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Showing posts from November, 2005

Russian gas dispute puts European supply at risk

This story is about a dispute between Russia and Ukraine. This has the potential to affect UK gas supplies through the interconnector. It has the potential to reduce our supplies by 25 mcm/d. That, of course, would cut into Medium Term Storage and possibly short term storage. LTS withdrawals are continuing apace even though demand is relatively low for the temperature at about 370 mcm/d. I have set up another blog at to transfer that particular issue to the other blog. This will enable me to avoid one issue dominating this blog. To be fair if we do hit the buffers on this (which I would say is still a 50:50 chance) then it will have a massive impact on the UK. Even now substantial economic damage is being done. Hence I make no apologies for being concerned about the tightness of the gas supply demand balance even though I am still doing a lot of other things.

Written Parliamentary Question: 30th November 2005

Data Protection Q: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will increase individuals' rights under the Data Protection Act 1998. (John Hemming) A: The Data Protection Act 1998, which accurately reflects the requirements of the Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC), puts in place a firm regulatory structure to ensure the legitimate processing of individuals' personal data. It provides substantial rights for individuals in respect of their personal data, including the right of subject access, the right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress, the right to prevent processing for the purposes of direct marketing, rights in relation to automated decision-making, compensation for failure to comply with certain of the Act's requirements, and the right to have data rectified, blocked, erased or otherwise destroyed in certain circumstances. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 also extended individuals' right of subject

Tuesday's gas chart

This is the chart of long term storage. The real problems arise whenever either of the safety monitors is breached. Short term storage (LNG mainly) allows the handling of peaks in demand. It can run at about 47 mcm/d for about 3 days. Medium term can run at 28 mcm/d for (now) 15 days and long term can run (now) for 70 days at 45 mcm/d. The safety monitors exist at 22% of LTS, 13% of MTS and 22% of STS to ensure that if the system cannot cope with demand that it shuts down sensibly. If domestic customers were ever to be cut off that would a) Cause major hardship ... and b) Take some time to reverse as you cannot just switch the gas back on again (pilot lights and all that). Hence the system is designed to ensure that whatever happens we should not have to do that. This means (see earlier) that big consumers are cut off first (such as the electricity generators). The real problem is that during Winter although we can use LTS for 70 days we should not be having to use it now. My gue

Passport Photos

The Home Office claim that their automated systems can recognise a 4 year old from photographs of that 4 year old with their mouth closed and eyes open when they were 2 weeks old. I accept the argument that babies should have passports (although we coped for centuries with children travelling on their parents' passports). However, I cannot believe that it is necessary to be as picky about the photograph of the child. In the mean time over 13% of passport applications are rejected because of the photo not satisfying the government's new conditions.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 29th November 2005

Gas Production/Supplies Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will assess the merits of stipulating a requirement for gas wholesalers to contract for a minimum supply percentage from outside the UK's own resources to guarantee supply levels through interconnectors and liquid natural gas shipments. (John Hemming) A: The regulatory/commercial framework for the gas supply industry, overseen by Ofgem, gives strong financial incentives for companies to have sufficient gas supplies, on a day-by-day basis, to meet their contractual commitments. It is in companies' interests to source gas supplies from a diverse range of sources and supply routes. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State (Energy), Department of Trade and Industry) Gas Production/Supplies Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the total imported gas capacity in millions of cubic metres which will be available per average day in each quarter from Q1 2006 to Q

Written Parliamentary Questions: 28th November 2005

Child Protection Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many children have been placed on the child protection registers by child protection committees as a result of an allegation of Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy in each year since 2002; and how many of those children were taken into care. (John Hemming) A: The Department for Education and Skills does not collect this information, as 'Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy' is not a recommended category for registration on child protection registers, nor is it a ground for the making of care orders under section 31 of the Children Act 1989. (Maria Eagle, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Children and Families) Department for Education and Skills) Silent Telephone Calls Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in what circumstances those making silent telephone calls will not be subject to action from Ofcom following Ofcom's publication of a new policy on silent calls. (John Hemming) A: The

