That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will appoint the Hon. Sir Alexander Neil Logie Butterfield, Elizabeth Jane Padmore, Miss Anne Whitaker and Professor Anthony Wayland Wright to the office of ordinary member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority with effect from 11 January 2013.

The motion provides for the fixed-term appointment to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority of four ordinary members of the board, having effect from 11 January 2013, following the expiry of the existing board members’ term of office on 10 January 2013. I do not intend to detain the House for too long, but it may be helpful to the House if I briefly set out the process of these appointments and introduce the candidates. I should point out at this point that Professor Sir Ian Kennedy was appointed for a fixed term of five years, which does not expire until 3 November 2014. He will remain chair of the board.

The Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, which established IPSA, states that the board of IPSA consists of the chair and four ordinary members, and establishes certain qualifications for some of those members: at least one must have held, but no longer hold, high judicial office; at least one must be eligible for appointment as a statutory auditor, by virtue of chapter 2 of part 42 of the Companies Act 2006; one must be a person who has been, but is no longer, a Member of the House of Commons; and there must be one other member, for whom no qualification has been specified.

In 2009, Her Majesty, on an Humble Address from this House, appointed the right hon. Justice Scott Baker, Jackie Ballard, Ken Olisa and Professor Isobel Sharp to be the four ordinary members of the board of IPSA, following its establishment. As I said, their terms of office expire on 10 January 2013, three years after their appointment. May I take this opportunity to thank them for their work over the past three years? Nobody in the House will need reminding that the past three years have not been easy, as was somewhat inevitable given what was being asked of IPSA and the time scale it was working to. The National Audit Office, in 2011, recognised that it was a “major achievement” for IPSA to establish itself

“as a functioning organisation in a very short time”.

The Office of Government Commerce said that the “impossible” was “delivered”. I am in no doubt that the fact of an independent, transparent, regulator has made a significant contribution to increasing public confidence on the issue of MPs’ expenses, and will continue to do so into the future. Indeed, IPSA is now consulting on the important issue of a long-term proposal for Members’ pay and pensions, which I am sure will further reassure the public that there will be no return to the problems of the past.

Earlier this year Mr Speaker, recognising that four of the five initial appointments were reaching their end, sought legal advice on the interpretation of the Act as it related to reappointments. The advice was that although the Act permits board members to serve a second fixed

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term, whether consecutive or not, that is subject to the requirement that the names appearing on a motion before this House must have been selected by the Speaker on merit on the basis of fair and open competition: in other words, the posts have to be opened to competition at the end of each fixed term. The four members whose terms of office were expiring did not seek reappointment on that basis. That is a matter for them.

Following the precedent established in 2009, Mr Speaker appointed an independent panel to run the competition and to report to him with recommendations. The panel was chaired by Dame Denise Platt, a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, chair of IPSA, also sat on the panel, as did Dame Janet Gaymer, a former commissioner for public appointments and lay member of the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

The panel was assisted in its deliberations by the right hon. Sir Anthony May QC, who was nominated to the panel by the Lord Chief Justice; Martin Sinclair, assistant auditor general of the National Audit Office, who was nominated to the panel by the Comptroller and Auditor General; and Peter Atkinson, former MP for Hexham, who was nominated to the panel by Mr Speaker. Those individuals were able to provide insights into the statutory qualifications for IPSA required of board members, as I set out previously.

Mr Speaker provided the panel with a role and person specification for the board posts, which he had agreed with Professor Sir Ian Kennedy. The recruitment process involved stages of advertisement, longlisting, shortlisting and final interview. The panel’s recommendations to the Speaker were made in the form of a ranked list, with reasons, to support selection on the basis of merit. The names on the motion were selected by Mr Speaker, with the agreement of the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, as required by the statute.

The candidates before the House are the hon. Sir Neil Butterfield, who has held high judicial office as a High Court judge sitting in the Queen’s bench division from 1995 to 2012; Liz Padmore, for the post to which no specific qualifications apply, who has a wide range of public and private sector experience, most recently as chair of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Miss Anne Whitaker MA ACA, proposed for appointment as the auditor member of IPSA; and Professor Tony Wright, formerly Member for Cannock Chase, who is proposed as the parliamentary member of IPSA. A short career profile for each has been made available to Members as part of the explanatory memorandum supporting this debate. I do not intend to detain the House by going through their extensive résumés, but I can assure the House that each candidate would bring a wealth of relevant experience to their respective posts.

Under paragraph 3 of schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, the terms and conditions for each appointment are determined by the Speaker. Clearly, it is better for IPSA if appointments to its board expire over a period, not all together, providing greater continuity of governance. Mr Speaker therefore asked the independent panel, as part of its assessment, to consider and recommend varying lengths of appointment for the candidates. The panel recommended that two candidates be appointed for three years and two for five years. Sir Neil Butterfield has been recommended for a three-year appointment,

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reflecting his own preference, and Professor Tony Wright has been recommended for a three-year appointment, so that the next competition for a parliamentary member of IPSA can take place shortly after the general election that is due in 2015.

