UNESCO, the UN’s cultural and heritage body, has documented the multiple threats to Iraq and Syria’s most important cultural sites, including deliberate attacks,

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destruction as collateral damage in fighting, the greed of unscrupulous traders and collectors, and the organised vandalism by terrorist and other organisations wanting to erase the past achievements of their cultures. It would be good to hear from the Minister how the Government are supporting UNESCO in its work.

UNESCO leads on a series of international conventions that set international standards to deal with the specific risks faced by heritage during conflict, including most recently the statutes of the International Criminal Court, which have defined the intentional destruction of historical buildings as a war crime. As the hon. Member for Newark said, Britain has not yet signed up to the Hague convention on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict. Labour began the process of signing up to it, but I understand that the current ministerial team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has not yet followed up that work. Is the Minister able to give a new commitment or is he only able to give—I say this gently—some weasel words?

UNESCO has sought to raise international concern about the destruction of cultural heritage in conflict zones and to encourage better local readiness to prevent and minimise devastation of cultural sites in the event of conflict. It would be good to hear from the Minister the Foreign Office’s assessment of UNESCO’s effectiveness in raising the issue’s profile internationally and in helping local communities prepare for and mitigate the impact of conflict on cultural sites. Following on from a point made by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham, how much funding, if any, does the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Department for International Development allocate to help?

Illegal trafficking of cultural property is a major threat to crucial heritage sites during conflict. In theory, UNESCO, Interpol, the World Customs Organisation, the International Council of Museums and many others are already lined up to work together to alert the art market about the dangers of traded goods and to attempt to limit such illegal trade. It would be helpful to hear from the Minister the Foreign Office’s assessment of the scale of such trade, and what, if anything, is Britain’s contribution to attempting to limit it. Are Foreign Office Ministers, as the hon. Member for Newark encouraged, raising the issue of illicit trade with our middle east allies?

Last July, UNESCO held an emergency meeting that brought together cultural heritage experts from Iraq and the wider international community to develop an action plan to mitigate the cultural damage from the recent upsurge in conflict. A further international meeting was organised in late September by the French and Italian delegations to UNESCO to develop such ideas. What was Britain’s contribution to those meetings?

The brutality of ISIL demands a continuing, determined international effort to confront and limit its capabilities in Iraq and Syria, while, as the hon. Member for Newark rightly set out, the scale of their damage and that of others to crucial cultural sites demands that Britain should be part of the international effort to help in minimising the damage and should stand ready to support efforts to rehabilitate the sites where possible. I look forward to hearing the Minister say how Britain is fulfilling that role and how it will do so in future.

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2.30 pm

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) on securing this debate. Its quality has been hugely increased by both the long-standing interest and the long experience that he and my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) bring to policies on archaeology and the trade in cultural antiquities.

The Government are deeply concerned by the destruction of cultural and religious sites in both Syria and Iraq, and particularly by the looting of historic artefacts and the illicit trade in them. In Syria, damage has been caused to all six UNESCO world heritage sites. As hon. Members have said, they include the old city of Aleppo, which houses souks going as far back as the 12th century, and Krak des Chevaliers, which has stood since the 11th century. We believe that all sides in the conflict have a responsibility to protect these sites of cultural importance. We are dealing not only with action by ISIL but, as has been said, with military tactics used by the Assad regime in Syria that have caused considerable damage, particularly to Aleppo, including air strikes, artillery and barrel bombs.

As was the case with the Taliban in Afghanistan and the terrorists linked to al-Qaeda in Mali, we are dealing with an extremist group in Iraq that is seeking to impose iconoclasm on any evidence of religious practice that does not conform to its extremely narrow and perverted interpretation of Islam. In Iraq, the Green Church, one of the oldest orthodox Christian churches in the middle east, and the Mosque of the Prophet Younis have both been deliberately obliterated by ISIL explosives. As my hon. Friends the Members for Newark, for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) and for East Worthing and Shoreham have explained, the wanton destruction is not only a cultural crime, representing the loss of irreplaceable artefacts and manuscripts of times past, but something with profound consequences. It has an impact on diversity in the middle east, not just historically, but today and in looking forward to a middle east where, we hope, it will remain possible for people of different faiths or different origins to live together in peace.

