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Westminster Hall

Tuesday 9 December 2014

[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Backbench Business

Education of Children with Cerebral Palsy

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Gavin Barwell.)

9.30 am

Mr Mark Hoban (Fareham) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) for securing this debate and generously asking me to open it. My first event as a Member of Parliament was a fundraising evening for the Rainbow Centre, a charity set up by parents to enable their children with cerebral palsy to benefit from conductive education, a therapy pioneered at the Peto Institute in Hungary. At that point, the Rainbow Centre was above a carpet shop in the centre of Fareham; they were not the most salubrious premises, but it demonstrated the parents’ commitment. They were prepared to go there during the week and on weekends, often carrying their children upstairs so that they could benefit from the education provided there. Children came from as far afield as Hampshire, Sussex, Dorset, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight.

Now the Rainbow Centre is in a purpose-built building in Fareham, and can offer support to more parents and their children. It also uses the techniques of conductive education to help adults with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease and those who have had strokes. My engagement with the Rainbow Centre led me to become involved in a parliamentary inquiry supported by Action Cerebral Palsy, an umbrella organisation for charities across the country supporting children with cerebral palsy. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys led the inquiry, and a final report will be published next month.

I will say a little about cerebral palsy to set the context for my later remarks. It is a motor disorder caused by damage to the immature or developing brain that occurs before, during or immediately after birth. In the UK, 1,800 children a year, or about one in 400 born, develop cerebral palsy. The condition can affect those from all social backgrounds and ethnic groups. At some point very early in life, either while a baby is growing in the womb, during birth or shortly afterward, something happens to interfere with the normal development of the brain or to injure the brain tissues. That abnormal development or injury disrupts the nerve signals sent along neural pathways between the brain and the muscles, leading to problems with movement, posture and co-ordination as the child develops. This is called cerebral palsy.

As cerebral palsy is a condition of very early childhood, the implications for the developing child cannot be ignored. During the formative years, the central nervous system develops rapidly, enabling the child to learn, explore and connect with their social environment. It

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is during those crucial early years that the ability to learn develops. Children with cerebral palsy are hindered to varying degrees during that process as they battle to learn fundamental skills related to their symptoms. Therefore, cerebral palsy should to a significant extent be considered as a problem of learning, rather than a problem of functioning or communicating.

Early identification of cerebral palsy and early intervention can help tackle problems of movement, posture and co-ordination. Between the ages of nought and two, a child has a high degree of neural plasticity, which can be harnessed with appropriate programmes in order to remap the neural pathways between brain and muscle, enabling children to overcome problems of movement, posture and communication.

I have seen for myself the huge progress that children have made at the Rainbow Centre through early intervention. Children whose parents were told that they would not walk now can; children said to have high degrees of dependency are now independent. Everyone who has been to the Rainbow Centre or similar centres around the country comes away moved by the sight of children, parents and educators working together through an educational programme that helps children improve their motor skills and rebuild those neural pathways. We can make adaptations to accommodate the physical symptoms of cerebral palsy—for example, we can provide ramps for wheelchairs—but it is so much more powerful and rewarding to work with children to rebuild their neural pathways so that those ramps are not needed.

There were several recurring themes in the inquiry, including problems with early identification. Also, once CP has been identified, parents are more likely to have to fight to get the right support for their children than to find it easy to obtain. There is poor signposting to centres offering appropriate programmes, a reluctance among some local authorities—including Hampshire county council—to support the work of specialist providers, and reduced access to specialist services as children get older. In many respects, those issues are not unique to cerebral palsy, and I commend the Government for their reforms relating to special educational needs and disability.

Those giving evidence in our inquiry warmly welcomed the intentions behind the Government’s reforms, which are widely believed to have the potential—I emphasise the word “potential”—to transform the lives of people with cerebral palsy. The introduction of education, health and care plans, which will provide statutory protection, comparable to that provided by statements of special educational needs, to young people who are in education or training up to the age of 25—as compared with 16 now—was seen as a particularly encouraging development by respondents to the inquiry. If services for children and young people with cerebral palsy are to complement each other, the plans should facilitate that by ensuring that services are jointly commissioned and provision is decided in dialogue with parents.

The stipulation that provision in plans is set on the basis of the expected outcomes for the child or young person, as agreed between professionals and parents, has been welcomed. It is believed that if the measures are followed through on, they should create the promised cultural shift that will lead to assessments for special educational provision being based on a continuing

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assessment of a child’s needs and expected progress, rather than being simply a fight over short-term solutions to long-term issues.

I want to emphasise some particular concerns of parents and other participants in the inquiry. The first regards the local offer, which is hugely important because of its potential to give families access to specialist cerebral palsy services offered by third-sector organisations. However, the challenge is what will be included in the local offer. Let me illustrate that challenge with reference to the Rainbow Centre. The centre has applied to be included in the offer for Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton, but councils in other areas served by the centre, such as Wiltshire and Dorset, have said that they will only include the centre if there is space available. That means that parents of children with CP in those areas will not know that the provision is available and will miss out on the support that the centre offers, and therefore on an education that could transform their children’s lives. Given the nature of centres dealing with CP, there will not be one in every county or unitary authority, so it is important that the local offer looks beyond council and area boundaries to ensure that all children with CP are signposted towards the right specialist services for them.

The issue of the local offer speaks to a broader point about the tension between tailoring services to local needs and a postcode lottery that results from a lack of national consistency. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Minister that Ofsted, in its inspection of children’s services, should examine the local offer and how comprehensive it is. Best practice guidelines should be produced for education and health professionals who work with children and young people with cerebral palsy, to accompany the special educational needs and disability code of practice. The guidelines should explain how the lives of children with cerebral palsy can be improved within the framework of the new system. Although there are the best intentions behind the reforms, parents and practitioners told the inquiry that many years of battling with education and health authorities over support for children with cerebral palsy have left them doubtful as to whether the reforms will make a difference.

The negativity about the reforms’ potential is the legacy of an adversarial SEND system in which parents and practitioners have been left battle-weary and sceptical that change can be achieved. There remains the fear that while the reforms could slightly improve the situation for children and young people with cerebral palsy, they will not address the widespread lack of understanding of the needs of those children and young people, which contributes to a systemic antagonism whereby parents have to fight too hard to prove what support their children need.

Perhaps one of the biggest recurring issues that emerged from the inquiry was the striking lack of awareness among health and education professionals, even among those responsible for carrying out assessments for SEN statements, or for making plans about cerebral palsy that establish what support children and young people who have CP require. This results in late diagnosis, missed opportunities for early intervention and a general

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scepticism from professionals about forms of support that parents often say have transformed their children’s lives.

There is a need for an awareness-raising exercise, so that if cerebral palsy is diagnosed, parents are made aware by professionals of the options available to them immediately, rather than having to search for those options themselves. In addition, parents who spoke to the inquiry said that all too often they themselves were the experts on cerebral palsy, and the professionals they encountered not only provided little help but acted as obstacles to parents and their children, preventing them from accessing the best help available.

There is a particular concern about early intervention and about whether the reforms will do enough to help. The inquiry shows why more needs to be done to support children and young people with cerebral palsy, especially in the “golden years”—post-diagnosis, for those under the age of two—when intervention is at its most effective because of the plasticity in children’s brains at that age. However, this is often also the period when that type of intervention is most absent.

The inquiry found that children are not receiving the specialist invention they need during these golden years because there is not enough specialist educational intervention available for children under the age of two and, where it does exist, health professionals and parents are too often completely unaware of it. Moreover, even when they are aware of it, local authorities’ responsibilities for assessing the needs of those under the age of two are not spelled out very clearly in the SEND code of practice. That means that by the time an assessment is made and support is put in place, there is a risk that the opportunity to intervene in these golden years, and to improve significantly the early intervention services for children with complex needs, such as cerebral palsy, has been missed. More clarity is needed in the SEND code of practice. It is not clear how local authorities are involved in the assessment of children’s needs prior to the check at the age of two. Of course, as I have said, for many children, intervention after the age of two is of reduced effectiveness.

I would be keen to hear from the Minister how the Government intend to encourage local authorities to target early intervention, and how health and education services will be encouraged to work together in early years—for example, by ensuring that the requirement on health professionals to advise parents on not only the health support available to their child but the educational and developmental support that they may be able to access is followed through on.

I have discussed problems to do with the availability and quality of care for children with cerebral palsy in their earlier years, but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that if we tackle these problems, they will be solved. It is clear from my conversations with parents, and from feedback from centres across the country, that far too many children with cerebral palsy can be isolated when they reach secondary school. Primary schools are often well prepared. Staff are able to work with children who have cerebral palsy, primarily because these schools are often laid out on one floor and are therefore very accessible. Children with CP can get around such schools without any issues, and they can take part in all the normal school activities. However, when they get to secondary school, they can often fall through the gap.

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By their nature, secondary schools have much larger buildings than primary schools, with multiple floors and large complexes. Children with CP can often struggle to get around them, leaving them isolated from their classmates and often from parts of the curriculum. Children with CP have been unable to take subjects they love because of problems with wheelchair access. Those problems may prevent them from taking part in courses on the first floor of a building that does not offer access through lifts or ramps.

However, the problem runs much deeper than just physical access. Many secondary schools do not have the specialist knowledge to help children with CP to integrate, and that problem is compounded by the nature of CP. During their adolescent years, young people with the condition can physically regress if they are unable to continue the programmes that help them to remap and maintain their neural pathways. Ensuring proper integration between schools—both primary and secondary—and specialist services can make a huge difference. We do not want the advances in independence that are made in early years to be eroded because insufficient thought has gone into the primary and secondary education of a child with CP.

In conclusion, I hope that I have set out where I believe the debate is at regarding support for children with CP, based on my experience with the Rainbow Centre and my participation with the parliamentary inquiry that is supported by Action Cerebral Palsy. As I said, that report will be published next month, and I hope that the Minister will meet my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys and me, as well as representatives of Action Cerebral Palsy, to discuss it and find a way ahead, so that the Government can help to implement its recommendations and we can improve the lives of children with CP and their families.

If I think back on the remarks I have made, I must admit that my views are perhaps coloured by my experience of meeting parents of children with CP. They have often had to fight hard to get the help their children deserve and that can enable their children to lead more independent lives than was perhaps imagined when their condition was first diagnosed. These are difficult battles to fight, so parents welcome the Government’s reforms, which should enable their children to get the early intervention they need. However, because parents are battle-hardened, they are also sceptical. They want an end to the adversarial approach to educating their children; early intervention in practice, and not just in theory; and consistency in the local offer, so that every child with CP has access to specialist education, regardless of who provides it and where they live. These parents have clearly set the bar for success, and it may be high in comparison with what they have experienced, but the Government need to prove to them that these reforms mean that they no longer have to fight for the right education and health support for children with cerebral palsy.

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): As this is an Adjournment debate nominated by the Backbench Business Committee, we will hear from the hon. Gentleman again at the close of the debate, because he is entitled to two or three minutes in which to wind up; this is one of those occasions when the Minister will not have the last word.

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9.47 am

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair this morning, Mr Hollobone.

Let me begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr Hoban) on his role in securing this debate and on an excellent speech, which teased out some of the issues from the inquiry very well. I also congratulate his hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), who of course has cerebral palsy himself, and who was also instrumental in requesting this debate. However, due to his other responsibilities in this quaint place, he now finds himself unable to take part in this debate.

As we have heard, children who have cerebral palsy, as with many other conditions and disabilities, are often reliant on early identification and intervention to ensure that they make progress in both their physical capabilities and their educational progress. As I have said previously, Labour will support the Minister if he wants to work to persuade his colleagues at the Department of Health that we should make it mandatory for all children who experience complications around the time of their birth to undergo early screening by specialist paediatricians and other experts for conditions such as cerebral palsy. That would be a wonderful example of the children and families legislation being used to show that the Department of Health is fully on board.

As we have also heard, identification of children from nought to two is vital. Action Cerebral Palsy has pointed out that this is the time when the brain’s development is at its most active, and we are most likely to achieve success in retraining damaged areas. It is in this very early period that children have the greatest chance of learning and adapting. Without sufficient support in the period from nought to two—what the hon. Member for Fareham referred to as the “golden years”—children are unlikely to get the specialist intervention they need, and that can set them back right at the outset.

