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Friday 29th December 2006

Consultant check-up changes must improve frontline care

Today it was reported by the Government's Primary Care tsar Dr David Colin-Thomé that he going to recommend scrapping routine consultant check-ups for post-op patients six weeks after surgery could save the NHS up to £2bn a year. Instead, patients could see their GP, practice nurse or decide for themselves that they do not need to be seen.

It is envisaged that the changes for England would free up surgeons' time, enabling more operations to be done. This is of course true, stopping consultants seeing patients would free up their time. It is not true to say that this time would be spent performing operations in the NHS. They consultants may choose to spend some or all this extra time performing operations in the private sector. This would in turn result in a loss of consultant expertise to the NHS.

The other thing is that there are other ways to improve the efficiency of the operating systems and getting patients to see the expert on the operation after the event for a good check-up. More minor operations performed locally in district hospitals and large GP's would make in easier to the patient to get to the check-up. Better systems on getting the patients to surgery and away from theatre afterwards could also improve matters.

All this said the plan to get GP's to perform check-up, could be of benefit for a large range of normal operations where to a general medical check-up is all that is required. However all patients and doctors should be lumped in the same Whitehall straight jacket procedure, local circumstances and best medical practice must be and must remain to be the deciding factor in which doctor a patient visits after an operation.

Commenting on reported plans to scrap routine consultant check-ups for post-op patients six weeks after surgery, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb MP said:

"There are many routines check-ups that could quite sensibly be undertaken by GPs, making the system more convenient for patients and more efficient for hospitals. But the Government should stop short of imposing a one size fits all strait-jacket approach to this complex area. Consultants should be able to decide if they need to have a follow-up appointment with patients."

BBC Report - Routine post-op checks 'to end'

Norman Lamb MP - Consultant check-up changes must improve frontline care

Thursday 28th December 2006

Minister Blears protest over Government NHS Plans

Cabinet minister Hazel Blears has defended her decision to take part in a protest over plans to close part of a hospital in her constituency. The proposals for Hope Hospital in Salford, Greater Manchester, are part of the controversial NHS shake-up throughout the country.

Protesting about the Government NHS Plans is the correct thing to do, as the decision to shut completely or in large part many local district hospitals is an appalling one. However how Hazel Blears can both protest against the plans and vote them through in Cabinet and Parliament I can not understand.

In West End these same cuts to local services mean that Moorgreen Hospital is under grave threat as the cash strapped Health Authority tries to balance the books by selling an important capital asset to cover the running costs of the authority. An asset which will in a few short years be a greater demand than now as the population ages and the South East plan results in greater housing numbers.

This short term poor management of our national health service simply must stop.

Commenting on Hazel Blears' protest Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb said :-

"This is astonishing behaviour from Hazel Blears; you cannot back a policy on the national stage and then campaign against it in your own constituency. The next time the Tony Blair or Patricia Hewitt tries to reassure people that its cuts are in the best interests of patients, the public will be entitled to point out that a fellow cabinet member apparently disagrees."

BBC report - Minister defends hospital protest

Liberal Democrats- Blears' behaviour 'astonishing'

David Goodall's Views: Health - NHS

Wednesday 27th December 2006

Liberal Democrat research highlights scale of underage alcohol sales problem

Almost one in four pubs and off licenses sell alcohol to underage children according to Liberal Democrat research. A survey of local authorities found that 23% of tested licensed premises sold alcohol to underage children in the past two years.

In Southampton the figures were even worse the tests by the Liberal Democrat run City Council showed that in the past 2 years 33% or one third of the 120 premises tested using volunteers sold alcohol to underage children.

This is a truly poor state of affairs pubs and shops who repeatedly break this law should simply lose their licence, particularly as much of the anti-social behaviour is fuelled not by class A B or C drugs, but by 'good old fashioned' booze.

Commenting on this research Liberal Democrat Shadow Local Government Secretary Andrew Stunell said:

"It is shocking that underage children can so easily buy alcohol. As well as being illegal, it is grossly irresponsible for pubs and shops to sell alcohol to underage young people. It is high time that local pubs and off licenses made a New Year's resolution to be much more careful about selling alcohol to teenagers and young people."

