Wednesday, 17 January 2018

EU to ban stun fishing. For the second time

The EU's identity as a corrupt but inept bureaucracy was confirmed yesterday as French, Belgian, Irish and British MEPs dealt a kick to their Dutch colleagues in requiring the Council to add a new ban on stun fishing to a change in fishing rules. The Dutch fishing minister now faces another kicking from Dutch trawler owners who have spent over £300k per boat converting vessels to electric stun fishing. The vote was 402 to 232 - by no means overwhelming, indicating nations other than the Netherlands have a snout in this eco-destructive trough. 

The story to date is this. First, the EU banned stun fishing in 1998. Then produced a scientific / technical report in 2006 recommending continuing the ban. Despite which, Dutch lobbying, blackmail or string pulling managed to get an exemption for Dutch trawlers - with the effects described in a previous post HERE.  However, British, French, Belgian and Irish fishermen have mounted an effective and concerted campaign to expose the deep harm caused by the Dutch - with the result that MEPs, fearful of the political reaction at home rather than out of principle, I suspect, have acted. 

However, the law will be written by the EU Council. This leaves the Dutch some wriggle room to water down the requirement, delay it or fail to implement what the EP have requested. These delaying and blocking tactics are all part of the wonderfully corrupt way in which the EU works. 

For the UK, one major problem remains. As I wrote in November:-
One current problem is that Dutch boats can fly the red duster and take UK quotas; the previous requirement on UK flagged vessels being owned by Brit nationals was overturned. Our 1988 Merchant Shipping Act was challenged by the European Court of Justice in the Factortame case and overturned - requiring us to register foreign-owned fishing boats.  A single Dutch owned and crewed vessel, the Cornelis Vrolijk, but UK flagged, accounts for almost a quarter of the entire English catch and about 6 per cent of the total UK quota. It lands all catches - some £17m annually - in the Netherlands.
Michael Gove must act now to prepare to reverse the effects of Factortame and to restore the 1988 Merchant Shipping Act to the form in which it was agreed by our sovereign parliament. 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Carillion - sub contractors and suppliers

For the construction arm far more than the FM concerns, intelligent journos have started to pick up on the impact of the firm's collapse on other than direct employees. The real pain is likely to be felt by sub contractors and suppliers - with an impact on tens of thousands of people working for smaller firms carrying out specialist works for the fallen behemoth.

Subbies are always the last to be paid anyway, and have the longest wait for their money as main contractors will generally not pay until their own monthly claims have been passed, and even then may pay only a percentage, with their own retention in place. Main contractors who have won work by underbidding will also squeeze subbies already contracted. I know from personal experience how very close to the edge many subbies on big jobs walk.

Ideally, if the job is to be finished, the subcontractors will be novated to the new main contractor on the same terms - but even this takes time, and when it is likely that Carillion haven't paid them for three months (and they may end up with nothing) the prospect of waiting another three for a payment from a new principal contractor will force many to the wall. 

Clients will only find main contractors to replace Carillion on cost-plus terms if continuity is to be maintained; there is simply no time to cost and negotiate new contracts. And rescue firms will know they must secure rock solid fee agreements now, up front; clients happy to agree crash costs at times of crisis will always backtrack once the hiatus of the rescue is over; getting it sewn up tight whilst you have the advantage is the only way. 

And make no mistake, it's the clients that will pay. As long as the crash costs now are equal to or less than costs of demobilising the schemes, mothballing, re-tendering and re-mobilising, with all the substantial costs of delayed delivery, they will pay. And that means us - taxpayers - in many cases. There really is no alternative. The least-cost options will still cost us a fortune.

Monday, 15 January 2018

When construction pigeons come home to roost

Balfour Beatty must be breathing a sigh of relief this morning that Carillion's recent takeover bid was not successful. BB was lined up to follow Mowlem, McAlpine and Eaga to boost Carillion's sales and potential profits in a process that only works so long as there are more companies with which to merge or take-over; once the music stops, the whole thing generally collapses. 

Carillion was overburdened with debt and major construction contracts were simply not providing the profits to service them. This was disguised for a while by accounting for 'other receivables' i.e. money expected to be released from construction contracts, but never materialising. And this is a tale that is common throughout the construction industry. 

