Category Archives: Government
A Hockley Agro UK article asked if lockdown has permanently changed attitudes to British farming. It pointed out that when demand soars in a crisis and global supply chains are frustrated, having food available locally is of paramount importance. Locally grown food creates important economic opportunities, provides health benefits and helps to reduce environmental impact. Eating what is produced here in the UK is key to reducing food miles and avoiding unnecessary packaging. It ends:
“Producing food within our shores is vital to support the economy, help maintain high levels of animal welfare, control sustainability and assist in improving soil heath. To suggest an end to agriculture as an industry would mean an end to large agricultural employers and local family farms alike”.
Camilla Hodgson reports that the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned the UK would run out of food in just seven months if it relied solely on homegrown produce. Self-sufficiency in food has stagnated with government figures showing that Britain produced only 61% of its own food in 2017, a rate in long-term decline.
“The statistics show a concerning long-term decline in the UK’s self-sufficiency in food and there is a lot of potential for this to be reversed. And while we recognise the need for importing food which can only be produced in different climates, if we maximise on the food that we can produce well in the UK then that will deliver a whole host of economic, social and environmental benefits to the country. Home-grown food production must have the unwavering support of Government if we are to achieve this post-Brexit.”
Richard Harvey Owston, Rutland who founded Manor Farm Feeds in 1986, asks if the UK really wants to become totally dependent on imported food at a time when we are witnessing a worldwide trade war led by the power-hungry leaders of the major nations.
He fears that, although our politicians are paying lip service to the future support of food production, ‘the small print indicates otherwise’.
COVID-19 bulletin 25: XR calls on government to adopt a climate-friendly economic plan in the recovery period
Worldwide media are reporting that socially distanced Extinction Rebellion climate activists placed more than 2,000 pairs of children’s shoes in rows across London’s Trafalgar Square on Monday.
The shoes were donated by people across the city and will be given to Shoe Aid following the action.
The activists are calling on the British government to stop bailing out carbon intensive industries that pollute the environment and adopt a climate-friendly economic plan in the recovery period following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) so children and young people aren’t left to face a deeper crisis.
Poppy Silk, a 19-year-old activist from Extinction Rebellion, which wants non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to cut carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis, bringing starvation and social collapse, says:
“Many young people feel suffocated by fear of what is to come, and now with this pandemic, maybe others will start to understand our fear for the future. Even whilst healing from the pandemic, we must move towards a green transition to prevent future crises.”
As two more nurses — Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke — died after contracting the virus, the BMA, the Royal College of Nursing, Unite and UNISON have issued a joint press release.
In it, BMA deputy chairman Dr David Wrigley said: “Doctors, healthcare workers and carers are risking their lives day-to-day in the battle against Covid-19. With Britain’s health workers enduring severe shortages and suffering a postcode lottery in the supply of vital protective equipment, the government has a moral duty to do everything in its power now to protect doctors and protect patients.”
Workers who usually mint coins at the Royal Mint, Llantrisant, Wales, are now making medical face visors to supply health workers
In this unprecedented the unions, joined by industry federations ADS Group and the British Printing Industries Federation, say that manufacturing capacity currently furloughed or underutilised should be repurposed amongst the UK’s world leading manufacturers to produce the PPE kit desperately needed by the NHS, social care providers and other front-line workers across UK industry.
It continued: “Skilled workers are desperate to play their part, using their engineering and manufacturing expertise to ramp up production, under license from existing manufacturers that simply can’t cope with demand or secure essential supplies given the unprecedented demands on raw materials and components”.
Peter Lazenby reports that at Gaydon in the Midlands, vehicle manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover has already switched its prototype department to manufacturing 5,000 protective visors a week for NHS trusts. Read Read more on the JLR website. and in The Engineer
Friday’s call across Northern Ireland saw over 100 companies responding positively to produce everything from hand sanitiser to medical scrubs”. Unite’s assistant general secretary for manufacturing, Steve Turner, said: “Government must now move from soundbite to action and put out a ‘call-to-arms’ to existing providers, materials suppliers and manufacturers. Temporarily addressing manufacturing restrictions based on copyright, patent or intellectual property, we could have a manufacturing army up and running, producing a range of PPE and essential supplies, in a matter of days.”
RCN chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair (above) said: “Weeks into this crisis, it is completely unacceptable that nursing staff, wherever they work, have not been provided with PPE. I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all. This cannot continue. They are putting themselves, their families and their patients at risk. We will not accept anything less than aprons, gloves and masks for all staff, in all settings. But this is a minimum — and that is why we are so disappointed that even that level of protection has yet to be provided.”
Downing Street confirmed on Thursday that more than 26.7 million units of PPE had been delivered to 281 NHS “trusts and providers” in England.
