Month: February 2019

All In A Day’s Work In Parliament

Rosie Cooper our MP voted in 9 parliamentary divisions yesterday.

Deferred Divisions – Exiting the European Union (Financial Services and Markets) (27 Feb 2019) and Transparency (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 Voted (No) (division #339; result was 317 aye, 280 no)

Deferred Divisions – Exiting the European Union (Terms and Conditions of Employment) (27 Feb 2019) Voted (no) against approving the Employment Rights (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (division #340; result was 317 aye, 260 no)

Deferred Divisions – Exiting the European Union (Terms and Conditions of Employment) (27 Feb 2019) Voted (no) against approving the Employment Rights (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (division #341; result was 318 aye, 288 no)

Deferred Divisions – Exiting the European Union (Terms and Conditions of Employment) (27 Feb 2019) Voted (no) against approving the Employment Rights (Amendment) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2018 (division #342; result was 317 aye, 288 no)

Deferred Divisions – Exiting the European Union (Terms and Conditions of Employment) (27 Feb 2019) Voted (no) against approving the Employment Rights (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2018 (division #343; result was 317 aye, 260 no)

Deferred Divisions – Exiting the European Union (Financial Services and Markets) (27 Feb 2019)
Voted (no) against approving the Financial Services Contracts (Transitional and Saving Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (division #344; result was 318 aye, 281 no)

UK’s Withdrawal from the EU (27 Feb 2019) Voted (aye) to instruct Ministers (a) to negotiate with the EU for changes to the Political Declaration to secure: i. a permanent and comprehensive customs union with the EU; ii. close alignment with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations; iii. dynamic alignment on rights and protections; iv. commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation; and v. unambiguous agreement on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European Arrest Warrant and vital shared databases; and (b) to introduce primary legislation to give statutory effect to this negotiating mandate.” (division #345; result was 240 aye, 323 no)

UK’s Withdrawal from the EU (27 Feb 2019) Union without a withdrawal agreement and future framework under any circumstances, and regardless of any exit date.” (division #346; result was 288 aye, 324 no) UK’s Withdrawal from the EU (27 Feb 2019) Voted (aye) to note in particular the commitment of the Prime Minister made in this House to hold a second meaningful vote by 12 March and if the House, having rejected leaving with the deal negotiated with the EU, then rejects leaving on 29 March without a withdrawal agreement and future framework, the Government will, on 14 March, bring forward a motion on whether Parliament wants to seek a short limited extension to Article 50, and if the House votes for an extension, seek to agree that extension approved by the House with the EU, and bring forward the necessary legislation to change the exit date commensurate with that extension. (division #347; result was 502 aye, 20 no)

Northern Ireland Fishing Boats Impounded By Irish Navy

Two Northern Ireland fishing boats have been impounded by the Irish Navy 

They were detained in Dundalk Bay on Tuesday for alleged breaches of fishing regulations. It follows the collapse of a gentleman’s agreement allowing vessels from NI and the Republic reciprocal access to each other’s inshore waters. MPs in Westminster have asked the UK government to explain why the two boats were impounded.

Conservative MP Iain Duncan-Smith said the move had happened “without a huge amount of justification” while Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon said he was “appalled”. “The fishing boats are very clearly British fishing boats, they were illegally seized in waters that are disputed, waters that belong to this great nation.”

A spokesman for the Irish Navy said the two trawlers had been escorted to Clogherhead by a fisheries protection vessel and handed over to police.

‘Evidence of hard border’

The Northern Ireland-registered boats, The Amity and The Boy Joseph

were fishing for crabs, lobsters and whelks. At present, Northern Ireland vessels are banned from fishing inside the Republic of Ireland’s six-mile limit. But the Republic’s fleet has not been excluded from Northern Ireland waters.

Fishing industry representatives have been complaining about the situation since the collapse of the so-called Voisinage Agreement in 2016. They say it is evidence there is already a “hard border” in the Irish Sea. The agreement collapsed after Irish fisherman challenged its legality in Dublin’s Supreme Court and it ruled in their favour. The Irish government promised to legislate to regularise the situation, but it has not yet done so. It has been claimed this is due to the fact it has now become a potential bargaining chip in wider Brexit fisheries negotiations.

