Posted April 16, 2014
‘Squirming of the Lib Dems’ is the Daily Mail’s front page splash today. It’s the second successive day the paper has tried, a bit desperately, to pin blame on Nick Clegg for the extensive abuse allegedly committed by former Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith in the 1960s and ’70s.
The basis for the paper’s accusations is that Nick Clegg issued a tribute on his 80th birthday and when Cyril Smith died. As Nick has pointed out, “I would never have dreamed of saying the things that I said about Cyril Smith on his 80th birthday and when he died if I was aware of the truly horrific nature of the actions which he is alleged to have undertaken over a long period of time.”
Disagree with Nick Clegg’s politics all you like, but the idea he’d have covered up allegations of paedophile abuse is nothing but offensive. I’ve no idea if he’d heard any rumours about Cyril Smith. They were reported in Private Eye in 1979 (when Nick was 12), but not picked up elsewhere.
It’s easy to view these things through a post-Savile mirror and assume he must have both heard them and believed them to be true – but BBC Newsnight’s airing of false allegations against Lord (Alistair) McAlpine show the dangers of believing every story that circulates of prominent people who are alleged to have a liking for boys.
Of course, the party and all its politicians still alive who knew Cyril Smith should cooperate fully with any and all enquiries. It may well be that some knew more than just rumours and have questions to answer about what they did with that knowledge. If so, that should all be properly investigated and made public. The Mail’s focus on Nick Clegg is an unjust distraction.
And as for issuing tributes of public figures when they die — well, Nick Clegg is by no means alone. Here’s the Daily Mail’s eulogistic coverage of Jimmy Savile’s death on 31 October 2010…
Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.
Posted April 16, 2014
PHE is encouraging those who receive their ‘at home’ bowel cancer screening kits to fill them out and return them.
Public Health England (PHE) is today (16 April 2014) supporting the charity, Beating Bowel Cancer’s ‘Lift the Lid’ day. This 1-day event aims to reduce the stigma around bowel cancer. The charity wants to start a national conversation about bowel cancer, and will be encouraging as many people as possible to open up and talk about the disease with family, friends, workmates or neighbours.
April is also Bowel Cancer Awareness month, and PHE is leading the way in reminding men and women, between the ages of 60 to 74, to complete their bowel cancer screening home test kits and return them.
As part of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, managed by PHE, men and women in England, who are registered with a GP, will receive a faecal occult blood (FOB) test through the post from the age of 60. They will then receive a kit every 2 years until their 75th birthday.
The importance of completing the FOB home test kit is highlighted by Maureen Williams from London, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer through the screening programme. Maureen said:
“I hadn’t had a single symptom, so when the screening test came through the door I never thought it would show anything. But we do smear tests and mammograms, so what’s the difference? Anything that’s free and can keep you healthy is worth doing.
“It turned out I did have bowel cancer, which was totally unexpected. But because it was found early when it was stage 1, I had an operation but didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It’s more than 5 years since the operation and I’ve had no problems since.”
Raising the awareness of bowel cancer screening through campaigns is fully endorsed by PHE.
Professor Julietta Patnick, Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes said:
“We are pleased to support Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and the ’Lift the Lid’ campaign, and to highlight the importance of bowel cancer screening.
“The risk of bowel cancer increases with age, with over 80% of bowel cancers arising in people who are 60 or over. That is why bowel cancer screening is so crucial, as it can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms, when treatment is likely to be more effective.
“Therefore, we recommend that people aged 60 to 74 return their bowel screening test kit when invited to do so and attend our new bowel scope programme when invited.”
Developments in bowel cancer screening include recently released figures from PHE, which show that nearly 37% of bowel scope screening centres in England are operational, clearly exceeding the 30% roll out target, set by the Department of Health.
Bowel scope screening, also known as flexible sigmoidoscopy, is a one-off test offered to men and women at the age of 55. This type of screening examines the lower part of the bowel – the part where most bowel cancers are found. The aim is to find any small growths, called polyps, which may develop into bowel cancer if left untreated.
Bowel scope screening will play a significant role in preventing bowel cancer, and is a complementary screening procedure to the current FOB home test kit.
Also this month (April), PHE has begun piloting the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), which can quantify the amount of blood found in a stool sample. It has a number of potential advantages over the current FOB test as it might be more accurate and more acceptable to use.
In addition, Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing for PHE, has a regular blog on the Huffington Post, which this month (April), focuses on bowel cancer.
Posted April 16, 2014
New figures show the rate of unemployment has fallen below 7% for the first time since the recession. The number of people out of work dropped by 77,000 in the last three months, while total employment has seen the biggest annual jump in a generation.
There are now more people in work than ever before, with nearly 0.7 million more people in employment since this time last year, showing that the Lib Dem plan to create a million jobs is working.
There’s also good news on salaries, with wages rising an average of 1.7% since last year, while inflation has dropped to 1.6%. Coupled with the Lib Dem £700 tax cut, which was delivered last month, this means that working people get to keep more of their take home pay, helping to ease the squeeze on family budgets.
