Saturday, 28 February 2009
The President's Budget for Financial Year 2009/10 was delivered to Congress last week - and the budget process now begins in Congress. The current system is described at http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/98-721_20080307.pdf. Reform ideas for the process can be found at http://wikileaks.org/leak/crs/R40113.pdf
The Senate begins consideration of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
At Westminster another busy week is expected - with some bills due to complete their progress through the Commons.
Full details can be found at -
House of Representatives: http://democraticleader.house.gov/docUploads/8WeeklyLeader30209.pdf?CFID=7017212&CFTOKEN=43085550
UK Parliament: http://services.parliament.uk/Calendar/2009/03/02/week.html
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Monday, 23 February 2009
- EU citizens resident in the UK (although they can vote at elections to local authorities, devolved legislatures and the European Parliament)
- anyone other than British, Irish and qualifying Commonwealth citizens
- convicted persons detained in pursuance of their sentences (though remand prisoners, unconvicted prisoners and civil prisoners can vote if they are on the electoral register)
- anyone found guilty within the previous five years of corrupt or illegal practices in connection with an election
and members of the House of Lords.
It is unusual for members of one house to be barred from voting in elections for a fully elected chamber. The original reasons were forgotten, though I discovered that Thomas Jefferson had explained the origin of the ban.
Today Lord Dubs will ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will extend the right to vote in general elections to members of the House of Lords.
Saturday, 21 February 2009
For more details -
House of Representatives: http://democraticleader.house.gov/docUploads/7WeeklyLeader22309.pdf?CFID=7017212&CFTOKEN=43085550
As you may already know, I will be a candidate in the European Elections in June. While Washminster usually appears on a daily basis - due to the additional workload, I will be reducing the number of posts, by approximately half. Please do keep coming up on a regular basis - and I will continue to post details of particularly relevant developments.
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
Both the UK Parliament and the US Congress are closed for the week. In the UK this is often referred to as "half term", as it is designed to coincide with the half term in most schools. A chance for MPs to "spend some time with their families".
In the US, yesterday was "Presidents' Day", a day which began as the celebration of George Washington's birthday - but extended to cover Lincoln, and other Presidents.
Washminster will not be appearing every day this week - but do keep an eye out for any postings. Congress and Parliament may be closed - but politics continues.
Monday, 16 February 2009
- failed states
- health threats - a pandemic
- nuclear proliferation
- energy insecurity
- climate change
NATO is "not simply a military organisation ... and is no longer even its main business". Robertson argued that NATO has a key role to play, if we are prepared to recognise the imperative of new multilateralism.He pointed out the main challenges to NATO
- Enlargement - should we put up the "No vacancies" sign - "Russians need not apply"?
- Capabilities - are we able to deal with reconstruction after a conflict?
- Political Will - are we prepared to stress the importance of NATO and of NATO's missions?
Friday, 13 February 2009
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Time for optimism?
The prospects for the emergence of a genuinely sustainable global economy have been given fresh impetus with the election of Barack Obama, extending beyond the well intentioned rhetoric characteristic of new administrations. I think we can be optimistic for several reasons.
Firstly, it signals a radical departure from the previous administration’s policy of denial, apathy and denigration of science. Gone too is the unthinkable prospect of Sarah Palin presiding over US energy policy, whose ignorance on scientific and environmental matters are truly breathtaking.
Secondly, the Obama administration does not regard sustainable energy investment as ‘nice to have but not during a recession’. In particular, there is a stark recognition that a reversion to old coal mining technology and a reliance on foreign oil are not in the US’s long-term economic or international interests. Investment in sustainable projects is seen as a growth opportunity that will contribute to (i.e. not dilute) the US economy, creating new jobs and new technologies. For example, the Obama administration aims to create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyse private efforts to build a clean energy future. It has also set a target of 10% of US electricity from renewable sources by 2012, and 25% by 2025.
Thirdly, US environmental and energy policies have ramifications far beyond its borders. The old adage that when the US sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold applies not just to financial markets, but also to the global environment. As the largest contributor to global emissions, its commitment to developing renewable energy sources, cutting back on fossil fuels (which should concurrently reduce its involvement in foreign conflicts) and investment in sustainable living will naturally have the largest impact whilst encouraging other nations to follow suit. More specifically, the new administration seeks eliminate its current imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years.
Of course the Obama administration will be criticised by both sides. The oil industry, loggers, car manufacturers, arms industry, et al will claim that his ambitions are unrealistic, and that they will cost jobs – they will use lobbying, corporate influence and every tactic available to undermine him (expect to see Bush’s involvement here too). On the other side, he will be condemned by the doom mongers as doing too little too late.
The transition from the world’s worst polluter to a leading, sustainable economy will not happen overnight. Old infrastructure, corporate inertia and scepticism, vested interests and general apathy will slow down progress. However, green campaigners, long frustrated by the Bush years, now have cause to be imbued with real optimism.
