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Showing posts from November, 2006

Written Parliamentary Questions: 30th November 2006

Gas Industry To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he has taken besides his efforts to liberalise the European gas market to ensure security of supply within the UK gas market.(John Hemming) A: holding answer 21 November 2006 The recent review of the UK's energy policy confirmed the Government's view that security of supply is best ensured by a competitive and liberalised market-based system. Coupled with a light touch regulatory framework, this facilitates the short-term balancing of supply and demand, and provides the price signals and incentives to encourage investment for the longer term in diverse supplies. Two outcomes from the Energy Review address security of gas supply: DTI is working to streamline consent regimes for gas supply infrastructure projects, and is also consulting on possible ways to further improve the effectiveness of the current UK gas security of supply arrangements. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister for energy, Department of Trade and

Written Parliamentary Question: 29th November 2006

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the estimated income to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency from fees for providing replacement registration certificates (V5C) was in (a) 2005-06 and (b) 2006-07. (John Hemming) A: The income, which is derived from fees for providing replacement registration certificates (V5C) for 2005-06 was £14.7 million and the forecasted income for 2006-07 is £13.5 million. (Stephen Ladyman, Minister of State, Department for Transport)

Family Courts - how secret are they?

What has happened recently is that there have been two judgements in Clayton v Clayton and in NCC v Webster that have both reinterpreted and clarified the situation in terms of proceedings in the Family Courts. I would emphasise that I am not legally qualified and if people wish to check out specific details then they should check them with people who are legally qualified. Firstly, however, any proceedings held in private before a judge remain confidential. That includes any of the papers and reports that are part of those proceedings and prepared for those proceedings. This includes the judgement whether it is anonymised or not. Secondly, whilst proceedings continue noone can publish the identity of a child or material intended or likely to identify a child in such proceedings. Thirdly, however, when the proceedings have come to an end there is no statutory protection of the identity of the child. It is, therefore, at that point open to people to publish details. Quoting from Mum

Birmingham Baywatch

I always thought Birmingham needed a big river. The rivers Rea and Cole are relatively small although I have seen a nice old picture of the River Cole today. We have, however, had our own tailored version of Baywatch uploaded on Youtube.

Children and Mental Health

I have been reading an interesting report by National Statistics into the Mental Health of young people looked after by local authorities in England. It points out for example that for 5-10 years olds 42% of the children (looked after by local authorities) are thought to have a "mental disorder" as opposed to 8% of "private household children". There is a question as to why. Clearly there are two potential sources of cause. One is the experiences of the child before becoming formally "looked after". The other the the effect of being "taken into care". The only way of checking out this situation and finding out what are the key drivers is to have controls. The only available controls are other countries. It is clear that a substantial number of children are taken into care who should not be. What is not clear is what proportion of those taken into care fall into that category. Another useful piece of information is that which looks at the pre

Afghanistan - a segmented society

Afghanistan is, from an anthropological perspective, a segmented society. The primary patterns of political loyalty are to families, clans and ethnic groups. Fundamentalist secularists tend to see religion as a cause of problems. It is in fact human nature that is a cause of problems religion tends to temper the worst aspects of human nature. It is important to remember that religion tends to follow a segmented identity. When the UK was primarily segmented a thousand years ago Christianity followed the conversion of clan chieftans. The division between Sunni and Shi'a Islam started out as a political division and became from that an ideological division. To understand what is happening in societies it helps to deemphasise religion and look at the tribal loyalties. The word Afghanistan is pronounced as if all the first three consonants are swallowed up and elided together. The languages spoken are those which tend to ignore the constancy of vowels and focus on the consonants. H

Birmingham MPs work together on New St

It should not be really "news", because the Birmingham MPs should work together in the interests of the city. However, this is working quite well as far as New Street Station is concerned. 5 MPs (3 Labour, 1 Tory and 1 Lib Dem) took part in an event to highlight the petition cards. Then Gisela Stuart and I took the petition (along with various other people inc Steve Dyson, Carl Chinn and Paul Tilsley) to the Department for Transport.

