Man wrongly told by NHS that he had six months to live
A BRITISH man sold all his belongings – including his dog – after he was wrongly informed he had just six months to live. Malcolm McMahon, 55, from Erdington, central England, was advised to get his possessions in order after being diagnosed with severe liver cancer in February last year, the Birmingham Mail reported.
He gave away his Staffordshire Bull Terrier, put his four-bedroom home up for sale and sold some of his most precious belongings, including family heirlooms, in order to provide a legacy to his relatives.
Mr McMahon claims the same doctor who gave him a terminal diagnosis then reversed his conclusion three months later, after further examinations showed that blemishes on an ultrasound scan of his liver were harmless.
By that time, Mr McMahon had lost all his belongings. The false alarm also caused severe emotional stress to his girlfriend and relatives, who were already suffering after the death of his mother and brother to lung cancer in recent years.
“My girlfriend was devastated. I wanted to make sure the people I loved would be financially secure without me, so I sold antique rings, china ornaments and plates left by my parents for silly money as I thought I didn’t have much time,” Mr McMahon said.
“I sat there listening to the doctor detail about dying at home and how Macmillan nurses could help, but the whole time, I was fine. All that time spent worrying over nothing.”
Dr Thompson, the practitioner who McMahon identified as giving the false prognosis and who works for the local health trust, was unavailable for comment.
Hundreds of foreign GPs work in Britain unchecked: NHS chiefs criticised for not testing EU doctors
Health trusts are ignoring pleas to test whether foreign doctors providing out-of-hours care can speak English. As many as three quarters of those flying in for lucrative shifts may not have faced language or competency tests, figures show.
Ministers and health regulators have been urging trusts to carry out proper checks after the tragic death of a pensioner at the hands of an incompetent German doctor in 2008.
David Gray, 70, died after Dr Daniel Ubani, who could barely speak English, gave him ten times the recommended dose of painkiller after flying in for his first NHS shift. Mr Gray’s son Stuart, who is a GP himself, said he was horrified at the figures. ‘Lessons haven’t been learned, changes haven’t been made,’ he said. ‘What more does it take? It’s only a matter of time before there’s another death.’
Figures obtained through a freedom of information request show that as many as 1,500 foreign doctors working in surgeries across Britain have never been tested.
The General Medical Council, which regulates doctors, wrote to all trusts earlier this year urging them to carry out stringent checks. The GMC automatically registers any doctor registered in another EU country who applies to work here but is banned from testing them for competency. EU rules state such tests threaten ‘the free movement of labour’, and countries in breach face heavy fines from Brussels.
But there is no law against health trusts who then employ foreign doctors running their own tests to ensure they are no danger to British patients. In France, for example, foreign doctors are invited for ‘interviews’, and grilled on their ability to speak the language.
And doctors who apply to work here from countries outside the EU are subject to stringent tests on medical ability and language before they are registered.
Campaigners have accused health trusts of using the EU rules as an excuse and warned it is only a matter of time before another patient dies because of a doctor’s incompetence.
The figures, obtained by Pulse magazine, show that just 23 per cent of foreign doctors employed by Primary Care Trusts have had language tests and a mere 17 per cent have been tested on their competence. Shockingly, the trust which employed Dr Ubani – Cambridgeshire PCT – admitted that less than a third of its overseas doctors had faced language or competence checks.
Professor Steve Field, from the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We’ve given PCTs a wake-up call and it’s disgraceful they still aren’t taking the issue seriously.’
Rising numbers of foreign doctors have been commuting to Britain ever since the new GP contract was brought in by Labour in 2004. Under the new system, British doctors no longer have to look after patients outside of office hours and care has been taken over by private companies, which often hire doctors from overseas.
It is not known exactly how many foreign GPs fly in to cover out-of-hours shifts but they are employed by up to a third of all trusts. They commute from Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland and can earn up to £200 an hour.
Only 35 PCTs were able to provide figures on the numbers of doctors who had passed language tests, and just 20 trusts had figures for competence checks. But if the figures provided were extrapolated for all 152 trusts in England and Wales, as many as 1,500 foreign doctors would not have been tested.
