Posts

Showing posts from February, 2023

Sellafield Siren to be tested this week

If anyone reading this should be near Sellafield this week and hear a siren, don't worry. It's a test. Over the next few days, the Sellafield Site siren is being tested. It is unlikely that the public will hear the testing, but, as with any testing of the siren, there is a small risk that it could accidentally sound at full volume.  The external comms message received from Sellafield colleagues is as follows: "External Comms – Low volume testing of the Site Siren Modifications to the Sellafield Site Siren will be taking place from Monday 27th February to Wednesday 1st March 2023 which requires one of the sirens to be tested at low volume. It is unlikely that the public will hear the low volume testing of the siren, however if they do, they can check the status of the site by calling 0800 909 8090."

Tuesday music spot: the Danish National Symphony Orchestra performs the Mandalorian theme

Image
In anticipation of the release of season three starting tomorrow (Wednesday 1st March) The version above was performed by the Danish National Opera. Here is another version performed by the US Army Band.

Rishi in Northern Ireland

Image
Today,  the Prime Minister is in Northern Ireland, discussing the new Windsor Framework  with business groups and others.  This new agreement rebalances the Protocol,  restores the consent of all communities , and  charts a new way forward for Northern Ireland .

Endings and Beginnings

Today is the last day of February: one month to go until the end of Cumbria County Council which finishes at the end of March, and Cumberland council will then take over from us and from the district councils in Allerdale, Carlisle, and Copeland. I attended the last meeting of Cumbria Health Scrutiny in its present form last week: in the coming days I will be attending the last meetings of the Pensions committee under the current dispensation, of the Copeland Local Committee and of Cumbria County Council itself. As a former member I have also been invited to the last meeting of Copeland Borough Council. Last week was my penultimate meeting as their representative at St Bees Parish Council and Egremont Town council. The St Bees meeting was Jeff Hailes' last meeting as their Borough councillor as he will be at work when they meet next month: that meeting will be my last one as their county councillor. St Bees PC thanked Jeff for his service. Although I have one more meeting with Egre

What the Windsor Framework achieves

Image
  BENFITS OF THE WINDSOR FRAMEWORK The Northern Ireland Protocol had upset the delicate balance of the Good Friday Agreement and was a major cause of the disagreements which caused the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland to collapse. We always wanted and needed a negotiated solution to address this, and finally we have a deal on the table which we believe all parties and communities in  Northern Ireland should be able to live with. The Windsor Framework announced yesterday will act to rebalance the Protocol, restore the consent of all communities , and chart a new way forward for Northern Ireland. The Windsor Agreement achieves this by:  (1) Delivering free flowing trade by removing the border in the Irish Sea  A new Green Lane for goods travelling to NI with no more customs bureaucracy or routine checks  Removing the ban on supermarket food like sausages – so what is available in GB will be available in Northern Ireland  Scrapping customs for post and parcels so it’s easier

MoD defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 28th February 2023

Image
 

Second quote of the day 28th February

 "A 24/7 news cycle trying to bounce politicians into pronouncements on policy or their voting intention on something they haven’t yet seen, alongside every journalist trying to remain relevant on Twitter, is unhealthy for us as individuals and for democracy." (Mark Jenkinson MP, on Twitter yesterday, referring to media requests for comments on the Windsor Framework made to MPs before they could possibly have seen it.)

Quote of the day 28th February 2023

Image
 

More detail on the Windsor Framework

There is more detail on the Windsor Framework agreed in principle today and announced by the UK Prime Minister and EU Commission President to solve the problems with the protocol and find a new future for Northern Ireland at Windsor Framework unveiled to fix problems of the Northern Ireland Protocol - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) The full framework can be found at The Windsor Framework - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

No, I'm not a cricket professional.

I enjoy watching cricket but, unlike my good friend Arthur Lamb who so tragically passed away a few weeks ago, I'm not particularly good at it: my bowling and fielding are far worse than his batting was, and so is my batting. So my daughter was rather surprised to find Google describing me as  "a highly promising and tall right-arm bowler and right-handed batsman who played once for Middlesex in the Sunday League versus Hampshire at Lord's in 1975. He failed to take a wicket or score any runs as Middlesex slipped to defeat." If you google the short form of my name, the panel which sometimes comes up on the right hand side displays my photograph and a link to this blog with the first few words for the Wikipedia entry for a recently deceased cricketer who shared my first and last names and middle initial. I think some algorithm has mixed us up. So no, I don't play cricket.  So far, and d. v. may it remain so for a few years yet, I am very much alive.  

