Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Monday, 14 September 2009

ISA - safeguarding children from adult "children"?

Mrs Rigby read a post on Witterings from Witney about the "Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006" and how it would affect the writer ... who lives in sheltered accommodation so is classed as "vulnerable" yet would need to register for clearance because they are a driver for "vulnerable" people.
So we have the ludicrous situation whereby I, as a 'vulnerable adult', living amongst 'vulnerable adults' and driving 'vulnerable adults' must, as a 'vulnerable adult', submit myself for checking to enable me to continue my work with 'vulnerable adults'!
Mrs R wonders how the new Independent Safeguarding Authority will react to children who are still in school past the age of 18, and therefore come into daily contact with those younger than themselves who are not considered "adult" in our law.

It happens quite often - all that it needs is a child to be born in September making them the oldest of their school year group. They reach their majority at the beginning of their last year at school, can vote, but can't leave full time education until they've taken their final A-level exams the following summer.

During that year they could all too easily mix with younger children, especially if they attend a school that takes children aged 11-18.

How will government deal with this anomaly - of having young adults mixing with children, some of whom will be classed as "vulnerable" because of various disabilities - adhd, dyslexia etc.? The new regulations say that all adults who come into "formal" contact with children must pay their money and register.

Attending school is a formal arrangement, it is a legal requirement. The government put in place legislation that forces children to stay in education until the age of 18 ... those entering secondary school in 2008 were the first.

Was there also a statutory instrument to ensure that they are CRB checked the moment they hit 18?

Just a thought.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

ISA and the horns of a dilemma

Thanks to the implementation of new legislation that will be enforced by the ISA (Independent Safeguarding Authority) any adult who makes a formal arrangement to have any contact whatsoever with children will be required to undergo CRB checks, and have their information stored in a database. It will cost each individual £64. There's more information in the Telegraph.

There have been cries in the media and around the blogosphere that this is "unreasonable", that it "goes too far".

Chris Grayling has said
"We all understand the need for proper protection of our children but this new regime has the potential to be a real disaster for activities involving young people in the UK.

“We are going to drive away volunteers, we'll see clubs and activities close down and we'll end up with more bored young people on our streets.”

Chris Huhne has also condemned the legislation
“Children’s safety is paramount but we are in danger of creating a world in which we think every adult who approaches children means to do them harm.

“The creation of the world’s biggest checking system is a disproportionate response to the problem it is trying to solve.”

The Telegraph points out that
David Green, director of the think-tank Civitas, warned it may even make employers complacent and rely too much on the system instead doing their own “due diligence”.
But, of course, a Home Office spokesman is sure it's a good idea and said
... he rules for parents were "a commonsense approach", adding: "The UK already has one of the most advanced systems in the world for carrying out checks on all those who work in positions of trust with children and vulnerable adults.

"Set up in the wake of the Soham murders, the new Vetting and Barring Scheme will, from October this year, ensure these regulations are even more rigorous."

Mrs R recalls that Huntley was already on a database, but it referred to the wrong area, and he was not working in the school attended by the girls he killed. She wonders if they would have been protected had he been registered with ISA?

On balance she thinks probably not - because a database is only ever as useful as those refer to it; only as accurate as those who input the data and, sadly, there are always those who are willing to amend data for one reason or another - usually to do with malice, humour or money.

So let's see where this new regulation leaves us ordinary mortals who will have to live with the rules.

Mrs Rigby does a bit of voluntary work for a charitable organisation and can sometimes come into contact with children. These children are never at any time separated from their parents. It also only happens if it's been pre-arranged, because it's not normally part of the "job".

She thinks this legislation would apply to her - if she were to continue to offer to do "work" that involved pre-arranged contact with under-16s. She believes it would not apply if she no longer offered to do this sort of work, and left it to somebody else.

Mrs R is, however, concerned that if she doesn't take the initiative to register - an apparently one-of action - she could, to quote the Telegraph, face
a fine of up to £5,000 and a criminal record.
She believes the charity could also face prosecution for failing to ensure Mrs Rigby was registered and cleared as a not being a criminal.

The bleeding-heart brigade would tell Mrs R that if she's nothing to hide she's got nothing to fear, and she should go ahead and register and have her background fully checked.

But, umm, why?

Mrs Rigby knows she's never broken the law; she knows she has never been prosecuted; she knows she has no criminal record and she also knows it would never cross her mind to harm another person, let alone a child. So why, in order to be able to do her little bit of very enjoyable charitable work, should she have to fork out what is effectively a tax of £64 to get somebody else, probably on minimum wage to look through court records prove that what she says is true - especially if they could make a mistake and report that she's a hardened criminal?