Dr Gary Robertshaw
The Green Providers Directory
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
• Sir Fred Goodwin, former Chief Executive, Royal Bank of Scotland• Sir Tom McKillop, Chairman, Royal Bank of Scotland• Andy Hornby, former Chief Executive, HBOS• Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, former Chairman, HBOS
• Eric Daniels, Group Chief Executive, Lloyds Banking Group• John Varley, Group Chief Executive, Barclays• Stephen Hester Group Chief Executive, Royal Bank of Scotland• Antonio Horta-Osorio, Chief Executive, Abbey Bank• Paul Thurston, HSBC UK Managing Director
Monday, 9 February 2009
Sunday, 8 February 2009
Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the recent report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which indicated that energy utility bills in the United Kingdom rose by 16.7 per cent in the year ended November 2008.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the Government monitor energy prices and are well aware of the significant rises in the UK over the past year. The Government expect reductions in those prices following reductions in wholesale prices. To improve transparency on energy prices, the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change have asked Ofgem to publish quarterly reports on wholesale and retail prices.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in those OECD figures not only was there the 16.7 per cent increase in the United Kingdom, but in the same survey there was a reduction of 2.4 per cent in the OECD as a whole, a reduction in the United States of 13.3 per cent and a very small increase in the G7? Is it not the case that the astronomical increases in energy prices in the United Kingdom, despite the too little, too late cut from British Gas, show that the benefit to consumers from competition in energy, which was promised at the time of privatisation, has yet to reach the British consumer?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I well understand my noble friend and public concern. The Government have impressed the need to see retail energy prices reduced as soon as possible to reflect changes in wholesale prices. As well as taking the percentage increase, one has to look at the comparator of prices generally. The UK domestic electricity price is below the EU 15 median and domestic gas prices are the lowest in the EU 15 for July to December 2008.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, will the Minister admit that high fuel prices are causing poor British people today to underheat their homes in these freezing conditions, threatening their lives? Is he not ashamed of his Government for doing nothing at all to force energy suppliers to bring down prices for our poorest families?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the Government have been very active in their work in relation to the companies. There has been an Ofgem probe as a result of the intervention, which has led to recommendations about problems of differentiation in prices. The Government have already invested £20 billion in relation to fuel poverty. Another package was announced last autumn. We are not at all complacent. We continue to meet the energy companies. We have said that if they do not respond positively to the current Ofgem consultation, we will make interventions.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I accept that the Government have promised that they will make interventions, but can we have some idea of roughly when these will occur? If we do not have a figure for that, can the Minister take back to his colleagues that they should not make such statements in the first place?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there is a consultation by Ofgem, which finishes this month. It has been made abundantly clear that if the companies do not respond satisfactorily as a result of that consultation, we will certainly consider intervention.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, would not low energy users benefit directly from the rising block tariff system? How is the proposal developing within Government? Are we getting anywhere?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the rising block tariff essentially means charging a lower rate for the first proportion of energy used. The Government are in discussion with Ofgem about how that could be considered in more detail. However, there are concerns about that, because fuel-poor people, out of need, may consume more energy than the average. Clearly, as we discuss this further with Ofgem, it has to be considered very carefully and looked at in the round.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the noble Lord, Lord Turner, the chairman of the climate change committee, made it clear that the only way in which the Government’s binding commitments for emissions reductions can be met is by a significant increase in energy prices? In light of that, has his department calculated how large an increase in energy prices is likely to be required to meet the 34 per cent reduction in emissions that the committee said was necessary by 2020?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath:My Lords, the Government are not in the business of forecasting future prices. We listened carefully to the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Turner, and his committee. As the noble Lord will know, energy companies are expected to make considerable investments in the energy field in the next few years. It is a mixture, including new nuclear stations. We also wish to see a considerable increase in the amount of renewable energy. I am confident that we can achieve that.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, made a fair point in one sense, but have not the Government also made a welcome decision? In this year’s Budget there will be a parallel financial budget relating to the short and medium-term fund and the raising of taxation through CO2-type tax, some of which could be recirculated so that it does not have negative effects on prices for lower-paid people. That is an important balancing factor to what is being discussed.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, my noble friend raises an important point. A premium had to be paid in relation to the cost of renewable energy; that is well understood. In general—I return to the question of whether we can meet the commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—it is clear that we need a mixed economy in relation to energy. That will include the development of new nuclear, and increased renewable energy as well.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, we may need a mixed economy but we also want to avoid a mixed policy. The Minister referred to a premium for renewables. At present, fossil fuel prices—oil, gas and coal prices—are 75 per cent lower than they were a year ago, which means that the premium for renewables such as wind power has to be vastly increased. Is there not a difficulty there about how that will be raised? If it is raised by higher energy prices, how is that consistent with our proper concern about lowering energy prices?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to point out that wholesale prices have come down; as my noble friend said, we had the announcement from British Gas. We hope to see more reductions in domestic prices over the next few months. Lower energy prices are, of course, important to the economy as a whole. Equally, as part of our climate change policies, renewable energy in this country must be increased. It is an important part of the contribution to future energy supply. Clearly, a premium must be paid in that regard. The essential point is to have a balance.