Written Parliamentary Question: 22nd November 2006

NHS Trusts Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the maximum amount each NHS trust may spend on marketing their services to general practitioners under patient choice and payment by results is; and what definition of marketing she uses; (2) what the maximum amount each NHS trust may spend on marketing their services to patients and members of the public under patient choice and payment by results is; (3) how much each NHS trust has budgeted for marketing their services to (a) patients and (b) general practitioners under patient choice and payment by results. (John Hemming) A: Information on NHS trust budgets for marketing is not held centrally. In the "Operating Framework for 2006-07" the Department set out its expectation that providers would not want to spend excessively, on advertising and marketing and its preference for a self-regulatory approach. The Department will launch a "Code of Practice for Advertising and Promotion of National Health Services&

PMQ Again

Prime Ministers Question time starts up again today. I wonder sometimes if PMQ's style of questioning drives and/or responds to the style of politics in the UK. It is more about entertainment than good government. There are important issues which need proper consideration. That will not generally happen through PMQ, however. For example the Quality and Outcomes Framework in the NHS is costing a lot of money. Is it value for money? Given the contract with GPs is it possible to reduce the costs? I am told of one single handed GP with a gross income of £450,000 as a result of QoF with a patient list of 6,500. That probably gives him a profit after staffing costs of about £300,000. The question is whether the improvement in health of his patients is worth the increased costs. I am not sure that it is.

Local Hospital Most Important to Patients

The national survey of patients into patient choice of hospital has been released. Unsurprisingly 57% of people (79,000) think that the location is an important issue. 22% were concerned about the waiting times, 18% about the hospital's "reputation", 17% about the quality of care, 15% about cleanliness, 8% about quality of staff and 6% about car parking. The reputation of the consultation for a specialism was less important than car parking. There were a number of other minor issues as well. In Eastern Birmingham 26% of patients remembered being offered a choice. This figure was 18% for Heart of Birmingham, 37% for North Birmingham and 19% for South Birmingham. Everyone was supposed to have been offered a choice from Jan 2006.

SIDS Conference in Yokohama

This conference included an interesting abstract: CARDIORESPIRATORY RECORDINGS DURING SUDDEN INFANT DEATH (SID) The pathomechanisms leading to SID are still unknown. One way to gain more insights into these is an analysis of memory monitor downloads. There are now a number of recordings from cardiorespiratory monitors which were obtained during SID. In an analysis of 9 recordings of chest wall impedance and heart rate obtained during SID, gasping was the predominant pattern, being already present at the time of the monitor alarm in 3 infants and occurring within 3 min. after it in a further 4. One infant only began to gasp 13 min. after the first monitor alarm. The duration of gasping ranged from 3 s to 11 min. Primary trigger for the monitor alarm had been bradycardia in all but two infants, but there was no indication of heart block or ventricular tachycardia. Prolonged apnea (>20 s) began only up to 13.7 min. (median 2.7) after this alarm in 5 infants and 7 to 20 s before it in 3

The Bolam Test and Medical Ethics

There has been some debate about Medical Ethics. Since Nuremberg there has been the Nuremberg Code . In essence in non-therapeutic research doctors are not allowed to Harm human beings to find out what happens. It is more permissible when the research is supposed to benefit the patients. The Bolam Test (see link) is a test for medical negligence. If a doctor harms a patient when trying to cure the patient then this is OK as long as it is something seen as a reasonable thing by other reasonable doctors. So, in other words, a doctor can avoid a charge of medical negligence by finding another independent doctor who says that it was OK. This, however, is not the same for harming patients as part of research where the actions taken were never anything like to benefit the patients. The goes to the nub of the arguments about the research managed by Dr David Southall (it turns out he is no longer a professor). The evidence is from published work as well as secret reports such as the Hull repo

Written Parliamentary Question: 16th November 2006

Dental Budgets Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the gross dental budget is in each primary care trust in 2006-07; how much has been budgeted for in charges in each trust; what the expected outturn against budget is; and if she will make a statement. (John Hemming) A: A table listing the primary dental service resource allocations for 2006-07 for all primary care trusts (PCTs) in England as at 31 July 2006 is available in the Library. This sets out gross budgets for each PCT, the level of patient charge income that it was reasonable to expect for the level of gross expenditure for each PCT, and the net allocations awarded to PCTs. The actual level of charge income will depend on a range of variables including the service levels, ie the annual units of dental activity, agreed for each local contract with dentists and the relative proportions of chargeable and non-chargeable treatments carried out during the year. The in-year management and monitoring of those allocations

GMC Continues Cover-up

There are 5 families in front of the GMC. I know who all 5 families are, but am not going to identify family M because Mrs M is in Australia and I have not been able to contact her. The other families are A - Janet and Lawrence Alexander - see Lawrence's Web page see Lawrence's Web page B - Sharon and Hannah Bozier D - Janet Davies H - Davina and Ben McLean

