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Showing posts from August, 2006

Blair loses it completely

We already have a situation whereby social services are inclined to intervene when parents shout at their children. Blair fails to recognise that state intervention in child rearing has a track record of resulting in problems and should only be used in extremis.

Its the puddles

The link is to a Birmingham Post story about Gas. I have also prepared now a draft submission to the OFT about the gas market. That has gone out to consultation to the IESP.

What will happen this winter will, of course, depend primarily on the weather. A second factor that I don't have full understanding about as yet is the small puddles (not really puddles, but not pools) of gas that it is said the smaller companies have been developing.

That will affect how much comes in from the North Sea.

The issue of heirarchy of supply (whether we use storage before importing) will affect prices and whether or not it will be likely that we will see an emergency. The new pipelines may just about cope with depletion and the Excelerate LNG project could make quite a difference.

Consultation on Gas Market Dysfunction

Having considered the fact that the price per therm of gas for January 2007 (80 NBP) is something like twice the global LNG price for the same date (37p) and almost twice that of the European Oil link gas (43p) it strikes me that the UK gas market has anti-competitive elements within it

I am considering asking the Director of Fair Trading to commence a Chapter II investigation into anti-competitive behaviour in the UK gas market in particular.

Chapter ii (1998 Act) relates as follows:
Abuse of a dominant position
The Chapter II prohibition and Article 82 of the EC Treaty prohibit the abuse by one or more businesses of a dominant position in a market.
Chapter II and Article 82 give examples of specific types of conduct that are particularly likely to be considered as an abuse where the business is in a of a dominant position. These include:
imposing unfair purchase or selling prices;
limiting production, markets or technical development to the prejudice of consumers;
applying different trading…

Family Court Stories

There is some interest in the media (link to Observer story) about the Family Courts.

I am particularly interested in the aspects relating to Public Law (which is where Social Services come in).

The argument is put forward that the secrecy is there to protect the children.

Why, then, when it has been proven that everything claimed to justify a child being taken into care is false and the case was dismissed with the costs awarded against a local authority does the case remain secret?

There are situations where children (that are over 12 ie Gillick competent) and parents want to talk to the media about what has been done to them by Social Services Departments, but they are not allowed to.

What is so very wrong that a child is not allowed to talk about the way that child was treated by the system?

The problem with much of Labour's legislation is it assumes that people who have authority will not abuse that authority.

Exactly how many cases involve an abuse of authority is not clear. The MP…

Adoptable Commodities

At first when I was told by people that they thought that Social Services were driven by a desire to increase adoption, hence they would take more children into care to get them adopted, I did not believe this.

Having spent a bit more time on the issue, having noted that when Downs Syndrome children are born Social Services disappear, having noted the use of the phrase "adoptable commodity" by social workers to describe children, having noted the flimsy basis upon which children are taken into care, it now seems quite clear that children are taken into care in order to get them adopted. That is not to say that children are not taken into care to protect them, but some are taken into care purely to have them adopted.

I already have the evidence of child protection procedures being used to force children into dangerous medical research. I am working to find out the numbers that died or were brain damaged as a result.

I think progress is being made on opening up the system to sc…

Dangermouse

My eldest daughter pointed out that Dangermouse was dated by the evil supercomputer saying "kneel before my 500 Megabytes". When I was a lad ... we had the SDK 85 which was programmed in machine code and had a memory counted in K.

Where did this one come from?

The government have been saying that the new law about Booster seats will reduce child casualties by 2,000.

The link is to "Child Car Seats". That gives deaths in 2004 of passengers at 24. The number seriously injured is 371. About 7,000 are "slightly injured".

Now we are told that all children under 135 cm (my children are generally quite large) need to have booster seats.

Anyone, whatever seat they are in, even if they are wearing a seatbelt, is likely to be deemed "slightly injured" in a crash.

