Monday, April 26, 2010

Green answers to 10 questions

I asked the Green Candidate if I could post her answers to the 10 questions (which I sent to all the Ceredigion Candidates) and got confirmation that was OK to post here this morning. So here it is.

Dear Clive,

Please find the answers to your questions below:

* What is your party’s position on the reform of UK libel laws with reference to the case of Simon Singh and similar?
This is a very recent case, and the Green Party has not yet had an opportunity to formulate an agreed policy position about this issue.

My personal opinion is that the case was a misuse of the law of libel; and that in future, the scope of libel laws should be restricted so no similar case can be brought.

* What specific plans do you have to improve the quality, speed and reach of Broadband in rural areas?
The Green Party does not have a specific policy on rural broadband. This is just the latest of a long line of policy areas where the majority urban population benefit at the expense of the minority rural population, largely as the result of the privatisations brought in by Thatcher back in the 80’s. In general terms, the Green Party recognises that the cost of living in rural areas is greater than the cost in urban areas, and should be addressed in various ways. Given that BT is a limited company and no longer an arm of government, this essentially means that the next government will have to negotiate with BT to develop a mechanism whereby BT will be compensated for the extra cost of providing the necessary technology to enable remote rural areas to enjoy the same bandwidth connections as urban areas.

* What is your policy on reform of local government pension provision?
All pensions are in a mess. Partly, this is because successive governments have worked on the assumption that the economy will continue to grow over the next 50 years at a similar rate to the preceding 50 years. The Green Party recognises that the UK economy will not continue to grow indefinitely, especially in view of the impact of Peak Oil – which you refer to in your Q7.
We propose a “Citizen’s Income” combined with a progressive system of taxation as a replacement for the current benefits system and state pension. Naturally, people can still save for a pension in addition to the Citizen’s Income, but we envisage that all stock market-based pensions will provide steadily dwindling incomes for pensioners over the next two decades. Although it will be problematic to implement, the likelihood is that all public sector pension schemes will end up being merged in with Citizen’s Income, as there will not be enough government funding to continue the present separate schemes for Local Government, NHS staff etc, which are all much more generous than the equivalent schemes in private industry.

* What are your proposals to remove to road blocks for cycle routes connecting rural areas (example Bow Street, Penryncoch with Aberysytwyth) with the local small town?
We have a detailed transport policy which you can see by going to our website: → Policy → Transport. Here is a part of the policy relating to walking & cycling. Implementation of this policy in North Ceredigion would be by Ceredigion Council after discussions with local residents and users of cycle paths.
Walking and Cycling
General Policies
TR150 These will be given the highest priority in transport planning for the following reasons:
a. They both benefit the user through increasing their health and well-being, which no other mode of transport does.
b. They have the least environmental impact.
c. They are both available to use by the greatest number of the population, particularly children. It is of course recognized that there are some people who are not able to walk or cycle, and for this reason disabled access is given equal priority. (see TR030)
d. They benefit the social environment in which they take place by increasing contact between people. They also enhance the vitality of our cities, towns and villages.
The aim of these policies is to make it possible for walking and cycling to account for most short distance journeys made.
TR151 Both walking and cycling are dependent on their facilities being well maintained and cleaned. The Green Party will ensure that priority is given to this, in funding and enforcement, including fines against those allowing dogs to foul the footway.
TR152 The Green Party will ensure that signing of pedestrian and cycling routes is given priority, with clear signs to those places that people actually wish to travel to, e.g. shops and public facilities, including public transport stops. We would also encourage the placing of maps at regular intervals that give information that pedestrians need, such as surface barriers, road crossings and bus stops.
TR153 The shared use of pedestrian space with cyclists is recognised as a source of nuisance and conflict to pedestrians. The Green Party will make all efforts to reduce these conflicts through its measures to make roads safe for cyclists. Where proposals are made for shared use, all other measures will have to be first studied to ensure that there are no other ways of making safe cycling. Loss of road space from other vehicles to accommodate cyclists will be seen as preferable to loss of footway space from pedestrians. (see TR173)
TR154 Walking and cycling have become popular leisure pursuits with the development of long distance paths and rural cycle paths. Such activity can often imply a dependence on a car to access these places. All publicity for these should show how these can be accessed by sustainable modes of transport, including public transport.
TR155 Where rail services are proposed for disused lines that have been converted to pedestrian or cycle paths, where possible safe and convenient paths for pedestrians and cyclists would be maintained. Decisions on the provision of these rail services must recognise the extent of current sustainable uses of the lines, and must involve consultation with users of the existing and proposed facilities.

