NHS boss at baby death hospital was given £250,000 pay-off after quitting his job in disgrace
The head of a health trust which had the highest mortality rate in England received almost a quarter of a million pounds in severance pay, it was revealed last night.
Tony Halsall was paid the sum after leaving his post at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust in disgrace last year.
The trust in Cumbria is currently the subject of a police probe into up to 16 needless baby deaths as well as the deaths of two mothers.
And in a scandal which has been compared to that of Mid Staffordshire, recent data shows a total of 500 people may have needlessly died in the last four years.
Yesterday, politicians reacted with fury at the payout, saying it was cheating taxpayers and ‘rewarding failure’.
Mr Halsall stepped down in February 2012 but still receives his salary of £150,000 a year, which will only be cut off in October this year. It is understood the payments, which equate to £225,000 overall, were viewed as a severance package.
Local Lib Dem MP Tim Farron said: ‘The level of this package will shock people – £225,000 is too much for the failure that he presided over.’
After Mr Halsall stepped down, he agreed to go on ‘secondment’ for 12 months. As part of the deal, he is also entitled to his existing benefits, his lease car and the costs of career management advice up to the value of £5,000. He will also be paid during a six-month notice period.
He was gagged from talking about it and the trust has until now refused requests to reveal the scale of the payout.
MPs suggested they chose to release the information on Budget day in an attempt to ‘bury’ the news.
During Mr Halsall’s tenure at the trust, it was criticised on several occasions by watchdogs including the Care Quality Commission and the Commons health select committee.
Police are investigating deaths at Furness General Hospital, in Barrow, one of its two main maternity units.
A total of 30 families are reported to be taking legal action against the trust over mother and baby deaths and cases of cerebral palsy.
Managers have been accused of covering up patient deaths as they chased the prize of foundation trust status.
Morecambe Bay became a foundation trust in 2010 despite warnings from the regional director of the NHS regulator that patients’ lives were in danger. In 2011 it had the highest mortality rate of any trust in England.
A new report into the CQC’s regulation of the trust, due to be published this month, is expected to find that it had failed to take adequate action to protect patients.
John Cowdall, chairman of the trust, said the arrangement with Mr Halsall ‘avoided the potential for a long drawn out dispute that would have been expensive and time consuming’.
The deal involved going on secondment to NHS Confederation as an associate director. The national body represents all those organisations which provide health services and speaks on their behalf.
It is understood he took the role on condition that he would be paid his salary of £150,000 a year by the trust up to October 5, 2013.
Boy, 13, just hours from being paralysed after doctors misdiagnose his cancer as GROWING PAINS
A mother has claimed that her 13-year-old son narrowly escaped being paralysed for life after GPs misdiagnosed his cancer as growing pains.
Milan Patel was in agony because of a tennis ball sized tumour on his back. However, doctors dismissed his concerns as the aches and pains associated with puberty.
But two weeks later, when the pain got worse, his parents took him to a physiotherapist who was concerned and suggested they take him to hospital.
When he struggled to walk later that day his parents took him to Warwick Hospital, where an MRI scan showed there was a lump measuring 66mm by 66mm on his back. He was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer which affects about 35 children in the UK each year.
He was rushed by ambulance to Birmingham Children’s Hospital on January 17 2012 where he underwent a three-hour operation to have the tumour removed.
His mother Gita, 40, from Kenilworth, Warwickshire, has criticised the GPs saying that her son could have died or been paralysed for life as a result of the misdiagnosis.
She said: ‘Milan has always been quite a sporty lad so we assumed it was just aches and pains, we had no idea it would be cancer.
‘The pain would come and go. Then it got even worse and he couldn’t sleep at night.
‘One of the doctors thought it was growing pains and another said he might have kidney problems. ‘When we found out it was cancer it was utter devastation.
She added: ‘I just kept thinking how could we have left it so long and how could the doctors not know what it was? We started blaming everyone else. ‘The GPs did miss the cancer but we were told that it is very rare.
‘I now want to raise awareness into the condition and urge doctors to routinely check for cancer, no matter how rare.’
