Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Latest employment figures

Latest office of National Statistics (ONS) employment figures show that employment in the UK is stable at historically very high levels and unemployment stable at historically low levels.

In June to August 2018:
  • There were 32.39 million people in work, which 289,000 more than for a year earlier.
  • The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 years who were in work) was 75.5%, which is 0.4% higher than in the same period the previous year (75.1%).
  • There were 1.36 million unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work), 47,000 fewer than for March to May 2018 and 79,000 fewer than for a year earlier.
  • The unemployment rate (the number of unemployed people as a proportion of all employed and unemployed people) was 4.0%; it has not been lower since Dec 1974 to Feb 1975.
  • Youth Unemployment (e.g. among people aged 18 to 24) fell by 60,000 to 464,000 which is the lowest since comparable records for unemployment by age group began to be kept in 1992. 

On the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi

We cannot yet be certain what has happened to missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi Crown prince is still denying knowledge of his fate, but unless like Arkady Babchenko he turns up alive there will continue to be grave concern about the implications of his disappearance.

To say that there are huge ironies both in this case and in how it has been reported is an understatement. Sadly, there are hundreds of journalists who get arrested, kidnapped or murdered around the world every year.

Khashoggi has probably had more publicity than all the other journalists who have been the victims of repression in the past year put together, and yet very few if any of them will have had less in common with the stereotype of the brave anti-establishment gadfly trying to hold a regime to account in the name of open government or democracy, which is how he is misleadingly being presented.

(This does not, of course, justify, excuse or mitigate in any way whatsoever abducting, torturing or murdering him if that is indeed what has happened.)

The host regime complaining vigorously through private press briefings about the apparent murder on their soil, that of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has itself a terrible record both on human rights in general and press freedom, with scores of journalists among the thousands of people it has locked up on dubious charges, although to be fair I am not aware that there have been any credible allegations against the Turkish regime of murdering any of those people.

Khashoggi was himself a former member of the Saudi establishment, a supporter of the Muslim brotherhood, who had once been a friend of Osama Bin Laden prior to the 9/11 attacks (he disassociated himself from Bin Laden after them) and had voiced only the mildest criticisms of the Saudi regime. He opposed regime change and often said that he believed in the Saudi system but just wanted to reform it.

Again, none of that would excuse abducting, torturing or murdering him either.

Part of the reason he walked willingly into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul may be that Khashoggi did not even consider himself to be a dissident. Ironically one thing he did have in common with the West is the belief that sometimes your best friends will offer advice you don't want to hear and that there can be a distinction between critics and enemies. He described his criticisms of the Saudi regime as nasiha or friendly counsel.

If the evidence confirms - and we are not yet at that point - that the Saudi regime did kill Jamal Khashoggi, either deliberately or because he died while being tortured, this puts the West in a quandary.

It is impossible in the real world for nations like Britain who trade and have interests around the world not to have dealings with regimes which are guilty of corruption or of vile human rights abuses.

However, the state-sponsored abduction and murder of a journalist in that state's embassy to a foreign power would be an egregious crime which undermines the principles which supports  international diplomacy. There would have to be some comeback for that.

If strong evidence emerges that the Saudi regime is guilty of murder, then failure to make any response after the diplomatic and economic sanctions which were - rightly in my opinion - imposed on Russia following the Salisbury attack would risk making the West look like hypocrites.

I am not suggesting we go to war with Saudi Arabia any more than I wanted to start World War III following Salisbury, or that we do anything else which will further destabilise the Middle East, but some form of proportionate diplomatic or economic sanctions would be necessary.

Quote of the day 16th October 2018

Indeed, quite often the person who gets up the courage to ask the question which he or she was afraid may make them look silly isn't regarded as a fool even for five minutes.

