My Letter to Lisa Nandy MP: May I Count on Your Support for the Kyle-Wilson Amendment?

official_portrait_of_lisa_nandy_crop_2Lisa Nandy is the Labour Member of Parliament for Wigan and former Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.  

If you agree with the points I have raised in this letter, I encourage you to copy the text and use it as the basis for a letter to your own MP.

Dear Lisa,

I write as a concerned constituent, having read your recent piece in the Guardian: ‘A flawed second referendum could break our democracy’ and the arguments it puts forward to support the position.

I understand your discomfort at dealing with the legacy of divisive, binary choices and your concerns of holding Yes/No referenda on deeply nuanced matters.  These are uncomfortable times which seem to be filled with binary choices to navigate a way safely onwards.

The piece suggests you have accepted that the moral rather than the ideological imperative renders the ‘No Deal’ outcome unsupportable, particularly with regard to protecting the peace process in Northern Ireland.  For this reason and all the concerns about protecting health and prosperity that you have cited, it would indeed be an act of gross negligence to facilitate our withdrawal from the EU without an agreed structure.  There’s nothing wrong with removing an unacceptable outcome – but it does have the effect of increasing the probability of a further binary choice to come.

By your own admission, this morally unacceptable outcome is one which polls suggest around a quarter of the public would support – logically, around half those who wish the UK to Leave.  Unfortunately, this presents you with another binary choice: simply ‘respect’ the most recent democratically-expressed view of the electorate or explain the consequences of blindly following a potentially self-destructive path before we all have to follow it, knowing the proportion who favour an unworkable solution.

Given the unhealthy closeness of the June 2016 vote, the changes in the demography of the UK in the two and a half years since then, the huge gulf between what was promised by Leave and what we now know may be possible to negotiate (and the fact that some promises were demonstrably untrue), it’s impossible to claim there is insufficient evidence to re-evaluate the whole issue.

Consider also the fact that the last major poll that indicated a Leave majority was conducted a year ago and in recent weeks, the continuing impasse in the Commons has led to a slew of polls showing mounting concern for the current trajectory of the country and growing support for another referendum.  As you can see, I’m using the same source for these polls that you used in your article.

The argument against a second referendum cannot, in any sense, be that it is “anti-democratic”.  Disobeying a referendum would be anti-democratic.  By definition, asking people to vote again is the very essence of trust in democracy.  Those who would have you believe otherwise must be viewed suspiciously in only asserting so because they feel they have something to lose.

Obviously, such opponents of a 2nd Referendum are likely to be the evangelical Brexiteers, those who believe they “won” and have now been granted a mandate to pursue EU withdrawal with barely-limited gusto, based on a tiny majority, zealously guarding the interests of “17.4 million” by seemingly seeing fit to ignore completely the expressed view of 16.1 million fellow citizens.

There are other opponents: Remain-leaning MPs of all hues who sit in strongly pro-Leave seats, whose vacillation may potentially be influenced by the fact that publicly disagreeing with a majority of their constituents may not be the most advantageous career move.  Such a description may or may not apply to a number of Tory back-benchers who can find comfort in diligently obeying the whip and conveniently avoiding a confrontation with their own voters.  On the Labour benches, the Member for Don Valley seems to be the most notable example for such a potential conflict of interest.

Finally, of course, there are the stealth Brexiteers, those who secretly always wanted out but who sit back and allow events to take their course with a suitable amount of shoulder-shrugging and token opposition around the margins of the debate to be seen to have done just enough not to have exposed their own duplicity.  I speak, of course, of your own Leader and much of his inner coterie.

This week, following the 230-vote defeat of ‘The Meaningful Vote’ and the 149-vote defeat of ‘Meaningful Vote II’, there is, we are informed, likely to be a third attempt for the Prime Minister to scrape her ill-conceived, ill-begotten, ill-starred deal into UK policy – I’d like this one to be called ‘Meaningful Vote – With A Vengeance’.  Among the amendments it will face, we expect the Kyle-Wilson Amendment to be debated, in which May’s faltering, diluted position, if passed, must be put to the people as a “confirmatory referendum” and against which the option to Remain must feature.

As a concerned constituent, someone who has met you, has always found you to act very impressively and who has always been proud to say that you are my MP, I implore you to abandon the position in your Guardian piece, of hand-wringing deference to a single vote on a once-in-a-lifetime issue, in the name of ‘protecting democracy’.

This decision must be guided by the most fundamental principles of parliamentary representation – with which I trust you will be more than familiar.  I won’t insult you by quoting Edmund Burke and Winston Churchill at you but I think it’s fair to ask that, given the clear distinction between ‘representative’ and ‘delegate’, your vote for Kyle-Wilson demonstrates your willingness to provide representation for all the constituents of Wigan, not simply act in delegation of its (suspected) majority.

