Tag Archives: environment

Home Office staff take government to court with concerns ‘culture of fear’ is illegal

Minister for inhumanity: Priti Patel’s “Hostile Environment” policies have involved Home Office staff in illegal activities in the past. Now she is being challenged in court to prove her plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda is not also against the law.

10 years after the launch of the ‘Hostile Environment’ policy, representatives of Home Office staff are challenging the government in court over things they are being asked to do.

The Public and Commercial Services Union and the Immigration Services Union are challenging Priti Patel’s policies to “pushback” small boats in the English Channel and to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda.

They have strong justification: the “pushback” policy is likely to break international law on asylum while the idea of deportations to Rwanda copies a previous policy by Israel – that didn’t work and was abandoned.

And the Conservative government has a record of “Hostile Environment” criminality.

We all know – don’t we? – about the Windrush Scandal that illegally targeted for deportation a generation of people who had the right to live in the UK but whose documentation had been destroyed.

The Home Office has also wrongly accused 34,000 international students of cheating in English language tests and failed to ensure that innocent people were not wrongly deported.

An Institute for Public Policy Research report in 2020 concluded the hostile environment policy had fostered racism, pushed people into destitution, wrongly targeted people who were living in the UK legally, and had “severely harmed the reputation of the Home Office”.

In the wake of the Windrush scandal the Home Office committed to introduce a total transformation of the department, including a review of the hostile environment policies – and failed to complete it.

So it should be no surprise that civil service representatives are trying to protect workers from having to take part in Priti Patel’s potential crimes.

One glance at comments on the “Hostile Environment” policy by Nazek Ramdan, the director of the charity Migrant Voice, should make the reason crystal clear:

“Perhaps no other policy in living memory has left such a malign mark, a stain like an oil slick. It is racist, xenophobic, immoral, illegal, unfair, punishing, divisive, mean-spirited, discriminatory and counterproductive.”

Source: Home Office staff worry they may be asked to act illegally in ‘culture of fear’

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Septic Starmer’s new policies attack nurses and teachers – like a toxic Tory

Apt: Keir Starmer reckons he was named after original Labour leader Hardie – but can anyone doubt that his illustrious forerunner might have said these words, if confronted with evidence of Starmer’s determination to destroy the party he helped to found.

Keir Starmer has, it seems, provided ample further evidence that he is deliberately trying to destroy the Labour Party from within.

According to Skwawkbox, Starmer’s Labour would freeze the pay of teachers and nurses.

The claim follows comments by Tory Michael Fabricant that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak should be excused their criminal lawbreaking (and dishonesty, in Johnson’s case) in attending the infamous Downing Street parties.

He said he knew of nurses and teachers who went for a quiet drink in staff rooms after shifts during lockdown.

According to the BBC,

Teaching leaders criticised the comments as “deeply insulting”… The RCN said it wanted to formally complain.

RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen criticised the MP’s comments and said nurses and nursing support staff would, after finishing well past the end of their shifts, “get home, clean their uniforms, shower and collapse into bed” rather than “have a quiet one in the staff room”.

“It is utterly demoralising – and factually incorrect – to hear you suggest that our diligent, safety critical profession, can reasonably be compared to any elected official breaking the law, at any time,”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said in a letter to the education secretary Mr Fabricant’s suggestion was “wholly inaccurate and deeply insulting” to teachers as a profession.

Mr Fabricant’s comments were “as insulting as they are offensive”, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said.

And now it seems Starmer is in full agreement with the Tory (again) and determined to stick the knife into teachers and nurses too.

Other policies announced by Starmer, according to Skwawkbox, include:

  • Protecting non doms – Labour wants to ‘reform’ the system that allows hugely-wealthy foreigners to live tax-free in the UK, just as the Tories are already planning to do. Is this because Starmer is still scrabbling around for donations to save his nigh-on-bankrupt party?
  • And arresting environmental campaigners and people who go on strike to defend their rights from removal by government.

