Friday, June 08, 2007


The two most personally decent groups of people I know, by and large, are the Brits and the Israelis. The basic decency of the vast majority of people in those countries needs no defense. Which makes it all the weirder and more stomach-churning that the British college teachers union just voted to boycott Israel's universities and colleges.

There is something so grotesque and Kafkaesque about this move that it simply cries out for explanation. Why would England, home of the "Mother of Parliaments," support the destruction of a small and besieged country that has managed to maintain the only true democracy in the most treacherous neighborhood in the world? Why would professors and teachers, who are presumably dedicated to free speech and thought, be opposed to the free exchange of information with such a democracy?

Ten years ago Europe was appalled over ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. Today the British vote to open the door to ethnic cleansing in Israel. I've talked to British and Israeli friends about these things over the years. Two British academics have simply told me that they feel ashamed of their country. No one I know over there has defended it.

It's now clear that the anti-Israel boycott reflects the politics of Britain today, much like a surgical wound reflects the anatomy of the human body. The boycott move shows the powerful return of the anti-democratic Left in Britain, very similar to the Stalinist Left that did so much damage to Britain and the West in the 20th century. It also shows the new power in British academic institutions of Islamic fascists. A major fact is that the same UCU board that voted to deligitimize Israel also voted to block police inquiries about Islamist recruiting on university campuses. The message is clear. The academic Left will protect Islamofascists on campus.

The anti-Israel boycott further undermines democracy in Britain, which has seen a steep decline in its sovereignty with the rise of the European Union. More than 30,000 pages of regulations governing Britain and the rest of the EU have been unilaterally decreed out of Brussels. Parliamentary sovereignty is out of fashion. British foreign policy is increasingly to be run by Brussels, and the British armed forces are to be merged into the European Union. Killing the Anglo-American alliance is a major goal of these political maneuvers.

So the boycott is bad news for Israel's universities, but also for British freedoms and for America's strongest alliance in Europe. It should alarm all of us. Ask not for whom the bell tolls/It tolls for thee... as an English poet wrote, in an age that was not so different after all.

The majority of university professors in the UK are personally decent people, who were of course not consulted in the boycott vote. But they are intimidated by the code of Politically Correct conduct that now pervades all of British life is pushed by the hard Left, the BBC, radicals in the labor unions, and in the political parties. In places like London there is an explicit alliance between the hard Left and Islamist forces, as Melanie Phillips shows so chillingly in her book Londonistan. The threat of Islamist violence also shapes academic decisions in Britain today.

British universities therefore must live with the deep shame of a vile and anti-democratic action performed in their name. After all, they allowed the election of the union agitators who have been working to destroy Israel for years. Viciously slandering Israel and of course the United States has become socially acceptable in Europe today, and Britain is no exception. Both of those hatreds are very selective: no such superhuman standards of moral conduct are applied to Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, or Zimbabwe, or France for that matter. Politically Correct intimidation governs British society, which is as frightening in its own way as Cromwell's witch-hunts four centuries ago. The spirit of the witch-hunt is alive today, and Britain's academics, and for that matter Britain's Jews, seem to be frozen in fear. Given the dark history of Europe this is another throwback to a mad past.

Today UK universities allow Islamist imams to recruit terrorists without restraint, even after fifty innocent citizens were blown to shreds on the London Underground. British police estimate that more than two thousand British Islamofascists are ready to commit acts of terror. The universities silently acquiesce in hate campaigns mounted by Islamofascists and the hard Left. Those fanatics threaten violence against people who speak up against them, including teachers and students, just as the Hitler Youth did in its time. But we should not feel we are immune to the same forces in America, not after Harvard University fired its president for speaking a politically incorrect truth. Our campuses are also under siege.

It is still true that for evil to triumph it is only necessary for good men to do nothing; and it is also true that raising your voice in the face of threats and intimidation takes a lot more guts than keeping your mouth shut. The majority in Britain have therefore stayed silent in the face of a rising tide of fanaticism on their soil. Hatred has been allowed to become endemic. And of course, the most immediate victims are those who live there.

So this is a moment of historic shame for Britain and its cowed universities, the more so because the boycott vote was completely predictable. It culminates a long and systematic anti-Israel campaign in the Guardian and in the six-billion dollar-a-year involuntary fee-funded BBC, which laid the foundations for today's fall from grace. Alas, Britain is no longer the tolerant and humane country it once was.

