Posts Tagged ‘Freedom Of Information Request’
The Guardian usually arrives on the hen-cleaning early shift tucked neatly into Jack’s pocket. It receives less attention at the brew-break than was once the case. Then known by all as the Grauniad, because of its penchant for spelling errors, it used to provide the basis for a wager based on who could spot the most. Today it was unfolded as we read its front page about the Prince of Wales, and I noticed that somewhere called Chin is expanding its nuclear armoury, clearly old habits die hard!
Anyway it appears that unknown to most, Charles is part of a “secretive constitutional loophole” which gives him the right to veto legislation. Since 2005, ministers from six departments have had to seek his consent to draft bills on everything from road safety to gambling and the London Olympics. Neither the government nor Clarence House will reveal what, if any, alterations to legislation Charles has requested, or exactly why he was asked to grant consent to such a wide range of laws.
In the last two parliamentary sessions the Prince has been asked to consent to draft bills on wreck removals and co-operative societies, a freedom of information request to the House of Commons has revealed. Between 2007-9 he was consulted on bills relating to coroners, economic development and construction, marine and coastal access, housing and regeneration, energy and planning.
All very odd. But a threat to democracy? Hardly. At least Charles can be relied upon to give an honest independent view which is more than can be said for the unelected Lords which is packed with toadies of successive Prime Ministers, and even includes more than one who has spent time at “Her Majesty’s pleasure’. And it is no more undemocratic than the ‘Witney set’ which, until the Murdoch explosion, was clearly pulling David Cameron’s strings. And you can look at the Werrity affair…I won’t go on, suffice to say that there is probably no one out there who believes that democracy actually exists at all.
Of course any mention of the Royals brings out, from under the stones, the supporters of ‘Republic’, the proponents of an elected head of state. Its director, Graham Smith, was quick to say that the secret power afforded to Charles is “an affront to democrtic values”. Hmm, he clearly has more trust in the existance of such a thing than the rest of us. As for an elected leader, one wonders who he has in mind. Blair perhaps since he collects highly paid jobs with the same enthusiasm that others collect stamps. Boris perhaps? Eddie the Eagle? Graham Smith?
By coincidence all this hit the headlines on the day that a report from the public administration select committee was published. It accuses the coalition government of maintaining pointless ministerial jobs to maintain influence over crucial parliamentary votes. It claims that David Cameron’s government is “patronage-driven” and is spending vast amounts of public money to buy loyalty. It reports that the coalition is failing to cut senior jobs despite its pledge to slash Whitehall costs.
Brenard Jenkins, the Conservatiuce chair of the committee, says that the government’s response that the ministerial number of jobs are “under review” is political code for “their refusal to engage with this committee”. He went on to claim that the number of ministers in the Commons is at its “absolute limit”. And there are more aides than is necessary. This proliferation of appointments is “more about exercising patronage over MPs, and thus being able to influence debates and votes, than it is about efficiency and accountability” added Mr Jenkin.
There are now 121 MPs on the “payroll vote” as ministers and their aides who are obliged to vote with the government or resign. The committee says that the payroll should be slashed by more than sixty. It also calls for the end to the appointment of unpaid ministers to circumvent legal limits on the size of government. Far from reducing government costs the Prime Minister is increasing them. And last week’s rebellion on the EU referendum is likely to herald yet more appointments as a means of silencing the Eurosceptics. There will soon be more Chiefs than Indians in the cloistered court of Kings David and Nick!
The theory behind our democratic system is that the country is ruled by independently-minded individuals elected by the people, each approaching legislation with his or her sole influence being the views of constituents. No string-pullers, no ‘donors’, no rich hangers-on. It is of course a fairy story as one corrupt government follows another.
If we enjoyed true democracy the outrage about Charles would be justified. As thing are I for one welcome the thought that there is at least one in authority who is not in the pay, or grip, of shadowy figures that never seem to come to the Gruaniad’s attention!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY; ” For all their faults, Thatcher and Blair were respected not for their bossiness but because of their principles and vision (whether you agreed with them or not). Cameron is not in their league. He’s got one vision; that the nation requires the services of David William Donald Cameron as Prime Minister. For years I thought Cameron was likeable but with two major defects – no credible programme to bolster the country’s fortunes and being a rich toff with no idea how most people live. It’s true that those were, and are, big defects. But increasingly, another one is coming into view. Bluntly, Camerion has a nasty streak. When the going gets tough, he has no answers – just insults and bullying”. Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow in her Sunday Star column dated 30th October 2011.
Grey skies today but the colours of rebirth are everywhere. The forsythia around the allotments is a mass of sparkling yellow and the daffodils are raising their heads as if in triumph at surviving a dismal winter. The buds on the rose trees promise much and the snowdrops are hanging on as if reluctant to end their intro to Spring. The only thing missing is frogspawn in the ponds which is curious given that a mass of frogs have been perfroming their mating rituals for weeks. Is this a general trend?
