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John Hemming's new year message 2010

Its that time of year again. Normally I don't comment much about local issues on my weblog as we issue leaflets to residents in Yardley. However, I will do this on this occasion (as I did last year). Casework and the office The last case reference of 2009 was 13945. Previous year ends were: 2008: 9836, 2007: 7763, 2006: 5597. The number has increased in the last year. Casework is very important as not only can we resolve issues for people, but also I learn what is going wrong in the real world - as opposed to the Westminster bubble. There remain odd decisions made by the various governmental bodies although it does not seem to have got much worse over the year. The advice desert is also still an issue. The team has run smoothly without any big changes although we moved away from alternating people in London with Martin being now full time in London. Neil also continues to help with the APPGOPO. Yardley Bakeman House having been dealt with we now have Wheeldon house being

Enhancing Adoptive Parenting

The link is to a summary of the research on adoptive parenting performed by Alan Rushton and Elizabeth Monck. It is also possible to order the more detailed research book from BAAF amongst other routes. During the quiet period of Christmas I have read the book. The book itself looks at the question as to whether a specific form of advice for adoptive parents is of any substantial benefit. What is, however, important about the book is not just that question, but other aspects. Social Care is an area which has very few randomised trials. What that means is you cannot really be certain as to whether the approaches taken in individual cases are one which one would expect to reliably produce positive results. It is reasonably well known that adopting a child from care is more difficult than adopting a child from birth. Often the parents feel abandoned by the system and a very large proportion of adoptions from care break down at some stage with the child returning to care. There ha

Election Results 17th December 2009

Reigate and Banstead BC, Earlswood and Whitebushes Con 391 (37.9; -12.8) LD Steve Keith Oddy 313 (30.4; +6.6) Lab 161 (15.6; -0.7) UKIP 125 (12.1; +2.8) BNP 41 (4.0; +4.0) Majority 78 Turnout 16.38% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008. Party defending seat: Con. Cause: Resignation. Great Sankey PC, Whittle Hall LD Matt Newton 573 (63.0) Con 336 (37.0) Majority 237 Turnout 11.99% LD hold. Party defending seat: LD. Cause: Resignation

Election Results 10th December 2009

Bedford BC, Kingsbrook LD Andrew Gerard 661 (49.4; +3.1) Lab 370 (27.6; +3.5) Con 150 (11.2; -9.2) Others Ind 85 / Ind 73 (11.8; +11.8) [Green (0.0; -9.2)] Majority 291 Turnout 13% LD hold Percentage change is since June 2009. East Dunbartonshire UA, (Ward number 3) Bearsden South LD Ashay Ghai 1110 (29.4; +3.0) Con 1261 (33.4; +9.0) SNP 783 (20.7; +1.6) Lab 626 (16.6; -2.7) [Green (0.0; -5.1)] [Others (0.0; -5.7)] Turnout not known. LD gain from Con. Percentage change is since May 2007. Stage 1: Ashay Ghai LD 1110 Rachel Higgins Con 1261 Fiona Grace McLeod SNP 783 Manjinder Shergill Lab 626 Stage 2 elimination of Shergill: LD 1306 Con 1381 SNP 972 Stage 3 elimination of McLeod: LD 1770 Con 1499 Hastings BC, St Helens Con 609 (40.7; -17.9) Lab 550 (36.7; +12.5) LD John Tunbridge 210 (14.0; -3.2) BNP 93 (6.2; +6.2) Others (English Democrats) 36 (2.4; +2.4) Majority 59 Turnout 37.4% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008. Nuneaton and Bedworth BC, Camp Hill Lab 670 (47.1; +1

Parliamentary Expenses 2008-9 and Q1 9-10

The link which is also here is to my expenses claimed up to and including Q1 2009-10. There is an error in the 2008-9 papers where some documents have been scanned more than once, but that is obvious if you compare the pages and the document reference numbers. People will be able to note that the last time I made a claim for anything relating to my second home in London was on 31st March 2009. As people know I took the view that the country needed to make economies. That, therefore, was a simple economy to make.

Election Results 3rd December 2009

Redcar & Cleveland UA, Ormesby LD Ann Wilson 1084 (73.5; +12.4) Lab 210 (14.2; -5.0) UKIP 103 (7.0; +7.0) Con 77 (5.2; -14.4) Majority 874 Turnout 29.55% LD hold Percentage change is since May 2007. Thanet DC, Dane Valley Lab 318 (34.2; -3.9) LD Bill Furness 260 (28.0; +28.0) Con 222 (23.9; -19.7) Ind 130 (14.0; -4.4) Majority 58 Turnout 17.0% Lab gain from Con Percentage change is since May 2007. Deal TC, North Deal Con 529 (33.2) Lab 337 (21.2) LD Nathan Sewell 198 (12.4) Majority 192 Turnout 21.26% Con gain from Lab

Zac Goldsmith and Richmond Park

Having a peer in the Tory Party whose tax arrangements are unclear (step forward Lord Ashcroft) is not that surprising. However, having a parliamentary candidate who is a "non domicile" is surprising. The FT's Westminster blog points out on Richmond Park Conservatives Website That they say: 6. Tax the Super Rich and “non-domiciles”. The over-seas population, living in this country, would make a financial contribution to it. Tax loopholes for the super rich would be closed by reducing the complexity of the tax system. This will pay for the previous two measures. This is not just good news for Susan Kramer MP, but also a real challenge for David Cameron. Are his MPs really committed to the country?

