MPs move to create new anti-tax avoidance principle in UK law

To a rational person it would seem that:

  • making  ordinary and less well off people  shoulder more than their fair share of the burden of austerity simply takes money out of the economy – prolonging the recession.
  • giving tax breaks to those who already have more money than they can spend simply means that money will be pumped into off shore tax havens.
  • natural justice suggests that those who have gained the most from the financial free for all of the last thirty years should contribute the most towards sorting out the resulting mess.

Life is more complicated than this but what is clear is that a way of redressing this imbalance would be to collect the billions of pounds of tax that is currently avoided, evaded or simply stored in tax havens.   The sums of money are huge and would go a long way to solving our problems. The UK is responsible for the majority of the world’s tax havens which include  London if you are a non UK citizen or non domiciled.  The UK could unilaterally make a huge difference to ordinary tax payers throughout the world.

A new anti-tax avoidance principle in UK law would be a small start.  Here is a copy of an email (thanks to  http://www.taxresearch.org.uk) that I have sent to my MP.  Below the message are links to further information.

Dear Mr Glen

General Anti-Tax Avoidance Principle Bill (HC Bill 25)

I understand that this Bill, in the name of Michael Meacher MP, is to come before the Commons on Friday.

There is a growing sense of grievance and indeed outrage that many in our national community, both businesses and individuals, are dodging paying their due amount of tax. This is leading to insufficient funds in the exchequer, for example to maintain benefits for disabled people – cuts to items such as the disability allowance would be a scandal in the aftermath of the highly successful Paralympics.

I believe in Tax Justice, believing that tackling tax abuse, whether it be tax avoidance or tax evasion, is a desperately-needed global economic reform. I also strongly support the phasing out of tax ‘havens’, which the wealthy use to avoid their tax responsibilities. This Bill will greatly aid that process by hindering the opportunity for people from this country to use such places.

Please would you support this Bill and let me know your views on this vital topic?

Sincerely,

Colin Lawson

http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2012/09/13/mps-move-to-create-new-anti-tax-avoidance-principle-in-uk-law/

Copy of a message you could send to your MP:
http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2012/09/12/if-you-want-to-support-michael-meachers-general-anti-tax-avoidance-principle-bill-this-is-what-to-do/

Cameron won’t make me a Minister… I’m a white, Christian, married, bloke from the Home Counties says Tory MP, John Glen.

On the night before a likely cabinet reshuffle it might be worth remembering this very strange and rather unpleasant article from the Daily Mail of Nov 2010: Cameron won’t make me a Minister… I’m a white, married, Home Counties Christian, says Tory MP

Cameron won't make me a Minister... I'm a white, married, Home Counties Christian, says Tory MP John Glen

The article claims that John Glen “has made a scathing attack on David Cameron for pro­moting women and people from the ethnic minorities over ‘white, Christian, married’ men” and that he  said “his background effectively ruled him out for a ministerial job under Mr Cameron.”

He said: ‘I don’t anticipate any early calls to Government. I’m a white, Christian, married bloke from the Home Counties so I probably don’t fit the description of what the leadership wants at the moment.’

The Daily Mail in its usual unpleasant  style made the most of this – any excuse to imply that ethnic minorities and women might be getting the upper hand irrespective of the evidence.  But then evidence and facts are generally ignored by the Daily Mail.

The facts of course are that out of 100 government ministers less than 20 are women and only a couple are from ethnic minorities.

In fact of course most ministers are white, male, home counties etc etc.  A disturbingly large number went to Eton & Oxbridge, were born wealthy, have never had a proper job and seem singularly unqualified for their roles, why didn’t John Glen mention that?

I don’t normally recommend a Daily Mail article but I assume that the quotes are correct and it is worth reading just for these.

Cameron won’t make me a Minister… I’m a white, married, Home Counties Christian, says Tory MP

UPDATE (Tuesday 4th Sept 2012):  as far as I am aware John Glen has not made it into the cabinet or become a junior minister in the reshuffle. However, Cameron’s new cabinet consists of 85% men, 100% white,70% Oxbridge, 100% wealthy and not one lives in the real world.  So Mr Glen, where are all those women and ethnic minorities???

