Saturday, November 26, 2016

Global warming - response from Julian Sturdy and my reply

I wrote to Julian Sturdy on 5 November about global warming with particular reference to Heathrow expansion and HS2.  He has now responded:

Dear Mr Franklin
Thank you for taking the time to write to me regarding the Government's recent decision to expand Heathrow Airport by building a third runway.
Air quality is a significant national health issue that the Government takes extremely seriously. The Airports Commission concluded that a new runway could be delivered without impacting the UK’s compliance with air quality limit values for nitrogen dioxide.
The Government conducted further analysis to compare these conclusions with updated projections provided in the Government’s 2015 Air Quality Plan. This analysis concluded that, based on the Government’s Air Quality Plan, the Heathrow and Gatwick schemes would neither cause nor worsen exceedances of air quality limit values.
While Heathrow is already taking action to reduce air quality impacts, such as through introducing low emission vehicles, the Government recognises that an expanded airport will need to go further, including during the construction period. Measures to mitigate air quality impacts will be determined through the National Policy Statement and development consent process. They could include measures which an expanded Heathrow have committed to, including:
I should note that the Secretary of State for Transport has said that the Government will grant development consent only if it remains satisfied that a new runway will not impact on the UK’S compliance with its air quality obligations.
The Government agrees with the Airports Commission that a new runway at Heathrow can be delivered within the UK’s carbon obligations. The airport will use low-carbon, locally sourced materials during construction, and its scheme includes plans for both improved public transport links and an ultra-low emissions zone for airport vehicles by 2025. The airport has a target of at least 50 per cent of passenger journeys to the airport being made on public transport by 2030.
More widely, October saw an unprecedented UN global agreement to combat aviation emissions. Under the deal, airlines will offset their emissions with reductions from other sectors to deliver carbon neutral growth for the aviation sector from 2020. 
I certainly agree that we need to be developing transport infrastructure outside of the South East but I believe reducing our reliance on flights is increasingly difficult in the modern world. Sadly, I feel that we would jeopardise the opportunities and life-chances of younger generations by severing Britain’s connections with the wider world.
I hope that this response is informative and if you have any further concerns or queries that you would like to raise with me please do not hesitate to get in touch. 
Yours sincerely 
Julian Sturdy


To which I have responded:
Dear Mr Sturdy,

Thank you for your letter on global warming and Heathrow expansion of 14 November.  Unfortunately I must disagree with you as you have some of your facts wrong.

It is quite clear that the government does not take air quality seriously; to the extent that it has now had two judgements against it on air quality. The first ordering it improve the plan as it did not meet minimum legal requirements, the second that the revised plan still did not meet the minimum requirements.  To quote from the recent judgement which can be found at http://www.documents.clientearth.org/download/11525/ and was published on 2 November (almost two weeks before your letter).

3….the Supreme Court made a declaration that the UK was in breach of Article 13 of the Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC). In his judgment of April 2015 granting that declaration, Lord Carnwath, with whom the other members of the Court agreed, said (at paragraph 31), "The new government, whatever its political complexion, should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue." [emphasis in the original)

16. The United Kingdom is divided, for the purposes of the 2008 Directive and AQPs, into 43 zones and agglomerations. It is common ground that in 2010 40 of those zones and agglomerations were in breach of one or more of the limit values for nitrogen dioxide.

21.  The Supreme Court decision established, as had been accepted by the Secretary of State, that the Government had failed to meet the obligations set out in Article 13 in relation to non-compliant zones. The Government accepted that it was obliged to devise a new AQP in accordance with Article 23 and that that plan should be published by December 2015. The Government did indeed publish its plan, which was entitled "Improving Air Quality in the UK-Tackling Nitrogen Dioxide in our Towns and Cities", on 17 December 2015.

86. It seems to me plain that by the time the plan was introduced the assumptions underlying the Secretary of State's assessment of the extent of likely future non-compliance had already been shown to be markedly optimistic. In my judgement, the AQP did not identify measures which would ensure that the exceedance period would be kept as short as possible; instead it identified measures which, if very optimistic forecasts happened to be proved right and emerging data happened to be wrong, might achieve compliance. To adopt a plan based on such assumptions was to breach both the Directive and the Regulations.

89….[I]t seems to me likely that fixing on a more proximate compliance target date and adopting a less optimistic assumption for likely emissions might well mean that CAZs are required in more cities, but ultimately that will depend on the outcome of further modelling.