Do parents have rights in the family court

The link is to a recent judgment in which para 10 says: I think it important to remember when one is looking either at the independent assessments by social workers or at applications under section 38(6) of the Act that one needs to be child focused. It is not a question of the mother's right to have a further assessment, it is: would the assessment assist the judge in reaching a conclusion or the right conclusion in relation to the child in question? And on this particular issue it does seem to me that the judge was exercising a discretion and doing so appropriately on all the facts available to him. He thus reached a conclusion which I cannot for myself say in any way is plainly wrong, and since he has based himself on the latest authority on the point and considered the matter carefully, I, speaking for myself, cannot say either that he has erred in law and would dismiss the appeal in relation to a further social worker assessment. This is a decision of the court of appeal whi

Election Results 26th November 2009

Cornwall UA, St Austell Bay LD John Oxenham 690 (48.2; +14.7) Con 675 (47.2; -12.3) Lab 66 (4.6; -2.4) Majority 15 Turnout 41.04% LD gain from Con Percentage change is since June 2009. Flintshire UA, Northop Other (Ind) 343 / 227 (46.2; -23.1) Con 280 (22.7; +22.7) Lab 197 (16.0; -14.7) LD Rob Mackey 187 (15.2; +15.2) Majority 63 Turnout 48.99% Other hold Percentage change is since May 2008. Fylde BC, Clifton Con 386 (35.3; -10.9) Other (Fylde Ratepayers Association) 372 (34.1; -6.5) LD Mike Turner 241 (22.1; +22.1) Lab 80 (7.3; -5.9) Green 13 (1.2; +1.2) Majority 14 Turnout 29.51% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007 Hertsmere BC, Bushey Heath Con 748 (74.8; -3.9) LD Anita Ownsworth 157 (15.7; +6.8) Lab 95 (9.5; +1.3) [Green (0.0; -4.2)] Majority 591 Turnout 20.29% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008 High Peak DC, Blackbrook LD Edith Longden 689 (56.9; +16.5) Con 470 (38.8; -20.8) Lab 52 (4.3; +4.3) Majority 219 Turnout 35.61% LD gain from Con Percentage change i

Summary of Disrupted Adoption Calculations

The link is to an abstract. OBJECTIVE: To discover the outcomes for children placed late for adoption (between 5 and 11 years old) from public care and to establish which factors predict poorer outcome. METHOD: Data were collected prospectively (1993-2003) from a representative sample of domestic U.K. adoptive placements (N = 108) at the start of placement, at 1 year, and 6 years later. Most of the children entered care because of abuse and neglect. Outcome was assessed by the disruption rate, by a twofold classification of the character of continuing placements, and by an assessment of psychological well-being. RESULTS: At the adolescent follow-up, 23% of placements had disrupted, 49% were continuing positively, and 28% were continuing but with substantial ongoing difficulties. Four factors contributed independently to a higher risk of disruption: older age at placement (odds ratio = 1.07), having been singled out from siblings and rejected (5.87), time in care (1.04), and a high lev

Professor Sir Michael Rutter and Romania

This programme is an interesting interview with Professor Sir Michael Rutter about the effects of Romanian Orphanages on children. What I find particularly interesting is that his conclusion was that the children who left the orphanage before 6 months generally did not suffer from long lasting disorders. "in all of our followups we have found no deficits in children whose institutional deprivation ended before the age of 6 months. That is not to say that at an individual level that there is no child that is affected, but it is to say that the differences were so small that we couldn't measure them." "The rate of deficits jumped to a rate of 40% in the second half of the first year." What is important about this is that it implies that the RAD seen in the large numbers of children taken into care in England in their first 3 months is not caused by their parenting, but by something else.

Forced Adoption and Failures

The link is to an article in today's Guardian about adoptions that fail. I found an interesting element at the bottom. The British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) estimates that one in five adoptions break down, although children who are "handed back" are usually older. The younger the child, the lower the chance of the placement breaking down. A study by the Maudsley Hospital in London found a breakdown rate of 8% after one year and 29% six years later. On average, adoptions that broke down did so 34 months after placement. I have been for some time been trying to get some research results on how many forced adoptions fail (aka are disrupted). When doing statistics the government don't count the failed adoptions as outcomes for children as they appear in the Section 20 care figures instead. Hence their assumptions are flawed. It would be interesting to compare the figures on adoption failure in other countries to England.

