Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 2007

Doctors say don't give the government your medical records

In essence that is what the linked article says about the "spine". There is a serious problem allowing this government access to any information. It then get passed to all sorts of bureaucratic busybodies who use it to harrass people. If you admit to your doctor, for example, that you drink too much (as I do) expect the system to put pressure on you to stop drinking. "its all in your best interests dear". There is a serious problem in that people won't tell their doctor things because the doctor will tell the government's computer system. It is all a problem about confidentiality.

Court of Appeal decision on adoption proceedings

The link is to a decision of the Court of Appeal where parents apply to stop an adoption because their circumstances have changed. In essence it makes the point that first the court has to decide whether or not the circumstances have changed. At that point no decision should be taken as to the welfare of the child. Once the decision as to circumstances has been made then welfare should be considered. All of this ignores the overwhelming tendency of a number of family court judges to prefer intervention and adoption. It is important to note what has happened now with the Websters. In the Webster (Hardingham) case it has now been decided that they didn't cause the original harm. In the mean time two sets of adoptive families have been told that the children now with them should not have been removed from the original family. That is not in any way unique. PC&S is a case that went to the European Court and the same conclusion was come to, but by then it was too late. I know

Health Capital budget slashed, but only in England not Scotland and Wales

The link is to a cut in the NHS capital budget. Devolution to Scotland and Wales may mean that the devolved assemblies need to work out where to apply capital budget cuts, but the Barnett Formula (and he is still around I saw him about a week ago) implies that the same reduction should be applied to them. In any event cutting the budget by a third quite clearly qualifies to be called a "slash".

IEA move towards Campbell Position

The linked story is in French and as such is less likely to hit the UK Media. However, in it FATIH BIROL, DIRECTEUR DES ÉTUDES ÉCONOMIQUES DE L'AGENCE INTERNATIONALE DE L'ÉNERGIE - the Director of Economic Studies at the Internatinoal Energy Agency basically says peak oil is closer than people think. He says a substantial growth in Iraqi output will be needed to avoid a market "wall". Automatic Translation Without the Iraqi black gold, the oil market will face a "wall" from here at 2015 In September 2005, in the columns of the World, you launched this warning to the consumer countries black gold: "Leave oil". Do you have the feeling to be heard? Fatih Birol. Each day, the oil market becomes more difficult, because the speed of the growth of the request and the concentration of the production in a very small number of countries. Since 2005, the rise in the price of the barrel was confirmed: the current price, near to 70 dollars, is an important sign

Digby Jones

The appointment of Digby Jones is an interesting step for the government. It will also be a challenge for Digby to see if he can affect the treacle that is the way in which governmental systems work. It is helpful for Birmingham to have someone else from Birmingham as part of the government even though he has never been someone to be described as a Labour loyalist.

Written Parliamentary Question 28th June 2007

Work and Pensions: Self-Employed: Disabled Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what training is available to disabled people in receipt of incapacity benefit wishing to become self-employed. A: We already have powers to offer training to disabled people in receipt of incapacity benefit through New Deal for Disabled People and Pathways to Work. Pathways to Work will be rolled out nationally by April 2008, primarily via the private and voluntary sectors in 60 per cent. of the country. Contracts will not specify exactly what programme of support should be available, enabling providers to offer innovative work focused support which is tailored to the needs of individual customers and could potentially include self employment training. Further assistance may also be available from Jobcentre Plus, which offers a wide range of practical and financial help to assist customers, such as career development loans. Specially trained personal advisers are available to discuss wit

Written Parliamentary Question 28th June 2007

Work and Pensions: New Deal Schemes: Disabled Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make changes to the new deal self-employment test trading scheme so that disabled people in receipt of incapacity benefit can access it. A: New deal self-employment test-trading provision is already available to incapacity benefit recipients who are eligible through new deal for lone parents and new deal for partners. Additionally, we already have powers to offer test-trading as part of Pathways to Work, which will be rolled-out nationally by April 2008. We amended the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Regulations 1995 in 2006 to ensure that participants do not lose their incapacity benefit because of their work or earnings under test-trading. Jim Murphy (Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions).

