Saturday 31 August 2013

Syria: Greens amongst hundreds protesting against military strike

I joined many Greens and anti-war protesters on the Syria march this afternoon and it was great to see so many young people and families present. We were  united in wanting to reinforce the message to the Coalition government to keep out of the conflict but also in calling on President Obama not to attack Syria.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett spoke for many when she called on the government to focus on humanitarian aid, call off the up-coming London Arm's Fair and abolish Trident.

I would add that given the widespread lack of confidence in politicans word on these issues that it is imperative that the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry be published as soon as possible.

Lucas calls for redoubling of Syrian aid efforts following Commons vote

Following Thursday’s parliamentary vote against military intervention in Syria, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion is calling for a redoubling of humanitarian support to the region.

Caroline Lucas said:

“Whatever the political significance of (Thursday’s) vote, it’s vital that the focus urgently shifts now to humanitarian support for the victims of the conflict.

“There are millions of people who have lost their homes, or are in urgent need of medical care.
“We are hearing from development agencies, including Oxfam, that the situation facing refugees, in Syria and the wider region, is appalling. More than eight million people are now in desperate need of supplies.

“As a matter of urgency we should be increasing aid to Syria’s neighbours to help them support the families forced to seek refuge.

 “A huge amount of political energy has been focused on getting ready for a military strike.  If even just a fraction of those resources could be directed towards this humanitarian crisis, we could do much to reduce further suffering and loss of life."

Lucas also called for the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

“Crimes against humanity and international law have been committed.  Once there is evidence of responsibility for these appalling attacks, those responsible must be dealt with by the International Criminal Court.”

Friday 30 August 2013

Syria demonstration to go ahead on Saturday

Statement by Stop the War:

The Stop the War Coalition welcomes the defeat of David Cameron’s plan to attack Syria in parliament last night. We didn’t stop the war in Iraq, but we did create a mass anti war opinion in Britain. 
That tide of anti war opinion has made itself felt in the past few days. MPs have in their majority refused to back a fourth intervention by western powers since 2001. They have for once reflected the majority public opinion in this country.

We now have to reject all attempts at intervention in Syria and to develop a foreign policy which is based on equality and justice, and the rights of national sovereignty.

The Tory led government will try to recoup the situation. We will demonstrate on Saturday against this intervention, whether by the US alone or with Britain involved. It is the aim of the anti-war movement to ensure that the US is forced to abandon the attack on Syria now that the country with which it is supposed to enjoy a ‘special relationship’ has carried a parliamentary vote against war.

Brent politicians' positions on Syria debate

Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather joined Labour colleagues Barry Gardiner and Glenda Jackson in voting against the government motion on Syria last night. Barry Gardiner made an effective intervention when Nick Clegg was summing up, asking if the US mounted an attack over the weekend whether the UK would offer 'indirect' support (the use of UK bases for example). Clegg failed to answer fully and his avoidance was followed up by other MPs, contributing to doubts over the Coalition's position.

Gardiner had strongly supported Tony Blair's Iraq war.

Following the Government defeat and David Cameron's declaration that there would be no direct UK intervention the issue of whether there will be indirect support remains unanswered. The Labour Party meanwhile hasn't clarified whether their position is still that set out in its motion, support for intervention if conditions are met, or whether it is now opposed to any military intervention.

Cllr Roxanne Mashari made here position clear this morning in a Tweet:
Horrified and outraged by scenes in Syria. Fail to understand anyone who categorically rules out military intervention to help these people.
At 6pm yesterday  Sarah Teather posted a full statement on her position:

Everyone will agree that the use of chemical weapons is an abhorrent and unjustifiable act. The horrifying pictures that emerged after last week's attack were devastating to see and all will want action to prevent this from reoccurring.

However, I do not believe that the case for military action to prevent further attacks has been made successfully, either practically or ethically.

I am not opposed to military action in all situations. I do accept that military intervention is sometimes necessary, for example as part of an international peacekeeping mission, as an urgent response to prevent an immediate imminent humanitarian disaster such as genocide, or as an act of self-defence. When used in such circumstances, military action must be a last resort, have some reasonable chance of success and be proportionate to its context. I am not convinced that the proposed action in this situation meets those objectives.

First, it falls into none of the categories described above (peacekeeping, prevention of genocide, self-defence). Instead it seeks to punish a country for an action it has already taken. We have repeatedly heard politicians speak of a 'slapped wrist' or of making clear that Assad's actions 'must be seen to have consequences'. I am troubled that military action on this basis - which would inevitably involve further loss of life - may not have an adequate moral or legal foundation to justify it.

