Thursday, 15 November 2018

We did not stand alone in the Great War

Peter Jackson's remarkable recreation which put new life into the Imperial War Museum's archive footage of the Great War, together with voice-overs of the reminiscences gathered by the BBC from those who returned from France and Belgium received well-deserved commendation from the critics.

But there was another commemoration, on TalkingPicturesTV which was trailed on that channel but not elsewhere. Intermixed with footage of investigators was an attempt by two Canadian brothers to recreate the experience of their forebears. [Declaration of interest: my mother's father joined a Canadian regiment at the time of the Great War, though it is not clear whether he saw active service.] This was a reminder that Britain did not stand alone - a myth which suits politicians of a particular bent - but needed fresh blood in 1917 for the final push to victory and resistance to Germany's final spring offensive in 1918. William Wallace recalls:

Remembering the First World War is a very immediate emotion for me.  I was the youngest child of a late family.  My father had been born in 1899.  He joined up in mid-1917, and went out in a reinforcement draft to the Highland Division on the Western front in late March 1918

but goes on:

we have neglected to mark the contributions of our allies and our imperial forces.  We held a small ceremony by the statue of Marshal Foch in London, to mark the point at which British forces came under his overall command – with a Guards band and two French soldiers in attendance  We have not recognized that elements of the Belgian army held part of the Ypres salient throughout the war, using England as their support and supply base.  We have done very little to inform our younger generation of the importance of the Indian Army, over a million men who fought on almost every front and won 25 Victoria Crosses.  Nothing has been said of the West Indies Regiment in the Palestine campaign . Many of today’s south Asian and Caribbean citizens of Britain are descended from those who fought for the empire in 1914-18 or 1939-45: Baroness Scotland and Baroness Warsi among them, as well as Lord Bilimoria. What a lost opportunity to contribute to national integration, and to a better understanding of how closely our history is linked to our continental neighbours.
The French commemoration has been far more generous to its partners and allies, as well as its former enemies.  An open-air exhibition along the Champs Elysees, in 2014-15, carried pictures of allied troops in all their diversity: Scots, English, Indian, Moroccan as well as French.  British troops have marched in the July 14th parade.  A special ceremony marked the American entry to the war, impressing President Trump so much that he wanted to initiate regular military parades in Washington.  The British have focussed on our own war and our own forces, leaving Americans, French, Belgians, Indians, even Australians and Canadians in the background.
The Remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph is, in effect, the annual symbolic representation of British history and identity.  In 1919, the first parade past the Cenotaph included troops from 12 empire and allied forces as well as from Britain.  Since then it has shrunk to an entirely British ceremony, unchanged for half a century.  I welcome the participation of the German president in this year’s event, as a sign of openness to change.  Should we not follow the French example from their July 14th ceremonies in future years, and invite forces of other countries with whom we have shared common dangers and threats to take part?  
Contingents from India and Pakistan, to mark how much Britain depended on their predecessors in past conflicts?  Polish troops and airmen, to tell our young people the crucial contributions they made in the Second World War, in intelligence, in the Battle of Britain, at Arnhem and Monte Cassino?  Belgian forces, to tell our right-wing politicians that many Belgians fought on, from British bases, in both world wars?  I recall in government a Conservative minister remarking that the Belgians never fight, to be corrected by an official who told him that Belgian and British planes were flying joint missions over Libya at the time.  And of course the French, our vital ally in World War One whose resistance to occupation we supported in World War Two.
We should particularly remember the Poles as they celebrate the centenary of their declaration of independence. It was to be so cruelly expunged by the conspiracy by Hitler and Stalin to carve up the nation between them, but eventually to be revived by the events of 1989. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Junction 41 and pollution

I thought it was going to be a fairly short and quiet meeting of the local Lib Dems last night, but "any other business" turned out to be other than that. We had got discussion of the various proposed ward boundary changes (we wait to hear from the boundaries commission) and the arrangements for the selection of regional candidates out of the way. Then councillor Helen Clarke hit us with the news that the county borough council's budget proposals would go further than not increasing the money spent on education (which in itself amount to a real terms reduction because of the effects of inflation) but actually cut the budget by 2%. It also transpired that there had been some creative accounting at the civic centre to the detriment of local councillors, not helped by the fact that the Labour cabinet has made it even more difficult for "back-bench" members to access the overall accounts. (They had stopped issuing the printed budget book to other than a favoured few in my last year as a councillor. This was clearly an economy measure and my querying of certain items outside the subject areas of the committees I was on was just coincidental. Now it seems that even the on-line links to the accounts are more obscure than they used to be.) There will probably be more about these matters in another place ere long.

The discussion on junction 41 was something else. It seems that a cat-fight has broken out between Plaid Cymru and Labour councillors, and between councillors and AMs, as to who has been more prominent in the fight to keep the junction open throughout the year. The belief that the Labour council originally came up with the idea of partial closure in order to encourage more drivers to take the lightly-used new southern distributor road has been quietly forgotten about.

The assertion that the Welsh government took up the idea enthusiastically because it might have enabled the then transport minister to travel back from Cardiff to her west Wales constituency more quickly is probably malicious. The current justification is that reducing stop-start motoring here would reduce pollution. However, motorists among us suggest that closure would merely push the pollution to another pinch-point, nearer housing. A more effective, if radical solution, would be to split the M4, creating another carriageway (upgrading Harbour Way?) and practically doubling the carrying capacity of the existing road through Port Talbot.

As to roadside pollution generally, there is a promising solution from a German firm with an English name, Green City Solutions. "CityTree" is a wall of mosses selected to absorb the most worrying gases. There is a description of an installation in Delhi here. The Green City Solutions Web pages are only in German, but there is a useful map which shows that there are already installations in Glasgow, Newcastle-on-Tyne and in the City of London. I feel that the Welsh government should look seriously at scaling up this technology and applying it to the revetment walls where the motorway cuts through Port Talbot - and other urban areas. (Thanks to Cen Phillips for the tip.)

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

BBC Bias

I am surprised that this paper (in pdf) has not received  more coverage since its publication in 2016. Even though lead authors were Cardiff University academics, BBC Wales did not publicise it much at the time.

