Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Lib Dem back on course with employee ownership-with updated comments

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

........................The loud and prolonged cheering which followed the decisive rejection of a resolution urging the abandonment of the policy (employee ownership) was the climax of the Assembly and made it clear that the great majority of those present regarded the proposals as the cornerstone of Liberal Policy and the Party's main issue at the forthcoming General Election.
Profit-sharing and co-partnership have, of course, been advocated by the Liberal Party for more titan fifty years; but to-day it wants to go a good deal further than merely welcoming the development of such schemes.
It wants to extend them over a large part of industry by legislative action and give the worker a legal right to share in the control of his working life and in the product of his work.
........................................it may be that many of those who believe that property should be more equitably distributed will turn to the Liberal Party, as well as many of those who without being Socialists voted Labour in 1945. 
.........................The extension of such legal rights to the workers it is argued, is more likely to lead to their wholehearted co-operation in the production drive than would he the general introduction of profit sharing on the initiative of the employers.
Voluntary schemes are often regarded by Trade Unionists as a device primarily designed to increase the profits of the stockholders and weaken the bargaining power of the Unions; but the legal right to share in profits and control is a very different thing.
.............................They suggest, however, that all firms over a certain size should be required to share their profits with Labour as soon as capital has received about 3 per cent. and that Labour should be represented on Boards of Directors. They suggest a variety of Ways in which this could be done and deal in some detail with the problems involved.
After capital has received 3 per cent. they suggest that it might very often be desirable for additional surpluses to be distributed at the same rate per cent. on wages as on capital..................*
By now most of you will have cottoned on that the above is a report from the 1949 Liberal Assembly down the road in Hastings. Sadly there was no loud and prolong cheering after Simon McGrath move and amendment to replace the rather limp 'right to request' with a statutory right for employees to have shares and exercise workplace democracy for companies with over 250 employees
Simon's failure should not overly worry us. The blatantly preposterous reason given by the movers will easily be exposed and I guess that this morning they are rather hoping that nobody has noticed. The truth is I guess Simon thought that his amendment was uncontentious and therefore did not do the elementary organisation that was needed. Had this amendment been discussed and publicised in advance I'm sure it would have sailed through. After all Simon is scarcely a standard bearer for the Radical wing of the party
Anyway leaving that blip apart it was good to get the general principle back on track. The challenge now is to set the policy into a strong narrative of enhancing and embedding liberty through the spreading of wealth/ownership and power. Central to that policy will be a return to the Liberal Party's commitment of using government action  to achieve it. Politely asking the average shyster capitalist for a slice of his profits and control is not going to work!
*the report quoted above came from the 1949 Catholic Herald. That may at first sight seem odd but when you bear in mind that it was that Church's social teaching which inspired the Mondragon Co-ops and the distributism of Liberal like Belloc it makes more sense

Thursday, 20 September 2012

John Pugh and Mental Health Discrimination Bill

Last Friday a private members Bill on mental health discrimination made progress at Westminster. Southport MP John Pugh was one of those who spoke in the debate supporting the move. Below are a couple of extracts from the proposers speach and John's contribution. The clip from Parliamentary TV is well worth listening to as it explains the main provision of the Bill

Gavin Barwell,  MP for Croydon Central introduced the second reading of the Mental Health (Discrimination) (No.2) Bill in the House of Commons on 14 September 2012.

My Bill’s purpose is simple: to tackle the last legal form of discrimination in our society. Over the course of my adult life we have made significant progress in tackling racism, sexism and homophobia. Parliament changed the law and sent a clear signal, and, although things are still far from perfect, attitudes have changed. To our shame, however, the law still discriminates against those with a mental health condition. A Member of Parliament or company director can be removed from their job because of mental ill health, even if they go on to make a full recovery, and many people who are perfectly capable of performing jury service are ineligible to do so. As it stands, the law sends out a clear message that if someone has a mental health condition, their contribution to public life is not welcome, and that is an affront to a decent, civilised society.