The Coalition has pledged to pass new laws to ensure foreign doctors are properly checked but has not given details.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Employers and those contracting with health workers can, and indeed should, verify the language knowledge of any person they appoint to ensure they can undertake the duties being asked of them.’
British police bastardry again
Photographer Dave Hogan was waiting at a red traffic light in North London when he reached over to the passenger seat to retrieve his new iPhone, which was about to fall on to the floor.
As he did so, there was a knock on the car window. Dave looked up to see a callow youth in a policeman’s uniform instructing him to pull over to the kerb. What followed was a Kafkaesque encounter with the bold future of London law enforcement.
The young officer, who had only recently graduated from the police academy at Hendon and was receiving on-the-job supervision from a WPC, told Hogan to park in a busy bus lane.
He pointed out that not only was he stationary, he wasn’t actually using the phone, merely moving it back on the seat to prevent it sliding off. In any event, it had a hands-free attachment.
Furthermore, he invited the officer to examine the directory in his iPhone, which would prove he hadn’t been making a call. Modern mobiles contain a record of the date, time and duration of all incoming and outgoing calls. It indicated that he had last used the phone a few minutes earlier, when he had pulled onto a petrol station forecourt for a can of pop and a packet of crisps.
There was no activity at the time the policeman claimed he had seen Dave using the phone. The last call recorded was at 1.09pm, a fact also confirmed by the telephone service provider from its own computerised log. This didn’t prevent the rookie cop writing out a ticket, specifying the time the alleged offence had taken place: 1.15pm.
Hogan insists he was ultra-polite to the officer, even though his patience was sorely tried. While parked in the bus lane, he saw a number of motorists drive past using their mobiles on the move. When he pointed this out, the young copper wasn’t interested. Dave appealed to the more experienced WPC, but she refused to intervene.
The policeman asked him to make a statement. Dave denied categorically that he had been using his phone and had firm evidence to prove it. ‘Why aren’t you writing this down?’ he asked.
‘I shall summarise your comments,’ he was told. The officer then asked him to sign the summary. Dave declined, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that it wasn’t what he had said. The interview then took a surreal turn.
Plod asked for his ethnic origin. Why? Just routine, sir. The police have to record the race and sex of everyone they stop. Dave said he was Welsh. Young Lochinvar studied his form, which contained an impressive catalogue of exotic ethnic categories. But not, apparently, exhaustive. After scouring it for a few moments, he announced: ‘I haven’t got a box for Welsh. I’ll put you down as White Other.’
He gave Dave a summons, telling him he had a week to plead guilty by post, pay a £60 fine and accept three penalty points on his licence. The alternative was to challenge the ticket in court, and run the risk of being disqualified from driving and fined £1,000, if the magistrate sides with the Old Bill and refuses to believe his version of events.
Dave would also have to take a day off work and pay a lawyer £500 to argue his case. Both police officers could also be tied up in court for a whole day, reducing still further the pathetically small number of bobbies on the beat.
If the court accepts the phone company’s record, proving that no call had been made or received at the time alleged in the summons, Dave would be cleared and would be entitled to claim costs from the police. In other words, the taxpayer would end up footing the bill for this farce.
Dave tells me he intends to fight and the whole affair has left a sour taste. He has had a clean licence for 30 years, a remarkable achievement for any motorist in the age of the Gatso, let alone a Fleet Street photographer in a flash 4×4.
He’s even prepared to acknowledge an excess of zeal in an over-enthusiastic young bobby making his first tentative steps on the street in an official culture of bureaucratic box-ticking and a voracious appetite for income raised by fines. But that doesn’t explain the attitude of the dopey WPC supposed to be babysitting her young charge. She could have nipped the whole thing in the bud when it became obvious a mistake had been made.
In his long career in newspapers, Dave has always been happy to help the police. Now he says he wouldn’t give them the time of day. This incident blocked a bus lane for 25 minutes and has shaken Dave’s belief in the honesty of the police. He never imagined he would be fitted up for a phone call he can prove he didn’t make. He naturally wonders why the police would go to such lengths to criminalise a law-abiding, middle-class taxpayer.
