Taxing the sick: No excape from greedy government in Britain
A widower who donated £2.3 million to help refurbish a specialist NHS cancer care unit in London has been left stunned after the hospital was hit with a £460,000 VAT bill for the building work.
Entrepreneur Jimmy Thomas, 78, donated the money in memory of his wife Alma who received ‘excellent’ treatment at the Royal Marsden cancer centre, in Chelsea, west London, before she lost her fight with ovarian cancer in 2008.
But the widower was stunned when the hospital was landed with a tax bill for the refurbishment of the Ellis Ward at the hospital because it was classed as a ‘rebuild’ which is subject to 20 per cent VAT.
Mr Thomas has now called for a change in the law to ensure hospitals are exempt from the tax when improving NHS hospital facilities.
Mr Thomas, who made millions of pounds through a bingo hall empire across the East Midlands, described the VAT costs as ‘criminal’ and said he had raised his concerns with the Prime Minister.
Mr Thomas, a Conservative party donor, said: ‘The fact that a world-leading hospital, at the very pinnacle of treatment excellence, should be slammed with a VAT bill just to improve facilities for essential NHS care is criminal. The law must be changed.
‘The ward – which had 18 NHS beds and two private rooms – needed so much work to provide the comfort and dignity the patients so badly required, the refurbishment work was classed as a rebuild. And under the law, a rebuild is subject to VAT at 20 per cent.
‘I have sat next to David Cameron at a lunch and explained this atrocious state of affairs. So far, there has been no response and frankly I am tired of waiting.
‘He vowed he would not take money from the sick and vulnerable to fill the financial black hole, and that’s exactly what he continues to do.’
A spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs said: ‘Both building and refurbishment works are subject to VAT. This is the case for hospitals as with other types of building.
‘VAT will be payable on such works, whether they are funded by government or through donation. ‘The tax system provides a range of very generous tax reliefs to support charitable giving. Gift Aid alone adds around £1 billion annually to charity coffers.’
Last month Chancellor George Osborne rowed back on plans to hit churches with VAT on improvements and alterations, prompting calls for similar arrangements for hospitals.
Mrs Thomas died on New Year’s Eve in 2008, aged 74.
Mr Thomas, the co-founder of the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square, London, praised the care given to his wife by Royal Marsden staff but said the hospital was in need of investment.
The Ellis Ward – which provides treatment for female patients – reopens on Friday following the completion of a one-year rebuilding project.
Mr Thomas has now set up a trust to continue fundraising.
Medical director Professor Martin Gore said: ‘Here at the Royal Marsden, we are delighted with the new modernisation of Ellis Ward.
‘We are grateful to the generosity of Mr Jimmy Thomas and his family, who, by funding the refurbishment of this ward have realised his wife’s vision of creating a state-of-the-art unit with a warm and welcoming environment which ensures the highest levels of comfort for NHS patients.’
Nine in ten GP surgeries aren’t open long enough: Patient groups warn that thousands of clinics are ‘just working office hours’
More than nine in ten GP surgeries are failing patients on their opening hours, figures show.
For the first time, the Government has given every practice in the country a mark out of ten based on the experiences of half a million patients.
According to the figures, 93 per cent of the 8,400 surgeries in England are not meeting patients’ expectations in terms of their opening times.
Some 7,822 centres received scores of five out of ten or lower. The average was just 3.5.
Patient groups claim many surgeries are only operating during office hours, rather than in the evenings and at weekends.
Joyce Robins, director of Patient Concern, said: ‘The whole Health Service seems to be running on office hours.
‘Woe betide you if you fall ill on a Friday after 6pm because you won’t be seen until Monday morning.
‘People don’t just fall ill during the convenient office-hours schedule.’
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Patients become extremely frustrated when they are registered with a GP who has a long wait for appointments but limited opening hours.
‘Patients need the healthcare system to be responsive to their needs. Patients who work during the day would like as wide a window as possible within which to be able to book an appointment.’
GPs have been able to opt out of working evenings and weekends since a controversial contract negotiated by Labour in 2004.
