Could a government-led consumer strategy smarten up our essential services?

Houses of Parliament

Today marks Theresa May’s first 100 days as Prime Minister. And while we’ve heard some positive things from her new government about prioritising consumer interests, we think what’s needed is a comprehensive consumer strategy to smarten up essential services.

From our research and from what you’ve been telling us, it’s clear that several essential markets in the UK aren’t working effectively enough for you.

If we’re to see an end to the mis-selling scandals and poor customer service that have blighted markets, such as energy, banking, telecoms and rail, over the past 10 years, then corporate culture needs an overhaul.

Consumer strategy

A cross-cutting government consumer strategy would promote competition, while protecting us when we’re at risk. Action could be focused on essential regulated markets, such as energy, banking, broadband and transport.

These are markets where we know (because you tell us so) you frequently face significant costs and where poor customer service is rife.

And, as the government starts negotiations to leave the European Union, the consumer strategy would put you right at the heart of them. It would safeguard the most important consumer rights in EU law and remove regulations that aren’t in your interest.

So what practical steps should the government take in these sectors this autumn? Well, here are our suggestions:

We’ve long been campaigning for a fairer energy market. This autumn and winter, Energy suppliers should take responsibility for engaging customers stuck on expensive gas and electricity tariffs and demonstrate that they’re going the extra mile to ensure they get a better deal.

Earlier this year, Which? revealed that unarranged overdraft fees can be much higher than the cost of a payday loan – punitive charges that are really taking their toll on far too many people. While payday loans have now had their charges capped, the cost for unarranged overdraft fees hasn’t been challenged.

To add insult to injury, in 2014, banks made £1.2bn from these charges, yet the competition authorities failed to address this issue as part of its banking inquiry. A consumer strategy should require the Financial Conduct Authority [FCA] to review these sneaky fees as soon as possible.

Access to reliable, high-speed broadband is essential for enabling people to participate in the wider economy.

Far too many of you feel frustrated by lacking internet connection, people like John Vincent, who told us:

I live about three miles from a major city, yet we were without our internet connection for a week, and our phone line for two weeks (I run a small business from home, so this makes it really difficult).

The government needs to press ahead with its plans to ensure that people are automatically compensated for broadband service failures, putting the sector in line with the water and energy sectors.

Britain cannot duck the importance of creating and maintaining a modern communications network. The government must ensure its Universal Service Obligation for broadband is delivered cost effectively and that people are able to easily apply for a connection. A consumer strategy would deliver on this agenda and ensure that the level of service people receive from Openreach improves.

Train travel
Far too many rail passengers are being let down every single day, either enduring miserable train journeys or finding it impossible to get the right fare. Rail passengers deserve better. Action is required this autumn to help passengers to find the best priced ticket for their journey.

We need a new independent ombudsman to resolve passenger complaints and it should give new powers to the Office of Rail and Road [ORR] so that it can take action against train companies that continually let their passengers down.

Over to you

So, do you think a new consumer strategy is needed to ensure the government implements change in these failing markets? What else would you like to see put on its agenda?

SusieQ says:
23 October 2016

Instead of constantly knocking the railways we should be investing in improving our railways. We need a world class rail system that is on a par with the rest of Europe.
We don’tvalue what we have until we no longer have it!

We do not need this high speed train that is being thought about or planned.
If someone wants to get either to London from Edinburgh or vice versa why not fly there?
A waste of money!!

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We do need HS2, and HS3 and 4. These major infrastructure developments are never easy to sell, because the results are often not predictable or the benefits easy to anticipate. But flying anywhere has become as welcoming as two weeks in a Gulag. With train travel within the UK the new HS rail systems will free up a great deal of the conventional rail network and allow for more local services; they’re currently restricted owing to the shortage of actual track.

If we look forwards then business leaders in Edinburgh, for instance, will be able to hop on a train and be in Paris or Brussels far more quickly than they can at present.

We do need extra railways, but I contend we do not need the very high speed services proposed – they add a great deal of expense, they reduce flexibility – no intermediate stops – they cause far more environmental damage because of track alignments. They are not designed to carry freight. And who are they for? Just how many “business leaders” would hop on a train in Edinburgh to go to Brussels – particularly in 15 years when it might be possible and Brussels will have much less significance?

We should be investing the money in new fairly high speed routes, and upgrading existing ones, particularly to distribute goods and get HGVs reduced on our roads. We should have intermediate stations (like Japan). We should not be encouraging long-distance commuting for the wealthy – probably unnecessary when HS2 might be completed. Technology will reduce the need to travel. How many other worthwhile causes could use the money?

