Posts Tagged ‘NHS reforms’

Sunday News Review

04/09/2011, 06:29:12 AM

At each other’s throats

Gordon Brown repeatedly pressured Alistair Darling to change his economic forecasts almost from the outset of his premiership, it has emerged. As the former chancellor prepared to publish his memoir, Back from the Brink, former government insiders revealed the full extent of the split between the two men at the top of the Labour administration. From the autumn of 2007, as Brown agonised over whether to call a snap general election, Darling faced interference from Number 10 as he drew up his first pre-budget report, with the prime minister’s allies urging him to play down the risks of an economic slowdown in the wake of the collapse of Northern Rock. Northern Rock’s bosses blamed “extreme conditions” in the markets for the bank’s collapse, but Brown and Darling clashed over how hard the turmoil would hit the wider economy. Darling feared the impact would be severe, but Brown was determined to stick to the line that the “fundamentals” remained sound. Former insiders say Brown, who had kept Treasury officials on a tight rein during his tenure as chancellor, wanted Darling to overrule his cautious civil servants. “Gordon never understood why Alistair didn’t have the authority over his civil servants that he had,” one source told the Observer. The pre-budget report of October 2007 predicted that GDP would expand by 2% to 2.5% in 2008 as the UK shrugged off the effects of the credit crunch. In the event, it contracted by 0.1%. – the Observer

Gordon Brown came close to sacking his Chancellor, Alis­tair Darling, five times, senior Labour figures reveal today. The bombshell disclosure comes on the eve of a new book by Mr Darling about his relationship with the “brutal” and “volcanic” ex-PM. Mr Darling writes that he saw off a bid by the PM to replace him in 2009 with Mr Brown’s key ally, Ed Balls. And Labour sources have told the Sunday Mirror that he considered sacking Mr Darling five times in his almost three years as PM. The first doubts surfaced in 2008 when Mr Brown was unconvinced Mr Darling could handle the financial crisis, say senior Labour party officials. Mr Brown seriously considered sacking Mr Darling a second time in an October 2008 Cabinet reshuffle which saw the ­return of Lord Mandelson and key allies like “enforcer” Nick Brown. The third attempt – confirmed by Mr Darling in Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11 – came in June 2009 when Cabinet Minister James Purnell quit after poor local election results. Mr Brown also thought about knifing his fellow Scot twice more in late 2009 and early 2010. – the Mirror

Scottish Tories could disband

Dramatic plans to disband the Tories north of the border were unveiled by the front-runner for its leadership in a move one senior party figure warned could encourage the break-up of the United Kingdom. Mr Cameron – who is spending the weekend in Scotland – faces the prospect of being the first British Prime Minister whose party has no Scottish MPs. Murdo Fraser, who is favourite to become leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, will announce that he plans to wind up the party if he wins a ballot of members next month. He would follow disbanding the party by launching a new Right-of-centre party that would contest all Scottish elections — council, Scottish Parliament and Westminster. Mr Fraser, a member of the Scottish Parliament, believes the Conservatives have become a “toxic brand” in Scotland since losing all 11 of their Commons seats in the 1997 Labour landslide. – the Telegraph

Tory leadership favourite Murdo Fraser is to launch a bid to scrap the current Scottish Conservative party and transform it into a distinct Scottish identity that is free from London control. The contest for the party leadership is to take a dramatic twist tomorrow with Fraser seeking a mandate to replace the party north of the Border with an alternative bearing a new name in the hope that a radical new approach will attract new members and voters. Fraser, currently deputy leader, believes that the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party brand is now so toxic that it cannot be revived in its current form and will argue that the best way to fight the SNP is to rebrand it as a new progressive tax-lowering party that is separate from David Cameron’s Westminster Tories. His plan has been discussed with senior London Conservatives, close to Cameron, who are sympathetic to the idea that something truly radical has to be done to break the centre-left consensus that has seen the SNP and Labour dominate Scottish politics. – the Scotsman