It led to many surgeries abandoning their Saturday morning clinics and instead remaining closed for the entire weekend.
In the past doctors would take it in turns to be on-call out of hours. They now subcontract this work to private firms who employ locums.
The deal led to their average salaries soaring to more than £110,000 a year, although some earn more than £500,000 a year.
The data – published by the NHS Information Centre – is part of a new family doctor rating system launched by the Department of Health yesterday.
Surgeries have been given an overall score out of ten based on patients’ experience of care, which includes the ease of booking appointments, how long they have to wait and the level of trust they have in their doctors.
But they have also been given separate marks for opening hours, waiting times at the surgery and patients’ opinion of their doctor or nurse.
The figures for opening times were far lower than for any of the other categories.
Surgeries scored an average of 6.5 for waiting times, 8.25 for the standard of the doctors’ care and 8.46 for nurses.The average overall score was 7.36 out of ten.
The scores have been calculated from the results of the GP Patient Survey, an online patient satisfaction questionnaire filled in by a million a year and overseen by the Department of Health.
Patients can look up how well their own surgery is doing by going on to the NHS Choices website and typing in their postcode.
But senior doctors claim the scoring system is too simplistic.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs’ committee, said: ‘It’s based on responses of only a handful of patients in every practice in the country. The results are very misleading.’
The scores are likely to further dent the public’s confidence in doctors. Last week the BMA, their union, voted to carry out industrial action later this month in a row over their pensions.
On Thursday, June 21, its members will only provide urgent care and thousands of routine GP appointments, operations and hospital scans will be postponed.
The GP contract that allowed doctors to opt out of working evenings and weekends was meant to make the job more attractive after concerns that a mass exodus from the profession was looming.
There were also fears that doctors were prone to mistakes after being on-call the night before.
The Department of Health said: ‘Showing GPs what’s most important to patients will help them make the improvements that patients really want to see.’
A cheer for constitutional monarchy’s restraint on government
It diminishes politicians
As the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations wind down, it may be well to reflect on an aspect of public choice theory which supports constitutional monarchy — principally its rôle as a brake upon self-aggrandising politicians.
Public choice argues that, contrary to the myths propagated about the selfless motives of public servants, politicians and bureaucrats can be as self-interested in their public personas as they are as private citizens.
This is not the time to examine the unitive functions of the Crown, nor the acts of public service performed by the Royal Family — and how monarchy either refutes or conforms to the political landscape sketched out by public choice theory (though I personally believe the opportunities for gain are very few, while the burdens are many).
Neither is this an argument for constitutional monarchy as against republican forms of government; indeed, this may be one of the few areas where both forms, when modelled on justice, are equally serviceable according to the respective country’s traditions and national character — quite in variance, by the way, with respect to economics, where all the arguments are in favour of classical liberal/Austrian theories and quite contrary to Keynesian prescriptions.
Moreover, let it be admitted that constitutional monarchy is rarely an active force in limiting the power of politicians (minority parliaments being one exception, where the Crown has legitimate avenues of intervention), but serves rather more as a passive agent in limiting the State.
First, the very hereditary nature of British constitutional monarchy — i.e., non-elective — disinclines government to aggrandise the Head of State. Governments are reluctant to invoke public criticism for expenditures which do not in some way flatter the ‘heirs’ of democracy (especially when the House of Windsor is itself exceptionally well-endowed financially): Witness the absence of a royal yacht when H.M.Y. Britannia was decommissioned.
Second, the constitutional role of the monarch in the Westminster parliamentary system means that the prime minister is a servant of the Crown and cannot therefore with impunity rise above his station. It is at best to be guilty of lèse-majesté, and at worse an affront to the parliamentary party which can always be relied upon to remember that the inhabitant of No. 10 is simply primus inter pares.
The theoretical ground of this public choice defence is laid out by Austrian economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe who, while he may not necessarily be a monarchist, sees the unrestrained growth of elective governments as far more destructive of personal liberty and economic freedom.