It tends to confirm my feeling that the corporation is biased towards the big battalions, not prepared to treat news sources on their merits. It took more stuff from Labour than the Conservatives in 2007, a ratio that was reversed in 2012. It took far less from Liberal Democrats than either in both years, though rather more in 2007 when the Lib Dems were on an upswing. There is also sadly support for my contention that the BBC did not keep the average viewer and listener informed about EU matters, which led to the ignorance which Banks, Farage and co. played on in the 2016 referendum campaign.

Thanks to Simon Wren-Lewis for the link, who writes in his blog today:

those ruling us in the UK do not really know what they are doing [but they] are not fools without any purpose. Brexit is a triumph of the heart over the head. They know what they want, and just do not care too much about the damage it will do. But the ‘misunderstanding’ by Brexiters over what they signed up to in December 2017 that persisted for weeks shows how dangerous not paying much attention to facts (in this case the words of an agreement) can be. Theresa May wasted at least a year completely misunderstanding the EU, and firing those in government that did. Perhaps her biggest act of ignoring the obvious was embarking on the Article 50 process without any prior discussion of what was possible and what was not, which as many people noted at the time was a sure way of ensuring the EU got pretty well what it wanted. If you do not believe all this, read Chris Grey here.



Monday, 12 November 2018

Gaisberg's sonic final curtain

A centenary which I missed last week was that of the death of Fred Gaisberg, the man who recorded Adelina Patti among other celebrities of the early years of the twentieth century. Gaisberg's death may have been hastened by his final coup, recording the sounds of an actual artillery bombardment in the final weeks of the Great War. During the recording, he inhaled gas which it seems the Germans were still using as a weapon. Gaisberg's weakened lungs may have rendered him more susceptible to the "Spanish" flu which took off so many men who had survived the war.

The commercially-issued disc may have been souped-up a bit for the public, but the sounds were clearly accepted as authentic by those who had been there. It may well be the source for the recreation of sound effects added to contemporary silent film footage when it was shown to audiences after the coming of sound in cinemas.

Once again, I am grateful to Terry Teachout.


Friday, 9 November 2018

Apocalyptic warnings are counter-productive

Guido pokes fun at warnings of imminent disaster here. Indeed, we have not seen a Day After Tomorrow-style sudden swing into a global inferno (or like that in The Day the Earth Caught Fire referred to earlier in these pages). Kate Hendry, the palaeoclimotologist who appeared in the slot on this week's Film Programme dealing with "jobs the film-makers get wrong", pointed out that previous climate changes took place over hundreds of years. However, I have a nasty feeling that at some time in the last decade we did flick over into runaway global warming and that even if we did reverse production of greenhouse gases tomorrow there will be no measurable effect within our lifetimes. This, of course, will only fuel climate change deniers claims of conspiracy.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Post Office on trial

I have been following through Private Eye the alleged frauds by sub-postmasters on the Post Office. I had not commented before, because I was told that a local man who was affected had actually pleaded guilty to "false accounting". However, an interview on Radio Wales yesterday revealed that at least one Anglesey sub-postmaster had been persuaded by his legal advisers to make a guilty plea, even though he was convinced he was innocent, in the hope of receiving a light or suspended sentence. (He was cruelly let down, having to spend part of his sentence in Liverpool's notorious Walton gaol.) Perhaps this was true of the others who were convicted.

So I am now fully supportive of the Justice for Sub-Postmasters Alliance's campaign and will be following Nick Wallis's reports with interest.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Delayed armistice cost needless deaths

We will shortly be celebrating the centenary of the end of fighting in the Great War. Before then, we should remember those who died needlessly in the days leading up to the armistice. The symbolism of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month appealed so strongly to the powers-that-were that they delayed the formal signing, even though it was known on the 9th November 1918 that the Germans had agreed to surrender. Indeed, fighting could have ceased on the 7th if the French high command had not been so intransigent when they were first approached by German negotiators.

The possibility of an armistice had begun the evening of November 7 when French soldiers of the 171st RĂ©giment d’Infanterie near Haudroy were startled by an unfamiliar bugle call. Fearing they were about to be overrun, they cautiously advanced toward the increasingly loud blaring when out of the mantle of fog three automobiles emerged, their sides gilded with the imperial German eagle. The astonished Frenchmen had encountered a German armistice delegation headed by a rotund forty-three-year-old politician and peace advocate named Matthias Erzberger. The delegation was escorted to the Compigne Forest near Paris where, in a railroad dining car converted into a conference room, they were met by a small, erect figure–Marshal Foch–who fixed them with a withering gaze. Foch opened the proceeding with a question that left the Germans agape. ‘Ask these Gentlemen what they want,’ he said to his interpreter. When the Germans had recovered, Erzberger answered that they understood they had been sent to discuss armistice terms. Foch stunned them again: ‘Tell these gentlemen that I have no proposals to make.’

That is from historynet.com, the online presence of a large publisher of history magazines. Being US-based, they naturally concentrate on the sacrifice of largely African-American lives in a pointless sortie on the very morning of the armistice, but we should remember all those on both sides who did not have to perish in those five days.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

The public health: who is responsible?

So the new English Health Secretary is throwing responsibility for pressures on the NHS back on the individual citizen? To a large extent he is right, of course. If we as a nation smoked less, drank less and were more careful about our diets there would be fewer life-style diseases requiring treatment. However, smoking has decreased dramatically and there is less binge-drinking than there used to be, so there are fewer gains to be made there. As to diet, poor choices are often forced upon consumers as time which could be spent by households in preparing good-quality meals has to be sacrificed in working extra hours in order to make ends meet. Hence takeaways and ready meals which tend to contain too much salt, sugar and preservatives, but which need little preparation time.

Government should recognise its responsibility in improving life-style. For a start, it could fully restore the cuts in Universal Credit made after the Lib Dems ceased to be in coalition (Hammond's 2018/19 budget goes only part-way to doing so) and could set a real living wage as the statutory minimum. This would enable ordinary people to make genuine choices as to what they ate.

In addition, it could tackle environmental pollution. It should take seriously the damage to the atmosphere in our towns and cities largely caused by increased private car ownership. It should go back to electrifying railways instead of falling back on polluting diesel for new trains. Atmospheric pollution particularly damages children.

