This afternoon, a teatime visit from Chi-Chi Nwanoku and her Australian cousins Beverley, Gary and Alexander, from Melbourne
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Before marathon lunch December 25 15.00 to 18.30, Edwina, JW, Kina. Somehow I omitted to take any pictures during the lunch itself.
Lindsay had only just put the turkey in the main oven when it stopped working. She had to take it to Edwina's and use her's. We had sausages, chestnut stuffing, red cabbage, sprouts, parsnips and roast potatos (cooked in the smaller top oven) plus bread sauce and cranberry sauce, followed by St Stephen's pudding and mince pies with vanilla custard and brandy butter. Lindsay excelled herself in bringing it all together.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Chaired Bahrain seminar in Committee Room G. Good attendance by some regional TV, but no al-Jezira.
Supplementary question on Democratic Republic of Congo Third Reading of my Caravan Sites Bill passed. Andrew George MP has kindly agreed to take it forward in the Commons.
Annual meeting of Silbury Fund Trustees
Meeting with GE-Hitachi to discuss progress of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's evaluation of the options for disposal of 100 tonnes of Plutonium at Sellafield
Crime and Courts Bill: amendments on immigration http://bit.ly/UgFSHe
Meeting of the APPG on Ahmadiyya Muslims
EU Subcommittee F: scrutiny, and looking ahead to forthcoming inquiry on opting back into 130 instruments which lapsed for the UK on account of the Dublin Treaty, a hot potato for the right wing of the Tory Party.
This was the last day of term.
Friday, lunch at the National Liberal Club with Ursula. She set me the task of figuring out the two cartoons, both of which I managed, though I generally don't see the point of English ones.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Friday, December 14, 2012
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Monday, December 10, 2012
WBC Just below normal range
HB Much below normal range but stable
Plt Higher than normal range and deteriorating, but likely to becorrected by increased Hydroxycarbamide
Neutrophils Below lower limit and may be adversely affected by increased Hydroxcarbamide
Friday, December 07, 2012
The picture presented by last week's local elections (see below) contrasts remarkably with LibDem performance in the national opinion polls. I think part of the explanation is that where there is a strong LibDem presence. we buck the trend, and maybe the outlook is better than the media are saying. I also believe that we are starting to be successful in differentiating ourselves from the Tories. a task they are making easier for us by their lurch to the right. We should oppose further welfare cuts, defend the Human Rights Act, and explain the huge advantages the UK gets from membership of the EU.
Brentwood BC, Shenfield
LD Elizabeth Clare Cohen 728 (50.7; -3.3)
Con 557 (38.8; +0.1)
UKIP 119 (8.3; +8.3)
Lab 31 (2.2; -5.2)
LD gain from Con.
Percentage change is since May 2012.
Cornwall UA, Gwinear-Gwithian and St Erth
Con 332 (35.3; -2.8)
Ind 167 (17.7; -16.3)
Ind 163 (18.5; +18.5)
LD Yvonne Lesley Bates 121 (12.9; -9.3)
Lab 76 (8.1; +2.5)
Mebyon Kernow 58 (6.2; +6.2)
Ind 24 (2.6; +2.6)
Percentage change is since June 2009.
Neath Port Talbot CBC, Neath South
Lab 399 (75.4; +8.8)
LD Charlotte May Cross 130 (24.6; +24.6)
[PC (0.0; -14.2)]
[NPT Ind (0.0; -19.2)]
Turnout not known
Percentage change is since May 2012.
South Staffordshire DC, Wombourne North and Lower Penn
Con 404 (59.3; -6.2)
UKIP 182 (26.7; -7.7)
Lab 95 (14.0; +14.0)
Percentage change is since May 2011.
Sutton LBC, Stonecot
LD Nick Emmerson 1034 (53.3; +1.9)
Con 402 (20.7; -10.1)
Lab 289 (14.9; +4.2)
UKIP 182 (9.4; +9.4)
Green 32 (1.7; +1.7)
[BNP (0.0; -7.0)]
Percentage change is since May 2010.
