Friday, April 29, 2011

Hospitals public meeting on Tuesday

I was going to write a blog post urging everyone to attend the public meeting this coming Tuesday (3rd May) at the United Reformed church hall at Market Place about local hospital services.

But I can't find a better form of words than the letter which appeared in this week's Whitehaven News, written by the Rev John Bannister, and I am sure neither he nor the Whitehaven News will mind me quoting it in full.

On the hospitals blog (see link at right) I also quote letters on the subject from a consultant surgeon and from former councillor Ronnie Copeland.


Make your voices heard in defence of hospital services

SIR – On Tuesday, May 3, there will be a public meeting at 6.30pm in the United Reformed Church Hall on James Street. The meeting has been called by the ‘Save Our Services’ Group who have, over the past decade, acted as a pressure group for the retention of essential clinical services at West Cumberland Hospital.

A recently published report setting out the services which GPs and hospital consultants believe should be delivered at the two acute hospitals in this area, in Whitehaven and Carlisle, has created some concerns about a possible further downgrading of services at West Cumberland Hospital.

An example of our concern is the option, contained within the report, for all Intensive Care beds to be provided at Carlisle. Although much of the report shows a clear commitment from GPs towards a viable future for West Cumberland Hospital, the SOS group feel that some proposals may constitute a breach of the agreement previously given to this community as part of the outcomes of the ‘Closer to Home’ consultation which was undertaken three years back.

I urge your readers to show your concern and support for our hospital, by attending the meeting.

The Rev John BANNISTER

Rector of Whitehaven,
Save Our Services Group

Congratulations and Best wishes to Wills and Kate

I am sure I join millions of people, here and around the world, in saying congratulations and best wishes to the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Of book sales and robots

One of my hobbies is reading books: another is buying and selling them. Online retailers such as Amazon are one of the places I often use when looking for a book or trying to sell one.

Generally the price of books online is related to supply and demand, but you do get the odd instance when prices don't appear to make sense. Sometimes you get ludicrously high prices asked - at other times the price has dropped to 1p plus postage for a book which is large and heavy enough that the sellers can't expect to receive more money in total than the book will cost to send.

A major part of the reason for this is when sellers have used a computer to set their prices. In an interesting blogpost over Easter, "Amazon’s $23,698,655.93 book about flies," Michaek Eisen discussed how this can produce all manner of perverse results.

As readers observed in the comments thread, strange results in stock markets and currency markets can result from the action of similar computer programmes.

Moral of the story: when other people entrust their decisons on what to buy and sell to computers, this presents you with both opportunities and risks!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Refuse collection over the Easter & Wedding period

Easter Waste and Recycling Collections by Copeland Borough Council will be amended over the next two weeks as a result of the Easter, Royal Wedding and May Day bank holidays.

CBC carried out waste and recycling collections on Friday 22 April (Good Friday) and will also do so on Friday 29 April (Royal Wedding). However they did not make any collections today (Monday 25 April) and will not do so on Monday 2 May.


Collection days will therefore change as follows:

Collections which would normally haver taken place today (Monday 25 April) will be postponed to Tuesday 26 April.

Collections which would normally have taken place tomorrow, Tuesday 26th, will be postponed to Wednesday 27th April

Similarly

Wednesday 27 April collections will be postoned to Thursday 28 April
Thursday 28 April collections will be postponed to Friday 29 April
Friday 29 April collections will be postponed to Saturday 30 April

Monday 2 May collections will be postponed to Tuesday 3 May
Tuesday 3 May collections will be postponed to Wednesday 4 May
Wednesday 4 May collections will be postponed to Thursday 5 May
Thursday 5 May collections will be postponed to Friday 6 May
Friday 6 May collections will be postponed to Saturday 7 May

From Monday 9th May, collections will be back to normal.


