Posts Tagged ‘PFI’

Vox Political on the Lies and Pro-Privatisation NHS Policies of Heidi Alexander

August 21, 2016

Mike also put up a couple of pieces yesterday critiquing and criticising a piece by Heidi Alexander in Friday’s Graun claiming that she resigned from her post as Shadow Health Secretary because Jeremy Corbyn was constantly undermining her and going behind her back. He does so by pointing out the inconsistencies between her tale, and what she actually said at the time.

For example, in her article she talks about how delighted she was to receive Corbyn’s invitation to take the post. Yet at the time, he was also in the Daily Mail saying she would not back Corbyn, because he was ‘unelectable’. She then claims that she left the Shadow Cabinet because it was ‘chaotic’ and ‘entirely dysfunctional’. But the real reason was that she was profoundly ideologically opposed, no matter what she says about interesting bright people committed to the NHS and giving Jeremy Hunt a run for his money.

John McDonnell was suspicious of her. She wasn’t doing enough to support the junior doctors, nor to combat Jeremy Hunt’s Seven Day NHS policy. So he set up an advisory panel to look into her work. She claimed that she supported this, but wasn’t informed about it. When she found out, she quit. Others involved in the affair have quite different versions of events. Mike makes the point that it’s not pleasant having someone else scrutinise your work, but we’ve all had it done to us. It’s part of business. You also have it in academia and in publishing. If publishers think a book you’ve written needs some alterations, they tell you. This includes tenured academics writing technical papers for academic publications. Mike states that it’s significant that the advisory panel hadn’t met before she left.

Mike also makes the point that she was among the first to resign following Hilary ‘Bomber’ Benn. He also points out that it’s hard to take her complaints seriously when she starts claiming that she wasn’t part of a coup, nor a plotter. She clearly was. As for her claim that Corbyn’s election would cause division, that’s exactly what she and the other Blairites have done. She states that when Labour members receive their ballot papers on Monday, they should carefully consider who would best lead the party. She now supports Owen Smith, yet Smudger had not put himself forward when she walked out.

Mike concludes that she’s simply a two-faced co-conspirator, who simply wanted Corbyn out so that she could further her own ambitions.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/20/lets-stop-heidi-alexanders-latest-silliness-right-now/

Following Heidi Alexander’s self-pitying moan in the Groaniad, the NHA – the National Health Action party put up a piece, ‘Bye Bye Heidi’, welcoming her resignation.

They state that they were hoping she’d resign, as she fully supported Simon Steven’s 5 Year Forward Plan for the privatisation of the NHS. The article quotes Dr Bob Gill, one of the executives of the National Health Action party, who met her twice. She said to him I believe Stevens has the best interests of the NHS at heart’. He goes on ‘A former UnitedHealth president here to complete the transition to an American style insurance system has her confidence. That says it all.’ She did not appear on junior doctor picket lines, nor even wear a BMA badge. He hopes that now that Blairites like Alexander are leaving the cabinet, Corbyn can appoint people, who actually want to renationalise the NHS and fully understand that it doesn’t have to be the private industry Hunt and Stevens want.

He states that the hospital closure plan is ready to be implemented. Hospitals and Accident and Emergency services are ready to be closed to pay off NHS debts. Dr. Gill states that Labour ought to be shouting from the roof tops about this. And with the right MPs in charge, may be they will.

See Mike’s article at:http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/20/bye-bye-heidi-nhaspace/

I think the National Health Action party has more than a little experience of dealing with privatising Blairites. I’ve got a feeling it was begun, at least according to Private Eye, when Blair tried to close a popular local hospital in the Midlands – I think it might have been Warwickshire, but I can’t be sure – in favour of a PFI deal. Local people and medical professionals tried to get their local councillor or MP to challenge the policy. They didn’t get very far, so one of the doctors stood as the party’s candidate. He won, defeated the Labour incumbent, and Tony got very cross.

In fact, much of the legislation the Tories have taken over and built on as part of their plan to privatise the NHS was started by Tony Blair, who wanted to remodel the Health Service on the type of ‘managed care’ practised by Kaiser Permanente and other American medical insurance companies. Hence I’m not remotely surprised by her comments about Stevens, an officer from an American insurance company, being placed in charge of the NHS’ privatisation.

The Blairites are disgusting, and the support of the supposedly left-leaning Groaniad for them, and by extension the privatisation of the NHS, is equally revolting. The time’s long past they were banished from the Labour party and national politics for good.

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Basu and Stuckler on the Privatisation of the NHS

July 22, 2016

Body Economic Pic

Earlier this week I put up a piece about The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, by the medical researchers David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu (New York: Basic Books 2013). The book shows, using examples of recessions from the Great Depression of the 20s and 30s, to contemporary Britain and Greece, and the massive privatisation of the Russian economy after the Fall of Communism, how recessions and the austerity programmes that Conservatives use to try and correct them, also cause health crises. Conversely, welfare states that support people, not only give their peoples good health, but also create prosperity.