Vale of White Horse DC, Sunningwell and Wootton
LD Valerie Christine Shaw 577 / Elizabeth Miles 549 (62.5; +28.4)
Con 346 / 333 (37.5; -6.2)
[Lab (0.0; -9.1)]
[UKIP (0.0; -13.1)]
Majorities 231 / 203
LD gain from Con x 2
Percentage change is since May 2011.
Littlehampton TC, River
LD Ian James Rudolph Buckland 311 (41.8)
Lab 226 (30.4)
UKIP 116 (15.6)
Con 91 (12.2)
Turnout 18.6% LD gain from Con.
December 3 and 4 London witnessed Awami League and BNP law makers sitting together and debating a range of political issues confronting Bangladesh, from how to ensure free and fair elections in 2013 to minority persecution.
Two meetings were held in the Palace of Westminster in the presence of British parliamentarians and international human rights organisations.
The December 3 meeting in Portcullis House was attended by senior representatives of the AL and the BNP. Hosted by the Conservative Party’s Anne Main MP, Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh and chaired by Liberal Democrat Lord Avebury, Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, the discussion centred on the forthcoming general election.
The Bangladesh government & Awami League delegation was led by Hossain Toufique Imam, Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and included Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury MP, State Minister for Women and Children Affairs and Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP, Standing Committee on Climate change and Environment.
The BNP delegation led by M K Anwar MP, Member, Standing Committee and former Minister. He was accompanied by Shamsher Mobin Choudury BB, Vice Chairman and Foreign Affairs advisor to Khaleda Zia, Amir Khasru Mahmud, Member Advisory Committee BNP and Barrister AM Mahbubuddin Khokon, MP, Joint Secretary General, BNP.
The opposition argued that a return to the system of a Caretaker Government to hold the reins during the election campaign was the only reliable way of ensuring free and fair elections. They claimed that stateb institutions had been politicised, and would not act impartially during the campaign. The AL pointed out that 14 Parliamentary by-elections, several City elections, and thousands of lower tier local elections had been held during the present Parliament under the current Election Commission without any material challenge from the opposition, and there was no reason to suppose that the EC was not equally capable if conducting the general election.
The UK Parliamentarians urged their Bangladesh colleagues to sort out any concerns about alleged bias within the present framework, since the constitutional provision that allowed for a caretaker government during an election period had been repealed. UK Parliamentarians present in addition to Anne Main MP and Lord Avebury were Rushanara Ali MP and Baroness Pola Uddin.
On December 4 a further discussion was held in Committee Room G, also chaired by Lord Avebury, co-sponsored by the International Bangladesh Foundation and the Netherlands NGO Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD), on the question of violence and intimidation of minorities in Bangladesh, with a side-glance at the much larger problem in Pakistan.
Among the speakers were Jenny Lundström, Human Rights Officer, GHRD; Shahriar Kabir, Acting President, International Forum for Secular Bangladesh; Sameena Imtiaz, Executive Director, Peace Education and Development Foundation, Pakistan; Khushi Kabir, Coordinator Nijera Kori; Lal Amlai, Jumma Peoples Network; Salim Malik, Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK; Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International, and lawmakers from theAwami League and BNP.
On the Ramu attack in which Buddhist and Hindu temples and houses belonging to those communities were destroyed by a mob, the AL representative said that the government were determined to bring the perpetrators to justice, and 430 persons had been arrested so far. Compensation would be paid for injuries suffered and for loss and damage to property. The BNP said they had condemned the attack, and were issuing an account of their own preliminary investigation of the event. Neither Party attempted to set Ramu in the context of the communal, ethnic and religiously motivated violence which had plagued Bangladesh for decades, starting at the time of the independence war.
The final speaker was the newly appointed Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the UK, Mr Minhajul Kayes. He said the government were conducting an inquiry into the background to Ramu and was going to publish the report.
Thursday, December 06, 2012
Mweeting in Committee Room G on Tuesday December 4, 2012 to discuss the situation of women and ethnic an religious minorities in Bangladesh. Representatives of the Jumma people, the Ahmadiyya Muslims, Buddhists etc contributed, and spokespersons for the AL government and the BNP opposition replied. The Minister for Women's Affairs gave a presentation. We will have a report summarising the speeches ready shortly.
