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My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) made an excellent contribution. As she rightly said, it is important that within two years no one aged 16 or younger shall be placed on an adult mental health ward. The reason that
we are more hesitant about 17 and 18-year-olds is that the issues are much more complicated. It would be highly irresponsible of Government to make a commitment in Committee or the House that, for all sorts of difficult and complex reasons in the real world, they cannot be sure of fulfilling. That would be dishonest and dishonourable. It is therefore right that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is considering the issue further.
My hon. Friend was also right to raise concerns about the disproportionate number of people from black and ethnic minority communities who use mental health services. That is a public policy challenge that every single politician in this House should seek to address. She was also right to draw attention to the innovative and exciting work taking place in her constituency on routes to employment by the Derman group and other organisations in the voluntary sector and in statutory services, which is making a real difference.
The hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Cox) made a thoughtful and passionate speech about the real-life stories at the sharp end of the mental health system, and talked powerfully about the make a difference project and its important self-help work. However, I say gently to him that we must not mix up people with learning disabilities and people with mental illness, although some people are in both groups; he was at risk of doing that. I am happy to talk to him separately about issues affecting people with learning disabilities.
The hon. Member for North South Work [Interruption.] I meant the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes). You can tell that I am not from London, Mr. Speaker, which is not something that I am prepared to apologise for here or anywhere else. The hon. Gentleman was right to make the points that he made about universities and colleges and access to services for our armed forces. As for the emergency clinic in his constituency, his local community referred that issue to the Secretary of State, who asked for it to be looked at afresh and in a sensitive way. Such decisions are made on a local basis, as I understand it, and that is exactly what is happening. We do not control these decisions from offices, plush or otherwise, in Westminster and Whitehall. The Liberal Democrats always claim to be the party of maximum devolutionuntil it suits them not to be.
The World Health Organisation has stated objectively and independently that England has the best mental health services in Europe. However, we are not complacent;. We recognise that there is still a long way to go, but once again, in their motion and in this debate, the Liberal Democrats have launched an attack on the Government that not only fails to acknowledge the real progress that has been made in the past few years, but demands extra spending without any indication of where the resources would come from. So where would they come fromhigher taxes, cuts to other parts of the NHS and social care budgets, or perhaps a combination of the two? The fact is there are no mystery options. That is the reality of responsible
governmentnot the facile opportunism of Focus leaflets and permanent opposition.
Earlier this year, the Liberal Democrats Front-Bench health spokesperson, the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley), gave the game away on their social care policy. She told a shocked Chamber how she regretted that her party had misled people in its last election manifesto by claiming to offer free personal care. Any party that can, by its own admission, so shamelessly exploit and mislead older and disabled people and their families cannot be trusted to champion the very real concerns of people with mental illness and their carers.
The Tories have form on mental health, having put vulnerable people in bed-and-breakfast hotels. Will we ever forget the shame of those consequences of Tory mental health policies in the 1980s and 1990s? In contrast, we will continue step by step to rebuild mental health services that reflect the realities and challenges of our modern society. I urge the House tonight to reject the Liberal Democrat motion and to
That this House welcomes the extra £1.65 billion spent on mental health services since 2001; supports the record number of staff working in mental health since 1997 including almost 9,400 more psychiatric nurses and over 1,300 more consultant psychiatrists; further welcomes the lowest suicide rates since records began; recognises the work of the 700 new mental health teams in the community; notes the national patient survey, which shows that 77 per cent. of community patients rate their care as good, very good or excellent; recognises that between 2001 and 2005 £1.6 billion capital was spent by mental health trusts on improvements to mental health wards; further welcomes the Governments commitment to expanding access to psychological therapies; and further welcomes the Governments Mental Health Bill, which will update the legislation to reflect advances in knowledge and new ways of treating people, particularly in the community.
That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 5422/07 and Addenda 1 and 2, Commission Communication: Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 degrees Celsiusthe way ahead for 2020 and beyond; endorses the Governments support for the ambitious reduction targets that the EU has put forward; and supports the Governments objective of ensuring that European policy on climate change continues to demonstrate the leadership that is necessary to galvanise the international community to work towards a global and comprehensive post 2012 agreement. [Liz Blackman.]
That the Cattle Identification Regulations 2007 (S.I., 2007, No. 529), dated 19(th) February 2007, be referred to a Delegated Legislation Committee. [Liz Blackman.]
