Anagram Map of the London Underground
The link is to an anagram map of the London Underground which is interesting if not as useful as a normal map of the underground.
First Dentist Deadline Tomorrow
The big test for the New NHS Dental Contract is how many dentists have signed their new contracts by the end of Tomorrow.
That is the only time we will really know how difficult things will be getting. The government have banned queues for NHS Dentists.
As it stands there are dentists willing to take on new NHS patients, but the PCTs don't have the budget for this.
Suspend the Standards Board not Ken Livingstone
The Standards Board (or strictly the Adjudication Panel for England) showed the reason why they need to be abolished when they threw london's regional government into a mess for a month.
The Standards Board fails to deal with the increasing corruption in public life, whilst undermining local government.
The system has clearly brought itself into disrepute and should be scrapped.
NHS Dentistry in Birmingham
After tonight's group meeting I attending the NHS Concern meeting about Dentistry.
It is a bit unfair on the local PCTs. The government are forcing them to use a new contract and limiting the budget they have (recent cuts of £19 million per year from expected figures). The end result is they have to try to defend the indefensible.
It was unusual to have a meeting about Dentistry. Birmingham has been well served with NHS Dentistry until now, but it looks like there will be problems in the new financial year.
Written Parliamentary Questions: 24th February 2006
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the 2006 Aviation White Paper Progress Review will be published; whether it will include revised passenger forecasts to take account of the increased cost of oil; whether his Department will seek the views of (a) other Government departments and (b) external stakeholders on progress made; and whether it will include an assessment of the role reductions in aviation emissions will play in the target to cut overall emissions by 60 per cent. by 2050. (John Hemming)A:
The Department for Transport (DfT) expects to publish a Progress Report on the policies and proposals set out in the Air Transport White Paper (ATWP), by the end of 2006. Paragraph 12.29 of the Air Transport White Paper says that we will continue to regularly publish data on air travel and to update traffic forecasts in the light of trends. Movement in oil price is one of several explanatory factors in air transport forecasts.
The DfT is currently seeking the views of other Government departments. It also engages with external stakeholders on progress made, in a range of fora including the ATWP External Advisory Group.
The support paper to the Air Transport White paper, Aviation and Global Warming, includes forecasts of aviation emissions relative to other emissions. These forecasts are kept under review. However, the Energy White Paper 60 per cent. reduction target focuses on domestic emissions, and does not include international aviation. This is because emissions from international flights do not currently count in the national inventories of greenhouse gas emissions, there being no international agreement yet on ways of allocating such emissions. (Karen Buck, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport)Aviation PolicyQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps have been taken towards producing an evaluation strategy to assess the effectiveness of the Government's aviation policy; what the proposed timetable is for the production of this strategy; and what processes will be used to formulate it.(John Hemming)A:
I refer to my reply to the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green on 19 January 2006, Official Report, column 1471W. The Government are committed to the monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness and impact of the policies of the Air Transport White Paper. We will report by the end of 2006 on progress. (Karen Buck, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport)
Labour Election Petition Struck Out
The good news is that Labour's Election petition in Aston against the Lib Dem by-election victors was "struck out" at 10am today.
What this means is that the Judges decided that even if Labour could prove the allegations that they had made that this would not have resulted in them winning an election petition.
The fact is that Labour's petition was merely a copy of the one I wrote without the Wyrlie incident. Not only that, but they haven't paid me a copyright fee.
Labour MPs fail to support Birmingham
Last week the government rattled sabres at Birmingham and said they would hold back £3 Million of NRF funding until a couple of tasks (which were underway and previously agreed, had been completed).
Two Labour MPs immediately slammed the City Council. The responsibility for these tasks lies with the BSP Programme Board which is chaired by David Cragg who is the regional Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Council.
Firstly, the Labour MPs showed their lack of support for the city and willingness to merely accept that what the government had done was right.
Secondly, the Labour MPs showed their lack of knowledge as to who was actually responsible for this work - viz the report was signed off by David Cragg as BSP Programme Board Chair rather than myself.
I may be critical of David Cragg from time to time, but in this instance the government are entirely wrong. He has done exactly what he was required to do by Government Office West Midlands and the government should rescind their decision to hold back the £3 Million.
