Friday, January 30, 2015

Assisted Dying

Yesterday evening, Lindsay and I went the the book launch of I'll See Myself Out, Thank You, an anthology of short pieces about assisted dying by a range of candidates, carers, relatives and professionals in favour of changes in the law, some wanting to go further than the current Assisted Dying Bill. There was also a showing of the video Glenn's Last Tape, (  about the last months of Glenn Scott, who died by his own hand of Motor Neurone Disease after a year of progressive deterioration.the inevitable course of the disease. He had the resources, the intelligence and the determination to plan and organise his death in his beloved Rome, but he recognised that most people 'don't know where to turn', faced with the approach of the gradual loss of all physical ability. That's why there is a desperate need for a lawful way of terminally ill people giving up life with medical help. Nobody with an ounce of compassion would be able to see Glenn's agonising last months without enormous sympathy, and a strong desire to see that Parliament makes it possible for others with MND or similar terminal illnesses to see themselves out.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Santosh Dass, President of the Federation of Ambedkarite amd Buddhist Organisations UK, with Vinod Tawade, Minister for School Education, Sports and Youth Welfare, Higher and Technical Education, Government of Maharashtra, at the future Ambedkar Centre

Warmest congratulations to FABOUK and its President Santosh Dass.

Warmest congratulations to FABOUK and its President Santosh Dass. The Ambedkar centre will remind  us that we still need to work for the elimination of disadvantage and discrimination, in the UK and in India

Hindustan Times
Prasun Sonwalkar and Sayli Udas Mankikar, , London/Mumbai
Updated: Jan 24, 2015 10:54 IST

After months of uncertainty, India has moved to intervene in the sale of a house in London where B R Ambedkar lived in 1921 as a student, with the Maharashtra government set to buy the property. The government plans to acquire and convert the house into a museum by April 14, Ambedkar Jayanti.

The two-storey apartment in north-west London covers 2,050 square feet. At the entrance is a blue plaque which says Ambedkar stayed there while studying at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1921-22.

Maharashtra government’s intervention came when the state’s education minister Vinod Tawde, who was on an official trip to London, visited the house and met representatives of the Indian high commission. He was accompanied by Santosh Dass, president of Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations, UK (FABOUK), who led efforts to acquire the house after it came on the market last year. Tawde spoke to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who have him the go-ahead to purchase the property.

"The residence which will be converted into a museum will be open to public from April 14, which is Dr Ambedkar's birth anniversary," Tawde said. A statement issued by him in Marathi said the house will be bought for Rs 35 crore.

Dass said she was delighted with the Maharashtra government’s decision. Indian representatives would soon begin negotiations with the estate agent and house owner to complete the sale.

The house was put on the market for a minimum price of 3.1 million pounds last year. A private developer had placed a bid and completed initial formalities, but Dass alerted Maharashtra officials before the sale could be completed.

“India intervened at the right time. We are delighted that we will soon have a fitting memorial for Ambedkar and an international mission base. It was in London that Ambedkar formulated his views on eradication of caste-based discrimination, and the rights of women,” Dass told HT. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash, who leads the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh, thanked the Fadnavis government.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hammond - friend of hereditary al-Khalifa hereditary human rights abusers

As a friend of Nabeel Rajab, Sheikh Ali Salman and most of the 'Bahraini 13' who are serving long sentences including life for freedom of expression offences, Philip Hammond doesn't speak for me. [] People should be allowed to criticise their government and to call for it to be changed, and its outrageous for Hammond to praise a hereditary absolute monarchy that locks peaceful opponents up and takes away their citizenship for these 'offences'.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Haematology January 21

Jan 21, 2015
Dec 24, 2014
Nov 26, 2014
Oct 29, 2014
130 - 180
4.5 - 10.0
2.0 - 7.5
150 - 450

None of the values are within normal range, but Hb is just above the level at which DIPSS+ indicates a worse prognosis. The consultant agreed that an abrupt change doesn't really occur, and she also acknowledges that a single point for age over 65 doesn't accurately reflect the actual position. I think my own arbitrary adjustment for these two factors will turn out to be closer to reality, giving a departure date of July 2016.

