Tuesday, 27 September 2011

We need a balanced debate about organ donation.

In Wales, nearly 300 people are waiting for an organ transplant, many through no fault of their own.

Which brings us on to the "controversial" issue of organ donation. Let me be clear as an atheist my thoughts on the matter are very simple.

When I die I'll no longer need my body or any of its parts. Therefore after my demise, if any of it could be used to enhance the lives of others, what's the problem? - especially if I'm to be cremated, isn't recycling the done things these days.

And that is why I'm a supporter of the "soft" opt out system. But what exactly would a "soft" opt out system of donation mean?

There would be a presumption that a person consented to organ donation on their death, unless they had indicated otherwise (opted out), or their relatives objected.

Which brings me on to some ill thought out comments made yet again by Rob Davies (The Daily Post's Outspoken columnist)

Putting aside the frankly ridiculous statement of "I suspect the drive to introduce presumed consent for organ donation in Wales is fuelled in part by the separatist agenda of Wales-isn't England' lobby".....he goes on to make factually incorrect statements, take for instance in his column of today in the Daily Post he states:

Take this scenario: a young man is fatally injured in a crash. His is not on the organ donor list but lives in Wales and so is presumed to have given consent to the removal of his organs. His distraught parents are duly informed that doctors are to take out his heart...etc...What will haunt them for ever more...that their son had never actively agreed [to organ donation].

But the above scenario is wrong, it would not happen.

In the first as is the practice today, their next of kin would need to be consulted before a decision could be made. As reported in the Telegraph: The new laws would still require doctors to consult with the relatives of the bereaved as part of a "soft" opt-out system.

Whereas today the relatives could agree to organ donation, even though the deceased person when alive objected to do so, it would be similar in a 'soft' opt out system. The relatives could object to the donation of organs, even if the deceased when alive had no such concerns. Or if they had any 'doubt' which would haunt them for ever more they could just say no.

In reality you are more likely to take action if you object to something, as opposed to those who don't think it matters. Let's be honest the vast majority of us are far more concerned about what's happening now, than whats occurring when were dead.

The Christian Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan says it has to be a choice "that is freely embraced".

Surely, if you decide not to opt out of the organ donation system, you have so to speak "freely embraced" the idea that on your death your organs could be used by others.

There could be a number of safeguard built in, your doctor, health nurse etc could easily explain to those who have not opted out the consequence of not doing so. I'm sure the church could also have a role.

At the end of the day it will still be a personal choice, you could always opt out.

Above all what is important is that we have a balanced debate, and using emotive language or spurious arguments, will not help at all.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

TATA to build factory by Wolverhampton - the Enterprise Zone wat did it?

If only the Welsh Government had got it act together and followed blindly the policies of the Conservative led Coalition Government on enterprise zones, the new engine factory could have been built in South Wales. Or that is what the Conservatives and some in the media want us to believe.

TATA the Indian owned car manufacturer, had decided that rather than buying engines from Ford plants including Bridgend and Dagenham, they are to build their own engines. What affect this will have on the viability of the Ford plants is not known.

There was some speculation that TATA would build the new engine factory in India, were it already has a production plant for it's Freelander 2, but seeing the local difficulties they have had over there (see:Indian state to return Tata factory land to farmers) maybe the UK was a more appealing prospect.

As reported by Reuters:

Mike Wright, executive director at Jaguar Land Rover said they had considered building the facility in a number of locations within the UK and outside the UK.

"One obvious location would have been India," Wright told journalists.

"There are a whole host of factors that go into these decision ... but on the balance of all of those factors, we determined with the support of Tata Motors, in this instance, the UK was the best option," he said....

"Clearly, situating it almost equidistant between our Halewood, Solihull and Castle Bromwich plants does have efficiency benefits," said Wright.

As part of its growth strategy and investment, Jaguar Land Rover is targeting 40 new products over 5 years, as it eyes emerging market growth.

"(The site) will enable us to accelerate our new products to penetrate new markets," said Wright.

"Our latest investment decision follows a period of rising sales, rising demand and rising profitability," he said, adding that the business is performing in line with expectations...

...Jaguar Land Rover already employs more than 19,000 people in Britain and supports up to 140,000 jobs. It has been boosted by strong demand from emerging markets such as Russia and China for its cars.

"As we invest 1.5 billion pounds a year for the next five years on new product developments, expanding our engine range will help us realise the full global potential of the Jaguar and Land Rover brands," said Ralf Speth, JLR CEO.

In the last few years, TATA through growth in sales in Russia and China have managed to turn around a loss making company to one with growing profits year on year. In 2009 there was speculation that TATA would have to close one of it's plants in the UK. (see Jaguar Land Rover to close factory)

Sky News reports that Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of the Conservative led Coalition Government, said he was "delighted" by the decision.

He said: "Growing our economy has to be the number one priority for Britain, and the Government is not sitting on its hands. With initiatives like the Regional Growth Fund, putting up to £10m into this new plant and Enterprise Zones boosting growth across the country, we're making the UK a better place to invest and do business."