Farmers For Action (Northern Ireland) earlier this month issued a statement about the recent “leaked” emails in the press from Treasury Advisor Dr Tim Leunig, arguing that the UK food sector is not critically important to the economy and that agriculture and fishery production certainly isn’t. This implies that UK farmers aren’t so important and UK agriculture can be the sacrificial lamb in US crunch post Brexit talks.
In their press release (click to read) they point out that the food that UK farmers produce translates into by far the biggest industry in the UK by tonnage and on top of this accounts for 60%+ of all transported goods throughout the UK
Leunig pointed to the example of Singapore, an island city-state that imports almost all of its food, as a model for Britain; he makes no reference to what happened in the Second World War when the UK almost starved as food importing ships were being sunk – and here we are again with unforeseen circumstances of the coronavirus COVID-19.
The UK produces safe quality food to EU high standards with the Minister for the Environment indicating these will continue and backing up the UK farmers as best his brief will allow him, bar the influence of people like Dominic Cummings and Dr Leunig.
The UK has declared a climate change emergency, therefore there is no justification for importing beef or importing dairy products or chicken or any produce in which we are self-sufficient or buy from our nearest neighbours.
William Taylor (FFA) added that this government must be held to account about the carbon footprint caused by importing food products we don’t need from the US and other countries around the world. Instead all the food produced by UK farmers should be used before importing any shortfall from the nearest neighbour.
The key in all these climate change destructive food swaps is that they benefit profiteering corporate food retailers, corporate food wholesalers, corporate shipping companies and to a lesser extend corporate food processors and not the thousands of farming families or the environment in either food swap country.
In the case of lamb where the UK is self-sufficient, the nonsense of exporting 38% of lamb to France and North Africa only to meet ships coming from Australia and New Zealand loaded with lamb must end!
It is time for Boris Johnson and his government to wake up and realise that climate change is no respecter of majority governments and will only respect change of human activity on a global scale of which we are part = and so far this is not happening.
As climate change tightens its grip, we must not forget all those farming families and others flooded out of their homes and farms across the UK due to the increasing climate change extremes of weather.
FFA conclude by saying that they and all other like-minded farm organisations across these islands pledge from here onward to put an end to the UK government’s propaganda. Let battle commence!
Farmers For Action
56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, N Ireland, BT51 4NU
Tel. 07909744624 Email : email@example.com
PRESS RELEASE 4th March 2020
Will politicians ever put their constituents’ interests first?
By 5pm on Sunday there were 271 flood warnings for England, landslides in Wales, hundreds evacuated from their homes, tens of thousands without electricity. many town centres heavily flooded and hundreds of train, plane and ferry services cancelled.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said, “The reality of the climate crisis is that more extreme weather will happen more often and with devastating consequences.
MP Craig Whittaker’s constituency includes a string of communities along the River Calder that have been repeatedly devastated by floods. Among them are the villages and small towns of Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Luddendenfoot and Sowerby Bridge. But after the 2015 floods the Commons debated a motion calling for annual spending on defences to be increased from £695.3 million to £800m, Mr Whittaker was amongst those who voted against the motion, which was defeated.
Some whose homes and businesses were affected have had enough and are going to move away: “We don’t want to become a ghost town.”
In November 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was vigorously heckled by local people when belatedly visiting flooded Stainforth in South Yorkshire, after expressing little concern about the floods.
After intense lobbying £33m.was granted for work in Mytholmroyd which began in June 2018 and is due to be finished in July or August 2020
Workers constructing flood defences in Mytholmroyd in the Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, building walls to contain the River Calder
Peter Lazenby points out that while this scheme struggled to get funding, the government was subsidising landowners who are increasing run-off in rainstorms by clearing Pennine moorland above the Calder Valley for grouse shooting, burning off moorland which removes mosses and other plants that absorb and store water.
In some places, water flows are controlled by bodies called Internal Drainage Boards, independent locally funded and operated statutory public bodies. Many members of these boards are landowners and seem interested only in speeding water off farmland: they dredge, straighten and embank rivers, rushing water towards cities lower in the catchment. a recent National Audit Office report revealed significant issues with their governance, transparency and accountability.
MP Philip Davies branded it “completely unacceptable” that many of his constituents in Shipley, West Yorkshire, which was also flooded during Storm Ciara, had also been victims of the 2015 floods.
Towns in the Calder Valley, such as Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd (above) have been flooded repeatedly, partly, local people argue, because the upper catchment is unable to hold back most of the rain that falls on it.
A paper published in the Journal of Hydrology X reported experiments conducted in another part of the Pennines, the range in which Calderdale is located. It found that when peat bogs are restored, deep vegetation is allowed to recover and erosion gullies are blocked, water is held back for longer in the hills, and peak flows in the streams draining them are reduced. There has been a major shift in awareness, in and out of government, that impeding the flow of water off the land and slowing a river’s pace can reduce flooding downstream, saving lives, homes and infrastructure.
