Department for Environment, Farming & Rural Affairs

Consultation on the IMS&ER of the EUEEUP&ELF Directives

I have just received the following invitation from AEA Technologies (energy bureaucrats who have separated but not divorced from the greater bureaucracy, and who are "managing" this aspect of the "Market Transformation Programme" for DEFRA). Truly, the EU, the Labour government and its client consultancies have perfected the art of combining menace with incomprehensible language in pursuit of illiberal and bureaucratic objectives in every nook and cranny of our lives:

Dear Stakeholder,

We wish to inform you that Defra has just launched a consultation on Implementation of the Market Surveillance and Enforcement Requirements of the EU Eco-design of Energy Using Products and Energy Labeling Framework Directives and seeks your views and comments.

It's hard to wrap your brain around so many (upper-cased) nouns in short succession in one sentence. Nevertheless, you get the drift without reading the consultation documents that this is something to do with the application of authority in pursuit of standardization and homogenization, with the (supposedly unintentional) outcome that choice, innovation, and flexibility to circumstance will be limited.

Market Transformation indeed. Our markets are being transformed into non-markets - places where we exchange what the Government thinks is the appropriate proportion of the income that the Government thinks we are entitled to, for those goods that the Government thinks we ought to want, designed in the way that the Government thinks is best for us.

Orwell wrote about it, the Soviets implemented it, and now Western governments are following suit. Corruption of language and inversion or elimination of meaning are a sure sign of a bureaucracy that is looking to intervene in every aspect of our lives.

London flooded or Miami wrecked? More bad weather on the way

Piers Corbyn, the man who has successfully forecast, weeks or even months ahead, much of this summer's extreme weather events, has issued a warning of further heavy rainfall on 5th-9th and 18th-23rd August. He also warns that there is a serious risk of flooding in London, as the floodwater from this rainfall hits the spring tides of 12th and 28th August.

London under waterI have no idea about the conditions required to cause flooding in London. We are often told (for instance by Ken Livingstone only this week in questions on the Olympics) that London is protected from flooding for at least the next fifty years by the Thames barrage. But given Piers's record (he was bang on with the rains of 12th-14th June and those of 24th-26th June, which caused the Sheffield and Hull flooding, but was out by two days in forecasting the recent heavy rain for 22nd-26th July, when it actually fell mostly during the period 20th-23rd July), and the less impressive record of the Government and the Met. Office, I would be inclined to take at least the weather forecast part seriously, and to ask questions of the Environment Agency about whether the conditions he forecast could really result in serious flooding in London.

The economic consequences, if Piers is correct, could be significant. He has written to Gordon Brown to warn him. We'll see whether the Government will take the threat more seriously this time, and take more decisive action to put preventative and rescue measures in place.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, we are well into Hurricane Season, which officially begins on 1st June. So far, it seems to have been a pretty quiet one, though one wouldn't expect the big storms yet - they tend to be concentrated between August and October. The Season Outlook issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the end of May warns that it is very likely (75% probability) to be an above-normal hurricane season. This is not, as will doubtless be claimed if the Outlook turns out to be right, because of global warming, but because of "1) the continuation of conditions that have been conducive to above-normal Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995, and 2) the strong likelihood of either ENSO-neutral or La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean." As La Niña conditions have been fingered for our bad weather, it looks like that part of the forecast has been fulfilled, which was expected to lead to more extreme events than if there had been ENSO-neutral conditions.

All-in-all, it looks like this year could be a humdinger of a hurricane season, if the US government agency's models are right. It's always possible that the weather confounds the models, or that the models are wrong. Even if not, the agency is keen to point out that the scale of damage is not necessarily proportional to the activity of the season, as the precise paths of the hurricanes are an important factor in the scale of damage, and these paths cannot be predicted accurately. But it's yet one more risk of a high-cost weather event.

It must already be a pretty bad summer for insurers, given that southern Europe is experiencing its own extreme weather, Eastern India is under water, Japan has been hit by the strongest typhoon on record for a July, while in China, they seem to be managing to have floods and droughts almost simultaneously. If either or both of these threats - flooding in London, or a hurricane-strike on another major American city - occur, it could cause significant difficulties for the insurance industry. And any circumstance where high payouts are a risk can only mean one thing - higher premiums. It's just one more thing to add to the ongoing squeeze on the budgets of most households and businesses nowadays.

God's judgment

The claims that this summer's unseasonal weather are the result of global warming continue. Whether you believe that global warming is the result of anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions, like the majority, or of permissive attitudes to gay relationships, like the Bishop of Carlisle, you are supposed to believe that the recent floods are nature or God's judgment on our wicked ways.

Contrary to earlier claims, the Met. Office have started to whisper that this weather is not, in fact, the result of global warming, but is more likely caused by the impacts of a La Niña weather system. If so, it also gives the lie to the claims that this weather was unpredictable. It wasn't, it was just unpredicted by the "experts" to whom the government and the media listen.

Let's be clear. No one who knew anything about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory should ever have been claiming that heavy summer rainfall was the result of AGW. Below is a graph produced by the Governments' UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) in cooperation with DEFRA, the Met. Office's Hadley Centre, and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, showing predicted changes in precipitation under two climate-change scenarios (Top row = Low emissions, Bottom row = High emissions). It is missing one vital piece of information, which is what each column portrays. The three columns for each block (Winter and Summer) are predictions for how the precipitation will have changed, respectively (left to right) by the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s. As you can see, even under low-emissions scenarios, by the 2020s, summer precipitation is expected to have fallen by upto 20% in most of England, including most of the flood-hit areas. Heavy rainfall that delivers in the space of a few days an amount of rain equal to the total rainfall in an average summer is ABSOLUTELY INCONSISTENT with this, however much pundits might like to claim airily that the models predict more extremes.


