Friday, 30 July 2010

UKIP wins appeal

As the BBC reports quite fairly UKIP has won its appeal against the Electoral Commission's appeal against the original judgement.
The UK Independence Party does not have to forfeit all of a £367,697 "impermissible donation", the Supreme Court has ruled.

UKIP received the money from a donor who was not on the electoral register.

The party was initially told to forfeit £14,481 but that was increased after the Electoral Commission took the case to the Appeal Court.

UKIP's victory at the Supreme Court lifts the threat of financial ruin that was hanging over the party.

But it represents a defeat for the Electoral Commission which was pressing UKIP to return the full amount donated by retired bookmaker Alan Bown.
Lord Pearson greeted the news by reminding everyone what UKIP's task is: to get Britain out of the EU.

Iain Dale posted his support for the decision and his worries about the Electoral Commission and the way it makes decisions.

For those who are interested, here is a link to both the judgement and the press summary.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

It must be deliberate

To clarify the government's position and the possibilities of any reform of the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries Policies, Lord Pearson asked the following question:
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Henley on 12 July (WA 97), which European Union countries support their position on reform of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies; and what voting power those countries have in the Council of Ministers.
There is a reason for that careful phrasing: as decisions are taken on qualified majority voting (QMV), a highly complicated system, which countries and how many votes they have in the Council of Ministers is of vital importance. Can reforms be carried through? Will there be enough votes for it?

HMG decided to ignore the question and produce irrelevant and well-meaning waffle:
There is broad agreement across the EU about the case for reform of the common fisheries policy, including the need to decentralise and simplify the current complex regulations. Few, if any, member states support the status quo, though views vary as to the changes needed. A draft legislative proposal will be published in 2011 and the UK is fully engaged in dialogue with other member states, the European Commission, industry, environmental NGOs and scientists to establish common ground for reform.

The UK's aim of a competitive, thriving and sustainable agriculture sector is supported by all member states. The Government are starting to consider their detailed position on reform of the common agricultural policy beyond 2013. Individual member states' positions will become clear in their responses to the European Commission's communication on CAP reform later this year.
This tells us nothing about the countries and their voting power should any question of reform arise.

As for there being broad agreement in favour of reform either of the CFP or the CAP, one cannot help wondering why, if that is so, there has been such a singular lack of it in the last three and a half decades.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A new Bill

Lord Pearson introduced a new Bill to the House of Lords, which was read for the first time yesterday. This is a formality that enables the Bill to be published and laid before the House properly.

A Bill to make provision for establishing a committee of inquiry into the economic implications for the United Kingdom of membership of the European Union.

When is a loan not a commitment?

When it is made by EU member states in contradiction of the EU's own rules. Or so it would appear from the reply made to Lord Pearson's Starred Question yesterday:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take under Article 125 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to ensure that neither the European Union nor any member state shall be liable for or assume commitments of another member state.
Lord Sassoon's reply was:
My Lords, at the emergency ECOFIN meeting on 9 May, EU Finance Ministers agreed that up to €60 billion of emergency finance can be provided to any EU member state in accordance with Article 122(2) of the EU treaty. At the same time, euro-area Finance Ministers agreed a €440-billion package of assistance to be provided through a special purpose vehicle. Both these actions are consistent with Article 125 of the treaty.
Before we go any further, let us sort out what these Articles actually say. They are in the Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Article 125 seems clear on the subject:
The Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of any Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project. A Member State shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of another Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project.
Article 122(2) is equally clear but is not entirely in agreement:
Where a Member State is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may grant, under certain conditions, Union financial assistance to the Member State concerned. The President of the Council shall inform the European Parliament of the decision taken.
Whether the difficulties Greece is experiencing are caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences is a moot point but that is the way this is being read and Lord Pearson does have a point when he says that the EU is breaking its own rules.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply, which does not square with the Government's Answer of 14 June when they agreed that no member state should be allowed to bail out another. Are not the proposed bailouts yet another example in a long line of examples of Brussels riding roughshod over its own legislation? Going slightly deeper, does not history teach us that trouble lies ahead when a regime feels free to break its own laws with impunity, when it is supported by a puppet court, and when its people are powerless to get rid of it? Is that not exactly what we now have with the European Union?
Ah, says Lord Sassoon, this is not a bail-out, it is a loan.
The one thing I agree with him on is that Article 125 does indeed rule out any bailout. However, no bailout has been proposed or implemented under Article 122(2) or any other article because what have been proposed are loans, which are fully permitted under Article 125.
The trouble is that Article 125 does not talk of bail-outs but of commitments and a loan is a commitment, except, presumably when it is not.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Not too late

At a short notice Lord Pearson has been asked to be interviewed on today's World at One on the subject of the proposed French ban on the burqua in public.

Friday, 9 July 2010

All responses seem to be woolly

Presumably, the reason for the continuing woolliness of answers in the House is that it is the same civil servants who write them. But one would hope that occasionally Ministers would look at them and point out that what is supposed to be a response is nothing of the kind, even to relatively non-contentious questions.

