A new day dawns for the health service, says a member of the British government
The new system is just shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic. Only a massive firing of bureaucrats could free up the resources the NHS badly needs
By Dan Poulter
As a junior casualty doctor, I can vividly remember putting my hands on a trolley to stop a patient in an A&E resuscitation bay, who was on the verge of a cardiac arrest, from being moved.
Two managers were trying to wheel the patient out of A&E, not because it was in the best interests of the patient, but in order to meet the four-hour waiting time target. At another hospital, when working in obstetrics and gynaecology, I was in the middle of performing a very sensitive examination on a woman having a miscarriage when a manager burst into the room, telling me that the woman had to be moved immediately. This was for no other reason than that my patient was about to exceed her maximum allocated A&E department target time.
The publication of the Francis Report into failings at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust reinforced what I already knew from my experience on the wards – that targets must never come before patient care. The terrible events at Mid Staffs, where a hospital culture tolerated substandard care and focused on management targets rather than patients, marked the worst chapter in the history of our NHS. More than that, the report brought sharply into focus just how much still needs to be done to provide greater dignity in the care of older people. The events at Mid Staffs must be a catalyst for change.
The Government’s health-care reforms come into effect today and, as the Francis Report said, a renewed focus on patient experience and the outcomes of NHS care will help provide the right framework to deliver an NHS that remains fit for purpose and true to its founding values.
The Prime Minister’s personal commitment to our NHS is clear. Rightly, the Government is investing an additional £12.5 billion in our health service by 2015. As our population ages, the cost of care is also rising, with more people living for longer with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia. How we better deliver care to people with long-term illnesses and disabilities is the big challenge facing our NHS, and there is growing medical evidence that up to a third of older patients currently in our hospitals do not need to be there and could, indeed should, be better looked after in the community.
This highlights the fact that, for too long, the previous Labour government focused primarily on pumping more and more money into a reactive model of health care in which older people and patients with long-term conditions and disabilities often only accessed care and support when they reached crisis point. There is no dignity in admitting older people to hospital when, with proper community support, such admissions are avoidable and care could be provided better at home. The cost to the NHS of lost bed days and inappropriate admissions is something we can no longer afford.
From today, a patient arriving at A&E or at their GP surgery will not see a big-bang change. Frontline health-care professionals will continue to look after patients just as we always have done. But, over time, there will be steady improvements in the quality of services and care available, because from today we will see doctors and nurses being given more power to make decisions than ever before.
We are giving responsibility for commissioning budgets to GPs. Not for the sake of structure, but for the sake of patients. GPs understand their patients better than anyone else, and putting them in charge will offer greater support for patients and help reduce inappropriate hospital admissions, particularly for the elderly. In my own county, Suffolk, putting GPs in charge has already reduced hospital admissions of older people from general practice by around 15 per cent because people are now being better looked after in their own homes and communities.
It would be easy to see the Francis Report and the NHS reforms as two separate issues. They are not. The decade of 2000-10 was a time of inflation-busting rises in the NHS budget. Yet the events of Mid Staffs show us that money must be spent more wisely in our NHS – less bureaucracy, fewer targets, and more focus on better outcomes and better patient experience of care, particularly for the elderly.
As a practising NHS hospital doctor, and as a Government health minister, I am proud to work in a national health service that has for decades been admired throughout the world. But it is because I care about our NHS that I recognise that, if it is to remain the envy of the world, it has to change. Mid Staffordshire was the NHS’s darkest hour, and the darkest hour always comes before the dawn. As dawn breaks today, doctors and nurses will have a much greater say in how our health service will be run and patients will be the winners.
Horror at heart scandal hospital: Mother who dared to raise concerns about son’s care is referred to social services
A mother was referred to social services by doctors at a scandal-hit hospital 24 hours after she raised concerns over her child’s care, it was claimed last night.
The woman was told she was exaggerating her son’s condition by staff at Leeds General Infirmary – where paediatric heart surgery has been suspended – when she questioned treatment of the child and asked to switch to a different hospital.
She was accused of having Munchausen syndrome by proxy, when a parent deliberately exaggerates or fabricates their child’s medical condition, and was referred to the local social services department.
The mother underwent a ‘nightmare’ two-month investigation where everyone from teachers to health workers were questioned about her parenting skills, before social workers reported there was no evidence she had the condition.
Her experience, which has left the mother terrified of questioning her child’s care again, is among several claims made about Leeds General Infirmary.
Allegations include cases of botched surgery, poor treatment and excessive pressure to terminate pregnancies.
NHS bosses suspended heart operations on Thursday night after figures appeared to show the mortality rate was more than double the average.