The Treasury Economic Model

For some time I have been concerned that it is not possible to scrutinise the details of the treasury forecasting. That is because the government have historically refused to provide the data that they put into the Economic Model. They are happy to provide a copy of the program, but without the data it is not possible to check the figures. We are in a really challenging situation as a country where action needs to be taken to bring the budgetary deficit under control, but at the same time not to kick the economy over the edge. This is an occasion when proper scrutiny really needs access to the inputs. I put in written question on the issue again recently and the government again refused to answer the question, but I hope to raise this issue within the appeals process.

Swine Flu fortnightly report

This report from NHS West Midlands shows that there is a mixed picture across the region in terms of GP consultation rates but increasing numbers of hospital admissions and patients in critical care. Key Messages Across the West Midlands there has been a mixed picture in patients presenting at primary care centres with influenza-like symptoms, some PCT areas show an increase, other areas show a decrease, in rates. Overall, the West Midlands rate has increased but this is not impacting on normal service delivery. The Department of Health has announced that the vaccination programme will be extended to children over six months and under five years. Activity /Rates – GPs This shows the number of patients attending primary care with influenza-like illness, taken from the latest Health Protection Agency QSurveillance data. This data indicates an increase for the week ending 15 November 2009, across England and the West Midlands, but a decrease within the Birmingham East and North area. T

Election Results 19th November 2009

Cheshire East UA, Cholmondeley Con 1764 (77.6; +6.6) LD Bryan Halson 508 (22.4; +4.9) [Lab (0,0; -11.5)] Majority 1256 Turnout 19.61% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Doncaster MBC, Rossington Lab 637 (26.9; +1.1) Others 1553 (65.6; +5.3) (English Democrats 551, 3 Independents 506 / 420 / 76 ) BNP 101 (4.3; +4.3) LD Robert Mitchell 78 (3.3; +3.3) [Con (0.0; -13.9)] Majority 86 Turnout 24.6% Lab gain from Ind. Percentage change is since May 2008. Falkirk UA, Bo'ness and Blackness SNP 1604 (57.5; +10.3) Lab 823 (29.5; -2.4) Con 283 (!0.1; -2.6) LD Gavin Chomczuk 79 (2.8; +2.8) [Others (0.0; -8.1)] Turnout 23.5% SNP hold Percentage change is since May 2007 Forest of Dean DC, Coleford East Ind 267 (29.8; +1.2) LD Heather Lusty 230 (25.7; +25.7) Con 210 (23.5; -17.7) Lab 188 (21.0; -9.2) Majority 37 Turnout 21% Ind gain from Con Percentage change is since May 2007 Wellington TC, Rockwell Green Con 213 (40.3) Lab 212 (40.1) LD Mark Lithgow 104 (19.7) Majority 1 Turnout 2

Children Schools and Families Bill

The link is to the bill on parliament's website. The text of the bill follows from here I wonder if the "guarantees" in this are "cast iron guarantees" or not. I need to go through the family proceedings stuff in detail, but it appears that Jack Straw's Civil Servants have betrayed him again and are setting up a system so that a journalist has to be present to say what went on and that otherwise reporting the proceedings even anonymously is still contempt.

Bob Russell MP - aka The Shock and Awe of parliamentary proceedings

Every year on Queens Speech day (today) the new set of Early Day Motions is tabled. This means a new set of numbers starting with number 1. Anyone who wishes to get a low number needs to queue up until the Table Office opens at 10am today. No-one, however, tries to beat Bob Russell MP (aka Mr Colchester). Bob Turns up the night before and sleeps in his sleeping bag in the queue for the table office. This is the "Shock and Awe" of parliamentary proceedings. Noone tries to beat him because he is unbeatable. The photo below is Bob this morning having slept the night in his sleeping bag (which is the green thing under the table).

Election Results 12th November 2009

East Devon DC, Trinity Con elected unopposed. Con gain from Ind. Party defending seat: Ind. Cause. Resignation. Shepway BC, New Romney Coast Con 452 (51.4; +2.2) LD Brian Wright 333 (37.9; -12.9) UKIP 94 (10.7; +10.7) Majority 119 Turnout 30.65% Con gain from LD Percentage change is since May 2007. Party defending seat: LD. Cause: Resignation. South Hams DC, Totnes Bridgetown LD Mike Hannaford 522 (52.4; +27.4) Green 265 (26.6; +26.6) Con 162 (16.2; +5.5) Lab 48 (4.8; -4.1) [UKIP (0.0; -12.4)] [Others (0.0; -43.0)] Majority 257 Turnout 33.85% LD hold Percentage change is since May 2007

Labour repeals part of Magna Carta

The link is to the debate about the Court Fees. The old 1215 Magna Carta was changed on numerous occasions, but there are still some sections of the 1297 Magna Carta that are in force in the UK. This can be seen here on the statute law database. One of the sections that remains in force is Section 29. NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor[condemn him,] but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right The government are proposing to charge fees for court access to include the cost of remitted fees for those people who cannot afford the fees. Whichever way you look at it this involves selling justice. I don't think this can be done via an SI.