Politicians in the UK have subsequently shifted their rhetoric to argue that it is intended to be a deterrent rather than a punishment. But it is not clear how it would succeed in acting as a deterrent and yet meet the test for proportionality. Certainly it seems to have limited chance of success in meeting an objective of preventing further use of chemical weapons. Strikes against chemical weapon stores would be incredibly dangerous and would risk civilian casualties. An alternative course of strikes against minor targets would do little to dissuade Assad and instead could result in him escalating the already bloody civil war that is raging in Syria. We simply cannot know what Assad's response to any attack would be.

Stronger military action would also not accomplish the stated aim. Weakening Assad's military capabilities would tip the balance in favour of regime change - something the Government has steered clear from. The situation in Syria is extremely complicated and is not simply a case of Assad's regime versus the Syrian people. The Syrian opposition is not a homogenous group, but is rather a mix of factions and sub-groups where in many cases the shared value is opposition to Assad. As a result, it is extremely unlikely that the sudden toppling of Assad will end the civil war. Instead it is much more likely to result in the conflict spreading beyond the borders of Syria, further destabilising the region. I therefore do not believe that any military action will achieve the asserted aim of preventing further chemical attacks.

There is no easy answer to the current situation in Syria but I fear that military action can only make matters worse. And if we do intervene and the situation continues to escalate, what then? It would be almost unavoidable for the UK not to be drawn into further and more intensive military action.

In our understandable desire to do something in the face of such appalling atrocities we are in danger of arriving at a contradictory position: attempting to uphold international law by flouting international law ourselves and attempting to make a statement about our disapproval of violence by perpetrating further violence.

Some people have argued were we not to take military action, we would be washing our hands of the situation and doing nothing. However, the choice between military action and doing nothing is a false one. It is not clear to me that the only way to uphold international law is via military force. Certainly any military force would clearly need to be a last resort, having exhausted all other options.

Any solution to the current crisis in Syria needs to be political rather than military if long-term peace is to be found. That is why the UK must increase its attempts to work with international partners and provide full support for the Geneva II process in order to secure global cooperation in finding a peaceful resolution. There must also be full provision in place to provide international humanitarian support and aid for the nearly 2 million refugees that have left Syria - half of whom are children - who are fleeing into neighbouring countries.

For these reasons, and given the current circumstances, I do not support military intervention in Syria. I also feel that, while I welcome the work done by Nick Clegg in ensuring that the Government does not rush into military action, tonight's motion paves the way for a future commitment. As such, I shall this evening be voting against the motion

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Lucas amendment on Syria says case for military action not established

Ahead of tomorrow's parliamentary debate on Syria, Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, has tabled the following amendment to the Government's motion:

"[That this House] deplores the chemical weapons attacks and appalling loss of life in Syria; notes that the reports of weapons inspectors in Syria are yet to be published, and that there is no UN authorisation for military action; regrets that the Attorney General's advice on the legality of military action has not been made available to honorable members; calls for refugees from the Syrian conflict to be fully assisted and supported; and believes that the case for military action against Syria has not been established.

Caroline Lucas
Paul Flynn
Jeremy Corbyn
Elfyn Llwyd
Jonathan Edwards
Hywel Williams"

Whitehall blocked by Syria anti-war protesters - make it massive on Saturday

The crowd in Whitehall
Among the speakers were Jenny Jones Green Am and Diane Abbot MP
A group of Green Party members at the protest
At the gate of Downing Street
Protesters eventually blocked Whitehall
Britain France and the US are poised to attack Syria. Even ex-generals are warning that such an attack can have incalculable consequences. It risks terrible casualties, will intensify the desperate civil war and threatens to draw other regional powers in to the conflict.

As Stop the War's statement on Syria points out 'It seems that the Western governments have already made up their minds about this attack before it has even been reported on by UN weapons inspectors.' This underlines the fact that the intervention, far from being humanitarian, is part of a wider project of regime change.

While our politicians appear to have learnt nothing from the disasters of Afghanistan, Iraq most people in Britain oppose any attack. Only 9% support British troops getting involved and only 25% back missile strike.
Protests are taking place across the country today and tomorrow - please check here for details and phone us if you want to organise something in your area.

Make Saturday massive

Saturday's national demonstration is crucial. We need to be a real expression of mass public opinion. Please do everything possible to attend and promote as widely as you can.

The demonstration is now assembling at Temple Tube at midday on Saturday and marching via parliament and Downing Street to Trafalgar Square for a rally. Transport has already been organised from various towns and cities, please contact the office for more information.

Demonstrate - No attack on Syria, this Saturday 31 August. 12 midday,  Temple tube, Victoria Embankment.