Yesterday, as the Equalities Commission published its latest report on ‘fairness’, there was the usual furore over the high number of young black men supposedly stopped unnecessarily by the police. But I’ve never seen any statistics for the number of middle-class, white — or White Other, come to that — motorists buggered about for no good reason.
Dave’s promised to keep me posted, but I shouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the day I haven’t received a raft of emails from Daily Mail readers relating similar tales of woe and officiousness on the part of Plod.
And the police wonder why Middle Britain’s faith in the forces of law and order is at an all-time low. Mind how you go.
The perverse British welfare system again
Child poverty is higher in working families than in jobless households, study shows
There are now more children living in poverty among working families than in homes where no-one has a job, analysis revealed yesterday. It found that the number of children who live below the official poverty line even though at least one of their parents goes out to work has jumped by a third – 80,000 – in just ten years.
At the same time there has been a drop of a quarter in the total number of children in poor families where no-one works – largely thanks to the last Labour government’s drive to give state help and extra benefits to single mothers.
Almost all of the impoverished working families have two parents and many are families in which the father holds down a job while the mother stays at home to bring up the children.
The figures, from a report by the charity Trust for London, cover the capital alone. But they reflect a slide into poverty for working families that has also been shown up by Whitehall figures over the past three years.
Department of Work and Pensions calculations suggest there are now around 1.8million children in the country who are living below the poverty line, even though at least one of their parents goes out to work.
The figures come at a time of growing controversy over the Coalition Government’s plans. Ministers have promised to reward working people and withdraw help from shirkers. But plans announced so far suggest middle-income working families will be hit.
Yesterday’s report, London’s Poverty Profile, measured families living on incomes that are under 60 per cent of average income – the figure used by Whitehall as the poverty line. In the financial year that ended in March 2008, for a family with two parents and two children under 14 this was £288 a week.
The report said that in London that the number of children in poverty in homes where no-one has a job had fallen from 415,000 in the late 1990s to 305,000 in 2009 – a drop of almost 27 per cent. But the number of poor children in working families went up from 240,000 to 320,000, an increase of 33 per cent. ‘The vast majority of children in low-income, working households are in couple households,’ the report said. ‘So in-work poverty is much more strongly associated with couple rather than lone parent households.’
It added: ‘This change reflects national trends – the number of children in low-income working households in the UK is now at a record level. ‘Moreover this number actually increased during the first months of the recession, as people in work moved from full time to part-time work, and households with two earners became single earner households.’
Other analysts have pointed to the way the benefits system favours single parents, particularly through the tax credit system. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that in some cases a single mother is £200 a week better off than a couple would be because of the benefit trap for two-parent families.
Dr Dan Boucher of the charity CARE, which last week showed that the Coalition changes to child benefit and tax credits will mean an effective tax increase of over 40 per cent for some one-earner families, said state policies were pushing families apart.
‘The Government uses taxpayers’ money to make it more rather than less likely that children will be brought up in one parent homes,’ he said. ‘We must move to a new system that is supportive of what research demonstrates is the best environment for child development, the two-parent family, and in which work pays.’
Bharat Mehta of Trust for London said that his charity’s report ‘gives us a real insight into the impact the recession has had’. He added: ‘We call upon the Chancellor carefully to consider what impact his cuts will have, and in particular who will pay the greatest price for them.’
British cops want to be above the law
They often already are de facto. Now they want to make it de jure
Britain’s most senior police officer has privately lobbied the Home Secretary to make it more difficult for civilians to sue Scotland Yard. Sir Paul Stephenson claimed that money is being wasted fighting speculative law suits by civilians alleging brutality or wrongful arrest.
The Metropolitan Police commissioner also urged the Home Secretary to load higher costs onto officers and other staff suing police forces at employment tribunals over claims of discrimination or unfair treatment.
He added that members of the public should be charged a fee for making Freedom of Information requests, which he said were burdening police forces with unmanageable levels of paperwork.
But civil rights groups have condemned Sir Paul’s suggestions as an attempt to put the police beyond the rule of law.
The Met commissioner wrote to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, on June 22. In the letter, marked confidential, he set out a list of proposals designed to cut costs and free officers from red tape.
