Silent Calls success at last
Ofcom has today imposed financial penalties on four companies under section 130 of the Communications Act 2003 (the “Act”). Penalty notices have been issued to Bracken Bay Kitchens Ltd, Space Kitchens and Bedrooms Ltd, Toucan Residential Ltd (formerly IDT Direct Ltd) and Carphone Warehouse plc, for contravening section 128 of Act by making an excessive amount of silent or abandoned calls.
Silent calls can occur when automated calling systems used by call centres generate more calls than the available call centre agents can manage. When the person called answers the telephone and there is no agent available, the automated calling system abandons the call. This can result in the person called experiencing silent on the line when they answer the telephone.
Ofcom has imposed the following penalties:
Space Kitchens £45,000
Bracken Bay Kitchens £40,000
Carphone Warehouse £35,000
Mass Application to European Court of Human Rights
Following discussions with a number of victims of the system of Public Family Law in the UK the suggestion has been put forward that there should be a mass application to the European Court of Human Rights.
This would apply under a number of Articles including:
ARTICLE 3 PROHIBITION OF TORTURE The maltreatment of pregnant women and women who have just given birth
ARTICLE 4 PROHIBITION OF SLAVERY AND FORCED LABOUR Forcing women to give birth and give their baby to the state
ARTICLE 5 RIGHT TO LIBERTY AND SECURITY False imprisonment by social services under threat of removing a child
ARTICLE 6 RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL The whole system fails to operate legally
ARTICLE 7 NO PUNISHMENT WITHOUT LAW Being punished with the removal of children for "offences" such as not going to fat club
ARTICLE 8 RIGHT TO RESPECT FOR PRIVATE AND FAMILY LIFE There is little respect for family life
ARTICLE 9 FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION Such issues as home education coming in to family proceedings
ARTICLE 10 FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION Criticism of mothers for talking to others about their cases
ARTICLE 11 FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION Similar problems where people are criticised for being involved in groups opposed to forced adoption
ARTICLE 12 RIGHT TO MARRY The system fully challenges this
The legal process for this has to be one where initially people apply for judicial review in the UK for a declaration that the UK legal system is in contravention of the 1998 Human Rights Act. If this fails, then the case would be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.
My office will be collating people who are interested in participating in a mass legal challenge to UK Public Family Law. Not every case will raise each of the above points, but many will. If you know anyone who wishes to take part in this mass challenge to the system please get them to write to me.
Association for Improvement in Maternity Services backs Hemming on Adoption
BABIES ARE BEING SNATCHED FOR ADOPTION
JOHN HEMMING IS RIGHT, says Consumer Group
FROM The Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS)The government is denying that social workers are targeting babies for adoption. Listening to desperate calls from pregnant women or mothers of new babies and toddlers on our help-line would quickly show their denials are not true.
Health visitors are often instructed to give all parents a “risk rating”, if possible while the child is still in the womb, or soon after the birth - this is done without parents’ knowledge or consent. The questionnaire used is highly inaccurate as a predictive tool, and has a very high rate of false positives. Pregnant teenagers, the unemployed, anyone with a history of mental illness, and so on, are on the watch list - supposedly so that they can get extra support, but it is often simply extra surveillance. Midwives are instructed to report risk factors, and are losing the trust of the women they care for.
When social workers investigate mothers as a potential risk to their children we see incredibly high stress levels in women who fear losing their babies (even if the fear may not be justified). Research has shown this high level of stress hormones in the mother’s blood can reduce the baby’s growth as well as causing behavioural problems in childhood. We also suspect that it is affecting the process of birth in a number of our clients. For example, delaying birth beyond term.
Expectant mothers who were themselves brought up in care have an increased risk of social workers taking their babies, without even giving them a chance to show that they can be good parents, and providing them support and help. The State is, in effect, saying “as your corporate parent we gave you such damaging care that you are unfit ever to be a parent yourself”.
Mothers with a previous history of mental illness (perhaps caused by bereavement or
a damaging relationship), or mothers with postnatal depression (very common) or psychosis also risk losing their children. The extreme shortage of mother-and-baby psychiatric units where they can safely be together is a scandal; Primary Care Trusts are seldom willing to pay for such care outside their area. The grapevine in many communities is accurately circulating the risks, so mothers who may need medical care tell us they are concealing mental illness, for fear of their children being taken. Two academic studies have shown that questionnaires to identify postnatal depression no longer work, because mothers lie. This is dangerous, since we now know that suicide is the major cause of death associated with childbirth.
Women also tell us they are concealing the fact that their pregnancy resulted from rape, or that they suffer domestic violence, for the same reason. One man, after beating up his wife, hands her the phone and says “Now call the police - and the social workers will come and take your kids.” So she stays silent. Others tell us that social work intervention has resulted in aborting a baby they would have wanted.
Not all attempts to have children adopted succeed, and mothers may have them returned after weeks, or months. The intense bond fostered by the high levels of oxytocin the mother has from giving birth and breastfeeding has been damaged. The baby has lost the breast milk which gives life-long health advantages, and contact visits are never frequent enough to breast feed.
We are a pressure group with 40 years’ experience in supporting parents with complaints about maternity care. But since the unprecedented growth in calls about child protection proceedings in the last 9 years or so, we have accompanied clients to meetings and observed social workers’ home visits. We have been horrified at what we have seen, and equally appalled by the lack of accuracy and bias in many of their reports, and the selectivity of evidence they give to the courts.
Questions should be asked of the Commission for Social Care Inspection. In their annual inspections up and down the country they criticise local authorities whose adoption figures are not high enough. It is the rise in the adoption total that wins Brownie points, NOT a reduction in older children lingering in long term “care” with an unsettled future. Hence the social work snatching of new born - prime adoption material, which also met the needs of settled, wealthier, older infertile couples. As one client told us, “What they are doing is redistributive eugenics.”
Perhaps it is time we started measuring and recording the damage caused by ‘child protection’ interventions and doing the kind of cost-benefit analysis which is now required for drugs, surgery and other health interventions?
Written Parliamentary Question: 29th January 2007
WPC Yvonne FletcherQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) recent steps she has taken and (b) steps she plans to take to bring the person who murdered WPC Yvonne Fletcher in 1984 to justice. A:
Metropolitan Police Service officers last visited Libya to pursue the case in December 2006. We regularly raise the case with the Libyan authorities and I have done so myself. We continue to press for resolution of the case.(Kim Howells, Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
Iraq and Graffiti
Actually Graffiti and Iraq, really. We did one of our traditional door knocking sessions this morning. The most frequently raised issue was Graffiti, but Iraq was the second most frequently raised issue.
