Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Imminent Arrival of Electric Cars.

This week, Defra Secretary of State, Michael Gove informed us that all new cars powered by petrol and diesel will be banned by 2040 - just 23 yrs away. Whether or not this will turn out to be precisely the case is not the point. It establishes the direction, and target we are aiming for. Actually, all it does is tell us about the change that is already taking place. I have been genuinely surprised by the number of usually well informed people who have denounced the move away from conventionally powered cars as both unwise and unlikely to happen. To me this seems to be a case of  a 'Head in the sand' response. The reality is it's already happening - already accelerating away. And it's the reality that diesel and petrol cars are on the way out. This is being accepted by most of the motor industry.

It's not just the UK which sees an end to petrol and diesel cars. Two weeks ago, France made the same announcement. Norway is bringing in the change by 2025 - just 8 years away. In 2013, there were a few more than 3000 electric cars on our roads. Today it's over 100,000. Volvo has announced it will go all electric or hybrid by 2019. BMW has last week announced a new assembly line to build electric Minis in Oxford. New models are being launched every month. Every car manufacturer is bringing out new electric cars. We may well have reached the 'tipping point' already.

We know there are multiple challenges. The biggest is where will the electricity come from. Massive new supplies will be needed. At present we don't know where it will all come from. But la st week, Britain's first 'floating' offshore wind turbine was launched - much earlier than we expected. This combined with developing battery storage technology will transform generation from wind. Storage technology will also transform prospects for solar. Leaving the EU will allow the cost of importing solar panels to fall significantly. Nuclear power will also develop, hopefully through Small Modular Reactors. Perhaps other power sources like hydrogen will emerge over the next two decades. As well as energy sources we've not thought of yet. And of course there are nothing like enough charging points on long journeys. We know that, but an appropriate network will develop as demand grows. And the range of new electric cars is increasing rapidly. Lots of other problems too, but they will be faced and managed.

It's true that none of us knows how the electric car market will develop over the next 23 yrs. but it's going to happen - driven by air pollution legislation the in our cities and large towns. And leaving the EU won't stop this. King Canute was rolled over by the unstoppable tide. Our car manufacturers will not want to be rolled over by electric cars while they chase a falling market.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Intimidation of political candidates

The recent General Election was much the most unpleasant election I've ever been involved in. Initially I'd decided to say nothing about it. 'Heat of the kitchen' etc.. "Put it behind you Glyn, and move on". And "Don't let the bu***rs get you down". But it's not as simple as that. It's become a major issue of debate at Westminster. The widespread 'casual' aggression and intimidation of candidates has become a real concern across all political parties.

Of course unpleasantness at elections is nothing new - even in the gentle rural constituency of Montgomeryshire. Since I've been an MP, there have been knife attacks on fellow MPs and Jo Cox was murdered on the street just over a year ago. I'd had someone tell a friend of mine, outside my office the "the only way we'll get rid of him is to shoot the bas***d". He meant me! Actually, it wasn't the only way because he had a go at running me down in Morrison's car park a few days later!

But back to the General Election. A young lady was delivering my leaflets in a quiet Montgomeryshire village, when a big man came chasing after her, shouted at her nose-to-nose as spitting at her. An hour later she was still traumatised. Ended up as an apology in the police station. And I turned up at one of my public meetings to be confronted by a group of around 20, chanting "Tory Pig", "Tory Pig". I was alone. Shamefully, there were small children dragooned to join in. The young lady along with me to take notes, and already in the hall, has declared that she will never go there again. Fear. First time I've felt the need to check over my car before driving home. Shouldn't be like this anywhere. But in Montgomeryshire....

And there was the obscene daubing and destruction of my posters. And it was only my posters. No other party's posters.  Then there were the bare-faced lies and deceit plastered all over the Internet by keyboard warriors, full of their custard and cowardice. And fliers all over the place - many sjtill there. The problem is not one that bothers me, personally. I played in the back row for years, and was never the most gentle of souls. I can look after myself. But not everyone can. I'm told that research suggests lots of potential candidates don't feel they can cope with the aggression. They opt out.

What's to be done. I do think that MPs can help themselves by cutting out the vulgar shouting at Prime Minister's Questions - even if it is almost the only part of Parliamentary proceedings that a significant proportion of the public bother to watch. And there's the appalling QuestionTime on BBC, where guests are sometimes chosen on the basis of their reputations to be rude, and audience members the same. The TV election debates are in the same mould. All a dreadful example to young people. The ability to disagree without being offensive is disappearing. But for the real abuse there will have to be jail sentences - in my opinion. Democracy is important. It underpins the way we live, with respect for each other. This needs to be defended. Civilised society requires those who undermine it to hear the clang of a prison cell door behind them.

Friday, July 28, 2017

At Last. Movement on Shropshire NHS Reform.

Hoping to set aside some time to share my thoughts on this blog site again through summer recess.  Lots of subjects to write about but today will return to one that has featured several times in the past few years - reform of the NHS secondary care system which serves Shropshire and Mid Wales. Should begin with a recap.

For many years, we have realised that changing patterns of healthcare has meant larger populations are needed to sustain a District General Hospital. The population of Shropshire and Mid Wales can no longer sustain its two DGHs, one located at Shrewsbury and the other at Telford. While the best solution would be to build one new DGH to replace them, it's simply too expensive. So the preferred solution is to merge the two hospitals, one to focus on 'emergency' care, and the other on 'planned' care. The 2 CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) serving Shropshire and Mid Wales established The Future Fit Programme Board to recommend a way forward. Over 3years later (and costing millions of pounds) it made its recommendations before Christmas. The CCGs met and split 6/6 on a motion to accept the recommendation, and go out to public consultation on it. Total chaos. Local politics trumped clinical care (in my opinion). Been much effort getting the show back on the road. At last we expect progress on Monday at an important meeting of the Future Fit Programme Board.

Local health and social care partners will meet on Monday at a 'closed' meeting to consider next steps  needed to transform hospital services for local patients in Shrewsbury, Telford and Wrekin and Mid Wales. The meeting will review the additional assurance work carried out, and decide whether the time is right for a public consultation on its recommendations. The 2 new reports are;
1) Additional analysis of potential changes to Women's and Children's services - taking in depth look at potential impact of changes to those services.
2) Independent review of the Future Fit Options Appraisal Process - looking at the assurance processes carried out so far.

Any recommendation made by the Future Fit Programme Board on Monday will be about whether the time is right to launch a full public consultation lasting 12 weeks. This recommendation would have to be approved by a joint committee of the Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin CCGs Board - with an independent Chair and key observers (hopefully to avoid the shambles we witnessed last December).

We are fast approaching a situation where the current NHS system serving Shropshire and Mid Wales breaks down. And there's no point shouting at SaTH (The Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospitals Trust). It's doing its best in difficult circumstances. The position is becoming desperate. We need agreement in order to ask Central Government for the reported £200 million needed for the capital works. Let's hope we see a decisive step forward taken on Monday.