Monday, July 30

Olympic overspend 2012

The (excellent) Taxpayers' Alliance has set up a blog to monitor by how much the Olympic budget overuns will be.

Demands for a Referendum on EU Treaty

If Gordon Brown refuses to hold an EU referendum, the Tories might just back a privately funded poll. That is from William Hague via The Guardian who is looking at an initiative by former minister Lord Young of Graffham.
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If Daniel Hannan is right, though, Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, could also call a referendum on the revamped EU constitution.The SNP, he says, like all the other parties, fought the last election arguing that the EU constitution should not come into effect without a referendum. Salmond could call such a referendum in Scotland, a move that would almost certainly force Brown to do the same on a UK basis.
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Sticking to his manifesto promise would differentiate Salmond pleasingly from the oath-breaking Mr Brown, and would allow his voters a surrogate vote on sovereignty.
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Meanwhile, the British blogosphere is beginning to stir, with three bloggers (in addition to Hannan) carrying pro-referendum stories yesterday: Critical faculty dojo, Martin Curtis and Rachel Joyce.
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Considering how significant a role the internet played in the Dutch and French referendums, it is vital that the British blogosphere pulls its weight and it is good to see that it is beginning to mobilise. Gordon Brown may not be aware of the power of blogs but it looks as though he is about to find out.

Sunday, July 29

The Sunday Quote

''It is perfectly true that government is best which governs least. It is equally true that government is best which provides most.''

Water Lippmann, A Preface to Politics, 1914.





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Friday, July 27

From the Dock

The Hartlepool Mail 27 July 08 -click to enlarge
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Good morning Mr Troy, I am Ian Bradsaw and I shall be prosecuting you today. Thus was the direct yet charming greeting from the CPS Barrister as I arrived at the Hartlepool Magistrate's Court Number 3 last Tuesday.
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The Court's equally charming Usher, who was on his last day at work before his (he said) well earned retirment, told us both that the 'listers' had cleared the court no. 3 caseload (apparently referring as I did in my correspondence to the Justices of the European Court of Human Rights has that affect).

The Case against me for allegedly Speeding early one dark morning last November was dropped before the hearing started once I had explained my defence strategy to the Barrister (all to do with the calibration of the GATSO camera).

The CPS did however, in order extract their 'pound of flesh' prosecute me for not filling in the Notice of Intended Prosecution Form (NIP) despite the fact that I had written to the Chief Constable giving all the information that was needed on the form (together of course with my opinions of the compulsion to fill in the damn form).

After a lengthy exchange lasting some 30 minutes between myself and the Barrister the Magistrates retired only to return to find me guilty and fined me £60 with another £60 costs.
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The leader in today's edition of the Hartlepool Mail (left), missed the point.

However my somewhat robust retort - as is to be expected - to the Editor's letters column re- focussed the issue and will, I very much hope, attract reaction from the good and fair people of Hartlepool:
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The Editor's Comment last Friday's Mail on page 8 somewhat misses the point that was well reported on page 5 regarding my £60 fine (plus costs) for not filling in a Notice of Intended Prosecution. The moral of the story, I argue, is that a stand has to be made against the erosion of peoples rights which are being increasingly eroded by bureaucracy without good reason.

As reported I did provide the Police with the information that they required but not on the form that they sent me. The reason for my protest was that I think that it is unreasonable that motorists that allegedly break the speed limit by a few MPH get less protection in law than that of those accused of very much more serious crimes. I accept that I was obliged by law to supply the information which is why I wrote to the Chief Constable supplying the information required but I did not fill in the police form as a protest, which I maintained in court was lawful.

When I asked the court for a form on which to make an appeal against my conviction last week I am told that there is not one; I have to write a letter. Yet it is an offence to write a letter to the Chief Constable rather that supply the information on a form. What a funny country we now live in.
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Peter Troy -Sedgefield.
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Thursday, July 26

Patientline Petition

From The Northern Echo - 26 July - double click to enlarge.

To sign the petion click the link below.

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End of Week Quote

This week's end of week quote comes from The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. The "executive summary" on a report on VAT.

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VAT missing trader fraud is a large scale criminal attack on the EU VAT system. The most serious form—known as Carousel Fraud—involves a series of contrived transactions, within and beyond the EU to create large unpaid VAT liabilities and fraudulent claims.
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The Department has been tackling missing trader fraud for over six years, yet has failed to stem the flow of tax losses: the fraud has continued to cost the exchequer at least £1 billion a year. In 2005–06, the level of fraud increased to its highest level yet, with the estimated cash loss to the exchequer of between £2 to £3 billion.There are no reliable or comprehensive EU wide estimates of the cost of this fraud because most member states have not produced estimates. The EU Commissioner for Taxation has estimated the annual loss from VAT Fraud across the European Union at £40 billion (€60 billion).
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The Department has introduced a range of legal and operational measures to tackle the fraud. The fraudsters are, however, resourceful and react quickly to such measures. In February 2006, the Government sought from the European Union authority to apply a special measure—the “reverse charge”—derogating from the Sixth VAT Directive for a wide-range of electronic goods, including those currently associated with the fraud, such as mobile phones and computer chips.In principle, once in force, this measure would prevent fraudsters from receiving VAT on the sale of mobile telephones and computer chips and would eliminate the opportunity for the fraud.
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The Council of the European Union approved the derogation on 16 April 2007, but the Council’s decision only allows the Department to apply the “reverse charge” to commerce in mobile phones and computer chips, rather than the wider range of products that the United Kingdom had originally requested. The Government now expects that this narrower measure, combined with other operational interventions, will protect revenue of £50 million in 2007–08.The reverse charge can only be a provisional measure pending a more comprehensive Euwide solution.
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The Commission is in favour of VAT being charged on all intra-community transactions in the country of purchase thereby eliminating VAT free operations and the opportunity for the present type of missing trader fraud. The United Kingdom and some other Member States are not in favour of this system. The Department considers that it would open the way for major new frauds.
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Individual Member States cannot tackle VAT fraud on their own. The Department recognises that it has to work closely with the tax authorities of other member states and third countries, as well as with the accounting, tax and legal professionals to tackle the problem effectively. Ultimately the European Union will have to agree a new legislative framework for administering VAT, if missing trader fraud is to be eliminated in the long term.
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One notes that the Committee says the EU will have to "agree a new legislative framework for administering VAT" in order to eliminate fraud. Since the chances of that happening are precisely nil, VAT fraud is set to continue, another of those EU scandals. The public are simply unable to take on board the huge scale of this fraud and the eye-watering amounts that are being stolen?

