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The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

Recent updates

  • Hope Valley Line
    Article: Sep 5, 2022

    Passenger services in the Hope Valley have had a history of unrelability. One reason has been the conflict between the passenger and freight trains.

    The downside of this modernisation is weekend closures at Dore & Totley, Grindleford, Bamford and Hathersage Stations for a month or more. The benefits, however, when finished, will be an improvement in passenger services and safer track crossings.

    The entire package is costed at £145 million and the works include:

  • Fife Ring Electrification
    Article: Aug 30, 2022

    Work has now started at Thornton Junction on the reinstatement of the Branch Line to Levenmouth with freight carrying capacity. Now a further boost for the Kingdom of Fife has been announced in the form of electrification works along the route known as the Fife Ring.

    Network Rail has started to install the masts to carry overhead wires for Phase 1, the electrification of of the line between Haymarket in the centre of Edinburgh to Dalmeny at the southern end of the Forth Bridge. The completion of this stretch is expected by December 2024.

    A further three phases are planned:

  • House Building
    Article: Aug 29, 2022
    Do we really need so many houses in South East England? Or perhaps more? Or perhaps fewer?

    Governments have at least to try to plan ahead - and all parties currently support a national housebuilding target of 300,000 to 340,000 to cope with the expected population increase.

    The current interim 2020 estimates predict births and deaths will be in balance in 2025. From then on further increases will be due to a steady 200,000 annual growth due only to continued net immigration.

  • Gravestone
    Article: Aug 25, 2022
    An article in the 'New Scientist' published in 2018 discussed the following unexpected statistical results.

    It was based on data for the period from 2006 to 2016 covering about 20 countries.
    The figures showed that the long term regular increase in life expectancy is flattening off in the UK and (especially) in the USA.

  • NHS protest
    Article: Aug 21, 2022
    Under the heading of: "A TASTE FOR CRACKING DOWN", 'The Economist' wrote on 20th March 2021

    "The Government should bin its illiberal attempt to restrict protest."

    "The Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill ... would sit comfortably in Russian or Chinese statute books."

    The maximum sentence for defacing "a memorial" is increased from 3 months to 10 years. This appears to have been a reaction to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations where protests against the uncritical commemoration of personalities closely linked to the Slave Trade involved involved damage to statues.

  • windfarm67
    Article: Aug 21, 2022

    First shown December 19th, 2014.

    Prime Minister David Cameron has implied that people are fed up with onshore wind farms being built, despite the Government's own research showing that a large majority of the public back them.

    Latest research by the Department of Energy and Climate Change shows that 67 per cent of people support onshore wind farms. However, the Conservatives have said they would not subsidise new onshore turbines if they win the general election.

    The Liberal Democrats will never abandon our commitment to the environment and we have ensured that it stays at the top of the agenda. In government, we have blocked a Conservative plans to impose a cap on wind farms.

    Putting the brakes on onshore wind would be disastrous for the environment, businesses and jobs.

    Just days after Tory Chief Whip Michael Gove barred Tory Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd from attending critical climate change talks in Lima, the Tories have yet again shown their lack of commitment to green causes.

  • wind farm
    Article: Aug 20, 2022

    First shown 13th November 2014.

    Conservative opposition to onshore wind farms risks undermining the creation of British jobs, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey has warned.

    Research by RenewableUK shows that 15,400 people are now employed in Britain's wind power industry, an increase of 70 per cent since 2010.

    The wind turbine industry attracted £2.6bn of investment in the year 2013 to 2014.

    Commenting on the new data, Ed Davey warned that the Conservative party's opposition to onshore wind farms was undermining the creation of British jobs.

    Ed said: "We have had a major leap forward in recent years and there is a really good story to tell.

    "But I want to be clear I am having a go at the Conservative Party here. It has made it clear onshore wind is something they don't want to see in the future expansion of low-carbon energy and I think that is undermining investment now and undermining jobs."

    Liberal Democrats in government have kept the environment on the agenda, despite opposition from the Conservatives.

    We have already doubled the amount of energy generated by off-shore wind farms and Britain is on track to beat our renewable electricity targets for 2020.

  • Forest Fire Unsplash (Unsplash)
    Article: Aug 19, 2022
    CARELESS AND CLUELESS
    Greg Hands, Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth signed off the Tory Government's Net Zero Strategy without checking it properly.

    Following a Judicial Review brought by ClientEarth, FoE & Good Law Project, High Court Judge David Holgate found it was unlawful on two counts.

  • Sewage Discharge
    Article: Aug 18, 2022
    It's Tempting to Demand Penalties and Punishment for the Directors of Water Companies - but are they the right Targets?

    These people are operating within the terms of a contract awarded to their companies by the UK Government.

    They also have to ensure that their companies comply with the directions and instructions of the Regulator, Ofwat, who sets price controls and has a statutory duty under the Water Industry Act 1991 to make sure that companies are able (in particular able to secure a reasonable return on their capital) to finance the proper carrying out of their functions - including being able to get the funding they need from capital markets.

    The Companies are responsible for proposing the level of investment as part of their business plans submitted to Ofwat every five years and Ofwat will make a judgement on the cost of raising the capital and the value for money in the elements of the investment plan and use this in calculating the increase the prices in the light of the conditions in the financial markets.

