Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Legal, decent, honest... and evasive?

I get these all the time, and have at last decided to have a scope.

As an ad man and enviro-concerned person, I found this one of interest, especially with my concerns on financial vs. enviROI.

To do it justice I will need to read it carefully, but I have to say that if I am not sure what was going on at the outset, I'd have to err on the side of caution.

Getting some offside, but maybe one on?

Terence Blacker: Pimp your ride the green celebrity way

Dear Mr. Blacker

While I can only agree with all else you have written (and indeed delight in blogging on relentlessly - Mr. Gore's inconvenient utility bill today, for instance), I do rather hope that Mr. Banks opted for low-energy, long-life bulbs. Otherwise he is helping neither his financial nor the planet's environmental ROI.

And by being one of a long line in celeb pedestal pronoucers to look a tad shaky to us mere mortals, I do wonder if he is doing the cause of genuine green advocacy to the masses much good either.

From your article's thrust I'm guessing not. But uncritical media complicity will tend to maintain the trend, no? Though one suspects there is ratings value in sending out the PR going in and then catching them on the way out with commentary such as yours.

ps: Replacing a fleet of expensive motors with one expensive motor really only helps the green thing if its use in this case is weighed against a) other dirty great big SUVs and b) where it gets used. On a motorway it's mainly lugging a heavy battery around, which helps the planet.. er.. how?

But yes... let us visit a municipal dump, where health and safety regulations forbid the supply of unchecked electrical equipment through charity shops or auctions.

May I therefore direct you at a place where making and mending is made fun and friendly to those with less cash to flash, and don't feel it, or anything else needs to go to be burned either.

The author has been courteous enough to reply, and nice enough to offer his best (makes it worth the effort writing when that happens):

Thanks for your interesting email and for directing me to All (energy-saving) power to your elbow.

Issues! Bless you...

Going green is seen as 'the' issue

Nice to know I am not jumping on a bandwagon.

'...some of the most powerful players in the sector called for action on environmental issues despite the fact that many of the executives flew to the event in private jets.'

'Stephen Schwarzman, head of the Blackstone Group, was most vociferous, saying anybody who did not watch the documentary An Inconvenient Truth by the former US vice president Al Gore, had to be "intellectually deficient".'

Bet he wishes Big Al's untilty bill had cropped up the same day he said that:)

To Tesco, or not to Tesco...

Are supermarkets changing our way of life, and should we be alarmed?

One and one's lost plot.

As I munch on my Big Mac and Fries, while I can see some environmental (how many fields to support one cow?) and even health benefits, I can't help but think that if it was as simplistically put as it has been reported (in the Indy, mind), the guy is a little more shy on reality grasping than I had thought.

Charles suggests McDonald's ban

Indy - The Third Leader: Burger kings

Mad - A Big Mac by appointment to the Burger King in waiting

It's a stretch to equate the HRH's A&P remarks to have been targetted at a competitor such as MacD. I'd say it was just a case of 'foot-in-ones-mouth disease'.

What a nice way to end a Thursday - a charming note from the author conceding I may have a point. Now if only we could all comment and chat in such a civilised way!

Telegraph - Star chef backs the Big Mac
Indy - Janet Street-Porter: Charles is cashing in on our food snobbery

Why skilled engineers make perfect leaders


Peter Martin, Junkk Male, Big 'Ed, top 40 producer, ad agency owner CD... and BSc Civ. Eng (Hons - so long as I promised not to try and build anything)

Times - The world’s your oyster
Times - Professional development
Times - Making a difference
Times - Engineering a solution

I left Uni 25 years ago with a BSc Civ. Eng.

A combination of happy factors took me through advertising and
music production to an ideal career now trying to save the planet
through science AND the art of persuasion, via branding, reward and

However, it was rather sad then (and I'm not so sure it's too different
now) that of a graduating class of around 35, less than 10% remained
directly in the profession. And most of (well, 3 and a half of them) were
not spanning the Humber or building dams bestride a mighty D10. A
two-up two-down in Slough was more the speed. So good careers
planning and management of graduate expectations is still critical I'd say.

Mind you, most of my mates are now 'Masters of the Universe' in the
City (bit of a black sheep, me),so something must have worked out
well, if not perhaps for our culture of innovation in actually making
tangible 'things' any more. But as Mr. Dyson has proven, it's hard to
design them and sell them if you don't know how to make them.

A word in your shell-like, squire

Don’ t force me. I’m open to persuasion

I agree with the notion of persuasion, but in this day and age
would merely advocate that the funding that goes behind it is
channeled wisely into accountable, and responsible mechanisms
with genuine ROI measures.

So yes, let's have no more 'fine first, figure out a solution later' social
divisions created, but equally let's not see all useful funding poured
into black-hole govt. and quango (same paymaster, different branding
empires and immense comms budgets that serve only to keep ad
agencies, media buying houses and the guys they are hired by

Ken and Me

I cringe that this is the best that he could come up with at this stage, but: It won't cost the earth

It is a pleasure to focus, for once, on a fairly unequivocal and positive set (though there are some interesting, if inevitable re-run pros, cons, defences and accusations to be found in subsequent posts) of ideas, and with few politically or class-hued bolt-ons to sour the soup.

‘We don't have to reduce our quality of life to tackle climate change, but we do need to change the way we live.’

Bang on! Shame to see this popped in though: ‘...hear from rightwing commentators’. Creates camps, see. We need to bring folk together in the common cause of reducing waste without having to choose what colour flag they fight under.

‘It is ironic that...’

Well, yes. In fact the words and deeds of those who would claim to act on our behalves can often seem at odds with actuality. And hence weaken their cases and authority to even pass comment. Let alone expect any to follow.

‘Put the other way, we actually have a moral responsibility to lead.’

No argument.

‘...a new one-stop-shop Green Homes advice service.’

I await with interest and anticipation on the details. But some dread that it will be another over-funded, over-staffed and under-utilised box-ticking quango with a vast comms budget that delivers a poor ROI to rate-payers pockets and the environment. Fingers crossed!

‘It will also be important to offer financial incentives for change.’

Amen. You could also try and swing some cooperation from your mates in the City, too:

Speaking of folk who live in your ‘hood, try this one as well on your good buddies in Westminster (that even the guys in the £xM flats overlooking your office may see merit in):

It’s a compromise IHT solution to the deadlock caused by ‘us not being able to take it with us’, ‘you not wanting to let go of it’ and ‘them not trusting you to make good use of it if and when you get it’.
What’s not to like?

‘...we have to introduce a comprehensive carbon-pricing system across the UK - so that people's economic decisions take account of the carbon impact.‘

Yup. But... who runs it? Where is the money taken from and sent to? How efficient will the logistics of management, assessment, monitoring, imposing, policing, IT-support, etc , be?

Just so long as 99% of all excess monies taken in the name of green do not get split between City brokers and public service and quango empires before any goes to reducing our planetary impact. A guy has to hope:)

‘Now is the time for action.’

How many times have I heard that? But yes, the time for talking is over, so long as we can trust the motivations and abilities of those who would lay claim to the reins.

Now, let’s check the form book...

