Leveson Inquiry

Lord Soley 28/02/2012 – 11:00 pm

Well – I knew there were some pretty dodgy operations going on at News International but I didn’t think the payments to the police and other organisations were as extensive as they apparently are.

In the past I was hearing rumours of hacking, dodgy payments and off course, sexual harrassment  at the Sun but I was only able to prove the latter. When I look back at it now it is worrying that other people must have heard rumours too but again if they couldn’t prove them you were in difficulty.

The main failing must fall on the senior management and the owner. They would have pursued anyone else in authority to resign on half the evidence now coming to light. A newspaper, the News of the World has been closed – wrongly in my view. It was the management that should have fallen on their swords – the newspaper could have lived on.

There is more to come out on this. I have given written evidence to Leveson but I cannot publish it until the inquiry has decided if it wants to call me for oral evidence and I won’t know this for some time yet.

Greece and the Euro

Lord Soley 21/02/2012 – 11:23 pm

I am worried by the financial settlement for Greece.

Although I think it is grossly unfair for Greeks to present the German Chancellor as Hitler there is an uncomfortable similarity between the position that we put Germany in after the First World War and what we are doing to the Greeks now. A nation and a people have to have hope and asking the Greeks to take this amount of pain until 2020 is asking an awful lot.

I also think that the EU is setting itself on a course of continuing deflation – I hope I am not right.

More invasion of our privacy

Lord Haskel 20/02/2012 – 10:22 am

The Facebook prospectus told us how the company is using and profiting from our personal data. I have just learned that here in America the address book on your smartphone is routinely collected by app developers when you download their app. According to a well researched article in Thursday’s New York Times (16 February 2012) this is considered to be “Industry best practice.”

Apple’s published rules prohibit this but according to evidence presented to Congress it is routinely happening. Android say their operating system requires explicit approval for our address book to be downloaded but say that once permission has been given  - whether we are aware of giving it or not – a lot more  data will be collected such as our telephone call logs and text messages. With the Twitter app, choosing “Find Friends” downloads your address book. The New York Times journalists were told not to worry because this information is encrypted. Apparantly, often it is not. So who knows who has our personal data?

I presume this is happening all over. Following the revelations in the Facebook prospectus, this is another example of how I. T. companies are collecting our personal data without our knowledge and using it to develop their business in spite of privacy laws. In this case presumably to speed up the rate of  increase in the number of people using their software or apps. How many more more examples are we going to learn about by chance instead of being told the true scale of this activity?

Quiz: Parliament and war

Lord Norton 18/02/2012 – 9:45 am

I try to balance questions about the Lords (the chamber or its members) with more general questions about Parliament.  I revert this week to a previous topic, that of Parliament and war.   During the Second World War, both Houses continued to meet (despite a large number of members being away on active service), the parties came together in support of the war effort and that support was essential to government.  The government exercised enormous powers, but it could not afford to lose the support of any part of the House.   As usual, the first two readers to supply the correct answers will be the winners.

1.  On occasion, the two Houses met elsewhere in London than the Palace of Westminster.  In a previous quiz, I asked where they met.  (It was Church House, Westminster.)  However, provision was also made initially for Parliament to meet outside London should such evacuation be necessary.   What was the planned destination should such evacuation have taken place?

2.  The chamber of the House of Commons was destroyed by enemy action on 10 May 1941.  Who was the MP in charge of fire-watching that evening and who effectively made the decision to concentrate resources on saving Westminster Hall at the expense of the chamber?

3. On 3 September 1939, both Houses did something that they had not done since 1831.  What was it?

4. Between 1940 and 1944, the House of Lords held 58 sittings in secret.  Did the House of Commons hold more or fewer secret sittings than the Lords?

The Olympics opening overindulgence

Baroness Deech 14/02/2012 – 8:14 pm

Today the Lords supported an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill that will add £100m to welfare expenditure.  Its meaning is that only households with more than 1 spare bedroom will lose out on benefits.  The debate offered graphic examples of the hardship that might be suffered by families if this amendment were defeated and, as some said, the relatively low cost of supporting it.  My thoughts turned to the recent announcement that an extra £41m is to be spent on the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics, in addition to the £40m already budgeted for them. The aim is to give a good impression of Britain to the watching world.  I doubt if it will succeed.   Most people already have a notion of what the UK is like and what it stands for.  None of us thinks any the better of China and its human rights record because the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies there were sumptuous.  Greece has not avoided trouble, or avoided acquiring a bad image because its opening ceremony in 2004 was elegant – see this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Summer_Olympics_opening_ceremony.

I feel ashamed of our national spending priorities.  £81m on the ceremonies is very nearly the amount that the government was trying to save in benefits today; and frequently I read of expensive new cancer treatment drugs that we cannot afford.  Everyone has their shopping list. To put Olympics spending ahead of housing and health is perverse.  Bread and circuses.