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The future of Government (if any)

...on serious topics that don't fit anywhere else at present.
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thundril
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Joined: July 4th, 2008, 5:02 pm

Re: The future of Government (if any)

#61 Postby thundril » October 18th, 2012, 3:34 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

Nick wrote: Go out and make a fortune and then give it all the HM Treaury- I'll even give you the address. But nobody does.

JK Rowling, writing in The Times: circa April 2010.

I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.

A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism. On the available evidence, I suspect that it is Lord Ashcroft’s idea of being a mug
Where are all your altruistic socialists who have had a lucky break? They might give it away to charity (Lord Sainsbury, say) but they don't give it to the Government. Why should they? Why would they?

I recall Paul McCartney taking a similar stance to Rowling.. I have no doubt there are plenty of others too, but staying with the people who supported you through the tough times, and contributing your share in the good times, is so normal to most of us it's hardly news-worthy. It seems strange to me that such normal, human, social solidarity seems strange to you, Nick.

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Nick
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#62 Postby Nick » October 18th, 2012, 3:47 pm

But they are not contributing extra, are they, Thundril? Not to the Exchequer, anyway. They could have been chucking in that extra 10% ever since they hit the big time. But they didn't, did they?

thundril
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#63 Postby thundril » October 18th, 2012, 5:40 pm

There is such a thing as society, Nick. We're not just a bunch of individuals.
Some who have done well, (through whatever combination of inheritance, luck, talent, determination or plain craftiness) weasel out of contributing the share, and some don't . It's very odd of you to criticse those who pay their share willingly, for not doing more.

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Nick
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#64 Postby Nick » October 18th, 2012, 5:55 pm

thundril wrote:There is such a thing as society, Nick. We're not just a bunch of individuals.
If you think that is a suitable response to my opinions, then you have completely misunderstood them. Belief in such a thing as "society" does not mean that everything needs to be financed by taxation. Nor does it mean that any increase in taxation rates is automatically beneficial to those who are the intended beneficiaries.

Some who have done well, (through whatever combination of inheritance, luck, talent, determination or plain craftiness) weasel out of contributing the share, and some don't . It's very odd of you to criticise those who pay their share willingly, for not doing more.
Nowhere have I criticised anyone for paying the taxes demanded of them, nowhere. What I have said, is don't be surprised if some who could contribute to the finances of the public sector become increasingly less inclined to do so, the higher the rate of tax. That's the essence of the Laffer Curve.

thundril
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#65 Postby thundril » October 18th, 2012, 9:19 pm

Nick wrote:
thundril wrote:There is such a thing as society, Nick. We're not just a bunch of individuals.
If you think that is a suitable response to my opinions, then you have completely misunderstood them. Belief in such a thing as "society" does not mean that everything needs to be financed by taxation. Nor does it mean that any increase in taxation rates is automatically beneficial to those who are the intended beneficiaries.
But you might recognise that people with socialist principles, who also have got their hands on large amounts of money, do propose that they, and others as wealthy, should pay more tax. The point about society not being just a bunch of individuals is intended to point to this; It is perfectly consistent for a socialist millionaire to propose "We should pay a larger percentage..." without being thereby expected to pay a larger percentage individually, while all the other millionaires swan off to Guernsey or Belize with their stash.
Some who have done well, (through whatever combination of inheritance, luck, talent, determination or plain craftiness) weasel out of contributing the share, and some don't . It's very odd of you to criticise those who pay their share willingly, for not doing more.
Nowhere have I criticised anyone for paying the taxes demanded of them, nowhere.
Certainly not. But in fact you have implied that no-one is willing to pay any more than they have to.
What I have said, is don't be surprised if some who could contribute to the finances of the public sector become increasingly less inclined to do so, the higher the rate of tax. That's the essence of the Laffer Curve.
(My Bold)
Finance capitalists are forever scuttling around the planet avoiding social responsibilities. It doesn't surprise me at all, Nick.

