Category Archives: United Nations

United Nations warns UK could be breaking international law over cladding

The cladding at Grenfell Tower explained: The materials used were flammable – not flame-resistant.

What do you think the Conservative government will do about this, considering it is now three years since the Grenfell disaster and the Tories haven’t lifted a finger to replace flammable cladding on thousands of other tower blocks?

This Writer is willing to bet we’ll hear a load of flannel about the UN not doing its job properly – or misinterpreting its role in some way, and some minister – probably Robert Jenrick – will make some sabre-rattling suggestion that it should keep its foreign nose out.

You know how it would be – like the Tories did when the UN accused this country of institutional abuse of people with disabilities.

The last thing the Tories want to do is spend money on poor people who are living in firetraps.

The UN has warned Britain that its failure to strip combustible cladding from high-rise buildings containing tens of thousands homes may be a breach of international law.

The global body is demanding answers about the UK government’s delayed programme to fix hundreds of blocks wrapped in flammable panels and with other fire safety problems.

Leilani Farha, the UN’s special rapporteur on adequate housing, wrote to the government to express “serious concern about allegations of multiple violations of the human right to adequate housing, of which safety is a key component – contrary to international human rights law”.

Source: UK could be breaking international law over cladding, says UN | Society | The Guardian

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UN poverty expert condemns UK coronavirus response as ‘utterly hypocritical’

Philip Alston: he warned us all about the Tories before but they were voted back in because people didn’t listen.

How else would you describe the way the UK’s Tory government threw away austerity the instant the well-being of the rich was threatened?

Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, made a good point when he pointed out that the harm caused by austerity policies of the last 10 years cannot be undone – but the policy itself was reversed the instant it seemed likely to harm the rich.

He told The Guardian:

“My thoughts of course hark back to the sense of how utterly hypocritical it is now to abandon ‘austerity’ with such alacrity, after all the harm and misery caused to individuals and the fatal weakening of the community’s capacity to cope and respond over the past 10 years.

“And of course, many of the worst and most damaging aspects of ‘austerity’ cannot and will not be undone. The damage caused to community cohesion and to the social infrastructure are likely to prove permanent.

He said that globally “the most vulnerable have been short-changed or excluded” by official responses to the disease:

“The policies of many states reflect a social Darwinism philosophy that prioritises the economic interests of the wealthiest while doing little for those who are hard at work providing essential services or unable to support themselves.

“Governments have shut down entire countries without making even minimal efforts to ensure people can get by.”

The Tories would undoubtedly argue that they have indeed made efforts to ensure people can get by… but some would argue that those efforts have indeed been minimal.

Across the UK, people who claimed Universal Credit because their income dried up in the lockdown have found their five-week wait for benefit cash has culminated in a cheque for no money at all.

Others have been unable to claim the benefit because they don’t meet the government’s criteria.

And of course Boris Johnson won’t agree to a Universal Basic Income that will help everybody – and will be cheaper to administer than UC. Why? Because he likes to keep people poor and – if possible – push them into debt.

Look at the other coronavirus-related policies and you’ll find that most of them aren’t working – at least, not the way we were led to expect.

And now there’s huge pressure to sway public opinion in favour of lifting the lockdown so we can all go back to work, making profits for the rich again – before their income is harmed as that of the poor has been.

Put it altogether and it seems Mr Alston has a very good point.

Source: UK coronavirus response utterly hypocritical, says UN poverty expert | Politics | The Guardian

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UN poverty rapporteur’s condemnation of the Conservatives must be read

Philip Alston: He came to his conclusions by listening to people affected by Conservative policies on the poor, sick and disabled. Tories implemented those policies by ignoring the very same people – and now they are complaining because Mr Alston hasn’t done the same.

Sometimes important information drops off the news agenda because crafty operators do what they can to obscure it.

Sometimes there’s just so much going on that it is ignored.

In this case, with international controversy over an Iranian oil tanker and a British ambassador to the US, and domestic fuss over the pumped-up Labour anti-Semitism claims and the Tory leadership election, the latter seems possible (for a change).

But Philip Alston’s anger about the way the Tories have sidelined his report on the way their austerity policies (carried through at first with the complicity of the Liberal Democrats, let’s not forget), is well worth bringing back to public attention.

