3.3 pm

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) on securing the debate. He has covered much of what many Members would say. There are 49 hospices in the United Kingdom, so there will be probably be 49 interventions and press releases.

I need to declare an interest, as I shall focus on Shooting Star CHASE, which is a fantastic organisation that serves south-west London, west London, Surrey and West Sussex. My interest in it is that I have a family member deeply involved in it. I am stunned—merely going on to the website is such an education. It looks after 600 families in the area, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The basic cost is £23,000 a day, because it is not just about what is done at its hospices. They are out helping the families and so on. They are working outside, right across the board in the area—in the homes and in the various organisations outside that support them. I shall focus, because everybody is hankering to get in, only on some of its costs.

At the moment, Shooting Star CHASE does not appear, from my research, to receive any money apart from charitable funding and from the Government. As has been mentioned, NHS England provides £10.7 million, which is shared among 49 organisations, but that money has remained the same since 2007. Shooting Star CHASE receives £630,000 a year for its programme. A quick back-of-the-envelope or iPhone calculation will indicate that huge amounts of money have to be found over and above that. It is vital not only that that money is there, but that it gets charitable backing.

As has been mentioned, it is not unreasonable that the coalition Government have decided that they want to review how all hospices—by that, I mean adult and children’s hospices—are funded by the state. As has been mentioned, the review was launched in 2010. The aim was to produce a new per-patient funding system. NHS England, as I understand it, has set up a series of pilots across children’s and adult’s hospices to collect the data so that the tariff can be developed. I get the impression that the children’s hospice movement agrees that a consistent and rational method is needed. We are still waiting for that—it has been three and a half years to date.

Staying with that development, it is perhaps worth emphasising how I see it, as someone who has worked in the national health service in dentistry. I have watched review after review, and I have seen how they have become

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more complicated and more difficult for organisations, such as those hospices, to understand. It is absolutely vital that the resulting method of funding is not complex, nor should it be—as is classic with the national health service—over-bureaucratic. An adequate process for transitional funding is also necessary, because the new funding method will undoubtedly bring in changes and shifts, with dips and rises in funding.

I am sure that the Minister in her heart of hearts will agree, even if she cannot say so, that funding has not been increased since 2007, and that we need to recognise inflation and the changes in service that many such organisations have made. A tapering increase in funding could perhaps reflect inflation and even the increase in service delivery.

In terms of the new scheme, it is vital that there is no sharp change—I mean positively rather than negatively; I hope that there will not be any negative changes. With any changes, we need a commitment to transitional funding, so that there are no sharp bumps in the funding. It is progressive—these organisations are looking after children over a long period and any sharp bump would mean a dramatic change.

Let me go to my back-of-the-envelope calculation. This one small, two-unit facility, plus all the group’s work outside, gets £630,000 from NHS England. That is vital. Three hundred and sixty-five days at £23,000 a day comes to about £8.4 million. This Government, the previous Government and future Governments must be thankful that they are not being landed with the full bill. It is vital that we recognise that we should move with the times, that we should give people results, and bring in the transitional funding to buffer them, as well as having a system of funding that is sensible, non-bureaucratic and easily understood—soon.

3.8 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): It is a pleasure to say a few words in relation to this topic. I thank the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew)—his constituency is wonderfully named—for his contribution. It summed up and set the scene for how we all feel about the matter. We thank him for his compassion and knowledge on the issue; it was a real pleasure.

Whenever I think of this issue, I think of Northern Ireland Hospice and its good work, and of all the other hospices throughout the United Kingdom, which other Members have spoken about, and of the scourge of cancer and specifically how it affects young people. Yesterday we had a debate on rare diseases. Perhaps the two debates could have been merged together—one on rare diseases and palliative care—because they very much go hand in hand.

As well as praising the hospices, I would also like to mention the Macmillan nurses, who, in many cases, make life just that wee bit easier for the families and those concerned. I pay special credit and thanks to those caring men and women who manage to make life that little bit less stressful for those suffering from cancer and for their families.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): I, too, thank the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) for securing the debate, and there is also a hospice—the Donna Louise children’s hospice—in my constituency,

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which does marvellous work. Will the hon. Gentleman join me in commending the caring professionals, whether volunteers or paid staff, who will be working in hospices over Christmas and new year, caring for people in often difficult, if not tragic, circumstances?

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I do join him in commending them, as does everyone inside and outside the House. We recognise the tremendous work they do—they are on call at all times. I sometimes wonder how they handle the sadness and emotion they have to confront each and every day as part of their vocation.

Northern Ireland Hospice is committed to fostering, encouraging and supporting a quality research culture internally, regionally, nationally and internationally, and it is known for the high level and quality of care it gives. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds), who has just left, referred to the Northern Ireland Assembly Health Minister’s commitment to contribute £2.3 million to hospices, and that commitment by elected representatives shows the appreciation of what hospices do.

It is essential that those receiving end-of-life care have the best care available and are made as comfortable as they can be in their last days. It is also essential, as the hon. Member for Pudsey said, that the family have all the information they need, whether that is in a hospice setting, the patient’s home or through a palliative care package—those are the three areas that have to be looked at.

Some 49,000 young children in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland live with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition and need palliative care. There are inspirational professionals working alongside them in their family homes, hospitals, community settings and hospices across the United Kingdom.

It is horrifying to think that if we had more children’s hospices, they would be filled, because the need continues to grow. Every time we find a drug that works against a strain of cancer, for example, a resistant strain appears. For that reason, it is essential we put money into not simply hospices and nurses, but research, and I am convinced the Minister will take the issue of research on board in her response.

I recently read a report stating there is a real danger that palliative care and palliative medicine will be the least evidence-based subjects in medicine in a few years’ time unless vastly more research is done. While palliative care is vital, research is equally important, so perhaps the Minister can give us some thoughts on that.

I hope we are all blessed with young children and grandchildren who are bubbly and full of life, but some families are not. Those families have to live with a child who is ill, and it is tremendously heartbreaking to acknowledge that. Before yesterday’s debate on rare diseases, the Teenage Cancer Trust sent us some information saying that 30% of children with life-threatening diseases will die before they reach the age of five. Again, that puts things in perspective.

Macmillan nurses told me that the sufferer’s mood is affected by their family. If the parents are content and relaxed, the child is likely to reflect that. This is about the family and everyone involved. It is also about the day trips and the residentials, which the hon. Member for Pudsey referred to.

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We have fantastic charities, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, that help children with terminal illnesses live a dream. However, that in no way absolves us, as MPs, from our responsibilities to the families, and nor does it absolve the Government or the regional Assemblies from theirs.

Together for Short Lives has also highlighted an issue to me. Will short breaks for children who need palliative care be fairly and sustainably funded from ring-fenced funding allocated to local authorities for short breaks? We look forward to the Minister’s answer, and I trust it will be yes.

Another issue highlighted to me was benefits for families. As soon as the child is taken to the next scene of life—as soon as they leave this life—the parents are left to deal with their grief and their debt. Sometimes, handling the first overrides handling the second. There must be some leeway over cutting off benefits, so that the family has time to realise their financial situation and handle it accordingly. The Minister does not have direct responsibility for the benefits system, but will she say how we can help families get through the switchover at a time when grief is the ultimate driver of where they are? What can we do to ensure that they are entitled to time off and that their benefits are reduced gradually?

Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): On the point about families, no parents separated as a result of the death of their child in the four years I was at Bluebell Wood, whereas the average in the country is 50%. Hospices are also very good at helping families to secure benefits and housing and to deal with their grief. The hospices therefore give holistic care.

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Lady for contributing her personal knowledge on that matter. I ask the Minister to tell us how the Government will improve support for the families of children with life-threatening or life-limiting diseases who die, to ensure that family members are entitled to time off and to have their benefits reduced gradually.

To conclude, a child’s illness is the most stressful thing a parent can face. We are failing the family and, by extension, the child if there is a lack of support. That can and, indeed, must change. I ask the Minister to outline what will be done to bring about the changes the hon. Member for Pudsey and others have outlined. We cannot heal these children—I wish we had that talent, but we do not, as much as we might want it—but we can make the journey easier. When will we start to deliver the extra, full care that is so needed?

3.16 pm

Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Osborne. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) on securing the debate. I certainly like the description of him as the smiling MP. He has much experience to bring to this whole debate.