One paper suggests that reforesting between 20 and 40% of a catchment can reduce the height of floods by 19% and recommends:
- leaky wooden dams embedded in streams,
- building no more houses on floodplains,
- using new engineering techniques to defend those already there,
- planting shelter belts of trees along the contours: water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under grass and
- building ponds to catch the water instead of draining the wettest ground
In Japan, England, the Netherlands, and other low-lying countries, architects and civil engineers have developed technologies for flood control barriers, weirs and floodgates When the water rises, the computerized walls close and water fills tanks along the barrier. The weight of the water pushes the walls firmly down and keeps water from passing through. Hydraulic motors don’t need electricity to run, so they aren’t affected by power failures that can occur during storms.
Flood-affected urban areas often face a different set of problems, related to housebuilding in floodplains and damaged sewage systems. Whilst the housebuilding problem persists it is good to read about progress made in places like Stirchley.
In due course we hope to hear the residents in places like Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd echoing the cautious 2020 accolade of Peter Walker – Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum
“I think that the defence work that has been done so far is having some success”.
Before 1990, healthcare in the United Kingdom was provided by health authorities which were given a budget to run hospitals and community health services in their area. The National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 introduced an internal market into the supply of healthcare in the United Kingdom, making the state an ‘enabler’ rather than a supplier of health and social care provision.
Care homes were then outsourced by local authorities to the private sector which employed large numbers of low-paid workers with weak representation by unions and professional organisations. Spending on social care is now below 2010 levels.
Gill Plimmer describes the way in which global private equity, sovereign wealth and hedge funds have piled into the sector in the past three decades, lured by the promise of a steady government income and the long-term demographics of Britain’s ageing population.
Three of the biggest chains — HC-One, Four Seasons and Care UK — are in the hands of buyout groups.
At the Four Seasons Whitchurch Care Home in Bristol (above), emergency buzzers went unanswered, some medicines were not dispensed and many of its frail and elderly residents had not been given a bath, shower or a wash for a month, an official inspector’s report found. A broken elevator meant residents on the second floor could not be taken to hospital appointments.
Problems are in part a result of:
- a long-term decline in fees paid to providers for social care,
- a state mandated rise in the minimum wage,
- a decline in state funding for local governments, which pay for 60% of their residents,
- short term investment and speculation,
- larger private equity-owned care homeowners have a short-term investment focus and complex structures, involving scores of subsidiary companies, many of which are listed offshore and
- the money to fund the trading coming from taxpayers or from middle class people running down their savings.
When Terra Firma (building better businesses) bought the Four Seasons chain in a £825m deal in 2012, there was still £780m of outstanding borrowings hanging over the business. Now around £1.2bn of interest-bearing debt and loans from unspecified “related” parties.
Nick Hood, analyst at Opus Restructuring & Insolvency, which has advised several care home chains, said “owners are playing with the debt and expecting returns of 12 or 14 per cent and that is simply unsuitable for businesses with heavy social responsibilities”
He adds that the watchdog — the Care Quality Commission — should require the entire corporate structure to be held within the UK
Jon Moulton, the private equity veteran who ran Four Seasons in the early 2000s recommends that care home chains should hold a certain amount of capital, just as banks are requited to do by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Toothless regulator/watchdog places all responsibility on Britain’s cash-strapped local authorities
Kate Terroni, chief inspector of adult social care at the CQC, says that for now it has no authority to introduce minimum capital requirements or to intervene to prevent business failure. “Our powers are to provide a notification to assist local authorities who are responsible for ensuring continuity of peoples care
Meanwhile, as Four Seasons “hurtles towards insolvency”, directors are paid lavishly and their care homes continue to close.
Why do patients have to be moved, with the upheaval and distress caused by Ill-planned or casually implemented closures and relocations which are stressful and linked to adverse outcomes in terms of symptoms, health and survival?
A 2006 article refers to one of many reports on involuntary relocation: Prof David Jolley, a consultant psychiatrist specialising in old age, said that it was “an inescapable truism that relocation is a stressful event [for frail elderly people] and can precipitate problems of mental health, physical health and even bring forward death”. Another psychiatrist, Dr Peter Jeffreys, rates it as “only marginally less significant than the death of a spouse”.
Local authorities could take ownership and take on the running of the establishment. The Bristol building is not beautiful but Bristol is an expensive city. The home could be wound down under the local authority, not taking any extra patients but keeping staff members, then eventually the site could be sold for redevelopment to recoup costs.
The local authority could commission decent design for the follow-on homes (“think of the Maggie’s cancer centres conceived by the late Charles Jencks”), which would be run without the burden of debt or expectation of profit.
