John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Monday, December 29, 2008
  The Gaza Strip
Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip seem to be more driven by an emotional desire for revenge than a proportionate response to deal with a defined threat.

This is a time when the UN Security Council should meet as it appears that Israel are intent on using the US Carte Blanche until the change of administration. Whether this would have any practical effect is unclear, but at least it would kick off some forum for consideration of the issue.

Tony Blair's role as Middle Eastern Envoy seems to continue the tacit support of Israeli attacks in the same way that his government initially supported the attack on Lebanon - in the sense that they did not support a ceasefire.

Given that futile violent gestures, such as the original rocket attacks on Israel, are driven by an desire for revenge it does not appear that this approach will reduce that desire.
 
Sunday, December 28, 2008
  ARW a second story
The link is to a second story in The Telegraph. What I find sad in some many of the cases I see is that the use of the state "hammer" doesn't really help anyone other than possibly government target numbercrunchers.

Obviously I don't see the cases where the system is getting things right, but I worry about how many times the actions taken by the state make things worse.

The evidence in international statistics are that England (and Wales) do particularly badly in terms of child protection. It has taken me a little time to find any comparative statistics, but I do now have them.
 
Saturday, December 27, 2008
  Election Fraud At Politicalbetting.com shock
Well perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Its an election. If anyone is bothered as to who wins then there is a chance someone will try to fiddle it.

Congratulations to Sean Thomas for winning until the poll was suspended through fraud.

Still when some idiot on the square box next goes on about how more people vote in xxx reality TV programme remember to mentally ask the question as to how many votes each "voter" is casting.

Many of these pay to vote systems rely on peoples willingness to bung a few calls at their chosen candidate.

Hence when people talk about how there is a greater interest in voting in reality TV than local elections they merely demonstrate their ignorance of the facts.

Hopefully there is a greater sensitivity to election fraud now. I am, however, not certain that there is sufficient concern.
 
  Government Announces Content Filtering
The link is to the government story about content filtering. Content filtering has been running on the net for a goodly number of years, but obviously Andy Burnham has not yet caught up with this.
 
  Smith v ADVFN - internet fora and Libel
The link is to Smith v ADVFN Ltd [2008] EWHC 1797 (QB) which is also discussed at Out-Law.com

This is a judgment by High Court Justice Eady (he also of the Max Moseley case). I hadn't spotted this one, but it raises an interesting point in respect of the spats and trolling that goes on in internet fora.

This case was one where a Nigel Smith issued 37 different defamation writs against a various posters on ADVFN's bulletin boards.

Those with time should read the judgment, but part of it follows:

The nature of bulletin boards

It is necessary to have well in mind the nature of bulletin board communications, which are a relatively recent development. This is central to a proper consideration of all the matters now before the court.

This has been explained in the material before me and is, in any event, nowadays a matter of general knowledge. Particular characteristics which I should have in mind are that they are read by relatively few people, most of whom will share an interest in the subject-matter; they are rather like contributions to a casual conversation (the analogy sometimes being drawn with people chatting in a bar) which people simply note before moving on; they are often uninhibited, casual and ill thought out; those who participate know this and expect a certain amount of repartee or "give and take".

The participants in these exchanges were mostly using pseudonyms (or "avatars"), so that their identities will often not be known to others. This is no doubt a disinhibiting factor affecting what people are prepared to say in this special environment.

When considered in the context of defamation law, therefore, communications of this kind are much more akin to slanders (this cause of action being nowadays relatively rare) than to the usual, more permanent kind of communications found in libel actions. People do not often take a "thread" and go through it as a whole like a newspaper article. They tend to read the remarks, make their own contributions if they feel inclined, and think no more about it.

It is this analogy with slander which led me in my ruling of 12 May to refer to "mere vulgar abuse", which used to be discussed quite often in the heyday of slander actions. It is not so much a defence that is unique to slander as an aspect of interpreting the meaning of words. From the context of casual conversations, one can often tell that a remark is not to be taken literally or seriously and is rather to be construed merely as abuse. That is less common in the case of more permanent written communication, although it is by no means unknown. But in the case of a bulletin board thread it is often obvious to casual observers that people are just saying the first thing that comes into their heads and reacting in the heat of the moment. The remarks are often not intended, or to be taken, as serious. A number of examples will emerge in the course of my judgment.


The case was about whether or not certain libel actions would be held back. The judge concluded that they would. I shall try to find the rest of the cases.

