John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Saturday, June 30, 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 of another case exactly the same.

We must remember that the rush to judgment and rush to adoption harms the child, the extended birth family and the adoptive family (families).

What it also does is to undermine other adoptions which are without question valid.

I have drafted an application to court to allow me to publish the anonymised judgments to enable this debate to be properly held.

This story looks further at the issue
  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".
Friday, June 29, 2007
  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 signal for the large consumer countries. The economy accepted almost without difficulty this raising of prices of the barrel.You are right, the rich economy accepted. But the world does not stop with the rich countries. Africa is in great difficulty. The debt grows hollow to buy oil. For the future generations, there is something of low register. But the energy invoice and the deficits also grow hollow in the United States, for example. The United States and the European Union try to use oil much more effectively, in order to reduce the growth of the demand for oil. Thus there was a reaction on behalf of the consumer countries well.
Is this reaction with the measurement of the dangers which you predict? The exit of oil goes up little by little in the diary of the OECD countries. But it should be stressed that a large share of the rise of the request comes from China and, to a lesser extent, of India. China counts for the moment 70 cars for thousand inhabitants, against 680 in Europe and 860 in the United States. If the Chinese want to catch up with the level of equipment of the Western nations, that will it occur?
Do the outputs exist to answer such an increase in demand?
From here at 2015, market and the oil industry severely will be put to the test. From here five to ten years, oil production out-OPEC will reach a maximum before starting to decline, for lack of sufficient reserves. Each day ago of new evidence of this fact. At the same time the peak of the economic phase of expansion of China will take place. The two events will coincide: the explosion of the growth of the Chinese request, and the fall of the production except country of OPEC. Our oil system will be it able to answer this challenge, it is the question.
Do the Chinese leaders have the will and the capacity to slow down their request for oil? This will exists. To set up a radical energy policy is easier in China than in a country having a political régime, say, different. On another side, the Chinese wish to benefit from the Western life style. An Chinese says himself: "if I have the money, why I would not buy a car?" I think that the Chinese government will not be able to do better than to slow down acceleration: there will be always a very strong growth of the demand for oil, no matter what it arrives. The oil industry must hold account of this fact and take measurements necessary.Can one envisage which will be the rate of this growth? It is a great unknown factor: which is the growth potential of the Chinese for the ten next years: 6 % per annum, 7 %, 10 %? This difference in some points will have very different implications in the world.

Biocarburants don't they constitute a response to this challenge?
Once again, the figures should be looked at, rather than to listen to rhetoric. Many governments encourage the agricultural fuel consumption, in particular in Europe, in Japan and the United States. Some of these policies are not founded on a solid economic rationality: the biocarburants will remain very expensive to produce. But even if these policies end, we think that the share of the biocarburants in 2030 will be only 7 % of the whole of the world production of fuels.To reach these 7 %, one will need an agricultural surface equivalent to the surface of Australia, plus those of Korea, Japan and New Zealand...

This competition with the surface devoted to traditional agriculture is likely to have consequences on the price of harvests.
Yes, it is already the case, and it is not good. And then there are also difficulties related to the environment: more and more of studies prove that the biocarburants automatically do not reduce the gas emissions for purpose of greenhouse, compared with oil. It is also a large concern. Thus for these at the same time economic and environmental reasons, 7 % of the total production of fuels are a figure very, very optimist. The agricultural fuels will never replace the oil of OPEC, as some hope for it. Their contribution will remain minor.
The which perhaps contribution of the new layers in Africa?Until one waits of Africa does not have anything revolutionist: a few hundreds of additional thousands of barrels per day here or there in West Africa. That will not change the things basically.

Then, from where the new outputs can come ?
The two only countries which can really change the course of the play are Saudi Arabia and Iraq. They can bring on the market a volume of significant additional crude, if they wish it. But in which conditions? There is there too an enormous question mark. Here the unknown factor, they are the figures on the reserves.

Are there reasons to expect nasty surprises on this side?
I believe that the Saoudi government speaks about 230 billion barrels reserves. I do not have official reason not to believe in it. However Saudi Arabia just as the other producer countries and the international firms should be more transparent in the presentation of their figures. Because oil is a very crucial good for us all, and our right is to know, according to international standards', how much oil it remains us.

