The Infrastructure Bill

 

On Monday in Parliament we debated the government’s infrastructure Bill.  It sets out three main changes in the name of improving the country’s infrastructure.

The first is to speed improved roads and get value for highways expenditure. The Highways Agency is being turned into a company owned by the taxpayer. It will be more independent of government, will have five year  budgets with the government pledging money for the whole period, and will be under the surveillance of two quangos to monitor the cost effectiveness and the customer performance of its activities.

I welcome the decision to spend more on road building, after a prolonged period of spending too little to too little positive effect. I would prefer the  accountability of the new company  to be directly to Ministers and Parliament. This would save money and ensure tougher scrutiny. I do not want another body which affects my constituents lives where I have to correspond with a quango that can avoid direct exchanges, where Ministers would have to  resp0nd directly in Parliament.

The second is to permit drilling for shale gas and other hydrocarbon at depths of 300 metres and lower. This is part of a package of measures the government is taking to try to stimulate shale gas exploration and development in the UK. It should be seen in the context of the establishment of a new regulatory office for shale setting standards of safety and environmental protection, and in the context of the general planning framework.

The third is change to encourage more sale and re-use of brownfield public sector land. Most people prefer new development on land which has been developed before. Despite various attempts by past Ministers to get a bigger flow of underused and unused public sector land back into use, it has proved slow going. The question is will this new attempt be more successful?

The Bill also contains powers to allow a community to buy into local  renewable electricity developments, to control animal and plant species that represent a hazard, and to raise a levy on certain energy industry licence holders.

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55 Comments

  1. Posted December 11, 2014 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    The Highways Agency is being turned into a company owned by the taxpayer. It will be more independent of government, will have five year budgets with the government pledging money for the whole period, and will be under the surveillance of two quangos to monitor the cost effectiveness and the customer performance of its activities.

    Would this have anything to do with the EU ?

    Being run by a non-elected Quango is the last thing we need. It allows Government to remove itself from responsibility for policy and, any consequences of that policy. It also increases costs, as we will have to pay salaries and benefits commensurate with that of the private sector, yet, this new body will not be open to market competition, and is in effect, a State created monopoly.

    It also sets up nicely, just like the Royal Mail privatisation did, a company that will be sold off at a later date, the money for which, we will be told; “Will represent a good deal for the taxpayer”. Yet, as a taxpayer, I will not see a penny but, will be charged tolls for roads I have already paid for.

    The country, along with its people, are being sold down the river by the very Parliament it elects. Wake up you fools, the ship is sinking !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Indeed….funded by the taxpayer and taking its strategic direction/orders from the EU.Surely we elect governments to be responsible for policy…more sleight of hand in the transfer of our sovereignty and the government’s accountability to the people.

      And whatever happened to the much vaunted “bonfire of the quangos”?

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      I think you may well be correct that this is a step towards selling it off, otherwise it is difficult to see any sense in creating such a complicated structure. We’re told that we shouldn’t have a separate English Parliament because it would be another layer of bureaucracy – not really true, in fact – but here we have a proposal that an existing quango should overseen by two other new quangos rather than directly by ministers and MPs, and what will that be other than an additional layer of bureaucracy? And what happened to the promised bonfire of the quangos, has it burned itself out now? Are these two new quangos themselves destined to become fuel for the next such bonfire?

      • Posted December 13, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        The conversion of the Highways Agency to a private company was overseen and announced in 2013 by a Scottish, ex PR for the Highlands, Libdum Minister and supposedly close colleague of George Osborne.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      The Treasury does seem to fall into the hands of civil servants wishing to enrich themselves by becoming entreprenuers without competition and a budget handed on a plate. The salaries and bonuses will be multiplied enormously and they will not have to answer to the taxpayer, except via other independent civil servants.

      Whenever the decision is taken at the top level of government to spend a large amount of money in certain areas then daft ways of spending it follow. Spending on roads is up so the Highways agency is going to ‘improve juctions’ on the M25. No doubt this will involve more lane alterations and traffic lights. But they have only recently finished altering them and, in the case of the light on the entrance slips, turned them off. Transport for London is paying for endless advertisements announcing a programme for junction alterations. One has stated on the way to the shops. There are delays while they are digging up the pedestrian crossing which has only recenly been installed with ramps and paving for the blind. What have they thought of this time? the money will be spent, but will anyone notice much difference?

