Highlights of Thursday 10 December in Parliament, presented by Keith Macdougall.
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Hello and welcome to Thursday in Parliament,
our look at the best of the day in the Commons and the Lords.
"Shocking and disturbing" - MPs react to news that an NHS Trust
failed to investigate the unexpected deaths of more than 1,000 pdople.
Just because some individuals have less ability
to communicate concerns about their care, it must ndver mean
that less attention is paid to their treatment or their death.
Common sense, or a recipe for disaster?
for the privatisation of Channel Four.
The privatisation of Channel 4 would mean a major reduction
in this distinctive and impressive news service.
And the former justice secrdtary, Chris Grayling,
comes in for some mockery from the Shadow Leader of the Colmons.
The prisoners' book ban, the Saudi execution centres,
But first, the Government is promising "a change in ctlture"
after one of England's biggest health trusts
failed to investigate the ddaths of more than 1,000 patients.
An inquiry found there was a "lack of leadership"
at the Southern Health Foundation Trust,
where the deaths of mental health patients
and people with learning disabilities were rarely ex`mined.
Called to answer an urgent Commons question,
the Health Secretary said the report by NHS England
looked at unexpected deaths between April 2011 and March this ydar.
The draft report, submitted to NHS England in September,
found a lack of leadership, focus and sufficient time
spent in the trust on carefully reporting
and investigating unexpected deaths of mental health
and learning disability service users.
Of 1,454 deaths reported, only 272 were investigated
as critical incidents, and only 195 of those
were reported as serious incidents requiring investigation.
The report found there had been no effective,
systematic management and oversight of the reporting of deaths
The Trust accepted failures in their reportings
and investigations into unexpected deaths,
but said a number of the de`ths were of out-patients.
It is totally and utterly unacceptable
that, according to the leaked report,
only 1% of the unexpected deaths of patients
with learning disabilities were investigated.
So, from next June, we will publish independently-assured,
Ofsted-style ratings of the quality of care offered to people
with learning disabilities for all 209 CCG areas.
This will ensure that we shine a spotlight
on the variations in care, allowing rapid action to be taken
Secondly, NHS England have commissioned
the University of Bristol to do an independent study
into the mortality rates of people with learning disabilities
This will be a very important moment to step back and look at thd way
we look after that particul`r highly vulnerable group.
These are truly shocking revelations that, if proven,
at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Perhaps most worryingly, it appears that the likelihood
of an unexpected death being investigated depended hugely
For those with a learning disability,
just 1% of unexpected deaths were investigated.
And for older people with a mental health
The issue raises broader questions about the care
of people with learning dis`bilities or mental health problems.
Just because some individuals have less ability
to communicate concerns about their care, it must ndver mean
that any less attention is paid to their treatment or their death.
This would be the ultimate abrogation of responsibilitx,
The priority now must be to understand
how this was allowed to happen and ensure it is put right
People will be both sad and and dismayed that,
after Mid Staffs and the new CQC inspection regime,
Does the Secretary of State agree with me that while
there is no simple single solution, the solution certainly does not lie
in Trusts adopting and relyhng on a tick-box approach to s`fety?
The allegations in the draft report about Southern Health
are deeply disturbing, and I welcome the steps
that the Secretary of State has announced, and particul`rly
as though it was another isolated incident.
Looking at the key findings from the draft report,
for nearly two thirds of investigations,
Could he immediately send a message out to all trusts that,
particularly for those who cannot speak for themselves,
it is vitally important to involve family members?
Will he send that message out very clearly today?
The coalition government rightly established a public enquirx
to look into the appalling care at Mid Staffs hospital
and the Secretary of State has rightly
pointed to the challenge to culture that that report,
the Francis Report, engendered following that scandal.
Isn't this the moment when we have to think about something
similar for people with learning disability
and people with severe and enduring mental ill-health,
who too often continue to bd treated as second-class citizens in our NHS?
Many of us have known for a long time that access to full
National Health treatment for people with learning difficulties,
of the newly-formed Commisshon on Autism, people on the autism
spectrum, there are very many of them with poor communication skills
who finish up with inadequate access to the Health Service.
Can I ask him, and think he's utterly right, I don't parthcularly
want a public enquiry, I want fast action to change the ctlture.
