Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rational mothers?

A mother with a child aged under 11 is 45% less likely to be employed than a man” - Trevor Phillips.

When lone parents receive state benefits until their youngest child is 16, why work!?

Gordon's kiss of death?

I think it's a great success story for European co-operation. I think it's also a big triumph for British manufacturing, British technology, British science - Gordon Brown on the Airbus A380.

Airbus to announce major job cuts
Troubled planemaker Airbus is preparing to announce up to 10,000 job losses at key operating sites across Europe.

A bad day for bright pupils

It is difficult to imagine a more destructive educational policy than selecting pupils for 'good' schools by lottery rather than by catchment area or entrance examination.

Left-wing educationalists gave Britain the 'benefits' of their comprehensive education experiment thirty years ago! Why are they still allowed to experiment!?!

Such a policy can only result in falling school standards and declining social mobility as those who can afford to go private escape the state system.

Pupils keen to study within the state system will no longer have the sanctuary of good schools offering good standards away from disruptive elements who place no value on a good education.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Perverse welfare state

"Our family policy must be bias free... it's not who or what the parents are, it's what they do" - Education Secretary Alan Johnson .

So when will the Government remove the bias in the welfare state that penalises marriage and even co-habiting couples whilst rewarding lone parents!?!

Driven to distraction?

Just how dangerous are car drivers when using their mobile phones?

Whilst Direct Line estimates one million drivers are using their mobile phones at any one time, they were blamed for the deaths of 'just' 13 people in 2005.

What was to blame for the deaths of the other 3,188?

Should Police fine people picking their noses, lighting a cigarette, reading maps, changing radio stations or is it another easy way to raise revenue for the Chancellor!?!

PS If Police are struggling to catch drivers in the act, all they need do is just sit outside the station and wait two minutes....

Monday, February 26, 2007

Kafir laws

Why is a radical Muslim cleric using Kafir laws to appeal against his deportation to Jordan where he has been found guilty of terror charges in absentia!?!

Why did the UK grant him political asylum in the first place!?!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Labour's not a charity!

Hain defends equity fund donors
Cabinet member Peter Hain has welcomed donations to the Labour Party from financiers.

Hain's charity plea to City firms
City firms should donate two-thirds of their bonus pots to charity [or the Labour Party!] rather than giving employees six-figure bonuses.

TV Police

Has Police detective work sunk to a new low?

Police investigating a news broadcast in which a group of young people were shown with weapons and made reference to the use of illegal drugs have charged a 17-year-old boy from Wythenshawe.

Will Cameron be calling for more Police to watch TV in future!?!

Friday, February 23, 2007

A tale of two city academies!

Academies 'making good progress' - BBC News online.

Academy schools "could do better" - Times Online.

Caption Competition

Integrating Pupils

How does the Muslim Council of Britain suggest that Muslim pupils meet the needs of mainstream secondary schools in the UK?

Schools can play a vital role in facilitating the positive integration of Muslim pupils within the wider community and thereby preventing or at least beginning the process of tackling some of the problems of marginalisation.

So we demand the following...

Muslims consider that most dance activities, as practised in the curriculum, are not consistent with the Islamic requirements for modesty as they may involve sexual connotations and messages.

[Schools] should avoid scheduling exams during Ramadan and should refrain from sex education, as Muslims should avoid sexual thoughts and discourse at this time.

Swimming lessons may also be problematic for some Muslim pupils, as there is a risk of swallowing water which they may believe breaks the fast.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fines not fine!

Why should Britain be expected to pay the European Commission over £300m in fines for Defra's failure to pay English farmers their subsidies on time?

France escaped paying any fines for it's illegal three year ban on British beef whilst both France and Germany escaped fines for ignoring the Growth and Stability Pact and running deficits of over 3%.

Should the Defra payment be used to compensate British farmers for the beef ban instead!?!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tony Blair's road pricing email - A response.

Thank you for taking the time to register your views about road pricing on the Downing Street website. This petition was posted shortly before we published the Eddington Study, an independent review of Britain's transport network. This study set out long-term challenges and options for our transport network. It made clear that congestion is a major problem to which there is no easy answer.

One aspect of the study was highlighting how road pricing could provide a solution to these problems and that advances in technology put these plans within our reach. Of course it would be 10 years or more before any national scheme was technologically, never mind politically, feasible [I wash my hands of this problem]. That is the backdrop to this issue. As my response makes clear, this is not about imposing "stealth taxes" or introducing "Big Brother" surveillance.

This is a complex subject, which cannot be resolved without a thorough investigation of all the options, combined with a full and frank debate about the choices we face at a local and national level. That's why I hope this detailed response will address your concerns and set out how we intend to take this issue forward. I see this e-mail as the beginning, not the end of the debate, and the links below provide an opportunity for you to take it further.

