Saturday, July 14, 2012

Re-dedication to our Coalition.

I would have preferred it had the Conservative Party won enough seats at the last General Election to form a Gov't. But we didn't. David Cameron was left with a choice of leading a 'minority' Gov't and going for an early election - or forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. He chose to form the 'Coalition'. I agreed with that decision.

I still believe that David Cameron was right, and that he should strive to keep the Coalition together. I simply do not agree with those of my colleagues who seem to wish the Coalition ill. But even I can see that things need a bit of a boost. Seems to me we need a genuine re-commitment to each other. We need to put policies which help both parties and also connect with the people at centre stage. Because of my inconsequentiality, I can reflect on policy matter that I like personally, without causing any turbulence. Others will have their ideas.

Lets put main focus on why we came together in the first place. The economy. Fundamental is re-balancing a pubic sector/private sector imbalance. And we also need to focus on lower paid 'hard working' families. Top of my list would be raising the tax free allowance even further. If it was raised to a level which would allow a symbolic increase in age-related allowance, the Lib Dems would feel valued - and we would re-engage with a section of our population that votes. Personally, I would also like to find a way of hitting the richest in a way which allowed the top rate to be cut to 40%, where the public could see it was about creating jobs and not benefiting the rich. That could be a step too far.

Another area I would strive for early agreement on would be House of Lords reform. In my view the current proposals look doomed, though I understand there's going to be an attempt to resusitate in the autumn. Why not scrap it now, and agree new reform proposals for the next Queen's Speech based on Steele Bill Plus. There would be a big majority for that. Perhaps Nick Clegg would not accept this, but I reckon he might find many Lib Dems would.  By November he might think its a great plan!

Another policy area that could combine both parties and the public would be onshore wind. Why not greatly reduce the subsidy for onshore wind and transfer it to offshore and other forms on renewables. Must admit I've found it a bit shocking that on this issue, the opinions of the public are being totally steamrollered. MPs opinions are also being trampled on.  MPs are not robots. We want to serve those who elect us. The coalition must always take seriously what the citizens we work for want. If we do, they will support us up to 2015.  Hopefully, they would also be happy to see us work together after that as well.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Loyalties Challenged by Lords Reform

House of Commons on Monday and Tuesday will be given over to discussing reform of the House of Lords. I am deeply frustrated that this is so. No constituent has contacted me by letter or email to ask for this. The reason we are going to be so occupied is because the Deputy Prime Minister has decided it should be so. So despite my frustration, and my preference for discussing the appalling treatment being experienced by our dairy farmers, its their Lordship's House that dominates my week. And this blog post.

At 2200 hrs on Tuesday, MPs will be summoned by the division bell to participate in two votes. The first will be on a motion to support the Coalition Gov't's Lords Reform Bill at Second Reading. The second vote will be on a motion to approve a guillotined timetable restricting the extent of debate on the Bill - described as 'the programme motion'.

I will listen to the debate, but I'm inclined at this stage to support the first motion.  Along with most other MPs, I support Lords Reform.  Most peers do also. But we don't agree with all parts of this Bill. In theory, it can be amended at a later date to make it acceptable. A vote in favour does not mean a vote in support of the Bill as it stands. It can be amended in committee. We're told that the Labour opposition intend to support this motion, so its likely to be passed.

The second vote is much more problematic for many MPs. Let me explain why. The Lords Reform Bill involves abolition of the House of Lords as we know it. It will be replaced by a largely elected body which will inevitably challenge the primacy of the House of Commons (even though the Bill is being written to disguise this). The new House of ;Lords will be elected by proportional representation, which means it will always be a 'coalition'. Incredibly its proposed that the new Lords will serve for 15 years and will not be allowed to ever face the voters again to seek re-election, turning the concept of 'accoutability' on its head. There will be lots of other highly significant clauses, but my purpose is to show how the Bill will impact on all aspects of the way we are governed. All 650 MPs have a direct interest in this Bill, and may well want to speak on several of the clauses. There must be a serious question about whether it is right to put a firm  limit on the time allowed for debate. Many MPs across the House will have serious reservations about this. We're told that the main opposition intend to oppose it. Its an issue of concern to me also.

