Tag Archives: deregulation

Brexit talks are stalling because May wants to sell the NHS to Donald Trump

Theresa May and Donald Trump: That’s not what he really wants to get his hands on!

What’s left of it, anyway.

Jeremy Corbyn has said Brexit talks with the Conservative government are stalling because the Tories want deregulation, partly to ensure a US trade deal.

Deregulation, for those of you who aren’t in the know, means a lowering of standards – in this case to allow American firms to trade their lower-quality goods with the UK – chlorine-washed chicken being the most-quoted example.

It would allow the Tory government to sell off the remains of the National Health Service to American profit-making interests.

And it would also allow the Tories to set up the UK as a tax haven, right on the EU’s doorstep.

Environmental responsibilities and workers’ rights would also be sacrificed in Mrs May’s march to Donald Trump’s drumbeat.

Mr Corbyn won’t accept any of it. He’s standing up for you – to give you a fighting chance to maintain our current rights as a bare minimum of what we can expect in the future, to retain current high consumer standards, to make sure that the super-rich pay their taxes, and to stop the Tories plunging us into an expensive and harmful US-style health system.

Every single citizen of the UK should support him in that, for an obvious reason.

Brexit represents the desire to stop giving away our assets to foreign countries and companies, but that is precisely what Mrs May is trying to do.

AFTERWORD: Some might say Mrs May is neglecting a deal better-suited to Donald Trump:

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The plan to let councils opt out of child protection – are your children safe with the Tories?

"The Bill does not require any consultation with children, care leavers or families before the removal of legal duties" [politics.co.uk]

“The Bill does not require any consultation with children, care leavers or families before the removal of legal duties” [politics.co.uk]

No – they aren’t.

Here is just some of the evidence from an article on politics.co.uk – I urge you to read the full article as well.

In a recent House of Commons debate on social work reform, children’s minister Edward Timpson MP called for “a debate based on facts, not on unfounded propositions”. He was speaking about the clauses in the Children and Social Work Bill which, if passed, will permit individual councils to be excused from legal obligations to vulnerable children and care leavers.So let us focus on those facts. Here are seven for starters.

FACT 1: The government has plans to ‘academise’ children’s social care. In December 2015, the then prime minister, David Cameron MP, said six of the country’s best local authorities would be given “academy style freedoms” in children’s services. Clause 29 of the Children and Social Work Bill allows every council in England to ask to be excused from legal obligations. Clause 32 permits the secretary of state to remove duties from struggling children’s services, even when a council hasn’t asked for it.

FACT 2: Our country’s most vulnerable children and young people rely on social care duties for protection and support. Deregulation in social care involves exponentially more risk than in education.

FACT 3: There is no evidence that legal duties get in the way of innovation in children’s social care. Councils can already innovate.

FACT 4: Parliamentary scrutiny of exemptions will be weak. Parliament has very limited powers when it comes to statutory instruments (which is the form exemption orders will take).

FACT 5: There was no consultation before this Bill was introduced into Parliament. The Bill does not require any consultation with children, care leavers or families before the removal of legal duties.

FACT 6: The government is keen to create a ‘market’ for children’s services, but not to share its market-scoping report.

FACT 7: The government is ploughing ahead with ‘Takeover Trusts’ in children’s services without any evidence they work better for children. It states that the Bill will not lead to more profit-making in children’s social care services and has tabled an amendment to that effect. But there is no empirical evidence that children benefit from social care services moving away from local councils.

Source: The truth about plans to allow councils to opt out of child protection laws

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Was this the real reason Cameron allowed the Scotland referendum?

Misjudged: It seems David Cameron has found a way to impose the worst excesses of his neoliberal agenda on us all, using English voters as his weapon [Image: Ceasefire Magazine].

Misjudged: It seems David Cameron has found a way to impose even MORE “bloody imperialism” – the worst excesses of his neoliberal agenda – on us all, using English voters as his weapon [Image: Ceasefire Magazine].

Vox Political is grateful to Craig Cartmell for the following, which he posted on the Facebook page as a comment:

Have we all been victims of the greatest confidence trick of the early 21st century?

