Archive for November, 2011

Caroline Lucas Exposes The £2bn Being Spent On Nuclear Weapons By MoD

November 28, 2011

The Ministry of Defence is spending £2bn on new nuclear weapons plants before a formal decision has been taken over whether to replace Trident warheads, according to ministers.

The revelation has prompted fierce attacks on the MoD for making “a complete mockery” of the democratic process by pre-empting a decision and so attempting to force the hands of future governments.

The ministry says the investment helps to ensure the safety of the existing Trident warheads, but accepts that the money also maintains the capability to design a new warhead “should that be required”.

Details of the MoD’s investments have been unveiled for the first time. They include a £734m facility called Mensa for dismantling and assembling of warheads, a risky but essential maintenance process; a £634m highly enriched uranium plant called Pegasus; and a £231m high explosives factory called Circinus.

The plants are being built at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire. Other facilities with similarly stellar names but smaller bills – Orion, Gemini, and Leo – are also being built as part of the AWE development plan covering 2005 to 2015. The costs of two more – Octans and Orchard – are being kept secret for commercial reasons.

The figures have been released by the defence minister Peter Luff in answer to a parliamentary question by the Green MP Caroline Lucas. Although a few were known from freedom of information requests or other sources, the bulk had previously been kept confidential.

“The fact that the MoD signed off on these costs before a decision has even been made on replacing the Trident warhead makes a complete mockery of the democratic process,” said Lucas.

“It’s clear that replacing this extravagant and discredited white elephant project would mean locking the UK into the costly technologies of the past, at a time when we should be developing the realistic defence solutions of the future.”

She called on the government to end the “culture of secrecy” that allowed crucial military spending decisions to be pushed through without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Spending so much on nuclear weapons at a time of economic austerity was also “morally indefensible and economically illiterate”, she said.

The government decided in October last year to postpone a decision on whether to develop a new nuclear warhead until after the next election in 2015. To save money, and to appease the Liberal Democrats, ministers also deferred the main investment decision on replacing the submarines that will carry the warheads.

According to Peter Burt of the Nuclear Information Service, the new weapons plants would have a life of at least 40 years. “By spending billions of pounds now, the MoD is trying to force the hands of future governments into developing a new nuclear warhead, regardless of whether it will be necessary or affordable,” he said.

An MoD spokeswoman pointed out that the government was committed to a “continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent” based on Trident. “This investment maintains the safety of the current Trident warhead stockpile by sustaining essential facilities and skills,” she said.

“It also helps maintain the capability to design a replacement warhead should that be required following decisions in the next parliament.”

Source = http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/nov/27/mod-trident-nuclear-weapons-spending

Excess Winter Deaths Are Unacceptable

November 22, 2011

“It is completely unacceptable that millions of people across the UK are still struggling to keep their homes warm and protect their families from the cold – with excess winter deaths reaching 25,000, increasing by 38% during the cold snap last December, and over 5,000 households in Brighton Pavilion alone (1) stuck in fuel poverty.

“If the Government is serious about eradicating fuel poverty by 2016, it must radically improve housing standards, curb the power of the big energy companies to charge what they like, and put in place measures to help fuel-poor households.

“In the meantime, I urge people to contact the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 to get advice on staying warm this winter.”

Caroline Lucas MP

1) This figure is from DECC’s 2008 sub-regional estimates and equates to 11.8% of all households in the constituency.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15836494

GREEN MEP VISITS STRATFORD DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ADVICE SURGERY

November 21, 2011

Jean Lambert, Green MEP  for London and Jenny Jones, Green London  Assembly Member, have today visited the dedicated one-stop shop for sufferers of  domestic violence at the Stratford Advice Arcade, Newham, to see the  comprehensive support on offer for local residents who are suffering from abuse  at the hands of their partners. 

The surgery, which first  opened its doors in May 2011, aims to help vulnerable women, and in some cases,  men, in dealing with threatening situations before they result in physical  abuse.  Visitors to the drop-in sessions can meet with representatives of  Newham’s police community safety unit, Asian Women’s Aid, East London Black  Women’s Organisation, Newham Action Against Domestic Abuse and TV Edwards  Solicitors to access the help and advice they  need.

