Category Archives: Government
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.
In 2018, the Times (paywall) reported the verdict of MP Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee: “The apprenticeship levy is not working. It was meant to incentivise large employers to invest more in apprenticeships by requiring them to pay into a central fund from which they can claim back some or all of their training costs.
Instead it has led employers to recoup the cost of existing in-house training schemes by relabelling them as apprenticeships.
She noted that more companies are setting themselves up as training providers and that Ofsted says that it will struggle to keep tabs on these. The following year her report pointed out that too many apprentices were still being trained by sub-standard providers.
Around a third of apprentices covered by Ofsted inspections in 2017/18 were being trained by providers rated as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’. The poor quality of some contributed to a situation where over 30% of apprentices fail to complete their apprenticeship successfully each year.
A letter to the Times editor added: “The Learndirect scandal serves as a stark case: an organisation was allowed to take on more and more learners (reaching 75,000) when warning signs of inadequate training and poor financial management were already being issued”.
The Financial Times reminded readers that Learndirect was privatised and sold to the private equity arm of Lloyds Bank in 2011 but is still reliant on government funding. When the Public Accounts Committee questioned Learndirect and Ofsted, Ofsted revealed the findings of Learndirect’s “inadequate” performance and the ‘legal shenanigans’ used to prevent earlier revelations. The findings included:
The National Audit office’s 2019 report focussed on the cost of apprenticeships and the low rate of uptake. In its first full year of operation, the apprenticeship levy raised £2.7 billion and this is expected to rise to £3.4 billion by 2023-24. However, there have been repeated warnings in recent months that the funding pot generated by the levy is about to run out
Earlier this month the Financial Times reported on an Education and Skills (EDSK) report, based on official data, which has investigated what is happening with the apprenticeship levy and the apprenticeship system in England more broadly.
It found that 50% of apprenticeships funded by the levy are ‘fake’, citing figures which relate closely to those reported by the Public Accounts Committee, recorded in the FT box above:
- Some £1.2bn of the £2.4bn money raised since the levy was introduced in April 2017 had been spent on “fake” apprenticeships, rebadged MBA courses and low-skilled jobs training,
- £550m of levy funding had been spent on management training courses for experienced employees, which previously would have been funded from professional development budgets.
- Highly qualified academics, many of whom already have PhDs, had been relabelled as apprentices in order to put them through levy-funded professional development courses.
- And £235m had been used to teach people in low-skilled jobs, including working at a shop checkout or serving in a bar, often requiring minimal training, which pay low wages and do not meet any established definition of an apprentice.
Last July Boris Johnson said that, while he will always “defend and extol the advantages of having a degree, there are far too many young people who leave university with huge debts, and no clear sense of how their academic qualification has helped their career.” He has pledged to “elevate practical and technical qualifications” to “recognise their immense value to society and to the individual” and to raise funding for apprenticeships.
As – regrettably – Learndirect has re-emerged in the apprenticeship sector under a new name: Learndirect Apprenticeships Ltd., EDSK reflects that government pays private providers taxpayers’ money to deliver public services but can fail to monitor the results or truly penalise those that do not deliver. It recommends the Department for Education to tighten rules to stop financing of rebadged MBAs and low-skilled training and introduce a new definition of apprenticeship, benchmarked against the world’s best technical education systems.
On Saturday, Iain McNicol’s article ‘Corbynism must end with Corbyn’ was published in the Financial Times
As a post Corbyn entrant to the Labour Party I had only dimly heard of McNicol, so read around and discovered that he had been general secretary of the Labour party from 2011 to 2018 and now sits in the House of Lords. Then came a disturbing account of his wrecking tactics in his Wikipedia entry, condensed in The Jacobin by Daniel Finn:
“The party leadership has put a lot of effort into revamping Labour’s disciplinary processes so that real cases of antisemitism can be dealt with more quickly. Much of this work has been done since Jennie Formby took over as Labour’s general secretary in April 2018, replacing Iain McNicol, who was bitterly hostile to Corbyn. Some of the party officials who departed with McNicol had been slowing down the handling of cases, whether through incompetence or malice, knowing that Corbyn’s team would get the blame from the British media”.
No physiognomist needed
Finn described MacNicol as being one of the influential political players from Labour’s right-wing, anti-Corbyn faction which has a negligible organisational base in the party and unions but is closely linked to supportive media outlets. This faction is composed of Blairites and some MPs from the 2010 intake who believed themselves to be contenders for the party leadership once the Corbyn project collapsed.
MacNicol’s theme: “Clause One of the Labour party rule book states that the party’s purpose is to ‘promote the election of Labour party representatives at all levels of the democratic process’. It does not state that its function is to be a radical protest party. The fight is now on for Labour’s soul and the future”.
After taking credit for 2017’s ‘professionally-run campaign with strategic goals, a cutting edge social media campaign’ he refers to ‘a freshness that appealed to a broad coalition, including many hard-to-reach voters’.
This freshness was actually due to the surprise appearance of an honest and caring politician, the first in many decades.
Corbyn’s spectacular insurgent campaigns stand as vivid demonstrations that, as he said upon taking leadership of the Labour Party in September 2015, “things can, and they will, change.” Corbyn’s ease on the campaign trail and assured performances on TV transformed perceptions. He became Labour’s great asset (Alex Nunns)
MacNicol continued: “What did Labour offer? Everything to everyone and that was the problem . . . Corbynism has been an abject failure. We need a strong leader to reignite the party and connect with voters”.
Quickly disposing of Rebecca Long-Bailey: “If elected, she would kill any chance of Labour improving its electoral prospects” he moved on to focus on Keir Starmer, attracting the bulk of the support from MPs, the backing of Unison, the largest trade union and appointing a campaign team drawn from both left and right of the party
Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips – ‘capable of driving the transition Labour needs- – are likely to gain the necessary support to have their names on the ballot paper.
He ends, “A renewed Labour party, with a strong leader, could win the 123 seats needed to secure a majority . . . on April 4 take steps honour the promise of Clause One and move back to bidding for power or remain a party of protest.
So must the party resurrect New Labour? Will Corbynism and the bid for truth, peace and justice, end with Corbyn?