In his Independent article (link below) he writes [boldings mine]:

“In one of the world’s richest countries, I found 14 million people living in poverty, rising infant mortality rates, falling life expectancy for some groups, foodbanks springing up everywhere, rising homelessness, and overloaded and struggling schools and police services.

Most of these problems are the direct result of government policies.

“The government’s response so far has consisted of three strategies. The first is denial. The report is “barely believable”, they say. In other words, it’s a load of rubbish. A pity then that a senior official of the Department of Work and Pensions subsequently told a House of Commons committee that the report was “factually correct”.

“The second strategy is distraction. Rather than acknowledge the extent of poverty, inequality, unaffordable housing, or hunger, the government pointed to a “UN report” that supposedly shows “the UK is one of the happiest places in the world to live”… Acknowledging that many people in the UK are happy and that employment levels are at a record high does not refute the fact that too many are facing severe hardship.

“Third, attack the messenger. The government claimed the report was insufficiently researched, “based on a tiny period of time spent here”. But it knows that my team and I spent months preparing for this visit, reviewing countless existing reports, making more than 100 advance consultations, and reviewing more than 300 submissions.

“If there is any good news, it is that these policies could still be reversed with huge savings in terms of economic and social trauma and much greater productivity in the future.

“All that is needed is a vision to make all Britons, not just the wealthy, better off, and to commit to minimum levels of social justice for all.”

That won’t happen under the Conservatives, but Labour’s policies are specifically geared to do exactly what Mr Alston suggests.

Perhaps that is the reason the trumped-up controversy over anti-Semitism has been hyped beyond credibility – to make Labour seem an inappropriate choice.

There is nothing new in this. It shows that, as usual, the political debate is between the easily-led and those who think for themselves.

I know where Vox Political readers stand in that debate, but it is certainly time we all turned to our friends and colleagues and said:

“I think for myself on this. What about you?”

Source: I proved that austerity destroys lives and all the government has done is try to discredit me | The Independent

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The UN says austerity has fuelled UK racial inequality. Will the Tories call THIS a lie, too?

Prepare for a new outbreak of outrage against a United Nations rapporteur.

The Tory government likes to pour scorn on UN reports, and I reckon this will be no different.

Note that Tendayi Achiume managed all her research in 11 days. The Tories pilloried Phillip Alston, the poverty rapporteur, for carrying out his own research in less than two weeks, and there’s no reason this would be different.

Of course, it turned out that the facts on which Mr Alston based his findings were accurate and the Tories rubbished his report for political reasons.

Now Ms Achiume is quoting research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission estimating that by 2022 black households will have seen a 5five per cent loss in income because of austerity – double the loss for white households.

Tory spokespeople should have a field day with this.

But the evidence is damning:

The government’s austerity programme has entrenched racial inequality in the UK, a UN expert on racism has concluded in a report that also describes the Windrush scandal as a “glaring example” of discrimination in the UK’s immigration policy.

National debates in the aftermath of the EU referendum “amplified racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the UK” said Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s special rapporteur on racism.

“Public and private actors have played dangerous roles in fuelling intolerance. Among them, politicians and media outlets deserve special attention given the significant influence they command in society,” she said, without naming the politicians or media outlets she had in mind.

Despite the existence of a legal framework devoted to combating racial discrimination, Achiume said race and ethnicity “continue to determine the life chances and wellbeing of people in Britain in ways that are unacceptable and, in many cases, unlawful.”

Achiume, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said a hostile environment “ostensibly created for, and formally restricted to, irregular immigrants is in effect a hostile environment for all racial and ethnic communities and individuals in the United Kingdom.”

Source: Austerity has fuelled racial inequality in the UK, says UN expert | Politics | The Guardian

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Are they joking? UN poverty expert thought Tory response to his report was a ‘spoof’

Philip Alston: He came to his conclusions by listening to people affected by Conservative policies on the poor, sick and disabled. Tories implemented those policies by ignoring the very same people – and now they are complaining because Mr Alston hasn’t done the same.

At a time when we are all taking a long, hard look at the Conservative government of the last few years, this is damning.

Philip Alston, the New York-based human rights lawyer and United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has responded with disbelief after the Tories responded to his report on poverty in the UK.