As the hon. Gentleman said, cerebral palsy is a broad term designed to cover a range of neurological conditions that affect movement and co-ordination, and it is caused largely, we believe, by damage sustained during or shortly after birth to the part of the brain responsible for controlling muscle movement. I am told that three in every 1,000 babies are born with cerebral palsy, making it the most common motor disability in childhood. Estimates suggest there may be around 110,000 people in the UK living with the condition.

There seems to be a slightly greater likelihood of the condition affecting boys rather than girls, although as far as I am aware there is as yet no scientific explanation for this. The condition is not hereditary or genetic. Serious infections, extreme nutritional deficits in the mother’s diet or unexplained foetal complications are thought to be major factors, as we heard earlier, as is brain damage resulting from lack of oxygen during foetal development or during labour and delivery. About one in three children with the condition are unable to walk; one in four are unable to feed or dress themselves; three in 10 may also suffer from severe learning difficulties; and one in four may experience epileptic seizures. However, life expectancy is good for children who survive until at least the age of 10.

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As with many other conditions, parents and support groups for those with cerebral palsy report a lack of awareness on the part of health professionals, teachers, educators and other local authority professionals they have to deal with, and they regard this as an impediment to progress for their children with cerebral palsy. In severe cases, children will need full support and therapeutic input, specialist schools and specialist equipment, but for a great many a supportive and assistive environment in a mainstream school can easily be the best option.

Since the introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014, an education health and care plan—previously, an SEN statement—may be needed to ensure that a child with cerebral palsy receives appropriate support and education, but that is not so in all circumstances. One of the greatest problems when it comes to good choices and appropriate education appears to emerge in respect of children with mild forms of the condition. This is about joined-up services, and the professionals and agencies actually listening to parents and providing appropriate assistance—all factors that the Children and Families Act was designed to address; all factors where the local offer will play a crucial role.

I listened with interest to the hon. Gentleman’s suggestions about the local offer. I, too, am concerned about how well it will help to shape services across the country. It is for that reason that my party has concluded that the local offer needs to be subject to an annual assessment that takes account of the experience of parents and supporting organisations, so that we know what is happening out there, we can identify progressive and innovative developments and the local authorities and geographic areas that are really working in the spirit of the legislation, and we can recognise what is simply not good enough. Surely that is the best way to drive up good practice and make clear what we are not willing to accept.

A criticism I hear repeatedly of existing models is that there appears to be an over-emphasis on equipment-based interventions—perhaps a throwback to a bygone age—rather than hands-on, active, sensory, motor learning for children, as well as the accompanying training for parents and practitioners. When it comes to high-needs funding, there is insufficient evidence of a child-centred approach at this early stage. There tends to be a focus on equipment funding or support workers and ancillary development, rather than a child-centred approach. That strikes me as contrary to the spirit of the legislation that the Minister is responsible for.

At present, we do not seem to have the right balance in sharing the skills that are available, so that the expertise in specialist centres, voluntary organisations, support groups, charities and independent bodies is utilised properly to help to build knowledge, skills and training in the mainstream schools and nurseries that children with cerebral palsy attend. I am keen to see access to specialist provision and expertise in cerebral palsy made available as soon as concerns are raised about a child’s development. We need to ensure that every child who is capable of benefiting from such an approach has access to educational programmes that address movement skills as education, rather than therapy.

That was what the hon. Gentleman was referring to when he talked about his experience of conductive education through the Rainbow Centre in his constituency.

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The National Institute of Conductive Education, which is based just down the road from my constituency in Birmingham, has pioneered similar approaches. This education should be available to all children with sensory motor disorders. Clinical and education staff, including special educational needs co-ordinators, must receive both initial and ongoing training as part of their continuous development, so that they become fully acquainted with best practice in this area.

Many years ago, Baroness Warnock advocated a policy of inclusion for children with SEN; and, on the strength of her report, many special schools were closed. However, in 2005 the Baroness admitted that the policy had gone too far, leaving a disastrous legacy. Inclusion is fine where it works, but it does not work for everyone. Elsewhere, I have spoken of Labour’s desire to see a network of hub-and-spoke models—I do not think the Minister and I are that far apart on this—so that specialist centres develop skills, expertise and training, and share these with local schools and nurseries in their locality. Surely that is the answer to the inclusion debate: not one or the other, but what is appropriate for the individual and one supporting the other.

Like many of the other high hopes contained in the Children and Families Act, a key aspect of improving the lot of children with cerebral palsy is good joint commissioning and a constant dialogue with parents to help them to shape future provision, as well as to agree on what is best for their child. I read in a briefing from Action Cerebral Palsy—the hon. Member for Fareham alluded to this—that the

“negativity about the potential of the Children’s and Families Act reform is the legacy of an adversarial SEN system, where the parents and practitioner involved have been left battle-weary and sceptical that change may be achieved.”

I recognise that sense of frustration and exhaustion, and that cynicism. I, too, have met too many parents who have had exactly that experience.

I want to make it clear that the Minister and I have in common a desire to change that history—that inevitability—about being the parent of a child with special needs. The Minister’s legislation offers a way forward, and I will work with him to ensure that the implementation translates into action and not just nice words. We have to take the opportunity and make it clear to parents that we recognise their struggle and that the purpose of the legislation is to try to change things. It is not right that they should feel exhausted by the constant battle to achieve the support and services that their children deserve as of right.

I have said this to the Minister before, but we need to consider how best to review regularly the SEN code of practice, because it will play a vital role in how well the legislation is implemented. I want to see authorities and other agencies treating children and their parents as the legislation intends. That approach should be accompanied by a small implementation team at the Department for Education. That is the only way to ensure that the aspirations of the legislation are translated into action and that the sense of negativity that Action Cerebral Palsy describes is confronted.

We need to be confident that schools are developing communication systems that at the very least ensure home-school liaison books or phone texting or e-mail systems, so that information is regularly exchanged and acted upon. Where more than one service is involved,

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there should be regular “Team around the child” meetings, so that all those involved work together in the best interests of the child.

Fatigue can be a factor in many disability conditions, including cerebral palsy, and parents need confidence that the school is capable of constructing the right rest/exercise balance to ensure that the child is making progress, but not being pushed beyond what is appropriate. Schools should focus on those things. Many children with cerebral palsy also suffer from memory difficulties, which puts an emphasis on well-planned lessons with knowledge in advance, so that the parent and child know what is happening in the coming year, months, weeks and days. They can then prepare and make the most of their educational opportunities. The hon. Member for Fareham referred to transition periods being essential. Whether it be into secondary school or the various other transitions, it is vital that children make a proper transfer from one setting to another and that it does not happen haphazardly. Children with cerebral palsy, like many other children with disabilities, rely on their family and a network of support, and it is vital that that is kept intact during any transition planning.

In the autumn statement, the Chancellor made reference to a number of initiatives designed to improve the law, but I noticed that there was not any specific reference to this area. Since we are so close to Christmas, is the Minister in a position to tell us whether there are any surprise presents for those with cerebral palsy? Can he bring to bear any new money in this matter? To be clear, this is not solely a money issue; it is much more about how well services work together. I am conscious of the enormous pressure on local authorities. Making progress on early identification and the better use of available services and having a local offer that is fair to everyone and a properly implemented code of practice is not resource-free. I am curious to know how the Minister will check that local authorities and other agencies have sufficient resources to accomplish the things he has said he wants to achieve.

10.4 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Edward Timpson): As ever, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. It is also good to know that I will not have the last word, which I am sure is a relief to everyone who has taken part in the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr Hoban) on securing this debate by proxy, if that is the right way to put it. Most importantly, he has brought to the attention of the House support for children with cerebral palsy, borne from his experience of going to the Rainbow Centre in Fareham, of which he is clearly a vocal and passionate champion. He was instrumental, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), in establishing the recent parliamentary inquiry into cerebral palsy, to which officials from the Department for Education and the Department of Health gave evidence. We look forward to seeing the final report in the new year.

At this juncture, I will say a little more about the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys. First, having led the debate in the House for many years on how we better support children and young people with cerebral palsy with such expertise, candour and aplomb, he has, through being too good at

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that role, been recognised for his efforts, as well as his wider knowledge and skills. He now sits behind me as a valued Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department for Education. He is therefore unable to speak in the debate, although I know he is champing at the bit to do so. Secondly, and more importantly, it is only thanks to his tenacity, passion and leadership that we are having the debate at all. I put on record my own appreciation, along with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham and many others in Blackpool and beyond, for his continued efforts in raising awareness of cerebral palsy and challenging us all to think hard about what more we can do to support children and families living with CP.

The Government’s ambitions for disabled children and those with SEN, including those with cerebral palsy, are the same as for all other children: for them to achieve well in their early years, in school and in college; to find employment; to lead happy and fulfilled lives; and to have more choice and control over how they are supported. The reforms introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014, which came into effect in September, should work to the benefit of all children and young people, regardless of their type of need or impairment. We want to ensure that the reforms work well for all children and young people with cerebral palsy. We are keen to build our understanding of the evidence on what works, and we will be more than pleased to work with many of the excellent organisations out there with expertise in the area, including Action CP. Our national voluntary and community sector grants programme is another opportunity for us to support good proposals, including on early intervention and identification. I know that Action CP has submitted such proposals to us in its bid through that programme.

Our special educational needs reforms and early years policies are designed to improve how we identify and support children and young people with special educational needs. Getting the right start in life is so important for all children, but particularly for those who are disabled or have SEN. My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham is absolutely right that early identification and intervention for children with cerebral palsy is crucial if we are to put in place the right support at the earliest possible opportunity to help mitigate its physical, emotional and educational impact and ensure that we allow them to reach their potential.

A number of measures are in place to identify children’s needs as early as possible, including those with cerebral palsy. The key principle is that assessments have to be focused on the needs of the individual child and their particular circumstances. When they are between two and three years old, all children are offered a healthy child programme review, which is carried out by a health professional. That is a snapshot assessment on a given day looking at health and development outcomes. Where the child is in registered early years provision, the education practitioner, who is usually the child’s key worker, must carry out a progress check when a child is aged between two and three, and provide parents and/or carers with a short written summary of the child’s development in prime areas. I am also conscious that the golden years, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham puts it, fall before the age of two. We must carefully consider what more we can do to establish as early as possible whether cerebral palsy is playing a part

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in a young baby or toddler’s life and to put in place support that will have a discernable, positive effect on their future development.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) mentioned some of the specific screening protocols for children who experience complications at birth, and I will pass on his views to my colleagues in the Department of Health. Decisions about conducting specific early screening protocols for conditions such as cerebral palsy are quite rightly made by specialist clinicians. Diagnosing cerebral palsy often takes time and no test confirms it or rules it out. In some cases when a baby requires special care in hospital after being born, it may be possible for a confident diagnosis to be made relatively quickly, which is good in order to ensure a quick response. In many cases, however, a clear diagnosis is possible only after a few months or years of screening. For those with milder symptoms, a diagnosis may not be rendered until the brain is fully developed at three to five years of age.

Under the healthy child programme, babies undergo screening, health checks or immunisations at birth, 72 hours, five to eight days, six to eight weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, six to eight months, 12 months, two and a half years and at school entry. Each of those routine contacts with a health professional enables parents to discuss any concerns. They can then contact their health visitor or GP at any time should they have such a concern about their child’s development. As technology and science advance, we want to continue to push the boundaries of what is possible to ensure that we get that confident diagnosis at the earliest possible time. I am happy to work with my colleagues in the Department of Health to establish whether the national health service is doing all that is possible.

If significant concerns emerge or if a special educational need or disability is identified, practitioners should develop a targeted plan to support the child’s future learning and development, involving other professionals as appropriate. In doing so, to pick up on a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham and reinforced by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, it is right that as much understanding as possible is in place as to what learning is and how it can manifest itself in each individual child’s circumstances, so that no opportunity is lost to develop every aspect of their potential.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham set out, the first few years of a child’s life are fundamentally important. They shape their future development and influence how well they do at school, their health and well-being and their achievements later in life. We fully recognise that, which is why, since September 2010, every three and four-year-old has been entitled to 570 hours a year of Government-funded early education over no fewer than 38 weeks of the year. Since September 2013, the most disadvantaged two-year-olds across England have been able to access a funded early learning place. By May 2014, more than 116,000 two-year-olds were already benefiting from early learning. That number has continued to grow since September 2014, when the number of children entitled to a place doubled to some 260,000.