Tight manoeuvres at the Brent Civic Centre

Chaotic scenes outside the Brent Civic Centre caused by the closure of  Engineers Way for road works were made worse yesterday when a 92 bus lumbered into the closed road and then got stuck trying to reverse out of the trap.

As wedding guests in all their finery tripped through the roadworks to the Civic Centre entrance the bus driver was rescued by an  exasperated Civic Centre security man who gingerly guided him into the marriage garden entrance for a tight manoeuvre.

Perhaps a place for drivers to avoid completely at the moment.

Home Office prevaricates on Kensal Green UKBA FoI request

It appears that the Home Office is issuing a standard response to FoI requests on the UKBA raids on various stations:

This request was made by Paul Anders:

Dear Home Office,

As a resident of the London Borough of Brent, I request information about the activity by UK Border Agency staff at Kensal Green station in Brent on 30th July 2013. Specifically:

1. All correspondence in any form concerning this action between UKBA, the Home Office, other central government departments oragencies on the one hand and the London Borough of Brent and specifically Cllr Muhammed Butt on the other.

2. All minutes of meetings in which the decision to target Kensal Green station was discussed, including participants, their roles and details of which individual authorised this action.

3. The cost (including financial opportunity cost where officers would otherwise have been deployed elsewhere or else not on shift) of the exercise at Kensal Green on 30th July 2013.

4. The number and ethnicity of people (i) approached and (ii) questioned at Kensal Green on 30th July 2013 by police IC code.

5. The percentage of each IC code stopped who were found to be potentially in breach of immigration requirements.

6. Details of all previous exercises of this type carried out in 2013, including time, date, location, the number of people approached and questioned, and the number of people found to be of unclear immigration status as a consequence.

7. With regard to 6, the outcomes and / or progress made with their cases.

8. Any equality impact assessments relating to this activity in general, or the specific UKBA activity at Kensal Green station on 30th July 2013.

This request will be copied to Sarah Teather MP and Councillor Muhammed Butt.

For cost purposes, you may regard the above as separate requests.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Anders

With the statutory 20 days expiring the following response from Asia Choudhary of the 'Immigration Enforcement Team' at the Home Office has been posted:
We are considering your request. Although the Act carries a presumption in favour of disclosure, it provides exemptions which may be used to withhold information in specified circumstances. Some of these exemptions, referred to as ‘qualified exemptions’, are subject to a public interest test. This test is used to balance the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in favour of withholding the information. The Act allows us to exceed the 20 working day response target where we need to consider the public interest test fully.

The information which you have requested is being considered under the exemption in section 31of the Act, which relate to Law enforcement. This is a qualified exemption and to consider the public interest test fully we need to extend the 20 working day response period. We now aim to let you have a full response by 25 September.

If you have any questions about the handling of your information request then please do not hesitate to contact me. 
An identical letter was recently received by John Cox who made an FoI request about UKBA operations at Brent and Barnet stations.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Lucas: Syria action likely to provoke regime and escalate the conflict

COMMENTING on the announcement that Parliament is being recalled to discuss possible military action against the Assad regime in Syria, Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:

“I’m pleased that Parliament has been recalled, and have long argued that MPs should be guaranteed a free (un-whipped) vote before any involvement in conflict.

“However, I have deep concerns about resorting to military action. While completely deploring the actions of Assad and his regime, and believing that all those responsible for war crimes should be referred to the International Criminal Court, it is by no means clear that military action will reduce suffering in the region.

“Our guiding principle now must be to do all we can to protect lives. When considering military intervention, we need to look at the balance of risks. Currently, there is no evidence that the most likely scenario – a symbolic missile strike on a key regime target – would have a deterrent effect on the Assad regime.  To the contrary, it seems at least as likely that it could act as a provocation to the regime, and lead to an escalation of the conflict, and greater harm to civilians.

“We need to learn from our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the UK supports or participates in military action, particularly before a full report from the UN weapons inspectors, our chances of working towards a diplomatic resolution would be seriously undermined.

“Given that Russia looks likely to block agreement at the Security Council, the legality of a military response is also in question.

“The UK should now redouble efforts to address the refugee crisis, particularly in Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon, and support all humanitarian efforts to reduce suffering.”

No attack on Syria: Protest Wednesday, Demonstrate Saturday

No attack on Syria
- Protest tomorrow 5pm, Wednesday 28 August, Downing Street, London
- National Demonstration: Saturday 31 August, 12 noon, Embankment, London

Britain, France and the US are committing to another disastrous military intervention. Apart from the inevitable casualties, any attack on Syria can only inflame an already disastrous civil war and would risk pulling in regional powers further.

