John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Sunday, December 31, 2006
  test blog entry from mda
This was initially entered using a new MDA vario II. My version 1 has slightly worn out and the handsfree set was not working which caused some problems travelling around Birmingham. I, therefore, got an upgrade yesterday.

The new version is still a bit slow on the net compared to broadband, but is not at all bad.

I don't think I am going to go for that much "blogging on the move", however.
 
  Labour Ministers Campaign against Labour Government Policy
The idea that a Labour Government minister responsible for the policy on maternity services would actually campaign against the outcome of his own policy is quite surreal.

There was another symptom of this disconnection between policies of the government and the policies argued for by Labour MPs on Planning during the Xmas adjournment debate. It is no good criticising the planning appeal process if the government is actually trying to reduce the democratic element.

The question that Labour need to answer is "who is running the government if you are not".

This is an important issue in politics as if those who are in a position to change policy don't support the policy then what is the sense of putting them in that position.
 
Saturday, December 30, 2006
  The Rule of Law and Process of Change
One thing I find interesting to study is how systems change. In theory politics is about "power" and the ability to effect change. However, frequently "politics" is about status and really does not result in that much that changes.

Good examples of laws that have not had any real effect is the "banning" of hunting with hounds. The argument about whether it is better for a fox to be shot than torn about by dogs resulted in a law that cannot be seen to have had any real discernable effect.

At the same time the law has been recently reinterpreted to substantially open up much of the actions of the Family Courts. There is an interesting question as to what encourages judges such as Mumby J to make such clear shifts in process. There is a public debate in the media, there was also an Early Day Motion that had large numbers of MPs sign it.

In a traditional constitutional sense the houses of parliament are actually courts. They were used to change the common law through statute in such a manner as had popular consent and could be used to consider individual actions. The COmmons retains its power of committal. The powers to hold the executive to account have developed over time.

Where there is an interesting question is to what extent actions in the House of Commons which fall short of statute can affect the interpretation of law by the Courts. That is an issue which I would like to challenge in the new year. If an Early Day Motion is signed by sufficient (probably a majority) of MPs then that should be seen as a reasonable basis for an interpretative guide by the courts.

Even with a written constitution there are still going to be areas of interpretation. I do think there is a case for determining which statutes are constititional and should require more than a majority in parliament for change. However, I am not sure that we need to hardwire the majority of the British constitution.

Still I have a couple of projects upon which I would aim to test the constitution in ways that it has not overtly been tested before.
 
Friday, December 29, 2006
  North Staffs NHS Trust Responds !!!
They have issued the following statement:

The Trust has been in communication with Mr John Hemming MP about his concerns relating to research carried out by Professor David Southall and colleagues.

Mr Hemming has made a number of allegations that officers of the Trust have behaved unlawfully and has made repeated statements of his intention to issue Judicial Review proceedings against the Trust. However the Trust, acting on the advice of its solicitors, has explained to Mr Hemming that it cannot lawfully take the steps that the MP has requested in relation to the confidential information in Special Case Files.

The Trust has asked to meet Mr Hemming to seek to explain that, as long as the Trust is holding the files, it will abide by all its legal duties regarding the confidential information in the files. The MP has not yet responded to that offer.

The Trust has not threatened to sue Mr Hemming but has reserved the right to recover the costs of responding to any legal action so the money can be spent on patient care.

However, the Trust would much prefer Mr Hemming to meet its directors to discuss his concerns and to have an opportunity to explain that the Trust is behaving entirely properly and in accordance with its legal obligations.


Being a simple minded soul I thought that meant that "the Trust would much prefer Mr Hemming to meet its directors". So emailed them asking if they will now talk to me and got the response:

----- Original Message -----
From: Lovatt, Sue
To: John Hemming MP (hemmingj@parliament.uk)
Sent: Friday, December 29, 2006 4:08 PM
Subject: RE: UHNS

Dear Mr Hemming

Thank you for your email. Our approach on this matter is as in Kristina Taylor’s letter to you of 6th December 2006.

Regards
Sue Lovatt
Communications Manager
University Hospital of North Staffordshire

-----Original Message-----
From: John Hemming MP (hemmingj@parliament.uk) [mailto:john.hemming@jhc.co.uk]
Sent: 29 December 2006 11:38
To: Lovatt, Sue
Subject: UHNS

Are UHNS willing to talk to me directly now or do I still have to write to the lawyers?
==============================================================================

So the response from the hospital is that they don't want to talk to me directly, but only through the lawyers and they want to charge me for the time spent by the lawyers on talking to me. I am not quite sure what planet this organisation is on.
 
