House of Commons
Tuesday 15 July 2014
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Business before questions
Transport for London Bill [Lords] (By Order)
Buckinghamshire County Council (Filming on Highways) Bill [Lords] (By Order)
Second Readings opposed and deferred until Tuesday 22 July (Standing Order No. 20).
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Primary Care (Older People)
It is a particular pleasure to be here this morning, although I appreciate that that feeling may not be reciprocated on all sides of the House.
Our NHS will not be sustainable unless we totally transform out-of-hospital care. That is why we have introduced the £3.9 billion merger of the health and social care systems, and reforms to the GP contract. We are encouraging clinical commissioners to be responsible for all out-of-hospital commissioning.
There is agreement across the House that we need a focus on frail elderly patients and a system in which everybody knows, for their mum, dad or grandparents, that there is someone in the NHS where the buck stops in relation to complex, long-term conditions. That is a condition of the better care fund, so I hope that that will make a big difference in my hon. Friend’s constituency.
The Secretary of State mentioned integration. Good care and support for older people in their own homes are vital, yet a constituent visited me recently to say that she simply could not find a decent trustworthy care company to look after her relative. Will the Secretary of State join me in calling for all local authorities to sign up to the ethical care charter?
I do not know what the charter says, but I am happy to have a look at it. I agree with the hon. Lady’s sentiments. The important change we need to make is to understand that it is a false economy not to look after people who are vulnerable—those who need help washing, getting out of bed and feeding every day. Scrimping on such care is incredibly dangerous: it costs the NHS more, but most of all it means that those people are not treated with the dignity and respect that they should be.
A recent Age UK report shows that older people are many times more likely to be moved multiple times in hospital, and that there is an attitude that they should not be using up hospital beds. What does my right hon. Friend suggest to tackle the problem, for example through improved guidance?
The attitude to which my hon. Friend refers is totally unacceptable. It is not specifically an NHS problem; we need to change the way of thinking across our society. In particular, I worry about people with dementia who are sometimes in hospital wards where they are not able to speak up for themselves. That is why we have introduced probably the toughest inspection regime of any hospital system anywhere in the world, and I hope it will make a real difference.
In view of the fact that there are currently 10 million people in the UK over 65, and the latest projections are for a further 5.5 million elderly people in 20 years’ time, what plans have the Government made to allocate and prioritise resources for the future care of older people with complex needs?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The figure always in my mind is that by the end of the next Parliament we will have more than 1 million additional over-70s. We need to totally change the way we look after those people, through the single point of contact and a different attitude to continuity of care. One of the things that matters most to those people is the feeling that there is someone in the NHS who knows about their particular needs, their family and their carers. That is the big challenge for the NHS in the next few years.
The Health Secretary does not seem to realise that continuity of care is actually getting worse under him. The GP patient survey shows that the proportion of people who cannot regularly see their preferred GP has risen from 34% in 2012 to 39% in 2014, an increase equivalent to 1.2 million people. Experts say that that is one of the reasons why A and E is under so much pressure. Will he confirm that on Friday it will be precisely one year since hospital A and E departments last met his Government’s own A and E target?
What I will confirm is that the worst possible thing for continuity of care was Labour’s scrapping of named GPs in 2004. The single thing that makes the biggest difference is to have, for every frail and elderly person in our NHS, someone who is responsible. That is what we are bringing back.
We are leading cross-Government action to address antimicrobial resistance—AMR—at national and global levels. We published details of how we will measure the success of the UK’s AMR strategy, and we will publish an annual progress report in November. We are considering recommendations in the Science and Technology Committee’s AMR report. I gave evidence to that Committee and we will publish our response in September.
I very much welcome the Government’s international lead on antibiotic resistance, led by the Prime Minister. Does my hon. Friend agree that increasing the unit price of antibiotics and tackling their growing misuse in developing countries is absolutely vital if we are not to face a return to the medical dark ages?
My hon. Friend is quite right to highlight this as a major challenge facing us. I pay tribute to the chief medical officer and to the Prime Minister for the international leadership they have given on this. My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the antibiotics market will be considered in its totality by the O’Neill review, which was announced by the Prime Minister on 2 July. It is of course important to bear it in mind that while we look at tackling global antibiotic misuse, we need to balance the need for global conservation measures with accessibility for lower-income countries.
Food Safety (Local Authorities)
The allocation of local authority food law resources is a local matter. Authorities are increasingly using a risk-based approach to target these resources and looking at ways in which they can work smarter. The Food Standards Agency monitors and audits local authority controls to ensure appropriate resources are in place effectively to regulate food safety.
Food safety standards in this country are generally very good, happily, but that is very much dependent on the work of local authorities and of laboratories. What consideration has she given to the recommendations of the interim Elliott review that there should be better coordination and integration of local authorities and also, possibly, a public analyst service?
Obviously we are awaiting the final Elliott report but, as my hon. Friend would expect, consideration is being given across government to the interim report. The Government are committed to improving co-ordination and intelligence sharing. We can see some of that in, for example, smart back-office sharing, on which his authority, I believe, has taken a lead. We are working across government, local authorities and industry to protect food integrity. Professor Elliott said that we have one of the safest systems in the world but there is always more we can do to work more closely together. I know that the FSA is working more closely with local authorities and that Public Health England has begun to have constructive discussions around the issues. But we will obviously respond in more detail when we have the final report.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the creativity with which he has introduced sugar into this question. He is right to highlight the fact that sugar is an important factor in considering how we get the nation healthier, which we see in the overall context of trying to encourage people to consume fewer calories. A lot of work has been done. He will be aware that we have just had a very detailed scientific report on sugar and carbohydrates more generally. We are considering that but he will be pleased to know that Public Health England has already started to roll out that advice at both a local and national level to consumers and families. We will of course consider what more we might do.
Does my hon. Friend share our concern on the Select Committee that not enough regular food analysis is being done by local authorities? Will her Department press for this to prevent any further adulteration or food scares in the future?
We have discussed this with the FSA and we will respond in more detail when we have the final Elliott review. But it is worth noting that the FSA is supporting local authorities financially and with expertise, but is also very much encouraging people to work smarter so that a lot of inspection is based far more on risk. That is right, as we do not want businesses with excellent records of compliance being subjected to the same regime of testing and inspection as those who give rise to greater risk. I hope my hon. Friend would agree that an intelligence-led approach is the right thing to do.
Hospitals in West London (A and E)
The NHS is, as the hon. Gentleman knows, implementing the plans for hospitals in west London under the “Shaping a Healthier Future” scheme. This will include 21st-century health care facilities for the local community, and it is very much led by local clinicians to provide better care for patients in the hon. Gentleman’s and other west London constituencies.
Is the truth not that two west London A and E departments will close eight weeks tomorrow? Although the local NHS is paying M&C Saatchi to spin that decision, so far no one has told the 300,000 people in the catchment area for the Central Middlesex and Hammersmith hospitals that their A and Es are going to close and no evidence has been produced to show that it is safe to do so?
Unsurprisingly, that is another example of the hon. Gentleman putting politics before patients. We have had a slew of information put out to people in his area and surrounding areas, much of which did not highlight the new facilities that are being introduced. I would love to hear the hon. Gentleman talk up the new facilities coming into that area. Charing Cross hospital will be redeveloped as a 21st century health care facility, in line with my right hon. Friend’s decision based on the independent reconfiguration panel’s advice. Charing Cross and Ealing will have a local A and E with 24/7 access to full diagnostic support, consultant advice and specialist care—and it would be really refreshing if the hon. Gentleman, rather than following his usual line, could tell some of his constituents the good news about health care in his part of London.
We are working hard to improve standards of care in general practice. We have brought back named GPs for those aged 75 and over, introduced a new inspection regime and are doing everything we can to recruit more GPs to improve capacity.
When will both political parties be honest about the massive looming black hole in health funding, with an ageing population demanding ever better care? We cannot afford to pay for it out of general taxation, so are we going to be honest and have an open debate about moving to the French system of social insurance in which people are charged and repaid if they do not have the means, giving them an infinitely better health service?
I do not agree with my hon. Friend; let me explain why. The first and important point is that independent studies, such as that which was done last month by the Commonwealth Fund, have ranked the NHS top out of 11 major health economies, including the French example. Money is, of course, tight throughout the NHS, but we have been able to find efficiency savings of £20 billion over the last five years, and we will continue to find them. What I would not support, however, is any system of charging that would make it harder to access NHS services, particularly for older people whom we need to access more services more quickly if the NHS is to be sustainable.
Let me reassure the Secretary of State that Opposition Members are pleased to see him still in his post today, but if I were him, I would not take that as a compliment. On GP access, what is he actually doing? Survey after survey shows that patient satisfaction with access to their GP is getting worse and worse. That has been borne out in my constituency surgery in a significant number of cases. One constituent recently came to see me who had been discharged from hospital with significant care needs and he was told that he would have to wait three and a half weeks to see his GP. What is the Secretary of State actually doing about it?
I am delighted that the hon. Lady is delighted that I am in my position here today—we can all be delighted about that wonderful piece of news. Let me tell her that we are doing a lot to improve access to GPs. We have recruited 1,000 more GPs over the course of this Parliament. Let me gently say to her that we can afford those 1,000 GPs only because we pushed on with difficult reforms, getting rid of the PCT bureaucracy and removing 19,000 managers. We would not have been able to afford them if we had listened to her party and continued to spend money on bureaucracy and management.
In every area, there are some very good GPs and some less good ones. How does my right hon. Friend think that clinical commissioning groups should celebrate those GPs who go the extra mile and provide an example for others to follow?
My hon. Friend has made a very good point. We have learnt from the big efforts to improve standards of care in hospitals—of which I think everyone in the House should be proud—that the best way in which to improve those standards is to be transparent about how well people are doing. What the new chief inspector of hospitals has done is identify not just the failing hospitals that have been put into special measures, but the good and outstanding hospitals, so that they know what they should and can aspire to. I think that we shall hear shortly how the chief inspector of general practice intends to implement the same regime in general practice.
On 20 June, I wrote to the Secretary of State informing him of the claims of doctors in Cumbria that unless drastic action were taken to reduce the pressures on GPs’ work loads, patients could die. I have not even received a response. Why, having being given such a stark warning, is the Secretary of State sitting on his hands? There are fewer GPs today than there were during Labour’s last year in office. How can standards in general practice be improved when surgeries are dealing with a recruitment crisis?
Let me give the hon. Gentleman his answer now. According to the Royal College of General Practitioners, 40 million more appointments with GPs are being made in every single year than were made when Labour was in office, and we have 1,000 more GPs than we had when his party was in power.
Let me say very clearly that the way in which we will deal with this problem is by increasing the capacity of general practice and the capacity of primary care. The hon. Gentleman should be supporting that—and he might just think about the 48-hour target that Labour has been talking about. If a new target for GPs is introduced, they will simply cut the amount of time that is available for them to deal with the most frail and vulnerable patients, and that would be wrong.
