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The man with the best job in government, and maybe the country

Friday, October 30, 2009
is Ben Bradshaw.

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what (a) meetings he has had with representatives of (i) his Department's sponsored bodies and (ii) outside organisations or individuals and (b) events he has attended in his capacity as Secretary of State since June 2009

He's been to Bayreuth, an Ashes Test match, Wimbledon and goodly number of plays, operas, gallery openings etc.

He has also been to something called 'Bigga Fish', which a quick google throws up as 'Showcasing the finest talent in UK Funky House and Grime'.  Just Ben's thing, I'm sure.  He's also been to 'the Opening of Corby swimming pool' and '2009 PM's Better Public Building Award and British Construction Industry awards', so it's not all beer and skittles.

On his website, Bradshaw describes his interests thus:  'His principle (sic) hobbies include hiking in Devon and Cornwall, going to the theatre, and spending time with his godchildren'.


Unexpected statistic o' the day

From Hansard:

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many civil partnerships have been celebrated in British consulates. 

Chris Bryant: Since the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act on 18 November 2004, 487 civil partnerships have been registered at British consulates overseas. The following table provides information on the countries where British consulates can register civil partnerships and the number registered since the introduction of the Act.

Australia is far in the lead, which is not a huge surprise, but Vietnam's strong showing came as a bit of a shock.


Just what is it with socialists and rubbish?

I ask, because of this:

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of its targets for recycling waste each London borough achieved in (a) 2006-07 and (b) 2007-08.

Dan Norris: For the period in question, local authorities had one statutory recycling target consisting of two parts: Best Value Performance Indicators (BVPIs) 82a (household dry recycling rate) and 82b (household composting rate). 

Norris gave the figures, which I have played around with, and the two councils with the worst track record of rubbish production are Labour controlled Tower Hamlets and Newham, with recycling rates of  13% and 14%.  So presumably the other 87/86 % goes to landfill or wherever.    Top of the class are Bexley and Harrow at 42% and 40%.  Guess which party runs the show there.

Anyway, matching recycling rates to council control in 2008 (taken from here), the chart looks like this:

It would be utterly remiss of me not to note that Islington is only 18th out of 33.
Put another way, here is the recycling rate by party, plus the City and the perennially popular 'No Overall Control':



Logo watch. Or it would be if the EU could get its act together

Straight from EuPravda:

In two months, Sweden will hand over the EU Presidency to Spain. Today, 29 October, Spain, together with the following Presidency holders, Belgium and Hungary, presented its Presidency logo.

Be still my pounding heart.

And I can't see the logo because three blokes in suits are in the way.

However, help would appear to be at hand:

"At a press briefing in Brussels on Thursday, the leaders of Spain, Belgium and Hungary presented their shared logo for the coming 18-month period in the Presidency seat in the Council of the EU....They presented a shared logo and a new standard for the Presidency website address, which better emphasises the trio cooperation. The three Presidency website addresses will be trio.es, trio.be and trio.hu. In a month’s time the trio will present their shared work programme for the coming year and a half".

Here's Trio.es:

Nice, huh?

And Trio.be:

Well, at least there are signs of something having been registered.

And Trio.hu:

Although not named, I reckoned that maybe there would a trio.eu site  And if you enter that address, something happens.  And what that thing that happens is is that one is redirected to trio.cz, which would appear to be either a workwear retailer or a SFW fetish site for people who like seeing pretty girls dressed up like construction workers.  Anyway, here it is:

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Interesting map o' the day

Thursday, October 29, 2009
France's Protestants:

Taken from an Ifop poll.  Ther headline finding is that Protestants make up 2.2% of the French population, including former prime ministers Lionel Jospin and Michel Rocard  No idea why the map has ignored Corsica....  The land of my Huguenot forebears is pretty well protestantrein, so to speak.

Politically French Protestants are more likely than the norm to shun the extreme left, apart from the Greens, and lean towards the wet right / MoDem and Gaullism.

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EU weirdness o' the day

Words almost fail me:

Back to the EUTube description:

"Self-confident, "emancipated" chickens on a farm do not want to be rushed to lay their eggs. They know it takes time to produce a good quality, tasty egg".

That would seem to suggest the imputation of conscious thought and reasoning to chickens, and furthermore that they wish to have their eggs eatern.  Very rum indeed. 

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Just the thing for today's thrusting young executive

Behold, 'the environmentally friendly bag for businessmen from Croatia...to be exhibited in London.

The "Tkanica" ethno bag made by weavers from the "Tkanica" association of weavers from Knin, Sibenik- Knin County will be presented at the handicrafts exhibition at Croatian embassy to London from 9 – 12 November'.

Are you ready for this?

(Apologies for the lousy photo

Erm, not very FTSE 100, is it?

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The 2009 Hansard trawl, featuring a very expensive smoking shelter, the parsimony of the Welsh Office and Glenys Kinnock bigging up the UN.

How much does a glorified bus shelter cost?

Mr. Hoban: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how much the smoking shelter constructed between Norman Shaw North and Portcullis House is expected to cost. 

Nick Harvey: The smoking shelter is forecast to cost £49,000.

Good grief.  A company here is knocking out its 'premier smoking shelter' at £3,160.75 ex VAT.  Having checked, it would appear that one cannot buy a one bedroomed house anyway in these islands for 49 large, but I imagine quite a sizeable mobile home or caravan could be had.  Furthermore, by the time the shelter has been finished, smoking will be illegal anyway.  Probably.  

Special pleading department:

Lindsay Roy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with the insurance industry on reducing the cost of travel insurance for  (a) older people and  (b) older people with health problems. 

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Treasury Ministers and officials have discussions with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government’s practice to provide details of all such representations.

Reckon he is hacked off at how much he paid this year?  He's 60.   *Amazingly* enough, Roy does not have an actuarial background.

Moving swiftly on...

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what events in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) overseas territories took place on 24 October 2009 to celebrate United Nations Day. 

And they pulled out all the stops, as will  be seen:

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is not informed of all events commemorating UN day across the UK or in the Overseas Territories. However, to mark UN Day 2009, my noble Friend Baroness Kinnock, FCO Minister for the UN, will host a reception for members of the UN Association-UK’s young professionals network at the FCO on 28 October 2009. The reception will give young professionals from across the vocational spectrum the opportunity to hear about the ways in which the UK supports the work of the UN. Baroness Kinnock has also paid tribute to the UN and its staff by posting a message on the FCO website.
I bet Ban Ki-Moon is chuffed to bits about that.  The message is here. I've skimmed it for you, so do not bother - it really isn't worth the effort.