Thursday, December 28, 2006
  Birmingham Post reports on UHNS litigation threat
The Front Page story in the Birmingham Post today as with that yesterday on The Stirrer (Adrian Goldberg's news blog site) report on the threat by North Staffs to sue me.

Their lawyers want a meeting with me, but are also suggesting that I should pay the hospitals legal costs. I have made it clear that I will not want to meet up with them if they are going to try to charge me for the time taken in the meeting.

In any event although legally they are on shaky ground trying to sue me for the legal costs of writing a letter, more importantly they are really working against the interests of patients. If MPs have to worry about the threat of legal action for the costs of hospitals getting advice when they write to hospitals it would seriously undermine the system of democratic accountability.

The Post's article also looks at aspects of the speech I made just before Christmas (in the Christmas adjournment). It is in fact that the first newspaper article I have seen to look generally at this issue.
 
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
  Respect Zones - A quiet news day
This period before the New Year is always quiet for news. The government appear to have gone for a bit more on the "Respect" Agenda.

So now we have "Respect Zones" this is on top of last year's "Respect Action Plan".

There is a complex issue relating to how the public sector operates. That is that the politicians are not really executive officers. The work is done by other people. Politicians establish the legislative framework and sometimes end up as ministers defending the decisions of civil servants.

That means that it is not really sensible to try to micromanage what goes on. That is why we end up with budgeting systems such as RAB. It also means, however, that we get nonsense such as today.

What would be better is a good analysis of the current system followed by a set of proposals for change. The analysis does not have to cover all aspects, but has to look at the systems of feedback. Cautions are a good example of an aspect of the system that does not work properly and actually undermines the system as whole.

For example ASBOs have a role, but are not a panacea. What I suggested for the Home Office is that they develop a flowchart of how people go in and out of the system. The problem is that our system concentrates on crimes and processes and does not look at the system from the perspective of the people involved. There has been no response on this as yet.
 
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
  Greeks bomb Scotland Yard?
If you imagine a situation in which the Greek army acting as peacekeepers in the UK allied with the scottish dominationed national government of the UK blew up Scotland Yard you would part understand how risky the attack on the Basra police station is.

I don't like second guessing military tactics as you need to know what the situation is on the ground in detail. However, it appears that the UK forces in Basra are now working against the local council.

Segmented societies tend to divide into factions. Tribes or clans can switch from faction to faction. However, most feudal disputes are based upon feuds or vendettas which arise from a desire for revenge. There are a number of good books on the motivations for Suicide Missions which basically show that revenge rather than religion is the key motivator.

I am concerned that this particular action by the UK forces may be seen in retrospect as something increasing the level of disorder in the south. I may be wrong. I am writing from Birmingham rather than on the ground in Iraq. It looks like something that will up the ante, however.
 
Monday, December 25, 2006
  Wii out of box, two more kittens
It is quite impressive that the Wii (which was bought about 2 weeks ago) remained under the Christmas Tree until today. I operate a system with my children whereby as soon as they can count sufficiently they get a present budget. My 6 year old decided as part of her budget to buy an electronic kitten that purs and moves its head. I must admit that I much prefer the real kitten that we got via Freecycle about 9 months ago. I also noticed a new kitten eating dinner with our other cats. It is quite interesting how quickly cats find free sources of food. I presume one of our neighbours have a kitten that has wandered a bit.

The general feeling is that real cats are far better than robot cats. I did suggest, however, that the next enhancement to gaming might be to develop physical models of the games in the Wii such as getting a real wooden table tennis top and real bats and try that rather waving around the Wii wands. This, however, did not get the same level of support domestically as the thesis that real cats are better than robot cats.
 
Sunday, December 24, 2006
  Blair's Iraq Figleaf non-existant
With the Weapons of Mass Destruction having been found to be non-existant some time ago Tony Blair has used the argument that it was good to introduce democracy and get rid of Saddam Hussain.

The fact is, however, that it was not necessary to invade Iraq to achieve this. What people have now forgotten is that in the Kurdish north there was a no-fly zone which enabled the Kurds to operate independently of the Ba'th government. There was also a no-fly zone in the south. That, however, had rules of engagement that meant that heavy weaponry could be used on any rebellion, but no action would be taken.

