Archive for January, 2013

Minister Braced for HS2 Backlash

January 27, 2013
Eurostar200x110Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin admitted he was braced for a backlash when the proposed route of a controversial new high-speed rail line is revealed next week.
He told critics the Government would do “as much as we can to alleviate the damage” but urged them to recognise new stations would be “great engines for regeneration”.
Details are due to be published on Monday of exactly where twin extensions of the planned London to Birmingham HS2 line will pass through on their way to Manchester and Leeds.
The 225mph passenger train – expected to cut journey times from the capital to Manchester to just 80 minutes – is one of the coalition’s priority projects as it seeks to kick-start economic growth.
The announcement will come after figures showed on Friday that the economy shrank 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2012 and may be headed for an unprecedented triple-dip recession.
Costing £32.7 billion in total, the project is expected to be finished by 2033.
Around two-thirds (64%) of business leaders surveyed last August said the proposed London to Birmingham HS2 line would help their ability to grow their companies.
But the first tranche of the scheme has also proved controversial, especially in picturesque Tory heartlands which will be affected, such as the Chilterns, infuriating MPs and countryside campaigners.
Residents there will not enjoy the economic or personal benefits of a station and some have opposed the project on environmental grounds.
The new line is expected to pass through the Tatton constituency of Chancellor George Osborne in Cheshire.
Mr McLoughlin told the Telegraph: “I’m afraid we will upset some people, but I appreciate that and we’ve got to try and do as much as we can to alleviate the damage wherever we can.
“You can’t build a brand new line and not have problems. There will be some areas where you are going to have to negotiate.
“But we will be announcing several new stations which I think will be great engines for regeneration, and I think by us announcing it now, the local authorities on the route can plan and get the best advantage out of High Speed 2.”
The Department for Transport had improved efforts at “mitigating environmental disaster”, he said – such as ensuring trackside trees were planted early enough that they were mature when the trains began running.
Experts have speculated that the northern extension of the line will see trains stop at Toton, between Derby and Nottingham, as it heads up to the eastern side of the Pennines before arriving through a tunnel in Leeds city centre via the Meadowhall shopping centre outside Sheffield.
On the western side of the Y-shape, the trains are expected to go straight up to Manchester Piccadilly and airport stations, although a stop in Cheshire has been suggested as a possibility.
Railways expert Dr John Disney, of Nottingham Trent University, said: “This is the first major development of the railway system since Victorian times, so it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It is a great shame we cannot build it faster as countries like China are creating high-speed lines at a much faster rate.
“In Victorian times these lines would have been built in four or five years as there was a huge pool of cheap labour without the kind of planning regulations we have today.
“The new trains will bring the Midlands and the northern economy closer to London and the south-eastern economic heartlands – although whether it will generate investment in the Midlands and the north is debatable.”
Lord Astor, a Conservative peer and stepfather of the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron, joined Tory opposition to the network when it was unveiled by then transport secretary Justine Greening.
The then Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan faced criticism for selling a home close to the planned rail route two months before the Government approved it.
Construction of HS2’s £16.4 billion first phase was given the go-ahead in January last year, with 2026 earmarked as that part of the line’s opening date.
The line will see 400 metre-long trains capable of holding 1,100 passengers get from London to Birmingham in just 45 minutes.
Penny Gaines, chair of the Stop HS2 campaign, said: “We will be looking at the new proposals very closely over the next few days.
“The basic principles for the first phase of HS2 were wrong.
“Tweaks in the second phase do not change this and cannot make up for the environmental damage and destruction from HS2 between London and Birmingham.
“We are firmly of the opinion that the whole HS2 project is fundamentally flawed.
“It should be cancelled as soon as possible so that we can concentrate on developing the transport infrastructure that will bring more benefits to more people than a fast train for fat cats.”

Three Yeses on Europe; No to Cameron’s Long Run of Misery

January 24, 2013

cameronfunnyWhat does the next five years of British politics look like, according to David Cameron?

On the basis of yesterday morning’s speech, there’s only one political issue – one long, grinding debate, in Britain and across Europe, as he tries, to entirely reshape not just Britain’s relationship with the other 26 members of the EU, but to entirely reshape the nature of that institution to being a free trade club.

Other issues – the issues that are of pressing concern to the British people – the 2.49 million unemployed, the one in 10 underemployed workers, the one in five workers on less than a living, and those who fear joining them – have to play second fiddle. (And of course the whole referendum pack of cards assumes that he’s going to win the next election – a very large assumption indeed…)

You’d be tempted to think that, despite his recent protestations, Mr Cameron doesn’t want the electorate to focus on the slashing in real terms of benefit payments, the continual erosion of funding to local government for essential local services, and the total failure of his Chancellor’s Plan A for the economy, under which by a mysterious process of alchemy the slicing of funds from the public sector was supposed to produce a private sector boom.