Surgeons removed 99 per cent of the malignant tumour but warned the family there was still a chance the cancer could return.
Milan spent a year having gruelling radiotherapy and chemotherapy with at least four days each week spent in hospital.
Ms Patel, who has another son Kiran, 14, added: ‘Surgeons told us if they didn’t operate that night Milan would lose his legs as he couldn’t walk at all. ‘He was literally hours from being paralysed or worse.
‘Everything happened so quickly. Even when most of his tumour was removed I wasn’t relieved. There is always the chance it will come back.
‘Sometimes we would come back from hospital where he has been quite poorly but would still go to school the next day. He is a very determined young boy.’
Milan has now finished his chemotherapy but still has regular hospital check-ups.
Simon Davies, chief executive of Teenage Cancer Trust, said: ‘Sadly Milan’s story is not uncommon. ‘One in four patients Teenage Cancer Trust surveyed last year had to visit their GP four times or more before they were referred to a specialist.
‘Every day six young people are diagnosed with cancer and for many, they receive treatment for rare and aggressive forms of cancer such as Ewings Sarcoma.
‘GPs need to consider cancer in young people as a possibility and we want to see a “three strikes” approach. If after three visits there is no reasonable explanation GPs should refer for further investigation.’
Pesky! Overweight people with heart disease are 30% LESS likely to die early than their thinner counterparts
It’s widely believed that being overweight is bad for your heart and can lead to premature death.
But new study shows that overweight heart disease sufferers are actually 30 per cent less likely to die early than their counterparts of a healthy weight.
The researchers, from University College London, also found that even obese cardiac patients are 15 per cent less likely to die young than those of a normal weight.
Dr Mark Hamer, the study leader, told MailOnline: ‘The most plausible reason is that the obese patient is treated more aggressively because they have more risk factors – like high cholesterol and high blood pressure – which mean that doctors prioritise them, but that is just speculation.
‘We didn’t really get to the bottom of it but it certainly shows that it is a bad idea to focus on weight – BMI is not always a good marker of health.’
He explained that it is important to look at other factors, such as exercise, because people can improve the health of their heart significantly by exercising, even if they do not lose weight.
Dr Hamer and his colleagues followed 4,400 cardiac patients who took part in the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey.
They found that less of the overweight patients died in the seven years that they were followed than did the normal weight patients.
The researchers at UCL were not the first to find that overweight heart patients had a lower chance of premature death than normal weight ones.
Dr Hamer also explained that there is some data from previous studies to support the suggestion that overweight patients receive more aggressive treatment.
Other recent research has shown that heart attack survivors who are exposed to air pollution are more likely to die young.
Experts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine monitored more than 154,000 patients treated for heart attacks and angina for an average period of 3.7 years.
They found that higher levels of tiny sooty particles in the air increased death rates among survivors of acute coronary syndrome by 12 per cent.
Another recent study showed that all people who are overweight may outlive their thinner counterparts.
Men and women who are slightly plump – essentially carrying a few extra pounds – have longer lives than those of a normal weight, according to a study of more than three million people
However, those who were any bigger than this were around a third more likely to die during the months or years they were being studied than those of normal weight.
Chilling news for Britain: March could be the coldest for 50 years and winter is expected to stay for yet another week
Britain is on track to suffer its coldest March in more than 50 years as conservationists warned that the prolonged winter weather was damaging wildlife.
Forecasters said the latest cold spell was keeping average temperatures several degrees below the norm, with the next seven days to be chillier than usual.
The Central England Temperature – covering an area bounded by Lancashire, Bristol and London – shows temperatures have been 2.8C lower than normal.
The last time March was so cold was in 1962, when the average temperature was 2.4C (36F) – or 4.1C below the norm.
That astonishing difference – which is 36.5C when considering Aboyne’s even colder overnight low last week of -12.9C – in just one year comes as another snowfall covered northern Britain overnight.
A Met Office spokesman said: ‘This time last year the UK was under the influence of high pressure. This gave us clear skies, plenty of sunshine and with a light southerly breeze, temperatures that were well above average.