It could improve living conditions by lifting the restrictions on councils and other bodies in providing social housing and bringing it up to standard. It could ensure that tenants of private landlords are allowed to make use of the law in respect of unfit housing, and not be handicapped by lack of access to legal representation.

Then it could encourage people to get out more by restoring subsidies to bus companies. (Welsh government, responsible for transport, please take note.) This would particularly help the otherwise house-bound elderly to get more exercise in the open air and sunlight.

At the end of the day, there will still be a need for professionals to give advice and to act as a first line in the fight against deteriorating health. There is an exodus of nurses induced by the government's decision to leave the EU. Efforts to fill the gaps from within the UK or the Commonwealth, who used to keep NHS nursing from collapse, have so far failed. Health may be a devolved matter, but citizenship and the granting of residence are not, and Conservatives in Westminster need to provide for those of us who do not benefit from generous private health schemes.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Reasons for leaving

Countering such beliefs as are  listed below will have no effect on those who hold them, because they come from deep in the gut rather than the head. However, putting my counter-arguments on record makes me feel better.

A Facebook friend records:

All of the below are genuine comment I have heard or read in the last three weeks. [Comments in blue are mine - FHL]

1) they (the EU) are going to abolish the English [sic] monarchy.
Forty years since the UK joined the European Community, our royal family is still going strong. Nor have the other five monarchies within the EU been affected.

2) it (the EU) was set up by Hitler.
Historically incorrect. Hitler wanted to impose a tyrannical German empire which would last a thousand years.The European Community (now the EU) was formed after the defeat of the Nazis by free nations by consent in which each should have a say in how it progressed. 

3) it’s a front for Germany to keep Vichy France going.
See above. France has had several governments of different political stripes varying from the socialist to the conservative since the 1950s. There is no way the Germans could have changed the way the French voted.

4) leaving it will stop all the Muslims coming in.
Our large Muslim population is as a result of traditional Commonwealth links, and its growth has probably slowed since our accession to the EU. The majority are now integrated and their departure would cause the UK economy and government structures to collapse.

Part of LeaveEU's Project Fear was that we would be swamped by millions of Turkish Muslims. This was in spite of the fact that Turkey's application to join the EU had been shelved by the Commission in view of Turkey's increasing authoritarianism. Most Turks would have headed for the country's traditional ally, Germany, anyway. 

5) We’re not allowed to trade outside the EU.
Yes, we can. What about all the Scotch we sell to the US for a start? We are also, through the EU, party to trade agreements with over sixty other countries, more than we had as a separate country in 1973 when we joined. Then we had free trade deals with six other nations as a result of EFTA We cannot fall back on these, because EFTA is now in the European single market.

6) We never voted for the President.
The president is nominated by the Council (on which our ministers sit) and voted on by the parliament, for which we voted every four years, the last time in 2015. 

7) They steal all our fish.
Not all our fish, but perhaps Edward Heath and later Margaret Thatcher gave away too much in agreeing to share access to home waters. Having said that, there was little complaint back in 1973, owners of fishing licences in England were only too happy to sell them to other EU members, sea fishing represents only 0.48% of the UK's GDP and conservation of fish stocks has improved since membership.

8 ) We just ‘fall back onto World Trade rules’.
It is certainly not going to be as simple as that, but the legal position is unclear. The UK is a member of the WTO in our own right, being one of the founder members of its predecessor organisation, the GATT, and confirmed in 1995. There is opinion that we may carry on with the same rights and responsibilities which we acquired while members of the EU. However, some other WTO members have made it clear that they are not going to make it easy for us to assert those rights.

What is certain is that:
The WTO requires member countries to apply tariffs (taxes) on goods and services to other WTO countries equally. It also means you can’t set different rules for foreign and domestic products in your country. 

So free trade is out of the window until we negotiate deals with other countries. This will take many years, because we will have to build up our trade negotiating expertise, which we had no need of when we joined the EC.


9) We can get rid of all them ‘human rights’.
Advice from parliamentary lawyers is that we could have abolished human rights legislation and even pulled out of the European Convention on Human Rights without having to give up our membership of the EU. (This is not true of new members since a change in accession arrangements made since we joined; they have to specifically sign up to the ECHR.) Indeed, repeal of the Human Rights Act has been part of at least one Conservative manifesto. The fact that the Tories did not follow through shows that there is not a majority, even among MPs, to revert to the Common Law. And why should we?

10) “We done alright before”.
Even with Commonwealth preference (and that was being dismantled as our previous Imperial possessions flexed their muscles after the last world war) trade was not as buoyant as it is today and the unemployment figures were seldom out of the headlines. 

11) We’ve got the Commonwealth.
We caused much resentment among fellow Commonwealth members when we joined the EEC and tore up trade agreements with them. Very few will rush to sign up with us again, especially since most have made better arrangements locally. There have been some sympathetic noises from conservative politicians in Australia and New Zealand, but they are in the minority. 

There is also the question as to whether the Commonwealth will survive the reign of the present Queen. The heir apparent has shown no interest in fulfilling his duties as head of the Commonwealth and indeed seems to have the same attitude towards non-white citizens as his father.

12) We can restart the Empire.
By force? With our run-down armed forces? And against world opinion? The USA has a lock on our use of the nuclear weapons we buy from them, so we can hardly threaten the nuclear powers of India and Pakistan.

13) We can go on better holidays further away; The Canaries are great for starters.
The Canary Islands are a Spanish possession. Therefore our easy access is through the EU. 

14) I don’t care about DEALS, I just want OUT.
There is no answer to that.

15) They need us more than we need them.
Possibly true of Ireland, where in terms of trade and power distribution the Republic is practically dependent on the UK (but the converse is also true for the people of Northern Ireland). The Netherlands would also be affected by Brexit, though not to the same extent. But overall, while almost half of our exports are to the rest of the EU, less than a fifth of the EU 27's exports come to the UK. We need them more than they need us.

16) We’re OUT! We left and they can’t drag us back in.
We are not out yet. The Article 50 letter can be revoked. There was resistance, especially from France, to our joining in the first place. There will be no great desire among the 27 to want us back except on the same terms as the other members. There will be no special privileges just because we are British.