Wednesday, July 25

Going Down

By Dr Richard North
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According to The Guardian today – which has published the results of an ICM poll giving Labour a six point lead - David Cameron is losing his appeal to voters. It suggests that many Conservative voters have come to dislike the Tory leader and that he is no longer attracting new support to the party.
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This is accompanied by wailing and gnashing of teeth on the Tory blogs at the lack of press coverage of Cameron's latest adventure in Rwanda, the counterpoint to which is a robust op-ed in The Telegraph from Simon Heffer.
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If it is press coverage the Tories want, it is there aplenty in the reports of Hague's speech on the case for an EU referendum – not least on the front page of the Telegraph, the print edition carrying the headline, "Hague savages Brown over EU".With this, The Mail and The Sun, there are signs that the media is beginning to wake up to the dangers of the EU treaty-to-be, and the enormity of the lie perpetrated by Brown, in pretending that is is not the EU constitution in disguise.
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But, for Cameron , this is the wrong type of publicity. He would have the media gushing over his touchy-feely stunt in Rwanda instead of dealing with real issues.
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Strangely though, it is not in the pages of the print media that the shape of that most pressing of all issues is coalescing. Rather, it is on the BBC website where Ruth Lea confronts Charles Grant on the treaty-to-be.
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Breaking the near monopoly of Open Europe, which has assumed the role of unofficial spokesman for the Eurosceptic cause – despite its limited thinking and lack of strategic understanding – Ruth sets out in just one paragraph nearly the essence of our objections to what the "colleagues" are styling as the "reform" treaty.
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She says:
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''It cannot be emphasised too strongly that, however significant the previous EU treaties were, the Reform Treaty is unique. Once enforced, there will quite simply be no more significant powers left solely with the governments of the member states, and outside the orbit of the EU's formal institutions.''
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This is countered by Charles Grant who utters the standard line, declaring:

''…if the treaty had been blocked, Europe's governments would have had to spend longer discussing treaties and institutions, instead of real issues in the real world. But with the treaty out of the way, Europe's leaders will be free to focus on big challenges like energy security, international terrorism, climate change, illegal immigration, Russian authoritarianism and the Middle East.''
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What, in effect, he is saying – but would never articulate clearly – is that the " EU colleagues" want to take over the reins of government in order to do wondrous things. But, instead of "government", he uses the code word "institutions" to disguise the agenda.
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And that is where Cameron is so lamentably missing – not only from his own constituency, with even Rwandan journalists asking why he had not remained in crisis-hit Witney, which in places has been six feet deep in water, but from the debate on the latest and vital stages of the take-over by the EU of the governments of the member states. Trapped not by rising flood water but by his determination not to "do" Europe, he is now set to be beached by the receding waters of voter interest, as the vacuity of his leadership is finally beginning to hit home.
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The tragedy is that, just as we needed an inspired and determined effort from the Conservatives, we have leader who is going nowhere but down.

Monday, July 23

Petition to reduce Patientline's Charges.


We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to intervene to force Patientline Ltd to reduce the current very high cost of hospital bedside TV viewing and telephone calls to affordable levels for all NHS Patients.
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Patientline Ltd has long term contracts with about 150 Hospital Trusts in the UK. In April the company abolished a reduced rate for NHS Patients over 65 and introduced a basic daily rate of £2.90 per day for TV viewing and an out going bedside call rate of 26p per minuite (with a minimum charge of 40p) in most hospitals. Two 10 minuite calls from a hospital bed cost £5.20. The incomming call rate to sick people is 49p per minute peak time call rate (39p off peak).
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At any one time at least ten per cent of Patientline's bedside units are faulty. Additionally Patientline's products are far too complex for sick people to understand. Patientline are operating a poor service at an expensive rate and are thus creating extra stress on NHS wards.

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''Stealing Government''

Dr Richard North interviewed by John Loeffler - on "Stealing Government by Stealthy Steps". The interview lasts about 34 minutes – listen here, courtesy of Britannia Radio.

Sunday, July 22

Patientline Rate is Sick

Letter published in the Middlesbrough Gazette last week.
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Patientline which has been repeatedly slated by hospital patients and this blog for its high charges, is desperatly attempting last ditch atempts to continue talks with its bankers, which include RBS, HBoS and HSBC.

Patientline, which has terminals next to 72,500 beds in 150 British hospitals, is estimated to be paying around £8m a year in interest after its borrowings soared over the last three years. Patietientline anounced ongoing losses of £7.2 million last month.

In April, as we on this Blog commented on Patientline when the company more than doubled the cost of outgoing call charges from 10p a minute to 26p at some of its hospitals, an unsuccessful move which the company was expected to review after it was dubbed a tax on the sick. Only in a few hospitals did Patientline's ever remote Directors reduce the rate to 20p a minute - though the minimum call rate remains 40p!

Patientline was slammed by all hospital user groups for its charging structure, which included charging 49p a minute for incoming telephone calls, prompting calls for another Ofcom investigation, following a previous one in 2005. At least 10 per cent of Patientline' s bedside units remain faulty at any one time.

The firm appointed turnaround specialists Close Brothers to overhaul the business last November, however their efforts are failinmg (it was an impossible task) and the company, we expect will shortly cease trading.

Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison said last month : "Patientline is paying the price of ripping off vulnerable patients. The fact is if they charged more reasonable prices then more patients might consider using their services."
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We on this blog agree 100 per cent with Unison. Gordon Brown will soon need to order the setting up of non-profofit making trusts in each hospital to continue the Patientline Service for sick people. The Prime Minister had better hurry though Patientline is in intensive care and looking very grim.
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Down Came the Rain (Again)


Huge downpours have effected tens of thousands of people particularly in Worcester and Gloustershire. The largest rescue airlift ever undertaken in Britain is underway this week-end. RAF Sea Kings and Sikorskys were flying repeated sorties, with 52 missions in the Gloucester are alone.
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In the ancient market town of Evesham, many hundreds of businesses have been badly effected in the worst floods in its long history.

