Fracking and the Infrastructure Bill
I was surprised given the Green Party's opposition to Fracking that Caroline Lucas did not vote against the Infrastructure Bill on Monday evening.
The point about the infrastructure bill is that although there was no specific vote as to whether or not to change the laws on trespass for Geothermal Energy and Fracking, there was an opportunity to oppose the bill as a whole.
The Bill did include good things like a cycling and walking strategy, but there were also things that one would have expected the Green's to oppose in addition to Fracking.
The final 3rd reading question can be seen being put here (7 hours 23 minutes and 56 seconds from the start of the video)
. No one was there who shouted no.
Soveriegn Debt Interest Rates
The FT have a useful information page which gives the 10 year interest rate on government debt
The rates are particularly low in the Eurozone apart from Greece at the moment. The UK is also particularly low.
I will extract the current figures for future reference:
Ten year government bond spreads
The end result of these, however, is essentially that Greece is no longer in a position where it can borrow money from people generally (aka the Markets) at a low interest rate. If someone was willing to lend Greece some money at a lower rate then it becomes possible.
Manhole Cover Explodes in Tyseley - twice!
There has been a growth recently in the number of reports of exploding Manhole Covers. One in Tyseley exploded yesterday on the Warwick Road close to Tyseley station yesterday. There are quite a few press reports about this including a video of a little girl who was almost hit by the cover.
The detail is in various press reports including this one.
I have been down to look into it. When it exploded the lights went off with a power surge in at least one local shop. That would imply that the explosion was linked to power supplies in some way. However, the cover that flew off was actually from the telecoms manhole. There were three manholes close together. National Grid (gas) were down to look at the gas supplies and that was not an issue.
There has been a growth in such explosions from under 10 a year a few years ago to over 60 last year. The normal cause is from decaying insulation caused by water on power cables.
I have written to OpenReach (BT), Western Power (the MEB) and National Grid to pin down what is going on and why when the same thing happened at the same location 9 months ago that it still happened again.
Although it is good to report that no-one was hurt in this instance, people have been hurt on other occasions. The HSE raised the issue with the utilities companies last year, but it is unclear that this has resulted in the right action.
I have put in a parliamentary question about this and will keep constituents in touch with the outcomes.
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PLAN 1Gbit PCI 2.1 Intel® I210 T1
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Conservatives Plan to Close Down e-Commerce
Well ... that's not what they are presenting it as. Instead they are talking about banning encryption. See here
When I say I am a cryptographer I mean that I implemented the second version of the SSL (now TLS) encryption system in the world after Netscape back in 1995. I have written the software for RSA encryption.
What would it mean to ban encryption?
Well the most obvious use of encryption is for web interfaces with the https:// type of URL. http:// is hyper text transfer protocol (without encryption) and https is with encryption.
Properly implemented it is secure. It is used for Hotmail (now outlook.com), facebook, twitters and all electronic communications including online banking.
If you want to find out whether you are using encryption or not just look at the url.
Hence if they are aiming to ban encryption then they want to stop all e-commerce as well because it all uses encryption.
Judicial Review and the Crime and Courts Bill
Questions have been raised as to the modifications In Division 130
as to the basis upon which a decision by a public authority can be quashed by judicial review.
The change introduced by the Crime and Court Bill means that apart from a few exceptions if the court is asked to quash a decision because of procedural flaws it is not to do so if the decision if when remade is highly likely to result in a not substantially different outcome. The few exceptions relate to the "exceptional public interest".
The difficulty is that for decisions that are subject to judicial review (which does not apply to primary legislation of course) the simple fact that judicial review has been applied for can introduce a long period of delay. That delay in itself can harm the public interest. Hence to apply a filter at the permission stage which means that applications for judicial review that are unlikely to result in a final change to the decision are rejected at that stage then stops the delay from happening.
The government's final compromise was to allow the judges if they believes that something is in the exceptional public interest to continue to review (and thereby delay the implementation of) a decision even if it appears to be merely on a technicality.
The NHS and TTIP
There is a lot of confusion about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the NHS. The NHS Confederation has produced a dedicated web page Here
relating to TTIP.
My own view is that the NHS should be kept out of TTIP. I don't personally believe that it is in TTIP at the moment. On the NHS Confederation Web Page there is a lot more information. I will extract one part of this below, but really people should read the web page (referred to above) if they are interested in more information.
Specifically on the web page it says: "Jean-Luc Demarty, Director General for Trade at the European Commission, wrote to Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the House of Commons Health Committee, on 11 December 2014, giving further, more explicit assurances that the EU intends publicly-funded health services to be excluded from the TTIP agreement. Publicly-funded services delivered by private, or third sector organisations will also be protected. EU practice is that "ratchet" mechanisms "locking in" liberalisation will not apply to public services, so that future governments will be free to change policy direction. "
It may be that the TTIP agreement is never concluded. However, I also beleive that we need an open judicial process rather than a ISDS type system. The ECJ has its flaws, but at least it is an open system of justice.