Under the Care Act 2014, rights for carers that are equal to those for whom they care will be enshrined in law for the first time. That includes support to meet their needs. My Department has also separately provided £400 million for the NHS to enable carers to take breaks from their caring responsibilities.
As a condition of the better care fund, areas are being asked to choose local indicators, which will accompany national measures, to show progress towards the integration of health and social care. How many areas have chosen carer-reported quality of life as their local indicator, and how can more areas be encouraged to make carers a priority in their delivery of services through the better care fund?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on the importance of better care fund plans, including the interests of carers. The planning guidance that was issued in December made it clear that the plans should include the well-being of carers. Updated guidance will be issued very soon, and will reinforce the central importance of carers’ being part of the plans. We do not yet have a final picture, but we are keen to ensure that all plans include the interests of carers.
Last week I raised with the Prime Minister the case of a 62-year-old man who is caring for his wife, who has Alzheimer’s. When he sought an urgent GP appointment for her, he was told that it would take five weeks for her to see her GP and two weeks to see any GP, or he could take her to Salford Royal hospital’s A and E department. Does the care Minister think that that is acceptable, and will he now back the creation of a duty for NHS bodies to identify carers, so that they and the people for whom they are caring are given the support and the priority that they deserve?
No. I do not think that that level of wait is acceptable, which is exactly why we are promoting the better care fund. We want to bring together disparate parts of the system so that care is shaped around the needs of patients, and that has been widely supported throughout the system. I should also mention that the hon. Lady’s party colleague Baroness Pitkeathley was incredibly positive about the Care Act, saying that it was the biggest advance in her 30 years of working in the interests of carers. I wish that at some point the hon. Lady would just acknowledge all the good things that the Government have done in carers’ interests.
Born in Bradford Research Study
By tracking the lives of 13,500 children and their families, the Born in Bradford research study is providing information that will help us to understand the causes of common childhood illnesses, and to explore the mental and social development of a new generation.
In the Born in Bradford study, 63% of Pakistani mothers are married to cousins, and within that group there was a doubling of the risk of a baby being born with a congenital anomaly. The report also found that “a larger number” of children born to cousins
“will have health problems that may lead to death, or long term illness for the baby.”
How much do health issues related to first-cousin marriages cost the NHS, and, given those findings, is it not time that such marriages were outlawed?
We do not have any financial information, but it is important to point out that the Born in Bradford study showed that there was an increase in the risk of birth defects from 3% to 6% in consanguineous marriages. However, that clearly highlights that not all babies born to couples who are related have a genetic problem, and the key issue is to help women to make an informed choice before they get pregnant and to direct them to genetic counselling where that may be required.
Learning Disabilities (Community Provision)
8. What the new deadline will be for moving people with a learning disability out of assessment and treatment units and into community provision. (904855)
We are working with NHS England to set out clear expectations for progress and improved rates of discharge. This includes NHS England producing an action plan to measure progress against. The Winterbourne View joint improvement programme is working with local areas to identify issues and to support them to make progress.
Given the severe lack of funding in this area and the need for development of housing and proper support within the community to avoid the recurrence of, for example, what happened in Winterbourne, will the Minister explain how he is addressing this problem and who he is working with?
I applaud the right hon. Gentleman’s work on this, and it is very important that we make it very clear to the public that all of us share the ambition to get people out of institutional care when they do not need to be there. Actually, it is not about the lack of resources. The scandal is that, as a system, we are spending a fortune on institutional care when people could very often be much better cared for in their own communities. The good thing is that Simon Stevens, the new chief executive of NHS England, has shown a personal interest in this. I have discussed it many times with him. We have asked NHS England to produce an action plan by the end of August, demonstrating exactly how it will speed up the progress of getting people out of institutional care.
20. Promises come cheap, but results take sustained action. The fact is that a promise was made to the families of those with learning disabilities to move them out of assessment and treatment units by June 2014. What exactly is the situation now? The latest figures revealed that only 35% of that promise had been fulfilled. (904868)
The truth is that progress is far too slow. This has been a scandal that has dragged on for many years. It is not a new problem, and helping people who are capable of living independent lives with support in the community to get out of institutional care is long overdue. Changing the culture is complex and difficult, but we are absolutely determined to sustain the pressure to ensure that change is achieved.
22. I thank the Minister for those replies, but I understand that Sir Stephen Budd has been asked to lead a working group on these issues, reporting to NHS England. Will the Minister say a little more about the purpose of this group and its significance, in the light of the failure to meet the June deadline? (904870)
That is absolutely right, but Sir Simon Stevens took the view that it was essential to get the voluntary sector much more involved in the whole process. There are brilliant organisations such as Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation which are absolutely committed to achieving change, and the more we can work with them to achieve that change, the more likely we are to be successful.
After the appalling scandal at Winterbourne View, the Minister promised to stop people with learning disabilities being sent to assessment and treatment units for long periods. He has spectacularly failed: 2,600 people are still in ATUs, including 150 children; more people are now going into these units than are coming out; and half are still on anti-psychotic drugs or subject to physical restraint. Change will only happen with real leadership, but in answer to a parliamentary question, the Minister said he had not even met one of his colleagues at the Department for Communities and Local Government. He must now set a clear, non-negotiable deadline to end this practice in two years’ time and to secure public commitments from the Health Secretary, the Communities and Local Government Secretary and NHS England’s chief executive to make sure it happens.
I caution against sanctimony, because this scandal continued under the last Labour Government, who did nothing to get people out of institutional care. At least this Government are absolutely committed to changing that. What we discovered is that changing the culture is a lot more difficult than I had hoped, but we are absolutely determined to achieve the change, which is so necessary.
Mental Health (Parity of Esteem)
Our mandate to NHS England requires measurable progress in achieving parity of esteem by March 2015. Parity will involve extending and ensuring better access to talking therapies, in particular for children, young people and those out of work. Progress towards better access to these services has been good.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. What further measures will be taken to improve access to specialist perinatal mental health services to deal with problems such as post-natal depression, and will we see measurable objectives on that in the NHS mandate?
We had a very good round table discussion about this with leaders from around the country last week. What emerged is that fantastic progress is being made in many places, but it is not uniform. There needs to be a concerted effort to ensure that mothers get access to the same specialist treatment wherever they live across the country, and we are determined to achieve that.
21. The all-party group on suicide prevention has been looking at the money going into suicide prevention as a result of the Government’s suicide prevention plan. It is acknowledged by most local authorities that there is more money for mental health, but suicide has been rolled into mental health and there is a distinct lack of support for those who are suicidal but do not have a diagnosable mental health problem. What does the Minister intend to do about that? (904869)
The hon. Lady raises an important point, which she and I have discussed before: the fact that very many people who end up taking up their own lives have had no contact at all with statutory services. I would be happy to discuss further with her what additional steps we can take to ensure that those people get the support they need.
I am delighted to see all the members of the Front-Bench team in their places this morning—or this afternoon, I should say. The principle of parity of esteem should also apply to consent to treatment. Does the Minister agree that the offer of talking therapies and other therapies must always be based on the principle of informed consent? Has he held any discussions with his colleagues in other Departments?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. It seems to me to be inherent in the nature of therapy that people go into it willingly. The idea that we could frogmarch them into therapy against their will simply would not work. We could end up with a dangerous and costly tick-box exercise that achieved nothing, so there is no plan to introduce compulsion to access therapy.
I listened carefully to what the Minister said in answer to the Chair of the Health Committee, the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), but will he confirm that there is no truth to reports that the Government are considering plans that would mean that people with mental illness would have their benefits stopped if they refused treatment? Rather than people refusing treatment, are not the increasing shortage of beds and ever longer treatment delays under this Government the real reasons why people are not receiving the help that they desperately need?
I can confirm, as I already have done, that there is no truth in the rumour. Indeed, in August we anticipate publishing the start of trial programmes to bring together IAPT—improving access to psychological therapies—with Jobcentre Plus. The idea of ensuring that people who are out of work and have mental health problems get access to psychological therapies is incredibly important, and I am very excited about the pilots that we will launch in August.
Food Prices (Public Health)
The Government monitor trends in food prices. We are obviously aware that for some families money is tight, but that is one of the reasons why in my area—public health—we are investing in programmes such as Change4Life. Public Health England has done a great job with Change4Life. Since its launch, more than 1.9 million families have joined, and the Meal Mixer app, for example, has been downloaded more than 1 million times and contains hundreds of quick, healthy and affordable family recipes.
I thank the Minister for that response. Some of the things that she mentioned involve people being in a position to make choices about the food that they buy, and we know the extent of food poverty is such that many people do not have the luxury of being able to do that. Is the Minister aware of the Trussell Trust and Oxfam report, which warns that people in food poverty are buying lower quality food and less food overall, giving rise to a real problem of malnutrition in children?
I am sure that, like me, the hon. Lady welcomes the news this morning that food price inflation is at an annual rate of 0%, so food prices are at the same level as last year. On the issue that she raises, that is exactly why programmes such as Change4Life are important. It is also important that we see other measures across government. The school food plan is important for its emphasis on nutrition, as are free school meals and the Healthy Start programme. The Government are doing lots of things to try to make it easier for less well-off families to eat healthily.
Will the Minister applaud the work of Colin Kaye in my constituency, who, on his own farm, is producing cheap, good quality food to help reduce the cost of food so that people can eat more healthily and have lower food bills?
11. What progress his Department is making on improving the performance of failing hospitals. (904859)
The new special measures regime for failing hospitals is designed to introduce honesty and transparency for hospitals in difficulty. The new chief inspector of hospitals will report later this week on progress in the first year. I am sure that the whole House will welcome the fact that the new regime has made really encouraging progress.
Medway NHS Foundation Trust is not in my constituency, but is used by many of my constituents. It was announced last week that Medway is to remain in special measures because of the inadequacies of its A and E department. What steps can my right hon. Friend take to ensure that Medway receives the help needed to improve the service it provides to my constituents?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He is right that the chief inspector raised concerns about some issues that persist at Medway. It is important to praise the staff for the progress that they have made in the past year. We have put in place 113 more nurses, the Bernard dementia unit, which has made some really good progress, and a twinning arrangement with University Hospitals Birmingham, which is one of the best in the country. There are some encouraging signs. I wish to reassure him and his constituents that we will stop at nothing to ensure that we turn that hospital around
The former chief executive of Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Phil Morley, left his post suddenly just before the publication of a very poor Care Quality Commission report, leaving behind a culture of bullying in the trust. Is the Secretary of State as surprised as I am that he has now been appointed chief executive of a hospital in Essex?
I do not know the details of the individual case, and it would not be right for me to comment. However, what I will say is that we have changed the rules to prevent people who are responsible for poor care from popping up in another part of the system. From now on, when trusts appoint people to boards, they can check their prior records on a central database administered by the CQC. Let me tell the hon. Lady that we are absolutely determined to change the culture in the NHS so that we stamp out the bullying and intimidation that were such a factor for so many doctors and nurses for many years.
23. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the management and staff of Basildon hospital who have worked hard to turn the hospital around so that it is now rated as good? Will he confirm that his Department will continue to support it so that the hospital can carry on making progress?