As Philip Stephens said in the Financial Times, with a considerable sense of restraint: “It is hard to imagine how such uncertainty will enhance the UK’s influence and prosperity.”

Nonetheless, in calling for a referendum, Cameron does have a point. The Green Party believes in democracy and self-determination. On important issues like this – and let’s not forget that withdrawing from the EU would have mammoth effects (just consider that we produce only 51% of our own food and the rely on Europe for the vast bulk of the rest) – voters should be given the opportunity to express a clear view.
So in the Green Party, we say ‘Yes’ to a referendum on Europe. No one under the age of 55 has had an opportunity to vote on our relationship with Europe, despite many promises in recent years. Self-determination shouldn’t be restricted to the Scots. We even agree with Mr Cameron on the need for change in the EU – but we believe that it should be 180 degrees in the opposite direction to the kind of changes that he is proposing. The working time directive, which he holds up as a point to get out of, we applaud. He wants to reshape the EU even further towards being a playground for multinational companies and bankers, at the expense of its economic and social security.

The role of Europe should be to provide guaranteed decent, substantial foundations on workers’ rights and consumer protections, on environmental standards, on human rights and peace, the basic conditions of life on which Britain was once a world leader. It can be difficult for nations to compete against others that are undercutting these rights – the answer is not to abolish them, but to fight to establish them as global standards, and making them standards in the whole of Europe is a great place to start.

And on issues of banking regulation, on the financial transactions tax, given that Westminster has shown itself unable to rein-in the excesses of the City, it needs all of the help it can get. Europe has made slow and uncertain progress on these issues since 2008, but it has done better than London.

So yes for change in Europe – but to a kind of Europe that isn’t a giant institution, bearing down on peoples and nations from above (as it has born down particularly oppressively on the Greeks), but one that provides a supportive foundation, on the basis of which local people can make decisions for themselves as locally as possible – it’s known as subsidiarity, and is there in the principles of the EU, just not applied as often as it should be.

And we say yes to staying within Europe – working together with our fellow states in a cooperative framework, not a storming high dudgeon or a take-it-or-leave it blackmail style, a la David Cameron. We need to continue to work with our European partners to build strong, locally democratic communities that decide their own way within the framework of strong, guaranteed standards.

Yes, yes, yes to a better European future – no to David Cameron’s way.

Source – Natalie Bennett (Huff Post)

January 24, 2013

East Midlands Green Party Blog

The Green Party Spring Conference fast approaches! It is our 40th birthday and a perfect time to come together to both celebrate the journey so far and to build upon policies of a party with fairness and futurity at its core. It is a time to act against the politics of apathy, inequity and division and have a good time doing so. Of course that’s ample reason to make the journey.  However, I thought I would write one or two extra regional reasons why it is more than worth making the trip up to see us. There is so much to see and share that you may want to extend your stay! Please add other suggestions in comments:

Nature in Nottinghamshire & East Midlands:

  • Sherwood Forest on our doorstep with the legendary, ancient Major Oak
  • Attenborough (Award Winning) Nature Reserve – one of 70 diverse nature reserves in Nottinghamshire
  • Creswell…

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“The discovery of pig and horse meat in beef burgers is scandalous but sadly unsurprising”

January 23, 2013

tescohorseCaroline Allen, Green Party Animal Welfare Spokesperson, says that given the multiple crises affecting our food supply chains it is not surprising that cheap filler ingredients make their way onto supermarket shelves.

“The relentless rise of food prices- including feed price for animals -means that processors will have to be increasingly inventive to continue to provide the cheap food the supermarkets require.

“Increasingly unpredictable weather patterns mean that recent price rises are probably the beginning of a long term trend. At the same time massive cuts at the Food Standards Agency have left it hardly able to provide its most basic duties regarding food safety and traceability. The work they carried out on issues such as food labelling and nutrition has all but ceased, at a time when it is most desperately needed.

“With inadequate policing of this massive industry these scandals will continue. It is surely time for a regulator of the supermarkets and food processors with real powers, a well funded body properly monitoring what is being placed in processed food. But more importantly we need to relocalise the food chain; reducing waste, improving traceability and supporting our farmers- creating a system of food production with resilience in face of the challenges of a changing climate.”

MEPs call for better animal welfare standards during transport but reject Green Party bid for clear time limits

January 15, 2013

cowLIVE animal exports from the UK will continue after MEPs rejected a bid by Greens to set a strict eight-hour time limit on the transportation of live animals to slaughter.

