The Swan Centre - Deadline 16th February 2010
The latest information I have is that the report into the Compulsory Purchase Inquiry at The Swan will report by its final deadline of 16th February.
I have already posted pictures of the stalled development. It is important to remember that this is affecting large numbers of people in the local area and also resulted in the first Contempt of Parliament motion for some time.
By Election Results 28th January 2010
Harborough DC, Great Bowden and Arden
LD Phil Knowles 966 (61.8; +12.1)
Con 598 (38.2; -12.1)
LD gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2007
Taunton Deane BC, Lyngford
LD Ben Swaine 390 (43.7; -0.7)
Con 253 (28.4; +0.4)
Lab 190 (21.3; -6.3)
UKIP 59 (6.6; +6.6)
Percentage change is since May 2007
Rothwell TC, Tresham
Con 361 (45.1)
Lab 267 (33.4)
English Democrats 88 (11.0)
LD John Holt 84 (10.5)
Iraq - the missing question
The question that will not be asked as part of the Chilcott Inquiry is why the rules of engagement in the southern no-fly zone were not changed to be the same as the northern no-fly zone.
Had they done this to protect the Shi'a in the south from Ba'th oppression (which was the situation in the North) then the Shi'a could have taken control.
The answer I found at the time was that the State Department did not want Iranian sympathisers to take control of the South.
However, had that happened then Saddam Hussain would have lost control of the revenue of the country as the Kurds would have controlled the North (as they did) and the Shi'a the South.
Doncaster Case in Edlington
The inadequate summary of the serious case review has been published. It does, however, include the following phrase:An important reason for that failure was the reluctance of Children’s Social Care Services to become involved; when they did, they do not act with sufficient purpose and do not complete the enquiries or assessments required by legislation and national standards.
This is part of a common pattern where practitioners are known at times to avoid certain families because they are rough and time is spent dealing with other families where in practise no intervention is required.
Election Results 21st January 2010
Erewash BC, West Hallam and Dale Abbey
Con 692 (51.4; -22.6)
LD Gary Hamson 506 (37.6; +37.6)
Lab 149 (11.1; -15.0)
Percentage change is since May 2007.
Wakefield MBC, Airedale and Ferry Fryston
Lab 1330 (49.9; +3.2)
LD Paul Kirby 603 (22.6; +8.3)
BNP 353 (13.3; -7.7)
Con 275 (10.3; -7.7)
Ind 102 (3.8; +3.8)
Percentage change is since May 2008.
Calne TC, Lickhill
LD Michelle Pearce 331 (80.7)
UKIP 79 (19.3)
LD gain from Con
Mark and Kerry in Ireland
The link is to today's Daily Mail story about Mark and Kelly in Ireland. I believe that the removal of their baby under an Irish EPO is in fact unlawful (that is advice they have had in Ireland).
It looks like the local Health Board are acting at the instigation of Fife rather than making their own decisions. That is not actually lawful either.
I find it sad that the Cadbury takeover has now been agreed. This was cleared by the EU early this month. Hence we can now say that things have changed.
There are obviously concerns about employment in Birmingham. However, we now need to look to the future.
I would have preferred that Cadbury had remained independent. I am worried about what has been happening with private sector employment in Birmingham. LDV is another situation I am unhappy about, but that has no real similarities with Cadburys.
It was people from the UK that did much to establish the structure of corporate governance in Germany. I do not think their structures are ones which prevent corporate success and I wonder if we should be looking for ways in which we can aim for long term success with our own corporate structures.
Freedom of Speech (aka Privilege) debate
The BBC have a video of the debate here
What I find surprising is that Withers have not apologised. The last time this happened (in 1981) the firm concerned apologised by telegram before the motion was moved.
There was a case with some similarities in Australia in 2006. The report can be found here
. A law firm was found guilty of contempt for threatening defamation proceedings linked to a speech in parliament.
Quoting from the findings:The Committee finds that the provision of information by Mr Cannard to
Mr Leighton for use in the House, as part of his role in representing his
constituents, was a proceeding in parliament and therefore protected by
parliamentary privilege. The letter sent by Mills Oakley Lawyers to
Mr Cannard constituted an attempt to interfere with the provision of this
information and is therefore a breach of privilege.
In relation to the question of whether the threat of adverse action against a
constituent could be considered an improper means to influence a member of
Parliament in the performance of their duties, the Committee finds that, in this
case, a contempt has occurred and notes:
• the subsequent letter of apology to Mr Leighton from Mills Oakley Lawyers
cannot alter the fact that the letter to the constituent had the effect, or was
intended to have the effect, of preventing the flow of information from
constituent to member and of hindering the member in the exercise of his
• the threat of adverse action against the constituent can be seen as a contempt
in cases where the threat is intended, or could be reasonably expected to
have the effect, to prevent a member carrying out his or her duties as a
member of the House.
The Australian case has relevance to those people who threaten constituents who wish to talk to MPs.
The PBR and the IFS
The following image is a key slide that looks at the effect of the Pre Budget Report on national public finances. The uncertainty is on the down side rather than the up side.
The Privilege Motion
What is important about the motion about contempt of parliament is the underlying issue.
This is a picture of Bakeman House in which there is a sheltered scheme for elderly residents. For many months it has been in the middle of a building site. An attempt has been made to gag me from speaking out about this issue.
That is the subject of the motion which I will be proposing to the House tomorrow morning.