When absolute monarchy reigned, Hoppe argues, the State and its appurtenances were held as private property, and husbanded wisely as a future inheritance; subjects were jealous of their rights and defended them tenaciously (arising from an awareness of ‘class consciousness’), leaving the Crown on guard not to exceed its authority.
Democracies, to the contrary, do not arouse a corresponding scepticism — Why, one day I too may be leader of the country! — but nor do they engender similar feelings of safeguarding wealth: Without the responsibility of bequeathing royal estates to one’s children, politicians become mere ‘caretakers’, and the spoils of State become transitory gifts that must be enjoyed and shared with one’s cronies while the democratic gods shine (a form of present-orientedness that is reflected in citizens’ consumption rather than investment).
Arthur Seldon called this ‘the dilemma of democracy’, noting four weaknesses in popular government: short-sighted with material resources; over-expansive with a tendency to ‘grow’; liable to conspiratorial patronage; and uncritical of majoritarian electoral decisions. All of which leads me to wonder why classical liberals are so often enamoured of the republican ideal. As Hoppe observes:
From the viewpoint of those who prefer less exploitation over more and who value farsightedness and individual responsibility above shortsightedness and irresponsibility, the historic transition from monarchy to democracy represents not progress but civilizational decline.
One can understand their inability to appreciate a Tory reverence for tradition and continuity, yet why do they so cavalierly dismiss the public choice arguments that demonstrate that limited government in the age of the Welfare State is held hostage to democratic fortune?
‘It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the œconomy of private people, and to restrain their expence,’ wrote Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. ‘They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will (II.iii.36).’
Let not the irony be lost: Britain has gone from the time when a burgeoning representative democracy set in motion the end of the divine right of kings, transformed thus into constitutional monarchy — which itself has become the most visible restraint on elected politicians who behave as if themselves graced with divine sanction. We may no longer fear kings, but their ministers remain a threat to our rights and freedoms. Elizabeth II embodies the limits we must impose upon the political classes; her Diamond Jubilee an occasion to remember the State is the servant of the people. God Save the Queen!
A vivid demonstration of the fraud of “multicultural” Britain
A casual observer opening up the current pages of Britain’s anaemic right-wing press is greeted by an unprecedented expression of optimism and positivity.
The source of all this rapture is the jubilee celebrations, which mark the diamond anniversary of the ascension of the United Kingdom’s most dutiful long-suffering monarch: Elizabeth II.
From Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail, to Ed West in the Daily Telegraph, to Fraser Nelson in The Spectator, there is a palpable sense of relief, joy even, at what is deemed to represent an unparalleled display of patriotism and national loyalty, the likes of which have not been witnessed in Britain for a generation.
As a feast for the eyes and an amazing technical accomplishment, the celebrations which began with a mesmerising pageant on the River Thames in London and continued last night with a gala concert on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace, the events are a wonderful success.
The numbers attending have been dizzying to an extent beyond normal human comprehension: with as many as 1.2 million people lining the riverbank for Sunday’s pageant, mostly in the pouring rain.
The whole spectacle has spawned a new and surprising narrative of national unity and togetherness, which has come as a surprise and a relief to those commentators who had previously found themselves perturbed by and decrying the perceived fragmentation of British society.
Here were the public in central London, in their millions no less, unabashedly displaying and celebrating Britain and Britishness; with a Union flag hanging from every lamppost and waving from every hand, and not a sight of that hated blue-and-yellow EU monstrosity anywhere…
What a relief!
There is, however, one slight problem with this picture that no one is mentioning. A small boy tugging at his mother’s coat at the Emperor’s parade, aching to express a truth that can perhaps only find the light of day at somewhere like Gates of Vienna.
With the exception of very small numbers — that are in essence statistically irrelevant — whether you like it or not, pretty much everybody you see in the multitude gathered in London is white.
To understand the significance of this, one needs to know the demographics of the city.
