The EU’s poor record on free trade agreements

I quite often listen to James O’Brien on LBC. He can be quite entertaining in spite of his reflex leftism. This morning I heard O’Brien roasting some bloke on Brexit and talking about the EU having 50 free trade agreements (FTAs). He compared it unfavourably with the UK which starts off with none. He quoted Full Fact approvingly (as I would typically).

He did rather immolate the chap he was talking to and made no attempt to be even handed. On close inspection the EU’s list of FTAs doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and I think Full Fact could have done a better job of dissecting the EU’s record on FTAs. First off only 34 of the FTAs are in force. For instance, the long delayed Canadian deal has to wait until March this year for provisional application.

Looking down the list four FTAs are with bits of the UK – Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey and the Sovereign bases on Cyprus. I think we can replicate those!

Nine of the EU’s FTAs are with bits of EFTA and funny old bits of the EU itself which are all in the customs union: Andorra, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland and the EU’s own Overseas Countries and Territories.

Six FTAs are with relatively tiny Balkan states (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia).

Only seven of the EU’s currently in force FTAs are with large (top 50 by GDP according IMF 2016 data) non-EU/EFTA countries. They are South Korea (11th), Mexico (15th), Turkey (18th), Egypt (33rd), Israel (35th), South Africa (41st) and Chile (45th). Indeed if you add in the five other top 50 non-EU/EFTA countries in various stages of ratification (Canada (10th), Nigeria (26th), Singapore (40th), Colombia (42nd) and Vietnam (48th)) you get 12 countries with a combined GDP of 9% of global GDP.

It is instructive to see where the EU have no trade deals. The list is long:

USA (1st and 25% of global GDP)
China (2nd and 15% of global GDP)
Japan (3rd and 6% of global GDP)
India (7th and 3% of global GDP)
Brazil (9th and 2% of global GDP).

Indeed the EU has no FTA with, and no immediate prospect of achieving one with, some 20 of the 50 largest countries by GDP, which represent 38% of global GDP.

The UK only has to do deals with the EU (23% of global GDP) and the USA (25% of global GDP) to tie up half of the world’s trade. Doing a deal with the EU should be straightforward as we accept the EU’s acquis and there seems to be political support for a deal from the USA.

It is worth considering that free trade with the USA has been a core economic interest for the UK for the length of its 44 year membership of the EC/EU. The fact that there has been no deal demonstrates how lowly British strategic interests are in the priorities of the EU. Consider too that one of the vaunted “Four Freedoms”, a free market in services, another core, strategic economic interest of the UK has not been completed either after 44 years.

We are better off out and those bigging up the EU’s record in pushing forward free trade are ignoring how thin the EU’s record is.

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Labour pushed up rail fares much faster than now

For the last couple of days Labour and its fellow travellers in ostensibly neutral campaign groups such as Campaign for Better Transport have been complaining loudly about rail fare rises in line with longstanding government policy. In particular Labour is trying to nail on this 27% fare rises under the Tories number.

I was wondering where this came from and how Labour did when it was in charge.

You can get the basic data at the Office of Rail and Road NRT Data Portal.

The “All tickets” index at the bottom of the sheet has moved from 176.5 in January 2010 to 218.7 in January 2016. They have inflated the 218.7 value by 2.3% (the widely quoted inflation figure for this year). This gets you to 27% in seven years 2010 to 2017. So at least Labour have used a transparent, straightforward and reasonable way of getting to their number.

How did Labour perform when it was in government? In 2003 the “All tickets” index was at 126.2. Seven year later in 2010 it was at 176.5. This gives a 40% increase in the same length of time. So Labour was much worse. Funny how they think that nationalisation under the least competent leader they have had post war is going to make things better.

All recent governments have tried to push the burden of rail costs onto passengers which, in my view, is fair enough. All recent governments have used RPI rather than CPI which is harsh. The policy has been in place since 2004. From 2004 to 2013 the limit on regulated fares was RPI+1. For the last four years the limit has been RPI. Inflation is what it is but one reason the Conservatives have outperformed Labour is that they took 4.06% out of the rise by their own choice.