Through the early years foundation stage, we seek to ensure quality and consistency in all early years settings, so that every child makes good progress, that no child

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gets left behind and that learning and development opportunities are planned around each child’s needs and interests. That is also at the heart of the reforms in moving towards to a birth to 25 single plan and assessment system to ensure consistency of approach from all professionals who come into contact with a child throughout their education. The EYFS currently calls for integrated working between health and education practitioners to assess a child’s development and needs at age two where possible, which is particularly important for children with cerebral palsy. We have asked for integrated reviews to be offered as standard practice from September 2015.

As ever, there are some excellent examples of effective integration of education, health and care services. I can point to ones in Cornwall and Wolverhampton that we have discovered through engagement with the relevant authorities, but we need to ensure a consistent approach to integrated working across health and education not only through legislation, but in practice on the ground. To follow that through, Ofsted will look for evidence of integrated working in all settings, from early years through to the compulsory school age, to seek assurances that early years providers and others are assessing children’s progress and needs appropriately and are doing all that they can to support each child’s development towards being ready for school and beyond.

A more holistic picture of a child’s needs is more likely to lead to the child getting the help that they need through early intervention. Supporting more timely and more accurate early intervention might be more effective, could lead to longer-term savings and could improve children’s life chances, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. That is why, for children of school age and beyond, we have ensured that the new special educational needs code of practice gives clear advice on identifying needs and providing support, based on effective practice from successful schools, including those in the achievement for all programme.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham welcomed the emphasis that the reforms rightly place on educational and life outcomes, both in early years settings, schools and colleges, and, for those with more complex needs, through co-ordinated assessment and a single education, health and care plan. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak reminded us, health bodies and local authorities now jointly plan and commission services for disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs. I have worked closely with my colleagues in the Department of Health throughout the development and implementation of the reforms, and will continue to do so, to ensure that health is an integral part of the drive to improve outcomes for children and young people, but where we could and should go further, we will look to do that. I had an extremely productive meeting with the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), and we have a clear and joint commitment to ensure that the work being done throughout the national health service to implement the reforms is as much a priority in the NHS as it is in education and social care agencies.

Better information for parents and young people has been a theme throughout the development of the reforms. There should also be an opportunity for them to feed back, so that improvements can be made that reflect their observations of where services may be falling

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short. Through the local offer, parents will know what they can reasonably expect their local early years provision, school, college, local authority and local services to provide without having to battle for the information, which was so disparately spread in the past. From his observations about the Rainbow Centre in his constituency, my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham made the point well that the local offer in his local authority area makes it clear that the centre is available to parents, but that that is not reflected in the surrounding local authorities, which do not necessarily see it as a part of their own offer.

We made it clear throughout the passage of the legislation—I am happy to reiterate it now—that a local offer is not confined to services within a local authority area, in particular when it relates to specialist services. We tend to operate within what many would see as artificial boundaries, but many parents need to look beyond their local authority to find the service that best meets their children’s needs. Local authorities should therefore be thinking long and hard about services not only within their own local authority, but in surrounding areas, so that the local offer genuinely reflects what they would reasonably expect to be made available to parents for all conditions and for all children who have special educational needs and disabilities. Local authorities must consult parents of children with SEN and disabilities, and children and young people themselves, when developing and reviewing their local offer and must publish the action that they will take in response to comments about it. That will help to ensure that local services are responsive to local needs and will make it even more important that the offer reflects what parents say is required.

Mr Hoban: I appreciate that I will have a second bite of the cherry in a minute, but I just want to press the Minister on this point about what the local offer includes. He rightly places emphasis on consulting parents, but if the parents do not know that there is a specialist centre in the next county, or the next city in the case of Birmingham, they will not know how to feed that back. What steps will the Department take, either directly or through Ofsted, to monitor the composition of local offers?

Mr Timpson: I was going to come on to the issue of accountability, but will bring it forward in my contribution as my hon. Friend has raised it. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak also made the point about how to ensure that implementation is taking place on the ground. A real difference for families would be if they had a different experience and a more coherent and cohesive response from each agency, involving them more in the process. That involves ensuring that the local offer sets out clearly for parents what the local authorities expect to make available. The regulations that underpin the Children and Families Act—not only the code of practice, but other delegated legislation—make it clear what local authorities should be doing to achieve just that.

In the early stages of implementation, we brought a network of SEN advisers into the Department to work with us, and they are out in the field the whole time, establishing with all 150-plus local authorities that they have complied with the legal requirements of the Act in the publication of the local offer—every single local

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authority has a published local offer—and that the offer reflects the spirit of the reforms. The SEN advisers have been working in the system for many years—they were hand-picked for that reason—and their knowledge means that they can establish where there is a shortfall in the local offer and in the information available.

Beyond the first year of implementation, we have been working closely with Ofsted. We have asked it to conduct a survey on local authority readiness for the reforms and whether there is a need for an inspection framework, so that parents may have confidence that education, health and social care services are genuinely working together with parents, families and children at the earliest possible opportunity, involving them not only in the development of their own plan, for their own child, but in the wider strategic plan for provision in the local area.

We will announce soon how the accountability framework will be shaped in future, but the Christmas present that I can offer to parents and families at this time of year is that we are clear with Ofsted about the need for a clear level of accountability that does not involve a direct relationship with the Department, instead relying on a local approach to accountability, which will help to provide consistency throughout the country. I hope that that will be a welcome development for many parents who were anxious to know how we intend to ensure that the reforms that we have set out and our vision will be translated into action on the ground.

The need to raise awareness among professionals is a key aspect of our reforms, as is the sufficiency of education and health care specialists with the skills to support children, including those with cerebral palsy, a point made by both my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak. Transition points can often be a stage in a child’s life where support can fall away, causing a period of uncertainty and or decisions to be delayed. That is the whole reason why we have moved towards a clear birth-to-25 system, for a much easier way to transcend movement through the education system that does not include different plans and different people, but gives parents and children consistency of support through what can be a difficult time.

The Government have established a clear, national statutory framework for identifying, assessing and providing for all children with SEN and disabilities. Detailed arrangements are, rightly, made locally, allowing local provision to be more responsive to local need, but the needs of children and young people with SEN vary greatly. Indeed, the needs of those with cerebral palsy can vary greatly, as we have heard, depending on the precise nature of the condition and other factors in their life. Education settings therefore need to ensure that they give their staff the training necessary to support the individual needs of the children and young people for whom they provide.

Early years providers, schools and colleges are responsible for deciding what specialist expertise is required to meet children and young people’s needs and for securing that expertise. That is explicit in the SEN code of practice. We have been at pains to drive the point home that it is the responsibility of all teachers within a school or an educational setting to have an understanding and awareness of special educational needs and disabilities, so that they can play their part and not see it simply as the role

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of the SEN co-ordinator or other specialists. Specialist organisations can play a key role in increasing awareness of particular disabilities. My Department has supported such organisations in the fields of autism, dyslexia, and speech, language and communication needs, which are the most prevalent types of SEN, to provide information, advice and support to schools, early years settings and local agencies.

The new SEN and disability code of practice makes it clear that local authority and health partners should ensure that a designated medical officer is in place to ensure that assessment planning and health support are carried out. I am interested in securing the further spread of DMOs. There are some excellent examples of where they are making a significant contribution, but there is still scope for them to become more embedded in more parts of the country. I will be looking at that closely in the coming weeks and months. The code recognises that the DMO role would usually be taken by a paediatrician. The person appointed should have appropriate expertise and links with other professionals. That helps to bind health in, not only with the clinical role of the DMOs but with the role that they can play within schools, so that there is a genuine partnership to ensure that assessment, planning, and implementation and review of the plan are done as a collective response to the child’s needs.

The Children and Families Act places the views, wishes, feelings and aspirations of children, parents and young people at the heart of the new system. That is what the Green Paper set out in 2011 and what we have seen through to the conclusion of the legislation. To make it happen we have an active young people’s national advisory group, EPIC, who have been involved in the development of the reforms from the start, and they are still with us. I meet the group regularly and I find their involvement hugely valuable. They share with me their real-life experiences, not only of the consequences when they get suitable, solid and constant support, but of when the system fails to deliver and the fallout that occurs. Such input has helped us to focus on the practical implications of our reforms and led to some important and significant changes. Several of the young people involved in the EPIC group have cerebral palsy and have proved to be some of our most articulate and persuasive ambassadors.

We are also doing a lot to improve advice and support for parents, including funding, through our reform partner, the Council for Disabled Children, and the recruitment and training of independent supporters in every local authority. When we asked parents what, under the old system, would make the biggest difference to them in battling it and in trying to get some of the basic provision necessary to getting on, they suggested independent supporters. Parents said that they would value some independent support from someone who was not from the local authority or the health service, but had expertise in SEN and disabilities, in particular in the areas most relevant to their own child. Independent supporters will provide advice and support for parents of children with SEN and for young people with SEN through the statutory assessment and the education, health and care plan—or EHCP—processes. Such supporters will help to build the resilience of families and to tailor support to their individual needs.

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We are also providing funds for SEN and disability parent carer forums in each local authority. Forums play a central role in helping to shape local policies and provision and they have been effective in co-producing local authorities’ local offers. From their knowledge of the services available in the surrounding area, they have helped to draw out some of the gaps in some local authority offers. We wanted to continue supporting them in that, for the good reasons set out by my hon. Friend. I am sure that parents of children with cerebral palsy will want to be active in those forums, if they are not already, and I would certainly encourage their involvement.

The reforms we have set in train are still at the early stages of implementation. We have set out a transition of about three and a half years from the old system to the new. Throughout that period, however, our knowledge should not remain static, and we remain open to the suggestions, views and concerns of parents and those working in the SEN system to make sure that the work we are doing to bring about a change in culture across that system takes hold in the way we envisaged.

In that endeavour, the work my hon. Friend has undertaken in this parliamentary inquiry, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, who is ably assisting me this morning, is most welcome. I hope—indeed, I am sure—they will continue their work in their constituencies and in Parliament. I look forward to seeing their final recommendations in the inquiry’s report in the new year.

I am more than happy to meet my hon. Friends and representatives from Action Cerebral Palsy to see what more we can do to support children with cerebral palsy and their families. There is growing awareness of the issue, but still far too little. Although we are all exercised by the many points that have been raised in the debate, it is incumbent on us all to make sure that understanding and awareness are much more widespread.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak for their helpful, insightful contributions. If there is anything I have not covered, I will, in the usual way, endeavour to write to them to provide them with further details. The debate has been helpful in setting out some of the challenges that still lie ahead and the progress that has been made, although we recognise that there is still work to do.

10.32 am

Mr Hoban: It is a surprise and a pleasure to be asked to wind up the debate; I was not quite prepared for that when I came here this morning. The contributions by my hon. Friend the Minister and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) are welcome. Given the time we have had available, they extended beyond the normal 10 minutes, which was hugely helpful in exploring some of the issues that children with CP face.

Despite having been involved with the Rainbow Centre for 13 years, I have learned so much from taking part in the inquiry, and it is a real tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) that he led the process. The inquiry demonstrated some of the complexities and challenges involved in helping children with CP, and that came out of today’s contributions in different ways.

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The Minister and the shadow Minister talked about the golden years, and integrating health and education is pivotal. We heard from witnesses about some of the challenges involved in identification. We can help to identify children at a much earlier age, but there are barriers to that, and the more we can do on early identification, the easier it is to make a difference to children’s lives. In terms of the inquiry, we will want to talk with not only my hon. Friend the Minister but the Department of Health about those early years to ensure the right processes are in place.