Remembrance Service Birmingham 2009

This year I went to Stechford. We have recently restored the war memorial at the roundabout at the end of Albert Road. I normally have gone to the service in the City Centre, but instead went with the Stechford and Yardley North Councillors to Stechford in part to see the event with the restored memorial. I did take some photographs, but Rob Jones was there. He takes photographs of many of the local events and you can see his photographs of Stechford (which were far better than mine) here

Jersey - the Crown Dependencies and conflicts of interest

I have linked to a story on the Channel Islands TV station which in part says: A Jersey accountant jailed in 2007 for six years for money laundering has had his conviction quashed. His defence council took his case to the Jersey Court Of Appeal but it was rejected. They then took it to the Privy Council - the highest court islanders can appeal to - where it was finally quashed. The judge, Commissioner Sir Geoffrey Nice was branded 'sarcastic, mocking and patronising.' He interrupted Mr Michel 273 times as he was giving evidence. It's now expected to cost the Jersey tax payer millions of pounds. Mr Michel's defence lawyer says in retrospect, he should have objected more at the time. Click for the video. What I find interesting is the unquestioning reliance of the TV station on judicial decisions. There have always been biased judges. What is most important to hear is the solicitors explaining how he didn't want to challenge the judge in case he upset the judge

Swine Flu fortnightly report

This report from NHS West Midlands shows that the number of people with flu-like illness has slightly increased across the region. Key Messages Across the West Midlands there has been a mixed picture in patients presenting at primary care centres with influenza-like symptoms - some PCT areas show an increase, other areas show a decrease, in rates. Overall, the West Midlands rate has slightly increased but this is not impacting on normal service delivery. The number of people with swine flu admitted to hospitals in the West Midlands has increased, as has the proportion of patients in critical care. There have been six further swine flu related deaths since our last report. Activity /Rates – GPs This shows the number of patients attending primary care with influenza-like illness, taken from the latest Health Protection Agency QSurveillance data. This data indicates an increase for the week ending 1 November 2009, across England, West Midlands and within Birmingham East and North. The

The government's control of the house of commons

One thing that is not well known is that the government controls the rules of the house of commons. This is a matter that hopefully the Wright committee will rectify. I have proposed a new clause to the Constitutional Renewal bill as follows (also see link) Procedure Committee amendments to standing orders NC46 To move the following Clause:— ‘Standing Orders of the House of Commons shall make provision for the Procedure Committee to have the power to table amendments to Standing Orders for the whole House to accept or reject following a short debate within one week of the tabling of such amendments. Although this cannot actually change standing orders it has the potential of getting a vote on the issue.

Graffiti, Groningen and Anti-Social Behaviour

There was a debate in the house last night which can be read in hansard here . It demonstrates that the government are not really listening on the issue of graffiti and low level crime. The punishment of "clear it up" is the ideal punishment for graffiti, but the government want to fine people. Quite a few cannot pay the fines so it becomes meaningless. Anyway here are some extracts: John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way on the subject of early intervention and the need to support families at that stage. I had the opportunity to visit a Sure Start centre in my constituency and, separately, to go to see Home-Start, which does similar sorts of early intervention support work. Home-Start said that about half of its problems arise from bad housing, whereas Sure Start said that some 75 per cent. of family problems arise from bad housing. From a holistic perspective, does the hon. Gentleman that agree that if we are going to deal wi

Independent Advisors and Swine Flu Vaccination

I didn't get the chance to ask a question of Alan Johnson on the sacking of Professor Nutt yesterday. In essence, however, he was sacked for being independent. It is clear now that government advisors, even unpaid ones, are not to be independent, but need to take the government whip. This, of course, raises into question all the independent advice that the government relies upon and quotes. If advisors are to be sacked for talking out of turn and saying things that the government does not like then they have no independence. I have been unhappy with the proposals to vaccinate children for Swine Flu. It is now clear that there are no independent advisors to government as they get sacked for being critical of the government. Hence this also applies to the question as to whether or not to vaccinate for Swine Flu.

Election Results 29th October 2009

Huntingdonshire DC, Huntingdon North LD Patricia Ellen Shrapnel 243 (32.6; +2.7) Con 213 (28.6; -18.6) UKIP 167 (22.4; +14.1) Lab 123 (16.5; +1.8) Majority 30 Turnout 19% LD hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Hellesdon PC, South East Con 287 (46.2) LD Wendy Elizabeth Pearce 198 (31.9) UKIP 136 (21.9) Majority 89 Turnout 15% Con hold

Freedom of Speech

I think that it is now worth having a look at the wider issues relating to freedom of speech. Freedom of Speech often gets mixed up with the debates about "no platform" and there are lots of subtleties including the issue about the trafigura injunction. The Lord Chief Justice recently took the view that it was entirely reasonable to have court injunctions that in themselves are secret. This is perhaps the most extreme constraint upon freedom of speech. The whole panoply of state power is used to stop someone saying something and also to stop them saying that they have been prevented from speaking. This has to be the super gag. I think this is in fact unlawful under Article 6. Judgments need to be public. As a minimum orders should be public. Article IX of the 1688 Bill of Rights ensures that the courts can have no effect on parliament. Parliament may itself decide not to comment on matters which are subjudice, but discretion rests with parliament to discuss even