Not sure where you get the idea there are no intermediate stations, Malcolm. On the HS1 to Paris, for instance, there are as many stops as there are on the Virgin West coast express from Chester to London. Of course HS trains have intermediate stops. They won’t make money without passengers.

And of course they can carry freight. However, it’s likely they’ll be used primarily for people moving and the other, slower lines can be used for freight – those freed up by building the new HS2 (and 3 and 4).

The continent is well used to HS trains and they have a lot of them. In fact, only the US has no HS tracks whatsoever, but the reality is that the benefits are very hard to establish without the thing being built. However, all the HS trains in Europe and even Eurostar are making a lot of money. So your only argument comes down to “not () encouraging long-distance commuting for the wealthy ” which is a little odd, since the current HS trains all operate with costs very much in-line with and even cheaper than Aircraft.

We use HS trains a lot, since we discovered some things: they’re as cheap to use as aircraft, they get there without your ears popping, they get you to the centre of cities – not a field 15 miles away – and they’re incredibly comfortable compared with flying.

Of course it was always going to be a hard sell, since so many can’t see what infrastructure improvements have brought societies and cultures, historically. But when infrastructure improves, so do societies and cultures, and their economies. Even the Romans knew that and the truth of it has been demonstrated innumerable times since then.

Interestingly, we’re just back from a week in the city of lights (no. not Blackpool – Paris) and our youngest flew while we took the train. To get home the same time as us they had to leave Paris two hours earlier, suffer interminable security queues, sit in a cramped cigar tube, not offered anything to eat or drink and still only arrived at the same time as we. We, OTOH, strolled down to the station, walked onto the train, enjoyed a three course dinner with a decent Merlot, and were delivered to within sixty feet of our eventual destination.

Our culture has had a love affair with flying – I agree – but we’re no longer on speaking terms and the only reason I’d use the ‘plane again would be for trips when the train simply wasn’t an option.

Ian, the line from London to Birmingham has no intermediate stops and when I last looked at the “prospectus” there were no plans to carry freight – not even mail.

I’m not sure what proportion of the British public will want to pay a high price for a ticket and for a 3 course dinner with Merlot on HS2. And that’s the worry – just who is it aimed at? Remember we are in an age of increasingly useful electronic communication,and who knows how much more that will have developed by the time HS2 even begins to run. So why will so many people have to travel to meet face to face? Freight will always need transporting, and the faster it can be, the more appealing to business and us. We should be spending our money developing this.

But that is just the personal view of a taxpayer having to fund it.

I agree there is the issue of how things will change in the future. Curiously, though, face to face meetings are still the preferred option by businesses. It may have something to do with picking up on sub-vocal and other subtle signals that teleconferencing simply doesn’t offer for the moment but people still prefer physical contact to simple imaging. Our eldest tells us there are a host of genetic and survival reasons for this.

But I suspect the biggest market will be tourism. People actively enjoy train travel – we certainly do – and the costs are easily comparable with flying. The meal and Merlot was included in the cost, so that doesn’t come into it.

I’ll bet at least one intermediate stop will ‘appear’ by the time the project has started in earnest. HS2 is already underway and the contracts have been signed, so that would now be as expensive to stop as to build (surprised me, too, when I found that out). Whether we’ll ever see 3 or 4 I have no idea. As you say things may well change.

There will be a stop on HS2 at Old Oak Common in west London for interchange with lots of other regional and suburban services, Underground, and so on but after that the train will charge off towards Birmingham without stopping. I don’t know the precise route but between Old Oak Common and Birmingham I am not sure there is a particular place at which it should stop. All the most important towns and cities are on the existing West Coast main line or other rail routes which will be greatly relieved by the extra capacity of HS2. I would expect HS2 to take more than 50% of the London – Birmingham travel market. There will probably be a premium fare but it will still have to be competitive. A more pleasant journey to Birmingham is available on the Chiltern route from Marylebone.

After completion to Birmingham the route will diverge with one branch going to Manchester and another via an East Midlands hub and Sheffield to Leeds, so Birmingham will only be an intermediate point anyway. The important element for other parts of the country is that some of the trains on the high-speed routes will be able to run off the route onto ‘classic’ rail lines to serve other destinations like the North West, the North East, and Scotland. This will be at lower speeds on those sections [up to 125 mph] but will avoid the need for changes.

I think it was unwise to focus so heavily on speed at the outset [perhaps we were envious of the French TGV] whereas what the UK needed was more capacity. I sympathise with Malcolm’s point about the engineering for high-speed lines having a greater environmental impact, but nobody designing a long-distance railway today would do it other than to the optimum standard. The benefit of higher speeds is that many more trains can be carried on the same length of track simultaneously and obviously fewer stopping places means more continuous traffic and no necessity to build loops so that non-stop trains can overtake the stoppers.

