Archive for January, 2012

Controversial anti-counterfeiting agreement must be dropped, Green MEP

January 31, 2012

Green MEP for London, Jean Lambert, has reacted with dismay at the signing of a controversial agreement by the EU and 22 of its Member States which could potentially impinge the freedom of electronic communication and innovation worldwide.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was created with the aim of establishing international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement, yet will deal with tools targeting internet distribution and information technology, meaning people could be prosecuted for merely sharing a link to a newspaper article or posting a video on YouTube.

The Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament have criticised the decision to proceed with the signing, highlighting persistent concerns about the legality of the deal and its compatibility with EU provisions on fundamental rights [1]. The agreement will now be handed down for ratification by Member States and the European Parliament.

Commenting on the agreement, Jean, a member of the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee, said: “The Greens in the European Parliament remain absolutely committed to ensuring that this so-called ‘agreement’ is not adopted at the expense of the rights of citizens – ACTA is a threat to our civil liberties and must be rejected. As the European Parliament and national parliaments now have their say as part of the ratification process, the Greens will push to ensure that ACTA is consigned to history.”

Notes to Editor

1. Critics have raised serious doubts about the compatibility of ACTA with EU law, particularly provisions on fundamental rights. For example, ACTA encourages its signatory states to step up co-operation with private actors, such as internet providers, for intellectual property enforcement in the absence of any minimum standards for legal procedures. This opens the door to undermining the basic rights of individuals with no protection for those affected. Experts have also pointed out that ACTA could undermine access to medicines, particularly in developing countries, which are more independent on generics but were not even part of the negotiations.

http://www.jeanlambertmep.org.uk/

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Solar Industry Needs to Know the UK Government Can Be Trusted

January 27, 2012

The solar industry needs to know the UK government can be trusted

If policy can be changed retrospectively, why should business believe that the UK is a safe place to invest?

This week, the government lost its appeal against a judge’s ruling that its move to change the rates for solar feed-in tariffs before the official consultation has ended was “legally flawed”.

The high court ruling is a real victory for the solar industry and for those households, businesses and community projects in my constituency who would have been left high and dry by the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s attempts to apply a retrospective change to the rate.

There has always been widespread acceptance that the tariff would need to be reduced as installation costs fell and economic realities shifted. But the focus of the cross-party and public campaign against the government’s plans has been the speed and scale of the proposed cut, which has already caused huge disruption to the solar industry and the 25,000-plus jobs it has created.

The courts have now twice ruled that these actions were unacceptable. Importantly, the courts have also sought to uphold a key principle about the very nature of government investment policy.

The central question is this: if policy can be changed retrospectively, why should business believe that the UK is a safe place to invest?
Investors need to know whether a government commitment to support them can be trusted, or if retrospective changes can be made at any point after investments start.

A lack of trust is a huge disincentive to invest. The CBI describes the government’s decision to slash subsidies for solar panels as an “own goal”, stating that “moving the goalposts doesn’t just destroy projects and jobs, it creates a mood of uncertainty that puts off investors.”
In light of the court’s decisions and the strong industry calls for certainty, you might expect Decc to want to bring the solar situation to a swift conclusion and do what it can to inspire investor confidence for the future.

But no, Decc has indicated that it intends to stubbornly forge ahead with its ill thought through plans, and take the appeal all the way to the supreme court – wasting time and money in the process.

This means that the many solar PV installers and businesses I have spoken to remain completely in the dark about how they will be affected by the government’s shambolic policy wrangles.

Further, it suggests that Decc doesn’t understand that investors in Britain need to feel confident about the conditions of the market they are entering. They need to know those conditions will not be radically undercut on a political whim.

No wonder we are facing a double-dip recession if this is the message the government is sending out. I thought that Britain was meant to be “open for business”. It seems that some government departments have not read that memo.

The case of solar has implications for all businesses that benefit from any form of governmental support. This could include grants for innovation, research and development, skills training and the establishment of networks.

If the government pursues its solar decision when an entire industry is at stake, why should business believe that government commitments to support research carried out by our universities and colleges will not be withdrawn if market conditions change unexpectedly?

If an appeal is allowed to go ahead, there is a risk that a dangerous precedent will be set.

And while it’s certainly possible to point the finger at the previous Labour government to claim that the solar tariff rates were set too high – that the policy was poorly constructed – it’s clear that, in the here and now, this goes much further than the solar industry.

So we now need to know if the government will accept the high court judgment and fulfil their previous commitments on solar tariffs. Crucially, we also need to know what the implications are for investment security across the whole the UK economy.

Using the courts to try to steam roller through a retrospective policy change that has already been ruled unlawful smacks of total disregard for the industry.