Today’s visit coincides  with the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, an  annual event which seeks to raise awareness of violence against women and girls  across the world.  In London alone, there have been some  46,000 incidents of domestic violence over the last twelve months, with domestic  homicide accounting for over 25 per cent of murders in the capital  [1].

Speaking during the  visit, Jean, a strong campaigner against domestic violence, said: “On average, two women are killed every week in  England and  Wales by a current or former  partner.  On average, one incident of domestic violence is reported to the  police every minute. Yet despite these devastating statistics, research by  Women’s Aid reveals that 60 per cent of refuge services are now operating  without a single penny of council funding, significantly reducing lifesaving  services for those who experience violence in the home.  Furthermore, the  Government’s draconian spending cuts have withdrawn crucial support for some  70,000 vulnerable women and children [2]. 

“We  know that women are at greater risk of domestic violence and abuse during times  of economic recession.  The Government has responsibility to ensure that  vital support services, such as the domestic violence surgery at the Stratford Advice Arcade,  are adequately funded, prepared and able to cope with incidents of emotional and  physical abuse that can have such a shattering impact on people’s lives.   We should all be able to live a life free from violence and  abuse.”

Jenny said: “Organisations like this do very valuable work in our  city, providing vital support to those most in need. The priority for those in  government is to do far more to decrease abuse in all its  forms.

“There  must but a concerted effort to raise levels of education about these issues and,  crucially, to focus on creating opportunities for work, housing and childcare  within the capital.”

Notes  to Editors

  1. For   further information on domestic violence statistics in London, visit: http://www.met.police.uk/csu/domestic_violence.htm
  2. Women’s Aid is the national domestic violence charity that helps up   to 250,000 women and children every year.  For more information on public   spending and domestic violence services, visit: http://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-violence-press-information.asp?itemid=2599&itemTitle=Women%92s+Aid%92s+survey+reveals+fear+that+over+half+of+refuge+and+outreach+services+could+face+closure&section=0001000100150001&sectionTitle=Press+releases

Jean  Lambert is one of eight MEPs  representing London and one of two UK Green representatives  in the European Parliament. Jean was first elected Green  Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections and  was re-elected in 2004 and 2009.

For an  interview with Jean or for further information please contact: Anna Rutter,  Media & PR Officer to Jean Lambert MEP: 020 7250 8417 / 07917 881648 / media@jeanlambertmep.org.uk 

www.jeanlambertmep.org.uk

Vet warns of serious risk to human health

November 21, 2011

The Green Party calls for action for the drastic reduction of antibiotic usage on farms and welcomes the important report from Compassion in World Farming, the Soil Association and Sustain, which demonstrates the seriousness of the issue and proposes practical steps to tackle it.

Caroline Allen, vet and Green Party Spokesperson on animal issues, said, “I am pleased to see this issue getting the prominent coverage it deserves. With pharmaceutical companies able to advertise antibiotics direct to farmers and animals kept in intolerable conditions with high levels of stress and avoidable disease, it is no surprise that antibiotics have seemed to be an easy answer. Unfortunately the price we are paying for cheap meat is a rise in antibiotic resistance, which is a serious threat to human health.”

The European Parliament recently voted to support an end to the prophylactic use of antibiotics in livestock farming. This routine use of antibiotics in animal husbandry has been a longstanding issue for the Greens and we have now urged the European Commission to develop proposals that will bring an end to this practice.

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South-East England, said, “Antibiotics are being used in this way to perpetuate unnaturally high densities of animals in factory-farming systems, a highly polluting and inhumane practice. I have visited successful organic farms where antibiotics are not used in this way. Given the damaging effects on animals and humans alike, it is now imperative that European farmers move towards a more sustainable and healthy model of farming that does not compromise the health of either animals or consumers.”

