Chaos in plans for NHS reforms
Labour leader Ed Miliband today branded the Government’s controversial health reforms ‘extremely dangerous’ as he called on the Prime Minister to think again about his ‘reckless’ proposals.
It comes amid speculation that the radical plans are set to be watered down, including the key proposal of abolishing Primary Care Trusts and handing the job of commissioning patient services to GPs.
The Prime Minister has taken personal control of approving changes to the Health and Social Care Bill. He and Nick Clegg are preparing to launch a ‘listening exercise’ later this week in a bid to reassure critics of the shake-up, which will see GPs handed control of commissioning services.
GPs are expected to form into consortia to take over control of 80% of the NHS budget by 2013, however it is believed this deadline may be formally extended.
It has already been stated that private companies will be prevented from “cherry picking” profitable NHS services. But today Mr Miliband called on the Prime Minister to abandon the Bill going through Parliament, pledging that Labour would view any different proposals with an “open mind”.
But he warned the current plans were sending the NHS in the wrong direction and made the closure of hospitals more likely. He said: ‘The jewel in the British crown is being put at risk. It will send the NHS in the wrong direction in terms of patient care.’
The Labour leader said he was concerned that waiting times were already increasing and that GPs would have even less time to deal with patients because of the extra work they would have.
Cameron and Clegg are believed to be frustrated that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has failed to explain why the changes are necessary. However, Government sources are denying they are considering fundamental concessions, or that ministers want to ‘press the pause button’.
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The Government is utterly committed to the NHS and its principles. We are also committed to modernising the NHS. Progress on the ground continues to be impressive. ‘The speculation is ill-informed and filled with inaccuracies. The Bill has now successfully finished committee stage in the Commons and there is a natural break before it moves to the Lords.
‘We have always been prepared to listen, having already clarified that there is no question of privatisation and that competition will be based on quality, and will continue to do so.’
Concerns have been growing about a public backlash against the flagship Bill, with doctors lining up to criticise key elements. The British Medical Association called on the Government to withdraw the Bill last month. The doctors’ union said the reforms were a massive gamble that could worsen patient care, waste billions and lead to wholesale privatisation.
The Liberal Democrat leadership is also struggling to appease the party’s grass roots, who overwhelmingly voted to reject the plans at spring conference last month. Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Williams warned today there were would be ‘very serious’ consequences for the coalition unless there were significant changes to the Bill.
‘I have a very great desire to see the coalition succeed, I think it’s necessary to deal with the really serious crisis facing the country,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One. ‘But I believe unless there are major changes in the health proposals it will be in very great trouble.’
The Budget’s green dreams will leave Britain powerless
The Government’s obsession with its babyish green dreamworld will force the closure of power stations, increase our electricity bills and damage vital industries, warns Christopher Booker
We are fast approaching that long overdue moment when the country wakes up to the scale of the disaster we are being led into by the absurdly unreal, global-warming-obsessed energy policy of our “greenest ever government”. Yet another disturbing instance of this was the announcement tucked away in George Osborne’s Budget that he will impose a “£16 a ton floor price for carbon”, a measure seemingly so arcane that no one has really bothered to spell out its implications.
What it means is that for every ton of CO2 emitted by British industry, and by our electricity companies in particular, we shall all indirectly have to pay what is in effect a hidden tax of £16, rising over the next nine years to £30.
Last year, the coal-fired power stations which supply nearly a third of our electricity used 40 million tons of coal, each emitting up to 2.9 tons of CO2. For this 116 million tons, we shall see nearly £2 billion added to our electricity bills.
The same tax on gas will add a further £1 billion to our bills, thus increasing them by a total of £3 billion a year, rising to £5 billion by 2020. This will add more than 25 per cent to the price we presently pay for electricity, or £200 a year for every household.
This is on top of the price we will have to pay for all the Government’s other “green” dreams, such as the £100 billion it wants spent on 10,000 giant wind turbines, plus another £40 billion to hook them up to the grid. The 100 per cent subsidies for onshore wind power and 200 per cent subsidies for offshore will add further billions to our bills, in return for what will still be only a fraction of the electricity we need.
Already we have seen one estimate, from analysts at Matrix Group, that Mr Osborne’s new “carbon tax” will so skew the economics of coal-fired electricity that four of our larger French- and Spanish-owned power stations at Kingsnorth, Didcot, Tilbury and Cockenzie will have to shut down by 2013, even earlier than their forced closure under the EU’s Large Combustion Plants Directive. This will knock such a hole in our generating capacity that we can look forward to the first of those long-predicted power cuts and blackouts.