Meantime we were truly sorry to learn from our faithful beat officer that his days of calling are almost over. It seems that over one hundred beat officers are to be withdrawn across the county and it is easy to feel concern when the Chief Constable says that anyone claiming that a large reduction in numbers will do other than lead to an increase in crime and a loss of public confidence is crazy. Yes there will still be squads of officers wearing body armour held ready to rush to any serious incident but that is reactive policing, most people have enjoyed the recent trend toward proactive practice with bobbies out and about amongst the community.
When I cast my mind back to those TV debates during the general election I recall Grumpy Gordon repeatedly asking David Cameron if he would guarantee police numbers. It seemed ominous then when Cameron continually refused to answer although his future stooge Nick did give such a pledge. Since then the prime minister has said that he is determined to protect the police front line. The dashing Home Secretary, Theresa May, has since repatedly referred to the plan for leaving ‘front line services untouched’ and the policing minister, Nick Herbert has echoed his boss. Howver there is a problem!
In response to a freedom of information request the Home Office was obliged to admit that it doesn’t actaully know what front line services are. Small wonder that the chairman of the Police Federation, Paul McKeever, has responded with incredulity. “How can you have all your policing policies based on the phrase front line without knowing what it is” he has asked. Good question. But the Home Office spin-doctors are never short of a few misleading comments and they reacted by saying that whilst the definition is unclear there is also a middle office and a back office, therefore the front line is everyone not employed there. And you’ve guessed it, the Home Office couldn’t clearly define those either, merely saying that the middle office includes a “variety of functions which provide support” and “the back one comprises finance and human resources”.
My knowledge of police work is akin to Eddie the Eagle’s medal winning but it seems obvious that if chief constables were to clear out the support structure the whole process would grind to a halt. There probably are some working practices that need updating but the only significant way in which workload can be reduced to front, back and middle is by changing laws that call for enough paperwork to constitute a danger to low flying aircraft if stacked. One arrest can involve an officer in hours of paperwork and the gorgeous Theresa has shown no sign of understanding this let alone legislating to change things. Any day now she will proclaim the police force to be a service and insist that the villains be renamed service users!
Being the bunglers that they are – one only has to remember the Forest sale fiasco to believe that – the coalition has contrived to add to the growing feeling of discontent by the police by announcing plans to slash pay, pensions and expenses. The timing seems questionable!
I guess that the negative public reaction to all this is down to the obvious bottom line. Clearly there is no such thing as a precise front line. Yes we will miss the comforting presence of our beat bobbie and his CPSO sidekick, and people in crime-ridden inner cities will feel very vulnerable when theirs vanish. But a force cannot function purely out on the streets for back-up services such as CID are equally important. The obvious bottom line is that police services are being slashed and even those who never encounter the police in any guise like the feeling that they are there, just a 999 call away.
As in all debates about ‘the cuts’ we end up with the contrasting views of Chancellor Osborne and Shadow Chancellor Balls. The former belives that the deficit must be cleared in the life of one parliament and that privileged sectors of society such as the banks and the corporate tax evaders must be protected with every penny saved coming from the public services and public. The latter believes that the deficit should be halved and that the banks and tax evaders should be hammered into the ground like old tent-pegs.
The truth probably lies somewhere between the two and that in theory is where the Lib Dems come in, but they appear to have no view other than that if Cameron shouts jump they ask how high.
Few of us are economists and even they disagree amongst themselves. All we know is that wiping out the police sounds a very dangerous thing to do at a time when domestic discontent and terrorism seems primed to reach new heights!
QUOTES OF THE DAY; “To write a diary every day is like returning to ones own vomit”…Enoch Powell “Good girls keep diaries, bad ones never have the time”……Tallulah Bankhead “Keep a diary and one day it will keep you”….Mae West “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train”…..Oscar Wilde “I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It’s about Russia”…..Woody Allen “Last time I went to Portugal I get through six Jeffrey Archer novels. I must remember to take enough toilet paper next time”….Bob Monkhouse “Many thanks for your book. I shall waste no time in reading it”….Benjamin Franklin “Poetry books are handy implements for killing persistent irritating flies”…..Geoffrey Grigson “T S Eliot’s face had deep lines. I cannot say the same for his poetry”…..Melville Cane “Journalism largely consists of saying ‘Lord Jones dead’ to people who never knew that he was alive”……G K Chesterton “There are four sexes; men, women, clergymen and journalists”…Somerset Maughan
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Viv Anderson 2 Notts Forest
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which was Britain’s first all-seater soccer stadium? 2 Whose grave was vandalised by anti-hunting sabateurs?