I once let a large contract to a subsidiary of a well known mega firm. It was a newish subsidiary run by set of very confident managers, but with no great track record. Still, their bids were excellent value and they were underwritten by their parent. Shortly after my contract started, rumours came in of heavy time over-runs on another job. They moved key contract management staff from my job to the problem job, and as a result they fell behind on my job. Their solution was to bid low for yet another job; the ever-growing order book made the risk of losses look unimportant. They failed to perform adequately on the third job, too. All the while they were reporting expected contract out turn as close to budget - even when they were into LADs for late completion. A few weeks after my job finished and the final account on their first job became clear, they submitted requests for additional payments of several millions. All the while they were still reporting to their board high levels of profitability - the cost claim was 'income' and contrived to maintain the fiction for as long as possible. 

Well, we demolished their silly claims without breaking sweat, but that took time. By the time their major losses on all three jobs became clear, the parent company decided to close down the subsidiary. The very confident managers became ex-managers. The fact is that they were able to continue forecasting profitability long after the point when it was blindingly obvious they'd cocked up hugely.

In effect, the head company shareholders subsidised my scheme by their cocky managers underbidding and hoping to make up the profits from changes, additions and variations. The form of contract I used didn't allow very much scope for that. 

Well, I'm sorry for all the good folk at Carillion including those I know and have enjoyed working with. But that's mega construction firms for you.  

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Brexit - FAQs

Given that Project Fear is achieving peak risible on social media, now may be an appropriate moment to answer a few Remoaner points;

Brexit will mean Brits are banned from travelling in Europe
Brits will be able to travel in Europe visa-free but with passports, just as we have been since 1947, with stays of up to 3 months. No change.

British people will never be allowed to live abroad
Brits can live wherever they like in the world, and do. Generally one needs a source of income, health care arrangements and the consent of the country in which one wants to live. There has NEVER been an absolute, unconditional right to live in another EU country. Nor is there is a single  EU wide standard, and individual national standards are likely to remain as they are now. No change. 

Our children will be barred from the ERASMUS programme
UK access to ERASMUS will continue unconditionally until 2020. After that, the British Council, which funds and runs the UK programme, is committed to facilitating reciprocal access to Europe and the Commonwealth for young Brits. 

Our children's access to EU universities will be restricted
This is probably a good thing if it happens but is sadly unlikely. EU universities are utterly second rate and rank way below the UK's HE sector. The EU27 don't have a single university in the international Top Ten; the UK has four. However, if young Tarquin is so irredeemably stupid that he can't even get a place on the media studies course at Steeple Bumstead, I'm sure that the University of Ibiza will still give him a place on the English degree course. For a fee. 

Brexit will mean food prices will rise
The EU is deeply protectionist and maintains high food prices to ensure good incomes for EU farmers; imports to the EU are therefore heavily taxed. After Brexit it's entirely up to the UK whether to maintain these trade barriers or not - though there are implications for UK farm incomes if we scrap them. Whatever, the UK government will have its hands on the levers that determine retail food prices - and you can be reasonably certain that they will ensure no overall price rise, though the mix and origin of the nation's shopping basket may change. 

The NHS will collapse after Brexit without EU staff
Simply, Bollocks. See the NHS' own breakdown of staff origin. Many EU staff who have gone home since 2016 - a small part of a small part of total staff - have done so because the £ used to buy €1.40 but now only buys €1.12. That's quite a drop in incentive for a Polish nurse working in the SE and also having to pay rent. EU churn will be compensated for by additional worldwide recruitment.

Right. I'm fed up with this now. The remoaners talk so much bollocks one could continue indefinitely.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Winning back the seas

For a nation with links to the sea as strong as the UK, nothing raises such visceral protectiveness as our territorial waters and fish. Oh sure we can get a little bit excited about the economic benefits of passporting for the City, but it simply doesn't raise the blood to battle as does the prospect of a Dutch trawler stealing our cod. Gaining economic sovereignty (I won't say regaining) of our 200 mile commercial limit in 2019 is therefore a big deal.

For UK fishing fleets to take up the catches currently taken from our waters by the EU27 will take time. Boats must be built, crews must be trained, shore facilities must be expanded - and most importantly, vessels to patrol and police our waters from foreign poachers must be built and crewed. If new keels are not laid this month, we simply won't have the last capacity in March 2019.   

I'm not surprised that the EU27 want to hold onto their right to take British fish during the 2-year transition period, nor that the government seem prepared to concede this. If not the CFP then some form of licencing would realistically have been needed to allow continental fleets to wind-down their operations. However, our lost licence fee income from these two years must be deducted from the financial settlement - after 2019 they'll be taking our fish, not a common EU fish stock. 

