazel Laming 378 (29.7)
Con 347 (27.2)
Ind 127 (10.0)
Majority 44
Turnout 28.5%
Lab gain from Con

17th July 2008

Northallerton TC, North West
LD Jane Harvey elected unopposed
LD gain from Con

Northallerton TC, North East
Ind elected unopposed
Ind hold
  June oil analysis
One of the key things in the IEA's June oil report is an upward revision of demand in 2006 and 2007 by about 0.170 mb/d.

This means that in each of those years it is now thought that the world burnt an additional rougly 62,050,000 barrells of oil compared to what was thought to be the case in the previous month.

It is hard to measure these things which is why there are continual revisions to the data.

One would expect some of the demand reduction from price (cf Stagecoach announcing more travellers) to feed through into these figures and it has not done so yet.

The current IEA prediction, therefore, is for supply to be less than demand. (ie a stock draw down), but the IEA predictions of demand for 2008 have gone down by 230,000 b/d since last month.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
  The Queen (on the application of Wheeler) v the PM and For Sec and Speaker Intervening
I was interested in the above judgment which was a judicial review of the failure to have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. (see link for detailed judgment).

If you are interested in these things it is worth reading the judgment. However, it can be summarised as:
  1. The decision not to have a referendum was made by parliament and cannot be touched by the courts. (which was my original expectation and why I was surprised that permission for JR was given)
  2. The Lisbon Treaty and Constitutional Treaty are different things.
  3. Even if it has been the constitutional treaty the courts cannot prevent the government changing its mind (manifestos are not judiciable).
  4. Anything that requires parliamentary proceedings cannot be touched by the courts.
I cannot see how he has any hope on appeal. I cannot see him even getting permission to appeal.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
  Jersey Care Leavers Association Meeting
I attended the meeting in the House of Commons about the Friends of the Jersey Care Leavers. This was established by the English Care Leavers Association.

I have been working with Stuart Syvret to establish the rule of law properly on Jersey. We have discussed a number of ways of doing this either involving the UK or the Council of Europe.

The point about Jersey is that there is concentrated evil that has been covered up. In England there has been evil covered up, but it is not as concentrated as it was in Jersey. However, English children have been placed in Jersey "Care" Homes.

The tradition of establish cover ups is established well in England as far as the "caring professions" go with the well established tradition of retaliatory allegations. In Jersey people have been sectioned for complaining. In England people's legal right to instruct a solicitor and manage their own affairs is often removed and the task given to an agent of the state.
Monday, June 23, 2008
  The Philcox Case
The following is part of a quotation from Carol Sarler's Daily Mail Story.
When a story unfolds that is as obscene as the deaths of Amy and Owen Philcox by the hands of their father Brian, most of us try to work our way through the unthinkable steps of it: how carefully he planned the murders and how cruelly he hinted at what was to come.

What I would ask, however, is why this seems relatively common in England, but not so common elsewhere. Is it that we don't hear of stories from other countries (be they in the English speaking world or not) or is there a difference.

I have concentrated on Public Family Law issues, but from time to time see Private Family Law issues. What I see in those is that the most important objective is to obtain a situation in which the parents (and ex partners) work together to look after their children. The details of this don't matter, but the cases that have turned out well are those where there is not a continuing war between ex-partners with the children as the unwilling pawns.

It also strikes me that our system of Family Law encourages people to be intransigent and uncooperative as they get rewards as a result. It is accepted that mediation is a better way forwards, but I wonder really if we are using the right people (CAFCASS and Resolution) as the source of mediators as they normally operate in a hostile environment where a big motivator is revenge.

