Latest from our Blog

Normanwarner4x3.jpgNorman Warner on the lack of clarity in the government’s plans for NHS devolution to Greater Manchester and beyond

The Government is in danger of carelessly wrecking two good ideas – its English devolution Bill and its Greater Manchester agreement on devolution of NHS budgets and responsibilities.  These come together in the Cities and Local Government Bill currently before the House of Lords. Peers scrutiny of the detail of Bill however, has revealed how poorly Ministers have thought about implementation. In particular, how the new Bill fits in with the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. There would be a cruel irony if Lansley’s legacy derailed George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse aspirations and NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, both of which I am a fan of.

The Lansley Act has a myriad of provisions that give the Health Secretary endless opportunity to intervening in the running of the NHS, despite its author’s claim to be freeing up the health service from day-to-day political interference. Reconciling this with the government’s new enthusiasm for English devolution and the decentralising thrust of the Forward View is a difficult trick to pull off, but could work if done transparently. Instead, Ministers are using smoke and mirrors with locally agreed memorandums of understanding and order-making powers in the Bill while failing to restrain any of the centralising provisions of the 2012 Act.

The result is that the devolution knitting is becoming increasingly tangled, as Lords Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford sticks to an official brief which totally fails to acknowledge the fundamental incompatibility of the new legislation and Lansley’s legacy. Although not easy, it should still be possible to put on the face of the CLG Bill a clear process for delegating NHS responsibilities locally via NHS England; and at the same time moderate the Health Secretary’s powers to interfere once a local scheme of delegation has been agreed.

None of this means that the Health Secretary should not be able to intervene if the local agreement is failing or changes are made by agreement at any future point. There could be a set of statutory requirements to be met before the agreement is signed, so it is in the best interests of the health and care of the population served, delivers quality services and secures health outcomes. Nobody is suggesting that we should take the ‘N’ out of the NHS. Indeed the new local entities exercising the delegated responsibilities would have to abide by virtually all of the duties on the Health Secretary and NHS England set out in the Lansley Act.

What would be guaranteed is that local interests could get on with transforming their local NHS in the way permitted in their agreement, without a diet of unsolicited advice and instruction from Whitehall. If they decided after local discussion to replace 100 inpatient beds with a new range of preventative and community-based services that would be a matter for them. Unlike now, where a Health Secretary might respond hyper-actively to cries of anguish from opponents of the change.

The government needs to have the courage of their devolution convictions and abandon the muddle they are in. This requires them to place on the face of the Cities and Local Government Bill a transparent process for securing devolution of ‘NHS’ responsibilities as part of a wider devolution agenda without removing the ‘N’. It should be possible to frame a way of doing this in a non-partisan way politically before the Bill leaves the Lords but only if Ministers open themselves up to this possibility. Many on the Labour benches and across the House stand ready to help.

Lord Norman Warner is a backbench Labour Peer and a former Health Minister

Published 30th June 2015

Untangling the knitting

Norman Warner on the lack of clarity in the government’s plans for NHS devolution to Greater Manchester and beyond

DianneHayter.jpgDianne Hayter on why Ministers must go further to stamp out malpractice among fundraising charities

Charities have been supporting the vulnerable and those in need since long before the creation of the welfare state. So, with public trust in government and other key institutions in society falling, it is little surprise that charities have maintained their status. Nevertheless, they should not have a free pass to make demands of people’s goodwill by pressuring them into making donations.

More than £12bn is raised by charities from the UK public each year – an amount larger than the government's aid budget. To be the caretakers of such funds also brings a responsibility to maintain confidence in not just how that money is deployed but also how it is obtained. Sadly, the highlighting of poor practice among some fundraising charities could jeopardise the hard earned trust. Following the tragic suicide of 92-year-old poppy seller, Olive Cooke, hundreds more people have reported how they or their elderly relatives have also come under pressure.

One national newspaper recently ran a story on the underhand methods used by a private company, working for major charities, which appeared to break every rule in the book to make money for both itself and clients. Cold calling is a particular problem and, having secured one donation, attempts are often made to ratchet-up the financial demands. It begs the question of whether the existing self-regulation of fundraising works.