BBC - Mayor unveils climate change plan
Yahoo - Livingstone to announce climate change strategy
Reuters - London plans to be world's greenest city

Worth a punt, I mean tent, eh?

101 uses for a manky tent

Or simply chuck it in the bin. No one will notice. Will they?

Yes they will, if it is the wrong one, and try to fine whoever's name is on it even if they had nothing to do with disposal.

So, as you have so womanfully done on a personal basis, play safe and go with the re:use option.

You may suggest or indeed find a few more ideas here:


I am very glad that I have established on the basis of information, incentive and reward, rather than fright, guilt and fine, but despite this there is the small matter of setting an example.

There is a limit to how much I can say 'do what you gotta do', so when something makes sense to do, or not, to help the situation, I will try and share it. Which means I should and would feel a bit uncomfortable advocating not flying so much as I book the family for a weekend in Verbier to catch the last of the season's skiing.

So you have to feel, but only a bit, for Mr. Gore: Al Gore faces truth about his own energy use

Typically the issue seems to have immediately descended into who is behind it all at the expense of the facts, but as at least some seem undoubted there is the question of example.

And that is where the darlings of the green elite need to start getting their houses in order. For a start, by at least switching the thermo down and a few rooms' lights off.

And I do question how many firs can get whacked in the firmament to allow them to keep on emitting rather than simply cutting back.

Gore feels the heat
Guardian - An inconvenient truth: eco-warrior Al Gore's bloated gas and electricity bills
Indy - Gore faces up to inconvenient truth over his electricity bill

Am I missing something?

Nothing to do with the environment. A lot to do with the media... who report on the ways to save the planet, if not very thoroughly.

Ice cream can help women get pregnant

I write this as I watch the same piece on BBC Breakfast with the bouffant and the blonde reading out the same press release and saying 'Yummy, mummy'.

Now, valid though this may or may not be (I'm guessing pregnant ancestors may have needed a high fat boost to weather the demands of an extra kid from conception to weaning), I do wonder if some context may not have been worthwhile about how that rather unchallenged bit of info may apply in these modern days of obesity being a bit of a problem?

Times - Obese mothers blamed for baby deaths
Indy - Ice cream 'helps increase chance of pregnancy'

Stamping Out... er... in... DM?

Dearer stamps 'could mean more junk mail' through your letterbox

There's a new dynamic these more environmentally aware days: the ECOst.

As an ad man I cannot quite fathom why an increase in prices would also be accompanied by an increase in marketing material. The reason our papers are the price they are, and not more, is because of the ads.

However, should one's ECOncern run to unwanted or indeed unnecessary excess printed paper in any medium, there is a certain logic to allowing you can't have it all ways.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How green was my GP. And other important issues

Sector focuses on the monster task ahead

I am... temporarily... speechless.

Screw up again, and others will pay. Again

Fireman wins £100,000 in sex-bias case

Careful, it may need to be 'Fireperson', or you could get sued!

In this, rare, case, the man deserves all he got... and more.

Miss Kelly is now out of the frame, but the question on pensions is
one worth an answer (see below).

But the all the people who so mishandled this case and cost the
local taxpayer this money, along with causing Mr. Owers such pain?

All still in employ? With index-linked pensions?

Why? If you don't punish those who cause the problems, the problems
will recur.

Am I missing something?

ps; I don't expect an answer. There never is one (even from the media,
who have already moved on) . That's why it will happen again and again
and again and again....

Warp factor

Another quango? They never learn.

Au contraire. I believe 'they' learn very well. For putting up with the
few voices of protest (or, more painfully but ultimately less effective...
satire), 'they' create a bunch of servile and beholden groups who are a
few stages removed (but still know where their index-linked bread gets
its butter from), and get to play with vast sums for empire-building
(offices (head & regional), officers, boards, research, conference,
etc) first of all before they ever start on the project at hand. And before
any money gets spent on that, there is the black hole that is
'communications'. What's more warped (they know who they are) than
blowing tens of millions on telling people to do something when such
money could be invested direct from source in incentivising them?
Now, what have I missed?

The Lord-it-over-you giveth. And what geth takethaway...eth?

Fairtrade Man: day one

I don't envy the food miles carbon offset!

Now if we would all only eat stuff from halfway around the planet...

Why some get the big bucks

I was going to comment on this, but it has been 'closed' (wonder why?)

Uniting the union

Maybe, having waded through all that, it is my initial thought at reading this: 'Above all, the EU requires cooperation.'

It was 'No sh*t, Sherlock,' followed closely by 'and Gloucester Old Spots will soon be used as eco-jumbos by Virgin Atlantic.'

Shame that will only bee read here.

PR in the roar!

S'funny 'cos it's troo: Odd mix of ear ache and erotica

It's not where you live, it's... actually, it is where you live

"Internet People: How to make successful start-up'

Before even clicking on the first link, as I rather feared the first requirement looks like being 'Live in London'. Sigh.

Still, an interesting piece with some worthy advice and avenues of further investigation.


Thank you Futurescape (and Ms. J for putting us all together so nicely... and virtually)

And as what goes around... from waaaaay out West at we are more than happy to offer anyone with a consumer product or service that helps the planet a nifty slot and promo via our free diRE:ctory and newsletter.

Web-based especially welcome (a bit of NO-COtoo saving on all that gadding about)!


It would be funny if it were not true: What is the most annoying phrase in the English language?

Anything... said by a politician these days to avoid saying, and hence being held to account for... anything.

eg: 'We're looking into it'. 'That's a good question' (before going on to not answer it but use it as a segue to a bit of waffle on safe stuff). Or, my current favourite... 'we're keen to get your views' (sometimes uttered as: we're listening').


If you're poor, ethical shopping means 9p beans

Having just read elsewhere some comments made by the NFU, and Mr. King's retort, I am not so sure it is in fact a win-win for 'everyone'.... especially the cause of helping the planet heal.

Many eco-initiatives that are proven to be effective, if only on an EnviROI (as opposed to going green without going into the red) basis, are a matter of making a conscious decisions to save the planet before the wallet.

Sadly supermarkets and their officers seem more concerned with profit and career first... and exclusively. Actual ethics only seem to kick in when the PR or CSR value is worthwhile. And a lot of media are happy to oblige them.

Telegraph - Dairy farmers warn of industry 'meltdown'
Times - Farmer's Challenge - Sounds like a quiz game!

I rather thought they have been. For a while.

But there is rather a problem with faith in toothless, old-boy or
downright lobby-phobic quangos these days.

So... to whom else is he suggesting they do this?

The purchasing munchkin with power over verbal contract
or no contract ever again, perhaps?

And, while we're at it, we'll ask all the other nasty folk around the
place to jolly well stop being beastly and play fair.

Yo! Ah,madinner'sbad! We've put out a ' noddymouse
sanctimonious fatwah. That'll see you, Jimmy!



'Close your door to the mafia tax collectors in the town hall'

I hear all you say*.

However I am unsure as to the consequences to my liberty and my family's subsequent life should I do as you say.

