Thursday, February 15, 2018

Should Jacob Rees-Mogg be allowed to address the Commons on Hard Brexit?

Another stiff letter to my MP

Dear John

When I was on the District Council, there were very clear rules requiring Members to declare if they had a financial interest in any matter under debate. I assume that the same rules apply in Parliament, and I would be very grateful if you would show me the relevant passage in MPs' governance documents.

The reason that I ask is that that Jacob Rees-Mogg MP is a major shareholder in Somerset Capital Management which has $9.6 billion under management and specialises in emerging markets. He stands to gain significantly in the event of a hard Brexit as British traders will be forced into emerging markets.

Is it not the case therefore that Jacob Rees-Mogg should not be allowed to advocate in Parliamentary debate any measures that would tend to benefit Somerset Capital Management?

I would be grateful if you would raise this matter with the Commons disciplinary authorities.

Thank you

Kind regards

Richard Lawson

Friday, February 02, 2018

How can we prevent vehicle-ramming attacks such as that committed by Darren Osborne?

Terrorists like Darren Osborne, the dull alcoholic who has just been convicted of a vehicle-ramming murder in Finsbury Park last year, are now using vehicles, especially hired vans, as weapons. Technology (under patents patents held by Fiji and Toyota) exists to mitigate these attacks by switching off the engine on the first impact. This would prevent the driver from careering on under power through a crowd causing the scale of deaths that we saw in Barcelona, Nice, Berlin, London Westminster, Stockholm, London Bridge, London Finsbury Park and Charlottesville, to name but a few. They would also prevent the run part of hit-and-run accidents.

The National Security Council was informed in confidence about this simple technology, which might add about £50 to the cost of a van, some five months ago. They have not responded in any way. My letter to them is below.

We need to a public discussion about if, how and when this protective technology should be fitted.

The Secretary
National Security Council
10 Downing St
London SW1


Dear Sir or Madam

re Protecting the public against terrorist attacks using vehicles

I am writing to the NSC as you have the role of developing effective protective security policies and capabilities for government.

The recent horrific terrorist vehicle attack in Barcelona, following other such atrocities in Nice, Berlin, London Westminster, Stockholm, London Bridge, London Finsbury Park and Charlottesville are a cause of great concern, as they turn every vehicle into a potential weapon. Physical defence against such weaponry, building barriers to separate pedestrians from traffic countrywide, would be enormously expensive and disruptive.

There is a far more cost-effective way to protect the public against these attacks.

A quick patent search shows several Vehicle Collision Detectors (for example JP2015081070(A)) registered by serious actors such as Toyota, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd and Denso Corporation. These are designed to warn drivers when they have hit someone. It would be a very simple matter to link one of these warning systems to the on-board computer so that the ignition was switched off immediately on impact.

The effect of this would be to prevent the vehicle from continuing to power on through a crowd of pedestrians, and so would mitigate the damage done by this modality of terrorism.

This device could be described as a Vehicle Impact Detector and Immobiliser (VIDI). It could be developed and tested in a matter of weeks.

Every innovation has a potential downside. One is that a vehicle fitted with a VIDI might hit a pedestrian and pin him or her against an immobile structure. On level or upward sloping ground the vehicle could be rolled away. On downward sloping land the situation might persist until the engine could be restarted or the vehicle pulled away. This would in any case be a rare event, so we would have to balance this rare event against the prospect of continued, multiple murders by terrorists, which could conceivably continue for a few more years, with all that means for community cohesion and confidence in Government.

I hope therefore that you will give this proposal serious consideration. Please feel free to pose any questions that you may have.

Sincerely, Richard Lawson

Friday, January 19, 2018

Reflections on a small body of water


In an inch of water
sky is caught
and trees stretch naked arms

where air and liquid meet
light splits up
and three worlds interweave.

Leaves that once shed green light
and made sweet_
sugar, the food of life,

move in this shallow pool
back to earth
back to the precious skin

that works with fire, with air
and water
to make life tangible

and within our living selves
has grown to be our world

able to see, touch, feel,
not tangible,
but stronger than a tree

as bubbles formed in glass
reflect all that's around

or on wet trees, one drop
holds the world
stretched round its gleaming edge

taking in all of it
leaf, light and earth
to recreate a world

within a world. Creates
our knowledge
so that we reflect

the living world. Our power
is god-like.
Nothing is beyond us

unless we sometimes lose
the vision,
the play of light on pools.