But let me be clear straight away: we have not made any decision about national road pricing. Indeed we are simply not yet in a position to do so. We are, for now, working with some local authorities that are interested in establishing local schemes to help address local congestion problems. Pricing is not being forced on any area, but any schemes would teach us more about how road pricing would work and inform decisions on a national scheme. And funds raised from these local schemes will be used to improve transport in those areas [Such as Ken Livingstone’s excellent idea to offer half price bus travel to those on income support].

One thing I suspect we can all agree is that congestion is bad. It's bad for business because it disrupts the delivery of goods and services. It affects people's quality of life. And it is bad for the environment. That is why tackling congestion is a key priority for any government [“Congestion, congestion, congestion” - Tony Blair,1997!].

Congestion is predicted to increase by 25% by 2015 [by the same team that predicted the Millennium Dome would be a great success]. This is being driven by economic prosperity [and a lack of any Government policy on population growth]. There are six million more vehicles on the road now than in 1997, and predictions are that this trend will continue [as Government is unable to remove the two million uninsured vehicles on Britain’s roads]. Part of the solution is to improve public transport, and to make the most of the existing road network. We have more than doubled investment since 1997, spending £2.5bn this year on buses and over £4bn on trains - helping to explain why more people are using them than for decades. [Increasing levels of traffic congestion does not automatically make more people use the trains and buses!]. And we're committed to sustaining this investment, with over £140bn of investment planned between now and 2015 [which is really good news for train drivers and train guards as they will be looking forward to striking for more pay again this summer]. We're also putting a great deal of effort into improving traffic flows - for example, over 1,000 Highways Agency traffic officers now help to keep motorway traffic moving [off-peak]. But all the evidence shows that improving public transport and tackling traffic bottlenecks will not by themselves prevent congestion getting worse. So we have a difficult choice to make about how we tackle the expected increase in congestion.

This is a challenge that all political leaders have to face up to, and not just in the UK. For example, road-pricing schemes are already in operation in Italy, Norway and Singapore, and others, such as the Netherlands, are developing schemes. [France, Germany, Italy, the United States, Canada, Japan, Spain etc. aren’t!]. Towns and cities across the world are looking at road pricing as a means of addressing congestion.

One option would be to allow congestion to grow unchecked. Given the forecast growth in traffic, doing nothing would mean that journeys within and between cities would take longer [More people might use trains or buses instead], and be less reliable [road congestion would directly penalise those people travelling at peak times!]. I think that would be bad for businesses, individuals [the Treasury] and the environment. And the costs on us all will be real - congestion could [but then again could not] cost an extra £22bn in wasted time in England [what about the rest of the UK?] by 2025, of which £10bn to £12bn would be the direct cost on businesses.

A second option would be to try to build our way out of congestion. We could, of course, add new lanes to our motorways, widen roads in our congested city centres, and build new routes across the countryside. Certainly in some places new capacity will be part of the story. That is why we are widening the M25, M1 and M62. But I think people agree that we cannot simply build more and more roads, particularly when the evidence suggests that traffic quickly grows to fill any new capacity. [People are flexible enough to choose their optimal travel plan given cost and time constraints]. Tackling congestion in this way would also be extremely costly, requiring substantial sums to be diverted from other services such as education and health, [funding the European Union, incapacity benefits, unemployment benefits, MPs pensions, Scotland, Wales and Quangos], or increases in taxes [again!]. If I tell you that one mile of new motorway costs as much as £30m, you'll have an idea of the sums this approach would entail. [It could even dent the net £40bn taken from motorists each year!]. That is why I believe that at least we need to explore the contribution road pricing can make to tackling congestion. It would not be in anyone's interests, especially those of motorists, to slam the door shut on road pricing without exploring it further.

It has been calculated that a national scheme - as part of a wider package of measures - could cut congestion significantly through small changes in our overall travel patterns. [Making England’s roads a more attractive means of getting to work!]. But any technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy being protected - as it should be. [The Government guarantees your privacy, just ask DWP staff whose details have never been compromised or the 25,000 pensioners whose bank account details were not sent to the wrong addresses!]. Existing technologies, such as mobile phones and pay-as-you-drive insurance schemes [and petrol tax], may well be able to play a role here, by ensuring that the government doesn't hold information about where vehicles have been. But there may also be opportunities presented by developments in new technology. Just as new medical technology is changing the NHS [thanks to Labour!], so there will be changes in the transport sector. Our aim is to relieve traffic jams, not create a "Big Brother" society.

