Hinkley C subsidising UK nuclear weapon industry

So NOW see just why our Local Enterprise Partnership – where many past and present board members have and had nuclear and arms industry interests – is pouring money into Hinkley C.

Scientists tell MPs government is using expensive power project to cross-subsidise military by maintaining nuclear skills

“The government is using the “extremely expensive” Hinkley Point C nuclear power station to cross-subsidise Britain’s nuclear weapon arsenal, according to senior scientists.

In evidence submitted to the influential public accounts committee (PAC), which is currently investigating the nuclear plant deal, scientists from Sussex University state that the costs of the Trident programme could be “unsupportable” without “an effective subsidy from electricity consumers to military nuclear infrastructure”. …

“What our research suggests is that British low-carbon energy strategies are more expensive than they need to be, in order to maintain UK military nuclear infrastructures,” said Stirling.

“And without assuming the continuation of an extremely expensive UK civil nuclear industry, it is likely that the costs of Trident would be significantly greater.”

The Hinkley Point project has been criticised for its huge cost. The French electricity company EDF is currently in the early stages of constructing the plant near Bridgwater, Somerset, in partnership with the China General Nuclear Power Group.

The government has agreed a minimum price of £92.50 per megawatt hour (MWh) for electricity produced by Hinkley Point, the first new-build nuclear power plant in the UK since 1995. Under this agreement, if the usual wholesale price is lower, the consumer pays the difference in price. The current wholesale electricity price is around £42 per MWh, so the electricity consumer would pay EDF an extra £50 per MWh.

Last month, the government agreed a “strike price” of £57.50 per MWh for offshore windfarms off Scotland and Yorkshire, far below the Hinkley guaranteed price.

This week, the Green MP Caroline Lucas asked the government about the Ministry of Defence and the business department discussing the “relevance of UK civil nuclear industry skills and supply chains to the maintaining of UK nuclear submarine and wider nuclear weapons capabilities”.

Harriett Baldwin, the defence procurement minister, answered that “it is fully understood that civil and defence sectors must work together to make sure resource is prioritised appropriately for the protection and prosperity of the United Kingdom”.

Johnstone said the decision-making process behind Hinkley raised questions about transparency and accountability, saying: “In this ever more networked world, both civil and military nuclear technologies are increasingly recognised as obsolete. Yet it seems UK policymaking is quietly trying to further entrench the two – in ways that have been escaping democratic accountability.”

At a hearing held by the PAC in parliament on Monday, senior civil servants defended the Hinkley deal after a National Audit Office report concluded that it was “risky and expensive”. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/12/electricity-consumers-to-fund-nuclear-weapons-through-hinkley-point-c

Affordable/social housing? Think again: it’s the developers gaining yet again

“While Theresa May was making headlines for all the wrong reasons, the government quietly announced an extra £2.5m “cash boost” for local authorities in England. But the problem is the money is almost entirely going to Tory-led county and district councils. And in some cases, the public won’t see the result of the extra cash for up to two decades.

Show me the money

On Tuesday 3 October, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced a “£2.5m cash boost to speed up the delivery of over 155,000 new homes in the proposed garden towns across England”. The DCLG, led by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, said:

Nine locally-led garden town developments, from Bicester to Taunton, will each receive new funding to fast track the build out of these large housing projects… speeding up the progress of developments through additional dedicated resources and expertise.

Cash for the Tories’ mates?

The DCLG claims that garden towns are:

development[s] of more than 10,000 homes… [The] government is encouraging different and ambitious solutions to fix the housing market.

But what the DCLG failed to mention is just where the £2.5m was going. Research by The Canary shows that of the 22 county, district and borough councils involved in the scheme, 19 are Conservative controlled. Also, developments like the North Northants Garden Communities are being developed [pdf p39] by companies like Barratt Homes, which was caught up in a government lobbying scandal in 2014. The Guardian caught it, along with other developers, pressuring senior ministers to relax planning regulations. At the time the DCLG denied policy was being influenced by developers.

Not so picturesque

But there are other issues surrounding the Conservatives’ garden towns projects:

The North Essex Garden Communities project will only deliver [pdf p124] around 25% “affordable” homes, and no social housing at all.