Friday, November 30, 2012
At the packed two-hour meeting of the Anti-Caste Discrimination NGOa in Committee Room 4A on Wednesday November 28, 2012. The participants approved a demand that the Government implement S 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act, to make caste a protected characteristic and thus make caste discrimination in employment, education and the provision of goods and services unlawful. This demand has now been sent to the Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport (and to the junior Minister in the Lords). Baroness Thornton attended the meeting and said she would draw the attention of the Shadow Minister in Equalities, Yvette Cooper MP, to the demand, and she was confident it would be endorsed by the Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party.
On this matter I have acted in my individual capacity and not as spokesman of the Liberal Democrats, though of course the Party supported me when I moved the amendment on the Equality Bill which became S 9(5)(a). It should therefore be a formality to get the Party to endorse the demand, but it bwill be necessary to go through the motions because it wasn't part of the coalition's agreed programme.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Friday, November 16, 2012
On November 5, 31 Bahrainis were deprived of their citizenship arbitrarily, without notice and without judicial process, contrary to customary international law. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has the right to a nationality and no-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.
The victims can appeal these decision, but there is no point. The king has absolute power to grant or rescind citizenship, and the courts wouldn’t dream of overturning his decisions.
No wonder that hundreds of Bahrainis demonstrate against the government every day. Even after a total ban on meetings they continue to turn out after Friday prayers. The ruling family’s assault on the rights of the people provokes their hatred, and they are calling for regime change. The ancestors of the royal family came from Zebara in the 18th century, so the chant on the streets is
Your visit is finished – go back to Zebara
In Arabic it rhymes:
Intahat Ziyara, Oodoo illa Zebara
The US State Department repeat their call to the government of Bahrain to create a climate that is conducive to reconciliation, to meaningful dialogue, to reform, to bring peaceful change.
Britain also calls for peaceful dialogue, but many of the leaders of the opposition are serving life sentences in prison, among them Hassan Mushaima, leader of the Haq movement and Abduljalil al-Singace, the head of its human rights bureau; Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a leading human rights activist.
Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is imprisoned for three years for a remark he made on Twitter.
The Bassiouni Commission, which examined hundreds of human rights abuses following the uprising that began in February 2011, recommended that political prisoners should be freed and compensated for the torture they suffered.
Prince Salman, the crown prince, gave the Foreign Secretary William Hague a personal commitment to an inclusive political dialogue. This can’t happen while most of opposition are behind bars.
Now the provocative and unlawful deprivation of these people’s citizenship, with the threat of more to come, makes it harder than ever to start a dialogue.
Our Government needs to tell the hereditary autocrats of Bahrain that the long-term peace and stability of Bahrain can’t be achieved by killing, torturing and arbitrarily imprisoning human rights and political activists.
Bahrain and the other Gulf monarchies need fundamental reforms that transfer power from permanent autocrats to the people, as in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and soon we hope, Syria.
Britain should line itself up with the future, and not with anachronistic family oligarchies.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Press conference this morning to discuss the Bahrain government's unlawful deprivation of 31 people's citizenship. There was no judicial process, contrary to the comstitution and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and there is no practical possibility of an appeal because firstly no grounds were given for this measure and secondly, everybody knows that it was decided by the king, whose word IS the law. I was interrviewed by al Jezira and it was on their news bulletin at 21.00 this evening
Thursday, November 08, 2012
This morning I had the regular six-monthly EVAR surveillance. This is to check that the Endovascular Aneurysm Repair performed on July 19, 2010 is still working.
The plastic aorta is joined to the main artery coming from the heart at the top, and to the two branches going into the legs at the bottom, leaving the original aorta surrounding it to collapse.
They need to make sure there isn't any leakage at the joins, and so far there hasn't been any problem.
On November 5, 2012 at around 10.00, defence witness Shukho Ranjan Bali was abducted from the International Crimes Tribunal premises.
He was coming to testify for the accused Allama Delwar Hossain Sayedee.
