Fury at ‘promiscuity scheme’ as NHS faces cuts
Teenage girls are being bribed with high street shopping vouchers to receive a highly controversial vaccine. A health trust is promising them £45 in tokens for stores such as HMV, Argos and Debenhams if they agree to the cervical cancer jab, which protects against a sexually-transmitted virus that can cause tumours.
Opponents say the vaccine – dubbed the ‘promiscuity jab’ – encourages girls to have sex earlier than they would.
Only last week the government said it could not afford to fund Labour’s pledge that all cancer victims should have one-to-one nursing care and one-week access to diagnostic tests.
The shopping voucher scheme is being run by Birmingham East and North primary care trust, and costs around £22,500 a year. It offers ‘Love to Shop’ vouchers to girls aged 16 to 18 which can be spent at high street stores. They receive a total of £45 worth of vouchers for turning up for all three injections against the HPV virus.
The trust was advised by Mark Brighton, who used to work for Sainsbury’s Nectar card but has now set up a company called Healthy Incentives. He said: ‘What Birmingham East and North had seen is that they’d get a number of people turning up for the first injection but then they wouldn’t see the whole course through.
‘So we thought – is there a way we can offer incentives for each of those three injections, so that we can encourage a better attendance rate and therefore a better vaccination rate? ‘They are offered a decent lump – a nice little £20 to come along to the first session, £5 for the second session and another £20 for the final, third, injection.’
A spokesman for the trust said 500 teenage girls had been offered the vouchers, and the effectiveness of the scheme was being monitored.
Professor Theresa Marteau, from the Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health, said there is evidence that paying for girls to have vaccines can work. But she added: ‘There is a concern that if you give that amount of money to young people, they will run along to get the money and not pay attention to the treatments that are being offered.’
Norman Wells, of the pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said: ‘This is yet another example of public money being thrown at a problem that has its roots in declining standards of morality.
‘There is already evidence that the vaccine is giving some girls a false sense of security and leading them to think that because they have been vaccinated they are protected against the worst effects of sexual promiscuity and can therefore engage in casual sex without consequence.’
The Birmingham scheme is just one example cited by Radio 4 in a programme on controversial incentive schemes in the Health Service, to be broadcast tonight at 9pm.
Other trusts are paying the obese to lose weight or pregnant women to stop smoking. And cocaine addicts are receiving hundreds of pounds as a reward for getting off drugs.
The programme found that although drugs payment schemes can work, there is little evidence that paying people to lose weight or stop smoking is effective. This is because many of those being paid would have done it anyway, and because there is no guarantee they will carry on with their healthy habits once the payments stop.
British schools in better-off areas will lose cash to aid poor
Schools in middle-class areas will have their funding cut to pay for the Liberal Democrat policy of helping children from low-income families, the Government has admitted.
Just four months after David Cameron promised that no families would suffer to meet the cost of the £2.5 billion “pupil premium”, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, conceded that the plan meant some schools “will have less”.
Ministers struggled for months to come up with funding for the pupil premium, a key plank of the Lib Dem election manifesto. Other parties warned it would be impossible to pay for when cuts were being imposed across the public sector.
Earlier this month, Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister, announced that he had secured the necessary funding for the scheme, which is intended to give the poorest children access to the best schools and universities. State schools could be given up to £2,000 more per pupil to educate children from low-income families.
At the time, it was reported that Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, had been leant on to find greater cuts from the defence budget to finance the premium, following promises from ministers that the funding would come from outside the existing schools budget.
Lib Dem MPs were promised as part of the coalition agreement that the money would be an “add on”.
However, Mr Gove has now admitted that some of the £2.5 billion will be found from Department of Education funds after all, with children from middle-class families paying the price. He told the BBC’s Politics Show: “It is a very tight settlement and that does mean, and I won’t run away from it, that there will be some schools that will have less.”
Economic experts have predicted that most schools will suffer financially as a result of government spending plans.
Andy Burnham, the shadow education secretary, said that the Lib Dems had been “sold a pup” by the Conservatives over the pupil premium, which he predicted would “take money from one school and give it to another”. He added: “Many schools will be losers and they will not have a protected budget in real terms as suggested by the Government.”
In announcing the results of the spending review last week, George Osborne, the Chancellor, made much of the fact that the Department of Education, along with the departments for health and international development, would not suffer cuts.
However, it has since emerged that much of the tiny 0.1 per cent increase in the education budget will be swallowed up by the cost of providing school places for the extra children born during a recent slight rise in birth rates, with the result that the budget will fall by 0.6 per cent in real terms every year – a total cut of 2.25 per cent.
