Friday, 20 October 2017

Dirty Hands and Democracy.


 Do we really live in a Parliamentary Democracy

Correct me if I am wrong  but I believe that in a General Election in the  1860 the  disenfranchised  miners  made a symbolic vote by raising thier hands against the unpopular MP Henry Bruce.

To which Bruce retorted 

"You may wave your Dirty Hands now but I will be the MP for this constituency tomorrow"

At he following election a increase in the franchise saw Bruce ousted in the two member seat by Henry Richard perhaps the first Welsh MP to ever speak out for his nation.

I was reminded of this by events in the House of Commons.

At the last General Election the Tories  failed to win a overall majority but bribed the DUP a party that seems to be decades behind every other in the House of Commons on many polices to vote with them

But that doesn't even matter because t seems the Tories believe that even if they were to lose the vote they can ignore it.

On Wednesday knowing   that they would lose the government didn't even try to defend their controversial welfare reforms, they refused tto take part in a vote
  
As LeftFootFoward say
Labour scored a symbolic victory over the government last night, winning a vote condemning the huge flaws in the government’s Universal Credit scheme.

Labour’s motion to “pause and fix” the rollout of Universal Credit won unanimous support in the House of Commons, MPs voting 299 to zero in favour. But for one reason: Tory MPs failed to vote to support their own policy.
Attempting to avoid a potential defeat, the government are believed to have issued a three-line whip to their MPs, forcing them to abstain on the final vote.
The defeat occurred just hours after the government conceded they’d drop the 55p-a-minute charge to the Universal Credit helpline.
The dropping of the helpline fee and the vote – although a non-binding opposition day motion – represent Theresa May’s third big defeat in the Commons in just over a month.
In September they were forced to lift the 1 per cent pay cap for some public sector workers. On the same day, the DUP sided with Labour on a motion to stop the government raising tuition fees
Its a pity that LeftFootForward didn't point  that other Opposition Parties made an important role in the Government Defeat  especially this contribution from the SNP's Mhari Black




One Tory even missed the vote because he was attending a football match in Barcelona; Downing Street defended his absence as a “better” use of his time.

 John McNally of the SNP brandished a red card in the House of Commons to admonish Ross for missing a debate on Universal Credit in October 2017, due to his commitments as a football referee.

Ross won the Moray seat from the former SNP leader in the House of Commons Angus Roberson which evoked cheers from Labour supporters.

Labour can't win such victories like the one on Wednesday  and they should acknowledge this.


Meanwhile  A senior Conservative MP has criticised the government's response to a Commons vote against its welfare plans.

Sir Edward Leigh said: "The road to tyranny is paved with executives ignoring Parliaments."

Sir Edward - who warned after the vote about Parliament being reduced to a "university debating society" - called for a "meaty" government statement in response.
"Parliament does matter," he added.

The speaker John Bercow was vocal on the point

“We are elected to come to this place to debate and to decide what our position is on motions.”
“The government in light of the result should come to the house and show respect for the institution by indicating what it intends to do”


 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Llywydd is wrong over committee allocations.

The  Llywydd assembly, presiding officer Elin Jones has at least stuck to here independent remit  in claiming that the way parties share influential jobs on Senedd bodies does not comply with the rules of the assembly.

But that does not mean she is completely right.

According to the BBC
 
She has said that Plaid Cymru having more committee chairs than the Conservatives - despite having fewer AMs - was an anomaly.
Senior AMs from Labour and Plaid think the situation should remain the same.
Ms Jones, also a Plaid Cymru AM, has ordered a review to avoid the situation arising again.
Since Mark Reckless joined the Tory group as an independent, Dafydd Elis-Thomas became an independent and Neil McEvoy was suspended, Plaid has been left with 10 AMs versus the Tories 12.
That is a reversal from the assembly elections, when Plaid came out as the second largest group with 12 AMs and the Tories had 11.
The question I ask is shouldn't  the allocation of committee chairs be reflected on the will of the electorate and not on changes due to internal rifts within the Assembly Parties.
 