The two authors are also very much aware that the British National Health Service is being privatised, and are very critical of this. They write

Today the NHS’s founding principles are being forgotten, as the conservative Tory government seeks to make the NHS more like the American profit-driven, market-based system. When the Tory government came to power, they revisited a pamphlet developed under the previous Tory government of John Major that called the NHS a “bureaucratic monster that cannot be tamed” and in need of “radical reform”. In 2004, Oliver Letwin, the pamphlet’s lead author, said the “NHS will not exist” within five years of a Tory election victory. Indeed, after the Tories came to power they proposed the Health and Social Care Act, which embodied the free-market principles of the radical pamphlet.

It was difficult for us to understand this decision. Overall in 2010, before the Tory government began dismantling the NHS, the UK spent less of its GDP on health (8 percent) than Germany (10.5 percent), France (11.2 percent) or the United States (19 percent). Ultimately, the Tories’ position was not based on evidence but ideology-the idea that markets, competition, and profits would always be better than government intervention.

A highly divisive public debate over the Health and Social Care Act ensued. Over staunch opposition from the Royal College of Nursing and almost all of the medical Royal Colleges (the UK equivalents of the American Medical Association), Parliament approved the Act in 2012. Thus began what many regard as a major move towards privatization of the NHS. Repeatedly, David Cameron promised the British public that the Act was not “privatising the NHS” and that he would “cut the deficit not the NHS.” The Liberal-Democratic leader Nick Clegg said, “There will be no privatisation.”

The Department of Health website even stated that “Health Ministers have said they will never privatise the NHS.” But the data tell a different story: increasingly, the government is transferring large swaths of healthcare provision to private contractors.

Private profiteers are replacing dedicated doctors. In October 2012, the government awarded 400 lucrative contracts for NHS services, worth a quarter billion pounds, in what was called “the biggest act of privatisation ever in the NHS.” Virgin, for example, won lucrative contracts to deliver reproductive care (no pun intended). But the result was not the efficiency of private enterprise, but what had already been seen in the US market model-profits at the expense of patients. One journalist found this to be the case at health clinics in Teesside, northeast England. After Virgin won contracts to take over the services, the clinic repeatedly missed targets for screening people for chlamydia. It was a simple task that the NHS fulfilled easily. The journalist found a memo that revealed “staff were asked to take home testing kits to use on friends and family to help make the numbers up.” In Oxford, patients complained about increasing wait times to see their doctors after Virgin took over a local practice. Virgin responded that the practice had been underperforming when it was taken over, and that “there are still improvements to be made but we’re pleased that progress so far was recognised and applauded by councillors.” And so began what continues to be a highly sophisticate public relations campaign.

The UK’s next step toward US-style market-based medicine is moving forward at the time of this writing. It encourages patients to spend out of their pockets for healthcare rather than use the government-funded NHS. The Tory government is extending pilot projects to offer those with chronic illnesses “personal budgets” so that they themselves can make choices about how to manage their care, with few safeguards against profit-seeking swindlers or predatory insurance companies despite a government evaluation that highlighted many problems with this approach.

Early evidence suggests the Health and Social Care Act may in fact be hazardous to the health of the citizens and residents of the United Kingdom. Just before the Coalition government came into power, the NHS had the highest patient approval ratings in its history, over 70 percent. Within two years, approval fell to 58 percent, the largest decline in three decades. There are already warning signs that the healthcare situation in Britain may come to resemble that in the US before Obama. Patients are being turned away from privately managed clinics, some of which simply close their doors after meeting a daily quota to fulfill their contractual obligations. And in the first year of reform, emergency room visits jumped to the highest in the decade- perhaps because more people are neglecting preventive care, like Diane. As the editor of the Lancet warned, “people will die.”

Whether the British people will fully accept this radical privatisation of their healthcare system remains unclear. But once market incentives take hold of a public system, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to reverse course. In the UK, the recession-fueled combination of austerity-and-privatisation seems to be creeping into every dimension of the social protection system. But evidence of its harms should give us all pause. (pp. 105-7).

Part of the way the government is selling its privatisation of the NHS to the public is through artificial funding crises, in which hospitals develop massive budget deficits. They are then amalgamated with another hospital under a PFI scheme, or given over to a private healthcare company to manage. Points West, the local BBC news programme for the Bristol region, last night revealed that Southmead hospital was also in the red to the tune of £48 million. And I suspect a similar fate is being lined up for it here.

This privatisation must be stopped, and those who support it – the Conservatives, and the Blairites in New Labour, must be thrown out of office immediately. Only Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will reverse the NHS privatisation. It is up to us to support him, regardless of the smears from the media and the Right.

