DISCONTINUED

I have now discontinued this blog. The posts below — of today’s date — are the last.

Interest in the blog has fallen off markedly in the last year or so. I infer that the steady focus on the horrors of socialized medicine in Britain has become deterring. As a coda, I reproduce below a brief treatment of why government healthcare will always be poor

No healthcare tinkering can deliver the radical shake-up we need

Health minister Norman Lamb MP was our guest at an afternoon seminar in the House of Lords which we held in partnership with healthcare specialists LCS International Consultants.

Lamb outlined the new measures on social care currently going through Parliament. The measure has several objectives:

* to provide services for the well-being of individuals, not the convenience of the providers;

* a right to be assessed for state care services without being fobbed off;

* encouraging innovation and promoting integrated services;

* a focus on prevention;

* diversity in service provision;

* a cap on care costs (the so-called Dilnot proposals);

* a commitment that nobody should be forced to sell their home during their lifetime to pay for care;

* no postcode lottery and continuity of care if you move;

* nobody loses care if a provider fails;

* better care for young adults, who often fall between child and adult services.

Who could disagree with the aims of all this? Trouble is, to the gnarled political insider, it all sounds like the same wish-list folk have been talking about forever—well, for at least the last thirty years in my experience.

We published back then on individual-state partnerships for long-term care finance, basing our ideas on US models that were already working, a good quarter century before Andrew Dilnot discovered them. We are supposed to have had “joined up government” fifteen years ago under Blair, but still people languish in NHS hospital beds because local authorities don’t want them on their budget.

And as for putting people before providers—give me a break.

A state health and social care system is never going to deliver person-focused care. It’s not the way governments work. State institutions are too big to manage, and individual needs are too diverse for a large bureaucracy to accommodate.

When this law is passed, lots of new managers will be recruited and maybe a few people’s care will be marginally improved: but there will be no radical and systematic shift to care being built around individuals. Providers will follow the new rules, but still will not be enthusiastic champions for the specific needs of each person they try to help. They are simply too big and too inflexible.

Private charities are much better at dealing with the manifold needs of diverse individuals. So are businesses, which only make money if they keep customers happy. Until we break the state’s effective monopoly on funding and provision of health and social care, and empower individuals to buy in the services that they want, I fear we will be having the same conversations another twenty-five or thirty years from now.

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Torment of cancer mother turned away 15 times by GP: Now she faces death because breakthrough treatment had been axed by time she was sent to hospital

A mother of three is facing death after being refused a breakthrough cancer treatment. Kathy Craven, 43, who has been fighting breast cancer for five years, was denied the treatment because of a recent NHS funding clampdown.

Just two months ago, she would have got a new type of radiation therapy, but she was not referred to hospital until it was too late.

She had gone to her GP surgery 15 times with telltale symptoms that her cancer had spread to her liver – but was told she was probably too young for that to have happened.

The therapy, which could halve Mrs Craven’s tumours, was cut from the Cancer Drugs Fund list of treatments in April.

In a further bitter twist, the radiation would even save the NHS money as it costs less than the chemotherapy she is having – which is failing to work.

Now Mrs Craven, her partner Brian Russell, 47, and three boys, Alfie, 13, Finn, eight, and seven-year-old Casey are determined not to lose the chance of spending more time together.

She said: ‘Time is of the essence, and I don’t understand why I and women like me can be refused funding – it is grossly unfair.

‘When this nightmare started and I had to tell my boys that I had cancer, I promised them that I would do everything and anything in my power to stay with them for as long as I possibly could. I was elated when I discovered there was a real chance of extending my life, but it has turned to despair.

‘My oncologist says I need to be treated within the next month, and I will fight this decision – I am fighting for my life.’

Mrs Craven, who lives near Wimborne, Dorset, had pinned her hopes on a breakthrough treatment called Selective Internal Radiation Therapy, known as SIRT, in which millions of tiny radioactive beads are injected into the artery that supplies the cancer.

It only became available in England via the Cancer Drugs Fund two years ago after a fight by doctor Becky Smith, who was denied it by a local trust.

She eventually got treatment after a U-turn but died in May last year. Since then SIRT has been axed pending a review – a decision which could stop up to 500 patients getting it this year.

Doctors can make funding requests for ‘exceptional’ patients, but two attempts to get treatment for Mrs Craven have been rejected.

When first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, aged 39, she made the brave decision to also have her healthy breast removed because cases of cancer in the family meant odds were stacked against her.

Despite the operation, by October 2010 Mrs Craven felt very unwell and feared the cancer had spread. But it took 15 visits to GPs and a private CT scan before a huge mass was found on her liver.

She said she was ‘over the moon’ when her doctor said SIRT treatment might reduce the liver tumours by 50 per cent and prolong her life ‘by many months’.

But Mrs Craven’s medical team at hospitals in Poole and Southampton were told last week by NHS England, which oversees such requests, they were not allowed to treat her.

She said: ‘I was so shocked. I didn’t think it would be a problem as the NHS is paying for my chemo which is very expensive and isn’t working. What can I do to be more “exceptional”?

‘I still have three children at school.’ The family now face the daunting task of raising £45,000 for private treatment – when the NHS cost is around £14,000.

She added: ‘My grandmother, who is now expected to outlive her granddaughter, always said “Value your health”… I just wish the NHS would give me the chance to do that.’

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My dad was a GP. But in HIS hour of need the 111 helpline let him down, says Tory MP

A Tory MP has revealed how the NHS 111 helpline let down her dying father – a retired GP – in his hour of need. Anne McIntosh, 58, said she called the number after he developed worrying symptoms suggesting he had an infection.

Despite pleading to be put through to a doctor or nurse, she was made to answer a series of ‘completely inappropriate’ questions by an unqualified worker ‘sticking religiously to the script’.

After 15 minutes, the MP hung up ‘in sheer frustration’ and dialled 999 hoping to call out an ambulance. But as her father was so frail, paramedics were reluctant to transport him to the hospital 20 miles away and instead arranged for a GP to visit.

The doctor did not arrive for another three hours and her father died from the urinary infection four days later.

The Mail has repeatedly drawn attention to the failings of the helpline and the shocking state of out-of-hours care in our series The Out-of-Hours Debacle.

The new phone service, which is meant to provide round-the-clock medical advice, has replaced NHS Direct and local GP out-of-hours numbers.

Depending on a patient’s condition, they will either be told to go to A&E, given an appointment at a GP clinic or offered medical advice over the phone.

But many people are being put through to call centre workers with just a few weeks training, who can only use a computer system to assess the severity of their illness.

The MP – who is also a lawyer – acknowledged that her father’s death would have been very difficult to prevent.

However, she said that both her father and her family had been failed by the helpline.

‘What is particularly poignant for me and my family is that my father had been a local GP in that area for some 30 years,’ she said. ‘He attended patients in all weathers and at all hours. My father was from a generation of GPs who were used to working all hours. He worked every other night on call and every other weekend on duty.

‘And he always made sure he put his patients first. It is obviously a source of some regret that he did not have similar access to a GP in his own hour of need.’

The MP for Thirsk and Malton, North Yorkshire, recounted her experience during a debate about the helpline in the Commons earlier this week.

She had been visiting her father in County Durham – one of a handful of ‘pilot’ areas where the helpline has been running since 2010.

She said: ‘When I called 111 I got the ritual reply of sticking very closely to a script, which I found completely inappropriate at times. I explained my father’s condition but the responder insisted on sticking religiously to the script – asking whether the patient was breathing, whether they were bleeding.

‘I kept saying that I was not reporting an accident but a regular condition, the symptoms of which were extremely plain, and asking whether I could, please, just be passed to a nurse or doctor.

‘I have to say that in the end I hung up in sheer frustration ten or 15 minutes into the call because I could tell that I was not getting anywhere quickly.’

Yesterday NHS England released figures which it claimed showed the system was ‘steadily improving’ with 92 per cent of patients being ‘satisfied’ with the call centre staff.

But there were huge gaps in the data with crucial statistics apparently ‘not available’ for certain areas of the country where the launch of the helpline has been disastrous.

And earlier this week a leaked official report revealed how calls were routinely answered by untrained staff, patients were put on hold and doctors’ warnings ignored.

Recently Miss McIntosh, who is married but uses her maiden name, upset some women GPs by referring to the high cost of training female doctors who may end up working just a few days a week. She claimed those who only work part-time after having children are putting a ‘burden’ on the NHS.

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Brightest pupils targeted in new British standards drive

Secondary schools will be ordered to prepare more pupils for top universities amid claims from Ofsted that large numbers of the brightest teenagers are failing to reach their potential.

The education watchdog will tell teachers to do more to stretch children between the age of 11 and 18 to prevent the most sought-after higher education places being dominated by students from a small number of elite schools.

It is believed that comprehensives will be told to set and stream pupils by ability and ensure talented teenagers sit the toughest A-level subjects that are currently seen as a route into leading universities.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, claimed it was a “big issue for our country” that so many bright students failed to achieve their potential at secondary school.

Speaking recently, he criticised the fact that just four private schools and one sixth-form college now send more pupils to Oxbridge than 2,000 state comprehensives combined.

An Ofsted analysis has shown that around one-in-five pupils who gain top scores in English and maths at the age of 11 currently fail to go on to gain A* or A grades in GCSEs at the end of secondary education.

Next week, the watchdog will publish a major report into the reasons why so many comprehensives are letting down the most able pupils.

“It will be a ground-breaking report that will say some important things about the standard of provision for our most able pupils,” Sir Michael said.

“It’s a big issue for our country. Do we need more youngsters from the state system to get into universities? Yes, we do.”

The report is likely to call a greater use of setting and streaming – rather than teaching in mixed-ability groups.

This follows comments by Sir Michael last year when he warned that mixed-ability classes were a “curse” on both bright and low-skilled pupils.

According to previous Ofsted figures, just 45 per cent of the 22,834 lessons observed by inspectors in 2010/11 employed some form of setting by ability.

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HRT IS safe to combat menopause, say experts: After decade of controversy, benefits now thought to outweigh risks

More vindication of what I said from the beginning

Taking medication to reduce the symptoms of the menopause is safe according to medical experts.

They say hundreds of thousands of women have suffered unnecessarily as a result of the decade-long controversy over the effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Fresh guidance from the British Menopause Society is seeking to reassure patients, saying the benefits of HRT outweigh any potential risk for women in their 50s.

They say GPs should prescribe the treatment to any woman who has unpleasant menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and mood changes. HRT is also known to provide bone protection in later life.

However, the debate is likely to rage on as The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists continues to advise HRT only for women with serious menopausal symptoms for the shortest time possible.

After five years doctors are not expected to continue prescribing it without discussing potential risks.

Uptake of HRT halved after two studies linked it to an increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer. An estimated one million women in the UK stopped having the treatment.

Consultant Endocrinologist Dr Helen Buckler, from the University of Manchester, said the emerging consensus was that the benefits of HRT outweighed the risks for most women, and that GPs should consider the updated BMS advice when treating the condition.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, she said the two studies linking HRT to breast cancer and heart disease were scientifically unreliable.

She said: ‘The new advice is HRT should be used for a slightly wider age, if need be. If a woman has symptoms affecting the quality of her personal or professional life, then the benefits outweigh the risk.’

The scare began in 2002, when the US Women’s Health Initiative study was halted three years early because researchers claimed women using HRT were at higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease and strokes.

This contradicted previous – and later – research which suggested it guarded against heart problems.
How the debate has raged

HRT is normally prescribed to menopausal women in their 50s, but in the WHI study, it was also given to women in their 60s and 70s who had gone through the menopause more than a decade earlier.

Shortly afterwards the UK Million Women Study, part funded by Cancer Research, said HRT doubled breast cancer risk, but a review last year said it was ‘unreliable and defective’.

Cancer Research advice remains that there is still convincing evidence that women who take HRT have an increased risk of breast cancer. But Dr Buckler said the charity was ‘out of step’ and its approach had tended to ‘put women off’ taking the treatment.

Some younger doctors have never prescribed HRT because they wrongly believe the risks outweigh the benefits, experts have warned.

Jessica Harris, of Cancer Research UK, said there was ‘convincing evidence’ that women who take HRT have an increased risk of breast cancer, but that risk returns to normal around five years after stopping using it.

The BMS guidance is also opposed to the ‘arbitrary’ five year limit on treatment, and says it should be continued if symptoms persist.

The BMS – a registered charity and medical foundation – receives no government funding. Its medical advisory council comprises leading international experts in post reproductive health management, who draw up guidelines for health professionals.

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Wind farms are a ‘complete scam’, claims Britain’s Environment Secretary — who says turbines are causing ‘huge unhappiness’

Wind farms have been branded a ‘complete scam’ by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, reigniting coalition battle over green power.

As the government unveiled new powers for local residents to block turbines blighting their villages, Mr Paterson condemned many planned schemes as ‘deeply unpopular’ and causing ‘huge unhappiness’ across the country.

The outspoken remarks from a senior Tory minister in charge of environmental policy risks a furious reaction from Liberal Democrats pushing for more renewable power projects.

The Conservatives have taken a tougher line on wind farms in recent months, and this week unveiled plans to give communities a powerful ‘veto’ over controversial new onshore developments.

Schemes will have to gain local residents’ consent before a planning application can even be made, effectively handing them the power to prevent turbines being erected.

Planning rules are also to be changed so that the drive for renewable energy can no longer be used as a reason for overriding environmental and other concerns.

Mr Paterson signalled that plans for wind farms will have to take into account the impact on the countryside and views as well as the desire to save the planet.

In an extraordinary intervention at the Royal Cornwall Show yesterday, the Tory Cabinet minister said: ‘Turbines are regarded as a complete scam, but as of today we have given power to local communities to decide.

‘The criteria is now that environment and landscape will have to be taken into consideration as well as the national energy requirement.’

Under the new rules councils must look at the cumulative impact of wind turbines and reflect the effect on landscape and local facilities.

There is also a major increase promised in the amount developers pay local communities to win them over, including long-term electricity bill discounts of up to 20 per cent.

However, Mr Paterson suggested anger with many schemes would not be overcome by additional bribes.

He added: ‘I know there is huge unhappiness with some of these projects, both from what I hear nationally and from my own constituency in Shropshire.

‘There are places where these projects are well prepared, the community wants it and it will be worthwhile. But in inland areas they are very often deeply unpopular,’ the Western Morning News reported.

Leila Deen, Greenpeace energy campaigner, said: ‘Wind farms may seem like a scam to a Government minister who questions the science of climate change and who’s pushing for his Shropshire constituency to be fracked for shale gas.

‘The public disagrees – two thirds of people would rather have a wind turbine near their home than a fracking site.

‘Onshore wind powered almost 2.5 million homes in 2011, is falling in cost and will play a key role in our future energy mix.’

Mr Paterson’s appointment to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last September was controversial, with allies forced to deny he was a climate change denier.

In 2007, he described wind farms as ridiculous, claiming they ‘demand vast amounts of public subsidy and do not work’.

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Green measures will only save £31 by 2020, says British consumer protection body

Government estimates of the savings that will be made on household energy bills from its green measures have been dismissed as “unduly optimistic”.

Consumer Futures, the official UK protection body, today warned the Government its estimates of savings from encouraging consumers to use more energy efficient products and appliances were “unduly optimistic”.

It urged the Department of Energy and Climate Change to make an assessment of the impact if take up of new products is lower than predicted while warning that two million low income households, many dependent on electricity for heating, would be worst affected, including many pensioners.

It wants the DECC to investigate measures to offset the costs for poorer customers reliants on electricity.

In a report – The Hardest Hit – it said the average “benefit” from encouraging more use of energy efficient appliances and other green measures would be £31 per household a year – or 2pc – by 2020 rather than the official estimate of £166.

The study estimated that if demand for these appliances is lower than expected, bills would increase on average by £93 or 7pc above where they would have been if the Government had done nothing.

Much of the DECC’s estimate is based on policies introduced in 2002, such as new rules that encourage boilers to be replaced. The Consumer Futures study was based on measures introduced after 2010.

Consumer Futures estimated that 2.1 million low income households may be significant losers from the energy policy, in particular those dependent on electric heating and including many pensioners.

Households reliant on electric heating would see their typical bill rise by £282 by 2020, the report warned. This is because the cost of energy efficiciency policies fall largely on electricity customers. Such initiatives include the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) – investment in the network – and Renewables Obligation, where households with solar panels and other energy generation devices are subsidised by other electricity customers. The schemes will have cost an estimated £4.8bn by 2020.

Consumer Futures called for intervention to protect the most vulnerable customers from unfair additional costs.

Adam Scorer, director of policy at Consumer Futures, said: “Many will be protected from such costs by benefits such as energy efficiency, microgeneration technology and bill discounts. But for those who are not protected, the impact on their bills will be significant.

“Energy policies should provide benefits to many consumers, but as they are rolled out they will also create clear winners and losers. Some of those losers will be hit hard, and will not be in a position to absorb some significant bill shocks.”

He also warned that the Government assumptions on savings could prove danergous. “There is a real danger that heroic assumptions about the benefits of product policy could perform the function of an energy policy comfort blanket, providing an illusory sense of security and cost saving,” he said. “Consumers cannot afford such over generous policy assumptions.

“The Government must use the current Energy Bill and forthcoming Fuel Poverty Strategy and Heat Strategy to provide greater protection to those who rely on electric heating, but who cannot rely on current protections against the cost of energy policies.”

Downing Street is ploughing ahead with a range of measures to “decarbonise” the UK economy, with the costs picked up by taxpayers, businesses and consumers. It is in reaction to the consensus of scientific opinion that human activity that releases carbon into the atmosphere contributes to climate change.

The UK is bound by international agreements to achieve an 80pc reduction in emissions by 2050.

The DECC also launched the Green Deal in January, which offers loans for energy efficient measures to be undertaken on homes with the cost recouped via additional repayments on the homeowner or tenants’ energy bills.

But the policy has faced fierce opposition. An amendment to the Energy Bill which would commit the UK to have a “near carbon-free power sector” by 2030 was rejected in House of Commons yesterday. The bill has now passed on to the House of Lords.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “The Energy Bill – which received overwhelming support in Parliament yesterday – and our policies to encourage investment in low carbon energy, will help cushion UK consumers from rising global wholesale oil and gas prices.

“Households with electric heating can benefit from the Warm Home Discount, which is helping over 2million households each year, the Green Deal, which will improve the energy efficiency of the nation’s housing stock and the Energy Company Obligation, which will put efficient boilers and insulation in thousands of homes each year, helping those who need it most.

“This is on top of work by Ofgem to extend the gas distribution network and a the Government’s grant scheme to help householders with the up-front cost of installing renewable heat equipment.

“We will consider Consumer Futures’ research carefully, but it does not take account the fact households – including those with electric heating – will continue to save money with energy efficiency measures installed before 2010. Our assumptions on products are also not based on expectations of a change in consumer behaviour. We do not assume or require that people replace products any faster than they already do.”

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Britain committed to new nukes

Ministers and EDF still disagree on “five or six” issues over the building of Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation, Michael Fallon has said, insisting the French company does not have the Government “over a barrel”.

Talks over subsidies for the £14bn Hinkley Point project in Somerset were originally due to be concluded at the end of last year.

But despite suggestions in recent weeks that the two sides were nearing agreement, energy minister Mr Fallon revealed: “We are still apart on five or six issues.”

The comment, in an interview with The House magazine, will cast renewed doubt on the project, which requires not only agreement with the government but also EU state aid approval and for EDF to secure financial partners.

EDF wants the Government to sign a long-term contract guaranteeing it a “strike price” for power from Hinkley Point, subsidised through levies on consumer energy bills. Ministers are under intense pressure not to commit households to paying too much.

Other key terms will include the duration, indexation, and clauses to protect EDF being disadvantaged by other changes in policy.

Asked at an npower event in London on Thursday about the prospect of a EDF securing a rumoured 35-year contract, Mr Fallon said: “Inevitably it is a reasonably lengthy contract if you’re going to get people to invest. I would urge you to wait and see, if we are able to strike a deal, what the terms will be.”

He insisted new nuclear plants were crucial to replace the old ones that are being retired, which produce about 17pc of Britain’s power. “We can’t afford to let 17pc disappear… We need to maintain the energy mix,” he said.

But in the magazine interview Mr Fallon rejected suggestions that the need for new nuclear plants left ministers in a weak negotiating position, citing plans by Japan’s Hitachi to build reactors in Gloucestershire and on Anglesey through the Horizon venture.

“We are not over a barrel,” he said. “We have Hitachi ready to come in… So we are not wholly dependent on Hinkley. We would like to do the deal with EDF but we are not going to do it at any price.

“It’s a very complex negotiation and we are inching closer but we are not quite there yet.”

EDF said on Wednesday that negotiations “are continuing and both sides have characterised them as positive”.

Mr Fallon also made an enthusiastic case for shale gas exploitation in the UK, claiming: “It would be irresponsible not to see what’s down there.”

He described shale gas as “very important”, despite admitting its potential here is not yet known, and suggested businesses may move overseas unless Britain can cut its energy costs.

“Shale has dramatically lowered the cost of energy for industry in the States and it is very important that Western Europe is not put at a disadvantage, that we don’t start losing manufacturing processes, steel plants or chemical plants to the States because of the long term cheaper cost of energy there,” he said.

Promised tax breaks for gas explorers would be “firmed up by the summer” and “take effect from next April”, he said.

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GWPF Think Tank Sets Out Areas Of CO2 Agreement And Dispute With Royal Society

Disputes magnitude of threat

Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation has set out the areas of scientific agreement and dispute about whether man’s carbon dioxide emissions pose an environmental threat.

Foundation director Benny Peiser outlined the issues in a letter to [Fellows of] the Royal Society, which defends man-made warming theory and recently offered to put the GWPF “in touch with people who can offer the Foundation informed scientific opinion”.

Peiser says [he] agrees with the dominant scientific establishment that:

* the greenhouse effect is real;

* CO2’s warming potential follows a logarithmic curve with diminishing returns at higher concentrations;

* absent of feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels would warm the atmosphere by about 1.1ºC; and

* since 1980 global temperatures have increased at an average rate of about 0.1ºC per decade.