The Government’s Chaotic Solar Policy

November 21, 2011

The solar industry is still struggling to come to terms with the scale of the damage inflicted on them by the Government’s sudden announcement last month that feed-in tariffs to support the installation of solar PV are to be more than halved.

While it’s always been accepted that the tariff would be revised in line with falling installation and running costs, this hasty reduction – originally planned for April – suggests an alarming degree of disorder in Government policy.

By failing to give people and organisations time to plan ahead and adapt, Ministers now risk reversing the significant achievements of this burgeoning industry.

Since the FIT scheme was introduced in April 2010, it has seen 100,000 solar installations, the creation of more than 22,000 jobs and almost 4,000 new businesses.

But following the Government’s shock decision, many solar projects across the country, including community energy projects that would benefit schools and hospitals, are either under threat or have already been cancelled.

The business case for local authority programmes, such as Brighton & Hove City Council’s ambitious plan for solar panels on public buildings and council houses, has also been seriously undermined.

And schemes that would have seen thousands of social housing tenants benefit from solar have been abandoned.

What’s particularly shocking is that the FiTs cut will come into force even before the Government has finished its consultation – making a complete mockery of the democratic process.

The Consultation Institute has warned that this could breach the Civil Service code, which reasonably states that “formal consultation should take place at a stage when there is scope to influence the outcome”. Friends of the Earth has launched a legal challenge.

We must now do all we can to put pressure on the Government to scale back its shock treatment and offer some respite for solar. This is a jobs rich, green industry which is just taking flight, and withdrawing support too soon – before its full potential has been realised – could be disastrous.

Caroline Lucas

Youth unemployment hits 1 million

November 16, 2011

Youth unemployment has broken through the 1 million mark to a record high and the UK’s wider unemployment rate has climbed to a 15-year high.

The government sought to blame the deterioration in the jobs market on pressures from the eurozone debt crisis but came under attack for ignoring problems at home.

Fears that young people are bearing the brunt of Britain’s economic slowdown were underscored by official figures showing there were 1.02 million unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds between July and September. One in five young people are now out of work.

“Today’s ugly labour market data will raise concerns that the UK economic recovery is fading away, and that a long-term impact will be felt among the nation’s youth,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

The wider national picture was also one of a deteriorating jobs market.

The Office for National Statistics said that there were a total of 2.62 million unemployed people in the quarter, the highest total since 1994. That left the unemployment rate at a bigger-than-expected 8.3%, the highest since 1996. The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance last month increased by 5,300 to 1.6 million, the ONS said.

Employment minister Chris Grayling said the eurozone’s troubles were behind the rise. “These figures are bad news. They are I’m afraid the consequence of what we’re seeing in the eurozone,” he said.

“If you go back four months, unemployment was falling, youth unemplyment was lower than 900,000. We’ve seen a big slowdown in the economy I think as a result of the crisis elsewhere.”

But leading Liberal Democrat peer Matthew Oakeshott hit back that Grayling was overlooking domestic problems. “It’s ridiculous to blame this rise in unemployment on the crisis in the eurozone. All economists know it’s a lagging indicator, so this is the result of what has been happening iun our economy over the past year, for example the collapse in the housebuilding to the lowest peacetime level since 1923,” he said.

The ONS data on earnings showed the squeeze on households continuing. While inflation stands at 5%, earnings rose at less than half that pace in the three months to September, going up 1.7% on a year earlier.

That bodes ill for the wider economy, analysts said.

“Overall, the rise in unemployment and weakness of earnings growth relative to inflation continue to place substantial pressures on household finances – squeezing real incomes, suppressing confidence and leading to increased precaution among consumers. This can only be bad news for economic growth in the short-term – especially in consumer-dependent sectors such as retail,” said Scott Corfe, senior economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Grayling pledged help for young people in particular, with schemes such as the government’s work programme and work experience scheme “which is getting a significant number of young people off benefits and into work”.

But for now, the unemployment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds stands at more than double the rate for the wider population, at 21.9%.

The youth unemployment level and rate were the highest since comparable records began in 1992. But the ONS added that earlier data, calculated on a slightly different basis, indicated that the level of youth unemployment was higher in the mid-1980s. It also noted that the total figure includes 286,000 people in full-time education who were looking for part-time work.