Labour's view is that it is no longer sufficient for charities to choose whether to join the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) and abide by the Code of Conduct by which it adjudicates complaints. Indeed, a third are not even members of the FRSB; and they – or the private companies they employ – can continue to fundraise even if expelled.

The FRSB self-regulation system – effectively funded and run by and on behalf of those it seeks to regulate – has not worked. Not enough monitoring of members activities has taken place, nor has it outlawed unacceptable practices. If it were not for Olive’s tragic death and the aforementioned media expose, we would know nothing of poor practice beyond the anecdotal complaints of friends and family. The FRSB hasn’t even publicised its own existence, meaning that those with complaints rarely come forward.

The Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill, currently at Committee stage in the Lords, is a perfect vehicle for providing safeguards. But as it stands, the Bill does not include any mention of how to deal with malpractice. So we tabled amendments last week – to be debated later today – to require charities to belong to the FRSB and to bring forward and implement the Charity Commission's reserve powers of regulation over fundraising.

Perhaps our call has already been heeded. Yesterday, we learnt that the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson has belatedly given charities until the end of June (ie, tomorrow) to reform their fundraising activities or the government will activate these reserve powers. 

Having played catch up, Ministers should recognise we cannot wait and must deal with the problem - for the sake of Olive and thousands like her who are harassed by unwanted, cold-calling fundraising. The government should accept our amendments and clear the way to rise standards in the sector. Only then can the best charities be confident that they have the public trust that they have rightfully earned over many years.

Baroness Dianne Hayter of Kentish Town is Shadow Cabinet Office Minister in the House of Lords. She tweets @HayteratLords

Published 29th June 2015

Too little and (almost) too late

Dianne Hayter on why Ministers must go further to stamp out malpractice among fundraising charities

MaryWollstonecraft.jpgJohn Monks on the online campaign to recognise Mary Wollstonecraft as a radical hero

If Labour had won the general election, I have no doubt that the future of the People’s History Museum (PHM) would be secure. As it is, we have to continue to raise funds to protect the PHM and project its unique story of how democracy and the universal franchise was won, not to mention the role of the Labour movement in that story.

Before the country exercised that democratic right in May, the government decided that the PHM would no longer be classified as a national museum. Not only is it symbolically disappointing because the history of the franchise is our nation’s story, but this means practically that the museum will lose the £200,000 a year that such status brings.

In January, the PHM was granted a small reprieve after Ministers confirmed it would give the museum £100,000. The future however, remains uncertain and makes continued fundraising essential. One way of raising funds has been through the ‘Sponsor a Radical Hero’ campaign, which has received magnificent support from, amongst others, colleagues in the Labour Lords group. One hundred Radical Heroes were selected for sponsorship but some great figures have not yet attracted support – including Mary Wollstonecraft.

To correct this, the PHM is running a #GetMary campaign on social media to encourage a collective of people to sponsor Mary on our list of Radical Heroes.

Perhaps being part of a collective is apt for any Radical Hero, since change so often happens by a mutual, united and determined effort rather than individual action, but Mary Wollstonecraft is particularly deserving of this honour. Mary was an eighteenth century women’s rights advocate, philosopher and writer probably best known for her polemic A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Therein, she advocated that women are not naturally inferior to men but held back through lack of education, and which has been said to be one of the first truly feminist works of philosophy.

Mary’s once revolutionary ideas now appear plainly obvious but when she asked “Who made man the exclusive judge, if women partake withy him the gift of reason?” or “There must be more equality established in society, or morality will never gain ground; and this virtuous equality will not rest firmly even when founded on a rock, if one half of mankind are chained to its bottom by fate, for they will be continually undermining it through ignorance or pride” she was challenging the boundaries of the conventional wisdom.

Generations of girls and women have benefited from her courage, innovation and belief – so perhaps if we take anything from Mary’s life, it should be this. Although we face different challenges, this mind-set is as relevant today as it was when she lived. If you are interested in sponsoring Mary or any other of our radical heroes, you can do so here or contact me direct.

Lord John Monks is a backbench Labour Peer and Chair of Trustees for the People History Museum

Published 20th June 2015

Something about Mary

John Monks on the online campaign to recognise Mary Wollstonecraft as a radical hero

More Blogs >

The Labour Party will place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better.

Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site.

To find out more about these cookies, see our privacy notice. Use of this site confirms your acceptance of these cookies.