Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Brilliant British crackdown on "obesity"

Make gyms MORE expensive. Yes, you read that right: MORE expensive. The right hand clearly does not know what the left hand is doing

Efforts to tackle the growing obesity problem risk being seriously undermined by a move to claim VAT on public gym memberships held by nearly three million people. While private gyms have to charge VAT on membership at 17.5 per cent, gyms run by leisure centres have enjoyed a partial exemption, allowing them to keep costs down. In addition, most of the not-for-profit trusts that run hundreds of leisure centre gyms on behalf of local authorities have not been charging VAT at all. But after a seemingly obscure court case in Scotland won by Revenue & Customs, tax officials have circulated a warning to all 2,597 public gyms saying that they must levy VAT on their full membership fees.

Experts say that the move will undermine Gordon Brown's attempts to bring obesity under control, with higher fees likely to push thousands of members - and those most at risk of obesity - into giving up going to the gym altogether. Average monthly fees at public gyms are 28.39 pounds , or 340 a year, according to the Leisure Database Company, compared with 42.07 at a private gym. Full VAT on top would increase the annual fee to 400.

Experian, a business consultancy, has analysed the backgrounds of the 2.8 million public gym members and forecast that at least 12 per cent, or 350,000 members, would give up their membership if the cost went up. "If public leisure centre operators are forced to put up gym fees as a result of this initiative, they risk putting prices beyond the reach of the very target groups the Government is trying to get to do more exercise. It will seriously undermine attempts to get the nation more active," said Patrick Gray, senior consultant at Experian. A regional breakdown of the data also indicated that charging full VAT on public gym membership would mean that in some areas, including Bristol and Southampton, they would be more expensive than private gyms.

Craig McAteer, chairman of the Sports and Recreation Trusts Association (SpoRTA), urged the Revenue to reconsider. The body represents 115 leisure trusts that run 550 leisure centres for local authorities. "A significant number of our customers are in the lower socioeconomic groups," he said. "If our public leisure centres are forced to apply VAT, considerably increasing the price, we could see a huge drop-off in visitors which will ultimately damage the Government's vision of increasing participation and tackling rising obesity problems."

The Revenue defended its actions, saying that it had not changed the rules but was simply reminding leisure centres of their VAT liabilities. The case involved the Highlands council, which levied only a small amount of VAT on fees at leisure centres to cover non-sport facilities at the gym, such as the sauna and steam room. The court ruled that since membership was all-inclusive, VAT had to be charged on the full amount.

After its victory, the Revenue dashed out a warning to all leisure centres and trusts. "Quick as a flash after the court case Revenue & Customs made clear that the whole membership payment is subject to VAT and that trusts must also charge VAT if the subscription covers any activity that is not strictly speaking sport, which is of course most gyms these days," said Steve Hodgetts, VAT partner at Baker Tilly, the accountant. "It also made clear it would chase up VAT retrospectively if leisure centres had not been paying it. We calculate a bill of about 20 million."

The Revenue said that it had not changed the guidelines and was only clarifying what should always have been the case.


Why am I not surprised?

Guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits that have shaped health policy in Britain for 20 years were "plucked out of the air" as an "intelligent guess". The Times reveals today that the recommended weekly drinking limits of 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 for women, first introduced in 1987 and still in use today, had no firm scientific basis whatsoever. Subsequent studies found evidence which suggested that the safety limits should be raised, but they were ignored by a succession of health ministers.

One found that men drinking between 21 and 30 units of alcohol a week had the lowest mortality rate in Britain. Another concluded that a man would have to drink 63 units a week, or a bottle of wine a day, to face the same risk of death as a teetotaller.

The disclosure that the 1987 recommendation was prompted by "a feeling that you had to say something" came from Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that produced it. He told The Times that the committee's epidemiologist had confessed that "it's impossible to say what's safe and what isn't" because "we don't really have any data whatsoever".

