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Showing posts from May, 2005

Labour's "independent" investigators

The DTI have appointed "independent" investigators to further investigate what happened with MG Rover. This will be the second "investigation". It will also be the second investigation to omit looking at the involvement of the DTI, The Labour Government and others in the Labour Party. Questions that need to be answered include: a) Did the government and or Labour Party cooperate with others in excluding independent community and workforce scrutiny at the start. b) Why did noone take any action in 2003 when it was possible to improve the situation. c) What involvement does the DTI have in causing the administration.

Le vote français plonge l'Europe dans une période d'incertitudes

The vote in France on the Constitution does raise complex issues. Like many of these debates the issues that determined the vote were probably mainly nothing to do with the constitution itself. Looking at the text it appears to be a bit messy and something generated very much for the convenience of the bureaucracy. The simplistic "pro-European" argument is that "something must be done" - "this is something" - "therefore this must be done". I do like Graham Allen's approach which is one of revisiting the issue. The failure to agree the constitution has no immediate effect. However, we really do need to understand what we are trying to achieve. Do we want a "light touch" Europe which maintains a customs union and economic union. Alternatively do we want something that in terms of an "ever closer union" gradually eradicates differences between different parts of the union as they get "ever closer". I personally

The European Constitution

With a bit of luck the French will kick the European Constitution into the long grass today. However, otherwise it is likely that the issues will start being considered in the UK relatively soon. As with many of these debates the key issues will be swallowed up in an ill-informed debate concentrating on straight bananas and the like. The key question for me is the balance of power between the centre and localities (be they the UK parliament, Various assemblies or local authorities). The European Union was made into a Federal System by Margaret Thatcher with the Single European Act 1987. The SEA introduced qualified majority voting into the Council of Ministers. Before that all governments had to agree substantial policies or they failed to be agreed. Clearly there is a role for some Qualified Majority Voting. Within the EU there are three types of decision in the bodies where people are represented by governments. Simple Majority Qualified Majority Voting. "A qualified majority

Blogs and the net

Political Hack a Birmingham based Labour Party activist jumps to my defence (thankyou) for writing a blog. I did not see Paul Dale's Iron Angle column as actually being an attack on the concept of running a blog. I run a blog for a number of reasons. It is an effective communication tool. I can put details on about issues relating to my constituency. They are then automatically indexed by the search engines so people can find current information. People who know I do this will know where to look. Although possibly 2/3rd of my constituents don't have access to net at the same time we are still putting out leaflets and the like. On a wider basis it prevents me from having to do press releases. Any newsworthy information can be put on the blog. I tend to work with a small number of journalists (eg Paul Dale, David Bell, Jonathan Walker, Jonathan Guthrie). This makes my life easier. If I have what I think a newsworthy story I will put it on the blog and talk to a specific j

That oil question

The DTI claim the UK will be a net importer of oil by 2010. Using the figures from my answer of 2004 having 88 MTOE production and 82 MTOE consumption and taking the figures from the DTI website (see link) of 22.6 production in Q1 2005 as opposed to 25.5 production in Q1 2004 one would presume that the UK already is a net importer of oil in Q1 2005.

An interesting answer about "surestart"

I asked where the SureStart centres would get the funding from after the government's 6 years funding stopped and the answer is: "Centres would also be able to generate additional revenues by charging parents for some of their services such as childcare." I have also heard today that I now have an office. They have avoided the question on cuts in hospital beds. I have done a graph following the Answer on oil production The government claim the UK will be a net importer of oil in 2010. The trend on a straightline basis from the answer is 2005. I have previously estimated 2007. There are 16 universities that do degrees in culinary arts The challenge is where that relates to other cooking qualifications. My main concern is with the government encouraging people to spend money on a degree level qualification for a job that pays £15K (eg a Pastry Chef). Interstingly I am getting the answers to my own written questions more efficiently from than

Robbers let off

The same story in the post This story appeared on the blog a while ago. The problem arises when youths become aware that all they will get is a caution which then facilitates a substantial amount of crime. There is a role for cautions, but this is not it. At the same time we need to link to communities to handle probation and community service issues. I have been working with people within the communities of Birmingham to look at behaviourial modification. The only certainty at the moment is that the current system does not work properly.

Emigration rockets under Labour

Emigration has gone up substantially under Labour. It is clear that people are less happy living in Tony Blair's Britain. The link is the first response to one of my Written Questions from last Friday. It shows an increase from just under 240,000 people a year in the mid 1990s to over 350,000 a year in 2002 and 2003. I suppose from Labour's point of view many of these are not Labour voters. It is an important issue because is relates to quality of life. There are people who have said to me that life in the UK is getting so aggressive that they want to leave (and are doing so).