What has also shocked British industry is that we will be the only country in the world that has to pay this new tax, thus eroding our competitiveness still further. It is not only electricity which will take the brunt of the tax, but all major CO2 emitters, such as what remains of Britain’s steel industry. Among those already hinting that Osborne’s tax could lead to plant closures and the loss of thousands of jobs have been Welsh MPs, conscious that one of South Wales’s biggest employers is Tata Steel, with 7,500 workers. Tata itself has warned that Osborne’s tax will cost its British operations £20 million a year by 2020, representing a “potentially severe blow to the sustainability of UK steelmaking”.
David Cameron’s response to this is that, on the contrary, he is “hugely heartened by the fact that Tata is putting more investment into the UK”. But what is the main proclaimed purpose of that investment? To make the blades for those useless windmills. Alas, Mr Cameron could not begin to understand what this tells us about the babyish little green dreamworld in which he and his Government live.
British Fascist is ready to use shock and awe to force social change
Those who think Nick Clegg [Leader of the Liberal party] has got a raw deal out of this Coalition should pay attention on Tuesday as the Government’s social mobility strategy is, at last, given its formal launch. Elements of the plan have already been unveiled: the appointment of Alan Milburn as the Government’s independent reviewer on social mobility; the £430-per-head “pupil premium” given to schools which educate the poorest children; and the new “access agreements” for universities which propose to charge tuition fees of more than £6,000 per annum. This week, the Deputy Prime Minister will join up the dots and – more to the point – seek to demonstrate the political will that underpins the rhetoric.
All governments say they are in favour of “social mobility” and issue appropriate platitudes. But this one seems to mean business, thanks in large part to the fire in Clegg’s belly. The ministerial committee exploring the issue has come to be recognised as a forum where important decisions are taken: Michael Gove, though not a formal member, has made a point of attending some of its meetings alongside his colleagues David Willetts and Iain Duncan Smith. The Education Secretary is wise to do so: the policies and governing strategy that are being formulated under this rubric will be deeply controversial, and (in Clegg’s eyes, at any rate) they are meant to be.
As a curtain-raiser, it was disclosed last week that the Government is to publish an annual “report card” on seven key indicators, ranging from babies’ body weight and the skills learned by five-year-olds to GCSE results and adult earnings. These, Clegg insists, will not be targets but “a series of dials”, a dashboard used to check on the nation’s social wellbeing and to “trigger a reaction” when things go wrong. Without apology, he makes government sound like a giant Heath Robinson contraption, monitored by ministers in white coats with clipboards. A politician who talks about “dials” can scarcely complain if he is accused of “social engineering”.
Those involved in the formulation of this strategy – Lib Dem and Tory – insist that it will not involve quotas or US-style “affirmative action”. Yet it is hard to escape the conclusion that a line is about to be crossed in social policy. Already, Clegg has made clear to university vice-chancellors that the rules of the game have changed. How they go about broadening their undergraduate intake is for them to decide, in collaboration with the Office for Fair Access. But he wants to see results, especially in the proportion of state school pupils going to the best universities. It is hard to exaggerate the level of unease this has already spawned in Oxford and Cambridge common rooms – which is exactly what Clegg wants.
Private school heads seethe about a new era of “differential offers”, in which their pupils will have to clear much higher hurdles than rival candidates from the state sector. Again, Clegg has no problem with parents beginning to doubt that they can buy social advantage for their children by paying exorbitant school fees. The gradualist approach, he believes, has failed, and it is time for a spot of shock and awe. Either the top higher education institutions deliver change, or they will lose the right to charge increased tuition fees.
In Cabinet, the Prime Minister makes a point of presenting Clegg’s social mobility plan as “Coalition policy” – rather than a Lib Dem wheeze tolerated by reluctant Tories to hold the Government together. Nor is the Conservative leader averse to forcing the pace of social change when it suits him: it was Cameron, after all, who imposed the A-list of candidates upon deeply sceptical Tory associations. Conservative politicians often accept the practical necessity of social intervention from which they ideologically recoil: as President Obama has noted approvingly, it was Nixon who launched the first federal affirmative action programmes for black Americans.
That said, it would be absurd to deny the tensions between the two parties on this most contentious issue. Last week, even as Clegg unveiled his seven indicators, Willetts declared that he still believed in “a liberal labour market that doesn’t try to achieve social objectives”.
There is agreement on the DPM’s cradle-to-grave approach to social mobility, his insistence that it amounts to more than the alleviation of poverty, and his introduction of multiple metrics to monitor progress. But Tories are much more comfortable with “supply side” measures than they are with threatening universities over the numbers of state school pupils they admit.