Below is a copy of a letter sent today to the Evesham Gazette:

During the early 1980's I worked in Evesham and I retain very fond memories of the historic and beautiful town; which I revisit as often as I can. Through the columns of this newspaper I offer my sympathies to all those who will have suffered damage to their businesses, homes and other property from the effects of the horrendous floods.

Knowing the people of Evesham I have no doubt that they will remain cheerful and soon return to normal.

Peter Troy
Chairman Evesham Chamber of Commerce 1981-83

Booker's Notebook

Highly recomened is Christopher Booker, in his column today in The Sunday Telegraph. Included in the column is a delicious story about the BBC and windfarms.

The Sunday Quote

''If you want to make enemies, try to change something. ''

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), the twenty-eighth President of the United States.

Saturday, July 21

Troubled Tories

Well, today's newpapers are not being very kind, understandably, about David Cameron's Conservative Party. Even the Tory-leaning Daily Telegraph is unable to put much gloss on the debacle with the House pundit, Anthony King, serving up a gloomy prognosis under the headline, "By-elections show Tories lack public confidence".
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Columnist Simon Heffer – predictably – takes a more robust line, his analysis sporting the headline, "Ealing tragedy threatens Project Dave".
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The editorial leader offers little cheer, telling its readers, "The Conservatives need to stop digging", observing, rather mildly, that David Cameron has not succeeded in engineering any "mood-swing" in the Tories' favour so far.
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Our old friend Peter Hitchin, of the Daily Mail, who puts the boot in (rightly so) to Mr Cameron.

Friday, July 20

The End of Week Quote


This weeks end of week quote is from Tory MP, Bob Spink the recently elected Chairman of the Campaign for an Independent Britain, replacing the much admired Lord Stoddart who had stepped down after 23 years in the post.

Mr Spink has tabled an early day motion (EDM) in the House of Commons, broadening out the debate on the BBC to remind members that there are bigger issues at stake than the petty corruption of rigging phone-in contests and the like, thus bringing the reporting of EU issues into the frame. His motion reads:
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''That this House is concerned that the BBC's new Charter, which took full effect from 1st January 2007, has so far failed to change both the perception of the Corporation's bias and its editorial and policy directions; and calls on the BBC's governing body to address these issues frankly and openly, particularly in respect of partiality on issues such as the European Union, and to publish a statement on how it intends to improve public trust in the BBC as a strictly impartial and much valued public service broadcaster.''

Well said Sir.

A Wry Smile

Following the account of the by-election disasters for the Tories at Sedgefield and Ealing on the Tory Diary blog is almost like intruding on private grief. Rarely have we seen such a downbeat note from this site.
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It would be wrong to attribute failure to the Conservative Party. With the hubris that has become a hallmark of David Cameron, voters were asked to mark their ballot papers alongside "David Cameron's Conservatives" at the Ealing By-Election. It was David Cameron's Conservatives which the voters rejected so decisively, with his party being squeezed to third place in Sedgefield, only just ahead of the BNP which was fighting for the first time in Sedgefield.
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With David Cameron now about to fritter his time away in Rwanda, in another of his ghastly, ill-considered PR stunts, he will have plenty of time to think hard and long about how he spins victory from utter, humiliating defeat. He then has the rest of the summer to dream up "the line" for the party faithful at the conference in September, telling them how David Cameron's Conservatives are on their way to government.
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For those of us who have been watching this slow-motion train wreck, this is bad, bad news. As the Tories are the only main Party which is supporting the push for an EU referendum, this further blow to their fading credibility weakens the campaign and makes it less likely that the people will ever be able to vote against this naked attempt to re-introduce the failed EU constitution.
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Gordon Brown can afford a wry smile as he prepares to go off on his hols. A weak, discredited opposition leader is more than he could have hoped for, but it will make for a happy summer for him. For the rest of us, the nightmare continues.
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Sedgfield By-Election Result

Phil Wilson (Lab) 12,528
Greg Stone (LD) 5,572
Graham Robb (C) 4,082
Andrew Spence (BNP) 2,494
Paul Gittins (Ind) 1,885
Toby Horton (UKIP) 536
Chris Haine (Green) 348
Stephen Gash (Eng Dem) 177
Tim Grainger (Ch P) 17
Alan "Howling Laud" Hope (Loony) 147
Norman Scarth (Anti-Crime) 34

Lab maj 6,956

11.06% swing Lab to Lib Dem

Thursday, July 19

'' I Want a Referendum''

Plans are a foot, according to The Telegraph to put our Gordon under pressure, with a cross-party campaign to be launched in September that will personally target Brown for refusing to agree a referendum on the treaty-to-be.
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We are told that, as the party conference season gets under way, an "I Want A Referendum" campaign will be launched with an "eye-catching stunt" and advertising in newspapers and cinemas. At the same time, up to 40 Labour MPs, who might be sympathetic to the cause, are being canvassed for support.
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Also, The Telegraph says, secret negotiations between Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs to create a House of Commons "advisory committee" are in their early stages.
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All jolly good stuff and one can hope it has some success, but we can't help but feel that the "generals" of this putative campaign are (like their military brethren) fighting the last war.
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What nearly succeeded in 1992/3 is not necessarily going to win in 2007/8 when the campaigning environment is very different.The biggest difference, of course, is the growth of the internet – barely in its infancy in the UK in 1992, when even the fax machine was still a novelty for some.
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Now, something like 25 million people have access to the web so there is an easily accessible constituency, a large part of which can be mobilised. Certainly, most commentators agree that the internet played an influential, if not decisive, role in the French and Dutch EU referendums, in both cases the "no" campaigns winning the cyberspace war.
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Now, we have a battle to get a referendum, but techniques learned and honed during the earlier referendum battles should be just as appropriate for this task. For instance, a mass e-mail blitzing of MP's during the treaty debates in the House of Commons, could send a powerful message – so powerful that enough messages could crash the site.
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Equally, the blogs and other sites can be used to build public support for a referendum (and promote on-line petitions), triggering media coverage and building widespread support. And then, the role of the internet in spreading information and campaign tactics is unrivalled; it is a resource that will come into its own as pressure for a referendum builds.
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In the UK, however, there seem to be some differences in the use of the web, compared with other countries, in that the really high-traffic popular sites are often forums rather than blogs or formal websites.
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There, much of the contemporary political discourse is taking place, outside the traditional channels. Many of these forums are not obviously political, and may cover anything from pop music, to fashion and sport, but most have a political section where one can see spirited debate.
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Building a popular movement in support of a referendum, therefore, is going to take a lot more than the same old, same old. The technology is there to be used and "Target Brown" has a nice feel to it. The internet should be harnessed to that challenge.
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The NHS and the EU

