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Thursday 21st June 2007

Liberal Democrats call for reform and openness in the European Union

European Union leaders are preparing to meet in Brussels to discuss a treaty to help the union work more effectively. A draft tabled by Germany recommends deep reforms, but not a constitution - an idea spurned by French and Dutch voters two years ago.

It has to be clear to both the most ardent critic and supporter of the European Union that reform of the institutions and the mechanisms of running the organisation is required, particularly as we are now talking about a union of 27 and not 6 nations. What clearly needs to be defined is :-

  • What is solely a matter for National Governments to control?
  • What is solely a matter for European Institutions to control?
  • Where the dividing line between National Governments and European Institutions on areas on joint responsibility?

The other area that needs to be improved is the running of the European Institutions themselves :-

  • There needs to be more openness and transparency in their working - All EU institutions should conform to the principles of freedom of information, for example the Council of Ministers should meet in public whenever it discusses legislation and publish a record of its proceedings and the European Central Bank should also publish its minutes and votes.
  • The European Parliament should have more say in the running of the European Union than the Commission - this will help provide a stable and legitimate framework to reinforce democracy and restore public confidence in running of the Union.
  • The Parliament should stay put in Brussels and not move every few months to Strasburg - this will time & save money

Also we could do more in this country and ï€ Improve Westminster's scrutiny of European legislation and of the activities of UK ministers attending the Council of Ministers. The bottom is that improvements can be made to the European Union but this can only be made through positive engagement of the Liberal Democrats and not the half-heart efforts of the Labour party or the anti-EU tone of the Tories.

Commenting on the meeting Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Moore said :-

"We need a new institutional settlement. It is unsustainable to continue arrangements designed for a Union of six nations when there are now 27. There are obvious areas crying out for reform. For a start, it is essential for the principles of conferral, subsidiarity and proportionality to be put explicitly at the heart of the Union and its operation. We desperately need to tackle the lack of transparency in the institutions, and to clarify the roles of European and national Parliaments."

BBC report - EU leaders grapple with reforms

Michael Moore MP - European Union needs more continuity and direction

Wednesday 20th June 2007

Tories propose unaccountable National Quango to run NHS

The Tories are pledging to hand day-to-day control of the NHS to an independent board, as part of reforms aimed at making it more autonomous. They say the board should allocate billions of pounds to primary care trusts across England, and oversee the commissioning of services. Ministers would appoint board members, set objectives and hold it to account.

How can a remote bunch of unelected officials possible determine what the needs and cost are of a hospital in Southampton or West End ? The answer is they can't because at present that is exactly what we have. All the Tories wish to do is take the only elected person out of the loop. The problem they and Government are trying to solve is how to best manage and allocate the financial resources to improve the health care system of the country. The answer they have both come to is centralise as much of the decision making as possible.

The only real answer is to do the exact opposition - let local hospitals and health care professionals decide what services they can offer and at what cost - whilst letting the local community decide through their locally elected representatives which services they need for their area. The only thing that needs to be centralised is an inspection regime to ensure basic standards are met and to facilitate the spread of best practice.

Commenting on the Conservative proposal Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb said :-

"A national independent board on its own without any local democratic accountability would create an unaccountable, centralised and remote quango. The Tories have campaigned against hospital closure and service cuts. The net effect of these proposals is that the Tories would do in government what they condemn in opposition. Hospitals would close with no local accountability. The decision would be made by a remote national quango."

BBC report - Tories pledge 'independent NHS'

David Goodall's Views: Health - NHS

Tuesday 19th June 2007

Fair taxation means the rich paying their fair share

The Liberal Democrats have today revealed plans to ensure that the rich pay a fairer amount in tax. The proposals - part of the tax paper which will be debated at Autumn conference - are designed to tackle the growing inequality in Britain, and the problem of people being priced out of the housing market by non-domiciles.