If this is true, then it validates that great Left thinker Noam Chomsky’s assertion that Starmer’s Labour is “Thatcher-lite” and there’s no difference between his so-called “Opposition” and the hated Boris Johnson Tory government – an administration that fits all the qualifications to be described as Fascist.

And this is interesting. Only days ago, on Facebook, several commenters vociferously objected after I suggested that voters should boycott Labour in the May 5 local elections in order to engineer a change in that party’s direction before Starmer gives Boris Johnson an even bigger Parliamentary majority at the next general election.

Considering the implications of this – and of what it means about future policies from Starmer’s toxic team – I wonder if those people are ready to change their minds?

Source: Starmer finally announces 3 policies – like toxic buses all arriving at once – SKWAWKBOX

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Gove slams criticism of ‘ungenerous’ scheme that only helps refugees IF YOU KNOW THEIR NAME

Michael Gove: This Site has better pictures but the Spitting Image dummy’s cheeks look like what he was talking in the House of Commons.

Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove had a rather spectacular meltdown in the House of Commons when he attacked critics of the government’s new Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

This Writer recalls there were a few allegations about him flirting with a certain white powder a while ago. Based on this performance, one has to question whether the claim was accurate.

He banged on the Dispatch Box, he strutted up and down the Chamber, he wagged his fingers around in aimless gestures, and as for his language… “Chuck it?” Really?

Let’s have a look at that “ungenerous” claim.

Under the new scheme, people who wish to offer a rent-free space in their home or a separate residence, for at least six months, can register their interest online.

Each household housing a refugee will be offered £350 a month, tax-free. They will not be expected to provide food and living expenses but can choose to offer this.

But they can only sponsor a Ukrainian national to receive an entry visa into the UK if they already know the individual by name.

Bearing in mind that 43,800 people signed up for the scheme in its first five hours, I wonder whether they all have that kind of connection with people from the eastern European country.

Time will tell but people are already having their say about Gove’s outburst – and it hasn’t been complimentary:

(Gove was probably referring to a claim that the “hostile environment” policy was made possible because a Labour Home Secretary (Alan Johnson?) authorised the destruction of many documents proving that people of the so-called Windrush Generation (for example) had a right of residence in the UK. The documents were destroyed during the term of his successor, Theresa May, though.

May went on to coin the term in a 2012 speech: “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants.” So it is her policy – Conservative policy.

The last point is very good: the accusations aren’t that the UK isn’t generous but that the Conservative government running it isn’t.

The UK’s citizens didn’t create the conditions under which Windrush people were thrown out, and they didn’t create the conditions in which Ukrainian refugees are being refused entry.

A Tory government is – one that contained Michael Gove in some capacity.

He’s got a lot of cheek, coming out with that.

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On eve of COP26 conference, Tories endorse dumping sewage in rivers

Here’s an angry public figure: Feargal Sharkey was the singer of The Undertones and The Assembly before having a career as a solo performer – and he is now an environmental campaigner against the pollution of British rivers. He knows his stuff.

Here’s what made the dumping possible:

The Tory government had previously given polluters the green light to dump risky sewage that has not been properly cleaned into rivers and the sea, after it turned out that Brexit had closed the UK’s borders to chemicals that are used to treat effluent.

The Environment Agency said companies struggling to get hold of the chemicals would be allowed to “discharge effluent without meeting the conditions” of their permits, which normally require water to be treated by a multi-step process.

Companies should “resume use of chemicals to treat effluent as soon as is practicable”, the agency said.

But now it seems the government has reneged on this demand. According to Evolve Politics,

Lords Amendment 45 to the Environment Bill would have placed a legal duty on water companies in England and Wales “to make improvements to their sewerage systems and demonstrate progressive reductions in the harm caused by discharges of untreated sewage.

Treating raw sewage costs money – and many have speculated that privatised water companies are simply dumping it into our waterways in order to make bigger profits.