We have had a number of problems recently with attempts to prevent freedom of speech. The fact that it has gone as far as an attempt to gag an MP from speaking about an issue in the House of Commons is wrong.
We need to remember the people who live in Bakeman House (and the environs) and what effect this is having on them. I will not be gagged from speaking about this.
The background is that this is the Swan Development in Yardley in which Tescos are trying to build a supermarket. However, there has been an objection to a Compulsory Purchase Order which has resulted in an Inquiry. That has put a halt to development in the past few months.
I am pleased that The Speaker has come down on the side of allowing the plight of the residents of Bakeman House to be spoken about.
MPs have to be able to fight for their constituents. That is what Article IX of the Bill of Rights is about.
Will any universities go bust?
The universities have already been told that they face cuts in their HEFC grants next year of about 6%. That is a cash cut in the grant and nothing for inflation.
There are some universities which are now on the edge financially and are likely to end up merging with others. One of the difficulties they face is that the financial cost of reorganising staffing is now sufficient to take out cash balances.
This could push some of the Universities that are constituted as limited companies into administration. That is an issue that the government has to look carefully at.
With appropriate support from government the education of the students need not face massive disruption. However, without that all sorts of disruption is likely to occur.
Luckily Birmingham University is in a relatively strong financial position even though it is likely to find its grant of £130 Million cut by £6 Million next year.
This is not just part of the pre-budget report, but also part of current financial planning. I hope to get some of the IFS reports from the PBR so I can publish them.
That will demonstrate the clear financial challenges faced in the public sector. Those challenges are faced regardless of who is in government.
The university issue is one where there is economically a local multiplier and other private economic activity rests on what is substantially a public funded institution.
This is why it is important to avoid simply going for deflation and a subtle approach to finance is needed.
Election Result 7th January 2010
Harrogate BC, Woodfield
LD Greta Knight 688 (62.6; +4.1)
Con 246 (22.4; +7.5)
BNP 92 (8.4; -4.1)
Lab 73 (6.6; -7.5)
Percentage change is since May 2007
Contact: Michael Newby 01423 542112 and 07767 761749 firstname.lastname@example.org
Party defending seat: LD. Cause: Death.
The gas supply issue
Because it is cold the issue of gas supply has come to the fore again. In part that is because a free market works well when it is a buyers market, but with a sellers market weak market participants (aka people without a lot of money) tend to lose out.
Even if we don't have any more complex crisis this winter we are still likely to see an increase on gas bills.
The underlying problem is that the great variability of demand is linked to the weather.
National Grid, who are responsible for managing the gas supply, calculate a figure as to what the weather is like from the perspective of gas demand. They then fit that to a chart which indicates how cold they think things are. This is the chart at today's date:
You will note that in fact it is not as cold as a cold winter at the moment. They also measure the demand against predicted demand and here is another chart:
Note on this that although it is not as cold as a "cold winter" the demand is as high as one would get in a cold winter.
There is then the supply from Liguid Natural Gas, the fields on the UK continental shelf and via pipelines in from Norway, Holland and Belgium. The Belgian pipeline (the interconnector) can go both ways. We also export gas to Ireland.
On top of gas supplied on a day there is gas taken from storage. It is possible to make an estimate as to the maximum gas that can be supplied. That is called the Gas Balancing Alert Trigger level which is currently 461.2 million cubic metres (in a day).
We only have a couple of days of gas available in short range storage which can supply around 30 mcm of gas in a day. Hence we have a potential gas supply problem.
At the moment things are OK and it is not certain that there will be a problem. I have kept for some time a gas issues weblog which is the link above http://gasissues.blogspot.com/
I have been nervous about the gas storage situation since 2005. It is like driving blindfold on a cliff. You might go over the edge, but also you might not. Actually this all depends upon the weather.
If this winter really is that cold then we face some real challenges. Some of the Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power stations can switch to oil. Otherwise coal is being used to a greater extent.
What you cannot do is to switch off the gas. That is because when it comes to switching it on again every building needs to be checked to avoid explosions. That takes a long time.
Freedom of Speech and Incitement to Violence - Why the proposed march through Wootton Bassett should be banned
Some of the subtleties of freedom of speech are often missed out of public debate. It is important to maintain freedom of speech and with it the right to protest.
At its most restrictive freedom of speech can be constrained so much that people are even prevented from revealing that they are restrained from talking about an issue. This is the "super injunction" or the Court Order what shall not speak its name.
I am a strong believer in freedom of speech. That is why I oppose having secret court orders (although there may be an argument for a short time limited constraint on a particular order).
However, at the same time I do not support the use of the freedom of speech to incite disorder. I took the view that the protests of the English Defence League in Birmingham were attempts to incite disorder.
In the same way I see the proposals from Al Muhajiroun (aka Islam4UK) to march through Wootton Bassett as being an inflamatory attempt to incite disorder.
I do think it is appropriate for the authorities to use their powers to prevent both of these types of event from happening. This is not a constraint on freedom of speech instead it is a reasonable approach to restrain people from taking actions which work towards inciting violence and disorder.
It became clear to the police after the last EDL demonstration that it was about inciting disorder. It was clear to me before it happened. The same principle applies to the proposal to march in Wootton Bassett.
It remains that I am unhappy with the government's strategy in Afghanistan. However, nothing is added to this by irresponsible attempt to incite disorder in the UK.