95 iv) that it would be appropriate to make a declaration that the 2015 AQP fails to comply with Article 23(1) of the Directive and Regulation 26(2) of the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010, and an order quashing the plan.

In short the government has failed to meet its minimum requirements.  The autumn statement has also failed to help, when it might, for instance, have introduced a scrappage scheme for the most polluting cars or changed car tax and fuel duty rates to encourage people to use cleaner cars.

Moving on to Heathrow airport.  Firstly, on clean air, the declaration by the government that either Heathrow or Gatwick schemes would not cause or worsen exceedances [sic] of air quality limits in the 2015 AQP is rendered moot as the plan has been found to be unlawful.  With an improved plan that meets Article 23(1) of the directive it is clear that the proposals for Heathrow would not meet the minimum requirements.

I also find it worrying that you can have confidence in a secretary of state who has twice been found to be failing to meet minimum requirements.

As to meeting our CO2 obligations, it is clear that a whole variety of government decisions have made this nigh on impossible, but here we need only consider aviation. According to a parliamentary answer in 2007 “in the UK, flights leaving UK airports are responsible for 13% of the country’s entire ‘climate impact’”, and since then aviation has been growing faster than most sectors of the economy which will only worsen the impact of aviation on climate change.

The government’s own aviation White Paper, the DfT’s ‘high scenario’ predicts that by 2030 passenger numbers will treble compared with 2003 levels and their central scenario predicts passenger numbers will double from 228 million to 455 million on 2005 levels.  (Department for Transport (2009) - CO2 and Passenger Demand Forecasts, P45 http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/aviation/atf/co2forecasts09/co2forecasts09.pdf). Government forecasts say that as a result, CO 2 emissions will increase from 37.5 MtCO2 to around 59 MtCO2 by 2030. The government’s own forecasts show that even conservative aviation growth estimates mean this one industry alone would absorb nearly 50% of the UK’s carbon budget by 2050. 

In other words, the entire rest of the economy is expected to subsidise the airline industry by billions of pounds through much harsher reductions in their own CO2 use.

Until, and unless, the government can clearly demonstrate that we can, and will, meet our CO2 obligations it should do nothing that would lead to an increase in climate changing emissions, and on the precautionary principle should not allow any airport expansion.  I have read the UN global agreement to combat aviation emissions (http://www.icao.int/environmental-protection/Documents/Resolution_A39_2.pdf) and there is nothing there that requires the industry to do anything.  There are a large number of get outs and some aspirations (such as increasing efficiency by 2% per year), but nothing that requires reductions to be delivered.

Finally, in your penultimate paragraph you state “I believe reducing our reliance on flights is increasingly difficult in the modern world. Sadly, I feel that we would jeopardise the opportunities and life-chances of younger generations by severing Britain’s connections with the wider world.”  I hope you appreciate that the effects if global warming would do far more to jeopardise the life-chances of younger generations than not flying as often as people currently do.

You do not address my points about renewable energy generation and fracking at all.  I must therefore again request that you:
  • Press the Prime minister and transport minister to cancel airport expansion as this is not compatible with even meeting our current emission targets.
  • Press the Prime minister, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy transport minister and Chancellor of the exchequer to cancel HS2 as unnecessary and polluting.
  • Press the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to change planning regulations to make it easier to install wind turbines
  • Press the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ban fracking as incompatible with meeting our global warming targets and a danger to health and industrialisation of the countryside.


Yours sincerely
Tom.

Tom Franklin

Friday, November 25, 2016

Treatment of Palestinians by Israel - open letter to Julian Sturdy MP

Dear Mr Sturdy,

I have just watched the short documentary, 'Breaking the Generations: Palestinian prisoners and medical rights', which is now available online (https://vimeo.com/157902498). I am writing to you because I am concerned about the serious human rights and health issues it raises, and am especially concerned as a Jew.

The documentary covers several issues including Israel's arbitrary and repressive use of so called administrative detention (ie imprisonment without charge for an indefinite period) on Palestinian detainees, the use of torture and the failure to provide proper medical care.

Remarking on the film, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association said, “Over 700 Palestinian administrative detainees are currently being held without charge or trial. It is crucial that the UK speaks out on their behalf and highlights Israel's systematic violations of international human rights laws, including systematic detention without charge or trial, torture and ill treatment, and medical negligence inside Israeli prisons and detention centres.”