Chaos in the NHS

The future of the government’s health reforms has been plunged into fresh doubt as the Liberal Democrat peer Shirley Williams raises new concerns, and secret emails reveal plans to hand over the running of up to 20 hospitals to overseas companies. The revelations come as MPs prepare to return to Westminster on Tuesday for what promises to be a crucial stage of the flagship health and social care bill. Baroness Williams, one of the original leaders of a Lib Dem rebellion against health secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans – who appeared to have been pacified after changes were made over the summer – said she had new doubts, having re-examined the proposals. “Despite the great efforts made by Nick Clegg and Paul Burstow [the Lib Dem health minister], I still have huge concerns about the bill. The battle is far from over,” she said. Writing in Sunday’s Observer, Williams raises a series of issues that she says must be addressed. Chief among them is a legal doubt as to whether the secretary of state will any longer be bound to deliver “a comprehensive health service for the people of England, free at the point of need”. Some critics of Lansley believe the Tories are bent on a mission to privatise the NHS, gradually handing it to the private sector. They fear that moves to end the legal obligation on the secretary of state to deliver comprehensive services may be a deliberate part of the process. – the Observer

The political row over the coalition’s NHS reforms will wipe out hundreds of millions of pounds in planned cost savings, which will have to be found in further cuts elsewhere, ministers will be forced to admit this week. The rewriting of Andrew Lansley’s flagship plan to hand GPs control of £80bn in health spending is expected to mean projected benefits are downgraded by up to 10 per cent, putting in jeopardy a fiercely ambitious target to save £20bn by 2015. As a result, recruitment freezes will become more widespread, waiting lists are already on the rise and moves will be made to cut hospital stays, drugs bills and back-office staff. Under Mr Lansley’s original proposals, the changes were projected to secure £5bn in savings over this Parliament, and £1.7bn a year after that. But a new impact assessment, taking into account concessions to the Liberal Democrats, doctors’ leaders and patients groups, could slash that total by up to 10 per cent. – the Independent

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Monday News Review

13/06/2011, 06:27:02 AM

Family breakdown

When he won the Labour leadership, Ed Miliband declared that Britain had not ‘heard the last’ of his older brother, from whose complacent grip he had snatched the prize. David would ‘be around in one way or another’. Well, Ed was spot on in that analysis. Today, as he prepares to deliver yet another keynote speech, desperately crafted to pump life into his flaccid leadership, brother David’s shadow looms ever larger and more threatening.Indeed, it is Louise Miliband, even more than her vanquished former Foreign Secretary husband, who harbours a deep grudge against her brother-in-law. She regards his decision to run against her husband as an unforgivable act of treachery and betrayal. ‘She was distraught and still hurts for David. It’s often the partners who take more umbrage. But it’s very hard for them both to get over it. David would have won it if Ed had not stood. And he would have won it big,’ one trusted confidante told the Daily Mail.  ‘Louise understands that and is still consumed by anger. She’s also furious with Ed’s wife because she feels she should have persuaded him not fight his own brother. The family will never get over this. Louise did not even want to go to Ed’s wedding.’ Indeed, as the new book reveals, Louise Miliband cut Ed dead when they met by accident as he headed back to his hotel room following his victory over her husband.  The brothers used to speak several times a week. Now, with the exception of occasional requests for advice from Ed, they rarely converse, reveals the book. They communicate through their offices. – Daily Mail

Ed Miliband’s wife, Justine Thornton, is said to have been deeply hurt by the frosty stance reportedly adopted by her sister-in-law Louise Miliband since his surprise decision to stand for the leadership last year. Based on interviews with close friends and colleagues of the two men, the book depicts a deep and painful rift in the Miliband family which some fear will never heal. It claims that an increasingly ill-tempered election campaign developed into a rancorous family schism, evident as much at children’s birthday parties as political meetings, to the distress of the men’s mother, Marion. Despite his disappointment at failing to secure the Labour crown last September, the former Foreign Secretary David Miliband was careful to be gracious in defeat, the book says. But as Ed walked back to his hotel room in Manchester, following the announcement the election result, his sister-in-law was less forgiving and “cut him dead”, the book claims. It was, the authors – the Labour-friendly journalists Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre – claim, “the start of a breakdown in the family”. – Daily Telegraph