It became clear yesterday that Mr Gove has also been forced to inform schools that were given permission to proceed with building work earlier this year that their construction budgets were being reduced by 40 per cent. The schools thought they had been spared from a cull of building works under the cancellation of Labour’s Building Schools for the Future scheme. Many were aghast to told that they would be hit after all by the austerity drive.
Middle-class families also face higher costs when their children go to university with the introduction of increased tuition fees from 2012.
Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, confirmed yesterday that he was considering “progressive” ways of stopping successful graduates from paying off their student loans early to avoid paying high levels of interest.
In a further blow to families, Mr Gove admitted it seemed inevitable that schools outside the poorest areas would see further cuts. He said: “I think there will be some schools who will have less funding. At the moment we’re consulting on how the pupil premium will be allocated. “Some of it comes from within the education budget.”
His words directly contradicted those of the Prime Minister, who in June told the Commons: “We will take money from outside the education budget to ensure that the pupil premium is well-funded.”
Analysis by the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies last week estimated that 87 per cent of secondary school pupils and 60 per cent in primaries would see their school’s funding cut over the next four years. Mr Gove disagreed with the figures “because they’re making an estimate based on one particular interpretation of how the premium would work”.
Adding that he hoped that some of the money would come from savings in the welfare budget, he added: “I think it’s only fair to acknowledge that if you have school spending rising very modestly … you’ve got a government that’s signalled that looking after schools and investing in education is our top priority.”
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, warned that his party’s MPs still expected the pupil premium to be paid for from outside the schools budget. “I am clear that we wanted a pupil premium which was an add on. If it is not an add on, then clearly there is work to be done,” he said.
Mr Burnham disclosed that the pupil premium had been a top Lib Dem concern before entering into the Coalition. “When the Lib Dems and Labour were in talks after the election, this was an issue upon which those talks foundered,” he said. “The Lib Dems said to us, ‘The Tories have agreed to fund the pupil premium over and above the schools budget. Will you do the same?’ And Labour said, ‘Well we can’t because the money isn’t there to give a pupil premium over and above.’ And that is why the political significance of this issue is huge.”
Energy companies tell British government: If you want us to go Green, you will have to pay for it
Britain’s “big six” energy companies will this week warn Chris Huhne, secretary of state for energy, that the government’s proposed “floor price” for carbon emission permits is not enough of an incentive for them to invest in new nuclear power stations.
Executives from the companies, including Centrica, EDF Energy and Scottish Power, now owned by Iberdrola, are due to make their views clear at a dinner with Mr Huhne on Wednesday.
The industry has reached a consensus position with all companies agreeing that some form of additional incentive is required. Options range from a feed-in tariff to guarantee the price for low-carbon electricity to payments to companies as reward for having available generation capacity.
The government has already said it is seeking to put a floor under the price of carbon dioxide permits under the European Union’s emissions trading scheme. But executives believe if that were to be the only incentive the floor would have to be set at a pretty high level, with estimates ranging between €80 and €90 a tonne of carbon. The companies argue any floor price should start at a relatively low level and then gradually step up towards a level of about €35 a tonne of carbon. Prices are currently hovering at around €15 a tonne.
Volker Beckers, the chief executive of RWE npower, the German-owned energy supplier that has teamed up with fellow German Eon to build new reactors, told the Financial Times last week that the government should not “discriminate different technologies against each other” but should ensure there is a “level playing field” for all. He wants the renewables obligation, which supports wind power, to be expanded to a low-carbon obligation that would include nuclear.
Mr Huhne last week gave the green light for the development of new nuclear reactors but vowed there would be no public subsidy. Mr Beckers said he did not think of the renewables obligation as a subsidy.
“It is an obligation to a supplier to comply with environmental legislation . . . in other words, you either invest or you pay,” he said.
Two consultations – one on the carbon price floor and another on electricity market reform – are expected later this autumn. Mr Beckers said that RWE npower would make its supplier decision in the first quarter of next year and if there was “uncertainty still” it would “be very difficult”.
His comments echo those of Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy, which owns 80 per cent of British Energy, who called last week for “a timely consultation on how the government will implement its stated policy to provide a carbon price floor”. “We also need progress on reform of the electricity market where EDF Energy has proposed low carbon capacity payments to support security of supply.”
Mr Huhne will meet other industry stakeholders when he chairs the next meeting of the Nuclear Development Forum, which advises the government’s Office of Nuclear Development, on Thursday.
The British government will have to confront public anger over soaring electricity costs
Thanks to Gordon Brown’s profligacy, the public is about to have to pay more tax for fewer services. But the cost of green policies does not feature much in the latest debates, because most of it comes not through taxes, but through electricity bills. It is programmed to rise. This year, the total levy adds £6 billion to our household and business bills. In 2015, it will be £10 billion; in 2020, £16 billion (which equals 4 pence on the basic rate of income tax today).