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Nick
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#66 Postby Nick » October 21st, 2012, 5:12 pm

thundril wrote:But you might recognise that people with socialist principles, who also have got their hands on large amounts of money, do propose that they, and others as wealthy, should pay more tax. The point about society not being just a bunch of individuals is intended to point to this; It is perfectly consistent for a socialist millionaire to propose "We should pay a larger percentage..." without being thereby expected to pay a larger percentage individually, while all the other millionaires swan off to Guernsey or Belize with their stash.
This still means that said wealthy socialist is more concerned about equality of taxation amongst his peers, than the economic benefit of a transfer of assets from himself to the poor. There have been many laudable rich people, but none of them seem to think the best use of their money is to give it to the state. I think that is illuminating.

But in fact you have implied that no-one is willing to pay any more than they have to.
What I have said, is don't be surprised if some who could contribute to the finances of the public sector become increasingly less inclined to do so, the higher the rate of tax. That's the essence of the Laffer Curve.
(My Bold)
Finance capitalists are forever scuttling around the planet avoiding social responsibilities. It doesn't surprise me at all, Nick.
You misunderstand the Laffer Curve, Thundril. It is the impact on economic activity which is relevant, not migration of entrepreneurs.

And the evidence shows that virtually no-one is willing to pay more than they have to. Funnily enough, the Law against Perpetuities arose in direct response to a scheme designed to pay off the National Debt.......

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Alan H
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#67 Postby Alan H » October 25th, 2012, 5:05 pm

This shower are totally beyond parody:
Outrage as climate change sceptic appointed to energy committee

By Charles Maggs

Peter Lilley has been appointed to the energy and climate change select committee, provoking an angry response from climate change campaigners.

Lilley has previously said that a change in temperature of one or two per cent is "not a huge concern".

A stalwart of the Thatcher government, Lilly is also vice-chairman of Tethy's Petroleum Ltd, prompting some to suggest that his place on the committee is a conflict of interest.

But fellow committee member and Labour MP Alan Whitehead was pragmatic about his appointment.

"It is odd that someone who doesn't believe in the existence of half of the committee's brief would want to be a member of that select committee," he said.

"But since a select committee's central role is to hear, digest and publish evidence on these matters, I'm sure his membership will be a tremendous educational opportunity."

However there were harsher words from Greenpeace policy director Joss Garman who condemned the appointment of Lilley, one of only five MPs to vote against the 2008 climate change act.

"The addition of climate change sceptic and oil company director Peter Lilley to the energy and climate change select committee is part of a growing picture," he said.

"With Owen Paterson as environment secretary and anti-wind campaigner John Hayes now energy minister, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Tories are gearing up to assault the Climate Change Act and increase the UK's reliance on expensive, imported, polluting fossil fuels."
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Dave B
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#68 Postby Dave B » October 25th, 2012, 10:01 pm

Well, what do you expect of politicians? Integrity, honesty, far sightedness?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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Nick
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#69 Postby Nick » October 26th, 2012, 2:23 pm

Alan H wrote:This shower are totally beyond parody:
Outrage as climate change sceptic appointed to energy committee

By Charles Maggs

Peter Lilley has been appointed to the energy and climate change select committee, provoking an angry response from climate change campaigners.
I hardly think it is healthy to have a committee consisting entirely of greens. They are intended to be cross-party to carry more authority. Secondly, they are elected by their fellow MP's. That democracy thing again.

Lilley has previously said that a change in temperature of one or two per cent is "not a huge concern".
I doubt that is all he said....

A stalwart of the Thatcher government, Lilly is also vice-chairman of Tethy's Petroleum Ltd, prompting some to suggest that his place on the committee is a conflict of interest.
I think it is healthy to have members of a Select Committee who actually know something about the subject in question. Perhaps we should bar all environmental campaigners too? Or should it be composed of people who know nothing?

But fellow committee member and Labour MP Alan Whitehead was pragmatic about his appointment.

"It is odd that someone who doesn't believe in the existence of half of the committee's brief would want to be a member of that select committee," he said.

"But since a select committee's central role is to hear, digest and publish evidence on these matters, I'm sure his membership will be a tremendous educational opportunity."
If he comes up with a wacky minority report, then fire away. But I'm inclined to think that the Committee's reports
will benefit from more rigorous debate withon their ranks.

