Friday, 30 November 2012

First meeting for Police and Crime Panel

The Sussex Police and Crime Panel met for the first time on Monday 26 November, and heard from newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Katy Bourne.

The Panel is made up of councillors from each of the 15 local authorities in East and West Sussex, plus two independent members. For East Sussex County Council the two members are Cllr David Elkin and Cllr Rosalyn St Pierre.

Former chairman of the shadow panel West Sussex County Councillor Brad Watson OBE was elected as Chairman, and East Sussex County Councillor David Elkin was elected as Vice Chair. The Panel also confirmed the co-option of Graham Hill and Sandra Prail as independent members.

Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, who officially took up her post on Thursday 22 November, outlined her vision for the role and took questions from members of the Panel.

Scrutinising the Police and Crime Commissioner's plans will be a key role of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel, and although it cannot veto her budget, it can exercise some control over the amount the Commissioner wants to raise from council tax.

The Panel also agreed how it would handle complaints against the PCC, and discussed their role in confirming senior appointments within the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Chairman Brad Watson OBE said, “At this historic first formal meeting of the Police and Crime Panel, I want to thank members for their support and confidence.

“We will create an effective and dedicated panel, which will hold the Police and Crime Commissioner to account for her decisions, on behalf of the residents of Sussex.”

The Panel next meets on 11 January 2013. Meetings are webcast and open to the public, and take place at East Sussex County Council in County Hall, Lewes. You can view a webcast of the November's meeting on the Public-i website:

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Net migration falls by a quarter in a year

Here’s a turn-up: net migration in the year to March fell from 242,000 to 183,000, the largest drop for four years. This was driven by a reduction in inward migration from 578,000 to 536,000, as well as by an increase in emigration from 108,000 to 127,000. And it’s got Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch UK saying that:

“At last we can see some light at the end of the tunnel. We can now see the first effects of the government’s measures to reduce immigration. There is a distance to go but they are on the right track.”

It’s come at a helpful time for Theresa May, particularly given the stories in this morning’s papers about the Border Agency and the abuse of student visas. But, actually, the debate may now settle on those students who aren’t abusing their stay in the UK. The IPPR points out in its response to today’s figures that the number of visas for study fell by 26 per cent over the same time period. There are some in Coalition who worry about the effect this will have both on the higher education system — which relies on foreign students for cash — and on the wider economy. Besides, fewer foreign students now could result in less emigration in future, as foreign students tend to move back abroad once they’ve completed their studies. This may mean that net migration falls less sharply in future.

In any case, it’s still going to be very difficult for the Conservatives to meet their aspiration of reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands” in this Parliament. But, just as with public sector net borrowing, at least the party now has a significant number to put on its posters: we’ve reduced net migration by a quarter in a year.

Find out why Cllr Dave Elkin supports the campaign to #upgradeA27now

Cllr Dave Elkin is the Leader of the Conservative Opposition Group on Eastbourne Borough Council and a Cabinet Member on East Sussex County Council so when I asked him to to give the campaign a quote on why he supports #upgradeA27now, as a long suffering motorist who like many readers of this blog, he knew only too well what to say, in fact he'd had a fresh reminder:

"I had a bad start to the day, used the snail trail A27 to Lewes, drivers were taking all sorts of daft dangerous risks, I’m sure out of total frustration. I think we need a bit more than an upgrade".

If like Dave, you feel strongly about this important issue, please sign the campaign's e-petition calling for action on the A27 and tell all your friends, families, and colleagues to do the same. Here's the link:

If you'd like to stay up to date with campaign developments, follow my blog at:

Help Fair Fuel UK get January's planned 3p duty rise scrapped

Urgent – I have copied this post from the Fair Fuel UK Campaign Website as they Need Your Last Minute Help to Fight the January 3p Fuel Duty Rise (that’s 16p a gallon !!!)

Dear Fellow Motorist,

We’re just days away from the Autumn Statement. We are increasingly hopeful that we will see the 3p Fuel Duty hike scrapped when the Chancellor addresses the House of Commons on 5th December. All the signs are encouraging but we still need to do everything we possibly can in these last few days to keep up the political and media pressure.

To that end, we’re asking if you would help us by taking part in a very quick poll of how high fuel prices are actually affecting you. As we understand it there is no up to date objective evidence as to how the high price of diesel and petrol is affecting the social issues we all face each and every day.

We met a group of influential MPs only last week and they believe that the results of such a poll could be critical in the run up to the Autumn Statement, even at this late stage.

The poll is hosted by one of our main backers – the RAC. The link that will take you to it is

We’ve done so much campaigning and lobbying over recent weeks that there isn’t enough space in this short email to set it out here, but you can see and read everything by following the link to our FairFuelUK blog.

Thanks so much for your on going support…………

Here is the Link to the RAC POLL:

Here is the Link to the FairFuelUK Blog:

Very kind regards, The FairFuelUK Team
Quentin Willson
Lynne Beaumont
FairFuelUK's Key Objectives
Stop any Fuel Duty Rises – Continue to fight to scrap the January & August 3p hike deferrals that are now planned in January 2013
Go even further and fight to Cut Fuel Duty for the benefit of economic growth and what the whole nation wants – Convince the Govt to recognise that by sensibly controlling fuel duty, it is a growth stimulus not just a Treasury cash cow
Bring UK petrol and diesel to European Parity in terms of fuel pricing and taxation
Set up a mechanism that is the fairest way to price petrol and diesel for business, the economy and hard pressed motorists
Actively support the inquiries into fuel pricing transparency and oil price speculation. Do you have information to help?
Follow this easy link to e-mail your MP, sadly despite having e-mailed a couple of weeks ago myself I have had no response from my MP in Eastbourne yet but if enough of us do this, he and other MP's will have to listen and may influence the Chancellor to take action.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Campaign to #upgradeA27now takes to the airwaves

On Monday lunchtime I had the pleasure in taking part in a pre-recorded radio interview with Sovereign FM's Sharon Williams.

I re-enforced the chronic need to upgrade this heavily used road between Polegate and Beddingham/Lewes to improve the appalling road safety record (which has sadly seen a further three major incidents already this week since I recorded the interview) and to unlock the economic potential of not only Eastbourne and the surrounding area but also some of the rural communities along the route who's businesses depend on the road to bring their customers to them.

The interview is being aired this morning in news bulletins and you can listen in on 107.5fm.

If you haven't yet had chance to sign the e-petition, please do so by clicking here:

To find out how to stay update with the campaign, please click here:

Rudyard Kipling was a better economist that Gordon Brown


If by Rudyard Kipling probably isn’t taught in many schools these days, but it ought to be. Consider the truth packed into just two short lines from the poem:
  • “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same”
Much more than a simple encouragement to take life’s ups-and-downs in one’s stride, it is a recognition that disruptive events are unpredictable (though inevitable) and that what makes one grow as an individual (“you'll be a Man, my son!”) is not some vain attempt to control such uncertainties, but our willingness to adapt to and learn from them.

