New NHS phoneline ‘will put lives at risk’: Doctors’ warning after 111 number goes into meltdown
Lives will be put at risk unless the Government suspends the new 111 NHS advice line, doctors warned yesterday. Patients have been left hanging on the phone for two hours or told to call back tomorrow because overstretched operators of the service were too busy to help.
The problems led to a surge in ambulance call-outs and casualty visits as the desperate dialled 999 for help instead.
The service, which is replacing NHS Direct and is being tested in different areas of the country, is due to go live nationwide on April 1.
Over the past fortnight, GPs have been told to change messages on their out-of-hours answer machines advising patients to call 111 for help.
But the change, which occurred with little publicity, immediately caused ‘meltdown’ in some areas, including Greater Manchester, Lancashire, south Cumbria, West Midlands and south-east London.
In Manchester, the situation was so bad the previous provider, Mastercall, had to take over the phones just hours after the launch to sort out the mess.
A group of nurses, who were on a night out, were even drafted in to staff the phones. The service has now been shelved in the city until the end of April.
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs committee, called for Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to suspend the nationwide launch of the NHS 111 service which he said was proving ‘dangerous’ in some areas.
‘Doctors are very worried patients’ lives will be put at risk when this is introduced in April,’ he added. ‘The concept behind NHS 111 – that patients simply have to call a single number to be told the most appropriate service for their needs – is not a bad one, but we’ve been saying for months that this April 1 date health authorities have been aiming for is much too quick.
‘It was obvious to us that many places weren’t ready and that’s when it becomes dangerous and bad things happen. I’m sadly waiting for the first body.
‘You end up with the wrong people getting into ambulances, GPs flooded with patients they don’t need to see, those who need to see a doctor not getting an appointment and A&Es full of people who shouldn’t be there.’
In a series of leaked emails, health bosses in Manchester admitted the system was a ‘catastrophe’ when it was ‘soft launched’ – or tested – for the first time on Thursday.
It is understood NHS bosses grossly underestimated the number of operators they would need to field calls, and the amount of time staff would need to analyse them. There were also problems with the service’s computer system.
The Government believes the system will save money by phasing out the £123million-a-year NHS Direct line and directing patients away from casualty units.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘Until these issues are resolved people needing out of hours care should call their GP surgery during the evening and at weekends and follow the instructions given.
‘We are working with providers across the country to ensure all NHS 111 services are thoroughly tested and working effectively.’
Patient at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital ‘died as she pleaded with nurses to help her after getting head stuck in bed railing’
A patient died at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital as she pleaded with nurses ‘Help me’, a disciplinary hearing was told today. The woman had got her head stuck between a bed railing and begged for help, but nurse Ann King told an auxiliary worker: ‘Sit down – she’s fine’, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) heard.
By the time she was checked on the woman’s face had turned purple and she could not be resuscitated, the NMC was told.
Mrs King’s case is the latest in a series of accusations against nurses at the hospital, where up to 1,200 patients died needlessly. The nurse is also accused of failing to recognise that another patient, who subsequently died, was diabetic.
Mrs King and ward manager Jeannette Coulson are accused of making a number of blunders while working in the Trauma and Orthopaedics ward between 2005 and 2010. Their alleged failings came to light when a Healthcare support worker known as (HCSWA) and another nurse known as (SNA) blew the whistle.
The woman who died in the railings had been admitted to the ward with a broken leg was said to be an alcoholic, and ‘appeared to be agitated due to withdrawal’.
‘Patient A was in a side room and could not move from her bed without assistance due to her injury – she was awaiting surgery,’ said Rebecca Wood, for the NMC.
‘During the handover HCSWA could hear Patient A shouting for a bed pan and for some assistance. HCSWA tried several times to get up and attend to Patient A but was repeatedly told to sit down by nurse King. She told him the patient was fine, and that she seen to her earlier.
‘Patient A continued to shout and seemed to be getting more and more agitated and at one point shouted “help me, help me.”’
Ten minutes later the woman became silent and the auxiliary went to check on her, it was said. ‘As he approached the door he saw a puddle of urine coming from under the door and when he entered the room he found Patient A at the bottom of her bed with her head wedged in between the bars in an extended section that pulled put on a trolley for taller patients,’ Miss Wood said.
‘Patient A’s head was swollen and purple and she was not moving. The alarm was raised and emergency CPR commenced, but Patient A could not be resuscitated.’
King did not respond to patient requests, prevented HCSWA from attending promptly to the patient and did not ensure the woman’s safety, it is claimed. As ward manager, Mrs Coulson failed to ensure the patient’s safety, it is alleged.
As the auxiliary left the patient’s room, he was pushed up against the wall by another nurse, Karen Salt, who said words to the effect of ‘keep your mouth shut,’ it is claimed.
Mrs Coulson witnessed the incident and she looked over towards the assistant him as if to say she agreed with Ms Salt, the tribunal heard.
Both nurses are also accused of failing to recognise that another patient who died under their care, Patient B, was diabetic.