Had the rules of Engagement been changed in the southern no-fly zone then it would have been possible for the south to rebel against the Ba'th. In fact it was the non intervention policy that caused the south to be recontrolled after the first gulf war.

People on the ground in the Middle East could not understand why the USA would not assist the Iraqis to take control of Iraq.

The reason the UK and USA did not want to do this (which was the SCIRI proposal) was concern that the end result would be a federal Iraq.

As usual Blair creates a false dichotomy when there were a lot of possible choices many of which would have fitted comfortably within international law.
 
Saturday, December 23, 2006
  Hospital Threatens to Sue MP over letter
It is a new one on me. The University Hospital of North Staffordshire have threatened to sue me (or more precisely their lawyers have threatened to sue me) over a letter I wrote to them.

I wrote to them asking for them to tell those people who have secret medical files that there are secret medical files. They responded by

a) Refusing to write to me and/or talk to me directly and passing the issue to their lawyers
b) Threatening to sue me for the cost of their lawyers giving legal advice

The best thing the hospital could do is to 'fess up and tell people about whom they have been holding secret medical files that they hold those files.

It does, however, raise some quite serious issues that an arm of Government is trying to stop Members of Parliament from raising things with them with the threat of charging them thousands of pounds for the temerity of writing a letter.

They should stop squirming and obey the law.
 
Thursday, December 21, 2006
  Medical Ethics - NHS responds
I did a speech on Medical Ethics on Tuesday (see link) which referred substantially to the research managed by Dr David Southall.

It included the following section:
Furthermore, the lack of action to maintain its integrity makes the national health service institutionally complicit in the destruction of evidence.
At least now the NHS is acting at a level other than that of the Hospital. I have raised the issue on numerous occasions over the past few months both nationally and regionally. I also raised it at a meeting with the region on 11th December.

It has, however, taken until yesterday for anything of substance to be done. The advice is that the Special Case records actually belong to the Secretary of State.

The authorities need to be aware that this issue will not simply go away. The lack of action from senior officials including the Chief Executive of the NHS, Regional Chief Executive of the NHS and Chief Medical Officer is unacceptable.
 
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
  We're in the court of appeal
I need to work out how to handle the procedures, but some time in the new year there should be a hearing in front of a Division Court (three judges) in the Court of Appeal relating to the matter of forcing Ministers to answer questions.
 
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
  Written Parliamentary Questions: 19th December 2006
Highly-skilled Migrant Programme
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the likely impact of changes to the highly skilled migrant programme on economic migration within the UK; and if he will make a statement. (John Hemming)

A:Migrants currently in the UK under the highly skilled migrant programme (HSMP) can apply to extend their leave. The rules for the highly skilled migrant programme extension applications have recently been amended to ensure that applicants already in the UK under the programme have been making, and can continue to make, a contribution to the UK economy. The changes were based on a thorough analysis of the HSMP criteria.

Individuals applying to extend their leave to remain in the UK under the HSMP must now achieve a minimum of 75 points against robust points scoring criteria (qualifications, previous earnings, age and UK experience) and must also meet a mandatory English language requirement. The points scoring structure is flexible and is based on criteria that will indicate success in the labour market. If an applicant claims fewer points in one area, they can make up for it by claiming more points in another. (Liam Byrne, Minister of State, Home Office)

Highly-skilled Migrant Programme
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people in the UK who qualify under the highly skilled migrant programme live or work in (a) London, (b) the South West and (c) elsewhere in the UK. (John Hemming)

A:The highly skilled migrant programme (HSMP) is designed to give highly skilled individuals the opportunity to come to the UK to seek work without having a prior offer of employment. Data is not collected about where those individuals eventually choose to live or work. (Liam Byrne, Minister of State, Home Office)
 
Monday, December 18, 2006
  That Sub-Post Office Question
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley, Liberal Democrat) Hansard source
The Secretary of State has admitted that the Government will force sub-post offices that are profitable private businesses to close because they are not profitable for the central Post Office. Will he publish details of the localised costs and the methodology used to calculate them, so that we can be sure that the mistake that was made in the "Counter Revolution" report has not been made in these calculations?

Alistair Darling (Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry) Hansard source
I did not say anything of the sort. The job of the Post Office is to ensure a coherent national network. As I said at the beginning of my statement and as the hon. Gentleman has to realise, most post offices—apart from Crown ones—are private businesses operated by private individuals, and if they are profitable they will remain profitable.