The film also addresses the issues of alleged torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and "systematic" medical negligence creating potentially dangerous medical consequences for the physical and mental health of Palestinian prisoners. Given that these prisoners have no mechanisms available to meaningfully raise, challenge and end these violations, I am writing to you to call on the British government, as a close ally and trading partner of Israel, to apply full diplomatic and political pressure on the Israeli government to:

(1) end the arbitrary use of administrative detention against Palestinian prisoners
(2) outlaw the use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and end these practices in Israeli prisons;
(3) fulfil its legal obligations to provide Palestinian prisoners with adequate medical care and mental health treatment.
(4) end the sale to Israel of military and dual use equipment.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,
Tom Franklin
4 Frazer Court
York
YO30 5FH

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Torture - Open letter to Julian Sturdy MP

Dear Mr Sturdy,

I am writing to express deep concern at the way the Home Office is handling the cases of people who have been horrifically abused and fled to us for safety.

The UK had a proud history of taking in victims of torture, but the current government has introduced at least two new huge problems.

The first is the new definition of torture proposed by the Home Office, which defines torture as only by state agencies.  This thereby excludes those tortured by state surrogates (which are widely used by dictators to do their dirty work for them).  It also excludes torture by non-state groups which may be supported by the state or not opposed by the state.  Fortunately, the High Court has found this definition illegal and ordered the release of hundreds of victims of torture from UK prisons (see https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/nov/21/government-ordered-to-review-policy-on-torture-survivors), but the definition clearly needs to be changed.

The second is the way in which evidence of torture is treated. New research by Freedom from Torture has shown that poor procedures and mistakes in the handling of medical evidence are letting some of the most vulnerable people down.

In the research, over three quarters of the torture survivors had their claims wrongly rejected by caseworkers who mishandled and rejected expert evidence. A judge overturned these decisions at appeal, but when so much is at stake it shouldn’t go that far. It demonstrates a culture of disbelieving claimants and looking for excuses to reject them rather than giving them a fair hearing.

Please write to Secretary of State Amber Rudd

1) Demand that she ensures that the definition of torture does not refer to who has done the torturing, but to the nature of torture.

2) Ask her to read the report and take action to improve asylum decision-making for torture survivors, including complying with their own policy and using the training they have developed but never rolled out. The report can be found here: https://www.freedomfromtorture.org/provingtorturereport

Yours sincerely

Tom Franklin

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Brexit - Open Letter to Julian Sturdy MP

Dear Mr Sturdy,

I am writing to make two important points about Brexit, which I hope you will bear in mind in your thinking on Brexit, and point out to the various Brexit ministers and the Prime Minister.

52% percent of voters who voted in the referendum voted for Brexit, but many of these people did not want “hard Brexit”.  Indeed from my discussions with people both before and since the referendum few want the so called hard Brexit proposed by several ministers (including those who are responsible for negotiating Brexit).  There is clearly no mandate for a hard Brexit, indeed when almost half the electorate who voted want to remain in the EU, and many who voted to leave want a minimal exit there is clearly a majority for having a minimal possible exit, including free movement of people and the right of EU citizens here to remain (and for UK citizens in the EU to have the right to remain there).

To put it another way, if the vote had been 52% to remain and 48% to leave there would not be a mandate for a hard remain (which might be defined as joining the Schengen area and the Euro).  Seeing the absurdity of the that proposal if the just a small number more had voted remain then it is clear that hard Brexit has no validity and would be a small number of extremists forcing their opinion onto the majority.

Whilst there are clear problems with the EU, and some things that we will be better off without it has also brought many things which have made the lives of its citizens better, and I would therefore ask you to press the relevant ministers (both departmental ministers and Brexit ministers) to ensure that we keep:
·        Clean air regulations
·        Clean water regulations
·        Car emission regulations
·        Working hours directive
·        All Health and Safety regulations
·        Medicines regulations ensuring the safety of medicines.

I have yet to meet people who want to see these regulations abolished as they protect our health and safety.



Finally, can I remind you that York voted to remain, and therefore if you see the referendum as binding you should clearly follow the mandate from your electors and vote remain in any vote in parliament.

Best wishes
Tom.
Tom Franklin

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

York Mental health hospital consultation


Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS is intending to build a new hospital in York to provide mental health support in the Vale of York.  Unfortunately they are taking a very narrow view of what to build (only considering the bits of mental health that they are currently funded to support) and of the consultation (just on the location of the hospital).  