The feeling was generally positive which bodes well for the next local elections. Politicalbetting.com share my view that Labour cannot afford an early general election. The question, of course, is whether things get worse for them as we go down the track or not.
"notorious social services paedophile ring"
A quote from the Daily Mail (yesterday's article see link).Liam himself said: "There's a lot about my childhood I can't remember. There's a lot I can remember and wish I couldn't. The best I can say about it is that it's over, and that I learned a lot, that will probably make me a better person in the end."
He was in and out of Islington's care from the age of two, and witnessed his birth mother suffer domestic violence and descend into drug addiction. When he was nine she died of a heroin overdose.
The distraught, vulnerable boy was initially fostered by a motherly woman who asked to keep him. But the council instead sent him, from age five to 11, to a 'therapeutic' boarding school, New Barns in Gloucestershire. This was later closed following a child abuse and pornography scandal.
During school holidays he was fostered by a man later imprisoned for abusing another child in his care. When Liam was nine, Islington placed him in its children's home in Grosvenor Avenue, run by two single males. Both were eventually accused of abuse but escaped investigation by moving to Thailand.
Last year, Thai police charged the deputy head, Nick Rabet, 57, with serious sexual offences against 30 Thai boys, the youngest six years old. He escaped trial by killing himself.
‘Fat police’ put children on abuse list
“Obesity in itself is not a child protection concern,” he said. “When parents fail to act in their child’s best interests with regard to their weight — for example, if they are enrolled on a behav-ioural treatment session and only get to two out of 10 sessions or if they miss medical appointments — then the obesity becomes a child protection concern.” Dr Alyson Hall, consultant child psychiatrist at the Emmanuel Miller Centre for Families and Children in east London, said that in some cases children were put into foster care to ensure their safety.
So if the Fat Police tell you to go to a "behavioural treatment session" and you miss some of the sessions then your children are taken off you.
We cannot rely on the courts to protect children and families from this major abuse of state power as they (apart from a few honourable exceptions such as Macfarlane and Munby) tend to rubberstamp proposals from Social Services.
As always it is necessary to see all of the details. I don't think I am the only person worried about what is happening here. All more money for the child protection industry, fees for the doctors to write reports (can be up to £27,000 for a report) misery for the children.
PC Yvonne Fletcher
It is good that she has not been forgotten by the government. The written answer to a question I asked recently is linked.
Although one can relax to some extent about diplomats not paying the congestion charge the events with Yvonne Fletcher is not one to let drop.
It is good that police officers have visited Libya recently.
BBC runs story about adoption targets
The BBC website has run the story about adoption targets.
It is quite easy to spot a situation where the Social workers are trying to steal a baby. Firstly, they prevent the baby remaining with the mother. Secondly, they argue that noone else in the family (grandparents, aunts, uncles etc) is good enough to look after the baby and then they gradually reduce contact.
In the mean time the Family Courts rubber stamp the proposals from the social workers.
One woman (from Buckinghamshire) who tried to run away with her baby was sentenced earlier this month to a year in prison for doing so. She is not a threat to society. If the prisons are full why is she locked up.
I am still collating the figures to make a more precise calculation as to the numbers of babies stolen by social workers each year.
Rape in Foster Care in Cornwall
The link (which may go away) is to a story from Cornwall.
The key quotes are:"Social services took me from a bad place with my mother to somewhere which was even worse," she said. "I just wanted to die there. I just hated it. I just cried and cried but I was just told that I had emotional problems.
and"This is clearly a very concerning and thankfully an isolated incident, which does not reflect the immense amount of good work and high quality care that is provided by almost 500 carers within the Cornwall County Council Foster Care and Short Break Service, who look after children from the county during approximately 12,000 placements that are made each year," said a council statement.
It is important to remember that Foster Parents are normally very good people. This is an exceptional, but sadly not unique incident.
The key point is that if too many children are taken into care then the pressures on the system grow so that marginal carers are used when if there was not the pressure they would not be used.
It is not always an improvement for the child to be taken into care and frequently does a lot of harm. There should be more care taken about the decision.
I am now monitoring a small number of cases as they go through the system. It is becoming easier to see where things are going wrong. This is a difficult policy area because the issues are complex and sensitive. However, the lack of a rational approach to it is creating a substantial amount of misery.
The link below is another story about abusive foster parents being imprisoned.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=429564&in_page_id=1770
From that story there is the following reference:The council spokesman claimed there were now more stringent measures in place for ensuring the safety of children.
Yet as recently as 2001 it was criticised when the stepmother of a six-year-old girl was jailed for life for beating and torturing her to death.
Norfolk social workers had been repeatedly warned Lauren Wright was in danger but did nothing.
Frequently social workers are busy with cases where really they should not be involved. That reduces the time available for cases where they should be involved.
We have now agreed the leaflet about the baby stealers. The members of some of the organisations supporting "justice for families" will be distributing copies of the leaflet (see link) which tells people how to fight the baby stealers.
Anyone who wishes to help should print a couple of hundred copies of the leaflet (See link) and hand it out to visitors to the local maternity unit.
The baby stealers must be stopped.
Its the second call
Twas one of those things. We were all set up to have a vote on the adjournment, but had not been warned that the first vote was on that the vote be now put. That was not supposed to be a division, but noone had told me and the Nats.
I then asked who was running the second call. I was told that there were tellers so went into the Lobby. The tellers did not do the second call and lo and behold there was no vote and the second division was not called.
C'est la vie.
That's "proceedings in parliament" for you.
Next time David Howarth and I will whip the vote.
Written Parliamentary Question: 24th January 2007 (II)
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate she has made of the effects on costs to the public purse of prescribing Simvastatin instead of Atorvastatin or other branded statins; and what the timetable is for Simvastatin to be prescribed instead of branded statins.A:
The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement recently published the "Better Care, Better Value" indicators for the second quarter of this financial year. The statins indicator shows that if every primary care trust (PCT) achieved levels of prescribing of lower cost statins similar to the top quarter of PCTs then £84.7 million could be released for patient care. There are no targets, but we expect PCTs and clinicians to be aware that they can help treat more patients by prescribing one of the lower cost statins where it is clinically appropriate. (Caroline Flint, Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health)
Written Parliamentary Question: 24th January 2007
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will change the relevant rules to give members of Governors Councils of Foundation Trusts who are not members of committees of the Council the right to attend meetings of those committees. A:
The circumstances of each national health service foundation trust (NHSFT) are different, which is why the legislative framework for NHSFTs gives them freedoms of local flexibility to tailor their governance arrangements to their individual circumstances and those of their community, over and above minimum legal requirements.