Gavin Barwell then moved on to a form of discrimination that I have previously challenged in Sefton. The guidance forSchool Governors reads that you cannot be a Governor if  you 'are liable to be detained under the Mental Health Act'. I think that guidance eminated from Central Government when (I think) David Blunkett was Secretary of State. Now it strikes me that a lot of people may 'be liabel' to be detained and I got Sefton to change the advice. I do believe I had the support of the then Cabinet Mmber for Children, Schools and families Cllr P Dowd. This matter is covered by the new Bill as Mr Barwell explained:

The second aim of the was to amend school governance regulations, so that people detained under the Mental Health Acts would no longer be disqualified from holding office as school governors. Clearly, someone who is detained is unable to attend governors’ meetings, but that may be for only a short time, and there is no reason that they should not resume their role once they are able to do so

Those commenting on the debate were impressed by the overall standard of speaches and the fact that nobody voted against the Bill. Jonathan Calder did tweet that John Pugh had done 'Terribly Well' . Here is what John said as reported in Hansard:

John Pugh (Southport) (LD): The issue of mental health has crossed my path many times throughout my life. In fact, I have seen some of the extremes of it. I once worked on all the wards of a very old-fashioned mental hospital, Oakwood hospital in Maidstone. In the north, I taught at Ashworth’s predecessor institution, known as Park Lane. I am probably the only MP who has had the experience of showing somebody into a padded cell and of helping administer electro-convulsive therapy—that is quite a distinction, I guess. I have seen the extremes, therefore, and my conclusion is that mental health covers a very wide spectrum—a whole range of issues.

There are two fallacies to which I strongly object. First, there is the idea that the world is divided into those who have perfect mental health and those who do not—hands-up anybody in the Chamber who has got perfect mental health. It is undoubtedly the case that some people cannot do certain kinds of work because of mental health issues, of course, but it is also the case that many people work despite having mental health issues; they might work through mental health issues with occasional mental health episodes while at work, and some people will be oblivious to the mental health issues they have. It is a fallacy to think there are people

14 Sep 2012 : Column 559

who are available for work with perfect mental health, and those who are unavailable for work, who lack perfect mental health.

The second fallacy is that having an acute episode of a mental health issue permanently disqualifies someone from work. That must be resisted entirely. The philosopher Nietzsche said that what does not destroy us makes us stronger, and there is plenty of evidence to support that; some people are strengthened by having had a mental health problem. The hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) has been able to work very satisfactorily for his constituents and in all sorts of jobs, which serves to show that people can work through chronic mental health problems. I worked with colleagues in the teaching profession who had obsessive compulsive disorder. Lots of people manage to cope with, and overcome, chronic mental health issues and go back to work.

Belief in either of those fallacies leads to the unfair discrimination that the Bill seeks to tackle. Discrimination itself is not a bad thing, however. We frequently need to discriminate; we do so all the time. Older Members will remember the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch about the one-legged man applying for a film role as Tarzan, and we can think of circumstances in which having certain mental health issues would disqualify people from following a profession: it is probably not a good idea for those with a phobia of heights to apply for a job in the Shard, and it might well be inadvisable for those with suicidal tendencies to apply for a post involving firearms. The generalised stigma that prevails throughout wider society is wholly inappropriate, however.

I looked up the Mental Health Act 1983. Its provisions apply not to MPs with mental health problems, but to MPs who are subject to compulsory detention under that Act, such as, perhaps, those with suicidal impulses or those with delusions and hallucinations, and where the prognosis is poor. The question then is what to do. We are torn between discrimination, which we reject, and the need to make sure people have proper and adequate representation. That question requires a solution of some subtlety. As has been said, this is not an issue of mental health; it is an issue of the capacity of an MP, and to make it merely an issue about mental health is pure discrimination.