Greater London, the largest conurbation in Europe, is usually divided into two geographic zones: the suburban ‘outer ring’, and the metropolitan ‘inner city’. London’s inner portion has been majority immigrant territory for some time, and as the years progress even the outer ring is approaching parity between immigrants and native inhabitants.
Thanks to publicly subsidised housing, with the exception of a few isolated pockets the centre of the city is mainly immigrant-dominated.
A visitor to the majority of the primary schools of the boroughs which lined the river down which Sunday’s pageant rowed, would see that the ethnicity which formed 98% plus of the audience for the jubilee, is represented as a rule in less than 10% (in many cases less than 5%) of the demographic makeup of the pupils of those schools.
Where then, one is forced to ask, were the parents of the rest of all these children, presumably a convenient short stroll away from demonstrating and celebrating their “Britishness”?
Why did they not seize this simple and convenient opportunity to declare themselves full, happy, and enthusiastic members of our grand multicultural society, when the vast majority of attendees had largely travelled much great distances in order to do so (according to train company reports)?
The cameras of the BBC, usually anxious to present a picture of multiracial harmony, and whose coverage of the events has been broadly panned as inane, clearly struggled in desperation to find non-white faces in the crowds.
Their failure to do so was even more stark as they linked to outside broadcasts of commemorative street parties up and down the country, particularly in places like Luton, where it was patently evident that wherever the English were in the minority only the English were doing any celebrating at all.
Where were the others? Our fellow “Britons”?
Those perfectly capable of coming out in their tens, even hundreds of thousands; for publicly funded Hindu Diwali celebrations in Trafalgar Square, or the Afro-Caribbean yearly carnival in Notting Hill (policing cost to the British taxpayer: 34 million pounds a year), or Islamic Eid “festivals” in East London; were all conspicuous by their virtual absence.
This is not an Islamic issue, or even one truly of colour or race. It would have been surprising if any significant proportion of those celebrating this jubilee weekend were Poles, or any of the nearly two million Eastern Europeans who have come to the UK over the last decade, either.
The predominant skin colour of those attending the jubilee has merely provided visual confirmation of how comprehensively the social model into which decades worth of political and financial capital has been invested in Britain has failed.
To be clear: the English (unlike the Scots or Welsh to any similar degree) were told, not outright, but tacitly and subtly; through policy, policing, changes to educational syllabi, deliberate alterations to the cultural framework etc., that Englishness — their identity — would have to be subsumed, altered, diluted, undermined, even to the point of being questioned as having any true cohesive validity.
This was a necessary evil. It had to be done in order not to alienate or marginalise the millions of immigrants arriving mostly in the English portion of Britain, who “yearned to be part of our society” and to make a better life for themselves into the bargain.
Though awkward, this essential transformation would be worth it, and would in turn bring about a fresh paradigm of nationality.
Britishness would be elevated into a new and inclusive form of meta-identity that all could participate in and be welcomed by. A mélange-identity uniting and encompassing all comers.
This new paradigm in turn would have its own founding myths, as do all attempts to unite disparate ethno-religious communities. The myth that a person newly arrived from East Africa was “just as British” as any Englishwoman who might be able to trace her family back to the Norman conquest. The myth that one could achieve, “Strength through Diversity.”
Furthermore, these myths would be reinforced by numerous means.
Television “idents” and programs for example would subtly attempt to communicate harmonious multi-cultural unity, as in this collage. (Compare in particular the ethnic makeup of those attending the faux street party at the end of this BBC jubilee ident with those in this CNN report of the genuine article.)
And thousands of farcical local council propaganda posters on buses and billboards would show a similar multitude of grinning multiracial faces, regardless of the theme. The golden rule of course being that the more outnumbered the actually English people in the photograph were, the more strained and enthusiastic their smiling had to be.
(This collection of picture exhibits shows the usual progression from the London boroughs of: Southwark, to Camden, to Newham, to Hackney, to Lewisham, to Tower Hamlets.)
This effort was so total and all-encompassing, that it was easy thoughtlessly to fall for it and assume it to be in part true. Particularly as every effort has been made, either by immigrants themselves or by positive discrimination, to advance newcomers through the professions so that they are now over-represented in medicine, media and the law.
