Patient killed in oxygen explosion as a second dies in broken lift: Damning dossier reveals NHS failings that caused death

A horrifying catalogue of serious errors at NHS hospitals in Scotland has come to light, following a Freedom of Information request.

They include a report from NHS Lothian where a patient on oxygen therapy died in an explosion after lighting a cigarette in a hospital toilet.

In another shocking case, NHS Ayrshire and Arran revealed a patient died after they were stuck in a lift while being transferred to intensive care. The oxygen supply they were receiving and suction equipment ran out during the time they were trapped.

Another report from the same Trust revealed a patient with pneumonia who died didn’t receive medication for nine days after they were admitted because the pharmacy failed to deliver the drugs.

These examples made up a handful of the 345 NHS reports from last year, that were only released following an FOI request from BBC Scotland.

Reasons for deaths or illness included receiving the wrong doses of medication or emergency treatment not being available.

More than 100 deaths resulted from the incidents reported by Scottish hospitals. However, the number is likely to be far higher as only seven of the 19 boards supplied the number of adverse incidents they had recorded over the past year in response to the FOI request.

Despite this, it is the first time a clearer picture for the whole of Scotland has emerged, because unlike England and Wales, there is no national system for reporting serious incidents.

The documents show variations between health boards in the number of incidents that are reported and what types of investigations are conducted.

Differences in what each board considers to be ‘serious’ are also apparent, with incident reports ranging from a nurse being injured while hanging Christmas decorations to a baby dying during labour and a surgeon removing a patient’s healthy organ.

Scotland’s largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, reported 95 incidents last year despite serving the largest population compared to NHS Shetland, which noted 138.

The study also highlights that all of NHS Tayside’s reports list ‘nearly identical’ learning points.

The BBC investigation also found that the NHS has paid out over £120 million in compensation and legal expenses over the last three years in Scotland.

In two individual cases, NHS Lanarkshire paid out a total of over £6 million.

Jim Martin, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, has called for a national system for reporting serious incidents. He said: ‘I think one of the things that your (the BBC’s) inquiries have highlighted is that across Scotland just now we’re pretty confused about what we call things, what things mean and whether for example a critical incident review is a health and safety review, whether it’s a review of something that’s gone wrong surgically or in a GP’s surgery or in a dental surgery.

‘It’s a confusing picture. I think if we had a simple national system it would be far easier to ask a simple question of the health service and get a clear statistical answer.’

The Scottish Government said it has asked for an urgent review of incident reporting from Health Improvement Scotland (HIS), the body set up to support NHS Scotland and other healthcare providers deliver high quality and safe services.

BBC Scotland said that, in the programme, Robbie Pearson, director of Scrutiny and Assurance at HIS, admits they have no idea of the national picture, and that the officials will be visiting each health board from now until the end of next year.

A total of 22 complaints are made against the NHS every day and the numbers being upheld by the Public Services Ombudsman have increased.

Mr Martin said: ‘Last year we upheld something like 56 per cent of the complaints, which is a very worrying number particularly given that the year before the number was only 43 per cent.

‘There seems to be an increase in the number of complaints not being resolved satisfactorily in health boards. ‘Where I’m worried is that if the trend continues, it will dilute the confidence of the population.

‘I can only assume that if we get the learning better, then that will save lives. ‘At the moment, the bureaucracy seems from the outside to be the most important thing. In my view the learning should be the most important thing.’

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said a national framework for the management of adverse events is being put in place.

‘Scotland is the first country in the world to implement a national patient safety programme across the whole healthcare system and has some of the safest hospitals in the world,’ she said.

‘We need to support a culture of openness, trust and quality improvement so that we can make sure that lessons are learned from these events.’

Earlier this year, the health secretary ordered an investigation in NHS Ayrshire and Arran after the health board withheld more than 50 reports on serious incidents at its hospitals and clinics.

The BBC revealed that some of that Trust’s reports were so heavily redacted (blacking out sections) that they were almost incomprehensible.


Nearly 3,000 patients die every year because of blunders on NHS wards and further 7,500 are left severely harmed

Nearly 3,000 patients are dying a year because of needless hospital blunders, figures reveal. Another 7,500 are severely harmed after being wrongly diagnosed, given incorrect drugs or poorly cared for.