10.56 am

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

more on wealth redistribution

A couple of week ago I was discussing Liberal plans for the redistribution of wealth-in particular inheritance taxes. The vision of society that Liberals have promoted is one in which assets for fairly spread and that the unjustified accumulations of wealth in a few hands are dispersed. This one of the reasons Liberals championed Wealth taxes, and inheritance taxes. there were two other overlapping elements of this programme-employee ownership and land taxes. It should be noted that these are not seen as short term  measures for a crisis but part of a long term redistribution. We have dealt at length with employee ownership on this blog but have rather neglected land taxes (apart that is from the youtube video of the Land Song which has had well over 3 000 views) Anyway my old friend Alan Sherwell followed up my letter to the Times about inheritance tax with one about land taxes: 

Sir, It is interesting to connect two of the issues you are reporting on at the moment: wealth tax and green belt development.

If, regrettably, the Chancellor’s plan to allow green belt development goes ahead, some land owners will find that their previously low-value land becomes extremely valuable. The landowners will have done nothing to merit that significant increase in their wealth. Surely the community as a whole should benefit not an individual whose gain is purely by chance?  What better example could there be to support Professor Sandilands’s call for the taxation of land values?

Alan Sherwell
Aylesbury, Bucks 

Thoughts on the co-op funding priorities

A guest posting from David Tattersall

Your recent lovely Birkdale blog about dear old Viv Bingham reminded me about the Co-op's little understood financial support for Labour. The Co-op  shops may be "Good with Food", as their telly ads keep saying, but they keep very quiet about it being also "Good for Labour."
Tonight I simply Googled "Co-operative Party finance" and turned up a very interesting page on the Unlock Democracy web site. Do have a look at unlockdemocracy.org.uk/blog/entry/donor-of-the-week-the-co-operative-group
The up-to-date post, dated 10 August 2012, claims that the Co-operative Group donated  £809,000 in 2011 to the Co-operative Party - the official "sister" party of Labour with Ed Balls and many other MPs being elected as "Labour and Co-operative"members  - and £50,000 in the first quarter of 2012.   How many LibDem and Tory voters who are Co-op shoppers  realise they are indirectly helping to contribute political donations to Labour when they fill their supermarket trolleys ?  Perhaps it's time they were told !!
And what did Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and their crew do during all those years of government to promote and encourage shared ownership and co-operative principles ?  Instead they fawned over the City and big business.
Be warned, however. Under the Donations heading on the blog, there is a mistake.  It says that Labour is the "only political party" to benefit from indirect donations from the Co-operative Bank credit card schemes.  The LibDems also have an affinity card deal with the Co-op Bank which brings in cash to the party every time I use it.  I know this because I'm signed up to it and my card has the Libby logo on it.   But while I bank with the Co-op, they don't get much income out of me as it's free banking and for all my misgivings it's still not a "casino" bank and has ethical policies, unlike the others.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Monday, 17 September 2012

Liberal Minister and civilian bombing

Cycling to the NLC for Viv Bingham's memorial event I detoured into Green Park to look at the new memorial to Bomber Command. I have no doubt that Viv would have opposed the 'carpet bombing ' campaign undertaken under the leadership of 'Bomber Harris' the political cover came from the Minister for Air, Leader of the Liberal Party, Archibald Sinclair. His biography makes no mention of the campaign waged by Vera Britten and Bishop Bell against the indiscriminate bombing of residential areas in Germany.
It is of easy to judge such actions from the comfort of a Britain not involved in a European war which threatened its existence. Many looked to air power as a way of avoiding the protracted surface combat of WW1. Enthusiasts like the Italian military strategist Guilip Douhet believed that civilian populations would be unable to withstand air bombardment. Few would now argue that civilian morale did crumble under bombing. Churchill abandoned the civilian bombing.

It is not just the unveiling of the Green Park monument that has brought these issues to the fore again. There have been TV documentaries and revivals of Terance Rattigan's play Flare path both on Radio 3 and in the theatre.