New Brown Cabinet

Prime minister: Gordon Brown Chancellor: Alistair Darling Foreign Secretary: David Miliband Home Secretary: Jacqui Smith Health: Alan Johnson Schools and children: Ed Balls Innovation, universities and skills: John Denham Justice: Jack Straw Commons leader: Harriet Harman Defence and Scotland: Des Browne International Development: Douglas Alexander Work and Pensions: Peter Hain Northern Ireland: Shaun Woodward Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Andy Burnham Cabinet office minister: Ed Miliband Culture: James Purnell Olympics: Tessa Jowell Transport: Ruth Kelly Lords leader: Baroness Ashton Attorney General: Baroness Scotland Environment: Hilary Benn Chief Whip: Geoff Hoon Business and enterprise: John Hutton Duchy of Lancaster: To be confirmed Communities: Hazel Blears.

9 babies removed in a week in North Tyneside

It seems to be that the system has moved into overdrive in North Tyneside. All of these babies are being harmed by the system as a result of them being prevented from being properly fed by their mothers. There really must be some form of formal investigation into the massive jump in babies being removed from their mothers.

Good News for the Websters

The point about this case (see link), however, is that in essence it recognises that the other children should not have been removed from their parents' care. I am aware of a current Norfolk case where the state is intervening totally inappropriately in a family. The Websters may have won out, but the forced adoption targets machine continues to grind up human lives.

EDM on Family Court Secrecy

The link is to an EDM about Family Court secrecy tabled by Eric Pickles and myself. That this House regrets the Government's proposals to retain secrecy within the family courts; believes that this secrecy permeates bad practice throughout the whole system of children services; feels that it is possible to protect the identity of the child while allowing parents to talk and seek advice publicly about their treatment in the family courts, and that professional witnesses should be uniquely identified to monitor consistency; further believes that every case should have an anonymised judgement handed to the parents that they can discuss publicly; and calls on the Government to recognise that there are very serious problems in the system that have been postponed rather than resolved by the limited proposals contained within the consultation document.

Written Parliamentary Question 26th June 2007

Work and Pensions: Incapacity Benefit: Disposable Income Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the median net disposable income of households receiving incapacity benefit was (a) before and (b) after housing costs were taken into account in the latest period for which figures are available. A: Latest available data show that the median net (disposable) weekly income of households receiving incapacity benefit is £302 before housing costs and £260 after housing costs. Notes 1. The source of the information provided is the Family Resources Survey (FRS), United Kingdom 2005-06. The Survey is a nationally representative sample of approximately 28,000 households. 2. Data for 2005-06 was collected between April 2005 and March 2006. 3. The estimates are based on sample counts that have been adjusted for non-response using multi-purpose grossing factors which align the FRS to Government Office Region populations by age and gender. Estimates are subject to sampling error a

Not adoptible commodities

The linked BBC story is to one where some children were left with their mother who killed them because she was mentally ill. One was aged 10 and therefore was clearly not someone who could be adopted easily. On the other hand today I have heard of two stories involving social workers removing babies where there clearly is nothing like the threat that existed in respect of the case in Hackney. Obviously we don't know the whole story as yet. It does, however, seem even moreso that the system is broken very badly.

Written Parliamentary Question 25th June 2007

Treasury: HM Revenue and Customs: Correspondence Q: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the extent of the backlog is in dealing with correspondence and other contacts at HM Revenue and Customs. A: HMRC has received over 26 million items of correspondence from customers in the last 12 months. At the end of May 2007 it is estimated that around 76,000 items are more than 40 working days old. Dawn Primarolo (Paymaster General, HM Treasury)

Written Parliamentary Question 25th June 2007

Education and Skills: Adoption Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the target is for each local authority classified by relevant Government office for numbers of adoptions from care in (a) 2006-07 and (b) 2007-08. A: No adoption targets have been set by central Government for individual local authorities, though some authorities have chosen to develop adoption targets as part of the local area agreement/local public service agreement process. I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government on 13 June 2007, Official Report, column 1073W. Local public service agreements are based entirely around reward targets. They have now been largely merged into local area agreements, which contain non-reward and reward targets, and typically run for three years. No local authority has a reward target specifically on adoptions which is dependent on performance in either 2006-07 or 200