Experts warn that such mistakes will increase because already overstretched staff will be unable to cope with the higher numbers of patients coming into hospitals.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted that there may still be ‘pockets’ of poor care like that revealed in Mid Staffordshire in 2008, where hundreds of patients died needlessly.

Figures obtained by Panorama in a BBC documentary to be aired tonight show that in 2011/12, a total of 2,864 patients died following mistakes by hospital staff.

This is up almost 5 per cent compared to the previous year when there were 2,726 deaths.

Errors include elderly patients being misdiagnosed with cancer when they had heart failure, and being given pointless treatment while they deteriorated.

In other cases nurses or midwives failed to notice chest infections in newborn babies which could have been cured with antibiotics.

Dr Mike Williams, of the University of Exeter, who has carried out studies on hospital safety said: ‘Doctors, nurses, and managers do not realise the level of harm that’s going on hospitals. ‘Most hospitals are now having more and more patients coming through the front door. The money is at standstill, if not reducing. ‘The number of staff are therefore at the same level, they’re having to do more work – and work harder and faster.

‘The research is very clear that where staff have to work extremely hard they are much more likely to make mistakes.’

Peter Walsh, of the charity Action Against Medical Accidents, warned that the current system for monitoring patient safety ‘isn’t fully fit for purpose’.

He said on the Panorama programme that poor care – similar to that which led to the scandal at Mid Staffordshire hospital in 2008 – existed across the Health Service.

Up to 1,200 patients are thought to have died at the hospital from mistakes and neglect between 2005 and 2008.

Mr Walsh, whose organisation receives 3,500 calls a year, said: ‘We see elements of what happened at Mid Staffordshire in hospitals all around the country.

‘Again we see regulators and commissioners, all thinking or wanting to believe that patient safety was somebody else’s responsibility. And it’s a terrible indictment of how the current system still isn’t fully fit for purpose.’

In a statement issued to the programme, the Health Secretary said: ‘Whilst failings in care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust have shocked many, we cannot say with confidence that some of those failings do not exist in pockets elsewhere in the NHS.’

He added: ‘Whilst the majority of patients receive excellent care from the NHS, we still have much to do to ensure quality of care is considered as important as quality of treatment throughout the system.’


I was bullied out of Oxford for being a Tory

Petronella Wyatt

It is not just today’s university students who are attacked for their views

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of winning a place at Oxford University. Both my father and my elder brother had been at what I imagined was the world’s greatest seat of learning, a modern-day wine-blushed Greek symposium encouraging the dual pillars of civilisation, free thinking and tolerance.

Yet, within two weeks of taking up my place at Worcester College in the late Eighties to read history, I’d packed my bags, precipitating the first scandal of my life. My father broke down and cried. Friends were baffled. The Evening Standard diary claimed I’d quit because I objected to fellow undergraduates having sex in the room next to mine. The writer A N Wilson announced waggishly that I’d departed because I was forced to drink out of chipped mugs.

The truth was less droll. I ran away. Yes, ran, because I had been subject to systematic bullying and intimidation. Not on account of my rather outré name, or the fact that I came from a private school. I was persecuted for one reason only, and in this cradle of supposed enlightenment it was both bigoted and barbaric: my father, the late Woodrow Wyatt, was a high-profile adviser to Margaret Thatcher and I was a Conservative supporter.

Why bring this up now, you might ask. Well, recent reports suggest that a new generation of Right-of-centre students are suffering a similar persecution. Such is the institutionalised and increasing hatred of Tory students at Oxford that last week a group of them demanded the same equal-rights protection as gays, disabled people and ethnic minorities.

Conservative members of Corpus Christi College’s junior common room (JCR) claim they are “often actively isolated, personally attacked and made to feel unwelcome” because of their political views. They want to create a post on the college’s equal opportunities committee to ensure that their opinions can be aired freely.

Their situation wasn’t helped by a recent BBC Two documentary, Wonderland: Young, Bright and on the Right, about student politics, which portrayed Tories as oddballs and neo-Nazis. It featured graduate Joe Cooke, former president of the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA), travelling in a Rolls-Royce, sporting a silver suit and silver-topped cane.

At other universities, Conservative students say they are being treated as “scapegoats” for the introduction of higher tuition fees. Luke Black, 20, vice-president of Nottingham University Conservative Association, told a Sunday newspaper that “there is a growing Left-wing bias at universities. People assume we are like the Bullingdon Club without meeting us.”