Andrew Stunell MP - One in four shops and pubs sell alcohol to underage children

Sunday 24th December 2006 - Tuesday 26th December 2006

Merry Christmas to one and all

Christmas is a time of year for family and friends. I hope that you and your family and friends have to good Christmas time together.

It is also the time of year to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and celebrate this happy occasion. So I also hope that in this time of family and friends you also get a chance to remember why we have Christmas in the first place. And I would agree with Jonathan Edwards General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain who said :-

"I love Christmas! I am thrilled that, even in our hard-bitten and secular society, normal life stops for Christmas. Millions of people who wouldn't normally attend a church or sing a hymn will be doing both those things over the Christmas period. And whether people understand the symbolism or not, surely almost everyone will give and receive presents. I think it's just great that the birth of Jesus still has a high profile in our society, and that those who have tried to replace Christmas with Winterval have largely failed."

Friday 22nd December 2006

Government is unwilling to tackle the problem of empty homes

Today figures obtained by Liberal Democrats reveal the staggering amount of unoccupied homes in England. The Government would only release figures up to 2005, when there were 723,200 vacant dwellings in England (714,000 in 2004). The Liberal Democrats have been running a campaign encouraging people to report empty homes in their areas. Empty homes can also have the effect of blighting communities, attracting crime and devaluing neighbouring property prices.

At a time when there is large level of homelessness and increasing pressures on housing it is a scandal that there are over 700,000 vacant dwellings in England alone. That is equivalent to about 6 or 7 cities the size of Southampton full of empty houses. The problem is these empty dwellings are scattered across the country in odd blocks or even just one house in a street.

This is a problem which is best tackled at a local level, all the government should do is to give local councils the power to impose management orders on homes left empty for more than a year and whose owners have refused to bring them back into use. Local councils must also be given to financial freedom particularly with respect to receipts from council house sales to repair abandoned properties and bring them back into use.

Commenting on these government figures Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House, David Heath said :-

"It is a scandal that there are this many empty homes at a time when so many families are homeless this Christmas. The Government must realise that there is an affordable housing crisis in this country but they're not doing anything about it. It is going to be a bleak Christmas for many homeless families and yet there are over half a million unoccupied homes in England. There have been over 700,000 vacant dwellings in each of the last five years but the Government seems unwilling or unable to produce policies to tackle the problem."

The Empty Homes Agency

Liberal Democrats Empty Homes Campaign

David Heath MP - No festive cheer in vacant dwellings

Eastleigh Borough Council - Empty Properties

Thursday 21st December 2006

Rail Network Shutdown is a Stone Age service worst than the days of steam

Ahead of the 60-hour shutdown of Britain's rail network over the Christmas period, the Liberal Democrats have released research which reveals that services run on Christmas Day in every other country in Europe apart from the UK and the Republic of Ireland - with 14 of the 17 countries surveyed running near to normal services. Historical figures reveal that up until the mid-1960s, when cuts began to be made, train services did run on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Public services such as the police, fire and health services are obvious services which must be run on a 24 hour 7 days a week basis. However this is also true of the train, bus and ferry services around the country. At a time of public holiday one of the most important things is visiting friends and family. Clearly if the transport network shuts down then this is not possible.

The trains should keep running and of course the employees in those industries should have suitable rotas so that their family lives are not disturbed every year. Also the employees should receive extra payments if they have to work on the bank holiday.