As I understand it there are proposals for some 100 mph freight traffic to use HS2 overnight and at other times when it can fit in the passenger timetable, but essentially the new route will free up much more useful slots for freight trains on the existing railway which has connections to the freight destinations, ports and hubs.

The government bailed the banks out with tax payers money, and kept urging them to lend to stimulate the economy. They didn’t do it. They then offered them cheap money to stimulate lending, which was effectively a further subsidy from the tax payer. What did the banks do in return reduce savings rates to customers to an absolute pittance as they don’t need to encourage money in any more, as the government is providing it so cheaply. Stop subsidising the fat cats now and let them stand on their own feet on a commercial basis. There are more savers than borrowers in this country and they deserve a fair return.


Theologian says:
24 October 2016

Absolutely. If the government wants me to spend more money to help the economy then I need more money to spend in the first place – and increasing the interest rate on my savings is one very obvious way to do that.

Audrey Mabbott says:
24 October 2016

I agree with every word Tom Mason says.

If as Tom Mason says there really are more savers than borrowers in this country then the savers are not going to get much in interest. It would be interesting to know instead what is the total amount on loan against the total amount in savings because it is the ratio between those two figures that determines whether the banks need to attract savers by paying them higher interest. At the moment it seems that it is not necessary and the reason, as Tom Mason rightly says, is that the quantitative easing [QE] policy has released enough liquidity to enable the banks to stimulate the economy, the uptake of which is obviously a factor of demand. The QE policy had wider objectives than helping savers as its purpose was to generate a higher level of funding for capital investment as well as stabilising the economy The second part of that seems to have been effective even if there is possibly some disappointment over the first part. The Bank of England and the Treasury presumably took the view that since savers were already able to earn interest significantly ahead of the rate of inflation no further stimulus was required given that any such increase would impact on mortgage interest and consumer credit rates. Keeping them at a low level is seen as a more expedient way of achieving economic buoyancy. For several years now, savers have suffered from low interest rates in order to check inflation while borrowers have been sheltered from the full force of the economic climate. The balance has become inequitable and I did detect a hint of recognition of that in a speech by the Prime Minister on taking up office so I think we can expect some changes, possibly in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. Inflationary pressures are building already so I think we need to brace ourselves. Whether there will a nett gain for savers remains to be seen.

“Saving” is a passive activity. We expect to simply give our money to someone else who has to make it work to earn money. We could, instead, use our money “actively”, and in ways we might approve of. For example, invest in those businesses we want to support, to help them grow and contribute to a better UK economy. In return you should get much more (in relative terms) than mere savings interest. 3.5% in cautious investments. Of course the downside is the value of your investments might go down, or it might well go up. And if you reinvest the income you will generally beat cash savings hands down. But it is for the longer term.

Are British banks bankrupt?

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No, PIP, they are not bankrupt. They are solvent, they have massive capital reserves, huge investments, and enormous collateral. One or two might be making trading losses but their balance sheets are strong. The Bank of England, the Prudential Regulation Authority, and the Financial Conduct Authority would intervene if there were any risk to a bank’s stability.

Frankly I am doubtful that we will get any useful improvement to consumer rights from a government that is in the process of wrecking the UK economy vie ‘Brexit’ for its own narrow political reasons. However what we need in the UK and for that matter in Europe and the rest of the world is a systematic strategy to tackle and stop the idea that seems to be embedded in many businesses that if they can take advantage of the public then it is legitimate for them to do so. This sort of attitude in e.g. in medicine would be regarded as totally unacceptable. Doctors take a hypocratic oath, are expected to abide by it and in general take their responsibilities seriously. There is no reason why the public should not expect the same of business people. Most businesses and some, such as banking, in particular enjoy privileges under the law. If they cannot or will not act honestly and ethically thoseprivileges should be withdrawn.

The Government did not want Brexit so I am pleasantly surprised to see the Prime Minister carefully proceeding with measures leading to the return of our sovereignty . I will willingly accept an adverse effect on the British economy for a few years in exchange for us to regain control of our affairs. In the longer term I believe our economy will flourish.

Could not agree more!!!!

Peter says:
24 October 2016

Sort of agree with you. However human nature is what it is and there are people in all walks of life will do what they can get away with – that applies to bankers bonuses, MPs expenses, pension schemes raided (Maxwell and Sir [or not] Shifty (didn’t the Post Office to?), Q jumping in Lidls, parking on double yellows.

