90% of NHS hospitals fail to check on nurses’ English before letting them work on wards
Fewer than one in ten hospitals check whether nurses from Europe can adequately speak English before letting them work on wards, it has emerged. Language problems often only come to light when patients find that their requests for more pain relief or different food are not understood, according to an NHS watchdog.
Many hospital chiefs are totally unaware that due to strict anti-discrimination rules imposed by Brussels, it is illegal for the Nursing and Midwifery Council regulator to check the English language skills of nurses trained in EU countries.
The Department of Health and the Royal College of Nursing have told hospitals it is their responsibility to make adequate checks but the guidance is not always passed on to managers in charge of recruitment.
Foreign nurses coming to work in England from outside the EU have to undergo rigorous English exams that last up to five hours before they can join the NMC register.
But fewer than one in ten NHS trusts are bothering to set their own tests or demand to see proof that nurses have reached an appropriate standard of English, according to Freedom of Information requests obtained by the Daily Mail.
The resulting problems were outlined by Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association. She said: ‘We get a lot of calls from relatives saying elderly patients are trying to ask for more pain relief or that they want something different to eat and the message just isn’t getting across.
‘Often these patients who are physically very weak just give up. It’s abysmal, it’s appalling that the NMC’s hands are tied but hospitals should be doing more.’
The problem was recently highlighted in the House of Lords by fertility expert Lord Winston, who warned that the poor language skills of Eastern European nurses were compromising patient safety.
The Mail used the Freedom of Information Act to ask all 168 hospital trusts in England what checks they carried out on the language abilities of nurses before hiring them. Of the 104 who replied, only seven said they set their own test or asked to see proof that nurses had passed some form of English exam.
A further nine said they set general literacy tests for all candidates, not just those coming from overseas, but experts say these are not enough to establish whether foreign staff can understand English.Many of the remainder think they do not need to bother setting their own tests as they think the NMC will have already checked.
Although nearly all hospitals will interview nurses before appointing them, experts say this is not enough to assess whether nurses can understand patients, relatives or even their own colleagues on busy wards.
Howard Catton, head of policy at the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘There needs to be a rigorous recruitment and selection process in place. This would include looking at background checks on CVs, face-to-face interviews and if necessary separate English tests. ‘Just because somebody has general language competence we can’t assume they have the specialist terminology needed to explain somebody’s condition or prescribing medication.’
In the past 12 months 3,179 nurses from other EU countries have registered with the NMC – although it is not known how many went on to work in hospitals. All other nurses coming to work in England from elsewhere in the world have to undergo rigorous English exams. They must score seven out of a possible nine in speaking, listening, reading and writing tests.
Some hospitals send nurses on English language courses – paid for by the taxpayer.
Widow dies on operating table when surgeon tries to remove liver instead of her kidney
Because a “trainee” was totally ignorant of anatomy! Where did he go to medical school? In Ghana?
A widow died on an operating table after a surgeon tried to remove the wrong organ, an inquest heard today. Amy Francis, 77, underwent keyhole surgery to remove a cancerous right kidney last July.
But during the operation at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, her liver ruptured as it was mistakenly pulled out and, despite desperate efforts to save her, she died of internal bleeding.
Consultant urologist Dr Adam Carter, admitted to the error and highlighted that as a result of the death, a modified operating procedure had been communicated ‘worldwide’.
Her son Alan, 52, praised Dr Carter for his honesty and the hospital for ‘owning up’ early. Following the hearing he said: ‘We appreciated Mr Carter’s honesty and him coming along here today and hope that we can put it all behind us now. ‘I think that it was the honesty that saved the hospital. If we thought that they had not answered our questions it would have been different. ‘This was an honest mistake.’
Retired accountant, Mrs Francis, was diagnosed with kidney cancer and was due to be treated after she had recovered from the routine surgery. But during the operation Dr Carter allowed a trainee, who had never performed the procedure before, to locate and remove the organ.
As the trainee wasn’t confident enough to remove the organ Dr Carter was forced to take over, and during the changeover confusion occurred.
When he attempted to remove the kidney he was immediately told by the anesthetist that the patient’s blood pressure was dropping and he realised his mistake.
Two senior surgeons were called to the scene and every effort was made to save Mrs Francis, but they were unsuccessful.
David Bowen, the coroner for Gwent, said: ‘Whilst undergoing keyhole surgery for the necessary removal of the cancerous kidney, Mrs Francis’s liver was ruptured when it was mistakenly and unintentionally identified as the kidney and was catastrophically torn and damaged, resulting in death.’
Dr Carter said he had carried out the procedure 20 times since the death without a problem.