Commenting this research Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary, Alistair Carmichael MP said:

"Shutting down our rail network will mean than we are either shunting passengers off trains and into cars, trapping people away from home for several days or preventing people taking trips to visit family and friends in the first place. It is in direct opposition to the Government's stated aims of reducing carbon emissions, promoting social mobility, and reducing drink driving. In the age of steam trains in the 1950s, when passenger numbers were comparable with today, services did run at Christmas. In that aspect alone, a return to the steam age would be welcome. "

Alistair Carmichael MP - Britain's Christmas rail services worse than steam age

Wednesday 20th December 2006

Government has failed to combat its own emissions

Today research published by the Liberal Democrats found that Government buildings are emitting more carbon than ever before. Figures released show that three quarters of government departments have seen their carbon dioxide emissions rise since 2000. The worst offenders are the Home Office and the Treasury, where emissions per square metre have more than doubled; even Defra, the department which should be leading the fight against climate change, has seen emissions increase over the last few years.

The Government must at the very least start by reducing its own Carbon footprint. This is not should not be impossible for a large government department, particularly if a small Borough Council like Eastleigh can do it. The Council is hoping to have a Combined Heat and Power system for the Civic Offices and Fleming Park Leisure Centre by March 2007. This is a further reduction the council's carbon footprint with a more efficient and locally produced heating and power system. This is just a small part of the council's climate change strategy. Unfortunately this is just the sort of practical action which this government consistently fails to take and is action based on real policies something which Conservatives are still thinking about.

Commenting this research the Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary, Chris Huhne, said :-

"The Government needs to go green, not brown. The Chancellor likes to talk about climate change, as he did in the pre-budget report, but he is not practising what he preaches. Given all the Chancellor's hot air, it is particularly ironic that the Treasury has seen a big rise in it's own emissions. Yet again Gordon Brown has failed to show the leadership on climate change which is needed."

Chris Huhne MP - Government should practice what it preaches on environment.

Eastleigh Borough Council Energy Strategy

Tuesday 19th December 2006

Simplify the tax and welfare system to end culture of dependency and cut poverty

Gordon Brown is obsessed with means testing to "target" has created and over complicated system welfare which has given rise to a culture of dependency. The only way the reduce this dependency and cut poverty is to drastically simplify the welfare and taxation system.

So in a speech today, Sir Ming Campbell set out five new Liberal Democrat ideas to improve the system :-

  • 1. Stop encouraging couples with children to split up by removing the financial penalty that low income parents incur if they choose to stay together
  • 2. Consider raising child benefit to the same level for every child in a family
  • 3. Reduce the age of the youngest child at which we expect lone parents to work
  • 4. Sign up to the child poverty target and set two additional 2020 goals for (a) increasing child literacy and numeracy and (b) halving the number of people claiming incapacity benefit
  • 5. Simplify the whole benefits system and aim to cut the number of benefits from 50 to 25 and reducing by half the number of people facing marginal tax rates of 60% or more

The proposals that Sir Ming outline are right at the core of Liberal Democrat beliefs, from the preamble to the party constitution, we believe that :-

"…Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society…"

"…in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity."

The reasons for change are numerous and obvious and just three for starters are :-

  • If the marginal rates of taxation trap you on to benefits then the system must change.
  • If the system encourages low income parents to split up then the system must change.
  • If the complexity of the system prevents the welfare reaching the people it is targeted at then the system must change.

Also in his speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ming Campbell said :-

"Gordon Brown's strategy of mass means-testing is undermining work, saving, and families. If you work all your life, you now get a basic state pension which is over 25% lower than if you had not worked at all. I am determined to take the fight for a fairer Britain into the mainstream of British politics. With Labour wedded to dependency, and the Tories to compassionate inactivity, the Liberal Democrats are the only party that can effectively stand up for the poor and the disadvantaged."

The Guardian - Lib Dems launch plan to simplify welfare system

Sir Ming Campbell MP - Campbell slams Labour's dependency Britain

Preamble to the Liberal Democrat Party Constitution

David Goodall's Views: Benefits

Monday 18th December 2006

To go into battle ill-equipped and ill-prepared is "unforgivable and inexcusable"

Today a coroner's verdict into the British army tank commander who was killed in Iraq because of lack of body armour ruled that the Government was guilty of "unforgivable and inexcusable" delays by providing right equipment to British troops.

