Year 2000 No. 54, March 23, 2000

For a Public Guarantee for the People’s Well-Being! The Right to a Livelihood is a Human Right!

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For a Public Guarantee for the People’s Well-Being! The Right to a Livelihood is a Human Right!

Opposition to the Break-Up of Rover Is Developing in Scope and Depth

Demonstration in Response to Rover Sell-Off

BMW News In Brief
Production cuts at Longbridge
Lay-offs and redundancy predicted

Letter To The Editor
New Labour Ready to Capitulate over Rover

Health Act 1999:
A New Arrangement for the NHS that is More Consistent With the Ant-Social Direction for the NHS

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For a Public Guarantee for the People’s Well-Being! The Right to a Livelihood is a Human Right!

The BMW sell-off of Rover has shown that the direction the Labour government of Tony Blair is taking society is one in which nothing which benefits the people’s well-being is guaranteed. In particular, it is an exposure that the programme of globalisation, a free-market economy, and reliance on inward and outward investment will do nothing to ensure national prosperity. On the contrary, the government’s programmes and policies to put the agenda of the success of businesses in the global marketplace in the first place is the number one condition for the ruination of the economy and the destitution of the people.

The crisis over Rover is bringing to the fore that the workers must set their own agenda according to their own independent programme. The spirit of the Longbridge and the other Rover workers is that they will fight against all attempts to dismember Rover cars and throw the Rover workers on to the streets. It is also that they will fight against the devastation of the West Midlands economy, as part of the whole national economy, because of the harm it will do to the people’s well-being.

To set their own agenda will mean that the workers will have to get organised in a manner which allows them to discuss this agenda, and that all should participate, that everything should be out in the open and no one allowed to impose an agenda. Their pro-active programme must be set with the orientation that the people’s well-being must be given a public guarantee. The workers must carry high the banner that the right to a livelihood is a human right, and must be given a guarantee in law.

Class conscious workers must also give serious thought to the present situation, that how come at the beginning of the 21st century, the livelihoods of so many tens of thousands of workers and vulnerable sections of society are being put in jeopardy. We call on class conscious workers to dedicate themselves to working for a modern socialist system, where the rights of all people as human beings are put in the first place and the rights of workers as workers are fully recognised. Class conscious workers can come to no other conclusion but that an independent mass communist party is required to organise the workers to take up their historic role of taking the lead in rallying all sections of society in moving towards the transformation of society from capitalism to socialism. In this respect, class conscious workers should become centres of the politicisation of the working class.

Fighting right now in the midst of the struggles of the Rover workers, in alliance with the broad masses of the people of the West Midlands and other parts of the country, and in unity with the whole working class, for a public guarantee for the people’s well-being and that the right to a livelihood should be recognised as a human right, is a certain way that the struggle for a modern socialist society can be advanced.

Stop Paying the Rich – Increase Investments in Social Programmes!

Article Index

Opposition to the Break-Up of Rover Is Developing in Scope and Depth

While "New Labour" resigns itself to the "inevitability" of the demise of Rover, the opposition movement among the people is developing in scope and depth. Many workers are turning their focus against the EU and their backers , who are responsible for the present crisis. Powerful multinationals such as BMW and Ford, high financiers such as the Bundesbank in Germany are carrying out billions of pounds’ worth of deals which affect the lives of people in whole regions

Small and medium businesses are incensed at the disregard for the economic consequences of BMW's actions. Russell Luckock, chairman of car parts manufacturer A.E. Harris in Birmingham, has pointed to the job losses in the area. Some estimates take this as high as anything above 50,000 at risk. "For every job lost at Rover there will be five lost at a supplier," said Mr Luckock.

Local shopkeepers also warned of a drop in trade and a rise in unemployment in the area. Some of this has been compared to the destruction of communities when coal-mines were closed down in the 1980's. Karen Richards, owner of the nearby Rednal cafe said, "It would become a ghost town around here if Longbridge went. Without Rover I don't think we could survive."

Duncan Simpson of the AEEU, taking part in the shop stewards' meeting in Gaydon, said yesterday, "BMW have totally miscalculated this situation and have underestimated the response and reaction, not just of our shop stewards and workers, but indeed the general public."

This sentiment has been reflected by local businessmen in Bromsgrove, who are intending to organise a meeting with CAEF (The Campaign against Euro Federalism) along with Rover workers, in order to do something about the situation at Rover.

One dealer, "All Electric Garages" in Birmingham has spent £1.5m investing in a state of the art showroom. This was done with the co-operation of BMW/Rover who had to sanction the work. The dealer is checking the legal documents because if the company is broken up by venture capitalists Alchemy, there will be no guarantee of continuity of supply. The dealer needs a guaranteed 800 cars per year.

