A letter from our Chairman – EU rules caused Grenfell fire

This letter was sent to the Derby Telegraph by our Chairman, Edward Spalton on 10th July 2017 in response to yet more misleading propaganda from the ardent europhile Mr C.N. Westerman

Sir,

Mr.C.N. Westerman attributes the tragic fire in the Grenfell tower to a peculiarly British and Conservative lack of regulation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Following a fire in a tower block in Knowsley in 1989, the British Building Research Establishment was asked to devise a means of preventing a recurrence.

They decided that this should be a “whole system test”, covering all the materials on the outside of the building to see how they inter-acted when used together. Following another similar fire in Scotland, the House of Commons recommended in 2000 (during the Labour government) that this “whole system” test, British Standard BS 8414, should be adopted.

But it was overruled by the EU with its own inadequate test – a European standard EN 13501,which became mandatory in 2002. This was again under a Labour government but it did not matter what party was in power, as EU law always trumps British law. That is the basis of the whole institution. Parliament is powerless against it, as long as we remain in the EU.

The other factor, driving the use of inflammable insulation material, was the EU’s obsession with better insulation to to combat global warming. All that mattered was the “thermal efficiency” – and none was more efficient than the polyisocyanurate used in Celotex, the plastic insulation chosen in 2014 for Grenfell. If the Grenfell installation had been tested under BS 8414, it would not have been used.

Whilst we are in the EU, we cannot enforce that standard.

Similar fires have occurred in Germany and this is reported in the EUReferendum.com blog. The author is not just another Eurosceptic but Dr. Richard North, a highly qualified former Environmental Health Officer with a relevant diploma in fire precautions. He has published many detailed articles on this topic but Mr Westerman and others might find this particular one an enlightening beginning.

Yours faithfully

 

Edward Spalton

 

Photo by Ben Sutherland

Negotiating Independence – a letter from our Chairman

The letter below, written by our Chairman, Edward Spalton, was recently published in the Derby Telegraph.

Sir,

Like D.G. Betts (30 June), I am keen to be out of the EU and have been since 1972 when I began to discover the ulterior motives and bad faith by the Europeans and by our own government, surrounding our accession to membership.

Negotiations were nearly complete when the EEC (as it then was) suddenly introduced the Common Fisheries Policy, demanding that our waters should become a “common resource” for all member countries to share. Prime Minister Edward heath knew that there was no legal provision in the Rome Treaty for such a policy but went along with it nonetheless. He also misinformed Parliament that British fishermen’s interests would be protected. The result was ecological catastrophe for our seas and fish stocks, economic catastrophe for our fishermen and a massive financial loss to our country’s balance of payments..

This was one reason why Tony Blair wrote in his 1983 election manifesto “We”ll negotiate a withdrawal from the EEC which has drained our natural resources and destroyed jobs”. What a pity he never kept his word!

It is a complex business to right the wrongs of forty four years, so it will require negotiation which take time. Under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, a two year period is allowed. During that time we are still full participating members but we do not sit on both sides of the table during the withdrawal negotiations. We can hardly be buyer and seller at the same time! That is reasonable enough.

Paragraph 4 of Article 50 states “….the member of the European Council or of the Council (of Ministers) representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the Council in the decision concerning it…” That is why our representatives are excluded those meetings – but only from those meetings.

For everything else, we continue full members until (Paragraph 2) “The treaties shall cease to apply from the date of the entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification, unless the European Council in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period”.

Almost uniquely this is one EU document which is both short and clear – but the negotiations to get the right deal will be very complex indeed.

Yours faithfully,

 

Edward Spalton

 

The Miller’s Tale – Episode 3

(1)  A BLAST FROM THE PAST –

I mentioned that my father had devised a milk replacer food for baby calves. It was government policy during the war and for a long time afterwards that as much milk as possible should go fresh to the consumer. This preserved the maximum nutrition and vitamin content.  Synthetic vitamin supplements were not available. All raw materials and foodstuffs were in short supply and generally rationed. So a product which allowed the farmer to sell more of his milk for human consumption was officially favoured. When raw materials were available, it could be sold without ration coupons at a cost which was a fraction of the price the farmer would get for his milk. In April 1944,  our firm registered the trade mark CAL-O-LAC for this product. It was my mother’s idea.   So our  small firm went on to produce a significant proportion of this niche  product nationally ..