Son Alan said before the inquest finished: ‘We accept the decision and we also accept that Mr Carter and his team acted in good faith to prolong my mother’s life. ‘We also appreciated his honesty and wish him well for the future and hope he goes on to do other successful operations.’
Over the last 40 years, the number of cases of kidney cancer has doubled in men and risen by 130 per cent in women, a trend which is believed to be linked to rising obesity figures.
There were 3638 new cases diagnosed in men and 2118 new cases diagnosed in woman in England during 2007.
Europe’s war on British justice: UK loses three out of four human rights cases, damning report reveals
Unelected Euro judges are making a relentless attack on British laws laid down over centuries by Parliament, a devastating report warns today.
A group of Tory MPs are demanding action by the Prime Minister over figures which show the UK loses three out of every four cases taken to the unaccountable European Court of Human Rights.
The explosive research will reignite the row over Europe’s demand for rapists and killers to be given the vote in prison, and intensify calls for Britain to withdraw from the court’s jurisdiction.
The ten backbench Tory MPs say there is a need to ‘end rule by judges and reinstate Parliamentary democracy’. Their challenge follows a succession of sickening cases in which terrorists, murderers and sex offenders have been awarded cash after gaining judgments against the Government.
The report, commissioned by the MPs from legal researcher Robert Broadhurst, says that since Britain subscribed to the jurisdiction of the ECHR in 1966 there have been more than 350 rulings on whether the UK has violated convention rights.
The number of judgments made against the UK is 271, against only 86 in which it was successful. In a further 50 cases the UK reached a settlement with the claimant, typically agreeing to pay out in return for an agreement to drop the case.
In the 1980s, the average number of cases concluded by the ECHR concerning alleged UK violation of human rights law was 2.6 per year. In the 1990s it tripled to 7.8 – and in the 2000s it almost tripled again to 29.3.
This came after the rules were changed, in 1998, to allow individuals to take cases directly to the ECHR rather than go through the British courts.
The judgments have been blamed for allowing scores of foreign criminals and terrorists to claim they have a ‘human right’ to remain in the UK.
The European court has 47 judges, representing every member state of the Council of Europe including Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco and Andorra.
A recent report estimated that 20 of them have no judicial experience. Many cannot speak English. The timing of the report is crucial as Strasbourg prepares to pass judgment in three controversial cases.
In the first, prisoner voting will come before the Grand Chamber, Strasbourg’s final court of appeal. Britain is fighting an ECHR ruling that the government must allow convicts to take part in elections – in clear defiance of the wishes of the UK Parliament, which last year voted overwhelmingly to maintain the current ban.
In the second, preacher of hate Abu Hamza is resisting extradition to the U.S. to face trial on terror charges, and the ECHR will rule on whether he can be sent for trial. If it refuses, the British authorities face the prospect of having to release the fanatic back on to the streets.
The final case involves three killers given ‘whole-life’ tariffs by the British courts, which have ruled their crimes are so grave that they can never be released and must die behind bars.
If Jeremy Bamber, Peter Moore and Douglas Vinter win their case, it will force the Government to give regular reviews to every one of the 40 or so prisoners locked up for ever – and allow them to petition for their release.
In their foreword to Mr Broadhurst’s report, the MPs, headed by ex-MEP Chris Heaton-Harris, say: ‘The main problem with current human rights law is that we all have to accept judges’ interpretations of human rights, even when those interpretations strike us as a gross distortion of such rights. Who really believes that some or all convicted prisoners have an inherent right to vote while they are behind bars for their crime? Not us.’
The report calls for the UK Parliament to be given the power to overturn ECHR judgments. Such a move would require the approval of all other signatories to the ECHR. Should this not prove possible, ‘the only viable option would be for the UK to extract itself from the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg court altogether’.
The report says that, by introducing a British Bill of Rights, the country could still meet its obligations to respect human rights. The author claims this would most probably prevent Britain from being ejected from the Council of Europe – parent body of the ECHR.
David Cameron promised at the weekend to take personal charge of the issue, during Britain’s presidency of the Council of Europe.
He is planning to make a speech in Strasbourg calling for rule changes which would stop the ECHR being able to deal with cases if they have already been dealt with ‘properly’ by national courts.
Racism and Media Double Standards in Britain
The mainstream media (MSM) have devoted a great deal of space to the Stephen Lawrence case of late. Many journalists have commented that whilst Britain was a racist country in the recent past, the Britain of today is a much more tolerant place. This may well be the case with regard to white-on-non-white racial crime, but what about the violent crime committed by non-whites on whites, and what about the way this is treated by the MSM?
The ruling elites would rather we remained ignorant of such matters, so there is little information out there apart from the British Crime Survey of 2004 which stated:
“…people from black or minority ethnic communities suffered 49,000 violent attacks, with 4,000 being wounded. The number of violent attacks against whites reached 77,000, while the number of white people who reported being wounded was five times the number of black and minority ethnic victims at 20,000.”