Hemming endorses Campbell
The West Midlands Hustings for Lib Dem Leader were yesterday. I would be happy if any of the three candidates won. However, in a finally balanced decision I have decided to endorse Ming Campbell.
There were two particular parts of his speech which were clearly distinct from the other two candidates.
Firstly, he made it clear that we should be a campaigning party raising issues from a local to national level.
Secondly, he talked about the 1.6 Million families waiting for housing and the 700,000 empty homes.
Compared to Chris Huhne, Ming was clearer about the need to be sensitive in the way in which resource taxation is applied. People will know that I see the practical limits to resource consumption being the availability of resources. Within the context of that debate how one rations out the availability of resources becomes a complex decision that needs to be thought through carefully.
We are not clones of the leader of the party. Party policy will continue to be determined by the party as whole. Another point Ming made was the need to involve more people in this so that the party becomes more interested in politics.
Having consulted within the Birmingham Party, therefore, I have decided to vote for and endorse Menzies Campbell as Leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Health finance - overpayments and cuts
I have two answers from the Secretary of State for Health. One shows they have overpaid for some pharmaceuticals by some hundreds of millions of pounds. The other says they will tell me what the cuts to PCTs are soon.
They have the figures to hand on the PCTs so giving a holding answer (just before the half term recess) shows that they are quite sensitive about this.
East Wakefield suffers cuts of around £10 Million and many other PCTS suffer cuts around the same order of magnitude as Birmingham.
What I have been unable to find out so far is what the aggregate national figure is.
Still if I have found a few hundreds of millions for the NHS from drug overpayments, can we have a bit for Birmingham.
The answer of pharmaceuticals is quite clever because it provides a lot of the information, but not exactly that which is needed to work out the overpayment. They have a real challenge here to work out what they are doing about the previous overpayments which would normally be clawed back.
Written Parliamentary Questions: 17th February 2006
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many NHS dentists there are in each primary care trust area; and what net change in the number of dentists in each primary care trust area the Government expects as a result of the implementation of the new NHS dental contract. (John Hemming)A:
Information on the number of dentists in each primary care trust(PCT) has been placed in the Library.
The Department has not made a specific assessment of any changes arising from the new dental contract. From April 2006, PCTs will have devolved responsibility for the commissioning of primary dental services. This means that they will be responsible for commissioning dental services to reflect the needs of their local areas. All dentists currently practising in the general dental services and personal dental services are legally entitled to new contracts. If any dentists choose not to take up the new contract, PCTs will use the funding in their devolved budgets to re-commission services from other dentists. (Rosie Winterton, Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health)EmissionsQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of total UK emissions he estimates will be provided by aviation in (a) 2030 and (b) 2050 (i) with and (ii) without allowance for radiative forcing calculated at 2.7. (John Hemming)A:
Emissions from international flights do not currently count in the national inventories of greenhouse gas emissions, there being no international agreement yet on ways of allocating such emissions. There is, therefore, no agreed definition for UK aviation. In order to provide illustrative figures we have previously provided data based on a number of assumptions—that the UK takes responsibility for emissions from all departing flights, that all other sectors of the economy reduce their CO 2 emissions in line with the Energy White Paper goal. These figures do not take into account the impact of economic instruments like emissions trading.
The Department for Transport provided an illustrative table showing the relative contribution of aviation to UK emissions to the Environmental Audit Committee (published on 7 June 2004 in "Aviation: Sustainability and the Government Response", HC 623). On this basis, aviation would be responsible for 15.2 per cent. of UK CO 2 emissions in 2030 and 21.3 per cent. in 2050. Using a radiative forcing factor of 2.7, aviation would be responsible for 27.6 per cent. in 2030 and 34.3 per cent. in 2050 of the UK's contribution to global warming.
