Archive for November, 2012

“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” SAYS GREEN MEP AFTER MORE ANIMALS SUFFER AT RAMSGATE PORT

November 26, 2012

Following another appalling incident last week involving live animals exported from Ramsgate port, Keith Taylor MEP has written to the UK’s Animal Welfare minister, David Heath MP, to request an urgent meeting. Keith is urging the government to take this issue seriously so that the welfare of animals is properly protected during live transport. He is also calling for urgent action to be taken to address consistent violations of animal welfare legislation.

On Wednesday 21 November at 11.15am, the MV Joline, set sail from the Port of Ramsgate despite an early morning warning from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) that there would be force 8 gale from lunchtime onwards. As an ex-river boat the Joline is flat bottomed with a shallow draft and is not suitable for transport in poor weather conditions. After two hours at sea the Joline was forced to return back to the UK. This is the second incident at the port in just over two months.

Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for South East England and a member of the European Parliament’s Intergroup for Animal Welfare said “In October 45 sheep sadly had to be destroyed at the port after being injured. Now we hear that just this week an ex-river boat carrying two lorries of animals has chosen to set sail across the English Channel in gale force 8 winds. Last year I received written confirmation from Defra that the Joline is unsuitable to travel in winds stronger than gale force 6. Yet, one year later this is being ignored (1). The time for more reassuring noises from DEFRA has passed. Now we need to see some effective action, which is why I have requested an urgent meeting with the minister.”

Keith continued: “EU legislation is in place to ensure animals do not have to experience these awful conditions and it is unacceptable that we are frequently witnessing the law being violated by both the live exports industry and the government. These poor animals are needlessly continuing to suffer.”

Keith wrote to the UK’s Animal Welfare minister (2), David Heath MP at the beginning of November following the death of the 45 lame sheep (3) at Ramsgate port asking what additional monitoring of the transportation conditions is taking place, following frequent violations. This week Keith has written to the government’s Animal Health Agency urging them to accept the support of RSPCA inspectors in monitoring the welfare of the animals. He’s also written to the new EU Commissioner with responsibility for animal welfare, Tonio Borg, calling on him to take action on the UK’s lack of enforcement of EU legislation.

Keith Taylor concluded: “As a Green MEP, I am opposed to live exports of animals from the UK and believe there should be an eight hour maximum journey time across the EU. European regulations must also be strengthened to better protect animals. In the meantime I believe that EU member states must fully enforce current EU rules protecting animals in transit.”

Across the EU millions of animals have to endure long journeys. Animal welfare organisations frequently highlight that regulations are often not being met and animals are being transported in poor condition resulting in exhaustion, dehydration and, in some cases, death in transit.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Letter-from-Jim-Paice-re.-Ramsgate-19-December-2011.pdf

2. http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Resumption-live-exports_DEFRA_1.11.12.pdf

3. http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/2012/11/01/green-mep-saddened-by-resumption-of-live-exports-and-calls-for-legislation-to-be-fully-enforced/

Take action now – sign the Number 10 petition: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/42002

Green Party: ‘20mph limit a success for the Greens’

November 20, 2012

THE GREEN Party are celebrating the announcement that Islington Council will be implementing 20mph limits on all of the borough’s main roads, following extensive campaigning from local Green Party members.

Caroline Allen, Green Party spokesperson, said: “Green Councillor Katie Dawson’s motion to bring 20 mph limits across Islington is at last becoming a reality.  Islington Green Party is proud to have helped build the widespread support for 20mph limits along with many other Islington community groups.  This sensible and transformatory measure will make a real difference to the lives of communities living alongside some of our most congested roads.  This is great for the safety, health and well-being of residents across the borough”

The announcement comes after Green Party leader Natalie Bennett had launched a campaign to bring 20mph speed limits to Camden.

Ms. Bennett said: “The basic fact is, if you get hit by a car at 20mph, you are more likely to live. If you get hit at 30mph, you are more likely to die. Our argument is that where people live, work and shop there are positives to bringing in 20mph limits.”