As the car taking Bali and the senior defence counsel Mizanul Islam approached the Tribunal, uniformed policemen stopped it for a security check at the entrance. The police said they had instructions not allow anyone except designated lawyers to go inside the Tribunal Room.
As Mizanul Islam was explaining that Bali was a defence witness, a group of plain-clothes men approached the vehicle, grabbed Bali and tried to pull him out of the vehicle. Islam and his associate counsel tried to prevent them and called the uniformed policemen who were silently observing the unfolding event.
At this point one of the plain-clothed men identified himself as member of the ‘Detective Branch’ and said that he had instructions from the ‘higher authority’ to take the witness away. They then removed him from the vehicle and forced him into their car.
Islam’s colleague Shohag Banna asked where they were taking Bali, and was told that it was to the Detective Branch head office at ‘Minto Road, Dhaka’. The uniformed policemen made no attempt to intervene.
Defence counsel believed these plain-clothes men belonged to the ‘Rapid Action Battalion’ an elite security agency, in view of the similarity of the incident to others in which the RAB were known to have been involved.
The Chief Defence Counsel Abdur Razzaq brought this to the notice of the Tribunal, and prayed that the Tribunal should issue directions to the law enforcing agencies to ‘produce’ the defence witness before the Tribunal. The Tribunal merely requested the Chief Prosecutor and Chief of the Investigation Agency to ‘look into the matter’. Defence counsel immediately tried to amend the order of the Tribunal, considering the probability that it was the Investigation Agency and Prosecutor themselves who had ordered the abduction, but the Tribunal refused this application.
Bali was both a victim and eye witness to crimes committed in 1971. He saw his brother Bisha Bali’s murder and arson which destroyed their village.
Mizanul Islam tried to file an official complaint (known as a ‘General Diary’ or GD) with the Shahbagh Police Station on the evening of the incident, November 5, but the police refused to accept it. They also refused to say why they were refusing to accept the GD. a legally obligation.
An urgent application before the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh was filed seeking direction upon the government to produce Bali (Writ of Habeas Corpus under Article 102(2)(b)(i) of the Constitution of Bangladesh) on November 6, 2012 and the Court fixed the hearing date as November 7, 2012. At that hearing the Deputy Attorney General appeared before the court and informed it that the Attorney General himself would appear on behalf of the Government, but not at that time due to personal difficulties. The Court felt obliged to postpone the hearing and fixed November 11, 2012 for the next hearing.
On November 8, 2012, the Chief Prosecutor held a Press Conference at which he alleged that the defence had engaged in ‘False Propaganda’. He claimed that the witness Bali was hiding due to intimidation by the defence team. He further claimed that Bali’s daughter Shukho Ranjan Bali had filed a General Diary with Police confirming that he was being so intimidated. The Prosecutor referred to GD No. 773 filed on February 25, 2012, almost 10 months previously, in the ‘Undur Kani Police Station’, according to the Investigation Officer’s deposition of August 5, 2012.
The Prosecutor did not say why Bali was not able to file the GD himself, nor could he say where either Bali or his daughter were now.
The Tribunal and the police ignored the testimony of the four eye-witnesses to the abduction, Senior Defence Counsel Islam, Senior Defence Counsel Manjul Ansari, Defence Counsel Hasanul Banna Shohag, and the driver of the vehicle Uzzal. No witness statements were taken from the police officers who saw the abduction, and there has been no attempt to find the abducted witness.
Knowing the fate of others who have been abducted by RAB in the past, if Bali has come to any harm, command responsibility will rest on senior law enforcement officials, and on those who were in charge of the Tribunal’s security.
A detailed account of this event by David Bergman: http://bit.ly/TRLjMW
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Tomorrow Lord Jenkin of Roding will ask the Government what their plans are for a geological disposal facility for nuclear waste in the United Kingdom.
I hope to get in a supplementary about the 100 tonnes of plutonium stored at Sellafield, to follow up a letter I wrote the Secretary of State on September 23, see below.
If Parliament is to assess the relative merits of the alternatives for disposal of the large stocks of plutonium, it is essential that there is transparency on the costs of storage. This consideration must override commercial confidentiality, and the Freedom of Information Act must come into play if necessary.