As I noted earlier there was opposition to the air strategy pursued by Sinclair and Harris. This was led by Bishop Bell who challenged the government in a House of Lords speech and letters.George Bell, Bishop of Chichester (a rare voice of dissent within the Anglican Church) wrote 'If Europe is civilised at all, what can excuse the bombing of towns by night and terrorising non-combatants.' Bell called on both Germany and Britain to forswear such tactics.' Vera Britten who was part of the Bombing Restriction Committee and worked with the Peace Pledge Union. Her book 'The Seeds of Chaos' was key to the campaign, she wrote; '‘We must decide whether we want the government to continue to carry out through Bomber Command a policy of murder and massacre in our name. Has any nation the right to make its young men the instruments of such a policy?’

Whatever view you take about the carpet bombing few would deny the bravery of the young man who took part but the question should be asked whether  this is the proper memorial to the bravery . As a recent article pondered:

No amount of stone and bronze can ever end the ethical debate about Britain's bombing strategy during the second world war. Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris insisted on an explicit and systematic campaign of "area bombing", that is, the carpet bombing of German cities . His policy rejected the idea of precision raids on industrial targets – which, to be fair, did not work well because bomb-aiming with 1940s technology was not accurate enough – and deliberately sought to weaken morale in Germany. In other words, the job was to bomb civilians. This strategy was not accidental or unconscious. It worried Britain's commanders. Churchill went from encouraging it to – eventually, after Dresden – worrying about it. By that time many thousands of civilians had died horrible deaths in firestorms that left terrible relics of shrivelled, blackened victims in the cellars and streets of cities, including Hamburg and Cologne

As I pedalled off towards Whitehall I too felt this very confident Portland stone edifice did not properly reflect the debt we owed to those young men. Viv would have asked about the cost of their sacrifice and the moral issues that the policy raised.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Hillsborough-Carol Ann Duffy doing what a Poet Laureate ought to do....

Quite properly much has been made of the Hillsborough Report. Our MP John Pugh- a devoted Liverpool fan - has played his part in supporting  those who have campaigned on this issue. Pride of place amongst politicians must go to the work of Steve Rotheram .
Last night the Liverpool Echo published this poem by Carol Ann Duffy. the full article is here
Tributes at the Hillsborough memorial 620
Tributes at the Hillsborough memorial

Carol Ann Duffy is Poet Laureate – a coveted title awarded to a handful of poetry’s most celebrated and talented names. A graduate of Liverpool University, Carol Ann offered the ECHO this poem to mark the momentous events of Wednesday. We are proud to publish it today.
THE Cathedral bell, tolled, could never tell;
nor the Liver Birds, mute in their stone spell;
or the Mersey, though seagulls wailed, cursed, overhead,
in no language for the slandered dead...
not the raw, red throat of the Kop, keening,
or the cops’ words, censored of meaning;
not the clock, slow handclapping the coroner’s deadline,
or the memo to Thatcher, or the tabloid headline...
but fathers told of their daughters; the names of sons
on the lips of their mothers like prayers; lost ones
honoured for bitter years by orphan, cousin, wife -
not a matter of football, but of life.
Over this great city, light after long dark;
truth, the sweet silver song of the lark.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Viv Bingham memorial celebration NLC, 12th September 2012

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Back in July I got an email from Jim Hancock that read:

Jessica and Katy Bingham have asked me contact you to ensure that you
know that there will be a memorial celebration of the life of their
father Viv Bingham (President of the Liberal Party 1981-82) on WED
SEPT 12th at 6pm in the Lloyd George Room of the National Liberal

.. and so it was a goodly crowd of Liberals assembled at the NLC to remember Viv's life.  It was the sort of event Viv would have loved to attend. The range his of friends there from Ministers to focus deliverers confirmed him as a man who could move easily in so many different settings. He was described during the evening in various ways; a good man, a fully rounded man, a convivial man, a man of firm convictions but one who strove not to fall out with those with whom he disagreed.

