Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Need for Supervision

I was walking through Holton Road earlier on today and was surprised to see a news cameraman filming outside one of the tanning stores near King Square.

It made a little more sense when I saw this story, about a 14 year old using a coin-operated sunbed with no supervision and suffering first degree burns.

The owner claims to have been working within the law, but it is certainly outside the spirit of the law to allow unrestricted and unsupervised access to such dangerous devices.

I certainly hope that both tanning salon owners and users pay attention to this case and make sure that everyone is aware of the risks, and that future regulations ensure that such usage cannot be unsupervised.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Freud-ian Slip?

The news that Sir David Freud is to join the Conservatives as shadow welfare minister may not cause shockwaves outside the political bubble, but as the man behind Labour’s current misguided plans for welfare reform, it is a hugely significant move.

The Welfare Reform Bill, which includes measures such as welfare-to-work, privatisation of job centre services and pushing single mothers into work when their youngest children turn seven, has been hugely controversial amongst those who will have to deal with the fall-out of these mistakes.

These have been generally accepted as a fait accompli because these market-oriented reforms have support from both the Labour government and the Conservatives, despite disquiet from the Labour left.

Any backbench rebellion has little chance of succeeding against the government loyalists and the Conservatives, but Freud’s move to the opposition benches will certainly give impetus to those who want to make significant changes to the Bill as it passes through.

It would be highly embarrassing for the Government to need to rely on Tory support for their reform changes when the Bill comes to report stage and third reading next month.

Carving up the Commission

Last Monday night saw the first day of the House of Commons’ third reading of the Political Parties and Elections Bill, of which the major amendment of interest was one tabled by the SNP, Plaid and the SDLP.

The Bill proposes that the electoral commission should include four commissioners with recent experience of political campaigning, in order to ensure that the commission is up to speed with current events.

Naturally, this is based, not on a UK geographical basis, but upon parties’ representation at Westminster.

As such, Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats will each be nominating a member of the commission with the unwritten expectation that the fourth and final commissioner will be nominated by the largest of the non-UK parties at Westminster, the Democratic Unionists.

The DUP have 9 seats at Westminster, compared with 7 for the SNP and 3 each for Plaid and the SDLP. The single UUP, Respect and UKIP representatives at Parliament don’t count as 2 members are required to become a ‘group’.

The SNP accused this of being a Westminster carve-up that failed to take into consideration that there are four governments in the UK featuring seven parties and that only two of these parties would be able to nominate a representative to the commission.

They noted further that there was no assurance that there would be anyone on the commission with an understanding of campaigning in the various types of Proportional Representation, of which there are different versions in operation in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London.

The perhaps typical response of Conservative spokesperson Eleanor Laing was to suggest that first past the post was the only fair way of carrying out an election.

A throwaway joke comment it may have been, but her failure to answer the criticism of the Westminster carve-up spoke volumes for the very real awareness that this is an undemocratic system that will require a visit once more during the next Parliament.

Proposed Closure of Bryneithin Old People's Home

I’m very worried by the proposed closure of the Bryneithin Old People’s Home for people suffering with dementia in Dinas Powys.

There were some very strong words said in support of keeping the home open at a special scrutiny meeting at the Vale of Glamorgan Council last week, but whether that will impact upon the ears of those in charge is another matter entirely.

More than a few people have accused the Conservative council of creating a sham consultation with a foregone conclusion.

I wouldn’t go that far, but the closure must be resisted and proper service maintained for the elderly and vulnerable in our community.

Hopefully the Conservatives will have a change of heart before any wrong decision is made – as Labour have done since they dropped their own proposals to close the centre in 1997.