Closure of the Brynglas Tunnels created gridlock hell in Newport last week. Queues were everywhere. Tailbacks jammed car parks and junctions.
It’s a warning of our future if the gimcrack blue route bypass ever happens. It would cram all the M4 and SDR traffic on two routes. The Black Route will provide traffic relief and pollution reduction with its three routes.
Remember the damage done to Gwent for 70 years by the perception that we are a traffic bottleneck. The Black Route is the only choice.
Confused on the Severn Bridge Tolls?
You are meant to be. That is the Tory Secretary of State’s master plan. Last December Alun Cairns told me he would cut the tolls by 50% to £3.70. I told him that’s not £50% of £6.70. In January this year he changed the promise to £3.00.
It’s still a rip-off because the tolls’ contract says they should end altogether in January 2018. All changed in May. The Tories produced an election bribe promising to cut the tolls to nothing. But they did not say when.
In January next the Bridges will be owned by us like all other roads and bridges. It will then be illegal to charge VAT of £2.00 . Cairns claims that the new charge of £5.60 will be a ‘cut’, It’s not. He has no choice. It’s a forced reduction.
The Tories are behaving like fairground snake-oil huckster salesmen. Cairns’ ‘Cut’ will increase tolls, to £2.60 MORE than his promised £3.00 of January 17th.
No charge is necessary after January 2018. We have discharged our debt. It is no longer a toll, it’s a CAIRNS TAX. Remember that when you cough up £5.60 in January. It’s enough to make you cynical about political promises.
·The most beautiful modern Church in Newport gained an interior Garden of Eden last week. Bethesda Baptist celebrates their 275th anniversary. The Newport Floral Society filled the Church with wonderful flowers enhanced by the group’s creative artistry.
Bethesda has an impressive record of good works from the streets of Newport to Africa where they Cariad Kenya work is a practical success. They campaign with others to protect persecuted Christian communities in Syria and Iraq. Elsewhere the persecuted have now become the persecutors.
The flower arrangements are named ‘Acts of Kindness’. A refreshing change from a world infested with acts of brutality, inhumanity and worse.
Only now is there national publicity for a drug that has done more damage than Thalidomide.
It's heartbreaking and infuriating that 40% of women of chlld bearing age using Valproate have not been informed of the danger of EPILIM> In March 2013 I published the blog below. The blog and EDM below were published in March 2013.
New evidence has proved that the drug Epilim affects all babies when their mothers took the drug in pregnancy. In a third of the cases, brain damage occurs. The adverse effects include spina bifida, cleft palate, deformities and autism. A campaign to expose the dangers lost their legal aid in 2010 because of a lack of proof of a causal link. That link has now been established by reports from two universities and legal aid should be restored.
Again the UK has been let down by our ramshackle drugs regulatory body the MHRA. It is funded and run entirely by the Pharmaceutical Industry. It is weak, dominated by Big Pharma influence and slow to identify and condemn adverse reactions. The UK suffered 2,000 tragic birth defects in the Thalidomide scandal. The US had 20. It was the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that discovered that 60,000 deaths had resulted from the use of the anti-arthritis drug Vioxx. The MHRA were unconcerned by their defective system of reporting ill-effects. Glaxo Smith-Kline was fined a massive $3.5 billion by the FDA for, among things, suppressing negative results of their drugs. There was no fine in the UK for the same offences. Beyond reason and blind to the evidence, the MHRA defended the widespread use of the anti-depressant Seroxat.
The UK needs a regulator that is independently working in the public interest and divorced from commercial pressures.
One paper reported, 'The casualties of the Epilim scandal include heartbreaking cases.
When Samantha Scott wanted to have a baby, she consulted her neurologist about whether it was safe. She has epilepsy and was concerned that Epilim could be unsafe in pregnancy.
"The doctors said it was fine," said Scott, 31, from Cumbria. "In fact, they upped my dose."
But Scott's daughter Faith was born with an extra digit, a cleft palate, a hole in the heart, and no muscle tone. Now aged seven, Faith has a mental age of two and weighs only two stone (13kg). She has spent most of her life so far in hospital.
Faith is one of hundreds of children campaigners believe suffered birth defects as a result of drugs such as Epilim, which contain a controversial anti-convulsant called sodium valprorate.
"We have 624 children on our books from these drugs and 351 are from mothers who were taking Epilim," said Janet Williams, secretary of OACS, the organisation for anti-convulsant syndromes. "That is nowhere near the figure for the total number of children out there who are actually affected."