However there were harsher words from Greenpeace policy director Joss Garman who condemned the appointment of Lilley, one of only five MPs to vote against the 2008 climate change act.
It depends why he voted against. Which we are not told.

"The addition of climate change sceptic and oil company director Peter Lilley to the energy and climate change select committee is part of a growing picture," he said.

"With Owen Paterson as environment secretary and anti-wind campaigner John Hayes now energy minister, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Tories are gearing up to assault the Climate Change Act and increase the UK's reliance on expensive, imported, polluting fossil fuels."
How ironic. John Garman is in favour of wildly expensive methods of energy production, and against the production of indiginous energy, and the use of non-fossil fuels, like nuclear. Fine, that's his opinion, as part of a pressure group, but let's see what the committe produce before we pass judgement.

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Alan H
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#70 Postby Alan H » October 26th, 2012, 2:28 pm

Dave B wrote:Well, what do you expect of politicians? Integrity, honesty, far sightedness?

Quite.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Alan H
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#71 Postby Alan H » October 28th, 2012, 7:18 pm

Sultan's tax discount on London house shows law favours rich

Three generations of the Braithwaite family are crowded into a rented three-bedroom row house, a 10-minute drive from the Sultan of Brunei's mansion on London's "Billionaires Row."

The difference in the two households' property tax: 32 pounds ($51) a month.

There is another difference between what the Sultan of Brunei, ruler of the oil- and gas-rich Asian nation, and the Braithwaites pay: The sultan gets a discount on his tax bill because he lives there part time. The Braithwaites don't.

The poorest 20 percent of British households pay 5.6 percent of their total income in local government council tax, three times the proportion the wealthiest 20 percent contribute, Michael Orton, a researcher at the University of Warwick, found. That disparity prompted the coalition government's Liberal Democrats to push for a so-called mansion tax of 1 percent a year for homes valued at more than 2 million pounds. Their coalition partners, the Conservative Party, rejected the idea.

"They need to pay more," said retiree Aisha Braithwaite, 68, at her kitchen table in Golborne, one of London's poorest neighborhoods. Like Billionaires Row, it's part of the Kensington and Chelsea borough.

"They say that we're in it together," Braithwaite said. "How can we be in it together when the people who can afford are not actually exposed to the same sort of crisis or stresses that we normal people are exposed to?"

Property taxes have become Britain's latest battleground over who should pay, and how much, as the country faces a record budget deficit and the government's austerity program is forcing cuts in social programs such as disability benefits and aid to families with children. In London in particular, where affluent foreign buyers have kept home prices rising even in the face of the country's first double-dip recession since the 1970s, limits on council taxes have left many lower- and middle- income renters and homeowners paying almost as much as the wealthy, and sometimes more.

"I can't for the life of me understand why anyone thinks it's OK that if you're an oligarch in a 3 million-pound house in the middle of London, you pay the same council tax as the family next door," Nick Clegg, the U.K.'s deputy prime minister and head of the Liberal Democrats, said last month.

That's happened because the property tax is based on valuations set nationwide in 1991. Taxation rates, which vary by borough, don't rise or fall with home prices, leaving them in a narrow band.

The levy "is an extremely crude tax that is extremely out of dates in terms of banding," said Paul Cheshire, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics. "There's certainly a case for revisiting council tax and revisiting property tax in general."

Houses that were valued at more than 320,000 pounds in 1991 pay the highest rate. A home valued at that 20 years ago is now worth an average of 960,000 pounds, according to an analysis of Nationwide Building Society data by broker Knight Frank.

In Kensington and Chelsea, an area popular with London's bankers and hedge-fund managers, top-tier households will pay 2,151 pounds this year, about 25 percent less than the average top rate for England, according to the borough. In neighboring Westminster, home of the queen and Parliament, they pay a maximum of 1,369 pounds, about half the average top rate for England, according to the same document.

Other provisions in the property-tax system favor the wealthy, including discounts of as much as 50 percent for property used as a second home or left vacant.