The destruction is undermining the rich cultural heritage, history and sense of belonging of all communities in Iraq and Syria. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough was right to remind the House, as he did in 2008—I spoke in that debate as the then Opposition spokesman—and on a number of occasions since, about the traumatic situation faced by Christians in their daily lives in the middle east. In both Iraq and Syria, the destruction of heritage is placing an even greater strain on social bonds, which were already stretched to breaking point. Looking forward to the day when there is stability again in both Syria and Iraq, one consequence of the destruction of cultural monuments is that the opportunities for cultural tourism will be much diminished, which will harm the efforts of both countries to rebuild their economies and give their people opportunities.

Hon. Members asked what the Government are doing to raise such concerns with countries in the region. I can tell the House that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who has responsibility for dealing with the middle east, has

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already raised those concerns during meetings in Egypt and the Gulf, and he is doing so during his visit to Baghdad today.

The Government are concerned that the smuggling of historic artefacts is being used by terrorist organisations, including ISIL, to raise revenue. ISIL is the most abhorrent, brutal terrorist organisation that the world has seen—certainly in modern times—and we have all been horrified by the abuses it has committed against the people of Syria, Iraq and the wider region. It is worth reminding ourselves, however, that although we rightly speak and think about the threat to ancient Christian communities, Yazidis and others, the majority of ISIL’s victims are Muslims. ISIL has as little respect for the lives and safety of Muslims as it does for the lives and safety of others.

ISIL’s licensing of the wholesale looting of archaeological sites by criminal gangs is a further example of its cynicism. Our assessment is that ISIL is generating the majority of its revenue from oil smuggling and extortion, rather than from the illicit trade in antiquities. However, it is clearly our responsibility to ensure that we use all possible measures to deny ISIL access to funds and to constrain it from executing its brutal campaign.

The Government have been active on the international stage to discourage and disrupt smuggling, including of antiquities. UN Security Council resolution 2170, which was adopted during the United Kingdom’s presidency of the Security Council last August, prohibits all trade that assists ISIL. A further Security Council resolution due to be adopted today will oblige states to take steps to prevent the trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property illegally removed from those countries. The second resolution demonstrates for the first time the international community’s resolve to suppress the financing of ISIL through the illegal trade in cultural artefacts. As a co-sponsor of the resolution, we have played a key role in ensuring that this source of terrorist funding was addressed by the Security Council. We continue to work with our partners in Europe and beyond to ensure the rapid and full implementation of both Security Council resolutions, and to impose sanctions on individuals involved in ISIL’s financing networks.

We are engaging with our European partners to amend the EU Syria sanctions regime to put beyond doubt the principle that, under its terms, the trade in artefacts from Syria is illegal. We co-sponsored a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council last September, which highlighted and condemned the destruction of monuments, shrines, churches, mosques and other places of worship in Iraq, and encouraged the Government of Iraq to protect those sites.

Before I come on to the specific points made during the debate, I want to issue a word of caution. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newark acknowledged, we must be realistic about what the United Kingdom can do on the ground to protect historic and religious sites in Syria and Iraq. We do not have a diplomatic presence in Syria, and we have no dialogue with the Assad regime. We are, however, aware of the ongoing destruction in that country—notably by that regime itself—and such attacks, while wreaking appalling cultural damage, also have a terrible human cost.

We remain committed to degrading and defeating ISIL so that it no longer poses a threat to the UK, the people of Syria and Iraq, or to that region’s cultural heritage, but we must recognise that this will be a

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long-term campaign. The Government continue to push for an inclusive political transition in Syria that will see the end of the Assad regime, and we continue to support the Iraqi Government’s efforts to push back ISIL, recover Iraqi territory, and meet the needs and provide for the safety of all Iraq’s communities.

