Saturday, July 28, 2018

Don't let the government remove democracy over fracking

My letter to York City Council leaders relating to the proposed changes to planning law to make exploratory drilling the same as putting up a garden shed and fracking nationally important.  Both remove local control over the process.

It is based on a letter you can send via CPRE


As my local council leader, I am contacting you to express my concern about the government consultations launched recently that aim to speed up the planning process for shale gas extraction in England.

The consultations seem to have been deliberately timed so that there will be very few full council meetings across the country where they can be discussed.  For instance the next meeting of York Council is two days after the end of the consultation.

Under the proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) the government is intending to treat non-hydraulic exploratory drilling for shale gas as permitted development (PD).  This would preclude any  democratic oversight as permitted development does not come to the council.  As can be seen at exploratory sites fracking is on a different scale to other permitted developments and what other permitted development required approval by several regulatory authorities.  This is quite clearly an undermining of local democracy.

At the other end of the process they want to include shale gas extraction in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Regime (NSIP).

There is a clear contradiction here.  The first part is said to be too small to be covered by planning permission, the extraction process to large to be addressed locally.  It  would effectively reduce local input all the way through the planning process for fracking, from exploration to production. For further detail, please find a short briefing below.

Planning is at the core of local democracy, and is currently one of the only channels through which local people like me can have a say on what happens in our local area. In that spirit, I urge you to raise my concerns with our MPs.

Further, please submit a local council response to the consultations, specifically calling on the government to drop the PD and NSIP proposals.

The issue of shale gas extraction has led to local people across the country engaging in the planning process on scales rarely seen before, and so I believe the channels through which they can engage should not be removed.

I believe that given the risks posed to our countryside, and the strength of opposition, that there should be greater - not less - scrutiny on decisions surrounding fracking.  I am campaigning with CPRE to see that these proposals are dropped.

Yours sincerely

Tom
Tom Franklin

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Capital punishment - Joint open letter to Julian Sturdy and Rachel Maskell MPs


Dear Julian Sturdy / Rachael Maskell,

We are writing to express our deep shock and concern over the actions of Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, and Prime Minister Theresa May in relation to El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey.

Let us first make clear that we consider the crimes which El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey have been accused of are absolutely abhorrent and we totally condemn what they are alleged to have done.

As you are no doubt aware Sajid Javid has written to the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions stating that “I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought.”[1]  This is a clear departure from existing UK policy, which had been to require such assurances as the death penalty has been abolished under UK law, and is outlawed by the European Convention on Human Rights.[2]


We call upon you to:
  • Write to Sajid Javid condemning this change of policy, and demanding that he refuses any support for the extradition or trial of El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey unless, and until, he receives assurances that they will not be subject to the death penalty
  • Write to the Prime Minister demanding that parliament be given a say before there is any change of policy relating to the death penalty, including supporting extradition or trials without assurances that accused people will not be subject to the death penalty
  • Issue a statement condemning the government’s support for the death penalty

Yours sincerely.
Tom Franklin, Dave Taylor, York Green Party
Ian Buchanan, Secretary York Amnesty International
Emilie Knight, Matt Elliot, Clare Harrison, York for Europe
Janet Beattie
Steve Roskams
Sally Brooks
Mick Phythian
Gwen Vardigans
Jonathan Tyler
Graham Martin
Rosie Baker
Margot Brown
Nicola Normandale

[2] European convention on Human Rights Protocol 6 Article 1 reads “The death penalty shall be abolished. No one shall be condemned to such penalty or executed.”



Monday, July 23, 2018

Capital punishment - open letter to Julian Sturdy

Dear Julian,

I am shocked that Sajid Javid has taken it upon himself, without consulting parliament, to end the UK’s ban on the use of the death penalty or supporting the death penalty elsewhere.

As I am sure you are aware by now, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are currently being detained with the likelihood that they will be sent to face trial in the US for their heinous crimes. For many many years the UK government and the Home Office have refused to be complicit in the use of the death penalty, and have required assurances that the death penalty will not be imposed on anyone extradited from the UK even where the crime is a capital crime in the country they are being extradited to.

Sajid Javid seems to have taken it upon himself, without reference to parliament, to change this policy.

I find this appalling not only because the death penalty should never be used, and has been abolished in this country, but also because it seriously undermines the role of parliament.