It is a philosophy that was brought bang up-to-date by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his international bestseller, The Black Swan – which exposed the complacency and arrogance that led to our current economic predicament.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he develops his thinking:
  • “Several years before the financial crisis descended on us, I put forward the concept of ‘black swans’: large events that are both unexpected and highly consequential. We never see black swans coming, but when they do arrive, they profoundly shape our world: Think of World War I, 9/11, the Internet, the rise of Google.”
  • “Some made the mistake of thinking that I hoped to see us develop better methods for predicting black swans. Others asked if we should just give up and throw our hands in the air: If we could not measure the risks of potential blowups, what were we to do? The answer is simple: We should try to create institutions that won't fall apart when we encounter black swans—or that might even gain from these unexpected events.”
In the English language there is no word for the ability to gain from unexpected events, so Taleb invents one of his own: “antifragility”:
  • “…natural or organic systems are antifragile: They need some dose of disorder in order to develop. Deprive your bones of stress and they become brittle. This denial of the antifragility of living or complex systems is the costliest mistake that we have made in modern times. Stifling natural fluctuations masks real problems, causing the explosions to be both delayed and more intense when they do take place. As with the flammable material accumulating on the forest floor in the absence of forest fires, problems hide in the absence of stressors, and the resulting cumulative harm can take on tragic proportions.”
Taleb argues that the attempt to eliminate uncertainty in the economic realm can also have disastrous consequences:
  • “…our economic policy makers have often aimed for maximum stability, even for eradicating the business cycle. ‘No more boom and bust,’ as voiced by the U.K. Labor leader Gordon Brown, was the policy pursued by Alan Greenspan in order to ‘smooth’ things out, thus micromanaging us into the current chaos. Mr. Greenspan kept trying to iron out economic fluctuations by injecting cheap money into the system, which eventually led to monstrous hidden leverage and real-estate bubbles.”

Debt has its uses, of course, but it also tempts us to deny reality, evade responsibility and put-off the inevitable. This applies to individuals, but also to entire nations. In misusing debt to abolish boom and bust (“Triumph and Disaster”) Gordon Brown and Alan Greenspan only succeeded in turning disruption into devastation.

Sign up now for school closure alerts

With the return of frosty, freezing mornings parents in East Sussex are being encouraged to sign up to a system that will automatically alert them if their school has to close in an emergency.

For the past two years the county has seen bad winter weather and heavy snowfall and so the County Council wants as many parents as possible to sign up for the warnings.

Three years ago the council provided schools with a new secure online system giving them a faster and far more efficient way of letting people know if they have no option but to close the school.
The system headteachers now use notifies the County Council, automatically alerts local radio stations including BBC Sussex and Heart FM, and updates the County Council's website – all within minutes.

It also sends an email to any parent who has signed up for closure alerts relating to their school. The alert system currently has more than 7,500 subscriptions.

Cllr Nick Bennett, the council's Lead Member for Schools and Learning Effectiveness said:

“Headteachers will do all they can to keep schools open because we don't want the education of our children disrupted any more than is absolutely necessary. However, sometimes the conditions are so bad, that they have no choice but to close.

“When that happens schools have their own mechanisms for contacting parents, but the system we have introduced makes it easy for them to get the message out quickly to those who need to know.”
If there is any sort of repeat of last year's bad weather parents can confidently rely on the County Council website as a definitive guide on which schools have had to close, Cllr Bennett added. It will be automatically and regularly updated with closure information as schools notify us.

But he added he would also encourage parents to sign up now for alerts relating to their school. “I would really urge parents not to wait until the snow starts falling but to go to our website, find their school and sign up for email alerts now. This will ensure that they will get an email from us if their school notifies us they are having to close.”

The new system was introduced after concerns raised several years ago about inconsistencies in the previous system and the speed with which parents could find out about closures. Some parents told us they were not getting the message as clearly as they could because the system relied on head teachers phoning radio stations individually.

Under the system a head teacher enters the details on to a secure special page on the council's website. This then sends the information to everyone who needs to know as well as updating a closure list on the website itself. It also emails local radio stations so they can broadcast the information.

For more information including how to sign up for closure alerts, visit

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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

White Ribbon Day – end violence against women and girls!

Last weekend was White Ribbon Day. This is part of an international campaign highlighting violence against women and young girls. Men are being asked to wear a White Ribbon to show their support.

For two weeks following Sunday 25th November, people are being asked to support an end to violence against women and girls by making a pledge at:

The website also has details on how people can get involved with different events, as an individual or as an organisation.

In East Sussex, the County Council's Safer Communities Team is working to tackle violence against women and girls with other local authorities, the police, the probation service and voluntary and community organisations, as part of the Safer Communities Partnership.

The pledge campaign aims to:

raise awareness of the issue of violence against women
highlight that domestic abuse, stalking, and sexual exploitation and violence are unacceptable
encourage men never to commit, condone or stay silent about violence against women and girls
promote a countywide united front against violence and abuse.
More information about domestic abuse and where to get help can be found on our website:

Domestic abuse
Cllr David Elkin, Lead Member for Community Safety, said:

“We should all fully support this Campaign. Working in partnership, we have made great strides in tackling domestic abuse and sexual violence, particularly against women and young girls. So please get behind White Ribbon Day over the next two weeks, to highlight these issues which can affect men as well as women”.

If anyone is suffering from domestic abuse they can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline (run by Refuge and Women's Aid) on 0808 2000 247.

Anyone who is being stalked can call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.

Yes, Prime Minister - Six-part remake bravely sets about absorbing the changes that have occurred in British society since 1980

On screen, James Bond has just turned 50. The Rolling Stones are 50 too and still rolling at the O2 Arena. In one form or another Yes, Minister is a mere 32 on BBC2 and its original stars, Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne, are both dead. But when the nostalgia industry calls for a remake, who's worrying about details?

Step forward Anthony Jay (the Tory one) and Jonathan Lynn (the Labour one), writers of the original 38 cult episodes, and the classic comedy channel, UKTV's Gold channel. Together they have created a six-part remake which bravely sets about absorbing the changes that have occurred in British society since 1980 when Eddington's Jim Hacker was still an ambitious, bumbling cabinet minister and Hawthorne's Sir Humphrey Appleby was his permanent secretary and Jeeves.

The coalition, the eurozone crisis, devolution – there's plenty of material for the writers to blend into the familiar sitcom format. David Haig's Hacker is still PM (as he was from 1986-88), but in the first episode – aired before a VIP-laced audience in a Mayfair hotel last night – he is found grappling with a eurozone summit at Lancaster House.

Hacker acts in his capacity as (let's get this right, it's one of the jokes) rotating EU council president, as distinct from Herman Van Rompuy, who – as every Belgian schoolboy knows – is president of the European council. It looks like being a disaster (summits are not there to achieve success "but to conceal failure", explains Henry Goodman's suave Sir Humphrey) until a €10tn oil pipeline from a dodgy central Asian republic makes its appearance.

Lots of material, then, for Yes, Minister's guiding principle, the gentle satire on a governing system in which elected politicians are outmanoeuvred by their more worldly, unelected officials. The new series is itself a reworking of a 2010 stage version, located in Chequers with what looks like the same set.

But we live in harsher times, and the shadow of The Thick of It, a much coarser, more nihilistic TV satire, invites cruel comparison. Yes, Minister always had a point of view, the well-meaning British genius for muddling through. When viewers inspect the remake, will they still find it funny after Alastair Campbell and Andy Coulson?

The oldies will certainly be satisfied; younger viewers accustomed to the savagery of social media less so. Humour that relies more on manipulation of constitutional niceties and verbal dexterity is more demanding than the pyrotechnic effing and blinding of Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker. The opener was a touch didactic, but Jay and Lynn make a decent stab at moving with the times, slipping in iPads and a Paxmanesque TV duffing for Hacker.

Chris Larkin plays Bernard Woolley, Hacker's diligent principal private secretary with his torn loyalties, and does so engagingly. In another gesture to changing times, Zoe Telford is introduced as sharp Claire Sutton, Hacker's politically appointed special adviser or "spad", though one member of the audience – former cabinet secretary, Lord Butler, no less – pointed out that the early series had an older woman adviser, Dorothy Wainwright (real-life Marcia Falkender?), too. Politicians and officials, even humourless Mrs T, loved this show.

It is Lynn's contention that The Thick of It was a sitcom for the Blair-Campbell moment and his implication is that Yes, Minister/Prime Minister will last much longer. He's probably right; it is Whitehall's Jeeves and Wooster, after all. And life goes on imitating it. Before David Cameron's last reshuffle, Francis Maude's officials drew up a memo for his expected successor. But Maude survived, heard of the memo and demanded to see it. Drop Maude's plans for reforming the civil service, it advised. Pure Sir Humphrey.