Losing legal aid proves the impossibility of funding cases such as the Epilim action is leaving pharmaceutical companies increasingly unaccountable.
Sanofi denies all liability for the birth defects that the families say are caused by Epilim, but America has a different experience. A similar class action brought against one of its affiliate companies in the US was settled, leading to calls for a review of UK law. More than 70 MPs have signed an early day motion about the case
"Four major drug companies have gone through the litigation and never gone to court," said Janet Stock-Pollard, who has two children that suffered birth defects after she took Epilim during her pregnancies. "The law appears to protect the drug company and not the consumer."
Emma Friedmann, whose son Andy is 12 years old with a mental age of three and is one of the claimants in the UK case, says that the lack of legal aid funding denies vulnerable people access to justice.
"Andy has been damaged for life, and he's not allowed his claim to be heard in court," she said. "Everyone who uses pharmaceutical products is less safe because of this. If you take a product and you or your dependants have a problem with it, you will not be successful in court."'
Session: 2012-13 Date tabled: 05.02.2013 Primary sponsor: Anderson, David Sponsors: Betts, CliveDurkan, MarkHeyes, DavidMcCartney, KarlMeale, Alan
That this House notes with concern the withdrawal of public funding from the Fetal Anti-Convulsant Litigation in November 2010; further notes that the taxpayer is now covering the additional health, education and welfare costs incurred by families affected by fetal valproate syndrome; believes the Department of Health and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency could have avoided the large numbers of people affected, since the drug sodium valproate came onto the market in the late 1970s, by informing patients treated with anti-convulsant medications and women of child-bearing age; and calls for an independent inquiry into why information has been withheld from the public concerning the disastrous way in which sodium valproate has affected pregnant women and their children.
That this House calls for reform of the weak Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that is funded by the pharmaceutical industry and repeatedly fails the public interest; is appalled that the 20,000 victims of birth defects arising from the use of sodium valproate (Epilim) have been denied legal aid while American parents have already received compensation; recalls that there were 2,000 victims of Thalidomide in the UK and only 20 in the US; congratulates the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration that revealed that 60,000 deaths had resulted from the use of the anti-arthritis drug Vioxx while no alarm was registered here because of the MHRA's defective system of reporting drug side-effects; commends the US' massive fine on Glaxo Smith Kline of $3.5 billion for suppressing negative results of drug trials while no action has been taken here for identical misdemeanours; and believes that the UK should be protected by a fully independent regulatory authority liberated from financial dependence on the pharmaceutical industry.
That this House notes with concern that the medicine valproate, which is used for the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder, can seriously harm an unborn child when taken during pregnancy, including increased risk of malformations and developmental disorders; welcomes the development of a valproate toolkit to aid communication of the risks of valproate in pregnancy, including a warning on package labelling, a checklist for discussion between prescribers and patients, a reminder card and information booklet for women, and a booklet for healthcare professionals; further notes that the toolkit was disseminated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the valproate manufacturer, Sanofi, in February 2016; expresses concern at reports that many pharmacists and clinicians have not received the toolkit, potentially leaving many women ill-informed of the severe risks of the medicine; and urgently calls on the Government, the MHRA and NHS England to work together to ensure that the toolkit is effectively disseminated and utilised across the country so that all women being prescribed valproate are fully informed of the risks to an unborn child.
Will the saga of the Severn Bridges toll ever be put on the stage?
It happened with a PACAC select committee meeting and it was a fine entertaining musical.
The Severn Tolls farce might be judged too far-fetched to be plausible.
This year we have witnessed a series of nonsensical statements by the Tory snake-oil hucksters that were designed to deceived. They all produced hoops of grateful joy from a media with the concentration span of an earthworm. The charlatan politicians plan to rob us again next January but demand our gratitude for their fake news. The 'cut' is a con.
PIC: SOUTH WALES ARGUS. Left to Right, TORY MP David Davies , TORY Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, TORY Minister Chris Graying united in mission to sell Tolls snake-oil.
On the 12th December 2016 the hapless Alun Cairns hilariously set his position to the Welsh Select Committee:
Q90 Chair: This cut that has been promised at 50%—50% on the tolls as they are in 2018 but still 50%—is absolutely guaranteed, isn’t it?
Alun Cairns: That is the Government proposal but there is a consultation going on to how that can be achieved.
Q91 Chair: So it is not quite guaranteed?
Alun Cairns: The announcement has been made in Budget 2015, I think it was, or 2014, and it is something that is Government policy.
Q93 Paul Flynn: Severn Bridge tolls started four years before you were born, Secretary of State. Do you expect them to continue when you reach retirement age?