It is also the case that the extended family are often good potential mediators as they have an interest in resolving disputes amicably. This would, however, mean a substantial shift away from using legal proceedings towards using common sense. As with most issues we need to look at the overall picture before coming to any conclusions. However, one area that needs to be considered further here is the extended family conference as suggested by the Family Rights Group.
Friday, June 20, 2008
  Results: Thursday 19th June 2008
Braintree DC, Braintree East
Con 668 (50.7; +17.4)
Lab 406 (30.8; -4.6)
Green 125 (9.5; +9.5)
LD Paul William Lemon 119 (9.0; -6.0)
[UKIP (0.0, -16.2)]
Majority 262
Turnout 27.4%
Con hold
Percentage change is from May 2007

Braintree DC, Hatfield Peverel
Con 782 (78.1; +0.1)
Lab 138 (13.8; -8.2)
Green 81 (8.1; +8.1)
Majority 644
Turnout 30.1%
Con hold
Percentage change is from May 2007

North Tyneside MBC, Monkseaton North
Con 1617 (69.6; +1.9)
Lab 413 (17.8; -1.6)
LD Eleanor Jellett 198 (8.5; -4.4)
Green 94 (4.0; +4.0)
Mjority 1204
Turnout 34.1%
Con hold
Percentage change is from May 2008

Richmond TC, West
Con 294/275 (52.9)
LD Paula Quirie 262 (47.1)
Majorities 32/13
Turnout 23.3%
Con gain from LD x 2

Wellingborough BC, Wollaston
Con 816 (81.1; +10.6)
Ind 97 (9.6; +9.6)
LD Jane Brown 93 (9.2; +9.2)
[Lab (0.0; -29.5)]
Majority 719
Turnout 33%
Con hold
Percentage change is from May 2007

Wyre BC, Great Eccleston
Con 778 (67.8; -32.2)
Ind 309 (26.9; +26.9)
LD Chandos Elletson 60 (5.2; +5.2)
Majority 469
Turnout 39.9%
Con hold
Percentage change is from May 2007
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
  Another mom on the run
This is not a case I know about. (see link)

A woman fled her Wearside home with her five daughters because she found out they were to be taken into care.

If, however, our care system was supportive and didn't just hammer families you would not have moms (and dads) going on the run so often.

In the 2nd reading debate people talked about how the system worked in other countries where the care system cooperates with families rather than hitting them with a judicial hammer. There is some cooperation in this country. However, far too frequently the system is simply at war with the communities it is supposed to serve.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
  Those new clauses
Family proceedings: evidence

John Hemming
Nicholas Winterton
Dai Davies
Martin Horwood

To move the following clause:

(1) The Children Act 1989 (c. 41) is amended as follows.(2) After section 9 insert-"9A Proceedings on orders with respect to children

(1) No order may be made in any family proceedings that shall prevent the
provision of evidence to—
(a) the police,
(b) any regulatory body that the Secretary of State shall by regulation
(2) In the course of such proceedings it shall be lawful for any person—
(a) to provide evidence to the bodies specified in subsection (1),
(b) to assist any person in the provision of such evidence.

(3) In relation to any family proceedings held in private it shall be lawful for any
person to provide any information relating to such proceedings to—
(a) a Member of Parliament,
(b) a Member of the Welsh Assembly,
(c) a Member of the European Parliament,
(d) such other persons as the Secretary of State shall by regulation define.”

(4) In relation to any family proceedings held in private it shall be lawful for any person to provide any information relating to such proceedings to any other person for the purposes of obtaining advice, performing research or ensuring the enforcement of the law or regulatory procedures.

This is a “motherhood and apple pie” new clause that ensures that the evidence of bad practise can be reported to the authorities and allows MPs access to all the paperwork relating to Family Court procedures. It also starts levelling the playing field so that parties can obtain additional expert evidence without the permission of judge – which is often refused.

Issue of written judgment relating to a court order in family proceedings

John Hemming
Nicholas Winterton
Dai Davies
Martin Horwood

To move the following Clause:-

(1) The Children Act 1989 (c. 41) is amended as follows.(2) After section 8 insert-
Issue of written judgment relating to a court order in family proceedings

(1) When issuing an order in any family proceedings a court shall issue a written
judgment in respect of that order.
(2) No children under the age of 16 shall be identified by name in that judgment.
(3) A judgment issued under subsection (1) will be issued to all parties to
(4) Parents of children in family proceedings, who were party to those proceedings, may publish the judgment issued under subsection (1)
(5) Parents of children in family proceedings, who were party to those proceedings, may publish any other documents that are part of such proceedings on the condition that documents are redacted to remove the names of any children under 16.”