If you are unsure of your collection date, please use the My Property function on Copeland Council's website homepage (see link at right), or call the council on 0845 054 8600 during normal office hours.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

May the Easter spring bring peace and happiness to everyone reading this blog today.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy St George's Day

Today is the saint's day of the Patron Saint of England

A very happy St George's Day to everyone reading this

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Two weeks to go ...

Until the local elections and the AV referendum

The contest for seats on Copeland Council is becoming, a little like the last general election, one between hope and fear.

The Conservative slogan is "Vote for a better Copeland." Conservative leaflets spell our positive policies to attract business and jobs, such as free parking, how to improve quality of life, such as paying more attention to basic services such as cleaner streets, and how we will pay for it (scrap the full-time leader and executive, and return to a balanced committee system.)

The Labour slogan is "Your Voice in Tough Times." Labour leaflets concentrate on how terrible the national situation is (without the faintest acknowledgement that the Labour government which was in office untill less than a year ago might have had anything to do with this) and promise in very vague terms to "stand up for" the needs of the community. Considering that they have been running Copeland Council for twenty years, there is astonishingly little material in the Labour leaflets about the achievements of the council. And even less about what specifically the Labour candidates will actually do as councillors if elected.

And while the Conservative election addresses for Copeland Borough Council have a section about each Conservative candidate - who we are, where we live, what job we do or did - the equivalent Labour leaflets have an extraordinary lack of detail about the people they are trying to persuade voters to elect. Often just their names and a group photograph.

Just possibly this saves them having to explain that one of the Labour candidates for Bransty ward lives on the other side of Carlisle, while Labour candidates for wards like Bootle and Gosforth live in Bransty ...

The election in Copeland is between the Conservative challengers who are putting forward policies for a better Copeland, and a Labour establishment who seem surprisingly reluctant to write about what they have achieved over the past twenty years, or would like to do if re-elected, and who appear to think that they can win, or for that matter deserve to win, by bashing the national government. A government which, for all its faults, is having to clear up the situation which the previous Labour government left behind.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Elisabeth Sladen RIP

"Sarah Jane Smith" was one of the best of Doctor Who's assistants and my children love the spin off "Sarah Jane Adventures."

So I was shocked to see that Elisabeth Sladen, the actress who played the character, has died aged 63 from cancer. She died yesterday leaving behind her husband, actor Brian Miller, and daughter Sadie.


Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why you should vote "No" to AV

David Cameron writes:

"With less than three weeks to go until the AV referendum, we need to do everything we can to convince people to go to the polling stations and vote 'No' on May 5th.

I've been on the campaign trail the last few days, and it's been great to meet voters from right across the political spectrum supporting our campaign.

But it's clear that lots of people still haven't made up their minds - so we've got to keep on working to get the message out there that AV is an unfair, expensive and discredited system.

This is not just about how we vote in General Elections. It's about how politics works, how governments are formed and ultimately, how our country is run.

WHY YOU SHOULD VOTE 'NO' TO AV

AV is unfair: With our current system, everyone gets one vote. But under AV, supporters of extreme parties like the BNP would be more likely to get their votes counted more times, meaning their votes are worth more than yours.

AV is unclear: Under AV, the candidate who finishes third can be declared the winner thanks to an unclear, complicated voting process. It's like someone coming third in a running race winning the gold medal.

AV is unpopular: Just three countries in the world - Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Australia - use AV, compared to almost half the world's electors who use our current system. In Australia, six out of ten people want to get rid of it.

AV is expensive: Calculating the results is a long, complicated process, which could cost the taxpayer millions.

JOIN THE NO TO AV GROUP TODAY

One way you can help is to join our No to AV Group today. Over a thousand people have already signed up, and they're helping to shape our campaign, giving us vital feedback and getting exclusive previews of all ad campaigns.

It's a great initiative and a great way to help make sure Britain votes 'No' on May 5th.

Yours sincerely,

Monday, April 18, 2011

From the local papers ...

Thursday's Whitehaven News contained the following letter from local businesswoman Carla Arrighi:

SIR – As many of your readers are aware, myself and several other people are running a campaign in support of getting an elected mayor.