Ed tries to bounce back with policy offensive

Ed Miliband will attempt to fight back against his internal Labour critics today by unveiling new policies demanding more “responsibility” from the highest paid people and welfare claimants. On the eve of his long-awaited policy offensive, Mr Miliband was hit by claims that his relationship with his brother David was still in the deep freeze eight months after he defeated him to win the Labour leadership. A new book by journalists Mehdi Hassan and James Macintyre claims that Ed spent years plotting to beat his brother and that David now thinks he is taking the party “in the wrong direction.” The Labour leader will try to turn a tide of negative publicity about what critics see as his lacklustre performance by turning the spotlight to one of his big policy ideas. He will promise a “revolution in the boardroom”, saying a Labour Government would make companies publish the ratio between their highest earners and the average pay level. In a long-planned speech in London, Mr Miliband will admit that the last Labour Government was too relaxed about bankers who caused the financial crisis and benefit claimants who abused the system. “We will be a party that supports the real boardroom accountability that rewards wealth creation, not failure,” he will say. “At the bottom of society, we will be a party that rewards contribution, not worklessness.” – the Independent

Plans to make unemployed benefit claimants work harder to find a job will be unveiled by Labour‘s policy review chief, Liam Byrne, on Monday. The shadow work and pensions secretary will also set out new ideas, drawn from the Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, requiring long-term workless households with pre-school children to attend compulsory employment workshops in return for childcare costs. The proposals chime with Ed Miliband’s proposals, unveiled on Monday, which will emphasise responsibility, rewarding those on the council house queue who are in jobs or doing voluntary work. Byrne will map out how far the party has drifted from mainstream public opinion, saying: “There is one sentiment that really shines through. People are angry about the state we face and they believe a new politics of responsibility is the answer. There’s a sense of too many great sins: wealth without work; commerce without morality; politics without principle.” – the Guardian

People in work, volunteers and foster carers will be able to jump council house queues, Ed Miliband will pledge today. “Rather than looking solely at need, priority is also given to those who contribute – who give something back. It’s fairer and it also encourages the kind of responsible behaviour that makes our communities stronger,” he will say. Labour is also looking at cutting benefits for young jobless people in workless households. And it is considering forcing the unemployed to sign on weekly and give higher dole payments for those who were in work and then lost their job. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne will set out the controversial plans tonight, saying: “Welfare reform is one of the policy areas where Labour needs to win back trust.” – Daily Mirror

D-Day for NHS reforms

Experts are to unveil recommendations on the Government’s plans for the NHS after Nick Clegg claimed victory for the Liberal Democrats in the spat over the reforms. The NHS Future Forum will publish its report setting out proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, which is currently on hold on its passage through Parliament. The Bill has attracted widespread criticism from the medical profession and unions, particularly over its aim to increase competition between the NHS and private companies. Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron outlined “real changes” to the reforms – pre-empting the content of today’s report. Aides to the Prime Minister have insisted he was the driving force behind the policy rethink, but many Tory backbenchers are furious that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has been “hung out to dry” to appease Lib Dems. – Sky News

In the face of Liberal Democrat opposition to his proposed shake-up of the NHS, the Prime Minister ordered a time-out so the views of doctors and nurses could be heard. Today, a report by the group NHS Future Forum, led by former chairman of the Royal College of GPs Prof Steve Field, will be published and is expected to recommend a string of changes. The Liberal Democrats claimed yesterday that the concessions they had demanded had been achieved, while backbench Tories were warning that Mr Cameron had given too much away. Mark Pritchard MP, secretary of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, suggested that the changes would lose the Tories votes. He told The Daily Telegraph: “History may judge this moment as a lost golden opportunity to make the NHS fit for the 21st century.“  Mr Cameron has called an emergency meeting of all 143 Tories who joined the Commons at last year’s election. It is being interpreted in Westminster as an attempt to ensure Mr Cameron has enough support to see off opposition from “old guard” MPs, who have been angered at concessions to the Tories’ Coalition partners and perceived “gloating” from Lib Dems. – Daily Telegraph

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Wednesday News Review

08/06/2011, 06:47:33 AM

Cameron’s concessions leave no-one happy

David Cameron tried to buy off critics of his hated health reforms by offering a string of concessions yesterday. The Prime Minister promised hospital medics a say on how NHS cash is spent and put a limit on competition with the regulator made to “support integration” as well as encouraging the NHS and private firms to fight for business. He even ditched the 2013 deadline for medics to take control in a move that will enrage Tories who fear reforms will never happen. But Labour leader Ed Miliband still dismissed the U-turn saying: “They should go back to the drawing board on the NHS. These are botched policies.” And Tory MP Karl McCartney raged at the Lib Dems for helping force the concessions, condemning “political posturing by our flip-flopping coalition partners”. – Daily Mirror

