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See previous letters to the editor. If you would like to contact Yorkshire Bylines, email editor@yorkshirebylines.co.uk

The government is mismanaging our public finances

1 March 2021

Dear editor,

On the award of pandemic-related contracts, I’m troubled by how the government breaches the law so blatantly. I raised this with Kevin Hollinrake MP at a constituents’ meeting recently. He believed the government had not acted unlawfully. That same day the High Court ruled that government was guilty of not meeting its legal obligations, by delaying to publish the details of contracts within a certain timeframe. The reason why such rules are in place is to prevent corruption. Government has racked up over £200,000 in legal costs failing to defend its actions.

The government’s now facing another legal challenge bought by theGood Law Project and EveryDoctor over the award of huge PPE contracts to questionable firms with no previous experience in the production of medical equipment. Government threatened to spend £1 million on legal costs defending its actions. The court has now put a cap of £250,000 on this spend at the request of the Good Law Project which will allow them to pursue a legal battle to hold the government to account.

What is most disturbing, other than the poor planning and lack of transparency and accountability being demonstrated by this government, is that it is using the public purse to cover the legal costs to defend its bad decisions. Mr Hollinrake said the taxpayer will have to meet the costs of the pandemic. Yes, but public money should be spent wisely on society’s basic needs, and not on the legal expenses of a government which seems bent on cover-ups and cronyism. Besides, given that our current regressive and unfair system of taxation already causes inequality, repaying the costs of the pandemic might be felt more acutely and disproportionately by some more than others, so we should be paying close attention as to how the government is mismanaging our public finances.

Yours faithfully,

Rachel Henley

Malton and Norton constituency 


The NHS deserves better

17 February 2021

Dear editor, 

I note with interest MP Kevin Hollinrake’s enthusiasm on Twitter for the new Health and Care White Paper. Coming only nine years after the Conservative government’s last NHS reorganisation, the new plans reverse some of the key changes imposed in 2012. The decision to inflict major change on an exhausted NHS, in the midst of a global pandemic, suggests that the government realises how much its £4bn 2012 reorganisation was mistaken.

In the new proposals, the shift from competition to collaboration is welcome. The secretary of state will have greater powers to intervene in our local health service, which at least gives us someone to hold to account, if things go awry. But many important details are missing, and we need our MP to be transparent about what it means for his constituents.

If Matt Hancock can override local decisions about opening and closing hospitals, how will that fit with giving local areas greater flexibility to respond to local needs? How much of our NHS will still be open to for-profit private providers? And crucially – how much will this all cost the taxpayer?    

The challenge for Mr Hollinrake and his party, post-Brexit, mid-pandemic, is not to throw another £4bn of our taxes on vanity reorganisations, then support a Tory U-Turn in the next decade. The NHS deserves better.

Yours faithfully,

Rosalyn Cousins

Pickering


The credibility of parliament and the government is at stake

31 January 2021

Dear editor,

The government is using scare tactics to prevent a judicial review of its decisions to award huge contracts without due process, which have already been criticised by the National Audit Office.

The government is claiming that it acted lawfully in channeling hundreds of millions or even billions to VIP associates but, remarkably, that it is not in the public interest to reveal the details of those contracts. Millions, if not billions of tax payers’ money is involved.

To discourage the judicial review, the government is going to extreme lengths to jack up the cost, by employing very expensive international commercial lawyers. It is seeking to extend the judicial review request to increase the likely overall cost to one million pounds, in order to deter people from pressing ahead with the judicial review process.

How can investigating the award of millions, even billions of pounds, criticised by the National Audit Office, not be in the public interest? How can the government, in the depth of the pandemic, with families going hungry, justify spending a million pounds on international lawyers?

The government wants to use tax payers’ money to cover up their own dodgy deals. A pandemic in which over 100,000 British people have died should not be used as a very lucrative business opportunity  for Conservative Party cronies!

For the sake of the integrity of public life, MPs of all parties must hold the government to account! The credibility of both parliament and the government is at stake, as is the reputation of the Conservative Party.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Milroy


MPs fail to protect the NHS and food standards in the trade bill

21 January 2021

Dear editor,

I was pleased to see our MP for Thirsk and Malton, Kevin Hollinrake, raise the issue of antimicrobial resistance when he spoke in the Commons on 19 of January. Quoting a leading Oxford University Professor of Microbiology, he likened Covid-19 to a ‘short sharp earthquake’ facing our NHS and describing antimicrobial resistance as ‘massive tsunami in the background’. He went on to ask the minister to take action to limit the unnecessary use of antibiotics in human medicine and in food production, specifically the farming of chickens and pigs.

Imagine my dismay when just hours later Mr Hollinrake voted against vital amendments to the Trade Bill that would have written into law the protection of both the NHS and food standards. Mr Hollinrake did not need to vote this way. Several of his Conservative Party colleagues in parliament voted to support the amendments. He had an opportunity to follow through on his social media messages professing support for famers, agriculture and the NHS and vote to protect them, but he chose not to.

Without these amendments we have only his word, and that of the government, that our NHS will not be negotiated away as part of a future trade deal. We have only their word that the government will use their influence globally to reduce the use of unnecessary antibiotics in food production, to maintain food standards, and to support our farmers. Should we accept their word? I suggest not given their litany of recent broken promises.

Yours faithfully,

Mark White

York


MPs must vote to protect our NHS from predatory American health companies

15 January 2021

Dear editor, 

We should all be worried about the government’s designs on our National Health  Service. On 20 July 2020,  all but two Conservative MPs voted down an amendment to the trade bill, which would have kept the NHS off the table in post-Brexit trade deals.