This has not been an easy task, because although we have had a lot of support of the community, we have had no help from the council – the opposite, in fact.

To be eligible to sign our petition you have to be over 18, and live in the Copeland area. Fair enough. But how come a prospective Labour councillor is allowed to stand when he does not even live in the area? He does work in the area and this is one of the requirements, but it means that if he wanted to sign my petition he would not be able to, but he would be able to be a councillor.

I wonder if your readers think this is fair or democratic?

Carla Arrighi


Some of those reading this may have been wondering which candidate Carla is referring to, whether he is one of those standing to represent the ward where they live, and how far outside Copeland is the home of the gentleman concerned lives. If someone was putting up who worked in the area and lived a few hundred yards outside, no reasonable person would make too much fuss, surely?

Well, if Carla is referring to the person I think she must be referring to, we're talking a bit more than a few hundred yards. In fact one of the Labour candidates standing to represent Bransty ward has given an address in Kirklinton on his nomination papers - which is a few miles on the other side of Carlisle and a good hour's drive away from Copeland.

If you find that so hard to believe that you would like to see some evidence, here's the statement of persons nominated again. (Click to enlarge.)



At the same time that someone whose home is more than an hour's drive from Copeland is standing to represent Bransty ward, prominent members of the Labour party who do live in Bransty ward are standing for Copeland council in areas like Bootle and Gosforth, which are nearly as long a drive in the opposite direction.

All these candidates have been validly nominated and it is entirely within the rules for them to stand for these wards, but it is hardly unreasonable for their opponents to ask how "local" these candidates are.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

DC on immigration

Here is the text of the speech due to be delivered today by David Cameron on immigration


"A year ago, we were in the middle of a general election campaign. And there was one message I heard loud and clear on the doorstep: we want things to be different. People said they wanted a government that didn't just do what was good for the headline or good for their party but good for the long term and good for our country. That's what we're engaged in.


Clearly, cutting public spending isn't popular, but it's right to bring sense to our public finances. People said they wanted a government that actually trusted them to use their own common sense. That's the kind of government we want to be – giving neighbourhoods and individuals a whole range of new powers … scrapping so much of the bureaucracy that drove us mad.


People said they were sick of seeing those who did the right thing get punished and the wrong thing rewarded. Again, that's what we're acting on. In welfare we're ending the system that took money from hard-working taxpayers and gave it to people who refused to work. These are the differences we are trying to make – listening to people, doing the hard and necessary work of changing our country for the better.


Immigration debate

But there was something else we heard on the doorstep – and it was this: "We are concerned about the levels of immigration in our country … but we are fed up of hearing politicians talk tough but do nothing." Here, again, we are determined to be different.


Now, immigration is a hugely emotive subject … and it's a debate too often in the past shaped by assertions rather than substantive arguments. We've all heard them. The assertion that mass immigration is an unalloyed good and that controlling it is economic madness … the view that Britain is a soft touch and immigrants are out to take whatever they can get. I believe the role of politicians is to cut through the extremes of this debate and approach the subject sensibly and reasonably.


The last government, in contrast, actually helped to inflame the debate. On the one hand, there were Labour ministers who closed down discussion, giving the impression that concerns about immigration were somehow racist. On the other, there were ministers hell-bent on burnishing their hard-line credentials by talking tough … but doing nothing to bring the numbers down.


This approach had damaging consequences in terms of controlling immigration … but also in terms of public debate. It created the space for extremist parties to flourish, as they could tell people that mainstream politicians weren't listening to their concerns or doing anything about them. I remember when immigration wasn't a central political issue in our country – and I want that to be the case again. I want us to starve extremist parties of the oxygen of public anxiety they thrive on and extinguish them once and for all.


Above all, I want to get the policy right: good immigration, not mass immigration. That's why I believe it's time for a new approach – one which opens up debate, not closes it down; where politicians don't just talk, but actually act.


