A new campaign has been launched in support of the Gurkhas. I hope to see it more widely publicised in our national press over the next few days but, meanwhile, a full explanation can be found http://bit.ly/7AKwiV .
From time to time I delete a few links from this blog and insert new ones. Neither additions nor deletions are necessarily permanent. The idea is to limit the total number of links while still guiding my visitors to “new” blogs and websites that have caught my attention for one reason or another, if only temporarily.
I have been shuffling the links again recently and have added the following:
Karin Wells Studio – interesting content and not all of it art and painting.
Carolee S. Clark – a painter with an attractive style.
Twitter – needs no introduction.
Nick Robinson’s Newslog – a good source of commentary on UK politics.
The Cycling Lawyer – for expert commentary on the legal issues relevant to cyclists.
Cycle Social – a site with a difference for cyclists of all kinds, sporting, road, commuting, leisure, slow, whatever. The site is relatively new but growing steadily and looking forward to a relaunch early in the New Year. It has enormous potential for cyclists and local clubs who have the inagination and initiative to use it. I signed up (free) and put myself on the “Members Map” and look forward to meeting (and cycling with) other local members.
I thought extortion was illegal! Wrong! It’s alive and well and actually thriving. It’s called motor insurance.
Yesterday I phoned my insurance brokers because my renewal was due in just five days time and I had yet to receive the annual reminder and request for the new renewal premium. Perhaps the delay was due to industrial action by postal workers. My insurers were proposing to charge me £237 Sterling, a substantial increase on previous years, to renew the third party, fire and theft insurance on the basis of the following facts:
Car: 21 year old BMW 318, 1800cc, value £200 if I’m lucky.
Sole driver: Born 1940, full licence 47 years, no accidents, claims or convictions, never refused insurance.
Annual mileage under 600 (yes, less than 50 per month but this is essential mileage for which there is no alternative).
In view of my record I cannot see any justification for paying a premium higher than the value of the car and especially as there is also an excess of £120 (this is the amount of any claim that I would have to pay before the insurers contributed). Also, I have the maximum available no claims bonus. They asked me whether I wanted to include no claims bonus protection, at extra cost of course. This would enable me to keep my bonus in the event of a claim. I call it downright impertinence (I could put this more strongly but some of my readers are polite young ladies of a sensitive disposition). I pointed out that I have protected my no claims bonus perfectly adequately all by myself for 47 years without their paid-for assistance.
There must be thousands of drivers with my sort of record. Isn’t it time that the insurance industry offered us a better deal, especially as we are the age group who are probably best placed to use our cars less and public transport more?
Yesterday, after discussing the above, I asked the lady on the phone whether there was anything I, or they, could do to reduce this premium. She offered to transfer me to the renewals department. I then got that irritating choice of options to be reached by pressing various buttons, all of which were for various parts of the CLAIMS department except for the last one “All other enquiries”. I had no choice but to press the last one and was then given several more options including the renewals department, which I duly chose. After a total silence of several seconds a recorded message informed me that the claims department had closed five minutes earlier, at 8pm. This was despite the fact that on the insurer’s paperwork it clearly stated that closing time for the renewals department was 9pm.
Suitably disgusted I hung up and phoned again today. I explained to the man who took my call what had happened the previous day and that that phone call had not resulted in an opportunity to review the proposed premium – but there wasn’t as much as a hint of an apology from him. Instead he asked whether I had sent my cheque! I reminded him that I didn’t yet know what premium would apply since there had been no opportunity to see whether the stated premium of £237 could be reduced. I then asked him what effect it would have on my insurance if the postal strikes caused my cheque to arrive after the renewal date. He told me that I would be uninsured until they received my cheque and asked me again whether I had sent my cheque! I was getting fed up with this conversation by this point and asked him, quite sharply, whether he was listening to me or what? The conversation ended shortly afterwards.
If I need to continue my motor insurance next year I will be arranging it some weeks in advance (especially if renewal falls due immediately after a holiday) and it won’t be the same insurers. To support such appalling service is to encourage it – not a good idea in any context if it can be avoided.
