Monthly Archives: July 2013

Government tries to quietly drop Lord ‘desolate north-east’ Howell as adviser

Just as interesting as the fact that the government has tried to quietly drop Howell is the fact that the website claims his role changed in April, when only yesterday it was saying he was still in place.
I hope someone’s keeping track of all the Tory lies – I can only keep tabs on those I notice!

Closing high-ranked Stafford hospital like curing gangrene THEN amputating

If a decision is made to close Stafford Hospital (and it’s due at 2pm today – Wednesday), it will be “the equivalent of taking antibiotics to cure gangrene – then deciding to cut off the limb once it’s back in good health”, according to this article. What better example of the government’s insane campaign against our hospitals could there be?

Bedroom tax decision: So Cameron has committed contempt of Parliament too


It was hardly the resounding victory on which the government must have been depending; faced with a ruling in favour of the DWP, the 10 families who brought a judicial review against the bedroom tax just said, “We will have to appeal.”

The High Court ruled yesterday that the change to housing benefit, subtracting amounts according to whether tenants had one or more ‘spare’ rooms according to arbitrary guidelines laid down by the DWP, do not breach the human rights of disabled people.

The families – all disabled or parents of disabled children – had challenged the changes, claiming violations of the Human Rights Act and the Equalities Act.

The DWP was quick to get a comment out to the press. Unfortunately for ministers, it was shrill in tone and undermined the department’s case.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are pleased to learn that the court has found in our favour and agreed that we have fulfilled our equality duties to disabled people. Reform of housing benefit in the social sector is essential, so the taxpayer does not pay for people’s extra bedrooms.”

(Let’s just pause to bear in mind that one of the architects of the bedroom tax is Lord Freud, whose eight-bedroom mansion is indeed funded by the taxpayer. How many extra bedrooms is that?)

“But we have ensured extra discretionary housing support is in place to help those who need it and today we have announced a further £35m of funding to councils to aid residents.”

That’s right, there is a discretionary fund that councils can use to help social housing tenants. At £150 million, it is considered woefully inadequate for the task.

The fact that the DWP announced a further £35 million for this purpose indicates that the government thinks so, too. So, despite insisting that they are fulfilling their duties, ministers under Iain Duncan Smith are also admitting that they aren’t.

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the families who launched the legal challenge released comments of their own, in which they made it perfectly clear that they were not going to go down without a fight.

A statement from Leigh Day, one of the three law firms representing the claimants, said: “The Court found that the Secretary of State has been aware that the law must be changed to provide for disabled children since May 2012, and they were highly critical of his failure to make regulations to provide for them. Lord Justice Laws said that the current state of affairs ‘cannot be allowed to continue’.

“The Government must now make regulations ‘very speedily’ to show that there should be ‘no deduction of housing benefit where an extra bedroom is required for children who are unable to share because of their disabilities’.”

This means Iain Duncan Smith has known for more than a year that the bedroom tax would discriminate against disabled children, and has done nothing about it. One can only wonder which of his beliefs justified this cruelty.

The Leigh Day statement continued: “The court held that discrimination against adults with disabilities, even those in the same situation to children with disabilities who could not share a room, was justified. Lawyers for adults with disabilities today said that they believe this cannot be right. They should be entitled to full Housing Benefit for the accommodation they actually need.

“Lawyers for adults with disabilities… confirmed that they intend to appeal the ruling, arguing that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is unlawful.

“Disabled children and their families also intend to appeal as they are now left in a position where they do not know whether in fact they are entitled to full housing benefit to meet the costs of the homes that they need. This is because the Government has declined to confirm that the new regulations, which the court says must be made, will cover their situations, or to provide a date by which the new regulations will be made.

“Since the new housing legislation was introduced it has had a devastating effect on many people across the country. Charities, social landlords and advice agencies have spoken out about the plight of people with disabilities who have been affected by the measure.