Bearing in mind that whites account for 90% of the population, simple maths suggests that non-whites attack and wound whites at a rate forty-five times higher than whites wound non-whites. This is a truly shocking figure and one that should be of enormous concern to the race relations industry, the government and the media, who purport to be intensely interested in both racial crime and “community cohesion”. However, this appears not to be the case at all.
For those aware of what has been happening in Britain (and all over the West), this media silence should come as no surprise, understanding as they do that the racial and cultural dispossession of the indigenous peoples is the greatest weapon the hard left possesses in its unfinished war against the traditional Western Nation State.
It makes perfect sense, of course. The only defence against becoming an ethnic minority in our homeland before 2060 is to draw attention to our predicament. If the left can make such a defence not just immoral but evil, then they have removed the one and only obstacle that could possibly resist their racially-driven agenda, and if they can capture the means of disseminating information (such as the BBC) then they can continue unopposed — which is exactly what they are doing.
The left divides society into the oppressed and the oppressors. The working-class man of Britain was supposed to represent the historically oppressed masses awaiting the Marxist revolution, but unforgivably — in the eyes of the revolutionaries — the working class became too affluent, preferring to queue for beer in Ibiza, rather than queue for the bare essentials of life in a Sovietised London.
Hence the importation of a new immigrant underclass, which is then deliberately under-educated in order to retain its status as the useful oppressed. Its members are deliberately subjected to propaganda under the guise of Multiculturalism, which constantly reminds them they are eternal victims and the whites eternal oppressors. This is why their varied misdemeanours are overlooked or excused. To allow the truth to be revealed would ruin the leftist plans. How else to explain the climate of fear that surrounds criticism of non-whites?
Take for example the case of black-on-white gang rape. Back in 2004 the Daily Telegraph reported on daily gang rapes taking place in London. The majority of the victims were white, the majority of the gang rapists black. Scotland Yard was treating this topic with great care because of the racial “sensitivity”, and refused to label the crimes as “gang rape”, because to do so would draw attention to clearly-defined youth gangs. The police service is apparently much happier using the term “multiple-perpetrator rape.”
As has been said for many years, if you import the Third World, you become the Third World. In 2009 The Guardian admitted that a staggering 25% of black South African males had committed single or multiple rapes in the previous year alone, which correlates to the ever-rising number of rape cases involving children unfortunate enough to attend schools in the increasingly diverse inner cities of Britain.
In 2011 the MSM finally came clean about the Muslim grooming and rape of young white girls in Northern towns and cities. In a quite shocking admission the police chiefs reiterated what their London colleagues had previously stated, which was the hushing up of such racial crimes in the interest of community cohesion. Really? Do they not think that our knowing about it, and knowing the police are doing little about it will enhance community cohesion?
But then perhaps the police and the MSM are not really interested in community cohesion at all. If they were, they might be slightly more reticent about plastering reports of white-on-black crime across the newspapers and airwaves. Community cohesion only seems to work when old whitey is kept in the dark whilst the non-whites are made fully aware of white transgressions.
And the same standards apply to racial murder, where some murders are more prominent than others, as in the case of Stephen Lawrence. In 2006 the Guardian reported that Home office Freedom of Information figures showed whites as the victims in half of all racially motivated murders over the previous decade. The Guardian went on to say:
Senior police officers have admitted that ‘political correctness’ and the fear of discussing the issue have meant that race crime against white people goes under-reported. One chief constable has claimed that white, working-class men are more alienated than the Muslim community.
How wonderful! As our kith and kin are raped and murdered by racially motivated non-whites, the police “service”, whose sole remit is to protect the population from such crime, sweep it under the carpet through fear of criticism, and gets itself into “a bit of a state about it.” Such a reprehensible and disgusting attitude stems no doubt from the chief requirement necessary for becoming a police officer in the first place, which is not an ability to catch criminals, so it seems, but to exhibit a “respect for diversity.”
Everyone in Britain has quite rightly heard of Stephen Lawrence and the white savages who murdered him, but how many have heard about Mary-Ann Leneghan? This poor white girl was only sixteen years old when she and a friend were abducted, tortured, and raped by Joshua and Jamaile Morally, Indrit Krasniqui, Llewellyn Adams, Michael Johnson and Adrian Thomas. Mary-Ann was eventually murdered (her friend survived).