NHS England publish the annual mortality figures
and what is very striking is there are trusts,
16 trusts identified, with higher-than-expected mortality
that had higher-than-expectdd mortality the year before.
And there does not appear to be any action taken.
The problem is, the benchmark appears to just be average.
If you are having poor performance,
We should be aspiring higher than that.
The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin,
kept his cards close to his chest during Transport Question thme,
despite fervent interest in the announcement
about the expansion of London's Heathrow Airport.
There were, however, plenty of attempts to get a sneak preview
Clearly, there are slot restriction problems
between Scottish airports and London.
Does the Secretary of State anticipate making
an announcement soon about `irport capacity in the south-east?
Ingenious but unsuccessful, I'm afraid,
if members look at the terms of the question on the paper.
One of the future infrastructure projects that this government
has to make a decision on, that's of most interest
to most people, is that of airport expansion.
are interested to know when a decision will be madd.
So will the Minister confirm that a decision
will be made on airport exp`nsion by the end of the year,
or will party politics and the London mayoral elections
come before that decision for the nations of the UK?
Mr Speaker, I have read much speculation about what decisions
Some of that speculation may be true.
I will not be able to inform the House.
The Prime Minister told this House in July,
and I quote, "I guarantee that I can give is that a decision will be made
by the end of the year on airport expansion."
Employers have been clear that the Government
should bring forward the decision he promised
but fear a further politically-motivated delay.
So was the Prime Minister making a clear pledge -
no ifs, no buts - or are residents who live near Heathrow and Gatwick
about to be subjected to yet more blight and uncertainty?
Well, one of the things I won't take any lectures on
from the Labour Party is planning infrastructure.
They were woeful at it and they did very little of it.
The simple fact is we have got a government
that is more committed to infrastructure
The simple fact is when an announcement is to be made,
With no luck on Heathrow, MPs used the question session
to discuss other topics, including the government announcement
of new contracts for Northern and TransPennine Express franchhses
500 modern carriages, and c`pacity for 40,000 more passengers.
The Government's handling of the notification programle
The pausing, then the un-patsing of the TransPennine
and Midland mainline electrification painted a phcture
Can the Minister tell the House what the added cost is
to the programme because of the Government's U-turn,
of which there was no mention in the Hendon review?
I think, Mr Speaker, I would like to tell the Hotse that
if a government is committed to electrification...
Which this government is, unlike the last Labour government,
which electrified less than ten miles of track.
Yesterday, I was very pleased to announce
one of the biggest upgrades in modernisation of rail tr`vel
for her constituents that this country has ever seen.
We are scrapping the pacers, we are introducing new trains.
We are transforming the rail network in the North.
We are not getting enough infrastructure
investment in the North, linking the big towns and chties.
I mean, the honourable gentleman is a good friend
and I would hate to suggest he was snoozing yesterday
rather than watching the news, but we announced yesterday,
Mr Speaker, a transformational package for railways in the North.
The Transport Secretary also announced that,
following the serious floodhng in the north-west of England,
trains were running again bdtween London and Glasgow via Preston.
And he responded to a questhon from Lib Dem leader Tim Farron,
about whether European funds could be applied for
to repair the A591 in Cumbrha, which were damaged by the floods.
I'm sure the feelings of the whole house
are with his constituents and those in neighbouring areas
in terms of the sheer chaos they are facing
and not being able to get b`ck into their homes in certain cases
and we did say that we would look at it.
But I will also be looking for more immediate help to his area,
and my honourable friend, the Minister of State
from the Department of Transport will be in the area tomorrow.
A Conservative MP has complained of intimidation ,
over his support for a controversial trade deal.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,
between the European Union and the United States.
Many politicians argue that it would bring major bdnefits,
creating new jobs and business opportunities.
Opponents say it is undemocratic, favours big corporations
and threatens consumer and workers' rights.
In August, my daughter, who is 14, left our house
She came back and said there were 20 people outsidd,
because I am the secretary of the all-party group on TTIP.
They were basically accusing me of wanting to kill people
If we are going to have a debate about this issue,
we should at least make it an honest debate
and we should avoid intimid`tion as part of that debate.
I think we do have a duty to debate this issue
I think intimidation has no part in that.
as the secretary of the all-party group,
I have had literally thousands of e-mails
from all parts of the United Kingdom,
accusing me of all sorts of skulduggery
in relation to this proposed trade deal.
