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March 10 - 16 2010
μWorld News PAGES 14-17
μComment PAGES 18-21
μObituaries PAGES 22-23
μExpat Life PAGES 29-32
Rose Gray The co-founder of the famous River Café has died aged 71
Burton and Taylor for hacks Vicki Woods on the literary spat that has London gawking
EXPAT LIFE P29
Astounding Ife Richard Dorment is stunned by sculptures from ancient Nigeria
Financial guide to Australia The first in our new series of reports on becoming an expat
27 18 32 35 44 47 6 13 27 28 34 42
Bonus Ball 23
Bonus Ball 43
There were four winners of Saturday’s £7.3m jackpot but no one won Wednesday’s £2.7m prize
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By Robert Winnett, Holly Watt and Christopher Hope PLANS that could lead to the closure of hundreds of hospital wards are being drawn up, but will not be made public until after the general election, opposition parties said last Friday.
Last year, the Government asked NHS authorities to come up with proposals to reorganise the service to save money as a result of the recession. Details have started to emerge of what is likely to be a rolling programme of cuts, which contrasts sharply with assurances from Labour and the Tories that the NHS was “safe”.
So far, only the plans for London have come to light. Campaigners claimed the proposals threatened services such as casualty and maternity units at 13 out of 36 hospitals in the capital.
The failure of health authorities in other areas to disclose their response has prompted allegations that proposed closures, which could be politically damaging to the Government, will not be published until after polling day.
The scale of the cuts has caused a rebellion among Labour ministers, who have openly defied the Government by publicly protesting at closures at their local hospitals.
This week, health ministers will come under pressure from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to disclose the scale of the plans, with the Tories calling an emergency debate on the issue.
Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrats’ shadow health spokesman, said the scale of the cuts to hospitals was likely to be “vast”, with potentially “hundreds” of wards closing.
The cutbacks are partly as a result of Lord Darzi’s 2008 review of the NHS, which recommended more community-based treatment in large GP centres and bigger, specialist treatment centres in hospitals.
Authorities were asked by the Department of Health to draw up plans to implement Lord Darzi’s review. But last year they were told to reconsider their proposals, after the recession.
Opposition parties have claimed that health authorities were considering closing or merging key hospital departments, many of which have received millions of pounds in investment in recent years.
The NHS is coming under pressure to find other savings, despite government claims that the health service would be protected from widespread public spending cuts.
In the forthcoming Budget, Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, is expected to announce that the NHS will have to find savings of up to £10 billion a year. Liam Byrne, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said last month that hospital buildings were likely to be mothballed as services were moved to communitybased health centres.
Dr John Lister, the author of the British Medical Association’s recent report on the plans, described the scale of the cuts being proposed as “a disaster”.
Threatened hospital closures are likely to become one of the key election issues.
Continued from Page 1 curtail their activities during an election campaign, a period known as “purdah”. But there is no precedent for journalists being excluded from the battlefront for such a long period during such operations.
The prohibition on public speeches by senior officers is likely to be seen as a response to the increasingly outspoken military chiefs.
Since 2006, when Gen Sir Richard Dannatt was head of the Army, senior personnel have openly pointed out the tension between the expectations of the Armed Forces and the resources provided. Mr Gurr says allowing journalists to report from the front line during the election “could call into question [the Armed Forces’] political impartiality or give rise to the criticism that public resources are being used for party political purposes”.
The order has led to accusations that the Government wants to hide the true picture.
Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said that he was planning to table an emergency question in the Commons demanding an explanation.
“Given the recent visit of the Prime Minister, this is a bad joke,” he said. “There is clearly one rule for Gordon Brown, when he wants to use the Armed Forces as political props, and another for reporters who want to tell the public what is being done in their name.
“It’s a truth blackout. Nothing, especially the truth, is to stand in the way in
Brown’s election. This is the grotesque endgame of New Labour. They want to bury bad news and bury the truth.”
Cdr John Muxworthy, the chief executive of the UK National Defence Association, claimed that Afghanistan was not a political issue.
“It’s a matter of national importance,” he said.
Col Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said: “It is wrong to gag the media. The public has a right to be told what is happening.” Mr Brown has received considerable criticism for the way he funded the Armed Forces during his time as chancellor.
Former chiefs directly contradicted the Prime Minister’s claim at the Chilcot inquiry that the Forces had been given everything they asked for. Mr Gurr’s memo, entitled Purdah – Key Principles for Defence Communicators, details steps the MoD is taking to minimise the chance of embarrassing disclosures. An MoD spokesman said: “During the period between an election being called and taking place, communications activity across government is considerably constrained by the need to be fair to all political parties.
“The MoD recognises that it is vital to continue to tell the public about the efforts and achievements of our forces in Afghanistan during this period and has agreed principles with the Cabinet Office that allow this.”
Report and comment, page 5
VOTERS in Iceland have defied their parliament and international pressure by resoundingly rejecting a £3.5billion plan to repay Britain and the Netherlands for debts spawned by the collapse of an Icelandic bank.
More than 93 per cent of voters said “no” in last Saturday’s ballot, while only 1.8 per cent voted “yes”.
Britain and the Netherlands want to be reimbursed for money they paid their citizens with deposits in Icesave, an Internet bank that collapsed in 2008 along with most of Iceland’s banking sector.
The overwhelming margin reflects Icelanders’ simmering anger at bankers and politicians as the island nation struggles to recover from financial meltdown. Some Icelanders set off fireworks in the capital, Reykjavik, as the referendum results were announced.
President Olafur R. Grimsson, who sparked the referendum by refusing to sign the repayment deal agreed by Iceland’s parliament, said Icelanders resented having to pay for the actions of a few “greedy bankers”.
He said, however, that the British and Dutch would get their money back eventually. The two countries have already offered Iceland more favourable repayment terms than the deal voted on last Saturday.
The new left-of-centre government has been trying to negotiate a plan to repay £2.3 billion to Britain and £1.2 billion to the Netherlands as compensation for funds that their governments paid to around 340,000 of their citizens who had accounts with Icesave, an Icelandic Internet bank that offered high interest rates before it failed along with its parent, Landsbanki.
Last-minute talks broke down last week, despite the creditor countries saying they had offered better terms for a new deal, including a significant cut on the 5.5 per cent interest rate in the original deal.
Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, struck a conciliatory note on Sunday. “You couldn’t just go to a small country like Iceland with a population the size of Wolverhampton and say, ‘Look, repay all that money immediately’,” he told the BBC.
“So we’ve tried to be reasonable. The fundamental point for us is that we get our money back.”
Expat Life, page 30