For Iain Duncan Smith, the heart of the problem is the broken society that breeds poverty of aspiration. For Gove, it is the culture of expectation and excellence within state schools that needs to be addressed. The point of difference is that Clegg and co are willing to go much further, to use the power of government to compel change, rather than simply to nudge and nurture it and hope for the best. The DPM’s message to universities, for a start, might be called a Nike strategy: Just Do It.
I take an old-fashioned view, which is that grammar schools were the most effective engine of social mobility ever devised, and that the reintroduction of academic selection in the state sector remains the best hope of repairing the wrecked ladder of opportunity. But where I agree with Clegg is that, in this particular endeavour, you really do have to break a few eggs to make the desired omelette. There is no painless path to social change.
If, like me, you want the 11-plus back, you have to accept the impact upon those who do not pass (John Prescott still hasn’t recovered, more than 60 years after he failed the exam). Likewise, the fight that the DPM has picked could be extraordinarily bloody.
Eleven years ago, Gordon Brown’s intervention in the case of Laura Spence, a high-achieving state school pupil turned down by Oxford, caused a national furore. That was a story about a single candidate, with no implications for policy and no prospect of redress. Now imagine the Laura Spence row nationalised, so to speak, and every non-compliant university facing stiff punishment.
Imagine litigation, human rights cases going all the way to Strasbourg, top higher education institutions threatening to go private and charge what they like. The 7.2 per cent of parents who send their children to independent schools (paying average fees of £10,100 a year) are a minority, but they are disproportionately noisy. Good luck to any politician who declares war on them.
Even so: it remains astonishing that Clegg has persuaded a Conservative-dominated Government to undertake this project. Labour MPs whisper their congratulations to Lib Dem ministers, and express justified amazement that a Coalition led by products of Eton, Westminster and St Paul’s has embarked on this social crusade.
In 32 days’ time, the nation will go to the polls in the first UK-wide referendum in 36 years and decide whether to adopt a new electoral system. The stakes for Clegg are vertiginously high. But it is the battle he is launching on Tuesday that he really wants to win.
Why rich families today were probably rich 1,000 years ago
This is an odd finding, best explained by genetic inheritance. Not all descendants of the rich remain rich but there appears to be an overall tendency in that direction nonetheless
Surnames which indicated nobility and wealth in medieval times are still richer even today, research has suggested. ‘Moneyed’ surnames, such as Darcy, Percy, Baskerville and Mandeville continue to have more cash than those with ‘poor’ names, such as Smith, Mason and Cooper.
The research, which uses university admissions, probate records and official information going as far back as the Domesday Book, tracked what happened to those whose surnames suggest their forebears were either aristocratic or ‘artisans’ from the working class.
Researcher Gregory Clark, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, found that in the group with rare names he studied from the 1850s until 2011, the gap between rich and poor narrowed.
However, those with ‘rich’ surnames left estates worth at least ten per cent above the national average, and also lived three years longer than the average, according to The Observer.
That’s rich: Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy, in a scene from Pride and Prejudice. Research suggests that people with certain names such as name Darcy have always been better off
Such names indicated a descent from nobility who came to England after the Norman Conquest and are found in the Domesday book of 1086. They drew their name from the surrounding Normandy towns and villages, the Observer says, whereas other ‘poor ‘ surnames – such as Carpenter, Shepherd or Baker – indicated an occupation.
In his paper – which is due to be presented at the Economic History Society’s annual conference – Prof Clark says: ‘Despite the social and political changes in England since the Industrial Revolution and the extension of the political franchise, if anything the rate of social mobility is slower now than in medieval England.
‘The huge social resources spent on publicly provided education and health have seemingly created no gains in the rate of social mobility. ‘The modern meritocracy is no better at achieving social mobility than the medieval oligarchy.’
And while rich and poor in general may eventually become ‘average’, with ‘no permanent social classes’, those from the 1850s may take another ‘two to four’ generations to get there, he finds.
Prof Clark added a warning for the current poor in Britain: it may be many generations ‘perhaps centuries’ before they achieve equality.
‘The children of groups of recent immigrants to the UK – specifically those from Bangladesh and Pakistan – have levels of wealth, income, and education that are substantially below those of the general population,’ his paper says.
Pupils could face police action as British government announces surprise raids on schools to tackle bad behaviour
Britain’s worst schools will face surprise raids by inspectors and heads will be able to press charges against pupils under moves to stamp out discipline problems in the classroom.
Teachers will also be given powers to confiscate pupils’ mobile phones in a package of measures designed to end years of politically correct official guidance that gave disruptive children the upper hand.
