Thursday 28 February 2013

Political Prisoners without Conscience

My reader John recently commented on A Licence to Procreate "And I thought this was going to be a blog about '12 good citizens and true'. Funnily enough that also includes an MP, sex, and family values with lies and stupidity (both the defendants and the jury) thrown in for good measure."

This set me off thinking about Mr and Mrs Huhne and their current on-off, innocent-guilty in-out court case.

I can see it now, like the opening credit titles to a vintage episode of Ronnie Barkers porridge "Right Honourable prisoner at the bar Christopher Huhne, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court, and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are a criminal of the political classes. Who accepts arrest, house flipping and expenses as an occupational hazard, and presumably accepts imprisonment and a second home in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences. A get out of jail card just like our old friend Baron Lord Ahmed, who also had a problem with his driving."

There is of course the result of the "sending down" party also known as a political "good bye election" in Eastleigh. Now that the points-make-prizes personality and somewhat - camera shy - Mr Huhne has gone. He has finally been prepared to throw himself into the slammer but only after managing to trouser a few bob extra by hanging on for a while on MP mates rates. Some cynics would say that he held on to give the Con-A-Lib coalition more time to organise a suitable replacement before he jumped. However, another peer of the realm Lord Reynard seems to have put the boot in for the Con-A-Lib coalition. Huhne finally stepped down a few weeks ago after his disenchanted ex wife blew him away. (in a "Dirty Harry, well Punk!" style) With the equivalent of a political smoking gun.

It always amazes me how there seems to be a - common theme - for bent politicians to do a bit of ritual self abuse. This is followed by a bit of abuse of members of their family conducted in public, before self imploding. 

Because the Con-a-Lib government can't be seen to lose face. There is much tub thumping and posturing going on on the hustings. The only parties to come out of this with some dignity could be Nigel Farage and UKIP. Not forgetting the monster raving loonies who are both centre ground when compared to the Con-a-Lib alliance. Chris Huhne is not the first serving politician to end up in trouble with the law. Statistically MPs are more likely to have a criminal conviction than the average member of the public. Which when you think how many of them started out as solicitors and barristers - is a bit of a give away as to why they are in politics. Huhne, could now face being stripped of his Privy Council membership, which allows him to use the title "Right Honourable." Which seems quite appropriate.

Mr Huhne is likely (like Mr Archer and Mr Aitken before him) going to have time on his hands to write a book or two. Unless of course Con-a-Lib government minister Chris Grayling’s new austere prison regime is introduced, in which case he won’t be allowed a book to read. But if he is, then Pride and Perjury and Porridge and Passion by Jonathan Aitken would be a good place to start. 

Jonathan William Patrick Aitken, was a Conservative Member of Parliament and a Cabinet minister. Aitken was found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice. By coincidence his wife Lolicia, who later left him, was called as a witness but fortunately for Aitken did not have to appear.

Jeffrey Howard Archer, Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare  Member of Parliament. Whose political career ended with his conviction and subsequent imprisonment for perjury and perverting the course of justice. While in prison, he wrote the three-volume memoir "A Prison Diary." Prison served as inspiration his book, "Cat O' Nine Tales".

The most memorable moment for me came in the daily Star libel case.  The description that Justice Caulfield gave of Mrs Archer in his jury instructions included: "Remember Mary Archer in the witness-box. Your vision of her probably will never disappear. Has she elegance? Has she fragrance? Would she have, without the strain of this trial, radiance? How would she appeal? Has she had a happy married life? Has she been able to enjoy, rather than endure, her husband Jeffrey?" The judge then went on to say of Jeffrey Archer, "Is he in need of cold, unloving, rubber-insulated sex in a seedy hotel round about quarter to one on a Tuesday morning after an evening at the Caprice?" Archer can keep his peerage as it is a life peerage rather than "an honour under the Crown". 

Judges like Justice Cauliflower sometimes get it wrong. Now in a twist in the tail that even Baron Archole could not have dreamt up. A barrister and judge are arrested on suspicion of lying to police over the speeding allegations involving Chris Huhne and his former wife, Vicky Pryce. Constance Briscoe, 55, a lawyer and part-time crown court recorder, had denied to police having any involvement with the Mail on Sunday over the leaking of the driving licence points-swapping story.
Some of the most famous politicians and thinkers in recent history have been the victims of persecution and imprisonment for their political beliefs and activities. Mahatma Gandhi suffered many periods of imprisonment throughout the course of his life of non-violent activism. The first woman elected to lead a Muslim State, Benazir Bhutto was twice President of Pakistan. Aung San Suu Kyi spent almost 15 years under house arrest in Burma. As a pro-democracy activist and politician. The world’s most famous political prisoner, Nelson Mandela’s 27 years of imprisonment, went on to negotiate an end to apartheid. 

However, all is not lost, in UK politics after all one MP to be imprisoned for taking a moral stand was Terry Fields who refused to pay his £373 poll tax bill.  Somehow, I can't see Huhne, Aitken or Archer ever being considered as political prisoners in the accepted sense. Even as prisoners of conscience. Maybe there should be a group "Political Prisoners without Conscience." What a heady list that would make. Then there is the  up and coming virtuoso performance on the fiddle by ex MP Doctor Denis MacShame and others to look forward to.


Wednesday 27 February 2013

Bamboozled by road signs? polled 2,000 people on which road signs they found the most confusing and perplexing. The majority of our drivers show little understanding of road signs, with a shocking 93 per cent failing to recognise "no vehicles" signs, according to new research by

How well do you understand the road signs you come across on a daily basis? Exclusive research carried out on behalf of shows that Brits may be more confused by road signs than they would like to admit. An astonishing 93 per cent failed to recognise the sign for "no vehicles except bikes being pushed". Meanwhile 83 per cent were unclear on the meaning of the common "Urban Clearway" sign, and 67 per cent were bamboozled by the "no waiting" sign.

Top five confusing road signs

Road signs are 'distracting'.

Almost half of the 2,000 Brits polled – 46 per cent – say they have been distracted by road signs while driving. A lack of understanding when it comes to road signs has resulted in nearly 30 per cent having had a crash, bump or near miss.

The biggest bugbear is road signs used for maintenance, with 43 per cent feeling irritated that they are left out longer than they should be. Councils starting to cull confusing road signs and last month, the Department of Transport revealed 9,000 traffic signs had already been removed from the roads in a bid to de-clutter Britain’s streets. And transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has urged local authorities to continue the cull. He says: "There are too many unnecessary signs blotting the landscapes of our towns and cities. That is why I have published new guidance, to help encourage local authorities to make old, confusing and ugly signs a thing of the past." Shaun Spiers, chief executive of Campaign to Protect Rural England, says he hopes councils made "a spring clean of clutter is one of their New Year’s resolutions". He adds: "Individual signs may be added with the best intentions but before long can sprout into a forest of clutter that degrades our countryside and distracts drivers."