Mr Smith, a former Editor of the British Medical Journal, said that members of the working party were so concerned by growing evidence of the chronic damage caused by heavy, long-term drinking that they felt obliged to produce guidelines. "Those limits were really plucked out of the air. They were not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee," he said. Mr Smith's disclosure casts doubt on the accuracy of a report published this week that blamed middle-class wine drinkers for placing some of Britain's most affluent towns at the top of the "hazardous drinking" list. The study, commissioned by the Government, relied on the 1987 guidelines when it suggested that men drinking more than 21 units a week and women consuming more than 14 units put their health "at significant risk".

In a further attack on Britain's drinkers, it was revealed yesterday that a coalition of health organisations is mounting a campaign to force a 10 per cent increase in alcohol taxation. The group, headed by the Royal College of Physicians, is also seeking to secure the support of MPs for stricter regulation of the drinks industry and warnings on alcohol advertising. A total of 21 bodies, including Alcohol Concern and the British Liver Trust, will form the Alcohol Health Alliance, according to Harpers Wine and Spirit magazine.


Sick Britain: Too dangerous for firefighters to climb ladders

Firefighters have backed out of a long-standing agreement to take down their town's festival bunting because health and safety rules no longer allow them to climb ladders to remove it. Green and white flags are still fluttering over the streets of Ampthill, in Bedfordshire, four months after the annual gala day. The town council has insisted that Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service must go through risk assessment procedures, despite their expertise with ladders. "Yes, it sounds like the world has gone mad," said Graeme Smith, deputy chief fire officer. "Firefighters will climb ladders to rescue people from burning buildings, but not to remove bunting after a festival.

"One is a 999 job, where to save lives we will take calculated risks. The other is a property maintenance job, which is covered by standard health and safety rules that we would have to abide by, the same as everyone else. That could mean closing the road and using a platform to reach the bunting. "Unfortunately, if we went down that route people might ask why we are paying firefighters to use our top-level rescue equipment to remove a few flags, when a local contractor could do the job just as well."

The regulations no longer allow the use of ladders to hang or remove decorations, and the work must be done by technicians using hydraulic platforms. Specialist testing gear must be used to assess the safety of bolts anchoring decorations such as Christmas lights, and lampposts have been deeemed unsuitable for hanging decorations. Mark Smith, a councillor, former mayor and member of Ampthill's festival committee, said in his blog: "The festival committee has always appreciated [the firefighters'] assistance in the past and is working towards getting them down, although I still find them quite cheery."

He had, however, received complaints that the bunting was starting to look tatty. Residents used the online Ampthill Today forum to express their bemusement. Charlie Garth wrote: "What the blazes? I'm sure our brave firemen aren't frightened about falling off a piddling little ladder. They have never looked afraid of heights to me. "After all, they are used to climbing giant turntable ladders with choppers in their hands and rescuing cats from the tops of tall trees."

The costs associated with safety testing and installation of decorations have influenced plans to mount displays of Christmas lights for traders' groups and local councils around the country. An increasingly litigious culture had caused the cost of liability cover to rise, the Association of British Insurers said. In turn, insurers were insisting on sticking to rules by the letter, and rising insurance premiums to cover Christmas decorations were becoming too high for traders and local councils to meet, the Federation of Small Businesses said.

In Clevedon, near Bristol, North Somerset Council told traders that lights could no longer be attached to lampposts or buildings, making a display unworkable. In Sandwell, West Midlands, traders were told that lights could not be hung across roads in case the cables broke. In Bodmin, Cornwall, the council faces a 1,200 pounds bill to train two workers to test all 150 bolts holding lights or cables, using a cherry-picker. On top of that the council must cover wages and the cost of hiring the equipment, and shut town-centre streets while the work is done. In Dereham, Norfolk, traders face a bill of more than 10,000 pounds for Christmas lights. Health and safety issues have contributed heavily to the cost.