On tree-lined Billionaires Row, Britain's most expensive street, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who as Brunei's finance minister controls the nation's $30 billion sovereign-wealth fund, qualified for a 10 percent reduction in his monthly council-tax payment, according to a Freedom of Information request to the borough of Kensington and Chelsea by Bloomberg News. He was charged 1,942 pounds, or 162 pounds a month, in council tax last year, records show. The value of the property isn't publicly available.

He isn't alone in claiming a tax discount on Billionaires Row, the popular name for Kensington Palace Gardens and Palace Green. While the 31 diplomatic properties on the street pay no council tax, 18 of the 45 residences that are taxed get a discount for being a second home or unoccupied, borough records show. Two properties were charged nothing as they were empty due to construction.

Kensington has become a haven for the rich as investors, particularly from overseas, seek to protect their wealth from political, economic and financial turmoil in their home market. The average price for a house in Kensington with five or more bedrooms has gained 47 percent to 7.55 million pounds since 2007, according to researcher Lonres.com.

"A lot of high-end residential properties going up in London are simply safety-deposit boxes for offshore money," Peter Rees, planning officer at the City of London borough, said in an interview.

Overseas buyers can use a stake in their family home to win the right to live in Britain. A 250,000-pound home deposit can form part of a 1-million-pound British investment required for a high net worth investor residency application, the British Border Agency said in an e-mail. Individuals must live in the country for five consecutive years to be eligible.

The Braithwaites say they don't qualify for a reduction in their 1,553 pounds, or 130 pounds a month, in council tax.

Lakshmi Mittal, chairman and chief executive officer of Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, was also charged his full council tax last year of 2,158 pounds, or 180 pounds a month for his house on Billionaires Row, borough records show.

Mittal, Britain's second-richest man with a net worth of $17.5 billion, according to Bloomberg's billionaires list, bought the house on Kensington Palace Gardens for 57 million pounds in 2004 from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, Forbes magazine reported. The 55,000-square-foot mansion has 12 bedrooms, a pool and marble sourced from the same quarry as the Taj Mahal, the magazine said.

Spokeswomen for Bolkiah and Mittal declined to comment.

Thirty-four of 83 residences eligible for council tax at One Hyde Park, Britain's most expensive apartment complex, also qualify for 10 percent second-home discounts, the City of Westminster said in a reply to a Freedom of Information Act request by Bloomberg News.

The luxury apartments in London's Knightsbridge district were conceived by developers Christian and Nick Candy and Qatar Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim's closely held Waterknights. Prices there have ranged from 5.75 million pounds for a one-bedroom home to 135 million pounds for a penthouse, the Times newspaper reported last year.

The maximum council-tax bill for any of the apartments in One Hyde Park would be 1,369 pounds — or 184 pounds less than the Braithwaites pay three miles away in Kensington.

"It's one of those anomalies that seem very hard to justify," Orton, who published a research paper on council tax in 2006, said by phone. "There aren't going to be very many people on lower and middle incomes who own a second home. It's the people on higher incomes that are again benefiting from the structure of the tax."

The poorest 20 percent of British households pay 5.6 percent of their incomes in council taxes compared with 1.8 percent for the highest earning 20 percent, according to Orton. That gap has widened over the past nine years, Orton found, using data from the government's Office for National Statistics.

"Each time council tax goes up it disproportionately affects those on middle and lower incomes," he said. "A fair system requires actually altering the ratios between the bands to make the overall system fairer."

About 0.2 percent of all British houses are valued at 2 million pounds or more, Lloyds Banking Group estimated in March, meaning about 45,000 homes would have to pay the Liberal Democrats' mansion tax if it was introduced. The tax would add a 1 percent surcharge for homes assessed at more than 2 million pounds, paid on the value above that level. An owner of a 3 million-pound home would pay 10,000 pounds more a year.

Prime Minister David Cameron opposes a mansion tax, saying people who save for a large house shouldn't be hit "every year with a massive great tax," Cameron said on Oct. 7 on BBC Television's Andrew Marr show. "That's not going to happen."

