Tuesday, January 15, 2008

400,000 people 'still waiting more than a year for NHS treatment'

Almost 400,000 patients are still waiting more than a year for NHS treatment, a think tank claimed today. Government figures showed a rise in the number of patients being admitted for treatment within the 18-week target from referral. The latest figures, for October 2007, showed 60 per cent were treated in that timeframe, up from 57 per cent the previous month.

But right-wing think-tank Civitas warned the figures were concealing a high number forced to wait far longer. It said 713,513 (or 18 per cent) of patients needing elective treatment were waiting longer than 36 weeks, with 387,152 (10 per cent) of those having waited over a year. Despite improvements, current rates are not enough to ensure the Government hits its target for all patients to be treated within 18 weeks by the end of the year.

Civitas also warned of a postcode lottery, with 33 per cent of patients at Hastings and Rother Primary Care Trust (PCT) treated within 18 weeks, compared with 82% in Blackpool PCT and Telford and Wrekin PCT. James Gubb, director of the health unit at Civitas, said: "Instead of political targets, performance should be driven by choice and competition - a self-sustaining and much more positive mechanism for change. "If this means more patients choosing to have their treatment in the independent sector or the better NHS hospitals, then these should be allowed to expand in response. "As is the case elsewhere, it is the ability of patients to compliment, complain and ultimately take their business elsewhere that will drive providers in the NHS to improve. "GPs must be in the driving seat, offering patients real choice and ensuring this mechanism is available."


Britain: Illegal immigrants freed to reoffend

Record numbers of illegal immigrants convicted of the most serious crimes were deported from the UK last year but many arrested for minor offences are released to offend again.

Wang is in his thirties and lives in London but he shouldn't be. His application for asylum was refused when he came to the UK six years ago from the Fujian Province in China. Now that he has paid off his debt to the man who smuggled him here, any money he makes from selling counterfeit DVDs gets sent home to China. "At the very beginning I could make 1,500 to 2,000 pounds a week. Now it's getting worse. I could only get around 1,000 a week."

He might still be young but Wang is already thinking about retiring on the profits of his illegal trading. "My family used the money to build a good house. I just want to make as much as possible, then I don't have to do anything when I go back to China."

The Home Office says there are no official estimates for the number of Chinese people like Wang, who are living in the UK illegally. But Sha, who also sells counterfeit DVDs, says there are many like her. "There are many people selling DVDs and most of them have experience of being arrested. It's very rare to hear of anybody who hasn't been arrested yet."

Sha paid around œ20,000 to be smuggled into the UK from China. She has been here illegally for three years because her application for asylum was refused. But she has not been deported and she says that is a familiar story amongst her friends, who are also breaking the law to earn money. "Of the ones who were deported, there are a few dozen. But I know hundreds, maybe a few thousand are selling DVDs."

When the police arrest someone like Sha, who they suspect is in the UK illegally, they have to contact the Border and Immigration Agency for advice about what to do. Jan Berry, the chairman of the Police Federation - which represents serving officers - says this often means they are set free. "What I'm told happens more often than not is that they are told to release them from custody and to advise them to go to Croydon or one of the immigration centres in order that they be dealt with there." "Rarely if ever do the Border and Immigration Agency now go to police stations to pick people up."

Jan Berry says it is frustrating for officers who are told to ask suspected illegal immigrants to make their own way to immigration centres because they know they will not go there. "Not only don't you expect them to go into the system, you're also re-injecting them back into society where they can carry on committing crime."

Tony Smith, regional director for the Border and Immigration Agency says they are committed to the removal of foreign national criminals and last year they removed more than ever before. "We have to prioritise those removals that are the most harmful and so where people are committing serious crimes then they're the ones who'll be deported first." "But that doesn't mean to say that others will be slipping through the net."

But the 5 Live Report hasn't just heard about counterfeit DVD selling. We have spoken to illegal immigrants getting involved in organised crime because of the light touch they have experienced when they have been caught for lesser offences.

Ming, also from China, has been in the UK illegally for three years and he used to make money from DVD selling before he was introduced to other ways of making money. "Normally the people from Vietnam, their business is growing drugs. They told me growing drugs could make a lot of money." "I used to fake credit cards.We hired people who took the fake cards to casinos and shopping centres, things like that. In casinos, fake credit cards work really well." Ming told our researcher he was also involved in bank fraud but he's only been able to branch out in this way because he's been let off before. "When I was selling DVDs, I was caught by the police a few times, but not now."


Britain: Crazy immigration enforcement idea

This is a total laugh -- good for PR purposes only.

Prison vans are to cruise the streets of Britain searching for illegal - immigrants. The "mobile detention centres" will aim to catch recently arrived foreigners as they emerge from people-smuggling lorries. Immigration officers will hold the suspects inside the vans until background checks are performed. If they are found to be here illegally, they will be taken by police to a major detention centre in Oakington, Cambridgeshire, before being repatriated.