The key health debate

I find it interesting that perhaps the key health debate has not really hit the media. The question is how to organise the health service. Should we move everything towards "primary care" GPs. Alternatively should we be looking instead at creating more care through institutions. There has been a heavier burden in recent years in Accident and Emergency units. Some of this is caused by the difficulties in booking appointments with GPs. Other aspects lie with the fact that there is total confusion as to how many people are actually registered with GPs in comparison to those who live in an area. There are potentially a number of different strategies that could be adopted. That which finds favour in government at the moment is a substantial reduction in hospital beds - which will reduce hospital infection because people won't go to hospital. There is some merit in this argument, but it seems to be driven far too strongly down the route of scrapping beds. (Which after al

Liverpool Dispute

This dispute in Liverpool is interesting because it it not unique. I have heard of a large number of instances when Council Officers (and particularly senior council officers) have used the Standards Board as a threat against Councillors. In at least three authorities the leader of the council has been removed from office for things which vary, but would not normally be judged as being corrupt. In practise the whole system which involved sacking a Labour councillor for going out of the wrong door, sacking a Lib Dem Councillor for writing to an MP and suspending an independent councillor for being rude about officers undermines democracy. Oddly enough MPs are allowed to be rude whilst councillors are not supposed to be rude however upset they are. With the Audit Commission applying tight constraints and targets on local authorities this government has massively undermined local democracy. In a number of local authorities you end up with a situation in which there is a tension between

Moor St Station

The saga with Moor St Station is an example of the difficulties of coordinating large numbers of different organisations. We have new platforms, but Network Rail won't sort out the signalling.

The 4x4 debate

As someone who both drives a Land Rover Discovery and also is a member of Greenpeace it strikes me that this is some form of confusion going on. Various Greenpeace activists (from outside Birmingham) disrupted the Moat Lane plant last week. Greenpeace say: "The Land Rover Discovery only does 12 miles per gallon in the city" that's from the web page linked above. Land Rover say: Urban L/100km (mpg) TDV6 Manual 11.5 (24.6) TDV6 Auto 13.2 (21.4) V8 petrol 20.9 (13.5) Now my own vehicle does far better than 12mpg. Indeed the diesel figures are actually 24.6mpg for the Discovery 3 (that's for Urban motoring) Greenpeace may be better arguing that people should buy diesel Discoveries as they do 24.6mpg rather than the petrol ones which do 13.5mpg. I wonder if they have read the wrong column and are quoting the figures of the numbers of Litres required to do 100km.

Its a bit like nessie really

Danny Alexander who is MP for Inverness, Nairn, Something and Other (Badenoch and Strathspey for those who wish to know) also is MP for Loch Ness and hence the Loch Ness Monster (Nessie) is one of his constituents. This cat: is a bit like Nessie. Patches I have only managed to get photos of in a very blurred manner. However, in guarding bottles of booze Patches has stayed still. It remains that there are two cats to go. They are rarer specimens. The one that the Labour Party have claimed is dead is in fact live and growling (it sort of growls in the middle of the night) and I may get another photograph of it. In the mean time we have the Birmingham version of Monopoly in the House of Commons Library.

What do these MPs have in Common?

William Hague, Eddie O'Hara, John Redwood, John Hemming, Chris Huhne, John Hutton, George Osborne, Dominic Grieve, Jeremy Hunt, Sion Simon. (Also Viscount Eccles, but he is not an MP) and does it matter? I knew about some, but not all.

Maiden Speech text

I have linked the text from Hansard of my maiden speech. The issue of the No 99 bus is quite an urgent issue. The difficulties arise from the 1985 Transport Act and the fact that it is difficult to plan bus services such that they work in a planned manner. London is allowed to use sector tendering. Why is Birmingham required to have a free for all.

Maiden Speeches

One of the unwritten rules of parliament is that you are supposed to do a "maiden speech" before asking questions, writing amendments, Early Day motions or going into the ballot for a private members bill (which is next week). I did my maiden speech today along with 3 other Lib Dems (David Howarth - Cambridge, Julia Goldsworthy - Falmouth and Camborne and Danny Alexander - Inverness, Nairn, something and other). I promised to put a copy of the Birmingham version of Monopoly in the House of Commons Library which I did after the debate. Rob Flello (Stoke on Trent South) who used to be Birmingham City Councillor for Longbridge also did one as did another 3 Labour MPs and I think 2 Tories.