Sending the army to war is the gravest decision that any government can make. If that decision is made by a Government then the must go in as fully armed and prepared as possible. Individual soldiers should not have to share items of personal kit, particularly as in this case if that item is body armour.

The Ministers involved in this decision did not prepare the army to go war in the way they should have and the full logistical backup that sending an Army to war takes has not been made availability to Army. If it had been the required body armour would have been on the tank commander in question and not sat on some depot somewhere in Iraq or worst back in Britain.

Commenting on the coroner's verdict today on the death of Sgt Steven Roberts in Iraq, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson Willie Rennie MP said:

"The Government should be utterly ashamed of itself for the appalling failings that led directly to the death of Sgt Roberts. Our troops depend on the Government to make sure that they are properly supported and protected and that their equipment is fully functioning, but that trust is not being repaid. Ministers were ill-prepared for the war in Iraq and our troops have suffered as a result."

The Guardian - Unforgivable body armour delays caused soldier's death, says coroner

Willie Rennie MP - Death of Sgt Roberts shames Government

-

And finally …

The ill-equipped and ill-prepared tag can also be applied to the England cricket team who day lost the Ashes only 15 months after winning them in dramatic circumstances last year. They tried to beat the best team in the world by playing cricketers who are out of form (Geraint Jones & Steve Harmison) and two more (James Anderson and Ashley Giles) who had not played cricket for months due to serious injury. They also tried to play the Australians in Australia without any real match practice.

They should have played at least 3 or 4 state games first and they should have had in form bowlers like Monty Panesar, Jamie Dalrymple, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett in the team and an in form keeper like Chris Read or James Foster.

My team would be either :-

  • A J Strauss, A N Cook, I R Bell, P D Collingwood, K P Pietersen, A Flintoff, J W M Dalrymple, J S Foster, M S Panesar, M J Hoggard, C T Tremlett ...OR...
  • A J Strauss, A N Cook, I R Bell, P D Collingwood, K P Pietersen, A Flintoff, J S Foster, S C J Broad, M S Panesar, M J Hoggard, C T Tremlett.

The team to choose would depending on the pitch and Steve Harmison could always come in the team if the practice enabled him to locate the right length and direction to bowl. And for a captain I would have Andrew Strauss not "Freddy" Flintoff he has enough to do with batting and bowling.

Maybe for the next Ashes series they will actually learn lessons from this one.

Australia v England - 3rd Test

Friday 15th December 2006

Christmas Day TV repeats on the increase

As we head to the weekend prior to week before Christmas it appears the broadcasters have decided to visit the ghost of Christmas past again. Whatever happen to the excellent Christmas one off specials ?

Liberal Democrat research of the Christmas Day TV schedule shows that repeats have increased this year by 42% and it also shows that :-

  • More than a third of all programmes shown between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day will be repeats.
  • ITV is the only channel to not to have increased its Christmas Day repeats since 2003.
  • Channel Five is the worst offender with 60% of all the programmes shown over Christmas being repeats, including a doubling in Christmas Day repeats.

Commenting on this research Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Don Foster said:-

"After original programming increased last year, it's a real shame that broadcasters have broken their New Year's resolution to clamp down on boring Christmas repeats."

Don Foster MP - Christmas TV repeats up by 42%

Thursday 14th December 2006

West End Post Office could be in 2,500 Government hit list

The Government has announced that about 2,500 post offices are expected to close and they blame rising losses due to fewer people using the network. The spin from the Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling was that the cuts were needed because the losses have doubled in a year to £4m a week.

To real truth is this Labour Government has no glue as to how to provide a Post Office service and the result is they have been losing customers at a record rate. This is the reason there have been record losses.

Under government plans Post Offices should be about 3 miles apart in urban areas. There is no talk of making sure each natural community has a Post Office, so in the government's eyes it is acceptable for West End to have no Post Office because there are Post Offices at Hedge End, Bitterne and Witts Hill.

The final decision on which Post Offices will close has not been made and Royal Mail have not yet published any list to show which Post Office branch's will be affected. If Royal Mail is interested in the revitalising the Post Office network then they and the Government should make the changes proposed by the Liberal Democrats and not simply shut branches as quick as possible.