WHY is this important? The headline is designed to reinforce the Daily Mail’s continuing agenda of racism and misogyny. It implies that a male, white, home counties, Christian is somehow at a disadvantage compared to ethnic minorities or women. The article does not offer one shred of evidence to support this. In fact the allegation is clearly ridiculous, particularly given the make up of our current government.  But the majority of Mail readers will not read the article in full, they will just see the headline and confirmation bias will allow them to reinforce their prejudices.  This particular example is too comical to be taken particularly seriously but the insidious effect of unsubstantiated and usually totally false headlines day in day out should not be underestimated.

UPDATE: Just heard (Wed 12th Sept 2012) that John Glen has been made PPS to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.  Congratulations to John.

This should be interesting to watch as John Glen grapples with the conflict between the interests of his constituents and the doctrinaire policies of Eric Pickles.

UPDATE: (3rd Oct 2012) Seems John failed to have any influence on Eric (Localism) Pickles concerning the Hampton Park II estate which has got the go ahead over the wishes of residents and councillors.
Pickles  1  Localism 0
Hampton Park II to go ahead after review plea fails (Salisbury Journal, 3rd Oct 2012)

UPDATE: 22nd Dec 2012 Here is the latest photo of the Cabinet, taken to commemorate the visit of the Queen.    Yes, David Cameron has certainly been “promoting women and people from the ethnic minorities over ‘white, Christian, married’ men” here’s the evidence:

Photo of Cabinet

UPDATE (PMQs 5th Feb 2014):  David Cameron’s all white, all male, front bench:allmalefrontbench2

The tory party freeing upwomento do other things

UPDATE 28th Sept 2014: Have just noticed that John Glen has been promoted to the Number 10 Policy Board (Home Affairs and Constitution) to work on the constitution and devolution.   So perhaps being a white, home counties, Oxford educated, Christian wasn’t such a dreadful disadvantage after all. Well done John!

UPDATE Feb 2017. Just thought I would add a photo of the current cabinet. I guess Mr Glen can feel disgruntled about the small increase in the number of women in the cabinet at his expense but other wise it looks like the same old mix of white, home counties, privately, educated men:

current cabinet

UPDATE: June 2017 John Glen MP has finally made it – he has been made a Junior Minister (Minister for the Arts, Heritage & Tourism) at the Department of Culture Media and Sport – well done John.

UPDATE: Sept 2018  Having been promoted in Jan 2018 to  Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister, John Glen has now blotted his copybook somewhat by accidentally revealing a Treasury no-deal Brexit document ‘Operation Yellowhammer’.

john glen yellowhammer

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/treasury-no-deal-brexit-document-13202141

More evidence of the involvement of Virgin Health in our local NHS

The Joint Board for NHS Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) and NHS Wiltshire Cluster PCT has two members who are Doctors in GP Practices that are in partnership with Virgin Care.

Dr Ian Orpen B&NES CCG Chair:  Member of Assura Minerva (part of Virgin Health – practice is a shareholder)  also GP Partner providing NHS services under PMS Contract

Dr Stephen Rowlands Medical Director NHW Wiltshire and Interim Wiltshire CCG Chair: Practice member of GP practice which is in an LLP with Assura Medical (part of Virgin Health)

Source: http://www.wiltshire.nhs.uk/Downloads/Board-Papers/Joint%20Board%20ROI%202012-2013.pdf

For further background see: ‘Virgin Care’ partners in Wiltshire

Conflict of interest fears in NHS shakeup plans (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, June 2011)

Matt Ridley – failed banker and rightwing neolibertarian propagandist.

“Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley, FRSL, FMedSci, DL, known commonly as Matt Ridley, is a British scientist, journalist, and popular author and a member of the House of Lords.”  Sounds impressive doesn’t it? Now read on:

Hereditary Viscount, Mathew Ridley (The Rational Optimist) is promoted as “a renowned science writer, journalist, biologist, and businessman”. But what is carefully whitewashed out of his biography is the information that Matthew Ridley is a “failed banker”. Ridley was chairman* of the Northern Rock Bank (2004-2007) where his ill-considered investments in sub-prime mortgages led to the bank’s collapse and nationalization.  When it collapsed it suffered the first run on a British bank in 150 years and contributed to the near melt down of the financial system of the western world. The result was that this neolibertarian propagandist who believes in small government and low taxes had to go to the government and tax payer for a £27 billion bailout.

(* Note: his father had been chairman of Northern Rock before him so I guess Matt Ridley’s  Chairmanship at the bank  was another hereditary position – there is certainly no record of him getting the position through merit)

Although Ridley has a science degree he has never, to my knowledge, been a working scientist and has no expertise in Climate science and yet writes as if he is an authority on this subject.

Matt Ridley ruined Northern Rock.  Fred Goodwin ruined the Royal Bank of Scotland.  Fred Goodwin’s career is in tatters, he seems to have gone to ground and no one is asking his advice on anything and yet Matt Ridley seems to have no trouble getting his articles published, why?  Perhaps it is not the veracity of what he has to say but simply what he says that suits those right wing organisations that seem so keen to publish his work.

Before taking Ridley seriously, consider all those investors and employees of Northern Rock who have, and in many cases still are, suffering real financial hardship because of his incompetence, hubris and failed neolibertarian ideology.

Would you trust someone who, after a lifetime of privilege and entitlement, had caused the first run on a British Bank in over 150 years and then went to the tax payer for a £27 billion bailout?

UPDATE: (6th Feb 2013) Hereditary Viscount,  Matt Ridley, failed banker, ex Chair of failed Northern Rock, has been elected as hereditary Peer to the House of Lords by 24 hereditary peers.   21st Century?? Reward for failure?? Old boys club?? Member of the 1%.  Democracy???

UPDATE: (20th Nov 2013) The list of failed bankers who had managed to get top jobs in banking despite having no relevant prior experience gets longer by the week.   Here are the ones I know about: Andy Hornby (HBOS), Matt Ridley (Northern Rock), Fred Goodwin (RBS) and now Rev Paul Flowers (COOP BANK) all  managed to crash their bank – brilliant.  I dare say there are more – we probably only have to wait a week or two find out.

 

 UPDATE (18th Oct 2013): Matt Ridley has published yet another of his irrationally optimistic articles “Why climate change is good for the world” This has, as usual, been taken up enthusiastically by the right wing press so here is a useful rebuttal:
“Lord Ridley’s flawed article in ‘The Spectator'” ( Bob Ward, London School of Economics, Grantham Institute, Oct 2013):
http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/Media/Commentary/2013/Oct/lord-ridleys-flawed-article-spectator.aspx

See also:

“What Matt Ridley won’t tell you about climate change impacts” (17 October 2013 by Chris Hope)  http://www.chrishopepolicy.com/2013/10/what-matt-ridley-wont-tell-you-about-climate-change-impacts/

“No, climate change will not be good for the world” (Duncan Geere New Statesman 17 OCTOBER 2013):
http://www.chrishopepolicy.com/2013/10/what-matt-ridley-wont-tell-you-about-climate-change-impacts/

UPDate (March 2014):  “Climate Forecast: Muting the Alarm” in the Wall Street Journal is the latest disinformation from Matt Ridley.  Here is a response:  Matt Ridley op-ed is a laundry list of IPCC misrepresentations.  http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/author/climatesciencewatch/

 

See the links below for more information on this so called ‘expert’:

Matt Ridley – Wired for Lukewarm Catastrophe (Skeptical Science 29 Aug 2012)

The Ridley Riddle Part One: The Red Queen (Skeptical Science 30 July 2011)

The Ridley Riddle Part Two: The White Queen (Skeptical Science 7 Aug 2011)

The Ridley Riddle Part Three: Like a Northern Rock (Skeptical Science 12 Aug 2011)

The Right’s Whitewashing Of History (Liam McLaughlin, Huffington Post, 10/09/2012)