But [he] says a lack of understanding about feedbacks means the climate sensitivity of rising CO2 concentrations is a “matter of vigorous scientific debate”.

He says the decline of summer sea ice in the Arctic has happened as sea ice in Antarctic has increased. “This is more consistent with regional albedo changes due to soot than with global temperature changes due to global warming.”

He adds: “There is no consensus that recent climate change has affected the variability of weather or the frequency of extreme weather events.”

[Peiser] says the lack a global temperature rise for the last 16 years is at odds with the so-called “scientific consensus” of man-made warming.

“Predictions of increasing humidity and temperature in the tropical troposphere, a key prediction of rapid greenhouse warming, have been falsified by experimental data, casting doubt on whether the warming of 1980-2000 was man-made,” he adds.

On policy responses, Peiser says: “Policies to decarbonise the economy using today’s technology are likely to be harmful to human welfare and natural ecology… Adaptation may be a cheaper and less harmful policy than mitigation.”

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Beggars and thieves from across Europe are flocking to the streets of Britain, Theresa May warns the EU

Migrants are travelling from across the EU to ‘beg and steal’ on the streets of Britain, Theresa May will warn Europe’s leaders.

The Home Secretary will demand action to end abuse of the EU’s free movement directive by people who have no intention of finding work.

At a meeting of European home affairs ministers in Luxembourg on Friday, she will highlight how gangs of beggars are setting up camps in London to launch raids on the unsuspecting public.

She will also outline a case in which Romanian fraudsters fleeced the British taxpayer of almost £3million.

Home Office officials say it is a huge achievement for the issue to even be discussed.

EU leaders have been reluctant to even contemplate any changes to the rules – it has taken three years for Mrs May to get it on the agenda,

According to Whitehall sources, the Home Secretary will say that abuse of free movement rights by some EU migrants is placing an ‘unacceptable burden on our schools, our hospitals, our social security systems and our local communities’.

She will stress that it is unacceptable that some EU nationals are able to come to countries such as the UK with no intention of working, but simply to access our state benefits and take advantage of our public services.

Mrs May will then tell the rest of Europe that it cannot be right that national governments are unable to act to stop this abuse.

In a significant move, she will present the council with examples of how EU nationals are fleecing the British taxpayer.

They will include the case of a Lavinia Olmazu, who helped more than 170 Romanians illegally claim £2.9m in benefits has been jailed for two years and three months. Olmazu, a leading campaigner for the rights of Roma gypsies, helped mastermind the scam involving 172 Romanians.

After gaining access to the Romanians through her outreach work with Haringey and Waltham Forest councils and the Big Issue charity, she set up companies with her boyfriend to help facilitate widescale fraudulent benefit claims.

Mrs May will also say there is a ‘recurring problem’ with groups of EU nationals who set up camps in public areas in London, and beg and steal from tourists.

She will say they arrive under the free movement rules but have no intention of working, studying or setting up a business.

In 2012, over 70 per cent of individuals arrested for begging in one London borough – Westminster – were EU citizens.

Police have warned of aggressive begging by people from some Eastern European states, including Romania.

In April Mrs May secured the backing of Germany, Holland and Austria to campaign for tighter restrictions on migrants’ access to hand-outs and other State services.

The four countries wrote to the President of the EU arguing that the free movement directive – a founding principle of the EU – must not be ‘unconditional’.

They want to make to persuade the Eurocrats to make it harder for citizens of other member states to access benefits within days or weeks of arriving in another member state.

The letter has led to the discussion at Friday’s meeting. Britain has long been seeking changes to the rules on entitlement to welfare.

However, the chances of success were limited while the UK government was a lone voice in Brussels.

The fact that Germany, in particular, has joined the campaign will place huge new pressure on the other member states to agree to tighten the rules.

Speaking last night, Mrs May said: ‘We are already taking tough action in this country to stamp out the abuse of free movement, to protect our benefits system and public services.

‘We will not allow this country to be a soft touch but this isn’t just a UK problem – it will take the joint efforts of all our EU partners to tackle it.’

It comes at a time of heightened tensions between the British government and the EU.

Last week, the European Commission announced it was taking Britain to court for insisting migrants pass a ‘right to reside’ test before they can access some State handouts.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is planning to defy the EC and make existing restrictions even tougher.

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As NHS 111 helpline is revealed to be in chaos, one widow claims husband could have been saved if he hadn’t been forced to rely on it instead of doctor

Barbara Foster’s grief at the death of her husband, Reginald, will always be mingled with anger, regret — and the terrible conviction that his life might have been saved had he been able to consult a local GP, instead of relying on the NHS 111 phoneline, which failed him so terribly.

When Reg fell ill with abdominal pains last month, Barbara rang their doctor’s surgery, hoping for an out-of-hours visit from their local GP.

Instead, an automated message instructed her to call 111, where she was referred to an untrained call centre worker with no grasp of the gravity of Reg’s worsening condition, his full medical history, or his desperate need for attention.

Though Barbara was assured an ambulance would be with them in half an hour, she and Reg, 64, waited three hours for it to arrive. By the time it finally did, it was too late.

Reg had suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, a tear to a major blood vessel, and died at the London Chest Hospital three hours later, at 2am on May 2, from a cardiac arrest.

We cannot know for sure that his life would have been saved had he been able to consult his normal GP service, who knew his history of heart problems, from the start.

However, Barbara is left with a terrible legacy of ‘what ifs?’ — and, of course, a life without her beloved Reg.

It was 8pm when Barbara rang their GP’s surgery to speak to an emergency doctor, but a recorded message instructed her to call 111 instead. ‘A woman answered and I told her Reg’s symptoms and heart history — she said an ambulance would be there in half an hour.’

Reg lay on their bed, crying out in pain. When, after 45 minutes, the ambulance had still failed to arrive, Barbara — in increasing desperation — phoned 999.

Though Reg’s details were logged on their system, it seems the 111 operator had chosen to classify him, for whatever reason, as ‘non-urgent’.

‘When the operator told me, “We’re rather busy. We’re dealing with emergencies,” I lost my cool,’ Barbara says. ‘I shouted: “But this is an emergency!”’ Another two hours passed, and Reg deteriorated still further. ‘He was rolling around in agony, repeating: “Oh, the pain.” I kept going outside and pacing the street, looking for the ambulance.’

A crew of two paramedics arrived at 11pm. ‘Reg’s face was grey and his eyes rolled, and in that moment I knew he was going to die. They put an oxygen mask on him, but he tried to take it off, saying: “I can’t breathe.” They were his last words to me.’

‘I’m so, so angry,’ she says. ‘If a ruptured artery is caught soon enough it can be mended. Because of the delays and the unprofessional sloppiness of the whole system, he had no chance at all.’

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Baby died ‘because he fell ill at the weekend': Panicking hospital nurses told mother ‘there are no doctors’

A mother has told of her despair as she begged for a doctor to save her dying baby at a hospital with a shortage of weekend staff. Merilyn Bartley, 46, said hours passed without a specialist checking on her five-month-old son Dominic, who had undergone major heart surgery.

She described an ‘air of panic’ as nurses frantically searched for a doctor when his condition started to deteriorate.

Prompt action would have saved the child’s life, an inquest heard.

But crucial medical attention, equipment and test results were not available because he fell ill at the weekend.

Dominic, who had had heart surgery at the Royal Brompton Hospital, was transferred to Barnet Hospital in North London to be monitored. He arrived on a Friday evening and the next day his condition started to deteriorate.

His mother said: ‘I was very worried as we hadn’t seen doctors for a long time. ‘There was an air of panic on the ward. I remember the nurses saying: “There are no doctors”.’

She said her family had been ‘really badly let down’. She added: ‘There was nobody to help. What do you do as a parent when your child is dying and there is nobody attending to him?’

Medical staff were meant to transfer Dominic back to the Royal Brompton for specialist care if he became unwell. However the on-call consultant failed to examine the baby, even after his condition suddenly worsened. On Saturday night Dominic stopped breathing and his face turned blue and mottled.

He was rushed to theatre but suffered a cardiac arrest and died on Sunday morning, just 36 hours after being admitted.

A specialist report eventually showed that his lungs had been overwhelmed by high levels of fluid.

On-call consultant Professor Anthony Costello said he would have ordered an urgent transfer back to the Royal Brompton if he had known about the problems.

But he claimed he did not have access to an echocardiogram machine, which would have flagged up Dominic’s dangerously high blood pressure.

He also revealed that he did not get the results of vital tests until after the baby’s death because it was the weekend.

He told the inquest: ‘You wouldn’t get a report on a Saturday morning, it would have been the following week. Most hospitals at weekends don’t get consultant reports.

‘You need a good echocardiogram service and someone who is using it a lot. You won’t get that on a weekend at Barnet.

‘You don’t want a child with any risk of complications in a district general hospital at a weekend.’

Expert witness Professor Robert Tulloh said Professor Costello’s decision not to examine the child was a ‘failure to provide basic medical care’, adding: ‘If he had taken action it would have prevented his death.’

Coroner Andrew Walker adjourned the inquest until later this month so he could hear further evidence.

But he expressed concern that ‘crucial pieces of the jigsaw’ at the hospital were missing because of low weekend staffing and a lack of specialist services. He said: ‘You are missing a great deal of the facilities that you need at the weekend.’

The Daily Mail has highlighted fears that Britain’s out-of-hours health system is overstretched, with devastating consequences for patients needing care.

The Barnet Hospital Trust said it would be inappropriate to comment until the inquest was completed.

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The British school that children WANT to go to: Academy bans all homework – but pupils have to stay until 5pm for extra study time

It is the scourge of schoolchildren up and down the country.

Classes can often be heard letting out a collective groan when the teacher mentions homework, ruining plans for a night watching films or playing out with friends.

However, this will not be a concern for pupils attending a pioneering new secondary school in Norfolk – because it has decided to ban all homework.

Instead, the 1100 children who will attend the Jane Austen Academy in Norwich will do longer days at school.

The mixed free school for 11-18-year-olds – which will specialise in English and the humanities – is set to open in September 2014.

The school yesterday unveiled its prospective principal, Claire Heald, who said that city children would do extra study at school as part of the extended day, which could last until about 5pm.

She said: ‘Rather than setting homework that pupils could go home and struggle with at home, and where there may be limited access to computers, they will do that as independent study in the day.

‘We are saying that when they go home they should enjoy quality family time.

‘There will not be any traditional homework – and that has been really well received by parents who respect the fact that family time will be family time.’

But Ms Heald said the school would still expect youngsters to study at home ahead of crucial exams.

She’s ready to create a new dramatic template in the UK after French president Francois Hollande called for the end of homework in primary schools last October.

The French leader insisted independent learning at school would enhance equality because kids who get help with homework from parents have a huge head start.

The exciting initiative has already sparked keen interest from other headteachers in Norfolk.

Peter Devonish, headteacher of Neatherd High School in Dereham, said: ‘My initial thought is that it’s really compelling. ‘It sounds like a really good idea.

‘Having the children on site a bit longer to consolidate their learning is a really good idea. ‘The children can finish work and they can have their time with the family.’

But he warned: ‘I have got two stumbling blocks. ‘One is our rurality and getting children home at that time, and the other is changing staff contracts so they can be here until 5.30pm.

Mr Devonish said they set pupils project-based homework, such as looking at an energy efficient house, which allowed them to combine independent study with working with their parents.

Craig Morrison, principal of King’s Lynn Academy, agreed that the whole prickly issue of homework should be looked at.

Mr Morrison said: ‘I can understand why people want to experiment with this because it is one I would not say anybody can say they have got definitively right over the years.

‘And if they are starting a new school then it gives them the chance to try out new things.’ He added: ‘A large problem with homework, which we have tackled, has been that not enough is done with it.

‘With homework, a lot of effort can go into it, so it’s about celebrating what children do rather than processing it in terms of marking it and handing it back.’

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Obese mothers may pass on health risks to grandchildren

More rodent wisdom

Obese women may be passing health problems such as heart disease and diabetes onto their grandchildren, a new study has suggested.
Researchers have discovered that conditions linked to obesity can skip a generation.

Researchers have discovered that conditions linked to obesity can skip a generation, leaving the children of moderately obese mothers apparently healthy.

However, their grandchildren are more likely to suffer from obesity and related diseases such as diabetes.

The findings provide growing evidence for how lifestyle choices by parents can pre-programme the genes of their children and even their grandchildren.

Dr Amanda Drake, senior clinical research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, where the work was carried out, said: “Given the worldwide increase in obesity, it is vital that we gain an understanding of how future generations may be affected.”

Around one in four adults in England are now considered to be obese while recent figures show that 22 per cent of four to five year olds are obese and 34 per cent of 10 to 11 year olds are obese.

During the study, published in the journal Endocrinology, used moderately obese female mice that were fed a high fat and sugary diet before and during pregnancy.

The first generation of mice were found to have few ill effects when fed a normal diet, but the second generation were more prone to obesity related diseases.

Scientists now believe this occurs due to the tweaks that occur to a person’s DNA while they are in the womb.

Known as known as developmental programming or epigenetics, these are thought to help prepare babies for the environment they are about to born into.

However, there is a growing body of evidence that shows these can at times also be detrimental by altering a child’s risk to cancer, obesity and other diseases.

Dr Drake said scientists now needed to look at how disease risk may be passed down not just from parents to their children but also to their grandchildren.

This should help public health organisations offer advice on how parents can change their lifestyles to protect their children and grandchildren from greater health risks.

She added: “Future studies could look at these trends in humans but they would need to take into account genetics, environmental, social and cultural factors.”

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Residents given the power to kill off new wind turbines in move British Tories claim will end controversial onshore developments

Communities are to be given a powerful ‘veto’ over wind farms in a move that Tories claim will mean the death of controversial new onshore developments.

Schemes will have to gain local residents’ consent before a planning application can even be made, effectively handing them the power to prevent turbines being erected.

Planning rules are also to be changed so that the drive for renewable energy can no longer be used as a reason for overriding environmental and other concerns.

Former energy minister John Hayes, a leading critic of onshore wind turbines who has been pushing for reform since moving to Downing Street as a senior adviser to David Cameron, told the Daily Mail: ‘No means no.
The Government has set a target of increasing the amount of power generated by onshore wind farms to 13 gigawatts by 2020

The Government has set a target of increasing the amount of power generated by onshore wind farms to 13 gigawatts by 2020

‘No longer will councils and communities be bullied into accepting developments because national energy policy trumps local opinion. Meeting our energy goals is no excuse for building wind turbines in the wrong places.’

Ministers are planning a major increase in benefits paid for by developers for communities that do give their consent– branded ‘bribes for blight’ by critics – including long-term electricity bill discounts of up to 20 per cent.

But following months of bitter argument over wind power between the Coalition parties, Tory sources said they expected the package of measures will mean few new developments are approved.
Eric Pickles will issue revised guidance for councils and planning inspectors

Eric Pickles will issue revised guidance for councils and planning inspectors

The Government has set a target of increasing the amount of power generated by onshore wind farms to 13 gigawatts (GW) by 2020. There are currently around 3,800 turbines, and at least 10,000 had been expected to be built.

But in an indication of a shift in Government policy, ministers announced last year that the subsidy for onshore wind power generation would be cut by 10 per cent.

Mr Hayes infuriated Lib Dems last year when he declared that turbines had been ‘peppered around the country’ with little or no regard for the views of communities, and insisted that England could meets its targets with those that have already been constructed and those with planning consent.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles will today issue revised guidance for councils and planning inspectors.

It will say that decisions will have to take into account the cumulative impact of wind turbines – meaning councils will be able to factor in the distance between proposed new developments and existing ones – and reflect the effect on landscape and amenities.

The Government is expected to promise an annual review of the costs of wind power, casting doubt over the level of future subsidies.

The Lib Dems, enthusiastic advocates of all forms of green energy, insist community benefits will help ensure new developments do go ahead.

Ministers plan to adopt a similar approach to the development of new nuclear power stations and ‘fracking’ rigs to extract underground reserves of shale gas.

Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey insisted: ‘It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is truly sustainable, economically, environmentally and socially, and this announcement will ensure that communities see the windfall from hosting developments near to them, not just the wind farm.

‘We remain committed to the deployment of appropriately sited onshore wind.

‘This is an important sector that is driving economic growth, supporting thousands of new jobs and providing a significant share of our electricity, and I’m determined that communities should share in these benefits.’

Tory Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: ‘We are putting local people at the heart of decision-making on onshore wind.

‘We are changing the balance to ensure that they are consulted earlier and have more say against poorly sited or inadequately justified turbines.’

SOURCE

Another lying British bitch

Feminists say that women never lie about sexual assaults. They sure do in Britain — and hurt a lot of innocent men

A Tory MP accused of trying to lure his lesbian housemaid into a threesome with his wife yesterday told of his relief after her ‘cynical’ case was thrown out.

Richard Drax said the allegations had been ‘extremely stressful’ for him, his wife Elsebet and his four children with his ex-wife, the sister of former Royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke.

Anne Lyndoe-Tavistock’s case was dismissed after her former lover told an employment tribunal that she had falsely accused a previous employer of sexual assault and had been awarded £16,000.

The ‘manipulative’ serial litigant also received two other payouts after bringing claims against former bosses in the last 15 years.

In her latest claim, Miss Lyndoe-Tavistock, 53, alleged the MP for South Dorset and his wife groped her and tried to perform a sex act on her as they drank wine in the sitting room of their Elizabethan stately home.

She told the tribunal she felt suicidal after the alleged assault and claimed that a few weeks later she was told to leave the house and her £24,000-a-year job. She also claimed Mr Drax, 55, used to walk around the house naked in front of her.

The MP, a Harrow-educated former Coldstream Guards officer whose full name is Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, had always denied the claims and described himself to the hearing as a ‘courteous gentleman’.

Miss Lyndoe-Tavistock’s claims were dismissed after her former civil partner – who is currently divorcing her – told the tribunal she believed the housekeeper had ‘concocted’ the stories for financial gain and to ‘satisfy a grudge’.

Jo Lyndoe-Tavistock said her former partner’s attitude when she was in a dispute was one of ‘I have an issue with that person, how can I get them back?’ She told the hearing that before they had met her partner had brought a successful claim involving an alleged sexual assault against her former employer, the Royal Mail.

‘She admitted to me that she had been in a tussle of some sort with a colleague and that she had invented an allegation that he had touched her breast,’ she said. Miss Lyndoe-Tavistock received £15,960 after bringing the claim.

She received another payout from the Royal Mail after alleging she had hurt her shoulder after the company overfilled a bag. ‘In fact it was an injury she had had for many years which was unrelated to her work,’ her civil partner said.

She also received a £3,000 payout from a store where she was working after yet another dispute.

Her ex-partner added said she believed the case against the MP was another attempt to ‘extract money from an employer’.

‘She knows Mr Drax is a public figure and I imagine she thought he was in a strong position to secure a settlement from him as I know she has done from previous employers.

‘I believe she concocted the allegations in her claim to cause embarrassment to Mr and Mrs Drax and their family in the expectation that she would receive a financial settlement.’

A few weeks after the alleged assault, Miss Lyndoe-Tavistock said the MP told her she had an hour to leave, citing a series of fallings out she had had with other members of staff. She said he gave her £300 and a letter falsely claiming they had discussed disciplinary proceedings and that a severance deal would be drawn up.

The housekeeper’s former partner told the tribunal that when she spoke to her after she had been sacked by the MP, she boasted she had something ‘big’ on him.

The housekeeper had claimed sexual discrimination, unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and for unpaid holiday pay. Mr Drax wiped his eyes as he sat holding his wife’s hand as chairman of the panel, Judge Roger Peters, rejected her ‘utterly incredible’ claims.

Outside, the MP said. ‘This finding vindicates our position throughout these proceedings that we acted lawfully and properly and that her serious allegations of sexual discrimination were untrue.

‘These allegations have been extremely stressful for my wife and I, and my children, and my family. We are all now relieved that we can put these matters behind us.’

A spokesman for the Forum of Private Business said: ‘It is wrong that one angry employee can humiliate her boss, even if there are no grounds.

‘We think the culture needs to change where somebody is to blame – and that is always the employer.’

Outside court, the housekeeper’s solicitor said: ‘We are sorry that she has not been able to prove her case at this tribunal and we will be considering an appeal.’

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I’ll curb new red tape on small firms, says British Business Minister: Michael Fallon vows to ‘reform or bin’ any rules that would hit companies

Believe it when you see it

New Government regulations which would hurt small businesses will be ‘reformed or binned’, the Department for Business will announce today.

In a dramatic attempt to crackdown on red tape, Michael Fallon will ban the introduction of new regulation by any Government department which would hit small firms.

He is expected to say: ‘On my watch, new regulations will now only extend to small businesses if they are essential, justified and where disproportionate burdens are fully mitigated. And where regulation is not fit for purpose it will be reformed or binned.’

The crackdown will come into effect immediately, and will apply to small businesses employing up to 50 staff.

The vast majority of British businesses will benefit. Of the 4.8million businesses in this country, only 1.2million actually employ one or more people, according to official figures.

It comes after red tape has for years been regularly cited by small firms as the biggest problem that they face.

While entrepreneurs want to be focused on growing their business, millions complain their time is wasted on the constant mountain of red tape paperwork which needs to be filled in.

Small business lobby groups have regularly warned their members are ‘hammered’ by red tape which they insist is thwarting Britain’s chance of a full economic recovery.

Today Mr Fallon will say he has listened to their fury about red tape, and promise to stem the flow of time-consuming regulation which distracts them day in, day out.

He will say: ‘We all want faster growth. As Britain recovers, small businesses are leading the generation of ideas, the creation of new jobs and the shift towards a balanced economy. ‘We cannot afford to hold them back with more rules and regulations.’

Last night, business lobby groups welcomed the move, which will affect all new ideas with immediate effect and apply to all regulations coming into force after 31 March 2014.

John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘The burden of regulation often falls heaviest on the smallest of firms.

‘This announcement should mean that business owners will be able to devote time to growing their business and creating jobs, rather than form-filling.’

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, said they are ‘much-needed powers to throw out rules which are unmanageable for the UK’s smallest businesses.’