Source – Katie Allen
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 16 November 2011 11.07 GMT

Nun Wood Wind Farm at Bozeat Has Been Granted Planning Permission

November 16, 2011

The appeal to overturn the decision to block the Nun Wood Wind Farm Development has been successful. George Paton broke the news on our Yes to Nunn Wood Wind Farm Facebook page. The decision by the HM Planning Inspector means that NPower are now able to construct 12 wind turbines between Harrold Road Bozeat and London Road Lavendon.

The development at Nun Wood will lay across the three counties of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire; comprising of 3 turbines within the Milton Keynes area, 6 within Bedford Borough and 3 within the borough of Wellingborough. The planned operational period will be 25 years and the scheme would meet the average annual electricity needs of between 13,700 and 15,600 homes¹ and make a valuable contribution towards the Government’s commitment to ensure 20% of electricity is generated from renewable sources by the year 2020.

Nun Wood is a good site for a wind farm because of the following reasons. It is on a ridge and monitoring has proven that it is a windy site. The connection to the electricity grid is via an onsite line, so there is no need for any additional overhead pylons. There are no national landscape designations in the area. The site is a good distance from homes and villages.

The following has been posted on the Milton Keynes Planning website:

Reference: 11/00011/NONDET
Address: Nunn Wood Land Between London Road And Harrold Road Bozeat Wellingborough Northants
Nature: CONSTRUCT A WIND FARM DEVELOPMENT COMPRISING 3 WIND TURBINES UP TO 125M HEIGHT TO BLADE TIP AND ANCILLARY EQUIPMENT, ACCESS TRACKS AND ANEMOMETRY MAST, IN CONJUNCTION WITH PLANNING APPLICATIONS TO BEDFORD BOROUGH COUNCIL FOR 6 TURBINES AND ACCESS TRACKS AND THE BOROUGH OF WELLINGBOROUGH FOR 3 TURBINES, SUBSTATION, CONSTRUCTION COMPOUND, ACCESS TRACKS AND SITE ACCESS AS PART OF A SINGLE WIND FARM OF 12 TURBINES FOR AN OPERATIONAL PERIOD OF 25 YEARS
Status: Appeal Allowed
Appeal Type: Non-determination
Decision: Appeal Allowed
Parish: Lavendon Parish Council
Ward: Olney
Procedure: Public Inquiry
Decision Date: 15 Nov 2011

See also the Nun Wood Wind Farm website for more information.

Campaigners consider appeal against High Court decision

November 16, 2011

CAMPAIGNERS are considering whether to launch an appeal against a High Court decision to allow low-level radioactive waste from being dumped near their homes.

King’s Cliffe Waste Watchers took their fight to stop Augean from dumping the waste at its East Northants Resource Management Facility in Stamford Road, Kings Cliffe, to London’s High Court.

But on Thursday last week, Deputy Judge QC Stewart upheld a decision in May by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles to allow waste to be dumped there.

Clare Langan, a member of Waste Watchers, said the group was still discussing its options with solicitor Richard Buxton, a Cambridge-based specialist in environmental work.

She said: “I am upset and disappointed by the decision but we are still talking to our legal team about a possible appeal.”

East Northamptonshire MP Louise Mensch (Con) said she would wait to hear from the campaigners before progressing a planned meeting with Government ministers, which had been delayed by the High Court battle.

She said: “I hope to have that meeting to be able to put in place some additional and robust monitoring on the site to give my constituents some comfort that we are actively monitoring the levels of radioactive waste.”

Augean has agreed not to dump low-level radioactive waste at the site for four weeks to give the campaigners a chance to appeal.

Augean said in a statement: “It is reassuring that the integrity of the environmental impact assessment and its scope has been reaffirmed. The challenge was made on a narrow point of law and did not relate to the safety or the policy merits of the proposal.

“Augean will continue to work with the nuclear decommissioning market to deliver this nationally significant project.”

