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Showing posts from 2015

Forum Shopping in Public Family Law - emigrating to escape the system

It remains that until the courts allow independent experts who are not employees of the local authority or otherwise beholden to the local authority that parents will very often (but not always) not get a fair trial.

Simply put the bias in the evidence results in an almost inevitable bias in the conclusions. I will update this post with more detail when I get some time, but I thought it would be useful to put two links in to two of the organisations that help people once they have left the UK.

In Ireland we have:
In the Czech Republic there is:
Children of the voiceless

High numbers of babies taken at birth

This is one of a number of stories about the high numbers of babies taken at birth in England.

Any reader of this blog will now that this is not news. There is a well written research document that looks at this. It particularly looks at repeat removals. The original paper is here

The question that needs to be answered. However, is why other countries with exactly the same set of facts end up sending mum home to look after her baby when England takes the baby at birth. We know that this is the case because people leave the country to avoid children being removed at birth (aka Forum Shopping).

An analysis of the English Looked After Children Population

The government produces an annual statistical report of the numbers of children that are looked after by local authorities as at the end of March. This comes from the SSDA903 return produced by local authorities. They compare this number to the number of children adopted from care each year. That, of course, is a statistical error as they are comparing numbers of children to numbers per year. However, it is worth looking in a bit of detail at the numbers anyway: The total number of children in looked after by local authorities (apart from short term placements) as at 31st March 2015 was 69,540. Of those 19,850 were voluntarily in care under S20 placements. 290 were in the youth justice system. That leaves 42,030 under interim or final care orders - I assume that also includes an EPO, 20 "freed for adoption." That means they were identified as needing adoption by 30 December 2005 and still have not been adopted. (See A&S v Lancashire County Council for an exam…

Snoopers Charter: It cannot work

In The Telegraph today it is reported that the government are going to try to legislate to collect internet Metadata again.

This cropped up I think two years ago and there were a number of meetings in the Commons about it. I pointed out the technical problems. The basic technical problem is that encryption is designed to prevent what is called a "man in the middle" attack. Encryption operates from client to server and no-one in the middle is supposed to find out anything about the communication. Hence if people are using proxy servers outside the UK Jurisdiction it becomes impossible to garner any useful information from this beyond which proxy server is being used.

It was reported that some in the security services did not want a generalised recording of metadata as this would result in more people using encryption, not just those who knew they were breaking the law. I thought these simple facts had kicked this proposal into touch, but clearly not.

In the matter of: CB (A child)

Unusually the Supreme Court in refusing permission to appeal of the above case has given reasons. I am assuming that is because the Latvian government supported the mother in the appeal and it is really high profile in Latvia (including being the subject of a debate today in the Latvian Parliament). There have been a number of public judgments and the refusal of permission by the Supreme Court is a public document. Here is the case when last in the Court of Appeal. This was an appeal from this High Court case. The case started off with two incidents. The first was when the mother was stopped by the police crossing the road whilst walking home in the early hours of the morning. She had taken her shoes off because they were causing her pain and placed them on the buggy in which she was pushing her younger daughter. She had been drinking with a friend that evening. Her younger daughter was returned home to be looked after by her elder daughter. The second incident was more seriou…

Statistical First Release - Children in care 2014/15

The SFR has been published recently. In many ways it exhibits the same trends. Of the 69,540 children looked after 41,410 are 10 and over. Only 28,140 are under 10. 19,850 are in looked after voluntarily (S20) and the rest in some form of compulsory care. 5,330 were adopted from care. 4,280 were under 5. The number of children in care under 5 is 13,820. Hence if you look at the proportion of children adopted from care as the ratio of the number under 5 compared to the number adopted the figure (expressed as a percentage) is 30.6 (it is not a proper percentage because of the failure of dimensional analysis). There is a jump in the number of East Europeans looked after with "white other" going up from 2210 to 2550 and Gypsy/Roma going from 220 to 250. I expect to get my analyses that look in more detail at what is happening with children under 5 later this year or early next year, but the system is clearly still going wrong in a big way.

Glee Club Bournemouth September 2015

This week's glee club was particularly good. I copy below a photo of the event:
Thanks to Jonathan Wallace for the Photo.
There are a number of short videos on twitter.