Matt Ridley – The Man Who Wants to Northern Rock the Planet (George Monbiot June 1 2010)

Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist is telling the rich what they want to hear – The ex-Northern Rock man is in denial about his book’s mistakes (George Monbiot, Guardian 18th June 2010)

If the Northern Rock fiasco was a morality tale, it was more about hubris than greed (Giles Fraser, The Guardian, Friday 14 September 2012)

“Cherry-picked reality: How fantasy is maintained by false scepticism” A critique of Matt Ridley’s “Rational Optimist” (warning – a lengthy article but worth reading if you have time)  http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2010/06/matt-ridley-comments.html … (New Scientist 10th June 2010)

 UPDATE 24th July 2014: New article by George Monbiot illustrating once again the bankruptcy of the neo-liberal agenda:
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/jul/24/price-nature-neoliberal-capital-road-ruin

 

David Laws, Liam Fox and now Maria Miller – all in it together

Who do they think they are?

Carol Irving, single mother of 4, unemployed. Failed to declare she was living with a partner. Over-claimed £40,000 in Housing benefit = 6 months in jail. 

David Laws MP single, multimillionaire. Failed to declare he was living with a partner, over-claimed £40,000 in Parliamentary Allowances = invited to rejoin government after 18 months on back benches.

Government Minister, Maria Miller, over claimed her housing expenses by £45,000 but only has to pay back £5,800 and say ‘sorry’.

And then we have:

Liam Fox abused the post of Defence secretary by taking his business ‘associate’ and lobbyist Adam Werrity to  accompany him on foreign visits and meetings with political leaders, diplomats and defence contractors.  He also used his position to promote the right-wing Atlantic Bridge “charity” with links to the more barmy and sinister right-wing of the Republican Party and “Tea Party” in the US. It seems he also ran a clandestine pro Israel foreign policy*.

Last year, the Conservative MP had to repay £3,000 of expenses after it was found he had allowed his friend Adam Werritty to live at his taxpayer-funded second home for a year rent-free.

Let’s also remember that Liam Fox, who is so keen on cutting benefits to hard working but low paid tax payers,  was caught over claiming £22.5k mortgage payments and £19k mobile phone costs from those same tax payers.  If a benefits claimant had been caught doing this they would be in jail.

He was also criticised for allowing their Atlantic Bridge think tank to be run from his parliamentary offices.

Liam Fox had to resign as Defence Secretary (avoiding further scrutiny) and his Atlantic Bridge “charity” was closed down in 2011 because it contravened charity laws.

Liam Fox’s Atlantic Bridge linked top Tories and Tea Party activists. Officially it was a charity; in fact, Fox’s thinktank was a meeting place for the movers and shakers of the right wing. (Guardian, 15th Oct 2011)

The lessons of Atlantic Bridge. Questioning exposed a network of rightwing politicians and lobbyists. We need openness on how the rich shape politics (Guardian 16th Oct 2011)

Malign power of men who peddle influence (Daily Mail, 17th Oct 2011)

*Liam Fox, Adam Werritty, and the curious case of Our Man in Tel Aviv (Independent, 27th Nov 2011)

UPDATE: Yep: “One law for the rich and a very different one for the poor” Adam Werritty – former adviser to Liam Fox MP – won’t face fraud charge > No, you have to be on benefits for that to happen:  Adam Werritty fraud investigation dropped over insufficient evidence

 

 

Wiltshire Council ordered to consult public over wind farm plan

Some political groups have a problem with reality – it does not fit their ideology. Similarly they have a problem with public debate and democracy, which tend to hinder the passing of laws and regulations that cannot be backed up with evidence and rational argument.

And so:

On June 26th, with no prior consultation, Wiltshire Council voted through an amendment to Policy 42 of its Core Strategy Submission Document that will effectively prevent wind turbines from being built anywhere in Wiltshire.  It was claimed that this amendment was based on safety concerns but these have absolutely no basis in fact or reality.  This was an attempt at subverting democracy for ideological reasons.