Most people in this country have learnt from the disasters of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. According to a Telegraph/YouGov poll on Sunday only 9% of the British public would support troops being sent to Syria, and only 16% support sending more arms to the region. Our politicians however have learnt nothing.

Take action:
We need the maximum level of protests to stop them plunging us in to yet another catastrophic war.

No attack on Syria
- Protest tomorrow 5pm, Wednesday 28 August, Downing Street, London
- National Demonstration: Saturday 31 August, 12 noon, Embankment, London

The national demonstration on Saturday will gather at Embankment (near Embankment tube) and march via Parliament and Downing Street, ending in Central London for a political rally to say No attack on Syria.

Please do not hesitate to contact the office on 020 7561 4830 or email

What should we do about Syria?

The following is the text of a letter which Philip Grant sent jointly to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on 27 August, and which is produced here as a “guest blog” so that other readers can express their own views, if they wish to do so. As Parliament has been recalled to discuss Syria, Philip also copied it to Barry Gardiner MP, with the message: ‘I hope that, on this issue, you will not repeat the error of judgement you made in 2003 in supporting British military action in Iraq.’
Dear Mr Cameron and Mr Hague,

Why Britain should not take military action over Syria

I am writing to ask you to reconsider the action which several recent public statements and media reports suggest that you are about to commit this country to taking. Like you, I am appalled by the apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria, particularly against civilians, but the use by Britain and/or its allies of military action in this conflict will not solve Syria’s problems, and is more likely to make matters in the Middle East worse rather than better.

The current situation in Syria is, like all armed conflicts, terrible for the people caught up in it, but it is a civil war, and does not directly involve, or threaten, the United Kingdom. Like all such conflicts, atrocities have occurred, and have probably been committed by groups on both sides. Civil wars are awful events and take a long time to heal, but they have to be resolved by the people of the countries that they affect. England’s own eight year civil war in the 1640’s was followed by more than ten years of discord and dictatorship, before the return of the monarchy and parliamentary government. The Ottoman Empire did not get involved in our civil war, and there was no reason why it should – it was a long distance away, and our conflict had nothing to do with a country in the eastern Mediterranean. Although there are much better communications in the 21st century than in the 17th, the principle is still the same.

Have our involvement in the Iraq war from 2003, in Afghanistan since 2001 and more recently in the Libyan civil conflict, meant that those countries now enjoy peace, stability and democracy? The honest answer is “No”. Not only that, our own and the US’s military involvement in those countries has seen the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, some as a direct result of high-tech weapons being directed at the “wrong” targets, or even worse, because of deliberate action by over-zealous service personnel. There is no way that our military involvement in the Syrian conflict would not cause more unnecessary deaths.

This country was wrong, and in breach of international law, to attack Iraq without the full approval of the United Nations in 2003. It would be equally wrong to get involved, with allies but again without a clear resolution approved by the UN Security Council, in any military action against the Assad government or any other group in Syria. That approval will not be forthcoming, because of the “checks and balances” built into the UN system. Those “balances” are not a bad thing, because one country engaging in military action against another sovereign country which is not at war with it is something which the international community rightly wishes to avoid, unless there is absolutely no alternative.

I am sure you feel that Britain has to do something, and I agree. It should continue to speak out against any atrocities, and support all efforts to get them properly investigated, so that whoever commits them can be brought before a proper court in due course, either within Syria or at the international court, to be tried for their crimes. It should do everything it can to support humanitarian work to help those affected by the conflict, both refugees in neighbouring countries and, where possible, those displaced and suffering within Syria. It should encourage all sides to cease fighting and try to resolve their differences by discussion and agreement, for the sake of their own fellow Syrians.

What Britain should not do is to use any of its weapons and armed forces, or to support or encourage others to use theirs, to attack any targets within Syria. If we were to go down that road, where would it stop? Assume that the US navy (and our own?) were to fire several hundred cruise missiles at so-called military targets in Syria. Damage would be done, people would be killed, but would that make the various sides in the civil war stop fighting? And if it did not, what action would “the allies” take next? How many more people would die, and how long would we continue to take such action, before this extra destruction ended? 

What damage would also be done to Britain’s relations with other countries around the world, and what further instability and conflict might such action trigger in the Middle East?

Please listen to this common sense advice from an ordinary British citizen and voter, and resist the temptation to take “the military option”.

Sunday 25 August 2013

When Schools Become Dead Zones of the Imagination - Henry Giroux

Copyright, Reprinted with permission   LINK

At the forthcoming Green Party Conference I will be moving a motion to start a revision process of the Party's Education Policy in the light of the enormous changes being brought about by Michael Gove. There will also be a panel discussion on academies and free schools

This interview with Henry Giroux and the full article LINK take the argument about the neoliberal approach to education much further than most commentaries and analysis.