The evening was hosted  brilliantly by Jim. We all reminisced about Viv and therefore we all smiled and laughed, we sang the old songs and believed again that we could overcome.

At the front was Chris Green, Gordon Lishman, Michael Meadowcroft, Joan Walmsley, and Paddy Ashdown all of whom spoke-more of which later-they were joined later by Don Foster and finally by Andrew Stunnell who proposed a toast. In the body of the kirk was all manner of folk; Peter Brook, Paul Rowan, Helen and William Wallace, Tom McNally, Jenny Tonge, Martin Thomas (who played the piano) Simon Hughes, Mark Hunter, John Leach, Hugh Jones, John Pugh Johnathon Fryer and many others

Viv would have loved to have been there and he wouldn't have missed the opportunity of sharing a few thoughts. As Michael observed he was a national politician. The records show that he did fight a council seat once but his interest lay in national politics. He will be remembered for two policy areas, disarmament set within a broader context of international relations and industrial policy

Viv did not understand why the party had back peddled of worker ownership. When I wrote immediately after his death I did not mention that he had worked for the National Coal Board. It was there that he met and worked for Fritz Schumacher  an influence that remained with him all his life. He was talking about it when we met at the Birmingham conference 2011. It is part of the reason that he moved to work in the Co-operative Group in Manchester as a senior executive. It was why he was so attracted to the Grimond policy of employee ownership and workers co-operatives. His daughters told us last night that he had started work on some memoirs and a paper on why the co-operative movement and Liberals should be able to co operate together better.

He was a champion schemes that promoted industrial democracy and employee ownership. I know that this tradition also exists within the Labour Party but it has never commanded the the support that many may have hoped. In some way this does go back to the influence of the Webbs and the early Labour Party. Viv knew this history well. After the Rochdale pioneers had established their consumer co-op there was a move to establish a producer co-op and a mill was acquired to this end. It failed. Workers co-ops were off the agenda and state ownership and nationalisation became the dominant credo of the Labour Party. Blair may have tried to dump it. Tristan Hunt may speak of mutualism  but in my experience Labour activists want nationalisation and anything else is second best.

In my original piece I thought Viv joined the party as a student. Last night the date was agreed to be 1962 -the year of Orpington. I had thought Viv had been a Liberal at Oxford chiefly because I remember telling me about the campaign around the racially mixed marriage in 1948 of Seretse Khama as wiki records:

Having banned interracial marriage under the apartheid system, South Africa could not afford to have an interracial couple ruling just across their northern border. As Bechuanaland was then a British protectorate (not a colony), the South African government immediately exerted pressure to have Khama removed from his chieftainship. Britain’s Labour government, then heavily in debt from World War II, could not afford to lose cheap South African gold and uranium supplies. There was also a fear that South Africa might take more direct action against Bechuanaland, through economic sanctions or a military incursion.[3][4] The British government therefore launched a parliamentary enquiry into Khama’s fitness for the chieftainship. Though the investigation reported that he was in fact eminently fit to rule Bechuanaland, "but for his unfortunate marriage",[5] the government ordered the report suppressed (it would remain so for thirty years), and exiled Khama and his wife from Bechuanaland in 1951.

I don't know if that was Viv's first real engagement in International politics but it certainly set the tone. It was, of course , his commitment to disarmament that marked him out. In this he walked on a bigger stage than the Liberal Party. But the party was his home and he argued his case with passion and he organised. Michael Meadowcroft said he wasn't a plotter. I'm not sure I agreed. Peter Brook and I were comparing memories of times when Viv went head to head with the leadership and won. He achieved that not just by his oratory but by his organisation. Certainly over all the maneuverings about Cruse missiles he carefully planned how to win. As Chris Green recalled last night it was he who enlisted Paddy to propose the anti Cruse motion that torpedoed David Steel. It was true also in industrial policy where he took on Pardoe, Steel and Cyril on a range of issues. In particular during one of Steel's mad moments when he was attracted to legislation about strikes in the public sector Viv not only won the argument he deployed  his troops with some skill and shrewedness to achieve the desired end. We were given one further example back to the dreaded seats negociatations between the SDP and the Liberals this time his interlocutor was that angry little man Mike Thomas, Viv so neutralised Thomas's contribution that it allowed a deal to be done.