By Dr Richard North
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The news of Scarborough heath trust in financial difficulty may be a strictly local affair – with the announcements of 600 job cuts to recover £10 million of the overspend – but, if the EU has its way, the days of the National Health Service being able to determine its own spending priorities are numbered.
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Only yesterday, the EU commission took another step towards creating an EU-wide market in health care, announcing that it was starting infringement proceedings against the UK (and Spain) following the refusal of health authorities fully to refund the costs of urgent hospital treatment received in another member state. This arises from the situation where many health systems in Europe do not cover the full costs of treatment and the users have to top up payments, usually from health insurance. But an anomaly arises for UK citizens who have their treatment provided free at the point of use, as long as they are treated in the UK.
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When they travel abroad and get treatment, there is the facility to reclaim medical expenses but the UK currently reimburses only the amounts that would be repaid by the state in the country where treatment is sought.
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In France, therefore, where for some treatments the state will only cover 20-30 percent of costs, a British traveller will only get the same by way of reimbursement, having to find the difference themselves.
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It is to this practice which the commission objects, arguing on the basis of the earlier Vanbraeckel judgement (Case C-368/98), that the patients specifically seeking treatment in other member state have to be reimbursed at the same rate that they would receive in their home countries.
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In other words, British travellers in France – for instance – would be entitled to recover the full cost of treatment from their own government. Now, the commission argues that this principle should apply when a tourist or anyone else temporarily resident in another member state is in need of urgent hospital care. It is this issue that is the subject of the infringement proceedings.
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Although, in itself, a relatively arcane issue, this follows on the back of other ECJ cases (here and here) which are gradually eroding the ability of health services to control their own spending. If, like Scarborough, a health trust is forced to slow down treatments rates for economy purposes, residents can simply opt to have their treatment in another member state, and the health trust must pay for it. Furthermore, if the commission's infringement proceedings are successful, it will have to cover holiday-makers and expatriates' costs - which would hitherto have been covered by insurance.There is, of course, an argument that this will be beneficial to individual patients, but there is a downside.
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One can see a situation where local health trusts will find it necessary to cut back local services simply to pay the costs of people who travel abroad for treatment. If (or when) when that happens, for good or bad, we will no longer have a National Health Service. The EU will be in control.
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Wednesday, July 18

Under the Clock

William Troy MM - Deputy, States of Jersey 1957 Campaign Advert.

As I read the 6 leaflets posted through my letter box today - making a total of 38 for the by-election period - and digested Chris Lloyd's bye-election review in The Northern Echo (the political editor is renowned for his detailed observations) I concluded that Hustings are not what they were but then a lot of things in the political world are not what they were.

The faulty chimes of the tower clock in Newton Aycliffe market proved a backdrop to the closeing efforts of the candidates and their many supporters and well spun messages in the Sedgefield by-election yesterday.

Once upon a time political campaigning consisted of one simple message no spin and one simple leaflet usually delivered by hand to the voters doorstep by the candidate themselves (see image of my Garandfather above). There would be one lively hustings meeting usually held in a community hall in each constituency. At times of by-elections, in the past, hustings meetings were the focus point of the candidates campaigns and many a political career was made or lost in packed vibrant meetings of local voters.

On Monday night I attended a well organised but poorly attended meeting in the Village Hall in Sedgefield. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) did their best (though notifying the local media would have helped) to fuel proper political debate which was attended by 40 or so, with only one actual local voter, myself !

Some notable comments were made by the three candidates that made the effort to turn up and address the meeting on the stage under an old clock whose hands were frozen at midnight.

UKIP has apparently joined the 'Illegal (Iraq) War' bandwagon; I do not understand how a party that promotes National Sovereignty can reject a unilateral right to go to war. Anyway Toby Horton pointed out that last time he stood for election in Sedgefield (1983) he was pro ''Europe'' and Blair was anti. What a funny old political world.

The Green candidate promoted a basic state communist style citizens allowance payment to all adults regardless of means; apparently they have a team of 10 Economist working on the policy. That will of course mean that 100 different options will be presented to the Green Leadership team. The Green man on the platform made some very unkind comments about the 'engine room' (Businesses) of the UK economy.

Two million calls from the public are unanswered by HM Customs and Revenue per year a union rep told the meeting; strange I thought that so many folk want to talk to a tax person. Perhaps it was a few tenacious tax payers trying to get a rebate.

The Lib Dem candidates trousers and socks appeared to have had an argument judging by their distance apart. Though the 16-1 (William Hill) runner sounded confident and well briefed, clearly a good each way bet.

All three candidates agreed that the constituency was in need of a full time MP; whatever the result it will be a gain to the voters of Sedgefield who in effect have not had a MP for 13 years.

BNP were banned from the meeting (quite rightly so) Labour and Tory Candidate banned themselves (wrongly so). Apparently the Official Loony Candidate got lost which was a pity.

In the Pub afterwards I was asked what I thought about the campaigning I could not resist the retort that ''it could only get better''
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Peter Troy
Sedgefield

Monday, July 16

So why the Fuss ?

The European Council mandate agreed by Tony Blair last month under the guise of bringing forth a new treaty to reform the EU, will re-introduce the key aspects contained in the rejected EU Constitution.