‘This year, with a strong easterly wind bringing cold air from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, we have quite the opposite with eastern parts of the UK in particular seeing snow, ice and temperatures around 20C lower.
‘The direction of the wind therefore plays a major part in what type of weather you and I will see, especially as we have the Atlantic Ocean to our west and continental Europe to our south and east.’
‘This time last year the UK was under the influence of high pressure. This gave us clear skies, plenty of sunshine and with a light southerly breeze, temperatures that were well above average’
Up to four inches of snow was predicted to settle in parts of Scotland and north England by this morning, with more expected to fall during the day as temperatures hover around a bitter 3C.
The Met Office has issued a number of amber weather warnings across north-east England and central and eastern Scotland urging people to be prepared for disruption.
But regions south of Cumbria and Yorkshire escaped the snowy weather, instead set to enjoy a dry day with relatively warmer temperatures, of up to 9C in London, with a risk of scattered showers.
MeteoGroup forecaster Matt Dobson said: ‘It’s a real north-south split today. Over high ground up to 10cms (3.9in) could have fallen over night, with the potential for the same amount again today.
‘Even down to sea level there could be a covering of between 1cm (0.4in) and 4cm (1.6in), very likely in Edinburgh.
‘In the north of England there will be up to 6cm (2.4in) overnight and a few more falling throughout the day, along with higher parts of north Wales.
‘But south of the country there will be few showers but a lot of dry weather and some sunshine breaking through.’
‘Whether you think that Spring officially starts on March 1 or March 21, this is certainly unusually cold for this time of year. It’s very cold for mid-March when we should expect much higher temperatures’
More snow is expected on Friday. He added that the cold weather and snow storms across the north were likely to linger throughout the week and could even lead to blizzard conditions in Scotland.
It continues a cold month across the UK which has brought an unwelcome delay to spring weather. Mr Dobson said that while snow is not uncommon for March, the continued cold weather is.
He said: ‘Whether you think that Spring officially starts on March 1 or March 21, this is certainly unusually cold for this time of year. It’s very cold for mid-March when we should expect much higher temperatures.
‘It’s not unusual for it to snow in March, in fact we are far more likely to see snow at Easter than at Christmas. What is unusual for March is how persistent the cold weather and snow is.’
He added that it is too early to predict a white Easter. The cold weather is likely to bring more travel misery today.
Yesterday a number of key commuter routes were disrupted, including some south-east England journeys which were hit by a build-up of ice on the ‘third rail’ from which trains get their power.
‘It’s not unusual for it to snow in March, in fact we are far more likely to see snow at Easter than at Christmas. What is unusual for March is how persistent the cold weather and snow is’
First new British nuclear power station in two decades is given the go ahead at Hinkley Point, capable of powering 5million homes
And Greenies are fuming
The first in a new generation of nuclear power stations was given the go ahead today.
The new £14billion plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset could generate enough electricity to power 5million homes.
It is a major breakthrough for the government after several global firms pulled out of plans to build new reactors in the UK.
Mr Davey told MPs that he was granting planning consent for French energy giant EDF to construct a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C.
The plant, which will be operated by EDF subsidiary NNB Generation, will be the first new nuclear power plant in the UK since Sizewell B, which started generating electricity in 1995.
It is estimated the project will create between 20,000 and 25,000 jobs during construction and 900 permanent jobs once in operation.
Mr Davey said that affordable new nuclear would play a ‘crucial role’ in ensuring secure, diverse supplies of energy in the UK and decarbonising the electricity sector and the economy.
The plant’s two nuclear reactors would be capable of producing 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity, enough to power five million homes, EDF has said. It is thought the costs of the new power station would run to around £14 billion.
A final investment decision by EDF to go ahead with construction still depends on the deal being negotiated with the Government on the ‘strike’ price paid for electricity generated by the plant.
Mr Davey said: ‘It’s vital to get investment in new infrastructure to get the economy moving. Low-carbon energy projects will bring major investment, supporting jobs and driving growth.