The Liberal Democrats do of course have a good plan to improve the Post Office. We would :-

  • split the Post Office Ltd from Royal Mail, so they are two separate organisations
  • sell 49% of shares in Royal Mail, to raise £2 billion
  • give employees 50% of the remaining shares, in a John Lewis style trust

So with these plans we would:-

  • free Royal Mail from Treasury borrowing controls so it can invest
  • free the Post Office from Royal Mail restrictions
  • free the Royal Mail from having to maintain a Post Office network which is not part of its core business and enable it to complete on an equal footing with other post carriers.
  • create a £2 billion investment fund for the Post Office
  • enable Post Offices to invest in new business without current restrictions e.g. as mini parcel depots for Royal Mail & private firms, as the shop front for local and central government, combine properly with other small businesses to provide a range a local services, allow cash machines & terminals in post offices to be on the Link network.

These changes are really required to help both the Post Office and Royal Mail. Currently the Royal Mail would wish to shut the majority of the current Post Offices because it is not part of Royal Mail's core business and they see it as just a drain on their business. Also both businesses need investment and this Liberal Democrat plan enables both to get that investment and free them from current restrictions.

Commenting on the government plans to destroy the Post office network Liberal Democrat Shadow Trade & Industry secretary Ed Davey said :-

"This is the death knell for thousands of local shops and rural businesses that depend on their local post office. If tough decisions on Royal Mail had been taken, the freedoms and funds for saving post offices could have been found. Our postal services have a proud 300 year history which this Government has decimated in less than a decade."

Commenting on the Government changes to the Post Office Card Account Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson, Danny Alexander said :-

"The Government have rightly bowed to enormous public pressure not to abolish the Post Office Card Account. But the new POCA must be freely available to all citizens. There must be none of the bullying and pressure to switch to a bank account that there was when POCA was first introduced."

BBC report - 2,500 post offices face closure

Ed Davey MP - Government must act to save Royal Mail

Ed Davey MP - Post offices should join Link network

Ed Davey MP - New report shows action on Royal Mail overdue

Danny Alexander MP - People must be free to choose alternative to Post Office card account

Wednesday 13th December 2006

New building code but still no real action on building standards

Today the Communities Secretary, Ruth Kelly, set out a timetable for making all new homes "zero carbon" within a decade. Under the proposed scheme, from 2008 all new homes will be given star ratings to reflect their energy efficiency, and the building regulations will be progressively tightened to force the construction of environmentally friendly homes.

Yet again the government appears to be content with making nice noises on the environment and not taking effective action on the environment. The government should be :-

  • increasing the insulation standards of new build houses now
  • ensuring the incorporation of at least one form of renewable energy system in every house build now
  • ensuring the best use of water in home now

All of this can be done with changes to the housing regulations now and it may had a bit to the initial house price however the cost at the build stage is minimal compared with later installation plus the running costs of the house would be greatly reduced.

Commenting on today's publication of the new Code for Sustainable Homes, Liberal Democrat Shadow Local Government Secretary, Andrew Stunell said:

"The Government's Code is a miserable misnomer; this will not provide sustainable homes. Thousands of new homes in North America and Europe are already so well insulated and draught-proofed they don't need central heating. We should be building to the same high standard, but all this Code provides is a rating system and not new requirements. "

Guardian report - Kelly unveils green vision for UK homes

Andrew Stunell MP - New building code shows Government unwilling to tackle climate change

Tuesday 12th December 2006

Labour too slow to reverse failed Tory bus policy

At long last a radical shake-up in how buses are run is promised under new government proposals. The plans are designed to give councils a greater say in how private bus firms operate services, with more influence over bus timetables and fares. The Government calls the proposals "the most fundamental change to the way buses are run in 20 years". But some campaigners argue all councils should have the same powers as London's mayor over buses. The mayor's powers include being able to decide where and when buses stop, and how much passengers pay.