These are ideas that should inform our debate.

Friday 23 August 2013

Cupcakes challenge Coalitions's divide and rule tactics


Incensed by the UKBA's recent raid on Kensal Green station. when officers appeared to be stopping and questioning commuters on the basis of their race and ethnicity, local residents today set up a free cupcake stall with a message.

Cakes bearing the slogans 'UKBA sucks' and 'I love Immigrants' were give out along with leaflets and cards informing people of their rights if stopped by the UKBA.

The unique protest soon gained customers, once they had got over the initial shock of something being given away AND being warmly greeted.

Underlying the fun and sugar rush was a serious message:
This community will not standby while people are stereotyped, scapegoated, bullied and victimised.

We will not allow the Coalition, competing with UKIP for the racist vote, to divide and rule us.

Brent Council decisions made this week

Brent Council Executive among other decisions on Monday approved Muhammed Butt's statement on 'Shaping a Healthier Future' and this now represents the Council's stance. The application for an ECO grant to reduce energy use and bills was approved as were changes in SEN provision and procurement for public health contracts.

The Planning Committee approved the Electric House, Willesden Green, application subject to conditions and the 575 North End Road, Wembly private student housing development was approved but will be referred to the Mayor of London.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Brent to be hit by tube line closures over Bank Holiday weekend

The Bank Holiday and Carnival weekend promises to be fraught with travel problems for Brent residents:. This is the message from TfL:

Metropolitan line There is no service between Aldgate and Harrow‑on‑the-Hill on Sunday and Monday while we carry out track replacement work.

Jubilee line On Sunday and Monday, trains will not run between Willesden Green and Stanmore while we replace track on the adjacent Metropolitan line.

Piccadilly line There is no service between Acton Town and Rayners Lane while we replace track at North Ealing. (this means no service from Alperton)

To assist travel, the Metropolitan line will run an enhanced service, with trains every 10 minutes, between Rayners Lane and Uxbridge.

London Overground  If the planned industrial action goes ahead, on Sunday and Monday there will be no trains between Willesden Junction and Richmond/Clapham Junction as well as no service between Gospel Oak and Barking.

That leaves the delights of the Bakerloo and the Euston Watford Overground for Brent residents.There will of course be replacement bus services on the other routes so we can look forward to crowds of confused and dazed tourists from nearby hotels at Wembley Park station on Sunday and Monday - puzzled as to why transport closes down in London for the celebration of a Bank Holiday and Europe's biggest street Carnival.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Jenny Jones claims Mayor's Office incinerator approval an 'environmental disaster'

The Mayor’s office today granted planning approval for the Viridor Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) incinerator in Sutton for the treatment of four London council’s waste (Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Merton and Sutton. In Boris Johnson’s absence, Edward Lister the Mayor of London’s Deputy Mayor for Planning made the decision on behalf of the Mayor of London.

The decision does not bode well for any appeal to Boris Johnson on the proposd Harlesden incinerator which means campaigners will have to redouble their efforts to get it over-turned at the reconvened Ealing Planning Committee.

Earlier this month the Mayor's Office decided not to intervene in the Welsh Harp/West Hendon development.

As you will see the Beddington issue contains elements relevant to both the Harlesden Incinerator and the West Hendon Development.

Jenny Jones said:
The Mayor’s decision is an environmental disaster for south London and the recycling and composting industry. The Mayor has failed to observe his own planning and waste policies which state that incineration is the least desirable form of waste management. Instead he has put the interests of big business first, before legitimate environmental concerns and the interests of local residents that will be affected by his decision
Jenny Jones' letter of objection:

Beddington Farmlands Waste Management Facility Planning application No: D2012/66220

I am very concerned at the type of waste facility proposed at the existing landfill and recycling site in Beddington. Specifically, its detrimental impact on the natural environment, on local air quality, and on undermining the waste hierarchy. 

Metropolitan Open Land:
This is an inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land and contrary to London Plan policy 7.7 which gives MOL the strongest protection.

Air Quality:
Contrary to London Plan policy 7.14, the development proposal will lead to further deterioration of local air quality from both vehicle movements associated with the delivery of waste and removal of ash, and from the flue gases emitted through the chimney stacks, particularly as this is already an Air Quality Management 

Area. Biodiversity and conservation:
The site is of exceptional importance for birds in London, with nationally important populations of several species and one of the longest species lists in London (82 bird species were recorded at the Beddington SMI during the 2011 breeding season). As a Metropolitan wildlife site, it is part of the key strategic framework for biodiversity described in policy 7.19 and is in the Mayor’s Biodiversity Strategy. The scheme will result in the permanent loss of wildlife habitat and a change in absolute character of the Beddington Farmland. It also does not address the issues of the failed Conservation Management Plan and current decline in the conservation target species. It is therefore contrary to London Plan policy 2.18 and 7.19. 