Despite the horrendous environmental impact of the disgusting practice, shortly before the vote, the Conservative Environment Secretary George Eustace recommended to his fellow MPs that they should reject it.

And, owing largely to the government’s 80 seat majority, the amendment was indeed defeated – by a margin of 268 MPs to 204.

You can see how your MP voted on the amendment here.

There has been a lot of speculation about the Tories’ reasons for blocking the amendment. For example:

Others have suggested the possibility that MPs have shares in the polluting companies and hope to make a fortune on the cash saved by not cleaning the water before dumping it.

Whatever the reason, the optics (as they are known) are terrible, right before the big COP26 climate change summit.

Boris Johnson is on record as having said he wants the UK to be the “cleanest, greenest” country; instead, he’s sending his lieutenant, Alok Sharma, to host the climate conference in one of the world’s major water polluters.

If either of them try to claim the moral high ground on the environment, the hypocrisy will sink them – hopefully, beneath a wave of their own effluent.

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Why would Johnson apologise for ‘mine closure’ comments? He wanted to offend you

Great minds think alike: I was going to put together an image with the caption “Johnson is the pits” but someone got there before me – the Mirror, by the look of it.

The worst part of Boris Johnson’s comments on pit closures is not their crass insensitivity – it is the clearly-stated intention behind them.

Even the Tory-supporting BBC couldn’t hold back from commenting that “He is reported to have laughed and told reporters: ‘I thought that would get you going.'”

He had said:

“Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, who closed so many coal mines across the country, we had a big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether.”

He wanted to cause offence with his claim that Margaret Thatcher helped the environment by closing coal mines in the mid-1980s.

He knows perfectly well that she was no environmentalist; she wanted the mines closed in order to break the power of the unions. It was part of her plan to put millions of people out of work, because this would give employers the whip hand in wage negotiations (they would tell any applicant who wanted more that there were plenty of other people seeking a job).

Predictably, the Tory-supporting BBC has supported Johnson’s claim with a sidebar by “environment analyst” Roger Harrabin (who?) claiming that Thatcher had a point because she told the UN that greenhouse gases were “changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways” – in 1989.

That was five years later – an eternity in which she and her advisers had enjoyed plenty of time to dream up an excuse for the pit closures that plunged so many lives into poverty, uncertainty and despair.

Harrabin’s comment, “Her pit closures were not part of a green policy, but they did fortuitously show the UK could prosper without coal,” was as insensitive as Johnson’s. Tell that to the families of the mine workers who lost their livelihoods, and who are still struggling, even today!

Who exactly does Harrabin mean by “the UK”? Bosses of our big-business energy firms? But, they’re all foreign executives, most of whom work for the governments of EU countries. Privatisation led to shares in the formerly-nationalised energy industry being bought by those EU-based concerns.

Johnson, of course, is still claiming that the UK has Brexited itself away from giving money to the EU but this is clearly untrue.

Representatives of opposition political parties have demanded a retraction from Johnson – whose government has supported the opening of the UK’s first new coal mine in decades, in Cumbria.

So he was lying about switching to green power.

And let’s face it – he doesn’t care about offending people. He thinks it will boost his reputation among… a certain section of the British public.

Remember the other shocking things he has said:

Remember his Brexit campaign, when he lied that the NHS would be given £350 million a week? That investment might have done us all some good, prior to the coronavirus crisis but it was never going to happen because the Tories have been running the NHS down to make it ripe for privatisation – which would have made the UK even less capable of handling Covid-19.

Remember when he tried to make a joke of the massive loss of lives in the Libyan city of Sirte during that nation’s civil war? Or when he had to be stopped from inappropriately quoting a colonial poem by Kipling in Myanmar?

Remember when Eddie Mair, on BBC Radio 4, read out a litany of Johnson’s racist behaviour, to the dismay of Amber Rudd?

When Johnson refused to condemn widespread police violence against civilians in Catalonia?