Monday music spot: the Royal Choral Society sing the 'Hallelujah Chorus' from Handel's Messiah

Image

Raising the legal minimum age for marriage

Around the world those countries which take child protection seriously have been raising the legal minimum age for marriage to 18.  Today that change comes into force here and   the legal age of marriage in England and Wales will rise to 18 , protecting vulnerable children from the damaging impact of forced marriages. Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights which denies vulnerable children the freedom to learn, grow and thrive.    The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 has come into force today. 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be allowed to marry or enter a civil partnership, even if they have parental consent. Those who act to manipulate children into marrying under-age will face the full force of the law.  The change will crack down on forced marriages and forms part of our continued commitment to tackle violence against women and girls. 

Baroness Betty Boothroyd RIP

Image
The Rt Hon Lady Betty Boothroyd, who was an MP for 27 years and the first and so far only woman to be Speaker of the House of Commons in its seven hundred year history, has died at the age of 93. She was massively respected and loved by people on both sides of the political divide. Rest in Peace.

A New Way Forward for Northern Ireland

Image
As I post this UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are giving a joint press conference about the new Windsor Framework which has been agreed in principle and announced this afternoon as the basis for the parties to consider about the future for Northern Ireland. Obviously everyone will have to look at the details but on the face of it this looks like a massive step forward. On the basis of what has been announced this agreement appears to deliver smooth trade throughout the UK while protecting Northern Ireland's place in the Union and without introducing a land border in Ireland. It also is fantastic news for scientists that when it is agreed Britain will be able to take part in Horizon again. There will undoubtedly be much more to see on this, but it looks like a deal to be greatly welcomed.

MoD defence intelligence summary on the situation in Ukraine 27th Feb 2023

Image
 

Quote of the day 27th February 2023

Image
 

More sanctions on Russia

This week the UK   announced further sanctions on the elites who run Putin’s key industries and export bans on every item Russia has been found using on the battlefield , crippling Putin’s military machine and helping Ukraine turn the tide of the war. Military intelligence has shown that a shortage of components in Russia as a result of sanctions is already likely affecting their ability to produce military equipment – and that they are turning to civilian items like fridges for low-grade chips. That is why the UK government is now committing to ban the export to Russia of every item that Russian troops have been found using on the battlefield – as well as introducing new sanctions on Russian imports and 92 individuals and entities, including senior executives at Russian state-owned nuclear power company Rosatom and executives from Russia’s largest defence companies and banks. We have now sanctioned over 1,500 individuals and entities – and working together with our international partn

Sunday music spot: "Hark, all ye lovely saints above" by Thomas Weelkes

Image

MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 26th February 2023

Image
  Here is some of the imagery:

Quote of the day 26th February 2023

Image
 

MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 25 February 2023

Image
 

Supporting Ukraine

Yesterday, the   Prime Minister encouraged G7 allies to move faster on providing support to Ukraine   and abandon the incremental approach, supporting Ukraine to gain the decisive advantage they need to free their country. As we mark one year since Russia’s barbaric and deplorable invasion, we must do everything we can to help Ukraine gain the decisive advantage they need on the battlefield to liberate their country as soon as possible. That is why yesterday, after joining in a national minute’s silence at 11am in Downing Street, the Prime Minister told fellow G7 allies in a virtual meeting that we must step up our efforts to support Ukraine by moving faster on artillery, armour and air defence instead of taking an incremental approach. Ukraine is turning the tide and Putin is losing. One year into this terrible war, our support will continue for as long as it takes.

Quote of the day 25th February 2023

Image
 

Music to start the weekend: "Sogno di Volare" by Christopher Tin

Image
"Sogno di Volare" (in English, "The Dream of Flight") is the theme tune for Civilisation VI.

Remembering those who have died in Ukraine: national silence starts now

Image
 

Veteran's Healthcare

The government has announced this week a further £5 million of funding to support veterans’ healthcare, improving the help available for the men and women who have served our country. We are committed to helping our veterans and ensuring the men and women who have served our country are properly supported through our Office for Veterans’ Affairs. That is why the government has announced that 22 projects across the UK will benefit from the £5 million Office for Veterans’ Affairs Health Innovation Fund to drive forward cutting-edge British treatments and technologies to support veterans’ healthcare, as well as confirming that the UK will host a Five Eyes International Ministerial Conference on veterans later this year. Our veterans have made huge sacrifices to serve our country and keep our nation safe – we will always support the men and women who have served our country.