It is up to each NHSFT to consider whether to set up committees or sub-committees of its board of governors and determine the circumstances under which these should operate. Schedule 1 of the Health and Social Care Act 2003 states that the constitution of each NHSFT must include details on the practice and procedure for the board of governors, and may also make other provision about the board of governors as the trust sees fit. Reasons for exclusion from meetings are determined locally. (Andy Burnham, Minister of State (Delivery and Quality), Department of Health)
That EDM 626 Row
A mild row is going on about EDM 626. (link on edmi) That is the EDM that says:That this House notes that local authorities and their staff are incentivised to ensure that children are adopted; is concerned about increasing numbers of babies being taken into care, not for the safety of the infant, but because they are easy to get adopted; and calls urgently for effective scrutiny of care proceedings to stop this from happening.
It is worth doing some analysis on the evidence for this EDM. This part:local authorities and their staff are incentivised to ensure that children are adopted;
Is incontravertible. There has been a targeting system for getting children adopted from care for some time. A visit to CSCI
will demonstrate the pressure on local authorities and their staff to increase adoptions from care. Doing so would be a laudable objective if it meant that children who otherwise would remain in foster care got adopted.
However, if it means that children would otherwise remain with their family then it is not a laudable objective.
There are, then two tests. One test is whether children otherwise would have gone back to the family the other test is that relating to:is concerned about increasing numbers of babies being taken into care, not for the safety of the infant, but because they are easy to get adopted;
Is it the case that more babies are being taken into care because when it comes to adoption they are easier to get adopted. I have rummaged around the figures for this and found it takes about 2 years from being taken into care for a child to be adopted.
The increase in adoptions is substantially within toddlers. There is very little of an increase of babies being adopted, but then if the parents are fighting to keep their children a contested process would not complete that quickly.
For the age group 1-4 the figures for adoption are 910 (1994),830,870,980,1000 (1998)
and 1900 (2001), 2000, 2200, 2300. The total figure in 2005 was 3,800 and 1,900 for 1997. So the toddler figure has gone up by (2300-890) 1,410 and the overall total by 1,900. There are quite a few in the 5-9 age range as well, but not so many in the higher ranges. That is not surprising.
The real question is what would have happened to these children otherwise. Clearly some would have remained in care and therefore it is a good outcome for them. However, would some have returned to their parents? Or indeed would some not have been taken into care in the first instance.
What we do have is an increase in babies being taken into care. Given the approximate 2 year time to adoption from going into care then a goodly proportion (I estimate about 1,000) of the increase in toddlers comes from children taken into care as a baby.
It is quite difficult to reconcile DFES figures as they round everything to 100 and the same figure for the same year varies between different DFES reports. However, there does seem to be a clear pattern in this. I am going to try to get better information from the department
Court of Appeal lets Blair off the Hook
Although the Court of Appeal decided that Blair wasn't required by law to answer questions today, the battle for effective government continues.
I will post the judgment on my website when it is available. Now I need to see whether I can use other routes to make Ministers answer questions.
After 9 years of Labour Government - Whitehall is "not fit for purpose"
Who says so?
Ans: The Government (actually Audit Commission)
See the link.
The Court of Appeal - and Proceedings in Parliament
Actually tomorrow is the first time that the definition of "Proceedings in parliament" has been considered in court. I thought it had been considered by the 1958 Scrap Cables case when the Judicial Committee considered the issue of a letter written by an MP to a minister. However, Erskine May was wrong on this and in fact it did not consider this.
The interesting point is that if a letter written by an MP to a Civil Servant is a "proceeding in parliament" then so is a court action by an MP in the Court of Appeal.
What this means that if I lose and the Treasury Solicitors try to get me to pay the costs then because the action is a proceeding in parliament I am covered by the rules relating to Contempt. That means that the Committee on Standards and Privileges can send the Treasury Solicitors and their Boss, the Chief Minister of the Treasury, (aka the Prime Minister) to the Tower. If I win, however, then I win and he has to answer questions.
It is a difficult one for Mr Blair. Either I win and he has to answer questions or I lose and he could end up in the Tower.
We also filed the other case today as well.
Healthy White Babies - Unpaid surrogate mothers
The surge in the numbers of healthy white babies being taken into care continues. Parents and Grandparents are mystified as to why their babies are being taken off them.
The mothers feel like unpaid surrogate mothers. However, this will help the government to hit their targets in increasing the percentage of children in care that are adopted. It is relatively easy to find a family for a healthy white baby. The only problem is that these children already have families. The babies health is damaged by Social Services preventing breastfeeding (Dagenham) or making breastfeeding difficult.
Sadly the Family Courts remain mainly secret. This monstrous evil, therefore, is kept out of the newspapers and magazines. Parents are still being forced to sign gagging orders that go well beyond the legal requirement.
A trip to the court of appeal
If I am lucky I may visit the Court of Appeal twice next week. I am working on some papers for a second Appeal as well as the one I am going on Tuesday.
Both have substantial significance, but one is Family Division and hence covered by confidentiality at the moment.
Written Parliamentary Questions: 19th January 2006
Litigants in PersonQ:
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 13 December 2006, Official Report, column 1074W, on litigants in person, if she will assess the merits of increasing the rate at which litigants in person can claim costs.A:
The award of costs is a matter for the judge in the light of the circumstances of a particular case. Under the current rules of court, litigants in person can be awarded costs for the work done in connection with the case of £9.25 per hour. If, however he can prove a higher financial loss for that work he can claim that higher figure subject to an absolute cap on the amount recoverable of two thirds of the amount that would have been allowed if the litigant were legally represented. He can also claim his disbursements. The flexibility of the current system ensures that litigants are fairly compensated for the work carried out. The Government have no plans to review the current rates. (Vera Baird, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs)Air Passenger DutyQ:
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will revise the regulations applying to the increase in air passenger duty from 1 February 2007 to exclude flights already booked.A:
As the HMRC pre-Budget report note published on 6 December makes clear, the new rates will come into effect on 1 February 2007 and apply to the carriage of a passenger on an aircraft which begins on or after that date. (John Healey, Financial Secretary, HM Treasury)
Written Parliamentary Questions: 17th January 2007
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what his Department's policy is on the provision to courts of information regarding the inclusion on list (a) 98 and (b) 99 of people giving evidence.A:
'List 98' is not a list maintained by the Department for Education and Skills. Some educational establishments and authorities have introduced and maintained such lists under local arrangements, but they are not a requirement under education or employment law.