PS Jan 22 Saw GP Dr F this evening who prescribed 1.25 mg Ramipril as well as the 10 mg Amlodipine I'm already taking since the visit to the New Cross 24-hour walk-in centre the Sunday before last. When I was discharged from King's in June all the blood pressure medication was knocked off, for review by the GP, but the message wasn't received. So I'm back to the list I was on before the pneumonia.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Chancel Repairs Liability

Chancel Repairs

Question for Short Debate

4 pm
Asked by Lord Avebury
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to abolish the liability of private householders and others for chancel repairs.
Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, a consensus that reform of the law on chancel repairs is long overdue has emerged from discussions with the church, the Law Commission, the Law Society, the Country Landowners’ Association and the National Secular Society. Since the Chancel Repairs Bill will not make further progress until after the general election, a preliminary debate on the issues is useful now.
By the 12th century, the liability to pay for chancel repairs, the CRL, was already linked to the tithes being received by the rectors of certain parishes. At the Reformation, Henry VIII sold the right to the tithes to lay people who became liable for chancel repairs as “lay rectors”. Under the current law, the Tithe Act 1936, some lay rectors are still responsible for those repairs, but the tithes which originally enabled them to make a profit from the transaction were abolished. The unfortunate remnants were those who owned land that was not relieved of the burden in 1936, or their successors in title, who have been living under a sword of Damocles for the past 78 years. It is for discussion whether major institutions such as the schools of Eton and Winchester or the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge should continue to be required to pay long-standing non land-based CRL, but it is unreasonable for the owners of generally small plots of land in some 2,500 Anglican parishes in England—around half of them—to be potentially liable for the charge, which is without limit.
The Chancel Repairs Act 1932 reasserted the little-used right to enforce CRL, but transferred enforcement from the ecclesiastical courts to the county courts
15 Jan 2015 : Column GC274
after a lay rector was sentenced to prison by the High Court for contempt of the ecclesiastical court for non-payment of CRL. It was seldom recovered during the succeeding half-century, and in 1981 the General Synod accepted the recommendation of its standing committee, headed by the late Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Runcie, to phase it out. In moving to receive the committee’s report, Mr Clark of Southwark said:
“So I hope we shall support the suggestion that we phase out these liabilities, just as the Church of the 1830s agreed reluctantly to tithes being phased out”.
The synod approved the recommendation, but declined to use its legislative powers to implement it. Soon after, and with Church of England involvement, the Law Commission recommended the abolition of CRL by statute after a 10-year notice period, which would by now have long expired. That recommendation, made in a well argued paper, was not implemented, but if the synod itself agreed to ending CRL, thinking it unlikely that compensation would be forthcoming from the Government in 1982, it would be even less realistic in this age of austerity to expect the taxpayer to reimburse parishes for the loss of a doubtful future income. Given the furore over even the registration of CRL of properties in the roughly one in 20 parishes thought eligible to do so, parochial church councils have wisely refrained from enforcing their legal rights since 2003, so are they worth anything?
The state already contributes hugely to the upkeep of churches through gift aid worth some £84 million; the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme worth £42 million; the National Heritage Memorial Fund, currently funding repairs to Winchester Cathedral costing £14 million and of York Minster at £18.3 million; further grants to cathedrals recently announced worth £8 million; Heritage Lottery Fund grants to churches of £300 million in the 10 years to 2004, the lion’s share to the Church of England; and finally, £15 million recently announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for repairs to church roofs and rainwater pipes under the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund.
In 2003, following a refusal by English Heritage to fund repairs to the church in Aston Cantlow in Warwickshire, the local PCC refused an offer of £25,000 from the lay rectors, Mr and Mrs Wallbank, and the parish took the case all the way to the House of Lords, with the active support of the Archbishops’ Council. There, the Wallbanks lost, and had to sell their farm to pay the CRL and costs approaching £500,000.
Parliament reacted with an order providing for registration of CRL at the Land Registry, to alert buyers to land being subject to the liability, since it was rarely shown on deeds, but lawyers doubt whether buyers of unregistered land are protected as envisaged when the order was enacted. The church warned PCCs that failure to register under the order might render trustees personally liable, so it is little wonder that an estimated 17,000 titles in a few hundred parishes have been registered. The vast majority are owned by ordinary householders, not major landowners.
Attempts were made to mitigate the harm to the mission of the church that registration caused. Titles were singled out where the return seemed most lucrative or there was likely to be opposition. PCCs often
15 Jan 2015 : Column GC275
announced that there was no intention of enforcing the liability. However, assurances are not legally binding and can be rescinded at the stroke of a pen. Even cancellation of the registration does not extinguish the right to enforcement.
PCCs were ill equipped for the laborious and exacting work of registration, often involving missing, archaic or inaccurate documents. Unsurprisingly, thousands of registrations have been made in error, compounding the distress caused to householders. This happened, for example, in Gorleston in Norfolk, where all of the nearly 1,000 registrations had to be withdrawn.
Given the hostility to registration reported by the media, churches would find it extraordinarily difficult and counterproductive in terms of their relationships with their parishes to sue for recovery of CRL. It appears not to have been attempted since Aston Cantlow. Registration is literally a medieval anomaly that undermines the value and saleability of land, creating lasting animosity towards the church, without achieving the objective of improving the funding of chancel repairs. It aims at taxing citizens who may not even be Christian or belong to any religion, for the purposes of one faith out of dozens in our multicultural society.
Even more harmful for many landowners than the exposure to unquantifiable and theoretically limitless CRL is the blight of registration, significantly reducing the sale price and even making the property unsaleable, particularly to buyers requiring mortgages. Since Aston Cantlow, purchasers of land have routinely taken out insurance against having to pay CRL, and this has proved very lucrative to the insurance industry, given that payouts have been minimal. But for property blighted by registration, premiums are astronomical or insurance is totally unavailable.
The only fair solution is abolition, modelled on the Law Commission’s recommendation, but until that can be effected, a much greater availability is needed of compounding—the ability to buy out the liability to CRL, at low cost and minimal professional fees. At Edingale in the diocese of Lichfield, the diocese agreed after long and stressful negotiations to accept just £45 from a householder to extinguish her liability to pay CRL of thousands of times that amount if it had been recoverable. Without compounding, any would-be purchaser would have had to take into account the probability that, ultimately, the church would be able to enforce the claim, as it did in Aston Cantlow.