Decc should accept that ministers got it wrong on solar and pull the plug on this legal merry-go-round, which is putting UK jobs and future investment at risk.

Melissa Freeman
Senior Parliamentary Press Officer
Office of Caroline Lucas MP
House of Commons
Email: melissa.freeman@parliament.uk
Website: http://www.carolinelucas.com

Redwood’s Giving Away Free Tasters Today

January 26, 2012

Ethical food firm The Redwood Wholefood Company is giving away free tasters of its delicious veggie and vegan foods today.

The multi award winning company, which was recently named the UK’s most ethical vegetarian food company by consumer handbook The Good Shopping Guide, is hosting the ‘open tasting’ day at its factory in Corby.

“We’ll be cooking up all sorts of tasty foods, from pizzas and burgers to hotdogs and wraps,” said Redwood’s Lee Rockingham.

“What we want to do is show shoppers and businesses in our home town just how many different products we produce here and give them the chance to ‘try before they buy’.

“They can pop along any time between 11am and 7pm. Anyone who buys on the day will also get a 15% discount.”

Among the many delicious foods produced by Redwood in the town are tasty meat-free ‘turkey’ roasts, streaky style ‘rashers’, award-winning sausages and dairy-free ‘cheeses’.

There are also gourmet burgers, hotdogs, ‘duck with a Hoisin glaze’ and Southern Fried ‘chicken’, all meat-free of course, as well as dairy-free cheeses and fishless ‘fingers’.

Ideal for vegetarians and vegans, Redwood foods are perfect too for people who are lactose/casein intolerant and anyone who wants to cut down on the amount of meat they eat.

Everything in its range is produced from 100% natural plant-based ingredients and free from meat, egg, dairy, lactose, cholesterol, hydrogenated fats, artificial colours/preservatives and GMOs.

As well as selling through health food shops and selected supermarkets, Redwood also produces foods that are used by supermarkets in ‘own-brand’ ready meals.

The company exports worldwide too.

Redwood’s open tasting day will take place at The Redwood Wholefood Company, Redwood House, Burkitt Rd, Corby, NN17 4DT. Tel: 01536 400557.

About The Redwood Wholefood Company (www.redwoodfoods.co.uk)

Redwood is the leading supplier of vegan foods to the health trade in the UK and is 100% British. Recently rated the country’s most ethical vegetarian foods supplier for the fifth year running by The Ethical Company Organisation, Redwood produces more than 50 different foods under the Vegideli, Cheatin’ and Cheezly brand names at its animal-free factory in Corby, Northamptonshire. Everything in its range is made from 100% natural plant-based ingredients so free from animal ingredients and derivatives as well as cholesterol, artificial colours/preservatives, lactose, hydrogenated fats and GMOs, making them suitable for vegetarians and vegans as well as those looking for healthier and more ethical lifestyles. Widely recognised as one of the most innovative and inspirational vegetarian food companies in the UK, Redwood is renowned for being at the cutting edge of food manufacturing and exports to 18 countries worldwide.

Nuclear waste site fight will continue

January 20, 2012

Campaigners who want to stop low-level nuclear waste being dumped in the county are to fight on, despite a second legal defeat.

They lost a Court of Appeal battle to stop the waste being dumped near King’s Cliffe.

They had questioned a decision by communities secretary Eric Pickles to allow Augean to dispose radioactive material at the landfill site.

However, the Appeal Court judges upheld the previous decisions which were challenged by King’s Cliffe resident Louise Bowen-West on behalf of the community.

This week’s legal fight has cost the campaigners £5,000.

Clare Langan from campaign group Wastewatchers, said: “We are dreadfully disappointed but we have spoken to our legal team and have been told that the campaign does not have to end here.”

Mr Pickles granted planning permission for the waste to be dumped at King’s Cliffe after a public inquiry in December 2010. Ms Bowen-West tried to block the proposals in the High Court but failed.

At the Court of Appeal this week her barrister Richard Drabble argued that before giving consent Mr Pickles should have ordered an environmental impact study to take account of the effect on the area of the current application and the implications of Augean’s plans to extend the area and life of the site.

An Augean spokesman said: “The court concluded that the secretary of state was reasonable in his decision and that account had appropriately been taken of the future proposals of Augean.”

The company said the Appeal Court rejected applications to appeal to the Supreme Court and deemed there was no legal issue on which the court needed to seek assistance of the European Court of Justice

Written Ministerial Statement from Chris Huhne on Solar PV Feed-in Tariffs

January 19, 2012

On 31 October 2011, the Government published a consultation on Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) for solar photovoltaics (PV). This was in response to a substantial increase in deployment of PV, prompted by falling prices, with levels at nearly double the original projections for the first two years of the scheme. The consultation set out proposals for responding to these developments, which were putting unsustainable pressure on the budget available for FITs.