Benefits of immigration

Let's start with being open. The British people are fair-minded – and I want them to feel they can be honest about what they think about this subject. Here's what I think. Our country has benefitted immeasurably from immigration. Go into any hospital and you'll find people from Uganda, India and Pakistan who are caring for our sick and vulnerable. Go into schools and universities and you'll find teachers from all over the world, inspiring our young people. Go to almost any high street in the country and you'll find entrepreneurs from overseas who are not just adding to the local economy but playing a part in local life. Charities, financial services, fashion, food, music – all these sectors are what they are because of immigration. So yes, immigrants make a huge contribution to Britain. We recognise that – and we welcome it.


Pressures of immigration

But I'm also clear about something else: for too long, immigration has been too high. Between 1997 and 2009, 2.2 million more people came to live in this country than left to live abroad. That's the largest influx of people Britain has ever had … and it has placed real pressures on communities up and down the country. Not just pressures on schools, housing and healthcare – though those have been serious … but social pressures too. Because real communities aren't just collections of public service users living in the same space.


Real communities are bound by common experiences … forged by friendship and conversation … knitted together by all the rituals of the neighbourhood, from the school run to the chat down the pub. And these bonds can take time. So real integration takes time.


That's why, when there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods … perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there … on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate … that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods.


This has been the experience for many people in our country – and I believe it is untruthful and unfair not to speak about it and address it.


Our aim

So, taking all this into account, I believe controlling immigration and bringing it down is of vital importance to the future of our country. That's why during the election campaign, Conservatives made a clear commitment to the British people … that we would aim to reduce net migration to the levels we saw in the 1980s and 1990s.


Now we are in government, we are on track to meet that aim. We are controlling legal immigration – having introduced a cap on non-EU economic migrants. We are clamping down on illegal immigration. And we are getting to grips with the asylum system too. The UK Border Agency is now close to clearing the back-log of almost half a million asylum cases. Our action is working.


But some myths have crept in – about what we're doing and the impact our policies will have. There are those who say that whatever measures we put in place, we can't control immigration significantly. And there are those who accept we can control immigration, but argue that the way we propose to do it will damage our economy and universities. Today I want to take those myths head-on.


Immigration from Europe

Let me begin by addressing those who say we can't control immigration. They have three planks to their argument. First, they say legal immigration is impossible to control because we're a member of the European Union. Second, they argue that illegal immigration can't be controlled either because it's impossible to properly police. And third, they say that immigration will always be high because immigrant workers do jobs that British people won't do.


Each part of that argument is wrong. Take this question of Europe. Yes, our borders are open to people from other member states in the European Union. But actually, this counts for a small proportion of overall net migration to the UK. In the year up to June 2010, net migration to our country from EU nationals was just 27,000.


That's not to say migration from Europe has been insignificant. Since 2004, when many large eastern European countries joined the EU, more than one million people from those countries have come to live and work in the UK – a huge number. We said back then that transitional controls should have been put in place to restrict the numbers coming over. And now we're in government, if and when new countries join the European Union, transitional controls will be put in place.


But this remains the fact: when it comes to immigration to our country, it's the numbers from outside the EU that really matter. In the year up to June 2010, net migration from nationals of countries outside the EU to the UK totalled 198,000. This is the figure we can more easily control and should control.


Last week, our new immigration cap for people coming here to work from outside the EU came into force. It means for the next twelve months, we will not allow employers to recruit more than 20,700 skilled workers from outside Europe. And we've already shown a cap can work. Last July, we placed interim limits on the number of visas we would give for skilled workers - and this kept the numbers down to under 20,000.


Of course employment is just one of the routes of entry and settlement into this country. Every year tens of thousands of people marry into Britain or join their families here. Now many of these are genuine, loving relationships. But we also know there are abuses of the system.


For a start there are forced marriages taking place in our country, and overseas as a means of gaining entry to the UK. This is the practice where some young British girls are bullied and threatened into marrying someone they don't want to. I've got no time for those who say this is a culturally relative issue – it is wrong, full stop, and we've got to stamp it out.