Instead, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's annual budget targeted luxury-home purchases to help narrow Britain's deficit by raising the transaction tax, known as stamp duty, on homes sold for more than 2 million pounds to 7 percent from 5 percent. He also imposed a 15 percent levy on homes purchased by companies to counter the use of offshore corporations to avoid taxes.

"Council tax is a local services tax, not a wealth tax," the Department for Communities and Local Government said in an e-mailed statement. Parliament is considering changes to give councils "greater flexibility" to remove tax relief for second and empty homes, the government said in the statement.

Council taxes are used to pay for services such as roads, social services and garbage removal. Kensington and Chelsea trimmed its budget by 22 million pounds after the British government cut funding for councils, according to its website. Its council-tax rates have changed little over three years.

"We are very interested in the government's plans to amend the discounts to council tax," said Bernard Brady, a Kensington and Chelsea Council spokesman. "The system of local government finance, including council tax, is controlled by central government; individual councils cannot change the tax system."

Aisha Braithwaite, who shares the row house with her husband, daughter and two grandchildren, has lived for two decades in Golborne, where more than a quarter of the population is on welfare, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Meanwhile, asking prices for homes in Kensington and Chelsea rose 9.1 percent to an average of 2.2 million pounds in October, making it the country's most expensive district, according to Rightmove Plc, a property website. The borough's wealth disparity makes her angry.

"I'm incensed that we're expected to tighten our belts," said Braithwaite, who worked for the City of Westminster and Hackney Borough councils before retiring. "They need to pay more because they are getting everything for nothing. Half of them don't pay tax. They've got big lawyers who can advise them how to avoid paying tax."
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Nick
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#72 Postby Nick » October 29th, 2012, 11:46 am

I have no problem whatsoever in having more bands for more expensive houses. I would even consider a premium, rather than a discount for second homes.

I wonder why the Labour Government didn't do it....?

For those occasional cases where the owner is fortunate enough to have bought their (primary) home cheaply in a now-expensive area, where they may be asset rich but cash poor, I'd allow them to roll-over some of the liability until death or sale.

Of course, there will always be a rumpus with any re-banding. Which is why it hasn't been done. Not enough benefit for the electoral aggro.

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Alan H
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#73 Postby Alan H » October 29th, 2012, 11:52 am

Why not fund Local Government via some means that makes sure all residents contribute according to their means?
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Nick
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Joined: July 4th, 2007, 10:10 am

Re: The future of Government (if any)

#74 Postby Nick » October 29th, 2012, 12:01 pm

Alan H wrote:Why not fund Local Government via some means that makes sure all residents contribute according to their means?

Worth discussing, Alan, but ever system has it's problems. If you tax income, you are ignoring wealth, if you try to assess wealth, that would be fiendishly difficult. Much (even most?) of local government spending comes from central taxes, which are more alligned with overall means. I think property taxes have a role to play in the mix of various methods of taxation.

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Alan H
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#75 Postby Alan H » November 1st, 2012, 9:32 pm

Glad to see the Government is tightening its belt just like the rest of us have to.
William Hague's antique anaconda cost £10,000 to re-stuff

Image

Albert the anaconda is thought to have been a gift to the Colonial Secretary of what is now Guyana

The Foreign Office has spent £10,000 on the "essential maintenance" of a stuffed anaconda called Albert.

The 20ft snake has been hanging in the library of what is now William Hague's department since the 19th Century.

But officials sent it for a scan after noticing it was in poor condition - and the sorry-looking snake was re-stuffed.

Foreign Office officials say they are obliged to maintain the department's assets - and Albert is seen as one such asset.

The story was uncovered through a Freedom of Information request by political gossip website Guido Fawkes.

The official FOI reply explains how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) came to be the owner of an antique anaconda.

'CT scanning'
It says: "Albert the anaconda was allegedly presented by a bishop, in what is now Guyana, to the Colonial Secretary in the 19th Century - exact names and dates are unknown.

"However, he appears in a photo from circa 1892, which means he has been in the FCO for at least 120 years.

"As a gift to the FCO, Albert is therefore regarded as an FCO asset. As such, the FCO is obliged to maintain its assets, and the work on Albert was essential maintenance.

