Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves!

Yesterday morning I received a letter from the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency. The letter was sent by first class recorded delivery in a J6 bubble pack padded envelope, the package contained a copy of a letter that I had sent them and an acknowledgement that they would include my letter into the Statement of Case that the letter referred to!

The client that I am representing also received a recorded delivery copy of the same letter in the same packaging.

Eighteen quid for what could have been provided for by two 41p plain first class stamps!

Even the 82p would have been a waste of money because the Agency has no choice but to include the letter into the Statement of Case, and me and my client already knew that!

Eighteen quid might be chickenfeed in the sum of the overal national budget, but how many Bubble Packed Recorded Delivery Acknowledgement Slips does it take to build a new hospital?

When I budget for my kids birthdays or for Christmas I find that the things that make one go over budget aren't the big items like the PS3 or the new bike, but the pound-for-this-fifty pee-for-that little incidentals!

The Government should start to look after the billions of pennies wasted in this way, if it wants to save billions of pounds from the overall state budget!


Why is VAT a regressive tax?

I admit that I am not very good at sums and that I am easily confused by economic arguments. So I hope that somebody will be able to explain a comment made by Roger Williams on Sunday's Politics Show and by David Milliband on today's Daily Politics - that raising VAT is a regressive tax because it falls most heavily on the poorest in society.

If a poor person spends £20,000 a year and a rich person spends £200,000 I would have thought that the richer person would pay at least 10 times as much in purchase taxes than the poorer person. Because VAT is a purchase tax that is only charged on luxury goods, with essential goods being exempt, I would also have thought that it stands to reason that the richer person would spend a greater percentage of his money on luxuries whilst the poorer person would spend a large proportion of his money on tax exempt essentials. If this is the case then the richer person will pay even more in tax. This doesn't appear regressive or disproportionate to me; it appears to be fair and proportionate. So how do Mr Williams and Mr Milliband come to the opposite conclusion to me?


Plaid & SNP to be excluded from Welsh & Scottish Affairs Committees?

During the Business of the House debate in the Commons yesterday Elfyn Llwyd raised the following point of order:

Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Plaid Cymru)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are in a position today where we are discussing motions that will effectively exclude Plaid Cymru Members from being a member of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and Scottish National party Members from being on the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. Additionally, there will be no room for those parties' Back-Bench Members to sit on the Back-Bench business committee. What kind of motions are these? What is the point behind them? I urge the Minister to take them away and think them through, as these motions will not stand the test of time, and the people in Wales and Scotland will be furious when they find out.

However his point was ruled out of order by Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans.

Mr Llwyd attempted to raise the same issue during the progress of the debate, but was again ruled out of order by Nigel Evans.

Given that Plaid is a party of Government in the Assembly and that the Committee has a huge responsibility for scrutinising Assembly eLCOs, it would be strange and undemocratic if Plaid was excluded from the Welsh Affairs Committee. Because the matter was ruled out of order by Mr Evans, I don't know what the background to Elfyn's complaint is. Can anybody shed any light on what is happening?

Whilst I was posting this Adam Higget posted the background to the issue on a site which his brother objects to me linking to.

Three Wrongs Don't Make a Right!

Whataboutery is a word coined by Cardinal Cahal Daly to describe what he thought was the commonest form of moral evasion in Ireland today.

Whataboutaery is a way of justifying one atrocity by comparing it to another worse atrocity (in the perception of the claimant), committed by the other side.

You ate my favourite biscuit,

So! What about you pinching my cream cake last week?

How dare you mention that! What about you using MY last teabag the week before
etc, etc.

Typically the publication of the Saville Enquiry Today has produced swathes of whataboutary reactions; this one by General Sir Michael Rose in the Mail is just one sordid example. This one from Lord Tebbit is another. The comments that follow the articles are an even worse example of whataboutary, with those who welcome the enquiry's report branded as traitors to Britain and apologists for the IRA and those who oppose it are branded as supporters of state sponsored terrorism by the loyalist paramilitaries and the British Government!

I think that PM David Cameron has been bold and brave in accepting the enquiry's conclusion and apologising on behalf of the British Government for what was an unjustified and unjustifiable action.

What both wings of the IRA and what the INLA did during the troubles was also unjustified and unjustifiable.

What the UVF and other loyalist paramilitary groups did during the troubles was unjustified and unjustifiable.

Whatabout some of those organizations' leaders and supporters following Cameron's lead in accepting that what they did was unjustified and unjustifiable rather than continuing with the moral evasion of whataboutism as their reaction to the enquiry?

Accepting that there was wrong on all three sides is the only way of bringing peace and reconciliation to the north of Ireland. Cameron has given a lead for the British Government's side, have the other two sides got the whatabout it takes to follow that lead?