Yes, Prime Minister will be on Gold from mid-January.

David Cameron makes a triumphant post-summit return to the Commons and says "a deal is still do-able" on the European budget

David Cameron made a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, following on from his successful opposition to the EU budget hike proposed by several other member states at a summit last week. The Prime Minister had three main messages.

Firstly, the deal he had rejected:

"Prior to the Council the Commission produced a ludicrous proposal for increasing the commitments ceiling still further to over €1 trillion. We said no. So going in to the Council, the President produced a new proposal: this time a ceiling of €973 billion. As you can see, Mr Speaker, we were making progress in getting the ceilings down. But as I – and other leaders - made clear, it was not enough."

Mr Cameron found the Commission's claims that there were no areas where savings could be made ridiculous:

"For example, when it came to the bureaucratic costs of the European Commission not a single euro in administrative savings was offered. Not one Euro. We need to cut unaffordable spending. The deal on the table was just not good enough and that is why we – and others – rejected it."

Mr Cameron moved on to his second point: why he believes a deal on the European budget is still do-able. He said:
"There is plenty of scope for very significant savings in the Common Agricultural Policy and the Structural and Cohesion Funds. But there are savings to be had in the rest of the budget too. For example, freezing the ceilings for security, justice and external spending would allow €7.5 billion of additional savings."

He listed specific savings proposals:

"A 10% cut in the overall pay bill would save almost €3 billion. Relaxing the rules on automatic promotion would save €1.5 billion. Reducing the extraordinary generosity of the special tax rules for Brussels staff – the levy – that could save around another €1 billion. And changes to pension rights could save another €1.5 billion. All of these are perfectly reasonable proposals. That is why a deal is still doable - and we will push hard for these reductions when negotiations resume next year."

His third point was outlining why it would still be in Britain's interests for us to want any such deal:

"If no deal is reached, the existing ceilings are rolled over and annual budgets are negotiated on a year by year basis, taking account of those ceilings. So crucially, we would not get the reduction we need in the seven-year budget ceilings. The credit card limit would stay beyond what is affordable tens of billions of euros higher even than the deal we rejected at this Council. So it is in our interests to get a deal."

Mr Cameron finished his speech with a defence of the British - and European - taxpayer:

"Mr Speaker, we have put a marker down at this Council. We stood up for the taxpayer. Together with like-minded allies we rejected unacceptable increases in European Spending. And we protected the UK’s rebate. We are fighting hard for the best deal for Britain. And that is what we will continue to do.."

In questions after the statement, Mr Cameron was received with a very warm welcome by Tory MPs. Some backbenchers asked for clarification on the possibility of an in/out referendum. Mr Cameron did not give a direct yes or no answer to the questions, but did say that he would set out his view in his long-awaited Europe speech "later this year".

Iain Anderson: New Governor of the Bank of England will place Britain at the heart of the global debate

Iain Anderson is co-founder of Cicero Group and is an expert in global political risk and economic public policy issues. He has worked for a range of Conservative policymakers. He writes in a personal capacity.

The appointment of Canadian Central Bank Governor Mark Carney will prove to be the most significant public appointment of the Cameron administration.

Said to be one of the "brightest of his generation", Carney commands respect globally for his approach towards the global financial crisis. Having watched him throughout, he offers a no-nonsense style which I have no doubt will prove refreshing to many in the UK.

He is also currently Chairman of the Financial Stability Board. This is the global body formed out of the London G20 in April 2009, which has laid out the routemap for financial regulatory reform. He was appointed to that role just because of this candid, can-do approach.

Given the intensity and increasingly protectionist nature of this debate around the globe, it is going to be immensely helpful for the Bank of England Governor to be at the heart of the conversation. At EU level – at a stroke – this will add considerable counterbalance to debates on bank capital or the planned financial transaction tax.

The highly-vocal Canadian Governor was the youngest central bank chief of any of the G20 countries when appointed in 2008, but his inexperience has been countered by an ability to lock horns with global
regulators. At the G20 Summit in Toronto, Carney was crucial in leading the opposition against a global-wide introduction of a financial transaction tax, which he has labelled a "distraction" from more pressing issues regarding capital and liquidity reforms and the world economic recovery.
A staunch supporter of the Basel III regulations, Carney has thrown his support behind the controversial countercyclical buffers in particular, over the past year. Having successfully pushed for a "Canadian approach" to be adopted by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, he has since argued that the implementation of a buffer could increase the net benefits of reforms by as much as 20 per cent.

Carney was in the running for the role last year then firmly out of the running, according to press reports. So this announcement must also go down as showing the famously leaky Government communications machine – on this occasion – worked. Not a squeak of Carney being in the running any more.

In fact, when the news broke this afternoon, one of my colleagues asked me where I had heard it. "In a House of Commons statement", I said. Amazing!

However you came to hear about it – it is an inspired appointment.

Jeremy Hunt: The four improvements I want to see in the NHS by 2015

Jeremy Hunt is the Member of Parliament for South West Surrey and Secretary of State for Health.

I have now been Health Secretary for just over two months. I said when I was appointed that it was the biggest privilege of my life. The remarkable people I have met working for the NHS makes me think I was right. I am a strong supporter of Andrew Lansley's reforms, which will unlock ideas, energy and enthusiasm at the NHS front line. But there are other things that need doing too, and I have identified four key priorities to focus on as Health Secretary.

So how do I want the NHS to change for the better between now and the general election?

Improve the standard of care throughout the system. Last week's CQC report was sober reading. 10% of health and social care institutions inspected fail to offer basic dignity and care. We need a system where quality of care is considered as important as quality of treatment. Much of the system gets this right and I have seen some brilliant things in my short time in office - but Mid Staffs, Winterbourne View, Morecambe Bay, James Paget, East Surrey...there are too many examples of places where this has not happened. We need more accountability from managers, better training, tougher inspections and more attention paid to what patients say.
Bring the technology revolution to the NHS. The way we use technology has profoundly changed society. But the NHS has not kept pace. Patients, especially those with long term conditions like diabetes, want more joined-up care and much of the solution is in better use and sharing of information. We don’t need a top-down, multi-billion pound programme to do this - but Labour's failure to deliver must not mean the NHS puts its head in the sand with respect to technology. We do need the kind of common sense that begins to knit local IT systems together so that when an ambulance is called for a frail older person, the paramedics know in advance if they have dementia. Or so that community health staff get an alert when a diabetes patient hasn’t had a home visit for a long time.
Radically improve treatment and care of dementia. There are 670,000 people with dementia in England today – and that figure is going to double within 30 years. For far too long, people with dementia and their carers have not received the care and support they deserve. With our ageing population that must change. More early diagnosis, better research and better support for carers are essential if the NHS is to offer decent, humane support in line with its founding values.
Improve mortality rates for the big killer diseases to be the best in Europe. One of the most basic elements of a good health system is how well it helps people get better, yet we languish in the lower half of the European league tables for cancer survival rates, respiratory and many other diseases. We should be the best - and if we were 20,000 lives would be saved every year. I want the NHS to make measurable progress towards this goal over the next 3 years.
A lot of this is a big ask when there are so many other pressures on the system. But if we don't aim to be the best in the world, we never will be and I want nothing less from our NHS.

Cllr Annabelle West supports the campaign to #upgradeA27now because:

Eastbourne Borough Councillor for Upperton Ward and former Justice of the Peace, Annabelle West has thrown her backing behind the campaign to #upgradeA27now.

Annabelle said "the present road system desperately needs upgrading, the A27 is unable to cope with traffic volume. This is our town's future we are looking at and a potential that could be curtailed effecting Eastbourne's ability to grow and expand causing stagnation of businesses already in Eastbourne who need quick deliveries from outside the area; affect the taxi and coach trade who constantly use this road, as well as new businesses who might want to move to our town and even cause a slowdown in the tourist trade because of bad access. The A27 needs to be upgraded urgently".

