A reader from Bournville draws attention to an article by Jules Birch in Inside Housing, a weekly magazine for housing professionals. He focusses on a recent TV Panorama programme about the benefit cap that now leaves thousands of people with 50p a week towards their rent.
He noticed that roughly 95% of tweets with the hashtag #benefitcap (scroll down to April 7) were hostile to the people featured in the programme rather than the policy. The majority of people commenting on Twitter were seeing the undeserving individual instead: the stroppy single mother with a mobile phone and the couple with many children. He notes that exactly the same thing happened with Benefits Street, How to Get a Council House and a Dispatches documentary on the cap last month.
Part of the problem, he believes, lay with the way Panorama framed the issue. As Joe Halewood was quick to point out, the programme and its advance publicity seemed to assume that most people capped are unemployed and on Jobseeker’s Allowance, when in fact just 13% are.
The fact that the vast majority of people capped are either unable to work or not required to work was only raised tentatively halfway through the programme. Most of those capped are lone parents with young children who are not required to look for work, or people on Employment and Support Allowance who do not qualify for an exemption but are still not fit for work.
David Pipe explained the effects in a piece following the Dispatches documentary last month. 7,500 households across 370 local authority areas have lost their housing benefit and are now receiving just 50p a week to pay their rent. The cap leaves a nominal amount for housing benefit or Universal Credit once someone’s benefits total more than £20,000 (£23,000 in London). In effect it is imposed on top of the rest of the benefits system.
The latest budget highlighted cuts for the poorest 18-21-year-olds, who will no longer be entitled to help with their rent through Universal Credit from April 1.
For many, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are the only thing keeping them in their home and the effect over time will be rising rent arrears and evictions and allocations policies that make it less likely that people on benefits will get a tenancy in the first place. So where and how can the poorest people live? Even people in caravans are being capped, and what will the knock-on costs be in terms of homelessness and the impact on the children?
Meanwhile in Broken Britain, the May government continues the policies of its predecessors and makes decisions which seriously afflict the poorest and greatly benefit the richest: the arms traders, Big Pharma, the privatised utilities, large developers, car manufacturers, private health companies and expensive, inefficient outsourcers – Serco, G4s and Capita.
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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Geoffrey Lean in the Telegraph notes some beneficial uses of chemicals, increasing harvests and alleviating pain.
Chemical and biological substances are used in “crop protection chemicals” (pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides), pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, animal health products and vitamins. Speciality chemical products include electronic chemicals, industrial gases, adhesives and sealants as well as coatings, industrial and institutional cleaning chemicals, and catalysts. Consumer products include soaps, detergents, and cosmetics.
In 1987, Dr Peter Mansfield noted the huge increase in chemical production sparked off after the Second World War, when peacetime uses were sought for stockpiles of nitrates and other chemical raw materials. His findings were presented in a book, co-written with Dr Jean Munro, ‘Chemical Children’ and subtitled: ‘How to Protect Your Family from Harmful Pollutants’.
Professor John Wargo wrote Our Children’s Toxic Legacy: How Science and Law Fail to Protect Us from Pesticides, published by Yale University Press in 1998.
In the ‘90s, colleagues at the Centre for Holistic Studies located then in Bandra, Mumbai [Journal Indranet], engaged a lawyer who specialised in environmental actions, to address the situation there, where even the industries that had registered chemicals had failed to give the vitally important details, including safe levels of usage, required by law. However this had to be discontinued as funds ran out – even the low fee needed by the lawyer could no longer be paid.
Twenty years later the situation is still giving cause for concern. Lean estimates that there are some 100,000 chemicals in use, but that there is good information only on how safe – or otherwise – are 15% of them: “It is a massively neglected environmental and public health issue”.
But now, scientists, including Professor John Wargo, are warning of an unexpected side effect of this technology: “a change in the chemistry of the human body”. Many of these substances are now “embedded in our tissues and coursing through our veins” and there is damaging exposure in the work place, in food, in medicine, in cosmetics, in cleaning products and a range of consumer goods.
Lean reminds us that tests for a hundred hazardous substances have revealed that children now are more contaminated than their parents or grandparents, due in part to increased pre-natal exposure, and that researchers have found potentially dangerous chemicals in all of the 14 basic foodstuffs they took from supermarket shelves, and in the air of every home they visited.
In the Faroes Statement, issued on March 24, 2007, 200 scientists from five continents warned that exposure to common chemicals skewed the development of critical organs in foetuses and newborns, increasing their chances of developing diabetes, cancer, attention deficit disorders, thyroid damage, diminished fertility, and other conditions in exposures that may cause serious disease later in life, and which may also afflict their children and grandchildren.
The statement was presented a month later at the International Conference on Fetal Programming and Developmental Toxicity at Torshavn, Faroe Islands, which was attended by more than 200 biologists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, nutrion researchers, and pediatricians. To read it click here.
In 2010 Professor Wargo’s award-winning book, Green Intelligence: Creating Environments that Protect Human Health, was published by Yale Press. The book is closely associated with the lecture topics presented in the Open Yale Course, Environmental Politics and Law.
Lean ends: “Year after year, the change in the chemistry of our bodies will continue to intensify. Is it too much to hope that we will finally get to grips with it during our next orbit round the Sun?”
However, as Dr Mansfield asserts:
“The global pharmaceutical giants are now far more powerful than governments or even international economic communities, not least because they think decades ahead – politicians manage no more than a few years.” He concludes:
“To allow our biological heritage and potential to be so completely usurped by a half-science sponsored by commercial interest was a monstrous folly, which must eventually be redeemed.”
STOP PRESS: Today the government has announced a campaign to induce people to eat a healthier diet – which is already within their control – but is silent on the subject of these all-pervasive chemicals which are not.