Monday, April 06, 2009

Yet more mind-boggling figures on global warming

Are we really to believe that the benefits gained from the Climate Change Act will amount to £1,024 billion, wonders Christopher Booker

Last October the House of Commons passed, by 463 votes to three, the most expensive piece of legislation ever put through Parliament. The only MP to question the cost of the Climate Change Act, requiring Britain to cut its CO2 emissions by 80 per cent within 40 years, was Peter Lilley. It was also Mr Lilley who, just before the MPs voted to stop runaway global warming, drew the House’s attention to the fact that, outside, London was experiencing its first October snow for 74 years.

What made the MPs’ lack of interest in the cost of this Act even more curious was that the Government’s own “impact assessment” showed that, whereas its benefits were estimated at £110 billion, its costs were £205 billion. The MPs thus happily voted for something that would be twice as costly as any benefit.

But these figures were based on the Government’s original plan to cut CO2 emissions by only 60 per cent. A last-minute amendment had this to 80 per cent (a target which can only be achieved by closing down most of Britain’s economy), so our “climate change minister”, Ed Miliband, was obliged to produce new figures. These he has now belatedly slipped out via the Department of Energy and Climate Change website – no thought of reporting them to Parliament – and truly mind-boggling they are. The cost of the Act has nearly doubled, to £404 billion, or £18.3 billion for every year between now and 2050. However, the supposed benefits are given, astonishingly, as £1,024 billion, an increase of 1,000 per cent.

How on earth were such unbelievable figures calculated? Peter Lilley has written a trenchant letter to Mr Miliband, asking this and a series of other highly pertinent questions. But pending any reply, last week I posed this question to DECC myself. I was assured that the new figures had been worked out by “a method used by the independent Committee on Climate Change, and peer-reviewed by Simon Deitz, an expert in carbon pricing from the London School of Economics”. Dr Deitz’s website shows that last year he carried out “research for the UK Committee on Climate Change”.

So this independent expert was asked to peer review the method used by an “independent” committee (which he had already been working for) to produce figures that seem rather to have been plucked from the thin air of which only 0.04 per cent – one 2,500th – consists of the self-same carbon dioxide which we are now expected to believe we will benefit by £1 trillion from not emitting. Truly we are governed these days by stark, raving lunacy – and no one is meant to notice.


British cartoon strip aimed at under-12s depicts Christian boy as Islamaphobe thug

A Government-funded charity was at the centre of a row last night after a magazine it publishes for children appeared to depict Christians as Islamaphobes who regard Muslims as terrorists. In a cartoon strip, a boy wearing a large cross around his neck is shown telling a friend that a smiling Muslim girl in a veil looks like a terrorist. He later confronts her and shouts: ‘Hey, whatever your name is, what are you hiding under your turban?’

She replies that the garment is called a hijab and it is part of her religion, ‘like that cross you wear’. The girl is then shown standing up for another boy, who is being bullied, and her behaviour is contrasted with that of the boy wearing the cross.

The cartoon story, entitled Standing Up For What You Believe In, appears in the latest issue of Klic!, a quarterly magazine aimed at children in care aged from eight to 12. Published by the Who Cares? Trust, a charity set up in 1992, it is described on the cover as ‘the best ever mag for kids in care’ and is widely distributed by town halls. The charity received £100,000 from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, headed by Ed Balls, in both 2007 and 2008, and £80,000 this year.

Although the cartoon does not specifically refer to the boy’s religion, it has angered Christian groups and MPs who fear it sends out the wrong message. Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, said: ‘What about Christian children in care who received this magazine? How will they feel to see themselves mocked as narrow-minded Islamaphobes? ‘It is a clumsy caricature, symptomatic of a culture which says it is OK to bully Christians in the name of diversity.’

Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering, said: ‘I think it is very unfortunate that the lad who is pointing the finger is wearing a cross. 'You can hardly imagine anyone producing a magazine in which the roles were reversed and it was the Muslim girl who was behaving badly.’

