Archive | January 2013

Who will speak out for the Palestinians?

Cartoon-Sunday-TimesI’m not generally a fan of Gerald Scarfe, but today I take my hat off to him:

He has expressed regrets about the timing of the publication of his cartoon, which wasn’t really down to him, but I’m glad to see that he has not apologised for the content.

I know something of what Gerald Scarfe is now going through, although on a smaller scale.  Almost exactly three years I was similarly accused of anti-Semitism and various other crimes and misdemeanours for having the temerity to point out that the website of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) makes no mention of Palestine.

Little has changed in the last three years.  See for yourself at:

Despite a detailed definition of genocide and the conditions that generally give rise to it; despite much mention of Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur; despite the fact that one of the trustees, Andrew Spakes, says on the website “I became a trustee of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to help shape that future, and to speak out against prejudice and discrimination in all its forms.” (My emphasis).

Despite all this there is still no mention of the most shocking and outrageous current example of genocide – the Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

(To be precise, the word Palestine does appear twice on the website – but only as a passing mention of the place, not related to the current situation).

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Wider implications of Test Drilling

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

In accusing campaigners of being misleading (‘Protesters have misled public on drilling test’, 25 January, page 31), Councillor Wendy Fitzgerald fails to appreciate that we are not members of the planning committee and therefore not bound by the restrictions that oblige them to consider an application purely on its merits.  We are perfectly at liberty to consider the wider implications and to inform people of our wider concerns.

Safe Energy Wales has never had a problem with what the RSPCA is planning at Llys Nini, and we made that very clear in our press releases and statements; though perhaps not quite so clear in the leaflet we distributed in Penllergaer.

We are grateful for the clear statement from Sally Hayman, chair of the trustees at Llys Nini about the RSPCA’s future plans.  And we accept that there will be no fracking at Llys Nini if the RSPCA keeps to that promise.

If Councillor Fitzgerald is such an expert on these issues perhaps she can advise those of us who don’t know what we’re talking about why it is necessary for UK Methane to drill down to “800-1000m”?  This is far below the level at which you would expect to find Coal Bed Methane, but coincidentally precisely the depth at which you would encounter the shale beds that lie beneath the old coal workings.

Can she assure us that information collected during this fishing exercise will not be used to support applications for extraction of shale gas or Coal Bed Methane elsewhere in Swansea, including potentially in Penllergaer?

We are also grateful for Councillor Fitzgerald’s pledge that she would not allow fracking in Penllergaer and look forward to supporting her in this in the future should the occasion arise.


Keith M Ross

The creeping threat of the frackers

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

Approval of the application for test drilling for Coal Bed Methane at the RSPCA Llys Nini Animal Centre in Penllergaer needs to be seen in its full context.

The applicants are UK Methane, who together with Coastal Oil & Gas, have initiated similar small-scale projects elsewhere.

The grandiose sounding names of these companies hides the fact they are essentially the same company, sharing the same address and with capital assets of just £1,100 between them as of late 2012. They do not own any resources, and use sub-contractors to do the drilling.

These small-scale projects are part of a tactical approach.  They undertake a few small, relatively innocuous projects to convince local people, and local planning departments, that they can be trusted. With people’s guards down, they then sneak through applications for their real target, shale gas, which will require the use of the deep fracking techniques.

We should be under no illusion as to what these companies are really up to.  They have picked up licences to explore for very little investment. By undertaking some test drilling and conjuring up fanciful figures for the potential resources, they will look to sell on the licences at substantial profit and disappear into the sunset well before the frackers roll in and wreak their havoc.

Two positives have come out of the Llys Nini application.  Firstly we have a very clear statement from the RSPCA about the permitted use of any gas extracted on the site in future.

Secondly, thanks to the efforts of local campaigners the people of Penllergaer and many of our local councillors are now far more aware of the issues surrounding Coal Bed Methane exploration and extraction.

When the next such application comes up, we will all be a lot better prepared in our response.


Keith M Ross

(With thanks to Andy Chyba of Bridgend Green Party for the information about UK Methane and Coastal Oil & Gas)

A Living Wage for all

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

Swansea Council should be congratulated on their decision to pay a Living Wage to their employees (‘3,000 council workers poised for pay increase’).

There has been much talk this week about benefits and the cost of welfare.  We’ve been told that over the last five years benefits have risen faster than wages.  But the wider picture shows the opposite to be true.

Job Seekers’ Allowance for example fell from almost 21% of average earnings in 1979 to just 11% in 2010; and will fall even further now that benefit rises are capped for the next three years meaning a cut in real terms.

What no one is telling us is why the welfare bill keeps rising.  The reason is that more people are making benefit claims due to the recession and rising rents and living costs, not because of overly generous uprating of benefits.

Over the last 30 years Britain has become a low-wage job market, with insecure, unstable employment.  As a result we now have over 14 million working people in the UK reliant on benefits to top up their meagre wages.

Paying workers a Living Wage will do more to get people off benefits than any punitive cap will achieve.

Swansea Council has been brave enough to play its part, despite the severe financial pressures they face.  Let’s hope this will set an example that other employers in Swansea and Wales will follow.

What Will MPs Do With the Welfare Bill?

Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett writes on the Huffington Post Blog (full article here).

Now would be a really good time to take a step back and ask why the welfare bill has kept rising. That’s been because more people are making benefit claims due to the recession and as a result of rising rents and living costs, not because of overly generous uprating.

“And take the longer view, it’s because Britain has moved towards being a low-wage job market, with insecure, unstable employment (including the obscenity of zero-hours contracts, with business taking an increasing share of GDP in profits, while the share available to workers has fallen by around 10% over the past four decades.

What we need to do in the longer term is change the direction of the British economy – bring manufacturing and food production back to Britain, restore strong, diverse local economies built around small businesses and co-operatives paying decent wages on which their staff can build lives and communities.

That’s a longterm project – but today we can think about the British people – the nurses, the soldiers, the teaching staff, the local government workers, and yes, the unemployed – and say no to the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill.

That’s what Green MP Caroline Lucas will be doing in Westminster on Tuesday. What’s your MP doing?

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