One further thing that I left out from my original piece was Viv's health. Towards the end we were all aware of his physical ill health. Andrew Stunnel reported that earlier this year on advice from his Doctor that he needed more exercise Viv turned up offering to deliver a Focus round . In his one and only Christmas letter he also spoke of his experience of depression. I think that for most folk that was the first they knew of it. I always found him quite open about it and he took an interest in the work I do in mental health and even took the chance to discuss his medication!

Paddy was both an ally and an adversary and he spoke about Viv and his part in his liberalism. I wrote that Viv's last conference speach was in support of David Grace's motion on Trident. I stand corrected. Apparently he successfully moved a motion to ensure that conference papers were available in hard copy. The irony of this was not lost on any of us when Paddy came to the end of his contribution telling us that there was a part of Pericles great funeral oration that he wanted to quote. . He took out his mobile phone where he had stored the quote.  You've guested it, he couldn't find it but he persevered and  persevered and persevered until he did.

.............We make friends by doing good to others, not by receiving good from them. This makes our friendship all the more reliable, since we want to keep alive the gratitude of those who are in our debt by showing continued goodwill to them: whereas the feelings of one who owes us something lack the same enthusiasm, since he knows that, when he repays our kindness, it will be more like paying back a debt than giving something spontaneously. We are unique in this. When we do kindnesses to others, we do not do them out of any calculations of profit or loss: we do them without afterthought, relying on our free liberality.

and he ended:  

Each one of our citizens, in all the manifold aspects of life, is able to show himself the rightful lord and owner of his own person

Finally we sang 'we shall overcome' listened to Viv's favourite music including-Bladon Races, Karalia Suite, G&S ( a little Liberal or else..) etc. We talked on into the evening and agreed that we hope his daughters would share what Viv had written about his life .

Monday, 10 September 2012

late issuing of home care bills

COUNCIL 6th September 2012 Agenda Item 6 Question submitted by Councillor Brodie-Browne to the Cabinet Member – Older People and Health (Councillor Cummins) Can the Cabinet Member comment on the late issuing of bills for home care which are reported to be several months in arrears? This is causing elderly users of the service concerns. Response: I do recognise and apologise that bills for certain adult services are subject to delay. This situation has risen for a number of reasons:- • Staffing difficulties within the Financial Assessment Team in Adult Social Care. • The Council has taken on responsibility for new functions in relation to the billing for Community Meals provision. • There has been some delay in receiving the information from providers of service. • Technical issues that have been experienced within the Team. It will be recognised that the nature of these charges reflect considerable changes that take place in certain packages of care on a weekly basis and hence the charges to be billed. As I have already said I do apologise for this position and we anticipate bringing all the current arrears up to date over the next 8 weeks. I will personally monitor the situation over the coming weeks to ensure this position is addressed. In answer to my supplementary question the Cabinet Member undertook to monitor progress and to publish results

Sunday, 9 September 2012


At Thursday night’s Council meeting at Bootle Town Hall, councillors discussed the issue of sheep pens and felling on the Ainsdale and Birkdale Local Nature Reserve and beach management.

The debate was prompted by a motion submitted by Conservative group deputy leader Cllr Terry Jones.  In it he requested that “an urgent review is undertaken of our current coast management programme in order to protect Southport’s Dune system, foreshore and the many habitats within it.”
However the Mayor, Litherland Cllr Kevin Cluskey, ruled that the motion could not be passed as it stood but would need to be referred to the all-Bootle Labour Cabinet for formal consideration.