I know many people's biggest worry about road pricing is that it will be a "stealth tax" on motorists. It won't [It will be a "visible" tax!]. Road pricing is about tackling congestion. Clearly if we decided to move towards a system of national road pricing, there could be a case for moving away from the current system of motoring taxation. This could mean that those who use their car less, or can travel at less congested times, in less congested areas, for example in rural areas, would benefit from lower motoring costs overall [just don't bet on it!].

Those who travel longer distances at peak times and in more congested areas would pay more [Only those driving to work would be caught in the scheme, as they all enjoy being stuck in traffic!]. But those are decisions for the future. At this stage, when no firm decision has been taken as to whether we will move towards a national scheme, stories about possible costs are simply not credible, since they depend on so many variables yet to be investigated, never mind decided.

Before we take any decisions about a national pricing scheme, we know that we have to have a system that works [have faith in Government IT projects!]. A system that respects our privacy as individuals. A system that is fair [to the Treasury].

I fully accept that we don't have all the answers yet. That is why we are not rushing headlong into a national road-pricing scheme. Before we take any decisions there would be further consultations. The public will, of course, have their say, as will Parliament. We want to continue this debate, so that we can build a consensus around the best way to reduce congestion, protect the environment and support our businesses.

If you want to find out more, please visit the attached links to more detailed information, and which also give opportunities to engage in further debate.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair

Ruth Kelly to move house?

Apart from Liberal Democrats and Professor John Hills, how many high earners would want to live on council estates!?!

Council estates will always have concentrations of people on very low incomes, or not in work at all as people will 'escape' them as soon as they can afford to only to be replaced by other people on low incomes!

Educational choices?

If David Cameron wants to offer parents "to have a choice" on the offer of education, why won't he give parents the choice of a Grammar school education?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Learning and Skills Council

How does the Learning and Skills Council demonstrate that it's £11bn of taxpayer money is well spent each year?

The League One side [Crewe Alexandra Footballl Club] is now getting its stewards trained under the new scheme - including people who have been doing the job for 20 to 30 years.

The vicious circle of road pricing!

If road pricing succeeds in cutting road congestion by 10%, will clearer roads and shorter journey times make car travel a more attractive option for getting to work!?!

Metaphor for British Society?

If gun violence is not a metaphor for the "general state of British society", how about the Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Act that will fine people £5,000 who "wilfully get in the way of firefighters, ambulance workers, coastguards and lifeboat crews"?

Monday, February 19, 2007

The NHS - a hard day's night?

How will longer hospital opening hours reduce waiting lists if it is not accompanied by recruiting additional staff to work those hours?

Staff working 40 hours per week over four days rather than five does not increase the total amount of work done!

Will waiting lists increase as a day off sick will now represent 10 hours work lost rather than 'just' 7.5 hours!?!

Friday, February 16, 2007

How do you solve a problem like gun crime?

When life is considered cheap across many parts of south London, how can politicians ever be expected to quell the latest spate of teenage murders?

Forcing men to stay with their families is not the solution.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I spy something beginning with S - a smoker!

How can it possibly cost £29.5m to teach council staff how to spot smokers in pubs and issue fines after smoking is banned in pubs across England on July 1st?

They will have the power to enter premises undercover, allowing them to sit among drinkers, and will even be able to photograph and film people.

So yet more public spirited council workers sitting around doing nothing, only this time in pubs...

In Scotland, there have been just 11 fixed penalty notices issued to premises in the last 10 months, with many councils having issued none at all.

Are they also allowed to target underage drinkers or does that require special training too?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

MPs on road pricing!

Would road congestion fall significantly if MPs were priced off the road?

MPs spent £2m on car travel last year!

Child Labour!

How has the welfare state contributed to Britain's position at the bottom of a league table for child well-being across 21 industrialised countries?

Let's hope that Gordon Brown does not use this report to justify a further re-distribution of wealth to unemployable parents who raise equally unemployable children!

"Quite simply, it's not really rewarding to re-enter the workforce if you are either a lone parent or a second earner" - Jean-Philippe Cotis, chief economist at the OECD.

A single mother moving back into work would have to forfeit 101.3 per cent of the extra cash she earned because of the extra tax, childcare costs, and relinquished benefits payouts.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Importing trouble?

Why is the Foreign Office “fit for purpose” when it comes to repatriating four Islamic fighters with purported links to Al-Qaeeda?

Has the Home Office checked that their passports weren’t issued in error?

Seriously Flawed Crime Agency?

Why did it take four years for the Asset Recovery Agency to realise that certain criminals "made much of their criminal proceeds back in the 1980s and they are clearly outside the grasp of the law"?

Jane Earl said the Assets Recovery Agency's work was restricted by laws which prevented staff from chasing assets owned for more than 12 years.

Are there no criminals who have amassed fortunes within the last twelve years?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Rewarding electoral fraud?

If political parties are to be funded by the numbers of votes cast for them, will this encourage electoral fraud?

They would receive up to 60p for every vote won at a Westminster election and up to 30p for each vote cast in European or devolved parliamentary elections.

Britain already suffers from electoral fraud that would "disgrace a banana republic"...

Democracy in action?

Gordon Brown will support England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup reflecting opinion polls ‘showing’ widespread public support.

Government supports road-pricing despite petition of more than one million signatures opposing it!

English language

How do unemployed people unable to speak English qualify for benefits in the UK?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hain rewards low flyers?

Why should two thirds of city bonuses be given to charity when 40% is already 'given' to the treasury in income tax? The treasury is the biggest charity in the UK!

City bonuses reward exceptional levels of hard work, dedication and performance and are paid to those who deserve them rather than those who don't.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

House of cards?

ID cards will be "security accredited to the highest standard" to prevent the information falling into the hands of terrorists or criminals. - James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service.

Data will be held across three existing IT systems, including the Department of Work and Pensions' (DWP) Customer Information Service, which holds national insurance records.

In other news:

The DWP have sent the bank and personal details of thousands of pensioners to the wrong addresses!

The Great White Hope?

Being the son of a black Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, why is Barack Obama described as "the Great Black Hope" by the Independent newspaper?

Is it racist to highlight his racial background in this way?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Passport error in your favour?

How many other British passports have been given "in error" but are not discovered as the holder does not admit it in court!?!

"The issuing of a British passport to Mr Mohammed was the result of a one-off error by an individual passport examiner" - Home Office spokesman.

Blair's problem families

If Tony Blair is serious about tackling "problem families", will he reform the welfare state that funds many of them in the first place?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Voting with your stethoscope!

If 40% of doctors have private healthcare cover compared to just 12% of the general population, what do they know about the NHS that we don't!?!

"If they did not believe so strongly in the NHS they would not work for it." - Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the GP's committee.

No doubt annual pay of £100,000 does not unduly influence their beliefs either!

Childhood safety

Who is ultimately responsible for the safety of children at home, their parents or the Government?

Children of parents who have never worked or have been unemployed for a long time had 13 times the risk of dying from an accident and were 37 times more likely to die as a result of exposure to smoke, fire or flames than children of parents who worked in managerial or professional jobs.

"The inequalities between different socio-economic groups are also shocking. To tackle this, local bodies must apply concerted and rigorous action." - Michael O'Higgins, chairman of the Audit Commission.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tackling extremism?

How can alienated young Muslim males be 'vulnerable to grooming by extremists' if they do not attend local mosques? Undercover Mosque showed evidence of grooming taking place at a Mosque!

Would £5m be better spent discouraging young males from attending mosques!?!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Work commitments

Owing to work commitments beyond my control, blogging will be quite light for the next two weeks.

Apologies to my loyal reader for that,but normal service will resume soon!

Pilot lessons?

Will it be as easy for the British authorities to extradite the two 'friendly fire' US A-10 pilots that killed lance corporal Matty Hall as it was for the US authorities to extradite British bankers allegedly involved in the Enron scandal?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Conservative Future?

Considering the turmoil that Labour currently find themselves in with Ministers urging Tony Blair to stay on, would David Cameron have to resign if the Conservative Party only managed to achieve a hung party at the next General Election?

[David Cameron] needs a swing of 6.9%, [ ]a larger swing than the Conservatives have managed since the war; Margaret Thatcher's famous victory in 1979 was achieved with a swing of 5.3%.

Heads will roll?

Have any leading Muslims expressed gratitude to the Police for potentially saving the lives of Muslim soldiers who could have been kidnapped and executed by fellow Muslims?

I hope that when the truth manifests itself that, metaphorically, heads will roll with the people who put out these stories in the first place - Moazzam Begg

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Baghdad, Kabul, London

"In some of the country's major conurbations the lack of respect for the police, the lack of respect for the general public, seems to be reaching epidemic proportions, and it is very frightening." - Tim Young of The Surveillance Group.

"They [former special forces soldiers] are just as likely to get injured on the streets of a major UK conurbation as they were in Afghanistan or Iraq."

Tony Blair wants voters he met during the 1997 election campaign to let him know how things have improved under Labour since then, will Tim Young be getting in touch!?!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Muslim discrimination?

Are the men being questioned over what is thought to be a plot to kidnap, torture and execute a Muslim member of the armed forces guilty of religious discrimination as they have targeted someone because of their faith!?!