In an earlier post it was noted that “Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor” (John Grisham) 2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks”.
Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, wrote earlier this month:
“Across Britain some 3.8 million women are affected by the increase to the state pension age. Though there is a good deal of sympathy for the aim of equalising the retirement age, what has taken place in practice has been appallingly unjust. Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) agrees with equalisation, but does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented – with little or no personal notice (1995/2011 Pension Acts), faster than promised (2011 Pension Act), and no time to make alternative plans”.
Guy Opperman, work and pensions minister with responsibility for financial exclusion, failed to reassure women in their 60s, hit by changes to their pension, by advising them to get a job or take up “extended apprenticeship opportunities”.
“Raising the pension age for women, often with little notice and sometimes failing to notify people of the changes at all, is a recipe for disaster.
“Many Waspi women affected by state pension inequality have been working full time and paying national insurance since the age of 15 or 16. In my constituency of Easington, the government’s changes to the state pension age will harm some 4,542 women.
“The OECD has recently ranked Britain’s pensions system as the worst in the developed world – yet the Tories are attempting to deny Waspi women even a basic state pension” . . .
“Excluded from the winter fuel allowance, from the free bus pass and now from the state pension, this generation of women are now in numerous cases having to sell their homes, take on precarious poverty-wage jobs or rely on foodbanks . . .
“The government’s given reason for failing these 3.8 million women is that to give them their pensions would cost as much as £30bn – for six years of pensions.
“Yet research from Landman Economics suggests the cost of helping Waspi women would likely be a more modest £8bn”. Morris lists the wider context:
- Refurbishing Westminster will cost the taxpayer some £7bn,
- Britain’s airstrikes in Syria are estimated to reach a cost of around £10bn.
- Increased privatisation of the national health service is estimated to cost at least an extra £4.5-£10bn each year.
- There have been billions of pounds of needless tax cuts to the bank levy.
“In this context finding the money for Waspi women seems a sensible price to pay to give these women justice and stop poverty from rising to ever more tragic levels. We know and we can see that it isn’t equal, it isn’t fair and it isn’t justifiable – it’s driving down the incomes and the quality of life of countless women.
Morris: “The prime minister is herself a Waspi woman but I doubt she ever has or ever will be faced with a choice between heating or eating. Yet this doesn’t mean it is too late for the government to do the right thing”.
“The parliamentary ombudsman is currently investigating the Department for Work and Pensions for maladministration, by failing to notify women of the changes to their state pension age. If the ombudsman finds in favour of the Waspi women the government could have to pay compensation to the tune of billions of pounds”
The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and 50 Tory MPs support the Waspi campaign.
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
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.
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?
Edited extracts from an article by MP Dawn Butler, responding to a claim by Minister Liz Truss
Her message to Theresa May: you delivered a caring speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street, but it is clear that it was nothing more than rhetoric and spin. The few it governs for are certainly not the working class . . .
Rents have sky-rocketed to ridiculous levels, with my constituents, in the worst cases, spending 70% of their wages on rent alone, whilst drivers on modest incomes – who need their car to get to and from work – continue to face misery at the petrol pump. In Brent, we have two very busy foodbanks and several soup and bread kitchens. This 19th century scenario is the sad reality for the working class in 21st century Britain.
Wages for the majority of people have continued to fall in real terms, whilst those at the top have seen their salaries soar
Living conditions in the UK are now at their lowest levels for 60 years, with hundreds of thousands of families relying on food parcels just to get by. Our hospitals are in crisis, hate crime has rocketed and homelessness has doubled.
And to compound the struggle, this government has been cutting services, such as money for pupils, access to justice and policing
This means that when you are being discriminated against at work, you will be less likely to be able to take your employer to court. Tribunal cases have plummeted by 70%. To the government this number represents success, but to me, these are hard-working people who have had the rug pulled from underneath them when it comes to getting proper recompense for their grievances. These are the signs of a government destroying the working conditions and protections of those who need it most.
Nearly one million people are on zero hours contracts which means, from month to month, they are in a panic to know if they can pay their rent on time or at all.
This government is openly deceiving the general public by claiming to be something they’re so clearly not. Whether you call it “alt-facts” or “fake news”, if such untruths are peddled often enough, people soon start to believe it may be true.