 
Saturday, December 16, 2006
  One Doctor's View: "Closing Hospitals Killing Patients"
The link is to a post from a doctor who calls himself Dr Rant. He makes the point that the cuts in ambulance services and hospital services are impacting on care of patients.

I have now received the "hospital at night" documents from the government, but not managed to work through them. The real question is one of identifying when the government's cuts have impacted on patients. Dr Rant appears to have identified one.
 
Friday, December 15, 2006
  Understanding the Law and the Webster Case
I have just picked up on this case from Monday.

It goes to the nub of one of the legal arguments in child protection. There are fractures that can be diagnosed as Classic Metaphyseal Lesions from X-rays.

I have a report from the College of Radiologists that confirms that noone knows what proportion of children who have Metaphyseal fractures have obtained them through abuse.

There is a difficulty in that X-raying a child has some risk so you cannot just go around x-raying everyone.

However, a high proportion of children who have been abused (particularly fatally) have CMLs.

Let us assume for them moment that 90% of children with CMLs have them through abuse.

That means that 10% of children diagnosed with abuse haven't actually been abused.

They, however, are removed from their parents. Furthermore any other children that the parents have are removed from their parents.

There is an additional problem in that the 90% figure could be 40% and 60% of children who are removed from their parents for this reason (alone) would be removed wrongly.

The College of Radiologists say furthermore:
The diagnosis of child abuse is rarely made on the basis of a single metaphyseal fracture, and it is important that all the clinical, radiological and social aspects are taken into account before arriving at the diagnosis.

Every effort has to be made prior to this to ascertain from the parents/ carers of any possible mechanism, accidental or unintentional, that could account for the injury. Clearly one has to be certain that the observation truly represents a metaphyseal injury.

Child abuse by its very nature makes the performance of controlled studies very difficult.

It must be stressed that child abuse is a significant problem and failure to diagnose abuse may result in further abuse and possibly the death of the infant.


The problem is that the system starts grinding as soon as CMLs are diagnosed.
All the cogs then turn in their usual manner.

45% of prostitutes were in care. Can people not recognise that it is a good idea to keep children out of care.

(again, however, this statistic does not properly justify what quantative conclusions can be drawn as to the long term effect of being taken into care.)
 
Thursday, December 14, 2006
  Closing Profitable sub-post offices
So yet again 2,500 sub-post offices that are mainly profitable will be offered 28 months income to close. 24 months is the usual sale amount.

This will pressurise more people into having benefits paid into bank accounts saving the government about £15 per year for each person on benefits.

Whether it will pick up and prevent any benefit fraud is unclear.

However, as far as offering a service the Government have a clear strategy of chopping off about 3,000 sub-post offices every so often.

The fact is that almost all of the sub-post offices are themselves profitable. There is a problem with the finances of the operator of the Network the erstwhile "post office counters ltd". This problem, however, has almost certainly not been properly analysed. I read a report "counter revolutions" some time ago that produced flawed management accounts.

To identify the cost of running a sub-post office for the post office itself you cannot simply take the fixed central costs and allocate them equally to each office. The marginal cost is clearly not calculated that way. It is an easy piece of maths, but comes out with the wrong conclusions.

I managed to make this point today in the House, but I don't think the minister understood it. The minister was clearly mystified when I said most of the sub post offices he was to be closing were profitable. It is, however, the truth.
 
  Written Parliamentary Question: 14th December 2006
Litigants in Person
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to her answer of 29 November 2006, Official Report, column 764W, on litigants in person, what reasons the Civil Procedure Rule Committee gave for keeping the rate at which litigants in person can claim costs at its 1995 level.(John Hemming)

A:There is no record in the minutes of the Committee of the reason for their decision. (Vera Baird, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs)
 
  RCPCH issues child protection companion
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Heath has issued its Child Protection Companion.

It is a big file that is available on their website. It is a helpful step forwards as it works towards some certainty as to what particular symptoms mean.

There remains a failure to recognise the problems that arise from false allegations. I think there is a need to distinguish between situations which have certainty and those which are more vague.
 