* What are your proposals for sentencing guidelines for those convicted of selling Class A drugs?
The Green Party has a detailed policy on drugs which you can see on our website. Here is the section giving our general approach:
DU300 In keeping with the Green Party's health promotion policies, the Green Party would aim to minimise the misuse of drugs.
DU301 At the same time, we recognise that drug use will never be entirely eliminated. Our policies would aim therefore to minimise the social, psychological and physical harm to those who use drugs and to society at large.
DU302 Green policies on drugs will be directed towards accepting the reality of drug use and will strive to minimise harm, both to the user and to society at large. This will require a more pragmatic approach to the issue of recreational and cultural use and should highlight the broader socio-economic forces which drive people towards escapist use.
We do not have any actual sentencing guidelines in our policy on drugs.

* Which are the 1st 3 quango's (of possible many) that you propose get the axe?
We recognise that some Quangos do provide a useful public service, and many of them do give value for money. There are so many hundred quangos, that I do not propose to go through the list and pick my top three for elimination.
In general terms, my answer would be that there are many examples of Quangos which had to be set up in response to Government legislation; and that the problem lies in the original legislation and not the Quango itself. A recent example would be the “Human Tissues Authority” – a totally unnecessary Quango which was formed as a result of the Human Tissues Act. Better drafted legislation would have avoided the need to set up a quango in the first place.
However, we would also look at more systemic changes. For instance, in renationalising much of the infrastructure and services that have been privatised in the last couple of decades (such as water, railways), the need for quangos to regulate these would be vastly reduced, thereby cutting out a vast swathe of quangos.
Finally, I would remove any quangos whose main purpose is to facilitate multi-nationals and corporate interests; one example is the existence of the Export-Guarantee department, who have been severely criticised by many overseas development NGO's, including the Jubilee 2000 debt campaign for their role in creating badly regulated debt in the poorest countries.

* What are the 3 most urgent actions to deal with the impending energy crisis slated to manifest itself around 2014?
Ø Immediately implement a programme to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.
Ø Enable all buildings to generate small amounts of energy.
Ø Bring in legislation to force all Utilities to change their pricing structures. (At present, the more energy you use, the cheaper the unit cost becomes – this is the way any conventional market operates. The Green Party would force energy companies to invert this pricing system. The first units would be cheap, and the more units of energy you use, the higher the unit cost becomes. The benefits are two-fold. Firstly, there is a great incentive for people to save energy and to invest in energy-saving measures, because the units they save are the most expensive units. Secondly, it goes a long way to help with fuel poverty – the single elderly person does not use much energy, but at present they pay the highest unit cost for what they use.)

* What is your position on sterilisation of parents who have had 2 or more children taken into care because they are unable to look after them?
This is not something the Green Party would support. While recognising that there is a problem, our approach is to support people and families to help them with their problems, rather than taking actions which are irreversible, and which could easily become the start of a slippery slope to a Nazi-style society.

* What plans do you have to make becoming a charity trustee a realistic option for younger people, rather than the preserve of the retired and those with charity career or political aspirations?
I think like many aspects of public life these opportunities are not presented to younger people. If they were made more aware of the types of commitment, the respect, and opportunity to influence charitable policy and operating, plus the valuable life skills they could gain from volunteering I think more could come forward. However, this would also require a realigning of attitudes to welcome younger people - especially women and other under-represented groups, plus more support for charities in becoming limited by guarantee so that trustees are no longer personally financially liable (which is off-putting to many). I also believe that if there were a better work-life balance, then more people would have the time to contribute to the causes they care about.

* What has been your specific contribution to the running of a charity?
I have been involved as a supporter of many charities both practical and financial since I was young. In particular, I have fond memories of stuffing envelopes for days to help Elizabeth Fitzroy homes, but also I have done tons of sponsored walks and so forth. I have never been a Trustee (the opportunity has yet to arise), I would seriously consider it, although being a Trustee is not very compatible - see above - with a young family and regular employment.


  1. The problem for Plaid is how to remove the doubt when, (a) it's very difficult to prove a negative, (b)their opponents want to do their best on the doorsteps to perpetuate it, (c) any statement in favour of the Welsh language is seen by some people as being somehow against English.

    Plaid have been making 'everyone who lives in Wales and is committed to Wales is Welsh' statements since the 1980s. Other than stop supporting the language altogether, it's difficult to know what more they can do because some people simply don't want to question their own stereotypes. Any suggestions?

  2. The above comment should, of course, have been attached to the previous post!