Supporting Ukraine - remember the national minute's silence at 11 am

On Wednesday   the Prime Minister spoke to President Zelenskyy  ahead of the one year anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine today, and he confirmed the UK’s intention to accelerate our support to Ukraine in the coming weeks and months.  Friday 24 February marks one year since Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and our support for the Ukrainian people will never waver. There will be a national minute's silence at 11am today to remember all those who have died in Putin's illegal and unprovoked invasion. The Prime Minister spoke to President Zelenskyy last night where the leaders agreed now is the time for Ukraine to seize the opportunity to make real progress on the battlefield and demonstrate that Ukraine will ultimately win.   Britain is committed to ensuring Ukraine has the capabilities it needs both now in and in the future.

Quote of the day 24th February 2023

Image
 

Reflections on the invasion of Ukraine, twelve months on.

President Putin sent his tanks into Ukraine in what he called a "Special Military Operation" but was really a full scale invasion twelve months ago tomorrow, on 24th February 2022. However, the illegal invasion  of Ukraine by Russia began, not a year ago, but in 2014 when Putin seized Crimea and stirred up rebellions and insurrections in the East of the country. Since Ukraine is very far from being a perfect democracy (though it is far closer to being one than Putin's Russia is) and the pre-2014 borders of Ukraine were set by Stalin in one or his more cynical actions, some people occasionally ask why this should matter to us. There are two very good reasons why it does. The first is that we guaranteed them as part of the group of 1994 international treaties which are often called the Budapest Memorandum. When the Soviet Union was dissolved, the fate of it's huge nuclear arsenal was a gigantic global security headache, and it was very important to ensure that none of t

One minute silence tomorrow to mark those killed in the war in Ukraine

Image
Tomorrow will mark twelve months since President Putin ripped up the world order in which almost everyone now alive has grown up and sent his tanks into Ukraine in an unprovoked and illegal invasion. Nobody can be certain how many people have died in Putin's war, but the number of casualties is certainly horrendous .  The United Nations suggests that there have been an absolute minimum of 7,199 civilians killed in Ukraine and that the actual civilian death toll is almost certainly much higher: their conservative estimate of the real civilian death toll is about 16,000 and I have seen serious estimates that it may be as high as 30,000 over the year since Russia's full-scale invasion on 24th February 2022.  It is even harder to estimate the number of soldiers killed on the two sides: Ukraine admits to having had 13,000 soldiers killed between February and December.  Russia admitted in late September that there had been 5,937 Russian military deaths. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Pesko

The British Energy supercharger

Also today the government   announced the British Industry Supercharger , a consultation to ensure the cost of energy for key UK industry are in line with other major economies around the world, helping the UK to remain competitive.  Putin’s weaponisation of energy has shown how vital affordable energy is to all parts of our economy – especially key sectors like steel and chemicals that make up around 28 per cent of total UK exports. The British Industry Supercharger will boost competitiveness across Britain’s strategic energy intensive industry, such as our steel sector, by consulting to exempt firms from certain costs arising from renewable energy obligation whilst exploring reductions in costs for industrial users of energy – with 300 firms set to benefit. Conservatives will back these businesses to keep on growing our economy and delivering high-quality jobs and investment into the UK, as well as the products we rely on for our everyday lives and work.

Thursday music spot: "Baba Yetu" by Christopher TIn

Image
The lyrics to "Baba Yetu" are the Lord's Prayer in Swahili. It was written (and won awards) as the theme music for Sid Meier's Civilisation IV, though the video clip shown here was produced with different music for the following iteration of the game, Civilisation V.

A better future for English football

Today, following the fan-led review, the government   set out a bold plan to protect the long-term future of English football , giving football fans and their clubs greater protection as we put fans at the heart of football and protect clubs to ensure they are there for years to come. Football is nothing without its fans, and for too long the football authorities have collectively been unable to support them in tackling some of the biggest issues in the game. That is why the Conservative government is implementing the recommendations from the Fan-Led Review of Football Governance. A new independent regulator for the men’s elite game will be established and fans will be guaranteed a greater say in the strategic running of their clubs. These reforms will ensure fans are placed at the heart of football clubs and protect the heritage of our loved football clubs against unscrupulous owners. This will help to grow local economies, delivering on the Government’s five priorities and build a be

In the sky yesterday afternoon and evening

Image
Thanks to Andy Sawers (@mr_numbers) for sharing on Twitter this morning the image below of the Moon, Jupiter and Venus as they were visible in the sky in the West yesterday afternoon and early evening. My wife and I were driving back to West Cumbria following a visit to Yorkshire and this was what we saw in the sky ahead of us for most of the journey. Quite a remarkable sight. 