This is my response to the consultation on the new mental health hospital for the Vale of York.

Number of beds

The proposal is a marked reduction in the number of beds for the region at a time when we know that there is a great need for mental health beds with significant numbers of people being shipped around the country due to the lack of availability of local beds.  Having only 60 beds to cover the Vale of York will create severe problems at a time of rising mental health problems and a lack of services to meet the existing need.  Whilst I do not have the expertise to say how many beds are required it is clear that the cuts over the last few years have put a strain on services and even more to the point a severe strain on people with mental health issues.  Using the  formula has clearly not helped as the situation has been deteriorating for many years.

Hospital location

Building a single hospital to cover the whole or the Vale of York is not appropriate as many patients, and their families, will have to travel a long way.  This will mean that it is harder for families to visit patients in terms of both time and cost so that they will be able to make fewer visits.  Yet, we know that contact with family is vital to improvements in mental health.  Therefore there should be more than one hospital to cover the area.  Perhaps one in York and one in Selby.  The location of the one in York might be affected by the location of the second (or second and third) hospitals.

However, if there is to be only one hospital then Bootham Park is the only sensible location.  It has far and away the best public transport access (and drivers can use any of the park and ride points).  It is close to York Hospital which is important for many patients who have physical as well as mental health issues.  And both the other locations are pretty sterile.  There is nowhere to go with patients for a short trip outside the hospital (this appears to be seen as advantage in that the consultation document refers to the low likelihood of other development in the vicinity).  Again, it is important for people’s recovery that they can re-integrate with general society with such things as visits to shops, cafes, cinema, museums etc.  None of these are possible at either of the other sites.  With both the Haxby and Clifton sites it would be necessary to take a bus into town and back again meaning that any excursion would be at least a couple of hours by the time one had got to the bus stop, got a bus, got into town, done something and retraced ones steps.

Service provision

Whilst this does not seem to be part of the consultation I think that there is a problem with the way that the consultation is being undertaken.  We are being asked merely to consider the number of beds to be provided, but in fact that can only be done as part of a proper service review, working out what services should be provided (for instance it might be better to include provision for mother and baby or mother and child units and alcohol treatment units within the provision).  By saying that it is only looking at services provided by Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust a huge opportunity is being missed.  The opportunity to provide an integrated service including social service provision etc.  The hospital cannot, and should not, be treated in isolation.  To take a single example, at the consultation we were told that no provision would be made for alcohol treatment as that is now funded through public health provision.  However, it may well be sensible for an ATU to be collocated in the new hospital, whether funded TEWV or public health.  It is this very failure of integrated thinking and integrated support that is causing many people real and very severe problems.

Another way of putting this, is that the hospital is being designed to match the current funding formula rather than needs of patients and the community.  If you really want to meet the needs of patients and the community then the hospital should address mental health needs, not the funding formula, and this will mean working closely with others with responsibility for parts of adult mental health need and creating a hospital focused on patient needs whatever the funding source.

Summary

·        We do not have enough information to know how many beds are needed
·        There should be more than one hospital to cover the area
·        The best site in York is Bootham Park Hospital
·        There is a need to take an integrated approach and not develop the hospital to match the way services are currently funded.


Tom

Tom Franklin
York Green Party
15 Priory Street
York
YO1 6ET

Email: office@yorkgreenparty.org.uk


Saturday, November 05, 2016

Global warming targets - Open letter to Julian Sturdy MP

Dear Mr Sturdy,

The UN Environment Programme published its Emission Gap Report on 3rd November (http://web.unep.org/emissionsgap/) this clearly shows that not enough is being done to reduce CO2 emissions in order to limit global temperature rises to the 2°C maximum safe limit, and certainly will not achieve the 1.5°C limit that we really need to achieve.

There is therefore a clear need for all countries, including the UK, to do more than so far committed in order to keep the world safe for our children and future generations.

The government has made a number of decisions that will make meeting the targets even harder, including:

  • The new runway at Heathrow which will allow a significant increase in flights and hence CO2 emissions.
  • HS2 as high speed trains use considerably more energy to transport the same number of people as slightly slower trains.
  • The effective prevention of land-based wind turbines – which is currently the cheapest way to produce electricity.
  • Ending of subsidies to solar photovoltaic (PV) generation too early, whilst this would have reasonable in a year or two as prices fell we have seen a massive reduction in installation of domestic PV generation, and loss of capacity to install PV as a result.
  • Licensing of fracking, which is simply another form of fossil energy that will produce both CO2 and methane both of which are greenhouse gases (besides the issues of industrialisation of the countryside and pollution of water supplies).