Then there are just the straightforward sham marriages. Last summer, we ordered the UK Border Agency to clamp down on these and they've had significant success, making 155 arrests. And there was also the shocking case of a vicar who was jailed for staging over 300 sham marriages.


But as well as abuse of the system, there are other problems with the family route. We know, for instance, that some marriages take place when the spouse is very young, and has little or no grasp of English. Again we cannot allow cultural sensitivity to stop us from acting. That's why last November we introduced a requirement for all those applying for a marriage visa to demonstrate a minimum standard of English … and we will defend the age limit of 21 for spouses coming to the UK.


So however sensitive or difficult a subject it may be, we are tightening up the family route. But by far the biggest route for non-EU entrants into this country has been the student visa route. Immigration by students has almost trebled in the past decade. Last year, some 303,000 visas were issued overseas for study in the UK.


But this isn't the end of the story. Because a lot of those students bring people with them to this country … husbands, wives, children. Indeed, last year, 32,000 visas were issued to the dependents of students. Again, many of these applications are for legitimate students doing legitimate courses with legitimate dependents coming over with them. But we know that some of these student applications are bogus, and in turn their dependents are bogus.


Consider this: a sample of 231 visa applications for the dependents of students found that only twenty-five percent of them were genuine dependents. The others? Some were clearly gaming the system and had no genuine or loving relationship with the student. Others we just couldn't be sure about.


The whole system was out of control – and we're now getting to grips with it. We're targeting bogus colleges that offer sham courses. We're making sure that anyone studying a degree-level course has a proper grasp of the English language. We're saying that only postgraduate students can bring dependents.


And we're making sure that if people come over here to study, they should be studying not working … and that when they've finished their studies, they go home unless they are offered a graduate-level skilled job, with a minimum salary.


Taken together, we estimate that these proposals will cut the number of student visas issued by around 80,000 a year. So across all the main routes of entry to Britain – work, family, education – we are taking action, simultaneously. And the key word here is 'simultaneously'.


As the Home Secretary has said, controlling immigration by clamping down on one route alone is "like squeezing a balloon … Push down work visas and the number of student visas will shoot up. Clamp down on student visas and family visas will spring up."


For years, people have been playing the system, exploiting the easiest routes of entry to the UK. Now, because of what we're doing, this country finally has consistent controls right across the immigration system.


Permanent settlement

But as I said in a speech in opposition, what matters most is not who comes into the country but who stays. Of course there are fair and legitimate reasons for people who arrive here temporarily to stay here permanently. But the figures clearly suggest that many gain temporary entry into the UK with no plans to leave. More than a fifth of students who entered Britain in 2004 were still here five years later – and many were supposed to be coming to study short courses.


But the most significant route to permanent settlement is the economic migration route. Last year, 84,000 people who initially came on a work visa got the right to settle here. I want Britain to continue to attract the best workers. But it cannot be right that people coming to fill short-term skills gaps can stay long-term.


As the Cross-Party Balanced Migration Group has argued, it is essential we break that link between temporary visas and permanent settlement.

They are right – that's what this Government is determined to do … and we will consult on how best to proceed on this in the coming months.


Illegal immigration

So this is the progress we are making on cutting legal immigration and clamping down on the abuse of legitimate entry routes. And we are cracking down on illegal immigration too. This is a question of fairness – yes, to the British people … but also to those who have been shipped over here against their will, kept as slaves and forced to work horrendous hours.


So as part of our National Crime Agency, we are establishing a proper border policing command which will crack down on people smuggling. And because of better technology and closer working with the French, we have managed to cut the number of people identified trying to cross the Channel illegally by two thirds last year.


At the same time as stopping illegal immigrants coming to Britain, we are doing something about those who are already here. Two nationwide campaigns targeting illegal migrants have resulted in 1400 arrests, 330 prosecutions and 260 removals. And in the six months to the end of February, we collected some £3.6m in fines from employers of illegal workers.