Richard Stein from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day added: “We will be seeking an urgent appeal to the Court of Appeal. Many people with disabilities including our clients may lose their homes unless the law is changed. Their lives are already difficult enough without the fear of losing their accommodation, which has been provided specifically to meet their exceptional needs.”

Two other law firms are representing the claimants: Hopkin Murray Beskine and Public Law Solicitors.

Rebekah Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine said: “The Government’s position in relation to disabled children is incomprehensible. In May 2012, the Court of Appeal held that the Secretary of State was discriminating against disabled children who need to share a bedroom because of their disabilities, yet by February 2013, when these proceedings were issued, no action had been taken.

The Prime Minister then told the House of Commons in March that disabled children were exempt, when this was plainly not the case. When he was questioned, the Government rushed out a circular to local authorities, which suggested that the rule may not apply to some disabled children; yet the Government continued to fight this case.

“It is no wonder local authorities and affected children and families are confused.”

She said: “We are pleased that the court has recognised that the current situation is not acceptable and that the Government must act quickly. We are disappointed however that the Government has delayed for so long already and is still foot-dragging.

“Until it is absolutely clear that these claimant families and others like them will not have their benefit cut on the basis that they live or hope to live in homes which meet their children’s needs, these claimants, like the disabled adults, have no choice but to appeal.”

Emma Burgess from Public Law Solicitors said: “The Government has failed to recognise that many people with disabilities will not be able to make up the shortfall in rent by working or taking in a lodger; and many will not be able to move due to the nature of their disabilities. The Discretionary Housing Payment scheme ‘safety-net’ relied on by the government is inadequate to plug the gap.

“A July survey by the Papworth Trust, backed by the National Housing Federation , said nine out of 10 disabled people are cutting back on food or bills to pay the bedroom tax if they are refused a safety-net housing payment.

Left unchanged these measures will see disabled people facing eviction and homelessness.”

So yet again we have a Secretary of State who knew there was an urgent need for action to rectify his flawed policies but – as in so many other cases we have witnessed – did nothing.

And our sorry excuse for a Prime Minister actually lied to Parliament about the threat to disabled children – let’s say that again, to DISABLED CHILDREN!

This blog has already called for Iain Duncan Smith to be thrown out of Parliament for the contempt he has shown that institution by knowingly telling falsehoods to its members. It therefore follows that David Cameron should suffer the same fate.

The longer they remain in office, the more we may conclude corruption has set into the highest level of government.

And there is no way they can argue that the relevant legislation was only recently found to be inadequate. Look at this comment from Esther McVey, Tory minister for disabled people, in The Telegraph: “This has gone through a lot of reviews, it has gone through a lot of decision-making and it’s taken a long period of time.” So there is no excuse for the dog’s breakfast that the High Court upheld with yesterday’s decision.

Fortunately, there are developments among the Opposition that will hearten anyone fighting the bedroom tax.

In a letter to constituency Labour organisations, Peter Wheeler, a member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee has stated: “To win the election it is vital that we are very clear with the electorate that a Labour Government will offer real hope to people suffering under this government.

“One of the key issues will be the bedroom tax. We need to be very clear that a Labour Government will abolish this wicked piece of Tory legislation.” He went on to call for constituencies to demand that this will be a part of the Labour election manifesto in 2015.

Oh – one more thing: The Tories are still referring to the bedroom tax in terms of removing a ‘spare room subsidy’. Let’s just remind them that there is no such thing. If there was, then they should be able to tell us when this amount was added to housing benefit payments and what piece of legislation made it possible. Was it an Act of Parliament? I’m sure we’d all like to know.

(The first collection of Vox Political articles, Strong Words and Hard Times, is available now in paperback or as an eBook, containing the best articles from 2012, fully supported with a large ‘footnotes’ section in which you can actually connect to internet links, if you’re reading on a device that supports this kind of activity.)