Under the new system, all new regulations must be scrutinised by two committees, which have the power to veto them if they are deemed to be harmful to small businesses.

Alternatively, the committee can grant an exemption to small businesses, or change the rules to mitigate the impact on small firms.

For example, the rules around record-keeping for small firms – one of their biggest bugbears – might be simplified, but not for large firms.

The British Chambers of Commerce said it will ‘keep an eye’ on the new policy to ensure that it is actually making a difference to firms, rather than just becoming another failed attempt to curb the explosion of red tape.

It comes after the Prime Minister said yesterday he will accept all the recommendations made by his small business tsar Lord Young in his recent report.

They include scrapping the age restriction, currently 30, on people who can apply for a popular ‘start-up loan’ from the Government to allow entrepreneurs of all ages to apply.

SOURCE

John Bercow: migrants are better workers

Bercow is a piece of work but he is right about the large numbers of lazy Brits. Their welfare State has created a culture of idleness. “Benefits” are more profitable than work in many cases. Australians know Brits well and a common comment about Brits from Australians is that “they wouldn’t work in an iron lung” (meaning that nothing can move them)

Eastern European immigrants to Britain show more “aptitude and commitment” to work than British people, the Commons Speaker has said. The arrival of thousands of workers from eastern Europe has had “great advantages” for Britain, John Bercow said.

In remarks that have raised questions about his political neutrality, the Speaker also attacked British critics of recent trends in immigration for their “bellicose and strident tone”.

As Speaker, Mr Bercow is expected to stay out of active political debates. Ministers and MPs are currently debating how Britain should prepare for next year’s lifting of European immigration restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians.

In remarks on a visit to Romania last week, Mr Bercow appeared to give his support for policies that have allowed eastern Europeans to travel to Britain and work.

Since 2004, about one million eastern Europeans have come to Britain under European Union freedom of movement rules.

From next year, Romanians and Bulgarians will have the same right.

Some MPs argue that the arrival of eastern Europeans can bring social and economic problems in parts of Britain.

Ministers have promised changes in public service rules to make it harder for newcomers to use services such as the NHS.

During a visit to Bucharest, Mr Bercow spoke about the “important wave of immigrants” that have come to Britain in recent years, and praised their work ethic.

“I believe things should be controlled and monitored when it comes to migration, any state that wants to protect its own people should do this, but there are also great advantages,” he said.

“I want to underline the fact that there has been an important wave of immigrants that came to Great Britain from new member states and in many cases they came with aptitudes and a commitment, an involvement we haven’t always seen in our labour force.”

Mr Bercow made the remarks during an official visit to the Romanian parliament last week. He was given a full ceremonial welcome, addressing the parliament and meeting senior politicians.

He also gave a press conference where he criticised the British media for raising doubts about immigration, accusing some journalists of “negative and discriminatory” reporting on the issue.

British media coverage of immigration is not reflective of British opinion on the issue, Mr Bercow told reporters in Bucharest. He added: “A free media is a vital part of a democracy. But the media is not the Government and it is not Parliament,” he said. “I am here as a friend of Romania and someone who sees the benefits of immigration.”

Mr Bercow’s decision to speak about the benefits of immigration has been questioned.

Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party leader who challenged Mr Bercow at the last election, said the Speaker had failed to fulfil his duty to remain above politics.

He said: “It is outrageous that Mr Bercow is happy to overthrow the wisdom of ages and think it acceptable to comment on matters that are both highly political and deeply contentious. He is a disgrace to the office of Speaker.

“There are very good practical and constitutional reasons why the Speaker is neutral, reasons that he obviously believes are beneath his own august self image.”

Rob Wilson, a Conservative MP who has questioned Mr Bercow’s fairness in chairing parliamentary debates, said his comments raised concerns.

Mr Wilson said: “Immigration is an incredibly important and sensitive matter that generates very strong opinions. The Speaker needs not only to be neutral in his handling of debates on the issue, but he needs to be seen to be neutral.

“It would be a dangerous precedent if a Speaker were to start airing their views too freely on a subject like this.”

As Speaker, Mr Bercow determines which MPs can speak in Commons debates, and some members are wary of criticising him publicly.

Another MP said Mr Bercow was unwise to comment on the immigration debate in the way that he did. “He should stay out of things like this,” the MP said.

Some MPs defended Mr Bercow’s decision to discuss immigration.

Philip Hollobone, a Conservative MP who has criticised liberal immigration rules, said he did not object to Mr Bercow’s actions.

He said: “As Speaker of the House of Commons, it is absolutely right that if he is asked a question, he is able to answer it freely and honestly.”

A Commons spokesman confirmed Mr Bercow’s remarks about immigration during his visit to Romania last week.

He said: “Mr Speaker was on an official visit at the invitation of the Romanian parliament, supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where he delivered a speech about the role and importance of parliaments in the democratic system. Mr Speaker was responding to a question about British media coverage in relation to future EU migration.

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How soaring immigration has piled on the pressure for British public services

Look closely at the numbers of people using hospital Accident and Emergency wards and you will see a worrying trend.

Between 1987 and 2003, attendances at A&E remained steady, with around 14 million people each year. Then, in 2004, the numbers jumped by 18 per cent to 16.5 million.

By last year, the figure was 21.7 million — a 50 per cent increase in ten years.

By contrast, European countries such as Sweden have registered a barely negligible rise in attendances over the same period.

Quite rightly, critics point to how changes to GP working hours have piled strain on A&E departments, deluged by patients who can’t see their family doctor at night or at weekends.

But there are other reasons that may explain the rise in demand. Crucially, there are concerns that the extra demands placed upon A&E also stem from a rise in immigration.

From 2001 to 2011, our population rose from 52.4 million to 56.1 million — an increase of 7 per cent and the largest rise in the population since the census began in 1801.

It cannot be a coincidence that 2004 — the year in which A&E attendance jumped so noticeably — was the year that Labour changed GPs’ contracts to let them opt out of out-of-hours care, and also the year that East European countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic acceded to the EU, allowing their people free migration to the UK.

We simply cannot go on discounting the effect that such immigration has had upon our healthcare services.

In 2011, the NHS spent £23 million on translators and interpreters — a rise of 17 per cent since 2007.

The Nuffield Trust, a healthcare research body, has also identified that the number of migrants registering with GPs rose from 550,000 a year in 2003/4 to 625,000 a year by 2005/6.

But a bigger problem is almost certainly with migrants who do not register with a GP. Arriving in this country with no clear understanding of how the NHS works, and not knowing which part of the health service to turn to when they are ill, they may go straight to A&E rather than to a GP.

Dr John Heyworth, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, has spoken of ‘increases in the number of immigrants who tend to visit A&E routinely and not register with family doctors’.

Other organisations report the same trend. A UK Border Agency study into the impact of migration quoted one survey of 700 migrants which found only half had registered with a GP.

As one document prepared by the Sandwell Health Alliance (a consortium of GPs in the West Midlands) in August 2011 admitted, the ‘immigrant population have a lack of understanding of how the health service works, and so use A&E as the norm’.

A further contributing factor may be that since migrants tend to settle in more deprived areas, they may not have rapid access to general practitioners.

The Health Services Journal found in 2011 that in the poorer areas of the country, 31 per cent of patients could not access a GP within two days, compared to 19 per cent in the wealthiest areas.

Unable to seek the advice of a local family doctor, patients in the poorest 10 per cent of areas were 53 per cent more likely to attend A&E in a given year than the wealthiest 10 per cent.

The NHS now receives more funding than ever before: £104 billion, rising to £112 billion by 2015. Yet the system, as A&E admissions prove, is under ever greater strain.

The demand for NHS services continues to rise, our population is rapidly ageing and obesity and other chronic conditions put ever greater strain on the Health Service. It has been estimated that by 2050 the costs of the NHS could reach £250 billion.

Unless we take action about how we want to ensure that healthcare is provided free, regardless of the ability to pay, then in future decades the very future of the NHS could be under threat.

Of course, the NHS has never been ‘free’: it is paid for by taxpayers. And it is the contributory system that we need to restore if people are going to have trust in their public services.

The fact is we cannot sustain a health service that will treat anyone who arrives in the country without a record of contributing or paying into the service.

For too long, so-called ‘health tourists’ who are not eligible for free NHS care have managed to get treatment but then don’t pay the cost. Over the past five years, health tourists are estimated to have cost the country more than £40 million.

And this is likely to have been only the tip of the iceberg, given that several health trusts did not collect data or records of foreign nationals who should have been charged.

Medical professionals who have witnessed this scandalous abuse of the NHS are finally speaking out.

The distinguished Professor J Meirion Thomas, of the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said the founder of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan, ‘would be outraged by the abuse of his flagship social reform on such a scale’.

He added: ‘The time has come to protect the NHS. British taxpayers should not be funding an International Health Service.’

He estimated that the costs to the NHS from ‘health tourism’ could in fact run to billions of pounds a year.

Of course, no one would deny the benefits to this country of migrants who work tirelessly to make a better life for themselves, including those workers who devote themselves to the NHS itself as doctors, nurses, porters and orderlies.

But we should look at introducing a ‘Green Card’ system similar to the United States, which would allow migrants permission to work but not grant them access to public services until they had paid a minimum of, say, five or ten years in tax contributions.

Until that time, migrants entering the country should be required to take out medical insurance before they are granted a visa.

I realise this will require a substantial renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU over how benefits and welfare are paid. But if we are to save the NHS, then we must act to ensure that everyone who is treated by its doctors and nurses puts into the system before they take something out.

SOURCE

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Thought there was nothing left to shock you about the 111 helpline chaos? Read why this call handler can’t sleep at night

All this week the Mail has been highlighting the shocking scale of the crisis in Britain’s out-of-hours care. Yesterday we exposed the GPs who made millions out of the helplines — while patients using the service complained of terrible neglect. Today, a whistleblower reveals the chaos in a 111 call centre ….

The voice on the end of the line is fraught, frightened. ‘My husband has just been discharged from a psychiatric unit. He has no medication and he needs it urgently,’ the woman pleads. ‘He has to see a doctor now. I’m afraid he might kill someone.’

In the background I hear a man shouting, raving. He says he is possessed by devils. It is quite obvious why the woman is scared. I try to calm and reassure her, but I have so little faith in the system I’m operating, I fear for her safety.

It is early evening, ten minutes before the end of my shift as a call handler for NHS 111, the round-the-clock patients’ helpline, and all I can do is follow procedure. The dispatcher who organises the on-call doctors’ workload is alerted to the case.

But the woman may have to wait ten, 12, even 14 hours until help arrives; by which time the man, who is clearly violent and deranged, could have attacked his wife.

That night I cannot sleep. I’m worried about the woman. Her voice echoes in my mind. ‘All he needs is his medication,’ she told me. A simple request, yet I know a ten-hour wait for a doctor to arrive and prescribe it is routine.

The next day I return to work. I have no way of checking whether he got his medicine, whether his wife is safe, or even, God forbid, dead. The emotional pressure is overwhelming …..

I had been working in the call centre for two months when I quit; burdened by the awful responsibility of working for a system that was so obviously failing its clients. I was one of around 100 operators working in the centre, and like the majority, I worked part-time.

As a single man, a geography student in my early 20s, I was typical. Many undergraduates work late shifts and weekends in call centres to supplement their loans. Other employees are often mums with school-age children, working hours to fit in with raising their families.

None of us is medically trained; all of us undergo a two-week induction, after which we are expected to have mastered the system.

Each day the demands are relentless; the calls do not let up. Illness has a habit of magnifying emotions. There are callers who are angry; others who are beside themselves with worry and those — often the vulnerable and elderly — who are merely apologetic about bothering us.

A woman calls me at 10am. She tells me her mother, in her late 80s with a complex medical history, has a stomach bug but is too weak to move to the lavatory.

I arrange for a doctor to call. Six hours later the same caller rings again to tell me the doctor has not arrived. ‘I hate to chase you. I know you’re under pressure and my mother’s condition is not life-threatening,’ she apologies, ‘but she is in distress.’

I know from experience that such callers underplay symptoms. They do not want to be a nuisance. Then the daughter asks me a simple question: when will a doctor come? ‘If it’s going to be another hour, I’ll call 999,’ she says. I consult the dispatcher. I’m told it will be midnight or even 2am — 14 or 16 hours after her initial call — before the doctor will be there.

‘But don’t tell the caller,’ the dispatcher insists. ‘Just say: “The doctor will be there as soon as possible.”’ I feel this is wrong, dishonest. Callers should be told the truth. But phone operators are all told the same thing: do not admit how long the wait will be.

Instead we are instructed to prevaricate. ‘He’ll be there as soon as possible,’ becomes the call operators’ mantra.

I have my own theory as to why. I believe the service would be flooded with complaints if we told the truth about these delays. And the companies that operate NHS 111 do not want to be seen to be failing because they would lose their lucrative contracts.

And yet there are so many ways in which they are failing.

Take the district nurses, who often attend to the elderly and terminally ill receiving palliative care at home. Under the system, when someone phones us asking for a visit from a nurse, we then have to pass their details onto another employee, whose role is to contact the nurse on her mobile.

It is rare that these calls are answered, because the nurses will be juggling routine visits arranged through GPs with their out-of-hours 111 call-outs.

Often they will only check into the call centre as they are finishing their shifts and heading home, with the result that the patient has to wait until another nurse begins a new shift before getting attention.

The result is interminable delays, of up to 12 hours, often for those who complain the least. I’ve felt embarrassed and helpless when callers have phoned to say: ‘My husband’s catheter is blocked (a very common occurrence). Could a nurse call round to sort it out?’

Because, seven hours later, the same caller will often phone again — apologetic yet increasingly anxious — to say there has been no visit and that their husband is in great distress. By then, the situation will often have escalated into an emergency.

This is further evidence that the current system is cumbersome, ill-conceived and hasn’t got the wellbeing of the patient at heart.

If I knew the system was able to cope I would have felt more confident about operating it. As it is, I know it is failing dismally in its duty to serve its clients, and many, like me, believe they deserve better.

Mistakes in issuing prescriptions — which the doctors we use write between appointments — are commonplace. I’ve often taken calls from chemists, concerned that patients have been prescribed the wrong medication, or, in the case of children and babies, unsuitable medication for their age.

Correcting these errors involves a fresh rigmarole. Having spoken to the chemist, we must then contact the doctor — who is often attending to a patient and unable to answer his phone.

When we finally get hold of him, we then instruct him to phone the chemist to discuss the prescription. Meanwhile the hapless patient is kept waiting; sometimes for days.

Inevitably, too, the system is open to exploitation by those who know how to play it. At Christmas, when the Norovirus epidemic was at its peak, we were inundated with calls.

We’d been instructed to tell people to remain at home because an influx of patients in accident and emergency units would only spread the sickness bug catastrophically.

Yet one caller was so abusive to me when I told him politely we were unable to issue appointments, that I referred him to my manager. She, however, appeased him and even rang A&E — in contravention of our instructions — to get him an appointment.

I asked why he should be given preferential treatment for being abusive, when I’d just had an elderly lady apologising for being a nuisance when she’d called to say she had been waiting five hours for a doctor. Once again, the reason was obvious: the manager did not want a formal complaint to be made and was appeasing a belligerent man just to avoid it.

There are other anomalies in the system that urgently need to be addressed. For example, every time a patient makes a repeat call to 111, the operator must take them through the whole of the computerised medical questionnaire.

This takes about eight minutes. I admit it is an excellent questionnaire — if patients give accurate answers it is foolproof — but can it really be necessary to start from scratch with it every time someone makes a repeat call to 111? ‘I phoned an hour ago and was asked all the same questions,’ is a constant refrain.

It’s hardly surprising callers get frustrated and delays mount. I wonder, too, about the sensitivity of a system that gives the very lowest priority to certifying the deaths of patients.

The result is that newly bereaved families are put to the bottom of the list when they ring to ask for a doctor to issue a death certificate.

The rationale is: the patient is dead — there is nothing medical science can do for him, so the living must take precedence. But the consequence is great distress for grieving families who are often left for 14 hours at home with the body of a relative, which may not be touched until a doctor has confirmed the death.

Relatives have phoned me in tears. ‘We’ve waited all day and no one has come,’ they say.

Of course it would be insensitive to tell them that they are our lowest priority, so you repeat the platitude: ‘I’m so sorry. The doctor will be there as soon as possible’ when the fact is, you know they are in for a very long wait.

I’ve had calls from nursing homes, too, where elderly residents have passed away in chairs in the middle of the sitting room, causing upset and disquiet to other residents and visitors, who couldn’t understand why there had been no attempt to move them. But they can’t be moved until we send someone to certify the death.

Anyone who questions the anomalies and shortcomings of the system finds themselves upset and compromised. Unsurprisingly, there is a very high turnover of staff at 111 call centres, which constantly advertise for operators. But employees are scared to complain for fear of losing their jobs.

Few members of the public understand 111. They do not know it uses a team of doctors who will inevitably know nothing about their patients or their medical history, usually in an ad hoc surgery set up at a hospital accident and emergency department.

The new 111 system is undoubtedly one of the causes of the chaos at A&E. Impatient with interminable waits for visits from on-call doctors, some patients simply bypass the system and present themselves at hospital instead.

Those who are more long-suffering, just wait. There have been tragic cases where people have, indeed, died waiting.

Could a more chaotic and time-wasting system have ever been devised? I doubt it.

Which is why, when the poor woman rang to tell me her husband, newly released from psychiatric hospital without vital medicines, was threatening violence I had no idea when the doctor arrived. And why part of me feared to know the answer.

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Great-grandmother, 100, died of dehydration in hospital ‘because her water jug broke’ and staff took 10 days to put her on a drip

A woman aged 100 died of dehydration on a hospital ward after being taken off her drip. A ‘catastrophic error’ caused the death of great-grandmother Lydia Spilner despite frantic efforts by her family to get her treated.

Her daughter Nora Spilner complained to nurses regularly during her mother’s four-week stay at Leicester Royal Infirmary. But she was unable to get her mother put back on a drip for ten days, even though her condition was clearly deteriorating.

University Hospitals of Leicestershire NHS Trust has now admitted that Mrs Spilner died due to renal failure caused by dehydration and paid her family an undisclosed out-of-court settlement.

During Mrs Spilner’s stay in hospital her daughter noticed there was no water jug next to her mother’s bed – and was told it had broken and there were no spares.

On several occasions she found her mother lying in urine-soaked sheets, and with her hair caked in porridge.

‘The nurse was laughing as she told me my mother had fallen asleep in her breakfast,’ Mrs Spilner’s daughter said.

She said her ‘fiercely independent’ mother, a widow since 1970, was admitted to hospital in January last year with a suspected chest infection and dehydration caused by medication prescribed by GPs.

‘The A&E doctors explained that her confused speech was a clear sign she had become dehydrated,’ said Nora Spilner, of Tilton on the Hill, Leicestershire. ‘They put her on a drip and within two hours she was back to her normal self.

‘I wish I had taken her back home then, because I firmly believe I could have taken better care of her and she would still be alive today.

‘Instead I put my trust in the hospital and allowed her to be moved to an elderly care ward, thinking she would be in good hands and they would be able to sort out her chest infection.’

Mrs Spilner was transferred to ward 31 of Leicester Royal Infirmary, where her daughter soon became alarmed.

She said: ‘My mum’s skin was becoming dry and cracked and it was clear to me she was very dehydrated. I pleaded with the doctors to put her back on a drip but it took ten days for them to take action.

‘Even then the drip didn’t work properly. They first tried to administer it through her leg, which swelled up like a balloon, and later they tried her hand and arm but the drip either stopped working properly or made her arm swell.’

The great-grandmother – who had celebrated her 100th birthday on September 22, 2011 – died on February 22, 2012. Cause of death was confirmed as renal failure, combined with poor blood flow to her lower limbs.

‘Her condition was allowed to deteriorate with very little thought for her dignity,’ said her daughter. ‘The way she was looked after was appalling. The nurses didn’t show her an ounce of compassion.’

Sue Mason, divisional head of nursing at Leicester Hospitals, said: ‘It’s clear that our failure to give Mrs Spilner intravenous fluids was a catastrophic error for which we have apologised.

‘We know that saying sorry won’t bring her back but we at least want her family to know that we will not avoid our responsibility, we are truly sorry.

‘As regards the equally important issue of the compassion shown to Mrs Spilner, since this happened in 2012, we have changed the nurse leadership on this ward, increased staffing levels and introduced hourly ward rounds.’

Robert Rose, a medical lawyer with Lime Solicitors who represented the family, said Mrs Spilner’s case was one of several they have dealt with involving basic failings in elderly care at the same hospital.

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British Universities suffered huge student shortfall after fees hike

Universities fell short of recruitment targets by almost 30,000 students this year amid fresh warnings that the British higher education system risks losing its global reputation.

Vice-chancellors warned that student numbers in England alone were nine per cent lower than official forecasts in 2012/13 following the introduction of a new tuition fee regime.

In a report, Universities UK warned that institutions could face “significant financial pressures” over the next few years because of a squeeze on funding and “constraints” on the number of postgraduates and undergraduates being recruited.

It was claimed that Britain could struggle “to retain its hard-won global competitive advantage” without an injection of funding.

The comments come after figures showed a rise in the number of British students opting to take courses at high-ranking universities in the United States.

Data obtained by the Telegraph showed that entry rates had increased at a number of leading institutions including Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Pennsylvania, Chicago and Michigan.

The rise coincided with a drop in the number of students recruited by universities in the UK. The number of school leavers admitted across the UK in 2012 dropped by 5.7 per cent, while admissions among mature students – those aged 21 and over – were down by 9.2 per cent.

But the study found that admissions declined even more sharply in England where students face tuition fees of up to £9,000-a-year – higher than elsewhere in the UK and almost three times the previous maximum.

It emerged that English universities admitted around 28,000 fewer students than expected – undershooting recruitment targets by nine per cent.

The report cited a fall in the number of 18-year-olds in the education system, combined with concerns that universities would face financial penalties for over-recruiting.

It also found a drop in postgraduate students and “significant” falls in the numbers of new entrants to UK universities from countries such as India, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Prof Eric Thomas, UUK president and vice-chancellor of Bristol University, said there was evidence that the higher education system was being “constrained in terms of its ability to expand in a sustainable manner in the medium term”.