The Guardian tells us the girls were forced to strip naked, raped vaginally and orally, burned, cut with knives, hit with a metal pole and told repeatedly that they would be murdered. At times some of the men would ask Thomas for permission to do things, asking if they could burn or stab the girls. He gave that permission, saying ‘Yes, go on, I don’t care. It’s too late now. Nobody is going to help them now.’“
After hours of abuse, the girls were then taken to Prospect Park with pillows over their heads, where prosecutor Richard Latham QC stated:
“It was Johnson who then stabbed Mary-Ann in the abdomen with a large brown kitchen knife. He had her by the neck and hair; she was begging him to stab her in the neck….Mary-Ann then fell on her side and Johnson was stabbing her everywhere. She fell over in a ball trying to protect herself but he rolled her over trying to find a new place on her body to stab her. They said they wanted her to die slowly. She became unable to move and just lay there crying, when she cried or made any sound she was stabbed again.”
In America there have been two cases similar to the Mary Ann Leneghan atrocity. Both involved gangs of blacks raping, torturing and murdering whites. They have been dubbed the Wichita Massacre and the Knoxville Horror. I mention these American cases simply to highlight the warped and perverse attitude of the British MSM.
The BBC was very enthusiastic in its reporting on the particularly gruesome and racist murder of a black American in Texas called James Byrd, but if you go to the BBC website and search for any of the names of the white victims in the Wichita Massacre or the Knoxville Horror, you will find not a single word, not a single acknowledgement of the two greatest racial crimes committed in America in the last century. Why the inexplicable double standards, which seem utterly dependent on skin colour? …
‘Scientists falsify data to get research published and whistleblowers are bullied into keeping quiet,’ claim their own colleagues
More than one in ten scientists and doctors claim to have witnessed colleagues deliberately fabricating data in order to get their research published, a new poll has revealed.
The survey of almost 2,800 experts in Britain also found six per cent knew of possible research misconduct at their own institution that has not been properly investigated.
The poll for the hugely-respected British Medical Journal (BMJ) is being presented at a meeting aimed at tackling research misconduct in the UK.
It is being hosted by the BMJ and the Committee on Publication Ethics (Cope). Dr Fiona Godlee, BMJ editor in chief, said: ‘While our survey can’t provide a true estimate of how much research misconduct there is in the UK, it does show that there is a substantial number of cases and that UK institutions are failing to investigate adequately, if at all.
‘The BMJ has been told of junior academics being advised to keep concerns to themselves to protect their careers, being bullied into not publishing their findings, or having their contracts terminated when they spoke out.’
Cope chair Dr Elizabeth Wager added: ‘This survey chimes with our experience where we see many cases of institutions not co-operating with journals and failing to investigate research misconduct properly.’
Earlier this month, health experts writing in the BMJ online warned that excluding data from clinical trials could endanger patients.
In an editorial, Dr Richard Lehman from Oxford University and the journal’s clinical epidemiology editor Dr Elizabeth Loder called for an end to the ‘culture of haphazard publication and incomplete data disclosure’.
They called for more robust regulation and full access to the raw trial data, not just what ends up being published. They said that those who deliberately hide results ‘have breached their ethical duty to trial participants’.
Winning A Climate Bet
Its ability to make consistently accurate predictions is the test of any scientific theory. Below we see that it was a skeptic, not a Warmist who made the accurate prediction
Dr. David Whitehouse
Predictions, Neils Bohr once said, are difficult, especially about the future. They are even more interesting however, when there is money at stake.
In December 2007 I wrote what I thought was quite a straightforward article for the New Statesman pointing out that it was curious that when so many voices were telling us that global warming was out of control, and that the global warming effect dwarfed natural fluctuations, the global annual average temperature hadn’t increased for many years. I wasn’t promoting any particular point of view just describing the data. The New Statesman jumped at it.
It caused quite a storm resulting in an Internet record number of comments that were complimentary by a large majority, although there were some less than supportive remarks. It evidently also caused quite a fuss in the offices of the New Statesman. Realclimate.com responded with, in my view, an unsatisfactory knock-down of my piece based on trend lines, which I had expected. Trend lines, especially of indeterminate length in the presence of noise, can tell you almost anything, and nothing.
The New Statesman environment correspondent Mark Lynas chipped in eventually with, “I’ll be blunt. Whitehouse got it wrong – completely wrong,” after saying he was initially reluctant to comment. He reproduced Realclimate.com’s trendlines argument and accused me of deliberately or otherwise setting out to deceive. It was a scientifically ignorant article which subsequent events, and peer-reviewed literature, emphasise. Moreover, when I asked New Statesman for redress against such an unnecessary, and in my view unprofessional insult, they declined, and stopped answering my emails. In doing so they missed out on an important, though perhaps inconvenient, scientific story.
More or Less
To my surprise interest in my article was worldwide, and eventually the BBC’s radio programme “More or Less” got in touch. The programme is about numbers and statistics and they set up a series of interviews. You can hear the programme here.