Mothers fear social services

One explanation many gave was that they were afraid that health visitors would call in the social services, leading to the possibility they would lose their children. The extract is from a BBC story (see link) about mothers fearing the involvement of social services. There was an important change in court procedures which started on 1st November which allows people who have been through the family courts to tell others (but not the media) of the details of their case. The problem is that we have ended up in a surreal world where when allegations are made without evidence that there is a need for the subject of the allegations to prove their innocence. If they do not prove their innocence and then continue to deny the allegation they suffer, if they accept the allegation they suffer. Eric Pickles has put down an EDM about this issue. There is a need for a wider scrutiny of what is done in the name of child protection. In the mean time we have the first "high level" risk of

Blair's "winter of discontent"

This winter seems to building into a winter of discontent. The health service is facing substantial problems. The government's solution seems to be to reorganise it. We in Birmingham face either 1 PCT or 3 PCTs. In essence we are going back to a single health authority for the city - a situation much like it used to be about 10 years ago. The withdrawals from storage appear to have ebbed for the weekend with demand running about 20 mcm lower and hence the withdrawals runnning about 20 mcm lower. It remains that domestic customers are last to be cut off and that we will have enough gas to keep that going. However, any gas shipper (utility) short of gas is going to have to pay a system price something like 4 times what they would have done previously. Actual demand yesterday is reported at 351 and forecast for today is 352 (mcm), but Monday jumps to a forecast of 374 - which should take withdrawals from long term storage back up to maximum. At 1pm, however, the forecast flows i

Why so little comment about Gas

What was interesting about today was that the 7 day rolling average of extracts from storage which includes last weeks outy/inny now predicts a number of days less than 100 for breaching the safety monitors. The feeling I have is that people believed the National Grid's Winter Outlook 2005's prediction of 303 from Beach 42 from the interconnector and 13 from Grain. The fact is that Beach and Grain together have only managed to peak at 302 (on 23rd) and the interconnector struggles to get close to 42 even on nominations let alone physical flow. The sums of money are quite big and I expect some large sums of money to be made and lost when the dust settles. I will be interested to see what the demand is over the weekend. Weekend demand is about 20 mcm less than weekdays, but cold weather makes a real difference. If beach manages to keep up to the 300 that it hit on Wednesday it will be doing well. However, in cold weather we risk that all the supplies including storage cannot m

Withdrawal eases for a day

Thursday's withdrawal eased slightly to a net 338, but Friday's nominations (remembering that the day does not finish until 5.59am tomorrow morning) are running at 445 at Rough. One key figure will be Today's demand. Today is a colder day which will have higher demand. The output from Beach and Grain has tipped up to just over 303 (still under the National Grid's forecast).

Independent Energy Scrutiny Panel

I have been that busy with matters (specifically relating to Gas) that I have not managed to talk about the launch of the IESP. I held a meeting with various stakeholders inc Chemical Industries Association, National Farmers Union, Energy Institute, Ofgem, New Energy Foundation and Powerswitch to review the fossil fuel situation. This has been planned before it turned out there was gas calamity. It was agreed that we should form the IESP to challenge the assumptions behind figures provided by various players (Government, Regulators, National Grid etc etc). It is very clear that the figures provided as part of the Winter Outlook 2005 were substantially in error. Not only that but it was a shock. It was such as shock that it appears that Malcolm Wicks did not even know on Wednesday. One of the things that arose during the meeting was that the DTI were refusing to provide information to Ofgem about gas field problems. In the circumstances it sounds totally insane. That is probably b