The British Left, which spearheads the hate-Israel movement, has always been prone to a kind of Stalinist fanaticism, a psychological need to destroy scapegoats and idealize dictators. So this is not new. Martin Amis has written about the dangerous failure of the British Left to repudiate its Stalinist past. Amis' father Kingsley Amis was a life-long Stalin supporter. In Koba the Dread, Martin Amis tried to explain why Stalin and his followers were never denounced. It is a deeply shameful and frightening history --- frightening because of what it means for the future. Because the fanatics we see today are no different from the Stalinist fanatics of the 1930s. Today, we can even see a new Hitler-Stalin Pact in the making, as Socialist Workers' Party members and Islamofascists march side by side in the streets of London. The extremes touch hands again.

For the True Believers of the Left the crumbling of the Soviet Empire was not a sign of failure. Instead, it was a kind of opportunity to renew their faith. The Left could now argue that the Soviet Union was not a true test of Communism after all. One hundred million dead victims of Marxist regimes were not enough. If that kind of thinking isn't profoundly mad and twisted, I don't know what is. It could only spread by intimidation, and that is of course what Political Correctness is all about: It makes free speech dangerous and allows the Left to seize power, step by step. Today, BBC Radio 4 reports that its audience considers Karl Marx to be the greatest philosopher of all time. That is just a reflection of what the BBC has been drilling into its listeners day after day for all these years: It's a push-poll for the Ministry of Truth.

Americans tend to idealize our political mother country. The freedom-loving English-speaking tradition did lead to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, but with quite a few mad totalitarian swings, which never quite stopped, all the way from Cromwell's witch-hunting years to the PC Left of the 21st century.

It is important for Americans to understand Europe's never-ending fascination with totalitarians. James Bond was not just a fantasy but an outright historical lie. The truth is that the Soviet KGB had British intelligence totally penetrated from the 1930s onward, because they selected their spies from promising young Communists at Cambridge University in the decades before. The Soviets also made good use of the homosexual underground that long existed in Britain, which gave its adherents lifelong practice in living two separate lives. So the top Soviet spies in British intelligence were commonly gay Cambridge graduates who were dedicated Communists. On the royalist side, King Edward VIII tried to persuade Hitler to make him the Nazi puppet king in England. In response, Churchill had Edward exiled to Barbados during World War II.

It was the absolute faith of totalitarianism that made it all so seductive. Communism presented a fanatical, absolutist answer to all questions in life. So did fascism. As insane as it may sound, even today, for Leftist Europeans, Karl Marx is still the Prophet of the future. Failures simply don't count.

Americans always make the mistake of thinking the British to be much more democratic than they really are. When we see the Coliseum in Rome, the great Cathedral at Chartres, and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, we rarely remind ourselves that those top tourist destinations stand for three kinds of violent European regimes --- from the brutal Roman Empire to Napoleon's mad attempt to stroke France's national ego by killing millions of other Europeans. In so many ways Europe is a mad place, as mad as the Middle East. It has simply been defeated time and time again. But that does not automatically make for a democratic mindset. The sad fact is that British democracy is in steep decline today, and nobody seems to care.

"Giving in to the totalitarian temptation," as German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer described his own youth, has always appealed to the Brits as well as other Europeans. Europe's bloody-minded professors have an attraction to totalitarianism, one that keeps popping up throughout history like some recurrent plague. Hitler and Stalin were not the first; unfortunately they were not the last either. Both Hitler and Stalin fancied themselves as high-flown European intellectuals, writing books and articles about politics, linguistics, race, and the nature of art. After their crimes were exposed, Europe's scribbler class simply looked for new mass-murdering heroes to worship. In the 1950's Jean-Paul Sartre sensed a shift in the political winds, and changed his powerful public support from Josef Stalin to Mao Zedong. Mao was even then murdering his own people by the millions, as Sartre must have known. He didn't care. It was all for a good cause.

Just a few years ago Europe proved itself completely unable to see Saddam Hussein's evil for what it obviously was, and to celebrate his overthrow with a sigh of relief. France and Germany tried their damndest to sabotage American policy toward Saddam, by hook or by crook. Today's difficult Iraq War is due in part to that constant sabotage by the Western Left, both in America and Europe.