Almost at the last minute the programme-makers came up with the idea of a bet. It was for £100 that, using the HadCrut3 data set, there would be no new record set by 2011. It was made between climatologist James Annan and myself. His work involves analysing climatic data and validating climate models. He accepted enthusiastically as he has a perchant for taking on ‘sceptics.’ The presenter said that if the global temperature didn’t go up in the next few years, “there would be some explaining to do.”
Later today, January 13th, “More or Less” returns to the bet, which I am pleased to say I won, though I note that this bet, or its conclusion, is not yet mentioned on Annan’s Wikipedia entry despite his other climate bet being discussed.
Writing shortly after the wager was placed James Annan said he believed it was a fairly safe bet, though not certain, as the trend since the current warming spell began, around 1980, was upward (showing those same trendlines!) He drew a straight line from 1980 to 2007 and projected it forwards concluding that sometime over the next few years HadCrut3 would rise above its highest point which was in 1998 (a strong El Nino year.)
The problem with this approach is that it destroys all information in the dataset save the gradient of the straight line. In climate terms 30 years is usually held to be the shortest period to deduce trends (though shorter periods are used often if the trend deduced is deemed acceptable) but that is not to say there is not important information on shorter periods such as volcanic depressions, El Nino rises and La Nina dips. Then there are the so-called, poorly understood decadal variations.
My view was that the information in the dataset was important, especially if projecting it forward just a few years when natural variations were clearly dominant. Looking at HadCrut3 it is clear that there isn’t much of an increase in the 1980s, more of an increase in the 1990s, then there is the big 1998 El Nino, followed by no increase in the past decade or so. It therefore seemed far more likely that the temperature would continue what it had been doing in the recent past than revert to an upward trend, in the next few years at least.
My approach was to listen to the data. The approach taken by James Annan was flawed because he didn’t. He imposed a straight line on the data due to theoretical considerations. I always wonder about the wisdom of the approach that uses straight lines in climatic data. Why should such a complex system follow a straight line? Indeed, the rise of HadCrut3 is not a straight line, but the past ten years is, and that in my view is very curious, and highly significant.
Why, I wonder start the linear increase in 1980? Obviously the temperature starts rising then, but why not start the straight line in 1970? The answer is that the temperature is flat between 1970 and 1980. It seems illogical to take notice of flat data at the start of a dataset but totally ignore it at the end!
When a record is not a record
During the recent interview for “More or Less” James Annan said that had other temperature databases been used he would have won. This is a moot point that also strongly reaffirms my stance. In NasaGiss 2010 is the warmest year, with a temperature anomaly of 0.63 deg C, only one hundredth of a degree warmer than 2005, and within a whisker of 2007, 2006, 2002, 2001 and 1998. Given the 0.1 deg C errors even Nasa did not claim 2010 as a record. Technically speaking 2010 was slightly hotter because of a strong El Nino. Otherwise, NasaGiss shows hardly any increase in the past decade.
During the “More or Less” interview the question arose of extending the bet to “double or quits” for the next five years. I was game for it with a proviso. Betting against a record for ten years raises a higher possibility that there might be a statistical fluctuation than betting for five years. Because of this I would like to see two annual datapoints, consecutively more than one sigma above the 2001 – date mean level. After all, that is the minimum statistical evidence one should accept as being an indication of warming. James Annan did not commit to such a bet during the programme.
It just has to start getting warmer soon.
Back in 2007 many commentators, activists and scientists, such as Lynas, said the halt in global temperatures wasn’t real. It is interesting that the Climategate emails showed that the certainty some scientists expressed about this issue in public was not mirrored in private. Indeed, one intemperate activist, determined to shoot my New Statesman article down but unable to muster the simple statistics required to tackle the statistical properties of only 30 data points, asked the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and the Met Office, to provide reasons why I was wrong, which they couldn’t.
What was true in 2007 is even more so in 2012. Since 2007 the reality of the temperature standstill has been accepted and many explanations offered for it, more than can possibly be true! We have seen predictions that half of the years between 2009 and 2014 would be HadCrut3 records (a prediction that now can’t possibly come to pass) which was later modified to half of the years between 2010 and 2015 (likewise.) The Met Office predict that 2012 -16 will be on average 0.54 deg C above the HadCrut3 baseline level, and 2017 -2021 some 0.76 deg C higher. Temperatures must go up, and quickly.
So how long must this standstill go on until bigger questions are asked about the rate of global warming? When asked if he would be worried if there was no increase in the next five years James Annan would only say it would only indicate a lower rate of warming! Some say that 15 years is the period for serious questions.