ENDS For more information contact Zoe Hall on 0207 5490 315 or zoe.hall@greenparty.org.uk

1) For more information about the Islington Green Party, visit: http://islington.greenparty.org.uk/

2) For Green Party leader Natalie Bennett’s campaign to bring 20mph zones to Camden, visit: http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/leader_of_the_green_party_natalie_bennett_supports_20mph_limits_in_camden_1_1657788 3) For more information about the Green Party, visit: http://www.greenparty.org.uk/

Big money is poisoning British democracy, warns anti-sleaze watchdog

November 19, 2012

British politics will remain tainted by corruption because the three main parties are refusing to reform the way they are funded, the head of Westminster’s anti-sleaze watchdog has warned.

“The system virtually requires [party officials] responsible for funding to offer access to all kinds of things which, even if not corrupt in practice, have the appearance of corruption,” Sir Christopher Kelly told The Independent. “It adds to the tarnished nature of the political brand.”

He issued a final appeal to David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to agree a £10,000 cap on individual donations to their parties to ensure donors cannot buy access to or influence politicians. He warned that another funding scandal is inevitable if no ceiling is imposed. He
also called for an inquiry by his watchdog into the work of lobbying companies and into the private firms that run public services.

The chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life criticised the three main parties for not acting on its recommendations to clean up party funding. It proposed they be recompensed for a donations cap with £23m a year of taxpayers’ money.

Cross-party talks on the report are deadlocked. Although Mr Clegg tried to broker a deal, the Conservatives want a £50,000 cap and Labour opposes the committee’s call for trade union members to opt in to paying the political levy to Labour, rather than opting out as at present.

Sir Christopher predicted a repeat of the “cash for access” affair which forced the resignation of Peter Cruddas, the Conservative Party co-treasurer, after he was filmed offering meetings with David Cameron in return for donations of up to £250,000.

“Every time there is a story about confidence and trust, the reputation of political parties goes down another notch,” he said. “It affects everyone. It damages the brand of all of them.”

Sir Christopher warned: “The three main political parties committed themselves to doing something about it in their manifestos, and the Coalition Agreement did too. And yet nothing is happening. But if they are going to reclaim any public trust, then surely they have got to be proactive in dealing with difficult issues like this.”

With the parties already looking towards the 2015 general election, he said: “We are running out of time. This will require legislation. If they really want to do it, they could still do it. If it were delayed a few years, it would be a shame, but still a prize to get a sensible, sustainable system.”

Sir Christopher feared that, amid the next scandal, a “half-cocked” reform would be rushed in, possibly the £50,000 cap favoured by the Tories, which might then be overturned by a future Labour-led government. He warned that such “tit-for-tat” politics would bring the parties into further disrepute. Disillusionment with the mainstream parties was illustrated in last Thursday’s elections for Police and Crime Commissioners, which saw 12 independents elected in 41 areas on a turnout of less than 15 per cent.

Calling on the three parties to put the national interest before their narrow self-interest, Sir Christopher said: “For the Labour Party, it involves addressing very difficult issues about its historical dependence on the trade unions. For the Conservative Party, it requires giving up the advantage it possesses because it has a greater number of wealthier donors.”

Labour fears that there could be a secret deal in which the Tories support state funding for parties and the Liberal Democrats approve parliamentary boundaries which could hand the Tories an extra 20 seats at the next election. But Liberal Democrat sources dismissed such speculation, saying Mr Clegg would not change his decision to veto the new boundaries.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/big-money-is-poisoning-british-democracy-warns-antisleaze-watchdog-8327305.html

THERE’S A TOXIC PLOT IN THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY

November 15, 2012

Greenpeace have uncovered explosive evidence of a plot in the Conservative party to sabotage progress on climate change.

