Sunday, December 01, 2019

Labour's Key Policies


The Web-site of Independent Labour Publications is running a really important pro-Labour article in relation to the current General Election.

 

The writer Barry Winter covers Labour's proposals to tackle a range of massively important social problems. These include - (1) Poverty and Low Pay. (2) 200,000 children living in absolute poverty. (3) School and Youth Services being pushed past breaking points. (4) Wide areas where those over 65 are also seriously hit. (5) Many private tenants being trapped in squalid slum houses. (6) An NHS with serious staff shortages. (7) 25,000 annual deaths linked to the effects of pollution.

The article is a must for democratic socialists and also needs to be more widely absorbed. It can be found if you link here.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Easington Colliery - aspects of its past.

https://easingtonmemories.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/4647709512_c02e2ebd1c_o.jpg

Crowd waiting for news outside the pit at Easington Colliery following its 1951 pit disaster. I was 14 year old at the time. My father was in the pit when the disaster occurred. He survived as he was working in a different seam from the explosion. He later helped with the salvage work. I also had four uncles and a number of cousins working at the pit then. None were killed. Many escaped by being on different shifts to those who were killed.  All were deeply devastated.

Four articles of mine concerning aspects of the history of Easington Colliery can be found via the links below. They all appeared in annual publications of the journal of the North East Labour History Society called "North East Labour History".

They can be accessed fully via the following links. Just click into the top one and scawl for the rest.


Pages on this link are 47 to 57 as double pages. Those in the journal being 88 to 108.  

http://nelh.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/North-East-History-Issue-43.pdf 
Pages on this link are 78 to 96. Those in the journal now on single pages being 76 to 94.

http://nelh.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/North-East-History-Issue-44.pdf
Pages on this link are 106 to 124. Those in the journal being 104 to 122.

http://nelh.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/North-East-History-Issue-48.pdf
Pages on this link are 83 to 91. Those in the journal being 81 to 89.

Also see the item below this one on this blog. There also is a link at the close of this for 30 items on "Easington".    





  




   

 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

My Early Life At Easington Colliery







Image result for Easington Colliery photos



 See the penultimate paragraph below for reference to the above.

 I was born at Easington Colliery in 1936 and it was my home base for 27 years until 1963 when I married and my wife and I moved to Hull where I was then an adult student at their University.
    However earlier I spent spells away from home. Between 1954 to 1956 undertaking my National Service in the RAF. For the bulk of 1955 and 1956 I served in Iraq. Then I later became a full-time student at an adult education college in Oxford from 1960 to 1962, returning to Easington for the vacations.
   I next studied at Hull University from 1962. For my first year there I again returned to my home to live at Easington during the vacations. I then married Ann in the summer of 1963 and we rented a flat in Hull for two years. She originated from nearby Shotton Colliery. Both of our fathers being local coal miners. My dad being down the pit at the time of the 1951 disaster, but in a different seam to the explosion. He later helped with salvage work.  
    After my graduation at Hull my new employment as a lecturer took Ann and myself to Worksop for a year, then to Sheffield for three years until Ann and I moved next door to Dronfield in North Derbyshire just over 50 years ago. Where I eventually became the local MP between 1987 and 2005.
    Ann and I returned to the North East on a regular basis whilst our parents were still alive. My mother living the longest until 1999. We have made occasional visits to the area since then.
    In fact until I was called up to undertake my National Service in 1954 I had never travelled anywhere further south from Easington than York. I did a day trip to there at 16 when I was interviewed for my first job as a railway clerk. My employment as a Railway Clerk whilst living at Easington taking me no further away than work at Stockton to the south and Sunderland to the North. My first two years being spent at the neighbouring Horden Station.
    So despite my moving away from Easington Colliery 56 years ago at the age of 27, it has always been a pull for me. I had three articles about its history published in the annual journal of the North East Labour History Society in their 2011, 2012 and 2013 editions. These covered the period from the initial efforts to sink its coal mine in 1899 up to 1935. I would have liked to have continued with these articles in order to finally cover at least the period up to the closing of the pit in 1993. But when the 2013 edition was published I had reached 77 years of age and was walking badly. Nor do I drive a car, yet I had been travelling regularly to Durham as my main research required me to make visits to the Durham Library research facilities via public transport. Unfortunately it was all getting beyond me. I also, however, wrote a more personal piece about my Easington background for the Labour History journal for their 2017 edition. The following provides a link to search for these articles - http://nelh.net/the-societys-journal/previous-issues/
    I also wrote a forward for Mary Bell for her fine book “A Chronicle of Easington Colliery” which was printed by Amazon in 2014. It is a publication that everyone interested in the area should read. Amazon also printed her fine book of poems entitled “Where the Pits Were”. Another telling publication is “Easington Throughout The Years” by Eileen Hooper. See here for avenues of access to these three publications - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chronicle-Easington-Colliery-Mary-Bell/dp/1501025481
    My blog was established on my 70th birthday, hence it is called “Three Score Years and Ten”. Its thread on “Easington” now shows 30 items which can be trawled back to. These items have attracted above average readership. See -