      HS2 and the Stonehenge tunnel are designed to solve problems which could have been solved at far less expense, had the need been analysed properly in the first place. Meanwhile, there is insufficient housing, we have borders without adequate staffing or a counting system, and only propose new roads to be built way in the future and subject to cancellation by a future government.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Spot on Mark. The military and police are being wound down, government handed over to the EU, quangos run by EU placemen- normally socialists or former Labour MPs. Italy has already had three EU imposed PMs. Greece has just sacked another president. The EU is the root of a lot of these problems, yet the fanatical politicos still press on no matter what harm it causes people ie 50 percent youth unemployment in Spain, similar figures in Italy, Portugal and Greece. Utter madness. Yet Cameron wants Turkey to join the EU! Once more, why would he advocate this when considering renegotiation?

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      ‘Railtrack’ for the roads?

    • Posted December 15, 2014 at 1:09 am | Permalink

      The Infrastructure Bill is a Trojan Horse for road pricing and creeping roads privatisation. I wouldn’t mind so much if the government were honest, but the whole thing is dressed up as more investment.

      £15bn over about 6 years is not much – spend on all England’s roads is about £10bn a year now, although not all on things that benefit drivers. And rather than properly expand Mways properly, it is cannibalising the hard shoulder – which is supposed to be there for emergencies. Not good for road safety.

      We will get also stuck at 50mph more often.

      The investment is probably just ‘fattening the calf for market’. Once the roads are resurfaced, I can see Highway Robbery Ltd flogging long term leases off to companies who will toll the roads for profit. ‘A private sector matter’ says the next Roads Minister as he washes his hands.

      Complain to your MP if you don’t want to see this; there’s still time to amend the Bill. More on the Fair Deal for the Motorist website….

  2. Posted December 11, 2014 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    With regard to The Highways Agency and another Quango.
    Why do we need so many MPs if they removed from direct scrutiny of those spending our money.
    Just a thought!!!!!!

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      “Being run by a non-elected Quango is the last thing we need.” exactly it doubtless will be run mainly for the benefit, remuneration and convenience of the senior employees and management.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Not one quango but two, so obviously any problems will be ignored by both of them. The FSA debacles have been forgotten so soon….

      Apparently we “need” a minister for culture and sport, which most people couldn’t care less about. But we are no longer to have a minister directly responsible for the road networks that affect all of our daily lives.

      They did the same with Dartford Crossing. Tolls were only meant to be in place until the bridge had been paid for. In the mean time the Crossing was sold (I think to the French) and now the tolls are there forever, along with a new compulsion to pay the toll by internet (no doubt on pain of a massive fine)

      If they were twice as smart they still wouldn’t be able to out-think a half-wit.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      “Why do we need so many MPs if they are removed from direct scrutiny of those spending our money?”

      Exactly. This is just another solid reason for wholesale constitutional change. Devolution is not going to go into reverse, quite the opposite. There seems to be a determination to create, in England, local centres of power (with elected leaders) based on met or trad county boundaries, so why not capitalise on this move by collecting those leaders into an English parliament with a First Minister and creating a SoS for England (or alternatively, do away with the SoSs for W, S, & NI)? That way I reckon the constituency boundaries could easily be expanded and the number of UK MPs halved. That would mean all the things JR talks about in his sidebars would be a matter for someone else, and would leave the UK MPs to concentrate on affairs of state rather than flyovers and supermarket car parks.

      Our host’s title today includes the word “Infrastructure” : with infrastructure, as with everything, (as any engineer, scientist, economist, mathematician, team sports manager, military strategist or tactician, artist, composer (etc etc) will tell you), balance is everything. And at the minute the UK’s infrastructure is totally unbalanced. JR’s final paragraph, regardless of whether it is a good idea or not, will be yet another initiative which creates imbalance between areas, and whereas I want less government as a principle, things like this will, if not centrally MONITORED (reather than controlled) lead to imbalance, unfairness, and doubtless more govt spending of taxes in one way or another.