Dub Side of the Moon

One of my favourite albums of the 70s was Dark Side of the Moon. This is an interesting alternative version in a Reggae style.
Mainly I prefer the original, but This version of Time (I have linked to the start) is interesting.

Parents Want a Say - Resignation of Karen Wilkinson and John Hemming

Karen Wilkinson and I have today resigned from PWAS (Parents Want a Say). The group has achieved some notable successes in the campaign to reverse the term time holiday regulations but it is clear there are irreconcilable differences over governance and organisational development. We believe the issue of unreasonable treatment of parents by schools in terms of absence as a result of government pressure remains important and we will be creating a new campaigning organisation to continue the campaign in this area.

Martin Narey and Adoption Statistics

I have recently had a look at This post which references Martin Narey's speech about adoption numbers earlier this year. In that speech he said:

I don’t think adoption can ever be suitable for other than a minority of children in care. But I think that minority is probably more than 5,000 or just 7% of the care population”
This goes to the nub of the statistical misunderstanding that has gone on for over a decade. The number of children in care is a static number. The number adopted per year is a number of children per year. You cannot sensibly compare one to the other. Because children stay in care for multiple years you need to look at the numbers of children going into care (per year).

I take the view that you need actually to ignore the children placed in care under S20 and also to concentrate on those for whom adoption is a likely option (the younger ones). The sad thing is that this innumeracy lies behind the drive to increase adoption numbers to stupid levels.

Coventry is not part of the West Midlands Conurbation

It was interesting to read today the proposals from Warwickshire County Council that the city region combined authority for Coventry should be one for Warwickshire as well. Frankly this is a bit of a no brainer. Warwickshire curls around Coventry and is clearly in the economic city region. It is only people who reside in the Whitehall that believe that Coventry is best placed with Greater Birmingham. City Regions work as units of devolution if they have essentially economic city regions of a city and its travel to work area. Hence Lichfield, Bromsgrove, Kidderminster, Tamworth and Redditch fit comfortably into the wider Greater Birmingham area, but Coventry does not. It always caused tensions in the past and will continue to undermine the common interest of a Greater Birmingham City Region if it is continued.

Adoption and Care Statistics a reconciliation

Maryline Stowe's website kindly invited me to do a guest post. I did this about adoption statistics. A response with questions has been written by Lucy R on the transparency project blog

I have written this blog post to answer the questions and reconcile the statistics. All figures are figures for the English jurisdiction. Most (if not all) are based upon the SSDA903 return. The SSDA903 return is an annual electronic return from Children's Services Authorities to the Department for Education. It includes details of each change of legal status and each change of placement status for children in care. I have had additional analyses done by the DfE statisticians - which is what the source of the spreadsheets that I have uploaded is.

The most widely known analysis from the SSDA903 return is the Statistical First Release. This is normally issued in the September after the end of the Financial Year that it is relevant to. Hence the 2014 SFR can be found in a PDF form here, b…

Old Birmingham Constituency Boundaries

When I did my maiden speech in 2005 I had some research from the House of Commons Library about the Yardley Constituency. There has, in fact, been a constituency of Birmingham, Yardley since 1918. I think I have uploaded the maps prior to Yardley joining Birmingham (1911). From the 1832 Reform Act Yardley was part of East Worcester constituency until I think 1885.
I have scanned and uploaded all the maps I had from the House of Commons Library and link to one of the documents on this page. If I have a lot of time I might organise them in a structure. Flickr allows paging through Images, however. Hence if you want to see what is available click right and left

The Historic Counties of Birmingham

The Ordnance Survey have uploaded here maps of the historic counties of the UK. These varied over time, but I have extracted the boundaries for Birmingham so show where the old counties used to end.

What I found interesting was that Stoney Lane through to Walford Road were the boundary between Worcestershire and Warwickshire making the junction of the Stratford Road and Warwick Road fully in Worcestershire. Thanks be to the OS.

I am not sure of the date and I thought that Harborne was at one stage in Staffordshire. Having glanced at Wikipedia it appears that Harborne moved into Warwickshire in 1891.

This demonstrates the relationship between historic counties and current ceremonial counties in the North of England.

Interesting Bus Photos

These photos are from my archives and I found them when getting rid of some old floppy discs. They were taken in the late 1990s. I thought they were an interesting historical record, however, so have uploaded them to flickr.

