Greens in the local Press

Stewart Wallis on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Stewart WallisStewart Wallis OBE gave a scintillating lecture at the Guildhall in Barnstaple on 19 October. The renowned business manager and thinker on economics introduced the concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The earlier ones are familiar – the first was steam and coal powered, the second was based on electrical power and assembly line production, the third was digital. The fourth is growing out of a combination of new disciplines including bio-technology, nano-computing and artificial intelligence. Mr Wallis asked if his audience had heard of Alba, the rabbit which glowed green, through genetic modification with DNA from a jellyfish that fluoresces green when exposed to blue light. None had. This was a sensational case, early in the 21st century, but we are all familiar with less dramatic and more useful creations like biotic limbs whose movements are triggered by the wearer’s thoughts. In this century, humans will – it is predicted – be able to download the contents of their brains to their laptops. Body parts will be replaceable by machine equivalents so that some individuals – perhaps the richest ones – will be able to live for several centuries. And computers will take over huge swathes of work currently done by humans.

These changes, fast becoming realities, will require some very complicated ethical decisions to be made, and economic ones too: what will people do when computers have taken their jobs in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Mr Wallis, now a senior advisor to the New Economics Foundation and renowned for huge pragmatism (as International Director, Oxfam, he ran a staff of 2,500 worldwide) argued that a major shift in economic and value systems is required. Our economic health has traditionally been measured in terms of GDP, but this is now completely out of kilter with our true sense of wellbeing. Rising population brings a need for huge numbers of new jobs while at the same time automation cuts the need for human input. But, as he sketched out, there is a possible future in which a Universal Basic Income ‘would put a floor under everyone’, ensuring the opportunity for wellbeing and releasing creative potential for new businesses and enterprises of all kinds. How to pay for such a major change? For a start patent laws could be revised, so that 50% of profits from them accrue to ‘the Commons’ rather than the whole 100% going to individual inventors or corporations, and the creation of new money, an activity presently in the hands of private banks, should become the preserve of publicly owned ones and be directed into areas of real need, such as the infra-structure, not into the pockets of financiers.

He also spoke of the urgent requirement that we humans live within our environmental limits and argued that corporations need a completely revised charter: not to make money at all costs but to serve society and accept a role in the stewardship of the planet (including wildlife, biodiversity and all the areas we are currently destroying instead of fostering). All of this and more will be in the book he is currently writing at his home on Exmoor. His lecture, expertly chaired by Myc Riggulsford of Walnut Bureau, was part of the current season organised by the North Devon Green Party.

The only political leader who knew how to shear a sheep …

Natalie Bennett, Franny Armstrong and Ricky KnightIs how Natalie Bennett, who only stepped down in August from being leader of the Green Party, described herself to a devoted audience in Barnstaple’s Guildhall on Wednesday evening. She’s an inspirational politician but also a scientist, and an agricultural one at that. Here at the invitation of the North Devon Green Party, Natalie, chaired by the equally inspirational radical film maker, Franny Armstrong, commenced their annual Autumn Lecture Series with a vision of change. It’s so important to hope and be positive was her message. She started with public transport, having just arrived via the picturesque Tarka Line. It reminded her of a journey on the Barrow-in-Furness line, which led to Barrow’s press describing her visit as ‘brave’. Barrow, she said, was a fine example of an old industrial model ripe for the new technologies of the 21st century, using their skills more to develop battery storage industry instead of being involved with building and servicing Trident. The point being that we all have the potential to do something not only productive but environmentally sustainable.

She went on to education, schools, unmonitored parliamentary spending, farming, and Brexit voters sadly mistaking taking back control from Westminster for taking back control from Europe. Westminster notions of spending and planning have nothing to do with what most people want – much more to do with politics. She was quick to point out that some people, particularly the better known ones in broadcasting and media, seem to think that the idea of living within our environmental limits is a political one. But it’s not - it’s simple science; a matter of physics. Living as if we have three planets instead of one is just not tenable; soil fertility is being depleted at an alarming rate, with about 100 harvests left before it’s completely destroyed; people are living in food and fuel poverty; are using too many cars and flying too much. But we can change. We can improve the way we farm, making smaller amounts of land much more productive with organic, mixed farming methods; we can improve insulation in homes and work places, we can harness renewable energy; we can improve communications systems so we need to travel less but on more public transport.

These ideas are particularly valuable in our rural economy where we need jobs but don’t want trash the beautiful landscape we all love. Such an approach would provide thousands of jobs at a time when jobs are becoming less and less available, cutting carbon emissions at the same time. A few years ago we were told that electricity supplied by lots of tiny solar units could never really be efficient because of the way the National Grid works. Now, all of a sudden, we are told by the CEO of National Grid that base-load does not signify anything anymore!

Attending the recent campaign of Larry Sanders, Green Party brother of the American Presidential Candidate Bernie, for David Cameron’s seat in Witney, she was surprised when the Tory candidate was booed – it was because of his disparaging remarks about the NHS,. Supportive of Hunt’s policies – and who knows more about that as an issue than we do in North Devon. The most urgent political priority to put us on the right road is to change our voting system from first past the post to proportional representation.

The session was rounded off with perceptive questions from Franny and the audience, leading to further comment on Brexit, rising carbon emissions, proportional representation, sexism, the leadership jobshare, housing supply and habitat destruction, the press and a progressive alliance.

On the Budget...

On 24th March, the Journal carried responses to the 2016 Spring Budget. Typically, our MPs, Messrs Cox and Heaton-Jones, enthusiastically welcomed a budget which was subsequently branded another omni-shambles a few days later, when it provoked a major cabinet resignation and the hasty reversal of the heartless cancellation of disability payments.
 
Among the accolades was one on the rates' relief for small businesses. Good news if you're a small business – and we are in favour of helping them as much as possible - but not so great if you are a local council, already strapped for cash. Last autumn, Chancellor Osborne went just a little way to soften the disastrous blows of cuts to local council budgets by allowing the latter to keep the business rates raised from those businesses in their region. Now he has taken that away again, leaving local authorities in an even worse position than before. Needless to say, our two local Tory MPs did not mention the consequences of the business rate cuts: the Chancellor gave away money that isn’t his and local services will suffer even more. How can a local MP spin this further budget cut as an advantage for a region already reeling under five years of austerity body-blows?
 
Also praised was the increased spending on the A361, the introduction of an ISA for mortgage-savers and the decision not to raise fuel-tax. We would all be far better off if, instead, these 'improvements' to the A361 were improvements to public transport generally. The ISA will just take money out of circulation and hand it to the banks, already bloated with inert billions from quantitative easing. A rise in fuel tax, while the oil price is so low, would provide funds to help alleviate problems within the NHS, Education and Social Services.
 
So why is the Government giving away money when it can’t fund the NHS properly? Why does it announce that all schools must become Academies (and thus outside local authority control, at who knows what cost) in a half-baked budget rather than put it in their manifesto as a proposal for the electorate to consider? And why are our Tory MPs blindly supporting this cruel and distrusted Chancellor?

The Gazette and the EU referendum

The Gazette is to be congratulated for its excellent local coverage of the EU Referendum debate, especially via its letter pages. The vote on 23rd June is likely to be the biggest decision many of us will make about our collective future in our lifetimes.

The Gazette has (and I hope will continue to), over the past several weeks, published very democratically many of the views of those both for and against leaving; on issues such as sovereignty, membership of NATO, potential collapse of the union, peace and security, migration, agriculture, fisheries, trade tariffs, annual contributions by Britain, the position of non-EU members such as Norway and Switzerland. The list goes on. Last week it published findings of a survey of 500 local people, which was both informative and intriguing. This is an issue, which completely erodes established party allegiances.

The Green Party however has its own very strong views on Europe, which reflect very much the electoral process by which MEPs are voted into position – significantly different from the way we are allowed to choose our own Westminster MPs. It has to be said that only with the much fairer representation of Greens in Europe than in the UK government can we hope to fight effectively against the challenges set by multi-national corporations.

For example, the campaign to highlight and fight the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), together with its insidious and equally hideously-named ‘secret court’, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a hitherto ‘secret’ trade deal concocted between Europe and the USA, is led exclusively by European Green Party MEPs in Brussels.

Such highly toxic in-house deals can only be fought by being ‘in’ rather than ‘out’. And of course issues such as Climate Change, Pollution of both air and oceans, Terrorism and the Refugee crisis (I am tempted to re-brand it ‘tragedy’) are no respecters of borders.

Please carry on the good work and keep publishing both sides to keep us informed and engaged.

Shrinking the State

If Mr Osborne’s Autumn statement  revealed a u-turn due to pressure even from his own party, on cuts to tax credits, he certainly made up for that in his yet further cuts to local councils. Who now, in their right mind, would want to be a councillor? The cuts are abhorrent, cruel, but hardly surprising, made not because it is vital for the British economy to reduce its spending, but because of a state-shrinking ideology. Osborne et al just want to privatise everything as fast as possible and this is all part of that.  As Marion Mason pointed out (letters 03.12.15) Cameron seems perversely unaware of the hell he has wreaked. The Conservative chair of the Local Government Association reacted with dismay to his own Party: "Even if councils stopped filling potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children's centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020.”