It is not an accident that Saddam's Baath Party was a carbon copy of Europe's fascist parties of the 1930s. The Baath Party learned its craft from Europe. Saddam Hussein was a European-style dictator, like Franco, Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. Today Europe again turns a blind eye to Ahmadi-Nejad's Islamofascist regime reaching toward nukes in Tehran. They simply hope they are not themselves in danger; it's their usual self-deception; soon, they will be fifteen minutes from Tehran by ICBM. Europe's proudly proclaimed "pacifism" is only passivism in the face of clear and present evil.

Along with a worship of absolutist politics, Europe's intellectuals have a record of hating democracy. Napoleon famously sneered that Britain was only "a nation of shopkeepers" --- petit bourgeois capitalists. Both the Communists and Fascists voiced the same contempt for Anglo-American democracy, and practically all of Europe's most famous intellectuals of the 20th century were totalitarians of one kind or the other. Mussolini and Mitterand actually managed to become both prominent Fascists and leading Socialists in a single lifetime.

The most revealing book about European politics is Julien Benda's Treason of the Clerks (that is, the intellectuals), written in the 1950s, but still as relevant as ever. It is a badly written book in many ways, but its point is made clear in the title: Benda pointed out that all of modern European politics is governed by the intellectual class, which always manages to betray its own peoples to serve itself. Socialism is of course a pure product of European intellect, starting from Plato's Republic to Karl Marx by way of Friedrich Hegel. Each of them celebrated their own version of dictatorship by the intellectuals. Not surprisingly, socialism serves the intellectual apparatus that it keeps in power. Europe today is still governed by elites who have contempt for democracy. Consider how they feel about the voters having a voice in the so-called "European Constitution," for example.

And there's the answer, I believe, to my question about the anti-Israel boycott. Why are the British university unions boycotting a free and democratic country, besieged by dictatorial murder cults? Because the universities are filled with bloody-minded professors, just as Churchill said. They are still searching for a True Belief. Relatively small numbers are Muslims, but Muslim fanatics have been allowed free reign by the Left, neo-Stalinists who have worked their way into positions of power, covered by the doctrine of Political Correctness. British universities are the breeding grounds of a new Left-fascist alliance, which operates by intimidation and media control, just as the old one did. Britain is no longer the country that defied Hitler. Instead, it has fallen back into another and darker identity.


NHS is on brink of collapse, say consultants

The NHS is on the brink of collapse and cannot be saved unless Gordon Brown intervenes when he becomes prime minister to give doctors the authority to organise a recovery, the leader of Britain's 33,000 hospital consultants will claim today. Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, will tell Mr Brown: "Political meddling has brought the NHS to its knees. Unshackle the profession, give us back the health service, and we will rebuild it. Fail to do so and you will rightly be condemned for destroying the best piece of social capital the country has ever had."

Dr Fielden will make his plea as Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, announces the NHS's financial results for the year to March. She is expected to confirm a report in the Guardian last week that it made a surplus of about 500m. Dr Fielden will blame the Department of Health for cutting services too aggressively last autumn, when ministers panicked about the possibility of another deficit. "It takes weeks to cut, but years to rebuild trust," he will tell the BMA consultants' conference in London. "We are angry with the government for a woeful dereliction of duty - towards patients, towards the profession and towards the future. We have lost all confidence that the government can solve the problems it has created."

The service suffered from too little strategic direction and too many ministerial policy initiatives. It had become "a distorted skeleton". The government diverted billions of pounds from improving efficiency to create an internal market in which hospitals competed for patients. "The excessive use of private firms to provide NHS services has been costly, disruptive and has fragmented care. The independent sector should only be used where the NHS needs it, not thrust into its midst like a carelessly placed hand grenade."

Mr Brown should work with doctors, patients and other healthcare professionals to stem the loss of trust and collapse in morale. "We will not stand by and see the Trojan horse of the independent sector rolled in to take over the health service from within."


Outrage over NHS cutbacks and bookkeeping fiddles

Patricia Hewitt was accused yesterday of aggravating regional inequalities in NHS care to meet her promise to stem health service deficits in the last financial year. The Health Secretary faced a barrage of criticism from economists and health professionals over her stewardship of the NHS after disclosing that it had underspent its budget by 510 million pounds last year. The figure fulfilled a government pledge to avoid a third year in the red, but provoked outrage over "excessive" cuts and their impact on waiting lists. The latest unaudited data show that more than one in five NHS bodies in England are still in debt, with about one in ten classed as facing long-term financial challenges.