I should declare that I am a long-standing supporter and patron of Julia’s House, a children’s hospice in my constituency. I am pleased we have this opportunity to recognise the plight of families with a seriously ill child, as well as the role of children’s hospices and other palliative care providers in supporting them. I endorse many of the comments that have been made.

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I would like to use this opportunity to highlight a vital type of support that is lacking in many parts of the country for these children and their families, but which Julia’s House has helped to pioneer. Most children’s palliative care focuses on end-of-life care, emergency care and some respite, but Julia’s House, in response to parental demand, mainly provides all-year-round, frequent respite care at homes throughout Dorset and south Wiltshire, as well as in the hospice in Poole, in Dorset.

For families with a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening illness, sleep deprivation, exhaustion and anxiety about the child’s health can take a heavy toll on family relationships. Parental break-up rates in families with a long-term seriously ill child vary, but they are known to be higher than the national average. People commonly report isolation, lack of time as a couple or as a family, and physical and mental exhaustion among their worries. Knowing that a specialist service will take the pressure off them for a few hours at a time of their choosing each week can be the difference between coping and not coping. It is even better if the service comes to their own home, as many families cannot easily transport their fragile child.

In the more than 10 years since Julia’s House began to provide this care, evidence has emerged that many parents see frequent respite as a factor in helping them to stay together as they try to cope with their child’s complex round-the-clock care needs. The impact of the frequent respite service and the flexibility afforded by offering much of it in families’ own homes earned Julia’s House the accolade of health care charity of the year at the 2012 national charity awards.

Julia’s House and Bournemouth university are now researching the extent to which frequent respite care helps couples with a seriously ill child to stay together. Their three-year study will conclude in autumn 2015, with interim results available in autumn 2014. Reliable data from the research could point the way towards a change in policy. It is in nobody’s interests, including the welfare state’s, for the parents of seriously ill children to separate. If frequent respite can play a preventive role, and if successful models of support are emerging, health and wellbeing boards should be asked to make frequent respite for families a strategic priority. As well as involving Julia’s House the research project will widen early next year to include client families from a selection of children’s palliative respite providers in England.

When the research started, the Julia’s House chief executive Martin Edwards met officials at the Department for Work and Pensions and the family policy unit to explain the research aims. The officials were naturally interested in tracking the results. I hope that the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government will take a similarly close interest, along with policy makers in all the main political parties. We all like to talk about reducing family break-up, but we struggle to find levers for that, and the project could provide one. Julia’s House will share the research results with the children’s palliative care sector and representatives of the three main political parties.

Emergency and end-of-life care, whether provided by the state or the voluntary sector, is very important, but it may come after a process of several years. Many

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children diagnosed with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition will live into their teenage years or beyond, and it is important to make that time as happy as possible. The cumulative effect on parents of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, isolation and anxiety is enormous. Which of us can say that we could survive such pressure?

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): I want to praise my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) for initiating this emotional and important debate. I hope that he will keep smiling; I know that his constituents smile a lot because of the hard work he does in his constituency.

The hon. Lady makes a great point about respite care. The Forget Me Not children’s hospice in Huddersfield opened its doors formally this year, but for a couple of years its nursing teams have been going into the community, helping 50 families. I volunteered with them last summer and remember vividly a single mum with a very ill child, whom they would help two mornings a week. She has not had more than two hours of unbroken sleep in the past six years, and those two mornings a week are the only times when she gets a little time to herself, whether to have her hair done or meet a friend. The contribution of those teams to her life make her a better mum, and help her to care for her child better. It is an excellent point.

Annette Brooke: That was an excellent intervention. How could any of us maintain a good family life under such unrelenting stress? What a difference that respite makes.

A family in my constituency likened the pressure to slowly drowning, in exhaustion. In their words, “The only name on the life raft reads ‘Julia’s House’.” For families elsewhere in the country, in the numerous places where there is no genuinely year-round respite, there is no life raft. I commend the initiative to the Minister and look forward to her response. The research is likely to show the great benefits to commissioners of spending more money on respite care.

3.23 pm

Mr Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) on securing this important debate. It was refreshing to listen to such a fluent and interesting speech by someone who has done so much work in the hospice movement before entering this House three and a half years ago.

As many hon. Members have said, and others will know from constituency experience, the hospice movement is fantastic. The dedication of those who work in it, whether providing the care or, equally importantly, raising the finances in their community, is vital. We cannot thank them enough for their dedication and hard work.

We have concentrated in the debate, as people often do when talking about the hospice movement, on children’s and adult hospices, which are vital. However, there is an area in between that is all too often overlooked: the need for more palliative care, and hospice care and treatment, for young people aged between 18 and 40. The needs of someone in their late teens or 20s are completely different from the needs of children, or of aged adults, who make up a large proportion of the

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people cared for in adult hospices. Things have been improving in recent years, with greater recognition of the situation, but I do not think enough account was taken in the past of the age group in question.

I will be honest: 10 years ago it would never have occurred to me that there was a problem. I assumed that someone who was not a child would go to an adult hospice, where the care would be wonderful—as it is—and that would meet the needs of even a young adult. However, when I met my constituent Denise Whiffin, and the friends around her, it was brought home to me how much extra attention and concentration is needed to meet the special requirements of that age group. Denise Whiffin’s son Jonathan was diagnosed, aged three, with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Of course he was cared for through the children’s hospice movement. However, when he was in his late teens that was of course no longer the most appropriate form of care. He moved to an adult hospice, with people who were much older, and whose needs, outlook, attitudes and requirements were totally different.

Denise Whiffin and others in my constituency looked around and came across a role model. I believe that it was the first hospice to be created in this country—in Oxfordshire—specifically for those aged 18 to 40. The group was inspired to try to replicate that in Chelmsford, to provide the same sort of help for mid-Essex. Those involved have done sterling work in the past decade, raising money from scratch. For some years they have been able to provide a wide range of badly needed services for young adults, in the patient’s home setting. Those things include specialist advice and support; unique care packages for each patient, drawn up by the clinical nurse specialist; expert advice on transition from children’s to adult services; practical nursing care; respite care in the home; counselling—which is vital for many families and young people; and a chaplaincy service and music therapy. They have expanded because of demand for specialist care for the age group, and their hope and ambition now is that in due time they will acquire premises in which to provide health care and palliative care.

Sarah Champion: My colleague has hit the nail on the head, and his example of a hospice is exemplary. However, aside from the social aspect, one of the most shocking things for a child is that on their 18th birthday the support of the paediatric consultant who has been with them all the way through is taken away. They are given an adult consultant who might not be able to see them for three or four months.

Mr Burns: The hon. Lady makes a valid and important point, which comes as no surprise, given her distinguished professional work before coming to this House after the Rotherham by-election. It is about continuity of care. Just because someone reaches a cut-off point in their age and lifespan, they should not necessarily—automatically—have to change from those who have been providing their health care up until that point. The individual’s needs and requirements might progress or change so that their consultant or other health care practitioner needs to change because of the skills that they have, but that is a totally different argument. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister and the Department of Health as a whole will look at the matter to see how

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we can provide greater continuity of care from health care professionals where that is appropriate, so that there is not an arbitrary cut-off point.

I do not want to detain hon. Members much longer, because I know that others want to contribute, but I do think that we must bear this in mind. Fantastic work is going on, as has been shown by a number of interventions and speeches during the debate, in children’s hospices and, equally, in adult hospice care, but let us concentrate more on developing for the young people in the 18-to-40 age group provision that meets their specialist requirements, so that they, too, can have provision and quality of care that is tailored to their requirements and demands.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): On the point about supporting people in the age group to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, does he agree that it is important for Government at all levels to encourage not just the hospice movement, but housing associations and good providers of sheltered housing models and supported housing models to think about how they might style particular developments and units precisely to accommodate people in that age group, so that they can live in a supported context but have premises that guarantee them more independent living, which is more appropriate to that age group?

Mr Burns: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman, too, for that constructive intervention. I know that, particularly in health debates, the term “holistic approach” is for ever used and can become rather hackneyed, but I do think that such an approach is crucial both in general health care in the NHS and in specialist areas such as palliative care, hospice care and end-of-life care. There really must be an holistic approach, and this is not simply about different sections of the health care community. As the hon. Gentleman says, it also involves housing and, as the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) said, the benefits system, where that is appropriate, for a number of people, because it is at this time in someone’s life and the life of their family and friends that they want the minimum amount of hassle, as they are going through some of the most difficult parts of their lives or their loved ones are. We want to minimise the extra pressures, concerns and worries, and that can be done through a more joined-up, holistic approach to the whole provision of care.