Election Results 21st October 2009

Birmingham City MBC, Sutton New Hall Con 1633 (58.3; -8.8) Lab 505 (18.0; +5.6) UKIP 344 (12.3; +12.3) LD Robert Hardware 319 (11.4; +2.7) [Green (0.0; -3.5)] [BNP (0.0; -8.3)] Majority 1128 Turnout 15.93% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008. Party defending seat: Con. Cause: Death. East Lindsey DC, Sibsey Con elected unnopposed. Con gain from East Lindsey Independent Party defending seat: East Lindsey Independent. Cause: Death. Forest Heath DC, Eriswell & the Rows Con 400 (45.8; -24.4) LD John Smith 346 (39.6; +39.6) UKIP 128 (14.6; -15.2) Majority 54 Turnout not known Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007. Party defending seat: Con. Cause: Resignation. Hertfordshire CC, Borehamwood North Con 982 (44.5; +5.5) Lab 928 (42.1; +13.2) LD Robert Gamble 170 (7.7; -4.6) Ind 125 (5.7; -0.1) [BNP (0.0; -14.1)] Majority 54 Turnout 18.5% Con hold Percentage change is since June 2009. Party defending Seat: Con. Cause: Death. Hertsmere BC, Potters Bar Oakmere Con 679 (76.6

Swine Flu Report

This report from NHS West Midlands shows that the number of people with flu-like illness is increasing across the region. Key Messages Across the West Midlands there has been an increase in patients presenting at primary care centres with influenza-like symptoms, this is not impacting on normal service delivery. The number of people with swine flu admitted to hospitals in West Midlands has increased this week. Activity /Rates – GPs This shows the number of patients attending primary care with influenza-like illness, taken from the latest Health Protection Agency QSurveillance data. This data indicates an increase for the week ending 18 October 2009, across England and the West Midlands, but no change within Birmingham East and North from the previous week. The reported rate of GP consultations per 100,000 population within the West Midlands for the week was 39.6 (compared with 33.5 for the previous week). West Midlands average 39.6 (per 100,000) England and Wales rate 36.0 (per 10

Election Results 15th October 2009

Barnsley MBC, St. Helen's Lab 1520 (59.8; +2.2) BNP 590 (23.2; +6.6) Barnsley Independent Group 171 (6.7; -11.9) UKIP 94 (3.7; +3.7) Con 89 (3.5; -3.6) LD Eddie Gouthwaite 78 (3.1; +3.1) Majority 930 Turnout 31% Lab hold Percentage change is since May 2007. Basingstoke and Deane BC, Chineham Con 898 (63.0; +19.1) LD Liam Anthony Elvish 249 (17.5; +7.7) Ind 163 / 18 (12.7; -28.2) Lab 98 (6.9; +1.4) Majority 649 Turnout not known Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008. Party defending seat: Con. Cause: Resignation. Bracknell Forest BC, Hanworth Con 640 (42.4; -14.2) Lab 377 (25.0; -1.9) LD Larraine de Laune 206 (13.7; +13.7) UKIP 139 (9.2; +9.2) Green 77 (5.1; -11.3) BNP 70 (4.6; +4.6) Majority 263 Turnout 23.4% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007. Party defending seat: Con. Cause: Death. Cannock Chase DC, Heath Hayes East and Wimblebury LD Chris Collis 314 (30.0; +8.2) Con 300 (28.6; -10.9) Lab 267 (25.5; -0.1) BNP 116 (11.1; +11.1) UKIP 51 (4.9; +4.9) [Others (

John Wilkes, Trafigura and Injunctions

The saga with the Trafigura injunction and the guardian is an interesting one. There has been a tendency to have secret court orders recently. Part 1 of Article 6 of the ECHR states: In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice. This, I think, makes it quite clear when it says "Judgment shall be pronounced publicly ... In the UK and particularly for Family C

Sir Thomas Legg's letter

I am pleased to have been told that "no action is required from you" in respect of my ACA claims from my election until March 2009. I ceased claiming in the next financial year (I think I made one claim), hence I can be pretty certain that my ACA is OK for 2009-10. My wife, Christine, is therefore, due thanks for her efforts on filling in these forms. It remains to be seen how many mistakes have been identified in expenses. In the past I have made all sorts of mistakes in paperwork and then corrected them. I do think it is unfair to pillory anyone for making mistakes. However, it has been part of this government's tendency to increase "strict liability" offences and what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander - as Patricia Scotland is now clearly aware. My own view is that we need to move more towards a "mens rea" approach to the law where people are guilty only if they meant to do wrong.