Alun Cairns: Clearly I would hope, Mr Flynn, that you would accept that the 50% reduction that is proposed, subject to a consultation and so on, is a welcome step.
Q94 Paul Flynn: There was a fascinating poll finding that said that 50% of the population didn’t understand what 50% means. You have been quoted as saying that the toll should be £3.70. How is that 50% of £6.70?
Alun Cairns: I was talking about of that order and I talked about it by the time the bridge comes into public ownership for which there will be an inflationary fee.
Q95 Paul Flynn: In my view, the people of Wales are being ripped off by having one of the few stretches of motorway, which the Severn Bridges are, tolled and this has gone on for all these years now and because of the deals done a long time ago by a previous generation. There seems to be absolutely no reason why this shouldn’t become a national responsibility and the psychological barrier to south Wales, which is very damaging, could be removed.
Alun Cairns: I am governed by the Act of Parliament and the Act of Parliament will have struck a deal with the Severn Bridge company. We have an obligation in order to deliver that but I would hope that reducing the tolls by half is seen as a very positive step, although there will be a debt that remains outstanding. It demonstrates the scale of the project.
Q96 Paul Flynn: You stand by the figure of £3.70?
Alun Cairns: I would say wait until the consultation goes out.
That posture did not last long. After checking their maths, they reduced the planned toll to less than 50%
The Trinity of Snake Oil Salesmen consisted of Chris Grayling, David Davies and Alan Cairns posed at the Severn Bridge and announced the 'Good News' that Severn Bridges toll would be set at the bargain rate of £3.00! Hurrah! But that was for the long term future.
But it was no bargain because next year the tolls should be nil. It was an attempt to con us. The snap General Election forced a re-think on the Tory Trinity. Today they will announced that they have seen the Labour Light and will resist temptation to continue milking the cash cow of tolls double taxation. It will be announced with a blast of Tory self-satisfaction in Newport today. (no. I have not been invited.)
Will anyone ask if election opportunism played a part in their volte-face?
Tory Toll junkies are hooked on the Highway Robbery that forces local people into paying double taxation. While the Severn Bridges were in private hands the deal to pay tolls was resented but tolerated. In early 2018, the bridges will become public property like the rest of the motorway system. They should be maintained and financed in the same way as all other public roads.
For 52 years, we have paid twice. First through our taxes for the roads system. Secondly through the toll payments. The Government want to continue to milk the cash cow of tolls. There is an overwhelming case for abolishing the tolls altogether. At a stroke an injustice would end and the expense and psychological barrier to accessing Wales would be gone.
£billions of our taxes are paid to build, run and maintains the UK's road system. The Severn Bridges costs and debts are national responsibilities when they become public property. Wales has a history of attacking unjust tolls by the Hosts of Rebecca. It's time the spirit of the 1839 was aroused again.
16th May 2017
Th Tories 2017 election bribe was an unconditional promise to end the tolls. As a bribe it failed. Their ambition was to gain 7 Labour seats. They lost three of their own to Labour and every sitting Labour MP increased their majorities. They cannot mange a simple election bribe efficiently.
The Severn Bridges Act 1992 set out framework to award private contract to build a much needed second Severn crossing. Severn River Crossings built the bridge with the powerto charge tolls until revenue of £1.029 billion is raised or for a maximum of 35 years. Wales has paid extortionate annually increasing tolls since.
The debt is almost paid, the concession contract is coming to An end. In the next year the crossings will return to public ownership. Legal power to levy charges ends with the contact.
The Act is clear and tolls must cease. The Crossings have an estimated annual running cost of £15m. As with any other road belonging to the Department for Transport maintenance costs are unavoidable. Road users already cover these maintenance costs with road tax. Further tolls amount to unreasonable and duplicate charges
12th September 2017
The Cairns Huckster team are back. Tolls are to be ‘CUT’ to £2.60 MORE than Cairns promised on January 17th. Not to reduce it to that level would be illegal. The reduction is because the bridges after next January will not be liable to VAT. There is no choice. But Alun Cairns still has no date for delivering on his election bribe of £00.00 tolls.
No charge is necessary after January 2018. We have discharged our debt. It is no longer a toll, it’s a CAIRNS TAX.
When the former Chancellor, Mr George Osborne, left office, he took on a job with BlackRock finance, working four days a month for a remuneration of £650,000 a year. In pursuit of the investigations of the Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs into possible abuses of the revolving door by which former Ministers might be using their inside knowledge for financial gain, the Committee invited Mr Osborne to come to this House to explain allegations that he had had dealings with BlackRock finance when he was Chancellor, as a result of which the laws were changed in favour of BlackRock. Should we not insist that we debate this issue and renew the invitation to Mr Osborne to explain his position to the House in order to guard our reputation?
