Tag Archives: Infrastructure Bill

Anti-fracking Labour critics are singing from Green Party and SNP songsheets

Nobody wants to see this in the United Kingdom: Fracked water is set ablaze in the film Gasland.

Nobody wants to see this in the United Kingdom: Fracked water is set ablaze in the film Gasland.

Vox Political’s report on the outcome of yesterday’s fracking debate in Parliament prompted a predictably shrill response from supporters of the Scottish Nationalist and Green parties.

Now, why would that be?

Could it be that these organisations want to split the Left vote, attracting more voters to themselves by presenting an unpleasant image of Labour?

And isn’t this irresponsible at a time when Conservative policies, propped up by Liberal Democrat votes, are causing so much damage to the United Kingdom – including the deaths of many vulnerable people?

Why are they attacking Labour, rather than the real enemy of the people?

Some have claimed that Labour did a deal with the Coalition, agreeing to abstain on a vote for an absolute moratorium on fracking in return for the inclusion of Labour’s list of 13 regulatory procedures – to be carried out before any fracking may be performed – in the legislation.

Even if this is true, it is simply good politics. The entire Parliamentary Labour Party, combining its votes with any others who opposed the Bill, could not have amassed the more-than-300 votes necessary to topple the Coalition’s absolute control over the passage of the Infrastructure Bill into law.

The only reason this writer can see for the Tories to have given even this concession is that we are in an election year and they fear the adverse publicity that would be generated by refusing any kind of regulation at all could harm them at the ballot box.

So, for the Tories, Liberal Democrats, Greens and SNP, it seems to be all about the election. Only Labour seems to have spare a thought for the protection of British citizens from harm.

And what thanks did the party get?

Here’s Nicola Ronnquist: “Labour abstained on clause 9 calling for a moratorium! I would hardly call that a victory! labour is a disgrace! The labour supporters have gone very quiet tonight on some of the threads after pointing out they abstained from a moratorium! ! After the EA commitee recommended it!!! Well done labour!!! No vote on the tresspass law! So they will now be able to frack under our homes. The labour traitors! Im voting green now!”

This Green supporter has posted a further 14 comments on the fracking article thread, stirring up anti-Labour sentiment.

Here’s Chris Lovett, another Green supporter: “Bugger Labliar. Go Green.” No argument – just abuse and a call to split the Left vote.

For the Scottish Nationalists, here’s Lee Thompson, who quoted figures on the moratorium vote from Wings Over Scotland, the ScotsNat blog. No bias there, then! He wrote: “The Head of Scottish Labour [Jim Murphy] was all the way in Scotland playing football! My understanding of politicians is that they are there to represent the wishes of their constituents at all times? 52 managed to vote despite knowing they couldn’t win [including Labour MPs – it is a party that does allow its members to speak their minds]… Let’s consider the example set by our politicians, they get paid by us to vote but don’t. If I told my boss there was no point in doing something, I’d get the sack.”

In fact, MPs are paid to represent their constituents to the best of their ability – and we’ll see how Labour achieved this later in the article.

Clare Tereasa Gallagher, who appears to be both Scottish Nationalist and Green, wrote: “The labour party abstained! Red tory scum, only care about the lifestyles they’ve become accustomed to… Jim Murphy was playing keepy Uppy at Pittodrie!

There were many other comments. Some of them even seem to be by people who were genuinely concerned, rather than pushing their own party line.

The most sensible comment on Vox Political‘s Facebook page came from Steve Gogerly: “The price of oil falling through the floor has made fracking a less than profitable enterprise which suits all of us dubious of its environmental safety. Hopefully a safer method will be discovered before the price rises again.

It seems entirely likely that Labour is aware of this and the regulations that are now part of the Infrastructure Bill are merely a stop-gap measure. Tom Greatrex MP wrote at length about “the reality behind… Tory rhetoric” in an article for LabourList as long ago as last April.

this is not an imminent revolution,” he wrote. “Shale gas in the UK is unlikely to really get going this side of 2020 – peak production is not expected to be reached until 2024. Hinting that shale gas offers a solution to the potential tightening of our supply margins in the next couple of years, as some Tories do, is therefore completely misleading.”

