Category Archives: featured

Beyond the Pale

Ian Liddell Grainger’s repeated abuse of Parliamentary protocol has finally come to a head. Liddell Grainger is like an itchy scab. He simply cannot help himself and he returns to scratch it time and time again. He represents a geographically large constituency running from Exmoor to Bridgwater with lots of interest and lots of local issues to deal with. Yet if his Parliamentary utterances are anything to go by, we assume he has little interest in Bridgwater and West Somerset.

Instead the records of Hansard over the past couple of years are full of Liddell Grainger’s interventions on matters arising in the neighbouring constituency of Taunton Deane (though his latest outburst also took in Marcus Fysh’s constituency of Yeovil).

As we have repeatedly reported in the past, Parliamentary protocol requires a member not to comment on matters in another member’s constituency. This time it seems even the mild mannered Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane, has had enough.

It all started with a Liddell Grainger special which Hansard reports as follows:

Ian Liddell-Grainger Conservative, Bridgwater and West Somerset

Can we have a debate on house building companies? Recently, based on inside information on a route going from Taunton down to Ilminster, Persimmon paid £16 million for a speculative development. That has been in conjunction, I suspect, with the local council and a well-known estate agent who was caught price-fixing. We need to ensure that when organisations have privileged information, it is not used for other means. The Secretary of State for Transport is being dragged into this tomorrow. It is not a happy situation. Can we have time to debate it?

The reply from the Leader of the House is interesting. Again I shall leave it to Hansard:

Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I have chatted to our hon. Friend Rebecca Pow, who has been pleased to tell me about some of the excellent infrastructure projects that she has campaigned for in her wonderful constituency, including the upgrade of the Toneway at Creech Castle, the upgrade of the A358, the Staplegrove spine road and the upgrade of Taunton rail station, on which work is beginning now. Our hon. Friend is delighted with the efforts that she and others are making to improve Taunton Deane. I am sure that my hon. Friend Mr Liddell-Grainger has given you, Mr Speaker, and my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane prior notice of his intention to raise her constituency in this place.

When she says “I am sure” you can probably guess that she is hinting that she is pretty damned certain, having already checked with the MP for Taunton Deane, that in fact no such prior notice had been given. It rather looks from here as if courtesy is something that the MP for Bridgwater expects to receive rather than to give. It probably comes from being a direct descendant of Queen Victoria. He’d send a gunboat to Taunton Deane if only the damn place wasn’t landlocked…

But now we move on to Parliament and the next speaker who was in fact the Speaker. Hansard again:

John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons

Well, I am not aware that that is so today, though I speak with care. The Leader of the House is quite right to say that if a Member intends to refer to another Member’s constituency, especially if he or she intends to do so in what might be called disobliging terms, it is a courtesy so to notify. Mr Liddell-Grainger has, on a number of occasions, notified me of his intention to refer to the Taunton Deane constituency, but—I express myself with care—I am not aware that he did so on this occasion, and that should have happened. [Interruption.] He is signalling that he either has written or will write; I think it is the latter—could do better.

But the MP for Taunton Deane has clearly found her teeth. She had not finished and was not going to let the matter lie. So back we go to Hansard:

Rebecca Pow Conservative, Taunton Deane

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance on a certain matter. You know how much I respect your running of the Chamber, so I wanted to ask you this question. What recourse does a Member have when a colleague uses business questions to make serious, damaging and unfounded allegations about another Member’s constituency that cause real distress outside this House?

Can you guess the identity of the member in question? One who is used to making unfounded allegations under cover of Parliamentary Privilege which he then is too afraid to repeat outside the House?

The Speaker will enlighten us:

John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her characteristic courtesy in giving me advance notice of her intention to raise this matter, which could affect any right hon. or hon. Member here present. She asks very specifically what recourse she, or any Member, has when a colleague makes damaging and unfounded allegations about her constituency. She knows how seriously I take this issue, which we have discussed.

I expect an hon. Member to give notice to the colleague whose constituency he proposes to refer to, to give notice to my office and to ensure that he is properly careful in what he says. Members take responsibility for what they say in the House and for its impact outside this House. The privilege of free speech must be used maturely and with sensitivity. It is no part of a right hon. or hon. Member’s role to be merely abusive or insulting. I hope that an hon. Member causing offence in this way will reflect very carefully on such conduct. This matter, as I said, has been discussed by the hon. Lady and me, and it has been the subject of wider discussion—including, from time to time, with the Leader of the House, who referred very sensitively to it earlier in our proceedings.

Let me just say tactfully, but in terms that are not ambiguous, that I hope that I do not have to return to this issue again. The message should be clear, and the hon. Lady’s concern, which is very real and, I think, widely shared, should be respected. We will leave it there for now, and I hope it will be able to be left there.

Did you see Ashill Crash?