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

63 Years Ago Today At RAF Habbaniya in Iraq


Habbaniya
The photo shows what was its HQ.
On 5th November 1956 Britain and France invaded Egypt in what became known as the Suez Crisis. The Iraqi Government then had Nuri al-Said as Prime Minister and were under British influence having signed the Baghdad Pact in 1955. Immediately riots broke out against the Suez invasion in areas such as Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Najaf, Kafu and Hilla. These could be seen as triggers which eventually led to the Iraqi Revolution of 1958 under Qasim.

At the time of the outbreak of the unrest I was in Iraq. I had undertaken the bulk of my National Service in the Royal Air Force at a Movements Unit in Basra. But as I was due to be demobbed I had been moved to the RAF camp at Habbaniya to await a plane to take me back to Britain. So I did not directly experience the unrest, being stuck in the camp.

But on 5th November a flight in front of mine set of from Habbaniya to Cyprus on the first leg of its journey back to Britain. But as it was approaching a fighter base in Syria permission was withdrawn for it to fly over that country. So it had to double back to Habbaniya.

Whilst having a meal in Habbaniya I listened to the BBC News over the loud speakers telling us that there were no British troops in Iraq ! Plans were then made, however, for RAF flights to and from Iraq to be made via Ankara in Turkey. And I was given a place on the first of these. Although we were intercepted by Turkish fighters who made signs to us that we would be shot down if we did not return to Iraq. Luckily they must have received radio information confirming that we had permission to proceed, as they then flew away.

As reservists who had completed their National Service were at the time being called up to help with the fight in Eqypt, I was worried that I would not be demobbed and be caught up in the conflict. But I only had clerical experience working with Iraqi State Railways and Shipping lines. Pen pushers such as myself (filling out Arabic forms in English) were not what the invasion needed.

Unfortunately, my life was then taken over by my being demobbed and returning home to my previous job as a railway clerk. So I never discovered exactly what turmoil faced my former RAF colleagues at Basra. I had served there for 20 months and had never experienced any problems whatsoever from the local community; yet I moved almost daily around areas such as its railway station, good yards, docks and the Basra town centre. Then Iraqis worked as clerks and labourers on our camp. But this peace and tranquility are likely to have changed a great deal after 5 November. I had avoided any problems by the skin of my teeth.

For what was happening in Iraq at the above time, the following is a useful source – pages 115 to 117 of “Iraq” by Adeed Dawisha, Princeton University Press. I refer to the first paperback version published in 2009.

It was, however, my experiences in Iraq and the Suez Crisis which drew me into subsequent political activity. I have since attempted to make up for my failure to reconnect with RAF Basra personnel at the time of my demob and now hold a proud certificate of honorary membership of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions – who surfaced in 2003. 

For more on Iraq follow the link below 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

LEE ROWLEY'S PARLIAMENTARY RECORD





This item has been updated to cover Lee Rowley's full parliamentary period from the June 2017 General Election until its final dissolution. 
In the 2017-19 period Lee Rowley was the Conservative MP for North East Derbyshire.  I served as Labour MP for the same constituency from 1987 to 2005. 

I give below my assessment of his parliamentary record with many of the details being drawn from Hansard. I initially cover the period from the 2017 General Election up to the proroguing of parliament on October 8th this year for a fresh Queen's Speech. It is only near the close that I cover the recent and short parliamentary session from 14th October up to 6th November. The main and opening material refers to the earlier and much longer period covering 29 months.

In parliament Rowley involved himself much more fully with activities in Westminster Hall than with those on the floor of the Commons. In fact he was seldom seen in his place in the Commons' Chamber.