Conservatives have tried to force the trade union bill through parliament to silence and, ultimately, destroy trade unions. Why would they want to do this unless they wanted also to destroy the voice of the working class and important workers’ rights? How about the workers’ rights bill? The Tories wouldn’t allow a discussion in parliament of a bill which sought to protect the rights of the working class after Brexit. Features like working 48 hour weeks, holiday pay and maternity and paternity rights are all at risk due to us leaving the EU. The government appear to be running roughshod over them.
Throughout our history in power we have championed the working man and woman in establishing great working class systems, from the NHS to the minimum wage, and all equality legislation, tenets that have now become the fibre that gives our country its unity, fairness and strength. We defended SME businesses, created through a movement of working class men women and trade unions, all with a common goal of helping the many and not just the few.
Dawn Butler is MP for Brent Central
Dr Paul Hobday, leader of the National Health Action Party (NHAP), a political party that was formed by doctors and campaigners in 2012 to fight to protect the NHS, has written to inform David Babbs of 38 Degrees (following his article in the Guardian) about the nature of Incisive Health (IH), whom 38D had commissioned under the impression that they were independent health policy experts.
38D crowdfunded to raise the money to commission Incisive Health to review all publicly available documents on the Sustainability and Transformation Plans but Dr Hobday points out that the co-founder of Incisive Heath is Bill Morgan, who was a special health advisor to Andrew Lansley, the author of the Health and Social Care Act (2012). The company itself is a health lobby group, representing private sector interests to government.
Hobday emphasises that the National Health Action Party wants to see an end to the ‘revolving door’ culture of Westminster and Whitehall – and that Incisive Health is part of that culture:
“Not only does Bill Morgan’s role in the destructive Health and Social Care Act (2012) make his company particularly unsuitable for NHS campaigns, their links don’t end there. In February 2016, Richard Douglas, the Department of Health’s Director General of Finance, joined Incisive Health. Andrew Lansley said he had “hugely valued” Douglas for his “advice and guidance”. Jeremy Hunt was also full of praise. Douglas was in charge of NHS money and policy during both Lansley and Hunt’s reigns, and so had a strong connection to their cuts and privatisation agenda.Incisive Health count Pfizer as one of their clients, so perhaps it is no surprise to find one of their ex-employees, Ben Nunn, in the health team of Owen Smith, given Smith’s own career with Pfizer.
Dr Hobday ends: “We hope that now that you have been appraised of the nature of Incisive Health, 38 Degrees will consider ending its relationship with that company as soon as possible”.
Some of 38D’s own members imply a similar request as a comment here:
“Babbs omits to mention US influence in NHS restructuring, which Jeremy Hunt has acknowledged. Major US consultancies and healthcare corporations like McKinsey and UnitedHealth are heavily involved. But he confirms that 38 Degrees commissioned Incisive Health, lobbyists for Virgin Healthcare and the privatisers’ NHS Partners Network, to produce its crowdfunded report. It’s not surprising it glosses over what the STPs prefigure – the replacement of an NHS once recognised as world leading in cost-effective public healthcare by a privatised system whose providers’ financial interests will have undue sway. As members of 38 Degrees, we think it’s vital that it isn’t seen as an NHS privatisers’ tool”.
National Health Action Party executive condemns influence of corporate sector and recommends vote to REMAIN
The executive of the National Health Action Party – formed by health professionals deeply concerned about the state of the NHS – decided that they would not actively campaign in the debate when the referendum was first announced.
The party policy on democracy in both the UK and the EU has not been fundamentally affected by the referendum and it remains the case that they want to see substantial reform of our democratic processes.
However, at all levels, local, national and supra-national, the democratic process is being subverted by the undue influence of the corporate sector.