This new clause increases the accountability of family court decisions by requiring an anonymous judgment as suggested by Justice Ryder (reported The Times 16th June). It also allows the reasoning of the court to be analysed publicly, but without naming the children.
  Children and Young People Bill Speech
The 2nd reading debate on the CYP Bill was yesterday. I wrote a speech that time prevented me from giving which follows. There was only 6 minutes when I was called so I spoke for 3 minutes because there was one other person who needed to be called.

This is, however, what I would have said had I had the time:

Honorable Members will be aware that I have concerns about the processes involved in Public Family Law within the UK.

These concerns are shared by a number of other Hon Members who have encountered surprising cases in their constituencies.

This Bill allows the opportunity to make some improvements to the processes of Public Family Law that are urgently needed today.

It is important to recognise that the culture established by the judicial process develops the administrative culture throughout an area of society. We have a strong tradition of accountability in civil law. This leads to a clear system of law which governs most activity in civil society.

However, in family law the level of accountability could be improved. Public Family law procedure in particular drives the culture in local authorities and CAFCASS which is recognised by many to be less than ideal.

As part of an all party group of MPs I, therefore, will be tabling two New Clauses to the Bill.

The first Clause increases the accountability of the judicial processes. It permits MPs full access to the proceedings and allows parties to obtain the evidence to substantiate their case. It is ludicrious that an MP is not allowed to pass evidence to a regulator or that court permission is required to pass evidence to the GMC.

This clause also deals with one of the key problem areas where large numbers of miscarriages of justice occur. A practise the courts have developed is to have joint appointment of experts. This means simply that the local authority has control over who is allowed to act as an expert. Because the parents have far less frequent contact with the judicial process all the cards end up being held by the local authority.

Last year a Social Worker came to me and explained how he had discussed with parents’ solicitors how to undermine the parents’ case. This is easily done by the appointment of the right expert.

It is then necessary to obtain the judges permission before the case papers can be shown to any other expert. There are many cases where there has been a real struggle to get an independent expert appointed and when the independent expert has been appointed the parents have won their case. There are other cases where an independent expert has been refused. The end result of this is potentially a miscarriage of justice.

By allowing case papers to be looked at by experts for advice it enables the playing field to be levelled and a reduction in miscarriages of justice. If we wish to obtain a proper judicial system whilst not simply reverting to the situation where each side has an expert then we need to move towards the court appointing an independent expert to consider the expert evidence and parties to be allowed to appoint experts to present evidence to the independent expert. What has to be the case is that the local authority has no ability to influence the income of the expert appointed by the court.

Social Workers are often known to pressurise experts into changing their reports. They call that “advocating for the child”. I call it “attempting to pervert the course of justice.” If we create a situation in which the local authority has no hold over the expert then we get an independence of opinion that is essential for a proper judicial process.

It is not, however, possible to fix everything that is wrong with the family courts in two amendments as part of this Bill. Sadly, therefore, the first new clause can only deal with partially levelling the playing field. Hopefully the government will think about this issue and bring forward proposals to deal with this issue fully at some stage.

The second clause makes some steps towards opening up the procedures used in the Family Courts. Interestingly Justice Ryder a senior judge in the family division was reported today in support of much of the contents of this clause.

I could not find the original speech, but I have the report from the Times.

In which it said:
Mr Justice Ryder said that the family courts system needed to lay itself open to scrutiny which, he said, was necessary for the public's reassurance and satisfaction. “Our judgments should be given in public and anonymised where necessary,” he said.
He urged the creation of a new “family court diversion scheme” and the adoption of a continental-style model where local community tribunals act as a gateway for family justice and deal with cases at an early stage, outside the criminal or civil courts.

I have seen so many really ridiculous decisions in the Family Courts. These decisions, however, have the reasoning (the judgment) kept secret. The problems in Public Family Law are also replicated in Private Family Law. Whereas the system is not always wrong, it is clearly badly broken. It also does a lot of damage to the people (particularly the children) who go through it.

One of the worst aspects of the system is how judicial processes are used to prevent children from instructing their own lawyers. We really should not allow the system to steamroller and silence children in the way in which the Guardian Ad Litem system frequently does.