Whilst Westminster Hall is an area which many MPs need to use on occasions it is much smaller than the Common's Chamber and is more thinly attended, having no facilities for a parliamentary division to take place. And also it sits for much shorter periods than those in the Commons Chamber. So Lee Rowley sometimes used it to criticise his own Government over matters such as their traditional stance on fracking, but as there are no contested votes in Westminster Hall this will then have given him no real trouble from the Government Whips.

On the floor of the Commons in this period he made 17 speeches. Around a speech every two months. But these lasted for only an overall total of 89 minutes, yet this time also covers intervention from other MPs. So they have really averaged less than 5 minutes. He often left the Commons soon after he has made his contributions, so others didn't then respond to him in such circumstances. Back in March he carried the first reading of a 10 Minute Rule Bill to restrain fracking operations, but in the remaining seven months of the parliamentary session he did not then get the Commons' authorities to print the proposed Bill. Yet the authorities are helpful and skilled in providing the technical details of what any proposed Bill requires. With the proroguing of parliament for the recent Queen's Speech his former authority to have his Bill printed was then lost. He should have acted earlier to deliver on this matter.


His equivalent contributions in Westminster Hall (who meet for much shorter periods) was  24 speeches, lasting in his case twice as long as those in the Commons - at a total of 181 minutes (again allowing for interventions). And whilst in the Commons he has only ever once introduced an item (the one above under the 10 Minute Rule procedure), he obtained the right to introduce debates on several occasions in Westminster Hall. These added to his total number for such contributions, for they also led on to him having concluding contributions and he also intervened during numbers of these debates. Then an MP can barely disappear from a debate which they have introduced. Debates on a topic are normally much shorter in Westminster Hall than those in the Commons Chamber and are more normally thinly attended. It also meets for much shorter periods than the Commons.

There is nothing wrong with making good use of Westminster Hall debates, but they should not be used as a substitute for also pressing matters on floor of the Commons. 

He has also submitted 94 Questions for written answer. That is roughly at the rate of one a week for when parliament was sitting. 31 of these related to fracking, 16 to rail or other forms of transport, 7 to health issues, 5 to drones and only 3 on Brexit.

He involved himself with the work of certain All Party Groups. Chairing the groups on the Impact of Shale Gas and on Alternative Lending (who seek to ensure private market development.) He was also Vice Chair of the Group on Artificial Intelligence and a member of the group on Data Analytics.

He was and still is Co-Chair of an outside group of free-market freaks called FREER and has written articles for the House of Commons Magazine and newspapers on their behalf, expressing strong free market ideas. FREER are a body which propounds free enterprise principles such as those pursued by INEOS and other fracking companies. This clashes with his anti-fracking stance, which he clearly pursues merely for local electoral purposes. See here and then here with its claim that “we need to make the moral case for capitalism”.

Then there is a helpful parliamentary avenue he just refused to use – Early Day Motions. These are published by the Commons and are normally used by back-bench MPs only. Technically they seek a Commons debate on their proposals. Although very few achieve this objective, unless other avenues are then also pursued. But they can be used to publicise a proposal and give the MP who submits an EDM the opportunity to see which fellow MPs then add their signatures to their proposal. This can be very helpful in building up support on a issue – even cross-party support. In just over a week of the opening of parliament after I was first elected in 1987 I submitted an EDM (supported by Jeremy Corbyn) aimed at getting the relevant Conservative Government Minister to agree to meet a deputation to seek Government assistance to deal with the consequences of a local underground fire in Dronfield. I then pursued other parliamentary avenues on the matter and the meeting was later granted. It was just a start down this track.

Excluding my own first two years as an MP for which I can't find relevant records, the Commons shows that over my next 16 years as an MP I submitted a total of 503 EDMs, seconded 31 and signed another 12,010. Yet Lee Rowley has not yet submitted, supported nor amended a single EDM. He claims that they cost too much to publish and are just a pretense at doing something. But they can be used especially as the start of a parliamentary (or wider) campaign, with MP's then finding further opportunities to refer to their contents in relevant Commons' debates. They also let people know where an MP stands on a wide range of issues. Lee Rowley's refusal to make use of this established parliamentary avenue (along with his few appearances on the floor of the Commons) is a failure to pursue aspects of his parliamentary responsibilities.