On not being invited to the office Christmas party:

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many Christmas functions arranged by his Department (a) he and (b) officials of his Department (i) hosted and (ii) attended in 2008; what the cost to the public purse was; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hain: My predecessor the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) hosted one Christmas function at a cost of £1,054.05. Officials did not attend this reception.

I'm sure the peons at the Welsh Office really appreciated that. 

Something I will be keeping an eye open for:

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the Prime Minister’s Answer of 14 October 2009, Official Report, column 204, what steps he plans to take to assess the implications of the injunction obtained in the High Court by Trafigura in the case listed as (1) RJW (2) SJW-and-(1) The Guardian (2) Persons unknown for (a) parliamentary privilege, (b) investigative reporting and (c) legislative safeguards for whistleblowers. 

Mr. Straw: I have asked senior officials at the Ministry of Justice to meet representatives of the national press and to consult the judiciary to assess the situation. I will then consider the situation in the light of these discussions and will make a statement in due course.

Oh aye.

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The 1909 Hansard Trawl - featuring a plug for a chocolate company, the disloyalty of Jersey and the successes of the government's drug pushing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Back to 100 years ago, with not a lot having happened in 1959.


Opium Consumption (Eastern Bengal and Assam) or 'God damn the Pusher Man':

Sir HERBERT ROBERTS asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that the quantity of opium consumed in the Assam districts of the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam rose from 1,299 maunds in 1904–5 to 1,417 maunds in 1906–7, or an increase of about 9 per cent. in three years; whether the revenue derived by the Government from the sale of opium in these districts in 1906–7 represented 62 per cent. of the total Excise revenue

The Secretary of State is aware that the consumption of opium in the Assam Valley districts has increased of recent years. The figures in maunds are: 1,825 in 1904–5, 1,330 in 1905–6, 1,431 in 1906–7, 1,560 in 1907–8. Later figures are not available. In 1906–7 71 per cent. of the gross Excise revenue in these districts was derived from opium, and in 1907–8 70 per cent. With a view to restrict consumption the number of shops has been reduced from 690 in 1904–5 to 445 in 1908–9, and the price of opium has been raised from 1st April, 1909.
 And someone who does not have the best interests of the revenue at heart:

Sir H Cotton - Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the preceding six years, when I had the honour of administering the Province, there was practically no increase in consumption at all?
As to maunds, well I've heard of dime bags, 8ths, wraps and so forth, but that is new to me.  It is about 82.28 pounds, apparently.

Some rather grim stats:

Mauritius and Federated Malay States (Indentured Labourers).

Sir HENRY COTTON asked the Under-Secretary if he could state the rate per thousand of mortality among Indian indentured labourers in Ceylon, Mauritius, the Straits Settlements, the Federated Malay States, British Guiana, Jamaica, the Fiji Islands, and Natal during the year 1908; and whether the attention of the Commission inquiring into the conditions of Indian indentured labour in the Colonies has been drawn to this question, with special reference to the death rate in the Federated Malay States and other places?

Colonel SEELY There are no indentured labourers in Ceylon. As to Mauritius, where the death rate on estates (presumably including indentured immigrants) is said to be 37.6 per 1,000...British Guiana 19.5 per 1,000, Jamaica 16.4 per 1,000, Fiji 20.5 per 1,000, Natal 16.82 per 1,000.

So a circa 4% fatality rate, presumably per year in Mauritius.   

Gratuitous plug o' the day, in a question about tarrifs on imported chocolate:

Mr. ROWLAND HUNT (Ludlow, Con) Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Messrs. Cadbury have boasted for years that their workpeople work under the very best conditions of labour?

Mr. CHURCHILL I have heard that frequently asserted, and I believe it is perfectly true.

History does not record whether Hunt was taking the chocolate baron's (chocolate?) silver.

Liberals for corporate punishment:

Mr. J. WARD  Are we to understand from the answer of the right hon. Gentleman that guardians can indiscriminately flog boys under their control?

Mr. BURNS Guardians cannot indiscriminately punish boys under their control, but they stand in almost parental relationship to some of these children. There are some children who, in the judgment of the guardians, want correcting. I know I did when I was a boy.

Burns was not pining for his public school, by the way, as he 'declar[ed] to the Commons in a speech in 1901: "I am not ashamed to say that I am the son of a washerwoman". Source.

Unless she was a very successful washerwoman, of course.

Those scoundrels in Jersey:

Mr. MOLTENO asked the hon. Member for South Somerset, as representing the President of the Board of Agriculture, whether representations have been made to the States of Jersey in connection with the embargo placed upon potatoes coming from the United Kingdom with a view to its removal?

Sir E. STRACHEY Yes, we are in communication with the States of Jersey on this subject.

Loathsome behaviour.

The Pusher Man re-appears:

Sir HENRY COTTON asked the Under-Secretary of State for India what were the exports of Indian opium to China during each of the years 1904–5, 1905–6, 1906–7, 1907–8, and 1908–9; and what were the exports to the Straits Settlements and to the Federated Malay States during the same periods?....
1908-9 52,758 chests to China, 11,174 Straits Settlements.

Let's say China and Malaysia have seen population rise in lock step,  China had a population some 47 times that of the SS, so that's a lot of opium pipes per head in the latter.

More fun with stats: Motor Cars Imported into the United Kingdom.

Mr. TYSON WILSON asked the President of the Board of Trade if he can give the number and value of the motor cars imported into this country from France during the years 1906, 1907, and 1908?

Mr. CHURCHILL The following statement gives the information desired by my hon. Friend:—

Statement showing the number and value of complete motor cars imported into the United Kingdom consigned to this country from France in 1906, 1907, and 1908 - 4,174,  3,613, 3,175.

And here's a 1907 Panhard-Levassor.  Nice, eh:

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*Shock* poll finding o' the day

From across the channel, naturellement.

The nice people at IFOP have been polling French farmers as to their political leanings.  Go on, have a guess which way they swing.  Or at least how they swung in 2007:

Being a helpful sort of chap I have ringed the far left's candidates in red.  So, with the exception of the Asterix-moustached Bove - admittedly a farmer, of sorts - and the Green's Voynet, all of the far left fared far worse with the fermiers than with the French overall. Royal's showing was dismal - 10% of famers compared to a quarter of the overall population.  As for the second round, that went 73% Sarko, 27% Sego.  The French went 53/47.

Jaws up from the floor yet?

