Poor little rich lord

Ah, poor David Lipsey ("A lord's lot is not a happy one", 7 August), stuck in the horrors of the House of Lords on a meagre £150 daily expenses, and having to work in a nasty Royal Gallery with a 40ft ceiling instead of a lovely fusty office like the rest of us. My heart and several other internal organs bleed copiously for him.

I feel precisely as much sympathy for his plight as he showed to the many hundreds of thousands of proles like us who may, in the future, have to denude themselves of a lifetime's savings in order to pay for their care in sick old age because of his deliberate blocking of his Royal Commission colleagues who wanted to be more humane.

I suspect that many elders would be deeply grateful for £150 a day to cover the cost of being fed and washed and taken to the loo, now that they aren't able to do such things for themselves.

And the irony of it all: some may suggest that the main reason why Lipsey spent his time as a Royal Commissioner producing a dissenting report that would please his friends at the Treasury and elsewhere in Westminster, rather than address the real needs of the elderly, was precisely so that he would be ennobled.

I could not possibly comment on that, although I can say that I am surprised at his present distress. Surely Lipsey, who as a mere Mister worked as a political journalist, knew precisely what goes on in the House of Lords, and took that into account before falling to his knees before Her Majesty? Or is he trying to suggest that he was a reluctant appointee to the Upper House, who had to be dragged, like a newly elected Commons Speaker, to don the ermine?

I feel sorry for the new Labour Party. It needs - oh, how it needs - persons of real value and commitment to sit in the Upper House. It sure as hell picked a stumer when it picked this one.

Claire Rayner

David Lipsey described the "right to roam" as "progressive legislation". Would his lordship care to explain what exactly is progressive about opening up huge tracts of difficult terrain, which usually experiences poor weather conditions, to the vast majority of ramblers who are incompetent to traverse these areas without the benefit of clearly delineated footpaths, an OS map and a compass?

Shouldn't he be asking himself why the Country Landowners' Association, now controlled by the Moorland Association, opted for "freedom to roam" rather than the greater security of public rights of way? If he does, he will discover that the so-called "freedom to roam" allows landowners to close their land for up to 28 days per annum and the possibility of a night-time curfew.

Compare that with establishing a public-right-of-way network - paths professionally managed, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, clearly shown on OS maps, signposted and waymarked, with rivers and streams bridged, and he may appreciate why the Country Landowners' Association chose freedom to roam rather than open up these areas to, truly, rank-and-file members.

If he wishes to know why the Ram- blers' Association pressed for freedom to roam rather than for public rights of way, then he should look for a word ending in -ology, rather than anything of practical application.

Stan Knafler
KWA Guided Walks

This article first appeared in the 14 August 2000 issue of the New Statesman, So, who still wants to be a millionaire?

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.