House of Commons Library Briefings

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.

Parliamentary Research Briefings


Ministerial Responsibilities

Who is responsible for what in Government, and how do you get in touch with them?  This document from the Cabinet Office breaks Ministerial responsibilities for all Departments- a must for casework and angry letter-writing.

Cabinet Office: Ministerial Responsibilities

How Parliament Works (not satire)

Buried in the bowels of the 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
  • Petitions
  • Different kinds of Bills

And more!

Business of the House and its Committees: A Short Guide

It also includes a very good list of deadlines for when you need to submit stuff by…


The Guardian: Climate Change FAQ

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.

Big picture
• 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?

Freedom of Information Requests

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.

Download the Campaign for Freedom of Information’s Short Guide to the Freedom of Information Act

Usdaw Timetable for Cuts to Working Family Budgets

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)

London Election Results Maps

Here’s a great page from the London DataStore showing recent election results in London:

General Election Results 2010

2012 Mayoral & London Assembly Results

2010 London Borough Election Results

Cost of different sources of energy

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
CCGT £76 £79 £78 £87 £91 £89
Onshore wind £75 £127 £101 £71 £122 £97
Biomass cofiring £94 £110 £102 £93 £110 £102
Biomass conversion £106 £128 £117 £106 £127 £117
AD < 5MW £75 £194 £135 £70 £173 £122
Dedicated biomass £127 £165 £146 £120 £156 £138
Offshore wind £149 £191 £170 £102 £176 £139
Solar PV £202 £380 £291 £136 £250 £193
Marine £162 £340 £251
Estimated levelised cost ranges for heat technologies
£/MWh 2010 low 2010 high 2010 median 2020 low 2020 high 2020 median
Gas £25 £33 £29 £32 £46 £39
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 boilers £40 £99 £70 £43 £102 £73
Electricity £68 £90 £79 £87 £101 £94
Biogas £22 £138 £80 £22 £138 £80
Biomass district heating £61 £156 £109 £65 £159 £112
Source: Renewable Energy Roadmap p 16-17

Labour National Policy Forum- Draft Policy Documents

The National Policy Forum South-East comrades have helpfully posted the draft documents for Labour’s six policy commissions.  These cover:

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.

National Policy Forum- Policy Discussion Documents

In-work housing benefit numbers

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).

The Growth of In-Work Housing Benefit Claimants: Evidence and policy implications

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:

Key findings

4.95 million
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