After a short holiday I have returned to good news and am delighted to include here the following email from Joanna Lumley on behalf of the Gurkha Justice Campaign:
“At midday today, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith made the announcement to the House of Commons that the Gurkha Justice Campaign have been fighting for for years. All ex-Gurkhas who have served more than 4 years in the British Army will have the right to settle in the UK if they wish.
“After such a long fight, with huge ups and downs, this is a superb announcement.
“We simply would not have won this fight without the massive, overwhelming support of all those who have supported our campaign. To the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed Gurkha Justice petitions, lobbied their MP, campaigned, attended rallies and marches – thank you so much to you all. This is your victory. It would not have happened without you.
“The Government has now responded to that campaign after court cases, votes in Parliament, a huge media campaign and, most importantly, massive public support. I am delighted, and humbled, at what has been achieved by our remarkable team.
“The whole campaign has been based on the belief that those who have fought and been prepared to die for our country should have the the right to live in our country. We owe them a debt of honour – a debt that will now be paid.
“With warmest good wishes,
There was also an e-petition on the 10 Downing Street website and The Government has published the following response to that petition:
“We received a petition asking:
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to give all Ex Gurkha soldiers and their families who have served our country British citizenship on leaving the service.”
“The Government’s response
“For many years, the Brigade of Gurkhas have shown bravery, commitment and dedication in serving this country, and continue to do so on operations today.
“This Government has done more for Gurkhas than any other. It was the first Government to grant settlement to Gurkhas and the first to equalise pay and pensions, with over 6,000 former Gurkhas and their families already given the right to live in the UK. In April we took steps to increase the number of Gurkhas eligible to come to this country by 4,000 or, including families, 10,000 people.
“The House of Commons has now expressed a clear view that all Gurkhas should be entitled to settle in the United Kingdom if that is what they wish.
“This Government respects the will of the House of Commons and recognises the strong feeling and public support for this cause. Consequently, we have announced today that all former Gurkhas who served for longer than four years will be eligible to apply for settlement in the United Kingdom. They will also be entitled to bring their spouses and dependent minor children. There will be no time limit on applications.
“This scheme recognises the unique nature of the service given to the UK by the Brigade of Gurkhas and is offered to them on an exceptional basis.
“We believe that in announcing the new policy today, we have met their concerns and those of Parliament.”
The Gurkha Justice Campaign seems to be making some headway thanks to the splendid efforts of the actress and leading activist Joanna Lumley. She is reported to have had an encouraging meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday after which she pinned her hopes on the belief that Gordon Brown is a man of integrity. On that particular point I am inclined to agree with her. However, I am also of the opinion that he is badly advised and surrounded by a cabinet and staff that I wouldn’t employ as tea boys.
Then today Joanna is reported to have “ambushed” Immigration Minister Phil Woollass as he was about to give a press conference. Apparently they then had a private discussion and spoke to the press afterwards as you can see and hear on this video at the BBC News website.
I daresay that the private discussion was of the “full and frank” variety. One rarely sees a government minister looking so much like the naughty schoolboy being put straight by the headmistress.
It seems to me that The Government continues to drag its feet on this issue. If those who fought, and were prepared to die, for the United Kingdon should be allowed to live in the UK, if they want to, what does it matter whether they retired fron the Brigade of Gurkhas before or after 1997. Why is The Government still going ahead with reviewing 1,500 cases – this is irrelevant – and why, after the review, are they intending to drag the whole thing out even further by revising the rules that they announced only days ago. It is all unnecessary because ALL retired Gurkhas should be entitled to live in the UK with their close families as of immediately. No ifs, buts or maybes, no bureaucratic feet dragging, no long-winded administrative nonsense from the Civil Service and the lawyers and the rest of the parasites. This was, in effect, the solution that was voted for by our representatives in Parliament only last week. Just do it!
UK Parliamentary Cycling Group finds out about cycling in The Netherlands (see video here) in April 2009.