We don’t hear Sadiq Khan (who was a Labour transport minister in 2009 and 2010 when Labour were asking more from commuters than the Conservatives are now) apologising for his role is Labour’s rinsing of rail commuters.

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Brexit fun and games in Ealing last night

I was unimpressed by the Ealing councillors choosing to spend their time debating Brexit at the year’s last full council meeting last night. It is way above their pay grade – this kind of motion always did my head in when I was a councillor.

It is hard to work out from the Gazette’s report what went on. Seemingly the Labour councillors and Labour Central Ealing and Acton MP Rupa Huq are not on the same page. It is understandable that Rupa Huq was typically hissy to the LibDems and Jon Ball who is a councillor in the Ealing Common ward that sits in her current constituency. With her tiny majority of 274 (the 7th tiniest majority in the country) you can see how Huq needs to keep the LibDems at bay. If they position themselves as being the Remain vote in 2020 in Ealing they will hoover up her votes.

It is hard though to see why the Labour councillors effectively repudiated Rupa Huq and would not support her Remainiac position. That is until you see the results of the EU referendum broken down by ward (I know the figures aren’t all directly comparable because some include postal votes and some don’t).

If you look at the various areas as groups you get:

  • Acton 68% remain
  • Southfield 76% remain (LibDem stronghold, part of Chiswick)
  • Greater Ealing 69% (everything else East and South of the River Brent)
  • Greenford 51% remain (but with 2 out of 3 wards marginally leave)
  • Northolt 49% remain (with Northolt West End being the leaviest ward in the borough)
  • Perivale 54% remain
  • Southall 53% remain (with South Green and Southall Broadway being only just 50% remain)

So, with those parts of Ealing Southall west of the River Brent and those parts of Ealing North north of the River Brent so marginal in Brexit terms, we can expect to see these two MPs keep totally quiet on Brexit. And, as we saw last night, the majority of Labour councillors (33 councillors in 11 wards that are substantially Leavey) want to change the subject too.

On the other hand Rupa Huq in Ealing Central and Acton can scream and scream until she is sick. Indeed she needs to make sure the LibDems don’t take Remain votes off her so she has nothing to lose by doing this.

It is amazing though how voting patterns in the Borough are dictated by an ancient feature of physical geography – the River Brent.

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Onkar Sahota’s £7 million property portfolio

Labour Assembly Member Onkar Sahota defended himself and his 11 properties at the CCA Hustings last week by saying that he had “worked hard to get them”. I am sure he did, or at least his tenants did.

Dr Sahota didn’t take the opportunity to own up to having any more houses. Maybe he has more, who knows? He certainly isn’t telling.

I found Sahota’s properties in the course of my research into his business. As I explained earlier this month he could have made a transparent declaration of his extensive property portfolio, as his Labour colleague Len Duvall has, in his disclosure pecuniary interests at City Hall. But that really isn’t his style. He actively lied to Hanwell parents at St Mark’s Primary School about his ownership of the land next to their school.

I don’t want to list the 8 addresses covering 11 properties that Sahota owns but just to show that I have paid for the 8 Land Registry titles that cover these properties I list the Land Registry title numbers below.

Dr Sahota owns four private houses in Ealing (NGL255900), Cranford (NGL218163), Isleworth (AGL27751) and Southall (MX82170). Looking at these houses and adjacent ones on zoopla.co.uk I estimate that these four houses together are worth £4 million.

Dr Sahota personally owns a 100% stake in Investments 360 Limited which owns the two buildings that his business operates out of (AGL122490 and NGL35037). According to the accounts of Healthcare 360, which again Sahota owns 100%, the company pays £105K per annum rent. Working back from a commercial yield of 6% for this kind of property implies a value of £1.75 million.