There were also concerns that relatively junior surgeons had been left in charge of the unit after a senior surgeon was banned from operating on children while ‘aspects of his practice’ were investigated.
Some families had also complained that their requests to be transferred to other hospitals had been ‘obstructed’.
But the reliability of the mortality figures was questioned yesterday by experts, who called for the NHS to publish cardiac death rates. The figures, supplied by the ten paediatric cardiac surgery units across the country and collected by an agency which audits NHS services in England and Wales, are not made public. They cover the period 2010-2012 but critics say they are only ‘preliminary’.
Sir Brian Jarman, emeritus professor of primary care at Imperial College London and an expert on death rates, has released his own analysis which is more up to date – including data from as recently as February 2013.
According to his records, obtained from hospitals every month for four years right up to last month, death rates at Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool are the highest – 50 per cent higher than elsewhere.
At Leeds General Infirmary – which he puts at only fifth highest in death rates out of ten – the rates are not significantly high.
And he said in the past year there have been no deaths at all.
Sir Brian said although his figures were analysed slightly different to those from the Central Cardiology Audit Database, he was publishing them to put pressure on NHS to open up their own and reassure patients.
CCAD chairman Dr John Gibbs has already said he is ‘furious’ the Leeds figures have been leaked, saying they were ‘preliminary’ and had not yet undergone the ‘usual rigorous checking process’.
Sir Brian served on the panel which investigated the Bristol Royal Infirmary Heart Scandal from 1999 to 2001 in which 35 babies died and dozens more were left brain damaged.
One of its key recommendations was that patients must be able to access information about the relative performance of trusts and consultants.
Sir Brian said yesterday: ‘We are seeing surgery units closed to make way for larger ones, and this really should be based partly on the death rates, as currently they are closing some of the low ones and keeping some of the higher ones open.’
Leeds General Infirmary’s children’s heart unit had already been earmarked for closure under national plans to centralise children’s heart services.
But it was given a second chance last Wednesday when the High Court ruled the decision-making process to shut it down had been ‘legally-flawed’.
The decision by NHS bosses to shut it down anyway 24 hours later has been branded ‘suspicious timing’ by critics.
Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS England, insisted there had been ‘rumblings’ among the cardiac surgical community for some time that ‘all was not well’ in Leeds.
Responding to complaints over care at the unit, a spokesman for the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘There are always difficult decisions to make in cases of where babies or children are found to be suffering from congenital heart disease.
‘Sometimes the circumstances are deeply distressing but we strongly believe that our clinicians act with compassion and always in the best interests of the children and their families.
‘Advice to parents is based on agreed professional protocols and the best evidence available.’
The children lucky to be alive after being ‘let down’ by Leeds
‘My doctor just said there was no hope at all’
Kerrylee Stovell has a ‘fantastic whirlwind’ of a little boy in her son Kori. But she claims she was put under pressure by doctors at Leeds General Infirmary to terminate her pregnancy.
The 33-year-old was told during her 20-week scan that her baby had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare heart defect in which the left ventricle is underdeveloped.
But when she was referred to the LGI, she says her treatment was ‘disgusting’.
She said: ‘Four doctors came in, which was totally overwhelming, and we were given the diagnosis.
‘A female doctor stayed in the room and said we had three options.
‘We could interrupt the pregnancy, we could go through with the pregnancy and he would die in my arms when he was born, or he could have three stages of operations, which she didn’t recommend.
‘She said it would be very, very cruel to bring him into the world and she said she strongly advised us not to go through with the pregnancy. It was the way they went about it. It wasn’t informative or giving us a choice, she was just saying “there’s no hope at all”.’
Mrs Stovell, from Somercotes, Derbyshire, got in touch with charity Little Hearts Matter which she says ‘gave me hope, but not false hope’ and told her there were survivors of the condition.
She said: ‘When we rang Leeds to say we wanted to carry on with the pregnancy they were really angry and horrible about it.
‘We didn’t hear anything from them for six weeks after that, until we received a letter saying I would give birth in Birmingham at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
‘They were so relaxed about it and put us at ease straight away.’ Mrs Stovell was induced at 38 weeks and Kori, pictured left, was born on August 24, 2011.
He underwent heart surgery when he was just 20 hours old and, one month later he was allowed home. At six months old, he had a second operation and is now doing well.
Mrs Stovell said: ‘You really wouldn’t know there is anything wrong with him. He will have to have open heart surgery when he is aged between three and five and then fingers crossed, that could be it.’
‘Stroke could have been prevented’
A family claim they were told by doctors at Leeds that their daughter needed to be ‘almost dying’ before she could be put on a heart transplant waiting list.
And by the time Jessica Elliott, 12, was referred to a hospital in Newcastle for a new organ she was so weak she suffered a devastating stroke.