The sheer number of bogus arrivals has meant police have been too busy to do the job. The first vans are due to be launched in Northamptonshire following a successful try-out in ports along the South Coast. The vehicles were ordered by Immigration Minister Liam Byrne after the Government was embarrassed by two incidents last September. Police caught 16 illegal Iraqi immigrants leaving a lorry in Flore, Northamptonshire, but, instead of alerting the authorities, told them to travel almost 100 miles to a detention centre in Croydon and sign on as asylum-seekers.

The previous week, five African men had been found in a lorry in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire. On that occasion, the police actually gave them a lift to a railway station before asking them to catch a train to Croydon. Northampton North MP Sally Keeble, who had raised the incidents with Mr Byrne, said: "They were stupid situations - no one would expect desperate people to travel halfway across the country to hand themselves in. "These vans are a good idea and will help to take the pressure off local police and services."

New Government figures reveal that the number of illegal stowaways has more than doubled in just three years. In 2003, the number of people found entering the country clandestinely was 3,127. By 2006, it was 7,552.

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "We will need to see whether this measure changes much in practice or whether it is another gimmick." But last night, questions were being asked as to how staff at the Border & Immigration Agency would find the time to roam the streets in prison vans. A leaked secret Government memo last week revealed that immigration officers had been ordered to stop deporting foreign students who overstay their visas, suggesting that they were too busy to do so.

And last month, a leaked document from the Prison Service revealed that immigration bosses had "no interest" in deporting foreign prisoners who had served less than a year behind bars.


Some mockery of Green power from Britain's Jeremy Clarkson

A couple of weeks ago, plans for a wonderful new coal-fired power station in Kent were given the green light and I was very pleased. This will reduce our dependency on Vladimir's gas and Osama's oil and, as a bonus, new technology being developed to burn the coal more efficiently will be exported to China and exchanged for plastic novelty items to make our lives a little brighter.

It's all just too excellent for words, but of course galloping into the limelight came a small army of communists and hippies who were waving their arms around and saying that coal was the fuel of Satan and that when the new power station opened, small people like Richard Hammond would immediately be drowned by a rampaging tidal swell. They argued with much gusto that if Britain was to stand any chance of meeting Mr Prescott's Kyoto climate change targets then we must build power stations that produced no carbon emissions at all.

You'd imagine then that last week, when Gordon Brown announced plans for a herd of new nuclear power stations, they'd have been delighted. Quiet power made by witchcraft, and no emissions at all. It's enough, you might imagine, to make Jonathon Porritt priapic with pleasure. But no. It turns out the eco-mentalists don't like nuclear power either for lots of reasons, all of them stupid. They worry about what would happen if a reactor blew up. Which is a bit like worrying about living in a house in case a giant meteorite lands on it. They claim that people who go within five miles of a reactor die of leukaemia instantly. (They don't.) They wonder where the plants will be built. (Wales?) And they ask what we will do with the waste. Simple. Put it in the Rainbow Warrior.

The fact of the matter is this. The decision to go nuclear has exposed the whole environmental cause for what it is: not a well intentioned drive for clean power but a spiteful, mean-spirited drive for less power. Because less power hits richer countries and richer people the hardest. I've argued time and again that the old trade unionists and CND lesbians didn't go away. They just morphed into environmentalists. The red's become green but the goals remain the same. And there's no better way of achieving those goals than turning the lights out and therefore winding the clock back to the Stone Age. Only when we're all eating leaves under a hammer and sickle will they be happy.

I'm serious. All the harebrained schemes for renewable energy are popular among Britain's beardies only because they don't work. I heard one of them on the radio last week explaining that if he were allowed to build 58,000 islands in the Caribbean he could use steam coming off the sea to make enough power for everyone. Yeah, right. And then you have their constant claims that the tide can be used to make electricity. Really? If that's so, why am I not writing this on a computer powered by the Severn Bore?

Sure, this summer work will begin on a tidal plant off the coast of Wales. Eight turbines, each 78ft long and 50ft tall, will harness the moon's gravitational pull, and if all goes well it won't even provide enough electricity to run Chipping Norton. You'd be better off burning tenners. [Ten pound notes].

So what about wind turbines? Nope. They don't work either. Quite apart from their unmatched ability to mince baby ospreys and keep everyone within 15 miles awake with their mournful humming, they don't provide enough juice to power a Rampant Rabbit. Denmark has built 6,000 wind turbines and it's said that together they can produce enough electricity to meet 19% of the country's (frankly minuscule) needs. But since they came on line not a single one of Denmark's normal power stations has been decommissioned. They are all running at full capacity because, while the wind turbines are theoretically capable of meeting nearly a fifth of the country's demands, they produce nothing at all when the wind drops. And since nobody can predict when that might be, the normal power stations have to be kept on line all the time. It's been a disaster, which brings us back to nuclear power: the only solution if you want to maintain our standard of living and cut carbon emissions.