Never turn the toaster to 8

We have had one of these newfangled toasters for some time. It has an electronic guide as to the intensity of toasting. Normally we use between 3 and 5. 5 gives a quite uniform level of toasting. 7, however, sets the bread on fire. We found this out this morning when a guest decided to toast some bread at level 7. The kitchen rapidly filled with smoke (although the newly rebatteried smoke alarm ignored this - it obviously has a burning bread ignoring function). Clearly if level 7 sets the bread on fire we should avoid ever going as high as 8 because we could see domestic meltdown. It is a bit odd that there is a setting for burning bread on the toaster. However, there are lots of odd things in this world (eg our current Public Family Law system).

Adoption Statistics and the UN Reference

I have had some of the statistics about adoption from care for some time. I have now loaded them onto my main reference website. The index page is . Most of these statistics (not the Scottish ones) are produced from SSDA903 which is an annual electronic return by local authorities to DfES for each child in care. The figures as to newborn babies have not been released elsewhere. The index page references these four pages. Scottish 5 year destination analysis and comparison to England This shows how the figures in Scotland are massively lower than in England (on a percapita basis). They also demonstrate that this lies substantially in the under 5s. 1995 Source and Destination Stats only available this year This is a particularly interesting analysis for children first taken into care in 1995. DfES statisticians take about 4 days effort to produce each year so I have only managed to get this one report. First into care This l

Written Parliamentary Question 21st June

Communities and Local Government: Local Government: Standards Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which local authorities, classified by Government office region, have public service agreement (PSA) targets which include adoption targets; what the target for adoption is in each case; and how much money each local authority will receive if it achieves all of its PSA targets. A: There are 61 reward targets in Local public service agreements and local area agreements which measure performance on adoption and/or stability of placements for looked-after children. Reward would be payable to Local authorities and their partners for achievement of these particular targets. Details on each target have been made available in the Library of the House. Phil Woolas (Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government

Family Court Solicitors and Conflicts of Interest

I was surprised to find that it is commonplace that solicitors act both for the local authority and for parents with cases against the same authority. I have confirmed that this happens with solicitors. I have also checked it out with the law society who say it is acceptable. Personally I don't think it is acceptable. When solicitors acting for parents on relatively badly paid legal aid also need to keep the local authority happy so that they can keep funds coming in from the local authority then there is a clear conflict of interest. I am tabling an Early Day Motion about this. What I am suggesting as a minimum is that parents are told that this is the case and agree in writing to accept the situation. To be honest, however, I think it should be stopped. The argument is made that not enough firms would then do legally aided work. That in itself raises very serious questions about Article 6 - the Right to a fair trial. I have heard anecdotal hearsay about confidential papers

Land Rover and Jaguar

Obviously I support the retention of manufacturing at Castle Bromwich and Lode Lane. Birmingham City Council will maintain its policy of wanting manufacturing at those locations and I am certain (although I have not discussed it with the leaders of Solihull as yet) that they will take the same view. The issue of the future of these plants (and businesses) is of major importance to the West Midlands and I have already made it clear that I will work closely with management and unions to ensure that it continues.

Wot no Cycle Ride

Observant regular readers will notice that there are no pictures of the Parliamentary Cycle Ride. That is because it was moved from the morning to lunch time. I ended up in a mixture of the Legal Services Bill Committee and an adjournment debate on the TA. Hence couldn't go on the ride.