The Air Transport White Paper sets out the Government's belief that the best way of ensuring aviation contributes towards the goal of climate stabilisation would be through a well-designed emissions trading regime, for which we are pressing at international and European level. We are working through the International Civil Aviation Organisation towards an international emissions trading scheme for aviation—this is consistent with the request to ICAO from the UN Climate Change Convention for action on aviation emissions. We are also pursuing the inclusion of aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme. The details of how a scheme would work in practice, like the overall cap and the distribution of allowances between member states will be subject to discussion with other member states' governments. (Karen Buck, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport)
Smoking Rooms - a Liberal Alternative (2)
I link to the debate in which I spoke for a short time (having been requested by the Speaker to keep it short).
The key facts are:
a) Smoking generally is going down
b) The Evidence from Ireland is:
- i) as a result of the ban smoking went down by an additional one off about 5%
- ii) people now smoke outside pubs or at home more than they used to
c) Secondary smoke is dangerous although not as dangerous as primary smoking.
d) 95% of deaths attribted to secondary smoke arise from smoke in the home.
The House of Commons has accepted that workers may be exposed to the level of smoke they encounter in outdoor areas.
The effect of the ban (which I voted for) is that smoking will move into homes and onto the streets. That which moves into homes will cause more deaths from passive smoking in the home and at least of the order of deaths that are reduced as a result of smoke-free bars.
If, and this does need to be proven, a ventilated smoking room can have a concentration of smoke of the order of a garden - which is feasible. Then the logic remains to allow ventilated smoking rooms. Fewer people would die as a result of secondary smoke and people would keep the option of a fag and a pint.
Written Parliamentary Question: 14th February 2006
Private Finance InitiativeQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the total capital sum is of each of the private finance initiative schemes over £10 million (a) in operation and (b) where the outline business case has been approved for which her Department is responsible; and what the (i) total optimism bias percentage, (ii) net value at commencement and (iii) amount of optimism bias for the public sector comparator is in respect of each scheme.(John Hemming)A:
Table 1 shows the capital value for all private finance initiative schemes over £10 million which are open. Table 2 shows the capital value for private finance initiative schemes which have reached financial close with work started on site or have advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union. All these schemes have an approved outlined business case.
The requirement to make explicit quantified adjustments for optimism bias in business cases, complementing the risk analysis already undertaken, was announced by Treasury in January 2003 and is applicable to national health service schemes that reached the invitation to negotiate stage from April 2003. Schemes which applied optimism bias are indicated in Table 2. This information is only available for schemes above £25 million. To collect and collate percentages and amounts of optimism for all these schemes could only be provided at disproportionate cost. (Jane Kennedy, Minister of State (Quality and Patient Safety), Department of Health)Please follow the link to find the tables - ed.
PFI: Government Hiding Figures
I suppose it was too much to hope that the government would give a straight answer to a straight question. Tom will post the response from the government about optimism bias. We will, of course, continue working to get the true picture about the fiddle factors that have been used for PFI.
The link is to the guardian's section about PFI. They are reasonably accurate, but do tend to mix up annual and accumulated deficits.
In the mean time I am hearing rumours that local authorities are resorting to the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information about their funding. One would have hoped that ODPM would merely "fess up" and explain the basis of their calculations, but that does seem to be not their approach for the moment.
The Information Commissioner has started looking at my case where the Chancellor refused to provide the basis of his calculations. What the outcome will be is not as yet clear.Fiona MacTaggart's answer yesterday
to a question I asked about the over use of cautions shows she does not understand what is happening.
Shoplifting Quota £49.99 per year
A report in today's Birmingham Mail indicates that if someone shoplifts less than £50 they will only get a caution if either it is the first offence during a year or otherwise the first offence.
This shows the problems with cautions. If we are serious about trying to get someone off an addiction for cocaine and/or heroin then we should be looking at treatment orders for possession. Cautions should only be used when it seems quite clear that the offender is unlikely to offend again.
With shoplifting we should be looking for some form of non-custodial sentance rather than merely saying it does not matter. The consequences of the current system is that there are thresholds below which "the system" does not care.
I do not hold either the CPS or the Police reponsible for this. This is driven by Home Office targets and guidelines. It is that which needs to change.
Dunfermline and Birmingham
The excellent result in Dunfermline shows that we are making further progress against Labour. In Birmingham that is good news for the Lib Dems in Yardley, Hodge Hill, Hall Green, Ladywood and Perry Barr each of which is a clear Lib Dem/Labour battleground.
