Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oppression and UK policy over Tibet

This is an extract from the New York Times article headed "Did Britain just sell Tibet"

"Last month, for example, Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, asked China to give money to the International Monetary Fund, in return for which Beijing would expect an increase in its voting share.

Now there is speculation that a trade-off for this arrangement involved a major shift in the British position on Tibet, whose leading representatives in exile this weekend called on their leader, the Dalai Lama, to stop sending envoys to Beijing — bringing the faltering talks between China and the exiles to a standstill.

The exiles’ decision followed an announcement on Oct. 29 by David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, that after almost a century of recognizing Tibet as an autonomous entity, Britain had changed its mind. Mr. Miliband said that Britain had decided to recognize Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. He even apologized that Britain had not done so earlier.

Until that day, the British had described Tibet as autonomous, with China having a “special position” there. This formula did not endorse the Tibetan claim to independence. But it meant that in the British view China’s control over Tibet was limited to a condition once known as suzerainty, somewhat similar to administering a protectorate. Britain, alone among major powers, had exchanged official agreements with the Tibetan government before the Chinese takeover in 1951, so it could scarcely have said otherwise unless it was to vitiate those agreements.

After the People’s Republic of China joined the United Nations in 1971, British politicians refrained from referring to their country’s recognition of Tibet’s autonomy to avoid embarrassing Beijing. But that didn’t make it less significant. It remained the silent but enduring legal basis for 30 years of talks between the Dalai Lama and Beijing, in which the Tibetans have called only for autonomy and not independence — a position that a conference of Tibetan exiles in India reaffirmed on Saturday.

Mr. Miliband described the British position as an anachronism and a colonial legacy. It certainly emerged out of a shabby episode in colonial history, Francis Younghusband’s cavalier invasion of Tibet in 1903. But the British description of Tibet’s status in the era before the modern nation-state was more finely tuned than the versions claimed by Beijing or many exiles, and it was close to the findings of most historians.

To read the full article click here

I have blogged before on Labour's failure to implement ethical foreign policy.

There are a number of organisations that help those in Tibet. If you want to take a stand then you can donate to any of the following

Hidden Costs

Still reeling from the Pre Budget report, I opened my email last night to find a copy of this enclosed from an official Treasury briefing note.

"VAT is a tax on the final consumption of goods and services, collected at every stage of
production and distribution. It is charged on the majority of goods and services at the
standard rate of 17.5%. The proposed changes will reduce this to 15% from 1 December
2008 until the end of 2009. The standard rate will then return to 17.5% from 1 January
2010, and subsequently increase to 18.5% in 2011-12."

Clearly this was no "mistake" by the Treasury. The hidden tax bomb - well that is something that you will have to decide for yourself. The Government has to repay the enormous and irresponsible debt it is going to mortgage the nation for. It is also clear that the burden will fall on taxpayers who will have to pay it back. I suspect this is one of a number of hidden tax increases. All the previous estimates as to how much the Government has to borrrow have proved wrong, so why should any of us trust them when they say they "dismissed" this as an option. Hmmn well just how are they going to pay the unaccounted for £100 billion black hole in their current estimates? Needless to say I forwarded the entire document to the Chester Chronicle and the Flintshire Evening Leader last night, probably the only time that they have got a National front page story from me before the news had broken. As with so many policies coming from this Government this potential change will hit those on lowest incomes the hardest, and will make Flintshire businesses less able to compete in the world economy - apparently when we will be emerging from this devastating recession.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Data loss and ID cards

This week the new look "ID card" was unveiled. It is being trialed on foreign nationals, but make no mistake we are next. The Government persists in stating that ID cards will make us "safer". I have always been puzzled by this argument, as European Countries have problems with terrorism, crime and illegal immigration, as well as ID fraud. ID cards have not proved to be a satisfactory solution to those problems in Europe, so why is this going to be a miracle cure for Britain? The police in this country have the powers to arrest someone if they think they are being misled about their identity. They have to remain in custody until they can satisfactorily prove their ID. If you can whip out a soon to be faked ID card that is hardly likely to make us more safe.