The bartering between Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg over health reforms as the Government prepares to unveil a revised package next week risks deepening coalition tensions. There is mounting anger on  the Conservative benches at  the stance of the Lib Dems,  who have demanded a series of changes despite initially backing the legislation. Tory MP Nick de Bois, who sat on the committee examining the Bill, said sticking to the original time-table was crucial. ‘One of the fundamentals – one of the pillars – of the Bill is… that we can remove the vast swathes of democracy from primary care trusts and returning power to GPs by April 2013,’ he said. ‘Let me be clear, these pillars have to remain. I hope they do. I understand there can be changes, but I don’t want to be in a position when I can’t support this Bill because we have lost those essential pillars.’ – Daily Mail

David Cameron is facing a battle to reassure anxious Conservative MPs after he announced a series of changes to the government’s NHSreforms to win over the Liberal Democrats and members of the medical profession. As Nick Clegg told his parliamentary party last night that the time was fast approaching for the Liberal Democrats to swing behind the reforms after securing major concessions, Tories voiced concerns that the prime minister had abandoned key elements of Andrew Lansley‘s original blueprint. Cameron alarmed his backbenchers after he moved to meet the demands laid down by the Lib Dems at their spring conference in March by announcing the shelving of Lansley’s 2013 deadline, changes to the role of the health regulator, Monitor, and the opening up of GP-led consortiums. A senior Tory MP who warned last month that core “red lines” must not be crossed, warned shelving the 2013 deadline could threaten £5bn of spending on frontline health services. – the Guardian

Oxford Dons have no confidence in Willetts

Dons at Oxford University have delivered a decisive “no confidence” vote in the Universities minister, David Willetts. There were cheers last night when the vote was announced in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre – the first time a “no confidence” motion had ever been issued in a government minister by the university’s Senate. It was carried by the massive margin of 283 votes to five. During the debate, Abdel Takriti, a tutor at St Edmund Hall, called the Government’s plans for further education – under which student fees would rise to up to £9,000 a year – “ill-articulated and incoherent”. Robert Gildea, professor of modern history at the university, proposing the motion, said proposals to introduce “off-quota places” outside the proposed £9,000 fee cap risked introducing a two-tier system. – the Independent

Oxford University has formally declared it has “no confidence” in the policies of the universities minister, David Willetts, in the first sign of a concerted academic backlash against the government’s higher educationreforms. Lecturers passed a motion opposing the coalition’s policies by 283 votes to five at a meeting of the congregation, Oxford’s legislative body. The university is the first to take a public stand against the raising of tuition fees and slashing of the teaching grant, but the rebellion is spreading. Cambridge is expected to announce a date for a “no confidence” vote, while a petition against the government is gathering force at Warwick University. It is the first time a vote of no confidence in a minister has been passed by an English university, and follows a no- confidence vote by the Royal College of Nursing in the health secretary Andrew Lansley’s handling of NHS reforms. The message of “no confidence” will be transmitted to the government by Oxford University’s council, its governing body. – the Guardian

May talks tough about preventing terrorism

Its new counter-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, warned that some people who are supportive of terrorist groups and ideologies have “sought and sometimes gained positions in schools or in groups which work closely with young people.” It said that new standards to be enforced by Ofsted should enable schools to take action against staff who demonstrate unacceptable views. The Education Bill will also include a stronger focus on pupils’ “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.” A “preventing extremism unit,” which will include experts in counter-terrorism, has been established at the Department of Education to stop unsuitable providers setting up Free Schools – a key part of the government’s new education strategy. Applicants will need to demonstrate that they would support UK democratic values including support for individual liberties within the law, equality, mutual tolerance and respect. – Daily Telegraph

Not a great first day back from his honeymoon

Ed Miliband returned to work today a married man – and, judging by his animated expressions, it looked as if he was reliving every single emotion he has felt over the last few weeks in the space of a few minutes. The Labour leader tackled the sensitive subject of social care at a press conference this afternoon – but all attention was focused on the sheer number of faces he pulled during his speech. Speaking at the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank, Mr Miliband described marriage as ‘an important institution’ but insisted that parents did not need to be married to bring up children well. – Daily Mail