Brits fleeing disastrous government schools

If they are lucky enough to be able to afford to do so. The cost is a considerable burden for many families but keeping their children safe and in an environment where they can learn is a huge priority. Would YOU want your kid to go to a school where some of the black kids are armed with machine pistols?

The middle-class exodus from state schools in London is speeding up, with nearly half of children in some parts of the capital now privately educated. An analysis of government figures suggested a widening of the social class divide in education since the turn of the century. Some of the highest levels of child poverty, as measured by the proportion of children eligible for free school meals (FSM), were found in areas with the greatest proportion of children in independent schools. The figures followed concern from Christine Gilbert, the Chief Inspector of Schools, who said that the school system was dividing children along social and economic lines.

The finding was most striking in [largely black] inner-London boroughs. In Kensington and Chelsea, 45.3 per cent of children are educated in independent schools, yet the borough has the sixth-highest rate in the country for FSM [poor] children, at 37.7 per cent. [What a coincidence!] The national average for FSM is 12 per cent.

In Hammersmith & Fulham, which has the third-highest rate of FSM children in the country at 42.2 per cent, a quarter of children are independently educated. In Westminster, 26.4 per cent go to independent schools, and yet the borough has the eighth-highest rate in the country for FSM children, at 35.8 per cent. Greg Hands, the Conservative MP for Hammersmith and Fulham, obtained the figures from the House of Commons, amid concern about the flight of middle-class families from state schools in his borough. In 2000 22.6 per cent of children in the borough were educated independently. Now the figure is 25.6 per cent. Other inner-London boroughs have seen similar shifts. In Wandsworth, the proportion in independent schools has risen from 15.1 to 18.7 per cent.

These figures come against a nation-wide long-term demographic decline in the number of young people and steady increases in independent school fees to an average of about 11,000 pounds a year.

Mr Hands said: "In Hammersmith & Fulham, we have one of the fastest-rising rates of private school attendance in the country and one of the highest rates of surplus places in [state] secondary schools. "Part of that can be explained by changing demographics in that we now have more parents who can afford to go private. But there is more to it than that. Middle-class parents concerned about standards are opting out of the state system and it's my objective to get them to opt back in. Our local state schools are making themselves better, but the missing element in their bid for improvement is the professional classes."

Sam Friedman, head of the education unit at the Policy Exchange think-tank, said the social divide in education was particularly acute in London [which is now 50% black]. The phenomenon could be attributed in part to its population, which is extremely socially mixed. "In more rural areas, populations tend to segregate naturally. In London, there are pockets of advantage and disadvantage right next to each other and one way they segregate themselves is through school choice."


Famous British Greenie rejects global warming

David Bellamy:

Am I worried about man-made global warming? The answer is "no" and "yes". No, because the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction has come up against an "inconvenient truth". Its research shows that since 1998 the average temperature of the planet has not risen, even though the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has continued to increase.

Yes, because the self-proclaimed consensus among scientists has detached itself from the questioning rigours of hard science and become a political cause. Those of us who dare to question the dogma of the global-warming doomsters who claim that C not only stands for carbon but also for climate catastrophe are vilified as heretics or worse as deniers.

I am happy to be branded a heretic because throughout history heretics have stood up against dogma based on the bigotry of vested interests. But I don't like being smeared as a denier because deniers don't believe in facts. The truth is that there are no facts that link the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide with imminent catastrophic global warming. Instead of facts, the advocates of man-made climate change trade in future scenarios based on complex and often unreliable computer models.

Name-calling may be acceptable in politics but it should have no place in science; indeed, what is happening smacks of McCarthyism, witch-hunts and all. Scientific understanding, however, is advanced by robust, reasoned argument based on well-researched data. So I turn to simple sets of data that are already in the public domain.