For people to understand what is happening in the family courts it is not actually necessary for the newspapers to print the names and photographs of the individuals. We do, however, need to see the judgments and also the reports that substantiate the judgments.

The second new clause makes this part of the system.

There are many other things that should happen to make the system work properly. Far too frequently Solicitors refuse to give copies of their files to the clients. This is totally unacceptable and merely acts to shore up bad practise by preventing appeals.

I also agree with Justice Ryder that we need to get cases out of the Family Courts. I prefer the Family Rights Groups approach with a beefed up Family Conference as an independent variation on the Child Protection Conference for Public Law. This could be followed by a Childrens Panel. However, these cases should be kept out of the Magistrates Courts and County Courts if at all possible.

As far as private law is concerned similar proposals have merit. What the system needs to do is to bring ex partners together so that they work together to do what is best for their children. What it frequently does, however, is exacerbate the dispute between parents with the children as footballs kicked around by the lawyers.

Again here the proposals to bring in more scrutiny will help. However, we do need to look at a Family Conference without lawyers as a first step before going to court.

The evidence is quite clear as to the damage done to children that go through the Care system. It is also quite clear that a material part of that damage is done by the care system itself.

The government has not done enough research as to the effects of forced adoption on the children. I am told by practitioners that a number of children forcibly adopted end up back in the care system. I have worked with a number of parents who have be struggling to get their children back from the care system where the children want to return, but the system resists this.

This is massively damaging to the children. The lack of scrutiny of the decisionmaking process which is driven by the secrecy of the judicial process results in appalling outcomes for children.

It is important to remember that research done by Southampton University found that 70% of children on leaving care at 16 returned if only for a short period of time to their parents. Many of the children running away from care are trying to get back to their parents.

We really should not be surprised if children imprisoned in care to stop them living with their parents end up imprisoned in their later lives.

The culture of secrecy has allowed complacency and arrogance to develop in the system and we should not be surprised at the negative outcomes that result.

It is not just parents and children that suffer from bad practise, but also foster carers.

The measures proposed by The Fostering Network are to extend - where a young person wishes - their foster care placement to the age of 21, to ensure foster carers are treated fairly when facing allegations, and to ensure there is proper guidance to local authorities on when decisions can be delegated to foster carers - and I urge the Minister to support these measures.

However, we need most importantly to stop trampling on families. The system seems biased against families frequently splitting up siblings and moving children away from people that they know.

The two new clauses I will be tabling are not by any means the solution to all of the problems. They do, however, start progress towards a better system one which works with families and communities rather than fighting them.

We know that the current system is not serving children well. That being the case I ask the government to consider making it more responsive to children and families and more accountable to the community as a whole.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
  In re B (Children) (FC)
The link is to Bailii for this case.

The case was one where the Guardian ad Litem asked for the standard of proof to be a "real possibility" of a "risk of significant harm" for the S31 A threshold rather than "balance of probabilities".

Had the Guardian at Litem won then it would have confirmed that parties to a Family Court case need to prove their innocence rather than the state prove (even on a balance of probabilities) their guilt.

It is important to note that the local authority supported the Guardian (as did the mother). It is a fact that frequently decisions are taken by local authorities on the basis of "real possibility". That is one reason whey they get so many decisions wrong.

Getting this right, however, will take some doing. It requires firstly for the threshold to be actually tested in the lower courts. We got a refusal of permission for the court of appeal judgment transcript this week which confirms that many parents are advised to consent to threshold in the lower courts only to find that this results in them losing their children to adoption.

There was a saga in April in Birmingham FPC which resulted in me being evicted from the court because I wished to encourage a mother to contest threshold and not consent to the local authority's demands. That particular saga has not yet completed.

It has been argued that practitioners at times avoid the more difficult cases and make themselves busy with cases where threshold is not really met. By the process known as "advocating for the child" they pressurise experts into writing reports to suit their objectives (this process is also known as perverting the course of justice). The single expert system (that I hope will get some challenge soon) then traps parents in a kafkaesque world in which they are required to prove their innocence against an expert opinion, but are not allowed to talk to any other experts about their case. A hopeless system.