And one measure we can take, one piece of legislation we can prepare, is to reverse the judgement in Factortame.  Requiring red duster flagged vessels to have a majority of UK national owners would at least halt the despoliation of stun fishing, and ensure that within reasonable time the full economic benefits would return to the United Kingdom.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Impress and Ipso

This is a story in which there are no heroes, only villains. Press 'regulation' does absolutely nothing to eliminate fake news, bias, distortion, omission or misrepresentation in our national press; such things are accepted as part and parcel of newspapers. Some editors, such as Piers Morgan, unashamedly even faked photos and printed fiction when the real thing was scarce. For anyone of any sense, the best approach to newspaper reporters is to shun them utterly; anyone stupid or naive enough to believe that a newspaper will tell their story the way they describe it deserves the monstering they will undoubtedly earn.

So who exactly do the competing regulators Impress and Ipso protect? Well, the establishment for a start - politicians, fixers, political dags, the wealthy, the powerful, and then of course luvvies - actors, musicians and the like, those who seek to use the press for their own publicity. Them. Not us. Press regulators do absolutely nothing for you and I; absolutely nothing. 

So the Press are heroes then, fighting the rich and powerful on our behalf? Uhm, no. The papers are owned or directed by the same rich and powerful. Their aim is to stay rich by printing stuff that people want to read - and what people want to read about are other people, if not the establishment and the rich and famous then at least those endowed with enormous buttocks. Private Eye used to push the boundaries a bit but under Hislop has become flaccid and toothless, a sort of downmarket Punch with dirty print.

One of these pointless regulators was actually founded by Max Mosley who has spent much time and effort ridding the internet of images of himself naked and undergoing a sexually perverted act with a number of prostitutes. As a wealthy man who can afford to indulge his perversions, Mosley asserts his right to do so without fear of exposure. It's not an argument with which I care to engage. 

So there you have it. Impress and Ipso. Utterly pointless and nothing to worry about.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Tax funding for political parties ... again

Yep you guessed. The political establishment is gearing up to have another go at getting tax funding of the established parties onto the statute books - or rather, enhancing the tax funding provisions that already apply. This time around the Conservatives, down to a rumoured 70,000 members, are listening. 

The previous crooked proposals from Christopher Kelly, building on earlier crooked proposals from Hayden Phillips, would have given all parties with at least one sitting MP about £3 a year from taxpayers for each vote the party got in the previous general election. Protests that this entrenched incumbent parties, discouraged tactical voting, discouraged all voting, inhibited political change and gave Labour, LibDems and Conservatives a sort of quasi-constitutional status beloved of establishment mandarins such as Kelly and Phillips fell on deaf ears. In the end it was Labour's refusal to accept a cap of £50k on individual donations - hobbling Union cash - that froze the scheme. 

Back in 2014 I wrote of my dislike for Carswell at the time of his defection - and was admonished by UKIP readers. I called him caddish, I think. However, had the Kelly / Phillips tax funding proposals gone through, he could have earned UKIP some £12m a year in party funding. Without him, 4m votes would get UKIP exactly nothing. Still a turd, perhaps, but possibly a gold plated one. 

Now of course wealthy individual LEAVE funders are being hit for 20% inheritance tax on their donations - donations tax free for global corporates and their UK incorporated dags, for trade unions or if made to (you've guessed it) political parties with at least one sitting MP. HMRC may be applying the law, but it is a dubious law that has the effect of implementing crooked and underhand tax funding of some points of view, wholly against the will of the public on tax funding in general. It's bent, it's corrupt and we didn't vote for it. It's the introduction of tax funding by the back door - and the lever that the establishment will use to move to the next stage. 

The political landscape never remains static. When I started writing this blog, the Conservatives had some 250k paying members, Labour was suffering and down to about 160k and the LibDems scraped some 60k. The 2010 coalition brought chauffeured jags for the LibDem top dogs but a massive hole in party funding from the loss of opposition Short money. Party membership in the UK had reached a nadir with just 1% of an electorate of 45m being party members. 

In 2018 we face a Conservative party with fewer than a third of the members it had ten years ago, a LibDem party on the verge of extinction, with only the disproportionate number of LD peers giving them any parliamentary presence at all, but a reinvigorated Labour party replete with individual memberships and backed with big union money from the TUs that would dearly love a Marxist in the Treasury. 

Party funding is in desperate need of a complete rethink; social media in particular makes a joke of much of the existing framework. But no more Kelly and no more Phillips - no more establishment mandarins, crooked civil servants, bent globalists or Blairite managerialists. 

Who would you nominate to chair a new, fair enquiry into party funding? My own nominees are both from the left; Simon Jenkins, who ran a membership organisation with over 4m paying members, and Helena Kennedy, whose seminal Power inquiry was squashed by the very establishment it sought to reform.