*especially this: 'Lambeth Council, named by the Audit Commission as one of the worst-performing authorities, is recruiting a £79,000-a-year "Director of Campaigns and Communications", the aim of whose job is to "build a lasting dialogue with our citizens". It is unlikely that any Lambeth citizens would notice if the post were to remain unfilled. Waste is endemic in local government.'

Monday, February 26, 2007

What they said

A Rubbish Outcome
Electoral expediency and refuse costs lie behind the latest council tax figures

'The real solutions are a radically simplified tendering process for waste disposal contractors so that more of them bid, more competitively; a serious effort to require food manufacturers to cut back on packaging; and vastly more practical household recycling systems.'

Amen. And, one might suggest, investment in any and all ways that
are attractive by incentive or reward to the individual householder and/or
consumer, such as repair, reuse and reduction.

Recycling, while very worthwhile, still pretty much puts the onus on the
individual to act as an unpaid sorter and logistics operative for councils
and vastly overpaid contractors who are motivated more on targets
than any benefit to the environment. And all funded to the tune of
multi-tens of millions by poorly monitored monopolistic quangos with
more interest in empire-building than seeing money go to where it can
and should to deliver the most benefits.

The people know it, and are getting to resent funding words, pensions
but no actual delivery.

One law for you. And one for me.

Fines clampdown ‘will hit innocent drivers’

Let me get this straight.

Without due process or any burden of proof being established,
someone's rightful property can be seized and impounded against
their proving they are innocent?

And the justification for this being it's 'needed to help tackle the problem of unpaid congestion charges by drivers registered outside London.'

Now, what if Gordon Brown phoned them up and suggested a fellow
Ministerial colleague's Caravan-tower was in breach?

Why don't they just line-up against the wall and shoot each other?
It would save the rest of us the job.

Circular Argument?

Honda F1 scraps sponsorship logos

This is a vehicle that rushes round in circles at vast speed using fuel and emitting global warming gasses right?

You know, maybe they read my blog on what the effect of someone having a fag was, and that's why they ditched the tobacco guys.

Hey, I'm scooping the big guys:

Being Green

They could always suggest car-sharing.

All the drivers get in one car and rush around really carefully. Then get Richard & Judy's
& Sunday Kitchen's production company to hold a a phone competition on who was the winner, as it really could still be anyone's guess!

Honda go for green with logo-free car made to save world one pixel at a time

I think I'll pass on the Civic Hybrid. It's got a bit too much baggage (literally... for all my non-urban trips I'd be lugging round a battery)

Why pay for something pointless? That's why talk is cheap.

The global revolution

A few previous bloggers have addressed some opinions stated here as fact, but let me lob in a few of my own:

“...the electorate's demand for action is growing.”

Everything is relative. Considering the amount of money and media thrown at promoting such demands I’d say it blooming well should grow. But by how much in relation to what has already been invested?
I was stunned that the IPCC report got reported for about 3 days tops across all major media. Then I believe it was back to normal. Tipping point minus 10 years less a few weeks, according to the calculations of some...2500 top scientists. No wonder no one is too bothered.

“Until recently, Exxon Mobil and other companies paid lobbyists to try to distort the public debate."

Have they, and others... stopped now? Doubt it. Wouldn’t expect it. And frankly I think it’s good for debate. If all dissent was shut down, who would believe anything, especially as most solutions are little of gain for not much gain (well, except for the mankind surviving – if not with a Hummer beach holiday with A/C – thing)?

‘Yet truth has triumphed over political manoeuvres.’

I think you’ll find there’s life in the index-linked, short-term career, target and self-serving agenda’d dogs yet. Sadly.

‘...leaders such as General Electric, are also sending a clear message: we can solve the problem at modest cost if we put our best thinking and action into real solutions.’

Well, some may be sincere. Some may just be doing it either piecemeal, badly, or for the money. And GE just got sued did it not, for not delivering shareholder value as much as it could but for all this green innovocationaeering? You gotta love lawyers. I wonder if they will be all that’s left, along with cockroaches?

‘... we must start now and act on a global basis, using carbon taxes and emission permits’

Established and controlled by which government geniuses and their corporate, IT and city mates, on what enviROI, and for what or whose benefit? Road pricing as a kick-off anyone?

‘...create market-based incentives for companies and individuals to make the necessary changes.’

Couldn’t agree more. Now sell me on it all with ideas and tangibles. All I see is platitudes on one side and scaremongering, nanny stateism, fines and duties on the other. Very little inspiration and reward out there to get the public on side... or even designed to help them grasp the issues in terms they can relate and respond to.

‘The Kyoto Protocol was the first attempt...’

It’s good to try. But it was, how shall we say... a tad flawed by being no more than a bit of spin with no practical substance. And like so many such things, backfired by devaluing the real issues and insulting the global electorate’s intelligence.

‘All of that will have to change. All countries will have to shoulder their responsibilities to the rest of the world and to future generations.

No, really!?

‘There is now a way for individuals and companies to make their own voices heard. The Earth Institute at Columbia University...’

I’ll have a gander later. It may turn out to be ‘a’ way, along with a load of others, to help. My measure as to whether it is one of ‘the ways’ is if it gets beyond ‘we must...’ rhetoric and gets into tangible DOING stuff pronto, and does not just turn out to be another talking shop so highly paid consultants (who decides who or what actually are ‘leading businesses, environmental groups, and other international organisations’? Or ‘leading scientists’? Maybe the Guardian, who has PR’d this event, can help answer this... as a journalistic medium?) can whiz around the world Club Class staying in 5* hotels to figure out how to save the rest of us not privileged or connected enough to understand what is bearing down.

Me, I guess for now I’ll stay here and keep trying to suss out the substance from the spin in the comfort of my own home, whilst DOING something, no matter how small, with ‘a’nother effort, , and my blog.

piMP my ride!

Ministers put foot down on carbon emissions

'The number of miles driven by ministerial drivers has increased sharply...'

Well, hot diggedy. Anyone would think they say one thing and do another.

Swallowing your Greens. That's ratings.

Eco-label will create green standard for food, says Miliband

Will this be run alongside the one from the other retailers, which will be designed to tell a very different set of stories and totally flummox the consumer? Instead of traffic lights what will we have? Eco-stars? Green thumbs up? They are going to have to make the packs bigger at this rate (oh, the irony)! How many lobbyists, consultants and 'experts' will feed off this one for the next decade. Ship-borne dried apricots vs. airflown prawns vs. Spuds shunted from one end of the UK for scrubbing and then back to be deemed 'local' to where they are bought.

And are we going to have sub-sets where there is what is good for local farming, the local MP, the national purse, global environment, targets, media ratings and all the various pulls on green issues that can often be... at odds. Me, I vote less CO2... and unproductive civil servants and other talk-onlys to monitor and debate it all.

This is actually a great idea in principle, but when I see a PR piece floated telling me only something 'will be announced that is to considered' I have to wonder what exactly is going to be done at all, if ever.

For a change.

DEFRA - Mr. Miliband's Speech
Telegraph - 'Traffic light' labels backed by parents
Marketing Week - Parents reject GDA labelling system
BBC - Public want food 'traffic lights'

We're in with the 'in' crowd. So there.

I was watching BBC news yesterday morning and they had on Andrew Marr on selling his show later on.