Dairy farmers were wonderfully sound - 82% / 18% for Sarko.  However, the laurels go to farmers with 100 hectares or more - 88/12.  Meanwhile, back at the present day, Sarko attracts the support of 56% of farmers compared to 39% of Gauls overall.  Elsewhere, 38% want the death penalty back, compared to 40% overall  

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Logo watch, or a £24,315 game of spot the difference for the DCMS

From today's Hansard:
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what methodology was used to reach the decision to refresh his Department's logo in April 2006; which (a) Ministers and (b) officials were involved in that process; and what steps have been taken to monitor the effectiveness of the refreshment.

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Department decided there was a need for a brand refresh as non-specialist audiences did not recognise our logo and it did not clearly communicate our role. Creative solutions were required to address issues around brand recognition, explaining the responsibilities of the department, and to ensure visual consistency across all applications....
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what expenditure his Department incurred in refreshing its logo in April 2006.
Mr. Sutcliffe: The costs were as follows:
    Initial design concepts: £3,055
    Identity design development: £10,460
    Identity guidelines: £10,800
    Total: £24,315.
Mr. Sanders:To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how his Department assesses value for money achieved in the consistency and distinctiveness of its communications.
Mr. Sutcliffe: Value for money is achieved by using consistent design templates wherever possible, for communications material based on the DCMS brand guidelines in order to reduce design costs.
Due to limited budgets, the Department does not have resources for any wider evaluation.

Right.  Here is the old logo:


I retrieved this via the good offices of the internet archive and the wayback machine - this being atop the DCMS's page on 1/1/2006.  

And today, Culture.gov.uk looks like this:

I am uncertain as to whether that skin crawler of a mission statement (As opposed to all of those non-skin crawler mission statements...) should be read as part of the logo.  Amazing they resisted the temptation to add 'and to boldly go where no man has gone before', frankly.  I have looked at 2007 and 2008, and that guff appears with the logo on some front pages, but not all.

Fans of the more heraldic approach might prefer the original:

Does what it says on the tin, doesn't it?

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Mildly amusing protocol non-compliance o' the day

A staggeringly dull Hansard today, and this is all I have found thus far:

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the government of Turkey on its non-compliance with the Ankara Protocol; and if he will make a statement. 

Chris Bryant: Ministers and officials across Government have frequent contact with Turkish counterparts on all aspects of Turkey's EU accession process, including discussion of the Additional Ankara Protocol, where we urge Turkey to take forward its implementation. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did so most recently with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on 25 September 2009.

Fancy having a protocol named for one's nation's capital and then not complying with it.  Apart from sounding like an airport bestseller, the Ankara Protocol would appear to involve our Turkish chums opening up ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus.   

Elsewhere, this:

Lady Hermon: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the names are of the members of the Prime Minister's working group on the Presbyterian Mutual Society.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: The Ministerial Working Group on the Presbyterian Mutual Society is chaired by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The other members are: the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, the First Minister for Northern Ireland, the Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland, the Minister for Finance and Personnel Northern Ireland and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Northern Ireland.

Well, the Kirk is Presbytarian, so Broon is quite a relevant chairman.  Liam Byrne's religious affiliation has not lept out at me, but I think I can guess...  Ian Pearson - who has the excellent middle name of Phares, with this by far the most interesting thing about him - does not wear is allegiance on his sleeve either.  Peter Robinson is NOT a Presbytarian but rather a Pentecostalist.  Yes, really.  Martin McGuinness - well, you work it out.   And last but not least, Arlene Foster is a DUP bod, so presumably a Prod of some description.  So, were I a Presbytarian and of a paranoid disposition, I might question the credentials of the working group.

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A brief 2009 Hansard trawl - featuring welsh bashing (not by me), and multiple proofs that not only are we governed by philistines, but we are philistines too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Just how long is a piece a string?:

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what criteria his Department uses to determine whether to mark anniversaries of cultural and sporting events in the UK's national history.

Mr. Sutcliffe: We do not have set criteria to determine whether to mark sporting and cultural anniversaries.

This was a follow up to Simpson discovering that all that is being done to mark the 400th anniversary of the first publication of the King James Bible - one of the cornerstones not only of our language but of our culture - is that a copy will be exhibited at the British Library.  Well whoopee do. 

Toby Ellwood opts to speak for England, as it were:

Mr. Ellwood:  To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport pursuant to the answer of 16 October 2009,  Official Report, columns 1144W, on licensing laws: languages, in how many languages tests relating to obtaining a personal licence for the retail sale of alcohol can be taken in; and if he will amend his Department's criteria for accredited personal licence course providers to stipulate that examinations must be taken in English.

Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 22 October 2009]: Accredited licence course providers decide what languages tests can be taken in. I have no plans to make it a requirement that exams be taken in English only, not least as this would be contrary to the Department’s Welsh language policy

Given that Welsh has a greater claim to being an indigenous language to these islands than English, I'm on Sutcliffe's side here.  Ellwood represents the less than Cambrian seat of Bournemouth East.  I doubt that he has lodged the question because the landlord of his local looks non-plussed if he orders 'a half of light ale and a sweet sherry for my good lady', being a monoglot welsh speaker.

The English may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes

Or perhaps not.

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what estimate his Department has made of the number of adults who have (a) participated in musical activity and (b) attended a music event in each region in each of the last five years.

Mr. Simon: The information is as follows:

And lo, and indeed, behold, it has dropped from 14.7% to 12.8%.   In my own fair city it has dumped from 17.6% to 12.8%.  Given that this probably includes singing in the shower, one must note what a sterling job the DCMS is doing, eh?

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To the hills, to the hills - the Vikings are coming. Ish.

From that perennial source of interesting things, English language Swedish daily, The Local (Thanks folks):

Sweden should consider joining its Nordic neighbours in forming a five-country federation in order to increase the region’s weight on the international stage, a Swedish historian proposes.

A union between the five Nordic countries – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland – would give them a seat at big international gatherings, writes social scientist, historian, and author Gunnar Wetterberg...

In proposing the creation of a Nordic 'bloc of ice', Wetterberg suggests that Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II would be the union’s obvious leader, drawing parallels between the Kalmar Union, which united Sweden, Denmark, and Norway from 1397 to 1523 and was governed by the Danish Queen Margareta. 

The Union of Kalmar looked rather like this:

Note that our Scandiwegian friends held both the Orkneys and the Shetlands at the time, so that would stuff Scotland's oil-based dreams in a fairly big way. 

Were I Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, or come to that, Harald V of Norway, I'd be a bit miffed that the Danes get the catbird seat.  However, if memory serves, Queen Margareta has the distinction of having translated Camus into Danish, which makes her rather more of an intellectual than the average crowned head.

Our doughty social historian has spotted a few holes in his plan, however:

"He admits, however, that language might be a problem. “One solution would be to have all students learn another Nordic language from the start, in addition to their mother tongue,” he proposes. He believes that a unified Nordic region is completely realistic, “not least because of Swedish arrogance has subsided in recent decades”.

