Monday, November 28, 2022

A deeply alarming statement from the CPS

According to a deeply alarming report in The Daily Sceptic, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has given a written statement in a court case which appears to suggest that it is now illegal to quote certain passages in the bible in public - and "offensive" and illegal to advocate a policy (the death penalty) which used to have overwhelming support and still polls over 40%.

During a case brought against an individual who was accused of threatening and offensive behaviour - and I think it is impossible to make any fair and informed judgement about the merits of the case against him in general as the case was dropped because it proved impossible to contact the individuals who had complained about him - the CPS is reported to have made a statement to the court, in writing, which includes the following:

“Whether a statement of Christian belief or not, the court is being asked to consider whether the language has the potential to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

“This document is not the forum for religious debate, but the bible contains other material recognising slavery (Exodus 21:7), the death sentence (Exodus 35:2 and Leviticus 24:16) and cannibalism (Deuteronomy 28:27).

“There are references in the bible which are simply no longer appropriate in modern society and which would be deemed offensive if stated in public.”

I certainly don't think that some of the things in the passages referred to would be accepted by most Christians or Jews as reflecting modern Christianity or Judaism today. These are historical statements of what was Hebrew doctrine more than 2,500 years ago.

But we are setting ourselves down an extremely dangerous and slippery slope if we suggest that quoting from these ancient documents in public is offensive and illegal. For a start, even if you don't agree with the passages cited, theologians and historians would need to be able to quote them to explain how and why they are no longer relevant and how the religions concerned have moved on.

Shouting something threatening at another individual may well be illegal, regardless of what you are shouting, and that could include a passage from a holy book. But it is the fact that you are shouting threats at someone which may be illegal, not the book you might or might not be quoting from.

Someone who quotes from a book in a manner designed to whip up hatred may well be charged with incitement to violence or other offences. Someone who gives a lecture calmly analysing the same work should have their right to free speech protected. 

Millions of people do believe in things which the CPS seems to be suggesting it is illegal to argue for in public. The latest YouGov polls on the subject suggest that about 40% of British voters support the death penalty - rising to much higher figures (and sometimes a majority) if you start asking whether it should be applied for specific and particularly horrible types of murder such as killing children.  

Are the CPS seriously suggesting that the British legal system will criminalise the expression of views which millions of people support?

And there will be the most terrible trouble if you start making criminals of people for quoting the holy books of major religions. I have met a fair number of individuals who believe that every word in the bible (particularly the King James Bible) is the literal word of God. 

There are millions of Jews who think the same thing of the Torah and hundreds of millions of Muslims who would say the same of the Qu'ran. 

Most of these people do not go around being offensive, shouting at gay people in the streets, or otherwise threatening or attacking others.

But if you start telling them that they cannot quote passages from their holy books in public, they won't just be deeply offended. They will feel threatened, and they will feel persecuted.

I cannot begin to express how dangerous I think this is. It's going to generate fear, and in the words of a fictional leader of a religion which doesn't exist.

"Fear leads to Anger

Anger leads to Hate

Hate leads to suffering."

I hope the Ministry of Justice will pull the CPS in over this and get a clarification issued that the CPS statement in this case does not reflect the law.

We will insulate Britain - without blocking roads

Today the Conservative government is launching a new £1 billion ECO+ scheme to insulate hundreds of thousands of homes, alongside plans to help households reduce their energy consumption – saving families hundreds of pounds every year.

  • While the government's extensive energy support package is insulating people from the worst of global energy price rises caused by the war in Ukraine, we also want to help people to permanently cut their costs by reducing consumption.
  • That is why the Conservative giovernment is today launching a £1 billion ECO+ scheme, which will see hundreds of thousands of the least energy efficient homes across the country receive new home insulation – as well as extending our Help to Households campaign to help people reduce their energy bills while keeping warm.
  • We are protecting families in the short term with our energy support and help to reduce bills – and helping them in the long terms by insulating tens of thousands of homes, protecting the pounds in their pockets, and creating jobs across the country.

Quote of the day 28th November 2022

"When truth becomes subjective, nothing can be falsified.

"When we lose a common sense of rality, we become marooned on solipsistic islands, shouting across the barricades of our own, induitable experiences.

"Descartes argued that we can never be certain of anything beyond our own subjective selves. I always felt greater sympathy with Wittgenstein, who argued that language, science and truth can emerge only when we transcend the self and connect meaningfully with others.

This is what ultimately led to the rise of Western civilisation."


(Matthew Syed, from the conclusion of an article in yesterday's Sunday Times, "As we inwardly curate our cosy truths, there’s a world outside in trouble.")

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Latest MoD Intelligence summaries of the military position in Ukraine

MoD Intelligence summaries for this weekend.


 

















MoD - there are no plans to house asylum seekers in defence accomodation

The Ministry of Defence has tweeted the following:

"Following inaccurate reporting from Sunday Express this evening, we can confirm there are no plans to house asylum seekers in Defence accommodation."

They added

"As has been previously made public, 550 military homes are set aside to accommodate individuals who have relocated to the UK on the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme."