For the Government, and the generators, this is a beautiful way of doing things, because they get their money effortlessly. So it is ugly for you and me. We pay for the renewable obligation subsidies, we fund the Feed-in Tariff. We pay more and more for sources of energy which will not reward us with cost reductions for at least a generation. For years, governments have gone on about the wickedness of “fuel poverty”. Today, 4.6 million households are officially defined as living in it. The prevailing policies make it inevitable that fuel poverty will rise for as far as the eye can see. By 2020, our energy prices will be between 30 and 40 per cent higher than they would have been without them.
At least two things result. One is that prosperity is impaired. Cheap energy is the prerequisite of industrial success. The figures for carbon production in the West are now mildly declining, but that is not true of our carbon consumption. All that is happening is that we are, in effect, exporting the production to China, proving, by doing so, that being green and clean does not pay. Global carbon production grows. The only important country where both the production and consumption of carbon slumped was Russia. That was because, in the 1990s, it suffered economic collapse. Economic collapse is, indeed, the answer to too much carbon, but in the same way that bubonic plague is the answer to the common cold.
The other result is that people get angry. They have been conscripted by their governments into an unwinnable war without end. The bills will rise, but the emissions will not fall. The country will not get cleaner, but its people will get poorer. There will come a point – provoked by power cuts, or by the bill for a cold winter – when we will be utterly sick of being ordered to save the planet, and we shall mutiny.
Politicians who want to stay in office should realise this, and take evasive action. Hard times provide the moment. In Spain the other day, the government realised that it was spending so much on price guarantees to solar power “entrepreneurs” that it decided to cut back. The same will have to happen with wind power here. It would be so much better, and cheaper, if it came before turbines have stalked their way across every lonely and lovely place in these islands.
The obvious objection to what I am saying is that we must save the planet. Of course we must, if it needs saving. But the great rows about the emails at the Climatic Research Unit, the evidence used by the working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and so on, have forced a retreat from the favourite claim that “the science is settled”. The Royal Society has long been alarmist about climate change, but its latest publication, Climate Change: A Summary of the Science, produced because of criticism about bias, is careful. It sets out areas where there is “wide agreement”, areas of “continuing debate and discussion” and “aspects that are not understood very well”. Although the authors clearly believe that climate change is real and risky, and is aggravated by human activity, they also emphasise uncertainties – about cause, effect, timing, modelling and the accuracy of data. In my admittedly untutored reading, it looks as if, by the Society’s own account, only about a third of the science is settled.
It seems a small [platform] on which to erect the next half-century of policy, nearly £1 trillion of costs and the claim that the end of the world is nigh. In this country and the whole of the West, a strange thing has happened. A fascinating scientific theory about a controversial subject has been falsely magicked by its supporters into a hard fact. I know this Government dislikes spending money on logos, but the next time “The Department of Energy and Climate Change” orders new stationery, it should delete those last three contentious words which Gordon Brown added to the masthead.
It’s not just Britain’s Tories who want austerity
We can’t make a convincing case against austerity without challenging today’s cultural aversion to prosperity
Something remarkable happened in Britain yesterday, but it wasn’t the Comprehensive Spending Review introduced to parliament by George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer. Rather it was the absence of any coherent opposition to what will undoubtedly be a serious attack on popular living standards.
The mass of the population most likely felt a fatalistic resignation at the prospect of spending cuts, rising unemployment and falling living standards. No doubt they were unhappy about what was awaiting them, but they felt there was little they could do to resist austerity.
There were some demonstrations around the country, but they were small and tokenistic in character. Few believed there was much prospect of having a significant effect. The best that most might hope for is that the particular areas they work on or care about should suffer less than others. So they might prefer, for example, for cuts to be lighter in higher education than other areas, or they might be particularly concerned about pensions or welfare benefits.
For anyone with a sense of history, such a passive response must seem strange. There are plenty examples from the past where assaults on living standards have provoked a militant response.
There are several possible responses to this fatalism – but most of them have little credibility. Some conservatives have pointed out that public spending will still continue to rise in cash terms over the next few years. But such an argument is disingenuous, since in real terms, once inflation is taken into account, spending will fall. Once debt repayments are taken into account, along with the protection of spending in some ministries, much of the public sector is going to suffer a substantial fall in spending.
In any case, the official estimate that up to 500,000 public sector workers could lose their jobs by 2014-15 is a good indicator of how hard the cuts could hit. Not only are they likely to mean poorer services for many, but also job losses and greater workplace insecurity for others.
The claim that a dynamic private sector, freed from the shackles of the state, will quickly create new jobs for the legions of unemployed is hard to take seriously. If anything, private sector unemployment could well rise, too, as private businesses are deprived of state support.