King’s case is the latest in a series of accusations against nurses at the scandal hit Stafford Hospital where up to 1,200 patients died needlessly
The woman who had suffered from a stroke was admitted to A&E on April 1, 2007, and was transferred to the Trauma and Orthopaedics ward seven days later.
While in A&E a doctor stated that her blood sugar levels should be checked hourly. Both Mrs King and Mrs Coulson deny ever being told the woman was diabetic. ‘If they had looked, they would have seen this information recorded in her notes,’ said Miss Wood.
Describing the lead up to Patient B’s death Miss Wood said she had been checked my another nurse had asked for her blood sugar to be tested, and noted that it was very high.
Due to a breakdown in communication Patient B did not receive her diabetes medication.
On April 10, 2007 the patient was found collapsed in her bed. ‘Tests revealed that her blood sugar was now so high, it was off the charts,’ said Miss Wood.
‘An agreement was made with her family that Patient B should not be resuscitated if she arrested again.’ The woman died later that night.
Both nurses had both failed to ensure adequate tests were carried out on the patient and failed to ensure adequate records of her care were kept.
King denies all allegations against her, while Coulson admits using inappropriate language and replacing a sign that stated what times relatives could speak to staff after it had been taken down.
She also admits refusing to accept a patient on the ward after surgery stating: ‘Get her off this f***ing ward’, and swearing at HCSWA when he was unwell.
Neither of the nurses is attending the central London hearing.
Parents beg for ‘miracle’ kidney drug to keep their two-year-old daughter alive
The parents of a two-year-old girl with a rare blood disorder have urged the Government to pay for a ‘miracle drug’ to keep her alive.
Indie Smith is one of just 140 people in the UK who suffer from the disease – for which only one effective and safe treatment has been found, the drug Soliris.
But it costs up to £250,000 a year per patient. Indie was among a handful of patients prescribed Soliris on a trial basis. But the trial is due to end and the drug is not available on the NHS.
A quarter of all people with Indie’s condition – atypical Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (aHUS) – die shortly after diagnosis.
Indie’s parents, Clare, 36, and heating engineer Gavin, 40, of Chelmsford, Essex, were amazed by her rapid improvement on Soliris.
‘Within two days of the first dose she started to become normal again,’ Clare said. ‘Before that, she wasn’t with us at all. Soliris is expensive but it is a miracle drug because what it’s done for Indie is amazing.’
Clare and Gavin, who also have three sons, now fear for her future when the Soliris trial – funded by the drug’s American manufacturers – comes to an end in October.
Last year the Advisory Group for National Specialised Services (AGNSS), a committee of experts which advises Ministers, recommended the drug be approved for use in the UK.
But the Government instead referred the matter to the National Institute for Health and Clinic Excellence (NICE), which has no procedures to evaluate it.
Tim Goodship, Professor of Renal Medicine at Newcastle University, said: ‘I think Ministers’ primary concern is its affordability.’
A body called NHS Specialised Services commissions drugs for rare conditions.
The aim is to protect the budgets of hospitals whose finances would come under severe strain if they were required to fund expensive treatments for small numbers of patients out of their own resources.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We need to make sure NHS resources are used wisely.’
Repeat after me: If 100 experts say it’s wrong for children to learn by rote, they must all be nitwits
One of the lessons we all learn eventually, whether from history or personal experience, is the correct answer to the question: can 100 leading experts really be wrong? That answer, of course, is a most emphatic ‘Yes’.
As yesterday’s paper reminded us, the point was deliciously illustrated after Sir Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 Budget. This was when not just 100 but 364 of the country’s most eminent economists wrote to The Times, saying that the Thatcher government’s austerity measures would ‘deepen the depression’.
Of course, we can now date the start of the boom of the Eighties, and Britain’s return from bankruptcy and paralysis to robust economic health, almost exactly to the moment when Sir Geoffrey sat down after delivering his package to the Commons.
Oh, what a comfort it is, to those of us who don’t begin to understand economics, to know that our greatest economists haven’t a clue either.
Climatologists also spring to mind. I’m old enough to remember when you would have had no trouble rounding up 100 of the most distinguished academics in the field to sign an open letter warning that humanity was sleep-walking towards a new Ice Age.
Today, of course, the experts sing from a very different hymn sheet. The trouble is that, as before, the mercury in the world’s thermometers stubbornly refuses to obey their predictions.
I’m not saying there’s nothing in the theory of global warming. Indeed, I find it plausible that if we go on belching pollutants into the atmosphere, they’ll have the greenhouse effect of heating us up — just as it was always believable that they would freeze our pants off by blocking out the sun.
All I’m saying is that no matter how many climatologists tell us the globe is warming up or cooling down, I’ll find their warnings a great deal more convincing if just one of them manages to produce a predictive temperature chart that turns out to be roughly accurate. Until then — or until Mr Miligrant’s new Press commissariat bans me from expressing unfashionable views — I’ll keep an open mind.