Enterprise zones will benefit from:

  • A business rate discount worth up to £275,000 per business over a five year period

  • All business rates growth within the zone for a period of at least 25 years will be retained by the local area, to support the Partnership’s economic priorities and ensure that Enterprise Zone growth is reinvested locally

  • Government help to develop radically simplified planning approaches for the zone using, for example, existing Local Development Order powers

  • Government support to ensure that superfast broadband is rolled out throughout the zone, achieved through guaranteeing the most supportive regulatory environment and, if necessary, public funding.

The Regional Growth Fund which is giving £10 million to TATA is a £1.4bn fund operating across England from 2011 to 2014. It supports projects and programmes that lever private sector investment creating economic growth and sustainable employment. It aims particularly to help those areas and communities currently dependent on the public sector to make the transition to sustainable private sector-led growth and prosperity.

The second round of bidding to the Regional Growth Fund ended on the 1 July 2011. 492 bids were received with a combined total value of £3.3 bn. The Government welcomed this positive response to the Fund.

And that fact is quite interesting, the bid for the £10 million for TATA had to have been made by 1 July 2011, before the Conservative led Coalition Government announced the 21 English enterprise zones on 17 August 2011.

There is no equivalent regional growth fund in Wales or Scotland.

To conclude TATA decided to open a new engine factory outside Wolverhampton, because it's a logical decision and the proposal was being discussed with local Councils and Government well before the new enterprise zones had been announced.

Also in order to match the offer, the Welsh Government would have needed to find more than £10 million pounds.

Welsh Business Minister Edwina Hart recently announced the five new welsh enterprise zones, and is initially making £10m available over the next five years.

Don't get me wrong, the decision by TATA to open a new factory by Wolverhampton is good news, but I have a feeling that enterprise zones, or lack of them, had little if anything to do with the ultimate decision.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Trains are a rich man's toy

Picture from Virgin Trains

Now to be fair to Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, I haven't listened to the evidence he gave; when appearing earlier today, in front of the Commons transport committee. He was there to answer questions on High Speed 2 (HS2) - the planned line between London and Birmingham with a possible future extension to northern England and Scotland.

On the BBC he is reported as saying: British railways are a "rich man's toy".

Putting aside what Philip Hammond actually said, no doubt taken out of context, it cannot be denied that privatisation of the railways in the UK has been a bit of a disaster.

As mentioned in Wikipedia (about the privatisation in 1992) - "The management of British Rail strongly advocated privatisation as one entity, a British Rail plc in effect; Cabinet Minister John Redwood "argued for regional companies in charge of track and trains" but Prime Minister John Major did not back his view; the Treasury, under the influence of the Adam Smith Institute think tank advocated the creation of seven, later 25, passenger railway franchises as a way of maximising revenue. In this instance it was the Treasury view that prevailed."

Talking of rich men and women, a report from the Press Association says:

Sir Richard Branson was reportedly paid £17.8 million in dividends last year from Virgin Rail....

....The payment takes the total Branson has received from the railways since they were privatised to £188.8 million.

A spokesman for Virgin Rail told the newspaper: "Virgin took no dividend for the first seven years and now the turnover is one of the strongest in the industry"...

And the Herald Scotland recently reported:

SCOTTISH bus and rail company Stagecoach is to return £340 million in cash to shareholders – equivalent to 47p a share – with co-founders Sir Brian Souter and his sister Ann Gloag respectively in line for £51m and £37m.

Now who said that the trains of the UK were a rich man's toy again?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Neil Kinnock - I warn you...

In 1983 Neil Kinnock made an iconic speech, it was just two days before the General Election, and he knew he was about to loose to the Conservatives and Margaret Thatcher.

As the blog Owen Abroad says "He scribbled the notes from which he delivered the speech in the car on the way to the rally, and his voice was hoarse from campaigning."

The world has moved on since then, but I think we should be reminded of what he said, as some say, the speech could also be levelled at David Cameron's Conservative led Coalition Government. Not that the previous Labour Government can escape any criticism, as some of the below could also easily apply to them.

With thanks to the blog Owen Abroad here is the full text:

If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday, I warn you.

I warn you that you will have pain–when healing and relief depend upon payment.

I warn you that you will have ignorance–when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.

I warn you that you will have poverty–when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay.

I warn you that you will be cold–when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.

I warn you that you must not expect work–when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.

I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.

I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.

I warn you that you will have defence of a sort–with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.

I warn you that you will be home-bound–when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.

I warn you that you will borrow less–when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.

If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday–

- I warn you not to be ordinary

- I warn you not to be young

- I warn you not to fall ill

- I warn you not to get old.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Wales too small - what about Uruguay?

Yesterday I said that in my humble opinion Elin Jones AM would be a very good leader of Plaid Cymru.

I mentioned the dreaded 'I' word independence, which we shouldn't be afraid to discuss. I said "I do not think independence for Wales would be right as things stand."