The assembly rule book - known as standard orders - stipulates that the party groups AMs belong to need to be taken into account when committee chairs are distributed.
It does  say "taken into account" which is a bit ambiguous.
Ms Jones told a meeting of business committee - which decides which parties get which committee chair seats - earlier in October that the current situation does not conform to the assembly rule book.
But despite Ms Jones saying at that meeting it must be resolved, senior AMs from Labour, Plaid, UKIP and the Tories on the committee have failed to come to an agreement.

Committees direct important reports in the assembly, and have the power to take evidence during inquiries, scrutinise ministers and inspect legislation.
Under assembly reforms implemented this year committee chairmen and women are elected by the AMs themselves - but what party they come from is still decided by the business committee group of senior AMs.
After the last assembly election, Labour was given six chairs, Plaid Cymru three, the Tories two and UKIP one.

The Tories want Plaid to lose one chair position, but Labour and Plaid argue there should be no change, arguing that the current allocation reflects the election result.


After the last assembly election, Labour was given six chairs, Plaid Cymru three, the Tories two and UKIP one.
The Tories want Plaid to lose one chair position, but Labour and Plaid argue there should be no change, arguing that the current allocation reflects the election result.

The report says that the Labour and Plaid votes constitute a majority on the committee, and so it is their view that has "prevailed".
The  Llywydd, "is of the view that this impasse is unsatisfactory," the report said.

"The Llywydd considers that the standing orders are clear as to the requirement the business committee has regard to the need to ensure that the allocation of chairs reflect the balance of groups, and so a situation where the Plaid Cymru group has more chairs than the Conservative group is clearly anomalous."
Ms Jones "does not agree with the majority view on the committee", the assembly report said, "that the current allocation is acceptable in fulfilling that requirement".
 Ms Jones "does not agree with the majority view on the committee", the assembly report said, "that the current allocation is acceptable in fulfilling that requirement"

But Ms Jones acknowledged that a 

"tension exists within the standard orders between the independence of committee chairs on the one hand, and the need for their allocation between groups to reflect a potentially ever-changing political balance on the other".
As a result of the row the Tories refused to support a vote in the assembly on Wednesday to fill vacancies on committees left by Neil McEvoy's suspension, and for Neil McEvoy to join petitions committee.

So what happens if Me McEvoy wins his appeal do we  revert back and change the allocation again ?

Of course if there were major shifts in Party make up say half the Ukip members left the party and joined the Tories there could well be an argument  for change.

But why should there be changes because of one or two defections?

Finding out that the AM you voted for has left  party to join a arty you did not want to win, is bad enough but to find that this means that the party you voted or losses influential positions due to this is an insult to democracy,


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Boundary Commission proposes to cut Welsh seats even further.

One thing is clear from the latest proposal  of the Boundary Commission is that they may have listened in some places but not in Wales.

Across the United Kingdom

Nation 2010/15/17 seats 2011 review[29] 2018 review[30]
Electorate Allocation Change Average size Electorate Allocation Change Average size
England * 532 38,332,557 500 –32 76,665 37,294,494 499 –33 74,738
(Isle of Wight) 1 110,924 2 +1 55,462 105,448 2 +1 52,724
Northern Ireland 18 1,190,635 16 –2 74,415 1,243,369 17 –1 73,139
Scotland * 57 3,873,387 50 –7 77,468 3,842,736 51 –6 75,348
(Orkney and Shetland) 1 33,755 1 33,755 33,229 1 33,229
(Na h-Eileanan an Iar) 1 21,837 1 21,837 20,887 1 20,887
Wales 40 2,281,596 30 –10 76,053 2,181,841 29 –11 75,236
Total 650 45,844,691 600 −50 76,408 44,562,440 600 −50 74,270
* Excluding the protected island areas
Wales will join England in being the only Nation to see a drop from the previous proposal though that is because the Isle of Wight wil not be divided in two.

