Showing posts from June, 2007


In yesterday's Guardian, Lib/Dem MP David Laws wrote of the "intellectual opportunism and vacuity of David Cameron's Conservative party" (sic). This from the party that argues in South West England that trident submarines should be refitted in Plymouth, in Scotland that they should be refitted in Rosyth, in Cumbria that they should be built in Barrow, and who voted in Westminster that we should not have trident submarines at all. For a member of the Liberal Democrats to accuse anyone else of either vacuity or opportunism, intellectual or otherwise, must be one of the most extreme examples of the pot calling the kettle black. So Mr Laws is obviously my first nomination for the 2007 "Pot calling the kettle black" award. Would anyone like to make any other nominations?

On Copeland Council's response to the Unitary Cumbria consultation

Following on from yesterday's post I want to clarify one point about the Copeland response to the government consultation on new council structures, and particularly about how the Conservative members of the council voted on the motion. The Conservative Group had a free vote on this issue. Some members of Copeland Borough Council who are also members of Cumbria County council, both Labour and Conservative, decided that they should not attend the Copeland meeting or should abstain. The motion presented to the Copeland special meeting had three parts. It endorsed a response which had been drafted by Copeland and other district/Borough councils in Cumbria, suggested that if the Unitary Cumbria proposals do not go forward, that an alternative model drafted by the "Better Government f0r Cumbria" group should form the basis of discussions for an alternative, and delegated authority for preparation of a covering letter from Copeland. This presented my Conservative colleagues on

Why I don't support a Unitary Cumbria

The government's consultation on the proposal to replace all the County and District councils in Cumbria with one unitary authority closes today. This was my submission, explaining why I do not support the proposal. Statement of Opposition to the proposals for one Unitary council in Cumbria I am writing in response to the consultation on new Local Government Structures to oppose the proposal from Cumbria County Council for one unitary council covering the whole of Cumbria. I believe that Cumbria is far too large and disparate an area for any one council to adequately serve the needs of the area. Cumbria is physically larger than many "sub regions." Such a council cannot realistically be considered "local" in any meaningful sense. The government has set out five criteria against which bids for new local structures should be judged: Affordability Strategic Leadership Neighbourhood Engagement Cross Section of Support Service

Plus Ca Change

Just found some old copies of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, saved by my parents, from the day of Winston Churchill's funeral 40 years ago, and the following day. Naturally there was acres of text about the funeral and about Churchill's legacy - which certainly puts that of Tony Blair, such as it is, into perspective. But the most interesting thing was how familiar some of the other headlines were. "Health Service in Crisis" - with doctors and nurses complaining about the mess a Labour government was making of running the NHS. An item about the (then) new corporation tax - with suggestions about how "Advance Corporation Tax" on dividends would work. Of course, the question of whether pension funds should pay such a tax is currently a live issue. The last Conservative government's strategy to build up pension funds, which was so successful that in 1997 Britain had more money in occupation pension funds than the rest of Europe put together, included such

David Cameron on security and opportunity

David Cameron gave a keynote speech in Tooting this afternoon which lays out the principles on which the Conservatives believe this country should move forward and on which we will fight the coming election campaign. The central message of his speech was summarised in the following two paragraphs “We’ve prepared the ground by moving to the centre. We’ve laid the foundations with our big idea, social responsibility. And now, with our Policy Groups set to publish their reports, we can move forward to the next stage – showing what we will build for Britain. “This is my vision. A Britain that combines collective security with individual opportunity. A Britain that achieves these things through social responsibility, not state control. And a Britain where a strong society gives everyone the chance to shape their own life, making the most of all that this amazing country, in this amazing century, has to offer. Our Society. Your Life.” I think the speech was important enough to be wort

Whitehaven Maritime Festival a great success

I'd like to congratulate everyone associated with the Whitehaven Maritime Festival 2007 for putting on a truly fantastic event. From the "Grand Turk", a replica of an 18th century ship-rigged sixth rate 22-gun sailing warship, to the Red Arrows and the other aircraft which represented a more modern era, they put on a great display hich was enjoyed by enormous crowds. I gather the final estimates of attendance have not yet been finalised, but the town was full for three days. A truly great Festival and a credit to everyone who contributed.

Maritime Festival

Have been around the Whitehaven Maritime Festival with my family this weekend. The weather has not been brilliant, but nevertheless it has been a superb event. If you have a chance to get to Whitehaven harbour today before the Festival ends, I can srongly recommend it.

Buyer Beware: some Digital Recorders won't work in Copeland

Be warned if you live in Copeland and are thinking of buying any TV or recording equipment. Before you spend your hard earned money, make sure you take advice, from someone who really knows what they are talking about, concerning how the Digital switchover in October will affect your new kit. In four months time, the Whitehaven TV area - which includes most of Copeland Borough - will be the first part of the country where the TV signal goes digital and the existing analogue signal will be switched off. If your TV gets its signal from the Bigrigg transmitter or one of those which rebroadcast the same signal, you will lose the Analogue BBC2 service on 17th October. There will be a month for people to check that they have digital kit that works for the new BBC2 signal, and then the other channels will switch over. A large area around Millom in the south of Copeland, the St Bees area, and an area around Lowca (including part of Bransty ward) get their TV signal from other transmitters whic

Maritime Festival

The organisers of the Whitehaven Maritime Festival have a magnificent programme of events planned for today and the coming weekend. The weather is not co-operating today so far, but is expected to improve later. If you have the opportunity to come and see any of the events planned over the next three days I can strongly recommend them

Millom and Keswick Job Centres under threat.