      And no-one likes to hear the word “Quango” any more, unless it’s in the context of a bonfire!! Quango = EU = unelected = jobs for the boys/girls = money wasted.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Yes, reduce the number of MPs and at the same time give us equal representation. Why are we still in the situation where each Scottish MP on average represents fewer constituents than an English MP?

      • Posted December 11, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        Because of a total failure of Cameron to get a fair deal with the Libdims. That and the fact he threw the last election with his high tax, big government, EU ratting and lefty modernising drivel.

      • Posted December 11, 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        “Why are we still in the situation where each Scottish MP on average represents fewer constituents than an English MP?”

        On average the number of constituents for an MP elected in Scotland is 96.6% of the number for an MP elected in England, or at least it would be if the Boundary Commissions were using up to date statistics and had been allowed to make the necessary adjustments.

        The same electoral quota is used in Scotland as in England, and on strict application of that quota there would be 57 seats in Scotland; in fact there are 59 seats, 2 extra to accommodate geographical difficulties.

        57/59 = 0.966.

  3. Posted December 11, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Clearly we need far more road space (given the governments open door immigration policy and the rapidly rising population. Surely democracy (such little as we still have left) demands proper direct political control of these road programmes. We will probably get lots of over paid and pensioned managers in nice new over heated building and very few new roads. Also huge disruption during the construction process. Motorways now often seem to have average speeds of less than 30 MPH just due to lack of capacity relative to demand. It costs the country a fortune in wasted time, extra fuel and other additional costs.

    Development of land should be where it is most sensible, very often brown field sites are not the best place to put new developments for all sorts of reasons.

    “to raise a levy on certain energy industry licence holders” yet another job destroying plan to make UK business less competitive and export jobs.

    Shale gas, yes please. But renewable energy should only be done where it can compete economically without any grant assistance (so almost never in practice).

    Meanwhile Cameron is on one of his many PR/distraction attempts with his new computer child abuse laws agenda I see. I suppose he think it will win him more votes and distract people from his governments economic tax, borrow and waste incompetence and his pro EU ratting.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Do you really think bring shale gas to market will lower our bills ? i mean, being an oil rich country hardly brought down petrol prices did it ?

      The monies will be siphoned off and used to fund more public spending and subsidies and gift aid.

      Come on LL, your clever man, surely you can see it.

      • Posted December 13, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        Yes I do. Clearly there is still an international price but there are large costs of transport so yes it will be cheaper near to the source. In the US energy prices are nearly half ours.

        At the moment energy prices are being driven up by the Ed Davey types, intentionally, artificially and for no sensible reason.

  4. Posted December 11, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I seem to remember something about a “bonfire of the quangos”.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Nigel

      The bonfire of Quango’s will never happen because they form a very , very, convenient buffer between departments and MP”s in the blame game.

      Whilst they exist Mp’s can say, nothing to do with me mate, not my responsibility.

      Then in times of problems they can set up yet another enquiry, independent or otherwise, to further the distance from having the responsibility for making a decision.

      Seems only a few MP’s our host included, actually want direct involvement in anything, the majority seem just to want the title and not the responsibility that goes with it.
      Hence the reason they have no problem with the EU in its present form.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      No sign of it or much else from the last manifesto.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      QUANGOs are like Japanese knotweed. I know of a few that were ‘dismantled’ – but the people working for them were moved to another existing QUANGO keeping their inflated salaries and pensions.

      • Posted December 11, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        And probably a good pay off and holiday in the gap before they start inconveniencing or fining some other private sector industry or wasting money on some new scam or other.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      Yes – it was called the Phoenix Programme

  5. Posted December 11, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Thought for the Day: Scots must be very thankful that they didn’t vote for independence. With oil at $65 the North Sea is uneconomic. A provisionally independent Scotland would now be facing its first fiscal and financial crisis.

  6. Posted December 11, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Why do we need two quangos? One quango is one too many. Speaking of unaccountable, or at best remotely accountable, agencies I seem to recall that the flooding troubles in the Somerset Levels were down in no small measure to decisions made by an agency with little or no local accountability. That was the reason the rivers were not dredged but allowed to silt up.

    As for the last item of buying into renewable energy schemes, this sound like another Cameronism calculated to waste taxpayers money.