(And obviously, under that scheme Britain has given refuge to people who had helped or worked for the British armed forces, and whose lives were in danger in Afghanistan for exactly that reason. These individuals and families are not "asylum seekers," they are people to whom Britain has already given refuge because we owe them a responsibility to keep them safe.)


Rishi Sunak & Volodymyr Zelenskyy: We believe in freedom

Do Brits really want to rejoin the EU?

After a lot of consideration and agonising, I voted Remain in the EU referendum. If I were sent back to 2016 knowing what I know now, there would be no need for consideration: I would campaign with every particle of effort for Remain. 

The three reasons for a Remain vote which I concluded were stronger than the arguments for Leave, which were 

1) the extreme likelihood of damaging our relations with our neighbours and allies at a time when we need them to be as strong as possible, 

2) the likelihood of putting up trade barriers with our main trading partners which I thought would do - and clearly is doing - damage which would outweigh the genuine economic advantages of not being bound by EU rules, and 

3) the impossibility of finding a fully satisfactory solution to the Irish border issue which does not involve barriers either between the two parts of the island of Ireland, or within the UK between the mainland and Northern Ireland 

have all clearly been vindicated.

However, this isn't 2016, it is 2022. The people voted for Brexit, and it has happened. The hit to our relations with our allies has already taken place and trying to rejoin the EU won't undo it - if anything it might make matters worse by making Britain look like a country which cannot make its' mind up. 

I'm not convinced the EU would want us back - it would only take one EU member to veto our membership and it is extremely likely that someone would. And if the EU was willing to let Britain rejoin, they would never offer the terms we had before - we wouldn't get the budget rebate Mrs Thatcher negotiated, or the opt-out from the Euro John Major negotiated at Maastricht, or any of the other special rules we had gradually obtained in forty years of tough negotiations.

We've made our decision, as a country, and need to move forward and make the best of the situation as it exists today, not based on what might have happened if we had voted differently in 2016. That might well include negotiating better arrangements with the EU from outside but I don't believe rejoining the EU any time in the next twenty years is a realistic option.

And although headline opinion poll figures might suggest that there is support from a majority of the electorate for trying to rejoin the EU, dig into the evidence and it looks like that support melts away when you start to consider the terms. Here is an extract from an editor's letter on the subject in The Independent which makes this argument:


  











Advent Sunday music spot: Bach's "Wake, O Wake!"

Trinty Cambridge seem to have been trying to set a world speed record for the fastest ever performance of this Bach classic, but I love the cheerful and upbeat way they sang it!

Quote of the day for Advent Sunday


 

Happy New Year

Today is Advent Sunday, the first day of the Christian Church's year.

It is also the start of Advent, the season leading towards Christmas, so those shops and individuals who already have Christmas decorations up are no longer officially jumping the gun, although the church operates on the basis of a gradual build-up to Christmas and doesn't attempt to operate a full-on round of carols, cribs and Christingles for the full four weeks of Advent.

I will post a Christmas message later in the month as we move from the season of Advent to that of Christmas, but I hope everyone reading this has time and opportunity to make ready to make the most of the season, whether it is just a holiday to you, an opportunity to be with those you love, or whether you celebrate Christmas as the festival of the birth of the baby Jesus.



Saturday, November 26, 2022

Saturday music spot: Mozart's Flute and Harp Concerto K299.

Action against "Deepfakes" and online sexual harrassment

This week the government brought forward legislation to better protect victims from abusers who share intimate images, strengthening protections for women and girls.  

  • It is unacceptable that women and girls can be harassed by online publication or sharing of intimate images which are or purport to be of themselves and which they did not consent to being used in this way. It is absolutely right that this Government acts to protect them against this appalling behaviour.
  • That is why the government is bringing forward legislation to criminalise sharing ‘downblouse’ images and explicit images or videos which have been manipulated to look like someone without their consent, giving police greater powers to bring perpetrators to justice.
  • Conservatives are committed to better protecting women and girls from such abuse and this legislation will ensure those responsible for these vile crimes are held to account and face potential time behind bars.

More Doctors and Nurses


 















These NHS Digital figures show the net year-on year increase in the total numbers of doctors and nurses actually in post in NHS hospitals in England. Staffing numbers in Scotland and Wales are determined by the Scottish government and the Welsh administration respectively. You can find more details of the source of these numbers and how they are defined on the government website by clicking on the link below.

Record numbers of NHS doctors and nurses - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Here in the North-West there are 422 more doctors and 1807 more nurses working in our NHS than a year ago.


Quote of the day 26th November 2022

"We will endure."

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, in an interview with BBC journalist Lyse Doucet which you can watch on BBC iplayer or read about on the BBC website here.

The first lady also said

"We all understand that without victory, there will be no peace. It would be a false peace and wouldn't last long."

Friday, November 25, 2022

Latest MoD Defence intelligence summary on the war in Ukraine 25th November 2022


 

A boost for Britain's fishermen

Today the government announced a £20 million funding boost for our fishing industry, upgrading infrastructure and building a resilient sector for the future. 