South Mead Hospital and the Manufactured NHS Funding Crisis

July 21, 2016

The BBC’s local news programme for the Bristol area, Points West, reported tonight that the city’s Southmead hospital is in a financial crisis, and needs something like a further £48 million. This is in common with very many NHS hospitals across the country. And it’s not accidental. The contributors to the book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS-SOS by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, make the point that under Labour the NHS was kept within budget. They further point out that the budget should be sufficient for its needs now. It isn’t, because of the way the system is being broken up and privatised from within. The result of this is that money is not allocated to where it is needed. Furthermore, the NHS is being deliberately starved of funds, so that more services can be awarded to private sector hospitals, and private sector firms encouraged to take over NHS hospitals, as so many have been before. Now it seems Southmead hospital is one of those slated to be given to private sector management. Or amalgamated with another hospital under a PFI programme.

It’s disgusting. This is the result of nearly forty years of Thatcherism, including Blairite New Labour and Cameron’s and May’s Conservatives. This needs to be reversed. The only politician, who is interested in doing so is Jeremy Corbyn. He needs to be supported. In the meantime, I urge everyone concerned at the privatisation of the NHS to read Davis’ and Tallis’ book.

Book Review: The Great City Academy Fraud – Part 1

July 13, 2016

Academy Fraud Pic

By Francis Beckett (London: Continuum 2007)

This is another book I managed to pick up from a cheap bookshop, in this case the £3 bookshop in Bristol’s Park Street. Although published nine years ago in 2007, it’s still very acutely relevant, with the plan of the current education minister, Thicky Nicky Morgan, to try to turn most schools into privately run academies. According to the back flap, Beckett was the education correspondent of the New Statesman from 1997 to 2005, and also wrote on education for the Guardian. The book’s strongly informed by the findings of the NUT and other teaching unions, whose booklets against academies are cited in the text. And its a grim read. It’s an important subject, so important in fact, that I’ve written a long review of this book, divided into four section.

Academies: Another Secondhand Tory Policy

Much of New Labour’s threadbare ideology was just revamped, discarded Tory ideas. This was clearly shown before Blair took power in the early 1990s, when John Major’s government dumped a report compiled by the consultants Arthur Anderson. This was immediately picked up, dusted off, and became official New Labour policy. Similarly, PFI was invented by the Tories man with a little list, Peter Lilley, who was upset ’cause private industry couldn’t get its claws into the NHS. This again was taken over by New Labour, and became the cornerstone of Blair’s and Brown’s ideas of funding the public sector. Academies, initially called ‘city academies’, were the same.

Basically, they’re just a revival of the City Technology Colleges set up in the mid 1980s by Thatcher’s education secretary, Kenneth Baker. Baker decided that the best way to solve the problem of failing schools was to take them out of the control of the local education authority, and hand them over to a private sponsor. These would contribute £2 million of their own money to financing the new school, and the state would do the rest. Despite lauding the scheme as innovative and successful, Baker found it impossible to recruit the high profile sponsors in big business he wanted. BP, which is very active supporting community projects, flatly told him they weren’t interested, as the project was ‘too divisive’. Another organisation, which campaigns to raise private money for public projects, also turned it down, stating that the money would best be spent coming from the government. It was an area for state funding, not private. The result was that Baker was only able to get interest for second-order ‘entrepreneurs’, who were very unwilling to put their money into it. From being a minimum, that £2 million funding recommendation became a maximum. And so the scheme was wound up three years later in 1990.

After initially denouncing such schemes, New Labour showed its complete hypocrisy by trying out a second version of them, the Education Action Zones. Which also collapsed due to lack of interest. Then, in 2000, David Blunkett announced his intention to launch the academy system, then dubbed ‘city academies’, in 2000 in a speech to the Social Market Foundation. Again, private entrepreneurs were expected to contribute £2 million of their money, for which they would gain absolute control of how the new school was to be run. The taxpayer would provide the rest. Again, there were problems finding appropriate sponsors. Big business again wouldn’t touch it, so the government turned instead to the lesser businessmen, like Peter Vardy, a car salesman and evangelical Christian. Other interested parties included the Christian churches, like the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelical educational bodies like the United Learning Trust. There were also a number of universities involved, such as the University of the West of England here in Bristol, and some sports organisations, like Bristol City Football club. Some private, fee-paying schools have also turned themselves into academies as away of competing with other private schools in their area.

Taxpayers Foot the Bill

While the sponsors are supposed to stump up £2 million, or in certain circumstances, more like £1.5 million, in practice this isn’t always the case. The legislation states that they can also pay ‘in kind’. Several have provided some money, and then provided the rest of their contribution with services such as consultation, estimated according to a very generous scale. For Beckett, this consists of the sponsors sending an aging executive to give his advice on the running of the new school. This particular individual may actually be past it, but the company can’t sack him. So they fob the new school off with him instead. Sometimes, no money changes hands. The Royal Haberdashers’ Society, one of the London livery companies, decided it was going to sponsor an academy. But it already owned a school on the existing site, and so did nothing more than give the site, generously estimate at several millions, to the new academy. Other companies get their money back in different ways, through tax rebates, deductions and the like.