I am delighted with the progress that has been made under Clare Panniker’s leadership. The hospital now has 241 more nurses, and the first maternity unit in the country to be rated as outstanding. My hon. Friend will want to know why it is that when there was a CQC report under the previous Government, it was sat on for six months and nothing was done.
19. In 2005, Littlehampton’s community hospital was demolished to make way for a new community hospital. Weeks later, the plans were put on hold because community hospitals went out of vogue. Sussex Community NHS Trust now wants to increase the number of in-patient beds at community hospitals. Will the Secretary of State ensure that NHS Property Services rebuilds Littlehampton community hospital to deliver those beds where they are needed? (904867)
That is not actually a matter for NHS Property Services Ltd; it has to be locally driven. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right that we need to enhance community care services, whether in community hospitals or through services delivered at home. My hon. Friend has a high proportion of older people in his constituency and the transformation will be incredibly important for all his constituents.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s statement today on the establishment of safe staffing levels on hospital wards? He will be aware that I have been campaigning on the matter for many years. The 1:8 ratio is certainly not a target but a baseline against which safe staffing and patient care can now be measured.
I welcome what NICE has done today, because it is incredibly important that we end the scandal of short-staffed wards in our NHS, which was a feature for many years under Governments of both parties. The lesson of Mid Staffs is that the oldest and most vulnerable patients, such as people with dementia, can be forgotten when a hospital is under pressure, so NICE’s guidance will be welcomed and useful. It is important to say that it can save money, because nothing is more expensive than unsafe care.
NHS Trust Deficits (England)
12. What recent advice he has received on NHS trust deficits in England. (904860)
We have regular conversations with the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor about the provider sector. For 2014-15, the TDA, NHS England and Monitor are establishing a joint package of support and financial improvement measures for some of the weakest local health economies.
Even if the Department were able to achieve every possible efficiency saving, both Monitor and the King’s Fund are forecasting a substantial deficit in next year’s budget. What is the Department’s policy response to that? I understood that the Secretary of State ruled out charging in answer to an earlier question, so that leaves either applying more money to the problem or restricting the service.
The right hon. Gentleman asks a valid question about how to make efficiency savings. Under the previous Government, there was a requirement in 2009 to make £20 billion of NHS efficiency savings during this Parliament, which is being delivered at £4 billion a year. Improving procurement practice at hospitals, improving estate management, greater energy efficiency measures, ensuring more shared business services in the back office and reducing bureaucracy are all measures that will continue to ensure that the NHS meets the challenge and frees up more money for front-line patient care.
Stafford hospital has struggled with deficits for many years, but it has substantially improved its care. On Friday, however, it was announced that 58 beds will be closed due to staff shortages. My constituents and others are extremely concerned that the trust special administrator’s plans, which the Secretary of State endorsed, to keep A and E, acute medicine and many other services at Stafford are at risk. Will the Minister reassure them and staff that that is absolutely not the case and that the TSA’s plans will be enacted as a minimum?
The most important thing in delivering local services is to ensure high-quality patient care and patient safety, so I would want the TSA’s plans to be delivered as quickly as possible to ensure that high-quality services are delivered locally and that patients’ best interests are protected.
13. What steps he is taking to improve care for people affected by stroke. (904861)
Mortality from stroke has fallen by over 40% in recent years. Awareness of stroke symptoms is being raised through the Act FAST campaign. The strategic clinical networks are sharing best practice in stroke care by, for example, working with commissioners and providers to improve stroke rehabilitation services.
I thank the Minister for that reply. Effective stroke care is extremely difficult to deliver in my county of Herefordshire, because patients are often scattered and inaccessible and the necessary treatment is highly time-critical. What are the Government’s plans to protect and enhance stroke care in rural communities, especially at Hereford hospital?
My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point. I have the same experience in my county of Norfolk. Clinical commissioning groups are responsible for commissioning stroke care. The Herefordshire CCG is working with Wye Valley NHS Trust to improve the quality of stroke services and is seeking to establish a sustainable, hyper-acute service in the county, and it is clearly necessary that that is achieved.
Emotional and psychological support after stroke can be just as important as physical care, yet many patients do not get the care they need even though research shows that investment in this area can not only benefit patients but save the NHS money in the long run. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that all stroke survivors get the right emotional and psychological support after stroke?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The cardiovascular disease outcomes strategy, which was published last year, acknowledges the importance of access to psychological therapies. Indeed, there is some really innovative work going on. A psychiatrist called Andre Tylee in London is doing work with heart patients, bringing in psychological therapies and improving their physical as well as their mental health outcomes, and the hon. Lady is absolutely right to make the case for that.
National Dementia Strategy
Dementia is one of the most important issues we face at the moment and we are having detailed discussions with stakeholders about the best way to ensure that the very successful Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia continues into the next Parliament.
I am grateful for that answer and have no doubt that the continuation of the challenge is very important, but both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have told the House from the Dispatch Box that there will be a successor to the national dementia strategy. My question was very straightforward. Is there a timetable for delivering that strategy, given that the current strategy ends this year?
I should clarify for my right hon. Friend that the Prime Minister’s challenge was a successor to the national dementia strategy. The Prime Minister’s challenge finishes at the end of this Parliament and that is why we are having discussions about what should succeed it, because we all have an interest in ensuring that we maintain the tremendous momentum of the past few years.
Healthy Child Programme
16. What assessment he has made of the adherence by NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups to the healthy child programme (a) in general and (b) in respect of the provision of perinatal mental health services. (904864)
NHS England commissions the healthy child programme and the NHS England mandate includes an objective to reduce the incidence and impact of post-natal depression. NHS England is held to account through its regular assurance processes and we are well on track to deliver an additional 4,200 health visitors by 2015 who will provide individual one-to-one support for women in the post-natal period.
The National Childbirth Trust found that just 3% of clinical commissioning groups have strategies to provide these services and 60% have no plans to put them in place at all. The Minister might be aware that the all-party group on conception to age two, superbly chaired by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), has recently announced an inquiry into factors affecting child development, with the first session last week considering this very issue. In advance of its conclusions, will the Minister give a pre-emptive guarantee that all expectant mothers will have access to perinatal mental health services and that it will not just depend on where they live?
The hon. Lady makes a very important point. We know the importance of good perinatal mental health not just for the mother but for the life chances of the child. That is very important if we are to ensure that we get the commissioning of maternity services right in the future. There is a commitment in the Health Education England mandate that by 2017 all maternity units will have specialist perinatal mental health staff available to support mums with perinatal mental health problems.
T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. (904873)
I am pleased to tell the House that on 19 June the Prime Minister hosted a very successful global dementia summit as a follow-up to the G8 dementia summit. We are currently diagnosing and treating 70,000 more people every year with dementia, but the big challenge is, as he set out at the G8 summit, finding a cure or disease-modifying therapy by 2025. We had useful discussions on what barriers need to be eliminated to ensure that the research happens to find such a cure.
I know that discussions are going on on that very topic and the CCGs are very interested in putting a hyper-acute stroke service at Southend hospital, which I know has excellent stroke services. We still need further improvements in the ambulance services for the east of England if we are going to do that and that is what we are currently discussing.
I shall begin by congratulating the Health Secretary on surviving the massacre of the moderates. This was no real surprise for those of us on the Opposition Benches, however, because we know that his real views on the NHS are anything but moderate. On his watch, there has been more privatisation and now there is an accelerating postcode lottery. Today, the Royal College of Surgeons has revealed that some people waiting for hip replacements are being denied treatment that is available elsewhere because of arbitrary pain thresholds that are so harsh in places that people must be in severe debilitating pain before they can be treated. This is in direct contravention of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance. Will the Secretary of State today condemn the fact that people are being denied treatment in that way, and act immediately to end the practice?
Of course it is absolutely right that people should follow NICE guidance, including all clinical commissioning groups, but if the right hon. Gentleman looks at what has happened over the past four years, he will see that we are treating more people, not fewer, with 6,000 more people getting their knees replaced and 9,000 more getting their hips replaced every year. That is possible only because we have 7,000 more doctors in the NHS because we took the difficult decision to get rid of the primary care trusts. Will he now accept that he was wrong to oppose those reforms and wrong to put politics before patients?
The Secretary of State says that CCGs should be following NICE guidance, but they are not. Seven out of 10 are not following that guidance, and people who are waiting for operations today will be left in pain because he is not acting. The truth is that the reorganisation has resulted in a postcode lottery writ large, and it is worse than we thought, because there is now a proposal in one area to end the provision of hearing aids on the national health service. That is totally unacceptable. Action on Hearing Loss warns that that would set a dangerous national precedent, leaving millions unable to live their lives. So, no ifs, no buts—will he condemn that proposal now and guarantee that patients will not be forced to pay for hearing aids on his watch?
I make it absolutely clear that everyone should follow NICE guidance. As the right hon. Gentleman has talked about the reorganisation, will he please accept that we are now doing 850,000 more operations on the NHS every single year? That means that more people are getting help with their hearing, their hips and their knees, and with all the other things that they need. He bitterly opposed that reorganisation, but he must now realise that he was wrong to oppose it then and he is wrong to oppose it now.
T2. I recently had the pleasure of meeting my constituents Susan Childs and Doreen Smulders, who raised the issue of the inequalities that exist for men with prostate cancer. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what steps are being taken to address the shortfalls in care and support that such men are receiving across the country? (904874)
My hon. Friend is right to suggest that we want to drive consistency across the country, and NHS England is taking great notice of the cancer patient experience survey in a number of areas of cancer care. It has been a real driver of change where it has identified variation. I am sure he will welcome the fact that the overall range of variation for many indicators relating to prostate cancer has narrowed. None the less, we want to see NHS England working with NHS Improving Quality—NHS IQ—and others to ensure that struggling organisations are brought up to the standards of the best. The survey is a good way of driving that.
T3. Since 2010, the percentage of patients who say that they can see their GP within 48 hours has halved from 80% to 40%. Given the pressure on the NHS, and especially on accident and emergency services, will the Secretary of State explain why the Government’s reforms are threatening to close 98 surgeries around the country, including five in Tower Hamlets? Will he publish the full list today? (904875)
Let me gently explain to the hon. Lady that she has excellent GP provision in Tower Hamlets, led by Dr Sam Everington. It is a model of what can happen under the Government’s reforms. The way in which we are going to make it easier for people to see their GP is with additional capacity. We have 1,000 more GPs during this Parliament, and we have achieved that only because we took the difficult decision to get rid of 19,000 managers, which was bitterly opposed by the hon. Lady and the Labour party.
T4. Now that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has concluded its consultation on the use of generic asthma inhalers by schools in cases of emergency when a child does not have his or her own inhaler, will my hon. Friend update the House on the next steps? In particular, does she expect schools to be allowed to keep these inhalers in the new school year? (904876)
I congratulate my hon. Friend on her great campaigning on this issue, and on the really good results that she has had. As she says, we have recently consulted on changing the regulations under the Medicines Act 1968 to allow schools to hold inhalers in the way that she has described. There was overwhelming support for such a change, and we will lay the necessary statutory instrument this week to enable the change to come into force on 1 October.