Saturday, 7 February 2009
At Westminster a busy week is expected before recess for 'half term' begins at the close of business on Thursday. The House of Commons will take the Political Parties and Elections Bill – Report stage (day 1) on Monday.
House of Representatives: http://democraticleader.house.gov/docUploads/6_Weekly_Leader_209091.pdf?CFID=13924048&CFTOKEN=38577085
Friday, 6 February 2009
To follow business in the House the most useful pages are
- The calendar http://services.parliament.uk/calendar/
- Daily Business page - Commons http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmagenda.htm
- Daily Business page - Lords http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldordpap.htm
- Hansard http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/pahansard.htm
- Parliament Live - live and archive footage of the chambers and committee meetings http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Home.aspx
Details of members of both Houses can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/people/index.cfmBackground material on how Parliament works, and its history is accessible at http://www.parliament.uk/about/index.cfm
Thursday, 5 February 2009
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
When reading a Bill for the first time there are some useful aids. (All current bills are listed - and have useful links at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/)
Firstly look at the long title - always at the start of the text of the bill itself. In this case the long title is "A BILL TO Make provision about The NHS Constitution; to make provision about health care (including provision about the National Health Service and health bodies); to make provision for the control of the promotion and sale of tobacco products; to make provision about the investigation of complaints about privately arranged or funded adult social care; and for connected purposes."
Then view the structure by looking at the Part and Chapter headings, and then the Schedule titles. These are found in the contents, which are physically situated at the beginning of the bill.
PART 1 -QUALITY AND DELIVERY OF NHS SERVICES IN ENGLAND
CHAPTER 1 - NHS CONSTITUTION
1 NHS Constitution
2 Duty to have regard to NHS Constitution
3 Availability, review and revision of NHS Constitution
4 Availability, review and revision of Handbook
5 Report on effect of NHS Constitution
CHAPTER 2 - QUALITY ACCOUNTS
6 Duty of providers to publish information
7 Supplementary provision about the duty
8 Regulations under section
CHAPTER 3 - DIRECT PAYMENTS
9 Direct payments for health care
10 Jurisdiction of Health Service Commissioner
11 Direct payments: minor and consequential amendments
CHAPTER 4 - INNOVATION
12 Innovation prizes
PART 2 - POWERS IN RELATION TO HEALTH BODIES
CHAPTER 1 - TRUST SPECIAL ADMINISTRATORS FOR NHS BODIES IN ENGLAND
13 Trust special administrators: NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts
14 De-authorised NHS foundation trusts
15 Trust special administrators: Primary Care Trusts
16 Trust special administrators: consequential amendments
CHAPTER 2 - SUSPENSION
17 NHS and other health appointments: suspension
PART 3 - MISCELLANEOUS
18 Prohibition of advertising: exclusion for specialist tobacconists
19 Prohibition of tobacco displays etc
20 Power to prohibit or restrict sales from vending machines
21 Power to prohibit or restrict sales from vending machines: Northern Ireland
22 Tobacco: minor and consequential amendments
Pharmaceutical services in England
23 Pharmaceutical needs assessments
24 New arrangements for entry to pharmaceutical list
25 Pharmaceutical lists - minor amendment
26 Breach of terms of arrangements: notices and penalties
27 LPS schemes: powers of Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities
Pharmaceutical services in Wales
28 Pharmaceutical lists - minor amendment
29 Breach of terms of arrangements: notices and penalties
30 LPS schemes: powers of Local Health Boards
Adult social care
31 Investigation of complaints about privately arranged or funded adult social
Disclosure of information
32 Disclosure of information by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
PART 4 - GENERAL
33 Power to make transitional and consequential provision etc
34 Repeals and revocations
37 Short title
Schedule 1 — Direct payments: minor and consequential amendments
Schedule 2 — De-authorised NHS foundation trusts
Schedule 3 — NHS and other health appointments: suspension
Part 1 — Amendments of enactments
Part 2 — Supplementary
Schedule 4 — Tobacco: minor and consequential amendments
Schedule 5 — Investigation of complaints about privately arranged or
funded adult social care
Part 1 — New Part 3A for the Local Government Act 1974
Part 2 — Minor and consequential amendments
Schedule 6 — Repeals and revocations
A summary of the Bill can be found at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2008-09/health.html
Useful Background can be found in the Explanatory Notes - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldbills/018/en/2009018en.pdf
and the House of Commons Library usually produces a Research Paper (http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_publications_and_archives/research_papers.cfm), though only when the Bill is before the Commons.
The House of Lords briefing Note is available at http://llweb.parliament.uk/Library/content/NotesPapers/Default.aspx