Mother Michelle Elliott, 47, of Doncaster, said: ‘We are convinced Jessica’s stroke could have been prevented if she had been referred to Newcastle sooner.’
It was October 2011 when her family noticed Jessica was rapidly deteriorating. Mrs Elliott said: ‘We had always known she would need a heart transplant in her 20s but we realised she was going to need it sooner. When we tried to tell the cardiologists at Leeds how bad she was, they said she wasn’t sick enough yet.’
Mrs Elliott says she insisted on seeing the doctors several times before they finally referred Jessica to Freeman Hospital in March 2012.
She said: ‘We went to Freeman and they said she’s very, very sick and we don’t know how long she’s got. Leeds made us feel like we couldn’t question them, but they should have referred Jessica when she went downhill.’
‘They told me to let my daughter go’
A mother claims her daughter’s ‘life chances’ have been damaged after surgeons at Leeds botched her daughter’s heart operation.
Sarah White, 35, says she felt she had to sell her home in West Yorkshire and move to Newcastle to ensure her child Lucy, pictured left, would receive the best care.
Lucy, now eight, was born with a congenital heart defect in which the right ventricle of the heart did not develop properly. She had surgery in Leeds when she was ten weeks old which appeared to have been a success.
But three weeks later her health deteriorated. Miss White said: ‘We were taken by ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary, where a consultant said Lucy was inoperable, that there was nothing more Leeds could do for her and that she was now classed as terminally ill and we should enjoy the time we had left with her. It was shocking.’
Miss White asked for a second opinion, but doctors apparently refused. ‘They told me to let Lucy go’, she said.
Miss White then contacted a cardiac nurse at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, who told her to bring Lucy to see them. She said: ‘They immediately looked at Lucy and said ‘we can work with her’.
When Lucy had surgery to ‘re-plumb’ her heart Miss White said surgeons found evidence of a procedure botched by Leeds.
She said: ‘Lucy may need a heart transplant in the future, but might not be eligible for one because her heart was damaged during the initial surgery. It has damaged her life chances.
Girl with ‘potentially fatal appendicitis could have died due to NHS helpline 111’ after doctor failed to call her parents back
A girl of ten could have died if her parents had relied on the controversial new NHS 111 helpline, they said last night.
Beau Marshall was ill with stomach cramps last Saturday when her worried mother Candice phoned the service that is being piloted in her area.
She spoke first to a call-centre worker, then to someone else with some medical training – who assured her a doctor would phone back within two hours to assess the little girl and possibly to arrange a home visit.
But more than a week on, the doctor has still not called and if Mrs Marshall had followed NHS advice her daughter could have died.
For when Beau’s condition worsened, her parents drove to hospital themselves.
Within two hours, the youngster was diagnosed with potentially fatal appendicitis and her ‘very inflamed’ appendix was removed.
Last night Beau’s parents added their voices to the growing concern over the introduction of the 111 service.
Doctors have warned lives could be at risk, saying some of the £16,000-a-year call-centre workers who are manning the phone lines are only partially trained.
As well as claims of potentially fatal conditions being missed, there have already been reports of ambulances being sent to people with hiccups.
The call-centre staff simply work through computer checklists to ascertain the seriousness of each call.
The idea is the new service combines the long-running NHS Direct helpline with local emergency out-of-hours services.
But staff have been recruited for as little as £8 per hour to man the phone lines. Job adverts suggest they require no medical experience but should have telesales experience and typing skills.
The British Medical Association has called for the introduction of the service across most of England to be delayed until problems are resolved.
Those taking the calls do not need to be medically trained at all, and instead work through computer check lists as callers tell them their symptoms. They may then be referred to speak on the phone with nurses or doctors if necessary.
Already in operation in 22 NHS regions, NHS 111 is due to ‘go live’ across the North of the Tyne and Tees area tomorrow and in a further 13 areas over the coming month.
Beau’s father Paul Marshall, who lives with his wife, three daughters and young son in Bournemouth, said: ‘When my daughter had stomach pains last Saturday, my wife dialled 111 and they told us a doctor would phone back within two hours.
‘They still haven’t phoned back yet. We took her to accident and emergency in the end, and within two-and-a-half-hours of Beau being seen by the triage nurse, she was being operated on.
‘The 111 service was awful – they didn’t know who was doing what. If we had solely gone on what they said, potentially she could have died.’
Mrs Marshall, a housewife, said: ‘When I dialled 111 they asked me lots of questions. Because she had banged her head with a boy in her class, they were more interested her a non-existent head injury than the pain in her abdomen.
‘She’d been sick as well, and that can be another sign of a head injury – but of course it is also a sign of appendicitis. The first guy I spoke to said he was going to be a clinician to phone back, and about ten minutes later someone did.