Onshore wind is one of the safest forms of energy generation. There are no recorded cases of any member of the public being killed or seriously injured during the normal operation of a wind turbine.

Suggesting that safety was the reason for the amendment was, at best, disingenuous. (Click here for a fact and evidence based view of the safety issues)

Trying to slip the amendment through without consultation makes a mockery of the government’s ‘Localism’ agenda.

Luckily a planning inspector has told Wiltshire Council they must go back and consult the public.

If you would like to be involved in that consultation go to the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance and sign up to be kept informed about the process or just return here – I will post more information about the consultation when it is available).

There is obviously a debate to be had about siting of wind farms and some of this will be subjective but the technical side of the argument – safety, efficiency cost, environmental pros and cons etc., must be based on facts, evidence and rational debate not prejudice and ideology. Wiltshire Council have made a serious error of judgment in trying to slip through a doctrinaire policy amendment without consultation.  It is up to us to ensure that this is not repeated.

Anger over wind power strategy (Salisbury Journal, 22nd Aug 2012)

Wiltshire’s wind regulation: blowing evidence-based policymaking out of the window

Daily Telegraph & Daily Mail get Wind Farm Study 100% wrong

100 Tories revolt over Wind Farms part 2

100 Tories revolt over wind farms

No one has a right to live in Kensington at taxpayers’ expense: it’s time to start recycling social housing

If Neil O’Brian wants these latest proposals from the think tank “Policy Exchange” to be taken seriously he should avoid writing odious, deceitful articles like the one below.  My comments are in red, the article is taking from the Daily Telegraph of 20th August 2012.

Neil O’Brien
Neil O’Brien is Director of Policy Exchange,
By Neil O’Brien Politics Last updated: August 20th, 2012 (Daily Telegraph, 20th August 2012)

You may have recently read about Nasir Muhsen, an 18-year-old gang member, who was jailed for his part in the riots last year. He was part of a 15-strong gang who, armed with bats and knives, carried out a mass mugging of people in a restaurant. His case made the headlines because he and his family had been given a £6,000-a-month basement flat worth £3 million in a Victorian mansion block in Kensington. Residents described his family as “neighbours from hell”, who reportedly trashed their home and were evicted at Christmas for not paying their subsidised rent. Despite this, his lawyer claimed that he had taken part because he was poor and “the money he took was to buy food.”

His case raises a wider question. Why was he living in Kensington in the first place? Should we really be using taxpayers’ money to house social tenants in some of the most sought-after streets in the UK?

This is a typical tactic used by right wing libertarians – in this case O’Brian has taken one example and used it to smear all occupants of social housing in wealthy districts. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with justifying the proposal described below; it is an utterly dishonest and reprehensible tactic.  If Nasir Muhsen and his family were neighbours from hell something should have been done about it – someone or some part of the legal or local housing organisation was at fault – this was not the fault of all the other social housing tenants who also had to put up with this bevaviour. The tone and implication of this paragraph is intended to give the impression that (a) all social housing tenants behave like this and (b) it is OK for neighbours from hell to be moved to a poor area where only social housing occupants will be affected.

In a report published today, my colleagues at Policy Exchange argue that housing one lucky family in a million-pound property while millions of others languish on the housing waiting list is unfair, and a poor use of our resources.

Fortunately, there is a solution. At present, around a fifth of the social housing stock in this country is “expensive” – worth more than the average for that size of property within the same region. We propose selling off this expensive social housing stock when it becomes vacant – when people die or move away – which could raise £4.5 billion a year.

These houses are not luxury houses; they are no more expensive to run.  They may be worth a lot but that is because these areas are overwhelmed by wealthy incomers (In the case of Kensington this includes wealthy corrupt Russian Oligarchs and others attracted by lax regulation and zero or low taxation) (In attractive parts of the country village house prices are high because of second, third and fourth home owners who do not care that they are pushing out local inhabitants, whose families have lived in the village for generations.) We are talking about ordinary people who want to live in ordinary houses, it’s not their fault that the excesses of the free market have overvalued the houses on the waiting list they happen to be on. These houses are not expensive to maintain, it is only the paper value that is high but the houses were often bought at a time when they were dirt cheap. They represent an investment not a drain.

