Adoption figures reports
I have linked to the BBC report on the numbers of babies adopted from care. There have always been very few of these as they are basically the babies that are abandoned at birth.
I am not sure myself that the Government are right to regret that fewer babies are abandoned at birth. I would think that it would be better if they were not abandoned. However, that is the government's view.
Similarly it is not enough to just look at the figures for adoptions. We need to look at what happens with the children. There has been a movement away from children returning to their parents, perhaps this is being reversed. We don't know.
Hence really there is not a lot that anyone who fully understands the care system should say. That, of course, does not stop Martin Narey from saying: "The numbers are disappointing, but the tide is turning."
posted by John Hemming
¶ 10:08 a.m.8 comments
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Tuition Fees and Labour
The news that Labour support the increase in tuition fees to 6K at the lower end, but not the higher end to 9k is an odd piece of news.
Basically under the coalition scheme the graduates in the bottom half of earnings are not affected by this proposal. Those who would benefit are those who earn in their life time more than the 52nd percentile.
In fact many of these would hardly be affected (those at the bottom end) and it is the higher earners that really benefit, but not the top earners.
This is an interesting political placing. We are trying to benefit lower earning households. Labour are trying to benefit the upper middle earning households.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 8:55 p.m.1 comments
John Hemming and the Sisters of Jazz at the Lib Dem Conference
For those interested in Jazz here are three of the numbers the band played at the Lib Dem Glee Club on Tuesday evening.
Contradictions in Judgment in re: Watson  EWHC 2376 (Fam)Doncaster v Watson has been published in which Wall P says: "The first myth I wish to explode is that a person can be sent to prison "in secret". Nobody in this country is sent to prison for contempt of court "in secret"."
He also makes reference to:  EWCA Civ 248 Hammerton v Hammerton in which it is clear that someone was sent to prison "in secret". Hence he is wrong in that someone 'can be sent to prison "in secret"' and he has given an example of it. The contradiction is referred to in his own judgment.
I know of other more recent cases where people have been sent to prison in secret. Obviously I cannot name them here.
It is quite clear that secret trials are less reliable than those subject to public scrutiny. The key accountability of the judicial system (as a whole) is transparency and public accountability.
Prosecutions for Contempt are for all intents and purposes criminal prosecutions. People have been imprisoned in this country after a secret trial and with their identity subject to reporting restrictions. This is not in accordance with the rules, but it happens.
Vicky Haigh's trial for asking a question at a meeting which I chaired in parliament was subject to reporting restrictions that prevented her from being identified.
My view is that for the system to operate properly and for justice to be done that such criminal prosecutions should occur without reporting restrictions save as to any material that relates to any underlying care case.
I am doing some research into wider jurisprudence here to identify what the norm is throughout Europe, but it remains that this country has been locking people up in secret and shouldn't.
We also need to look at the reliability of the appeals process. There are many problems here, not least the general resistance of the secret courts to timely production of transcripts of judgments (and refusal to allow parties to record the judgments to produce their own transcripts).
posted by John Hemming
¶ 6:32 a.m.18 comments
Thursday, September 22, 2011
The First Amendment at the Lib Dem Conference
I spoke at a number of Fringes at the Conference. This was with the Freedom Assocation about the first amendment. posted by John Hemming
¶ 1:13 p.m.0 comments
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Greece and the Euro
The situation in Greece does seem to be coming to a head. If they don't sort their problems out then they won't have money to pay their liabilities.
I would argue that any country that has had to have a rescue of any form has gone through a form of bankruptcy. However, it is only at the point at which they really don't have any way of paying for things that they have the effects of insolvency in that people don't actually get paid.
In terms of international law they will still owe the debts that they have. Hence there is no rational route through which they would not comply with the proposals from the Eurozone.