Dr Sahota has previously tried to get “offers in excess of £1,000,000” for his D1 property at 42 Lower Boston Road (AGL153372) rather than sell it to the council so that they can expand St Mark’s Primary School. He bought this for £730K in May 2006. It is probably worth £1 million but he is gunning for much more if he can get planning permission for change of use. Anyway it certainly is worth £1 million now.

D1 use class

Finally, Dr Sahota owns four flats in Southall (NGL550500) designated as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). It is hard to value these as they don’t change hands much and they are probably very small, poorly maintained flats above shops on a busy road. But all four can’t be worth less than £500K.

Taken together Onkar Sahota’s property portfolio is worth at least £7 million.

Earlier this month Onkar Sahota gave the Gazette a dull biography that he has used before and listed five priorities:

Sahota's priorities

It is no use Sadiq Khan and Onkar Sahota burbling on about housing if people like Sahota are going to hoard property on such a grand scale.

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Gazette falls for bogus Ealing Hospital petition

Gazette Front Page 22-4-2016

The Ealing Gazette’s front page today talks about “the Government” rejecting a debate on a petition on Ealing Hospital. In fact the petition was rejected by a committee of the House of Commons chaired by a Labour MP, Helen Jones. I suspect that one of the reasons that the committee rejected the idea of a debate is that the petition looks like it has been gamed. In other words Labour, Momentum or NHS activists, probably a mixture of all, across the country have been signing even though they live miles from Ealing Hospital.

The Gazette refers to over 100,000 signatures. The final total when the petition was closed was 100,229. You can see the underlying data in the petition by following this link.

First off 38 of the signatures came from outside the country. It is nice that people from as far afield as Argentina and Egypt are interested in Ealing Hospital but really?

Signatures from people living in 638 constituencies were received; that is almost every Parliamentary constituency.

The numbers for the three Ealing constituencies were:

Ealing numbers

Between the three Labour MPs in Ealing they managed to rustle up less than 1,000 signatures on this apparently vital issue. For all Stephen Pound’s blustering that there is “something rotten in the state of the NHS in Ealing” he could only get 321 people in his constituency to agree with him. Rupa Huq achieved a laughable 58.

Over 1000

There are 21 constituencies that produced more than 1,000 signatures. None are in London let alone Ealing. Between them these 21 constituencies they contributed one third of the signatures.

It looks to me like a group of activists are making a lot of noise and the Gazette has fallen for it. The campaign has obviously been shared on social media with a wide range of people who have nothing to do with Ealing.

Are the Ealing MPs colluding in this deception or are they equally unaware of how unrepresentative this petition was?

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Don’t throw stones Dr Sahota – your record on transparency is awful

Yesterday it was unwise of Labour AM Onkar Sahota to comment on the transparency of someone else’s affairs when his own are so opaque. He tweeted this headline from the Guardian:

The clear intent of the Localism Act 2011 was to make it a legal requirement for local politicians to be transparent about their affairs. The act creates criminal offences in Section 34 for those breaching its obligations to disclose pecuniary interests on taking office. For those found guilty of these offences the act provides for a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale. This used to mean a fine of up to £5,000 per offence. Now the fine is unlimited giving courts the power to impose fines they deem appropriate.

Onkar Sahota was elected to the Greater London Assembly in May 2012 and made his own declaration dated 3rd September 2014. His declaration is notably sparse for someone with such a large business and extensive property holdings. Under 8 out of 10 headings Sahota has written “None”.

Under the regulations that go with the act the first thing they ask for is “Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.”

Now all Sahota has told us is that he is a “GP (Medical General Practitioner)”. This might be his profession or vocation but if the regulations require details of his employment then you might expect him to divulge his employer. GPs are not typically employed by the NHS – and in any case if the NHS was his employer he is still required to divulge this. I suspect his formal employer is Healthcare 360 Limited, the company that he wholly owns, which is the vehicle he uses to undertake his large scale doctoring business. He calls himself “the Director” at work and he is indeed the only director and sole owner of this company. It would be surprising if he was not an employee of the company. If he isn’t that would be a scandal in itself – he could not survive at once being an advocate for the NHS and at the same time evading paying the National Insurance levy that has often been linked to it. So Dr Sahota, who employs you? The law says you must say.