An LSE study has estimated that ID cards are going to cost the taxpayers £20 billion. In these times it is a monumental waste of money. There is then the issue of the ability of the Government to stop others accessing our personal data. It has been confirmed today that the personal records of thousands of RAF personnel have been stolen from MOD premises this week. The MOD is likely to have a far higher level of security than your average government department, and this theft was from within a "high-security" area on the MOD site. I dont trust any Government department to keep my data safe, indeed with the child tax credit fiasco, they have lost it once already. It is time to stop this foolish waste of taxpayers money, and pull the plug on the ID card project.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rising Fuel costs

My electricity bill arrived this week. Like thousands of others I have looked around to fix my prices, but have discovered a neat little "change" made by the electricity companies. My standard tariff has 225 KW at a higher price, any electricity usage over that is charged at the lower rate. On all the options offered by switching all the tariffs I looked at had increased their "standard" charge to the first 900 kw of energy at a higher rate. Even with discounts for direct debits etc this would automatically lead to a huge increase in my bills, so I am staying put. Electricity does not heat my home, that is done by oil, and again prices are double what they were this time last year. So, the wood is stacked and the chimneys swept, I am not looking forward to this winter.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Olympic Ideal?

Last weekend I found myself wishing that I was in London, so that I could stand on the streets and protest against the violent oppression in relation to the so called "Olympic Ideal". The real story is what is happening and has been happening over many years in Tibet. I remember a Labour Government saying that it would have a so called "ethical" foreign policy, it has been in tatters for many years, but the events of this weekend made me wonder to what extent we are able to voice our concerns about oppression. Why were Chinese security forces allowed to play the role they did in "protecting the Olympic ideal" on the streets of Britain.? Ironically shortly before I was able to see that the Flintshire Conservative Website is being monitored from China - no doubt after my post in relation to Burma on this blog. In all societies "rights" come with "responsibility" for me this is defined as peaceful protest. If you want to support peaceful protest in Tibet then follow this link

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Local Post Offices

Local Post Offices are a vital link for communities to access services this is particularly true in Delyn which has a large rural community. Around 65% of rural communities have a Post Office, whereas only 10% have a bank branch. The large majority of rural branches are loss-making and it costs £3 million a week to sustain the rural network however, this does not take into account the additional cost of making sure that services are accessible to the vulnerable, elderly or those with young children who will have to get on a bus or into a car in order to access these services in the future. 85% of the rural population live within 2 kilometres of a Post Office - in urban areas this is 99%. Yet rural post offices are likely to be hardest hit.

The closure programe will not just affect rural communities, with the current price of petrol is it right that in order to access these services car use in rural communities will have to increase, at cost to those who tend to earn lower incomes? This is a clear example of the lack of joined up thinking across Government Departments and shows that delivery of local services and joined up thinking on the environment are not priorities for this Government.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Free Parking?

The decision to scrap hospital parking charges announced today has exposed a rift between Labour in the Assembly and the Labour Health Minister in London Ben Bradshaw.

Speaking on the BBC radio programme PM he said "We don't think it makes sense to spend money that's currently being spent on patient care, getting people treated faster and better on subsidising car parks - if that's what Scotland and Wales want to do, that's one of the joys of devolution.

"We're spending the money on improving patient care - in Wales, you have to wait much longer for your operation, you have to wait much longer in A+E, you're not going to enjoy the extended GP opening hours that patients in England are soon going to be enjoying. Those are the priorities that we think the English patients are more interested in, rather than subsidising anyone who wants to park in a hospital car park for free."

At Welsh Questions in Parliament this week - we were given the figures namely that 82 patients in England are waiting longer than 13 weeks for their first outpatient appointment. In Wales the figure is 47, 698. The adage there is no such thing as a free lunch comes to mind. What is certain is that the way this has been announced will ensure that hospital trusts face an increase in their deficits and where will this funding shortfall be felt.....I suspect in frontline services.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