I think medicine is a poor example to evidence “not” taking advantage of the public…. 19 NHS trusts in debt through poor cost management, medicines and procedures are a post code lottery as a result, negligence claims at an all time high…and why. Senior NHS staffers many crusty Consultants who want the Carry on Nursing status quo maintained, feel threatened by change and as a result are pathological in their resistance. All of which results in the NHS failing /lying to the Public whilst working doubly hard to maintain the starched white swan imagine whilst beneath the water paddling like **** to stay afloat……

I think “duck” is the word you are looking for in this case.

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Thought the humour was wet, duncan 🙂

I see doctors have identified 40 procedures/treatments that they regard as pointless and wasting the NHS money. I would be interested to see these all listed for a Convo. I am all for getting rid of truly pointless practice.

why is the price of energy so high, all the time the prices were going up we were told it was nessescry as they bought 2years ahead but when it came to prices going down they kept them up all sort of excuses were used but they did cut the top boys wages nor bonuses nor pensions they still live the life while people had to make a decision hear or eat when are the people going to get their proper share

george, my energy bill is now 24% lower than it was 2 years ago, based on the same usage. Just shopping around. And 2 years ago I had shopped for a decent deal, not a standard tariff.

The large companies have the resources to purchase several years ahead to attempt to give some price stability. In very recent years we have seen a lot of new, small, energy companies appearing that buy at current low prices, but don’t have the security to buy forward. So while we can take advantage of them now, they will likely become uncompetitive when wholesale prices rise. Make hay while the sun shines but time your switching carefully.

All this brings back to my mind an address by Harold Macmillan to the Conservative Party conference in 1962. He was one of the towering politicians of the twentieth century and Prime Minister for nearly seven years. I have given away the disc that included it so I cannot now remember what he was caricaturing the Labour government over but I clearly remember the words: “So what did they do? They solemnly asked Parliament, not to approve or disapprove, but to ‘take note’ of the decision. Perhaps some of the older ones among you will remember that popular song: ‘She didn’t say “Yes”, she didn’t say “No”. She didn’t say “stay”, she didn’t say “go”. She wanted to climb, but dreaded to fall, she bided her time and clung to the wall.’“. Private Eye put it to music and issued it as a vinyl-laminated cardboard 45 rpm record free with the next fortnight’s magazine.

Is that where we actually are with Brexit now? In a quandary and hurling rocks at each other? With hindsight it is easy to say we were asked the wrong question. If it had been “Do you want to stay in the single European market OR put a stop to large-scale immigration from the EU and elsewhere” the outcome might have been more decisive one way or the other. We have belatedly discovered that the two concepts are not just incompatible but mutually exclusive, and some people think both that the electorate were fooled and that we should start all over again.

I voted to remain but I don’t see the point of regrinding the millstone. We are lumbered with it and must make the best of it. My own sense is that the public put control over immigration above the single market. Nobody can say we were misled. Nick-named “project fear”, the remain campaign was on full throttle but it was denounced as scare-mongering. We shall see.

Politically, the issue is like one of those opinion bars where you can drag a blob to the left or right to the position that best reflects your viewpoint and the outcome changes with every move of the blob. So there is no definitive point on the bar where everyone will be satisfied. Ignoring the extremes, in the middle there must be a zone where we can “trade” access to the single market to different degrees against control over immigration to different extents. The PM & Co have now to discover this zone against the antipathy of 27 other countries and drill down into it. This is one heck of a task and the chances are that two thirds of the population will be dissatisfied with the outcome.

We were asked to decide whether to stay, or go, bombarded with lies and deceit from both sides to try to persuade us – just as politicians do at election time. Hopefully there are a large proportion of thinking voters amongst the electorate who considered their view – an important feature of a referendum. The majority voted to leave. We keep being told it was about immigration. Since that question was not posed I have no idea why that assumption should be made. A 100% majority in our household did not consider immigration the major concern. It is the EU inefficiency, bureaucracy, waste, lack of accounts, unfair distribution of resources, childish behaviour, scandals – things we can all do much better in a “British” way.

The government is now having to deal with the country’s decision – just like having to put up with whatever manifesto a party promised at a general election. If the current EU posturing and aggressive behaviour is anything to go by I am now delighted we will be leaving them – contrary to my vote.

I go along with that, Malcolm. I wouldn’t underestimate the anti-immigration sentiment but other factors weighed heavily as well – inefficiency and waste top my table [recalling butter mountains and wine lakes]. I certainly share your feelings in the last sentence. I have my own views on the collective psychology at work now but would welcome a professional assessment given the prevailing indicators.

