Wednesday, June 24, 2009

That fierce Jewish drive and ambition leads to public distinction yet again. Bercow becomes Speaker of the British House of Commons

But, as a "turncoat", he is loathed by his own Conservative party. A wise Jew foresaw this and was horrified. I also have made some previous comments in this general area

How the former secretary of the repatriation committee of the notorious Monday Club became a Tory Speaker elected on almost entirely Labour support is testament to years of work by the MP from Buckinghamshire and the deep cynicism of his backers. Few dispute the fervour with which John Bercow wanted to succeed Michael Martin, a campaign that he has been waging by stealth for months. Indeed, a burning ambition sustained him through a vicious “anti-Bercow” campaign by Tory MPs and parts of the media, much of which had the tacit support of David Cameron, his erstwhile parliamentary tennis partner.

Yet by 11am yesterday morning it was clear that his support on the Labour benches was making him unstoppable, pushing him to victory by 52 votes — a wider margin than some of Gordon Brown’s critical votes.

Mr Bercow did not escape criticism over his parliamentary expenses, paying to Revenue & Customs the £6,500 that he avoided in capital gains tax after “flipping” his second-home allowance.

He is the first Jewish Speaker and at 46, the youngest since Charles Shaw-Lefevre, Viscount Eversley, who was 45 on election in 1839. The result yesterday is a tribute to the organising power of Martin Salter, the Labour MP for Reading — Mr Bercow’s neighbouring constituency — and serial rebel and their desire to punish the Tories for ousting Mr Martin. But who exactly did he persuade them to sign up for?

At first he looks like an unlikely candidate for widespread Labour support. The son of a taxi driver who went to a comprehensive school, in his teenage years he was an exceptional tennis player destined for Wimbledon until his chances were dashed by glandular fever. From this point he became more political. At 18, inspired by the speeches of Enoch Powell and concerned about the impact of mass immigration, he joined the Monday Club — a right-wing Conservative pressure group founded in 1970 that was notable for having promoted a policy of voluntary, or assisted, repatriation for non-white immigrants.

At the University of Essex, he fought battles with the Left and became national chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students. It was the era of “hang Nelson Mandela” T-shirts in the Tory party — he says he never wore one — and one that he would rather forget.

He went into banking before joining the Major Government in its final days as a special adviser, first to Jonathan Aitken — before the minister resigned to fight a libel suit with The Guardian — and then Virginia Bottomley. In 1997, on his third attempt, he became an MP, with a smooth ascent through the opposition ranks, pausing only once to declare that he did not consider himself ruthless enough to reach the top of politics.

Then, in 2002, came the event that defined his political career — his resignation from the Tory front bench in protest at Iain Duncan Smith’s decision to impose a three-line whip on MPs in the debate on gay adoption. Although he was brought back by Michael Howard, this event proved seminal as he “came out” as a moderate Conservative. “It’s true that I’ve got the zeal of the convert but that doesn’t mean that the conversion is any less genuine or that the need for constant repetition of the message is any less great,” he said days after the resignation. “It was extremely ill judged to prescribe how Tory members should vote on that subject. It defies common sense that there can be only one Conservative view on this subject.”

From then on, he was treated differently by Tory MPs and, as if to underline his ideological switch, married a Labour supporter, Sally Illman, who watched his triumph yesterday. “He has been on a journey that makes his one-time hero Michael Portillo seem like a mere day-tripper,” one prominent Conservative said.

More HERE Other comments here and here and here. Positive comments about the man and his character are hard to find. He has paid a price for his success that would be too high for many.

You can't ban parents from taking pictures, British schools told

Parents who want to take photos of their children in school plays or at sports days can once again snap happily away. The privacy watchdog says authorities that have banned parents taking shots for the family album are wrongly interpreting the rules. Relatives wanting to take pictures at nativity plays, sports days or other public events are often told that doing so would breach the Data Protection Act. But the Office of the Information Commissioner has said this interpretation of the law is simply wrong. It decreed that any picture taken for the family photograph album would normally be acceptable. This guidance can now be used by parents and grandparents to challenge 'barmy' rulings relating to the upcoming school sports day season.

