Monday, 24 February 2020

New cars: more damaging to the planet, but less toxic at ground level

In a recent article, Which? says:

What is a low emission car? Before the 2015 VW emissions scandal, also known as dieselgate, a low emission car simply produced a small amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide). But now we are more aware of pollutants like NOx (oxides of nitrogen), PM (particulate matter) and CO (carbon monoxide) and how poor air quality contributes to tens of thousands of premature deaths here in the UK.

The good news is that in our rigorous lab tests, we've found that, on average, the cars that meet the latest emission regulations (Euro 6d-temp and Euro 6d, [explained in more detail in the article]), are producing a fraction of NOx and CO than the cars they replaced. But to make things more complicated, our tests show that CO2 emissions from these very same cars are actually going up, not down. In a nutshell, we may have saved our lungs at the expense of our planet's health. It also makes buying a low emission car a lot more complicated.

It's not all doom and gloom though. Not only do we expect cars to become more fuel efficient over the next few years as technology is refined, there are some cars available today that strike a balance of low CO2 and low air pollutants such as NOx and CO.

(See the magazine's free car emissions tool, revealing CO, NOX and CO2 for hundreds of cars, so you can make an informed decision on your next purchase.)

The trade body's own figures tend to confirm Which?'s findings, though their media release puts the SMMT's own spin on them.

Going all-electric eliminates the greenhouse gas trouble, but not a factor common to all road vehicles: particles produced on braking and from tyres. There are conflicting reports on how toxic these are, but they are probably less so than the products of combustion.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Points make divisiveness

From the European Movement this week:

Our society, culture and economy are enriched by people from across the world and from all backgrounds and skill sets who have made their home here. Given that the starting salary for an NHS nurse is just over £24,000 per year, these new rules will deprive our country of sorely needed talent.
Pulling up the drawbridge like this only serves to isolate us. Make no mistake: the government's new immigration plans are cruel and uninformed.

You don’t have to take my word for it - Guilia Savini, co-founder of European Movement activist group Best for Doncaster spoke about what the policies mean for EU citizens like her, saying:
“When the new points-based immigration system was announced, initially it felt surreal. I have been living in this country for 8 years now. I have a Master’s degree in Politics, and I work full time for a national charity. I pay my taxes, and I support and volunteer in my community. Yet this is not enough. I don’t have a PhD, I don’t earn £25,600, so for this government I am not a “good immigrant” or “one of the brightest minds”. If this system was introduced in 2012, the year I moved to the UK, probably I wouldn’t be here.
This new system is totally unnecessary and only serves to create a very unpleasant hostile environment which sees immigrants as political pawns. We are more than that! We are your carers, your neighbours, your friends, your partners, your favourite restaurant staff, your nurses.”
Tell Priti Patel and Boris Johnson to stop scapegoating migrants by signing the petition below:
Together, we can stand up against the government’s unjust immigration policies.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Liberal Democrats have protested the Tory government's attempt to revive the points-based immigration system which has failed once before. The details were released yesterday:

  • Offer of job by approved sponsor – 20
  • Job at appropriate skill level – 20
  • Speaks English at required level – 10
Not required:
  • Salary of £20,480 (min) – £23,039 – 0
  • Salary of £23,040 – £25,599 – 10
  • Salary of £25,600 or above – 20
  • Job in shortage occupation – 20
  • PhD in subject relevant to job – 10
  • PhD in STEM subject relevant to job – 20
A minimum of 70 points is required for admission.

Ms Patel is unconcerned that there are living languages in these islands other than English. While there are no monoglot Welshmen or -women left now (though most readers will be surprised how recently the last Welshman who knew no English died), Welsh is still a first language in several parts of the nation and, of course, in Patagonia. It may be argued that there will be few Patagonians qualified under the optional criteria to immigrate should they even wish to, but it will still be seen as an insult to Welsh-speaking people.

With reference to a protest by someone who has clearly been in the line of racist fire, prime minister Johnson and Home Secretary Patel respond that the PM is not racist,in spite of numerous records to the contrary. Their attitude to Muslims suggests a certain religious intolerance, too. Peter Black provides details.