Erm, can't say I was aware of that.

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Is 'The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention' imperilled?

Monday, October 26, 2009
This one:

"In his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas L. Friedman proposed The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, observing that no two countries with a McDonald's franchise had ever gone to war with one another, a version of the democratic peace theory. Shortly after the book was published, the NATO bombing of Serbia proved the theory wrong, though in a later edition Friedman argued that this exception proved the rule: the war ended quickly, he argued, partly because the Serbian population did not want to lose their place in a global system "symbolised by McDonald's".

I've also heard it said that as NATO itself does not have a Maitre D's, the theory should stand as not disproven.

Anyway, Iceland is about to lose its two McDonalds as they import all the raw materials from Germany, and the fall of the Icelandic Crown has made it uneconomic.

So, Cod War II, here we come?

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The 1959 Hansard Trawl - featuring some bizarre claims about Basildon and 'the inevitable advance of mankind towards Socialism'.

Someone (Edward Gardner) loved some of the less lovely parts of Essex:

"Billericay is the most remarkable constituency in the country. There is nothing quite like it. Certainly, if the speed with which its election result was announced is to be a test, Billericay is the most advanced constituency in the country. It is a fascinating division, a microcosm of Britain, where the new is pressing hard upon the old—too hard, some people think, for in places like Pitsea, Vange and Laindon many watch nervously as the new town of Basildon stretches out towards them. The benefits of Basildon for those people are not always apparent or appreciated.
None the less, Basildon is an exciting new town where the wide windows of modern factories overlook green fields, a town of contemporary designs and primary colours, and, more important, prosperous industries. It all began ten years ago. Now it is a very fine place to live in, and I believe that the sooner we drop the prefix "new" the better. As striking as the freshness of its architecture is the friendliness and vitality of its people".

The link to Basildon on chavtowns is here.

An ace slap down by Harold MacMillan:

Conservatism, as I understand it and have seen it develop over the years, has never meant a negative policy of keeping things as they are. Indeed, if that had been our approach to the problems 72 of this century, we should still be in opposition, or perhaps a small, dwindling party, like the Jacobite Party in the eighteenth century.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)  Or the Tory Party in Scotland today.

The Prime Minister Even in Scotland we polled more votes than hon. Gentlemen opposite. They should get one of their statisticians to help them. 

How things change....

And behold the exciting bills tabled for the session:

I am sure that hon. Members will feel that their time is profitably used when they consider our schemes for the improvement of horticultural marketing; our Measures for penal reform; our Measures to deal with the problem of juvenile crime; or when they are asked to consider the law relating to building societies and the protection of those who lend their savings to them. For Scotland, the Mental Health Bill, which is the counterpart of the Bill introduced for England and Wales last Session, will be brought in.

Be still my beating heart.

And this:

In Europe, one of our immediate tasks is to consider not merely the economic but the political problems of Europe today. We have always feared that if economic unity is impaired this will ultimately produce political divisions which could be a source of weakness to the free world. We welcome the Treaty of Rome, and are anxious that it should succeed. We want to work as closely as possible with the Treaty of Rome Powers to achieve greater European unity and prosperity.

Meanwhile, as hon. Members know, we have been seeking, with our partners in the Stockholm Group, to provide a new basis for achieving a bridge between the Six and the rest of Western Europe. I hope that a convention establishing a European Free Trade Association between the seven members of the Stockholm Group will be achieved within a month or two. This Association will be viable in itself. It should open up excellent prospects for exporters in the seven countries.

Sounds like an excellent idea, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, this:

"Sir Thomas Moore  (Ayr) I now find myself, I understand, in the position of being the deputy Father of the House and, therefore, I should like to take this opportunity of adding my congratulations to those which have already been offered so felicitously from the other benches to the mover and seconder of the reply to the Address.

I was particularly pleased to find in the Gracious Speech that there was no mention of nationalisation and I am glad that the Prime Minister happily expressed that in his concluding remarks. I thought that after the General Election nationalisation, as an issue, was dead, and that it would certainly no longer be a controversial matter between us. Now, to my intense surprise, it has reared its ugly head again...When nationalisation was first introduced by the Labour Party I felt no very strong opposition to it, and for one very good reason. For about half a century it had been offered by the Labour Party, held out as a sort of panacea, as the cure for all industrial ills and, indeed, many social ones, too. Therefore, I felt that the people would not be satisfied until it had been given a fair trial. However, I believed that the policy should, so to speak, be restricted to the services in our social system. I did not think that it should be adapted to the competitive industries of the country. At the same time, I realised that coal was a sick industry at the time—indeed, it has been for years—and, therefore, that it might be worth while to take the risk with coal as well.

If only it had been.

Quote o' the year?

Mr. Mallalieu The facts show just the opposite. Nationalisation has been singularly successful wherever it has been tried in this country, and there are outstanding examples abroad in the motor industry, where two firms which are completely nationalised are sweeping the world, Renault and Volkswagen.

Horace King did not like the PM's speech:

As I listened to him, I felt that his speech, like the Gracious Speech, reflected the confidence—natural enough—of the Conservative Party. It reflected that pride in the inner self for which the Greeks had a word of sinister connotation—hubris—pride could go no further. An American Secretary once said: "What's good for General Motors is good for America." The Prime Minister has persuaded the majority of the electorate that what is good for the Stock Exchange is good for Britain.

The last line sounds about right to me...

And more of the same:

Underneath the complacent words of the Queen's Speech remains the basic purpose of the Government—to resist what I believe to be the inevitable advance of mankind towards Socialism"

Rather delightfully King lived to 1986, so he would have seen much of his life's work fail dismally.

Shame he did not live to see one the last century's greatest Babylons fall:

"Nationalisation in the Soviet Union can hardly be regarded as a failure when State planning has sent the first rocket to the moon, produced today dramatic photographs for the first time in the world's history of the other side of the moon, talks tomorrow of damming the Bering Strait and altering the whole of the climate of the Arctic".

A valid point on social housing:

Sir O. Prior-Palmer The hon. Member for Itchen also mentioned council houses. There is one thing that could be done in this respect, and I think that I shall get the hon. Gentleman's agreement about it. Why do not some of the local councils take much stronger steps to remove from council houses people on a higher income level who have no right to occupy them at all? It is really a disgrace to see, as I did recently, a Jaguar car standing outside a council house. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because the house is intended for a person in the lower income group who cannot afford a Jaguar. A man who can afford a Jaguar can also afford either to buy his own house or to pay a higher rent.