If you would like to help promote the campaign by telling people why you support an upgraded A27, please e-mail your view to

In the meantime you can find out more about the campaign here:

If you haven't yet signed the e-petition calling for the road to be upgraded, please click here; and don't forget to tell all your family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues to do the same.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Chris White MP: The Chancellor could boost manufacturing and the economy by increasing capital allowances

Chris White is the Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington.

In just over a week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be making his Autumn Statement. I am sure this will focus, like previous statements, on creating jobs and growth in the face of strong global economic challenges.

As co-Chair of the Associate Parliamentary Manufacturing Group, I believe that the best pathway to growth is through supporting our manufacturers and in increasing our industrial capacity. If Britain’s economy is to grow in the next few years, it will be on the back of exports.

Fortunately, Britain’s manufacturers have been rising to the challenge. As has been quoted across the media, for the first time since 1976, the United Kingdom is a net exporter of cars – a figure that brings me particular pride as a former employee of MG Rover. After the economic crisis in 2009, British manufacturers responded strongly to a falling pound and grew faster than our service sector for much of the next two years – although growth has slowed recently, primarily because of the situation in the Eurozone.

However, competitors around the world have not been standing still. As the Prime Minister rightly said at party conference, the UK is in a global race and we have to get fitter and run faster if we are to secure and improve the present circumstances. In his “State of the Union” address earlier this year, President Obama laid out his blueprint for supporting American manufacturing with hundreds of billions of dollars allocated to encouraging companies to invest in new equipment and disadvantaged communities. Other economies such as Germany and France are also giving large amounts of support to manufacturers so that they are able to compete across the world and win new business.
If British manufacturers are going to deliver the growth that we need, the Government needs to step up to the plate and provide an equivalent level of support. One of the simplest ways that the Chancellor could do this in his Statement is to introduce a two year temporary increase in capital allowances to 100%. This is money that businesses can deduct from corporation tax for investing in new plants and machinery.

British manufacturers have recorded some of the strongest increases in productivity over recent years. However, they are still behind our competitors and need to make up a considerable historical disadvantage. In order to secure growth and exports in the years ahead, our manufacturers are going to have to close that gap. The best way to do this is by encouraging British manufacturers to invest in the latest equipment and technologies and ensure that they receive the rewards from taking that long term approach. According to a study by Deloitte earlier this year, industrial companies are sitting on a cash pile of around £25 billion, which could be invested.

So not only could increasing capital allowances provide a long term boost to our manufacturers, but it could also provide a short term boost to our economy. Research by EEF – the manufacturers’ organisation – also indicated that this measure could be self-financing over several years with the additional growth and jobs created. This is the kind of bold policy initiative that the Government needs to consider.

Many sectors and pressure groups will be lobbying the Government ahead of the Autumn Statement. However, I believe that the Chancellor was right when he said we need to see the “march of the makers”. In December, he has a chance to strike up the band to quicken that march.

Allie Renison: Cameron jockeys for position in Brussels - and finally wins one

Allie Renison works for Mark Reckless MP and the People's Pledge.

Months after the Coalition took over the reins of government, the Chancellor was forced by the dire state of the economy left to them by Labour to issue an emergency budget. Only the NHS and international aid were ring-fenced from unavoidable cuts to public spending that had spiralled out of control. Much was made over the sparing of these two areas of expenditure, yet the fact that our vast contribution to the EU budget would not and arguably could not be reduced, garnered barely a mention. It was treated as an afterthought, as if it was an inevitable reality that what we sent to Brussels was a finite, immoveable feast, and that questioning this automatic transfer was a wasted, futile exercise.

But he who dares wins, and earlier this month the House of Commons struck a resounding note of unity to stand up to Brussels and the mandarins in Whitehall who say we have no choice but to give ever more to fund the project of European integration. The annual EU budget negotiations no longer present us with a chance to unilaterally force a rethink of proposals from the Commission and European Parliament. But we do still have a veto over the long-term financial perspectives that set the maximum ceilings for EU spending over seven year periods, known as the Multiannual Financial Framework. The opportunities for making use of these vetoes are now few and far between, thanks to the changes in voting rights to QMV in a number of policy areas that the Lisbon Treaty ushered in. The chance to effect change on how we fund the EU only comes around once every seven years. And the Prime Minister has after all committed to using such rare opportunities to ‘recalibrate’ Britain’s relationship with the EU.

So the amendment that Mark Reckless put down on a motion sending him to hammer out a new MFF deal was about seizing the opportunity to make a modest suggestion that would strengthen his negotiating hand. It was a call for restraint, neither to match the savings being made at home nor to mimic the savage austerity abroad stemming from the disastrous single currency but, at the very least, to push for a real terms reduction in the long-term EU budget. The initial proposal of the Government to cap it to rise by no more than inflation would have meant explaining to many public sector workers the difference between the freezing of their pay and the ‘real terms freeze’ here that still would have seen a rise in their taxpayer money going to Brussels.
As it turns out, the Prime Minister’s hand turned out to be strengthened in a way that few could have envisioned. He went to the summit reviled by some of the Europhile press as “the bad guy” and surprised many when a number of key influential leaders backed his bid to bring a dose of reality to EU spending. Germany, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands among others fell in line behind Cameron in demanding some common sense cuts to the proposals – proof enough perhaps that his negotiating tactics are not as inept as some may have thought.

Labour meanwhile seem to have been so unprepared for the Prime Minister’s relative success in winning round allies to the approach they backed mere weeks ago, that they are in disarray trying to come up with a coherent line on this week’s summit talks. Ed Balls trumpets Cameron’s ‘failure to get an EU budget’ deal, and one has to wonder if he really thinks Ed Miliband would have done a better job armed with the same real-terms reduction strategy his party insist they have backed since July.

Party politicking aside, the question now of course is what happens going forward. That an agreement might take more than one go seems to have been no surprise to No. 10, and is likely to be an outcome they were preparing for. Ahead of the October budget vote, the Prime Minister’s spokesman was even quoted as saying “there's over a year between the summit and 2014...[and] no immediate consequences” if a deal could not be secured the first time around. The EU institutions, having received a necessary shock to the system following the Commission’s unbelievable refusal to acquiesce to calls for cuts to the cost of its bureaucracy, are now acutely aware this is not just a UK battle. The Prime Minister comes away strengthened in the knowledge that his corner is backed by a host of new allies. My prediction is that at the summit in the new year, this reality will translate to something of a climbdown from Brussels in the opening round of negotiations.

For as long we are kept in the EU, Britain will have to make a show of turning our national interests into communal positions around which others can coalesce. It would appear that in this particular battle at least, David Cameron has emerged triumphant. Europhiles should by all accounts be rejoicing. In one fell swoop he has taken Britain from shouting from the sidelines to leading a collective charge - and leading by example - from within. The ball is now in Brussels’ court to respond. A failure on their part to return to Planet Reality would only reaffirm the overwhelming sentiment that the EU is out of touch and out of step with the people and politics of today.

Tracey Crouch MP: Tories will be re-elected if they get the country out of the economic mess, not get themselves into the jungle

Tracey Crouch is the Member of Parliament for Chatham and Aylesford.

The punters in the pub are disappointed I didn’t go to the Jungle. Why? I asked. Is it because they do not relate to me, they wanted to know more about Tracey Crouch, their local Tory MP, and see me raise the big issues of the day with celebrities they’ve never heard of? Nope – they wanted to see me eat Kangaroo willies and scream my head off being covered in cockroaches!