  • Britain's world-class fishing and seafood sectors make a valuable contribution to our economy – but we must continue to ensure these excellent schemes have the financial backing to succeed. 
  • That is why we are backing them with a £20 million funding boost through the UK Seafood Fund to modernise infrastructure across the sector, including upgrading facilities for popular British fish like Scottish salmon and Cornish sardines alongside money to bring aging docks back to life.
  • This funding boost comes as a further £30 million has been made available today, ensuring seafood businesses throughout the supply-chain are well-equipped to keep pace with increasing demand at home and abroad. 

Music to start the weekend: "Hark, all ye lovely saints above" (Thomas Weelkes)

Britain to provide Ukraine with 24 ambulances

The foreign secretary has announced that the UK will send 24 ambulances to Ukraine, while on a visit to the country.

James Cleverly travelled to the capital Kyiv on Thursday and is set to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. His visit comes a few days after Rishi Sunak also made a visit to the city, his first since becoming prime minister.

Mr Cleverly said the UK stands "shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine" and that Russia's attack "will fail".

As well as ambulances, a further 11 emergency vehicles, including six armoured vehicles, will be part of the emergency package.

It will include £3m in funding to help with the rebuilding of infrastructure, such as schools and shelters, that has been destroyed since the start of the war.

Quote of the day 25th November 2022

"All rights are equal but some rights are more equal than others.  FIFA and the Qatar authorities are justly under fire for restrictions on LGBT rights and their treatment of migrant labourers.  But nothing is said about the abuse of rights to religious freedom, a world-wide problem, as well as one local to Qatar and other Gulf states, 

"Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights spells out what the right to religious freedom — violated around the world — means in detail.  

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

"Worldwide harassment and persecution of people because of their faith, from verbal abuse and hate speech, to arson and murder, is rising steadily."

Extracts from an article by Ian Linden about violations of religious freedom around the world, against people of every possible religious leaning and from almost every political or religious direction. You can read the article in full by clicking on the link below:

Freedom of religion: touchstone of human rights | TheArticle

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Record numbers of doctors and nurses now working in the NHS

Figures released today show a record number of doctors and nurses now working in our NHS.

  • The latest data published by NHS Digital up to September shows there are almost 4,000 more doctors and over 9,300 more nurses working in the NHS compared to September 2021.
  • Here in the North West the NHS now has 422 more doctors and 1807 more nurses.
  • There are also 4,000 new GP trainees and 21,000 more primary care staff

This puts the Government on track to deliver on the commitment for 50,000 more nurses by 2024, (part of which was to be delivered by extra recruitment of 32,000 and the remainder by improved retention) with over 32,000 more nurses working in NHS hospitals and in general practice compared with 2019.

A record number of doctors and nurses are working in the NHS in England, delivering extra appointments, speeding up diagnoses and helping to tackle the COVID backlog.

There are almost 1.24 million full-time equivalent staff working in NHS trusts and commissioning bodies in England – over 34,000 more people compared to a year ago, up by nearly 3%.

Since 2010, there are now over 34,170 more doctors and over 44,820 more nurses working in the NHS.

This follows news that 4,000 new trainee doctors have accepted GP training placements – hitting the government’s target for GP specialty trainee recruitment for the fifth year running – according to the latest figures from Health Education England.

There are also now more than 21,000 more primary care staff supporting patients – including nurses and pharmacists – since September 2019 and the government is on track to meet its target of 26,000 additional primary care staff by March 2024.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

"Supporting the workforce is one of my immediate priorities and we are making significant progress in training and recruiting a record number of nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals. There are almost 4,000 more doctors and over 9,000 more nurses in the NHS than last year.

I want to thank all our brilliant NHS staff who work tirelessly to look after us and our loved ones and continue to inspire future generations to join this rewarding career.

We’re building a stronger, healthier NHS for the long-term to give people the security of knowing that it will be there for them when they need it."

The government remains on track to deliver on its commitment to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024, with over 32,000 more nurses in September 2022 compared with September 2019.

In the Autumn Statement the government committed to publishing a comprehensive workforce strategy next year to recruit and retain more staff, with independently verified forecasts for the number of doctors, nurses and other professionals that will be needed in 5, 10 and 15 years’ time.

This will mean more patients will be able to access the services they need, when they need it.

More help for Ukraine

It has been announced that Britain is providing Ukraine with helicopters and 10,000 artillery rounds, helping them secure the land they have reclaimed from Russia.

  • Ukraine’s remarkable victory in Kherson city – the largest city taken by Russia since the invasion – shows that they can and will win this war with our support.
  • That is why yesterday the UK government announced that we are sending three former British military Sea King helicopters to Ukraine to provide search and rescue capabilities – as well as 10,000 additional artillery rounds, on top of the £50 million package of anti-aircraft weaponry the Prime Minister announced on the weekend.
  • The UK and our allies will continue to stand with Ukraine, as it fights to end this barbarous war and deliver a just peace.

Publishing GP appointment waiting time information

From today, the government will publish data on GP appointment waiting times, allowing patients to make informed choices about which GP practice they choose to visit to improve patient care.