Gary Streeter, the Tory MP for South West Devon, said the religious parody was ‘unacceptable’, adding: ‘If it is being done with public money, it should be investigated and the magazine withdrawn.’

But Who Cares? Trust chief executive Natasha Finlayson said she had no intention of withdrawing it, describing the cross as ‘bling’ rather than a religious symbol. She said the charity had received a complaint but did not agree the cartoon was derogatory towards Christians. ‘I am a Christian myself, so when a woman called us, I went back and looked at the comic strip from her point of view,’ Ms Finlayson said. ‘I am sorry that she is upset but I don’t share her view. When I saw the cartoon, I didn’t think of that character being a Christian because I saw the cross as ‘bling’, as jewellery. ‘To me it is a cartoon about bullying rather than discrimination or religion.’


NHS Hospitals granted foundation status despite a plethora of failings

More than 20 hospitals which failed to meet basic health care standards have been awarded "foundation trust" status allowing their bosses to take massive pay rises, an investigation has revealed. Ministers promised that only the best hospitals would be given the freedom to run their own affairs, including setting salary levels which have brought huge pay boosts for senior managers.

Yet investigations by this newspaper show that 22 hospital trusts in the past three years have been given the coveted status despite a range of serious failings including high rates of superbugs, delays treating cancer and heart attack victims, long waits in Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments and lack of proper care for the elderly and the mentally ill.

Patients groups described the revelations as "a shocking exposure" of a regulation system which they said was failing to protect patients or provide the public with any reassurance about where good hospital care could be found.

In a separate development, an investigation has been launched into care standards at a foundation trust which suffers from the highest death rate in England. External consultants have been called in by Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, in Essex, which was among the first wave of trusts awarded foundation status in 2004, but which last year had a mortality rate 32 per cent above expected. The trust believes the high rate is due to data errors, a lack of local hospice places and a high incidence of heart and respiratory disease among local residents.

When Labour introduced foundation trusts, then-health secretary Alan Milburn said that winning the status would be a challenging process "even for the best performing hospitals" who would have to demonstrate high standards of care. Those awarded the status include Mid Staffordshire Foundation trust, which runs Stafford Hospital, where hundreds of people died amid conditions which left dehydrated patients forced to drink out of flower vases while others were left lying in soiled linen. Board papers reveal that the regulators who granted the license to give the trust "foundation" status were aware of a litany of failings in patient care in Mid Staffordshire. At the point the authorisation was made, the trust was missing government targets to reduce MRSA, had long waits in A&E, and for clot-busting treatment for heart attack victims, the documents from Monitor, the regulator, show.

A further 21 trusts were also given the coveted status despite concerns about the quality of the care they provided. As Monitor sent the letters of authorisation it simultaneously issued the trusts with "side letters" highlighting the problems with patient care.

At the point the trusts were awarded the status, 18 were missing or about to miss targets to reduce levels of the superbug MRSA; three had long delays for cancer patients; and four were unable to give urgent treatment to heart attack victims who required clot-busting drugs. Two had been assessed as providing "weak" services for the mentally ill, one had been criticised for staff shortages in paediatric wards, and one was found to be failing to look after frail and elderly patients.

Three of the trusts, including Mid Staffordshire, had high death rates which were discussed during Monitor's board meetings. The documents identify Medway trust in Kent – granted foundation status in October 2007 – as being in the worst 10 per cent of trusts for mortality. Blackpool Fylde and Wyre trust had above-average mortality rates in 2005/6, the documents show, but Monitor granted it foundation status in Dec 2007 after being assured the rates were reducing. Since then, they have risen.

When United Bristol Healthcare trust was granted foundation status last May it had failed the latest annual targets to reduce MRSA, it had high levels of the infection Clostridium difficile, and its patients faced long waits in A&E.

Foundation trusts have more autonomy to run their own affairs and set their own levels of pay. The average pay for their chief executives is now £157,000 – 18 per cent more than that received by those running standard NHS hospitals.