Tuesday 26 February 2013

CCTV and the ICO

The plans of the Canal and River Trust to install CCTV into all of their moorings was revealed by Jenny Whitehall the national moorings manager at a recent meeting in South Yorkshire. Quotes have already been sought for initial CCTV installations. At a time of national austerity how can CaRT justify spending a huge amount of money on CCTV.  It escapes me why CaRT are proceeding with this course of action. Whilst at the same time there are significant areas where infrastructure continues to slowly and inexorably fall apart.

I'm even more sceptical that it is such a good idea, especially with the latest rulings from First Tier Tribunal and the Information Commissioner’s Office being made public. The use of indiscriminate surveillance TV took a battering when Southampton Council’s attempt to justify it’s policy of requiring taxis to record audio and video of every journey was pooh poohed. It also took another significant blow when the "First Tier Tribunal" also ruled against it. The case stems from a complaint made by Big Brother Watch and others to the Information Commissioner’s Office which led to Oxford council abandoning it’s policy and Southampton being given an "enforcement notice" Which is essentially a prosecution for breaching the Data Protection Act.
The First Tier Tribunal is part of the administrative justice system of the United Kingdom. It was created in 2008 as part of a programme, set out in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act. Intended to rationalise the tribunal system and has since taken on the functions of twenty previously existing tribunals. It is administered by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service.

As reported by the barrister’s chambers, who acted for the Information Commissioner’s Office in the case, “what the Council disputed was (1) the conclusion that the policy involved the processing of “sensitive personal data” as well as personal data; and (2) the ICO’s finding that the recording and retention of recorded data was a disproportionate interference with privacy rights under Article 8 of the European Convention.

On both points, the tribunal ruled against the council, saying the policy was disproportionate and accepting the significant risk of “function creep”. With lawyers highlighting that this case sets an important precedent for the use of surveillance and data protection law. It's hoped that councils and others will not implement policies that blatantly trample on the privacy of people without any kind of justification. The only decision Southampton Council can now make is to abandon this ludicrous policy immediately.


Monday 25 February 2013

Road transport from a new perspective.

We often see articles in the popular boating press about how cost effective it would be to move items by water. Saving tens of truck journeys. Low impact, reducing crowding on the roads and carting much heavier cargo etc. The problem is that the canals were built to take goods from point A to point B. Now the canals are not always in the place where the goods are required to be. However, bureaucracy is also a big problem for the driver and operator.

In the UK there are thousands of small haulage companies who are struggling to make a living due to the cost of, health and safety, trucks, diesel, maintenance and lots of other overheads.  But in China the biggest economy in the world. The issues are not so much of a problem.

This lady is a living, breathing, one woman, entrepreneurial business. She has a big smile on her face and is just getting on with it. I wonder if she adjusts her make-up while driving?

But even the fleet trucking business is not left on the sidelines as business goes on a pace. Eddie Stobart eat your heart out!

Even bridges are built high enough to allow passage for just about anything and everything that can be transported.

One man operation is common place event as the Chinese transport system goes about its daily travel from A to B. Oh, he is also smoking behind the wheel - over here that would be considered quite naughty. 

Health and safety form an integral part of the business as the lookout keeps an eye on the blind spot. However, there are no seatbelts in use. While the driver has a cigarette, naughty boy!

With expert arrangement of the load prior to setting off. All making for much easier cargo drops for the driver to take care of. I wonder if his tachograph is up to date? 

There are times when the driver takes the opportunity to stroll along side his load. Just to enjoy the scenery.

No load is to small for the busy transport business to consider.

The Chinese VOSA road traffic inspector tests the vehicle for road worthiness. It seems the tyre tread depth is not a problem after all - allowing the driver to continue on his journey.

The obvious colour coordinated uniform as worn by the in-flight attendant is a give away hint.


Communications Data Bill

The Government claims the Communications Data Bill (AKA Son of the Poll Tax) is necessary. In other words they want to track you from cradle to grave. Ideas such as implanted RFID chips like the ones used to trace your dog, being bandied around. Even you dog has to have a compulsory RFID tag fitted over the next three years. Got a new passport in the last couple of years - did you know that it has a built in data chip. And do you remember the ID card fiasco, still on the back burner.

The three main issues with the Communications Data Bill are.
  • Reconcile IP addresses.
  • Capture weblogs.
  • Third party data.

The first data type is required to give the police “The ability to reconcile an Internet Protocol (IP) address to an individual” So, where you have a mobile phone operator that shares a small number of IP addresses, it has to allocate these to its customers as they are needed. In a few minutes, the same IP could be used by several customers. So you need to try log and store which customer is using an address when. Alternatively, if you were in a big office block, you might all share an internal network. One IP to the outside world, but lots of people using it. So you need to store more internal data to help identify the individuals.

You can always go and purchase a pay as you go card for your dongle - always pay cash for top-up services - and always give a different non de plume rather than your name. So, why might our MPs take issue with this. Well, this week it was revealed Parliamentarians have been visiting an "adulterous affairs" website more times in a single month than the official websites for the Treasury, Ministry of Justice and Department for Education. That’s 52,000 hits in seven months for "Out of Town Affairs." The prospect of having all of our internet usage stored would seem unnerving to the best of us, never mind those Members of Parliament  tempted by an extra marital affairs. Of course the MP's will vote for an exemption to the Communications Data Bill for themselves.

Quote: Number 1 for Adult Dating in the UK Out of Town Affairs is a discreet and 100% safe adult dating service. We help connect married men and women who are looking for an extra-marital affair. Marital affairs in the UK or very popular - with more and more unsatisfied married men and women looking to do the dirty of their partners whilst out of town.
You can't make it up....


Sunday 24 February 2013

Nosy Parker

Mike Todd wrote a while back on Narrowboat World. "I am unhappy with the adverse implication in the use of the term 'spy' to refer to people who send information to CaRT regarding boats that abuse their rights in using the canal system—or indeed any other illegal act. This puts the people concerned, even more than those who ask them to do this, in a bad light, suggesting that they are doing something morally wrong, and siding with the 'enemy'. As in a past age, such characterisation risks people being treated in the way in which collaborators were treated—and that was not nice.
Surely the better comparison is with Neighbourhood Watch Schemes which encourage residents to report to the police any information about suspicious behaviour in their area. It is then up to the police to investigate and take any necessary action. People who support Neighbourhood Watch are classed as good citizens and applauded for their commitment to maintaining an orderly way of life. Of course I am not advocating or supporting intrusive behaviour but if people go about doing things that are suspicious, there is every reason for them to be reported to the appropriate authorities."
I am picking up on this, because I find Mike Todd's remarks very curious. The reporting of unlicensed boats is an easy function - there is a web page that lets anyone report such issues. But this is not reporting the day to day stuff. This is covert spying and the collecting of evidence by way of note taking and photography. It is intrusive behaviour and I am sure that many others will think the same. A popular saying to justify such spying is "if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear."

Now, if anyone I don't know comes around me, my family members or my boat. Covertly or overtly pointing a camera. I think that that is suspicious behaviour, whilst I would not think it threatening. I would want to question their actions. If when spoken to, the person decided to run away, then that is a change to being very suspicious behaviour.