Their communications office continued: "These local services …will have to be drastically scaled back or lost altogether as councils are increasingly forced to do more with less and protect life and death services, such as caring for the elderly and protecting children, already buckling under growing demand.

"… Local government has led the way at finding innovative ways to save money but after five years of doing so the majority of savings have already [been] made. Tragically, the Government looks set to miss a once in a generation opportunity to transform the way money is spent across the public sector and protect the services that bind communities together, improve people's quality of life and protect the most vulnerable.”  

What they are left with is responsibility but no power to make life bearable.

To further ensure their grip the government has already legislated to cut the funding of Labour and other opposition parties while branding the former as a threat to National Security and, even worse, has changed the rules on voter registration.

Rosemary Haworth-Booth, Will Douglas-Mann,

Press Officers, 

North Devon  and Torridge/West Devon Green Parties.

Click here for the North Devon Journal's coverage of the march

Government to cut FiT renewable energy subsidy

Anyone wanting to install solar panels had better get a move on if they still want to be eligible for the present level of Feed-In-Tariff, the subsidy to householders and some stand-alone units,
Government are planning to cut subsidies. On 27 August they issued a consultation document announcing proposed cuts of 87%, which would come into force in January 2016. The consultation ends on 23 October, so anyone wanting to object, comment or simply apply for the subsidy may need to do so before then. The government argue that their budget of £7.6bn for renewable energy sources will be significantly overspent if the present subsidy continues but the industry and those concerned about the environmental impact of fossil and even nuclear fuels see this a huge backward step in the battle against global warming.

Spokesperson for the North Devon Green Party, Ricky Knight said "there has been considerable concern in North Devon over the amount of land being given over to so called solar farms and no doubt some will view the proposed cuts to subsidy as a good thing but installations on domestic, agricultural, industrial, commercial and public buildings will also be badly affected if this goes ahead." Friends of the Earth say it sends UK energy policy massively in the wrong direction and will prevent almost a million homes, schools and hospitals from plugging into clean renewable energy.

More information here

 

Letters to the Journal for the 2015 election

Dear Editor,

UKIP ASSERTIONS
One of UKIP's leaflets asserts, 'In 2014 UKIP became the first party other than the Conservatives or Labour to win a national election for 100 years'.

It sounds as if they think they became the Government. I suppose they are referring to the fact that they now have 2 elected MPs. In which case, what about the Liberals, the SDP, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and Respect? (There may be others [I have left out the SNP and Plaid Cymru, because they are not English].)

How many more of UKIP's assertions are inaccurate?

UKIP's 4-page advertisement in the North Devon Gazette and the 3 glossy leaflets I have so far received from them are clear evidence that they have spent a lot of money on this election. They must have very rich backers, who, no doubt, hope for some kind of return for their money. So much for Steve Crowther's claim that, if elected, ordinary people will be his boss!

Yours faithfully,

Elizabeth Wood (Mrs)



Dear Sir,

Why have Mair Manuel and Brian Greenslade used green for their Barnstaple Pilton Ward candidates' posters?
Is it because they believe they have a better chance of being elected if people think they belong to the Green Party? Or have they in the past few weeks actually abandoned the Liberal Democrats and joined the Greens without telling anybody?

Yours Faithfully,

Katie Cotton

Advertisement in the North Devon Gazette

North Devon Gazette April 28 2015

NHS Reinstatement Bill

Green Party Support for the NHS RE-INSTATEMENT BILL outstrips that of all other Parties

Please click here for the press release.


Marine issues

It has been good to see the Journal following two issues relating to marine matters which play major roles in our local economy: the fishing ban which came into place on October 12 and marine energy.

The fishing ban would have a drastic effect on the local fisheries of North Devon and prompted Steve Crowther of UKIP to write a damning critique of the effects of the EU on what is, for North Devon, a crucial industry. Protests pressed Fisheries Minister George Eustice to secure an improved deal (‘Quota Deal’ Journal Dec 25th).

The energy issue is to do with the ‘Chronic lack of cash’, (Journal Jan 1st) specifically, lack of interest by the present government in investment in harnessing tidal and wave power. Nick Harvey is to be congratulated for speaking out on this, despite being part of that government.

The Green Party has long had very strong views on both these issues and how they affect local community.

Unlike Mr Crowther we believe that leaving the EU would hardly be an answer to our fishing problems. Fishing rights would be carved up by the remaining (if we left) major players and the UK would be left with little or no say on industrial dredging fleets increasing damage to already depleting stocks. It is Green MEPs like Molly Scott Cato who will be speaking loudest for sustainability not just for stocks but for local community livelihoods too. Local fishermen have been wise and skillful in maintaining stocks off our coast but harmful incursions could follow if we were unable to fight our corner at the EU table.

Despite speaking up early on against the 'discard' policy UKIP has a shameful track record on the fisheries debate in Europe: while on the Fisheries Committee Farage only attended one of 46 meetings. Similarly the GP has long been supportive of Marine Renewables. We will support the rapid commercialisation of tidal stream and wave-powered generators to ensure they are able to contribute at least 5GW each by 2030, and a combined input of at least 20GW by 2050. This goes considerably beyond the present governments deplorable lack of investment in green energy.

To find out more about Green Party policy on both these issues check http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mc.html

Green MEP uses Pope’s visit to draw attention to ‘deadly sins of banking’

On the day that Pope Francis spoke to the European Parliament, Molly Scott Cato MEP has launched a Green website called the Seven Deadly Sins of Banking. In a speech to the Parliamentary plenary session in Strasburg, Dr Scott Cato urged people to use the site to find out the truth about the flaws in our banking system and to assess the performance of their own bank or building society.

Dr Scott Cato, an economist who sits on the Parliament’s Economics Committee, also raised the issue of the recent stress tests on European Banks in her speech. She said:

“While the recent stress tests of European banks have shone the spotlight on some of the weakest sections of the banking sector, this should not divert attention from the need for decisive structural reform of the banking industry. The two most important causes of the financial crisis have still not been addressed: first, we need a clear-cut separation of retail from casino banking activities; secondly, we need to reduce the size of individual banks so that no single financial corporation can threaten the global financial system.”

Dr Scott Cato went on to cite the recent example of the Royal Bank of Scotland, accused of misleading regulators and deliberately undermining their own customers. She said:

“Banks are still nowhere near the responsible corporations serving the real economy that we need them to be. They are still too big and too interconnected to fail.”

Dr Scott Cato also called on the Parliament to confront head on the vast and growing levels of debt which she described as ‘the fundamental cause of instability in the monetary system globally’. She urged MEPs to challenge the notion of a money creation system that relies on allowing private banks to create money with a simultaneous creation of debt.

Molly Scott Cato concluded: “The Pope has spoken a lot about the imbalance and inequality in our society that has resulted from upholding ideologies based on markets and financial speculation. Today seems like a great opportunity to launch a site which will enable people to learn about the terrible wrongs inherent in our banking system and the solutions that Greens in Europe are proposing”

Our MPs and the recall bill.

It was disappointing to learn that Nick Harvey voted against the amendments to the MP Recall Bill. Sadly, rather more expected that Geoffrey Cox voted the same way. 

The Bill will allow voters to ‘recall’ or sack their MP and force a by-election if they deem him/her guilty of misconduct  or not properly representing them. However, the Bill, which was something the Tories promised to the electorate in 2010 but have certainly taken their time in bringing to the table, gives rather less scope to the electorate than it pretends too.
 
In the Bill's present configuration, something called the Standards and Privileges Committee will still have sway over bringing an MP to account.  MP Zac Goldsmith, a Tory but one with  sometimes surprisingly left-leanings, recognized the inherent unfairness of the proposed version and suggested some modifications which would give more power to the public to force a vote. A long debate in parliament suggested that some MPs were concerned that the Recall Bill would enable constituents to sack their MP for a voting record which didn’t necessarily match their own wishes, but in fact the bill is intended rather to deal with such issues as the Cash For Questions scandal of the 1990s or the abuse of MPs expenses, or the behaviour of MPs like Chris Huhne in lying about driving offences.
 
Nick Harvey and Geoffrey Cox have voted down an amendment that evidently signifies a much greater trust in the electorate. It is interesting to note that two MPs with usually rather different takes on politics from each other - UKIP’s Douglas Carswell and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas- both voted in favour of Goldsmith’s proposal.

Rosemary Haworth-Booth
Press Officer
North Devon Green Party

Torrington Hospital and Tory Policy

Geoffrey Cox voted for the new Health and Social Care act of 2012 and in May this year we learned that Government planned to shift £2bn from Hospital funding to local government Health and Wellbeing boards, meaning that there has to be a rapid reduction in hospital beds. Maybe some of us were/are not aware of this government directive.
 
So why was Cox, a member of that governing party, taking to task (through chairing the public meeting in Torrington, 8 November) the members of the CCG and the NDHT when the  reconfiguration of Torrington Hospital has become a necessity for a Healthcare authority in financial deficit and bidden to prepare their services for said shift of funding and for greatly increased privatisation? Cash withheld or transferred and privatization cheer-led, by his Party.
 