This change is well over due the Conservative changes in the 1980's ensured that the two buses would come on popular routes and none on less popular routes. They also ensured that bus routes would be changes at short or no notice. Yet it has taken nearly 10 years before the Labour government has realised that outside London the number of people using the bus service is not increasing and that the bus service is in a mess in need of change.

Commenting on this report Liberal Democrat Transport Secretary Alistair Carmichael said :-

"Bus deregulation was a bad Tory idea which Labour has yet to do anything about. Fares have increased and bus use outside of London has been in decline. The move to allow councils to regulate local services is long overdue. It will be some time yet before passengers see any real improvements. We should not return to the situation pre-1986, but ensure that local communities are given some control over their bus services and that the taxpayer gets value for money."

BBC Report - Councils get more say over buses

Alistair Carmichael MP - Labour repeating failed Tory mistakes on buses

Alistair Carmichael MP - Bus re-regulation shouldn't have taken nine years

Alistair Carmichael MP - Tory bus deregulation must be reversed

Monday 11th December 2006

Government has gone into NHS target overdrive

Today the only democratically elected person involved in running of the NHS Patricia Hewitt the Health Secretary has said the NHS in England must achieve a £250m surplus next year. For those not in public service speak the surplus means profit. This push for profit is against the loss of £512m at the end of the last financial year. To add the system of management by targets the NHS's Chief executive David Nicholson also set out new targets for tackling hospital infections and meeting the 18-week waiting time target.

Have this government lost all touch will reality in management of out health service. Until they figure out the largest organisation in the country cannot be managed from one office in Whitehall then the mess that NHS is be coming will only get worst.

It is simply not possible for Heath Authorities to balance the books when they neither determine the budget nor determine what they should do for that budget. And until the commissioning of services is given to regional and local government then it will not be possible to provide the service that the people of this country deserve.

Commenting on this report Liberal Democrat Shadow minister Steve Webb said :-

"The Government has gone into target overdrive. How can hospitals already at financial breaking point be expected to chase new targets while trying to dig themselves out of the cycle of debt imposed by Labour's Alice in Wonderland accounting rules? Patients will lose out in the struggle between hitting targets and achieving financial balance, as hospitals will face no option but to cut vital services. For many trusts, breaking even by next year will not be possible without continuing to cut staff numbers and services. The damaging accounting rules which mean deficits have to be repaid twice must be urgently reformed if the NHS is to put an end to debts."

BBC Report - NHS 'must make surplus next year'

Steve Webb MP - Government has gone into NHS target overdrive

David Goodall's Views: Health - NHS

Friday 8th December 2006

Last year a Tornado hit Birmingham this year its London

After yesterday's tornado in Kensal Rise, London the area's Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather has expressed her sympathy to those families whose homes have been damaged and praise for the work of the emergency services. Sarah has also written to the Government asking them to provide assistance from their Emergency Relief Fund and is also set to hold an emergency meeting with the Association of British Insurers for those affected by the disaster.

Those of us who have read and seen reports of the side effects of the climate change the cause of yesterdays 'natural disaster' in London has more a man-made feel to it than might appear. The scientists have predicted for years that climate change caused by global warming would cause more extreme weather events, like the large number of very strong hurricanes in America last year or the Tornados and flooding events we have seen here. The natural disasters have occurred here in the past but not with the scale and frequency with which they are now happening.

The real problem and inconvenient truth for us is that the scientist's predictions are not proven by laboratory experiments or computer simulations but by extreme weather events actually happening in Birmingham, London, Boscastle, Carlisle and elsewhere across this country and the rest of Europe.

And commenting on this Local Liberal Democrat MP also said :-

"Scientists have claimed that the tornado risk could be rising because of global warming. It is frankly terrifying that we may have to face this kind of phenomenon more frequently."

