Category Archives: Whistleblowers

Broken Britain 7: prolonged, tragic sagas: infected blood transfusions, OP poisoning and Gulf War Syndrome, denial and delay, pending death

The Haemophilia Society has blown the whistle and called for an enquiry into its own failure and that of government, pharma and clinicians. More here.

Medics and politicians knew by the mid-1970s that commercially manufactured blood products from the USA were suspect. By the mid-1980s there were warnings of a similar situation in respect of HIV. Nevertheless these products continued to be imported and used – just as OP sheep dips were.

British haemophiliacs and other victims’ lives were blighted in the 1970s and 1980s by these cheap imported US blood products, harvested from inmates and drug addicts. More than 7,000 were infected and went on unknowingly to infect family and friends. Read more in The Journal.

Last week in The Times, Margarette Driscoll recalls that in 2015, following the Penrose report into contaminated blood products in Scotland (which many victims denounced as a whitewash), David Cameron apologised to those who were infected by HIV and hepatitis C.

Weasel words

References to “compensation” have been changed to “payments” – to avoid admitting the liability which is already common knowledge? The sums received by victims of the contaminated blood scandal are known as ex gratia payments.

In April, as he left the Commons, the former health secretary Andy Burnham declared there had been a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale in the NHS” over contaminated blood and called for a Hillsborough-style inquiry.

Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, has been campaigning on the issue since she met one of her constituents, a mild haemophiliac who was given factor VIII in 1983 to prevent excessive bleeding when he had a tooth removed in hospital. He discovered he was infected with hepatitis C in 1995, when it showed up on blood tests for an unrelated illness.

As Theresa May had set up the Hillsborough inquiry when she was home secretary, Johnson was hopeful she would do the same for contaminated blood.

May refused. Johnson requested an urgent Commons debate, which was due to be held on Tuesday. She then got the six leaders of the opposition parties — including the DUP — to sign a letter to Ms May asking for an inquiry, and this is to be set up.

Adding insult to injury? Payment to many victims of NHS blood contamination is to be cut

In March this year a scheme to pay the victims of NHS blood contamination is to be scaled back under government plans announced on Monday. Ministers believe the reforms are necessary because more people are now considered likely to develop serious health issues – and be entitled to higher payouts – pushing the programme as much as £123m over budget.

The government has proposed measures that would cut predicted costs, including limiting the availability of the higher level of financial support under the scheme

Will an enquiry compensate the victims of this NHS for the cuts?

 

 

 

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Whistleblowers 11: the Haemophilia Society

The Haemophilia Society calls for an enquiry into its own failure and that of government, pharma and clinicians

Medics and politicians knew by the mid-1970s that commercially manufactured blood products from the USA were suspect. By the mid-1980s there were warnings of a similar situation in respect of HIV. Nevertheless these products continued to be imported and used.

British haemophiliacs and other victims’ lives were blighted in the 1970s and 1980s by these cheap imported US blood products, harvested from inmates and drug addicts. More than 5,000 were infected and went on to unknowingly infect family and friends.

In 2010 this site recorded the efforts of Lord Alf Morris, fighting for better treatment of patients infected with contaminated blood products for years. It was noted that eight years ago the Lancet reported the Irish parliament’s generous compensation package for haemophiliacs infected by contaminated blood products.

The British government has not treated victims well. Many of the relevant records have disappeared. Former Health Secretary Patrick Jenkin and former Health Minister David Owen both searched the departmental archives, but were told that the documents had been accidentally destroyed.

Of the 1,200 who contracted HIV, barely 200 survive. They have fought tirelessly for safe products and proper compensation for the avoidable infections which have devastated their health, turned family members into full-time carers, and left many living in poverty.

In March a statement by the Board of Trustees of the Haemophilia Society on contaminated blood opened: 

Failures in government policy and negligence of public bodies led to people being infected with blood borne viruses as a result of their treatment with blood products in the 70s and 80s. The impact of these failures was worsened by poor communication from government, healthcare professionals, pharmaceuticals companies and The Haemophilia Society. Warnings were not heeded and errors were subsequently hidden.

Pharmaceutical companies and clinicians did not share, or even hid, information about risks from patients and patient groups. Blood products, for the treatment of bleeding disorders, were made from pooled human plasma which was known to allow the transfer of viruses. Blood donations, particularly in the USA, were taken from high risk paid donors, often in prisons and without adequate processes to screen potential donors.