The last peak global temperatures were in 1998 and 1934 and the troughs of low temperature were around 1910 and 1970. The second dip caused pop science and the media to cry wolf about an impending, devastating Ice Age. Our end was nigh! Then, when temperatures took an upward swing in the 1980s, the scaremongers changed their tune. Global warming was the new imminent catastrophe. But the computer model - called "hockey stick" - that predicted the catastrophe of a frying planet proved to be so bent that it "disappeared" from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's armoury of argument in 2007. It was bent because the historical data it used to predict the future dated from only the 1850s, when the world was emerging from the Little Ice Age. Little wonder that temperatures showed an upward trend.

In the Sixties I used to discuss climate change with my undergraduates at Durham University. I would point to the plethora of published scientific evidence that showed the cyclical nature of change - and how, for instance, the latest of a string of ice ages had affected the climate, sea levels and tree lines around the world. Thank goodness the latest crop of glaciers and ice sheets began to wane in earnest about 12,000 years ago; this gave Britain a window of opportunity to lead the industrial revolution.

The Romans grew grapes in York and during the worldwide medieval warm period - when civilizations blossomed across the world - Nordic settlers farmed lowland Greenland (hence its name) and then got wiped out by the Little Ice Age that lasted roughly from the 16th century until about 1850.

There is no escaping the fact that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been rising for 150 years - and very uniformly since the 1950s. Yet the temperature has not increased in step with CO2. Not only have there been long periods of little change in temperature, but also the year-to-year oscillations are totally unrelated to CO2 change. What is more, the trend lines of glacial shortening and rise in sea level have shown no marked change since the big increase in the use of fossil fuels since 1950.

How can this be explained unless there are other factors at work overriding the greenhouse effect of CO2? There are, of course, many to be found in the peer-reviewed literature: solar cycles, cosmic rays, cloud control and those little rascals, such as El Nino and La Nina, all of which are played down or even ignored by the global-warming brigade.

Let's turn to Al Gore's doom-laden Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. First, what is the point of scaring the families of the world with tales that polar bears are heading for extinction? Last year Mitchell Taylor, of the US National Biological Service, stated that "of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present."

Why create alarm about a potential increase in the spread of malaria thanks to rising temperatures when this mosquito-borne disease was a major killer of people in Britain and northern Russia throughout the Little Ice Age?

Despite the $50 billion spent on greenwashing propaganda, the sceptics and their inconvenient questions are beginning to make their presence felt. A recent survey of Klaus-Martin Schulte, of Kings College Hospital, of all papers on the subject of climate change that were published between 2004 and February of 2007 found that only 7 per cent explicitly endorsed a "so-called consensus" position that man-made carbon dioxide is causing catastrophic global warming. What is more, James Lovelock, the author and green guru, has changed his mind: he recently stated that neither Earth nor the human race is doomed.

Yes, melting sea ice around Greenland has recently opened up the fabled North West passage. And, yes, the years 2006 and 2007 have seen massive flooding in Europe. However, a quick dip into the records of the Royal Society - which ranked alongside Dr Lovelock as arch doomsters, before his change of mind - shows that dramatic fluctuations happened long before the infernal combustion engine began spewing out carbon dioxide.

The year 1816 went down in history as the "year without a summer", thanks to the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia that veiled much of the world with dust, screening out the Sun. Yet in 1817, while still in the grip of the Little Ice Age, the Royal Society was so worried that 2,000 square leagues of sea ice around Greenland had disappeared within two years, and massive flooding was taking place in Germany, that its president wrote to the Admiralty advising of the necessity of an expedition to find out what was the source of this new heat. Perhaps, when similar things are happening 190 years later, the Royal Society should accept that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is unlikely to be the main - or only - driver of "global warming".


The British National Party solution to high immigration into Britain is non-racial

Despite the common Leftist accusation that they are "Nazis"

Are you happy with the way London is changing? Are you happy about the increase in violent crime, or the shortage of affordable housing, or the congestion, or the shortage of doctors and dentists and the long hospital waiting lists, or the Muslim terrorists, or the change in London's population, or the failing schools, or the falling living standards, or the increases in taxation or the discrimination faced daily by the indigenous, white, British people? These are the changes brought to you, to London and to Britain as a whole, by the Labour and Conservative parties. These are the reasons that more and more people are turning to the British National Party as their only hope for a decent future for them and their children.