I know that the Minister will be listening very carefully to the comments made in the debate. I know that the Department of Health is extremely committed to the whole area of palliative care, end-of-life care and the hospice movement. I know that my hon. Friend will go away from the debate, reflect on a number of the points that have been made and do her best to help to address a number of the issues that I and other hon. Members around the Chamber have raised in the course of the debate.

3.33 pm

John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mrs Osborne. I join other hon. Members in applauding my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) for securing the debate.

I would like to make some observations and reflect on the journey that I have been on this past year in engaging with this subject, starting with a question to

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my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 5 December last year. In that question, I raised the issue of Naomi House hospice, which serves Wiltshire, Hampshire and Berkshire and does amazing work, along with all the other hospices mentioned this afternoon. Naomi House hospice also has a facility, opened in recent years, for young people in the 18-to-25 age group, reflecting the fact that, previously, young people with some of these conditions did not survive for very long, but now they have a greater life expectancy. The facility is adjacent to the Naomi House site, and they work together.

Professor Khalid Aziz, who was the chairman of Naomi House hospice for well over 20 years, observed that he received funding from three different primary care trusts, as they then were—they are now clinical commissioning groups. Wiltshire, which is my local authority area—it was the PCT at the time—had agreed a very simple tariff arrangement whereby it gave £308 per night for any child who was staying at the hospice. Naomi House had not managed to secure a similar agreement with Hampshire or Berkshire. It therefore relied on a share of the grant from the Department of Health and some other statutory local authority funding, but, as with all hospices, it fundamentally relied on raising money through fundraising activities. I think that the figure was about £4 million a year.

A little time passed and then, on 13 February, I, along with Professor Aziz, had a meeting with the Prime Minister. He understood the issue very well. He was aware of the review that is being undertaken of palliative care funding across all age groups, and we went away greatly encouraged. A few more weeks passed, and I was a little concerned that progress was not being made. I sensed that there was some reticence to separate the issues about children’s palliative care and the palliative care review that is under way. In the end, we had a meeting on 19 June with the Minister of State, Department of Health, and we set out our concern that the very simple arrangement that works so well for Wiltshire, securing a guaranteed amount of funding, should be rolled out across the children’s hospice movement as the way forward. There was general agreement, I think, among the officials at the meeting that that amount of money was the appropriate amount.

I came up and had another meeting on 29 July. That time, I met Professor Alan Craft, who is the head of children’s health, and Dr Bee Wee, the national clinical director of palliative care, and they took me through all the work that is being done to understand the profile of need, how we calibrate what the tariff would look like and what conditions would go into it. I recognise that that is a very difficult piece of work and we definitely need it to be data led, as I think the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr Barron) mentioned, but we were told that this work was going to progress and basically it would happen in 2015.

I was somewhat disturbed because the system that works so well for Naomi House could easily be rolled out. It is a very straightforward arrangement whereby a CCG is engaged with a local hospice and has said, “This is a contribution to the costs.” We know that there is a significant differential between the 38% funding

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that adult hospices receive—38% of their costs—and the 10% to 15% that children’s hospices receive, so this was a very simple measure.

I had a meeting on 15 October with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Government Policy. Then, on 25 November, I received a letter that said that the Government would include the local commissioning example in their national tariff document. Basically, the process that the Government are going through to review the whole arrangement for palliative care funding would continue and we would wait for the outcome. In the meantime, although Wiltshire and Naomi House would be put on the table as an example, it would not be presented in a compelling way so that it could be taken up as, I think, a very reasonable interim measure.

I am somewhat disappointed by that final response after all those meetings and all that dialogue, because what is needed sometimes is yes, rigorous analysis of the facts and the issues, but also promotion of quick solutions that would work in a very helpful way—that would ease the enormous burden on fundraisers in making up the gap in funding. There is great support in our communities for children’s palliative care. I sometimes feel that because of the very emotive nature of the work done by children’s palliative care providers and the fact that it pulls at the heart strings, there is always a sense that money will be found for it. I plead with the Minister to accelerate that process if she can, because we need to address the funding gap and ease some of the considerable pressure on providers.

3.40 pm

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) on securing this debate on a topic about which he is clearly passionate. I pay tribute to him and to all the members of the all-party parliamentary group on hospice and palliative care for the work that they have done to bring this important issue to the fore.

As we have heard, there are 49 children’s hospices across the UK, which all do fantastic work for young people and their loved ones. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr Barron) said, much of the hospice movement is supported by volunteers and millions of pounds of charitable donations. Many hon. Members from both sides of the House made passionate representations on behalf of their local hospices and the holistic care that they provide. Hon. Members have raised many powerful points, and I hope to touch on several of them. I want to focus on three points covered in the debate. First, I will set out the full scale of the care crisis facing young people with complex health and care needs; secondly, I will explain why that is an issue not simply for individual families but for society at large; and thirdly, I will touch on some of the areas that need attention to make life better for those young people, particularly those receiving palliative care.

As we have heard, more than 40,000 children and young people in England have palliative care needs. That includes children suffering from curable and chronic conditions, children with severe disabilities, and children and young people nearing the end of their life. That represents a 30% jump over the past 10 years. There has been a particularly marked increase in the number of 16 to 19-year-olds requiring palliative care, as we have

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heard from several hon. Members, to around 4,000 young people, which accounts for roughly 10% of young people under the age of 19 with complex care needs. That is in many ways a positive sign, because it demonstrates the great advances made in science and medical technology, and the fact that they have resulted in people living longer.

Cancer accounts for around 14% of young people diagnosed. Cancer Research UK figures show that five-year survival rates for teenagers and young adults have risen significantly across all cancers across the past 25 years. In the late 1980s, less than three quarters of young men lived longer than five years after having cancer, but the rate is now better than eight in 10. For girls and young women, the five-year survival rate now stands at 84%. There has been a particular improvement in leukaemia; the survival rate has jumped from less than 50% to more than 60%.

We are moving in the right direction, but as we have heard from hon. Members today, that presents a particular challenge, because more young people live beyond the reach of children’s care and transition into social care. Too many young people who receive care from children’s services turn 16, 17 or 18 and then fall off a cliff during the transition to adult social and health care. The right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) and the hon. Member for Pudsey highlighted the specific challenges facing young adults, and we heard an emotive quote from Lucy Watts, who summed up the situation well. Much more needs to be done to make the transition work better. Some of my constituents who have accessed wonderful services at the Alder Hey children’s hospital struggle when the health professionals and familiar surroundings that they have been accustomed to for so long change—a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) articulated. Many families are shocked by the reduced support that they receive in many aspects of adult social care after they have made that switch.

Transition is a hugely stressful process, and in most cases families are moving from dealing with a single, comprehensive agency to managing several different agencies with up to four points of contact. It is easy for gaps to emerge in that fragmented process. Many conditions reach crisis point in late adolescence, so it is all the more important that young people and their families receive responses from care and health agencies in an appropriate, sensitive and timely fashion. There are too many instances of people having to endure the agony of being put on hold, or waiting for a reply to an e-mail, when their loved one has an urgent care need.

That is all in the context of a crisis in adult social care. Since 2010, £1.8 billion has been cut from council budgets for adult social care, and we await the impact of the local authority settlements which have been released today. That means that fewer people receive help with paying for their care and more people face increased charges for vital services that help them to get up and get washed, dressed, fed and helped to bed at the end of the day.

Let me make a brief comment on the wider costs to society. Demand for care is growing at a time when resources are being reduced. The costs to society of a bad care transition—whether those costs take the form of greater illness, negative social and educational outcomes, or possible early death—are far greater than the cost of

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putting in place adequate resources to ensure a good transition. I welcome some of the modest measures that the Government—


Sandra Osborne (in the Chair): Order. The sitting is suspended for a Division for a minimum of 10 minutes.

3.46 pm

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

3.56 pm

On resuming

Luciana Berger: Before the Division, I was sharing with the House my welcome for some of the modest measures the Government put forward in the Care Bill, which the House debated on Monday. It represents a small step towards a better social care system, and builds on the Labour Government’s work to provide stronger rights for carers and improved access to information and advice.