GMC Hearing

Being in London for the meeting tonight having come down early because of meeting Ofgem I attended the GMC FPC hearing earlier today. There are a number of odd things about this particular GMC process. The first is that they seem to concentrate on relatively minor issues rather than the major issue of doing harm to patients (particularly babies) through dangerous research. Secondly, they are appear to be trying to gag the patients and their parents. There is no reason for the parents to be anonymous. Lawrence Alexander (one of the patients) is now 20 he has done loads of interviews with the media and published his story on the web. The theory of anonymity is to protect the children. The reality is that it only protects the professionals who make errors (intentionally or otherwise). I had referred the research to the GMC to ensure that it has been formally referred. I have now referred the absence of action to the Council for Regulatory Healthcare Excellence which is the watchdog

Remembrance Sunday Birmingham 2006

I have noticed that quite a few people are looking at my photographic record of Remembrance Sunday in 2005. I, therefore, took photos from my seat in the VIP stand plus a few others. I have suggested that the City Council kept a documentary photographic record of major city events such as Remembrance Sunday and post them on the web. If I remember to chase this up it would be relatively easy to do. What is important is to do a better job with events than people such as the BBC. For example you should ensure that each of the groups attending is photographed. That is much like the Jang or Kashmir Post that photograph all the people at a meeting. The BBC editorially select what they think are good photos. That misses out much of what happens. My difficulty is that often I am involved in the event such as playing the Guitar at St Patrick's day so I cannot do a proper record. However, for remembrance Sunday 2006 in Birmingham's Centenary Square you need to start with a properl

Justice for Families

I have been working on creating a defined structure for the umbrella campaigning I have been doing (with others) to improve Public Family Law. From Friday it has been called "Justice for Families". The main web page on my reference website is linked. As am umbrella campaign it will not have individual membership, but be based upon affiliation of other organisations. So far Fassit have agreed to affiliate. If anyone else wishes to affiliate they merely need to indicate their support. No financial contribution is needed.

Farepak and MPs Salary

A considerable amount of fuss has been made about whether or not MPs should donate £165 (a day's salary) to those who have lost money in Farepak. I give more to charity in a year than £165 so the question is why Farepak? Firstly, noone has contacted me from my constituency about the issue so it does not appear to be an issue in Yardley. Secondly, for each MP who donates someone who lost a hamper at a value of £500 will get about a fifth of a penny. Hence if 600 MPs donate funds then people will get £12 towards a hamper. Enough really for a fish and chip dinner for a family of four. Thirdly, why Farepak and not MG Rover. Fourthly, why Farepak and not Save the Children or Help the Aged. As far as I am concerned I will continue to support local youth groups rather than Farepak. The important point about Farepak is why the advance monies were not kept in a trust account so if the company goes bust the money is not lost to the depositors. That, however, is the responsibility of the

Peak Uranium

The linked article (slightly old apologies, from October 2006) relates to how flooding at one mine caused a jump in prices of Uranium. With the issues about either scarcity of fossil fuels or carbon emissions there have been discussions about Nuclear Power. It is quite clear that there are constraints on the availability of Uranium. There are arguments that there is only enough Uranium to produce three years of the world's electricity One of the problems with Uranium is that it takes quite a bit of energy to mine and process the ore such that it can be used. What is needed is a proper full cycle analysis of the production of Uranium. There are three other suggested nuclear energy sources. These are fusion (where deuterium is hammered together to create heluium), the breeder reactor and the Thorium Cycle which is a form of breeder. None have been shown to be effective as yet before we take into account the long term effects on the environment. My own view is that solar energy thr

Adoption Campaign

The issue of Adoption has been quite high profile recently. We had Madonna's circumvention of the system. We also have the campaign to encourage older people to adopt (see link). It is clear, however, that some of the contested adoptions of the past have occured on the basis of false evidence. My own view is that there should be a hold on contested adoptions until there has been a review of the process. Whatever the situation is we should not compound the difficulties. Some of the people I am particularly worried about are those parents that adopt children that should not have been "freed" for adoption. What happened with Tammy recently is likely to happen more often as the children get older and find their birth parents. This is difficult for both sets of parents and the children. There is, of course, no easy answer to this. What is important, however, is not to create any more of these situations. When parliament starts again I will do some work on this.

Pipped at the Post

Well, having been at place 14 on the list of questioners for the Prime Minister (probably too low down to be called) then parliament is prorogued (cancelled until the official opening next week). Hence no question.