The Tory Government, ultimately supported by the LibDems, instigated the CCGs and new Healthcare Trusts at great cost to the taxpayer and ensured the management had huge salaries – which take quite a bite out of already severely curtailed budgets. The latest 38 Degrees Petition seeks to find out exactly where NHS England (the management body to which CCGs across the country are answerable) is spending its money.
 
The Tories lied to us about the NHS before the last election.
It is the government we should be railing against, not the medical profession.
 
Rosemary Haworth-Booth
Press Officer
North Devon Green Party

South West MEP to join panel discussion on controversial TTIP trade deal

South West Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, will join a panel discussion on the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) EU-US trade deal in Bristol. The question time style event will also include MPs, a TUC representative and Executive Director of campaign organisation, Positive Money.

The event will explore crucial questions around how TTIP would affect employment, public services like the NHS, food, energy, environmental regulations and democracy. Molly Scott Cato said:

“Greens have been at the forefront of action against TTIP in the European Parliament. A few weeks ago I took to the streets in Bristol with hundreds of others to protest against this dodgy trade deal. Having received over 5000 messages, I know how worried many of my constituents are about TTIP. I believe we have to stop this juggernaut. It not only threatens hard-fought-for standards on the quality and safety of our food and environment but will also open the doors to privatisation of public services and erode workers’ rights. Perhaps most worryingly, it would allow businesses to sue governments when they tried to put people or the environment ahead of profits.”

North Devon Green Party member Rosemary Haworth-Booth said “there has been a lot of talk in the local press recently of changes to the way the NHS will be delivered in Devon. Many of us are already worried by the huge funding gap that North, East and West Devon CCG has to meet and the proposed shift in Torrington hospital from a 24/7 in-patient service to a community out-patient hub.  It may not at first sight appear a related issue, but if the TTIP goes ahead standards in the NHS are likely to worsen as we become locked-in to powerful corporations who will be able to dictate procurement of services."

In the bag: Greens push through historic deal on tackling plastic waste

New EU rules to reduce plastic bag use have been agreed in Europe, thanks to leadership by the Greens. The new legislation will cut the number of bags Europeans use each year by more than three quarters in just over a decade. It is the first time binding measures to reduce waste at EU level have been agreed.

The legislation was agreed following careful steering by the lead negotiator, Green MEP Margrete Auken. EU governments will now be compelled to adopt measures to drastically reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags.

The new legislation has received unanimous European Council backing, despite attempts by the UK government to scupper the deal. UK opposition came despite evidence of how a 5p price on plastic bags has reduced usage in Wales by up to 96%. Similar reductions in usage have been seen in Northern Ireland and the government has agreed to introduce a 5p charge on plastic bags in England next year. Responding to the news South West MEP, Molly Scott Cato, said:

“While the UK government and UKIP seem determined to outcompete each other on opposition to any EU initiative, Greens are getting on with the task of working to build a Europe for the common good. By working constructively and building consensus Greens have managed, yet again, to push through another important piece of environmental legislation”.
Under the new proposals, EU states can opt for mandatory pricing of bags by 2019, or agree to binding targets to reduce the number of plastic bags used annually per person from 191 now to 90 by 2019 and 40 in 2025.
Local Councillor Ricky Knight  and North Devon Green Party Parliamentary Candidate said "Plastic waste respects no borders. The terrible damage caused to marine animals and birds is well documented. In North Devon  we are particularly aware of valuable marine habitats; this is very good news."

South West Green MEP nominated as Parliamentarian of the Year

The first Green MEP for the South West, Molly Scott Cato, is in line for a ‘Green Ribbon’ award for European Parliamentarian of the Year tomorrow. She is nominated for her ‘impressive performance as a newly elected MEP’. 

The Green Ribbon Political Awards are awarded to politicians, businesses and NGOs both in the UK and abroad for their environmental achievements. The awards are decided by a high profile panel of judges, which this year include Baroness Parminter, environmentalist Jonathan Porritt and environmental journalist Geoffrey Lean.

Reflecting her strong commitment to working cooperatively with the 49 other Green MEPs, Dr Scott Cato is unable to attend the ceremony due to a conference in which she and her colleagues will be considering their strategic objectives and political priorities for the current parliamentary term. However, in a special televised message, Dr Scott Cato said:
 
“I felt quite humbled by the nomination because I don’t feel I’ve really had much chance to achieve a great deal as an MEP yet. Our parliamentary work is done by 50 MEPs in the Green group and I’m looking forward to my five years working with some really tremendous parliamentarians.”
 
In the message Dr Scott Cato speaks about some of the things that may have led to her nomination, including the way the Greens have helped create public awareness of the threats to democracy from the TTIP trade deal and the pressure the Green Group have placed on Commission President Jean Claude Juncker over his choice of commissioners.

Molly Scott Cato also talked about the decision by the Commission to give the green light to the financial deal on a new Hinkley nuclear power station. She said:
 
“As a Green MEP I was in a unique position to challenge this appalling decision which I’m convinced was illegal. I’m in a much stronger position to challenge that here and I really think we need to get the EU to stick to its own rules about competition. A real priority for me is to save UK taxpayers from losing the opportunity of have renewable energy and spending an enormous amount of unnecessary money on fuel bills.”
 
Dr Scott Cato concluded by looking forward to her five years as an MEP: “I have particular responsibility for tax so I hope to have some achievements in that important area.” 
 
In a seperate category, Caroline Lucas is nominated as best Westminster Parliamentarian for her support for biodiversity and environmental issues. The awards will be announced and presented at a Ceremony in Parliament on Tuesday 18th November with 200 specially invited parliamentarians, environmental figures and journalists. 

Greens pledge to continue fight in wake of European Commission decision on Hinkley


The European Commission today gave approval to plans by the UK government to give public support for the construction of a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley, with a proviso that certain adjustments are made to the contract (1).
 
Commenting on the decision and the Green Party's continuing opposition to Hinkley and nuclear power, local Councillor Ricky Knight, Parliamentary Candidate for North Devon, says that by waving through the massively problematic Hinkley C deal, the outgoing Barroso-led EU Commission is giving a cynical boost to nuclear power. There could be no doubt that the generous terms being offered by the UK government to EDF on Hinkley C amount to illegal state aid under EU rules.

“It is scandalous” says Ricky “that one of the final acts of the Barroso Commission is to turn a blind eye to the illegality of the Hinkley deal.
 
“This deal, and the precedent it creates, is a massive setback for renewable energy in the South West and the rest of the UK. Small scale renewable energy producers will find it difficult to compete with large scale subsidized nuclear, meaning that the thousands of potential jobs that could be created in the renewables sector will be lost.”
 
“Today's decision by the Commission will not be the last word. The European Commission cannot be allowed to clear the path for further exorbitant public spending on this dated and dangerous technology, when we should be promoting a safe and sustainable energy future for Europe. Greens will fully support any legal challenges that may now present themselves.”

Notes
[1] European Commission press release: State aid: Commission concludes modified UK measures for Hinkley Point nuclear power plant are compatible with EU rules:  http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-1093_en.htm

For more information please contact:

Ricky Knight Green Party PPC  07986 941 026 

rickyknight@northdevongreens.org.uk  

TTIPing the Balance:

Green Party in Devon welcomes growing public opposition to new trade deal.

Barnstaple town councillor and Green Party parliamentary candidate Ricky Knight, has welcomed the growing public awareness of and opposition to a proposed EU-US trade deal known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). “I am relieved that at last TTIP is getting some publicity” he said. “Because the negotiations are being conducted in secret it is hard to build opposition, so campaigns such as the 38 Degrees petition [1] that alert people to the dangers of this toxic deal are to be welcomed.” Ricky took part in the demonstrations across the  country, including in  Barnstaple, Torrington and Bideford against the TTIP on 30 August and says there will be further Europe-wide demonstrations on 11 October. (to find out more go to http://ttip2014.eu/event/event/o11DoA.html  

Greens in the European Parliament have been at the forefront of the campaign against TTIP for many months [2]. Concerns focus around three main areas: regulatory harmonization which threatens hard-fought-for EU regulations on the environment, workers’ rights, public services and consumer standards; Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) which would give multinational corporations the right to sue governments over laws and regulations that affect their profits and the secrecy around the negotiations which have shut out public debate. Green MEP Molly Scott Cato has herself been invited to attend a secret briefing on TTIP.

TTIP could have a devastating effect on Devon’s many small scale farmers, Food products such as chemically washed poultry, livestock treated with growth hormones and genetically modified crops – all allowed in the US – could be sold in the UK. This would severely undermine farmers here who adhere to the higher European standards on animal welfare and on a GM crops ban [3].

Cathrine Simmons, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Torridge, Torridge Councillor and a key member of the STITCH (Save The IrreplaceableTorrington District Hospital) campaign, says TTIP also threatens the privatisation of public services “There are many aspects of TTIP I am deeply worried about but I find ISDS the most disturbing. This has the potential to seriously undermine democracy and allow corporate powers to lock-in the privatisation of public services, particularly health services including the NHS.” This could have a very negative effect on services offered by North Devon District, Torrington and other local hospitals and GP surgeries.

David Cameron has welcomed the idea of the TTIP agreement saying it could boost the UK economy by as much as £10bn per year with individual households benefiting by up to £400 a year [4], claims dismissed by Ricky Knight: “Cameron’s statistical conjuring act on TTIP is totally groundless, though it is no surprise to see the Tories taking the side of corporations. What is very worrying though is to see Labour MEPs supporting this treaty. One would hope that Labour would be opposing a treaty that threatens to undermine worker rights and allow US corporations to take over the health service.”