My understanding of the law for unmoderated comments is that they will form something akin to slander. That makes it a lot harder to win a case based upon the initial comment. If the person who is the victim of the slander requests their removal and this is not done then they could fall within the remit of libel (probably both on the part of the owner of the board and the original person who commented).

The earlier hearing is here
 
Friday, December 26, 2008
  Thomas Edison - a Peak Oiler before his time
The point about the Peak Oil Theory is that it is not a theory. It is a fact that Fossil Fuels are called such because they were made a long long long time ago and are not being made any more. Hence at some point global production will peak.

The only question is when (and in part what happens to production after that whether it falls off a cliff or gently edges downward).

The link is to a 2007 NY Times article in respect of Thomas Edison's views on sustainability.

Quoting from part of the article:
Edison also, like other scientists of his day, was beginning to understand even then that fossil fuels wouldn’t last forever. In 1913 Scientific American published an issue on energy problems, observing: “The question of the possible exhaustion of the world’s oil supply deserves the gravest consideration. There is every indication that we are face to face with this possibility.” Articles delved into technologies to capture the power of the sun, the wind, the tide and even the earth’s rotation. Inventors like Edison were modernizers who couldn’t bear the inefficiency of letting an abundant energy source like wind go untapped.

In 1912 Edison unveiled an energy-self-sufficient home in West Orange, N.J. Billed as an experimental “Twentieth Century Suburban Residence” and designed to showcase his batteries, it bulged with luxuries like air heating and cooling units, a clothes-washing machine, an electric cooking range and, of course, plenty of light bulbs. Completely off the grid, the house received its juice from a generator that charged a bank of 27 cells in the basement. For this first attempt, Edison used a gas-run motor, but evidence suggests that he hoped to hook up to a wind turbine. The system would allow the prospective homeowner to be, according to The New York Times, “utterly and for all time independent of the nearness or farness of the big electric companies.”

The conglomerates struggling to control the nascent energy sector regarded that as precisely the problem. For them, a world of independence, in which householders created their own power using renewable resources, was a nightmare. The companies’ profits depended on electricity from power plants run on cheap fossil fuels.

In the end, Edison’s proudly free-standing Suburban Residence was hooked up to the grid, and neither his in-home wind-generated electricity plant nor his battery-powered vehicles ever reached the mass market. In 1931, not long before he died, the inventor told his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”


If you want to understand why things happen in a particular way - follow the money. This applies to the Child Protection industry as much as energy production.
 
  Elemental History
If anything deserves a link as a history of the identification and naming of the elements then the link is it.
 
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
  Votes - keep them on paper - count them by hand
The link is to the story from the USA about the death of someone in a suspicious plane crash last week. The someone is someone thought to have been involved in the use of IT to defraud the 2004 election in the USA.

If we wish to keep elections honest then we have to keep voting in secret on paper and counting the pieces of paper by hand. It is not possible to publicly audit electronic systems to a sufficient standard to keep elections honest.

There are two Youtube extracts on the web page linked, both are interesting web pages.
 
Monday, December 22, 2008
  Putting Children in Care because of contact issues
The attached is another case where a child was put into care because the child was "poisoned" against a parent.

In this case the Court of Appeal has behaved sensibly and allowed the child to return to a parent rather than being in care.
 
Sunday, December 21, 2008
  ARW - a Mum on the run with her children
The link is to the story in the Sunday Telegraph today about a mother who was "on the run" with two children having been persecuted by the Family Courts in England and Wales.

She (ARW) is not on the run any more. She has decided to "stand and fight". Her 6 year old son (L) is settled in school in the Republic of Ireland. Her baby son Marco is very well.

The local Social Workers came to see ARW on Friday and confirmed that everyone is well and no children are at risk.

However, Devon County Council have indicated that they want to remove L from his mother and brother and put him in foster care in England.

This case is much like the one highlighted by The Times.

The reason for L being "in care" is as ludicrous as that for "S" in the other case.

In both cases mum left the country whilst pregnant in part because of the threat of removing the unborn baby at birth.

In ARW's case the argument was that L suffered "emotional abuse" as a result of witnessing his father assaulting his mother. According to Womens Aid what is supposed to happen is that the father is to kept away rather than the child removed from the mother. However, that is not what has happened.

We then present ourselves with a legal question.