Lord Pearson put down a Written Question on what must be a relatively non-contentious issue though the lack of clear response makes one wonder what is being hidden:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the value for money of their funding of £1.5 million to the Sarsen Housing Association in Cornwall for 20 affordable homes.
The response was a little odd in that it stated the obvious without replying to the question:
Grant funding to Sarsen Housing Association to provide 20 affordable homes was provided through the Home and Communities Agency's (HCA) National Affordable Housing Programme.

Funding was made available through a competitive bidding basis where bids were assessed against four main criteria, value for money-in terms of total public subsidy per home and per person housed, design and quality standards, deliverability and local and regional priorities.
So what assessment has been made?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The coalition does not agree with UKIP on everything

We have been told before that there is no real difference between the Coalition Government's stance on certain issue and that of UKIP. Apparently, this does not apply to all issues. For example the Coalition Government has different views from UKIP (and just about everybody else who has been following developments in the man-made global warming hoax) on Energy Renewables.

Lord James of Blackheath had a Starred Question on Monday:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to assess the assurances given by the previous Administration on the completion date and costs of the renewable energy programme required to meet the European Union target of a 20 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.
The target is unattainable and one must pity any government that is stuck with it. Or one would pity it if one did not know that they would sign up to the same agreements.
My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord is referring to the European Union's obligation under the renewable energy directive to source 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, of which the UK share is to achieve 15 per cent renewable energy consumption by 2020. We are committed to meeting the UK's target for renewable energy by 2020, but we want to go further and have asked the Committee on Climate Change to provide independent advice on the level of ambition for renewables across the UK.

As part of the package of challenging energy and climate change measures, the UK has also signed up to the target of a reduction in new EU greenhouse emissions of at least 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. Actual costs will depend on how the market responds to incentives, on barriers to deployment and on how technology costs evolve between now and 2020. We will continue to monitor and review the uptake of financial incentives and costs.
Admittedly, that reply does not exactly tell one what the government is going to do apart from consulting and asking for reports (which will not be all that healthy for the deficit) but the tone of the response does not suggest that anybody has actually thought at all seriously about the subject.

Interestingly, the noble Minister, Lord Marland, a Conservative Party apparatchik, as well as a businessman and what used to be known as a sportsman seems to have annoyed the House with the long-windedness of his replies. He must try harder. Nevertheless, he did manage to come out with an extraordinary number. According to the agreement, as mentioned above, this country is supposed to source 20 per cent of its energy from renewables (which does not include nuclear) by 2020.
The most recent statistics for 2009 show that the level of renewable energy consumed in the UK has reached 3 per cent. This puts us on a trajectory to meet our first interim target under the renewable energy directive, which is 4 per cent by 2012.
That 20 per cent may turn out to be rather hard to achieve at this rate.

Lord Pearson asked:
My Lords, are the Government wise to have committed £18 billion per annum for the next 40 years to combat climate change when the science underpinning it has collapsed? How many British people will suffer fuel poverty as a result of this discredited initiative?
Unfortunately, it would appear that the government is now not in agreement with UKIP and there is more than a cigarette paper difference between them. Then again, it is not prepared to answer questions on the subject of money, fuel poverty or the dubiousness of the climate change science.
I am not sure I thank the noble Lord for his question, but his party's views are well known and, I am afraid, do not coincide with ours. We think that climate change is one of the biggest issues to confront the nation. We are putting green awareness on the front of our agenda. We are going to be the greenest Government who have existed and we intend to deliver policies to show so.
They will do such things, what they are they know not, but they shall be the greening of the earth.

Lord Marland also refused to answer a question about nuclear generated electricity as it is, in his opinion, irrelevant to the question and was a little muddled in his response to Lord Lawson of Blaby, whose question was:
Is my noble friend aware that only a couple of days ago, Mr Bob Wigley, the chairman of the previous Government's Green Investment Bank Commission, stated that meeting the requirements of the absurd Climate Change Act will cost the United Kingdom £50 billion a year, every year, for the next 40 years. How-above all in this age of austerity-can this possibly be justified?
In his reply Lord Marland was short on definite investment figures and long on vague promises about those green jobs.
I am very grateful to noble Lords for fighting over a question for me; it is quite rare in this job. However, I must correct my noble friend; the Green Investment Bank was an initiative set up by our own party and one must not rule out the phenomenal business opportunities that it offers for this country. We must have 2 million heat pumps by 2020. We must have bioenergy, which will create 100,000 jobs at a value of £116 million. Wind alone should create 130,000 jobs at a value of £36 billion. At a time when the country needs investment, these are heartening numbers.
Since they are purely imaginary numbers they cannot really be called heartening.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Two more written questions

Lord Pearson has put down two more written questions [scroll down] to follow up certain inconsistencies in the information given out by the government.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the mean annual per-capita cost to the Exchequer, in total and broken down by salary, pension provision, expenses, staff salaries, staff pension provision and staff expenses, of each member of (a) the House of Commons, (b) the House of Lords, (c) the European Parliament, (d) the Scottish Parliament, (e) the National Assembly for Wales, (f) the Northern Ireland Assembly, and (g) the Greater London Authority.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch to ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Henley on 29 June (WA 264), which other European Union countries support their proposed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy; which are opposed to it; and what system of voting would apply to proposals for reform.
The answers to both should be instructive.