The Joint Select Committee on Privacy and Injunctions has now reported. It is worth reading through the report if you are interested in these issues. It also reports that I provided private evidence to the committee. I am not permitted by parliamentary rules to reveal what the evidence was that I provided. However, I can quote from the report (also see link). These parts of the report were unanimously agreed by the committee (in that there was no proposal to amend them not votes against them being added to the report).
230. We regard freedom of speech in Parliament as a fundamental constitutional principle. Over the last couple of years a few members have revealed in Parliament information covered by injunctions. We have considered carefully proposals for each House to instigate procedures to prevent members from revealing information subject to privacy injunctions. The threshold for restricting what members can say during parliamentary proceedings should be high. We do not be…
This story in today's times (Paywall) reveals: An accountant wrongly convicted of a fraud allegedly connected to the bribery of civil servants is demanding to see the secret evidence which saved him from a lengthy prison sentence. Tom Wilson, 52, says he cannot rebuild his life and career because of a court secrecy order which means he and his lawyers are forbidden to know why he was eventually acquitted. Campaigners say Mr Wilson’s case highlights the use of Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificates, which allow government ministers, prosecutors, police and even private companies to ensure evidence remains secret from those facing trial.
I also wrote in The Times: Parliament must act now
You would think that a Public Interest Immunity (PII) Certificate would be used to protect national security and keep us safe from terrorism.
It is surprising that the order in Tom Wilson’s case appears to have been used to hide the misbehaviour of civil servants and a contractor. But I have seen man…
Eight demonstrators operated a picket of my advice bureau today. This frightened a number of constituents who were worried by the shouting. I had asked them to be careful not to frighten people, but they didn't care that they were doing this.
There were 15 people who came to the advice bureau before the demonstration, but only 3 after they turned up.
John O Shea has a weblog here on which he claims there were 20-30 demonstrators outside my office today. The photograph shows perhaps 4-5, but at the peak there were 8.
It remains, however, that what matters most about this is their lack of concern for the people they were hurting by frightening them from talking to me. They could have demonstrated on the other side of the road, but instead they claimed that they were not frightening anyone. There were people I know that were frightened, however.
It is not right.
[point of clarification - I count the main complainants, there are often other people who come with them. Hence the 15 pe…
The link is to a story about child trafficking in Oxfordshire. Extracting from the start of the article: Police swoop on paedophile gang accused of modern-day slavery of girls in care aged 11 'bought and sold' for sex More than 100 officers swoop on homes across Oxford yesterday Alleged victims as young as 11, many of whom brought up in care 'Groomed and given drugs so they could be raped by tormentors' Police chief: 'Arrests intended to protect girls from further harm'
I have been worried for some time about the number of children that are lost to the care system. These are children that leave care for "other reasons". Some of the reasons are reasonable (such as babies leaving with their mothers), but others are children being trafficked.
I asked a simple question of the government which was to keep better records so we knew what was happening to the children.
Early Day Motions are like petitions that only MPs can sign. Some MPs refuse to sign them, Ministers are not allowed to.
At this link you can find a list of those that I have signed.
There has been an interesting debate about EDM 2893 - Use of the phrase ton of bricks which is currently signed by two lib dems, one conservative and three Labour MPs. That this House notes the reports in the BBC and other media outlets of the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come down like a tonne of bricks on wealthy people who sell properties through offshore companies to avoid stamp duty; recognises that this is part of a trend of metrication of traditional British phrases; believes that, given that a ton is greater in weight than a tonne, this understates the Chancellor's commitment to action; accepts that there is merit in using some metric units for measurement, but regrets the unnecessary metrication of traditional British phrases; and calls on the BBC and other media to cease the…
The link is to the debate on litigation friends yesterday. I will copy the whole of the debate here:
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I thank Mr Speaker for allowing this debate.
If somebody is in an accident and ends up in a coma, they need a litigation friend to instruct a solicitor to sue for damages. A litigation friend, or next friend, is very different from a Mackenzie friend. A litigation friend makes decisions for the person who does not have capacity. If somebody is not in a coma, there is a question of what threshold is required before appointing such a litigation friend or guardian. Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, recently stated:
“Persons with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities are today routinely placed under a guardianship regime in several European countries—they are deprived of their ‘legal capacity’. In the eyes of the law they are seen as non-persons and their decisions have no legal relevance. This policy viol…
The link is to the detailed study on the University of Central Lancashire website.