“This has long-term implications for the UK’s skilled workforce, productivity, and economic growth,” he said.

“Factors constraining the ability of universities to expand undergraduate and postgraduate provision will inhibit the future economic potential and competitiveness of the UK. These constraints must be overcome if the UK is to retain its hard-won global competitive advantage.”

The study – The Funding Environment for Universities – said many institutions were already charging £9,000 a year for their degree and will need to increase student numbers to boost revenue.

Some may need to invest in buildings and facilities at time when funding is squeezed to make sure they have enough room to expand in the future, it is claimed.

Failure to invest in this area would be a “significant step back” for the sector and would be detrimental to the UK’s ability to provide a world-class teaching and research environment, the study said.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “UK universities are world-class, but across the world higher education is changing fast.

“Our reforms have laid the foundations for a better funded and more competitive sector, with a ring-fenced research budget, more resources for teaching, and a renewed focus on the quality of the student experience.

“We are delivering more choice to students by relaxing number controls and ensuring a more diverse sector.

“Our universities are drivers of growth, contributing an estimated £3.4 billion a year to the economy through services to business. With the demand for higher education growing worldwide, we are developing an industrial strategy for education exports to ensure the UK’s universities can take advantage of the growing international appetite for learning.”

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A dangerously deluded energy policy and why the greens want to hide the truth about Britain’s soaring bills

Without question, it must have been one of the dottiest public utterances ever delivered by a British Cabinet minister.

This was the extraordinary speech made on Monday — at an event staged by the Met Office — by Ed Davey, our Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

What inevitably attracted attention was Mr Davey’s attack on those ‘sections of the Press’ who dare question any aspect of the way his energy policy for Britain has become wholly skewed and dominated by the belief that the world is in the grip of global warming.

The timing of his outburst against ‘destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism’ in the Press was not accidental: it was to preface yesterday’s Commons debate on the mammoth Energy Bill by which he plans to ‘decarbonise’ our electricity industry.

Centred on his wish to focus our energy needs on building nuclear power stations and tens of thousands of wind turbines, his Bill will make it ever more cripplingly expensive for us to rely on those fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, which currently supply more than two-thirds of our electricity.

Mr Davey suggested that journalists who doubt the wisdom of his policy only do so through ‘sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness’ — probably because they are being paid to do so by nameless ‘vested interests’.

So angry does this make him that he seemed to suggest that any questioning of his policy cannot be tolerated. In other words, he will brook no opposition — at a time, we should remind ourselves, when free speech in Britain seems under threat as never before.

I should say at this point that if this remarkable attack was simply a detached assault on writers like me who are critical of the Government’s green policies, then I might let it pass.

But there are bigger issues in play here, for the decisions the Energy Secretary makes are having a direct and damaging effect on the finances of millions of households across the country, who find themselves paying ever-higher bills as a result of green subsidies.

It is those families who should be questioning virtually every line in Mr Davey’s speech.

They would not be reassured to have heard him start by paying extravagant tribute to his hosts from the Met Office, which, he said, had created ‘a weather forecasting service which is the envy of the world’.

Yet this is the same Met Office which, in recent years, has become a national laughing stock year after year for getting its long-term predictions of ‘barbecue summers’, ‘milder than average winters’ and unprecedented droughts so spectacularly wrong.

The reason why the Met Office has come such a series of croppers is that it is so obsessed with the idea that the world is in the grip of runaway global warming that it has programmed its computer models to predict heat and drought, just when we have been through some of the wettest summers and coldest winters for decades.

But the most disturbing part of Mr Davey’s speech came towards the end, where he came up with that only too familiar boast that the European Union is leading the world in the fight against the carbon dioxide that is causing all this global warming, and that Britain is leading the EU with its Climate Change Act, committing us — uniquely in the world — to reducing our ‘carbon emissions’ by 80 per cent in fewer than 40 years.

Mr Davey seems quite oblivious to the fact that the rest of the world is no longer taking any notice of what we are up to, and that China and India between them are now building more than 800 new coal-fired power stations, so that China alone is now generating more carbon dioxide every year via its new power stations than the total emitted by Britain.

Even the EU is at last waking up to the fact that ‘decarbonising’ its economy is making electricity so expensive that ever more firms are moving their operations overseas — not least to America, where the shale gas revolution has more than halved the price of gas and electricity in just five years.

So poor little Britain is left increasingly alone, with an energy policy deliberately designed to price out of the market those very much cheaper fuels which still provide most of the electricity we need to keep our homes lit and warm, and our economy running.

And all this is in the name of the dream that we can somehow rely on wind that doesn’t always blow, sun that doesn’t always shine, and, maddest of all, on ‘carbon capture and storage’ — the fanciful notion that we can somehow collect all that climate-changing carbon dioxide from our remaining fossil-fuel power stations to pipe it away safely into holes under the North Sea.

Sadly, most people still have very little idea just how dangerously crackpot Britain’s energy policy has become, not least because so few people in positions of influence — MPs and journalists much among them — have been prepared to do enough homework to ask precisely the sort of searching questions which Mr Davey thinks we shouldn’t be allowed to ask.

We are faced with a policy intended not just to make our electricity supplies increasingly unreliable, but at such a crippling cost — in ever-rising green taxes and the subsidies we must all pay through our energy bills — that ever more households will be driven into fuel poverty.

With every year that passes, yet more families will simply find that they can no longer afford to keep their homes provided with comforts we have all come to take for granted.

This is the inconvenient truth which hides behind the impenetrable jargon that fills the 208 pages of the Energy Bill Mr Davey is rushing through Parliament.

What was oddest of all about Monday’s speech was his charge that anyone questioning what he is up to might only be doing so because they represent sinister ‘vested interests’ which wish to stand in the way of him saving the planet.

For here we are into complete Alice Through The Looking Glass territory, where every charge he levels at those opposed to his assumptions and policies in fact applies in spades to the very people who are egging him on to go even further in the same suicidal direction.

Among those exhorting MPs yesterday to vote for an amendment calling for even faster ‘decarbonisation’ of our economy, no one was more conspicuous than those ‘vested interests’ which stand to make billions out of the subsidy bonanza unleashed by our renewable energy policy.

The amendment, which only narrowly failed, was moved by Tim Yeo MP, chairman of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, who last year made £200,000 on top of his Parliamentary salary by working for a swathe of firms making a fortune out of ‘renewable energy’.

What few people know is that these firms include the company that owns the Channel Tunnel, which has a £500 million contract to run a cable under the sea to bring electricity from French nuclear power stations to Britain — specifically to make up for power no longer available here when there isn’t enough wind to keep our subsidised windmills turning.

It has become only too obvious that the world inhabited by the green zealots at Westminster has turned reality upside down.

The dodgy science and the vested interests Mr Davey talked of are all to be found on his side of the argument — not the one whose views he so hysterically denigrates and which he wants to see suppressed.

The role for the rest of us, it seems, is to swallow the propaganda, pay those ever-soaring bills — and wait for our lights to go out.

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Guilty: Barristers watchdog (looking into the Leveson lovers scandal) is condemned for its shoddy handling of complaints

Lawyers look after lawyers

Failures and flaws in the way barristers handle complaints against themselves are leaving the public at risk, an investigation has found.

A scathing inquiry from a state watchdog said that the Bar Standards Board – which regulates the elite of the legal profession – has failed to reach satisfactory standards in every area in which it operates.

It said the findings raise a question mark over the legitimacy and legality of the complaints system.

The strongly worded verdict from the Legal Services Board is a blow to the legal profession at a time when lawyers are trying to demonstrate the bodies through which they regulate themselves are working.

Criticisms levelled at the BSB, which is run by barristers, include delays that see hundreds of complaints against lawyers unresolved for years – with some still unfinished after almost a decade.

Two in three of those who complain to the BSB think they are treated unfairly, the investigation found.

The charges come at a time of political controversy for the Bar Standards Board.

Following the publication of the Leveson report, which calls for an end to self-regulation of newspapers and the imposition of Press regulation laws, it emerged that two of the barristers who worked on opposing sides during the Inquiry were having an affair.

David Sherborne QC, who represented celebrities and others calling for state regulation of the Press, and Carine Patry Hoskins, who represented the Inquiry, went for a break together to the Greek island of Santorini four months before the Inquiry ended.

The pair have said they went on holiday to discuss the possibility of a future relationship, decided against it, but changed their minds later on.

And Lord Justice Leveson rejected any suggestion that the Inquiry may have been compromised, and has said it is for the Bar Standards Board to settle a complaint from senior Tory MP Rob Wilson over the conduct of the lawyers.

The BSB, which was launched seven years ago, has come in for repeated criticism. Nevertheless, last year its chairman Baroness Deech insisted it was in ‘rude health’.

But the report from the Legal Services Board said one survey had found more than two thirds of people who complained to the BSB about the conduct of barristers thought its methods were neither open nor fair.

The BSB, which polices the conduct of 15,000 barristers, ‘has very little evidence’ about the views of ordinary people who pay them, it found.

However, user satisfaction surveys showed ‘a significant number of those that have had reason to complain about an individual regulated by the BSB do not consider the process open and fair’.

The figure was 67 per cent, or two out of three complainants.

During 2013, the Legal Services Board said, the BSB has been handling 316 complaints about barristers which date back to 2010 and 2011. There were a number of even older unresolved cases, with one going back to 2004.

‘Such delays are not fair to those regulated by the BSB who face such allegations for such a long period and raise risks to consumers who receive services from barristers who may be unfit to practise or need to undertake remedial action,’ the report said.

The inquiry questioned the independence of the BSB because its purse strings are held by the Bar Council, the organisation which speaks for barristers.

The Bar Council can reject any item of BSB spending, must approve any cheques for more than £1,000, and can veto staff appointments.

The report said in some incidents the watchdog had ‘been concerned about the Bar Council’s attempts to fetter this independence’.

It added: ‘Involvement of the representative body in regulatory matters raises risks to the legitimacy of the independent regulatory body’. It might also break the law, the report said.

The inquiry also criticised the way the regulator operates through eight different committees with 130 members, adding the Legal Services Board ‘does not believe that it can deliver effective or efficient governance’.

The Bar Standards Board currently claims that by the end of 2013 ‘the term BSB-regulated will be an assurance of good, honest, independent advocacy and expert legal advice’.

However, the Legal Services Board said the BSB had in reality promised only to achieve satisfactory grades in all areas by the spring of 2016 and that even this task was ‘ambitious’.

It said some improvements would need ‘culture change’ and in other areas the BSB ‘has painted an overly optimistic picture about the progress it has made’.

BSB director Dr Vanessa Davies said: ‘The report praises the BSB’s self-assessment and progress in this area while identifying areas for improvement.

She added: ‘Like any organisation that serves the public – and this one does so at no expense to the public – we want to improve constantly.

‘We welcome the fact that the LSB agrees with how we have analysed our progress so far and how we are going to continue to modernise.

‘We know that is ambitious and tough: but we also know that the public deserves no less.’

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57,000 suspects are left in bail limbo as police ‘drag their feet’ with one man waiting three-and-a-half years to find out if he will be charged

Thousands of criminal suspects are ‘left dangling’ on police bail for months before they are told if they will be charged.

More than 57,000 people are on this type of bail – where conditions are set by the police rather than the courts – including 3,000 for more than six months.

One fraud suspect is still on bail three years and seven months after being arrested, a survey found.

Many of those arrested and bailed will ultimately not face charges. In some cases, suspects are suspended from their jobs while allegations against them are investigated.

The Law Society, which represents solicitors, is calling for a 28-day limit on police bail, after which it said officers should be required to go before a magistrate to justify further bailing of a suspect.

Freedom of Information requests by BBC Radio 5 Live found at least 57,428 suspects were on bail in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while 3,172 have been on bail for more than six months. In Scotland, bail is set by the courts, not the police.

Scotland Yard has more than 12,000 suspects on bail, including 910 for over six months. In London, a man, 45, has still not been told if he will be charged after he was arrested in October 2009 on suspicion of fraud.

Senior police officers appear divided on the issue, with Andy Trotter, the head of the British Transport Police, calling for a six-month limit on bail. However, the Association of Chief Police Officers said that bail was an ‘essential tool in securing justice’.

Richard Atkinson, chairman of the Law Society’s criminal law committee, said: ‘It is not unusual for people to be on bail for several months while fairly routine investigations meander their way to a final decision.

‘Because there is no requirement for the police to act within any time, there is an attitude among some officers of “let’s put off until tomorrow what we could have done today” and things are just left to drag along.’ He said one suspect accused of stealing a bicycle had been left on bail for seven months.
Peak: The largest number of bailed individuals are in London, with 12,178 waiting to hear from the Metropolitan Police

The largest number of bailed individuals are in London, with 12,178 waiting to hear from the Metropolitan Police

Civil liberties campaigners have condemned the excessive use of police bail, which allows officers to restrict suspects’ activities. This can include forcing them to live at a certain address, handing over their passport and making them report to a police station on a regular basis.

There is no time limit on how long bail can continue and how many times it can be renewed.

Earlier this month, Mr Trotter told The Mail on Sunday: ‘In the past, police have released people without bail and that hasn’t stopped us continuing the investigation, particularly if they are unlikely to abscond. We have re-arrested them at a later stage when we have had sufficient evidence. That way, they are not left dangling.’

But Chris Eyre, Acpo spokesman and chief constable of Nottinghamshire, said: ‘Police bail is an essential tool in securing justice. It allows investigators to ensure every possible avenue is explored, while those arrested need not remain in custody.’

Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said the lack of resources made it more difficult for investigations to be concluded quickly.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We continue to keep police bail provisions under review to ensure they strike the right balance between protecting an individual’s right to civil liberty and allowing police to carry out thorough criminal investigations.’

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Church leaders may ask Queen to dissolve Synod if it continues to oppose creation of women bishops

Senior bishops have raised the prospect of asking the Queen to dissolve the Church of England’s ‘Parliament’, the General Synod, if it continues to oppose the creation of women bishops.

The unprecedented proposal was made in a confidential meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury last week and reflects Church leaders’ frustration with the Synod for narrowly defeating legislation in November to allow women priests to become bishops.

The House of Bishops unveiled fresh plans on Friday to push through the historic reforms within two years and is preparing for a battle with traditionalists.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby held a confidential meeting last week about the issue

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby held a confidential meeting last week about the issue

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are due to urge the Synod, when it meets in July, to accept a law that will allow women to be consecrated.

But some bishops fear that opposition can be overcome only by dissolving the Synod and electing new members who are more sympathetic to reform.

One senior traditionalist said last night: ‘It seems the new Archbishop is determined to steam-roll this through, but if he is not careful he will be risking another disaster.’
The Archbishop is to urge the Synod to accept a law that women should be concentrated in July

The Archbishop is to urge the Synod to accept a law that women should be concentrated in July

As in Parliament, elections to the Synod are normally every five years, but the Archbishops can in theory seek an early dissolution. To take this step, they would have to petition the Queen, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, who has the power to force new elections.

Sources said, however, that the idea had not ‘gained traction’ with the majority of bishops because they were confident the Synod would not be able to defeat the motion again.

In November, the reform was defeated despite widespread support by only a few votes in the House of Laity, one of the three houses of the Synod alongside the Houses of Bishops and of Clergy.
Sources are confident that the Synod, (pictured) will defeat the motion as it did in November

Sources are confident that the Synod, (pictured) will defeat the motion as it did in November

The fallout was highly damaging to the Church’s credibility and MPs have threatened to impose women bishops by passing legislation in Parliament if the Church fails to resolve the crisis.

The Synod can reject the Archbishops’ proposals in July, but observers said the mood is now strongly in favour of introducing women bishops as quickly as possible and that the traditionalists will try only to gain favourable terms.

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The fate of Sally Bercow suggests it’s all too easy to side with the baying mob

Sally Bercow is a nasty Leftist bitch who grievously and falsely defamed a prominent British Conservative

‘It follows that, for these reasons, I find that the Tweet meant, in its natural and ordinary defamatory meaning, that the Claimant was a paedophile who was guilty of sexually abusing boys living in care.” Thus the conclusion of Mr Justice Tugendhat’s judgment in McAlpine v Bercow, on whether or not the now infamous tweet from Sally Bercow was “defamatory at law”. He has ruled that it was.

Since Mrs Bercow had tweeted “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*” at the height of the furore over (false) allegations aired by Newsnight (that a senior Conservative had been involved in child abuse in the 1980s), this is a judgment that for once is entirely consonant with common sense. There is a huge difference between “Why is Lord McAlpine trending?” and the same words with the addition of that faux-naive “*innocent face*”. To suggest otherwise defies credulity. Faux-naivety is the hallmark of the modern Left-wing smart alec (think Radio 4’s The News Quiz). Only a Martian could fail to recognise the semantics of the form.

So, good: justice for the McAlpine One. I do think, though, that the case exemplifies a problem for humans that is ancient and universal, but which, thanks to technology, is more dangerous than ever. The tendency to rush to judgment, and the desire to be part of the crowd.

After all, Mrs Bercow was hardly alone in casting aspersions on Lord McAlpine: the Twittersphere had decided it knew who was the subject of the BBC’s sensational report. Why not join in? The temptation is hard to resist (it’s one reason I gave up on Twitter for a while; I’m not immune to the phenomenon). No one wants to be left behind; everyone wants to cast those stones.

A man I know well recently found himself in disagreement with the rest of his work-team. The issue would sound trivial compared with allegations of child abuse, but the same sort of dynamic was in place. All the team wanted to do “X”. The pressure on Tom to conform was enormous, but he thought “X” wasn’t merely sub-optimal; he found it ethically troubling.

He’s a good man: he didn’t back down, and was ultimately successful in convincing the team to change course. But even he felt the pressure to shrug and get on with it. If everyone else says 2+2 = 5, not only is it hard to disagree, it’s hard not to say “I believe 2+2 = 5, too”. Big Brother (one of Mrs Bercow’s friends, I recall) ruled because people wanted to belong.

A nagging worry about the baying mob has been growing in me since the Jimmy Savile revelations. Some victims are finding long-delayed justice. But other innocent people must (where “must” is a statistical term denoting high probability) find themselves publicly ruined. I can feel the mob smack its lips with every “revelation”. Remember the paediatrician whose house was vandalised in 2000, most likely because of the root of her profession’s noun? Television personalities who may turn out to be falsely accused are no less deserving of concern.

A more serious point, this most awful of weeks. Given that we know this human desire to side with the loudest majority, what on Earth was the BBC doing giving Anjem Choudary a platform to spew his filth? An invitation to appear on Newsnight (that “flagship” programme, again) is so prestigious that a form of legitimacy is conferred on any studio guest.

Was the day after the most shocking atrocity in London since 7/7, the day the victim was named, a good time to confer such a status on Choudary? Not only in terms of its effects on those of us who worry about Islamic extremism from the outside: what do you imagine his interview, hard on the Woolwich horror, caused someone sympathetic to the EDL to feel? More inclined to demonstrate, or less? But also (and more important), didn’t anyone contemplate its consequence on those who fight that extremism from within? What about those who are fighting it within themselves?

I’m not arguing “no platform”, like some (sheeplike) student activist. There’s a time to allow the extremists to hang themselves, metaphorically, in debate. But we know that humans have a tendency to gossip (and that while gossip is not always deleterious, it often is); know that humans are more prone to wicked behaviour once their individuality is rolled up into a herd; know that we all wish to belong to a herd; know that the media confers legitimacy upon those subjects it chooses to feature; know, too, that the gossip contingent upon that legitimacy can circle the world in a second. Thus the creation of a mob. Thus the entirely predictable injustices. Shouldn’t we be more careful with our words?

Because a mob can now form, worldwide, in the time it took me to type this sentence. “Did you see Newsnight? What’s trending? I think that too! LOL.”

SOURCE

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Our six-week-old baby died after THREE doctors in nine days missed his treatable illness, say heartbroken parents who now plan to sue

A six-week-old baby died after three doctors failed to spot a treatable illness.

Over nine days James Payne was seen by a GP, an out-of-hours doctor and then a locum after he developed a nasty cough – but he was sent home each time.

Hours after the third visit, his mother Mandy, 33, found him lifeless in his Moses basket with his face blue and blood coming from his nose.

She desperately tried to resuscitate him on the living room floor in front of her two-year-old daughter, but could not save him.

Mrs Payne said: ‘I screamed and cradled him while I called the ambulance but I knew then he was gone and it was too late.

‘I put him on the floor and desperately tried to resuscitate him. I can remember the taste of his blood in my mouth and thinking “I can’t believe this is happening to me”.’

An inquest heard the cause of death was a build-up of fluid in his lungs and inflammation of his throat caused by a viral infection.

One of the doctors told the inquest that hospital treatment would have saved James.

All three claimed they were not aware of his breathing problems – a claim the family disputes.

Recording a narrative verdict, Southend Coroner Yvonne Blake said ‘no organisation identified’ the illness.

Mrs Payne and her husband Andrew, 38, plan to sue the NHS.

Mr Payne, a surveyor, said: ‘I feel James was robbed from me, from my family – it is someone’s fault and someone has to be held accountable for that. It is an unbearable loss which only someone who has lost a baby can ever understand.

‘It is an unimaginable pain I feel daily and I want answers as to why this was ever allowed to happen.’
James’ parents, Mandy and Andrew, took him to three different GPs but they claim each one failed to provide him with the treatment that could have saved his life. They are pictured with their daughter, Chloe, 2

James’ parents, Mandy and Andrew, took him to three different GPs but they claim each one failed to provide him with the treatment that could have saved his life. They are pictured with their daughter, Chloe, 2

Mrs Payne, of Hadleigh, Essex, first took her son to her local GP when he had a bad cough in November last year. But he was sent away with paracetamol and nasal drops.

Less than a week later she called the NHS out-of-hours doctor service and was told to take her son to Southend Hospital to be seen by a doctor, who said he suspected a possible viral infection but claimed that was normal in a child of his age.
Hours after his third visit to a doctor, James’ mother found him lifeless in his cot with blood coming from his nose. She tried to resuscitate him in front of two-year-old Chloe but he was already dead

Hours after his third visit to a doctor, James’ mother found him lifeless in his cot with blood coming from his nose. She tried to resuscitate him in front of two-year-old Chloe but he was already dead

On the morning of James’s death, Mrs Payne made an appointment with a locum doctor at her GP surgery. She says the doctor did not examine her son’s chest despite telling him that his breathing had worsened.