On his facebook site Lee Rowley recently said "We’ve got to stop this; people are tired of MPs messing around and want Brexit sorted. I’ll keep trying to ensure that happens." Yet why did he not press his views about what should happen (and how) to the Commons during its recent recall ? The Speaker provided ample (and even excessive) opportunities for MPs to do this. Yet there is no record in Hansard of Rowley making a single such contribution. And when I looked at the TV coverage at various key periods he was nowhere to be seen.

Then his parliamentary record in the recent short parliamentary session from 14 October to 6th November was very strange. He was selected by the Government to move support for the Queens Speech which set out proposals for what could have been a long parliamentary session if the coming General Election had not got in the way. This shows that dispite his past conflict with Boris Johnson when a Westminster Councillor (see the details later), he has now moved closer to the Prime Minister's general stance. Yet in an 11 minute parliamentary speech (when theoretically supporting the Queen's Speech) he said little or nothing about its content nor just why it should be supported. This is a very stange form of support for what is really a Prime Minister's speech read out by the Monarch. You can check my claims for yourself by reading his strange ideas theoretically in support of the Queen's Speech - click here. 

Then although parliament then sat for another 14 days, Lee Rowley only managed then to ask a single parliamentary question.
   
Just who is Lee Rowley ?
He is aged 39. Although born in Chesterfield near NE Derbyshire, he later spent time outside our North Derbyshire area. First studying at Oxford and Manchester Universities, then holding various positions with Barclays, a multi-national professional services network called KPMG and Santander. From 2006 to 2014 he served on the Westminster City Council (living in that area). He became their Cabinet Member for Parking and sort to introduce certain parking charges, but this was opposed by environmental and disability campaigners and he faced calls to resign. His stance was even criticised by Boris Johnson when Mayor of London and it was then blocked by the High Court. In 2010 he stood unsuccessfully for parliament in the Bolsover Constituency.

In the Commons he served on the Statutory Instruments Select Committee from October 2017 to April 2018. They check Government measures which are pursued under authority granted to them by Acts of Parliament. He then became a member of the Public Accounts Committee in February 2018 and then soon resigned from his position with the Statutory Instruments Committee. The Public Accounts Committee examines the value for money of public expenditure. He prefers to press for restraining public rather than exploitative private powers.

He records his parliamentary interests as being energy, housing, planning, financial services, transport and artificial intelligence. We need to appreciate that this is all in the context of his overriding commitment to the unrestrained powers of free-market capitalism.

There is also a coverage of his parliamentary voting record - click here. It shows that he voted 427 out of 463 divisions, voting in line with the Conservative whip 415 times and rebelling 12 times. Each rebellion was in opposition to the deal which the Conservatives  had struck for leaving the EU and for nothing else. He was then for leaving with "no deal". But when the deal was slighly adjusted under Boris Johnson, he then moved to supporting it. He missed votes (or abstained) 36 times. 


Monday, September 30, 2019

Worthy Of Our Support - The Derbyshire Unemployed Workers' Centres.

 Image result for Derbyshire Unemployed Workers' Centre
  I am deeply concerned that the newly Conservative controlled North East Derbyshire District Council has ended that Council's financial support for the essential work of the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers' Centres (DUWC).
   The DUWC are first rate organisations who provide telling assistance and help to deprived and depressed unemployed workers.
   When I was the local MP between 1987 and 2005 for the NE Derbyshire Constituency I developed a close relationship with this body and held half of my MP's surgeries in their office which was then situated on Saltergate in Chesterfield. Due to the shape of North East Derbyshire which curls as a C shape around Chesterfield , I felt that the venue was an important central point where constituents could visit me for my own assistance. Of course, I kept Chesterfield MPs informed of my activities within their constituency boundaries. Then I held the rest of my surgeries scattered around the Constituency itself.
   I hope that people will closely examine the value of the work of the DUWC as far as the well-being of this areas most deprived people are concerned. And that you will then press the leaders of the North East Derbyshire Council over the need to restore that bodies former support for the DUWC's essential operations. To help make up the current shortfall arising from the Council withdrawing its financial support for the work of the DUWC, donations can be sent to them by individuals, trade union branches and other progressive bodies. Your help is keenly needed on this.

   For more details about the essential work of the DUWC and how you and the bodies you are associated with can aid its essential operations, click here.

   

Friday, September 27, 2019

For Motions Adopted and Policies Announced at the Labour Party Conference



Image result for Labour Party Conference 2019                                                    See via this link.     

Hat tip "Labour List".