MP calls for no cuts to British aid in Yemen but is silent on UK’s death-dealing role

 Andrew Mitchell MP should also denounce the UK’s role in the Saudi-led coalition which is dealing out death and destruction in the Yemen.

International doctors’ (MSF)Yemeni hospital destroyed by a Saudi coalition airstrike 

BBC radio reported the call of Andrew Mitchell this morning but only one record of that call was found at the time: UK aid cut risks millions of Yemenis ‘starving to death’ UK aid cut risks millions of Yemenis ‘starving to death’ (The National).

Mitchell said that reducing support to Yemen would also be the “harbinger of cuts to come in the future” that could also lead to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths around the world.

But according to a recent UN report, the war has already claimed 233,000 lives. It is estimated that 24 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance – some 80% of the population – which is being thwarted by the Saudi-led coalition’s air and naval blockade of the country.

The British-Saudi alliance

Despite a 2019 court ruling that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are illegal, Britain restarted supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia and between 2010 and 2019 this trade amounted to 40% of all UK arms sales. The RAF bombs Yemen and British gives military training, advice and logistical backing to forces involved in the war.

Boris Johnson is being asked to follow in Joe Biden’s footsteps and withdraw all UK support for the Saudi Coalition

Stop the War Coalition (STWC) – which is committed to ending the British establishment’s disastrous addiction to war and its squandering of public resources on militarism – commends Joe Biden’s suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Italy’s recent decision to end the export of bombs to Saudi Arabia permanently.

STWC urges everyone who wishes to see an end to this war to lobby their MPs in support of a motion against arms sales and to sign a letter to the Prime Minister demanding an end to British collusion.

As The National reports, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says: “For most people, life in Yemen is now unbearable. Childhood in Yemen is a special kind of hell. This war is swallowing up a whole generation of Yemenis. We must end it now and start dealing with its enormous consequences immediately. This is not the moment to step back from Yemen.”

 

 

 

 

o

‘The misguided path of deregulation’: Prem Sikka

Power to the People”, this week’s report by McKinsey-trained Tory MP John Penrose, unsurprisingly advocates deregulation, competition and cost-cutting practices.

Like Sean Moulton, who says “One of the dirtiest words in politics is ‘regulation’. It conjures up images of confusing paperwork, red tape, and obstacles to progress and innovation. However, when it comes to guaranteeing that the water we drink is lead-free, the air we breathe is clean, and that the food we buy at the supermarket won’t cause cancer, people are all for them. The winds quickly change when you refer to regulations as “protections.”

Professor Sikka reminds all that regulation (red tape) has a valuable role to play, it assures:

      • the minimum wage,
      • environmental rights,
      • health and safety,
      • gender and race equality,
      • product safety,
      • consumer rights,
      • workers’ rights,
      • money laundering,
      • tax avoidance and much more.

He points out that red tape could safely be cut if businesses chose to be ethical, but many do not. Almost every day we read about corporate frauds, low wages, squalid working conditions, tax dodging, bribery and corruption. These issues cannot be addressed by deregulation or market capitalism.

Power to the people

As Sikka comments, to empower consumers and workers, Penrose (left) could have recommended the enrolment of worker and consumer elected directors on the boards of large companies to ensure that companies serve the long-term interests of broader stakeholders.

Employees and consumers would vote on executive pay, enabling them to pass judgment on executives who neglect employee welfare or persist in selling shoddy goods and services. However, industrial democracy and corporate governance reforms do not form any part of the report.

The report shows little concern about the impact of the Penrose policies on people’s lives.

It calls for greater competition and choice – a radical restructuring of the market place – but does not recommend restructuring banks and supermarkets, though most banks make excessively high charges for loans, overdrafts and other services. There is little difference between the costs – competition exists in name only.

Over the last three to four decades the government sold-off utilities, resulting in dozens of companies selling gas and electricity. In theory they compete, but in practice there is little competition and they all profiteer from rip-off charges.

The railways have been privatised and despite receiving billions in subsidies, the UK train fares are almost the highest per mile in Europe. Public cash lines the pockets of executives and shareholders and regulators remain ineffective.

The rhetoric belies the practice

Penrose urges the government to cut red tape and reduce regulatory burden on businesses – bur Brexit (of which he was an ardent supporter) has increased bureaucracy. For example, the export of one-lorry load of fish now requires 71 pages of paperwork compared to just two before Brexit.