Waste issues: 
The Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) is a combined heat and power incinerator proposed by Viridor, the South London Waste Partnership’s preferred bidder for the treatment of four London council’s (Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Merton and Sutton) with a maximum waste capacity of 302,000 tonnes per annum (tpa). According to Viridor they expect to incinerate 200,000 tpa of residual municipal waste collected from households from the partnership area. Type of waste facility:

The Mayor’s London Plan (para 5.86) policy on energy recovery from waste states that ‘energy recovery should be carried out through advanced conversion techniques, ie gasification, pyrolysis or anaerobic digestion’. The ERF is therefore contrary to this policy. 

Residual waste:
Only genuine ‘residual waste’, the element that cannot be recycled or composted, should be considered for energy generation. However, as the South London Waste Plan has not set out plans to maximise recycling/composting targets, which according to the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly are in the region of 70 per cent, or even 80 per cent according to the Friends of the Earth, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of recyclable and compostable material will be incinerated over the period of the contract. The resolution passed in May 2012 by the European Parliament calling for a limit on incineration with energy recovery to ‘non-recyclable materials only’ by 2020 needs to be taken into consideration. Particularly as it is likely to pave the way for far more ambitious and stringent incineration polices in the forthcoming review of the EU Waste Framework Directive, and within the lifetime envisaged in this application. 

Waste capacity and 30 year contract:
Whilst incineration may offer the easiest alternative to landfill and avoiding escalating landfill charges, this short term solution, will have long term detrimental consequences. It won’t provide incentives to maximise recycling/composting rates, nor will it discourage unsorted residual household black bag waste. Instead, vast amounts of climate changing carbon dioxide and pollution will be produced and valuable natural resources that could be recycled will be incinerated.

Greenhouse gas emissions and carbon intensity floor assessments (CIF): 
Viridor’s ERF plan does not offer significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Their ‘Needs Assessment and Carbon Balance’ document only compares the ERF to the landfill site, not other available waste treatment options such as recycling, reuse or other renewable energy sources. The Working out of CIF is based on the displacement of gas, however, well within the lifetime of the plant renewable energy is very likely to outstrip gas as the major supplier. There is a good chance the ERF could be displacing and preventing energy that could come from more environmentally friendly options. For the reasons set out above, I strongly urge you to direct refusal. 

Jenny Jones Green Party Member of the London Assembly

Civic Centre shenanigans

Shanice the £12,000 hologram assistant installed at the new Civic Centre has received widespread publicity and not a little controversy. Some have hailed it as a 21st century innovation while others said if Brent Council was really concerned about local unemployment rates they should have employed a real person - and not on a zero hours contract.

Others have been scathing about the basic lack of signs at the Centre. On Monday evening strategically placed security men had to guide us to the boardroom where the Executive meeting was being held. There are no signs to these rooms where meetings, ostensibly opn to the public to ensure transparent democracy, are held.

Every new building has its teething problems and the  Brent Civic Centre is no exception.

Unusually you are instructed to keep your finger pressed on the button to summon the lift and once inside you must kept your finger pressed on the button to ensure you stop at the requested floor. I am not sure what happens if you lift your finger off - perhaps the lift stops between floors or whizzes back down again.

Staff have complained of feeling hot and cold due to what appears erratic climate controls and the automatic  ambient light sensors don't always give enough light to enable comfortable reading.

The one fault that has resulted in farcical scenes is the poor mobile phone signal (staff are equipped with mobiles for their hot-desking). This has resulted in the open plan offices in a cacophony of shouted telephone conversations reverberating around the room leaving staff with splitting headaches at the end of the day.

Not to mention the IT...

But the restaurant does now serve tap water, albeit slightly warm if they don't run the tap first.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Kensal Green Cupcakes against UKBA,

We like diversity!
  Guest blog

We’re a group of local Brent residents and we’d like you to join us for a free cup cake session in protest of the UKBA’s recent actions in Kensal Green and other London boroughs. We appreciate the diversity of our neighbourhoods and do not want racial profiling in the area.
Cup cakes will be available for all, while stocks last, at:

Kensal Green Tube Station
on Friday 23 of August -  from 5pm onwards.

Look forward to seeing you there.

Peace .