There comes a time, however, when a theory has been so comprehensively exploded by the facts, as we’ve observed and experienced ourselves, that even people who are prepared to believe almost anything must come off the fence and declare that it’s plain false.
Such a moment came for me this week when I read the open letter from 100 distinguished academics — 51 of them professors, no less — in which they repeated dogmas that have been accepted as Holy Writ by the educational establishment since they caught on widely during the Sixties.
‘As academics,’ they wrote [although they might, with equal truth, have begun ‘As nitwits…..’] ‘we are writing to warn of the dangers posed by Michael Gove’s new National Curriculum, which could severely erode educational standards.
‘The proposed curriculum consists of endless lists of spellings, facts and rules. This mountain of data will not develop children’s ability to think, including problem-solving, critical understanding and creativity.’
They went on to air the familiar complaint that Mr Gove’s curriculum was demanding ‘too much, too young’.
It would put pressure on teachers, they said, to rely on ‘rote learning without understanding’, adding: ‘Little account is taken of children’s potential interests and capacities, or that young children need to relate abstract ideas to their experience, lives and activity.’
Now, despite what I’ve said so far, I accept that a mere layman should, in general, be hesitant about challenging authorities who have devoted their whole lives to the question at issue. And I should admit at once that my own career as a teacher was so brief and atypical that I can claim no sort of expertise.
It began while I was a teenager and still at school myself, when I volunteered to help out at a deprived North London primary school as a means of getting out of playing football.
I was meant to be teaching children with special needs how to read. But, as I remember, my chief duty was to prevent the boys from hurling scissors at each other.
Otherwise, I spent much of my time rejecting, as tactfully as I could, a series of imploring proposals of marriage from a seven-year-old West Indian girl, who had taken a shine to me.
Later, I taught for a couple of terms at fiendishly expensive boarding schools for boys aged eight to 13. I’ll never forget the conversation I overheard one morning when I sat at the breakfast table between the heir to a cereals fortune and Lord Christopher Wellesley, son of the Duke of Wellington.
Cereals heir: ‘How many swimming pools have you got, Wellesley? We’ve got three.’ Wellesley (mentally scanning the family estates): ‘I’m not sure. Seven, I think.’
Hardly the experiences of a teacher at the average school, I admit — although the violent North London primary comes much closer to today’s norm than the exclusive Berkshire prep school.
So, no, I’m no expert in educational theory or practice. But I was on the receiving end of a formal education for many years. I also have four children of my own, whom I observed through the 60 years they chalked up between them at both state and independent schools.
And although a lot of what I learned was taught by rote, I flatter myself that I remain just about capable of thinking.
So I’m emboldened to tell those 100 eminent educationalists that when they rail against schools being made to teach ‘endless lists of spellings, facts and rules’, what they are actually attacking is education.
Indeed, they raise an entirely false dichotomy when they suggest that teaching children rules and facts by rote stifles creativity and understanding. Doesn’t all our experience tell us that facts and the ability to think about them go hand in hand, like rules and creativity?
Do those nitwit educationalists really believe that Mozart would have been a more creative composer if he hadn’t been taught the rules of music when he was in short pants? Or that Turner would have been a greater artist if he’d jumped straight to his more abstract stuff, without first being taught the disciplines of perspective, line and colour?
Speaking for myself, I owe a huge debt for my understanding of the way languages work to the doggerel rhymes I was made to learn from the back of my Latin grammar book before I was ten.
I still remember most of them: ‘For indirect command the laws/ Are ut and ne like a final clause …..’; ‘Determine, wish, prefer, try, strive / Take the plain infinitive …..’.
In English, I was made to learn great chunks of poetry off by heart — quite apart from the hymns then sung by rich and poor alike, from north to south.
In history, I learned the dates of the kings and queens of England, along with a salient fact about each one’s reign, from another very bad poem my teacher drummed into me. Here’s a snatch of it: ‘Richard, 1189/ Who fought the Turks in Palestine’; ‘John, 1199/Who did the Magna Carta sign.’
How can knowing that rhyme, which sketches out the basic chronology of the past 1,000 years, be anything but an aid to understanding history? If only children learned it today — instead of being told to imagine they’re a refugee from Nazi Germany one day, and an 18th-century African slave the next — they might have a clearer picture of how our world came to be.
No, those academics are spouting dangerous and discredited claptrap that has demonstrably betrayed generations of children as British schools have slipped relentlessly down the international league tables.
‘Too much, too young’? Why don’t teachers raise their expectations of their charges, as Mr Gove is trying to make them do? They may find they’re amazed by what young minds can absorb.
Meanwhile, I’m beginning to think I should amend my opening question. Perhaps I should have asked: ‘Can 100 leading experts ever be right?’
You might as well stay on the couch because keeping fit ‘can’t stop our muscles ageing’
Millions of us spend hours sweating and straining in the gym hoping to keep ourselves looking younger than our years. But when it comes to slowing down the ageing process, you might as well stay on the couch.
According to scientists, regular exercise will not stop our muscles losing their tone and shape. The findings challenge the long-held belief that inactivity is largely responsible for muscle wastage in our older years.
