Posts Tagged ‘38 degrees’

Call for Action: Freedom of Information under threat?

November 15, 2015

The Campaign for Freedom of Information provides a useful resume of the threat to democracy and to those who seek accountability of Public Bodies funded through the public purse.

In July the Government announced that a Commission would be set up to to examine the FOI Act and consider what further restrictions should be imposed on the right to know.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that policy responsibility for Freedom of Information policy will transfer from the Ministry of Justice to the Cabinet Office. This change will be effective from 17 July 2015.

After sitting for 3 months, the Commission has now finally invited the public to submit evidence to it.  The Consultation closes this Friday, 20 November 2015 and we understand that the results are promised by the end of November!

Already 140 campaign groups and media bodies and others have written to the Prime Minister expressing concerns about the composition and terms of reference of the Commission.

Readers have a week to compose a response to the consultation, will this campaign to clamp down on open transparent governance and accounting attract as good a response as the recent attempts to ‘challenge’ the Habitats Directives? That consultation we understand attracted some 552,471 responses!

The Campaign are asking people to consider some easy actions:

Respond to the consultation drawing on your own experience of the value of the FOI Act

Write to your MP

Submit your FOI stories to

Sign a petition, 38 degree petition to Protect FoI Laws here

There is also a petition option for journalists to sign, via here

Public Bodies are required to have regard and to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.  Whilst many are efficient and indeed helpful there are other Public Bodies which publish material without provision of primary source evidence, there are Public Bodies which try to evade compliance through selective narrative and dissembling, some Public Bodies assert applicants are persistent / vexatious complainers in an endaevour to avoid providing information about activity or spend of public funds, is this demonstrable open and transparent conduct of business?  To avoid wasting time and suffering such problems readers might like to consider using using Whatdotheyknow as a tool to submit FoI requests.  The benefit of this route is that any request is public, anyone researching the Public Body you are seeking information from can also benefit from the information you receive.  It is visible to the entire world wide web (www).  Even when Whatdotheyknow is utilised, there is often only partial success but that is illustrative of compliance level as well as tactics used by Public Bodies?  Please note other options are available and the Forum has no ‘Interest’ in this website, but we do recognise the excellent service it provides to members of the public and researchers.  Whatdotheyknow are also appealing to people to act to save FoI

Comments on the My Society page suggests that they would like to see it expanded not curtailed, bring it on?  There are also some interesting suggestions as to the reason behind the Prime Minister’s plans?



The Infrastructure Bill: Public land still up for ‘sale’ to private developers?

November 9, 2014

Readers might recall a recent post about the next attempt to sell off the Public Forest Estate (PFE), fortunately some community campaigning has managed to persuade enough of the public to support a challenge to the aspects of the Infrastructure Bill speeding through the Westminster corridors at the moment.  It was the ambition of group like Hands Off Our Forests (HOOF) Save our Woods (SoW) and 38 degrees is to see the PFE  excluded from the available land resources available for mass market housing.  The amendment proposed has now been withdrawn and it seems that Lord Ahmad, DCLG, said he will “seek to bring an amendment back to the House at Third Reading that will seek to exempt the public forest estate from transfer to the Homes and Communities Agency”.  Do we trust politicians anymore to safeguard the public resources, let alone the natural environment, this is after all the second attempt that we can recall whereby this ConDem Government has sought to dispose of the PFE.

However as Miles King, in his excellent blog reveals, even if that is achieved (and it has yet to be) King rightly points out that still leaves a lot of publically owned land held ‘in trust’ by Public Bodies and Government Departments.  The Ministry of Defence is one such land portfolio which springs to mind.  Much of the Defence Estate, despite training exercises, is a haven for and a home to some of our rarest wildlife.

Likewise King reminds us that the Biodiversity Duty contained in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 has been watered down to be effectively meaningless.  How has the collective critical mass of the conservation movement allowed that to happen?  Austerity and focus on delivering mitigation projects for Defra and its business allies?  Where are the conservation cause celebres?  Walshaw was a case which was initiated by Natural England, but when they stepped back after challenge by the Walshaw Estate they subsequently negotiated a deal which saw the Estate receive eye watering amounts to effectively continue ‘management’ regardless.  The RSPB stepped up to the mark and the complaint is languishing in the European Commission files somewhere, but at least the baton was taken up.   Calling the Shots 2014 provides a useful background to the issues which are increasingly featuring in the media.