Let me put a scenario to you:
1. The current government has been slowly putting plans into action to privatise as much of the government as possible, and under the excuse of austerity and the label ‘value for money’ has managed to get rid of a fair chunk:
– Education is increasingly in the hands of mostly unaccountable, private academies.

– The Prison Service is being sold off one prison at a time, and the Probation Service is all but gone.
– The Royal Mail was sold off for a song, a move that benefitted a gang of Tory donors.
– Billions of pounds of NHS contracts are being awarded to private, and often American, healthcare companies.
– The emergency services are next on the list, with Air-Sea Rescue already sold to a private concern.
2. However, there is no way that this programme can be completed within a single term in office. The Tories know that their austerity programme has been exceptionally unpopular, even amongst their core middle class demographic, so it is likely that the 2015 election will be Labour’s to lose rather than the Conservative’s to win.
3. Wales and Scotland are solid opposition territory, and there will be no gains there. So how can the Tories energise the English vote? They need a core policy that will resound at all levels of English society and it cannot be the Health Service as they are busy dismantling that and they would really rather nobody discusses it if possible.
4. The answer is the devolution of powers and the West Lothian question. Now before the Scottish referendum only a few commentators south of the border were discussing the West Lothian question or the Barnet Formula, and only in the context of a victory for the Yes campaign.
5. Immediately after the referendum was won the first words to come out of the Prime Minister’s mouth is that he will hold to his promise to grant Holyrood more powers, but only in conjunction with laying down legislation to effectively ban opposition MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from debating or voting on ‘English matters’. This will be hugely popular with English voters and could deliver the next election to the Tories.
6. This is a major constitutional change that Cameron will try to fast track before May 2015. He is talking about a draft bill to be in place in January 2015.
7. Remember that the referendum was allowed to happen, and to become a binding agreement, by Cameron. He could have simply ignored the SNP’s referendum completely.
7. So was it allowed, or even encouraged, in order to bring this all to pass? Were the ambitions of Alex Salmond and his SNP used as a Trojan Horse? It would explain why Cameron and his cronies only rode in to save the day with promises of more devolved powers at the very last moment.

So what else could Cameron and his Tories achieve in a second term?
a. The repeal of the Human Rights Act to be replaced by a seriously watered down Bill of Rights which shall not hold the government to account. This may also require the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and thus the European Council and the International Criminal Court.
b. The complete privatisation of all non-core governmental services.
c. The withdrawal of the UK from the EU.
d. Draconian immigration policies and regulations.
e. The deregulation of the financial sector.
f. The removal of all remaining employment rights and the crushing of the last unions.

This neo-liberal agenda would deliver billions of pounds in profits for the mega corporations at the taxpayers’ expense. It would drive down wages and further increase the wealth gap between rich and poor. Services would be seriously reduced in availability and quality as each would be run to maximise profit for the providers’ shareholders.

Welcome to the US of A folks!

What do you think of Craig’s assessment?

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Cameron has lied so often that there is no reason to believe him on fracking

Fracked water is set ablaze in the film Gasland: "There is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies," said Cameron.

Fracked water is set ablaze in the film Gasland: “There is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies,” said Cameron.

“We’re all in it together”, David Cameron scrawled in his Telegraph article on fracking. Presumably this means he personally has invested heavily in the process as the evidence suggests there are appalling drawbacks for the majority of the UK.

The article, “We cannot afford to miss out on shale gas”, is sub-headed “Safe fracking will cut energy bills and create wealth without ruining precious countryside, writes David Cameron”.

Let’s put the alternative view immediately. Fracking would involve drilling large numbers of directional wells at regular intervals – coating the landscape with far more than the eight in the current largest onshore gas field in the UK, at Saltfleetby in Lincolnshire. Thousands would be required to temporarily – that’s right, temporarily – replace just one North Sea field. Production from a typical shale well declines by 70-80 per cent in the first year alone, meaning new wells must be drilled constantly to maintain production.