I have argued for council rents to be linked to income before, but cannot find the reference as google's blog search is playing up.  Gah.

And what about this for getting cut off at one's ankles:

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton) Despite all that has been said today, the main problem facing the majority of people in this country—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.

Lipton did not like the Bay City Rollers, apparently.

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Man of the month

Given that I have only just spotted this and it was from the 21st, I am upgrading Richard Tracey AM (Con, Wandsworth & Merton) from Man of the Week to Man of the Month.  Support for the award of this much sought after award is canvassed on the basis of this press release:

"Richard Tracey called for Olympic organisers to oppose the imposition of an Olympic Route Network on London during the 2012 Games".

He is referring to what a friend calls 'Zil Lanes' - if the IOC has its way, great swathes of the City's roads will be closed to all but Olympic traffic, so those toerags can flit between the West End and Stratford without the risk of being inconvenienced by the likes of traffic.

“I believe the Mayor, Government and LOCOG should dig their heels in to get a realistic plan. We simply cannot have a city of London’s size and importance potentially brought to a standstill while Olympic officials, media types and sponsors swan about town in exclusive lanes and everyone else is in a jam.

“We must remember that one of the reasons London won the bid to host the 2012 Games was because of its transport infrastructure – in particular the seven-minute journey time from St Pancras to the Olympic Park by high-speed Javelin train. It seems odd that the very people who thought it so good aren’t actually prepared to use it themselves.”

And a resounding hear hear from me.  Of course I would like the entire wretched event to be cancelled, but dreams do not always come true, although given what the far sighted government of Singapore did in 1974, hope springs eternal.

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The long awaited Barrowgate Road update

Earlier in the month I noted the exciting tale of the Great Chiswick Pavement Dispute of 1909.


Dr. RUTHERFORD (Lib, Brentford) asked the President of the Local Government Board whether his attention has been called to the fact that the Chiswick Urban District Council paved Barrowgate-road in 1901, subsequently took legal proceedings against one of two frontagers who refused to pay their apportionments, abandoned these proceedings, and then in the middle of the night of 20th May, 1909, tore up 300 to 400 feet of paving stones fronting the premises of the person against whom they started legal proceedings; and whether he proposes to hold a public inquiry into this expenditure of public money on legal proceedings and in regard to this destruction of public property?

Mr. BURNS I have received a Memorial on this subject from some of the ratepayers of the district. It is not one, however, with respect to which I am empowered to direct an inquiry at the present time. The only jurisdiction I should have in the matter would be on an appeal from the decision of the auditor as to the legality or otherwise of the expenditure incurred. It will be competent for any ratepayer to raise this question before the auditor at the audit of the accounts in which the expenditure is charged.

I threatened a pilgrimage, and having secured the services of  a trusty Chiswick dragoman / sherpa (opinions differ as to precise status) I can now provide a field report, complete with photographic evidence:

 So, the proof of the pilgrimage:

And the pavement itself:

It is rather a nice spot of real estate, and having walked from one of the road to the other, can spot neither a blue plaque commemorating this event nor any sizeable gaps in the paving.  Most of it is paved as per the evidence above, with outbreaks of tarmac.  I feel that local historians are letting the side down, frankly.

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Remainders of the Day

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Spotted this earlier - price cut from $15 to £2.99. Having skimmed it, the author does not seem to like us very much.  The sub-heading, far from legible, I will concede, is '101 ways that England ruined the world'.

More on the book at Wikipedia.


Fun with /that/ transmission of Question Time

Doubtless this is all over the web already, but it was new to me:

Thanks to Mr R's other half for putting it on Facebook.  Cheers Karen.


Just for a change, a 2009 Hansard trawl, in which the WTF Award is inaugurated, and Kaufmann is made to look foolish.

Friday, October 23, 2009
At the risk of being coarse, I nominate this for 'The Inaugural WTF O' The Day' Award:

From, who else, Andrew Rosindell:

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his NATO counterparts on the involvement of young people in the UK in NATO activities.

What is a young person these days?  Anyone under 18?  If so, I believe the forces still recruit 16-18 year olds, so one might argue that dodging the Taliban in Helmand counts as getting involved "in NATO activities".  That notwithstanding,  my mind is still boggling.

Short and not very sweet:

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will bring forward proposals to hold a referendum on UK ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon; and if he will make a statement. 
Chris Bryant: No.

The Commons discusses Uganda.  Although with out much comedy, alas:

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications of UK policy towards Uganda of any discovery of new oilfields in that country.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Oil companies operating in Uganda have announced significant new discoveries this year in the Albertine Rift Valley region in Western Uganda. [etc]

Gerald Kaufman is made to l.ook foolish, always a happy thing:

Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when he plans to reply to the letter dated 22 July 2009 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton concerning Ms G. Hine. 
Mr. Bradshaw: A response was sent on 8 September 2009.
Of sleaze, troughing and the like:

Norman Baker: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how many hon. Members have returned monies to the House in respect of expenses claims; and how much has been repaid in each such case. [295069]  
Nick Harvey: From 1 April to 21 October 2009, 260 Members and former Members made repayments of sums received as allowances totalling some £637,000.

And the killer point:

Norman Baker: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what estimate has been made of the cost to the public purse of Sir Thomas Legg’s analysis of hon. Members’ expenses claims.

Nick Harvey: The review is expected to cost approximately £1.1 million.

So after all that, we would have been better off, financially, if whistles had not been blown.   Great.

And another odd one:

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many helplines his Department operates; and how much his Department has received from the operation of such helplines in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: The provision of helplines is determined at local level in accordance with individual business requirements and obtained directly from the supplier. Records of such helplines are not held centrally and information relating to them, including any revenue accrued, could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

I will imagine a conversation:

"Hello, Ministry of Defence"
"Erm, hello, I need defending.  Could you send an aircraft carrier to 22 Acacia Avenue, Sidcup, please?"
"It's on its way sir".

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The place to be

Is Dinosaur, Colorado.  Check out the awesome street names:

A link to the map is here.  I know a number of people, not all with ages in single figures, who would sell their souls for the ability to give out 13 Tyrannosaurus Street as an address.


The 1909 Hansard Trawl - with Posties, a menace to the people of Stockport and electoral malpractice in West Belfast

Thursday, October 22, 2009
Thin pickings today, alas.

Behold the long arm of the law, dealing with the menace of unlicensed saw sharpeners:

Mr. TYSON WILSON asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been called to the action of the Stockport magistrates, who, on the 4th instant, fined a man named Mark Hope 5s. for following his occupation of a saw sharpener without having a licence; and, if not, whether he will make inquiries into the case with the object of remitting the fine?