Professor Jamie Timmons, from Loughborough University, said the research shows ‘a simple link between muscle ageing and lack of exercise is not plausible’.
He added: ‘When it comes to tackling ageing, experts are advising the Government that muscle ageing is caused by factors such as inactivity. However, we looked at the changes in human muscle with age, in both people from the UK and the USA.
‘We did not observe physical activity altering the age-related biological changes. So for some people exercise might produce some good functional effects, but for others it will not stop the loss of muscle.’
Professor Timmons said a quarter of people ‘just cannot grow muscle tissue’ even when they make an effort to be physically active.
And he stressed that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will not be effective when it comes to stopping muscles from withering away.
The researchers found specific chemical markers, or fingerprints, for muscle ageing. Once they identified the chemical signatures, the scientists were able to see how they reacted to endurance training.
They were looking for improvements in the patients who were exercising. But they soon realised that the volunteers’ hard work in the gym did not stop their muscles from deteriorating.
Professor Timmons, who specialises in systems biology at Loughborough’s Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences department, said: ‘We found there is absolutely no connection. The major problem with ageing is loss of muscle, but 25 per cent of people don’t respond to exercise and grow muscle.’
He warned that repetitive exercise could cause more than one in ten people to suffer high blood pressure and place 9 per cent at higher risk of diabetes. He said: ‘Our public health strategy is to focus on physical activity, which in many cases doesn’t work.
‘For some people, the focus may be better spent on looking at their diet or sleep.’
The findings will come as bad news to exercise-obsessed stars who have attempted to maintain their youthful looks.
Despite her rigorous fitness regime, it is often pointed out that Madonna’s hands and the veins on her arms make her look every one of her 54 years.
Last year Meg Ryan, 51, turned heads for all the wrong reasons after being spotted with blood vessels protruding from her arms.
And Sex And The City star Sarah Jessica Parker, now 47, has been forced to reduce her daily workout after her designer gowns revealed her bulging veins and sinewy biceps.
Prominent veins are usually a sign of over-exercising, and they become more evident as the body ages.
How a gas goldmine could help Britain end debt nightmare
As you approach Ground Zero of Britain’s potential shale gas bonanza and alight next to a 10,000ft-deep hole dug five miles east of Blackpool, your nostrils are suddenly assailed by the overwhelming smell of methane.
At first, you think there must be some catastrophic failure of a gas pipe deep below, and you wonder if the ‘fracking revolution’ really can be the answer to keeping the lights on and Britain’s houses warm.
But the smell, it turns out, has nothing to do with the drilling of a gas well two miles below Lancashire farmland. The villains are cows in the neighbouring field, making their own, very distinctive, contribution to greenhouse gases.
The pretty village of Singleton is an unlikely setting for what might become Britain’s natural gas bonanza – Galveston, Texas or Qatar it emphatically is not, though Cuadrilla Resources, the drilling company, believes up to 200 trillion cubic feet of gas lies trapped below.
Cuadrilla estimates the value of the gas at £136 billion. It could theoretically satisfy our national gas consumption for 60 years, keeping our central heating boilers going while generating about 40 per cent of the electricity we need.
It could do for us now what North Sea oil did in the Seventies. And crucially, shale gas will not leave behind the toxic legacy of our nuclear power programme. We would feel richer again, we would feel at the cutting edge of a revolution and we would lose our baleful sense of energy ennui as Blackpool becomes the new Aberdeen.
So you would have thought the Government and the environmental lobby would be delighted at the news that Britain has exploitable reserves of the shale gas that is propelling America towards energy self-sufficiency and lower carbon emissions. But you would be wrong.
When it burns, shale gas emits half the CO2 of coal, bringing the green targets enshrined in Kyoto and other treaties within sight. Surely even the Lib Dems and their ‘Big Green’ allies, who have profited so handsomely from the billions of pounds of carbon taxes imposed on consumers, would concede this is a breakthrough in achieving the UK’s mandated target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.
Fracking involves firing water into shale rock at very deep levels and at very high pressure to release gas. It does not despoil the landscape in the way coal-mining does. It does not put working men at risk from rock bursts underground, or coat their lungs with coal dust.
Once the well is dug and capped, the plant left on the site of the fracking is deliberately low-level, and scarcely visible from the road as naturally occurring gas is pumped silently into the grid. How could anyone who worries about the planet cavil at this?
Yet Greenpeace, the Green Party, and other environmental interests have responded to the shale gas opportunity as though the carbon-polluted sky had fallen in, and then they have used every trick of the planning regime to obstruct the work of Britain’s shale pioneers.
As we again turn up central heating thermostats to counter the snow this weekend, there are warnings – now dismissed – that the country might run out of gas we import from Russian and Norwegian fields.
More worryingly, Ian Marchant, chief executive of SSE, Britain’s second biggest electricity supplier, accuses the Coalition of ‘significantly underestimating the scale of the capacity crunch facing the UK in the next three years’ as we close coal-fired power stations to meet green targets. There is, he adds, ‘a very real risk of the lights going out as a result’.