Last year in the House of Commons, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas sponsored an Early Day motion on TTIP [5] expressing concern at the inclusion of ISDS in TTIP and calling for talks on the partnership agreement to be frozen. The EDM has received cross-party support and been signed by 38 members of Parliament, with support mostly coming from the Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru and Labour MPs.  

[1] 38 Degrees TTIP petition: http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2014/08/11/ttip-sign-the-petition-now/ 

[2] Green Group/EFA website on TTIP http://ttip2014.eu/

[3] See previous press release: http://southwest.greenparty.org.uk/news.html/2014/07/14/new-trade-deal-threat-to-south-west-farmers/

[4] Financial Times: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/29f1f7f2-31d3-11e4-b377-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz3CF9kfXN1

[5] Caroline Lucas EDM: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/793

For more information please contact:

Andrew Bell, Media Officer to Molly Scott Cato MEP abell@phonecoop.coop 07903 932220 @aw_bell 


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Ricky Knight's opinion piece in the Journal

North Devon Green Party member and Barnstaple town councillor Ricky Knight explains why he thinks the Greens should be included in the national televised political leaders debate ahead of next year's general election.

THE media-coup of the "leaders' debates" in 2010 threaten now to become a US-style feature for future elections, following Ofcom's decision to grant UKIP equal billing with the so-called Big Three major parties in the run-up to May 22 European elections.

The three male egos on parade before the rollercoaster of public opinion will now, it seems, be joined by a fourth gargantuan one, based on UKIP's representation in the European Parliament.

Fortunately, this ruling does not grant Farage a place in the media showcase in a year's time, a fact made all the more enticing by his promise to resign if none of his candidates are elected in 2015.

UKIP's rebranding of right-wing populism is remarkably unscathed by the revelations of their appalling attendance and voting record in Brussels.

In many respects, the British public are being offered no choice at all.

All four of these male-dominated, testosterone-fuelled parties are firmly ensconced on the right of the political spectrum, paranoid about re-election, terrified of getting on the wrong side of the media, riven with cronyism and sycophancy, obsessed with spin and soundbites and in hock to the corporates and the vested interests of shareholders and lobbyists.

They have presided over the virtual collapse of our banking and financial systems, the erosion of our civil, human and workers' rights, a betrayal of social justice and an abrogation of the responsibility to protect our environment and mitigate climate change.

Who came out on top in 2010? Why, it was that fresh-faced, honest, credibly nice Mr Clegg. What a difference a spell in government seems to have made to our perception of him and his party.

They have even now managed to back nuclear power and shale-gas extraction, to trump all the other failures to stand-up for what most of their voters and observers would have expected of them.

If Caroline Lucas, then leader of the Green Party, now an MP, had been allowed to join those three male presidential hopefuls, she would have wiped the floor with them.

Ofcom's ruling may have been coldly logical but it of necessity avoided the elephant in the room: the absurdly skewed British electoral system, a first-past-the-post anachronism, designed to perpetrate the status quo and the periodic inevitable pendulum swing from red to blue, based on a few marginal constituencies.

In failing to make even the miniscule change to AV in 2011, our jealously guarded feudal arrangement keeps the jobs with the boys, while alienating significant swathes of society, best exemplified by Russell Brand's vehement argument against the unrepresentative undemocratic autocracy that is the British Parliament.

It is this archaic system that prevents the Green Party, in its 40th year, from making the breakthrough it deserves. In the last European elections here in the South West, the Green Party polled far ahead of the Labour Party and is again fielding full slates of candidates across the 10 regions of the UK.

In 2010, 1.2 million votes were given to the Green Party. In the online site Vote for Policies, where anyone can take a blind choice for the party their hearts and minds would vote for, given the chance, the Green Party consistently wins, hands down. Visit http://votefor policies.org.uk – Greens 25%, UKIP 12%. But at least these two "new" parties can agree on one thing: PR and electoral reform.

Where Greens are elected, thanks to sheer hard work by party activists, they can bring real change and make a real difference. The Green Party is running the council in Brighton and Hove, is the official opposition in Norwich and likely to be in the same position in Solihull after the next elections, was third ahead of the Lib Dems in the 2011 London Mayoral and Assembly elections, has an MP in Brighton Pavilion, two MEPs and a member of the House of Lords (imagine that!), while the Scottish Green Party is a major force, as Scotland heads for the devolution showdown.

The Green Party is a solution-driven, positive progressive alternative to the "business as usual" model on offer from the other four contenders. It is always easy to state the negatives: anti-nuclear, anti-GM, anti-fracking, anti-cull, anti-zero-hours contracts, anti-bedroom tax, anti-cuts, anti-Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership, anti-establishment. All true.

The Greens however prefer to accentuate the positive: pro-Europe, pro-small business, pro-infrastructural investment to provide Green jobs, pro-Tobin Tax, pro-railway-renationalisation and public transport, pro-NHS and State Education, pro-renewables, pro-human-, minority- and animal rights, pro-living wage (UKIP wish to abolish the minimum wage), pro-planet.

All these policies are as relevant nationally as they are regionally and to us locally – and all are as relevant for the European Elections this May as they are for the general election next year.

Some might await the forthcoming televised clash between 2010's showcase "winner" Mr Clegg and 2014's aspirant Mr Farage with a combination of trepidation and elation. But for the majority of us, it will be an irrelevancy, signifying nothing more than an in-house con-trick to perpetuate the status quo.

Read more: http://www.northdevonjournal.co.uk/Greens-angry-excluded-debate/story-20831696-detail/story.html#ixzz2yeodGSnT


Lawson's climate change denial

It is scandalous to allow Lord Lawson to be given equivalent status and air time to a scientist of climate change from Imperial College.
Lawson is a politician and head of a think tank whose donors are secret - they very probably include those with financial interests in the fossil fuel industries.
He says, among other errors, that it has not been proven that in the past few years global warming has been stored in the depths of the oceans - but this was recently proved by Australian scientists and widely reported. His recipe for addressing climate change does not go to the root cause, carbon missions. Lawson claimed that reducing carbon from our economy will take us back to the Stone Age. Tell that to advanced countries like Denmark and Germany.
Shame on the editors of the Today programme.

Dr Mark Haworth-Booth OBE

The energy bill revolution

We are facing an energy bill crisis.

Gas, oil and coal prices are high, and the UK’s homes are some of the most energy inefficient in Europe costing much more than they should to heat and power, and they contribute to climate change too.

Cold homes are damaging the health of vulnerable members of society. Diseases are made worse, and people are more likely to have strokes and heart attacks. Illnesses caused by cold homes cost the NHS nearly one billion pounds each year.

On average, at least 7,800 people die every year from living in cold homes – more than four times the number of people who die on British roads.

But there is a fair and permanent solution. We can have warm homes, reduce our fuel bills and cut carbon emissions.

The answer is for the Government to use the money it gets from carbon taxes to help make homes super-energy efficient – with excellent insulation, renewable energy and modern boilers.

Even though these things save money on energy bills and keep our homes warmer, many people simply can’t afford to pay for them. That’s why the Government must provide more funding to help.

The Government taxes big companies for the damage their carbon emissions cause to the environment. There are two main taxes: the European Emissions Trading Scheme and the Carbon Floor Price. This tax has been created by the Government to help combat climate change and wean UK companies off dirty fossil fuels.

A good objective, but the money the Government receives isn’t being used to help people use less energy to heat their homes – which would cut carbon emissions even further AND cut people’s bills.

The companies eventually pass these taxes on to consumers bills.

Over the next 15 years the Government will raise an average of £4 billion every year in carbon taxes. The Government could recycled this revenue to households, providing billions of pounds to insulate the UK’s homes. The benefits would be immense. This could bring 9 out of 10 homes out of fuel poverty, lower people’s bills, cut carbon emissions AND create jobs. It’s time for an Energy Bill Revolution.

MP for Torridge and West Devon, Mr Geoffrey Cox, is not among the 228 MPs who support this initiative at the time of writing – and I wonder why not?

Colin Jones, Dolton.

The 'Gagging' bill

Disappointing news about the Gagging Bill: our North Devon MPs, Geoffrey Cox and Sir Nick Harvey, let us down this week. They followed party orders and voted to reverse the main improvements to the gagging law. But there is a glimmer of hope. Now that the government has removed the Lords’ changes, it has to go back to the House of Lords - in a process known as 'ping-pong'. The Lords could put back in the improvements MPs took out. If they do, it will go back to the House of Commons again, where the government could either decide to accept the changes or put it to a vote again.

So it’s not over, and our MPs might have another chance to vote the right way.

It's pretty depressing when MPs don’t listen to the concerns of their constituents. But it’s also a reminder of why each of us needs to keep standing up for democracy and freedom of speech.

The Gagging Bill goes back to the Lords on 28 January, so it could be back with MPs as soon as the 29th. This week it was close - if just 17 more Conservative or Liberal Democrat MPs had voted differently, we would have won some important changes.