Quote of the day 23rd February 2023

Image
 

MoD defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 22nd February 2023

Image
 

Midweek music spot: Offenbach's Overture from "Orpheus in the Underworld"

Image

Help for Farmers

Farming Minister Mark Spencer has announced £168m of funding grants at the NFU conference. The grants will drive innovation, improve productivity and support animal health and welfare. Full details of the speech he made on Tuesday 21st February at the National Farmers Union conference, which gave a more detailed description of measures the government is taking to support agriculture and the rural economy, can be found by clicking on the link below: Farming Minister Mark Spencer: National Farmers Union Conference - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Quote of the day 22nd February 2023

Image
 

Today's MoD update - the cost in civilian lives of Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine

Image
Almost as President Putin was speaking, the UN Human Rights commission published their verified figures for the number of civilian casualties recorded as killed in Ukraine since the start of Putin's illegal and unprovoked invasion a year ago. However these figures are the confirmed death toll, and the commission believes the true number of casualties is likely to be, quote, "considerably higher." 

More electric vehicle (EV) charge points

Image
More charge points for Electric vehicles are been provided around the country. We now have more EV charge points than petrol stations. This trend must continue and increase to make electric vehicles on the scale  envisaged viable. But it is welcome progress.

Extending the Household Support Fund

This week the government announced   an extension of the Household Support Fund   – providing an additional £842 million to support the most vulnerable households. The Household Support Fund has already helped vulnerable families across England through challenging times, so it is right that we continue this support as we work to halve inflation and grow our economy. That is the government has announced an extension of the Household Support Fund until 31 March 2023, which will provide local authorities with an additional £842 million to establish schemes that support vulnerable families in their areas, such as food vouchers, energy saving packs, or items such as heated blankets. This funding will ensure that we continue to support vulnerable families with the cost of living.

Helping women with the cost of HRT

Image
Today the government announced   a cut to the cost of Hormone Replacement Therapy , saving women who suffer from negative symptoms of menopause hundreds of pounds and improving their lives. Around a quarter of women experience severe menopause symptoms, which can seriously impact their quality of life, so it is right that we take steps to mitigate the impact of this difficult period.  That is why the government will introduce prescription pre-payment certificates for Hormone Replacement Therapy, which will reduce the cost of HRT to less than £20 a year and save hundreds of pounds each year for the 400,000 women affected. Making HRT more affordable will not only help women to save money but will improve the lives of women who suffer from negative symptoms of the menopause each year.

Standing with Ukraine: national reflection at 11am on Friday

  On Friday, the   Prime Minister attended the Munich Security Conference , reinforcing our commitment to defending Ukraine’s freedom and urging delegates to double down on their military support.  Since Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago, Britain has provided unwavering support for the Ukrainian people as they defend their country from Russian aggression. That is why the Prime Minister attended the Munich Security Conference on Friday, reinforcing our support for the people of Ukraine as the first country in the world to provide tanks to Ukraine, and the first to train pilots and marines. The Prime Minister also urged allies to double down on military support and committed to match or exceed the £2.3 billion worth of support provided by the UK last year. The Ukrainian people are fighting for freedom – we will stand with them for as long as it takes and pay tribute to them with a national moment of reflection at 11am on Friday 24 January, one year on fr

Quote of the day 21st February 2023

Image
 

Turkey and Syria - helping the victims

On Sunday  the UK's   development minister Andrew Mitchell travelled to southern Turkey to see first-hand the impact of UK aid , as Britain continues to help those affected by the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. # British aid has been flowing since day one of this terrible earthquake to help coordinate the emergency response in both Turkey and Syria, and provide life-saving support to those who need it.  That is why the international development minister travelled to southern Turkey on Friday to witness first-hand the impact of UK aid – touring a UK-led Field Hospital in Türkoğlu to thank UK medical staff for providing lifesaving care and meeting UK-aid-funded White Helmets to discuss what is needed in the next stage of the response.  This visit follows a further £25 million major UK support package, 77 search and rescue experts with specialist equipment, as well as four rescue dogs – ensuring life-saving medical support reaches those most in need.  