Section 1 of the 1989 Childrens Act is quite clear

1 Welfare of the child (1) When a court determines any question with respect to—
(a) the upbringing of a child; or
(b) the administration of a child’s property or the application of any income arising from it,
the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.
(2) In any proceedings in which any question with respect to the upbringing of a child arises, the court shall have regard to the general principle that any delay in determining the question is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.
(3) In the circumstances mentioned in subsection (4), a court shall have regard in particular to—
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
(b) his physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c) the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
(d) his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.
(4) The circumstances are that—
(a) the court is considering whether to make, vary or discharge a section 8 order, and the making, variation or discharge of the order is opposed by any party to the proceedings; or
(b) the court is considering whether to make, vary or discharge an order under Part IV.
(5) Where a court is considering whether or not to make one or more orders under this Act with respect to a child, it shall not make the order or any of the orders unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all.


What this means is that there should not be any attempt to force L to return to England unless it benefits L. It is also 100% clear that it would not benefit L for him to be arrested and imprisoned in this way.

Previously these actions have occured without any commentary. However, in this case there will be a commentary. It will be interesting to see whether the court puts the interests of the child first or the interests of the court. I have challenged the government on this and the civil servants' response is that the system is more important than any child and mothers cannot be permitted to "get away with" removing children from care.

Obviously with a live case it becomes possible to challenge the government ministers as to whether they support the actions being taken.
ARW, L and Marco
ARW, L and Marco.
 
Saturday, December 20, 2008
  Child Protection work Today
The link is to another article essentially confirming the thesis propounded by Sue White, Allan Norman and myself

First para:
Having spent almost 20 years working in residential child care I now teach social work. I was horrified (although sadly not altogether surprised) when a student reported back from a field visit that she had been told by a children and families social worker, ‘we don’t do relationships anymore”. It wasn’t even said with regret apparently, just a statement of what the social work role had become. In fact it seemed to the student that there appeared to be an almost ‘macho’ element in the assertion ‘ ‘forget that namby-pamby stuff they teach you in University, this is the real world’. In this ‘real world’ social workers spend most of their day policing and processing families from a distance. They rarely see them anymore but are quick to send letters telling them that they have ‘failed’ the appointment made for them in the social work office, now relocated, off the beaten track, away from where people actually live. In this new office social workers spend their days plugging information about a family’s failed appointments, into a software package developed for a business environment. This amassed information can then be used to establish the pattern of non-compliance necessary to justify ‘heavier’ interventions or to be called upon to show that they had ‘done the work’ or at least left a paper trail. Welcome to the world of real social work...
 
  Phil Thompson and some of his family - Great Grandparents Rights
Phil and Family
The picture is of Phil O Gorman, his grandfather Phil Thompson and Sara O Gorman his mother.

Clayton v Clayton changed the law so that identifying parties to a Family Court case subsequent to the case is not contempt of Court. I will, however, not identify the Children in respect of this case.

Phil Thompson has three children, nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren of whom three have been removed from the family by arbitrary state action in order to satisfy government targets. The three were the children of Phil O Gorman and grandchildren of Sara O Gorman.

On 9th May 2006 after a sequence of events that completely confused the family the three children were forcibly adopted by a decision of the magistrates in Walsall Family Proceedings Court.

Since that point the Family have been trying to find out what happened and why the children were adopted and what is now happening to the children. They first contacted me in 2007.

It has not been possible to obtain any detailed reasoning as to why the children were removed from the family. A letter was written on 2nd November 2008 to the Courts and a response on 13th November 2008 indicates that the file has been lost.

Attempts have also been made to obtain a copy of the file from the solicitors without any success. Without a judgment it has been impossible to make any application to the courts for an appeal as to the lawfulness of the decision.

Attempts have also been made to identify what happened in the lower courts, but without success apart from some very vague comments from the local authority.

Phil, therefore, applied for contact with his great grandchildren at the Black Country Family Courts. This application was rejected administratively.

An attempt to appeal the administrative rejection was made to the Court of Appeal on 8th December 2008. This, however, was also administratively rejected.

The administrative rejection was taken to the House of Lords Judicial Committee on the same day who refused to make a comment. A further visit to the Judicial Committee was made by me and administrative rejection letter F resulted.

Today after some more work they posted an application to the European Court of Human Rights. This raises a number of interesting questions not least that as to whether grandparents and/or great grandparents have any rights.
 
Friday, December 19, 2008
  Bloggers, Libel, The EU and Bridget Prentice
There have been a few thrashings around in cyberspace about the EU and blogging and potential changes to the law to make "suing bloggers easier".

Obligatory Disclaimer: My formal qualifications are in Nuclear Physics not law. If you follow my advice on law as opposed to how to blow the world up, don't sue me if I am wrong.