The BNP's message - that immigration is out of control and is damaging British society - is now becoming accepted by everyone. Even the government's own report has recently had to admit to the tip of the iceberg. But only the BNP has the courage and the honesty to propose solutions that are sensible, fair and workable. The other parties will make mealy-mouthed weasel-worded promises at election time but they will do nothing.

Excessive immigration is responsible for the housing shortage that has resulted in council housing not being available for British families, while immigrants are allowed to jump the queue because they are deemed to be in greater need; the politically correct politicians seem to have missed the point that these immigrants could have stayed at home in their own countries rather than coming here in the first place.

Immigration has also caused a greater demand for rental accommodation, which has pushed up rents and house prices. It was recently reported that four out of ten homes built in the last 10 years are needed just to house the most recent wave of immigrants.

Excessive immigration has led to increased crime levels. In February a police study identified 169 different gangs operating in London. Some of these gangs have over 100 members. In August it was reported that the number of gangs had increased to over 250! The police have admitted that the largest number of gangs are those made up of Afro-Caribbeans, followed by those made up of members who are Asian. Scotland Yard has also admitted that immigration is fuelling gang crime in London. Gun and knife crime have become daily occurrences. So far this year almost 20 teenagers - some as young as 14 - have been shot or stabbed to death on the streets of London.

Excessive immigration has placed a strain on the health service. The increase in AIDS and TB in Britain is due to immigration, and health tourists cost the NHS up to 2 billion pounds per year. Of course there are lots of doctors and nurses who have come from abroad, but there are also lots of British doctors and nurses, trained at public expense, who cannot get jobs. We do not need to import foreign medical staff - many of whom are poorly trained or cannot communicate easily in English. The pretence that we do is simply designed to con the public. It is also very unfair on those poor third world countries where these staff are genuinely needed.

Excessive immigration is damaging education standards in our schools. The flood of children who do not speak English is placing schools under enormous strain and means that teachers are diverted from teachers native children. Larger class sizes and more disruptive behaviour also reduce the quality of education to British children.

Excessive immigration reduces our quality of life. Congestion on the roads, buses and tubes is increased, homes are built over green land, our neighbourhoods are changed and our traditions are lost.

Excessive immigration increases our taxes. Britain is now officially recognised as one of the highest taxed countries in the world. Are you happy at having to pay ever more income tax, council tax, excise duties and stealth taxes? The pro-immigration fanatics in the LibLabCon parties and in the media realise that the British people are fed up of unrestricted, unlimited immigration and now try to pretend that immigration is good for the economy. We are told that migrant workers add up to œ6 billion to Britain's GDP (Gross Domestic Product), but this is utterly misleading garbage. Let's look at the truth.

Immigrants and ethnic minority communities send vast amounts of money back to their families in their home countries. These monies are known as `remittances' and are estimated to amount to around œ5 billion a year. This is money sucked out of our economy and lost. This means there is less money for local businesses and less money for local workers. These remittances are never included in the government's lies about the `value' of immigration.

The government says that immigration increases GDP, but in any normal economy an increase in population will always lead to an increase in GDP - this is meaningless. It is like saying that Africa's GDP is greater than that of Switzerland, so Africans must be better off - of course they're not! Official figures show that foreign workers make up over 12% of the workforce, but if they only add 6 billion pounds to GDP that means they are only increasing our GDP by less than 0.5%! [The UK's GDP is around 1,250 billion pounds].

Anyway, even if they do increase GDP by 6 billion, this doesn't take into account the cost to the taxpayer of immigration. A quick tally by one newspaper estimated the cost of immigration in terms of crime, healthcare, education and administration as over 8 billion pounds. Since this estimate was produced using official statistics it is likely that the true costs are much higher.