I drink in the pub most weekends. I go to the supermarket in skinny jeans and walk to the village shop with trackie bottoms over my PJs. I gulp at the cost of filling up my car with diesel. I stand on the side of a football pitch most Sundays in shorts freezing my knobbly knees off. I swear when my beloved Tottenham play like pants. I swear at other things too. Half way through the month I need to check my bank account on a daily basis. I love the X Factor and trash TV. I hardly ever remember to ring my mum back and forget birthdays. I call an electrician a sparky. I give my car parking ticket with time left on it to someone else. I eat too much chocolate and drink too much wine. I laugh and cry at things I shouldn’t. I crush spiders with the shoes I’ve left lying untidily around the house. I’m rubbish at maths.

I would consider myself normal. But how can I be? I am a MP. And apparently that makes me abnormal and unable to relate to people.

But then can someone please define a normal person and a normal job? I live in a terraced house between a policeman and a careworker. I admire them both but I couldn’t do either of their jobs and, speaking to them, neither would want to do mine. I’m not cut out to clear up vomit, see dead people or put my life in danger but then they wouldn’t want to be stopped in the street and be asked about salt bins at the end of a long day trying to help sort out the problems of others.
The world doesn’t do 9-5 anymore. We all have weird hours, pressurised jobs, changes that we do or don’t agree with, likely public profile if something goes wrong, families we leave behind or miss due to anti-social hours. I have a fantastic job – a hard one and one that consumes your entire life – but then so does the policeman on one side and the careworker on the other.

In every workplace there are those who have had easier lives than others, those with money and those without. There are people who are nerds, those who fly by the seat of their pants. There will be some who arrive in a flashy car and others who travel by bus. Some colleagues will work the absolute minimum and others who clear their emails on a Sunday. There’ll be occasions when the job takes you abroad and away from your desk and there’ll be some who will prefer to stay at home. Westminster and MPs have always been seen as different and out of touch but actually it is pretty much the same as the rest of society; we have our fair share of rich, poor, weird, brilliant, unfunny, bright, not-so-bright, unattractive and beautiful mix of colleagues like most organisations.

But then the UK is also made up of a rich tapestry of constituencies. There are some that have pony clubs, naval bases, areas of deprivation, a white van culture, a commuter belt, a rural idyll. MPs often reflect their constituencies. There were seats I went for as a candidate where I knew I wouldn’t be right but on my very first meeting in Chatham & Aylesford I knew it was the perfect seat for me – for starters someone called me Trace.

Like everyone else this is a career path I chose and, like most MPs, I believe the way to relate to constituents is to listen to them, work hard for them and show them respect. Just because the wider public don’t know that I leave coffee mugs all around the house or that I was brought up by my single mum or that I didn’t eat steak until I was 21 because it was too expensive, I don’t feel the need to take a paid month away from my job to prove it. Why not? Because I am paid by the taxpayer to represent the people who elected me to Parliament and I bet no-one will vote for me at the next election because I am “normal” or whether I did a bush tucker trial but on my record and what I, and the Government, have done to help improve their lives, their communities and the country.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Cameron leads a Nordic alliance of budget cutters - including Germany

EUROPE’S problems deepened last night when a budget summit collapsed and David Cameron blasted Eurocrats for living “in a parallel universe”.

The two-day meeting of the EU’s 27 leaders to set spending for the next seven years broke up in bitterness with no agreement.

Instead, rich Northern countries were left pitted against the penniless South in one of the worst splits in the union’s six decade history.

Backed by Italy, Spain and France, Brussels mandarins refused to slash the €971billion (£786bn) package further.

That forced the PM, at the head of a new group of spending hawks, to throw it out.
In a major breakthrough for the once-isolated Mr Cameron, he recruited powerful German leader Angela Merkel to back his defiant stand.

Support ... Angela Merkel
The duo were joined in their new alliance by the leaders of the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

The group, all big EU contributers, laid down a “very clear marker” for far bigger cuts, the PM insisted last night. Lashing out at EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy and commission boss Jose Manuel Barroso, Mr Cameron said: “Brussels continues to exist as if it is in a parallel universe. The EU institutions have simply got to adjust to the real world.

“Freezing the budget is not an extreme position, it is eminently reasonable.

“The idea that EU institutions are unwilling to even consider these sorts of changes is insulting to European taxpayers.”

Explaining his alliance, the PM added: “We had a clear message. We are not going to be tough on budgets at home to come here and sign up to big increases in European spending.”
The Eurocrats refused to listen to his demand for a €10billion (£8bn) cut from their €56billion (£45bn) admin budget — and angled for a €7billion (£5.6bn) rise. Mr Cameron revealed they “didn’t offer a single euro in savings.”

Labour should be ashamed of Rotherham

Labour should be ashamed of Rotherham Council

On October 12th 2010 Laura Wilson, 17-year-old single mother in Rotherham was murdered by Ashtiaq Asghar. She was stabbed and thrown into a canal. She had been a victim of sexual grooming and was killed for informing her abusers families of the sexual relationships.

Social workers on the council knew she was at risk but failed to act. In June this year a Serious Case Review was written (which described Laura as "Child S") but the council attempted to suppress some of the most damning findings.

The report said:

Child S was involved with 15 different services during the seventeen years of her life. Her needs were never fully met. The information identified above was known either singly by an agency or was available to all agencies involved in her care if multi agency communication and working had been more effective. She had a long period of involvement with agencies due to her vulnerability, unpredictable behaviour, and the risk of her involvement as a victim of sexual exploitation.

It added:

Of significance is that the care of Child S did not focus on her and her needs. She was almost invisible to some services.The impact of learning difficulties on her ability to make choices about her life and care was not considered by most services. The potential for poor outcomes for Child S increased significantly because of a lack of early intervention to deal with signs of concern. The cost to Child S in terms of her emotional and psychological well being appears to have been considerable.

Also that:

Assessments of Child S did not lead to an effective plan of care which resulted in a lack of leadership, coordination and progress and a failure to recognise her real level of vulnerability.

Joyce Thacker has been the Strategic Director, Children and Young People’s Services in Rotherham since July 2008. Prior to that she worked as Senior Director in Rotherham from April 2006.

This is the woman to whom the Labour council leader Cllr Roger Stone is so deferential towards over the UKIP foster care scandal. He says:

"We are going to investigate to make sure everything has been done professionally.

"If the professionals give advice, we take it. We are going to investigate – we always would if somebody complains."

"We are looking to make sure all the correct procedures were carried out before the decision was made."

That response does not begin to be adequate.

Neither Miss Thacker nor Cllr Stone should continue in their posts.

George Osborne is planning for married couples' tax breaks in next year's Budget

The Sunday Telegraph carries the story that Conservative Ministers are drawing up plans to include married couples' tax breaks in George Osborne's next Budget in Spring 2013. "Senior Tory sources", who say "We will do this – the likeliest option is in the Budget", hint that the tax break will be worth £150 a year.

The Sunday Telegraph say at least three Cabinet members support the plan to bring it in next year, and those drawing it up see it as a possible way to head off the growing rebellion over same-sex marriage. The three Cabinet members are thought to be Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Owen Paterson, all seen as men of the socially conservative right.

George Osborne, who, it must be noted, is a driving force behind the Government's new gay marriage push, is said finally to have been persuaded of the benefit of a transferable tax allowance for married couples, after not pursuing the policy for some time, despite it being in the Conservative manifesto, and referred to in the Coalition Agreement. The specific measure would mean allowing "married stay-at-home parents to transfer part of their tax-free allowance to a working spouse, saving some four million married couples around £150 a year".

Action next year on the tax allowance would make it harder for an incoming Labour government to scrap the tax in 2015, should they win the next election. The Lib Dems, who are given the right to abstain on the measure in the Coalition Agreement, are not fans of recognising marriage in the tax system, sticking to the old dogma that the state shouldn't support one family type over another.

The Sunday Telegraph quotes Nick De Bois, secretary of the 1922 Committee, as saying:

"Introducing a married couples’ transferable allowance is a progressive tax that will that will help make work pay for households getting back to work and support families throughout the country. This would be a welcome return to recognising hard-working families through the tax system."