The artist’s impression of the Ashbourne Road Mill appeared in the 1953 Coronation edition of the Derbyshire Advertiser and you can see a logo of a calf drinking out of a bucket but the artist omitted the word “Cal-O-Lac” from beneath it. . That is the trade mark as I remember it, after  father employed a London  advertising agent to improve the image.

So I was very surprised when my son Charles recently found this advertisement for Cal-O-Lac on the internet (a snip at £150!) . I think my mother may have designed it too. She was very artistic. It must be from the early post-war era when things were opening up a little but austerity was still prevalent. I can remember being taken to the first post-war agricultural show in 1947 but don’t recall this style of advert.

(2) JANUARY 1973  – “GOING INTO EUROPE ”

We were well-prepared for the changeover to the new policy. Although the European Communities Act 1972 did not receive Royal Assent until October 1972, MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries & Food) had prepared us well, so we entered the strange new world on January 1st 1973 where prices of key ingredients were fixed politically and our profitability would depend on collecting the EEC subsidy for making wheat and milk powder unfit for human consumption by incorporating them into animal feedingstuffs.

This was an extremely prosperous time for farming. It went on unfettered for twelve years. Prices were fixed at levels to keep small French peasant farmers happy and our much larger, more efficient farms could scarcely avoid doing very well indeed. The EEC guaranteed to buy everything they could produce and this created the grain, beef, butter and milk powder mountains – more than we could “denature”(the technical term) in animal feed. So it was dumped at even lower prices on the world market, putting farmers in the Commonwealth and Third World out of business.

As our farmer customers – with a guaranteed market for everything they could produce – were doing well, so did we. Not a few people asked why I was grumbling about it. “Because it’s wrong” was my answer. The housewife and the taxpayer were paying far more to make food dear than the taxpayer had previously paid to keep a secure supply of  home-grown food.

(3)  THE NEW OFFICIALS

The new system needed careful supervision to make sure that people were not cheating – claiming the “denaturing” subsidy and then selling the wheat or milk powder back as human food at full price.  So a new breed of official was required. One sensible thing which MAFF did was to invite a number of people from the trade to become civil servants and supervise the inspectors.. They had done the same  when wartime controls were introduced and it gave us some confidence that officialdom would understand its task.

As ours was one of the first mills to be fully equipped, we had an arranged visitation by twelve of the new inspectors who were being trained. They came from all sorts of previous jobs within the civil service and this was the first time many had seen the feed milling process.  Eventually one was assigned as our regular inspector, a man whose previous experience was entirely clerical or administrative.

He was very awkward and ill-mannered. He managed to upset everybody from the mill foreman to the girls in the office. So eventually I phoned up the supervisor, a man from the trade who often wore rather flamboyant bow ties and matching pocket handkerchiefs. “ I say, can you call your dog off?” I asked “This chap’s upsetting everybody”.

“Leave it to me, dear boy” he said and we got a replacement inspector, a man who had worked in the real world as a pest control officer. He had a couple of grand Jack Russell Terriers in the back of his car. I knew instantly that we would hit it off.

He was efficient, meticulous and rigorous in going about his business. After about three months, he said “I am going to show you something and, if you say you’ve seen it, I will deny it completely”.  He showed the reports of the previous man who had convinced himself that we were crooks, cheating the system – but he couldn’t put his finger on it and that had driven him crackers. The report was an Official Secret which we were not entitled to see. If acted upon, it could have ruined our business. Our subsidy could have been held up for months, destroying our cash flow,  and we would not have known why. “I know this isn’t right” he said “I am going to write another report now. You won’t see that” and we never had any problems after that.  This was the sort of conduct people expected of MAFF. As a department it enjoyed the deserved confidence of the farming community and industry.