The six-point plan will :-

  • Abolish Capital Gains Tax taper relief
  • Make non-domiciles pay Capital Gains Tax on the property and other assets they buy and sell in the UK
  • Close the loophole that allows individuals to "move" their houses offshore and so only pay 0.5% stamp duty
  • Lift the threshold on inheritance tax to protect middle England by extending the seven-year rule on gifts
  • Switch from Council Tax to Local Income Tax
  • Strengthen the rules for shareholder votes on executive pay

The Liberal Democrats are not like the 1970's Labour Party that prided its self on taxing the rich, but we are a party that truly believes in fair and progressive taxation - this means the richest 20% of the population should not pay a lower percentage of their income in tax than the poorest 20% of the population. The current situation is a scandal and one which the current Labour government have not only failed to tackle but have actually made worse as the gap between rich and poor has grown in the past 10 years.

These proposals are a sensible step to re-address the taxation system and make it fairer for all. It is not possible to move society as a whole forward if the rich are effectively robbing the poor. Today in the times of Gordon Brown's it is through the complex web of his tax system, at least in Robin Hood's day it was more obvious.

Commenting on these proposals the only chancellor with any real economic experience outside parliament Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:

"The current system is creating a corrosive sense of unfairness. The Liberal Democrats have come forward with a series of practical measures to ensure that everybody pays their fair share. This will allow us to offer tax cuts to the less well-off. We recognise the benefits that wealth creators bring, but there has to be a sense of fairness in the tax system."

Vince Cable MP - The rich should pay their fair share

Vince Cable MP - PhD Economics; Economic Diplomat; Chief Economist; Economics of Head Chatham House

David Goodall's Views: Taxation

Monday 18th June 2007

A quarter of NHS trusts failing to meet hygiene standards

According to their own data submitted to the NHS watchdog, the Healthcare Commission, NHS trusts in England are struggling to meet key hygiene standards. A quarter of the trusts report they are not complying with one of the three core standards relating to the hygiene code. Also 14% of trusts said they had failed to meet targets on reducing infection, which is 7% up from last year. In total there are 24 core NHS standards, covering everything from clinical effectiveness to governance. The Healthcare Commission said 40% of trusts were meeting all of these core standards.

This problem all stems from the 1980's Conservative's governments drive to force the NHS save money. As I have said before the hospital cleaning staff are a core part of the health care team they are not some group which can be hired in from outside and contracting out this service should be stopped. The clean staff for a ward should be fully part of the ward health team, work patterns and tasks should be directly determined by the ward manager (i.e. the ward sister).

The cleaning staff's job is an important part of the health care and they need time to do it, but a proper cleaning regime also has greater consequences for the running of the NHS, for example :-

  • It means not running the wards with 90% plus occupancy but leaving time for the bed and area around the bed to be completely cleaned.
  • It means leaving time in the schedule for daily complete ward cleaning.
  • It means better hospital design so there are both fewer nooks and crannies to keep clean and those that exist are easier to clean.
  • It means separate toilet and washing areas for the three groups of people in the hospital i.e. staff, patients and public to reduce cross-condemnation rates.
  • It means regular checking and treatment of all hospital staff for the most serious bugs and allowing for this in increased staffing costs.
  • It means whole bed cleaning between one patient and the next.
  • It means smaller bedded wards i.e. 4 beds maximum

Above all it means having a Government in this country prepared to take the steps above as Governments in other European countries have done.

Commenting the lack of good hygiene standards in NHS trusts Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb said :-

"It is wholly unacceptable that one in four hospitals are still failing to meet required hygiene standards. There has to be a cultural change within hospitals. Three-quarters of hospitals are successfully implementing effective measures - there is no excuse for others not to follow. There has to be a zero tolerance approach to tackling superbugs. It is shocking that after countless government initiatives the number of hospitals failing to protect patients from these infections has doubled."