It is a matter of public record that Sir Ian Kennedy wrote to Mr Speaker to express concerns about the process before the independent panel was appointed. Members might wish to note, however, that after the independent panel had reported, Sir Ian Kennedy issued a statement saying that that the independent panel was

“chaired impeccably by Dame Denise Platt and proceeded in a thoroughly proper manner”,

and that his “fears were not realised”. He has also issued a statement describing the nominees as “impressive individuals” giving him “great confidence” for IPSA’s work.

In this debate it is important that we should keep in mind the reasons why IPSA was created and the importance of the work it has still to do. It was established at great speed and in difficult circumstances and we should recognise that under Sir Ian Kennedy’s leadership the board of IPSA has made a significant contribution to the task of establishing the authority and ensuring there is transparency about Members’ business costs and expenses. These steps are essential to the restoration of the public’s confidence in their Parliament.

It is of great importance, in my view, that we uphold the independence of IPSA. This enables us to refute any implication that Members of Parliament can seek to manipulate the system to their advantage. As we have seen, it is not proof against the interpretation of the media, but for any reasonable person an MP’s adherence to the rules set by IPSA should be a sufficient defence.

The four individuals named in the motion have been through a rigorous and independent recruitment process to be considered by the House today. If appointed, they will bring to IPSA not only the experience required by the statute, but a considerable range of skills and knowledge acquired in both the public and private sectors.

I commend the motion to the House.

7.20 pm

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): As the Leader of the House has just pointed out, the proceedings before us today are required under the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009. As I am sure Members in all parts of the House will recall, this is the statute which set up the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. It requires that the board of IPSA consist of four ordinary members and a chair. The chair, Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, was appointed for a fixed term of five years, which runs out in November 2014, but the board members all have appointments which expire on 10 January 2013, so it has been necessary to hold a selection process to find a successor board. It is the result of this process that the House is considering today.

Again as the Leader of the House pointed out in his remarks, the IPSA board has to meet certain very particular specifications. Under the Act, one board member must have held high judicial office, one must be eligible for appointment as a statutory auditor, and one must have served in the House of Commons. The appointments panel convened by the Speaker has done a very thorough job and come forward with four candidates

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who more than fulfil the statutory requirements of the 2009 Act. On behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition, may I endorse the candidates who have been selected and the scrupulously fair and independent process by which that was achieved?

It is only right that I endorse the thanks that the Leader of the House has already put on record to Dame Denise Platt, a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, to Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, chair of IPSA, and to Dame Janet Gaymer, a former commissioner for public appointments and a lay member of the Speaker’s Committee for IPSA, who sat on the appointments panel. I also join the Leader of the House in thanking those who assisted them in their considerations: the right hon. Sir Anthony May QC, who was nominated to the panel by the Lord Chief Justice; Martin Sinclair, who was nominated to the panel by the Comptroller and Auditor General; and Peter Atkinson, who was nominated by the Speaker.

It is crystal clear from the form of the appointments panel and those who assisted it that this was a scrupulously fair and independent process, and I hope that no one will seek to cast any aspersions on it at any time in the future. I was grateful to the Leader of the House for putting a few things straight in his remarks about the nature of this process and the reason for conducting it in that particular way. It is also sensible to put on record Sir Ian Kennedy’s evident satisfaction with both the process and the outcome of the appointments panel, despite his initial unhappiness.

I agree that the Speaker’s decision to stagger future appointments so that the board members’ terms of office do not all expire at the same time is sensible. It is an obvious improvement on the current arrangements, which I hope the House will endorse tonight.

IPSA needs to demonstrate its robust independence from both Parliament and the Government of the day. It needs to do this by the process and in the content of the decisions that it reaches. Part of IPSA’s job is to communicate and explain any decisions that it makes to the public and to defend Parliament as an institution from unfair criticism on costs and expenses, which are now clearly decided independently by IPSA.

It only remains for me to thank the outgoing members of the IPSA board for the work they have done, and to welcome their successors and wish them well in their job for the future.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. I point out that the motion—I am sure that every Member has read it—is a narrow motion.

7.24 pm

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): I welcome the appointment of the four new board members and trust that they will bring a commitment to the job that I think, on occasion, was sadly lacking on the part of the four departing. I refer to the fact that attendance at board meetings was not always their top priority. On one famous occasion, only one of the five board members—the chairman—was present and the other four conducted the business down the phone. I am confident that the four new members will not follow that procedure, which is why I welcome them.