This follows on from a Telegraph interview with Ken Clarke last month, during which he said there were no plans to introduce any tax allowance ("I’m married, I’m not counting on it. I don’t remember anyone promising that kind of thing."), before his office had to clarify that "He completely accepts it's going to happen".

See what you can do to support the campaign to #upgradeA27now and keep up to date

Eastbourne and the surrounding towns and villages desperately need the main A27 trunk road to be upgraded now to prevent the increasing number of deaths and serious injuries suffered on this stretch of road and to unlock the economic potential of this wide area which will lead to more businesses choosing to locate here, more people choosing this area to work, play and spend their money with our businesses, cafes, restaurants and entertainment attractions.

Eastbourne Borough Councillors of both Conservative and Lib-Dem parties unanimously supported my recent motion which calls on the Government to upgrade the road without further delay for all road users. The campaign is now gaining momentum as we seek to build a wide coalition across the area to show Government how needed this is.

You can support the campaign by signing the e-petition at

You can also follow me on Twitter at @CllrWarner or on my Blog at where I shall be publishing regular campaign updates.

During the next week I also intend to have a campaign website up and running where I will be posting updates and hoping to publish supporting comments along the lines of "I support the campaign to #upgradeA27now because". The more of these endorsements we can raise, the more we can keep the campaign in the public eye and stand a chance of getting the magic 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a debate in the House of Commons.

Please support the campaign by signing the petition today and sharing this with everyone you know. Please also e-mail your campaign endorsements to me at for inclusion in the campaign promotion.

Together we can achieve our goal, thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you in anticipation of your support.

Cllr Patrick Warner
Conservative Member for Sovereign Ward
Eastbourne Borough Council

Friday, 23 November 2012

A win for Cameron in Europe

David Cameron began the EU budget summit with two aims.

1) To avoid being blamed for any budget settlement by his Euro-sceptic rebel backbenchers, who would have been satisfied with nothing less than both a smaller budget and a cut in Britain's contribution - neither of which were on, let alone together.

2) To avoid being blamed for any summit break-up by the EU institutions and other EU countries, in a repetition of the "isolation" in which Britain found itself after he exercised his veto almost exactly a year ago.

Today, he has achieved both his objectives.

There is no deal, so he doesn't face the prospect of another rebel-Labour alliance defeating him in the Commons.

But there is no isolation either, because Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Finland and Denmark weren't happy with the proposed deal either (at least according to the Prime Minister).

Which stuffs Labour, whose position appears to be that the EU should unanimously have cut its budget and reached agreement. Risible.
And this time round, the Liberal Democrats can't blame Mr Cameron for using Britain's veto, because he didn't. Excellent. His critics should admit that he has played his hand skilfully,

Goodness knows where this leaves the budget. Perhaps the Prime Minister will find himself cornered next year - and perhaps not.

However, it's pretty clear where it leaves debate about the EU in Britain, as the noise and alarms of the summit fade away.

If there had been an agreement, it would almost certainly have not been in our interests. But since there hasn't been, we can complain, correctly, of the institutional sclerosis of the EU.

The simple fact is that the momentum towards renegotiation and a referendum of some kind have taken a few modest steps forward tonight. Or more than a few.

The truth behind the Lib-Dem spin over substance on parking in Eastbourne

The outbreak of unity experienced during debates about saving the DGH, upgrading the A27 and 20 mph zones around schools crumbled at Eastbourne's Full Council meeting on Wednesday evening when Lib-Dem Councillor Steve Wallis got to his feet to present a motion on calling for an urgent meeting with East Sussex County Council about the current consultation on proposed changes to the decriminlised parking scheme in Eastbourne. Members of the public watching from the gallery could have been forgiven for questionning if an election might be in the offing as the Lib-Dems returned to their favourite campaign subject.

After a point of order raised by Conservative Group Leader, Cllr David Elkin it became clear that Cllr Wallis had in fact already been offered a meeting to discuss the concerns of residents in Devonshire Ward but chose to proceed with the motion to Eastbourne Borough Council instead to get the publicity.

Cllr Wallis accused Council officers of ignoring his previous requests to discuss concerns and waved a folder which he claimed contained 120 letters from angry residents. One wonders why the current Lib-Dem County Councillor, Cllr Beryl Healy for the area has been so silent on the subject although rumour has it that she is set to retire at the elections next May and Borough Council ward colleague, Steve Wallis is set to replace her, further fuelling accusations that this was merely headline grabbing on a sensitive issue to raise his profile, rather than a genuine attempt for Cllrs Wallis and Healy to sit down with officers and raise residents concerns.

I challenged Cllr Wallis and his colleagues during the debate on their parking failings as follows:

  • Why when the Lib-Dems had campaigned at the last two local elections on a promise to remove the parking scheme from Eastbourne had they failed to remove it?
  • Why had they left Eastbourne Borough Council owned car parks out of the Borough wide scheme which regularly causes confusion for motorists where the two schemes co-exist alongside each other with seperate parking meters and different tarrifs?
  • Why had they gone on to introduce additional pay to park spaces on the seafront in their own scheme that cost more to park in than the County Council run scheme?
  • Why when East Sussex County Council showed it was listening to the business community by slashing the cost of seafront on street parking by 50% each year to help businesses during the quieter winter months, have Lib-Dem run Eastbourne Borough Council left their own pay to park spaces at the far higher summer season rates every year?
  • Why not do the job they are elected to do and negotiate the best deal they can for residents and businesses instead of playing cheap political games with parking and scaremongering in the local press?
My questions were met with a shaky challenge by the normally teflon coated Leader, Cllr Tutt who accused me or murkying the waters but failed to answer any of my criticisms properly claiming that the charges levied on motorists by his Administration were set at the levels imposed by the last Conservative Administration in 2007. Why then in after over five years in control have they not rectified this situation?

Herald Chief Reporter, Ann-Marie Field expressed a view in a recent newspaper column that it could appear to some that Lib-Dem controlled Eastbourne didn't seem to get a fair slice of the highways budget compared to Conservative run Lewes and Labour run Hastings councils and whilst I don't think that the County Council penalises Eastbourne because it has a Lib-Dem administration, I do think that if Cllrs Wallis and Tutt worked more pro-actively with the County Council, local people may feel that their local representatives were getting a better deal for Eastbourne.

Clearly rattled by the clarity of the debate a furious Cllr Wallis summed up accusing East Sussex County Council of having wasted £200,000 on their consultation process whilst giving nothing back to the people of Eastbourne. I would further challenge him on this point because proceeds gained from the Eastbourne parking scheme to date have already contributed over £2 million that will be invested in improving Town Centre highway infastructure to co-incide with the forthcoming re-development and extension of Eastbourne's Arndale Shopping Centre, something which Cllr Tutt only recently grudgingly accepted as positive news for Eastbourne.

Furthermore, Eastbourne's Lib-Dems should also be very wary of criticising the County Council for the cost of conducting a thorough consultation process when you look at the millions of pounds they have spent on consultants since taking office in 2007. No parking scheme is popular but they are increasingly commonplace throughout the country in major towns and cities as Councils of all political colours struggle to balance the books against a back drop of austerity. Whilst some believe that paying to park compounds the already challenging economic climate for businesses, others point to Town Centre residents being able to park outside their home and the provision of restricted time bays in the very centre of town making it possible for people to pop into Town for shopping, lunch and appointments that might otherwise have lead to them choosing to pick out of town supermarkets or go elsewhere.

As recent polling indicates a collapse in Lib-Dem support nationally backed up at a local level with the very poor showing for Lib-Dems at the recent Police & Crime Commissioner elections where they were not only beaten by the winning Conservative candidate (now Commissioner Katy Bourne) but also Labour, UKIP and Independent candidates too. I predict that local campaigning by the Lib-Dems will only continue to become ever more negative and desperate with more distorted attempts at grabbing headlines to stop them from being obliterated next May.