T6. On nurse-patient staffing ratios, it has been reported in the Health Service Journal that out of 139 trusts surveyed, 119 failed to fill their registered day nurse hours, 112 failed to fill their registered night nurse hours and 105 failed to fill their registered nurse hours across day and night. Is it not time for Ministers and NICE to state straightforwardly that a ratio of one nurse to eight patients or better is the only way for patient safety? (904878)
NICE has taken the sensible decision to issue its guidance. It does so independently, but we are not making it mandatory on the advice of the chief nursing officer and many other chief nurses across the country for the simple reason that if we have a mandatory minimum, that can become the maximum that trusts invest in and many wards need more than 1:8. That is why NICE’s guidance was so important today.
T5. The Chavasse report on improving care for members of the armed services and veterans builds on the improvements that we have already made and has been welcomed by the Department of Health and indeed the Ministry of Defence. We owe it to our armed services to carry on making improvements to their care, so will the Minister encourage NHS England to look favourably on its recommendations? (904877)
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of the Chavasse report. Its focus on improving care for veterans is warmly welcomed. There is a lot that we can work with to deliver better care and build on the specialist care centres already in place for veterans who have lost limbs and need prosthetic services and to provide additional support for veterans with mental health problems.
May I remind the Secretary of State that it takes seven years to train a doctor and most of the doctors he boasts about were trained under a Labour Government? What is he doing about the disparity between GPs surgeries and the service that they offer? Some months ago I made some visits in Coventry and I was amazed by the difference in the levels of service.
It does take seven years to train a GP, but we also have to have an NHS that is able to pay for GPs when they are trained. That is why it was so important to take the difficult decision to reduce the amount of money that we spend on back-office and management costs. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is too much disparity in the services offered by different GPs. That is something that the chief inspector of general practice is thinking about, and he will publish his plans shortly.
T8. From my regular discussions with local GPs in Swindon, I know that the reasons behind recruitment issues are often complex and localised. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that those responsible for commissioning GP services will place daily access to general practitioners at the heart of their considerations? (904880)
I know that they do that, and I know that people recognise that access is a critical issue. That is why the Prime Minister introduced a £50 million fund last year that has been taken up by 1,100 of the 8,000 surgeries across the country to improve access in evenings, at weekends and by e-mail and Skype. I hope that those will benefit his constituents.
SSP Health runs a number of GP practices in my constituency and across Merseyside. When it took over, it promised full-time GPs and an improvement in services, yet after well over a year several of the practices are still run by locums. We have seen vulnerable, elderly people unable to get appointments for many days, if not weeks, and those who can have gone to other practices. Will the Secretary of State look at what is going on with SSP Health in and around Merseyside and give me and other hon. Members an answer?
T9. Given that last year, more than 7,500 people with a mental health crisis found themselves in police cells rather than anywhere appropriate such as a hospital, given that 263 of those people were children and young people, and given that they stayed for 10 and a half hours in a police cell, is it not time that we took the evidence of street triage, which we know works, and rolled it out across the country? (904881)
The fascinating thing is that street triage is spreading across the country because forces and mental health trusts see the enormous value of it. The really exciting news is the significant reduction in the number of people who end up in police cells. That is in part due to the standards that we set through the crisis care concordat for the first time for mental health crisis care.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to getting rid of as much bureaucracy as possible, so will he look into what is happening with NHS England in south Yorkshire that is delaying approval for a much-needed GP surgery in my constituency? Given that it is in partnership with the local authority, the delay risks us losing the surgery altogether.
T10. Is my hon. Friend aware that nurses are paying an extra £200 a month and patients an extra £40 a week for ever-increasing hospital car parking charges? Will he look into the problem, meet me and do everything he can to end the great hospital car parking rip-off? (904882)
I share my hon. Friend’s concerns that the car park charges in some hospitals are just too high. I understand that hospitals have financial pressures, as do many parts of the system, but I am happy to talk to him on another occasion about what specifically can be done on this issue.
Annually 30,000 applications for funeral payments are rejected, leaving families committed to expensive funerals that they cannot afford. People who are approaching end of life are not advised, as part of their palliative care, about planning for funeral costs or their eligibility for support. What is the Secretary of State going to do to remedy this?
The Secretary of State will be aware of the campaign run by the Milton Keynes Citizen, my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Mark Lancaster) and myself for an expanded A and E department at Milton Keynes hospital. What assurances can he give me that A and E services at the hospital will be able to meet the needs of an expanding population?
No one could have campaigned harder than my hon. Friend and his hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Mark Lancaster) for improving the services at their local A and E department. A consultation is currently taking place. There is no question of closing both A and Es in that area, and I understand that a very good capital bid for £2 million for his local A and E has been put in which, subject to the usual value-for-money requirements, looks like it is very strong.
My constituent, 81-year-old Rita, was taken seriously ill on holiday and had to spend two weeks in hospital. She was discharged with a letter saying that she needed very urgent surgery, but has had to wait five weeks before she even sees a consultant, let alone getting any treatment. What can the Secretary of State do for Rita and others like her?
We are working extremely hard to make sure that people do not have those long waits. We are doing about 3.5 million more diagnostic tests, for example, every year in the NHS than four years ago. I am happy to look into the individual case and see what lessons can be learned and to see whether we can help the hon. Lady’s constituent.
No, that is entirely unacceptable. What we see in some of the best parts of the country such as Torbay, one of the integrated care pioneers, is that they are completely integrating mental health with primary care, delivering better results for patients. The sort of attitude that my hon. Friend describes has to end.
There is lots of evidence to show that chronic traumatic encephalopathy is now a major cause of depression, dementia and in many cases suicide, but the World cup showed that many sporting bodies are still not taking concussion seriously enough. Will the Minister, perhaps with colleagues in other Departments, bring in all the sporting bodies, the doctors and the teachers so that we can take concussion in sport seriously?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. As we commission NHS services, it is increasingly important that there is more focus on sports injury and rehabilitation, not just in relation to our elite sports people, but in relation to those people who play sport regularly at weekends, to ensure that they are properly looked after. If it would be helpful, I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the matter further and see how we can take it forward.
Protective Headgear for Cyclists Aged Fourteen Years and Under (Research) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Annette Brooke presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to commission research into the merits of requiring cyclists aged fourteen years and under to wear protective headgear; to report to Parliament within six months of the research being completed; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 September, and to be printed (Bill 74).
Amenity Land (Adoption by Local Authorities) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Annette Brooke presented a Bill to amend section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to allow local authorities to adopt areas of amenity land which are unregistered or vested in the Crown, for the purposes of maintenance; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 September, and to be printed (Bill 75).
Sugar in Food and Drinks Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Geraint Davies, supported by Jeremy Lefroy, Mr Mark Williams, Mrs Madeleine Moon, Mrs Linda Riordan and Dr Julian Lewis, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to set targets for sugar content in food and drinks; to provide that sugar content on food and drink labelling be represented in terms of the number of teaspoonfuls of sugar; to provide for standards of information provision in advertising of food and drinks; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 7 November, and to be printed (Bill 76).
Tyres (Buses and Coaches)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to introduce limits on the age of tyres on buses and coaches; and for connected purposes.
The Bill would make it an offence to operate a public service vehicle with tyres that are 10 or more years old, give the traffic commissioners power of sanction and enforcement in this regard, and make it a requirement of the annual vehicle test that the age of tyres be checked and recorded.
Governments of all persuasions have presided over exponential improvements to the safety of passengers and road traffic users over many decades. Since the introduction of seat-belt legislation in the early 1980s up to the present day, there has been a 70% reduction in fatalities on our roads, and changes to the law of the land made in this place have been a significant contributory factor in forcing advancements in road safety, resulting in such a massive reduction in deaths, but sometimes, as in the case of seat-belt regulations, it takes a long time for Parliament finally to act.
When I was a teenager, public information films warned drivers not to mix crossply and radial tyres, and vehicle awareness has improved considerably in the intervening two decades, to the point where people are now more aware of ensuring that their car tyres are regularly checked and inflated to the recommended pressure. There are checks on the condition of tyres on buses and coaches, but many people will probably be shocked to learn that there are no age restrictions at all for tyres used on public service vehicles.
Why should the age of a tyre matter? Technological improvements under development have the potential radically to improve tyre wear, so some might ask whether there is a need for legislation that limits the age of tyres on PSVs. Even within the industry itself there is an ongoing debate regarding tyre decrepitude, with some arguing that modern advancements make an age restriction on a tyre unnecessary, while a great proportion of experts contend that it will be many years before technology can routinely be deployed in a way that would accurately predict the inner conditions of a tyre and negate the need for a tyre age restriction. That is the real issue today. While a tyre might look in perfectly good condition from an external visual check, and its tread be within the legal limits, that does not guarantee the condition of the whole tyre, nor give an accurate representation of the levels of danger that it poses to drivers and passengers.
Ahead of introducing the Bill, I have received support from Merseyside fire and rescue service, Kwik Fit and the National Tyre Distributors Association. I have also consulted other bodies, such as the British Tyre Manufacturers Association, which has provided information on non-destructive testing systems and real time in situ reporting. There are differences of approach to the issue, but the one thing that all parties have in common is the desire to ensure that passengers are transported on the safest tyres possible.
The Bill has three purposes: to raise awareness of tyre safety on buses and coaches, to promote consumer education on tyre ageing, and to improve road safety. According to the latest Department for Transport estimates, the last year our buses travelled roughly the same distance as a round trip to the moon—380,000 times. Between 2008 and 2012, the latest period for which figures are available, on average nearly 200 people were injured every week, and nearly 90 people were killed every month on our buses. Those figures are far too high, but it should be noted that not all of these accidents are solely caused by the age of tyres, and that is part of the problem. Due to the methodology of data capture, it is not possible accurately to estimate how many people needlessly die on our roads in accidents caused specifically by the age deterioration of tyres.
However, we know that in September 2012, as a coach was journeying back to the north-west along the A3, a fatal crash occurred in which two passengers and the driver were tragically killed. During the inquest into the deaths of Michael Molloy, Kerry Ogden and Colin Daulby, the coroner found that the primary cause of the crash was the age of the tyre on the front wheel axle. Michael’s mother—a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle)—has become a courageous campaigner on the issue. The tyre in question was 19 and a half years old. Despite appearing to be in good condition externally, the dilapidation of its structure was such that it burst at speed, and three lives were lost as a result.
Fire chiefs have since made it clear to me, and to Michael’s mother, that the Bestival crash, as it has become known, was not an isolated incident and that the age of tyres is a regular factor in road traffic accidents involving buses and coaches. That means that even if a bus or coach is not operational every day for 10 years, and even if there are lengthy gaps in the vehicle’s use, a degree of dilapidation still occurs and the risk factors continue to increase simply because of its age.
There is an additional element to consider: climate change. My Bill will ensure that the law reflects the dangers that variations in British climatic conditions pose to road safety. Due to extreme environmental considerations, the degradable nature of coach and bus tyres is, according to experts, likely to accelerate, thus increasing the dangers associated with tyre age. I know that some Government Members might believe that it is not for Parliament to intervene in such matters, but I simply point to the unnecessary loss of life as a counter-argument to any accusations that this is the nanny state gone mad.