Gas Crisis: Urgent Question

The link is to hansard for my supplementary question to my urgent question about gas. Basically the situation is that the National Grid are taking gas out of Long Term Storage at the maximum rate. (and did so on Tuesday as well). I quoted the figures for Sat/Sun/Mon. This is not sustainable and if all else remains equal (viz temperatures remain the same, supply is the same) then we breach the safety monitors and have to start shutting down parts of the network by cutting off people on interruptible supplies (industrial users) in late December early January and keeping them off until March. Now in my 45 years of life it has generally got colder through that period rather than warmer and I (and the Met office) would expect that. Hence, unless there is a really good reason to see otherwise, that is likely to happen. I have now managed to source figures as to the detailed inputs into the system. Our new LNG system in the Isle of Grain that is supposed to produce 13 mcm/d peaked at 6 and

Written Parliamentary Questions: 24th November 2005

Predictive Diallers (DCMS) Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many calls were made from call centres in her Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment she has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres.(John Hemming) A: My Department does not operate any call centres. (David Lammy, parliamentary Under-Secretary (Culture), Department of Culture, Media and Sport). Forensic Services Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of whether the forensic services have sufficient capacity available to facilitate the investigation of terrorist offences; and if he will make a statement.(John Hemming) A: Forensic services called upon to assist terrorism investigations come from a number of organ

Written Parliamentary Question: 23rd November 2005

Police Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will revise the Police and Criminal Evidence Code to facilitate the re-interview of terrorist detainees after charge; and if he will make a statement. (John Hemming) A: During Report Stage on the Terrorism Bill on 9 November 2005, my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary agreed to look at whether it might be possible to extend the circumstances in which post charge interviewing can be used in terrorist cases. We are currently reviewing existing legislation in consultation with the police and the CPS. (Hazel Blears, Minister of State (Policing, Security and Community Safety), Home Office) Contingency Planning (Power Supplies) Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what range of scenarios the Government Chief Scientific Adviser is considering in terms of oil and gas reserves for contingency planning purposes.(John Hemming) A: Currently, the Office of Science and Technology, headed by the Government C

Gas crisis worsens

With prices rocketing to £1.70p the market knows there is a problem. On Monday 231 GWh were released from medium term storage and 496 GWh from Long Term Storage. This is actually a faster rate of release from Long Term Storage than is the maximum as defined by the National Grid. This equates to roughly 66 million cubic metres in the day. This shows a particularly worrying trend as it appears that the system is having difficulty maintaining sufficient supplies for demand. Extrapolating from these figures and making the assumption that the reserves do not go below the safety level, this is only sustainable for 43 days. However, making the assumption that the 3 day rolling average of 604 GWh is applicable then this would allow 51 days. Neither of these figures, however, take us into the peak month for gas usage which is February. I accept that about 10 mcm has been injected into the pipes, but it still remains that over 50 mcm extra was taken from storage. Demand is expected to g

Ambush Defences

I went to a meeting with Andy Hayman of the Met last week. I have also discussed matters with a number of other people involved in the Criminal Justice system. It does appear that the key issue that drove the claim that 90 days detention without charge is needed is the idea of preventing an ambush defence where suspects don't comment at all during the pre-trial period and then generate a defence at the trial. The difference in the cautions used pre (and at) charge and post-charge arises mainly from Section 34 b) of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. It is not an entirely full reading of the act and it may not be the case that primary legislation needs to change to handle this, but probably such a change would be useful. I am still awaiting responses on this from a number of groups of people, but I think this could be a route to avoid detaining people without charge for even 28 days.

Does gas run out in 73 days?