Mrs Rigby would willingly, and very happily, swear an affidavit before a lawyer to say she is law-abiding.

Making such a declaration would also keep her name off the database and exempt her from what will no doubt in time be costly annual re-registration and re-checking ... because the unelected ISA will realise very soon that once isn't often enough, because people can change and turn into criminals overnight. That, after all, is one reason why the Police would like our DNA on record - because they're so sure we're all potential criminals.

On balance Mrs R doesn't think she should have to prove to anybody that she isn't a criminal, so she will no longer be offering her services at venues where there may be children. That means the charity will lose out. She wonders if this is what government intended - probably not, but they don't always think everything through to all possible outcomes, unless there's a political motive which brings me to the next point.

Mrs Rigby wonders how the Tories, Liberals or other political groups will be able to repeal, alter, or water down this legislation if and when they come into power and form a government. Simple answer is that they can't.


Because all it would take would be one single instance of a child being hurt by a nasty paedo who slipped through the net, as did Huntley, and they would be condemned forever for allowing kiddy-fiddlers to have access to children.

Mrs R believes that this is precisely why Labour has passed this poison-pill legislation.

They know they are likely to lose the next election, but they want to maintain control and know all too well that their successors will find themselves finely balanced on the horns of a dilemma - they will be damned if they attempt to repeal or alter the rules, and damned by the public for continuing to encourage the Big Brother State if they don't.

Friday, 11 September 2009


I think everybody has their own memory of 11th September 2001.

Mrs Rigby was unwell, and was sitting huddled in the corner of the settee with only the television for company when the newsflash interfered with whatever rubbish she was watching.

First reports suggested that a light plane had collided with one of the towers, then it was clear it was a major incident involving airliners ... and everything became more horrible than even Hollywood could imagine.

Mrs R's niece had been in New York that day, for a job interview. She was lucky, because she left the area before the carnage. The rest of us were lucky too, because our terrible fears were unfounded - but that short time of desperate worry will live with us for ever, offering us the teeniest insight into what those who lost their loved ones went through that day.

One of the striking images Mrs R remembers is that of the Eagle with a tear in it's eye. It said so much.

There isn't much else to say really, we know how terrible it was. Any thoughts about the bravery of rescuers have been mentioned before, many times over, by those far better at words than Mrs R. But she can't let the day go by without mentioning those very brave souls on United Airlines Flight 93 who are believed to have fought the highjackers, and who died at Shanksville.

Mrs Rigby believes we should never forget this atrocity and those who died, but we must remember them with sorrow, not revenge, in our hearts.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Cow attack!

The Rambler's Association offers this advice in the case of a cow attack.


  • Try not to get between cows and their calves
  • Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you
  • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd
  • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead


  • Hang onto your dog. If you are threatened by cattle, let it go, as the cattle will chase the dog
  • Put yourself at risk. Find another way around the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible
  • Panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow just walk on quietly

Courtesy of Daily Telegraph.

Apparently farmers are advised not to put up signs saying, "Beware of the Bull". This is because, "If someone gets hurt, any good barrister will nail a farmer if he has suggested that he thought his animals were dangerous in the first place.

The article also mentions the dangers of being attacked by wasps, hornets, alpacas, adders and birds of prey.

Seems like the countryside is a dangerous sort of place, would we be safer strolling through a town?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Unite - against Cadbury's chocolate.

In July and August members of Unite Union were involved in a consultative ballot on strike action over a pay deal, the results are now in and mean there will be a further ballot of the 12,000 workers to decide whether or not to take strike action.

A representative of Unite said,
Cadbury had agreed a deal of RPI inflation plus 0.5%, with a minimum of 2% for 2009, and ... accused the company of imposing a 0.5% increase because of falling inflation"
A Cadbury's spokesman said,
"We have said all along that we have kept to our three year pay deal and in the light of current pay freezes for all other Cadbury employees this increase is fair, particularly given current economic conditions."
Unite wants what it believes is the right thing for its' members, so wants Cadbury to keep to the exact letter of the agreement.

Mrs Rigby tends to agree with them, she agrees that promises and contracts should be honoured.

But ... and in this instance there is a fairly large BUT ... these are unsettled times. All around the country people are losing their jobs and are desperate to find work. Plenty of people who thought their jobs were safe have seen their employers close down, so they've lost a regular salary. The lucky ones have been able to find more work, the less fortunate have taken hourly paid jobs, for which they get National Minimum Wage of £5.73 an hour. Many of these jobs are part time.