Maybe our MPs didn’t have enough time to review the amendments properly? Maybe they were leant on by their party bosses? Or maybe they just don’t understand what’s at stake?


The big problem that everyone acknowledges is that there’s too much money with too much influence in our democracy. Unfortunately, the Gagging Bill leaves the money where it is and instead removes ordinary people who care. That’s why reputable organizations, like The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, and the chairman of the political and constitutional reform committee, not to mention many charities themselves like OXFAM, the RSPB, the Royal British Legion and the Countryside Alliance, are against it. The people who are for it seem to include our North Devon MPs, both of whose parties made pledges to the electorate in 2010 (on the NHS and university tuition fees) that they immediately broke. So who do we trust on the Gagging Bill? 


Mark Haworth-Booth, North Devon Green Party


Destroy ancient woodland

Sir,
Owen Paterson, our so-called Environment Minister, surely in his case, the Orwellian title par excellence, seems increasingly to regard his own ecological illiteracy as a badge of pride.
His latest pronouncement (on 4th January) suggests that the destruction of ancient woodland could be 'offset' by planting new trees in its stead.
He fails to understand that the ecosystem of an ancient wood is infinitely richer than that of any new plantation that allegedly substitutes for it.

Underlying Paterson’s crass statement is a tragic abandonment by the Conservative Party of one its founding principles: as conservers of our natural and cultural heritage; the same party which joined hands with its feared local rival Ukip, to fight the Atlantic Array, potentially a multi-billion pound investment into the Northern Devon economy.
These 'Conservatives' are now prepared to tear up any part of the British countryside that gets in the way of their desperate pursuit of 'economic growth' and profit for the few, destroying in its wake invaluable and irreplaceable habitat.

It is the Green Party that now assumes the mantle of political protectors of our green and pleasant land.

Sincerely Ricky Knight Secretary – North Devon Green Party Bishops Tawton

Water is the way forward

Mr Alan Whittle (Letters, 31 October) asks the Green Party and the Friends of the Earth to tell him 'how much of a carbon footprint will a wind turbine leave considering the build is out of this country, the cost and use of transportation to its intended destination, not forgetting the loss of historical hedgerows, loss of wildlife habitat and the amount of concrete that will be needed to support the tower'. The Department of Energy and Climate Change states on its website that 'energy generated from wind power has one of the lowest carbon footprints compared with other forms of electricity generation. Nearly all the emissions occur during the manufacturing and construction phases, arising from the production of steel for the tower, concrete for the foundations and epoxy/fibreglass for the rotor blades. These account for 98% of the total life cycle CO2 emissions.

This means onshore wind power has a relatively very small carbon footprint range of between 8 and 20g CO2eq/kWh, taking into account not only emissions from generation of electricity but those incurred during the manufacture, construction and decommissioning phases. By comparison, the average emissions from fossil-fuelled power generation in the UK was around 500gCO2/kWh.' These days companies like Vestas recycle 81% of a wind turbine and their target for 2015 is 85%. 

As regards hedgerows and wildlife habitats, onshore and marine impacts are strictly monitored - in the case of the Atlantic Array  - by the Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT). The DWT predicts a net gain in biodiversity if the Atlantic Array is built and contributes clean energy for its proposed life-span. If and when other currently unviable technologies - like tidal - improve sufficiently they are likely to take over from windfarms such as the Array.

Mark Haworth-Booth
Member, North Devon Green Party and Friends of the Earth.

Why the lady should have said ‘Yes’

Full marks to Braunton’s Conservative Party District Councillor Mrs Chesters (Letters, 16th Oct), for breaking our elected representatives’ golden ‘no comment’ rule, while the world her party is intent on destroying is falling about our ears. Forget austerity cuts, the bedroom tax, multiple housing applications, the privatisation of our NHS and state schools, fracking (coming soon), nuclear power, the badger cull, food banks ….. let’s instead go against the recommendations of our professional officers or better still, reverse the democratic decision of their own Planning Committee, as they did in Torridge.

Mrs Chesters is selectively wrong on every point she makes:

  • wind turbines work; they generate electricity. No company is going to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in putting together an application for a system that doesn’t work; such an argument is frivolous. We are talking about enough clean energy for 900,000 homes!
  • of course our AONB is fragile and ecologically important; but an aesthetic dislike of turbines is subjective – it is not a mitigating planning consideration; the vast majority of people have nothing against them, a significant number find them beautiful. Far more damage is going to be done to our beautiful coastline by the ravages of climate change than by these distant turbines
  • to say tourism will be adversely affected by these turbines is absolute nonsense, as any and every survey will show and prove. It was completely refuted at the Fullabrook Inquiry (when she voted against) and Batsworthy (ditto)
  • no benefits? Such an argument from a Conservative beggars belief! The main message from NDC and TDC elected Cllrs to the world of commerce and finance is – North Devon is closed for business. This is a multi-billion pound investment, the most lucrative project North Devon and Torridgeside has ever seen. At this rate, the contracts will go to South Wales and the turbines will be off our coast. Brilliant message, NDC!

The big question has to be ‘why’? With the European elections looming next May and with the Tories panicking over the Farage-factor, it’s simple: they need to sing from UKIP’s anti-wind hymn-book. That’s the reason why their parachuted Parliamentary candidate Heaton-Jones is now holding hands with Mr Crowther and the Slay-Arrayers. And the Lib Dems, deafeningly silent on this as with most things? They just love the thought of UKIP taking votes away from the Tories and letting Sir Nick back in again. Meanwhile, the planet heats up and the Chinese purchase Hinkley C.

Sincerely
Ricky Knight


 

Dear Editor.

I cannot let this occasion pass without commenting on Mr Ashton’s letter in last week’s edition. In the immortal words of Dennis Healey, I appear to have been savaged by a dead sheep. Ashton’s comments, although typical and altogether expected from the likes of him, are wrong on so many counts that I must be careful of the word count (though there is little point in mentioning them to him, as he is deaf and blind to any counter arguments to his closed mind).

The action against EDF in Bridgwater had nothing to do with the Green Party. I acted with others from the Stop Hinkley Expansion campaign, of which I have been a member for over 25 years, fighting this monstrous development from its inception. One clear and obvious point of the manure dumping, overlooked intentionally I suspect, is that we cleared it all up afterwards, which is more than can be said for EDF and their Chinese paymasters, if this absurd deal ever goes through. No, we, the taxpayers will be doing that small thing. I’m sure he’ll be pleased to know some of it is back on my garden, where it belongs.

Being insulted by Ashton is almost like a compliment. OK, I concede; from his point of view, the action may have appeared immature (ouch!). Just to remind him that I at least have been involved both formally and indirectly in fighting against nuclear weapons and nuclear power for over fifty years. And at times like this, when all rational argument and all means of protest have been exhausted, no, I won’t just roll over and acquiesce, any more than he and his ilk will give up on fighting wind power.

And what a superb own goal when he writes that ‘no-one other than Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF et al’ would agree with what I did. How proud does that make me?! Mr Ashton, there are none so immature as those who deny climate change, fight the cause of the dirty fossil fuel lobby by default and care not a jot about the sort of world our children will inherit.

Sincerely
Ricky Knight
Bishops Tawton

 

 

Letter to the NDJ

Typhoon Haiyan and Climate Change

Dear Editor,

We have witnessed once again the extraordinary generosity of the British public in helping victims of an appalling disaster. Within just 24 hours of the launch of the DEC appeal to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, £13 million was raised. It is therefore all the more tragic that politicians attending UN climate talks in Warsaw are showing far less enthusiasm for tackling climate change.

Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever recorded and is a wake-up call for humanity. Many scientists have pointed to evidence that rising sea temperatures can increase the intensity of storms. A senior Filipino diplomat at the UN climate talks, Naderev "Yeb" Sano, gave an emotional speech, highlighting the fact that man-made climate change is affecting the intensity of tropical storms like Haiyan. He has pledged to go on hunger-strike until firm international action is taken to reduce the carbon emissions responsible for altering the earth’s climate.

In solidarity with Mr Sano, we should all be calling on our own Government to work for a binding international treaty to cut emissions; not in a few years’ time but right away. Nationally and in Europe, we call on governments to work on decarbonising society. At Westminster, this means abandoning high-carbon energy plans such as fracking and investing rapidly in the renewable energy from the tides, waves, sun and wind. In local government, it means tackling dangerous climate change through developing our region sustainably, ensuring that every formally planned step and agreed project reduces rather than increases carbon emissions.

Headlines of thousands killed and millions displaced will become more frequent if we do not act quickly to heed the scientific evidence and work on solutions to climate change at every level. Members and supporters of the Green Party will continue to press for desperately needed climate-friendly policies in Brussels, Westminster and here in the South West.

Yours faithfully,
Ricky Knight
Secretary, North Devon Green Party

Sano’s speech (4 mins – very moving)

 


Graham Harvey speaks on Sustainable Agriculture.

Graham Harvey is well known to ‘Archers’ fans as its agricultural editor for many years. He is now one of the programme’s scriptwriters and is also well-known as a writer on agriculture, the countryside and food. His books The Killing of the Countryside and The Carbon Fields: How our countryside can save Britain have won plaudits. Mr Harvey, who lives on Exmoor, spoke at the Castle Centre in Barnstaple last week. His talk on Sustainable Agriculture launched the lecture series organised every autumn by the North Devon Green Party. The evening was chaired by Henry Gent, who runs an organic dairy farm near Exeter.