However, I have been on both ends of libel actions as well as assisted as a Mackenzie Friend in a Malicious Falsehood action (which was the funniest court case I ever attended).

Libel is an interesting area of law. It along with Privacy, enciting hatred and Contempt of Court are the key areas in which constraints of Freedom of Speech apply. There was an interesting event about libel tourism before the summer recess.

First point.

Britain has libel laws which make it quite easy to sue. For someone to win the defendant needs to be unable to prove what they said about the claimant is true. In the USA the claimant needs to prove what the defendant says is false.

You can sue for Libel in the small claims court, but the costs are unclaimable by either side and the maximum penalty is 5K.

The EU came out with some woffle about the status of bloggers being indeterminate which basically means any old individual can write a blog. And what is wrong with that. The ad hominem fallacy is a fallacy, but most people rely on it. It remains that it is a fallacy and that nonsense from the EU has to be binned.

Then we have Bridget Prentice's response on the Libel debate. I have not bothered to go back to source (which I really should), but what people have quoted as evidence for a major threat to blogging isn't.

Alex Hilton has had a lot of silly actions against him and spent quite a bit of money with lawyers. The problem is the money spent with lawyers that cannot eb recovered. The solution for Alex is to learn how to do this as a Litigant in Person.

In the mean time (and rightly) we have the odd situation that someone who moderates comments can be liable for libel, but someone who doesn't moderate comments cannot.

It is a bit like the argument about suing a fax machine manufacturer for the content of faxes. If you have no control then you cannot be sued.


There are issues about the magnitude of costs, but I really cannot see how Bridget Prentices comments cause any problems for bloggers.
 
  Will we run out of gas this winter
The linked article thinks so. I have not as yet done my own analysis. What I have found previously is that we use gas in the wrong sequence and use stored gas in preference to importing more.

What happens when the stored gas runs out is then unclear. It depends upon whether gas is available either as LNG to be regasified or at the ends of the pipelines.
 
  Results: Thursday 18th December 2008.
Cumbria CC, Kells and Sandwith
Lab 434 (41.7; -24.1)
BNP 418 (40.1; +40.1)
Con 190 (18.2; +1.2)
[Ind (0.0; -17.2)]
Majority 16
Turnout 26.6%
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2005.

Isle of Wight UA, Newchurch
LD Colin Richards 389 (39.7; +39.7)
Con 377 (38.5; -8.0)
Ind 213 (21.8; -19.3)
[Ind (0.0; -12.4)]
Majority 12
Turnout 44.7%
LD gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2005.

North Somerset UA, Weston Super Mare Clarence and Uphill
Con 478 (27.5; -33.6)
Ind 477 (27.5; +27.5)
LD Paula Howell 421 (24.3; -4.1)
Ind 228 (13.1; +13.1)
Lab 132 (7.6; -2.9)
Majority 1
Turnout 24.6%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007.

North West Leicestershire DC, Ibstock and Heather
Con 660 (31.5; -3.9)
BNP 645 (30.8; +30.8)
Lab 614 (29.3; -4.7)
LD David Wyatt 174 (8.3; -2.5)
[UKIP (0.0; -19.8)]
Majority 15
Turnout not known
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007.

Rhondda Cynon Taff UA, Glyncoch
Lab 217 (50.5; -19.9)
Ind 143 (33.3; +33.3)
PC 47 (10.9; -8.7)
Welsh Communists 12 (2.8; +2.8)
Con 11 (2.6; +2.6)
[LD (0.0; -10.0)]
Majority 74
Turnout 21.9%
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2008.

Caterham on the Hill PC, Portley
LD John Orrick 471 (60.0)
Con 314 (40.0)
Majority 157
Turnout 24%
LD hold

Penketh PC, Penketh East
LD Andrew Barnes 186 (37.3)
Con 181 (36.3)
Lab 131 (26.3)
Majority 5
Turnout not known
LD gain from Con

Penketh PC, Penketh West
Con 311 (43.0)
Lab 176 (24.3)
LD Ann Raymond 141 (19.4)
Ind 78 (10.8)
Green 18 (2.5)
Faith, Unity, Discipline 1 (0.1)
Majority 135
Turnout not known
Con gain from Lab

St Neots TC, Eynesbury
LD Steve Van Der Kerkhove 343 (53.0)
Con 304 (47.0)
Majority 39
Turnout 10.9%
LD hold

Wymondham TC, Cromwells
LD Diana Hockaday 398 / John Turner 323 (53.6)
Con 258/225 (34.8)
Lab 48/41 (6.5)
Ind 38 (5.1)
Majorities 140/65
Turnout 36.7%
LD gain from Con x 2
 
  Susan Holdsworth - not guilty
The link is to the story about Susan Holdsworth. This was an expert evidence story. The situation in the family courts, however, would not necessarily be the same.