The method is to inject millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the wells, under massive pressure. Water consumption and contamination is a major issue, and disposal of the huge amounts of toxic waste produced by the process is extremely difficult – it seems attempts to inject it into the ground are causing large numbers of earthquakes.

Air pollution means high ozone levels, along with carcinogenic hydrocarbon vapours that can be blown hundreds of miles from the source, creating breathing difficulties, cancer clusters, neurological and reproductive problems in humans and animals living in the shadow of these industries. The typical response from industrialists (and government, to judge from Mr Cameron’s comments) is to demand proof from people who have neither the funds nor the health to do so.

Methane gas emissions amplify the global warming effects of burning other carbon fuels.

This is the process Mr Cameron wishes to inflict on you.

“If we don’t back this technology, we will miss a massive opportunity to help families with their bills and make our country more competitive,” he wrote in the Telegraph. He’s clearly forgetting that families wouldn’t have such serious problems with their bills if a previous Conservative government hadn’t privatised the energy companies, giving them to greedy shareholders who have raised prices far above increases in inflation, every year. As for making the country more competitive, he is forgetting that the Conservative government of Mrs Thatcher reduced our competitiveness by closing down the coal mines in order to chase cheap fuels from abroad, that have now risen in price. What a false economy that was!

With such a track record, why should we now believe a Conservative’s claims about this form of energy extraction?

“Labour’s mismanagement of the economy means that many people are struggling with the cost of living today.” To clarify: Labour did not mismanage the economy – the 1997-2010 government recently received a clean bill of health, as reported on this blog and elsewhere. This is a repetition of a lie that Conservatives have been spouting gleefully, ever since they decided on a whim that they no longer support what Labour did to save the economy after the credit crunch. Previously, they backed Labour all the way but this has been retrospectively changed. They seem to like retrospective alterations.

According to the BBC, “the government’s own energy department DECC says it’s not clear whether fracking will bring down bills or not”. So Mr Cameron is contradicting his own experts.

“Where we can act to relieve the pressure, we must.” Fine. Since there are more fossil fuels stockpiled today than we can burn at once, without causing the climate change that has been feared for so many years, the answer is to cut fuel bills by forcing the energy companies to stop being so stupidly greedy and charge realistic prices. Obviously.

“Secondly, fracking will create jobs in Britain.” But these people will then contract fracking-related diseases and be invalided out of work. They’ll go on to claim Employment and Support Allowance and/or Personal Independence Payment, be refused by “Returned To Unit”‘s* Department of Work and Pensions and die. The deaths will go unnoticed because the government has already decided to stop collecting death statistics.

“Thirdly, fracking will bring money to local neighbourhoods.” This sounds enticing, but no reference is made to how this money will be distributed. It goes to communities, not to people. “This is money that could be used for a variety of purposes – from reductions in council tax bills to investment in neighbourhood schools.” Those are both benefits that could be negated by, say, reductions in government grants to local councils, meaning the local levy must increase, and privatisation of the education system, meaning local people will need to find other ways of educating their children.

“I want all parts of our nation to share in the benefits: north or south, Conservative or Labour. We are all in this together.” Does anybody remember the fuss when the route for the new HS2 rail service was revealed to pass through a government minister’s constituency? That was bad for the government’s image and won’t happen again. Expect fracking to be confined to areas away from Tory heartlands, where ministers and backbenchers won’t complain about it.

“Local people will not be cut out and ignored… firms looking to frack should make people aware of their plans well before they apply for a permit…. if residents express specific concerns, then companies should take them on board.” None of this guarantees that firms will be prohibited from fracking if sufficient public objection is raised; they’ll just say they’ve taken those concerns on board and carry on regardless.

Look at Balcombe, in West Sussex, where the firm Cuadrilla is facing determined opposition from protesters who were horrified when permission for drilling was granted last December. It seems likely that the firm will have to seek – and will receive – the necessary permits for fracking, but the community may receive no benefits as the oil targeted will be in rocks that are “not shale”.

Objections have been raised and ignored. That is what will happen to you.

“International evidence shows there is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated,” said Mr Cameron, leader of the Party of DEregulation. Conservatives do not know how to regulate anything and it is against their ideology to do so. “If any shale gas well were to pose a risk of pollution, then we have all the powers we need to close it down.” Note that he does not make any mention of exercising those powers.