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The Leader of the House referred to the National Audit Office in his introduction. He could have added that it estimates that 92% of Members of Parliament now subsidise their work. I trust that is something the new board members will address, along with the fact that 38% of claims cost more to process than the amount claimed.

The new board members have a job to do that the previous board did not. As a member of the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, I feel that the manner in which two of the departing four—incidentally, not one of them sought reappointment, which speaks volumes—launched what can only be described as a personal attack on Mr Speaker was unfair and simply unacceptable. I look forward to their apologising to Mr Speaker at some point, because it was the Committee that made the decisions; Mr Speaker acted in the name of the Committee. I welcome the four individuals, but I am not at all sorry to see the previous four go.

7.26 pm

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): I find it quite extraordinary that Parliament feels it appropriate to debate or comment on people who are appointed to public office without their having some kind of right of reply here. I think that is regrettable. I am certain that the individuals who have been put forward are excellent people who will do an excellent job, in precisely the same way that those who served the public previously did an excellent job in establishing the organisation.

My concern and regret—this is not a criticism of the Leader of the House, who is bound by what Parliament has previously agreed—is that the motion is in front of Parliament at all, and indeed that SCIPSA exists at all. In the three years since IPSA was set up, Parliament has had the opportunity to separate out properly and entirely all matters relating to pay and conditions, rather than have any semblance of control, influence or direction, however distant, over such matters. The fact that the appointments have been made with parliamentary involvement demonstrates that we have not yet gone far enough in isolating pay and expenses entirely from everything else we do. That is the fundamental error that was made before.

I therefore ask the Leader of the House to consider, with the four new board members, establishing a dialogue to determine whether they could bring forward and recommend to us a better system in which we would have no involvement whatever in future appointments, whether ratification or anything else, so that there is a complete separation between Parliament and those who decide our pay and expenses. It seems to me that the public would support that. Equally important, I think that would strengthen our position as legislators. I hope that the Leader of the House will consider it.

7.29 pm

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I wish to say a little about what the new board members are going to do in terms of getting trained and educated about what we do in this House. Their statutory responsibility is to determine Members’ pay and allowances—I emphasise

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the word “allowances” because that is the expression in the statute, although that is not how it has been interpreted by the current board and its chairman.

It is surely important that anybody who is looking at terms of pay and conditions should understand a bit about the job of the people whose pay and conditions they are sitting in judgment over. As you may know, Mr Deputy Speaker, on the morning of 22 November this year the current chairman of IPSA, who sat on the board that selected the four candidates whose names are before the House tonight, told the “Today” programme that he knew a lot about what Members of Parliament did in their constituencies, but admitted to ignorance about what they did in this great House of Commons. That is after three years in the position, which he holds for only five years. In other words, after 66% of his time in post, he still admits that he is ignorant. He said that the only thing he knew about what Members of Parliament did was that they attended, as he put it, “a zoo” on a Wednesday. Later that day, I asked my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House whether he would organise a programme of education for Sir Ian Kennedy. He assured me that Sir Ian had always shown a willingness and desire to learn more about the work of the House, and obviously put him in a strong position to be able to show leadership to the new members of the board.

Pursuant to that, I wrote to Sir Ian on the following day, 23 November, setting out in detail everything that I had done in this House on Thursday 22 November, including asking a question about him. That covered the time between about 8.30 am and after 10 o’clock at night, when I returned to my constituency home. In the letter, which I said I was quite prepared to have treated as an open letter, I invited him to come along and shadow me for a day in the House so that I could show him exactly what we do here because he is so ignorant of it. I had assumed that by now, in the knowledge that we were having this debate, which my right hon. Friend flagged up when he responded to my business question, the chairman of IPSA would have responded to me, but he has not yet done so. I therefore wonder whether he really is interested in finding out what we do here. I hope that other members of the board will have a greater appetite for learning about it before they feel able to comment on our pay, allowances and pensions.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): On the subject of pay and conditions, and the transparency and probity that IPSA is responsible for upholding in this place, does my hon. Friend deprecate, as I do, the fact that despite a very strong lead from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Government, IPSA set its face against that policy in paying its interim chief executive, through a tax-avoiding personal service company, the sum of £39,000?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. I said that this is a very narrow motion, and that is certainly way outside its scope.

Mr Jackson: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The comments that I made relate specifically to the duties and responsibilities of board members, which are to protect the probity, honesty and transparency of this place, and I would respectfully submit that that is in order.

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Mr Deputy Speaker: I am grateful to you for challenging the order of the Chair. I said that it was outside the scope of the motion, and it is.

Mr Chope: May I invite my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to address the issue of whether there is going to be an induction programme for the new members of the board? As a modernising House, we have induction programmes for new Members of Parliament and I think that they have been well received. I see that my right hon. Friend is nodding. Although I know that it is strictly outside the scope of the motion to say that the existing chairman should be invited to attend such an induction programme, perhaps he could be invited—even though it is three years late—so that those who sit on the independent board can be informed about our work.