As you might have seen on the front page of this morning’s Guardian, our undercover video investigation reveals how a faction of Tory MPs is going to extreme lengths to scupper our clean energy future. A senior Conservative reveals that George Osborne wants to undermine the Climate Change Act – one of the great victories of our movement that has created legally binding targets for the government to reduce emissions.

The ideological opposition to clean wind energy runs deep in Osborne and these other Tory MPs. So much so that one MP even secretly campaigned against his own party. Outrageous, I know. You have to watch it to believe it.

You, along with over 20,000 people, have already told David Cameron to stop Osborne sabotaging progress on climate change – thank you!

Now watch the astonishing undercover video.

If these Conservatives have their way, we’ll have more dirty, expensive gas power stations written into the Energy Bill. The bill is crucial in shaping the way our electricity is generated for the next 30 years.

Osborne wants to hand the Energy Bill – and our future – to the gas companies, allowing them to build dozens of new gas power stations. This dash for gas could lead to decades of unrestricted carbon emissions and increasingly volatile household bills, plunging more people into fuel poverty.

We need the opposite.

A clean Energy Bill would mean almost zero carbon emissions from electricity generation by 2030, a new wave of clean energy and a thriving green economy with tens of thousands of new jobs.

A majority of us – 64% of the British public – want renewable energy powering our lives.

Osborne knows he’s in the minority, but our investigation shows he’s positioning climate sceptics and anti-wind MPs in key government roles – like pieces on a chessboard – to undermine the progress we’ve made.

But Osborne still answers to the prime minister.

It now falls to David Cameron to respond to the scandal we’ve uncovered and decide where his party – and our country – is going.

At the last election when looking for our votes, Cameron rebranded the Conservative party with the environment at its heart. This undercover investigation shows he has a fundamental question to answer: will he side with the majority of the British public, or the dirty energy faction led by George Osborne?

Don’t forget to watch the incredible undercover report

Green Party to Lead Protests Against Government Cuts Across Europe

November 13, 2012

THE GREEN Party is helping to lead protests against governments across Europe slashing services, with a series of meetings planned for Wednesday November 14.

Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett will be speaking at London’s ‘Europe Against Austerity’ event held at the European Commission building on Whitechapel at 5.30pm, followed by a rally at the Emmanuel Centre, Westminster, starting at 6.30pm.

Ms Bennett said: ‘Austerity is clearly the wrong direction for us to take. We have to go further than just opposing cuts, however. We need to build a new, fairer and balanced society and address the inequality which has been growing in the last 20 years. The economy must come back under the control of the people, so that it works for rather than against us.’

The events, which are being held across the UK to show solidarity with European workers who are striking against measures which will throw millions into unemployment and destroy essential public services. The General Secretary of TUC, Frances O’Grady, will also be speaking at the event.

The Green Party’s Deputy Leader Will Duckworth has organised Birmingham’s demonstration, which will take place from 1-2pm outside Birmingham Council House and Town Hall.

He said: ‘The austerity cuts in the UK and Europe are unnecessary, and are tearing people’s lives apart. In the middle of an economic crisis, what Europe needs is to invest in infrastructure and services to ensure its people can get through the worst moments, rather than stripping jobs, money and support from those who need it most. We want to show solidarity because Austerity is the worst kind of policy: immoral and economically illiterate.’

Living Wage Should Be Adopted

November 6, 2012

Boris Johnson has called on David Cameron to follow his lead by paying all staff across Whitehall the London living wage as he announced the new rate of £8.55 for workers in the capital, following a 25p increase.

The prime minister came under pressure as Johnson and the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, held separate events to press the case for employers to pay workers a living wage, well above the minimum rate for adults of £6.19, to ensure they can enjoy a decent standard of living.

The living wage rate outside London also rose on Monday by 25p to £7.45, benefiting thousands of workers.

Cameron’s spokesman said the government supported the living wage, but claimed that making it a condition of giving government contracts to private businesses would breach EU rules.

But Miliband said: “I think it is completely ridiculous for the government to be hiding behind EU law to try and explain their total failure to promote the living wage in two-and-a-half years in office. They promised before the election that it is something that they took seriously – the prime minister made that promise – and nothing has happened.