Southport Lib Dem councillors Sue McGuire, Tony Dawson and Haydn Preece (pictured left to right) represent the three coastal wards in Southport from Marshside to Ainsdale and all spoke in the debate.  They drew attention to the fact that the review of Dunes management called for by Cllr Jones was well underway.

Cllr Preece said: “I was one of a number of Southport councillors who met with senior staff from English Nature recently.  We discussed with them the thorough review of the Dunes management scheme that they are carrying out. I particularly welcome English Nature’s intention to hold subsequent meetings with members of the public, including interest groups.

Cllr Dawson pointed out that in relation to foreshore management, the Council had already completed a review less than six months ago, and that Cllr Jones had personally been heavily involved in it.

“Cllr Terry Jones was Vice-Chair of the Council’s Scrutiny Committee which reviewed the management of Southport Beach Vegetation in March 2012.  He and his colleagues all voted to accept the report which included a number of key findings including that ‘maintaining a beach free of vegetation in this location is not a viable option’ and ‘the beach will still be there but would be further seaward as this length of shoreline is accreting due to the influence of the Ribble estuary’.”

“In the light of that I am surprised that the Conservatives now say they want another urgent review.  What has changed in the last six months?  This motion is pointless.”

At the end of the debate the Conservative motion was heavily defeated

Friday, 7 September 2012

Pension press release from Steve Webb

A press release from the longest serving pension minister Steve Webb arrived this morning. This is of particular relevance to Southport where so many people are employed in retail, hotels, restaurants and care services. 

Builders, waiters and gardeners are among those who will benefit most from automatic enrolment into workplace pensions starting next month, new analysis by DWP reveals today.
The industries where workers are currently least likely to have a workplace pension are Construction (with 33 per cent of workers saving); Distribution, Hotels and Restaurants (28 per cent); and Agriculture and Fishing (19 per cent).
Gas fitters, electricians and plumbers are among those building up the most savings in any sector (66 per cent are saving), yet Energy and Water is the sector that has seen the sharpest decline in saving, down 20 per cent over the past 15 years from 86 per cent.
Automatic enrolment will reverse this trend.  Millions will get access to pension saving, many for the first time, and everyone will get a contribution from their employer.
Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:
“Pensions are far too important to be the preserve of the few. All workers deserve a decent income in retirement, and far too many are missing out at the moment, particularly those on low to moderate incomes who need them the most. 
“Next month, with the dawn of automatic enrolment millions of workers from every industry across the country will start saving so they can secure a more prosperous retirement.”
There has been a dramatic decline in the Distribution, Hotels and Restaurant industries since 1997, with pension saving down from 46 to 28 per cent.   And saving is down in the Banking, Finance and Insurance sector from 58 to 44 per cent
Pension saving has fallen across all age groups, but it is steepest among those aged 22-29, falling from 43 per cent in 1997 to 24 per cent today.
Both men and women are saving less, although pension saving has fallen further for men – down from 59 to 44 per cent, and from 49 to 39 per cent for women.
Up to 11 million people are expected to be eligible for automatic enrolment, with 6 to 9 million newly saving or saving more in all forms of workplace pension scheme.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


Liberal Democrat councillors in Southport have welcomed the news that English Nature are carrying out a thorough review of the controversial “Higher Level Stewardship Agreement” with Sefton Council which covers the Ainsdale and Birkdale Local Nature Reserve.

This is the agreement which has led, in recent months, to residents voicing concerns about proposals to introduce ‘sheep pens’ in the dunes.  The pens are intended to allow grazing to improve the habitat.  Felling of trees has also prompted a backlash.

At the July meeting of the Southport Area Committee councillors unanimously backed a motion proposed by Councillor Tony Dawson (Dukes Ward – Shoreside Birkdale and Town Centre) which called for “a full, informed public discussion of the issues involved before progressing sheep pens and block felling.”