‘She tried to get us an out-of-hours appointment at 9.30pm last Saturday, but couldn’t get us one until the next day, so said “I’m going to get an out of hours doctor to phone you, and if he thinks it necessary he’ll come out and assess her”. That was eight days ago. A doctor still hasn’t called back.’
Beau was kept in hospital until Monday, and has made a full recovery.
A spokesman for NHS England, the body managing the NHS 111 service’s introduction, said: ‘This is a very important service for the public and we will make sure everything is in place to make a safe, high quality service that patients and the public can trust.
‘Many sites are already up and running, but in areas where NHS 111 is not yet available we will make a thorough assessment of readiness before new sites are introduced.
‘The public can be assured the areas that already have NHS 111 will continue this service. In those areas where NHS 111 is not yet in place they can ring NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. All GP surgeries also have messages advising what to do.’
It’s not just school grades that British parents buy
Is there a single public figure in Britain who did not go to private school? With the Prime Minister, the Mayor of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury all owners of the black and pale-blue striped Old Etonian tie, it can sometimes seem that way.
Half the Cabinet, more than half of the country’s top medics and 70 per cent of judges went to fee-paying schools – compared to just 7 per cent of the overall population. It is not just men in suits, wigs and white coats who are likely to have been privately educated. Over a third of Team GB’s Olympic medallists from last summer went to private schools.
This week, the debate was reignited by the improbable figure of Sandie Shaw. The 1960s singer, of Puppet on a String and lack of shoes fame, was in front of the culture, media and sport select committee at the House of Commons. She claimed that it would be impossible for her, the daughter of a Dagenham car worker, to repeat her success in today’s world.
“At the moment, unless you are Mumford & Sons and come from a public school and have a rich family that can support you, you’re on the dole and you’re trying to work and by the time you get a sniff of a record contract you just grab anything they might offer you,” she said.
Poor old Mumford & Sons – forever destined to be wheeled out as an example of the public-school mafia that dominate the Top 40. Most of the members of the “nu-folk” band met while pupils at King’s College Wimbledon, incidentally the same private school attended by Nick D’Aloisio, the 17-year-old who landed himself a £20 million internet fortune this week. Then there are Chris Martin of Coldplay, Florence Welch, Dido, Lily Allen, Radiohead and nice, fresh-faced Will Young – public school educated one and all. Even the Saturdays, the girl band currently occupying the number one slot in the singles chart, contains two members whose parents paid for their education.
How private schools have continued to attract pupils during the downturn has baffled some economists, particularly considering fees have increased by 75 per cent in the last decade. But this sheer weight of success – across the full spectrum of British life, from the track of Sir Chris Hoy’s Olympic velodrome to the stage of the Birmingham hippodrome – is one of the reasons why parents seem willing to dig deep into their pockets. Sandie Shaw’s comment struck home: a private school education increases your child’s chances, even their artistic ones.
The Sutton Trust, which monitors the rusty wheels of Britain’s social mobility, carried out a snapshot survey of the school backgrounds of 8,000 “notable people” deemed important enough to have their birthdays announced in the broadsheet newspapers. Even the arts – where you might think raw talent rather than education would be the deciding factor in a successful career – were dominated by private school pupils. Half of the 135 theatre producers and directors went to private school, and four out of 10 actors too (including Old Etonians Eddie Redmayne and Damian Lewis).
Pop stars, in fact, were one of the least privileged groups, only out-plebbed by policemen. The government-funded Brit School, the performing arts college in Croydon whose alumni include Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis and Adele, has a far better track record than Eton, which hasn’t had a chart-topper since Humphrey Lyttelton. Even so, a considerable 19 per cent of singers and band members went to private school.
The success of private schools in the so-called “soft” areas such as sport and the arts is partly down to facilities, which have tended to mushroom over the last generation as schools have entered into sports-hall and recording studio “arms races”. Ed Smith, the former England cricketer, pointed out in his book Luck that when England toured Pakistan in 1987-1988 all but one of the 13 players selected were state-educated. When England played India in the summer of 2011, eight of the team’s 11 were privately educated, including Stuart Broad, an alumnus of Oakham and Andrew Strauss, the captain, who went to Radley.
This happens to be my old school (yes, I am one of the 52 per cent of newspaper journalists who went to private school), an institution where the playing fields stretch almost as far as the eye can see – certainly far enough for every single one of its 640 pupils to be playing cricket on a summer afternoon. It also boasts a state-of-the-art theatre, studio space for smaller productions, a music school and concert hall. My hackles rise when a begging letter arrives asking me to help fund yet another Olympic-standard fencing gallery.