We are assisting refugees and displaced people throughout the region with the provision of more than £800 million of humanitarian relief. When it comes to spending priorities, I think we are right to give priority to that humanitarian catastrophe and the millions of refugees—people who have been displaced within Iraq and Syria and those who fled to neighbouring states—over other forms of relief. We will therefore continue to prioritise our efforts to end the conflict in Syria and Iraq so that peace and stability can be restored, and cultural and religious sites protected.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham asked about the 1970 UNESCO convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit trade in cultural goods. That is generally accepted as the key point of reference for an ethical approach by museums to their acquisitions, leading to greater checking of the origin and provenance of items. The UK is party to that convention, and we supported the 1970 threshold as far back as 2000. As my hon. Friend knows, the Museums Association code of ethics published in 2002 includes that 1970 threshold, and we are open to trying to persuade other countries that have not yet signed up to that convention to do so.

My hon. Friend asked about the implementation by the United Kingdom of European Union and United Nations sanctions on cultural property. Sanctions orders are in place for both Syria and Iraq. The Syria regulation covers

“Syrian cultural property goods and other goods of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific or religious importance,”

and prohibits their export, import, transfer or the provision of brokering services related to their export, import or transfer

“where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the goods have been removed from Syria without the consent of their legitimate owner or have been removed in breach of Syrian law or international law”.

The order applies to objects that have been removed from Syria on or after 9 May 2011. Exporting or importing such goods contrary to prohibitions under that order automatically became an offence and attracted penalties under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979—indeed, the order increased penalties for those offences. We believe that the Syria order provides an effective means by which to enforce EU and UN resolutions.

Comparable arrangements are in place for Iraq where we have the implementation of United Nations rather than European Union sanctions. The 2003 Iraq order prohibits the import or export of any item of illegally removed Iraqi cultural property, and requires anyone who holds or controls any such item to transfer it to a constable—there is a legal duty not only to refrain from participating in that trade, but if someone has such property, they must hand it over to the police without delay. The order defines illegally removed Iraqi cultural property as

“any other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific or religious importance”

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that have been illegally removed from any location in Iraq since 6 August 1990.

In terms of practical implementation, my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have highlighted those orders with key stakeholders, including the art market, the police and museums. The Arts Council’s export licensing unit, which handles export licence applications for objects of cultural interest, has provided exporters with notices on the prohibitions applicable to cultural objects from Iraq and Syria. That guidance highlights the prohibitions and explains that when export licences are sought, the export licensing unit must be able to rule out the possibility that those items fall within the prohibited categories.

The Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 makes it a criminal offence to deal dishonestly in tainted cultural property from anywhere in the world, and someone found guilty is liable on conviction in the Crown court to a prison sentence of up to seven years and/or an unlimited fine. If convicted in a magistrates court the maximum sentences are six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000. DCMS has issued guidelines for collectors, auctioneers, dealers and museums, and the Arts Council now runs a dedicated cultural property advice website aimed precisely at those who are collecting, buying and selling art and antiquities in the United Kingdom.

Let me respond to a number of specific points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newark. I mentioned what the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is continuing to do in the middle east, but my hon. Friend also mentioned Germany, and hinted at other European countries as places where some of this illegal traffic is taking place. From my experience of dealing with the German Government, I think that they would wish to crack down, and be seen to crack down heavily, on such illicit trade. I am happy to ask our ambassadors and our consul general in Munich—my hon. Friend particularly mentioned that city —to speak with the relevant authorities there. It would be helpful if he could provide me with any detailed evidence that we could draw to the attention of the legitimate prosecuting and police authorities in those countries.

