News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Friday, February 23, 2007

Kent County Council gets better and better


The Audit Commission has once again declared Conservative-controlled Kent County Council amongst the best in the country. Once again, the council was awarded the maximum 4 stars for overall performance, and was also described as "improving strongly", which is the top improvement score available. Kent is one of only two counties in the country to get top marks in both categories, a fete also achieved in every previous year that the Comprehensive Performance Management has run.

It's all a far cry from the dark days of Lib-Dem/Labour coalition rule in the 1990s. At that time Kent was ranked as the worst performing county council in the country, with failing schools, closed libraries, poorly maintained roads and a poor record on recycling.

The score broke down as follows:

Use of resources 4* (up from 3*)
Children and Young People 3* (unchanged)
Culture including libraries 4* (up from 2*)
Environment 4* (up from 3*)
Social Care 3* (unchanged)

St Patrick's Day


The Worshipful Town Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Mrs Janet Andrews, invites you to a St Patrick's Night Charity Dinner and Dance to be held at the Southcliff Hotel, The Leas, on Saturday, 17 March at 7 p.m. The cost of a ticket for this Charity event is £25 to include a three course meal and a live band.

For further information please contact Carol Saunders on 01303 257946.

The Mayor's charities this year are the Folkestone Youth Project and the Folkestone branches of the various cadet units.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cherry Garden Traffic Lights fixed


After the pressure that Morehall Conservatives have been applying to Kent Highways (as highlighted on this blog earlier this month), the traffic lights at the junction of Cherry Garden Lane and Cherry Garden Avenue have finally been fixed. This follows a streetlight in Cheriton Road, that was also repaired recently after I intervened. There are still dozens of mostly minor issues on the roads around Morehall which I'm chasing regularly - mostly street lights but some relate to road signs, bollards and such like. The potholes do seem to have been eliminated, although the private section of Station Road which belongs to Network Rail does seem to be deteriorating again, and Rodica and I are working to ensure that road repairs continue as necessary.

Taxing us back to the Middle Ages

All of the 1.8 million signatories to the anti road pricing petition have now received an email "from the Prime Minister" to tell us why we are all wrong. Iain Dale has an interesting post illustrating the rising cost of driving under Labour:

Parking Fines - doubled to £1.2 billion
Speeding Fines - up eightfold to £120 million pa
VAT on fuel - up from £4.3 billion to £6.8 billion
Fuel tax - up from £19.4 billion to £25.2 billion
Road tax - up from £4.5 billion to £5.5 billion

The annual tax bill for drivers has nearly doubled over the last ten years to a massive £45 billion a year. And now they want us to pay more through road pricing.


Inflation over the same period has been somewhere in the region of 33% - and that's how much pensioners' incomes have increased before taking account the inflation-busting rise in the cost of housing, fuel and council tax.

The planned increase in the cost of motoring coincides with a freeze on public transport spending and at a time when many rail services are operating at capacity with no plans for investment to expand.

For so many people, cars truly are the only option and without them we would be living in the Middle Ages, confined to our local neighbourhoods unable to reach the out of town employers and superstores which are now a necessary part of life.

Here's the message from the PM in full:

E-petition: Response from the Prime Minister

The e-petition asking the Prime Minister to "Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy" has now closed. This is a response from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

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 ten years or more before any national scheme was technologically, never mind politically, feasible.

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 email 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.

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 is predicted to increase by 25% by 2015. This is being driven by economic prosperity. There are 6 million more vehicles on the road now than in 1997, and predictions are that this trend will continue.

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 £2.5 billion this year on buses and over £4 billion on trains - helping to explain why more people are using them than for decades. And we're committed to sustaining this investment, with over £140 billion of investment planned between now and 2015. We're also putting a great deal of effort into improving traffic flows - for example, over 1000 Highways Agency Traffic Officers now help to keep motorway traffic moving.

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. 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, and be less reliable. I think that would be bad for businesses, individuals and the environment. And the costs on us all will be real - congestion could cost an extra £22 billion in wasted time in England by 2025, of which £10-12 billion 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.

Tackling congestion in this way would also be extremely costly, requiring substantial sums to be diverted from other services such as education and health, or increases in taxes. 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.

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. But any technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy being protected - as it should be. Existing technologies, such as mobile phones and pay-as-you-drive insurance schemes, 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, 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. 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. Those who travel longer distances at peak times and in more congested areas would pay more. 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. A system that respects our privacy as individuals. A system that is fair. 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
Further information

Both the 10 Downing Street and Department for Transport websites offer much more information about road pricing.

This includes a range of independent viewpoints, both for and against.

You can also read the Eddington Report in full.