Written Parliamentary Questions: 9th February 2006
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what nuclear fuels have been consumed in the UK in each of the last three years; and how many tonnes of each type of fuel were consumed in each of those years. (John Hemming)A:
British Nuclear Fuel and British Energy have informed me that their generating reactors have used the following volumes of Uranium over the last three-year period for which figures are available:
BNFL Tonnes uranium
British Energy Tonne uranium
(Malcolm Wicks, Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Industry) Nuclear FuelsQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many tonnes of nuclear fuel were imported into the UK in the latest year for which records are available, broken down by country of export.(John Hemming)A:
Spent nuclear fuel is imported into the UK for reprocessing services. The precise details of deliveries from individual customers are commercially confidential. I can, however, confirm there have been no such imports in the financial year 2005–06. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Industry) Nuclear FuelsQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment his Department has made of the energy requirements of producing nuclear fuels. (John Hemming)A:
In the context of the Energy Review, the Government are looking at the lifecycle carbon emissions of nuclear generation. This will require an understanding of the energy requirements for the preparation of fuel, operation, and decommissioning and waste management.(Malcolm Wicks, Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Industry) London Mainline TerminalsQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what capital sums have been spent on each mainline terminal railway station in London in each year since 1997, broken down by source of capital; and what capital sums are planned to be spent on each such station in each year between 2005–06 and 2007–08, broken down by source of capital.(John Hemming)A:
This is an operational matter for Network Rail (NR). I have asked NR to write directly to the hon. Member. (Derek Twigg, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport)
Sudden Cuts in PCT Budget Plans
The Government have suddenly announced that they intend reducing the planned budget for PCTs in Birmingham and Solihull by £18,931,000 in 2006/7, £28,395,000 in 2007/8 and £37,862,000.
This has been announced internally at the last minute and will result in a lengthening of waiting times for Medical Treatment in Birmingham.
I raised the issue calling for an extended debate on this as distinct to the issue of dental treatment at Business Questions today. There will be a health service debate next week at which I will try to raise these issues which are national issues that hit hard in Birmingham.
The Sinn Fein Votes
There were two votes yesterday on a Free Vote. As they were on a Free Vote I feel I should explain my logic for voting as I did.
A report from the Independent Monitoring Commission initially called for a suspension of the members allowances for the MPs that don't take their seats in the house of commons. (Sinn Fein). This same group concluded recently that matters had changed and hence the allowances should be restored. These allowances are mainly used to support constituents.
Additionally the government proposed that SF be given a sum of money equivalent to the "Short Money" that is used to fund parties' research into policy matters on legislation. Given that SF do not attend the House they do not get involved in these matters in the same way. Hence this equates moreso to a bung than a source of finance to support their work on legislation.
Motion 3 was to provide the Short Money equivalent - I voted against.
Motion 4 was to reinstate the constituency allowance - I vote for.
Both motions were passed with Tony Blair voting for both motions.
Jobs, Cars, Houses and The Weather
This morning I met with the accountants investigating the saga of MG Rover. That was an interesting discussion and I will be interested to find out what their conclusions are in months to come. Clearly manufacturing is suffering we have 1,300 redundancies at Lode Lane and also in phone canvassing in Dunfermline there are issues with redundancies there.
I am not sure that the government fully recognise the damage they have done to the British Economy. We are turning into an economy dependent on oil finance at the same time as starting to import oil. This is not a sustainable position.
After PMQ where I missed being called by a hairsbreadth I went to the Housing lobby at Methodist Central Hall. I met up with the Housing Team from Birmingham who have explained how we are working on housing issues.
Housing remains a substantial problem with an underlying shortage of properties available that are affordable. I think the government are wrong to assume that everyone can buy a property. Some people will need to rent.
Issues like fuel poverty (defined as fuel costs over 10% of income) and housing affordability (defined in a very complex manner) hit very hard people on lower incomes. Certain basic demands for a place to live which is warm enough to live in swallow up a high proportion of some people's disposable income. Labour are not delivering for such people.