Samuel Roberts, 21, a history student at Corpus Christi, who proposed the motion for greater protection, says such a climate is “uncomfortable”, while Stephanie Cherill, 19, president elect of OUCA, says there has been a deterioration in the attitude of JCR members towards people who are Right of centre. “This poses a threat to the atmosphere of intellectual discussion, as well as to the welfare of members,” she says.

I was in a minority of one during my first few weeks at Oxford. I had gone up in September 1986, a cripplingly shy 18-year-old. Hatred of the Conservative Party was at its most febrile. The year before, the university had voted to refuse Margaret Thatcher – a former student – an honorary degree, because of cuts in higher education funding. The atmosphere would have made a Stalinist shudder with apprehension.

During the first few days of freshers’ week, when new students socialise with each other and the dons, I had a taste of the wormwood that was to come. I was to find that the dons not only connived in the taunting of Tory undergraduates but took part with relish.

The politics of the miners’ strike, privatisation and the government’s opposition to sanctions against apartheid South Africa were brought into the wood-panelled rooms of the tutorial. My first one involved translating 18th-century French texts into English, and I was unprepared for what followed.

“Miss Wyatt,” said the don, Harry Pitt (now deceased), “please translate the first paragraph.” I stumbled over it. A small man with a face like cake batter, Pitt was big on bile.

“Do Thatcherites refuse to learn French or are they just stupid?” he demanded. The other undergraduates giggled. Tears pricked the back of my eyes. “I suggest you take some basic French lessons in your spare time – that is, if you’re not too busy socialising,” Pitt snarled.

I walked back to my rooms a disconsolate figure. At dinner in college that evening I sat by myself; then I felt a light tap on my shoulder. It was a second-year English student named James who introduced himself as a member of the OUCA. “I know who you are,” he said kindly. “I’m afraid it’s like that. Anyone suspected of being a Tory is picked on. It’s bad enough for me, but they know your father is close to Margaret Thatcher, so it will be worse for you. Most Tory freshers pretend they’re Labour.”

Later, at a local pub, I cravenly attempted to dissimulate. I insisted that I didn’t agree with everything Mrs Thatcher said. This ploy proved unsuccessful. A first year PPE student, who, ironically, had been to Eton, said: “You’re the daughter of a fascist pig. You’re contaminated.” Other students took up the refrain. I was perverted, dirty. “How do Tories have sex?” one asked. “They beat each other, don’t they?”

I felt the way homosexuals must have felt before the liberal legislation of the Sixties. Would I ever be able to lead a normal life at Oxford? Would I be forced to meet like-minded people only after dark? Would I have to turn to Labour and suppress my natural inclinations? The three years before me stretched out as a purgatory of ostracism and isolation.

The only openly Tory don was Norman Stone, Professor of Modern History, who was based at my college. He was hated for being not only a Conservative but a foreign policy adviser to Thatcher and one of her speech writers. He was hardly ever there. He loathed the place as provincial and petty, and for its adherence to the Marxist-determinist view of history. (In 1997 he took up a professorship at the University of Bilkent, in Ankara, Turkey.)

“You won’t be happy here,” he told me. “I get out as much as possible to escape these —–.”

I began commuting from Oxford to my parents’ house in London, finding refuge with my more open-minded metropolitan friends and family. I told my father I hated Oxford and why. He was incredulous. During his time there in the Forties, all political views had been accepted. “But it’s the best place in the world,” he said pathetically. “They wouldn’t do that, not among my dreaming spires. Even my Communist friends always had impeccable manners.” His rheumy eyes began to cloud. “Give it a chance. I’m sure it’s all just a tease. It would break my heart if you left.”

Exhausted by my frequent trips to London, my emotional resistance was deteriorating. A male friend of mine, also a Tory supporter, had succumbed to pressure and renounced his creed. During a tutorial the following week, when another history don had suggested, in complete seriousness, that I was an “enemy of the people”, I decided to do the same. Inwardly blushing with shame, I admitted to being “brainwashed by my parents” and called them “old fools”.

The respite was short. It was my father who drove the nail into the coffin of my Oxford career. At the time, he wrote two columns in the Murdoch press each week. Early one morning a group of undergraduates began banging on my door. I heard vicious shouts. My father had written a piece supporting Margaret Thatcher’s stance against South African sanctions. “Let’s lynch her dad. I bet he’d like to lynch coloured people. Does he call them niggers? Let’s lynch you. Like father like daughter.”