Requests from courts for information about people giving evidence who are on List 99 are not received routinely. Any request or order by a court, or for the purpose of court proceedings, would be considered in accordance with the law on a case by case basis. (Jim Knight, Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills)Predictive Dialling TechnologyQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which contractors his Department employs who use predictive dialling technology; how many calls using predictive dialling technology were made on behalf of his Department by each such contractor in each of the last five years; and what proportion of those calls were abandoned.A:
holding answer 20 November 2006
Within DWP the only business area that uses predictive dialling is Debt Management. The following debt collection agencies have been contracted to Debt Management: Eversheds, Commercial Collections Services Ltd. (CCSL), Legal and Trade and the Lewis Group.
Please see the following table, which includes available data: (please follow link to see data...)
(James Purnell, Minister of State (Pensions Reform), Department for Work and Pensions) Myasthenia GravisQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of 30 November 2006 to the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell), Official Report, column 919W, on myasthenia gravis, what proportion of the 25 per cent. of her Department's expenditure on health research that is not devolved to and managed by NHS organisations was spent on research into myasthenia gravis in the latest period for which figures are available.A:
None in the financial year 2005-06. (Ivan Lewis, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)
Three Early Day Motions
EDM 626 LOCAL AUTHORITY ADOPTION TARGETS
That this House notes that local authorities and their staff are incentivised to ensure that children are adopted; is concerned about increasing numbers of babies being taken into care, not for the safety of the infant, but because they are easy to get adopted; and calls urgently for effective scrutiny of care proceedings to stop this from happening.http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=32304&SESSION=885
EDM 629 MINISTERIAL RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS
That this House notes that from time to time ministers incompletely answer questions, refuse to provide
information or give no answer to written questions, resulting in a substantial failure of public accountability; therefore believes that it is right for processes to exist to force ministers to give proper answers in the public interest; and calls for all appropriate bodies to act to ensure that public accountability is upheld.http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=32308&SESSION=885
EDM 633 SUPERCASINOS AND REFERENDA
That this House notes that there are many uncertainties relating to the proposals to have more larger casinos; further notes that there is certainty that there will be some people with a greater gambling problem for which there is little psychological support; recognises that there are downsides as well as upsides to the establishment of a regional casino; believes there should be a local debate in any area suggested; and calls for a local referendum in any area chosen for a regional casino.
Interestingly the one off the blocks with the most signatures (very difficult to achieve on the first day) is that relating to adoptions.
Written Parliamentary Question: 15th January 2007
Dr. David SouthallQ:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will re-examine all child protection cases in which Dr. David Southall was involved. A:
It is the responsibility of individual local authorities to fulfil the child protection functions that fall to them under the Children Act 1989. In undertaking this, they frequently need to work in partnership with health and other professionals. The Department for Education and Skills does not collect information which identifies individual practitioners who have been involved in child protection cases. (Parmjit Dhanda, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Skills)
Modernising Medical Careers
I don't like the word "modernising" as it is spectacularly meaningless. However, the linked spoof magazine about the changes for doctors in the Health Service is worth a glance at.
Ayoub Khan selected for Birmingham (Ladywood)
Ayoub was selected today with unanimous support from the Ladywood members. He achieved a 20% swing last time and with Clare Short both standing down and arguing for a hung parliament he is challenging to take the seat when the General Election comes.
Staffordshire Care Home problems again
The link is to a story from Staffordshire (today) about a Children's Home where the children were threatening each other. The home may have been closed down, but we really do have to ask if this is a good level of care.The boy, then aged 17, dubbed Ed Adair to protect his identity, lived at Hill House, also a false name. It was home to seven boys until it shut in 2005 as part of a series of council closures.
Mr White says: "Ed Adair's experience was the stuff of nightmares, not knowing whether someone would assault him, abuse him, take his possessions, or break into his room while he was asleep.
"For four months he lived with this anxiety and little was done to help him. The failures in dealing with his complaints and the delay meeting with him meant that the situation persisted for longer than it should have.
"It confirmed Ed Adair's belief that no-one really listened and that nothing would change."
This may relate to 2004, but there is always a delay in finding out the truth about situations. This particular boy was taken into care at the age of 3. It would be interesting to know whether or not that was necessary.
Mr Adair, now 19, who had been in care since he was three and has learning difficulties, will also receive an apology from the council.
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Given that children in the UK from time to time are taken off their birth parents and put through adoption without adequate reason I would think that the UK is in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Dyslexia in the mother is not an adequate reason.
Respect refuse to vote for Troops out of Iraq
At Tuesday's Council meeting the Lib Dems put a motion down calling for the troops in Iraq to be withdrawn as soon as possible.
The response from Respect was to walk out and refuse to vote on it. They basically went in with Labour on the issue of Troops out of Iraq.
GMC does not protect patients - inquiry
I would like a copy of the report rather than just The Independent story about the report. However, the independent story is worth reading.Serious flaws in Britain's system for disciplining doctors have been uncovered by an independent inquiry that raises doubts about its fairness to doctors and its protection of patients.
Written Parliamentary Question: 11th January 2006
Contempt of Court
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs
(1) how many people have been held in police cells for more than24 hours in relation to contempt of court proceedings relating to the family courts in each month starting in January 2004;
(2) how many people aged (a) 18 and over, (b) 16 to 17, (c) 14 to 15 and (d) under 14 were given prison sentences by the family courts in each month since January 2004, broken down by sex; and what the (i) longest, (ii) shortest and (iii) average sentence handed down to those given prison sentences was in this period;
(3) how many of those imprisoned after in-camera proceedings in family courts in each month since January 2004 (a) attempted suicide and (b) succeeded in a suicide attempt in prison. (John Hemming)A:
The information requested in relation to contempt of court in family proceedings and attempted or actual suicides following imprisonment after in-camera family proceedings is not collected centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
The only data held concerns cases in the county court and High Court for breaches of non-molestation orders and breaches of occupation orders under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996. Those figures were provided in my answer of 4 July 2006, Official Report, column 969W. In those cases, the data does not differentiate between remand in custody and sentenced prisoners, nor by age. If a person is arrested for breach of a non-molestation order or breach of an occupation order, the maximum time a person may be held in custody before appearing in court is 24 hours. The court may subsequently order he be remanded. Of those in custody under Part IV, females represent around 5 per cent. or less. (Harriet Harman, Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs)
Tim Congdon switches to UKIP
This is an interesting article by Tim Congdon as to why he is moving from the tories to UKIP. Cameron's approach of trying to be all things to all people is in some ways more meaningless than Blair's initial position.
