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Written Parliamentary Questions: 31st October 2006

Operational Tour Bonus
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made with the implementation of the operational tour bonus. (John Hemming)

A:Further to my statement to the House on 10 October, I can confirm that all service personnel have now been given full details of the scheme. Our aim is to pay the allowance as soon as possible to all those who have already returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. (Des Browne, Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence)

Random Calling

One thing that has come up as a result of the progress being made with respect to silent calls is the tendency for companies to call randomly all numbers in a particular range of numbers. This includes all ex-directory numbers. It is probably the case that people need a facility to stop any unrequested calls.

CMO on Expert Witnesses

I have not yet read the CMO's report on Expert Witnesses. There are, however, clearly very substantial problems far beyond just the one case. Problems are diagnosed where they basically don't exist. Then action is taken totally unnecessarily and very damagingly.

Permission Refused

Unsurprisingly today Permission was refused. I still think there is a strong legal case, however and am looking at taking the issue to the Court of Appeal. Otherwise we will continue to have a situation where the government hide problems until it is too late to properly fix them.

The Queen on the application of Hemming Mp v The Prime Minister

COURT 27
Before MR JUSTICE BENNETT
Monday 30 October, 2006
At half past 10
Applications for Permission
CO/2164/2006 The Queen on the application of Zaluska v East Devon District Council
CO/4705/2006 The Queen on the application of Hemming Mp v The Prime Minister
CO/2173/2006 The Queen on the application of Mehmood v SshdCO/1917/2006 The Queen on the application of Arpa v Sshd
CO/2803/2006 The Queen on the application of Arpa v Sshd
CO/5021/2006 The Queen on the application of Koyuncu v SS Home Department
CO/4637/2006 The Queen on the application of Ileo v SS Home DepartmentCO/8185/2006 The Queen on the application of Agyeman v Secretary Of State For Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs
CO/5534/2006 The Queen on the application of Turner v SS Home Department

Well, we are second on and I carried all three lever arch files and big (1607pp) JR book from the House of Commons to my flat because there were no taxis.

The government's argument is that the courts cannot force ministers…

Score 3:1 to Children and Families

We now have the results in from two more cases. The scottish case was always a more difficult one because if its nature. The Birmingham case - which is bound by Family Court rules went well.

The newspapers today are starting to recognise that there is a serious problem whinc is endemic in the system. To be fair to the Judges and the Attorney General (Lord Goldsmith) they are doing some work to deal with this.

What we really need, however, is a Clayton order on the Birmingham and Newport Cases so that the consequences of those can be fully recognised. I will, of course, contact Birmingham Social Services about the Birmingham case and its knock on effects. I have already mentioned it.

Marianne Williams Cleared

The second of the results as part of the 5 key cases mentioned below where the results on four are due either yesterday, today or on Monday cleared Marianne Williams of poisoning her son with salt.

There is a really big problem that lies in the use of expert witness evidence to convict people where the expert witnesses have a conflict of interest. In the case of Roy Meadow it was merely that his evidence was "professional misconduct". In other situations you have people who would otherwise potentially be interviewed about the death by the police giving evidence to say "it was the mother".

The Newport Case where children were taken off their parents was a catalogue of errors. In this case I believe relatively well meaning professionals who were wrong and arrogant, but did not initially have a conflict of interest made a catalogue of errors which split a family apart for two years.

There is a lot more to come. There are also still miscarriages of justice that nee…

More on GMC Meadow

All three appeal judges concluded that the GMC Fitness to Practise Panel had the right to apply professional sanctions to someone on the basis of expert witness evidence provided. Two of the three thought it was "professional misconduct" and one of the three thought it was "serious professional misconduct". On that basis, however, Roy Meadow returns to the GMC lists and is open now to further charges of "professional misconduct" or "serious professional misconduct" on the basis of other cases where he has provided expert witness evidence. My understanding is that there were 6 other references that were dropped.

Stop Press: GMC can keep powers to act

I have picked this up from the TV so don't know where any links are yet, but the Court of Appeal has found that the GMC has the right to strike off someone for the invalidity of their expert opinion in court.

I do need to see, however, what the detailed judgement has said about Roy Meadow's evidence itself. There is a question as to how many people should be locked up on the basis of "honest mistakes".

Clearly, however, now any people whose references to the GMC were struck out because Roy Meadow was struck off can now have the references reinstated. It is, therefore, not entirely clear whether in the long term Roy Meadow won or lost today. I would not be surprised to see him being brought before the GMC again.