Is it a burglar casing the joint, is it a pervert, is it a paedophile, I don't know, but I do know that it certainly is not someone behaving normally. I am not going to take any chances, and the production of an  IWA membership card does not hold any authority, to me and I am sure to the police. For intruding, photographing or just being a plain nosy parker and to be observed spying suspiciously round my personal property. You are doing something morally wrong despite Mr Todd protestations. 

People doing this sort of thing are placing themselves at risk of being confronted and detained until the police arrive. After all, the popular saying is "if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear." Anyone being brought to the attention of the police will have the details recorded against their identity and it might have some serious consequences later if a employer or prospective employer decided to do a background check. 


Scary stuff to read about!

It’s not pretty out there. The UK is falling deeper and deeper into a double dip recession. Europe is teetering on the verge of break-up and no one knows what'll happen next. MoneyWeek says that Britain is about to be flattened by a tidal wave of debt. MoneyWeek says It doesn't matter if you vote Conservative, Liberal, Labour, UKIP – or for no party at all. The facts are the facts. The Coalition has spent the last two years desperately and very publicly trying to get our finances in order. We've had an “austerity” budget. We've had tax hikes. We've had “the cuts”. But for all that, our national debt is still growing at an incredible rate.

Despite David Cameron’s talk of “austerity”, he’s going to add an estimated £700 billion to the national debt in just five years. That’s more than Tony Blair and Gordon Brown added to the national debt in eleven years. It’s more than every British government of the past 100 years put together.

It's a long document, its not easy reading, its full of very very scary stuff. However its important to get a heads up. To be aware of what is happening around us now and to be aware of what could be about to happen in the future.

MoneyWeek The End Of Britain.


Hitchcock's The Birds return!

Following on from the Tesco Blackcap posting. Most of us must have watched with amazement  the winter flocks of Starlings wheeling around in the sky before settling down to roost for the evening. The arial display is often shown on television and those who are lucky enough to see it first hand, feel that it is something of a privilege to witness. On two occasions last year we saw such activities being done by birds. One was a huge flock of Starlings near the Dover Lock pub that roosted in some nearby trees. The second was a similar display by a smaller flock of Swallows before roosting for the night in a phragmites reed bed

However, due to global warming its starting to happen in places where it has never been seen before. The reaction of people to this wonderful display is at odds with ours. The GlobalPost (USA) reports millions of starlings have descended on a small city in a real-life version of Alfred Hitchcock's horror film, "The Birds". David Chiles, president of the Little River Audubon Society, said the fact that migratory flocks are roosting in the city rather than flying further south is tied to climate warming. Although the birds have not turned on humans as in the classic 1963 Hitchcock movie.

Mr Chiles, who also teaches biology at Hopkinsville High School said "The weather, the climate plays a big role. They somehow establish a roost south of where the ground is frozen solid. They are ground feeders, feeding on leftover crops and insects. If the fields are frozen solid, they can't feed." The city, has hired a pest control company to get rid of the interlopers. Henry Jako, general manager of McGee Pest Control, said "Our crews use air cannons and bird-bangers, similar to bottle rocket fireworks aimed into the trees where the birds roost." Jako also added  "In the worst-affected neighbourhoods  multiple cannons and consecutive blasts are being used to keep the birds moving. Jako said. "If the birds are so comfortable, they are going to stay around," he added. "We aren't seeing the temperatures go as low as zero like we used to. Now we very often don't even see temperatures in the teens around here.

The artillery attacks are disturbing some locals as well as the birds. "It scares my little dog to death," said Christian County Judge Steve Tribble. "I don't know what it does other than move the birds from one tree to the next." When they fly away, the startled birds leave behind excrement. Tribble said. "I've got an apple tree that has almost turned white, any vehicle left parked outside now has to be covered up. I guess it's good for folks that have car washes."


Saturday 23 February 2013

Every little helps?

The slogan "Every little helps" has not been living up to its promise. Many boaters use the Tesco on-line ordering service to have items delivered to a road bridge close to their boats. However, it's not been a good start to 2013 for Tesco.

First the scandal about horse meat has highlighted some of their shortcomings. However if that was not bad enough. Tesco have suffered another PR disaster after one of their van drivers ran over a horse and caused it to be put down. The animal’s back legs were broken after the supermarket vehicle reportedly struck it from behind in the incident in Little Kineton village in Warwickshire. The steed, called Miller, had to be destroyed after the crash because a horse’s legs cannot heal after they have been broken.

Miller was part of the Warwickshire Hunt Kennels and the hunt’s master, Sam Butler, said: "It caused a great deal of distress and it is very lucky no one was injured. The horse belonging to the hunt was being exercised in the usual way. Three were being ridden and each one was leading another. Unfortunately one was hit by a vehicle resulting in a leg being broken."

The rider of the horse was unhurt but was said to be very distressed. A Tesco spokesperson added: "We were sorry to hear about this sad accident. Our driver acted responsibly throughout and we are in contact with the owner." This latest horse-related incident comes as Tesco is still trying to recover from negative publicity caused by horse meat being found in some of its meat products.

Every little helps has flown in the face of Tesco once again. Tesco have now been given the bird in more ways than one. James and Jasmine Watson made the grisly dead bird find after dishing up a pre-packed baby leaf salad with their steak and chips. Mr Watson started tucking in before spotting the soggy remains on his plate.

Tesco not normally known for their expert ornithological knowledge announced that the bird was a Blackcap European warbler, found in Spain and Italy.

The Blackcap which was correctly identified as a warbler can frequently be found in the UK during the summer months.

Sales director Mr Watson, 32, said: "I took three mouthfuls and then saw it. My first reaction was why have I got a soggy fishcake on my plate. But then I saw its beak and realised it was a full-size dead bird. We couldn’t believe it. We both got off our stools and stood there in utter amazement for at least two minutes. We only had a few low lights on so we were effectively eating by candlelight." The £1.50 salad – marked "washed and ready to eat" on the bag had been ordered on-line before being delivered by Tesco. Mr Watson added he and his wife had gone out for a "few drinks" on a Friday evening before returning home to prepare dinner.

The next morning he went straight to their local branch of Tesco in Yate, South Gloucestershire, and the store manager later visited their home with a bottle of wine and some flowers. But Mr Watson said "He has no plans to shop at Tesco again. I would really like someone from Tesco to sit down and explain me how an animal so large got into a bag of salad. The magnitude of this was disgraceful and I find the offer of compensation a bit of an insult."

Tesco said: ‘We were concerned to learn of this issue and have investigated thoroughly with our supplier.’ The store added: "We have been in contact with our customer to reassure them how seriously we have taken this matter, and offered them a gesture of goodwill."

Every little helps, especially if you've been voted Britain’s worst supermarket. Tesco scored just 45 per cent for satisfaction in a Which? survey of 11,000 consumers, with poor grades for its pricing, store environment, quality of fresh produce and customer service. Waitrose came out on top gaining an 82 per cent approval rate, including full marks for its customer service and standard of fresh goods. Aldi and Lidl came in narrowly behind Waitrose, scoring highest for their pricing. Ocado was voted best on-line service.