Ancient oaks: under threat again?

Ancient oaks: under threat again?

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.”
John Burroughs (1837-1921), American Naturalist


Forests under fire again?

November 4, 2014

Here we go again …. selling off the family silver again?

Ancient oaks: under threat again?

Ancient oaks: under threat again?

Never mind one ancient tree to be replaced by 100 saplings, the proposed Infrastructure Bill making it’s way through Parliament now could see public forests sold off.  Given that many of these wonderful havens for wildlife have public access, what are the odds they will be disposed of at knock down prices?  Royal Mail fiasco, bank bail outs and now public land rich in wildlife …. are we to be left with no public wild spaces that are not being transformed into theme parks?

Stalwart web campainers 38 degrees have an epetition:

House of Lords: exempt forests from the infrastructure bill.

The Infrastructure Bill opens up public land to be sold off to private companies.

Readers may recall the earlier attempt by the ConDem Government to sell off the public forest?  38 Degrees members stopped the sale of publicly owned forests once before – now, we have to do the same again. Our forests our too precious to lose.

Can we rally again, will readers sign and forward the request amongst their network?  

Future generations need public forests – space to breath and relax far from the madding crowd and exploitation of corporate capitalism?


‘Moor’ campaigns …. Privatisation of the Land Registry?

June 10, 2014

The attempted sell off of the Nation’s Forestry Estate, the abandoned giving away of public owned NNRs, selling off the Royal  Mail …. now it’s the turn of the Land Registry.

According to the 38 degree petition website:

Privatisation of the Land Registry will create a private sector monopoly of a function essential to the property market. It will remove competition and devalue the Land Registry.

The Land Registry is a very efficient public organisation that is self funding and is not a drain on public finance. It has a 98% satisfaction rating with its users.

The public consultation on government proposals to privatise the Land Registry closed on Thursday 20th March. There has been no publicity or attempt to inform the public of this radical change to an organisation that is vital to the UK property market.

Another consultation on giving the Land Registry wider powers in the control of data essential to the sale and purchase of property closed earlier with the majority of the public not being aware if it’s existence.

The Land Registry is well run, efficient and professional. If the government is to sell off one of our best performing public services, the wider public needs to be able to have its say.

The public consultation is at

But, the consultation deadline is past.  Did anyone see any publicity about it, where was it advertised?  Why were the press quiet?

More information on the campaign to Save the Land Registry can be found on their website here.  At the moment there are some 71,458 signatures on the 38 degree epetition here.  That’s pretty good going for just two months.

If readers are minded to consider signing then the petition then from what we can establish there appear to be two, both of equal merit: one on the 38 degree epetition website here but also one on the GOV.UK website No sale or privatisation of the Land Registry.  Currently it has received around 7,000 signatures.

We’ve all witnessed the power of epetitions, the forest sell off abandoned (unless you know differently).  Chris Packham managed to get the Maltese Massacre of Migration discussed in Parliament.  Mark Avery is doing well with his ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’, again he chose the GOV.UK website simply to raise the profile of the issue in Westminster.  His target ahead of the ‘inglorious’ 12th is to achieve 5,000 signatures.  Thus far there are approaching 3,700.  Avery admits that it is unlikely that he will succeed but he has raised the issue that the Intensive management of upland areas for the ‘sport’ of grouse shooting has led to the near-extinction of the protected Hen Harrier in England, as well as increased risk of flooding, discolouration of drinking water, degradation of peatbogs and impacts on other wildlife.

I can only imagine what ‘WB’ would have to say about the Land Registry privatisation proposal.  He was a master of research and scoured such institutions in search of antiquated documents, historic manuscripts and the like as evidence for his causes, if the Land Registry is privatised then what chance the ‘commoner’?

The law locks up the man or woman

Who steals the goose from off the common

But leaves the greater villain loose

Who steals the common from off the goose.

The law demands that we atone

When we take things we do not own

But leaves the lords and ladies fine

Who take things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape

If they conspire the law to break;

This must be so but they endure

Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman

Who steals the goose from off the common

And geese will still a common lack

Till they go and steal it back.

Politics: where does the natural environment figure in party manifestos?