What's more, we're closing the loophole that has allowed people who have worked here illegally to get unemployment benefits. Estimates suggest that as many as 155,000 illegal workers might be able to do this … with some eligible to claim over £5,000 in employment seekers allowance – each year.


That's wrong - and we're stopping it. We're making sure that only people who have the right to work here can claim benefits. And we also recently announced that anyone who owes money to the NHS will be refused entry to the UK until they have paid back their debts.


So across border control, health policy, benefits policy … we are taking decisive action to close the gaps that for too long have allowed people to come here illegally and to stay here illegally.


Who will do these jobs?

So we can control both legal and illegal immigration. What is required is political will and the drive to make sure this agenda runs right across government.


But the third argument put forward by those who say we can't control immigration is that immigration is not just a problem of supply but of demand. Put simply, immigration will always be high because British people won't do the jobs migrant workers do.


I can see why this argument is made. Since 1997, the number of people in work in our economy has gone up by some 2.5 million. And of this increase, around 75% was accounted for by foreign-born workers … many of whom were employed to clean offices, serve in restaurants or work on building sites. At the same time we have had persistently, eye-wateringly high numbers of British born people stuck on welfare.


But let's be clear about what our conclusions should be from this. This is not a case of 'immigrants coming over here and taking our jobs'. The fact is – except perhaps in the very short-term – there are not a fixed number of jobs in our economy. If one hundred migrant workers come into the country, they don't simply displace job opportunities for a hundred British citizens. Of course they take up vacancies that are available, but they also come and create wealth and new jobs.


The real issue is this: migrants are filling gaps in the labour market left wide open by a welfare system that for years has paid British people not to work. That's where the blame lies – at the door of our woeful welfare system, and the last government who comprehensively failed to reform it.


So immigration and welfare reform are two sides of the same coin. Put simply, we will never control immigration properly unless we tackle welfare dependency. That's another powerful reason why this government is undertaking the biggest shake-up of the welfare system for generations … making sure that work will always pay … and ending the option of living a life on the dole when a life in work is possible.


Economy

Take all these actions together, and I believe we are proving that we can control immigration.


But there's another group of people I want to take on. The ones who accept we can control immigration, but have doubts about what our reforms will mean. The first thing they say is: these policies will deny British business of the talent they need to succeed. That's plain wrong. Nothing – nothing – is more important to this government than growing our economy, creating jobs and prosperity across our country.


That's why far from simply salami-slicing numbers coming here with no thought to the impact that will have on business, we have thought incredibly carefully about how we can select and attract the world's brightest to our shores.


This was something the last government comprehensively failed to do. Yes, they introduced a points-based system for immigration, where people were admitted to our country according to the levels of skills they had … but only after being repeatedly called to do so by the Conservative party.


Yet once they put this in place, they failed to properly control it and effectively manage it. For example, tier one visas were supposed to be reserved for only the highest skilled migrants. But the evidence shows almost a third of people who came over on one of these visas were not employed in highly skilled jobs. Some were found stacking shelves in supermarkets or driving taxis – and that's if they were employed at all.


Tier two visas were supposed to be reserved for skilled jobs such as engineers. But again, these visas were abused and misused. In one case, an applicant applied as an "elite chef" for a fried chicken shop. The main qualifying criterion was the rate of pay. So in this case, his sister, who owned the shop decided to pay him exactly the amount that allowed him to qualify. There was nothing the authorities could do and he was allowed in.


So it has fallen to this government to sort out the system – and we are completely changing the way it works so it is truly geared to the needs of our economy. We are reforming tier one, to make sure that it is genuinely a route only for the best. As part of that package of reform, we are introducing a new route for people of exceptional talent – like scientists, academics and artists. And we are introducing a new entrepreneur visa, to roll out the red carpet for anyone who has a great business idea and serious investment.