As Gill Plimmer notes, many more local authority-run homes are rated good or outstanding – according to a LaingBuisson analysis of regulatory reports last August – than those owned by hedge funds or other for-profit bodies.
Based on Judith Martin’s letter in the Financial Times.
Most readers will have heard of Dr Li Wenliang who worked at a hospital in Wuhan and alerted the authorities to this infectious new form of the coronavirus and was reprimanded by Chinese police last month for spreading “illegal and false” information about a new form of coronavirus. He later died after contracting the coronavirus from a patient.
But whereas exposure to this zoonotic disease was unforeseen, worldwide people are being affected, before birth and during their lives, by legally permitted substances used in many sectors, including agriculture, industry and transport. In Britain, whistle-blowers – medical practitioners and patients – are also silenced by medical, legal and political authorities. Is this done in order to protect a range of wealthy and powerful companies?
Richard Bruce, Len Lawrence and George Wescott are among millions worldwide who have attempted to raise the alarm after suffering serious damage to health from exposure to chemicals in these sectors.
Message received yesterday; “WE ARE THE DR LI WENLIANG[s] of UK”
Len Lawrence was a fit, experienced pilot who had been working for British Aerospace since 1989 when he experienced and recorded his first ‘fume event’ Read and hear more about the drastic steps taken to silence him here. The BBC reports that five of the UK’s largest airlines are now facing legal action by four pilots, and 47 cabin crew members. It is claimed that pilots and cabin crew are still regularly exposed to toxic fumes during flights. The Unite union has Independent expert evidence that the fumes from the oil used to lubricate the jet engines, contain organophosphates and TCP, and that long-term exposure can damage the nervous system and may lead to chronic irreversible health problems in susceptible individuals.
Such people, often sidelined and mislabelled as having psychological problems, will take heart from the Telegraph’s report that, in December, an official report confirmed that British Airways pilots were forced to wear oxygen masks as a plane suffered five “fume events” in seven weeks.
George Wescott suffered severe health problems after dipping 1,500 sheep in July 1988 with an organophosphate dip, a compulsory process ordered by government. By August 1991 he realised he would never recover sufficiently to continue farming, relinquished tenancy of the farm and set up a National Action Group to make sure fellow farmers were aware of the dangers. His interview during a protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice may be heard on video here. In a 2015 parliamentary debate, his MP said that George (right) had suffered for more than 30 years and recommended the Minister to set up a commission to get to the bottom of the issue.
In June 1992 MAFF abandoned its policy of compulsory dipping
Richard Bruce, a farm manager whose health broke down after exposure to Actellic used in grain stores, says very few realise that farmers and grain store operators have for decades been pouring OPs and other poisons (in pesticides and fungicides) into harvested grains and oilseeds. He now has an extensive knowledge on the effects of organophosphates which are used far more widely in agriculture than just sheep dip – see his comprehensive collection of information at The Organophosphate File. Like Len & George, he has met a range of obstacles and unfair dealing whilst attempting to get official recognition of the dangers of using chemicals such as malathion, pirimiphos methyl, chlorpyrifos methyl, some of which were approved long after the dangers were known.
His verdict: there are none so blind as those who are paid not to see:
“Professionally Induced Nelson’s Eye Syndrome…. They see no evidence – no matter how much there is or even if they published it themselves. All I seek is for the truth to be recognised by those who are trying to hide it in order for the public to understand what has been done to everyone”. He asks:
“Why is it that individuals are prosecuted for deliberately poisoning people but companies who make products that injure and kill thousands worldwide every year, escape blame? Makes no sense at all”.
Years ago, the late Terry Jones Welsh actor, writer, comedian (Monty Python), screenwriter, film director and historian wrote:
Party candidates have every reason – from ambition to cupidity – to act in their own interests
At present, he points out, we have to vote for the candidates the parties present us with. These candidates have every reason – from ambition to cupidity – to act in their own interests. He asked:
“How on earth would independent MPs ever get to form a government?
“Well, I would borrow a little device from our legal system. It’s called a “jury”. At the start of each parliamentary year, the 650 independent MPs would cast lots for who would be the government for that year. Say you limited the government to around 25 people: these 25 would then have to vote which of them was going to be prime minister, home secretary, foreign secretary, etc.
“Everyone I’ve ever talked to who has served on a jury tells me that it is inspiring to see how ordinary people pull together and apply themselves to make sense of the legal arguments. So why should it be any different with politicians? Especially since these are not just ordinary members of the public, but people who have enough interest in politics to actually stand for election in the first place. They would be pre-screened, as it were”.
The casting of lots for the actual members of the government would defuse the ambition of those entering parliament, since they would be unable to manoeuvre themselves into positions of power. It would be all a question of luck. And with the abolition of political parties, much of the influence of wealthy donors who fund advertising campaigns – and lobbyists to influence decision-making – would be removed.