10/12/2015 Thursday in Parliament


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.


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