The only other disclosure that Sahota has made is that he owns “Properties in Ealing and Hounslow”. Now the act says that something can be a “sensitve interest” if “disclosure of the details of the interest could lead to the member or co-opted member, or a person connected with the member or co-opted member, being subject to violence or intimidation”. On this basis many councillors, etc elect not to publish their their full home addresses. Most of the GLA members just allow the first part of the their postcode or the name of the town they reside in to be published although currently 5 members are allowing their full postal addresses to be published – I always allowed mine to be published when I was a councillor.

Even without publishing full addresses you can convey to the public a pretty frank view of your property holdings. For instance Labour’s Len Duvall’s entry is:

Property in Market St, SE18. 2 further properties in Woolwich, Royal Borough of Greenwich. Partner has an interest in 2 residential properties in Erith, Bexley, Kent.

So Duvall and his partner have five properties. All out in the open and above board. By comparison Sahota’s declaration is evasive. There can be no way to argue that the publication of the full address of the empty site at 42 Lower Boston Road imperils anyone, in any way. Given the importance of this site to many of Sahota’s constituents there is a public interest in this fact being known, declared and published. Sahota may not have created an offence in this case but he has clearly subverted the intent of the law.

Under the “Securities” heading, section 6, Sahota has clearly created two offences. He has again written “None” in spite of being the sole, 100% owner of Healthcare 360 Limited which operates in the GLA area and being the sole, 100% owner of Investments 360 Limited which owns the two buildings the former business operates out of, again in the GLA area. I really don’t see why these are not declared.

Sahota has committed at least two offences under the act and maybe two more. The man lied to the parents of St Mark’s Primary School and has been less than forthcoming, even actively evasive, to all of his constituents in clear defiance of the Localism Act 2011.

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Sahota throws his Dad under the bus – not the one driven by Sadiq Kahn’s Dad

To throw someone under the bus is an American expression that my wife uses quite often. It seems that Labour AM Onkar Sahota is quite happy to throw his Dad under the bus in his attempts to appear prolier than thou.

Only this week the Gazette has published some standard blurb from Sahota that describes his old man as “a maintenance worker” for British Airways. But also this week Sahota demoted his Dad to “aircraft cleaner” when he was trying to defend himself over his conduct regarding the 42 Lower Boston Road site. In the process he dragged Sadiq Khan’s name (and his bus conductor Dad) into the mud. I don’t suppose that Khan is too impressed with sinking Sahota trying to rope himself to Kahn’s own reputation.

Labour Party members should be proud of the fact that the son of an aircraft cleaner became a doctor and had the social conscience to work only for the NHS or that a son of a bus conductor can become Mayor of London.

Khan has been at pains to be transparent about his financial affairs publishing this account of his financial affairs in February.

Khan's numbers

A similar level of transparency from Sahota would reveal a £1.4 million doctoring business, a £5 million property portfolio comprising at least 11 properties and three children put through expensive West London private schools. How many doctors get this wealthy “working only for the NHS”?

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Onkar Sahota is feeling a bit put upon – as well he might

Clearly London Assembly Member Onkar Sahota is feeling a bit put upon having just issued this somewhat rambling and ill-judged statement:

Statement published in Ealing Labour:

Thank you to all those who have sent messages of support and solidarity. I bought this land at a public auction when I had no elected office for the expansion of my local GP practice. The reason we failed to build is due to the banking crisis and the mid-selling of complex financial products to the bank causing the practice to near bankruptcy. The matter was subject of expensive High Court proceedings until the FSA forced the banks to accept their fault. This case ended about 18 months go and it was about 15 months ago the Council approached me and have been dragging their feet about how much to offer. The last and current offer is 30% below market value. I ask the question, ” do you want to sell your house at 30% below market value ? ” If you do please let me know. The council has now agreed to meet my advisers after them asking for months how they valued the site. The council and Governing Body appear to have been working on school expansion plans since last May with which they are content and it is only now that the parents have seen the plans and some are upset. Given the election season, people think it is OK to pile on pressure on me and I recognise it as such. I will decide on the future of the land, as it is an assett of my practice , once my negotiations with the council have come to a final conclusion . I am giving priority to the council as I want to help the school but they no longer want it, I will consider all my options. For the record, I did not buy the site under the table from the council or funded it through any illegal means. I have always served the local community and worked for the NHS. Labour Party is a party of aspiration and opportunity. Labour Party members should be proud of the fact that the son of an aircraft cleaner became a doctor and had the social conscience to work only for the NHS or that a son of a bus conductor can become Mayor of London.