I actually was quite impressed by the fact that the people
e-mailing me clearly think I have far more power
than I have ever had as a backbench MP.
But I think there is an important point...
There is an important point to be made.
Not a single e-mail was ever sent to me about the deal with C`nada,
described unfortunately, I would say,
as a Trojan horse for TTIP. Not a single e-mail.
Not a single e-mail was sent about that agreement.
It is therefore very diffictlt not to conclude
This is not about the Health Service.
This is about a latent anti-western, anti-US agend`,
I think the point needs to be made, and has bden made.
The debate was introduced by a Labour MP, Geraint Davhes,
who said his point was about TTIP's dispute settlement mechanisl,
called an "investor-state dispute settlement", or ISDS.
These settlements allow multi-national companies
to sue governments whose policies damage their interests.
My point about TTIP is not to "burn it, shoot it, get rid of it,"
it is actually to pull the teeth, the ISDS teeth, out of the wolf
so we actually have environlental imperatives in it,
we have enforceable rights `t work, we have human rights,
so it is a blueprint for future global trade.
Rather than a blueprint for environmental and human rights
A Labour opponent to the de`l said the Department for Business had
estimated that TTIP would bdnefit the UK by ?7 billion.
Each person in this country would benefit
Well, ?2 a week is very nice to have.
I'm sure we'd all rather have ?2 a week than not have ?2 ` week.
is a loss in terms of working conditions, labour standards,
potential improvements in the national minimum wagd
then these are not benefits which are in practice
going to accrue to ordinary people in this country.
That is why people have doubts about this.
The MPs were debating a mothon calling on the Government
to subject TTIP to full parliamentary scruthny.
It is there for everybody to read on the Internet.
And it is reaching the right conditions,
and an can I finally say thhs, that when it is concluded,
it will be for this chamber to ratify it.
There will be 21 days when it will lie here
and, at that point, any honourable member and lay down a motion,
put it before this House to reject it.
I hope when that day comes, that they will accept this `greement
because it is about free tr`de and it is the right thing to do
At the end of the debate, that cross-party backbench call
for full parliamentary scrutiny went through on the nod.
of the day in the Commons and the Lords.
Still to come, MPs make a plea to save Britain's trees.
Now, if and when Channel 4 hs sold off to private firms,
will it be a completely different sort of TV channel?
At question time in the House of Lords, some Opposition pders
warned that the channel's commitment to public service broadcasthng
would be undermined and its news coverage would be reduced.
The Prime Minister has said that he wants Channel 4
No decisions have been made about the Channel's prospects.
The Government is looking at a range of information to assess a broad
spread of options including those proposed by Channel
Is the Minister aware that the Prime Minister said that
private investment would safeguard Channel 4?
Leaders in the advertising hndustry and campaign managing say
Can the Minister please explain how it is possible that a great
Thatcherite success is now under threat?
One which supports more than 35 independent production comp`nies
annually and is now under threat of what looks like the equivalent
It has an important remit that is to deliver innovative,
experimental and distinctivd content that appeals to a diverse society,
and looking at all the options we would obviously have full regard
to that and indeed to the creative industries that depend on it.
Channel 4 was established bx Act of Parliament by a Conservative
Does the Minister agree with me that it is highly unlikely that any
commercial purchaser could be found for Channel 4 unless the Government
changes Channel 4's remit which ensures that at present
all profits are reinvested in programmes?
Will my noble friend agree that Channel 4's coverage of the 201
Paralympic Games clearly demonstrated the benefit
of the public service remit and non-profit ownership model
and the old adage, if it ain't broken don't fix it?
I would share the view of mx noble friend about the excellence
of Channel 4's coverage of the Olympics and indeed H am
What we are doing is looking at the options in an objecthve way,
engaging with Channel 4 thelselves, and in the fullness of time,
in due course as they say, will reach conclusions.
Even if one takes the Minister's reply at face value and is reassured
by it she surely must recognise that if Channel 4 were to be privatised
that capital would have to be serviced either by dividends paid
to investors or interest pahd to those who provided loans and that
would represent money which would otherwise have gone
Bearing in mind that news programmes are not profitable because their
production costs are relatively high and you can't export or resdll used
programmes does the noble B`roness the Minister not agree
that the privatisation of Channel 4 would mean a major reduction
in this distinctive and impressive news service?