On it, he was going to have Rory Bremner, who had just pulled what I thought was a rather fun stunt, though its ethics are under debate.

Of more interest to me was Andrew Marr's reaction to his colleague's question as to the competence of the No.10 switchboard and system such that this could have happened.

He was quick to defend 'his girls'. Without him being the BBC's political editor I wonder if they would be so helpful in putting him through in future had he had, as did I, some doubts? How did RB know what must surely be the oft repeated manner in which GB asks for folk? 'Hi, Gordo here, is Madge free..?'

Guardian - Beckett shows how to survive in politics

Ask. Don'tell. Don't worry about it.

I saw a strange, worrying and all too frequent performance get played out on BBC Breakfast 'News' this morning. Check 'ONGO' labels for others, such as the latest on my spat with them over not posing the question I provided in answer to their request for... questions.

Apparently, a large number of NHS frontline staff are getting assaulted these days, which is terrible and a damning indictment of some sections of society, how they are created... and dealt with.

So after the stats we get a 'victim'; a nurse who suffered a terrible assault. Now I didn't catch how long ago it was, but her distress was clear. Thing is, her distress was wielded by the anchor as a symptom of her attack. Not to detract from what happened, was it not possible that it was just as easily to do with being dragged, albeit willingly, in front of the nation's cameras to perform live?

And this particular person's view (representing?) was that there should be a police person attending every treatment. Now there is a slight issue of practicality here. I'd like my own personal copper when I am out and about, but it ain't going to happen. And, as in her case, I am not sure this SAS, kung-fu-lighting-reaction doughnut muncher would be able to do much about a booze or drug fueled pyscho grabbing a needle and stabbing the nearest poor sod in A&E. The logic of this was not debated very much.

What we did get was the now obligatory Title Wearing Admin Template in suit and shaved skull (on £xxx,000/pa doubtless), whose job (something to do with security) it was to say nothing much really, beyond it was 'not acceptable', and waffle about measures. Meanwhile the blonde tries, in vain, to make him say something so her salary can go up with a 'gothca' on her CV. Which is why he will say... nothing.

'And that's all we have time for.'

All parties served. NHS. BBC. Just maybe not the issue. Or justice.

I've now regsitered another website:, where we will post examples of articles or broadcast clips and simply ask viewers what public interest was served at the expense of simply filling a slot and/or getting a senior talking head to fill it, or a highly subjective and limited viewpoint to stir up ratings value. You never know. It may stir up an answer. In this way, with my zero resources, I can use the major media to scare up the stories, and then use public pressure to actually get answers.

BBC - Violence costs NHS '£100m a year'

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Vicarious is as vicarious does

The wisdom of crowds

It has been a long day. I just wish I got paid.

Well is it?

I always like questions. You can stick it to 'em without quite being the hatchet man.

Fairtrade is booming - but is it still a fair deal?

No2. He flies harder.

'Airmiles Andy' attempts image overhaul

I just liked the headline (actually both theirs and mine)

I also liked this: "But by employing Sir Digby, he is suggesting that he takes his role seriously, and is working to be a more effective trade ambassador."

I'd suggest he's a good candidate for, as to me it reads like he's got in some paid spin to do a papering over job... badly.


As you will gather, I have been a busy blogger today.

Partly it's because I was away at a show (which will need blogging... sheesh) yesterday, but mainly because I found a big pile of clippings from my last Sunday's Times' read. And it was a rich seam.

And an eclectic one, too.

Thing is, now I have revisited a few hours later to check links (how pro is that?), I'm trying to figure out the rationale why some made it in... and some are conspicuous by their absence.

It may be that there are different moderators for different areas, and some are on a break this weekend. Fair dos. But I do wonder, as those that are not there are mostly (if not all) perhaps a tad critical of the media and its representatives' professional performance lately.

It was actually a salutary read, as in noting my blog on the ethics of getting a paid holiday in the sun counting as journalism of any form, I went back a bit further to find another not (yet) featured was one about the law of press junkets. Apparently, any form of paid/assisted PR jolly is illegal under UK law.

Pols Porkies doing well today

‘Four homes’ Charles picks on property owners half his size

Live and let... well, at least let out lots of others for oddles of dosh, ey, what?

What a super-dooper example one sets.

Out of the mouths of consumers...

Green pallor

When it comes to environmental issues, Ms. Taylor, you can ask a
lot of very good questions. Just don't expect many good answers.
Especially from those we used to imagine were tasked to ask them,
despite ad budgets on media:)

I'm guessing after week you have heard... er... nothing?

It not just retailer greenwashing, it's media-contrived greenwashing:)

Green is the new black... er...

"Black day for GE’s green stand"

Bless. Damned if you do greenwash. Damned if you don't.

Don't shoot the messenger. Or the guys flying him for free on a jolly.

Blair Force One fails to take off

What exactly is 'a full press corps', and why do we need to pay
(both financially and environmentally to fly them around?

Nothing like freedom of the press.

Lack of logic is driving me... to Distraction

CAR CLINIC - Congestion chargers

How about the Smart Fortwo I recall reviewed in the paper? And don't
biodiesels like the Saab of dual-fuels such as Volvo offer count?

Mind you, I am still unclear how use of such vehicles solves congestion.

Or, for that matter, how two two miles in a 4x4 and then parking all
day kills the planet, while running all day on electric or hybrid helps
the planet. The pipe may be elsewhere or pump out less per mile,
but if you are doing the miles you are congesting and polluting more,

The windmills of don't mind (the issues)

Ask the experts - Wind Turbines

You may wish to check the costs. As there is some debate as to
whether you can go green without going into the red as they actually
expire well before the payback period.

That is your eco vs. £ call.

What Ministers might also consider is whether the enviROI
helps the planet, either.

Get paid for making your own electricity

As indicated, there is some debate as to whether you can go
green without going into the red as they actually expire well before
the payback period.

That is a personal eco vs. £ call.

What does interest me, especially when Government and Ministers
get involved, is whether the enviROI helps the planet, either.

I'll put anything up (if I can afford it) IF it improves matters environmentally,
but not to meet some stupid green target

When two sides go to bore

Open airspace to cut carbon, say airlines

At first I thought 'Nice one, Tel!', as it seemed another ace bit of spin
by RyanAir.

But in there, somewhere, is a modicum of logic.

Just like road pricing.

It's just a pity there tow sets of camps, at such extremes dealing with
it all, logic - and action - are as likely as that Gloucester Old Spot
dive-bombing crows out my window.

The richer are different to you and I. They attract more leeches.

I stumbled across this.

I almost wished I hadn't. Almost.

Beam me up, Sir Richard... why space tourism is no longer a sci-fi fantasy

Well, golly. How sooooooper, for you.

And any of this serves anyone, especially the planet... how?


Don't pity me on Petit St Vincent

Light out. The end of some tunnel vision?

Why do I feel the dead hand of a target, combined with some typically unjoined up thinking here?

Get ready for the big blackout

At first I thought 'Why not?' as a lot of motorway miles are driven
using just headlights. But beyond the human, I wonder about the
eco-cost of lights vs. the consequences of an accident in terms of
persons, travel and material damage/repair/recycling.