We should not be surprised at the campaigning of F4J. I take the view that their campaigning goes a bit further than I would support. However, I fully understand why they are so upset. The Family Court system randomly chews people up and spits them out without a proper commitment to justice, equality of arms and all the components of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights - a point I made when being evicted from the FPC in Birmingham. The people who suffer the most are the children - those for whom the system is supposed to be beneficial.
Friday, June 13, 2008
  Results: Thursday 12th June 2008
Carlisle City DC, Upperby
Lab 595/515 (35.2; -12.1)
LD James Osler 428 (25.3; -0.6)
Con 346/275 (20.5; +5.5)
BNP 321/278 (19.0; +7.3)
Majorities 167/87
Turnout 36.1%
Lab hold x 2
Percentage change is since May 2007.

East Sussex CC, Bexhill King Offa
Con 2825 (62.3; +23.1)
LD John Kemp 1191 (26.3; -4.3)
Lab 518 (11.4; -18.8)
Majority 1634
Turnout 25%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2005.

Flintshire UA, Hope
LD Tim Newhouse 480 (63.6; +63.6)
Ind 275 (36.4; -14.8)
[Ind (0.0; -48.8)]
Majority 205
Turnout 38.6%
LD gain from Ind
Percentage change is since May 2004.

Gloucestershire CC, Brockworth
LD Mike Collins 1040 (52.9; +41.0)
Con 751 (38.2; +11.1)
Lab 175 (8.9; -15.9)
[Green (0.0; -5.5)]
[Resident (0.0; -30.6)]
Majority 289
Turnout 31.4%
LD gain from Resident
Percentage change is since May 2005.

Harlow DC, Harlow Common
Con 959 (46.6; +3.1)
Lab 628 (30.5; -14.5)
LD James Rideout 419 (20.3; +8.7)
Ind 53 (2.6; +2.6)
Majority 331
Turnout 37.2%
Con gain from Lab
Percentage change is since May 2007.

Illogan PC, Illogan
Liberal 186 (50.1)
LD Amanda Manion 185 (49.9)
Majority 1
Turnout not known
Liberal hold.

Oxford City DC, Holywell
LD Mark Mills 188 (40.4; -5.0)
Con 112 (24.1; +1.6)
Lab 93 (20.0; +6.4)
Green 72 (15.5; -3.0)
Majority 76
Turnout 11.7%
LD hold
Percentage change is since May 2008.

Rother DC, Bexhill Collington
Con 893 (75.3; +5.2)
LD Christine Purdy 216 (18.2; -11.8)
Lab 78 (6.6; +6.6)
Majority 677
Turnout 31%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007.

Waltham Forest LBC, Forest
LD Samina Safdar 977 (36.9; -2.3)
Lab 927 (35.0; +1.4)
Con 507 (19.1; +5.9)
Green 184 (6.9; -7.0)
Left List 56 (2.1; +2.1)
Majority 50
Turnout 32.2%
LD hold
Percentage change is since May 2006.
  David Davis' 42 day Haltemprice and Howden by-election
David Davis' decision is not unique.

There is a long track record of people resigning their own seats to fight by-elections. There used to be such a tradition when people were appointed as cabinet ministers.

In 1912 George Lansbury was Labour MP for Bow and Bromley and a strong supporter of votes for women. When the Labour Party gave lukewarm support, Lansbury resigned to seek re-election with a clear mandate on the single issue. The Conservatives fought the seat hard and won. However in that case there was a Liberal government. The Liberals deliberately decided not to stand but did not endorse Lansbury either. Lansbury was beaten by a Mr Blair. Although Lansbury lost in 1918 he won the seat again at every election from 1922 until his death in 1940.

In 1938 The Duchess of Atholl, who had resigned the Conserative whip earlier in the Parliament, resigned Kinross and Western Perthshire to fight a by-election in opposition to appeasement but lost the seat to the new Conservative candidate.

1955 - Sir Richard Acland in Gravesend resigned in protest over Labour's support for nuclear defence to fight as an independent but the general election overtook events and the Conservatives gained the seat

In 1973 - Dick Taverne was deselected by Labour and fought essentially as a "Democratic Labour" independent and held his seat. He had no Liberal Candidate against him.

