A great resource for all political researchers, and in general people who want to appear more knowledgeable on a subject than they are, is the House of Commons Library. The external HoC Library website is a bit less accessible than what is available for researchers with access to the Parliamentary Intranet, but there’s still a lot of good briefings on pretty much every subject that’s been debated in modern politics. The service also includes briefings from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) which covers more science-based policy issues, including energy generation and climate change.
Research Briefings are longer, more in depth papers; standard notes are more brief summaries of an issue for someone who needs to be brought up to speed fast.
Buried in the bowels of the parliament.uk website is this very handy PDF, which does a quite extraordinarily good job of explaining Parliamentary procedure. It includes:
- House sitting times and order of business
- How to raise an issue in the House (EDMs, Questions, amendments, Statutory Instruments etc)
- Procedure and practice for different kinds of debate
- Voting procedures
- Declaration of Interests
- Different kinds of Bills
It also includes a very good list of deadlines for when you need to submit stuff by…
Someone at the Guardian has put together a nice ‘Ultimate FAQ’ on climate change issues. I’ve copied the questions below- links take you straight to the relevant Guardian article. They’re not hugely detailed statistical analyses, but a useful primer for each area.
• What exactly is the climate?
• What is climate change?
• Is the world really getting warmer?
• Are humans definitely causing global warming?
• Does a small temperature rise actually matter?
• How much warmer will the planet get?
• Is there a scientific consensus on man-made climate change?
• What is the greenhouse effect?
• What is the carbon cycle?
• When did we discover man-made climate change?
• Are hurricanes getting worse because of global warming?
• Haven’t we had ‘global cooling’ lately?
• If water vapour is the key greenhouse gas, why are man-made emissions important?
• How do trees and forests relate to climate change?
• How do volcanoes affect the climate?
• Is the sun causing global warming?
• What was the Little Ice Age?
• What’s the IPCC?
• If it’s getting warmer, how come the 2010 winter was so cold?
• Can we rely on computer models to predict future climate change?
Emissions and footprints
• What is carbon?
• Which industries and activities emit the most carbon?
• What’s the target for solving climate change?
• What are CO2e and global warming potential (GWP)?
• What are ‘outsourced emissions’?
• What are the main man-made greenhouse gases?
• Can ‘peak oil’ help slow climate change?
• How long do greenhouse gases stay in the air?
Politics & society
• If global warming was such a big deal wouldn’t governments have sorted it out?
• What is the Kyoto protocol and has it made any difference?
• Which nations are most responsible for climate change?
• What is the economic cost of climate change?
• What is the Stern review?
• What is emissions trading?
• What is the emissions trading scheme and does it work?
• What is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)?
• Why does climate change get described as a ‘stock-flow’ problem?
• What is climate change adaptation?
• What are the options for financing climate change adaptation?
• Why do we need low-carbon energy – and how much is currently produced?
• What is carbon capture and storage?
• What are the main types of carbon capture and storage technology?
• What is geo-engineering?
• What are biofuels and are they a good idea?
• What is thorium and how does it generate power?
• What are climate change feedback loops?
• Will rising seas put cities such as New York and London under water?
• Will the Gulf Stream slow down, freezing the UK and northern Europe?
• Are tornadoes affected by climate change
• Could climate change be a good thing?
• Will climate change cause wars?
• How will climate change affect rainfall?
The Campaign for Freedom of Information has produced this very handy guide on how to do a good FOI request.
The guide includes a model letter, advice on which body to contact, and two excellent tables at the end (p26 onwards) listing kinds of data that can or can’t be exempt due to public interest arguments.
Here’s a really useful table from USDAW timetabling the cuts which will impact on working family budgets from 2010-13. It’s a little out of date now, but still a useful guide.