17) Churchill never wanted it.
Churchill was very much in favour of closer alliances between European nations. He was a supporter of the European Coal and Steel Community which was a forerunner of the EEC/EC/EU. He pressed for common standards of human rights through the ECHR and ensured that we signed up to it (it was largely drafted in the UK). Opinions differ as to how committed he was to the desirability of UK membership of the European Community (there is evidence both ways), but there is no doubt that he wanted an end to strife within Europe, having been involved in two destructive wars which started on the continent. 

18) I go to Thailand on me holidees. The pound rate is shit now but’s worf it to get OUT!
The pound sterling is worth around 12% less than it was just before the 2016 referendum, and we are not even out yet. It will clearly fall further if UK exits. 

There are currently free trade talks between the EU and Thailand. We will not benefit from these if we are outside the EU.

19) we can control are boarders now [sic].
We are entitled to more control over movement of people from the continent than the government lets on. Government is not prepared to fund the agency which could police the restrictions on free movement of the unemployed or to crack down on employers who pay less than the national wage.

And, of course, our legal restrictions on entry from the rest of the world, including the Commonwealth, have remained in force. Ironically, they may have to be loosened in future if we are to make up for the exodus of health professionals from the rest of Europe. 

20) My uncle was on the Normandy beaches. He didn’t fight for THAT lot!
I wonder if that particular citizen consulted his uncle. I know that my own father, who served in North Africa and Italy in the last world war, was an enthusiast for remaining in the European Community when the first referendum was held in 1975. 

The drive to join the Community was spearheaded by Edward Heath and supported by Denis Healey. both of whom saw active service in the fight-back against the Axis powers.

It was not until the mid-1950s, as part of a military family in Germany, that I saw a fraction of the damage wrought by the war. There had been a remarkable programme of rebuilding, fuelled by the "Economic miracle" attributed to Konrad Adenauer's CDU government, but there were still signs of war damage. I particularly remember seeing one tower of Cologne cathedral truncated and shrouded in scaffolding as the custodians ran a lottery to fund its restoration.


Sunday, 4 November 2018

Liberal Democrat financial restraints

Guido Fawkes reports on the redundancies at Great George Street. There have clearly been some decisions at Lib Dem HQ which have hit the bottom line hard, but I believe Guido is wrong when he opines: "Spending all your energy trying to fight Brexit isn’t looking to be a very financially sound strategy today". The huge turnouts at anti-Brexit marches show that the party's stance as the only one against leaving the EU is popular. Indeed, many Facebook messages show that Labour members and supporters are prepared to vote LD if their own leadership continues to accept Brexit as a done deal. Membership received a boost as a result of our pro-EU stance. So far from being an unsound strategy, it seems that the anti-Brexit campaign has saved the party from complete collapse.

I would trace the party's travails back to the over-optimism of 2010 when those at the top acted as though the Lib Dems were on an unstoppable upward path and made spending commitments accordingly, seemingly oblivious of the fact that overnight we lost our "Short" money. By entering into coalition, we ceased to be an opposition party and thus were no longer eligible for support from the public purse for our parliamentary activities. At the same time, we were not influential enough to attract donations from big business as the Conservatives did. (The Democratic Unionist Party has cannily avoided the Short-fall by not going into formal coalition, though it clearly dictates a lot of government policy.) Long-standing volunteers were shed in 2010 whose experience would have been invaluable after the electoral collapse of 2015.

It is a far cry from the days when the party was the most financially responsible of British political parties (we had to be!). Labour has only just got its house in order after enduring a huge debt burden which puts Lib Dems' current trouble in perspective. The Conservatives teetered on the edge of bankruptcy when commercial interests deserted them after the 1997 Labour landslide. (Indeed, I regretted at the time Blair-Brown's decision not to put the legal boot in.)

There is no reason to be despondent. In Mike German we have a federal treasurer whose managerial skills were invaluable to the Welsh party when he was leader in Cardiff. He is also someone who is committed to the party. There are doubts about the Conservatives' financial team who have questionable commercial interests which may come back to bite them if they fail badly at the next general election. That at least is not going to happen to the Liberal Democrats.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Ineos eyes Bridgend for production of Landie-alike

The talks are at an early stage, but the fact that one or other party has released the information that Ineos is in discussion with Ford about using spare capacity at the Bridgend engine plant, when the Jaguar contract comes to an end, seems promising. There is clearly a niche for a replacement for the traditional Land Rover, which JLR in Solihull has ceased to manufacture. The design will have to be updated, of course, as Toyota has mopped up the overseas market with its Land Cruiser, said to be more reliable than the Land Rover.

A big obstacle to a successful deal is the reputation which Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder of Ineos, has as a union-buster. In fact, yesterday's media release may have been designed to put pressure on the unions at Bridgend to accept stringent conditions in return for continued employment.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Macquarie: government was warned twice

In drawing up my post of 1st October ("Green wash-out"), I tried to find a previous posting of mine in which I accused Cameron and Osborne of going out of their way to spite the Liberal Democrats over the sale of the Green Investment Bank. It should not have been sold at all, of course, but it could have been the subject of competitive bidding by a roster of selected institutions which would preserve its raison d'etre. Instead, the GIB was let go in what appears to have been a sweetheart deal to a bank with an appalling record, as if to rub Lib Dem noses in the extent to which Cameron had deceived the nation over his ecological intentions. In the event, Vince Cable got there first and I either binned my contribution or posted in the more transient Facebook.

Vince had written last year:

The Green Investment Bank's environmental mission is in danger of disappearing under the ownership of a private Australian bank whose track record does not inspire confidence.

Sadly, this is another of the positive legacies of the Liberal Democrats in government that the Conservatives are now burying.


But I also found that Chris Huhne had foreseen in 2006 the way that Macquarie was to gouge Thames Water,  racking up at least half-a-dozen environmental outrages in the process:

Commenting on the takeover of Thames Water, Liberal Democrat Shadow 
Environment Secretary, Chris Huhne MP said:

“Ofwat needs to look at this purchase very closely, and prepare to be 
far more prescriptive in its conditions for investment and customer 
service. The last thing Thames Water customers need is another gouging 
of the consumer to meet a corporate borrowing binge. 