One Tesco shopper who took part in the survey said: "We are very aware that our shopping is getting progressively more expensive, so you really need to be watching what you buy to ensure you get the best value." Several others said they found the experience of shopping in Tesco "unpleasant" and "Its stores tend to have surly staff and are littered with boxes. It’s too keen on profits and not keen enough on service" remarked another.

Every little helps, Tesco fears fraudsters have hacked into customers’ on-line accounts after some complained vouchers had disappeared. The supermarket has asked police to investigate a number of incidents where Clubcard vouchers are alleged to have been stolen from internet-operated accounts. Dozens of shoppers claim to have lost vouchers worth hundreds of pounds, while others have been unable to log on. Other loyalty card members told consumer website that Tesco’s customer service staff had informed them vouchers had been spent miles away from their homes.

Tesco, which has 16 million Clubcard members, has ordered an internal review of its on-line accounts. A spokeswoman said: "We have launched a thorough investigation into a small number of incidents and referred the matter to the police. In the meantime, we’d like to ask any customers who believe they’re affected to contact us directly so that we can make sure their accounts are up to date."

Dan Plant,’s web editor, said many of the site’s users planned purchases including holidays in advance using Clubcard points. That makes these reports a huge worry for anyone planning ahead that way.


Friday 22 February 2013

Convicted garlic smuggler on the run

Hot on the heels of the trade in illegal horse and donkey meat that is being smuggled into your favourite supermarket burger or high street kebab - Comes the now infamous Garlic-Gate fiasco. A convicted garlic smuggler who is now on the run dodged over £2m in unpaid tax. This is not to be confused with businesses like Amazon and others who dodge tax on a much larger scale and snigger all the way to the bank. The Asian businessman who avoided paying £2 million in tax on garlic imported from China. Has now been sentenced to six years in jail. 

Murucasan Natarajan, of West Drayton, was convicted of smuggling larger quantities of the vegetable into the UK than he declared to customs. Natarajan however failed to turn up for his trial at the Old Bailey, but it went ahead anyway and he was convicted after a five-day trial.

The court heard that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) started investigating Natarajan, owner of Perfect Imports and Exports, in Southall, and Natarajan's assistant Lakshmi Suresh, 26, after officers discovered more than 7,000 tons of garlic, in addition to the load disclosed for duty purposes - equalling almost £9,000 of unpaid duty. HMRC officers later checked shipping records and discovered that imports of garlic had apparently stopped but imports of fresh ginger - which are exempt of duty - had increased five-fold.

Further checks showed that the temperature in the containers was too cold for ginger but perfect for garlic. Natarajan denied involvement in the fraud, but damning evidence was recovered from computer records of conversations on Skype with Chinese employees, which suggested that he was complicit in a 'systematic tax evasion' ploy.

Prosecutor David Allan said of the tax avoidance: "Natarajan could afford to offer a good price to his customers - independent wholesalers in the UK - and still make a big profit. Other people importing garlic and playing by the rules lost out."

Natarajan denied two counts of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of duty payable on goods. He was jailed for six years for one of the charges; the other remains on file. Almost £150,000 in cash was seized under the proceeds of crime act. It is believed to be one of the longest sentences for the evasion of customs duty in the UK in recent years. Judge Worsley QC said he had played a leading role from the outset, describing the fraud as 'sophisticated, persistent and prolonged'.

Lakshmi Suresh, of Stormount Drive, Hayes, admitted her role in the fraud at an earlier hearing and was sentenced to 12 months in jail, suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to pay £10,000 compensation.

Can you help to sniff him out? With all that garlic it should not be a hard job. Mr Natarajan remains on the run, and efforts are being made to trace him. If you know of his whereabouts, you can call HMRC's fraud hotline on 0800 595 000.


Thursday 21 February 2013

A licence to procreate

I am coming to the opinion that people are much more strange that you might at first think. Abstract thought displayed by others-  is at times a bit worrying. I am expecting sometime soon that there will be a testing regime put in place by parliament, so that we can all qualify for a procreation licence to have a family. Although man has been successful at replicating the species for thousands of years. The success rate has been pretty good so far. However there is the odd exception like "Timmy Mallett" and certain MP's that I admit proves the rule.

Why do I think we are going to need a procreation licence before we spread our genetic influence upon the unsuspecting world. It was started by listening to a politician - "I know that I should know better" It started with John Major and family values that he espoused and liked to share with Edwina.  A sort of a reverse of Silvio Berlusconi.  But I like to live life on the edge and I have listened to another. Twonk MP has raised objections to same sex marriage. He believes that only couples of opposite gender should be allowed to marry each other. The whole premise of his belief is that marriage is a contract between two people. It's intention is so that we can procreate.

If you were to ask this person how he felt about people of different ethnic backgrounds being refused what is open to everyone else. He would be harrumphing the party line and carrying on about equality, racism and discrimination.
So for those childless couples or the ones that decide they don't for whatever reason want a family or marrying by false pretences. Now call me old and cynical - but our species has been procreating quite successfully for much longer than politics and the church or registry have been conducting such services. However, the real fly in the ointment is that no matter how you mix up the genders. There is only one proven method of procreating successfully and that involved one of each gender. Two blokes, or two wenches be they married or otherwise have not succeeded yet as far as I know to procreate the species. 

So if a couple of blokes or wenches who are in love with each other. Want a marriage service to cement their relationship. They can't exactly turn up at the local church because of the ancient prejudice. Now it seems that some MP's don't want same gender couples to be able to turn up at the local registry for the same sort of reason. So why would this MP not be harrumphing and carrying on about how he compromises their inequality and discrimination because of an ancient prejudice.


Wednesday 20 February 2013

15 Different Boat Licence's Available.

I am continually surprised at the different kind of boat licence offerings that are currently available. These licences are apparently available to almost everyone. However, you will have to look around on the various forums to get factual insider information on the different licence types. I have garnered most of the information from the Canal World Forum - A place where information can be manipulated to meet your needs.

The one thing about the Inland Waterways Boat Licence system is that it does not in any way follow the normal licencing methods employed elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