I really cannot believe the figures we are being told. Furthermore I did not spot this law going through. I would think as an MP who reads the main issues that I should have spotted it. I wonder which loophole it crept through.

To me it just shows me how dishonest a lot of public lobbying is. Clearly the claims of the Department of Transport are complete rubbish. However, they get away with it.

Obligatory declaration of interest: My 10 month old baby daugher uses a ca…

Home Made Bombs

I suppose the Extradition laws would not allow John Reid the power to extradite the 118 (mainly) US (mainly) youths who have put videos of their Home Made Bombs on the youtube site - even if he wanted to.

Click on the link above to get a list of the videos of making a home made bomb currently stored on YouTube.

What are the political points:
a) That the extradition laws remain unbalanced
b) That people wishing to make bombs out of fertiliser (cf the IRA) [or other generally available materials] can do so. It is not possible to completely eradicate all potential sources of explosive material (eg Sugar)
c) Security and peace require a reduction in the desire for conflict to a greater extent than a reduction in the ability to progress a conflict.

Hence the government should stop going around winding up the whole world (apart from the US and Israeli governments).

The government sort of recognise this by saying they are fighting for "hearts and minds". Well hearts and minds are an is…

Planning and Gardens

One of the difficulties in terms of planning is that planning decisions are "quasi-judicial". This means that it is possible to appeal planning decisions made by local councillors if they are out of line with planning guidance set nationally.

The nationally set guidance tends to be quite inflexible and one aspect is Planning Policy Guidance 3 which relates to what is and what is not a brownfield site.

The issue of increasing housing intensity by building on gardens is exactly the issue that causes these difficulties. From time to time it may be worth building on a garden, but PPG3 forces local authorities to agree such plans when they are not sensible. Gardens are almost invariably green, but are considered to be brownfield.

I support the general principles of sustainability and re-use of brownfield sites; but I we know that the provisions of Planning Policy Guidance 3 (PPG3), as at present worded, are forcing Local Panning Authorities (LPA) to allow piecemeal redevelopment…

South Wales Police Investigation into Southall's experiments on children welcomed - appeal for parents to come forward

Campaigning MP, John Hemming, has welcomed South Wales Police's launch of an investigation into experiments performed by Professor David Southall of North Staffordshire Hospital on children. He has called for other parents whose children were treated directly or indirectly by Professor Southall who may have concerns, to write to him at the House of Commons so he can pass information to the appropriate police.

"Professor Southall", said Mr Hemming, "wrote in 1985 that he would not ask for consent from parents before he put their children into some of his experiments. In the published material on the BMJ website it is quite clear that his experiments caused harm to some of the children involved in the experiments."

"The experiments based upon protocol 85.02 involved firstly stopping babies from breathing in when at “Functional Residual Capacity” (when they have breathed out) for 10 seconds on 10 different occasions. This was done with a face mask. It was done …

John Hemming Website

I was always thinking I should start to write a new Website. There has been a Yardley LibDems site for some time. The problem I have with this site is that it is inside my company's intranet. That means I have first to get into my company's network and then into the server. That makes keeping it up to date much harder than just using FTP to upload files.

When I first started setting up websites (eg Birmingham City Council was the first UK Council to have a website because I did it for free on my own servers) my own office used to have weaker security. However, I spend little time on my commercial premises within the intranet and also the security is now tighter.

I, therefore, have started to use a bog standard web service with FTP update. That will allow me to develop an informative website. For constituents I can update it with the current position of developments such as The Swan, the Wagon and Horses etc.

The blog will remain as it is relatively boring, but concentratin…

British Gas more expensive than French Gas

Strictly it is "Gaz de France", but the most recent round of price increases put the price of British Gas consumption for 20,400 kWh of gas per year at £704 whereas Gaz de France costs £694.