In 1982 - Bruce Douglas-Mann in Mitcham & Morden resigned on changing from Labour to SDP. The tories won because this was after the Falklands war. My feeling is had he done this immediately he would have won and the delay (persuaded by his colleagues - who did not do the same) caused the loss.

In 1986 15 Unionist MPs resigned to fight the Anglo-Irish agreement. Although they had generally little opposition the SDLP did make one gain against them.

(hat tip to various people on vote-2007.)

I am surprised at Labour bottling this. However, it appears that Kelvin Mackenzie may put up against him.
Note that Nick Robinson says "This resignation is quite extraordinary and without precedent that I can think of in British politics and means that politics is now utterly unpredictable." hmmm
Thursday, June 12, 2008
  Irish Jokes
On the terrace last night people were working on a number of Irish jokes. These, of course, relating to Northern Ireland such as:

Ulster says: Yes
Ulster says: How much?
No surrender - well for £1.2 billion that's a different issue

A little bit of extra scrutiny is likely to be given to the minutae of the arrangements for the financing of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It remains, however, that this was a saddening decision. The concessions given on 42days make it essentially unworkable and in principle undermine the separation of powers by bringing parliament in on individual cases. In any event the proposal if implemented would do more harm than good. It remains that post charge questioning is the key issue. Whether Brown's motivation was to try to do something Blair couldn't do (I suppose he didn't offer £1.2 Billion) or whether it is because it is superficially popular and allows him to posture on terrorism is unclear.

What was very good, however, was Diane Abbot's speech.

This is available for a while here

Her Hand signals were also part of the debate.

Of course the hurdle of the House of Lords and pingpong remains.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
  Tyranny under the cover of paternalism
The Times have succintly reported the judgment of the court of appeal in that a trial is not necessary for a mother to have her child put up for adoption. It ends up as tyranny disguised as paternalism.

The mother concerned did an IQ test last week. For a short time the results will remain "under wraps".
  Council of Europe Machinery moves a further step forward
There are a number of processes that are pressing towards change in Public Family Law in the UK.

Firstly, we have amendments to the Children and Young People Bill. The second reading of this Bill is on Monday and some new clauses with All Party support will be tabled.

Secondly, we have a number of cases in various courts, Court of Appeal, House of Lords and European Court.

Thirdly, there is the Council of Europe investigation. This has just moved on another step and has passed the hurdle in the Bureau. It is on the agenda for the meeting of the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee on 24th June. This can take the step of appointing a rapporteur to lead the investigation and a proper investigation starts.

There is also a growing campaign for change involving social work academics, politicians, lawyers and of course service users (aka Service victims).
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
  Why do the government like the "C" word - closure
The link is to the details of the government's announcement of the National Challenge programme. This includes the following:
As well as Academies, where a school is completely unable to raise their exam results, the Government will encourage local authorities to close the school and replace it with a National Challenge Trust, providing that they forge new improvement partnerships led by a successful school and a business or university partner. The aim would be to give the school and the community a fresh beginning and a break with previous underachievement.

What I cannot work out is why the government always like to issue a threat of closure. It hasn't been seen to work reliably in the past. Obviously there will always be some times when schools close. However, it should not appear as an explicit threat relating to 638 schools.

If you take two local schools Sheldon Heath and Yardleys which appear on this list, both have been improving. Sheldon Heath has taken the number of 5 GCSE from 28% to 57% in two years and English and Maths from 14% to 20%. Yardleys have also improved and are only 1% off the current target of 25%. Note for example that Yardleys have 70% of pupils with English as an Additional Language and 50% on the Special Educational Needs Code of Practise. This means that they face far more challenges than other schools.

This approach of waving a stick at schools is not a good way to motivate staff who face all sort of problems with discipline - often caused by central government.

There are aspects of the National Challenge programme that are good, but they should stop waving around the threat of closure. It undermines schools and is frequently a false threat as it doesn't help in aggregate.