Legal "perfect storm" building for medical profession and social workers - Hemming writes to Attorney General; refers North Staffs hospital to informa

In the context of a "perfect storm" of a number of court and GMC cases campaigning MP John Hemming has written to the Attorney General raising the question of medical expert witnesses who have a conflict of interest providing evidence. He is also referring the University Hospital of North Staffordshire to the Information Commissioner.

John Hemming said, "there are some very important issues going through the courts at the moment. Many of these are, in fact, interlinked. Most of the people working in Social Services have good intentions, but there have been large numbers of appalling miscarriages of justice where families have been destroyed for no good reason.

"There are a number of cases going through the courts at the moment that will reopen the question as to whether the government has simply covered up the failure of the system. Margaret Hodge's review of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy only found one case which was found to be in error. However, the main …

Metropolitan Police Authority Report on Election Fraud

I am not sure where this is available on the web and it has been commented on in the media, but here is part of the report.

Within the MPS, election offences (often referred to as electoral fraud), are investigated by the Special Prosecutions Unit (SPU) of the Counter Terrorism Command (CTC - SO15), as such investigations were previously the remit of SO12 (Special Branch). In relation to the local elections of 4 May 2006, around 30 separate investigations have taken, or are currently taking place. The scale of these investigations differs enormously, from simple allegations involving technical breaches of election law through to a major investigation currently underway in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, where a wide range of apparent fraudulent activity is being investigated. The complexity of these investigations makes it difficult to be precise in counting the number of individual offences involved. A number of these investigations have already concluded, whereas some allegation…

Parliamentary Procedure and reruns of the 1992 General Election

There are odd bits about the workings of parliament that are not generally known. For example it took me a year to get broadband internet access that allows me to down load emails from my email servers (which are outside the network), but I had a pink ribbon for my sword immediately.

Another issue is the differential treatment between members of the House of Commons and those of the House of Lords. Those peers who have been MPs can buy tea in the MPs tea room. Similarly they can have dinner with MPs in the Members Dining room. However whereas MPs are allowed credit accounts Peers have to pay cash on the nail. An enterprising Peer investigated this and found that the House Authorities had too many bad debts from Peers who built up meal debts and then passed on. It is, therefore, the differential mortality between MPs and Peers that has resulted in MPs being allowed to maintain an account and Peers not.

It is quite useful to have some Peers involved in the discussions. Clearly the…

Ofcom and Silent Calls

It does appear that Ofcom want No Operator Available calls to remain silent as fewer people will complain because they don't know who to complain about.

I have asked Ofcom whether this is true earlier today and they have not as yet responded.

Another Social Services Error Corrected

The linked story is to another situation where a medical opinion and rather strange analysis resulted in a family being separated for two years.

I haven't seen the detailed judgement, but at least they have managed to resolve the underlying issue. However, the damage that will have been done by state intervention will be difficult to handle.

Written Parliamentary Question: 17th October 2006

Convictions
Q:To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what measures are in place to protect those whose convictions are based on an uncorroborated allegation that turns out to be false but has not been formally retracted. (John Hemming)

A:Uncorroborated allegations do not have a special status and are treated as other evidence. The safeguards in place to prevent miscarriages of justice are applicable to all cases regardless of the evidence used to convict the accused. (Gerry Sutcliffe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office)

Has Conventional Oil Production Peaked?

Notwithstanding all the complications of oil production (such as problems at Prudhoe Bay, foolish invasions of oil rich countries etc) there will come a point at which Oil Production will peak. This will be preceeded by Conventional Oil Production peaking. The link is to some work on my main reference website sourced from the EIA by Mike Pepler. This indicates that Conventional Oil Production (ignoring deepwater and that from gas production) may have peaked).

ASPO newsletter No 70 is out now and includes the following:
Discovery so far in 2006
The Offshore Journal has collected information on discoveries this year through June. They amount to the following:
In less than 500m water depth : 25 discoveries totalling 0.87 Gb of oil and 6.8 Tcf of gas
In 500-1500m of water : 8 discoveries totalling 0.75 Gb and 0.93 Tcf of gas
In more than 1500m of water : 7 discoveries totalling 1.6 Gb of oil and 2 Tcf of gas
So, the total amounts to 3.2 Gb of oil and 9.7 Tcf of gas of which only 1.6 Gb quali…

ARRSE

The link is to A.R.R.S.E. The British ARmy RUmour SErvice.

It is interesting how the media have picked up on what is effectively army gossip with various squaddies making anonymous comments in support of Sir Richard Dannatt.

Sir Richard should have expected to be sacked in making the comments he did. However, actually what should happen is that the goverment should recognise that their policy in Iraq (and also in Helmand) is wrong.