Using the British Gas Standard Tariff of 5.21p per kWh up to 4572 kWh and 2.94 over that. GDF's tariff for this is 4.38 Euros per kWh plus 125.21 standing charge. An exchange rate of 0.68025 Euros per pound

The calculation is:
5.21*4572=23820.12
2.94*15828=46534.32
23820.12+46534.32 pence = 703.54 pounds

4.38*20400=89352
893.52+125.21=1018.73
1018.73*0.68025=693.99

The point about this is that France imports about 95% of its gas. We still produce more than half of the gas we use.

There have been problems in the commercial market for some time. These problems have now come through into the domestic market.

NHS may close 10 major hospitals BBC

The government are clearly Maoist believing in continual revolution.

What we have is the symptom of the financial problems in the NHS. It means that it will not be seen as a mechanism for improving services (and unless I review each item in detail I would not be able to comment on the merits), but instead a panic response to a financial crisis.

Too many changes at once.

I had a letter today from some government health minister that denies that they intend subcontracting decisionmaking from PCTs. Why, then, did they remove those words from the tender document before submitting it to OJEC?

Yes I have a copy of the tender document with tracked amendments.

A few photos

Collecting signatures at the Wheatsheaf, Sheldon for the Knife Crime Petition

Putting sustainable fuel in the tank

Getting the fuel from Wednesbury

Relaunching Sheldon Community Centre and opening the Fun Day.

I am setting up a facility for people to refuel relatively easy using pure rapeseed oil and paying the 27p duty to Mr Brown. There are no planning issue, but the Health and Safety Executive have some controls. The flashpoint for vegetable oil is about 220C so we really don't have to worry about explosions (petrol for example is -40C)

An extract from my last email from the HSE:
Flashpoint is one of the main properties used to determine the fire and
explosion hazard of a material. The flashpoint is defined as the
temperature to which a liquid must be heated before it will produce a
mixture of vapour in air which can be ignited. Lower flashpoint liquids,
particularly those with flashpoints at or below ambient temperature, need
particular care when being handled.

As examples,

The flas…

Your choice: Tyranny or HomeStart

I have linked to Homestart. This is a charitable organisation that supports families. In some ways they fit in where the extended families have been split up via motorways. I opened a funday for my local Homestart this morning.

They are a very effective way of supporting families in such a way that does not result in children being at risk.

Massively more money goes into Social Services Child Protection than into HomeStart. Homestart locally costs less than one foster place. The current system gives a large amount of power to Social Services. The reason they have that power is that they operate in secret. Power does tend to corrupt.

The Orkney saga was one of a number of instances of this. To be fair to Social Services there is a tendency in the media to assume that intervention is always positive. Hence they get damned if they do and damned if they don't. The reality, however, is that many so called investigations are not proper objective investigations. I have seen reports wri…

Le PC français appelle à la formation d'une commission internationale pour enquêter sur les massacres israéliens au Liban

PC in this instance refers to the French Communist Party. It remains, however, that it is worth having a proper international investigation into what happened both by the Israeli bombing of Lebanon and also the Hezbollah bombing of Israel.

We cannot just sweep under the carpet what has happened.

I find it interesting how a few persistent people can ensure that issues are addressed. I am working with a group at the moment who have been concerned about a particular process for 10-15 years. It looks as if progress is being made at the moment, but only really as a result of the persistence of a few.

Now there is such a thing as a free lunch

Having scrapped the "free lunch" for volunteers on benefits earlier this year the government has now reinstated it.

The government issued "guidance" earlier this year which said that volunteers who were paid the cost of lunch by the organisation they were volunteering for would have a consequent cut in benefits.

"The change will mean that in future, meals will be treated as an expense that volunteers can claim back. Previously, they were expected to meet the cost of meals out of their benefits."

This is an interesting example of something where the government thought the rules were one thing and everyone (all the voluntary organisations and volunteers) were doing something else.

It is not unique.

Note the parliamentary question asked in relation to this on Monday's blog entry.

