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May 25, 2009

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DG

"Is this because of the huge revenue generated by the Policy???"

That and the Bible Belt, I'd guess

Kay Tie

"Someone was arrested every 38 seconds last year in the USA for cannabis possesion."

I bet he's really very annoyed by now! Talk about harassment..

John

Sorry to have dragged some of you away from todays blog with the Prison story but I thought it was a great story.

Can I just add, my main fear is that we will go the way of the USA in building more prisons that will be private. THis has made prisons a huge source of wealth for big business in the USA who have a vested interest in perpetuating increased prison numbers. This particuarly leads to corruption at all levels of the justice system. It is not unusual for the Police to plant drugs on minorites particuarly Blacks and Hispanics in order to get a conviction. THe lobbies attached to these huge money making prison systems make it very difficult for this system to be changed.

A good film that looks at this is The Union you can watch it for free on google video

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9077214414651731007&ei=uBocSprlGob2-AaozYVi&q=the+union

or better stll buy it.

It exposes the huge money inherent in keeping Prohibition going from the Jails being built to the money made out of drug testing. This is money made out of criminalising often (particuarly in the case of the USA ) deprived sections of the community. Someone was arrested every 38 seconds last year in the USA for cannabis possesion. Second offenders then may get mandatory minimum sentances of many years for the possesion of a single cannabis cigarette. That this so called tough approach stil leaves the USA with the highest rate of drug use in the World and is obviously not working has not caused many in power to question it. Is this because of the huge revenue generated by the Policy???

Kay Tie

"the battle was to condemn the Tories' disastrous policy of bribing millions out of Serps and good occupational schemes and into dodgy personal pensions."

And how is S2P (neé SERPS) doing now? It's a bloody rip off! You contribute on the basis of your salary yet the pay-out is now capped at the equivalent of a low salary. If the dodgy personal pension providers did this then the directors would be in court quicker than you can say "class action". But because the politicians (who aren't in crappy S2P anyway) know that we don't understand it, they can cheat us.

Most of my pension savings is personal. And under my control through a SIPP. I'm not letting some shiny-suited commissioned-up salesbastard get the largest share of the growth in the fund. And I'm not letting some bastard politician steal it from me either.

The problem with pensions is that it's a boring nerdy topic of little interest to people (until they retire, of course). This means it is a magnet for cheats and thieves amongst the pensions industry and governments.

I did think a few years back of starting a not-for-profit pension fund that was purely a robot system: a simple set of rules with tracker funds for bonds, etc. It would have virtually zero overheads and pass on the benefit of that to investors. The Americans can have one of these, with 0.15% operating overheads. Compare that to the UK where the cheapest fees you get are about 0.3% (down to stamp duty, not greed on the part of the fund manager). Then compare that to the average pension fund fee of 1.5% (when the fund itself only grows at about 3% above inflation - half the growth goes to the fund manager!).

You might think that the Government could run a 0.15% low-cost robot fund. As well they could: if they could resist the temptation to steal the fund. We all know that if the Government had the fund under its control then they'd appoint trustees that "for the benefit of society" would direct the funds to be invested in low-yielding Government bonds to fund the borrow-to-waste policies that all governments end up with. It's what's happening now with the final-salary pension schemes (the pension fund guarantee scheme mandates that these schemes invest an ever-larger fraction of a fund into gilts).

You hit my hot button on pensions, Paul. I was between jobs for an extended period of time a few years back and I decided to actually look into my pension provision with the spare time I had. I was utterly horrified at what was going on. If people actually knew what was happening their anger at the financial community and the MPs would make the current scandal look like a one-day wonder.

Kay Tie

"Double jobbing certainly must stop."

I used to think that. But there is an alternative view: MPs have too much time on their hands and the Devil makes work for these idle hands. Hence the torrent of ill-drafted legislation puked out by Parliament. With the exception of committee members, perhaps an MPs job should be part-time and Parliament should meet less often (couple with other reforms to separate the executive and the legislature, naturally).

If you look at small countries like Sweden and New Zealand they are in general better governed. I am sure this is because there simply isn't the money to pay for lots of governmental business.

Paul Flynn

Thanks Aiden. When I was Labour's spokesperson on pensions in 88 and 89 I fondly believed that everyone would eventually get a final salary pension. the battle was to condemn the Tories' disastrous policy of bribing millions out of Serps and good occupational schemes and into dodgy personal pensions. Too late now.

Yes I recall the fear of the fate of the workers' representatives. it's a seductive place and new group loyalties replace original ideals.

Paul Flynn

Thanks a lot John and How O'S. That's a wonderful story. I will put down an EDM about it when parliament resumes and blog about it today.

I have visited the Netherlands on several occasions and admire the common sense of their politics- especially their drugs policies. I have asked Labour Ministers whether they regard an increase in the prison population as a success or a failure.

They never seem to know.

HuwOS

Creating crime, creating the causes of crime.

Not as catchy a slogan as Blairs but slightly more accurate.

Aidan Byrne

To show millionaires' flats is pretty sharp practice - worth a complaint, I should think.

Double jobbing certainly must stop. Yet again, I'm reminded of the syndicalist warning that the peoples' representatives will inevitably be taken up into a political class and lose sight of the lives of others (it's in The Miners' Next Step, which as a South Wales MP, you must be familiar with!

As to pensions: you're welcome to a final salary pension- as long as everybody else can have one too. Thatcher's decision to allow contribution holidays was little short of evil, as is the sight of executives cutting workers' pensions while retaining their own.

Jeff Jones

The problem we face as a party is clearly illustrated by three articles in today's Guardian. Cameron sets out his stall for reform. He doesn't got far enough but at least he is talking about reform. The second article is written by the partner of a Labour MP. It is frankly extraordinary and really sums up the gap that has developed between those even on the left of the politcal elite and ordinary citizens. It is a classic example of how not to respond to an issue I'm afraid. The third article by Roy Hattersley hopefully points the way forward. We have to rediscover our radical and socialist roots. It will mean that on occasion we will lose elections. But it will also mean that voters and potential future party members will also know the bed rock of principle on which we stand. We have such a good message to deliver that it would be a tragedy for it to be hidden by the the moral bankruptcy of a few.

John

I know this is totally off topic but I found this article that I thought was quite amazing.

"Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals
Published: 19 May 2009 16:31 | Changed: 20 May 2009 15:35
By our news desk
The Dutch justice ministry has announced it will close eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty.

During the 1990s the Netherlands faced a shortage of prison cells, but a decline in crime has since led to overcapacity in the prison system. The country now has capacity for 14,000 prisoners but only 12,000 detainees.

Deputy justice minister Nebahat Albayrak announced on Tuesday that eight prisons will be closed, resulting in the loss of 1,200 jobs. Natural redundancy and other measures should prevent any forced lay-offs, the minister said.

The overcapacity is a result of the declining crime rate, which the ministry's research department expects to continue for some time."

Yet here in the UK we have a doubling of the prison population since Labour came to power.Note that in the Netherlands hardly anyone is imprisoned for illegal drugs especially possesion of Cannabis etc. Isn't this an amazing achievement by the Dutch that crime is falling and they are closing prisons yet here in the UK we can't build enough due to all the laws we have enacted increasing jail time even for petty crimes because we mistakenly believe in the deterrent affect of minimum sentances. THe dutch have looked incresingly at the causes of crime social deprivation poverty lack of education and emplyment and by tackling these underlying issues have seen crime fall. Here in the UK we seem to just want to tackle the symptoms of such deprivation by throwing people into jail but failing to tackle the underlying causes.

Madness

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