“I thought it might actually be a spoof,” he said after ministers claimed that his report was “a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty” and that the UK was among the happiest countries in the world.

“The statement is as troubling as the situation,” he said. “There is nothing that indicates any willingness to debate over issues which have generated endless very detailed, totally reputable reports across the political spectrum in the UK. All of these are dismissed.”

Alston’s report compared Conservative policies to the creation of Victorian workhouses. Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, said she felt it was politically biased and alleged that Alston did not do enough research, only visiting the UK for 11 days.

Alston retorted that the government response amounted to “a total denial of a set of uncontested facts”.

Particularly contentious was Mr Alston’s claim that the Department for Work and Pensions had created “a digital and sanitised version of the 19th-century workhouse”.

Tory apologists rushed to rubbish the claim, like historian Dominic Sandbrook, who wrote in the Daily Mail that it was “simply ridiculous” and “an insult to our national intelligence”.

“I think breaking rocks has some similarity to the 35 hours of job search [required per week to receive universal credit] for people who have been out of work for months or years,” Mr Alston responded. “They have to go through the motions but it is completely useless. That seems to me to be very similar to the approach in the old-style workhouse. The underlying mentality is that we are going to make the place sufficiently unpleasant that you really won’t want to be here.

“Is it the case that 14 million people do not live in poverty? Do they contest the child poverty predictions? That is what it seems to be.”

It seems clear that this man will not be backing down.

As long-term readers of This Site will appreciate, that is a stance with which I can sympathise.

And it really is the only position to take with a government of bullies like the Tories, who deliberately (it seems) ignore the facts in order to continue pursuing malevolent policies of hate towards the poor and vulnerable.

Sadly, as I mentioned previously, the UK government may merrily ignore the findings of the United Nations report, without suffering any adverse backlash.

We know the Tories are wrong because we can see the evidence all around us. We know they are driving the entire country to ruin.

But they refuse to see it. Their attitude is symbolic of the pig-ignorance that came into office with David Cameron, back in 2010.

Source: UN poverty expert hits back over UK ministers’ ‘denial of facts’ | Society | The Guardian

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UN reports on poverty in the UK – and the Tory response is WORSE than expected

Remember when I responded to news of a UN investigation into cruel and inhumane treatment of disabled people by stating, “The UN will release a damning report stating that the UK’s Conservative government tortures disabled people, and the UK’s Conservative government will ignore it.”

The government’s response to UN expert Philip Alston’s report on poverty is, if anything, worse.

Mr Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, accused ministers of being in a state of denial about the impact of policies, including the rollout of universal credit, since 2010. He accused them of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population” and warned that worse could be yet to come for the most vulnerable, who face “a major adverse impact” if Brexit proceeds. He said leaving the EU was “a tragic distraction from the social and economic policies shaping a Britain that it’s hard to believe any political parties really want”.

And what was the Conservative government’s response?

Amber Rudd plans to lodge a formal complaint with the UN.

According to The Guardian, “Rudd will argue that Alston is politically biased and did not do enough research. The minister is seeking guidance from the Foreign Office on the best way to respond after Alston compared her department’s welfare policies to the creation of Victorian workhouses.

“In a statement, the government said his report was ‘a barely believable documentation of Britain based on a tiny period of time spent here” and “a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty’.”

Typical blinkered Toryism.

If they didn’t have their tame journalists in the partisan “mainstream media” to defend them, they would have been ousted as the charlatans they are, long ago. Look at the way Jo Coburn on the BBC’s Politics Live tried to deflect blame onto the Labour Party – the party of opposition that has absolutely no power to change anything – for the details of the damning Alston report:

In fact we know that Conservatives have spent the last 40 years systematically destroying every element of society that could give poor and working people a chance at a better life. Why do you think Margaret Thatcher destroyed our industrial base, back in the 1980s?

Their denials don’t ring true.

And if she goes through with it, I hope anyone seeing Amber Rudd in the streets will have the courage to call her out on it: “Amber Rudd – shame on you.”

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The United Nations is investigating the UK’s treatment of the disabled again. Don’t expect anything useful

We’ve been here before.

The UN will release a damning report stating that the UK’s Conservative government tortures disabled people, and the UK’s Conservative government will ignore it.

