Monday, 31 March 2008

More political sleaze

No wonder that the public is rejectingconventional politics (and embracing the Save Bedford Hospital party) when you read stuff like this:

Crisis meetings are to take place in the House of Lords today over a series of sleaze allegations against peers, the Guardian can disclose. These include accusations that cash has been taken from lobbyists, passes handed out to commercial interests and expenses improperly claimed.

A special meeting has been called of the full Lords privileges committee, on which all the peers' party leaders sit. It is due to discuss whether an official inquiry can go ahead into Doug Hoyle's alleged receipt of cash from an arms company lobbyist.

A subcommittee led by Lord Woolf, the former lord chief justice, was originally scheduled to meet on Tuesday to try to question Lord Hoyle about a complaint suggesting he could have breached the peers' code of conduct.

The Guardian revealed last year that Hoyle, a former Warrington MP and Labour frontbencher, secured a personal introduction for the lobbyist to Paul Drayson, then the arms procurement minister.

But sources close to the privileges committee, whose members include Lady Ashton, Labour leader of the Lords, say there are doubts about whether the subcommittee is capable of conducting the unprecedented inquiry without support.

The increase in allegations is also causing resentment among some peers, who are unaccustomed to being in the firing-line. Unlike the Commons, which has a professional standards commissioner, the Lords does not have an effective means of dealing with ethics complaints.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

We've been busy

Sorry for the lack of recent postings, but we have been busy behind the scenes.

In partiular we are awaiting some interesting Freedom of Information requests, which should make interesting reading.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Nero fiddled....

Derek Conway, the disgraced former Conservative MP, will escape a police investigation into his conduct after the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that gaping holes in the records of MPs' expenses would make bringing charges impossible.

In a move that will intensify the pressure on MPs to tighten their system of expenses and office allowances, Scotland Yard announced last night it would not be "appropriate" to launch an investigation into Conway after being advised by the CPS that "the lack of systems in this case to account for MPs' expenses would severely undermine the viability of any criminal investigation leading to a prosecution".

The Metropolitan police statement added: "In these circumstances we do not believe that it is appropriate for a police investigation to be instigated."

The gaps in the parliamentary scrutiny drew immediate criticism and calls for wholesale reform. Martin Bell, the former BBC journalist who was elected to parliament on an anti-sleaze ticket in 1997, told the Guardian: "This shows the need for external regulation. This has happened again and again and again.

"Anyone who has tried to make MPs more accountable - from Elizabeth Filkin to Alistair Graham [both former Commons sleaze watchdogs] - has been removed. We are in a state of constitutional crisis. MPs are supposed to set an example to the rest of us and yet they think there is one rule for them and another for the rest of us."

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Banana republic

Concerns about our voting system, and in particular the possibility of fraudulent use of postal votes has led to this country being likened to a banana republic.

So Communities minister, Hazel Blears, was faced with big dilemma when she appeared on BBC2’s Daily Politics this morning. How could the government go on resisting the individual voter registration in view of this week’s report from the Electoral Commission saying that “safeguards introduced to combat electoral fraud “are easily bypassed” because of weaknesses in the system?

The head of standards, Sir Christopher Kelly, said that the current arrangement of one registration per household “could not stop bogus names being registered and used as fraudulent postal votes.

The Blears response, when pressed on the programme, was that such a change could lead to fewer people voting and she implicitly suggested that this was worse then the possibility of fraud.

In other words, Labour feel that their only chance of winning is by allowing widespread cheating. So now we know.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Wide of the mark

Once again, in today's Bedfordshire on Sunday Patrick Hall MP has got things wrong.

Patrick attempts to justify the budget's increase in alcohol duty on the need to fund extra winter fuel payments for our pensioners. But he could not have been paying attention to Mr Darling's budget. The increase in winter fuel payments are for one year only, whilst tax on alcohol is going to rise progressively each year.

The real reason for the tax rises is that Patrick's Labour government has made a total mess of public finance.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Getting worse under Labour

Health inequality as measured by life expectancy and infant mortality has got worse since Labour came to power, a government report said today.

Babies born to poor families now have a 17% higher than average chance of dying, compared to a 13% higher than average chance 10 years ago.

And the life expectancy of people living in poverty has fallen further behind the average, particularly for women, than it was around the time of Tony Blair's election.

In absolute terms health is getting better. Life expectancy for all social groups is going up, and infant mortality figures are going down.

But, according to a report published by the Department of Health called Tackling Health Inequalities, the gap between the wealthy and the poor has widened over the last decade.

The figures are embarrassing for the government because cutting health inequalities has been one of its priorities. In 2003 it committed itself to reducing inequalities in health outcomes by 10% by 2010, as measured by infant mortality and life expectancy at birth.

Today's figures show that those targets are not being met.

In 2004-06 infant mortality among manual workers was 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. That was 17% higher than the national average of 4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.

In the baseline period, 1997-99, the infant mortality rate was only 13% higher among manual workers.

On life expectancy, today's figures show the life expectancy gap between men living in the poorest areas of England and the average male is 2% wider than it was 10 years ago.

But, for women, the gap is 11% wider than it was.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Snouts in the trough

A friend of this website was at the House of Commons yesterday, checking things out for when we are in parliament. He was at a reception and talking to the man in charge of the wine. Apparently the House of Commons wine cellars have had a £7million upgrade (not the wines, just the facilities for storing the wine).

Who pays for it all? Need we ask.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Ruth Harrison

Many of you may remember Ruth Harrison, one-time deputy chief executive of Bedford Hospital. She is back in the news. This is from today's Daily Telegraph:

A former hospital chief executive who was at the centre of a superbug outbreak which left 33 people dead is working for the NHS again, despite receiving a £140,000 pay-off just over a year ago.

Ruth Harrison is being paid £52,000 on a short-term contract to head a review into maternity and children's services at Epsom and St Helier Hospital in Surrey, which could lead to the closure of wards.

<A HREF="" target="_top"><IMG SRC="" WIDTH=300 HEIGHT=250 BORDER=0></A> She left her £130,000 chief executive job at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Bucks, in 2006 with a £140,000 "golden goodbye" the day before a damning report was published, citing serious faults in her leadership.

Under her tenure 33 patients died and 334 became seriously ill with the highly infectious stomach bug Clostridium difficile.

The Healthcare Commission, which carried out the investigation into the outbreak between October 2003 and June 2005, said the trust "compromised the safety of patients by failing to make the right decisions" and that it "rejected the proper advice of their own experts".

Its report said: "The Healthcare Commission considers there were significant failings on the part of the leadership at the trust and has recommended that the leadership change."

The appointment of Ms Harrison at Epsom and St Helier Hospital has caused outrage among patients' rights campaigners, who believe it is tantamount to rewarding poor performance.

Vote for Rawlins

Richard Rawlins, consultant orthopoedic surgeon and longstanding supporter of the Save Bedford Hospital party is standing for election to the BMA council.

Do please support him: he will be an eloquent advocate traditional professional standards in medical practice.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Number crunching

GPs pay has been in the news, so here are some facts:

Typical cost of health insurance for a pet hamster for one year £60
Average payment to a GP for one year's care for each patient on his list £59

By contrast, each telephone call to NHS Direct costs £18, and one third of those calls result in the caller being told to go to A and E or to their GP!!

Which is the best value? We leave it to you to think about.