Tag Archives: serious

Jamaica deportation: will the Tories go ahead after appeal court decision?

Doing a runner: Priti Patel leaving the Commons to avoid a question about the Windrush-style deportation of people to Jamaica (not really, but she did run like a coward when David Lammy asked her about it).

The Court of Appeal has advised the Tory government not to deport 50 people to Jamaica until it has confirmed they have all had access to advice from lawyers.

But will Boris Johnson and his bandits accept that advice?

Consider the way Priti Patel swanned out of the Commons chamber, while David Lammy was asking her an urgent question on the subject.

Former Labour leadership candidate Clive Lewis also demanded that the flight should be stopped.

It is racism, if their convictions are suspect and they haven’t had access to a lawyer. And if the Home Secretary can’t answer a simple question about it.

But as I write this, it seems unlikely the Tories will stop the flight. They think they can do whatever they like, to anyone they feel like. Are they right?

Source: Jamaica deportation: Appeal court issues order over phone access – BBC News

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Johnson insists on deportation of Caribbean nationals despite claims they’re NOT ‘serious criminals’

Nazi overtones: Hitler deported Jews from Germany, before deciding to murder them instead; now it seems Boris Johnson is picking on people of Caribbean descent. What next?

Exactly why is the Tory government insisting on deporting people of Caribbean origin who have been UK residents for many years?

He says they’re “serious criminals”. But are they? Let’s remember, the Tories have been wrong about their deportations before, but still insisted on causing misery to thousands of innocent people.

(And the UK electorate then insisted on returning them to office. I suppose it’s true that some people only care when they’re the ones being persecuted.)

All 50 of those being deported are said to be convicted criminals, but here’s the catch: they have all served UK prison terms for those crimes.

They have already paid the required price for their crimes and it would be perverse to punish them again. Isn’t this simply more Tory racism?

The Home Office says the flight is “specifically for removing foreign criminals” and includes “people convicted of manslaughter, rape, violent crime and dealing Class A drugs”. Number 10 has said all the people on the flight have sentences of 12 months or more.

But a law firm representing some of the people on the flight has put forward a different view – that they are “potential victims of trafficking, groomed as children by drugs gangs running county lines networks and later pursued in the criminal justice system as serious offenders”.

And why is this flight scheduled to happen before the ‘Lessons Learned’ review of the Windrush Scandal is published? That event showed that the Tories had wrongly detained and deported thousands of people, forcing then-prime minister Theresa May to apologise for the suffering she had caused as the Home Secretary who approved it.

But at least one person on tomorrow’s (February 11) flight has been found to have been convicted falsely under an unlawful interpretation of the ‘joint enterprise’ rule. He served only two months in prison and has a heart condition which means he may not survive the stress that Mr Johnson is forcing him to undergo.

This would tally with the legal challenge against the deportations.

More than 170 MPs have signed a letter organised by Labour MP Nadia Whittome, demanding that the flight be cancelled, or at least delayed until after publication of the ‘Lessons Learned’ report:

A draft of the report in June 2019 said: “Government should review its policy and approach to FNOs [foreign national offenders], if necessary through primary legislation. It should consider ending all deportation of FNOs where they arrived in the UK as children (say, before age of 13).

“Alternatively, deportation should only be considered in the most severe cases.”

Source: Boris Johnson insists first deportation of Caribbean nationals since Windrush scandal must go ahead | The Independent

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NHS privatisation: paying profiteers means there’s no money for healthcare and patients are harmed

Recruitment difficulties for NHS ambulance trusts have meant private ambulances are being used, with untrained staff, leading to incidents in which patients have suffered serious harm.

This is what happens when you waste money that should be spent on healthcare, paying profit into private company bank accounts.

The cost of hiring private ambulances is draining funds that could be used elsewhere, while private firms are cutting corners and failing to provide the care that patients need, according to the Unison representative quoted in the report (below).

While ambulance trusts said they were struggling to recruit staff because each person has to have three years’ training, the Care Quality Commission found private ambulance services were employing staff who had no training at all.

It reported “evidence of incidents of serious harm to people from staff that had not been properly recruited and vetted”.

I would like to know what this evidence is, and how many patients suffered serious harm as a result of Tory healthcare privatisation.

I would like to know which Conservative MPs were directly responsible for inflicting this harm on people who are ill, or injured, and vulnerable.

And I would like to know what action may be taken to call them to account.

England’s ambulance trusts spent more than £92 million in the last year on private ambulances and taxis to transport patients, Press Association (PA) research found.

