Tag Archives: House of Lords

Sherlock Holmes Fawkesd

Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and the MoustacheI wasn’t exactly disappointed by The Empty Hearse: though I was disappointed that Mark Gatiss ducked out of actually providing the answer to how Holmes did survive. (It’s possible that Gatiss will provide the answer in episodes 2 or 3, but I’m not counting on it.) But I’m looking forward to The Sign of Three.

Moving on to the actual plot – (spoilers follow) Continue reading

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Religions can discriminate for religious reasons

The Synod needed a two-thirds majority to allow the ordination of women as bishops in the Church of England. The Synod has 467 members divided into three houses. Each of the three Houses – bishops, other clergy, and laity, needed to agree by 2 to 1 that women can be bishops.

Given that for twenty years women have been ordained priests of the Church of England, you might ask what the special issue is about bishops? The answer is, if you’re flatly of the belief that God just doesn’t approve of women becoming priests, then you can easily avoid a woman priest. (Well, more or less.) But bishops ordain priests. If you believe God holds women inferior and unable to be priests, then it follows that women can’t be bishops: that priests ordained by a bishop who’s a woman aren’t proper priests. But as those priests will be both women and men, you won’t know for sure if the priest with whom you are dealing is a real priest, validly ordained by a man, or invalidly ordained by a woman.
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Lying to select committees: the penalty

On Monday 19th March, Chris Grayling was asked by the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Anne Begg. [Update: Anne Begg was in hospital, apparently the Chair on this occasion was Harriet Baldwin.] if a person who is in the Work Programme could be forced to work against their will as a matter of policy. The question was phrased as “another possible area for confusion”:

Say you are in the Work Programme and are in one of the black boxes; is it possible that some of those black boxes contain mandatory work experience and that is where some of the media confusion is coming from?

In answer, Chris Grayling told an unblushing lie. Continue reading

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The NHS is not a pie

If we were Americans this would be Pi Day. As we are British and write our dates in the proper order, Pi Day is on 22nd July: 22/7, which is more accurate anyway by a fraction of 1/3047. That matters if you have a big pie, and the NHS is a very, very big pie.

Pie NHS logo

From Doctor Eoin Clarke’s blog, The Green Benches:

Lord Owen, the leading opponent of the NHS Bill in the House of Lords will attempt one last deed to slow the passage of this NHS Bill. He has introduced an amendment (here) into the House of Lords that the entire NHS Bill be paused until the NHS Risk Register is published. This is because Lord Owen is fearful that the risks contained within the report are so grave that they should be considered and debated first, before the bill proceeds. We need you to contact the Lib Dem peers and ask them to support Lord Owen’s amendment.

The vote will take place on Monday. There’s a gadget at the Green Benches to auto-email all of the LibDem peers, but I really prefer WriteToThem because that site monitors which peers respond to what you wrote – and also by default sends the message by fax, which means that your letter arrives at their office on paper (unless they are set up to handle emails and have told mySociety to have people email them). Paper letters are treated more seriously than emails, especially when emails are sent in large numbers with the same wording.

Update: But you can only use Write To Them for six peers every two days!
From Write To Them Lords faq:

How many Lords can I write to?

Quite a few, but don’t try and write to loads. You see, they’ve only got this one fax machine, and we don’t want to overwhelm it. The Parliament website gives more details about different ways to contact Lords, and the different limits on sending bulk messages to all Lords.

We also very aggressively prevent copy-and-pasted messages to Lords. This is because the House of Lords throw away bulk sent faxes, so it is a waste of time. Do not tell people to copy and paste letters to Lords, get them to write in their own words. See our Guidelines for campaigning for more information on this.

So there you go. If you have further updates about the *’d peers, let me know.]

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The letter I wrote:

I have been following the progress of the Health and Social Care Bill through Parliament with great concern.

Although I live in Scotland, where the NHS will not be subject to the “reforms” of this Bill, it seems to me that such a radical breakdown of the NHS is bound to affect the whole of the UK – and will certainly have knock-on effects for Scots (and Welsh) travelling or temporarily staying in England.
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Let’s talk about scroungers, gentlemen

The lineup on BBC Question Time tonight was Digby Jones, Alan Duncan, Emma Boon, Phil Redmond, Sadiq Khan.

Digby Jones was revealed in 2010 as “the most expensive member of the House of Lords in the West Midlands”

An analysis of his expenses claims shows that Lord Jones of Birmingham charged taxpayers £574.12 in allowances – for every day he attended Parliament. … The latest expenses figures show that Lord Jones claimed £24,687 for the period between April 2008 and March 2009, and attended the House of Lords 43 times, costing taxpayers £574.12 per appearance. (Birmingham Post, 18th February 2010)

“Digby, Lord Jones of Birmingham” was being paid a Ministerial salary of £108,253 per year between June 2007 and October 2008.

Jones read Law at University College London in the 1970s, paid for by the British taxpayer, and worked for twenty years at Edge Ellison, according to the biography on his website more in a business capacity than as a lawyer. For six years he was Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) between 1st January 2000 and 30th June 2006 and was knighted in 2005. His knighthood has not yet been withdrawn. CBI describes itself as the UK’s “premier business lobbying organisation” – fixing politicians for industry from its offices in Beijing, Brussels, New Delhi and Washington DC.

There’s also iSoft….

For six years Jones was a non-executive director and then advisor for the NHS IT contractor iSoft (between 2000 and 2006). A memorandum (by Ian Griffiths and Simon Bowers, The Guardian) submitted to the Commons Select Committee on Public Accounts in April 2007 with regard to some major irregularities in iSoft’s annual audit, notes that although Digby Jones, when a non-executive director at iSoft, had attended the audit committee and had instructed iSoft’s lawyers to inform the Guardian in the course of their investigation that

“He [Sir Digby Jones] is satisfied that there was no confusion over the matter internally, but there was an error in preparation of the draft minutes”

it turned out that a £30 million shortfall, attributed to a drafting error, was no such:

In October 2006 iSoft conceded the original minutes seen by The Guardian were entirely accurate. Continue reading

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The CSA saved by the House of Lords

Every government since 1993, when the Child Support Agency was founded, seems to think they can reform the CSA, and the coalition government is no exception.

Starting from 2013, the Conservatives/Liberal Democrats propose charging:

  • £100 as an upfront fee (or £50 for parents on benefit) for those who want to use the future CSA. Only “Victims of domestic violence” will be exempt (although there is no detail on how this will be proved or checked).
  • An on-going charge of between 7% and 12% on any maintenance paid to parents who rely on the future CSA to collect their child maintenance, as well as an extra 15-20% charge added to the non-resident parent’s payment.

How, exactly, is this going to help?

When the Child Support Agency was launched in 1993, it rapidly became the object of “more concentrated hatred than any other modern UK institution except the poll tax”. Partly that was because the formula established for the CSA by Act of Parliament for the first time set mandatory levels of child support payment equivalent to what a single mother got when she signed on the dole. Before the CSA, it had been the job of the judge in the divorce court to determine how much maintenance a divorced father should pay his children, and the judges – either out of ignorance for what children cost to bring up, or misplaced compassion for the poor man being divorced – generally set that rate far too low: maintenance of £10 or £20 a month per child. And low as it was, there was no mechanism for a mother to collect it except by taking her ex-husband to court.
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