Losing 2-3% from Conservative to UKIP in key seats can have quite an impact on the numbers elected.
Parliamentary Prvilege Act 1770 and "proceedings in parliament"
Section 342 says:Ashby v. White, 40 and Reg. v. Paty, 41 and to the difference between the views as expressed in the first edition of Blackstone's Commentaries in 1765, which were not unfavourable to the House of Commons, and those in the fifth edition, which was published a year after the Parliamentary Privilege Act: see 1st ed., vol. 1, p. 159; 5th ed., vol. 1, p. 165.]
The Attorney-General has referred to four cases in which one would have anticipated this privilege, if it was thought to exist against proceedings, being raised, and there are others, mainly of libel of a criminal nature, which may be relevant: Rex v. Lord Abingdon 42; Rex v. Creevey. 43 Stockdale v. Hansard 44is the most important decision for the purposes of the present case, the importance of it being in its decision that the lex parliamenti is part of the law of the land and it is for the courts alone to decide what it is. [Goffin v. Donnelly 45 was also referred to.]
In paragraph 8 of the Report of the Committee of Privileges in the present case it is stated that: "No one today would question the claim that the system of questions by members to Ministers and the answers given by Ministers are 'proceedings in Parliament,' even though the question be written down outside Parliament and sent by post to the House of Commons." That statement is inaccurate and I certainly question it. The Report of the Select Committee on the Official Secrets Act in 1938, with which the House of Commons agreed, and which in part is set out in the Report of the Committee of Privileges in the present case, stated in paragraph 3 that: "The article in the Bill of Rights is not necessarily an exhaustive definition of the cognate privileges. But even assuming that it is, the privilege is not confined to words spoken in debate or to spoken words, but extends to all proceedings in Parliament. While the term proceedings in Parliament' has never been construed by the courts, it covers both the asking of a question and the giving written notice of such question, and includes everything said or done by a member in the exercise of his functions as a member in a committee of either House, as well as everything said or done in either House in the transaction of parliamentary business." The submission is that that is not really supported by any legal authority. "Proceedings in Parliament" mean proceedings which take place either in the Chamber or committees.
This is the main legal authority in defining what are proceedings in parliament. It tends to endorse my arguments that the courts can require ministers to answer questions.
Emotional Abuse - when should children be taken into care
The link is to the NSPCC's page on Emotional Abuse of children. They define emotional abuse as:
Answers to common questions about emotional abuse"My neighbour constantly shouts at her children and threatens them; should I be worried?"Yes."My friend treats her toddler well one day, then badly the next. I am worried about the effect this may have on him."Children need consistency from parents and carers. Some parents have unrealistic expectations about their child's behaviour and capabilities. They may be cold and disapproving if their child misbehaves or fails at something, and withdraw affection in an attempt to control the child's behaviour. This can be just as damaging as harsh words or threats. It is important for parents to understand what a child can and cannot do at a particular age and to be patient.
[after other things] ... we suggest you talk about your concerns with a NSPCC Helpline adviser on 0808 800 5000."My friend is suffering from depression. She spends most of her day in bed sleeping and seems to find it hard to look after her three-year old son. I am worried that he's not getting enough attention and stimulation."Parents who are depressed, mentally ill, or taking drugs may find it more difficult to notice and respond to their child's needs. Nevertheless, when a parent ignores or withdraws from a child as your friend is doing, it is a form of emotional neglect. You are right to be worried.
These are the official views of the NSPCC. The question that really needs to be asked, however, is how far below ideal care should care fall before a child gets taken away from its parents for "emotional abuse".
I am aware of a child (8) unwillingly taken from his mother who is in a children's home, not going to school and on a prozac type of medication. I have difficulty (knowing what I do about the case) thinking that his position in care is in any way better than remaining with his family. He is clearly being emotionally abused so badly where he is that it cannot be worse.
One problem in Childrens Homes is that when children squabble they call the police. This makes the children used to having the police involved and assists in a seamless transfer from children's home to prison.
The point about parents is that generally they care for the kids even if they shout at them from time to time.
Written Parliamentary Questions: 10th January 2007
Dr. David Southall
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what investigations have taken place in the NHS into the research practices of Dr. David Southall.(John Hemming)A:
The Government commissioned a full review of the research arrangements at North Staffordshire hospital in 1999, in response to concerns about how research had been conducted there by Dr. David Southall, among others. The review, chaired by Professor Rod Griffiths, reported in May 2000 and the Government accepted all the recommendations of the "Report of a review of the research framework in North Staffordshire Hospital NHS Trust", The Griffiths Report. The report recommended a substantial audit of the use of continuous negative extrathoracic pressure, a research intervention, to see if claims of significant benefit or damage could be substantiated. The findings were published in The Lancet on 1 April 2006 as "Outcome after neonatal continuous negative-pressure ventilation: follow-up assessment" by Katherine Telford et al.
In its capacity as employing organisation of researchers, North Staffordshire Hospital National Health Service Trust made its own internal enquiries in order to inform its employment procedures. The reports of these internal enquiries were not placed in the public domain by the trust. (Andy Burnham, Minister of State (Delivery and Quality), Department of Health)Doncaster Royal Infirmary
To ask the Secretary of State for Health for how many babies born at Doncaster Royal Infirmary compensation was paid for brain damage in each year between 1980 and 1989. (John Hemming)A:
This information was not collected centrally. (Andy Burnham, Minister of State (Delivery and Quality), Department of Health)David Southall
To ask the Secretary of State for Health
(1) if she will take steps to prevent Dr. David Southall from working in NHS hospitals;
(2) what discussions her Department has had with the University Hospital of North Staffordshire on the employment of Dr. David Southall.
Ministers are not in a position to intervene in the employment of individual clinicians. Decisions on employment are a matter between the employing trust and the clinician.