Make Poverty History

Today was a demonstration by the "Make Poverty History" campaign. On Monday I spoke to a diplomat about the actions of Western Governments. He was quite cynical in that lots of nice words are spoken, but little action occurs. This is probably more to do with the nature of systems of government than anything else.

The Queen's Speech

The Queen's Speech really demonstrates why this government is so incompetent. It seems quite clear to me that the government at the most senior level don't really understand what is happening on the ground. The normal systems of feedback are not operating properly. This was seen when the GP targets stopped people from booking appointments in advance. One of the bills talks about having laws fade away. One hopes that this does not apply to Habeas Corpus which has been on the statute book since the 1600s. On Health Improvement they really need to be looking at the way anti-biotics are handled. Too many diseases are developing resistance and still anti-biotics are prescribed for viral infections (at the request of patients). It really seems odd if statutory legislation is needed to improve cleanliness. As far as getting private contractors into do NHS work they need to tread quite carefully. There can be systems of feedback that come in to undermine the core NHS and result i

Opening of Parliament

There are many odd customs in Parliament. One is that one can only book a seat if you turn up and put a prayer card in. If you are not, however, in the chamber when it starts sitting then you lose your place. Together with three other Liberal Democrat MPs from the Year of 2005 I took part of the vigil on the electoral system. is a photograph of Steve Williams MP for Bristol West and myself. Whilst uploading the images I found another cat. Still no white persian though. There are, however, three cats to go. I have also been sent the press release about the deportation last Sunday from the group that went to Israel. It appears following: A group of seven women from Birmingham were barred from entering Israel and deported back to Birmingham from Tel Aviv airport last Sunday, after being threatened with imprisonment. They were going to deliver money raised at an ecumenical fundraising meal and money collected by the local Catholic Community for projects working with malnourished chil

Press release on Democratic Mandates

Research commissioned by John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, has revealed that the democratic mandate (proportion of citizens voting for the government) of the Blair Government is the lowest of the Countries that are members of G8 and lowest of all, but Poland in the EU. Taking all the countries in the EU and G8 only Poland's government has weaker support in the electorate at 19%. The elections in Poland, however, resulted in a minority government. Only four countries the UK, Poland, Latvia and Canada had support from less than 1 in four of the electorate with Latvia's government having slightly more support than the Blair government. Canada, however, also has a minority government. The Czech Republic, Ireland, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia has support from between 1 in 4 and 3 in 10 of the electorate. The USA, Japan, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Sweden has support between 3 and 4 in 10 of the el

Why Labour are missing the point on Yobbery

On Tuesday 10th May at about 3pm two youths snatched an I-pod off a 15-year old lad on the Coventry Road near the Swan Shopping Centre. He contacted his mother who then drove after the bus towards Sheaf Lane in Sheldon where she confronted the theives. She then chased them down the Coventry Road towards Topps Tiles whilst taking to the police. Three police cars were involved and the two youths (aged 15/16) were arrested. This was not an isolated incident. Four similar incidents had occurred in the same location in the last two weeks. The Crown Prosecution service decided that they could not prosecute because there was no actual violence. The youths were let off with a caution. It is clear in this instance that there was fear on the part of the victim. Theft from a person is one of the most frightening experiences. This incident (which is not isolated) gives an example of why it appears that Tony Blair's Government are in power, but unable to actually influence what happen

Warning - don't cycle your (tebbit) bike too far

One interesting case at today's advice bureau was where someone had gone to work in Bulgaria for just over 3 months. On return they are deemed to be "Not Habitually Resident" in the UK and as such cannot get benefits. Perhaps this is a mechanism used by Tony Blair to increase emigration. This should, however, be an easy case to sort. Another interesting case was a group of Brummies who were deported from Israel. Superficially it appears the main reason was that one of them had visited Pakistan.

Labour miss the point

I share the view of the Electoral Reform society that Labour's announced changes to the postal vote regulations are "too little too late". It would be possible to structure a system where postal ballots are distributed by post, but (for people able to walk) cast in a mixture of advance polling stations at useful locations then collated and returned by election day. Alternatively we could just take the Northern Irish option. Labour are ignoring the issue of intimidation and "undue influence". I wonder why?

Shortage of Beds causes operations to be cancelled

To quote from the article: Andrew Walker, director of operations at Good Hope Hospital, said the trust was striving to cut cancellations. "The main reason for cancellations was lack of beds, which reflects particular pressures we face," he said. "We have seen a particularly high growth in A&E attendances. This has led to a record rise in emergency admissions, putting particularly heavy pressure on our bed capacity. In the mean time the Strategic Health Authority is planning to cut bed numbers.