He is not keen on subsidies, but ignores state patronage – another form of subsidy:

  • accounting firms have mobilised the state to erect barriers to entry into the audit market and are therefore able to collect monopoly rents.
  • Banksrely upon the state for bailouts and an almost free supply (i.e. negligible interest rates) of their raw material in the form of cash.

An equitable distribution of income/wealth and decent working conditions, will benefit health, increase productivity and reduce costs by relieving pressure on the NHS and welfare services.

 

 

 

0

Approved: a proposal to expand Leeds Bradford Airport and significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions

Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, has been asked to ‘call in’ the provisionally approved planning application to expand Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA). 

Thousands more flights
More greenhouse gas emissions
More noise and sleep deprivation
More air pollution
More congested roads

 Barrister Estelle Dehon, has written on behalf of the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA). Her letter may be accessed via their website. If he agrees, the airport’s planning application will be dealt with at a public inquiry. GALBA summarises:

“On 11 February, Leeds City Council (LCC) provisionally approved a planning application to expand Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA), despite the Council having declared a climate emergency in March 2019”. They disregarded objections from MPs, councillors, town councils and climate scientists .

AirportWatch reports GALBA’s belief that LBA expansion is the aviation equivalent of the Cumbria coal mine case. Both would result in significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions, contradicting the latest advice to government from the Committee on Climate Change in the 6th Carbon Budget. Read this press release.

Leeds council planning officers had advised councillors that international aviation emissions are not a matter for local authorities to consider in the planning process.

But the planned expansion raises issues which require consideration by the Secretary of State and – believing that this advice was legally incorrect – GALBA reserves the option of challenging LCC in the courts.

As a recent article on tourism said: “the lack of a long-term environmental vision is damaging to both the industry and the planet.

 

 

 

o

Secret State 29: Why doesn’t the MoD tell the whole truth about our military operations in Iraq?

As British forces aid death and destruction in several countries, the BBC and many other mainstream media outlets remain silent but report at length on trivia like the divorce of an American show business personality  

The MoD website states that Britain is not taking part in combat operations in Iraq: “British troops are not in a combat role in Iraq but are on the ground with coalition partners providing training and equipment to Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Kurdish Security Forces (KSF)”.

It fails to add that the Royal Air Force takes part in Operation Inherent Resolve – US-led coalition ‘combat operations’ – launching air strikes over Iraq and Syria  

 An airstrike on Mosul in Iraq

From the start of the operation in September 2014 to January 2019, the Ministry of Defence claimed that 1,700 British airstrikes had killed or injured 3,229 in Iraq.

Though figures from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) show that only one civilian has been killed by RAF airstrikes as part of the mission against IS, the US said at least 1,257 civilians had died as a result of 33,921 US-led coalition airstrikes between August 2014 and January 2019.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) also revealed – in response to an FoI request from Drone Wars UK –  that British Reaper drones are undertaking missions outside Operation Shader  the UK’s military operation against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The operation has cost £1.75 billion. The MoD has refused to say how many ‘non-Shader’ sorties there have been.

Forces Net video confirms that Iraq is the focus of the UK and other coalition nations targeting IS

Forces Net, which brings the latest news on the UK Armed Forces and the wider military world, features a video in which Air Commodore Justin Reuter (below left) confirmed that Iraq is the focus of the UK and other coalition nations targeting IS, otherwise known as Daesh. He said: “The last few targets we’ve struck have all been in Iraq, they’ve all been in support of Iraqi security forces, clearing Daesh areas, areas where they have insurgents.”

After a U.S. drone strike killed a senior Iraqi security official and an Iranian commander, the Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution demanding the government expel American forces from Iraq, though it has not yet been implemented.

An evacuation plan has been devised as fears of reprisal attacks on the US and its allies grow

A leaked draft letter written by Brigadier-General William Seely, head of the Military’s Task Force Iraq, said it would be “repositioning” troops to prepare for “movement out” of the country.

On 7th January, Forces Net reported that the United Kingdom sent a team to Iraq to help the British military contingency to plan for every eventuality, including if there is a need for soldiers, diplomats and other civilians to evacuate the country.