I asked a question of the Prime Minister (when it was Gordon Brown) about bus regulation. I think the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is getting the powers to do this. I hope we make similar progress in the West Midlands. I don't think such dangerous driving is commonplace today, but would be interested to hear of any examples. I remember getting some media attention for the issue in the 1990s when these photos were taken, but beyond the GM combinened authority I am not sure any progress has been made on the underlying issue (Which is about sector tendering).

Birmingham UNA - The Magna Carta and the British Constitution

I spoke yesterday at a meeting of the Birmingham UNA about The Magna Carta and the British Constitution. We attempted a livestreaming of this, the bandwidth was too low. Hence I have uploaded the recordings. There were two short recordings of 1 and 4 seconds that I have removed, but there are two recordings of a quarter of a minute and then a recording of 1 hour 17 minutes. These are here:

I have since updated this by trying to improve the sound and putting the three videos together. That is why the start is a bit disjointed.

John Hemming and the Jazz Lobbyists at The Birmingham Jazz Festival 8th July 2015

First Set

Second Set

Band Website
Livestream Website

Ricardo Hausmann on Greece

I haven't linked to this Article by Ricardo Hausmann about Greece on my blog. I have referred to it on twitter, but I wish to have a record on the blog.

With things getting much worse in Greece (unsurprisingly) the government there still seem to be unconcerned about reality.

If the Greeks vote no then many of their banks will probably be insolvent in Euros as they will hold Greek Government Debt which is clearly not worth its face value.   I haven't looked at the balance sheets, but the greek banking system has a debt as a whole of about EUR 90bn to the ECB for ELA.  On the credit side they have government debt.  I don't know how much.  It is unclear what the discount should be, but it does not look good.

I did make this point on Yanis Varoufakis' blog, but it has not got through the censors.

Not surprising really as the government are campaigning for a no vote.

Pop Clients and Windows 8

As a result of the assault by a Magpie on my laptop I have now obtained an updated laptop and am in the process of setting up everything to work on the new machine.  I had avoided leaving the XP operating system because I had a large email archive. I also don't want to use IMAP as I want my database where I can see it.

I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out a number of different POP email clients and to write notes as to my experience of them.

The first one I tried was EM Client. This was quite good although the cursor had a tendency to disappear in some circumstances.

The next one I am trying is DreamMail.  This is written by someone in China whose English is not particularly good, but their computer programming seems quite good (although it crashed in a strange way to start out - this may been linked to trying to get the pop and smtp parameters automatically.)

I particularly like the facility to import a *.dbx file.  In fact you can load a number of dbx files for …

Greece and Spain

Elections are happening in Spain in which a party with a similar view to the Greek Syriza  (Podemos - We can) is putting forward an "anti-austerity" platform.

The difficulty in government is that policies have to work.   The Greeks appear to have put a major hold on payments to suppliers prioritising employees and other objectives.  Inevitably suppliers have put a hold on supplying the Greek government with the consequent damage to public services.  On a cash basis they may have a primary surplus, but with a purchase ledger of EUR 4.4bn and spending EUR 2bn less than budgeted something has to give.

Claiming that they have a primary surplus when it has mainly come from not paying suppliers is obviously misleading.  None of the Eurozone finance ministries are stupid enough to believe what the Greeks are claiming.

Then again when you have this idiot as finance minister it is not surprising they have problems.  Quoting from the linked article:

"Greece’s general government ha…

FMOTL - Magna Carta 1215 and constitutional theories

It remains that some people (sometimes known as Freeman of the Land - aka FMOTL) continue arguing a case based upon a strange interpretation of the UK constitution.  This ends up with a strange distinction between common law and statute law and an attempt to argue really quite unorthodox things.

I am not in itself opposed to things which are unorthodox, but if people do not follow the procedures defined in the UK constitution they should not expect anything to come of this.  I know of a case where someone's mental capacity was removed for relying on this.  I believe that decision to be wrong, but whatever it may be it does not help.

Every so often people try to rely on these theories.  Can I emphasise:

I have never heard of anyone succeeding in the UK on the basis of FMOTL legal theory.  I am quite happy to look in the comments at something.

The most important point to understand is that the UK constitution is based upon a popular revolution from 1688. The constitutional settlemen…

Parliamentary Elections and General Elections

People vote for all sorts of reasons.  Some vote as to who they want to be the local MP.  Others vote as to who they wish to see as the prime minister and there can be combinations in between.