We are already there
In a now famous (though even at the time obvious) interview in 2010 Prof Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia confirmed that there was no statistically significant warming since 1995. There was an upward trend, but it was statistically insignificant, which in scientific parlance equates to no trend at all. In 2011 Prof Jones told the BBC that due to the inclusion of the warmish 2010 there was now a statistically significant increase between 1995 and 2010. Since 2011 was cool it doesn’t take complicated statistics to show that the post 1995 trend by that method of calculation is now back to insignificant, though I don’t expect the BBC to update its story.
The lesson is that for the recent warming spell, the one that begins about 1980, the years of standstill now exceed those with a year-on-year increase. It is the standstill, not the increase, that is now this warm period’s defining characteristic.
The nature of the anthropogenic global warming signal is that, unlike natural fluctuations, it is always additive. Sooner or later, it is argued, it will emerge unambiguously, perhaps at different times in different parts of the world, but it must emerge. Some argue that by the time it does it will already be too late, but that is another debate.
James Annan is keen on a “money markets” approach to forecasting global warming, and bemoans the reticence of so-called climate sceptics to put their money where their mouth is! I hope that his early-stage financial loss won’t be too much of a setback and a deterrence for potential investors, not that I will be among them.
Now that I am joining the ranks of those who have made money out of global warming (or rather the lack of it) I wonder where the smart money will be placed in the future.
Governance of the science
A speech to the House of Lords by Lord Turnbull, on 12th January 2012
The governing narrative for our climate change framework can be summarised as follows. Our planet is not just warming—this is not in dispute—but the rate of warming is projected to accelerate sharply: rather than the increase we have witnessed of less than 1 per cent per century, by the end of this century the planet is projected to be around 3 degrees centigrade hotter, taking the centre of the range. Some time during this century we will pass a 2 degree centigrade threshold, which is portrayed as a tipping point beyond which serious harm to the planet will occur. The main driver of this is man-made CO2 and the principal response must be the almost complete decarbonisation of the economies of the industrial world less than 40 years from now.
This narrative is largely based on the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, so the competence and integrity of the IPCC are of huge importance if it is to drive the massive social and economic changes being advocated. The reliance that one can put on the report of the noble Lord, Lord Stern, is also at issue, since it adopted large parts of the IPCC framework.
Over the last two years, there have been three separate reports on the IPCC. They are: the report by the InterAcademy Council, a collective of the world’s leading scientific academies; the report written by Professor Ross McKitrick, a Canadian professor of economics who for a time served as an expert reviewer for the IPCC’s fourth assessment report; and a book, The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’ s Top Climate Expert, written by Donna Laframboise, a Canadian journalist. Although they write from three different perspectives, in different styles, the message is the same: there are serious flaws in the competence, operations and governance of the IPCC.
The reality is a long way from the way that the IPCC describes itself. The IPCC claims that it employs the top scientists in the field; it uses only peer-reviewed material; its staff are independent and impartial; its operations are transparent; its procedures for review are rigorous and free of conflicts of interest; and its role is to present objective scientific advice to policymakers, not to advocate policy responses. None of these claims is true.
There are many instances where it has not employed the top practitioners in the field, and worse, many instances where it has employed researchers who have barely completed their PhDs—and in some cases not even that. There has been substantial use of “grey”—that is, non-peer-reviewed—literature. The IPCC has been extensively infiltrated by scientists from organisations like Greenpeace and WWF. There is no transparency about how its lead authors and reviewers are selected and what their expertise is. It has been obstructive to outsiders seeking information on data sets and working methods. It is resistant to input from those who do not share the house view. It was specifically criticised by the IAC for not giving sufficient weight to alternative views.
Its review procedures are flawed, allowing too much latitude to lead authors in choosing which of its reviewers’ comments to accept or reject. It has allowed lead authors to introduce new material after the review phase has been completed. Its policies on conflict of interest are inadequate. It blatantly adopts an advocacy role rather than confining itself to scientific advice. Its Summary for Policymakers is a serious misnomer. The scientists prepare a draft but this is redrafted in a conclave of representatives from the member Governments, mostly officials from environment departments fighting to get their Ministers’ views reflected. In short, it is a Summary by Policymakers not for Policymakers.
In a pamphlet I wrote last year for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, I said:
“In my opinion, the IPCC and its current leadership no longer carry the credibility which politicians need if they are going to persuade their citizens to swallow some unpleasant medicine. It is therefore regrettable that the UK Government has taken no steps to find an alternative and more credible source of advice”.
I see no signs that serious reform of the IPCC is on the agenda for the fifth assessment. The IAC specifically recommended that the chair should serve only for one cycle. Meanwhile, Chairman Pachauri doggedly clings on.
