Adrian Beecroft: Vince Cable is a "socialist"

"The Tories are hugely held back by the Lib Dems," says author of controversial report on employment

The Beecroft saga is the gift that keeps on giving. Since it was first submitted in October, the report by the venture capitalist and Tory donor Adrian Beecroft has been causing a coalition headache. Earlier this week, Vince Cable said he would not allow the “bonkers” proposals – which include no fault dismissal – to go through.

This was swiftly followed by Nick Clegg rejecting the plans, and reports that Downing Street would quietly drop the report.

But you don’t knock a venture capitalist down that easily, and Beecroft has come out fighting. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he said that Cable’s objections to the proposals are “ideological not economic”, saying:

I think he is a socialist who found a home in the Lib Dems, so he’s one of the left. I think people find it very odd that he’s in charge of business and yet appears to do very little to support business.

Clearly, Beecroft doesn’t remember Cable’s 2010 conference speech, where he pre-empted precisely these sorts of devastating charges: “I’m not some kind of socialist”. They don't call him the sage of Twickenham for nothing.

Nor is Cable the only target of Beecroft’s rage – he doesn’t think much of coalition at all, it seems:

I do think they [the Tories] are hugely held back by the Lib Dems. I think you could put together a bunch of suggestions out of the report, as a coherent programme, that would say, you know, we are tackling the issues that business has with employment law but the Lib Dems will have none of it.

Nick Clegg is always threatening to go nuclear and dissolve the whole thing if he doesn’t get his way with this, that and the other. Which you’d think actually must be a hollow threat. Therefore, why can’t the government be more robust? I don’t know what the answer is. But it is disappointing.

He also discloses that although Cameron is now distancing himself from the report, the Conservatives were very supportive of his plans in private meetings: “I’m talking about Steve Hilton, that group and they assured me that David Cameron wanted to do the whole thing". To paraphrase Scooby Doo, it appears that he thinks he would have got away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky Lib Dems.
 

Vince Cable. Photograph: Getty Images

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.