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Royal Family granted new right of secrecy

Why to we put up with special treatment for this family living off the state – can’t we cap their housing benefit as well?

I read in the independent that it seems the Windsor Royal Family is to be granted absolute protection from public scrutiny in a legal reform designed to draw a veil of secrecy over the affairs of the Queen, Prince Charles the Halfwit and assorted other royals who provide no discernable form of public benefit. Letters, emails and documents relating to the monarch, her heir and the second in line to the throne will no longer be disclosed even if they are in the public interest. This is a retrograde step as the Royal’s in the UK performs some sort of formal function at the public’s expense and in these hard times of cut backs could have done with some greater scrutiny not less.

These changes to the Freedom of Information Act will reverse advances which had briefly shone a light on the royal finances – including an attempt by the Queen to use a state poverty fund to heat Buckingham Palace. And also threaten to force the disclosure of the Prince of Wales’s prolific correspondence with ministers to reverse democratic decisions for example.

The Coalition Government buried the plan for ‘added protection’ for the Royal Family in the small print of plans called ‘opening up public bodies to public scrutiny’ – which is a bit of an oxymoron in my view.
The Queen, Charles and other hangers on should be open to as much (or even more) review they are still unfortunately part of our constitutional settlement so deserve as much scrutiny as the rest. Only this week we had the unedifying spectacle of a former member of parliament jailed for fiddling expenses for what would be for some of the globetrotting royal’s small change. So come on Daily Telegraph let’s open up the Royal’s for some forensic scrutiny.

Royal Family granted new right of secrecy – Home News, UK – The Independent.

Teenager fined £150 for feet on seats

I don’t know if I am the only one who thinks this (you are ed.) but I was surprised when I read in the newspaper the other day that a teenager was miffed because she was pulled up for putting her feet on the seat on a train as ‘it was only for a minute’ (whatever). I do think perhaps that it is a little harsh to pull her before the beak and potentially fine her £150 – it is a hard knock for a teenager. But I find myself somewhat happy that someone has been pulled up for breaking the rules and rather than the inspector falling for a sorry etc line and letting her off. Sometimes you have to make the point and make an example. This same situation happened to me – I asked a girl ‘resting’ her feet on the seat next to me on the train after a busy lunchtime shoplifting I expect – to move them so there was no danger of me getting my rather nice suit dirty – responded to my polite request (I bet) with a string of abuse and with the retort ‘these shoes are nearly new and not dirty anyway’. The problem with making the seat dirty for other people didn’t cross her mind. Now I may be alone on this (you still are ed.) but I think sometimes you have to make it clear your disapproval because when there is no cost to a person there is no motivation to correct maverick behaviour and the acceptance of a ‘it was only a minute’ excuse is an excuse for inaction and a sanction of the behaviour itself.

Be critical and think about what people are really saying

Be more critical and critique what people say

To a large extent in the academic and business world things move forward by a thorough critique of the existing body of knowledge or by taking apart the
position people take on a particular issue (usually in hindsight). Often very strong positions are held based on very shaky ground and expertise claimed based on little supporting evidence. I think it is always interesting when you look at a newspaper report or an article in the trade press one can always determine the authors own position vis a vis the issue being discussed as well as the position they take in the field of knowledge they are advancing.

What we need to do when we look at a report being presented to us at work, or even on the nightly television bulletin, is to learn how to evaluate what people say and weigh the truth and merit of the argument they are proposing.

When we listen to these arguments try to assess:

  • What are the assumptions being mobilised by the author from her own perspective to support the case and what approach is being taken in the construction of the argument as far as evidence is concerned.
  • What is the purpose of the review or report – what is it for and for whom is it written?
  • What is being included or excluded from the author under scrutiny in terms of the body of knowledge and alternative views?
  • How are countervailing views dealt with and what form of words is being used to describe them – dismissive, pejorative or supportive?
  • How gaps in our understanding of the issue are explained – or are they glossed over and simplified in order to trivialise opposition?
  • What is the actual or implied call to action – what is it the writer wishes you to buy or accept that forms the core of the message?
  • I personally also ask – so what have you brought to the party, what contribution have you added to my understanding of this topic?

The way to read a newspaper follows the same approach – it means we engage with the author and as a consequence perhaps we will learn something. Remember we should not accept any assertions, claims, or recourses to expertise from any authors of these papers or articles unless they demonstrate their expertise with erudite argument. We need to look at all of them with a sceptical eye and try to get behind the purpose of the message and how it is aimed to persuade and orient opinion in a certain way and in business to ensure the ‘right’ decision is made.

Companies using only online applications may be guilty of age discrimination by excluding those unable to access the internet

Had this in from Personnel Today – highlighting that many homes still do not have internet access, and that there is still an age gap (although I suspect that is changing, I will check the data). All the same, if you insist people only apply online you are excluding some workers:

  • Companies using only online applications may be guilty of age discrimination by excluding those unable to access the internet: 22 October 2007 10:34
  • Companies who hire staff using only online application forms could be found guilty of age discrimination as they are excluding certain age groups unable to access the internet, a law firm has warned.
  • Many companies now use standardised web-based forms when recruiting to cut costs and reduce paperwork. Companies are also doing this to avoid the legal repercussions of candidates claiming age discrimination if they have stated their age on a CV and have not been put forward for an interview.

But law firm Wedlake Bell said this could backfire if the application forms are only accessible online as it precludes older age groups who may not have access to the internet or are not computer-literate.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2006, 55% of people aged 50 or over in the UK had not used a computer in the previous three months (compared to 13% of 16- to 30-year-olds).

Other figures show that only 61% of households currently have internet access.

David Israel, partner in the employment division at Wedlake Bell, said: “Companies who give job applicants the sole option of applying for a position through a standardised online form could find themselves challenged in a tribunal for being ageist.

“Companies should always offer, for example, to post application forms to people who are unable to download them.”

Age Discrimination