He continued: “Cameron promised that shale gas would deliver 74,000 jobs. This week’s report [from Ernst & Young] cuts that down to 64,000, but within that number there are just 6,000 “directly employed”, 39,000 in the supply chain and 19,000 “supply chain induced” positions. In short, there’s more to it than meets the eye.

“But perhaps the key line from the report was on page 4, when EY acknowledge that ‘it is not yet possible to make any forecast of potential recovery rates’. Whilst we know that the gas is in the ground, we don’t know how much of it is extractable.”

He went on to say that shale gas extraction should only happen within a framework of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection, and with local consent – and must not be allowed to develop at the expense of the UK’s climate change commitments.

Put that all together and you’ve got an industry that is on (forgive the poor taste) extremely uncertain ground. Is fracking worth the potential disruption of who-knows-how-many British citizens, not to mention the further harm to our environmental credentials, for the sake of an unknown – possibly very low – yield and only around 6,000 jobs?

The more one examines this matter, the more likely it seems that Labour has skilfully employed a delaying tactic; these new regulations will put any fracking operations on hold while the businesses involved go through the regulatory procedures. After this has been done, it is possible that a Labour government will have been returned to power, and will put an end to the process altogether, in favour of methods that are proven not to harm the environment.

Of course, this won’t happen if the Greens and the SNP succeed in their greedy bid to split the left-wing vote. If the Left is divided between several parties, the way will be clear for the Tories to sweep back into office and do whatever they like, to anyone.

Is that really what you want?

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Victory claimed in battle to save our forests

forest
Campaigning group 38 Degrees is claiming victory in the battle to save public land – including countryside and forests – from being handed over to private developers.
Vox Political quoted a report by blogger Tom Pride last month, which stated: “An innocuous sounding bit of legislation called the Infrastructure Bill is making its way through parliament with hardly a peep of protest from …. well, just about anyone really.

“Which is strange because the bill is about to give Government agencies carte blanche to hand over any public land – including countryside and forests – to private developers.”

Fortunately 38 Degrees leapt into action and a petition supporting the campaign to save our forests was signed more than 150,000 times within 24 hours.

In a statement on Facebook yesterday evening, the organisation told us: “The government was trying to sneak through plans which would have paved the way for our forests to be sold off. But at the very last minute, they backed down. They U-turned and made changes which will mean our forests are protected – in law. And together we played a huge part in that.

“For months, forest campaigners have been fighting for this. In the last 24 hours, over 150,000 of us signed a petition backing them. And we won.

“This latest petition has been the fastest growing 38 Degrees’ history. Today proves we’re still ready – ready to stand up to protect our forests. And that by working together we can It also proves how much power we have together.”

Now if only all those people would sign Vox Political‘s petition against George Osborne’s misleading ‘personal tax summaries’

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Latest privatisation/corruption plan is halted as government reluctantly scraps Land Registry sale

Still in public ownership: According to reports, the sale of the Land Registry has been cancelled.

Still in public ownership: According to reports, the sale of the Land Registry has been cancelled.

A little-known plan to sell off one of the government’s best-performing and self-financing organisations has been scrapped – not because of fears that a new system would be prone to corruption but apparently because it was “too complicated” and would have necessitated “new legislation”.

The change of heart – for whatever reason – has been taken by the PCS Union as a victory for its campaign against the sell-off, which included a two-day strike against the privatisation proposal, which members described as “secret”.

Commentators including Vox Political pointed out that the public consultation process received hardly any publicity at all and was closed before most of us even knew it had taken place.

Among the Land Registry’s many functions are quasi-judicial decisions on ownership and transfers, granting title and, crucially, guaranteeing legal rights on behalf of the state. This is not just of fundamental importance to homeowners, but an essential feature of our economy. The backbone of the system is its freedom from outside influence and commercial interest,” the article stated.

In its article on the subject earlier this month, Vox Political warned that, clearly, privatisation would put the Land Registry entirely under threat of outside influence and dominated by commercial interest.

