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Friday 10 February 2012
Letters: Time to end the Big Six energy fix
There is growing public concern about the behaviour of domestic energy suppliers. We believe it is time to end the big six energy fix.
In recent months energy companies have once again been exposed for overcharging customers and making excessive profits at the expense of ordinary people. Energy is an essential human need – we all require affordable energy to light and heat our homes. Yet for many energy is increasingly unaffordable.
For the first half of 2011 the big six energy companies made almost £3.5bn in profit. At the same time Ofgem revealed in October 2011 that the big six energy companies had increased their profit margins for dual-fuel deals by a staggering 733 per cent from £15 to £125 per household.
Indeed the average annual household bill for gas and electric has risen from approximately £500 in 2006, to over £1,200 in 2011, while USwitch has predicted that by 2020 this could rise to a massive £3,202. It is estimated that at least 5.5 million households are living in fuel poverty.
We believe now is the time for the Government to respond by imposing a levy on the big six energy companies similar to that imposed on the North Sea oil companies. Much of the money raised should be used to provide additional investment for home energy efficiency measures – starting with the households of the fuel poor. Such a Green New Deal would have the benefit of providing jobs for thousands currently out of work.
To prevent the companies passing the cost of any levy on to customers, we further call on the Government to provide the regulator with new powers to cap prices.
Finally we call for an independent public inquiry into the big six energy companies so that Ofgem, the Government and the public know what measures are needed to have a market that serves people before its serves profit.
Gavin Hayes, Compass
Dr Caroline Lucas MP
Dr Jon Cruddas MP
Rt Hon David Blunkett MP
Mike Hancock MP
Mark Lancaster MP
Rt Hon Elfyn Llwyd MP
Baroness Ruth Lister
The Most Rev Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales
Professor Rick van der Ploeg, University of Oxford
Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth
Chris Johnes, Oxfam
David Babbs, 38 Degrees
Christine Blower, National Union of Teachers
Billy Hayes, Communication Workers' Union
John Hilary, War on Want
Niall Cooper, Church Action on Poverty
David Rodger, Debt Advice Foundation
The abolition of the NHS
I wish your paper would stop referring to the Health and Social Care Bill as proposing NHS reforms. What the Bill proposes is the abolition of the NHS and its replacement by a system of competing businesses operated by commercial undertakings.
The defining characteristic of the NHS as we have known it for more than 60 years has been that it is a collaborative enterprise which dedicates the medical, nursing and allied professions to the pursuit of the national health, as an important contributor to the national economy and as an element of the national system of social justice.
This is why the Bill is opposed by the majority of doctors, nurses and others who see the NHS as the most appropriate vehicle in which to pursue the aspirations which led them to choose their particular vocations.
Andrew Lansley appears to have become a soft target for all the organisations with axes to grind about the NHS, despite the fact that the proposed reforms on both commissioning and the market are far from new.
Commissioning by GP-led consortia happened as long ago as 1999, with the advent of primary care groups. Sadly it has been the unwillingness of leaders of successive health authorities and primary care trusts to "let go" which has led to the need for primary legislation. Matters have not been helped during the passage of the Bill by the supporter GPs not putting their heads above the parapet often enough with practical examples of how GP commissioning can improve patient care.
Similarly the proposed market reforms are a more structured and value-for-money approach to the changes introduced in haste by the last government. The latter included independent treatment centres that were guaranteed payment irrespective of the number of the surgical procedures carried out.
The terminology of Lansley's NHS is a PR disaster and says it all – GP consortia, Clinical Senates, Health and Wellbeing Boards, Clinical Commissioning Groups. All this reeks of surgical spirit and bespeaks a cold professional aloofness from patients and local communities.
Given that Cameron is a PR man, he might have suggested that "patient" or "community" should have featured somewhere in the terminology of this labyrinthine marketised NHS. Perhaps Lansley's successor will cut the Gordian knot by performing some emergency surgery with one blow of the scalpel on this rapidly expiring patient.