The Old Order Changes

Probably the most individually influential of its civil servants was Sir Emrys Jones, who was chief adviser to the Minister from 1967 to 1973. I can’t remember a Minister of Agriculture having a “special adviser” – a party political appointment – in those days. Sir Emrys enjoyed the confidence of five of them regardless of party – Christopher Soames, John Hare, Fred Peart, Jim Prior and Cledwyn Hughes.  Sir Emrys was very much a muddy boots and hands-on civil servant, who spent as little time in Whitehall as possible. He came from a hill farming family in Wales, as did quite a number of senior MAFF civil servants in those days. We sometimes called them “The Taffia”. They were formidable.

I only got to know him after he resigned in 1973 in despair at the introduction  of the European Common Agricultural Policy which, he said, would cause farmers to grow “the wrong crops in the wrong places at the wrong times”.  He came to talk to a group of us feed technologists just after he had started as Principal of the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester. I asked him how he liked his new job. “Man” he said “If it wasn’t for the bloody students and the bloody governors, the job would be bloody perfect!” His enthusiasm was infectious.

A  similar character  from Wales was appointed to enforce  the new regulations to control the use of medicines in animal feeds. As with our introduction to the CAP, the guidance and information were first class. He placed a great emphasis on the co-operation and help which they wanted to  extend to the trade. His authoritative summing up suggested a non-conformist Chapel  background. “ But if you stray from the paths of righteousness, be sure we will find you out – and our vengeance will be terrible!” It was said with a twinkle of humour – like the glint of sunshine on steel. Their successors were more of the inflexible, humourless, tickbox variety, like the first inspector of the new breed we had chanced to meet.

COMING SHORTLY – MR WILSON’S “FUNDAMENTAL RENEGOTIATION”

The Miller’s Tale – Episode 2

The Swinging Sixties and Beyond

 It is easy to forget how much things have changed since the Sixties. There was no internet. So unless you subscribed to specialist publications or were in a political party or special interest or trade group, your information was limited to what the main newspapers or the BBC and ITV told you. With regard to the European project, the most crucial of the government’s information and intentions were concealed from the public for thirty years by the Official Secrets Act. I will give an account of things as I remember them but will use italic type like this to insert information which was not available until later and also give links to later articles which give a fuller explanation, not available to me at the time.

Whilst the countryside looks picturesque and much of it appears unchanged, that is very deceptive. Farming has been one of the most rapidly modernising industries of all. Whilst there were still  small farms in the Sixties which  used horses for some of the work, mechanisation went on at a great pace and the number of people required to work the land declined steeply as machines got bigger and better.

I called on such a  farm in the mid Sixties and the farmer was in his fields. I had to wait for him to finish his job because he was sowing seed by hand and had to count the paces and keep the rhythm as he broadcast handfuls of seed from the bag round his waist – just as in the bible story “a sower went forth sowing.” That was the last time I saw it done.  His descendants now drive machines which are positioned by satellite and controlled by computers.

Most farms were going for bigger and better tractors and machinery – seed drills, fertiliser spreaders, sprayers, ploughs, combine harvesters, forage harvesters and so on. Cows were being moved out of cow sheds and into covered yards where they could self-feed on silage when not grazing.  Milking parlours replaced the cow shed stalls. Bulk milk tanks replaced the man-handled milk churns.

Britain had a unique agricultural policy. Food from abroad was allowed in freely without customs duties and farmers received subsidies to keep up home production and guarantee food security.  To the benefit of the less well-off, the tax payer, not the consumer,  funded the system. Food was a much bigger proportion of household expense in those days and cheap food also reduced pressure on wages.

Farm land would not be allowed to go derelict, as it had done in the depression between the wars. This system was negotiated annually in the Farm Price Review under parliamentary scrutiny. As the memory of food shortages and rationing faded, politicians naturally scrutinised this expense very carefully. World food prices fell from the late Fifties onwards and this tended to drive up the required subsidies which were gradually restricted. So farming was not  as profitable as the increases in production might suggest. (See attachment for fuller description).