Putting to one side the grammar, spelling and admission of an ill-judged purchase of complex financial products two points stick out for me.

Firstly, he is still trying to make out that he is not the sole owner and sole decision maker in any decision to do with 42 Lower Boston Road contrary to evidence at Land Registry and Companies House. His description of the site as “an assett [sic] of my practice” is, once again, designed to deceive.

Secondly, and most importantly, Sahota is trying to get an extra 30% out of the council (£300-400K I would guess) in recognition of his “service to the local community” or something. The land is in use class D1, see below.

D1 use class

It’s market value is reduced due to its designation. Sahota has been out to the market before and not found another buyer who will give him his idea of what market value is and take their chances on getting a change of use. The market value he seeks depends on his councillor mates on the planning committee nodding that change of use through – once the St Mark’s School site has been butchered because Sahota would not sell the D1 land he bought at a D1 price.

He is arguing he needs to buy residential or commercial property to expand his business. Maybe he does but he owns D1 and there is no need for the council to give him the difference. His sense of entitlement beggars belief.

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How big is Onkar Sahota’s business?

Politician cum friendly neighbourhood GP Onkar Sahota has a large-scale doctoring business although he is somewhat opaque about it as we shall see.

FHP Group Website

This screenshot from his Family Health Practices Group website summarises three surgeries under one banner of which one has closed down recently.

The Family Health Practices Group and other similar names don’t have any legal meaning, they are merely trading names of a business called Healthcare 360 which is entirely owned by Onkar Sahota as the Companies House annual return confirms. The Care Quality Commission shares the same view as me of Sahota’s business structure.

Last year, for the first time, the NHS published a spreadsheet listing the NHS Payments to GPs in England in 2013-14.

If you search through this spreadsheet you will find the following entries:

  • Y01221 Somerset Family Health, 76 Somerset Road £416,275.68
  • E85051 Greenford Avenue Fhp, 322 Greenford Avenue £567,481.64
  • E85731 Hanwell Health Centre, 20 Church Road £384,250.70

Adding these three together you get a grand total of £1.368 million.

Since these numbers were published Sahota has folded the Hanwell business into the Greenford one.

These numbers don’t include any private work his business might do and they might be reduced by the Hanwell change. Anyway £1.4 million is a reasonable figure for the size of Sahota’s business.

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Today I visited Onkar Sahota’s squalid HMO in Southall

The Labour Assembly Member for Ealing & Hillingdon, Onkar Sahota, is a large scale property investor. I have so far found 11 properties that he has an interest in. Four private homes, two doctors’ surgeries, the land he has left derelict at 42 Lower Boston Road for ten years and four flats organised as a registered HMO (LN/000014753) in the centre of Southall. Strangely although the site is formally registered as an HMO with the council it is not registered in Sahota’s name but that of a relative. Land Registry confirms though that Sahota and his wife own the site.

Sahota HMO front elevation

I visited the Southall site today and took these photos. I have tried not to identify the site too precisely as there will be people living there potentially. I hope not.

SAhota HMO front door

The front door looks very neglected.

Sahota HMO worn front hall

Peering through the glass of the front door the worn carpet and handrail paint a bleak picture.

20160329_165034

The rubbish strewn rear is similarly sad looking.

Could Onkar Sahota be one of the landlords that Sadiq Khan intends to “name and shame”?

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