Two big points came out of the debate. One is about integration, not only of health and education, but of the state and the private sector, or the state and the voluntary sector and charities. How can we maximise the resources that are available? One thing that strikes me is that we are in danger of operating in silos, to the detriment of children with cerebral palsy. There are great specialist services out there that are accessible, particularly in the early years, and a lot of centres are registered with Ofsted, are respected and benefit from Government funding. However, as a child grows up, the services seem almost to be teased apart. It is harder for a child at primary school to have time in their curriculum to go to a specialist centre to continue an educational programme that helps them with their motor skills, and the pressures become greater as children progress through the education system.

The more ways we can find for specialist support and mainstream schools to work together, the greater the advantages for the children and for society as a whole. We therefore need to make sure integration works, and that we see that through as part of the Government’s

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reforms, and it is clear from listening to the Minister what emphasis he places on the importance of successful integration.

The second point is about accountability. Accountability is important, because it is where the system will stand or fall. I am not often critical of the Government; as the Minister knows, I am a loyal supporter. His intentions are fantastic, and I know how committed he is on this issue, but we need to make sure that his intentions are followed through on the ground, and that local authorities and local health services respond, following not only the letter of the law, but the spirit of the reforms he has introduced. A lot of people will be looking carefully at the framework Ofsted will publish, to see how we can manage local accountability and national consistency. The framework should be a powerful tool to support parents, who, at the moment, feel they are working through an adversarial system.

The implementation of the reforms and the role of Ofsted are vital, but we must do everything we can to ensure proper integration between specialist services, education and health to improve the life chances of children born with cerebral palsy. There is much we need to learn about what causes cerebral palsy and about the best interventions, but I am confident that, by working together, we will improve the quality of children’s lives enormously, which will be a real testament to the success of the Government’s reforms.

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): I thank all Members who have taken part in this important debate.

10.37 am

Sitting suspended.

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General Dental Council

11 am

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): I am delighted to have the opportunity to air my concerns—although, because of the time restrictions, only some of them—about the General Dental Council. I am particularly delighted to see the Health Minister who is responsible for, among other things, regulation. I fear that, due to a quirk in the law, he may not be able to help me too much today, but any general hints will be gratefully received.

I must commence with a small selection of declarations of interest. First, as a registered dentist, I am subject to the dental regulators. Like other dentists in my position, I pay their annual fees and I am subject to their regulation. Secondly, I have a link with Lockton, an insurance broker specialising in professional indemnity, including insurance, for a growing number of dentists. Thirdly, I chair the all-party group on dentistry. Finally, as one can imagine, because of all that, I am under considerable pressure from a number of dental groups, some of which I am a member of, numerous dentists—the e-mails flooded in when this debate was announced—and dentistry-related organisations that wish this debate to take place.

As the Minister is aware—although you may not be, Mr Hollobone—the two main regulators of registered dental practitioners are the Care Quality Commission and the General Dental Council. They serve slightly different functions, although there is a feeling among the profession that they overlap. Both are funded by fees paid by dental professionals.

Virtually every registered dental professional, along with their organisations and registered staff, accepts and believes—as do I—in the need for dental regulation. On arrival as inspector of dental surgery, the CQC, although initially feared, spent some time finding its way. Many practitioners may not agree, but my personal feeling is that the CQC has become progressively more proportionate and tends to encourage the raising of standards, rather than riding in on practices in a heavy-handed way. In comparison with the GDC, the annual fee that I paid to the CQC for the next financial year dropped by 20%.

Also in contrast to the CQC, the reputation of the GDC has drastically deteriorated among the profession over the last year or so. The situation was foreseen in 2009, when Rick Haythornewaite, the then highly respected chairman of the Risk and Regulatory Advisory Council, gave a lecture to the GDC entitled “A practical approach to risk for 21st century regulators”. It is worth quoting a fairly long paragraph from that speech:

“When regulators get it right the customer and the public enjoy the advantage of choice, feel the benefit of unseen protections; when they get it right these people who serve the customer and public, whether they be company employees or they be professional service providers such as yourselves or whoever else, feel motivated, they feel empowered to perform, to innovate, to adapt. When they get it wrong though, the customer and the public feel the straitjacket of unnecessary regulation, the weight of disproportionate interventions and the frustration of curtailed civil liberties.”

That last sentence should be printed in a large font, framed and placed on every wall in every room at the GDC.

The Professional Standards Authority regularly reviews the GDC. Its most recent report stated that the GDC failed to meet two out of five standards for registration

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and six or seven standards out of 10 for fitness to practise procedures. Although I have not delved deeply into this, it would appear that the report indicated that the independence of the GDC investigating committee was in danger of being compromised. If so, that could reflect both on public protection and on fair consideration for referred dental practitioners. Among the profession at least, and to some degree outside it, there is a feeling that the GDC is—to use a hackneyed phrase—not fit for purpose.

Concerns were bought to a head when on 30 June the GDC embarked on a consultation concerning the proposal to raise its annual retention fee by 64%—and this in an atmosphere throughout the nation of financial restraint, with enormous pressure by Government to restrain fee rises among public bodies and organisations. As someone with considerable interest in the efficiency of local authorities, so as to keep local taxes down—which, incidentally, most have managed to do in the current environment—I believe that any increase over 1% is irresponsible. The outcry among the profession was considerable, particularly as many registrants do not normally criticise the GDC because their vocational life or death depends on it. The vast majority of complainants asked the GDC to justify the increase, as did leading dental organisations, including the British Dental Association.

At the last minute, the GDC postponed its decision and announced that it had commissioned KPMG to prepare an independent and “full review” of the assumptions underlying the suggested fee increase in the consultation. On behalf of its members, the BDA sought sight of the instructions to KPMG and a list of documents provided for its assessment—not an unreasonable request, bearing in mind that the BDA represents dentists who have to pay the fee. They were not forthcoming and freedom of information requests were refused.

The BDA had definite suspicions that there was a paucity of clear figures and that misleading data had been included. It maintained that no clear business case had been made for any increase. It was not alone in those suspicions, which were later compounded when the KPMG report apparently—although I have not had access to it—assessed that many of the key assumptions contained

“high levels of estimation uncertainty”.

The Australians have a short, sharp phrase to cover that English expression. In the event, the GDC lowered the increase from 64% to 55%. The bill is sitting on my desk at the moment.

KPMG’s advice alone leads to questions about the original proposal and the thinking behind it. I understand that the main reason given by the GDC for the rise is that it is because of the substantial rise in patient complaints and the immense cost of fitness to practise investigations and procedures. To my horror, I discovered that many investigations take 18 months, leaving the patient and dentist hung out to dry for the whole period.

In case the public were unaware, the GDC took out a full-page advertisement in one of the national papers encouraging complaints—or, perhaps I should say, “advising patients how to complain”—to the GDC. From my years of experience in indemnity protection, I know

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that the first and most successful avenue of complaint from a patient is the dentist or dental professional. Most, if not all, dental and medical indemnity providers assist practitioners in resolving complaints. They are exceptionally competent at that, and resolution covers many of the complaints, which therefore do not need to progress to the GDC, unless it is encouraged. As any MP will understand from their experience of constituency complainants, dental professional complaints vary from the deeply serious to the vexatious and the frivolous.

Many years ago, when I used a purple-coloured impression material, one of my lady patients claimed the next morning that the whole of her mouth and lips had turned purple overnight. I immediately asked her to return to the surgery. Approximately an hour later, she telephoned to tell me that it had all gone away as she drove from the heights of Hampstead towards central London. She put it down to the change of air pressure as she came down from her elevated Hampstead home. Needless to say, on completion of her work and after submitting an account, she replied with a writ. With the assistance of my then indemnifying organisation, we arranged for a senior consultant to review her situation. The problem was resolved when the consultant referred her to Guy’s hospital for dental and psychiatric treatment. The bill remains unpaid.

The resolution approach is implicitly encouraged by the CQC, which requires practices to keep a complaints file setting out complaints and how they are dealt with by the practice. Complaints to the GDC about private dentistry go through a triage and resolution system. As a result, many do not progress further. In particular, they do not progress to fitness to practise hearings. However, it appears that national health service complaints to the GDC almost certainly plough straight into the full procedure, leading to fitness to practise hearings. For the patient and the practitioner, these are generally long, drawn out and draining. For the dentist and his or her indemnifier, the costs can be ghastly, adding to the professional’s fear and emotional trauma.

Particularly in these days of complicated dental procedures, I have severe doubts on occasions that the committee members, whether lay or professional, have sufficient knowledge to make a decision without help. That help is drawn by the GDC from experts—or, should I say, so-called experts. In a few cases, the so-called experts are making a career professional career out of producing condemnatory reports for the GDC.

One practitioner I know well, who has considerable postgraduate expertise combined with the appropriate degrees from that postgraduate work, was taken apart by a so-called expert who did not appear to have the appropriate degrees or experience. I looked at that expert’s website, which contained considerable references to the large numbers of reports that he undertook for the GDC. He appeared to be making a side career out of aggressive reports on behalf of the GDC against the professionals. After a protest to the GDC, it accepted a second expert report, which was dramatically different and was to the benefit of my colleague.

I accept that, at last, the GDC is taking, or seeking to take, steps to reduce costs. It claims that it needs legal changes to be able to use the same service for private dentists as it does for to the NHS. I find that a little wrong; nevertheless, the Government have accepted that to some degree and are introducing a section 60

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order that will legalise that change. That does not seem to be reflected in the GDC estimate and predictions. It claims that the increase in complaints will require an additional £18 million.

My experience of cost-cutting in the public service tells me that some lateral thinking on expenditure, by looking at small as well as large costs for efficiency improvements, can be productive. On small costs, this example may not apply now, but a few years ago I helped to organise a reception for an international oral surgery cancer symposium. I was offered the opportunity to attend for free, but on looking at the agenda, I realised that, in spite of my not inconsiderable understanding of oral cancer, the proceedings were beyond my education. Imagine my surprise to hear that two or three lay members of the GDC were attending the two or three-day conference. The likelihood of their education on the microscopic structure of various oral cancers being of any use to their role on the GDC was, to say the least, remote. However, I assume that the GDC paid for their not inexpensive hotel rooms, plus travel and two or three meals a day, as well as the cost of attending the conference.

In a more substantial area, I understand—again I am a little cautious, because I may be wrong—that the GDC is undertaking a total review and refurbishment of its property. The funding for that, I understand, has come from balances rather than through a loan or mortgaging system, which would have spread the costs and allowed its balances to be used to buffer expenditure as new procedures and cost savings, which it claims to be looking for, were installed.

I am interested the GDC’s involvement in allowing—I use that word carefully—the Department of Health and the Minister to look at its finances, savings and its justification for the proposed increase in the annual retention fee. That interest extends to whether the legislation on health regulators, which has been drawn up for possible implementation after the election, will for the first time allow direct Government and ministerial influence on the GDC and, in particular, its fees. I fail to be convinced that it has really looked sufficiently at its costs and procedures in seeking savings. It appears to me that, under attack, the GDC has started to become reclusive and adopted a bunker mentality. I understand that hearings and council meetings are increasingly held in private, which is all the more alarming when its chairman, in delivering the annual Malcolm Pendlebury lecture, appeared to be seeking to expand its areas of operational interest.

Good professional dentistry and medicine is built on good relationships with patients and on trust and confidence between the professional and their patients. This has improved dramatically over the last few years. The GDC should have a role in that, but its image in the eyes of the profession—and, I believe, as consequence of its procedures, patients—has reached an all-time low. The dental profession’s trust in this regulator has gone. I suspect that the patients’ trust will follow in due course.

11.14 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr Daniel Poulter): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone, and a great pleasure to respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley

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(Sir Paul Beresford). I congratulate him on securing the debate and on bringing to bear his front-line experience of working as a dentist, both in this debate and more generally. He has shown his experience today in getting to the heart of some of the issues he raised, as he has done in many debates in the House on issues relating to health care.

The General Dental Council is an important part of the health care regulatory framework that ensures the fitness to practise of health care professionals and the safety of patients. It is right that we should debate the GDC’s performance, particularly in the light of a less than complementary performance review by the Professional Standards Authority, and given the major rise in the fee that dentists will be expected to pay to their regulator.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the General Dental Council is an independent statutory body that is directly accountable to Parliament. However, as he rightly highlighted, I have no legal basis to intervene in matters such as the level of the fee, which are deemed to be part of the body’s operational running. However, in my role as Minister, I have a keen interest in the performance of the professional regulators and have regular contact with them, including the GDC, on a whole range of issues.