The Bill will offer road users and passengers a double guarantee with regard to safety. The primacy of the conditionality regulations will remain in place. In other words, all tyres on buses and coaches will have to continue to satisfy the use and construction regulations. However, at 10 years of age the tyres will have to be replaced, at least until technological advances are such that a tyre’s internal condition can be inspected to the same degree of accuracy as can its external condition.
However, although the Bill aims to put a limit of 10 years on existing tyres, I recognise that research and development is an ongoing process. The Bill would not be a barrier to that R and D and would act as a catalyst for the introduction of advanced manufacture. If the industry could demonstrate that a bus or coach tyre had been developed that was demonstrably safe beyond 10 years of age, the age restriction within the limits of the Bill could easily be increased in line with those guarantees and the supporting scientific evidence. However, the industry acknowledges that it is not there yet, so 10 years is a reasonable restriction at present.
Turning to monitoring and enforcement, my Bill will make it a requirement for the age of a tyre to be checked and recorded at the annual passenger vehicle test; at the moment, only its tread and external condition are considered. That will ensure that operators are aware of the age of the tyres on all their vehicles and, by extension, that they are aware of the risks posed by an ageing tyre to the safety of their passengers. It would also afford them the opportunity to plan the phased renewal of tyres reaching the end of their shelf life. Additionally, if a bus or coach operator continued to use tyres that were more than 10 years old, the traffic commissioners would have the power either to revoke or to limit their licence.
There are plenty of other rubber-related products that people would be rightly cautious about trusting if they knew that they were decades old, so why would anybody trust their safety to a 20-year-old tyre? I suspect that people would be extremely sceptical about allowing their child to ride to school on a bus with tyres that were probably manufactured before their child was born. Not only is that potentially the case, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that there are tyres more than twice the age of the children they are transporting. That is simply wrong.
As many Members present will attest, deterioration is a consequence of age. We should no longer allow deteriorating tyres to compromise our safety on the roads, which is why I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Steve Rotheram, Helen Jones, Bill Esterson, Derek Twigg, Ian Lavery, Pamela Nash, Mr Dennis Skinner, Dame Anne Begg, Mr George Howarth, Kerry McCarthy, Mrs Louise Ellman and Mark Hendrick present the Bill.
Steve Rotheram accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 November, and to be printed (Bill 77).
Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (Business of the House)
I beg to move,
That the following provisions shall apply to the proceedings on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill:
(1) (a) Proceedings on Second Reading and in Committee, any proceedings on Consideration, and proceedings on Third Reading shall be completed at today’s sitting in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph.
(b) Proceedings on Second Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) at 5.00pm.
(c) Proceedings in Committee and any proceedings on Consideration shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) at 9.00pm.
(d) Proceedings on Third Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) at 10.00pm.
Timing of proceedings and Questions to be put
(2) When the Bill has been read a second time:
(a) it shall, despite Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order), stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put.
(b) proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed while the Question is put, in accordance with Standing Order No. 52(1) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills), on any financial resolution relating to the Bill.
(c) on the conclusion of proceedings on any financial resolution relating to the Bill, proceedings on the Bill shall be resumed and the Speaker shall leave the Chair whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.
(3) (a) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee, the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.
(b) If the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.
(4) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (1), the Chairman or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others) in the same order as they would fall to be put if this Order did not apply:
(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;
(c) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown;
(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded.
(5) On a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
(6) If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph (4)(c) on successive amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Chairman or Speaker shall instead put a single Question in relation to those amendments or Motions.
(7) If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph (4)(d) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chairman or Speaker shall instead put a single Question in relation to those provisions, except that the Question shall be put separately on any Clause of or Schedule to the Bill which a Minister of the Crown has signified an intention to leave out.
Consideration of Lords Amendments
(8) (a) Any Lords Amendments to the Bill may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.
(b) Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (a) shall thereupon be resumed.
(9) (a) This paragraph applies for the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (8).
(b) The Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question already proposed from the Chair.
(c) If that Question is for the amendment of a Lords Amendment the Speaker shall then put forthwith:
(i) a single Question on any further Amendments to the Lords Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown, and
(ii) the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House agrees or disagrees to the Lords Amendment or (as the case may be) to the Lords Amendment as amended.
(d) The Speaker shall then put forthwith:
(i) a single Question on any Amendments moved by a Minister of the Crown to a Lords Amendment, and
(ii) the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House agrees or disagrees to the Lords Amendment or (as the case may be) to the Lords Amendment as amended.
(e) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House disagrees to a Lords Amendment.
(f) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question that this House agrees to all the remaining Lords Amendments.
(g) As soon as the House has:
(i) agreed or disagreed to a Lords Amendment; or
(ii) disposed of an Amendment relevant to a Lords Amendment which has been disagreed to,
the Speaker shall put forthwith a single Question on any Amendments that are moved by a Minister of the Crown and are relevant to the Lords Amendment.
(10) (a) Any further Message from the Lords on the Bill may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.
(b) Proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (a) shall thereupon be resumed.
(11) (a) This paragraph applies for the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (10).
(b) The Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has been proposed from the Chair.
(c) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the Question already proposed from the Chair.
(d) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown on or relevant to any of the remaining items in the Lords Message.
(e) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question that this House agrees with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Proposals.
(12) (a) The Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the appointment, nomination and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the appointment of its Chair.
(b) A Committee appointed to draw up Reasons shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.
(c) Proceedings in the Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion 30 minutes after their commencement.
(d) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with sub-paragraph (c), the Chair shall:
(i) first put forthwith any Question which has been proposed from the Chair, and
(ii) then put forthwith successively Questions on Motions which may be made by a Minister of the Crown for assigning a Reason for disagreeing with the Lords in any of their Amendments.
(e) The proceedings of the Committee shall be reported without any further Question being put.
(13) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply so far as necessary for the purposes of this Order.
(14) (a) The proceedings on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.
(b) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to those proceedings.
(15) Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.
(16) (a) No Motion shall be made, except by a Minister of the Crown, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken or to recommit the Bill.
(b) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.
(17) (a) No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to proceedings to which this Order applies except by a Minister of the Crown.
(b) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.
(18) The Speaker may not arrange for a debate to be held in accordance with Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) on a day on which the Bill has been set down to be taken as an Order of the Day before the conclusion of any proceedings to which this Order applies.
(19) (a) Sub-paragraph (b) applies if the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the conclusion of any proceedings to which this Order applies.
(b) No notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.
(20) Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
(21) (a) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at 7.00pm, 4.00pm or 2.00pm (as the case may be) on a day on which the Bill has been set down to be taken as an Order of the Day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day.
(b) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before the moment of interruption, for a period equal to the time elapsing between 7.00pm, 4.00pm or 2.00pm (as the case may be) and the conclusion of those proceedings.
(22) At the sitting of the House on Thursday 17th July, the Speaker shall not adjourn the House until–
(a) any Message from the Lords has been received and any Committee to draw up Reasons which has been appointed at the sitting has reported; and
(b) the Speaker has reported the Royal Assent to any Act agreed upon by both Houses.
I will be brief, as I want to leave as much time as possible for the substantive debate on the matters before the House today. I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members appreciate the urgency of the issues contained in the Bill. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made clear in her oral statement last week, it is crucial that we act now to ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the tools they need to keep us safe.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary explained the situation clearly in her statement last week. The judgment was made in April and we have sought clarity on it. Indeed, the pressure brought to bear by other legal challenges and the industry itself has made it necessary to clarify these essential measures and tools relating to the ability of our law enforcement and security services to assure us of our national security and to combat crime. I am sure we will get into those issues in the substantive debate, so I do not want to detain the House too much on them.
My hon. Friend will know that proposed legislation is always given due consideration. No Government embark on fast-track legislation lightly. There is a pressing and urgent need to bring into force the Bill’s measures, to ensure that capabilities that are used day in, day out are maintained and that there is no risk to what are essential facilities for our policing and other enforcement agencies.
Why was there no discussion with parties other than the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives, even on Privy Council terms? For heaven’s sake, if there is an urgency, why keep most of the Opposition in the dark? It is absolutely disgusting, disgraceful and undemocratic.
We have engaged on the purpose and nature of the Bill and there have been discussions across the House. Clearly, there will be an opportunity this afternoon to talk through the issues and consider the Bill. I hope there will be a consensus across the House about the importance of the issues and the need to ensure that we have the legislative framework—the back-up—so that our police and law enforcement agencies can continue to do the job they do today in the way that they have hitherto done it.
My hon. Friend needs to recognise—I am sure he does—the sensitivity and importance of communications data and how they are used for the prosecution of offences, and of interception and how we have reached a tipping point, which is why there is a need for urgent legal certainty and clarification in the light of the European Court judgment. We face two serious and urgent problems relating to both communications data and interception: first, the recent judgment of the European Court of Justice has called into question the legal basis on which we require communications service providers in the UK to retain communications data; and, secondly, the increasingly pressing need to clarify the application of our laws on interception, so that communications service providers that provide services to people in the UK are in no doubt that they are covered by the laws, irrespective of where they are based.
The Home Secretary was rather less than clear at the Home Affairs Committee yesterday, so will the Minister provide clarity? What would happen if instead of passing the Bill now, we passed it in September? Is there a definite risk, and if so, what risk do we definitely face?
There is a risk in relation to co-operation on the use of the powers; indeed, there may be legal challenge. The House must face up to the prospect that the powers we use—they are constantly used by our law enforcement agencies—are at potential risk, and we are seeking to address that risk through the Bill this afternoon.
That is why the Government have decided that a fast-track process is appropriate. We have not done so lightly; we would not consider the Bill in this way unless we thought that there is a real risk to such capabilities. We believe that the issues have reached a dangerous tipping point, and that we must act now. If we do not enact the Bill before the summer recess, we face the real prospect of a serious degradation in the ability of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to investigate crime, preserve national security and protect the public. That is why the Bill requires a fast-track approach.
The motion provides for some nine hours of debate on the Bill. If the House approves the motion, we will move directly to the debate on Second Reading, which will take us to no later than 5 pm. The Committee of the whole House will follow until 9 pm, with the debate on Third Reading concluding no later than 10 pm. The motion also provides for programming of the later stages of the Bill in this House on consideration of Lords amendments.
I fully appreciate the restrictions that today’s timetable imposes. However, given the very specific issue that the House is being asked to consider, we are satisfied that the House—and, in due course, the House of Lords—will have sufficient time to scrutinise the Bill properly. I remind right hon. and hon. Members that the Bill does no more than maintain the status quo, and that it contains a termination provision, meaning that it will lapse at the end of 2016. I welcome Opposition Front Benchers’ continued support for expediting the Bill.