Sir Bob Russell: Earlier the hon. Gentleman rightly drew attention to the importance of the word “allowances”. Does he agree that the new board members should address IPSA’s use of the phrase “business costs,” because Members of Parliament are not businesses?

Mr Chope: That is correct. Indeed, ironically that point was made to me, unsolicited, by a senior colleague in the Tea Room on Thursday 22 November. I sat down in the Tea Room at 7.15 pm after realising that I had not had any lunch that day, and the first thing that this colleague said to me was the point that the hon. Gentleman has just made. I have included that in my letter to Sir Ian.

I do not often do this, but I told the House that I was concerned about the quality of the existing board members when we debated their appointment some three years ago. Indeed, I tabled an amendment proposing that we should exclude one particular member from the board—the former Member of Parliament for Taunton—on the basis that she had only been a Member of this House between 1997 and 2001 and I was sceptical about whether she would be able to contribute fully. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says that I was right to be sceptical, but I have to point out that on that occasion the Liberal Democrats used a procedural device to ensure that my amendment was not voted on and the main motion was then passed.

I continue to take an interest in this matter and hope that next time we debate the issues I will be able to report back on how Sir Ian’s day of induction with me went.

7.37 pm

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), and to the other Members who have contributed to the debate.

I cannot encourage the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) to believe that the IPSA board will provide the House with a proposal for a new scheme for appointments. The body was established under the Parliamentary Standards Act and is bound by it, and the nature of the appointment scheme is set out in that legislation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) made a number of points. I am sure that Sir Ian Kennedy will respond to him and I will invite

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Sir Ian to include in that response a reference to how the board intends to have an induction programme for its new members. That is, of course, a matter for the board—it is not a matter for me or, indeed, for the House—but I will invite him to respond on that point.

Sir Bob Russell: In his discussions, will the Leader of the House suggest that the website that gives details of board meetings should be kept more up to date? It notes that the last board meeting took place in July, but I assume that it has met in the past five to six months.

Mr Lansley: I will ask Sir Ian Kennedy to respond to that point, too. I confess that I do not know whether the board has met since July, but he will no doubt be able to better inform my hon. Friend.

I have known Sir Ian Kennedy over a number of years—less in the IPSA context than in his previous role as chair of the Healthcare Commission; I knew him in his capacity in that role—and think that on 22 November he probably understated his knowledge of Members of Parliament and what they do in this place. He probably regrets that, but I know from my conversations with him that he regards knowledge of the role of MPs and their activities and important work as important. He also believes it important not only for IPSA to recognise that fully in what it does, but for the public to recognise it as part of an understanding of how IPSA goes about its work and makes its decisions.

Ms Angela Eagle: Does the Leader of the House agree that Sir Ian has been taken aback by the lack of understanding among the public of the role of Members in this House? It may be that he misspoke on the radio and attributed to himself the understanding that he had picked up from the public consultation, which is that many members of the public know about Prime Minister’s questions, but not the detail of what else we do in this House. I expect that that is what he meant.

Mr Lansley: The hon. Lady makes a very good point. Sir Ian may well have been reflecting the public’s perception. They understand much more about what we do as constituency Members of Parliament and, frankly, they value it more. I know from conversations with Sir Ian that that is something that he, as well as we in this House, hopes to remedy. One of the substantial number of criteria in the person and role specification that was agreed between Mr Speaker and Ian Kennedy, which would have been reflected in the panel’s judgments, was a candidate’s understanding and awareness of the role of Members of Parliament.

Mr Chope: Is it not correct that in that radio interview, Sir Ian Kennedy had the opportunity to explain to the public who were listening what we do here? He could have told them about his understanding of what Members of Parliament do, but instead he chose to use a cheap jibe, pandering to public prejudice.

Mr Lansley: I understand what my hon. Friend says. Sir Ian must speak for himself as this is his responsibility. The shadow Leader of the House and I were just reflecting our own conversations with him. He would have wanted to reflect his desire for the public to know more about what we do here and his belief that IPSA should fully understand the nature of the work that we

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do. If he did not reflect that in his interview on the “Today” programme, he will no doubt have an opportunity to remedy that in future.

I am grateful to Members for the points that they have made in this debate. I hope, along with other Members, that the members nominated in the motion take forward the important work that IPSA has to do in the years ahead.

Question put and agreed to.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Value Added Tax

That the Value Added Tax (Place of Supply of Services) (Transport of Goods) Order 2012 (S.I., 2012, No. 2787), dated 6 November 2012, a copy of which was laid before this House on 7 November, be approved.—(Nicky Morgan.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


That the draft Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 Amendment Regulations 2012, which were laid before this House on 29 October, be approved.—(Nicky Morgan.)