Is there a short-term risk?
One bases oneself on the assumption of an average rate of decline of the production of the existing oil fields of 8 % per annum. It is already much: for a dollar invested in order to increase the extractions, it is necessary to invest three dollars to compensate for this decline. But what would it occur if, any made accounts, the rate of decline were 9 %? The additional quantity of oil which would have to be found to compensate for the difference is equal to the rise of the oil consumption of the OECD countries envisaged from here at 2020.

Saudi Arabia recognizes a fast decline of several of its principal fields...
I can confirm that Saudi Arabia is able to reach an output of 15 million barrels per day (Mb/d) from here at 2015, against 12 Mb/d today, in accordance with the engagement of the Saoudi Minister for oil, Ali Al-Nouaïmi. However these 3 mbj additional, it is about all until one can wait to face the rise envisaged of the world demand for oil [ this request is 83 today Mb/d ].

And Iraq?
If the production does not increase in Iraq in an exponential way from here at 2015, we have a very big problem, even if Saudi Arabia respects its engagements. The figures are very simple, it does not need there to be an expert. It is enough to know to make a subtraction. China will grow very quickly, India also, and what Saudi Arabia projects, the 3 mbj moreover, will not even be enough to answer the rise of the Chinese request.

But, considering the current situation in Iraq, it is very improbable that this country arrives at its optimal capacity of production right like that!
If this situation improved radically, how long would it be necessary so that Iraqi oil industry reaches its optimal capacity? Official Iraqi speaks about 3 to 5 years. They know better than me. Even if what they say is exact, and that all occurs well to Iraq, it will be in any event a long process.Thus I repeat it, the oil industry will face a very serious test from here at 2015: with the decline of production out-OPEC and the peak of growth of China, the gap between supply and will widen to a significant degree.
What becomes the large private oil companies in this new play which, according to you, will be dominated more and more by the trust of the producer countries?
These "majors" [ Exxon, Rafter-Texaco, Shell, LP and Total ] will be in difficulty. They will not have any more access to the new outputs. They must redefine their strategies, if not if they remain concentrated on oil, they will have to be satisfied with markets of niches.
You say that they will not remain "majors" well a long time?It is what I say. In spite of the big rise in the price of the barrel, which enabled them to invest, the "majors" could not reconstitute their reserves!

Thus if the things do not improve in Iraq... ... there is a wall, a great test in front of us, if the Western powers and also China and India do not revise by their energy policy in a substantial
way, by taxing oil more, by seeking more energy effectiveness.

One does not take of it really the way. The world oil consumption grows more and more quickly.Unfortunately, there are many words, but few acts. I really hope that the consuming nations will include/understand the gravity of the situation, and will set up very strong and radical policies to slow down the rise of the demand for oil.

Such a step would play in favour of the fight against the climatic reheating, a fight with the exit still very dubious...
I believe that there is many ways of fighting the climatic reheating. But it is necessary to be very clear: if you want to solve the problem of the reheating, it is impossible to do it without India and especially without China, which has just become the first world gas transmitter for purpose of greenhouse. China is the key.

With them only, from here at 2030, the Chinese could emit more twice more carbon dioxide than the unit of the OECD countries [ See computer graphics: "Rise of the CO 2 emissions of 2004 to 2030 in China, India and in OECD" ]. That does not have any direction to take measures if China does not take part.
An example: Europe committed itself reducing its emissions of 20 % from here to 2020. Some say that it is realistic, others say that that is not it. But the question is not there. At the current rate/rhythm, China will need only one year and half to emit 20 % of emissions which Europe says lends to save!
You meet high Chinese persons in charge. Is the climate a major concern for them?
The first concern of the Chinese leaders, it is the growth and the economic effectiveness. Of course, they are concentrated on the problems of environment, but in fact the local problems worry them more. The air pollution of the east cities in their eyes more important than the climatic change.
However, they very take the reheating with the serious one, but I think that the first step must be taken by the Western countries, which will have to offer their assistance and to give good reasons to China so that it joins the combat.
Remarks collected by Matthieu Auzanneau
  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.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
  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 with customers any barrier that is preventing them from starting self-employment. They also provide a booklet 'Work For Yourself' which gives advice and information on starting a small business or arranging a franchise.