BBC report - NHS 'hygiene standards struggle'

Norman Lamb MP - Cultural change needed to tackle superbugs

Friday 15th June 2007

National Audit Office condemns the Environment Agency over flood defence

A National Audit Office report has warned homes and businesses are at risk from flooding because the Environment Agency is not doing enough to maintain flood defences. The report found only 61% of flood defences have been maintained to their target conditions. There are also massive regional differences in the standards of flood defences; only 18% of defences in the south west are in peak condition compared to 60% in the south.

Now we see the true folly of last year's flood defence budget cut. We are not prepared and when it comes to flood defence only being prepared counts. In these days of variable weather at all times of the year flash flooding is just as much a danger in the summer as it is in the more obvious winter months. Let's hope that this poor state of unprepared defences cause not result in loss of life or serious damage to people's homes, for with this lack of preparation hope is all we have.

Commenting on the damming report on the Environment Agency Liberal Democrat Environment Secretary Chris Huhne said :-

"With global warming leading to higher sea levels, it is crucial to maintain Britain's flood defences properly. The Environment Agency has not been helped by last year's flood budget cut, thanks to Defra's inability to run the Rural Payments Agency properly. Cutting funding to flood defences is a completely false economy given the threats from rising sea levels and extreme storms."

BBC Report - Flood defences 'lack maintenance'

Chris Huhne MP - Environment agency must focus on high risk areas

Thursday 14th June 2007

Liberal Democrats set out plans to build a million new affordable homes by 2020

Today Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ming Campbell delivered the Chamberlain Lecture at a Joseph Rowntree Foundation conference in Birmingham. He unveiled Lib Dems' proposals for housing, which include:

  • Building 100,000 new affordable, social and low cost homes each year
  • Devolving and reforming the planning system to make decisions faster and more effective for all parties
  • Introducing equity mortgages to ensure that affordable housing is built and maintained for the benefit of generations of buyers
  • Building smaller social housing developments which are integrated with private housing
  • Cutting VAT on housing renovations and repairs

Sir Ming launched a withering attack on Labour's record on housing and accused the Government of 'ghettoising' housing, leaving poor and vulnerable people living on large 'sink estates' which offered little hope or opportunity. This is something that is clearly very important to Sir Ming after his Glasgow tenement upbringing.

Ten years of a Labour Government have led to the greatest housing crisis since the 1950's and the worse problem is not that Labour don't want to tackle this problem it is simply they don't know how to. The development of equity mortgages is something pioneered by Liberal Democrat South Shropshire Council, it is a policy that not only generated affordable housing for one generation but keeps it affordable for the next. It is not a theory which may work but a practical policy which has worked in real life. It is just the sort of thing that should be happening across the country and with full national government support. It is just the sort of thing that Labour to their shame are not doing.

Commenting on the housing problems Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ming Campbell said :-

"House prices have grown at almost four times the rate of earnings, whilst mortgage debt has grown by 150%. Fewer and fewer young people can get a foot on the housing ladder. I am proposing the UK's most ambitious home-building programme in over a quarter of a century. 100,000 new social, low cost and affordable houses every year to benefit Britain's most vulnerable citizens. We need to break the pattern of the last ten years with a revolution in housing policy."

Lib Dem report - Liberal Democrats set out plans to build a million new affordable homes by 2020

Wednesday 13th June 2007

Government set out proposals for dealing with Paedophiles

Home Secretary John Reid today unveiled a proposal for families to be informed about paedophiles who might pose a specific threat to their children. There will also be trials of drug treatments involving libido-reducing drugs or anti-depressants - described by some as "chemical castration" - which would be given on a voluntary basis. Mr Reid also said that programmes to tag offenders and then monitor them by satellite would be extended, and methods of ensuring safeguards on paedophiles' computers would also be tested.

One of the most difficult areas of the criminal justice system is how to deal with people in society who are potential still a risk to society after they have served their full prison sentence. It requires careful handing not to alarm the public and to persuade those affected to take part in the programmes. In America to make the public feel safer many states have introduced 'Megan's Law' where parents get to know the address of all convicted sex offenders. The result is that in some states the whereabouts of only 25% of offenders are known. This compares with more than 95% of offenders in this country.