In my experience most people, after they've come to the end of a presentation and invited questions, would much rather be asked a simple or obvious question than be faced with a pregnant or embarrassing silence which makes you wonder if anyone has been listening, and very few people mind being asked such a question or think the questioner is silly.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Investing in Britain's roads

Britain's roads have not been adequately maintained and it is time to put more resources into putting that right. That's why the government is launching several major road investment programmes - putting some of the tax paid by road users into actually maintaining and improving the road network,

In Cumbria this will finally include action on the A595. One of the schemes mentioned in the panel below is to improve the A595 at Grizebeck, and there will also shortly be a consultation on a proposed Whitehaven Relief Road.

Have your say: North Shore / Bransty Arch proposals final consultation

A consultation has been running last week and this week into the revised proposed scheme to improve the North Shore junction area to the North of Whitehaven Town Centre.

Cumbria County Council is proposing to reconfigure the road junction at Bransty Row / North Shore Road in the town's North Shore area, which would help to pave the way for significant new development. The scheme is designed to assist future development in the North Shore area and create an enhanced entrance into Whitehaven. In doing so, the scheme will ease congestion, improve traffic flow and enhance road safety for drivers and pedestrians.

The government is putting in £ 1.66m of taxpayers' money for this highways upgrade scheme from the National Productivity Investment Fund, and a £ 834,000 contribution has been made by property firm BEC.

Details have been displayed at two public exhibitions at the portacabin opposite Wetherspoons and at Tescos: they can still be seen at the Daniel Hay library in Lowther Street, Whitehaven and online at


The consultation will close on 18 October 2018. Any comments or objections to the proposals should be emailed to kim.baxter@cumbria.gov.uk or posted to: Cumbria County Council, Customer and Community Services, Cumbria House, Carlisle, CA1 1RD by 18 October 2018. Correspondence should be marked with the reference: KB4.41008/15001358.

Councillor Keith Hitchen, Chair of Cumbria County Council's Copeland Local Committee, said:

"This is a key junction providing a gateway into Whitehaven. The improvements being proposed will not only unlock substantial new investment in the town by BEC, but also improve traffic flow and road safety locally. The original plans attracted a lot of good ideas, comments and interest when we held a consultation in April. We have listened to what people had to say, taken account of that feedback and made changes to the scheme. We're now holding a new consultation on the revised plans and inviting people to tell us what they think."

Spoof article of the week

According to NewsThump, Russian President Vladimir Putin is dissatisfied with the incompetence of his spies and assassins and has brought in some new leadership for the GRU ...

Quote of the day 15th October 2018

"While some people in the MoD may consider this AOK, for those outside the department these TLAs can be confusing and do not always help the cause of defence. In fact some at the Treasury have even been known to use FFS in reaction to the abbreviations."

(Conservative MP, army reserve officer and defence committee member Mark Francois responds to the over-use of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms by the MoD (Ministry of Defence. According to press reports a handbook which indexes all the abbreviations used by the UK armed forces plus NATO and other allies runs to over 380 pages.)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday music spot: the choir of King's College, Cambridge sing the "Hallelujah Chorus"

If you look carefully you can see that the audience in the chapel at King's College Cambridge are standing for this performance of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah.

The usual explanation for the tradition of standing for live performances of this chorus is that when the Messiah was first performed in 1743 King George II stood up at the opening bars of the Hallelujah Chorus and, of course, the audience followed suit. (In most circumstances it's very bad form to sit when the monarch is standing.)

Whether the King was impressed with the music as everyone likes to assume, needed to stretch his legs, or whether the whole story is a myth, we don't know. But we do know that there is a tradition of standing for this chorus which goes back a long way, and such a magnificent piece deserves it.

Quote of the day Sunday 14th October 2018

“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” 

(John Stuart Mill).

I picked up this quote in an excellent article in yesterday's Times by Max Hastings called "We're in a dark age where hearts rule minds," and if you are registered with The Times website - there is a paywall but you can sign up for three free articles per week - you can read it here.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Tackling delays in payments to small businesses

As was mentioned in a recent post, SMEs - Small and Medium enterprises - are the backbone of the British economy. One of the worst problems which often makes life difficult for them is delay in settling their bills - a fault often committed by public bodies such as councils who have no excuse.