Yesterday someone I cannot name (J) had a criminal case against him dismissed because there was no evidence against him. However, his children remain in care for essentially the same allegation.

He has been sitting with this criminal case hanging over him for about 6 months as it was delayed and deferred. The question is what the Family Courts now do.

His case is interesting and may end up in the European Court at some stage. However, the urgent thing is to try to get his children out of care. Why the Local Auhority wishes to torment the children by keeping them in care over christmas is a question the LA needs to answer.

There was a meeting on monday based upon the recent Lancet report. One of the authors was there to talk abont the issues. I had considerable agreement with her about the issues although I would not take children into care because they had been smacked. What is important is that decisions are properly evidence based. That is something that is clearly failing in many cases.
 
Thursday, December 18, 2008
  Motorl Industry Debate
The link is to yesterday's debate in Westminster Hall about the Motor Industry. Here we have another credit crunch issue that is not being resolved by the government's actions This hits trading volumes.
 
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
  Tiptoeing towards accountability
The link is to the ministerial statement on opening the family courts yesterday.

It is interesting to note that Jack Straw did not know about second opinions.
 
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
  Family Courts - door creaks another notch open
The Statement on the Family Courts was made today. There are still a lot of questions as to exactly what this should mean.

They are also proposing to re-gag children. I don't think they mean to do this, but the issue will continue on.
 
Monday, December 15, 2008
  Madoff - another list
Reuters have produced another list of losers from Madoff. What is interesting is the large exposure from banks who lent money to Hedge Funds to invest with Madoff.

Some reports indicate that he started to go wrong in 2005. It strikes me as unlikely that $50bn of losses could build up in such a short period.

Still this has quite a bit of unravelling to do.
 
Sunday, December 14, 2008
  Madoff - "Made off" with $50bn
The link is to a list of organisations (people) who have lost in the Madoff Ponzi Scheme.

There is an important principle to remember in financial services (and life generally) which is that if something is "too good to be true", then most likely it either isn't good or it isn't true.

This was one that wasn't true.

I am surprised that this was not picked up by the SEC, however.

This one will reverberate a bit. Some of the people who have sent money his way have then benefited by also reporting high returns - that are not real returns.
 
  Rights for Great Grandparents
The linked story in the Sunday Mercury is a case I have been dealing with for some time. It has been very difficult to get to the bottom of what happened and in fact we have failed to get all the information. The courts have lost their file.

In the mean time, however we have managed to start an action which can be taken to the European Court.

It will be an interesting one as it looks at the question as to whether Grandparents or Great Grandparents have any Article 8 rights. In English law there are no such rights, but there are logically some under the ECHR.
 
Saturday, December 13, 2008
  Government Concede on Serious Case Reviews
The link is to the Queen's Speech debate on Children. 15 months ago I was the only person publicly raising concerns about "false negatives" in child protection where the system was failing to protect children. Now it is one of the key news items.

The government are still unclear as to the dimensions of the problem although Ofsted have produced some figures.

During the debate I obtained the agreement of the Chairman of the Children's Select Committee in assisting to track the true size of the problem. Later on, however, Ed Ball conceded my request for the information saying:

"Although I do not agree with everything John Hemming has said, I know he is committed to the cause for which he campaigns, and I can say to him today that, following the Ofsted reports of recent weeks, we will be able to give him the detailed information that he wants on serious case review numbers."

He continues to miss one of the key points on the writing of SCR's however (which is also in the debate).

John Hemming He who pays the piper calls the tune. Who will appoint the independent chair of a serious case review? Will it still be the director of children's services, or will it be Ofsted?

Edward Balls The appointment will be made by the local safeguarding board. In Haringey, that board is now independently chaired by Graham Badman, the former director of children's services in Kent. That will be a matter for each area to decide.

One of the point he misses is that a truly independent report needs to be done by someone appointed by other than those responsible for the situation. Ofsted would do - and are probably the right people.

Otherwise you merely get another whitewash report - which is the normal situation.
 
  Results: Thursday 11th December 2008.
East Ayrshire UA, Ballochmyle
Full details not yet available
Lab hold
Turnout 29%.