In the mean time it does appear that Dan Morris MP has reported me to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for asking about the Weather. I always thought it was a British Pasttime to talk about the weather.
Written Parliamentary Questions: 8th February 2006
Special Advisors (DoH)Q:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list the special advisers in post in her Department, broken down by pay band; and what the total budgeted cost to her Department of special advisers is for 2005–06. (John Hemming)A:
Since 2003, the Government have published on an annual basis the names and overall cost of special advisers and the number in each pay band. For the most recent information, I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister on 21 July 2005, Official Report, columns 158–62WS.
Information on the numbers of special advisers prior to 2003 was provided at regular intervals and this information will be available in the Library.
Information relating to costs for 2005–06 will be published after the end of the current financial year. (Jane Kennedy, Minister of State (Quality and Patient Safety), Department of Health)Passport ServicesQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many passport photographs of under-5 year olds were rejected in December 2005. (John Hemming)A:
For the five week period commencing 28 November 2005, 2,918 photographs for children aged five and under were rejected. This equates to around 7 per cent. of all applications from children aged under six. (Andy Burnham, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office)
Written Parliamentary Questions: 7th February 2006
Predictive Diallers (DoH)Q:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many calls were made from call centres in her Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment she has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres.(John Hemming)A:
The Department has a single call centre, part of a customer service directorate. This centre does not use predictive dialling. (Jane Kennedy, Minister of State (Quality and Patient Safety), Department of Health)Fuel DutyQ:
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the level of fuel duty for a liquid fuel produced from (a) biomass and (b) waste cooking oil that is (i) diesel quality and (ii) not diesel quality. (John Hemming)A:
I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 15 December 2005, Official Report, column 2265W. (John Healey, Financial Secretary, HM Treasury)Energy ImportsQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the peak import rate of gas into the United Kingdom via the Bacton Interconnector has been to date in winter 2005–06; and what the average rate was for the 10 highest days.(John Hemming)A:
In the period 1 October 2005 to 24 January 2006, the highest daily import of natural gas through the Bacton-Zeebrugge Interconnector was 379 GWh; this occurred on 9 January. The average rate for the ten highest consecutive days was 310 GWh per day (359 GWh per day based on absolute days). (Malcolm Wicks, Minister for Energy, Department of Trade and Industry)Biodiesel (Environmental Impact)Q:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what environmental impact assessment has been carried out into the process that converts vegetable oils into biodiesel of diesel quality.(John Hemming)A:
The most common process for converting vegetable oil into biodiesel is trans-esterification. This process is well known from years of use in the oleochemical sector. However, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership will be looking at the specific environmental impacts of biodiesel processing as part of their work on developing draft environmental standards for biofuels. The impacts in terms of pollution to air, land and water are controlled by the Environment Agency. A pollution prevention control permit is required where biodiesel is being produced for own-use by six or more people or for commercial operations producing more than 5,000 litres a year. The processing of biodiesel from waste cooking oil and tallow is also subject to waste management controls. Various studies have assessed the greenhouse gas impact across the whole production process from raw material to finished biodiesel. UK-produced biodiesel typically gives greenhouse gas savings of around 55 per cent. compared to fossil diesel. (Elliot Morley, Minister of State (Climate Change and Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Independent Sector Treatment CentresQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the impact of independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) on the morale of NHS staff; and whether her Department has conducted a survey of the opinion of NHS staff on the effectiveness of ISTCs. (John Hemming)A:
No such assessments or surveys have been undertaken. (Liam Byrne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)Private Finance Initiative SchemesQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health
(1) what sign offs are required before a guarantee can be provided by her Department for private finance initiative schemes for NHS foundation trusts;
(2) how much has been guaranteed by her Department for the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust private finance initiative scheme;
(3) what the current status is of the proposed University Hospital Birmingham private finance initiative rebuild; and if she will make a statement.
The trust's full business case (FBC) has been submitted to the Department for approval; the trust is currently clarifying a number of points which have been raised by the Department. Subject to approval by the Department, the FBC will be forwarded to HM Treasury for approval by officials and Ministers.