If this agreement comes into force this will lead to the surrendering of a substantial amount of power from Westminster to Brussels. The agreement will, in fact hand over more than twice the number of powers given away at Maastricht in 1993 and over five times the number needed for the creation of the so called Single Market.

Clearly Tony Blair’s red lines were obviously as effective as the Maginot Line.
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From the Editor's Cottage

If points were being awarded for effort the Lib Dem campaign team in the Sedgefield Constituency would be at the top of the list.
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Thirteen distinctive Lib Dem leaflets with prospective MP Greg Stone's mug shot prominently placed add to the carbon foot print of the high profile by-election. The Bright Orange Lib Dem Posters are everywhere some replacing Labour posters which were masterly affixed to telegraph polls and fences in the early days of the campaign.
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Clearly Corporate Bookmakers William Hill are impressed since they have reduced the odds on a Greg Stone being first past the post from 33/1 to 16/1.
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A total of thirty two leaflets have landed my on my cottage door mat in rural Sedgefield during the past three days persuading me to vote Labour or Conservative or Lib Dem or UKIP or for one of the many fringe candidates. Not one candidate has yet ventured up the mile long single track to canvas my rural mostly farming neighbours.

All but the UKIP candidate are focused and mumbling on about the issue of the crumbling 1960's Newton Aycliffe shopping centre; even Labour are accepting that Blair is a part of the problem. Never before has such a dreadful shopping centre had so much press and political attention. One camera team from the USA last Wednesday asked where the nearest restaurant was, I suggested the ancient City of Durham some 25 miles away or if they liked squashed peas and traditional English real ale The Dunn Cow in Sedgfield (15 miles down the road) which once visited by George W Bush.

Labour is on a very sticky neglected wicket with the concrete decaying new town, which is why Labour Candidate Phil Wilson went big on ''Honouring a pit tradition'' last week. He achieved much publicity when he spoke at the unfurling of the Deaf Hill Colliery Banner. Never mind that the Colliery closed 40 years ago or that the new banner was made in far away Suffolk, or that most of the new jobs in the constituency are IT orientated or retail Mr Wilson sounded like a traditional Labour MP; his honouring of Labours traditional values did not fall on deaf ears.

Graham Robb the Conservative candidate was canvassing in the glare of the press photographers with Party Chairman Caroline Spelman. My old friend the Deputy Party Chairman Michael Bates (previously a North East Conservative MP) was raising cane over access to the spanking new high tec Net Park a business centre that according to Mr Blair represents ''the future of Sedgefield and the North East.'' Apparently John Hutton Secretary of State for Business and Enterprise toured the impressive development with the local Labour candidate but when the Conservatives asked to do the same a few days before they were turned down.

Meanwhile Toby Horton, the UKIP candidate and latter day eurorealist was trying to persuade voters that they had a ''once-in-a lifetime opportunity to send a message to the new Prime Minister about the biggest issue of the day''. He states in his literature and in The Northern Echo that Gordon Brown travels to Lisbon in October '' to ratify the deal Tony Blair agreed on the future of European Union just days before he stepped down.''

Toby should know better - the issue is that the British people need to demand a referendum before the UK Parliament ratifies the new treaty at the end of the year once the heads of Government of all 27 EU member states of the 'EU Empire' have agreed the details at their conference in October. The issue is that the people must vote and reject the treaty before the UK Parliament votes for ratification. If the importance of a referendum is not made very clear it should not be any wonder voters will prefer to concern themselves with the state of the local shopping centre rather than by whom and how we are to be governed.

Thus is how candidates now campaign.
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Sunday, July 15

The Global Warming Scam


By Dr Richard North
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No less than three stories in The Sunday Telegraph attest to the simple fact that, despite the warmists' insistence, the global warming debate is far from over.
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The main story points up how much of an industry the scam has become, the paper retailing estimates produced by the Taxpayers' Alliance which suggest that local authorities are paying out £100 million annually "to fund an army of 3,500 workers to tackle climate change", graced with such grand sounding job titles such as "carbon reduction advisors" and "climate change managers".
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Then we get the indomitable Mr Booker, whose column takes on not only the warmists over the recent attempted rebuttal of the research on the sun's role in climate change, but also the BBC – the number one groupies of the disaster theorists.
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Booker's payoff line is, "Far from being settled, this debate is just beginning to get really interesting" and, in this, he gets unexpected support from Dr David Whitehouse, an astronomer, former BBC science correspondent, and the author of The Sun: A Biography.
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In a comment piece headlined: "The truth is, we can't ignore the sun", Whitehouse also takes a tilt at the BBC, calling it "enthusiastically one-sided, sloppy and confused", and condemns it for not including any criticism of the research on the sun's role in global warming.
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Whitehouse too concludes that it is apparent that the last decade shows no warming trend and recent successive annual global temperatures are well within each year's measurement errors. Statistically the world's temperature, he writes, is flat. The world certainly warmed between 1975 and 1998, but in the past 10 years it has not been increasing at the rate it did. No scientist could honestly look at global temperatures over the past decade and see a rising curve. So, he concludes, "look on the BBC and Al Gore with scepticism. A scientist's first allegiance should not be to computer models or political spin but to the data: that shows the science is not settled."
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If I were a "carbon reduction advisor" or a "climate change manager", I would be looking for a new job.