My hon. Friend also asked about turning the Hague convention into law. The Government’s position is that we remain committed to ratifying it by amendment to statute, although it has not yet been possible to secure the parliamentary time needed to pass the relevant legislation. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) slightly marred what was otherwise a constructive speech by trying to sound a little partisan. I have to remind him that the adoption of the second protocol, as far back as 1999, removed the objections that previous British Governments had had to adopting the original convention. It took the then Labour Government five years before they announced the intention to ratify in May 2004, and they then had another six years in office when they were unable to find the parliamentary time to do so. I am glad that there is cross-party support for putting this into statute and I think it best if we approach the issue in that fashion.

Mr Thomas: Will the Minister confirm whether there are any remaining blockages to the Hague convention on the protection of cultural property being implemented?

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Has the necessary parliamentary device been drafted, or do a series of consultations still have to happen? Are there any other blockages preventing it from happening?

Mr Lidington: It is just a matter of finding parliamentary time against other priorities for Government legislation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newark asked what work we would be doing with Iraqi museums to try to safeguard cultural properties. Again, this is a subject that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East will be raising in Baghdad during his visit. Our embassy has for some years worked to strengthen the links between the archaeological communities in the UK and Iraq. Between 2013 and 2014, the embassy funded a project run by the university of Manchester and the Iraq state board of antiquities and heritage, which involved initiation of a joint archaeological research and excavation project at a settlement near Ur in southern Iraq. It involved Iraqi scholars and practitioners in exploring the cultural heritage of their own country, giving them access to British expertise through a programme of joint research and publications. We continue to do what we can to promote best practice in Iraq and to help that country to safeguard its own cultural heritage.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newark asked me if the Government could take a number of further steps. He talked about a commission to gather information on making what he described as “modest funds” available, and various actions to enhance the priority that the police and other counter-terrorist agencies give to dealing with the trade in antiquities. I am not at all unsympathetic to what he is saying, but I provide a word or two of caution. Given that the United Kingdom does not have access to the ISIL-controlled areas of either Iraq or Syria and that we currently have no diplomatic mission in Syria at all, I question whether the British Government are best placed to carry out the assessment that he has in mind. We are not seen by the Assad regime, in particular, as a neutral party. UNESCO or another international agency might be better equipped to tackle this matter.

Similarly, when it comes to requests for funds, whether it is the Government or the police, money spent on one item, however deserving, means money subtracted from another good cause, so there is a question of priorities. We would have to think through how such action would actually help the people on the ground—the curators, the brave defenders of cultural heritage that my hon. Friend described. Given the problems in gaining physical access or sending money and other resources out to Iraq and Syria, I would want to be certain that we were delivering a good outcome and not just indulging in gesture politics.

It might be helpful to my hon. Friend, interested colleagues and people from the museum and art world, if I arranged a meeting with me, the Minister for

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Culture and the Digital Economy, my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) and representatives of the relevant Government Departments and agencies. We could sit down and thrash out some of these ideas together and discuss whether there are ways in which we can have the constructive effect that he and everyone who has spoken in the debate would wish.

I am grateful again to my hon. Friend for bringing this subject before the House this afternoon and for speaking with such passion and knowledge. I hope we can build on what the Government have already been doing and help in whatever way we practically can to safeguard what is the cultural heritage not just of Iraq and Syria, but of the human race throughout the world.

2.54 pm

Robert Jenrick: I thank the House for today’s debate. As we have heard, we all agree that an appalling human tragedy is occurring in Syria and Iraq, and nothing we have said today can divert our attention from that. However, there are important questions that deserve to be answered, because the destruction of these sites, the looting and the streams of revenue coming out of it are financing that same loss of human life. It is all bound up into one appalling tragedy.

I thank Members who have spoken, including my constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), who gave his personal experiences, as well as the appalling experiences of the Christian community in Syria and Iraq. We all agree with his comments. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), sitting at whose feet was like receiving a history lesson from a professor. He is the Gertrude Bell of the House of Commons, and I thank him for his incredible expertise on this issue.