‘This planned project adds to a number of new energy projects consented since May 2010, including wind farms and biomass and gas-fired power stations.
‘This planned new nuclear power station in Somerset will generate vast amounts of clean energy and enhance our energy security.
‘It will benefit the local economy, through direct employment, the supply chain and the use of local services.’
Under electricity market reforms, low-carbon power such as nuclear reactors and offshore wind farms will have long-term contracts with a guaranteed price for their electricity, to give investors certainty to invest in projects with high capital costs.
EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said receiving planning permission for the project was ‘a huge achievement’ representing years of hard work.
But he urged that to make the opportunity a reality there was a need to reach agreement swiftly on the ‘contract for difference’ that will set out the guaranteed price paid for the electricity generated.
But environmental groups reacted angrily to the news that the new reactors were given the go-ahead.
Keith Allott, chief adviser on climate change at WWF-UK, said: ‘Backing nuclear means shifting a huge liability to British taxpayers for the cost of building, electricity and crucially, dealing with the waste.
‘Unlike renewable energy, the costs of nuclear keep on rising – as witnessed by the fact that the only reactors currently being built in Europe are massively over-budget and far behind schedule.
‘Focusing on renewables and energy efficiency, on the other hand, where the UK has huge potential to be an industrial leader, could deliver both huge cost reductions and a substantial boost to UK economic growth and manufacturing.’
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said Hinkley Point C failed the test on economic, consumer, environmental and arguably even legal grounds.
‘It will lock a generation of consumers into higher energy bills, via a strike price that’s expected to be double the current price of electricity, and it will distort energy policy by displacing newer, cleaner, cheaper technologies.
‘With companies now saying the price of offshore wind will drop so much it will be on par with nuclear by 2020, there is no rationale for allowing Hinkley C to proceed.
‘Giving it the green light when there is no credible plan for dealing with the waste could also be in breach of the law,’ he warned.
Ridiculous! British Coalition’s blast after Labour figures put migrant wave of Romanians and Bulgarians at just 12,700
The number of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants expected when the UK opens its doors next January was put at just 12,700, according to long-hidden figures. The total, compiled under the Labour government, was immediately rejected as ‘ridiculous’ by senior Coalition figures.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the estimates, revealed yesterday after months of cover-up by ministers, were drawn up by Labour after comparing the two countries to Poland, which has sent around one million people to the UK.
The document predicts just 4,613 Bulgarians, out of a population of 7.5million, will come to Britain every year, along with 8,156 Romanians – a tiny fraction of its 21.4million inhabitants.
Addressing Westminster journalists, Mr Pickles said he had ‘no confidence’ in the figures and that was why ministers chose not to publicise them, though he said they were slipped out on a Whitehall website in 2011.
The total of 12,769 is very similar to the 13,000 Labour ministers claimed would come to the UK in 2004, when immigration restrictions were lifted on Poland and nine other Eastern European countries.
In the event, more than a million people have flocked to Britain from Poland alone over the last nine years.
Mr Pickles revealed that the research existed in a television interview in January, but immigration minister Mark Harper refused to release the study, saying it would not be ‘helpful’.
Yesterday Mr Pickles said: ‘These are calculations. I don’t have any confidence in them whatsoever.’
He added that he doesn’t know how many immigrants will come to the UK in January but hopes it will be lower than in 2004, when many other EU countries refused to lift restrictions at the same time as Britain.
He said: ‘Last time, we, Ireland and Sweden opened up our boundaries, when France and Germany and Spain didn’t open up their boundaries, so a disproportionately large number of Poles came to the UK.
‘This time everyone is opening up at the same time. If you combine Romania and Bulgaria they don’t even meet the level of the Polish population.’
He added: ‘Bulgarians and Romanians have a link with Spain and with France.’
The campaign group Migration Watch UK has estimated up to 75,000 Romanians and Bulgarians could enter the UK a year.
Commenting on the figures, chairman Sir Andrew Green said: ‘We regard the estimate as much too low and agree with Mr Pickles that it is not a sufficient basis for policy. ‘For a start it ignores the two million Romanians in Spain and Italy, many of whom are now unemployed and might move to Northern Europe.’