Deputy Information Commissioner David Smith said: 'We recognise that parents want to capture significant moments on camera. 'We want to reassure them and other family members that whatever they might be told, data protection does not prevent them taking photographs of their children and friends at school events. 'Photographs taken for the family photo album are exempt from the Act and citing the Data Protection Act to stop people taking photos or filming their children at school is wrong.'

The guidance, sent to education authorities across the country, says: 'Fear of breaching the provisions of the Act should not be wrongly used to stop people taking photographs or videos which provide many with much pleasure. 'Where the Act does apply, a common sense approach suggests that if the photographer asks for permission to take a photograph, this will usually be enough to ensure compliance.'

Specific examples of what is allowed includes a parent taking 'a photograph of their child and some friends taking part in the school sports day to be put in the family photo album'. The video recording of school nativity plays is also listed as being acceptable.

The guidance says that, in some cases, official school photographs or visits by newspaper photographers may be covered by data protection laws. But provided that parents and children are informed about what is happening, there should be no problem in these cases. Earlier this month, the Mail reported how parents at Mrs Ethelston's Church of England Primary School were upset after being told they could not take pictures of their own children at sports day.

The village school in Uplyme, Devon, cited changes to child protection legislation for the ban on cameras. Headmistress Andrea Rice said 'vulnerable pupils' needed to be protected. There has been a string of similar cases in which parents were stopped from taking pictures at school events.

Margaret Morrissey, of pressure group Parents Outloud, said: 'I am really pleased that common sense has broken out. We have to be sensible about this and allow families to build up histories of their children and stop spoiling life for those parents who want to be involved.'


British passports to be given to a record 220,000 migrants this year

The number of British passports given to migrants is set to hit a record 220,000 this year. In the first three months of 2009, 54,615 citizenship applications were approved - up 57 per cent on the same period in 2008. At that rate, the number receiving passports - and with them the right to full benefits - this year will smash the record of 164,540 set in 2007. Last year the total was 129,310, and when Labour came to power in 1997, just 37,010 people were given citizenship. It means approvals have rocketed by almost 500 per cent under the current Government.

Officials blame the massive increase on the fact that ministers are introducing a 'tough' new system of earned citizenship next year. They say migrants are rushing to obtain their passports before they have to undergo an extra probationary period. Under the new system, obtaining a passport will take six to eight years from a migrant's arrival in most cases, rather than the current five.

Critics said the rush shows just how lax the current system is. They also point out that, by handing out so many passports, the Government is changing the make-up of Britain without any public debate. Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: 'This is yet another example of the Government's incompetence in managing our immigration system. 'They openly admit they are introducing a new system and that everyone is rushing to get in before it. It just smacks of ministers having no idea what they are doing.'

Grants of settlement, the stage before citizenship, were also up in the first three months of 2009, running at an annual rate of 190,000. Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said: 'At this rate, grants of settlement will have trebled under Labour. 'We are on course for a massive increase in the population which nobody wants and on which nobody has been consulted. 'No wonder people are so angry with the political class. It is not just fingers in the till, it is fingers in their ears when the public have a serious concern.'

The top five native countries of those gaining citizenship in the past two years have been India, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia and Zimbabwe. India and Pakistan are historic sources of migration, particularly via marriage to a British citizen. The large numbers of Iraqis, Somalis and Zimbabweans reflects the fact that asylum seekers who arrived at the start of this decade have now been in the UK long enough to receive citizenship.

The introduction of the earned citizenship scheme was recently delayed by nine months, to Decemember 2010. Immigration minister Phil Woolas claimed yesterday that it would save taxpayers up to £2billion in benefit claims. He said the new rules will deter some migrants from travelling to the UK or staying long enough to obtain citizenship and benefits. Until a passport application has been approved, migrants do not have access to child benefit, council and housing tax benefits and income support. Mr Woolas insisted: 'The pull factor of coming to the UK is to be taken away.' [What utter bullsh*t!]

The Home Office said last night: 'The increase in settlement grants reflects the success of UK Border Agency staff in clearing outstanding applications. It also reflects the Home Office's decision to tighten up the criteria for settlement. 'In 2006 we raised the qualifying period for settlement from four to five years, which meant that migrant workers who wanted to stay permanently had to wait an extra year. 'We have also set out our plans for earned citizenship which demand that people earn the right to stay. 'We are now looking at raising the bar further by applying a points-based system to the path to citizenship and we will consult on this in the summer.'


NHS still going around in circles over dentistry

NHS dentists should be paid according to the number of patients on their list and penalised for shoddy operations that require repeat visits, an independent review has recommended. The proposals, which have been accepted in principle by the Government, include changes to improve access to NHS dentists and to end the “drill-and-fill” culture of operations. The review said that dentistry had become too preoccupied with treatment rather than prevention over the past 60 years.

The recommendations include rewarding dentists for registering new patients and building up relationships with existing ones, similar to those between GPs and their patients. Jimmy Steele, the lead author from Newcastle University, said that dentists’ responsibilities must be as much about ensuring that people understand oral health and diet as carrying out fillings.

A series of pilot trials will start in the autumn. Income will be determined on patient list size, quality of care and the number of courses of treatment.

The plans for patient registration have marked the return of a policy scrapped by Labour in its much-criticised dental reforms of 2006 — and which the Government said at the time would end the “drill-and-fill” culture. Figures show that around a million fewer people now have access to an NHS dentist in England than before the contract came into force three years ago. Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, said yesterday that he recognised that dentistry was “an area of unfinished business”. He accepted that the contract had been problematic and that some decisions could have been taken differently.

Professor Steele said that dentists would have as much as 50 per cent of their income linked to the number of patients on their books. “It’s an incentive to take more patients on,” he said.

The review also recommends that dentists have greater accountability. This could mean being penalised for faulty work and having to carry out repairs at no extra charge to the NHS. At present, dentists can charge local health trusts for a procedure and then charge again even if they are the reason why a patient has had to return for further treatment. Under the new plans, the points dentists receive for carrying out an operation would not be awarded a second time if restorative work had to be carried out within three years.

Professor Steele said: “It’s a basic principle of quality and warranty. If I think the filling that I’m about to put in, or the crown I’m about to prepare for, is not going to last three years, then I shouldn’t be picking up that handpiece.”

Other plans include a new system of patient charges, replacing the current three-band system with one of between five and 12 bands. This was in response to the view of some patients that they did not always receive value for money.

Professor Steele said that patients should be called in for check-ups based on their individual need between every three and 24 months. “The six-month recall has no basis in science,” he said. “It’s just got a long history.”

The review also calls for more focus on preventative healthcare, with the aim of teaching people how to better look after their teeth. Mr Burnham said this could include looking at people’s diet. He has long been in favour of adding fluoride to the water in deprived areas.

The 2006 contract, which was supposed to allow dentists to spend more time with their patients, was criticised by dentists, while they were accused of playing the system. Yesterday’s report included examples of dentists recalling patients too often, or choosing more profitable treatments for patients when a less lucrative alternative was available.

Professor Steele added: “In the last 60 years, dental services have all been about quantity. We need to make a jump — and it’s a difficult jump — to move on to quality, to accept that less is usually actually better.”

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said the “near-destruction of NHS dentistry will be one of Labour’s most shameful legacies”. He added: “The Government has repeatedly botched efforts to reform dentistry services in this country. The NHS must learn from past mistakes and ensure that future reforms are rigorously piloted. It is also vital that the concerns of dentists and patients are listened to.”

Andrew Lansley, the Conservatives’ health spokesman, said that the review confirmed the comprehensive failure of the 2006 reforms. “It is bad news for the Government that their own independent reviewer has highlighted a string of problems with NHS dentistry and recommended moving to a patient registration systemas Conservatives have proposed.”

John Milne, of the British Dental Association, said: “What is important now is that the Government pilots properly the changes it makes and engages fully with the profession and patient groups as we move forward.”


Does your child have Nature Deficit Disorder?

A new book says that children today need to get outside more - and that, despite the perceived dangers, parents should let them play without being watched over... Jeeezuz! This lady is talking about the carefree world of the '80s. It would probably make her hair stand on end to hear what I did freely and unsupervised as a kid of grade-school age in the '50s! Routinely standing on the slimy lip of a cross-river cable ferry as it made its crossings; wading knee deep through the mud of mangroves, wandering barefoot through towering fields of sugarcane that were also home to various poisonous creatures; walking around casually on high-up pitched roofs, etc. etc. My parents rarely knew where I was or what I was doing when I was out and about but looked after me well in other ways. It was just a time when kids were allowed to be kids and what I chose to do was fine as long as I got home in time for tea. Mothers in those days used to go out to their front fence and "call in" their kids at the time of the evening meal -- assuming that their kids were somewhere in the neighbourhood playing with other kids but without knowing at all exactly where the kids were or what they were doing.

It was easier for the neighbourhood when my brother Christopher was a kid, however. He was and is very popular and was always doing interesting things with Ko Karts etc. So all the neighbourhood kids would always be at our place playing with Christopher. So, come tea-time, local parents would just amble down to our place and call their kids from our front fence. I led a much more solitary life than my brother but, because I wandered about more, I think that may have exposed me to a wider range of experiences -- and I certainly enjoyed my life. And I am glad that the great trust that my parents obviously reposed in me never went remotely awry in the small country town where we lived -- JR

In a sunlit corner of the London Wetland Centre in Barnes, south-west London, my daughter, Clemmie, two, is bending perilously over a pond. "Mummy! Green stuff! Fishies," she coos. Entranced, her sister, Sasha, four, stares at a butterfly. "He is my friend," she declares. Watching them, my heart swells with delighted relief. Like most parents, I am terrorised by images of my 21st-century children growing up sun-starved and chubby, wedded to their Nintendo console and thinking that bacon comes from cows and that milk is concocted in a backroom lab at Tesco.

Next month the pressure to give our children more access to nature will intensify further with the UK publication of Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. A huge bestseller in Louv's native US, the book caused a mini revolution when it was first published in 2005, leading to the forming of the international Children and Nature Network, campaigning to reconnect with the outdoor world.

A former journalist, Louv coined the phrase "nature deficit disorder", arguing that children suffer physically and mentally from lack of contact with nature and pointing out that today's generation are the first to be raised without "meaningful contact with the natural world". Louv's is by no means a lone voice. A recent report by Play England, the campaigning group for children, showed that the "radius of activity", meaning the distance from home children are allowed to play unsupervised, has declined by 90 per cent since the Seventies. Another report by Natural England revealed that 81 per cent of children would love more play outside. Eighty five per cent of parents agreed, but said fears about traffic and predatory strangers deterred them.

Certainly, the difference between my early-Eighties childhood and today's paranoid world is marked. My brother and cousins spent holidays at our granny's in the Scottish Borders where we enjoyed a Just William-type existence: paddling in the river, exploring derelict buildings and scratching our legs on brambles. Only recently did I realise that just a few miles away, at this time, 11-year-old Susan Maxwell was abducted, raped and murdered by the serial child killer Robert Black. The following year he did the same to five-year-old Caroline Hogg, just 27 miles from us in Portobello, Lothian. I ask my mother if she was worried or even knew of Black's activities.

"I was aware, but I wasn't really concerned. You were in the middle of nowhere, who was going to swoop in and kidnap you? But I think my post-war generation has a different concept of danger to people today." Indeed they do. "We live in a tiny village in Devon, where everyone knows everyone, but my neighbours are always saying, 'You can't be too careful these days,' whereas I think you definitely can be too careful," says Tom Hodgkinson, father of three children aged nine, seven and four, and author of The Idle Parent.

"We let our children wander as far as possible before the traffic gets too dangerous, but people tell them off and say: 'Go home, where are your parents?' You have to fight the prejudices of friends and neighbours who've been told constantly how awful the world is and who've understandably let it sink in." Yet most parents know from experience that the easiest way to calm fractious children is to go outside. Louv backs this up by citing the biophilia theory, coined by a Harvard biologist in 1984, which says that humans are still essentially hunters and gatherers, who biologically require natural contact to thrive.

Louv believes that dozens of maladies from depression to attention deficit disorder can be triggered by alienation from nature and remedied when the contact increases. "The woods were my Ritalin," he writes. Dozens of studies have shown significant decreases in blood pressure in people looking at an aquarium or surveying an open landscape.

Louv also points out that while children today worry about saving the Amazon rainforest, few have ever lain on a forest floor, and that the epidemic in childhood obesity has coincided with the huge rise in children's organised sport which – ironically – leaves no spare time to run around aimlessly.

Nigel Lowthorp knows first hand the transformative effects of nature. At Hill Holt Wood, near Norton Disney, Lincolnshire, Lowthorp has founded a centre for up to 20 boys, aged mainly between 14 to 16, who have been excluded from mainstream education, many of whom have been involved in crime, are illiterate and come from troubled homes. After two years of coppicing overgrown trees, clearing dead undergrowth and chopping logs in the 34-acre wood, the vast majority go on to higher education or employment, an achievement few schools can rival. "Most will have never been in a rural environment before and it absolutely calms them. When they have their mad moments we send them off into a clearing to sit under a tree and listen to the birds and just think, and the rage vanishes."

Louv believes that children who are not allowed to take risks with nature are more likely to lack creativity and confidence and to court danger in other ways. Lowthorp agrees. "We give 14-year-olds a bill hook, saw and slasher to cut down rhododendrons and show them the basic idea, but a lot of it is about having a go. Sometimes the knife slips and they cut themselves. We have boys who've been carrying around knives in gangs, who faint when they see their own blood. It's how they learn a knife can cause serious damage and to use it responsibly."

The advantages are felt much younger too. A representative from Louv's Children's and Nature Network recently visited the Farley Outdoor Nursery in Salisbury, Wilshire, where children spend virtually all day outside, whatever the weather. Even the six-month-old babies spend much of the day in the sandpit or napping in prams with a view of the sky.

Tracy Frick, whose son, Rafe, four, has attended the nursery for two years, is evangelical about the children's bravery. "They know that nettles sting, that ponds can be dangerous, but they are not frightened. So many parents put the fear of God into their children and wrap them in cotton wool but these children know the consequences of their actions, they know that nature can be dangerous but in a very level-headed sort of way. They pick blackberries from the hedge but my son tells me: 'I can't eat too many or they'll make me ill and I can't eat some berries at all.' "

While such stories are inspiring, I can't help wondering if Louv will only encourage earnest parents to add "building campfires" to their children's activity list, alongside Mandarin and flute. Hodgkinson, for one, has found it challenging to convert his eldest son to wholesome activities. "I have to physically pull Arthur away from his computer to play in the tree house I built – in fact I've seriously thought of installing a broadband connection to lure him in. He'd far rather look at an ornithology website than go outside and see a real bird. Humans have striven for the past 500 years to better nature with technology so it's hardly surprising our children are seduced by it."

Nor is it just children. Back at the Wetlands, Clemmie and Sasha are blissfully collecting wild flowers and clamouring to play Pooh sticks. Meanwhile – despite my free-range childhood – I am wondering how I can sneak off for a coffee and to read the papers. "My children are always telling me off for spending too much time on the computer," Hodgkinson sympathises. "I'm a fireside lurker at heart, not an outdoorsman. The trick is to start them building a log cabin and, once they've got going, you can rush inside and check your emails."


British police on the side of the wrongdoers again

Father convicted for assault after suffering years of abuse from youths who threatened to rape his daughter, 7

A father who stood up to youths after a two-year campaign of abuse has been convicted of assault after reaching the 'end of his tether'. David Magson told a court he was forced to endure months of abuse and vandalism from a gang - including a threat to rape his seven-year-old daughter. The father-of-two marched outside his Leicester home with a rounders bat to have it out with youths who had 'tormented' him and his neighbours for years. But he found himself in the dock on an assault charge after striking one of them with the bat and pushing him over.

The bus driver was handed an 18-month community order at Leicester Crown Court and told to attend an anger management course after he admitted causing actual bodily harm and being in possession of an offensive weapon.

Today he said youths from a local hostel had been responsible for the trouble - but the authorities had failed to deal with them. He and his neighbours had repeatedly complained to the police, the hostel and the city council about their behaviour, but nothing was done, he said. Mr Magson said: 'Personally I think it's wrong that people can run amok and do what they want and terrorise people. It's about time the police were given the authority to deal with these people. 'Due to drugs and alcohol, they are not thought to be responsible for their actions.

'People such as me and you, if we go out and confront them, because we are sensible, decent and hard-working people we have to take responsibility for our actions.' He added: 'I've had eggs thrown at my windows. On the night in question it was the third time my car had been vandalised. They've tried to mug me twice. 'One day I got a smack in the face on my way to work. On another occasion, when I went to complain, I was urinated on from an upstairs window.'

On March 21, as he was watching television at home with his young children James,11, and Katie, seven, a neighbour rang to tell him his car was being vandalised. Mr Magson went outside, armed with the bat, to complain to hostel staff. He was confronted and goaded by a number of youths and Mr Magson struck out. His victim suffered a minor head injury when he was pushed.

Police officers arrived and the resident told them he was a member of a community group who were fed up with the incessant problems. But he was arrested and later charged. Sentencing him, Judge Ian Collis said: 'I'm sure you were at the end of your tether. I accept you were under extreme provocation.'

Mr Magson said the situation in his street has improved since his brush with the law. Police patrols have been stepped up and a change of management has seen the behaviour of the hostel's residents improve, he said. But he added: 'It's a pity it involved me being prosecuted, before anything was done about the problem.'

Mr Magson could soon find himself in court again, however, as a victim of violent crime. Five days after his arrest, he was left nearly blind in one eye when he was attacked with a pint glass in Leicester city centre. His defence lawyer Rebecca Herbert, told the court: 'He cannot say the youths who glassed him had anything to do with the hostel, but he has his suspicions.'


Latest British climate predictions are a joke

Projections by the UK's Climate Impact Programme released on Thursday come with strict caveats about how they should be used and their margin for error. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Met Office argue that, even though the projections are far from certain, they will be useful to help plan for climate change in the UK. But others have warned that the uncertainties in the projections are too great to be of practical use

Defra has produced projections of climate change and consequent weather using advanced computer modelling techniques. Up until now, most projections have been at a sub-continental level - giving information at a regional level in squares of 300km on a side. Defra's projections are among the first in the world to give information at a local level - to the scale of large cities of 25km square and, in some cases, projecting weather patterns to a village scale of 5km square.

The UK's Climate Impacts Programme projections were explicitly designed to help local authority planners and businesses make investment decisions to adapt to the consequence of climate change. But according to Dr Myles Allen of Oxford University, who was among those who carried out an independent review of the projections, said that they may not be reliable enough at this stage to make some of the most important policy decisions. "If your decisions depend on what's happening at these very fine scales of 25 km or even 5 km resolution, then you probably shouldn't be making irreversible investment decisions now," he said.

The review, published on Thursday, says that the projections are "credible" but does raise concerns that the statistical techniques used are untested and have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The last assessment by a committee set up in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that these kinds of so-called "probabilistic" projections could only be applied reliably on a global scale - of 1000km square. "The IPCC explicitly stepped back from making probabilistic projections on this sort of scale," said Dr Allen.

"The method that's been used to produce this projection is a very specific one. "It's not been used before for this climate change approach and we thought that it would be helpful to provide a much more conservative method, something the IPCC would have used in 2007 just to provide users with a context and something to compare with so that they can see which aspects of these projections are robust."

Defra has not accepted the recommendation to provide an an alternative set of projections by the independent review panel because officials felt that having two sets would be confusing.

Dr Leonard Smith of the London School of Economics' Grantham Institute says he cannot see how any planner could make decisions on probable climate outcomes that are so uncertain that they might change substantially in 20 years. "It's very hard to find a rational way of using them," he said. "If the numbers are used in a naive way, then you are very likely to design a power plant or reservoir that doesn't meet the needs of the population."

Many in the scientific community were particularly astonished that Defra published projections at a scale of 5km square - which are even more uncertain than the 25km square projections. Among them was Professor Sir David King who was involved in commissioning the projections when he was the government's chief scientific advisor. "If you include a 5km scale in your predictions, you are probably pushing things beyond what is realistic. So I'm a little surprised that scientists were prepared to go that far.



ENERGY bills will hit a shocking £5,000 a year to strike a blow to millions of struggling families, experts warned last night. Consumer champions said the massive sum was a "wake-up call", marking the end of cheap electricity and gas. Bills will rise by up to 42 per cent ayear over the next decade - with the biggest single increase an eye-watering £1,280.

But they said this will be boosted by a yearly £548 to help overhaul the UK's out-of-date energy supply system. And they warned that the huge rise would stretch household budgets to breaking point and dump hundreds of thousands more people into fuel poverty.

Experts at said that average annual bills have more than doubled from £580 five years ago to £1,243 today. Over the next decade customers will suffer even steeper price rises with fees quadrupling by 2020, they warn. Investment in outdated infrastructure and new green energy policies will drive bills higher.