Adoption of an unequivocal support for an eight-hour limit for all animals transported to slaughter, which was proposed by the Green group in the parliament, would have put pressure on the Commission to come forward with a legislative proposal.

In turn this would mean an end to the vast majority of UK live exports, where animals exported from Ramsgate and other UK ports currently have to endure long journeys, often in cramped and dangerous conditions.

Today’s vote, apart from being a blow for animal welfare, also rides roughshod over the concept of citizen involvement in EU decision-making: more than one million people have signed a petition calling for an eight-hour limit to be imposed which was handed to the European Commissioner John Dalli earlier this year.

However, the position adopted by the parliament today does accept that improvements in animal welfare during transport are needed, and calls for animals to be slaughtered locally where possible.

Keith Taylor, South-East England’s Green Party MEP, who has long campaigned against all live animal exports, said:

“Greens were attempting to further embed the idea of an eight-hour maximum journey time for animals going to slaughter as promoted by the recent million-strong petition.

“This would have put much-needed pressure on the European Commission to propose legislation on this and effectively to put a stop to the vast majority of live animal exports through UK ports like Ramsgate.

“I’m surprised and disappointed that many MEPs who have signed a Parliamentary Declaration calling for an eight-hour maximum transport time did not support our calls for the same today.

“The vote today did not go as far as Greens believe was necessary, but it’s at least a step in the right direction and we will continue to call for improvements so that animals transported for slaughter can be better protected.”

London Green Party MEP Jean Lambert added: “Today’s vote sends a strong message that we need to strengthen EU rules on animal transport to give greater attention to animal welfare concerns. While this is clearly welcome, we regret the failure of a majority of MEPs to support a clear call for an 8 hour limit on animal transport times.

January 11, 2013

Hornett Wholefoods

227726_191052344371367_531806852_nShooting animals for fun is just as much a cruel bloodsport as hunting with dogs. If our wildlife could talk shooting would not happen.

Nobody needs to own a gun and nobody needs to kill animals for fun. No matter the endless excuses shooting is wrong and barbaric. When we live in a society where a supermarket is nearly on every street few could ever argue they shoot for food, while nobody could justify killing for fun.

There is nothing brave or just about shooting, regardless of what some may think of a species nobody gave them the right to be judge an executioner. When they kill for fun they let themselves down and society.

Source – https://www.facebook.com/worldwidefreedom1

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Dealing with Denial, some thoughts & ideas

January 8, 2013

East Midlands Green Party Blog

climate-change better world for nothing cartoon

I felt drawn to writing something  about how to deal with climate change denialism  – with the help of cartoons from Joel Pett, Chris Maddon and others. This is also written to help address ‘there is no alternative’  and ‘green is a luxury’ ideas. I think the above cartoon says a huge amount about how central and beneficial green policies are and how unprogressive and self defeating the will to deny the problem is. The fact is that by addressing climate change in sensible ways you have a host of benefits. It makes me smile to see the idea of denial incapulated in the phrase ‘What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?’. Then, simply, we have a better world.  There is much evidence, like the Stern Report, for example, that counters denial of climate change. Desertification, more flooding, less habitable land – including London…

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TORY MP IN ‘A SPIN’ OVER RSPB WIND TURBINE POLICY

January 8, 2013

Support Wind Applications in Northants

thChris Heaton-Harris MP is ‘clearly in a spin’ over windfarms after he was filmed covertly by Greenpeace.

In his latest anti-environment faux pas, he claims to have been hassling the RSPB ‘because they’ve been crap’ [on wind farm policy].

Commenting on the MP’s outburst, Martin Harper, the RSPB Conservation Director, said: “Chris Heaton-Harris is clearly in a spin over windfarms. If only he’d done some ‘half-decent research’ before he started calling us names, he might not have got it so wrong. We’re very clear that climate change is the greatest environmental challenge humanity is facing and wind turbines, in the right place, have a role to help combat this global threat.

“He accuses us of being ‘timid’ on the issue, but we’re very strong. We’re examining around 250 windfarm applications a year to ensure they don’t harm birds and wildlife, and after research and investigation we’re sustaining objections on wildlife…

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Keith Taylor helps launch the European ‘Year of Air’.

January 7, 2013

People_Keith_TaylorKeith Taylor MEP has joined campaigners and other politicians in launching the European Year of Air for 2013. With key European legislation up for review this year, and an estimated half a million premature deaths in Europe caused by air pollution, Mr Taylor is calling for the UK government to halt its efforts to weaken existing EU air quality standards..

EU air quality safe levels were set in the 90´s and there have been mixed results since then. While air quality has generally improved the levels of some dangerous pollutants has increased. Currently 95% of city residents in the European Union breathe ozone at levels exceeding World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended levels.