Of course as an Independista  I would prefer not to to send any MPs to Westminster and recognise that that the majority there now do not put Wale's interest first.

But with only 29 MPs Wales will be ignored (if its possible even more).

The new Boundaries will see  some rather large constituencies

 Map of Wales which shows the initial proposals for changes to the boundaries of Welsh Parliamentary constituencies. These changes would take the number of MP's in Wales from 40 to 29

The Wasting Mule tells us that


Under the new proposals, the number of constituencies in Cardiff would reduce from four to three, while the three seats in the Swansea local authority area would go down to two.
Newport would have one seat instead of the present two. An expanded Torfaen constituency would take in parts of the current Monmouth and Newport West seats. A new Monmouthshire seat would take in most of the current Monmouth seat and part of Newport East.
In the Valleys, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney would take in a significant part of the Rhymney Valley currently in the Caerphilly seat, while Caerphilly would absorb parts of Islwyn and Newport West. Blaenau Gwent would increase in size to include part of the current Islwyn constituency. There would be new seats of Cynon Valley and Pontypridd, Rhondda and Llantrisant, and Ogmore and Aberavon. Neath would expand and include some wards from the current Aberavon seat.
The western part of Vale of Glamorgan would join with Bridgend, while the eastern part would have a seat of its own together with Penarth.
Llanelli would grow by absorbing part of the existing Gower seat, while Carmarthen would become a constituency on its own.
Mid and South Pembrokeshire would form another new seat, while Ceredigion would expand to include North Pembrokeshire.
North Wales would see a new constituency called Ynys Mon a Fangor, comprising Anglesey and Bangor. A new seat of Gwynedd would be created, as would one called Conwy and Colwyn.
There would be new seats of Flint and Rhuddlan, an expanded Alyn and Deeside and a larger Wrexham. Another new seat would cover South Clwyd and North Montgomeryshire , while there would also be a seat of Brecon, Radnor and Montgomery.


The Commission’s final proposals will be submitted by October 2018, when there will be votes in Parliament.
There has been speculation that they may fail to get through, especially with the Conservatives having lost their majority.

Already Tory  Montgomery  has indicated he could vote against the proposals 

He writes
......Now I do accept that there is a case for some equalisation of constituency sizes. In fact, a review is long overdue. I just don’t think it’s sensible or rational to review on the basis of 600 constituencies rather that the current 650.  Especially at a time when numbers in the House of Lords continue to rise into the 800s! Also, I concede that I cannot reasonably argue that the number of Welsh MPs should remain at 40 when the same constituency size as currently exists in England would result in 33 Welsh MPs. There should be two changes to the legislation. Firstly, the reduction should be from 40 to 33 (not 29) to reflect average size of constituencies across the UK. And the ‘tolerance’ between number of electors per constituency should be more than 5%. (8% perhaps). If we’re asking Boundary Commissioners to agree new boundaries, let’s give them the power to make recommendations as sensible and sensitive as possible.
Dare say some might suggest I’m being difficult or unreasonable. Well, let’s look at things from where I’m standing - which is in the ancient constituency of Montgomeryshire. Montgomeryshire has existed as a constitutional entity for around 500 yrs. I’ve been involved in public life for over 40 yrs, and have always represented Montgomeryshire (Council, Welsh Assembly and Parliament). Have fought elections as “The Montgomeryshire Man”. I still use Montgomeryshire as my address, despite it officially being Powys. The current proposals consign historic Montgomeryshire to the dustbin of history, carving it up into three to make up the numbers in surrounding constituencies. What am I supposed to think.
Of course Bethan asked me if I intended to vote against the proposals when they come forward at the end of 2018. I declined to answer. I want to argue my corner over this with Government. If I say now that I’m voting against, I lose all influence on the debate. It’s what happens. Ok, it would win some favourable publicity, ensuring I make headlines rather than maybe make a difference. But what I have said is that if these proposals are adopted, I will not stand for Parliament again.