Some trusts said they rely on private ambulances due to a chronic shortage of NHS staff and ongoing problems with recruitment.

In some parts of the south, almost one in five emergency calls result in a private ambulance being sent to the scene.

Earlier this year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a damning report warning that patients were being put at risk by private ambulances.

Source: Patients ‘at risk’ as NHS spends £92m on private ambulances and taxis | The Independent

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Rudd runs away as reporters ask what she’ll cut to fund her ‘Serious Violence Strategy’

Home Secretary Amber Rudd remains in a political quagmire of her own making after Jeremy Corbyn savaged her for failing to read her own government department’s report on the link between police cuts and the rise in violent crime.

Worse still, she has announced £40 million of funds for a new strategy to counter serious violent crime – but ran away when asked what else she would cut in order to come up with the cash.

According to The Guardian:

Jeremy Corbyn has said Amber Rudd has been “completely undermined” by leaked Home Office documents suggesting government cuts are linked to the rise in violent crime, and demanded the home secretary explain herself to parliament.

“We always said cuts have consequences and now the Home Office’s own officials agree with us,” he said. “Today’s leaked documents make a nonsense of the Tories’ repeated claims that their cuts to police numbers have had no effect.”

Ms Rudd had to go ahead and release her ‘Serious Violence Strategy’ – but the damage had been done. She had intended to put the battle against knife crime in the spotlight, but instead it fell on the government’s own cuts:

https://twitter.com/liamyoung/status/983305019658264576

And when she was asked what cuts would be required to fund her new initiative – well, see for yourself:

Meanwhile, we learn that violent crime is on the increase in other UK cities:

James O’Brien had a lot more to say about this issue. Here he is, demonstrating very clearly that Tories including Boris Johnson, Ms Rudd and current prime minister Theresa May have all claimed, against any logic, that reducing provision will improve protection. All have been proved wrong. And what do they have for those who call them out on it? Contempt:

Here’s an easy summary for you:

Fortunately, there are alternative points of view. Here’s Louise Haigh, Labour’s shadow policing minister:

She, at least, is in tune with the Police Federation:

So what’s the solution to the current rise in violent crime?

Simple.

Remove the incompetent and arrogant Conservatives from office and put Labour ministers in place to get the job done properly.


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Michael Howard: Former Tory leader faces questions by serious fraud office

Doesn’t he look worried?

It seems some of our favourite former Conservative leaders’ chickens are coming home to roost. What have they been saying about Mr Heath lately?

The former leader of the Conservative Party, Lord Howard of Lympne, is to be questioned by the Serious Fraud Office over the coming days in relation to a criminal investigation into an oil explorer where he is chairman.

Last week the SFO searched the offices of Soma Oil & Gas after a whistleblower made allegations about the London-based company, believed to relate to the manner in which it obtained exploration and drilling rights in Somalia.

Source: Michael Howard: Former Tory leader faces questions by SFO over oil deal corruption claims – Crime – UK – The Independent

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Now the SNP is even lying to itself

This is a real press release from the Scottish National Party:

“The SNP has today challenged Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy on whether he agrees with Labour Lord Lewis Moonie, who has said that he would prefer a coalition with the Tories to a deal with the SNP.

“Baron Moonie, a Labour MP between 1987 and 2005, and a former Defence Minister, tweeted that a coalition with the Tories ‘would be better than one with the SNP’.

“This follows Robert James McNeill, who at the time of posting was a member of Labour’s Scottish Policy Forum and Vice-Chair of East Lothian Constituency Labour Party, promoting on Twitter that Labour voters in 16 Scottish constituencies should vote for the Tories or Lib Dems.

Commenting, SNP MP Pete Wishart said: ‘This pro-Tory attitude seems to be pervasive throughout the Labour Party in Scotland – having been hand in glove with the Tories for two-and-a-half years in No campaign.'”

What a lot of (to use the SNP-adherent’s favourite word) pish!

McNeill was clearly a loose cannon making unwise use of his personal Twitter account. There is no indication anywhere in what he said that he was acting on behalf of Labour and Labour has certainly not endorsed what he said.

As for Lord Moonie, well, the first thing this writer thought on seeing the claim, was “He might just as easily have said, ‘The moon is more likely to crash into Venus than Labour have a coalition with the SNP!'” He was clearly discussing the impossibility of such a decision, in his opinion.