It is for the General Medical Council to determine whether a particular doctor is fit to practise. (Rosie Winterton (Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health)Consultant Contracts
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much has been received as payments for fee paying services by consultants in each NHS hospital trust in each financial year since the implementation of the contract.(John Hemming)A:
The information requested is not collected by the Department. The inclusion of fee paying services in job plans and the payments for these is a matter for agreement between employers and consultants. (Rosie Winterton, Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health)Children in Care
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills
(1) how many children under the age of one were taken into care in each year since 1980; and how many were subsequently returned to their birth parents;
(2) how many babies under one year old were placed in care in (a) 1996 and (b) 2006; and for what reasons.(John Hemming)A:
Information on the number of children aged under one who were taken into care on an interim or full care order or under a police or emergency protection order in each year since 1992 is shown in Table 1. This information is not available prior to 1992. Of these, 3,000 children who were taken into care aged under one subsequently returned home between 2001 and 2006 to live with parents, relatives or other person with parental responsibility (excluding residence orders and special guardianship orders). Information on whether a child returned to live with their parents, relatives or other person with parental responsibility has only been collected since 1 April 2000. There is no comparable information prior to 2000.
In the case of all children subject to a care order, the reason they have become looked after is because the courts will have taken the view that the 'significant harm' threshold set out in the Children Act 1989 had been crossed. Information on the number of children looked after by local authorities who were placed in care aged under one in 1996 and in 2006 and for what reasons, is shown in Tables 2 and 3. The 'category of need' codes record the main reason why a child is being provided with services. This provides a further insight as to why a particular child is being looked after. Information on 'category of need' was first collected in April 2000 and provides further information as to why a child is being looked after. Data on 'category of need' is not strictly comparable with the 'reason for being looked after' information that was collected prior to 1 April 2000.[for data, follow the link, ed]
(Parmjit Dhanda, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Skills)
Another Social Services Mess-up
The linked story is to another problem with Social Services. This one is in Norfolk where it was found that:Social workers were criticised for treating rumours about the woman, who had a mental health disorder, as fact.
The council said the inquiry into the case also found that some evidence had been destroyed.
It called a social worker's report "inaccurate, unrepresentative and unbalanced".
The woman's unborn baby was wrongly placed on a child protection register by Norfolk County Council, the independent inquiry decided.
The problem is that this is actually a pattern of behaviour. What happens from time to time is that Social Workers produce rubbishy reports full of unevidenced rumour and tittletattle. They have them backed up by expensive unevidenced reports from experts who at times are not in any way qualified. In the mean time CAFCASS come along to give the family another kick towards destruction and destroy a few more children's lives with them probably ending up in prison at some stage. Then Justice Rubberstamp comes along and rubberstamps the proposals of Social Services.
This does not always happen. Indeed there are some really good people working in this area who despair at the behaviour of others. However, if you look at the response to a WPQ that I have just got in you will find that the number of babies taken into care has gone up from 730 in 1993 to 2,100 in 2006. This figure continues to trend upwards. The number of cases where it is clearly wrong is also going up.
South Yardley Library - progress on roof
The good news is that progress is being made on plans to repair the roof of South Yardley Library.
It has been shut since November, but funds have been identified and there is now a plan to redo the roof and reopen later this year. Things always slip in terms of timing, but we should hopefully see work start by the end of February.
With a bit of luck some work on ways to improve the library will also be incorporated.
Travelling the open road
My experience of the rule of law is that for people to respect it it needs to be enforced. I have had conversations with travellers who believe that British Law does not apply to them. That is whey they feel they have a right to pack their caravans on parks such as Oaklands and dump tarmac on them.
My view is simply this. The rule of law applies to everyone in the UK and should be enforced.
There is an interesting post on one of the police blogs about this issue. I tend to be sympathetic with the general position of police officers. The rule of law should be enforced.
Conflicts of Interest in the Family Division
One interesting aspect of Family Law is the role of the Guardian Ad Litem. In theory this is someone who is appointed to represent the interests of the child.
The problem is that although the individual concerned works for CAFCASS the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service actually they are in fact another arm of the state.
Furthermore firms of solicitors who act for parents on legal aid may also act for the state. We, therefore, have a substantial conflict of interest with the legal advisors also working for the state.
The Chair of the CAFCASS board is a working Labour Peer and the Chief Executive is someone who previously was a director of Social Services in Havering.
There are those who honestly believe that being in the care of the local authority is a good thing for children. The evidence is that this is not the case. It does strike me as a conflict of interest and indeed an offence against the principle of "equality of arms" to have CAFCASS representing the interests of children.
The real test, of course, is one as to to what extent the Guardian Ad Litem tries to keep children away from care when social services are arguing for a child to be taken into care.
X Council v B EWHC (Fam) 2005 2015
This case is the linked one about Emergency Protection Orders.
The key conclusions are that:) An EPO, summarily removing a child from his parents, is a "draconian" and "extremely harsh" measure, requiring "exceptional justification" and "extraordinarily compelling reasons". Such an order should not be made unless the FPC is satisfied that it is both necessary and proportionate and that no other less radical form of order will achieve the essential end of promoting the welfare of the child. Separation is only to be contemplated if immediate separation is essential to secure the child's safety; "imminent danger" must be "actually established".
ii) Both the local authority which seeks and the FPC which makes an EPO assume a heavy burden of responsibility. It is important that both the local authority and the FPC approach every application for an EPO with an anxious awareness of the extreme gravity of the relief being sought and a scrupulous regard for the Convention rights of both the child and the parents.
iii) Any order must provide for the least interventionist solution consistent with the preservation of the child's immediate safety.
iv) If the real purpose of the local authority's application is to enable it to have the child assessed then consideration should be given to whether that objective cannot equally effectively, and more proportionately, be achieved by an application for, or by the making of, a CAO under section 43 of the Act.
v) No EPO should be made for any longer than is absolutely necessary to protect the child. Where the EPO is made on an ex parte (without notice) application very careful consideration should be given to the need to ensure that the initial order is made for the shortest possible period commensurate with the preservation of the child's immediate safety.
vi) The evidence in support of the application for an EPO must be full, detailed, precise and compelling. Unparticularised generalities will not suffice. The sources of hearsay evidence must be identified. Expressions of opinion must be supported by detailed evidence and properly articulated reasoning.
vii) Save in wholly exceptional cases, parents must be given adequate prior notice of the date, time and place of any application by a local authority for an EPO. They must also be given proper notice of the evidence the local authority is relying upon.