Attitudes changed in the Sixties. Early on, the satirical TV programme “That Was The Week That Was” mercilessly lampooned the failings of our political class. In  doing so it reduced people’s confidence in the institutions of government. It was part of the process of rubbishing the hitherto undisputed comfortable feeling that “British is best”.  No fearless investigator or satirist looked into government deceit about the European project. Our European neighbours were doing better than us economically. Documentary programmes drove  this message home relentlessly.

Things were not helped by the fact that our key industries frequently went on strike. We did not know it at the time but the Prime Minister Harold MacMillan (from 1957 to 1963) expressed the view that our country was “ungovernable”.  He thought that the trade unions would come to their senses if British industry was opened to unrestricted competition from Europe. The unions were so powerful that he dared not alter the laws which gave them almost total immunity from normal legal redress..

At this time, we were installing some new machinery. The engineer, who was supervising the job,  picked up a spanner and started to make an adjustment. He put it down very quickly, looking around with a worried expression. “Is this a union shop?” he asked. Fortunately we weren’t. In some factories,  only  members of the right union were allowed to do certain tasks. Shipyards, already months or even years behind with deliveries, were brought to a halt. Drilling a hole which went through a piece of metal and a piece of wood could cause a strike whilst the shop stewards argued whether a woodworker or metal worker should have done the job. Then they would want overtime to make up for lost time. That was the way things were then. Britain’s industries were rightly losing the confidence of their overseas customers. The Germans, French, Japanese and others would willingly replace them and make deliveries to quality and to time.

The Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson (1964-1970) wanted to modernise British industry. His catch phrase was “the white heat of the technological revolution” but he couldn’t tackle the unions either. As well as being over-mighty, they were the Labour party’s paymasters. He did stand up to a Seamen’s strike in 1966. He believed that communists were using the strike to take over the union.

He brought in emergency powers and the strikers backed down but not before goods piled up on quaysides and most of the Cunard fleet was out of action. The crew of the Queen Mary stopped work at Southampton. The left wing of Labour supported the union.

By luck rather than by good judgement I did rather well out of this. I had bought a large contract of groundnut cake and two months’ shipments arrived together just before the strike. So we were sitting pretty. But I still got a row from my father because we had to hire outside warehouse space.

There were two other disruptive features of trade union conduct in those days – the “sympathy strike” and “blacking”. Trade unionists with no grievance against their own employer would strike “in sympathy” with workers involved in another dispute. “Blacking” was the practice of blacklisting lorries from a firm involved in strike action so that trade unionists in other factories would refuse to load or unload them. Dubious tactics could also be used in disputes between trade unions.

I have a copy of the Sunday Mirror of July 20th 1969. The front page stories are of the first moon landing, the death of Ted Kennedy’s girlfriend in a car which ended underwater and a surprise appearance by the Duke of Edinburgh at a registry office wedding in Cardiff. But inside is a tale of thuggishness between trade unions which I quote here. The TUC was called in as umpire in a dispute between the United Road Transport Union and the much larger Transport & General Transport Workers’ Union, who were in competition for recruits.  Their Midlands Organiser, Alan Law, had been accused in Parliament of blackmail and extortion. A firm called Stephenson Clark had paid £5,000 into the TGWU convalescent homes fund following negotiations about dismissed drivers. Mr Law intended to share the £5,000 with £400 each to seven drivers and £1,100 each to two shop stewards. I knew several firms which were shaken down by Law. Businesses in the Midlands dreaded the attentions of this man and spoke of “The Rule of Law” which bordered on gangsterism, using the immunities from normal legal redress which the unions continued to enjoy until the days of Margaret Thatcher.

One thing strikes me about the Sunday Mirror of those days. It was very much better written than any tabloid today. A full page article by Roy Jenkins, Chancellor of the Exchequer sang the praises of what her termed “the civilised society” and the beginnings of our present obsession with homosexuality and transgender matters. He was a leading light amongst the group of  Labour MPs, working behind the scenes to defy their own party policy and get us into the European Economic Community.