When he spoke nonsense about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Parliament, and the Iranian government used it to threaten her with an extra five years in prison, beyond the five she was already serving on a trumped-up charge?

When he was reprimanded by then-Commons Speaker John Bercow for referring to Emily Thornberry in “frankly sexist” terms?

When he praised Viktor Orban on his election win in Hungary after an anti-Semitic campaign?

His sexist and Islamophobic comments about women who wear the burqa?

The racist poem he published, saying that Scottish people were a “verminous” race that should be placed in ghettos and exterminated?

His racist assessment of the French as “turds“?

His reference to gay men as “tank top-wearing bumboys“?

His question about Irish PM Leo Varadkar: “Why isn’t he called Murphy like the rest of them?”

His clueless claim that hard work can cure mental illness?

His relaxed attitude to his MPs abusing women?

His lie that the NHS would get 20 hospital upgrades, starting in his first week as prime minister – that he then edited out of a video?

His obscene description of then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn?

Let’s also add to it his apparent reluctance to go into Covid-19 lockdown last autumn, saying, “Let the bodies pile high in their thousands.”

Put all that together and you know Johnson won’t apologise for this latest outrage?

Why would he? He’s a serial offender.

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India’s plastic roads might be paving the way for a better UK environment

Take a look at this:

That’s right – India has been using its waste plastic to build roads that show no signs of wear and tear after years of use and are cheaper to build than those made of conventional materials.

Why aren’t we doing this in the UK?

In fact, there may be perfectly good reasons not to. I remember when the Wills cigarette factory was built in Hartcliffe, Bristol, it was an ugly block of metal squares – so the firm covered it in a special chemical that was supposed to turn a pleasant green on contact with the atmosphere.

The problem was that the atmosphere on which it had been tested was much drier than the humid south Bristol swamp. The building turned a rusty purple instead, and remained that way until it was knocked down to make way for (guess what?) a shopping centre.

It is entirely possible that an attempt to build plastic roads in the UK may suffer from similar local difficulties. But I have no evidence that any experimentation has been carried out. Wouldn’t it be a good idea at least to try?

Alternatively, this is a potential export market that we may all welcome. If we can’t build durable plastic roads ourselves (or even if we can; I’m sure there’s enough raw material to go around) we can always export our waste plastics to countries that can.

It would solve several problems at once – or so it seems to me.

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If the long-awaited Environment Bill has to be delayed, why not use the time to make it useful?

Pollution: the Bill will contain provisions to improve air quality – but not in the immediate future, and the watchdog body it will set up is unlikely to have any teeth.

Do you think it’s bizarre that our government(s) tell us constantly that their actions are for the good of the country, but they always seem to postpone anything for the good of the planet?

The case in point is the decision to postpone, yet again, an Environment Bill that has been waiting for a reading in the House of Commons since 2018.

Campaigners say the delay will harm action to lessen air pollution and improve water quality.

Ministers say the delay is necessary because of the amount of time being taken up by the Covid-19 crisis.

Dispassionate onlookers might say this discussion seems pointless anyway, as Boris Johnson’s government has resoundingly failed to cope with the pandemic on any meaningful level.

The Bill sets out a framework by which ministers can impose new targets on vital issues like air pollution and water quality, waste, resource use and biodiversity, which were previously regulated under EU directives.

But the bill as it stands makes these into long-term targets, meaning direct efforts to cut pollution may be left in limbo.

If passed into law, the legislation will create a new Office for Environmental Protection – a watchdog body that campaigners fear will not be sufficiently independent or powerful under the current bill.

The bill also includes measures to ensure consumers in the UK no longer contribute to the destruction of vast swaths of forested land overseas, through new rules intended to stop the import of goods to the UK from areas of illegally deforested land. UK businesses will need to show that the products they source that could come from at-risk areas – wood, but also soy, palm oil, beef, leather and other key commodities – are from supply chains free from deforestation. Breaches of the rules will incur fines.