Another Avon & Somerset Police special – appealing for witnesses four days after a collision took place. All we can do is shrug, wonder what happened to the glorious world of instant communication and connectivity and ask for your help.

The incident they would like to hear from you about was a road traffic collision near Ilminster on the A358 at Ashill on 10th February at about 3.45pm. Read this carefully, it is a little complicated, at least it took us a few minutes to unravel what happened according to the official account:

Police believe that a silver coloured Ford Kuga was waiting to turn right into Folly Drove. A black Volkswagen Polo stopped behind it.

A grey Volkswagen car then collided with the black Polo forcing it into on-coming traffic. As a result the black Polo was then hit by a Mini travelling in the opposite direction.

The occupant of the Mini, a man, was taken to hospital with back pain but was subsequently allowed home after treatment. The two women in the black Polo received treatment at the scene.

Police are keen to hear from anyone who was in the area who may be able to help our enquiries into the incident. If you can help, contact them using the 101 phone number and quoting reference 5219030872

Reach in disgrace

Reach plc (formerly Trinity Mirror was attacked yesterday by the MP for Wells in a debate over the Cairncross Report. James Heappey attacked the newspaper group for removing the archives of the Wells Journal from the City and despite saying lovely words, doing precisely nothing to get them returned.

The Hansard report of his exchange with Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport went as follows:

James Heappey

Our local papers have an essential role in chronicling all that happens in our local communities. Their archives are therefore an important local resource, so the Secretary of State will be alarmed to hear that, when Trinity Mirror took over the Mid Somerset newspapers in 2016, it removed from Wells all of those archives, and despite many promises of their return it has failed to deliver thus far. Will my right hon. Friend intervene and seek to expedite their return from Watford to Wells?

Jeremy Wright

I will certainly look into what my hon. Friend says. I agree with the general tenor of his remarks. It is important that we not only preserve the ability of our local newspapers to report on what happens now and what will happen in the future, but do our best to preserve the crucial record that they have created of what has happened in the past.

It is not just a shame when a venerable newspaper group fails to understand the importance to a local archive of the local newspaper. It is almost incomprehensible.

Half a million more

The Taunton Garden Town project has been granted a further £550,000 from Central Government today. The money will support Taunton Deane Borough Council’s ambition to deliver 15,000 homes. The new funds are on top of £1.135m already granted to help work up the proposals.

Work has already got underway on approximately 2,300 properties. The new homes are planned across three major sites that form a ring around Taunton at Comeytrow, Staplegrove and Monkton Heathfield.

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP in announcing the grant noted “We have not built enough homes in this country for the last three decades, and we are turning that around as we work towards our target to build

The funding will be administered by Homes England, the government’s housing accelerator.

New parking “scam” in Taunton

Recently Taunton Deane Borough Council introduced a new very expensive parking system. The bigger car parks in central Taunton are controlled by barriers. Electronic road side signs as you drive into the town show you which car parks have most spaces.

So far so good.

If you don’t mind the £1.2m the Council paid for the fancy new electronics.

We decided to check out how the scheme was working at Canon Street. For all the technology, the one thing that TDBC didn’t think to do, was to tell people how much it would cost to park. It is usual, if not actually mandatory for all car parks controlled by barriers to display a list of parking charges at the entrance before you go through the barrier into the car park.

That way the customer can make a judgement as to whether they wish to park or not. Not in Taunton. There is a sign displaying car park charges. It is tucked away at the very back of the car park by the footpath to St Mary Magdelene Church.

So unless you are a regular user, there is no way of knowing how much you will pay until after you have committed to parking in the car park.

It may not be illegal – though we are still looking into that, but it is most certainly immoral and way below the standards you would expect from a local authority.

Incident in Street

Avon & Somerset police are appealing for witnesses following an incident of criminal damage in Street. Once again it is unfortunate that the Police are appealing for information two weeks after the incident took place.

Nevertheless the facts are as follows:

At around about 12.30pm on Sunday 27th January the victim was in his car, a Peugot, being followed by another, a Ford Fusion, driven by the suspect. The suspect’s car overtook the victim in High Street (near to Garston Road) and stopped in front of the victim’s car blocking his progress.

Both the driver and the passenger in the suspect’s car got out of the vehicle and approached the victim’s car and kicked the doors. They also shouted and made threats to the victim.

The Police are keen to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time of the incident, who may have information to help our enquiries. If you have any information which could help, please contact them through www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/contact, or by calling 101, quoting reference 5219019231

Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or report it on-line using the following link bit.ly/1pwX4Zm quoting the above reference number.

Passed

As we reported yesterday, Somerset County Council debated reversing the decision to cut back on gritting the road network. this followed chaos on the roads after just two days of snow at the end of January.

The Cabinet of the Council duly agreed to reverse the decision. No doubt it will be raised again at Full Council next Wednesday (20th February).

LibDem Councillor Mike Rigby continues to ask for answers on the question of why roads that apparently had been gritted, still had major problems.