The government insists UK law offers such protections,  and any changes would have to come before parliament,  but as Lords peer,  Baroness Thornton says:, “we know that there have been detailed conversations between UK and US negotiators, revealing that health services have been discussed”;  then there’s the small matter of the Conservative majority voting away parliament’s right to scrutinise trade deals.

When the bill was debated on 7 December the Lords voted in favour of  Amendment  11, which says that there can be no trade deal which in any way jeopardises the provision of “a comprehensive publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery”, along with other protections. This change was supported with 232 votes for and 143 against, a substantial majority of 89.

The bill returns to the Commons next week, w/c 18 January, and Thirsk and Malton’s MP, Kevin Hollinrake, will be voting on the amendment. He will use his judgment, and trust in the government, when he votes on our health service, a service that looks after almost every one of us in our lives.

I’m saddened, yet not surprised, that he chose to vote down the amendment in the Commons back in July, but I urge him to give way to better judgment now that the Lords have put their weight behind it, and that he votes to protect our NHS from predatory American health companies.

Yours faithfully,

Rachel Henley

Appleton-le-Street


Time to ban fracking in England

8 January 2021

Dear editor,

Many of us in North Yorkshire have strong feelings about fracking, which is unsurprising as we would be living with the consequences for decades to come. In the past our Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, Kevin Hollinrake, actively supported fracking; something that dismayed many of his constituents who care about the environment and the legacy we leave for future generations. So, I was delighted when Mr Hollinrake revealed his fracking U-turn, at a recent public meeting hosted by Ryedale Environmental Group, stating that he thinks that “the time for fracking has passed”.

I wholeheartedly agree with the view expressed by Mr Hollinrake at the meeting, that renewables are now a more economically and environmentally viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Can we now look forward to hearing our MP express his support for a formal ban on fracking in parliament? I hope so. However, I remember his dismissal of Marcus Rashford’s appeal for the government to provide free school meals in the holidays, only to then welcome the idea when the government U-turned and provided money to local authorities.

I urge Mr Hollinrake to honour his words given to his constituents during Ryedale Environment Week and hope that he will campaign for and then vote to ban fracking once and for all when Labour introduces an amendment to the environment bill to outlaw fracking in England.

Yours faithfully,

Martin Phillips

York


One day there will be a public enquiry into this whole terrible mess

16 December 2020

Dear editor,

For years now, I’ve nurtured and cared for a bee in my bonnet. A grudge that enormously irritates me; a sore boil that needed to be lanced. On Tuesday 15 December 2020, that lance arrived.

It turned up in The Times newspaper; a piece by the excellent Rachel Sylvester titled “Tories take a leaf out of Trump’s playbook”. Unfortunately it’s behind a paywall, but it’s also reported on today’s Independent website. Not on Peter Bone MP’s local Conservative Party website though.

Sylvester discusses the Wellingborough Conservative News. Their latest newsletter gives “lessons we can learn from Trump”. It praises the effects that Trump’s tactics had, stating that “a lie can go round the world before the truth can get its boots on”, suggesting that the Tory party should adopt similar tactics – for instance “Fake news often makes headlines and crowds out genuine news. Honest politicians therefore find themselves pushed off the front pages”. Local member Jack Summers disagreed with this and was reportedly removed from their candidates list.

I’ve long been irritated by the most enormous disparity between the two sides in the Brexit argument, where it’s so clear that one side adheres to the facts and truth, while the other side plays fast and loose with both. The debating points in favour of Brexit centre completely on emotion, while those in favour of remaining in the European Union employ the hardest available evidence and provable facts.

Just compare newspaper headlines for a start. If you only looked at the Daily Mail and Express, one could easily imagine we’re at war with our allies right now! Likewise, the last People’s Vote march I took part in was huge – really well mannered and peaceable – yet the Daily Mail described some of us as, “A hate fuelled mob”.

One day there will be a public enquiry into this whole terrible mess. It will be critical, very critical indeed.

Yours faithfully,

John Clayton

Wakefield


Lies – including political ones – undermine trust, which undermines your ability to do your job

9 November 2020

Dear editor,

Any professional has to have integrity as a core value. All professionals are expected to work on many separate teams, and trust is the foundation of any team.

No chartered accountant will provide alternative accounts, no scientist will provide alternative data to suit an agenda. That would amount to professional misconduct and result in the end of their employment. It also makes poor business sense, since the penalties for unethical behaviour can be severe both for the individuals and the company.

People who vote for, campaign for, or even tolerate individuals and organisations which operate on a basis of “alternative facts”, lies and obfuscation are comfortable with that approach and approve of that trait in the candidates they vote for. Recent populist leaders have been shown beyond doubt to have perpetuated literally thousands of outright untruths and misleading statements. In no other walk of life would this level of duplicity be tolerated: not in a doctor, a builder, a teacher or a shopkeeper, not even in an unskilled labourer.

If a supporter of one of the current populist leaders joined your team, you might wonder whether they were bringing that relaxed attitude to the truth to work, too. Will your boss, accountant, finance manager, engineering colleague, safety consultant, etc. be providing you with “alternative facts“ to suit an agenda or belief?

In reality, you wouldn’t be able to trust them. If you can’t trust them, the team can’t be effective – see Patrick Lencioni’s “The 5 dysfunctions of a team” for a textbook on that topic.

Supporting, or even tolerating, people, organisations, publications, or political parties that make repeated, demonstrably untrue statements affects your ability, and people’s perception of your ability, to do your job, to be professional, to be on a team.

Yours faithfully,

Ronan Bellabarba

Marske by the Sea

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