(c) Richard Lawson
Churchill 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Replying to MP fob-off over the NHS Crisis

I wrote to my MP, John Penrose (Con Weston super Mare) about the #NHSCrisis. He wrote back with the stock Tory answer, which is to quote a few figures about Government spending. (see the bottom of this post) I have written back to his secretary who sent the email, as John and I have a difficulty over the veracity of his statements about planning permission for fracking.

Dear Charlotte Beaupere

Thank you for your email.

You assert that "the NHS is not being starved of cash", and quote some numbers. However, numbers always need to be put into context.

First, on international comparisons, it is perfectly clear that the NHS is starved of cash on a per capita basis in comparison to similar countries. 

Second, it is also only too clear that NHS funding has decreased overall as a percentage of GDP since this Government came into power in 2010:

There are several other demand side factors which amount to something like an 8% shortfall in the NHS budget.
  1. PFI repayments reduce available NHS funds by about 8%.
  2. Lansley's reforms cost about £3bn
  3. Too many staff cuts has contributed to high agency staff fees
  4. "Efficiency savings" have continued to weaken the efficiency of management decisions
  5. Health inflation due to population increase adds 3-4% to NHS demand each year
  6. Local authority budget cuts lead to social care deficiencies which cause loss of available hospital beds (and the bed ratio is already at the bottom of the table of  comparable countries).
The reason for any government to exist is to protect its vulnerable citizens from significant threat.

In the case of the NHS, the Government has failed to do this, as can seen by the increase in trolley waits. Please see the attached file NHSTrolleyWaits.

All neglect of the NHS in the name of finance works against the fact that an effective health service actually stimulates the economy of a country.

In the light of these facts, I would ask again - will you ask my MP speak on my behalf to Prime Minister Theresa May and request that the NHS gets an urgent injection of funding?

Thank you

Dr Richard Lawson

On 15/01/2018 17:01, BEAUPERE, Charlotte wrote:
Dear Dr Lawson

Thank you for contacting me about NHS services. You're right that, even though there's been more money in NHS budgets than ever before, and in spite of bigger and more extensive preparations to deal with 'winter pressures' too, services have still been under pressure over Christmas.

But the underlying cause isn't that the NHS is somehow being starved of cash, as some of the more party-political commentators would like to claim. Over the last 7 years both the coalition and the current Conservative Government have steadily increased NHS funding. Despite very tight public finances, before the recent budget you and I as taxpayers were already going to spend an extra £10 billion a year on the NHS by 2020/21. And, most recently, the Chancellor announced an extra £2.8 billion over the next three years for day to day services and £3.5 billion of capital investment by 2022-23. That means 800,000 more NHS operations and treatments, plus £2 billion more on new drugs. It also means that, by 2020, everyone will be able to access GP services at evenings and weekends.

So why have services been under pressure over Christmas? The reason isn't that funding hasn't risen - it clearly has - but rather that demand for medical services has gone up even faster. That's where the NHS reform plans developed by the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, come in. His team says that the NHS needs to reform itself internally, to move more money out of bureaucracy and into the front line of patient care, as well as keeping more patients out of hospitals in the first place, through improved prevention and allowing more treatments to happen in GP surgeries or through district nurses at home too. He's also proposing caps on expensive agency staff (and training more NHS nurses instead) and management consultants, and introducing central procurement rules.

As you'll appreciate, these changes are fundamental, structural reforms. They aren't something which can be solved by a emergency injection of short term cash. This year's winter planning and preparations started back in April and May, so last-minute 'emergency funding' isn't the answer at all, in spite of what the email you've been asked to send me by 38 degrees would like to pretend. The NHS will need still more cash in future, and I will personally support further increases in its budget as a result. But it also needs the slow, steady, painstaking underlying reforms which Simon Stevens is proposing as well, rather than quick fixes or headline soundbites instead.

Yours sincerely,

John Penrose
MP for Weston-super-Mare

From: Richard Lawson

Sent: 09 January 2018 12:10

Dear John Penrose,

I’m deeply concerned that our hospitals have reached breaking point this winter, and I’m worried what this means for patients.

This crisis hasn’t happened by accident. In my view it is the result of NHS underfunding. Your party has been in charge of the country for the last seven years, and I'd like you as my Conservative MP to take your fair share of responsibility.

As my MP, please will you speak on my behalf to Prime Minister Theresa May and demand the NHS gets an urgent injection of funding?

Many thanks for your time - I’ll be waiting for your response.

Yours sincerely,