How does Lord Moonie describe the circumstances behind his comment and what happened afterwards? Here he is:

150224MoonieTweet

The SNP looks very silly now, for suggesting that this should be taken seriously.

Of course, that party and its supporters will never accept that they were wrong – they have a narrative to uphold – that Labour and the Conservatives are all cosy since they were flung into each other’s arms during the ‘Better Together’ campaign.

“Both at Westminster and in Scotland, senior Labour figures are cuddling up to the Tories and suggesting working with them,” states Mr Wishart, without a trace of irony, further down the SNP press release.

It’s hogwash, of course. Everybody knows it is – apart, it seems, from the SNP.

Jim Murphy doesn’t have much opportunity for mirth these days – as leader of Scottish Labour he has to fight an uphill struggle to convince Scottish voters that the SNP isn’t the panacea it claims to be.

That job will be much easier if the SNP finds more ways – like this – to turn itself into a laughing stock.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Information Commissioner rules on the cover-up of DWP-related deaths

What we're fighting for: It seems certain that Jacqueline Harris (pictured) died because her benefits were stripped from her after a one-question medical assessment. The DWP wants to hide the number of other people who are dying in similar circumstances.

What we’re fighting for: It seems certain that Jacqueline Harris (pictured) died because her benefits were stripped from her after a one-question medical assessment. The DWP wants to hide the number of other people who are dying in similar circumstances. [Picture: Daily Mirror]

Long-term readers will know that the author of this blog has spent the last few months trying to get officials at the Department for Work and Pensions to release mortality statistics for people undergoing the assessment procedure for Employment and Support Allowance.

It is in the public interest for the nation to know how many seriously ill or disabled people are dying while they wait to undergo the controversial Atos-run medical assessment, while they await the result, and while they appeal against a result that puts them in the wrong group or claims they are fit for work.

These deaths may be due to deterioration in their health – whether or not it was caused by the process – or suicide prompted by the process or the decision.

An initial Freedom of Information request was rejected by the DWP on the grounds that it was “vexatious”. I disputed that claim, and eventually had to appeal to the Information Commissioner for a ruling after ministers proved intractable.

The first obvious implication of this behaviour is that the number of deaths has been increasing and the DWP is trying to hide that fact from us. During 2012, when the department was still publishing the figures, we saw the average number of deaths leap from 32 per week to 73 per week.

The second obvious implication is that DWP policy is causing the deaths. With regard to this, your attention is drawn to the fact that this decision has been published a matter of days after it was revealed that Jacqueline Harris, of Kingswood, Bristol, died from a suspected overdose after the DWP signed her ‘fit for work’ – on the basis of a ‘medical assessment’ that consisted of one question – “Did you get here by bus?”

The partially-sighted former nurse, who required walking sticks, had a bad back and was in constant pain due to arthritis in her neck, lost all her benefits on the basis of her one-word answer – “Yes.” Amazingly, she lost an appeal against that decision and her death followed soon after.

An inquest has been opened and adjourned, so it is not possible to state the cause of death for certain – but any suggestion that the DWP decision was not a factor must beggar credulity.

That is the context in which the Information Commissioner’s ruling arrived.

You’re really not going to like it.

“The Commissioner’s decision is that the DWP has correctly applied the vexatious provision.”

It seems it is therefore impossible to use the Freedom of Information Act to extract this information from the Department for Work and Pensions. Ministers will never provide it willingly, so it seems we are at a dead end.

Apparently, “The DWP explained to the Commissioner that on 25 June 2013 they received 11 identical FOI requests and in the following days another 13 identical requests. They claim that this was the direct response to an online blog written by the complainant [that’s me] on 25 June 2013.

It seems that I am at fault for encouraging this as, after detailing my FOI request, I did write, “I strongly urge you to do the same. There is strength in numbers.” After a commenter asked if they could copy and past the request, I responded, “Sure, just make sure they know you’re making it in your own name”. And the following day, another commenter wrote, “If we swamp the DWP with requests they surely must respond”. Then on June 29, in another article, I added, “If you believe this cause is just, go thou and do likewise.”

The Information Commissioner’s decision notice states: “In this case, there were 24 identical requests which were sent to the DWP in a short space of time and the Commissioner has seen three identical complaints from the individuals that the DWP believes are acting in concert.

“Given that this issue was raised in a previous request at the end of 2012, it is apparent that the wording of the complainant’s online blog on 25 June 2013 prompted the numerous requests on this issue at the end of June 2013.