The aim should be protect the public by taking effective action and not appearing to protect the public by making big headlines.

Commenting on the Governments proposals Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Nick Clegg said :-

"These are important proposals which are broadly welcome as long as they can be made to work in practice. It is only a pity that John Reid has once again succumbed to the temptation to spin government policy in a wildly populist way in order to secure headlines before deigning to publish the proposals themselves."

BBC report - Sex crime drug treatments planned

The Guardian report - Reid unveils Sarah's law proposals

Nick Clegg MP - Reid's rhetoric puts populism over policy

Tuesday 12th June 2007

Student Debt Hits £18 Billion

The Liberal Democrats have highlighted new official figures released today showing that the total student debt owed by students in England is now more than £18 billion. This is more than the GDP of Slovenia or if the debt was in pound coins placed on top of each other, the pile would reach around the moon and half way back.

It is indeed a perverse society where young people who sit around at home and do nothing can receive many thousand of pounds in benefits whereas those who try to better themselves by going into further education are forced into thousands of pounds worth of debt. To improve as a country we need to maximise the talents of the whole country and not just those who can afford better opportunities. We can not afford to waste a generation of talent.

Commenting on these new figures Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Sarah Teather said :-

"Ten years of Labour have created a shameful situation where the ability to pay, not the ability to learn determines access to higher education. These are ministers who all benefited from free university education but are happy to pull up the ladder of opportunity behind them. It's yet another way in which Blair's Britain hinders social mobility rather than helps it."

National Statistics - Student Loans Company report for 2006-07

Sarah Teather MP - Student debt reaches a record 18 billion

Monday 11th June 2007

Liberal Democrats propose stronger anti-corruption laws

Following press allegations that BAE paid up to £1bn in bribes to a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family, the Liberal Democrats have called on the government to support Lord Chidgey's Corruption Bill which faces its third reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday. The Bill is designed to strengthen Britain's anti-corruption laws, following criticism from the OECD. The Panorama programme "Princes, Planes and Payoffs" will be aired tonight.

The main problem of many African countries is corruption in Government and one of the suppliers of funds in a corrupt manner are western companies doing business in the countries. This has to be tackled in a vigorous manner both in the countries themselves though the help of international pressure and through pressure any companies that deal with these countries. The people in countries with corrupt governments live appalling conditions and their plight with only improve if the aim of the government is to help the people instead of helping themselves.

This is something that David Chidgey has seen at first hand in his work with the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and which he spoke with great passion about at the Eastleigh Liberal Democrats AGM last November. One of the main ways to assist many countries in the third world is to help to improve their governance and that starts by stopping western companies bribing officials.

Governments must always govern in the interests of the people and not of themselves, when they start to govern just for themselves then it is time that they went.

Commenting on his bill in light of the BAE allegations Lord David Chidgey said :-

"Recent revelations makes it even more important that this Bill becomes law. I strongly urge the government to back this important piece of legislation. The debacle surrounding the Al Yamamah investigation shows that something must be done to restore faith in the British justice system urgently. The UK must fulfil its international obligations to tackle corruption properly."

Commenting on tonight's Panorama program Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ming Campbell said :-

"If, as tonight's Panorama alleges, BAE continued to make payments in return for arms contracts after the law changed in 2002 we need a full investigation to establish whether this amounted to criminal behaviour. If there has been any apparent breach of the anti-corruption legislation that would be a matter for the police."

Lord Chidgey - Government should support Corruption Bill

Sir Ming Campbell MP - BAE breach of anti-corruption legislation is a matter for the police

Friday 8th June 2007

Brake introduces Bill to extend Freedom of Information Laws

As well as leading the fight against the Tory and Labour backed bill to exclude MPs and Peers from Freedom of Information requirements, the Liberal Democrats are now proposing a bill to extend freedom of information and make it harder for the government and other public bodies to keep information secret. Liberal Democrat Tom Brake's bill would give the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal, not ministers, the final say on whether information should be released, and would prevent excessive delays in responding to Freedom of Information requests. It would also bring academies and private contractors doing a large amount of work for public authorities within the scope of Freedom of Information Laws.