Mapping deprivation in Brent - a useful tool

Click on image to enlarge
Ben Goldacre has helpfully tweeted a link to the Open Communities Interactive map which shows comparative deprivation in the country LINK

You are able to drill down into particular areas and the above illustration shows Brent and surrounding area with Harlesden at the centre.

The map should be useful for the campaigns around housing, health and hospital closures.

Barry Gardiner faces Wembley protest over Modi invitation

Guest blog from South Asia Solidarity Group

Stop mass murderer Narendra Modi from visiting the UK!
Barry Gardiner: Withdraw your invitation to the 'butcher of Gujarat'! 
Protest:­­­  Monday 9 September 2013, 11:30 AM - 1 PM, at Barry Gardiner’s MP’s surgery, Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley HA9 0FJ
Nearest Tube Station: Wembley Park (see map)
·         Narendra Modi is the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and an avowed admirer of Hitler and his policies.
·         In 2002, Modi presided over the genocidal attacks in which over 2,000 men, women and children from Gujarat’s Muslim minority community were systematically killed.
·         This is the man whom Labour MP for Brent North Barry Gardiner has invited to come and address the House of Commons on the subject of 'The Future of Modern India'.
What happened in Gujarat in 2002 has been amply documented and there is clear evidence (1)(2)(3) that the violence was orchestrated and sponsored by the state. The police had been instructed not to intervene while Hindu supremacist mobs linked to the BJP murdered and raped, selectively  targeting the addresses occupied by Muslim families . According to a leaked report by the British High Commission in India the violence 'had all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing and that reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims is impossible while the chief minister [Narendra Modi] remains in power’ and that 'far from being spontaneous' it was 'planned, possibly months in advance, carried out by an extremist Hindu organisation with the support of the state government.'(4) 
Modi is currently making a bid to become India's next Prime Minister and has launched a campaign using openly fascistic and anti-minority rhetoric. At the same time he is claiming that he has been absolved of wrong doing in connection with the massacres of 2002 by the Supreme Court of India. This is untrue, see for example (6). 
While in the wake of the 2002 genocide and the clear evidence and documentation of  Modi’s role in coordinating and sponsoring it, the UK, EU and US were compelled to distance themselves from Modi, more recently the British government is  rehabilitating him. At a recent meeting with Modi in Ahmedabad,  the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire made it clear that this was in 'the UK's national interests', meaning the interests of British big business (7) (8).
Now Barry Gardiner on behalf of the 'Labour Friends of India' has invited Modi to come and address the House of Commons on the subject of 'The Future of Modern India'. The Conservative Friends of India have supported this invitation. This is purely an attempt to help British corporates sell their products and services in Gujarat in the interests of larger profits.  It makes a mockery of human rights  and ignores the three British citizens who were murdered  during the genocide and whose families are yet to receive justice.
Modi's past visits to the UK have been used to raise extensive funds and support for communal violence. A visit at this time is particularly dangerous and must be stopped. 
We condemn this collusion in Modi’s attempts to deny his role as a mass murderer.
We demand that the invitation to Modi is withdrawn.
(1) See Human Rights Watch: ' “We Have No Orders To Save You”
State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat’,  April 30, 2002
(2) Amnesty International: ‘India: Justice -- the victim in Gujarat’ [Full Report] 27 January 2005
(3)‘Threatened Existence: A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat’ Report by the International Initiative for Justice (IIJ) December 2003
(4) UK report censures Gujarat rulers (
(5)Amnesty International: ‘A decade on from the Gujarat riots, an overwhelming majority of victims await justice in India’ 29 February 2012

(6) Sahmat – Citizens for Justice and Peace: ‘Press Release- Supreme Court clean chit to Narendra Modi ?’ which explains in detail how the Supreme Court has NOT in fact absolved Modi of responsibility for the 2002 genocide as he has falsely claimed.

(7) See The Hindu ‘Embracing the Darkness’ October 23, 2012,

(8) UK India envoy to visit Gujarat for first time since riots

Organised by South Asia Solidarity Group.
Supported by:
Council of Indian Muslims
Foil Vedanta
Islamic Human Rights Commission
Southall Black Sisters
IWA, Birmingham
South Asian Alliance
Asian Rationalist Society
Freedom Without Fear Platform

Some prickly characters seen in Wembley

I was cheered up on seeing these hedgehogs late last night on my way back from the Wembley Green Man. They were on the lawns in front of the flats on King's Drive, opposite the former Town Hall Library.

It is estimated that the population of hedgehogs in the UK has declined from an estimated 36 million to just 1 million affected by loss of habitat and increased traffic fatalities.

Readers of the BBC Wildlife magazine recently voted for the hedgehog to be the nation's wildlife symbol which the Green Party welcomed as appropriate as it represents the threat faced by many species.