Mr Pickles added: ‘No matter how many fancy calculations you can make, I don’t know. The truth is nobody really knows.
‘All the government can do is be careful about pull factors that might range from the health service to housing and benefits to try to ensure there isn’t an extra attraction to come here.’
Ministers are making plans to require new immigrants to register to use public services or claim benefits. The Government is also considering sending home those who fail to find work.
Minister for local government Brandon Lewis denied there had been a cover-up. He said: ‘We have been open and transparent in publishing research…. ‘This analysis was produced by the last administration, and should be treated with extreme caution given how unreliable their statistics have been historically.’
Backlash grows over proposed British press curbs: Cracks start to show after just one day as newspapers refuse to sign up
Newspapers were on collision course with the three party leaders last night as industry backing for their royal charter for new rules governing the 300-year-old free Press crumbled.
Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, the oldest continuously published magazine in the English language, would not recognise the proposed regulator, irrespective of the consequences.
He published a dramatic front page with the single word ‘No’.
Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, a newspaper that had been supportive of the charter, expressed concerns it would lead to ‘vexatious complaints’ and ‘tie us in knots’.
Spectator editor Fraser Nelson reveals he will be formally rejecting the regulatory scheme
The Newspaper Society warned the plans could place ‘a crippling burden on the UK’s 1,100 local newspapers, inhibiting freedom of speech and the freedom to publish’.
Its president Adrian Jeakings said: ‘A free Press cannot be free if it is dependent on and accountable to a regulatory body recognised by the state.’
The cross-party agreement struck in late night three-party talks was also attacked yesterday by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the international body that polices human rights.
And, in a particularly humiliating blow, the Kremlin-funded broadcaster Russia Today described the guidelines as a ‘threat to Press freedom’.
Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, which is not part of the existing watchdog system, suggested he had no intention of joining the new regulator: ‘You can’t really say this is a considered and thoughtful process when, in the middle of the night, bits are added to two different bills.’
Rupert Murdoch, whose companies own The Times, the Sunday Times and The Sun, suggested even the Queen would not approve the royal charter. ‘UK royal charter requires Queen’s signature. Unlikely without full all party support. Queen doesn’t do politics,’ he wrote on Twitter.
Mr Barber told the BBC the FT had not yet determined whether to join the regulatory body. But he added: ‘This has not been a satisfactory process. ‘We will be looking at the practical implications and, above all, what has been completely lost in this process, the cost.
‘I am worried about the practical costs of, for example, allowing free access to arbitration, I am worried about claims-farming, vexatious complaints from readers and others who will tie us up in knots. This is a real problem.’
But Max Mosley, one of the leading campaigners for new controls insisted yesterday that if newspapers refused to sign up then Parliament should ‘intervene’ – raising the prospect of a full-blown Press law.
The former Formula 1 boss, who became a privacy campaigner after winning a court case against the News of the World for publishing pictures of him at an orgy with prostitutes, told MPs he believed all publishers would eventually submit to the new regulator.
He told MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, newspaper proprietors will put aside ‘emotional’ concerns about statutory regulation and be persuaded by financial incentives.
Newspapers that decline to participate in the regulator, which will have the power to dictate the nature and prominence of corrections and issue £1million fines, are being threatened with ‘exemplary’ damages in libel or privacy cases.
Mr Mosley sparked anger when he went on to suggest that websites based overseas that ignore the instructions of the new regulator could be shut down.
But Tory backbencher Mark Reckless said that he hoped that the press would not co-operate with the regulator.
He referred to the way the unions in the 1970s refused to recognise the Heath Government’s industrial relations court.
Kirsty Hughes, spokesman for Campaign group Index on Censorship, said: ‘Closing down websites is the kind of behaviour expected of totalitarian regimes like Iran and China, not the UK.’
Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media, said: ‘We welcome the fact there has been cross-party agreement. The regulatory settlement is by and large a fair one, with compromises on all sides.’
But he said he retained ‘grave reservations’ about the proposed legislation on exemplary damages.