I am sure that we will have plenty of opportunity to discuss the issues of timing and of why we judge it appropriate that the sunset or termination clause is until 2016. We will get to that debate, but simply seeking a limited period would pressurise the House into making substantive decisions without knowing the impact or import of the review that we have asked David Anderson, the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, to inform. The House will have the time and space to consider the issues properly, given that the Bill is simply to maintain the position—the status quo ante—in respect of capabilities for the retention of communications data and interception powers.
I hope that the whole House understands the need for fast-tracking the Bill and will therefore support the motion.
It is a pleasure to speak at the start of what will be a long day’s debate on this important piece of legislation.
I understand why the Minister has tabled the programme motion, but I, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), share some of the concerns about the fact that this problem and challenge first came to light in April, as has been mentioned, when the European Court of Justice struck down the Data Retention (EU Directive) Regulations 2009. I know from my time serving in government that that may not necessarily have come as a surprise to the Government—they may have anticipated such a challenge before April—so since the challenge in April, they have had a considerable time both to prepare a Bill and to introduce one for us to consider in dealing with what I accept is an emergency. In my view, there are good reasons why the legislation must now be passed very quickly, but it is incumbent on the Minister at least to recognise that he could have prepared legislation for the eventuality of the regulations being struck down in the European Court of Justice, and that he could have brought in legislation post-April.
From the new clauses and amendments that we have tabled, the Minister will know that we have some concerns and require some changes. First, we must ensure that provision for a wider review of the Investigation of Regulatory Powers Act 2000 is added to the statute book, with a guarantee that the whole House can understand. Secondly, we must have a regular examination every six months of the operation of any legislation that this House and the other place pass this week. I want to get on to those matters before the day is out, because we will have an opportunity to deal with them today. I am disappointed with the time scales, but the programme motion effectively gives us one and a half days of legislative time to consider such matters. As the Minister said, it is important to get on to discuss those matters.
On the six-month period, I understand that Opposition Front Benchers have accepted the Government’s argument that the Bill will do no more than clarify the previous situation and will not extend the Government’s powers in any way. If we pass the legislation and subsequently have doubts about whether powers have been extended, will it be possible for the six-month review to look at the legislation, or are we stuck with it once we have it? What are Opposition Front Benchers trying to achieve?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue, which is important on two fronts. We have tabled new clause 2 to provide a six-month review, which would be some time in December this year or in January next year. It would look at how the Act passed by this House and the other place had operated up to that time, as well as at other factors that the Minister may have examined following the European Court of Justice’s consideration and the lapsing of the current legislation.
We will then be into a general election campaign, and my hon. Friend will know that in the event of our being elected to government, we will look at some of the wider issues as a matter of course. I hope that we can accept the Government’s understanding of the emergency and help them to cover that emergency, while also leaving scope for looking at how the Act operates in practice. If other new clauses are agreed to today, we would also then be able to consider the wider issues about which I know right hon. and hon. Members have concerns.
Bluntly, investigations into online child sex abuse, major investigations into terrorism and into organised crime, the prevention of young people from travelling to Syria and many issues relating to attempted terrorist activity have depended on and will continue to depend on the type of access that we need through the Bill.
Will the right hon. Gentleman provide some clarification? In the event of a Labour Government —it is very hard to predict what will happen—will he assure us that if the review recommends changes to provide more privacy and civil liberties safeguards, he will want to implement them?
We are currently discussing the programme motion and the allocation of time, and I am trying to indicate to the House—including the hon. Gentleman and, indeed, Ministers—that we will support the motion, even though we are disappointed that there was not an earlier and more thorough examination of the Bill.
We recognise that, in the interests of fighting terrorism, child abuse and serious organised crime, the Government are seeking powers to meet their current obligations in the light of the judgment in April. On this occasion, the Government will have our support, and we hope that there will be an opportunity later today to consider in detail some of the new clauses that we have tabled.
Order. There is no time limit on speeches but, before I call the next speaker, I urge colleagues to bear in mind the interest of other colleagues in speaking in this debate on the business of the House motion and to reflect on the merits of getting on, without undue delay, to the central issues, which may be fully aired on Second Reading until 5 o’clock.
I shall abide by your request, Mr Speaker, and make just two brief comments on the points that have been raised.
First, Members needs to take it into account that the House is presented with emergency legislation in two sets of circumstances. The first is when a Government seek to extend their powers in some area. In such circumstances, the House has every reason to be very sceptical and concerned that it is being done through the medium of emergency legislation. There would have to be really exceptional circumstances to justify new powers of a kind that had not been used before.
We are told today—the House must make a judgment about this—that this is a different kind of emergency legislation, which has been seen in the past. Following a legal judgment, something that was thought to be lawful has potentially ceased to be lawful. The legislation is therefore necessary in order to continue with the status quo. That is, of course, a very different matter.
The second point that I want to make, very briefly, is about the concern over why the legislation was not prepared two or three months ago. It is obvious that there are two reasons. First, there are regulations that were made under the European directive. There is now uncertainty over whether those regulations might be successfully challenged. We therefore need clarification right away. Secondly, it is desirable to have all-party support if possible, particularly because it is emergency legislation. That takes time in the real world, particularly given that the Opposition have, quite reasonably, asked for additional announcements to be made in this area that are not specific to the legislation, but are relevant to it. Those factors point to why this process is not as unreasonable as it might otherwise sound.
I consider this to be an outright abuse of parliamentary procedure. I will certainly vote against the motion, and I hope that a number of hon. Members will do so as well.
Even if one is in favour of what the Home Secretary intends to do, to do it in this manner—to pass all the stages in one day—surely makes a farce of our responsibilities as Members of Parliament. When one considers the issues that are involved, how can one justify saying that the Bill must pass every stage by 10 o’clock? Does that meet our duty and responsibility to our constituents?
We must bear it in mind that, as has been said, the European Court of Justice made the decision in April. It is now July. The theatre of last Thursday—the Cabinet meeting at 8 o’clock, the television conference and the statement by the Home Secretary—was all well staged.
There has been no pre-legislative scrutiny by the Select Committees—none at all. This is the sort of issue that the Home Affairs Committee and other Select Committees that consider human rights should look at in detail. None of that has been done.
Today, we should try to persuade the Government to provide more parliamentary time, whether by extending this sitting or postponing other business, so that we can go through the stages. One thing is absolutely certain: every Member of this House must consider very carefully, if they are in favour of the measure or not, whether it is right and justified to go through all the stages in one day. Is that not a mockery of parliamentary democracy?
To follow on from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), I think that we are looking at a third category: a piece of legislation that is being renewed, but that has fallen into disrepute over the years in which it has been used. That is why this Bill is more important than a simple renewal.
There is an emergency—a legal emergency—but it started on 8 April. It was eminently predictable because, as far back as 2010, the European data protection supervisor said that the data retention directive was
“without doubt the most privacy invasive instrument ever adopted by the EU”.
Data retention has been struck down in Germany and Romania, and there have been difficulties in other countries. The two requests to the European Court of Justice came not from bogus organisations, but from the Irish High Court and the Constitutional Court of Austria. Those were therefore serious revisions and it was entirely probable that we would find ourselves in the situation that we are in today.
Why has it taken three months? Why was the legislation not pre-prepared? Why was the deal with the Labour party not struck in advance? My understanding is that there was an argument inside the Government between the two halves of the coalition. That argument has gone on for three months. What the coalition could not decide in three months, this House has to decide in one day. That seems to me entirely improper.
No, I am going to be very fast and finish on this point.
Parliament has three roles: to scrutinise legislation, to prevent unintended consequences and to defend the freedom and liberty of our constituents. The motion undermines all three and we should oppose it.
In the brief time that we have, I think that I should put it on the record that MPs had only 47 minutes to submit unstarred amendments to the Bill yesterday. Most reasonable people will conclude that Parliament has been insulted by the cavalier way in which a secret deal has been used to ensure that elected representatives are curtailed in their ability to consider, scrutinise, debate and amend the Bill. It is democratic banditry, resonant of a rogue state. The people who put this shady deal together should be ashamed.
I would have thought that our fundamental duty was to protect the freedom of the individual. As it happens, I support the Bill. However, if I may say so politely to the Minister, he owes us a bit more of an explanation when he sums up.
It is fair enough if the Liberal party, with its traditions, has objected to many parts of the Bill. There should have been long arguments and objections. Why can we not just be told about them?
I will finish my point.
If it takes three months to agree to something in the coalition, the Government should come back to us honestly and say, “It has taken all this time. We have finally come to an agreement. Here it is.” What is the urgency? It seems extraordinary that, on a matter as fundamental as the freedom of the individual, we are rushing things so much.
I am very concerned about this rush to legislate because, as we all know, if one legislates in haste, one may well repent at leisure. We are told that there is some urgency. While accepting that at face value, I do not think that limiting our debating time in such a savage way is appropriate.
The Minister, with support from the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), said that the Bill is a continuation of the status quo. It is not. Even at a cursory glance, I found two reasons why that is inaccurate. First, at present, public authorities and public bodies are able to gain access to data for a broad range of reasons. Section 37 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 requires judicial authorisation before local authorities can access communications data. That requirement is absent from the Bill.
Secondly, clause 5 extends the definition of a “telecommunications service”. The explanatory notes to the Bill state that the new definition covers companies that provide
“internet-based services, such as webmail”.
That means that internet service providers—even those based overseas and, hence, outside the UK’s jurisdiction—will be compelled to grant access to data. That is unprecedented. I have no doubt that there will be other examples when we have all had something like an adequate opportunity to look at the draft legislation.
In all honesty, I am appalled at the way in which Parliament is being ridden over roughshod. I repeat the point that I made earlier: the Minister could have come to the minority parties on Privy Council terms and included us in the discussions. It is all very well waving a hand and saying, “It is extremely urgent—security demands it,” but I do not accept that for one minute. I am in this place to scrutinise legislation, not just to listen and be rolled over by it.
Order. Notwithstanding what has been said about the truncated time that has been available for the tabling of amendments, I reiterate what I said yesterday afternoon in response to a point of order from the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), which is that Members will be free to table manuscript amendments for some time to come. If Members wish to do so, I am happy that that should happen, in recognition of the constraints under which they are operating. I hope that that is clear.
I intend to speak only briefly. I think that there is an urgency to passing this legislation, and I have spoken to a number of organisations and companies involved, who confirm there is a problem. I do not think, however, that that case was made by the Minister or by the Home Secretary yesterday at the Home Affairs Committee, and I hope that when summing up the debate they will give us something more to go on so that people can be persuaded that there is an emergency, not just that that is said to be the case.
A couple of comments have suggested that there may have been disagreement in the coalition about how to deal with this issue, and for the record and the interest of the House, I confirm that there is a disagreement. The Home Secretary was clear in her statement that she would like to bring forward the draft Communications Data Bill, which we managed to kill off. There is clear disagreement on that, and I am sure we will continue to explore that matter.
I accept all the concerns about the shortage of time, and I for one would be happy to stay longer into the recess to discuss the Bill. It is worth recognising, however, that when the data retention regulations were brought through this place, a total of no minutes were allocated for debate in this Chamber, and a total of 62 minutes were allocated for debate in Committee. That is what happened when the regulations were originally brought in many years ago, and it is interesting to note who voted for them on that occasion, but now thinks that they are heinous.