The doctor told the inquest that he could not remember if he had removed James’s clothes or exposed his chest for examination. He denied that Mrs Payne had told him that her son had a wheezy cough.
An inquest into James’ death heard he died from a build-up of fluid in his lungs caused by a viral infection. His mother says she doesn’t know how to tell Chloe what happened to her brother

An inquest into James’ death heard he died from a build-up of fluid in his lungs caused by a viral infection. His mother says she doesn’t know how to tell Chloe what happened to her brother

Mr Payne said: ‘As a father I look to protect my family and I feel like I failed as a dad.

‘I loved him so much and we lost him far, far too soon.

‘Every day I wake up and the first two, three seconds, it hits you all over again and a piece of your heart simply breaks again. ‘And it continues to break all day.

‘I drive past the park and I see fathers and their sons having a kick about and I know I will never be able to do that with my son.

‘I’ve had that taken away from me and I am incredibly angry. I want someone to be held accountable.’

A spokesman for NHS England said: ‘We are deeply saddened and concerned to hear of this case, and would like to express our deepest sympathy to the family. ‘However, we cannot comment on individual cases.’

A spokesman for Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We offer our sincere condolences to the family and will continue to support them at this sad time.’

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999 delays that cost lives

Bella Hellings would, in all probability, still be alive if the ambulance had arrived on time.

Just three months old, she died after suffering a fit and her breathing stopped. Her mother, Amy Carter, had dialled 999, but the ambulance took 26 minutes to arrive – more than three times as long as it should – because the driver got lost.

On the way to hospital, the driver took another wrong turn and by the time Bella reached hospital she had not been breathing for nearly an hour.

“If they had got to her in time she would be alive today,” said Miss Carter, 24. She, her boyfriend, Scott Hellings, and their daughter had the misfortune of living in Norfolk, served by Britain’s worst ambulance service.

Bella’s death highlights the crisis threatening England’s emergency service.

The Government set a target for paramedics to reach 75 per cent of “life-threatening” emergencies, such as cardiac arrests, within eight minutes.

A second target stipulates that an ambulance must arrive to take a patient to hospital within 19 minutes in 95 per cent of all such cases.

But a look at March, the latest month for which data is available, reveals that six of the 10 English trusts failed to reach the first target: East Midlands, East of England, North West, South Western, Yorkshire, and South East Coast.

The first four also missed the second target.

It was the third busiest month in the past three years, according to NHS England. In all, 430,182 emergency journeys were made, compared with 417,892 in March 2012, a rise of 3 per cent mainly caused by a combination of a reduction in GP out-of-hours services, the failure of the new 111 helpline to cope with calls, and an ageing population.

Figures analysed by The Telegraph show that for the year ending March 31 the East of England Ambulance Service, which caters for a population of six million, was the only one to miss both targets. The failures are being blamed on understaffing and mismanagement.

East Midlands missed its target for reaching 95 per cent of cases within 19 minutes over the past 12 months and was fined £3.5 million.

Things are worst in Norfolk, with East of England reaching a little over 60 per cent of “life threatening” cases in eight minutes. It is being fined about £2.2 million.

A Care Quality Commission report in March said the trust had “fallen short” of national standards, concluding: “Since our last inspection the trust’s performance in relation to its ambulance response times had deteriorated and people could not be assured they would receive care in a timely and effective manner.”

The report suggested the times between sending “solo responders” who could then call for ambulance back-up varied widely.

An ambulance could take as long as 100 minutes to arrive once a paramedic, on a motorcycle or in a car, had requested emergency transport to hospital.

The report prompted Maria Ball, the ambulance trust’s chairman, to resign immediately. Its chief executive, Hayden Newton, left in October.

Bella, who was born prematurely, had a congenital heart problem. It took 26 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at her home in Thetford after the driver – relying on a satnav – got lost.

On the way to hospital in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, Miss Carter yelled directions from the back of the ambulance. But it is alleged the driver still got lost after twice driving around a roundabout, then taking a wrong turn.

Miss Carter said: “The people who were meant to help failed Bella.”

In the month Bella died, four adults also died in incidents where delays by East of England – which also covers Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire – in reaching them were a possible factor.

The trust has also faced criticism over delays in non emergency cases. In April, an inquest heard how Isabel Carter, 74, from Wymondham, Norfolk, died in 2011 after waiting four hours for an ambulance.

By the time it arrived, the grandmother, who had originally complained of stomach pains, had gone into cardiac arrest. She died within minutes of reaching hospital.

An internal investigation found control room procedures were not followed, so the call was not upgraded from “urgent” to “emergency”.

Sharon Allison, a medical negligence lawyer at Ashton KCJ, representing Bella’s parents, said: “The plight of the ambulance service has been known for months, if not years … Yet the same excuses are still being trotted out.

“The service was warned of dire consequences if it didn’t recruit more staff. It refused to do so. Patients died.”

East of England published a “turnaround” plan in April, including hiring 350 specialist staff and new “tough” sickness absence targets.

Andrew Morgan, its new chief executive, said: “We need to improve the service we give to patients and better support our dedicated and committed staff.

“Transforming the organisation will take time, but we have the staff and the focus to turn things around together.”

Stephen Dorrell, the Conservative chairman of the health select committee, which is carrying out a review of emergency services and emergency care, said: “I think it is a cause for concern.

“It is another symptom of the same issue that arises when we look at 111 and A&E care.

“The ability of the health service to deliver urgent and emergency high quality care is one of the things increasingly coming into focus.”

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Classroom extremists will be rooted out: British PM orders crackdown on ‘conveyer belt’ of hate in schools and universities

David Cameron today ordered a crackdown on extremism in the classroom in the wake of the brutal killing of solider Lee Rigby.

Education and business ministers have been told to step up efforts to root out those spouting extreme views in schools and universities.

The Prime Minister convened a new taskforce aimed at tackling the spread of the sort of ‘poisonous’ views which can lead to violent acts on Britain’s streets.

Senior ministers covering the police, education, local government and faith met in Downing Street to plot the official response to the threat posed by radicalisation.

In a statement to the Commons Mr Cameron said it was important to learn the lessons from the attack on the soldier in Woolwich.

He told MPs: ‘Those who carried out this callous and abhorrent crime sought to justify their actions by an extremist ideology that perverts and warps Islam to create a culture of victimhood and justify violence.

‘We must confront this ideology in all its forms.’

Mr Cameron, who chaired the first meeting of the new taskforce in Downing Street, said the Government’s Prevent Strategy had closed down websites and helped people vulnerable to radicalisation.

Since 2011, more hate preachers had been excluded from the UK than ever. And 5,700 items of terrorism material had been taken down from the internet with almost 1,000 more blocked when they were hosted overseas.

But he hinted that he will attempt to resurrect the controversial Communications Data Bill – dubbed a ‘snooper’s charter’ – to give security services more power to track web and telephone use.

Mr Cameron added: ‘It is clear that we need to do more. When young men born and bred in this country are radicalised and turned into killers, we have to ask some tough questions about what is happening in our country.

‘It is as if that for some young people there is a conveyor belt to radicalisation that has poisoned their minds with sick and perverted ideas.

The taskforce meeting was attended by ministers including Deputy PM Nick Clegg, Chancellor George Osborne, Home Secretary Theresa May, Justice Chris Grayling, faith minister Baroness Warsi and policy minister Oliver Letwin.

They were tasked with working ‘on practical suggestions which the task force could discuss at future meetings’.

The meeting agreed that it is ‘necessary to tackle extremism head on, not just violent extremism, particularly in light of the appalling murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich’, a spokesman said.

In particular, Education Secretary Michael Gove and schools minister David Laws to ‘look at confronting extreme views in schools and charities’ and Business Secretary Vince Cable will examine ways to stamp out extremism in universities.

Mr Grayling will look into similar issues in prisons while Baroness Warsi will draw up work in communities. Experts in these areas will address future meetings of the taskforce.

Mr Cameron said: ‘What happened on the streets of Woolwich shocked and sickened us all.

‘It was a despicable attack on a British soldier who stood for our country and our way of life and it was too a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country.

‘There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror and I welcome too the spontaneous condemnation of this attack from mosques and Muslim community organisations right across our country.

‘We will not be cowed by terror, and terrorists who seek to divide us will only make us stronger and more united in our resolve to defeat them.’

Mr Cameron said Tory former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee, would look at how the suspects were radicalised, what the security services knew about them and whether anything more could have been done to stop them. The committee would conclude its work by the end of the year.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair made an extraordinary intervention into the debate at the weekend, launching an outspoken attack on ‘the problem within Islam’.

He departed from the usual argument that Islam is a peaceful religion that should not be tainted by the actions of a few extremists.

Instead, Mr Blair urged governments to ‘be honest’ and admit that the problem is more widespread.

‘There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam,’ he wrote in the Mail on Sunday. ‘We have to put it on the table and be honest about it. Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones.

‘But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. ‘It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.’

He added: ‘At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it.’

SOURCE

New middle school exam in Britain

GCSEs will be replaced by a new qualification called “I levels”, which will see the current A* to G grades scrapped in favour of numerical marks.

Under plans put forward by Ofqual, the exams regulator, the highest grade will be an 8 and the lowest will be a 1.

This will enable a higher grade to be added if necessary, so the whole grading system would not have to be re-done if it was decided there should be a greater distinction available to the top students.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, previously backed the creation of an English Baccalaureate Certificate under a new exam system operated by a single awarding body, but that plan has since been abandoned.

The aim of the I level – or Intermediate level – exams is to provide harder content for the pupils sitting them and greater differentiation among the highest-performing teenagers, The Times reported.

Their introduction in schools from September 2015 will mark the biggest shake-up of qualifications for 16 year-olds for a generation.

The last time such a major reform was brought in was in 1986, when the General Certificate of Secondary Education, a universal qualification, replaced the two-tier system of O-levels and CSEs aimed at different levels of academic ability.

The new changes, details of which are expected to be published imminently, will apply to qualifications in English, maths, physics, chemistry, biology, double science, history and geography.

Other subjects will not initially be included in the new system, meaning hundreds of thousands of Year 11 pupils will sit a combination of I levels and GCSEs until the reforms are completed.

In another change, coursework will no longer be part of the formal assessment in Year 11, except in science, where 10% of a pupil’s marks will be awarded for practical experiments.

Under the new marking system, many of the pupils currently achieving A* and A grades at GCSE would be expected to receive grades 7 or 6.

Ofqual does not recommend a “pass” grade, but a grade 4 would implicitly be equivalent to a pass mark.

The Department for Education will soon publish specifications for the subject content of each of the new qualifications, with exam boards working on this basis to design the new syllabuses.

Earlier this year, Mr Gove admitted that his plans to scrap GCSEs were “a bridge too far” as he backed down on proposals for a new system of eBaccs.

He said there was a consensus that the exam system needed to change but conceded that axing GCSEs was “one reform too many at this time”.

Ofqual said last month, however, that a growing number of schools had lost confidence in GCSEs following last summer’s exam grading fiasco.

In 2012, tens of thousands of pupils are believed to have missed out on good GCSE grades after exam boards suddenly shifted the grade boundaries between the exams taken by pupils in January and those sat in June.

The boundaries for those exams taken earlier in the year had been found to be too low and so the change was made to prevent an excessive number of passes being achieved six months later.

Under the new system, all end-of-course exams will be taken in the summer, except for English and maths papers that will be sat in November.

This will make it harder for pupils to re-sit papers when they fall below the grades they had hoped for, as most exams will only be able to be re-taken a full year later.

The Labour-led Welsh Assembly government meanwhile wants to retain GCSEs, along with the modules and assessed coursework that characterise the current model.

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‘Superfoods’ shown to fight prostate cancer

The effect was on an indicator, not on cancer itself — and an effect was shown not on people in general but on cancer survivors. Lots of room for slippage there

Superfoods have been shown to fight prostate cancer, in a ground-breaking study.

Men who had been treated with surgery or radiotherapy for the disease were given a capsule containing essence of pomegranate, green tea, turmeric and broccoli.

At the end of a six-month trial, their PSA levels – a protein which is an indicator of the cancer – were 63 per cent lower than those who took a placebo.

While lab tests and small non-randomised studies have previously suggested that such foods, which are rich in polyphenol, have an anti-cancer effect, the British study is the first to demonstrate such an impact on sufferers of prostate cancer, compared with those who were not given the capsules.

Prof Robert Thomas, a consultant oncologist at Bedford Hospital and Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge will present the results of the “Pomi-T” study at the American Society of Clinical Ontology in Chicago today.

Professor Thomas said: “Our experience in offering high-quality clinical care, collaboration with cancer charities and world-class research with the University of Cambridge has resulted in findings which will have an world-wide impact.

“We hope this will help millions of men to help combat the onset of prostate cancer.

The study found virtually no adverse affects among the group who were given the supplement.

Because of the lowered PSA levels among those given the capsule significantly fewer men proceeded to potentially toxic therapies at the end of the study, the study said.

“Healthy eating and lifestyle is the main way of helping to combat the development of cancer but men can now also turn to a whole food supplement which has been shown to work,” said Prof Thomas.

SOURCE

Britain’s social work Gestapo again

Secret court jails father for sending son 21st birthday greeting on Facebook after he was gagged from naming him

A father has been jailed at a secret court hearing for sending a Facebook message to his grown-up son on his 21st birthday. Garry Johnson, 46, breached a draconian gagging order which stops him publicly naming his son, Sam, whom he has brought up and who still lives with him.

In a case which is certain to fuel concerns about Britain’s shadowy network of secret courts, a judge sent the former music executive to prison for contempt at a closed-doors family court hearing in Essex at the beginning of last month.

He was not arrested by police or even represented by a lawyer.

The order silencing Mr Johnson – which follows an acrimonious divorce eight years ago – means he cannot mention either of his boys, 21-year-old Sam and Adam, 18, in public, even by congratulating them in a local newspaper announcement when they get engaged, married or have children in the future.

The extraordinary gag is set to last until the end of his life, although his boys are now adults. Last night they condemned their father’s jailing as ‘cruel and ludicrous’.

After their parents’ divorce, the two boys chose to live with their father, following a series of rows with their mother over her new boyfriend.

But within a year of the divorce, Mr Johnson’s ex-wife made allegations to Essex social workers that he was neglecting the children and not feeding them properly at his smart family home.

An investigation by social workers cleared him of any wrongdoing and said the boys were fine.

A year later, in 2006, she made further allegations to social workers that he was mentally unfit to care for the boys.

Medical documents shown to the Mail by Sam and Adam reveal that Mr Johnson was examined three times by a local psychiatrist hired by social workers. The doctor wrote to social workers saying:

‘There is no evidence of mental illness. I cannot understand why there are concerns about Mr Johnson’s mental health.’

Social services refused, as a result, to get involved.

In 2007, the ex-wife started private care proceedings to remove the boys from their father. A judge put the boys under a ‘living at home with parent’ care order.

It meant they would continue to live with their father, but under supervision by social services.

This care order was accompanied by the gagging order to stop an increasingly anguished Mr Johnson talking about the case publicly. Even naming his sons in the most innocuous circumstances – such as on Facebook – became a contempt of court.

The care order on Sam expired on his 18th birthday three years ago. The one on Adam in October last year when he reached 18. Normally, a gagging order imposed by a family court judge on a parent expires at the same time as a care order on the child. This one did not.

Mr Johnson was imprisoned at the height of the Mail’s campaign against jailings by this country’s network of secret courts.

The secretive family court system, which jailed Mr Johnson, deals with custody wrangles, children’s care orders and adoption.

Mr Johnson received a letter in late April from Chelmsford County Court officials ordering him to go to Basildon Magistrates’ Court building on May 2 for a hearing regarding his children.

He was not warned he might face imprisonment or that the hearing was about his Facebook message, posted on Sam’s birthday a few days earlier on April 23.

On arrival, he was escorted by court security guards to a private room in the building for a half hour hearing under family court rules before His Honour Judge Damien Lochrane. He was not warned that he might need a lawyer.

At the private hearing, Mr Johnson learned he had breached a gagging order, imposed by the family courts in 2007, by sending the Facebook message.

He informed the judge that he had had four heart attacks and was awaiting a triple by-pass operation. But he was sentenced to 28 days’ jail and sent down to a court cell to await transport to Chelmsford prison.

In the court cell, he had a heart attack caused by the shock. Rushed to a local hospital by ambulance, he was then shackled and handcuffed to a bed while on oxygen and receiving morphine.

A team of prison officers were put on 24-hour shifts beside his bed to make sure he did not escape.

He recovered and was sent to prison two days later, serving two weeks of the sentence before being released. Details of the horrifying case were made public to the Mail by his sons, who are not subject to any gagging order according to their Essex-based lawyer, Alan Foskett.

The jailing provoked a horrified response from MPs last night. John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP who has campaigned against the secret courts, said: ‘This is yet another example of how the secret courts are stopping freedom of speech. I have never heard of a gagging order of this kind going on into adulthood. This is a surreal case.’

Mr Johnson’s local MP, John Baron, said: ‘I have helped Mr Johnson and his sons – who always wanted to live with him – over several years. To find he has been imprisoned for sending a birthday message to one of them is troubling.

‘Whilst I appreciate the need to protect children, the family court system often ignores the legitimate wishes of families. This needs to change, and quickly.’

Sam, a telesales manager and former professional footballer, said last night: ‘My dad is a good father and has never been in trouble with the police. He was treated like a criminal. This ludicrous gagging order should not exist and must now be lifted.

Both Adam and myself are adults. This cruel ruling is now hanging over my father to silence him about the sons he loves for the rest of his life. That is a terrible thing in what is meant to be a free country.’

Mr Johnson was imprisoned a day before senior judges, on May 3, reacted to the Mail campaign by saying they planned to stop courts jailing defendants in secret for contempt.

The Ministry of Justice this week said that it does not count up people jailed by the family courts because the numbers are ‘so small’.

A spokesman said of the courts: ‘It is very rare for anyone to be imprisoned for contempt of court and it only ever happens in extreme circumstances when a person has continually disregarded legally binding requirements made by the court and clearly communicated to them.

‘A person accused of contempt of court will always be given their full legal right to defend himself or herself at a hearing will always be heard in an open court.’

However, it is estimated by campaigners and MPs that up to 200 parents a year are imprisoned for contempt by the family courts. Because of the controversial secrecy rules, some have been sent to jail for discussing their case with MPs or charity workers advising them.

SOURCE

Human rights fraud

He may not be much of a comedian, but he’s certainly having a laugh: Paul Shiner and The Great Human Rights Swindle

For the past decade, Phil Shiner, head of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), has made a handsome living suing the British taxpayer – at the British taxpayers’ expense

For the past decade, Phil Shiner, head of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), has made a handsome living suing the British taxpayer – at the British taxpayers’ expense

Human rights lawyers are not famous for their sense of humour. So it was something of a surprise to learn that the sour-faced solicitor Phil Shiner lists comedy as one of his hobbies.

For the past decade, Shiner has made a handsome living suing the British taxpayer — at the British taxpayers’ expense.

Shiner is head of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) — not to be confused with the post-punk band Public Image Limited (PiL), put together by Johnny Rotten after the self-immolation of the Sex Pistols.

Rotten once starred in a movie called The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle. If Shiner is ever immortalised on the silver screen it should be called The Great Human Rights Swindle.

Shiner’s firm specialises in bringing actions against the British Army.

I first crossed swords with him on TV during the Iraq war when his representatives were harvesting claims in the back streets of Baghdad and Basra. PIL is a yuman rites version of one of those Blame Direct outfits who advertise on daytime TV.

Have you been tortured by a British soldier? You could be entitled to com-pen-say-shun.

Shiner is always on the lookout for a jihadist with a grievance which can be used to discredit the Army and win some hard cash. Unlike Blame Direct and the rest of the ‘no win, no fee’ brigade, Shiner gets paid win, lose or draw.

He is bankrolled out of the legal aid budget.

Over the years he has secured £3 million compensation for his clients, mostly foreign nationals who have alleged abuse at the hands of British troops in Iraq.

His work won him the prestigious accolade ‘Human Rights Lawyer of the Year’ in 2004. I bet that was a fun night.

We don’t know how much he has earned, but legal aid fees clocked up in cases filed by PIL must run into millions.

And at a time when the Government is attempting to bring under control the burgeoning £2 billion legal aid budget, Shiner continues to thrive.

As part of the proposed £350 million cuts, members of middle-class households with an annual income of £37,000 will no longer be entitled to legal aid for a whole raft of civil claims, including debt and divorce.

Yet the funding for firms such as PIL to bring claims for damages on behalf of foreign nationals over incidents alleged to have taken place thousands of miles away would appear to be unaffected.

This week Shiner turned up on Radio 4’s Today Programme peddling his latest crusade for truth and justice. He was given a prime platform by a gleeful BBC to denounce ‘Britain’s Guantanamo Bay’.

Shiner claimed that dozens of Afghans are being held in a ‘secret prison’ at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province.

He demanded they should be brought before a court or released. He said: ‘This is a secret facility that’s been used to unlawfully detain or intern up to 85 Afghans that they’ve kept secret, that Parliament doesn’t know about, that courts previously when they have interrogated issues like detention and internment in Afghanistan have never been told about — completely off the radar.

‘It is reminiscent of the public’s awakening that there was a Guantanamo Bay.

‘And people will be wondering if these detainees are being treated humanely and in accordance with international law.’

This must be where Shiner’s legendary sense of humour comes into play. He should know full well that this isn’t a ‘secret prison’. And he is aware that the Army has been trying to get rid of these prisoners for years.

Back in 2010, Britain wanted to hand over the detainees to the Afghan justice system. Eventually the High Court in London ruled that they could not be transferred to the Afghans because they might be tortured, which would breach their yuman rites.

Far from being ‘detained unlawfully’ they are being held in British custody on the specific orders of a British court.