  1. There is the Boat Licence - A must have for the vast majority of boat owners. Currently the most expensive option.
  2. There is the Invisible Licence for Boats - A must not have for a minority of boat owners. Not to be confused with the Invisible Boat licence. Currently the cheapest boat licence option.
  3. There is the Boat Licence Plus - A must have for a significant majority of boat owners. But there is an extra charge to moor your boat in the same place in a marina for periods of more than fourteen days. Currently an extra expensive option.
  4. There is the Constant Cruising Licence - For boat owners who constantly cruise. Which is a must have for the vast majority of boat owners who constantly cruise. 
  5. There is the Constant Cruising Licence Minus - For boat owners who constantly cruise between two alternate sites a short distance apart on a regular fourteen day schedule.
  6. There is the Constant Mooring Licence - Like the Constant cruising licence but without the need for an alternative site. Not to be confused with the Boat Licence Plus.
  7. There is the Bridge Hopper Licence - Like a Constant Mooring Licence but with occasional visit to the nearest road bridge to collect your Tesco delivery.
  8. There is the Lock Mooring Licence - Like a standard Boat Licence. However you can moor on lock landings for extended periods not exceeding 365 days in a calendar year. The boat remains invisible to the enforcement team. 
  9. There is the Water Point Licence - Like a standard Boat Licence.  However you can moor on a water point for extended periods not exceeding 365 days in a calendar year. The boat remains invisible to the enforcement team. 
  10. There is the Sanitary Station Licence - Like a standard Boat Licence.  However you can moor on a pumpout point for extended periods not exceeding 365 days in a calendar year. The boat remains invisible to the enforcement team. 
  11. There is the Winding Hole Licence - Like a standard Boat Licence.  However you can moor in a winding hole for extended periods not exceeding 365 days in a calendar year. The boat remains invisible to the enforcement team. 
  12. There is the Invisible Boat Licence - Like a standard Boat Licence.  Not to be confused with the invisible Licence for Boats. However the boat remains invisible to the enforcement team. However you can moor anywhere for any period in time.
  13. There is the IWA Boat Snoopers Licence - For peeping tom perverts just released on licence.
  14. There is the Welching Licence - For people to make outlandish claims about misuse of the inland waterways that cannot be supported by the slightest hint of evidence. (Restricted to CaRT/IWA trustees)
  15. There is the Doppelgänger Boat Licence - Where the enforcement team can record a boat that is not there and miss the boat in the place where it really is.


Walkman, Kindle, Grid or HS2 (3)

Continued from "Walkman, Kindle, Grid or HS2 (2)"

Environmental change might mean that the national water grid also has a role to play in disposing of surplus water in years where like last year the rainfall has been extreme. The major problem is that much of the water drainage systems just fast track rainwater into our rivers and streams. Often the effect is enough to overcome water treatment plants and then nasty untreated sewage can make its way into the water course.

Being able to re-direct significant amounts of water down the water grid could form an integral part of the much needed flood defences. Defences that are needed to protect property. Property that has for years been built (against all the best advice) upon on flood plane and flood meadows. The property developers are just playing Russian roulette with the fabled once in a hundred year flash flood that comes around much more frequently as a result of global warming.

Never the less, its a heartbreaking story when you see the personal aftermath of flood damage. On an interesting aside, I was talking to an estate agent (some days I let my standards drop) he happened to mention that properties like ours located on top of a hill now command an additional premium. Apparently it is a good selling point. It seems that the insurance market has endured a battering from a peak in the number of claims based around water damage last year. The higher your property is, above the water table and nearby lakes, streams rivers and similar water courses. Creates a reduction in any chance of significant damage from flooding by natural causes.

I'm still banging on about the beef/horse/donkey fast food fiasco.

Well the furore continues unabated about horse meat in our food. Most people just believed that old horses ended up on the contents label of pots of glue. Yet horse, cat and dog, just like frogs, snails and snakes are all on the menu in various parts of the world. Should we care less about what animal is on our plate or care less about the conditions in which the animal is kept, transported and slaughtered?

However, there is a con trick going on by the government. Ask yourself a few simplistic questions. If some unknown meat that is not beef can end up being sold as beef.

  • Could the unknown meat be unfit for human consumption? 
  • Could beef which is unfit for human consumption also get into the food chain? 
  • If horse meat is getting into the food chain - could the horse meat also be unfit for human consumption?
  • Do you think that the contamination is only limited to horse meat? 
  • Did you know that you might be eating Donkey?

Ask yourself why has the contamination been allowed to happen.

  • Do you think it is as a result of an accident? 
  • Do you think it is as a result of some unscrupulous money grubbing business men?
  • Do you think the push by supermarkets to pare back the price of beef provision by farmers is playing a part?
  • Do you like me think that the government is culpable? 
  • Do you think any government ministers heads will be rolling along the floor?

After all, the Food Standards Agency has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of front line staff such as inspectors.

  • Do you think that an alert and committed Food Standards Agency inspector is the answer?
  • Do you think that an animal passport is a good alternative for an alert and committed inspector?
  • Do you think that the eyes of an inspector are more effective than a piece of paper?
  • Do you think that a piece of paper is cheaper to employ than an inspector?

Welcome to the world of the Penny Pinching home of the Con-a-Lib government.


Tuesday 19 February 2013

BW/CaRT lose after 6-year court battle.

In a press release Nigel Moore has shared with everyone - Mr Moore has won his long drawn out case against BW/CaRT on appeal: "They used to boast that they had never lost a Section 8 case, but the Canal & River Trust now have suffered a significant setback with regard to the extent of their claimed powers over boaters."

Lord Justice Mummery handed down the Appeal Court’s Judgement in the six year long case of Moore v British Waterways Board. The boards case had been, according to today’s judgement  “That it had power to require the removal of the claimant’s vessels, as they were permanently moored without any common law right to do so or without any permission granted by it and therefore ‘without lawful authority’.”

However despite upholding Hildyard J’s findings on common-law riparian rights, the Appeal Court came to the unanimous conclusion that his ruling on the effect of Section 8 of the BW Act of 1983 was in fact constitutionally unsound. In finding that the mooring of Mr Moore’s boats was lawful, the Court declared that “the law allows him to do what it did not prohibit at common law or by statute.”

They stated “In this appeal the position simply is that on the agreed facts. BWB had no power under s.8 to require the claimant to remove vessels the mooring of which was lawful, as their presence was not unlawful: BWB is unable to support its notices on the basis that the mooring of vessels by the claimant was ‘without lawful authority’ within s.8.”

The notices were therefore invalid; the relevant sections of Hildyard J’s Order set aside, and CaRT has been ordered to pay 75% of Mr Moore’s costs of both the Appeal Court hearing and that of the court below.  Nigel Moore said "In stark contrast to the usual phalanx of their legal team attendance at previous judgements not a single CaRT representative was prepared to show their face for this one.”

Is it me or has there been something of an inauspicious start for CaRT in its first few months. I wonder if CaRT will now do like their new won friend "Private Eye" did - and start up a litigation fund for donations to the lost cause. The Private Eye appeal proved to be very successful.  I hope it does better than the CaRT fund for donations for the canal breech. Either way that's a lot of dredging work that will not get done. It's only our money after all...


The new Pope a prediction.

I was in Rome for the funeral of the last Pope - though to be honest I'm not at all minded by religious belief's. I just happened to book a trip to visit an exhibition of the artist Monet.  The last pope by coincidence timed his funeral at the same time. 

In this age where we have come to realise that women are not second class citizens. That they can have a place to play in all spheres of human endeavour. Take for example Aung San Suu Kyi who has become an international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of oppression. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the last two decades in some form of detention because of her efforts to bring democracy to military-ruled Burma. In 1991, a year after her National League for Democracy (NLD) won an overwhelming victory in an election - which the military junta later nullified, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The committee chairman, Francis Sejested, called her "an outstanding example of the power of the powerless."

Alternativly the example of a stunning story of survival and recovery. Malala Yousufzai a Pakistani teenager whom a Taliban gunman shot in the head. Who was nursed at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Malala became famous for advocating that girls in Pakistan be educated -- which stoked the ire of her attackers -- She has proved her incredible strength by enduring two operations to repair her skull and restore her hearing. The bullet caused swelling in Malala's skull and a break in the delicate bones that help turn sound into sensory impulses to her brain. "God has given me this new life." Speaking for the first time since the shooting. "I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated." You can't help but be humbled by such courage in someone so young.