  7. Posted December 11, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Off topic but I hope you will do a post on the Miliband-Balls ‘plan’ for balancing the books. Labour talk only about spending increases (eg on the NHS), want to balance the current budget but not the capital budget but want to have the national debt falling! Can interviewers on the BBC not see the glaring contradictions?! Labour also want to increase marginal tax rates in a way which has been shown clearly to reduce receipts. The homes tax will raise only £1bn (if in fact anything) but only after years of legal disputes on house values. This really needs to be taken apart. The BBC won’t do it obviously, and I wonder whether the Conservative front bench will do? I think a succinct piece from you on it would be a good idea!

  8. Posted December 11, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I wonder if we will get 24 hour working on all of these major projects, or will we be subject to the normal weeks, months, and years of congestion and delay whilst construction takes place.

    With a quango involved I guess it will be more of the same.

    • Posted December 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      It would be nice to think that they won’t take 20 miles of road out of commission at a time, as they seem to have done with M25 widening, M1 widening, and managed motorway projects on the M6, M1, and M25. It would also be nice to think that they would learn not to play with the trainset too much on the managed motorways, which often have unnecessary speed restrictions left in place long after they were needed – and also if they could liaise better with police to speed up the re-opening of motorways to traffic following an accident.

  9. Posted December 11, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Experience and common sense (not features politicians are known for using) tell us the taxpayer that this won’t work but will achieve the objective of kicking it down the road.

    Oh for a true leader to emerge to get to grips with these sell outs!!!

  10. Posted December 11, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Another layer of reporting is a layer too many . Quite what is the advantage of having the Highways Agency removed from direct Government reporting , I have no idea . Quangos always were superfluous and reducing them virtually out of extinction was a popular move . At pre-election time this does not make sense .
    It would seem that some of the decisions made are at variance with EU policy . Does this signify something we all ought to know ?

  11. Posted December 11, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    While we are moving (imaginary?) capital around the board, the most frightening chart I have yet seen. Can you spell HYPERDEFLATION ?

    http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=9wK

    Is anyone paying attention ?

  12. Posted December 11, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Sounds generally good.
    I’m not a fan of Quangos either. I hold the government responsible for the administration of the state whether they have created an arms length body to run pieces of it or not. As do most of us. They should not forget that. I take the same approach with companies I deal with who sub-contract out.

    On the other hand any move in the direction of supporting road transport and sources of cheap, reliable energy are a big plus.
    I shall remain dubious until we see the road infrastructure actually improving and shale gas being produced and used. The bigger problem with energy is that we’re not using the cheapest, most reliable and effectively cleanest forms of energy available to us because of international agreements.

    I can’t help but repeat remarks I’ve made so many times before. The environmentalists don’t want so solve the CO2 issue. They want to leverage it to change the world to how they think it should be. The CO2 issue could have been resolved decades ago by switching to nuclear. It could also have been mitigated greatly by switching to gas. Instead Europe has a mad concoction of coal, wind and solar which makes no sense at all whether your goal is CO2 reduction or cheap energy. What kind of continent do we live in when the French are the only state with their heads screwed on regarding energy. They’ve been nuclear dominated for decades.

  13. Posted December 11, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Thank the lord. Parliament has a new bill. Everything will be right with the world now despite all the evidence from the last 100 years that every single large scale government policy, bill and grandiose project has utterly failed in every respect I am certain that this new one will be different. The Highways Agency will magically improve, oil prices will treble in order to make shale gas economically viable, and the housing market will defy all the other government policies to increase prices and suddenly provide affordable housing.
    We are saved.

  14. Posted December 11, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Turning the Highways Agency into a company owned by the taxpayer will not alter the civil service mindset or induce a value for money attitude. It might set it up for an eventual sale which will be of no financial benefit to the owning taxpayers. Having it monitored by quangoes only adds to the sense of helplessness. If ministers do not wish to take responsibility for our roads by being answerable in Parliament why do they not have the guts to say so.

    In my view the Highways Agency should be no more than a specifier of requirement and a conduit for contracts put out to the private sector. Then it’s activities should be scrutinised by a parliamentary committee comprising MPs who know about civil engineering, value analysis, and financial control. This assumes that there are such people in the House of Commons. The Minister of Transport should carry the final can and be answerable for all the above in Parliament.