Amid confusion about which websites would be covered by the new system, a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: ‘Bloggers are covered by the self-regulatory model if they are the relevant publisher with multiple authors writing in the course of their business.’
The Association of Online Publishers issued a statement to say it had ‘major concerns’, particularly over the threat of punitive awards in the libel courts for those who do not join the regulatory system.
Camilla Wright, who founded the entertainment website Popbitch, said she would move it to America to avoid being subject to a regulator with power over websites that produce celebrity gossip.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles illustrated the low opinion of the celebrity wing of the Hacked Off pressure group among cabinet circles when he described Hugh Grant as ‘the leader of the opposition Lord Grant of Rodeo Drive.’ [An allusion to Grant’s past involvement with a black Los Angeles street prostitute]
Why British councils ask if you’re transgender when you call about the wheelie bins
No doubt the bigwigs at Birmingham City Council thought they should be seen to be doing something about its shambolic waste-collection service, which last December saw the streets disappear beneath 10ft-high piles of rubbish.
But quite how the ‘Attitudes To Recycling And Rewards’ survey it has just sent out to residents is supposed to help it empty the bins is anyone’s guess.
After a few mundane questions on wheelie bins, it suddenly demands to know: ‘Which of the following most accurately describes your sexual orientation? Bisexual? Gay man? Gay woman/lesbian? Heterosexual/straight? Other?’
For anyone who dares to keep such information to themselves in this day and age, there is at least the opportunity to tick: ‘Prefer not to say?’
If the council was asking residents about the provision of night clubs or dating agencies in the city, it is feasible to see why it might need to know. But what conceivable reason is there for officials to want to pry into our bedrooms over wheelie bins?
At best, it comes across as a bizarre waste of time and taxpayers’ money. At worst, it is downright sinister to think that somewhere on a council computer will sit a database of where all gay and lesbian people live.
It makes you wonder if, like a medieval plague village with yellow crosses on the door, Birmingham is going to issue pink wheelie bins to householders who identify themselves as gay.
It would be reassuring to think this was a lone act by a loony Left council (Birmingham is Labour-controlled). But council tax payers all over the country are being left bewildered by a torrent of questionnaires demanding bizarre, irrelevant and deeply private information.
When Richenda Legge wrote to North Norfolk District Council asking why her bin hadn’t been emptied, she too was asked for her sexuality — and her ethnicity and religion.
Residents who live near a proposed relief road at Manchester Airport were recently left scratching their heads to be asked in a consultation: ‘Is your gender identity the same as the gender you were assigned with at birth?’
Susan Field, a 67-year-old from Harrow, was asked the same question when she contacted her council to complain about a set of traffic lights.
‘We have so little privacy left,’ she said. ‘Why should I give intimate details to a total stranger on such an unrelated matter.’
When my car was broken into one evening, I was at first relieved to be rung up by a police officer the next day. I thought he had news that they had caught the thief who had smashed the driver’s window.
It was only when he wanted to know my ethnic identity that it dawned on me why he had really rung me: he had some kind of victims’ monitoring form to fill in.
When I declined to say what ethnic group I am from, he politely hung up and I never heard any more.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked for my ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity on official forms.
But the question which, funnily enough, I don’t ever remember being asked is: do I want my taxes frittered away on these pointless monitoring exercises — or would I rather the money was spent on doing practical things, such as emptying the bins or finding the man who smashed my car?
I know what the answer would be if a council did put that question to us: it would make last week’s landslide referendum in the Falkland Islands look like an even contest.
There can’t be anyone outside those who work in the ‘equality-monitoring’ industry, as it is known — although admittedly this does employ quite a large number of people now — who would vote for the silly forms.
They certainly don’t impress a lot of the people they are supposed to please.
Actor Sir Ian McKellen, who isn’t slow to complain about homophobia wherever he senses it, roundly condemned the Arts Council for including a question about sexual orientation on a funding application form.
Nosy questions about ethnicity, sexuality and gender are part of a bureaucracy that is spinning out of control.