The government is taking the following action on this:

Quote of the day 12th October 2018

“Discrimination against LGBT people is wrong. But in a free society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas that they disagree with. I am glad the court upheld this important liberal principle. 

“If the original judgement against Ashers had been upheld it would have meant that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be forced to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial. It could have also encouraged far right extremists to demand that bakers and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions. 

“That would have set a dangerous, authoritarian precedent that could have been open to serious abuse. 

“Discrimination against people should be illegal but not discrimination against ideas and opinions,” 

(Peter Tatchell, responding to the Supreme Court ruling that a Baptist-run bakery could refuse to supply a cake with a message on gay marriage that they disagreed with.)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

It's high time people in the democratic mainstream stopped calling one another Nazis

It is far too common on social media to read attacks in which people of broadly mainstream views are compared to Hitler or the Nazis.

This is out of order.

Comparisons to one of the worst gangs of murderers in the history of the planet are only appropriate for egregious evil.

It may be legitimate to make such a charge against groups like DA'ESH (the former so-called "Islamic State") who practiced mass murder with as little compunction as the SS. But to make such a comparison against someone who has, for example, a different view on how generous state payments  to disabled people should be is both disproportionate and an insult to the victims of the real Nazis.

One sign that accusations of guilt by association with Nazis is being over-used as a tactic is when people, usually on social media, start getting worked up about whether the real Nazis were right-wing or left-wing.

It ought to be totally obvious to anyone who has made the most cursory study of mid-20th century history that the policies and actions of the Nazis were massively different from those of either mainstream centre-right parties or mainstream centre-left parties. The fact that they were totalitarian extremists is both more obvious and more important than whether you consider them to be extreme-right or extreme left.

Totalitarians of the far-left and far-right have far more in common with each other than either do with people in the democratic mainstream whether centre-left or centre right, just as the centre-right and centre-left have far more in common with each other than either does with extremists and totalitarians of any kind.
It is a matter of historical fact that "Nazi" is short for "National Socialist." The full name of Hitler's party, the NSDAP, was the  Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei which means National Socialist German Workers party. Hitler declared himself a socialist and the Nazi party did originally seek votes from the left as well as the right.

It is also a matter of historical fact that the actual policies of the Nazis do not remotely resemble those of mainstream socialists - any more than they remotely resemble those of mainstream centre-right parties. Only the most partisan or ill-informed opponents of either of those groups could possibly think otherwise.

So if a partisan socialist is trying to use guilt by association to smear mainstream Conservatives by comparing the centre-right with "right wing Nazis" and someone seeks to undermine that argument by pointing out that Hitler's party called itself National Socialists and a worker's party, they are making a perfectly reasonable point and drawing attention to the fact that the real world is far more complex and nuanced than the more partisan would have us believe.

However, if the person who points out what the name of Hitler's party means is doing so as part of an attempt to use guilt by association to make a partisan case that mainstream socialists are like Nazis, they're not behaving any better than the left are when they use the same tactic.


Reminding people that "Nazi" is short for a name which includes "socialist" can be helpful if it is done in response to a partisan left-wing bigot who doesn't understand the difference between mainstream Conservatives and fascists as a means of pointing out that the world is more complicated than he or she realises.

It is unhelpful when done by a partisan right-wing bigot who doesn't understand the difference between mainstream democratic left-wingers and fascists.

Two perspectives on freezing fuel duty!

Recognising the impact of fuel prices on the cost of living, the incomes of hard-pressed families and individuals, and on the bottom line of businesses large and small, the Conservatives are freezing fuel duty for the ninth year in a row.

But in the House of Commons today Labour's shadow Transport secretary opposed this measure.

Dogs bark,
ducks quack,
Labour puts up taxes.

Suicide prevention

Yesterday, on World Mental Health Day, the Prime Minister has appointed the first UK Minister for Suicide Prevention, helping to prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives.