In this, he was at one with the up and coming Conservative, John Selwyn Gummer, now Lord Deben. He and Jenkins both peddled the lie that the Commonwealth countries, grown up and independent, wanted nothing more to do with us – so we must look to Europe.  Gummer came to our Corn Trade Association Conference at Buxton to tell us that. I knew it was a lie because our New Zealand friends supplied us with thousands of tons of milk powder and were not at all pleased to be losing one of their best customers. So, I decided that a project which required a lie to promote it must be concealing more and greater evils. The Canadians who supplied excellent quality wheat for flour milling got the same treatment.

In late 1971 I became a member of a MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries & Food) Committee, concerned with bringing in the European Common Agricultural Policy. The others on the committee were a good twenty years older than I . When they heard the details of the policy which I had heard in Holland ten years before (see Episode 1), they were so outraged that they wanted to walk out. We had not yet met Sir Humphrey Appleby of “Yes Minister” but a senior civil servant who greatly resembled him smoothed them down expertly.

“Well gentlemen” he said “We were not founder members of the community, so these arrangements are not what we would have wished. But just give it a few years of British common sense and we’ll soon get it licked into shape”.  Tea and biscuits appeared instantly. With hindsight, I guessed that the lady with the trolley was waiting for her cue. “And now gentlemen, the political decision having been made, we want to help you get the very best out of this”.  It was a deceit expertly done but, to give the civil servants their due, they certainly gave us the help we needed to make our living in this strange new world. We had to make radical alterations to the way we ran our business. In the highly regulated Common Agricultural Policy our profitability would depend on being able to claim EEC subsidy for “denaturing” wheat and milk powder – that is, rendering them unfit for human consumption by blending them into animal feed. We needed new record systems, new laboratory equipment and parts of our production lines had to be redesigned. By Autumn or early winter of 1972, we were ready to be up and running with the new system. So everything worked perfectly when we “went into Europe” in January 1973 . The only things we were not prepared for was the new breed of inspector and Harold Wilson’s 1975 “Renegotiation” – of which more anon.

 

The miller’s tale – a series of reminiscences

EPISODE 1 – Early intimations.

“Shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing boy” – Ode on intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood by William Wordsworth.

We moved into the countryside from the house next to the mill in 1950 and our old home became offices and a laboratory for our family business.. Going into the business made my later close acquaintance with the European project inevitable.

That was all in the far, unsuspected future when I went on a school visit to Germany in 1958. The German boy I stayed with asked me “Have you heard about our Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft? It will guarantee our living standard”. Neither his English nor my German was up to translating the word. So an answer had to wait until we got home. As soon as I asked our teacher, several other boys said

“My chap said exactly the same thing”. So it was obviously something they had been taught in school.

Our teacher, Mr Rhodes, explained that the word meant “Economic Community” and it had been started by a new treaty the previous year between France, Italy, Germany and the Benelux countries.

We discussed it for a while and thought it was a very good idea that these continental countries were co-operating with each other. “But remember,” said Mr. Rhodes, “This shows a difference in tradition between our countries. You would not be taught a political opinion like that as a fact in a British school.” How times have changed since!

This was the first time I remember people talking about what was called “The Common Market” and, whilst we wished the neighbouring countries well, I don’t recall many people being keen on the idea of our joining it ourselves. Matron was an exception but she was a Liberal – then a very small parliamentary party. One prominent member was a Lady Violet Bonham Carter who was so extremely enthusiastic that a radio comedian dubbed her “Lady Violent Common Barter” !

Interest moved up a notch around 1960. By then I was a pupil in a firm of corn merchants at Banbury, called Lamprey & Son Ltd. Their office was next to the town hall and had a high sloping desk with stools – no lounging in executive chairs! The accounts were still kept in hand-written ledgers upstairs. On my arrival, the manager, an austere man, passed me a weighbridge ticket – 5 tons 2 hundredweights three quarters and one stone. “There you are boy. Twenty five pounds twelve shillings and six pence per ton. What does it come to?” When I asked for a piece of paper to do the calculation “Lord love you, lad. What have they been teaching you all these years?”