Looking at the list of schools it is rather obvious that the majority are specialist schools. Why was it such a good idea to have specialist schools and then give them a big kicking. The idea of specialist schools was that they would be better than "bog standard comprehensives". If that is the case then why are most of the National Challenge schools also specialist?
Monday, June 09, 2008
  Lots of angry people
Over the weekend we had the demonstration by Fathers 4 Justice. Today I attended a meeting of Tax Credit Casualties.

What we have is the state intervening with families to cause chaos. With TCC there are cases where someone has to pay all their tax credit back simply because their annual return got lost in the post.

Fathers 4 Justice are a form of offshoot of Families Need Fathers. Both of these arise from the capricious nature of the Family Justice system in the UK where the outcomes are frequently not rational.

F4J are not very clear on what they want. That in part arises from the secrecy of the system which prevents people from learning about the multifarious miscarriages of justice.

What we need to do is to open up hte system to scrutiny to enable proper accountability. That applies also to Tax Credits.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
  Oil Supply and Demand May Analysis
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Supply 79.6154 83.1243 84.6315 84.5983 84.5944
Demand 79.6118 82.3301 83.6498 84.6225 85.3543

Difference 0.0036 0.7942 0.9817 -0.0242 -0.7599

Quarters 1/7 2/7 3/7 4/7 1/8 2/8 3/8 4/8
Supply 84.20 84.37 84.33 85.49 85.86 86.17 87.18 87.17
Demand 85.36 84.48 85.08 86.66 86.34 85.73 86.45 87.80
OPEC Demand 85.79 86.98 85.75 86.60 88.45 (their estimates)
Difference -1.16 -0.11 -0.75 -1.17 -0.48 0.44 0.73 -0.63

2007 Dec 8,669 23,886 25,067 36,612 85,765 Dec 4.40 32.3300
2008 Jan 8,624 24,013 25,113 36,649 85,674 Jan 4.93 32.0900
2008 Feb 8,625 24,242 25,341 36,881 85,921 Feb 4.93 32.2300
2008 Ave 8,625 24,124 25,223 36,761 85,793 Mar 4.93 32.4500

April Opec (not NGL) 31.70

All of the figures are in Millions of Barrels a Day and come from a range of industry sources. The first problem in getting reliable statistics is that not all oils are the same. Hence you have have different figures for entirely good reasons. However, when looking for the balance between supply and demand as long as the figures you use have consistent assumptions then you are OK. Secondly the EIA figures (my main source) are produced in arrears and modified.

Note particularly the following supply figures 2005-84.6315 2006-84.5983 2007-84.5944 and that Oil production peaked there in 2005 and has gradually reduced whereas consumption has increased (hence the stock draw down). The question as to what extent production increases in 2008. It looks on these figures that production in 2008 is more likely than not to exceed that than in 2005.

This is the M$ peak oil question, however. Although there are detailed causes for constraints on production (strikes etc) the overall constraint is geological. There will, however, be demand destruction (airlines going bust etc) so demand is not that likely to keep up to the estimates.
Friday, June 06, 2008
  Results: Thursday 5th June 2008
Allerdale BC, All Saints
Con 587 (45.0; -1.8)
Lab 536 (41.1; -12.2)
BNP 99 (7.6; +7.6)
Green 58 (4.4; +4.4)
Ind 25 (1.9; +1.9)
Majority 51
Turnout 35%
Con hold
Percentage change from May 2007.

Forest Heath DC, Red Lodge
LD Pat McCloud 321 (55.9; +55.9)
Con 230 (40.1; -59.9)
UKIP 23 (4.0; +4.0)
Majority 91
Turnout 38%
LD gain from Con
Percentage change from May 2007.

Gwynedd UA, Bowydd and Rhiw
Llais Gwynedd 341 (48.4; +48.4)
PC 247 (35.0; +35.0)
Green 117 (16.6; +16.6)
[Lab (0.0; -100.0)]
Majority 94
Turnout not known
Llais Gwynedd gain from Lab
Percentage change from May 2004.

Newark and Sherwood DC, Edwinstone
Ind 715 (60.9; +6.8)
Lab 459 (39.1; +8.9)
[Con (0.0; -15.7)]
Majority 256
Turnout 28.9%
Ind hold
Percentage change from May 2007.