Let me conclude by looking at some areas that still require attention, and with a few questions for the Minister. I praise the many charities working in the sector, particularly Marie Curie Cancer Care, which has a hospice not too far from my constituency, and Together for Short Lives, the leading UK charity for children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions. Their joint “Don’t let me down” report, published last year, set out sensible and important proposals, a number of which the Government adopted, but four areas of concern remain.

First, we need a much more joined-up approach to commissioning health and social care services for children with palliative care needs. Currently, we have a split: NHS England commissions specialist care, and local authorities manage social care. That fragmentation means that the very high variation in access to and quality of services, depending on where people live, will continue. I would be grateful if the Minister told us the Government’s assessment of that postcode lottery, and what they are doing to address the disparity.

Secondly, children and young people need to be consulted, so that their care caters for them and their needs. There is a particular role for health and wellbeing boards in that. More than half the health and wellbeing boards have explicitly examined care for terminally ill adults, according to the National Council for Palliative Care. The likelihood, however, is that far fewer will have engaged with children and young people on the same scale. I would welcome a response from the Minister on that specific point. Thirdly, the different agencies that provide hospice and palliative care to children and young people need to talk to one another much more. Local authorities are unable to share data. What solutions are Government considering to address that problem? Fourthly, a solution needs to be found to enable all the information and records about a young person’s needs to travel with them. Too many young people have to tell their story all over again when they need to access a new service, or when they are transitioning.

The debate this afternoon has been positive and constructive. On this side of the House, we are ready to work with the Government to improve outcomes for young people and children who need hospice and palliative

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care. We hope to deliver an integrated, whole-person approach to health and social care. Whole-person care is about meeting the needs, whether physical, mental or social, of people of all ages, so that they are able to live an independent and dignified life. That is ultimately what the future of health and social care needs to look like, with world-class hospice and palliative care front and centre. That is what we are committed to delivering, so that we can help those who need it most.

4 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison): I congratulate hon. Members on an excellent debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) on securing it, and on speaking, not for the first time, with great passion and knowledge on this subject. The debate rather gives the lie to the lazy cliché that MPs bring no real-life experience to the House. It has been enormously informed by the life experience of a number of Members, and I congratulate everyone who has taken part. I will do my best to respond to the various questions put to me, but if by chance time defeats me, I undertake to write to colleagues. The Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), is sorry that he cannot respond to this debate. As Members will have observed a few minutes ago on the Annunciator, he is otherwise engaged in the main Chamber.

Hospice care and palliative care for children and young people is an important and sensitive subject. From what the shadow Minister said, I can see that there is a good degree of cross-party consensus on the need to take the subject seriously and to sustain the way we serve the sector. The coalition placed great emphasis on palliative care in the coalition agreement, which included several specific commitments, such as a commitment to placing hospice funding on a more transparent and sustainable footing—that has been the subject of many comments today—and to introducing a new per-patient funding system for all hospices and providers of palliative care, so that the most gravely ill children and adults can receive care in the setting of their choice.

We have committed £10 million a year to support children’s hospices, as well as an additional £7 million in this financial year to support capital projects. In 2012, that allocation increased by over £700,000 to support new providers entering the sector, and we are keen to continue that substantial level of support now that responsibility has transferred to NHS England. We recognise the need for change in how children’s hospices are commissioned and funded. While a new funding system will be introduced in 2015, and while we have provided money to support hospices until then, we know that more needs to be done to support effective local commissioning. That, rightly, has been the focus of many of the speeches today.

Many hospices do not have as effective a relationship with their local commissioners as they might like, and funding from health commissioners is a relatively low proportion of the incomes of most children’s hospices and hospice-at-home providers. That is not universal, however. There are examples of local good practice where

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primary care trusts, formerly, and clinical commissioning groups, currently, have entered into funding arrangements with their local children’s hospice. My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen) has not returned from the main Chamber, but he spoke about the arrangements in his area for Naomi House, which has a per patient, per night tariff that has been arranged with the local CCG in Wiltshire.

We want the principle of CCGs supporting children’s hospices to be embraced widely across England. Monitor and NHS England are looking to include the arrangement between Wiltshire CCG and Naomi House in the national tariff document as a case study of good commissioning arrangements. Obviously, it is important that any nationally mandated or recommended tariff is based on a robust body of national evidence and provides clarity for commissioners on the services provided. I know that the working group has discussed the Naomi House example.

The charitable sector and the excellent fundraising work it does will always have a role. It has made an absolutely magnificent achievement over many years in all parts of the country; we have heard about that today. We are keen to see more effective and sustainable commissioning for hospices. We want commissioners to assume a more active role with their local providers, and we are keen to engage with the sector to see how we can support that. A lot of work is going on to develop that new model.

As has been referred to, the independent palliative care funding review, which reported in 2011, found that the absence of a clear funding model, or even a proper understanding of the costs of palliative care, was a major impediment to developing that care. The right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr Barron) mentioned the “stunning” absence of good data on the costs of palliative care, and the first step in developing a new funding system had to be improving the evidence base. We established eight pilots to collect a range of data and to test the review’s recommendations. The pilots—seven for adult palliative care, and one for children’s palliative care—are running for two years, and will provide the evidence to underpin decisions on how best to transfer to a fair and transparent funding system, which we intend to introduce in the 2015-16 financial year.

Hon. Members challenged us on the implementation plan and its timings. As part of the development of the tariff, there will be a plan for testing and implementation. Once we have clarity on the funding model, we will continue to ensure that the stakeholders are involved. Many of the hospices and their umbrella groups are closely involved in that work, and they will continue to engage in it.

I have heard the mood of the House on consultation. Although this is an NHS England lead, and I cannot commit it to carrying out a consultation, I can strongly encourage it and relay the mood of the House. The details of the tariff are still being worked on, but given that the new system will come into effect in 2015-16 and the sector needs to be able to plan ahead, we hope that that will happen in autumn 2014. That should be feasible, but I cannot commit to it. The sector is closely involved in that work and will be closely involved in the timing arrangements as well. It is key to say that we will not let this issue drift. The hospices are involved in the data collection and the discussion, and are key to the NHS

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England working group. The Government have made a commitment on that; we are conscious of that, and Members are right to push us on it.

NHS England is leading the work, and more than 80 organisations are involved. Barbara Gelb, the chief executive of Together for Short Lives, is a member of the Secretary of State’s children and young people’s health outcomes forum, so there is good read-across there. I emphasise how closely the sector is involved in the work, and how important it is to ensure that it supports the new funding model, which will be simple and non-bureaucratic—all the things that Members have alluded to today.

Having that clear, quality-assured information on the real costs of providing complex, costly care to a relatively small number of children will make a significant difference to commissioners. That has been emphasised by a number of Members. Concerns have been focused on that transitional period and the commissioning guidelines. The Department will consider in the coming months how we might further support that local understanding and preparedness among not only CCGs, but local authorities, as commissioners of social care.

Sir Paul Beresford rose

Jane Ellison: I will struggle to respond to the points made in the debate if I give way. I hope my hon. Friend will forgive me, but I am happy to pick up points after the debate.

We realise that health and wellbeing boards need to be involved, and that sits firmly in my area of public health. I will think about how we can take that forward and publicise that more.

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The transitional period and the challenge for older children and young adults was referred to a great many times, and has given much food for thought. The Department of Health has given section 64 funding to Together for Short Lives to support development and research around appropriate pathways and the transition to adulthood. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has been commissioned by the Department to develop guidelines around that transition. A number of areas of Government policy come back to that same challenge of how we deal with transition, and stop there being a cliff edge when a child becomes an adult. We all recognise that in real life that is not a cliff edge. In other policy areas, in other Departments, people are looking closely to see where we can get that right.

The Government have made short breaks a priority, and have put money, albeit not ring-fenced, into local authorities. We have introduced the short breaks duty, which requires all local authorities to provide a range of short break services for disabled children, young people and their families. A statement has to be developed in consultation with families and published. That is one thing that local authorities can be judged against. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke)spoke about Julia’s House, which is an interesting case in that regard. We will ensure that that is brought to the attention of the national clinical director. I will bring all the points that have been made in this debate to their attention.

In the final few seconds that I have left, I wish to put on record my thanks to all the volunteers and staff who work in this sector. I know that in the coming weeks, which will be a difficult time of year for families with a loved one who is ill, they will bring both comfort and joy to the people they care for, and for that we thank them very deeply.