In common with other foundation trust private finance initiative (PFI) schemes with a capital value in excess of £0 million, the Secretary of State for Health, the PFI consortium and its funders will sign a deed of safeguard prior to financial close. The effect of the deed of safeguard is to make the Secretary of State liable should the trust be unable to meet its payments to the operator of the PFI scheme.(Liam Byrne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)Crime PreventionQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what research he has commissioned on the effects on recidivism of the use of cautions for crimes of robbery.(John Hemming)A:
No research has been commissioned which directly addresses this issue. (Fiona Mactaggart, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office)Nuclear EnergyQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of electricity used in the UK was produced from nuclear energy in the latest year for which figures are available. (John Hemming)A:
In 2004, the latest full year for which data are available, 19 per cent. of the electricity supplied to customers in the UK was from nuclear sources. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Industry)
Passport Office for Birmingham
In all of the work I have been doing to get the rules for passport photos simplified it has been pointed out that a Passport Office for the Midlands would be helpful. At the moment you need to go to London, Peterborough or Newport. With all the hassles getting passports now it strikes me that an office based in Birmingham would be really helpful.
Consultancy Fees and Malicious Falsehood
Something like 18 months after Labour ex-Councillor Tony Kennedy pushed Jim Pendleton into a wall at the Prince of Wales pub in Moseley the Judge has now produced a judgement in the "Malicious Falsehood" case brought against Lib Dem Councillor Martin Mullaney for sending an email saying "Tony Kennedy is going to be Arrested."
As a sort of Small Claims version of Libel none of the outcome is particularly surprising. In this instance Martin gets costs of £60 rather than the £6000 or so he should be due for the amount of work done. Jim Pendleton also gets £50 for loss of earnings.
The case has had its surreal moments like when the Chief Executive of the Pub Chain was suppoenaed to stand as a witness - as if he was there on the night.
A key part of today's press report which has more impact than a row in a pub is the following:[Mr Kennedy] maintained ... attempts to set up as new business as an independent consultant to developers suffered.
Mr Kennedy said a number of clients backed out of contracts because they feared he would not be able to lobby the planning committee effectively given Coun Mullaney's senior position on it.
He also alleged he began to receive calls from people asking him "to help out in a fight".
Birmingham Post 4th Feb.
What this means is that he was expecting to get "consultancy fees" from developers wanting planning permission, but when Labour lost control of the planning committee they said they would no longer pay him.
Now planning is supposed to be a "quasi judicial" process where there is no party whip and decisions are made on the merits of the case.
Why then would it matter which party controls the planning committee?
I don't think this particular aspect of the case is finished yet.
Health Minister - "In Denial"
There seems to be getting to be a pattern of Ministers denying that they are responsible for Silent Calls. First we had the Chancellor saying "The Treasury Does not use predictive dialling". OK so that was a true statement, but it ignored the fact that the Inland Revenue made hundreds of thousands of Silent Calls.
Now we have the health minister claiming that that department is not responsible for phone nuisance. The National Blood Service, however, does make silent calls (about 80,000 a year). All we are asking them to do is to provide a recorded message to stop the anxiety.
It may be that the National Blood Service is not part of the Department of Health and hence the Minister's answer was right, but this does seem to be pushing the boundaries of "answering" questions.
Q:Why did George Vote? A:He had a fe(e)-line whip
I have now heard this joke twice. The votes yesterday were on the details of what should be unlawful. I am always worried about laws where people break the law when they did not intend to.
The problem with the government's approach on Religious Hatred is that they approached it much like breaking the speed limit. With the Speed Limit is entirely fair to have a strict liability rule although that should only apply when the speed limit is obvious.
If, however, you are going to lock people up for being unintentionally abusive or insulting then I think that is clearly going too far. I understand a considerable amount about different cultures, but many people don't. Certain statements can really jar and act as being abusive or insulting without the person saying it being aware at all.
If you start going down that route you are really making government take control over the minutae of people's lives.
I have accepted (and demonstrated by 3rd reading support) the principle that we need to take action to stop the incitement to conflict in society. The deliberate causing of trouble involving violence and acts of hatred is not something society can tolerate.
George Galloway incidentally voted with the Government on this.