At his first press conference since his wedding on May 27, the Labour leader faced questions over his personal popularity and the party’s failure to gain a big poll lead given the economic gloom. “We have succeeded in winning back a section of voters who left us at the last general election,” he stressed. But he admitted that Labour faced a “long task”. “You have got to recognise that we are coming from a long way back,” he said. “We got 29 per cent at the last election, the second lowest share for Labour since 1918.” The party had to address “anger” over decisions made by the last Labour government and lay out a vision for the country’s future. On his personal ratings, he argued that Opposition leaders “early in their time in office” were still building a relationship with the public. – Evening Standard

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Tuesday News Review

07/06/2011, 06:48:09 AM

Where have I heard that before?

The Prime Minister’s “five guarantees” on the NHS will prove as worthless as his “cast-iron guarantee” on Europe. He went back on the promise of a referendum and David Cameron’s already broken, by our count, three of his health promises. The PM’s come up with a handful of guarantees because he needs a short-term fix to a problem called Andrew Lansley. We haven’t forgotten his enthusiastic, 100% backing for the Health Secretary’s scheme to turn the NHS into a giant market. Mr Cameron’s five guarantees are as worthless as that discarded referendum pledge. – Daily Mirror

Making a passionate case for reform, the Prime Minister will reassure people that the NHS is safe in his Government’s hands – and he will claim the proposals are gaining support. He will offer to be “personally accountable” for five “guarantees” – that the NHS will remain universal, that “efficient and integrated care” will be improved, not broken up, that the Government will keep waiting times low and funding will increase, not fall. A survey by and YouGov today finds widespread backing from voters, including Labour supporters, for the reforms – but 59 per cent agree that “deep down, Conservatives want to fully privatise the NHS”. – Daily Express

The Prime Minister is fighting to rescue the Coalition’s Health Bill and will use a major speech to try to convince his critics that he wants the best for the NHS. He will point to reports showing that the standard of care in some hospitals is severely lacking, reports which show “elderly patients left unfed and unwashed”. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, dismissed Mr Cameron’s five pledges. He said: “David Cameron is the first Prime Minister in history to be forced to set out five pledges to protect the NHS from his own policies. Yet, he has already broken two of those pledges. The number of people waiting 18 weeks for treatment has gone up and he has not protected the health service budget. – Daily Telegraph

Salmond’s double independence blow

Alex Salmond’s hopes of a smooth transfer of powers to an independentScotland have been dealt a blow after a cabinet minister said a second referendum would be needed on independence. Michael Moore, the Scottish secretary, said there was a “strong likelihood” that if the nationalists won the first referendum, then the British government would have to hold a further plebiscite to allow Scotland the chance to vote on the precise terms of any independence deal agreed by both countries. His remarks deeply irritated Salmond, the first minister, who has repeatedly insisted there is no legal requirement for a second referendum, since the first vote – likely to be in 2015 – would be based on a detailed proposal from the Scottish government. – the Guardian

Unions have held a mini-summit over their fears for the Scottish ship building industry being undermined by the threat of Scottish independence. Representatives of GMB, Unite and Ucatt – the unions that represent thousands of workers on the Clyde and Rosyth – yesterday warned MPs that even the possibility of independence could see contracts awarded to yards in England. The issue is set to be raised today when Defence Secretary Liam Fox answers questions from the Scottish affairs select committee. Under EU rules, defence contracts do not have to go out to open tender, which means governments usually award them to home yards. – the Scotsman

The GMB flexes its muscles

The Business Secretary was heckled, booed and jeered by angry delegates at the GMB conference in Brighton. One unfurled a banner saying: “Vince Cable not welcome – stop attacking workers’ rights.” The LibDem Cabinet minister’s comments were branded inflammatory. And one union boss warned that the grass-roots reaction to his threats would be: “Bring it on.” Paul Kenny, general secretary of the 700,000-member GMB, accused him of showing “a remarkable lack of understanding” about the impact of the cuts on ordinary people. He described Dr Cable’s remarks about strike laws as “ill-judged” – and claimed his speech may even have increased the chance of widespread disruption. He said: “The GMB and other unions are still in negotiation. My view is that his speech has been very unhelpful. And I think people’s reaction on the ground is going to be, ‘if you’re going to threaten us, bring it on’.” – Daily Mirror