That money could pay for us to build up to 170,000 new social homes a year, creating the largest social house building programme since the 1970s. That in turn could create as many as a third of million much-needed jobs.

The current situation is unfair and wasteful in several ways. One single family can be given a house that most taxpayers could never afford. Yes that last point is the problem – ordinary people cannot afford to buy their own house – this proposal will do nothing to solve that – it will just pass owner ship of the houses to the wealthy, including foreign tax exiles, buy to let landlords etc., they will not end up in the hands of normal hardworking people. And that means that others will have to wait – possibly for years in overcrowded conditions.  So let’s do something about it – get the wealthy that live in Kensington to pay their taxes and use the money to build genuinely affordably accommodation. If a Russian oligarch wants to live in London he should pay at least the same rate of tax as the hard working taxpayers that neolibertarians pretend to be so concerned about. While we are at it, we could get corporations like Amazon, Vodafone, etc to pay their taxes and recoup the billions of pounds lost to the tax payer each year.

Polls show that 73 per cent of people think that social tenants should not be offered new properties worth more than the average in their local authority. And 60 per cent think that social tenants should not be offered new properties in expensive areas. Even social tenants themselves agree with changing the current system.   Yep if you flood the media with the kind of disinformation in this article you will get the answers you want.

Some people on the Left will, nonetheless, say this is unfair, and will lead to “ghettoisation”. I can predict this because when the government recently capped housing benefit payments (at £1,480 a month for a three bed house) Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee accused the Coalition of coming up with a “a final solution for the poor” which would meaning sending them to “distant dumping grounds where there are no jobs.”   Again the false impression is given that the occupants of these houses were somehow on to a good deal, whereas the reality is that the money goes to the landlord for what is a quite normal house but the media try to give the impression that the tenants are living in mansions. Once again distorting reality to hide the fact that the problem is a result of a free market in rents and a lack of affordable housing.

To be clear, what I’m proposing wouldn’t mean a single person having to move house. We are only talking about selling off houses that become empty. This is disingenuous – it still represents the selling off of affordable housing in an area where some people may have family roots or may want to live to be near their work – public transport is becoming prohibitively expensive for ordinary people. Nor would it mean that social housing would disappear from expensive cities like London, because the definition of “expensive” I am using is specific to a particular region, not the national average. In other words the policy affects people all over the country, including villages where ordinary hard working people will, over a period of time, be pushed out and available social housing sold to incomers and second and third home owners.

Lots of expensive social housing has come about unintentionally. In the 1970s Britain’s big cities were on their knees. London boroughs in particular took the opportunity to snap up terraces of housing in run-down places like Islington at bargain prices. But Britain’s inner cities – particularly London – have been transformed. What were slums are now eye-wateringly expensive places to live. Two thirds of the heads of households in social housing are not in work, and when you’re living on benefits, it’s not helpful if your nearest shop has been turned into a mini-Waitrose.  Again, trying to give the impression that occupants of social housing do not belong in wealthy areas.  How many of the private home owners in Kensington are not in work and live off unearned untaxed income and are non UK domiciled- why aren’t we given that information?  Libertarians are very good at cherry picking their ‘facts’

Selling off the most expensive council houses in a region might indeed mean that people would be less likely to get given a house in the most expensive parts of expensive cities. But I don’t think anyone has a right to live in Kensington at taxpayers’ expense.  Why? What is special about Kensington? If the houses were bought years ago when prices were low what is the problem? The cost of the housing has been paid many times over by the rental occupants. This is not costing the tax payer anything – it is an investment that could be used as collateral for building more homes.

Would it make it harder for the minority of people in social housing who do work to get jobs? Actually there doesn’t seem to be any strong link between local house prices and the employment of people in social housing.