I support the timetable motion and will briefly set out why. I have been in the position of having to bring forward emergency legislation. It is never easy, and I am ready to give the benefit of the doubt to the Home Secretary, because she would not have done this without good justification, and neither would my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary remotely have agreed to it without the closest scrutiny of what is being proposed.
I say to my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson), with the usual respect, that I have often thought that there is an inverse relationship between the extravagance of language used, and the strength—or otherwise—of the argument he has made. He was very pretty in his soundbites, but no case has been made as to why this legislation should not be dealt with today; nor have there been arguments in the briefings that suggest substantively for a second why and how the legislation goes beyond what everybody assumed to be the state of the law before the European Court of Justice judgment.
The ECJ judgment took place on 8 April, and those who have had the benefit of burning their brain out by reading it, as I have, will know that it is an incredibly dense text full of confused arguments, and it is not clear on the face of the text exactly what it meant—indeed, lawyers have now had to add glosses to it. Neither was it immediately clear whether or not it would require further amending legislation. That is the reality.
I was the Minister who brought forward the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which was supported across the House. Why? I did so because it strengthened parliamentary and legal scrutiny over the extensive surveillance powers of the state, not the reverse. Secondly, without this emergency legislation, those of us who are concerned to deal with sexual predators and other serious criminals and terrorists—as I know my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East is, along with many others—will see a degradation in the ability of the police and other security agencies to deal with those threats. That is what is at issue. I do not like emergency legislation any more than anybody else, but I prefer it to allowing serious criminals and terrorists to go undetected.
I want to ask a question. It seemed to me that the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) made a perfectly responsible and reasonable speech, and I want to ask the Minister when he sums up the debate whether the Government are minded to make concessions. The Opposition have set out a number of concessions that they would like the Government to consider. Will the Minister confirm whether the Government are minded, during the course of the day, to be prepared to make concessions? If so, perhaps we could move on to Second Reading when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will set out in some detail what concessions we are willing to make to the Opposition, so that the House can debate the detail of the Bill and emerge with the best possible Bill conceivable in the time available.
I want to speak to the timetable motion rather than to the content of the Bill, because it is an insult to the intelligence of the House. The whole House will know that guillotine motions are always undesirable, although increasingly common in recent decades, but to ram through legislation of this significance in a day must be wrong. We have had a Session with a light legislative programme, and for Ministers to come to the House and say, “We’ve only got a day to debate it”, when weeks have passed when we could have given it ample time is, I repeat, an insult to the intelligence of MPs.
The other point that I am afraid is not very pleasant about the way Ministers are handling this matter is their bringing the Bill forward a week before the Session ends. They know perfectly well that the Lords will be disinclined to keep sending it back if it means extending the Session when they will have made their own arrangements, and I believe—I hate to say this because they are all nice people—that those on the Opposition Front Bench have been rolled. All Ministers had to do was to raise in front of them the spectre of being an irresponsible Opposition, and that children will die if they do not vote for the Bill on this timetable, and they succumbed.
As for the Lib Dems—I do not want to sound naive, but their brand has always been that they are the defenders of the nation’s liberties, yet they are colluding with the Government on this guillotine motion. Whatever we think of the content of the Bill, the timetable motion has no justification after an exceptionally light Session and must bring the legislation into disrepute with the wider public, so I will be voting against it this afternoon.
The subject of the Bill is of profound importance to members of the public who care about such matters, and no wonder because it is the paradigmatic example of the conflict between the rights of the individual and the power of the state as enabled by technology. The Bill can be understood only in the context of the very worst crimes that our country and society face, but it is not hysterical for those who flatly oppose these kinds of measures to do so. The very worst crimes in all human history were perpetrated by states against their citizens, and we must be extremely careful about how we allow technology to infringe on our rights. If anybody wishes to see just how important that is, I recommend that they look at the transcript of the trial of Albert Speer at Nuremberg, which I put online with Big Brother Watch some time ago.
In any event, if somebody supports this Bill as an emergency measure, the key problem is that the timetabling will undermine the public’s confidence. Many people across the country think that the state is advancing too far and too fast in putting everybody under surveillance, and banging through this measure so quickly will undermine their confidence further. The Government will have more work to do to win them back, and I very much wish that they had given us far more time to discuss this measure.
You rightly counsel us to be brief, Mr Speaker, and I will be of course, but it is important to challenge the timetable motion, particularly because with this Bill—perhaps above all others—process and content are absolutely connected. There is no justification for rushing through legislation without proper scrutiny and due process. The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) said that he thought there was no reason not to rush it through, but my answer would be that the reason is precisely that of parliamentary sovereignty and the importance of parliamentary scrutiny. That is what we are here to do. The European Court of Justice made its judgment about data retention in the Digital Rights Ireland case three months ago. Since then, no action has been taken to address the implications of that judgment until suddenly a few days before the parliamentary recess—apart, it would seem, from some secret talks that have been basically cooked up between the three big parties to bypass due process when it comes to the fundamental rights of UK citizens.
A number of organisations wrote to the Home Secretary at the time of the ECJ judgment to express the view that the regulations no longer stood, but this elicited a response that they were still legally in force and that service providers had been advised that they should continue to observe the notice obligation set out in the data retention regulations. In other words, the Home Secretary knew this point was coming, yet appears to have turned a blind eye. That she is now seeking to fast-track such controversial legislation is deeply concerning.
I am also worried that the Bill is an attempt to circumvent other legal proceedings, namely a judicial review, happening in this very week, that challenges the legality of the Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009 and could see the regulations declared unlawful by a UK court as well as by the ECJ. Any new regulations could also be subject to judicial review if they do not comply with the Digital Rights Ireland judgment.
As other hon. Members have said, it is outrageous that we have been granted one day in which to debate and scrutinise a Bill of such significance. It is even more outrageous that this is being blamed on a totally manufactured emergency and represented as doing nothing other than maintaining the status quo. That is not accurate. This is a huge power grab under false pretences. Notwithstanding the fact that the status quo has been ruled a breach of fundamental rights, the provisions in the Bill, specifically clause 4, extend the territorial reach of the laws relating to data retention. It brings overseas communication companies providing services within the UK into the scope of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The implications of this are well understood by my constituents in Brighton, who have been lobbying me since last week. As one said, we have democratic process for a reason: to prevent such Bills from becoming law on the basis of a nod and a wink.
Finally, let us also not forget the ECJ judgment that the blanket retention of data is unlawful. Rushing through a Bill in one day is bad enough. To do so while inaccurately claiming that the proposals do nothing more than maintain the status quo is worse, but to do so when the contents of the Bill that do relate to the status quo have been unequivocally judged in breach of the EU’s charter of fundamental rights is nothing short of outrageous.
I recognise the seriousness of the issues covered by the Bill and I understand why the Home Secretary considers it intolerable for us to not address this matter before the House returns from the summer recess in September. However, in considering the timetable motion, we have to consider the other options available to the Government. I hope the Minister will be able to address why he has ruled those options out.
Perhaps the most straightforward way to do that is to consider what would have happened if the Cabinet had not reached agreement on this matter at its emergency meeting on Thursday last week. In that scenario, would the Home Secretary be fuming at not being able to pass the Bill until autumn, or would she have found other means to take the action she considers necessary? Would we be looking at the business of the House for next Monday?
Colleagues will be well aware that we have the traditional end of term debate next Tuesday. I am sure Members covet their speeches in that debate, but they might recognise that for matters of national security and proposed legislation that the Government consider to be an emergency, it might be appropriate to move Tuesday’s business so that we could have more time to debate the Bill. Indeed, colleagues might even consider the necessity of the House rising on Tuesday, when we need to consider the Bill.
If there had been no agreement in the Cabinet last Thursday, I am absolutely certain that the Home Secretary would not have waited until September to pursue the Bill. I am sure that other decisions would have been taken to enable us to consider it next week. If it were the will of the House to have the time to scrutinise the Bill properly, such changes could still be made. That is why the timetable motion is unnecessarily restrictive, not just in the amount of time that Members have to debate these matters, but in terms of the timetable of the various windows of opportunity for proposing alternatives to the Bill.
I hope that in responding to the debate the Minister will tell us why it is not acceptable to give Members next week to consider House of Lords amendments. Forcing them to be considered on Thursday, when they will have been made only on Wednesday, creates an even tighter window for this House. I am not advocating that we should wait until the autumn, but I believe that Ministers should think again about curtailing debate and forcing it to take place on today only, with consideration of Lords amendments on Thursday.
I acknowledge your entreaties to be very brief, Mr Speaker. We would not normally be discussing timetable motions at any length at all, but this goes to the very lifeblood of what Parliament is about.
The Bill has been introduced in a big hurry. There has been no public consultation, no parliamentary scrutiny and very little public debate. It is a major piece of legislation that has global implications for what this country does. It relates to the surveillance of everybody’s telephones, internet and everything else. It is a massive intrusion into people’s lives. The Government are doing a great disservice to Parliament by insisting that we debate the whole of Second Reading by 5 pm, amendments by 9 pm and Third Reading by 10 pm, for the Bill to go to the Lords and come back here again on Thursday all done, and then have a sunset clause that goes on for two years.
This is not an appropriate way for Parliament to be treated and every MP should think very carefully. Why are we here? We have been elected to hold the Executive to account and to scrutinise legislation. This timetable motion is a travesty of what scrutiny of legislation should be about. I, for one, will oppose the timetable motion, so that we have a proper opportunity to scrutinise and debate the Bill.
I want to speak very briefly in support of the comments made by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw). I do not believe that this House has been walked over in a roughshod manner in some sort of North Korean despotic way, as some Members have implied. Honestly, I think that is foolish. I agree with my colleague from Wales, the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd), that there could have been wider consultation on Privy Council terms with some of the smaller parties. There would still have been the same complaints raging from this place, but it should have taken place.
I saw none of the crocodile tears, righteous anger and indignation we have witnessed today when, year after year and decade after decade, four or five Members in this House debated emergency provisions relating to Northern Ireland. Hardly anyone turned up or gave a toss about what was happening, yet those provisions ran roughshod over Northern Ireland. The crocodile tears we have seen today are just that—crocodile tears. I hope we can move on to the substantive motion as quickly as possible.
I do not doubt for an instant the seriousness of the Government’s concerns about their present legislative situation. I also wholeheartedly want to ensure that the police and the prosecuting authorities have the powers they need, so long as they are proportionate, to be able to secure convictions in some cases, such as those mentioned by Ministers. However, I just say very gently to this House that the reason that we developed over centuries a process whereby every piece of legislation has to go through three readings in this House, a Committee stage and a Report stage, with gaps between each of those stages, was that people in the country had a concern about the overbearing power of the Executive over the individual citizen. The Bill is expressly about that relationship—that is all it is about—and that is why we should be very cautious about suspending and concertinaing the process.