You’d expect Shiner to know that. Because in 2010, the original Camp Bastion case was brought by, you guessed, one Phil Shiner. On legal aid, natch. So how does he explain telling the BBC this was a ‘secret camp’, ‘off the radar’, that the courts haven’t been told about?

Now, three years later, he’s heading back to court to argue that the detainees should be put on trial or set free.

Talk about playing both ends. Like Boris Johnson, Shiner appears to be pro-having cake and pro-eating it.

But thanks to the success of his earlier lawsuit, the High Court has ruled the prisoners can’t be entrusted to the Afghan legal system.

Since Shiner doesn’t approve of military justice, that means they would have to be released back into the local community, where they would be at liberty to resume their terrorist activities.

In comedy, as in life, timing is everything.

Just a week after a British soldier was murdered by Islamist terrorists on the streets of South London, this is an odd time to argue that we should be releasing their comrades-in-jihad on to the streets of Afghanistan to kill more of our troops.

Whatever happens next, one thing is certain: yet again the final bill will fall to the mug British taxpayers.

Shiner may not be much of a comedian, but he’s certainly having a laugh. And the joke’s on us.

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British Christian awarded compension after ‘racist’ letter from halal meat farm

A Christian has been awarded £2,500 compensation after complaining he was targeted by a “racist” email while working at a Birmingham halal meat firm.

Christopher Turton was one of only two white workers at the National Halal Food group in Harborne Road, Edgbaston, and worked alongside up to 300 Muslims.

He had been promoted to National Concessional Manager for the company when the email was sent between fellow employees.

It questioned if Mr Turton had been favoured in landing his new role, asking: “Is it because he is white?” and also pointed out he was not a ‘Muslim brother’.

The tribunal was told that Mr Turton found the email “extremely offensive” and was made to feel alienated. He was off work with stress and eventually resigned.

He took the company to tribunal, seeking compensation for race and religious discrimination.

Tribunal judge Miss Victoria Dean said Mr Turton had found the email racist and offensive and said there had been an injury to his feelings.

She initially awarded him £3,000 but this was reduced by 15 per cent to £2,550 because he had failed to lodge an official grievance to the firm.

Source

A bit unfair to have the company pay for what was said by some of their employees.

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The “multicultural” NHS

Three female healthcare assistants ‘beat two elderly patients and mistreated nine others’ on a hospital ward, a court heard today.

Akousa Sakyiwaa, 38, Annette Jackson, 33, and Sharmila Gunda, 36, are charged with several counts of ill-treatment or neglect under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, with Ms Sakyiwaa and Ms Gunda also charged with assault by beating.

The incidents are alleged to have taken place from February 27 to April 30 last year on Beech Ward at Whipps Cross Hospital in east London.

Ms Sakyiwaa, of Leytonstone, is charged with seven counts of ill-treatment or neglect and one count of assault by beating.

Ms Jackson, of Hounslow, is charged with five counts of ill-treatment or neglect.

Ms Gunda, of Ilford, is charged with two counts of ill-treatment or neglect and one charge of assault by beating.

They deny all the charges.

Sakyiwaa and Gunda accused of beating elderly Winifred Dempsey and June Evans.

Mrs Evans, who is wheelchair bound, is the only patient still alive or well enough to come to court to give evidence against them. The other patients are too ill or suffer from dementia.

Jurors heard the healthcare assistants were arrested after q student nurse Lucy Brown whistleblew on them following a placement on the ward last Spring.

John McNally, prosecuting, said: ‘The conduct complained of simply had no place on any ward. It cannot be justified.’

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard 92-year-old Lily Oliver was admitted to the ward on March 27, 2012, suffering from septic arthritis in her left knee.

Mr McNally told jurors: ‘She was bed bound and extremely frail and it is the expert’s professional opinion that she suffered from dementia and wasn’t able to make her own decisions.

‘During the time she was on Beech Ward she was under the care of Akousa Sakyiwaa. ‘Lucy Brown described Akousa Sakyiwaa as being extremely rough with Lily Oliver.

‘In the course of one encounter Lucy Brown noted that when Miss Oliver’s bandages were removed Miss Oliver said ‘mind my leg.’ After that Akousa Sakyiwaa grabbed her left knee with both her hands and pushed it towards Lucy Brown.

‘This caused her to scream in pain and turn pale before falling silent. That, we say, is what constitutes ill treatment for that count.’

John McNally, prosecuting, told the jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court that the three women were responsible for looking after elderly female patients with various physical and mental conditions including dementia

John McNally, prosecuting, told the jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court that the three women were responsible for looking after elderly female patients with various physical and mental conditions including dementia

Jurors have yet to hear about the mistreatment to the other patients who the court heard were all female, elderly and suffering from various physical and mental conditions including dementia.

Opening the case, Mr McNally said: “This case is about certain patients in the care of these defendants.

‘The prosecution case is they variously ill treated patients either by positive actions towards them or by failing to look after them when they should have.

‘The defendants worked on a geriatric ward and were trusted to provide the most basic tasks. ‘There is little doubt some of these would have been unpleasant and that elderly and demented patients could be obstructive.

‘However, this factor only serves to highlight the vulnerability of these patients and outline the fact that providing care professionally was the responsibility of each defendant. ‘An entitlement for proper care should not be a matter of chance given at the whim of the carer.’

The court heard the ward has since closed down following a Metropolitan Police investigation into alleged abuse.

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Horror nurse takes vengeance on a BABY!

A midwife poured milk over a distressed baby’s face and said ‘that’s for throwing up on me’, a hearing was told today.

Joanne Scott also photographed the child on her mobile phone because her husband and daughter would ‘find it funny’, it is claimed.

Scott was working a night shift at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, in 2008 when the baby became unsettled.

She went over to calm it down but then took a photograph, the Nursing and Midwifery Council heard.

Derek Zeitlin, for the NMC, said: ‘When questioned about it by her colleague, told her that she would send it to her husband and her daughter who would find it funny.

‘The baby was in quite an unsettled state and the registrant took the baby rather roughly in her hands and as a result of that the baby was sick over her.

‘Scott’s colleague put the baby back and remonstrated with the registrant about the rough handling and took the baby in her arms.

‘The registrant went away and came back with a bottle of milk which her colleague saw without a teat on it. ‘Scott poured that over the baby, saying “that’s for throwing up on me.”‘

The other member of staff was at first afraid to say anything as she was a junior and only reported the incident a few months later.

Scott is also accused of swearing at the husband of a woman giving birth on October 11, 2010. The midwife had previously sent the mother home after claiming that she was not in labour.

Mr Zeitlin continued: ‘The upshot of that was that when the mother did eventually give birth she did so in the ambulance taking her back to the hospital.

‘Her husband was with her at the time and he was very scared as to what was going on.

‘When they arrived at the hospital there was a conversation which took place between the father and the registrant, part of which was overheard by a colleague.

‘The father explained that he was very scared and she had no idea why he was scared because she had explained what he had to do when they got home.

‘She made the comment “did you nearly sh*t yourself” and after a reply by him, “that is because you’re f***ing useless.”‘

The same month Scott breached professional boundaries by befriending on Facebook a mother who had just given birth at the hospital, it is claimed.

On 18 October 2010 Scott used her mobile phone to take a photo of another baby, referred to as Baby C, when there was specialist camera equipment available, it is alleged.

Baby C was suffering from a condition that meant it was half one colour and half another and Scott claimed she had to show the paediatrician.

But the midwife did not get consent from the mother and did not write any notes in the medical records about showing the photo to a paediatrician.

The photo was then not deleted in a ‘prompt manner’ from her mobile phone.

The midwife admits adding a mother as a friend on Facebook and all charges against her relating to Baby C.

She also admits swearing at the husband of a mother in labour once but denies saying ‘that’s because you’re f***ing useless’.

Scott denies all the other charges and claims her fitness to practice has not been impaired. If found guilty of misconduct she could be thrown out of the profession. The hearing continues.

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The pupils who think cheese is a vegetable and fish fingers come from chickens: Study highlights primary children’s ignorance of food

One in three primary schoolchildren think cheese comes from plants and one in 10 says tomatoes grow underground.

A new survey reveals a young generation with unhealthy diets and an alarming belief in food myths.

Nearly one in five children says that fish fingers come from chicken and pasta is produced from animals.

Research by the British Nutrition Foundation among over 27,500 children across the UK also found many were skipping breakfast and too few eat fish.

Over three quarters of primary school children and nearly nine out of every ten secondary school pupils know that people should consume five or more portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

But two-thirds of primary school children and three-quarters of older pupils reported eating four or less portions of fruit and vegetables daily, while two in every five children at secondary school don’t think frozen fruit and vegetables count towards their five a day.

The research also shows that an alarming number of children do not eat breakfast each morning, which increases with the age of the children.

On the day of the survey, one in 10 primary school children had skipped breakfast, rising to nearly a quarter of 11 to 14-year-olds and a third of 14 to 16-year-olds.

Up to a quarter of children said they did not eat breakfast every day. Official advice is for children and adults to eat at least two portions of fish each week.

However, the survey found 16 per cent of children of primary school age never eat fish, rising to one in five children at secondary school.

Only one in six of children aged five to 16 years eats fish twice a week.

Around one in 10 children never cook at home, although three-quarters would like to cook more.

Roy Ballam, Education Programme Manager at the British Nutrition Foundation, said: ‘Through this survey one in five (21 per cent) primary school children and 18 per cent of secondary school pupils told us that they have never visited a farm.

‘This may go part way to explaining why over a third (34 per cent) of five to eight-year-olds and 17 per cent of eight to 11-year-olds believe that pasta comes from animals.’

The survey was conducted as part of the BNF’s Healthy Eating Week, which involves more than 3,000 schools and 1.2 million children.

Mr Ballam said: ‘Through Healthy Eating Week, we hope to start the process of re-engaging children with the origins of food, nutrition and cooking, so that they grow up with a fuller understanding of how food reaches them and what a healthy diet and lifestyle consists of.’

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A British primary school that sounds rather wonderful

A stately pile in Shropshire houses a family-run prep school seemingly untouched by time

Boarding school heads often claim: “We’re one big family”. This is not only metaphorically but literally true in the case of Moffats, an extraordinary, quiet anomaly of a school snuggled away in rural Shropshire, which is run by eight members of the original founding family, the Englehearts.

Everyone here is someone’s cousin, or sister – or if not a member of the immediate family, then part of a community of “Old Moffats” (OMs), known unofficially as “Moffateers”. OMs frequently marry other OMs. One cousin even married the cook’s daughter…

Most of the family are former pupils themselves; the current head, Robin McCarthy (née Engleheart) lived in the house from birth, although, she is very quick to point out, she has “been away” – for 25 years; first to Oxford University, where she captained the women’s cricket team, and later as deputy head at a large prep school in the south of England.

She is the sixth member of the Engleheart family to lead the school, taking over from her brother-in-law Mark Daborn, a former surveyor and now the school chaplain, who held the post for 18 years, until last September. Mark also teaches mathematics and geography.

His wife Alex (Robin’s sister), takes English and drama; their son James offers forest crafts and survival skills, cricket and war games. “It might seem like jobs for the boys,” Robin says, “but if we need a specialist we get one in.”

The family is careful to select people who will respect the Moffats ethos. Appointments and big decisions are made by mutual agreement.

“Of course, we fall out sometimes,” Robin admits. “But there’s never anything that can’t be resolved by communication. The issue of our positions causes no friction. When Mark handed over he felt there was someone he could pass it on to without what he’d achieved being undermined.”

A few decades back England was liberally speckled with such establishments, but no longer. As Anne-Marie Hodgkiss, membership officer for the Independent Schools Association, delicately puts it: “Moffats is not alone… but it is certainly not in the majority.” The fees — £5,148 a term for boarders — are perhaps the least remarkable aspect of the operation.

The uninitiated might raise an eyebrow at the idiosyncratic spirit of the place but the school is well aware of the possible dangers of operating below the radar. “We don’t just examine ourselves,” Robin says. “We deliberately have outsiders coming in.”

Moffats functions as a limited company, owned and run by family members through a board, advised by an independent non-executive committee of former pupils, parents and local people which meets once a year, in much the same way as a board of governors. “We are all involved in things outside of school, which stops us becoming too insular,” Robin’s sister Alex says.

Also in the family are: piano teacher Francis Engleheart; Paul Engleheart, who teaches Latin, music, IT and junior sports; Robin’s youngest sister Kate, a riding instructor; and Julian Engleheart, the bursar. The ninth Engleheart, nine year-old Isabel, is a pupil.

Together – with a little outside help – they run the tiny, co-educational school of only 67 pupils, aged three to 13, over a third of whom are boarders, mostly full time. Moffats’ “home” is the daunting Georgian, Grade I listed Kinlet Hall, near Ludlow.

“People panic and say ‘How can you be viable?’” says Robin. “We say that’s our business. As for the house, we haven’t got any parts we can’t use. We have run at this size for 79 years, why should we change now? The school went up to more than 90 pupils in the Nineties but because we don’t, and won’t, and can’t build, it was all a bit of a bulge. The fewer there are, the greater the opportunities.”

With secret doors, subterranean passageways, a wargames cellar and a riding school, all set in a glorious 110 acres of Shropshire countryside, there are plenty of opportunities to engage young imaginations.

I notice rows of in-line skates, which Robin tells me are “fantastic for speed bumps on the drive”, a croquet lawn, fields of equestrian jumps and walls of photographs from the sailing camp in Cornwall.

“What we do with them in our spare time is our own hobbies,” says Robin, a croquet nut and sailor. “They learn eccentric things but they also learn that a passion for something is part of life.”

From the age of seven, children wander freely in the grounds. They share the chores, and television is strictly limited to a historical soap on Friday evenings and a film on Saturday. Hobbies are undertaken in the two-hour lunch break, with the school day finishing at 6pm.

The children have created their own games, such as Rickets (a cross between rounders and cricket), Relievo (defending an old cedar tree) and one simply called “The Game”, which seems similar to tag rugby. Despite lacking a proper gym and swimming pool, Moffats fields junior and senior teams in most mainstream sports. “But we don’t need to win matches to feel good about ourselves,” Robin says. “It’s about playing hard, winning graciously and losing well.”

Horses are integral to school life; pupils can keep their own at school or choose from seven sturdy, ever so slightly Thelwellesque school ponies. “Some schools have speech day, we have a gymkhana,” Robin laughs.

Music is also respected. In the “Big Room”, a former library, now a concert hall, final-year pupil Baska Enkhjargal, from Mongolia, is working hard at a grand piano. At lunch we meet Mikuu Oluwayemi, 13, from London, a full-time boarder and keen guitarist and Asan Hems, 10, preparing for grade one flute. The children are self-confident and polite, with impeccable table manners. Kea Waite, 12, from Devon, steals the conversation, telling us all about her 14 parrots, sister called Hannah (also at school) and a horse-mad mum who works at Birdworld.

The pupils are not shy of engaging Robin in friendly banter and using her first name; there are too many Englehearts here to have it any other way. “Don’t tell Robin,” eight year-old Tom Gameson whispers, intending Robin to hear, “but I like Alison, the ICT teacher, best. I’ve never had a bad mark.”

Tom’s classmate William Freeman, eight, loves the school grounds: “It’s like having a massive garden to play in.” His mum Sue, a former Moffats pupil herself, flies Tornados in the RAF in Yorkshire. She values the Moffats’ prized qualities of sportsmanship, confidence in public speaking, integrity and determination which, she says, helped shape her own career. “The Englehearts became my second family as my parents were abroad. There was no doubt in my mind where William was to be educated.”

As for the academic side, the Moffats method might seem a bit Heath Robinson – there is a lot of “mucking in” and doubling, or even tripling of roles – but the most recent Independent Schools Inspectorate Report (ISI), in 2010 gives a picture of a school that is doing an entirely satisfactory job of preparing its pupils for a successful transition to senior schools, and also in the trickier task of pleasing parents.

Robin insists that her staff are all of high calibre and well qualified; albeit not in every case with an actual teaching certificate. “I never think of it in those terms,” she says. “We all have some sort of professional qualification for some part of what we do, although there’s no rule that says we have to.” Indeed, four staff members are Oxbridge graduates, but unusually, there is no honours board in the entrance hall and there is apparently no hothousing of pupils for entrance examinations. “I would like to think a child does well because they are a natural scholar, not because they have been pumped full,” Robin says.

Nor does she kowtow to the ISI: “I’m more interested in us doing well what we feel we must do well. We hope inspectors will agree but I won’t do it for the sake of inspections. We’re not part of the normal circuit of obvious names,” Robin says. “We aren’t flash. We don’t boast about our scholarships, although we do have them. We offer something completely different.” (There were, in fact, three scholarships earned last year: to Stowe, Concord College and King’s Worcester.)

What of the future? “I’m not worried about what happens in the next 10 years,” Robin says. “We don’t need to be possessive about it as a family, if someone wants to take over when the time comes.” The latest crop of Englehearts are, as yet, showing few signs of wanting to fall in line: several have gone into farming and one is an airline steward. But then, as Robin points out, she herself came back.

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People whose parents live a long life are 25% less likely to get cancer

This is consistent with there being a general syndrome of biological fitness

People whose parents who live to a ripe old age are more likely to live longer themselves, and are less prone to cancer and other common diseases associated with ageing.

Those whose mothers live beyond the age of 91 or fathers live past 97 are 24 per cent less likely to get cancer, say researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School.

They discovered that overall mortality rates dropped by up to 19 per cent for each decade that at least one of the parents lived past the age of 65.

For those whose mothers lived beyond 85, mortality rates were 40 per cent lower, reports The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.

The figure was a little lower (14 per cent) for fathers, possibly because of adverse lifestyle factors such as smoking, which may have been more common in the fathers.

The research saw nearly 10,000 people questioned. The participants were based in America, and were followed up over 18 years, from 1992 to 2010.

They were interviewed every two years, with questions including the ages of their parents and when they died. In 2010, the participants were in their seventies.

Professor William Henley, from the University of Exeter Medical School, said: ‘Previous studies have shown that the children of centenarians tend to live longer with less heart disease, but this is the first robust evidence that the children of longer-lived parents are also less likely to get cancer.

‘We also found that they are less prone to diabetes or suffering a stroke.

‘These protective effects are passed on from parents who live beyond 65 – far younger than shown in previous studies, which have looked at those over the age of 80.

‘Obviously children of older parents are not immune to contracting cancer or any other diseases of ageing, but our evidence shows that rates are lower.

‘We also found that this inherited resistance to age-related diseases gets stronger the older their parents lived.’

Ambarish Dutta, from the Asian Institute of Public Health at the Ravenshaw University in India, said: ‘Interestingly from a nature versus nurture perspective, we found no evidence that these health advantages are passed on from parents-in-law.

‘Despite being likely to share the same environment and lifestyle in their married lives, spouses had no health benefit from their parents-in-law reaching a ripe old age.

‘If the findings resulted from cultural or lifestyle factors, you might expect these effects to extend to husbands and wives in at least some cases, but there was no impact whatsoever.’

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British government braced for MPs’ rebellion over new 2030 carbon energy target

Radical policy not radical enough for some

Ministers are braced for a rebellion in the Commons over when to bring in strict new carbon-free targets for Britain’s power companies.

MPs will vote on Tuesday on whether to introduce an amendment to the Energy Bill which would commit the UK to have a “near carbon-free power sector” by 2030.

The MPs’ amendment would bring in the requirement almost immediately, whereas the Government is proposing separately to agree the target in 2016.

The backbench amendment would remove coal-fire and gas-fired power stations from their network unless they can capture and store their emissions.

Backers have said that cutting carbon emissions is needed to check changes in global weather conditions.

Many scientists believe that human activity that releases carbon into the atmosphere contributes to climate change.

Tim Yeo MP, the Conservative chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, and Labour MP Barry Gardiner have been lobbying support for their amendment, which is due to be voted on around 4pm on Tuesday.

Westminster watchers said the vote could be close with the Government’s working majority of 32 slashed to just a single MP, by some calculations.

Campaigners said that as many as 20 Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs could vote in favour of the amendment. Late on Monday it emerged that Charles Kennedy, the former Lib Dem MP, was planning to back the amendment.

Lib Dem MPs are particularly likely to rebel because setting a 2030 target is party policy and is due to be discussed at a party policy meeting on Monday.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls used a speech on Monday to call on Lib Dems to back the amendment.

He said: “I call on every Liberal Democrat who supports a low carbon future to join us and vote with us to make this change happen.”

Duncan Brack MP, vice chairman of the federal policy committee, told PoliticsHome.com: “Many of us would like to see our MPs back the Yeo amendment because we believe the Chancellor’s stance on renewables has undermined the investment that’s needed. The Government needs to send a positive signal that it is committed to a low carbon future.”

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change secretary, said that the amendment was not necessary to hit climate targets. He said: “Everything in this Bill is based on the premise that we need to significantly decarbonise our power sector in order to meet climate targets.

“We secured a landmark agreement across the Coalition to treble support for low-carbon investment to £7.6 billion in 2020. And we are reforming the market to provide the certainty required to attract investment in renewables, new nuclear, CCS and demand reduction.

“We have listened to views and added a clause to enable us to set a decarbonisation target for the power sector in 2016. “No political party had this issue in their manifesto, and this will be a world first, an issue that this Coalition Government has addressed head on.”

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Eat less meat or face food shortage: Nannying British Liberal politicians

Utter rubbish! Aegentina and Australia will supply all the meat they want

Families should stop eating meat on a daily basis, MPs warn today. Pork, lamb and beef should be ‘occasional’ indulgences rather than dinner-table staples.

They said the global surge in meat and cheese consumption was unsustainable, with the UK ‘never more than a few days from a significant food shortage’.

The Commons international development committee said farmers should rear more animals on grass because livestock is land and energy intensive and grain should be saved for humans.

The report was branded ‘naive, dangerous and bitterly disappointing’ by farming unions. ‘Livestock farming is an essential part of the fabric of the British countryside,’ said Charles Sercombe of the NFU.

‘We turn otherwise unused parts of land into food and protein that the public can eat as part of a balanced diet. We are using the land as efficiently as possible.

