Authoritarian Britain: “It’s for your own good” and too bad what you yourself want
The age-old rationale of tyrants. A most disturbing precedent and the NHS is at the heart of it. Don’t become in need of “protection” if you are in Britain. You will lose every right you have if you do
Doctors have been given permission to force life-saving treatment on a woman with a fear of being touched, particularly by men, in the latest ruling from a secretive court. The 30-year-old, known only as SB, could die without emergency treatment for aplastic anemia, a condition in which her bone marrow does not reproduce enough new blood cells.
But when medics attempted to treat her, she became distressed, screamed for 40 minutes and required two nurses to hold her down.
The Court of Protection has now ruled that doctors can restrain SB and force her to undergo the arduous but potentially life-saving treatment, which is administered through a vein in the heart and lasts for five days.
SB’s case is the latest ruling to emerge from the court, which until this year held all its hearings behind closed doors. Critics argue that the Court of Protection has been given sweeping powers without adequate scrutiny after the last Labour government greatly expanded its role.
SB has been detained under the Mental Health Act. Family Division judge Mrs Justice Hogg ruled that the patient did not have the capacity to make up her own mind over whether to undergo the treatment.
The court heard evidence that SB “dislikes being touched or having any physical intervention. She dislikes being touched by men. She gets very distressed on being touched and indeed a senior sister described a very distressing scene.”
The unnamed NHS Trust acting for the medical team had gone to court with the support of the Official Solicitor looking after the patient’s interests to ask the judge to give the go ahead for the treatment.
The judge granted the Trust permission to carry out the treatment because it was in the patient’s bests interests and “would give her the opportunity of life”. Mrs Justice Hogg also ruled that SB could be restrained, if necessary, in order to make sure she receives the treatment, which is expected to begin today (Weds).
The judge explained how the woman had a very serious psychiatric disorder and lacked the capacity to give consent for the treatment for her life threatening condition.
If the medical team treating SB decided that the treatment was too distressing, despite its chances of success, they could also take the decision to stop, under the terms of yesterday’s ruling.
The Court of Protection has the power of life or death over those judged to be incapable of making decisions for themselves. It can even impose “experimental” treatments on patients without their consent and choose how to resolve an “ethical dilemma in an untested area”.
One in ten British public sector workers faces axe
Good for Britain if it actually happens
One in ten public sector workers will lose their jobs in the bloodiest spending cuts since the Second World War. Millions more will be told to take a pay cut or reduce their hours as George Osborne ushers in four years of pain today.
The Chancellor is pinning his hopes on the private sector creating hundreds of thousands of jobs as he sets out plans to repair the battered public finances.
State workers, who currently account for one in five of the workforce, are bracing themselves for compulsory redundancies, vacancies left unfilled and recruitment freezes.
The public sector, welfare, tax credits and the Home Office and Ministry of Justice will all take the strain of paying off Britain’s record budget deficit in moves expected to include:
* A dramatic acceleration of the timetable to increase the state pension age;
* Entire areas of state activity handed over to businesses, charities and citizens;
* Further cuts to tax credits, removing them from middle earners;
* A reprieve for child benefit for 16 to 19-year-olds after a dramatic last-minute U-turn by Mr Osborne;
* Cuts of around 50 per cent to the housing budget in an end to ‘a council home for life’;
* The biggest sell-off of state assets since Margaret Thatcher to raise more than £20billion.
The action comes as the Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King last night warned that Britain’s ‘nice’ decade of low inflation and solid economic growth will now be replaced by a ‘sober’ decade.
As the Chancellor sharpened his axe, key details of the Government’s radical deficit reduction plan were unwittingly revealed by Liberal Democrat Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander.
He was pictured in the back of a car in Downing Street reading a document predicting that 490,000 state employees would lose their jobs by 2014-15 as a result of cuts of more than 50 per cent by some departments.
It made clear the Government accepts forecasts on public sector employment from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility. It predicts that by 2016, the figure for job losses will have reached 610,000, or one in ten of the bloated public sector workforce.
Around 14,000 jobs are to go at the Ministry of Justice alone – 11,000 of them from the front-line, meaning posts like prison officers, probation officers, and magistrates’ court staff will be lost.