So in recognition of the new found equality that is no longer bound by gender discrimination. I predict that for the first time in a 1000 years since Pope Joan - a woman will be elected once again as Pope. The rumour runs that a very talented woman (Joan) dressed as a man, became notary to the Curia, then cardinal and finally Pope. One day Joan went out on horseback and gave birth to a son. For all her pains, Joan was then bound to the tail of a horse, dragged round the city, stoned to death by the mob, and was buried at the place where she died. its said that an inscription was put up at the same place. A Latin tongue twister that said: "Petre pater patrum papissae prodito partum". (Oh Peter, Father of Fathers, Betray the childbearing of the woman Pope)

I wonder if she will change the drapes?


Monday 18 February 2013

Walkman, Kindle, Grid or HS2 (2)

Continued from "Walkman, Kindle, Grid or HS2 (1)"

I have a much better idea for an infrastructure project. Now we know that irrespective of the weather conditions over the last year or so. The UK actually suffers from a lack of water resources. We have a good rainfall profile, but we don't have enough real storage capacity. The  idea of a national water grid, to match the gas and electricity grids, has been raised on a number of occasions. The issue comes around whenever water resources become stretched. It is technically feasible to build such a grid in engineering terms. 

This would fulfil several needs. Including a large infrastructure project in place of HS2. Which we need to get people back to work and kick start the economy. Its also a plus on environmental grounds. The grid would become a huge linear water storage reservoir and if open to the elements provide a large catchment area. The water companies don't want a national water grid. It would make them dependant upon supplies controlled by the grid. The transfer of water within company areas and across local boundaries is a much more profitable option.

With the changes in recent weather patterns, and ongoing winters where the rainfall fails to replenish resources. The grid is going to be a necessity. The best solution, is to use the available infrastructure to move the water within local operational areas and the grid for the wider areas. Over the next 20 years, water consumption is going to continue to soar! Whether its built now or in the future the national water grid is going to have to happen.

There is no way that I could begin to address all the issues around the water grid provision using existing and newly constructed canals on my blog. But as waterway users we should take a keen interest in what is going on.  There is a possible funding opportunity here for a waterways charity if some sections of the canals become part of the water grid infrastructure. Widening and deepening of the canals for a start.
In terms of positive impacts, from drought conditions. It is good for people to learn to use water with greater efficiency. Which can go some way to help to keep the precious water from being unnecessarily wasted. Saving water by its self is not enough to address the problem.
Environmental issues. There are many environmental issues to be addressed around a national water grid. The first however is having enough water for various essential human needs. The water grid would kick-start more research into the environmental matters such as the impact on existing habitats.

Desalination. The water grid provision should also create a reduction in any need for ultra expensive desalination treatment of sea water.

Farmland irrigation. The water grid provision as a project should also be part of any system intended to help mitigate crop losses in time of drought.

Habitat and Leisure. Additional wetland wildlife habitat creation and additional waterways leisure provision is another hidden benefit of the water grid, but only on the parts that are not underground..

Reservoir projects. The distribution canals will themselves provide for a large water storage volume. In times of local flood condition the water grid infrastructure could also be used to syphon off large volumes of flood water. This could be a back up option in some areas that are building large flood containment structures.

Electrical power generation. The water grid could also look at power generation provision issues. Small scale generation of power is now more economical than ever. If the power users are local to the generation site then so much the better. This is not a new idea, using water to generate power for grinding corn has been around for centuries. Replacing the grinding wheels with a generator is the basic change. 

Estuary Barrage Systems. Research into the construction of barrage systems as an anti flood measure and power generation systems in some of our major estuaries is already going on a pace. Some estuaries could change into fresh water lagoons. This could be a better option than loosing land to reservoir storage provision. 

Water transport. Canals and rivers have been used for hundreds of years to transport materials. The economics of canal transport are looking to be a bit more of an attractive solution as road transport costs increase. Rail has increasingly diverged into passenger carrying with limited amount of containerised freight movement. As before the the location of the canals to the site of the industry is one of the deciding factors. But some waterways are also used to transport various types of effluent, in the form of flood run-off, agricultural land run-off and treated sewage run-off. This use of canals and rivers as a part of a water grid would require many existing sites to be improved with regard to their impact on the water quality.

Redistribution of population. Population growth in certain areas like the south and east exacerbates the problem. It has been predicted that the water supply for more than half a million new homes in the south and east of England will probably be inadequate without investment in new resources and measures. Why create the problem then look to find a solution. Provide the water provision solution before the major building projects start. It is easier to provide a new water grid canal so that the building projects can be designed to use the visual amenity that such waterway canals would bring. It can also be a solution to over excessive migration away from the city into the surrounding suburbia and the additional commuting chaos that would bring.

Employment long and short term. There are many different perspectives on the water grid policy, one key factor would be the provision of employment during the key building phase. Then the provision of employment throughout the system for long term maintenance. In other words the water grid should not be part of the water companies portfolio. It should be a national public asset.

I could conclude that we can’t yet predict what the real benefit of the water grid provision for local livelihoods will be in the future. But we already know what the impact on livelihoods are in a time of drought. We should be starting on the premise that the provision of a national water grid is a good thing and proceed from there.



It seems like it should be a simple task, we just want to know what we are eating. But recent revelations about horsemeat in beef ready meals, pork in beef pies, and now even suspicions of donkey meat labelled as beef on supermarket shelves. This all  demonstrates that we can’t trust what food labels tell us. Compassion has a simple solution; join us in calling for food labels that tell the whole truth.

The recent scandals are revealing the true nature of the cheap meat production system, and it isn’t a pretty picture. The corruption and contamination issues are just the tip of the iceberg. The scale and complexity of the food chain are not just bad news for consumers, they are also a disaster for animal welfare.

With more than 80% of the EU’s farm animals being factory farmed in inhumane conditions; confined, overcrowded, unable to express natural behaviours, pumped full of antibiotics, undertaking long journeys or suffering painful mutilations – the animals that go into many meat products are likely to have endured a great deal of suffering in their short lives.

The only Donkeys involved in this scandal, should be the ones in the Government and the ones at DEFRA!

The recent scandals about misleading food labels have revealed some of the true nature of the production of cheap meat. Corruption and contamination issues are just the tip of the iceberg. The animals that go into many meat products are likely to have endured a great deal of suffering in their short lives. Misleading labelling isn’t just bad news for consumers, it is a disaster for animal welfare.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Compassion has a simple solution; we want food labels that tell the whole truth. We know that consumers are interested in animal welfare. We know that clear labelling leads to an increase in sales of higher welfare animal products. We need labels that tell us the whole truth about what is in our food, and how it was produced.

Click Here and have a vote.


Sunday 17 February 2013

Idea's for a TV series.

I have had an idea or two for a TV series, the first series is called "The Z List Solution!"

