Nothing spectacular I am afraid. I duly settled down (in so far as you can settle down when standing up! ) and spent an hour yesterday morning taking part in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds 2016 Big Garden Birdwatch. The idea is to record the maximum number of each species that visit at any one time. A task that is easier said than done especially for a novice like me. It is fairly easy when an easily identifiable collared dove comes and lands in the garden but most of the activity was from smaller birds, constantly flitting about in the bushes and trees. Unfortunately, no one had told them that it was Big Garden Birdwatch day and they should arrive in orderly groups for easy counting purposes. The other slight problem I had was with the light. I am not making excuses but the early morning light could at best be described as ‘very dull’.
My results in full were: goldfinch 6 chaffinch 6 blue tit 5 blackbird 2 collared dove 1 dunnock 1
The surprise was no robin made an appearance and no magpies popped by. The RSPB also ask that you should record any other wildlife and a grey squirrel appeared during my hour so I will be recording that when I send my results in.
Apologies to residents in the Brandlesholme area if your Saturday morning was disturbed by our Conservative team out and about. It was good to chat to you all.
Finally commiserations to Bury Football Club for losing out to Hull City in the FA Cup. Hull look likely to be in the Premiership again next season so it would have been a surprise had Bury won but they had done well to reach round 4.
I am looking forward to taking part in this years Big Garden Birdwatch later. Organised by the the RSPB – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – it is apparently the world’s largest wildlife survey. It started in 1979 and has continued annually ever since so the scientists have 36 years worth of valuable evidence to study. Taking part is easy. A person just has to watch the birds that land in their garden during a one hour period. The idea is to count and record the maximum number of each species seen together at any one time – not the total number that might be seen during the hour. The RSPB send a useful identification guide which is helpful for those not so sure about how to identify the different bird types. I will report back on my results from our garden.
The independent watchdog Transport Focus carry out an annual survey of more than 28,000 passengers to see how satisfied they are with their journeys. The latest survey saw a 4% increase in satisfaction ratings on the London and North West route since July 2014 achieving an overall score of 88%. With regard to Network Rail managed stations Manchester Piccadilly was the highest rated station along the London and North West route with a score of 88%.
Punctuality and reliability together with cleanliness are the principal influencers in generating satisfaction ratings. Conversely, the way delays are dealt with are a major cause of concern.
So, better but much still to do!
Yesterday afternoon I attended the latest hearing in the Procedure Committee’s Inquiry into the process by which backbench MP’s can bring forward proposals to change the law. The main reason for concern is that some M.P.’s have seen their Bill fail to progress even when it has had a debate because of lack of time. The real reason is that no Bill makes progress unless it has the consent of a majority of MP’s and as the Government by definition has nominal control it does not make progress unless the government agree it should. One exception is where the Bill relates to a matter of conscience where M.P’s have a free vote.
Yesterday, our witnesses were Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Thomas Docherty. Thomas was a Labour member of the Committee in the last Parliament and took a lot of interest in these matters. He lost his seat to the SNP and is now seeking a seat in the Scottish Parliament. It was very useful to hear their evidence and whilst they did not agree on everything they did agree that making new laws should not be easy. What is needed is transparency so people can understand why a Bill is not making progress.
Yesterday, the Charities ( Protection and Social Investment) Bill passed its final stages in the Commons. It has already been through the House of Lords. The Bill provides stronger protection for charities from individuals who are unfit to be Trustees. The Bill also gives the Charity Commission more powers to tackle abuse and gives charities a new power to make social investments that is to say investments which provide both a financial and social return. The Bill was generally supported by the Opposition.
In the afternoon I attended this week’s Backbench Business Committee where there were applications for debate on the conflict in Yemen, Welsh affairs, parliamentary Sovereignty and the EU re-negotiation, the role of men in ending violence against women and the financials problems arising out of the collapse of Equitable Life. All were in order so when time becomes available debates will be scheduled for these matters to be considered.
The Childcare Bill cleared its final stages in the House of Commons yesterday. this Bill delivers on the Conservatives pledge to help working families with childcare costs. Time and time again this was raised with me before the last general election. The last government had provided for all families where both parents are working an entitlement to fifteen hours of childcare paid for by the government. ( Acknowledging as always the government only has money it takes from other taxpayers.) This Bill increases that entitlement to thirty hours per week over 38 weeks a year. The government hopes that this change will help families with the cost of living by reducing the costs of childcare and support parents back into work or to work more hours, should they wish to do so. Two year old children from disadvantaged backgrounds are also eligible.
There are some limitations in order to control the costs. Based on current minimum wage levels a person would need to earn around £107 per week to be eligible. At the other end of the scale there is an income cap of £100,000. The Act will only apply to children in England.
Well, the answer is that in the week that David Bowie died only 11% of the people interviewed named that story. The next most named story was the downturn in global stock markets on 7% with the weather, Islamic State and job losses at Tata steel all on 4%.
Nearly one quarter of people (24%) could not name any news story at all. So a sobering picture for those who worry about the impact of news coverage!