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
  Written Parliamentary Question: 13th December 2006
Highly-skilled Migrant Programme
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people in the UK who qualify to work under the highly-skilled migrant programme scheme will fail to have their qualification renewed unless they find a job paying them more money. (John Hemming)

A:Information of this kind is not available. In order to qualify for further leave to remain as a highly skilled migrant under the new rules, applicants must now meet robust points criteria based on their qualifications, previous earnings, age and UK experience. It will also be mandatory for applicants to demonstrate a good standard of English language. The salary an applicant needs to reach for their previous earnings in order to qualify for a Highly Skilled Migrant programme extension will depend on the points awarded against the other criteria.

I have also announced transitional arrangements to avoid disadvantaging those who fail to meet the new requirements but are making a useful contribution to the UK. Those working in a skilled job, but who do not meet the new criteria, will be allowed to switch into work permit employment.
(Liam Byrne, Minister of State, Home Office)

Consultant Fees
To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether fees due to a consultant on a full-time contract to an NHS hospital for reports are paid to (a) the NHS and (b) the consultant. (John Hemming)

A:'Fee Paying Services' are covered by schedule 10 of the Consultant Contract (2003) Terms and Conditions of Service. 'Fee Paying Services' include the provision of specialist medical reports.

Schedule 11 of the Consultant Contract (2003) Terms and Conditions of Service sets out the principles governing the receipt of fees for such services. It provides that the consultant should remit any fees to his/her employer when carrying out fee-paying work for other organisations during national health service time, unless the work involves minimal disruption and the employer agrees that it may be done in NHS time without the employer collecting the fee.

For fee-paying work carried out in the consultant's own time, the consultant can retain the fee.

The 2003 Consultant Contract was designed to clarify the NHS commitment and private practice commitment, and to provide stronger guarantees that private practice would not disrupt provision of NHS services or detract from NHS performance. Under the new arrangements, there is much greater transparency about consultants' contractual commitments to the NHS, and clear guidelines on private work. (Ivan Lewis, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)
 
  Oil Company Reserves in Decline
Historically the decline in reserves from any oil field have been in part concealed by activity such as oil companies buying each other. There always has been some "reserve growth" from a single field because people are frequently cautious to start out with and also technology enables better recovery rates. Those issues are stabilising.

ASPO has now produced Newsletter 71. Within that the reported reserves of the oil majors are compared from 2004 to 2005 and now are on an aggregate basis reporting a decline.

Reported Reserves Mb20042005
Exxon-Mobil1165111229
BP99349565
Shell48884636
Total70036592
Chevron-Texaco79738000
Total4144940798


The predicted year for conventional oil production peaking is 2005 and for all liquids is 2010 (Natural Gas Liquid - that oil that is condensed from gas fields is still growing.
 
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
  Selections Yardley and Hodge Hill
On Saturday Cllr Tariq Khan was selected as PPC for Birmingham (Hodge Hill). Liam Byrne has greeted this with an attack on the Lib Dems. Tariq stands in a strong position as the new boundaries make the seat more of a Lib Dem seat than previously. Tariq won with an overwhelming vote of the members.

I was also reselected on Saturday. The system for reselecting Lib Dem MPs is complex. It starts with a secret ballot at a members meeting. It is right for this to be a secret ballot. If the MP loses that then there is a postal ballot of all members. If the MP loses that then there is an open selection.

Normally I have about 3 people voting against me, but on this occasion I won 76 votes to 1.
 
Monday, December 11, 2006
  NHS Financial Crisis
The story in the Guardian today is much like an EDM I tabled over a year ago.

Hospitals such as the QE in Woolwich cause major problems for the NHS. If such hospitals are bailed out then this creates a situation where others expect to be bailed out. There is a difficulty in that the NHS Executive handles hospitals as entities. Where bad management occurs that is the fault of the management.

The truth about the QE in Woolwich is that PFI has been a major part of the financial crisis of the hospital.

The DoH has underwritten all PFI costs. The theoretical position of Monitor shoving insolvent FTs into a form of administration is a non-starter.

The problem is that a form of ineffectual private sector market system has been imposted. It is too random for the NHS to cope particularly as a process of change, but it does not have the facility to attract external risk capital because there is no potential return.

It is, therefore, destined to be an expensive problem to resolve. In the mean time we have QoF. QoF would be funny if it was not such an expensive white elephant.
 