"It is believed that Albert was first re-stuffed in the 1960s or 1970s, but there are no records of how much it cost on that occasion."

The FOI reply goes on to explain that "no significant maintenance" has been carried out on Albert in the past 40 to 50 years.

Officials moving the snake from its suspended position in the Ansel Library, to make way for building work, decided to send him for "conservation and restoration work" costing £10,000.

The work was carried out by the conservation team at the Natural History Museum, over a five-week period, from 21 May to 26 June 2012.

"As nothing was known about previous work done on Albert, the conservation team at the NHM needed to use x-ray CT scanning, which is a costly procedure that required extensive data processing and a specialist to do the analysis," says the FOI reply.

"Also, the level of detailed, delicate work in the restoration involved an intensive amount of care and attention from highly trained staff."
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Nick
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Joined: July 4th, 2007, 10:10 am

Re: The future of Government (if any)

#76 Postby Nick » November 3rd, 2012, 3:29 pm

It seems the Palace of Westminster needs urgent work to keep it standing. (And yes it is urgent: according to Lord Thurso, there have been 40 fires in the past few years.) Expected cost: over £2 billion. Yikes!

It seems the music has stopped; MP's and peers can't pass the parcel to the next generation, nor kick the can down the road, into the long grass, or any other analogy you might care to think of.

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Alan H
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#77 Postby Alan H » November 5th, 2012, 12:10 pm

This is truly pathetic.

Guess who said this:
Asked about the ethics of selling arms to undemocratic countries, he said: "We do believe countries have a right to defend themselves. And we do believe Britain has important defence industries that employ over 300,000 people and so that sort of business is completely legitimate and right."

Spoiler:
Correct. David 'Call me Dave' Cameron in an ethics- and logic-free zone: David Cameron defends 'legitimate' arms deals during Gulf states tour
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Dave B
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#78 Postby Dave B » November 5th, 2012, 12:25 pm

Wonder what the total numbers of state sponsored murders, by undemocratic (or even so-called democratic, like S. Africa) states that we have sent arms to, is?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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Nick
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#79 Postby Nick » November 5th, 2012, 12:35 pm

WHile I was at school, I was presented with a question in an exam: What makes a government legitimate?

What thoughts do you good peeps have? Democracy is all very well, but does that mean we cannot recognise any other governments?

I'm still not sure I can give a good answer to that....

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Alan H
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Re: The future of Government (if any)

#80 Postby Alan H » November 11th, 2012, 10:46 pm

Barnet is the London burgh next to us - I think it's safe to assume this is happening elsewhere as well.



You might also like to read my blog post on Freedom of Information Act requests in North Tyneside Council, who have recently outsourced services to private companies: Fog on the Tyne, updated earlier today.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

User avatar
Alan H
Posts: 24029
Joined: July 3rd, 2007, 10:26 pm

Re: The future of Government (if any)

#81 Postby Alan H » November 19th, 2012, 1:25 pm

The latest Tory wheeze: let's make it more difficult for plebs to challenge Government decisions:
A war on Judicial Review?

The Prime Minister is to “get a grip” on people forcing unnecessary delays to Government policy by cracking down on the “massive growth industry” of Judicial Review. David Cameron told business leaders today:
“When this country was at war in the 40s, Whitehall underwent a revolution. … everything was thrown at ‘the overriding purpose’ of beating Hitler. … this country is in the economic equivalent of war today – and we need the same spirit. We need to forget about crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ – and we need to throw everything we’ve got at winning in this global race.”


The detail of the changes is yet to be revealed (update – more detail is now available on the Ministry of Justice website, including the promise of a public consultation), but the PM plans to ” reduce the time limit when people can bring cases; charge more for reviews – so people think twice about time-wasting.”

Clearly some of the PM’s Dunkirk spirit rhetoric is aimed at cheering up business leaders, who need a lot of that at the moment. But putting the rhetoric aside, there is cause for concern here.

First, the underlying assumption is that Judicial Review, the right to challenge decisions of public authorities in court within three months of them being made, has grown out of control since the 1970s.