They are also able to give advise on further sources of support; including The Prince's Trust, Business Link, Training for Work in Scotland and Work Based Learning in Wales.

In addition, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) offers a wide range of small business support information and packages, including a small suite of grants, loans guarantees and subsidised consultancy to address a range of business issues. They also have information about finance and grants for starting up and developing a small business and can provide practical support for the key stages of innovation or research and development and helps businesses to become more efficient, competitive and profitable.
Jim Murphy (Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
  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.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
  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.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
  Foundation of Peak Oil All Party Parliamentary Group
The Peak Oil APPG was founded today in the House of Commons. The officers are:
Chair - John Hemming
Vice-Chair - Colin Challen, Robin Teverson
Secretary - Austin Mitchell
Treasurer - Mark Williams
  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.


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 and remaining non-response error.

4. Incapacity benefit receipt is under-reported on the FRS. However, there is no other reliable source for this information at a household level.

5. Figures for the median net weekly income are rounded to the nearest pound.

6. Net (disposable) weekly income includes income from all sources for all adults and children in the household, less income tax and national insurance contributions (for adults).

7. Housing costs include household rent for rented accommodation or mortgage interest for those buying their home with a mortgage, plus water and sewerage charges (including council tax water charge in Scotland), plus premiums paid on structural insurance, plus charges for owner occupiers (ground rent, service charges etc.)
Anne McGuire (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions)
Monday, June 25, 2007
  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 2007-08. There is no detailed central record of non-reward targets in local area agreements, although the agreements themselves are available on the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) website
Parmjit Dhanda (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Skills)
Saturday, June 23, 2007
  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).
Friday, June 22, 2007
  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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. First into care This looks at each year's adoptions from care and when the children were first taken into care.
  4. Summary Adoptions This is a summary report of adoption figures looking at trends.

I have also made my reference to the UN available on the net.Submission to UN

Thursday, June 21, 2007
  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
  Sacking 10,000+ doctors will have an effect
The whole MTAS saga demonstrates the failure of the British Constitution. This particular governmental car crash has been obvious on the horizon. Hospitals are now having to plan cancellations of operations etc.

It is all a bit surreal really.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
  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 being passed by the parents' solicitors to the local authority. This was not in Birmingham I must emphasise. My conflicts research has been based in Birmingham as I know how things work in Birmingham more than elsewhere.

I personally would not use a firm of solicitors that also worked for the local authority. One of the reasons why there is so much going on with people as litigants in person is that they don't trust their solicitors.

In Sheffield, for example, parents are actually kept out of the courtroom. There are some very good firms of solicitors around. However, Conflicts of Interest are an important issue.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
  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.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
  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.
Friday, June 15, 2007
  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 is an email sequence and the other of which is an extract from the research protocol you will see that they justify the claims in the EDM.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
  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.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
  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 defending the status quo have failed to answer these questions. There is evidence from four London boroughs that 34% of care proceedings are issued because of parental substance misuse. This clearly does not explain the massive jump in numbers of newborn babies (under 1 week) being taken into care in England. Nor does it explain why we don't see the same picture in Scotland. After all there are problems with drugs and alcohol in Scotland as well as England."
Monday, June 11, 2007
  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"might affect his qualiy of life, by this time Ben was 4 and a half and in normal school and so they said they would like to discuss it with Ben's consultant at GOSH. On advice they turned down Dr Southall's "regime". Unbeknown to Ben's parents Dr Southall wrote a letter to various parties, this letter explained that if Ben's parents decided to follow his plan, he would be waiting and ready to implement it but then went on to make suggestions about the parents motives if they declined his offer. This letter was sent to a Consultant in the Heath Hospital Cardiff and as a result in June 1990 she called a Little meeting" which included Mid Glamorgan Social Services. (The parents were not informed that this meeting was taking place and neither was Ben's only clinician of record at GOSH)

It was decided in this meeting that Ben was in a loving caring home and there were no concerns. Ben's parents continued to follow the treatment plan of Ben's consultant at Great Ormond Street, at the same time voiceing to a number of people the concerns that they had in relation to the welfare of children who underwent Dr Southall's "Sleep studies" which they felt were for research purposes and could be detrimental to the wellbeing of the child.