Also, the developers of the scheme in Taunton have said that the 25% affordable home requirement is “not financially viable”.

The garden town in Didcot will not be fully completed [pdf p41-42] until at least 2031. And the construction of 3,000 homes in part of the Bicester development will not begin until 2031.

Campaign groups like Smart Growth UK claim [pdf p13] that none of the garden town projects are on new sites; they are just extensions of existing developments.

Research by consultancy firm Turley found that the garden towns are not located in areas with the greatest housing need. Also, the developments only provide “a relatively limited proportion” of the housing that the area needs.

The Campaign for Rural England has criticised garden towns as being “influenced” by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) which are driven by “aspirations for economic growth without considering the environment or social impacts”.

Garden towns will do little to reduce transport carbon emissions, as all of them [pdf p27] are near motorways, A roads or trunk roads.
None of the developments are in the most deprived areas of the England.
The government response?

In a statement the DCLG told The Canary:

lThis government wants to support local authorities and communities in developing their own vision for locally-led Garden Towns and Villages, taking account of local plans. We’re seeing good progress on housing delivery and we’re expecting that at least 25,000 homes will have been completed or started across our garden villages, towns and cities by 2020. We expect to see a good mix of tenures, including affordable rented, in our garden towns.l

A busted flush

The DCLG announcement came as some of the media declared that May had pledged in her conference speech to spend £2bn on “council housing”. But this is not strictly the case. Because May said:

“I can announce that we will invest an additional £2bn in affordable housing, taking the government’s total affordable housing budget to almost £9bn.

We will encourage councils as well as housing associations to bid for this money and provide certainty over future rent levels. And in those parts of the country where the need is greatest, allow homes to be built for social rent, well below market level.”

‘Affordable‘ housing is property where rent is 80% of the market rate. ‘Social‘ housing is property set at government-defined rents with a secure tenancy. And “encouraging” councils and housing associations to bid for money is not a guarantee of more council or social houses. So, May’s words seem to be more spin than substance.

As with many Conservative-led initiatives, this appears to be less about England’s urgent housing needs, and more about lining the pockets of developers; along with presenting a thinly veiled image of “acting” on the housing crisis. The government has dressed its £2.5m “cash boost” up as in some way helping solve England’s housing problem. When in reality, it is merely a small drop in a very expensive ocean.”

https://www.thecanary.co/uk/2017/10/04/while-all-eyes-were-on-theresa-may-the-government-just-quietly-bunged-2-5m-to-her-mates/

The free market – where you are free to walk away from responsibility for your actions

“The boss of Monarch was setting-up his own firm as the stricken airline was going to the wall, it has emerged.

Andrew Swaffield insisted he was “heart broken” by the firm’s collapse, with the loss of more than 1,800 jobs. Yet as Monarch was for fighting for survival, polo playing Mr Swaffield found time to get a new firm for himself off the ground.

Records show electronic paperwork to establish Alcedo Consulting Services was received by Companies House last Friday. The two directors are Mr Swaffield and his partner William Low, 51. The company was formally incorporated on Monday – the same day Monarch plunged into administration.

Stefan Stern, director of the High Pay Centre, branded the timing “shocking”. He said: “He appears to have been planning his escape route before the passengers or crew. “It used to be women and children first, now it seems to be chief executive first. “It’s such bad taste and, frankly, stupid, to do this now.”

The firm is named after Mr Swaffield’s polo team, Alcedo, which recently won several trophies at the Cowdray Park Polo Club in West Sussex.

In a message seen by the Mirror, he insisted Monday’s collapse of Monarch was “the hardest day of my entire career. “Seeing the end of the company and 1,800 people losinzg their jobs has been heart breaking.’

Mr Swaffield previously ran a consultancy firm, CST Consulting, after losing his job at British Airways in 2005. He said: “I have done the same again today knowing that I am leaving, so that I can start the process of planning my future and if I manage to secure any work I will have a company through which to process it. “It can take up to a year to secure chief executive level roles and consulting is a good stop gap.”

Records show Mr Swaffield became chief executive of another company, Shelfco 2017, that was set-up on September 25. The other directors include Nils Christy, Monarch’s chief operating officer, and Christopher Bennett, its finance director. It is registered at Monarch’s Luton Airport headquarters.