Calling for more obstacles to be placed in the way of members of the public bringing civil claims against the police, he wrote: “We believe there needs to be a radical shakeup of the system; currently for every pound paid out in compensation, up to £10 or sometimes more has to be paid out in legal costs to the claimants’ lawyers.
“One of the key aspects is that the average settlements are well under £10,000 and most under £5,000, in other words these are not major areas of police misconduct with long-lasting consequences but often technical breaches.”
James Welch, of the civil rights group Liberty, said: “The ability to challenge police misconduct in court is a vital constitutional safeguard against abuse of power. Under current rules, if you lose a case in the civil courts you can expect to be ordered to pay your successful opponent’s legal costs.” “A service bound to uphold the rule of law should not attempt to carve out an exception for itself,” he told The Guardian.
Sir Paul also complained that police are forced to waste time and money defending employment tribunal claims brought by staff who later drop them, without incurring any financial penalty.
“As you will be aware, currently there are no cost disincentives for claimants lodging speculative employment tribunal claims which are withdrawn after considerable public resources have been expended in order to respond to such claims.
“We propose that a fee for issuing claims could be introduced and the grounds upon which costs can be made widened to meet these concerns,” he wrote.
“Similarly, there is currently no incentive for claimants to accept early offers of settlement and substantial cost could be saved if claimants were put on risk as to costs from the time that such an offer is made.”
Paul McKeever, chief of the Police Federation of England and Wales, denied that officers and staff are making “speculative” claims against the forces that employ them.
“Going to an employment tribunal is the last resort people take after being frustrated by the system. Nobody wants to go to an employment tribunal – it’s a horrible process to go through,” he said.
Sir Paul also urged the Home Secretary to slap fees on freedom of information requests after his force received 3,373 such requests last year.
He wrote: “We welcome the recent government commitment to review the application of FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] and would encourage you to consider introducing a fee (as there is for Data Protection Act requests) to bring it into line with the Data Protection Act.”
A spokesman for the Home Office last night confirmed that Mrs May had received Sir Paul’s letter. He said: “The Home Secretary enjoys a good relationship with Sir Paul Stephenson. It is usual for him to write to her with his opinions and the home secretary always considers them carefully.”
Freer Is Better
But Britain not mentioned in list of free countries below. Less free than Chile!
The 2010 Index of Economic Freedom lowers the ranking of the United States to eighth out of 179 nations — behind Canada! A year ago, it ranked sixth, ahead of Canada.
Don’t say it’s Barack Obama’s fault. Half the data used in the index is from George W. Bush’s final six months in office. This is a bipartisan problem.
For the past 16 years, the index has ranked the world’s countries on the basis of their economic freedom — or lack thereof. Ten criteria are used: freedoms related to business, trade, fiscal matters, monetary matters, investment, finance, labor, government spending, property rights and freedom from corruption.
The top 10 countries are: Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, Denmark and Chile.
The bottom 10: Republic of Congo, Solomon Islands, Turkmenistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Venezuela, Burma, Eritrea, Cuba, Zimbabwe and North Korea.
The index demonstrates what we libertarians have long said: Economic freedom leads to prosperity. Also, the best places to live and fastest-growing economies are among the freest, and vice versa. A society will be materially well off to the extent its people have the liberty to acquire property, start businesses, and trade in a secure legal and political environment.
Bill Beach, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, which compiles the index with The Wall Street Journal, says the index defines “economic freedom” to mean: “You can follow your dreams, express yourself, create a business, do whatever job you want. Government doesn’t run labor markets, or plan what business you can open, or over-regulate you.”
We asked Beech about the U.S. ranking. “For first time in 16 years, the United States fell from the ‘totally free’ to ‘mostly free’ group. That’s a terrible development,” he said. He fears that if this continues, productive people will leave the United States for freer pastures.
“The United States has been this magnet for three centuries. But today money and people can move quickly, and in less than a lifetime a great country can go by the wayside.”
