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Line 37, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'
Line 46, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 48, at the end insert the words:--
'(4A) notwithstanding paragraphs (2) and (4) above, where more than two committees or sub-committees appointed under this order meet concurrently in accordance with paragraph (4)(e) above, the quorum of each such committee or sub-committee shall be two.--[Mr. Jamieson.]
the Lords Message [12th July] communicating a Resolution relating to Human Rights (Joint Committee), be now considered;
this House concurs with the Lords in the said Resolution; and
the following Standing Order be made:
(1) There shall be a Select Committee, to consist of six Members, to join with the Committee appointed by the Lords as the Joint Committee on Human Rights
Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South): I humbly beg to present this petition to the House. It was collected from the shopworkers of the United Kingdom demanding that more than 2 million of them have the right to enjoy Christmas day as a family day, and signed by 20,000 members of the shopworkers union the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, requesting that the House agree to legislation to protect such workers from having to work on Christmas day.
Ms Candy Atherton (Falmouth and Camborne): I humbly present this petition from 4,000 of my constituents in the Falmouth and Camborne constituency in west Cornwall. The petition calls for a ban on the hunting of wild mammals with dogs.
The Petition of people of the Falmouth and Camborne constituency declares that the hunting of wild mammals with dogs is an example of barbaric cruelty to animals.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons pass legislation to ban this practice immediately.
And the petitioners remain, etc.
Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central): I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this issue on the Adjournment. I hope that I shall not detain my hon. Friend the Minister for too long as I understand that he has a very busy day tomorrow.
I begin by clearing up the issue of whether I have the required consent of Mr. Cotton to release his details this evening as I understand that, perhaps rightly, Ashworth was somewhat reluctant to disclose information without that consent. First, consent has never been an issue in the correspondence that I have exchanged with Ashworth special hospital. Secondly, and perhaps more important, I have arranged for Mr. Cotton's express consent to be obtained and this afternoon he gave his express consent to his information being released as part of this evening's debate. Thirdly, I find the hospital's concern for Mr. Cotton's privacy somewhat touching, bearing in mind the way in which he has been treated over the past couple of years. I shall return to that later in my speech.
Having said that, I appreciate that confidentiality remains an issue and I understand that my hon. Friend will be constrained in his response. However, I hope that he will be able to address some of my concerns. I shall be asking him to look again at Mr. Cotton's rights in relation to his privileges in Ashworth special hospital and, perhaps more important, to look closely at whether Mr. Cotton should remain at Ashworth and whether he is receiving appropriate treatment there. When I talk about Mr. Cotton's rights, I refer to whether he has suffered some form of harassment or victimisation.
Sadly, Mr. Cotton has a history of offending for various crimes. He was imprisoned in 1970, in 1977 and in 1979. In 1980, he was made subject to a restraining order and detained in Ashworth following a charge of attempted rape. In 1986, after successful treatment, Mr. Cotton was conditionally discharged. He remained in Liverpool, but unfortunately in 1987 he was subject to a further restraining order, which is the basis of his current detention. Apart from the conditional discharge period of approximately one year, Mr. Cotton has been in Ashworth for 20 years.
The issues I wish to raise fall into two categories. The first is the lack of treatment, as he describes it, to rehabilitate him and to try to bring him back into society. He should be given appropriate therapy and courses to allow his transfer to a medium-secure unit. Secondly, there is the restriction of his rights that I have already touched on, which Mr. Cotton and his solicitor feel borders on harassment.
As Mr. Cotton has been in Ashworth for 20 years, there is a danger that he is likely to become institutionalised. He has undergone courses and therapy to assist him, notably on anger management and alcohol abuse. In March this year, he appeared before a mental health
Mr. Cotton has had three different doctors in the past three months. His regular doctor retired and was replaced by another doctor, who was in charge of him for two months. He is now under the care of another doctor. He feels that that is symptomatic of how he is regarded at Ashworth and the lack of suitable care available to him. He thinks that he is regarded as part of the furniture and will not be treated.
There is a suggestion that Mr. Cotton is disliked and perhaps victimised by some of the staff, and that that dislike extends to his care team and social workers, who have consistently opposed his move, despite the recommendations of the tribunal and some of the psychiatrists, doctors and social workers who have provided reports in support of Mr. Cotton when he has appeared before the various tribunals.
I understand that Dr. Coorey, who was one of the doctors who treated Mr. Cotton and was in charge of his care for only two months, commented to him that the issue was not whether he should be moved to a medium-secure unit, or whether he should receive treatment or therapy, but that he should be given a better quality of life. That suggested that Mr. Cotton would have a longer stay in Ashworth, that he was unlikely to be moved and that things would remain the same. Even if it was intended to give him a better quality of life, what has happened to him over the past few months has significantly diminished the quality of his life.
I want to ask my hon. Friend whether the issue is one of finance. Cannot the hospital afford to provide the necessary treatment for Mr. Cotton? Are resources constrained? As a result, is he allowed to remain at Ashworth without any proper programme of therapy for his rehabilitation?