Commenting on these figures, Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury said:
“These figures are some of the strongest evidence yet that we are embedding the recovery. We have record numbers in work and unemployment falling at the fastest rate in over a decade. With earnings now rising in line with prices and employment rising, these figures reinforce the fact that the only way to higher living standards is to take the difficult decisions needed to deliver our long term economic plan.
There is still a great deal more to do, but today’s announcement is solid progress on building the stronger economy in a fairer society that Liberal Democrats entered coalition to deliver.”
Posted April 16, 2014
Nearly 500 new carriages will be delivered to boost passenger services between London and Scotland.
The transformation of rail travel on the key intercity route between London and Scotland has taken a major step forward after Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin confirmed today (16 April 2014) that funding had been secured to build a new fleet of state-of-the-art trains.
Under the new £2.7 billion contract, nearly 500 new carriages will be manufactured at Hitachi Rail Europe’s purpose-built factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, in a deal that will create hundreds of local jobs.
The Class 800 trains will start running on the East Coast Main Line from 2018 as part of the government’s £5.7 billion Intercity Express Programme (IEP). The new trains will provide significant benefits to passengers, with 19% more seats on each train, reduced journey times between London, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh by up to 15 minutes, and improved reliability.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
“We are building a world class rail system and the Intercity Express Programme is a key part of that.
“These new trains will transform rail travel between many of the great towns and cities of England and Scotland. This deal is further proof that our long-term economic plans are on track, creating jobs and breathing new life into the UK’s train-building industry.
“The Intercity Express Programme will see a total of 866 carriages manufactured at Newton Aycliffe for use on the East Coast and Great Western Main Lines, creating 730 jobs locally.”
In addition to the 497 carriages confirmed today (16 April 2014) for the east coast, a further 369 carriages will start to run on the Great Western from 2017. Funding for these carriages was agreed in 2012.
The contract to deliver the carriages has been agreed with Agility Trains, a consortium of Hitachi Rail Europe and John Laing. As well as building the new manufacturing facility at Newton Aycliffe, Hitachi will construct maintenance depots at sites including Bristol and Doncaster, and is refurbishing and upgrading depots across the Great Western and East Coast Main Lines.
Hitachi recently announced its plans to move its global rail headquarters to the UK, further underlining the confidence in the UK economy and rail market.
Alistair Dormer, Hitachi Rail Global CEO of Hitachi Ltd, said:
“This is an important milestone in the delivery of Class 800 series trains for the East Coast Main Line. Hitachi Rail has been working closely with the Department for Transport, train operators and passenger groups to design the new trains. We are delighted that the success of the programme to date has attracted interest by world-class financiers and we look forward to building these trains in our new manufacturing plant in County Durham.”
Posted April 16, 2014
Latest report from PHE’s National Cancer Intelligence Network.
Incidence of kidney cancer, the eighth most common cancer in England, have risen over 2 decades although survival rates have improved, a new report by Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) reveals today (16 April 2014).
The report examines trends in survival of kidney cancer in England over 20 years (1990 to 2010) and found that people diagnosed with the main type of kidney cancer, Renal Cell Carcinoma, have seen an overall improvement in survival. However, for around 10% of patients diagnosed with rarer types of kidney cancer such as Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC), there has been no significant change. This could be because TCC is less likely to be detected early via medical imaging, but also because of less advances in developing successful treatments.
Professor Julia Verne, Strategic Lead at Public Health England’s NCIN, said:
“This report shows that both 1 and 5-year relative survival rates from kidney cancer have improved and steadily increased since 1990, with no significant difference noted between genders. During this period, 1-year survival improved from 58% to 72% in males and 54% to 71% in females, an increase of 14% and 17% respectively. At 5-years, the survival rate improved from 39% to 55% in males and from 37% to 55% in females.
“This knowledge will help us continue to build on this great work with NHS England and our local partners to find ways to further these positive outcomes through earlier diagnosis and treatment services.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said:
“It’s extremely promising to see these improvements in survival, but we want to do better. Our Be Clear on Cancer campaign, focussed on kidney and bladder cancer, launched nationally last year to raise awareness of the symptoms, which is crucial to early detection, treatment and will impact on survival.
“Receiving an early diagnosis increases the chance of survival for the 16,600 people who are diagnosed with bladder or kidney cancer every year in England. Our Be Clear on Cancer message is clear – as soon as you spot blood in your pee, visit the GP. It’s probably nothing serious but it could also be a sign of something else that needs treatment, so don’t ignore the symptoms or put off a trip to the doctor.”
Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England said:
“This is very encouraging news and reflects continued improvements in speed of diagnosis and treatment of patients with kidney cancer. More accurate medical imaging means cancers are being picked up earlier than ever before and alongside improved treatment, this is meaning better outcomes for patients. We aren’t complacent though and we need to continue to work hard to reduce regional variations in treatment quality and improve outcomes for patients with rarer types of kidney cancer.”
Posted April 16, 2014
Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber Rebecca Taylor, has successfully pushed through measures that will lead to better transparency for large companies.
The European Parliament adopted rules that will require around 6000 large companies across Europe to report on the environmental and social impact their activities have.