Key facts

Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price will be the first minister in the UK with this responsibility, and will lead a new national effort on suicide prevention.
  • · The new Minister for Suicide Prevention will bring together a ministerial taskforce and work with national and local government, experts in suicide and self-harm prevention, charities, clinicians and those personally affected by suicide. 
  • · The Prime Minister has also announced up to £1.8 million funding for the Samaritans’ helpline, to ensure the charity can continue to provide immediate and lifesaving support 24 hours a day. 
  • · From next year, we will publish a State of the Nation report every year on World Mental Health Day, highlighting the trends and issues in young people’s mental well-being. 
  • · We will also provide tools to help schools measure their students’ health, including their mental wellbeing, building on our commitment to make education in mental health and resilience a compulsory part of the curriculum. 

Why this matters

In her first speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May pledged to fight the burning injustices in our society, of which there are few greater examples than those struggling with mental health conditions. Together, we can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence and prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives.

Quote of the day 11th October 2018

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Prime Minister's Question Time

At Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) today the Prime Minister confirmed that because of people’s hard work better days lie ahead.


·         After a decade of austerity people need to know their hard work has paid off.


·         Our national debt is starting to fall for the first time in a generation – but getting to this turning point hasn’t been easy.


·         Sound finances are essential, but they are not the limit of our ambition.


·         At the Spending Review next year we will set out our approach for the future.


·         Debt as a share of the economy will continue to go down and support for public services will go up.


·         Austerity is coming to an end – but fiscal responsibility isn’t.


·         Wages are going up, and we have increased the National Living Wage and there are one million fewer people in absolute poverty (BEIS, 1 April 2018, link; DWP, 22 March 2018, link).

Midweek music spot: "The Carnival Is Over" (The Seekers)

Quote of the day 10th October 2018

A very wise saying from Thomas Sowell, and one point which illustrates the truth of it is that the people to whom it most applies are least likely to realise that it applies to them.

A classic example which it will not make me popular to point out is the utterly inappropriate name chosen by the campaign group WASPI (Women against State Pension Inequality.) I don't want to suggest that they are not affected by a genuine difficulty around the rate of change and poor process in letting people know about what they need to prepare for. However, one of the main drivers for the pension changes in respect of which they are campaigning for relief was a European Court ruling requiring member states to phase out - you've guessed it - gender inequality in state pensions.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Brexit and the nuclear industry

There was an interesting report on how leaving the EU might affect the nuclear industry on the BBC last week.

A summary, with links to the BBC iPlayer to view the report, is available on the BBC website here.

Freezing Fuel Duty

• Under Conservative-led governments fuel duty has been frozen since 2011 - it has been held at 57.95p per litre since the March 2011 Budget.

• In her conference speech last week, the Prime Minister confirmed that in the Budget later this month the Chancellor will freeze the duty for the ninth year in a row, putting money in the pockets of hard working people from a Conservative Government that is on their side.

• Having a little bit of money left to put away at the end of the month isn’t measured in pounds and pence. It’s the peace of mind that comes with having some savings.

Quote of the day for harvest sunday 7th October 2018

Sunday music spot: Aranjuez Concerto by Rodrigo, arranged for Harp (2nd Movement)

The Concierto de Aranjuez by the Spanish composer JoaquĆ­n Rodrigo was inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, the spring resort palace and gardens built by Philip II of Spain in the last half of the 16th century and rebuilt in the middle of the 18th century by Ferdinand VI.

The music attempts to transport the listener to another place and time through the evocation of the sounds of nature. It is Rodrigo's best known work and established his reputation.

Although it was written as a guitar concerto - it's in the repertoire of just about every great guitarist and they have produced many beautiful interpretations using that instrument - I personally think the arrangements for orchestra and Harp are even better.

