Blog Archives

2400 deaths: Britain’s collective public, corporate, medical and political failure

Britain’s political-corporate circles deliberately failed to give fair compensation to thousands of NHS patients who received contaminated blood. But France, Japan, Italy and other countries put those responsible for their contaminated blood supplies on trial.

Medics and politicians knew by the mid1970s that commercially manufactured blood products from the USA were suspect. See: Risk, science and the politics of the blood scandals in Ireland, Scotland, England and Finland  (page 4) which cited:

  • the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada’, (Ottawa, 1997),
  • National Academy of Science 1975 (WHO partner)
  • and the World Health Assembly, Resolution 28.72. (Geneva, 1975).

The World Health Organisation had warned the UK not to import blood from countries that paid donors and had a high incidence of hepatitis, such as the US. By the mid-1980s there were warnings of a similar situation in respect of HIV. Nevertheless, these products continued to be imported and used. Successive governments refused to hold a public inquiry into what went wrong.

Lord Archer held a privately-funded, independent inquiry it took months for this government to reply to its findings.

The Haemophilia Society: https://slideplayer.com/slide/4794472/,slide 5

 The blood industry proved to be a powerful lobby and nothing was done 

Many manufacturers supplied clotting factor products to the UK during the mid-1970s and 1980s which infected haemophiliacs with life-threatening viruses. Armour’s Factorate was the most used product, with Baxter’s Hemofil, Immuno’s Kryobulin and Bayer-owned Cutter’s Koate following, see paragraph 21.332: “Final Report: Chapter 19 – Production of Blood Products – Facilities”.

The Penrose Inquiry (Chapter 5) recorded that in the 70s, Dr J Garrott Allen found that the incidence of Hepatitis among haemophilia patients was related to the increase in the use of prison plasma and “Skid Row” inhabitants, “whose use of alcohol, drugs and unsterilised needles made them prime hepatitis carriers”.  His findings, published in the journal “California Medicine”, provoked a national debate but “the blood industry constituted a powerful lobby, and nothing was done” – or as the Haemophilia Society (page 19) put it: “Although a great deal of evidence was clearly documented in the report, no useful recommendations were made.” 

Over 2400 of the people who were given contaminated blood have now died and MP Diana Johnson (left) asked for an urgent Commons debate in 2017 – recorded here. She had to get six leaders of opposition parties — including the DUP — to sign a letter to Ms May asking for an inquiry before Theresa May finally announced a public inquiry into how thousands of people became infected with HIV and hepatitis.

The MP for Stratford on Avon said: “Many victims—this is certainly true of my constituent, Clare Walton—initially did not want an inquiry; they wanted a settlement”.

The BBC reported that Eleanor Grey QC, speaking on behalf of the Department for Health and Social Care in England (and its predecessor which covered the whole of the UK), apologised for the infected blood scandal.

”At worst, a cover up or, at best, a lack of candour about past events”: Eleanor Grey QC

Many of the relevant records had 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. The British Medical Journal records that the public inquiry, which opened in September, was told in a preliminary hearing that the UK government engaged in a cover-up and in some cases the NHS altered or destroyed the medical records of patients who received blood products infected with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s.

A Private Eye journalist, after giving a detailed account of the tragedy, ended: “If the government wants to demonstrate just how sincere its apology really is, it might take a leaf out of the Irish government’s book and pay survivors proper compensation and ensure priority healthcare, in recognition that their injuries were caused by the NHS. And do this before the inquiry resumes in earnest next spring.” 

But ultimately, as Sunita Narain points out re the Union Carbide tragedy in Bhopal, it is a collective failure: as in other cases, the British public have not expressed the level of outrage needed to shame the government into action.

 

 

 

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Carillion: short changed workers but cushioned shareholders & directors

Carillion paid only £94m towards the pension deficit but sent £162m in dividends to shareholders over 2015 and 2016.

Media reports agree with Debbie Abrahams, shadow secretary of state for Work and Pensions that Carillion have failed in their duty to ensure that their pension provision was adequately managed and resourced.

She is on record as pointing out that they could well have done so, in a letter to the regulator, asking whether they were aware of dividends payments to shareholders far higher than the payments to employees’ pensions.

The FT, BBC, Telegraph, Guardian, Reuters and Citywire online reports cover news of the deficit but fail to mention what appears to be preferential treatment for directors

Carillion’s last accounts, to December 2016, show there was a combined deficit on half a dozen defined benefits schemes linked to employees’ salaries of £811m but a surplus on a directors’ scheme of £6m.

Private Eye reporting this asked: “How could most of the company’s pension commitments, covering tens of thousands of employees, be so woefully underfunded when those for a small number were fully financed?”