“What local councils are showing is that there are definitely ways of promoting the living wage and getting contractors to pay the living wage, which are absolutely within EU law.”

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, described the government’s view of EU law as “completely wrong”.

She said: “In response to my question on the inclusion of living wage conditions in procurement processes, the [European] commission clearly states that living wage conditions can be included in public sector contracts, provided they are not discriminatory. Now that the government is aware that there is no problem under EU law, they can make progress on ensuring payment of the living wage for low-paid workers on the government estate, helping to ensure that work pays.”

Johnson said “some of the most red-blooded capitalist firms you can imagine” were signing up to the living wage because they realised it helped to create productivity and ensured staff enjoyed a decent standard of living.

Cameron hailed the living wage as a “good and attractive idea” before the general election in 2010 and vowed that as the biggest employer in the country the government would take the lead to ensure that “fairness will begin to be hardwired into pay scales up and down the country”. But two years on, the LLW has yet to be systematically deployed across Whitehall.

Cameron’s spokesman said: “We are not proposing to require it of businesses. Requiring people to pay it would reduce the flexibility businesses have and could ultimately be a bad thing for jobs.”

Johnson urged the government to support low-paid workers in the capital.

“I would like to see Whitehall generally in London, I would like to see Labour councils, Tory councils, Liberal councils, supporting low-paid workers and pay the London living wage. A huge number of public sector workers could benefit from this.”

Johnson unveiled a trademark that formally recognises and accredits employers who pay the London living wage, courtesy of the Living Wage Foundation, which hopes the mark will become as recognisable as the Fairtrade logo.

But it emerged that the Greater London Authority, led by Johnson, has yet to be added to the 76-strong list of accredited employers and that the five London borough councils included are all Labour-controlled. The GLA is on a separate list of 44 employers in the process of being accredited, which includes four more Labour-controlled London boroughs and Tower Hamlets, led by independent mayor Lutfur Rahman, with no Conservative-led council on either list.

Johnson, who has for the past four years championed the LLW, established in 2005 by his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, outlined the mutual benefits of paying a rate £2.36 above the minimum wage.

He said “some of the most redblooded capitalist firms you can imagine” were signing up to the LLW because they realised it helped to create productivity as well as ensuring staff can enjoy a decent standard of living.

Lovebridge Achempoang, a cleaner working for Lloyds of London, said receiving the LLW from his employer had made a big difference for him and his family. It had allowed him to spend more time with his three daughters, having previously worked very long hours to make ends meet, and coming home very late, feeling very tired.

“Because of the living wage I don’t need to work so many hours and can now spend time with my family,” he said. “We might only be in a one-bedroom flat, but it’s ours to live in and I’m very happy to be there. It feels good to be able to support myself and my family.”

Pressed on the fact that he is the only Conservative in the capital to show leadership by implementing the LLW rate to all GLA staff, Johnson said: “I’ve certainly heard David Cameron support this and give very clear and categorical backing for what we are doing, so that’s good.”

However, Johnson declined to be drawn on whether the government should lift the minimum wage to the living wage rates for inside and outside the capital. “I certainly think it’s important to pay people decently but we’ve got particular issues here in London which means the London living wage for the capital.”

Downing Street’s claim that imposing the living wage as a condition of business would be in breach of EU procurement laws was challenged by Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, as “completely wrong”.

“In response to my question on the inclusion of living wage conditions in procurement processes, the [European] commission clearly states that living wage conditions can be included in public sector contracts, provided they are not discriminatory. Now that the government is aware that there is no problem under EU law, they can make progress on ensuring payment of the living wage for low-paid workers on the government estate, helping to ensure that work pays.”

Miliband vowed to address Britain’s “living standards crisis” by delivering a living wage of at least £7.20 an hour to millions of people in the public and private sector. He contrasted the 11 Labour councils that have already become living wage employers, with more on the way to acquiring living wage status, with the record of Conservative-led boroughs.