In the field of governance, things are not a great deal better in the UK. We have seen a second instalment of the CRU “Climategate” e-mails, which tell us little new but confirm the culture of shiftiness, obstruction and the stifling of debate seen in the first instalment. We still hear from time to time the mantra of, “The science is settled, the debate is over” from politicians and even from some scientists.
Therefore, I was very heartened to hear Professor Brian Cox, the pin-up boy of British science, and his colleague Professor Jeff Forshaw on the “Today” programme recently. Professor Cox said:
“Science is an improvement in our understanding of nature … There are no absolute truths in science. It’s the only human endeavour where that level of modesty applies”.
Professor Forshaw said:
“We are always trying to improve on the theories we have got … And we always expect that they are going to be just temporary structures and that they are going to be replaced at some point”.
So let us have no more “the science is settled/the debate is over” nonsense, particularly in the field of climate science, which is so complex and so young.
My view on the Durban conference is that while many of the participants came away disappointed, it was a sensible conclusion—in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, to “stop the clock” on the emissions issue for a decade—while the science improves and the evidence accumulates, an approach I have heard suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Rees of Ludlow. However, there is good news to report. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has drawn the UK back from its extreme unilateralism, for which he should be congratulated rather than criticised.
Finally, I have a few personal observations. In my pamphlet I wrote that,
“if a technology exists only by virtue of subsidy we only impoverish ourselves by trying to build jobs on such shaky foundations”.
The debacle in the solar sector was, therefore, entirely predictable. My second observation is that if a debate with the same title as today’s had taken place 15 years ago when I became Permanent Secretary at the old Department of the Environment—where I had a very happy year working for the noble Lord, Lord Prescott—it would not have been so dominated by decarbonisation but would have been much more about those aspects of the environment people care deeply about: air and water quality, habitats, birds, forests and the countryside. How sad that the issues have been pushed so far down the agenda, accelerated by the misconceived transfer of climate change from Defra to DECC.
In 40 years engaged on public policy, I have come across a number of cases where there was a strong international consensus among political elites, but for which the intellectual underpinning proved to be weak, as those elites were slow to acknowledge. The first was the so-called Washington Consensus which came to be seen as promoting globalisation with the maximum liberalisation of trade and finance and the minimum of regulation, but it turned out to overestimate the efficiency of markets. I confess that I swallowed that one pretty much whole. The second is the euro, where the European political elite pressed on despite warnings about the internal contradictions of the project and even now, it has yet to acknowledge the full extent of the problem. I never bought into the euro from the start.
Climate change—or more accurately, the current decarbonisation project—is in my view the third. Originally I bought in to the IPCC narrative on the science and its impacts while remaining critical of the policy responses. However, the intellectual certainty is beginning to crumble. In the next 10 years I believe we will see the current narrative replaced by something more sophisticated—perhaps drawing extensively on the work of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, who will speak shortly—more eclectic, less alarmist and, in Professor Cox’s words, more “modest” in its claims.
‘Dumbed-down’ degrees: British university standards under fire as 50% more students awarded a first
The number of students awarded first-class degrees has more than doubled over the last decade. A record one in six graduates obtained the top qualification last year, prompting fresh concerns about grade inflation and the value of degrees. One expert says that degree classifications are now ‘almost meaningless’.
The trend has fuelled demands for a major overhaul of the system, with the introduction of a ‘starred first’ degree for the brightest graduates.
According to figures released yesterday by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), 53,215 graduates gained firsts in 2010/11 compared with 23,700 in 2000/01. A decade ago, nine per cent of graduates gained the top classification. By 2010/11 the proportion getting firsts had risen to 15.5 per cent.
HESA also provided detailed data covering the period between 2006/7 and 2010/11, when there was a 45 per cent increase in the number of students gaining firsts. Sixty-six per cent of degrees obtained by women were firsts or 2.1s in 2010/11 compared with 61 per cent of those achieved by males.
Demands for reform of degree classification have increased over recent years amid claims that some lecturers turn a blind eye to plagiarism to help their institutions climb official league tables. University whistle-blowers have also alleged that external examiners have been ‘leaned on’ to boost grades.
Universities have been asked to adopt a new graduate ‘report card’, providing a detailed breakdown of students’ academic achievements plus information about extra-curricular activities. However, they cannot be forced to.
Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, said: ‘The inflation in degree classes is rendering them almost meaningless. ‘Employers have to look at A-level results and the university at which the degree is being obtained.’
The heads of elite universities are raking in average pay packages of almost £318,000 ahead of the tripling of tuition fees.
Many vice chancellors are enjoying salary rises when higher education has seen its funding slashed and students are being forced to pay up to £9,000 a year in fees.
Times Higher Education analysed the 2010-11 accounts for 18 of the 20 Russell Group universities. It found that they spent an average of £317,742 on their vice chancellors’ pay, benefits and pensions.