Public Inquiry Needed

I have tabled this edm (see link) That this House notes that in an email dated 24th October 2000, John Radford, Doncaster's then Director of Public Health, described the issue of research on babies by Dr David Southall at Doncaster Hospital in the late 1980s as `potentially a hot potato as to my recall the intervention resulted in increased deaths and didn't have proper consent'; expresses concern that the details of this research and its outcomes have been covered up by the health authorities; expresses particular concern that the research protocol specifically required that no action be taken to prevent cot death in the children selected until sufficient data had been collected; and calls for a public inquiry into this and other research managed by Dr Southall to identify why the checks and balances in the system failed I obtained some information from Doncaster Hospital. Two pages of which are available on the internet here . If you read those two documents one of which

Sensible approach from the USA

The link deals with In the Matter of JULIA BB which looks at the interface between medical knowledge and opinion and the legal processes. I think the USA is more effective than the UK in these areas. Not least it is easier to get the anonymised judgments in the USA. In the UK the system resists even giving written judgments to the parties - something that catches out parents who don't know that they should take notes of the judgment.

Written Parliamentary Question 12 June 2007

Transport: Vehicle Number Plates: Theft Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will issue guidance to car vendors requesting that they advise people of the availability of anti-theft number plates when cars are sold. A: When the tamper resistant plate initiative was launched after the first manufacturer passed the standard in 2006, DVLA provided publicity material for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) to distribute to all their members. A second manufacturer has now passed the test and further publicity is planned. Stephen Ladyman (Minister of State, Department for Transport)

Written Parliamentary Question 12 June 2007

Treasury: Departments: Ministerial Red Boxes Q: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what tendering process is used to decide which company supplies ministerial red boxes to his Department. A: As the value of orders placed for the supply of ministerial red boxes is below the minimum HM Treasury threshold for competition, the requirements are placed on a single tender basis with Barrow and Gale Ltd. All Government Departments operate a similar minimum threshold for competitive tendering. John Healey (Financial Secretary, HM Treasury) Hansard source holding answer 8 May 2007

Three Questions for Children's Services

John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley, and chairman of Justice for Families has challenged the adoption industry to answer three questions to justify current practise in handling adoptions. The questions are: How do those working for Childrens' Services, the Family Courts or elsewhere in similar spheres justify (using quantative methods) the following: a) The massive growth in newborn babies taken into care between 1995 and 2006 (of the children adopted in those years 370 were initially taken into care at the age of 1 week or below for 1995 and 920 for 2006). b) The fact that 120 children are adopted from care each year in scotland, but about 3,700 in England with only 10 times the population. c) The fact that the age profile of those children being adopted is not the same as those who "languish in care" This challenge was issued privately to the lobby sector last week - and no answer has been received - and is now being made public. John Hemming said, "Those defen

Sleep Studies

The story now moves to Cardiff. In 1989 Ben Hollisey-McLean was a 3 year old child who had, had breathing problems since birth. Dr David Southall became involved when his parents asked his Consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) if a monitor they had seen on television being promoted by Dr Southall would be more suitalble for Ben than the apnea alarm they were currently using. Ben and his parents saw Dr Southall in 1989 at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. Ben underwent sleep studies and unbeknown to his parents a secret file was opened in relation to him (SC2026). Ben underwent further sleep studies at the Brompton Hospital in March 1990, on this occassion his parents were offered a monitor and a totally different treatment plan was suggested to the one they were following under the advise of Ben's only clinician of record at GOSH. Ben's parents were confused and concerned in regards this new treatment plan among other things they felt that the "Regime"

Doncaster Hospital and the Cover Up

Shortly after the research called protocol 85.02 it was noticed that an unusually large number of children at Doncaster Hospital were brain damaged. A written question was asked in the House. 17th December 1991 Baby Deaths (Doncaster) Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the results of the epidemiological survey into the causes of brain damage to babies at Doncaster royal infirmary will be complete ; with what other areas and hospitals it is being compared ; and if copies of the findings will be sent to the Doncaster Members of Parliament and the Doncaster community health council. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley: The Trent regional health authority has appointed two experts from outside the region to determine whether or not the occurrence of brain damaged births within the Doncaster district is comparable with other districts, and if necessary in the light of findings to make any recommendations. I understand that the study should be completed by March 1992. The hon.