Furthermore, the use of GDP as a measure of economic or national well-being is utterly barmy. Consider this: crime increases GDP - is crime a good thing? If a criminal scumbag smashes your car window and steals your stereo you must then spend money on repairing your car and replacing your stereo. You are therefore injecting money into the economy, employing workers and raising manufacturing output. But has this improved your quality of life? Of course not! GDP is an extremely crude economic measuring tool, and it is next to worthless in telling us about our quality of life.

Excessive immigration increases unemployment and reduces wage levels. There are now over 5 million people in Britain receiving benefits instead of working, and the normal laws of supply and demand result in wages being depressed by the availability of more workers willing to do the jobs for less.

Of course we don't blame or hate the immigrants themselves and we hope nobody does, but the fact is that the current flood of uncontrolled immigration is BAD for Britain, BAD for London and BAD for YOU. Just think about it and you will see this is true. How has the vast number of immigrants flooding into Britain improved YOUR life?

Only the BNP will STOP all further immigration

Only the BNP will stop all further immigration - regardless of race. Only the BNP will target the TWO MILLION illegals in Britain and deport them - regardless of race. Only the BNP will deport all foreign criminals - regardless of race. Only the BNP will make sure that those granted British citizenship in recent years obtained this legitimately - regardless of race. And only the BNP will offer financial help to those immigrants here legally who want to make a better life for themselves in their home countries - regardless of race. These policies are fair, sensible and workable. These policies will improve the quality of life for everyone in Britain.


Superbug problems worsened by crowding in NHS hospitals

Almost a quarter of hospital trusts are increasing the risk of MSRA and Clostridium difficile by filling wards to “unsafe” levels, The Times can disclose. According to Department of Health figures, 22 trusts in England recorded bed occupancy rates of 95 per cent or more and nearly half 85 per cent or more. But a leaked report by the department suggests that MSRA rates are 42 per cent higher in hospitals where more than 90 per cent of beds are filled than those that fill less than 85 per cent of beds. The Liberal Democrats said the figures showed that many hospitals were effectively full while nurses’ groups blamed the problem on pressure to meet waiting time targets.

The proportion of hospital trusts filling 90 per cent or more of beds has risen from 13 per cent five years ago to 23 per cent. Elderly patients are particularly at risk, with occupancy rates on geriatric wards reaching 91.3 per cent, according to analysis of figures by the Liberal Democrats. Secure learning disability wards had a bed occupancy rate of 94.9 per cent, while mental illness wards had 86.8 per cent. The highest occupancy rate was in East Berkshire Primary Care Trust, which said that all of its 122 available beds were filled during the survey, while the Oxleas Foundation Trust, which provides mental health and disability services for southeast London, said that 453 of its 459 beds were full. The average occupancy rate in 2006-07 was 84.5 per cent, in line with the past five years but a sharp rise since Labour came to power in 1997 when it was 80.7 per cent.

Professor Barry Cookson, an expert on MSRA, said that an 85 per cent bed occupancy was a “safety level above which we start having problems”. A report published this month said that C. difficile caused the deaths of 90 patients and affected hundreds more at Maidstone hospital, Kent, between April 2004 and September last year.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: “These figures mean that for a lot of the time, many hospitals are effectively full - and on red alert. As long as this situation continues, it will undermine efforts to successfully combat hospital-acquired infections. It puts staff under unfair pressure and risks corners being cut in order to get new arrivals admitted on time. The system is under enormous pressure.” The Royal College of Nurses believes the true bed occupancy rate could be even higher. Its own survey found that the average rate was 97 per cent, and that more than half of wards were running at full capacity to meet waiting time targets. The number of death certificates that name MSRA as a contributory factor rose from 51 cases in 1993, the first year of recording, to 1,629 in 2005.