Brian has made a good suggestion.

Or there are ranges of low energy light made by Philips I have seen.

Told you I was righ...

Gases, not sun, change climate

When are we going to move beyond the vast energies expended
discrediting things and concentrate on simply getting on and
DOING something?

I fully accept that we should not rush into precipitous actions that are
unproven to have environmental benefits, but the possibility of an
economic downturn seems a poor argument against the possibility
of going past a global warming tipping point, proven yet or otherwise.

This is the logic of Salem witchfinders, where you are only proven innocent
/right when it's too late and you are dead.
when you are dead.

Yes, I am jealous. But also a litle jaded.... like a fox

Blog off

Was the content why, the readership why, or the fact that the author
and/or hubby know someone who knows someone in a)publishing,
b) PR and c) a compliant media hack who owes a favour or has a
slow news day?

I blog, therefore I am £70,000 richer

Now is the nuclear winter of my discontent

Just when you though you had had enough of all the Lovelocks, another comes along.

Go nuclear, save the planet... buy the book (that last bit was mine)

I have been erring on agreeing with Mr. Lovelock's analysis of late,
whilst wishing that such contentious, though sincerely meant as
thought-provoking, opinion pieces did not seem to always end with
"The book/TV series/movie is out now, priced £/$x, and the author
is on a tour of the planet to promote it now... but probably not on his

However, the value of blog post from those who care and know stuff
is clearly evidenced here.

This is just too good a page turner!

No sooner do I put one Pol's Porky to bed, but another gets presented.

The eco minister’s 11,000-mile car claim

The shame of it is that Norman Baker's bill to make such info public domain, seems not only to have passed (yay!), but so quickly been consigned, along with what it thew up, to history. Pity.

Puff piece

Last night a mate of mine asked my what the ecological consequences of the smoking industry was, from growing tobacco to setting fire to the stuff. I have no idea. Might be worth a scope.

Anyway, it leads me to this: MEPs’ cigarette ban goes up in smoke

I say nothing, but imply what you will that it is labelled 'POLPOR', which is for Pol's Porkies, my forthcoming website to log those that say one thing and do another. Hypocrite is too goo.. strong a word.

Laptops of the Gods

A bit of good news:
Wind-up laptops for Third World
The £50 laptop to change the world

Can I buy one?

No, really. I go to a lot of shows where they charge £200 for
power and £100 for internet access.

Or eco-shows where they don't charge because they have neither.

Tricky when you are promoting a website that is out to help save
the planet.

Surely aversion can be made that is 'For sale', and one that is given
away clearly branded as only for a worthy recipient's use, such that
a person found in possession will at the very least be named and
shamed, if not held to account.

What's green and has nothing to do with fixing a car?

Green travel off to a flying start

While whacking a fir in the firmament is the method du jour to attract
the tiny minority of well-informed Radio 4 listeners and even, it seems,
middle England to buying anything Climate Guilt-free, I was wondering
if there were any policies that addressed reduction of waste within the
automotive industry, and especially in the areas of reduction, reuse,
repair and recycling? Things like fixing stuff instead of just replacing.

I am aware of instances where this would be possible, and would
seem to confer more relevant benefits to the planet.

Cut and paste

I have been critical of some in the charity sector on occasion, and feel right to be so where excessive money goes not to those intended, but to those who see opportunity for being in a sacred cow industry.

So when I saw this I was impressed: What a donation buys around the world

20% is pretty much a standard agent's fee for any efforts on behalf of a client. So I think that is about right. And they have undercut that target by 4%.

Big up.

Let's shoot at the guy in the window seat of the pressurised palne

Miliband mocked by his critics as climate Bill is downgraded

As Minister for the Environment and a claimed contender for party leadership it makes sense for anyone with an interest in this planet's future to watch Mr. Miliband's career and pay close attention to what he does, or does not do (or get done).

In this case I find it a shame that the 'critics' seemed more interested on how this reflected on him and his 'chances', than the issue at hand, and how it was delayed.

Further proof, if it were needed, that the denizens of Westminster and Fleet Street care more about themselves in the short term than anything pressing beyond the day after tomorrow.

Times - Labour accused of climate Bill chaos
Guardian - Watch thy neighbour
Ain't it a great way to run a country?
Whoops, it's where I live. Bummer.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Shi*s that pass

After all that and I missed it! The webcast, I mean. That's what happens when you hold events when most folk have work to do (or kids to pick up). But I guess it's too much to expect any 'we're listening' consultation to take place when the majority of folk you in theory should be listening to, and may be interested in hearing what you have to say, are free.

Fortunately, technology has come to the rescue.

For a start, the full text will is on the website at

But here it is anyway. I've decided to cut&paste and go through as if I was taking part. Of course I can comment, but I can't get any answers (let's see if any of mine - or those of major concern to the many misguided fools who signed the petition - appear), so I'll have to simply offer a commentary.

Moderator says: Hello and welcome to our road pricing webchat. We've had over 5000 questions so far. The minister will be with us for an hour or so from 1600 GMT and we'll get through as many as we can. Clearly, with so much interest in this webchat, many people will not get their questions answered. But we have tried to select questions which best represent the concerns people have. The full, unedited transcript of the session will be posted on as soon as it finishes.

Dr Stephen says:
Hi. Thank you for taking part in this web chat. Unfortunately we've had about 5000 questions so I can't answer them all but I'll do my best to pick questions that reflect everyone's concerns. Also if I don't answer your question don't worry because we will read it later and take on board your comments.
Steve Ladyman

Why does 'pick questions that reflect everyone's concerns' not fill me with confidence. Come to that, 'take on board' gives me a sinking feeling, too. The first can be probably be translated as 'mainly mine that I get pinned down on anything, especially porkies', and the second '... and push off into the sunset, Viking-king style, to burn and sink without trace'.

M Davies: I remember Brian Clough once saying that when he had an issue with a player, he sat them down, had a chat and then after 5 or 10 minutes they decided that Brian was right. Isn't this exactly what is going to happen with your "debate"? We'll all sound our reservations and then you will decide you were right all along.

Dr Stephen replies: I promise this is a real debate. If we don't convince the public then road pricing simply won't happen. But if it doesn't then we have a real problem because we know congestion is going to get a lot worse despite all the 'conventional' plans we have to deal with it and so far no-one has come up with an affordable or practical alternative - but perhaps the debate will throw up some ideas.

So far, I'm not convinced. A good one to start with, coincidentally.

: Most people do not travel out of choice - they travel out of necessity. Surely the existing figures quoted for what congestion costs are already a "congestion charge" - if the congestion is too much people will look to alternatives, and if there isn't an alternative will people reconsider if the journey is actually worth making e.g. people don't and won't sit for 4 hours each day to get to and from work - they will look for an alternative.

Dr Stephen replies: In fact the research we've done shows that about a quarter of people who drive in the rush hour on the worst congested roads have choices but often end up sitting in traffic jams! But still people do - that is exactly what we have found. At present they just don't feel there is sufficient 'incentive' to change their behaviour and travel earlier or later or car share etc. That's why we say road pricing will give them that incentive and our models show we only need 4% of people to change their behaviour to get a 40% improvement in congestion.