    As to shale gas, just get on with it. You have been talking in circles for far too long. Industry and the people need cheap energy now.

    Brownfield sites make sense if you can deal with the pollution of previous owners. Just tell the building industry that they are the only sites on which they will get permission to build. Their proximity to existing facilities such as supermarkets, town centres, post offices, schools will help to stop urban sprawl into the countryside. You could do something about refurbishing existing abandoned residential areas for the same effect.

    Your last paragraph seems ill defined to me. Why should a community be encouraged to buy into a renewable energy development that has already had the benefit of a green tax subsidy from Joe Public via their bills. If renewable energy was competitive in the market place there would be no shortage of investors

    By all means control Japanese knotweed and the American crayfish, but I thought we already had an environment agency for that. The crayfish could be put into the food chain for a profit, think crayfish in a basket, flavoured crisps or plain old scampie.

    A levy on the energy companies is of no benefit to consumers who are being screwed every which way as it is. Any levy will be passed on to them for sure. For once in your parliamentary lives ensure that we get value for money and ditch all the green nonsense which is only tax in disguise.

  15. Posted December 11, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    nigel,
    Another quango – the Westminster cabal love them, a repository for retired Parliamentarians and Mandarins. It hives off responsibility.

    OFGEM – what has it achieved over the years? Another referral to the MMC.
    Whilst they have supposedly been looking after the customers interest, the virtual re-nationalisation of the electricity industry has taken place.
    Energy policy represents the biggest expansion of state power since the nationalisations of the 1940s and 1950s and is on course to becoming the most costly domestic policy disaster in modern British history. By committing the nation to high cost, unreliable renewable energy, its consequences will be felt for decades to come.
    Labour accuse the energy companies of profiteering, whilst the DECC demand that they subsidise and insulate the homes of their poorer customers.
    In Germany Eon are withdrawing from electricity generation, most probably selling off to the State.

  16. Posted December 11, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    It usually costs more to develop on brownfield sites than on greenfield sites. How will you get round that?

  17. Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I suppose this latest company will become like the housing associations which have been an excuse to double the salaries of the staff and significantly increase their numbers. The end user will see no benefit and as someone has pointed out, in a few years the whole caboodle can be sold off to some private equity company and we can be charged to use our own taxpayer funded assets.
    I see CMD wants Turkey in his beloved EU, that should do well for the Muslim vote at the GE . etc ed

  18. Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Shale gas eh? Still flogging that dead horse. It will never be allowed by the people in this country – not unless you are prepared to put the army in to defend sites.

    Why not some real infrastructure spending? The Severn barrage and tidal lagoons like the one proposed off Swansea.

    ‘Swansea’s lagoon could be the first in a series of six coastal lagoons – the other five being much larger – including one near Colwyn Bay in Conwy, and one in the Bristol Channel.

    That network could generate up to 30 terawatt hours of power per year, or 8% of the UK’s electricity needs.’

    Link to BBC site

    You’ll spend a fortune on shale. Fighting local people and environmentalists – and clearing up the inevitable mess. Why have politicians such little vision? Scrap the inane HS2 and start building the lagoons.

    • Posted December 14, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      You want to add another £10bn p.a. to our electricity bills by having this tidal power at £305/MWh – the guaranteed CFD price, which is twice as much as for offshore wind, and more than three times as much as the current price for Hinkley C? Shale gas powering CCGT would give us power for less than £50/MWh.

  19. Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, JR, a ComRes poll shows up some possibly self-contradictory opinions: on the one hand 33% support cutting government spending to 1930s levels with only 26% opposed, but on the other hand 50% feel that the government is cutting its “too much and too quickly”. So can it be deduced that 50% – 26% = 24% are not actually against government spending being cut to 1930s levels in principle, they just don’t want it to happen in practice in the foreseeable future?

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Well if you ask daft questions! Do who want an NHS free at the point of use? Would you like a gas/electricity supply, Waitrose, or water supply free at the point of use? Who would answer no?

      We need a new word for “Austerity” that means a huge release of the 80% who work for the private sector (from the yoke of government and over taxation) but austerity for the 20% (& 150% over remunerated) state sector workers that delivers so little of any quality or value. (Also the huge numbers of (healthy) feckless they endlessly indulge & augment).