Miliband outlined three policy proposals that could be used to promote the living wage: forcing employers to pay the living wage if they want to bid for public sector contracts; paying firms a subsidy if they pay the living wage, and forcing companies to say how many of their employees are receiving less than the living wage, as part of a natural extension of the principle of pay transparency at the top.

“There are almost 5 million people in Britain who aren’t earning the living wage: people who got up early this morning, spent hours getting to work – who are putting in all the effort they can – but who often don’t get paid enough to look after their families, to heat their homes, feed their kids, care for elderly relatives and plan for the future,” he said. “Too many people in Britain are doing the right thing and doing their bit, helping to build the prosperity on which our country depends, but aren’t sharing fairly in the rewards.

“It’s not how it should be in Britain. It’s not how we will succeed as a country in the years ahead because we can’t go on with an economy that works for a few at the top and not for most people. We need to change it.”

In London, an estimated 11,500 workers have benefited since the LLW was introduced in 2005. Johnson said the new rate of £8.55 will be worth £4.5m a year for lower-paid workers, and announced that InterContinental had become the first hotel chain to sign up to the living wage.

Johnson blamed the fact that the GLA was still in the process of securing accreditation on “historic” authority contracts that would see the LLW implemented once they were renewed. Aides to Johnson said the GLA was implementing the LLW “100%” for its staff but not yet for all external contractors, and that the paperwork for such a large organisation, encompassing five functional bodies, meant the accreditation process was taking longer.

Darren Johnson, a Green member of the London assembly, said: “The mayor’s support for the living wage is very patchy. I had to lobby him earlier in the year to get the official Olympics hotel partner signed up, and even then he broke his election promise to only promote living-wage hotels to tourists. It has been the same story with councils and Whitehall, where I have repeatedly lobbied him to raise it when meeting council leaders and ministers. That list of living-wage employers could have been a lot longer if the mayor had spent five years making the case at every opportunity, not just for the occasional press release.”

Rhys Moore, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said the movement was growing as more employers realised the benefits of paying the rate. “Like Fair Trade, it represents a new standard for responsible business. We hope to see the living wage mark and symbol spreading further and further across organisations in the UK.”

More than 80 employers have been formally accredited to the foundation, with 47 awaiting accreditation and a further 73 saying they are committed to paying the rate. Around 200 employers in London support the campaign, ranging from banks to universities.

New BNP, TB in name and equally dangerous in nature.

November 3, 2012

A new fascist party is being formed and I thought you ought to know right away. Called True Brits (TB), it is made up of current and former members of the British National Party (BNP). It will also bring together some of the more extreme elements of the British far right, including antisemities and Holocaust deniers.

The emergence of a new party was signalledlast month when Yorkshire and Humber MEP Andrew Brons resigned from the BNP claiming mistreatment from Nick Griffin and the party hierarchy. This was the green light Griffin’s far right opponents had been waiting for.

This is a nightmare for the BNP. Today, they are meeting in Blackpool for their annual conference and I think it is going to be more like a wake.
HOPE not hate has produced a briefing on the new party http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/hate-groups/true-brits/

The fall-outbetween Brons and Griffin are organisational disputes rather than political differences and, if anything, the new party will be even more extreme than the BNP. The new party will include some of Britain’s most hardline racists, antisemites and Holocaust deniers. It will be BNP mark II but even more toxic. It will be TB in name and in nature.

The new party will beled by Peter Phillips, a former BNP member from Surrey and Andrew Brons will become its President. Ken Booth and Andrew Moffat will be its deputy chairmen.

Findout who else is involved http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/hate-groups/true-brits/

There willnow be a real battle for dominance of the British far right. True Brits will have the activists and the enthusiasm but Griffin is a political street fighter and his party has the recognised brand name.