Phil DeFreitas, the cricket all-rounder from the 1988 era, went to Willesden High School in north London. Its playing fields were dug up to build a new City Academy, with a glittering building by Sir Norman Foster. It has a basketball court and an Astro Turf pitch for football, but no lovingly watered cricket wicket. It is no surprise that when DeFreitas retired he ended up as a cricket coach not at his old school, but at Oakham, where his experience was used to train future privately educated Stuart Broads, not comp kids like himself.
It is not just the equipment, however. Lee Elliot Major, at the Sutton Trust, says: “There are just not enough state schools that have an aspirational culture. The grammar schools, whatever you may have thought of them, created pupils who aspired, and most independent schools share that. This is as true for pop stars as it is for doctors and lawyers.”
Jo Dickinson, an accountant and mother of three, is about to send her 11-year-old daughter to a private girls’ school. Both she and her husband, a banker, attended comprehensive schools. “My school was good, but it did nothing to nurture me or give me confidence,” she says. “My daughter’s school prides itself on inviting artists and actors as well as doctors and lawyers to give talks to the girls. It’s just something I never had.”
Rachel Johnson, the journalist and sister of Boris, says: “It’s peace of mind. That’s what you are getting when you take on that third mortgage to pay for fees. It’s the peace of mind that you can’t do anything more for your children.”
She thinks the fabled confidence that private schools give their pupils is more of a “veneer”. She, like many parents, frets that this comes with a major disadvantage. Namely, that children will mix in too narrow a social group, shut off from the real world. But this is usually outweighed by the hope that, articulate or not, they will get a leg-up, often in the form of an unpaid internship. In the 1980s, just five per cent of the film industry workforce had under-taken unpaid work, but this rose to 45 per cent over the last decade.
Ryan Shorthouse, at the Social Market Foundation, and author of a report about access to the creative industries, says it is not the unpaid element that is the key barrier. “Bright, talented and enthusiastic people will always find the means and ways to fund an unpaid internship; but they don’t all have access to the network of these internships. This is particularly the case in the creative industries, which tend to be made up of small firms, without the large-scale work experience schemes accountancy or law firms have.”
The confidence that privately educated children are supposed to possess is generated not just by small class sizes, world-class facilities and an encouragement to aspire. It comes from an innate understanding that they will grow up knowing the right people, that there is a network they can tap into. As Dr Elliot Major says: “Politicians talk of soft skills; it’s more than that. They are life-defining skills – that is what the top private schools are so good at giving their pupils.”
This is something that parents who are lucky enough to have money understand. For all the promises from Michael Gove’s education department to inject academic rigour into the state school system, governments will always struggle to compete with the “life-defining skills” on offer in the private system.
Taking aspirin just once a month ‘can cut risk of cancer by a quarter’
Journal abstract here. Just epidemiological rubbish
Popping an aspirin just once a month could cut people’s chances of developing cancer by almost a quarter, new research suggests.
According to scientists at Queen’s University in Belfast, a weekly or even monthly dose of the over-the-counter painkiller could help people avoid developing tumours.
Their investigation indicated that a regular dose of aspirin could reduce people’s risk of getting head and neck cancer by 22 per cent.
A regular dose of aspirin in middle age is already recognised as helping to reduce people’s risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Academics at the Belfast university carried out an investigation into the impact of aspirin and ibuprofen on head and neck cancer risk, a report in the Daily Express said. It was most effective in throat cancer prevention, their study showed.
The results of their research were published in the British Journal of Cancer.
They concluded that aspirin ‘may have potential as a chemopreventive agent’, noting that ‘further investigation is warranted’.
Head and neck cancers affect more than 16,000 people in the UK annually.
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said the research was ‘encouraging’
‘Regular aspirin use has been linked to preventing a number of cancers, and if it is a particularly successful practice for warding off mouth cancer, it should act as a springboard for more research,’ he said.
But Dr Carter warned that aspirin use would be ‘irrelevant’ should people ignore the dangers of mouth cancer by smoking, drinking alcohol to excess and existing on a poor diet.
Britain has coldest Easter on record — but cooling proves warming so not to worry
Britain had its coldest Easter day on record this weekend, with temperatures dropping as low as -12.5C to round off a freezing month.
The reading, taken in the early hours of Sunday in Braemar, northern Scotland, was the coldest Easter day since modern records began in 1960, eclipsing the previous record for an Easter day of -9.8C on Easter Monday in 1986.
It was also the coldest end to March for more than 150 years. According to the book Daily Temperature Extremes for Britain, the previous low for March 31 had been -10C at Balmoral, Aberdeenshire, in 1941.
On Saturday Braemar recorded an overnight temperature of -11.2C, making it the chilliest March 30 on record and bringing an appropriate end to the coldest March in half a century.