Not that they will be remotely interested I'm sure, but I would call on local Lib-Dems to stop scaremongering and playing politics with parking and start engaging properly as the controlling party in Eastbourne by speaking up for residents and businesses in the appropriate forum. If they fail to heed my advice, the results at next year's County Council elections will surely be very punnishing for the party which increasing numbers of people are seeing as more interested in spin than substance when it comes the issues that matter to local people.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Nick Herbert MP: On prisoner voting, we shouldn’t defy the European Court of Human Rights, we should resile from it altogether.

Nick Herbert is the Member of Parliament for nearby Arundel and South Downs and a former Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice.

Today the Government will set out options for giving prisoners the vote. It’s extraordinary to see ministers obliged to propose legislation which they clearly find abhorrent. But the European Court of Human Rights has ruled, in the case of convicted killer John Hirst, that our country’s blanket ban on prisoners voting breaches his rights. Earlier this year, the Government was given six months to ‘introduce legislative proposals to bring the disputed laws in line with the Convention’. That deadline expires today.

It seems that Parliament will be given three options: a limited extension of the vote to prisoners serving sentences of less than six months; a wider enfranchisement of those serving up to four years, and retention of the existing ban.

The proposals raise two principal issues. The first is the merits of the case: should prisoners be given the right to vote? This is debatable, but I don’t believe they should. We deprive criminals of their right to liberty by imprisoning them. There isn’t an absolute right to vote, as even the European Court accepts. And voting is surely a civic right, not a fundamental human right. We don’t, for instance, allow foreigners to help decide our government.

In any case, the argument should not be framed in terms of rights, but responsibilities. Idealistic claims are made about making prisoners good citizens. But I think we should focus on our responsibility to rehabilitate prisoners through hard-headed and practical measures: getting them off drugs, for instance. Prisoners should take responsibility for their own actions and go straight. And if citizens have a right to vote, don’t they also have a responsibility to do so? It’s paradoxical that we will be arguing about whether to extend the franchise a week after the vast majority of the public – for whatever reason –declined to vote in new elections.
The drafters of the European Convention on Human Rights, conscious of the UK’s ban on prisoner voting, deliberately rejected the idea. What those nations agreed to was to hold ‘free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people’. No-one could seriously argue that elections in the United Kingdom are anything other than free and fair. Yet, out of this commitment, Strasbourg concocted a universal ‘right’ to vote.

This is merely the latest manifestation of a wider problem: the European Court of Human Rights has over-reached itself. As Lord Hoffmann - a distinguished former Law Lord - has said, the Court ‘has taken upon itself an extraordinary power to micromanage the legal systems of member states’ and has been ‘unable to resist the temptation to aggrandise its jurisdiction’. In Hoffmann’s words, the‘very concept of human rights is being trivialised’.

By bringing forward proposals for a limited enfranchisement, the Government may try to claim that it has complied with the Court’s ruling. But I fear this is unlikely to be the end of the matter. The Court also required the UK to ‘to enact the relevant legislation within any time frame decided by the Committee of Ministers’. Yet it is virtually certain that the House of Commons will vote to retain the current ban. The overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs support it. Labour, despite holding two consultations on giving convicted prisoners the vote, are cynically saying that they will support the status quo. Only Liberal Democrats enthusiastically back a change.

There’s another absurdity in what is being proposed. Ministers may in fact be unable to vote for, or even advocate, the existing ban – because to do so would breach the Ministerial Code, which does not allow them to advocate breaking the law. Yet the Prime Minister has said even contemplating having to give prisoners the vote makes him physically ill, and recently told the Commons: “no-one should be in any doubt: prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government.”

So the reality is that we remain on a collision course with the Council of Europe, which is unlikely to allow Parliament simply to ignore a Court ruling. The fact that other countries do so, and on issues which really do relate to fundamental breaches of human rights, is unlikely to deter them.

And the Court itself is unlikely to let matters rest. There are over 2,500 cases currently pending against the United Kingdom in Strasbourg by prisoners denied the vote. The Court has so far accepted that the prospect of a change in the law amounts to ‘just satisfaction’.

Once it is clear that there is no prospect of the law being changed, the Court is likely to start awarding compensation, which is likely to run into tens, if not hundreds, of millions of pounds. And if the British people have difficulty with the idea of giving prisoners the vote, they will find it harder still to stomach the sight of prisoners each potentially receiving thousands of pounds in compensation.

In short, today’s move is unlikely to solve the prisoner vote stand-off: it will merely kick the can down the street. The increasing tension between the UK and Strasbourg cannot be left to fester, and the prisoner voting issue is just one of a number that will require us to make some hard choices. Which brings us to the second key issue: who decides whether prisoners should have the vote?

In a debate last February, a motion to give prisoners the vote was defeated by 234 votes to 22. That should be the end of the matter. But it cannot be while we allow this supranational court the ultimate power to overrule own elected House of Commons. I do not suggest that we should abandon the rights in the Convention. The text was, after all – as is often pointed out – drafted by British lawyers. And it existed before the European Court came into being, or direct access to that Court was allowed – a relatively recent phenomenon.

But as the prisoner voting issue demonstrates, the Convention has too often been misinterpreted and misapplied. Next week, in a lecture for Policy Exchange entitled ‘What’s Gone Wrong with Rights?’, I will argue that replacing the Human Rights Act with a new British Bill of Rights – as the Conservative Party has so far proposed – will not be enough. We must also end the writ of the European Court. That would enable Parliament and our own courts to strike a proper balance between rights and responsibilities, with respect for the democratic will. We shouldn’t defy the European Court of Human Rights: we should resile from it altogether.

Here here!

Campaign to #upgradeA27now off to a good start!

Last night, members on both sides of the Chamber in Eastbourne Borough Council did something that does not happen very often. My motion which reads;

“This Council calls on Her Majesty’s Government to unlock the potential of Eastbourne and the surrounding area by upgrading the A27 between Polegate and Beddingham”
recieved unanimous support and was seconded by the Lib-Dem Leader of the Council with most members speaking in favour from the various different view points.

This is a great start but we still face a huge uphill task to make this much needed improvement become a reality. Over the coming weeks and months I intend to visit neighbouring Parish, Town, Borough and District Council's along with our own County Council to ask them to support the campaign. I believe it is only by building a big coalition across the whole area of all political parties and none, that we stand a chance of being successful.

I will be asking prominent public figures from business, voluntary and public sectors to support the campaign and I have today received notification that my request to start an online e-petition to lobby Government has been successful. If we can get 100,000 signatures to this e-petition, it will be considered for a debate in the House of Commons which would really raise the profile of this important campaign. You can add your support to this petition by clicking on the following link:

Follow me on Twitter at @CllrWarner to keep up to date with how the campaign is going but please share the link for the petition with as many people as you can and lets #upgradeA27now

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Nadine Dorries evicted from I'm A Celebrity

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has become the first person to be evicted from ITV's reality show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

She lasted 12 days in the Australian jungle, after controversially signing up for the month-long programme.

"I actually came here self-important... but I'm not now," the Mid-Bedfordshire MP said after the show's public vote.

She is the first sitting MP to appear on it and had the party whip withdrawn for being absent from her job.

The show sees celebrities living together in a jungle camp and undertaking a series of daily challenges to win meals. Members of the public vote for the celebrities they want to keep on the show.

Before it began, Ms Dorries said she wanted to use her appearance to raise awareness of issues she is interested in, such as reducing the time limit on abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks.

When asked by presenters Ant and Dec if she felt she had achieved her aim, she said: "I don't know what people have seen but I have had some fascinating conversations in there. It's been a fascinating experience.

"I think it is important that MPs realise that you need to go where the public go. More people vote on X Factor and I'm A Celebrity than they do in the general elections. MPs need to go where people vote."

The Conservative Party has been concerned about Ms Dorries' inability to do parliamentary and constituency business while she was taking part in the programme.