In his opening statement to the UN’s Committee Against Torture, the head of the UK government delegation, Paul Candler, said the UK government “consistently and unreservedly condemns torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and raises concerns about it “wherever and whenever it occurs”.

He said: “The UK has a longstanding tradition of ensuring rights and liberties are protected domestically, and of fulfilling our international human rights obligations, including through dialogues such as this one.”

There’s just one problem: The UK’s Tory government does not consider that disabled people have any human rights.

Tories don’t think disabled people are human.

If you are disabled, they consider you to be stock.

A UN body has been questioning the UK government this week on the “grim and unacceptable truth” that disabled people and other groups are still being subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment – and even torture – in taxpayer-funded services.

The UK and devolved governments have been scrutinised for two days by the UN’s committee against torture (UNCAT) over their record on torture and ill-treatment in the UK and abroad.

In a short oral submission – she and others were given just one minute 10 seconds each to deliver their presentations – NSUN’s Dorothy Gould told the committee in Geneva on Monday: “Following visits from the UNCRPD in 2015 and 2017 and last year’s visit from the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, there cannot be any doubt that levels of destitution in the UK amount to inhumane treatment and that people with mental health diagnoses have been disproportionately affected.”

She added: “Discrimination and hate crime against us are also prevalent, intersectional crime still more so.

“It is hard, too, to see current mental health legislation in the UK as anything other than inhumane.

“Under this legislation, the use of detention in psychiatric institutions and forced treatment is misinterpreted as care.

“These measures are employed at the very times when we are most vulnerable and despite serious challenges to the scientific basis for psychiatric diagnoses and medication.

“We are also detained on the basis of potential risks to others, although no-one else is detained on this basis.”

Source: UN’s torture committee probes UK on ‘grim and unacceptable truths’

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In total, Universal Credit two-child limit will put nearly HALF A MILLION children into poverty

Around 450,000 children will be pushed into poverty because of the two-child limit on child allowances in Universal Credit and tax credits.

That’s the prediction from the Child Poverty Action Group about the cruel policy that has pushed 150,000 children into poverty so far – and will impoverish twice as many more by the time the rollout of UC is complete.

Already, 43 per cent of children in families with three or more live below the poverty line, in a country where the overall child poverty rate is 30 per cent. That in itself is a scandal in the fifth-richest nation in the world.

Two-thirds of families hit by the policy will be working, and CPAG says a single parent with three children working 16 hours per week on the fake ‘National Living Wage’ of £8.21 per hour would have to more than double their hours to 37 per week to compensate for the effect of the two-child limit.

Of course, that’s a full-time working week, which means childcare may be necessary – meaning our hypothetical single parent would probably have to hold down two jobs, just to make ends meet; there’s no guarantee they would be able to get free care.

They would be worked into the ground, and probably would hardly even see their own children.

CPAG also says the policy breaches the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and unlawfully discriminates against children, because it treats them as unworthy of individual consideration for entitlement to subsistence benefits – in fact it automatically disqualifies them.

That is the intention behind the two-child limit on Universal Credit, of course: Harm.

The intention is quite clearly to penalise people for having more than two children – never mind the circumstances. In short, it is a eugenics experiment; a “nudge” project – an attempt to restrict the population at large by making it too expensive for people on a low income to have children.

The rich will be able to continue having as many youngsters as they want, of course.

So the comment by a DWP spokesperson – that “the two child policy ensures fairness between claimants and taxpayers who support themselves solely through work” – is a lie.

Doubly so, in fact, because it does not acknowledge the fact that the number of people supporting themselves solely through work is diminishing – because of the fakeness of that misnamed “National Living Wage” mentioned above. It isn’t a living wage; anybody receiving it must top up their income with benefits or go into debt.

This means the claim that the government is tackling child poverty and helping families with the cost of living is also a lie.

As the number of people – especially young people – in poverty increases, one has to question how many people will continue believing this nonsense.


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Teen climate activist shames the world – but the Tories are trying to expand fracking across the UK

Frack site: The well in Lancashire contributes to global warming and climate change.

Climate change “negotiators” got a hard lesson in their own shortcomings – from a minor.

Greta Thunberg is only 15, but she packed more maturity into her three-minute speech than we’ve seen in decades of mealy-mouthed “negotiations” between representatives of national and international economic interests.