The background to today’s debate is that the General Dental Council recently took the decision to increase the annual registration fee for dentists by 55%, from £576 to £890, which is a significant and unprecedented increase. All professional regulators, including the GDC, are aware of the Government’s position, as set out in our 2011 Command Paper, “Enabling Excellence: Autonomy and Accountability for Health and Social Care Staff”: we do not expect registration fees to increase unless there is a clear and strong case that the increase is essential to ensure the exercise of statutory duties.

While the General Dental Council has consulted its registrants on the proposed fee rise, I am aware of, and sympathetic to, a strong body of opinion among its registrants that they are yet to be presented with compelling evidence to justify such an unprecedented fee increase. The proposed fee is more than double the £390 that the General Medical Council requires licensed doctors to pay. That is why, when I met the GDC, I raised concerns about the fee increase and reconfirmed the Government’s position on the need for a strong and transparent case for any such increase.

I have also strongly suggested to the GDC that it considers a differential rate for newly qualified dentists. Newly qualified doctors are required to pay £185 for their registration with the GMC, while newly qualified dentists pay the same as established dentists. The GDC stated to me as justification for its fee rise that there has been a 110% increase in the number of complaints from patients, employers, other registrants and the police about the dental profession, and that the cost of handling such complaints has been the key driver of the increase. However, I have not been presented with what I consider to be compelling evidence that a fee rise of that magnitude is justified by a 110% increase in the number of complaints.

It is worth noting that other health care regulators, as my hon. Friend suggested, have experienced increases in complaints but have not felt compelled to raise their

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fees to the same extent. I therefore understand why the British Dental Association has chosen to test this decision and issued judicial review proceedings challenging the setting of the fee. The hearing is set to take place next week, so I am sure that hon. Members will understand that it is inappropriate for me to comment further on those proceedings.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) on securing this debate. I have been written to by Derbyshire county local dental committee, which is concerned that the General Dental Council, under the leadership of its current chair, is investigating much more minor concerns than it did previously. That expansion in its role is one of the reasons why it is now asking dentists for more fees. Will the Minister let us know whether he thinks that the direction that the General Dental Council is taking is the wrong one, as my constituents clearly do?

Dr Poulter: As I said, under legislation, I am unfortunately powerless to intervene directly on fee setting. We recognise the independence of health care regulators and would not want them to be micro-managed by Government; that would be wrong. However, my view is very clearly, as I have outlined, that a strong evidence base is needed to justify a fee rise. Given that other health care regulators faced with similar challenges have not raised their fees to the same unprecedented degree, I have not myself been convinced that the evidence base is strong enough to justify this fee rise. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman’s question.

In that context, it is worth drawing attention to the section 60 order currently in progress in the House, and to the consultation process that has been taking place. The fee rise is perhaps all the more surprising as we are making good progress with the GDC on bringing in the legislative changes that will reform the way that it operates. Those changes, in the form of a section 60 order, will assist with reducing its operational costs by an estimated £2 million a year through potential efficiency savings. My hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley made the point that all regulators need to look at better ways of working and efficiency savings in their own practice. Of course, that, as well as patient protection, is a benefit of introducing a section 60 order: it will help to reduce the running costs, potentially, of the GDC and streamline processes.

The public consultation on the GDC-related section 60 order recently closed, and the vast majority of respondents were supportive of the proposals. We therefore intend to proceed with the measures and will publish our response to the consultation in due course. My hon. Friend may be surprised to learn, as I was, that the GDC did not wait for the outcome of the section 60 order consultation before announcing the fee rise.

The changes proposed in the section 60 order will: enable the GDC to delegate the decision-making functions currently exercised by its investigating committee to officers of the GDC, known as case examiners; enable both case examiners and the investigating committee to address concerns about a registrant’s practice by agreeing undertakings with that registrant, which have the same effect as conditions on practice, without the need for a practice committee hearing; introduce a power to review

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cases closed following an investigation—rules to be made under that power will provide that a review can be undertaken by the registrar if she considers that the decision is materially flawed, or new information has come to light that might have altered the decision and a review is in the public interest—introduce a power to allow the registrar to decide that a complaint or information received did not amount to an allegation of impairment of fitness to practise; introduce a power to enable the investigating committee and the case examiners to review their determination to issue a warning; and ensure that registrants can be referred to the interim orders committee at any time during the fitness to practise process.

Very similar section 60 orders have been laid before Parliament in conjunction and consultation with other regulators, and a great benefit of those orders is that they are about not just protecting the public but supporting the regulators to have more streamlined processes and reducing costs. Of course, when costs are reduced, we would always expect the savings to be passed on to the people who pay the annual fee.

Sir Paul Beresford: Is there evidence that the other registering organisations have reduced their fees, or keep them down, in the light of the anticipated savings, which would be sensible?

Dr Poulter: If we look at similar organisations, we see that the GMC, for example, has similar practices and processes. The Nursing and Midwifery Council has a very small fee rise, but has seen a similar section 60 process take place. All those regulators, in my view, have taken every step possible to look at their annual fee in the context of the section 60 orders, and with the mindset that any fee rise needs to be fully evidence based and appropriately proportionate. From my conversations, and from the practice of other health care regulators, I think that there is very good evidence that that is a consistent pattern of behaviour. As I said, the GDC’s fee rise is unprecedentedly large, and its behaviour is not consistent or in keeping with that of any of the other health care regulators, from what I can see.

In addition to the GDC-related section 60 order, the Government are taking forward a number of key pieces of secondary legislation in this Parliament to address priority areas that we have identified after discussion with the regulatory bodies and other stakeholders; I mentioned other section 60 orders. We are also working on a response to the Law Commission’s valuable work on proposals for more wide-ranging reforms.

I am aware that the decision not to progress a professional regulation Bill in the current Session has come as a disappointment to interested parties. However, that decision provides an opportunity to invest time in ensuring that that important legislative change is got right, for the benefit of those who will ultimately be affected by it. My hon. Friend outlined very articulately some of the

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challenges that need to be considered in putting together the Bill. We are committed—I would like to put this on the record again—to bringing forward primary legislation to address wider reforms to the system of professional regulation when parliamentary time allows, but in the meantime, working with the regulators, we have put in place, or have in train, a number of section 60 orders. They are about streamlining processes, providing efficiencies to the regulators and, most important of all, protecting patients and the public.

Let me say a quick word about the GDC’s general performance. It is very important that the GDC manages its rising volumes of complaints as well as the other issues raised by the Professional Standards Authority as part of its annual performance review. In due course, the GDC will need to demonstrate what it has done to address the recommendations made.

Hon. Members may be aware that the Professional Standards Authority is also conducting an investigation of the GDC after claims were made by a whistleblower about the management and support processes of the GDC’s investigating committee. I understand that the Professional Standards Authority has concluded the evidence-gathering phase of the investigation, is in the process of compiling the investigation report, and will provide that report to the Select Committee on Health and publish it on its website in due course.

I have outlined a number of issues and concerns about the unprecedentedly high rise in the GDC fee. As we have discussed, it is out of keeping and inconsistent with the behaviour of many other health care regulators. I am not convinced, from the evidence that I have been presented with, that there is a strongly evidenced case to support that fee rise, and it goes against Government policy, which is to encourage regulators to set appropriate and proportionate fee rises, to show restraint where appropriate and to be mindful of the effects of fees on registrants.

I want to make it clear, in drawing to a conclusion, that I am not raising any doubt about the fact that the GDC continues to fulfil its statutory duties. However, it will need to make significant improvements to meet the challenges set out in the annual performance review undertaken by the Professional Standards Authority. Registrants, patients and the public need to be able to have confidence in the performance of the GDC and to see improvements in its operation, effectiveness and efficiency. I hope that I have answered all the points raised in the debate, and I again thank my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley for raising a very important issue that I am sure is filling many MPs’ postbags.

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): I thank all hon. Members who took part in the debate.

11.29 am

Sitting suspended.

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[Mrs Anne Main in the Chair]

2.30 pm

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): It gives me no pleasure whatever to introduce this short debate on anti-Semitism. The whole aim of the all-party group against anti-Semitism is eventually to be able to remove ourselves from the political agenda because there is no need for us, but I fear that none of us in this room will have the pleasure of seeing such a day.

Things have not improved over the past year. During the summer of 2014, the significant escalation of violence in the middle east provoked a major increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the UK and across the world. Anti-Semitic incidents reached record levels in July, when the Community Security Trust recorded the highest ever monthly total of such incidents in the UK. The trust has been keeping records since 1984, and over the past two years it has exchanged data with various police forces to improve respective accuracy. In July, 302 incidents were recorded, which represents an increase of more than 400% from the 59 incidents that were recorded in July 2013. By comparison, 304 incidents were recorded in the first six months of 2014. Before July, the highest ever monthly total had been for January 2009, which also coincided with a period of conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Of the 302 recorded incidents, 51% involved direct reference to the ongoing conflict. All incidents require the recording of evidence of anti-Semitic language, targeting or motivation alongside any anti-Israel sentiments. Of the anti-Semitic incidents recorded in July, 101 involved the use of language or imagery relating to the holocaust, and 25 of those showed evidence of far-right political motivation or beliefs. Most commonly, references to Hitler or the holocaust were used to taunt or offend Jews, often in relation to events in Israel and Gaza. Of the 302 incidents, 25% took place on social media.

Mr Lee Scott (Ilford North) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this much needed debate. Does he agree that the real number of incidents is far greater even than the terrible figures that he is reading out, because many people do not report them out of fear? I report such things, and only the other week I received a phone call in which I was called a dirty Jew and told that I should be stoned to death.

John Mann: Without question, the recorded number of incidents is a significant underestimate. It is valuable in itself and as a benchmark for comparing trends, because the basis of recording by the CST is without question the world best. It is renowned across the world for being so. Trends can be easily identified from those figures, and the trend this year has been a huge increase. That is why I applied for this debate.

I will give hon. Members some examples of what I am talking about. On a march through central London, demonstrators verbally abused a Jewish woman who was with her two children, telling them to “burn in hell.” The reality for British Jews is that most are Zionist, with various levels of emotional and familial attachment to Israel, so the communal concern about Israel and conflict-associated anti-Semitism is significant.

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Of course, supporting the Palestinian cause is not anti-Semitic, but when someone shouts “Child murderer” at a British Jew, or daubs that on a synagogue, that is anti-Semitism.

Open anti-Semitism is rare in mainstream politics and media, but hateful expressions and ideas that would not be publicly directed against Jews are now publicly directed against Zionists. Zionists are depicted in the same way as Jews are by the anti-Semites: malevolent, all-powerful, all-controlling, covert and inauthentic. Hate speech against Zionists leads to the demonisation and hatred of all suspected Zionists—in other words, Jews. That may not be intentionally anti-Semitic from a perpetrator’s perspective, but it has a negative impact on most British Jews. The same is true when Members of this House speak in such a way. They are not simply being irresponsible; they are being potentially dangerous.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): I agree with the chair of the all-party group on anti-Semitism, of which I am a member, on the need for proper care in relation to the words that we use. It is possible to foment anti-Semitic thoughts and actions, particularly when people talk about Zionism and a financial lobby. Does that not raise concerns about going down the path of anti-Semitism?

John Mann: The hon. Gentleman is active in the work of the all-party group and in Parliament, and he is absolutely right. It is easy to see where the dividing line is and what is inappropriate. One of our big successes in recent years is that each political party in the House has been prepared to deal with issues involving its own Members. That approach, if it can be maintained, is precisely the way in which such things are most effectively challenged. In other words, it is important not to make offensive remarks—whether they are made out of deliberate prejudice or ignorance—into issues of party political point scoring, but to get each party to sort its own house out.

