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Showing posts from May, 2012

Yesterday's debate on Family Law

here is the text of the debate. I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend’s speech, and to read his Committee’s report, but there are areas where we are still getting things badly wrong, and perhaps the direction of Government policy is making things worse rather than better. I declare an interest. I am involved in Justice for Families, which looks at public family law in the English and Welsh jurisdiction, although people from outside that jurisdiction also contact us. Parents are involved, not surprisingly, but we are also contacted by teenagers who are trapped in the care system and want to escape, but cannot find a way of doing so. Recently, I worked with a number of care leavers to form an organisation called Care Leavers Voice. People tend to think of care leavers as those in their teens or 20s, but I am talking about professional people in their 40s and 50s. Having perhaps the best perspective of what it is like to be a child in care, and having gone on to have a professional…

Unusual Guitar Configurations

Five people playing one guitar. Unsurprisingly over 100m views. The original of the song (200m views) An unusual concept of a parody on a cover. Not a guitar or any instrument A med school version of the 5 people on one guitar thing (probably best they don't go for a singing career) One person playing two guitars An odd variation on the video (not a particulary good cover though) With some interesting vocals, but still not as good as the original

Private Members Bills

I have come 6th in the ballot for Private Members Bill.  I do not need to decide as to which subject my PMB should address is until Mid June.

Much that it is quite likely that I will be looking at judicial secrecy and the accountability of the state as a subject for a Private Members Bill.  However, this is not guaranteed.  However, if anyone wishes an alternative proposal to be considered could they please send me up to two pages of proposal.   This should be sent to the House of Commons on paper.


Greece and their debts

We have a number of patterns of behaviours of governments.   The expropriation recently by Argentina of a Spanish company's holding in YPF is one example of governments not following the law of contract.  If Greece votes to try to renegotiate their deal with the Eurozone I expect them  to have an unstructured bankruptcy.   The question, of course, is what happens after that.  I cannot see the Eurozone simply saying "don't worry we don't want repaying".

Clearly the Eurozone cannot accept a further renegotiation as if they do then everything starts to unravel. The Irish government's banking reorganisation involves a number of repudiations of contract.   Some of the effects on small holders of debt have been quite extreme - although they would argue that they fall within the debt contracts.

If Greece tries, for example, to set up a New Drachma and refuse to pay their debts to the Eurozone (in Euros) then I don't think they can remain in the EU as they will …

Elected Mayor Referendum: Percentage Vote by Constituency and Ward

CONSTITUENCY and WardLeaderMayorPercentLeaderMayorEDGBASTON117321012853.70%46.30%Bartley Green2708201057.40%42.60%Edgbaston2251249247.50%52.50%Harborne3369300852.80%47.20%Quinton3404261856.50%43.50%ERDINGTON9224706756.60%43.40%Erdington2594188058.00%42.00%Kingstanding2195173055.90%44.10%Stockland Green2346189755.30%44.70%Tyburn2089156057.20%42.80%HALL GREEN147331066958.00%42.00%Hall Green3846236861.90%38.10%Moseley and Kings Heath3448327951.30%48.70%Sparkbrook3233238657.50%42.50%Springfield4206263661.50%38.50%HODGE HILL132961034656.20%43.80%Bordesley Green4493307459.40%40.60%Hodge Hill2797214356.60%43.40%Shard End2029134960.10%39.90%Washwood Heath3977378051.30%48.70%NORTHFIELD11210778159.00%41.00%Kings Norton2689189558.70%41.30%Longbridge2450189356.40%43.60%Northfield3203204461.00%39.00%Weoley2868194959.50%40.50%LADYWOOD9262903050.60%49.40%Aston3502309353.10%46.90%Ladywood1408185843.10%56.90%

Government appears more concerned about Money than Children

This story in the Sunday Express has details of how thousands of children leave care for an unknown reason every year. What concerns me is that there is no proper independent auditing of what happens to the children. Given that hundreds of younger children are simply lost to the system each year I don't think this is acceptable. Independent auditors are used to track where the money is, but not what has happened to the children. To that extent improving the SSDA903 return is a useful first step that the government should take, but it is not in itself sufficient. There needs to be some system whereby there is in independent audit of what happens to the children. The child protection system is chocabloc with conflicts of interest whereby people who are responsible for the care of children are also responsible for ensuring that the care is adequate. That systemic problem lies behind the inaction relating to the abuse of chidlren in care.

Mayoral Referendum

I was one of the co-chairs of the No campaign in Birmingham. I won't reiterate the detailed arguments against a Directly Elected Mayor (DEM). All of that information is available on the No to a power freak website. Initially it was thought that the "yes" campaign would have an easy victory. However, on the day, of the 10 referenda mandated by central government, 9 went against a DEM. Only Bristol Voted YES. Birmingham was 57.8% against. The sequence was Sheffield 65, Coventry 63.6, Leeds 63.3, Wakefield 62, Newcastle 62, Birmingham 57.8, Nottingham 57.5, Bradford 55.1, Manchester 53.2, Bristol 46.7. I have ignored Doncaster (62% for retaining the DEM). That is because the Doncaster result was one where it was really about Labour trying to get rid of the incumbent English Democrat DEM. There are a number of interesting aspects of this. The Bristol vote was an isolated vote when there were not also local elections. However, if you look at the turnout in Bristo…

Letter in The Times

The Times have published a letter I wrote to them about Expert Witnesses and family court proceedings today. It is behind the paywall so I will copy it here: Sir, Andrew Christie is right in seeing the low quality of expert evidence as being a problem. However, the experts are already appointed by the parties jointly to a case. This results in them acting as the hired guns of the local authorities because of the inequality of arms that arises from the imbalance of power in the cases. A simple way of reducing cost would be to remove the guardian ad litem and simply commission an independent social worker report. This would substantially reduce the legal costs and improve the quality of decision-making at the same time (as research recently published by Dr Julia Brophy shows). What, however, is crucial is to allow wider scrutiny of the quality of expert opinions. It is still contempt of court for me as an MP to refer an expert to a regulator. The idea that family court experts themsel…

Channel 4 on experts