I am therefore writing to ask you to:
  • Write to Sajid Javid condemning this change of policy
  • Write to the Prime Minister demanding that parliament be given a say in any such change in  policy
  • Issue a statement condemning the government’s support for the death penalty

Yours sincerely
Tom.
Tom Franklin

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Complaint of bias in BBC

3 July 2018

On World at One today we only heard from Tory politicians on the issue of Brexit.  Most of the time was taken up with one extremely hard brexit  backbench MP who represents a small group of MPs.

We did not hear from any party other than the Tories.
We did not hear from any remain MPs
We did not hear any real challenges of Rees-Mogg's position.

This is part of a huge trend where we here mostly brexit speakers and increasingly rarely from politicians who are not Tory.

While it is more extreme in World of One today we are increasingly seeing alternative (to hard right Tory Brexit) squeezed out of the BBC.

There was absolutely no balance today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

letter to Julian Sturdy MP Please sign the pledge 'MPs not border guards'

Please email your MP too.

I am writing to ask that your surgery remains a place where everyone in our constituency can safely seek guidance and support.

I am horrified by reports of MPs turning over constituents to the Home Office to face possible detention or deportation. MP surgeries should not be a place where the government’s ‘hostile environment’ approach towards immigrants is allowed to flourish. In a democratic society everyone should have the right to safely meet with their member of parliament and expect representation without fear of being detained or deported.

The recent Windrush scandal has exposed the dangers of the government’s hostile environment policy and the inadequate and dysfunctional nature of the Home Office's procedures. As my MP, please show leadership in standing up against this vicious attempt to turn us all into border guards reporting on members of our community.

Please sign the pledge 'MPs not border guards' at http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/pledge to reassure your constituents that you will never hand anyone over for immigration enforcement, and instead maintain the discretion and care we expect from MPs.

By signing the pledge you will send a message that you reject the idea of making the country a hostile environment for immigrants, and instead guarantee a safe and confidential surgery for anyone in your constituency who needs it.

Yours sincerely

Tom


Tom Franklin

Open letter to Julian Sturdy MP on Inquiry into UK involvement in rendition and torture.


Dear Mr Sturdy,

I am writing to you to ask that you take action to secure an independent public inquiry into UK complicity in torture and rendition. There is clear evidence of UK involvement in both torture and rendition since 2001, including in the aftermath of the Afghan and Iraqi wars.

Recently Theresa May’s government apologised for the government’s role in  the rendition and torture of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar in Ghaddafi’s Libya.

Last year the government stated that it ‘condemns torture in all circumstances’, and issued a call for ‘governments around the world to eradicate this abhorrent practice.’ If the Government is to prevent any such cases arising in the future, and is to speak with moral authority against torture overseas, a full public reckoning into the UK’s own involvement in these practices is essential.

In 2010, the UK Government promised such an independent public inquiry into UK complicity in torture and rendition. However, over eight years later the Government has failed to deliver on this promise, and has instead allowed only a narrower, restricted study by the Intelligence and Security Committee. This investigation was not public and did not have full access to vital information, including the cases of Abdul-Hakim and Fatima.

Last week, a cross party group of MPs and Peers, led by former Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke, wrote the Prime Minister to demand that an independent judge-led inquiry now be established.

I am therefore asking that you add your voice to this growing cross-party consensus and write to the Prime Minister, demanding that the Government deliver on its original promise, and hold an independent judge-led inquiry with access to any information that it needs.

Please support this initiative to ensure that the UK is never again involved in rendition or torture.

Best wishes
Tom.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Open letter to Julian Sturdy MP on CETA (Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement)


Dear Mr Sturdy,

I’m writing to you as one of your constituents, because I care about the impacts that modern trade deals can have on many areas of life, from food standards to jobs to the environment.

This Monday, 18 June, the Commons will vote on a motion on CETA (Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement), the EU-Canada trade deal. I believe this deal poses unacceptable risks and I ask you to vote against it.

Key areas of concern include:

  • Job losses and inequality:
The Employment and Social Affairs Committee of the European Parliament said that CETA is likely to lead to job losses, long-term unemployment and increased inequality. (See: https://bit.ly/2JDak0G )

  • Undermining standards:
CETA could undermine standards on health, food safety, the environment and other areas, and similar trade deals have been used to bully countries into lowering standards including severely delaying the implementation of plain packaging for cigarettes and safety standards for oil pipelines.

  • Public services:
CETA will open up public services to privatisation and make it harder for them to be taken back into public hands in future, and making it impossible to ensure that they are delivered for the benefit of users of the service rather than the profits of corporations.  We have already seen some of this with the health service and education and railways.

