Tuesday 14 July 2009

Whatever happened to People's Peers

Remember back in the first term of Tony Blair's government the idea of People's peers, people were invited to nominate themselves for appointment to the House of Lords, it would an attempt to get good people who weren't part of the Establishment into parliament, the sort of person that would never get appointed through the usual channels.

3,000 applied, 15 were selected, to resounding disappointment at least in this quarter (no I hadn't applied). Most of the 15 were people who would very likely have got in under the old system. Still there were a couple of interesting names there, and maybe after the first batch of appointments it would start to settle it and provide a real way into the House of Lords?

Yesterday, the latest batch, only two this time, were announced, Dame Nuala O’Loan, former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Both are Visiting Professors (O'Loan at Ulster and Sacks at both Kings College London and Birkbeck). Both have impressive records and will no doubt be an asset to the Upper House. But, but, can it be said that neither would have been appointed back in the old days? Aren't they both completely Establishment figures.

If the House of Lords Appointment Commission is only going to be appointing the same type of people that would have been appointed under the old system, what point is it playing? Can't that be one of the quangos we get rid of?

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Is Lansley telling porkie pies?

It has become the done thing for Conservative-leaning bloggers to accuse Labour ministers of lying recently. But they seem a lot more reluctant to hold their own side to the same standard.

In the midst of dealing with his latest gaffe (in this case meaning making an apparent spending commitment without clearing it with Osborne first) he said this, quoted by Sky News:
"The Health Service Journal have got this 180 degres wrong. The problem in recent years has been that staff pay has simply increased in line with the huge rises in the NHS budget."
This rang alarm bells with me, I started in the NHS in the last full year of Tory rule (1996/97) and pay certainly hasn't doubled in real terms since then. So I've done some digging:

Total NHS Budget in 1996/97 £31.5 billion
Total NHS Budget in 2009/10 £103.4 billion (England £86.4b (pdf document), Scotland £11.0b, Wales est £4.0b, Northern Ireland est £2.0b)
% increase in NHS Budget 228%

Now, I can't find any pay scales for 1996/97, but I do remember my beginning salary as a Management Accounts Assistant (bottom point, Admin and Clerical Grade 4) that was £10,076 per annum. So a 228% pay hike would mean that if Lansley is right, that same post should be starting at £33,049. Unfortunately for the Man Accs Assistants working in my office, that's not the starting salary. The current starting salary for Agenda for Change Band 4 (which is what they get graded as now) is £17,732 pretty much half of what Lansley has claimed.

I'm going to be more charitable than the comrades in the blogger's union. Never attribute to conspiracy what you can charge to cock-up. In this case, I must conclude that Lansley simply doesn't know what he's talking about.