You can reply to this email by posting a question to Roads Minister Dr. Stephen Ladyman in a webchat on the No 10 website this Thursday.

There will be further opportunities in the coming months to get involved in the debate. You will receive one final e-mail from Downing Street to update you in due course.

If you would like to opt out of receiving further mail on this or any other petitions you signed, please email optout@petitions.pm.gov.uk

A World Without America



Some of the claims may not be entirely true - who can say whether someone else would have found a cure for polio for example. That one reminds me of the spurious claims of Europhiles that, if it weren't for the EU, women would be classed as their husbands' property. That said I do agree with the aim of the advert as a counterbalance to the oft-repeated wishy-washy Europhilic liberal view that the US is the enemy and all Americans are evil. They're not. Often the US has been one of our strongest allies, notably during the Falklands war, when our supposed allies in the EU sat on the fence or backed the Argies.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Labour's slant on petitions

The Government's e-petitions were supposed to be a victory for e-democracy. Here's the response I got after signing the petition against ID cards. Far from opening up democracy, it's a tool for the government to fight those who dare to disagree with Labour Central Command's policy:

E-petition: Response from the Prime Minister

The e-petition to "scrap the proposed introduction of ID cards" has now closed. The petition stated that "The introduction of ID cards will not prevent terrorism or crime, as is claimed. It will be yet another indirect tax on all law-abiding citizens of the UK". This is a response from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

The petition calling for the Government to abandon plans for a National ID Scheme attracted almost 28,000 signatures - one of the largest responses since this e-petition service was set up. So I thought I would reply personally to those who signed up, to explain why the Government believes National ID cards, and the National Identity Register needed to make them effective, will help make Britain a safer place.

The petition disputes the idea that ID cards will help reduce crime or terrorism. While I certainly accept that ID cards will not prevent all terrorist outrages or crime, I believe they will make an important contribution to making our borders more secure, countering fraud, and tackling international crime and terrorism. More importantly, this is also what our security services - who have the task of protecting this country - believe.

So I would like to explain why I think it would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to use biometrics such as fingerprints to secure our identities. I would also like to discuss some of the claims about costs - particularly the way the cost of an ID card is often inflated by including in estimates the cost of a biometric passport which, it seems certain, all those who want to travel abroad will soon need.

In contrast to these exaggerated figures, the real benefits for our country and its citizens from ID cards and the National Identity Register, which will contain less information on individuals than the data collected by the average store card, should be delivered for a cost of around £3 a year over its ten-year life.

But first, it's important to set out why we need to do more to secure our identities and how I believe ID cards will help. We live in a world in which people, money and information are more mobile than ever before. Terrorists and international criminal gangs increasingly exploit this to move undetected across borders and to disappear within countries. Terrorists routinely use multiple identities - up to 50 at a time. Indeed this is an essential part of the way they operate and is specifically taught at Al-Qaeda training camps. One in four criminals also uses a false identity. ID cards which contain biometric recognition details and which are linked to a National Identity Register will make this much more difficult.

Secure identities will also help us counter the fast-growing problem of identity fraud. This already costs £1.7 billion annually. There is no doubt that building yourself a new and false identity is all too easy at the moment. Forging an ID card and matching biometric record will be much harder.

I also believe that the National Identity Register will help police bring those guilty of serious crimes to justice. They will be able, for example, to compare the fingerprints found at the scene of some 900,000 unsolved crimes against the information held on the register. Another benefit from biometric technology will be to improve the flow of information between countries on the identity of offenders.

The National Identity Register will also help improve protection for the vulnerable, enabling more effective and quicker checks on those seeking to work, for example, with children. It should make it much more difficult, as has happened tragically in the past, for people to slip through the net.

Proper identity management and ID cards also have an important role to play in preventing illegal immigration and illegal working. The effectiveness on the new biometric technology is, in fact, already being seen. In trials using this technology on visa applications at just nine overseas posts, our officials have already uncovered 1,400 people trying illegally to get back into the UK.

Nor is Britain alone in believing that biometrics offer a massive opportunity to secure our identities. Firms across the world are already using fingerprint or iris recognition for their staff. France, Italy and Spain are among other European countries already planning to add biometrics to their ID cards. Over 50 countries across the world are developing biometric passports, and all EU countries are proposing to include fingerprint biometrics on their passports. The introduction in 2006 of British e-passports incorporating facial image biometrics has meant that British passport holders can continue to visit the United States without a visa. What the National Identity Scheme does is take this opportunity to ensure we maximise the benefits to the UK.

These then are the ways I believe ID cards can help cut crime and terrorism. I recognise that these arguments will not convince those who oppose a National Identity Scheme on civil liberty grounds. They will, I hope, be reassured by the strict safeguards now in place on the data held on the register and the right for each individual to check it. But I hope it might make those who believe ID cards will be ineffective reconsider their opposition.