‘With many farmers having been dealing with some of the most difficult conditions in years, to encourage the public not to eat meat is unhelpful to say the least.’

Phil Stocker of the National Sheep Association said: ‘The vast majority of land used for sheep farming is not suitable for any other form of agriculture.

‘Would it be more efficient just to leave the land and import our food? Of course not. Millions have grown up eating meat regularly and it is the public’s right to serve what they like on their dinner table.’

But Sir Malcolm Bruce, the Lib Dem chairman of the Commons committee, said: ‘With the UK never more than a few days away from a significant food shortage, UK consumers should also be encouraged over time to reduce how often they eat meat.

‘There is no room for complacency about food security over the coming decades if UK consumers are to enjoy stable supplies and reasonable food prices.

‘UK aid to help smallholders increase food production in the developing world is of direct benefit to UK consumers as rising world food prices will reduce living standards of hard-pressed UK consumers.’

The MPs are demanding ministers tackle food wastage – a study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers found up to half the food bought from UK supermarkets goes in the bin, often when edible.

The committee’s report on global food security said: ‘We recommend the Government set targets for food waste reduction for producers and retailers and introduce sanctions for failure to meet the targets.’

On the topic of GM food, dubbed ‘Frankenstein foods’, the MPs recognised the technique was ‘controversial’ but added: ‘GMOs have the potential to make a valuable contribution to food security.’

The committee raised concerns about the impact of biofuels – derived from plants such as sugar cane and maize – on the environment and on food prices.

Vast swathes of agricultural land are set aside to grow fuel crops, pushing up the price of staple goods. By law, at least 5 per cent of petrol and diesel sold on British forecourts must be biofuel.

The MPs called on ministers to consider using domestic stockpiles of food to protect against price hikes.

As well as claiming grain should be fed to humans instead of animals, vegetarians and green activists tell steak lovers livestock farming is a major source of harmful greenhouse gases.

But a study in 2010 found that going vegetarian may not be as green as it seems. The Cranfield University research found that switching from British-bred beef and lamb to meat substitutes imported from abroad such as tofu and Quorn would increase the amount of land cultivated.

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Fracking could make the UK self-sufficient in gas for at least 15 years

A fracking company has announced that more than ten times as much gas lies under the North West of England than previously believed – and it could make the UK self-sufficient for at least 15 years.

The exploratory energy company IGas has carried out technical studies which suggest the quantity of shale gas in parts of the UK have been vastly underestimated.

It holds a licence for an area of 300 square miles between Liverpool and Manchester and had previously calculated that more than 9 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas lay beneath the ground.

Fresh technical studies now point to there being as little as 15.1 tcf and as much as 172.3 tcf under the North West. With the company’s best estimate suggesting there is more likely to be 102 tcf available through fracking.

Only a proportion of the total volume will be accessible to the shale gas industry but even if just 10 per cent of the North West’s reserves can be brought to the surface it could end the entire UK’s dependency on foreign imports for a decade.

Andrew Austin, the company’s chief executive, told the BBC: ‘We (Britain) import around 1.5 tcf, we consume around 3 tcf a year, assuming you could recover technically something like 10 to 15 percent of the shale gas in place, then it could move import dependency out for about 10 to 15 years.’

As of 2012, 2.5 million hydraulic fracturing jobs have been performed on oil and gas wells worldwide.

He added in a statement issued by IGas: ‘The announcement of the gas in place volumes of up to ca. 170tcf in our North West acreage follows the completion of a very thorough study by the IGas Technical team and supports our view that these licences have a very significant Shale Gas resource with the potential to transform the company and materially benefit the communities in which we operate.

‘The planned drilling programme, commencing later this year, will further refine these estimates and advance our understanding of this shale basin. We will in due course carry out further analysis and reinterpretation of existing seismic and subsurface data to evaluate the potentially prospective Shale resources in the East Midlands and Weald Basin licence areas.’

Shares in IGas rose to a four-month high of 107.5 pence on Monday morning, falling slightly later in the day but by mid-afternoon were still up by about 12 per cent on the previous day.

Drilling is planned for later this year, which would refine the estimates and the potential of the basin, the company said.

Analysts at Jefferies said that while the estimate range was large, the most likely forecast of about 100 tcf showed the significance of the licence, both relative to IGas’s resource base and the UK’s existing gas reserves.

“While only a portion of that will be recovered even in a success case (U.S. shale recovery factors generally estimated to be about 10-30 percent with current technology/development plans), total proven gas reserves of the UK are about 7 tcf, indicating the materiality of the potential,” they said.

According to government figures, the UK’s total current proven, probable and possible gas reserves stand at around 25 tcf, including 17 tcf of proven and probable gas.

Another energy company, Cuadrilla, announced two years ago that it believes 200 tcf of shale gas lie in its licence areas and that up to 30 per cent could be recovered.

The IGas estimate was, however, treated with skepticism by environmental group Greenpeace

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British Liberal attacks papers who report ‘destructive’ climate sceptics

Newspapers are wrong to give a “platform” for campaigners and groups that question whether climate change is caused by human activity, Ed Davey, the energy secretary, will say.

Mr Davey will attack “destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism” about climate change, and criticise parts of the media for the way they report that scepticism.

The minister’s comments come as MPs prepare to vote on a new legal target to cut carbon emissions from Britain’s power plants.

An amendment to the Energy Bill would commit the UK to have a “near carbon-free power sector” by 2030.

Backers of the amendment say that cutting carbon emissions is needed to check changes in global weather conditions.

Many scientists believe that human activity that releases carbon into the atmosphere contributes to climate change.

One recent survey of 12,000 academic papers on climate change found 97 per cent agree human activities are causing the planet to warm.

Some scientists and politicians question that consensus.

Last week, Tim Yeo, the chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change committee, said it was possible that “natural phases” in the climate may explain warming, and not human activity.

Lord Lawson of Blaby, a former Chancellor, has also questioned the consensus on climate change.

According to a speech text given to the BBC before its delivery, Mr Davey will attack newspapers who give what he says is undue space to reporting those who are sceptical about the climate consensus.

“Of course there will always be uncertainties within climate science and the need for research to continue.

“But some sections of the press are giving an uncritical campaigning platform to individuals and lobby groups,” the minister will say.

“This is not the serious science of challenging, checking and probing.

“This is destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, publicity seeking contraversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness.

“This tendency will seize upon the normal expression of scientific uncertainty and portray it as proof that all climate change policy is hopelessly misguided.

He will add: “By selectively misreading the evidence, they seek to suggest that climate change has stopped so we can all relax and burn all the dirty fuel we want without a care.

“Those who argue against all the actions we are taking to reduce emissions, without any serious and viable alternative, are asking us to take a massive gamble with the planet our children will inherit, in the face of all the evidence, against overwhelming odds.”

Some Conservative MPs say that the most important change required in energy policy is to allow more “fracking”, the extraction of shale gas from the earth.

Shale gas has transformed the energy market in the US, reducing American dependency on imported oil and gas, and some MPs say Britain could follow suit.

IGas, a company licensed to explore for shale gas in northern England, today claimed that reserves in the area are much larger than previously thought.

The company said there may be up to 170 trillion cubic feet of gas in the area. That is almost 20 times more than previously thought, and equal to more than 50 years of the UK’s current annual gas consumption.

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Britain’s social work Gestapo again

Secret court jails father for sending son 21st birthday greeting on Facebook after he was gagged from naming him

A father has been jailed at a secret court hearing for sending a Facebook message to his grown-up son on his 21st birthday. Garry Johnson, 46, breached a draconian gagging order which stops him publicly naming his son, Sam, whom he has brought up and who still lives with him.

In a case which is certain to fuel concerns about Britain’s shadowy network of secret courts, a judge sent the former music executive to prison for contempt at a closed-doors family court hearing in Essex at the beginning of last month.

He was not arrested by police or even represented by a lawyer.

The order silencing Mr Johnson – which follows an acrimonious divorce eight years ago – means he cannot mention either of his boys, 21-year-old Sam and Adam, 18, in public, even by congratulating them in a local newspaper announcement when they get engaged, married or have children in the future.

The extraordinary gag is set to last until the end of his life, although his boys are now adults. Last night they condemned their father’s jailing as ‘cruel and ludicrous’.

After their parents’ divorce, the two boys chose to live with their father, following a series of rows with their mother over her new boyfriend.

But within a year of the divorce, Mr Johnson’s ex-wife made allegations to Essex social workers that he was neglecting the children and not feeding them properly at his smart family home.

An investigation by social workers cleared him of any wrongdoing and said the boys were fine.

A year later, in 2006, she made further allegations to social workers that he was mentally unfit to care for the boys.

Medical documents shown to the Mail by Sam and Adam reveal that Mr Johnson was examined three times by a local psychiatrist hired by social workers. The doctor wrote to social workers saying:

‘There is no evidence of mental illness. I cannot understand why there are concerns about Mr Johnson’s mental health.’

Social services refused, as a result, to get involved.

In 2007, the ex-wife started private care proceedings to remove the boys from their father. A judge put the boys under a ‘living at home with parent’ care order.

It meant they would continue to live with their father, but under supervision by social services.

This care order was accompanied by the gagging order to stop an increasingly anguished Mr Johnson talking about the case publicly. Even naming his sons in the most innocuous circumstances – such as on Facebook – became a contempt of court.

The care order on Sam expired on his 18th birthday three years ago. The one on Adam in October last year when he reached 18. Normally, a gagging order imposed by a family court judge on a parent expires at the same time as a care order on the child. This one did not.

Mr Johnson was imprisoned at the height of the Mail’s campaign against jailings by this country’s network of secret courts.

The secretive family court system, which jailed Mr Johnson, deals with custody wrangles, children’s care orders and adoption.

Mr Johnson received a letter in late April from Chelmsford County Court officials ordering him to go to Basildon Magistrates’ Court building on May 2 for a hearing regarding his children.

He was not warned he might face imprisonment or that the hearing was about his Facebook message, posted on Sam’s birthday a few days earlier on April 23.

On arrival, he was escorted by court security guards to a private room in the building for a half hour hearing under family court rules before His Honour Judge Damien Lochrane. He was not warned that he might need a lawyer.

At the private hearing, Mr Johnson learned he had breached a gagging order, imposed by the family courts in 2007, by sending the Facebook message.

He informed the judge that he had had four heart attacks and was awaiting a triple by-pass operation. But he was sentenced to 28 days’ jail and sent down to a court cell to await transport to Chelmsford prison.

In the court cell, he had a heart attack caused by the shock. Rushed to a local hospital by ambulance, he was then shackled and handcuffed to a bed while on oxygen and receiving morphine.

A team of prison officers were put on 24-hour shifts beside his bed to make sure he did not escape.

He recovered and was sent to prison two days later, serving two weeks of the sentence before being released. Details of the horrifying case were made public to the Mail by his sons, who are not subject to any gagging order according to their Essex-based lawyer, Alan Foskett.

The jailing provoked a horrified response from MPs last night. John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP who has campaigned against the secret courts, said: ‘This is yet another example of how the secret courts are stopping freedom of speech. I have never heard of a gagging order of this kind going on into adulthood. This is a surreal case.’

Mr Johnson’s local MP, John Baron, said: ‘I have helped Mr Johnson and his sons – who always wanted to live with him – over several years. To find he has been imprisoned for sending a birthday message to one of them is troubling.

‘Whilst I appreciate the need to protect children, the family court system often ignores the legitimate wishes of families. This needs to change, and quickly.’

Sam, a telesales manager and former professional footballer, said last night: ‘My dad is a good father and has never been in trouble with the police. He was treated like a criminal. This ludicrous gagging order should not exist and must now be lifted.

Both Adam and myself are adults. This cruel ruling is now hanging over my father to silence him about the sons he loves for the rest of his life. That is a terrible thing in what is meant to be a free country.’

Mr Johnson was imprisoned a day before senior judges, on May 3, reacted to the Mail campaign by saying they planned to stop courts jailing defendants in secret for contempt.

The Ministry of Justice this week said that it does not count up people jailed by the family courts because the numbers are ‘so small’.

A spokesman said of the courts: ‘It is very rare for anyone to be imprisoned for contempt of court and it only ever happens in extreme circumstances when a person has continually disregarded legally binding requirements made by the court and clearly communicated to them.

‘A person accused of contempt of court will always be given their full legal right to defend himself or herself at a hearing will always be heard in an open court.’

However, it is estimated by campaigners and MPs that up to 200 parents a year are imprisoned for contempt by the family courts. Because of the controversial secrecy rules, some have been sent to jail for discussing their case with MPs or charity workers advising them.

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Human rights fraud

He may not be much of a comedian, but he’s certainly having a laugh: Paul Shiner and The Great Human Rights Swindle

For the past decade, Phil Shiner, head of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), has made a handsome living suing the British taxpayer – at the British taxpayers’ expense

For the past decade, Phil Shiner, head of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), has made a handsome living suing the British taxpayer – at the British taxpayers’ expense

Human rights lawyers are not famous for their sense of humour. So it was something of a surprise to learn that the sour-faced solicitor Phil Shiner lists comedy as one of his hobbies.

For the past decade, Shiner has made a handsome living suing the British taxpayer — at the British taxpayers’ expense.

Shiner is head of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) — not to be confused with the post-punk band Public Image Limited (PiL), put together by Johnny Rotten after the self-immolation of the Sex Pistols.

Rotten once starred in a movie called The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle. If Shiner is ever immortalised on the silver screen it should be called The Great Human Rights Swindle.

Shiner’s firm specialises in bringing actions against the British Army.

I first crossed swords with him on TV during the Iraq war when his representatives were harvesting claims in the back streets of Baghdad and Basra. PIL is a yuman rites version of one of those Blame Direct outfits who advertise on daytime TV.

Have you been tortured by a British soldier? You could be entitled to com-pen-say-shun.

Shiner is always on the lookout for a jihadist with a grievance which can be used to discredit the Army and win some hard cash. Unlike Blame Direct and the rest of the ‘no win, no fee’ brigade, Shiner gets paid win, lose or draw.

He is bankrolled out of the legal aid budget.

Over the years he has secured £3 million compensation for his clients, mostly foreign nationals who have alleged abuse at the hands of British troops in Iraq.

His work won him the prestigious accolade ‘Human Rights Lawyer of the Year’ in 2004. I bet that was a fun night.

We don’t know how much he has earned, but legal aid fees clocked up in cases filed by PIL must run into millions.

And at a time when the Government is attempting to bring under control the burgeoning £2 billion legal aid budget, Shiner continues to thrive.

As part of the proposed £350 million cuts, members of middle-class households with an annual income of £37,000 will no longer be entitled to legal aid for a whole raft of civil claims, including debt and divorce.

Yet the funding for firms such as PIL to bring claims for damages on behalf of foreign nationals over incidents alleged to have taken place thousands of miles away would appear to be unaffected.

This week Shiner turned up on Radio 4’s Today Programme peddling his latest crusade for truth and justice. He was given a prime platform by a gleeful BBC to denounce ‘Britain’s Guantanamo Bay’.

Shiner claimed that dozens of Afghans are being held in a ‘secret prison’ at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province.

He demanded they should be brought before a court or released. He said: ‘This is a secret facility that’s been used to unlawfully detain or intern up to 85 Afghans that they’ve kept secret, that Parliament doesn’t know about, that courts previously when they have interrogated issues like detention and internment in Afghanistan have never been told about — completely off the radar.

‘It is reminiscent of the public’s awakening that there was a Guantanamo Bay.

‘And people will be wondering if these detainees are being treated humanely and in accordance with international law.’

This must be where Shiner’s legendary sense of humour comes into play. He should know full well that this isn’t a ‘secret prison’. And he is aware that the Army has been trying to get rid of these prisoners for years.

Back in 2010, Britain wanted to hand over the detainees to the Afghan justice system. Eventually the High Court in London ruled that they could not be transferred to the Afghans because they might be tortured, which would breach their yuman rites.

Far from being ‘detained unlawfully’ they are being held in British custody on the specific orders of a British court.

You’d expect Shiner to know that. Because in 2010, the original Camp Bastion case was brought by, you guessed, one Phil Shiner. On legal aid, natch. So how does he explain telling the BBC this was a ‘secret camp’, ‘off the radar’, that the courts haven’t been told about?

Now, three years later, he’s heading back to court to argue that the detainees should be put on trial or set free.

Talk about playing both ends. Like Boris Johnson, Shiner appears to be pro-having cake and pro-eating it.

But thanks to the success of his earlier lawsuit, the High Court has ruled the prisoners can’t be entrusted to the Afghan legal system.

Since Shiner doesn’t approve of military justice, that means they would have to be released back into the local community, where they would be at liberty to resume their terrorist activities.

In comedy, as in life, timing is everything.

Just a week after a British soldier was murdered by Islamist terrorists on the streets of South London, this is an odd time to argue that we should be releasing their comrades-in-jihad on to the streets of Afghanistan to kill more of our troops.

Whatever happens next, one thing is certain: yet again the final bill will fall to the mug British taxpayers.

Shiner may not be much of a comedian, but he’s certainly having a laugh. And the joke’s on us.

SOURCE

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You have 82% more chance of DYING after surgery at the weekend: Shocking death toll following routine NHS operations

Patients who undergo planned operations at the weekend rather than a Monday are 82 per cent more likely to die.

Shocking findings show that death rates for elective procedures increase throughout the working week.

This will add to mounting concern about NHS patients receiving poor care during ‘antisocial’ hours when consultants are off duty.

The study suggests for the first time that some weekdays are safer than others, with Friday and the weekend being most hazardous for planned surgery.

Researchers from Imperial College London looked at four million elective operations in NHS hospitals in England between 2008 and 2011 with at least one night spent in hospital.

Elective surgery normally involves procedures such as heart bypass, hip and knee replacements, gastric operations and hysterectomies.

Altogether 27,500 patients died within 30 days of surgery, with the risk lowest for those having it on Monday and rising on each subsequent day of the week.

The extra risk on Tuesday was minimal, but went up to 15 per cent on Wednesday, 21 per cent for Thursday patients and 44 per cent on Friday (all compared with Monday).

Almost one in 20 operations was performed at a weekend, when the increased risk reached 82 per cent, said the study published online at bmj.com.

Lead researcher Dr Paul Aylin said: ‘The first 48 hours after an operation are often the most critical period of care for surgery patients. A failure to rescue the patient could be due to well-known issues relating to reduced and/or locum staffing and poorer availability of staff over a weekend.’

Frailer patients were at even higher risk at weekends.

Dr Aylin said: ‘Unlike previous studies, we included both deaths in hospital and deaths after discharge, so this eliminates a potential bias of counting only in-hospital deaths.

‘We tried to account for the possibility that different types of patients might have operations at the end of the week, but our adjustment made little difference.

‘This leaves us with the possibility that the differences in mortality rates are due to poorer quality of care at the weekend, perhaps because of less availability of staff, resources and diagnostic services.’

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last week condemned the scandal of out-of-hours care, with patients seldom able to see their own GP as opposed to locum doctors ‘who don’t know you from Adam’.

Canadian doctors writing a commentary on the study said there should be a rethink on whether any elective surgery should take place at the weekend.

They wrote: ‘Although emergency procedures such as the repair of ruptured aortic aneurysms cannot be controlled, the scheduling of elective procedures, such as knee replacements, is wholly within our control.

‘If weekend care proves to deliver poorer outcomes than its weekday counterpart, it might be argued that elective procedures should not be scheduled at weekends at all.’

Previous research found that hundreds of deaths could be avoided every year by putting consultants in charge of care, regardless of the day of the week.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘We know of cases where patients get admitted on a Friday night and, if there’s a bank holiday, they don’t get any proper care until Tuesday morning because of the lack of experienced staff and diagnostic facilities.

‘Quite apart from the human cost, this costs the NHS because they may need more treatment as a result.’

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My darling Penny died after eight out-of-hours doctors failed to save her: How mother ‘fell through widening cracks of the NHS because she fell ill over bank holiday’

There weren’t many people whose lives were not made brighter by knowing Penny. Mine certainly was. We had been together since we were students, nearly 20 years in all. We were both besotted by our lovely little boy, Joseph. I never imagined any life other than the one we had.

According to her post-mortem examination, Penny died of multiple organ failure caused by blood poisoning that was the result of a freakishly rare infection that she contracted after a minor surgical procedure.

The simplest way to describe Penny’s death would be to say she fell through the widening cracks in our National Health Service. Specifically, she fell through the gap created by the disastrous 2004 decision to take out-of-hours care out of the hands of GPs.

For Penny died because she fell ill over an Easter weekend, on which the doors of our local surgery were bolted shut from Thursday evening until Tuesday morning and the care of its patients left in the hands of a dysfunctional out-of-hours service.

The bacteria that killed her, Group A Streptococcus (GAS), are lethal once they get a hold of your system, but this is no superbug. Antibiotics, delivered promptly in response to the early symptoms of blood poisoning — clamminess, fever, steadily-increasing pain — will usually repel it.

Penny died because seven of the eight out-of-hours doctors she consulted over the course of that weekend failed to spot the signs, thanks to a scarcely credible combination of individual incompetence and organisational chaos.

The first doctor she spoke to that night said it was probably nothing, but nevertheless suggested a face-to-face meeting. So Penny drove herself the short distance to the Camidoc out-of-hours clinic, where a second doctor confirmed that she was running a fever but, suspecting a viral infection, advised her to wait and see how she felt in the morning.

Over the following two days a rash, clamminess and constant, increasing pain in the abdomen and groin were added to the symptoms she explained over the telephone, calmly and precisely despite her growing discomfort, to Camidoc’s doctors. At different points she reported a temperature of 41 degrees and that she could hardly walk, each time patiently repeating the history of her symptoms and the injection she’d had.

On Easter Sunday another Camidoc doctor did visit her at home, but once again there was no continuity of care. Once again she had to explain her symptoms afresh.

Flu, food-poisoning and colic were all put forward as possible explanations and it was not until Penny spoke to an eighth Camidoc doctor that she was referred to hospital, on Easter Monday morning. ‘She had severe, ongoing pain,’ that doctor told her inquest in 2006. ‘It was obvious she had to be seen urgently.’