In the exquisite performance of the second movement linked to below, the harpist is Alexandra Katelyn Mullins. I can also particularly recommend the performances in which Xavier de Maistre was the harp soloist: the orchestras with which he has recorded this piece include both the Krakow Sinfonietta and the Paris Orchestra.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

October meeting of Cumbria Heatth Scrutiny Committee

The next meeting of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee will be held this coming Monday (8th October 2018) at 10.30 am in the council chamber at County Hall Kendal, LA9 4RQ. View directions here.

The meeting is open to the public for those whose employment and mobility position enables them to get to Kendal during office hours to watch.

 (In my humble opinion, this far into the 21st century it is disappointing that meetings of the full council, the council's cabinet, planning committee, these health scrutiny meetings and other meetings of significant potential interest to the public are not live-streamed on the internet. I have expressed this opinion in the council chamber and will continue to do so until we finally get there.)

The main items on the agenda are:

6.) Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy
To consider a presentation by the Director of Public Health, Cumbria County Council. This outlines the draft framework for the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy and provides feedback from the Committee prior to it going out for consultation.

7). Committee Briefing Report

8). Update on Potential Merger Between Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust
To receive an update from North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust. The Committee to examine the work which has taken place by the Trust Boards and the planning arrangements for the strategic business case.

9). Future of Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Services in Cumbria
To consider a report by the Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust. This report sets out the progress in developing the Outline Business Case for proposed changes to the provision of Mental Health Services in Cumbria.

10). Community Hospitals Update
To consider a joint report by North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group and Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust. The report provides an assessment of how the new models are operating and an analysis of how the patient pathway operates within those new models and feedback from patients.

11). Healthcare for the Future Update
To consider a report by the Chief Operating Officer, NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group. This report enables the Committee to monitor the implementation of changes, the audit’s being undertaken, the Co-Production Steering Committee and the Independent Review Panel.

12). The North Cumbria Integrated Care System and Links with the North East
To receive a presentation by the Chief Operating Officer for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group and the Director for Integration for the North Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS).

There are a few more comments on these agenda items on my hospitals blog here.

The full agenda including the reports on the items above can be found on the county council website here.

Saturday music spot: The Windmills of your mind (Barbra Streisand)

My favourite version of "The windmills of your mind" is the Kings' Singers version, closely followed by the Noel Harrison original. But this Barbra Streisand version is a very close third.

Successful "Saturday Chataway" this morning

A successful "Saturday chataway" even was hosted by Trudy Harrison MP with both borough and county councillors in attendance was held today  from 10am to 12 noon  at St Herbert's Church Rooms, Braithwaite.

About thirty local residents attended, taking the opportunity to raise issues including library provision, parking, and water quality with their MP and other elected representatives.

Trudy and the team at St Herberts: left to right, Ged McGrath (Copeland councillor and Trudy's office manager), Arthur Lamb (County Councillor) Martin Barbour (Copeland and County Councillor) Trudy Harrison MP, myself, Tony Markley (Allerdale BC and County councillor and chairman of CCC's Allerdale local committee)

In the afternoon Trudy Harrison also held a "Gondola" public meeting to discuss the "zipwire" proposals for the area. This proposal is not welcome with local residents in Braithwaite.  

Trudy Harrison welcomed the proactive response of the local community and will be working to support the Above Derwent parish community in finding information about what is proposed for their area.  

The two remaining "Saturday Chataway" events this calendar year will be:
  • Saturday 3rd November, 10am - 12pm at Richmond Community Centre, Hensingham
  • Saturday 1st December, 10am - 12pm at Captain Shaw's School, Bootle.

Quote of the day 6th October 2018

"When I listen to modern Labour supporters, I keep remembering Destiny, David Edgar’s play from 1976. Destiny is set during a by-election in a West Midlands town close to Enoch Powell’s Wolverhampton.

A neo-fascist leader, inspired by the National Front types of the time, instructs his candidate that it is not good enough to tell voters that speculators and wreckers are destroying Britain: he has to say that they are Jewish speculators and wreckers.