“Taking this into account the Commissioner has determined that there is sufficient evidence to link the requesters together and to accept they are acting in concert.”

It seems that there isn’t strength in numbers after all – or rather that the way that the large (by the DWP’s standards) number of us expressed ourselves was detrimental to our efforts. I take responsibility for that. I should have said that if you really believed in the issue, you needed to do something that was clearly separate from my own efforts. With hindsight this seems obvious, but only because we have all learned about the process as we went along. Would anybody have known better?

Regarding the impact of dealing with the requests, “The Commissioner accepts that when considered in the wider context, 24 requests on one topic in a few days could impose a burden in terms of time and resources, distracting the DWP from its main functions.

“The Commissioner accepts that the purpose of the requests may have gone beyond the point of simply obtaining the information requested and may now be intended to disrupt the main functions of the DWP.”

Surely, one of its main functions is the continued well-being of those claiming benefits. If people like Jacqueline Harris are dying because of DWP policy, it could be argued that the requests were reminders of its main function – not a distraction.

I have maintained throughout this process that there was no intention on my part to disrupt DWP functions. The only intention has been to see the mortality figures published. It seems neither the DWP nor the Information Commissioner are willing to allow that.

You have to wonder why, don’t you?

There are gaps in the argument which might provide future possibilities.

According to the decision notice, “The DWP argue that ‘the nature of the actual request is not the issue here. It is merely how these requests were instigated and orchestrated which led to them being treated as vexatious.”

In that case, why did the DWP not honour Samuel Miller’s original request for the information, which was turned down in June? If the nature of his request “is not the issue here”, then it should have been honoured and my own FOI request would never have been made. By its own intransigence, the DWP has wasted not only its own time but mine and that of 24 other people.

How many other requests were made, on the same subject, that the DWP could not associate with this blog?

Also, I was surprised to read the Information Commissioner’s statement: “However, the most significant factor is that the complainant runs an online blog in which the main focus is the DWP and their ‘cover-up’ on the number of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died in 2012.”

If that was the most significant factor in this ruling, then the decision is invalid. This blog was not set up to focus on the DWP’s admittedly despicable behaviour towards its clients; its focus is on British politics in general. Look at the articles published in the last week, covering topics ranging from immigration to the minimum wage, to the economy, and – yes – concerns about the DWP. If DWP ministers think the entire blog was set up to harass them, they’re getting ideas above their station.

It could also be argued that the quoted belief of the DWP, that “it is reasonable to view the requests as part of an obsessive campaign of harassment against it and its officers” is insupportable. If 24 people made FOI requests, but only three complained about the response, this is hardly obsessive. Were any of these people writing in on a regular basis, or were they corresponding only after they themselves had been contacted? I think we all know the answer to that.

Also, the Commissioner’s comment that “the disparaging remarks and language used in the blog cannot be overlooked and does demonstrate a level of harassment against the DWP” is insupportable. The language of the articles has been moderate, when one considers the subject matter. Regarding remarks made by other commenters, the DWP and the Information Commissioner should bear in mind that the comment column is a forum where people may express their opinions. If the DWP doesn’t like those opinions, it should modify its corporate behaviour.

It seems I have a further right of appeal, to the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights). I will consider this; observations from interested parties are encouraged.

By their own standards, Coalition ministers should be in prison

131125criminality

Everyone should agree that the Tory fuss over former Co-op Bank chief Paul Flowers is an attempt to distract us all from a more serious transgression that they themselves have committed.

Flowers, who is also a former Labour councillor, was arrested last week after being filmed allegedly handing over money to pay for cocaine.

The Conservatives have spent the last few days working very hard to establish a link, in the public consciousness, between the criminal allegations against Flowers, the Co-op Bank’s current financial embarrassment – believed to have been caused because Flowers knew nothing about banking, and the Labour Party, which has benefited from loans and a £50,000 donation to the office of Ed Balls.

This is unwise, considering a current Tory peer, Viscount Matt Ridley, was chairman of Northern Rock at the time it experienced the first run on a British bank in 150 years. He was as well-qualified to chair that bank as Paul Flowers was to chair the Co-op. A writer and journalist, his only claim on the role was that his father was the previous chairman (apparently the chairmanship of Northern Rock was a hereditary position).

Ridley was accepted as a Tory peer after the disaster took place (a fact which, itself, casts light on Conservative claims that they were going to be tough on bankers after the banker-engineered collapse of the western economies that started on his watch). The Conservatives are currently obsessing about what happened between Flowers and the Labour Party before the allegations of criminality were made.