Days after a senior Iraqi security official was killed in a drone strike, the Iranian government launched missile attacks against U.S. forces at the Ain al Assad air base in Iraq’s Anbar Province, wounding more than 100 troops.

             US military personnel inspecting the damaged air-base

On 15th February the New York Times reported a rocket attack on the airport in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil on Monday which killed a civilian contractor with the American-led military coalition and wounded six others, including a U.S. service member, according to a coalition spokesman. Several other rockets landed in residential areas of the city, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, including one close to the Chinese Consulate.

The MoD website confirms that the British Army has a military presence in 80 countries and recent research findings say that British troops are stationed in 145 overseas military bases located across 42 countries, but Covid-19 has been an important reminder that international relations, the health, wealth and prosperity of countries across the globe are intrinsically linked.

As MPs such as Richard Burgon and organisations including NATO Watch are stressing, Britain should reassess its priorities and focus on measures that tackle the real threats faced by our society – the climate crisis, global poverty and the Covid-19 pandemic — and end the military spending spree.

 

 

 

o

Covid 19 – bulletin 45: will Britain strengthen defences against war, climate change and future pandemics?

NATO’s proposed focus on ‘strategic rivalry’ will divert financial and material resources and weaken the cooperation vitally needed to address the existential threat of climate change and future pandemics.

NATO Watch director Dr. Ian Davis writes: “The pandemic has revealed fundamental flaws in the strategies many states employ to provide security for their people. New efforts are needed to reduce the chances of nuclear war and achieve nuclear disarmament, address climate change and strengthen defences against future pandemics”.

NATO Watch conducts independent monitoring and analysis of NATO and aims to increase transparency and accountability within the Alliance. Its recent press release records peace researchers’ challenge to the NATO 2030 project which proposes:

Dr Wess Mitchell (below), co-chair of the NATO report, believes that “NATO has to adapt itself for an era of strategic rivalry with Russia and China, for the return of a geopolitical competition that has a military dimension but also a political one”.

The researchers stress that this approach could help to entrench a systemic three bloc rivalry between China, Russia and NATO-EU-US, with all the attendant risks – from nuclear war to weakening cooperation when addressing the existential threat of climate change and future pandemics.

Dr. Davis ended, “Based on the expert group report, NATO is not up to this task. Instead, NATO is doubling down on the militarist approaches to security and conflict that have not worked. A more comprehensive and honest reflection of NATO is needed by all of its members”.

Will Britain – as a member of NATO – take a stand against NATO’s proposed focus on ‘strategic rivalry’ with Russia and China, conserve financial and material resources and instead stress the need for the cooperation so vitally needed to address the existential threat of climate change and future pandemics?

 

Read more about the report here.

 

 

 

o

The NHS blueprint appears to have much in common with Corbyn’s manifesto, but the devil is in the detail

 

Boris Johnson has taken Corbyn-Labour’s “Build Back Better” election slogan and its promises of a more active state, investment in left-behind towns and regions, a green recovery and more funding for public services.

Is this a genuine conversion or opportunistic, empty rhetoric?

Both New Labour and Conservatives wasted billions of pounds in replacing efficient hospital matrons with an army of administrators and a privatisation process involving complex procurement and competition rules – a malfunctioning system, unaccountable to the taxpayer or politicians.

Just as Corbyn would have had it, the latest government blueprint/white paper has a “triple aim”, of better health and wellbeing outcomes, better care and the “sustainable use” of NHS resources. It says:

  • market mechanisms are out.
  • collaboration is in.
  • regional structures are out and
  • more local units, based on counties, are in.
  • Bureaucracy will be reduced and
  • health services, from hospitals to GP surgeries, community services and social care, will be encouraged to “work better and more effectively together”

But there the resemblance to Corbyn’s intentions ends

Full text: Watershed

 

 

 

 

o

Bad decisions by government – 49: attempts to further desecrate Cumbria

A site in this clean, green and pleasant county was bought by the Ministry of Supply in 1947 for the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons at the Windscale Piles, which became operational in 1950 (read more here.)

The Windscale reactor accident—50 years on, a report by Professor Richard Wakefield published in the Journal of Radiological Protection, estimates that the incident caused 240 additional cancer cases. Of these about 100 fatal and 90 non-fatal thyroid cancers were due to iodine-131, and 70 fatal and 10 non-fatal, mostly lung cancers, were due to polonium-210.