'Research we've done shows...' Hmn. Without seeing it it's hard to comment. It's also hard to see why people would sit in a jam if they have choices, unless those choices are worse or do not fit their needs. Pricing is not an incentive to do something, it's a penalty for not doing it by my way of seeing things.

Claire: As an infrequent motorway user I am always stunned that I am met by the same problem- Lorries. I used to visit my sister in Wales quite often and the only delay ever was due to lorries overtaking other lorries blocking two lanes.Has anyone else thought of tackling this issue? Many other countries have freight on rail only and this seems to work.This will not negate the need for haulage companies- just make them a bit smarter about how they work.

Dr Stephen replies: There is a trial going on restricting overtaking by lorries on certain stretches of road. We also have a grant system in place to encourage freight onto rail and water. Again it is part of the solution, but not all of the solution.

Where did Lorries come into it? But they are part of the problem; just not one that has cropped up in anything I've seen before. In a volume jam I can't see how their overtaking or not makes much difference, but if things are moving it is an issue. I seem to recall it was a requirement that they are speed restricted caused this problem. Actually sticking them on the inside lane sounds fine to the Clarkson in me. I just don't see how it will get policed effectively... like mobile phones. For that you need bobbies on the beat, not robots.

Liz Cooper: Could consideration be given to encouraging companies to encourage their staff to work more from home, thus reducing journeys during peak hours?

Dr Stephen replies: You are right - flexible working is a must and encouraging more of it is already part of our plans and has been taken account of in the sums we've done. We help companies have travel plans, we even insist on this type of plan before new developments go ahead. It is part of the solution but only a part and road pricing will give people an incentive to take advantage of flexible working when it's offered.

I'm encouraged. And having decided to work form home how do I get compensated when I do have to travel from the place that has no alternative means of transport to my car? There is promise here, but the devil is in the details. What is pain, and what is no gain other than tax per mile revenue to the Treasury.

ken sidwell: Will motor cyclists be exempt from road pricing as they do not cause congestion and the emissions are considerably lower than cars and commercial vehicles? Also, as motorbikes help cut down congestion and enviromental damage will this be an area that the government will look at promoting and help dispel the negative image given to the motorcycle fraternity?

Dr Stephen replies: Certainly they should pay a price that reflects the fact they take up less room. Whether that is a discount or an exemption is a subject for debate.

That's a no then. Sounds pretty firm for things just being considered.

Dan McIntyre: In his email response to people who signed the road pricing petition, the Prime Minister explains that investment in public transport has doubled since 1997. This seems a sensible way forwards to me. However, despite all this investment, trains are *still* notoriously unreliable, crowded, uncomfortable and expensive. I can't recall a single journey I've made in the last year that was not delayed. As for buses, it costs me double to come to work on the bus compared to what it costs me to drive. Surely if the government wants to cut congestion it should make public transport affordable, reliable and comfortable. I have a feeling you're going to say that's what you are doing, though from my perspective (and that of many others) I can't see any noticeable improvement at all. I would be interested to hear your response to this.

Dr Stephen replies: We are planning to spend £140bn of central govt money in the 10 years up to 2014/15 on transport. We spend £2.5bn a year subsidising buses. £90m a week on trains. We have spent £8bn upgrading the west coast main line. We are spending £200m on fast trains for the CTRL Domestic Service. This is paying off - we carried 1bn people on the trains last year, bus patronage is higher. We are also working with operators to make bus and train services more reliable and comfortable.But despite all this we still predict congestion will be 25% worse by 2015.

Fudge vs. facts. So the last 10 years were doing what, how and why should the next 10 be any different?

Mr G Brook: I would have thought one of the more practical answers to road conjestion is to quadruple the price of fuel. This would remove the need to have all the technology solutions and civil servents to manage it. It would promote fuel efficient engines and biofuel engines, and would effect by proportion those who use the roads more. It could be implemented over night and the additional revenue could be used for public transport. Simple! What is the minister's view?

Dr Stephen replies: I think the petition that would follow the implementation of this idea would get even more signatures!

Not exactly an answer. But I tend to agree with Dr. L. If it were that simple it would hit those who have to use a car and drive major distances much harder than those who do not. And I'd hazard most congestion is on 10 mile trips into cities and not 100 mile round trips in the country or on motorways.

Marlene Murty: I live in the city but work in a rural NHS area that can have difficulty recruiting in some specialities (daily commute 80 miles + business milage ). Is key worker assistance planned in road pricing; or do I have to choose between my job and my home?

Dr Stephen replies: The system hasn't been designed yet so issues like how health and other key workers would be affected haven't been decided either - but this will be an important part of the debate. Also if you live / drive in rural areas you could well be better off under road pricing.

A key worker would be someone employed by the Government then? One of Mr. Brown's extra 700,000 dependent voters. And so far, the phrase 'could well be better off' could well as easily mean 'could well not be better off' for all it's worth.

Paul Grant: I drive a Smart car, one of the more environmentally friendly cars, I also car share for travelling to work, for those making a concerted effort to reduce pollution and congestion does the government plan any kind of incentment / reward?

Dr Stephen replies: That has to be part of the debate. In the London congestion charge zone clean cars don't pay. However, we have always said that road pricing needs to be primarily about congestion - it is complex enough to get it right with only that focus. However, if in designing the system there are obvious ways to also incentivise cleaner cars then we'll need to take that on board.

I'm on a roll: '...has to be part of the debate' & '... take that on board' means 'No, but we'll let these ones die in the wilderness with a few other dodgy questions'. I have to say I can't see how a Smart car assist congestion much, though. It's a car with four wheels. Lack of 3' in length helps how?

Hugh Lazarus: "our models show we only need 4% of people to change their behaviour to get a 40% improvement in congestion" - so why not only charge on certain strips of PROVEN congested roads at peak hours only. It seems a bit extreme to charge everyone to penilise 4% OF US.

Dr Stephen replies: That is exactly what we want to do - the highest charges would be on the most congested roads at the busiest times. Far from penalising everyone - you could find you are not paying as much, and perhaps even less, than you do now.

Well at least it was live. Note that not getting charged at all is not an option, though.

steve aitken: I'm in favour of congestion charging and road tolls - it's used in every other European country. However on it's own it's simply insufficient and will lead to a minimal decrease in traffic - we need both congestion charging and better public transport to solve the problem. I queue across the Forth Road Bridge each day and don't do this out of choice - the public transport into Edinburgh is poor and it's less hassle by car. Will you be combining both congestion charging and targetted public transport improvements in the future because currently it's not working? Can't we take a lead from the Dutch?

Dr Stephen replies: Absolutely! That is exactly the plan.

... thanks, Steve. The promotion is in the post.

Miss Adams: If it is to focus on travelling at "peak times" how can this be fair on those of us who have children to get to school, and can only work during school hours, as our journeys will always fall in "peak times" and there is nothing we can do to change this. Surely this would be penalising working parents?