So all in all, the Bill looks like reducing, rather than increasing, environmental protections.

It seems to This Writer that, if it must be delayed, then this is an opportunity to do some background work.

I remember hearing that US president Lyndon Johnson used to do much of his work in the backrooms of Congress, persuading (I won’t speculate on his methods) Congresspeople to support his laws – or finding ways to make them acceptable.

Perhaps if the Tories currently working on the Environment Bill – Rebecca Pow is named in the Guardian report – spend the spring and summer polishing it up to ensure that there are quantifiable short- and medium-term targets, and their new Office for Environmental Protection actually has the clout to live up to its name, then the amount of discussion time in Parliament could be cut down, the Bill could sail through and everybody will be (belatedly) happy.

But that may be too much like common sense.

Source: Fury as long-awaited UK environment bill is delayed for third time | Environment | The Guardian

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Home Office ignored warnings to prevent Windrush suffering. Why isn’t this a scandal?

The Empire Windrush: if the people who arrived on it to help the UK rebuild after World War Two had known how they and their descendants would be treated after 2010, would they have bothered?

If at first you don’t succeed (in persecuting and killing people), try, try and try again seems to be the Conservative motto.

The Windrush scandal was a national outrage. Now we learn that the Home Office could have avoided harming people – but deliberately chose not to.

Where is the fury over this?

the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI) said the department had failed to implement a series of recommendations he has made since 2016 calling for better monitoring of the impact of the hostile environment.

“Had they been, some of the harms suffered by the Windrush generation and others may have been avoided,” said the chief inspector, David Bolt.

The Windrush Lessons Learned review, published in March last year, demanded a “full review and evaluation” of the hostile environment policy devised while Theresa May was Home Secretary – and current incumbent Priti Patel accepted the recommendation in July.

But Mr Bolt said ministers had done little to evaluate the measures, both in terms of the efficiency of the processes underpinning them, including the costs to third parties carrying them out, and their effectiveness in delivering the hoped-for outcomes.

Chai Patel, legal policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the hostile environment must be scrapped before “more lives are lost or destroyed”.

“Even the government’s own immigration inspectorate no longer has any faith that Ms Patel’s Home Office intends to fix the mess it has made of the immigration system,” he said.

Does anyone?

But this story seems to have been buried.

Do thousands more people have to be harmed, deliberately, by Priti Patel before we all wake up again, or are we going to let her get away with it next time?

Source: Home Office ignored warnings that could have prevented Windrush suffering, finds watchdog | The Independent

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Now Brexit has happened, will Boris Johnson backtrack on his promises and scrap our protections?

Daniel Hannon: he has also called for NHS hospitals to be sold to private US companies after Brexit. It makes you wonder whose side he’s on.

We shouldn’t be surprised.

They’ve already backtracked on their promise not to use a pesticide that kills bees (albeit admittedly in conjunction with other EU countries).

And they’ve cancelled our freedoms to travel to and from EU countries – deliberately making it especially difficult for musicians to work there.

So why shouldn’t the Tories follow Daniel Hannan’s demand and ditch the other protections UK citizens have enjoyed as members of the European Union?

Safeguards for the use of data, pay and conditions, GM foods, hedge funds, dangerous chemicals and the disposal of environmentally-damaging vehicles should all be binned, Daniel Hannan said.

He wants to ditch:

the Temporary Workers’ Directive – which guarantees agency staff receive equal pay and conditions with employees in the same business.

the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – that gives individuals control over their personal data and limits its transfer to other countries.

the ban on products made from genetically modified (GM) crops – potentially allowing US food derived that way into the UK, as part of a future trade deal.

the REACH Directive – to outlaw chemicals linked to health problems including cancer, thyroid disease, hormone disruption and slow development.

the End of Life Vehicles Directive – to achieve environmentally-friendly dismantling and recycling, with targets for the reuse of vehicles and their components.

the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD) – introduced to regulate hedge funds and private equity following the 2008 financial crash.

the ‘Droit de suite’ rules – that pay artists a fee on the resale of their works of art, instead of the American ‘first-sale doctrine’ that removes rights from subsequent sales.