It really does not matter how much the unions in Greece protest. They need to find a way of paying for their liabilities. They won't get an improved deal if they don't stick by the deals they have done to date. Creating a "New Drachma" still does not solve the issue of the liabilities they already have.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 5:26 p.m.0 comments
the NHS and Social Care bill amendments
Publicwhip (under new management) have now published the divisions. It is worth explaining the meaning of the amendment divisions pushed by Labour (as what they saw as the key issues).
replace "secure" with "provide or secure". This was one of the debates floating around driven in part by 38 degrees who have not helped their credibility. Basically the proposal is that if a new hospital is needed that the Secretary of State sets up a new NHS trust which provides the services. The amendment argued that potentially the Secretary of State should directly provide the services. I don't quite get the idea of that given that commissioning has been the approach for the NHS for decades. Hence it was really an unnecessary amendment.
Nadine Dorries' advice amendment The principle that independent advice should be available was important, but stopping BPAS and the like from giving advice was silly. It also wasn't something to deal with in primary legislation. She managed to lose more support by speaking for far too long and she even managed to get Frank Field to vote against the amendment.
I am not going to comment specifically on the Watson case.
I have always had and remain to have three concerns about the issues relating to Vicky Haigh. The first two were public.
Firstly, I was concerned that there was an attempt made to jail her for talking at a meeting in parliament. The meeting was one at which Anthony Douglas was answering questions and I was chairing. She asked a question of Anthony Douglas. When she asked this question she did not name herself, her daughter or her ex-husband. However, this was used by Doncaster as a reason why she should be imprisoned. She did name Doncaster.
I have some great difficulty with this from a constitutional perspective. The First Amendment to the US Constitution is specific about people's right to petition government. In the US that has been considered to involve all three estates of the constitution. In asking a question at the meeting I chaired Ms Haigh was petitioning the legislature and the government (Anthony Douglas is the Chief executive of a government agency).
It is really worrying if people are threatened with jail for complaining. It is even more worrying if they are threatened with jail for simply naming the bodies they are complaining about without identifying themselves.
This right is actually in the UK constitution in Article V of the English Bill of Rights. It refers to the Monarch, but in essence the Monarch is the whole of the state.
"That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;"
Back in the late 1600s and early 1700s parliament used to act to protect people against whom action was taken or threatened for petitioning parliament - even if a formal petition had not been written. I think it should do so again.
Secondly, the authorities were threatening to take Vicky's baby at birth. I do not think that was a reasonable threat to make.
Thirdly, Vicky should have a right to appeal the original fact finding decision. Wall P (the judge dealing with these two hearings) makes an issue of the fact that she has not yet made an application for permission to appeal the decisions.
One thing Justice for Families does is to help people do is to make appeals (which starts with an application for permission to appeal). It was the case that Vicky's lawyers told her she could not appeal. It is still the case that she is being prevented from appealing - simply because her lawyers are refusing to give her her case file - claiming that they need to keep the file so that the LSC will pay them.
Hence there is nothing that can be read into the fact that no application for permission to appeal has been made yet.
posted by John Hemming
¶ 8:05 a.m.25 comments
Thursday, September 01, 2011
Abortion and advice
There is quite a debate going on about an amendment that Nadine Dorries is promoting to the Health and Social Care Bill.
The first problem I have is that I have looked on the parliamentary website to find out precisely what the amendment is. I cannot find it. Hence it is difficult to comment precisely as to the amendment itself.
There are some simple principles, however.
It would be better if there were fewer abortions. The best way of achieving this is improved contraception. If a women is to have an abortion then the earlier this happens the better.
If, however, a woman has decided to have an abortion then she should not be forced into undergoing a long counselling process.
There, should, however be independent advice and counselling available for those who want it. Those advisors who work for providers are clearly subject to a conflict of interest. However, that does not necessarily prevent them giving advice.
To me the key is to ensure that women are made aware of various sources of advice. The advisors themselves will tend to have a range of views.
Martin Narey has talked about persuading women to go to term and have the child adopted. I am uncomfortable about anything that involves pressurising women to do this although of course it is an option as it has been in the past.
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