Peter also draws attention to the impact on industry, commerce, agriculture and public services of the Tories' hostility to immigrants.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Commonwealth ignorance

It will be a few weeks before yesterday evening's edition of Pointless becomes available on the BBC web-site, but no doubt the ignorance on display will figure in tomorrow's Private Eye's Dumb Britain feature. Asked to name countries which participated in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, three contestants (one of each pair left in the round) volunteered "Kazakhstan", "Greece" and even "France".

What struck me was that the older members of each pair came up with excellent knowledgeable answers like "Vanuatu" and "St Kitts and Nevis". I would guess that the dividing line was around the age of 45. Britons younger than that would have been brought up when our membership of the European community had become well established and been educated after Mrs Thatcher had been an influence on the direction of the syllabus.

Monday, 17 February 2020

A way out for Prince Harry's staff?

As an aside to her piece at the weekend on the subject of the mini-purge of Special Advisors in Downing Street, Janet Street-Porter wrote:

Another savage staffing cull emerged yesterday, in the Royal Household. Harry and Meghan are closing their office in Buckingham Palace and moving or getting rid of 15 members of staff. Loyal workers who had the difficult task of dealing with the media and running their diaries and their social media accounts, including a newly appointed private secretary and a head of communications. Apparently, the royal couple told staff in January, when they made the unexpected announcement they were stepping down from royal duties. Many of their staff are negotiating redundancy packages - along, no doubt, with non-disclosure agreements.

One trusts that staff were offered the opportunity to follow the Sussexes to Canada, allowing them to avoid the uncertainty of employment in post-Brexit England.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Will bread and circuses dictate Johnson's immigration policy?

Lib Dems' response to reports about government immigration policy refers.

Glenn Moore, writing in the i newspaper yesterday, drew attention to the impending end of the Premier Leagues' ability to recruit up-and-coming talent from the EU. He cites the cases of Virgil van Dijk and Riyad Mahrez, who would meet the requirements for a UK work permit now because of their international reputation, but would not have done when they were first recruited by Glasgow Celtic and Leicester City respectively, were it not for their births on the continent.

 There are also many players in the Football League who, if treated on a level with other EU residents, are liable to be repatriated as a result of Brexit. Managers of rugby league and competitive cricket teams in the UK will also be worried, because, under "Kolpak" terms, citizens of countries which have signed European Union Association Agreements have the same right to freedom of work and movement within the EU as EU citizens.

One wonders whether prime minister Johnson and his √©minence grise Cummings are aware that the areas of the country which strongly supported "Leave" in the 2016 referendum as well as voting Conservative last December are also home to many football clubs struggling outside the Premier League. If deprived of the  journeymen continental footballers who they can field at lower wages than they would have to pay Brits, those clubs may well fold. Similarly, virtually every county cricket side relies on a Kolpak player or two and a few clubs in the Yorkshire and Lancashire leagues may well have a professional who qualifies on Kolpak terms.

I would not put it past the current administration to rig their new system to assign higher points to sportsmen and -women on the cynical old Roman principle of generating "public approval, not by excellence in public service or public policy, but by diversion, distraction or by satisfying the most immediate or base requirements of a populace".

Saturday, 15 February 2020

So, what about the budget?

It is virtually certain that the main planks of the 2020 budget have already been laid. Therefore the change of chancellor should make little difference - even the headstrong Boris Johnson would not have risked losing Javid just three weeks ahead of the budget statement if there were to be a major impact.

We should expect - demand, even - the abolition of the "tampon tax" (5% Value Added Tax on all sanitary protection products). One of the few benefits of leaving the EU is regaining total control over rates of VAT and on the items on which it can be levied. So far, the government has been reluctant to confirm that the tax is to go, but the patience of the millions of people affected will not last for ever.

There ought to be introduced a financial transaction tax, a very small percentage on trades that go through the City of London which would not be noticed by small and medium investors but would add up to a useful boost to the exchequer. Now that we are out of the EU, we do not have to coordinate such a levy with whatever is coming down the line from Brussels. However, the big traders will pay a lot, even though it would be a very small proportion of their turnover, so have presumably already convinced the Treasury that it is a non-starter.