Times Articles and Southall Victim

The first article looks again at MSbP and FII. I asked a question about FII relatively recently and the government (Civil Servants) came out with the usual drivel. The second article,,200-2436306,00.html Looks at the use of Medical Opinion as Evidence. It is important to remember the impact of the false allegations on the children of the parents who were alleged against. There is a speech from last week's conference at This is from someone who was adopted as a result of false allegations and was recently reunited with her mother. This raises perhaps the hardest aspect of this whole saga. There is clearly an impact on the adopting family when it turns out that the forced adoption occurred on the basis of false allegations. I don't really have an answer to this save that we should stop forced adoptions on the basis of "balance of probabilities" immediately. The following statemen

Metaphyseal Fractures

This seems to be another diagnostic of child abuse. The real question is how valid it is as a diagnostic. There is no question that it has been used. The Webster Family is one family with many children taken off them because of "metaphyseal fractures". Of all the injuries observed in child physical abuse, none is more specific than the metaphyseal fracture. First described in 1957 by the eminent pediatric radiologist John Caffey, metaphyseal fracture is virtually pathognomonic of abuse. Kleinman et al coined the term "classic metaphyseal lesion" (CML) to describe the injury. CMLs are relatively common in abused infants and are discovered in 39%-50% of abused children less than 18 months of age. Overall, CMLs most often occur in the distal femur, proximal tibia, distal tibia, and proximal humerus. They are seen almost exclusively in children less than 2 years of age. pathognomic, pathognomonic a. a. aiding diagnosis; distinctive News Item re Websters (Hardinghams) Th

Standards of Proof, Medical Ethics and Family Law

At the moment to disqualify a doctor requires evidence beyond reasonable doubt (the criminal standard). However, to remove children from parents requires evidence on the balance of probabilities. I am aware of a number of cases where totally rubbishy medical opinion has been used to remove children from parents. I am to some extent persuaded of the need of stronger standards of proof for permanent actions (such as disqualifying doctors or removing children from their family for ever). The big issue for me, however, is why that the GMC has not acted (and still does not respond to my reference) on some of the research managed by David Southall. There is a hearing on 13th November. However, it is not going to consider research project E5 in Sir David Hull's report. The law in terms of defamation on these issues is relatively complex. References to bodies such as the GMC have qualified privilege which means that if they are not malicious, but in error then they do not form cause f

Written Parliamentary Question: 2nd November 2006

HMRC Call Centres Q: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether HM Revenue and Customs has implemented the informative message to stop silent calls in its call centres. John Hemming) A: holding answer 30 October 2006 HM Revenue and Customs is currently undertaking work to upgrade the outgoing telephony systems in its contact centres and expects to have the technical ability to play such recorded messages fully in place from March 2007. In the interim, arrangements are in place to ensure that the contact centre telephone number is always displayed therefore anyone missing a call would have the option of calling the number back. (Dawn Primarolo, Paymaster General, HM Treasury)

The Free Lunch Row

There is a row going on in the blogosphere about whether or not the Lib Dems should have made it clear in the last manifesto that "free personal care" did not include a "free lunch". (or indeed a free dinner). The reality is that free personal care is an improvement on what happens at the moment. Anyone going into a residential home would have had to pay for their own food in any event. Hence the underlying policy is a clear step forward for the people involved. There is also a problem where people are having to top up payments for people in residential care. Some of the care may be paid for through means testing, but that does not cover all of the bill and relatives need to find the rest.

Shorter Speeches

There were a number of votes yesterday on how parliament should operate. I voted for shorter speeches and september sittings, but against the communications allowance and requiring more notice for amendments in committee. Now, however, the communications allowance has been put in place I will probably fall into line and make use of it. (in the next financial year). I am subsidising my office costs slightly this year, mainly because of the cost of the phone system. The reason it is being done is to stop abuse of postage, but really the best thing to do would be to stop abuse of postage instead.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 2nd November 2006

Health and Safety Executive Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the Health and Safety Executive plans to make its guidance books available in electronic format.(John Hemming) A: holding answer 11 September 2006 Over the past 18 months, HSE has made more than 1,000 previously priced publications, mainly reports, freely available in electronic format, through the HSE website. (Anne McGuire, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions)

NHS Lobby

Today I met people from Birmingham concerned about proposals for the NHS. The loss of our regional blood testing centre concerns me as at times we need a rapid turnaround of testing. There is an argument that there could be fewer centres, but not as few as three. I also had the papers accepted for the appeal to the Court of Appeal.