Question agreed to.

European Union Documents

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119(11)),

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 15440/11 and Addenda 1 to 3, relating to a draft Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (2014–2020), and No. 13483/12, a Report from the Commission to the European Parliament on the activities of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund in 2011; agrees with the activities of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund in 2011; agrees with the Government that there is no evidence to support an extension of the European Globalisation Fund into the next Multiannual Financial Framework; and supports the Government’s view that, if a new European Globalisation Fund is to be included in the 2014–2020 Budget, it should not be financed through appropriations but should operate under a separately agreed budget, and should be thoroughly evaluated on a more frequent basis.—(Nicky Morgan.)

Question agreed to.

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Mindfulness-based Therapy

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Nicky Morgan.)

7.43 pm

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): I wish to make a speech about mindfulness and unemployment. I have given up a lot to be here tonight, according to my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty). I could have gone to the Irish ambassador’s Christmas party. That is how important my speech is. [Interruption.] I think that my hon. Friend is going there now.

The World Health Organisation states that by 2030 mental health will be the biggest cause of burden of all health conditions, including heart conditions and cancer. The term “burden” is not an emotive or pejorative term, but a scientific one that is measured in years of life lost due to early death or severe disability brought on by illness, in this case depression.

We need not wait until 2030 to find out whether that will be the case; the indicators are already there. Some of those indicators have been revealed in the answers to parliamentary questions that I have tabled. For instance, the number of prescriptions issued for antidepressants has gone from 9 million to 46 million over the past 10 years. That is a 500% increase. In a follow-up question, I asked what assessment Ministers had made of the treatment of such people. The answer was that no assessment had been made. Some 10% of children are obese at age five, and by age 10 that figure is 20%. What is happening to those young people over that period?

The response given last week to a parliamentary question stated that 32% of young people between 16 and 24 suffer with a psychiatric disorder that could range from a mild condition such as anxiety or stress through to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Evidence from other sources points to how endemic such problems are across the western world: 50% of the population in every US state is overweight or obese, rising to 75% in some states. The total value of illegal drugs worldwide is £400 billion. That is a huge sum, most of which is spent by people escaping their own reality, as Freddie Mercury might have said.

Some 25% of UK citizens will suffer mental illness. What can be causing those shifts in well-being? There are many potential causes and theories. Some trace it back to the 1980s and the release of rampant individualism that led to a rise in consumerism and materialism. Some, such as the psychiatrist and journalist Oliver James, say that the rise of advertising in the post-war period has promoted consumerism, and that our individual wants can never be satiated while advertising continues.

Others such as Robert Putnam, the author of “Bowling Alone”, maintain that mental illness is caused by societal breakdown and people retreating to their home, the television, or spending three hours a day commuting or computing. Professor Richard Wilkinson traces it back to inequality. Food additives, information overload, job insecurity, fear of crime or terrorism, geographical mobility or family breakdown could also contribute to that decrease in well-being.

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Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on bringing this important issue before the House. Youth unemployment is as high as 30% in parts of the United Kingdom, and it is also high in Northern Ireland. In certain parts of the Province, where we have idle hands we have other problems. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that something must be done to reduce youth unemployment, and that the issue he raises might be a way of doing that?

Chris Ruane: I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. Giving young people antidepressants is not the cure. We need a range of tools and I believe that mindfulness will be key. He is right to say that the devil makes work for idle hands. I have given the statistics and we need young people to be in work and positively contributing to society, rather than being sidetracked into criminality or—dare I say it?—to terrorism in Northern Ireland.

The exact causes of the problem may not be known, but people now feel that they are far from themselves and are on a hedonic treadmill. They are working for consumer durables for themselves and their children, to impress neighbours who perhaps they do not even like. The incidence of mental health problems among the general public is worrying, but among the long-term unemployed it is much higher.

Recent scientific research has measured the impact of long-term unemployment on mental illness, and shows it has physical effects on the brain. Research also shows that those who experience a bout of long-term unemployment never fully recover. It usually takes two or three years to recover from the death of a close one, but long-term unemployment does permanent psychological and physical damage to the individual, their family and community.

The damage that long-term unemployment does to young people just starting their career is particularly harsh. A few minutes ago I gave the percentage of young people who experience mental health problems—the exact figure is 32.3% of 16 to 26-year-olds who tested positive during screening for one or more psychiatric condition. There are 1 million long-term unemployed young people in that age bracket, and their life chances have been diminished from the outset.