The Home Secretary said last week that it was essential to have a fast track. Well, yes, but there are many different ways of having fast tracks. Everything does not need to be done in one day; it could be done over two days, so there could be a proper process of listening to the debate on Second Reading and then tabling amendments, rather than having to table amendments before the debate has taken place. The only reason this is in any sense an emergency is that the Government spent far too long making up their mind on what to do.
When the House of Lords considered in the previous Parliament the process of fast-track legislation, they put forward some serious and sensible suggestions. First, where there is to be fast-track legislation, the Government should, on a standard basis, publish the legal advice that they believe backs up their case. That has not happened in this case. Secondly, there should always be a sunset clause. I accept that there is a sunset clause in the Bill. The sun will take a very long time to set, but none the less that is a matter for us to debate later on. Thirdly, the Lords made it absolutely clear that wherever possible there should be a process of pre-legislative scrutiny. I do not believe that publication of the Bill last Friday in draft form and the Secretary of State appearing at the Home Affairs Committee yesterday was anywhere near adequate pre-legislative scrutiny of this because we are being asked to accept, on face value, the Government’s assurances that this is merely the status quo and that there is no change. We want to be able to test that, which is why I think we should always proceed very reluctantly when we concertina the standard processes that have been with us for centuries and which have stood us in good stead.
Like some other hon. Members, I will be opposing the motion. This House should not be microwaving legislation on to the statute book under the confected urgency about which we have been told. We seem to have had a muddle within Government, a huddle between Government and Opposition and now an attempt to hurry and befuddle Parliament under the guise of various arguments and scares.
The Government may have arguments in favour of legislating in response to the judgment. We still have not heard a proper explanation for why that has not happened before now. The assurances offered by Ministers today that this Bill is simply a carry-on data retention measure—that it is pure continuity with no extension—are not assurances that I can accept. The nature of the Bill’s provisions seems to extend the legislation in a number of areas. Ministers will say that that is simply to clarify but, in effect, it extends the effect and the strength of the existing legislation in ways that go beyond the assurances of Ministers.
Legislation that is the subject of soft consensus without due consideration usually turns out to be poor legislation and, as legislators, we find it hard to take ownership of such legislation in the face of public concern and criticism. Credible legislators in this House should send a clear message to the Government, and offer some assurance to their electorate, that we will not as a legislature be treated in this way. We can do that very simply by voting against the motion.
What we have been asked to do today—to railroad the Bill through Parliament—is, given the sheer importance of what we have been asked to consider, nothing short of outrageous. Let us not forget that we are bringing forward emergency legislation because the European Court of Justice ruled that what the UK Government were doing was unlawful. That alone should at least take two days of debate. The Home Secretary says that this is just business as usual. It is not. There are significant and substantial new powers being added to the Bill, whether that is international ISPs being brought into the frame or whether it is, as we have heard, the inclusion of other webmail services such as Gmail. This should all be properly considered by this House.
What do the public make of this? If we are not getting an opportunity to debate this properly, the public are not getting that opportunity. They expect us to be here to debate these things properly. I do not know about any other right hon. and hon. Member but I have been besieged by members of the public this morning, asking me to come to the debate to make the points that they feel are very contentious and which should be raised. We have something like three hours to debate Second Reading, four hours in total to debate the necessary amendments and one hour for Third Reading. It is an absolute and utter disgrace that we have been asked to do this today.
What about the stitch-up we have between all the main parties? It is not just a question of the minority parties not being consulted on this; our devolved Administrations have not even been given the courtesy of one conversation about this. The Scottish Parliament is responsible for policing, justice and even parts of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Not one conversation about the Bill has taken place with Scottish Ministers. They have had no opportunity to look and consider the Bill. It is an absolute and utter disgrace. I hope that we never, ever do this again on something that is so important, significant and substantial to the people who elect us to the House.
May I say to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) that the Government have had discussions with the Scottish Government in respect of these provisions? What this comes down to is the assurance of security for our citizens in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Government would not be legislating on a fast-track or emergency basis if we did not think that it was necessary. That underpins the approach that we have taken on the motion.
This is about maintaining the status quo. I hope that we will be able to get into that debate and hear the Home Secretary and others, and then get into the line-by-line analysis to show that that is the issue at stake. It is about ensuring that the police and our other agencies are able to do the job that they do day in, day out; using communications data and the interception powers that they have had to ensure that the public are protected.
Yes, this is about responding to a Court judgment and about responding to the uncertainty that that judgement has created, but I say clearly that that judgment did not say that the actions of the Government or of our agencies were unlawful. It was focused on the directive itself, whereas our existing law takes into account a vast array of other issues on human rights matters. We assert, and continue to assert, that the data retention regulations remain in full force and effect. However, the uncertainty and the risk that the judgment has occasioned mean that the Bill is required. Yes, as the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) highlighted, it was a complex judgment. That is why I think it was right for the Government to consider these issues carefully before coming back to the House and to assess the representations made by industry on the uncertainty that the judgment has occasioned.
It is known that the House is able to bring forward fast-track legislation in circumstances where we have had adverse judgments. It is also why, in doing so, there are termination provisions, which the Bill sets out. There is a legal risk here. We believe that it is the responsibility of the Government to protect the public and to guard national security. That is why we are bringing the Bill before the House this afternoon and why we believe the fast track process is needed.
Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
In my statement to the House last Thursday, I made clear the urgent need for narrow and limited legislation on communications data and interception. There is no greater duty for a Government than the protection and security of their citizens when we face the very real and serious prospect that the police, law enforcement agencies and the security and intelligence agencies will lose vital capabilities that they need in order to do their jobs. Communications data—the “who, where, when and how” of a communication, but not its content—and interception, which provides the legal power to acquire the content of a communication, are crucial to fighting crime, protecting children, and combating terrorism.
Communications data can be used to piece together the activities of suspects, victims and vulnerable people. They can prove or disprove alibis. They can identify links between potential criminals. They can tie suspects and victims to a crime scene, and they can help to find a vulnerable person who is at risk of imminent harm. Interception—which can take place only in limited circumstances, and with a warrant authorised by a Secretary of State—can prove vital to the investigation of the activities of suspected terrorists and serious criminals. Without those capabilities, we run the risk that murderers will not be caught, terrorist plots will go undetected, drug traffickers will go unchallenged, child abusers will not be stopped, and slave drivers will continue their appalling trade in human beings.
Will the Home Secretary put some flesh on the bones of what she has said, particularly for the benefit of Northern Ireland, which gives reality to this? I understand that in the past three years more than 300 people have been convicted of serious and organised crimes. Can the Home Secretary confirm that many of them were brought to justice as a result of this very type of intelligence activity?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The use of exactly this sort of data is important not just to the investigation of crime, but to the bringing of criminals to prosecution. Work done by the Crown Prosecution Service has shown that communications data have been used in 95% of serious and organised crime cases, and that that has been important not just to the investigation but to the prosecution. These are important data: they are vital to the fight against crime and the fight against terrorists.
However, as I explained last week, we currently face two immediate problems. First, the recent judgment by the European Court of Justice has called into question the legal basis on which we require communications service providers in the United Kingdom to retain communications data. Secondly, we face the increasingly pressing need to put beyond doubt the legal obligation for communications service providers who supply services to people in the UK to comply with our laws on interception, irrespective of where they are based.
The Home Secretary has, I am sure, been advised that the Bill will be within the continuing scope of European Union law, and that the charter of fundamental rights and the general principles of European law will continue to apply. No doubt she will also understand that the Bill is itself subject to future challenge by the European Court of Justice. I draw attention to my manuscript amendment, which I hope will be selected, and which would remove any doubt about the fact that the Bill, if enacted, will have full effect notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972
I note what my hon. Friend has said, but, having examined the judgment of the European Court of Justice, we believe that UK legislation already complies with many parts of it, and we have specifically ensured that other issues that were not addressed in the judgment are addressed in the Bill.
The Home Secretary says that she has brought the Bill into line with the EU ruling. However, the ruling made it very clear that blanket retention of data was not permissible, and that retention of data must be specific to a threat regarding a group of people or a particular time. It is precisely that blanket retention that has been ruled illegal.
One of the issues that emerged from the ruling of the European Court of Justice was the scope of the data retention directive. The Court believed that it was too broad, and that it was necessary to be more specific about the purposes for which data could be retained. Our legislation was already specific, but we have looked at it again, and we are very clear about its focus in terms of how it will be operated and in terms of its scope. We are addressing the very issue that was raised by the Court.
Both today and last week, the Home Secretary has drawn a distinction between the data and the content. May I suggest to her that reliance on that distinction may not be legally valid in the future? For a start, she has already said that the data are often used to establish or disprove an alibi, and thus to prove someone’s whereabouts. They can be used to establish whether someone banks with a particular bank, or whether someone uses a particular doctor or dentist. I merely suggest to the Home Secretary that, in the world of Facebook and other even more modern ways of messaging, a reliance on the difference between data and content will not stick.
The hon. Gentleman is right in the sense that as technology changes and people use new methods of communication, we need to ensure that our agencies’ capabilities and powers, and the legal framework within which they operate those capabilities and powers, are indeed appropriate in relation to the technology as it develops. For that reason I considered introducing a further communications data Bill in this Parliament, but that is not to be, and it is definitely not what today is about. Today is simply about retaining the status quo.
As for the hon. Gentleman’s main point, the review of the capabilities and powers that are needed against the background of the threat that we face and the correct legislative framework will be important in that regard. It will, I hope, look ahead and ask what legislation the House needs to pass to ensure that we can deal with the environment in which we find ourselves.
Obviously we shall come to that in Committee, but I am happy to say to the House now that I recognise the shadow Home Secretary’s desire to put the review in statute so that there is no question but that it will go ahead. I want to be clear about what the review will cover, and how we can ensure that it does the job that I think we all want it to do in looking at capabilities and powers and setting the right regulatory framework, and does it in a way—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says “Just say yes”, but I do not say yes to an amendment if I do not think that it will deliver technically what everyone wants. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position, “Oh, come on,” but he was one of the Members who earlier stood up and talked about the importance of proper parliamentary process, so I am sure that he would not want to see amendments added to Bills if they did not deliver what everybody wanted them to deliver.
Given the breakneck pace at which MPs have been asked to come here and make decisions on the Bill, it is extraordinary that the Home Secretary cannot stand at the Dispatch Box and say yes or no about an amendment that has been tabled. What is the answer: yes or no? She wants MPs to make decisions today, but she cannot make decisions on amendments.
We have just had an hour-and-a-half debate in which Members have been talking about the importance of parliamentary process. We have a parliamentary process called Committee stage at which amendments to the Bill will be properly considered, and that debate will take place then. I have indicated to the House that I understand the desire of some Members to ensure that the review of the capability and powers that are needed and the regulatory framework is on the statute book to ensure that that does, indeed, take place. David Anderson, the reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, has indicated that he will lead that review and there is widespread support for that given the excellent job he does in his current role. However, I want to make sure that, in looking to ensure we undertake that review, the Bill is drafted in a way that delivers what we all want to be delivered. I would have thought that that was entirely reasonable. That debate will take place at the Committee stage, when the hon. Gentleman will be free to wax lyrical about the nature of the amendment.