But if the private sponsors are very wary about spending their money, they have absolutely no reservations about spending the taxpayer’s hard-earned moolah. An ordinary school costs something like £20 million to build. Academies cost more, often much more: £25 million, sometimes soaring to £37 million or beyond. Several of the businessmen sponsoring these academies have built massive monuments to their own vanity, using the services of Sir Norman Foster. Foster was, like Richard Rogers, one of the celebrity architects in favour with New Labour, whose ‘monstrous carbuncles’ (@ Charles Windsor) were considered the acme of cool. One of these was called ‘The Learning Curve’, and consisted of a long, curving corridor stretching across a quarter of mile, off which were the individual class rooms. Foster also built the Bexley Business Academy, a school, whose sponsor wanted to turn the pupils into little entrepreneurs. So every Friday was devoted exclusively to business studies, and the centrepiece of the entire joint was a mock stock exchange floor. The school also had an ‘innovative’ attitude to class room design: they only had three walls, in order to improve supervise and prevent bullying. In fact, the reverse happened, and the school had to spend more money putting them up.

Unsuitable Buildings

And some of the buildings designed by the academies’ pet architects are most unsuitable for the children they are supposed to serve. One academy decided it was going to get the local school for special needs children on its site. These were kids with various types of handicap. Their school was not certainly not failing, and parents and teachers most definitely did not want their school closed. But closed it was, and shifted to the academy. The old school for handicapped youngsters was all on the same level, which meant that access was easy, or easier, for those kids with mobility problems. The new school was on two floors. There was a lift, but it could only be used by pupils with a teacher. The parents told the sponsor and the new academy that they had destroyed their children’s independence. They were greeted with complete incomprehension.

HM School ‘Belmarshe’

In other academies, conditions for the sprogs are more like those in a prison. One of the schools, which preceded an academy on its site, had a problem with bullying. The new academy decided to combat that problem, by not having a playground. They also staggered lunch into two ‘brunch breaks’, which were taken at different times by different classes. These are taken in a windowless cafeteria. The result is a joyless learning environment, and the school has acquired the nickname ‘Belmarshe’, after the famous nick.

Pro-Corbin Article in Today’s Counterpunch

June 30, 2016

The American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch, has an important article by Thomas Barker urging people outside the Labour party to support Corbyn in his desperate battle with the Blairites. Barker describes how 172 MPs have come out against him, including Ed Miliband, all claiming that he is ‘unelectable’, despite having the biggest mandate of the party leaders. He states very clearly that their opposition to Corbyn is based on his desire to bring back real Socialism into the party, and make the Left a renewed force in British politics, through supporting the nationalisation of the railways, free education, a better minimum wage and so on. He states that Corbyn also has limited support from the constituency parties, and so urges those outside the party to show their support.

He begins

Since last Thursday’s EU referendum, some 172 right wing Labour MPs have put their name to a vote of no confidence in their leader Jeremy Corbyn. They claim that Corbyn is ‘unelectable’, despite winning the biggest mandate of any party leader in British history.

Even leaders proven to be ‘unelectable’, such as Ed Miliband, are now calling for Corbyn to resign.

In reality, these Blairite MPs are opposed to Corbyn’s program of a £10 an hour living wage, mass council house building, free education, and nationalisation of the railways.

It is hardly surprising that right wing MPs have come out against Corbyn, but what is most galling is the attempt by small groups of Labour members, including MPs and councillors, to enclose the debate within the confines of the party.

This is a huge mistake.

The implications of the ongoing leadership struggle are much bigger than one party. This is a struggle to reconstitute the left as a mass force. The idea that you need to be part of Labour to have an opinion on this is exactly the kind of exclusionary nonsense that needs to be avoided if Corbyn is to succeed.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/30/saving-labour-from-blairism-the-dangers-of-confining-the-debate-to-existing-members/

Go and read it.

People are indeed showing their support for Corbyn. Mike has linked to an internet petition asking him not to resign, and on Tuesday evening there was demonstration in his support on College Green in Bristol

And the Blairites, as a political faction, are vile. Tony Blair was a neoliberal Tory and a Thatcherite. One of the first things he did when he got into No. 10 was invited her round. She described New Labour as her greatest achievement. Well, she did make it very clear she wanted to destroy Socialism.

Blair continued the disastrous PFI, which has seen this country saddled with massive, off-the-accounts debt for shoddy workmanship in public utilities. He also continued and expanded Thatcher’s privatisation of the NHS. This was a conscious policy. He wanted to introduce an insurance-driven system like America, but didn’t want to lose an election by telling the voters. See Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ NHS-SOS. It was Blair that also called in ATOS to conduct the fitness-for-work tests that have so far seen 500 or see people die of starvation and misery, and a further 290,000 suffer varying degrees of harm to their mental health. And it was Blair, who began the transform of our publicly funded schools into privately run academies.