Ridley is listed as having failed in his duty of care, which is not very far away from the kind of responsibility for the Co-op Bank’s collapse that is alleged of Paul Flowers. (Source: BBC Any Questions, November 22, 2013)

In addition, the Co-op Bank is not the Co-operative Party or the Co-operative Movement, and those two organisations – one of which is affiliated with the Labour Party – must not be tarred with the same brush.

The Tories are hoping that the public will accept what they are told, rather than digging a little deeper for the facts.

There’s no real basis for their venom; they ennobled a man who presided over much worse damage to the UK’s financial institutions, and attracting attention to criminal behaviour by members or supporters of political parties would be a huge own-goal.

Therefore this is a distraction. From what?

Cast about a little and we discover that Jeremy Hunt is threatening to create a new criminal offence for doctors, nurses and NHS managers if they are found to have wilfully neglected or mistreated patients – carrying a penalty of up to five years in jail.

The law was recommended in the summer by Professor Don Berwick, a former adviser to Barack Obama, who recommended criminal penalties for “leaders who have acted wilfully, recklessly, or with a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude and whose behaviour causes avoidable death or serious harm”.

Some of you may be delighted by this move, in the wake of the Mid Staffs scandal – even though questions have been raised over the accuracy of the evidence in that case.

But let’s look at another controversial area of government – that of social security benefits for the seriously ill.

It appears the Department for Work and Pensions, under Iain Duncan Smith, is planning to remove financial support for more than half a million people who – by its own standards – are too ill to seek, or hold, employment.

Apparently Smith wants to disband the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants, because they aren’t coming off-benefit fast enough to meet his targets.

The Observer‘s report makes it clear that the arguments are all about money, rather than patient care. Smith is concerned that “only half of WRAG claimants are coming off-benefit within three years, and hundreds of millions of pounds are being tied up in administration of the benefit, including work capability assessments and the appeals process”.

No mention is made of the fact, revealed more than a year ago, that many of those in the WRAG in fact belong in the Support Group for ESA (the group for people recognised to have long-term conditions that are not likely to go away within the year afforded to WRAG members). They have been put in the WRAG because targets set by Smith mean only around one-eighth of claimants are put into the Support Group.

The knock-on effect is that many claimants appeal against DWP decisions. This has not only caused deep embarrassment for Smith and his officials, but added millions of pounds to their outgoings – in benefit payments and tribunal costs.

Not only that, but – and this is the big “but” – it is known that many thousands of ESA claimants have suffered increased health problems as a result of the anxiety and stress placed on them by the oppressive process forced upon them by Iain Duncan Smith.

This means that between January and November 2011, we know 3,500 people in the WRAG died prematurely. This cannot be disputed by the DWP because its claim is that everyone in the WRAG is expected to become well enough to work within a year.

These are not the only ESA claimants to have died during that period; a further 7,100 in the Support Group also lost their lives but are not used in these figures because they had serious conditions which were acknowledged by the government and were getting the maximum benefit allowed by the law.

What about the people who were refused benefit? What about the 70 per cent of claimants who are marked “fit for work” (according to, again, the unacknowledged targets revealed more than a year ago by TV documentary crews)?

We don’t have any figures for them because the DWP does not keep them. But we do know that many of these people have died – some while awaiting appeal, others from destitution because their benefits have been stopped, and more from the added stress and insecurity of seeking work while they were too ill to do it.

Now Iain Duncan Smith (we call him ‘RTU’ or ‘Returned To Unit’, in reference to his failed Army career) wants more than half a million people – who are known to be too ill to work – to be cut off from the benefit that supports them.

Let’s draw a line between this and Jeremy Hunt’s plan to criminalise medical professionals whose wilful, reckless or ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to patients’ needs causes avoidable death or serious harm.

Clearly, such an attitude to people with serious long-term conditions should be carried over to all government departments, and yet nobody is suggesting that the DWP (and everybody who works for it) should face the same penalties.

Why not?

By its own admission, choices by DWP decision-makers – acting on the orders of Iain Duncan Smith – have led to deaths. We no longer have accurate information on the number of these deaths because Smith himself has blocked their release and branded demands for them to be revealed as “vexatious”. No matter. We know they have led to deaths.

If doctors are to face up to five years in prison for such harm, then government ministers and those carrying out their orders should be subject to the same rules.

By his own government’s standards, Iain Duncan Smith should be in prison serving many thousands of sentences.

Consecutively.