Jonathan Fielden, of the British Medical Association, described the cost-cutting strategy as "wreaking havoc on the NHS and return[ing] it to boom and bust health economics". The combined debt of the 22 per cent of NHS organisations who failed to break even in 2006-07 was 911 million. In the previous financial year the NHS ran up an overall deficit of more than 500 million, and the gross deficit - the total of all those organisations which ran up debts - was 1.3 billion.

However, the NHS, which had a budget of over 70 billion for 2006-7, has only managed to balance the books by taking money from elsewhere. A leaked e-mail, reported yesterday by The Times, suggested that in addition to lost jobs and raids on training budgets, the climate of cost-cutting has stalled progress on the flagship policy to ensure no patient waits longer than 18 weeks for hospital treatment........

Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said that yesterday's budget figures "expose the tragedy and farce of NHS finances". He condemned the Government's refusal to give nurses their 2.5 per cent pay award immediately instead of staged over the year. "With a NHS surplus of more than half a billion pounds and the threat of industrial action on the horizon, it is surely time for ministers to do the decent thing and give nurses the fair pay deal they deserve," he said. "Stop-go economics is no way to run the NHS." NHS Trusts have been spending more than œ1 billion a year on agency nurses due to poor planning, a group of MPs said. The Public Accounts Committee said that the bill grew by 40 per cent in the five years to 2005 - despite the number of permanent nurses in the health service rising by one fifth over the same period.


British Catholic Schools Targeted For Refusing to Implement School "anti-homophobic" Bullying Policies

Catholic schools in Britain are under attack by the government at the urging of homosexual lobbyists for refusing to bow to pressure to implement "anti-homophobic" bullying policies in schools. A report by a Commons Select Committee to the Department for Education and Skills singles out Catholic schools for refusing to implement regulations.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson told gay activists that the government is preparing guidelines for schools to address what was identified in the report as "faith-based" homophobic bullying. At a meeting with Stonewall, the gay lobby group that brought about the notorious Sexual Orientation Regulations passed earlier this year, Johnson told activists that he hopes to make a presentation at the group's upcoming conference in July.

The report, published March 27, recommends that the Department "introduces a requirement for schools to record all incidents of bullying along with information about the type of bullying incident."

The British government is explicitly collaborating with the homosexual movement in aiming at the Catholic Church's stand against sexual immorality. In preparation for the report that will inform the guidelines, the Department of Skills and Education commissioned research from Stonewall into "faith-based" bullying in schools.

In a committee hearing, Jim Knight, Minister of State for Schools accused the Catholic Church of "faith-based bullying". "Whatever the setting," Knight said, "whatever the ethos, whoever the external partner to a school might be, school might be, if they have got one, be it the Catholic Church or anybody else. We should not tolerate bullying in any from, we should not tolerate people not respecting the difference that people have and I think that applies to homophobic bullying."

The bullying issue is being used openly as a wedge issue to attack Catholic and other faith-based institutions. Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) says, "Such is the level of homophobia in the Catholic Church that its schools should be taken from it and returned to the community sector."

GALHA's secretary George Broadhead said, "We've seen homophobia in Catholic circles rising at a terrifying rate over the past few months. The Pope is almost hysterical on the topic and the British Catholic hierarchy is constantly agitating to retard gay rights. What chance have gay pupils got in schools which are run by an organisation that hates them?"

"For the sake of these children and for the community at large which should be protected from the promotion of bigotry in schools, the Catholic Church should be stripped of its educational establishments."

Stonewall is the UK's most successful homosexual lobby group, having hosted Prime Minister Tony Blair at its victory banquet after the passage of the SOR's.


Widespread influence of genes confirmed

An unprecedented selection of genes that contribute to common diseases has been identified by the biggest survey of the human genome. The discovery promises to transform treatment and diagnosis of everyday health problems. The study, which screened DNA samples from 17,000 British volunteers, has identified 24 genetic variants that influence six common conditions that together affect tens of millions of people. Half the genes have effects that are new to science, and the findings open new approaches to research into type 1 and type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Crohn's disease, bipolar disorder and rheumatoid arthritis. Genetic variants that may affect a seventh disorder, high blood pressure, have also been highlighted, though these links have yet to be confirmed.

The discovery by the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium is a landmark in humanity's ability to understand our genetic code, illustrating how variations in DNA make different people susceptible to diseases. As the seven studied conditions and the genes that influence them are common, the results should help scientists to design therapies and screening techniques from which millions will benefit.