May 28, 2014

Well the European and local elections are over and done with, but I imagine that we are still going to be faced with endless dissection and hypothesising as the 2015 General Election looms ever clower on the horizon.

I like many conservation commentators struggle to see any real green policies at the heart of what the media label as the main parties, that is to say the Conservative or Labour parties.  Realistically, are the Liberal Democrats and UKIP serious contenders to form a government in 2015?  If there is no overall winner, then who will hold the balance of power and have the opportunity to form a coalition?  What will be the turnout and will the ‘victor’ claim a mandate to govern even if the majority stayed at home (through apathy or ‘none of the above’)?

Never mind Tony Juniper’s “What has nature ever done for us?”, who is going to write “What has politics ever done for the environment?” I could think of a couple of potential writers at the moment who I would be interested to read their perspectives and any case studies they were able to offer as effective or lasting benefits.

So, the British system favours the current two party farce where people probably don’t actually vote for a party rather the party which they think least damaging or they dislike the least? What can we do about it? Lobby our MPs, lobby government to make voting compulsory and offer the option “none of the above”.   If that were to be introduced then I suspect it would be very telling?

An interesting petition has recently been launched, it requests the three party leaders (David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband) to RECALL: PUT POWER IN VOTERS HANDS, it’s brave MPs who offer up their own removal from post, but is it?  They want their peers to judge, not us …. so how does that regain our trust?

Here’s what one Conservative MP, Zac Goldsmith said:  “As an MP, I’ve seen how public pressure can force the government’s arm – and they’re particularly sensitive about public trust in MPs right now. A massive petition could give David Cameron and Nick Clegg no option but to go back to the drawing board – and produce recall with bite.”

The Telegraph runs with the story, and reports that a motion is to be tabled in the House of Commons next week but a letter signed by 10 MPs suggest that the draft falls far short of the publics expectation.  This letter is timed to co-incide with the fifth anniversary of the MPs expenses scandal, and of which we still hear rumblings as they continue to surface?

The 38 degree petition text is short and succinct: Dear David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.  It’s time for a real recall bill.  We call on you to support a recall bill that puts the power in voters hands, so that if, in between general elections, enough voters were dissatisfied enough with their MP to petition for a by-election, they could.  Read more here.

If we (conservation) could have a wish list for environmental policies, what would be on it?  What would be our priorities?

Whilst we mull over the construction of a wish list, or creating a series of questions to ask of politicians, readers might think about signing the Recall bill?  Look at what happened when we let the politicians regulate themselves after the expense scandal, surely we should learn from history – but do we?



BEES still under pressure: eBay BEE ban, to BEE or not to BEE?

March 29, 2014

Readers will be used to our posts asking people to consider signing various epetitions, writing to MPs about topical environmental issues ….

Yesterday we posted an update on the plight of bees, we encouraged readers to submit responses to the Defra consultation on a pollinators strategy.



Image: Bombus lucorum (White-tailed Bumble Bee) Copyright: Tim Melling.

Today, we report on the recent issue surrounding sales of the banned chemical imidacloprid through eBay38 degrees who are working with Buglife, and are asking account holders to contact eBay to point out the issue of illegal sales.   For a more detailed explanation see the 38 degree blog post of 28 March eBay: killing our bees AGAIN. 

If you have an eBay account then please consider asking eBay to ensure that all advertising of banned chemicals is taken down and any future advertising of such products is rejected.

Badgers, bees, buzzards …. ‘The State of Nature’?  Not doing too well at the moment it seems?  Astonishing when you consider that agri-industry is dependant upon pollinators?




An excellent guest blog, by Rosemary Mason and Derek Thomas on the issue of neonicotinoids can be found on Mark Avery’s ‘Standing up for Nature’ and another appearing on the same topic by Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife.  An erudite analysis of the European debate on the banning is also provided by Mark Avery.

What is evident, is that a watchful eye is always needed and clearly one of the benefits of the wonderful www is the speed at which messages can be relayed, long live the community campaigners collaborative coalition …. a network not disimilar to hyphae that run as mycelium?

Are you actively participating or simply overwhelmed by the rise of epetitions requests?

October 18, 2013

The number of on-line petition sites appears to be growing.  Why is that?  Is it because our elected representatives take little notice of us in between elections, local or national?  Is it that we are registering disquiet at the manner in which some matters are dealt with or business conducted?