Dr Stephen replies: We have to look at this, and it is a challenge. Staggered school opening may be one way. Plus people who travel to schools can consider car share / walking/ cycling etc. just as anyone else can. In Kent we have 60 walking buses (where children are escorted and walk in a crocodile to school along an agreed route) that are very popular with kids and we have just announced £15m to encourage walking to school. But as I say, identifying these sort of issues and deciding how to handle them is part of the debate.

I like the fact that 'Miss' Adams is a parent. Oh, Puritan me! You go look at it Dr. Ladyman. I'd like to see half the kids at our school use a walking bus. But then, we don't live in London. I know Kent is the country, too, but how urban are the catchments for these systems? Does he walk to Westminster?

raj saini: It would be helpful if illegal motorists were removed from the road, those who avoid paying road tax, do not MOT their cars or are banned, this will reduce congestion. Why can the government not enforce their existing policy to "clamp-down" on these people rather than creating a new policy that will effect the honest motorist who pays enough through fuel duty anyway?

Dr Stephen replies: These people are a menace. The police have got new powers to seize illegal vehicles and we've just doubled funding for removing and crushing these cars. I'm with you - some people would say the only question is whether one or two of these people are left in their cars when they go in the crusher :-)

Helpful! Essential! Answer the question. Why is it not happening? if you can catch a person who forgets to renew their tax for one day, why can't you catch those who are really breaking the law:(!

April Heard: I am a single parent who struggles to work full time with two children. I do not get tax credits or anything else other than the basic child benefit. I have already moved to rural Lincolnshire as I cannot afford house prices in the south east on public sector pay. Public transport outside the major towns is minimal here and does not support shift work. Road pricing could be the final straw and tip me over the edge of just not being able to keep going. What provisions will there be for those in my position doing shift work and living in rural areas. My job have the right to send me in anywhere in the county where I work and can expect me to attend at any stated time day or night. Why are people like being penalised when we serve the community and the public wants us to be there in their time of need.

Dr Stephen replies: We have to carefully consider the impact of road pricing on all sorts of people. You might well be better off under road pricing, particularly if you are travelling in non-peak times, as a shift worker. People living in rural areas could also pay some of the lowest charges - and remember that we are also investing in public transport and providing better bus services to give people alternative travel options.

I trust she 'might be' suitably reassured.

Nigel Smith: A great deal of the present rush hour congestion is caused by mothers on the 'School Run'. During the school holidays, traffic flow increases substantially.

In some areas, parents have organised 'snakes' or 'crocodiles', supervised by adults that walk the children to school. Not only is it safer and healthier, but it reduces the local traffic congestion. Where this is not practical, school minibuses (similar to the American yellow buses) can collect the children safely and deliver them to school. The reduction in emissions and congestion is again substantial. Each minibus can remove as many as twenty cars from the roads at peak times. This can dramatically improve traffic flow.

Already covered, so why the repeat at the expense of other questions, as if I didn't know.

Why is the Government not doing more to encourage local authorities to start 'walking snakes' where practical or minibuses where it is not? Rather than pricing the poor off the road, the Government should be encouraging people to leave their car at home by providing cheap and efficient public transport for their children.

Dr Stephen replies: As I said in an earlier answer these walking buses are great news - I join them now and again in my own constituency - the kids have fun, it's healthy - and we've just provided £15m more to encourage them.

Already covered, so why the repeat at the expense of other questions, as if I didn't know.

Mr M McEvinney: How do the government intend to protect article 8(1) rights in any road pricing system that necessarily monitors vehicle and thereby driver location? Will other agencies have access to this information and how do the government intend to protect this information and prevent its abuse in respect of both article 8(1) and article 6 of ECHR?
"our models show we only need 4% of people to change their behaviour to get a 40% improvement in congestion"Does the government therefore consider road pricing, affecting all motorists, proportionate in its inevitable interference with article 8 rights?

Dr Stephen replies: We can guarantee that we will respect privacy in a road pricing system. We are looking at ways to do this and one way is to have the money collected by a trusted third party. Most people have a mobile phone these days and the mobile phone company can track your movements from your phone but they are trusted not to. Other ways to guarantee privacy will emerge if we go ahead. What I can also promise is that privacy laws will apply to this as they do to all government actions. As for your concern about article 8 rights - the figure I gave for a 40% improvement if 4% of people change their behaviour was an illustration of what can be achieved. It is proportionate because to get that behaviour change we need to offer the incentive to everyone to change their travel habits.

That... does not tally what has been said before. I am sure I heard they would not be tracking us. Trust is not something this mob have in great supply.

Ian Denham: You have suggested in an answer given to Marlene Murty's question that 'if you/drive y tin nrural areasyou could well be better off under road pricing Please would you back up tha statement by explaining how?

Dr Stephen replies: Because road pricing is about changing from the way we pay to use the roads today to a new way of paying to use the roads. In other words reviewing the current taxes on motorists would be part of the package. If we decide to go for a national system then it wouldn't be in place until at least 2015 and I have no way of knowing what decisions the chancellor might make in 2015. None of these decisions are made yet - that is why we are having this debate.

In other words, 'no, I can't explain how. Once it's a done deal, you'll find out, like it or not'.

Brian Duffy: If road charging is not a stealth tax then what present tax shall it be replacing to balance things out. If there are no taxes being replaced then we can assume that the motorist is being ripped off yet again

Dr Stephen replies: I've just answered this one but I want to emphasise this is about tackling congestion. If all we wanted to do was raise money we could just put up fuel duty but that wouldn't change people's behaviour. That is why road pricing will have to be about a new way to pay to use the road.

I am looking for that answer still. Saying you have doesn't mean you did. Where is the money going?

Peter Graham: Firstly can I say how much I enjoyed your appearance last year on Top Gear - good on you. Could you say what percentage of the revenue raised by HMG through fuel tax, road licences and tax on the sale of new cars is reinvested in the transport system? Many thanks

Dr Stephen replies: I enjoyed Top Gear too! I keep hinting they should invite me back so I can have a go in the new car. Perhaps JC can quiz me on Road Charging? I don't have the figure you are asking for to hand at the moment but I can tell you that the taxes motorists pay have not been ring fenced for transport since 1937. They are part of the exchequer's general revenue and they pay for schools, hospitals, police etc and if we didn't have that revenue then other taxes like income tax and VAT would have to go up.

You will never go near JC 'cos he'll nail you on that very question! 'I don't have the figure to hand at the moment...' Odd, I'm sure a lot of others besides me asked for it the day before. I think that means 'You will never know that figure because it will sink me/us...'

Alan Bowling: Why not penalise utility companies that generate massive congestion when work is undertaken - especially when they do not work at off peak hours to undertake the work?

Dr Stephen replies: We have recently passed laws to let us do this and are currently working out with the utility companies and Councils how best to ensure streetworks can go ahead with minimal disruption.

Because none of this congestion has occured until now? A lot from this government is kicking in a little... late?

susan wood: The DVLA has been accused in the past of selling motorist details to other companies. If the road pricing scheme goes ahead using the black box device, what guarantees (not assurances) can the government make that this will not happen to any information gathered through these devices?

Dr Stephen replies: As I explained earlier there is no reason why we would have this information. We would of course make the system as secure as possible, and the information could be held by a trusted third party - the government wouldn't need to see it.