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Electrical Safety (Private Rented Sector)

4.10 pm

Mike Thornton (Eastleigh) (LD): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Osborne, and it is a privilege to see the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Stephen Williams), in his place. I congratulate him on his appointment to his relatively new position.

I am delighted to have secured this debate on electrical safety in the private rented sector. How we live is changing. According to Shelter, the proportion of homes rented privately in the United Kingdom has rocketed by nearly 70% since 2001, with the private rented sector now home to 3.8 million households in England alone. There is no doubt that the private sector is playing an increasingly important role in meeting housing needs, especially for families. However, this rapid expansion in the market has been marked by a few rogue landlords and some well-meaning but ill-informed landlords, who are failing to ensure that the homes they let comply with basic safety standards. Electrical safety in the private rented sector is an issue that needs addressing urgently.

Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. There are a number of Members from across the House who are concerned about issues of electrical safety. Every year, nearly 5,000 fires are caused by electrical appliances, and many of them can lead to loss of life or serious harm to the individuals caught up in those fires. Does he agree that where a landlord is letting a property with appliances in it, there should be routine and proper inspection processes in place to ensure that the tenant knows that the equipment that they will be taking on is safe?

Mike Thornton: I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention and I entirely agree with him. When I used to work in various offices, everything had to be subjected to portable appliance testing to safeguard me as a worker. It seems a bit unfair that people living in properties should not be protected in the same way. His point is a very good one.

Mr Andrew Smith (Oxford East) (Lab): I also congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. My constituency has one of the highest proportions of private rented sector accommodation and so I take a close interest in this issue. Further to the point made by the right hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), does the hon. Gentleman agree that where houses are in multiple occupation the sort of licensing regime that there is in Oxford, which requires inspection, has a very useful role to play in promoting safety?

Mike Thornton: I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. That is one of the points that I was going to make. Houses in multiple occupation are covered, but other sorts of rented property are not. That is a very good point indeed and I thank him for making it.

When I was a student in Manchester in 1972—I know that is going back a fair way—I entered the house in Whalley Range where I had my digs and a loud hum could be heard. It was coming from the fuse-box situated

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near the front door. As I was curious, one day I looked inside. The reason for the noise was clear—in place of fuses, there were several three-inch nails. Until very recently, I assumed that nothing like that could happen today. As we have already heard, however, according to Government statistics the cause of more than half of all accidental fires in homes is electrical. Tragically, last year 25 people died in fires that started because of an electrical fault, and we also know that other people have been electrocuted. However, current rules mean that landlords are under no obligation to provide tenants with electrical safety certificates. They do not even have to prove when the electrics were last tested unless their properties are registered as shared houses, as the right hon. Member for Oxford East (Mr Smith) mentioned. That is despite the fact that a gas safety certificate is required.

The problem with electricity is that very often faults are not visible. Unlike a gas leak, someone cannot smell an electrical fault. This means that it is possible for properties to be rented with dangerous or faulty electrics that neither the landlord nor the tenant are aware of until it is too late, which can mean the loss of a loved one. “Too late” is just not good enough. Luckily, Mr Parker, my constituent, who raised this issue with me, was aware of problems in his rented property. He was seriously concerned about the electrics in his rented house in Eastleigh and came to me. He showed me alarming pictures of exposed wiring that quite frankly looked like a death-trap. Shockingly, there was loose wiring, some of it in close proximity to water. This was self-evidently not a new problem. If it had been and if his landlord had immediately taken action, as a responsible landlord would do, none of this would have come to my attention. But unbelievably Mr Parker’s landlord would rather run the real risk of injury or death to his tenant and damage to his property than repair the defects.

Of course, on hearing Mr Parker’s concerns one of my first reactions was to ask if he had any kind of electrical safety certificate for the property. Imagine my shock when I discovered that, under the current regulations, landlords do not have to certify the safety of the electrics in a rented property in any way. As a result, the judgment of what is classed as safe comes down to a personal opinion rather than scientific fact. Gas safety testing is mandatory on a yearly basis. Both gas and electricity are dangerous if there is a fault. So we apparently believe in protecting tenants and their neighbours from fire and injury caused by gas, but fire and injury caused by electricity is fine. Of course, if someone is renting a room in a house of multiple occupation, or in a hotel or bed and breakfast, electrical checks are required, meaning that if someone is staying in a hotel or renting a bedsit they are safer than they would be in their own home.

It is evident that current laws are just not up to scratch. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and the housing health and safety rating system brought in under the Housing Act 2004, have proven to be inadequate, mainly because they neither protect the landlord nor the tenant against unknown faults. The law assumes that the tenant is aware of faults. When I moved into my house in Bishopstoke in 1994, all the electrics looked perfect. However, an electrical safety check showed up several worrying faults that could have had tragic consequences. Needless to say, they were repaired. A simple five-yearly check, similar to the gas safety check

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that landlords must carry out on a yearly basis, would ensure that tenants and landlords are protected against such risks.

As hon. Members are surely aware, the Communities and Local Government Committee agrees that a change in the law is needed. In its latest report on the private rented sector, which was published in July, the Committee recommended that the Government develop an electrical safety certificate and legislate to ensure that landlords carry out full wiring checks every five years. This recommendation is backed by the Electrical Safety Council, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the National Private Tenants Organisation, the Residential Landlords Association and the National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers, an electrical certification body. However, the Government have rejected this proposal, arguing that it would increase red tape. Their response reads:

“The ESC recommends that safety checks are carried out every five years and we think that strikes the right balance between having safeguards in place to protect the tenant and avoiding regulating the sector”.

There is red tape and then there are regulations that save lives; a £200 five-yearly safety check is definitely the latter.

Any administrative aspect of electrical certification could be minimised by including such documentation alongside existing gas installation work. Most qualified gas engineers are also qualified electrical engineers. It is also important to remember that the introduction of the type of measures proposed in the Select Committee’s report would protect not only tenants but landlords. Accidental landlords, such as those people who inherit a property, are very often unaware of their obligations. Indeed, a study by the ESC showed that almost half of all landlords and tenants admitted that they had no idea who was responsible for electrical safety. Therefore, landlords are exposing themselves to significant financial risks, from fines and invalidated insurance, by not meeting their electrical safety obligations. That is not to mention their conscience if a tenant is injured or killed by an electrical fault in their property, which could result in a lifetime’s burden of guilt.

One of the last points that I want to make is a wider point about tenants having the confidence to complain about such important issues as electrical safety. Both the ESC and Shelter have significant concerns about the power imbalance between tenants and landlords. I welcome the recent announcement from the Department for Communities and Local Government that it will be looking into the possibility of restricting the use of section 21 eviction orders that apply to assured shorthold tenants following the receipt of such a complaint. I have been made aware of instances where a tenant has been issued with a section 21 eviction notice simply for identifying a hazard. I am sure that the Minister will agree that that is completely unacceptable.

For the sake of the 1.3 million renters that the ESC estimates are currently waiting for electrical issues to be resolved, I ask the Government to review the current legislation before another entirely preventable tragedy wrecks another life.

4.19 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Stephen Williams): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh

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(Mike Thornton) on securing this important debate. He is raising the issue on behalf of his constituent, Mr Parker, although he is drawing on his own life experiences, as we heard, albeit from a few decades ago while a student. Many hon. Members will have lived in private sector accommodation, whether as a student or later on, early in adult life—that experience is common in my constituency—and will have had such experiences and have views on this subject.

The private rented sector is an important part of the housing mix in England. It is growing and the Government wish to encourage that. Nine million people in England live in the sector. In my constituency, a significant proportion of people rent in the private sector; indeed, it is the second largest cohort in the country, after Kensington and Chelsea. The issues raised by my hon. Friend are of interest to me, as a constituency Member and as the Minister with responsibility for this area.

The quality of private rented housing has improved rapidly during the past decade. The English housing survey shows that 83% of tenants are happy with the service from their landlord. Obviously, that should not give rise to complacency, because it means that 17% are unhappy. Many of those experiences of unhappiness may fall within the issues that my hon. Friend is raising.

There is a general statutory duty on landlords to ensure that their property is in good repair while being let, and that is deemed to include electrical installations, to ensure that any appliances supplied with the property are safe. Where the property is licensed—the right hon. Member for Oxford East (Mr Smith) mentioned this in his intervention—for instance, in houses in multiple occupancy, the local authority can require that electrical installations in the property are periodically checked and that an electrical safety certificate is produced on demand. But it is up to each local authority to decide what that periodic interval is.