Mr Alexander’s papers also disclosed that millions of public sector employees who survive the cull will be told they must take a pay cut or reduce their hours.
It said state employers will be encouraged to make ‘voluntary deals with staff on pay restraint or reduced hours to save jobs’.
Ministers are poised to unveil the biggest sell-off of state assets since the Thatcher era in a bid to plug Britain’s budget deficit.
The Royal Mint, the Tote and Britain’s air traffic control service are all being lined up for privatisation as part of plans to raise at least £20billion.
Ministers met in secret last week to thrash out details of the sell-off, due to be unveiled by George Osborne today.
Other assets which could be considered for sale include the QE2 conference centre in London, the Government’s stake in Channel 4, the Dartford Crossing section of the M25, the remainder of the student loan book and perhaps even the Met Office.
The Government has already announced plans to sell off the Royal Mail and the high speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel. The moves will involve tens of thousands of workers moving into the private sector.
Departments are facing cuts of around 25 per cent on average under the Comprehensive Spending Review. But they will be deeper in some areas because of a long list of budgets exempted from spending reductions.
Mr Alexander’s document revealed the Government plans to contribute £2.9billion towards international efforts to tackle climate change. The coalition is also ring-fencing budgets for the NHS, schools, international aid and social care for the elderly.
And following a furious row over plans to remove child benefit from higher rate taxpayers, the Chancellor has backed away from a move to save £2billion by reducing the age limit for the payment to 16. Lib Dem members of the Government are understood to have argued the move would hit poorer families with children staying on at school.
Mr Osborne will tell MPs that without radical action to rein in Labour’s reckless spending, international confidence in Britain would collapse, pushing up interest rates and triggering an economic calamity.
Government sources dismissed as ‘ridiculous’ suggestions that Mr Alexander had deliberately left his paperwork on display in order to prepare the ground for today’s announcement. Officials said the Chief Secretary had been reading a briefing document which was never meant for release, rather than the spending review itself.
The document said the public sector pay bill accounts for around half of departmental spending – meaning pay would ‘inevitably’ be hit by the deficit reduction programme. It stressed that addressing the deficit was ‘unavoidable’, and there would be an ‘inevitable impact’ on state workers.
It indicated that the coalition is pinning its hope on stimulating the wider economy, with policies designed to ‘facilitate a movement of jobs from the public sector to the private sector’.
Sources said transport had done ‘better than expected’ in today’s deal, with free bus passes for pensioners protected and big infrastructure projects, including Crossrail, going ahead.
However, rail travellers face steep fare rises – expected to be at least 30 per cent over the next four years – as state subsidies are withdrawn. University funding will face huge reductions as the current £3,000-a-year cap on tuition fees is lifted.
Independent economists forecast budget cuts of between 15 and 20 per cent in most departments under Labour’s own plans. But the Coalition is committed to reducing the deficit more quickly, meaning deeper cuts.
Medieval paths in Iron Age British village deemed too dangerous by health and safety chiefs
A perfectly preserved medieval village is set to lose its iconic cobbled paths over health and safety fears, it emerged today. The historic settlement of Dunster, Somerset, dates back to Bronze and Iron Age Britain and is regarded as one of the most-perfectly preserved medieval villages in England. The village attracts thousands of visitors a year because of its 1,000-year-old castle and quaint features including the medieval cobbled streets.
Now health and safety chiefs have ruled them to be too dangerous and a working group is considering replacing them with smooth-surfaced roads at a cost of more than £100,000 ‘to bring the village into the 21st century’.
But residents have slammed the ruling and are demanding that the cobbled streets be repaired to protect the ‘character’ of the village.
The Dunster Working Group, comprising West Somerset Council, Somerset County Council, Exmoor National Park Authority and the local parish council, was set up to find ways of ‘enhancing’ the village.
Chairman Paul Toogood said its plan would see cobbles removed from the centre of the streets to make them wheelchair friendly. He said: ‘We have no choice. This year we’ve had to call the ambulance five times for people who have fallen over on the cobbles. ‘Our aim is to enhance the village. No money has been spent on it for a generation. From a health and safety point of view the pavement is not fit for purpose.
‘We are just trying to improve the village for people who live here, as well as the visitors. At the moment access is not easy to shops or homes on the east side.