Notwithstanding the fact, that the promotion of compulsory allegiance to this narrative has shifted over the decades from a gentle socio-political prodding, to a state of affairs where any who dare to forcibly question it in public face imprisonment.
But it was only required to force allegiance to this mind-set from natives… not, of course, from those who came; that would have been racially presumptuous and monstrously unfair. The one was supposed to magically facilitate the other.
But patriotism and national loyalty are based on the individual’s core willingness to sacrifice; and in modern Britain the balance of sacrificial expectation was set right from the start.
The state had to sacrifice to provide the benefits that would be received by the newcomer, while the immigrant was required to sacrifice and surrender, in exchange for the comforts and opportunities of their new life, well… what exactly?
In the interests of generating a nationally loyal harmony, every multicultural effort has been made to bend over backwards in the promotion of togetherness and inclusivity, up to and including the sacrifice of many essential characteristic elements of a thousand years of English and British history; right down to the abandonment of the most basic things like the promotion of our own language on the one hand, or judicial protections like double jeopardy on the other.
The children of the English, in the schools for which their parents pay through their taxes, are now compulsorily taught not the glories and accomplishments of their nation’s past, but primarily and chiefly its inequities, oppressions and “evils”.
This did not happen by chance. It was a transaction. A deal.
The accurate depiction of Britain’s majestic and impressive history for example, was to be abandoned in exchange for something. Deliberately disowning historical reality (like a thousand and one other such national cultural renunciations) was intended to provide an inclusivity that would in turn guarantee the delivery of an attached, benign and loyal immigrant population.
So where were they then: when a golden and simple opportunity presented itself for the demonstration of their new Britishness? Nothing jingoistic, or confrontational, but a four day series of events designed from the start to be achingly inclusive and multicultural.
Frankly? Our new fellow-Britons were nowhere to be seen.
When the chance arose to show how successful this theory of mutable national identity in fact was, in whose name so much has been forcibly lost, the results are startling — and, for those with an eye to the future, more than a little alarming.
The paradigm hasn’t changed. Our social engineers are either liars or fools.
People always only feel a genuine allegiance and loyalty to a place with which they have a pre-existing hereditary, historic or geographical investment.
The newcomers want no part of it, thank you very much. Benefits? — “Yes.” Sacrifices? — “Hmm. We’d rather not, if it’s all the same to you.”
And to be clear: the kind of sacrifice under discussion in this essay is not mounting the lip of a trench to advance into machine-gun fire in defence of your nation’s values or borders, but taking a couple of hours out your bank holiday weekend to stand in the rain for a bit with a flag.
This is the grim harvest we must expect from multiculturalism’s insistence that pre-existing identities should be encouraged to flourish rather than to adapt.
The British, and more chiefly the English, have received nothing in return for their sacrifice: of identity, of tradition, of heritage, and of culture.
They’ve been conned. Duped. The promised transaction hasn’t taken place: there will be no unity in the United Kingdom, and no guarantee of security as a result.
Merciless British bureaucracy
Only publicity can get humanity out of them
An ‘overzealous’ car park warden stuck ten parking tickets on a car parked in a hospital’s disabled bay as the owner was undergoing emergency surgery. The tickets were slapped all over the red Mini by the warden after the patient parked in the bay.
She could not move the car due to emergency surgery, but the ticket blitz came despite her showing her blue disabled badge and a note saying she was in for transplant treatment.
Parking company officials were forced to back down today after they were condemned by other patients, visitors and politicians over the coldhearted move. One person said: ‘It is a disgrace – where is the compassion?’
The woman patient – who has not been named – parked her Mini parked at a disabled bay at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff as she went for treatment after a kidney swap.
But after an emergency she was forced to stay in the hospital and she was unable to drive her car away from the bay.
The ten parking tickets – each with a £30 fine – were plastered in a mosaic across her windscreen on ten occasions from May 16 until this weekend.