We are also reforming tier two visas. Business leaders have told us that as a country, we should prioritise skilled tier two, workers with a job offer rather than highly-skilled tier one workers without a job offer. So that's what we're doing.


For the coming year, even as we have reduced the number of economic migrants overall by seven thousand, we have actually increased the number of tier two visas available. And we have also raised the skills level so it is only open to graduate-level occupations - and excludes other jobs like careworkers and cooks. What's more, we have exempted what are called 'intra-company transfers' from the limit while raising standards at the same time … so firms can still move their employees around the world, but not to fill permanent jobs that could be done by UK workers.


So I completely reject the idea that our new immigration rules will damage our economy.


Universities

The second thing some say is that our policies on student visas will damage our universities. Again, let me make clear: this government will do nothing to harm Britain's status as a magnet for the world's best students. That's why with us, if you're good at your subject, can speak English and have been offered a place on a course at a trusted institution – you will be able to get a visa to study here.


Put another way, Britain's universities are free to market themselves globally saying: "You can come and study here at some of the finest institutions anywhere in the world – and you can stay and work in a graduate job after you leave."


That makes our country a hugely attractive destination for genuine students who genuinely want to study abroad. What we don't want is for this to be a hugely attractive destination for people who only want a passage to Britain. So we are cracking down on the abuses of the system.


In recent years there has also grown up a thriving industry of bogus colleges, providing bogus qualifications as cover for bogus visas. Of the 744 private colleges on the UK Border Agency sponsor register in January, only 131 had attained highly trusted sponsor status.


Yet, as of mid-January this year, the 613 private colleges who are not "highly trusted" have been able to sponsor 280,000 students between them. The potential for abuse is clearly enormous.


Indeed, we have been looking into the practice of some so-called colleges. In one case, students were sent off to so-called work placements in locations up to 280 miles away from the college where they were supposed to be studying on a regular basis.


In another, students were found working in 20 different locations and undertaking no study time whatsoever. In yet another case, there were 2 lecturers for 940 students.


Want to know how ridiculous things have got? An Indian organisation which helps people get student visas has put up a massive billboard in that country. It's got a picture of London bus and the words "get a free ride to the UK" emblazoned across it.


Clearly, we cannot – and should not – put up with any of this. That's why we're getting to grips with the abuse and that's why I reject the idea that our policy will damage our universities.


It really is simple: if you're a genuine academic institution – you have nothing to worry about. But if you're not, you do – and I make no apology for that.


Conclusion

What I have set out today is a sober, comprehensive and effective plan to cut immigration, and cut it substantially. Sober because we come to this debate clear-headed about not only the benefits of immigration … but also its impact on our public services, communities and society. Comprehensive because we are leaving no stone unturned, taking action across all routes of entry to our country. And effective – because we are doing all this in a way that strengthens our economy and enhances the status of our universities.


This time last year, we said we would listen to people's concerns and get immigration under control. Today I can confidently say that we are getting there.


If we take the steps set out today, and deal with all the different avenues of migration, legal and illegal, then levels of immigration can return to where they were in the 1980s and 90s, a time when immigration was not a front rank political issue. And I believe that will mean net migration to this country will be in the order of tens of thousands each year, not the hundreds of thousands every year that we have seen over the last decade.


Yes, Britain will always be open to the best and brightest from around the world and those fleeing persecution. But with us, our borders will be under control and immigration will be at levels our country can manage. No ifs. No buts. That's a promise we made to the British people. And it's a promise we are keeping."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Swimathon result

I completed the National Swimathon yesterday, swimming 5,000 metres (200 lengths of Copeland Pool) in one hour fifty minutes and fifty seconds.

A big thank you again to all those who sponsored me for this event - thanks also to the staff at Copeland pool for their part in making the event run smoothly.

Since the Swimathon was launched in 1986, £35 million has been raised for a host of good causes, and over half a million swimmers have taken part.

