TTIP must be challenged

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade agreement being negotiated in secret between Europe and the US to ‘harmonise’ trade.

TTIP will benefit big companies at the expense of ordinary people. It will open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies and, effectively, lead to the privatisation of the NHS – because US Companies will be able to sue the British government if they can claim to have been prevented from competing for contracts.

It also will mean lower standards – currently a company has to prove a substance is safe before it can be used in Europe whereas,  in the USA, any substance can be used until proven unsafe. As an example, the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics; the US just 12. These lower standards will be imposed on Europe if the TTIP is endorsed

The EU accepts that TTIP will cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower – and has advised that  European support funds are needed to compensate for the extra unemployment.

Another change, if the TTIP is approved, will be the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) to allow companies to sue governments for “loss of profits”. This will mean that unelected transnational corporations may dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.

ISDSs are already operating elsewhere and, for example, have enabled a Swedish energy company to sue the German government for billions of dollars over its (welcome and correct) decision to phase out nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

This is anti-democratic and totally at odds with the capitalist ethos that profits are a just reward for risk-taking. With TTIP and ISDS, investors will be guaranteed a profit however stupid the investment and whatever the danger to the public and their workforce.

If elected to Westminster, I would oppose implementation of TTIP.

Selective islamophobia

Hardly a day goes by without a press story about Moslems somewhere or other doing something bad or evil – usually poor Moslems in Britain or foreign Moslems unable to respond. The drip-drip effect of these stories over several years has created and exacerbated irrational prejudice – “Islamophobia”.

But these press stories are selective. There is only rare mention of government-sanctioned monthly beheadings in Saudi Arabia or its vile discrimination against women. Rich and powerful Moslems who buy British arms exports and consort with our Royalty are never the target of these press stories. With good reason – because the rich and powerful will hit back and even governments fear their anger.

Just now, Sweden is being targeted by the Saudi government for speaking out against these practices. It is noteworthy that these actions against Sweden get barely a mention in the British media – or comment from UKIP and others.

For all its flirtation with islamophobia, UKIP has yet to condemn British arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the equally abhorrent regimes in Qatar, Bahrein and the UAE – who use these weapons to suppress democracy at home and, with US/UK approval, launch attacks on other Moslems in Yemen.

Yemen Irony alert: 7 monarchies & 1 military regime are bombing Yemen to restore democracy!

UKIP’s islamophobia is selective – targeted at the gullible for electoral gain. If UKIP (or anyone else) is concerned about the actions of a few people in the name of religion, it could start by condemning Saudi Arabia for its actions against women and minority religions.

Radioactive waste

nuclearwastea The government has been trying for years to bury radioactive waste. In January 2013 this was vetoed by Cumbria County Council.  To overcome this opposition, on the very last day of the 2010-2015 Parliament, the government changed the regulations about the geological disposal of radioactive wastes so that a County Council may not object in future. Previously eminent geologists and the Inspector of the 1995-6 Nirex Planning Inquiry looked at the disposal of intermediate nuclear wastes in Cumbria and concluded that the geology is too complex. The only reason for changing the planning regulations is to allow the government to do so even though the geology is known to be unsound.

See also (25 March 2015)   **Radwaste**

Today Her Majesty’s government quietly removed the power of local and county councils to say no to burial of existing and future nuclear wastes beneath their homes. The predetermined decision to “Implement Geological Disposal” now lies with the Secretary of State under Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This vicious NSIP ruling overrides any considerations on the land such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, heritage or conservation areas. Using the most undemocratic tool of “delegated legislation” this decision has been forced through, not by open debate but by Committee Room decisions.

Radiation Free Lakeland 25th March 2015 https://mariannewildart.wordpress.com/

The M4 relief road

No one disputes that the Bryn Glas tunnels are a bottleneck – but there are major disagreements over what precisely needs to be done.

The Welsh government wants a completely new road through the south of Newport, costing over £1 billion. Others think it would be better to improve Newport’s southern distributor roads. The technical options for a new M4 are examined in http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/m4-blue-route-45610.pdf

In my lifetime I have seen hundreds of miles of motorways built. My subjective impression is that they do ease congestion for the first 1-2 years – but then this encourages more vehicles to the road and journey times revert.

My preference would be, if the Welsh government has $1 billion to throw around, to make a massive investment in better public transport (such as the proposed South Wales metro system) to reduce the number of cars on our roads. Transport Their choice of the very expensive £1 billion road option is, naturally, preferred by the powerful roads’ lobby who have influenced the UK’s transport policy ever since the first motorway was opened in 1957. But journey times have hardly improved at all during the past half-century.

I believe it’s time for a rethink and reversion to public transport.

Opencasting and Land Reclamation

Living by The British, as I have done for 36 years, I am very aware that Torfaen has not achieved the government target to clear all derelict land by the Year 2000.

The primary fault for this lies with those Councillors who, in the 1970s, effectively gave away the then Council-owned land to private speculators who, ever since, have bought and sold the land for ever-increasing prices but done nothing to prevent the historic artefacts and buildings deteriorating.

We are now faced with the situation that HSBC, having foolishly advanced £5 million to the last bunch of speculators, are demanding that they receive something close to this sum as compensation. But just because HSBC were conned into paying such a sum (its true value is, if anything, negative as it will require public money for anything worthwhile to be done), that is no reason why public money should be wasted to help them out.

Meanwhile, another bunch of get-rich-quick entrepreneurs have resubmitted their proposals to extract 350,000 tonnes of coal from Varteg Hill whilst providing us with nothing of long-term benefit to the community.

I chair the residents committee for The British and have been active in the “No Opencast” campaign for Varteg. With the support of our excellent Assembly Member, Lynne Neagle, we have succeeded so far in preventing the despoliation and disruption that would be caused by opencasting here. [Note my commendation of our Labour AM – if elected as your MP I hope this cooperation will continue.]