Guido is in St Kitts

The issue of the jurisdiction of courts to keep things secret in an internet age is under challenge today. The guardian is prevented from talking about a question in parliament. That is nothing new although I think it is wrong. However, Guido is currently in St Kitts. Hence as long as his servers are not in the UK he can post what he wants about this. I have an interesting chidlrens case involving two non-UK jurisdictions. My belief is that hence unless an injunction is obtained in the UK that the media in the UK can report it. When you look at the benefits of transparency I think serious questions are raised about the disbenefit of secrecy. I am coming to a conclusion that we need a considerable review of the powers of the courts to keep things secret and to injunct people. As an absolute minimum an injunction on reporting should be time limited in order to determine the truth of something so that a newspaper does not trash someone's reputation because of the pressures

Gordon Brown on Taking Risk 2004

The link is to the treasury release on his speech. So same way that we made the Bank of England independent of government we made our competition authorities independent of government and created one of the most open competition regimes in the world. And although not quite as public a symbol as the Bank of England independence - but unique in terms of labour’s history none the less - we have cut capital gains tax substantially. Even with other priorities to finance – not least the NHS - we have cut capital gains tax from 40 pence down to 10 pence for long term business assets and in budget after budget I want us to do even more to encourage the risk takers , those with ambition, to turn their ideas into reality and make the most of their talents. The question, of course, is how much risk and more importantly with whose money. It still is, however, a good quote to identify.

Retirement Ages

Within the context of the discussion about Retirement Ages I had some people come to me today concerned about being forced to retire at 65. I wonder if there is a need for a more urgent look at the rules that allow companies to force people to retire at 65 without giving any reason. This does hit willing and competent workers quite hard and I am not sure how the company benefits.

Election Results 8th October 2009

Eden DC, Penrith West LD Elissa Robinson 387 (51.7; +51.7) Con 157 (21.0; -17.6) BNP 102 (13.6; +13.6) Ind 58 (7.8; -37.5) Lab 26 (3.5; -12.7) Green 18 (2.4; +2.4) Majority 230 Turnout 31% LD gain from Ind Percentage change is since May 2007 Epping Forest DC, Grange Hill Con 453 (52.4; -31.1) LD Gavin Chambers 411 (47.6; +31.1) Majority 42 Turnout 17.17% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008. Fenland DC, March West Con 830 (53.9; -5.2) Lab 460 (29.9; +29.9) LD Ann Elliott 250 (16.2; -24.7) Majority 370 Turnout not known Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007 Ryedale DC, Pickering East Liberal 392 (42.8; +42.8) LD Charles Downes 274 (29.9; -70.1) Ind 213 (23.3; +23.3) Ind 37 (4.0; +4.0) Majority 118 Turnout 34.25% Liberal gain from LD Percentage change is since May 2007 when LD was elected unopposed. City of Westminster LBC, West End Con 526 (60.8; +10.3) Lab 169 (19.5; +0.6) LD Christopher Gonzalez 108 (12.5; -1.2) Green 62 (7.2; -6.4) [UKIP (0.0; -3.3)] Majority 357 T

Swine Flu Report

This report from NHS West Midlands shows that the number of people with flu-like illness is increasing across the region. Key Messages Across the West Midlands there has been an increase in patients presenting at primary care centres with influenza-like symptoms, this is not impacting on normal service delivery. The number of people with swine flu admitted to hospitals in West Midlands has increased this week, as have the number admitted to critical care, although as a proportion of hospital admissions this is still low and not impinging normal activity. Activity /Rates – GPs This shows the number of patients attending primary care with influenza-like illness, taken from the latest Health Protection Agency QSurveillance data. This data indicates an increase for the week ending 4th October 2009, across England, West Midlands, but a decrease within Birmingham East and North. The reported rate of GP consultations per 100,000 population within the West Midlands for the week was 29.5 (co

UK Energy Research Council's Peak Oil Report

The UK ERC have done a report on oil production. Their press release says: A new report, launched today by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), argues that conventional oil production is likely to peak before 2030, with a significant risk of a peak before 2020. The report concludes that the UK Government is not alone in being unprepared for such an event - despite oil supplying a third of the world’s energy. The report finds that we are entering an era of slow and expensive oil as resources get harder to find, extract and produce. Major new discoveries, such as those announced recently in the Gulf of Mexico, will only delay the peak by a matter of days or weeks. The government should wake up to this issue as it is not one that can be spun away. I may ask them to present in the House of Commons to APPG OPO

Birmingham Childrens Social Services Report

I have been quite busy working to highlight the systematic problems that cause the situation where Birmingham has the problems as identified in Monday's report. I will do a detailed post at some stage about this. However, it is my view that Birmingham is far from being the worst Childrens Services Authority for Child Protection. It is, however, the most honest.