We condemn the actions and inactions of all parties that contributed to dangerous products not being withdrawn, patients not being properly informed of risks and technological and procedural advances ignored.

The additional funding announced last year to more than double the budget for contaminated blood support has not gone to those most in need and will ultimately leave many people with less support. Other affected groups such as bereaved parents, partners and other family members have been particularly under-supported and ignored.

We do not think the current settlement is sufficient to provide the support people need and deserve. It does not allow them to have a reasonable standard of living rather than just be removed from poverty. We reject the current proposals for reform of the support arrangements in England as they do not recognise the full needs of the bleeding disorder community, were poorly conceived and consulted on, do not provide sufficient support to people covered by the scheme and still exclude some individuals entirely.

We want a full public inquiry under the inquiries act as only this could compel witnesses and would shed light on concerns such as:

* the inappropriate use of known infected treatments on previously untreated patients

* why and how British self-sufficiency in blood products was never achieved

* why tests to identify infected blood donations were not implemented sooner

* when and to what extent the UKHCDO, The Haemophilia Society, the Department of Health and the NHS held and were aware of information on risks and tests for infection with blood borne viruses

* why potential methods to heat treat blood products were not fully investigated and implemented sooner.

To facilitate this we want a full and open disclosure of all information held by the Government, or elsewhere, relating to the sourcing, manufacture, procurement, licensing and NHS treatment with contaminated blood and blood products. However, an inquiry must not distract from or delay the implementation of an improved support scheme.

The statement continues here:

http://haemophilia.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Board-Statement-on-Contaminated-Blood-March-2017-1.pdf

Following the statement see the APPG meeting minutes 29 March 2017 final.

http://haemophilia.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/APPG-meeting-minutes-29-March-2017-final.pdf

 

 

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Whistleblowers 11: the ones that got away?

In Britain whistleblowers are usually made to suffer, despite the nicknamed ‘Whistle-blowers Act’: There have been several general articles about whistleblowing on this site & others focussing on some brave individuals who suffered for revealing unwelcome truths. Before this site was set up there were health sector whistleblowers; Marta Andreasen & Paul van Buitenen also revealed shocking cases of EU financial mismanagement and suffered for it.

 Just for the record – covered profusely in MSM:

Professor Prem Sikka tweeted about a case involving Barclays chief executive Jes Staley, who started to work for Barclays in December 2015 and later recruited at least four senior executives who had worked with him at JPMorgan Chase. In June, when Barclays received two anonymous letters making allegations of what the bank describes as “a personal nature” about one of the investment bankers, Mr Staley asked Barclays’ security team to track down the author, though the bank’s compliance department had logged the letters as potential whistleblowing.

Barclays’ board only learnt of Mr Staley’s efforts to identify the tipster in January when a second whistleblower, this time a Barclays’ employee, came forward and directly contacted its outside directors.  In a letter, the Barclays employee pointed to flaws in the bank’s whistle-blower procedures and cited Mr. Staley’s attempts to unveil the anonymous critic.

The bank said it had instructed law firm Simmons & Simmons to conduct an investigation which found that Mr Staley erred in trying to identify the authors of the letters, who in the end were not unmasked. Barclays’ board also informed the FCA and PRA.  Barclays said it has given Staley a formal written warning and will slash his salary. The bank has promised to review its whistleblowing programme.

The Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority are now looking into the matter in Britain, while New York’s Department of Financial Services and the US Department of Justice are conducting investigations in the United States.

Paul Moore, a former HBOS banker, was dismissed from HBOS in the run-up to the financial crisis in 2004 for whistleblowing – warning that the bank was running risks it did not understand. He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Staley should be fired. Trying to find out the identity of an anonymous whistleblower where the motivation is obviously to try to crush them is gross misconduct.’

It requires real courage for whistleblowers to act on what they see, especially in the UK. One FT article notes that a recent survey by the Ethics Resource Centre of employees in 13 countries found that 63% of British employees who reported wrongdoing experienced retaliation, second only to India and far worse than the 36 per cent global averageMore detail here:

 

 

 

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Broken Britain – 1

The corporate world continues its vitriolic but insubstantial attacks on the Labour Party leader whose approach threatens their unreasonably affluent lifestyles. Will increasingly media-sceptical people who seek the common good be affected by them?