The 10 minute rule bill will be proposed on Tuesday next week. This follows last week's decision by the government to appeal to the High Court to overturn a ruling made by the Commissioner - and upheld by the Tribunal - requiring it to disclose details of a 'gateway review' of the ID cards scheme.

This is exactly the direction that Freedom of Information laws should be going. The Government and organisations working for the government are working on behalf of the people and the people of the country have the right to know what they are up to. The only obvious exceptions to this rule are national security reasons and during contract negotiations where public disclosure to clear not sensible.

The high court case over ID cards the government is trying to suppress information because it may be politically damaging. They are trying to say it is a general point of principle that gateway reviews should not be published the government is arguing that the gateway reviews may not be as frank in their criticisms of a project if the authors knew it was going be to published. It other words they are saying the reviewers what not do their job properly if the results were up for public examination. I would argue that this is nonsense reviewers would have to do their job correctly if it was up to public examination.

Public disclosure would cause greater examination of government actions and so could cause seriously off the wall ideas to the scraped or revised before the costs go completely through the roof. The ID card scheme is such a scheme, therefore full and open scrutiny of it can only be of public benefit. And so the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal have both said disclose details of a 'gateway review' of the ID cards scheme is in the public interest.

Speaking about his bill Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesman Tom Brake said :-

"This Bill will give MPs an opportunity to prove that, after the debacle of just a few weeks ago over David Maclean's Bill, we are serious about strengthening FOI legislation. Members must show that they will take a firm stand against any attempts to water down existing legislation."

ePolitix report - Appeal over ID card review ruling

Tom Brake MP - Freedom of Information (Amendment) (no2) Bill Aims for Tougher FOI laws

Tom Brake MP - MPs have a chance to show they are serious about freedom of information

Thursday 7th June 2007

Government Defeated on Pensions Compensation

The government was defeated in the House of Lords last night as Liberal Democrat and Conservative amendments to the Pensions Bill passed. The amendments would give 125,000 pensioners whose pension funds went bust before 2001 access to the Pension Protection Scheme rather than the less generous Financial Assistance Scheme that the government propose. A Tory amendment was passed by 181 votes to 126 and subsequent Lib Dem and Tory amendments were passed without a vote.

In a fair and just society it is only right that if someone saves all their working life for a pension that when they retire they should get that pension. Therefore it is also right artificial deadline are not imposed on pension compensation schemes. It does appear strange though that it takes Tory and Liberal Democrat amendments in the House of Lords to a Pensions Bill to force through workers rights to a decent pension against a Labour Government majority in the House of Commons. I suppose it just highlights how out of touch Labour are with their founding principles.

In truth Company Pension Funds should not be seen as part of the company finances and should be a run as trust fund which separate legal entity to the company, so that the effect of company going bust is reduced.

Commenting on the pensioner's victory in the Lords, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, David Laws said:

"When the issue of pension's compensation comes back to the House of Commons, we are determined to put together a cross-party coalition to fulfil our long held commitment to finally bring justice to those who have lost their pension. Eventually, the Government will be forced into a fair settlement - it would be sensible for Mr Brown to deliver this before it is imposed on him."

The Times - Peers back pensions crisis fund

Liberal Democrats - Robbed Pensioners Deserve Protection

Wednesday 6th June 2007

1,000 Medic Training places lost to balance NHS budget

The Liberal Democrats have revealed today that financial balance in the NHS was achieved at the cost of nearly 1,000 training places for medical professionals. Statistics obtained by the party show that health authorities cut £135 million from training budgets for doctors, nurses and other health workers in order to balance the books. Also today, The Times reports that drastic NHS cost-cutting ordered by the government has derailed its flagship policy to ensure that no patient waits longer than 18 weeks for hospital treatment. A baseline estimate published in December suggested that only 35% of patients across the country were treated within this time.