Some dioceses already recommend compounding, but a uniform countrywide scheme would be the ideal, possibly by way of amendments to the Ecclesiastical Dilapidations Measure 1923. The initiatives of the Reverend Greg Yerbury, team rector of Penkridge, Staffs, might provide a useful model. In any case, based on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread, it might be sensible for the church to devise a workable national scheme for compounding before we return to the Chancel Repairs Bill, abolishing CRL altogether after the general election.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Another Coalition after the General Election?

AYouGov poll in the Daily Telegraph shows 36% want a Coalition Government with LibDems in it, as compared with 27% wanting a Tory Government and 19% a Labour Government. (

All the polls indicate the probability that no Party will have a majority in the Commons, So a strong LibDem vote will give a result that people would prefer to any otherm

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Oxford University boxing team, 1946, with thanks to Chris Mack.

'Hit hard and often', Alf used to say

With Chris Mack, January 9. I was the first Oxford boxer to be trained by Alf Gallie in 1946, and he was the last 39 years later, in 1977.

Monday, January 12, 2015

"I'm not 'terminally ill' yet; this is defined as having less than 6 months to live, and I've still got an estimated 17!"

From the Observer:
Peers seek to limit law on assisted dying
Only those with three months or less to live could choose when to die
Sunday 11 January 2015
A coalition of cross-party peers has moved to water down proposed legislation that would let the terminally ill request and receive help to end their lives.