Quite apart from Bliar, Mandelson and Broon introducing tuition fees.

This has all reduced the British people to poverty. It’s provided the basis for Cameron’s policies, which have continued them. As a result of 30 odd years of Thatcherism, our children will have worse schooling, the working and lower middle class will be saddled with immense debt if they go to Uni, and we are being charged for the health service, to the profit of private medical firms like BUPA, Circle Health, and Beardie Branson’s Virgin Care.

Enough’s enough. It’s time the Blairites were thrown out of the party, and treated with the contempt they deserve by the working people of this country, whom they’ve spurned. It was after all one of the Blairite MPs, who stated that Labour would be even harder on jobseekers than the Tories. All to curry favour with the corporate, tax-dodging fat cats and media barons like Murdoch, Dacre, Desmond and the weirdo Barclay Twins.

And so I say: I support Corbyn.

Vox Political on the Continued Threat to the Vulnerable from Tory Privatisation of Care Homes

June 1, 2016

This is another scandal. Five years ago, in 2011, eleven staff members at the Winterbourne View care home were jailed after Panorama filmed them abusing the patients there. David Cameron promised that he would review the government’s policies on such homes to prevent a similar scandal ever happening again. Five years later, the government has privatised £27 billion of services, putting them into the hands of private contractors, and nothing has been done to safeguard other vulnerable people. A letter has been sent to Cameron by the relatives of the abused patients, demanding that he shut outdated care homes. The letter has been supported by the chief executive of Mencap, the author of the review into Winterbourne View, and the chief executive of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/31/after-winterbourne-view-has-tory-nhs-privatisation-put-more-vulnerable-people-at-risk/

Mike in his comment about the above case, and Cameron’s marked failure to take any action, is that Cameron only cares about what money he can make out of the NHS. The continued health of the rest of us and our relatives counts for nothing.

This is absolutely correct. If you read George Monbiot’s discussion of the mechanics of PFI, set up by Peter Lilley to bring private investment into the NHS, you find that it’s far less efficient, and vastly more expensive than simply letting the state run these hospitals, rather than private industry. See the chapter in his book, Captive State. And Private Eye issued a report a long time ago, which stated that Lilley introduced the PFI for one reason: the state ownership of hospitals, medical centres and doctor’s surgeries under the NHS meant that private enterprise were excluded from getting a share of the corporate profits. This is what the privatisation of the NHS, which began under Cameron’s great heroine, Maggie Thatcher, amounts to. It has always been a case of corporate profit first, public health last, and then lie to obscure the fact.

Vox Political on the Tories’ Plan to Turn Education into a Tax Avoidance Scam

April 25, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political posted up a very ominous piece reporting the tax affairs of one of the academy chains. Bellevue Education, which runs a number of academies in the south east, appears in the Panama Papers as an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands. In other words, it’s a tax avoider. Mike draws the obvious conclusion from this that as David Cameron and Nicky Morgan want all schools to become academies, and thus tax avoidance schemes for the big business fat cats running them.

The Tory plan to turn education into a tax avoidance scam

I don’t doubt for a single moment that Mike’s right, and this fact has very grave implications for the quality of the service these academy chains will provide, and their stability as businesses.

One of the points George Monbiot makes about the PFI initiative for hospitals in his book, Captive State, is that the overheads in running hospitals are so large, that the corporations approached to fund and run them can only be persuaded to do so through massively inflating their costs to the British taxpayer, and by cutting the service delivered to the public. It’s why, thanks to the Private Finance Initiative, Britain now has fewer hospitals than it actually needs, which have been more expensive to build than if the government simply raised the money through the usual sources of bonds, loans and taxation. It’s also why the PFI hospitals are smaller.

The hedge funds that were responsible for running so many of the care homes, that collapsed and were prosecuted for the extremely poor treatment of their elderly or disabled residents, were also involved in massive tax avoidance scams. There was some kind of financial trick involved, which made these homes run at a technical loss. This meant huge profits for the hedge funds running them, but it also meant that they were extremely vulnerable financially. The result was the slew of scandals, which got into the page of the Private Eye’s ‘In the Back’ column, which reported on the extremely dubious financial arrangements behind them.

This new revelation that Bellevue Education is based off-shore, suggests that the private education chains running the academies similarly find it difficult to run them at a profit without indulging in tax avoidance at a massive level. Mike reports that academies perform poorly compared to ordinary LEA schools. This bears out the conclusion that for-profit firms cannot effectively run services, like schools and hospitals, that are properly the responsibility of the state. Like the PFI hospitals, it shows that the private investment in schools is more expensive to the British taxpayer, in terms of tax money lost to the government, the burden of which is then passed on to the rest of us. And it also suggests that as businesses, they are also vulnerable and likely to collapse at the merest drop in profits. And then, no doubt, the fat cat bankers behind them will be squealing for the British taxpayer to bail them out.