Scotland was not the only area to suffer, with temperatures reaching an icy -8.7C in Shap, Cumbria, and -6C in Odiham, Hampshire on Sunday morning, although some areas remained just above freezing.
A drop in wind is expected to make conditions feel slightly warmer during the day on Sunday, with temperatures of 5C-7C across most of the country, but the weather should remain colder than the seasonal average until mid-April at the earliest.
Most of the country should enjoy calm weather but scattered wintry showers are expected in southern coastal areas during the start of the week.
A Met Office forecaster said: “It will be mainly dry across the whole of the UK [on Sunday and Monday] with sunny spells and a low risk of a few wintry showers, mainly across southern parts but few and far between.
“The rest of the week will remain cold with easterly winds continuing, but it should be mainly dry with the chance of a few wintry showers but very isolated ones. A cold week, but dry with sunny spells.”
March is on course to be colder than winter this year for the first time since 1975. The average monthly temperature until March 26 was 2.5C – colder than December (3.8C), January (3.3C) and February (2.8C).
Britain’s carbon levy will be a ‘stealth poll tax’ on energy
The government’s new carbon levy is effectively a “stealth poll tax” that will only work to put up household electricity bills and hand a windfall to old nuclear plants, the head of energy giant E.ON has warned.
The Treasury’s “carbon price floor” comes into effect on Monday and official estimates say it will add £5 to household bills this year, rising to about £50 by 2020.
The tax is intended to provide an incentive to invest in new wind farms and nuclear plants by making it more expensive to run coal and gas plants that emit carbon.
Tony Cocker, chief executive of E.ON UK, attacked the policy on the eve of its implementation, arguing that it simply “pushes up the price for electricity” and should be scrapped.
He told The Sunday Telegraph: “The carbon price floor is a tax and it’s pretty close to a stealth poll tax. It’s not based on ability to pay, it’s based on the requirement to keep warm and light your house.
“It was put in place with the stated objective of encouraging investment in low-carbon energy but it certainly doesn’t achieve that objective – it’s just a tax for the Exchequer.”
The measure is expected to raise billions of pounds for the Treasury over the next decade.
Mr Cocker criticised the lack of transparency over the tax. “It’s kind of hidden away,” he said. “If you called it an electricity tax or duty, like the fuel duty on cars, we could all understand that goes to the Exchequer.”
The carbon tax would also provide an unintended “windfall” subsidy for existing old nuclear and hydro plants, which is “completely unnecessary because it’s already been paid for”, he said.
European green policies already make polluting industries buy permits for each tonne of carbon they emit. However, the Government believes the prices have been too low and has introduced the carbon price floor to “top up” the cost per tonne of carbon dioxide.
But the tax has not proven enough to encourage new nuclear and wind power investors, with companies now being offered separate long-term subsidy schemes.
Because Britain is acting unilaterally in increasing carbon costs, critics say the tax will also have no effect on reducing carbon output.“If we charge more for carbon in the UK than is charged in Europe as a whole, all that means is we will burn less coal in the UK and the rest of Europe will burn more coal,” Mr Cocker said.
Manufacturers have called for the tax to be scrapped as they fear it will make British businesses uncompetitive compared with the rest of Europe. Ministers are planning a £150m compensation scheme to help compensate heavy industries.
On Friday, The Daily Telegraph revealed that newly appointed energy minister Michael Fallon had called the tax “absurd”. Mr Fallon has taken on a new role, as joint energy and business minister, working across the departments of Business and Energy in the hope of creating a unified approach.
In a meeting with business leaders in February, Mr Fallon, who at that point had not been given his new responsibilities, said that everyone would “have to pay” for the unintended consequences of the tax.
“This is a fairly absurd waste of your money, this situation we’re now in. Governments intervene in markets they don’t understand and there are consequences and we all have to pay for those consequences.”
Consumer groups have also called for the tax to be scrapped or for its proceeds to be used to help pay for energy efficiency measures. Companies such as EDF, which has a large existing nuclear fleet that is likely to benefit from the higher electricity price, have backed the policy, however.
Mr Cocker insisted his opposition to the carbon tax was not motivated by E.ON’s commercial interest, and said the impact on its power generation portfolio – which includes coal, gas and renewables – would be “relatively neutral”.
It will, however, serve to make E.ON’s Ratcliffe coal plant increasingly uneconomic to run. The company is considering options such as converting it to a biomass plant, which would burn wood instead of coal and be eligible for subsidies.
British government’s climate watchdog launches astonishing attack on newspaper … for revealing global warming science is wrong
By David Rose
The official watchdog that advises the Government on greenhouse gas emissions targets has launched an astonishing attack on The Mail on Sunday – for accurately reporting that alarming predictions of global warming are wrong.
