There has been a fair bit of talk of late of major constitutional reform of the House of Lords.  Now we all know why Tony Blair did what he did to the Lords, it was to remove what was a permanent Conservative majority from the Lords so he could pass laws a bit easier. 

However the current plans I find a little unsettling.  As it is at the moment the Lords is there to provide a series of balance and checks to the government, and it works.  The Lord’s knows it’s not the senior house and it knows that sovereignty lies with the House of Commons. Also the Lord’s also has another wonderful property that only exists in there; in that there are a lot of specialist’s who sit as peers such as Doctors, Lawyers, Nurses ect…

If we move to an elected House of Lords I fear all this will be lost, and we will be faced with a second version of the House of Commons.  We will be in a situation where both houses have a mandate from the people and could well argue over which chamber has the stronger mandate.  Which then moves away from government working for the good of the people while they sort out some constitutional argument. 

It will also bring in just more party politics to the legislative process, although they say that by having one fifteen year term the people can stay somewhat partisan with regards to political views, I don’t see that happening.  What I see if you have an elected second chamber is it getting used as a possible training ground for MP’s.  If that happens then we will see very strict adherence to party policy. 

I am not saying we don’t need to do something with the Lords, as we are rapidly increasing the size of it every year.  However I do think that we need to keep the process and systems that we have in place.  Instead of having peers allowed to sit in the Lords for life, why not limit the time they can sit in the Lords to 15 years, that way we keep the system that works and address the growth issue.
Freedom of speech is what underpins and great democratic society; it gives us the right to voice our opinions on all sorts of things without the fear of the state stopping us.  As long as we don’t break any laws in what we say. 

However we have seen in recent year’s groups like the BNP and the EDL pushing the limits of Freedom of Speech, coming very close to inciting racial hatred with their campaigns against Muslims.  But equally we have seen Muslim extremists doing the same. 

Now this leaves us in a difficult position, the obvious solution would be to pass a law prohibiting groups like those from being able to spout their hatred.  However that goes against all we believe in; in a free and fair democracy.  As if we start to limit one group who say things we don’t like then that only leads us to banning more and more groups from saying things we don’t agree with. 

However I think there is one very simple solution to this whole issue, and that is to convince the media that giving these hate filled groups air time or column inches is a bad thing.  If we let them have their “demonstrations” and don’t report it in the media they will soon get bored doing it and go away.  As they know even if 20 of them turn up to spout their hate filled nonsense there will be as many journalists there to report it.  We should as people encourage the press that this is really not a worthy news story. 

The principles behind the NHS are great, its one example in society where everyone is considered equal regardless of job, creed, sexuality or gender.  It’s supposed to be a place where we can all access health care for free when we need it. 

However in today’s modern world the NHS has become a lumbering dinosaur burdened by bureaucracy and red tape. If you look at the staffing figures you’ll see that of the 1.4 million people employed by the NHS only 700,000 are clinical staff like doctors, nurses and physical therapists.  Under Thatcher and Major we saw a small number of non-clinical staff, which once 1997 came was rapidly increased to the place where we now have a 50/50 split of clinical/non-clinical staff.  Not once in any of the private sector companies I have worked for has there been an imbalance like that. 

If we want an NHS for another +60 years then we need to act now and bring the service in to the twenty first century; as there is no point in having a twentieth century company working in the twenty first century. 

The NHS needs modernisation, and if that means to get the best possible services for the people of the country we have to involve private companies then we should embrace that.  After all the surgeons doing the operations in the private sector are the same surgeons who also work for the NHS.  If these private companies bring down the cost of having operations done, with the same people doing them, then again surely that is the best thing for the NHS.  If we can save billions of the NHS budget and redirect that money to clinical staff it’s win win. 

The labour opposition to the reform of the health service is opposition for opposition’s sake.  In their own manifesto for 2010 they said the following;

“We will support an active role for the independent sector working alongside the NHS in the provision of care, particularly where they bring innovation,”

So they themselves have said that the private sector working within the NHS is a good thing as they can bring in new ideas.  Yet now in opposition they are looking to score cheap political points by opposing the very thing that they would have done had they been elected. 

So we are now faced with two options, we can support the reform of the NHS that will make it better and stronger and ready to deal with the needs of the twenty first century or we can oppose the reforms and leave ourselves with an outdated antiquated heavily bureaucratic system that’s not fit for purpose.  I myself only see one viable option and that is to back the reforms 100%.
Of late there have been a few examples of big companies exploiting the “work trail” scheme; one in particular Tesco’s looking for night staff on the scheme.  Which would give Tesco’s basically a free person working for them with the state paying the member of staff’s Job Seeker’s Allowance. 

Now out of curiosity I decided to have a look in to the scheme to see what it was for and when it was introduced.  Now the basics behind the scheme are it was introduced in 1989 to provide trial periods of employment for the unemployed in small and medium businesses, which could lead to full time employment. 

Now in its original form I think it’s a wonderful idea, it allows these smaller companies to take on a new person for 2 weeks or so, to show them what the company does what their roll would be and so forth.  Then after the trial period there could be an offer of a job or they both go their separate ways.  Which for smaller companies is a good thing; it saves them having to employ someone who 2 or 3 weeks later decides that it’s not for them and then leaves costing the company a bit of money.

However this scheme wasn’t really used much, probably because the job centres and small companies didn’t know about it.  However roll on 2008 big crisis globally and unemployment starting to rise at a reasonably fast rate.  A few legislative changes were made, notably to the Minimum Wage Legislation, which allowed big business to use this long forgotten scheme. 

Now if Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s or anyone of these companies wanted to employ new staff, I am sure an advert in the local Job Centre would get them 100’s of people wanting to work for them.  So why do they need to basically exploit these people for 2 weeks to get free labour paid for by the state. 

All this is doing is tarnishing the name of what is a good scheme in principle, we should stop letting these big companies abuse it and exploit these people; and we should encourage the small and medium sized businesses to use it.  Give these big companies of tomorrow the help they need to grow, which in turn will boost the economy and create more jobs.  Tesco’s can fill its jobs several times over without any help.  We should be encouraging these aspirational companies to flourish and become the Tesco’s of tomorrow. 

Now we all have probably seen the news story about Bideford Town Council and the right to pray before council meetings.  Now personally I don’t see what all the fuss is about, if the counsellors wish to pray before they start their meeting I think they should be allowed to.  However one counsellor didn’t think it was right and took them to court over it. 

Where the judge decided that there was no legal right to say a prayer at a council meeting; and for once rejected the human rights claim.  Which is rather unusual as recent history will show that judges have come down heavily on Christians with human rights decisions of late. 

Anyhow If we cast our minds back a few weeks, to what was a bad night for the Government in the House of Lords with the Bishops leading a revolt over the Welfare Bill.  We had lots of people on the left coming out and backing the Bishops saying it was a good thing that they did, and praising the Bishops somewhat for their actions. 

Then on a forum I post on came the news story about Bideford.  Where those on the left were all going on about how the church and state should be 100% separate and that religion has no place in politics.  Yet these were the same people who only a few weeks ago were praising the Bishops.  Then when I pointed out that the Queen is not only head of the state but head of the church, there were some well very interesting suggestions most notably the fact that we should remove the Queen. 

Well anyhow it seems that it’s not just Mr Miliband and co that change their position from day to day, but also their supporters that can’t make up their mind on what is good and bad.