  • Everyone should be able to make informed choices about their care and get an appointment with their GP when they need one.
  • That is why the government will now publish practice-level data on GP appointments, showing the length of wait for GP appointments and how many appointments each GP practice delivers to increase patient choice – this comes alongside our plan to offer a million additional appointments this winter and 31,000 extra phone lines.
  • These changes will help towards the objective of enabling everyone to get an appointment within two weeks with urgent appointments on the same day, giving patients the care they deserve.

Helping pensioners with the cost of living

From this week millions of pensioners will begin to receive Winter Fuel Payments boosted by £300, supporting vulnerable households with their energy bills this winter.

As Britain faces global cost of living pressures and rising energy prices, the Conservative government is standing by the most vulnerable in our society – including pensioner and low-income households. 

That is why from this week more than 11 million pensioners will automatically receive their regular Winter Fuel Payment, boosted by an extra £300 this year meaning some pensioner households will receive £600 on top of existing support. 

These extra payments will land automatically and are just one part of the wider £49 billion support package we are delivering – including the £400 to every household to help with rising bills. 



Quote of the day 24th November 2022

"This 'Scotland's democracy movement' title is straight out of the Trump playbook"

Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, responds on Twitter to the SNP's branding of their attempt to reverse the result of Scotland's 2014 referendum vote as the "Scottish democracy movement" and to label those who, according to opinion polls, agree with the majority of Scots on whether there should be another independence referendum on 31st October 2023 as "democracy deniers." 

  

Action to protect tenants

Today, the government is taking action to strip a failing social housing provider of new government funding and providing £14 million to enforce standards in privately rented accommodation, as we crack down on poor accommodation so that everyone has a home fit to inhabit.

  • The government will not hesitate to act to crackdown on failing housing providers like Rochdale Boroughwide Housing which failed to treat hazardous mould leading to the tragic death of Awaab Ishak.
  • That is why today, the government is stripping Rochdale Boroughwide Housing of new government funding until it can prove that it is a responsible landlord – and are also announcing we will block any housing provider that breaches consumer standards from getting more government funding. 
  • The government is also awarding a share of £14 million for seven areas with large numbers of privately rented homes to crack down on rogue landlords and test new approaches to driving up standards – including plans to trial fining landlords who commit offences.
  • Everyone deserves the right to live in safe, decent home and Conservatives will always act to protect tenants by cracking down on housing providers who are ignoring complaints and failing in their obligations to tenants.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Midweek music spot: Vivaldi's Cello Concerto in D Minor RV 407

Winter Fuel Payments

From today millions of pensioners will begin to receive Winter Fuel Payments boosted by £300 and a million people on tax credits will begin to receive their second cost of living payment, supporting vulnerable households with their energy bills this winter.

  • As Britain and the world face global cost of living pressures and rising energy prices, Conservatives are standing by the most vulnerable in our society – including pensioner and low-income households. 
  • That is why from today more than 11 million pensioners will automatically receive their regular Winter Fuel Payment, boosted by an extra £300 this year meaning some pensioner households will receive £600 on top of existing support. A million people on tax credits can also expect to see their second cost of living payment of £324 arrive in their bank accounts over the next week.
  • These extra payments will land automatically and are just one part of the wider £49 billion support package we are delivering – including the £400 to every household to help with rising bills. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Co-operation between Britain and South Africa

Today saw the launch of the next phase of the UK-South Africa Infrastructure Partnership as we welcome President Ramaphosa’s State Visit, helping to create jobs, boost trade, and spread prosperity in both our nations.

South Africa is already the UK’s biggest trading partner on the continent of Africa, but there is considerable opportunity to benefit both countries if we can turbocharge infrastructure investment and economic growth for the benefit of both our countries.

  • That is why today – to mark the start of President Ramaphosa’s State Visit - the UK and South Aftican governments announced the launch of the next phase of the UK-South Africa Infrastructure Partnership, which will support major infrastructure developments in South Africa while offering access to UK companies to projects worth up to £5.37 billion over the next three years.
  • This programme will help to create jobs, enhance trade and investment, and boost economic growth in both the UK and South Africa.

November meeting of Cumbria's Local Committee for Copeland

I attended the November meeting of Cumbria County Council's local committee for Copeland this morning at Cleator Moor town hall and masonic centre.

The main decision on the agenda was to confirm the traffic orders for various parts of Copeland which have been the subject of extensive public consultation over the last few months. So, for example. it has now been formally confirmed that the waiting limits which previously limiting parking on a substantial part of Main Street, Saint Bees, which local residents told us they would like scrapped, will be - although some new double yellow lines will be applied to stop people parking at the junction of Main Street and Sea Mill Lane in ways which are a dangerous obstruction to access and sight lines. 

Other changes which add extra parking restrictions where they are needed, and remove some others which are not, have been agreed in many parts of Copeland from Millom to Egremont and from Arlecdon to Cleator Moor.

The meeting also had presentations on the West Cumbria Community Forest project, from the Together We mental health support service, on Parking services and on Fibre Broadband deployment (Obviously, as an Openreach employee I declared an interest on that one.)