In brief, the reference is to arms traders, big pharma, construction giants, energy companies owned by foreign governments, food speculators, the private ill-health industry and a range of polluting interests. Examples of the damaging political-corporate nexus are given here – a few of many recorded on our database:

Arms trade: Steve Beauchampé“A peacenik may lay down with some unsavoury characters. Better that than selling them weapons”.

The media highlights Corbyn’s handshakes and meetings, but not recent British governments’ collusion in repressive activities, issuing permits to supply weapons to dictators. In the 80s, when lobbying Conservative MP John Taylor about such arms exports, he said to the writer, word for word: “If we don’t do it, someone else will”. Meaning if we don’t help other countries to attack their citizens, others will. How low can we sink!

Big pharma

Reader Theresa drew our attention to an article highlighting the fact that the Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA), a lobbying company working for some of the world’s biggest drugs and medical equipment firms, had written the draft report for NHS England, a government quango. This was when the latest attempt at mass-medication – this time with statins – was in the news.

Construction

Most construction entries related to the PFI debacle, but in 2009 it was reported that more than 100 construction companies – including Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Carillion – had been involved in a price-fixing conspiracy and had to compensate local authority victims who had been excluded from billions of pounds of public works contracts. The Office of Fair Trading imposed £130m of fines on 103 companies. Price-fixing that had left the public and councils to “pick up the tab”.

Utilities

In Utility Week News, barrister Roger Barnard, former head of regulatory law at EDF Energy, wondered whether any government is able to safeguard the nation’s energy security interests against the potential for political intervention under a commercial guise, whether by Gazprom, OPEC, or a sovereign wealth fund. He added: “Despite what the regulators say, ownership matters”. The Office of Fair Trading was closed before it could update its little publicised 2010 report which recorded that 40% of infrastructure assets in the energy, water, transport, and communication sectors were already owned by foreign investors.

Food

A Lancashire farmer believes that supermarkets – powerful lobbyists and valued party funders – are driving out production of staple British food supplies and compromising our food security. She sees big business seeking to make a fortune from feeding the wealthy in distant foreign countries where the poor and the environment are both exploited. These ‘greedy giants’ are exploiting the poor across the world and putting at risk the livelihoods of hard working British farmers, their families and their communities. She adds that large businesses are gradually asset-stripping everything of value from our communities to make profits which are then invested abroad in places like China and Thailand.

Health-related

Government resistance to funding long-term out of work illness/disability benefits followed the publication of a monograph by the authors funded by America’s ‘corporate giant’ Unum Provident Insurance which influenced the policy of successive governments. After various freedom of information requests, the DWP published the mortality figures of the claimants who had died in 11 months in 2011 whilst claiming Employment and Support Allowance, with 10,600 people dying in total and 1300 people dying after being removed from the guaranteed monthly benefit, placed into the work related activity group regardless of diagnosis, forced to prepare for work and then died trying. Following the public outrage once the figures were published, the DWP have consistently refused to publish updated death totals. Information touched on in this 2015 article has been incorporated into a ResearchGate report identifying the influence of Unum Provident over successive UK governments since 1992, the influence of a former government Chief Medical Officer and the use of the Work Capability Assessments conducted by the private sector – described as state crime by proxy, justified as welfare reform.

Air pollution

The powerful transport lobby prevents or delays action to address air pollutants such as ground-level ozone and particulates emitted by cars, lorries and rail engines which contribute directly to global warming, linked to climate change. They emit some common air pollutants that have serious effects on human health and the environment. Children in areas exposed to air pollutants commonly suffer from pneumonia and asthma.