The Voisinage Arrangement is an informal agreement which allows Ireland and Northern Ireland vessels reciprocal access to fish in the 0–6 nautical mile zone of each other’s territorial waters. The Arrangement predates Ireland and the UK joining the EU and was evidenced by an exchange of letters in 1964–65 between senior civil servants; Mr O’Sullivan in Dublin and Mr Bateman in Belfast. The letters are informal but indicate agreement on reciprocal access for vessels under 75ft (23 metres) and suggest that access should be limited to those vessels owned and operated by persons who reside permanently in Northern Ireland and Ireland. No legislative provisions were specifically adopted for the Voisinage Arrangement by either government.

On the 27 October 2016, four Irish fishermen brought a case before the Irish Supreme Court which challenged the legality of Northern Ireland vessels fishing for seed mussel in Irish territorial waters under Voisinage. The Supreme Court concluded that the Voisinage Arrangement was an informal gentlemen’s agreement which is insufficient to legally grant access to fish by foreign vessels in Irish waters. Mr Justice O’Donnell found that fishing constitutes exploitation of a natural resource under Article 10 of the Irish Constitution and therefore it must be provided for “by law, which must mean public legislation”. However, he also made clear that “there is no insuperable constitutional objection to making provision by law for such fishing”. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, Northern Ireland vessels are no longer allowed to fish in the 0–6 nautical mile zone in Irish waters. Irish fishing vessels continue to benefit from access to fish in British waters under the terms of Voisinage.

Prawn trawlers from the Northern Ireland fleet favour the sheltered waters of Dundalk Bay in the winter. The collapse of the agreement has affected about 20 Northern Ireland registered boats that would traditionally have fished there.

OWLs Tweeting With Pride?

It’s reported that yesterday @ourwestlancs

experienced a nice feeling “to be able to handover a cheque for £150 to @AgeUKLancashire for the #Ormskirk Wellbeing Centre earlier today. Proceeds from our recent Race Night. @OrmskirkScouts also benefitted to the tune of £100. Thanks to all who supported the event”.

Labour Seismic Reaction To Fracking Vote Abstentions

Do you remember “Gasland”?

the 2010 Sundance award winning documentary on the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, fracking, in natural gas extraction, particularly on the effects of clean, safe drinking water? It could be making a comeback if local political clashes raise the temperature between our West Lancashire councillors.

There was a fracking Motion

Included on the WLBC Agenda by Councillor I Moran, on Behalf of the Labour Group.”This Council resolves that “While being totally opposed to shale gas extraction (Fracking) and the damage it threatens to our health, safety, environment and countryside, the Leader and Chief Executive write to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, asking them to reaffirm their position that there will be no weakening of the existing traffic light system, as proposed by Cuadrilla, to allow fracking to continue where it causes seismic activity in excess of 0.5 magnitude”.

It’s well known that there is public concern following 57 seismic events during fracking at Preston New Road in the latter part of 2018 and is at the crucial moment for the future of fracking in England. The motion was passed at Full Council last night. Labour voted unanimously for the motion. The Tories abstained and, according to Councillor Ashcroft (in Councillor David Westley’s absence), they were abstaining as they are following the government (myths?) on the national need for fracking. Ashcroft stated they believe we will need our own fracked gas for cooking and heating going forward and to counter imports from the EU and Russia! This notwithstanding the BEIS statement last year, that “Claims we rely on gas from Russia are false. Almost half of our gas comes from Great Britain, with Norway and Qatar being our major international suppliers”

The OWLs also, surprisingly given their stance on fracking, abstained.

Their leader Adrian Owens is reported to have stated “that the government had said a decisive “No”, but Labour Cllr Mills countered that by quoting the WMS by Ed Davey that Cuadrilla (and the industry) are relying upon to increase the 0.5 limit in their “presentation”.

Labour claims “This lack of support for the motion will be very disappointing for residents of West Lancashire facing the threat of fracking from both Cuadrilla (PEDL 165) and Aurora (PEDL 164).

“These PEDLs slice Halsall in two! We know from local farmers that Cuadrilla are hunting around for sites in Ribble Valley and West Lancashire for test boreholes and Aurora have categorically stated they will be submitting an application to explore and frack at Altcar Moss”.

There must be more mileage in this subject for the upcoming local elections?

Independent LCC Cllr Paul Greenall

 

Will today ask LCC

“West Lancashire Borough Council recently published its Local Plan Review Preferred Options document, which contains proposals to build almost 16,000 dwellings in West Lancashire. Given that Lancashire County Council supports the broad quantum and location of the proposed growth, but acknowledges it will need to be supported by appropriate levels of transport infrastructure and associated services, can the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport please advise what type of transport infrastructure will be offered to the people of West Lancashire East [and West, while you are at it!] , given they already encounter serious problems with traffic congestion in the areas where the construction of over 6,000 dwellings is proposed?”.