Keeping NHS costs under control is of course something that has to be done. However this government decided to apply the financial brake so hard in one year that trusts have been forced into harsh cuts in the short term in training and patient care. This will only lead to greater problems in the future with a shortage of staff and an increase in patients with more seriously conditions because they were not treated early enough.

The only way to sort the mess out is to give greater control to the trust themselves so they determine there own budget and the services they will provide for that budget. Currently the budget and services are determined Whitehall, but without reference to individual trusts costs.

Commenting the latest Government NHS mess up Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb said :-

"Over the past year, trusts have made harsh cuts to staff and services and raided training and mental health budgets to meet the government's political deadline of breaking even this year. This problem is far from over. There is still a gross deficit of over £900 million, with a fifth of organisations in the red. The government has also now admitted that 17 trusts are in such heavy debt that they could not afford to repay government loans."

The Times - Waiting list crisis as NHS cuts costs

Norman Lamb MP - Staff and patients have paid the price for Government's NHS deadline

David Goodall's Views: Health - NHS

Tuesday 5th June 2007

World Environment Day highlights Climate Change as BBC highlights failure to tackle it

The Liberal Democrats will go on setting the pace on the environment because the other parties do not understand the urgency of the challenge, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary Chris Huhne MP has said. Speaking on the 34th World Environment Day Mr Huhne said he would be bringing comprehensive plans to tackle climate change to the party's autumn's conference. World Environment Day is commemorated each year on 5th June by the United Nations and this year's theme is the effect that climate change is having on polar ecosystems and communities, and the ensuing consequences around the world. And commenting on the climate change plans of the other parties Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary, Chris Huhne said :-

"Although we have heard a lot from both David Cameron and Gordon Brown about the importance of climate change, hard solutions have been conspicuous only by their absence. Voters know which party has been concerned with green issues for longest, and they know a fake when they see one. I firmly believe that, as climate change rightly soars up the political agenda, people will go for the original and not the copy."

Meanwhile a BBC investigation into the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme has revealed that after two and half years the scheme has yet to cut in carbon dioxide emissions. It has been claimed that the scheme has actually increased electricity bills, given a windfall to power companies and failed to cut greenhouse gases. Provisional figures suggest CO2 output in Britain actually went up by 1.25% last year wiping out a slight drop of 0.01% in 2005.

Carbon trading is the correct way to go but it only works if the carbon allowances are tight and the combine total of carbon allowances are reduced year on year. This way it will increase the cost of polluting and make the economic case for firms to change their ways stronger. The problem is a complete lack of political will to tackle to problem and insist on a realistic carbon price level within the scheme. The current system, with free permits, does nothing to help the main object of the scheme, which is to reduce carbon emissions.

The price to pollute must increase before the polluters take effective action to reduce their costs and therefore reduce the level pollution. It is a simple business but it does require the political will to see it through.

Commenting on the results of the BBC investigation Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary, Chris Huhne said :-

"The first phase of the emissions trading scheme has flopped because allocations were far too generous. The second phase beginning in 2008 is already showing a carbon price of more than €15 per tonne, thanks to tougher Commission monitoring of permits. This should be strengthened further by selling off more permits by auction, rather than giving them to polluters for free. The principle of the ETS is a good one. The practice still needs improvement."

BBC report - Carbon trade scheme 'is failing'

United Nations Environment Programme - World Environment Day

Chris Huhne MP - ETS credits should be auctioned

Monday 4th June 2007

Russia and the West in stand off over Missile Defence Shield

President Putin has said Russia will aim its nuclear weapons at Europe if the US sets up a missile defence shield there. Nato called the statement "unhelpful and unwelcome". French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he will have "frank" talks with Mr Putin this week about the threat. Russian Putin has also described the British demand for former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi's extradition from Russia as "pure foolishness". The UK wants to charge Lugovoi with murdering Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

I said back in the middle of May that the Russians see the Ballistic Missile Defence system as an attack system not a defence system, for if one country believes their defence system so good it can't be hit then it might be tempted attack and that this system does not help world peace but would cause problems. And what do we have here if not problems. As a country we should distance ourselves from the US plans for Ballistic Missile Defence and try instead to pursue a course of bridge building and peace making.