Even as evidence that the planet is warming melts away like a snowball in late spring – as documented in forensic detail in last week’s Mail on Sunday – the Government is astonishingly complacent in attaching ever more draconian and regressive ‘carbon’ taxes to our utility bills.
One of the main reasons we are suffering a double-dip recession is the loss of revenue from falling North Sea oil production. On top of that, carbon taxes on our utility bills further reduce the spending power that might otherwise drive a consumer-led recovery.
We learned from the Budget statement last week that this year’s growth forecast has been halved to a feeble 0.6 per cent. Government spending and the deficit remain out of control, while debt as a share of the economy is on course to rise from a shocking 75.9 per cent to 85.6 per cent in 2016-17.
Surely George Osborne and David Cameron should be pushing through the exploitation of shale as a national economic imperative?
Yes, there was a passing reference in the Chancellor’s speech to shale gas being ‘part of the future’, and ill-defined promises of local incentives to head off Nimbyist tendencies around the drilling areas.
But there was no sense of urgency, perhaps because had Mr Osborne shown extravagant support for a new carbon fuel source, albeit a relatively green one, the Lib Dems would have kicked up a fuss.
The absurdity of the situation is that gas could have been gushing out of the Singleton well, boosting the Treasury’s coffers and getting us through this freezing winter had our reaction to fracking not been so mealy-mouthed.
In the United States, shale is hailed as a saviour, an engine of growth, the creator of 600,000 new jobs, as Barack Obama said. In Britain, it is dismissed dismally as a threat to the future of the planet.
Officially Britain’s shale gas revolution was put on hold after Big Green managed to whip up a frenzy of contrived fear about two earth tremors in 2011 when Cuadrilla was conducting exploratory fracks. The tremors registered 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale, making the latter some ten billion times less powerful than the 8.9 quake that caused the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
One of the Lancashire tremors occurred on April 1, prompting many locals who had not noticed it to assume media reports to be an elaborate joke.
Years ago, some journalists challenged each other to invent the dullest headline ever. The winner was ‘Small earthquake in Chile, not many dead’. In this case, the headline might have been ‘Two tremors in Lancashire, not many noticed’.
Yet Big Green seized upon these minor seismic events and forced Cuadrilla to suspend fracking operations. The saga of the trivial Lancashire tremors sums up the vacuity of the Coalition’s energy policy. It is not even clear fracking caused the tremors – in America, where tens of thousands of shale gas wells have been sunk, there have been almost no instances of uncontained geological activity.
Shale gas will not transform the energy market here as radically as it has shaken up the market in America, where natural gas prices have more than halved and cheap energy is encouraging manufacturing industries to come home in what has been called ‘re-shoring’.
Here is a carbon-based economic prediction: The American economy will bounce back into robust growth in the next two years, its recovery fuelled by cheap, relatively green shale gas. Meanwhile in Europe, where energy prices are kept high, only stagnation beckons.
In America, you own the gas or oil underneath your property, while in Britain the revenues go to the State, so there is no financial incentive to embrace the shale revolution.
But there is another reason why we cannot embrace the benefits of abundant, cheap, green energy. Big Green does not want British consumers to have access to cheap shale gas – even if it reduces carbon emissions.
The narrative of the green lobby, and the one endorsed by the Coalition, is that we are running out of fossil fuels and that burning the remaining reserves destroys the planet.
The first proposition is absurd, as ever more vast reserves of shale gas and oil are discovered across Europe, Asia and Australia. The second, we now know, is bogus as the planet has stopped warming.
But the huge taxpayer subsidies to those interests behind wind and solar power are predicated on this narrative. Challenge it with the prospect of cheap and plentiful shale gas and the logic behind all the subsidies for wind and solar power collapses.
Renewable energy is only sustainable if fossil fuels are running out or if the Government taxes them into submission, which appears to be the Coalition’s preferred policy.
Our hills would not be despoiled with vast turbines but for the vast subsidies being handed out to the companies building wind-farms and the bribes to landowners with money expropriated from poor and middle-income earners through taxes and levies on their utility bills.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee has belatedly latched on to the fraud agreed by Ed Miliband when Environment Secretary and now implemented by the Coalition. Two months ago, the committee’s Labour chairman, Margaret Hodge, described the Government’s contracts with wind energy companies as a ‘licence for the private sector to print money at the expense of consumers’.
The contracts are structured in such a way that firms receive the ‘green’ subsidies even if the energy goes unused. The Big Green speculators get a guaranteed return of ten to 11 per cent on contracts which, the committee said, ‘appear heavily skewed towards attracting investors rather than securing a good deal for consumers’.
It is not hard to see why environmental policy so blatantly favours green energy interests. Tim Yeo, Conservative chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, trebles his MP’s salary with his work for three renewable energy and transport firms.