Some people will do almost anything to get work, including Alex Kearns who took a place on the spare plinth in Trafalgar Square to advertise himself. He's been lucky. Many haven't, including some of Mrs Rigby's extended family who are very worried about their future and wonder whether they will ever work again, especially those past their 40th year.

People who have lost their jobs have been promised all sorts of support by central government, but when they ask for help it isn't forthcoming. There's always an excuse, a loophole of some sort, especially if they're married and their husband or wife is working for more than 16 hours a week - irrespective of their wage. It would appear that some promises can be broken.

Recently workers at a wind turbine factory staged a sit in, because they didn't want it to close. They had support from the RMT union, but after eighteen days they gave up, nothing positive came of their protest and 625 jobs were lost - a huge number for the Isle of Wight.

So Mrs Rigby would like to say to these Cadbury workers - you aren't alone in your frustration. You threatened industrial action in 2007 when Cadbury wanted to move a production plant to Poland. Everybody objected to this, including local MPs, but the reality is that if a manufacturer wants to move production to another country they will - even one like Cadbury, that has invested £40m at Bournville.

Looking around the chocolate and confectionery industry Mrs Rigby notices that Mars moved production of its Twix bars to France and Starburst to the Czech Republic - 500 jobs have been lost in Slough.

Nestlé moved production from York and now make Smarties in Germany, Black Magic in the Czech Republic, and Dairy Box in Spain - 645 jobs have been lost in York.

Kraft closed the Terry's chocolate plant - Terry's All Gold and Chocolate Oranges are now made in Sweden, Poland and Slovakia - with the loss of another 316 jobs in York.

Why do you think these firms have move their production away from their historical bases in Britain? - It's because other countries are cheaper, people are willing to work long hours for less money than here in UK, business rates are lower, taxation is lower, transport costs are lower and, in general, so is the cost of living.

She urges you to be careful, and think long and hard before you decide to take strike action because no company is tied to this country. No manufacturer can print money, nor can they exist on debt - they must make a profit otherwise there's nothing to invest in new machinery or new technology and when that happens they cease to be competitive ... and cease trading.

Mrs R urges you to do some more talking, to think carefully about why you think production line staff should be treated differently from the rest of Cadbury's employees - who have accepted the pay deal - and try to reach an agreement that is good enough for now to tide you all through the bad times, so that when the good times come there will be work for you all - and also a chance of even higher wages in the future.

If you can't reach a deal then you risk losing everything, which would be a disaster for you, your families, your town and your children's future employment prospects.

Mrs R wishes you good luck.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

When the wind doesn't blow - we'll need candles.

It seems that the country's forward energy policy - that of building loads of highly visible wind turbines that only make electricity when the wind is blowing - isn't going to produce the goods in the not very distant future.

Mrs Rigby has been banging on about this to her family for absolutely ages, and at last she feels vindicated because today's newspapers are awash with dire warnings of power cuts within a very few years, and possibly even this coming winter if global warming doesn't kick in quickly enough to raise temperatures above freezing and so ease the surges in demand caused by the ad breaks of Coronation Street and Eastenders.

Mrs R remembers reading, some ten or more years ago, that we needed to replace our power stations. She remembers there being a plan in place to do so, but it was quietly dropped by our current government and no doubt the money that had been set aside has been used elsewhere. Mr Miliband has at least admitted they've got it a bit wrong, it's he who has forecast these power shortages.

There are all sorts of alarmist stories doing the rounds - it'll be as bad as during the three day week, we'll all need candles - which are a fire hazard (and they give you cancer), and none of us will be able to watch the Olympics because all the country's electricity will have to be diverted to power the floodlights, CCTVs and so on - even though it'll be summer!

The thing is that we're very much more dependent on electricity than we were in the seventies. Almost every home has a computer - and most are in use whenever people are at home. It's the way we communicate with each other, how we find out what's going on in the world and, for many, it's the sole means of entertainment and relaxation.

Computers are also the way we do business, so having power cuts would be catastrophic for the economy. So it's essential we have energy security, it's almost unbelievable that any nation's government could have ignored the warnings for so long - but they have, and we'll all have to deal with it, somehow.

The country possibly faces being held to ransom in return for electrical energy (and will be nothing to do with Gordon Brown's brother who's currently head of media relations at EDF, which owns London Electricity, Sweb and Seeboard). It's now common knowledge (thanks to the MSM) that we soon won't be able to make enough electricityof our own for our needs, so providers will be able to name their price - and no doubt the consumer will end up being fleeced, as always.