Fenland DC, Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary
Con 512 (50.6; -49.4)
LD Gavin Booth 208 (20.6; +20.6)
Lab 190 (18.8; +18.8)
Green 101 (10.0; +10.0)
Majority 304
Turnout not known
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007 (Con unopposed)

Hillingdon LBC, Northwood
Con 1216 (64.4; -1.20)
LD Alan Prue 466 (24.7; +3.8)
Lab 116 (6.1; +6.1)
Green 66 (3.5; +3.5)
Ind 25 (1.3; -12.2)
Majority 750
Turnout 22.1%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2006

Newark and Sherwood DC, Clipstone
Lab 326 (43.4; +7.3)
LD Christopher Orton 216 (28.8; +28.8)
Ind 157 (20.9; -22.3)
Con 52 (6.9; -13.8)
Majority 110
Turnout 22.9%
Lab gain from Ind
Percentage change is since May 2007

North Ayrshire UA, Kilbirnie and Beith
Details not yet available.

Bradfield PC, Stannington
LD Katie Condliffe 763 (79.2)
Con 200 (20.8)
Majority 563
Turnout 22%
LD hold
 
Thursday, December 11, 2008
  Slight movement towards sanity from Government on Peak Oil
The link is to the minutes of the European Committee C on Higher Oil Prices. A rare moment of almost sense on the issue of Peak Oil from government Minister Mike O Brien This is from columns 11 and 12.

Steve Webb: As this is a helpful forum in which to have a measured question and answer session, rather than the frustrating soundbites that we get during questions in the Chamber, it is good to take the opportunity to raise a second issue. If I say the words “peak” and “oil” in the same sentence, people may have glazed expressions and there might be some concern about where I am heading, but I wonder whether the Minister could tell us the Government’s position on the first report—I was given it yesterday, but I do not know whether it is newly published—of the UK industry taskforce on peak oil and energy security? Serious organisations are involved in it, including one of the big six energy companies. It will take me just a moment to clarify my question, if you will allow me to do so, Mr. Taylor.

The simplistic argument is that oil output is going to peak—of course it is at some point—and it is suggested that supply and demand indicate that when it gets more expensive, new fields will be found and marginal fields will be explored, so people ask what is the substance of this peak oil argument. However, let us consider the contention, which is being taken increasing seriously, that we might reach peak capacity much sooner than the industry balance sheets would have us believe or, perhaps, national Governments are prepared for. What is the Government’s attitude to that developing theory, which was once regarded as extreme and heretical, but is now coming more into the mainstream? Is there anything in it, as far as the Government are concerned, or is just for the birds?
Mr. O'Brien: I would not go so far as to suggest that it is, as the hon. Gentleman says, for the birds. We need to look at how the oil market is operating. I made the point earlier that there were some structural issues in relation to the oil market. Some of the new oil sources and reservoirs, in particular, tend to be smaller and do not come on so often. We know that there are substantial reserves of oil and gas in the world that can keep us supplied for decades to come. Whether we will be at a particular point of peak—and, if we are, how much Column number: 13that matters—depends on various factors. Peaks only matter if there is a sharp drop after them. I do not think that we are likely to see the sort of peak after which we get such a sharp drop. We do not really know quite where the peak is.

There is, to some extent, a lack of information in this market. We do not know where all the oil reserves are and we constantly discover more. It is difficult to predict whether we have got to some peak and whether we will not get to another one a few years later. Additionally, in some parts of the market, there is a lack of open information. Some countries choose not to disclose information and, in one or two cases, if they did so, it would not necessarily be terribly reliable. Gauging the peak is not easy or straightforward. I am not convinced that I have a straightforward answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question regarding whether it would matter, although I suspect that it probably would not matter a great deal.


Where the government miss the point is that once oil production has peaked it will not exceed the peak and hence consumption will be forced down. So far we have an unmanaged process with economic destruction causing a reduction in demand. We could do this a few more times, but it really isn't the best way forwards.
 
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
  Whistleblowing: The Chinese Solution
The link talks about sending Whistleblowers to mental hospital. In the UK it is the straightforward arrest as part of an illegal criminal prosecution.

What the UK also does is to displace people from having a legal position with the use of unchallengeable experts.
 
Monday, December 08, 2008
  We're all you've got
The battles about the 1600s were about the power of the King and his servants vis a vis the power of the people.

The King has now been replaced with the Prime Minister. One problem with our constitution is that the Prime Minister substantially controls the Legislature.