The fact that the Secretary of State for Justice was unaware for so long whom had authorised the bugging of an MP should be a cause for concern. This country has always been proud of its history of free speech, the question is to what extent that freedom should be limited? The war in Iraq has had a huge cost in human lives, both civilian and military, and is apparently being fought in the name of "democracy" and "freedom". One of the devastating consequences of that war has been the erosion of the rule of law under the banner of "a war on terror". Guantanemo was a shameful example of this and has given dictators the world over the ability to imprison without trial those they suspect of perceived crimes but without wanting to test that evidence in a proper court, with due process. There are always opponents of the State, who may have a different perspective from the Government of the day. When the line is crossed and there is a serious threat to National Security then there is a case for tapping. However the concern over the "Wilson Doctrine" is that control lies in the hands of the Secretary of State. What is to stop a decision that opposition to the policies of the Government of the day are a threat to "National Security". Apparently we have not yet reached the stage that as a former member of Liberty standing in a constituency with a Labour MP who is a Minister in the Justice Department is that going to provide the justification for my phone being tapped. The fact that Jack Straw was unaware of the current bugging incident because the Wilson Doctrine only covers telephone taps is of great concern, where does this leave the home or office of an MP, apparently within the remit of the police. The concern about constituents is one which is properly expressed by MPs. They should be free to tell their Member of Parliament confidential personal information with the expectation of confidentiality in the same way that they could talk to their doctor or lawyer.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The consequences of immigration

In 2005 we fought the general election on immigration. Conservatives warned of the impact of uncontrolled immigration particularly from the enlarged EU. Every other country imposed restrictions on the numbers of new EU entrants who could enter their countries - but the Labour government in their wisdom estimated that only 14500 immigrants would want to come to the UK. We are now paying the price for that incompetent decision. The estimate is far off the mark with over 500,000 entrants at a guess and we are now paying the price in service provision. Local Councils have warned for years that their ability to provide services is being affected. The lack of Government planning for this influx is also having a dramatic impact on hospital services. This as so many other things highlights not only Labour's inability to get it right, but their lack of strategic ability to plan. It is the ordinary British citizen who is now paying the price. Where is the apology Gordon? It is no use having a "vision for the future" if it is based on a fairytale.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Free to teach?

I got the call from one of my University friends for a "girls night in" kitchen table supper with friends I hadn't seen for two years. I spent part of the evening chatting to a teacher, who has been teaching 7-10 year olds for the last 13 years. It was fantastic to hear in her voice her enthusiasm and obvious love for her work, but she also told me of the straight jacketing that she finds in her classroom. Kate told me that "it seems we have to turn out identical children, but I cant. What suits one child doesn't suit another. I want the freedom to be able to teach in a way which I know will allow me to bring the best out of all of them, and I know that I would achieve more with the children than the targets I currently have to hit" What was depressing for me was the way in which she said she was "lucky" because her head teacher gave her as much leeway as he could to allow her to go outside the box ticking imposed on other teachers she knew. It was clear that the one size fits all approach did not get her support. Kate was genuinely delighted when I started talking about our education policies and it was clear that having been totally switched off politics before we started talking, suddenly the interest and sparkle was there. What a lovely evening and it has set me up for the week ahead.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Inflation 2%???

The Government keep telling us that inflation is at 2%. I wonder whether this is in the hope that if they keep saying it they will convince some people to believe it. At a meeting to discuss further increases in the Police Precept element of Council Tax in Flintshire a local man said clearly that in the engineering business that he worked in inflation was running at 7%. The police authority clearly stated to keep their budget at a "like for like" level this year it would need a 10% increase in funds, they have been offered 2.5%. I know that the price of bread from the local baker has gone from 92 pence to 104p, butter has gone from 71p to 85p, electricity and fuel prices continue to rise, as does the cost of heating oil. Watching Prime Minister's questions I was struck by the body language of those sitting behind the PM - their arms and hands crossed - no wonder they look defensive when the PM talks of inflation at 2%. Does the Government really think that the public believe them!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Last night I went to a Police Authority meeting. A number of Flintshire police officers were there to hear the debate on the proposed rise in the police precept. This discussion comes on the back of the proposed 1.9% settlement on Officers pay. 250 officers from North Wales have taken a day of holiday time to go to London to protest at the breach of trust shown by the Home Secretary. What is now clear is that there was never an intention to stick to the arbitration recommendation. In that case why did the Government agree to go to arbitration? What makes is worse is that officers have had to sit back and watch "back office" staff receive an above 2% pay rise which has been backdated to September. We expect the Police to deal with difficult and dangerous situations every day, this breach of trust by the Government is a betrayal of those officers.