How about merging all the proposed local health bodies into unitary health authorities headed by elected Health and Wellbeing Commissioners acting as advocates for patients and carers? Then name them NHS Community Wellbeing and Healthcare Trusts, with overarching responsibility for primary, hospital and social care? That might at least put a positive spin on the worst government PR disaster since the poll tax.
Redknapp: now for the tough bit
They say you should be careful what you wish for. The day is about to arrive when Harry Redknapp will pick up the poisoned chalice that is the England football team manager's job.
I wish him well. But it's only fair to warn him that his recent discomfort during his court case will be but a cheese and wine soirée compared with what he can expect as the honeymoon period reaches its inevitable end.
Yet let's get two things straight. First, Fabio Capello has the highest win ratio of any England manager ever. Second, if you placed the football management CVs of Capello and Redknapp side by side it would be akin to placing a Ferrari next to a caravan.
But no matter, the foreign experiment is at an end, for now; we are already more comfortable with the prospect of another failure but this time with a native tongue.
Fabio Capello was right to resign over John Terry and the FA wrong to strip him of the England captaincy. Terry has, like anyone else, a fundamental human right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty of any offence.
Furthermore, the FA were, again, wrong not to involve Capello, the England coach, in their deliberations regarding Terry's future. Another example of the ineptitude of the FA. Capello is to be congratulated on the principled stance he has taken in this unfortunate matter.
Professor Ian Blackshaw
International Sports Law Centre
The Hague, The Netherlands
Fabio Capello cannot achieve success with the English football squad. The European Championship is looming, where failure is imminent. After this impending disaster, his stock as an employable manager would be seriously in question. So what are his options? The get out of jail free card was presented by the English FA suspending John Terry from the captaincy. Capello resigns on a point of principal, head held high, employability stock retained.
Indians still need your help
The sound and fury in Britain over their aid budget to India has been audible even here in India. While it is understandable that people in a country that is experiencing drastic cuts across a range of public services are asking why Britain gives aid to a country whose economy is "booming", the India depicted in much of the British coverage is not one that I recognise. While India has seen economic growth, this growth has yet to transform the lives of most Indians.
There may be billionaires in India but most of the population still live in poverty and the country has the highest malnutrition and child mortality in the world. Almost two million children a year die before their fifth birthday.
While ultimately India must take responsibility for its own problems, British aid to India has nevertheless been crucial in transforming lives, helping to reduce poverty and increasing access to education, food and medical care. Aid also supports civil society groups, which in turn spread awareness and help put pressure on the Indian government to spend more of its budget on the groups who are most in need.
As India becomes wealthier, its need for aid will reduce. In the meantime aid provides a lifeline for millions of the poorest and most vulnerable across the country.
Shireen Vakil Miller
Director, Advocacy and Policy, Save the Children, New Delhi
Dickens not for children
Ambitious though I am for children's reading, I certainly don't think they should all have read Great Expectations by the time they leave primary school (report, 6 February).
C S Lewis, J K Rowling, of course, but Dickens can wait until their teen years.
Department for Education
Unfair to bankers
There are people who are obscenely rich because they are given huge sums of money or huge quantities of shares. Then there are people who are obscenely rich because they already own huge sums of money or huge quantities of shares. The latter group may have done nothing whatever to earn their wealth, indeed they may have been born that way.
It is interesting that the current public debate is concentrated so exclusively on the first group.
Your correspondents are right to want cheaper software, but should be more aware of the history of Microsoft when advocating alternatives. Windows provides a consistent standard operating system which Microsoft maintains. It doesn't really matter which operating system is "best", what matters is that it is adequate and that software writers can rely on the features it offers.
No yurts, please
Mongolians do not live in yurts (Winter Camping, 8 February), they live in gers and get most indignant if their ger is referred to as a yurt. This was made very clear to me when visiting Mongolia last summer to stay with the nomad people.
Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria
It seems to me that "It seems to me" should be banned: I think "I think" would be shorter.
To ban "brilliant", "fantastic" and "awesome" would be literally incredible.
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