When it comes to a legal way involving the use of words rather than force for the people to control the King the only solution is parliament. To that extent: "We're all you've got."

If King Gordon can have MPs locked up for telling the truth about what the King is doing that is embarrassing then this undermines democracy and moves towards tyranny.

Today there was a vote as to whether the government (King Gordon) should have a majority on the committee (7 members) established to look at what rights the people have to hear the truth. By 285 votes to 281 the King got his way.

It was futile because both Lib Dems and Conservatives have said they won't provide King Gordon with a figleaf to conceal his embarrassment at being caught out undermining the freedom of his subjects.
 
  Contempt of Parliament in 2004

The link is to Hansard in which the following exchange occurred

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your advice on a point of order of which I have given you notice. As you know, robust debate is in the nature of politics and no one, least of all you, would want to inhibit that. However, I hope that you agree with me that there is an important distinction to be made between matters of argument and the deliberate misreporting outside this place of proceedings within it, including the doctoring of quotes from Hansard and the invention of votes by hon. Members on motions that were never moved.
My point of order, Mr. Speaker, is to say that that is what has been happening in Birmingham, where a Conservative councillor, Peter Douglas Osborn, distributed a leaflet misreporting a Hansard quote from the Minister for E-Commerce, Energy and Postal Services in respect of the Post Office urban reinvention programme. You will also be aware that Councillor Douglas Osborn, together with Liberal Democrat Councillor Holtom, has written to a third party alleging that I voted against a motion that did not exist regarding a post office in my constituency. Those documents follow allegations made by the leader of the Liberal Democrats on the city council in leaflets distributed in my constituency, also alleging that I and other Labour colleagues voted for a number of propositions concerning local post offices that were never put to this House.
May I therefore seek your advice, Mr. Speaker, on what can be done to protect the integrity of the parliamentary record and to safeguard the reputations of hon. Members of all parties against those who seek to falsify them?

Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me advance notice of his point of order. He has raised a significant matter, which should be of concern to the whole House.

On 16 July 1971, the House resolved not to entertain any complaint of contempt or breach of privilege in respect of the publication of its debates or proceedings, but that resolution in no way removed the constraints on those who, for whatever reason, choose to misrepresent the proceedings of the House or to publish false or misleading reports of our debates.

As "Erskine May" makes clear, since at least 1699 the House has regarded the misrepresentation of its proceedings not only as a contempt, but as
"destructive of the freedom of Parliament".
Nothing in the 1971 resolution alters that view.

I can therefore advise the hon. Gentleman and the House that the deliberate or reckless misrepresentation of the debates and proceedings of the House is potentially a contempt of the House, against which the House may wish to proceed. Moreover, those who act in this way are unlikely to be protected in the courts by the unqualified privilege which normally attaches to the reporting of our proceedings.

I am sure the that House will take a serious view of the situation if the conduct which the hon. Gentleman has described continues.


The issue was that various Labour MPs have voted for funds to go to Post Office to close post offices.

 
Sunday, December 07, 2008
  Wider review - but is it wide enough
The government are now widening up the review post Baby P. I am, however, not certain that this is wide enough. Unless they review the procedures of the Family Courts they will not get the system to work properly.

The problem is that the system is chocabloc with conflicts of interests. The rules that prevent people from getting second expert opinions act as a factory for miscarriages of justice.

It also creates an environment in which the whip hand is held by the local authority legal department. Some parents's solicitors then end up doing the bidding of the LA rather than their client.

The same pressures exist with Cafcass.

The social workers justify their actions on the basis that the court accepts the proposals. "Advocating for the child" includes pressurising experts to change their reports to suit the LA. That means that the whole decision-making process is driven by management decisions within the LA.

This doesn't always happen and it remains possible for things to happen properly. However, it happens enough to cause problems.
 
  Benefits Reform
The issue of Benefits reform is back on the agenda.

Whilst I accept the thesis that the tax and benefits system should act to encourage behaviour that society wishes to see and discourage that which we don't, it also needs to be fair.

They have been tightening up on Disability Benefits recently. That has resulted in some really stupid decisions. One recent one I saw had only temporary disability benefits provided to a man who had had his leg amputated. Clearly someone in the DWP thought the leg would grow back.

It is important to remember that there are real people on the end of the decisions driven by targets in the DWP. Sometimes these things get sorted out, but at other times they don't.