None of these things are Rocket Science (notwithstanding the use of RPGs). Human nature has been the same over years. People resist occupations simply because there is an occupation. It does not matter to that extent how many empty schools are built. If there is an occupation the people will resist it. The greater the force of the occupation the greater the resistance until such a point as it cannot increase.

The real problem, of course, is that although you can "up the ante" trying to cool things down is difficult.

Still we will see what happe…

Written Parliamentary Question: 13th October 2006

Freedom of Information
Q:To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the local authorities which have applied under the Freedom of Information Act for information from his Department in 2006; and what information they have applied for. (John Hemming)

A:holding answer 27 February 2006

I have been asked to reply.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Department for Communities and Local Government (including the Government offices for the regions) have received the following requests for information from local authorities in 2006. All requests, including those by organisations, are made by named individuals. We are unable to determine whether the request has been made by an individual, or on behalf of the local authority as a whole. (Angela Smith, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Communities and Local Government)

(for the table, please follow the link)

Dr Rant on Health Statistics

"The BBC is reporting that 43% of Hospital Trusts were caught by 'lie detector software'.
"What does this tell us?
"It tells us that the lie detection software gives a false negative 57% of the time."


Dr Rant is a perhaps slightly less vitriolic version of AngryNHSDoc, who was forced by management to take his blog down. AngryNHSDoc made a number of useful points that it is worth people being aware of:
Statistics are fiddled (see also Dr Rant).
People abuse the NHS.
Doctors don't think NHS Direct is of much benefit.
The way in which things are reported, however, means that much of what the Healthcare Commission said recently was meaningless to patients. For example a PCT that set a target of 12% of smoking pregnant mothers and hit 16% failed. A PCT that set a target of 16% and hit it passed.

It creates a culture whereby people should only set targets that they know they can hit.

We also have the QoF which is where points mean pounds to GP Practises. The ide…

"Troops Out" - in the Daily Mail ?

It is not surprising to have people calling for the withdrawal of Troops from Iraq. It is not surprising to have people saying that the presence of British Troops:

a) Makes the security situation worse in Iraq
b) Causes problems for Britain around the world
c) Causes further difficulties in the UK.

What is surprising is that it is the Army Chief of Staff Sir Richard Dannatt and it is in the Daily Mail.

The article is a good article that I almost agree with entirely. However, I do have a disagreement about Afghanistan. I think that the actions of the Troops in Helmand could have a long term impact. It is important to remember that there is a sort of "Gremlin" effect whereby when you kill an Afghan their Cousin-Brothers are duty bound to obtain revenge. You therefore get a "Gremlin factor" where for each one who dies two or more take their place.

This is the difficulty with a military strategy of occupation. You cannot win "hearts and minds" by killing peop…

Politics through Humour (Reductio ad absurdum)

The law to get rid of Brian Haw (which hasn't actually achieved its objective) has resulted in a number of consequences. The linked story is about Mark Thomas's 21 demonstrations in a day.

This is a good bit of his article:
Through earlier protests, I have got to know the man who coordinates the requests quite well. PC Paul McInally now handles most of the Socpa applications. "What can I do for you today, Mark?" he asks, as we sit in the interview room.

"I've got 21 forms for you."

"Right then," he says in a businesslike fashion, "let's go through them." I like PC McInally. We sort of bonded a few months ago when I handed in an application to demand the immediate sacking of Superintendent Terry.

"You want to sack my direct superior!" PC McInally had spluttered.

"Yes, please."

"I've got to go and ask him if you can have a demonstration calling for him to be sacked?"

"I believe so." I said. And …

Secret Medical Files

If medical records are held on someone then they should be provided to them. What I cannot understand is why the University Hospital of North Staffordshire have not yet done this with the Special Case files.

Hospital Closures - Not a political issue ?!? (Nothing to do with me gov)

Both David Cameron and Gordon Brown appear to be suggesting that Hospital Closures and other "service reconfigurations" should not be a political issue.

David Cameron will set out plans today to give the NHS greater protection from political interference. The Conservative "independence Bill" for the NHS would put crucial decisions on its running and resources beyond the control of ministers by 2008.

This proposal is along the lines of Gordon Brown's. It is like Patricia Hewitt disclaiming responsibility for all of the decisions of PCTs. What it actually means is politicians opting out of decisions as to whether or not services are changed.

However superficially attractive this may seem to the tabloids it would result in a situation in which ordinary citizens become powerless in influencing what happens with the NHS. Bringing in proper accountability at PCT level would be far more effective.

Has Michael Crick selected the Tory Candidate for Battersea?