|Date||Cut / Change||+ Gain||– Loss||Who’s Affected|
|July 2010||Child Trust Fund reduced & Top-ups at age 7 abolished||– £200- £250||Babies born after 31/7/10 only get £50Children under 7 at 31/7/10 lose top-up|
|January 2011||VAT increased by 2.5% to 20%||Average- £307||Average household will pay £307 moreAverage for those with children is £450|
|Child Trust Fund abolished||– £250||Babies born after 1/1/11 have no Child Trust Fund|
|Education Maintenance Allowance abolished||Up to- £1,170||Young people in England in Further Ed with household income less than £32400|
|April 2011||Tax allowance increased by £1,000 (£776 over RPI x20%)||0 to+ £135||All basic rate taxpayers earning over £6,700 gain|
|NIC threshold & NIC rate increased||0 to+ £120||0 to- £200||Employees on less than £20,000 gain, higher earners lose out|
|Child Tax Credit increased by £255 (£128 above 5% RPI)||0 to £128 per child||Families gain by no. of children x £128, tapered at 41% of income over £6,420|
|Working Tax Credit frozen||– £96 or- £135||Low wage earners working under 30 hrLow wage earners working over 30 hrs|
|Increase Tax Credit claw-back (taper) by 2% to 41%||Average- £160||Households lose up to 2% of tax creditsUsual loss = (Income less £6420) x 2%|
|Baby element of Child Tax Credits abolished||– £545||Families with new babies or babies under 1 in April 2011|
|Family element of Tax Credit abolished for higher earners||– £545||Families with income between £41,000 and £58,000|
|Child Benefit frozen||– £50 and- £35||For first child up to 16 or 19 if in FT EdAlso -£35 for each other child|
|Childcare Tax Credit reduced from 80% to 70%||Up to- £1560||Families claiming CTC lose 10% of childcare cost. Average= £457 per child|
|Sure Start Maternity Grant abolished for 2nd + babies||– £500||Lower income families having 2nd or subsequent baby|
|Health in Pregnancy Grant abolished||– £190||Babies due after mid April 2011|
|Benefits & tax credits to rise by CPI, not RPI||Up to- £100||Households lose out by around 2% of all benefits – up to around £100|
|October 2011||Local Housing Allowance rates capped||Average- £ 468||Capped at 30th percentile of local rents. 40% of claimants are in low-paid work.|
|April 2012||Increase tax allowance by £630 (£256 over RPI x 20%)||0 to+ £186||All basic rate taxpayers earning over £7,850 gain|
|Family element of Tax Credit abolished for middle earners||– £545||Lost if income is over £25,000 (1 child)/ £32500 (2 children)/£39000 (3 children)|
|50+ element of Tax Credits abolished||-£1320 or- £1965||People working 16 – 29 hours pwPeople working over 30 hours pw|
|Couples’ Working Tax Credit based on 24 not 16 hrs pw||Potential- £3,870||Couples with children unable to increase hours of work to 24 pw lose all WTC|
|Working Tax Credit frozenBasic & 30 hour elements||– £197 or- £278||Low wage earners working under 30 hrLow wage earners working over 30 hrs|
|Working Tax Credit frozenCouples/lone parent element||– £101||All low-middle wage earners claiming Working Tax Credit|
|Child Benefit frozen||– £100 &- £ 70||For first child up to 16 or 19 if in FT EdAlso -£70 for each other child|
|Benefits & tax credits to rise by CPI, not RPI||Up to- £200||Households lose out by around 4% of all benefits – up to around £200|
|April 2013||Child Benefit frozen||– £150 &- £105||For first child up to 16 or 19 if in FT EdAlso -£105 for each other child|
|Child Benefit abolished for higher rate taxpayers||-£1,055 &- £ 697||Households on over £42,500 lose £1055 for 1st child, also £697 for each other|
|Working Tax Credit frozen||– £303 or- £428||People working under 30 hoursPeople working over 30 hours|
|Benefits & tax credits to rise by CPI, not RPI||Up to- £300||Households lose out by around 6% of all benefits – up to around £300|
|Start to transfer those on Tax Credits to Universal Credit||?||?||Rates unknown as yet but taper increases to 44% (76% for taxpayers)|
Here are two useful sources for comparing the current and projected prices of different sources of renewable energy.
The first comes from Centre for Climate Change and Economics Policy report: the Case For and Against Onshore Wind Energy in the UK, starting on page 16.
The second comes from the Renewable Roadmap, from which I’ve constructed this table:
|Estimated levelised cost ranges for electricity technologies|
|£/MWh||2010 low||2010 high||2010 median||2020 low||2020 high||2020 median|
|AD < 5MW||£75||£194||£135||£70||£173||£122|
|Estimated levelised cost ranges for heat technologies|
|£/MWh||2010 low||2010 high||2010 median||2020 low||2020 high||2020 median|
|Off gas and elec. grid||£28||£53||£41||£31||£57||£44|
|Air source heat pump||£44||£55||£50||£42||£53||£48|
|Ground source heat pump||£62||£75||£69||£56||£67||£62|
|Biomass district heating||£61||£156||£109||£65||£159||£112|
|Source: Renewable Energy Roadmap p 16-17|
The National Policy Forum South-East comrades have helpfully posted the draft documents for Labour’s six policy commissions. These cover:
- Sustainable Communities
- Prosperity and Work
- Education and Skills
- Crime Justice Citizenship Equalities
- Britain in the World
Although each policy document begins and ends with questions (they are draft documents after all, and the point of them is to encourage submissions from Labour members) the middle bits are also a useful summary of where we are now and current Labour policy.
Here’s a report by the Building and Social Housing Federation on the growth of in-work recipients of housing benefit. It shows, among other things, that 92.8% of the increase in HB claimants last year were from claimants that were in work (p12).
And here’s a graph showing variations in housing benefit claimant numbers since 1991 (p4):
There’s also a good summary of the findings at Inside Housing here. I’ve reproduced their ‘key findings’ bit below:
number of housing benefit claimants in Great Britain, excluding Northern Ireland
extra claimants since January 2010, of which 279,000 were employed
93 per cent
proportion of the increase in housing benefit claims from in-work households
- In 2010 and 2011 sizeable numbers of in-work households started to claim housing benefit
- There has been a considerable change in the financial situation of households, this could be due to rent freezes, more part-time workers and inflation
- The Department for Work and Pensions will not achieve planned £2.25 billion savings on housing benefit if the number of in-work claimants continues to increase