And Lord Deben, chairman of the ‘independent’, official and influential Committee on Climate Change, pockets unknown amounts as chairman of Sancroft, an environmental lobbying group. Such conflicts of interest would not be tolerated across the Atlantic, where a freer energy market allows shale gas to power up the economy, cut the deficit and reduce bills.
In America, carbon dioxide emissions are falling back to the levels seen in the early Nineties, and per capita emissions are now lower than in the Sixties as power generation shifts from dirty coal to shale gas.
Market forces are making America greener and more competitive. In Europe, ‘green’ policies are making us poorer and our industries less competitive, while only the well-connected insiders of Big Green direct policy – and get rich.
Zealots who will let the lights go out
A well-run state should never be taken by surprise. It should have plans for every reasonable contingency, and then a few more besides. But it is clear that the current blast of cold weather – not that unlikely in March – has exposed huge and worrying gaps in our energy plans.
More significantly, it has shown that the virtual takeover of Whitehall by Green zealots has actively prevented this country from making wise plans for the future.
Experts have been warning for more than a decade that Britain faces a power crisis in 2015, as North Sea gas supplies tail off, elderly nuclear power plants shut down and the EU Large Combustion Plant directive forces the closure of several coal-fired generating stations, one of which was actually switched off forever on Friday, when demand was at its peak.
In an age when so much of our economy and society are wholly dependent on computers, power cuts would be far more damaging than they were in the days of Ted Heath and his Three Day Week.
One obvious and straightforward escape route is available, the swift and widespread exploitation of shale gas, or fracking. As The Mail on Sunday shows today, this has transformed the energy position in the USA, simultaneously cutting costs and reducing carbon emissions.
While Britain cannot expect a boom of the same size, there is no doubt that this country contains substantial shale gas reserves. Yet the Green lobby, for no clear reason, opposes such a move. Ministers must challenge this pig-headed dogmatism, before the lights go out.
It’s payback time for Britain’s insane energy policy
An obsession with CO2 has left us dangerously short of power as coal-powered stations are forced to close
As the snow of the coldest March since 1963 continues to fall, we learn that we have barely 48 hours’ worth of stored gas left to keep us warm, and that the head of our second-largest electricity company, SSE, has warned that our generating capacity has fallen so low that we can expect power cuts to begin at any time. It seems the perfect storm is upon us.
The grotesque mishandling of Britain’s energy policy by the politicians of all parties, as they chase their childish chimeras of CO2-induced global warming and windmills, has been arguably the greatest act of political irresponsibility in our history.
Three more events last week brought home again just what a mad bubble of make-believe these people are living in. Under the EU’s Large Combustion Plants Directive, we lost two more major coal-fired power stations, Didcot A and Cockenzie, capable of contributing no less than a tenth to our average electricity demands. We saw a French state-owned company, EDF, being given planning permission to spend £14 billion on two new nuclear reactors in Somerset, but which it says it will only build, for completion in 10 years’ time, if it is guaranteed a subsidy that will double the price of its electricity. Then, hidden in the small print of the Budget, were new figures for the fast-escalating tax the Government introduces next week on every ton of CO2 emitted by fossil-fuel-powered stations, which will soon be adding billions of pounds more to our electricity bills every year.
Within seven years this new tax will rise to £30 a ton, and by 2030 to £70 a ton, making it wholly uneconomical to generate any more electricity from the coal and gas-fired power stations that last week were still supplying two thirds of our electricity. Put all this together and we see more starkly than ever the game the Government is playing. It knows that no company would build wind farms unless it is given subsidies that, in effect, nearly double or treble the price of its electricity. The Government will only get CO2-free nuclear power if it promises it an equal subsidy. And now the Coalition is also hell-bent on driving our much cheaper and more reliable coal and gas-fired plants out of business, by imposing a carbon tax that will not only eventually double the cost of their electricity, but also make it impossible for them to survive.
So mad is this policy of “double-up all round” that it is driving even the largest and most efficient power station in the country, Drax, capable of supplying seven per cent of all the power we use, to switch from burning coal to wood chips, imported 3,000 miles across the Atlantic from the US. And how has the Government forced Drax to do this? By giving it a subsidy on wood chips that doubles the value of its electricity, while putting an increasingly prohibitive tax on coal.
This is all insane in so many ways that one scarcely knows where to begin, except to point out that, even if our rulers somehow managed to subsidise firms into spending £100 billion on all those wind farms they dream of, they will still need enough new gas-fired power stations to provide back-up for all the times when the wind isn’t blowing, at the very time when the carbon tax will soon make it uneconomical for anyone to build them.
So we are doomed to see Britain’s lights going out, all because the feather-headed lunatics in charge of our energy policy still believe that they’ve got to do something to save the planet from that CO2-induced global warming which this weekend has been covering much of the country up to a foot deep in snow. Meanwhile, the Indians are planning to build 455 new coal-fired power stations which will add more CO2 to the atmosphere of the planet every week than Britain emits in a year.
Thank you, David Cameron, leader of “the greenest government ever”. Thank you, Ed Miliband, father of the Climate Change Act, the most expensive suicide note in history. Between you, you seem determined to switch off our lights, lock the door and throw away the key. We owe you more than we can say.