I am grateful to the shadow Minister for giving up his time and showing the commitment of the Labour party. I know that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), to whom I have spoken about this several times, also feels strongly. We will need to revisit the issue of The Hague convention, which should be in the cultural manifestos of both main political parties—I suspect it will be in Labour’s, but I would love to see it in ours as well. I also thank the Minister for his generous response, and I would certainly like to take up his kind offer to meet, as too, I am sure, would other Members.

I have had the history lesson, and now I have some homework to do. There is more we can do to support the brave people on the ground trying to preserve this cultural heritage and to take some of the modest steps I have described to tackle the financing of ISIS, in order to defend both cultural property and human life in the region and to promote reconciliation in the future.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered destruction and looting of historic sites in Syria and Iraq.

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Mental Health and Well-being of Londoners

2.57 pm

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House has considered mental health and wellbeing of Londoners.

First, I would like to thank the Backbench Business Committee for giving me the opportunity to raise the important question of the mental health and well-being of Londoners. Mental health touches all classes and cultures in London. In consequence, it is important not just that it be viewed within the paradigm of health care but that we understand that all elements of London’s socio-economic development are deeply rooted in the well-being of our city’s residents. Unless we start seriously to tackle what I believe to be a rapidly unravelling crisis of service provision for mental illness, we will begin to see dire ramifications surfacing in all aspects of society, including education, family stability and public order.

As the House will be aware, I have thrown my hat into the ring to be Labour’s candidate for London Mayor. If anything, this has sharpened my interest in these matters. Fundamentally, however, my interest in this subject derives from the fact that my mother was a nurse, and in the latter half of her career, she was a dedicated mental health nurse. I saw the mental health system through her eyes—the problems, the challenges—but above all I saw that she loved her job and that she genuinely loved the people she nursed. Through her, I have always had an instinctive idea that people with mental health issues are human beings, too, and deserving of our love and care.

For three years, I was privileged to be shadow public health Minister, and I was able to meet and learn from many dedicated workers in both the public and voluntary sectors in the mental health field. The sad truth is that mental health provision has long been chronically underfunded, and now, during a time of unprecedented demand, the concern is that spending might be falling dramatically in real terms.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): On the point that funding might be falling, we in London also face the problem that the cost of living is growing. Many people working in public services such as mental health nurses and workers in mental health care are often low-paid in comparison to others. People who come to see me are having difficulty finding places in London and some services are finding it difficult to recruit staff, which has a knock-on impact on the standard of services. I wonder whether my hon. Friend would comment on that.

Ms Abbott: I very much agree with my hon. Friend. As he says, there are cost of living issues. Then there are spiralling housing costs. Health care in London has some of the biggest turnover and some of the highest vacancy levels of any health care provision in the country. The pressures of the cost of living crisis and the housing crisis are making it increasingly difficult to provide permanent staff to meet the health care needs in general and the mental health needs of Londoners.

I shall focus in my speech on the cost to London of the mental health crisis and the importance of parity of esteem between mental and physical health, about which

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Members on both sides of the House have spoken. It is important to stress it, because we are nowhere near parity of esteem when it comes to the questions of finance and resources. I also want to talk about the mental health and well-being of London’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and about the growing crisis of mental illness among our children, adolescents and young adults. I shall also deal with something not often spoken about—mental health issues in our black and minority ethnic communities in London.

It is important, because mental health is sometimes a marginalised issue, to talk about the huge cost of the mental health challenges to London. Recent figures indicate that almost a million adults of working age in London—15.8% of the adult population—are affected by common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. I was in the House about 18 months ago when Members of all parties bravely talked about their own experience of depression and how they felt a stigma and found it very difficult to get treatment.

It is estimated that 7% of London’s population have an eating disorder, that one in 20 adults has a personality disorder; that 1% of Londoners are registered with their GP as having a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia, bipolar and other psychoses; and that nearly half of Londoners are anxious. London has the UK’s highest proportion of people with high levels of anxiety. In addition, almost a third of Londoners report low levels of happiness, which must clearly be exacerbated by the cost of living issues we have mentioned. The number of Londoners reporting low levels of happiness is well over 2.5 million. We London MPs see many of them in our surgeries week after week.