BBC report - Six hurt as tornado hits London

BBC report - Tornado injures 19 in Birmingham

BBC report - Prince sees Boscastle devastation

BBC report - North still fighting flood effect

Sarah Teather MP - Tornado reaction from local MP

The Film Documentary - An Inconvenient Truth

Thursday 7th December 2006

An official report says ASBOs are not effective and have been breached regularly

Today a report published by the National Audit Office says that about 55% of all anti-social behaviour orders given out in England and Wales have been breached. The ASBOs were either breached by offenders committing more offences or by breaking the terms of the order.

This does not even mean that the remaining 45% of ASBOs are effective in many cases all they do is move the anti-social behaviour to another area, as we have found to our cost in West End with some trouble makers coming into the village having been banned from parts of Southampton.

To get real change in a person's behaviour the only way is to work with the person and get them to understand that there actions are wrong and that they must change. This is the basic approach of the Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and they have been shown to work well in tackling anti-social behaviour issues.

Commenting on this Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Nick Clegg said :-

"The strategy of carpeting the country in ASBOs and demonising thousands of young people was always far too blunt a tool to deal with the complexities of anti-social behaviour. While ASBOs may have their place, it is clear that they are not nearly as effective as ministers claim. The Prime Minister and John Reid must stop trying to look tough and instead focus on effective policies that actually work. Acceptable Behaviour Contracts - developed by the Liberal Democrats - are proving far more cost-effective and successful than simple ASBOs."

BBC report - Half of ASBO holders breach order

National Audit Office Full Report - Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour

Nick Clegg MP - Carpeting the country with ASBOs not the answer

The Liberal Democrat Approach to Anti-Social Behaviour

Wednesday 6th December 2006

Training and Skills need to be improved for Britain to compete internationally

Today a review of UK training and skills programmes says that they need to be reformed for the British economy to enjoy a £80bn boost over the next 30 years otherwise Britain is on course for "undistinguished mediocrity", lagging behind competitors such as the US and Germany and facing big new challenges from China and India.

Yet again another review of our training and skills system has highlighted that a step change in thinking and action is required. The devil will be in the detail of how the Government implement this review if they treat it like the Tomlinson Review and ditch almost all of it then that will be another lost opportunity to improve the education system. Let's hope this time they listen and act but without the reforms of the Tomlinson review the impact of training and skills improvements will be limited.

Commenting on the Leith report Liberal Democrat Shadow Education secretary Sarah Teather said :-

"Previous Government skills programmes have not had an illustrious history so far. The Liberal Democrats will be keen to see the practical details of how the Government chooses to implement Leitch's recommendations. Money needs to be spent effectively and efficiently in order to bring about results - government policy has not always measured up well to those criteria."

The Guardian - Skills shakeup is key to British prosperity, says report

BBC report - Why Tomlinson was turned down

Sarah Teather MP - Government has poor record on improving skills

Tuesday 5th December 2006

Fairer and Simpler Tax System is needed as Government Cash in on Stamp Duty

Today a report in the Guardian revenue from inheritance tax and the higher rates of stamp duty on homes has soared to a record £6.7 billion in the last financial year. The Halifax said the amount the Government collected through stamp duty on properties valued above £250,000 had risen by 175% in the past half decade and one fifth of properties projected to be above the inheritance tax threshold by 2020.

At last research showing who really benefits from run away house price inflation - the Government. They effectively raise taxation without having to announce tax rises. They appear to be unable to see that house price inflation is a problem and they appear to unwilling to really tackle the problem or the problem of the unfair and complex tax system which raises extra tax as a result of house price inflation.

A basic need of everyone in society is a home to live in and the basic requirement of every Government is that they tax us in the most effective and fairest manner possible to raise the revenue we require to do the tasks we wish them to do. Yet this Government fails on both fronts.

Commenting on this Halifax research released today Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:-

"More and more people are being sucked into paying inheritance tax. As house prices have continued to rise, the Government has stubbornly refused to listen to calls for reform. The current system of stamp duty is totally inequitable. The Chancellor must focus on creating a fairer and simpler alternative that is proportionate to a house's value."