The Assisted Dying Bill, proposed by former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, has divided the House of Lords and is scheduled for its latest debate on Friday. The Bill has made it further through Parliament than many politicians expected. The Private Member's Bill, not yet backed by any political parties, would let people request assistance in killing themselves if their terminal illness means they are likely to have no more than six months left to live. But critics are worried that this could be abused or have unintended consequences, such as sick people, fearing they are a burden on their families, requesting death even though they want to live.

Liberal Democrat Lord Carlile, Labour's Lord Darzi and crossbencher Lord Harries, have submitted an amendment which would see the six-month life expectancy limit reduced to three months. Lord Carlile opposes assisted dying "philosophically", as he does not believe anyone should be given the right to kill another person, but wanted to alter this aspect of the Bill in case assisted dying ever becomes law.

"The amendment is intended to tighten [issues surrounding] terminal illness," said Lord Carlile. "The nearer to death you are the less likely it [the prognosis] will be wrong."

Lord Avebury is terminally ill with a rare bone-marrow condition, myelofibrosis (Teri Pengilley)

Lord Falconer said this weekend that only granting people the right to assisted dying with three months or less to live would mean that in many cases it could be too late for them. They might already be in such pain that there would no longer be many benefits to choosing the timing of their own death.

"It's a big issue, whether six months is too short or too long," said Lord Falconer. "You've got to give people long enough to make their choices. I will be saying let's start with six months: opponents are trying to ambush the Bill. The time has come for change."

Even if the Bill gets through the Lords this week, there is insufficient time before the election to get it debated and passed in the House of Commons. Lord Falconer is hoping to "carry over" the Bill to the next Parliament, no matter which party or parties are in government, so that it does not have to be re-introduced from scratch.
As it is a Private Member's rather than a government Bill, this would be an unusual move, but Lord Falconer is contacting senior Whips in major parties to see if they will consent to the idea.

One peer who is pushing hard for the Bill to become law early in the next Parliament is Lord Avebury, the LibDem who is widely considered to have achieved the most stunning by-election victory of the 20th century when he took Orpington in 1962. Overturning a huge Conservative majority, the win signalled a revival of a Liberal Party that had been in the doldrums for decades.

The 86-year-old is terminally ill with a rare bone-marrow condition, myelofibrosis, and has calculated that he has about 19 months left to live.

"I honestly can't understand why anybody would oppose this Bill," said Lord Avebury. "It seems to me obvious that a person should have control over his own life and that people who are trying to stop it are being very selfish about it.

"It's not obviously something that affects them as they don't need it, so to make it impossible for anybody else to take advantage of a law of this kind seems peculiarly perverse."

Lord Avebury says the Bill's opponents should look at evidence from the US state of Oregon, where assisted dying has been legal since 1997. "No one has alleged that greedy relatives have tried to persuade someone to take advantage of the law so as to collect the money," he argued.

Supportive peers would like to see their parties make manifesto commitments to giving the Bill plenty of Parliamentary time for debate after the election. The Earl of Arran, a Conservative, said he would "love it" if this appeared in any party manifesto, while fellow Tory Baroness Wheatcroft argues that "the body of [public] opinion is moving more and more in favour" of assisted suicide.

The party leaders, who have left assisted suicide as a free vote and therefore a matter of conscience for their Parliamentarians, are also under pressure from their MPs to consider whether the Bill should become law. Norman Lamb, the Health minister who has been tipped as a future leader of the LibDems, said: "I hope that our party, if it is in government, helps to facilitate the debate going forward to the next Parliament."

Tory MP Sir Richard Ottaway said that "a serious assault" on getting assisted dying on to the statute books was needed.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My Dad's 1937 Bugatti

I well remember urging him to keep his foot hard down on the accelerator as we hurtled down the empty A2 on the way to Sandwich just after he got the car in 1937.. He got it up to 125 mph.