In his talk, Mr Harvey referred to the classic traditional mixed-farm that had served our country so successfully for two hundred years up to the 1950s. The essence of such a system was animals grazing on the lush pastures ensured by our typical wet weather.  The animals fertilised the soil, enriching it, as the soil in turn enriched the grass and therefore the grazing animals. These small, family-run farms, using traditional methods, supplied their communities with top quality beef, lamb, pork, milk and cheese. Stock was hardy enough to stay out year-round and winter grazing was supplemented only by hay or grass silage – there was no need to pay out for grain, fertilisers or pesticides. The naturally replenished nutrients in the soil ensured healthy animals – and these were good for the health of us humans.

The 20th century saw a huge swing from working with the grain of nature to working against it, with big machines, large amounts of fuel, few workers, much chemical input and – Mr Harvey argued – dangerous depletion of our topsoil and of the nutritional value of our meat, dairy products and cereals.  Our modern, oil-based agriculture of artificial inputs and spraying cycles has also hugely reduced the capacity of our soil to sequester carbon.  If we were to return to the traditional methods of grazing animals, augmented by growing crops in rotation on naturally fertilised land, we would not only have a much healthier population but also help de-carbonise our economy.

As chair, Henry Gent was able to support these arguments in detail. He pointed out that a major obstacle to beneficial farming is Red Diesel – fuel subsidised to farmers at 70p a litre. A sensible taxation system would encourage farmers to hire more workers and use less oil in the form of fuel and reactive nitrates. Ironically, and tragically, all the expensive inputs used over the last fifty years have ended depleting the soil and reducing the nutritional value of our food. Healthy soil is intimately connected with healthy animals, crops and people.  Films by Graham Harvey on these issues can be viewed online at Pasture Promise TV.

The next lectures in the series are on Wednesday 30th October with Prof. Jon Shaw (Plymouth University) on Sustainable Transport and, on 13th November, with Manda Brookman on Sustainable Tourism, both talks at 7pm in the Castle Centre, free entry, refreshments served).


SW Green Party urges far more robust UK response to the Greenpeace 30

The South West Green Party has called for the UK Government to exert considerably more pressure on the Russian authorities to free the Greenpeace 30, as vigils take place all over the world and international efforts are made to highlight these highly controversial arrests.

Three Devonians are among the 30 Greenpeace activists from twenty countries incarcerated by the authorities in Murmansk, on the highly dubious charge of piracy and facing 15 years’ imprisonment in Russian jails – Alexandra Harris, Iain Rogers and Kieron Bryan.

Ricky Knight from North Devon, one of the South West Green Party’s leading candidates for the 2014 European Elections, said, “Despite President Putin’s own reservations about the legality of the charges, no-one can underestimate the difficulties facing efforts to free these peaceful protestors. Following the jailing of the Pussy Riot members, increasing state-sponsored homophobia and strident Russian nationalism in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, it is high time that serious UK diplomatic efforts are made to ensure the speedy release of these completely harmless environmental activists”.

Germany’s newly re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel has already set the example for other nations to follow, with her clear appeal to Putin to expedite a quick resolution. Merkel and her governing Conservative party have been an increasingly vocal critic of Russia’s deteriorating record on human rights, despite Germany’s reliance upon Russia’s energy pipelines. Eleven Nobel Prize winners, including Desmond Tutu, have joined the international calls for these piracy charges to be dropped.

Councillor Knight added, “the UK government remains strangely and sadly reticent about this state of affairs, despite six British nationals being involved. Seemingly they believe that the ‘softly, softly’ approach of careful diplomacy is needed. We feel certain that the six families would prefer a more robust political response. We call upon Hague and Cameron to ‘up the ante’ – or are they secretly rubbing their hands with glee that the Russians have done what many of them would have liked to have done? Perhaps with the Winter Olympics approaching, this could be the perfect political bargaining chip.”

Notes to Editors:

On 18 September Greenpeace activists attempted to climb onto the oil-rig set up by Gazprom, the Russian-based global energy company. Their aim was a peaceful protest against the real threat of an oil rush, which environmentalists fear would destroy the already fragile eco-system of the Arctic.

The piracy charges appear aimed at sending a message that Moscow will not tolerate attempts to disrupt its development of the resource-rich Arctic. Greenpeace says the protest at the rig, owned by state-controlled Russian energy company Gazprom, was peaceful and calls the piracy charges absurd and unfounded.

References:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/16/us-russia-germany-greenpeace-idUSBRE99F0LI20131016

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/18/letter-greenpeace-protester-russia-cell


Greens Oppose Nuclear Gamble with Taxpayer Money

The proposed Hinkley Point nuclear-power station relies on a gamble with British taxpayers money, claims the South West Green Party. The Party has described a deal involving Chinese investment as an outrage. The deal would see the UK government offering to guarantee a level of return to Chinese investors that involves making a guess about the future market price for electricity. Since this is so uncertain, the whole project relies on British taxpayers taking the risk, say the Green Party.

Ricky Knight, North Devon Green Party spokesperson, said, “The Coalition government’s deal on the Hinkley Point nuclear power station really is a case of heads they win; tails we lose. Potential profits will now be offshored to China while the nuclear pollution will stay in the UK.”

Greens are now looking to the EU, which they say may yet be able to block the deal. Professor Scott Cato, Green Party lead candidate in the South West for next year's European elections, said:

 ‘Since the deal involves such a large investment of public money it will be investigated under the EU's state aid rules. Greens will work to expose the economic and environmental risks inherent in the proposal, and we are thankful that EU scrutiny may still avert this socially and environmentally damaging policy dreamed up in Westminster.’

The Green Party is the only UK political party to be committed to phasing out nuclear power, following the example of the German Green Party.

Notes

Molly Scott Cato is the lead European candidate for the Green Party in the South West. She is an internationally renowned green economist and is the Green Party National Finance Speaker http://southwest.greenparty.org.uk/euros2014starthere/molly-scott-cato.html

Hinkley Point's first impact will be to add to consumers' bills (Guardian Business blog) http://www.theguardian.com/business/blog/2013/oct/18/hinkley-point-nuclear-power-plant-consumer-bills

Extract: How is it meant to be good news that, among all the possible sources of capital to partner EDF at Hinkley Point, we have ended up with a company controlled by the Chinese Communist party?... guarantees from the UK taxpayer have now persuaded Beijing to climb aboard. This does not sound like a triumph in the making. It sounds instead like the latest instalment in the 30-year saga of the UK's shambolic and short-termist energy policy.

For more information please contact:

Andrew Bell, SW Green Party Press Officer abell@phonecoop.coop 07903 932220

Molly Scott Cato molly@gaianeconomics.org 07890 832891

Ricky Knight rickyknight@northdevongreens.org.uk 07986 941026


We support North Devon teachers’ strike action, says local Green Party

Teachers who took strike action all over North Devon and Torridge last Thursday over increasing workloads, plans to bring in performance-related pay and changes to pensions are right to go on strike, the North Devon Green Party has said.

Changes to the education system have impacted hugely on many in the teaching profession, while the threatened introduction of performance-related pay introduces an unhealthy level of competition between staff for pay awards - denting morale and increasing the burden on teachers.

Ricky Knight, a former teacher and local Green Party Councillor says, “Teachers have for far too long been undervalued in society. Most work far longer hours than their contract stipulates; more and more tasks and ill-thought-through innovations are imposed upon them - for no extra money and certainly with no bonusses. Performance-related pay, in particular, breeds unnecessary competition and anxiety in the teaching profession.

You will not find a teacher anywhere in the country, who isn’t hesitant about disrupting children’s education and parents’ busy lives. But teachers’ almost unanimous support for action illustrates the scale of opposition to repeated attacks on the teaching profession by the Education Minister Michael Gove.”

Cllr Knight added, “The Green Party is committed to providing a good local state school with the best resources and financial support for every child. This coalition government seems intent on destroying the state system. Parents, teachers and Governors must unite to fight this insidious ideological assault.”


‘Why Vote Green on May 2nd

All local elections are affected by tribal loyalties, inertia, habit, tactics, national, European and international issues and they are mostly dismissed as an interim rejection by the electorate, to be corrected at the next General. So what does the discerning voter in North Devon do now, where the political pendulum swings between two coalition partners, one ideologically-bent on Thatcher’s divisive legacy and the other inept in the extreme at curbing any Tory excess, having betrayed not just their voters but also their manifesto? Whence goes the tactical vote now?

 At least no-one can hide behind the lame excuse that there’s no point in voting because “you’re all the same”. Probably for the first time in North Devon politics, there are at least four major parties to choose from and even some genuine Independents. One thing’s for sure: if turn-out remains at the paltry level it was in 2009, then the Conservatives will retain their safe majority at County Hall (because Tory-voters vote) and things will continue to go from bad to worse for most of us and particularly for the most vulnerable. At least the presence of ukip will take some of their vote, despite DCC having little to say on Europe or immigration.