One really cruel policy is to fine people who appeal the removal of disability benefits by reducing their benefits whilst the appeal goes on. That is not just reducing the disability, but reducing Income Support/JSA by 20% below what it is deemed to be necessary to live on.
 
Friday, December 05, 2008
  The Spectator on Fostering Agency issues
The link is to a story about another aspect of the child protection system. It contains a story in which there is an example of a common technique that institutions use to deal with criticism of attacking the messenger with false allegations.

It is claimed that people are "learning lessons" when more effort is going into covering up failure.
 
  Results: Thursday 4th December 2008.
Bradford City MBC, Bingley
Con 1949 (59.9; -3.1)
Lab 689 (21.2; +4.4)
LD Jean Taylor 332 (10.2; -1.4)
Green 175 (5.4; -3.3)
Democratic Nationalists 61 (1.9; +1.9)
UKIP 49 (1.5; +1.5)
Majority 1260
Turnout 25%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Braintree DC, The Three Colnes
Con 647 (77.0; +24.5)
Lab 121 (14.4; +4.1)
Green 72 (8.6; +8.6)
[Ind (0.0; -37.2)]
Majority 526
Turnout 21.5%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007

Colchester BC, Birch and Winstree
Con 745 (58.1; -12.1)
LD Jon Longman 423 (33.0; +14.1)
Lab 83 (6.5; +0.4)
Green 32 (2.5; -2.5)
Majority 322
Turnout 29.3%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007

Rugby BC, Avon and Swift
Con 361 (56.9; -12.0)
LD David Elson 153 (24.1; +9.0)
Lab 84 (13.2; -2.8)
Green 37 (5.8; +5.8)
Majority 208
Turnout not known
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Waltham Forest LBC, Hale End and Highams Park
LD Jane Morgan 1298/Nick Bason 1295 (44.3; +2.4)
Con 1223/1155 (41.8; +4.6)
Lab 264/241 (9.0; -2.3)
Green 142 (4.9; -4.7)
Majorities 75/72
Turnout 34.4%
LD hold x 2
Percentage change is since May 2006

Huntington PC
Con 287/281 (56.2)
Lab 107/105
LD Trevor Jones 101/Barry Sullivan 73 (19.8)
UKIP 16 (3.1)
Majorities 180/174
Turnout 32.5%
Con gain from LD x 2

Uttoxeter TC, Heath
Con 529 (47.5)
Lab 464 (41.7)
LD Gavin Webb 121 (10.9)
Majority 65
Turnout not known
Con hold
 
Thursday, December 04, 2008
  Stuart Syvret gets the Damian Green treatment
Following on from the lead of the UK government in having police investigate leaks of government information as a criminal matter and hence persecuting effective opposition politicians the States of Jersey have kicked off a leak inquiry and are asking police to investigate Senator Stuart Syvret over an internal memo.

The odd thing about the English case is that it involves at least some information (if not all of it) that is covered by the Freedom of Information Act. That means that the mole was under a duty to provide the information if asked for it.

This gives a complete defence of
Question 1. Do you have any information which is embarrassing to the goverment and can I have a list of it.
Question 2. Please give me item 1, item 2 etc on the answer to question 1.

A bit odd to prosecute someone for doing what is their duty. This applies to Damian Green in any event as it was his duty to hold the government to account.
 
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
  Leaking and Motivation
The government are trying to open up a completely new argument in respect of the arrest of Damian Green.

They are trying to approach it from the perspective that the motivation of the leaker matters.

The point about parliamentary privilege is that communicating with an MP is privileged meaning that it cannot be criminal to talk to an MP. If it cannot be criminal then it does not matter what the motivation is.

The way they government are trying to take the debate would lead to a code of conduct for moles who would not be allowed to accept even a cup of tea from the leakees.

Preventing opposition politicians from using leaked information is a massive undermining of democracy.

It is the same issue with whistleblowing anywhere. It is important to protect whistleblowers from suffering as a result of whistleblowing. The government's argument is that whistleblowers must never benefit from whistleblowing.

You can have it one way or the other.
 
Monday, December 01, 2008
  Brown on Green
Gordon Brown has decisively acted in respect of the Damian Green. He has announced that he will dither until he knows which way the wind is blowing and then jump on the most reliable bandwagon.

It is very sad. This is an issue that should be easy to understand. It relates entirely to the work of an MP. It is something that most successful politicians have been involved in.

If MPs are liable for arrest for being leaked to then that creates a massive problem. OK you might entice someone to leak by buying a pint of beer. Does that really cause a problem.

I really don't think Labour understand what this is about.
 

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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