It would not surprise me at all to find out that the tory party's new "open selection" system for candidates has resulted in Labour activists deciding who the Tory candidate is (see Recess Monkey).

I would be more surprised if Michael Crick had managed to be one of the 300 voters as they should be able to recognise him.

Still if you allow the Labour Party to select the Tory Candidates that is one way of making the Tories the same as Labour.

Has Michael Crick selected the Tory Candidate for Battersea?

It would not surprise me at all to find out that the tory party's new "open selection" system for candidates has resulted in Labour activists deciding who the Tory candidate is (see Recess Monkey).

I would be more surprised if Michael Crick had managed to be one of the 300 voters as they should be able to recognise him.

Still if you allow the Labour Party to select the Tory Candidates that is one way of making the Tories the same as Labour.

Ken Wins - good news

I will be interested to read the judgement whereby the suspension of Ken Livingstone for a comment he made when slightly tired and emotional by the Standards Board/Adjudication Panel is quashed.

The APE and Standards Board have censored councillors for really silly reasons (such as baking a cake). I take the view that actually the courts should be used to enforce local government standards and all the silly cases should be thrown in the bin.

It is up to the voters to decide who represents them. Only when there are serious abuses should the courts get involved.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 6th October 2006

Relative Need
Q:To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the relative need factors are; and what value they have for the financial year 2006-07.(John Hemming)

A:I have been asked to reply.

The Relative Needs Formulae are, based on the demographic, physical and social characteristics of each area, used in the calculation of Formula Grant. Formula Grant comprises Revenue Support Grant, Redistributed Business Rates and principal formula Police Grant.

In 2006-07, the total of all the Relative Needs Formulae is factor of 0.67811309347259. The total for each of the separate Relative Needs Formulae are given in Annex E of the Local Government Finance Report (England) 2006-07.

The Relative Needs Formulae for each local authority can be found on the Department for Communities and Local Government website at:

http://www.local.communities.gov.uk/finance/0607/g:rant.htm
(Phil Woolas, Minister of State (Local Government & Community Cohesion), Department for Communities and Local Government)

Inmate Inform…

Baby's salt death may be accident

This story about a prosecution of a mother for poisoning her son with salt shows a key conflict between Medical Logic and Legal Logic.

The Doctor concerns believes honestly that the mother poisoned the child, but he has no evidence and was "unable to exclude the possibility that an accident was made".

We really need to be able to have criminal trials based upon evidence rather than opinion. Doctors may make educated guesses about diagnoses which on the balance of probabilities are right. However, just because a doctor thinks there is a 60% chance that someone is guilty does not mean that they are guilty. There are too many cases where people are prosecuted without proper evidence. A "medical opinion" is not evidence.

Angry NHS Doctor bites the dust (2)

Initially when I copied the cached blog entries from the censored Angry NHS Doctor onto my website I didn't have time to read them. I have managed to do this now.

I am sure the revelation that the figures used for NHS Targets are fiddled from time to time would concern the management of the hospitals. However, it is not as if it is a secret. Targets have been fiddled for as long as there have been targets so it is not in any way a surprise. I suppose it is a bit more surprising that someone admits it, but the blog was anonymous and I don't know which hospital it refers to.

I don't believe it

Followers of my blog may have noticed that I have been looking at the research of Professor David Southall of North Staffordshire NHS Trust.

Recently I obtained a leak of the report of Professor Hull into Professor Southall's research at NSNHST. The whole issue is quite complex, but there is part of this report I cannot really believe is written down.

Professor Hull is the same Professor Hull that wrote the report that showed that Beverley Allitt was not responsible for most of the deaths of the patients she was responsible for.

(See this BMJ report)

He has analysed various research projects many of which I am worried about. E5 is the most incredible, however. (and that takes some doing)

E5 involves giving babies with breathing problems Carbon Monoxide to measure their oxygen diffusing capacity.

Now using CO at low concentrations to measure oxygen diffusing is known Eg here

However, it is quite clear that:
5.1 Absolute contraindications to performing a diffusing capacity test are
5.1.1 t…

Birmingham is Best

There have been two surveys recently that have put Birmingham at the top of UK cities as as place to live.

I have collated this information on my main reference website (see link). One hobby of various people is to criticise Birmingham. Self-criticism has merits because it facilitates improvement. However, it is worth recognising that the City is a good place to live.

We should not be complacent, but neither should we merely accept the statements of those criticising the city.

On the spot fines

The big question about "on the spot fines" is what they replace. If they replace cautions then I would think this is an improvement. If, however, it undermines the severity of offences such as assaulting a police officer then it is a clear deterioration in the message issued by the criminal justice system.