Paul Burstow: The Minister knows, from a meeting I had with his predecessor and through written parliamentary questions, that I have been trying to establish the outcome of a survey that the Department commissioned into the extent to which voluntary arrangements for licensing conditions are being taken forward. I wonder whether he has any further information about that and whether that has led him to conclude that there needs, at least, to be much clearer best practice guidance for local authorities, to ensure that the minority of landlords who let their tenants down by not adequately checking their appliances do not do so and are properly licensed in future.

Stephen Williams: I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. I shall mention various actions that the Department is taking in this area, which I hope will satisfy him.

Apart from circumstances in which properties are within an existing licensed scheme, landlords are not required to have electrical installations regularly checked. Although it is not a requirement, the Electrical Safety Council recommends that such installations should be checked every five years, as matter of good practice, and this recommendation is endorsed by the Department. A brochure has been produced for landlords and, as it is Christmas, I have a copy for my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh. I am sure that he will find it useful in giving advice to his constituents.

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Turning to points made by my right hon. Friend—I hope that this will satisfy him—the Government are reviewing the service that tenants can expect from landlords. In October, the Department launched a consultation on a tenants’ charter that will consider various issues, including electrical safety. The first stage of this will be the publication of a discussion document on the issues early next year. I hope that it will be available by the end of January. This comprehensive review of property conditions in the sector will also include actions that we may be able to take to stop the practice of retaliatory eviction, which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh mentioned, where a tenant has made a reasonable request of their landlord for improvements or repairs to installations in their property.

The review will also consider whether there should be any changes to existing health and safety rating systems and whether smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be required in rented homes. At the moment, such alarms are required only in certain circumstances, where particular sources of heating, such as solid fuel, are installed, but we are reviewing whether that duty should be extended. We are looking at existing licensing and voluntary accreditation of landlords, building on the discretionary licensing scheme that exists in several urban areas at the moment. Bristol city council has just started a discretionary licensing scheme to improve the standard of private rented stock in the eastern area of my constituency.

We are also considering what redress might be available for tenants; for instance, whether landlords should be required to repay rent where a property has been found to contain serious hazards. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is shocking that retaliatory evictions might occur where a tenant has made a reasonable request of their landlord for an improvement to be made to their property. They should not face the threat of deprivation by losing their home. The Department does not, at the moment, have any comprehensive evidence that retaliatory eviction is a widespread problem. My hon. Friend mentioned evidence from Shelter. Perhaps he would be kind enough to share that with me after this debate, so that I can raise the matter with Department officials.

On the health and safety rating system, local authorities have strong powers to inspect properties and make sure they are safe, healthy and free from harm. The process involves looking at 29 possible risks to health, including electrical hazards. Powers are available to local authorities where serious hazards are found in properties, including prohibiting use of the dwelling; undertaking the works directly themselves; and prosecuting the landlords, if necessary. The system provides an important safety net, ensuring that homes are safe and decent.

I mentioned that we are looking at the related issue of whether to require the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. This was the subject of an amendment and a debate in the other place, during the passage of the Energy Bill, when the Department announced that

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it is undertaking that review. Smoke alarm ownership is quite high, with 86% of all domestic buildings having at least one smoke alarm. Ownership of carbon monoxide alarms is much lower, estimated at about 15%. We are reviewing that.

Licensing gives local authorities some degree of control over the condition of privately rented housing in their area. Large HMOs are subject to a mandatory licensing scheme. As part of that, a smoke alarm must be installed in the building. A local authority can also require that an electrical safety certificate is produced on demand, but that is in the narrower circumstances of HMOs—narrower than those my hon. Friend is talking about—which are already subject to a local authority licensing scheme.

Local authorities can decide to license other rented housing. I mentioned the discretionary licensing scheme. At the moment, this can be applied where general antisocial behaviour is found in an area of high private sector rented accommodation or low housing demand. Our review will look at whether those conditions should be widened. Where that licensing is in place, an authority can impose conditions requiring regular checks of electrical installations of the sort that my hon. Friend requires.

In the review into property conditions, we will also consider whether a landlord could be required to pay rent if they let out a property that contains serious hazards. Landlords are already liable for fines if they are found to be breaching certain conditions, but we are considering how tenants may receive redress and compensation, and the repayment of rent seems to be a good way of doing that. That is subject to the review, and I urge all hon. Members present to contribute their views to that review.

As part of the review, we are also considering the letting agents market. As I am sure many of us know from the experiences brought to us by our constituents, and possibly from our own personal experience, many private rental properties are secured through a letting agent. The majority of agents provide a good service, but some do not and charge tenants excessive fees for a poor service, which might include not giving information about electrical installations or white goods in the property. From 2014, all letting agents will have to belong to a redress scheme, which will ensure that tenants have access to an independent adjudicator, who will be able to investigate complaints about a letting agent and order compensation to be paid, if appropriate.

Before concluding, I reiterate my thanks to my hon. Friend for securing this important debate. The Department recognises that, if we want to grow the private rental sector, as the Government certainly want to do, it is vital that we ensure that tenants have confidence that the homes they are renting are safe and decent.

Our review will conclude next summer, and I again urge all hon. Members to contribute to that review. Perhaps next year my hon. Friend will again be successful in securing a debate, and I hope that he will find that many of the issues he has raised today have been addressed by the review.

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Television Services (Scotland)

4.32 pm

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): I know people say this at the beginning of Westminster Hall debates, but it is a genuine pleasure to serve under your chairpersonship, Mrs Osborne. We are old friends and old colleagues, and it is good to see you sitting in the Chair for a vital, and hopefully positive, debate.

I hope the Minister will agree that television in Scotland is now in a good place. We had many years of differences, disputes and debates—the Minister can call them what he likes—between ITV and STV, which caused great problems for those who wished to plan the future of television in Scotland. I am glad to say that those problems have been resolved, and the relationship is positive.

I am a great supporter of television media generally, having spent a short time in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport back when I was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then Minister with responsibility for film, my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke). We met a number of people who, through Channel 4 and other production companies, made a great contribution to the UK’s film industry.

I have a positive view of television media, and I was pleased to attend a recent meeting at which ITV said that it is debt free. It is wonderful, in a world in which the banks will rip to shreds people who owe them money, to find that a company such as ITV is debt free. I do not know the financial standing of STV, and I do not seek to discuss that today, but I know it is in a positive mood.

I see STV as the Scottish broadcaster in a devolved nation, and its unique position has now been recognised. Without seeking comment from the Minister, I would say that, as a broadcaster, STV makes a good contribution to Scottish dialogue and to the field of production, which I will not discuss today. We have to recognise STV’s impact on Scotland’s creative industry. There are very few people at the centre, in the production team. STV sucks in, develops, encourages and grows the other independent organisations that are required by television production, which is a very good thing.

The second part of moving forward into Scottish television’s future of broadcasting to a devolved nation is recognising that the various localities in Scotland have differing perspectives on the world. People often look through the prism of the cities in which they live, such as Edinburgh or Glasgow. There are many jokes about the differences, but they are real. I am a west coaster, but I now live near the east coast. My constituents often see things through an Edinburgh-centric prism, and people on the west coast often see the world through a Glasgow-centric prism. The people of Ayrshire complain that others do not recognise the importance of Ayrshire, and they may in fact have a perspective of their own. I would say the same for the local areas around Stirling, the Forth valley and Falkirk.

There is a similar debate in Wales on the role of local television in Wales. In Scotland, I believe the intention is to call for local city television. The question is how we get people who wish to use that new service to recognise

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and access it. That turns on the question of what will happen in the regions of England. People in England will look at their digital channel list, and their local service will be on the first page at channel 8. The local television service in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities will be at channel 8. People in Wales will use the same channel as people in Scotland, and Welsh colleagues will debate that with the Minister separately.

Scotland is a much bigger landmass with a much more diverse population, and with greater distances between populations. People in Scotland will have to find channel 26 to watch city television—it started off at channel 45—so they will have to wade through online shopping and various baking, cooking and travel programmes to find their local television service. I know that in the longer term, given the way digital is developing, people will design a menu for themselves, which will be a great incentive, but that is not the case at the moment.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate, and I echo his point. He is talking about the issue generally, but in Wales there is a specific problem with the location of the channel. I agree entirely that we need to make local television services as prominent and as near to the top of the list as possible so that people can access local TV.