The consultation sought views on whether to reduce the generation tariffs available for new solar PV installations to a more financially sustainable level. Among other things, it proposed applying the new generation tariffs from 1 April 2012 to all new solar PV installations with an eligibility date on or after an earlier “reference date”, which we proposed should be 12 December 2011. This reference date proposal has since been challenged by judicial review and the Government has sought an appeal of the decision of the High Court. We are now waiting for a judgment from the Court of Appeal and we cannot be sure of the date on which this will be issued.
We continue to stand by our original proposal. However, I know that the uncertainty while we await the Court’s decision is difficult for the industry. A retention of the 43p tariff could also create substantial risks to the FITs budget if our appeal is unsuccessful. For these reasons, we believe it is prudent to bring forward our decision on one aspect of the consultation: the proposals for new solar PV tariffs.

We are therefore laying before Parliament today some draft licence modifications which, subject to the Parliamentary process set out in the Energy Act 2008, makes provision for a reduced tariff rate (from 1 April 2012 onwards) for new PV installations with an eligibility date on or after 3 March 2012.

If the Court finds in favour of the Government’s appeal, we intend to stand by all our consultation proposals, including an earlier (December) reference date, subject to the Parliamentary procedure and consideration of consultation responses. It is very important that we reserve this as an option because these 43p payments will take a disproportionate share of the budget available for small-scale low-carbon technologies. We want instead to maximise the number of installations that are possible within the available budget rather than use available subsidy to pay a higher tariff to a smaller number of installations.

The consultation closed on 23 December 2011 and over 2,000 consultation responses were received which we have been analysing carefully. We are intending to announce the outcome of the consultation by 9 February 2012, in time for any resulting legislative changes to come into effect from 1 April 2012. Our aim is that this announcement will be accompanied by a set of reform proposals for the next phase of the comprehensive review of the FITs scheme, which will be the subject of a further consultation.

The new generation tariffs set out in the draft licence modifications being laid today are set out in the table below and would apply for all installations with an eligibility date on or after 3 March 2012. Further information on the Government’s response to this aspect of the consultation, together with a summary of the relevant consultation responses, is also being published today on the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s website and will be available from www.decc.gov.uk/FITs.

Band (kW Declared Net Capacity (DNC) Current generation tariff (p/kWh) New generation tariff from 1 April 2012 (p/kWh)
≤4kW (new build) 37.8 21.0
≤4kW (retrofit) 43.3 21.0
>4-10kW 37.8 16.8
>10-50kW 32.9 15.2
>50-100kW 19 12.9
>100-150kW 19 12.9
>150-250kW 15 12.9
>250kW-5MW 8.5 8.5
stand alone 8.5 8.5

DECC has today laid before Parliament draft licence modifications which, subject to the Parliamentary process set out in the Energy Act 2008, makes provision for a reduced tariff rate (from 1 April 2012 onwards) for new solar PV installations with an eligibility date on or after 3 March 2012 under the Feed – in Tariffs scheme (FITs).

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said:

“I know this is a difficult time for the sector and I want to do as much as I can to end the current uncertainty created by the legal challenge.

“We must reduce the level of FITs for solar panels as quickly as possible, to protect consumer bills and to avoid bust in the whole Feed-in Tariff budget. We’re appealing against the court ruling that’s challenged our proposal for a December reference date. This remains our aim, and we are waiting for the judgment of the Court of Appeal. But this is too important for us to sit and do nothing while we wait. Today we’re putting in place a contingency that will bring a 21p rate into effect from April for installations from 3 March.

“However, we are still pressing ahead with our appeal and if successful, we retain the option of introducing a December reference date. In the circumstances we believe this gives the industry as much certainty as is possible. And it puts us in a better position to protect the budget for everyone involved.”

Further information on the Government’s response to this aspect of the FITs consultation, together with a summary of the relevant consultation responses, is also being published today on the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s website.

The consultation closed on 23 December 2011 and over 2,000 consultation responses were received which we have been analyzing carefully. We are intending to announce the outcome of the consultation by 9 February 2012, in time for any resulting legislative changes to come into effect from 1 April 2012. Our aim is that this announcement will be accompanied by a set of reform proposals for the next phase of the comprehensive review of the FITs scheme, which will be the subject of a further consultation

Source – BPVA www.bpva.org.uk

Wellingborough Council Doubles Its £50k-plus Earners

January 19, 2012

THE number of Wellingborough Council managers earning more than £50,000 has nearly doubled in a year.