Unions concerned about lack of debate in Parliament

From the link:

Profound changes are taking place in the NHS with no debate in Parliament and without full and proper consultation with major stakeholders such as staff and their representative organisations, community and user groups. These profound changes have significant consequences for the future of the NHS and the patient experience.

The OJEC tender is very significant. I have tried to get this debated in parliament, but without any success so far.

In essence the OJEC tender allows anything paid for by a PCT to be done by a private sector organisation. That basically involves about 90% of the spend of the NHS.

Written Parliamentary Answers: from 25th July 2006

Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) what estimate has been made of the number of local NHS organisations which will bulk subscribe to the Drugs and Therapeutic Bulletin following the ending of the NHS-wide subscription;

(2) what guidance she plans to issue to NHS managers responsible for deciding whether to purchase a bulk subscription to the Drugs and Therapeutic Bulletin for their local NHS organisation.(John Hemming)

A:The Department has made no such estimate and has no plans to issue guidance to the national health service. I understand that Which? Limited, the publishers of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin are examining a range of possible future subscription arrangements. (Andy Burnham, Minister of State (Delivery and Quality), Department of Health)

Volunteering
Q:To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the contribution to the UK economy of those on benefits who volunteer. (John Hemming)

A:No such research has be…

Reducing babies oxygen intake

This is an interesting study where 34 babies were given reduced oxygen for an average of 6.9 hours by only giving them 15% oxygen in the air they breathe rather than the normal 20%.

In 4 infants exposure to hypoxic conditions was ended early because of prolonged and severe falls in oxygen saturation.

Now this is what is called a "non-theraputic" intervention. That is something is done to the babies which is not to improve their health. That something is to reduce the amount of oxygen they breathe.

This sounds a very odd thing for anyone to agree to for their 3 month old child.

In particular (see above italics) it caused material problems for about 10% of the babies.

Recall Parliament

I am a supporter of the Recall of Parliament although I have not been contacted in relation to the linked story about MPs calling for Parliament to be recalled.

There is an interesting technical point that the House of Commons can only be recalled at the request of government ministers. On the other hand the government's permission is not required for the recall of the House of Lords.

Jack Straw could ask for the recall of parliament.

A challenge, of course, would be to see how many MPs we could get to go to the House of Commons and effectively recall parliament by simply turning up. I am up for that. However, I am one of the few still in the UK. Furthermore I think it is, however, fundamentally wrong that the recall of the legislature is dependent upon the will of the executive. This is a constitutional nonsense.

Dragging Tony Blair back from holiday in Barbados is not going to be that easy, however.

It remains that one of the last debates made it quite clear that the UK Govern…

Suicide Bombers and Conflict

The link is to a Guardian article which talks about research into the background of 462 suicide bombers who have launched attacks in recent years.

It remains, however, that this identified that the bombers themselves were mainly Muslim, but in fact from all religions.

Suicide Bombing contains two main concepts that concern those on the other end of the attacks. The first is that it is an attack that is harder to protect against which is generally aimed at non-combatants. The second is that it involves the attacker consciously deciding to attack in such a way as the attacker him or herself dies.

Kamikaze is the Japanese word for "Suicide" and got into English as a result of the Suicide Air Pilots who flew planes into ships during the second world war.

The big mistake made by the western governments is to fail to look at why people become suicide bombers. It is not because governments are not "tough" on terrorism or terrorists. It is in fact that governments are to…

Children and Families Campaigning Summary Report

Family Court Secrecy
Many people will know of the difficulties that have historically been caused by secrecy in the Family Courts. There have been three recent changes that are of significance in this area.