Michael Connarty: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention but this debate is on television services in Scotland. His point is very well made.

When city television is launched in Scotland it will at first be based in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Because city television is independent—although it is a public service broadcaster—the question will be whether it is viable. Will it have enough users in each area so that advertisers fund the channel properly and allow it to develop correctly? In the future, people might have their own digital menus and the channel will be there for them to use, but at the moment that will not be the case. Obviously we see public service broadcasters in the first 10 channels. I understand that Ofcom has a responsibility to provide “appropriate prominence” to public service broadcasters, and I would define Scottish local television as a public service broadcaster. The first 10 channels include Sky and—no offence to ITV—ITV2, but the public service broadcaster for Scotland will not be found until channel 25 or 26, which seems to me to be inappropriate. There is too much of one thing and not enough of the other. If we really are saying that we want Scottish local television to develop as a recognised public service broadcaster for a devolved nation, not a separate nation—I am totally opposed to the idea of independence—we must recognise it as a public service broadcaster. We should be supporting it, the Minister should be supporting it and Ofcom should be doing whatever it can.

The Minister and Ofcom will say that it is not really in their gift to make one broadcaster give up a channel to another and that it is Digital UK, the operator of the digital terrestrial television platform, that needs to be persuaded or perhaps instructed to do that. I am unsure of the Minister’s powers here, but he may outline their limitations later. I would be happy to hear that his focus and control could be extended, although it may require a change to Acts of Parliament. It is incumbent on the

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Government to recognise the position of the devolved Scottish Parliament, the aspirations of the Scottish people and the significant contribution that can be made by Scottish television.

I am not criticising BBC Scotland. We do that to its face when we have things to say about its biases, prejudices and lack of use of Members of this Parliament for good, fact-based commentary on matters of political debate in Scotland, but then again every party criticises the public sector broadcaster. The point is that STV gives a different view. We have seen that most people now tune into “Scotland Tonight” on STV and do not necessarily watch “Newsnight Scotland”—or “Newsnicht Scotland” as I pronounce it when it changes from the normal BBC programme—so STV has a particular role to play. Local people would also like to see their news interests on city television, which means that it should be in the first 10 channels.

I want to make some comments about BBC Alba, but I will not criticise it as it is a public sector broadcaster that has a particular position. Of the 90,000 or so Gaelic speakers, I would imagine that those who use BBC Alba would know where it was were it at channel 26, although I am not suggesting that it should be put there. Some of my Gael colleagues say to me that there is something odd about running rugby with Gaelic commentary, because it is not necessarily a natural selection of sport for people in the Gaeldom, who would perhaps rather watch something else. Borderers watching rugby, and even sometimes football, often have to listen to Gaelic commentary, which can be confusing. It may be of interest to the Gaeldom, but not necessarily to others. I am not suggesting that we should push BBC Alba off the first 10 channels in order to include STV city television, but we should seriously look at moving somebody off that first 10 to recognise the role of STV and what will become city television.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He is making a good case, and I am supportive of his appeal to ensure that we get the matter resolved. The most sensible thing to do would be to move STV to where ITV1 sits, and ITV1 could be moved further down the electronic programme guide. That is the sensible approach. Most people who watch STV want to see it and not ITV in that slot. What is the problem with fixing it that way?

Michael Connarty: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. I understand that both ITV1 and ITV2 are in the first 10 channels, so we should certainly look at one of them. There is also a question about Sky and whether people want to see it alongside the public sector broadcasters. Should we not have the public sector broadcaster and the local city TV channel, under STV’s banner, in those first 10 channels, rather than Sky? Options are available to the Government, to Ofcom and to Digital UK.

I have said all that I need to say, and I think the Minister has acknowledged that my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Jim Sheridan), who sits on the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, wants to contribute to the debate.

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4.43 pm

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate on the television situation in Scotland. We on the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport have been discussing the matter for some considerable time, and the Minister has also spoken to us. It is a big issue for viewers in Scotland.

Public service broadcasting is an important way of supporting local economies and local culture. There is clear evidence that STV is in danger of losing advertising revenue, because advertisers are concerned about it moving to channel 26, 27 or wherever. Investment in UK-originated public service content has declined by some 20% in the past five years, so we need to ensure that we are incentivising local television. As has been mentioned, the electronic programme guide could be used as a lever to encourage further investment, so public service content should be given prominence.

I am also concerned about people with visual impairments. If they have to search through channels in order to access their favourite programmes, that will cause them serious distress.

The feasibility of such services will be jeopardised and more time and resources would have to be spent on making people aware of the new location of channels. Such resources could be better used elsewhere in Scottish television, and there is a danger that money could be spent where it should not have to be. The Communications Act 2003 requires Ofcom to provide “appropriate prominence” to public service broadcasters, such as STV and local TV services. Just yesterday, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee had the opportunity to question the preferred candidate for the chair of Ofcom. While it is doing well at a challenging job, it is somewhat limited in its powers on this issue. Ofcom maintains that it does not hold the power to force a move or to transfer a channel number between broadcasters. Perhaps the Minister could look at giving Ofcom the opportunity or powers to do so.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has the matter under consideration, but there has been a delay in the legislation coming through, which has resulted in STV launching local channels in the new year. That is extremely unhelpful.

I strongly believe in public service broadcasting. STV is a credible organisation on which many people in Scotland depend for their news. To move it to channel 26 would cause great distress among many of our constituents. It beggars belief that a channel that delivers good news programmes and quality programming is being put behind something that sells products on television. I would suggest that people who want to watch teleshopping channels will search anyway, but if someone wants to watch the news or their favourite programme, be it football or even “Coronation Street”, they should be able to know exactly which channel they need to go to. I ask the Minister to clarify where we are and to keep STV either where it is or certainly within the single-digit channel numbers.

4.48 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Osborne. I want to

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say at the outset that I regard the views of Ayrshire as very important and they should dominate the tone of this important debate, which I thank the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) for calling. It was good to hear him praise ITV, and I agree that ITV is in a very good place. I do not think that that is related to the fact that its chairman is a former Conservative MP, but that it is debt-free and doing well is something to note. He also praised STV, and I want to say how much I admire its chief executive, Rob Woodward. As a Minister, dealing with such an effective chief executive is good news, because whenever he comes to lobby Ministers, he has a clear and specific aim and does not mess about. He asks for something and gets a straight answer back, so it is good to deal with him. STV is in a good place with its support of independent production.

Despite the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), this is a very Scottish debate, and so much so that the Secretary of State’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod)—my mother lives in her constituency—is in fact from the highlands, which may explain her Conservative perspective. I will try to focus on the Scottish issue.

We all know that the electronic programme guide is the list of TV channels that appears on the screen and is navigated via the remote control. It is important as the gateway to digital TV services. The EPG is regulated by Ofcom under the powers in the Communications Act 2003. We recognise that, with growing convergence, we need to update the approach to regulation of the EPG. That need was reflected in the tone of the speech made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk. We and he recognise the importance of certainty in the EPG regime for commercial broadcasters, because it is important for them to be prominent to maintain their levels of investment, and for public service broadcasting, which also needs to have appropriate prominence. Our objectives are therefore both economic and cultural. We want to ensure that viewers have easy access to valuable content and to public service broadcasting services, including local television, and to enhance the vitality and sustainability of public service broadcasting.

We are also debating the advent of local television. I pay tribute to the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, now the Secretary of State for Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt). It was his vision to bring local television to the United Kingdom, and it is very much down to him that we are in the position that we are in today. He drove the policy forward and made it happen, despite considerable obstacles placed in his way.

