European Parliament Petitions
In The Telegraph, Christopher Booker reports
on the mass petitioning of the European Parliament about state sponsored child stealing in the UK.
This week, for example, a Portuguese Family involved in that protest were arrested. Their case has been widely reported in the Portuguese media including the English Speaking Portuguese Media such as This Story
in "Portuguese Resident. On Wednesday night a South Korean Couple were arrested in South Wales trying to escape the country with their baby. This case has not hit the South Korean media yet, but I would expect it to be quite high profile.
I referred to the case in the Deregulation Bill Committee the minutes of which can be found here
. (I say "The gentleman is called Jeong Hugh and he is the PhD student living in the UK. ")
The Council of Europe have been enquiring into the UK. I have suggested that parliamentary committees do an enquiry. However, the enquiries that have run so far have been dominated by the people who make a living out of running the system.
In the mean time local authorities continue to threaten MPs in an attempt to stop them looking at cases. Two examples of this were reported in points of order on Monday this week.
This week, interestingly, Re B is back in the Court of Appeal. The lower courts have ignored the Supreme Court and so it has been appealed again. Additionally last week there was a permission to appeal hearing in which the Court of Appeal ignored the law.
The following is the presentation to the European Parliament Petitions Committee (from 19th March 2014)
The following is on Portuguese TV:
St Patrick's Day Parade March 16th 2014 Birmingham - Tipperary County Association
I have not tried to take photographs of all of the parade. Others are doing that with better cameras than my phone. I shall see if I can bring together links to photos of the parade later. I have, therefore, only one photo and one video.
This parade was the best weather for over 10 years. 2003 (if I have the year right) when the parade went to Victoria Square was really quite hot. However, today was just about right. Warm enough to encourage the crowds, but not so hot as to wear people out.
Photos on net (I am giving one link to the photographer, even if they have done lots of photos):
Steve Piggott Photography
An unusual rear view of Tipperary against Selfridges
Free Radio (Previously BRMB)
Success on Hospital Consultations
Today there were a number of votes in the care bill. It is our view that local consultation is key when it comes to running the health service. There were many people that opposed the health reforms wanting the health service to be run by the Minister and the Minister's appointees. Our view, however, was that it was better to bring in health service reforms to Clinical Commissioning Groups to give local control rather than central control.
In the Care Bill today there was a discussion about how to deal with services in crisis. Quite a few of the Lib Dems were unhappy that the original proposals moved too far away from the principle of local consultation. Hence Paul Burstow tabled a new clause (known as New Clause 16) to promote local consultation.
During this process there were a large number of negotiations headed up by Paul Burstow. I am pleased to say that considerble progress was made. As a consequence of this the signatories of his new clause did not press the new clause (although the Labour Party did).
Tomorrow it will be possible to see in Hansard the speech of the minister making all the changes clear.
A raft of checks and balances will be introduced to make sure that changes to local hospital services are not made without local people being able to have their say. These include:
- Making sure that this process is only used in the most extreme cases, after all other options are tried
- Councils and the patients forum Healthwatch must be consulted as the representatives of local people
- The plans must have agreement of all relevant local health commissioners
Liberal Democrat Paul Burstow MP will be chairing a committee of MPs and Lords to ensure these changes are secured.
Labour's solution to uncollected rubbish
No words are really needed.
Success on DHP for people with disabilities - multi year awards now possible
See this question here
To ask the Secretary of State
for Work and Pensions if he will take steps to encourage local authorities to make longer term awards of discretionary housing payments for those people with disabilities.
Steve Webb (The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions; Thornbury and Yate, Liberal Democrat)
As announced in the autumn statement discretionary housing payment (DHP) funding will actually be increased by £40 million in 2014-15 to £165 million. The increase in DHP for 2014-15 is relative to the previously announced Government allocation for 2014-15 of £125 million.
This gives local authorities the confidence they need to make longer-term awards for people with on-going needs.
provides local authorities (LAs) with a guidance manual regarding DHPs, along with a good practice guide which offers advice on how DHPs can be used to provide support to claimants affected by some of the key welfare reforms. The guidance is clear that LAs can consider making long term or indefinite awards for disabled people. Guidance for 2014-15 is currently being reviewed and will continue to highlight this.
This information for 2013-14 can be accessed through the following link:
Sadly although the money is available to allow awards until March 31st 2016 the City Council's computer systems can only make awards for one year.
confirms that more money is being made available (one of my priorities).
gives the figures for Birmingham and England as a whole.
Apprenticeships - why Labour are wrong to scrap the Intermediate Apprenticeship
The Deregulation Bill is called as "Christmas Tree Bill". That is because it has lots of different baubles attached to it from a legislative basis. I happen to have been on the pre-legislative scrutiny committee for this as well as the regulatory reform select committee. In fact a lot of the issues in the Bill are both interesting and important.
Yesterday, for example, there was a discussion about Apprenticeships. These are important as they are a good route into work for young people. There has been a big growth in apprenticeships under this government. Labour have been critical because many of the apprenticeships are at NVQ level 2 rather than level 3 or 4. In fact about 60% are at level 2.
Labour, therefore, proposed an amendment to the bill to ban apprenticeships that are level 2 (ie scrap the Intermediate one, the Advanced one is Level 3 and the Higher one level 4).
I will hunt up the record of the debate from yesterday when it is published. However, I think that is wrong. It is not a bad idea to do what we can to increase the standards. However, there are over half a million young people on Intermediate Apprenticeships. Scrapping this type of apprenticeship is not something that seems to have merit to me.
It would be better to simply aim to increase the quality and skills involved without excluding people from the process.
The debate is here
Shale Gas, Oil Reserves and Energy Prices
story today reports that there may be more Shale Gas in Northern England than was previously thought. Within the report it says: "But it could take two years to see if the gas is commercially viable."
Realistically no one knows with any great certainty what fossil fuels remain under ground. It is important to remember that it takes energy to get fossil fuels out of the ground. The harder to get hydrocarbons take more energy. That is a key factor in whether the fields are "commercially viable".
On the right hand side of this blog I display the Oil prices for West Texas Intermediate and Brent. The difference between the two historically was low. Shale gas production in the USA drove down the WTI price (gas could not then be exported from the USA). What is happening now is that the prices are coming together (or moreso WTI is going up to Brent).
The conventional wisdom is that with the USA becoming an oil exporter again and additional oil from Iraq and Iran that prices will go down. That is not happening now, but we shall see. I would be interested in a continuation of Chris Skrebowski's forecasts as they operate over a 5 year time scale, but I have not seen a recent production of those.
None of this changes the need to get more energy efficient. Energy prices do, however, underpin economic activity and if we see a big jump then that will pull back the worlds economies. If there is a big drop then the worlds economies will pick up further.
We also must not forget the issue of climatic change. I recently read a paper written by G S Callendar published in 1938 which is interesting in the context of current debates. I can email a copy of the PDF to anyone who is interested in the science of the issue.
Leicester Couple emigrate to Northern Cyprus
case shows that Habitual Residency is not just an issue as to where someone is living. I think the court decision is in fact wrong as the links to the UK had been cut. However, I am aware of cases where people have left the UK, but continue to claim benefits in the UK. That would mean that they are inherently habitually resident in the UK. To change habitual residence is more than just flying out.