The Sunday Quote

"If you have embraced a creed which appears to be free from the ordinary dirtiness of politics - a creed from which you yourself cannot expect to draw any material advantage - surely that proves that you are in the right? "


George Orwell 1903 -1950

Sign up to Fight the EU Empire

By Christopher Booker

It is some years since my old friend Antony Jay, a co-author of Yes, Minister, called the European Union "an empire without an emperor".
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Last week Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, acknowledged the fact, when he boasted that the EU is now an "empire", of which 27 countries, including Malta, Latvia and Britain, are just satrapies. Mr Barroso was joining in the chorus of rejoicing from political leaders all over the EU, now that nothing can stop them imposing their "constitution by any other name", to make the handover of national power to their new government all but complete.
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Whether the people of Britain (or any other country) are happy to think that they are about to live in a colony of Mr Barroso's empire is not of course something which those leaders want to see put to a popular vote. In this, no one is more determined than our own Prime Minister who, in true Orwellian fashion, proclaims his wish to see more powers given to "Parliament and the people" just when he is surreptitiously planning to hand those powers to someone else. He even glories in the support of those longtime EU fifth-columnists, Kenneth Clarke and Lords Hurd and Heseltine.
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No one should feel more ashamed of such dishonesty than Mr Brown's fellow Labour MPs, every one of whom was elected in 2005 on that solemn promise of a referendum he is now hell-bent on breaking (based on a claim that the new "Not the Constitution" is not the same as the old Constitution - to which almost every other EU leader is giving the lie).
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We have just three months to make Mr Brown honest. As a start, I suggest that every reader who believes in democracy signs the petition on the Downing Street website (http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/EU-treaty-NON) asking for a binding referendum on any and all attempts to resurrect the "constitution".
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In light of the extraordinary deception now being practised on us, it would be sad if Mr Brown, Lord Heseltine and their friends could point to only a pitiful number of signatures as evidence that, having once freed an empire, the British people were now quite happy to live in someone else's.

Saturday, July 14

The War on Flannel

Extraced below is an excellent piece from Peter Hitchens.
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That's my plan for greater security, plodding, banal, boring old police work, getting to know a place and its people, so well that you notice when something is a bit out of the ordinary, listening to gossip that at first seems trivial but may contain the decisive clue. You could be grandiose (like MI5 and the 'security' correspondents who love to belabour us with jargon) and call this 'intelligence'. But I don't care what you call it. I think it would work.
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We agree 100 per cent - Hitchens' piece is highly recomended. Read the full article >

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2007/07/the-great-war-a.html

Friday, July 13

One England

The unelected regional assemblies across England are to be disbaned. These talking shops will at last cease to be a drain on the region’s taxpayers. In the North East of England the unelected assembly will probably be abolished next year.
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Alistair Darling is expected to make the announcment the abolition of the eight regional assemblies that were set up by Labour in 1998 shortly after Tony Blair came to power. The Chancellor will disclose that some of their powers, such as housing and planning, will be transferred to unelected regional development agencies, which are responsible for economic strategy. Others, such as regeneration, may bedevolved to local councils. Regional assemblies, made up of councillors, business and union representatives, have responsibilities over transport, planning, housing and environment strategy across regions.
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This is not to say we have seen the back of regionalisation of course. The English Regional Development Agencies accros the country all with over staffed structures will still be in place each spending hundreds of millions-per-year of taxpayers’ money. Although they will be accountable to local councils, who will now be responsible for planning. The English regions will also have their own Ministers, effectively making the unelected regional assemblies defunct. Of course, some would argue that they already were.
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The Review of Sub-national (a horrible term) Economic Development and Regeneration is set to be published by HM Treasury and the Department for Communities and Local Government next week, and even those who resent the fact that the euro-regions are being retained must at least take some small heart from this step towards scrapping one of John Prescott’s most expensive and undemocratic legacies.
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The Tax Payers Alliance


Recently launched is the new Tax Payers Alliance (TPA) website it has a new layout and improved design. The site now has five themed blogs - Better Government; Economics 101; Burning Our Money; Campaign and Media Coverage - around which everything else is organised. New items in these sections are then linked to on the frontpage as they are uploaded daily. The Homepage will have a selection of news that is relevant every morning and the site deliberately links to news and comment items that one might not see on other sites.

The Tax Payers' Alliance website aims to be one of the top 5 political websites in the UK. Is the Editor involved with the TPA - you can bet he is. Ok the advert is over - go to
www.taxpayersalliance.com -- serious political lobbying with informed pressure which will disturb readers.
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Thursday, July 12

The End of Week Quote

The President of the CBI, no less, introducing David Cameron at a Dinner:

''We begin to ask ourselves, is David Cameron an opportunistic chameleon or a principled politician? Is Cameron PR going to override national interest, common sense or just good old-fashioned Tory principles of lower taxation and lighter regulation?''

Our Listening and Changing Government

Our New Prime Minister Gordon Brown, yesterday introduced a change by driving a common cart and horse through the 150-year-old tradition where the annual legislative programme is revealed only by the Monarch in a speech to parliament on the formal occasion of the annual opening of Parliament.
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Her Majesty arrives at The Palace of Westminster in the Royal State Coach for the State Opening which takes place in November on the first day of the new parliamentary session. The Queen's Speech is delivered by the Queen from the Throne in the House of Lords.
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When revealing the contents of the next round of legislation Gordon 'Change' Brown told MPs that his was a "listening government", outlining a detailed list of proposed legislation and promising to consult Parliament and the public before implementing "his" measures – many of which in fact stem from Brussels diktats which can not be changed regardless of any consultation; a fact that many remain unaware of.

Interestingly, Mr Brown made provision "for region-by-region deliberation and responses", these being Euro-regions, of course. No doubt representatives of the business community and others will be consulted under the management of the regional development authorities as well as the government offices in the 'regions'.

Rest assured we on this Blog will monitor the actuality of the consultation process which serves no other process than to give a reassuring impression of 'listening''. Watch this space over the coming months for the detail of the essential truth of how we are governed.

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Passchendael


Today their Majesties Queen Paola of Belgium and our gracious Queen Elizabeth II will lead solemn commemorations in Passchendaele paying tribute to the 500,000 soldiers who died 90 years ago this year in one of the bloodiest trench warfare battles ever seen.
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Thousands will gather just outside the village of Passchendaele with the Royals and other leaders from Australia, New Zealand and Canada to remember what historians have described as a slaughter of thousands in the Battle of Passchendaele. It was the last of several large battles during World War I that pitted British and Commonwealth soldiers against Germany on the war's western front.
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Their Majesties will lay wreaths at Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest Commonwealth burial site in the world, which is located just a few miles from Passchendaele (known as Passendale in Dutch).
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The Royals and others will also commemorate the 80th anniversary of the famous Menen Gate, located in Ieper, which has 55,000 names of missing soldiers engraved on its walls, soldiers who have no known grave.