It is not too late to sponsor me and support Marie Curie cancer care, which you can do so at the swimathon website here.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Swimathon 2011 - a big thank you

The National Swimathon, which is 25 years old this year hs now started. I will be doing my swim tomorrow at Copeland pool.

A big thnk you to all the friends and colleagues who have already sponsored me for this event - just to show that we don't always disagree, incidentally, they include both Conservative and Labour councillors.

Since the Swimathon was launched in 1986, £35 million has been raised for a host of good causes, and over half a million swimmers have taken part.

This year Swimathon aims to raise over £2 million for Marie Curie Cancer Care and The Swimathon Foundation. It will be the 18th consecutive year have taken part. I plan to swim 5,000 metres at Copeland pool tomorrow morning (Sunday 10th April).

Anyone who would like to sponsor me and support Marie Curie cancer care can do so at the swimathon website here.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Candidates nominated for Copeland Council

Here are the "Statement of persons nominated" documents for the May 2011 Copeland council elections. (Am gradually putting these onto the blog - have been having fun getting them into a format Blogger will accept.)

Click on each to open and click again to zoom.

Arlecdon ward nominations




Beckermet ward nominations





Bootle ward nominations





Bransty ward nominations




Cleator Moor (North) ward nominations



Cleator Moor (South) ward nominations



Distington ward nominations




Egremont (North) ward nominations




Egremont (South) ward nominations



Ennerdale ward nominations




Frizington ward nominations




Gosforth ward nominations



Harbour ward nominations




Haverigg ward nominations




Hemsingham ward nominations

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Monbiot turns on the Anti-Nuclear lobby

Journalist and Green writer George Monbiot, who used to be an opponent of Nuclear Power himself, has a coruscating article in the Guardian today, "The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all."

He describes how he realised after asking for supporting evidence for comments made by leading anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Helen Caldicott during a debate, that she was unable to provide any reputable scientific evidence to support many of her statements.

Monbiot has published his correspondence with Dr Caldicott on his website here.

He examines some of the myths and legends spread by the anti-nuclear lobby, such as the wild claim that radiation from the Chernobyl disaster killed 985,000 people.

A review by the journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry of the study cited by Dr Caldicott and others to support this claim points out that this figure is achieved by the remarkable method of assuming that all increased deaths from a wide range of diseases – including many which have no known association with radiation – were caused by the Chernobyl accident.

There is no basis for this assumption, not least because screening in many countries improved dramatically after the disaster and, since 1986, there have been massive changes in the former eastern bloc. The study makes no attempt to correlate exposure to radiation with the incidence of disease.

By contrast a report by The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) which you can read here, concludes that radiation killed 28 of the 134 workers who sustained serious doses of radiation while attempting to contain the disaster, and that failure by the Soviet authorities to prevent the population drinking milk contaminated with radioactive iodine resulted in 6.848 cases of thyriod cancer, mostly among children: of these cases 15 had proved fatal by by 2005.

Beyond this the UN concluded that "there has been no persuasive evidence of any other health effect in the general population that can be attributed to radiation exposure" and that the vast majority of the population of the countries affected "need not live in fear of serious health consequences from the Chernobyl accident".

The Chernobyl accident was extremely damaging and it is essential that all nuclear installations are managed far more safely so that no such incident happened again.

But taking a disaster in which radiation can be shown to have killed 43 people and making wild allegations that the death toll was nearly a million is not the best way to assess the true impact of the nuclear industry, or any other, on the environment.

Monbiot concludes:

"Failing to provide sources, refuting data with anecdote, cherry-picking studies, scorning the scientific consensus, invoking a cover-up to explain it: all this is horribly familiar. These are the habits of climate-change deniers, against which the green movement has struggled valiantly, calling science to its aid. It is distressing to discover that when the facts don't suit them, members of this movement resort to the follies they have denounced.

"We have a duty to base our judgments on the best available information. This is not only because we owe it to other people to represent the issues fairly, but also because we owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairytales. A great wrong has been done by this movement. We must put it right."