Newhaven TC, Meeching
LD Maurice Langham 610 (55.1)
Con 497 (44.9)
Majority 113
Turnout 28.6%
LD hold.

Newport City UA, Bettws
Lab 1128/890/789 (52.0; -0.7)
LD Sue Baker 586/Ann Tripp 451/David Gapper Hampson 408 (27.0; +19.7)
Con 331/260 (15.3; +7.1)
PC 75/49 (3.5; -3.6)
Ind 50/40 (2.3; -22.4)
Majorities 542/304/203
Turnout not known
Lab hold
Percentage change from May 2004.

Newport City UA, St Julian's
LD Ed Townsend 1148/Carmel Townsend 1029/Gill Ford 985 (49.2; -3.5)
Con 581/552/542 (24.9; +15.3)
Lab 492/467/432 (21.1; -2.7)
PC 111 (4.8; +0.3)
[Ind (0.0; -9.4)]
Majorities 567/448/404
Turnout not known
LD hold
Percentage change from May 2004.

Shropshire CC, Market Drayton
Con 1178 (53.1; +0.6)
Lab 510 (23.0; -24.5)
Ind 362 (16.3; +16.3)
Ind 170 (7.7; +7.7)
Majority 668
Turnout 25%
Con hold
Percentage change from May 2005.

Uttlesford DC, Great Dunmow North
Con 569 (52.5; +17.4)
LD Julia Hirons 515 (47.5; -2.3)
[Ind (0.0; -15.0)]
Majority 54
Turnout 42%
Con gain from LD
Percentage change from May 2007.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
  P C and S - a commentary
The link is to a commentary about the European Court Case PC&S.

It includes the following:
It is striking that the Strasbourg Court con­cluded that the child's rights under the pro­cedural guarantees in Art 8 were infringed, although S was legally represented throughout. It is unclear what message it was trying to send by this finding. Was it that S's legal repre­sentatives, for the proper protection of her in­terests, should not have agreed to proceed without representation for the parents? If so, the lesson is for CAFCASS, the body which provides guardians for children in such cases. (CAFCASS guardians must be considered as a "public authority" for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998 and are therefore re­quired to act in conformity with the Conven­tion.)
  The English Question needs an answer
Whereas the existance of devolution in London means that a simple "English parliament" is not the best way forwards and having MPs with different voting rights does not resolve the issue, there is no question that the Barnett Formula combined with devolution has created some anomalies as pointed out by Frank Field who said:

The fiscal discriminations cover, for example:

"* frail citizens in Scotland not facing residential care home fees as
they do in England;

"* Scottish citizens being treated with the Lucentis drug for macular
degeneration of the eye while English citizens simply lose their sight
awaiting action from NICE;

"* Scottish students going to University not paying top-up fees of
£3,000.00 per year as do English students going to University; and,
most English citizens paying prescription charges while none face such
charges in Wales.

"These advantages would be entirely acceptable if they were funded by
Scottish and Welsh taxpayers. Yet the Scottish Parliament has resolutely
refused to use any of its fundraising powers and, of course, the Welsh
Assembly has no such powers to employ."

Why are we in England paying for better services in Scotland and Wales than are provided in England?
Monday, June 02, 2008
  Copayment issues
The government are on a hiding to nothing trying to defend the indefensible about co-payment. Already people buy some drugs directly rather than on prescription because they are cheaper. Making it impossible for people to continue having NHS treatment if they pay for any private treatment undermines the social contract and is probably unlawful.

There is a real difficulty with the system in that drugs can be very expensive. This issue, therefore, is likely one that becomes bigger over time.
  Dutch Ban Voting Computers
The link is to a story whereby the Dutch Government have concluded that having computer voting undermines the secret ballot.

I wish our government would recognise this before they go down that route. Bits of paper may be archaic, but they provide a transparency of audit trail that is important for democracy.
  Secret Justice Private Hell
The link is to a worthwhile article in a new magazine called "Standpoint".

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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Published, promoted, and printed (well not really printed I suppose, more like typed) by John Hemming, 1772 Coventry Road, Birmingham B26 1PB. Hosted by part of 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043, United States of America. This blog is posted by John Hemming in his personal capacity as an individual.

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