Why is the United States falling behind? “Our spending has been excessive. … We have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. (Government) takeovers of industries, subsidizing industries … these are the kinds of moves that happen in Third World countries. …”
Beach adds that the rule of law declined when the Obama administration declared some contracts to be null and void. For example, bondholders in the auto industry were forced to the back of the creditor line during bankruptcy. And there’s more regulation of business, such as the Dodd-Frank law for the financial industry and the new credit-card law. But how could the United States place behind Canada? Isn’t Canada practically a socialist country?
“Canada might do health care the wrong way,” Beach said, “but by and large they do things the right way.” Lately, Canada has lowered tax rates and reduced spending.
Britons No Longer Worried About Climate Change
Britons are less environmentally conscious than they were five years ago, with twice as many people now “bored” by talk of climate change as in 2005. Four in 10 take no action at all to reduce their household carbon dioxide emissions. Experts warn that green fatigue is a major reason why there are more cars on the roads, more planes in the sky and no reduction in the mountain of packaging waste.
As a new energy report reveals that too few people are making an effort to reduce their household CO2 emissions, environmentalists believe the recession is further undermining public commitment.
The report, by market researchers Mintel, shows that many of Britain’s 26 million homes fail to make simple adjustments such as turning down thermostats, switching off lights and switching off appliances rather than leaving them on standby. The findings also reveal people are less willing to spend money on energy-efficient appliances than they were five years ago. Analysts believe the recession together with a backlash against “extreme” environmentalist pressure has reduced people’s enthusiasm to combat climate change.
The report also found that resistance to saving the planet was greater among men: one in four said they think there is too much concern over the environment, compared with one in six women.
Other evidence of waning public interest in consumers’ carbon footprint includes a rise in air and car travel. The number of cars on UK roads has risen from just over 26 million in 2005 to more than 31 million in 2009. Air travel has also increased, the number of passengers rising from 227 million in 2005 to 235 million in 2008.
New research from the Energy Saving Trust found that climate change has taken a back seat to recession concerns. The authors of the Mintel, blaming the problem partly on consumer ignorance, recommend the Government “help consumers to help themselves” by providing them with more information about energy savings in accessible ways.
British Government In U-turn Over Green Energy
A wail from “The Guardian”:
David Cameron has reneged on a pre-election promise to reward early adopters of solar panels and other domestic green energy generation, it has emerged.
Under the “feed-in tariff” scheme introduced in April, owners of solar panels fitted to houses after 15 July 2009 are paid 41.3p per unit of electricity, while householders who put up panels before that date get just 9p.
Green energy campaigners had fought the difference, which they called a “betrayal”.
Responding in March to a letter from one of his Witney constituents calling for an increase in payments to such “pioneers”, wrote in a letter seen by the Guardian: “I agree with you that the [Labour] government’s current proposals for feed-in-tariffs will unfairly penalise the very people who were the early investors in local energy.”
He added: “That is why under a Conservative government, any micro-generation technologies that have already been installed … will be eligible for the new higher tariffs once they commence.”
Within days of taking power as PM, he also said the coalition would be the “greenest government ever”.
But last month, responding to a question from Green MP Caroline Lucas the energy secretary, Chris Huhne, ruled out any such move. “I considered the issue carefully on a value-for-money basis, andI am afraid that the advice from my officials was clearly that we cannot introduce retrospection in such cases because it does not represent value for money,” he said.
“We are trying to introduce new schemes in future, and therefore, sadly, the only incentive and payback that people such as the Hon Lady and I will get is the warm glow of being pioneers.”
Charles Hendry, the Conservative MP who is now minister of state at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), also wrote pre-election letters to campaigners, saying a Tory government would pay higher rates to those who had installed early. Many Lib Dem MPs pledged it too, signing an early-day motion on the issue.
Julie Davenport, chief executive of renewable energy supplier Good Energy, said Cameron’s U-turn showed he was failing on his promise of a “big society”: “Good Energy is extremely disappointed that the government has not met its own pre-election promise to support early adopters of renewable technologies. We urge David Cameron to ensure that there is no further reduction to the feed-in tariffs in any way.”
“Feed-in tariffs encourage new, local investment in green energy, are a catalyst to break up traditional energy markets and help many ordinary people make a difference to climate change. Isn’t that what a “big society” really means – taking control from the few and giving it back to the many?”
In addition to Huhne’s comments, recent speculation that the 41.3p feed-in-tariff rate will be cut as part of spending review annoucements on 20 October mean it is now highly unlikely that early adopters will get the redress they hoped for.
British government may cap tuition fees at £7,000, says Vince Cable
Business secretary scraps Lib Dem policy of opposition to fees and accepts thrust of Lord Browne’s report into university funding
The government may cap tuition fees at £7,000 a year, Vince Cable said today, as he told MPs he accepted the thrust of Lord Browne’s report proposing a radical overhaul of higher education funding.
In statement to MPs, the Liberal Democrat business secretary scrapped his party’s policy of opposing tuition fees – but he may still face rebellion from his backbenchers. Before the election all Lib Dem MPs, including Cable and Nick Clegg, signed a pledge opposing tuition fees.
Cable told MPs this afternoon: “We are considering a level of £7,000. Many universities and colleges may well decide to charge less than that, since there is clearly scope for greater efficiency and innovation in the way universities operate. Two-year ordinary degrees are one approach.
“Exceptionally, Lord Browne suggests there should be circumstances under which universities can price their courses above this point. But, he suggests, this would be conditional on demonstrating that funds would be invested in securing a good social mix with fair access for students with less privileged backgrounds, and in raising the quality of teaching and learning. We will consider this carefully.”
The business secretary said the government endorsed “the main thrust” of Browne’s report. “But we are open to suggestions from inside and outside the house over the next few weeks before making specific recommendations to parliament, with a view to implementing the changes for students entering higher education in autumn 2012.
“More detail will be contained in next week’s spending review on the funding implications. But as a strategic direction the government believes the report is on the right lines.”
He said one of the government’s proposals might be “exempting the poorest students from graduate contributions for some or all of their studies”.
Directly addressing the issue of the breaking of the Lib Dem pledge, Cable said that he was the first member of his family to go to university, something he did not have to pay for. He would like others to have that opportunity, he said, but in the current circumstances that was not possible.
“I signed that pledge with my colleagues,” he said. “[But] in the current financial situation … which we inherited, all pledges, all commitments, will have to be reexamined from first principles.”
John Denham, the shadow business secretary, reminded Cable that Clegg had said before the election that increasing tuition fees would be “a disaster”. “Promises were made by the business secretary and the deputy prime minister at the last election that should not be lightly thrown away,” Denham said.
Cable plans an early repayment penalty for tuition fees to prevent rich graduates paying less for their university education than those on middle incomes by avoiding cumulative interest payments, the Guardian has learned. He outlined the proposal to Lib Dem MPs last night. It is not clear how exactly he would organise the penalty, but it suggests he recognises there is a flaw in the scheme being proposed by Browne that makes the scheme less progressive than it might be. It is also not clear whether the early repayment penalty has the support of the Conservatives.
Browne proposed the cap on tuition fees – currently £3,290 a year – should be entirely lifted, with graduates starting to repay the cost of their degrees when they start earning £21,000 a year, up from £15,000 under the current system. Institutions charging more than £6,000 would have to pay a rising percentage of each additional £1,000 as a levy to government.
The interest rate at which graduates pay back their loans would be at the government’s cost of borrowing – inflation plus 2.2%. However, those students earning below £21,000 would pay no real interest rate under the Browne plans. Their loan balance would increase in line with inflation.
But the business secretary is battling to prevent a full-scale rebellion taking hold of his party over Browne’s proposals.
Greg Mulholland, the Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, emerged as the ringleader of the rebellion, warning: “Without Lib Dem support and with Lib Dem ministers abstaining, it will be very difficult to get this through.
“It is certainly my belief that this is not a done deal and the strength of feeling among Lib Dem MPs could derail any attempts to see fees rising substantially and I will certainly be doing everything I can to make that happen.”
Mulholland insisted that his rebellion did not a represent a threat to the future of the coalition arrangement.
He added: “I do not think this is a threat at all because it [the agreement] clearly states that Lib Dems will be allowed to abstain.”
Many Liberal Democrat MPs know their credibility and chances of retaining their seats rest on showing they are fighting the rise in tuition fees.
Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem deputy leader, called for all Lib Dems to “consider fully” both Browne’s proposals and the government’s response. He said his fellow MPs were “very conscious of the positions we have taken on higher education and the policies we campaigned for at the last election”.
“Parliament should only support a progressive system which takes into account future earnings and makes sure that those who benefit most financially from a university education contribute the most,” Hughes – who functions as a lightning rod for Lib Dem discontent – added.
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem MP who is standing for the post of party president, wrote on the Twitter website that he would vote against an increase in tuition fees. “Unhappy with Browne report & would vote against fee rise,” Farron posted.
John Leech, the Lib Dem MP for Manchester Withington, said: “I signed the NUS pledge and supported our manifesto, which promised to vote against any rise in tuition fees. I am going to keep that promise. This is a political red line for me.”
His fellow MP Stephen Williams told Radio 5 Live he was unhappy about tuition fees going up and said he would “certainly” vote against the government if the Browne report was just about increasing tuition fees. But he hinted that, if Cable were to produce a more progressive scheme, he could support it. “Effectively at the moment you’ve got a flat-rate poll tax on all new graduates and if Vince is able to come up with a progressive system with different thresholds, perhaps different rates of repayment – you wouldn’t call it a graduate tax, but it will have elements of graduation within it – that will be a much more progressive system for repayment than we have at the moment.”
Gordon Birtwistle, the Liberal Democrat MP for Burnley, who is a parliamentary private secretary in the Treasury, said: “At the moment, the Browne report as it is, is unpalatable, and we need to see what changes we can make. I was against an increase in tuition fees, but the financial situation makes it inevitable that it will happen. The country is basically bankrupt.”
Asked how he would vote, Birtwistle said: “I am keeping my powder dry.”
John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP for Birmingham Yardley, also gave a measured response, saying: “If you have a progressive scheme in which people on high incomes pay more than those on low incomes then it is moving towards a graduate tax. I will be getting out my calculator and studying the proposals in detail. One question is whether it is the fees system or a progressive graduate contribution.”
Clegg knows that many of his minsters will be free to abstain, and many are likely to do so, but he cannot yet know if public opinion will see that as sufficient form of resistance.
Linda Jack, a member of the Lib Dems’ federal policy committee, told the BBC’s World at One she thought around 30 Lib Dem MPs could rebel over tuition fees. “I expect them to vote against because, frankly, if they abstain they are effectively voting for, because they know that if they abstain it will go through. The integrity of the party is at stake here. Everybody signed that pledge that they would vote against an increase in tuition fees so they have really got to stick to their guns on this.”
Liberal Youth, the youth and student wing of the Liberal Democrats, warned that removing the cap on tuition fees would lead to unrestricted costs and a market in higher education.
Martin Shapland, the group’s chairman, said: “You simply cannot build our future on debt. This move has the potential to cripple students with unprecedented levels of debt which will act as a real deterrent to those from poorer backgrounds seeking a better life through the education system.
“Higher fees will not be acceptable to grassroots Lib Dems and, I imagine, most of the parliamentary party.”
Botox helps with migraines!
Left bed-bound by up to 20 migraines a month, 12-year-old Harvey Jacobs has found an unlikely cure – Botox.
His mother Sue, 39, heard claims that the wrinkle treatment could put an end to the crippling headaches and arranged for her son to have the procedure eight weeks ago. For the first time in years he has not had a single migraine in weeks and is like a ‘new boy’, she said.
The mother of three added: ‘The difference is amazing. We were absolutely desperate. He used to have about three days a week off school and this term he has had no time off at all. We have even managed to take days out as a family. It is wonderful.’
Harvey, who also suffers from mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy, was first struck down by agonising migraines six years ago. At times he would be incapacitated five times in a week and be in such agony he would be screaming for 24 hours.
The Botox treatment works by relaxing the corrugator muscle – the small ‘frown’ muscle around the eyebrow – which can cause migraines by affecting the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for sensation in the face.
Harvey was booked into a private clinic where he was given an injection above his right eye. The £350 treatment lasts around two months.
Migraines affect one in seven people and cost the British economy billions each year.