A year later during an outpatients appointment with Ben's Consultant at GOSH they were told that Dr Southall had intervened in his treatment plan and had "invoked Kensington and Chelsea Social Services," Dr Southall wanted Ben to undergo "his tests" Dr Southall had started child protection proceedings to ensure that Ben was put through his tests.

On July 18th 1991 Ben was subjected to the first "Sleep study" without his parents knowledge or consent and against their expressed wishes. Ben was allowed home everyday but had to go into hospital every night for 28 nights. After the tests he was taken from his parents due to an allegation of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy and was kept in hospital for almost 4 months after which time he was sent to a foster home.

Having proven that they were not at fault he was returned to his parents a year later, but by then Ben was no longer the little boy they had known and loved he had suffered irreversible brain damage. Ben was 6 years old.

His mother then started a 16 year campaign to get justice for her son. The GMC proceedings that were adjourned in 2006 (for about a year) are partly driven by her. She discovered that protocol 85.02 was the basis for the tests on her son. She also discovered that Ben had a Special Case file which was held by Dr Southall where medical information that should have been kept in his medical records was in fact kept separately and hidden
Sunday, June 10, 2007
  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. Member may wish to contact Sir Michael Carlisle, the chairman of Trent regional health authority, for details.

Also legal action was taken by Alexander Harris Solicitors against the health authority. My understanding of this case was that no evidence was found to explain why the babies came to have brain damage, but that compensation was paid because on the balance of probabilities it had to be some defect in the treatment of the babies concerned. There were no records in the medical files of the children concerned that explained the basis for the brain damage.

This was reported in the media back in 1992. The report that was produced came to the same conclusion as the litigation.
  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 papers were counted. When there was a recount including the papers on 17th May Angela Harrison had 608 votes and James Astill 601 votes. This looks a straightforward one to me and if I were James Astill I would try to minimise the costs by basically accepting the petition. The returning officer should pay the costs here.

Ahmed Khan has issued a petition against Audrey McMillan in Beacon and Benis ward of South Tyneside Council. This is based upon claimed false statements by the Labour Candidate, that "a serving councillor and candidate for election in the Horsley Hill Ward, Iain Malcolm, was observed to be in unauthorised possession of postal ballot papers"; postal ballot papers were opened early; Audrey McMillan's supporters blocked entrances to the polling stations, Ocean Road Community Centre should not have been chosen as the polling station because Audrey McMillan was the chair of the Management Committee and the electorate was not consulted; that they were not told how many postal ballot papers were obtained.
This looks like a mixture of complaints none of which would invalidate the election.

Lydia Emelda Simmons has issued a petition against Eshaq Khan for Central Borough of Slough. This makes claims about false registrations and postal voting fraud. Eshaq Khan won by 1439 votes to 1319 votes. This one will depend upon the evidence. If the petitioner can prove that the winning candidate or one of his agents did the fraud then she will win however many votes it is (as long as the candidate or his formal agent can be proven to have known what was going on). Alternatively if she can prove that more than 120 votes for the winning candidate were corrupted then she can get a declaration of "general corruption".

Saeed Aehmed Lib Dem has issued a petition against Muhammed Afzal Labour in Aston Ward, Birmingham. This petition is about false claims about Saeed by agents on behalf of the Labour Party.
This will rest on proof

John Fitch has a petition against Tom Stephenson in Abbey Ward of Leicester City Council. This is based upon the fact that only 4,930 of the 9,099 votes cast have been counted.
This depends upon the facts and the recount

Michelle Pilling, Scott Atkinson, Susan McDevitt and Ian Smith, voters in Burnley have issued a petition against Paul Reynolds in Rosegrove and Lowerhouse Ward of Burnley Council. In this case Paul Reynolds and Peter John Rowe both got 489 votes and after the drawing of lots Paul Reynolds was declared to be elected. However, the returning officer published a notice which said that Paul Reynolds had 490 votes and Peter Rowe 489 and that a ballot paper that was void for uncertainty was counted.
This is basically a call for a recount