Why we on the British Left made an epic mistake on immigration
By David Goodhart
Among Left-leaning ‘Hampstead’ liberals like me, there has long been what you might call a ‘discrimination assumption’ when it comes to the highly charged issue of immigration.
Our instinctive reaction has been that Britain is a relentlessly racist country bent on thwarting the lives of ethnic minorities, that the only decent policy is to throw open our doors to all and that those with doubts about how we run our multi-racial society are guilty of prejudice.
And that view — echoed in Whitehall, Westminster and town halls around the country — has been the prevailing ideology, setting the tone for the immigration debate.
But for some years, this has troubled me and, gradually, I have changed my mind.
Over 18 months of touring the country to talk to people about their lives for a new book, I have discovered minority Britons thriving more than many liberals suppose possible. But I also saw the mess of division and conflict we have got ourselves into in other places.
I am now convinced that public opinion is right and Britain has had too much immigration too quickly.
For 30 years, the Left has blinded itself with sentiment about diversity. But we got it wrong.
I still believe that large-scale immigration has made Britain livelier and more dynamic than it would otherwise have been. I believe, too, that this country is significantly less racist than it once was.
In many places immigration is working as the textbooks say it should with a degree of harmony, with minorities upwardly mobile and creating interesting new hybrid identities in mixed suburbs.
But it has also resulted in too many areas in which ethnic minorities lead almost segregated lives — notably in the northern ‘mill towns’ and other declining industrial regions, which in the Sixties and Seventies attracted one of the most clannish minorities of modern times, rural Kashmiri Pakistanis.
In Leicester and Bradford, almost half of the ethnic population live in what are technically ghettos (defined as areas where minorities form more than two-thirds of the population). Meanwhile, parts of white working-class Britain have been left feeling neither valued nor useful, believing that they have been displaced by newcomers not only in the job market but also in the national story itself.
Those in the race lobby have been slow to recognise that strong collective identities are legitimate for majorities as well as minorities, for white as well as for black people.
For a democratic state to have any meaning, it must ‘belong’ to existing citizens. They must have special rights over non-citizens. Immigration must be managed with their interests in mind. But it has not been.
The justification for such a large and unpopular change has to be that the economic benefits are significant and measurable. But they are not.
One of the liberal elite’s myths is that we are a ‘mongrel nation’ that has always experienced high inflows of outsiders. But this isn’t true. From 1066 until 1950, immigration was almost non-existent (excluding Ireland) — a quarter of a million at the most, mainly Huguenots and Jews.
Post-World War II immigration has been on a completely different scale from anything that went before. These days, more people arrive on our shores as immigrants in a single year than did so in the entire period from 1066 to 1950, excluding wartime.
Much of this happened by accident. When the 1948 Nationality Act was passed — giving all citizens of the Empire and Commonwealth the right to live and work in Britain — it was not expected that the ordinary people of poor former colonies would arrive in their hundreds of thousands.
Nor was it expected after 1997 that a combination of quite small decisions would lead to 1.5 million East Europeans arriving, about half to settle. But come they did, and a net immigration of around four million foreign-born citizens since 1997 has produced easily the most dramatic demographic revolution in British history.
Yet there was no general discussion in the New Labour Cabinet of the day about who Britain wanted to let in and in what numbers; no discussion about how the country could absorb them without pressure on public services.
By the time of the next census in 2021, the non-white minority population will have risen to around 20 per cent, a trebling in just 25 years.
By 2066, according to one demographer, white Britons will be in a minority.
This is already the case in some towns and cities, including London, Leicester, Slough and Luton, with Birmingham expected to follow in the near future.
If Britain had a clear and confident sense of its national culture and was good at integrating people, then perhaps this speed of change would be of little concern. But this is not the case.
We are deep into a huge social experiment. To give it a chance of working, we need to heed the ‘slow down’ signs that the electorate is waving. And all the more so given that the low economic growth era we are now in means people’s grievances cannot easily be bought off with rising wages and public spending.
The fact is that the whole post-war process of immigration has been badly managed or, rather, not managed at all.
It is often said that the importation of people from the Indian subcontinent to work in textile mills that were soon to close — ironically, partly thanks to competition from India and Pakistan itself — was a poor piece of social engineering.
But the whole point was that no one really engineered it. It just happened.
And then no one came forward to grasp the consequences or even acknowledge there might be a problem.
The fault lies with our leaders, not with the people who came for a better life. There has been a huge gap between our ruling elite’s views and those of ordinary people on the street. This was brought home to me when dining at an Oxford college and the eminent person next to me, a very senior civil servant, said: ‘When I was at the Treasury, I argued for the most open door possible to immigration [because] I saw it as my job to maximise global welfare not national welfare.’
I was even more surprised when the notion was endorsed by another guest, one of the most powerful television executives in the country. He, too, felt global welfare was paramount and that he had a greater obligation to someone in Burundi than to someone in Birmingham.
