peter's blog

Trident Defence Systems

Strategic Defence.

 I once played Rugby in front of a crowd of about 300,000 people. Not many can claim that. The Aldermaston to London Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament march came through Kidwells Park Maidenhead where I was playing rugby for the Thames Valley Rugby Club.

Public Pension Fund Deficits. The fantasy world again.

It's very hard for private pension fund trustees to know where to invest pension fund money in view of the way that governments and central banks borrow from the future in order to keep in power. But the position for public pension funds seems to be very easy to manage.

Public pension funds apparently don't have to make pension fund recovery plans like private funds. As I handed in my nomination papers it was explained to me that this was the case with the local authority, because local authorities can't go into liquidation. Someone will always take them over. I am not sure what happened when Mr Hatton was prominent in Liverpool City Council in the 1980s, but it was very close to insolvency and the Government then was not keen on accepting its deficits.

What do Pension Fund Trustees do in these experimental times?

As a pension-fund trustee, you have the responsibility for the quality of your members' retirement-years. It's an onerous obligation and I have always taken the view that a cautious and safe approach is the correct one. I have never heard a beneficiary of the fund say that he preferred the prospect of a risky but possibly higher pension to a safer but lower one.

Once, you could resolve your duties by buying government bonds that roughly matured at the time that the annuity had to be paid. That was an expensive route for the pension fund, but the risks were very small. But now that the Bank of England, under pressure from the government, has been printing money so fast, is it a safe route to take? The prospect of the government defaulting on full redemption of its bonds is undoubtedly much greater. It is very likely, for instance, that Greece will default on fully repaying its bonds, and the UK economy hardly looks more sound than the Greek economy.

So where else should a trustee invest pension funds? Who knows what will happen to the stock market? It looks grossly overpriced, and wholly unsuitable for a prudent pension fund investment at these prices ( about 5700 FTSE). Gold earns no interest at all, and could go either way. Cash is earning very low interest rates if it is invested with AAA-rated funds, and with all this printing of money going on, it's likely that inflation will erode the cash value. I do not believe that pension-fund trustees should gamble on currencies. In my view property prices will have to fall.

The Iceland volcano

Having been in the renewables business longer than nearly everyone, we know a bit about the climate-change issue. I am not strongly on either side of the argument, which most people interpret as meaning that I am strongly sceptic, and that interpretation is entirely wrong. I have spent most of my life and risked most of my family wealth in developing systems to replace the use of fossil fuels with renewable natural resources. Very few other people have gone that far, and virtually none has made a successful business out of it.

What I say is that when you see the effects of quite a small volcano on the environment and on business, you have to wonder whether the emissions from Man's rapid use of fossil fuels and of Calcium Carbonate, have anything like as much effect on us as the activity of the sun (whose reduction contributed to this cold winter in Europe and Eastern USA), or eruptions from volcanoes and other irresistible natural occurrences.

Halt! Who goes there?

I missed National Service by 2 years, and very glad I was of the fact. Most people who served their 2 years didn't actually resent it too much and probably gained a lot from it. Talking to people at the Farmers Market on Saturday in Maidenhead, nearly 50% volunteered that it would be a good idea to bring it back, without me prompting them.

Getting the message out

The Prime Minister called the General Election of May 6th on April 6th which gives only 4 weeks plus a few days to get our message out.

Major parties and even smaller parties have the advantage of having established routes to the electorate, including broadcasts on national television, articles in national newspapers, a large budget for the national campaign (up to £19 million). They have all the paraphernalia of politics. But for the local election campaign, we are only allowed to spend about £10,000.

Let's leave debating whether that budget is right for after the election. It's what we can use on the local election, and that's it. So we can make no attempt to get a complex message out. It has to be a simple headline, which we can use safe in the knowledge that we have done the detailed homework to support the headline, to use when anyone questions the detail.

Why people should listen to us

Most of us feel a bit down sometimes. Those of us lucky enough to have a job and a family normally soon get over it, largely because there are things to do. Personally I might take a longish walk or some other exercise for a few days as well. And then you think about all those people who have bigger challenges than you have, and the world doesn't seem so bad, after all.

What we need is a purpose in life, and that is why people need jobs. I visited northern Vancouver Island about 15 years ago, and the aboriginal, "Indian" people there looked clinically depressed. They had a big drink problem. The state looked after them very well on their reservations and they didn't need to work much. No-doubt when they wandered the prairie in their tribes all those years before, a few people felt a bit depressed sometimes, but tomorrow they had to catch their food for their family, and the Moccasins needed to be stitched for the winter, they would have a bit of a grumble, and then they would get on with life.

Most people feel best in the long run when they are confronted with the realities of life. What governments do is take our money from us in the form of taxes and duties and give it back in a way that deadens the impact of our laziness or folly. So what we get are more lazy and foolish people, living off the state, feeling unhappy and depressed. They eventually become low level clinically depressed, a statistic in the dependency culture, and a burden on the medical support services that this country provides for people who have real problems and who must receive support. They also cost a lot of money to look after so we have to ask the taxpayer for even more money. It’s a vicious circle.


The Conservative Party and the Lib Dems speak about increasing the devolution of responsibilities to local authorities (LAs) or county authorities, but do they really mean it?

It's quite easy to propose an increase in the areas where LAs provide services, but if they don't also propose collecting a large proportion of the funds required for providing their services locally, councillors will tend to make decisions that win them votes on the basis of ignoring the industrial interests of an area. There are few votes given by Directors and Shareholders.


Even though I like to go skiing in the Alps occasionally and Greece is great in the Summer (not mid-summer), the place where I really want to be, is here in my home country. I love our quiet hills and rocky coasts, the history and the cynical humour of the people. Even though I could afford to de-camp to Switzerland or the USA, I am not going. But we have a national failing. We all think that its going to be OK really, even when the opposite is staring us right in the face. In the end, we face the facts and pull ourselves together as we did after Dunkirk.

Greeks will be Greeks

Out of all the countries in Europe, the place that I like for summer holidays best is Greece. I went there last summer and I will be returning to sail in September.

It’s not that things work especially well in Greece. You can expect a strike or two. The lights will probably fail sometimes. There is quite a bit of rubbish about. There might be a minor earth quake. But I will take all that for the nature of the land and sea, the traditions and history and a cold glass of retsina occasionally. The Greek culture is a reflection of the nature and traditions of their country, and it’s definitely not German.


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