Owners of new Rover cars are also concerned. Trading standards officers in Birmingham are warning that money-back guarantees offered with new Rover Cars are not legally binding. Many dealers offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee with new cars. Chris Neville, Birmingham Trading Standards says such agreements often carry little weight when it comes to enforcement.

The Reverend Peter Thomas, whose parish covers most of Longbridge, said, "We are concerned for the whole community. They have been through a lot and they are just wondering what it was all for."

The Bishop of Birmingham, The Rt Rev Mark Santer, has described the German company's communication with the workers as "lamentable". He said, "Unless significant and effective measures are taken to address the situation quickly, the social fabric of a large part of our region will be put under great strain, and the whole community will find itself paying the price."

It is expected that there will be a large turnout at the demonstration on April !st in Birmingham city centre, which was originally called for by Doctor Karl Chinn, local historian and radio personality and supported by the community, Rover workers and shop stewards.

West Midlands Correspondent

Article Index

Demonstration in Response to Rover Sell-Off


Assemble Jennings Road, Brasshouse Circus

10.00 am

Rally 1.00 pm

Cannon Hill Park

All forces are welcome – Make this a powerful demonstration!

Article Index

BMW News In Brief

Production cuts at Longbridge

Rover has already cut back on production at two of its factories following the decision by BMW to ditch Rover. Production of the Rover 75 at Cowley in Oxford will be halved, while production at the Longbridge factory, it is suspected, will be cut by a fifth. The nightshift at Cowley will also be axed.

The cuts at Longbridge will mainly hit the Rover 25 and 45 models. The three-day Easter shutdown is to be extended to five days.

Lay-offs and redundancy predicted

Union officials say that they have been told a total of 8,500 job losses from the Longbridge assembly line will be incurred. 2,000 will be lost from the Power Train and 2,000 at the Gaydon site if the programme is allowed to go ahead. The figures are said to have been issued directly from personnel management at BMW and Rover.

Article Index

Letter To The Editor

New Labour Ready to Capitulate over Rover

While the workers are preparing their opposition, the Labour government is already resigned to doing nothing about the crisis. Trade and Industry Secretary, Stephen Byers, in the setting up of the "Task Force", is reduced to practically no opposition to BMW. The "pledge" of £152m is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions required, and previously promised by BMW, for investment. This "pledge" smacks of total capitulation as it is there to "help the 25,000 workers facing the dole" and get them back to new work. The "task force" has limited itself to "assessment" of the impact of the job losses.

New Labour's cohorts on the Labour controlled council in Birmingham have joined in with the government in adopting the same point of view. In the Council sponsored newspaper, Voice, the New Labour council leader, Cllr Albert Bore has resigned himself to talking about the "possibilities of new opportunities". He said, "Our first priority is to get our confidence back. What we have to do is achieve some early wins to show residents, visitors and investors coming into the city that although Rover is bad for Longbridge and for its workforce, it something we will have to overcome quickly."

Cllr Bore, who is a member of Byers' "Task Force" has no idea about the real workers' desires to save Longbridge and their growing confidence in their own political abilities to challenge BMW, finance capitalism and the EU. The "New Labour" council has, as part of its surrendering policy, "Putting pressure on the Government and on Europe for financial help."

West Midlands Readers

Article Index

Health Act 1999:

A New Arrangement for the NHS that is More Consistent With the Ant-Social Direction for the NHS

Much has been reported in the media recently about the crisis in the NHS. Generally speaking, whether it has been the recent flu crisis, crisis of waiting lists, or the crisis in the quality of various treatments as compared with other countries in Europe, the government and media have speculated along the lines of how the NHS is funded. Perversely they have pushed the very agenda which is causing the crisis which is reducing the investments in health care in real terms, developing the internal market in health care between NHS services and with the private sector, increasing the penetration of finance capital into the NHS under the Private Finance Initiative PFI, increasing prescription and other charges and so on. However, very little has been said about the Health Act which gained the Royal Assent in June 1999, and by which the government has launched this agenda.

In looking at the Health Act 1999 it is important to understand what it is that New Labour was trying to amend. Under the previous arrangements brought about by the Conservative Health and Community Care Act 1990 an internal market was set up whereby District Health Authorities, instead of providing health care for their District, became purchasers of health care. At the same time, NHS Trusts were set up as providers of health care at hospital and community sites and in addition to this within each hospital departments became responsible for their own budget. The internal market included the buying and selling of services between Health Authorities and NHS Trusts, between NHS Trusts, between these bodies and the private sector and between individual departments of NHS Trusts. GP fundholders were also set up at many practices that had over eleven hundred patients. These GP practices then became purchasers able to buy hospital and community services from whatever part of the country they chose.