Subsequently, in late August, a group of Southport councillors met with senior staff from English Nature and were given the news of the review of the management scheme.  Eight Lib Dem councillors and just one Conservative attended the key meeting.  One other Conservative stayed for part of the meeting but left half way through.

Lib Dem councillors Tony Dawson and Haydn Preece represent the Birkdale and Ainsdale parts of the coastal area respectively, and were at the meeting with English Nature.

Cllr Dawson (pictured left) said: “I am particularly pleased that there is going to be a series of public meetings, including with dogwalkers.  In my motion to the July meeting of the Southport Area Committee I called for a ‘full, informed public discussion’.  English Nature are going a considerable way towards achieving that.”

Cllr Preece (pictured right) added: “There has been a lot of public concern about plans to introduce sheep pens and carry out some felling of trees.  I believe there could have been more effort in the past by English Nature and Sefton Council to engage with interest groups.  That’s why I am delighted that this review of the Scheme is underway.”

Monday, 3 September 2012

D66 (left liberals) tipped for government

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
D66 the left Liberal Party from the Netherlands is being tipped to enter government. With the recovery of the Labour Party the possibility of a 'purple coalition' is growing. That was the coalition that ran the government between 1994 and 2002 and has always been seen as D66's preferred option. The coalition would consist of D66, the Labour Party and the right wing Liberals VVD. The election is on the 12th September

Earlier this year D66 put out a statement on their position which can be found in full here and their website is here

 Forward Now

Towards a prosperous, sustainable future

Summary and main points 

Together, we’re ready for progress. D66 wants to go forward, it wants to contribute to a world in which people are not bound by inflexible systems, tight rules or prejudice and labels. Connected people who—with care and responsibility for themselves and each other—function to the best of their ability. After a number of wasted years, the Netherlands is desperate for a new vision, for new economic growth that includes chances for everyone.

Chances for increased prosperity are abundant, now and for future generations. We therefore should not sit still. D66 wants to stand up to the challenges we face and start renewing our economy, sustainability, labor, housing and our educational system. D66 wants to take initiative to balance the budget and leap forward to a strong and democratic Europe that includes its citizens in decision processes. Stagnation does not endow people with anything good: not a house, not a diploma, and certainly no perspective of a prosperous future.

D66 chooses economic growth and more freedom. This can be achieved through true commitment to Europe, a balanced budget and excellent education.

D66 has featured before on the blog

Lib MP gives agent solid silver cup as thank you

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
As a 'thank you' for all his hard work the Liberal MP for Southport presented his agent with a handsomely engraved silver salver. I was John Pugh M.P.'s agent when he first won Southport but sadly it was not me who got given the 120 ounce silver salver.

The MP was another John, J M Astbury KC, who fought and won the seat in 1906 and his agent was the legendary A. Keith Durham.

 Now I must make clear I do not hold a grudge against John Pugh for failing to give me such a lavish gift. When I fought the seat in 1983 I didn't give my agent a cup either.

John and I are pictured with a solid silver cup weighing 76.6ounces with is engraved:

To Mr and Mrs A. Keith Durham 
in grateful recognition of their
contribution to the Liberal Victory in the Southport Division 1906 from their sincere friend 
J M Astbury

The cup arrived on my doorstep last week in a cardboard box addressed to Connard's a long established Jeweller in Lord St Southport . ( I have a fairly shrewd idea who left it). Michael Braham's definitive history of Southport Liberals-The first 100 years- records:

On 24th January, from the balcony of the Cambridge Hall (now renamed The Atkinson) admist a scene of unparralled excitement, the following announcemnt was made:
J M Astbury 6 603
E M Hall     6 367

As the Southport Liberal Associating Annual report noted, 'Liberalism achieved a magnificent victory and Southport Division once more vindicated its right place among those constituencies where the principles of justice and reform hold sway over class, privilege and political reaction'

The question is begged whether the 120 ounce silver salver he received was in addition to the 76 ounce cup?