  • Corporate courts:
CETA includes provision for corporate courts, which allow foreign corporations to sue governments outside of the national legal system. Following public pressure, the provisions in CETA have been marginally improved to make them more transparent (the Investment Court System), but without changing their fundamental basis. They have also been put on hold and face a legal challenge, but would pose a huge risk if implemented. If you believe that one of the reasons that we are leaving the EU is to take back control then you should vote against corporate courts as they are outwith parliamentary control, and will bind future parliaments even more than being a member of the EU and without any democratic oversight.

I believe that trade deals like CETA need to be rethought to support people and planet. I ask you to vote against the motion and work for trade deals that will help to build shared prosperity in the UK and around the world.

Kind regards,
Tom Franklin
4 Frazer Court
York
YO30 5FH


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Syria: Response from Julian Sturdy MP

I wrote to Julian Sturdy about Syria http://tomfranklin.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/syria-open-letter-to-julian-sturdy-mp.html.

Here is his response


Dear Mr Franklin 

Thank you for contacting me regarding the recent decision by the UK Government, alongside the US and France, to target three chemical weapons facilities in Syria following a poison gas attack in the town of Douma. l am very grateful to hear your concerns over this most important and pressing issue. 

l have carefully considered the correspondence l have recieved in the past few days and thought I would provide a comprehensive response which responds to the various points raised with me during this time. 

I believe the Prime Minister was right to take decisive action following the horrendous attack in Douma given the consensus in the international community that the use of chemical weapons on civilians should be met with targeted, but severe repercussions. The Prime Minister, following detailed military and secret intelligence briefings, assessed that the UK should join our close allies to make absolutely clear to President Assad that we will not sit idly by and allow these atrocities to take place without consequence. 

I understand the concerns raised about the lack of a specific parliamentary vote beforehand. However, this is not required for all forms of military action, and our Government acted in line with legal advice. The Government has ensured that Parliament can scrutinise this decision; with significant time set aside for debate. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has said she took this course of action in the knowledge that Parliament would hold her to account, and she has received support from across the House. 

Western leaders continue to seek a diplomatic solution to the Syrian Civil War, and an important part of this was an agreement to eliminate Assad's chemical weapons programme following the attack on civilians in Ghouta in 2013. Since this time, the OPCW has not been able to verify whether all manufacturing, storage and research facilities were in fact destroyed. 

On each occasion when chemical weapons have been used in Syria, Russia has blocked any attempt to hold the perpetrators to account at the UN Security Council, with six such vetoes since the start of 2017. Just last week, Russia blocked a UN resolution to establish an independent investigation able to determine responsibility for the attack in Douma. This is why a response via the UN was sadly not possible. To say the government should not have acted without this authorisation is to say that dictators should be free to murder people with impunity, as long as they have a protector on the Security Council. I do not believe any of us wish to live in a world where this is the norm. 

The use of chemical weapons is completely illegal, but these rules are worth nothing without the willingness to take action against those who use such weapons. If the international community does  
not punish the perpetrators, we are all made less safe, as we send out the message that there are no consequences for such wicked criminal behaviour. 

Just as we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be deployed without consequence,we cannot allow the use of deadly nerve agents here in Britain. Sergei Skipal could easily have decided to settle in a larger cathedral city, such as York, and it could have been a North Yorkshire Police officer admitted to intensive care. 

Throughout this incident, the Kremlin made light of the situation and denied all involvement. This  
represents Russia's total disregard for international cooperation and tendency to employ misinformation. 

The unrelenting civil war is now in its seventh year and we still face repercussions from the immense destruction. Our response to this crisis has been unprecedented, committing £2.6b since 2012 to meet 
the immediate needs of vulnerable people in Syria and refugees in the region. This makes us the second largest bilateral donor. 

The UK resettled more refugees than any other country in the EU in 2016 and our approach has  
thankfully discouraged people from undertaking perilous journeys that have too often proven to be fatal. 

Our country will continue to provide a comprehensive humanitarian package for those caught up in the conflict, coupled with supporting a united international consensus around punishing the use of chemical weapons. I firmly believe that the ordinary citizens of Syria should be our primary concern and this should drive our approach to this conflict, whilst sewing the UK's national interest. 

Once again I am grateful for your thoughts on this challenging area and fully appreciate the level of  
concern on all sides of this debate. If there are any further points you feel it would be helpful for me to respond to or address then please do not hesitate to let me know. 

Thank you again for your correspondence. 

Yours sincerely

Julian Sturdy