We've got rid of gasometers at a rather alarming rate too (no doubt because of H+S regs) so can now only store a week's gas supply, unlike our neighbours in Europe who can each keep oodles of the stuff in store. This means that if there's a breakdown of a transcontinental pipeline we're all going to be very cold.

Mrs Rigby remembers the three day week, brought in by the Heath government to combat the effects of the miners' strikes. She was a bit younger, obviously, and it was something of an adventure when she learned about cooking in hay boxes - which were absolutely useless! She also learned how important it was to make sure a house had a secondary source of heating - an open fire, a woodburner or even one of those mobile gas heaters that steamed up all the windows when the cylinder was running low.

"Modern" homes aren't quite so well planned, they're almost hermetically sealed and almost all are totally dependent on gas for heating - and gas boilers won't work without electricity. Few, if any, houses built over the last ten or so years have a separate fireplace that could be used to burn coal or logs on a frosty night during a power cut.

So what are people supposed to do - when domestic wind turbines are a waste of money, solar panels are expensive, and you run the risk of falling foul of planning rules if you want some for your roof?

We'll all have to huddle round a candle of course, and blame the nasty Tories who will probably still be in government when the brown stuff fails to hit the fan because there's no energy to turn it round. And, of course, the Labour "opposition" will have a field day, no doubt carelessly forgetting that it's all their fault - in the same way that one commenter in the Mail said, "It's all because of Thatcher!" Somehow they never see themselves as culpable, and never seem to find a dry path out of a mire.

Pushing all that aside there must be things we can do to prepare ourselves - but apart from buying up the complete stock of Prices Altar Candles (they burn for absolutely ages) there doesn't seem much. Perhaps it would be a good idea to get a woodburner (which needs a flue) because the top can be used for cooking almost anything that would normally go on a hob. That'd solve the problem of cooking - but not for people living in high rise flats, or even low-rise apartments.

We could all make our own electricity, and quite easily too. Mrs R remembers seeing a very clever invention - probably on Tomorrow's World. It was a tiny turbine that would fit into the flue of a gas boiler and could generate electricity from the movement of the exhaust gases. The inventor claimed it produced enough for his home, with enough left over to go into the National Grid. But, try as she might Mrs R's never seen the thing for sale, and can't find it mentioned anywhere online.

What can businesses, central and local government do?

For a start they could turn off their lights at night, it'd reduce their energy use and save a fortune in bills as well as cutting the amount of light pollution. Perhaps councils could be persuaded to turn off every other street light? They're all so bright these days that those left turned on would still provide enough light to read a newspaper at midnight, even on the darkest night.

Perhaps also there should be some serious effort into finding truly alternate forms of energy.

Wind turbines are all well and good - they're highly visible, so make it look as if somebody or other's expending huge efforts into "doing something", but in reality most of them use more power than they'll ever generate - energy used in construction and because when there's no wind they use electricity to "feather" the blades so the motors don't seize up.

Aside from wave power and things like the Seven Barrage scheme, which has environmentalists in a tizz, one city seems to have had a great idea, and that's Southampton - which since 1986 has been using geothermal energy. It's now used to heat shopping centres, houses, flats, hotels and a swimming pool as well as providing all the electrical energy needed by the port of Southampton. (More about it here)

There are also the mountains of rubbish we produce, which is failing to generate any income from recycling even after its' long journey to the far east - it could stay here and be burned to generate electricity, surely? And if not, why not?

Before you leap to green conclusions, Mrs R is only a bit of a tree-hugger. She's always done her bit to conserve energy, if only because it keeps the bills down, but she's never truly believed that government has wanted to do anything that was more than show - and the latest EU regulations regarding lightbulbs are a good example - why force us use something containing mercury, when it's been banned from barometers and thermometers because it's so terribly dangerous to both people and the environment? And what are we supposed to do with the things when they stop working? (Oops! That was a sidestep and a half.)

But, of course, there's no mention of any sensible policy in the government's ideas portfolio.

All they can think about is ordering a future generation to reduce their carbon footprint (because the earth is going to turn into a desert) and then they talk about building more power stations, either nuclear or gas, some time, some when, in the future - when it'll be a different group of people who have to make the decision about where they should be.

All this will, of course, get the environmentalists in a tizz, and the health lobbyists in a tizz ... but, because we'll all be sitting in the dark hugging our candles, we won't have the slightest idea what's going on because our computers won't work without electricity!


Excellent piece on the same subject written by leg-iron is here