If national ID cards do help us counter crime and terrorism, it is, of course, the law-abiding majority who will benefit and whose own liberties will be protected. This helps explain why, according to the recent authoritative Social Attitudes survey, the majority of people favour compulsory ID cards.

I am also convinced that there will also be other positive benefits. A national ID card system, for example, will prevent the need, as now, to take a whole range of documents to establish our identity. Over time, they will also help improve access to services.

The petition also talks about cost. It is true that individuals will have to pay a fee to meet the cost of their ID card in the same way, for example, as they now do for their passports. But I simply don't recognise most claims of the cost of ID cards. In many cases, these estimates deliberately exaggerate the cost of ID cards by adding in the cost of biometric passports. This is both unfair and inaccurate.

As I have said, it is clear that if we want to travel abroad, we will soon have no choice but to have a biometric passport. We estimate that the cost of biometric passports will account for 70% of the cost of the combined passports/id cards. The additional cost of the ID cards is expected to be less than £30 or £3 a year for their 10-year lifespan. Our aim is to ensure we also make the most of the benefits these biometric advances bring within our borders and in our everyday lives.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair

Useful links

10 Downing Street home page
http://www.pm.gov.uk/

James Hall, the official in charge of delivering the ID card scheme, will be answering questions on line on 5th March. You can put your question to him here http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page10969.asp

To see his last web chat in November 2006, see: http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page10364.asp

Identity and Passport Service
http://www.ips.gov.uk/

Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee
http://www.identity-theft.org.uk/

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Running the Gauntlet in Calais

The problems of illegal immigration to Folkestone and Dover have eased greatly since their peak a couple of years ago. The large numbers of eastern Europeans, Iraqis, Kurds and Somalis who once settled in the town are now a rare sight locally and the daily closures of the Channel Tunnel to deal with the regular incursions have ceased. That follows increased security with higher, barbed wire topped fences and the closure of the Calais holding centre. However, that doesn't mean that the problems have gone away.

The number of immigrants, particularly Iraqis, in and around Calais is increasing once again. Some of them are preying on British visitors and lorry drivers severely beating them and making clear that it's a result of Blair's meddling in Iraq. These kind of stories may be out of sight for us most of the time, but we shouldn't forget that the problem hasn't gone away. If we let our guard down, the problems could soon be back.

Corissa and I are going to Bruges for the weekend, so there won't be much activity on here until Monday. I'm sure that we'll avoid any beatings similar to Colin Minster's. Quite apart from the fact that we're sailing to Dunkerque, I'm sure that these incidents are still few and far between, especially in the busy areas frequented by tourists!

Polish - the new language of Cheshire

Diversion signs in Polish have been set up by Cheshire County Counil, following confusion recently with non-English speaking commercial drivers ignoring the signs. Cheshire County Council defended the move, saying that it only cost a few hundred pounds and would improve safety.

However, a few hundred pounds to translate signs into one language this time could quickly escalate to several million pounds to translate all signs nationwide into an array of Eastern European and other languages. Effectively the taxpayer is subsidising cheap labour from overseas without the required skills to do their job. Surely it's time that we required all immigrants to have a reasonable grasp of English (or Welsh/Gaelic where appropriate). The amount of money wasted by government departments and local authorities translating signs and leaflets into every language under the sun has got to stop. Our local signs for French, German and Dutch tourists make sense, subsidising Polish lorry drivers does not.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Shepway Lib Dems: From Swinging to Spinning...

Looking at some of the recent comments I've been getting on here, it seems that certain local Lib Dems are now putting more energy into spinning local news stories rather than bed hopping. I only wish they would put their efforts into making our town a better place to live instead.

I find it particularly odd that they are concerned that I'm against democracy. I actually rather like democracy - it gave me a massive majority at the last local elections and ensures that Michael Howard remained our Conservative MP by another large margin despite massive spending and desperate publicity stunts by his Lib Dem opponent.

This blog is quite free and open, with a facility to comment. I don't delete comments unless they contain offensive language or are adverts in disguise. There are two other Town Councillors with a web presence. Jonick (Go Folkestone) also allows comments, which are frequently highjacked by the Lib Dems as well. The only councillor who has a website with no comment feature is - you've guessed it - a Liberal Democrat. They should be prosecuted under the trades description act for using the word in their name.

I wonder whether they would allow me to put an article in the next Lib Dem leaflet?

UNICEF tells the truth about Brown's Britain

Unicef has published research showing that Britain is at the bottom of the league when it comes to our children's wellbeing. The only area in which we did not appear in the bottom third was Health and Safety - that giant mess of bureaucracy and regulations.

