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Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab):
May I welcome the Government's announcement on setting up a national care commission to look into fair funding of social care in this country? Will one of the remits of the commission
be to reach a consensus, as recommended by the Health Committee's report on social care published on 12 March?
Phil Hope: We are delighted that we have the White Paper, "Building the National Care Service", which will be a landmark in this country's development of services for people in need of care and support, adults with disabilities, and older people. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the Select Committee's report which was a helpful contribution to the debate. I am pleased to say that the national care commission will look at how we can find a fair way to give people a choice about making their contribution to ensuring that, in future, care will be free when people need it.
T4.  Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I have been campaigning on behalf of Zach, a little boy in my constituency who has a rare, and very nasty, form of cancer. Life-saving treatment is available in other parts of the world, but not available here. However, thanks to the efforts of the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ann Keen), who has cut through red tape, that treatment is now available. Does the hon. Lady know how much Zach's parents appreciate that?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ann Keen): This is teamwork. We have worked together with Great Ormond Street hospital, the researchers, and the hon. Gentleman, and when we work together in this House, we get results. We all wish Zach, and his mum and dad, the very best.
Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): Do my hon. Friends recognise that in a constituency such as mine, the advent of a national care service will be greeted with enormous enthusiasm? However, do they understand the fears that if this were done on the basis of a voluntary insurance principle, it would exclude the poorest people and it would not be a national care service?
Andy Burnham: The reform of social care will work only if the peace of mind and the ability to protect savings and homes is available to everybody, whatever their income. The problem with the voluntary system of insurance proposed by the Conservatives is that as take-up of voluntary schemes is generally low, the cost is very high, so it would be out of the reach of my hon. Friend's constituents and my constituents. That is why we are proposing a bold reform, in the best traditions of Labour, for a comprehensive national care service.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): I agree with the Minister that health trusts should listen to the people. Will he tell that to the health trust that covers Clitheroe? Some £12 million was made available for a new community hospital, which the health trust stalled last year. The decision should have been made last week but it has now stalled it until September. The people want the hospital. When will the health trust listen?
Mr. Mike O'Brien: Of course health trusts need to listen to people and ensure that they make local decisions to manage health provision effectively, based on delivering quality care to people and ensuring that it is done at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer.
Phil Hope: The extra money that the Government put into primary care trusts for providing respite care and other services is part of £256 million of extra resources being made available not only through PCTs but through work that we are doing nationally. At local level, we are asking every PCT to account for money spent on support for carers, and that will include the PCTs in my hon. Friend's area.
"we are currently looking at reducing our workforce by approximately 400 posts during 2010/11 and a further 200 posts in 2011/12."
Mr. Mike O'Brien: I hear what the hon. Lady says as far as Southampton is concerned. It is important that health trusts manage their budgets, but it is also important that they prioritise the quality of care for patients and ensure that patient safety comes first. I understand that in last night's debate, the hon. Lady's party's Treasury spokesman said that he would not guarantee funds for the NHS.
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): What plans do Ministers have for increasing expenditure on children's and young people's mental health? I know that the Government have rescued the child and adolescent mental health service, but it appears that demand is still far exceeding supply and a lot more has to be done.
Phil Hope: I share my hon. Friend's concern that young people with mental problems get the support that they need in a way that is appropriate to their needs. If we can provide more support for children who have mental health problems, we can do a great deal to prevent young people from becoming adults with mental health problems, thereby relieving pressure on adult mental health services as well. We undertook a review of the child and adolescent mental health service and are currently implementing the recommendations.
Dr. Richard Taylor (Wyre Forest) (Ind): Will the Secretary of State promote the benefits and safety of midwife-led birth centres distant from consultant obstetric units when they have the right escalation and admission protocols?
Andy Burnham: I will indeed, and that is why I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Hazel Blears) a moment ago that we would support such midwife-led units when they are what local people want. What we will not do is undermine clinically led change. The Opposition have said that they would put doctors in control in the NHS, and they go to marginal seats around the country opposing clinically led change, which is quite scandalous as far as I am concerned.
T7.  Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Earlier, the Under-Secretary told me in answer to my question that 54,758 assaults were made against NHS staff last year. I nipped out of the Chamber and have just found out that there were only 941 cautions or convictions last year. Is that any deterrent to prevent people from assaulting staff?