This enables industrial scale tax avoidance, legislation which is skewed in the interests of those with most financial influence and our elected representatives vote on issues from which they benefit personally or politically. The message continues:
“As the current investigations into Tory electoral expenses shows it is clear we are in danger of allowing those with the most money to buy elections. We have, in effect, a two party system. This makes it very easy for corporate influence to be maintained as it will always be one or the other in government (with the exception of the occasional Coalition). In the EU the corporate sector meets the negotiators from the Commission to discuss agreements such as CETA and TTIP behind closed doors with very little access given to representatives from campaign groups. These exceed the remit of ordinary trade agreements. Not only do they cover the traditional ground of tariffs (import and export duty) and quotas but also contain substantial deregulatory conditions. As even Peter Lilley, Conservative MP, has noted, this is not the proper business of a trade agreement. These are areas which national governments legislate for.
“In short, at both national and supra-national level, we have neo-liberal government and we have had for the last 30 years at least. In the current context what we are seeing is a lot of jockeying for position from the right wing over the leadership of the Tory Party and the political opportunism of UKIP, but neither side talks about the political reality of the situation. It is not in the interest of neo-liberals to discuss the faults in their own ideology. So the real issues around the EU are never aired, despite the fact that it is the only debate we should be having. Indeed if the EU and our relationship with it had ever genuinely been on the agenda surely the negotiation of the Lisbon Treaty, in 2009, would have been the appropriate time, not now.
“The NHS and how-much-or-how-little is or will be spent on it has been the subject of much speculation. But this is a simplistic notion. The NHA is well aware that the de-funding of the NHS, whilst improving the private sector access to contracts and to the running of the commissioning system itself, is a political choice not an economic one. ‘Austerity’ economics is an ideological commitment to shrinking the state, not a genuine lack of money in this, the fifth richest country in the world. Our services are under threat in or out of the EU. The decision we have to make is about how we can best counter that threat. CETA, TTIP and TISA create additional pressure for the further privatisation of our public services and adds a ‘locking down’ element which will make it very difficult for any future progressive UK government to restore them to public ownership and delivery. But this is where the debate hinges for NHA.
“Across Europe there is mounting opposition to these agreements. Not only campaign groups but governments have begun to question them. Here in the UK, however, it is very possible that in the event of an exit vote on Thursday the UK government would start its own negotiations, unimpeded by the progressive voices joining ours across Europe. In these circumstances it appears that the best counter weight we can have to international corporate power is international cooperation.
“There is another counter-democratic strand that runs through this debate. It says, ‘this is your one and only chance to vote’. No, it isn’t. The whole point of democracy is that you don’t just get one shot at something. We debate – and vote – on that basis.
We should be under no illusions about the task to counter the There Is No Alternative mantra of the neo-liberals. If the vote on Thursday is to remain, Cameron’s government will no doubt insist that their ‘mandate’ to destroy the welfare state and continue austerity has been renewed.
“If the vote is to leave we face truly dangerous times as Farage will claim it validates him and his odious politics. But progressives should be clear. If we tear each other apart after Thursday in an avalanche of blame and recrimination then we will not be equipped for the fight to come.
“If it is ‘remain’ we must prepare to stand the best candidates we can for the European elections in 2019. If it is ‘leave’ we must prepare for a possible early general election. It is in this context that the NHA executive recommends to the party that they vote to remain in the EU in the referendum this Thursday. The NHA Executive Committee.”
David Edwards of Media Lens responds to a Guardian article by Polly Toynbee in which she suggests that voting for Jeremy Corbyn would amount to a ‘betrayal’ of the electorate by quoting Ian Sinclair’s argument that in fact it is Toynbee, not Corbyn, who is out of touch with public opinion.
Sinclair noted that Corbyn supports a publicly run NHS, a position supported by 84 per cent of the public, according to a November 2013 YouGov poll. In addition:
- ‘He supports the nationalisation of the railways, a position backed by 66 percent of the public, including a majority of Conservative voters, according to the same poll.
- ‘He supports the nationalisation of the energy companies, a position supported by 68 percent of the public, including a majority of Conservative voters, according to the same poll.
- ‘He believes the Royal Mail should be publicly owned, a position supported by 67 percent of the public, according to the same poll.
- ‘He supports rent controls, a position supported by 60% of the public, including 42% of Conservatives, according to an April 2015 YouGov poll.
- ‘He opposes the retention of Trident nuclear weapons, a position John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, notes is supported by a “smallish plurality” in “the majority of polls”.
- ‘He strongly opposed the 2003 Iraq War, which was also opposed by the more than one million people who marched through London on 15 February 2003.