Notably, the UK came rock bottom in terms of "behaviour and risks" and "family and peer relationship".

It's not news to those of us who witness the way in which our society is in decline. Very soon I can see the country as we know it collapsing altogether.

George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated: "The Chancellor has failed this generation of children and will fail the next if he's given a chance. We need a new approach."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Starbucks

There has been much speculation about Starbucks opening in Folkestone. I can finally confirm that they will be opening in the new Bouverie Place shopping centre. They have applied for permission to extend opening hours to 7am-10pm and to have an outdoor seating area.

A bank/building society/Bureau de Change will also be opening in Bouverie Place. There have been rumours that HSBC is moving in. It's a large unit spread over two floors.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

200th Post!

A few months ago, when I posted my 100th entry, I predicted that it would take me a lot less than 2 years to post my second hundred posts. Well I wasn't wrong - here it is.

Sadly, the football result I have to report is England 0 - 1 Spain.

Despite the forescast, there's no sign of any snow yet, either.

Lords 1 - The History of the Lords

Much of England's constitution evolved in times long since forgotten and, to this day, the UK is one of the few countries not to have adopted a written constitution. England itself was, at first, a loose coalitions of tribes with their own rival kings and queens each vying for supremacy. This evolved into the Anglo Saxon Heptarchy - Kent, Sussex, Wessex, Mercia, Essex, East Anglia and Northumria. Everything was disturbed by the arrival of Viking invaders, who created the Danelaw in the North and East of England. Ultimately it was the kings of Wessex who united England and drove out the Danes under the leadership of King Alfred the Great.

The power of the king varied considerably and often required the support of a network of lords. Whenever a king died, it was the man who could muster the most support from these nobles who would be declared the successor. Things did not always go to the lords' plan though. For example, in 1066 the lords declared Harold Godwinson to be King, in breach of a promise made by the deceased King Eadward the Confessor to Duke William of Normandy. A three way war, also involving the Norse King Harald Hardrada ultimately saw King William the Conqueror crowned and Feudalism instituted. This ensured that everyone knew their place in society with the King at the top, the nobles and the church below, with the knights and then pessants at the bottom of the tree.

At various points this division of power was challenged from below. Notably, King Stephen had to surrender his thrown to the Plantagenets (or Angevins) led by King Henry II. It was another Plantagent ruler - King John - who first saw the abolute rule of the monarch undermined. The Magna Carta of 1215 is one of the documents which forms the basis of this country's constitution. Within it are agreements guaranteeing the freedom of the Church and rights for the lords of the realm. Clauses 14 and 61 permitted a Great Council of the most powerful men in the country, to exist for the benefit of the state rather than in allegiance to the monarch. Generally the monarch still had the upper hand in the relationship, with the council existing in an advisory capacity, but it did often manage to wield considerable influence, especially in matters of taxation.

Parliament evolved from this Great Council, with the Model Parliament of 1295 often cited as the first Parliament. It was a panel of archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls and barons alongside knights from the Shires and burgesses from the boroughs throughout the land. The relative powers of each of these groups and the king varied over time, but the commons (knights and burgesses) were consistently the least powerful.

During the reign of King Edward III, Parliament became separated into two clear chambers for the first time. The lords were classified into two groups - Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal. The Commons were made up with the Knights of the Shires and Burgesses of the Boroughs, elected by open ballot by the wealthy and locally influential landowners of the constituency, with the rules entitling suffrage varying from one area to another. The Commons remained subordinate to the Lords and the Monarch, but did challenge their authority at times, sometimes with some success, especially in matters of taxation.

The Wars of the Roses saw much of the nobility wiped out, tilting power back to the monarch. King Henry VIII used this to particular effect by challenging the Church directly. The dissolution of the monastries brought him considerable wealth and land which increased his independence from the weakened Parliament and allowed him to purchase patronage through gifts of land and titles. He was also able to remove the abbots and priors from the council, reducing the influence of the Church in political matters.

The power of Parliament was reasserted with the challenge to King Charles I's authority, which led to the Civil War and the creation of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. This saw the Commons take control, with both the Monarchy and the House of Lords abolished. Upon the restoration in 1660 the Commons once again became subordinate to the Lords and the Crown.

The Monarch's power had been reduced however, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which saw the Catholic heirs of King James II disinherited in favour of his Protestant daughter Queen Mary II and King William III (of Orange) chosen by Parliament to reign, subject to the laws laid down in the Bill of Rights of 1689. These rights were not Human Rights, as we may now expect, but the rights of Parliament with respect of the Crown. It was the Commons' equivalent of Magna Carta 474 years earlier, but much more powerful.