Vince Cable was licking his wounds last night after a miscalculated speech ended in union activists subjecting him to a torrent of heckles and catcalls. The Business Secretary intended to deliver a friendly warning to the GMB conference that a summer of industrial militancy could play into the hands of right-wing Tories agitating for fresh anti-strike legislation. Instead, to the dismay of senior Liberal Democrats, he was cast in the role of union-bashing hard man telling them to act responsibly or rue the consequences. Union leaders accused him of threatening human rights and protested that his intervention had soured the atmosphere ahead of talks with ministers over resolving a dispute over cuts to public-sector pensions. It was the fourth time in a fortnight that ill-considered words by the Business Secretary have angered colleagues. – the Independent

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Thursday News Review

14/04/2011, 06:40:54 AM

Cameron adds fuel to the fire

David Cameron will today make the provocative claim that communities across Britain are being damaged by the record levels of immigration of the last decade. He will accuse some new arrivals of not wanting to integrate with their neighbours, leaving some areas suffering “discomfort and disjointedness” following dramatic population shifts. He will also risk accusations that he is inflaming tensions over race in a local council elections campaign speech asserting that immigration has been too high for too long.  But an unrepentant Mr Cameron will insist he is right to speak out on an issue that concerns millions of people – and accuse the last Labour government of fuelling support for the British National Party by refusing to address popular concerns on the subject. – the Independent

And in words that will alarm many of his Lib Dem partners he will claim many immigrants don’t want to fit in – accusing them of fuelling social pressures and dividing communities. He will say: “It has placed real pressures on communities up and down the country. “Not just pressures on school, housing and healthcare – though those have been serious – but social pressures too. When there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods, perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there, on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate, that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods.” He will warn that the Government will never be able to properly control immigration without first tackling welfare dependency. He describes them as “two sides of the same coin”. – the Mirror

The Downing Street press team will no doubt know what they were doing, and the type of coverage that they were aiming to achieve, so there may be a view that there are short-term political benefits to this – the Telegraph reports says the timing of the speech is influenced by wanting a popular theme for the local elections, and the well informed Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome also emphasises tensions with the Tory grassroots and right-wing presss seeing this as an “attempt to steady a panicking ship with a tough speech on immigration” as the local campaigning begins, also tweeting: Increasingly nervous about core Tory vote, Cameron makes immigration speech. – Next Left

How long till Lansley’s P45 arrives?

Health secretary Andrew Lansley apologised to nurses yesterday after they backed a vote of no-confidence in his controversial NHS reforms. Almost 99 per cent of delegates at the Royal College of Nursing said they did not support the Health Secretary – the first time such a motion has ever been passed against a minister. Mr Lansley later said sorry to the nurses several times and admitted the no confidence vote was a ‘rebuke’. It is the latest blow for the beleaguered Health Secretary, whose plans to scrap Primary Care Trusts and give GPs greater control of NHS cash have come under sustained attack from leading doctors, MPs and even members of the Coalition. – Daily Mail

Andrew Lansley coupled an apology to Britain’s nurses for failing to explain his health reforms with an impassioned statement of his commitment to the NHS. Hours after the Royal College of Nursing voted 99% in favour of a motion of no confidence in him at the RCN congress in Liverpool, the health secretary told nurses that he would have voted with them if he thought his plans would undermine the health service. The health secretary sought to underline his commitment by making clear that his only ambition in politics is to serve as health secretary. He said he had told the prime minister of this “publicly and privately”. Downing Street fears that Lansley’s failure to sell the reforms, which are designed to transfer commissioning powers from Primary Care Trusts to new GP-led consortiums by 2013, is jeopardising years of work in neutralising the NHS as an issue. Clegg must secure major changes to the bill to win over his party, which voted against the reforms at its spring conference last week. – the Guardian

Ed plots to kill off NHS reforms in the Lords

Labour has held secret talks with independent peers in a bid to ‘kill’ the Coalition’s controversial health reforms in the House of Lords, Ed Miliband revealed yesterday. The Labour leader said shadow health secretary John Healey had held a series of joint briefings with crossbench peers in recent weeks in a bid to sabotage the Health Bill when it arrives in the Lords in the summer. The Government does not have a majority in the House of Lords and the crossbenchers could play a key role in watering down the planned reforms. Some Coalition peers, including senior Lib Dem Shirley Williams and former Tory Party chairman Norman Tebbit, have also voiced serious concerns about the health plans. Mr Miliband said the legislation was already in ‘intensive care’ and now needed to be ‘killed off’. He added: ‘The answer to a bad Bill is not to slow it down but to junk it.’ – Daily Mail