I welcome the opportunity to speak about a matter that, in recent years, has been of mounting concern in my constituency and across the UK: organised and impromptu dog fighting. I first became aware of the problem of dog fighting a few years ago during a chance encounter with Val Barker, who is the chairwoman of the Clem Attlee, Maton and Rocque tenants and residents association in my constituency. The Clem Attlee estate is one of the largest estates in Hammersmith and Fulham. Val told me of the growing problem of youths breeding dogs for fighting and then sometimes gambling on the outcome of the contest. My initial reaction was that it was a totally mediaeval practice and must surely be a one-off, but I soon started to hear reports of dog fights from other estates and even leafy streets in south Fulham.
Val Barker tells me that the problem has worsened since she first mentioned it to me. On the Clem Attlee estate, many teenagers are hanging around withmost oftenStaffordshire bull terriers. They are often to be seen around the enclosed football pitch. Some dogs are held inside the pitch area and others are held outside. They are encouraged to be aggressive towards each other through the fence. Sometimes full scale fights break out later, which often put an important facility such as an estate football pitch out of action.
I have to confess that I am not the greatest expert on dogs. I have never owned one and I have never had much contact with them. I am not fanatical about animal rights, but I do believe that needless cruelty to animals needs to be stamped out. Over the past 10 years, I have taken a big interest in everything that happens in Hammersmith and Fulham, includingif not especiallyon the big estates. The combination of antisocial behaviour, gambling and animal cruelty is probably unique, in our times at least. My views on gambling have become increasingly negative over the years: I know that it is a major cause of family breakdown and indebtedness, especially, but not entirely, among working-class households.
Another good source of local information on the dog phenomenon is Gaye Rose from the Hammersmith and Fulham Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations, which is the umbrella group for social housing tenant groups within the borough. She agrees with me that dog fighting is a problem right across the borough. There is a group of young men who live on Coningham roadnot far from where the Minister liveswho train their dogs on the grounds of the White City estate. On the William Church estate, the same problem exhibited itself until effective action was taken by the councils street wardens and the local police. There has been a terrible problem at De Palma
Court, near Fulham Broadway, with two pit bull terriers being exercised in the grounds. It is a small, quiet block of about 16 flatsif memory serves correctlywith generally elderly tenants. At a recent tenants meeting, residents were so concerned that they presented local housing officers with photos of the phenomenon.
I am told that a whole family on Adam walk, a new development in Fulham, is training Staffordshire bull terriers to fight against both dogs and people. It seems that there are outbreaks of such behaviour throughout the borough, but one estate is mentioned more than any other as being perhaps the epicentre of dog fighting in Hammersmith and Fulham: the Flora Gardens estate, where it seems that many of those dogs are kept and trained. Although this is not unique to Hammersmith and Fulham, the police will generally confiscate weapons, but they steer clear of dogs. However, these dogs are a form of weapon. The police generally get a good write up from tenants on the Clem Attlee estate for their work on fighting drugs, but no one has seen much action against dangerous dogs, at least as yet.
Councillor Greg Smith, the councils cabinet member for crime and antisocial behaviour, has briefed me about some of the less obvious problems caused by dogs being trained to fight. Much of the training takes place on parkland with trees. The dogs have their jaws strengthened through the practice of leaving them to hang by their mouths from the branches of trees. The practice is cruel to the dogs and also gravely damages the trees. It is a particular problem in the north of the borough on Wormwood Scrubs, where many trees have been destroyed. Ravenscourt and Marcus Garvey parks are also favoured haunts for the trainers of those fighting dogs.
More dangerously, dogs are sometimes trained to hang from the horizontal bar of childrens swings in the boroughs play areas. I am not an expert on the safety of play equipment, but swings are certainly not designed to be submitted to such treatment. Childrens safety might be at risk, while actual and psychological harm is being done to the dogs.
The council recently introduced a full set of dog control orders. They came in only six weeks ago, so council staff are still being trained to enforce them. I do not have time to describe all the orders, but dogs must now be on a lead at all times in the boroughs cemeteries, all its wildlife conservation areas and various parts of its parks.
Councillor Smith tells me that many dogs have been killed through fighting in the borough in recent years, although no one knows quite how many. Last year, a woman walking on Wormwood Scrubs lost a chunk of her ear thanks to one of those dogs and more serious incidents might arise in the future. Additionally, there is a big problem with intimidation. Many walkers and the owners of other dogs are simply afraid to go near any of the more well-known locations for dog fighting. The new council in Hammersmith and Fulham is following a tough approach on antisocial behaviour, although some in the local Labour party say that it is too macho. I know that the council will take a zero-tolerance approach on dog fighting.
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