What has to be remembered is that this whole anti-social direction for the NHS was becoming exposed under the Conservative Government. Most blatant were the arrangements with GP fundholders who were able to use their position so that their patients could jump the waiting lists which was dramatically exposing inequality in service and quality of treatment. At the same time, the fact that these GP fundholders could purchase services outside of the districts in which they worked was causing crisis at local NHS trusts who were providing these services but not receiving the contracts from their GP fundholders.

When New Labour came to power it set about by claiming that it was putting forward an agenda for a modern health care system. The White Paper "The New NHS - Modern Dependable" was released in 1998 before the Health Act 1999 was passed by Parliament. The White Paper embodied New Labour's claim for a "Third Way" for the NHS. Its direction was characterised as being opposed the return to a single health care system which was planned and provided by health authorities but at the same time opposing the "internal market" in health and the inequalities it was causing. It was claimed that there was a "Third Way" that was fairer and the way forward for the NHS to safeguard its future. It was an agenda of "major reform" improving the "quality" of care and doing away with the "internal market of the Tories" and replacing it with new Primary Health Care Trusts (PCTs) that will provide a modern localised health care system "led by doctors and nurses".

In the Introduction the Health Act 1999 proclaims that it is an "Act to amend the law about the national health service, make provision in relation to arrangements and payments between health service bodies and local authorities with respect to health and health related functions; confer power to regulate any professions concerned (wholly or partly) with the physical or mental health of individuals; and for connected purposes." What is striking about the Act is that it is stripped of all the grandiose claims in the White Paper, and is a collection of legal enactments mainly concerning financial arrangements, many of which are obscure and the significance of which is not immediately apparent. But the Act repeals the law about fundholding practices and creates a new local administration of health services in the form of Primary Health Care Trusts for England and Wales. In Scotland, it repeals the law about fundholding practices. The rest of the act deals with financial and other arrangements between NHS Trusts and Health Authorities and Local Authorities. It also deals with the question of the "quality" of health care provided by all of these bodies.

The Act repeals only sections 14-17 of the National Health and Community Care Act 1990, which was the main legislation of the previous Conservative governments. In repealing the law on GP fundholding practices, the Act does not do away with the internal market, which was the purpose of the 1990 Act. Thus, the purchaser provider split between Trusts selling and buying health services, both externally and internally and with the private sector is not ended but given the credence of a "Third Way" by New Labour's Act. The Act does not scrap the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which is a mechanism introduced by the previous government to allow finance capital to directly profit from treasury allocations to the NHS and an arrangement to bring the private sector into ownership of hospitals and other buildings.

In doing away with GP fundholding the Act sets up Primary Health Care Trusts (PCTs). The setting up of PCTs in a short section 2 (1) 16A 16B of the act mentions only in passing the role of PCTs "with a view" of "providing or arranging for the provision of services under this Part of this Act. However, there are no mention of "duties" until the main thrust of the Act starts with section 3 Primary Care Trusts finance which outlines paragraph by paragraph and page by page the financial constraints that the new PCTs and Health Authorities must operate under.

Under 97C - (1) (1) It is the duty of every Health Authority, in respect of each financial year, to pay to each Primary Care Trust whose area falls within their area-

(a) sums equal to the trust's general Part II expenditure, and

(b) sums not exceeding the amount allotted by the authority to the trust for that year towards meeting the trust's main expenditure in that year.

Under 97D-(1) Financial duties of PCTs "It is the duty of every PCT, in respect of each financial year, to perform its functions so as to secure that the expenditure of the trust which is attributable to the performance by the trust of its functions in that year (not including expenditure within subsection (1) (a) of section 97C above does not exceed the aggregate of -

a) the amount allotted to it for that year under subsection (1) (b) {above} of that section.

b) any sums received by it in that year under any provision of this Act ( other than sums received by it under that section), and

c) any sums received by it in that year otherwise under this Act for the purpose of enabling it to defray any such expenditure."

In other words, in the setting up of the PCTs and the financial arrangements it imposes on Health Authorities and NHS Trusts, the Health Act 1999 does not enforce the duties on these bodies to guarantee that the health care they purchase, or provide, will ensure a comprehensive service for the people of the area they serve but on the contrary the Health Act places the main "duties" on them to "perform their functions" so that their expenditure does not "exceed the aggregate" of revenue allotted to them for that year. The only duties on quality of care come later in the act on the setting up of a Commission for Health Improvement concerning the quality of health care supplied by Health Authority, NHS Trust and PCTs. These are "arrangements for the purpose of monitoring and improving the quality of health care which it provides to individuals." In other words, the Health Authorities, NHS Trusts and PCTs are only expected to put in place arrangements Health Improvements (HIMPs) to improve the quality of care they do provide to individuals but there is no requirement to provide the quality of a comprehensive health care system at the highest level for the whole population covered by them that meets the needs of all.