viii) Where the application for an EPO is made ex parte the local authority must make out a compelling case for applying without first giving the parents notice. An ex parte application will normally be appropriate only if the case is genuinely one of emergency or other great urgency – and even then it should normally be possible to give some kind of albeit informal notice to the parents – or if there are compelling reasons to believe that the child's welfare will be compromised if the parents are alerted in advance to what is going on.
ix) The evidential burden on the local authority is even heavier if the application is made ex parte. Those who seek relief ex parte are under a duty to make the fullest and most candid and frank disclosure of all the relevant circumstances known to them. This duty is not confined to the material facts: it extends to all relevant matters, whether of fact or of law.
x) Section 45(7)(b) permits the FPC to hear oral evidence. But it is important that those who are not present should nonetheless be able to know what oral evidence and other materials have been put before the FPC. It is therefore particularly important that the FPC complies meticulously with the mandatory requirements of rules 20, 21(5) and 21(6) of the Family Proceedings Courts (Children Act 1989) Rules 1991. The FPC must "keep a note of the substance of the oral evidence" and must also record in writing not merely its reasons but also any findings of fact.
xi) The mere fact that the FPC is under the obligations imposed by rules 21(5), 21(6) and 21(8), is no reason why the local authority should not immediately, on request, inform the parents of exactly what has gone on in their absence. Parents against whom an EPO is made ex parte are entitled to be given, if they ask, proper information as to what happened at the hearing and to be told, if they ask, (i) exactly what documents, bundles or other evidential materials were lodged with the FPC either before or during the course of the hearing and (ii) what legal authorities were cited to the FPC. The local authority's legal representatives should respond forthwith to any reasonable request from the parents or their legal representatives either for copies of the materials read by the FPC or for information about what took place at the hearing. It will therefore be prudent for those acting for the local authority in such a case to keep a proper note of the proceedings, lest they otherwise find themselves embarrassed by a proper request for information which they are unable to provide.
xii) Section 44(5)(b) provides that the local authority may exercise its parental responsibility only in such manner "as is reasonably required to safeguard or promote the welfare of the child". Section 44(5)(a) provides that the local authority shall exercise its power of removal under section 44(4)(b)(i) "only … in order to safeguard the welfare of the child." The local authority must apply its mind very carefully to whether removal is essential in order to secure the child's immediate safety. The mere fact that the local authority has obtained an EPO is not of itself enough. The FPC decides whether to make an EPO. But the local authority decides whether to remove. The local authority, even after it has obtained an EPO, is under an obligation to consider less drastic alternatives to emergency removal. Section 44(5) requires a process within the local authority whereby there is a further consideration of the action to be taken after the EPO has been obtained. Though no procedure is specified, it will obviously be prudent for local authorities to have in place procedures to ensure both that the required decision making actually takes place and that it is appropriately documented.
xiii) Consistently with the local authority's positive obligation under Article 8 to take appropriate action to reunite parent and child, sections 44(10)(a) and 44(11)(a) impose on the local authority a mandatory obligation to return a child who it has removed under section 44(4)(b)(i) to the parent from whom the child was removed if "it appears to [the local authority] that it is safe for the child to be returned." This imposes on the local authority a continuing duty to keep the case under review day by day so as to ensure that parent and child are separated for no longer than is necessary to secure the child's safety. In this, as in other respects, the local authority is under a duty to exercise exceptional diligence.
xiv) Section 44(13) requires the local authority, subject only to any direction given by the FPC under section 44(6), to allow a child who is subject to an EPO "reasonable contact" with his parents. Arrangements for contact must be driven by the needs of the family, not stunted by lack of resources.
This post and the previous ones are ones which should be taken by any parents facing an EPO
Emergency Protection Orders - an important judgment
The link is to BAILII and a judgement (EWHC (Fam), 2006 510) relating to a case where a 9 year old child was taken into care under an Emergency Protection Order when there was found to be no good reason for this when it came to the final court hearing.
In this case the Social Work Team Manager did considerable harm to the girl and the parents by taking her into care when it was wrong to do so. The conclusion of the judgment is:
Emergency Protection Orders: good practice guidance
For ease of reference I will now draw together the observations I have made with some additional guidance:
a) The 14 key points made by Munby J in X Council v B should be copied and made available to the justices hearing an EPO on each and every occasion such an application is made;
b) It is the duty of the applicant for an EPO to ensure that the X Council v B guidance is brought to the court's attention of the bench;
c) Mere lack of information or a need for assessment can never of themselves establish the existence of a genuine emergency sufficient to justify an EPO. The proper course in such a case is to consider application for a Child Assessment Order or issuing s 31 proceedings and seeking the court's directions under s 38(6) for assessment;
d) Evidence given to the justices should come from the best available source. In most cases this will be from the social worker with direct knowledge of the case;
e) Where there has been a case conference with respect to the child, the most recent case conference minutes should be produced to the court;
f) Where the application is made without notice, if possible the applicant should be represented by a lawyer, whose duties will include ensuring that the court understands the legal criteria required both for an EPO and for an application without notice;
g) The applicant must ensure that as full a note as possible of the hearing is prepared and given to the child's parents at the earliest possible opportunity;
h) Unless it is impossible to do so, every without notice hearing should either be tape-recorded or be recorded in writing by a full note being taken by a dedicated note taker who has no other role (such as clerk) to play in the hearing;
i) When the matter is before the court at the first 'on notice' hearing, the court should ensure that the parents have received a copy of the clerk's notes of the EPO hearing together with a copy of any material submitted to the court and a copy of the justices' reasons;
j) Cases of emotional abuse will rarely, if ever, warrant an EPO, let alone an application without notice;
k) Cases of sexual abuse where the allegations are inchoate and non-specific, and where there is no evidence of immediate risk of harm to the child, will rarely warrant an EPO;
l) Cases of fabricated or induced illness, where there is no medical evidence of immediate risk of direct physical harm to the child, will rarely warrant an EPO;
m) Justices faced with an EPO application in a case of emotional abuse, non specific allegations of sexual abuse and/or fabricated or induced illness, should actively consider refusing the EPO application on the basis that the local authority should then issue an application for an interim care order. Once an application for an ICO has been issued in such a case, it is likely that justices will consider that it should immediately be transferred up for determination by a county court or the High Court;
n) The requirement that justices give detailed findings and reasons applies as much to an EPO application as it does to any other application. In a case of urgency, the decision may be announced and the order made with the detailed reasons prepared thereafter;
o) Where an application is made without notice, there is a need for the court to determine whether or not the hearing should proceed on a without notice basis (and to give reasons for that decision) independently of any subsequent decision upon the substantive EPO application.