I honestly feel that the EU will be setting out to punish the UK for having the audacity to leave.They are moving very fast towards getting external trade agreements set up in the very areas that the UK have made and would make very shortly.It is no wonder that a good number of banks are saying they are leaving because of the new markets. I wonder if the Uk can move just as fast after they have formally said to the EU we are leaving.The UK is an island with an island mentally when it comes to how many people can be supported.Mainline EU should have made allowances for this as they are mainland with many borders .I think that pressure is being put on the banks to leave to diminish London.K

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In view of what has been said about banks, some people might think Banxit to be a good thing? I would certainly like to see much more constructive contributors to the economy – manufacturing, innovation, research particularly – but as well as existing wealth-creators, not instead of.

the Wallonia region of Belgium have torpedoed the Canadian agreement. A great example of how hard it will be to negotiate Brexit. But evidence if anymore were needed as to why we need out ASAP….

The Banks are in a tough spot…. cue crying poor their poor souls….NOT. Lets consider the veiled threats of leaving as sabre rattling. They did they same following the reforms after the caused the 2007 > 2010 recession. Did they leave…. eh No…HSBC even ran a 3 year feasibility study resulting in eh… we’ll stay then. If the Banks relocate to the EU Zone they will have to comply with financial transaction taxes and see their costs rise and profits fall. Let alone the difficulty in recreating the UK support structures of commercial deal making, law, accountancy and so on. Oh and lets not forget the EU’s chronic desire of regulation, standardisation without accountability or transparency. This will surely see the whole sector go to the US or Asia instead…..

Scotland could torpedo our chances of leaving the EU with a sensible arrangement. Most of London voted to “remain”; should they impose their views or become independent? We are at present a United Kingdom and should act as such to carry out the wishes of the majority of the UK to get the best deal possible, not be weakened by those who have other motives.

Why do some people think that Scotland should always follow the wishes of those in Scotland?

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The wishes of “those in Scotland” were that they should remain a part of the United Kingdom. “United” we should be while that decision pertains.

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duncan, NI has not threatened an independence referendum if they don’t get their way (well, not to my knowledge).

“Consultation” is of course needed, but not blackmail, and not in a confrontational way that will jeopardise the UKs chances of getting the best deal possible. We seem to be dealing with a number of EU politicians who are simply going to make life for us as difficult as possible for political point scoring, for their own elections, for spite, for fear of contagion in an increasingly iffy Union. We don’t need out leaders to behave in such an irresponsible and partisan way, but to work constructively on behalf of the whole UK. When it is over, if other UK countries wish to then change their status and go it alone, that’s fine.

London was heavily in favour of remain, as were some other English regions. Should they also tread their own path? Scotland agreed to stay as one nation and should act as such. Scotland can become independent and agree its own deal with the EU when Brexit is complete.

I’m not sure the Scots (and I am one) would agree, Malcolm.

Edit: My comment refers to your post at 14:42

The Scottish dimension is interesting. While it’s true that the Scottish independence referendum was narrowly in favour of remaining with the UK, that might well have been at least in part because of the value the Scots saw in remaining part of a sufficiently large community to deal with the EU. That has changed, and not insignificantly. so another referendum on the changed status would be appropriate.

And I don’t recall any political ‘consultations’ that did not involve a degree of both blackmail, and confrontations; both are the stuff of politics and good politicians deploy either when needed.

I suspect most missed Wave’s dry aside (above) which was laced with irony and satire but which also summed up the current situation rather nicely. But the damage done by holding a referendum in the first place is irreparable. It’s often said by politicians that the UK government does not govern by plebiscite, yet in this most serious and earth-shattering of instances they have. So the bar has now been set that a referendum can be called whenever there’s sufficient demand, apparently, and it would seem to be binding. In that light, then, London could easily decide to become independent – excepts that’s unlikely – but Scotland might easily demand and get another referendum and then what?

We’re entering a dark time, I suspect, and I doubt the UK will retain all its countries and principalities. And I suspect it’s that, more than any other factor, which will end up driving the banks away. It’s a truly worrying scenario, but London could become a ghost of its former self by 2030.

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What do you do after a General Election when the party you do not favour gets into power? We cannot all have the result we want. If Scotland had voted to leave the UK it would be entitled to deal with the EU as it wished. As it is, it voted to stay and a conseqeunce should be that while part of the UKit should not attempt to damage negotiations. Who would that serve? Certainly it, like others, should have its say and contribute to developing the strategy and terms to be negotiated in a business-like and professional way.

I’m British and voted to stay, but I would not dream of disrupting the negotiations for our life after Brexit just because I might disagree with the outcome.

Brexit should not be seen as an opportunistic way of breaking up the United Kingdom by political antagonists.

I also voted to remain with the EU but now accept the vote of the majority. I hope Teresa May has the courage to stand firm and stay the course and that the British public will support her during the next 2 difficult years ahead. She has been assigned a difficult task. I wish her well.