This evening I attended the Community Forum in Millom (at Haverigg Cricket Club) and the agenda included the possible closure of Millom Job Centre. The possibility was described as disastrous by a former Job Centre worker, who stated that there were over 100 people registered with Millom Job Centre and it would be very difficult for these people to get to Barrow to sign on. For those over 25 it would cost them 3% of their jobseekers allowance income to travel to Barrow weekly, and for those under 25 it would be 5% of their income. Millom is one of five Job Centres under threat in Cumbria; Keswick is one of the others. Proposals to close these centres are currently the subject of consultations with various official bodies such as the County Council. However arrangements to consult the public or actual users of the service are rudimentary to say the least. One of my colleagues from the Council commented that it was ironic that the Department of Employment is proposing to add to the joble

On Tax Cuts

I picked the piece below up from Iain Dale, who got it from Sarkis Zeronian. It is worth remembering what happened when Maggie Thatcher cut the top rate of tax in this country from 98 pence in the pound to 40 pence in the pound. A few years later a Labour MP tabled a parliamentary question asking how much this had reduced the proportion of tax paid by the wealthiest 1% of the population. The answer must have given the minister who wrote it more satisfaction than any other parliamentary question in history - in fact the effect was to INCREASE both the absolute amount, and the proportion, of tax paid by the wealthiest people. Because it was no longer necessary for them to send so much of their wealth abroad or employ clever accounting tricks to minimise their income in order to keep more than a tiny proportion of what they were paid, the richest people declared much higher incomes, and actually paid more tax than before. In other words, if tax rates are ridiculously high, as they were in

Parliamentary debate: future of local government in Cumbria

Yesterday in Parliament something quite unusual happened: a debate in which four MPs from Cumbria of three different parties all agreed. Conservative, Labour, and Lib/Dem MPs representing Cumbria came together in an adjournment debate to explain why they oppose the proposal for one unitary council for Cumbria. I found their comments very interesting so I am posting the record from Hansard of the debate in full, as follows. Local Government (Cumbria) Eric Martlew (Carlisle, Labour) This is an unusual debate to the extent that if they can catch your eye, Sir John, four of the Cumbrian Members of Parliament will speak in the debate. Two Cumbrian MPs will not be speaking, not because they do not wish to, but because they are Ministers and so are unable to do so today. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton) has sent his apologies and my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham), who is a Government Whip, is present, but unable to speak. That is

Grammar Schools

Existing Grammar schools are doing a superb job: there is not, and never has been, any criticism from the Conservative Party of the contribution of existing Grammar Schools. There is no possibility whatsoever that a Conservative government would close, limit, or in any way attack the 164 grammar schools which still exist. As David Willetts said in his speech which started the recent controversy: ‘For those children from modest backgrounds who do get to grammar schools the benefits are enormous. And we will not get rid of those grammar schools that remain." However, any party which aspires to govern our country in the 21st century needs to address the needs of today's children and tomorrow's children in all the thousands of schools in the country, not just those who have a chance to attend one of fewer than 200 schools. School Education in this country is a matter for local democratic choice - and after far too many powers and choices have been taken away from local communi

David Cameron on Nuclear Power

I recently raised the issue of nuclear power with in a conversation with Conservative party leader David Cameron. Nuclear power is important both to the country as our largest source of low-carbon electricity and to West Cumbria where about 17,000 jobs depend directly or indirectly on the civil nuclear industry. David Cameron confirmed that the Conservative Party supports a balanced energy policy in which our aim is to create a level playing field, but crucially one that gives green energy a chance. He dismissed suggestions that the Conservatives are anti-nuclear, saying that nuclear power would have to bear its own costs but under a Conservative Government would compete on a level playing field with other established low-carbon energy technology. He added that, for all Tony Blair's rhetoric, his policies contain nothing that will make nuclear happen. I welcomed David Cameron's positive and constructive comments about the future of the nuclear industry.

Energy White Paper

There is much that is good and much that is deeply disappointing in the Energy White Paper. I welcome the positive noises about nuclear energy. But as both David Cameron and Alan Duncan have pointed out, there is nothing that the government has said which has guaranteed the construction of a single new Nuclear Power station. For there to be any chance of a private sector investor deciding to put their own money into a new Nuclear installation, they have to have a clear idea of the long term framework, including decomissioning, under which it will operate. That requires a cross-party political consensus. Nobody is going to spend millions on a new plant without an assurance that it will not be cancelled after the next election, nor the goalposts moved in a way which makes it uneconomic. Which makes it sad that every time there is a nuclear debate in the Commons, the MP for Copeland uses the opportunity to score cheap and silly party political points. He would serve the interests of his c