Then in a line that has stayed with me since I was a teenager, the fascist leader asks the candidate what he would say if a voter told him that immigrants were just as British as he was. The candidate promptly gives the approved answer:
‘Just because a cat is born in a kipper box it doesn’t make it a kipper.’

It is a sign of how deep the rot has penetrated that the modern echo of the sentiment that, even if they live here, even if they and their parents and grandparents were born here, immigrants or the descendants of immigrants can never be truly British, comes not from a fascist or a gin-soaked Tory, but from Jeremy Corbyn.

He said of Jews, who had argued against him at a meeting in Parliament, that despite ‘having lived in this country for a very long time – probably all their lives – they don’t understand English irony’."

(Nick Cohen, in a Spectator review which you can read here.)

Friday, October 05, 2018

Councillor Duncan Fairbairn RIP

A very long-serving councillor who had worked for the people of Cumbria over four decades died on Tuesday from cancer at the age of 78.

Duncan Fairbairn was the representative for Thursby on Cumbria County Council and for Warnell ward on Allerdale Borough Council at the time of his death.

I remember him particularly as a very effective holder of the Schools portfolio on Cumbria County Council's cabinet during the 2009-2013 council and I recall him taking the trouble to keep me as a Whitehaven School governor and Conservative PPC for Copeland aware of what was really going on (insofar as the rules permitted, of course) during the labyrinthine negotiations between the Brown government and Cumbria CC over the "Building Schools for the future" application to rebuild Whitehaven School.

Duncan had a strong opinion about nearly everything and was never shy about letting you know exactly what it was. You always knew exactly where you stood with him, but he was always pleasant about it.

Tony Markley, also an Allerdale and Cumbria councillor, told The Cumberland News,

"Duncan was one of the first people I met when I came into being a councillor. 

He kept me right and taught me the ropes. He was an extremely knowledgeable person and dedicated to his area. 

"He was a wonderful man and he will be a big loss to the community." 

The leader of the county council's Conservative group, James Airey, said:

“Duncan was an excellent councillor and brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the group. It was a privilege to have known and worked alongside him and my thoughts go out to his family at this sad time.”

Tony Annison, current leader of the Allerdale Conservatives, said that councillor Fairbairn was the reason he became involved in politics in the first place. He said:

“I am heart-broken. Duncan was a principled gentleman Conservative who mentored me and guided me. He continued to do so until very recently."

Other messages of condolence and appreciation were put forward on both sides of the political divide.

Rest in Peace.

Saturday Chataway with Trudy Harrison MP and local councillors tomorrow

The next "Saturday chataway" hosted by Trudy Harrison MP and to which councillors of all parties and all levels have been invited will be held at St Herbert's Church Rooms, Braithwaite, tomorrow.

This is an opportunity for residents of Copeland constituency to raise matters with your MP and other elected representatives,

Time and date are from 10am to 12 noon tomorrow (Saturday 6th October 2018.)

After tomorrow the two remaining "Saturday Chataway" events this calendar year will be:
  • Saturday 3rd November, 10am - 12pm at Richmond Community Centre, Hensingham
  • Saturday 1st December, 10am - 12pm at Captain Shaw's School, Bootle.

Action to stop forced marriage

One of the unusual sights during the press coverage of this year's Conservative Party Conference was guardian columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown praising one of the policies the government announced - a crackdown on forced marriage.

It is a problem with the present arrangements to combat both forced and fake marriages that if someone - usually a vulnerable woman - is being pushed into marrying a person from abroad who they may never have met, they can only object to the visa for that person to enter the UK by signing a public objection - which may expose them, or their family if they are not the people responsible for the coercion, to additional pressure. We need to find effective ways for potential victims to raise objections in a confidential manner.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid wrote that:

'Despite excellent Government work since 2010 combating forced marriage, more needs to be done. It's a despicable, inhumane, uncivilised practice that has no place whatsoever in Britain.'

He added:

"We will be doing more to combat it and support victims. 
"Those who force British women into marriage, be warned that we are redoubling our efforts to make sure you pay for your crimes."