We disclosed that although highly influential computer models are still estimating huge rises in world temperatures, there has been no statistically significant increase for more than 16 years.
Despite our revelation earlier this month, backed up by a scientifically researched graph, the Committee on Climate Change still clings to flawed predictions.
Leading the attack is committee member Sir Brian Hoskins, who is also director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College, London. In a blog on the Committee on Climate Change’s website, Sir Brian insisted: ‘The scientific basis for significant long-term climate risks remains robust, despite the points raised …… Early and deep cuts in emissions are still required.’
He also claimed our report ‘misunderstood’ the value of computer models. Yet in an interview three years ago, Sir Brian conceded that when he started out as a climate scientist, the models were ‘pretty lousy, and they’re still pretty lousy, really’.
Our graph earlier this month was reproduced from a version first drawn by Dr Ed Hawkins, of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. Last week it was reprinted as part of a four-page report in The Economist.
The accuracy of computer forecasts is vital because they influence politicians and their key environmental advisers on how urgently to act on climate change – and how many billions of pounds they take from the taxpayer in ‘green’ levies.
The Committee on Climate Change claims such forecasts must be right because world temperatures have previously matched computer models’ ‘outputs’ for most of the past 60 years. Yet as this newspaper pointed out, for almost all of that 60-year period the models were not making predictions – because they did not yet exist.
Instead, the models had recently been making ‘hindcasts’ – backward projections based on climate simulations and tailored to actual temperatures. The evidence shows the models collapse when they try to forecast the future.
Author Andrew Montford, who runs the widely read Bishop Hill climate blog, leapt to The Mail on Sunday’s defence and said Sir Brian’s reliance on ‘hindcasts’ was ‘crazy, crazy stuff’.
David Whitehouse, of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said the graph showed models were so unreliable that ‘if this kind of data were from a drugs trial it would have been stopped long ago’.
And last week, The Economist repeated our claims that many scientists now believe that previous estimates of ‘climate sensitivity’ – how much the world will warm each time the level of carbon dioxide doubles – are far too high.
In a key 2007 report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested this was most likely to be about 3C, with 4.5C considered ‘likely’. However, recent research suggests the true figure is much lower – between 1.5C and 2C – giving the world many more decades to avoid disaster through effective new technologies.
The Committee on Climate Change, established by the 2008 Climate Change Act, advises the Government on setting ‘carbon budgets’ and CO2 emissions cuts. It is chaired by Lord Deben, who also heads Veolia Water UK, which connects windfarms to the National Grid.
EU hits out at British PM’s ‘knee-jerk’ immigration rhetoric
Laszlo omits to mention Britain’s already vastly overstrained public services — roads, trains, hospitals, schools
David Cameron has been accused of “knee-jerk xenophobia’ in his toughened stance on immigration from within the EU. László Andor, the commissioner responsible for employment, social affairs and inclusion, attacked the British prime minister for his rhetoric against the impact EU migrants could have on the UK’s benefits bill.
“Blaming poor people or migrants for hardships at the time of economic crisis is not entirely unknown, but it is not intelligent politics in my view,” he told the Observer newspaper.
“I think it would be more responsible to confront mistaken perceptions about immigration from other EU countries and so-called ‘benefit tourism’, and instead to explain the facts.
“The reality is that migrants from other EU countries are very beneficial to the UK’s economy, notably because they help to address skills shortages and pay more tax and social security contributions per head, and get fewer benefits, than UK workers; that free movement of workers is a key part of the EU’s single market; that hundreds of thousands of UK nationals work in other EU countries.”
Cameron’s immigration speech last week announced a series of steps making life in Britain harder for new arrivals from elsewhere in the EU.
From early 2014 EU nationals who cannot prove they looked for work six months after arriving in the UK will lose jobseekers’ allowance and other benefits. A loophole allowing them to continue to receive benefits under their previous national insurance will be closed and the ‘habitual residence test’ will be toughened up.
Local councils will also introduce a new residency test for social housing and NHS services will be charged on a stricter basis for non-EU nationals.
“My view is simple,” Cameron added. “Ending the something-for-nothing culture needs to apply to immigration as well as welfare.”
Andor, a Hungarian economist, said the UK government’s complaints about ‘benefit tourism’ had been received by the European Commission for a couple of years. “But whenever we have asked them for proof about the phenomenon they have been unable to provide it, despite repeated requests,” he added.
“People come to the UK from other EU countries to work, not to claim benefits.” [What about proof about that phenomenon?]
Immigration has emerged as a hot topic in British politics ahead of May 2nd’s local elections because of anxiety about the impact of a fresh wave of arrivals from Europe in 2014. The five-year bar on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants agreed when the two countries joined the EU runs out on January 1st next year.
