Socialist Worker

Prison cover up

Issue No. 1720

Inside the system

Prison cover up

THE HEAD of the Prison Service has been accused by a parliamentary committee of not telling the truth about a huge raid on a "model" jail. The chief inspector of prisons, Sir David Ramsbottom, has also suggested the raid was part of plan to clamp down on "liberal" prison regimes.

Back in May dozens of prison officers kitted out in riot gear smashed their way into Blantyre House jail in Kent, which operates a "liberal" regime. Thousands of pounds worth of damage was done when they smashed open the doors. Martin Narey, head of the Prison Service, told a parliamentary committee of the drugs problem and claimed that a "quite frightening amount of contraband material" was found during the raid. Now it seems that was not true.

An official report found "all 118 prisoners at the jail were tested for drugs and all were negative". Even Tory MP Gerald Howarth told Narey, "Don't please misrepresent to the public that somehow this raid divulged a substantial quantity of controlled drugs. It didn't."

BACK in June New Labour's Lord Harris of Haringey hit the headlines for having submitted a claim for 15,082 for taxi fares as a coucillor in north London's Haringey. The council cllearly has a good sense of humour. It has just appointed Harris to sit on its new "Standards Committee", whose jobs is to monitor councillors' expenses. "He is not guilty of any misdemeanour," said a Haringey council spokesman about Harris. True, and very reassuring.

Infected by poverty

MILLIONS OF people in the world's poorest countries will unnecessarily die horrible deaths from liver disease because they can't afford clean needles. The warning came from World Health Organisation officials meeting in Cairo. Officials heard that 20 million people a year in the Far East, South Asia, Africa and parts of Eastern Europe are infected with the hepatitis virus each year.

The single biggest reason is the use of dirty needles in hospitals and health centres. Hepatitis causes liver disease, with around one in five of those infected eventually dying of the disease. Dirty needles also lead to 150,000 cases of HIV infection worldwide.

The answer is simple and cheap-ensure all hospitals have sufficient clean needles. But the International Monetary Fund's new-style "poverty reduction programmes" demand privatisation of health, forcing the poorest to pay for healthcare.

God's cuts

WE THOUGHT we had heard every excuse from bosses for sacking people. Not quite. Workers at the Cathy Ann Fashions factory in Woodstock, South Africa, were stunned to be told they were being sacked on orders from...god!

Factory boss Kevin Atkins walked into the plant last Friday with a Bible under his arm and told the 89 workers, "God has told me to close the factory". The stunned workers turned up for work on the following Monday but found that Atkins had not been joking.

It seems god also had an eye to asset stripping. All the doors were locked and the machines had been spirited away over the weekend. Furious unpaid workers are demanding government action. "I'm a single mother with four children to feed," said one of the workers, Rowydi Facolyn. "We don't have any food now because I didn't get paid."

Priceless NUS deal

THE NATIONAL Union of Students (NUS) leadership may be embarrassed by their latest commercial wheeze. They have struck a deal with ITM Communications, which is supposed to give students free e-mail and website creation facilities. To publicise the deal thousands of official T-shirts are being distributed to students across Britain.

The ITM slogan emblazoned on them is, "Time to sit down and be counted." The shirts have proved especially popular among students building for next month's national demonstration against tuition fees. But not with NUS leaders, who are desperate to prevent a repeat of last year's sit down on London's Waterloo Bridge on a demo.

Fight of madness

SCOTAIRWAYS airline refused to carry disabled passenger Bert Massie because he uses a wheelchair. The airline is financed by super-rich bigot Brian Souter. The passenger Scotairways left stranded is chair of the Disability Rights Commission.

Massie booked a flight from London's City Airport to Edinburgh. He indicated he used a wheelchair and would need assistance. But when he turned up he was told he could not board the flight as Scotairways policy is not to accept wheelchair users. "It's outrageous," said Massie.

AFTER New Labour, the French Communist Party has come up with its version, "New Communism". The party is in the coalition government in France and runs dozens of local councils. The party's Paris headquarters of "New Communism" were rented out for a fashion show to designers Prada for 30,000.

SCROOGE bosses of a South Wales factory cancelled the traditional pensioners' party for former workers. "It has been decided that this expenditure cannot be met," says hard-nosed boss Steve Berry of Neath's Metal Box factory.

Things they say

"AS A company we have been concerned about figures rather than safety for too long."

  • CORBETT, Railtrack boss, tries grovelling last week

"RAILTRACK has received a massive bail out. It is in such a mess that there is no alternative to simply taking the pressure off."

  • WYN ELLIS, city analyst for Commerzbank

"IT WOULD be the simplest thing in the world for Labour to blame privatisation for Southall, Paddington and Hatfield, but it shows not the slightest desire to do so for fear that it might then come under pressure to reassert state control over the railways."

  • LARRY ELLIOTT, Guardian journalist

"SIR Michael wants to be an authentic voice on the debate on agricultural production and Third World informal voice."

  • SPOKESMAN for SIR MICHAEL ASHCROFT, the billionaire Tory party treasurer

"We want to promote families in America. Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."

  • GEORGE W BUSH, Republican candidate for US president, at a "victory" rally in Wisconsin

"IF IT was up to me, we'd take these three guys into the basement and shoot them."

  • MICHAEL McMAHON, appeal board member in DuPage county in the US, after three innocent men framed for murder won $3.5 million damages

"I DON'T believe in anti-capitalism. Democracy is built on inequality and I'd rather be in a democracy than a fat cat communist regime."

  • JASON DONOVAN, the actor/singer, shows a shaky grasp of global protests

"I'M ON strike!"

  • HALLIE KATE EISENBERG, eight year old star of US Pepsi adverts, when asked if she will be making more commercials

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Article information

Sat 28 Oct 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1720
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