Undeterred, the government continued this hazardous operation under a different name: Sellafield, discharging its radioactive waste into the Irish sea – waste which reached Norwegian waters and has been detected in the waters of northern Canada (read more here).

Today, the Financial Times reports that once again the government is asking residents of Allerdale and Copeland in Cumbria to consider hosting an underground storage facility for the most radioactive by-products of the country’s nuclear industry

An earlier attempt was made in 2019 – December – a good month for burying news of government coercion – when Friends of the Lake District drew attention to previous studies showing that the Lake District’s geology makes it unsuitable for a Geological Disposal Facility.

In 2014 radioactivity leaked out of an underground facility in New Mexico built to store weapons-related waste

“Nowhere in the world is there [yet] a functioning deep geological repository for spent nuclear fuel,” said Dr Paul Dorfman of University College London’s Energy Institute.

It is a social, economic and environmental scandal that successive governments have supported this dangerous and expensive form of energy and plutonium generation. Yet despite these problems, the UK government has invested £40 million to develop the next generation of nuclear energy technology £40 million to develop next-generation nuclear technology (www.gov.uk).

We salute Marianne Birkby (right), who runs Radiation Free Lakeland, which campaigned against the facility last time and would like to see this pernicious industry wound down as soon as possible.

Note also the recent FT article about the proposed coal mine, ’tarnishing’ the government’s green credentials.

 

 

 

o

Brexit 16: more freight is now travelling by water – better for the environment

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/19014459.scots-fishermen-admit-sailings-denmark-sell-fish-brexit-pm-protest/

Some Scottish fishermen are avoiding delays at Scottish auctions by sailing to fish auctions in Hanstholm (Denmark)

This ensures a fair price for their catch which will arrive at European markets while still fresh. Reuters reports that several EU countries had rejected UK fish exports because new customs demands (health certificates, customs declarations and other checks) delayed the arrival of their produce.

Other goods usually travel by ‘landbridge’

Lorries driving between Ireland and France, pass through the UK, using ferry services across the Irish Sea and English Channel.

Since new post-Brexit trade rules were introduced on January 1st, however, increasing numbers of Irish and continental traders and hauliers have been deterred from using this landbridge due to increased customs checks and paperwork – and Revenue’s IT customs system crashing – and are seeking a more direct route to western France.

Port News reports that Hugh Bruton, Brittany Ferries Ireland general manager, said, “It’s clear that Brexit has distorted flows of trade between France and Ireland. There’s now clear and compelling demand both in Brittany and beyond to boost freight capacity direct from the region to Ireland”.

In addition to existing services Brittany Ferries has announced that it is introducing three new weekly freight only sailings between Ireland and France. The sailings will begin this Thursday (4th February) with a sailing between Rosslare and St Malo,

John Dodwell (CBOA), who sent a link to the Port News report, comments that instead of lorries going Calais/Dover; driving to Holyhead and then to Ireland, freight can now go France/Ireland direct – without any of the new paperwork problems. Good news for the UK environment!

 

 

 

g

 

 

 

Bad decisions by government – 48: use of hard shoulder as a ‘running lane’ for five dangerous years

In 2019, the BBC’s documentary Panorama programme, “Britain’s Killer Motorways?” (video no longer available) revealed that 38 people have been killed on “smart motorways” in the last five years, though smart motorways account for just 200 miles of the British motorway system.

After expressing concern and ordering a review in 2019, which found that an average of 11 people died each year between 2015 and 2018 whilst broken down on a smart motorway, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has decided that smart motorways are too expensive to scrap.

Pressure to reverse the rollout of smart motorways is intensifying. Drivers and passengers have been injured or killed while using the hard shoulders as ‘running lanes’, sometimes called ‘live lanes’, a feature of the new smart motorways.

The public record of such deaths includes the names of Jason Mercer, Alexandru Murgeanu, Nargis Begum, Derek Jacobs, Dev Naran, Jamil Ahmed and others so far unnamed, according to the Smart Motorways Kill website.

To date, three coroners have called for an urgent review of smart motorways

AutoExpress records that in January a Sheffield coroner called for an urgent review  of them after he had ruled that the lack of a hard shoulder on the M1 contributed to the death of two drivers hit by a lorry after they stopped to exchange details following a minor collision. Two other coroners made similar appeals after the deaths of an 8 year old by and a 36-year-old man.