‘We’ve got to bring the village into the 21st century. We want an area in the middle that is wheelchair and buggy friendly.’
Residents of Dunster, listed in the Domesday Book, fear the village will be stripped of its character if the cobbled streets and pavements are removed
Residents of Dunster fear the village, listed in the Domesday Book, will be stripped of its character if the cobbled streets are removed
Mr Toogood added that the streets are currently in a state of disrepair because local business owners are afraid of facing litigation if they fix the cobbles themselves. He said changes needed to be made because some stones had been dislodged creating awkward ridges and holes.
But locals are demanding that that the cobbled streets be repaired rather than replaced. Resident Donna Richards said: “I often walk through the village with a pushchair and young child and, yes, repairs need to be made. But I don’t see them as a problem worthy of replacement. ‘It is vital to keep the history of the village as it is. It is more important now, more than ever, to keep the character.
‘In generations past these cobbles have been left for us to see and experience, so do we have the right to take it away from future generations?’
One elderly visitor to the village, Giles Parks, 69, said he was managing to cope with the cobbles despite using a walking stick. He said: ‘Get rid of something as old as this? They must be joking. I’m on holiday from Derbyshire and where I live the council is paying huge sums of money to put in cobbled paths in an old part of town. ‘Why can’t people leave things alone? It’s mainly because this village has been left alone that we’ve come to see it.’
Dunster began as a Saxon village and became famous for making a thick type of wool called Dunsters.
In August, a similar proposal was put forward to replace a cobbled path at medieval Sherborne Abbey in Dorset which dates back to 705AD. Councillors feared that someone would trip on the uneven surface and sue them for compensation.
New nukes for Britain
Controversial plans for the next generation of nuclear power stations were unveiled by the Government yesterday with a pledge that taxpayers would not have to foot the bill. In an astonishing U-turn, Lib Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne – a once vocal opponent of nuclear power – said the eight power plants were vital to fill Britain’s looming energy gap.
He also shelved £30billion plans to build a ten-mile barrage across the Severn estuary to generate ‘green’ electricity from tides. It aimed to meet five per cent of Britain’s electricity needs.
Critics condemned the nuclear plans as flawed, claiming they left the door open for public subsidies to pay for handling nuclear waste and decommissioning plants in years to come.
And they lambasted Mr Huhne for ushering in a new era of nuclear power after standing on a no-nuclear ticket at the General Election.
Announcing the plans, which could see the first new nuclear plant built by 2018, Mr Huhne said: ‘I’m fed up with the stand-off between advocates of renewables and of nuclear, which means we have neither.
‘We urgently need investment in new and diverse energy sources to power the UK. ‘We’ll need renewables, new nuclear, fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage, and the cables to hook them all up to the Grid as a large slice of our current generating capacity shuts down.’
But before the election, Mr Huhne was a fierce critic of nuclear power. In 2006, as Lib Dem energy spokesman, he claimed no private investor had built a nuclear power station without ‘lashings of government subsidy’ since the 1980s.
In 2007 he described nuclear power as ‘a tried, tested and failed technology, which is clearly a costly blind alley’ and condemned Tony Blair for a ‘U-turn’ on the issue.
Although the Lib Dems were opposed to nuclear power in their election manifesto, Mr Huhne said their position changed as part of the Coalition deal. He added: ‘And when I do a deal, I deliver it.’
A report from the new Department of Energy and Climate Change paves the way for nuclear power stations at eight sites: Bradwell in Essex; Hartlepool; Heysham in Lancashire; Hinkley Point in Somerset; Oldbury in South Gloucestershire; Sellafield in Cumbria; Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa on Anglesey. All are near existing nuclear plants.
Three other locations – at Dungeness in Kent, and Braystones and Kirksanton in the Lake District – were ruled out. The Government insists investors will be willing to pay for new nuclear plants without public subsidy.
It says that although nuclear electricity is more expensive to generate than power from fossil fuels, the rising price of oil, gas and coal over the next decade will make nuclear more attractive.
Under the plans, energy companies will meet all the costs of handling radioactive waste and decommissioning the plants at the end of their lives.
The Government will fix a ‘clean up’ price before the first concrete is poured. Energy firms will have to pay compensation for any accidents to a limit of £140million.