Plenty of independent information is available on fracking – certainly on the Internet – and readers are encouraged to look it up and decide for themselves.

And tell other people to do the same – otherwise we all stand in danger of having our land raped by a money-grubbing liar whose political party caused the problems he claims this environmentally-disastrous process will resolve.

*Iain Duncan Smith.

The rise of food banks and the fall of the Big Society

Isn’t it a shame that in the season of goodwill, the Prime Minister cannot extend any to those who are worst-off in his bold Big Society?

Instead, all they’ve been given are bad statistics and platitudes.

I’m referring, of course, to his performance in the last Prime Minister’s Questions of 2012, when he was asked to explain why there has been a sixfold increase in the number of food banks in the UK during the last three years – the time since Mr Cameron’s Coalition government took over.

A food bank, for those who don’t know the exact definition, is simply a place where food is contributed and made available to those in need. In the UK, there are currently 13 million people living below the poverty line (according to the Trussell Trust, which is the authority on food banks in this country). These include working people, whose income does not cover their costs; the unemployed, who are finding they do not have enough money to buy food due to the vicious and unwarranted benefit cuts thrust upon them by the Coalition; and of course the homeless, a sector of society that is due to grow exponentially, again due to the many cuts inflicted by the bloodthirsty Conservatives.

As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase. In 2012, the Conservatives have achieved their aim to revive the Dickensian Christmas.

“The problem is that it is working people who are turning to food banks,” said Ed Miliband at PMQs. “One head teacher of a school rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, Vic Goddard, says that even children with a parent or parents in work are often struggling with the choice of heating their homes, buying their children clothes or buying them food. A report last week from the Children’s Society said that two-thirds of teachers knew of staff providing pupils with food or money to prevent them from going hungry.”

This rings true. There is a reason that working people have been receiving benefits, and it is that they are being paid too little. It is a ridiculous situation, in the seventh largest economy on this planet, but one that has been perpetuated by successive governments – including, I’m sorry to say, Labour – since the 1970s. In contrast, executive pay has shot through the roof. If the minimum wage had risen in line with executive pay – just since it was introduced in 1998 – it would be more than £18 today, three times the actual level of £6.19.

The comedy Prime Minister responded with nothing of substance. He said the most important thing was “to get on top of inflation, and inflation is coming down”. How out-of-touch! It is true that inflation must be controlled, but his comedy chancellor, Gideon George Osborne, has decided that benefits – including those for people in work – will rise by less than the rate of inflation for the next three years, and Cameron himself has indicated that poor economic indicators may see him increase this to six years. The longer this rule stays in place, the further into poverty low-waged working people will go.

“The most important thing is to get more people into work and out of poverty,” said Cameron. This is not the same thing. We have seen that working people in the lowest-paid jobs are being plunged into poverty and forced to the indignity of seeking help from food banks – and remember, those starting in work will be the lowest-paid.

“And we see 600,000 more private sector jobs this year,” added Cameron, failing once again to admit that this figure includes around 200,000 that were already-existing public sector jobs, re-categorised as private in order to boost the Coalition’s statistics.

“We are helping […] families by freezing the council tax,” he said, neglecting to add that he is forcing people with limited cash to – from April – pay at least 10 per cent of it where they would have received council tax benefit before. “And making sure that we help families with the cost of living,” he droned on. This comment is meaningless other than as a complete fabrication. How can he expect to be believed when he is mercilessly forcing them into poverty?

“We have lifted the personal tax allowance and taken two million of the lowest-paid people out of tax altogether,” he said. But they still have to use their own money to make up the huge losses in benefits that are coming. This government gives with one hand but takes with the other.

“Because of the decisions that we made in this Government to increase the child tax credit by £390 ahead of inflation, we have helped those families with their bills and we will continue to do more in the future.” How? Child tax credit will be abolished when Universal Credit is brought in across the UK.