Ms Dorries had said she would donate her MP's salary for the time she was on the show to charity.

For the public vote she was up against former world darts champion Eric Bristow, former Doctor Who actor Colin Baker, EastEnders actress Charlie Brooks and ex-Coronation Street actress Helen Flanagan.

Comedian Brian Conley quit the show this week because of ill health.

The final Mini leaves Longbridge

Back in the 2005, when Urban Exploration was new and exciting, the sprawling Longbridge site came under considerable scrutiny. After MG Rover fell into administration, talented and brave young trespassers with nice DSLRs and a gift for framing a great photograph broke in and supplied us with some great pictures of hitherto unseen parts of the factory (see below links).

One enduring image from the tunnels below the factory was of a lone Mini Clubman, which had been seemingly left to rot. Standing in dank water and away from sunlight for at least 30 years, the car was something of a lone and rather sad survivor – a time capsule reminder that beneath the factory is an intricate network of passages that saw so much action.

They served to protect the factory workers from German bombers during WW2 and ended up becoming something of a storage-cum-hiding area in more recent years.

However, when it became clear that the tunnels were due to be filled in during the next round of site excavation and redevelopment, Steve, a Mini enthusiast, decided that he would save the car. He got in touch with St. Modwen (the site’s owner) and arranged to have the car removed legally, with a view to rescuing it. As for why the car ended up there with practically zero miles on the clock and a huge v-shaped dent in the roof, Steve said, ‘the Mini was finished and was being driven around the site as a pool car. It had covered 11 miles, then I believe a storage container fell on it. So they hid down the tunnel.’

Steve has decided to restore the car to its former glory – which will be, in his own words, a huge project. However, it has caused something of a fracas in the Mini community, with deep feelings for and against its removal in the first place and now its restoration.

You can read all about that on the ongoing Mini forum thread. What do you think? Should it be restored or should this ‘virgin’ Mini Clubman have been left to rot?

Picture Credit: Michael Scott

First Drive : MG6 GT 1.9DTI SE

We’ve been waiting such a long time for this car and there’s a lot riding on it. The MG6 was launched amidst a sense of quiet optimism at Longbridge in May 2011 but, very quickly, it established itself as a slow-seller. Many people blamed the lack of marketing and publicity; and even more decried it for the lack of a diesel. However, from December 2012, MG Motor UK will be taking orders for its new 1.9-litre DTI-Tech-engined ’6 turbodiesel – will it finally see a turnaround in the car’s fortunes?

Considering one of the car industry’s best-known badges is nailed to it, the MG6 has singularly failed to capture the collective imagination of the British car buying public. Since it went on sale in early 2011, fewer than 1000 have been sold in what is considered its ‘home’ market but MG is hoping that this is about to change now that a new diesel engine joins the line-up alongside the 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol version.

The good-looking MG6 is roomy and has excellent dynamics – and, as long as you don’t choose one of the top-of-the-range models or the Magnette saloon (only available in TSE form and costing £22,000), it’s also good value for money compared with its more established price rivals. Unfortunately, with an engine range of one – the 158bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged TCI-Tech – and in a market sector where diesel is king, this is clearly a major handicap.

The arrival of the new diesel version therefore comes not a moment too soon. The all-aluminium twin-cam 16-valve oil-burner is the result of a joint venture between Kunming-Yunnei and SAIC Motor and it has been extensively developed by the Engineers at the Longbridge-based SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre who have worked hard to optimise the new engine for the MG6.
The MG6 DTI-Tech will be assembled in the UK in Longbridge from kits imported from China and, as before, the car was originally designed in the UK and has been significantly reworked over its Chinese counterpart to be suited to Europe’s demanding car buyers.

The MG6 is an interesting package and very much a segment-spanning car. In terms of price, it’s clearly a C-segment (Focus/Golf) alternative but, with its generous length and interior room (especially in the rear), MG clearly believes that it actually belongs in the class above. The two cars the company sees as its closest rivals are the Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Insignia. Significantly, both of those offer a much wider choice of engines than MG’s two…

The interior quality has taken a step-up since the petrol-engined car was launched, showing that the MG6 is still a work-in-progress. Former nastiness, such as low-grade steering wheel and gearknob have been replaced with new items and, overall, there’s now an air of solidity within the cabin that wasn’t there before. In the SE model (£18,195) we tested, equipment levels are generous – you get integrated sat-nav and multi-media in-car entertainment, rain sensing wipers, speed limit warning system, cruise control and parking radar. Standard-fit 17-inch alloys also look smart.

The driving and pedal positioning are also excellent, but that is tempered by poor rearward visibility and an intrusive A-pillar. The cabin ambiance remains dour, thanks to dark trim, while the ignition ‘key’ is still needlessly lightweight and the handbrake is awkward. Overall, though, it’s not a bad effort and not really deficient in any area - the interior is easily the MG6′s weakest feature.
On the road, the MG6 is transformed. Although the petrol option remains available, we can’t see many people taking it now. The 148bhp engine delivers a useful slug of torque – 258lb ft – and this is absolutely necessary to pull what is a very hefty car, weighing-in at between 1595-1605kg depending on the model. Trickling through the city, all the controls feel well-weighted and progressive and smooth driving comes naturally (unlike the petrol car) – stop-start is a welcome addition; a system that benefits from the MG6′s new regenerative braking system.

However, you are seldom aware of the MG6′s great weight – it accelerates well (0-60mph takes 8.9 seconds, maximum speed is 120mph) and pulls smoothly between 1500 and 4000rpm. The new six-speed gearbox carries a super-tall top ratio (at an indicated 70mph it’s pulling 1800rpm), but the intermediates are well-judged and rarely will you fall outside of the power band.

Refinement levels are okay – the engine note is slightly course, but never intrusive, and it’s at no real disadvantage compared with its diesel opposition, even if it’s never exceptional. As before, wind noise levels are okay, and tyre noise is well contained. But the MG6 does track well on the motorway and the damping is spot on for high speed driving. It’s here that you’d assume the most development work has been done.

That said, get the MG6 on to an empty A- or B-road, and it’s a genuinely engaging handler – with crisp steering turn-in and almost no body-roll. The ride is firm, but well-damped, too – and rarely will a challenging road upset it. What stops the MG6 DTI earning a top rating for its dynamics are the brakes – although it has bigger discs and the initial bite inspires confidence, it lacks ultimate feel and that nibbles away at a driver’s confidence.

The new electro-hydraulic steering is well-weighted and the gearing is perfect but, disappointingly, it doesn’t quite communicate road surfaces with the same clarity as the old hydraulic set-up.
The MG6 GT 1.9DTI SE is, then, a good car – one with a character that we can’t help but like. It’s also a great effort from MG (effectively a car company that’s been around something less than 10 years) and certainly feels like a far more convincing all-rounder than the petrol-engined version. Whereas in the original ’6, you’d find yourself making allowances – be it for the ageing engine or some of the low-rent Chinese componentry – this car feels much more together and harmonious and, although it’s not at the cutting-edge, it is there or thereabouts in most departments.

MG doesn’t have huge sales ambitions for this car, looking at between 1500-2500 sales per year, which, following on from the disappointing sales so far, is probably a realistic goal. It’s targeting business users and fleets, promising low servicing costs, favourable taxation (BIK rather than a headline-grabbing low tax band – which at 139g/km is disappointing) and cheap insurance. The company predicts that 75 per cent of its sales will go to business users and promises that there will be more marketing for the car, which far too few people actually know about at the moment.
Overall, the diesel-engined MG6 is a good effort and, if you go for an entry level ‘S’ model at £16,995, you’ll end up buying a likeable, good value, fun-to-drive, roomy family hold-all, with plenty of pace and a real-world potential of 45mpg all day long. It also has the important stuff, such as the safety kit, air conditioning, all-round electric windows and alloy wheels. Wonder when we’ll start seeing more of them on the road? If there’s any justice, very soon.