Mr. GLADSTONE I have made inquiry in the case, but find no ground for advising a remission of the sentence. The man, though warned, persisted in acting as a pedlar without having a licence. He had ample means to pay for the licence, which costs only 5s.

I am sure the burghers of Stockport (twinned with Beziers, by the way) were really grateful for being rid of this menae to the commonweal.

Yet more horrors from across the Irish Sea:

Mr. DEVLIN asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether his attention has been called to the statement made by Mr. W. J. Johnston, barrister-at-law, revising barrister for Belfast, in the Belfast Revision Court, on Monday, 4th October, to the effect that the question of rates in connection with the franchise plays an important part in Belfast; that since the commencement of the revision he had acquired a judicial knowledge of the fact that hundreds of voters in West Belfast, who otherwise would be entitled to the franchise, had lost their votes on account of the non-payment of rates; that this result happened through agents or landlords wrongly returning to the corporation as vacant houses that are in reality occupied by tenants; that in this way large sums of money are lost to the ratepayers, and a large number of citizens deprived of their political and civic rights

Now that's low.

Mr. BIRRELL My attention has been called to the statement in question, and I have communicated with Mr. Johnston on the subject. He informs me that the statements are based upon the evidence which came before him in the various cases during the course of the revision, but that it would not be possible for him now to furnish the names of the persons disfranchised for non-payment of rates or of the landlords and agents concerned. It It is presumed that the mention in the question of wrong returns by landlords and agents as to houses being vacant which are not so in fact, refers to returns made in pursuance of requisitions delivered under the ninth Section of the Representation of the People Act, 1884. If so, I am advised that the delivery of such false returns would be a failure to comply with the requisition to fill up the forms accurately, and that the person so offending would be liable to the penalties specified in the section to be recovered on summary conviction.

Indeed.  Makes a change from the shenanigans one normally associates with the electoral roll in West Belfast.

And in the best traditions of contrived linkage of past events with contemporary ones, turbulent posties.  Ish.

Mr. STEADMAN  asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the fact that a scale of wages to govern the electric light employés in his Department has been submitted by the executive of the association to which the men belong, he is in a position to signify his acceptance of the rates; and, if not, will he state the grounds upon which his objection to the rates is based?


Mr. BUXTON  The Select Committee on Post Office Servants recommended (paragraph 598 of Report) that, as regards the electric light staff, the Post Office should pay the wages and observe the conditions of service which are from time to time agreed upon in the various districts by the organised masters and men. Inquiries on the subject are proceeding, and I hope the matter will soon be settled.

Thrilling stuff.

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Tony Blair in 'ignoring his grandmother's dying wish' shocker.

Yes, really.  As this video at The Washington Post proves:

I've only watched the first ten seconds or so, so maybe there are some other gems there. Apologies for the less than relevant commercial at the start.


The UN talks space

Which are the countries which matter when it comes to space activity?  The US of A, Russia, China, India, Japan and France/ EU.  By my reckoning, and broadly backed up here.

And which countries decided that they had something to add to the UN's debate on 'international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space'?

This rather motley crew:

Sweden (for the EU), Pakistan, St Lucia (yes, really), Uruguay, Thailand, Cuba, Kazakhstan, India, Syria, Sudan, China, Colombia, Philippines, Libya, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, and Indonesia.
None of the comments are of any great quality, interest, so I will swear off quoting them, bar this nice piece of DPRK logic:

"The action taken in the Security Council against his country was a clear indication that the Council was not only “devoid of democracy”, but was also “beyond its limit” in pursuing double standards and partiality, he said.  The United States, claiming that the launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a “ballistic missile” launch for a military purpose, had tabled the issue in the Security Council.  In fact, the country that had launched most satellites so far, and which possessed more than 400 space objects for both military and civil uses in outer space, was the United States.  Following the United States’ logic, the first country to face the condemnation and sanctions should be none other than the United States itself.  

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What women want. Apparently.

In what might be a handy aide memoire for all we confused chaps out there, TNS-Sofres has polled women on what they want.  Granted, it is French women, and those 20-29 (a bit young for a greybeard like me, but quand meme).

So, here goes:

Note less than a third opt for shopping as one of their top five activities, and going to the hairdresser, manicurist etc appeals to less than a quarter.

Self-image is a bit of a problem, in that none of the panel answered 'very beautiful' to the question, 'when you look in the mirror, how do you look most of the time?'  11% managed 'beautiful', 52% 'really not too bad', 31% 'not terrible', 3% 'ugly' and 3% shun mirrors all together.

I'm not going to blog the contents of P12 as it is a long way from being PG, but answers to impertinent questions on la vie amoureuse are there.  Given that 4% of pollees refused to answer the questions as to what they thought their contemporaries got up to, judge quite how SFW or otherwise it is.

Should a reade be seeking to employ a Frenchwoman, pay is the key thing (60%), followed by working environment (58%), followed by 'interesting work' (38%).  And only 35% will sacrifice their personal lives for business success.  So, not so many Faustettes out there.

Elsewhere, three cheers for the 24% who regard spending money on going out as the leading spending priority.  And 22% think that fashion is 'idiotic'.  Take that Coco Chanel.

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The 1909 Hansard Trawl - featuring naval flogging, seditious Patialans, and no job for the Prince of Wales

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I am not one for bashing bankers / ancilliary workers, but it has to be admitted that some of them break the law from time to time, so how about this as a way of dealing with miscreants:

Canton-Kaulung Railway (Trial of Accountant).

Mr. GINNELL asked if the hon. Gentleman would inform the House of the result of the trial of the chief British accountant of the Canton-Kaulung Railway on a charge of embezzlement?

Mr. McKINNON WOOD According to telegrams in the Press the accused has been sentenced to two years' hard labour, but I have no official information on the subject at present.

Might work with expenses fiddling MPs too.

Moby Dick surfaces and lets forth a blast from his blow hole:

Burning of Whale Stations (Norway).

Mr. CATHCART WASON  asked when the whale stations in the north of Norway were burned down by the fishermen and what was the reason adduced, and when the Act prohibiting landing of whales in Norway was passed by the Storthing?

Mr. McKINNON WOOD  I have no information in regard to the first part of the hon. Member's question. As regards the second part, paragraph I of the Norwegian Law of 7th January, 1904, prohibits the landing of whales in the provinces of Nordland, Tromso, and Finmarken. (
That's the entire upper half of the country.  C) This Act was passed by the Storthing on 11th December, 1903, and came into force on 1st February, 1904.

Mr. CATHCART WASON In view of the fact that whale stations were burned down in Norway, will the hon. Gentleman obtain the information that I ask for, namely, any particulars he can get with regard to the occurrence?