Farmers came into the office on market days to order what they needed, to pay their bills and to be paid for grain which we had bought from them. It was a busy cheerful place and I clearly remember one nice old boy, a smallholder who had lost a leg in the First World War, asking the manager. “Well, Mr Humphries, be you goin’ to join this ‘ere common market?”. It didn’t rank very high in our concerns amongst the general bustle of a busy office. I did many jobs in that firm from bagging coal to really responsible tasks. Our boss, Roger Bradshaw, was only about ten years older than I. His father had died quite recently. So it was very different from working for my father. He would give a task, such as taking over the running of the retail shop without any detailed instructions and his favourite exhortation was “It won’t take you five minutes to get hold of it”.

Sometimes it took me much longer but I was allowed to make mistakes as long as I owned up. His son phoned me a few days ago to say he had been asking after me and this put me in mind to write these reminiscences.

After two happy years I went back home. Our most profitable product was a milk powder food for baby calves which my father had developed. He knew that technical advances were taking place in Holland and we eventually came to an arrangement with a large Dutch firm to use their formulations and made several visits to their mill to effect the technology transfer.

It was on one of these visits in 1962 or 1963 that I first came across the European Common Agricultural Policy. I was watching wheat come down a conveyor and suddenly saw purple grains. Now the only reason I knew for purple grains was ergot – a very nasty fungus which causes abortion in cattle amongst other things and there seemed to be an awful lot of it. The director who was looking after me said he would explain it all that evening. I learned that the grain had been dyed because it had been subsidised for use in animal feed. The dye ensured that the wheat could not be diverted back into human food. He explained the whole complicated system which also subsidised the use of milk powder in calf food.

I had never come across anything quite so odd in my life. We then had free trade in food and feed at home. How on earth could a common sense people like the Dutch have come to use such a complicated (and frankly barmy) system? “Little Holland is neighbour of big Germany,” my host said “and the Germans wanted it”. It was then that I remembered that he was very senior and I was very junior and a guest in his house. So I thought I had probably spoken out of turn.. His speech was quite matter-of-fact, as if describing the weather. I also knew that he had flown with the RAF during the war. So I shut up but remembered.

It would be ten years before we entered this system. In the meantime, many people were quite well-disposed to the idea of joining the “Common Market”. Mainland Europe was doing much better than us economically. We always seemed to be strikebound in major industries and things were rather shabby here in comparison to their rapid progress. There were also people I respected greatly, who had done great things in the war. “This will be marvellous for you and your generation Edward. It means you will never have to suffer the sort of things we did.” You had to take notice of people like that. But nobody could explain to me why they had such a crazy agricultural policy.

The admirable Mr Attlee – a letter from our Chairman

The letter below appeared in the Derby Telegraph – in response to Mr C. N. Westerman – an indefatigable letter writer and ardent europhile.

Sir,

Mr. C N Westerman is fulsome in his praise for Clement Attlee, the post war Labour Prime Minister.

One of Attlee’s best decisions was to keep us out of the European Coal & Steel Community which became the EU . He was a democrat and would not submit to the “High Authority”, invented by Jean Monnet and friends. Nowadays it is called the European Commission.

Attlee said “There is no way that Britain could accept that the most vital economic forces of this country should be handed over to an authority which is utterly undemocratic and responsible to nobody”.

His Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin was even more opposed to European integration. In a splendidly mixed metaphor he said “”If you open that Pandora’s box, you don’t know how many Trojan horses will come flying out.” Well, we know now!

I recently interviewed Lord Walsingham (now 92), who was secretary of the tripartite conference at the Foreign Office ( USA, United Kingdom & France) which cleared the way for the Coal & Steel Community. British intelligence was aware of secret clauses between France & Germany whereby each would subsidise the other’s heavy industry when in competition with us – to weaken our economy and reduce our defence capability. The Americans also insisted on an end to denazification so the German industrialists who did well out of wartime slave labour would get off.

Lord Walsingham resigned in protest, rejoined his regiment and went to fight in Korea. His account of the way the Foreign Office worked in those days is most amusing. A video of the interview (approx 35 minutes) is linked to the article: www.campaignforanindependentbritain.org.uk/witness-to-history/

Anyone interested in the deep motives behind the EU project will find it interesting.

Yours sincerely

Edward Spalton