Live With Widespread Surface Water Flooding, Or Fight It!

Modernising water regulation

Defra writes “We have seen a significant improvement in the water environment and in resilience to flood and drought in recent years. In 2018, 97.9% of bathing waters passed minimum quality standards with 92.4% of these achieving the highest standards of Good or Excellent status. The number of serious pollution incidents caused by the water industry reduced from over 500 per year in the early 1990s to 57 in 2016, and leakage levels are down by around a third since 1994. Water industry investment since privatisation has been around £140 billion, equivalent to around £5 billion annually. The government is investing £2.6 billion from 2015 to 2021 in flood and coastal defence projects, and already 147,000 homes are better protected.

“However, there is more to do to achieve the commitments of clean and plentiful water and reducing the risks of harm from environmental hazards, as set out in ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment” 

Responding to Defra, Burscough Flood Group wrote

“Dear Sir/Madam

“For many years Burscough has suffered from widespread surface water flooding, in extreme weather, caused by inadequate foul and surface water sewers, as well as inadequate surface water drainage ditches and culverts. A strategic development site called Yew Tree Farm (YTF) is currently being built here and several large housing developments have recently been finished and at least two more are ongoing. BFG believe all of the developments are either exacerbating the existing problems or substituting one flood risk for another.

“Q7 I support statutory five year drainage and wastewater management plans and believe that the production of a five yearly published wastewater management plans needs to be regulated, to prevent Local Planning Authorities (LPA) such as West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC)

and utility companies such as United Utilities (UU)

making public commitments to provide desperately needed infrastructure to win over residents and planning inspectors without ever intending to keep those commitments.

“Evidence: during WLBC’s 2012 local plan consultation and examination in public; WLBC who are the LPA initially advertised in the Ormskirk Champion newspaper that siting a very large strategic development site called YTF in Burscough would bring about the resolution of Burscough’s surface water flooding problems. After the public consultation phase WLBC advertised that the YTF development wouldn’t be allowed to make Burscough’s flooding problem worse. During the examination in public UU were very reassuring to the planning inspector Roger Clewes that UU would get funding to make improvements in 2015.

“Once outline planning for YTF went ahead, several other large housing windfall developments came forward and were built. UU failed to get funding in 2015 and publicly completely changed its position in 2018 by saying that isn’t a problem with its wastewater treatment works in Burscough and there are no plans to improve it in the short term. For further information, see “whatever happened to Burscough’s new wastewater treatment works” attached which has been published widely and documents this issue. NB: There is a considerable amount of evidence associated with this document that can be provided immediately if required.

“Widespread flooding occurred in Burscough in 2012 and 2015. Serious localised flooding occurred in 2016. Most of the flooding that occurs in Burscough goes unrecorded by the Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMA), see Burscough Flood Records Report contained in several files on http://www.burscoughpc.co.uk/flooding-and-drainage-in-burscough.html

“Q8 I believe that water companies need to be forced to undertake meaningful consultation with residents and the parish council (when there is one), sufficiently early for that evidence to shape their plans. Evidence: Burscough’s residents and the parish council have local knowledge of surface water flooding problems which the Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMA) do not. In particular, UU have a history of making it difficult to communicate their surface water flooding problems to them. If the public and parish councils were statutory consultees the amount of flooding information collected by UU would increase significantly.

“Q11 The government needs to oversee the drainage and wastewater management plans for several reasons: To ensure that drainage plans are relevant for an areas problems, which may be unique. Evidence: Drainage from new developments in Burscough have always (as far as I am aware) resulted in an increased volume of water flowing into the overall surface water drainage system jointly provided by LCC and UU. Both elements of which are well known to have inadequate capacity. Site based SUDS are the norm but can only go so far to alleviate the impact of development when both systems already flood, so the effects are cumulatively negative. There are no plans by LCC/UU to resolve the underlying problem, nor any restraint from the LPA on building in areas which have or cause surface water flooding problems.

“To ensure that all of the flooding evidence available is being collected and utilised. Evidence: UU doesn’t collect evidence of most of the surface water flooding that occurs in Burscough due to surcharging. Also note that during a public meeting run by LCC and UU with Burscough’s residents in Autumn 2018, UU vigorously defended its decision to send its telephone operators home for a week during the aftermath from Storm Desmond; and UU also stated that it would only accept evidence from flood victims by telephone at the time of the flood.