It is not to late to pursue the peace making route and all sides have much to gain from building peace instead of preparing for war.

Commenting on Vladamir Putin's statement today regarding missile defence systems, Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ming Campbell said:

"These comments reflect the growing nationalism in Russia and a new assertiveness based on its renewed economic strength and vast energy supplies. We must avoid a return to the fear and tension of the Cold War. There must be a consistent and constructive approach towards Russia, ensuring that it is part of solutions in areas of mutual interest such as the Middle East and global warming."

BBC Report - Litvinenko demand foolish - Putin

Sir Ming Campbell MP - We cannot return to fear and tension of Cold War

David Goodall's blog - Brown must end dysfunctional relationship with Bush

Friday 1st June 2007

Transport emissions rising as Bush calls for a "New Global Framework"

New Office of National Statistics figures show that in 2005 there was a 4.4 per cent rise in greenhouse gas emissions from transport and communications. There was also a 3.1 per cent increase in emissions from the construction industry. The 'Environmental Accounts' show that overall in 2005, on a UK residents basis, greenhouse gas emissions remained at their 2004 level of 733.5 million tonnes. Greenhouse gas emissions are currently 9.3 per cent lower, compared with the Kyoto base year of 1990, but little changed since 1999.

The models of reducing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere rely on cutting emissions year on year yet since 1999 the emission levels have almost flat-lined. After 8 years of flat-lining it is time to pronounce the Government's greenhouse gas emissions strategy dead in the water. The worrying trend is that the transport and communications sector levels are increasing at such a rate the cuts that were achieved in the 1990's by switching from coal to gas power may even be reversed.

There needs to be a dramatic change in tact from the Government to produce at economic market where by powering cars, trains and planes using non-fossil fuel based sources is the most economic thing to do and where the most fuel efficient power systems are rewarded over the least efficient ones. This can only be done by changes in the tax system, combined with regulatory changes to promote, for example :-

  • Microgeneration
  • Bio-fuels
  • Renewable energy
  • Electric and hybrid cars
  • Power efficient consumer goods

The time to get serious with greenhouse gas emissions is well past the time now is for practical action that will lead to year on year cuts in emissions of about 1% per year for the next 50 years.

Commenting on new Office of National Statistics figures which show a rise in transport emissions, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary, Chris Huhne said :-

"All the effort in tackling carbon emissions elsewhere is being cancelled out by the continuing rise in transport pollution. This underlines the urgent need for green taxes on cars and planes, not to raise revenue - other taxes should be cut - but to changes behaviour. Without a serious plan to tackle transport emissions, there is a large hole in the Government's climate change strategy."

Meanwhile across the Atlantic US President George W Bush may have started to recognise the danger of global warming. He proposed a "new global framework" to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but rejected a global carbon-trading programme permitting countries to buy and sell carbon credits. Well George W you may have almost seen the light - the thing is a new global framework is not required what is required is that your country actually joins in the existing one. A global carbon market is essential to give an incentive to countries and companies to change their behaviour.

Commenting on President Bush's speech Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary, Chris Huhne said :-

"President Bush is at last bowing to the inevitable, both scientifically and politically, since there is now a clear majority in both houses of congress who support federal emissions limits. This helps to clear the way for an agreement at the G8 summit. It is crucial that the US accepts the need for carbon markets to give price incentives for a new wave of private investment in renewable energy."

National Statistics Office - Environmental Accounts Spring 2007

BBC report - US seeks new greenhouse gas goals

The Guardian Report - Bush kills off hopes for G8 climate change plan

Chris Huhne MP - Green taxes needed to cut transport emissions

Chris Huhne MP - Bush bowing to the inevitable over emissions

David Goodall's Blog Archive