In basic economic terms, almost £7.5 billion is spent each year addressing mental health issues in London, while according to the Greater London Authority, the wider health, social and economic impact of mental illness costs the capital an estimated £26 billion. In social care costs alone, London boroughs spend around £550 million a year treating mental disorder, and another £960 million each year on benefits to support people with mental ill health. There are some concerns about the changes in welfare and the—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I fully appreciate that the hon. Lady is a parliamentarian of great experience, and I am not making this point for the sake of it, but she is not addressing the Chair. She is speaking to somebody over there on the Government Benches, but while somebody over there might be able to hear what she is saying, the Chair cannot. I am sure she is speaking of matters of great interest. It would be appreciated by the rest of the Chamber if she addressed the whole Chamber.

Ms Abbott: I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. As ever, you are punctilious about matters of order.

London boroughs spend about £550 million a year on just the social care costs of treating mental disorders. Another £960 million is spent each year on benefits to support people with mental ill health. Across the population, the net effect of those wider impacts substantially affects London’s economy, infrastructure and population. Mental health is not simply an issue for health and social care; it is an issue for everyone. Mental health conditions

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debilitate London businesses each year by limiting employee productivity and reducing the potential work force. Every year £920 million is lost owing to sickness absences, and a further £1.9 billion is lost in reduced productivity. Moreover, the costs extend more widely: the staggering sum of £10.4 billion is lost each year to London business and industry as a result of mental health issues.

The London criminal justice system spends approximately £220 million a year on services related to mental ill health, and other losses such as property damage, loss of stolen goods and the lost output of victims cost London a further £870 million. Those costs are already too high, but treatment costs are expected to grow over the next two decades. Mental health issues also prevent physical health conditions from being addressed properly. However, mental ill health remains one of the least understood of all health problems. The problem is exacerbated by the existence of an obstinate and persistent stigma that prevents people from talking about mental health or paying attention to the debate about it, and therefore prevents us as a society from addressing it properly.

I want to say a little about the issue of parity of esteem between mental and physical health. The continuing lack of parity of esteem, in terms of both funding and attitudes, underlies some of the mental health problems not just in London, but throughout the country. As the daughter of a mental health nurse, I am very clear about the fact that there is no parity of esteem between mental and physical health. My mother came here as a pupil nurse in the 1960s, and was part of the generation of West Indian women who helped to build our NHS. She took time off work to bring up a family, but she returned to nursing in the 1980s, and her subsequent career in mental health exemplified the issues involved in the lack of parity of esteem.

The first thing that I want to say about parity of esteem is that those who might be described as the high fliers in health do not necessarily go into mental health. That has always tended to be the case. I shall never forget something that happened in 1987, when I was a brand-new MP. The then chief nurse at City and Hackney told me that I must visit the hospitals in the area. She said that I should meet her at 10 pm, and she would take me to the three major hospitals in hospital: Bart’s, Homerton, and Hackney mental hospital. I met her, and we went around Bart’s. She did not think it in any way remarkable that in Bart’s, even at the dead of night, we did not see a single black nurse. Then we went to Homerton, where there were quite a few black nurses doing the night shift. The chief nurse said to me innocently, “You know, they”—meaning nurses of colour, I assume—“seem to prefer the night shift; our day shift is quite different.”

Then I went to Hackney mental hospital. Although this happened in 1987, I have never forgotten it. The mental hospital was, literally, an old workhouse. It was as grim as anyone could possibly imagine—and, of course, all the nurses there, day and night, were BME. I am afraid that that pointed to a lack of parity of esteem, in the context of the way in which nurses were allocated and the direction in which their careers were leading. I am not in any way detracting from the specialists in mental health, but in respect of nurses there has long been a stratification when it comes to who should work in mental as opposed to physical health.