This morning I listened to a conversation on the Today program on Radio 4. They were talking about the football game tonight, between England and Wales, and the Radio 4 chap said something along the lines of “why hasn't Wales qualified for any major football tournament since 1958. Take Uruguay for example, whose population is also just above 3 million and the amount of times they have qualified, and they recently won the Copa America."

And that made me think. One argument put forward by many against independence for Wales is - its too small.

Now I know you cant really compare Wales and Uruguay, especially if you believe some who say that Wales is the poorest Country in Europe. Somehow I don't think Uruguay is the poorest South American Country.

The CIA World Factbook says in a short history of Uruguay:

Montevideo, founded by the Spanish in 1726 as a military stronghold, soon took advantage of its natural harbor to become an important commercial center. Claimed by Argentina but annexed by Brazil in 1821, Uruguay declared its independence four years later and secured its freedom in 1828 after a three-year struggle. The administrations of President Jose BATLLE in the early 20th century established widespread political, social, and economic reforms that established a statist tradition. A violent Marxist urban guerrilla movement named the Tupamaros, launched in the late 1960s, led Uruguay's president to cede control of the government to the military in 1973. By yearend, the rebels had been crushed, but the military continued to expand its hold over the government. Civilian rule was not restored until 1985. In 2004, the left-of-center Frente Amplio Coalition won national elections that effectively ended 170 years of political control previously held by the Colorado and Blanco parties. Uruguay's political and labor conditions are among the freest on the continent.

And in an overview of Uruguay's economy say:

Uruguay's economy is characterized by an export-oriented agricultural sector, a well-educated work force, and high levels of social spending. Following financial difficulties in the late 1990s and early 2000s, economic growth for Uruguay averaged 8% annually during the period 2004-08. The 2008-09 global financial crisis put a brake on Uruguay's vigorous growth, which decelerated to 2.9% in 2009. Nevertheless, the country managed to avoid a recession and keep positive growth rates, mainly through higher public expenditure and investment, and GDP growth exceeded 8% in 2010.

Just in case you missed it, a GDP growth of 8% in 2010, making them 14th in the list of country comparisons, compared with the UK GDP growth of the same year of 1.3% putting us in 163rd place on the list.

And the Country's main exports:

beef, soybeans, cellulose, rice, wheat, wood, dairy products; wool

Again I emphasize you cant really compare countries, as Paul Williams (aka The Druid) has pointed out on numerous occasions, but to me at least it disproves the argument that Wales is too small to be an independent Country in terms of population. Its really down to the question of whether we have the economy to sustain us, as an independent state.

I would also like to thank Rob Davies, 'The outspoken columnist who tells it how it is' of the Daily Post, for his support for independence - ok maybe not - but all you have to do is change a few words from his rant of today and you get from the section headed 'Old Boundaries' (were he argues to retain the 22 welsh Councils - which in reality don't follow old boundaries) the following:

"At [national] level, [..] government works best following ancient [..] boundaries to which many people still retain loyalty. Many of these are based on natural divisions such as rivers. Far more people will engage with [governments] if they represent the actual geographical terrain they call home."

I also recommend you read an article by Adam Price, which was published in the Huffington Post titled - 'Why Independence for Wales and Other Countries Makes Economic Sense' on 2 August 2011, by following this link: Adam Price - Huffington Post

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sunday Trivia - Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company

I'm too young to remember the trips you could make from Menai Bridge to Liverpool, and other excursions around the North Wales Coast line, including Llandudno to Isle of Man.

The many services and excursions which were operated by the Liverpool & North Wales Steamship Company, sadly ended in 1963 due to declining passenger numbers. The last ship to operate was the St Trillo which is shown in the postcard below.

The Liverpool & North Wales Steamship Company was formed on the 19th January 1891. The company's main route was as described in their name, between Liverpool, Llandudno and Menai Bridge. The mainstay of the Liverpool to Llandudno and Menai Bridge sailings until their cessation in 1962 was the St Tudno (the second ship to carry that name), and is shown below.

Above images reproduced with the kind permission of www.simplonpc.co.uk

To find out more visit:
Simplon Website- postcards from Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company.
Simplon Website - timetables for Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company
Simplon Website - a detailed history of the Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company.

Friday, 2 September 2011

When it comes to rubbish, were on top of the pile.

Well done all of us, Council staff and the hardworking binmen of Anglesey, who work for Verdant.

Once again; as reported in the Daily Post today "Latest figures from Environment Agency Wales show Denbighshire and Isle of Anglesey Councils have used the least amount of their allowance to divert biodegradable waste away from landfill." - we are showing the rest how it should be done.

I know it can be bit confusing at times - do they take this container or not?

And it can be hard for the elderly - but guess what I do, I offer to take the out the bins for them, I think its called being neighbourly.

Not forgetting that "the council can arrange a ‘fetch and return’ service for disabled residents or those who are having difficulty wheeling their bins to the collection point."

To find out more go to Council website - Household waste collection

Proud of Anglesey and the people of Anglesey!