It quoted a report in The Guardian stating: “The agency is also currently bound by government policy on procurement, designed to assist small and medium-sized businesses to compete against the oligopoly of large suppliers. But BIS [The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills] has identified this as a problem, claiming greater flexibility in the private sector to buy goods and services. In a truly astonishing move, a government agency faces being changed into a commercial company so it can avoid the very controls the government brought in to protect small businesses.”

The article also warned of “massive job losses and office closures” and said the government had “flatly refused” to publish and fully consult on these plans.

And the plot thickened considerably when it was revealed that the Infrastructure Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech would transfer responsibility for the local land charges register to the national Land Registry – away from local councils. This means it would profit from the sale of the information – while councils fear they would still have to employ staff to do the work.

All in all, the sale was shaping up into a plan to put big business – the ‘This is Money’ article suggested private equity firms and outsourcing companies – in control of a system that had been freed of any obligation towards small and medium-sized businesses, and whose work would be done by local authorities – at a cost to the council, not the Land Registry.

For any new shareholder, it would have been a licence to print money.

The PCS has already declared its delight that the sell-off has been called off. A statement released yesterday (June 29) reads: “This would be a victory for the thousands of Land Registry staff who campaigned with industry professionals against the plans, and very welcome news for millions of people who rely on it to provide a reliable, impartial and hugely important public service.

“We want the Land Registry to work with us on our proposals to strengthen the agency in future, but serious questions must be asked of senior officials and ministers who tried to push through what would have been a very damaging and totally unnecessary sell-off.”

Indeed. First among these would be: Who paid them to do it?

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Did the Tories tell anyone at all they were privatising the Land Registry?

140610LandRegistry

Did you know about this?

According to a petition on the 38 Degrees website, the government closed – closed – a public consultation on proposals to privatise the 152-year-old Land Registry on March 20 this year.

“There has been no publicity or attempt to inform the public of this radical change to an organisation that is vital to the UK property market,” the text of the petition states.

While this is not strictly true, it would be accurate to say that the plan has not been well-publicised. Not at all.

The government put out a press release on January 23, saying a consultation was taking place on plans “to help Land Registry deliver more efficient and modern services”. That’s no way to announce a privatisation – and the plan to create a private company was only revealed several paragraphs into the text.

Why is this important?

Well, the Land Registry is one of the largest property databases in Europe, guaranteeing title to registered estates and interests in land, recording the ownership rights of freehold properties and leasehold properties where the lease has been granted for longer than seven years.

It is self-financing; its income generated by registration and search fees. You pay to access certain information.

Last month, 3,000 PCS Union members went on a two-day strike over the “secret” privatisation proposal. A report in The Guardian said the government had failed to explain what problem is was trying to fix, or what benefits would be gained by privatisation.

“Key among the organisation’s many functions are quasi-judicial decisions on ownership and transfers, granting title and, crucially, guaranteeing legal rights on behalf of the state. This is not just of fundamental importance to homeowners, but an essential feature of our economy. The backbone of the system is its freedom from outside influence and commercial interest,” the article stated.

Clearly, privatisation would put the Land Registry entirely under threat of outside influence and dominated by commercial interest.

Also: “The agency is also currently bound by government policy on procurement, designed to assist small and medium-sized businesses to compete against the oligopoly of large suppliers. But BIS [The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills] has identified this as a problem, claiming greater flexibility in the private sector to buy goods and services. In a truly astonishing move, a government agency faces being changed into a commercial company so it can avoid the very controls the government brought in to protect small businesses.”

The article also warned of “massive job losses and office closures” and said the government had “flatly refused” to publish and fully consult on these plans.

Prepare for a thickening of the plot: The Infrastructure Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech last week would transfer responsibility for the local land charges register to the national Land Registry – away from local councils. This means it would profit from the sale of the information – while councils fear they would still have to employ staff to do the work.

The petition states that “another consultation on giving the Land Registry wider powers in the control of data essential to the sale and purchase of property closed earlier with the majority of the public not being aware if it’s existence.”

It seems our attention is being directed away from another Tory-led plan to sell one of our best-performing and most efficient public services off to create more profit for private business – most notably big business, at the expense of small and medium-sized enterprises – while forcing the public sector to do all the work for nothing.

It isn’t too late to register your disgust at this proposal. Sign the petition right now.

And for goodness’ sake, tell everyone you know.

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