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Radioactive waste sites: bribes failed, state force legitimised

Law on radioactive waste passed on the last day of parliament; Anne from Shirley sends a link and writes: nuclear dumping without protection… NICE, NOT!

govt legislation logo

The Department for Energy and Climate Change offered local authorities financial inducements to host nuclear waste storage sites. Cumbria county council and Copeland and Allerdale borough councils put their names forward, but later pulled out.

As this financial approach did not work, DECC then said procedures would change.

radioactive waste containers

MP Zac Goldsmith: “Most of the MPs who voted probably didn’t know what they were voting for”

Regulations in new law passed on the last day of parliament (download legislation here) now class radioactive waste sites as “nationally significant infrastructure projects” which can be chosen by the Secretary of State for Energy; local people could object but they would not be able to prevent the dump being built.

About 4.5 million cubic metres of radioactive waste has built up over the last 50 years. It is currently kept in containers in a number of sites in the UK as a number of attempts to build a permanent storage facility have failed. Taxpayer fund two-thirds of the cost of waste management.

radioactive waste regulation 2015

zacZac Goldsmith, a Conservative MP well worth re-electing, voted against the law. He said “Effectively it strips local authorities of the ability to stop waste being dumped in their communities. If there had been a debate, there could have been a different outcome: most of the MPs who voted probably didn’t know what they were voting for.”

Will radioactive waste be coming to your area?

The Queen’s Speech: right of recall bill merely a watered down political pawn?

zacThe right of recall issue, ably and passionately promoted by MP Zac Goldsmith, was covered on this blog in April.

He proposed that – in a mature and functioning democracy – constituents should be able to hold their MP to account at all times, not just at elections. He tabled a private member’s bill on the issue – backed by 127 MPs, and opposed by 17 -and also set up a petition on the subject, which closes on 5.11.14. Another petition on the subject is now circulating:

May 2010

The May 2010 Coalition agreement was strongly worded: “We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.”

February 2014

However the draft Recall Bill – which was temporarily jettisoned in February – only required MPs to be subject to a recall vote after a committee of fellow MPs had agreed to it. The criteria for recall is said to be “so narrow as to exclude all but the most serious financial offences”.

 goldsmith recall feb

Zac Goldsmith has repeatedly said that such legislation would actually make things worse – by concentrating power in the hands of a Commons committee and giving only a “very narrow definition of serious wrongdoing”.

February interview

He told the BBC that maverick or independent MPs would fall foul of a committee chosen by party whips: “We would be better off not having any recall at all, than adopting what they are putting forward. It’s an absolute stitch-up.”

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg had expressed his concern that under genuine Recall, MPs might actually be sacked by voters in ‘kangaroo courts’. In February, Recall MPs was dropped from the programme for the Queen’s Speech and the Liberal Democrats publicly blamed Cameron and Osborne.

March 2014

According to the Spectator and the Guardian, following the Cabinet meeting on 4 March 2014, Tories ‘ambushed’ the Lib Dems by demanding that the recall bill be included in the Queen’s Speech on 4th June 2014.

queens speech 2014

A referenced account of the whole sorry saga is given on page 7 of the standard note (above). Will it have been redrafted to give constituents the right to recall unsatisfactory MPs – or will it give even more power to the party whips?

Right of recall: we already have a capable independent body, uniquely qualified to pass judgment on MPs

In a mature and functioning democracy, constituents should be able to hold their MP to account at all times, not just at the election.

If events cause a majority of constituents to lose confidence in their MP, they should have the right to remove that MP. It is a right that shouldn’t be limited to issues of expenses. It should simply be a matter of confidence.

zac recall

 MP Zac Goldsmith continues (and may be heard on video):

“Readers will know that this is precisely what all the mainstream parties promised before the election, when the expenses scandal really took hold.

“But when it came to delivering the promised Recall system, the job was given to Nick Clegg, and it became clear early on that his “biggest shake-up of our democracy in 178 years” wasn’t going to involve giving people more of it.

“Instead, he wants to empower a Parliamentary Committee to decide if an MP qualifies for Recall — as it happens, the very same Parliamentary Committee that ruled this week on Maria Miller’s expenses. What’s more, Clegg’s criteria are so narrow that even if an MP were to take a 5-year holiday, they wouldn’t qualify for Recall.

“What seems to have slipped the net in recent debates is the fact that we already have an independent body, capable and uniquely qualified to pass judgment on MPs. It’s called the electorate. The only difficulty, for now, is that they don’t have the powers to do so”.

“In a mature and functioning democracy, constituents should be able to hold their MP to account at all times, and not just at the election.

“I have made the point to Nick Clegg many times, and his answer is always the same – we don’t want ‘kangaroo courts’. But when you consider that Recall simply involves empowering constituents to hold their MP to account, it is an extraordinarily offensive thing to say. It also reveals an intense fear of the electorate.

“It’s an unjustified fear, as evidenced all around the world where Recall exists and where voters display a reassuring immunity to vexatious campaigns. I have argued about Recall with a handful of MPs who disapprove of my stance on the issue. Two of them recently altered their views when they became embroiled in, as it happens, unfair controversies of their own. They realised their constituents are far more inclined to hear the arguments and consider the facts than anyone in the press or on social media”.

There must be a build up of pressure on the political establishment to honour its early promise, to trust the people, and to adapt our democracy to the modern age. Please sign here if you support Recall. 