In the UK air pollution causes 29,000 deaths and contributes to over 200,000 premature deaths per year. In Mr Taylor’s constituency, the South East of England, the problem of air pollution particularly affects both city dwellers and the thousands of people who commute into London.

Mr Taylor said:

“With children and the elderly being hit hardest by poor air quality, and the levels of some noxious pollutants on the rise, we badly need to see strong legislation from the European Union in 2013.”

The UK government has been accused by campaigners of attempting to weaken air pollution legislation. The UK department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs proposed “Working in partnership with other Member States, we will … amendments to the Air Quality Directive which reduce the infraction risk faced by most Member States, especially in relation to nitrogen dioxide provisions’. 

Responding to this Mr Taylor said:

“It beggars belief that the UK Government is trying to water down European Legislation that will protect the lives of British citizens. I urge them to back strong laws on air pollution and to improve people’s health.”

Keith recently published a public information leaflet, ‘Air Pollution: The Invisible Killer’, to raise awareness of air pollution and its damaging health impacts. The leaflet explains how air pollution is created, how widespread the problem is, how it affects our health and how pollution can be reduced.

Notes 

1) A guide to Air Pollution and the ‘Year of Air’ can be found here: http://cleanairinlondon.org/news/quick-guide-to-air-pollution/ 

2) Keith’s Guide ‘Air Pollution: The Invisible Killer’ can be found here: http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/air-pollution/

Matthew Butcher Media Officer
Office of Keith Taylor,
Green MEP for South East England
CAN Mezzanine
49-51 East Road
London N1 6AH UK
Office: 0207 250 8418 Mobile: 07940 500633
Email: keithpress@greenmeps.org.uk www.keithtaylormep.org.uk
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If you would like to receive Keith’s bimonthly e-newsletter please e-mail keithtaylor@greenmeps.org.uk putting INFO as the subject header

Can We Bank On 2013?

January 6, 2013

Natalie BennettIt’s the season for pundits to pontificate on the year to come – hoping that no one in 12 months time will be doing the “how did they do?” column in return. But looking into 2013, there’s one certainty that seems, from a broader historical perspective, surprising.

It’s that UK banking and finance regulation will be a huge, continuing issue. Surprising? Well it is when you consider that it’s more than five years since the queues started forming outside Northern Rock branches and it became obvious that there was a deep rottenness, a danger to all of us, at the heart of the British banking system. You might have thought, have hoped, that by now there’d have been some real action and real change.

Yet, still, we’re debating the basic points – Chinese walls, electricifed Chinese walls, or complete separation of casino and high street arms, capital reserves, controls on complex financial instruments, bonuses.

We’ve made precious little progress

“Light touch regulation” as a phrase has gone right out of fashion, but we’ve made precious little progress on replacing it. That’sBanks despite the fact that the “light touch” impacts are everywhere we turn – the PPI mis-selling scandal, the Libor manipulation, money-laundering …. the list could go on and on.

And above all there’s the fact that there’s no solution been imposed to the “too big to fail” problem; we – that’s Britain, you and I, have been seriously impoverished by the banking crash (yes, remember the prime cause of the deficit, and there’s no guarantee it won’t happen again).

Give it an overall score and the result is far from reassuring – according to the latest Country Risk survey from Euromoney, Britain is on 6/10 – worse not just than France and Germany but also Turkey, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

So what needs to happen? Well first, we need to forget Chinese walls, electrified or not, and go straight to a clear separation between retail banking and high risk trading. Then we need to address the too big to fail problem, urgent and critically important. No bank operating in the UK should be permitted to have access to more than 10% of the domestic market or 5% of the global market.

Then we can add in a financial transaction tax. Lots is made of the money this might raise – easy to develop a shopping list of hospitals, schools, international aid … but what it should be trying to do is to reduce speculation and the types of trading that are pure gambling or gaming.

We need a new type of banking

On a bigger scale, we need a new type of banking, a system of local community banks, growing out of our flourishing mutual banking sector (i.e. building societies and credit unions), that are owned by their members without external shareholders. Once – before about mid-2007 – all of this would have sounded radical.

Community Banking Month_0When the Green Party said things like this, we were fighting the tide (“community banking” was important in our 1987 manifesto). But now, I need only quote a Financial Times editorial from last month: “The desire to reinvent banking as a high-growth, high-return business has belied its true social function as a utility. Its proper role is simply to channel capital from those with savings to spare to those with investments to fund.”

Maybe 2013 will be the year that we finally take steps towards the banking system that we need to secure our economic future. The need for radical change is clear – after five years it is time for some action.

Source – http://thebackbencher.co.uk/can-we-bank-on-2013/  by Natalie Bennett.