Actually no. Although if you take forwards the extraction rates of an average of 431 GWh from Long Term storage then we only have 73 days of gas left in storage at that rate. Between 50 and 70 million cubic metres of gas is being taken from storage each day at the moment. Demand has jumped recently This is a graph of demand from the National Grid. Clearly as to be expected gas demand has jumped massively in November. A lot of gas (11 days of total British Consumption) is stored by Centrica and is the Long Term Storage. If this runs short then we would be short say about 60 mcm a day which is about 1/6th of total usage. A serious problem, but not strictly "running out" of gas. Press Release John Hemming MP has written to Malcolm Wicks MP to ask him to identify what urgent action the government will be taking given that current extract rates from storage predict that we could run out of stored natural gas by the end of February 2006. An analysis released today by Energy Ca

Move to Scrap Cabinet "Generous Golden Goodbyes"

A cross-party move to scrap the deal whereby Cabinet Ministers can get 1/4 of their salary tax free every time they resign has been launched with the tabling of a motion in the House of Commons by John Hemming MP. "The Government", he said, "is planning to cut redundancy payments made to people over 41 next year. In the mean time they have a scheme whereby a cabinet minister gets £18,000 tax free for resigning. This arises from an act of parliament passed in 1991. The end result for David Blunkett is that he got more cash for resigning than he would have got had he stayed in post." "This situation is indefensible. Payments for loss of office should take into account how long the office has been held. If people are popping in and out of the revolving door that leads to the cabinet office then they should not get a generous golden goodbye every time they 'pass go'. Mr Hemming has tabled an Early Day Motion with the support of Lib Dem and Conservati

Government in Nuisance Calls Cover Up

Although John Healey MP says that "The Treasury has no call centres", the linked Departmental Report for 2004 from the Inland Revenue on Page 10 refers to their use of predictive dialling technology. The Inland Revenue is a non-ministerial department that reports to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hence if I had asked him about his "departments" perhaps I would have received a different response. I have now asked the question again as "departments (including the Inland Revenue)"

Written Parliamentary Question: 18th November 2005

NHS Finances Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of NHS bodies are insolvent. (John Hemming) A: No NHS organisations are insolvent. All national health service organisations have sufficient funding to pay their bills within a reasonable time. (Liam Byrne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health) At-risk Children Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many children were on the at-risk register in each local authority in England at the end of each council year since 1989.(John Hemming) A: I have been asked to reply. The information requested is available from the Department's website at: h (Beverley Hughes, Minister of State, Department for Education and Skills) Predictive Diallers (Treasury) Q: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many calls were made from call centres in his Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in cont

Take the government gag off license objectors

EDM 996 OPERATION OF THE LICENSING ACT 2003 Basically if an application is refused or withdrawn and varied slightly then a completely new set of objections needs to be sent to the council. This makes life harder for objectors. There should be some balance on this whereby previous recent comments are taken into account appropriately. I have moved an EDM on this (see link).

Written Parliamentary Question: 16th November 2005

Predictive Diallers (Ministry of Defence) Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many calls were made from call centres in his Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment he has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres.(John Hemming) A: None. Predictive dialling technology is not used by the Ministry of Defence.(Don Touhig, Parliamentary Under Secretary, Ministry of Defence)


These are source from another blog, but that blog takes some time to load hence I have copied the original here. He entitles it "Remember when governments were stupid rather than nasty". “Political suicide can end a career.” - John Major “Suicide is a real threat to health.” - Virginia Bottomley “Anyone would think we were living on some island somewhere.” - George Walden “It’s not the future I’m talking about, I’m talking about tomorrow.” - John Gummer “The trend in the rise in unemployment is downward.” - Gillian Shepherd “The more important things are more important than the less important things.” - Stephen Dorrell “When the IRA plant such bombs, it proves they can scare people, it proves they can kill people, it proves nothing.” - Peter Bottomley “We said zero, and I think any statistician will tell you that… zero must mean plus or minus a few.” - William Waldegrave “Who Sadam Hussein kills, dies.” - Jeffrey Archer “There’s no smoke without mud being flung around.” - Ed