And whoever emerges dominant, HOPE not hate will be there to oppose them at the ballot box and in the community. But, in the meantime, we will be running a competition to come up with a slogan for us to use to accompany the ‘TB’ name. Let us know your thoughts http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/hate-groups/true-brits/

Trident: more reasons not to defend the indefensible

November 1, 2012

The Guardian is to be congratulated for its forensic critique of government policy on Trident (Editorial, 30 October). In pointing out the compelling strategic, economic and moral arguments against Britain maintaining (let alone replacing) a nuclear weapons system, the absurdity of committing £100bn to Trident replacement is laid bare.

But there is one further argument which needs to be made here: scrapping Trident is a vote winner – and this is something Labour and the Lib Dems must understand.

The case must be made in no uncertain terms: would the public rather have essential services or a redundant weapons system? Do the military want usable equipment or an outmoded totem? And does the world need another hypocritical nuclear-armed state paying lip service to disarmament while ploughing billions into its nuclear arsenal?

Domestically and internationally, Britain should be bold in rejecting nuclear weapons. They’re indefensible and worthless – and who would want to defend that?
Kate Hudson
General secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

• Why do not opponents of Trident take the straightforward, compelling and unanswerable stance that it is not Britain’s to use? Trident’s guidance system is controlled by the US, and the notion that Washington is going to allow its erstwhile colonial rulers to choose a target for such a devastating WMD is outside the realms of reality.

The origins of this ludicrous situation go back to Trident’s predecessor, Polaris, on which Harold Macmillan and his close ally John F Kennedy made a deal at Nassau in 1962 for Britain to have a figleaf arrangement, masquerading as independent control, in order to assuage backbench Tory outrage over the US’s unilateral abandonment of the Skybolt missile that was to be used in RAF bombers. Skybolt was flawed, but it would at least have been an independent system. Trident is the opposite.

Your leader, Nick Clegg’s criticisms, Polly Toynbee’s Comment piece and Martin Rowson’s typically brilliant cartoon all missed the chance to nail the pretence that Trident is independent.
John Webster
London

• Trident is neither British nor independent, and it isn’t much of a deterrent. And hardly a bargain. Evidence to the Commons defence select committee demonstrated that Trident depends crucially for launch and target acquisition data on US military GPS satnav. You can be sure that if we tried to do something the White House didn’t approve, the satnav would be switched off.
Peter Johnston
Bolton, Lancashire

• In 1986, the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, said: “The accident at Chernobyl showed again what an abyss will open if nuclear war befalls mankind.” He later said it was that accident that triggered the end of the cold war. As long as there are nuclear power stations in the world the deterrent value of nuclear weapons is illusory. In a nuclear war the real damage will be caused by uncontrollable emissions of radioactive material from nuclear reactors and their associated storage zones.

Britain has plenty of nuclear power stations. As the prevailing winds in Britain are southwesterly, the likely victims of any attack on us will be to our east: Russia and China, the presumed objects of Trident. They have nuclear power stations, too. If Trident were ever to be used, the entire northern hemisphere would become uninhabitable.
Craig Sams
Hastings, East Sussex

• Philip Hammond’s go-ahead for Trident replacement (Tories snub Lib Dems over Trident future, 29 October) is just a ploy to scupper Scottish independence. It has nothing to do with being the “ultimate safeguard for Britain’s security”. The US has 14 Trident submarines and none of that killing power prevented the attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Billions of pounds of public money are to be spent on a dangerous, destabilising weapon that will only increase the risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Rae Street
Littleborough, Lancashire

• The government claims a replacement for Trident is necessary for the creation of high-quality jobs and vital skills. This is profoundly depressing. To believe we have to invest in weapons of destruction is to totally ignore more peaceful and constructive investments, such as securing our energy needs through renewable energy or providing zero-carbon housing, hospitals and schools. We can develop high-quality jobs through ensuring a living wage, decent working hours, protection against unfair dismissal and so many other initiatives that this government considers unnecessary.
Jean Lambert MEP
Green, London

The Guardian, Tuesday 30 October 2012 20.59 GMT