Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Grenfell Inquiry, Unspoiled Corfu Is Now for Sale, and the Danger Brexit Poses to the NHS

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Grenfell Inquiry, Unspoiled Corfu Is Now for Sale, and the Danger Brexit Poses to the NHS

Article excerpt

The inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire will allow survivors and victims' families to put on the public record their versions of what led to the fire and how it affected them. That is important but one is bound to wonder if much more will be achieved. The danger of this inquiry and others like it is that by the time they report, public pressure to take necessary action--in Grenfell's case, stricter standards of building safety and more rigorous enforcement --has dissipated. It has taken nearly a year since the Grenfell fire to get the inquiry started and it will probably be at least two more before we get a final report.

According to the Institute for Government think tank, this is the 68th public inquiry set up by ministers since 1990. The average time from inquiry announcement to final report publication is two and a half years, but nine have taken five years or more, including the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War, which notoriously took seven years. Professor Alexis Jay, the fourth chair of the accident-prone inquiry into child sexual abuse, originally set up in 2014, expects "substantial progress" by 2020.

Given the cost of all these inquiries--at least 64001 [pounds sterling], much of it in lawyers' fees parliament should surely insist on annual reports on the implementation of their findings. And given the frequency with which they now come along--nine have been announced in the past three years alone--ministers should also set up a permanent unit to provide guidance on how they can proceed more quickly and efficiently.

Brexit bumps

When Britain opens post-Brexit trade talks with the US, it is reported, Donald Trump will demand that the NHS pays more for prescription drugs, thereby plunging its beleaguered finances into even deeper trouble and/or increasing charges for patients.

Trump argues that the NHS and other "socialised" health services can negotiate lower prices because they are monopsonies (monopoly buyers), giving drug companies no choice. Private health companies in the US have no such bargaining power and drug prices are therefore higher for Americans. Trump is also likely to demand that NHS services are opened to American companies.

Jeremy Corbyn favours Brexit because he believes (wrongly, some argue) that Labour's renationalisation plans would fall foul of EU competition rules. Has it dawned on him that he risks the survival of the biggest, most successful and most important nationalised public service we have left?

Ken's calamity

Ken Livingstone's departure from the Labour Party - by resigning ahead of almost certain expulsion for claiming that Hitler supported Zionism - prompts me to wonder whether Gerald Kaufman, who died in 2017, could still be a member. A Labour MP for 46 years and finally father--oldest member --of the House, he shadowed two of the great offices of state (Home and Foreign) under Neil Kinnock. …

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