Justice needs to be seen to be done

The truth of the situation appears to be coming out of the woodwork. The police were asked for how many days they would like to have pre-charge and they said "up to 90". Blair then picked on this as a totem with which to batter the opposition. The real problem is that it is the wrong question . The right question is what changes should be made to the criminal justice system be that legislation or guidelines to deal with maintaining both justice and security. I have been working on this with people in Birmingham and went to a meeting with Andy Hayman of the Met. The basic point is that someone should be charged as soon as possible on an evidenced basis then remanded into custody. Following discussion with senior police officers in London and Birmingham as well as lawyers it appears that the issues are as follows. There is a question as to what the standard of proof for charging is. It is not thought by the police that there is an issue here. There is a question as to the

Written Parliamentary Question: 15th November 2005

Ministers (Severance Payments) Q: To ask the Prime Minister how many severance payments a resigning Minister is entitled to within any 12 month period. (John Hemming) A: Severance pay is payable in accordance with section 4 of the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991.(Tony Blair, Prime Minister) Predictive Diallers (Department for Education and Skills) Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many calls were made from call centres in her Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment she has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres.(John Hemming) A: The Department for Education and Skills does not use predictive diallers within call centres. No calls were made using this facility in 2004–05. (Bill Rammell, Minister of S

Bring the trophy to Brum

We do need to encourage English and British teams to see the merit of parading in Birmingham. Birmingham is far more accessible to the much of the country than London and we would do a better job than Trafalgar Square. "When we win the world cup - bring the trophy to Brum", says John Hemming MP. "I have been talking to the FA about parading the trophy in Birmingham when England win the world cup. We can do these things properly.", he said. John Hemming has been talking to the FA about alternative locations to Trafalgar Square. He met up with the scorer of the hat trick Sir Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup and the FIFA world trophy at a meeting in Parliament at which this issue was discussed."

The Terrorism Act applies in Northern Ireland as well

Does this mean that the government will be trying to get rid of all of the Murals. (The link is to the Bill as it stands on the parliamentary website.)

Birmingham Remembrance Parade 2005 Photos

I always attend the Remembrance Parade in the centre of town. It has been held in Centenery Square for some years now. I took a few photos this year. It is sad really that noone does a digital portfolio as it is an important part of Birmingham life. There are remembrance parades in other parts of the city, but the city centre one is the key one. Liz Lynne presents a wreath on behalf of the MEPs and Steve McCabe does one on behalf of the MPs. The Lord Mayor represents the Councillors. The service is normally presented by the Bishop, but his deputy stood in as he has gone off to York. The clerics and Lord Mayor. These are the representatives of various mainly military groups with the regimental banners if appropriate. These are serving members of various groups such as the fusilliers, TA and other uniformed groups including cadets. This is part of the General Public and part of the Legion. Observant visitors will note that it is not only Councillors, MPs, Lord Mayors and (Deputy) B

Terrorist spotted in House of Commons

One of these people may be breaking the law (soon). The gentleman on the Right is playing "King James I" and is entirely safe. The gentleman on the Left is playing "Guy Fawkes" and could be at the risk of being guilty of glorifying terrorism. In the same way any boys who ask for "penny for the guy" next year are taking a risk (particularly if they use a sign). To be fair anyone could be locked up for 28 days whether or not they display a "penny for the guy" sign. The Violette Szabo museum is also taking a risk as is anyone playing a videotape of "allo allo". I accept entirely that the Attorney General may decide that prosecuting such people is not in the public interest, but before I dress up in a Guy Fawkes costume I would wish to get an agreement from the CPS not to prosecute.

The Birmingham Poppy

The above is an example of someone wearing a Birmingham Poppy. There has been a certain amount of Comment about the poppy that I wear in remembrance of the sacrifice of others. The fact is that it is a proper British Legion Poppy. Many men in Birmingham (including the parking attendant photographed in Kings Heath) wear these poppies. There are also more frilly poppies that are also available. Incidentally there is a key distinction between the Scottish Poppy and that of England and Wales (both were on sale in the Members Tea Room). The Scottish Poppy has no oak leaf and has an attached pin. Incidentally I bought my poppy in my constituency not in the House of Commons.