Victimised whistleblowers, media collusion, rewards for failure and the revolving door 

  • A recent whistleblower report records that Dr Raj Mattu is one of very few to be vindicated and compensated after years of suffering. The government does not implement its own allegedly strengthened whistleblower legislation to protect those who make ‘disclosures in the public interest’.
  • This media article relates to the mis-reporting of the Obama-Corbyn meeting: there are 57 others on this site.
  • Rewards for failure cover individual cases, most recently Lin Homer, and corporate instances: Serco and G4S were bidding for a MoD £400m 10-year deal, though they had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the government on electronic monitoring contracts. Another contender, Capita, according to a leaked report by research company Gartner was two years behind schedule with its MoD online recruitment computer system – yet the government had contracted to pay the company £1bn over 10 years to hire 9,000 soldiers a year for the army.
  • The 74th instance of the revolving door related to Andrew Lansley’s move from his position as government health minister to the private health sector. An investigation by the Mail found that one in three civil servants who took up lucrative private sector jobs was working in the Ministry of Defence: Last year 394 civil servants applied to sell their skills to the highest bidder – and 130 were MoD personnel. Paul Gosling describes how the Big Four accountancy firms have PFI ‘under their thumbs’ and gives a detailed list of those passing from government to the accountancy industry and vice versa.

Steve Beauchampé asks if the barrage of criticism apparently aimed at Jeremy Corbyn is more about undermining the politics he stands for which are probably less far to the left than those of many in the current government are to the right. Most political commentators and opponents aren’t worried that Labour will win a General Election under him, but they are alarmed that the movement his leadership has created might one day lead to an electable left winger.

 

 

 

 

Whistleblowers 10: as revelations which damage corporate interests are penalised, useful material for ‘Russia bashing’ is rewarded

whistleblowers sufferThere have been several general articles about whistleblowing on this site & others focussing on some brave individuals who suffered for revealing unwelcome truths, including Dr Raj Mattu, Julian Assange, Ian Foxley, Peter Gardiner, Bradley Manning, Osita Mba, Jerry Bryzan and the Glaxo 4. Earlier in the century, before the site was set up, there were health sector whistleblowers; Marta Andreasen & Paul van Buitenen also revealed shocking cases of EU financial mismanagement and suffered for it.

This week a reader sent a link leading to news of sentences given to two former PwC employees who leaked data from 45,000 pages of documents which one of them had accessed through a glitch in the company’s servers. They revealed information about Luxembourg’s tax deals with large corporations such as Apple, Ikea, and Pepsi.

Though the revelations prompted parliamentary debates, select committee hearings, and an EU probe into anti-competitive tax deals the two former employees of PWC and a journalist ended up in the dock – not PwC and the tax authority.

As NATO presents Russia as a major threat, every opportunity to confirm this view is embraced

The Russian 800m runner Yuliya Stepanova, was banned from the sport for anomalies in her athlete biological passport in 2013. Yuliya and her husband Vitaly, a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), then made a series of secret recordings and allegations that were broadcast in a German television documentary entitled “Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia Produces its Winners”.

She has now been granted a special dispensation to race again at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a “neutral athlete” by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) doping review board.

The guilty verdicts for the two former PwC employees are increasing calls for more robust protections for whistleblowers. One of Deltour’s lawyers William Bourdon called the verdict “scandalous”. The message of Luxembourg’s justice system was for multinationals to “sleep tight”, he said.

NB: In Britain whistleblowers are usually made to suffer, despite the nicknamed ‘Whistle-blowers Act’: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/23/pdfs/ukpga_19980023_en.pdf

 

 

 

Corporate/political interests threatened by the public support for Corbyn’s caring policies

The corporate world continues to make vitriolic but insubstantial attacks on the Labour Party leader, whose approach threatens their unreasonably affluent lifestyles.

corbyn a threat graphic

Brief reference will be made to arms traders, big pharma, construction giants, energy companies owned by foreign governments, food speculators, the private ill-health industry and a range of polluting interests. One reflection on each sector will be given here – of many recorded on our database:

Arms trade

Steve Beauchampé: “A peacenik may lay down with some unsavoury characters. Better that than selling them weapons”. The media highlights Corbyn’s handshakes and meetings, but not recent British governments’ collusion in repressive activities, issuing permits to supply weapons to dictators. In the 80s, when lobbying Conservative MP John Taylor about such arms exports, he said to the writer, word for word: “If we don’t do it, someone else will”. Meaning if we don’t help other countries to attack their citizens, others will. How low can we sink!

Big pharma

Theresa drew attention to an article highlighting the fact that the Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA), a lobbying company working for some of the world’s biggest drugs and medical equipment firms, had written the draft report for NHS England, a government quango. At the time, the latest attempt at mass-medication – this time with statins – was in the news. The world’s largest manufacturer of low-cost vaccines said that British taxpayers are paying for excessive profits earned by big Western drugs companies.