It's where Big Brother contestants past and present take part in a number of additional tests and challenges. In the first round they are sent to a North Staffordshire Hospital Trust for a series of stamina tests in living without water. Then they are given an appetite for strange food challenge. The survivors of the first round are then sent to a West Yorkshire meat processing centre. Where all the food challenges are labelled as beef. The challenge is to recognise which single item from the 400 on offer is beef and if it is safe for human consumption. The winner is awarded a permanent TV cooking series based in Romania, called "101 different ways to Wok your dog!"

My second idea for a TV series is a charitable comedy called "Would you Adam and Eve it!". 

Basically you invite the senior managers of any charity along as contestants. They are given a series of simple tasks to fulfil. The tasks are based around the activities that the charitable organisation is involved with. It would be a bit like a Stuart Hall BBC It's a Knock-out series. I figure that if it is good enough for the royal family its good enough for anyone.

The contestants would do the simplistic challenges dressed in costume. A costume that reflects their role within the organisation. The CEO could dress as "Widow Swanky" and walk around not doing much. The finance director could dress as a "Street Chugger" complete with chav track suit and a back-to-front baseball cap. Like the CEO they would also walk around not doing much. The various directors would also dress in costume such as the Director of Engineering who would dress up in a designer boiler suit with lace trimmings.  Like the CEO, Finance director the Director of Engineering would also walk around not doing much. All the other directors taking part would also get the opportunity to dress up and walk around not doing much.

The CEO, Finance director and the director of engineering would be tasked to organise a group of charitable volunteers to complete a number of challenges. The first challenge would be to carve a piece of "poetical pisspotical prose" that demonstrated the ethos of the charity. The second challenge would be to design some flags and bunting to be used to advertise their charity using free materials to be found within their area of responsibility. The third task would be to draw together all their collective skills and build a lasting memorial that would reflect the future aims of the charity. The other directors would just  look on and learn.

For instance if the Canal and River Trust were to be invited to take part they might use poetry carved on lock gates. For free materials, they could use the abundant empty plastic bottles, plastic bags, shopping trolleys, tree clippings, rotting lock gates, mud and dog crap. A lasting memorial might consist of a rusty boat full of trees. Now I know that I need to do a bit more work on the  "Would you Adam and Eve it!" series. Because in its current form it unfairly favours one particular charity over all the others. But I was only using the above two challenges to float my ideas.


Saturday 16 February 2013

Walkman, Kindle, Grid or HS2 (1)

An eclectic mix of subjects to cover in a three part series starting today. Skirting through  books, music and HS2. Later having a pop at the national water grid, majo changes on the high street and on to various environmental issues.

Are you into listening to music or reading books?

I have had a digital Walkman (I purchased it in Bahrain duty free some years ago now saving a fair few quid at the time) which has about 100 plus Cd's installed. It contains all the music Cd's I have purchased over the years. Which is good, because the Walkman consumes a much smaller space than a whole rack full of Cd's would on the boat. We have a small headphone splitter so that we can both listen if we want, in bed of an evening. On a night, I like to listen (with the ear buds in place) to some of my favourite music whilst I drift off to sleep. I also like to read my Kindle. However, the Gruffallo does not like being disturbed if I have the light on. I usually have one or two talking books on the Kindle, for occasions when the lights are banned. But I always seem to go back to listening to the Walkman.

This started me thinking about the various kinds of music that I like to listen to. Most of the music comes from the 60's through to the early 90's with a bit from the present day. However, even the most modern stuff is from singers and bands that have been around for a long while. With quite a few of the Cd's being the "Best of -----" compilations. I find that eBay is a good source of Cd's often the prices are much cheaper that that "UK tax dodger" site. Even when it comes to the Kindle, I try and get my reading materials from other sources. I have joined one or two web sites where I can download a new book for free - the payment for my free reading materials is to provide a critical comment about the book.

What's happened is that the whole new plethora of IT technology such as the Kindle are almost surreptitiously changing our lifestyle. Bit by bit and in so many different ways. The changes are not only effecting us, but also the shops on the high street. Especially those ones that are increasingly going out of business - Jessops, JJB sports, Woolworth, MFI, Blacks, Comet, Blockbusters and HMV have all gone to the wall. It is hard to escape the fact that a rise in consumer activism and choice – fuelled, of course by the Internet – lies behind our high streets’ current woes. The problem is that we want our towns and cities to thrive, and to be interesting and enjoyable places to visit. But most of us don’t want to pay that extra few pounds for a Cd's or a digital camera from a bricks-and-mortar retailer when we can get the same product for less on-line. Business is changing as people move away from the high street and onto the Internet. This move also includes a steady flow of people working from home. The common denominator is access to the Internet.

The Gruffallo recently purchased a new washing machine for the boat. We had a look in the high street shops at all the various models available. Even with special offer deals - the high street stores charges were well above the on-line prices. We purchased on-line, it was delivered to the boat at a time and date of our choosing. In fact they were 10 mins early.

The demographic IT profile of our nation is changing from people used to shopping on the high street to people who are comfortable with IT and the use of the Internet. Any business worth dealing with has to have an Internet presence.

Now we have the high-speed rail link being bandied around as the "way forward" proposed by the Nymphets in parliament. Who are looking at the business interests of their best friends. In payment they will get a place on the board when they leave parliament. They think that the answer is chopping off, half an hour of travel time between Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and London. They are going to spend around 30+ billion pounds or more. And take well over twenty years to do it. Now, think back over the last 20 years and what has happened with IT technology and the Internet. Twenty years ago you would not have predicted the stunning changes that have taken place on the high street. Gone are the big stors to be replaced by charity shops.

But we have a much better idea of what will happen over the next few years with IT.  Even more interaction and work over the Internet. We already use applications like skype to chat with family and friends around the world. It seems to me that over the next few years more changes will be made based on cost savings both in time and money. This is how business will develop and run in the UK. Telephone any big business today and you will be chatting with "customer service" located in India or Malaysia. The world is shrinking every day through the use of the Internet.

Look at the phone in your pocket its not so long ago that mobile phones the size of a small suitcase came on the market. Now the phone is the size of a large credit card - complete with digital camera and with a built in computer running applications. A GPS system that will direct you to the nearest ----- whatever you want. Once more with limitless access to the Internet to browse at your leisure, plus you have text messaging and voice mail service and if you are very bored you can play a few games.

When it comes to travelling longer distances between points A and B we already choose to go by bus. The Gruffallo often goes between Sheffield and Birmingham which takes around two hours. If booked a couple of weeks in advance the return journey will cost less than £16 pounds. The same journey by train costs around ten times more!

Continued in "Walkman, Kindle, Grid or HS2 (2)"


Friday 15 February 2013

Jeremy Hunt is making some big decisions!

Right now, Jeremy Hunt is making some big decisions about competition in the NHS. He’ll be relying on advice from the health regulator, Monitor. But behind closed doors, private healthcare companies have been pushing for new tax dodges to help increase their profits.
38 Degrees members have already persuaded Monitor to rule out allowing private companies in the NHS off paying their corporation tax a few weeks ago. But other tax breaks could still happen. Now, Tim Farron, a senior Lib Dem MP, has tabled a motion in parliament which tells the government that private companies profiting from the NHS “must be expected to pay taxes on that profit in full like any other company”.
The more MPs who sign the motion, the more pressure Jeremy Hunt will be feeling when Monitor’s recommendations land on his desk. Will you join me in asking your MP to sign up to making sure private healthcare providers pay their tax?
Click Here to sign the petition.