'There is no reason why...' does not sound like a guarantee, for all that would be worth anyway. Did the DVLA sell data?

Paul Hill: Will you consider simple and proven technology for road pricing as an alternative to the complicated and expensive tracking options so far discussed?

Dr Stephen replies: Yes.

Er.... what?

F.A.Shaw: If it is the governments wish to encourage more people to travel by public transport, why are rail companies trying to force passengers off trains back to other forms of transport ,by imposing swingeing price increases on already high ticket costs?

Dr Stephen replies: There are only two places money can come from. The fare payer or the tax payer. If fares don't increase to cover costs the tax payer has to pay. In fact over the last 10 years the average cost to the passenger has only gone up 2.4% over inflation whereas individual wealth over the same period has gone up 26%.

That's OK then.

Rowland Sutton: If road pricing comes in what guarantee have we that it will be applicable to foreign motorists/lorry drivers to pay ,as according to what we read in the papers they seem to be let off paying parking fines, speeding fines etc because it is too costly to follow up.

Dr Stephen replies: Everyone will have to pay a road price - in fact road pricing would be an effective way of ensuring visitors do pay to use the roads. As for fines etc we have new powers coming in this year to make people pay a deposit equal to their possible fine so that if they leave the country we'll already have the money.

So the EU is fixing boxes on all cars as we speak? So it's a done deal? Otherwise how?

Kevin Sines: Thank you for therGovernments reponse. Can you please tell me what provision has been made for disabled drivers who need their cars to live an ordinary life, I personally find it difficult to fuel my car on Income support and would find it nigh on impossible to if Congestion charges or tolls were introduced.

Dr Stephen replies: Of course provision for disabled drivers will need to be considered as part of the design of any scheme and needs to be part of this debate.

'You'll pay mate, juts like the rest of them.'

steve cowles: can you honesly say that the techology will not be used to obtain average speeds for prosecution on speeding offences?

Dr Stephen replies: Yes I can say that - this is about tackling congestion. But I'm sure you don't speed anyway ;-)

What is this technology anyway?

Mark Christelow: Tony Blair made reference to Highway Officers being employed to keep the traffic moving. It seems to me and many others that whenever the Highways Agency get involved in a motorway incident they make the traffic congestion worse. Their main priority seems to be to investigate the cause of the accident often by closing the motorway for excessive periods of time rather than keeping the traffic they really have this as their number one priority?

Dr Stephen replies: Not true. The new HA officers are really effective. Keeping traffic moving safely is their no 1 priority.The point the Boss was making is that we are building new roads, we are widening key roads, we are doing things like employing people to clear away incidents quicker, we are providing real time info about jams so people can avoid them, we are doing active traffic management and trialling hard shoulder running and we are planning to spend £140bn on transport and still - despite all this - we project congestion will be 25% worse by 2015 if we don't do something more. And so far the only idea on the table that can have the dramatic effect we need is road pricing. That is why the CBI, the British Chamber of Commerce, The Motorists Forum, the RAC Foundation all say we have to explore it.

The Boss!!!! I'd really like the facts on that. How does shutting a motorway for 4 hours to assess a non-fatal shunt count as 'really effective'?

Kathy Clarke: Please don't skip over the fuel tax issue - this is the most valid point, we already have a mileage tax system in place, without the expense of a new system. By the way, how much will this cost US to set up?

Dr Stephen replies: We simply don't know because we haven't designed a system yet. But I am looking at ways we can ensure the cost doesn't fall on the motorist - for example the person who collects the charge from you may provide the equipment at their expense. As I've said fuel tax may affect the total amount of driving you do but not the time you do it. And of course taxes will be one of the things that will be reviewed as part of designing a scheme.

Hmmn. This doesn't compute: I am looking at ways we can ensure the cost doesn't fall on the motorist.

Michael Cowie: Why do we need to have a Uk policy, when the driving force behind the study, is the congestion caused into urban areas? Only 55 % of journeys made are into these areas.

Dr Stephen replies: Congestion has consequences for the country as a whole. A decision on a national scheme will only be taken after we've seen how local schemes work.

'Makes more money, too.'

c.pearson: I think Mr. Brook's idea is excellent but your reply does rather give the impression that your mind is already made up regarding road pricing and that you aren't really interested in any alternatives. Can you convince me otherwise?

Dr Stephen replies: I can assure we are considering all ideas and if an alternative emerges that will work believe me I'll grab it.

Convinced, C. Pearson?

Peter : You say people choose to sit in jams rather than use the alternatives. My alternative is 3 times as expensive, and takes 2.5 times longer so I choose to use the car. Will you force me off the roads too?

Dr Stephen replies: We will be investing in and improving public transport to give people more choices. But choice isn't just about cars versus public transport , it's about when and where you drive.

'Yes, I will. You'll have more choice but still no alterative.'

Ian Denham: In the last 35 minutes 12 questions have been answered by Dr Steven Ladyman, 5,000+ had been posted before the start of this webchat . Over 1.5million people signed the on-line petition against the proposal for this plan/scheme since this on line chat started I have asked 10 questions all different to those answered to date! How are you going to ensure that all views are taken into consideration before any decision is made?

Dr Stephen replies: You've had 2 now!

Proving a valid point I'd say. Who chooses?

As I said at the start we'll read through them all off line and take them into account. And don't forget that we want to have this debate over many years, so there will be lots more opportunities to talk about these issues.

SFX: Groan!

Andy Pearse: If a 'black box' will have to be installed on the car/hgv, how will this work for foriegn vehicles?

Dr Stephen replies: They could 'hire' a box at the port of entry. That is just one of the options we are looking at. Obviously, addressing this issue is a must.

They could, I guess. So there is going to be a box that tracks us then?

Dr Stephen says: Thanks for your questions - but I have to go now to catch a train!!!!

To where? What class? Who is paying? How are you getting to and from the station each end? 'Weeeeeee. I'm a public servant who works in London and gets paid to travel.'

I'll arrange to do another web chat soon and we will read all your ideas and suggestions. This is a debate, no decisions have been made yet and there is time for everyone to have their say.

And don't forget... they are listening.

I have to say that it was all I could do not to change 'Dr Stephen says' to 'Minister Says No'.

Where you convinced?

ps: The questions I asked here. I guess they were not so vital as these.

Times - Revealed: the e-petition ‘prat’

Following my receipt of Mr. Blair's Message from the Bunker, I turned on Thursday to the webcast to see if Dr. Ladyman would address any of my questions following his mime performance (so much spun; so little said or answered - I still await the progamme's reply as to the factual discrepancy between the Minister's recollection of what is or isn't on record and the Sun columnist who challenged him) on Monday's Newsnight.

Did anyone else find it a tad wanting in the promised further clarity?

As with the petition, it was still an interesting excerise in looking like you are listening when in fact you are still only telling.

1.8M people signed the petition. 5,000 asked questions on the webcast. Less than twenty were carefully selected. Oddly, one questioner got to ask twice.


Telegraph - Poll blow for road pricing plans fuels dissent in Labour ranks - The sahme of it is that soemthing is necessary. They have just screwed any chance of anything happening rationally.