My door was locked. I cowered inside, and after five minutes, my pursuers gave up. When they left, I packed a suitcase and caught the first train to London. I never went back.

You may call me a snivelling wimp. But no 18-year-old should be subject to such intimidation and vitriol in an educational institution. Even more tragic is that it was Oxford, which not only produced 14 Tory prime ministers, but, to this day, hides behind an ill-deserved reputation for equality and freedom of thought.


Sir James Dyson warns over graduate engineer shortage

Britain’s top companies are failing to recruit enough skilled engineers because of a dire shortage of highly-trained graduates, Sir James Dyson has warned. Sir James warned that his own company had “struggled to fill” 200 vacancies this year.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the inventor and entrepreneur called on the Government to ease restrictions on the number of overseas students remaining in the country after their courses had ended, insisting bright foreigners were needed to “develop technology for export and relieve our skills shortage”.

The comments come just days after Boris Johnson claimed that current immigration policy risks driving the most talented international students to rival countries such as Australia and the United States.

Last week, the Telegraph also told how rising numbers of British students were now moving overseas after completing their degree courses.

It was revealed that almost 5,200 graduates sought employment in mainland Europe, the Far East and North America last year – up by a quarter since 2008 – with those from the best universities most likely to move abroad.

In a letter, Sir James said Britain would have a major deficit of engineers by 2017, adding: “Dyson has experienced this first hand, and struggled to fill the 200 extra engineering roles created this year.”

He said that Britain continued to recruit more bright foreign students than most other countries, but insisted more than eight-in-10 science and engineering postgraduates returned home after completing their research.

Sir James, who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner among other technological innovations, said: “It is now too difficult for the brightest graduates to stay in Britain. “Rather than sending science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates packing, encourage them to stay. “Britain needs their expertise to develop technology for export and relieve our skills shortage.”


For a free press, with no buts

In the war of words around the Leveson report, too many on all sides have accepted the myth that the UK press is too free and must be tamed

Lord Justice Leveson’s report into media ‘culture and ethics’, widely expected to propose a new press regulator backed by law, will spark a war of words in parliament and across the media. But will it be a phony war?

The trouble is that leading figures on both sides of this battle have accepted the central myth of the Leveson debate: the myth that the British press has been too free to run wild, and needs a tough new ‘independent’ regulator, whether statute-backed or not, to keep it in line.

As spiked has argued from the start of the phone-hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry, the truth is that the press is neither free nor open enough, even before a new regulator is appointed to wash its mouth out with soap. This is why we reject all of the options on the table today.

You can use whatever inoffensive-sounding weasel words you choose – statutory backdrop / underpinning / recognition etc – but a law to regulate the press still means more state intervention in a supposedly free press by any other name.

A statute compelling newspapers to sign up to a new regulator would look like a modern version of state licensing of the press. That system dictated that nothing could be published without the permission of the Crown. People went to the Tower and the gallows to fight for a free press until licensing was ended in 1694. Despite what some might like, we are unlikely to see a return to hanging, drawing and quartering for dissident journalists and publishers. But what happens to a newspaper that refuses to pay penalties under the new statutory-backed system? Are the authorities going to close it down?

Many politicians and media figures have latterly come out against the spectre of statutory-backed regulation. Yet the alternatives they propose all accept the basic premise of the anti-tabloid celebrities and crusaders – that tough new measures are needed to tame the press. Thus the proposals for ‘strengthened self-regulation’ backed by Lords Hunt and Black involve giving a new ‘independent’ regulator more power to police and punish the press than are currently enjoyed by the police, and introducing a form of industry licensing whereby those who refuse to sign up can be denied press cards and news sources.

There is no need for scaremongering about Britain becoming Zimbabwe-on-Sea. The danger is not crude censorship or an ‘Orwellian nightmare’ of government-controlled newspapers.

The threat is more insidious: that the shadow of state intervention and the consensus on the need for tougher regulation leaves us with a more conformist, tamer and sanitised press. The mission of the Leveson Inquiry has been to purge the press of that which is not to the taste of those who consider ‘popular’ a dirty word. A conformist culture of ‘You can’t say THAT’ is the biggest threat to press freedom after Leveson, whatever new system of regulation is finally agreed.