Oh, so that’s OK then the working poor can just push off somewhere else and commute to their jobs on trains that they cannot afford. (Notice again the pejorative use of ‘minority’ – the level of employment in this group is not justification for the policy it is a separate issue that needs to be addressed.)

Of course, this is only a small part of the answer to Britain’s housing crisis. Over the last decade, the cost of housing has growth three times faster than wages. That’s because we make it much harder to get planning permission than in other countries like Germany. This a pathetic attempt to avoid admitting that the problem is due to over inflated house prices in wealthy areas due to a shortage of housing and an excessive gap between rich and poor which means that the rich can price everyone else out of the market. There are currently hundreds of thousands of plots and properties with planning permission – builders are not building them because no one can afford to buy.

Politicians need to do everything it can to make housing affordable. Perhaps we could give local people a right to buy a plot of land on which to get a house built – about half of houses in France and Germany get built in this way. Good idea if the plots are affordable?? Government has been talking about building new “garden cities” to get a lot of housing built with minimal disruption – but it needs to get on with it. Agreed, if the garden cities are appropriately sited.

Reforming social housing in this way is a rare opportunity to do something that boosts jobs and growth, makes people better off, and is overwhelmingly seen as fair. Recycling the value of expensive social housing is an idea whose time has come.  How will this make poor people better off? It will help property developers and the wealthy who want to live in exclusive areas and avoid rubbing shoulders with the poor.

It’s a strange coincidence that however neo-libertarians dress up their proposals they always involve consequences that are negative for those on low incomes and positive for those who already have everything.

How about Neil O’Brian writing a new article titled “No one has a right to live in Kensington without paying their Taxes”   I won’t hold my breath.

Ordinary hardworking people get a raw deal, encouraging them to blame those who are even worse off will not solve their problems.

Policy Exchange on “expensive social housing” – reasons to be miserable. (Touch Stone)

Article by Steve Hilditch: http://redbrickblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/selling-off-the-family-silver-again/

Bed numbers at North Devon District NHS Hospital to be cut to allow focus on orthopaedics and private patients.

Not much information on this at the moment but the article below describes a memo from trust chief executive Jac Kelly, which says that “cuts to bed numbers in the Lundy Ward would allow focus on orthopaedics and private patients”.

Beds and theatre at risk as North Devon District Hospital outlines cuts (‘This is Devon’, Aug 16th 2012)

“Labour made mistake over gambling law, says Harriet Harman”

“Labour made mistake over gambling law, says Harriet Harman” (Guardian)

But this apology is just not good enough. Anyone paying attention back in 2005 knew that the changes to gambling legislation were going to be a disaster and worse, the victims would be the very people Labour should be protecting from the excesses of corporate power.   There was no popular demand for relaxing the rules, no demonstrations, no petitions from the public. The previous system seemed to be working quite well, needing only tweaking – the essence of legislation should be to keep gambling to  a minimum consistent with avoiding driving it underground. Prohibition would not work. The old legislation just needed tweaking.

If Harriet Harman’s apology is to mean anything it needs to be accompanied by an explanation of how the decision making process resulted in what was such a transparently  awful decision.  Many lives have been ruined by this legislation.

Questions that need to be answered:

Where did the demand for liberalising the rules come form?

What lobbying took place prior to the decision and which lobbying groups where involved?

Which MPs / ministers were involved?

Were minutes of meeting with the gambling industry kept – if so they should be published.

Why didn’t our elected MPs (and unelected Lords) put up more of a fight to prevent this disaster from happening?

Until we have answers t0 how such a crass decision could be made, Harriet Harman’s apology is not sufficient.

Surely the function of government is to protect its citizens from exploitation and ruin.  Acting as a cheer leader for the gambling industry is not part of its remit.

Note: apparently the Conservative Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt opposed the 2005 law at the time of its debate but shows no signs of wanting to tighten things up now that the consequences are so obvious.

As of July 2012, the  Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, led by John Whittingdale, is keen to see the further relaxation of gambling and casino laws – I wonder if anyone is investigating the role of the gambling industry lobbyists in this latest enthusiasm for  a pro gambling agenda: MPs seek relaxation of casino laws.  No one seems too bothered about the ruined lives and families that result from the unnecessary promotion of an addictive and harmful activity.