You can find the full agenda and supporting papers on the Cumbria County Council website by clicking on the link below:

Agenda for County Council Local Committee for Copeland on Tuesday, 22nd November, 2022, 10.15 am | Cumbria County Council

Monday, November 21, 2022

Improving Housing

Over the weekend, the Levelling Up Secretary wrote to social housing providers to tell them they must improve housing conditions. Michael Gove also wrote to all councils directing them to pay particular attention to damp and mould issues in homes of all kinds of tenure. 

  • Where people complain about damp and mould, their landlord must take prompt action to keep tenants safe.
  • That is why the government is putting housing providers on notice to prioritise the improvement of housing conditions and directing all councils across England to urgently assess housing conditions for tenants in their area, looking at damp and mould, and enforcement action being taken.
  • Everyone has the right to feel safe in their homes, we will hold housing providers to account and the death of a child like Awaab Ishak must never be allowed to happen again.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Dealing with terrorists

The government has announced longer prison sentences for terrorists who commit further offences in prison, protecting the public and keeping our streets safe.

  • Terrorist offenders pose a grave risk to public safety and they must face the full consequences of their actions – whether they break the law on the street or behind bars.
  • That is why all terrorist offenders who commit further crimes in jail – however minor - will be automatically referred within a week for a police investigation and potential prosecution. Breaches in behaviour by those linked to terror will face the full scrutiny of counter-terrorism authorities.
  • Those who remain a threat will be kept behind bars for as long as possible, keeping our communities safer, for longer, from those unwilling to change their ways.


Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, said:

"Terrorist offenders pose a grave risk to public safety and they must face the full consequences of their actions – whether on the street or behind bars.

This important change means any transgression will come with the prospect of significantly more prison time and keep our communities safer, for longer, from those unwilling to change their ways."


Head of Counter Terrorism Policing, Matt Jukes, said:

"Our core mission at Counter Terrorism Policing is keeping the public and our communities safe from the enduring and evolving terrorist threat.

This agreement demonstrates that our efforts to mitigate that threat, and protect our national security, are far-reaching and rely on collaboration with our partners."

Sunday Music spot: "Locus Iste" by Anton Bruckner

Saturday, November 19, 2022

RIshi in Kyiv

Today the Prime Minister made his first visit to meet with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv, announcing a major new package of air defence to help protect Ukrainian civilians and critical national infrastructure from Russia’s brutal bombardment.

  • While Ukraine’s armed forces are succeeding in pushing back Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion forces on the ground, Ukrainian civilians and critical national infrastructure are being intensely bombarded by Russian air strikes.
  • So Britain has announced a £50 million package of defence aid, including 125 anti-aircraft guns, and technology to counter deadly Iranian-supplied drones, with dozens of radars and anti-drone electronic warfare equipment, alongside £12 million for the World Food Programme and £4 million for the International Organisation for Migration, providing generators, shelter, water repairs and mobile health clinics.
  • The UK and our allies will continue to stand with Ukraine, as it fights to end this barbarous war and deliver a just peace.



In Kyiv, the Prime Minister laid flowers at a memorial for the war dead and lit a candle at a memorial for victims of the Holodomor famine, before meeting first responders at a fire station.

The team of emergency responders described their harrowing work rescuing survivors from the rubble and fighting fires in the aftermath of Russian airstrikes and mortar attacks. He also saw captured Iranian-made drones which have been used to target and bomb civilians in recent months.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

"I am proud of how the UK stood with Ukraine from the very beginning. And I am here today to say the UK and our allies will continue to stand with Ukraine, as it fights to end this barbarous war and deliver a just peace.

While Ukraine’s armed forces succeed in pushing back Russian forces on the ground, civilians are being brutally bombarded from the air. We are today providing new air defence, including anti-aircraft guns, radar and anti-drone equipment, and stepping up humanitarian support for the cold, hard winter ahead.

It is deeply humbling to be in Kyiv today and to have the opportunity to meet those who are doing so much, and paying so high a price, to defend the principles of sovereignty and democracy."

Music to relax after campaigning: Vivaldi's Concerto in D Minor for two violins & cello RV 565

I was out in the Chester today to support Liz Laidlaw, the Cheshire nurse who is the Conservative candidate in the City of Chester by-election on 1st December. 

Liz is an excellent candidate and her team are working hard in the election as she will work hard for Chester if elected. 

We were getting a friendly response on the doorstep. 

And for all who have been out campaigning, here is something to relax to: Vivaldi's Concerto in D Minor for two violins & cello.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Report on the G20 summit

Yesterday the Prime Minister provided an update on the G20 summit in Indonesia, as Britain stands up for the principles of sovereignty and self-determination and build a global economy that is more secure, stable and resilient.

  • By turning off the gas taps and choking off the Ukrainian grain supply Russia has severely disrupted global food and energy markets – creating economic shockwaves that will ripple around the world for years to come.
  • That is why Britain is working closely with the G7, our NATO counterparts, and our allies in the G20, to redouble our support for Ukraine and continue deepening our cooperation on energy security and managing the challenges posed by Russia and China – by being strong abroad, we strengthen our resilience at home.
  • With our international partners, we have a shared determination to restore stability, deliver long-term growth and drive a better future, one where no single country has the power to hold us back.