But Friends of the Earth’s climate campaigner Simon Bullock said: ‘The Coalition promised no public subsidy for nuclear power, but not ruling out a cap on liability costs for nuclear operators in case of an accident is a subsidy by another name.’
The Coalition’s revised draft national policy statements on energy also showed that half the new energy capacity built in the UK by 2025 was expected to come from renewables – mostly wind.
Food for thought: Lord Monckton on Canute, Communism, Climate, and Conspiracies
Greenpeace and communism. Maurice Strong and world government. Climate scientists suborned and suborning. And more. Well worth an hour of your time, and if you are a teacher or in educational administration or leadership, food for thought as you reflect on whether you want to be part of the deliberate scaring and misleading of the young about what we know and don’t know about climate variation.
This is part 1 of a 5 part set of YouTube videos capturing an interview/presentation with Lord Monckton published by Alex Jones on Prisonplanet.tv. The links to the entire set are here:
Now this broadcaster, Alex Jones and his site are new to me. He seems to be attacked by the establishment as a ‘right-wing conspiracy site’, and of course as such any posting using his materials will risk being attacked as well. Well, so be it. My examination of his site suggests to me that he is democratic, libertarian, and a believer in the Constitution of the United States. So far, that’s good enough for me.
Wind power? Saving the earth or just costing it?
If you’re hankering to see Britain’s green and pleasant land and rugged coastline, don’t wait too long. In an increasingly desperate bid to meet its EU climate and renewable-energy targets, the British government is planning to build 10,000 onshore and offshore wind turbines – many 400 feet high – over the next 10 years.
The “British wind experience,” however, constantly cited by Canadian, United States, and other advocates, far from saving the earth, turns out in practice to be costing the earth.
Costs have ‘escalated markedly’
Last month the UK opened the world’s latest and largest wind farm off the English coast at Thanet, Kent, amid a blaze of publicity. The 100 turbines are just stage one, with another 242 on way. Just a few weeks earlier, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) – one of the government’s think tanks – published a new report warning that wind-generation costs had “escalated markedly” since the “optimistic predictions of the early 2000s.” According to the report, electricity generated by wind power in the UK now costs twice as much as that generated by gas or coal.
The UKERC report states that instead of falling as predicted the cost of installing offshore turbines has gone up by 51 per cent over the past five years. Spread over the projected 25-year lifespan for a typical wind farm, each kilowatt-hour of electricity now costs around 15 pence (15/100 of a British pound), almost twice the eight pence per kwh for conventional coal and gas-power plants. Nuclear power would do the same job for 10 pence per kwh. While costs “could fall,” the report warns they could also rise as high as 19 pence per kwh.
The reason? The unreliable and intermittent nature of wind requires a whole fleet of gas and coal-fired turbine backup facilities to cope when the wind fails. Unfortunately, in Britain, times of least wind (January and February) coincide with the coldest times of year, when electricity demand is highest. And given the raison d’être for the rush to wind – reducing carbon emissions – gas and coal turbine backups regularly having to kick in will more than cancel out meaningful CO2 reductions.
UK electricity prices already “hide” a renewable, mostly wind, subsidizing levy of around £200 (C$323, US$319). That’s as much as 20 per cent per bill, a tab the report says British taxpayers will be picking up till at least the mid-2020s. This helps explain why British electricity bills are the highest in Europe.
What the report doesn’t say, however, is that if the same £1.2 billion (about $1.9 billion Canadian or U.S.) was invested into a single (mostly) carbon-neutral nuclear power station, the electricity yield would be up to that 13 times higher, with vastly superior reliability, not to mention cleaner air.
Dr. David Whitehouse is an astrophysicist, author of the acclaimed book The Sun: A Biography and a former BBC science editor. Speaking to Troy Media, Whitehouse explains, “Renewable-energy sources such as wind, wave and solar just have not got the power to make a big difference to an industrialised society which requires concentrated industrial-strength power generation to keep us warm.”
Two key factors are at play here that wind advocates do their best to obscure.