Mr. McKINNON WOOD  I cannot make a promise on the subject, but I will consider the matter.

Curious, no?

The Irish Constabulary falls under the watchful eyes of Mr Lynch:

Kinlea Police Hut.

Mr. ARTHUR LYNCH asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he can state, with regard to the Kinlea police hut, the cost of erection of the hut, the rent, if anything, paid to James Griffin, J.P., the total annual cost of the maintenance of the police stationed there, including their pay and all incidental expenses?

The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell) The erection of the police but cost £122, and the cost of the maintenance of the police there amounts in round figures to £485 a year. A rent of one shilling a year is paid to Mr. Griffin for the site.

Doubtless Griffin celebrated rent day by buying something nice for his significant other.

Sedition.  In Patiala....

Mr. REES  asked whether the Secretary of State for India has any information which he can impart to the House regarding the steps taken by the Maharaja of Patiala to stamp out sedition in his State?

The MASTER of ELIBANK The Secretary of State has no official information on this subject, but he expects to be furnished with a report in due course. When it is received I will communicate with my hon. Friend.

A bit of sniffing around suggests that the seditious of Patiala were probably Sikhs.

Our friend the Master paints a poor picture of the Plain People of India here:

If the hon. Member will allow me, I will quote two or three lines from the Report, and at the same time I regret to have to refer to certain characteristics of the Indian people:— Neither do the Commission forget that much may be said in excuse for the misconduct of the police in the generally indifferent attitude of the people in respect of crime; in the encouragement of corruption by the readiness with which the people offer illegal gratifications; and in the low pay and poor prospects of tihe police service. 
 And a nice coda to that:

Mr. LUPTON May I ask as to his remark about the character of the Indian people whether other people would not be liable to corrupt influences when they are willing to be corrupted?

Mr. SPEAKER That is a general question on which hon. Members can form their own opinion.


And I bet answering this one would be quite an ask these days:

Foreign Firms in United Kingdom (Capital).

Mr. CECIL HARMSWORTH (on behalf of Mr. Hooper) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he could inform the House of the number of foreign firms or companies carrying on business within the United Kingdom; and whether he could give an estimate of the capital employed therein?

The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr Tennant)   I have been asked by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department to answer the question of the hon. Member. There is no information in the possession of the Board of Trade as to the number of foreign firms carrying on business in this country. The number of foreign companies incorporated outside the United Kingdom (including Colonial companies) which have established a place of business in the United Kingdom and have effected registration with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies is 889. I am, however, unable to give the hon. Member an estimate of the capital employed by such foreign companies in the United Kingdom.

The things ministers have to put up with:

Mr. ARTHUR LYNCH asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has been recently promoted to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. McKenna) The reply is in the negative

 It was Sir Gerard Henry Uctred Noel GCB, KCMG, as any fule no.

More Hibernian fun and games:

Inspectors of Musical Instruction in Ireland (Religions Views).

Captain CRAIG  asked the Chief Secretary whether he can state the reasons why the recent appointments of organising inspector of musical instruction and assistant organising inspector of musical instruction under the Commissioners of National Education, Ireland, were not thrown open to competition by examination so as to give all the teachers under the Commissioners of National Education an equal opportunity of competing; whether applicants for the position were required to state their religious views; and, if so, for what reason?

Mr. BIRRELL I am informed by the Commissioners of National. Education that the appointments in question were advertised in the public Press, and that it was open to any national teacher who felt qualified for either position to apply for it. The Commissioners consider that the course pursued by them in the selection of candidates secures the appointment of the most suitable officers. All candidates for appointments under the Board are required to give particulars as to their age, qualifications, and religious denomination, the information being required for administrative purposes.

Captain CRAIG What is the necessity for stating one's religious views in connection with the teaching of music?

Mr. BIRRELL For administrative purposes it is stated that in Ireland it is sometimes desirable to know. These things, to me, I confess, are inexplicable.

Captain CRAIGWill the right hon. Gentleman in future confine these appointments to those under the administration of the Board, so as to encourage a teacher to qualify for such examinations?

Mr. BIRRELL I will communicate that to the Commissioners of National Education.

Captain CRAIG It would be much appreciated.

At this stage I will relate the antique anecdote of an Ulsterman in  a Boston bar who when asked to sing something Irish sang 'The Sash'.  To great acclaim, apparently.  I'm with Craig on this one, by the way.  


Long, but worth the read.  Honest
Mr Claude Hay....The Bill proposes to amend the Naval Discipline Act, 1884, and I would like to know why they have not proposed to remove what I consider as the biggest blot in that Act, namely, the provision with regard to flogging. I do not propose at this stage to discuss the case for or against flogging. Flogging was abolished in the Army in the early eighties, thanks very largely to the efforts of Mr. Parnell and the Irish party.

§ Although the provisions with regard to flogging still remain in the Naval Discipline Act, it has been suspended for a considerable number of years. It has been so suspended, not by Act of Parliament, but merely by Admiralty Regulation. There is no security or guarantee whatever that the regulation may not be withdrawn to-morrow by a stroke of the pen. If it has been abolished in the Army I should like to know why the opportunity of this measure has not been taken to abolish it in the Navy as well. Is the Navy more criminal than the Army? Why are the sailors of this Empire to be subjected to a degradation to which the soldiers in the Army are not subjected? I should like to ask the Minister in charge of the Bill what is the justification for the retention of these Clauses in the Naval Discipline Act? Why is flogging retained in it as a legal punishment? Is the liability to flogging to which sailors are subject a good recruiting argument for the Navy? You are building more "Dreadnoughts" at the present time. You will want men to man them, and I do not believe that the fact that you deliberately reserve the right to flog these men will help you to man those ships.

I am presently reading 'The Floating Republic', an account of the 1797 Nore and Spithead mutinies, and am frankly shocked that flogging was extant in 1909 

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Something to spice up tomorrow's Question Time

Those nice people at Paddy Power (1) have me on their political betting press release list, and this release is quite good, so I am taking it to a narrower audience:

"The appearance of BNP leader Nick Griffin on this week’s Question Time has turned the weekly political debate into one of the most talked about programmes of the year, prompting punters to speculate on who might walk out first during the highly-charged show.
Bookie Paddy Power is offering 11/10 that playwright Bonnie Greer is the first to walk off during the show with Baroness Warsi at 5/4. Justice Secretary Jack Straw is 6/1 with Griffin himself 8/1 and host David Dimbleby 50/1.
Paddy Power have also released a number of other bets on the show, offering 7/4 that BNP leader Nick Griffin is directly called a racist by the normally affable host David Dimbleby and 3/1 that any of the other panelists raise a cheer by throwing their glass of water over Griffin. However the publicity being generated for the show looks likely to give the BBC some bumper viewing figures. Paddy Power are offering just 8/15 that Question Time beats it’s record of 3.8 million viewers set in the wake of the MP expenses scandal last May, whilst it’s 2/1 to top 5 million.
One thing for certain is the show won’t be without controversy and the bookie is also betting on the number of complaints the BBC will receive, offering 6/1 for less than 1000 and 11/10 for more than 5000.

