A difficult hand played well
The Autumn Statement was today. There are some innovative proposals in it (such as using QE for smaller businesses). I was concerned that we continued to protect the poorest in society. The cost of living has gone up substantially. I was concerned to ensure that the full inflation increase of 5.2% occurred for the poorest who find it hardest to make ends meet.
Life is getting harder for many people across the world. However, we need to always remember the effect on the least well off who find it hardest to protect themselves against economic shifts.
To that extent the government has been dealt a difficult hand, but is managing to play to well.
The best test of the economy is to compare it to other similar countries. We are now doing better than countries which suffered from a similar deficit (according to OECD predictions - Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain) and the Eurozone average.
There will always be international pressures on the country. Those are the major cause of our current difficulties. However, we are pulling through.
Another radio programme in Belgium
is another radio programme which looks at the wrongful abduction of children in England done by the state.
It is, however, mainly in French. (including one of my interviews talking about constitutional procedures). It does include a recording of an arrest with french translation.
Referendum campaign on issue of elected mayor
Last night's meeting on the issue of whether or not we have a directly elected mayor was an interesting experience.
In the week beforehand I had expressed concern that there were too many speakers and it was unbalanced. I thought that having equal numbers of speakers from each side of the argument was good practice.
The initial proposal was 7 speakers in favour (plus the chair also being a supporter) and 2 speakers against. I asked James Hutchings to come along, but initially the organisers didn't want him to speak.
Finally they agreed to allow him to speak although Miles Weaver's tweet about it was " I spent far too much time sorting out John Hemming MP tonight & his whims. He is so out of touch, I accommodated his needs but planet, diff?"
Personally I don't think it is a "whim" to ask for each side to have equal opportunities to speak. A balance of 7 (plus chair) against 2 is really nothing even close to equal. Even 7 (plus chair) against 3 is not a balanced panel.
To be fair to Marc Reeves who chaired the meeting, his personal views did not show and he did manage to balance out both sides of the argument.
Congratulations really should also go to Neil Elkes for the first two paragraphs of his article here
in which he admirably sums up the argument:AN ELECTED mayor could lead the city towards a golden era of growth, confidence and success.
Or the city could be lumbered with a corrupt power-freak and unable to ditch him for four years.
Someone from the yes campaign obviously thinks it is clever to set up a spoof No to a Brum Mayor
It doesn't really matter in the bigger realm. However, really we should encourage more questions like that of Nick Drew who asked a key question as to what checks and balances are needed on a power freak. That was a good technical question. To which the answer is that a majority of the council should support the budget and the council scrutiny process should be able to stop things from being done by the mayor.
Two E-petitions Jersey and the Family Justice Review
People campaigning for the release of Stuart Syvret were having a problem getting an e-petition tabled in support of my Early Day Motion. I, therefore, tried to get a motion tabled. It has taken about 2 weeks (and being raised at two select committees), but we now have the e-petition.
That is here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/22394
There is also one in support of my EDM calling for the scrapping of the family justice review report here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/22695
The failure of Article 8
The failure of the UK's judiciary in interpreting Article 8 of ECHR can be expressed as:
"Joking about a footballer becomes a criminal offence, but the state is allowed to steal children from poor people at a whim."
European Parliament and Family Court Corruption
The link is to three interviews with MEPs about the possibility of the European Parliament acting to review the malpractise in the English and Welsh family courts.
Secrecy, injunctions and the rule of law
Court secrecy and injunctions act to undermine the rule of law.
What is interesting in the courts at the moment is the revelation that many of the injunctions that were granted should not, in fact, been granted. A number of these were granted on the basis of allegations that were untrue and have not been substantiated.
One of the problems with secret hearings (and we have still been having some unlisted hearings - something that is not supposed to happen) is that the judge cannot him or herself have confidence that the judge has heard all the evidence that is relevant to the case.
One sided hearings (ex parte hearings) which are held in secret are perhaps the most unreliable forum in which decisions are made. One side puts their case. No-one else (other than the judge and the one side to the case) knows that it is happening. The judge then makes a decision.
It was the case for many interim injunctions that a one sided secret hearing was all that happened and things then stopped.
The other problem I see is when court orders are used to prevent evidence being adduced in other fora.
Hence in a simplistic manner the following of a court order in one case acts to undermine the rule of law in other cases.
I have been quite surprised at the number of processes that have been used to undermine the rule of law. Court orders, secret unlisted and ex parte hearings, contracts, Public Interest Immunity certificates. All of these have been used in a way which has undermined the rule of law.
The rule of law does not mean a Kritarchy. The system has to function in a realistic manner with proper accountability. What that means for the UK is a lot less secrecy.
The link is to yesterday's debate on fuel prices. I raised my concern that we need to look at the issue of all energy prices in a scarce environment.
I think the idea of having a quota of cheap fossil hydrocarbon would be a sensible way forward as part of an international plan to manage demand and keep down capital transfers.
The Greek non-referendum
The cancellation of the Greek referendum is not surprising. It is, however, a good example of an issue where a government really has no choice.
The problem is that if the alternative route had been taken then at a point people would not have been paid and the problem would be much bigger. Many people would then regret having taken the action that they took (or moreso inaction).
This is the real problem with Labour's proposals for the UK. It is clear to me that they would be disastrous for the economy and would cause greater cuts. However, luckily, they are not being tried out.