It is important research because it looks at the details of the psychological reports in 126 out of 180 cases in three courts.
Obviously this does not read through to the national position precisely, but it gives a good guide.
Many of the things revealed about the reports would indicate that the expert involved would be struck off. 65% of the reports were "poor" or "very poor". This means really that they should not have been part of the trial.
It raises an automatic question as to the reliability of the judgment in 65% of cases. Actually the position is even worse as it appears that 90% of the reports are by people who make their living out of writing reports for the family courts rather than by people who practise psychology.
The inherent conflict of interest for people who need to keep getting instructions in the family court is something I have mentioned before, but is ignored by t…
One of the things Labour are criticising is the idea of patients being able to have treatment from organisations which are not directly part of the NHS. It is worth looking at their 2010 Manifesto:
In health, this means if we don’t meet our guarantees, for example on waiting lists, the NHS will fund you to go private.
We will support an active role for the independent sector working alongside the NHS in the provision of care, particularly where they bring innovation – such as in end-oflife care and cancer services, and increase capacity.
Where changes are needed, we will be fair to NHS services and staff and give them a chance to improve, but where they fail to do so we will look to alternative provision.
Patient power will be increased. Patients requiring elective care will have the right, in law, to choose from any provider who meets NHS standards of quality at NHS costs.
Empowering NHS staff and enabling Mutuals Central to our agenda for improvement is the hardworking NHS workforce. …
The link is to the Channel 4 Story last night about the unreliability of the experts in the family courts - which leads to the unreliability of the decisions as the quality of the decisions is founded on the quality of evidence.
The link is to a story in the Daily Mail which relates to a news story on Channel 4 tonight.
It confirms what I have been saying for some time which is that care proceedings are routinely flawed. What is important about this report is that it is commissioned by the Family Justice Council (a system organisation).
Here is part of the article. Life-changing decisions about the care of thousands of children are routinely being made on flawed evidence from poorly qualified ‘experts’ in the family courts, a damning study reveals.
More than a fifth of these vital reports are being produced by people who are completely unqualified, the Channel 4 News investigation found. ‘Experts’ used in hundreds of family court proceedings are frequently unqualified or unreliable, the study reveals.
In some cases, reports on parents or children are being given to courts by doctors who have not even seen the individuals concerned.
The following is my question at the "Urgent Question" relating to Afghanistan yesterday: John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): The Minister will be aware that a minority of the House, including myself, voted for withdrawal some time ago.
In an asymmetric conflict, emotions are very important in driving people’s behaviour. Will the Minister agree to review the current strategy to identify whether that fact in itself could make it harder rather than easier to achieve our objectives in the long term?
Nick Harvey: The ISAF strategy is kept under constant review. I can reassure my hon. Friend that it will continue to be so, but I do not think it would make sense for us to be in a great hurry this week, in the aftermath of these incidents, to spring into some fundamental review. I can assure him, however, that the temperature is read constantly and that progress is assessed all the time. We will take stock of everything that happens as we continue to plan on an international basis…
There is another spamming campaign going on whereby an organisation is spamming Lib Dem MPs from all sorts of addresses. This means hundreds and thousands of emails being sent essentially exactly the same.
This means I have had to configure my spam filter to delete these without warning. Apologies if this means that anyone else's email is deleted without response.
Actually I have found that it is Labour Left and Eoin Clarke.
"Pledge in a single click to never ever vote Lib Dem ever again if they allow this NHS Bill to become law"
So we have a load of Labour Left followers pledging not to vote Lib Dem. Not really a strong argument.
Whichever way it is something that undermines my constituents' ability to contact me quickly and, therefore, is wrong.
The link is to a comment by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe in which he says, inter alia, "Persons with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities are today routinely placed under a guardianship regime in several European countries - they are deprived of their “legal capacity”. In the eyes of the law they are seen as non-persons and their decisions have no legal relevance. This policy violates agreed human rights standards."
I have always thought this to some extent in any way.