Highest paid was Oxford University’s Andrew Hamilton with a total package of £424,000. Second was David Eastwood of the University of Birmingham with £419,000, a 6.9 per cent increase on the previous year’s figure of £392,000.
Bad teachers should be sacked ‘in weeks’: British education bosss wants parents in classrooms to help drive up standards
Parents should help schools root out and sack failing teachers, according to the Education Secretary. Michael Gove is scrapping rules that shield incompetent staff to allow them to be dismissed within just nine weeks. In an interview with the Mail, Mr Gove said he wanted parents to ask to go into classrooms to assess how well children are being taught.
Headmasters can monitor teachers for only three hours a year and the process of sacking one takes at least 12 months. But Mr Gove is introducing a requirement for teachers to be assessed every year against simpler, sharper standards as well as scrapping more than 50 pages of ‘unnecessary’ guidance on how to deal with failing staff.
The proposals, to be unveiled today, will trigger a storm of protest from education unions. Only a handful of teachers have been struck off for incompetence over the past decade, suggesting it is all but impossible to get thrown out of the profession.
Between 2001 and 2011, just 17 of England’s 400,000 teachers were prevented from applying for another job after being judged incompetent by the General Teaching Council for England.
Mr Gove said: ‘You wouldn’t tolerate an underperforming surgeon in an operating theatre, or a underperforming midwife at your child’s birth. ‘Why is it that we tolerate underperforming teachers in the classroom? Teachers themselves know if there’s a colleague who can’t keep control or keep the interest of their class, it affects the whole school.
‘Children themselves know they are being cheated. Ultimately we owe it to our children. They are in school for 190 days a year. Every moment they spend learning is precious. If a year goes by and they are not being stretched and excited, that blights their life. ‘We have got to think of what’s in the children’s interests first.’
Mr Gove vowed to crack down on what he called the ‘dance of the lemons’, where failed teachers turn up at a new school and get a job by presenting well at an interview. ‘It is only after a term or two the head recognises they have taken on a lemon,’ he added. If you are applying for a job when you’ve been subject to capability procedures, you’ll have to say so under new legislation.
‘The single most important thing in a child’s performance is the quality of the teacher. Making sure a child spends the maximum amount of time with inspirational teachers is the most important thing.
‘The evidence is quite clear: if you’re with a bad teacher, you can go back a year; if you’re with a good teacher you can leap ahead a year.’
Mr Gove said the process to sack a teacher usually took a year or more. ‘Some individual teachers and some unions adopt a variety of dodges,’ he added. ‘They won’t attend meetings, or the teacher will be signed off with stress, which is intended to prolong the process.
‘We can’t have the union tail wagging the dog. We can’t have a situation where union representatives think it’s their job to defend someone who isn’t up to it. The whole procedure should now be telescoped into just a term – eight to nine weeks.’
Under his plans, the GTC is being scrapped and replaced with a body that will deal with the most serious cases of misconduct. But heads will be given more responsibility and authority to dismiss those they deem to be failing.
Mr Gove said he was astonished that contractual arrangements meant teachers could be monitored for only three hours a year. Most provocatively, he suggested parents should ask to go into classrooms – in sensible numbers – to see how their children’s learning is progressing.
‘In the Far East, they regard every classroom as an open place. If a parent wants to come to observe a lesson, they think fantastic,’ he said. ‘If another teacher wants to come in and watch a lesson, they think that’s wonderful. If a teacher knows they’re struggling, they will welcome someone coming in and saying to them afterwards how they can do it better.
‘If a parent says, I would like to come along and watch when my children are being taught, then I think teachers should not be afraid and encourage that level of commitment.’
Despite the billions poured into schools by Labour, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development think tank found that between 2000 and 2009, England fell from 7th to 25th in reading, 8th to 28th in maths, and 4th to 16th in science.
Headteachers’ leaders backed Mr Gove’s proposals. Russell Hobby, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘A streamlined approach to capability will, on the rare occasions that it is needed, help schools act more decisively in pupils’ interests and reduce the conflict that these actions can generate. ‘The vast majority of teachers are dedicated, talented professionals who do an essential job in often challenging conditions. Better performance management will celebrate this fact.’
Brian Lightman, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said ‘drop-in’ observations by heads would ensure high standards of professional performance.
But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teaching union, said: ‘This is yet another depressingly predictable announcement from a Government seemingly intent on destroying the teaching profession and state education. ‘The draconian measures announced today are totally unnecessary. There is no evidence which demonstrates that there are problems with the current system. ‘This announcement will only serve further to devastate teacher morale and endanger future recruitment to the profession and the retention of existing teachers.’