Monday, 27 July 2009


For many years a jovial ex miner called JT would enjoy his early morning constitutional from Lochore, where he lived, along the coal road to Kelty road end.  Most mornings my son, Alexander, and I would join him on the short trip to the school bus at the end of the road. 

JT always had a new tale to tell, a colourful anecdote or a bit of political commentary.  He would speak to everyone - whether he knew them or not.  A friendly face.  He never failed to cheer up my morning.

Last week JT Murphy passed away, at the ripe old age of 94.  Like so many I'll miss him. <<JT.JPG>>

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The world has changed

Thanks to Labour's mismanagement and the world economic crises the public finances here in Britain have been devastated. That's why everything we wanted to do when the public funds were available will not be possible to do now that they are not.

Of course we can reallocate budgets, cut waste and ditch projects that we don't need but funds are now tighter so we need to make choices. Labour and the Tories may wish to try to fool voters but the Lib Dems will be straight about what needs to be done.

Fresh Start for Britain builds on Nick Clegg's successes of recent months. It sets our our values and principles in a way that I am confident people will warm to. It promotes our desire to make this country a fairer, safer, greener place and stronger in the world. Take a look - it'll be worth your time.

Monday, 20 July 2009

SNP academic snobbery

I'm fed up with snooty people like the SNP's candidate for Glasgow North East, David Kerr, belittling the achievements of those of us who were educated at Paisley (now West of Scotland Uni) and Glasgow Colleges (now Glasgow Caledonian Uni).

It's far too easy to run us, and those institutions, down without recognising what we and they achieved and continue to achieve.

I am proud to say that I was educated at Paisley, where I secured my degree in biology, and at Glasgow, where I secured my diploma.

The institutions have a good reputation for their partnerships with industry and for improving the life opportunities of thousands of people of all ages and from a wide diversity of backgrounds.

In fact I would argue that Paisley and Glasgow Colleges gave a bigger lift or added value to their students than those institutions that Mr Kerr thinks are only worthy of any consideration.

Now I'm not seeking a battle with the ancients. I have worked closely with academics and management from their science departments and have the greatest respect and admiration for their achievements. It's people like David Kerr that give the ancients a bad reputation. All I'm asking is for a bit of mutual respect.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Trident - initial gate delayed

It's good news that the Government has decided to delay the initial gate decision on Trident until after the Non Proliferation Talks next year. It'll help to give those talks a chance.

We had strongly criticised the Government's rushed decision on Trident in 2006. We said that the big decisions should be delayed until after the NPT talks - actually in 2012 - 2014 at maingate.

However, what this does show is that the Government are either playing fast and loose with their timetable or it was never that tight anyway.

It calls into question Labour's original proposition on Trident. What can we believe now? There must be a full debate on Trident and soon. We are at a crossroads and we need to openly debate the choices.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Labour MP thinks Scotland gets "shed loads" of money

It's clearly the prevailing view amongst Labour MPs in England that Scotland gets enough Government money or "shed loads" as Rob Marris, MP for Wolverhampton South West, put it today in Treasury Questions.

If it were true I could take the criticism from him, but it's not. Scotland doesn't get shed loads just a fair share considering our circumstances. However, we need to reform the Barnett formula with a system that reflects the needs of different parts of the UK. We also need a new funding arrangement for the Scottish Parliament that includes raising more of our own money.

But if Rob Marris and his Labour colleagues were to recognise the debilitating effect the construction of the new Forth Crossing is having on the development of our transport network in Scotland perhaps they would take a more enlightened view.

We've already had the SNP refusing to consider the use of all the tools in the box which has not only created a huge amount of uncertainty about the funding of the vital new Forth crossing but has also caused fury in other parts of Scotland where they see the SNP refusing to fund their essential transport projects. I'm disappointed that the SNP has put narrow ideology ahead of the transport infrastructure needs.

The solution is actually quite simple. If the UK refuse to help fund the new crossing, despite their previous commitments to do so, and the SNP refuse to set aside their ideological opposition the UK Government should give the Scottish Parliament borrowing powers. Calman has proposed it. Everyone agrees it should happen. We just need Westminster to act - and fast. Perhaps Rob Marris might even help!

"River Forth Crossing (UK Government Assistance)

9. Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and West Fife) (LD): What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive on UK Government assistance for the construction of a new crossing over the River Forth. [286199]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): My right hon. Friends the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Secretary of State for Scotland met the Scottish Finance Minister in March to discuss financing for a new Forth bridge.

Willie Rennie: I warmly welcome the acceptance that the UK Government should help the Scottish Government to fund this vital new crossing, but when will the Government come forward with real new money to help to pay for the bridge? Will they also consider speedily bringing in new borrowing powers for the Scottish Government, so that they can spread the cost over a number of years, as has been proposed by the Calman commission?

Mr. Timms: I am glad to recognise the importance of the second Forth crossing, and to support the importance of its construction. Funding, however, is a devolved decision, and this is a matter for the Scottish Executive to determine. My right hon. Friends offered flexibility to help within the economic framework applying to the UK as a whole, and I hope that that flexibility will allow the project to proceed.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the Government will hold firm on this? Scotland already gets shedloads of extra money under the Barnett formula. It is entitled to raise its own taxes, and this Government should stand firm against this bridge, for which it wants even more money.

Mr. Timms: My hon. Friend makes a forceful point. Let me simply say that this is an important project, but it needs to be carried out within the economic framework applying to the UK as a whole. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has just set out some of the Government’s constraints and objectives in relation to the public finances over the next five years, and this decision needs to be made within that context."