Despite this, the Lords remained the more powerful chamber. The Commons remained an unrepresentative chamber with limited suffrage and outdated boundaries which left the desolate Pocket Borough of Old Sarum with 2 Burgesses in the Commons. Manchester, a thriving industrial city, had no representatives at all. Parliament's power did increase further with the arrival of the Hannovarian kings, starting with King George I. He spoke no English, so many Government functions had to be passed to Parliament, which began to assume executive functions in addition to the legislative ones it already enjoyed. The role of Prime Minsiter first evolved at this time - with the holder invariably being drawn from the more powerful House of Lords initially.

During this time, the number of Lords increased dramatically - particularly under King George III - from the previous 50 members. This diminished the individual power of the Lords. At the same time, various 19th century Reform Acts, notably the 1832 Act reformed the Commons, creating universal male suffrage and bringing more reasonable representation. The 20th century saw female suffrage, giving greater weight to the Commons as representatives of the people at large.

The Parliament Act 1911 abolished the power of the House of Lords to reject legislation approved by the House of Commons. The move followed a dispute of the People's Budget, which was only resolved in favour of the Commons after the 1910 General Election was called as a rederendum on the issue. The Liberal Government in the Commons won re-election, forcing the Conservative controlled House of Lords to submit to their authority. In 1949 the power of the Lords to delay the passage of legislation was curtailed still further.

In 1958, the Hereditary nature of the Lords Temporal was eroded by the Life Peerages Act 1958. There was no limit on the number of baronies that could be created. Steadily the number of life peers increased and, in 1968, Harold Wilson tried to remove the voting rights of Hereditary peers. The move was defeated by a coalition of traditionalist Conservatives and hardline Socialist Labour MPs who wanted to see the Lords abloished outright.

By the 1980s, the creation of Hereditary peers had all but ended. With the exception of the Royal Family, only three more hereditaries were created by Margaret Thatcher.

In 1999, the Labour Government entered into phase one of reforms to the Lords. Hereditaries were thrown out, with 92 being allowed to remain. They were elected as "working peers" by their fellow hereditary Lords. As a result the chamber is now predominantly appointed. There has been a massive shift in the balance of power, with no party being allowed a majority but Labour being the largest on account of having won the most votes in the last General Election. Despite this, the Government has continued to suffer defeats on certain key policy planks, including ID cards.

In 2003 a series of options for phase 2 of the reforms was published but no agreement on the way forward was reached. On Wednesday 7th February, 2007 new proposals were published with unspecified proportions of the new chamber to be elected, appointed politically and appointed independently. Jack Straw, the Leader of the House of Commons, proposed that they should be 50%, 30%, 20% respectively. Both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats immediately rejected the proposals, calling for at least 80% to be elected.

Future chapters:
The impact upon other areas of the constitution
Possible roles for the House of Lords within a reformed constitutional framework
Method of Election/Appointment to the House of Lords

House of Lords Reform "botched"



Lord Strathclyde, the Conservative Leader in the House of Lords, has criticised Jack Straw's proposals forHouse of Lords reforms. He's quite right to do so. Once again it's a story of half-baked compromise and tinkering at the edges. The Conservatives and Lib Dems united in a call for at least 80% of members of the upper chamber to be elected.
This latest phase of Lords reform follows the removal of all but 92 of the Hereditory Peers in 1992. That had the effect of creating an overwhelmingly appointed Lords - effectively Britain's biggest QUANGO. At that time the Labour Government had no idea what it was going to do with the House of Lords, it just knew that it wanted to change it. In 2003 the government published various proposals, but couldn't agree which was the best way forward. The current proposals are a mish-mash of the different ideas. Straw proposes that 50% will be elected, 30% appointed by the political parties and 20% appointed by an independent panel. As if the stench of compromise isn't already hanging over the proposals already, the proposed electoral system will be a "Partly Open Regional List" based upon the EU regions, and you can't get more of a compromise than "Partly Open".

Sadly it's not only the reforms that have been compromised - the House of Lords itself has been compromised by the incessant meddling and gerrymandering by this hopelessly incompetent and corrupt government.

The Government continues to ignore the first and most significant question - what is the House of Lords for? How can you design a chamber that's fit for purpose before you've decided what that purpose is. It's got all the makings of another Home Office.

There's still no consideration of the wider implications of Lords reform either. It's unthinkable that such a change to one component of our constitution can be expected to happen without wider implications for our political and judicial structures.