Breastfeeding for babies taken into care
The link is to BAILII and is to case reference 2003 EWHC 850 in which the following statement is made:
44. iv) If a baby is to be removed from his mother one would normally expect arrangements to be made by the local authority to facilitate contact on a regular and generous basis. It is a dreadful thing to take a baby away from his mother: dreadful for mother, dreadful for father and dreadful for the baby. If the state, in the guise of a local authority, seeks to intervene so drastically in a family's life – and at a time when, ex hypothesi, its case against the parents has not yet even been established – then the very least the state can do is to make generous arrangements for contact. And those arrangements must be driven by the needs of the family, not stunted by lack of resources. Typically, if this is what the parents want, one will be looking to contact most days of the week and for lengthy periods. And local authorities must be sensitive to the wishes of a mother who wants to breast-feed and must make suitable arrangements to enable her to do so – and when I say breast-feed I mean just that, I do not mean merely bottle-feeding expressed breast milk. Nothing less will meet the imperative demands of the Convention. Contact two or three times a week for a couple of hours a time is simply not enough if parents reasonably want more.
There are two key things that matter for the health of a baby. The first is to go as close to term as possible. Trafford Social Services acting in the usual manner that torments a pregnant woman that I have seen with other Social Services Departments have already threatened baby Jach's health by so upsetting the mother that she went into Labour early. What surprises me is that the authorities don't seem to worry about stressing pregnant women. They fail to recognise that there is a real baby inside the woman's womb. That is the child they claim to be protecting.
The second key thing is to properly breast feed. This is "on demand" in the early weeks. That means you should not separate the baby and the mother. Doctors know the babies that are breastfed by the fact that they tend not to be ill.
My understanding of today in Wythenshaw is that there remains a security guard stationed outside the ward. There has been a 24 hour police guard. Interestingly there is more security for this mother who has not broken the law than there is for a female prisoner in the same hospital. It took 45 minutes to persuade the authorities to allow the grandparents (father's parents) to see the baby.
The mother cannot go to court on Monday because that would mean leaving the baby. The authorites are not allowing her to take the baby out of the hospital.
River Cole, The Shingles, Yardley, 1911 and 2007
It is difficult to be certain. The name "the shingles" has been used for this part of the River Cole. We are having a debate in the Constituency Party as to whether the words on the back of the picutre are "the dingles" or "the shingles". I am a part of "the shingles" faction. The Dingles are in Hall Green anyway.
In the 1960s the Birmignham Salvage Department (the name for waste management before the County Council was formed) dumped a lot of rubbish on this area to raise the park to stop parts flooding. Hence there have been changes. This was the location for the ack ack guns which were the anti-aircraft guns used to protect Birmingham in the 2nd world war.
Graffiti is clearly becoming a bigger problem. Particularly in Yardley. Yesterday, therefore, it was agreed that I would chair the Constituency Graffiti Working Party. We need to catch the people responsible and ensure that they are prosecuted for the substantial damage that they do. A sensible punishment is spending all the weekends for months clearing up the mess.
More interesting cases re Fractures and Metaphyseal Fractures
I had two more interesting cases today and yesterday. Both related to where a baby had a broken bone at an early age (under 3 months). A full skeletal survey was then done (which involves about 19 x-rays). Various vague fractures were then diagnosed. In one case after about 6 months of traumatic experiences the court sensibly decided that actually there was no evidence of the parents having done any damage - although there is evidence that the radiologist has done some damage.
The other case is continuing.
What one of the cases shows it that many social workers don't understand how the courts perceive "balance of probabilities". There is a robust approach based upon most fractures being caused by abuse that means that social workers press to take the children into care.
Actually without other evidence a simple fracture is not enough to warrant taking a child out of its family. These things do happen accidentially. Furthermore some questions do need to be asked about the merits of a skeletal survey if it involves that much exposure to high power electromagnetic radiation.
The problem with all of this is that it remains anecdotal. Across the country people are acting in ways that cause massive problems for children and families theoretically in the interest of the child. The case that turned out well probably involved spending over £50,000 on experts, lawyers and professional time if not more. The outcome has been zilch.
I hope to have the permission of the parents in the first case to tell more of their story. However, it is quite clear that the system is going badly wrong across the country.
Vaccination and Public Health
There have been a lot of debates about vaccination. There is a doctor in the USA who runs a blog (see link) that posts about vaccination.
I am generally a supporter of the principles of vaccination. In a sense the debate about MMR shows how things can get a little flakey argument wise. There are adverse reactions to vaccinations, but they are almost invariably a lower risk than the adverse reaction to the underlying disease.
I am uncomfortable with having a legal requirement for vaccination, but I do generally encourage people to have vaccination. The debate about TB vaccination is an interesting one. I have been arguing that it should be made more widely available to those people who request it.
Dr Flea's arguments, however, are worth reading (see link).
The Shingles Yardley by Sears 1911
I have just picked up the painting "The Shingles" which is a watercolour of the banks of the River Cole in 1911 (just before Yardley joined Birmingham from East Worcestershire).
This will be on the wall in the constituency office.
Thank you "The Stirrer"
The Stirrer - Adrian Goldberg's campaigning news website - have kindly decided that I should be their "Politician of the Year" - 2006. (see link)
Court of Appeal Hearing 23rd Jan
We have just received notice from the Court of Appeal Registry Office that the hearing has been set for 23rd January.
Age Limits and Smoking
I have tended to have "non standard" views on age limits. I don't have a problem where there are different age limits for differing things. When the age of majority was changed from 21 to 18 this affected not only the right to vote, but also the age at which someone could enter into a binding contract. Specifically the issue of obtaining credit is something that I would not wish to make easier at an earlier age.
Whilst otherwise the case is being argued for say a reduction in the voting age it is odd that there is an argument to increase the age at which people can buy tobacco. There is an issue in principle which is the question as to what age such purchases should be allowed. I don't think the case has been made for this to be increased. At the same time there is a practical issue in that it is unlikely to have any effect on the availability of tobacco as there are many under 16s who already smoke.
It will be an interesting debate to square with all the other approaches on age limits.