Ann Keen: As I said earlier, it is not for us in the health service to prosecute; it is for the Crown Prosecution Service. It is for us to provide all the evidence, and that is what we always do and will always continue to do.
T8.  Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): The Government's anti-smoking strategy was successful because it used robust messages designed to change people's behaviour. Does the Minister agree that had a similar attitude been used in the Government's teenage pregnancy strategy which failed, the outcomes might have been better?
Gillian Merron: We continue to see a reduction in teenage unwanted pregnancy, and the changes in the curriculum will make a big difference. We continue the work, which is not just about messaging. There is no one thing that will work, but our "Contraception: worth talking about" campaign helps, and the support given to young men and women across the country to enhance their self-esteem will also make a big difference.
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con):
After 20 years of trying, we now have progress on the reprovision of Brackley college hospital, of which it happens my wife is a trustee. Yet unfortunately, the Government's proposed
route for High Speed 2 virtually bisects the proposed site. Will the Minister have a word with his colleagues in the Department for Transport? I do not wish to subvert the railway proposal, because that is a separate issue, but could he ensure that if it proceeds, there is proper reprovision of the college hospital on an alternative site?
Mr. Mike O'Brien: As far as high-speed rail is concerned, we certainly need to ensure that there is proper local consultation and that local communities' concerns are fully considered in respect of any route. If there are impacts on public provision, as the hon. Gentleman describes, we need also to ensure that alternative provision is in place so that there is no lack of services for local people.
T9.  Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware that one issue will unite every parliamentary candidate in the Banbury constituency at the forthcoming general election: the retention of consultant-led children's and maternity services at the Horton hospital, and ensuring that it remains a general hospital?
Andy Burnham: I enjoyed immensely my recent visit to the Horton, and I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman and all the local campaigners whom I met-indeed, the campaign spans the political divide. I was hugely impressed by what I saw. I know how much the Horton means to people in Banbury, and it is well located close to the M40. I hope that the review of services that has been going on at the Horton is concluded soon and that it can move forward into the future with confidence.
Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on what plans he has to classify any drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): Following the receipt of advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has laid a draft order today for Parliament to approve his proposal to control mephedrone and other cathinone derivatives. The chair of the advisory council, Professor Les Iversen, has made it clear to my right hon. Friend that the harms that those drugs undertake justify control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as class B drugs.
The harms associated with those drugs include hallucinations, blood circulation problems, rashes, anxiety, paranoia, fits and delusions, and they have been linked to a number of deaths. Given the risks to public health, there is strong cross-party support for getting those measures through Parliament, and we hope that the draft order can come into effect as soon as possible, on 16 April 2010.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has rightly waited for the advice from independent expert advisers. The council has provided its assessment of the harms of those drugs having undertaken a full assessment and having reviewed their status through the examination of their use, pharmacology, physical and societal harms. Based on the advisory council's advice and very much in keeping with our approach for the control of synthetic substances, we are also introducing generic legislation that will capture the family of related compounds and other derivatives as well as mephedrone. We have seen a number of those already, but our controls are also aimed at future trends to stop organised criminals and dealers tweaking substances to get around the law.
In addition, the Government are taking immediate action to control mephedrone's availability and to reduce its harm, first by banning importation and, secondly, by targeting head shops. Thirdly, we are informing young people through the FRANK campaign. Fourthly, we are warning suppliers and, fifthly, we are issuing health warnings and a health alert through public health warning systems. The House will have a further opportunity to discuss that draft order shortly, which is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, and I commend it to the House.
If the ACMD has advised that mephedrone and other cathinones be regulated as a class B drug, I support that recommendation, but does the Minister believe that he or his colleague the Home Secretary are compliant with the newly published principles for the treatment of independent scientific advice, which the Government published last week? They state that the Government must give adequate consideration time for published advice, but the ACMD report has not even been published and the Government have announced legislation. If the Home Secretary received a verbal report yesterday from the ACMD chair, why was it not
available at the same time to the media, since the public have a right to know, and indeed to Members of this House? Further, why was there no statement or written ministerial statement today, and why did it take an urgent question to bring the Minister to the House to make this announcement?