It came as millions of holidaymakers and bank customers are set to pick-up the bill for Monarch’s rescue flights.”

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/boss-monarch-set-up-new-11282103

“Let’s be clear …”

Andrew Marr show this morning:

Question to Prime Minister:
“Is the Foreign Secretary unsackable?”

Mrs May’s A:
“Lets be quite clear. What we have is a government determined to deliver a Brexit for everyone.”

Owl says: if BBC journalists cannot call out a politician for failing to answer a question – then perhaps they should be working at any job but interviewing!

Bring back Paxman!!!

(Well, at least she DIDN’T say “Brexit is Brexit”!)

MP getting £3,000 per month from a lobbying, that’s fine – isn’t it?

David Mitchell nails it in The Observer:

“The Tory politician James Duddridge pockets £3,300 a month from a lobbying company, but don’t worry. If it were a problem, it wouldn’t be legal.

What is the advantage of letting sitting MPs work for lobbying firms? What are the pluses of that, for the country? Because we do allow it, so I’m assuming there must be some upside.

After all, there are clear advantages to many things we don’t allow: smoking on petrol station forecourts, for example. Allowing that would mean, if you’re addicted to smoking, or enjoy smoking, or think smoking makes you look cool, you could do it while filling your car with petrol, polishing its bonnet, going to buy snacks, checking the tyres and so on. You wouldn’t be inconvenienced by either the discomfort of nicotine withdrawal or a hiatus in the image of nonchalant suavity that having a fag in your mouth invariably projects.

And the same goes for those essaying auras of Churchillian defiance and grit, or Hannibal from The A-Team-style twinkly maverick leadership, to which a lit cigar clamped between the teeth can be vital, particularly if you’ve got a weak chin.

Similarly, if you’re a pipe-smoking detective of the Sherlock Holmes mould and are, perhaps, investigating a crime on a petrol station forecourt, or merely passing across one while contemplating the intricacies of a non-forecourt-related mystery, you wouldn’t have to suffer a lapse in the heightened analytical brain function that you’ve found smoking a pipe crucial to attaining. Interrupting such processes to buy petrol may cause murderers to walk free.

And then there’s the possibility that allowing smoking at petrol stations will marginally increase overall consumption, and therefore sales, of tobacco products – all the Holmeses and Churchills and Bonds will be able to get a few more smokes in before they die of cancer – which would slightly improve trade and GDP, and so create jobs.

Maybe Duddridge just pops in once a month and is a master of clearing photocopier jams.

Nevertheless, I am not, on balance, in favour of allowing smoking on petrol station forecourts. The manifold advantages are, in my view, outweighed by the several disadvantages: passive smoking for non-smoking users of the forecourt, nicotine staining of the underside of the canopy, and various others I can’t currently bring to mind.

But you’d think, in a system that flattered itself as non-mad, as I believe the British one still does, practices that are legal would be bristling with more boons for the community than those that aren’t. That’s got to be the vague rule of thumb, right? So then, what are the good things about allowing sitting MPs to take paid work from lobbying firms? What are the upsides to that?

The downsides are as hard to miss as a few hundred thousand litres of subterranean petrol suddenly exploding. Let’s take an example from the news last week. It was reported that James Duddridge, a Tory MP who was minister for Africa from 2014 to 2016, is being paid £3,300 for eight hours work a month by a lobbying company called Brand Communications.

It’s one of the few lobbying companies not to have signed up to the industry’s code of conduct, which prohibits employing sitting MPs. You may say that makes it a nasty firm, but I don’t blame it. Why would it sign up to extra rules if it doesn’t have to? That’s like volunteering to observe a lower speed limit than the one prescribed by law.

The law is absolutely fine with Duddridge’s little earner. Former ministers’ jobs just have to be approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, itself described by the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee as a “toothless regulator” (these committees are so bitchy!), since it has no statutory powers of redress. Then again, as its rulings are almost invariably “That’s fine”, what powers does it really need?

Duddridge himself says it’s all legit because Brand Communications is “not a public affairs company”, but the company’s website says “James will bring his deep knowledge of Africa, experience of operating at the highest levels of government and extensive networks to Brand Communications”, which sounds a bit public affairsy to me.