Obvious but too late. A few hours earlier, another Camidoc doctor had told her, ‘if you were really sick, you wouldn’t be talking to me like this’.

By the time Penny was placed in an artificial coma at the Royal London Hospital — intended to give her the best chance of responding to the antibiotics being pumped into her — I knew she was going to die.

It took just under 24 hours, but it was not until more than two years later that I fully understood why it had happened.

In the bleak months that followed the funeral, it was the love of our son Joseph, the imperative of looking after him, that kept me getting out of bed in the morning.

But what got me through the days was a determination to get to the bottom of what had gone wrong with Penny’s care. Had our positions been reversed, I thought, there was no way she would have let it pass without kicking up an almighty fuss. So with the help and support of a solicitor called Grainne Barton, an expert in clinical negligence issues, I did my best.

In October 2006, the shambolic nature of Camidoc’s organisation, which meant none of the doctors involved in treating Penny had access to each other’s notes, was exposed at the inquest into her death.

The resulting media coverage belatedly bounced the local Primary Care Trust into a proper independent investigation into what had gone wrong.

It concluded, in June 2007, that a major failure of Camidoc’s systems had contributed to Penny’s death but also highlighted a dangerous national policy confusion over what out-of-hours services were supposed to be doing: handling only urgent cases, in effect acting as a screening service for Accident and Emergency units, or providing the kind of service offered by GPs during regular hours?

On the day it was released, the report topped the news bulletins for most of a day. Gordon Brown, then the Prime Minister in waiting, was forced to respond, publicly acknowledging that the NHS had to do much better in its care at nights, weekends and Bank Holidays.

Penny would be proud, I remember thinking. A wake-up call had been delivered. Something, surely, will be done.

How wrong can you be? Six years on, the Government, Opposition and the medical profession are still embroiled in a futile squabble over who is to blame for an out-of-hours system that continues to be a fiasco, rather than actually addressing how to fix it.

It feels as if all those hours that I spent writing letters to Islington Primary Care Trust (PCT), and poring over the service standards that Camidoc never came close to meeting, were in vain.

Now, it seems that barely a day goes by without some new out-of-hours tragedy or near-tragedy coming to light somewhere in the country, many of them with echoes of what went wrong in Penny’s case.

Rushed consultations resulting in confused clinical judgments, the inherent problems involved with trying to assess the gravity of a patient’s condition over the phone — it is all painfully familiar.

In almost every case of avoidable death in the health system, establishing exactly where responsibility lies is a complex process, often hinging on a finely-balanced assessment of whether an individual doctor’s mistake amounted to professional misconduct or was forgiveable given the information they had to work with.

But surely, by now, we have witnessed enough heartache to recognise that fatal mistakes have been made much more likely because of the fundamental flaws in the out-of-hours system.

With too few doctors trying to cope with too many patients, there is too much reliance on diagnosis by telephone and there is zero chance of anyone being seen by someone with an idea of their medical history.

The case for a proper review and real reform is unanswerable. The stories of Penny and baby Axel Peanberg King made headlines. But how many more go unreported because the families of those who died just want to be left to grieve in peace, or because they don’t know how to voice their rage?

Penny’s case became news because I had the means to employ a solicitor who helped me ensure I got the most out of the inquest process and because, as a journalist myself, I know how the media works and had the contacts to ensure the case had the best chance of being covered.

As the chaotic state of out-of-hours care across huge swathes of the country has become increasingly apparent, it is hardly surprising that more and more people have started by-passing these ‘dodgy doctor’ services and heading straight for the ever more stretched A&E units of their local hospitals.

I will spend the rest of my life wishing I’d done that with Penny.

Looking back, it is impossible to comprehend what possible rationale there could have been for a government signing off on a new contract which absolved GPs of the requirement to work some anti-social hours while simultaneously awarding them pay rises that mean the average GP surgery partner now takes home a six-figure salary.

It is our health service. We can decide how it is run, and choose to put the people who rely on it first. It won’t bring back Penny, or any of the others who have died needlessly, but it might prevent more tragedies.

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No financial gain for British female graduates with first-class degrees

Any chance that women tend to take useless degrees in things like Art History? Might that not affect how seriously their degrees are taken?

Women who leave university with a first class degree see little difference in their salary, but their male counterparts receive a clear financial advantage, a study has found.

As female students across the country prepare to sit their exams, the London School of Economics has discovered that the future salary difference for those walking away with a first and those gaining a 2:1 is small.

In contrast first-class male graduates are likely to be paid six percent more than their peers who obtained a lower grade.

The report was carried out by Professors Andy Feng and Georg Graetz who found that, on average, a first-class degree adds roughly 3 per cent to earnings in the first year of employment

“In cash terms, this means that the men get a bonus for a first of about £1,780 in today’s money,” the report’s authors conclude. “If this difference remains over a 40-year career, this would be worth about £71,000.”

The authors claim that the differences may wear off over time, but they cannot explain the gender pay discrepancies.

“The difference between monetary gains for men and women is a puzzle. Perhaps men are more likely to ask for or be given a higher wage offer. We honestly don’t know,” the authors said.

The findings come as increasing attention is being given to the lack of women in senior positions in British industry and a European drive to place more women on corporate boards of directors, the FT reported.

They are likely to fuel the debate about gender inequality in the workplace.

However, the researchers found that, regardless of gender, those gaining either a first or a 2:1 did considerably better in the workplace immediately after graduation than those with lower grades.

There is a bigger difference between a 2:1 and 2:2 – a 2:1 is worth about 7 per cent higher wages.

“‘Our study is probably the best evidence available that exam results matter, but there’s a lot more work to be done in understanding what drives the gender split and figuring out if the differences in pay-offs by degree result eventually go away,” the authors wrote.

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Report: Sunshine vitamin “may treat asthma”

This is a study in laboratory glassware only

The amount of time asthma patients spend soaking up the sun may have an impact on the illness, researchers have suggested. A team at King’s College London said low levels of vitamin D, which is made by the body in sunlight, was linked to a worsening of symptoms.

Its latest research shows the vitamin calms an over-active part of the immune system in asthma. However, treating patients with vitamin D has not yet been tested.

People with asthma can find it hard to breathe when their airways become inflamed, swollen and narrowed.

Most people are treated with steroids, but the drugs do not work for all.

“We know people with high levels of vitamin D are better able to control their asthma – that connection is quite striking,” said researcher Prof Catherine Hawrylowicz.

Her group investigated the impact of the vitamin on a chemical in the body, interleukin-17. It is a vital part of the immune system and helps to fight off infections.

However, it can cause problems when levels get too high and has been strongly implicated in asthma.

In this study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vitamin D was able to lower levels of interleukin-17 when it was added to blood samples taken from 28 patients.

The team is now conducting clinical trials to see if giving the sunshine vitamin to patients could ease their symptoms. They are looking at patients who do not respond to steroids as they produce seven times more interleukin-17 than other patients.

Prof Catherine Hawrylowicz told the BBC: “We think that treating people with vitamin D could make steroid-resistant patients respond to steroids or let those who can control their asthma take less steroids.”

She said a culture of covering up in the sun and using sun cream may have increased asthma rates, but “it is a careful message because too much sun is bad for you”.

Malayka Rahman, from the charity Asthma UK, said: “For the majority of people with asthma, current available medicines are an effective way of managing the condition but we know that they don’t work for everyone, which is why research into new treatments is vital.

“We also know that many people with asthma have concerns about the side effects of their medicines so if vitamin D is shown to reduce the amount of medicines required, this would have an enormous impact on people’s quality of life.

“We look forward to the results of the clinical trial.”

SOURCE

Introducing Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader who’s charming the ladies…


Britain’s most “incorrect” politician

It was an apparent late surge by female voters that led to Ukip’s electoral success last month Melissa Kite checks out party leader Nigel Farage’s girl appeal
‘People see me as approachable. Perhaps they don¿t see me as a politician. That¿s the point’

‘People see me as approachable. Perhaps they don’t see me as a politician. That’s the point’

Going to the pub with Nigel Farage is very therapeutic. Within seconds of our drinks arriving, I realise I am telling him my troubles as we sit beneath an umbrella at a table in the street.

He is nodding sympathetically, sipping from a pint of beer and puffing on his trademark cigarette. As I offload my frustrations, he says all the right things. Before long, we are setting the world to rights and I catch myself thinking that I must tell Nigel about that problem I had with my local police because…
Because what, exactly?

Farage has that indefinable quality that makes you believe he is interested in your problems and even that he might be able to put them right. But to be realistic, he can’t possibly put anything right, can he?

He’s the leader of a fringe party that, on the face of it, hasn’t a hope in hell of getting into power. Yet with the UK Independence Party hitting 19 per cent in the council election polls last month, people have started to sit up and take notice.

And they are now looking at its chirpy leader as someone who cannot be as easily dismissed as David Cameron would like.

Most surprising of all, given that Ukip was once a nerdish, male-dominated party, is the fact that Farage, 49, is becoming a hit with women. Indeed, it was apparently a late surge in the female vote that led to Ukip’s stellar performance in last month’s council elections.

A few weeks ago, I asked my circle of friends how they voted in the local elections and one glamorous, wealthy divorcee revealed she had voted Ukip, saying: ‘Nigel Farage is a straight talker. He isn’t surrounded by spin doctors. He’s a real man.’

‘There is a country out there desperate for success. You see it in the Olympics, in football. People want to belong, to be proud’

Perhaps it’s the pint, the cigarette, the reassuringly macho banter. Perhaps women are tired of the touchy-feely, organic, free-range posturing of Cameron and his Notting Hill metrosexuals.

After all, Farage wouldn’t make a song and dance of telling voters he went home early for bath time.

This is the man who emerged with minor injuries from a serious plane crash while campaigning in the 2010 general election.

He wouldn’t tell us how he loves to cook lasagne, naming his favourite celebrity chef’s recipe.

But is he really becoming a sex symbol? Farage rocks with laughter. ‘Oh, I don’t…ha ha… Oh, no, you are not going to get me to answer a question like that. I very much doubt it anyway. I’m English, for God’s sake.’

‘I can cook. I’m good at fish I’ve caught. It’s the hunter-gatherer thing’

And he goes on chuckling, but looking ever so slightly flattered. When he eventually calms down, he says: ‘Look, people see me as approachable. Perhaps they don’t see me as a politician. Perhaps that’s the point.’

But I have obviously planted an idea because Farage develops the sex symbol theme as he sips his pint.

‘Isn’t it funny? It’s the perception thing: how women see men and how men think women see men. Men can never work out why some women find some men interesting or attractive. “Why is he so popular with women?” they say.’

But Farage is still pondering the sex symbol comment. ‘I’m going to go all shy now,’ he says.

‘Seriously, maybe the others are a bit too polished.’ I put it to him that the others are indeed polished, and that politicians such as Cameron and Clegg make all sorts of slick claims about being good with children and cooking Sunday lunch.

He says: ‘I’m really good with nobody’s children. But I can cook, actually. I’m good at fish.’

What fish? ‘Fish that I’ve caught.’ Macho cooking, you see. His press secretary Annabelle reveals he is a dab hand at gutting sea bass. ‘He’s useless at cooking artichokes, though,’ she adds.

But who needs artichokes when you’re a man who can gut bass? Farage, a keen angler, has even written columns for Total Sea Fishing. He enjoys shooting as well. ‘It’s the hunter-gatherer thing,’ he explains, rather extraneously.

The effect of this old-fashioned chauvinism on the numbers is impressive. Female support for Ukip is now only fractionally behind male votes and the party has burgeoning numbers of female councillors, some of whom arrive at the pub later for a drink with Nigel and are really quite chic.

By contrast, while Cameron brags about doing the school run, his female vote continues to plummet.

One might postulate that women, who have keen antennae for authenticity, warm to Farage because he does not put a gloss on things. He is prepared to manfully put his foot in his mouth if the moment requires it. He described the first president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, as having ‘the charisma of a damp rag’ and called Belgium ‘pretty much a non-country’.

Has he consciously cultivated this maverick streak? ‘That’s just the way I am,’ he says, before adding wistfully, ‘I’m an accidental politician.’ For a moment, he looks reflective, almost troubled. ‘I had no plan to do this. It wasn’t my boyhood dream.’ He is staring into the middle distance as he slowly exhales smoke. What was his dream?

‘I had different ambitions and aspirations. I thought in my early teens I would join the army. Then Thatcher got elected. The birth of the yuppie. I thought, “I’d like to be one of those. I want to make lots of money.”’

That’s Nigel, you see. Ask him what he wanted to be and he’ll tell you that he wanted to make lots of money. Cameron would never admit that. He would come out with some guff about how he wanted to serve his country.

Farage says: ‘In my late 20s I didn’t change, the world changed. Maastricht [the 1991 agreement that gave birth to the EU], the ERM [European exchange rate mechanism, a precursor to financial union that went disastrously wrong for Britain in 1992]. These things motivated me to get involved.’

But what else drives him, personally? I ask about his wife and four children, who – unlike other party leaders’ wives and families – are never trotted out for the cameras. I offer him a chance to say what a devoted father he is, but he turns it down.

‘If I was honest with you, I’m not there enough because of the demands of this job. I have sort of failed on that score really.’ Failed? Even by Farage’s standards of straight-talking, a politician using the f-word is astounding. ‘I’ve had four children. I wouldn’t say when they were little that I was particularly brilliant. I try. I have tried. But I’m not very good.’

His German-born wife Kirsten is an elusive figure. They met when he was working in the City and she was a bond dealer. Now she’s works as his PA. She is obviously devoted, yet he refuses to put her on display.

‘I haven’t mentioned my wife because you can’t have it both ways. If you make your family public property… I have tried to make sure there isn’t a single photo of my children.’

When he talks about his hobbies his face lights up. ‘I love the big outdoors. I enjoy watching cricket. Going to Lord’s for the Ashes. I won’t sleep the night before.’

When he outlines his vision for Britain it is tinged with the same excitement and idealism:

‘There is a country out there desperate for success. You see it in the Olympics, in football. People want to belong, to be proud. And we cannot have any sense of pride or self-respect if we are not a self-governing nation. Our entire political class has given up on this country. It’s the concept of managed decline: “Let’s go down the tubes with dignity. We are no bloody good, let’s admit it.” Well, I think we are an extraordinary country. Of course we can turn it around.’

I can almost hear Elgar in the background. And no, I haven’t been drinking pint to pint with Farage. I’m on the mineral water. But does it have to be hokum? Can’t we believe in Farage’s simple, patriotic vision? He makes it sound so straightforward: ‘You can’t pussyfoot around.

You have got to get the hell out of the EU political union. You have got to have an amicable divorce and replace it with a trade deal.

‘But we have got these spineless, pathetic, weak politicians and this weak prime minister who says, “Sorry, it makes me sick to my stomach, but there is nothing I can do about it.”’

Farage, a former Tory who resigned from the party during John Major’s leadership, clearly does not have much time for David Cameron.

The most damaging insult he levels at the prime minister is an aside that comes out casually as he poses for photographs. As he reaches into his pocket for his Rothmans, he reveals something Cameron used to do when the two were between takes on TV debate shows: ‘He was always nicking my fags. He never had his own.’

Authenticity. Cameron cultivated his wholesome image while sneaking cigarettes from his adversary. Farage may be flawed. But at least he wears his vices on his sleeve.

SOURCE

Tony Blair says murder of Lee Rigby PROVES ‘there is a problem within Islam’

He’s finally getting it right

Tony Blair today makes his most powerful political intervention since leaving Downing Street by launching an outspoken attack on ‘the problem within Islam’.

The former Prime Minister addresses the shocking killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich by going further than he – or any front-rank British politician – has gone before over the issue of Muslim radicalism.

Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, he departs from the usual argument that Islam is a peaceful religion that should not be tainted by the actions of a few extremists.

Instead, Mr Blair urges governments to ‘be honest’ and admit that the problem is more widespread.

‘There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam,’ he writes.

‘We have to put it on the table and be honest about it. Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.’

He adds: ‘At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it.’

Mr Blair’s comments are likely to be seized on by critics who will argue that by leading us into the Iraq War he has helped to swell support for radical Islam around the globe.

The former PM’s remarks come as David Cameron prepares to make a Commons statement about the Woolwich murder tomorrow afternoon.

The statement will come just hours after the first meeting of the Prime Minister’s Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation Task Force (TERFOR) – made up of senior Ministers, MI5, police and moderate religious leaders – tomorrow morning.

Whitehall sources said that it would be a ‘preliminary meeting’ to draw up the agenda for a full meeting within days. The group, which the Muslim Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi, will examine new powers to muzzle hate preachers.

Mr Cameron’s Commons speech is also expected to address the situation in Syria.

In his article, Mr Blair, who is trying to establish a Palestinian state through his work as a peace envoy, also addresses the Syrian situation, warning: ‘We are at the beginning of this tragedy ….. Syria is in a state of accelerating disintegration.

‘President Assad is brutally pulverising communities hostile to his regime.’ Mr Blair says that ‘the overwhelming desire of the West is to stay out of it’, which he goes on to describe as ‘completely understandable’.

He suggests that ‘the problem within Islam’ can start to be tackled by ‘educating children about faith here and abroad’.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Foreign Secretary and chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, said: ‘Much of what Tony Blair says is sensible.

‘The Islamic terrorists who kill people have the silent support of many more in their community who share their ideology, if not their methods.

‘But even combined, they represent only a small minority of British Muslims, and we must never forget that.

‘However, he appears to be still trying to justify the Iraq War rather than acknowledging that that war provided an unprecedented opportunity for the Sunni and Shia extremists to slaughter so many of their co-religionists.’

SOURCE

Violent Far-Left “anti-Fascists” arrested in Britain

Violent clashes took place outside the Palace of Westminster between anti-fascist campaigners and BNP supporters. As the trouble erupted, dozens of police officers rushed to break up the disorder.

The angry scenes led to groups kicking and punching each other as police struggled to keep the opposing sides apart.

A total of 58 people – all anti-fascist campaigners – were arrested at the scene by police officers and packed onto London buses.

They were then transported to London police stations for further questioning.

At least one man, a BNP activist, suffered a large cut to the nose after fierce shouting from either side of gated barriers spilled into violence.

Police dogs were also deployed to the scene as the protesters fought with each other. The crowd of anti-fascist protesters heavily outnumbered the BNP supporters. They held banners which read ‘smash the BNP’ and ‘say no to Islamaphobia’.

The BNP had planned to march from Woolwich Barracks, but were banned from doing so by Scotland Yard, amid community fears that their presence could prompt disorder.

Around 100 people gathered on Old Palace Yard, clutching BNP banners and calling for ‘hate preachers out’.

A short time later, counter protesters began directing chants at them, calling them ‘fascist scum’, ‘you racist Nazis’.

Scotland Yard said that a group, believed to be part of the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) protest, gathered in a pre-arranged penned area – but some were unwilling to remain within that area.

The BNP had planned to march from Woolwich Barracks, but were banned from doing so by Scotland Yard, amid community fears that their presence could prompt disorder

A spokesman added: ‘Due to police concerns about serious disruption to the life of the community, and the potential for serious disorder should this counter protest confront the BNP organised protest, police have imposed conditions under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.

‘Those conditions state that the protest must take place in Whitehall Gardens junction with Whitehall.

Around 50 anti-fascist protestors were reported to have rushed towards one man as he was escorted by police to the area containing the BNP group.

BNP leader Nick Griffin also attended the protest. He said the murder of soldier Lee Rigby would not be an isolated incident.

Labour leader Ed Miliband today joined celebrities and thousands of others in signing a letter to a newspaper in protest at far-right groups using the death of Drummer Rigby for their own agenda.

In the letter to the editor of the Daily Mirror, they wrote: ‘The EDL and Islamic extremists are more similar to each other than to us. They share a violent, hate-fuelled desire for conflict and war, and we will not let either group tear our country apart.

Meanwhile officers in Scotland last night said a 25-year-old man had been charged in Inverness in connection with an alleged hate crime on an internet memorial page for Drummer Rigby.

In a statement, police in Scotland said a man was charged ‘in connection with an enquiry into alleged hate crime comments on Facebook’.

The man is expected to appear at Inverness Sheriff Court on Monday.

SOURCE

Feminists warn British supermarkets: Stop selling raunchy lads’ mags or we will sue

Shops selling ‘lads’ mags’ with covers of featuring scantily-clad women, could be sued for sexual harassment by their own customers and staff, feminist groups have claimed.

Campaigners are warning high street retailers to remove magazines that display naked and near-naked images on their covers or face the risk of legal action.

The Lose the Lads’ Mags campaign, by pressure groups UK Feminista and Object, says displaying publications in stores or requiring staff to handle such magazines could amount to sex discrimination or sexual harassment.

In a letter in the Guardian today, 11 equal rights lawyers say there have been previous cases of staff suing employers in respect to exposure to pornographic material at work, and called on retailers to stop selling ‘lads’ mag’ publications.

‘High-street retailers are exposing staff and, in some cases, customers to publications whose handling and display may breach equality legislation,’ the letter said.Displaying lads’ mags and pornographic papers in ‘mainstream’ shops results in the involuntary exposure of staff and, in some cases, customers to pornographic images.

‘Every mainstream retailer which stocks lads’ mags is vulnerable to legal action by staff and, where those publications are visibly on display, by customers.’

The group says it has been contacted by employees who dislike handling such magazines but who feel they have no power to take the issue up with their employers.

UK Feminista and Object are discussing with lawyers about bringing a test case and will support employees who are uncomfortable with images of naked or near-naked women on magazines, the Guardian said.

Kat Banyard, founder of UK Feminista, told the newspaper: “For too long supermarkets have got off the hook, stocking lad’s mags in the face of widespread opposition, but this time we have the law on our side.


The barnyard lady. Guaranteed to deflate anyone

Every shop that sells lads’ mags – publications which are deeply harmful to women – are opening themselves up to legal action.”

Sophie Bennett, campaigns officer for Object, added: ‘Lads’ mags dehumanise and objectify women, promoting harmful attitudes that underpin discrimination and violence against women and girls.

Reducing women to sex objects sends out an incredibly dangerous message that women are constantly sexually available and displaying these publications in everyday spaces normalises this sexism.’

SOURCE

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