- ‘He has long pushed for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, a position favoured by 82 per cent of the public, according to a May 2014 YouGov poll.’
Thus: ‘Corbyn’s key political positions are in actual fact supported by a majority of the British public.’
Edwards ends: “Like Blair and the rest of the establishment, the Guardian and other corporate media claim their motivation is to preserve Labour’s electability, rather than to attack any and all politics that stray off the ‘centrist’, ‘modernising’ path.
“In reality, it could hardly be more obvious that this collection of profit-seeking, corporate enterprises – grandly and laughably proclaiming themselves ‘the free press’ – is opposing a threat to their private and class interests”.
Recently Lesley Docksey sent this heartfelt reflection:
“The trouble is we know the problem, and it’s all very well George and Seamas saying we have to ban this, get rid of that and set up something else.
“But how do we actually do it, how do we the people force a break between the corporate power and politicians?”
Despite the poor record of service by the private sector in prisons, transport, energy and water, British schools and hospitals are loudly threatened with takeover, a slavish imitation of our special friend’s policies for schools and hospitals.
Anne sent this link to an article by Jon Stone about the fire hazard and other structural failings of Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, first opened in 2000 under the “private finance initiative”, under which the NHS pays a private company rent-like payments to make use of facilities. The UK now owes more than £222bn to banks and corporations for these Private Finance Initiatives, conceived by Conservatives in the 1990s and ‘embraced’ by New Labour.
Will this hospital be handed over to ‘the state’? In other words, farmed out to Capita, G4S or Serco?
In the FT, Gill Plimmer reported that the Official Journal of the European Union database, which records every public sector contract worth more than £115m, reveals that £20bn worth of government contracts is now handed to the private sector. About half of council waste management services and 23% of human resources, IT and payroll functions are now privatised. Tens of thousands of health, defence, security and IT workers have transferred to corporate employers such as Babcock, G4S, Serco, Capia, Mitie and Carillion. This continues, even though the reputation of the private sector in delivering public services has been repeatedly damaged – examples include the high profile failure of G4S during the Olympics and the legal action facing Virgin Care over its running of NHS and social care services in Devon. Monbiot’s devastating, fully referenced account of such failures may be read here and others have been written by Gill Plimmer in the Financial Times.
As all these services are transferred via the state into corporate care, the cities themselves are being coerced to follow the mayoral route – which, as Steve Beauchampé notes in the Birmingham Press -was soundly rejected by voters in Birmingham, Coventry and seven other cities.
Did Liverpool – which held no referendum – make the right choice?
Chancellor Osborne is insisting that powers must be devolved through the office of a regional mayor – so much easier to induce or threaten than a whole council – a puppet?
As economic geographer, Professor Michael Chisholm summarised the position more politely, “One could cynically say that the proposal for elected mayors is yet another structural diversion while the steady centralisation of power continues”.
Beauchampé proposes consigning this ‘mayoral hokum’ to its rightful place in the dustbin of history, rejecting the notion that in a democracy just one person can understand, represent and address people’s priorities, needs and hopes, creating and implementing a vision for our fast changing region and its youthful population. He sets out a ‘radical’ – because truly democratic – alternative as a draft proposal.
But, as Lesley asks, “how do we the people force the break between the corporate power and politicians?”
Proportional representation could be the first step.
At least, one writes, there will not be the heartache of watching such a team fail – as did the widely hailed Blair and Obama – beset by vested interest and failing to fulfil expectations. Instead on past record there will be:
- more austerity for the ‘have-nots’, continuing as senior bankers flourish – despite causing the economic crash;
- declining public services;
- sub-standard education and training for the young from poorer families;
- ‘aspirational’ housing built on green spaces as council housing lists grow;
- the revolving door between big business and government continuing to spin, ensuring that decisions are made in favour of the rich;
- courting of foreign investment
- more poorly monitored, polluting incinerators;
- permission given for fracking in the politically opposed north;
- exploitation of smaller food producers, favouring food for export;
- lavish expenditure on HS2 and Trident;
- private companies entering the NHS and putting profit first;
- increasing export of armaments, causing mayhem in other countries;
- assistance for America’s military aggression.
And perhaps more: