High-heeled shoes should be banned from the workplace because they are sexist and pose a health and safety hazard, say union bosses. The predominantly male Trade Union Congress has proposed a motion decrying the stiletto heel as demeaning to women. Members insisted that female workers should sport 'sensible shoes' no more than an inch high to avoid injuries and long-term foot and back problems. They claim that while heels might be vaunted on the catwalk, many women feel compelled to totter around in vertiginous shoes to do high-powered jobs.
But high-flying women said the motion was patronising. Former Apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry said: 'This is absolutely ridiculous and I think these union officials should be spending their time dealing with more important issues. 'I'm at work in five-inch heels and perfectly able to do my job. Heels are sexy, they boost your confidence and they are empowering to women.'
Miss Dewberry, who gave up her £100,000 a year job with Sir Alan Sugar and has founded the beauty website chiconomise.com, said: 'I can't imagine these officials debating a motion about how tightly men should wear their ties. Wearing heels is a personal choice.'
Tory MP Nadine Dorries said the extra height can help women in the workplace. She added: 'I'm 5ft 3in need every inch of my Christian Louboutin heels to look my male colleagues in the eye. If high heels were banned in Westminster, no one would be able to find me. 'The TUC need to get real, stop using overtly sexist tactics by discussing women's stilettos to divert attention away from Labour chaos.'
At next month's annual conference, members will debate the motion: 'Congress believes high heels may look glamorous on the Hollywood catwalks but are completely inappropriate for the day-today working environment.' TUC officials have in the past condemned high heels as 'blatantly sexist' and the latest motion highlights their effects on women's health. Union chiefs warned that women who work for airlines, City banks and West End department stores are forced to wear high heels, even though they are unsuitable.
The motion adds: 'Feet bear the brunt of daily life, and for many workers prolonged standing, badly fitted footwear, and in particular high heels can be a hazard. Around two million days a year are lost through sickness as a result of lower limb disorders. 'Wearing high heels can cause long-term foot problems, such as blisters, corns and calluses, and also serious foot, knee and back pain. More needs to be done to raise awareness of this problem.' It has even published a safety in heels guide for employers declaring: 'Heels should have a broad base and be no higher than 4cm (1.5 in) ... if worn for long stretches no higher than 2cm (0.8 inch).'
Anti-military attitudes in politically correct Britain
Grieving soldiers were prevented from entering a bar because they were in military uniform after attending the funeral of a comrade killed in Afghanistan. Door staff at Phatz in Maidenhead, Berkshire, refused to lift a 'no uniforms' policy, despite the group being accompanied by the dead soldier's father. The snub is the latest in a string of incidents where military personnel have been ill treated because of the clothes they wear.
Official concern is so great that Gordon Brown approved the creation of an Armed Forces Day.
Rifleman Daniel Hume, 22, was killed by a roadside bomb last month while on foot patrol with 4th Battalion The Rifles at Nad e-Ali, in Helmand. His funeral took place last Thursday afternoon. Members of the public applauded spontaneously as the coffin was brought into the church, which contained hundreds of mourners including over 50 servicemen and women in uniform. Rfn Hume was given an honour guard of riflemen.
Afterwards mourners went for a drink and at around midnight 12 members of the group - including three soldiers in fatigues and a Royal Marine in full dress uniform - headed to Phatz. Rifleman Hume's father Adrian said: 'They weren't drunk. They were totally in control and were behaving with dignity.' Phatz manager Grant Page said he had been told 100 soldiers had been drinking all day and some would be heading for his bar. He said: 'Knowing what these guys do for our country it saddens me, but I have to protect my customers' interests.'
'They arrived at the Phatz bar, which Daniel had been to on occasion when he was on home leave, before me. When I got there they appeared a bit upset. 'They said the guy on the door had told them "you can all come in, apart from the squaddies". He refused to let the four who wearing uniform into the bar - because they were wearing their uniform.'
Mr Hume said the servicemen were resigned to the situation, having experienced similar situations in the past, however the Royal British Legion was less sanguine. A spokesman for the charity said: 'Pubs and businesses should be proud to have young men and women serving for their country as their customers. 'These men had been at a funeral for a brave young man who gave his life for his country and it is a great pity that the bar thought they were not suitable customers given the sacrifice their friend had made.'
The first annual Armed Forces Day will be held on June 27th next year. It was created following an incident in which RAF personnel were encouraged not to wear their uniforms in Peterborough, Cambs after RAF personnel were subjected to verbal abuse from members of the public.
Other recent examples of anti-military prejudice include a hotel in Surrey refusing a room to a soldier in uniform and local residents objecting to the military turning an house near the a military rehabilitation centre into accommodation for families visiting injured troops.
Britain: Couples are being refused IVF treatment in a ‘postcode lottery’
Couples are still facing problems getting IVF treatment on the NHS, with some trusts refusing to fund procedures or comply with guidelines, such as a woman’s age. Regional disparities mean that the same woman can be too old for treatment in one part of the country and too young in another. Two trusts have provided no IVF treatment in the previous two years.
Research suggests that eight out of ten primary care trusts are still failing to follow government recommendations set out in 2004 by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), allowing women three free cycles of IVF. Other eligibility criteria, such as whether one of the couple has a child from a previous relationship, smoking habits and weight, also vary widely, the study shows.
The study, by Grant Shapps, the Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield, who has campaigned for better access to fertility treatment, was based on an 80 per cent response rate from trusts in England. It found that provision was worse than two years ago.
In the East Midlands, every trust offered one full cycle of treatment but, in the South East, 41 per cent did not offer IVF to women aged 23 to 39, as set out in the NICE guidance. Some trusts, such as North Lincolnshire, offered IVF only to women between 37 and 39, whereas at least four trusts have an upper age limit of 37. One in eight was failing to comply with guidelines on a woman’s age. In the East Midlands, no trust would offer treatment to couples in which one partner had a child but 70 per cent would in the North East. Overall, 54 per cent of trusts excluded couples from IVF if one partner had a child from a previous relationship.
Almost half of all trusts said that they wanted couples to have been in a relationship for more than three years. Others wanted one or two years while some asked only if the relationship was “stable”. While many trusts refused IVF to couples who smoked, some allowed treatment if the man was the smoker.
The 2004 NICE guidance said that the NHS should fund three cycles of IVF for women under 40. John Reid, then the Health Secretary, said that couples would be offered one free IVF cycle by April 2005, with a view to three cycles being offered in the future. By 2007 this was still not happening. Dawn Primarolo, the Health Minister, wrote to trusts in that year saying that they should be looking to fund three cycles.
Experts have said that the drive to cut the number of multiple births is also being hampered by the lack of access to free IVF. Couples who have the chance of only one cycle on the NHS might wish to have more than one embryo transferred.
The NICE guidance also said that trusts should allow frozen embryos to be transferred as part of one cycle.But very few offered this.
Mr Shapps said that the study, compiled from freedom of information requests, showed that IVF “remains a postcode lottery in this country”. He added: “Budgets are tight and the NHS must set its priorities, but it is wrong to raise expectations in couples who are desperate to start a family only for them to find out later that they won’t get the real help they expected.”
Clare Lewis-Jones, chief executive of the charity Infertility Network UK, said that although there had been an improvement recently in the provision of treatment by some trusts there remained a totally unjustifiable and unfair variation in the criteria used to determine whether couples could have treatment. “This proves that five years on from the issue of the NICE guideline, patients are still facing a postcode lottery when it comes to accessing NHS fertility treatment.” She urged trusts to accept recommendations laid down in a document, Standardising Access Criteria to NHS Fertility Treatment, produced by Infertility Network UK and funded by the Department of Health.
A Department of Health spokesman said that there had been good progress in implementing NICE guidelines and providing access to IVF. He said that 30 per cent of trusts were providing three cycles, 23 per cent two cycles and 47 per cent one cycle. “This shows significant improvements, with only two trusts out of 150 not routinely providing infertility treatment in England.”
British grade school exam results fall for the first time in 15 years
DESPITE all the grade inflation that now has to be taken for granted!
English test results for 11-year-olds have fallen for the first time in the 15-year history of the national curriculum SATs. Figures published yesterday show one in five youngsters failing to master English – with the percentage reaching the required standard dropping by one percentage point to 80 per cent this year. All told, that means a total of 115,000 primary pupils beginning secondary school next month still struggling to master English. Of these, 46,000 failed to gain any grade at all and are borderline illiterate.
In addition, the percentage mastering the three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic has also fallen from 62 per cent to 61 per cent. This, again, is the first fall since joint statistics were first collected four years ago and shows 225,000 struggling to succeed in all three areas. The biggest problem identified by yesterday's results was with boys' writing – where four out of 10 still leave primary school struggling to write properly.
The results are an embarrassment for ministers who now face going into a general election with reading and writing standards in primary schools – their top policy priority in 1997 – falling.
David Laws, the Liberal Democrats' schools spokesman, said: "Progress in primary schools has clearly stalled and in some cases has even slipped backwards. The yawning gap between girls and boys in literacy is very worrying. One in four boys now starts secondary school without being able to read or write at the expected level."
Yesterday's results show that – at 80 per cent – the numbers reaching the required standard in English remains doggedly at the target set by ministers for 2002 when Labour first took office in 1997. In maths and science, the percentage reaching the required standard remained the same as last year – 79 per cent and 88 per cent respectively.
A second target of achieving 85 per cent in both English and maths – originally pencilled in for 2005 – lies in tatters. A new target of 78 per cent reaching the required standard in both subjects by 2011 looks unattainable, too – the figure slipped from 73 per cent to 72 per cent this year,
Yesterday ministers were at pains to point out that those just failing to reach the target – achieving what is called level three as opposed to the target of level four – should not be considered illiterate or innumerate. Diana Johnson, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Schools and Learning, insisted: "A child at level three, for instance, is able to read and understand a Harry Potter novel." Guidance notes show a level three candidate can read independently and write a sound sentence. In maths, they can do two-figure additions and subtractions in their heads.
Ms Johnson took heart from the fact that, in the-worst performing schools, there had been a six percentage point rise in pupils achieving the standard expected. However, this means there are pockets of under-performance in some of the schools experiencing the best results in the past.
A breakdown of the results show girls are way ahead of boys in reading (89 per cent of girls reached the standard as opposed to 82 per cent of boys) and writing (75 per cent and 60 per cent respectively) and just ahead in science (89 per cent compared to 88 per cent). Boys nudge ahead in maths (79 per cent compared to 78 per cent).
The number of bright youngsters going on to reach a higher level in English – level five – has also fallen by two percentage points in reading to 47 per cent and one percentage point in writing to 19 per cent. In maths, it has gone up four percentage points to 35 per cent....
Michael Gove, the Conservatives' schools spokesman, added: "We have seen a historic drop in English results, the brightest students are not being stretched and the weakest are being failed the most. "This is final proof that Labour, elected on a platform to raise standards in education, has failed to deliver."
Ms Johnson said that plans to introduce more one-to-one coaching for struggling pupils from September would help to improve standards.
Taxpayers Face Bill For British Govt's Green Failures
Taxpayers are facing paying a hefty bill to private sector firms if Government departments do not slash carbon emissions, MPs have warned. Skip related content. The Government has entered a scheme for reducing greenhouse gases which rates performance in a league table. But the Environmental Audit Committee has warned Government departments are "backsliding" before they have even begun.
The proportion of renewable energy used by departments slumped to 22% last year from 28.3% in the previous year. This means taxpayers could be forking out large lumps of cash to private businesses once the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme begins next year.
The CRC will require around 5,000 organisations to buy "allowances" costing £12 a tonne for all the CO2 they emit each year, and be judged on how much they are doing to cut their emissions. Under the scheme, the money for purchasing allowances will go into a central pot. Those cutting their emissions the most will get their original payment back plus a bonus, while those doing worst will be penalised by getting less back than they paid in.
The committee is concerned that if the Government does not cut emissions enough, the taxpayer will end up contributing "large sums" to companies who have done more.
The challenge could be tougher for the Government than businesses, as departments may already have taken the easiest and cheapest steps to cut their emissions. Environmental Audit Committee chairman Tim Yeo said: "Unless the Government gets its house in order, taxpayers could end up paying a heavy price to buy carbon credits from the private sector. "In too many areas, like emissions of carbon dioxide from offices, it has made little or no progress and in others it is backsliding."
The MPs urged the Government to invest now in insulation, solar panels and energy efficient combined heat and power boilers in its offices to save money in the long run.
The committee's Greening Government report also said it was "unconvinced" the Government would exceed its own targets to cut emissions by 12.5% on 1999 levels by 2010/11, after a review showed reductions of just half that (6.3%) by 2007/08.
Vegetarians' outrage as British supermarket acknowledges 'macabre' practice of turning out-of-date meat into electricity
And I thought that was where sausages came from!
Consumers should be informed if any of their home electricity is being generated using the 'macabre' recycling of waste meat from supermarkets, campaigners said today. Tesco now sends 5,000 tons of meat that has passed its sell-by date to be turned into enough National Grid electricity to power 600 homes for a year.
The retail giant has hailed the scheme as part of a 'green' drive which had enabled it to stop sending any of the waste it produces to environmentally damaging landfill sites.
But animal rights campaign group Viva said many non-meat eaters would be 'horrified' that their houses were being part-powered by out-of-date meat. And they said any environmental benefits of recycling the meat were far outweighed by the greenhouse gases produced by rearing so much more meat than was needed in the first place.
Justin Kerswell, campaigns manager for Viva (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals), said: 'It's a sad indictment of modern life that not only hundreds of millions of animals are killed each year in the UK, but so much meat is left over from greed and indifference. 'To turn this wasted meat into power might seem like a good idea at first, but you have to ask yourself why is so much left over and why are so many animals dying to provide this excess? 'Surely killing fewer animals in the first place should be the aim.
'Whatever savings are made by turning this meat into energy is more than voided by the huge amount of greenhouse gases generated by the farming and production of the meat in the first place. Tesco should take a long hard look at its wasteful practices.' He said consumers should be told if their domestic power came from such sources. 'More and more people are choosing to adopt an ethical and green vegetarian or vegan diet. 'Most would be horrified to find out that their power was generated by left-over meat. Consumers should have the right to know if their power is generated in this macabre manner.'
But a spokesman for Tesco dismissed the claims, saying the amount recycled in this way is a 'tiny proportion' of the meat the chain sells. He said: 'We aim to have no waste at all but even with a highly efficient supply chain, a tiny amount is inevitable. 'The amount of meat waste from our stores makes up less than 1 per cent of our total waste, and a miniscule proportion of meat sold. 'Tesco wants to play its part in helping the environment by ensuring that none of our waste goes to landfill, which produces damaging methane gas, but instead is reused in a productive way.'
Government-funded waste body Wrap (Waste and Resources Action Programme) says retailers generate about 1.6 million tons of food waste each year, including meat, with food manufacturers throwing away 4.1 million tons and restaurant and other outlets another three million.
Britain lags behind other European countries in the use of so-called 'anaerobic digestion' conversion, and ministers were handed recommendations on how to boost rates by an expert review panel last month. Meat and other food waste is processed in biomass-to-energy plants which turn waste food into bio-fuel and then use that to produce renewable electricity.
Tesco, the UK's biggest retailer, said this week that it had succeeded in diverting all of its annual 531,000 tonnes of waste away from landfill. Schemes such as the meat-to-power conversion, recycling cardboard boxes into new ones and turning recycled carrier bags into rubbish sacks had all been used as part of the drive, it said.
No free speech for judges in Britain
"A senior judge who described Britain’s immigration system as “completely lax” is to face an investigation. Judge Ian Trigger said last week that “hundreds and hundreds of thousands” of illegal immigrants were abusing the benefits system.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has asked the Office for Judicial Complaints to rule on whether the comments were too political. The decision will be made jointly by Lord Judge and the Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw.
If he'd said what a great system Britain had, there'd be no problem, of course.
Don’t bank on it, Prime Minister Brown: “The huge bailouts and government guarantees might have acted as a life-support machine to keep some of the UK’s biggest banks technically alive, but they have not been revived. This week’s figures from the state-owned banks confirmed that if something is shooting up in the finance section, it’s not green. … These results from the state-owned banks were widely described as disastrous. An even bigger disaster, however, is the obsession with banking as the be-all and end-all of the UK economy. If it was rash of Brown to claim that he had rescued the banking system, it is ridiculous now to claim that the banks can somehow magically revive British and Western capitalism.”