The Swedish activist shamed her elders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP24, where representatives eventually managed to reach a weak agreement over how to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. But everybody there knew they weren’t doing nearly enough to achieve that goal, which is why Ms Thunberg’s words had such bite.

Here’s her speech:

“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is,” she told an audience entirely composed of her elders (but clearly not her betters). “Even that burden you leave to us children.

“Our civilisation is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.

“It is the sufferings of the many that pay for the luxuries of the few… We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground.”

She also said: “You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again.”

Now consider the current court case in the UK over plans by our Conservative government to expand fracking.

If ever there was an example of the many suffering to support the luxuries of the few – the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money – it is the fracking industry in the United Kingdom.

The current case highlights new planning guidance by the government which makes it easier to establish fracking sites. The document orders local authorities to facilitate the establishment of such sites, and proposes the removal of the need for new wells to get planning permission.

The government did not carry out any assessment of the impact its plans would have on the environment, and the guidance was imposed on the country without any public consultation.

It seems clear that James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, qualifies as one of the people Ms Thunberg describes as “not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

So do former prime minister David Cameron and his successor Theresa May. At a time when sustainable energy has never been cheaper or easier to supply, one is led to ask why they continue to kowtow to fossil fuel corporates like Cuadrilla bosses Roy Franklin and Francis Egan.

Fracking at Cuadrilla’s only UK site, in Lancashire, was halted again on December 11 after yet another earth tremor was caused by the process. This one measured 1.5 on the Richter scale, causing a woman who lives 1.6 miles from the site to say she heard a loud “bang” and her house shook. A Cuadrilla spokesperson said the effect would have been “like dropping a melon”.

We may conclude from this that the spokesperson is “not mature enough to tell it like it is” either.

But what is to be done in the face of such monumental selfishness, such wilful ignorance, such naked greed?

I’d like to think change is coming, whether the government figures and corporates named above like it or not – but I don’t think it will, unless somebody does something shocking.

I think someone would have to grab Messrs Cameron, Brokenshire, Egan and Franklin, along with Mrs May, drag them to the fracking well in Lancashire, and throw them down it – and then fill it in on top of them.

That’s what it would take to get these people to look up from counting their money and pay attention – the threat of extreme sanction.

But I can’t advocate such extreme measures – and the system is skewed in favour of the privileged. So what’s to be done?

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UN poverty expert has an uphill struggle – with DWP ministers who don’t even understand their own rules

“Ignorant”: Justin Tomlinson.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on poverty, Professor Philip Alston, has hit back at Conservative government ministers over their refusal to acknowledge his report on the consequences of their austerity policies in the UK.

But it seems he is on a hiding to nothing as at least one Conservative MP at the Department for Work and Pensions has revealed he does not even understand the way his party’s own rules work.

Ignorant Tories including the new Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, have been lining up to say they “do not recognise” the validity of Professor Alston’s report, or to suggest its tone is “inappropriate”.

In response, he told The Guardian: “I think that dismissing a report that is full of statistics and first-hand testimony on the grounds that the minister didn’t appreciate the tone of the report rather misses the point.”

The report relied on undisputed statistics, such as the fact that 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty and local authorities have seen a 49 per cent real-terms reduction in funding from 2011 to 2018, and highlighted the disproportionate impact of austerity on children, the disabled and women.

It stated: “There are a number of steps that could be taken simply through instructions provided by the minister to DWP that would make the system much more humane.”

It seems that his faith in Tory ministers to take the right actions has been misplaced – if the behaviour of family support, housing and child maintenance minister Justin Tomlinson is any yardstick.

Mr Tomlinson told members of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, of which he is a member, that families could cope with the poverty created by the Tory benefit cap that limits their income to £20,000 a year – by taking in a lodger.

There’s only one problem: Anybody in a council house or housing association property who takes in a lodger would be breaking the rules of their tenancy and may be evicted.

And most private landlords ban tenants from taking in a lodger, either because of mortgage restrictions or extra legal burdens on the landlord.

Most telling is the fact that this Tory is putting tenants in a vulnerable position, simply to cover a shortfall in rent created by his government.

Professor Alston ended his critique of the government by saying, “I’m hoping that actions will speak louder than words.”

Considering Mr Tomlinson’s words, that may be a forlorn hope.

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