Birmingham Childrens Social Services Report

Today the special scrutiny into childrens services in Birmingham was released. In essence it recognised that my assertions that the system was not working were true. What needs to happen is a systemic review of how the child protection system fails to work. This has not really happened with all of the reports so far. There are simple proposals that would help. For example allowing councils to employ people with experience but without the formal qualification would help. Parents in their 40s and 50s are well suited to looking at the issues from the perspective of someone who knows how difficult raising children can be. It is really unfair to chuck young graduates in at the deep end. We need to move away from a tick box culture towards one which values good judgment. This means getting rid of the performance indicators and making sure that computer systems are established with the objective of helping people do their jobs rather than collate information for the performance indic

Why did the government break the care system?

It is becoming more obvious now that the public family law system in England particularly is broken. Within the system there are some good people doing a good job, but a lot of the system is almost going off at random. There is an overload of references for DV and the filtering system which should identify where action is needed fails. What particularly broke the system was in fact a mathematical error. The government when calculating the denominator for the adoption target used the number of children in care rather than those going into care. The government's strategy was not to have a majority of children adopted from care, but the outcome was in fact this. This became obvious to me earlier this year when I read Ofsted's Annual Performance Assessment which said that adoption was only ever suitable for a minority of children. However, a proper analysis of the statistics looking at the flows shows that the number of chilren under 10 adopted from care is of the order of 6

Election Results 1st October 2009

Bolton MBC, Crompton Lab 1528 (47.4; -2.6) Con 935 (29.0; +1.0) Ind 377 (11.7; +11.7) LD Anne Warren 284 (8.8; -13.2) Green 99 (3.1; +3.1) Majority 593 Turnout 31% Lab hold Percentage change is since May 2008. Broadland DC, Wroxham LD Ben McGilvray 960 (62.5; +57.9) Con 346 (22.5; -9.5) UKIP 134 (8.7; +8.7) Green 50 (3.3; -2.8) Lab 46 (3.0; 0.0) [Others (0.0; -54.3)] Majority 614 Turnout 38% LD gain from Ind Percentage change is since May 2007. Derby City UA, Allestree Con 1988 (52.3; -10.2) LD Deena Smith 1037 (27.3; +15.1) Lab 532 (14.0; -0.3) BNP 242 (6.4; -4.5) Majority 951 Turnout 35% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008. East Ayrshire UA, Doon Valley Lab 1221 (50.5; +1.5) SNP 891 (36.9; +10.9) Con 176 (7.3; -1.1) Ind 84 (3.5; -13.1) Ind 44 (1.8; -14.8) Turnout 26.78% Lab gain from Ind Percentage change is since May 2007 Kettering BC, Northfield Lab 265 (37.9; -17.7) Con 258 (36.9; -7.6) LD Cindy McGrath 80 (11.4; +11.4) BNP 58 (8.3; +8.3) English Democrats 39 (5.6;

Swine Flu fortnightly report

This report from NHS West Midlands shows that the rate of new cases of swine flu has begun to increase across the region. Information provided indicates current impact on the local services. Key Messages Across the West Midlands there has been an increase in patients presenting at primary care centres with influenza-like symptoms. This is not impacting on normal service delivery and there has not been an increase in cases admitted to hospital in the last week. Activity /Rates – GPs This shows the number of patients attending primary care with influenza-like illness, taken from the latest Health Protection Agency QSurveillance data. This data indicates an increase for the week ending 20 September 2009, across England, West Midlands and within Birmingham East and North. The reported rate of GP consultations per 100,000 population within the West Midlands for the week was 15 (compared with 11.9 for the previous week). West Midlands average 15.0 (per 100,000) England and Wales rates 1

Election Results 24th September 2009

North Tyneside MBC, Preston Con 1141 (55.8; -14.2) Lab 503 (24.6; -5.3) Public Services not Private Profit 174 (8.5; +8.5) LD John Christopher Appleby 152 (7.4; +7.4) Green 73 (3.6; +3.6) Majority 638 Turnout not known Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Party defending seat: Con. Cause: Resignation. Tendring DC, Burrsville Con 455 (55.2; -10.5) LD Joyce Edith O'Brien 227 (27.5; +15.7) Lab 90 (10.9; +1.1) Green 52 (6.3; +6.3) [Others (0.0; -12.6)] Majority 228 Turnout 46% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007. Party defending seat: Con. Cause: Death. Hartlepool BC, Elwick Ind 233 / 132 / 28 (60.4; -24.2) Con 201 (30.9; +30.9) Lab 40 (6.1; -9.3) LD Keith Macfadyen 17 (2.6; +2.6) Majority 32 Turnout 29.24% Ind hold Percentage change is since May 2006 Party defending seat: Ind. Cause: Death. Broxtowe BC, Toton and Chilwell Meadows Con 1081 (56.6; +8.3) LD Robert Pembleton 474 (24.8; -0.3) Lab 296 (15.5; +1.3) BNP 58 (3.0; -4.1) [UKIP (0.0; -5.2)] Majority 607 Tur