Guardian report - Property tax revenues hit £6.7bn

Vince Cable MP - Inheritance tax and stamp duty affecting more people than ever

Monday 4th December 2006

Government anti-terror measures radicalise British Muslims

Today a report published by the think tank Demos, partly funded by the government is claiming that British Muslims are being driven into the arms of violent extremists by official attempts to engage with them after the 7 July bombs, a study claims. The report accused ministers of failing to engage Muslims over British foreign policy in Iraq. The study called for "community relations to be at the heart of security policy."

The real problem is that this government's relationship with the Muslim community in this country mirrors their relationship with countries whose main religion is Islam. In foreign policy as a country we have to start making real progress in the middle-east peace process and we have to make clear our own position and not let the rest of the world assume what President Bush goes for us too. In domestic policy we have to stop preaching to the Muslim community on how there should conduct themselves, because the vast majority are good citizens of the UK.

These Demos report as main excellent suggestion of how community relations can be improved and the government should act to should as many suggestions as possible are implemented.

Commenting on the report Liberal Democrat Home Secretary Nick Clegg said :-

"There is little to be gained in the long term by providing our security and police services with extra powers to tackle terrorism if, at the same time, the conditions for ever-deeper radicalisation are not being addressed with equal vigour."

However it has also been highlighted today how badly wrong the policy in Iraq is going at present when outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said to the BBC that the level of violence in Iraq is "much worse'' than that of Lebanon's civil war and that the average Iraqi's life is worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein. He called the situation in the country "extremely dangerous" and as if to underline these comments a series of car bombings killed over 40 people in Baghdad in the past day.

Responding to Kofi Annan's comments and the bombings in Iraq Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ming Campbell and Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary, Michael Moore MP issued a joint statement saying :-

"The Secretary General's pessimistic analysis is no surprise. The country is at risk of breaking up, the quality of life is grossly inadequate and security is at an all time low. Those who went to war against Iraq have a grave responsibility. This latest bout of carnage and sectarian violence underlines Kofi Annan's demand for an international conference. Unless we internationalise the strategy for Iraq we will continue in this spiral of violence with no end in sight."

There appears to be no clear policy direction in Iraq from this government. Despite the obvious way forward which is to internationalise the strategy and get all neighbouring countries and the UN involved to sorting out the mess we as a country have made.

The problem for the UK and US governments this internationalising strategy would have to start with a open admission that they made a mistake, because as with all problems in life until you admit the problem it is not possible to find the solution.

Demos Report - Bringing it Home - Community-based approaches to counter-terrorism

BBC report - Policies 'aid Muslim extremism'

BBC report - Annan reflective as UN term ends

Sir Ming Campbell MP - US and UK have a grave responsibility over Iraq

Michael Moore MP - Baghdad bombings underline need for internationalising Iraq strategy

Friday 1st December 2006

Britain's nuclear force should be halved

Today the Liberal Democrat Policy committee announced details of our white paper proposals to be debated at the spring conference in Harrogate. The policy proposals for Britain's nuclear deterrent published ahead of the Government White Paper on Monday include:

  • Retaining the current Trident system but cutting Britain's nuclear weapons by half, retaining only up to 100 warheads.
  • Extending the life span of the current Trident system and keeping options open on a final decision until at least 2014 in order to allow a clearer picture to develop with regard to nuclear proliferation and to threats to Britain.
  • Using the cut in warheads to kick-start multilateral disarmament talks and sending a strong signal to non-nuclear weapons states that Britain takes its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty seriously.
  • A presumption in favour of the most cost effective replacement for the current Trident system being a submarine system based on the Trident missile of 3 boats carrying no more than 24 warheads each.

Unfortunately I don't believe the government will follow our lead. Even when the number of missiles can easily be reduced. If our enemies are not deterred by been complete wiped of the face of the earth once then having the capacity to do that several times over is no good and just a waste of money.

However it makes sense to use this change in capacity and system to renew the process of multilateral nuclear disarmament and save the taxpayer many millions of pounds in the process.

BBC Report - Cut nuclear weapons by half

Sir Ming Campbell MP - Cut Trident by 50%

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