So why vote Green on May 2nd? Just this one statement from our Philosophical Basis may help some decide: ‘A healthy society is based on voluntary co-operation between empowered individuals in a democratic society, free from discrimination whether based on race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social origin or any other prejudice’. How does this translate to local politics? Here are some examples of what Green County Councillors would fight for:

  • prevent the introduction of the ‘Bedroom Tax’
  • stop the dismantling of the NHS and the creeping privatisation of our public services
  • every school to be an excellent school
  • ensure that the centrally-imposed austerity cuts are fair and equitable
  • stand up to the clout of the big nationals and prevent our towns becoming Clone Towns
  • support farmers’ markets and local businesses
  • expand recycling and oppose incineration
  • introduce an integrated public transport system
  • invest in car-share, cycle-ways, safe routes to work and to school
  • develop community-owned renewable energy schemes
  • pay a living wage for public sector employees
  • undergo a massive retrofit for all un-insulated Devon properties
  • address empty homes and brown-field development as part of the solution to the urgent need for social and affordable homes

Voting Green on May 2nd will send the strongest possible message to the political establishment – it will not be a wasted vote. If you don’t vote for what you believe in, you’ll never get what you want. These are very hard times for a lot of people – but it has hardly touched those who govern us. Make no mistake: the mess we are in is entirely of their making, of those that are voted first past the post. It is high time we got rid of the failed old guard and voted in a new, vibrant, solution-driven party, one with no vested interests other than the survival of the species and the planet.

Nuclear vs Renewables

Dear Sir

Two interesting national news stories with particular relevance to North Devonians hit the news last week. The first was that Centrica has withdrawn from the UK's nuclear re-building programme because of increasing costs and delays and the second was that the cost of cleaning up the Sellafield nuclear waste site has reached £67.5bn with no sign of when the cost will stop rising. The latter was the findings of a report published by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. Sellafield is currently costing the taxpayer £1.5bn per year just to manage the plant. As a reprocessing plant, Sellafield employs over 9,000 workers but produces nothing and has no earnings. It is purely a cost to the national exchequer; the legacy of 50 years of nuclear power in the UK.

Hardly surprising that Centrica has decided to pull out of the nuclear new build programme. With Centrica gone there are now no UK companies involved in the programme with the only interest coming from EDF of France and Hitachi, a Japanese company that is not permitted to build a nuclear power station in its home country, while government-underwritten Chinese companies must now be licking their lips. By contrast all of the UK’s big six electricity companies, including Centrica, are building offshore wind farms in UK waters, as are a host of other big companies from across European. This puts into sharp focus the confidence that the investment community has in the two technologies.

Building the Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel will cost the same as three years of keeping Sellafield just ticking over. The cleanup cost for Sellafield would build fifteen Atlantic Arrays. Fifteen Atlantic Arrays could power 70% of UK households or provide 25% of all electricity consumption in Britain. This would match the peak of nuclear power in the mid 1990s when it produced just over a quarter of UK electricity. Today it produces just 16%. However, when one looks more deeply into the statistics for nuclear power generation, a startling fact emerges. Fifteen Atlantic Array wind farms would produce as much electricity over their 25 year lifetime as the UK nuclear industry has ever produced since the early days in the mid 1950s.

So, for the cost of just cleaning up the toxic waste created by the nuclear industry, not including the cost of building and operating the nuclear power stations over fifty years, nor the cost of decommissioning them, we could build enough clean energy offshore wind farms to produce the same amount of electricity as all of the UK’s nuclear power stations have ever produced. This is truly astonishing but perhaps explains Centrica’s decision and explains why no other UK company is willing to put its money into nuclear power.

Sincerely

Ricky Knight

North Devon Green Party

Letter to the editor, North Devon Journal
Police Commissioner Elections – the democratic process nullified

By now, most of us will have received our polling cards and a booklet explaining that there will be national elections in a few days time. Some may well have received, heard or accessed information about the candidates. A few might even vote. There is talk of the most miserable turn-out ever, below 15%; even talk that such a percentage should render the whole farcical process null and void. But after such a taxpayer-funded investment of countless millions into this railroaded and utterly irrelevant election, I doubt if the winner of the £85,000+ per annum prize is going to want that. Nor will they care about a low-turn-out, which will no doubt result in the least appropriate candidate getting the job: the one with the most political clout and the most reliable inert vote.

Devon has the most candidates to choose from in the SW region - ten – and astonishingly we seem to have been allowed a change to the normal voting system without apoplexy from on high and without a referendum. Yes, the British public are being allowed a Supplementary Vote – we can vote for our first and second favourite candidates. Who have we got? Well, full marks to those six independents who managed to scrape together the mandatory £5,000 to stand in the first place, to join in with the ‘Big Four’ – the Green Party regionally and nationally concede that we could not manage that, especially as we seem to donate so regularly to the Exchequer with lost deposits anyway.

This election should not be political, nor should such a high deposit disqualify the right individuals from participating. Instead we have the Usual Suspects from the major parties plus a sprinkling of former politicians masquerading as Independents, including our very own Mr Greenslade, standing against the candidate of his own party, extraordinary enough in itself, former police officers and former military officers, all queuing up to continue representing their personal interests and vision, while maintaining that they are objective, reliable, trustworthy, impartial and non-political!

My only plea, for what it’s worth, is that who ever does bother to vote on 15th November, jettisons their usual political allegiance, if any, and chooses the only true Independent on the list. I leave it to the individual: take a look at their credentials on line at www.choosemypcc.org.uk, narrow it down to two or three and then research those. Not voting on principle or inertia should not be an option – but it will be. More’s the pity.

Sincerely

Ricky Knight

North Devon Green Party

Renewables v Nuclear.

Sir Giles Chichester’s contribution to the energy debate introduces an overdue focus on the ‘solution that dare not speak its name’ – and the timing is significant. Although Chichester takes a subtle swipe at Downing Street, he can actually take solace from the fact that he is actually in perfect harmony with his party and their coalition partners after all. The entente cordiale with Cameron and French premier Sarkozy best buddies again, is back on track, as these two nuclear powers sign a mutual  package to push forward with nuclear new-build, just as Germany and Italy  put a stop to it.

Nonetheless, I welcome this clear message from the SW’s ‘top’ MEP and the EU’s former vice-president. His support and preference for nuclear power is well-documented as he has been trumpeting its merits for many years, but at least now it is accompanied by a selective dismissal of wind-power. This might put him at odds with the coalition’s new Lib-Dem Energy Secretary, Ed Davey but not with our own MP, Nick Harvey, who has become increasingly vociferous in his opposition to local wind power. But at least this pro-nuclear stance lends clarity to a hitherto missing ingredient in the wind-power debate – namely, it is one thing being against it, but what are the solutions if we are going to wean ourselves off finite fossil-fuels?

The Conservatives are pro-nuclear, that’s clear, the Lib-Dems will ignore their national policies if it suits them better locally, but how opportune to be able to represent the Green Party’s unequivocal international, European, national, regional and local opposition to nuclear power and to remind anyone not deaf to reasoned argument of the reasons. The major one of these should be written in bold: no form of energy production is, to use last week’s heading, ‘cost-effective’. The cost of energy production and delivery is a political lever, the playing field is never level and the goal-posts constantly changing. Rest assured the consumer will always pick up the tab. Of course wind-power is subsidised; so are all forms of energy production, an astonishing number of ‘unsustainable’ jobs and just about everything we eat.

Chichester’s reference to the imbalance from the Renewable Obligation Charge is a cherry-picked falsification of the data, which has already been robustly challenged and refuted. He mentions the £250 million in subsidies for wind but not the £4 billion the tax-payer will have to pick up for decommissioning nuclear power-stations, nor the extortionate cost of insuring against accidents, as private companies will without doubt refuse to do so. ‘Too cheap to monitor’? Only if Enron does the accounts.

This ends up reading like a mantra but the nuclear genie will not easily be put back in the bottle simply because too many rich, unscrupulous and influential bodies stand to benefit from investing in it: He mentions the glorious 60-year life-span for Hinkley C (French-owned, of course, by EDF, a company in absolutely dire financial straits but confident enough to know the French and European tax-payers are there for the bail-outs) – but he forgets to state the obvious: that the nuclear waste will need to be kept ‘safe’ for thousands of years. What an extraordinarily irresponsible legacy for future generations by our policy-makers.

Sincerely

Ricky Knight

(Barnstaple Town Councillor Ricky Knight was the South West Green Party’s lead candidate for the 2009 European Elections, gaining 144,000 votes, solidly beating the Labour Party and narrowly missing being elected as the South West’s first Green MEP by a mere 0.8% of the votes cast).


North Devon Journal: Weekly Essay

‘Is local opposition to wind farms one sign of Britain’s national decline?’

If you think back to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park of 1851 and compare it with Britain today you will be struck by some almighty contrasts. The Great Exhibition was a show case for Britain’s superiority in technology, engineering, scientific advance, enterprise and national salesmanship. Today, it would probably be impossible to show case Britain’s skills in this way. If a modern equivalent of the Great Exhibition were to be staged today, it would almost certainly be held in China.