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My mother was a devoted mental health nurse who dealt with geriatric patients with dementia. When my brother and I were older and she went back to nursing, she worked in a hospital outside Huddersfield called Storthes Hall. Thankfully, it has now been closed. It was another former Victorian workhouse, and it looked exactly like a Victorian workhouse. One had only to visit that hospital, see the conditions there and then visit the new Huddersfield royal infirmary in the centre of Huddersfield to see physically demonstrated the complete inequality in services offered to people with physical illness as opposed to people with mental illness.

For a number of years, there has been more focus on mental health in all parties, which is to be welcomed, and more focus on the importance of parity of esteem. However, the financial issues are a challenge. For many years, mental health has been chronically underfunded and it has the reputation of being a Cinderella service. At national level, mental health accounts for 28% of the pressure in the NHS, yet on average clinical commissioning groups spent just 10% of their budget on mental health in 2013. Separate investigations by Community Care and the BBC showed that mental health trusts had their budgets cut by 2.3% in real terms between 2011-12 and 2013-14. The effects of some of those cuts have been felt throughout the system. There have been difficulties in accessing talking therapies. Service provision is creaking at the seams. Over 2,000 mental health beds have been closed since 2011, leading to several trusts with sky-high bed occupancy rates.

There is no question—perhaps Ministers will query this—but that austerity and issues with welfare, access to housing and unemployment have put some of London’s most deprived communities under pressure. Welfare cuts, the lack of stable tenancies and improperly enforced employment regulations must have an effect on the incidence of mental health-related illness. Therefore, on the one hand we have cuts to funding and on the other a rise in the conditions that affect people’s well-being and ultimately their mental health. That is a double-edged sword that spells disaster for the well-being of Londoners.

The specific mental health needs of LGBT Londoners are not discussed often. For a long time, London has been a city where young people come to find themselves. It is an inclusive environment where LGBT people are welcome. London boasts a dynamic gay scene and has successfully hosted World Pride. LGBT Londoners are now able to get married, to raise families and are equal before the law. We must safeguard those achievements by ensuring that they have access to appropriate health care and mental health provision.

It is time to change the stereotype that LGBT people are busy partying and having a good time. Unfortunately, it is not a wholly accurate depiction of the community. There are various estimates about the incidence of mental health problems in LGBT groups, but research I have seen says that sexual minorities are two or three times more likely to report having a long-standing psychological or emotional problem than their heterosexual counterparts; and that two out of five LGBT people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives, which is quite a high proportion. In 2014, Stonewall said:

“Compared to the general population, lesbian, gay and bisexual people have higher rates of mental ill health as well as alcohol and drug consumption. Lesbians are also more likely to have never

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had a cervical smear test, while gay and bisexual men are more likely to experience domestic violence.”

Particularly among young LGBT people, we see rising levels of self-harm. Homophobic behaviour is going unchallenged in the workplace and on London’s public transport system, and hate crimes against LGBT people remain stubbornly high. There are also issues about access to mental health services for LGBT groups.

The situation is even worse for black and minority Londoners who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, among whom rates of suicide and self-harm are higher than among than the population generally. Some 5% of black and minority ethnic lesbian and bisexual women have attempted to take their own life in the last year, compared with just 0.4% of men over the same period, and one in 12 have harmed themselves in the last year compared with one in 33 in the general population. What are the Government doing to improve the training of NHS staff on the specific health needs of LGBT people and black and minority ethnic LGBT people, because at present they are both challenged with higher levels of mental health issues but have difficulties accessing services?

There are particular challenges in London associated with the recent reorganisation of the NHS, moving responsibility for public health to local authorities. In principle that move makes it much easier to address the social determinants of ill health, including mental health, but the concern is that because of pressures on local authorities funding for mental health will drop and the ability to provide London-wide services for groups, such as the LGBT community, will weaken.

The House will know that my party is not proposing to put the NHS through a further reorganisation when we return to office in a few months’ time. However, it would make sense for existing structures in London to monitor outcomes for LGBT people throughout the capital, and given the complexity and size of London we cannot simply take a one-size-fits-all approach to LGBT issues.