Eric Sallies Forth

Friday was another private members bill day. I had turned up for two bills, but only one got through second reading. The reason for this was Eric Forth. I am not quite sure what he gets out of the process, but he turns up to filibuster the private members bills and as a consequence it becomes harder to get one through the process. A bill has to have 2 hours debate after which, with the agreement of the (Deputy) Speaker it can be moved that "the motion be now put". For that to pass as a division at least 100 MPs need to vote aye. (That is how Clare Short's bill failed, because only 91 MPs voted aye). Eric Forth managed to speak for an hour on the Microgeneration Bill before I came into the chamber. There was a bit of the "usual channels" going on about when he may be forced to end. At the end of it he accepted that if he didn't stop talking at 1.30 he would be forced to stop. Then the second reading passed without a division. The process of a division

Nationaising the Police Force - undermining trust

Gradually Labour have been removing the checks and balances that operate in the constitution. With the gradual nationalisation of the police force we are moving from the historic situation where the home office was responsible for the operation of legal procedures and the rules under which police operated, but did not get involved in operational decisions (apart from in London) to one in which the Home Secretary has at his command the whole police force. This cannot be seen as a good thing even if a relatively small sum of money is saved. The way in which the police were pressurised into lobbying MPs for the flawed internment proposals is sympomatic of a lack of concern with process and a concern merely about outcomes. Process is important because of the effects that bad process can have on undermining people's trust in the system. There are getting to be large groups of people who do not trust the system. This is not just Muslim activists and Animal Rights campaigners. Histor

Questions the Labour Party cannot answer

There are a lot of questions that Labour cannot answer. I asked two of them during the 3rd reading debate yesterday (see link). The Terrorism bill is far from acceptable, but we still need to address how to handle the real situation. I am in the process of making contacts within Birmingham to look at the issue so that we might be able to find a consensual way forwards. There are solutions that assist with what is a very difficult situation. It has to be recognised by the government, however, that detaining people without giving a reason is the last resort. That is what internment is. They try to claim that it is not internment, but from the perspective of anyone outside the process, it is just the same.

Divisions 84 and 85 - Detention without charge

Division 85 (also the link) is the division for inserting 28 days. Division 84 is the division for not inserting 90 days (see ante for reasoning). The Birmingham Mail editorial last night made the key point that Tony Blair had not won the argument. The underlying issue is complex and as often tends to happen the key legal issues got completely lost. After arrest there are two processes charging a suspect and then remanding in custody. Any constraints on reinterview exist only in the PACE* code and not in primary or secondary legislation. It, therefore, rests entirely within the control of the executive (the government) to change the guidance to allow terrorist suspects to be charged quickly and remanded into custody. This would get around the difficulties that would be caused by long periods of detention without charge. Let me emphasise that the issue of detention without charge is key. This is not a matter of there not being a trial, but a matter of there being no proper ident

Written Parliamentary Questions: 9th November 2005

World Cup Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport which day in 2006 has been earmarked for the return of the football World Cup trophy to England in the event of victory in Germany.(John Hemming) A: In the event of the England football team being victorious at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, suitable arrangements to celebrate this success and to welcome both the team and trophy home will be made with the relevant authorities. (Richard Caborn, Minister of State, Department of Culture, Media and Sport). Wholesale Gas Prices I Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the likely variability of wholesale gas prices during winter 2005–06. (John Hemming) A: Variability, or volatility, is a normal part of the working of a well-functioning commodity market. Current UK wholesale spot gas prices are determined by the price of oil and the day-to-day balance between demand and supply in the UK gas market. When the market is tight sm

Internment (the 90 days issue)