Has any proper analysis been done? There are reasons for the growth in Judicial Review which are unconnected to the rapaciousness of lawyers and unnecessary bureaucracy , such as the growth of the state, the decrease in trust of politicians and the more general point that Judicial Review is actually quite a good way of guaranteeing that decisions of public authorities are reasonable and fair.

Perhaps most importantly, a huge proportion of that increase is due to immigration decisions being challenged, not planning or other business-related decisions (see this graphic).

Anyone who works in administrative law, as the practice of Judicial Review is known, has seen really poor decisions, which had been upheld by internal public authority appeals processes (such as they exist), eviscerated by judges. The mere threat of judicial oversight can lead to irrational decisions being made again – for example, in the recent fuss over the West coast rail franchise.

Secondly, there are a some worrying statements which are said to underly the changes. For example, the original BBC story (screen grab here) said Downing Street figures showed “Around one in six [judicial review] applications was granted”. Following a little fact checking on Twitter, that has now been removed. Whilst it is right that permission to proceed (the first stage) is granted in around 6.5% of Judicial Review applications, only around 1% actually succeed at the substantive stage, that is win overall – see p.65 of the statistics for 2011. Which statistics are being used to justify this decision in Whitehall?

Of course, Government and business leaders have every right to worry if the courts are being slow, inefficient or overly-bureaucratic in holding up the decisions of public authorities. The three-month time limit to bring a Judicial Review is much shorter than in most other litigation settings. This is in recognition of the fact that public authorities need to be able to get on with making decisions and not be unduly delayed by unmeritorious court claims.

But it seems that the real problem here is court delays, not the judicial review system itself. At least, that is the thrust of the Prime Minister’s comments. From my experience, it sometimes takes around a year for a full judicial review to be heard, which makes a mockery of the initial three-month time limit – but judicial reviews of more urgent decisions tend to take a matter of weeks. Of course one of the best ways to tackle court delays would be to increase funding to the justice system. But that is unlikely to happen given the very significant cuts to the Ministry of Justice’s budget.

Unless the system can be made more efficient – for example, by further cutting the number of claims which are dealt with by High Court Judges – the only other option is to limit the rights of individuals to challenge Government decisions. And there may be problems there for the rule of law.

Thirdly, will the entire Judicial Review system be affected or just the part of it which concerns the kinds of decisions which affect business? The vast majority of Judicial Review applications are about immigration and asylum, not planning or business, so this is a very important question indeed. Whilst increasing the speed of planning challenges could (at a stretch – see below) be justified by the ‘wartime’ analogy, that logic is becomes more strained when it comes to immigration decisions.

Finally, it may be rhetoric, but this is the second time in a week that the Prime Minister has expressed frustration at having to cross his ‘t’s’ and ‘i’s’. He said in relation to Abu Qatada, who has avoided deportation to Jordan:

We have moved heaven and earth to try and comply with every single dot and comma of every single convention to get him out of this country.

Lawyers will be very concerned indeed about this. The wartime analogy is also somewhat depressing. During wartime, the state becomes more authoritarian as it is focussed on a single existential threat. Niceties of rights protection and civil liberties tend to be suspended. Nobody could seriously want this to apply because we are facing the real but certainly not existential threat of a recession.

Since the Prime Minister is invoking the Second World War, it seems appropriate to invoke perhaps the most famous dissenting judgment in our legal history, that of Lord Atkin in Liversidge v Anderson [1941] UKHL 1. He said:
In this country amidst the clash of arms the laws are not silent. They may be changed, but they speak the same language in war as in peace. It has always been one of the pillars of freedom, one of the principles of liberty for which on recent authority we are now fighting, that the judges are no respecters of persons and stand between the subject and any attempted encroachments on his liberty by the executive, alert to see that any coercive action is justified in law

Judges have become quite good at making sure, on behalf of individuals, that the Government dots its ‘i’s’ and crosses its ‘t’s’. Any significant change to that system must be supported by evidence that it really isn’t working and that the proposals will really address its deficiencies. Anything less risks making public authorities less accountable to the public they serve. To paraphrase Lord Atkin, we should think very carefully indeed before silencing the law.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?


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