Friday, December 08, 2006
  Written Parliamentary Question: 8th December 2006
Dr. David Southall
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many babies in the care of the NHS have required resuscitation as a result of non-therapeutic interventional research managed by Dr David Southall.
(John Hemming)

A:This information is not collected centrally. (Ivan Lewis, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)
 
  One Artist's Perception of Global Warming

B3TA has some interesting images from time to time. The above image (which of course is totally unrealistic) shows what can be done with gifs.
 
Thursday, December 07, 2006
  ITV and new media
I had an interesting discussion last night with people from ITV about New Media. The media market is changing with people moving towards getting information from the Net.

The traditional broadcasters need to dip their toes into the activities involved in narrowcasting as well. Their audience is moving onto the net and if they are not there then they miss their audience.

Strong content then will find an audience through its strength whether or not any large corporate places its editorial brand on the content.

What impact Michael Grade will have on this is unclear.
 
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
  Questions and Answers
I find today that no minister is responsible for the GMC or the National Audit Office.

That means I cannot ask a written parliamentary question about the GMC and what is happening there. Interestingly they have today said that they can tell me tomorrow whether or not they will provide an electronic copy of the Southall Transcript.

Similarly I referred the overpayments on drugs to the National Audit Office over a year ago. Sir John Bourne who is in charge of the NAO is an officer of the house of commons. Hence I cannot ask any parliamentary questions. I have been writing to ask when this report will be finished, but not got an answer.

The University Hospital of North Staffordshire are now saying I have to write to their solicitors. They cannot tell me what they are doing about the Special Case files.

The letters about the many cases which didn't have full disclosure of medical records went off yesterday and were collected in the post this morning at 7.45am so they should arrive with the relevant individuals later today (they are all around the parliamentary estate or in Whitehall somewhere).
 
  Written Parliamentary Question: 6th December 2006
Middle East
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of (a) Palestinians and (b) Israelis who have died since September 2006 as a result of the conflict in the Middle East. (John Hemming)

A:Between 1 September and 15 November, we have reports that 191 Palestinians and two Israelis were killed in conflict-related violence. (Kim Howells, Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
 
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
  GMC Transcript and Court Procedure
I have now managed to get some of the transcript of the GMC hearing as images. I have been asking the GMC themselves to provide an electronic copy. They should do this, but I am not going to hold my breath.

I have managed a quick scan of part of the cross-examination of David Southall. It is interesting how he tries to redefine research as "Clinical Audit". The point about Clinical Audit is that it does not require consent for record keeping.

I am told that the Special Case Secret Medical Files are now going to be put with the medical records - which is where they should have been in the first instance.

This does mean, however, that any court case which involved requesting medical records (even at the pre-proceedings stage) from North Staffs or Bromptom now needs to be reopened if there was a Special Case file.

I have asked the hospital again to tell patients when this has happened.

There are also two rapid response debates on the BMJ website relating to these issues.

The BMJ have decided not to publish my final response on this string
http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/333/7576/1024

I have responded on this one as well, but that was yesterday. It is not up yet, but it may go up.
http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/333/7579/1165
 
Monday, December 04, 2006
  GMC adjourns hearing ... for almost a year
Unbelievably the GMC have deferred the hearing into Dr David Southall's activities until 5th November 2007.

It remains that I want them to look at what has happened with the research that he has managed.
 
  Written Parliamentary Questions: 4th December 2006
Litigants in Person
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs why the rate at which litigants in person can claim costs has not risen since 1995; what estimate she has made of the additional costs to the Government were this rate to rise; and if she will raise the rate at which litigants in person can claim costs.(John Hemming)

A:holding answer 23 November 2006

The hourly rate payable to litigants in person was reviewed in 2003 by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, when it was decided that the rate should remain at the existing level. No estimate has been made of additional costs, should the rate be raised and there are no plans to raise the rate at present.

Civil Procedure Rule 48.6(2) provides that where the litigants in person can prove financial loss (greater than £9.25) has occurred due to time he has reasonably spent on doing the work, he is entitled to claim up to two thirds of the amount which would have been allowed if he had been legally represented.
(Vera Baird, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs)

Gas Industry
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will assess the effects on UK gas prices of the storage practices of overseas gas companies which import gas into the UK; and if he will make a statement. (John Hemming)

A:holding answer 23 November 2006

Subject to their regulatory obligations, it is up to gas suppliers how they balance their supply-demand position. The European Commission has undertaken a sectoral inquiry, which has identified access to long-term downstream contracts, capacity on pipelines and gas storage as priorities for individual competition investigations. The commission aims to reach conclusions by January 2007, and will then pursue infringement of EU competition law as appropriate.