The postal votes in Yardley which were cast about two weeks before polling day gave me 40%, but on the night I only got just over 25%.  This has happened previously.

I had been for some time of the view that the attempt at equidistance from Labour and Conservative was likely to be problematic.   Once we had gone into coalition with the Conservatives we would lose support from people who were unhappy with the government.  Hence if we go into the general election saying we might put Labour in we run the risk of losing support the other way.

My personal view is that we should have campaigned for the continuation of the Lib Dem-Conservative coalition.  That would at least have had some certainty about it.  People tend to vote against risk.  It would also have been easier to argue in that we were pre…

Statistics on Social Housing Builds

This is from Table 241 from DCLG. Social Housing is important. For example families with disabled children cannot get adaptations to private rented property.
Average number of completed properties.

periodprivateregistered social landlordcouncil1980-1997 (Conservative)159,49521,95324,4151998-2010 (Labour)161,06824,8004872011-2013 (Coalition)108,47330,2432,563
On average the coalition built over 5 times the number of council houses compared to Labour and over 5,000 more social houses in total per year.

Why Jess Phillips is wrong to encourage benefits Tourism

One of the threads of the General Election debate both in Yardley and nationally is what is happening to the more vulnerable people in society.

All the vaguely rational parties (and I include part of the Labour Party in this) accept that we need to get government finances under control. The government has income (from taxes and levies etc) and spends money on services (the NHS, police etc). As it stands when the expenditure exceeds the income we have a deficit that needs to be borrowed each year. The government sells fixed term bonds which pay interest each year and then after a number of years the government pays back the capital. Each year also the government has to reborrow some money to pay of the bonds that mature in each year. If the government has a surplus (after paying interest) it can reduce the amount of debt by issuing less debt than it pays off.

The government has been benefiting from being able to reissue debt at a lower interest rate.  This has reduced the defic…

Videos of Candidates

I had hoped that there would be a video recording of the Hustings at South Yardley Library, but sadly although there were people who said they wanted to do it. It did not happen. However, there was a video recording of the short presentation of the four candidates who went to the Birmingham Mail Twitter Hustings.

I have extracted those comments for the four candidates.
Jess Phillips

Teval Stephens

Grant Bishop


Current Odds

The background behind Labour's leaflets in Yardley

The thing that most irritates me about Labour's leaflets is the rubbish about subsistence. As I made clear on this blog earlier I stopped claiming subsistence in April 2009 - as my contribution to reducing the deficit. However, the local Labour MPs did not stop claiming subsistence. Furthermore Jess Phillips has not been obvious in her absence from the annual council dinner. So we are paying for her dinner, we are paying for Roger Godsiff and Liam Byrne's dinner, but I am paying for my dinner myself.

Her second main attack is on me being a successful businessman. For some reason she believes that 67,000 is an ordinary wage that keeps people in touch. I think Eamonn Flynn understands this issue better with his Dave Nellist style approach. A 67,000 income is not an ordinary income. Jess Phillips, in any event, declares three jobs from which she earns money, the Sandwell Job, The Job as Longbridge Councillor and the Job with Jack Dromey. She has not yet explained what…

The Government Tax and the Wealthy

Another of Labour's misleading comments about tax relates to the government and tax cuts for the rich. It is true that the government cut the top rate of tax to 45% from 50%. It is worth noting, however, that it was only at 50% for one month of the Labour Government from 1997-2010. However, if you want to look at how fair policies are then you need to take into account more than just income tax.

Unusually this government has done "distributional analyses" for policies.  There is a distributional analysis that relates to the 2015 budget.  That can be found:


This chart from it looks at the effects from June 2010 through to March 2015 by expenditure decile.

I prefer the expenditure analysis to look at the spending power of households which in many ways is a better indication of economic power than the formal income. You should note from this that the top 10% (the richer households) are paying a lot more in terms of tax than those lower down the expenditure analysis…

Parliamentary Expenses 2005-2010

Labour seem to be concentrating on issues relating to parliamentary expenses from 2005-2010. I am not really surprised that they are trying to mislead constituents about what happened. At the moment Jess Phillips is avoiding questions as to what she is alleging. It remains that an inquiry was done into those expenses for all MPs. I copy the response letter from the enquiry below:

The whole list for all MPs is here

Firefighters Pensions

I have been working with Mike Thornton on the issue of ensuring that the government's commitment to firefighters in terms of their pension (in the case of natural unfitness) is adhered to.