But I don’t know: maybe it’s fine. We can’t know it’s definitely not fine. Admittedly, according to the Times, the head of one of Britain’s leading lobbying firms called it “an appalling example of bad practice”, and the chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants said, “MPs should not be lobbyists. It is wrong to be a lobbyist and make the law at the same time,” but maybe it’s still fine.

Maybe James just pops in once a month and is incredibly helpful in ways that don’t conflict with his public duties. Maybe he’s full of creative ideas, a huge boost to office morale and a master of clearing photocopier jams. And then he pops back to parliament and doesn’t think about Brand Communications until the next month, no matter what issues concerning their interests cross his desk as an MP and member of the Commons International Development Committee. Yes, maybe it’s fine.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/01/lobbying-firms-mps-james-duddridge-brand-communications

Anti-abortion Rees-Mogg defends investment in abortion pill manufacturer

Summary: Rees-Mogg doesn’t mind at all if his investments are unethical and it’s ok to lie about what pills can be used for – the Vatican would find that ok.

“Multi-millionaire Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg has admitted his investment firm profits from abortion pills – even though he wants to deny rape victims the right to terminations.

His company has nearly £5million-worth of shares in the Indonesian firm Kalbe Farma, which produces the pills to prevent ulcers.

They also trigger terminations, can be bought in pharmacies and are used widely in Indonesia – where there are an estimated two million illegal abortions each year.

Father-of-six Mr Rees-Mogg defended the investments and said he would not resign his investment post.

But he admitted: “It would be wrong to pretend that I like it but the world is not always what you want it to be. …

The staunch Catholic, who is tipped to succeed PM Theresa May, is a partner in Somerset Capital Management, the investment firm he co-founded in 2007.

The North East Somerset MP, 48, is paid more than £14,500 a month for 30 hours of work for the company.

He will not reveal the dividend payments he receives for his 15 per cent share in the firm, based in London’s upmarket Belgravia.

But partners have trousered nearly £60million between them since 2010.

According to this year’s interim report, two of Somerset Capital Management’s investment funds hold £4.8million in shares in Jakarta-based Kalbe Farma.

The pharmaceutical firm make misoprostol, a generic abortion drug sold under the brand name Invitec. They also manufacture oral contraceptives.

Invitec is marketed under its other use as a gastric ulcer preventer because abortion, other than in cases of rape or to save a mother’s life, is illegal in Indonesia.

But the international women’s rights organisation Women on Waves say it is available in Indonesian pharmacies.

The Dutch-based organisation advises women in Indonesia on how to obtain the drug and the circumstances in which terminations are legal in the country.

It says: “Abortion is permitted to save a woman’s life, in cases of foetal impairment and in cases of rape. Spousal authorisation is required. Misoprostol is available in pharmacies under the names Chromalux, Citrosol, Cytostol, Gastrul, Invitec and Noprostol.”

Mr Rees-Mogg defended the investments.

He said: “Kalbe Farma obeys Indonesian law so it’s a legitimate investment and there’s no hypocrisy. The law in ­Indonesia would satisfy the Vatican.”

In an earlier phone call, Mr Rees-Mogg said he had been unaware the company made the drug.

But he added: “I don’t manage the funds and haven’t done so since I became an MP. But the funds have to be run in accordance with the requirements of the investors and not according to my religious beliefs.

“This is not something I would wish to invest in personally but you have a duty as an investment manager not to impose constraints on investors.”

Mr Rees-Mogg accepted he did profit “in a very roundabout way”.

He went on: “This company does not procure the abortion of babies. It’s not my money in these investments and I profit from the total amount of client money we hold, not the investments we make.”

The Eton and Oxford educated MP caused uproar this month when he was interviewed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain by Susanna Reid and denounced abortion as “morally ­indefensible” in all circumstances.

That, he said, included cases of pregnancy caused by rape or incest. He added: “Life is sacrosanct and begins at the point of conception.”

The MP said this was not government policy, but his own personal view based on Catholic teachings.

… Misoprostol can be prescribed to prevent stomach ulcers, or induce labour in pregnant women by causing contractions.