Construction

Most construction entries relate to the PFI debacle, but in 2009 it was reported that more than 100 construction companies – including Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Carillion – had been involved in a price-fixing conspiracy and had to compensate local authority victims who had been excluded from billions of pounds of public works contracts. The Office of Fair Trading imposed £130m of fines on 103 companies. Price-fixing that had left the public and councils to “pick up the tab”.

Utilities

The Office of Fair Trading was closed before it could update its little publicised 2010 report which recorded that 40% of infrastructure assets in the energy, water, transport, and communication sectors are already owned by foreign investors. In Utility Week News, barrister Roger Barnard, former head of regulatory law at EDF Energy, wondered whether any government is able to safeguard the nation’s energy security interests against the potential for political intervention under a commercial guise. He added: “Despite what the regulators say, ownership matters”.

Food

A Lancashire farmer believes that supermarkets – powerful lobbyists and valued party funders – are driving out production of staple British food and compromising food security. She sees big business making fortunes from feeding the wealthy in distant foreign countries where the poor and the environment are exploited, also putting at risk the livelihoods of hard working British farmers and their families. Large businesses are gradually asset-stripping everything of value from our communities to make profits which are then invested abroad in places like China and Thailand. She ends, “They do this simply because they have the power to do so”.

Pollution

Government does not act on this, appearing to prioritise the interests of the corporate world. The influential transport lobby prevents or delays action to address air  pollutants such as ground-level ozone and particulates emitted by cars, lorries and rail engines which contribute directly to global warming, linked to climate change. Last November a report found that waste incineration facilities and cement plants across Europe, had seriously breached emission limits. Intensive agriculture’s lavish use of insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers has also released harmful chemicals into the air, in some cases causing water pollution. Manufacturing industries and petroleum refineries produce carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, organic compounds and chemicals which pollute the air. Children in areas exposed to air pollutants commonly suffer from pneumonia and asthma. The burden of particulate air pollution in the UK in 2008 was estimated to cause nearly 29,000 deaths. DEFRA’s report for 2013, however, does not refer to health impacts, though admitting serious levels of air pollution.

Some features of the corporate-political nexus summarised: victimised whistleblowers, media collusion, rewards for failure and the revolving door

  • Rewards for failure cover individual cases, most recently Lin Homer, and corporate instances. Capita, according to a leaked report by research company Gartner was two years behind schedule with its MoD online recruitment computer system – yet the government contracted to pay the company £1bn over 10 years to hire 9,000 soldiers a year for the army.
  • The 74th instance of the revolving door related to Andrew Lansley’s move from his position as government health minister to the private health sector. An investigation by the Mail found that one in three civil servants who took up lucrative private sector jobs was working in the Ministry of Defence. Paul Gosling gives a detailed list of those passing from government to the accountancy industry and vice versa.

As Steve Beauchampé reports (link to follow), there is a coterie of arch-Blairite, anti-Corbyn Labour MPs who never accepted the decisive democratic mandate Corbyn secured last autumn:

JC large rally

“Mann’s very public intervention can be interpreted as a calculated move to undermine the party’s electoral chances this Thursday . . .

“Realising that they have at best 4-5 months to try to oust him before reforms anticipated at this September’s party conference transfer crucial powers from the party hierarchy into the hands of members, the forthcoming elections will be used by Corbyn’s adversaries as an excuse to try and replace him”.

Will increasingly media-sceptical people – who support Corbyn because they seek the common good – hold firm?

 

 

Whistleblower Dr Mattu: justice cruelly deferred, but finally not not denied

In 2012 this site published the case of Dr Mattu and Julian Assange, also currently in the news, under the title, ‘Whistleblowers: so many have suffered – is the Public Disclosure Act being deliberately ignored?’

The editor briefly entered into a supportive correspondence with Dr Mattu. Today’s news, of vindication and some compensation for years of suffering , came as a heartwarming surprise.