The figures, revealed by campaigning group the Taxpayers’ Alliance, show that 13 members of staff earned salaries in this higher wage bracket for the financial year 2010-2011, compared to just seven in 2009-2010.

The cost to taxpayers was an estimated £832,500 – up from £562,500 the previous year.

The increase in the amount spent on management salaries comes at a time when many workers in the private sector have had to take a pay cut to help their companies ride the recession, and other public sector staff have been hit by a pay freeze.

Matthew Sinclair, director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “It is disappointing to see so many middle managers at Midlands councils, particularly at a time when public sector pay is being restrained and low paid staff are being laid off.

“It’s not fair to demand that ordinary workers take a pay freeze or lose their jobs while more and more middle managers are enjoying generous remuneration.

“Councils need to cut back the bloated bureaucracies that have developed in town halls in recent years.”

The payment statistics were calculated to include bonuses, but exclude pension contributions.

Wellingborough Council said the rise in its total salary payouts was due to redundancies.

The report, compiled using data taken directly from the authority’s annual statements, said: “The total number of employees falling within the various bands is affected by termination or redundancy payments made to certain employees.”

But the number of redundancy packages was not disclosed, so it is unclear how much of the £832,500 goes towards existing managers’ salaries.

Figures for Northamptonshire County Council showed a fall in the number of managers earning more than £50,000 but the authority still employed 118 in the year 2010-2011, with an estimated cost of £7.9 million.

East Northamptonshire paid out an estimated £677,500 to nine managers.

The revelations come just weeks after the same lobbying group uncovered figures showing that councils in Northamptonshire were paying millions of pounds to suspended staff.

One employee for the county council was suspended for 277 working days on full pay – more than a working year.

They had an annual salary of £14,500 and were paid a total of £16,735 while off work. They were re-employed at the end of the period.

The total cost of payments to suspended staff at the council between September 2010 and December 2011 was £158,758.

The reason given for suspension was “gross misconduct.”

Source – http://www.northampton-news-hp.co.uk/News/Wellingborough-and-Rushden-News/Council-doubles-up-on-its-50k-plus-earners-18012012.htm

Kings Cliffe Radioactive Waste Protesters Lose Appeal

January 18, 2012

Campaigners have lost a Court of Appeal battle to stop low-level radioactive waste being dumped near their Northamptonshire village.

Court of Appeal judges ruled in favour of Augean Plc which runs the waste site near Kings Cliffe.

Louise Bowen-West, who led the campaign, said she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the verdict, and vowed to fight on.

Augean Plc said it was always confident the plant would continue to operate.

Mrs Bowen-West said campaigners may now take the fight to the Supreme Court.

She said: “It is a disappointment but these things take a long time.

“Our views are not being taken into consideration.”

Contaminated soil

Her campaign group, known as Kings Cliffe Waste Watchers, is now seeking advice about continuing the legal battle.

The battle began when Northampton County Council’s decision to refuse Augean planning permission was overturned at a public inquiry.

In November 2011 campaigners mounted an appeal against the public inquiry decision, but a High Court judge rejected the case.

Now Lords Justice Laws, Tomlinson and Kitchin have rejected the campaigners’ Court of Appeal action.

A statement from Augean Plc said: “If campaigners are ultimately successful in their appeal, the application will be referred back to the Secretary of State for re-determination.

“In those circumstances a favourable decision would be expected by the company.”

Waste, including watchmakers powder paint used to create luminous dials, contaminated soil from a flint making factory, and rubble from decommission nuclear power plant has been dumped on the site since December.

Source – BBC

Parishes assess M1 Wind Farm application

January 13, 2012

Following the submission of an application to build a wind farm on agricultural land close to the M1, east of Roade, Alastair Smith from renewable energy specialist Wind Prospect Developments Limited (WPDL) has visited several of the local parishes close to the proposed site in order to answer residents’ queries.

Discussions took place at parish council meetings during which councillors and members of the public were able to view the application and ask questions. Commenting on the meetings, Alastair said: “I am very grateful to the parishes for allowing me to speak and I was encouraged by the quality of the discussions. It was clear that many people have a range of concerns with the application and these meetings provided an ideal opportunity for me to address these concerns and to learn more about the needs of the local people.”

Ironically, high wind and rain may have deterred some local residents from attending their parish council meetings, but Alastair has said that he would be “very pleased to respond to any messages sent via the project website http://www.m1windfarm.com.”

The proposal has been submitted to South Northants Council (Ref. S/2011/1421/MAF) and comprises nine 1.3 megawatt wind turbines, with tower heights of approximately 60 metres and rotor diameters of approximately 60 metres. The maximum tip height (when a blade is vertical) will be no greater than 90 metres. Further details are available at http://www.m1windfarm.com.