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How green is Blair’s ally?

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Issue 1722

inside the system

How green is Blair’s ally?

TONY BLAIR outlined his green credentials, just before the worst flooding the country had seen in 50 years, on the platform of the Green Alliance. Blair spoke about the need for partnership with business to tackle global warming.

He could not have chosen a better forum for that message. Firms can become corporate members of the Green Alliance for just 2,500 (plus VAT) while individuals can join through invite only.

Membership gets companies “invitations to two exclusive dinners a year, featuring discussions with cabinet ministers, high level civil servants and senior environmentalists”.

Firms that have taken up this offer include:

  • Thames Water-top of the Environment Agency’s “hall of shame” as England’s most fined firm.
  • Oil giants Shell, Amerada Hess and BP.
  • Glaxo Wellcome, which is heavily involved in developing GM foods.
  • National Power, the electricity generator.
  • Rio Tinto-the company notorious for pollution and poor safety standards, particularly in the Third World countries.

  • OIL company BP plans to cut its safety standards in the North Sea just as it has announced record profits.

Under “Project Jigsaw” BP will cut 17 platform standby boats, which carry out evacuations from oil rigs.

It plans instead to have six Super Puma helicopters, which are not capable of getting everyone to safety in an emergency.

The Emergency Response and Rescue Association has condemned the plan, which could make massive loss of life, as happened in the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster in 1988, more likely.

Den of inquiry

LORD PHILLIPS, who headed the BSE inquiry, would be better known as Lord Whitewash. The BSE report was not the first time he has let the powerful off the hook. He reported in 1982 on the collision of the roll-on roll-off ferries European Gateway and Speedlink Vanguard.

The Gateway sank in minutes and six people were killed. Despite warnings that another disaster was likely again unless there were design changes, Phillips did not make recommendations to tackle these risks.

The result was that the ferry Herald of Free Enterprise sank in 1987 killing 200 people.

Still on the broken track

RAILTRACK boss Gerald Corbett won applause from politicians for offering to resign after the Hatfield crash. That offer was not taken up, but further revelations have emerged since of how Railtrack has slashed safety since privatisation.

Corbett had to admit to MPs at a parliamentary committee last week that the decision to stop “grinding” the track between 1994 and 1996 could have contributed to the Hatfield crash.

There were other safety breaches too. Untrained workers were allowed to carry out maintenance on the railways. Visual checks on the track were cut back. They also took place from moving trains and at night.

Railtrack pressurised managers to issue safety certificates even though they were unhappy with standards. Private maintenance contractors working in partnership with Railtrack recruited staff out of the pub to fill gaps in the night shift.

London stitch-up (again)

NEW LABOUR is trying another stitch-up.

This time it’s the selection of the chair of the Greater London Labour Party. The London regional secretary of the Labour Party, David Wilkinson, is backing Blair-supporting Chris Robbins against UNISON union official Geoff Martin Geoff Martin backed Ken Livingstone against Frank Dobson for Labour’s candidate for mayor.

Labour Party rules state regional secretaries should be neutral in internal elections.

Interest for the principals

CASH-STRAPPED universities want to charge students top-up fees in addition to tuition fees of 1,000.

At the same time unaccountable university governors and chancellors have been exposed for paying lucrative golden goodbyes. Huddersfield University governors offered a 400,000 payout to their retiring vice-chancellor.

The secret payment was revealed and cut down to 150,000 by the Higher Education Funding Council.

Governors at Portsmouth paid 52,500 to vice-chancellor Neil Merrit after a vote of no confidence by staff and a reprimand for expense claims. Governing bodies are often made up of local business people who know little about education or the public sector.

  • IT IS a crime to be homeless and try to “lie down or sleep” under new by-laws planned by Westminster council.

The by-laws will be imposed on rough sleepers in subways connecting Charing Cross underground and train stations. Homeless people face arrest for “depositing materials that can be used as bedding”.


“BEGGARS ARE an eyesore that must be swept from the streets.”

  • JOHN MAJOR, Tory prime minister, June 1994

“GIVING to individual beggars can often be destructive.”

  • MO MOWLAM, Cabinet Office minister, November 2000

“OVERALL this has been a listening government for business.”

  • DIGBY JONES, director general of the bosses’ Confederation of British Industry

“I CAN understand why people might feel they are now living in a ‘banana republic’.”


“I DON’T give a monkey’s toss for teachers.”

  • Past comment by MIKE TOMLINSON, who replaced Chris Woodhead as head of Ofsted last week

“WE NEED to understand what profits are for, that companies have a duty to make profits.”

  • GREG DYKE, director general of the BBC

“AT FELTHAM you have 40 or 50 children who are simply learning the ropes of crime. Far from reducing the chances of people becoming victims of crime, a place like Feltham increases them.”

  • FRANCES COOK, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, on Feltham young offenders’ prison

“THERE IS a strong argument for knocking Feltham down. We would be shocked if we found the same conditions that exist in Feltham in a Romanian jail, but somehow it is acceptable in south London.”

  • RICHARD GARSIDE of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders

“Gore or Bush, what’s your choice? Influenza or pneumonia, what’s your choice?”

  • Studs Terkel, writer

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