Monbiot’s List of the Corporate Politicos in Blair’s Government: Part Two

April 23, 2016

Stephanie Monk

Human Resources director, Granada Group plc., which appealed against an industrial tribunal to reinstate workers sacked for going on strike after their pay was cut from £140 to £100 a week.

Member of the Low Pay Commission on the minimum wage, and the New Deal Taskforce.

Sue Clifton

Executive director, Group 4, criticised for mishandling of child offenders after escapes, bullying, riots and attacks on staff.

Advisor to the government’s Youth Justice Board on how young offenders should be handled.

Keith McCullagh

Chief executive of British Biotech. This company has been repeatedly censured by the Stock Exchange, particularly when it was revealed that it’s leading drug product didn’t work.

Chairman of the government’s Finance Advisory Group to help high-tech companies gain financial investors’ confidence.

Sir Robin Biggam

Non-executive director, British Aerospace, which sells weapons to Turkey, some of which are used against the Kurdish separatists.

Chairman of the Independent Television Commission. This revoked the license of the Kurdish satellite station Med TV because of complaints from Turkey that it gave a platform to Kurdish separatists.

Neville Bain

Non-executive director, Safeway, one of the supermarkets which was swallowing branches of the Post Office.

Made chairman of the Post Office.

Robert Osborne

Head of Special Projects division of Tarmac Plc, one of the major constructors of PFI hospitals.

Chief Executive of the Department of Health’s Private Finance Unit. In 1998, returned to Tarmac to run PFI division.

David Steeds

Corporate Development Director of Serco Group Plc.

Chief executive of the government’s Private Finance Panel.

Tony Edwards

Director of the TI Group, which owned Matrix Churchill, the company which provided machine tools to manufacture arms to the Iraqis. He is the company’s chief executive, which is engaged in 150 military operations around the world.

Head of the government’s Defence Export Services Organisation, advising the government on granting licenses to companies wishing to sell arms to different countries around the world.

Neil Caldwell

Director of PTBRO, the distributor of the government’s landfill tax money, for which it receives 10 per cent of the amount handled in administration fees.

Director of Entrust, the regulatory body supervising the distribution of landfill tax money.

Judith Hanratty

Company Secretary, BP-Amoco Plc, one of the most controversial mergers of the 1990s as it amalgamated two of the world’s biggest companies.

On the board of the Competition Commission, monitoring and regulating corporate mergers.

John Rickford

On the board of BT, which has been frequently attacked for having too great a share of the market.

On the board of the Competition Commission.

Sir Alan Cockshaw

Chairman of Construction Company AMEC
Watson Steel, part of AMEC group, won contract to build the masts and cables on the Millennium Dome.

Chairman of the government’s Commission for New Towns. Chairman of the government agency English Partnerships, which is supposed to help ensure that new developments meet public needs.

On the board of the New Millennium Experience Company, firm set up by government to supervise the millennium celebrations.

Michael Mallinson

Property of industry lobby group for property developers, the British Property Federation.

Deputy Chairman, English Partnerships.

Peter Mason

Group Chief Executive, AMEC plc. In 1997 the company was the seventh largest recipient of support from the government’s Export Credit Guarantee Department for construction work in Hong Kong.

The trade body to which it belonged, The Export Group for the Construction Industries – has lobbied against the inclusion of environmental and human rights conditions in the Export Credit Guarantee Department’s loans.

On the Export Guarantees Advisory Council, which governs the payment of government money by the Export Credit Guarantee Department. Liz Airey, a non-executive director of Amec, is another member.

Professor Sir John Cadogan

Research Director of BP.

Director-General of the Research Councils, which are supposed to fund scientific work that doesn’t have an obvious or immediate application for industry.

Sir Anthony Cleaver

Chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority Technology Plc, which oversaw the organisational changes at Dounreay. These were criticised by the Health and Safety Executive as leaving the company in a poor position to decommission the site. Some researchers believed that Dounreay was the most dangerous nuclear site in Western Europe.

Chairman of the government’s Medical Research Council, which has been repeatedly criticised for failing to provide research funds for investigating the medical effects of radiation. Also member of the government’s panel on sustainable development.

Peter Doyle

Executive director, Zeneca Group Plc. Zeneca’s a major biotechnology firm, and was the foremost developer in Britain of GM crops. The company was engaged in a ten-year deal with the John Innes Centre in Norwich to find profitable applications for biotechnology.

Chairman of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which gives substantial funding to the John Innes Research Institute. Employees of Zeneca sit on all seven of the BBSRC specialist committees.

Member of the government’s advisory committee on Business and the Environment.

Professor Nigel Poole

External and Regulatory Affairs Manager of Zeneca Plant Science; sits on five of the taskforces set up by EuropaBio, the lobbying organisation seeking to persuade European governments to deregulate GM organisms.