So Bernard Matthews bought a load of dodgy birds from Hungary, dumps a load of meat in open bins, had un-fit for purpose sheds which had leaky roofs and mesh that had been gnawed by rats and his farm was at the centre of the biggest outbreak of bird flu seen in Britain. As a result he culled 159,000 of these birds because of his business's poor hygiene. So what is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs response to this buffoon's Del-boy-esque business practices? They have given him £600k. Jack Straw, the Leader of the House has said “All of us are uncomfortable about the reports of high levels of compensation to Mr Matthews’s firm.” So why has your government seen fit to give him over half a million pounds of our money? I bet old Bernie can't believe his luck, a truck load of cash and he didn't have to flog one of his Turkey Drummers to the ever growing obese nation.

Agricultural subsidies

While I was away, I received a copy of this letter from Bob Durward (chairman of the classical liberal New Party) to David Milliband. Bob has allowed me to reproduce it here. I hope it tickles you as much as it tickles me.

To: Rt Hon David Milliband MP
Secretary of State, DEFRA
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR

Dear Secretary of State,

My friend, who is in farming at the moment, received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I now want to join the "not rearing pigs" business.

In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agriculture Policy.

I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?

As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven't reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.

If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100?

I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. Then I can afford to buy an aeroplane.

Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I didn't rear?

I am also considering the "not milking cows" business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include the Government information on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields?

In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will qualify for unemployment benefits.

I shall of course vote for you at the next general election.

Yours faithfully,

Trading favours

David Miliband has prepared (with the help of Alistair Darling and some big businesses) a manifesto for the development of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) after 2012 (Phase 3). He has circulated it to trade associations and big business (or "British industry", as he likes to call it, forgetting as usual about the majority of smaller businesses), asking them to endorse it. The manifesto and its covering letter are attached.

His attitude to "UK business" is summed up in the following sentence from his covering letter:

"Our initial impression of the level of consensus on EU ETS was confirmed when we met some key industry figures to discuss the manifesto in November."

How can you test a level of consensus by meeting some key industry figures? Isn't the definition of consensus that it includes the many, not just the few? If the few tell you that there is consensus amongst the unconsulted many, are you a wise politician to believe them? Even if it were the view of many, should you do what is wanted by the majority (or even the consensus) amongst a particular interest-group, or what is right without reference to interests? Most of us want taxes to be lower, but his Government seems to care less about the consensus on that subject. How do they decide which consensus to listen to and which to ignore?

It used to be said that "UK business" wanted us to go in to the Euro. Now it is said that "UK business" does not want us to go in to the Euro. What is meant is that the majority of bosses of big City institutions and major corporations used to think that the Euro would be good for their businesses, and now the majority think it would be bad. That is not the same thing as the opinion of UK business (even if the Confederation of Big Industry says it is). The Government's reliance on the self-interested, vacillating, superficial assessments of this "elite" is what makes policy so inconsistent and unprincipled. The attitude to EU-ETS and their alliance to produce this manifesto is just another example.

Incompetence, ineptitude and screwing the taxpayer

Gordon Brown has bailed out Mr Money-waster himself, David Miliband. More than £300m worth of taxpayers’ money has been used to compensate for another Government IT cock up – this time a computer system that failed to pay thousands of farmers subsidies that had been paid to the government by the European Community. The Government sat on this money for six months before finally paying it out, but in classically incompetent style missed the deadline for claiming the money back from the EU.

But don’t worry; the Treasury has said that “the money allocated was an estimate of the cash the ministry might have to pay if it is "fined" by the EU for not making the payments on time”. So what? It’s still £300m worth of taxpayers’ money that wouldn’t have been spent if you had your house in order. Richard Bacon MP sums it up rather well - "The sheer incompetence and ineptitude of this government in handling [the matter] has now been compounded by them screwing the taxpayer as well."

Over budget IT projects

According to the official figures obtained by the Lib Dems, many information technology projects across government have overrun their initial budgets by more than £260 million over the last five years. The Department of the Environment Food and Rural (Defra) was the worst offender with the highest proportional overruns. Defra managed to run over budget by an average of 46 per cent with one scheme costing the department 72 per cent more than anticipated.The Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Education had such poor management systems in place that they could not provide sufficient data. The Treasury itself overran by 7.3 per cent on its own projects.

Renewable fix

Renewable electricity in the UK is supported primarily by the Renewables Obligation (RO), an obligation on licenced electricity suppliers to purchase a proportion of their electricity from renewable sources. Most types of renewable electricity are eligible, and every unit from every eligible project is treated as having an equal value to the environment. Until now, that is....

Amazonian myths

David Miliband wants Westerners to buy the Amazon rainforest (Sunday Telegraph, 1 Oct 2006, News, p.2). We need to ensure that there is a balance between urban and industrial development to provide the goods that people demand, agricultural development to provide the food that they demand, and undeveloped areas to provide the ecological services (such as carbon dioxide absorption) that we need and the habitat to support the biological diversity that may yield untold benefits in the future. Property rights are an important way of encouraging protection of assets. In that sense, a proposal to introduce property rights in rainforests should be welcomed.