For many politicians on both sides of the House, the unemployed are just numbers or percentages with which to bash each other over the head. The true impact on the individual, their family, community and society is not fully appreciated by many Members. The unemployed are portrayed in the media as feckless or wastrels, and the disabled have been particularly marked out. I do not include the Minister or the hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin), who are present in the debate, but some Conservative Members have used terminology with which I would not agree, and which has led to an increase in hate crimes against the disabled over the past year. Only one category of the five hate crimes based on gender, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation has increased—that against the disabled.

The language and tone of some politicians, amplified in the media, are responsible for that. It is no wonder that in constituencies such as Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, where 85 people are chasing each job, there is a lack of sympathy for the unemployed. There is no modern Yosser Hughes to portray the slow disintegration of an individual within his family, community and finally himself. The negative reinforcements of such labelling

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and alienating behaviour serve only to make those affected by unemployment and mental illness more difficult to place in work.

The current preferred treatment for depression is antidepressants. As I have said, I was informed in a recent parliamentary answer that the number of prescriptions issued rose from 9 million to 46 million. The increase in the use of antidepressants occurred in the past 10 years, but in 2004 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said that mindfulness was a better way to treat repeat-episode depression. It is a proven and scientifically accepted way of improving mental illness, but it has not been taken up. When I have tried to find out whether mindfulness has been taken up by general practitioners and hospitals, the answer has always been that the information is not collected centrally. I believe that it needs to be collected centrally.

How can mindfulness help with unemployment? It can prevent people from becoming unemployed, limit the effects of unemployment, and help people to get back to work. What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is an integrative mind-body based approach that helps people to change how they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings so that we become more aware of them, less enmeshed in them, and better able to manage them. It uses breathing to slow the mind and the body down—it uses breath as an anchor to help us to live in the present moment.

The DUP—

Jim Shannon: We are to blame for everything.

Chris Ruane: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. The Democratic Unionist party may have co-funded the pilots in Northern Ireland, but the DWP—the Department for Work and Pensions, which is what I meant to say —has co-funded pilots on the use of mindfulness in helping people to get back to work. A three-year pilot in Durham finished in 2010. The pilot was jointly funded by the DWP and Durham county council, and there was an element of European funding. It dealt with the most difficult cases—people who were unemployed for between one and 15 years. The average length of unemployment was three years. Depression, and loss of self-confidence and self-worth, had already set in. The catchment area was the Derwentside-Consett area, which had experienced mass unemployment in the ’80s and ’90s.

I spoke today to Gary Heads, the organiser of the project. He told me that not only were clients trained in mindfulness, but so were jobcentre staff. A traditional mindfulness course usually lasts eight weeks. This one lasted for four weeks, consisting of a two and a half hour taught course each week, with 45 minutes of homework a day. The cost was minimal—£300 for each person on the course—but the benefits were maximum. Of the 300 clients who attended, 47% found employment within six months. The 53% who did not find work were placed on a traditional full mindfulness course. Ninety per cent. of those who started the course finished it. Pre-screening ensured that the drop-out rate was minimal and efficiencies were maintained. All who attended were, as I have said, from the difficult-to-reach categories.

The report on the pilot will be finished early next year. Will the Minister assess it? If it can be rolled out immediately, I urge him to do so. If it requires further

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refinement, I urge him to do it. Gary Heads particularly praised the head of the employment team, Bernadette Topham, who gave support to the project and was pleased with the results. The scheme came to an end after three years because—I was informed—the local authority pulled the funding.

Mindfulness-based interventions can and do work. I mentioned steel and coal communities. The new steel and coal communities will have high numbers of public sector workers. In my constituency, 46% of workers work in the public sector. In the neighbouring constituency of Clwyd West, it is 45%. We need to prepare for the mass lay-offs that will occur in such constituencies throughout the country. Mindfulness-based interventions have been used by Google, Apple, the American military since 2009, and American prisons, emergency services, schools and hospitals for the past 40 years. We need to make an assessment of what has worked over there and whether it will work over here.

Mindfulness-based therapy has been rigorously tested in the laboratory, using MRI and electrical scanners. Electrical activities in different parts of the brain have been monitored in the laboratory. Its efficacy in treating a whole range of mental and physical conditions, including bipolar disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and psoriasis, has been tested and proved. It also helps the immune system and the healing process.

Mindfulness has proven to be beneficial in the workplace, with participants more engaged in their work. With a greater ability to concentrate, workers become more compassionate, both to themselves and their co-workers. When it is used in prisons, prisoners become less aggressive and hostile, and have fewer mood disturbances. It has helped those who suffer from long-term pain, lessening the use of painkillers and their damaging side-effects.

Mindfulness is not just for those who suffer with mental health issues, or who work in high stress occupations— its applications go far beyond that. It is being used in education. In primary schools in my constituency, it is used to train five-year-olds to be more mindful, to live in the present moment and to concentrate. Its effect on personal relationships within families and marriages has also been recorded.