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Most voter of course want low or no taxes (on themselves anyway) and good free public services. The government in the UK alas delivers very high taxes and appalling public services – many of little or no real value whatsoever.

      Looking again at the WIKI “list of University of Oxford people with PPE degrees” the case for closing the course down is surely overwhelming. They are the career politicians largely responsible for this situation, the EUSSR and the general destruction of any residual UK democracy.

  20. Posted December 11, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I trust that the newly-fledged Highways Agency and the two monitoring quangos will be every bit as independent as the European Court and the OBR (see today’s newspapers), so that we may all be able to place our complete trust in them?

    Since the OBR apparently believes that Surrey is currently one enormous golf course ripe for development and the addition of loads more immigrants, I wonder whether any infrastructure budget can ever be large enough?

    PS Did you hear the one about the Welsh Development Agency being known as the “Last Quango in Powys?”

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Indeed what a complete dope. He must actually believe what he sees on the BBC I assume therefore that they also believe in the global warming fiery hell religion.

    • Posted December 11, 2014 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      The Surrey golf course coverage nonsense was said, I understand, by Stephen Nickell, an economist (and academic?)

      Other informative predictions from this gentleman include – in 2005, there is not a spending boom and there is no housing price bubble, in 2007 the housing market is down a little or flat but may edge up again. I of course paraphrase.

      Within 18 months hundreds of thousands of house buyers were in negative equity (BofE, 2009).

      With this kind of informed opinion maybe he should be appointed to the OBR.

      Oh! he was.

  21. Posted December 11, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    “The Highways Agency is being turned into a company owned by the taxpayer. ……………. and will be under the surveillance of two quangos to monitor the cost effectiveness and the customer performance of its activities.”
    Never have one Quango when two will do!
    The monitoring of various other privatised activities by various quangos has been far from being a success. Why should this be any different?
    As this business is to be totally funded by the taxpayer, it should be put under direct ministerial control and accountability. This isn’t privatisation, this is avoidance of responsibility by ministers who will no longer be able to brought to account by any failings, and no doubt an opportunity to pay astronomical salaries to those at the top along with equally huge bonuses for just doing their jobs. A home for failed or retired politicians.

  22. Posted December 11, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    No Bill immediately springs to mind with such detail, implication, such unpopularity. Tories may lag behind the SNP in May in England failing it being swept under the Common’s carpet where better conceived plans are still nibbled by Housemites.

    The infrastructure of Hadrian’s Wall was built with similar reasons in mind to those now advocating extending road and rail. It provided no great useful purpose but was impressive. It occupied the time of thousands of mainly non-Italian European temporary migrant “Roman” soldiers. It provided work in service provision, food production and housing development to the local population. But on completion and with the Roman recession of sorts it fell into disuse and was viewed until relatively recently as a complete waste of resources: an empty and cynical political grandstanding.

    Shale gas drilling is uneconomical: an electoral gift to the Greens the SNP and even Sinn Fein who may take part after May in Parliament. Few Tory voters, homeowners, however loyal to Mr Cameron will be in agreement to drill-ways being made 300 metres under their properties.

    Control of invasive plant and animal species? Would it not it be less fuss to lose the May Election simply by withdrawing all Conservative Party candidates?

  23. Posted December 11, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Its all bordering on the hopeless. The government machine is beyond control, MPs who speak of wishing to reign it in, have no significant influence. – Ministers have little control. The juggernaut rolls on and over us. The Prime Minister makes speeches to get some headlines, and then moves to another topic on another day. The bureaucracy chooses subjects from which it can gain advantage; there is no-one in the system who will admit that his or her department could be abolished without loss to the people it claims to serve.

    I am in complete opposition the political philosophy of Brand, but he has a point. The people must take some form of direct action to get change. My subject would be ‘English Parliament Now!’ The British Establishment and the political elites are fighting tooth and nail to prevent any such thing, and ‘English Votes’..’ is a weak compromise which will not work, and is not a solution to the attempted break up of the English nation. I ask again, why is England not entitled to what every other democratic nation regards as an essential part of identity. The British Elites have no answer. They concede to all manner of threats from Scotland, but the English continue to be treated with disdain. If they won’t give us justice we must behave like the Scots, and demand it.