It is not practical to provide the particular estimates that the hon. Member requests, because that would require detailed market assessments against a hypothetical model of how the continental and GB gas storage markets might operate. However, Ofgem recently estimated that around an extra £1 billion could have been added to the cost of GB wholesale gas in winter 2005-06 as a result of gas flows from the Bacton-Zeebrugge Interconnector failing to respond to the relative UK and Continental gas prices. This can be found at:

http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem/press/fact-sheets.jsp.
(Malcolm Wicks, Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Industry)

Gas Industry
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of how much more gas would enter the UK were Europe's gas markets to be liberalised. (John Hemming)

A:holding answer 21 November 2006

It is not practical to make an assessment of the level of gas that would flow into the UK as a result of European liberalisation. A liberalised market would lead to increased imports and exports of gas between the UK and Europe in turn leading to more efficient allocation of resources and potential benefits to consumers in both UK and continental Europe. In particular improved liquidity of gas in European markets could provide incremental gas in times of demand peaks and lead to a reduction in price volatility in the longer term.

(Malcolm Wicks, Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Industry)

Service Personnel (Remuneration)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether (a) the families of members of the Armed Forces killed and (b) members of the Armed Forces injured in (i) Iraq and (ii) Afghanistan before the completion of six months service in that country receive additional remuneration to offset their tax liability. (John Hemming)

A:Service personnel who are killed or injured in Iraq or Afghanistan do not receive additional remuneration to offset their liability for tax. However, as I announced on 10 October, service personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans now receive a tax-free operational allowance that is paid as a lump sum at the end of their operational tour. The allowance is worth around £2,240 to personnel completing a six month operational tour, paid on a pro rata basis for longer or shorter tours, to ensure that the more junior personnel are compensated for their tax bill whilst deployed.

If a service person who is eligible for the operational allowance is injured and/or hospitalised, either overseas or in the UK, they will continue to be paid the allowance for the planned length of their deployment. Also, if a service person in receipt of the allowance is declared dead, their pay account will be credited with the amount of operational allowance that would otherwise have been paid had they completed their planned deployment. This has been explained in the new regulations for the operational allowance that were finalised on 3 November and published to the armed forces on the same day. A copy of the regulations has been placed in the Library of the House. (Des Browne, Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence)
 
Sunday, December 03, 2006
  Nov 28th Transcript GMC
The following is part of the transcript of the proceedings at the GMC relating to David Southall on November 28th

It relates to when lawyers contemplating legal proceedings ask for information about patients.

The GMC's prosecuting Barrister (Mr Tyson) asks:
The problem heing that your agreement does not include those lawyers getting access to the SC files?

David Southall response:
My understanding is that it is very complicated, this, and it depends what was being asked for. If they
were asking for the recordings, then I provided them. If they were asking for the special case file,
having found out that we had it, then they were provided with it, or those bits of it that I could provide.


This implies a number of things:
a) That people were unlikely to know that special case files were kept
b) That unless people specifically asked for it in legal proceedings the contents were not provided and furthermore not all of them were provided.

This means that any case that David Southall was involved in now needs to be revisited to check what the situation is. If key information was withheld from the proceedings then that means that the case needs to be reopened. I will be writing to the authorities about this.

It also raises questions that the Information Commissioner needs to look at.
 
  That video - its up again
I was sent the URL, but deleted the email before copying it. In any event it will be interesting to see how long it lasts.

It was initially uploaded on 28th November. Then removed on 1st December. It appeared somewhere else later that day.

I wonder how long it will last this time.
 
Saturday, December 02, 2006
  Video diary wars with Social Services
There was a 6 minute video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoZKjUk6hT4, but it is not worth looking for it now.

The video was a mother's message to her children. I didn't manage to look at it, but now it has been taken off Youtube.

It will be interesting to see how this spreads. There are, of course, far more sites which allow uploaded video than only Youtube and Google Video.
 
Friday, December 01, 2006
  The truth about airline security
Well ... it makes a point.

From The Telegraph
 
  Boston SIDS research
The linked extract is to the research on babies that died of SIDS that demonstrates that (one probably major cause of) Sudden Infant (unexplained and unexpected) Death Syndrome is the way in which the brain responds to seratonin.

This would explain why there appears to be some genetic link that predisposes to SIDS.
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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