Regulation of oligopolies.

Continued from "Managed Moorings"

John Commented "First your figures assume that BW/C&RT have priced the mooring on the basis of 100% occupancy and therefore if they fail to achieve that they are operating at a loss. I don't know of any business (Restaurants, Hotels, Marinas etc) that would base their charges on being full 100% of the time. I assume C&RT operate the same way."

I take your point. This is something that I have been thinking about for a while now. In particular to the auction of moorings by CaRT. The more I look at it, the more I become ill at ease about how the BW/CaRT auction process works. As a monopoly business that has always been strapped for cash. I feel sure that Joe Public will feel that temptation might mean that the bidding process and the mechanism for setting the values might well be a bit eccentric.

Lets suppose that as given in the previous example, there is only a 75% moorings occupation in the wharf area where demand is high. CaRT can maintain a 25% unoccupied moorings because of the top loading on charges. Then this top loading has nothing to do with establishing a fair rental price with some profitability. It has much more to do with extracting the maximum amount of money possible and inflating the costs to maintain a price.

You can only work like this where you are a monopoly/oligopoly. So what is the figure for Engineers Wharf - we know its more than 25% as mooring prices have not been reduced. Is it a 50% operating mark-up and if so is the mark-up fair and anti-competitive?

Now, you might think that looking at Engineers Wharf in isolation is not taking in the whole picture. But when the variable costs - the minimum price - from mooring to mooring are quoted in the individual auction. It is obviously the way that CaRT calculate their profitability margin location by location.

Here are the details from three recent auctioned moorings at Tinsley. The marina has a number of empty berths. There are I think at least three empty berths.

Auction: 3687 - Tinsley Marina (no bids made)
Guide price: £1,966
Reserve price: £1,475
Closing date: 23/03/2012

Auction: 4129 - Tinsley Marina  (no bids made)
Guide price: £1,986 (+£20)
Reserve price: £1,589 (+£114)
Closing date: 29/08/2012

Auction: 4325 - Tinsley Marina  (no bids made)
Guide price: £1,986
Reserve price: £1,788 (+£199)
Closing date: 22/10/2012

In March the price difference between guide and reserve price was £491 pounds, or the reserve was 25% lower than the guide price. Yet recent auctions have not had a single bid, the price hike continues. In august the "meaningless guide price" has gone up by £20. However, the "reserve price" has gone up by a further £114 pounds. In September the reserve price is raised by a further £199 pounds. This is the world of crazy CaRT economics. No one wants the moorings even at the reserve price in March. No bids are made, so the minimum reserve price goes up by a further £333 over the following nine months. So while the top price moves slowly the minimum price moves on at a fair lick! The price difference between the guide and reserve price is now only £198 pounds. Which now coincides with being exactly 10% of the guide price!

There are regulations in place to control the excesses of any business in the UK that is seen to be operating as a monopoly. The regulations are quite broad and from what I have read have significant implications for anyone manipulating a market. (The legislation came into force in 2000 and the Regulators have the power to enforce prohibitions and to impose fines of up to 10% of turnover) The rules are set by government and are set to control the operation of businesses who may have monopoly power within their own industry. The regulations are intended to deal with the problem of a market failure. Where the markets fail to reach an optimal allocation of the resources. Now would a 25% under occupancy of residential moorings be acceptable?

The regulation also are intended to control the power of any monopoly, which may lead to consumers being exploited. An example might be where prices charged are significantly above the true cost of supply. In terms of the regulation of a monopoly situation. The government attempts to prevent such operations that are against the public interest. The so called anti-competitive practices. Problems can and occur from time to time when the market structure within a given industry becomes monopolistic. Especially where a take-over or change of the business causes a business to supply more than 25% of the market output. There can also be problems with the wonderful sounding "Oligopolies" particularly if there is evidence of collusive behaviour by the dominant businesses within an industry. Say between private marina's setting prices that do not reflect true market values.

Now, if you or I or anyone else do not have access to the mechanism for understanding how the charges are made. Then how can anyone establish whether the prices are being manipulated and in breach of the regulations. There is no mechanism of encouraging competition, no transparency and no knowing if the practices are anti-competitive and or acting against the interests of the customer. We can only speculate rather than comment from a position of understanding on what is happening!

There is also European Competition Law to take into consideration. Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty of Rome prohibits certain market practices deemed to be anti-competitive and which act against the interests of consumers. Article 81 prohibits acts which damage competitiveness in a market. Article 82 prohibits the abuse of a dominant position.

Under the European Competition Law, prohibitions fall into a number of categories.
  • Anti-competitive agreements.
  • Abuse of dominant market position.
  • Fixing purchasing and selling prices.
  • Applying different trading conditions to equivalent transactions.
  • Imposing unfair purchasing or selling prices.
  • Consumers unable to get hold of easy to understand price comparisons.
  • That competition has fostered the development and introduction of new services.

John Commented "Second you state that 'as a monopoly CaRT cannot have a business confidential reason for not revealing the method for calculating the figures'. Assuming that part of their costs are the price they paid for the land and the rate they borrow money at then to reveal details of their pricing strategy might disclose (or at least be able to give an educated guess at) these figures. Which would be very interesting to people they are negotiating with or are in competition with to buy land."

I did not have the purchase of land in mind when I made my comment. I was concentrating of the charges for moorings. However, as far as I am aware from the popular press (on-line magazines, forums and even private eye) BW/CaRT do not have a very good history of speculating within the land sales, business ventures and the spiralling property market. If BW/CaRT management made a loss on their portfolio of speculations, up until recently Joe Public through government picked up the bills. Now its going to be the inland waterways users (well, those who contribute) who are going to pick up the bills. Joe public has already demonstrated clearly that they don't want to be £3 friends with CaRT. 

I have wondered for some time now if CART could be referred to The Competition Commission (a public body responsible for investigating businesses under competition law in the United Kingdom) Or even the Office of Fair Trading (established by the Fair Trading Act 1973, which enforces both consumer protection and competition law) acting as the UK's economic regulator. 

The OFT's goal is to make markets work well for consumers, ensuring vigorous competition between fair-dealing businesses and prohibiting unfair practices such as rogue trading, scams and cartels. Its role was modified and its powers changed with the Enterprise Act 2002.

The Competition Act of 1998 and the Enterprise Act 2002 gave the Competition Commission wider powers so that it now makes decisions on inquiries. The Competition Commission is also responsible for taking appropriate actions and measures following inquiries which have identified competition problems.

Not only do CaRT own the moorings, not only do CART set the minimum price, but CART also control the bidding process. This removes even the slightest notion of any form of competition and market forces from the whole process. Is this fair?

The problem with addressing the issue is that all of this is outside of my sphere of experience, but I am fast tracking the background. Maybe I am being over simplistic or seeing a problem where none exists. However, it might just be something that someone else who understands the issues better than me, might like to run with.