  24. Posted December 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Yes, well this has just about made up my mind who to vote for at the election. The 3 main parties are not in the running especially after reading this.

    Shale gas is a welcome policy and one that should be hotly pursued. As for renewable energy, it will be a disaster. Far from cutting back from giving out subsidies for renewables Cameron is now talking about communities buying into it! This has been done in Scotland for a while now and in many cases has been a complete disaster. One community bought into 3 of 4 turbines which were situated so that another town experienced the down side of it all. They got the noise and no money and the town receiving all the money could not see the turbines or hear them. Properties in the town affected have been devalued while those getting the ‘community benefit’ weren’t affected at all. It’s always the same. Farmers and landowners see a great big fat profit to be made from sticking a turbine up but all too often the turbine is put near their neighbours homes and away from theirs. We are sick of it and were looking forward to Cameron changing the rules for wind farms/turbines and subsidies but here he is encouraging it and taxing certain energy industry licence holders. This will lead to more job losses for the UK. Ofgem announced the other day that they are employing more people to look at energy companies who owe their customers money. Another load of people to pay for something that many could control themselves if they could be bothered and didn’t have to keep changing providers. The whole state of energy in this country is a shambles and needs to be renationalised and run in an orderly fashion. This government is an utter disgrace and their actions will be pushing more into fuel poverty under the guise of towns receiving community benefit. Not everyone uses the local facilities and some would rather not have to pay more for their energy to fund these facilities but would rather give if they can afford to. Energy should not be used in this fashion and too many bribes for local communities exist already. Developers of large wind farms now bribe a local community first and people worst affected by the development suffer while others sit back with not a care in the world. The word immoral springs to mind.

  25. Posted December 11, 2014 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    I become too angry when quangos are mentioned and shut down to all other information but must admit I liked the play on too/to. Perhaps you can send us a glass of champagne via the Bow club to D Nuttall. I don’t mind joining in with Champers but too far to travel to London.

  26. Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Only marginally off topic, John, has any one else experienced the frustration I am having with the DVLA ? My driving licence being about to expire I applied online for a renewal. This required comprehensive information including the number of my existing licence. The licence was duly issued.
    Being the dutiful fool that I am, I returned at DVLA’s behest my existing counterpart licence and its attached photocard. However my new driving licence failed to arrive.
    The result is I am now without a licence and all information on it is with DVLA. They will provide a renewal only if I provide my old licence number, which I don’t have, it is with them. No one at DVLA seems prepared to make the effort to match the original application with a re-issue. They say they must have the old number first. So I am now scrambling round car-hire companies to see if they have my licence number. So much for government ‘service’.

    • Posted December 12, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      A friend who runs a motorcycle training school sent his license for renewal and it came back minus his listing for motorcycle. No amount of correspondence with the DVLA could rectify the mistake as they refused to acknowledge one. He asked for his original license to be checked and they said it had been destroyed. Magic.

    • Posted December 13, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Driving licences and passports are very valuable to criminals, who can trade them to the illegal immigration racketeers. This has apparently not ocurred to the issuing authorities. It would be possible to send them securely, to be picked up at post offices with ID, but they choose to use the ordinary post, which has a record of scanning theft and wrong address deliveries.

      I am still waiting for a bank internet pin which has gone missing. Why do they trust the post for such vulnerable documents?

  27. Posted December 12, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Does spending on all infrastructure count as investment? I suspect it does or it should. I notice the word “current” creeping into some discussions of spending and deficits which I think means that investment spending isn’t included.

    So we could have terms like “current spending”, “total spending”, “current deficits”, “absolute deficits” which are all different things.

    So, for example, if the government spent up big-time on building a new Thames Barrage, built new bridges and motoways across all large estuaries, electrifying all the railways etc etc then presumably these would be counted as assets on the Government balance sheet and so the spending wouldn’t be counted as “current”.

    I’m sure there’s room for argument as to what does constitute investment and what doesn’t. We all tend to view money spent on our own children’s education as ‘investment’, I’m sure, but what about all children’s education and the necessary infrastructure to go with it? Is that investment too?

    Whatever we want to call it that spending would go a long way to revitalising the economy.

    It looks like there could be some common ground on the question of spending on “infrastructure”.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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