PRIVATE hospital asks govt for £3.5M loan while renewing £200M contract

The government tells us, “in spite of the recent G4S debacle and others like it, that private companies run a ‘tighter ship’; that they are leaner, more efficient, and give better value for taxpayers’ money – in spite of the obvious flaw in the argument, which is that if you’re taking profits out of the total funding, that money will never be spent at the frontline”. And Circle Health is telling us that it is even putting profit before the investment it acknowledges that it needs to carry out, and going back – cap in hand – to the taxpayer for another handout.

How long do we have to put up with these corporate spongers, scrounging cash from a government that must be either gullible to the point of drooling imbecility or utterly corrupt, with the latter seeming more likely every day?

Perverting the course of justice: Once a crime, now government policy

Chequebook justice: Your unelected government wants to ensure that nobody can challenge its policies and decisions - by putting justice within the reach of only the wealthy.

Chequebook justice: Your unelected government wants to ensure that nobody can challenge its policies and decisions – by putting justice within the reach of only the wealthy.

David Cameron and Chris Grayling have been messing with the justice system again. This time, according to The Telegraph, they are planning to make it “tougher” for judicial reviews to be brought to court, to stop the process being “abused” by pressure groups and campaigners.

There’s a lot of Telegraph-speak in that first paragraph, as the Tory-supporting newspaper was working desperately to make governmental perversion of justice acceptable. What this actually means is that Cameron wants to make it impossible for organisations that are capable of mounting legal opposition to unreasonable Conservative/Coalition policies ever to do so.

The only people able to seek judicial reviews of government policy would be individuals who are directly affected – and the government is hoping that these mostly poor people would be unable to afford the cost, thanks to changes in Legal Aid that mean it could not be claimed for welfare or employment cases.

You see how this works? With those changes to Legal Aid and the possibility of wholesale privatisation of the entire court system, where justice was once open to everyone, it will soon be a privilege available only to the wealthiest in the UK.

To Cameron, and his crony Grayling, justice isn’t for you. In fact, it won’t be for anyone. The UK will be about money and power, just as Michael Meacher stated in his recent blog article.

So, for example: The ‘Poundland’ case, which The Guardian reported was to be heard in the Supreme Court yesterday (Monday). The original judicial review was launched in the names of Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson, who were both directly affected – but were both unemployed and penniless, and therefore could not afford to take the case to court on their own. Their case was brought with the aid of Public Interest Lawyers – who would most likely be barred from taking part, being considered a pressure group with no direct interest in the matter.

The original case resulted in the government taking the unusual – and highly suspect (in legal terms) – step of passing an emergency retroactive law to legalise its employment schemes, after the tribunal ruled that all of the Coalition’s schemes were acting illegally and opened the government up to a potential £130 million worth of claims for wrongfully-withheld benefits.

PIL has now started a second judicial review – on the retrospective law – claiming it undermines its clients’ right to justice and violates article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under the new procedures this, too, would be inadmissible.

On the same lines, the judicial review that ruled (in May) that the test used to decide whether people are fit for work actively discriminates against the mentally ill, brought by the Black Triangle Campaign with the charities MIND and Rethink Mental Illness, would also be inadmissible.

So we have examples in which it is clearly in the interests of justice for new laws to be challenged – but which would be blocked outright under Cameron and Grayling’s plan.

According to The Telegraph, “Ministers plan to change the test for applying for a review so that only people with a direct link to policies or decision can challenge it, rather than anyone with a ‘sufficient interest.’

“The concerns echo those of the Prime Minister who previously said the judicial review process was slowing the country’s economic growth as well.”

In fairness, the paper adds: “There are fears that changing the judicial review process could lead to government decisions going unchecked, and charities have also raised concerns about not being able to use the process to challenge decisions and ensure the government is meeting its obligations.”

Meanwhile, Unison has been given leave to launch a judicial review of the introduction of fees for workers seeking employment tribunals.

The BBC reported that people wanting to bring tribunals must now pay a fee for the first time since they were created in the 1960s. It will cost £160 to lodge a claim for matters such as unpaid invoices, with a further charge of £230 if it goes ahead.

More serious claims, such as for unfair dismissal, would cost £250 to lodge, and a further £950 if the case goes ahead.