“This is a potentially worrying takeover because Macquarie has the 
reputation for borrowing large amounts of cash to buy its acquisitions, 
which it then attaches to the company. This can mean that investment is 
cut to the bone while the outfit is sweated for cash to meet its 
interest and debt repayments."


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Green wash-out

Last week's Private Eye drew attention to evidence of the perversion of the Green Investment Bank's mission since it was bought out of public ownership (and not by competitive bidding, it seems) by the profoundly non-green Macquarie Bank of Australia.

It has been known for some time that wood-burning power stations are at least as polluting as coal-fired stations. The only justification for them is that they can be part of a renewable cycle, as fast-growing trees can be planted to replace locally-sourced thinnings, recovering carbon in the process. In practice, Drax and many other stations use wood-pellets, imported from North America and Scandinavia, thus adding to the carbon footprint.

The Macquarie-owned GIB has invested in two of Estover Energy's bio-mass power stations.
In spite of talk about burning "clean low-grade wood, the parts of the tree that have little or no other use", even Estover's picture on the cover of its web-site shows stacks of timber at one of its plants.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Blind prejudice

Mukul Chawla's parting words on leaving the independent Bar included this illustration of how racial prejudice can work against a person's own best interests. He is writing about his first crown court trial:

My client’s first words to me in the corridor outside court and in the hearing of my prosecutor and a number of my co-defending counsel were “I don’t want no fucking Paki defending me.” I gulped and explained that I was all he was going to get.

My first Crown Court trial had not started in the auspicious way that I had dreamt of. Our relationship never really improved. The next two weeks were spent in a haze of panic, sleeplessness and endless writing and crossing out questions to ask and points to make. I had one point in my favour. The police officer who interviewed my client had neglected to write down that he had cautioned him in accordance with the Judges Rules (This was pre PACE). The more he insisted that he had cautioned my client the sillier he looked. Wise words from one of my co-defending counsel prevailed upon me in that, while I had wanted to make this cross examination last hours so that I would be seen as the new Rumpole of the Bailey (or, at least of Inner London), I only needed to ask half a dozen questions before resuming my seat. In the event, after two weeks my client was acquitted (I still suspect that the Jury felt sorry for him because of his representation) and because the Judge had heard of my difficulties with my client, he insisted on telling my client how fortunate he was in being represented by me. Two senior members of my chambers were in court waiting to be called on and heard the Judge’s comments. My client didn’t wait to say thank you.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Life is Zanzibar-ish

A recent* Dave Gorman show on the Dave channel (formerly UKTV G2) tackled among other things how fake news comes to be accepted. He told how one of those pranksters who delight in planting incredible factoids in wikipedia entries (you know, like "Al Gore invented the internet") had credited him with hitch-hiking round the Pacific Rim countries. Gorman spotted this and edited out the offending item, but not before the Northern Echo had picked up on it (trawling through wikipedia counts as research for lazy journalists) and published it, uncredited, as part of a pen portrait of the comedian. As a result, some wikipedia editor took it upon himself (it was almost certainly a "him") to reinstate the lie, citing the newspaper as confirmation. The story is told through Twitter here.

It is all very reminiscent of the Zanzibar fallacy, one version of which is set out here - a vivid retelling, though I think "chota peg" is more accurate than "chukka peg".














In the 18th century, Jonathan Swift wrote "Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it" and that was in the days of sailing ships and horse-drawn mail coaches. Since then, each advance in communication - telegraph, wireless, internets - has speeded the flight and replication of falsehood. We now have to be very sure of our sources before passing on any assertion.

Incidentally, Modern Life is Goodish is recorded in the Notting Hill Tabernacle. Perhaps more use of these wonderful buildings in Wales could be made by our television companies.

* Actually it seems to have been a repeat from two years ago, although Modern Life is Goodish is one of the few shows which actually originate on Dave

Budget response

There have been some excellent Lib Dem responses to yesterday's budget statement. They will no doubt appear on the local party's blog and Facebook page in due course, so I will not attempt to cover the same ground here. However, it did strike me that Mr Hammond was unduly pleased with the GDP growth rate of the UK. It is not just that it is low in historical terms - the global economy has after all been hit by various depressing actions recently, not least the trade war started by the US against China and other nations - but that it is low by comparison with other leading nations, including virtually all our fellow-members of the EU.

Aside from the official statements, Caron Lindsay's post on Liberal Democrat Voice struck home.

I don’t live in a terribly affluent household, but, even so, a budget that gives us £20 or so extra a month while people are really struggling to find even the most basic housing, or to put food on the table, has got its priorities well and truly wrong. I would much rather pay a bit more tax to make sure that people got the public services and medical treatment and social security that they need.

Add to this injustice the fact that Universal Credit has only had half of what George Osborne took out of it in 2015 as soon as we were out of the picture put back. If Iain Duncan Smith reckons it needs £2 billion, then it probably needs more to make it work for people.


"We are all in this together" has an increasingly hollow ring.

One other item struck me at the time of delivery, that:

We will open the use of e-passport gates at Heathrow and other airports, currently only available to European economic area nationals, to include visitors from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

So whites and honorary whites get the welcoming treatment, but not those from our Commonwealth partner, probably soon to overtake us in the world GDP league table, India, nor from Singapore.

Monday, 29 October 2018

The Swiss myth

This Brexiteer argument has been doing the rounds:


When it was displayed in a Facebook group comprising people who actually know the Swiss border, it elicited such comments as:

Switzerland is in the single market and have freedom of movement, and also in the Schengen zone, in which the UK isn't. But I bet when someone says to quitters that getting the Swiss deal means accepting single market and freedom of movement, they will start stalling and shout shallow arguments again.

Any truck either driving to or just passing through Switzerland has to have a Carnet which has to be stamped for clearance. It also comes at a cost, Switzerland is a bloody nuisance for anyone shipping goods through it, why, because it has a hard boarder.

I am sorry to disappoint you...... But there are still borders and checks on what you can carry into Switzerland indeed if moving your house contents, you can't just take them into Switzerland you have itemise each piece and get the paperwork stamped.....

You're supposed to carry your passport or ID all the time there. And there are definitely checkpoints where the roads cross the border.

Surely Switzerland is part of Schengen allowing for free movement of people - one of the fundamental objections in the [Leave] campaign....?!!