He has put a statement on his website (see above for link) which confirms that we continue to press for a letter of comfort for firefighters.

Nailing the Labour Lie

Labour have just started delivering a dishonest newspaper in the Yardley Constituency.

There are a number of false and misleading items in that newspaper, but one is so spectacularly false that it warrants an immediate response.

The claim is that "while people here are forced to foodbanks". I made an expenses claim for subsistance or food.  They then say "Why were you paying for his dinner."

The facts are easy to find.  Firstly there are two foodbanks that serve people living in Yardley.  The only one actually in Yardley is in Stechford and opened on Friday February 28th 2014.   The other one is in Sparkhill and was I believe created some time in 2011.

It is slightly more complicated finding out what I have claimed for dinner.   The new rules came in at the start of the 2010 financial year (just before the new parliament).

There is a link from which the aggregated expenditure can be identified here:

Birmingham St Patrick's Parade Tipperary Association 2015

So many people take photographs of the parade these days that I don't take a lot of my own and concentrate on playing the guitar instead. Here is the Tipperary County Association's end of parade rendition of "a long way to tipperary".

Attending today's e-conference

Today's e-conference is about Parents Want a Say.  That is about the issues of policy on term time absence at the request of parents and the new rules.

If someone wants to watch the e-conference it will be on Youtube.   When the conference starts (or re-starts) the link will appear on my twitter feed.  Others may copy it elsewhere.  If you wish to watch then simply click on that link.

I am likely to stop and re-start the conference one or more times (depending in part on how hot the central processor on my laptop gets).

If you wish to ask questions then you need to have skype working on your computer.

Someone will act as chair's aide.   This person will handle requests to ask questions.   I will update this blog post with the skype account name of the person dealing with this.  If you want to ask a question you will need to send a skype text message to the chair's aide.  At the right time the chair's aide will give you a skype accoun…

Greece and Austerity

This is an interesting article that looks at the question as to what extent Greece was inherently a financial disaster waiting to happen.

It summarises as: "Greece never had the productive structure to be as rich as it was: its income was inflated by borrowings that weren’t used to upgrade its productive capacity."

There is a difficulty with macroeconomic theories that ignore the nature of the economy and the extent to which it is shored up by unsustainable public spending.
Once you take out that which is unsustainable you then see that which left is far less substantial.  Another useful extract is: "Until 2014, the country did not pay, in net terms, a single euro in interest: it borrowed enough from official sources at subsidized rates to pay 100% of its interest bill and then some. "
It is, however, only a question as to how big the problem has become by the time that the nature of the new clothes of the emperor has been finally determined 
What I find sad is how…

Affordable Housing and Housing Benefit

There was a debate in Parliament yesterday which was interesting because Labour admitted that the Labour government was planning to bring in a flat rate housing benefit payment in the Social Housing Sector.  In Labour's current Phraseology "Labour planned a Bedroom Tax for Social Housing".

The full debate is here:

More importantly, however, I asked a question of the Shadow Minister:
John Hemming: I am aware of the proposal to transfer housing benefit money to local authorities with a view to building more properties. Let me ask this: what pays the rent of the people who are already in tenanted accommodation while the new properties are being built with that money? Helen Goodman: That, of course, is the great conundrum.  [... where she does not answer this question ...] The Shadow minister did not answer this.   If Labour bring in such a policy it will only work by top-slicing the hou…

Yesterday's speech about the role of an MP

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. It contains an entry for JHC, which stands for John Hemming & Co., a company I founded in 1983. It currently employs about 260 staff and has a turnover of £20 million. I have declared in the register an income of around £180,000 from that company. I attend a meeting once a month and chair the board meeting. I am a full-time Member of Parliament. I spend five full days during the week and two half days at the weekend on political business. Oddly enough, the motion is so badly drafted that it would not affect me, because the £180,000 I receive is from a partnership, and the motion does not refer to partnerships. Obviously, there is a lot of confusion about equity interest and payment per hour. I spend under four hours a month on the work set out in my declaration of interests. What do I do? Well, today I met the Latvian Justice Minister, who is concerned about what …