Over the coming days or maybe weeks, I will be outlining some of my thoughts on the way in which Lords Reform should work.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dog owners fall foul of the law

Five dog owners have fallen foul of the law for failing to clear up after their pets.In the last 10 days, Shepway Council Environmental Community Wardens issued fixed fines of £50 on the owners after their dogs fouled Sunny Sands, The Leas, Foresters Way and Canterbury Road Recreation Ground in Folkestone and The Green at Hythe.

There's no excuse for allowing dogs to foul pavemements and other public areas and then no cleaning up. All of these areas are well supplied with dog bins. Even where there are not dedicated bins, standard bins can be used or, failing that, the faeces should be taken home by the owner. It really is the height of selfishness that a small minority of people expect someone else to clean up.

Cheriton High Street site up for auction

The land at the junction of Cheriton High Street and Ashley Avenue, next door to Paydens Chemist and Post Office, is up for auction with Clive Emson on Thursday 15th February. The land has planning permission an attractive building containing for two shops with flats above and off street parking to the rear. I certainly hope that a sale is agreed - the proposed building fits very well with the area and the architect should most certainly be commended. It would add to the vibrant feel of our High Street - vacant land is hardly raising the tone of the area.

Chief Constable 'desperate' for an end to Stack

From www.kentonline.co.uk by Alan Smith

THE Chief Constable of Kent wants to see an end to Operation Stack. Mike Fuller said the existing method of dealing with the backlog of trucks waiting to cross the Channel was "a huge drain" on police resources.Mr Fuller said: “It’s not something we want to do, nor something we do lightly."Operation Stack was introduced in Kent 20 years ago. Phase 1 of Stack - the closure of the M20 between junctions 11 and 12 - has been resorted to 74 times; phase 2 - the closure additionally of the motorway between junctions 8 and 9 - has been implemented 17 times.In the last three years, Stack has cost Kent Police £232,689 directly in overtime and extra equipment costs alone.Mr Fuller added: "We are desperate for the highways authorities to come up with a solution."

Conservatives formally pledge to cancel ID card scheme




From Conservatives.com:



David Davis has written to Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, giving
formal notice that an incoming Conservative administration would scrap the
Government's costly ID card project.

And the Shadow Home Secretary has warned of the financial dangers of the
Government signing contracts to set up the ID card scheme when it faces
cancellation if the Conservatives are returned to power at the next
election.

In his letter, Mr Davis asked what provision, if any, has been made in the
relevant contractual arrangements to protect the Government - and public funds -
against the costs that would be incurred as a result of early cancellation of
the scheme; with a similar letter fired off to likely major contractors, warning
them of the Party's intentions.

Just hours before the Conservatives launch a web and print based campaign
against Labour's ID Cards proposals, Mr Davis told Sir Gus: "As you will be
aware, the Conservative Party has stated publicly that it is our intention to
cancel the ID card project immediately on our being elected to government. You
are now formally on notice of our position and fully appraised of the contingent
risks and associated liabilities arising from the national identity card
scheme."

Referring to the planned roll out of the Government's national identity
card scheme later this year, Mr Davis reminded the Cabinet Secretary of the
longstanding convention that one Parliament may not bind a subsequent
Parliament.

He wrote: "I urge you to consider very carefully the Government's position,
in advance of the roll-out of the scheme later this year. As a matter of
financial prudence, it is incumbent upon you to ensure that public money is not
wasted, and contractual obligations are not incurred, investing in a scheme with
such a high risk of not being implemented.

"In particular, I would be interested to know what provision, if any, has
been made in the relevant contractual arrangements to protect the Government -
and public funds - against the costs that would be incurred as a result of early
cancellation of the scheme.


Conservatives oppose ID cards for three main reasons:


  • The cost, estimated at £20,000,000,000. The money could be better spent on prisons, drug rehab and policing, including a new Border Police Force. Worse still, everyone will have to pay £93 for a compulsory ID card, with £30 for replacements if you lose it or change your name, and fines of £1000 for being caught without a card, even if you're not doing anything wrong;

  • Ineffectiveness. ID cards won't stop terrorism, people trafficking or ID theft;

  • Invasion of privacy. Too much information will be held centrally, including fingerprints.

This is one of the first major policies to come out of the Conservative Party following the policy review ordered by David Cameron. Although it always seemed likely that this would become policy, it's announcement is most welcome. It looks like the wait for policies has been worth the wait and I look forward to more policies of the libertarian right to be delivered by the next Conservative Government very soon.

There's an online petition against ID cards, to sign click HERE.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Welcome to opressed Bloggers of the world!

Until now, in common with all blogs hosted by Blogspot, the peoples of India, Pakistan, Iran and China have been unable to visit my blog. I was surprised to see India in that list - I had no idea that such state control existed there. However, all that has changed! Inblogs.net have set up an alternate portal which provides access to these blogs, and I've already had several hits from China, India and Iran. I'd like to welcome them all, and I look forward to getting my first hit from Pakistan!