The original article summarised:Raj-Mattu-_2994460c

The latest case in PCU ‘s crowded whistleblower folder is that of Dr Mattu, the cardiologist who warned that that overcrowded wards at Coventry’s Walsgrave Hospital had caused the deaths of at least two patients and was suspended on full pay for eight years before being dismissed in 2010 . . . (Ed: in copying from the original the changes were saved and she cannot find the missing text).

Five months after making his complaint, he was suspended from duty and a disciplinary file passed to the General Medical Council containing more than 200 allegations, including the bullying claims, was dismissed by the GMC in 2009 . . .

All this in the face of the so-called Whistleblowers Act, honoured only in the breach: the Public Disclosure Act. 

David Lewis, Professor of Employment Law at Middlesex, writing in the Industrial Law Journal,* had highlighted several weaknesses in the legislation, and – relevant to Dr Mattu’s case – it does not prevent employers from “blacklisting” and refusing to hire those who are known within the industry to have made disclosures in previous jobs.

And so it goes on at national and international level. 

It ended with: Justice for Dr Raj Mattu a people-power petition.

whistleblowers suffer

All must honour the whistleblower who is exposing genuine malpractice – however embarrassing or potentially expensive in terms of compensation.

*Lewis, David (1998). “The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998”. Industrial Law Journal (Industrial Law Society) 27, payment required to read Oxford Journal pdf text.

Would MP Tom Watson work well with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party deputy leader?

 

tw picA message in support of Tom Watson (also not FT approved) has been received from a Labour Party registered supporter who had been ‘terribly downhearted and disillusioned by the election result but didn’t necessarily believe that anything would change’.

This correspondent signed up to vote in the leadership election because she now thinks it might and is convinced that, whoever we elect as leader, (and she is backing Jeremy Corbyn) choosing Tom Watson as deputy is a crucial part of the change the country needs. Many potential CLP electors agree as the snapshot from his website on the left shows. She points out:

tw 2 supportHe’s also a conviction politician who stood up against Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation when nobody else would.

He had his garage broken into, people went through his bins and he was put under covert surveillance. At times he feared for his own and his family’s safety, but he kept going because that’s what he’s like, and he won. Other points:

  • Historic child abuse survivors began to contact him about organised cover-ups at the heart of the Establishment. The world told him to leave it alone. Again, he refused, and now several police inquiries are underway.
  • He set up the All Party Drones Group to campaign against CIA extra-judicial killings. Some Labour politicians said it was bad politics. Tom said it was the right thing to do.
  • He became the first MP to Judicially Review government primary legislation, successfully, over the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act – in a joint action with Liberty and the Open Rights Group.
  • In the last Parliament he opposed the military actions in Libya and Syria.
  • Wide experience: MP since 2001, former full-time trade union official, Government Minister, Government Whip, Deputy Chair of the Party.

But power-hungry? Union bound?

Jim Pickard in the FT quotes an un-named Labour MP: “It mostly seems to be about power with Watson, I would have more sympathy if his manoeuvres were for a bigger cause or purpose. He just sees politics as a game.”

Friends reject that claim, pointing out that he has resigned three times from government or party positions. “Why would he walk away from power if it was so important to him?” says one. Critics answer that Mr Watson’s influence in the party is so great that he can wield power without needing a title.

Mr Watson’s union ties also came under close and damaging scrutiny in Pickard’s article.

But would he, as our correspondent claims, be a unifier? And would Tom Watson wholeheartedly support and co-operate with Jeremy Corbyn if both are elected?

Arnie Gundersen: design of proposed nuclear reactors in Cumbria

Able Seaman William McNeilly released a lengthy dossier on the internet earlier this month in which he said Britain’s Trident nuclear defence system was vulnerable to its enemies and to potentially devastating accidents because of safety failures.

arne gundersen

But – in the mainstream – only the Independent and Japan Times covered news of another hazard, described by Arnie Gundersen, who was invited to speak at the House of Commons on March 11. He addressed the current status of Fukushima Daiichi four years after nuclear meltdown began in 2011, and presented his expert assessment of nuclear risk in regards to the proposed construction of three AP1000 reactors in Cumbria, England. He writes (abridged):

My week in the UK was exciting and full of surprises. I spoke to hundreds of people in London and Cumbria who are committed to a new energy future for Europe. They know that the dated model of big business centralized electricity production is ending, and they see a clean, disaster free viable alternative in locally distributed generation.