The Autumn Statement

Yesterday the Chancellor set out our plan to restore stability and tackle inflation in the Autumn Statement, while protecting public services, helping the most vulnerable with the cost of living, and investing to boost growth.

High inflation and slow growth are affecting economies everywhere due to the after effects of the pandemic and Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine. To achieve long-term, sustainable growth we need to grip inflation, balance the books, and get debt falling.

That is why our plan to restore stability and tackle inflation is fair and involves an equal split between tax rises and spending cuts, while protecting public services with an extra £11 billion for the NHS and schools, helping the most vulnerable with the cost of living, and investing to boost growth.

To protect the most vulnerable the chancellor has increased the national living wage, kept the "triple lock" on the state pension, uprated benefits in line with inflation, and ensured that cost of living energy payments for those on the lowest incomes will continue after April.

This is a plan that helps first the most vulnerable and also everyone else by restoring economic stability, tackling inflation, reducing Government debt, and getting borrowing down to manageable levels.



Quote of the day 18th November 2022


 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Quote of the day 17th November 2022

"No budget or other financial speech has ever been so comprehensively trailed as the Autumn Statement delivered by Jeremy Hunt today. 

"So the main surprises were not about the measures but, rather, the man. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is as always understated, but this time he was so brisk, so lucid, so clearly the master of his brief, that it took an effort to recall that he was only summoned from semi-retirement on the backbenches just over a month ago. 

"The woman who appointed him, Liz Truss, may have damaged her own reputation beyond repair, but she did her party and the country an invaluable service by rehabilitating Mr Hunt. He exudes the confidence that the financial world craved and the markets have duly rewarded him by easing the pressure on sterling, gilts and interest rates. 

"Today’s statement, billed as a kind of fiscal Iron Maiden to squeeze the lifeblood out of the economy, caused barely a ripple. That is a measure of the Chancellor’s success in reassuring anyone still wondering whether Treasury orthodoxy was back in control."


(Daniel Johnson, opening words of a political and economic assessment of today's statement which you can read on The Article by clicking here.)

Restoring economic stability, tackling inflation, keeping the triple lock

Today in the Autumn Statement the Chancellor set out tough but fair decisions to restore economic stability and tackle inflation. Inflation makes everyone poorer, that is why our number one priority is to grip inflation.

  • There are no headline tax increases. There is more money for schools and the NHS, and a plan to boost economic growth. To achieve long-term, sustainable growth we need to grip inflation, balance the books and get debt falling as a share of GDP.
  • Like many countries around the world, the UK is facing profound economic challenges – Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the Covid pandemic have cost our country billions. We spent over £400 billion supporting 14.5 million jobs during the pandemic. It is right that we start to pay that back now rather than leave future generations to pay the price.
  • The Conservatives are standing by the most vulnerable. We are uprating benefits in line with inflation and keeping the pensions triple lock.



Key announcements:

  • Our plan is fair and involves a roughly equal split between tax rises and spending cuts, with the greatest burden falling on those who can afford it most. We are restoring stability and tackling inflation by:
  • Protecting and maintaining public spending for the next two years at the levels set out in 2021 and then increasing spending by one per cent in real terms a year until 2027–28.
  • Increasing taxpayer funding for our NHS and schools by an extra £11 billion over the next two years.
  • Supporting every household with higher energy bills by extending the Energy Price Guarantee until April 2024, while providing over £12 billion in additional support to help the most vulnerable households.
  • Uprating benefits in line with inflation and protecting the pensions Triple Lock, delivering on our manifesto commitment and supporting the most vulnerable.
  • Boosting growth with over £600 billion in capital investment over the next 5 years, protecting the Levelling Up Fund, protecting R&D spending, using our Brexit freedoms to reform the financial services sector, and providing a £14 billion business rates cuts package.

  • The OBR expects this package to reduce peak inflation and unemployment. They note that GDP will be one per cent higher due to these measures. The Bank of England expects this package to help tackle inflation and keep interest rates lower for borrowers and mortgage holders.
  • Today’s Autumn Statement shows we do not have to choose between a strong economy or good public services – with a Conservative Government you get both.

Help for people on low incomes

This week the government announced over 7 million cost of living payments had been made to low-income families in one week, as we continue to protect the most vulnerable during this difficult period. 

  • We understand families are struggling with rising prices, fuelled by Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the aftermath of the Covid pandemic – the worst economic shock to the global economy in 300 years. 
  • That is why we delivered over 7 million payments of £324 directly into the bank accounts of the most vulnerable households in just one week – and will make over a million more to those on tax credits later this month as part of our £1,200 cash support package for the poorest members of society. 
  • Today's Autumn Statement, will continue to prioritise helping the most vulnerable just as we did during Covid, as we make the tough decisions needed to drive down inflation and fix our public finances. 