Campaigns are also run through blog sites and the plethora of social media options such as Facebook and Twitter.  Communication is easy today with the improved access to the internet, but I fear that it has not kept pace with the destruction and decline of habitats and species.

If I think back to the early days of epetitions and their topics, they illustrated an amazing diversity of subject matter from the attempt to sell off public forests, badgers & TB to the NHS and education.  Eventually the Government too joined in with their own version, I have to say I like the one Remove the subsidy  from the House of Commons Catering and Bars, an instant saving to the treasury of £5.8m, a no brainer surely in these times of austerity?  Yet it has only received 12,877 signatures so far and it closes in less than a week!  So, seemingly we happy to subsidise politicians eating and drinking habits?

Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers is another which has only received low volume sign ups, 6,566 thus far but you have until February next year to add your support.  There are calls for stopping GM crops being grown in the UK, the subject matter is fascinating and can be searched by Government department, currently there are some 384 epetions open (855 closed and 317 rejected) relating to Defra alone.  I wonder how many of these have gone on to be discussed in ‘The House’?  The badger cull received in excess of 300,000 signatures and the campaign continues …. Look at the cartoon by Ralph Underhill on Mark Avery’s blog post of 12 October, it just sums the badger issue and the politics of it all to a tee!

Note that alerts prospective campaigners to the fact that epetitions “will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold”.  There is a timeframe in which any campaign has to achieve the target, but what happens in the BBC (above) will very much depend on the knowledge, expertise, qualifications of its members?  The current Chair is Natasha Engel .  The eight members comprise 4 Conservatives, 3 Labour and 1 Liberal Democrat.  I must establish what criteria they have to achieve for discussion to take place in parliament proper, that is to say a full House of Commons or Lords?  In the interim if anyone knows, drop me a line ….

I seem to be rambling, perhaps I should remind myself why I decided to post a piece on ‘campaigning’ …. I’d received a request to sign the Avaaz petition Free the Arctic 30.  The thought process then drifted as we are oft inclined!  So ….

May I also remind readers who have not already done so that the Forum has a petition currently running on the 38 Degree website: Stop & Rethink National Nature Reserves as Open Access areas.  Please think about signing it and please ask your friends, family, network colleagues to consider doing so.  We’re not averse to appropriate access, irresponsible risks from inappropriate access brings potential Likely Significant Effect on the interest features of the 87 Natura 2000 sites.  Habitats Directive compliance I hear you ask?   It seems that Natural England’s Senior Director does not consider it necessary to undertake one …. one might be forgiven for thinking that there is a potential conflict of interest by the judge & jury here, surely not?


Both 38 Degrees and Avaaz offer would be campaigners the opportunity to create petitions, ok you have to be reasonably IT literate but the guys at 38 Degrees were certainly helpful to us (I’m sure the same would apply to Avaaz).  A quick search reveals others and Care2petition along with many more, choice – there’s certainly plenty out there available with a couple of clicks!  Then the work continues and all you have to do is use the result through follow up media &c. ….

epetitions & badger culls

September 6, 2013

CONGRATULATIONS and thanks to all those involved with the HM Government epetition

The window of opportunity is fading rapidly to add to the 302,924 signatures as the deadline is 07:38 tomorrow morning, but you can still do it ….

It may be that it achieved this excellent level of support because it was fronted by Dr Brian May CBE.  Nevertheless, it remains a fact, people rallied – bring on the public debate, prove this country is a democracy ….

That’s the first stage in drawing it to Government attention, have the other side had that kind of support for the cull?  Will we see democracy in action?  Will we see any science brought forth by those supporting and advocating the continued roll out of this ConDem cull?



By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


I hope that the discussion in parliament is televised, it’s one debate that I would like a ring side seat to watch.  Will whips be applied?

So, are epetitions effective?  The volume of signatures this one received would indicate quite a sample achieved, three times that required to ensure a discussion in paliament.


There are a variety of epetition options to choose from if people or organisations are minded to run a campaign.  The Forum are working with 38 degrees to raise public awareness of the truth behind the Board and Senior Directors within Natural England proposal to dedicated some 87 National NATURE Reserves as Open Access.


STOP & RETHINK National Nature Reserves as Open Access areas.


Please consider signing it and if you twitter or facebook then please spread the word.

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Mark Avery

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I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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