Conservatives call for end to 'garden grabbing'


The Conservative Party has reiterated its call for an end to "Garden Grabbing", whereby developers buy houses (usually detached) with large gardens, and build blocks of flats in their places. The policy is actively encouraged by the Government, making it increasingly difficult of councils to resist such applications. A recent example of Garden Grabbing occurred in Morehall - 11 houses are going to be built in the ground of Coolinge House, Coolinge Lane. That's a marked improvement on the original plans, but still not what I hoped for. The plans were bitterly opposed by local residents and organisations such as the New Folkestone Society, Sandgate Society and the national Georgian Society.

I can imagine how garden grabbing could completely change the appearance of roads like Cherry Garden Lane and Cherry Garden Avenue, the main thoroughfare into Folkestone from the motorway, and it wouldn't be for the better.

You can sign the petition against Labour's Garden Grab by clicking HERE.

Cherry Garden Traffic Light still out



The traffic lights at the junction of Cherry Garden Lane and Cherry Garden Avenue are still out of order. Rodica and I reported the to Kent County Council a couple of weeks ago, and received an acknowledgement stating that they would be repaired by the end of the day on 29th January. These pictures were taken yesterday (3rd January), showing that they have not been repaired. I have emailed Kent Highways chasing up the reference number that I was given will keep doing so until I get a reply.

These traffic lights are at a busy junction on the dual carriageway A20, on the main route into Folkestone from M20/A20(M) Junction 13. They are used by cars coming from Shearway Business park, Pent Valley Technology College and the Premier Travel Inn, amongst others, so this is a vital artery in Folkestone's road network.

Morehall Lib Dems shoud invest in a good map

The dangers of electing the Morehall Lib Dem candidates who live outside the area has been highlighted by a recent press release:
One of the worst problems are the lights at the junction of Cherry Garden Lane and Cheriton Road
Perhaps the reason that Kent Highways have not responded to their request to repair street lights is that they have been unable to find them - there's no junction between Cherry Garden Lane and Cheriton Road. Neither of the Lib Dem candidates live in Cheriton or Morehall, and one lives over 5 miles away in Hythe!

Having lived in Morehall for all but the first year of my life, I know the area like the back of my hand, and will ensure that all the other Conservative Councillors elected in May know the area just as well!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Invicta 3 - Ashford Town (Middlesex) 1

Folkestone Invicta recorded their first win in a while today, beating Ashford Town (Middlesex) 3-1 at the Buzzlines Stadium, Folkestone. I haven't seen the other results yet, but it should push us that little bit further up the league table towards safety from relegation!

Sam May, Invicta's new goal keeper on loan, performed well in goal. I don't know whether there are any plans to sign him up as a permanent member of the team.

England have just converted another try as well, so we're 30-13 up against Scotland in the 6 Nations Rugby/Calcutta Cup.

Sad News

I've received the sad news that Capt John Russell died on 29th January. John has been a stalwort of Morehall Conservatives for many years, having served on the Ward Committee, the Executive, as an Association Officer as Ward Secretary, as Area Vice Chairman and as a Conservative candidate for Kent County Council.

My thoughts go out to his wife, Mary. She has asked that donations be made to the RNLI c/o Chittendens, Folkestone.

Some lessons for John Reid's Home Office


TO THOSE OF YOU NOT FAMILIAR WITH JOE ARPAIO, HE IS THE MARICOPA
COUNTY SHERIFF ( ARIZONA ) AND HE KEEPS GETTING ELECTED OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

These are some of the reasons why:

Sheriff Joe Arpaio created the "tent city jail" to save Arizona from
spending tens of million of dollars on another expensive prison complex.

He has jail meals down to 40 cents a serving and charges the inmates for
them.

He banned smoking and porno magazines in the jails, and took away their
weightlifting equipment and cut off all but "G" movies. He says: "they're in
jail to pay a debt to society not to build muscles so they can assault
innocent people when they leave."

He started chain gangs to use the inmates to do free work on county and city
projects and save taxpayer's money.

Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for
discrimination.

He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order
that required cable TV for jails. So he hooked up the cable TV again but
only allows the Disney channel and the weather channel.

When asked why the weather channel he replied: "so these morons will know
how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs."

He cut off coffee because it has zero nutritional value and is therefore a
waste of taxpayer money. When the inmates complained, he told them, "This
isn't the Ritz/Carlton. If you don't like it, don't come back."

He also bought the Newt Gingrich lecture series on US history that he pipes
into the jails. When asked by a reporter if he had any lecture series by a
Democrat, he replied that a democratic lecture series that actually tells
the truth for a change would be welcome and that it might even explain why
95% of the inmates were in his jails in the first place.