Cameron’s denouement was his declaration that Labour had nothing to offer, “except for the same old something-for-nothing culture that got us in this mess in the first place”. We all know that this is not true. Until the banking crisis, Labour ran a lower deficit than any Conservative government of the previous 30 years. The Conservatives had supported greater deregulation of the banks right up until the crisis hit, meaning that it would have been much worse if they had been in power at the time. And they supported Labour’s actions to solve that crisis – meaning that, if we are in a mess now, the Conservatives should take as much responsibility for it as Labour. They would have done no different.

Possibly the most astonishing moment was when David Cameron said volunteers in food banks were part of his Big Society idea, “to help those in need”. The stated aim of the Big Society was to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, taking power away from politicians and giving it to people. Now, here, Mr Cameron seemed to be saying the opposite – that it is about taking so much away from people that they are forced to rely on charity to survive. It seems, therefore, that the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was correct when he labelled it “aspirational waffle designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable.”

His words were, to some extent, echoed by Ed Miliband at PMQs: “I never thought that the big society was about feeding hungry children in Britain. The reality is that in the third year of the Prime Minister’s Government, more children are going hungry and more families are relying on food banks.

“Is it not the clearest indictment of his Government’s values that while lower and middle-income families are being hit, at the same time he is giving an average of a £107,000 tax cut to people earning over £1 million a year?”

And those were the truest words spoken on the subject.

Health and safety deregulation: The thin end of a crippling wedge

I know what you think about this: “It’s only low-risk places like shops – what harm can it do?”

A lot, in fact.

The government is planning to introduce new rules from April next year, scrapping health and safety checks on thousands of businesses it considers low-risk. Shops are among them, along with offices, pubs and clubs.

Apparently this will save millions of pounds. I wonder how many lives it will ruin.

I have a friend who works in a supermarket, which counts as a shop. While he was working, a cleaner on some kind of motorised transport shot through a pair of doors which hit him on the arm, injuring it. This was months ago; the arm isn’t better. Because the supermarket chain had sub-contracted the cleaning work to another company, he is still awaiting compensation for the injury and loss of earnings; both firms deny responsibility.

This is a health and safety issue. Why does the government have nothing to say about it? And how many more people will suffer similar injury – or worse – in an unregulated future?

According to business minister Michael Fallon, firms will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in areas deemed to be higher-risk, such as construction and food production, or if they have had an accident or a track record of poor performance – but for how long? If the policy saves companies money – never mind the human cost for a moment – won’t they expand it, to improve profitability for proprietors?

Ministers also said legislation would be introduced next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.

Mrs Mike (my girlfriend) has had firsthand experience of how this works. She’s a former employee of a manufacturing company. This firm had multiple health and safety regulations to enforce, along with the equipment to do so – but she tells me that, strangely, all this equipment was hidden away during the normal working day and only came out when the factory’s owners were notified that a surprise inspection would take place. Think about that.

She doesn’t work there any more. Conditions were such that she had to perform repetitive physical work while standing at an uncomfortable angle, because the work surfaces were too low, for many hours every day, and this caused her physical damage.

But can she prove that it was her job that did the harm?


I admit that this was one factory, run by a firm that no longer exists (it went into receivership and the premises are now run by someone else, who may have instigated a better health and safety regime; we don’t know, Mrs Mike isn’t there anymore). But consider the opportunities for abuse that will be available to other firms, if regulations are relaxed.

You might ask why I don’t think firms will carry on in a responsible manner after deregulation, and it might be a good question if we didn’t have the example of recent history available to us.

What I mean is: Just look at what happened with the banks.

Finally, what do you think will happen if you do suffer an injury at work? Mrs Mike was quietly sacked and has ended up on the infamous Employment and Support Allowance – Work-Related Activity Group. That’s right – you’ll get a year’s worth of invalidity pay before being required to go out and look for work, no matter what your physical condition might be. We already know that this experience can be terminal.

If you still doubt me about ESA, the latest YouTube video on the subject is on the Vox Political Facebook page. It tells the story of a claimant undergoing the hated Work Capability Assessment, in which the assessor actually asked, “So how long exactly have you had Down’s Syndrome?”