I trust you to put clearly-delineated national interest above those even of most of your voters.  I trust you to disobey your party whips if the country’s future depends on it and, just as Jess Phillips has already stated, I trust you to have the integrity to accept that in doing so, you accept all consequences that your most noble actions may invite, should the majority of the people of Wigan then disagree.

Yes, it’s a binary choice but leadership often requires the conviction to make a choice and argue for it – and it’s disingenuous in the extreme to ignore that inconvenient truth and continue to act as a leader of the constituency you represent.

I wish you well this week and I hope you can be part of the change that sees this whole ghastly mess turned around, allowing the whole country to concentrate once again on the real problems it faces.  I also believe that, in due course, the failure of both front benches over the last three dismal years will be corrected and younger, more reasonable, more resonant voices such as yours may be heard, from positions of greater seniority.  I’d very much like one day to claim that I’m proud of you not just as my MP, but as the holder as one of the Great Offices of State.

Please seize this opportunity to better define the future for us all.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Bentham

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CSG: 45 Years on – CSG to the Rescue!

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on March 2nd 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/45-years-on-csg-to-the-rescue/ 

1972 was a hugely significant year for the waste industry. It was a year when operators were forced to act far more responsibly in their disposal of hazardous waste. It took an incident that made national headlines to bring about these changes, an incident that CSG helped bring to a safe resolution.

On February 24th 1972, thirty-six drums containing sodium cyanide ash were discovered at a disused brickworks, near a children’s play area in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. ‘KILLER DRUMS DUMPED ON PLAYGROUND’ screamed the headline on the front cover of the Daily Mirror the next day – and for good reason.

Sodium cyanide is described as one of the most rapidly acting of all poisons, with an oral dosage of only 200mg (equivalent to a headache tablet) liable to be fatal. The consequences of this volume of such a dangerous substance being exposed to the surrounding environment were dire.

Thankfully, a local resident notified the police and the authorities contacted Sweetways, a subsidiary of CSG, to remove and process the hazardous cargo. Nigel Watson takes up the story in his 2002 book on CSG, ‘Waste Matters’:

“Sweetways driver, Bill Bailey, was given a police escort for his journey to the site, such was the urgency given to the incident. The drums were rolled into a demountable container, stored safely overnight at the Evesham depot and sent for treatment and safe disposal…in Botley the next day. The whole episode was conducted under the attentive gaze of the BBC, ITV and the national press.”

Waste Line 1972
The Spring 1972 issue of ‘Waste Line’, CSG’s newsletter.  Photo: CSG Archive

A mere twenty-four hours after the cyanide was found, the matter was raised in Parliament, as recorded by Hansard:

“The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Walker): Preliminary investigations suggest that between 3 p.m. on 23rd February and 9 a.m. on 24th February, 36 drums containing sodium cyanide ash were dumped on a site forming part of a disused brick clay workings near Bermuda village, Nuneaton. The drums were found by a local resident and the police were informed. The drums were guarded while police investigations were commenced and arrangements made by the local authority with a firm of waste disposal contractors for the dumped material to be removed to a treatment plant near Southampton.

The waste was loaded on to a covered vehicle by 9 p.m. on 24th February and the vehicle was kept overnight in the firm’s Evesham depot. The vehicle was expected to arrive at Southampton by about 10.30 a.m. today. There it will be examined and the appropriate action taken to treat the substances contained in the barrels.”

One MP reacted to the inclusion of ‘Southampton’ (used as a signifier for CSG’s Botley depot) and was moved to ask if this referred to the port, concerned that the waste would be dumped at sea. The Environment Secretary’s reply, designed to allay that fear, was little short of a ringing endorsement of CSG from the Her Majesty’s Government:

“The reason the material has been sent to Southampton is that there is the best place to treat this kind of matter.”

As the debate continued, Sir Bernard Braine, the newly-knighted member for South East Essex, who would later become Father of the House raised a point that would sow the seeds of change across an entire industry:

“Is my right hon. Friend aware that responsible elements in the waste disposal industry—and they constitute the majority—would welcome the earliest possible introduction of legislation with real teeth in order to ensure that practices of this kind are stopped for all time?”

And so, in the light of an incident that could very easily have become a terrible tragedy, the issue of responsible treatment of hazardous waste was given a high priority by Parliament, resulting, weeks later, in the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act (1972).

As Sir Bernard Braine had astutely recognised, the legislation served to level the playing field between responsible operators in the waste industry and those who chose to cut corners without regard to the consequences. This in turn had the effect of legitimising the industry by removing it of the unscrupulous element that had damaged its reputation. Further regulation also meant that waste would become a growth industry, something which has continued to this day.

It was little more than fate that saw CSG thrust, briefly, into the national gaze to help effectively dispose of the dumped cyanide at Nuneaton in February 1972. In the years that followed, the benefits CSG experienced in an industry that suddenly required professionalism and respectability more were nothing to do with good fortune and everything to do with being determined to act responsibly and correctly at all times. It’s a lesson that’s as relevant today as it was 45 years ago.