That is easy to say, but I think we underestimate the power of that model and the power of the cross-party consensus that we have built in this House. Let me and my party deal with those who are anti-Semitic or who ignorantly cross the threshold in what they say, do or write, and let the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative party and other parties in the House do the same. That is an effective way of taking a lead in tackling anti-Semitism. I would call it the British model, in the sense that others across the world are increasingly convinced that that is how anti-Semitism should be dealt with at high levels in Parliament and Government.

The Minister will know well of the all-party group’s inquiry into anti-Semitism in the UK in 2005-06, which made 35 recommendations for Government, Parliament and civil society. I am pleased to report that, in my judgment, we have worked successfully with the Government, Ministers and other partners to implement the inquiry recommendations and to go beyond them.

Our successes have included the establishment of a unique Whitehall Government working group on anti-Semitism; an agreement for all police forces to record anti-Semitic hate crimes; the publication by the police of the first official anti-Semitic hate crime statistics; a funding agreement for the security needs of Jewish faith schools in the state system; a Crown Prosecution Service

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review and action plan; the creation of a Government-backed school-linking programme; research into modern discursive anti-Semitism funded by the Government; the appointment of a UK envoy for post-holocaust issues; two ministerial conferences and international action plans on internet hate, and I believe that there will be another one in the near future; the highly effective international replication of the all-party group inquiry model in countries such as Germany and Canada; a full inquiry into electoral conduct and resultant action from key agencies; and work with Government that has led, among other successes, to the publication of a guide by the Society of Editors to editing online newspaper comment boards. Those successes are significant, but they leave no room for complacency, not least because of the increase this year in the scourge of anti-Semitism.

In September, I instigated a parliamentary report on anti-Semitism emanating from the conflict in the middle east, with a number of events across the country to meet Jewish communities and better understand their anguish. There is a further such event this Thursday in Manchester. Evidence has been submitted by individuals, organisations, the police, Government bodies and others, and MPs have visited France, Germany, Holland and Ireland to undertake comparative analyses. We intend to launch the report in the new year with an event at Lambeth palace, courtesy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which in itself is significant in crossing faiths to stand up to anti-Semitism. I congratulate the Church of England on its openness to such work, including with our group.

The recommendations are the most important issues emanating from the report, and I want to be sure that they will be carefully considered by Ministers and referred to the cross-Government working group on anti-Semitism for action. I would like a commitment from all parties that, whoever wins the next election, in whatever combination, the next Government will work on anti-Semitism throughout the next Parliament, because the problem is not going away.

Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. I also pay tribute to his great work in this field. I was recently privileged to join him on the visit over the Irish sea. I sincerely hope that the next Government is a Conservative Government, but he says that, if there is a Labour Government, he would work towards that goal. Does he not agree that it is very disappointing that, apart from the shadow Minister and himself, no other Labour Member is in attendance today?

John Mann: Members from all parties have been involved in our work, which is fundamental. In this House we must not fall into the trap, as some European countries have, where anti-Semitism becomes an issue of political ding-dong across Chambers. The fundamental strength of the British parliamentary model is that we have invested huge amounts of effort to ensure that hon. Members from both sides are involved. The evidence for that strength is that, when there was a change of Government, and when there have been ministerial changes, the work has continued, irrespective of the Minister. Thankfully, every Minister we have had has been very positively engaged, I am confident that, whoever is appointed Minister by whoever is Prime Minister in 2015, this work will continue in the same way. There is

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virtually no other issue in Parliament that can have that guarantee, which is the strength of what I call the British model.

Other countries are now attempting to emulate the British model, which is entirely counterintuitive to normal political cultures. In a sense, because we have done it so effectively for so long in this country, we have become not blasé, but used to it. We have heard about the difficulties in reaching such consensus in, for example, Germany because it runs counter to the culture in which politics takes place. Despite the shared ownership and responsibility for addressing anti-Semitism in Germany, they cite the British example of how to get that momentum. That is powerful because, as well as sending a message to the Jewish community and to institutions in civil society, it sends a message to civil servants. They have been doing their job in this area very well, and the message it sends is that that momentum will be there. Woe betide the Minister who tries to row back and slow down, whatever party they are from, because there will be enough people from their own party going straight in to see them.

Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West) (Con): I join my colleagues in congratulating the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. He is right about the consensus that we have proudly built in Britain on addressing this issue. A few years back I was fortunate to take a group of sixth-formers from my constituency to Auschwitz. My son went only last year, and he was very moved by the whole experience, but he highlighted one thing that I want to address today—perhaps the Minister will address this in his closing remarks, too. My son expressed particular concern about his fellow sixth-formers’ lack of knowledge about the holocaust and lack of historical perspective. The message from history is always that we should learn the lessons of history, which are always pertinent and salient to our modern-day political discourse.

John Mann: One of the report’s conclusions may well be that educational methods and lessons from abroad on how to teach such issues could inform the Government. I am sure the Minister and his ministerial colleagues will consider the report in detail, but there is some important evidence on how we can do more, and do things more effectively, in the curriculum. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Paul Uppal) is absolutely right.

Sir Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) (LD): On this issue at least, I hope I can call the hon. Gentleman my hon. Friend. Good work is being done across the parties. When he and I visited Germany it was clear that, despite there being a strong commitment across political parties to protect the Jewish community, that in itself has become a source of competition. We are always tempted either to point the finger at other people’s bad behaviour or to be boastful of our own good behaviour, whereas, in the political context here, it must be right for us to have some humility about our failures and some pride in our successes.

Mrs Anne Main (in the Chair): Order. I ask that interventions be brief. They are becoming quite long, and those intervening are not on the list of speakers. I do not wish to take time from those who do wish to make a speech.

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John Mann: Thank you, Mrs Main. I agree with the right hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Sir Andrew Stunell) that the question of behaviour is fundamental. In a minute, I will say a word on electoral conduct, on which he has made a huge effort on behalf of Parliament.

We anticipated that the fourth Government report on anti-Semitism would be tabled this morning, and I hope there are no political reasons for any delay, which really would be a shift in approach. Will the Minister confirm that, as before, it will be a governmental report, rather than a departmental report, and that the Government will not downgrade it from previous publications, which have been formal Command Papers? That is rather important.

Many civil servants have been involved, but I pay particular tribute to Sally Sealey and Paul Giannasi, who have been the two most integrally involved. They are a huge inspiration to parliamentarians and those in civil society who are combating anti-Semitism. I also thank the staff of the all-party group, whom all Members in attendance know well: Danny Stone is the director; Jardena Lande does the international work; and Amy Wagner does the research. They have put in huge amounts of work and all too often do not get the credit and accolades for their work that we politicians get—the record should be put right on that.

Before I finish, I will say a word on social media and electoral conduct. We have ongoing problems with social media, and I will not go through the debate I had on that in the main Chamber a month or two back. Suffice it to say that the problems of anti-Semitism and other hate speech on social media are not going away. Some perpetrators remain active. The one who was arrested for abusing me is currently abusing various Christian groups and organisations. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service, who have powers, need to issue what I call a Twitter or Facebook antisocial behaviour order to ban such people from the particular medium by which they are criminally abusing, bullying and intimidating people.

Frankly, it is water off a duck’s back when I receive abuse, even though it is inappropriate and offensive, but it must be incredibly intimidating for people involved in, say, running a Christian charity to receive anonymous or pseudonymous abuse. For a member of the Jewish community to receive such vile abuse is, again, a different proposition. I am not suggesting that abusing Members of Parliament is acceptable—it absolutely is not, and what was said about my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) was horrendous—but many people out there are less able to defend themselves.

We need some powers. I do not think that the law needs changing: I think that it needs using inventively. I call on the Crown Prosecution Service and the police to use the internet equivalent of an ASBO to target some of these people and close them down. It is not free speech; it is criminal abuse. The sanction would be a criminal sanction agreed by a magistrate or judge and jury, so by definition, stopping such abusers would not be closing down free speech but protecting it.

There is much more that I could say, but a word needs to be said on electoral conduct. We held a cross-party inquiry into electoral conduct, led by my hon. Friend

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the Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel), which I was pleased to see praised publicly by Mr Speaker and many senior party representatives and stakeholders. We found in the inquiry that although there was sufficient legal provision to address incidents of racism and discrimination in UK elections, the law is underused and misunderstood. We recommended that some of the language of electoral law needed to be updated. The Law Commission, which has undertaken a consultation on such change, wrote to tell us that our recommendations would help in its design.

We also found that the role played by the former Commission for Racial Equality in providing guidance and demystifying the law had been helpful. Its successor, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, dropped the mantle but has since picked it up again to a certain extent. In a response to a debate called by Lord Alderdice, a Minister said:

“The EHRC is now looking at how best to update its guidance on elections for local authorities and other organisations for use in 2015.” —[Official Report, House of Lords, 1 December 2014; Vol. 757, c. 1195.]

Although that is not a cast-iron guarantee, I take it and a subsequent ministerial letter to mean that the EHRC will be doing that work. I do not know whether the Minister can comment on that, but if so, it is to be welcomed, and those who participated in the inquiry need the House’s congratulations. If the Minister cannot comment now, it would be useful if he could confer with colleagues and confirm later that the EHRC will do as I believe it is doing.

The electoral conduct inquiry also addressed concerns about discrimination in the media, having heard evidence on homophobia, racism and anti-Semitism. It is relevant to anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination. We have written to the secretary of the editors’ code committee of the new Independent Press Standards Organisation. I wish to make it clear to that organisation that we believe that attempts to secure a sensible balance between the defence of freedom of expression and protection from discrimination should be possible, and that we expect it to engage constructively with us before the election on that matter, which was raised as a point of concern by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the CRE before it was raised by us.

I end by making the same point to the internet companies that I made a few weeks ago: we expect them to step up to the mark and not to allow anti-Semitic abuse via their platforms. It is demeaning of their good name that they allow it to happen. Twitter in particular has been extraordinarily hopeless at dealing with abuse, and its brand name is being dragged into the mire by its continuing failure to do so. It is possible. Twitter could assist law enforcement in this country if it got its act together, which it has not done, and we in this House should continue to highlight its failures until it not only comes to the table but acts up to the mark and shows that it is properly part of civil society.

Finally, on behalf of all those who have been active over the last year, I thank colleagues across the House for how they have engaged. I thank the Jewish community organisations with which we worked so closely and the Jewish community leaders Sir Trevor Chinn, Stephen Rubin, Trevor Pears, Gerald Ronson, the Chief Rabbi

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and others with whom we have worked so effectively in partnership. I am sure that the message from this debate will be that we will continue to do so regardless of our personal choice of who should be in government. Whether any of us are in government or opposition, the all-party group will continue to work on a cross-party basis to deal with anti-Semitism and take the lead that we are elected to take in dealing with such curses.

2.55 pm

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), whom I congratulate on securing this unfortunately necessary debate. The work done by him and the all-party group is a statement of what this House can achieve when we work on a cross-party basis. I was privileged to be part of a small delegation on this issue that visited the Netherlands recently.

I will touch on a few issues that I think should be mentioned in a debate of this nature. We should certainly highlight the concerns relating to the upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents reported by the Community Security Trust. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw was right to identify the attacks on figures in public life, and we should discuss that as well. It is also important for us in public life to be careful about equating the Jewish people with the Israeli state. We must highlight the potential for that equation—often made in a lazy manner by people protesting things in the middle east that they disagree with—to give rise to anti-Semitic comments. That is not necessarily what is intended by those individuals, who are not thinking carefully about what they are doing, but I argue that equating Jewish people with the Israeli state in that manner does not contribute to a healthy public debate.

We must also mention some of the people who campaign for boycotting and divestment from Israel. Again, some of that rhetoric can result in the expression of anti-Jewish sentiments in our political discourse in this country. Finally, I would like to mention the situation in Europe, which I argue is shameful to all of us who believed that the continent and the United Kingdom had learned the lessons from the terrible recent history of anti-Semitism on the continent.

It is shocking that before the situation in Gaza arose this summer, figures from the Community Security Trust showed a 36% increase in anti-Semitic attacks in this country. Obviously those figures were dwarfed by what happened in July as a result of the terrible events in Gaza. What comes out clearly from those figures is that the Jewish population in the United Kingdom are being equated, in the minds of many people who feel strongly about that issue, with the state of Israel. It is important to challenge the language used in that context. If such language gives rise to attacks on Jewish cemeteries and individuals in various parts of this country, there is something wrong with the rhetoric being used.