In a brief video clip, Edmund King, AA President, (above right) quotes Highways England’s own report about the hazard of breaking down: “You’re a sitting duck for about 20 minutes”.

Grant Shapps appeared in front of MPs on the transport committee

He pointed out that Highways England (HE) – the Government-owned company in charge of the rollout of smart motorways – had not put in place the technology to spot stranded motorists in live lanes.

HE had also failed to mount a major information campaign and because of this – Mr Shapps added – motorists had no idea what to do if they broke down in live lanes. He will now focused on making smart motorways safer and has ordered several improvements including:

  • building more emergency refuge areas,
  • bringing forward the target for “vehicle stop detection” technology to be fitted along all smart routes to next year rather than the initial March 2023 date,
  • launching a £5 million driver safety information campaign and
  • scrapping dynamic hard shoulders, which are switched to “live lanes” if traffic grows heavy.

Grant Shapps said smart motorways are too expensive to scrap because the Government would need to purchase land equivalent to “700 Wembley stadiums” to create new hard shoulders – but Graham from Guildford says ‘They already have the land. It is now called a running lane. It must revert to being a hard shoulder’.

Adrian from Falkirk points out that the expansion of smart motorways would be ‘scrapped’ if – in future – the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutes the Transport Secretary, the head of Highways England, even the Prime Minister for every ‘corporate manslaughter’.

Yesterday: M1smart motorway crash witness calls for lorry driver who killed two to be freed

Speaking publicly about the crash for the first time, Mr Taylor, a property manager, said: “First, I saw the car and the van pulled in with the two men looking like they were exchanging insurance details after an accident. 

“I then looked in my rear view mirror and saw the lorry driver desperately trying to swerve out of the way. He hit and the van came cart-wheeling down the inside lane.

“I called 999 and said, ‘those two poor men,’ explaining how ‘the lorry driver had no chance.’”

 

 

 

o

 

o

Sharma: success for the farmers’ movement in India would send a global signal

Addressing the Oxford Real Farming Conference, Devinder Sharma (below, left) said that the farmers’ movement in India could have global implications (Tribune article).

If the Indian farmers succeed in making Minimum Support Price (MSP) a legal right, it would cause major disruptions to international trade.

An economically worked out minimum assured price would make farming a viable proposition 

Instead of leaving them to face the vagaries of the markets, which have pushed farmers globally into a debt trap, the demand to ensure that no trading takes place below the MSP would not only provide farmers with a safety net but would gradually become an economic design for the rest of the world to emulate.

Markets have destroyed millions of farm livelihoods  

Sharma earlier explained that more than 90% of the cocoa farmers are living in extreme poverty, receiving only $1.30 as the average daily income. Their share of income in the end-consumer price is a fraction of the enormous profits the chocolate manufacturers make, but until recently no one has looked at their plight and revealed that markets have destroyed millions of farm livelihoods.

The huge agricultural support that the US, Canada and European Union provide for commercially important farm commodities lowers international prices.

According to a joint paper published in 2017 by India and China for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – welcomed by over 100 countries – the US, EU and Canada give huge subsidies accounting for 90% of the product-specific support for agricultural commodities and grossly depressing global prices. In many cases, this support is twice the total value of the crop produced (215% for wool; 141% for mohair by the US; and in the EU by 120% for white sugar and 155% for tobacco).

Despite this, the US describes Indian support to farmers as a hurdle to global trade and the WTO advocates dismantling India’s Farm Support Programme, curtailing the MSP for wheat and rice to keep it within the prescribed limit of 10% for product-specific support (page 2 onwards) under the Aggregate Measure of Support regulation

Flourishing agriculture sectors are the first necessity for achieving the goal of hunger-free world.

The farmers’ demand to make MSP a benchmark for domestic and international trade would result in severe disruptions in international trade, but it would also better the lives of a large section of country’s population, holding the key to future growth and bridging the huge income disparity the world has failed to address.

If MSP became enshrined in law, it would send a global signal, shifting the focus from trade competitiveness and ensuring that livelihoods of farmers – the primary producers – would become economically viable and sustainable everywhere in the world.

 

 

 

 

o