News in brief

Unfair pack

THE GOVERNMENT has underwritten Northern Rock by billions of pounds. But up to 150,000 low income people who are owed money after last year’s collapse of Christmas savings club Farepak, may not be paid until next spring. That is 18 months after the collapse.

Savers lost an average £400 each last year. But the compensation will only pay back 5p for every £1 lost, roughly £20! Low-paid women in particular were forced into a “cycle of debt” by Farepak’s collapse, many being forced to borrow from relatives or take out expensive loans.

Water rip-off

SOUTHERN WATER, a private company supplying 1.8 million households with water and sewerage services, has been fined £20.3 million, the biggest fine ever imposed by ‘regulator’ OFWAT. Southern Water overcharged its customers by an average of £10.50 per household.

The fine is supposed to be met from dividends. But Southern’s customers will need to keep an eye on them. Most fines for big companies just get passed on to customers or to workers in some way or other.

Profit or lives?

DRUGS multinationals could receive mark-ups of 700% under a plan, spearheaded by Gordon Brown, to fund the development of a vaccine for pneumococcal disease, which causes pneumonia, Africa’s worst child-killer. £750 million was donated for the scheme, but 80% will go in profits to the companies.

Governments in the advanced capitalist world pay production costs, plus an agreed margin, to help provide ‘incentives’ for the pharmaceuticals industry to develop such drugs instead of more profitable drugs for the Western market.

US drugs giant Wyeth already manufactures the vaccine for Europe and America, so their costs will be negligible. Experts say millions more children could be treated even if the industry just accepted a lower profit margin.


THE CAMPAIGN continues to defend the detained Nigerian student activists and Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) members, Olatunde Dairo, Taiwo Hassan Soweto and Akinola Sakuri. They are all facing trumped-up charges, including conspiracy and attempted murder.

  • More information is available on the CWI website where details of where to send protests can also be found.