Different democratic mandates in EU countries

Latest EU parliamentary/presidential elections: Votes for ruling party/coalition Votes % of registered voters (a) % of the voting age population (b) Parliaments Austria Austrian People's Party 2,076,831 35.1% 32.1% Freedom Party of Austria 491,328 8.3% 7.6% Coalition total 2,568,159 43.4% 39.7% Belgium Flemish Liberals and democrats 1,009,223 13.3% 12.6% SP.A-Spirit 979,750 12.9% 12.2% Socialist Party 855,992 11.3% 10.7% Reformist Movement 784,954 10.4% 9.8% Coalition total 3,629,919 47.9% 45.4% Czech Republic CSSD 1,440,279 15.3% 18.4% Koalice 680,671 7.3% 8.7% Coalition total 2,120,950 22.6% 27.1% Denmark Left, Liberal Party of Denmark 974,636 24.3% 23.6% Conservative people's party 345,343 8.6% 8.4% Coalition total 1,319,979 32.9% 32.0% Estonia Estonian Centre Party 125,718 14.8% 11.7% Estonian Reform Party 87,650 10.3% 8.2% Estonian People's Union 64,470 7.6% 6.0% Coalition total 277,838 32.7% 25.9% Finland Finnish Centre 689,147 16.3% 16.6% Finnish Social Democratic Pa

General Election Declarations of Identity Not available

Interestingly whereas it is possible to inspect the Declarations of Identity for up to 6 months after a local election, the General Election Declarations of Identity have been packaged up and sent off to Hayes. This makes checking the situation even harder. Incidentally this is my first blog entry typed from inside the Parliamentary Estate. I have now got my communication systems working properly and in such a manner as I expect to work for the next n years. (where n is not necessarily an integer)

A visit to Downing Street

One of the issues that is clear from the General Election is that we need to change the electoral system as well as the procedures for casting votes. To highlight this issue I today sent a letter to Tony Blair. The letter said: I note that only 1 in 5 of British Citizens voted for your party in the General Election. Many of these voters were voting tactically. This clearly shows that you do not have a democratic mandate. Has the time not come for changing the electoral system for parliament to enable that governments have the positive support of citizens. I also arranged for 5 people to show the effects of the current system. - Only 61.3% of people voted. The figure in Germany was just over 79%. With Labour's vote at only just over 35% the percentage of the electorate voting Labour is 21.57%. Out of 5 people, therefore, roughtly 2 didn't vote. One voted for Blair, one voted Conservative and One voted for Lib Dems (and others). I also handed in the letter to Tony Blair.

VE Day

I spent much of today at the VE Celebrations in Victoria Square with the brood. The children quite enjoyed the street party as did many other thousands of people who were there. I took out an hour or so to go to the Eid Millad un-Nabi celebrations in South Yardley ward at which I spoke about VE day. It does appear that the government are not really inclined to learn from history.

First Advice Bureau

This morning I took the speakers on tour around the Consituency to thank mt constituents. I spent a short time at the Yew Tree using the Radio Mike to talk to my supporters. At 11am was the first advice bureau. The advice bureau is held at the usual location for Saturday advice bureaux ie 1772 Coventry Road.

Thankyou 13,648 times to the people of Yardley

As the newly elected MP for Yardley I am intending to start my campaign of listening to the people of Yardley. Sadly, however, today I need to attend a funeral. The campaign will, therefore, start tomorrow. Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have not posted anything for a few days. I have been a bit busy. However, normal service will resume in the near future (and hopefully a picture of more of the cats). Name Party Votes % +/- % John Hemming Liberal Democrat 13,648 46.4 +8.1 Jayne Innes Labour 10,976 37.3 -9.6 Paul Uppal Conservative 2,970 10.1 -3.0 Robert Purcell British National Party 1,523 5.2 +5.2 Mohammed Yaqub UK Independence Party 314 1.1 0.0 Majority 2,672 9.1 Turnout 29,431 57.7

"Political Hack" on wrong tail of cat (I am not Blofeld)

"PoliticalHack" a Labour Party activist who secreted a camera in our underground centre of world domination in Sheldon believes: Is John Hemming really some kind of Blofeld character? Is the plan for a Birmingham underground system just a cunning distraction from his real plans? An undercover camera took this picture in Yardley yesterday at the Coventry Road office... To confirm that two of the cats for which I pay the food bills are not white persians here are the photos: - Waif and Kitty are two of the six cats that can be found prowling the Hemming residence from time to time. Neither, as can be seen, are white persians notwithstanding smears from the Labour Party.