Election Petitions 2007

Election Petitions 2007 For the interests of the psephological political junkies I have obtained copies of all 8 election petitions that have been issued in England and Wales for the local elections in May 2007 and will give a summary of each of them. I have put my comments as to how I think the cases are likely to progress. Terry Judkins Conservative of Portsmouth has issued a petition against the Lib Dem Candidates for Southsea Ward (who won) because of leaflets issued by both the Lib Dems and a group of candidates known as "Why Pay Extra" claiming that the leaflets about the sale of Palmerston Road Shops which claimed that the voters had been "hoodwinked by Southsea Town Council" were untrue. This will be a debate about the facts. Angela Harrison has issued a petition against James Astill in the Ward of Crowland and Deeping St Nicholas in South Holland District. James Astill was declared as having 338 votes and Angela Harrison 337, but not all the ballot p

14 Children taken in sequence into care

The linked story is to The Sunday Times' take on the same story reported previously. Clearly a proportion of newborn babies taken into care are from mothers who are addicted to drugs. One of the saddest cases I met, however, was a mother in an assessment centre who had cleaned up, but the system was still trying to remove her child. There is also the question as to whether or not it is the best way of handling things to simply remove each child at birth. This, after all, is not what is done in Scotland. One of the advantages we have from a social science perspective in the UK is that there are different approaches in Scotland and England. This gives the unusual possibility of a control experiment (after all what is being done in both places is an experiment). Let me make myself clear in that I don't think what is done in Scotland is perfect, but it is a lot better than England. The issue of addicted parents is a distasteful issue for people to discuss, but it is a very impo

Sue Reid on the Baby Snatchers

The link is to a Daily Mail article about the baby snatchers. Where the growth in babies being taken into care is most dramatic is the newborn babies adopted last year of whom 920 were under 1 week when taken into care. In 1995 the figure was 370. Remembering that some are taken into care because they are abandoned (possibly about 250) this is a massive increase in terms of babies taken into care from parents who want to keep them. In reading Sue's article please also read my own post about Shaken Baby Syndrome where I look at the US experience.

Doncaster Hospital Dr David Southall's Research and the Cover Up

Some interesting information relating to Doncaster Hospital and the Research Protocol variously known as 85.02, 85.05, 85.09, the Cot Death Study, sleep studies, "Do infants who subsequently suffer sudden infant death syndrome have abnormal episodes of hypoxaemia, hypercapnia, sinus tachycardia, or periodic apnoea during early infancy", Do infants who subsequently suffer sudden infant death syndrome have abnormal episodes of hypoxaemia, hypercapnia, sinus tachycardia, or periodic apnoea during the first six weeks of life", studies of oxygen saturation in babies, and the SIDS study has come into my hands recently. I think this information justifies the need for a full public inquiry into Dr Southall's work. Incidentally Dr Southall himself has said there should be a public inquiry. It is best to start today with what happened during the study. Babies and other young children (generally those at a risk of sudden infant death) were taken into hospital and tests done

Labour's Deputy Leadership - who should I vote for

The Labour Party have been kind enough to send me a ballot paper and booklet about their candidates for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. That is because I am a member of the Musician's Union. Who should I vote for? The booklet with details of the candidates also details the candidate for Labour Leader. Apart from the fact that there are 308 MPs nominating 413 constituencies have also nominated him. It all seems a bit of overkill to me.

The STEP question and Ed Balls

The link is to where Ed Balls is referred to as basically saying if you talk to the opposition you cannot talk to the government. This is quite an anti-democratic idea. I want to see the record of the Finance Bill Committee tomorrow to check it completely, but it is a worrying approach from the government.


The topic that has resulted in the most postcards from constituents (apart from campaigns that we have run) is in fact Bingo. Bingo clubs are worried about the impact that the smoking ban will have on them. They currently are doubly taxed both on the gross profit and then again with VAT. They are arguing for a level playing field in terms of taxation. Their concern is that the effect of the double whammy of double taxation and the smoking ban will result in closures. I have, therefore, raised an Early Day Motion No 1631 about the issue (see link for current signature list).