The press is already far too unfree, hemmed in by dozens of restraining laws and by informal self-censorship. A top editor has warned of an ‘ice age’ for investigative journalism even before a new regulator is imposed. What we need is more diversity, boldness and troublemaking in the press. The last thing required is another policeman, state-uniformed or not, looking over the shoulders of journalists and editors.

We should defend press freedom and freedom of expression as a bedrock liberty of a civilised society – and defend the right of a free press to be an unruly mess. That some abuse press freedom, as in the phone-hacking scandal, is no excuse for others to encroach upon it. Press freedom is not a gift to be handed down like charity only to those deemed deserving. It is an indivisible liberty for all or none at all.

Amid the three million words spoken at the Leveson Inquiry and the 2,000 pages of Lord Justice Leveson’s report, some key questions have not been aired. Leveson asked ‘who guards the guardians?’. But what about the equally important question: who judges the judges? What gives a Lord Justice the right to propose, and a government to impose, rules under which the press operate in a society where the public should be free to choose for itself?

And why do we need special regulation of a free press anyway? In America, the First Amendment makes it illegal to pass any law ‘abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press’. Those few words – inspired by the Puritan revolutionaries of England – say more about the meaning of press freedom than Lord Justice Leveson’s voluminous report will today.

In the post-Leveson debate, almost everybody will begin by stating that of course they support press freedom, before adding the now-obligatory ‘But…’ of one sort or another. It is time we raised the banner for free speech and a free press, with no buts.


Bombshell by Leveson’s own adviser: His law to gag press is illegal as it breaches Human Rights Act

But she’s banned from telling you what she advised inquiry

One of Lord Justice Leveson’s key advisers last night delivered the bombshell verdict that his demand for compulsory press regulation would be illegal.

In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, said any such clampdown would breach the Human Rights Act and be open to legal challenge.

Her intervention is hugely significant because as one of only six ‘assessors’ who helped guide the inquiry and its conclusions, her position threatens the viability of key parts of the report.

As well as her opposition to Leveson’s demand for a law to enact his recommendations, we can also reveal that she:

* Rebuked pro-legislation pressure groups such as Hacked Off, led by celebrities including Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan, saying: ‘There has been a great deal of ill-informed debate, with people bandying about terms such as “statutory underpinning” with little grasp of what this would mean.’

* Has been banned from discussing any aspect of the report’s deliberations under pain of ‘disciplinary action’.

* Poured scorn on Labour leader Ed Miliband’s ‘hasty and ill-considered’ endorsement of the report.

At the heart of her objections to the Leveson report is that any new law that made the government quango Ofcom the ‘backstop regulator’ with sweeping powers to punish newspapers would violate Article 10 of the European Convention On Human Rights which guarantees free speech and is enshrined in Britain’s Human Rights Act, too.

She said: ‘We were chosen as advisers because of our areas of expertise. Mine is human-rights law and civil liberties. In a democracy, regulation of the press and imposing standards on it must be voluntary.

‘A compulsory statute to regulate media ethics in the way the report suggests would violate the Act, and I cannot support it. ‘It would mean the press was being coerced in being held to higher standards than anyone else, and this would be unlawful.’

On Miliband, she commented on the fact that when he made his promise to back the report on the day it was published, he could not possibly have read or weighed up the contents of its 2,000 pages. ‘He should have been more careful about what he said,’ Ms Chakrabarti said.

‘To declare his full support so early, when he cannot have read it, was hasty. He should have reflected on it. This is a policy that must not be rushed.’

Ms Chakrabarti and the other assessors were hand-picked by David Cameron to help guide and advise Leveson on his inquiry and report.

Another assessor, George Jones, the former political editor of the Daily Telegraph, shares her view that there should be no ‘backstop’ role for Ofcom, as a little-noticed footnote to the report makes clear.

Ms Chakrabarti said that if the recommendation were made law, any publication which became subject to compulsory regulation would be able to challenge it in the courts, and seek a legal declaration that the ‘Leveson law’ flouted human rights. If the law were not repealed, the publication could seek to have it overturned at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Article 10 states: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.’

Ms Chakrabarti also rebutted Leveson’s claim that a new statute to establish a press regulator is ‘essential’. She said the new regulator does not need ‘statutory underpinning’, and should not rely on approval from Ofcom or any other quango.