Felicia Huppert, the mother of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), is one of the foremost well-being researchers. She maintains that the bell curve of well-being can be shifted for the whole nation. The biggest gainers will be those below the curve. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister for his work on well-being, which was a bold, innovative and forward-thinking step. This could help to deliver the targets on well-being in the years to come.

It has been estimated that sickness related to mental health costs the economy £12 billion in lost productivity, because of sick leave, and in lost taxes and increased benefits. Surely, if there are successful pilots, such as the two I have outlined, they should be taken up across the country. They would cost a fraction of the £12 billion being lost. The savings to the Exchequer could be massive, public and private sector companies could be more efficient and workers less stressed, more resilient and happier in their workplace.

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One of the biggest barriers to the take-up of mindfulness is that GPs do not know about it. Surveys have been conducted by the Mental Health Foundation. More than two-thirds of GPs say that they rarely or never refer their patients with recurrent depression to mindfulness-based practices, and 5% say that they do so very often. GPs do not know about it. Politicians do not know about it. I have asked dozens of questions—perhaps hundreds—on mindfulness and often the response comes back that information is not collected centrally. I urge the Minister to do all he can.

Another reason why mindfulness has not been taken up is that there is no effective political lobby for it. The pharmaceutical industry worldwide spends £19 billion lobbying GPs and politicians to tell them that their latest drug is fantastic—stuff it down children’s throats. That is what happened with GlaxoSmithKline, which received a £2.9 billion fine in America in July. It is a powerful lobby that dismisses any alternative therapies. We need to be open. We need to meet mindfulness practitioners and academics. We should be spreading best practice in our prisons, armed forces, emergency services, the NHS and in the DWP.

In conclusion, I have a number of requests for the Minister. Will he ask the private sector providers of the Work programme if they will engage with the mindfulness experts, practitioners and academics across the UK? In particular, I highlight the work of Mark Williams, at Oxford university, and Rebecca Crane and her team, at Bangor university, north Wales. Will he meet Health Ministers to see whether the Department of Health can play its full and proper role in promoting mindfulness? Will his civil servants in the Department for Work and Pensions assess best practice within the pilots they have sponsored so far, and will they spread this best practice?

Will the Minister visit Durham to see the legacy of the pilot scheme that finished in 2010? Will he visit the real city strategy, in my town, which is using mindfulness and other psychological interventions to help people stay in work, through the fit for work programme, and to reintegrate the unemployed, some of whom are in very difficult circumstances? We have recovering drug addicts and alcoholics working on a local farm. We have disconnected, alienated young people working with animals, including through the coastal hawks project. We have a Jamie Oliver-type restaurant training young people and helping them gain full employment. So there is best practice out there, and I am asking the Minister to go out and visit those projects.

Will the Minister personally meet mindfulness experts and practitioners across the UK? We have many fine academics who have given years, if not a lifetime, of work to the development of mindfulness. They have a strong story to tell, and they have the scientific proof to back up what they are saying. Will he use mindfulness in his own Department? I have put questions to every Department about sickness levels. They have gone up massively. This is a powerful tool that could help Ministers reduce sickness in their Departments. Lastly, will he keep an open mind about, and be mindful of, the issue of mindfulness?

8.1 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mr Mark Hoban): I congratulate the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) on securing this debate.

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He commented on the effectiveness of the lobbying by pharmaceutical companies, but I think he has done a rather effective job himself in lobbying for mindfulness. He said that he was missing the Irish ambassador’s party tonight. In my research for the debate, I discovered that mindfulness was of growing interest in Ireland, so I expect that the Irish ambassador will be mindful of his explanation for not being there tonight.

The Department recognises the role that a wide range of interventions can play in supporting people to move into work. Mindfulness therapy is a psychological approach to well-being that people report as helpful in the workplace. The principles behind mindfulness therapy are extremely interesting and, by many accounts, can be helpful in alleviating distress. As I understand it, mindfulness encourages people to focus on their present experiences in the here and now, without making judgments about the experiences. It is rooted in Buddhism, but has been westernised through medicine and psychology.

Mindfulness can be delivered in a wide range of ways—the hon. Gentleman referred to the Durham pilot, which I will return to later. People can be taught it through meditation and other techniques, in group sessions delivered every week for eight weeks, with follow-up sessions over the course of the next year. Some advocates believe it has the potential to be used in a range of circumstances, such as for stress at work, for personal problems, and for managing chronic pain, substance abuse and unemployment.

As with all medical and therapeutic interventions, however, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence should be the key deciding body for reviewing the evidence for which interventions should be used and when. Mindfulness is one of several therapy services approved by NICE, which has indicated its benefits in preventing the relapse of depression. In particular, NICE proposes the use of mindfulness for people who are currently well but who have experienced three or more previous episodes of depression. The value of mindfulness as approved by NICE, therefore, is as a useful health intervention to prevent relapse among people who have experienced depression.