How has all this enterprise dissipated and how is it related to wind farms?
The exhaustion resulting from two world wars coupled with the loss of empire presumably account for the demise of our leadership in the broad front of technological innovation. Britain today has lost its manufacturing base, only 11% of Gross Domestic Product [GDP] comes from manufacturing. Britain also no longer owns much of its infrastructure. Foreign countries own some of our banks, our water companies, our power stations, our airports, even our small stretch of high speed railway has been bought by a foreign pension fund. All this is in stark contrast to one of our great nineteenth century industrial rivals, Germany.

Like some other countries in Europe Britain is facing a tough future, on several fronts. We have high levels of debt, loss of exports, a balance of payments deficit and a low manufacturing base. Tax revenues are falling and this trend is likely to continue as more and more companies move their tax arrangements off-shore and into tax havens. We are also facing the problem of energy insecurity as North Sea Oil runs out.

You would think that in the face of all these challenges Britain would embrace wholeheartedly solutions offered by green technology. We have missed the boat by miles in developing turbine technology which has been led by Germany and Denmark. Likewise photovoltaic panels are largely produced in China. These are the sort of cutting edge technologies which in the past we would certainly have been in the forefront.

On the energy front we expend a great deal of our national emotional energy in protesting against both on shore and latterly off shore wind farms. This is the situation in North Devon but it also occurs in many other parts of the country. People appear to prefer nuclear power as an answer to future electricity shortages, despite the fact that no solution has been found to the long term problem of storing the waste which has a half life of radioactivity measured in millions of years. The problems of nuclear are easy to ignore. They occur behind large box-like buildings in some distant county. The scientists who run them are adept in the art of easy reassurance on safety issues, until, that is, a massive explosion occurs in somewhere like Fukushima Japan, when the safety issues cannot be disguised.

Even the smallest of proposals for wind turbines run into trouble. I quote two recent examples, one local and one in the South Downs. The South Downs example concerns the 44 meter turbine erected by Gus Christie, the owner of the Glyndebourne opera house, to power the opera house and associated activity such as keeping the champagne cool in the fridges. It took Mr Christie over 6 years to get approval for his turbine, including a 6 day public inquiry. The turbine was finally switched on on 3rd December 2011. Protesters claimed ‘it would blight the rolling beauty and tranquillity of the South Downs’. As if one turbine could possibly inflict that much damage! Such a suggestion is plainly ludicrous. It is also a scandal that a landowner struggles for 6 years to erect one turbine on his land. Presumably there must have been times during that period he doubted whether the struggle was worth it.

The second example, nearer to home, concerns the proposal by BT to erect 3 turbines at Shelfin Farm near Ilfracombe. BT is a large user of electricity and plans to generate some of its own electricity to offset what it would otherwise use. This is part of the companies ‘green agenda’.  A commendable ambition you would think. Politicians are calling for ‘responsible’ capitalism, and what could be more responsible than this. But BT has fallen foul of local opposition. After years of discussion, neither Ilfracombe Town Council nor the North Devon Council planning department are willing to back this scheme. In the face of this opposition BT have decided for the moment to withdraw.

Referring again to the Victorians who staged the 1851 Great Exhibition, my guess is that they would find this strong opposition to such minor engineering developments completely incomprehensible. Especially when the turbines are part of the solution to tackling global warming/climate change which has the power to wreak serious environmental damage on our planet. The Victorians embraced not only technology but they embraced solutions to problems on a big scale. They thought big, and they acted on a big scale. This ‘can do’ mentality has deserted the British. We pull our collective comfort blanket over our heads, hoping the problems of energy security and climate change will go away as long as we ignore them. We cling to our chocolate box image of North Devon. We wish to enjoy all the comforts of modern life, which involve the use of ever increasing amounts of electricity, without acknowledging that this electricity must come from somewhere. Sir David Attenborough, a supporter of the Glynebourne turbine was quoted in the press as saying ‘the young have got it but their elders still have not grasped the scale of the change essential to avert catastrophe. If people don’t like the noise it [the turbine] makes then that’s their choice, but I can’t help feeling such people haven’t really grasped where energy comes from. What do they imagine happens when they turn on a light switch or drive their cars? For most of my life time most power came from burning coal, which killed many hundreds underground and thousands overground from breathing in fumes. It is almost unbelievable to me that we now have the ability to draw the power we need from every gust of wind.’

And so to the controversy about off shore wind farms, such as the proposed Atlantic Array. This is a big engineering project which would have captured the imagination of Victorian entrepreneurs. One might have thought that local people of influence would have embraced the Array with outstretched arms. Jobs are needed locally, especially in towns like Ilfracombe. It is not so many years ago that North Devon Council was applying for European Objective One money for Ilfracombe on account of its limited economic opportunities and its desperate need for infrastructure investment. Isn’t this just the sort of project that could revitalize those parts of North Devon that other sources of investment cannot reach? Sadly, I see little evidence that the local movers and shakers of North Devon are getting behind this project despite the fact that the developers have given every assurance that the marine environment will be given protection as a priority.

So where do the people of North Devon think their electricity will come from in future and what contribution do they expect to make to it? At present our electricity comes from Hinkley nuclear power station in Somerset. This is an old station and is due to be phased out. The government propose that Hinkley should have a new next-generation nuclear power station. But not everyone living near Hinkley is happy with this. It seems that most people in North Devon take the view [if they ever think about it at all] that this is a commitment the people of West Somerset should make so that the lights can stay on for us North Devonians and we can carry on consuming electricity at our present high level with no inconvenience what so ever to ourselves.

Is this a morally defensible position for us to take? I think not, for two reasons. Firstly we have abundant sources of wind which we can and should utilize for renewable energy. In 1993 the Devon County Council and the North Devon Council commissioned a report from Nicholas Pearson Associates Ltd into the landscape implications of Windfarm development in North Devon. The report identified areas with high wind values where the landscape could accommodate wind farm development. This was to assist potential developers and inform the North Devon Council in their decision making. Fullabrook Down and Batsworthy Cross are both areas identified in the Pearson report as potential sites for wind farms. Obviously the height of turbines has increased since 1993, but otherwise the report is still relevant. 

Secondly, at least ten years ago, North Devon Council signed up to meet regional targets for the generation of electricity from renewable sources, including wind farms, but has subsequently opposed all developments.
Was this signing up just a cynical exercise by our local politicians? It seems that it was.

Rosemary Brian
8th February 2012

Cox and Harvey failing to vote for the recall bill.

Shouldn’t our MPs trust Electorate  (Submitted 31 October). You may feel this is not local enough or not relevant to our  page, not offence taken if you don't post it,

 

It was disappointing to learn that Nick Harvey voted against the amendments to the MP Recall Bill. Sadly, rather more expected that Geoffrey Cox voted the same way.  

 

The Bill will allow voters to ‘recall’ or sack their MP and force a by-election if they deem him/her guilty of misconduct  or not properly representing them. However, the Bill, which was something the Tories promised to the electorate in 2010 but have certainly taken their time in bringing to the table, gives rather less scope to the electorate than it pretends too.

 

In the Bill's present configuration, something called the Standards and Privileges Committee will still have sway over bringing an MP to account.  MP Zac Goldsmith, a Tory but one with  sometimes surprisingly left-leanings, recognized the inherent unfairness of the proposed version and suggested some modifications which would give more power to the public to force a vote. A long debate in parliament suggested that some MPs were concerned that the Recall Bill would enable constituents to sack their MP for a voting record which didn’t necessarily match their own wishes, but in fact the bill is intended rather to deal with such issues as the Cash For Questions scandal of the 1990s or the abuse of MPs expenses, or the behaviour of MPs like Chris Huhne in lying about driving offences.

 

Nick Harvey and Geoffrey Cox have voted down an amendment that evidently signifies a much greater trust in the electorate. It is interesting to note that two MPs with usually rather different takes on politics from each other - UKIP’s Douglas Carswell and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas- both voted in favour of Goldsmith’s proposal.

 

Rosemary Haworth-Booth 

Press Officer

North Devon Green Party

 

 

 

2. Torrington [hospital] and Tory Policy (submitted 14 November) [this was published in an abridged version in Gazette last week]. This one  much more to the point. I wrote a much longer version after going to the public meeting in Torrington on 8 November, but Ruth advised me to cut it  a bit!

 

Geoffrey Cox voted for the new Health and Social Care act of 2012 and in May this year we learned that Government planned to shift £2bn from Hospital funding to local government Health and Wellbeing boards, meaning that there has to be a rapid reduction in hospital beds. Maybe some of us were/are not aware of this government directive.

 

So why was Cox, a member of that governing party, taking to task (through chairing the public meeting in Torrington, 8 November) the members of the CCG and the NDHT when the  reconfiguration of Torrington Hospital has become a necessity for a Healthcare authority in financial deficit and bidden to prepare their services for said shift of funding and for greatly increased privatisation? Cash withheld or transferred and privatization cheer-led, by his Party.

 

The Tory Government, ultimately supported by the LibDems, instigated the CCGs and new Healthcare Trusts at great cost to the taxpayer and ensured the management had huge salaries – which take quite a bite out of already severely curtailed budgets. The latest 38 Degrees Petition seeks to find out exactly where NHS England (the management body to which CCGs across the country are answerable) is spending its money. 

 

 

 

The Tories lied to us about the NHS before the last election.

It is the government we should be railing against, not the medical profession.

 

Rosemary Haworth-Booth

Press Officer

North Devon Green Party