Of Hacked Off, Ms Chakrabarti said: ‘I understand that people who have been wronged want action. But they should be interested in outcomes, rather than particular processes.

‘The outcome they should be seeking is a free and vibrant press with access to justice for the public when things go wrong.

‘We can achieve this without legislation, which may have serious unintended consequences. Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of ill-informed debate, with people bandying about terms such as “statutory underpinning” with little grasp of what this would mean.’

The important thing, she said, was for the newspaper industry to set up as quickly as possible a new, independent regulator along the lines Leveson recommends, with real powers to punish publications. The debate over whether any change in law was then required should wait until its structure was clear.

But neither Ofcom nor any other state quango should validate it, she said. ‘I don’t think quangos such as Ofcom are independent enough of the state to be judging press regulation. ‘Quangos are an emanation of the state, and their members are appointed by Ministers.’

If a quango were to be involved, she added, Ofcom was an especially unfortunate choice, because its existing role in governing broadcasters means it is a ‘regulator of content’.

For example, Ofcom has powers to decide whether programmes breach broadcasting rules on political bias, which have never applied to the press, and to punish those who transgress.

Leveson’s recommendation that Ofcom should be the body empowered by law to decide whether the regulator was doing its job was ‘something I can never accept’.

Journalism, she added, must never become a ‘state-licensed profession’. Some, she noted, had argued that the state does license drivers, implying that licensing for the media would be no more onerous. ‘But driving a car isn’t a fundamental human right,’ she said. ‘Freedom of speech is.’

However, it is in discussing the politically-vexed issue of whether legislation is necessary at all that Ms Chakrabarti’s views present the most radical departure from Lord Leveson, who believes: ‘It is essential that there should be legislation to underpin the independent self-regulatory system and facilitate its recognition in legal processes.’

But as Ms Chakrabarti pointed out, in the same breath, the judge also said that the law should not determine the structure of the new regulator: that should be left to the press itself. In her view, the new system would work much better without any legislation at all.

She believes that the way to ensure newspapers both join and obey a regulator is through incentives, administered by judges considering legal actions against the press.

In fact, the Leveson report recommends this too, saying that once the new regulator has set up an arbitration system which can be readily accessed by the public, judges should be able to impose big cost penalties on those who ignore it, whether they be newspapers or those who try to sue them.

Yet all this, Ms Chakrabarti said, could be achieved without statute. All that is necessary is for the press to set up the regulator, and then, if sued, to ask the judge to take their participation into account when deciding costs.

‘That would not be statutory regulation of the press, or even statutory underpinning,’ she said. ‘It would be the civil courts giving credit to the press for meeting Leveson’s crucial recommendations, by joining a “club” that was independent and able to provide redress for those with legitimate grievances.’

If, she added, judges proved unwilling to change the way costs are awarded, then it should be possible to amend the Civil Procedure Rules, the ‘White Book’ of regulations for the way civil cases must be conducted.

This would be done by a panel of judges, so again legislation would not be needed. Only if this proved impossible would Ms Chakrabarti countenance a very limited statute on the matter of costs.

Ms Chakrabarti’s view was supported yesterday by Dan Tench, a partner in London law firm Olswang and an expert on media law.

‘She is absolutely right that you don’t need legislation,’ he said, adding that changes due to come into force in April to the way costs are awarded would make it easy for judges to ‘incentivise’ newspapers in the way Ms Chakrabarti suggested.

Ms Chakrabarti said it was also clear there could be more than one regulator, and that other such ‘clubs’ could also be established for internet bloggers or Twitter users – who could thus also benefit from the court incentives.

She added that the Leveson report had come at a time when media freedom is already under threat, with the government fighting to introduce more secrecy to British courts.

She said. ‘Investigative journalism is under attack, and it’s a shame the media have not paid as much attention to these measures as they have to Leveson. Their effect, if enacted, will be chilling.’

Finally she revealed she was ‘sadly disappointed’ Ed Miliband was so vocal about the Leveson Report – while remaining silent on a Bill opening the way to ‘secret courts’ and the ‘snoopers charter’ which would give security agencies owers to spy on people’s use of the internet.

‘When Ed Miliband was elected party leader, he promised this would mark a new era of Labour concern for civil liberties. I’m still waiting for that. I would like to see him be much more robust on these issues.’