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I give the Scots far more credit for thinking issues through for themselves than to yield to misleading politicians – of any colour.

Yes. It is quite unbelievable what the politicians on both sides of the debate had to say prior to the referendum.

“the Scottish independence referendum was narrowly in favour of remaining with the UK,”. If I remember rightly there was a 22% difference in the numbers voting for and against. Hardly narrow, particularly in polls terms.

We are as much into economic consultations as anything, in my view. We need a decent trade deal to flourish and that is what I hope we will concentrate on – for the benefit of all the nations. If, when that is concluded with mutual involvement, the nations (but I suspect not LB Newham et al) can look at the result and decide whether to go there separate ways. What I don’t want to see are deals made worse by petulant politicians that will damage the result for everyone. I don’t honestly mind if we have republics of Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. What I do care about is the future of my children and that, to some degree, depends on us all working together to achieve the best result possible.

The very use of the phrase “quite unbelievable” says exactly how we should react – with disbelief. I think many people view politicians utterances with a great degree of scepticism. “Think for yourself” is something we should foster.

Referring to what N McIntosh said (some way above) about the Wallonia region of Belgium torpedoing the ratification by Belgium of the CETA with Canada. it throws up some interesting scenarios. At the moment, the four nations of the UK do not have the same power to restrain the national government’s freedom to vote in the EU as is the case in Belgium . . . but that could be changed and we could set up a situation whereby any one of the four territories could effectively veto a collective UK vote in the EU in favour of or against some measure that requires the agreement of all 28 countries. There will no doubt be a number of these over the next two and a half years and it might be convenient for the UK government, in pursuit of an easy exit, to withhold its agreement to them because it is having trouble persuading one of its nations to agree with it. Of course, the government could block any of such all-member agreements without recourse to such subterfuge, but it would be handy to be able to stand up and say “Of course, Mr President, the UK government is in favour of – and deeply committed to – this proposal, but we have to concede to those truculent people from (insert preferred objectionable nation) so, . . . and we’re struggling here, . . . it is with regret that we have to say that we cannot agree to this measure”. (Points finger at Donald Tusk/Jean-Claude Junckers/Whoever.) Could create some useful leverage when things get dirty.

Malcolm: on an 84.5% turnout the result was 45/55. I don’t see how you get 22% difference.

Ian, 55/45 =1.22. In other words 22% more people voted to stay than to leave the UK. Put another way, if there were 100 voters, 55 voted to stay, 10 more than voted to leave. As a proportion of those, 10 is 22%.

john mulligan says:
25 October 2016

Kevin, you’re right about the “island mentality”, but I’d call it insular, small-minded and borderline xenophobic.

I can’t see that TM has done anything good in her first 100 days as PM. She has continued with the policies aimed at vilifying all non-British residents and making the have-nots pay out for everything to keep her draconian policies afloat. Other countries have taken their bankers and systems to task, and have discontinued building Nuclear White-Elephant power plants but our Government against the best advise and public disapproval continue on their merry unrepresentative ways.

Seemed a bit odd that brexit was not one of the 4 options. Why do people insist on demanding what is going to happen? No-one knows what is going to happen. Negotiations cannot start until article 50 is invoked and 2 years later we are out, WITH or WITHOUT an agreement. Stop prolonging the uncertainty and get on with it.

If the Chancellor wishes to go against the wishes of the majority of the British electorate AND his boss, he should at least be banished to the Back Benches !!!! He is definitely “unfit for purpose.”

Patrick, what has the Chancellor done to upset you?

More people travel by bus than by train and surely improvements to the bus services are worthy of attention. Many rural areas have no service and are consequently isolated. Deregulation is largely to blame for this state of affairs. Many more people would travel by bus if the services were improved. The environment would benefit, employment opportunities increase and the roads would be safer. What is not to like.

Not just rural areas Lucy. We need more, cheaper, bus and tram services in towns and cities. And for commuter trips, somewhere to park your car near the bus stop without excessive charges. This would mean less traffic to clear the way for other vehicles and less pollution. But it needs to either be more attractive to people – either on cost grounds, or by banning private vehicles at peak times. What is not to like? Well, quite a bit for some individuals but the environment and the health of town and city visitors and inhabitants would surely like it.

Just a passing thought ,Make the banks repay public monies before they leave uk plus interest .

The Warm Homes Grant is being used by Power supply companies to “punish” those who complain about their services. You can only apply via the company (and you can only get your power from one of the big six) and if they receive a complaint they “lose” your application and subject you to intrusive repeated meter readings. Complaints are not followed through and there is NO right of appeal – its an abuse of power that is hitting the poorest disabled hardest.