Protecting victims of domestic abuse

Today the government announced that the   most dangerous domestic abusers will be electronically tagged and recorded on the Violent and Sex Offender Register , and promised to go further than ever before to protect the victims of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is a despicable crime that leads to people’s closest relationships becoming a frightening existence of pain, fear and anxiety. The government  will do everything possible to crack down on and prevent it. Anyone, regardless of social status, class, race, age, orientation or gender can be a victim of domestic abuse and it is wrong whoever does it and whoever is the victim. The measures announced today are aimed to protect all victims.  But the largest category of victims are women and girls.   The government is boosting protections for victims in a raft of new measures. Starting immediately, anyone jailed for 12 months or more for coercive control will be placed on the Violent and Sex Offender Register, with the worst abusers elect

MoD Defence intelligence update on the war in Ukraine at 20th February 2023

Image
Today the King visited Ukrainian recruits who are being trained in the UK, and members of the Irish Guards who have been training them. . A total of nine other nations have joined the UK in offering basic training to Ukrainian recruits to help them defend their homeland and retake territory.  Below are a map and intelligence summary showing the UK Ministry of Defence estimates of Russian troop locations and attacks and a commentary on the casualties the Russian forces appear to be suffering as Putin desperately seeks for a morale-boosting victory on the anniversary of his disastrous, illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.  

Quote of the day 20th February 2023

Image
 

Squadron Leader Jacob (Titch) Tyson RIP

I was most saddened to learn of the death of Squadron Leader Jacob Tyson on Monday at the age of 98 after a short illness. Jake Tyson (also known as "Titch") was one of a kind - he was one of the most fearless men I ever met. His career in the RAF included a long spell as a test flight crew member - he described himself as a "Test navigator" for many of the post war British military aircraft such as the Vulcan heavy bomber. Jake was an extremely entertaining speaker on the subject - he could hold an audience spellbound for a long time. From having had the privilege of listening to him talk about his RAF career on a couple of occasions I can say that he was the only man I know who could describe a loud explosion and the loss of the engine on an experimental aircraft at 50,000 feet as "a little local difficulty." Rest in peace, Jake. I will never see another person like you, more's the pity.

MoD Defence intelligence update 19th February 2023

Image
I wonder if the Chinese have lent the Russians any balloons? If they did it doesn't look like they are getting them back.  

Sunday music spot: "Ave Verum Corpus" (Hail, true body) by William Byrd

Image

Quote of the day 19th February 2023

Image
 

Rishi Sunak - time to double down on support for Ukraine

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has urged world leaders to send the most advanced weapons to Ukraine now in order to secure its long-term future. Mr Sunak told the Munich Security Conference that allies must give the country "advanced, Nato-standard capabilities". He said now was the time to "double down" on military support. Throughout the conference, Ukraine's allies have reiterated the case for defending the country. The three-day gathering to discuss global security, taking place in Germany ahead of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion, provided a key test of Western support for Kyiv as both sides in the war prepare for spring offensives. Mr Sunak had said he wanted to "make sure other countries follow our lead" in providing battle tanks, and training soldiers and aviators on Nato-standard aircrafts. In his speech in Germany, he said:  "Ukraine needs more artillery, armoured vehicles and air defences, so now is the time to double down on

British assistance to Turkey and Syria

Both government and charitable groups in Britain have been sending help to the victims, survivors and rescuers dealing with the terrible disaster in Turkey and Syria. Earlier this week the government announced that   over 100 British personnel have arrived in Turkey to provide vital medical care to victims of last week’s earthquake   - standing with our international allies in their time of need.  Our thoughts are with all those affected by last week’s earthquake, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide help to our international allies. That is why the government has sent assistance to both Turkey and Syria It was announced on Thursday that an RAF Critical Care Air Support Team of over 100 personnel has arrived in Turkey to provide vital medical support to victims of last week’s earthquake - including an anesthetist, five nurses, three medics, a paramedic and a medical equipment technician - in addition to RAF flights delivering vital disaster relief and humanitarian suppl

MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 18th Feb 2023

Image
 

Saturday music spot: Overturn to Rossini's "The Barber of Seville"

Image

Quote of the day 18th February 2023

Image
 

MoD Defence bulletin on the situation in Ukraine 17th February 2023

Image
On the 17 Feb 2022 Defence Intelligence released an update assessing that President Putin was preparing a large scale invasion of Ukraine. On the 24 Feb he launched the invasion almost exactly as predicted. Up to 190k Russian troops entered Ukraine from the north, east and south. But the operation didn’t go to plan. 358 days after Russia’s D-Day they continue a grinding offensive in the Donbas. But at D+358 they’re not where they likely hoped to be in this sector by D+10. The campaign has likely failed to meet any of its operational & strategic objectives. The map below shows the latest information on Russian attacks and troop movements based on an MoD Intelligence assessment update on the situation in Ukraine dated 17 February 2023. More about the UK government's response can be found at: http:// ow.ly/VFAe50MSJKH #StandWithUkraine