As the hon. Gentleman made clear, mindfulness therapy is an emerging and important field. We will watch with interest the outcome of the randomised controlled trials that are under way—not only in preventing relapse, but for treatment of long-term conditions. As he said, a number of organisations are involved in research into mindfulness. Bangor university and the Oxford Mindfulness Centre are examples. In answer to one of his many questions, I can say we will remain open-minded about mindfulness-based therapy; the challenge is to demonstrate how it will work.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the programme in County Durham, in Derwentside. My understanding is that it is a pilot that the Department for Work and Pensions oversaw. He is right that we need to look at the evaluation of it. The point I would make to him—we make this point in connection with all evaluations of pilots that the Department undertakes—is that we tend to benchmark pilots against what would happen in the absence of intervention. We will look at how the rate at which people sign off benefit having gone through the mindfulness pilot compares with the rate of people coming off benefit in other areas, so that we can judge its effectiveness and report back.

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Let me respond to the detailed questions that the hon. Gentleman asked. He asked about the Work programme. It is designed so that it is for providers to determine which approaches are best at helping to get people back into sustainable employment, and they clearly need to understand which approaches and therapies are most effective. In order to embed mindfulness, the centres in Bangor or Oxford might want to work with some providers to see how mindfulness could be used more widely.

Chris Ruane: That is an excellent suggestion, but all I am asking of the Minister is that he write to those private sector providers to tip them the wink and say, “There are established British centres of excellence; please could you make an assessment of them?” because I do not think they even know about mindfulness therapy.

Mr Hoban: The model was set up so that providers have the initiative to make innovations and that it should not be Ministers telling them what to do. There is a role that the centres can play. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman might engage with the two Work programme providers in Wales—Working Links and Rehab JobFit—to see whether they might want to work with Bangor university on this issue.

I know from talking to the Minister of State at the Department of Health just this afternoon that the Department is aware of the issues around mindfulness therapy—the fact that the hon. Gentleman asked about it at Health questions last week has ensured that it is certainly on the ministerial radar.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the evaluation of best practice. Let us see what it says, what lessons should be drawn from it and, if it is successful, how it might be scaled up for use. He suggested that I should visit Durham.

Chris Ruane: It’s a long way.

Mr Hoban: It is not a long way and it is not difficult to visit. I was in Durham last month and I will be there later this month, as my family happen to live there, so I might visit Jobcentre Plus to understand just how that evaluation worked and what the evidence is.

I am delighted to be invited to Rhyl—it would not be my first visit. I will bear it in mind, because one of the issues we face is ensuring that we find new ways to help and support people with a range of mental health conditions, and there may be some value to be seen in the pilot there.

The hon. Gentleman encouraged me to meet mindfulness therapy practitioners. I have many strengths, but an understanding of psychological therapy is not one of them; but I will ensure that contact is made with either Bangor university or the Oxford centre, and that officials from my Department engage with them in order to understand it.

We take mental health conditions seriously. We need to ensure that support is put in place through Jobcentre Plus to help people to get into work; that, too, is something that we take seriously. Throughout the Jobcentre Plus network, work psychologists and mental health and well-being partnership managers are available to support advisers and to work with their counterparts and providers in the mental health service. That support is there for Jobcentre Plus advisers. All jobcentre staff with a claimant-facing role go through mandatory training

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modules to help them to support claimants with mental health problems and to refer them to specialist support if appropriate.

Last week, my noble Friend Lord Freud launched the mental well-being and employment toolkit for employment advisers. It has been produced and designed by Work programme and specialist mental health and employment providers. It is a free-to-use product that will help advisers to use employment discussions to identify mental health and well-being needs and to support people to access appropriate therapy services. One of the challenges is to identify those needs and to effect the appropriate referral. Debates such as these are important, because they raise the profile of these issues and ensure that they are on people’s radar screens.

The hon. Gentleman will know from his contacts in the Jobcentre Plus office in his constituency that each Jobcentre Plus has a disability employment adviser.

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They work with claimants facing complex employment situations resulting from a disability or health condition. Notwithstanding the debate on mindfulness, those resources exist within Jobcentre Plus to support claimants with such conditions. Those advisers can also act as an advocate with prospective employers on behalf of the customer, and they aim to identify work solutions that will minimise or overcome any difficulties related to an individual’s disability in the workplace.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for highlighting this issue. It is something that we need to look at carefully. We need to find every possible way to help people to get back into the labour market and to support them in getting there. I hope that, as people develop their understanding of mindfulness therapy, it might become a tool that could have a wider application.

Question put and agreed to.

8.12 pm

House adjourned.