From Lord Avebury
September 23, 2012
Congratulations on your speech to Conference, and particularly your reiteration of our commitment to a low-carbon economy. I’m so glad you are Secretary of State!
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority held a consultation on the long-term management of the UK’s 100 tonnes of separated civil plutonium, to which DECC’s reply was published in December 2011.
The NDA’s Plutonium Credible Options Analysis states that
Current strategy assumes extended storage but no costs or infrastructure is provided beyond 2075 (Dounreay) or 2120 (Sellafield)
In answer to my written question in the Lords Dick Newby said:
The estimated costs of storing plutonium at Sellafiels have not been disclosed as a single line in the Sellafield Plan, published on 1` August 2011, as they relate in part to commercial contracts with third parties. The Sellafield Plan (a link to the electronic document is included below) contains a section entitled ‘Safe Storage of Pu’ which provides information on this topic
The concealment of these costs means that Parliament is unable to assess the relative merits of different proposals for dealing with the Pu stocks.
The NDA Annual Report 2011-12 says that
Work has continued steadily on the UK’s preferred policy to re-use the plutonium as MOX fuel for use in new nuclear reactors.
The NDA’s Plutonium Credible Options Analysis says that the present strategy for extended storage (2075 Dounreay and 2120 Sellafield) after which time no plans are developed, is neither prudent nor sustainable in the long term even if it is considered to be technically viable.
Disposal would be contrary to the UK’s 50-year old strategy of separating and storing the plutonium from spent (immobilised) fuel, and it would foreclose the option of exploiting the significant green energy potential of the material. The preferred policy is therefore, as the NDA’s Annual Report 2011/12 says,
…to re-use the plutonium as MOX fuel for use in new nuclear reactors. The NDA also continues to work with the Government and other organisations to examine emerging alternative technologies where these have the potential to deliver a safe, affordable solution within an affordable timeframe.
In the US, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) ordered construction of a MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF), originally estimated that to cost about $1.4 billion and to be completed by September 2004. This has now escalated to $4.9 billion, with MOX fuel assembly production scheduled for 2018, according to the Sovernment Accountability Office [1/usa.gov/MPVfnj]. Apparently the NDA/DECC are under the impression that a new UK MOX plant can be constructed at a much lower cost, but embarking on a project of this size where the costs are to say the least uncertain, may not sit well with the Government’s policy of reducing the deficit.
The alternative is a proposal from GE-Hitachi to build two 300 MW PRISM reactors at Sellafield, shifting the risk from the UK taxpayer to a private funding model based on “pay for performance” under which all the costs of construction would be funded by the US Ex-Im Bank, and a private operator of the plant would be paid to reuse the PU and sell 622 MW of electricity to the grid. This would also eliminate the risk that there may not be any customers for the MOX fuel, as appears possible from the US experience.
The NDA announced on June 12 that they were considering the PRISM option and would reach conclusions by the end of 2012. They would then assess the information and consider how best to proceed aqlongside the preferred option of reuse as MOX.
The NDA continue to assert that PRISM is not a proven technology, but in July GE-Hitachi submitted a 1,000 page feasibility study to the NDA, including an independent assessment showing that PRISM reactors are licenseable The reactors would be located at Sellafield, reducing to a minimum the transport of highly radioactive Pu over British roads, and creating thousands of jobs in an area of high unemployment. This is a great opportunity for the UK to be at the forefront with an innovative technology, that could provide us with a major new source of low-cost green energy while eliminating the substantial costs of Pu storage
I would be grateful if instead of leaving this decision to the NDA, bearing in mind their previous commitment to the MOX solution, you would call it in and decide it yourself, on the basis of advice from independent experts recommended by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser. May I also repeat the request I made to Dick Newby in a letter of July 31, following his answer to my Question already mentioned, that the non-disclosure of the storage costs of plutonium at Sellafield be formally reviewed, so that when the time comes, Parliament can assess the relative merits of the competing proposals for their disposal.
The Rt Hon Ed Davey MP,
Department for Energy and Climate Change,
3 Whitehall Place,
London SW1A 2HH