 I had two boxes of tee shirts in my car on a trip through Switzerland. I either had to pay £170 duty, which i could claim back, or not go through Switzerland. The borders are monitored and there are physical checkpoints.

 If the Swiss model was implemented, Kent roads would come to a standstll. Commercial goods would have to be customs cleared in and out- trust me I've done it !!!

Took an overnight train from Munich to Milan that went through Switzerland. Got woken up at the border when the train stopped and guards with sniffer dogs came through the whole train checking passports.

 Last time I drove into and out of Switzerland I had to show my passport and get an ATA Carnet stamped.
The professional entertainment goods I was transporting were rented and were eventually returned by me to a rental company. This is why I needed thi
s particular customs document. That I showed at the border.
Checks were made. I was delayed entry into Switzerland from Sunday night and was not allowed to continue my journey until Monday morning.


Or you could just watch the Three Blokes in the Pub series.

Currency conversion within the EU could become cheaper

Just as we are scheduled to leave the EU,

Since the introduction of the euro, the EU has launched various initiatives to reduce the cost of cross-border transactions, among them a set of single euro payments area (SEPA) standards, regulations on cross-border payments, and the Payment Services Directives.

Nevertheless, cross-border euro payments made in non-euro-area Member States are still subject to high fees. Furthermore, when paying with a card or making an ATM withdrawal in a country using a currency other than the euro, it is almost impossible to know exactly how much it is going to cost.

On 28 March 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 924/2009 and aimed at making cross-border payments in euros cheaper across the entire EU, while also bringing more transparency to currency-conversion practices.


[From a bulletin of the European Parliament Research Service. The full article shows the timeline of the regulation's adoption.]

In advance of the workshop referred to in my earlier post, the EU is already taking measures to safeguard the parliamentary elections to take place next May.

In his 12 September 2018 state of the Union address, President Jean-Claude Juncker announced the Commission’s proposed new rules to protect Europe’s democratic processes from manipulation by third countries or private interests. These measures, as laid out in the Commission’s September 2018 communication on securing free and fair European elections, include recommendations on election cooperation networks, online transparency, protection against cybersecurity incidents and steps to counter disinformation campaigns in the context of the European elections. As election periods are a strategic target of hybrid threats, the Commission and the High Representative identified steps in June 2018 to boost resilience and capabilities. Increased EU-NATO cooperation on hybrid threats has materialised in the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, established in Finland in 2017. Following Parliament’s call to look into the problem of fake news, in its 26 April 2018 communication on online disinformation the Commission issued an action plan and proposed tools to counter online disinformation, including a code of practice for online platforms to increase clarity about algorithms and close down bots and fake accounts. The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica revelations highlighted the relevance of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect on 25 May 2018 and gives the EU tools to address the unlawful use of personal data, including during elections.

There is more here.


Sunday, 28 October 2018

Apologies to "lionel" and "Penderyn"

The notification to my email address of comments submitted to this blog has broken down for some reason. So lionel's comment to The "Welsh" Super-prison and Penderyn's to Flags out for England - and Wales? were missed and I came across them by chance. They have now been posted and responded to.

Czechoslovakian independence

For five years we have been marking the centenaries of deaths, masses in the Great War and latterly of individuals such as Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Samuel Thomas Evans.  At last we can start commemorating the first glimmers of hope from that era. Before the formal armistice of the eleventh of November, the war was practically over in large parts of the former Austro-Hungarian empire. The Czech and Slovak people took advantage of the situation to declare independence on 28th October 1918. It seems that this is the first time they were able to come together as a separate nation since the subjection of the kingdom of Bohemia over 600 years earlier.

There were to be two further periods of subjugation, firstly under the Nazis (Hitler used the pretext of protecting the minority German population in order to invade) then under Stalin. Freed again when the USSR broke up, the nation split twenty-five years ago. Czechia and Slovakia joined the European Union separately, but 28th October is still celebrated.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Lobbying footnote

With reference to an earlier posting, several executives deserted the sinking ship of Bell Pottinger to form Consulum.

The current edition of Private Eye suggests that the newer agency has no less controversial clients than its predecessor.

The Consulum website refers only to links to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. However, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed in March that the frim had also taken on the brief to spin for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to the UK. 

Friday, 26 October 2018

I agree with Vince

Vince Cable recently spoke to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the subject of tackling poverty. In it, he addressed the attacks on Universal Credit (UC):

in scrapping the whole project in relation to UC there is a danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The fact that UC is becoming loathed and is being implemented incompetently and harshly does not invalidate the reasoning behind it. I strongly repudiate the Labour Party’s suggestion that Universal Credit should be scrapped without being clear what the replacement is: a classic case of soundbites taking precedence over thought-through policies (at the risk of being too partisan, the problem is that Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell are giving spending priority to subsidising well paid university graduates over people in poverty, which may be politically smart but isn’t socially progressive).

It makes a lot of sense to combine benefits to get rid of the complexity and perverse incentives, in particular the disincentive to work under current arrangements. The OECD has acknowledged the force of these arguments. Unfortunately, UC is being undermined by the problems I have summarised above, by the sanctions and testing regime built around it; by faulty IT; by unjustifiably long waiting times; and, above all, the way in which the Treasury has used its introduction to cut large sums, perhaps £5bn, from the benefits system.

There are three specific changes my party are arguing for in financial terms over and above the reforms in the way UC operates:

: · A reversal of the cuts to the work allowance worth around £3bn a year, which JRF analysis suggests would boost the budgets of 9.6 million parents and children, 4.9 million of them in working poverty, and take 300,000 people out of poverty

· Improvements to Universal Credit for the 800,000 self-employed who will eventually claim the benefit: by extending the period before the “minimum income floor” cap kicks in from 12 to 24 months; and averaging income over several months so that people are not penalised for fluctuating incomes (all at a cost of around £400m)

· Ending the benefits freeze a year early so that benefits are inflation proofed again (at an estimated annual cost of £1.6bn in 2019/20)

The overall cost is around £5bn and we have suggested how this can be funded by returning the corporation tax rate to 20% and by taxing wealth more fairly (by making pension tax relief more progressive, and taxing unearned gifts and capital gains more like income). There is a wide range of revenue possibilities if there were the political will to address the problem of funding UC properly. The Government must pause the roll-out of Universal Credit and urgently review both its design flaws and lack of funding.