Leftist commentator on BBC chat show lumps "climate deniers" in with "gay bashers" and "Fascist sympathizers"

Transcript excerpt:


I think this is one of the most alarming aspects of current Conservative policy and it suggests that Cameron’s moderation is something of a veneer if he is willing to leave the mainstream of Europe where Merkel, where Sarkozy are, where power is, where decisions are made and join this very freakish group. I mean I would like to hear from Caroline whether she would say it hasn't been decided yet but all of those likely to form this new alliance if they can get enough of these freakish parties in ,will you say yourself that you will object strongly if it does include any gypsy-haters, any gay-bashers, any fascist sympathizers and any climate deniers? Because if it includes any of those a respectable Conservative party should have nothing to do with it.

Full transcript downloadable HERE. The comment is towards the end of the programme. The remark was greeted with applause from the studio audience.

'No proof' for filling baby teeth

Filling rotten baby teeth may be an unnecessary trial for children to endure, experts say. Some 40% of five-year-olds in the UK have tooth decay and at least one in 10 of these are treated with fillings. But anecdotal evidence from 50 dentists gathered by Manchester University researchers suggests filling baby teeth may not offer significant benefits. Advisers to the NHS are now beginning a study on treatment options to provide dentists with clear guidelines.

Experts already know there is wide variation in care which means that a young child with signs of tooth decay could have no treatment, a filling or the tooth pulled out depending on which dentist they attend. Without any clear guidelines, dentists currently have to rely on their experience and judgement to decide whether or not to intervene. If the child is in severe pain and having sleepless nights, and the parent is confident that their child will cope with and benefit from the treatment, then the choice may be clear.

But when the decay is not causing symptoms, it can be difficult to decide what is in the child's best interests given that their tooth will ultimately fall out by the time they are 11 anyway. Indeed, anecdotal evidence gathered from the case notes of 50 dentists suggests filling baby teeth may achieve nothing but expose children to the discomfort of an injection and the sound of the drill.

Professor Martin Tickle, of the University of Manchester, found no difference in the numbers of extractions for pain or infection whether baby teeth had been filled or not. And when he surveyed the parents of all five-year-olds living in Ellesmere Port and Chester in 2003, he found only 6% would want their child to have a filling if they had symptomless decay in a baby tooth. In comparison, a third would want the dentist to monitor the tooth but provide no treatment.

Experts working for the Health Technology Assessment Programme plan to recruit over 1,000 children from across the UK to take part a study that will compare the outcomes of three treatment options. They are conventional drilling and filling, no fillings or a painless paint-on tooth treatment that merely seals and contains the decay.

Lead investigator Dr Gail Topping, of the University of Dundee, said: "This is a really big question to answer. "At the moment there is no clear winner and we do not know which is best to recommend. There is no guidance or mandate. "At the moment, dentists are doing what they believe is the right option for the child on a case by case basis." She said dentists would welcome evidence-based guidelines because the treatment decision can be a difficult one to make.

Kamini Shah, dentist and honorary secretary of the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry, said: "There are two schools of thought, one being that baby teeth can cause pain and sleepless nights and so dentists should fill. "The other is that actually the evidence around filling baby teeth is questionable. "Sometimes you need to adopt a pragmatic approach rather than go in with all guns blazing. "If a child is very uncooperative but has a mouthful of non-symptomatic holes you might decide to apply a fluoride varnish to stabilise the disease rather than to do conventional fillings." Painted on with a small brush, the banana-flavoured varnish is totally painless and can slow or even stop the decay if applied often enough.

Dr Shah said: "That way you gain the child's confidence and can work on prevention. You do not want to upset the child and make them phobic of future treatments. "The problem arises when children come in aged three or four and it is their first experience of the dentist and it is because they are in pain. "In that scenario you can well imagine that they might not be most cooperative."

She said in extreme cases, and when the decay was so bad it necessitated treatment, a child might be referred for anxiety management or have the teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

Recently, an eight-year-old girl starved to death because of an apparently severe dental phobia. Sophie Waller, from St Dennis in Cornwall, is thought to have been so traumatised by her phobia that she refused to open her mouth after having eight teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

The full trial will run for four years from 2011 across England, Scotland and Wales, with a feasibility study starting in the coming months.


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