HMG petition recall

The petition is open for signatures until 5.11.14



Corporate Britain’s security handover: power, water, transport, then military, justice and food sectors

Gill Plimmer and Carola Hoyos report in the Financial Times that the Ministry of Defence is to appoint a private sector partner to manage its military estate – 230,000 acres of land covering conservation sites, office blocks, barracks, homes and military bases.

The revolving door

revolving door largerAndrew Manley, chief executive of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), was recruited to the MoD in 2009 after a 30-year career with oil giant Shell, becoming chief executive in 2011 as part of government plans to ‘streamline’ the MoD. If he is reinstated, following the current investigation into his financial and personal conduct, will he return to the private sector through the revolving door, as plans to hand over running of MoD bases to the private sector come to fruition?

Reward for failure?

Serco and G4S are bidding to win the £400m 10-year deal, though they have been referred to the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the government on electronic monitoring contracts.

capita logoAnother contender, Capita, is also under a cloud. A leaked report by research company Gartner revealed that Capita’s MoD online recruitment computer system is two years behind schedule. The government has contracted to pay the company £1bn over 10 years to hire 9,000 soldiers a year for the army.

Fears in Washington and the British army about the security implications

The Observer has seen documents, marked “restricted – commercial” which spell out the fears of the US government and the British army about the potential loss of intellectual property if top-secret information about equipment is taken out of MoD control and handed to a private company. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence Philip Dunne refused to comment on this allegation.

Taxpayers’ loss?

vernon coakerThe DIO contract is one in a series of attempts to transform the way the British armed services operates.

The MoD has spent over £12m on ‘exploring strategic options’.

Last year it tried to privatise the procurement of military equipment but there was, eventually, only one bidder.

The process to date has been “a waste of money”, according to Labour’s shadow defence secretary, Vernon Coaker (left).

But the government expects to make the sale in the financial year 2014-15

philip dunne mpMatthew Smith of Jane’s reports that, in a January statement to parliament, Philip Dunne (right) said the government expects to sell the MoD’s Defence Support Group in the financial year 2014-15. DSG has a team of 2,800 top-grade engineers, responsible for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of military air and land equipment, mobile and in-barracks equipment support, fleet management. The latest news is that Babcock, KBR, Dyncorp International, Carillion and Germany’s armoured vehicle builder Rheinmetall are thought to be interested.

And the next steps: to place food and justice in the profit prioritising sector?

In 2013 Justice Secretary Chris Grayling instructed officials to explore plans for privatisation and ensure that the Courts and Tribunal Service provides value for money.

Media appears to be backing the government drive for genetic modification of food crops; a search on ‘2014 UK genetic modification’ finds many articles favourable to the technology. But MP Zac Goldsmith writes: “It is and has always been about control of the global food economy by a tiny handful of giant corporations”.

herald logo

And Ian Bell summarises in The Herald, (Scotland): “Corporate Britain is now at least as powerful as any government. It can and does face down ministers. It can and does run rings around the “watchdogs”. And we are all paying the price for that”.

Recall: one small step – amongst many needed – towards restoring faith in politics


Amid unruly parliamentary scenes today, during questions to the prime minister and Speaker Bercow’s pleas for tranquil and statesmanlike behaviour, the ‘Recall’ proposal of Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, published earlier this month, came to mind. 

As he writes: “It is extraordinary that under today’s rules, if an MP were to ignore their voters from the day of the election, if they were to systematically break every promise they made, or disappear on holiday for three years, or even switch to an extremist Party, there is literally nothing their voters could do about it until the next General Election.” 

True Recall is practised in more than 20 US states, parts of Canada and some South American Countries and allows voters to rid themselves of unwanted representatives at any time. After the expenses scandal, the three main parties promised to introduce a Recall mechanism into British politics. 

A perverse draft 

In December, the Government produced a draft Recall Bill but Mr Goldsmith was far from satisfied: 

“Perversely, they will hand power up to a Parliamentary committee, not down to voters. Under the plans, once someone complains about an MP (not necessarily a constituent), the Committee on Standards and Privileges must decide if they have engaged in ‘serious wrongdoing’ and qualify to be recalled. 

“Recall is about democracy, and democracy is about trusting people. Fear of the ‘mob’ is fear of democracy itself, and where Recall happens, there is no evidence of abuse, and no reason to fear vexatious campaigns. Consider what happened in Winchester in 1997, when an attempt was made by the Tories to trigger a judicially sanctioned Recall election because they felt that they had lost, unfairly, by two votes. They went on to lose that election by more than 20,000 votes. The ‘mob’ don’t like time-wasters, and they reward fair play.” 

Revised proposals must hand power to voters or be opposed and amended 

“The Bill is only at draft stage, and will be altered. If the revised proposals remove the ‘middle men’ of MPs, and hand power directly and unconditionally to voters, then the Government will have performed a hugely valuable role. However if the proposals are only tweaked, then they must be opposed, and amended.” 

The full article may be read in PoliticsHome. 

Photograph: as Wisconsin State Journal appeals to Conservative Politicians, Justices and Tea Partiers to stop ‘rampant recalls’, voters complain they are told to sit down and shut up: 

‘Think about it; we should sit around while our “chosen” leaders make things “worse?” It’s the “will of the people.” ‘