May I ask whether, beyond classification, the report contains any other recommendations to which the Minister will respond, and when does he intend to respond to them? Given that it was the actions of the Home Secretary that led to the resignation of six of the scientific members of the council-undoubtedly delaying the work of the council and resulting in its not being legally constituted at the time that this advice was given-how can the Minister be certain that the regulations that he is now laying are in order, cannot be challenged and will deal with the problem that we both agree exists?
Mr. Hanson: My right hon. Friend has taken the right decision, and that is the key issue for the House today. He has taken that decision on the basis of advice from the advisory council. He received a verbal report from Professor Iversen yesterday afternoon and a report in writing will be presented to the House before consideration of the orders, which I hope will be next week.
This is not a new issue. My right hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Jacqui Smith), when Home Secretary, was aware of this matter in March last year, and she discussed action on it with the advisory council, which commissioned some work. I wish to kill stone-dead the suggestion that the action by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in relation to the sacking of Professor Nutt has delayed publication of the report. The intention was always to produce a report for the meeting of the council on 29 March, and that report was delivered verbally to my right hon. Friend yesterday. He has taken the view that it was of sufficient importance and urgency to take urgent action, so he has laid an order and I hope that the House will in due course support it.
James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): The tragic cases of those who are thought to have died as a consequence of taking mephedrone have highlighted the dangers of the drug. As many as 25 deaths have been linked to it. We welcome yesterday's recommendation by the ACMD that mephedrone should be classified.
However, the Government need to explain why they reacted so late in the day to the dangers of mephedrone and the connected group of drugs. In a letter to the Home Secretary on 22 December, Professor Les Iversen, the chairman of the ACMD, said:
"The ACMD explained in a previous letter to you that it has concerns about the apparent prevalence and potential harms of these compounds."
The Home Secretary's relationship with the ACMD and the resignations of several members have been highlighted as a cause of delay in dealing with the classification of mephedrone, and previously it was suggested that it would be dealt with in the early part of the year. At the last Home Office questions, the Home Secretary rejected the suggestion that this delayed the
process by six months. Just how long was consideration extended as a result of the depleted membership of the ACMD and the Home Secretary's inept handling of the resignation of David Nutt?
Looking forward, does the Minister agree that it is time to introduce a new, temporary classification, as we propose, to provide a means to respond more quickly to emerging new psychoactive substances while enabling specialist input to be provided? Classification should not be seen in isolation. The Government's drugs advice line, FRANK, was initially slow to provide advice on mephedrone because it was not a controlled substance. What systems have been put in place to address that in the future, and more generally what public health campaigns do the Government envisage having on the classification of mephedrone and the message that because a drug is legal does not make it safe?
Mr. Hanson: The answer to the hon. Gentleman's initial question is similar to the one that I gave to the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris), in that as there is a process, that process must be followed. That is done so that we ensure that we do not ban substances that could have a legitimate use, but on the basis of medical advice in accordance with the legal basis for an order. Had I taken the advice of the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire), I would have been criticised even more by the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon for rushing the matter through. We have to do things in accordance with the process that has been set up by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the previous Home Secretary. The matter has been the subject of much consideration and was not delayed by Professor Nutt's resignation. We had a full complement of existing members, who considered this matter and gave their advice. That was relayed verbally to my right hon. Friend yesterday, and he has taken a decision accordingly for debate.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned what steps we need to take to ensure that this ban is understood widely and that advice is given. In my statement, I indicated that we are placing facts about the use of mephedrone on the FRANK website and we will be distributing a new fact card on the drug so that potential users and suppliers are aware of the ban. The ban will, if approved by both Houses, lead to a potential 14-year maximum jail penalty. We are also issuing health warnings through the public health system. The associated discussions around this order, my right hon. Friend's statement yesterday and the action that we are taking should raise awareness of the dangers of the drug-if they had not been raised already-and show that the Government have taken action on this drug based on legally constituted advice.
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): The Liberal Democrats certainly welcome the Government's intention to classify mephedrone, but the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs started looking at the drug a year ago. The Home Secretary must surely accept that, if it were not for his meddling in the work of the ACMD and the subsequent resignation of, among others, Dr. Les King-not any old ACMD member, but the person chairing the council's working group on mephedrone-this harmful and possibly fatal substance could have been banned months ago.
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