Many of the new genes lie in areas of the genome that were not previously thought to be related to the diseases in question. As all the variants have small effects, which predispose to disorders rather than inevitably causing them, the study should also reveal environmen-tal factors that matter as well. "We have known for a long time that genes play a large role in common human diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and many psychiatric disorders," said Professor Peter Donnelly, of the University of Oxford, who led the research team. "What we have not known is which parts of the genome are involved." "Many of the most common diseases are very complex, part nature and nurture, with genes interacting with our environment and lifestyles. By identifying the genes underlying these conditions, our study should enable scientists to understand better how disease occurs, which people are most at risk and, in time, produce more effective, more personalised treatments."

In the study, published in the journal Nature, more than 200 scientists took DNA samples from 2,000 individuals with each of the seven diseases and from 3,000 healthy control subjects. The study compared 500,000 genetic markers to identify which were more common in people with disease. This technique, whole genome association, can find genetic variants that have small effects. The new variants are carried by between 5 per cent and 40 per cent of the population. Most raise the risk of developing a disease by up to 40 per cent if one copy is inherited, and by double this in people with two copies.

Details of several genes identified by the consortium have already been published, including the FTO gene that influences obesity and a cluster that affects type 2 diabetes.

The most exciting results concern type 1 diabetes and Crohn's disease, a bowel disorder. Specialists in each disease will be watching progress in the others in search of clues. "If there is a breakthrough in Crohn's disease, we will be looking at it in type 1 diabetes," said Professor John Todd, of the University of Cambridge, who led the type 1 diabetes arm of the research.

Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "This research shows that it is possible to analyse human variation in health and disease on an enormous scale."

Hope for six conditions:

Bipolar disorder: Psychiatric illness that affects 100 million people worldwide. One new genetic area reliably linked. Many other genes likely to have a small effect on risk

Coronary heart diseaseL Britain's biggest killer, causing 105,000 deaths annually. Genetic area on chromosome 9 doubles risk in the 20 per cent of people who have two copies, increases risk by 50 per cent in the 50 per cent of people with one copy of the variant

Crohn's disease: Inflammatory bowel disorder that affects up to 60,000 people in Britain. Three new genes discovered that raise the risk by 40 per cent. The study confirms six other previously identified genes are also linked

Rheumatoid arthritis: Auto-immune condition affecting 387,000 people in Britain. One genetic region confirmed to have impact on women

Type 1 diabetes: Insulin-dependent form of the condition that usually begins in childhood, affecting 350,000 people in Britain. Four genes found that have an effect, raising risk by up to 40 per cent when people have one copy. Effect of three other genes confirmed

Type 2 diabetes: Adult-onset form of the condition, affecting 1.9 million people in Britain. Three new genes that affect risk identified, including the FTO gene that contributes to the risk of obesity


British immigration reforms?

Applicants for British passports would face a points-based system linked to their employment and community work under proposals to be outlined by ministers. The proposal to introduce “earned citizenship” is intended to send a message that becoming a British citizen with all its benefits is not something simply to be handed out to anyone. The plan is being put forward by Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, and Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, in a Fabian Society pamphlet published tomorrow.

The existing citizenship requirement that a person must have lived in Britain for five years, pass a test in English and demonstrate knowledge of life in Britain would be expanded to include points awarded for civic and voluntary work.

The ministers will propose that credits or points be awarded for the amount of money that a person brings with them, their employment record and for any voluntary or other work in the community. Points could be deducted from an applicant who is convicted of an offence that does not lead to deportation and for antisocial behaviour. The ministers will suggest that the “journey” towards citizenship should in future reflect each migrant’s commitment and contribution to society since arriving in Britain. They believe that such a system would help a person to integrate while reassuring the existing community that newcomers are truly committed to British values, laws and way of life.

Mr Byrne said last night in a speech in London: “I believe we should clarify the contract between our country and newcomers. On the one hand we need to do more to help newcomers understand our values and the British way of life when they decide to stay. But for those who decide to make the UK their future, we need to make it clearer that citizenship isn’t simply handed out, but something which is earned.”

The ministers will also suggest a national British day that would either be an existing Bank Holiday or another date on which British citizenship would be celebrated, including the contributions made by groups such as war veterans.

Mr Byrne admitted that record numbers of asylum-seekers and the huge inflow of East European migrants had damaged public confidence in the immigration system. He said: “At a time of great change the public felt three shocks to the system. First the huge spike in asylum claims we saw at the turn of the century, then the unpredicted influx of newcomers from the new Eastern Europe. And the crisis of foreign prisoners released without a review of whether they should be deported.”