Today the Lib Dems will announce a five-point “Florence Nightingale” charter to combat hospital infections. They suggest copying the Dutch approach in which infected wards are closed, patients transferred and staff sent home. They would also give matrons authority over all staff, including contracted cleaners, and roll out super-bug screening programmes to GPs and care homes.

A Department of Health said that although some trusts had higher occupancy rates they still managed to reduce infection rates significantly.


Carbon health warnings for all new cars

All advertising for new cars will have to carry cigarette-style "health warnings" about their environmental impact, under a European plan to force manufacturers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Companies that produce the most polluting cars will also have to pay penalties of up to œ5,000 per vehicle, with the proceeds used to reduce the cost of the most efficient cars.Advertisements in newspapers and magazines, will have to devote at least 20 per cent of the space to details about fuel economy and CO2 emissions. At the moment manufacturers have to include only basic mpg and CO2 figures in the small print. They do not have to explain what the numbers mean or provide any comparison.

Car advertisements will have to carry colour-coded emissions labels such as those already displayed on new fridges and washing machines, with bands ranging from dark green to red. The plan, expected to be approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday, has been drawn up in response to the car industry's failure to meet its own voluntary target on reducing CO2 emissions.

The industry agreed in 1998 that the 18 million new cars expected to be sold in Europe in 2008 should emit an average of no more than 140g of CO2 per kilometre. The average last year was 160g/km and emissions fell only 0.2 per cent on the previous year, the lowest reduction on record. Privately manufacturers admit that they have no hope of meeting the target.

A fifth of the European Union's CO2 emissions come from cars and road transport accounts for 60 per cent of all the oil used by member states.

Chris Davies, the Liberal Democrat MEP for the North West of England, who was appointed by the European Parliament to draw up the plan, said that the car industry had grossly exaggerated the cost of making cars more efficient to avoid taking action.

He said that the German car industry had been particularly obstructive because it was dominated by manufacturers such as Mercedes and BMW, which specialised in larger, more polluting cars. Mr Davies has agreed a compromise, which he expects to be supported by the majority of MEPs, under which manufacturers would be given until 2015 to achieve an average of 125g/km for new cars. He said: "I accept it takes seven years from the design stage to vehicles rolling off the production line. But the new target would be made wiggle-proof and manufacturers who failed to achieve it would pay penalties."

He predicted that some companies would prefer to pay the penalty rather than reduce emissions because they would not want to reduce the power or weight of their cars.He said that the proceeds would be used to reward companies that beat their emissions targets and a grant system to encourage people to trade in their cars for more efficient new ones.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders opposes the idea of giving more space to environmental information. A spokesman said the basic details were already in advertisements: "There's no point in giving this sop to the environmental lobby because most people will ignore it."


Hope for Britain? "In my U.S. News column this week, I took a look at the sharp change in the political balance in Britain and its implications for the United States. As the week has progressed, it looks like the balance in Britain is changing even more. The latest ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph has a big (43 to 36 percent) lead for the Conservatives-a striking change from the balance over the summer in which Labor led by an average of 9 points. If the popular vote split along these lines, Conservatives would lead Labor 319 to 301 in the House of Commons, with only two for Lib Dems-down from 62 at the present time (hence the forced resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell as lead of the Lib Dems). That would leave Conservatives just seven seats short of an absolute majority, which would mean they could, at least theoretically, govern with the support of the Northern Ireland Unionist parties."

Surprising sense from Britain: "More people from ethnic minorities must be stopped and searched if Britain is to win the fight against violent inner-city gun and knife crime, one of the country's top black police officers has said. Keith Jarrett, president of the National Black Police Association, is expected to make a speech this week calling for an increase in stop-and-searches in black communities. He told The Observer: "A lot of black people want to stop these killings, these knife crimes, and if it means their sons and daughters are going to be inconvenienced by being stopped by the police, so be it." The association, which represents thousands of officers from ethnic minorities, has previously questioned the high proportion of black people stopped and searched. The tactic was blamed for precipitating the race riots of the 1980s"

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