We have a responsibility in that discourse. It is an area of huge emotion, and we have a responsibility for ensuring that we are careful in our use of words. I am afraid that the experience of the past few weeks in this place indicates that even hon. Members of this House are not taking the issue seriously. I will not relate these to the individual Members concerned, as I have not had time to forewarn their offices, but I have a few examples

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of comments made in the House that highlight my concerns. In the recent debate on the Israel-Palestine situation, one hon. Member said:

“My hon. Friend is absolutely right. You cannot appeal to the Israelis’ better nature, because they do not have one. You can, however, threaten them financially.”—[Official Report, 1 December 2014; Vol. 589, c. 15WH.]

That is a disgraceful slur. It is the age-old slur of the Jews being keen on money, used in the context of an attack on the Israeli state. That type of language equates the old hatreds that exist, unfortunately, in many parts of Europe with an attack on the Israeli state, and any hon. Member making such a comment should ask themselves whether they are contributing to the increasing number of attacks that we are seeing in our society. When we speak, we have a responsibility to be very careful about what we say.

In the same way, last week one former Minister said on the BBC that there was a “powerful financial lobby” supporting the state of Israel. What is quite shocking about that comment is, first, that it came from a former Minister and, secondly, and even worse, it was not even challenged by the BBC. A “powerful financial lobby”—the implication was that everybody would understand who that lobby was; in other words, it was accepted as part of our discourse about the issue of Israel.

When we see the figures from the CST highlighting the increase in the number of attacks as a result of what happened this summer in Gaza, we have an obligation to make sure that the language we use does not pander to prejudice. Unfortunately, our track record across all parts of the House—the two examples I have given are from different parts of the House, unfortunately—clearly shows that we need to be much more careful in the way we use language.

Similarly, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw has highlighted the attacks on people in public life, not least—obviously—the disgraceful attacks on the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger). He has done the right thing in highlighting those issues, and we have a responsibility to challenge the social media companies for their lack of action. I have grown a very thick skin since becoming an MP, but even I was quite shocked this summer to be accused on social media of being a “Jew lover”. My wife, as far as I know, is a Welsh Protestant, and I have not been unfaithful; therefore, I would hope that that attack is not literally correct.

Dr Offord: Equally, is my hon. Friend aware of the vitriolic abuse that the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) received when he came to the defence of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger), and the criminal behaviour of individuals that Twitter failed to take any real action against?

Guto Bebb: Indeed, I am aware of those attacks, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Bassetlaw can look after himself. However, it is clearly an unacceptable situation. My office reported some of the attacks that were made on me, and the interesting thing is that it took three months for the social media companies even to respond. We complained in August; we received a response from them last week. Indeed, by that point I had forgotten why I had made a complaint in the first instance.

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The situation is simply unacceptable. One could argue that being attacked on social media is, unfortunately, part and parcel of being in public life—although no Member of Parliament should accept anything approaching what has been thrown at some hon. Members of this House. However, for an ordinary member of the public to be attacked in such a manner, on racist grounds, is simply unacceptable, and those companies, which have the capacity to deal with the issue, should be challenged by this House to ensure that they do so. This is not about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is about having the right to argue a case; what we are seeing is not the argument of a case, but simply old prejudices masquerading as political comment, and it is simply unacceptable.

I have already touched on the issue of equating the Jewish community with the Israeli state. The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia has said that such an equation is a form of anti-Semitism, and I am afraid it is becoming increasingly evident in the debate that we have about the situation in the middle east. It is crucial, therefore, to ensure that when we are dealing with this issue, we highlight the fact that there is a difference. I have been to Israel on numerous occasions, and if I could say that even once on any of my visits to Israel I came away with the view that everybody in Israel thought the same way about each and every issue, I would be lying, because I have never seen such a vibrant democracy, where people disagree about anything and everything. Indeed, it could be argued that one of the weaknesses of the Israeli state is that there is a willingness to argue and disagree about everything, and they should certainly do something about their proportional representation system, which allows every single view to be heard.

The idea that there is a single view being expressed by the people in Israel, and that that view is being supported by every single person of Jewish descent in any other part of the world, is simply ludicrous, yet it is a concept that is constantly repeated by those who are irresponsible—to put it kindly—in the way that they are trying to deal with the situation in the middle east. We need to ensure that we always challenge that type of behaviour.

In the same way, I am absolutely fed up of hearing about the so-called Jewish lobby. It is highlighted as something extremely powerful that has the ability to change people’s minds in this place. Well, I saw no evidence of the “Jewish lobby” being particularly successful when there was a recent parliamentary debate about the recognition of Palestine. If the ever-powerful Jewish lobby was really that successful, I suspect that this House would not have voted for that motion, even with only a minority of MPs taking part in the vote. When we hear about this powerful Jewish lobby, I wonder how much of it is in the imagination of those making the claims and what their motivation is for making those claims. I think there is a motivation, and unfortunately it has a background in some attitudes that exist on the European continent, which are simply unacceptable.

In the same way, the constant effort to try to equate the state of Israel with apartheid South Africa is also leading to a climate in which the state of Israel and the Jewish people are being demonised. There is obviously

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no link between the Jewish people in the UK and the actions of the Israeli state. Nevertheless, it is imperative that we understand the effect that the language used by intellectuals has on public discourse. On recent trips to the Netherlands, one thing that emerged clearly from discussions with members of the Jewish community there was how the intellectual elite in universities was leading the debate to places that they had perhaps not envisaged when they started the calls for divestment and boycotts against Israel. Again, we need to be very careful that the comparisons we make—or that people are making—do not end up leading to anti-Semitic behaviour.

Finally, I want to touch upon my last visit to the Netherlands. According to the statistics, the situation there is slightly better than in the UK. The fact that there are schools in London, where we are now speaking, that are protected by security personnel is simply unacceptable. We live in a country of 64 million people, where we are concerned about the ability to integrate people entering this country from all parts of the world, yet we are almost accepting of the fact that somebody going to a Jewish school in London or Manchester needs to have a security guard on the premises.

I have never visited such a school; indeed, I suspect that I have less than a handful of individuals of Jewish descent—British Jews—living in my constituency, so I have never witnessed such a thing. However, I have to tell the House that, as the father of five children, to turn up to a Jewish secondary school in Amsterdam and see a security guard outside was shocking. The fact that many hon. Members in this House will understand that situation does not make it acceptable. It is unacceptable that the Jewish community, or any other community for that matter, in this country or any other part of Europe should need to resort to having their schools, their synagogues or their churches protected. That is simply unacceptable.

To go to a country such as the Netherlands, which has a tradition of tolerance, and to hear half the members of a group of 16 and 17-year-olds we met—my eldest son is 17—indicate that they saw no future for themselves there was simply shocking. I have always viewed the Netherlands as a tolerant country, and as I have said, the figures for attacks on members of the Jewish community in the Netherlands are actually better than they are in the UK. However, if half the sixth-formers in a Jewish school in Amsterdam say that they see no future for themselves in Europe, then Europe has a lot to be ashamed about. We really need to remember those youngsters and their lack of faith in their future in Europe.

Finally, when we talk about anti-Semitism, it is also important that we recognise that it is an issue that is affecting people. We only have to look at the figures for those individuals leaving France, Belgium and the Netherlands and deciding to make a life for themselves in either Israel or the US to know that we have a problem. We had thought that after the atrocities of the second world war, we might have learned our lesson; I am afraid that we need to learn it all over again.

Mrs Anne Main (in the Chair): Another four hon. Members are hoping to catch my eye. The wind-ups will begin at 3.40 pm, so I am sure that hon. Members can do the maths on that one.

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3.8 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, Mrs Main. I thank and congratulate the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) on securing the debate and on the strong role he has taken as the chairman of the all-party group. I also thank the other Members who make a valuable contribution to that group.

The reason we are debating this issue today is because the number of anti-Semitic incidents has risen, not only in the UK but right across Europe. In fact, last week a new report commissioned by the Mayor of London revealed that 95% of hate crimes against faith groups in the capital, which have surged by 23% this year compared with last year, were anti-Semitic. Quite clearly, therefore, we have an issue that we need to address. That is a worrying statistic indeed, and the apparent rise of anti-Semitism is not only confined to the streets of London. In July, a rabbi was attacked by four Muslim teenagers outside a Jewish boarding school in Gateshead. The police have investigated the incident and arrested them, and I hope prosecution is pending. In Belfast this August, the windows of the city’s only synagogue were smashed on two consecutive nights. I have had the pleasure of going to that synagogue for a service, although I have to say the seats were pretty hard—you would not fall asleep in that congregation when the sermon was being preached, I can tell you that.

I mention those incidents because it is good to show our support whenever the opportunity is there, and I do that. However, although the number of Jewish people in Belfast has decreased greatly over the years, some people target them specifically. In the case I mentioned, they came one night and then came back the next night and did the same thing again. That is an example of the issues we have in Northern Ireland.

In Manchester, a Jewish cemetery was defaced with swastikas. We have also seen the outrageous and despicable conduct of some of the unions in Northern Ireland, although I suspect the same has happened across the United Kingdom. In Belfast, they targeted specific supermarkets and supermarket chains, looking out for Jewish goods. They trashed the shelves and damaged the goods, causing bedlam during Saturday shopping. Such hate crimes—that is what they are—are not confined to the United Kingdom. In fact, when the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) took his new position as Chief Whip in September, he referred to anti-Semitism as a “virus” spreading all over Europe.

The background notes to the debate, which I found helpful, mention someone who was brought up in a boarding school as a young boy. Being the only Jew in the school, he was a bit worried about what would happen to him, but nothing happened, because of the acceptance in Britain. However, he then refers to the difference between then and now. When he was a child, things were okay. He says he was comfortable with things, but he continues:

“And do you know what? Suddenly I’m not. Something is afoot. It is creeping and it is tentative, but it is definitely there. And it scares me.”

Those are the issues for many Jews across Europe and the United Kingdom, who feel threatened by the rise of anti-Semitism across the world.

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Whether in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy or Spain, Jewish communities have reported an escalation in threats, protests and violence against Jews. A 2012 survey of 6,000 Jews in eight European countries by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that 66% of respondents believed that anti-Semitism in Europe was on the rise, and 76% said it had increased in their country in the previous five years.

Given those statistics, it is unsurprising to hear that the French Interior Minister has vowed to make the fight against anti-Semitism a national cause. We welcome his commitment, and we wait to see what the reaction will be and how successful he will be. His move was in response to an incident involving a Jewish woman being raped and having her money stolen by her attacker, who allegedly claimed, “You Jews, you have all the money.” That disgraceful and brutal incident motivated a response from the highest level of the French Government.

When it comes to such dreadful stereotypes, a variety of sports people have got into trouble recently for their racist, sectarian or anti-Semitic remarks. Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli, for example, gets into trouble fairly often, but this time he got into trouble for tweeting what he claims were supposed to be anti-racist remarks with a touch of humour. Clearly, that is not the way to promote anti-racism, at a time when the sport of football is continually working hard to eradicate racism. There are many other examples.

It seems—figures would appear to back this theory—that anti-Semitism has increased since the conflict between Israel and Palestine intensified and received increased media coverage. The Community Security Trust said it was aware of 302 anti-Semitic events in July, compared with 59 in July 2013. It described the cases as

“reactions to this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas”

in Gaza. The charity also recorded about 150 anti-Semitic incidents in August—the third-highest monthly total on record—and some of those incidents happened in Belfast. The July incidents ranged from abusive letters to British synagogues to threats, graffiti and damage to property. There were also 21 violent assaults—it is not always property that is targeted—although no one was, thank the Lord, seriously injured, which is good news.

There is, however, overwhelming opposition among British people to anti-Semitism. The debate has highlighted the incidents that have taken place, but we should also highlight the excellent response from the British people. The silent majority—99.9% of people—are disgusted by what has happened and support the Jewish people’s right to have their own beliefs. We have also seen a far greater number of people who are disgusted and angered by such incidents and are determined to stamp them out. For example, the all-party group against anti-Semitism, with the support of the Parliamentary Committee against Antisemitism, is now fully focused on working with the Government and other partners to implement measures to send out the clearest of messages: intolerance will no longer be acceptable.