Member of the government’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.

Professor John Hillman

Member of the board of the Bioindustry Association, the lobbying group seeking to ‘enhance the status of the industry within government’.

Director of the government’s Scottish Crop Research Institute, charged with supervising government-funded research projects and providing the government with impartial advice on biotechnology.

Antony Pike

Director General of the British Agrochemicals Association Ltd; Managing director of Schering Agrochemicals/ AgrEvo UK Ltd.

Chairman of the government’s Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA), carrying out and funding research into cereal crops. It has not funded any projects aimed at improving organic cereal production.

Professor P.J. Agett

Head of the School of Medicine and Health, University of Central Lancashire. This has received support for its research from three companies producing baby milk. Agett has personally received fees from two companies producing baby milk, including Nestle. The promotion of baby milk to developing nations is one of the most controversial issues in food and nutrition.

Chair of the Department of Health’s Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA). Three other members of COMA have either directly benefited from payments from the baby milk manufacturers or belong to academic departments which have. One of those, who personally received payments was a Nestle executive.

Professor Peter Schroeder

Nestlé’s director of research and development.

Director of the government’s Institute of Food Research.

Sir Alastair Morton

Chairman of the Channel Tunnel construction consortium, Eurotunnel. This had debts of £9m.

Advised John Prescott on financing of Channel Tunnel Rail Link; Chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority responsible for advising the government on the use of significant amounts to the industry, and ensuring that rail transport gives good value for money.

Vox Political: NHS Required to Correct 6,000 Botched Private Operations a Year

April 19, 2016

This is another piece by Mike which asks a very pertinent question: why are private medicine being given so many NHS contracts, when the same private medical contractors are responsible for 6,000 bungled operations a year, which have to be corrected by the NHS.

Mike writes:

A report showing that the National Health Service is having to care for around 6,000 patients every year after private hospitals provided poor treatment raises several questions:

Firstly, the patients concerned have already paid for their treatment. If private doctors made a mess of it, they should pay for the rectification. Why is the taxpayer picking up the tab – especially when the NHS is already suffering serious money problems?
Secondly, Conservative-led governments have been forcing private healthcare providers into our NHS contracts, whether we want them or not, for the last four years. Why is the NHS being forced to accept contractors who aren’t up to the job?

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/18/whats-so-great-about-private-healthcare-when-the-nhs-is-having-to-put-right-thousands-of-its-botched-ops/

Of course, the answer, as Mike states in his article, is that the Tories desperately want to privatise the NHS. This was the whole point of the Private Finance Initiative, when it was introduced by Peter ‘I’ve got a little list’ Lilley back under John Major. Lilley and his corporate masters was upset that there was this nice, juicy chunk of state enterprise that was out of the reach of his masters. And so he introduced the Private Finance Initiative as a way of getting them in. Just as his mistress, Maggie Thatcher, was also trying to get everyone, who could to take out private health insurance, because the NHS was excluding private industry too much.

Mike goes on to ask, who will pick up the pieces and correct all these bungled operations once the NHS is gone? It’s clearly a rhetorical question. The answer is: no-one. I’ve seen the stats for iatrogenic disease – that is, disease caused by doctors – in the US, and it’s truly eye-watering. And they have a higher incidence of operating, because the system rewards surgery even when it’s not really necessary. And heaven help anyone trying to sue. There was a piece in Private Eye years ago about some poor woman who suffered a botched operation in one of the British private hospitals, whom the hospital company did everything it could to avoid paying her damages or compensation.

This is the reality of private medicine: it’s more expensive, performed to poorer standards, and does not have the rectification of mistakes or the granting of compensation to its victims as a priority. No wonder Lilley, Jeremy Hunt and the Tories love it.

IDS Has Resigned, But Curb Your Enthusiasm…

March 19, 2016

Someone just as bad if not worse will probably be around shortly.

The big news this morning is that Ian Duncan Smith has finally walked. Several of the commenters on this blog posted pieces about his resignation late last night, with due expressions of not the slightest bit of grief. In fact, quite the opposite. Much joy was felt by them and indeed by very many other people up and down the country. And who can blame them! Ian Duncan Smith is, after all, the wretched mass-murderer, who has used the benefits sanctions regime he inherited from Bliar’s New Labour to immiserate hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Under him, 590 people have died of starvation, poverty and neglect. Some by their own hand. A quarter of a million more have been pushed into anxiety, depression and mental illness. And for all that he’s resigned as head of the DWP, IDS is still head of a party which has forced 4.7 million people into ‘food poverty’. That, to you and me, is being literally on the breadline and not having enough to eat, or wondering where your next meal is coming from.