The Family Proceedings (Amendment No 4) Rules 2005
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051976.htm

This change to the rules relating to the family courts make it much easier for parties to obtain advice and discuss the proceedings with advisers. This means that parties can now talk to "A lay advisor or MacKenzie friend" to obtain advice about the proceedings when they are live. This has to be in confidence, but it does make it possible to discuss matters with campaign groups before it is too late. Those details cannot be publicised, however,

Simon Clayton's hearing into secrecy
http://www.simonclayton.org.uk/
Simon Clayton set a landmark Court of Appeal ruling that ended the automatic ban on identifying children involved in family court cases after proceedings has ended. The b…

Middle East Temperature rising

The ill judged approach relating to Lebanon seems to be heating up the temperature in the Middle East. Rockets have landed in Syria (probably in error), there has been a march of potential suicide bombers in Baghdad. The Lebanese media are calling for unity against the Israelis.

In Iraq it is the Sadr supporters that are particularly vocal, but even the Iraqi government has made its views known.

The Sunni governments, however, are still relatively moderate in their comments.

There is an interesting difference between recalling the House of Commons and recalling the House of Lords to consider the UK approach to all of this. To recall the House of Commons requires action from the government to call for it. Recalling the House of Lords can be done by the Lord Speaker in consultation with the government - it does not require effective permission from the government.

In many ways, however, the debate a couple of weeks ago covered the key issue - the government confirmed that they did not…

Stephen Hawking and Human Extinction

The link is to a Yahoo Answers questions asked about 4 weeks ago by Stephen Hawking about how humanity could survive the next 100 years.

Oddly enough I was phoned up by a newspaper today asking for a comment about this. Frankly humanity may end up short of energy, have to cope with climate change and a sort of global squabble could develop over a mixture of resource issues and the Middle East. However, I do not think it is possible for humanity to kill itself off completely.

Today's headlines from Syria (original in French - translated to English)

Syria wants "excreting efforts" in Lebanon

DAMASCUS, (SANA) – Syria and Spain emphasized on Thursday the necessity of excreting efforts to realize a cease-fire in Lebanon. (see link for original press release)

This is perhaps a good example of the difficulties of communication. I have tried to find out what they mean by "excreting efforts". My Arabic is very bad and it takes me ages to read any text let alone try to translate it. I can cope with reading some Urdu (which is a very similar script), but only by recognising words such as "Birmingham". I think "making" is probably right from the contextual analysis.

Syria is very important from the viewpoint of the situation in Lebanon. If the dispute were to spread anywhere it would spread to Syria first.

Syria is still run by the Socialist Arab Renaissance Party (aka Ba'th party that used to run Iraq as Saddam Hussain inc.) Many of the Arab tribes that are influential in Syria spread into Iraq. There is a teeny weeny bit of Badinani territory …

Logic and Terrorism

One of Blair's abilities that really does not help is his ability to argue contradictory cases in the same speech. The point about contradiction is that if you argue a contradictory case then you could be arguing anything.

The syllogism goes as follows if P and not P are both true. P or Q is inherently true. Not P implies Q is true. In other words the whole system of logical argument collapses and anything can be proven.

There is a simplistic reductio ad absurdam case dealing with Blair's speech of yesterday (linked) which unusually I watched thinking it might indicate something further about his position.

He argued that the battle against extremism was "not just about security or military tactics, it is about hearts and minds, about inspiring people, persuading them, showing them what our values at their best stand for."

The demonstration of the values is simple in the deaths of children through the conflict and particularly at Qana. You cannot isolate out one el…

New Terrorist Threat Levels

The old system of threat levels with various colours including Black Special was not exactly straightforward. However, we now have a new system of identifying a threat level.

These new categories are:LowAn attack is unlikelyModerateAn attack is possible, but not likelySubstantialAn attack is a strong possibilitySevereAn attack is highly likelyCriticalAn attack is expected imminently

The current UK Threat level is Severe

We have now had about 5 years of the "war on terror". During that period the combined actions of the UK and US governments have been to create additional global hatreds such that now the situation is far worse than it was.

Dealing with actions in an asymmetric conflict is quite different to that in a symmetric conflict. Whereas there is a good argument that you need to be tough in dealing with law breaking where it is about self-interest. It is quite clear that, unless the underlying issues are dealt with, situations that result in terrorist attacks will co…