It notes that the PR firm acting for the trustees (possibly Teneo Blue Rubicon taking over from Bell Pottinger)  refused to provide a breakdown of the schemes’ positions, which in the secretive pensions world remain confidential.

Several former directors – who had received large salary, pensions and bonuses -were questioned by the Work & Pensions and BEIS select committees on 6th February, including former chief executive Richard Howson, former finance director, Richard Adam and current chairman Philip Green (above) in an informative article in The Construction Index.

A final PE comment: with ordinary workers facing serious cuts to their retirement incomes, MPs led by pensions select committee chair Frank Field are unlikely to take “no comment” for an answer.

 

 

 

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Revolving door 37 – confession time?

Recently Patrick Jenkins, Financial Editor of the FT, explored the history of the revolving door, saying that the practice of former politicians and central bankers seeking high paid work in financial services has a long pedigree, particularly in the US.

With apparent surprise – though it has been established practice in Britain involving senior politicians and corporates – he says. “Now it seems to be an accelerating trend in Europe”.

revolving-door-largerYet for the last six years sites such as Spinwatch, less directly Corporate Watch and the Private Eye magazine (see this article) – have highlighted this phenomenon. This Political Concern website was set up in 2010 to raise awareness of the ‘revolving door’, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding which corrupts the decision-making process. A ‘media’ category was added later.

Patrick Jenkins’ article prompted the writer to count the articles on this website which have ‘revolving door’ in the title; there were 37 – but many more had incidental references and others added the graphic on the right. Jenkins writes:

“News that Lord King, the former governor of the Bank of England, has taken a key advisory role at Citigroup follows only weeks after it was announced that former European Commission president José Manuel Barroso would chair Goldman Sachs International. Rumours are growing, too, that senior members of the last UK government may follow a similar path, following in the footsteps of the previous Labour administration”.

After citing Tony Blair as ‘one of the most famous examples of the phenomenon to date’ and listing the many roles he has taken on in his post-politics career, Jenkins moved on to focus on central bankers and policy-makers switching from public service into the private sector and vice versa.

He ends: “Defenders of the practice say it helps break down barriers between financial services companies and policymakers, but critics think it can leave an unpleasant taste. “The potential is certainly there for conflicts of interest — both real and perceived,” says Bob Jenkins, who has worked as an asset manager, regulator and market reformist”. 

Brandon Patty, a young American politician, gets nearer the truth

brandon-pattyHe wrote in the FT yesterday, with reference to America, that the general public has zero confidence in . . . career bureaucrats, professional politicians looking out for our best interests:

“From immigration and trade deals, to excess regulations and scandals at far too many government departments, there is a very real sense that (the public’s) concerns and priorities do not matter to decision makers” adding that a September 2015 poll found 75% perceived corruption as widespread in the country’s government.

But will the shameless in Britain and America take the slightest notice of these commentators?

 

 

 

Media 61: Trident vote, news of American vested interests omitted and online leads vanish

An extensive search online has failed to find a workable link to the recently published letter by former US defence officials and senior military officers.

trident smallThe only references found were in a Russia Today report and a blog by Dr David Lowry, a member of the government’s Geological Disposal Implementation Board which oversees the programme to dispose of high-level radioactive waste.

Earlier pronouncements are readily available online

Over the years former defence chiefs have said that to “abandon” Britain’s four Trident submarines would be “an enormous gamble” which could threaten “the survival of our nation” and another set of retired military men, similarly qualified, have said that these systems are ‘completely useless’. These are still readily to be found online, so why is the link to this recent letter so hard to find? There appears to be nothing sensitive or unexpected in it.

Is it a response to Private Eye’s recent exposure of the financial vested interests of many of the signatories?

The magazine lists the affiliations of some of the signatories (below), though probably for legal reasons it does not name the individuals concerned:

  • Lockheed Martin
  • Babcock defence group,
  • Sandia
  • EADS
  • Scowcroft Group

american hubris2The magazine surmises that the Trident vote was a measure taken to reassure defence contractors, British and American that their investments would be safe and deals made would be honoured.

It commented that US companies stand to ‘make a mint’ out of the Trident Successor programme and that the British government is in no position to disappoint them.

In the interests of preservation – as websites crash and lose such data (especially in the chemical/pharmaceutical world) such material can live on in minor sites, the letter and signatories are posted here: https://nuclearindustries.wordpress.com/trident-vote-recently-published-letter-by-former-us-defence-officials-and-senior-military-officers/

 

 

Javelin Park 1: Will GCC approve a Balfour Beatty incinerator despite concerted public opposition – and a poor business case?