The ‘capacity versus load factor’ game
The wind industry plays a little game whereby it constantly fails to explain the difference between capacity and “load factor,” or actual power generated. The Thanet wind farm is a classic case in point. Much was made of the claim that the farm could produce capacity up to 300 megawatts of electricity, or “enough to power 200,000 (even 240,000) homes.” But the fact is, wind farms almost always never get anywhere close to capacity.
The recommended load factor that determines whether a wind turbine or farm is economically viable and efficient is just over 30 per cent. The energy reality, in Britain’s “experience,” is that onshore farms run at a meagre 20 percent or below, with some, in urban areas, dropping as low as nine percent. The “experience” offshore isn’t much better. According to the UK Department of Energy and Climate’s own statistics, the average output of electricity power generated (or load factor) offshore during 2009-10 was just 26 per cent of capacity. In consequence, the British government has legally obliged UK electricity companies to buy offshore wind energy at three times the normal market rate.
Whitehouse tells Troy Media, “No matter how many wind farms or tidal barrages you build, there is just not enough energy density in wave and wind to make a big difference. You could capture wind and wave energy with 100 per cent efficiency all over the country, and you wouldn’t have enough energy to power Birmingham, England.”
Density: the definitive issue
In his brilliant essay Understanding E=mc2 (and his book Terrestrial Energy from which it is distilled), William Tucker shows that the density of mass in both wind and water bears no comparison with that of oil, coal and gas. Tucker calculates, for instance, that a land mass of about 375 square miles with around 660 widely spaced, gigantic turbines is necessary to match a power return of 1,000 megawatts, the normal candle for a conventional power plant. And that would be with the wind turbines working at 100 per cent capacity – which, as we’ve seen, isn’t happening, even in the windiest countries.
“The British experience,” Whitehouse says, “has been to use wind farms to increase the energy bills of every household without increasing the security of energy supply.” In Britain, that explains why energy analysts have of late widely predicted national power cuts within just four years.
Once we get past the wind-industry press handouts, what the “British wind experience” actually teaches is how quixotic fictions can easily leave us cold.
University funding deja vu
Comment on the proposed British upheaval by Jan Boucek
Back in the early 1970s, Canada’s universities were in turmoil from plans to sharply increase tuition fees due surging demand for places and escalating costs to taxpayers.
It all sounds so familiar today. Much of the argument then was similar to that of the UK today – who should attend university, who should pay, what should universities charge, what is the role of the state?
Following Lord Browne’s report last week, there’s some indication that part of the debate may be near a settlement. Although nothing is yet formalised, it seems that UK universities will be able to offer whatever courses they choose at near market-clearing prices. Debate has shifted from the public funding of universities themselves to funding the students directly. No doubt the UK government will remain a big partner to the universities, but the overall structure of academia has moved closer to the Canadian model, if not the full American one.
Back in the 1970s, the fundamental economics of a university education were the same as now – is a university education a consumption good or an investment good?
If the former, then there’s little justification for taxpayer assistance to the consumers of a university education. If a pure consumption good, taxpayers may just as well fund tickets for Premier league football matches. If, on the other hand, a university education is a pure investment good whereby the student increases his or her future income, then again there’s little justification for taxpayer funding.
However, the debate isn’t being framed like that. Instead, positive externalities – social justice, fairness, national productivity and the like – are cited for continued taxpayer funding. Of course, positive externalities are in the eye of the beholder: the Sky Sports subscriber may prefer the externalities of Wayne Rooney scoring a goal for England (if only!) to those of an archaeologist deciphering the writing on a Babylonian vase.
In 1973, an academic study tried to measure the investment component of students’ decision-making process. It found very little evidence that students took any notice of their future earnings when selecting their course of studies. As a denizen then of the various student lounges and bars, I can’t recall any discussion about education as an investment decision. We were too busy having fun, with taxpayers footing the bill.
The study concluded that educational decisions taken by students were driven more by non-investment factors – parental and peer pressure, postponing the dreaded time of actually working for a living, the pleasures of a student lifestyle. As long as the money rained freely from above, there was no need to consider payback time.
UK students currently don’t pay anywhere close to the full cost of their education. As the burden of funding shifts ever more to the student, expect their decisions to become more investment based.
That 1973 undergraduate thesis was under the tutelage of the late Edwin West, an old friend of the ASI, and its author was – me. Plus ça change!