Caroline Lucas will be leading a session at our forthcoming conference on the RSPB State of Nature report LINK

Hundreds urge Brent to exclude Veolia from Public Realm contract

Around 40 human rights demonstrators gathered outside Brent Civic Centre last night as a petition signed by hundred of Brent residents was presented to the Brent Executive calling for Veolia to be excluded from the Public Realm contract procurement process. The contract worth up to £250m over 16 years will be awarded by the Brent Executive at their October 14th meeting.

Exclusion is sought on the grounds that Veolia in its operations in the occupied territories of Palestine is colluding in the maintenance of illegal settlements and this infringing the human rights of Palestinians.

Veolia has been short-listed alongside Enterprise and Serco for the contract.

After hearing the speech from Liz Lindsay, Secretary of Brent and Harrow Palestine Solidarity and an activist in the Bin Veolia in Brent Campaign, the Executive referred the petition to FionaLedden, head of procurement for consideration.

Liz Lindsay's speech was warmly applauded from the crowded public gallery.


Just as pension funds are concerned about ethical investment we believe the council should be concerned about ethical procurement. 

The public would not want the council   to give contracts to companies involved in the exploitation of child labour or the arms trade.

Veolia who are bidding for the Public Realm contract are serving the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The UK Govt and UN do not recognise Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Veolia helps support Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land by
  • Supporting the Jerusalem Light Rail between West Jerusalem and an illegal settlement
  • Running bus routes along the Apartheid road 443 that link illegal Israeli  settlements .
  • Owning  the Tovlan landfill site that takes refuse from illegal settlements and Israel.

Veoila therefore profits by actively supporting Israel’s continued violation of international humanitarian law
Under Public Contracts Regulations, a public body may exclude a bidder or reject a bid where it is found the organisation has ‘committed grave misconduct in the course of their business’
In 2009, the UN General Assembly called on Israel to cease the dumping of waste  in occupied Palestinian land.

In 2010, UK was one of countries that voted in support of the UNHR Council resolution that stated JLR operated by Veolia is in clear violation of International Law and relevant UN resolutions.
In 2012, Richard Falk UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the OPT concludes that
Veolia’s grave breaches of the UN Global Compact make it an inappropriate partner for any public institution, especially as a provider of public services.

Also, Veolia was forced to withdraw JLR recruitment advertisements because they discriminated against Palestinians.

Locally,  WLWA, Ealing, Harrow, Richmond did not select Veolia as the preferred bidder and all had been involved in discussions with anti-Veolia campaigners.

Veolia withdrew after 2 years from the final stages of the £4.5bn NLWA procurement when they were one of only two bidders left.

As Veolia has become the target of worldwide campaigns, Veolia  has tried to waive responsibility, claiming in 2011 for example that it had sold Tovlan. 

However,  on the 17th Jan 2013, the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection –in response to FOI by a Women's Peace Group in Tel Aviv confirmed that Veolia is the sole owner and operator of Tovlan.
We informed Brent Council of this on the 14th March but Veolia repeated its claim on 21st May 2013.
The Council does not appear to have challenged this misrepresentation. 

In June 2013, an Israeli Court fined Veolia 1.5 million shekels for burying mixed waste to avoid higher fees and for keeping inconsistent records.

Brent Council should seriously question any information that Veolia provides in its defence in its bid to win the contract.

One argument used against exclusion has been that Veolia in Israel and in the UK are separate entities. There is ample evidence available that Veolia is one commercial entity. 

Also, Justin Brazier, Tory MP, facilitated a meeting between Veolia Executive, Robert Hunt and Canterbury Campaigners at which Robert Hunt confirmed that Veolia was one commercial entity. 

Francis Maude on the 23rd May, 2012 stated explicitly,  regarding illegal settlements that companies that have committed ‘an act of grave professional misconduct in the course of their business may be excluded from a tender exercise’


Brent Council is particularly proud of representing a diverse population and is committed to equality and opposed to racism as demonstrated recently by their stand against the 'racist van' and the UKBA raids. 
Human rights issues are at the core of the Council's values.

Our campaign has been supported by members from many religions and non-religious residents, by members of the Labour, Lib Dem and Green parties, by Brent TUC, trade unions,  GCs of Brent Central,  and Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Parties and local members of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

We call on the Executive to take a principled stand on the issue of Veolia's collusion in the abuse of the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories and to take action by excluding Veolia from the £260m Public Realm contract.

Bishop Tutu said what he saw in occupied Palestine could describe apartheid South Africa.. Nelson Mandela, now a Freeman of Brent, said he would not be truly free until the Palestinian people are free. Respect them -  BIN VEOLIA!.