There are very tightly enforced, clear rules regarding what ex-Ministers are able to do both when they have left office and while they are still in office. The hon. Gentleman is merely putting forward a hypothesis in which I see no merit. He is taking the opportunity to criticise something when he has no evidence to support his case—that is extremely unfair.
Comment. Andrea Leadsom is hopelessly mis-informed. The body that seeks to end the abuses of the revolving door is a toothless watchdog with zilch powers. George Osborne is known to have had 5 meetings with Blackrock when he was Chancellor.
We are all beneficiaries of decisions taken nearly 100 years ago in this Chamber to impose on broadcasters a statutory duty of political balance. Is that not now threatened by what has been described as the “Foxidation” of news, which is taking news away from journalists of integrity and transferring it to alternative bodies that produce news that is corrupted and prostituted for certain political ends? Is it not the Secretary of State’s prime duty to ensure that we do not Foxidise our news services?
That was one of the points made in the representations I received between my statement in June and my statement today, and it is one of the matters I would like the CMA to consider. Broadcasters in the United Kingdom are subject to the United Kingdom broadcasting code. I want to be clear, through the work of the CMA, about the impact that partisan reporting, which may occur in other jurisdictions, might have on the impartiality we expect of our broadcasters here in the UK.
Did Tony Blair steamroller devolution on Labour in Wales? Not quite. To ensure everyone remembered the details I wrote a book about it. The opening words were 'Only the future is certain, the past is always changing.' Now Tony is trying to change the past. As he now sees devolution a success 'because no one wants to change it'. As always, success has many parents, failure is an orphan. ' Blair delivered the title of the book 'Dragons led by Poodles.' Rhodri Morgan delivered what Wales and the Labour Party wanted 'Dragons led by Dragons'.
Rhodri's autobiography is a joy. No rancour or recrimination but a richly humorous commentary on a happy satisfying like. He was shafted cruelly by Blair in being cheated out of a minister's job in 1997 and having the First Minister's election fixed against him. If you disagree please read the books. But three tries for a Welshman! He made it to his dream job of First Minister. He retired at a time of his choice and enjoyed a happy retirement with Julie, his children and grandchildren. Lucky man!
The statement reports that the weaknesses discovered following the Ronan Point collapse have not been fully addressed or remedied. That collapse took place nearly 50 years ago. We also read that 165 existing tower blocks have the same combustibility and dangers that existed at Grenfell. Does not this show a continuing catastrophic failure of building regulations? Do we not need an examination not only of combustibility but of all the other structural problems that are likely to affect those who have the misfortune to live in multi-storey blocks?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this matter. This is precisely why I have asked for an independent review of building regulations. Also, in the light of the discovery at Ledbury Towers in Southwark, I have written to Dame Judith Hackitt and asked her to ensure that she considers those types of structural considerations. As well as building regulations, there are also wider questions. The issue at Ledbury Towers was discovered because of Grenfell Tower, but it is a structural issue. The work should have been done after the Ronan Point disaster, and there are some really big questions for the local authority to answer. The cracks that were discovered were large enough to put a human hand through or to put books in. Those cracks did not appear overnight. They had been there for some time—months, or even years. How can it be that the local authority was seemingly able to act only after the Grenfell tragedy?
The most likely start of a nuclear war will come by accident, by technical failure or by human error. The danger of that is greatly increased as world tension multiplies. Is it not true that, while there is no equivalence in this and we should pay credit to China for keeping the lid on paranoid regimes in North Korea for 60 years, the new element has been an American President who has managed to inflame every frozen conflict that he has addressed? Should it not be right that we take a British diplomatic, experienced view of this, with cooler heads, rather than follow the example of the apprentice President?
The new element is the increasing desire of the North Korean regime illegally to test nuclear weapons and threaten its neighbours and those further afield, and the acquisition of what looks like an intercontinental ballistic missile with what could be a hydrogen bomb capability. That is the new element, which requires international co-ordination to defeat.
Drug policies in Holland have delivered a prison crisis in that they do not have enough prisoners to fill their prisons. Drug policies here have created chaos in our prisons and a record number of drug deaths, including psychoactive drug deaths, last year. May we debate which country has got its policies right?
In the UK we have always been very clear: we do not believe that permission to use drugs is of any benefit whatsoever, and we will continue to make every effort to reduce drug offending and to encourage people to get clean from drugs