Education Secretary Michael Gove, who will unveil the plans today, is determined to reverse the collapse in classroom discipline that has resulted in 1,000 children a day being suspended from school for abuse and assault.
As well as confiscating mobiles, which are banned in many classrooms, teachers will be allowed to search the phones for evidence of cyber-bullying and inappropriate material.
And they will be allowed to break up fights and manhandle unruly pupils out of the classroom. They will also automatically be given the benefit of the doubt when facing malicious allegations from children or parents – and given anonymity while the claims are investigated.
Under the new rules they will then be allowed to launch criminal action against their own pupils who have made false allegations about them. The youngsters will also face expulsion over the claims.
Teachers will also be allowed to hand out automatic detentions to misbehaving students, without having to give parents 24 hours’ notice.
The 50-page document replaces more than 600 pages of complex guidance on discipline.
Mr Gove will also press the schools inspection body, Ofsted, to carry out more unannounced raids at the worst schools. At present most schools receive many months’ notice before an Ofsted inspection – giving them time to cover up the worst problems. New powers to carry out so-called ‘no-notice inspections’ have been used only five times in 18 months.
A government source said Mr Gove expected the powers to be used more widely, adding: ‘In the small number of schools with very bad behaviour problems we need more no-notice inspections. It must become unacceptable for schools to tolerate persistent serious problems.’
Mr Gove said the new measures would hand power in the classroom back to teachers. He added: ‘Improving discipline is a big priority. Teachers can’t teach effectively and pupils can’t learn if schools can’t keep order.
The new regime will remove the controversial ‘no touch’ rules, which banned teachers from any physical contact with pupils.
The guidance also gives teachers far greater protection against malicious complaints from pupils and their parents. One in four teachers has faced false allegations from a pupil, while one in six has had unfounded allegations made by parents.
Chris Yeates, the leader of teachers’ union NASUWT, yesterday criticised the ‘disproportionate’ powers allowing teachers to search for mobile phones – despite having previously branded mobiles ‘offensive weapons’ used by bullies.
Charlie Taylor, head of a tough inner-city school for excluded pupils, has been appointed as a school discipline tsar to drive through the reforms. He said: ‘For far too long, teachers have been buried under guidance and reports on how to tackle bad behaviour. I am determined to make sure I help schools put policy into practice.’
Attempt to close down British anti-immigrant party thoroughly defeated
The ECHR is headed by a black man whose judgment is obviously very poor. The first excerpt below is from last December:
“[Britain’s] Equalities and Human Rights Commission (ECHR), has been defeated in its bid to kill the British National Party. A ruling in the Royal Courts of Justice this morning found against the ECHR which had launched a new action to have party leader Nick Griffin MEP declared in contempt of court.
The British National Party had already complied with an earlier court order to change its membership rules and the ECHR then brought another application claiming that Mr Griffin had not followed the court’s ruling and was therefore in contempt.
The ECHR initially sought to imprison Mr Griffin and seize party assets. This morning’s ruling squashed all of that and found that the party leader was not in contempt of court either.
“This is a great day for the British National Party,” Mr Griffin said. “We have won a spectacular David and Goliath victory for freedom. This is the fourth time that the politically correct state has tried to jail me, and it is the fourth time that it has blown up in their anti-British faces.
“We are a legal and legitimate political party which is entitled to organise and campaign for the fair treatment and equality of the British people,” he continued.
“Most important of all, this case forced the ECHR to acknowledge the existence of the native people of our islands as a distinct ethnic group, with the result that all members of that group are at last entitled to the full protection of anti discrimination laws. “The English people especially are now no longer a non-people in their own country,” Mr Griffin said.
It took a few months for the matter of court costs to be adjudicated but that has now happened and the ECHR has really had its nose rubbed into its own very poor reasoning:
Nick Griffin has welcomed the ruling that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) must pay the British National Party’s court costs in full as a “victory for freedom”.
“It is a massive victory for the British National Party and freedom and a crushing blow for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Trevor Phillips’ PC bullies,” he said.
Mr Griffin’s comments follow the High Court judgement ruling that the EHRC must pay all the costs incurred by him, Simon Darby and Tanya Lumby during their brave defence against the EHRC’s attempts to seize the Party’s assets and throw the defendants into prison.
The ruling of Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Mr Justice Ramsey is a further crushing defeat for the Commission and a personal humiliation for Trevor Phillips and Simon Woolley, who at the start of proceedings boasted on TV that they were going to close the British National Party down.
A great and much-needed victory for free speech in Britain
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.