Sunday, December 23, 2007

What sort of Christmas message is this?

According to statistics just released, the UK is now a more Catholic country than an Anglican one. It's not conversions like Anne Widdecombe's or Tony Blair's which has tipped the balance, but the high proportion of church-goers among the people from Poland who have come here to work.

This sense of Christian solidarity does not extend to the authorities, who are quite prepared to force the Williams family of Swansea to return to virtually certain violent recrimination in Pakistan, because of their faith.

The episode illustrates the inhuman inconsistency in Britain's immigration policy. The Home department has targets of repatriation to meet. It is understaffed and short on skills, so it is the "low-hanging fruit" which is plucked. People who have set down roots in the community, and therefore have a fixed address, are grabbed in dawn raids. Those illegal immigrants, with no genuine concerns about persecution, who are less traceable, including a criminal element, are not successfully pursued.

Frank Little

Friday, December 21, 2007

Our desktop

This refers.

Does anybody recognise the scene?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New leader to visit Wales

Nick Clegg, in one of his first interviews after being elected leader of the Liberal Democrats today, made the welcome announcement that he intended to hold a series of "town meetings" to engage with ordinary voters away from the Westminster village. He confirmed to BBC Wales that he had already spoken to leading members in Wales about this. Mike German and Peter Black have been quick to respond to Nick's victory.

It should be noted that Nick chose to launch his Welsh campaign for the leadership not in the Cardiff village, but in Swansea. This precedent clearly means that we can take him at his word.

And the "curse of Lembit" has finally been broken!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Some justice for ASW pensioners

At last, thanks to pressure from the trade unions and from LibDem MP, Jenny Willott, the government has bowed to demands for improvements in their compensation for pensions lost when Allied Steel & Wire went bust.

John Benson, a leading campaigner and spokesman for the ASW workers, was bitter about the lack of support from Labour MPs, when he spoke on BBC-2's "Working Lunch" today. He suggested that their loyalty to Gordon Brown took precedence over their concern for their constituents.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Aberdeenshire disgrace

In the face of a sustained and occasionally vituperative campaign in the local press, Aberdeenshire planning committee turned down an application from US billionaire Donald Trump to build a golf course which would have altered the character of a section of the coast and affected a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Now the forces behind the development have taken their revenge, the main victim being the Liberal Democrat chairman of the planning committee. Liberal Democrats Iain Dale and Bernald Salmon, in their blogs, tell the story better than I can.

If the Scottish Nationalist government has its way, yet another blow against localism will have been struck and the day when local councillors become no more than paid rubber stamps (see also Peter Black's comments on Councillors Unlimited) comes ever closer.

Frank Little

Friday, December 07, 2007

Cwmgwrach youth need more activities and fewer ASBOs

It seems hypocritical for Neighbourhood Watch in Cwmgwrach to object to youths riding motor cycles in the local woods, and riding jet skis on the local lake, while at the same time arranging to bulldoze a popular youth facility, the Cwmgwrach Cabin Club - see the removal Neath Guardian story.

Local Liberal Democrats object to the elimination of a facility for acceptable youth activities, while condemning anti-social behaviour.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"Green energy": tories rip off more LibDem policies

David Cameron has announced some policies aimed at encouraging micro-generation - only 18 months behind policy agreed by Welsh Liberal Democrats, on the initiative of its younger members.

Cameron proposes to abolish the grant scheme - but Labour has effectively done this already, by reducing the pool of money and cutting the maximum grant. What neither has done is to provide a means of poorer people, who would benefit most, of finding the money to install micro-generators and solar heating. What is surely needed is a system of soft loans.

- Frank Little

DVLA now owns up to data butterfingers

News is just coming in that DVLA has admitted that it sent 1200 personal driver licence details - including name, address and convictions - to the wrong people.

If one of the better-run government agencies can make such a slip, then one is more than ever convinced that carelessness with people's personal information is systemic.

The Evening Post has more details.

- Frank Little

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Peter Hain, fund-raising and the Royal Mail

Mr Hain has been concerned to wipe the slate clean after he found that his deputy leadership campaign team had received an undeclared donation from Jon Mendelsohn.

He has now retrospectively declared a fund-raising function at a Cardiff restaurant, sponsored by Huw Roberts, Director of Welsh Affairs, Royal Mail Group.

It is for others to judge how far these declarations were voluntary and how far they were pre-empted by journalists like Guido Fawkes. It is for the authorities to decide how far Mr Hain is culpable under the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000. On the evidence in the press and the blogosphere so far, it seems that, if he is guilty, then at least half-a-dozen other Labour politicians are in the dock with him.

What is much more concerning is the involvement in party political affairs of the head in Wales of what is still a public-sector organisation.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Your life details in their hands

It seems that the police have given up hope of recovering the Tax Credit disks in their unexamined state, and are now searching rubbish dumps.

Now there is confirmation of a careless attitude to data security in the Department of Work and Pensions. The revelation that a contractor took personal copies of sensitive information, over a year ago, might not have been made if journalists had not been following up the story of the Tax Credit disks.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Danny Alexander MP has written to Peter Hain calling on him to act to restore confidence in his department.

Danny Alexander said:

“This latest shocking revelation suggests that the culture of carelessness with personal data exists across the whole Government.

“There is a real concern that if some of the most vulnerable people lose confidence in the Government’s ability to look after their personal data, they will not claim money to which they are entitled.

“It is very surprising that Peter Hain has not spoken publicly about his department data practices since the HMRC scandal broke. He needs to speak up now or risk further undermining public confidence in the benefits system.”

Later: The government is offering a £20,000 reward to anyone who finds the missing HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) discs containing 25 million child benefit records, after the initial police search failed to find them.

The search for the missing CDs has been led by a core team of 47 detectives and computer experts from the Metropolitan Police's Specialist and Economic Crime Command.

Now that the main search has finished without finding the CDs, the Met has appealed to all staff at HMRC, the National Audit Office and the Treasury to check at work and "other locations" for the discs. HMRC courier TNT will also ask its staff to help with the search for the CDs.

In addition to the police appeal, HMRC is now offering a reward of "up to £20,000" for information leading to the safe return of the CDs - despite the fact acting Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable last week claimed the data on the discs could be worth up to £1.5bn to criminals on the black market.

[From Andy McCue, writing for]

You remember just one sheep ... !

I must have sent over a dozen emails to BBC Radio Wales' "Good Evening, Wales!" about subjects as diverse as, say, government structures in Wales and the management ethos of the Labour Party, but do they broadcast them? Do they thump.

However, in a weak moment last week, inspired by the story of Lottie, the fugitive Swansea sheep, and Felicity Evans (I think it was) commenting on the name of one of Lottie's family, I wrote to say that I remembered an earlier ovine Letitia. She was the sister of Larry the Lamb in the Toytown stories from "Children's Hour" long ago. Needless to say, this was broadcast.

- Frank Little