And its not as if there's any evidence that the voters support these changes. They may well support Lords reform. Most of us support that. But do they support proportional representation for example? Last time we asked them, they gave the idea a resounding raspberry - which is probably why a referendum is ruled out. This is a funny sort of democracy. So there are two days of uncertainty ahead. Its just started raining again. I suppose it makes life interesting - or not!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Atrial Fibrilation - Pulse Checks in the NHS

I'd never heard of Atrial Fibrillation until I was diagnosed with the condition myself. My theory is that I overdid it campaigning before the last General Election. Was suffering a bit of mild inexplicable breathlessness. The condition was in the UK news a few years ago when Tony Blair was diagnosed with it, and had his heartbeat returned to 'sinus rhythm' by cardio-version - which involves an electric shock. Mine too. Worst part was having a lifetime's luxuriant chest hair growth shaved off. Good news for those who like their men to look like men is that the regrowth is also luxuriant. But it did itch for weeks!

Anyway, there are well over a million people in the UK suffering the condition. Chances of a stroke are multiplied by five. And the strokes are more likely to be fatal or permanently disabling. Treatment can be electric shock or just regular use of an anticoagulant. Some people take aspirin which provides minimal benefit. They should take Warfarin, or perhaps one of the new anticoagulants being developed. Its totally a win-win.

Because I was so shocked to learn that huge numbers of sufferers are being hit by strokes needlessly that I agreed to help establish an Atrial Fibrillation All Party Parliamentary Group.  Our inspiration was lady named Trudie Lobban. Our aim has been to raise awareness amongst the public and health care professionals. Today has been great. We have produced a report calling for 'Pulse Checks in the NHS'. I've been interviewed by ITV Wales for tonight's news and had a chat with Sarah Dicken on BBC's Good Evening Wales. That would never have happened two years ago.

Also need to add a word about Tom James, 28 yr old from Wrexham who won a Gold Medal in the Coxless Fours in Beijing.  He's after a second gold in the London Games in a months time. He's announced today that he intends to retire afterwards.  He saud that kast time! Tom suffers from Atrial Fibrillation - which shows that strength, youth and fitness doesn't guarantee freedom from an irregular heartbeat.  I hope he wins his second gold, and then comes to our next APPG meeting to talk to us and inspire us.  

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Lord Carlile demolishes House of Lords Bill

Lord Carlile of Berriew is the best mind on the Liberal Democrat benches - in both Houses of Parliament. He was MP for Montgomeryshire from 1983 to 1997. He was also my next door neighbour throughout that period. I have grown to know him well. But its a coincidence that Alex and I have found ourselves in much agreement since I was elected Montgomeryshire MP two years ago. We work closely together in our opposition to the desecration of mid Wales with wind farms and in opposition to the legalisation of assisted suicide. He is a man of great wisdom who should be listened to.

In today's Mail on Sunday, Lord Carlile has written a thunderous denunciation of the Gov'ts proposals to reform the House of Lords. He argues as always with logic.  I know that Liberal Democrats throughout Britain will be stunned by the forcefulness of his intervention. Some quotes from his article should be repeated over and over again. And listened to. Its the voice of reason, experience and a brilliant mind.

Lord Carlile says "I cannot support....a shambolic, ill-conceived and politically naive venture. It will diminish Parliament, produce poorer laws and deprive the country of a remarkable and expert House.."  He goes on .."We should be proud of something that works well for us. Under the abolition proposals, all of it is to be trashed in the name of a false view of what is democratic......the public would barely have a say in the choice of the elected members of the new House of Lords. The selection of regional list candidates would be subject only to internal party procedures, potentially decided in the tribal atmosphere of party committees, a recipe for forms of demagoguery, corruption and false influence...." And then he says of the new Lords.."They would challenge the authority of the Commons at every stage - and why not, if they were elected. This is a recipe for constitutional chaos." This is a total demolition job.

I also watched Lord Strathclyde outlining his support for the proposals to Andrew Neil at lunchtime.  Couldn't make up my mind whether his enthusiasm for how well the current House of Lords works was greater or lesser than his enthusiasm for its abolition and replacement by the new proposals.