This Christmas will see the country’s first local television channel—in Grimsby, Hull and surrounding areas—Estuary Television, which launched at the end of last month. The transmission network that will support local TV has been completed and, thanks to the efforts of Ed Hall and his team at Comux, the new control centre in Birmingham went live at the end of November. It is also important to pay tribute to the work of Ofcom and the BBC Trust in getting local TV up and running. As the hon. Gentleman said, next year is when local TV starts in earnest, with 19 stations in the first phase going on air by the end of the year, including the two new services for Glasgow and for Edinburgh, which will be

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run by STV, because it won the new licences. It is also important to note that Ofcom will offer new licences for Dundee and Aberdeen next year.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned that local TV has been allocated the channel 8 slot in England and Northern Ireland on Freeview, but in Wales Channel 4 has the channel 8 slot, because S4C has the channel 4 slot; BBC Alba has the channel 8 slot in Scotland. Before the local TV licences were advertised in May last year, DMOL— Digital Television Multiplex Operators Ltd, a consortium of the Freeview operators—was asked to set out the position on EPG slots to Ofcom, which it did in April 2012. At that time, the best available slot in Wales and Scotland was channel 45.

Jim Sheridan: Will the Minister clarify the criteria for awarding the slots? Are they based in any way on viewing figures? I would hazard a guess that the viewing figures for BBC Alba compared with those for STV are disproportionate for the slots.

Mr Vaizey: As I might mention later in my speech, the criterion for public service broadcasting is “appropriate prominence”—that is in the guidelines, but it is a relatively vague term, which is one reason why it is important that we update the regulations. I will write to the hon. Gentleman, setting out in detail the criteria for the licence slots. It is important to note at this point, however, that local television is a new service; although it is public service broadcasting and should therefore have due prominence, that must be balanced against the fact that other stations already had slots that their viewers had got used to. There would be resistance from those stations to being moved off their slot.

I need to make a number of points. First, we are talking about new channels, so we should celebrate the fact that we are getting local television in Scotland. Secondly, when bids were invited, those who bid for local television slots in Scotland knew at the time that they would get channel 45. Importantly—and in a testament to the importance of local television and to the fact that Digital UK, which has in effect now taken over DMOL, also considers it important—when new slots became available, local television was moved up the EPG. It moved initially to channel 41 and then to 34; it has now reached 26, as it moves up the virtual hit parade. That is a significant improvement.

I have also had had discussions with Digital UK about the issue, because I have a lot of sympathy with the points made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk. Furthermore, the policy is one that we came up with, so we want to see it successful—albeit it had welcome all-party support.

Another aspect of the mix is that, because STV has won the licences for local television, it will be able to promote them on channel 3 to help viewers to find the new service. That is an additional element of support.

Michael Connarty: I may be anticipating the Minister’s comments, but I will draw him out anyway. My point is that if money has to be spent on advertising for people to find their local channels, revenue is being taken away from use on other things—I mentioned my positive view of production by STV—and advertising time on the main channel, which could have been sold to other people, is being taken away to advertise the new channels.

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If we believe in local television, we need to get it in parts of the country other than England and Northern Ireland. We have to give some incentive to cut down the cost—the opportunity cost—from someone else using that time.

Mr Vaizey: It is important that I do not say too much, in case I get anything wrong, but it occurs to me that STV can certainly use its continuity announcements to make regular reference to city television being on channel 26. STV need not detract from its commercial advertising time, which is incredibly important to its finances. STV will take an imaginative and innovative approach to ensure that its viewers are aware that it is running effective local television. Furthermore, it is worth making the point that STV has already pioneered the way with web television, with—off the top of my head—about eight local web TV services for viewers to access.

As I hinted earlier, I am in regular touch with Digital UK about local television. It understands the importance that I personally attach to getting the best outcome possible, in particular given the challenge of the new services and getting them established. As I said earlier, I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises that we have made considerable progress. I am due to meet Caroline Thomson, the chair of Digital UK, in the new year and will raise the issue again with her, as I recognise that stations need to have certainty before they firm up their marketing plans for launch.

The hon. Gentleman pointed out that local TV services have been designated as public service broadcasters, so they should benefit from the requirement that such services are prominent on the EPG. As I said, that does not automatically guarantee a particular slot on the Freeview EPG, given that the Freeview platform has contracts in place with existing channels. That gives me the opportunity to move on to what I hope we might do about the EPG in the future.

As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, we published our strategy paper, “Connectivity, Content and Consumers”, in July and we raised the issue of prominence and whether the right channels are being made easily discoverable, as the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Jim Sheridan) indicated in his remarks. That does not apply only to local television; I think it applies to children’s television as well, for example.

Sandra Osborne (in the Chair): Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. May I point out to him that the debate need not finish until 5.10 pm, so he still has time?

Mr Vaizey: I will finish early, I am afraid, Mrs Osborne.

We will launch a consultation early next year, and seek views on the prominence regime. Indeed, I would welcome the views of the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk and all hon. Members when we launch the consultation.

The hon. Gentleman made a number of points about BBC Alba, pointing out its prominent spot on the Freeview EPG in Scotland. BBC Alba is an important service and is designated as a public service broadcast channel, as local TV is. It was launched in September 2008 and took the free channel 8 slot when it joined Freeview in 2011. That has helped it to attract viewers, which in effect makes the hon. Gentleman’s point. It

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now has 0.5 million viewers a week on average, with 3.4 million tuning in via the BBC iPlayer last year. In fact, there was an 86% increase in iPlayer viewings in that year compared with the previous year. The decision to allocate the channel 8 slot was made by DMOL, now taken over by Digital UK, in line with its code on EPGs. I do not want to comment on whether the new local television service should take precedence over BBC Alba, but no doubt both the BBC and Digital UK will be watching the debate and reflecting on the points the hon. Gentleman has made.

Michael Connarty: If the Minister was listening clearly to the points I made he will have heard that I was not making a plea to move BBC Alba. I was passing on comments from my friends in the Gaeldom about the inappropriate things that are shown in Gaelic on BBC Alba, rather than saying that the channel should be moved.

Mr Vaizey: I stand corrected by the hon. Gentleman.

We recognise the benefits of having a single, easily accessible channel for local television: it would help with branding and advertising sales for all local TV companies and would help new viewers find the new services. It is unlikely that that we will see a change before the launch of the new STV services in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but, as I hope the hon. Gentleman recognises, we have made progress since April 2012.

Jim Sheridan: I have no wish to be rude about BBC Alba, but if we took the viewing figures for football away from BBC Alba I think we would find a big difference from the figures for STV. I have two questions. First, is it the case that BBC 1 will have the channel 1 slot, BBC 2 will have the channel 2 slot and BBC Alba will have the channel 8 slot? That gives the BBC a good run in the top 10—the hit parade that the Minister mentioned. Secondly, does he see any role for Ofcom in these discussions?

Mr Vaizey: As I say, the current arrangements are likely to be the case for the foreseeable future. We all welcome the arrival of local television. As I said earlier, it was very much the vision of my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey but it came about because of all-party support and has been, dare I say it, one of our more popular policies.

There is an idiosyncratic situation in Wales and Scotland because of the presence of S4C and BBC Alba and the effect of that on the channel 8 slot; that is not the case in England or Northern Ireland. Originally, local television was allocated the channel 45 slot. The Department and others engaged with Digital UK and it clearly took notice—although I would not claim that it was as a direct result—because local TV has effectively been first in the queue when channel slots have become free, and has moved up to the channel 26 slot. That is in line with the regulatory system, which requires due prominence for public service broadcasting—and local television is designated public service broadcasting—balanced against the contractual situation with existing channels, which have a right to certainty.

We recognise that in a converging world the EPG plays a crucial role in ensuring that public service broadcasting remains prominent for the viewer. That is

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important both economically and, more importantly, culturally. Next year, we will consult—I apologise to the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North if he thinks the process has been delayed, but we will consult as soon as we can—on how we can secure prominence for public service broadcasters within the EPG regime. That will be an open consultation and we would welcome views from hon. Members and other interested stakeholders.

Jim Sheridan: May I ask the Minister how long that consultation will be?

Mr Vaizey: I do not have a firm date for when the consultation will be launched. Normally, when asked about the launch of any consultation I always say that it will be launched in the spring, mindful of the fact that in Whitehall spring runs from February to November. So I will say that the consultation is likely to be launched

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in the spring. I do not know how long it will last, but I suspect it will be about three months. I hope that will be time enough. There may even be a short inquiry by the Select Committee into the role of the EPG in a converged television world. We will certainly take on board any recommendations from the Select Committee.

That is the process we have undertaken. We have made progress. Perhaps we have not made as much progress as the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk would like to see, but at least on one level we are travelling in the same direction. We both recognise the importance of local television and we also recognise that an anomaly exists in Scotland, so there is a need to consult and to make progress.

Question put and agreed to.

5.4 pm

Sitting adjourned.