“We do not expect this pattern to change after January 1st, from when Romanian and Bulgarian nationals will also be free to work anywhere in the EU,” Andor said.
“Terms such as a ‘something for nothing culture’ are misleading and very unfortunate.”
Pressure from the right of the Conservative party is unlikely to shift the prime minister’s hardline approach to the issue, however.
Last week a poll by YouGov put Ukip ahead of the Tories on immigration. It found 24% of members of the public trust Nigel Farage’s party the most on the issue, compared to 19% for the Conservatives.
That gap closed significantly because of Cameron’s speech, however. Before the prime minister’s announcements about restricting migrants’ access to benefits the five-point gap between the two parties was as wide as 13%.
Homosexual pedophile ignored despite boy’s pleas
A boy sexually abused by his adoptive father and his gay partner was labelled an ‘unruly child’ by social workers who ignored his complaints for years, a damning report has revealed.
They sent Andy Cannon, now 23, back to the couple’s home despite his protests of abuse, praising the gay man who adopted him as a ‘very caring parent’.
The report accuses Wakefield social services, in Yorkshire, of ‘folly and gross misjudgment’. Mr Cannon, who was wrongly diagnosed with mental disorders and prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, believes he would have been listened to sooner if his adoptive father wasn’t gay.
The case ended last year, after half a decade of legal wrangling, when a court ordered a £25,000 compensation payment to Mr Cannon.
Mr Cannon, who now has two children with girlfriend Redeana Hammill, was adopted by David Cannon in 1997.
He and his mother, Elaine Moss, repeatedly complained to social workers about the abuse. In 2004, he was returned to Cannon’s care nine days after running away and making a complaint about him.
Cannon, 54, and his 31-year-old partner John Scarfe were each jailed for 30 months in May 2006 for inciting sexual activity with a child.
Mr Cannon said: ‘I believe if my adoptive dad was in a heterosexual relationship then my complaints would have been listened to earlier.
‘It seems the council didn’t want to be seen as victimising gay people – they would rather look politically correct and let them get away with it to avoid any repercussions.
‘The council should have been there to prevent this from happening but they would rather just sweep it under the carpet.’ The report, conducted for Dewsbury County Court by a child welfare specialist, detailed how Cannon was allowed to adopt the boy, despite his mother accusing him of abuse at the time.
A social worker failed to report the allegations to a family court and instead called Cannon ‘a very caring parent who considered his children’s needs’.
Mr Cannon, who has waived his right to anonymity, said: ‘When I told social workers they didn’t believe me. When I got home from school, if my dad was wound up by something I would pay for it with a beating. Then later on he would sexually abuse me.
‘I never really had nightmares because I completely switched off from it all – although I get nightmares now. I let it happen and thought that one of two things would happen. Either I’d manage to get away or they’d kill me.’
Wakefield council has apologised to Mr Cannon. A spokesman said: ‘We are working with Andy to make sure that in making this apology we deal with all the concerns he has raised.’
Author Criticizes British Muslims for ‘Deeply Anti-Semitic Views’
An author and former editor at the British publication the New Statesman took the bold step of admonishing the Muslim community in his home country for its “Judaeophobia.”
Writing in the New Statesman, Mehdi Hasan addressed a recent controversysurrounding Lord Ahmed, a British Labor party peer and one of the most powerful Muslims in England, saying, “To claim that your jail sentence for dangerous driving is the result of a Jewish plot is bigoted and stupid”
Lord Ahmed was sentenced to jail after hitting and killing a man with his car only moments after having sent text messages while driving. In a later interview he blamed a Jewish conspiracy on his having to serve jail time for the crime.
Hasan pointed out that he has defended Lord Ahmed before and that “He is not a latter-day Goebbels. But herein lies the problem. There are thousands of Lord Ahmeds out there: mild-mannered and well-integrated British Muslims who nevertheless harbour deeply anti-Semitic views.”
“It pains me to have to admit this but anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace,” Hasan wrote.
He continued: “The truth is that the virus of anti-Semitism has infected members of the British Muslim community, both young and old. No, the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict hasn’t helped matters. But this goes beyond the Middle East.”
Hassan said that complaints from the Muslim community that they were being vilified and discriminated against were “sheer hypocrisy” when taking into account the community’s “rampant anti-Semitism,” adding that “We cannot credibly fight Islamophobia while making excuses for Judaeophobia.”
Hassan wrote that not all Muslims were anti-Semites, but that as a community there is a “Jewish problem,” concluding that “The time has come for us to own up to a rather shameful fact: Muslims are not only the victims of racial and religious prejudice but purveyors of it, too.”