“To prevent secrecy which is currently prevailing amongst the FRMAs making the public better aware of the flooding and drainage issues; and therefore empower proper public oversight of the planning process in relation to those issues. Evidence: The FRMAs hold making space for water meetings in private and don’t take note or minutes that could be accessed through FOI. The LPA keeps its communications with UU about flooding and drainage in Burscough secret and won’t release them even under FOI/Environmental legislation. It took 12 months for BFG to obtain copies of UU’s drainage advice to WLBC in 2012. Subsequently BFG presented it to the planning inspector during the 2012 local plan examination in public; and that caused significant extra flood protection to be built into Grove Farm in Ormskirk and the YTF site in Burscough. BFG are currently denied access to any information about flooding and drainage in Burscough held by WLBC along with our MP Rosie Cooper. BFG are currently making an appeal to the first-tier tribunal under section 57 of the FOI act reference EA/2018/0219.

“To ensure that drainage plans don’t solve one flooding problem by making another worse. Evidence: the drainage plans for YTF insist that a volume of surface water greater or equal to the volume of sewage discharged from YTF will be removed from UU’s sewers and placed into water courses which ultimately flood a group of homes in Crabtree Lane. The drainage plans for the planned Victoria Park housing development diverts surface water drainage which currently flows into both UU’s foul sewer and overland to a water course attenuates it and puts it all into the water course which ultimately floods a group of homes in Crabtree Lane.

I noticed that in your “Water Resources Management Plans” you have asked for further suggestions and hoped that you might consider one on Drainage and Wastewater Plans. The government needs to renew public confidence in the propriety of LPAs by ensuring that all evidence of flooding from all sources are in the public domain. They also need to oversee LPAs SFRAs to ensure they are live documents which reflect best practice and utilise all of the available evidence.

“Evidence: A 2010 consultant’s report for WLBC on flooding in Burscough was kept secret from the public until 2016. It came to light following a FOI request BFG made to LCC. The report hasn’t informed WLBCs SFRA from 2010 onwards but should have and that might have changed the outcome of the 2012 local plan consultation. In addition, LCC recently published a report from a 2017 study of flooding in Ormskirk. It was published shortly after the current local plan public consultation finished, having been delayed for approximately two years by the LPA’s requests for changes. It could have been published in 2017 when it should have informed WLBC’s SFRA and that might have changed the outcome of the current local plan consultation for Ormskirk.

“Finally, a major study and report on Burscough’s flooding/drainage problems is due to be published in this March this year. Had WLBC delayed its decision on the already controversial Victoria Park housing development and the local plan consultation sufficiently to include the evidence from this study that then might have changed the outcome of the Victoria Park application and the outcome of the local plan consultation for Burscough. Not forgetting that WLBC’s current SFRA should but doesn’t include evidence from two consultants flooding reports paid for by the parish council, WLBC’s own previously secret 2010 report and Burscough Flood Record Report 2016/17 (all published on http://www.burscoughpc.co.uk/flooding-and-drainage-in-burscough.html). Any of those documents could have changed the outcome of both the Victoria Park application and the local plan consultation for Burscough.

“Yours sincerely, Gavin Rattray”.

More power to the people!

Do You Recognise Yourself Below?

From Labour MP and former Shadow Cabinet member Owen Smith yesterday

He observed in Parliament that “Brexit is exacerbating underlying problems in our society. It is a racist, xenophobic, right-wing, reactionary project, and we in the Labour Party should be fighting against it with every sinew of our being”.

And he tweeted it too. @OwenSmith_MP “Brexit is exacerbating underlying problems in our society; it is a racist, xenophobic, right-wing reactionary project…”

But in May 2018 Smith wrote on his own “Observer” website

“That isn’t to say that I don’t both understand and respect the opinion of all of my constituents who voted to Leave. I do. In fact, with hindsight, it seems to me to be obvious that Leave would get a big total –a winning total in many communities like ours in England and Wales. Because ours are the sort of working class communities that have been hardest hit by decades of de-industrialisation and disinvestment, and where politics, under all parties, has been seen as failing to restore the jobs and opportunities, the wealth and the community cohesion that we saw in earlier generations. And Brexit was a chance for people to express their anger at this state of affairs – especially, perhaps, in Labour-voting areas like ours, where we have seen Tory Cuts have such an impact in recent years”.

Well, what part of “understand and respect” does he mean by that disgraceful accusation? He certainly provides enough evidence for the political swamp to be drained? After all, he also published and leaves on his website “Please rest assured that I will continue to speak out for what I believe is right, and in the best interests of our Country”. Honest politics my arse!