It may well depend on the DUP who could be pleased that thier allocation only drops by one, 

Though it may depend on the Boundaries and if they actually benefit from redrawn  constituencies.

But frankly if we want to cut numbers in Westminster it would be better to cull the 800 members of the House of Lords 

All we can see is a What the House of Lords Committee is suggesting is that instead of the Prime Minister of the day having the power to appoint peers for life, they should appoint them to time-limited peerages of no longer than 15 years. something that AAV goes into detail in his usual precise detail.


In many ways it is up to Labour to come up with changes , They could fight the next General Election on expanding devolution, proportional representation  and replacing the House of Lords with an elected chamber.

But whilst Jeremy Corbyn is on the left he is still part of the Westminster establishment  and is interest is winning power there and if that is done by the current status he will not be too worried.

It is time progressive parties agreed on a common strategy for electoral reform which will make changes that enhance our democratic structures,

 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Alun Cairns has his Theresa moment.

You could be forgiven in thinking that the Gods have turned against the Tories.
moment After Prime Minister Theresa May's disastrous conference speech which saw her being handed a P45 by a prankster , a persistent cough and parts of the scenery falling off comes a a photo shoot  of Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns at London Paddington yesterday morning for the first of the new £5.7 billion Intercity Express fleet of trains.

As the Wasting Mule point out  

 Unfortunately, for him, photographers captured the Cabinet member standing on his tip toes for a photo in front of the new express.

 
During a photo shoot, Vale of Glamorgan MP Mr Cairns faced the daunting task of standing next to the 6ft 4ins tall Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. 

 So he appears to have tried to raise his height by standing on tip toes.
 



Mr Cairns may well be hoping that this actually may bury the real story that  the Hitachi bi-mode Intercity Express Train – which passengers have been promised will be a faster, more modern train, with increased capacity, greater comfort and better connectivity – later ground to a halt, delaying services on the network as a result.


Hitachi said the service had experienced some "technical challenges".

The new hybrid trains, which have a top speed of 125mph, are designed to replace the existing InterCity 125 trains as part of the UK Government’s Intercity Express Programme.

According to the rail website Realtime Trains, the service was 25 minutes late setting off. It arrived at London Paddington 41 minutes late.

The boss of Hitachi trains Europe later revealed that faulty air conditioning was to blame.

Managing director Karen Boswell explained that "an air conditioning issue" resulted in water entering the carriage rather than being discharged outside.

She said: 

"We can and will do better. Our depot teams are as a matter of priority investigating the root causes of today's technical issues, and we will ensure that these are corrected as quickly as possible."

We wanted the electrification   of the line and  instead got a second class service which on yesterdays performance could be worse than the current one.

How long before we a told that the government have spent so much on a project that does not meet expectations that they can't replace it with what we want. 

Its  almost a metaphor  for this government  policies  especially Universal Credit   with staged Photoshoots that hide the truth and promises of a modern Britain more efficient delivering better services  that ends up delayed and leaving people wishing they were better of before.





Monday, 16 October 2017

Dig for Brexit !!!!



I remember in the  1980 a Welsh Economist telling me that if Britain to  face condition similar to World War 2 then we could not grow enough food to feed ourselves.