Conference 2009

I left Birmingham for the conference after my advice bureau (as usual). It is good that we continue to concentrate on the issue of the tax threshold for people in work, but on low incomes. The government are in a financial mess. I have been trying to work out how they have been funding "quantative easing". Initially I thought it was funded directly, but it now looks like it is not funded. It is interesting to see to what extent this is sustainable. It remains that a massive continuing deficit is not sustainable. My concern is to ensure that we protect services whilst going through a difficult period. I have spoken at two fringe meetings about Social work and Child Protection. It is good that there is a dialogue between those critical of the system and those who work in it. In fact there is common ground as to what systematic problems there are. In particular the performance indicators and the integrated childrens system come in for some serious criticism. What

Election Results: 17th September 2009

Buckinghamshire CC, Amersham Conservative 1840 (46.6; -3.7) Lib Dem Davida Allen 1768 (44.8; 0.0) UKIP 140 (3.5; +3.5) Labour 106 (2.7, -2.2) Green 95 (2.4; +2.4) Conservative HOLD Majority 72 Turnout 30.6 Newark and Sherwood DC, Beacon Conservative 413 (48.2; - 0.7) Lib Dem Decland Logue 296 (34.7; +7.8) Labour 147 (17.2; -7.1) Consvative HOLD Majority 117 Turnout 16.6 Nottinghamshire CC, Newark East Conservative 517 (45.2; -6.4) Lib Dem Chris Harrison 322 (28.1; - 2.3) Labour 198 (17.3; -0.7) UKIP 107 (9.4; +9.4) Conservative HOLD Majority 195 Turnout 15.6 Birmingham City MBC, Sparkbrook Respect 2495 (39.6; -7.0) Labour 2228 (35.4; -1.3) Conservative 799 (12.7; +7.5) Lib Dem Maeem Quarefhi 506 (8.0; +1.5) Green 213 (3.4 +3.4) Independent 55 (0.9 +0.9) BNP 0 (0; -1.5) Turnout 32.3 Majority 267 Respect HOLD Redcar and Cleveland UA, South Bank Labour 442 (43.6; -6.9) Lib Dem Steven Abbot 354 (34.9; +25.1) Ind 102 (10.1; -5.0) UKIP 69 (6.8; +6.8) Conservative 47 (4.6; -5.7) BNP

Election Results 10th September 2009

York City UA, Heworth Lab 876 (34.0; -2.6) LD Jennifer Ayre 608 (23.6; +11.5) Con 591 (23.0; +2.3) Green 302 (11.7; -6.1) BNP 172 (6.7; -6.0) Official Monster Raving Loony Party 25 (1.0; +1.0) Majority 268 Turnout 26.6% Lab hold Percentage change is since May 2007 Daventry DC, Drayton Counting Friday morning, result expected at 2pm. South Tyneside MBC, Westoe Ind 694 / 194 (39.2; -26.4) Lab 567 (25.0; +6.1) Con 320 (14.1; +3.3) BNP 266 (11.7; +11.7) LD William John Troupe 225 (9.9; +9.9) Majority 127 Turnout 34.5% Ind hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Leicester City UA, Castle Lab 611 (31.7; +5.1) Green 519 (26.9; -8.6) Con 435 (22.6; +7.2) LD Joan Garrity 292 (15.1; -3.1) UKIP 41 (2.1; -0.5) Liberal 31 (1.6; -0.1) Majority 92 Turnout 12.65% Lab gain from Green Percentage change is since May 2007 Harborough DC, Market Harborough Welland LD Colin Davies 600 (54.8; +7.1) Con 373 (34.1; +5.3) BNP 122 (11.1; +11.1) [Lab (0.0; -23.5)] Majority 227 Turnout 22.8% LD hold Percent

Swine Flu weekly report

Please note that until further notice, these briefings will be issued on a fortnightly basis. Introduction This week’s report from NHS West Midlands shows that the rate of new cases of swine flu continues to slow across the region. Information provided indicates current impact on the local services. Key Messages Patients presenting at primary care centres with influenza-like symptoms has decreased within the health economy over the last week. The number of people with swine flu admitted to hospitals in West Midlands has increased this week. Activity /Rates – GPs This shows the number of patients attending primary care with influenza-like illness, taken from the latest Health Protection Agency QSurveillance data. This data indicates a decrease for the week ending 6 September 2009, across England, West Midlands and within Birmingham East and North. The reported rate of GP consultations per 100,000 population within the West Midlands for the week was 11.4 (compared with 14 for the prev

MG Rover Report

The report has now been released. It confirms a number of things. It confirms the substantial sums of money which in my view should not have been removed from the group whilst it was being managed by the directors although it makes it clear that one of the directors was uncomfortable about this. It also confirms that the community were squeezed out of the bid which initially involved more than 4 key players. It recognises that the governments revelation of financial problems resulted in pushing the company into administration in 2005 - although it was most likely heading into administration at that time. It also recognises that the alternative to Phoenix in 2000 was liquidation (although it could have been possible to have a further review with Alchemy). What is sad about all of this is that it could have been a lot different. What the report reveals is that there were a number of solutions after 2000 when it would have been possible for the business to continue over time.