 

Gloucestershire County Council is proposing to build a £500 million Urbaser Balfour Beatty Energy from Waste incinerator at Javelin Park in Haresfield.

UBB officials say it will create new jobs and help the UK meet its renewable energy targets by generating enough electricity from waste to power 25,000 homes.

Alleged vested interests: large power companies and government advisers

A Private Eye journalist reported that 103 incinerator sites were licensed in 2010 and in 2011 DEFRA had 20 more applications from large power companies. Part of the answer was that there are vested interests seeking the proliferation of incinerators. Apart from the companies involved, a large number of government advisers are involved in the expensive and remunerative incinerator PFI deals.

There are several thoughtful and informative articles on the subject by Chris Warne in the Stroud News & Journal.

This plan is opposed by residents, opposition groups and local authorities

Highlighting growing concerns that there will be too many incinerators in the UK by 2015 and that they will severely hamper recycling, Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood tabled Early Day Motion 383, saying that there is mounting evidence that incinerator overcapacity in continental Europe has had a negative impact on recycling performance there and warned that the same problem could trouble the UK.

The motion has received cross-party support – attracting signatures from members of five different political parties, including Daniel Kawczynski (Con, Shrewsbury) and former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion).

Though all accept that household waste cannot continue to be landfilled, yet there is fierce disagreement about which methods and technologies should be used to dispose of the county’s rubbish.

Health

Gloucestershire Vale Against Incineration (GlosVAIN), which has campaigned long and hard (see flyer opposite), says:

  • the plant will be a blight on the landscape, might well pose a danger to human health and
  • is outdated technology: there are newer, cleaner and more efficient alternatives on the market.

The United States passed laws in 1997 to measure the emissions of smaller particulates which can be absorbed into the blood. They were passed after articles in the New England Journal of Medicine and studies from Harvard Air Effects Institute reported findings that coal-fired power stations and incinerators had a strong association with overall mortality, cardiovascular deaths and lung cancer.

The Health Protection Agency has now decided to commission a major new study to investigate the possibility of a link between incinerator emissions and child deaths. However, preliminary results from that study, which will also examine a possible connection between incinerator fumes and birth defects, will not be available until March 2014, a year after building work is scheduled to start on the Javelin Park incinerator.

Private Eye also pointed out that DEFRA’s emissions monitoring procedures are lax

None of DEFRA’s 62 monitoring stations (one pictured right) are anywhere near an incinerator. A whistleblowing emissions tester contacted the Eye with information that PM 2.5 is not continuously measured and private emissions testing firms have no duty to report test failures to the Environment Agency. Repeat testing is done by arrangement with the incinerator companies who can change the type of waste burnt on the test day. It concludes that existing stations should implement the stricter monitoring regime of the United States.

A Dundee incinerator (built 2000) breached emission limits in 2007 and 2008. Other modern incinerators breaching limits include Dudley, Dumfries, Wolverhampton and Nottingham. A Dumfries incinerator (2009) had 172 reported emission breaches in its first year. The Environment Agency says “none of the breaches would have caused harm to human health” – a very different approach to that of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which in 2009 and 2011 fined Covanta hundreds of thousands of dollars “for emitting cancer-causing chemicals”.

Sue Oppenheimer, the chairman of GlosVAIN has called on GCC to apply the precautionary principle  

She asks for the project to be kept under wraps until the findings of the HPA’s study are known. Stroud District Council, which has unanimously voted to oppose the development, has made the same request.

And even the business case is dubious

Javelin Park incinerator requires a 25-year-contract between Urbaser and GCC for the disposal of household waste produced inside the county. But serious doubts have been raised about whether there is enough waste being created to warrant the construction of an incinerator at Javelin Park. The county council’s forecasts of the amount of waste produced in the county have been shown to be overestimated, with homes currently producing around 20% less waste per year than had been projected – equating to approximately 50,000 tonnes less rubbish per annum for a facility which is being built to process 190,000 tonnes a year.

The only way the shortfall could be made up, campaigners say, is by incinerating more commercial and industrial waste or by importing rubbish to be processed in the plant, which  would be unfair to Gloucestershire taxpayers who are footing the bill for the project.

It was to have been funded partly by central government, with Defra awarding GCC £92 million worth of PFI credits in November 2008, but this funding was withdrawn in October 2010 because Defra determined that the UK had adequate incinerator capacity. Objectors believe that public money not should be used to help to pay for a facility which could be used increasingly by the private sector to dispose of its waste. 

MP Martin Horwood said: “Incineration is not just another waste disposal method. It is costly and unsustainable and actively harms recycling. We need to say no to it in Gloucestershire and across the UK.”