The amendments on this issue have been "selected by the speaker". He has selected a committee amendment to replace three months with 90 days then 60 then 28. There is a tactical aspect to this. If the 90 days amendment passed then the others would fall. Strictly the 90 days is an improvement on three months. However, there is a need to vote tactically on this. The underlying issue, however, remains the same. If we introduce Internment in England we are likely to see an increase in violence. This could arise from a range of sources. The new laws will apply to Animal Rights Activists who may not kill people, but do damage. They will also apply to a wide range of other fanatics. There are issues that need to be looked at like the resources available to forensics and issues like facilitating an early charge (even if on a lesser offence). There is nothing in law that prevents a reinterview after an initial charge. The matter that confuses me is why Blair is driving this

Graham Stuart and PCD

This is a picture of Graham Stuart MP for Beverley and Holderness. As with me he uses email a lot and as such needs to use an external mail server (that is external to the House of Commons systems). He, however, cannot get a good enough phone signal in his office so he has to either wander around the garden or sit on this bench at the entrance to the cloakroom to download his emails. The EDM (860) about this now has 27 signatures.

The Picture Desk

Now and again people ask for pictures of me that they wish to use. I have just uploaded some to flickr so that they are generally available. If you want a higher resolution version please click on the photo to get to the flickr account.

Reconciling Division 74

One interesting aspect of Division 74 was that Hansard's list of names and the tellers' count differed by 2 votes on the ayes. When MPs vote they first walk into rooms around the North (Aye) and South (No) of the chamber of the House of Commons. Then they walk out of those rooms. As they walk through the doors out of the rooms (lobbys) they are counted by "tellers". There are two tellers on each exit. One supports aye and the other supports no so there are four tellers in all. Inside the lobbys there are people sitting at three high desks with lists of names and they tick of the names of MPs as they walk past them. Clearly you can count the name listed as well as count the people leaving the rooms. Your party gets stressed if you don't vote with it. That can result in all sorts of sanctions the strongest of which is removing the whip and, therefore, potentially preventing you from standing with the party at the next general election. (cf Howard Flight). The qu

Saturday's Casework

I had two items of casework today that related to people hiding their business identify. If you trade as an individual "Sole Trader" you are supposed to tell those people who you are dealing with what your real name is. If people have a problem with your business they need your name and address to take legal action. It appears that people are getting around this by concealing their names. I have also received permission from Thailand to publicise the case of a UK Citizen who wishes to return to the UK. He was a bus driver and worked for 30 years paying taxes in Birmingham. His pension although quite high in Thailand is not enough to live on in the UK. However, he is caught by the "Non-habitual resident" rules in that he cannot get housing benefit in the UK to top up his pension. This also hits people who go abroad for work then return to the UK. In essence there is a concept of a "social contract" whereby people pay taxation and expect support in r

Written Parliamentary Question 4th November 2005

Cataract Operations Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cataract operations have been performed by the independent sector on behalf of the NHS in each year since 1997; how many of these operations in each of these years have required the national health service to provide a follow-up service to patients with needs relating directly to their operation; and what the mean cost has been to the NHS of each such follow-up procedure each year. (John Hemming) A: As part of the centrally procured independent sector treatment centre (ISTC) programme, Netcare has delivered over 18,000 ophthalmology procedures since February 2004. The Department does not collect figures on the cost of follow up treatment that may take place in the national health service, but all independent sector providers, working under the ISTC programme, have agreed local level service agreements to ensure suitable follow-up care arrangements for patients. (Liam Byrne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Departme

DTI to Study Peak Oil

Energy Campaigner John Hemming MP has written to Malcolm Wicks MP to ask him to reveal more details of the planned "peak oil" study that was flagged up by the head of the Department of Trade and Industry's energy markets, Claire Durkin Ms Durkin said on Wednesday "We can expect that an investigation will be announced within the next few weeks aimed at allowing a more open discussion on the arrival of "peak oil," the point at which worldwide oil production begins to decline," She was speaking to an industry gathering at London's Energy Institute. Durkin said that although the peak is widely acknowledged as inevitable it isn't an immediate prospect. "There is no imminent danger of global oil production peaking," she said, as new technologies and growing supplies outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting countries will meet market requirements. " The speech comes as a diffuse coalition of geologists, economists and activist

The Natives they are restless

Having treated Labour MPs as mere lobby fodder for many years it does appear that they are getting a bit restless at the moment. Charles Clarke recognised that the government could actually lose parts of the terrorism bill in the House of Commons and so moved into consensus mode. It is all rather odd actually as it is difficult to work out why the government are doing what they are doing with the Terror Acts. Recently Terror Acts have been used to deal with heckling at the Labour Conference and a woman walking on a cycle path. The Violette-szabo-museum could be guilty under the act for celebrating the sabotage that Violette Szabo committed in France as a British SOE agent during the second world war. The eternal problem is that of defining "terrorism" - something which the government are not doing that well at. The government's other substantial failing is in not understanding that they really need to act in a way that does not increase the amount of terrorism in the wor

Those Blunkett Calculations

As far as I can tell if the standard rules apply David Blunkett got a payment of £15,000 for resigning on December 15th and will get £18,000 for resigning today. There has been less than 11 months between the two dates. The normal ministerial extra salary is 74K. For 11 months he would get, therefore, 67K. However, if you gross up the 33K tax free that comes to over 50K and he has done 6 months of work as a minister which is 37K. In other words by resigning twice during this period he has earned a gross equivalent of 87K as opposed to what would have been 67K had he merely kept his nose to the ministerial grindstone. That, of course, is a mild exaggeration as clearly his ministerial extra ceases from now onwards - not that he was that short of the funds from the various "jobs" that he had after resigning as a minister, which were the cause of him resigning this time.

Make Poverty History

Clearly cabinet ministers who leave through the revolving door to the cabinet picking up a tax free payment of £18,000 each time are not likely to have a problem with poverty. Having failed to be called at oral questions to ask the Prime Minister how often he thinks it is fair for a Minister to receive such a tax free severance payment I then went to meet up with the Trade Justice Lobby - see picture. Sadly my camera battery ran out of power - much like the country may this winter - resulting in few good photos. At least someone in the government is being sensible Energy Campaigner John Hemming MP has welcomed the revelation today in an email to John Hemming that Sir David King, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the government, is doing some scenario planning on Gas and Oil Reserves. "We have had lots of bland statements from the government that everything is well. However, the CBI and a number of large energy using companies share the concerns I raised in early September that th

Written Parliamentary Questions 2nd October 2005

Road Bypasses/Usage Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the total kilometres travelled by private motor vehicle users on roads in England and Wales in (a) 1984, (b) 1994 and (c) 2004.(John Hemming) A: The total kilometres travelled by private motor vehicle users (comprising cars, vans, motorcycles/mopeds and taxis) on roads in England and Wales is estimated as (a) 396 billion kilometres in 1984, (b) 561 billion kilometres in 1994 and (c) 619 billion kilometres in 2004. Data for 1984 are not directly comparable with 1994 and 2004 due to methodological changes.(Stephen ladyman, Minister of State, Department for Transport)

EDM 860 - Internet Access from House of Commons

I placed EDM 860 on the order paper to raise the issue that MPs cannot get email from outside the Parliamentary Estate if they are attached to the Parliamentary Network. That is because the Parliamentary Communications Department blocks port 110. Quite a few more technically able MPs who handle their own email, rather than having it forwarded to a member of staff, use more advanced systems than are available via the House of Commons. Having circulated an email to all MPs I find one MP who uses a G3 connection like myself (but a different service provider) finds he has to wander around to get a signal to get his email. Quite a few MPs find that the rules developed by the Parliamentary Communications Department prevent them doing their job properly. I work hard to make it relatively easy for constituents to contact me. The facilities established at substantial cost to assist this tend to prevent it. I believe that if enough MPs sign the EDM then some cables will be replugged to make i