Under the heading of partnership the Act amends the 1977 Act to include PCTs, in the provisions which make it a duty for health Authorities, NHS Trusts, and local authorities to co-operate with one another. The provisions of this section, which come from the 1977 Act, make it the "duty of each Health Authority, at such time as the Secretary of State may direct, to prepare a plan which sets out the strategy for improving –

a) the health of the people for whom they are responsible, and

b) the provision of health care to such people."

What is most striking is that the question of implementing such a plan is not even discussed let alone enforced by the 1999 Act. Once the Health Authority has prepared this plan and providing it keeps it under review then it has discharged its "duty". In other words, even this strategic plan for health care which is prepared with all present revenue restraints can be reviewed and changed providing all the health bodies review the plan. However, the main change to the 1977 Act is to facilitate and empower payments by NHS bodies to local authorities and payments by local authorities to NHS bodies for services or facilities. These new arrangements put in place ensure that services provided by the NHS for the local authority "shall not affect - any power or duty to recover charges in respect of services provided in the exercise of any local authority functions." This new arrangement is highly significant in the development of the internal market in health care in that for first time NHS bodies could find themselves providing social and other services, purchased by local authorities, for which they are expected to charge the patients. How long will it be before New Labour, or a subsequent government, use this mechanism to extend charges for other health care provision within the NHS itself.

Under previous legislation Health Authorities and Trusts have increasingly cut bed numbers and staff to dangerously low levels. This has been driven by the Conservative 1990 Act, which enabled the government to impose "efficiency savings" on NHS Trusts. NHS Trusts have been forced to, pay from their revenue "efficiency savings" of 3% a year had to pay interest and dividends on their capital assets. The hospital buildings that the Trusts "purchased" from central government, have in reality been paid for over and over again by the people often by local subscription before the NHS was set up and since. This has forced the selling off of land and assets to cover debt and interest payments on hospital buildings. NHS Trusts have been forced government to put all new building projects to tender under the Private Finance Initiative PFI. The New Labour government has taken up this same agenda put forward by the Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives to try and consolidate it. New Labour has removed the obstacles to PFI and introduced more Hospital PFI projects than any previous government. It has closed even the loophole to an NHS Trust carrying over their "overspend" to the following year by forcing them in the act to spend no more than the "amount allotted to it for that year". These are all part of the new arrangements re-enforced by the Health Act 1999.

It is no accident that the Health Act 1999 states that its main objective is an "Act to amend the law about the national health service, make provision in relation to arrangements and payments between health service bodies and local authorities with respect to health and health related functions". The Act does not to deal with the overall anti-social direction which successive governments have taken the NHS. It does neither defends the NHS, nor safeguards its future, but on the contrary it is plunging the NHS into even deeper crisis where the people know to their cost from last winter that even basic health care is now not being provided in terms of beds and nurses to staff them. The Act does away with GP fundholding but only to set up PCTs, with some token local doctor and nurse input. What it is in reality is another arrangement of purchasing and providing health services that is more consistent with this ant-social direction in health care. It will achieve a "fairer" way of providing "quality" health care but health care rationing will continue apace and more and more people will have their lives ruined, or die prematurely as a consequence and health care workers will be forced once again to bear the burden of the crisis and increased work loads.

Only a health act that is opposed to health care rationing, that presents a pro-social direction for the NHS to provide a modern health service that guarantees the inviolable right of all to health care at the highest level, that increases the investments necessary to meet all the health care needs of the people, can truly be called a modern arrangement for the NHS. Such an Act would start by writing off all the debts of NHS Trusts other health bodies. It would scrap the PFI and implement a moratorium on interest payments on the National Debt so as to find the investments necessary to plan for the future, provide the investments and provision for the NHS and other social programmes. It would legislate to enable health workers and local people to directly decide the plans of Health Authorities and other NHS bodies and ensure that these plans are implemented in practice. It would legislate on the chronic staff shortages and end the divisive and low pay of most health workers. Such a health Act would be a first step to ensuring a longer-term plan for the development of health care. This is the agenda which must be taken up by health workers, as well as the working class and people, in the fight to defend and safeguard the future of the NHS in Britain.

Workers’ Weekly Health Group

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