Shakir Saghir English Democrat has issued a petition against Arshad Mahmood Labour in Park Ward of Calderdale on the basis that the Respect Candidate was a disqualified candidate. The winning Labour candidate got 1,500 Respect 1,147 and the Lib Dem 1,022. This is a petition that should invalidate the election. Whether it would allow the reopening of nominations or merely re-run with the same candidates (excluding the one who should not been allowed to stand) is something I would not be clear on and may be within the discretion of the election court.
  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 important issue. Simplistic approaches such as removing the children from families where either parent has taken for example cocaine would result in Boris Johnson MP losing his children. These are non starters as suggestions.

It is quite clear, however, that this cannot be left as a general issue to be resolved in secret in the mixture of local authorities and courts. Although there is no reason to identify the people concerned there is a good reason to consider the general principles based on a range of real stories.

One big problem with family law is that things are supposed to be done "in the best interests of the child". That is fair enough, but we don't have any rules to determine what is in the best interests of children hence it ends up as a subjective decision by the people in charge (Childrens Services, Judges).

A useful part of the article that I had not previously sourced is this:
"Researchers at Brunel University who studied care cases in four London boroughs found that 34% were caused by drug or alcohol abuse by parents, the biggest single factor. Of 186 children taken from 100 families because of this dependency, 67 had one or both parents addicted to crack cocaine."

That does not substantiate the argument used by defenders of the current system that the increase in newborn babies being taken into care is all as a consequence of substance abuse.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
  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.
Friday, June 08, 2007
  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 during their sleep.

The tests involved giving them 15% Oxygen (something now known to be able to cause cyanosis - where a baby goes blue through lack of oxygen and suffers from a shortage of oxygen in the brain.) extra Carbon Dioxide and choking them to stop them breathing in.

The question, however, is what happened during that study and afterwards and how was it covered up in 2000 and previously.
  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.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
  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).
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
  Freedom of Information: The Orphan Bill
The FoI Bill as far as I can tell still has no sponsor in the House of Lords. To that extent when it comes to be debated it will fall. Good news.
  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 by a number of members of staff.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
  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 ....
Monday, June 04, 2007
  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.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
  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 FII (aka MSbP). This may be medically equivalent to the Websters (Hardinghams) case. I cannot really suggest anything here because I have not spent the same time studying the scientific research that I have spent on SBS.

If you are a parent being treated the same way as those people in New York, I am sorry, but I don't have their contact details. I do try to collate useful pieces of information from around the world.

It does seem that the USA courts are more interested in getting the decision right rather than a rapid adoption. In the long term this is best for both children and parents.
Friday, June 01, 2007
  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 judge he is also looking at how to keep families together. That is, however, not really his job. His job is to be a judge. That relates to the law. The underlying problem with the Children Act 1989, however, is that there is very little law although quite a bit of procedure. The judges are made to act as social workers deciding what is in the "best interests of the child" which means different things to different people and therefore is not a legal test. I do welcome his work to keep families together, but as we redesign the system of public family law we need to have judges who deal with the law.

However, "the system" should be resourcing keeping families together rather than splitting them up. The evidence is that taking a child into care is in itself a damaging step.

What this reveals is that a woman has been acting as the slave of the state and has been forced to give up 14 babies in sequence to feed the state's adoption machine. If any newspaper tells her side of the story they are in contempt of court. Not a good situation.

Where the article does defend the system however is here:
Children are taken into care because there is no parent capable of looking after them. Research suggests that in 70 per cent of these cases the mother has a problem with drink or drugs - or both. In the Inner London Family Proceedings Court, where District Judge Crichton presides, the figure is higher still: 80 or 90 per cent."

In the many cases I have been looking at this is simply not the case.

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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Published, promoted, and printed (well not really printed I suppose, more like typed) by John Hemming, 1772 Coventry Road, Birmingham B26 1PB. Hosted by part of 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043, United States of America. This blog is posted by John Hemming in his personal capacity as an individual.

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