I would repeat the point that we are looking at options.
And I would agree that Channel News and news provision
is an important part of dechsions on public sector broadcasting.
I think in Parliament we fedl that even more strongly than elsdwhere
Woodlands must receive more protection from the effects of High
That was plea from the Consdrvative Cheryl Gillan, who's regularly
spoken out against the development of the new high speed rail line
The Woodland Trust says treds across the UK are being felled
at a rate even faster than the Amazonian rainforest.
It claims almost half of all ancient woods in Britain have been lost
in the past 80 years, and more than 600 ancient woods
are now threatened by new roads, pylons,
Trees and woodlands have cole in for a two-hour debate
I think we have to remember we are not talking about fossilised
bits of land, we are not talking about areas that we are protecting
We are talking about living woods that provide a service,
still right up to this day, to the community.
And that is why I feel so p`ssionate about the woodlands that have been
I think that the Government really needs to listen to the issuds that
are being raised about the destruction of woodland
through the development of infrastructure.
We want to see this country progress.
We want a solid and firm economy but that must not be at the price
of some of our most fragile and precious landscapes.
It is important to be clear from the outset if we lose
the ancient woodlands that we have left they are gone forever.
Our very climate and geologx has gifted us a diversity of ancient
woodland forms whose composhtion is a product of environment`l
conditions of historic management thet will not occur again.
Our ancient woodlands therefore cannot, by their very
But I do know that the whold department at Defra,
you are particularly committed to trees and woodland,
but it has to be said that the Forestry Minister himself
has said, and I was at a Defra Select Committee
this inquiry, he actually admitted that ancient woodland as a category
We also recognise that local planning authorities who take these
decisions ultimately do not report or collate data
As far as we are aware therd is no reporting or collating.
So we are certainly happy to look at that particular issue.
We do of course have the Ancient Woodland Inventory
And, as the honourable membdr pointed out, the Tree Register.
This is a registered charitx which updates a register
It provides information on the size and growth of trees as well as
details of the historical, rare, or unusual significance
of the trees and I think that is also playing
When Chris Grayling was Justice Secretary,
he introduced a number of changes to the prison and courts system that
have all now been reversed by his successor in the job,
The latest is the criminal courts charge, which is being
Well, Chris Grayling is now Leader of the Commons.
And at his regular question time, his Labour opposite number,
Chris Bryant, enjoyed a spot of teasing.
I predicted the new Justice Secretary would get rid
of the ridiculous courts ch`rges and, lo, it hath come to pass.
The prisoners' book ban, the Saudi execution centres,
And now the Information Comlissioner has described the leader's views
on freedom of information as a return to the dark ages.
Now I know I am in danger of becoming the love child
of Russell Grant and Mystic Meg but I predict, I hereby predict yet
Wouldn't it just be better if the leader of the House
did his own U-turn rather than allow the Justice Secretary
I am very proud of what this Government has done
Started by the right honour`ble gentleman, continued by mysdlf
and being completed by the current Lord Chancellor.
It is the case today that if you go to jail for less than 12 months
you receive 12 months' support after you have left.
Under the party opposite you were released onto the streets
with ?46 in your pocket and left to walk the streets with nowhere
necessarily to go, no support, no guidance, no nothing.
I will take no lessons from him about legacies
And just to remind him, he talks about the ludicrous
More peers have been introdtced into the House of Lords,
taking the total number further into the 800s.
Dame Tessa Jowell is a formdr Culture Secretary and was,
famously, appointed by Tony Blair to be Olympics Minister aftdr London
won the right to stage the 2012 Games.
The man who was at the helm at the time of the global fhnancial
crash, the former Chancellor Alistair Darling, also
He will sit as Lord Darling of Roulanish.
Both left the Commons at thd time of the Election in May.
And both will be on the Labour benches of the Lords.
I solemnly and sincerely to clear and fire that I will bear true
allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, her ears and successors.
Do join me for the Week in Parliament, when we'll bd looking
in detail at the latest clash between the Commons and the Lords,
this time over the minimum `ge for voting in the EU referendum
Until then from me, Keith Macdougall, goodbye.