Most of the recent reports on Mr. Cotton stated that he should be considered for a move. The tribunal made the point that he has a community card and is able to make escorted visits when they are available; some have been denied him. Yet his social workers at Ashworth repeatedly maintain that he should not be moved. His social worker from the Barnsley area, who provides reports to the mental health review tribunal, maintained on the past few occasions that Mr. Cotton would perhaps benefit from a move, if it could be secured. I understand the point that the chairman of Ashworth made to me about a lack of appropriate accommodation because medium-secure units are usually for short-term rather than long-term care, which Mr. Cotton would perhaps continue to require. However, medical advisers consistently refer to the fact that he might improve more quickly with a change of institution.
I am worried that one of the social workers who is in charge of Mr. Cotton's care generates some ill-feeling in him and his visitors. Some personality conflicts may be developing between Mr. Cotton and the people who care for him. They have perhaps led to some of the unfortunate circumstances that have arisen in the past few months. If that is the case, perhaps my hon. Friend could tell me whether the care team or the medical team in charge of Mr. Cotton could be changed to try to alleviate those problems.
I want to consider Mr. Cotton's rights. After the Fallon inquiry, security at Ashworth has been tightened. I fully support that. We all remember the horrendous reports of incidents at Ashworth that led to the inquiry and its results. That increased security must apply to Mr. Cotton as it applies to all other patients at Ashworth, but it sometimes applies to him to the extent of becoming almost farcical. There is a fear, which I consider significant, that Mr. Cotton is being prevented from complaining to me as his Member of Parliament and to his solicitors because staff at Ashworth resent the fact that he complains freely to his solicitors and to me.
I was first contacted about the matter in November 1999 after Mr. Cotton had been denied a leave of absence. In 1998, his case conference decided that he should have four leaves of absence a year. For various reasons, he got no leaves of absence in 1999: they were cancelled at short notice, or transport or staff were unavailable to cope with the visits. I intervened on Mr. Cotton's behalf and, with the help of my hon. Friend and the management at Ashworth, the cancelled leave was reinstated. It appeared that the programme of leaves of absence would continue. However, Mr. Cotton has now been told that he is entitled to only two such leaves. Even they are in question because his mother visits him regularly, so Ashworth claims that there is no need for him to make visits.
Surely such visits are part of the therapy that I mentioned earlier. Mr. Cotton was able to go to South Yorkshire, usually to a shopping mall called Meadowhall, where he spent the day with his mother. That gave him a change of scenery, got him out of Ashworth and contributed to his rehabilitation. When I pressed the matter, Ashworth claimed that the visits cost £1,200. I felt that I had to question that figure because it seemed excessive for trips of such a short distance and involving so few staff.
In March, I was told that Mr. Cotton was to be prevented from receiving letters from a penfriend in Germany. That is another example of rights being taken away from him. Mr. Cotton's social worker--the same social worker is involved all the way through, unfortunately--complained that Mr. Cotton was making too many phone calls from Ashworth. At the time, Mr. Cotton alleged that his calls were being recorded or monitored. I took this up with the chairman of Ashworth, who wrote:
In the latest guide from Ashworth, mail for patients is not even mentioned. That problem might solve itself because, on 1 October this year, Mr. Cotton's stationery and stamps were confiscated; it was alleged that he should not have been in possession of them. I can only assume that, once again, because he has complained to his solicitors and to me about his treatment at Ashworth, the staff have decided to make it more difficult for him to make those complaints. That is of great concern to me. Having said that, the chairman of Ashworth has told me that, under paragraph 134 of the Mental Health Act 1983, Mr. Cotton has the absolute right to contact his Member of Parliament.
Other petty actions have been taken against Mr. Cotton. An illuminated magnifying glass which has been in his possession for seven years has now been confiscated. His Christmas presents--which his mother delivered a week ago and which amounted to three boxes of chocolates, toiletries and another box of sweets--were confiscated because the chocolates were regarded as food items. Under the latest guidelines, food and tobacco items are no longer allowed in Ashworth. It seems petty to confiscate boxes of chocolates.
I have had a letter from Ashworth today, posted on 14 December, which has suggested that food items will be available for sale on the premises of Ashworth, alleviating the problem for visitors who wish to buy food items such as confectionery for patients. That problem might have been resolved.
Mr. Cotton is allowed 10 books, and in his room he had that number and a photograph album. Ashworth decided that the photograph album was a book and that has now been confiscated. Again, I feel that that is rather petty. More seriously, a female visitor who Mr. Cotton has known for thirty years--a woman who was the partner of his cousin until he died and who has been visiting Mr. Cotton for 18 years--has been told that she will not be allowed to visit any longer. She has been interviewed by the staff of Ashworth and a staff member made the point that she could no longer visit on the grounds that Mr. Cotton was "grooming her". The quote comes directly from the Fallon inquiry; it is an emotive quote, which was subsequently withdrawn. That action was inappropriate and the prevention of visits by long-term visitors should not have taken place. Again, it gives the impression that Mr. Cotton has been harassed.
On 30 November, Ashworth issued its guidelines to patients. In my view, some of those guidelines contravene the European convention on human rights, which the Government made great play of implementing. Mr. Cotton's rights have been considerably interfered with.