“chunks of” the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) – the legal framework to harmonise regulation of securities markets and trading venues.

He doesn’t say how that makes the UK more competitive.

To This Writer’s untutored eye, it seems he just wants to hurt his fellow UK citizens for no very good reason.

His plans would make the country less competitive as they are backward steps that help nobody.

Source: Scrap EU consumer and worker protections now Brexit is completed, leading Tory says | The Independent

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Sink, Britain, Sink: The Tories had six years to fix the UK’s flood defences and failed

Builth Wells: This mid-Powys town stood at a relatively high altitude – and under a considerable amount of water in February 2020.

The Environment Agency will have to resort to pumps and temporary flood barriers to ensure thousands of homes are protected this winter, it has been revealed.

According to the National Audit Office,

the Government awarded the Environment Agency £120m extra funding to repair [last year’s] damage, but the Agency will only complete 80 per cent of the work before the end of this year.

This means

one in five damaged flood defences will not be repaired in time for this winter’s stormy weather.

Oh, I know. There’s been a huge crisis to do with a pandemic disease called Covid-19 since the last floods, and it has been taking all the cash that’s available and slowing down maintenance work such as this.

That would be a good excuse.

But the simple fact is that successive Tory governments have had more than six years to stop our homes from flooding and they simply couldn’t be bothered.

To them, it’s a waste of money to take preventative action – even though the cost of fixing the damage is, cumulatively, far more.

I explained the problem in This Site, waaaaaaay back in 2014 [boldings mine, at time of writing this]:

This is a result of bad planning – by water and sewerage companies that have failed to implement successful drainage schemes or to divert floodwater from rivers in order to prevent overflow, and by planning authorities that have allowed housing to be built in the wrong place.

We live in a country where management of the water supply went into private hands several decades ago. When that happened, it became impossible to have any kind of integrated plan to deal with the supply of water, droughts, floods and storage. Water supply became a commodity to be bought and sold by rich people according to the golden rules of capitalism: Invest the minimum; charge the maximum.

So reservoirs have been sold off to foreign water companies, meaning we have no adequate response to droughts. None have been built, meaning we have no adequate response to floods. Concerns about river flooding have been neglected. There has not been the investment in extraction and storage of floodwater that repeated incidents over the last few years have demanded.

The government is reducing its budget for handling these issues. Not only that, but it is delaying implementation of a new policy on drainage.

In short, there is no joined-up thinking.

There will be no joined-up thinking in the future, either – unless the situation is changed radically.

Meanwhile, the cost racked up by the damage is huge – in ruined farmland, in ruined homes and possessions, and blighted lives. And what about the risk of disease that floodwater brings with it? The NHS in England is ill-equipped to deal with any outbreaks, being seriously weakened by the government-sponsored incursions of private, cheap-and-simple health firms.

Something has to give beneath the weight of all this floodwater. Change is vital – from commercial competition to co-operation and co-ordination.

Privatisation of water has failed. It’s time to bring it back under public control.

Is anyone opposed?

It turns out that a majority were not. Reversing the privatisation of water and restoring a joined-up policy is supported by most of the UK’s voting population, according to polls.

In 2012, it was said that 71 per cent of voters wanted renationalisation. By 2018 this had risen to 83 per cent.

But millions of people voted Conservative at the ballot box so water has remained in private hands and the government has refused to stump up the cash to pay for what has become an annual – and therefore predictable – disaster.

The Environment Agency reckons it has a strategy to “build up the resilience of millions more homes and businesses” in the coming years.

What happens if the Tories strip away the funding for it?

Source: Damaged flood defences won’t be repaired in time for this winter’s storms

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