In August, thousands of people gathered outside the royal courts of justice at a meeting organised by the Campaign against Antisemitism, a grass-roots group formed in response to the rise in attacks against Jews in Britain and throughout Europe following the start of the Gaza conflict. Signs in the crowd read “Zero tolerance

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for anti-Semites” and “Prosecute hate before it’s too late”, and that is exactly what we in the House and the Government need to do: prosecute hate before it is too late. We must not tolerate any form of racism or anti-Semitism, and we must come down hard on those who commit these hate crimes.

3.15 pm

Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under you, Mrs Main. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), the chair of the all-party group, on introducing this timely debate and on his non-stop work on this issue. I also congratulate Danny Stone and others who nagged me intensely about it.

For part of my career, I was a local councillor in the London borough of Hackney. I represented the Springfield ward in Stamford Hill, which is nearly 50% ultra-Orthodox, Haredi or strictly Orthodox—whatever we choose to call it. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) talked about the divisions and arguments in Israel, but people should come to Stamford Hill if they want to see divisions and arguments.

That was my introduction to a certain section of the Jewish community—it is now becoming a huge section of that community. It is perhaps pertinent to the debate that it is the only part of British Jewry that is visibly Jewish; its members are totally recognisable wherever they are—whether they are in their community in Manchester, or in Hackney and Stamford Hill. Members of the community would regale me with stories about the 1950s, which is not so long ago, when Blackshirts would come down the streets on Saturdays, knowing full well that members of the community could not pick up a telephone to ring for help or get on a bus to go for help, and would smash the cars in the road. That was only 60 years ago.

The community had had some of the worst experiences. Many were refugees in the 1930s. Interestingly, in terms of the present debate on immigration, I once called on a couple in Tower Court—I remember it specifically because I had done some work for them, as a good local councillor would. I called round, as a good Conservative local councillor would, to make sure they were voting the right way, and, for the first time, they asked me in. When the husband stretched out his arm to invite me in, I saw a tattoo on it, and I suddenly realised what it was. I went in and met his wife. They were children—survivors—of the holocaust and the camps. They built a family here and had grandchildren. They were very proud of this country. I had come round because of the vote without knowing the history of this couple. The husband told me he thought he might still be an illegal immigrant, because when he came across to Britain in 1945, the country had wanted bricklayers, but he had actually been an apprentice jeweller under his father. He wondered, in a joking sense, whether he was still safe. However, the majority of that community have always wondered whether they are safe in this country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Mr Scott) mentioned under-reporting, and I suspect there is massive under-reporting in that part of Stamford Hill by children going to the different schools and colleges, and by

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others. Most of the men in the community have to go to synagogue at least three times a day to pray, and they are completely recognisable, so they have suffered all kinds of things.

Essentially, however, members of the community have made a massive contribution. One—Councillor Joe Lobenstein—is now getting on. He was the first ultra-Orthodox member of any of the communities I mentioned to put himself forward for election. At the time, some of the rabbis said “Don’t do that, because you’ll expose us.” However, he did, although I do not think he has ever got the recognition he was due for the work he did on behalf of the community. He struck up a relationship in those early days with the incoming Muslim community, and he taught me as a new councillor a lesson, when we voted to support a planning application for the first big mosque in the area. Joe’s view was that one religious community should support another.

I have always wanted to get Ministers—here is an invite—to come to Cazenove road in Hackney on a Friday to see thousands of religious Gujarati Muslims pouring down one end to get into the mosque, and thousands of religious ultra-Orthodox men going the other way, to go to synagogue. Never has there been a problem there, because there is a Jewish-Muslim council for the elders. It does not operate much, but particularly when there are issues in the middle east it comes together to try to calm things down, and works for mutual benefit, usually on the latest synagogue or mosque planning application, or whatever it is; I am sure that ex-councillors will recognise that.

That community taught me a massive amount, but of course those people grew up with the assumption that has been referred to, which is a terrible stain on European civilisation: the acceptance, almost, that anti-Semitism will be there for ever. At the same time, its members were extremely proud of the home that this country had given them, and intensely patriotic.

There has been mention of the interesting statistics from the Community Security Trust, to whose work I pay tribute. In 2013 it recorded 529 anti-Semitic incidents, which was an 18% decrease on 2012. One might therefore talk about all the work that has been done by Governments and Ministers of both parties, by the all-party group—both before my time and now—and by many people in the community, to deal with that terrible stain. This year people have said to me, “Obviously, the number of incidents has gone up and up”, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy asked, why do we assume that the issue in Israel should automatically reverberate as anti-Semitic attacks in this country? Perhaps unfortunately for the chairman of the all-party group, he has many years of work to do yet if people just assume “That would happen, wouldn’t it?” That is how ingrained a situation we are dealing with.

Hon. Members have talked about the new online phenomena. At a meeting of the all-party group on Islamophobia there was discussion of Facebook and all the different ways of dealing with hate crime in that context. I wondered what the impact of that was for anti-Semitism, although it is Twitter that has been mentioned specifically in this debate. I take some comfort from what the Home Secretary said to Jewish News:

“We’re very clear that if something is a crime offline it can be a crime online.”

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She added:

“It’s necessary to make sure the right guidance is available for police and other authorities”.

As the chairman of the all-party group, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, asked, what prosecutions have there been? What is happening? That is why the debate is extremely pertinent. The thing that has emerged that most shocked me came out of some of the demonstrations about problems in the middle east; it was the phrase “Hitler was right”, which apparently then trended on Twitter. I am not a Twitter user, Mrs Main, and you obviously know why I am not and do not want to be.

I sometimes say that when I had a proper job I was a teacher. I taught history, and I remember huge debates about the introduction of the national curriculum for year 9 history, and about whether it was right to examine the history of the holocaust. As a history teacher I said we should do it, and that we should not underestimate children of that age. However, I remember my shock when half of my class of year 9s were in tears over the whole issue at the end of a class. That is either because I was a good teacher or because I was a bad teacher. I distinctly remember two girls saying, “We never knew this happened, sir.” Other hon. Members have talked about the level of knowledge about the subject. Education is critical in giving the right historical context. I support the Government in maintaining the holocaust as part of the history curriculum. Children can deal with it.

Hon. Members have also mentioned the work of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust in taking children to Auschwitz. WhenI was a history teacher I avoided going; I did not want it to be just a museum, but I did go with the trust three or four years ago, and, as others who have been there have found, the awful impact stays. I also want to mention the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust, in particular in Lancaster and Fleetwood, now that I am its Member of Parliament. The Jewish population there is minimal, but I pay tribute to the work done there by an ex-Labour MP, Stanley Henig, from Lancaster university—and also to Liz Neat, from the National Coalition Building Institute—to preserve the practice of marking Holocaust memorial day every January.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) mentioned that it is more important to support and continue such ceremonies in constituencies without a significant Jewish population, particularly in the light of the spike in anti-Semitism; that reminds us that the stain is there, and may unfortunately remain for many a long year. It would be pertinent this January to make sure that Holocaust memorial day was observed throughout the country, Jewish community or no Jewish community. That would be a clear statement of what we can, if we like, call British values. It would show that we recognise that the terrible scourge still exists, the stain that it has put on our history, and that we are determined to continue the commemoration. I therefore commend the work of the all-party group and the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, who brought the matter before the House.

3.27 pm

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): It is pleasure to take part in the debate, but as other hon. Members have said, it is always a shame that we have to have such a debate. I pay tribute, as other hon. Members

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have done, to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) for his great leadership on the issue, to which we need always to return. It is something for which we hang our heads in shame, particularly when there is such a spike in the number of anti-Semitic incidents.

It is a given that we are against anti-Semitism, and many people would want to belong to a group that was against it, but it is also important to address the issue of what things we are for. Obviously, we are for proper respect for and treatment of Jewish people, but it is more than that. This gets us to the heart of why it is right for the country, Parliament and the Government to take a lead in tackling anti-Semitism: the thing that we are for is human dignity. We know from history that the litmus test for our valuing of our fellow human beings has, sadly, been our attitude to anti-Semitism, which recurs over periods of years, and has recurred this year as well. We can show ourselves to be tackling the issue of human dignity, and to be in favour of human dignity, in the way we deal with anti-Semitism. That is why it is important that as we take the lead on issues such as modern slavery, we do so also for human dignity, by the way we deal with anti-Semitism.

I am concerned about the fact that in recent times there has been almost a double discrimination, or double anti-Semitism. It is not just the anti-Semitic words and actions, but the cause. The situation is almost worse when the cause of the spike in the number of incidents is the Gaza conflict. The particular reason why I am taking part in this debate is the things that have happened in my constituency. Sadly, a brick was thrown at a schul during the Gaza conflict, and the Norwood charity shop on Southgate High street was daubed in relation to Gaza protests; a Jewish charity shop was targeted.

For the first time in my nine years in Parliament, constituents have come to my surgery saying that the concern is so acute that they are concerned about their children wearing any insignia on their uniforms if they go to school on a public bus, and about giving any identification of their being Jewish people. It is appalling for that to be on their minds. They are also concerned when their children go to the Southgate Asda or to Tesco in Potters Bar—concerned both about the looks given and the words said to them. Those incidents are not reported. I am concerned that that is taking place and concerned and ashamed that there is such a climate of fear, but I want to take appropriate action, to ensure that we are doing all we can to counter that. That action involves all of us—cross-party, cross-cultural, cross-faith—standing up against such incidents in a responsive, timely and meaningful way, because they affect us all, in terms of how we value human beings.

We should recognise history; indeed, we have made reference to it. When I heard about the incidents in my constituency, I was on holiday with my family in Normandy. We went to the cemeteries and saw the star of David marking the grave of a Jewish person who died on behalf of Britain and freedom, alongside a gravestone with a cross for a Christian soldier who died for the same freedoms. Those are the freedoms that we are concerned about. We need to work on and be vigilant in tackling those issues. I welcome the Home Secretary’s vigilance and leadership, and that of the Mayor of London and others, who are very much aware of the issues; their attention has been drawn to them by colleagues here.

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I want to ensure that, from a definitional point of view, we are getting it right. The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s definition of anti-Semitism includes equating the actions of the state of Israel with Jewish people as a race. It will be interesting to see whether the Minister recognises such a definition, because when debate includes references to “a Jewish lobby”, “a powerful financial lobby” and indeed to Zionists, there is often, sadly, anti-Semitism behind it. That must cause us concern.

The responses worry me as much as the actions. For example, the Sainsbury’s store in Holborn responded to the protest by clearing the shelves of kosher food. That was originally thought justifiable in order to deal with antisocial concerns, but the store did not realise what it was doing by responding with an anti-Semitic act.

There are concerns about social media, too. Just this weekend there was an anti-Semitic tweet from a north London branch of a political party. I will not attribute it, because it has since been suggested that it was not an official party branch tweet. It said:

“UKIP has evil money grabbing Jews…in their party”.

The response to that tweet reveals a lot: the justification for it was that the person was upset about the Palestinian conflict. That was thought to be a justifiable excuse, but that is unacceptable. That is another example of double anti-Semitic discrimination, and it is why, as we go into election mode, the report of the inquiry on electoral conduct, for example, needs to be heeded; why we need to hear the Minister say that the Equality and Human Rights Commission is actively providing local authorities with the guidance that was promised in debate in the other place; why the Electoral Commission needs to be active in ensuring that there is proper engagement with political parties; why local authorities need to ensure that they are correcting false information; and why all political parties need to get to the minimum standard for disciplinary processes.

We need to get cross-party agreement, and we all need to ensure that we support education and the Holocaust Educational Trust. Good work is being done by Near Neighbours, which is stepping up to the plate; all of us are involved because we are all near-neighbours; I am, with my neighbours in my constituency. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder to make sure that we tackle anti-Semitism because we believe in human dignity.

3.34 pm

Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) (Con): I, too, join colleagues in congratulating the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), not just on securing the debate, but on his outstanding work chairing the APPG. Given that we are running out of time, I will try to keep my comments brief.