Others might blame the pathetic response to the cuts on what is deemed the ‘official opposition’ to the austerity proposed by the Liberal-Conservative coalition. Labour’s reaction is essentially that cuts should be imposed a little later and perhaps a little less extensively than the government suggests. To be sure, the Trades Union Congress has called for a demonstration against cuts – for some time next year.
But only the deluded or those ignorant of Britain’s recent history would have any faith in the desire of such organisations to resist austerity. Apart from anything else, before the May election the Labour Party made it clear that, at least in principle, it saw substantial cuts as unavoidable.
The real reason for the lack of any significant opposition to austerity goes wider and deeper than any of the standard explanations suggest. It is to be found in a strong cultural aversion to prosperity that became mainstream in British society in the 1970s and has strengthened since then. In turn, it should be seen as a central component of a broader social pessimism and retreat from the idea of progress.
This aversion to prosperity is missed because critics of the government typically assume that the assault on living standards will come from born-again Thatcherites. They see themselves as fighting the last war, just as surely as France building the Maginot line, a giant First World War-style fortified trench, to defend itself against Nazi Germany in the 1930s. In the event, Germany easily overpowered the defences using modern armoured warfare in 1940.
The contemporary aversion to prosperity is both more subtle and more powerful than that suggested by the idea of a Thatcherite assault. It takes the form of what I have called growth scepticism: the pervasive notion that economic growth is constrained by limits that humanity attempts to overcome at its peril. Such constraints are not simply seen as challenges but as immutable barriers that cannot be transgressed without causing immense harm.
Growth scepticism points to many such boundaries. The most obvious, and the first to be popularised, is the notion of a natural limit. From this perspective, economic growth threatens to devastate the environment and perhaps destroy the planet itself.
Sustainability is best seen as a variant of the concept of a natural limit. The idea is that economic growth may not pose immediate problems in the present, but it threatens potentially fatal challenges in the future. Climate change is the most popular example of this line of argument.
Another set of limits are portrayed as social. One variant of this is the emphasis on happiness in contemporary society. Influential figures have argued that the overriding goal of society and individuals should be achieving happiness rather than becoming wealthier. Economic growth is therefore downplayed or even stigmatised as causing ‘affluenza’.
An alternative version of the social limits argument relates to inequality. From this perspective, not only is inequality a social problem – it is also an argument against growth. Rising prosperity is seen as inherently dangerous as it can lead to widening inequality. In this view a more equal but poor society is generally seen as preferable to a less equal rich one.
Finally, there is the notion of moral limits. From this perspective, economic growth risks morally corrupting us. By fostering ‘greed’, it is argued that growth brings out the worst in humanity.
None of this means that the drive to austerity cannot be challenged. But it does suggest that the old approaches will not work. Simply pointing to the evils of cuts will not be convincing when growth scepticism is so deeply embedded. Looking to the Labour Party or the remnants of the old trade unions is deeply naive. And scapegoating greedy bankers will only make matters worse by strengthening the demand for sacrifice.
Instead it is necessary to go back to first principles. To restate the case for economic growth as part of a broader humanist project of rehabilitating social progress and modernity. Such an approach will not be easy to pursue. Growth-sceptic ideas are deeply embedded in contemporary societies. But it is only through rehabilitating prosperity as a desirable goal that it is possible to make a convincing case for resisting austerity.
Political correctness ends ‘Vice Squad’ name in Britain
“Scotland Yard’s famous Vice Squad, which deals with prostitution and other aspects of London’s underworld, has changed its title to the rather less dynamic “Serious Crime Directorate 9: Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command”, or SCD9 for short.
The explanation is one that would draw a robust response from DCI Hunt, the old-school detective from BBC One’s Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes.
Metropolitan Police sources said the switch had been ordered in part because the word “vice” was thought to have negative “connotations”. It reflects a growing trend by law enforcement agencies to treat prostitutes as victims rather than as offenders.
Alan Moss, a police historian and former Met chief superintendent, said: “The jargon of modern policing, with all the numbers and letters, is confusing for the public and probably for people in the police as well. “I think the names of different squads should bear the name of what they do, and the crime they are trying to combat.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, head of SCD9, said the name change was necessary was because Clubs and Vice had taken on wider responsibilities for areas such as human trafficking, which meant the old title was no longer appropriate.
One more reason why Britain really does not need the European Union: “Idly browsing, as I do, I came across this fascinating little post about the cost of transport. As a decent approximation, getting 30 tonnes of anything from anywhere to anywere now costs around $5,000. If, and only if, you’re on the container routes (either sea or rail). Which means that, again to a reasonable level of approximation, distance is no longer really a concern in trade matters. … It simply isn’t true any more that geography determines the costs of trade: thus geography shouldn’t be an influence upon trade policies.”