Still, it seems that the established British utilities are so fixated on nuclear power that they just offered to charge their customers twice the current market price for electricity for the next 35-years, so that a French nuclear company could build a fancy and untried new nuclear design at Hinkley Point. The United Kingdom is anything but united when it comes to how it will produce electricity in the 21st century!

windscale 1985The Windscale Piles in 1985: Chris Eaton

Britain has experienced the dangers of nuclear power first hand as the site of the world’s first major nuclear disaster at Windscale, receiving huge amounts of contamination from Chernobyl fallout in Wales, and contaminating the Irish Sea with plutonium at its waste reprocessing plant at Sellafield. With that background, I understand why the citizens of the UK embrace a nuclear free future.

When I spoke at the House of Commons, it was clear that only a minority of the MP’s (like US Representatives) could envision an energy future different than the past. Similar to the US, the financially influential electric power monopolies have convinced a majority of the MPs that there is no alternative to nuclear power. Thankfully, many people in the UK disagree and see a nuclear free future!

cockcroft follies

Surprisingly, it was in Cumbria that I saw the most poignant reminder of how dangerous nuclear power is. There in the fog and rain stood “Cockcroft’s Folly”, a ventilation stack on the old Windscale reactor. Filters on that stack, thankfully, captured most of the radiation released during the 1957 Windscale catastrophe.

When Windscale was under construction, Sir John Cockcroft, a great engineer and Nobel Prize winner, insisted that filters be added to the ventilation stack. The British nuclear establishment laughed at him, but he was unyielding and persisted in his cause until the filters were added to Windscale.

Naysayers nicknamed the filters “Cockcroft’s Folly”, and no one believed they were necessary. Then came the Windscale nuclear core fire and those “unnecessary” filters saved thousands of lives. Too contaminated even now to be removed, “Cockcroft’s Folly” stands in the middle of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, part of a more than $60billion cleanup planned for the neighboring stretch of coastline along the contaminated the Irish Sea.

Three new AP1000 reactors are proposed to be built in Cumbria within sight of “Cockcroft’s Folly”. Since 2010, I have repeatedly said that the AP1000 design suffers the same design flaw as the old Windscale reactor.

Like Sir John, I believe that filters must be added to the top of the AP1000 shield building to prevent huge amounts of radiation from being released during a meltdown. I call this problem “the chimney effect” and wrote a paper about it entitled “ Nuclear Containment Failures- Ramifications for the AP1000 Containment Design”.

Sir John Cockcroft must be spinning in his grave, wondering “When will they ever learn?”

Spotlight on a civil service rewarded for failure – 1: MP Margaret Hodge

civil service logo

Margaret Hodge, who chaired the Commons’ public accounts committee in the last parliament, attacked an unaccountable Whitehall “freemasonry” while speaking at Policy Exchange in February, alleging that the PAC has been threatened with break-up if it did not moderate its treatment of civil servants.

margaret hodgeMrs. Hodge’s tenure has been marked by penetrating criticism of civil service management of big projects [a search on this site will find several instances] – also shining a light on big companies, such as Google, whose tax affairs her committee exposed.

A researcher at the Institute for Government think-tank was said to have passed on comments from senior civil servants, one accusing the PAC and the National Audit Office of being “modelled on the red guards”. Another asked: “Should the PAC be broken up?”

In the past, Total Politics has commented: “Aircraft carriers, IT projects, border checks – the slippery Sir Humphreys are forever hiding behind their department’s ministers to avoid proper accountability for the sometimes very expensive decisions they make”.

The FT reported Margaret Hodge’s statement that the sad truth was – in a battle between Whitehall and politicians – civil servants were most likely to win because whereas we are here today and gone tomorrow, they are there for the long term.

As 26,000 civil servants in the Home Office had not been able to keep up with an era where services were delivered by “a plethora of autonomous health trusts and academy schools” and private providers were delivering public services through “a range of fragmented contracts”, Ms Hodge suggested the principle that had worked when there were 28 civil servants in the Home Office was no longer sustainable.

As noted on this site under the ‘reward for failure’ category, Ms Hodge stressed that those responsible for “dreadfully poor implementation” were rarely held to account for their failures and all too often showed up again “in another lucrative job paid for by the taxpayer”.

Next post: an insider’s view from a civil servant