British Welfare State has ballooned to over 12 times its original size, figures reveal as Chancellor prepares benefits freeze

The cost of the Welfare State has risen 12-fold in real terms since its introduction, figures reveal today – as George Osborne prepares to unveil a benefits freeze.

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions to mark the 70th anniversary of William Beveridge’s landmark report on welfare, show the cost of the modern system dwarfs that of his original vision.

They come as the Chancellor puts the finishing touches to next week’s Autumn Statement on the economy, when he is expected to announce a freeze in the value of most benefits apart from pensions and disability payments.

The move is part of Mr Osborne’s drive to tackle Britain’s budget deficit. He is also expected to ease pressure on family budgets by cancelling the 3p rise in fuel duty due to come in next month.

The new figures reveal that benefit spending has increased dramatically since Beveridge’s proposals were introduced in 1948, rising from the equivalent of £13.5billion in today’s prices to £165.5billion this year – more than a 12-fold increase.

Even given the huge growth in the economy over the past seven decades, the increase in the cost of the benefits system has been dramatic.

In 1948 spending on benefits accounted for 10.4 per cent of Britain’s total income, against 24.2 per cent this year.

Jobseeker’s Allowance has almost doubled in real terms from £37.30 a week for the 1948 unemployment benefit to £71 today. At the same time the basic state pension has almost trebled from £37.30 to £107.45.

Yet over the same period the price of a pint of milk has fallen in real terms from 57p to 46p.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the soaring cost underlined the fact that the welfare system had lost touch with Beveridge’s original vision of ensuring ‘freedom from want’.

‘Beveridge’s pioneering vision for welfare has been completely lost,’ he said. ‘The system is complicated, expensive and open to abuse.

‘Our reforms will restore confidence and bring the benefits system back to Beveridge’s founding principles.

‘We will deliver his vision of a Welfare State that provides a safety net for those who need it, without stifling incentive, opportunity or responsibility.’

In October, Mr Duncan Smith said that spending on benefits and tax credits had risen by more than 60 per cent under the previous Labour government – spiralling even before the recession, when growth was booming, jobs were being created, and welfare bills should have been falling.

By 2010, the extra spending was costing every household in the country an extra £3,000 a year in tax, helping to increase the budget deficit..


British company set to resume fracking as government backs UK shale gas

Cuadrilla is poised to spearhead the creation of a new UK industry in shale gas extraction, its chief executive has said, as the company prepares to resume “fracking” in Lancashire.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Francis Egan said the private-equity-backed company was ready to “press on quickly” once Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, lifts a moratorium on the controversial process.

Cuadrilla, whose chairman is former BP chief Lord Browne, believes it could be producing shale gas in the UK by March next year. “We are starting a whole new onshore gas industry. In our licence alone we can supply a quarter of the UK’s gas demand,” Mr Egan said.

Cuadrilla initially planned up to 800 wells but will need to secure local planning permission for each well.

The Chancellor will this week throw his weight behind plans for fracking, when he is expected to announce the creation of a new Office for Shale Gas to help shape the nascent UK industry.
Mr Osborne has already said he is considering tax breaks for shale gas.

Ministers will also unveil a new gas generation strategy, setting out plans for 20GW of new gas-fired generation – about 20 power plants – by 2030. The plans will alarm environmentalists but cheer those who believe shale gas could provide a source of cheap gas for the UK.

Mr Egan said: “Britain is spending tens of billions of pounds importing gas. If we are able to develop gas resources here . . . it could make a major difference for the country in terms of tax revenues, balance of payments and at a time when the economy is the pits.”

The moratorium on fracking – which sees water pumped into rocks to remove oil and gas – was imposed in 2011 after drilling by Cuadrilla caused two small earth tremors in Blackpool.

A decision to lift the ban had been thought likely earlier in the year after an independent Government-commissioned report recommended it resume. It is now expected soon after Wednesday’s Autumn Statement.

Mr Davey, who will take the decision in a quasi-judicial role, has said he will support shale gas exploitation only if it is economic and “can be carried out with the full protection of the environment”.

Cuadrilla may not be prepared to wait much longer. “If we get a negative decision this week, we would have little alternative than to walk away,” Mr Egan said.

“We have proven that there is gas and that it will flow. In the three years we have been doing tests, they have drilled 60,000 wells in the US. We don’t have infinite patience and our investors don’t have infinite patience.”



About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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