Such grand notions run counter to the way most people in this country think or arrange their priorities.
The British political class has never prepared existing citizens for something as game-changing as large-scale immigration, nor has it done a good job at explaining what the point of large-scale immigration was and whose interests it was meant to serve.
Crucially, they failed to control the inflow more overtly in the interests of existing citizens. On the contrary, the idea that immigration should be unambiguously in the interests of existing citizens was blurred from the start.
Then, whenever there were problems with immigrant communities, the tendency was for the host society to be blamed for not being sufficiently accommodating or for being racist, rather than considering the self-inflicted wounds of some minority cultures.
Thus, the absence of fathers in many African-Caribbean households was excused as a cultural trait that just had to be accepted rather than a dereliction of duty that needed addressing.
Yes, being a newcomer can be hard, even in a liberal society such as Britain’s that today offers undreamed of protections and rights compared with earlier eras. But what has been largely ignored is that mass immigration makes big demands on host communities, too, and a successful strategy must engage the attention, consent and sympathy of the host majority as well.
Democratic common sense demands that politics and law cannot concern themselves only with the problems of minorities. The majority must have a voice, too, in how we manage a multi-racial society.
Political correctness is becoming more – not less – of a problem in Britain
By Tim Loughton (Member of Parliament for East Worthing and Shoreham)
Are you or have you ever been a homophobe seems to have become the new McCarthyism of our age. Given the urgency and frenzy of the lobby pushing forward the Gay Marriage Bill you wouldn’t think that no one had actually been able to give it a democratic mandate at the last election. At the evidence sessions of the committee which has just finished scrutinising the legislation Labour MPs tore into the Catholic Bishops as if they were prosecutors at a war crimes trial.
If you are not in favour of gay marriage then clearly you must be against equal rights for gay people so the flawed logic goes. Being an enthusiastic supporter of civil partnerships legislation and the full equality in the eyes of the law that it brought for same sex couples back in 2004 is not good enough apparently. Gay marriage has become this season’s new black and if you have a problem with that then you are written off not just as a fashionista lightweight but a full-blown bigot. The irony of the intolerance this demonstrates on the part of those pushing for greater tolerance of those with a different sexual orientation is not lost on many.
It is the ‘if you are not actively for some specific measure then you must be positively against the cause’ mentality that has become the hallmark of the thought police that we increasingly have to look out for over our shoulders to avoid coming a cropper. It is also the fuel for one of the most insidious and destructive forces at work in society today, namely political correctness. It can affect MPs in no less a way than our constituents. Indeed there are some cases where we are more vulnerable prey as my debate in the Commons last week showed.
I recounted how recently I had been the subject of a criminal investigation by Sussex Police. I was the victim of vexatious allegations from an all too vexing constituent not on account of sexism but racism. In a nutshell the vexed constituent had been placed on the local council’s ‘Customer of Concern’ list and on the obligatory paperwork under the section ‘description’ was referred to as ‘unkempt.’ When approached I said that the Council’s description seemed eminently accurate.
Before you could shout PC49 I had been summoned to a 90 minute interview under caution in a police custody suite on account of my constituent complaining that my comment was racist because he was of ‘Romany Gypsy origin.’ Unkempt, Romany = racist? Your guess is as good as mine, but because my constituent claims to have ‘perceived it as racist’ it becomes a legitimate full blown investigation. The fact neither I nor the Council had any idea that the complainant in question was of Romany Gypsy origin and he was apparently not required to prove it didn’t enter into the equation. Six months, six different police officers and goodness knows how much taxpayers’ money later the case was summarily dropped by the CPS as baseless.
But the damage had been done not least to me as someone who has always stood up against racist bullies. How have the police apparently become so systematically beholden to political correctness that proportionality and common sense have flown out of the window? Risk aversion and independent thinking have replaced common sense judgements as certain senior police officers are fearful of doing anything that conflicts with the manual and might jeopardise their careers with head office.
Tales of political correctness in everyday life are common place: the care home in Brighton which was threatened with having its local authority funding cut because they refused to comply with a demand to survey their octogenarian residents every three months about their sexual orientation; or the special manual for police on how to arrest witches. Throw in the everyday hum drum of councils who ban bingo callers from causing offence to the two fat ladies at 88 or primary schools which ban valentine cards to protect pupils from the emotional trauma of being dumped, and then you often have to check whether April 1st has become a weekly occurrence. My all time favourite though is the case of the 10 year old boy questioned by police on suspicion of racial harassment after he hummed the Crazy Frog tune outside a French teacher’s house!
At its most moderate it provides amusing knocking copy, but too often at its worst it is seriously undermining good race relations, trust in our public institutions and an Englishman’s (or woman’s) right to free speech. In this case it is positively dangerous when it apparently exercises so much time by our already stretched law enforcers. If MPs can fall foul of it then clearly anyone can and it’s time we fought back. I am ready to don my gender neutral, non aggressive, culturally sensitive armour for the crusade (correction- secular expedition) – who’s with me?