The arched limestone gate was erected in 1927 to commemorate the passage from the old city walls where thousands of soldiers marched to the front. It has since then become a renowned war memorial, drawing 200,000 war pilgrims a year to look over its names and participate in the mournful "last post" ceremony, which has been conducted every evening under the gate since 1930.

Dubbed "road to Passiondale" by incoming reinforcements, the Battle of Passchendaele became a symbol of utter destruction and senseless killing in brutal trench warfare carried out in days of endless rain, back and forth volleys of millions of shells creating a cratered landscape littered with dead bodies and flattened villages.

It saw the first use of mustard gas against troops during some of the most intensive trench warfare during the war. Even now, the remains of soldiers, bombs and gas canisters are still dug up every year by farmers plowing the regions fields.

The battle was called to a halt after Canadian reinforcements replaced decimated British, Australian and New Zealand units near Passchendaele and captured the ruined village 10 Nov. 1917.

Lest we forget.

Wednesday, July 11

Patients in Need Petition

A sample of todays post. The photograph is of Petitions from Southmead Hospital in Bristol calling on Patientline to reduce their high prices to NHS patientients.

Many thanks to retired Nursing Sister, June Crowe for her sterling work in co-ordinating the petition.

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Tuesday, July 10

The UN

News from the excellent site UN Watch on the long-expected reform of the UN Human Rights Council.

The first item was to reverse the blacklisting of Cuba and Belarus; which would be quite funny if it were not a global tragedy.

Monday, July 9

Galileo and Her Majesty's Tax Payers

An excellent piece on the EU satellite Galileo in Space Review. "As the old saying goes, 'Why buy a cow when you can get the milk for free?'" writes Taylor Dinerman from the other side of the pond.

From the Farm

We are pleased to re-launch From the Farm with a copy of a letter sent to the former political head of DEFRA David Milliband (now the UK's esteamed Foreign Secretary) from a friend of the Editor's Brother. As far as we are aware no reply has yet been received.
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Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Secretary of State.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
16 May 2007

Dear Secretary of State,
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My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business.

In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy; I am after all only a small business person and I do not want an Inspector to call at my door.
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I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?

As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven't reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.

If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100?

I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised. which will mean about £240,000 for the first year?
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As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases.

Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear? I am also considering the "not milking cows" business, so please send any information you have on that too.
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Please could you also include the current Defra payment policy on single non-farm payment. Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?
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In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits.

I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election and think the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU is great; was it not devised by the French?

Yours faithfully

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Our Changing Democracy

Last week at the dispatch box Gordon Brown referred to two fundamental changes - remember what Mr Brown said on the day he became PM, ''change'' is very much on his agenda.

Regionalisation, which with the political demise of John Prescott, had been kicked into the long grass by Tony Blair has been revived by Gordon Brown whose statement speaks for it self:

''Just as we have appointed ministers for each region of England, I propose that to increase the accountability of local and regional decision-making the House consider creating committees to review the economies and public services of each region - and we will propose a regular question time for regional ministers.''

So there we have it Regionalisation rules OK!

The other Brown 'change' (well planned change to be correct) announced from the dispatch box is a tad more complex but typically crafty.

"I now propose to surrender or limit powers to make for a more open 21st-century British democracy which better serves the British people." So said Gordon Brown referring the exercise of powers under Crown prerogative.

Very importantly tucked into 'the small print ' in the 'change' is the power of the Executive to ratify international treaties without decision by Parliament. This sounds all very well and good, except of course that the main treaties are those to do with the European Union. Those, in effect, are always ratified by Parliament, by virtue of it approving amendments to the European Communities Act, which brings the treaties into force.
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As to the rest, Mr Brown is a little bit out of date. Treaties which require ratification are always ratified by a decision of Parliament and have been since 1924 when what is known as the Ponsonby Rule was introduced.
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The procedure is that they are "laid" before Parliament for 21 sitting days before ratification (or its equivalent) is effected, which is done by means of a Command Paper, accompanied since 1997 by an explanatory memorandum. Approval is taken to be given in the absence of any objections but, if the opposition forwards a formal demand for a debate, time is always given – an undertaking made in 1924 which has been honoured by all governments.
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However, there is an even more substantive issue at stake in Mr Brown's change. In huge areas of international relations, successive governments have given up the right (or power) to make treaties at all, through our membership of the European Union. We cannot, for instance, make trade deals with third countries, or agree terms in WTO negotiations.
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Furthermore, this is set to get worse. If Gordon Brown approves a new treaty which conforms with the "mandate" issued by the European Council on 23 June, it will include a provision for granting the European Union "legal personality". With that, the EU will be able to agree treaties with third parties in its own name, binding on member states, and thereby completely by-passing Parliament. Mr Brown's idea of a changed 21st-Century British democracy, therefore, is one of robbing Parliament of most of its powers.
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This is an areas when an alert leader of the opposition could have excelled. However what did David Cameron say? He told the Prime Minister he was "glad" he was introducing the provision on international treaties. "It has our (the Conservative Party's) full support," he declared. Now, how depressing is that responce ?
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Sunday, July 8

Tea Time With Troy

From the Editor's Tea Table

At a gathering of Business people not so long ago it was commented on that I was ''always going on about the EU''. Well, I was delighted that I was being listened to, if only in part.

The EU has a profound effect on all businesses particularly smaller ones, as indeed I have stated unashamedly many times. Take one fact, from 20th to the 30th June the EU has passed 109 laws that will impact on the UK. All of them in one way or an other will effect the process of business.

The EU has announced more plans, particularly in the field of taxation. The EU is trying to tax Britain's postal services, this will increase costs. The EU is planning to codify its rules which compel the British tax authorities to collect taxes in Britain for other member-states. Furthermore, EU proposals want personal financial information to be shared with other member-states. The EU is also seeking to limit the UK's ability to reduce price of vehicle fuel by increasing the minimum excise on petrol and diesel.
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The European Union is also intending to take control over corporation tax and is standardising taxes by stealth, which despite statements to the country from Brussels includes the eventual intended abolition of Zero VAT rating (VAT is an EU inspired tax) on Children's Cloths, Food, Books, Newspapers and Medication.