Nationalise the banks! Throw all bankers above the rank of cashier in jail! Make them break rocks, sew mailbags, pick oakum, mend roads and shovel manure for the rest of their lives! With ex-customers standing over them, kicking their a***s and shouting “Hard work doesn’t hurt anybody! The world doesn’t owe you a living!” Well, it’s worked in Iceland so far.

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Who, in their right minds, would spend (waste?) any money buying anything from M$ ?

I agree that the weak pound is going to put all prices up. I hope those who voted for Brexit will acknowledge that this is their doing.

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Dorothy says:
25 October 2016

I think that Rail fares are too high Virgin Rail Run The East Coast Line and they have been given the Contract to Run the new High Speed West Coast Line I had no problem with the service just The Cost

Dave says:
25 October 2016

Third runway at Heathrow. Why not move to Doncaster airport. Plenty of space. HS2/3 will be close by. Right on the motorway network. Near enough in the middle of UK. Close to railport at Doncaster. Support the North of the country and slow down the concentration of resources on London and south east.

Dave, I had thought Birmingham, along the same lines (HS2 again – first stop). We should encourage people to evacuate London, reduce property prices, improve commuting congestion on road and rail, and spread the load.

Watching the BBC News this evening, where a lot of emphasis was placed on how busy Heathrow is, I was wondering exactly the same. Stansted has considerable unused capacity and could relieve Heathrow, especially of freight traffic. A lot was made by the Heathrow or BA boss [I forget which] of the need for people from other parts of the UK to interconnect at Heathrow with flights to or from worldwide destinations. People from UK regions can generally get flights to Schiphol or Paris CDG which then connect with flights to other countries. Possibly not so convenient but why should the convenience of a minority of international travellers take precedence over major environmental concerns [especially road traffic pollution and aircraft noise] and the demolition of hundreds of homes and the destruction of an entire community? HS2 is going to have a spur to Heathrow anyway so people in Birmingham. Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds will not be too disadvantaged if they need to fly from Heathrow and regional flights have been pushed off the runways. Personally I see the promoters’ arguments as a convenient excuse and not a justification.

I’m live at roughly equal distances from Birmingham and Heathrow, so, when I must fly somewhere, I strongly prefer to avoid Heathrow and fly from Birmingham.

It does seem hard to understand the justification for a third runway at Heathrow.

Apart from the space needed to build it that doesn’t exist without turfing people out of their homes, how is the local infrastructure going to cope with around 50% extra travellers?

It is suggested (DT) that as the majority of UK travellers form holiday traffic, and the fall in sterling against $ and € will significantly reduce this, the capacity required even at Heathrow will be considerably less. On the other hand, a lot more Johnny Foreigners might be coming here to take advantage of a cheap UK holiday. Will they choose London or Birmingham? Perhaps Birmingham, then they could have cheap fares on an underused HS2?

When we have been abroad chatting to foreigners, they often say they have been to England. When asked where exactly, they usually say London, Edinburgh, Ireland and occasionally include Paris(!?!).

Seems to me, our tourist powers-that-be need to promote the rest of the country as well.

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The railways in this country are a disgrace – from high fares, to late & cancelled trains to timetables being cut and old rolling stock. We don’t need to get anywhere higher- speed, I do not agree with HS2. But just get the trains we have running properly with modern carriages and technology.

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From what I have read, the Duke of Westminster died in August.

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Sorry to disappoint,Duncan, but I just did a Google search. I did once write to Baroness Young when she was in charge of English Nature, but that’s about my only contact with higher social circles.

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My wife would say ‘You can’t take it with you’ so I bought a fire-proof wallet…

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Maybe Which? should do a report on the afterlife covering its availability and critically evaluating the options. I would like to think that health, respect for others and working for the common good might replace wealth, secrecy and selfishness, but perhaps I should order a fire-proof wallet just in case. Will the new plastic £5 notes survive the heat?

I can’t afford a fire-proof wallet so I keep an empty one on me instead.

At our previous home there was a friendly pheasant who often visited our garden. He was smart – he knew when to keep out of the way of the guns.

You’ve only got six weeks left in which to bag some Grouse, Duncan, but until the first of February for some Pheasant or Partridge.

In my mind there is no doubt that the sporting estates have done a great deal to protect natural landscapes and habitats, which is presumably why the grouse moor owners are eligible for government grants. Our nearest ducal estate has around twenty thousand acres of which a significant proportion is beautiful woodland generally open to the public. It belongs to the Duke of Grafton of Euston Hall in Suffolk. We go there from time to time for a pleasant afternoon’s relaxation in the hall and pleasure grounds. Before he died a year or two ago, His Grace used to go around in his duke-mobile and chat to visitors and we got to know him quite well. He didn’t do Which? Conversation though. I think most of the estate’s wealth came from property in central London and the farming and sporting were sideshows by comparison. They are run on much more commercial lines now.