The plan here is clearly to make it impossible for an unfairly-sacked worker to take a firm to judicial review; how many poorly-paid working class people (and remember, wages have fallen by nine per cent since the credit crunch) have twelve hundred quid knocking around in their back pockets?

“The introduction of punitive fees for taking a claim to an employment tribunal would give the green light to unscrupulous employers to ride roughshod over already basic workers’ rights,” Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told the BBC.

“We believe that these fees are unfair and should be dropped.”

The judicial review will take place in October. Considering Lord Judge’s recent change of heart over privatisation of the courts, it’s a safe bet that by then the government will have ‘persuaded’ any judges hearing the case to support the new charges.

As Mr Meacher wrote: David Cameron’s instincts are “that there is no such thing as the rule of law, and that the only things that ultimately matter are power, fear and money”.

NHS 101 :Bye Bye NHS Direct, Hello rip off merchants

When I read this article, there was a tweet from Andy Burnham on the Twitter link to the right of the article, saying: “NHS Direct: a single, trusted #NHS service broken up into 46 cut-price contracts. Sign of what’s coming to rest of #NHS under @David_Cameron.” That’s about the size of this government’s health policy. The advice in the last paragraph of the piece is useful also.

Cameron – corrupt corporate whore, according to Meacher

A corporate whore servicing one of his clients: Apparently they're normally called 'Johns', but in the high-paid corporate whoring world they're known as 'Ruperts'. Both of them. Silly Ruperts.

A corporate whore servicing one of his clients: Apparently they’re normally called ‘Johns’, but in the high-paid corporate whoring world they’re known as ‘Ruperts’. Both of them. Silly Ruperts.

It seems opponents of the Coalition have realised its degraded claim to be a government is worthless and have decided to pour contempt on it at every opportunity.

I mention this after seeing Michael Meacher’s excellent column on David Cameron. The fake Prime Minister’s instincts, according to Mr Meacher are “that there is no such thing as the rule of law, and that the only things that ultimately matter are power, fear and money”.

These words should come as hammer-blows to Cameron’s credibility. It is to his credit that Michael Meacher has written them – but also to the shame of the Labour front bench that none of them had the guts to come out with it first.

Mr Meacher supports his claims by laying out a wealth of evidence that, while the comedy PM crows on and on about Labour’s (non-existent) pandering to the unions, “there is almost nothing… that Cameron won’t do, no commercial interest he will disdain, no policy he will refuse to alter if it will ingratiate himself with the sources of money and power… He has prostrated himself before a wide range of commercial interests by changing government policy to suit them in order to recruit their money and power for himself and his party in the lead-up to 2015”.

He supports his assertions as follows:

1. Cameron was determined to hand BSkyB to Rupert Murdoch, in exchange for support for the next general election (he failed in this attempt).

2. He ditched plans to remove branding from cigarette packaging. It has emerged that his advisor Lynton Crosby’s company lobbies on behalf of tobacco giant Philip Morris International.

3. Soon after Crosby was hired by Cameron, the government dropped plans for a minimum alcohol price. Crosby’s Australian company has represented an alcohol industry group campaigning heavily against similar plans in that country.

4. Crosby’s company also represents an oil and gas lobby group that campaigns aggressively for fracking, so now the UK government is encouraging fracking with tax breaks for the companies involved.

5. Crosby’s UK company represented rebel forces in Syria for six months, which may explain Cameron’s decision to send weapons to the rebels (but again failed in the attempt, thanks to a rare outbreak of sanity in the House of Commons).

The government will no doubt try to counter these arguments but there is no credible way of doing so. We are able to judge our politicians by what they do – not what they say – and the evidence is available for all to see.

So, ladies and gentlemen, let’s change the pitch of news reporting this summer. Instead of the usual ‘silly season’, let’s make it open season on Cameron and his cronies. Let’s get all the evidence against them together and make it clear to the general public, via all possible avenues, what a craven cadre of corrupt corporate prostitutes they all are.

It shouldn’t be too hard.