He has launched a package of proposed measures to crackdown on forced marriage.

A public consultation will be launched to determine whether there should be a mandatory requirement for professionals to report a forced marriage case to the authorities. The consultation will seek to identify:
  • which professionals the duty would apply to
  • the specific circumstances where a case would have to be reported
  • potential sanctions for failure to comply with the duty

Further measures announced this week to crack down on forced marriage include plans to:
  • consult on including an explicit reference to forced marriage in the immigration rules to demonstrate that forced marriage is unacceptable in the UK
  • launch a communications campaign to raise awareness of the issue
  • work with the judiciary to examine whether anonymous evidence of forced marriage can be admissible as closed evidence in the appeals process
  • consult on updated multi-agency statutory guidance on forced marriage to help ensure professionals understand forced marriage and their responsibilities

This work will be progressed over the coming months and follows previous action taken by the government to strengthen the law including the introduction of a specific criminal offence of forced marriage, lifelong anonymity for victims, and criminalising breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO).

Building more, better, safer homes

An ideological right-wing-government - such as all Conservative governments are accused, usually wrongly, of being - would only be interested in using the market to deliver more homes.

An ideological left-wing party - such as the Jeremy Corbyn Labour party - thinks that only the government or local councils can ensure that we build more homes.

A pragmatic, sensible government which wants to fix our broken housing market as part of a strategy to build a country which works for everyone, will remove the barriers preventing both the market and local councils from providing more, better, safer homes.

That's why the Conservative government is looking again at planning rules so that the market can build more homes …

And removing borrowing restrictions to make it easier for local councils to provide more homes …

And banning combustible cladding so that the horrible tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire cannot be repeated …

And putting an ombudsman in place to help protect the rights of new homeowners.

This week's statements at Conservative conference described above follow on from two important announcements last month, the first about the creation of two funds to remove barriers to housing development, and the second about extra support for housing associations to build more homes.

This government is rightly pursuing a range of policies aimed at enabling the free market, the public sector, and social market organisations to build the extra homes which Britain needs.

A fair and equal legal structure for all families

Civil Partnerships were originally introduced as a half-way house towards allowing gay people to get married and, as such, were not made available to opposite-sex couples - although from the very beginning there were always some opposite sex couples who would have liked to be able to opt for that status.

Under David Cameron equal marriage became legally available and both opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples are now able to marry.

There are still some couples who want to put their relationship onto a legal basis but don't want to call it marriage and it is only fair that this option too should be available to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

The government is now bringing this into law, providing another option for those who want to put their family onto a legally-recognised basis.

Quote of the day 5th October

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Midweek music spot: Bach's arrangement for four harpsichords of a Vivaldi concerto for four violins

Highlights of the Prime Minister's speech today



·         This was an optimistic speech: when we come together, there is no limit to what we can achieve.


·         The Prime Minister said we need to come together on Brexit, or risk no Brexit at all. We can reach a deal that delivers for the British people – who aren’t interested in debates about the theory of Brexit but need it to work in practice.


·         She said Labour has become the ‘Jeremy Corbyn Party’ – which rejects the common values that once bridged our political divide. That’s why we need to be a Party for the whole country.


·         Labour are only offering bogus solutions that will hurt the very people they claim to help.  However, the after-effects of the crash are still being felt. We should be proud of our record but not blind to the challenges ahead.


·         She identified four key challenges, and the action we need to take:


o   Some markets are not working for people and we need to fix them so they do. So as part of fixing the housing market, we will remove the cap on how much local councils can borrow to get them building homes again.


o   We need to do more to help people with the cost of living – so we will freeze fuel duty again.


o   The deficit is down and because of people’s sacrifices better days are ahead. So at the Spending Review next year, debt as a share of the economy will continue to go down, support for public services will go up. A decade after the financial crash, people need to know that the austerity it led to is over.


o   Our economy is growing but some communities have been left behind. So we need to get the whole country ready for the economic change that is coming with our Modern Industrial Strategy


·         This is a moment of opportunity. Motivated by our enduring principles of security, freedom and opportunity – we can offer the decent, moderate, patriotic government this country needs.