Working together to strengthen the world economy

Yesterday, the Prime Minister addressed the G20 summit in Bali, calling on fellow world leaders to work together to solve the global economic crisis.

  • In his speech yesterday at the G20 summit in Bali, the Prime Minister called for coordinated global action to address international economic instability and the rising cost of living – as well as pushing our allies to do more to support the Ukrainian people.
  • Also in yesterday's speech at the G20, the Prime Minister called for coordinated global action to address international economic instability and the rising cost of living – as well as pushing our allies to do more to support the Ukrainian people.
  • By standing with Ukraine and working with our allies, we will create a global economy that is stronger, more stable and more resilient so we can emerge from this crisis stronger than before.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

More ships to support the navy

The government has announced that a UK-led team will be building three new Royal Navy support ships, creating 2,000 new jobs in the UK as we invest to keep our nation safe.

  • Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has shown the fragility of peace in Europe and across the world, and we must ensure our military is prepared to respond to whatever threats may arise.
  • That is why the government has selected UK-led Team Resolute as the Preferred Bidder to deliver new naval support ships – the second longest UK military vessels behind our two aircraft carriers – which means all three ships will be assembled in Belfast and Appledore.
  • As well as keeping us safe, this decision will create 2,000 UK jobs and see us invest £77 million into British shipyards so we have shipbuilding capabilities fit for the 21st century.

The fight against Inflation

Figures released this morning show inflation hit 11.1 per cent in October – driven by Putin’s weaponisation of food and energy, and the aftermath of the pandemic.  

  • Inflationary pressures from the war in Ukraine are affecting countries across the world – the result is that two-thirds of G20 members are now experiencing inflation rates about seven per cent. 
  • That is why the UK government is supporting the Bank of England in driving down inflation in the short term and taking urgent action to protect our economic security and bolster our resilience against malign actors. 
  • Inflation is the enemy that makes everyone poorer – we will tackle the root causes of inflation head on and continue to protect the most vulnerable during this challenging time in the Autumn Statement tomorrow. 

The missile strike in Poland

Yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke to President Andrzej Duda following reports of a missile strike in Poland, expressing condolences for the victims and their families. 

  • Britain is deeply concerned by reports that one, or two, missiles landed in Poland yesterday, killing two civilians. 
  • That is why the Prime Minister spoke with Polish President Andrzej Duda from the G20 summit in Indonesia yesterday, offering the assistance needed to urgently establish what happened and expressing condolences for the victims and their families.
  • We will remain in close contact with Poland and continue to coordinate with our international partners, including NATO, as we establish the facts. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Helping Ukraine

Yesterday the UK government announced that the first tranche of funding to the Ukraine Energy Support Fund will be made to the Ukraine, helping to keep critical national infrastructure in Ukraine up and running.

  • More than 40 per cent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure – including power stations and pipelines – has been damaged or destroyed by Russian attacks, leaving millions of Ukrainians without electricity.
  • That is why yesterday Britain signed an agreement with Ukraine to transfer £5 million to the Ukraine Energy Support Fund – helping to repair critical national infrastructure and building on the £7 million investment we have already made to supply 850 emergency generators.  
  • The UK has made the largest donation to date to this Fund and we urge all our international partners to step up their support and show Putin that his attempts to destroy Ukraine will be met with fierce resistance.

Working sessions at the G20 today

Today the Prime Minister joined G20 leaders to discuss energy and food security, health, and infrastructure and investment – working with our international allies to tackle global issues.

  • At a time of global economic pressures and threats to European security, we are working with our international friends and allies to face up to these challenges.
  • That is why today at the G20, the Prime Minister joined world leaders in working sessions on food and energy security, health, and infrastructure and investment, while holding a bilateral meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.
  • Working together to deliver global solutions to challenges facing countries across the world is essential if we are to tackle rising prices and protect our national security.

Investing in five new Frigates

The government has today announced the construction in British yards of the next next phase of a £4.2 billion investment in the Royal Nav's new ships, five new frigates, - bolstering Britain’s defences while supporting thousands of jobs.

  • Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has shown the fragility of peace in Europe and across the world, and we must ensure our military is prepared to respond to whatever threats may arise.
  • That is why today the government has awarded a £4.2 billion programme to BAE Systems build five new warships - which will provide the Royal Navy with five additional Type 26 anti-submarine frigates and support 4,000 jobs across the UK.
  • These ships will improve the safety and security of Britain, while ensuring that we remain at the forefront of military capabilities. 


Monday, November 14, 2022

Agreement with France on Channel crossings

Today, the Home Secretary will sign a deal with France to tackle migrant crossings, securing our borders and cracking down on human traffickers.

  • The humanitarian crisis caused by human traffickers operating in the Channel is endangering lives and we must do more work with our partners to bring it to an end. 
  • Co-operation with France, is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for any workable solution to this problem.
  • Previous agreements with France have not achieved everything we wanted but it is necessary for both sides to be grown up about this: illegal cross-channel migration is a problem for both countries which we are unlikely to solve or even contain without co-operation from the authorities on both sides of the channel. 
  • That is why the UK government is strengthening our agreement with France to tackle crossings by increasing the number of officers patrolling the French coast to over 300 so attempted crossings can be stopped early before they leave France.
  • Ending dangerous and illegal migrant crossings will save lives, reduce the pressure on our immigration system and cut costs for local authorities that are housing migrants.