We now have leaders both in Wales and at the federal level who are emphasising the Liberal Democrats' commitment - at the top of our constitution - to ensure that noone is enslaved by poverty.

Which? comes to Wales

Which? Member Services which had been in Hertford for as long as I can remember has now moved to Three Capital Quarter in Cardiff. The new phone number is 029 2267 0000.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Christmas Carol Service for Asthma UK

For those who can get to Chelsea easily, there will be a carol service with, it is to be hoped, celebrity readers, on 5th December in St Luke's church, Sydney Street, SW3 6NH. Tickets in aid of Asthma UK are £25 each (£10 for under 16s, and other discounts are available). Details at www.asthma.org.uk/carolservice.


Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Even the most liberal of us

Race is a slippery concept, so the title of this Discovery article should perhaps refer to skin colour rather than race. However, ones ability to distinguish between faces does seem to be overwhelmed by what at first sight seems to be prejudice but is probably down to something more innate. It was something observed by the late Ruth Rendell. In her whodunit "Simisola" she has her usually objective and liberal Chief Inspector Wexford assume that the body of an African young woman is that of the missing daughter of an African-born local GP, even though when photographs of the two are put side-by-side, the features are shown to be very different.

I must confess I have the same difficulty with "African" faces, but familiarity helps. If asked to distinguish between Denzel Washington and Idris Elba, or Whoopi Goldberg and Queen Latifah, there would be little trouble. It is the less famous faces which cause difficulty.

As the Discovery article shows, this flaw is common to different cultures. The research is just one more argument against relying on eye-witness identification alone in criminal trials.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Local media succumb to Facebook

As in south Wales, so in central USA:

I think that the problem is our social interactions are being streamlined and directed by the automatons that regulate the Facebook "highway." Some of us choose to no longer engage in the social ways of Facebook. But in a post-Facebook world it is difficult to find a sense of community anywhere, even in our own physical communities. Facebook is either where the "audience" is, or we are given the illusion that Facebook is where the audience is. 

Now I will wax nostalgic. When we first arrived at our little university town in the mid 1980s, there was a newspaper that reported on much of what went on in town. There was an insert in the paper that listed all the concerts that were being given at the university, and there were articles promoting events. We used to write letters to the editor. Our kids used to write letters to the editor. Local people used to write columns. The paper was a big deal. The paper felt like a vital organ in our community until the early 2000s.

Now our local paper is owned by a conglomerate, and aside from the obituaries, there is very little of local interest. We stopped subscribing because there is nothing worth reading. The (no longer) local paper does host a Facebook page, but it does very little in the way of creating a feeling of community for our town. 

[From the blog of composer and violist Elaine Fine]

Who abused Theresa May?

Many Labour MPs, together with Vince Cable (Lib Dem leader) and Caroline Lucas (Green) went out of their way in the House of Commons yesterday to condemn the weekend's abusive briefings against the prime minister. The nastiness was apparently anonymous but clearly emanated from MPs on her own side, people who she could have expected to support her. In the Q&A that followed Mrs May's report back from the European Council, Jeremy Corbyn and Yvette Cooper condemned the abuse, as did Jacob Rees-Mogg and one or two others on the Conservative benches.

Bill Cash, John Redwood, Justine Greening, Sammy Wilson (DUP), Sir Desmond Swayne, Sir Oliver Heald, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Sir Patrick McLoughlin, Heidi Allen, Nick Boles, James Duddridge, Anna Soubry, Greg Hands, Jonathan Djanogly, Dr Julian Lewis, Gillian Keegan, Alister Jack, Robert Neil, Sheryll Murray, Simon Hoare, Peter Bone, Alberto Costa, Richard Drax, Dr Caroline Johnson, Mark Pawsey, Kevin Foster, Rebecca Pow, Richard Graham, Philip Hollobone, James Morris, Helen Whately, Jim Shannon (DUP), Douglas Ross, Rachel Maclean, Andrew Bowie and Chris Philp did not waste their breath on the matter, no doubt mindful of Speaker Bercow's frequent admonitions to keep questions short.

Boris Johnson was not in the Chamber.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Elections in the digital age

The Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) of the European Parliament Research Service has just posted:

Until recently, discussions of technology and elections focused primarily on e-voting. Controversies highlighted the potential for modernising the voting system, as well as the security flaws that open opportunities for interference and manipulation. Now, the role of technology in elections is much broader – and so are the controversies.
On one hand, social media platforms have made communication between politicians and the electorate more direct than ever. On the other, electoral campaigns can target smaller groups of people with highly customised messages, which can lead to the fragmentation of debates and the emergence of polarised political bubbles. The opportunities for outside interference and manipulation have multiplied, as any actor can deploy targeted messages, even if they are not part of the official campaign. Furthermore, automated ‘bots’ flood social media platforms with messages that simultaneously promote various extreme perspectives with the ultimate aim of polarising society.
Information about these messages is imbalanced in favour of the platforms and their paying clients. They have access to masses of information and analytical data about the citizens, while citizens have no access to the processes that decide which information they receive, nor to the full range of promises made and sentiments aired to other groups. This makes it difficult to make well-informed voting decisions before elections, and to hold politicians to account after elections. The burden falls upon the citizen to choose between risking exposure to cutting-edge propaganda techniques if they use social media, and missing out on key loci for democratic participation if they avoid such platforms.
One trusts that Richard Allan and Nick Clegg, both former Lib Dem MPs for Sheffield Hallam, both now working for Facebook, will contribute to the STOA workshop on 7th November on the subject or at least observe it.

Friday, 19 October 2018

What should we make of Michael Caine?

Michael Caine is to be admired as someone who worked his way up from south London poverty to being a star name. He has honed his technique such that it looks effortless, that he is just being himself, yet he can act out of character if pressed to do so. Nor is he precious about it. He has passed on his expertise in master-classes. On The Man Who Would Be King, he ensured that he did not receive more screen time than his friend Sean Connery. In an interview in the latest Radio Times, he recalls that he felt it was terribly unfair that a talented actress might not get a part because she wouldn't do something sexual with the producer, but that when he was in Hollywood he was a nobody and could do nothing about it. He admits to still learning about the troubles that people of colour still have in the industry.