Family Justice Review
Unsurprisingly, for a panel dominated by people who run the family justice system and without representation from those who go through it, the Family Justice Review has essentially defended the status quo with a few cost saving tweaks.
Cash is King - and Greece
The Greek referendum will be an interesting exercise. At some point the Greek government runs out of cash. After that point no-one gets paid. I suppose they can start by holding back on big payments, but after a point salaries are not paid, pensions are not paid, suppliers are not paid.
Cash becomes "king" because no-one will give the government any credit unless they are forced to.
The government could print a "new drachma", but I am not sure what that would be exchangeable into.
They cannot simply refuse to pay the outstanding debt because the other countries would not accept that and they cannot isolate themselves.
If they are going to hold a referendum they will need to do this quickly.
Press release on trauma centres
This is worth repeating for information:
High quality emergency trauma care moves one step closer
The introduction of a regional trauma care system that will see people who suffer major trauma injuries get access to the best possible emergency trauma care moved one step closer today, following the decision to approve the introduction of three designated major trauma centres for the West Midlands, by the West Midlands Strategic Commissioning Group (WMSCG).
The WMSCG, on behalf of the 17 West Midlands Primary Care Trusts, approved the recommendation for a new regional trauma care system to be introduced from March 2012, at its board meeting on Monday 31/10/11.
A regional trauma care system will see people who suffer major trauma get access to specialist medical teams, with all the necessary specialist services available on one hospital site. Patients will have access to high quality emergency trauma care 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Major trauma is the name given to severe injuries which are immediately life threatening such as major head or spinal injuries, amputations, multiple injuries and severe knife or gunshot wounds.
The new regional trauma care system will consist of three trauma care networks with a major trauma centre at the heart of each network. The major trauma centres will be supported by trauma units, specialist rehabilitation hospitals and local emergency hospitals.
Three trauma care networks are to be set up in the West Midlands. Each network will have an adult major trauma centre at its heart plus the Birmingham Children’s Hospital will be the regional major trauma centre for children. The hospitals that will become adult major trauma centres are:
• The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham
• The University Hospital North Staffordshire
• The University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire
Children will be treated at their local major trauma centre, for example if a child is involved in a road traffic accident in Stoke, they would go to University Hospital North Staffordshire and would only need to go to Birmingham Children’s Hospital if they required specialist children’s consultant’s expertise for example a child who had suffered extensive burns or a serious head injury. They would then be transferred using the West Midlands Paediatric Retrieval Service (WMPRS) and would be escorted by a doctor and/or nurse.
Eamonn Kelly, Chief Executive of the West Mercia PCT Cluster and Co Chair of the Trauma Project Board said: “Evidence tells us that to give patients with life threatening injuries the best possible chance of survival they need access to specialist life saving emergency services that are all available on the same hospital site, giving patients faster access to their specialist skills for example neurosurgeons and CT scanners to treat serious head injuries. Specialist rehabilitation services are also extremely important as they help the patient to recover much quicker and reduce disability.”
Mr Kelly continued: “Currently we do not have 24 hours a day 7 days a week specialist emergency trauma services across the West Midlands. We know that having a major trauma system could save an additional 60 lives every year in our region. The decision to introduce a three trauma care network system means that we can now start to set up the networks, with a go live date scheduled for March 2012. This will see the hospitals, ambulance service, specialist rehabilitation services and other NHS staff from across the region working towards further improving the quality of care that they provide for trauma patients.”
The decision to introduce three trauma care networks across the region was made following the review of the business case and integrated impact assessment which looked at the four options possible for the region. These documents helped the NHS in the West Midlands to reach their final decision which supports the main aim of ensuring that patients who suffer major trauma injuries receive the best specialist emergency trauma care possible in the right place at the right time, from highly qualified emergency trauma care experts.
Eamonn Kelly finished by saying: “We know that a lot of good work is already taking place but this will give us the opportunity to make best use of the specialist staff and facilities that we already have in the three large tertiary centres across the region and build on that knowledge and expertise to provide the best care possible for those patients who need specialist emergency trauma care.”
During the next eight weeks the NHS in the West Midlands will be talking to their local communities and people who have a special interest in trauma care to find out their views on the services available and how the preferred option will make a difference before the implementation of the system from January 2012 onwards.
If you would like to find out more contact your local primary care trust or visit www.wmsc.nhs.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Robin Hood Tax (aka Stamp Duty)
Using the name "Robin Hood Tax" is misleading because it implies that it is a new tax.
The UK has had a Financial Transaction Tax for many years. It is called Stamp Duty. The logic is quite simple. For transactions in shares to have any merit then there has to be a legal system. People should pay on an ad valorem basis for this.
This happens in England and in Ireland. England charges 0.5% and Ireland 1%.
My view is a simple one which is that the tax havens piggyback on top of the global systems which are substantially maintained by the higher tax countries. It is, therefore, quite reasonable that such a transactional tax should be paid more widely.
Hence I am supporting the extension of this to a global system. I have, however, been quite clear that it cannot be done unilaterally. This would simply move trading around to locations without the transaction tax and actually would be likely to reduce the UK's Stamp Duty revenue.
The Tobin tax is a proposal to also tax currency exchanges. It is a relatively low value tax. The argument is more finely balanced for countries with smaller currencies as they would tend to lose out. However, it could be a good mechanism for raising some funds. It would, however, reduce the number of transactions and hence the funds raised would not be as great as has been thought.