Augean’s planning application was refused by Northamptonshire County Council in March, following a protest but Mr Pickles overturned that decision, meaning half the site can be used for hazardous waste from nuclear sites like power plants and hospitals until 2013 in May.

Augean has also submitted planning applications to use the site until 2026. These have not yet been decided.

Source – Rutland Times

Green Social Night

November 15, 2011

Just a reminder that our Green Social Night is this Thursday 17th November at the Down Under bar 234 Wellingborough Road Northampton NN1 4EJ from 7pm till late.

This will be a very informal night, giving you the opportunity to meet fellow Green Party members and to enjoy the music of Riverboat John and the Fairweather Pirates. It will be open to both members and non members alike so please feel free to invite your friends.

I’m attaching a poster for the event which you may like to print out and display somewhere. For those on facebook there is an event here (if the link works!) : http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=206299529438081

Hope to see you there!

GREEN MEP DEMANDS COMMISSION INVESTIGATION INTO UK GOVERNMENT SOLAR FEED-IN-TARIFF CUTS

November 14, 2011

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, has today called upon the European Commission to investigate whether the UK Government’s proposal to drastically slash the Solar Feed-in-Tariff will weaken the UK’s ability to meet legally binding EU targets on renewable energy.

Under the Renewable Energy Directive 2009, the UK is required to source 15 per cent of energy needs from renewable sources, including biomass, hydro, wind and solar power by 2020. The Government’s plan to cut Solar Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) payments by more than half will see the payments for electricity generated by solar energy fall from 43p per Kwh to just 21p – a move which will dramatically undermine solar pv installation and capacity and weaken the UK’s capability to meet its 2020 target {1}.

Alarmed by the Government’s unexpected proposal to cut the tariff from 12 December 2011 and at the devastating impact the decision could have on job creation in the renewable sector, carbon savings and fuel poverty, Jean has tabled a Priority Question to the Commission which asks them to scrutinise the effect of the cut on the UK’s ability to meet its obligations under the Directive and to set out what proceedings will be taken if the Government should fail to meet the 15 per cent target {2}.

Jean said: “The solar feed-in tariff has been very successful in helping homeowners, community groups, local authorities and businesses to realise and harness the benefits of solar power. In fact, since the scheme was introduced in April 2010, it has seen some 100,000 solar installations, the creation of more than 22,000 jobs and almost 4,000 new businesses.

“Not only will the Government’s proposal to make drastic cuts to the solar Feed-in-Tariff hamper job creation in the renewable industry and discourage community owned energy set ups, but the move also shows a blatant disregard for the UK’s obligation to meet legally binding EU targets on renewables.

“The UK Government has long since submitted its national action plan to meet the Directive on Renewable Energy which requires the UK to produce 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. The feed-in tariff was a programme to support this drive towards renewables and slashing the scheme may mean that the UK cannot deliver on its plans. If the UK fails to meet its agreed target by 2015, the European Commission could impose fines running into millions of pounds – a criminal waste of public money in these tough financial times.

“It now falls to the Government to demonstrate that it is not changing an agreed component of its roadmap and that the UK is still on course to deliver 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. The Government can not be let off the hook on this most vital of issues.”

Notes to Editors

1.The proposed change to the solar Feed-in-Tariff scheme was announced by Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker on 31st October. For the full Ministerial statement, please see: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/gb_fits/gb_fits.aspx
2.The question reads: “As part of the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC, the UK has a renewable energy target of 15% by 2020. A Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) policy has been implemented as one key measure to deliver this target. The UK Government is now planning to significantly reduce the solar pv FiT (1) rates from those reported in its National Renewable Energy Action Plan to the Commission. There is concern that this change will undermine solar pv installation and capacity and thereby negatively impact upon the UK’s ability to achieve the 15% target. Will the Commission assess the impact of this planned change upon the UK’s capacity to make sufficient progress towards and meet the 15% target? If this FiT revision or other weakened implementation policies threaten progress towards this target, what steps and proceedings will the Commission take?”

As a Priority Question, the Commission is obligated to respond within three weeks.