Its a long time since we have done so

"In the 1930s 75 per cent of pre-war Britain’s food was imported by ship and the German U-boat blockade threatened the home front with starvation.
According to the War Cabinet’s records, annual food imports had halved to 14.65million tonnes by 1941. The campaign’s tagline “Spades not ships!” encouraged citizens to start planting on all available land.
Allotments, auctions and vegetable shows | Eccentric ... By 1942 half the civilian population was part of the nation’s “Garden Front”, and ten thousand square miles of land had been "brought under the plough". School playing fields, public gardens and factory courtyards were all transformed into allotments. The moat at the Tower of London was given over to vegetable patches, and even the Royal Family sacrificed their rose beds for growing onions.
Cartoon characters Captain Carrot and Potato Pete led the campaign with their own songs and recipe books. Every Sunday an audience of 3.5 million tuned in to the Home Service to listen to Britain’s first celebrity gardener, Cecil Henry Middleton, give his gardening tips.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society there were nearly 1.4 million allotments in Britain by the end of the war, which produced 1.3m tonnes of produce. The government estimated that around 6,000 pigs were kept in gardens and back yards by 1945. Along with state investment in failing farms, the campaign led to the UK halving its reliance on food imports".
Of course the UK population has risen substantially since the War so we can wonder how much food we can produce ourselves.

Of course there will be no U Boat menace after Brexit but there does seem a hint of desperation  in the claim that British farmers will be able to pick up the slack if food imports from the EU drop following Brexit, as minister Chris Grayling has said, saying the UK will cope with a no-deal departure by simply ”grow[ing] more here”. 

The Secretary of State for Transport said that if Britain crashed out of the EU without securing a trade deal, British farmers would have to “produce more”. 
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Grayling was asked to comment to claims by the head of Sainsbury’s that there would a 22 per cent increase in food prices if there was no deal with the EU.


Mr Grayling responded that Britain would succeed “come what may”, and that it was “important to plan for all eventualities”.


“What we will do is grow more here, and will buy more from around the world. That will be bad news for continental farmers, which is why it won’t happen. It is actually in their interest to reach a deal,”
 
Can we expect A Dig for Brexit Campaign coming from the Government anytime soon.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Plaid Cymru offers to pay for claimants' calls

The BBC reports that

People claiming universal credit have been offered free use of Plaid Cymru phones to avoid helpline charges.
Party leader Leanne Wood said amid delays in payments, charging callers up to 55p a minute to check the status of their claim "adds insult to injury".
The party said all Plaid MPs and assembly members would let claimants make the calls from their offices.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said people concerned about the cost could request a free call back. 


One Department for Work and Pensions employee, who spent eight months managing a team of staff answering calls from universal credit claimants in one of the trial areas, said workers struggled to stay on top of the volume of calls, and often failed to answer queries within the required time period, causing claimants to call back to chase problems.

“The work was backing up, and the calls piled up. Sometimes I felt terrified and exasperated for them, sometimes we were shrugging our shoulders. We were doing everything we could, running overtime, trying to break down the outstanding work,”

A DWP spokeswoman said:

 "Applications for universal credit are made online and claimants then arrange their first appointment with their work coach over the phone.
"This call is charged at local rates which are set by providers and are free for many people as part of their call package.
"If someone is concerned about the cost, they can request a free call back."

Another  DWP spokeswoman said:

 "Applications for universal credit are made online and claimants then arrange their first appointment with their work coach over the phone.
"This call is charged at local rates which are set by providers and are free for many people as part of their call package.
"If someone is concerned about the cost, they can request a free call back."
The problem is that some people who  are applying for  Universal Credit will no have a landlines  phone choosing to save money by only using a mobile phone .

This probably means they  do not have have home access to a computer adding to their problems of claiming benefit.

From experience calling  the DWP  can see you in a Queue for up to an hour As soon as the call is connected by the person you have called you start to get charged weather you are answered by a person, answer M/C or automatated system, press 1 for ?, press 2 for ??

At 55p a minute  that can be astronomical and you have to get through to get a "Callback"
    
In a joint statement on Thursday, Plaid MPs Hywel Williams and Liz Saville Roberts said their constituency offices in the Gwynedd towns of Caernarfon and Dolgellau respectively would be available for claimants to make such calls on the party's phones.

"It is shocking that those trying to claim universal credit face being charged for the privilege of simply speaking to someone about their claim," the MPs for Arfon and Dwyfor Meirionnydd said.
"Notwithstanding the barriers already faced by many claimants, such as spiralling debts, homelessness and evictions, charging people who are broke to find out the status of their claim is absurd.
"I hope they will drop this outrageous charge as soon as possible."
                   