Osborne wades in to the AV battle

The chancellor has launched an extraordinary attack on the Yes to AV campaign, highlighting alleged conflicts of interests in its funding.  George Osborne’s accusations are just the latest dispute in an increasingly bitter and bad-tempered campaign which has seen both camps fling insults and accusations of assisting the far-right.  “What really stinks is actually one of the ways the Yes campaign is funded,” Mr Osborne told the Daily Mail. The Electoral Reform Society, which is actually running some of the referendum ballots, and is being paid to do that by the taxpayer, stands to benefit if AV comes in. That organisation, the Electoral Reform Society, part of it is a company that makes money – is funding the Yes campaign. That stinks frankly and is exactly the sort of dodgy, behind the scenes shenanigans that people don’t like about politics.” –

George Osborne was at the centre of a legal row last night after his attack on voting reform backfired. The Chancellor was accused of demeaning his position, and lawyers were called in to separate the opposing sides in the impending referendum on changing how MPs are elected. Mr Osborne claimed that the Yes campaign to scrap the first-past-the-post voting system was involved in “dodgy shenanigans” in funding – raising the temperature in an increasingly acrimonious contest. Electoral reformers called in solicitors to try to stop the dispute escalating any further, ahead of the 5 May ballot on whether to switch to the alternative vote for Westminster elections. The Yes campaign has pointed to the many wealthy Conservatives handing large sums to the opponents of electoral reform. Backed by Mr Osborne, No to AV countered by alleging that the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), which has given £1.1m to the pro-AV campaign, faced a financial conflict of interest in pressing for a Yes vote. No to AV claimed that the society and its subsidiaries had received more than £15m in contracts from the public purse over the past three years. – the Independent

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Tuesday News Review

05/04/2011, 06:15:18 AM

Clegg to cut his own school tie

Nick Clegg will call for sweeping changes to internships today to try to break the ‘sharp elbowed’ middle-class stranglehold on the professions. Firms that fail to provide ‘financial support’ to interns could face investigation by HM Revenue and Customs over their compliance with the minimum wage laws. Launching the Coalition’s social  mobility strategy, the Deputy Prime Minister will also warn that the ‘well-connected’ middle classes enjoy an unfair advantage in getting work  experience for their children. He will argue that internships have become a closed shop in many professions. Mr Clegg will also criticise the practice of expecting interns to work for nothing, which he believes discriminates against youngsters from poorer backgrounds. – Daily Mail

The government is aiming to reverse the growing culture of unpaid internships, which favour the wealthy and well-connected, as part of asocial mobility strategy to be launched by Nick Clegg. The national internship scheme will ask firms to pay young people doing work experience and warn they could otherwise risk a legal challenge under the national minimum wage legislation. The deputy prime minister will say that the aim is to make career progression less dependent on “who your father’s friends are”. The Conservative party chair, Lady Warsi, will announce on Tuesday that the civil service will end informal internships before 2012. They will all then be advertised on the government’s website. As one part of a many-pronged effort to narrow differences in achievement between social groups, a number of firms have been enlisted to give people without family connections experience in competitive fields of work. The government will encourage firms to use name-blank and school-blank applications. – the Guardian

HM Revenue & Customs will launch a crackdown in professions such as law and journalism where work experience is commonplace, to ensure that people are paid the national minimum wage or receive out of pocket expenses. Ministers say that many young people miss out because they lack the personal contacts or cannot afford to take an unpaid internship. They believe this is hindering efforts to close the “life chances gap” between the poor and better off. Mr Clegg will announce his moves when he issues the Government’s plans to improve social mobility and tackle child poverty. He will say: “For too long, internships have been the almost exclusive preserve of the sharp-elbowed and the well-connected. Unfair, informal internships can rig the market in favour of those who already have opportunities. We want a fair job market based on merit not networks. It should be about what you know, not who you know.” – the Independent (more…)

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