But when used with another drug, mifepristone, it ends pregnancy in NHS medical abortions to avoid surgical procedures.

Misoprostol is often used alone to bring about an abortion, particularly in countries where termination is illegal.”

Source: Daily Mirror
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/pro-life-tory-multi-millionaire-11267331

“Great South West” LEP for LEPs! The South-West Regional Development Agency rising from its ashes?

We’ve had the Heart of the South West LEP!
We’ve had the “Golden Triangle” LEP (Exeter, Plymouth, Torquay)
We”ve even had the “Golden Quadrangle” LEP (Owl’s suggestion for adding in Cornwall or Dorset)

NOW we have the “Golden Pentangle” (adding in Cornwall AND Dorset)
yet ANOTHER unelected, unaccountable and non-transparent quango:

THE GREAT SOUTH WEST LEP!

first reported by Owl in August 2016 here:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/08/26/forget-heart-of-the-south-west-hello-great-south-west/

An update …

It seems plans are well-advanced for the “super” Local Enterprise Partnership of Local Enterprise Partnerships! They now even have a (very poor) website!

Those who remember life BEFORE our own LEP will recall that it was preceded by the much-derided South-West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) – so despised by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition that one of its first actions was to dispose of it and replace it with business-led, business-dominated, business-driven LEPs.

In our case it didn’t exactly work that way as OUR LEP (Heart of the South West – ie Devon and Somerset) decided to employ at a vast salary ex-SWRDA senior manager Chris Garcia – who is so beloved of our LEP that they raised his salary 26% last year!

However, he will perhaps be miffed that the job of CEO of the CEOs of all these LEPs has not gone to him but to Rozz Algar, a former Human Resources Manager:
http://herne.org.uk/pages/about-us/rozz-algar-cmgr-fcmi/101

Want to know what this “super” LEP is planning for us? Go to their NEW (riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes – OWL has spotted SIX spelling mistakes on its home page alone!) website at:

http://greatsouthwest.org.uk/

And hear LEP-speak like you’ve never heard it before! Including that old chestnut about how many hospitals it COULD (but won’t) build!

“AN INTRODUCTION TO GREAT SOUTH WEST?
[Yes there really IS a question mark at the end of that heading!!!]

The South West of England is a great place. It is poised for a step change in prospertiy and productivity. When the productivity in the South West of England matches that currently in the South East we will add over £18bn a year to the UK’s economy. That’s enough to build a new NHS hospital every week.

Our economy is already bigger than that of Manchester and more than two and a half times that of Birmingham – with the single largest infrastructure project in Europe already underway (generating billions of pounds of business opportunities) and the best natural capital in the country (attracting more visitors than anywhere else outside London).
[Just in case you don’t realise it, they are talking about Hinkley C nuclear power plant – that great white elephant in North Somerset]

The pubication of the SW Growth Charter in 2016 started our journey to promote our great region and we welcome the continuing support of stakeholders across the region to hlep in shaping our opportunities and building the momentum.

Our strategy for greater prosperity is to collaborate to promote

a self-sustaining and resillient South West ….
with innovation, enterprise and infrastructure ….
with productive people and rewarding careers …
utilising our natural and entreprenurial capital …
and sharing the benefits for all

We are focused towards having a clear and consistent strategy in time for the Autumn Statement.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN IN PRACTICE?

Great South West looks to build on existing good practice and collaborative working such as the science and innovation audit

By working together as a region will ensure that the South West has a strong voice to highlight investment opportunities to national and international private and public investors; as well as projecting a positive and progressive image for all

It will help to support the economic growth and prosperity of the whole region by linking up programmes and ensuring that the asks and priorities are consistent and reflect the strengths of the region

The Great Southwest does not intend to impede individuals or groups from their own initiatives or joining with others. We will not be a bureaucracy; but look to support and add value where it can.

It aims to support a flourishing private sector and a highly skilled population able to make the most of the great opportunities that the South West has to offer

Note: The name Great South West is a working title at present and may alter as the intiative gains momentum in order to be appropriate and resonate with all parties. This is not a brand used by the West of England LEP for their local authority areas.”

Yep, all on the back of Brexit!