Written Parliamentary Question 6th June 2007

Trade and Industry: OM Energy Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to his answer of 27 April 2007, Official Report, column 1361W, on OM Energy, what assistance his Department has given to OM Energy in seeking a worldwide patent for this technology. A: The Global Entrepreneur Programme facilitated an introduction to a UK patent agent who helped the company with their worldwide patent strategy. Ian McCartney (Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Department of Trade and Industry)

Single Status and Equal Pay

The fact that the Council had developed over years a rather random system of working out how much people were paid is being reviewed at the moment. The biggest part of this is not Single Status, but in fact Equal Pay. Basically the council has to justify any differentials between jobs on the basis of some system of "measuring the job". This causes considerable stress simply because the council cannot just put up the salaries of those who are calculated as needing an increase. It also has (over time) to reduce the salaries of those who are calculated as being overpaid. It is quite a complicated system of change that I reviewed in detail yesterday morning. What this means is that some staff face pay cuts. In the mean time Labour have said that Councillors should have an almost 5% increase in pay. The administration argue that we should hold ourselves back to 1.9% (until the final staff settlement is known at which we use that figure) in recognition of the difficulties faced

Targets and the Police

I have deleted this entry because it crashes some people's sessions. The above video is of police basically guarding a spoof theft. The local police force (Cleveland) don't think it is helpful. It, however, shows how things have moved from police using their own discretion as opposed to being governed by Whitehall's targets.

Social Worker's Comments

I have transcribed the comments in yesterday's interview from the ex-Social Worker as they confirm that the courts should not rely on Local Authority Assessments. Journalist: This woman left the profession after ten years she is concerned that government targets for numbers of adoptions could lead to families being wrongly split up she has asked to remain anonymous ex-SW: I think the court system fails some families. I would say a small number. I went into social work to support families to stay together but I became increasingly aware that people couldn't trust the system I think that having targets for numbers of adoptions is ridiculous I don't think it should happen. There's a possibility that mistakes are made in assessments and that some children are taken away that shouldn't have been. Journalist: Those mistakes equate to years of heartache ....

Fixing the Assessment - BBC Look North

The link is to the BBC's Look North TV programme. I saw the package before I did an additional interview for this programme. What was key in the interview of the ex-Social Worker was that she confirmed that assessments are fixed to achieve the outcome that the Local Authority wants. This is a key piece of the jigsaw as it demonstrates bias and why the decisions of the Family Courts are unreliable. This argument was made to the Court of Appeal, but they didn't want to know. The law is actually quite clear ... It is the perception of bias that is key for undermining an opinion. In the interview for Look North it was confirmed that actual bias exists (from time to time). It is important to remember that in making decisions the Family Courts rely on the opinion of the Local Authority and particularly the assessments. Sam Wichelow has produced a very strong piece of programming here for which he should be congratulated.

Skeletal Surveys and False Allegations of Child Abuse

This story (see link) from Saratoga is one where a child was removed from parents by a paediatrician "on a crusade" because of false medical allegations of child abuse. The things to note about this are: a) The typical rush to judgment of the court unwilling to hear a range of medical experts. The court in the US (much like many Family Courts in the UK) only want to hear the experts that say "guilty" and dont want any uncertainty. Look at the Oldham case to see a similar example in the UK. b) There is an issue about a form of brittle bone disease "that cannot be tested for". "Subsequent testimony of new doctors said Julia suffered from a variant of the brittle bone disease that cannot be tested for. The doctors also stated that Julia's parents repeatedly sought medical help for Julia and consistently took her to the same doctor, which is not the behavior of parents trying to hide abuse." In the UK, however, this would possibly be considered F

Defending the indefensible

In a sense we have a judge here who is not really defending what has been going on as he recognises that it has not been good. Others still defend the actions of the Family Courts (including the Court of Appeal). Quoting from the article "It is perfectly usual in this court to be removing the fourth, fifth and sixth children from such parents," the judge says. "It's not unheard of for it to be the eighth or the tenth." As I try to grasp what it must mean for a mother to have 10 children taken permanently into care, he caps even that extraordinary figure. "In one case, I have removed the fourteenth." District Judge Crichton's main concern is, naturally, for the child's welfare. "We are achieving nothing for these children," he tells me with studied understatement. But there is also the cost of care proceedings and paying foster-parents to bring them up. "This is colossally expensive," he says. To be fair to this particular ju