Liberal Democrat MEP Rebecca Taylor who led negotiations for the Liberal group on the proposal, said,
“This vote is a unique opportunity when it comes to improving the accountability and transparency of large businesses in Europe, and I am pleased to have played a part in making it a reality”
“For those companies who already report on their impact on society, non-financial reporting has proven to contribute greatly to their long term success”
“However, this is only a start, and even though the final text is not as ambitious as I had hoped, I firmly believe that it will help investors and consumers better assess large businesses, which can affect their long term success”.
Posted April 15, 2014
The UK government has today (15 April 2014) welcomed measures from the European Parliament which look to improve the transparency of companies’ non-financial reporting.
As a result, businesses’ annual reports will need to include information on environmental, social and employee matters and any issues relating to human rights and bribery. These disclosures are crucial for investors and of interest to customers as they help explain a company’s developments in the past financial year and its strategy for the future.
The new framework, which amends the new Accounting Directive, will affect all large public companies, of which there are about 500 in the UK.
“The UK already has a world-class corporate governance structure. However, I welcome any efforts to improve transparency in the way companies are managed and controlled.
“It’s really important that these measures cover the whole EU and I believe that they strike the right balance between ensuring companies report useful information whilst avoiding imposing unnecessary burdens on businesses. This is a real step forward.”
The proposals will amend the recently agreed Accounting Directive that already requires all companies (private and listed) to include some environmental and employee related non-financial information in annual reports.
They will now need to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers. Following this the UK will aim to bring these into force by 2016.
Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors, said:
“This new legislation could be the start of a brave new world for corporate transparency. This legislation should hugely increase the amount of information available to investors and the general public on how sustainable a company’s operations are. Well run companies will want to avoid the embarrassment of having to explain why they have failed to deliver the data. This information is absolutely crucial for long term investors as many of the new factors to be reported upon are key to whether a company is successful in the long run.”
Teresa Fogelberg, Deputy Chief Executive, Global Reporting Initiative, said:
“This directive is the vital catalyst needed to usher in a new era of transparency in the largest economic region in the world. This is a truly historic moment and I am confident that this is just the beginning of a new era for transparency and sustainable and inclusive growth in the EU. The Global Reporting Initiative is committed to continue supporting the European institutions, the Member States and companies in this endeavour.”
Posted April 15, 2014
The European Parliament has approved new rules to make big lorries safer for other road users and more fuel-efficient.
Under changes pushed by Liberal Democrat MEPs, the design of lorry cabs are set to be changed to reduce the number of blind spots under the front widescreen and the side of the vehicle. The new designs would also include safer cab fronts to reduce damage caused by impacts with cyclists and pedestrians. It is thought the proposal could help prevent dozens of fatal accidents each year.
Liberal Democrat MEPs have met with a number of safety campaigners in Brussels and the UK over the past few years to discuss rules to improve lorry safety. Campaigners have included Olympic gold-medal winning cyclist Chris Boardman, See Me Save Me Campaign’s Kate Cairns, and Nazan Fennell from the ‘Live in Hope’ campaign.
Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion commented:
“Today’s vote is a victory for all the campaigners in the UK who have worked so hard to bring about these life-saving changes to lorry design.
This shows that when individuals engage with MEPs and the EU they can affect the outcome and bring about positive change.
With today’s strong backing from the European Parliament I am confident that we can push these reforms through in negotiations with national governments later this year.”
Posted April 15, 2014
Nick Clegg has called for the publication of the Chilcot report into the Iraq war, which identifies exactly what happened in the run-up to the conflict in Iraq.
The Chilcot report includes about 200 cabinet-level discussions, 25 notes from Tony Blair to George W Bush and more than 130 records of conversations between the former US president and Tony Blair.
The progress of the report began in 2009 and has cost millions of pounds so far. However, it is not clear why there is a delay in the process and Nick believes that some of those in line for scrutiny are holding up the process. He followed on to say that those who might be criticised must accept that this will happen considering that it was “one of the most momentous, one of the most catastrophic decisions in British foreign policy”.
“I’m sure Chilcot himself would like to get on with it as quickly as possible, I can’t comment on exactly the reasons why, given there’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about what is finally produced in published form in the report.
“Exactly what the holdup now is – this involved a lot of people, a lot of legalities and, of course, is a very, very sensitive issue.
“But I really do think now, everybody involved – including those who know they will be subject to renewed scrutiny from the Chilcot report – they all now accept that it is time that the report was published so the record can be scrutinised in the most objective way possible.”
Posted April 15, 2014
Children’s craft activities over Easter holidays.
Children are invited to get crafty over Easter at the Discovery Centre, Cleethorpes and Fishing Heritage Centre, Grimsby.
For only £1 the North East Lincolnshire Council venues are hosting workshops for all children at 10am, 11am, and 2pm.
At Cleethorpes Discovery Centre make an Easter basket and decorate an Easter egg magnet on Wednesday, April 16, Saturday, April 19 and Sunday, April 20.
The same activities take place at the Fishing Heritage Centre, Grimsby on Thursday, April 17, Saturday, April 19 and Sunday, April 20.
Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times and booking is essential Call (01472) 323574.