We are also realising a considerable part of our CO2 reduction by exporting the CO2 production, for instance by closing our steel industry.  This does not actually reduce the amount of CO2 produced, simply moves it elsewhere; in some cases, to places where less efficient processes may be being used resulting in even higher CO2.

I am therefore writing to you to press the government to work harder to reduce global warming in the following ways:


  • Press the Prime minister and transport minister to cancel airport expansion as this is not compatible with even meeting our current emission targets.
  • Press the Prime minister, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy transport minister and Chancellor of the exchequer to cancel HS2 as unnecessary and polluting.
  • Press the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to change planning regulations to make it easier to install wind turbines
  • Press the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ban fracking as incompatible with meeting our global warming targets and a danger to health and industrialisation of the countryside.


I would also be interested in your opinion on each of these and their importance in meeting our obligations to the future of the planet as a habitable place.

Best wishes
Tom.
Tom Franklin
4 Frazer Court
York
YO30 5FH

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

NHS funding - open letter to Julian Sturdy MP

Dear Mr Sturdy,

I am extremely concerned because of the news that almost half of NHS areas are planning to cut hospital beds  and one third could close A&Es, because of the NHS funding crisis (as reported in The Telegraph last weekend: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/30/almost-half-of-nhs-authorities-to-cut-hospital-beds-and-third-to/. ), including plans to close the A&E facilities at Scarborough.

Besides the impact that this will have on Scarborough (with an extra hour to reach A&E facilities in York or Hull) it will clearly also have a knock on effect on people from York using the already over-stretched facilities at York General hospital.  It will also have a huge impact on the ambulance service as increased journey times will mean that  each ambulance can answer fewer calls.

We are also seeing other cuts in the area including the closure of first Bootham Park Hospital and then the Archways which will have a massive impact on those with mental health issues.  Archways being the only facility in the area to take people below 75 years who need residential medical support and after-care.

As my MP, please could you tell me what you are doing to support the local services at risk of being cut? And what will you do to ensure there is enough funding to stop this from happening?  We know that the health service needs more funding.  The UK spends less on healthcare as a proportion of GDP than any other developed country, and that amount has been cut further in real terms by your government.

Only this week the medically trained MPs (from all parties) pointed out that the £10 billion that Theresa May claims has been provided to the NHS is a lie as much of this has been moved either from medical training or other forms of social care. And the Health Select Committee have called for urgent funding for the NHS to save it from collapse.

Please will you tell the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Health Secretary that they need to urgently provide additional funding for the NHS in order to meet the health needs of everyone in the UK, and to ensure that there is better provision in our region.

Yours sincerely

Tom Franklin

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Refugees - open Letter to Julian Sturdy MP

Dear Mr Sturdy,

I am writing to ask you to press Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, to restart the rescue of refugees.

Refugees, including children, have been evicted from the "Jungle Camp" at Calais. A large number of children have had no provision made for them. Some of the children have been rounded up by the French riot police during the day and then let go at night with nowhere to sleep except in the "Jungle Camp" which is even more dangerous than it was before the demolition.

We have a legal duty to admit all the children with a connection to the UK, and a moral duty to admit many more. The actions of the UK in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and other countries (including armed intervention and the sales of arms to parties to the conflicts) are partly responsible for the creation of the refugees. We cannot create the problem and then walk away from it - which is what this government (and to be honest many previous governments) have been doing.

The UK has taken far fewer refugees than most countries, and being the fifth largest economy in the world (according to the government) we are clearly in a position to do much more.

We have also made it nigh on impossible for refugees to come to the UK by pushing for and supporting EU Directive 2001/51/EC which effectively makes airlines the frontline preventing refugees flying safely to the UK (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YO0IRsfrPQ4 for a short 3 minute video explaining this).

Please, as a matter of urgency, press Amber Rudd to admit many more refugees. The UK has the resources to take tens of thousands and York City Council has agreed to accept and support some, as have many other Councils so there is nothing to prevent the country from accepting them and sending a message of hope to the world.


Yours sincerely,

Tom Franklin