Katherine Murphy from the Patients' Association said the failings identified in the authorisation process undermined claims by foundation trusts that they could offer the best care. "The public has been given the impression that these hospitals are the best. When hospitals are given foundation status despite all these failings, the term just becomes a way for trust boards to give more pay to senior managers," she said.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, added: "It is really worrying, especially given what we have found out recently about Stafford Hospital, to see that the threshold for foundation status appears to be lowering. "It is absolutely critical that quality of care is the priority when these trusts are being assessed," he added.

A spokesman for Monitor said the regulator would only authorise a trust's application if it had robust action plans to improve its performance, and said the issuing of "side letters" did not represent a lowering of the bar for applicants, but a mechanism to ensure that their performance was closely monitored.


No school for 35,000 British High School students?

Tens of thousands of A-level students may be left without a college or sixth-form place this autumn because there is no state funding for them.

Frantic efforts were under way last night to plug a £60 million hole in funding for the education of students aged 16-19 in England.

Details of last-minute cuts to sixth-form funding were e-mailed to schools on Tuesday – the last day of the financial year – which meant that they had no opportunity to seek new money or to readjust annual budgets due to begin the following day.

The cuts, which could affect an estimated 35,000 students, contradict government plans to encourage more young people to remain in education until 18. Many schools and colleges say that they have insufficient cash to pay for their current students, let alone the significant increase in numbers predicted for 2009-10. Some have lost as much as £300,000 a year.

Shaun Fenton, co-chairman of the Grammar School Headteachers’ Association, said that jobs would be cut, leading to bigger classes and fewer courses. “It will not be popular media studies courses that will close,” he said. “It is more likely to be small science, maths, languages or computing courses that will face the axe.”

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that schools and colleges had responded magnificently to the Government’s policy to increase the number of 16-year-olds in education. “They have an even more critical part to play during the recession, when more young people are likely to stay in full-time education,” he said. He has written to Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, asking for more money.

Sixth-form and college funding is administered by the Learning and Skills Council, which was criticised this week for mishandling a rebuilding programme that left colleges millions of pounds out of pocket.

Ministers said that they were not aware that it had promised schools one sum of money on March 2 only to cut it on March 31.


British government meddling 'has de-skilled teachers'

Teachers should be allowed to use their judgment and be given greater freedom to teach beyond the strictures of the national curriculum, rather than being flooded with edicts, MPs say today in a highly critical report.

The Commons Children, Schools and Families Select Committee says that government meddling has de-skilled the teaching profession and turned it into a franchise operation.

The freedoms enjoyed by academies, which are semi-independent from local authority control, should be enshrined at all schools, the committee says.

MPs took evidence from government agencies, trade unions, academics, research organisations and associations representing different subjects.

The report says that MPs have heard how the level of central prescription and direction through the national curriculum and national strategies had “deskilled teachers”. “At times schooling has appeared more of a franchise operation, dependent on a recipe handed down by government, rather than the exercise of professional expertise by teachers,” it said.

The current regime of testing and school inspection had exacerbated matters, the report adds.


Dancing Pope flyer banned

We read:
"A nightclub leaflet showing the late Pope John Paul II holding a bottle of beer and dancing with a blonde woman has been banned. The leaflet shows Pope John Paul II with a bottle of beer dancing with a blonde woman wearing a short dress.

The Advertising Standards Authority branded the flyer offensive and ordered it to be removed after a complaint by the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) on behalf of angry Poles and Catholics.

It was distributed to promote a night called Berserk at Club Fire nightclub in Ipswich. Sheila Soltysik, secretary of Ipswich Polish Club, said a local Polish girl had complained to her. She said: "It was hugely offensive. The sheer volume of the reaction is what made us take the matter to ISCRE.

"It is unfortunate that the thoughtless actions of a marketing idea has created dismay amongst the Polish community and Catholic religion by depicting figures of high moral standards amongst ideas of inappropriate behaviour and surroundings.


Pope John Paul II is revered by many Poles so one can understand their hurt feelings -- and hurt feelings are not allowed these days, it seems.

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

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