It is the second time within weeks that Mr Byrne has admitted that the public has been shaken by the scale of migration. In May he said that large scale immigration had damaged the poorest communities in the country and that inequality and child poverty were two side-effects of migration, running at record levels since Labour came to power. Last night he said that while migration was vital to Britain’s prosperity, the wider impact on public services and existing communities had to be considered when deciding who could enter the country. His latest admission comes as the Government is preparing new measures in which cooperation with foreign countries will be tied to their willingness to tackle immigration abuses.

The minister also announced fresh details about the plan for a forum to advise ministers on the social and economic impact of immigration on existing communities. Representatives from the police, the NHS and magistrates are to join the Migration Impact Forum, which holds its first meeting this month. They join representatives from local councils, education authorities, business and trade unions. “In other words, when we make migration decisions, business will not be the only voice we listen to because others have a claim to stake,” Mr Byrne said.

A new international strategy, drawn up by the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will make cooperation on migration a key part of bilateral and international relationships. In the past No 10 has suggested tying aid packages to some countries to their willingness to accept the return of failed asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants


Alarm at sudden rise in schools failing inspections

The number of schools failing their inspections has shot up five per cent in the past term. Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, revealed that the number of schools "in special measures" - which means they face closure or replacement by a city academy - had risen from 243 to 256.

The findings immediately provoked a political row, with Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrats' education spokeswoman, warning that Labour was "running out of excuses for its inability to sort out failing schools". "Children are being denied a fair start in life," she added. David Willetts, the shadow Education Secretary, said the figures were "yet more evidence of the pressing need to focus on raising standards in our state schools".

However, the figures also show that those served with a notice to improve within a year - or face failure - had gone down from 366 to 352. In addition, the number with serious weaknesses - one stop short of failing their inspections - had also fallen from 82 to 47.

Schools minister Jim Knight said that - overall - the figures showed fewer schools were in categories of concern compared with the previous term. "This is a promising trend despite the fact we raised the bar on inspection in autumn 2005," he added. "The new tougher inspection framework means there is no room for 'coasting schools'."

Meanwhile, the Government announced plans to tackle the number of "invisible children" who fall behind in maths and English between the ages of seven and 11. Ministers are urging teachers not to ask children to put their hands up to answer questions because it means shy pupils are never called upon in class.

A study published by the Department for Education and Skills, published yesterday, suggested instead that teachers should choose who answers the questions. A second theory put forward in the study of 240 children as to why they fall behind is that their homework starts to become too difficult for their parents to help at that age.



The EU's carbon trading scheme has increased electricity bills, given a windfall to power companies and failed to cut greenhouse gases, it is claimed. An investigation by BBC Radio 4's File on 4 programme has found that after two and half years the scheme has yet to cut in carbon dioxide emissions. The consumer body Energywatch said customers are getting a raw deal.

But a government minister has promised that the scheme's next phase will be a big improvement. The EU's Emission Trading Scheme - a key part of the UK Government's drive to combat climate change - began in 2005 and created a trade in carbon allowances. It is essentially a permit to pollute. Power generators received their allowances free of charge but were allowed to reflect the value of those in increased prices to customers, as if the companies had actually had to buy the allowances. Energywatch believes this increased electricity bills by about 7% in 2005.

And according to one government estimate, that delivered windfall profits of up to 1.3bn pounds to the generators in that year - higher than environmental campaigners had claimed last year. However, so far the carbon scheme has brought no clear payback in terms of cutting emissions. Provisional government figures from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) suggest CO2 output in Britain actually went up, by 1.25% last year wiping out a slight drop of 0.01% in 2005. It is also reckoned that CO2 emissions across the EU also rose by between 1 and 1.5% over the last two years.

The chief executive of Energywatch, Allan Asher, said , "Consumers increasingly accept the need for reductions in carbon. "However they are paying the price and not seeing the benefits. The big generators are banking huge amounts of money and consumers aren't benefiting."

But the Minister for Climate Change, Ian Pearson, told File on 4 that the carbon trading scheme has been an administrative success yet concedes there have been problems in the first three year phase to the end of 2007. "If you are saying to me it hasn't achieved a massive amount so far when it comes to CO2 reductions, well I agree with you and I think Phase Two will be a big, big improvement...and a key instrument in helping us all to achieve our carbon reduction targets across Europe."


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