It is an accident of history that a large amount of land is in the ownership of the aristocracy but it seems that most of it is managed on a benign basis, unlike the land owned by property investors, squillionaires, footballers, and other social climbers who exclude the public and make the least contribution to the community.

My goodness. The change in the clocks has given us an extra hour to enjoy some delightful comments on W?C, some of them even relevant to the topic. I shall go out and enjoy the daylight.

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Pheasants are beautiful birds. We usually have a res fez or 2 in the garden in the winter. They just don’t understand that we don’t get up as early as them in the spring.

Pheasants are very sensitive birds, Duncan, and being hand-reared from birth by the gamekeeper are quite trusting unless threatened. Modern motor cars are fairly quiet so the birds do not always hear their approach and perhaps take a little time to notice that a vehicle is coming towards them. On the basis of the old-fashioned principle of driving within the distance you can see to be clear we always slow down and stop if necessary to let them get away. I don’t think the Duke would let someone enter his shooting party with a weapon like yours – you have to give the birds a sporting chance; grade one hypocrisy.

Maybe the pheasants are aware of the reasons for their existence and are attempting suicide rather than facing a hail of lead shot?

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Yes, I often hear about such investments in the UK economy, Duncan. I wouldn’t even want to know so much about guns as you are comfortable with. No wonder the security services have you on their list.

Oops, I thought we were conversing on the clocks going back convo 🙂 !!!

So, what I consider to be an essential service to pheasants, bunnies, squirrels and any other creature beside or on the road is not only slow down, but rev the car engine as a reminder that cars are big nasty creatures they don’t want to tangle with. Just be going slow enough to stop in case they run in the wrong direction.

Horses are quite nice as well. You will be pleased to learn that our impecunious friend the Emir of Dubai was kindly given £600 000 in EU farm subsidies last year to help him out with his UK horse racing operations (reported in PEYE) Perhaps we could also help by organising a whip round? Roll on Brexit.

A large [23,000 acres] estate virtually on our doorstep is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai [look up Shadwell Estate]. As well as large-scale livestock, arable and vegetable farming, and a big shoot, there are two mega-money race-horse studs with top stallions standing. They are also beneficiaries of our largesse via the EU. They do operate to exceedingly high standards with no expense spared, have a very high reputation in terms of conservation, welfare and environmental management, and employ many more people than would be the case if the land were just ordinary farmland, but to be in receipt of EU grants is obscene. Unfortunately, so long as such agricultural operations remain eligible under the rules, the government has pledged that such payments will continue after we have left the EU up to at least the 2020 general election.

1 BREXIT. The PM should keep her mouth shut, until she has a plan in place to deal with the fall out from Brexit and then she should get on with it. gossiping to the media is just causing a jittery market and the devaluing pound. 20% wiped from the value of the pound since brexit to nov 2016.

2 The Financial Industry needs to come back under regulations the mayhem that has ensued since Mr Brown let the financial sector do what it wants has injured too many people in the UK to let it continue.

3 Infrastructure NO to government backed white elephants that cost the earth and then sold off for pennies to the private sector.
Roads and rail have to add value to our country not detract from it, as it should be.
Energy needs to become Localised and down scaled so that small generating farms become efficient and common in the environment with less impact again adding value to the country not detracting.

So much that needs to be done, sadly the power seeking psychopaths we call government fail miserably every time because of legal red tape.
Government, councils and the such like need the community BUT! the community needs them not!

That’s all very clearly put Nikki and I go along with a lot of it. I am fed with hearing the word “uncertainty”; its like an organism that keeps multiplying where people who might be missing some nuance of the final outcome keep muttering “uncertainty” to each other as though the situation could miraculously resolve before their very eyes and stay that way for ever. As if! When did business last have certainty? Why are the leaders of our great businesses not capable of factoring the uncertainty element into their business planning? Why did they not so inspire their workers to see their perceived perils of leaving the EU and vote IN? Running around with their heads in their hands screaming “Uncertainty!”, “Uncertainty!” is like a scene from a Carry-On film.

The Japanese know a thing or two about uncertainty: five and a half years ago a massive earthquake followed by an immense tsunami devastated a whole region, destroyed a nuclear power plant and killed nearly sixteen thousand people. That created “uncertainty” the like of which our business leaders have no conception. Out of respect to those who have experienced true trauma we should stop moaning about Brexit and get on with it in the competent and responsible manner of which the UK is still capable.