I’m surprised that he’s resigned, but the signs were all there. Over a week ago he was whining about how unfair it was for people to blame him from the hardship and misery his cuts were causing, when it was Labour that started them. Well, Blair and Brown did. But he and Cameron got in by pretending that they were going to be more left-wing, more caring than New Labour. That was the central promise of Philip Blonde’s book, Red Tory. And I distinctly remember George Osborne telling everyone that he was going to end the disastrous Private Finance Initiative, that’s saddling the country with mountains of debt for the profit of private companies running public services. But that’s another election promise the Tories conveniently forgot once they were in power.

Mike over at Vox Political has written several pieces commenting on Smith’s departure.

In his first piece about it, Mike urged a note of caution before we accepted that there was anything altruistic about Smith’s motives.

Yes, it’s great that he has gone. But I don’t think it’s over a matter of principle, no matter what he might say. Iain Duncan Smith has lied far too often for me to take anything he says at face value.

No, he’s either trying to be clever about the EU referendum, lining himself up to be in Boris’s good books if the vote goes against Cameron and Osborne, or he’s putting distance between himself and the Department for Work and Pensions after a judge ruled that potentially damning documents about Universal Credit must be published.

It seems the documents may show that Duncan Smith (I can’t be bothered with the nicknames – feel free to substitute ‘RTU’ or ‘the Gentleman Ranker’ if you like) misled Parliament and the public, time and again, about the floundering new benefit system.

Sick and disabled people will remain the targets of brutal benefit cuts. The unemployed are still enmeshed in a Kafka-esque nightmare of conditions they have to satisfy in order to draw their benefit. Social housing tenants are still persecuted by the Bedroom Tax.

Duncan Smith happily presided over more than £28 billion worth of cuts in payments to the most vulnerable people in the United Kingdom. That’s why This Writer doesn’t believe he has had a crisis of conscience now.

You can read the rest at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/19/never-mind-the-ides-of-march-its-the-march-of-ids/

I think Mike’s right. This has far more the look of a piece of political manoeuvring than any kind of statement of principle. Mike in the above states that IDS resigned when the cuts he was complaining about had already been shelved. Which is a curious way to protest. He also put up this piece, reporting a story in the Mirror that Nadine Dorries has stated that IDS begged her to vote for the cuts just before he decided to walk. See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/19/nadine-dorries-slams-iain-duncan-smith-for-begging-her-to-vote-for-disability-cuts-before-resigning-mirror-online/

In the statement from IDS reported on the TV news, Smith has apparently claimed that the reasons he resigned is because the cuts demanded by George Osborne were falling entirely on people of working age. This bears out what Mike reported in another of his pieces written about Smith’s resignation today: that he resigned from frustration at being blocked from killing pensioners. Mike writes:

Okay, it might not have been framed in quite the way expressed in the headline above, but that’s what the latest claims about Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation seem to be saying.

The allegation is that he was unhappy that the Conservative Government was continually targeting its cuts on working-age benefits, and wanted pensioners to take some of the pain as well, contrary to a directive from prime minister David Cameron that senior citizens’ benefits are not to be touched.

He would have taken away universal pensioner benefits like free bus passes, together with the winter fuel allowance and cold weather payments.

The effect of these cuts would have been a large increase in pensioner deaths – as predicted by the Taxpayers’ Alliance when that organisation suggested such cuts, only a few months ago.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/19/iain-duncan-smith-quit-because-he-wasnt-allowed-to-kill-pensioners-claim/

The Taxpayers Alliance, you understand, is the astroturf organisation the Beeb turns to whenever there’s a debate about government expenditure. This is the pressure group that campaigns for further reductions in taxation. It claims to be politically independent, but its leadership is composed to a man of paid-up members of the Tory party. It’s at best a satellite of Tory fellow-travellers, if not actually a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tory Party Plc (People lying continually). A few months ago they were urging the Conservatives to cut pensions, arguing that it wouldn’t have any effect on the party’s electoral fortunes, as by the time the election came around, all their victims would have died anyway. This is what passes for humour at Taxpayer Alliance Towers as they’re waiting for sentencing for tax fraud.

Mike’s report has more than just the ring of truth. I can remember Mike himself posting a piece a few years ago reporting that there was some friction between the Unctuous Spawn of the Baronet of Ballymoney, George ‘Lionel’ Osbo, and the Gentleman Ranker. Osborne wanted cuts that could only come from inflicting them on pensioners, according to IDS. As this is one of the demographic groups where Tory support is the strongest, Osbo rejected making them share the burden of the cuts as being ‘very courageous’, in the sense deployed by Sir Humphrey Appleby. Now it seems this report is essentially correct, and IDS has resigned rather than face the continued frustration of having to concentrate on killing and impoverishing those of working age, rather than killing and immiserating the elderly.

There is a bright side to this though! The street wags and practical jokers have been up and out with the jolly japes. Mike has a picture up of the fake ‘missing person’ ads which have been placed on a lamp-post asking where the great man is.
Answers on a postcard, please.

URGENT! Missing person alert!