    The important point to grasp is that the money for infrastructure improvements and for capacity increases must come from the consumer. It does not come either from Ofwat or from the Government.

    The Regulator of course receives political guidance and direction from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, who in turn has to follow the instructions and policies arising for the Cabinet and/or the Prime Minister.

    So there will be an overriding political judgement on the amount that prices are to go up and this might mean that the Regulator goes back to the companies to say that the full amount of the original investment plan cannot be supported and must be reduced. This means in effect that that both the amount of capacity or improvement investment can be controlled by the government.

    And of course the Water Company Directors have to ensure that their Companies have to abide by the existing legislation - unless the Government gives them immunity from this - and comply with EU Directives as long as these remain in force. But now read on...

    There is, however, an important change in the new Environment Act. It varies the treatment of a "breach" of environmental law, which now becomes a "state of non-compliance" and is set as the default position. It no longer necessarily requires such non-compliant actions (although still considered as unlawdul) to be reversed or voided. In these instances there is now a presumption that unlawful acts by a public authority can be valid. Furthermore the unlawful action by a public authority cannot be quashed by a court "if doing so risks causing substantial hardship to, or would substantially prejudice, a third party. This means that a clear unlawful action must be allowed to continue if a third party stands to benefit from it, or would suffer a loss if it does not continue. This approach fails to take account of the other factors such as harm to nature and to people. It would have the net effect of introducing a new "polluter doesn't pay" principle into environmental law." (Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law)

    Such matters are now to be administered by a new body with the Orwellian title of Office of Environmental Protection. It can carry out environmental reviews of states of non-compliance, but the Act specifically provides that damages cannot be granted following such a review.

    On 21st October 2021 the Commons voted on Lords Amendment 45 of the Environment Bill (now the Environment Act 2021).

  • Aircraft landing
    Article: Aug 17, 2022

    The Climate Emergency has finally landed - and there will be worse and more frequent visits in the future. However the UK government's "net-zero" aviation strategy - first called in 2021 - has yet to take off. Widely described as a "pie in the sky", it depends on almost unavailable and grossly unsustainable alternative fuels in the immediate future and vast supplies of hydrogen to fuel yet-to-be-developed propulsions systems later on.

    The last time a technically ignorant and cloth-eared UK government tried to foist hydrogen technology onto aviation it led to the tragic of the loss of the airship R101 on its maiden flight to India in 1930. It got no further than Northern France and burst into flames and crashed with only 6 survivors out of the 54 on board. The Air Minister at the time, a number of senior government officials and most of the design team were among the fatalities. The German Nazi government followed up in 1937 with its own disaster, with 36 people killed. Although their airship, the Hindenburg, successfully crossed the Atlantic it caught fire on arriving in New Jersey.

    A common factor was that both governments were trying to rush the completion of prestige projects without sufficient technological understanding by the decision makers.

    The UK government re-announced its "Jet Zero Strategy" on 19th July 2022, with a target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions from civil aircraft to net zero by 2050. This depends on the usual mix of mitigation, "green fuel" and magic technology. The mitigation includes the planting of trees somewhere - but will they now survive in the higher temperatures? - the extraction of CO2 from the atmoshpere - but money, energy and repositories are needed to do that - and of course the famous hydrogen and its associated technology.

    Hydrogen is currently produced from natural gas just as it has been for a century or so in the water-gas process - but this produces a great deal of CO2. It can also be produced by electroysis of water using surplus electricity from solar panels or from wind turbines, but this is not a very efficient process and the hydrogen is difficult and expensive to compress and store. It can even slowly diffuse through stainless steel. A hydrogen fuel, precisely because it does not produce carbon dioxide, would not perform well in either a jet engine, a turbine or an internal compustion engine. It could, if highly purified, be used to produce more electricity via a fuel cell but this would then need an electric motor to power a propellor.

    Although the production of hydrogen from surplus wind or solar energy, despite the inefficiency of the process, is sensible, the most economic subsequent use of the hydrogen would be as an additive into the natural gas network (up to 20%) over the next 10 years or so.

    It is difficult, despite slick words and pictures, to envisage any practical or effective way that hydrogen could usefully be an aviation fuel. Besides, even if you could miraculously make aviation "carbon-neutral", there would still remain the condensation trail air heating problem, since this is due to the emission of water vapour and its condensation at high altitudes, quite unconnected with any carbon dioxide. If a plane were to use hydrogen fuel in place of hydrocarbons then water vapour would be produced in greater quantities.

    Not only is the condensation trail heating effect of aviation nine times greater than the greenhouse gas heating effect of its CO2 emissions, but also it is often neglected in calculation the atmospheric damage of aviation - which, when correctly calculated, is truly enormous.

    There is also the additional disturbance to atmospheric gas chemistry caused by NOx emissions.

    Altogether, aviation now has to be viewed as a highly damaging and polluting form of travel. Aviation will have to be significantly reduced - and quickly. It is hopeless trying to pretend, as the UK government is doing, that we can carry on not only with the present number of flights, but with the current increasing trend being maintained. It is unviable under any circumstances.

    It was good to have air travel accessible to the many - unlike 40 years ago when it was only for the wealthy few - and it enabled people to enjoy long distance travel to exotic locations for holidays. But now we are more aware of the dangers of uncontrolled climate change and know we have to make drastic changes to our lifestyles and behaviour.

Nick Hollinghurst