Regular readers will know that this is an area that greatly concerns me, they will not be surprised that I was very pleased to hear Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, proposing to introduce rent controls. I was not surprised, however, to hear a conservative MP arguing strongly against the proposal, he believed that these matters should be left to a free market and the free market will solve the housing problem. Perhaps the market will solve the problem, but how long will it take? In the last twenty years and more it has not done so, in fact the problem has got worse. How can you have a free market in a commodity when there is a national shortage and it has not been possible to eliminate the shortage, houses are not the sort of commodity that you can import, true one might import prefabs, but that is only part of the solution, land and services are the crucial factors.
How long have people got to suffer exploitation by landlords? At the very least rent controls will put an end to this ever-increasing spiral in rents and, by fixing the returns on rented property, it will help to stop the spiralling of house prices.
The governments of the last thirty years have failed miserably to tackle this most important aspect of modern life in the UK. The situation is so serious that drastic measures are required but, even now, there is no evidence that politicians are even contemplating drastic measures. Congratulations to Sadiq, I sincerely hope he brings controls into this sector in London at least.
At last government are talking of putting more controls on the use of wood burners. Wood burning stoves have increased in popularity over the last twenty years. One of the powerful arguments in favour of burning wood is that, in principle, it is carbon neutral. It is feasible to grow new trees to replace those being burnt and, in growing, they will absorb the carbon dioxide produced by burning wood. Quite often wood burning stoves run quite hot releasing a lot of heat into the house, keeping it warm and making them popular. Even when the stove is enclosed and the air supply is controlled they are not very efficient in terms of the heat release to the house as a proportion of the calorific value of the wood burned, a very significant proportion of the heat generated just goes up the chimney. How cost effective they are is clearly dependent upon the price paid for the wood, some people are fortunate to have access to free wood.
So, if the wood is cheap, what is not to like? There is a considerable amount of ash resulting from wood burning, much of this ash is very light and breaks down into small particles that are carried up the chimney and discharged into the air where they slowly descend to lower levels, some reach the ground level and tend to leave a coating of fine ash but much is in the form of minute particulates that can hang about in the air that we breathe. These particulates are more plentiful than those resulting from oil burning and equally harmful. Many of the gases produced by wood burning are carcinogenic.
I know there is a problem, I am surrounded by people with wood burners, when the atmospheric conditions are such that there is an inverse temperature gradient the trapped gases can make your eyes water, even indoors.
It will be very interesting to hear just what the government has in mind for wood burning.
What is the solution, how can we heat our homes. Oil is probably better, in that it produces fewer particulates, but it does produce particulates, it also produces carbon dioxide and other nasty gases. Oil fired boilers do make more use of the fuel than a wood burner, producing a cooler exhaust, especially the condensing boilers, and, being more efficient, produce less carbon dioxide.
Truth is, I think, that, as with cars, the only energy source that is available that does not impact on the local environment is electricity. Electricity may be generated by renewable means, or by nuclear power, both free from noxious exhaust gases, or in power stations burning fossil fuel where every means possible is employed to produce a clean exhaust.
The amount of electricity required for home heating can be reduced by the use of heat pumps but, whatever system is used in the homes, if all domestic heating is to be provided by electricity and all cars are to use electricity, the increase in the requirement for electricity generation is mind boggling.
Children’s Air Ambulance
We are all aware of the collection boxes and plastic bags left in out letter boxes seeking donations of clothing etc for this charity. It puzzled me for some time what this charity was actually for, what was the difference between a child’s air ambulance and any other air ambulance, was there really a separate helicopter for transporting children, was it smaller, where was it based ????? Lots of questions came to mind and, being a sceptic, I did not donate. It does seem that my doubts were justified, the charity was established in 2005 and collected money over a number of years and during that time they did not actually own or lease a helicopter or transfer a child by air. In 2011 the Charity Commissioners intervened and the charity was taken over by the Air Ambulance Service, but still exists as a separate charity. Since then the charity has leased two specially equipped helicopters and has introduced specialist equipment for transporting babies and very young children in urgent need of hospital treatment. Primarily the service is for transferring these children from one hospital to another where there is an appropriate specialist department. The unit is based at London Oxford Airport from where it can reach any part of the UK within two hours.
Unfortunately the Air Ambulance Service is a separate charity to the East Anglian Air Ambulance and, as far as I could see no East Anglian NHS centre was listed as a Clinical Partner of the Children’s Air Ambulance. Whether or not it is possible for hospitals in East Anglia to call on this service is not clear to me.
(My last encroachment on Dr Nisbet’s territory)
A man boards a plane for a return trip to the UK and finds himself seated next to a man with a dog. ‘That is unusual’, he said ‘I’ve never seen a dog in the cabin of a plane before.’
‘No’ replied the other ‘I am an officer with the Border Control Force and this is my sniffer dog.’ The officer explained that it was a new experiment where the dog was expected to identify passengers carrying drugs. The officer would then advise his colleagues at the airport and the suspect passengers could be apprehended as soon as they got off the plane. ‘You will be able to watch him at work’ he said.
Once they were airborne the dog was allowed to roam among the passengers whilst the officer watched. The dog sat for a little while looking at a woman before returning and giving a soft little bark. ‘That woman has some cannabis’ said the officer. The dog went off again and, after a time, settled alongside a man for a short time before returning when he gave three soft barks. ‘That man has heroin’, the officer said.
The dog went off again, further afield in the cabin. When he returned he pooed all over the floor and gave a little whimper. The man was indignant, ‘That’s not very nice is it, bringing a dog on a plane that is likely to do that.’
‘No’ said the officer ‘I’m afraid he has found a bomb’