Coming together in the national interest

On Brexit, it is time to come together and act in the national interest. Our proposal takes back control of our borders, laws and money. It is good for jobs, good for the Union and delivers on the referendum.


But there are people in British politics who plan to hold a second referendum. They call it a ‘People’s vote’ – but we had that in 2016. This would be a ‘politicians’ vote’ – politicians telling the people they got it wrong the first time and should try again. That would do lasting damage to faith in democracy.


If we all go off in different directions in pursuit of our own visions of the perfect Brexit, we risk ending up with no Brexit at all.


The Jeremy Corbyn Party 


Labour has changed – it is now the ‘Jeremy Corbyn Party.’ The Jeremy Corbyn Party rejects the common values that once bridged our political divide. What has befallen Labour is a national tragedy. When you look at what Corbyn has done to the Labour Party it is clear it is our duty not to let him do it to our country.


A Party that works for the whole country


To do that, we must be a Party for the whole country, motivated by our enduring principles of security, freedom and opportunity.


No institution embodies those values more than our National Health Service. That is why we will give the NHS its biggest cash boost in history: an extra £394 million every week to fund a long-term plan. Part of that will go on a new Cancer Strategy to speed up diagnosis and save lives.

An economy that works for everyone


Our mission as Conservatives must be to show people that we can build an economy and country that truly work for everyone. The after-effects of the 2008 crash are still being felt. Labour’s response to these legitimate concerns are bogus solutions that would hurt the people they claim to help.


We should be proud of our record but not blind to the challenges that remain. There are four key challenges we need to address to build an economy that works for everyone:


1.      Some markets are still not working in the interests of ordinary people


The Prime Minister thanked everyone who has started a business and offered someone a job – an act of public service as noble as any other. We believe in business and will always back them. But where markets don’t work for people we will fix them.


That’s why we are giving workers a stronger voice in the boardroom, giving people stronger rights in the gig economy, and capped rip off energy bills.


Where consumer markets are charging their customers a loyalty penalty – we will take action. We have announced a fundamental review of the railways.


We cannot make the case for capitalism if ordinary working people have no chance of owning capital. So as part of fixing the housing market, we will remove the cap on how much local councils can borrow against their assets to get them building again.


2.      Employment is up, but too many people haven’t had a decent pay rise


To help people with the cost of living, we have introduced a National Living Wage, cut income tax, extended free childcare.


We will now freeze fuel duty again – because for millions of people a car is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.


3.      The deficit is down, but achieving that has been painful


Our national debt is beginning its first sustained fall for a generation – but this wasn’t easy for people.


Because of the British people’s sacrifices, there are better days ahead. So, when we’ve secured a good Brexit deal for Britain, at the Spending Review next year we will set out our approach for the future. Debt as a share of the economy will go down and support for public services will go up.


A decade after the financial crash, people need to know that the austerity it caused is over, and that their hard work has paid off.


4.      And our economy is growing, but some communities have been left behind


At times of change in the past the benefits have not been evenly spread. Our Modern Industrial Strategy will help the whole country get ready for the economic change that is coming.


That is why we are increasing public investment, driving up research funding, investing in our workforce and keeping standards high in school.


A moment of opportunity


This is a moment of opportunity to reach out to the millions of working people who are ready for a Conservative Party that puts their interests first. When we come together, there is no limit to what we can achieve. Our future is in our hands.


Announcements in the speech


·         In the Budget later this month, the chancellor will freeze fuel duty again – money in the pockets of hard-working people from a Conservative Government that is on their side.


·         A new Cancer Strategy as part of our long-term plan for the NHS, speeding up diagnosis and saving lives.


·         We will scrap the cap on how much local authorities can borrow against their assets to fund new developments, getting them building again.