I suspect I will not be able to resist watching QT tonight tomorrow although I rarely bother these days as there is too much grandstanding, use of pointless 'civilian' panel members and generally too much heat and not enough light. 


(1) I use Betfair - better odds, plus there is the scope for laying as well as betting.  If Betfair want to drop some money in my account for the gratuitous plug, it would help to make up for the  money I've dropped on West Ham over the last few weeks.

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DPRK not bottom of the class for press freedom. Apparently

"Reporters Without Borders...today...issued its eighth annual world press freedom index".

Which is nice.  And at the top of the table are Denmark, Finland, Irland (sic), Norway and Sweden with scores of zero.

And how is the list compiled?

"Reporters Without Borders compiles the index every year on the basis of questionnaires that are completed by hundreds of journalists and media experts around the world".

And that is the bit that makes me suspicious, and causes me to wonder about the accusations of the liberal bias claimed for the American media in particular - "The United States has climbed 20 places in the rankings, from 40th to 20th, in just one year. Barack Obama’s election as president and the fact that he has a less hawkish approach than his predecessor have had a lot to do with this".

Erm, has anyone noticed that the annulment of the 1st amendment by Bush the Younger (/sarcasm) has been abrogated by everyone's favourite Nobel laureate, or might it be more the case that happy journos are more likely to give positive responses to questions?  The questionnaire is here.

Elsewhere, we are joint 20th with our Uncle Sam and Luxembourg at 4.00, bettering Jamaica at 4.75, but worsted by Canada at 3.70.  Bottom of the heap are Burma, Iran, Turkmenistan, the DPRK and Eritrea, all at 100+.  

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Our French chums get something right

This is on the outside wall of the Mayor's Office in my Ma's village in France:

I have not been able to find a full translation (1) anywhere, and lack the energy to do one myself, but if I say it is the equivalent of 'We will fight them on the beaches' that will convey the idea.  Does anyone think there is a municipality in these parts that would greet visitors with our equivalent?

(1) It does not look to follow the exact text of either the 18/6 address or the 22/6 address.

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A brief 1909 Hansard trawl

Monday, October 19, 2009
Let us start by discussing Uganda....

Mr. GINNELL asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether a thoroughly responsible British contracting firm, at the initiation of the Uganda Railway Company, offered to construct it efficiently in accordance with specifications for £3,800 per mile, or £2,500,000 for the whole; whether its construction under the control of the Crown Agents had cost £9,504 per mile, being £6,250,000 for the whole; and whether the Crown Agents have any explanation of this cost other than a comparison with other railways constructed under their own control on the same departmental system?

Sounds horribly possible, doesn't it?

But apparently not:

Colonel SEELY In 1891–2 a reconnaissance survey for the Uganda Railway was made for the Government by four officers of the Royal Engineers; and the estimated cost of the line, based on this preliminary survey, was given as £2,240,000. In a letter dated the 8th of April, 1895, Messrs. Pauling offered to construct and equip the line against a cash payment of £2,240,000, but this offer was declined, as its acceptance would have involved the complete surrender by Government of all control in regard to either materials or construction... The total cost of the railway has been about £5,500,000.

And cutting to the chase:

Mr. J. D. REES May I ask whether in creases in estimates of this character have not been usual in railway enterprise in Africa?

Colonel SEELY There have been several cases of the kind, no doubt.


Who fancies school dinners during the hols?

Feeding School Children (Christmas Vacation).

Mr. W. THORNE (Lab - and trying to nationalise food...) asked the President of the Board of Education if he has seen the Report of the Gorton education committee under the Provision of Meals Act, which states that, out of 181 children examined before and after the midsummer vacation, 108 lost 275 pounds in weight, or an average of 2.594; and whether he is prepared to recommend to the various school care committees under the Provision of Meals Act that necessitous children be fed during the Christmas vacation?

Mr. TREVELYAN  The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. So far as the second part of the question is concerned, it would appear from answers recently given by my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board to questions asked by my hon. Friend that some doubt exists as to the legality of the expenditure of money by a local education authority under Section 3 of the Education (Provision of Meals) Act, 1906, in feeding school children during the holidays. Apart from the legal aspect of the case, the Board would not consider it desirable to make recommendations as to the action to be taken under the Act by local education authorities or their committees, as it appears to them that the question is essentially one to be determined locally.

The Speaker lays down the law:

Mr. WEIR (Who had been asking about agricultural instruction in the Highlands)  An opportunity will arise later of having this matter discussed, and I will avail of it in order to have it brought forward and gone into.

Mr. SPEAKER The hon. Gentleman must not make a speech at Question time. He must limit himself to asking questions.

Mr. WEIR It is not my desire to make a speech. I will take the earliest opportunity of calling attention to the matter.

Mr. SPEAKER That should be stated at the correct time, but not at Question time. Question time is meant for questions.

The lousy 'phone service in Sunderland.  Allegedly.

Mr. SUMMERBELL asked the Postmaster-General, in regard to the alleged neglect of telephone line repairs in Sunderland, if he is aware that there are from 20 to 30 line faults each morning in the town and district; and, if so, whether he is prepared to take action with a view to preventing reductions in the staff at that town?

Mr. SYDNEY BUXTONI am informed that the statement on which my hon. Friend's question is based is much exaggerated, and I am assured by the National Telephone Company that no reduction of their staff has been made or is contemplated which would impair the efficiency of the telephone plant at Sunderland
Chinese Opium Merchant's Imprisonment.

Mr. LAIDLAW asked if a representation was made by his Majesty's Consul-General at Canton to the Chinese authorities for the release of a Chinese opium merchant, imprisoned in connection with the new opium regulations; if so, at whose request; what was the result; and did his action have the approval of the Foreign Office?

Sir E. GREY  I have received a Report stating that a representation was made by the Acting British Consul-General at Canton, pointing out that the arrest and imprisonment of a Canton dealer of the wholesale trade by the Opium Bureau contravened the assurances given by the Chinese Government that the regulations would not interfere with the opium trade.

Makes you proud to be British, doesn't it?

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