QED, what is decided in the EU effects all of us. The Institutions of the EU are a part of our government in the UK. Therefore I shall carry on going on about the EU - it matters. Unfortunately whilst we remain members there is not a lot we can do about any of it but it is important that people particularly business people know how we are governed.
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Flash back, Tea time with Troy on board HMS Trincomalee, 20th September 2005.
Graphics courtesy of Donald Davison, Radio Hartlepool.

Basra - Lest we Forget


A major operation involving 1,000 British troops in Basra is reported in today's report . Continue reading here.

Lest we forget that every day of every week British troops are ingaged in deadly conflict in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Out and about in Sedgfield

From the Editor's Sunday Brunch Table.

Yesterday I was out and about in the Parliamentary Constituency of Sedgefield to experience the campaigning activities of the candidates in the much publicised by-election. Not a Green, English Democrats, Official Monster Raving Loony, Independent or a British National Party (thank goodness for the latters absence) in sight. That is not to say the campaigning teams were about just that I did not see them.
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I did hear the voice (via a megaphone) of the LibDems; but I failed to make eye ball contact. The Liberal Democrats are taking this election very seriously indeed. They have sent the team attributed with engineering their victory in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election to lead the campaign of their candidate Greg Stone. Mr Stone, a councillor in Newcastle, is urging voters to send Labour a message “after years of neglect”.
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Labour faces something of a test in the by-election for Tony Blair’s former seat to head off local anger over the failure to rebuild the constituency’s biggest town centre. A serious mood of revolt is abroad among folk in Newton Aycliffe, a drab early 1960's settlement with a crumbling concrete shopping centre where promises of a new modern town centre have been blocked by rows with developers and Labour Councillors.
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Labour, long time the ruling local party in an area once dominated by coal mining, is hoping the decision to call a snap election will leave too little time for local anger to mobilise around one rival candidate, but try as I might I could not see any sign of the Labour team yesterday, perhaps they are staying under cover except when their are news persons are about
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A former Newton Aycliffe shopkeeper, Paul Gittins, is standing as an Independent in the by-election. The high profile individual has already commenced his campaign in the press if not yet on the door step.
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The Conservatives, with just one council seat in Sedgefield, have a weaker base but their candidate, Graham Robb, a public relations man, is also focusing on the failure to regenerate Newton Aycliffe town centre, proposing a public-private company is set up to rebuild it.
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All the campaigners apart from the Labour team threatens to embarrass Mr Blair with suggestions that he neglected his constituency during his ten years as Prime Minister.
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Even the Labour candidate concedes Blair's neglect of the constituency is a factor in this election. “It is pointless saying there is not a problem because there is,” Mr Wilson told The Times on Thursday as he knocked on doors of council houses in the ex-mining village of Ferryhill; in the full gaze of the press. “To be fair to Tony, he has been pulling people together on this for the last few months. People’s frustration was starting to show with himself as well. What I want to do now is take up the cudgels and sort this out.”

The prize for the most high profile candidate on Saturday goes to Toby Horton the UKIP candidate who was quite literally flying the flag for the cause of leaving the EU. An issue, incidentally, that Tony Blair supported back in 1983 when he was first elected as 31 year old MP.

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This Blog will give daily reports on the Sedgefield by-election. Journalists - particularly from overseas who require local briefings should contact the Editor on: 01740 629433.

The Great Double Deception


By Chrstopher Booker

Many people must have rubbed their eyes in disbelief at Gordon Brown's statement to MPs last Tuesday when, in announcing his new "constitutional settlement", he promised to give "more power to Parliament and the British people" on the onehand while, on the other, ruling out a referendum on the new EU treaty - which would take away a lot more power from Parliament and the British people.
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The layers of spin and deceit that surround this wretched EU treaty are soconvoluted that it takes some working out to disentangle the contradictions, U-turns and straight lies it has come to involve. The fundamental problem is that the EU's leaders are determined to foist on thepeoples of Europe the final components of a supranational government, as agreedin their constitution, without giving the peoples of Europe any say in the matter.
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Ever since the constitution was rejected by the people of France and Holland, they have been trying to find a way of smuggling it back in, by pretending itwas something else.What they cleverly came up with last month was a document which looked very different and much shorter. But this was only because the original version,scrapping all the earlier treaties, reincorporated them in the new constitution.
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The new document simply leaves the old treaties on the table, but adds asamendments to them all the new bits included in the constitution, such as givingthe EU a full-time president and granting it a mass of other new powers.
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Apart from a few cosmetic changes, such as changing "Foreign Minister" to "HighRepresentative", and leaving out the flag and the anthem (which the EU has hadsince 1986 anyway), the net result is precisely what the French and the Dutch rejected in 2005.
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Many Continental politicians have been quite happy to admit the facts. As Luxemburg'sprime minister Jean-Claude Juncker put it, the new treaty contains "99 per cent"of what was in the old "Constitution for Europe".But their hope is that, because the list of amendments making up the newdocument look so impenetrable, they can be slipped through without the people noticing.
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One of Mr Brown's excuses for not having a referendum was that the new treatydoesn't give away as many powers as Maastricht, on which there was noreferendum, But up then pops his new Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to blurtout that it in fact gives away much more power than Maastricht.
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Mr Brown's other excuse was that Britain has held onto all its "red lines", suchas being given an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights. But up jumps the EU's former justice commissioner, Antonio Vittorini, and agaggle of lawyers to point out that this is nonsense. A cross-reference in thetreaty shows that Britain is just as much subject to the charter as anyone else.
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The title of the EU's Foreign Minister may have been changed, on Tony Blair's insistence, to High Representative, but he is still being given new powers to decide EU (i e our) foreign policy which Jack Straw, when foreign secretary,described as "simply unacceptable".
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As the think-tank Open Europe and others have pointed out, it is trulyastonishing that Mr Brown should begin his premiership, while promising to be"open" with the British people, with a deceit so shameless as to make his predecessor look like an honest man.
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It is made even more remarkable by the fact Mr Brown should do this in the veryweek when he was ordering that ournational flag should be flown on every government building. The British people should not just be rubbing their eyes in disbelief at Mr Brown's behaviour: they should be shouting with anger.
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