In personal life, he has used his money to look after his mother and other members of his family. After a young life as jack-the-lad, he married just once and is still with wife Shakira after 45 years, in a business where bed-hopping seems to be the norm.

He clearly appreciates that acting is a cooperative undertaking. Yet he seems to be anti-trades union and is so virulently against nations working closely together that he proclaimed on the John Humphrys programme on Radio 4, as reported by the Evening Standard:

"I don't listen to all these pundits. I'm a Brexiteer myself. Certainly.

“People say ‘Oh, you’ll be poor, you’ll be this, you’ll be that’. I say I’d rather be a poor master of my fate than having someone I don’t know making me rich by running it.”


Now I have heard those sentiments expressed locally, but by people who genuinely are not rich. It ill becomes someone who does not disguise his wealth to seek to condemn others to a dramatic fall in their incomes. One also notes that his latest release is part-produced by Studio Canal, a recipient of EU funds. As to mastery of ones fate, we still have it, but in much less than half of our public affairs, we have to share it with others - and we correspondingly have some influence on them.

I am not going to stop watching Michael Caine films* if they come up on TV, just as I will not stop watching films featuring Vanessa Redgrave in spite of her starry-eyed support of an impossible socialist dream. I just wish that their personal political views were not given undue significance simply because of their star status.

* However, I would not go out of my way to watch Swarm or Water.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Plastic packaging v. food waste

Clean Slate magazine is more than a mouthpiece for the Centre for Alternative Technology. It is also practical.

Sometimes that goes against what might appear to be green received wisdom. In this category falls Judith Thornton's article in the latest issue in defence of food packaging. She regards food waste as a greater evil than single-use plastic. She makes a good case but, whether you agree with her or not, she provides a useful guide to managing various food items and their different requirements. She is not a mere theoretician; she is a CAT graduate and used to manage the water and sewage systems there.

There is more here and the follow-up here.



Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Food inflation after Brexit

I have just seen Three Blokes in the Pub episode 15 and realised the effect a hard Brexit will have on pensioners (and anyone else who has an income uplift calculated on the basis of the CPI this autumn). Food costs, which are a major component of the spending of lower-income households, will go through the roof in spring 2019. Unless the border between the UK and the 27 is frictionless, the increased cost of imports because of increased insurance costs, expensive paperwork and delays at ports, coupled with the inevitable further fall in the value of sterling, will make 2008 look like a minor correction.


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

More railway bits and pieces

Yesterday, I had the chance to check the reported experience of previous travellers on GWR's new electro-diesel trains. Rhodri Clark of the Western Mail summed it up:
When the diesel engines are thundering away beneath the floor, there are constant vibrations inside, even at station stops. On the move, there’s often a medium-pitch whine. Sometimes there’s a fit of juddering, as if different engines are trying to go at different speeds. For regular passengers on the London Paddington line, this might feel a retrograde step after the smoothness and quietness of InterCity 125 coaches, introduced 41 years ago.
I would be interested to know if passengers on the service with pantograph up between London and Didcot experience the smoother ride that generally comes with electric running.

I would add that I found the all-grey plastic surroundings depressing, especially as I was in one of the end-carriage seats which has no window. On the other hand, the lighting was excellent and the electronic reservation indicators worked well.

All in all, though, Chris Grayling is stretching it when he calls the new trains a great advance.
.

There is a plea for relaxation of a 1920 law which is inhibiting the involvement of young people, especially young women, on heritage railways. Chris Austin of Railfuture draws attention to a report by an All-Party Parliamentary Group issued in July. He quotes the group chairman, Nicky Morgan MP as saying: "Members of our group found some of the evidence from young people involved to be inspirational and the work being done by the railways to be a powerful force supporting social cohesion and a great example of vocational development and training".

Chris states that the number of young women volunteers is small, even though the opportunities offered in terms of encouraging young women engineers are entirely in line with government policy. He claims that a major stumbling block is the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act of 1920 has inhibited the engagement of youngsters in railway work. There is more at the Heritage Railways Association website.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Transport for Wales: don't expect immediate miracles, but there are some good signs


Infamously, the first train under John Major's privatisation was a bus in Wales. There were echoes of that yesterday on Transport For Wales first day. Many travellers, including those venturing to Aberystwyth for the Welsh Liberal Democrats' AGM, were faced with journeys by replacement bus - including one journey where the bus failed to turn up. However, TfW can hardly be blamed for Storm Callum.

Nor can TfW be expected to replace instantly the stock (including the bogey-less wonders like the set pictured above which picked me up from Port Talbot today) inherited from Arriva Trains Wales. TfW has already ordered replacement trains but it will be next year before we see the end of the oldest of the legacy train sets.

What was evident from my two trips today was the efficiency and helpfulness of the on-board staff. That augurs well for the other promises made by spokespeople for the new franchise.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Peter Black retires (sort of)

One of the most assiduous and high-achieving AMs of the first 17 years of the Welsh Assembly has announced that he will not be seeking re-election to Cardiff Bay in the next Welsh general election. However, although he has turned his back on national politics, he will continue in public life in Swansea. One suspects that he will remain a power there for many years to come.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Rail: a moral victory

Extract from Hansard of yesterday:

Bill Presented
Railways (Franchises) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Tim Farron, supported by Sir Edward Davey and Tom Brake, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to terminate a rail passenger services franchise agreement in certain circumstances; to repeal section 25 of the Railways Act 1993; to make provision for local franchising authorities in England; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 23 November, and to be printed (Bill 271).
The Bill was inspired by an extreme instance of a train operator not fulfilling its contractual duties, namely, running trains. The Lakes Line runs (or should run) in Tim Farron's constituency and he explained its vital significance here. Northern's response to criticism was to restore some trains to the Lakes Line but at the expense of the Furness Line, which it also runs.

As I say, an extreme case but one which will resonate with other rail users. Tim's Bill has practically no chance of even being debated, but the fact that he was able to gain a second reading without objection shows that there is widespread sympathy in the House with the feeling that backsliding train operators should be replaced expeditiously. If the current Minister for Transport, Chris Grayling, does not act on this, then the PM should replace him with someone more proactive.