Update (Jan 2013):
High-stakes gambling machines ‘suck money from poorest communities’: MPs express alarm about £5bn spent on fixed odds betting terminals in northern cities and London boroughs (Guardian 4th Jan 2013)

Tory MP received benefits from gambling industry links: Philip Davies MP received benefits worth more than £10,000 and backed betting industry when MPs proposed changes to law (Guardian Dec 2012)

John Redwood Quote: John Redwood, that really thoughtful, considerate and compassionate  Conservative MP for Wokingham in Berkshire, which has three betting shops, said he ‘put it down to the fact that poor people believe there’s one shot to get rich’ and also had more time on their hands compared to his constituents who he said ‘were too busy working hard.’  (Yep, those Victorians were right all along, the poor only have themselves to blame – sling em in the workhouse and throw away the keys!)  Source: Warning over ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ as people in poorest areas spend £5bn on high-stakes machines (Daily Mail 5th Jan 2013)

The outrageous arrogance of Boris Johnson

This is just a quick comment on the staggering arrogance of Boris Johnson who, according to some reports, is planing on replacing David Cameron as PM and has the support of Rupert Murdoch.

Let’s remind ourselves that Murdoch is a non UK citizen, who does not pay UK income tax, but who has been shown to have corrupted UK politics and has exerted a power over UK politicians that has subverted our  democratic process. None of this is in doubt – the evidence was always there for those who were paying attention and is now 100% clear after the Levenson proceedings.

Murdoch’s papers  (among others) have clearly been involved in corrupt practices and there is even the case of Daniel Morgan, a private investigator who was said to have been close to exposing important police corruption when he was murdered in a pub car park. The News of the World was directly or indirectly involved in this affair and the resulting failure of all attempts to convict the chief suspect,  a private investigator working for News of the World. The result of the web of corruption between Police, journalists and private investigators means that a murderer and corrupt policemen are still at large and we are no nearer the truth of what happened.

So you would have thought that any politician with a sense of propriety and rule of law would have kept a healthy distance from Rupert Murdoch. But no, Boris Johnson invited Rupert Murdoch as his personal guest to join him at the Olympics for the swimming finals. It is impossible to view this behaviour as anything other than arrogance of the highest order – it represents two fingers to the law, to democracy and to the people of the UK.

If this turns out to be part of a plan to rehabilitate Murdoch and the beginning of a campaign to replace Cameron with Johnson it will show that the arrogance of these two men shows no limit.

Boris Johnson, Rupert Murdoch and the arrogance in the mayor’s choice of guest

So, bumbling Boris Johnson is lovable and funny? Well, have I got news for you

Met to review Daniel Morgan murder over claims of News of the World link

Justice for Daniel

Daniel Morgan (private investigator)

Network of corruption which lies at the heart of  claim in the House of Commons by Labour MP Tom Watson that Rees was targeting politicians, members of the royal family and even terrorist informers on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s News International. (Guardian June 2011)

Boris and Climate
While talking about Boris Johnson its worth noting that he chose Mathew Ridley to give the keynote address at a debate in the “The Environment Imperative” series. Mathew Ridley was promoted as “a renowned science writer, journalist, biologist, and businessman”.   There was a much longer introduction to Ridley given at the beginning of the debate but neither mentioned that the best description of Matthew Ridley is “failed banker”. Ridley was chairman of Northern Rock when it collapsed and came very close to bringing down the financial system of the western world. In fact this neolibertarian pundit who believes in small government that doesn’t interfere in business and finance had to go to our government for a £27 billion bailout. Funny none of this was mentioned.

London has many world class climate experts and environmental scientists that Boris could have chosen, Mathew Ridley is not one of them.

Two fingers to a rational, reasoned, evidence based debate.

Check the references below for further information.

Why is Boris Johnson promoting climate change “sceptics”?

The Man Who Wants to Northern Rock the Planet

Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist is telling the rich what they want to hear