Continued British support for Ukraine

The UK’s support for Ukraine is unwavering.

The Prime Minister spoke to President Zelenskyy on Thursday and confirmed that Britain will send 1,000 extra surface to air missiles to Ukraine, continue to train Ukrainian armed forces to defend against Putin’s brutal tactics. and will also send more than 25,000 extreme cold winter kits.


The people of Ukraine are fighting first and foremost in their own defence and for their own freedom - but their fight is also our fight. 


It is incredibly important for the peace of the world that Putin's naked aggression, barbarous disregard for the consequences of his actions on innocent civilians, and blatant disegard for the rules and conventions of war are seen to fail. 

Two quotes of the day for 14th November 2022

A poet and a military historian (whose ideas were adopted far more rapidly by our country's enemies than our own, to our enormous cost) both make the same point about the risks of being too ready to compromise to achieve peace. 










Sunday, November 13, 2022

Mark Dolan responds to those at home and abroad who enjoy talking down Britain ...


I did like Mark Dolan's Big Opinion this evening - it is far too common for people to start running our country down. 

A certain healthy scepticism and ability to see your own failings and those of your country is a good thing, but it becomes destructive when you lose all pride or self-confidence as a nation and downright malignant when you start being unable to see the good things about your own country or the positive things your fellow-citizens have worked to achieve, at worst openly despising your own country, and become, in the words of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado,"















You tell 'em, Mark!

Sunday music spot: "Salvator Mundi" by Thomas Tallis

Looking after veterans

The government has launched the first ever UK-wide survey for veterans and their families – as we continue to improve support for veterans in their civilian lives.   

  • Our armed forces have always stood by our country in times of need. Sadly, in the past, they have not always found that loyalty reciprocated. This must not happen again: we have a duty as a country to do our bit and support veterans in their civilian lives. 
  • That is why the government launched the first ever UK-wide survey for veterans and their families last week, ensuring we better understand the unique challenges faced by veterans and giving them the opportunity to shape the future of public services.  
  • The government is committed to making the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran – giving veterans every chance to thrive in the workforce and prosper in civilian live. 

Remembrance Sunday 2022

This morning at 11am I took part in the Remembrance Day Commemoration at Egremont and laid a wreath for the fallen on behalf of Cumbria County Council.

I also attended the commemoration ceremony in Moor Row at 1pm

Both ceremonies were extremely well attended, as I know similar ceremonies were in Whitehaven, St Bees, and around the whole of the United Kingdom.

I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the organisation of both events. I hope it would not be invidious to single out one body for particular praise, but I will do so anyway: the music provided by Egremont Town Band was quite exceptionally good.  



Quote of the day for Remembrance Sunday 2022


 









(The "Kohima Epitaph")

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Sanctions on Russia continue

This week the value of Russian assets sanctioned or frozen as part of UK sanctions on Russia's illegal war in Ukraine reached £18.3 billion – as we continue to crack down on individuals propping up Putin’s military effort. 










  • Putin continues to rely on his cabal of elites to maintain control of his industrial complex and fuel his illegal war in Ukraine.
  • That is why, alongside our allies, Britain has imposed the most severe set of sanctions Russia has ever faced – sanctioning more than 1,200 individuals, over 120 entities and freezing the assets of 19 banks with global assets of £940 billion to cripple Putin’s war machine. 
  • Britain continues to take a leading role in supporting the people of Ukraine, targeting all those who aid and abet Putin’s illegal war to ensure Ukraine ultimately prevails. 

Quote of the day 12th November 2022

I don't usually re-use a quote so quickly, but even though I used Winstonn Churchill's words below about the victory at El Alamein quite recently, it is so much the obvious response to the Liberation of Kherson that I feel justified in using this quote again. 

For all that the Russians pulled out their troops in Kherson before they could all be killed or captured, and the withdrawal of forces itself - far and away the most difficult military operation to execute - appears to be one of the vanishingly few military actions since February which the Russian army has executed with something resembling basic competence, the need to withdraw is a massive strategic and moral blow to Russia and a massive boost to Ukraine. 

It is arguably the most serious defeat for Russian arms since World War II. 

Six weeks ago President Putin held a big ceremony at which he illegally claimed to annex four occupied provinces of Ukraine, including Kherson, and that they would "forever" be part of Russia.

Today the world watched as the residents of Kherson, weeping tears of joy, waving Ukrainian flags and hugging every Ukrainian service man or woman they could reach, welcomed the armed forces of Ukraine back into their city - the one provincial capital Russia had taken in nine months of bitterly contested fighting.

The Liberation of Kherson is as important a milestone for Ukraine on their path to eventual victory against Putin's illegal invasion of their country as the defeat of Rommel at El Alamein was on the path to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

There is a long way to go to that victory, but as Churchill said,