Not only is the energy clean but there are other advantages too. The new power plants will be privately run, which means you can buy shares in them and you won't lose a penny. Because when things are going well you'll get a dividend, and when they're not going well you won't care because you'll be covered in sulphurous sores and blood will be spurting from where your eyes used to be. Better still, to make sure things don't go badly a vast army of health and safety officers will be employed to ensure the concrete is thick enough and visiting schoolchildren are not allowed to press any of the buttons. This means the high-vis Nazis will have no time left to stop policemen climbing ladders.

What's more, because so many countries are going nuclear, Iran for instance, there is bound to be a global shortage of sufficiently well qualified atomic engineers. This means wages will rise, and that will cause schoolchildren to stop aiming for stardom in Heat magazine or a 2:1 in media studies and start concentrating a bit more in physics and maths.

Best of all, though, when all of our power is being generated by neutrons quietly crashing into one another, Greenpeace will have to leave us alone and go back to unpicking dolphins from Chinamen's fishing nets.


British Greenie opposes Green town

Another example of Greenies not liking actual applications of their theories

For a man once jailed for obscenity while at the centre of Sixties counterculture, Felix Dennis is an unlikely Nimby campaigner. But, infuriated by plans to build an "eco-town" near his palatial home, the once quintessential rebel against the Establishment is leading the local battle against Gordon Brown's grand environmental vision.

Mr Dennis, 61, is best known as the notorious publishing magnate who stood accused of corrupting the nation's children in the Oz obscenity trials in the 1970s. Today, he seems keener to maintain the status quo and hopes to scupper plans for the development in the picturesque South War-wickshire countryside where he lives. A hero to the 1970s youth movement, Mr Dennis's opening salvo in his fight against the eco-town was to write a letter of protest to Hazel Blears, the Communities and Local Government Secretary.

The multimillionaire, whose publishing empire now includes the magazines Maxim, Viz and The Week, wants to stop the town being built near historic Dorsington Manor, his luxurious home. The eco-town, known as Middle Quinton, on the site of the old Long Marston army camp four miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon, would provide 6,000 homes. It is one of the ten - each containing up to 20,000 homes - proposed by Gordon Brown last year. The pledge was seen as an effort to wrestle control of the environmental agenda from David Cameron while also building three million new homes by 2020.

The proposed settlements would be built to zero-rated carbon standards yet remain "family-friendly". As well as containing state-of-the-art recycling and water conservation schemes, they would have gardens, green spaces and good-quality houses, rather than apartments. Within the settlements, shops, primary and secondary schools would all be in walking distance to try to cut carbon emisssions.

Mr Dennis, a well-known environmentalist and tree-planter in the area, rejects all charges of Nimbyism. He claims that the proposed development would threaten a beautiful country area, bring thousands more cars on to narrow rural lanes, cause light pollution and disrupt major footpaths including the Heart of England Way. He also says that the plans have no support from the local authority or other local stakeholders.

Mr Dennis started his publishing career at Oz, the Sixties counterculture magazine that was prosecuted for obscenity in 1971. Though all three Oz editors were found guilty, Mr Dennis was given a lesser sentence because the judge considered him "very much less intelligent" and therefore less responsible - than his co-accused. The remark allegedly drove Mr Dennis to create his business empire, now thought to be worth 720 million pounds, to prove the judge wrong.

The proposed site, currently used for Sunday markets, is owned by the Midlands property group St Modwen, while the Stratford-based developer the Bird Group owns 120 adjoining acres that would rocket in value if the eco-town were to receive planning permission. The group's managing director, Tony Bird, said: "I'm extremely excited by it. I love Stratford - I dread to think what will happen if we don't do this at Long Marston. Stratford will become a housing estate and it's congested enough already."


Britain. The cancer of bureaucracy again: "A quango distributing lottery money has been accused by the Conservatives of wasting millions of pounds on salaries and administration while cutting donations. Costs at the Big Lottery Fund, which is responsible for handing out half the money for good causes raised by the Lotto, have risen from 73 million in 2006 to 77 million pounds last year. The amount distributed has dropped from 696 million to 469 million because the Government has diverted funds to the 2012 Olympics. The fund's administration costs amounted to 12.8 per cent of its income. In comparison the charities Scope and Children in Need spent 2 per cent and 4.4 per cent respectively. The research showed that the fund, where five of the twelve board members are Labour members, has 1,103 employees compared with 1,170 at the Treasury, but while the fund distributes 630 million annually, the Treasury distributes 500 times that amount."

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