With temperatures being even hotter than usual in Phoenix (116 degrees just
set a new record for June 2nd), the Associated Press reports: About 2,000
inmates living in a barbed- wire-surrounded tent encampment at the Maricopa
County Jail have been given permission to strip down to their
government-issued pink boxer shorts.

On Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing pink boxer shorts were chatting in the
tents, where temperatures reached 128 degrees. "This is hell. It feels like
we live in a furnace," said Ernesto Gonzales, an inmate for 2
years with 10 more to go. "It's inhumane."

Joe Arpaio, who makes his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches,
is not one bit sympathetic. "Criminals should be punished for their crimes -
not live in luxury until it's time for parole, only to go out and commit
more crimes so they can come back in to live on taxpayers money and enjoy
things many taxpayers can't afford to have for themselves."

Wednesday he told all the inmates who were complaining of the heat in the
tents: "It's between 120 to 130 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living
in tents too, and they have to walk all day in the sun, wearing full
battle gear and get shot at, and they have not committed any crimes, so shut
your damned mouths!"

Way to go, Sheriff! If all prisons were like yours there would be a lot less
crime and we would not be in the current position of running out of prison spaces.


Sheriff Joe was just re-elected
Sheriff in Maricopa County , Arizona

Friday, February 02, 2007

Much less quiet


Cheriton's new night club is opening at the Firs Club this evening. The venue is open from 9pm til 2am, and it's free tonight as they mark the launch. I might drop by on the way home from the Mayor's Quiz in Cheriton this evening to see what it's like. I'll be checking that it's a responsibly organised venue which will provide a service to the people of Cheriton without adversely impacting upon the nearby residents through noise, crime and anti-social behaviour.

Oh So Quiet


It's been reported today that Folkestone is the 4th most quiet town in the country. The study by UCL investigated background noise in towns and cities across the country, and found Folkestone to be amongst the best of the best. It's good news for our hearing, as the noise levels in our town are unlikely to do the damage that you can expect in places like Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Gillingham. Torquay, Paignton and Cambridge (where I spent the other 3 years of my life) are also amongst the quietest places.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

More footage of the steam train



Some better quality images of the steam train passing through Folkestone on Saturday 27th January. According to most sources, it was not the last visit, but it is one of the last!

State of NHS dentistry


The drill has given way to the bill as the greatest fear that most of us now experience when we go to the dentist. Today I have had impressions taken for two new tooth coverings, to replace my broken ones. As I suffer from Gastric Reflux, I have little of my own enamel and have to rely on these artificial ones. In the old days of NHS dentistry the price per tooth wsa £70. Now that Labour have all but killed off NHS dentistry and I have to pay privately, that price has soared to £200!

Wedding reception all set


Our wedding plans continue to progress. Last night we paid our deposit to the Burlington Hotel, confirming them as our reception venue.

The date is now set in stone at 20th October. We are planning to send out "Save the Date" cards very soon - Corissa will be making them by hand during half term. I'm not sure whether I'm going to be much help on that front - I fear that I have the artistic talent of a blind 2 year old chimpanzee with a set of poster paints!

Kess out, May in at Invicta


Following the announcement that Tony Kessell, Folkestone Invicta's excellent goalkeeper, is leaving the club for fellow Kent club and Isthsmian Div 1 side Dartford FC. It's sad news, as Kess has been an excellent keeper over the past few seasons and I'm sure all Invicta fans will wish him all the best for the future.

Neil Cugley has found a good replacement, albeit on loan at the moment. Chris May will be joining from fellow Isthsmian Premier side Ramsgate, also of Kent. He has previously played for Worthing, Hastings Utd and Brighton & Hove Albion, of the Coca Cola Championship.

Invicta currently sit in a disappointing 17th position in the league and are also in talks with a defender to add some more strength to the bag row.

Damian Green raises Operation Stack in Commons



Damian Green, the Conservative MP for Ashford has raised Operation Stack in the Commons today. He has campaigned, along with Conservative MPs, MEPs, Councillors and activists across East Kent for a solution to the problems, but so far the Government has rejected all proposals.

The Transport Minister responsible is the Labour MP for Thanet South. In the short term, the only improvement proposed by the government is "improved signage", which is like an elastoplast over the San Andreas Fault! He added that Conservative Kent County Council is considering four possible sites for offroad lorry parking, and the goverment "will receive any ideas they produce with interest". Previously the Government has rejected all proposals on the grounds that the cost should be met by the private sector, ignoring the fact that the private sector is not willing to pay.

In the meantime, it's the people of Kent who suffer as piggy in the middle of the argument.