On Friday, Plaid leader Leanne Wood said all the party's MPs and assembly members would allow claimants to call the helpline from their constituency offices.

"The roll-out of the universal credit has caused untold misery for the thousands of people who have already faced receiving their payments late or not at all," she said.
"The revelation that the Tory UK Government is charging people 55p a minute just to call the universal credit helpline adds insult to injury.
"People who are already suffering as a result of the Tories' botched reforms shouldn't have to face a further hit in the form of extortionate phone bills which they may not be able to afford."
Of course this would probably only help  those who live near a Plaid Constituency Office as the cost of travelling there may be too expensive for those on a tight budget. 

Plaid should be congratulated on this and if other elected members of the UK legislatures from other Parties  follow suit it could make a difference.

Meanwhile Conservative AM Mark Isherwood has written to Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke urging him to reconsider the helpline charges.
He claimed the situation was made worse by the fact that while some people were charged for calling the English-language helpline, calls to the Welsh-language helpline on an 0800 number were free.

I don't think Mr Isherwood is making an attack on Welsh Languages services here  but  we should remember that because a wrong is being done does not mean all should suffer.




























Saturday, 14 October 2017

Men should support beating 'period poverty' in Wales

 It is about time Men  in particualr stopped treating the use of Sanitary products as a Taboo Subject .

For two long how women's periods affect their lives have been ignored and one issue the cost of sanitary protection has been a social injustice thast few have spoken out on.

Something that if it affected both sexes  would have benn dealt decades ago

The BBC reports that, a councillor has said 

"Free sanitary protection should be given to all secondary school pupils in Rhondda Cynon Taff."

Elyn Stephens, who has first hand experience of "period poverty" made the call after charity Plan International UK found one-in-10 girls in the UK cannot afford products.
The idea is being considered by a working group set up in the summer.
A Welsh Government spokesman said it was aware some councils were exploring how the issue may affect learning.
Ms Stephens, 25, who is one of the local authority's youngest councillors, said she was spurred into action by her own experience.
She said: 

 "I don't come from a wealthy family at all. I come from a single parent family, I had a mother and two sisters so you can imagine the strains that put on our household income.
"By speaking to people who are still in school I realised nothing had changed since I was there seven years ago.
"Because the subject has been taboo for so many years, no-one has broached it in the institutions that can actually make a difference."
The Plaid Cymru councillor put forward a motion in July to provide free sanitary products in local schools.
 Why in all these years has it taken a young Councillor to raise the issue to a level that it is openly being discussed.

This follows the the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon   announcing that to help tackle the problem of "period poverty" - where women on low income can not afford sanitary protection  a new scheme would start in August with products provided free in all schools, colleges and universities.
The move was announced in the Scottish Government's programme for government in September, and Ms Sturgeon said: 

"This groundbreaking commitment to tackle the gender injustice of period poverty will be delivered from the start of the new academic year next August."
She added: "Scotland and the SNP - once again - leading the way in building a better, fairer country for all."


Responding to the issue, the Welsh Government said it was aware that some councils such as Rhondda Cynon Taf are exploring how the issue might impact on learning.

"We will continue to work with education services and consider any new evidence which emerges," said an official.
"Schools in Wales should have arrangements to support learners to ensure their well-being.
"All girls should be reminded regularly that sanitary products are available from named female staff if needed."

I can imagine when  a young Councillor like Elyn Stephens first raise the issue a number of male councillors wanting to hide under their desk.

Such is the "Taboo"  subject of this that what when you look at it is a gross injustice  on half our population is not openly discussed.

Are we still living in age where we have a cultural and religious attitude to  menstruation where  women are excluded and Men in particular some how pretend its not happening?

This is not a "Womens Issue" it is an issue of inequality that should have been dealt with years ago