Web monitoring - value for money?

I'm attempting to ascertain the value of all this internet monitoring that the Government is sponsoring. A constituent and expert has told its ineffective and therefore a waste of money. Here's the answers to the questions I have posed. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I should approach this issue?

ZDNET UK News Website has covered the issue.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Government exploiting 'can do' ethos of armed forces

The armed forces are proud that they can overcome almost insurmountable challenges in the most extreme circumstances. That can do approach is something we should be especially proud of.

But because the Government are starving our forces of the equipment they need they are turning that 'can do' ethos into a 'make do' burden.

Instead of helicopters to transport our troops across hostile territory in Helmand they have to make do with trucks.

Instead of properly protected armoured vehicles the troops have to make do with snatch landrovers.

Instead of safe surveillance aircraft the troops had to make do with Nimrods draped with aviation fuel and exposed hot air pipes.

When will the Government realise that if we ask our troops to do a job, they will need the proper tools to do the job?

The death of each and every serviceman over the last ten days has been an individual tragedy. We don't know the details of how these brave servicemen died but if it was because they had to 'make do' then the government must be brought to book.

If we are going to do a job, we must do it properly and safely. We owe that to our soldiers, sailors and airmen who put their lives on the line for us.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Carbon capture must get he go ahead before the general election

I've just tried to seek assurances from Ed Milliband, Energy Secretary, that the Government's carbon capture competition will not be delayed again and the result will be announced before the General Election.

The competition has already slipped by one year and there are fears it may slip again and get caught up in the general election.

Longannet Power Station is a strong contender for the competition to demonstrate that the whole technology process can work on an industrial scale.

The Energy Secretary refused to give me an assurance that result would be announced by the General Election only committing to speedy process.

Monday, 6 July 2009

A big week for Chernobyl children

This week I will be joined by Victor Mizzi, Linda Walker and Brian Bennett at a meeting with Home Office Minister, Phil Woolas, and Foreign Office Minister, Ivan Lewis, to seek to persuade them to waive the fees for Visas for Chernobyl children from the Ukraine.

For years the Chernobyl charities have been focussed on Belarus as it was comparatively simple to operate there as opposed to Ukraine.

However, Victor and his colleagues discovered Ukraine again after the difficulties with presidential decree forbidding travel from Belarus for much of the last year.

But the Government here refuse to waive the visa charges for Ukraine even though they are free for Belarus. This has costed the charities a small fortune which is money they cannot afford.

Hence the meeting with the Ministers. They are smart people, I am sure they will see the merits of the case.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Unite Criticises Lib Dem MP over Aircraft Carrier Contract

Quite astonishing! I simply cannot understand how UNITE has the nerve to defend Labour's staggering mismanagement of the public finances. Delaying the carriers by up to two years has cost the nation an additional £1billion but has not created one single extra job or any improvements to the carrier.

I want Rosyth to have a long and strong future but that future will be threatened by reckless decisions like this.

Instead of attacking me for standing up for the dockyard and the workforce, UNITE should be telling their friends in the Labour Party to stop frittering away taxpayers money.

This is not made up by the defence companies. The Defence Procurement Minister confirmed the £1billion with me on Monday evening. They knew the likely price when they made the deicison to delay.

Unite Criticises Lib Dem MP over Aircraft Carrier Contract

Unite the Union reacted with dismay after yesterday's 'predictable' responses to the
future of the MoD aircraft carrier contract after a leaked document suggested a
£1BN hike in cost to build the two vessels.

The ranks of the ill-informed, including Willie Rennie MP who claimed that Labour are 'busting the bank', responded after a leak emanating from lead contractors for the construction of the two aircraft carriers. Alliance Management Board (AMB), suggested the possibility of 400-500 redundancies after the projected cost rose from £4BN to £5BN over the last year.

However Unite, who have substantial membership at both the Rosyth and Clydeside yards which will undertake work on a significant bulk of the contract, have hit back suggesting that the likes of the Lib Dem Member for Dunfermline & West Fife have missed the point completely.

Unite National Officer for Aerospace and Shipbuilding, Bernie Hamilton said, "When will these people realise that AMB's 'leak' is designed to do one thing and one thing only and that is to force the Government to agree to the increase in costs wanted by the employers (Carrier Alliance) for the extension to the in-service dates.
Those of us actually involved in the industry understood that the agreement to extend the build programme, to create a better payment schedule for the Government, would come at an increased cost.

Predictably employers know only one way to force a Labour Government into meeting their demands on costs and that is to publicly threaten hard working families and their future employment.

Mr Rennie and others have bought this leak hook, line and sinker and in their desperate efforts to make themselves look relevant to the electorate they have shown themselves to be political novices. "

% rise!

At Prime Minister's Questions today Gordon Brown triumphantly told the Chamber there would be a 0% rise in spending. Is 0% a rise?! Desperate not to say cut, reduction, decline, diminution, decrease or anything that implies a lower level of spending than now, he was forced into modern form of Newspeak.

Yet, the more than this battle of the cuts with the Tories continues the longer the debate on the real decisions will be denied. That debate needs to be about what rather than if. Nick Clegg has offered up serious suggestions like ID cards, trident replacement and tax credit revision. Yet the others refuse to discuss or debate. They need to start acting like leaders rather than followers.

If we don't have a debate on these issues now with the public they will be denied the opportunity to express their view about what should go. If the decisions and debate are delayed until after the election the public will be left out of the debate.

David Cameron and Gordon Brown need to understand that this debate is not about them and what party advantage they can gain from the turmoil. It's about the shape of our country and its public services.