Others on this subject:
Blog Menai; Iain Dale; Matt Wardman; RandomPottins; Ceder Lounge and many others


ABE - I've Changed my Mind!

Despite having said that I was going to support A B E on the Wales Home site, I have changed my mind.

Apart from Welsh politics my other delight is family history, which can be an expensive business when one has to pay for access to family history sites such as Find My Past.

Find my Past has pay to view family history records that include all the England and Wales Census records from 1841 to 1911, an index of Birth Marriage and Death indices from 1837 t0 2006 and many more records.

During the World Cup Find my Past has a bargain for those who do not want to watch the footy:

If you're not football mad, there is something else to do during the World Cup – make it your goal to research your family history.

You can view all the records on findmypast for free during every England World Cup match – all you need to do is register.

How it works:

30 minutes before kick-off we'll stop charging for 3 hours, which should give you plenty of time to explore what we have to offer

England will play on / at
12/06 19:30 BST
18/06 19:30 BST
23/06 15:00 BST

South Africa is currently in Winter and working on GMT so add an hour for international world clocks based on GMT.

Of course if England succeeds to progress beyond the first stage there will be even more free time available on Find My Past, another four games / 12 hours if they go through to the final or the 3rd place play offs!

So come on Eng-earl-and!!!


Badger culling

TB is a nasty disease; it causes coughing blood, overheating of the body, chronic fatigue and severe weight loss. The bacterium that causes tuberculosis is one that duplicates slowly compared to other bacterial diseases organisms, which means that the disease is one that kills slowly and painfully over a long period.

As someone who is very fond of badgers I would not wish any Brock to suffer such a long and painful death, that is why I do not understand the opposition by some who claim to be supporters of badgers to the Assembly Government's policy of culling badgers and cattle suffering from the infection.

The cull will not only ensure that the national cattle herd is free from this awful disease, but will also ensure that the national badger set is free from it too!

Opposing the cull is not going to save the herd or the set, it will just lead to cattle and badgers dying a long and painful death from a horrible disease, and potentially spreading the disease amongst the human population.

The opposition to efforts to remove the infection from the heard and the set by culling badgers and infected cows is beyond my grasp, and I fail to understand how such resistance can be promoted as support for animal welfare!


Sesiwn Fach Dolgellau - 17+18/7/10

A message from the Sesiwn Fawr Appeal Committee

On the 17 and 18 of July, Sesiwn Fach will be held in Dolgellau.

A mixture of gigs, jamming sessions around the town's pubs - what better?!

The purpose of the festival will be to get Sesiwn Fawr back on it's feet by 2011!

The line-ups are being organized and hopefully finalised within the up and coming week.

We ask you to pass the message forewards to your friends and help bring Sesiwn Fawr's rythm and beat to the streets of Dolgellau once again!

Thank you

SFD Appeal Committee

Who is the money owed to?

This is a serious question asked for the sake of an answer, rather than to make a political point.

Apparently the UK owes £890 billion pounds. Who does it owe the money to? Is it to some of the banks that it borrowed money in order to bail them out?


The Black Cat's first Parliamentary Purr

Congratulations to Guto Bebb MP on delivering his maiden speech to the House of Commons yesterday.

A transcription of his pearls of wisdom can be found here:

The tradition of the House is that maiden speeches are not controversial; I was pleased to hear Guto note the importance of the Welsh Language in this constituency and the value of teaching local and Welsh history in our schools.


Gwynt y Môr - no thanks!

After my sojourn in foreign climes I hear on my return that the Gwynt y Môr project to place 160 offshore wind turbines in the sea off Llandudno has been approved and that the work will begin next year.

The news has been welcome by Ieuan Wyn Jones and Cheryl Gillan, and by a number of Welsh bloggers. I'm sorry to break the all welcoming consensus. I think that the project is bad news for Wales.

I have nothing against wind farms, I accept the environmental benefits that projects such as Gwynt y Môr can deliver, but I am also aware of the negative effects of such a project. The noise, the visual impact and the affect on the local environment caused by taking energy out of the wind before it reaches land could be detrimental to the people who live on the coast and to the tourist industry that is the mainstay of the local economy. Incidentally I find the Plaid Blogger, Welsh Ramblings, response to such concerns that people who live in the coast are going to have to get over it is as insensitive as telling people in the Varteg that they should get over the fact that an open cast coal mine might blight their community.

Of course the argument is made that all disadvantages that the project will cause will be outweighed by the advantages that it brings. A point that I agree with in general, but as was the case with water extraction and coal extraction, Wales will bear the brunt of the disadvantages whilst the advantages are enjoyed by those outwith Wales. The economic benefit to Wales from this project will be a poxy 1% of its total value, whilst Wales will suffer 100% of the project's down side.

Rather than welcoming the development Plaid, a so called national party, should be shouting from the rooftops about yet another example of Wales' natural resources being ripped off for the benefit of others!