And the irony is that it doesn’t come from any genuine concern to stamp out inequality, but from pen-pushers building empires and creating jobs for each other.
What we, the public, see is nothing compared with the nonsense that public-sector bodies inflict upon their own staff.
Two years ago, Buckinghamshire County Council staff issued its staff with a questionnaire entitled ‘Respecting Sexuality’. Among the questions they were expected to answer were ‘What do you think caused your heterosexuality?’, and ‘Is it possible your sexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?’
The questionnaire was supposed to make heterosexual employees think about what it is like being gay, but the whole exercise stinks of a crass waste of money.
The purpose of this silly ‘equality monitoring’ exercise is to force public authorities, and in some cases private companies, to collect personal data that can then be analysed — supposedly to detect inadvertent discrimination.
A requirement to collect ethnic data was introduced by the Blair government a decade ago, and the exercise was then extended to gender and sexuality through Harriet Harman’s 2010 Equality Act.
Disgracefully, there was hardly any political opposition to the legislation, with David Cameron — frightened to ruffle the feathers of the equality lobby in the run-up to the 2010 general election — allowing the Equality Bill to be nodded through without even a Commons vote.
Needless to say, it is wasting us a fortune. According to the think-tank Civitas, fulfilling the demands of ‘equality monitoring’ is costing employers £1billion a year — £400million of which is in the private sector.
It has spawned an entire industry of diversity officers and equality officers employed to collate and publicise the data.
If you work in manufacturing or construction at the moment, you may well be struggling to find a job, but there is no shortage of employment in the equality industry.
Yesterday, one employment agency was showing more than 400 jobs available in the category ‘equality officer’, 60 of them paying more than £60,000 a year.
If equality monitoring has ever revealed any enlightening information, I can’t say I can remember it.
Does it really help anyone, for example, to know that precisely 16.1 per cent of staff at the Department for Transport identify themselves as black or another minority ethnicity?
What it has done, on the other hand, is to provide opportunities for campaigners to pick out highly selective data. And those campaigners are not always of the politically correct persuasion.
While the whole business of equality monitoring was dreamed up with the intention that it would allow statisticians to sniff out discrimination against minorities, the data is also available to the likes of the BNP.
In its usual attempt to stir up discontent, it has, for example, accused the BBC of ‘flooding’ itself with ethnic minorities by selecting a statistic which shows that 47 per cent of places on a BBC journalism trainee scheme identified themselves as being from an ethnic minority.
Given that the BBC trainee scheme covers foreign reporting and the World Service, it is hardly surprising that it has a high international intake.
But, of course, that is not what jumps out when the BNP picks out a raw statistic.
No matter how much we regard diversity monitoring as a waste of time and money, and counter-productive in its aim of promoting equality, when we are presented with an official form demanding to know personal details such as our gender, race and sexuality, it is easy to be fooled into thinking we have to fill it in. We don’t.
If we want to stop this colossal waste of money, we can undermine it by refusing to answer the questions altogether.
That is what I do. So should you.
BBC digital radio station censors lyric in Elvis Costello hit Oliver’s Army
It has been played in full thousands of times and without causing a fuss.
But Elvis Costello’s hit song Oliver’s Army was censored to remove the word ‘n*gger’ when it was recently played on a BBC digital station to the surprise of listeners.
The song, taken from the album Armed Forces, is one of Costello’s best-known and has received endless plays across all BBC radio stations without any complaint – until now.
The line in question is heard at the end of the second verse before the chorus: ‘One more widow, one less white n*gger’.
A listener who heard the edited tune on Steve Lamacq’s show on 6 Music was prompted to complain to Radio 4’s Feedback, stating the word was actually necessary for the song: ‘I do know the song inside out, as most people probably do, then all of sudden – clunk- it had the n-word taken out.
The listener said that their understanding of the lyric was that it referred to British troops in Northern Ireland who used the phrase as a derogatory term for the Irish.
He added: ‘Although it is not a nice phrase and I wouldn’t condone the use of the word these days, it is an anti-war song as far as I believe, arguing against British colonialism and the word would be appropriate for that song.’