Young people today are living in a time of unprecedented pressures, with smartphones, the internet, a world of 24-hour communication, new avenues for bullying, new fears and new concerns. The issues are plain to see in the growing demand for services for young people across London, with London hospital admissions for self-harm rising from 1,715 in 2011-12 to 2,046 in the last year. At least one in 10 children in the UK is thought to have a clinically significant mental health problem, which amounts to 111,000 young people in London. The impact of childhood psychiatric disorders costs London’s education system approximately £200 million a year, and in 2013 the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition found that 28% of joint health and wellbeing strategies in London did not prioritise children and young people’s mental health.

What are the Government doing to ensure that joint strategic needs assessments look at, and include information about, the size, impact and cost of local children’s mental health needs, to ensure that sufficient services are being commissioned? Will the Minister ensure that data about BME young people and children will be comprehensively included in the new national prevalence survey of child and adolescent mental health being

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commissioned by the Department of Health? Concerns have been raised in this House previously about the funding of services for children and adolescents, but it is clear in London in particular that there is an unravelling crisis in relation to young people and mental health.

As I said at the outset, London’s youth, and youth nationally, live in an era of unprecedented pressure. Data obtained from a freedom of information request of top-tier local authorities in England by the mental health charity Young Minds revealed that in 2010-13 local authorities in London cut their children and adolescent mental health service budgets by 5%, at a time of increasing pressure on young people. The latest data show that Southwark cut its budget by 50%, as did Lambeth and Hounslow. Tower Hamlets cut its budget by 30%, and Haringey cut its budget by 10%. Those are some of the most deprived boroughs in London, and if they are really cutting their expenditure on young people’s mental health care to that extent, it is very serious.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and congratulate her on securing the debate. She must be aware that the cuts in mental health budgets are, basically, arbitrary because no one knows what the long-term demand will be. No one knows what levels of demand are not being met within communities because people are afraid to come forward even to discuss their need for some kind of help. This is a huge problem and it needs to be given much greater attention by the Department of Health.

Ms Abbott: My hon. Friend is right to say that the cuts are arbitrary, and they certainly do not account for unmet need. In my time as a Member of Parliament—my hon. Friend must have had similar experiences—I have met many mothers and other people who are unable to access the mental health care that they need, particularly talking therapies. Cutting provision at a time when we do not even know the size of unmet need is very dangerous.

I want to turn now to mental health care provision for the black and minority ethnic community. I have looked at this issue over many years, and I believe that the manner in which the mental health system fails people of colour is a tragedy that has been consigned to the shadows for too long. As well as talking about parity of esteem between mental health and physical health, we need to talk about a parity of care between all sections of the community, and at this point that is not happening. I hope to set out briefly some of the findings of the research that has been carried out over the decades on black people and mental health, but my central point is that black and minority ethnic people are not getting parity of care and service. This is a long-standing issue that goes back decades, and I call on the Government to do what they can. I shall also call on the incoming Labour Government to pay attention to this issue in a way that has not happened in the past. Governments genuinely need to understand and address these needs.

Black and minority ethnic mental health is a particular issue for London because half Britain’s black and ethnic minority community is inside the M25. Sometimes it is hard to get the data we need, but we know, for instance, that in Lambeth—less than a mile from this Chamber—more than half the people admitted to acute psychiatric

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wards, and more than 65% of the people in secure wards, are from the Caribbean and African communities. I know from regularly visiting Hackney’s psychiatric wards, and the Hackney forensic unit, that the proportion in Hackney is as at least as high, if not higher, than that. We have accurate statistics for Lambeth, but we only have to walk into psychiatric wards across London to see that the majority of beds in the big mental health institutions such as the Maudsley are occupied by people of colour.

I remember, as a new MP in 1988, raising the disproportionate number of black people on wards with the head of psychiatric services in City and Hackney. I asked, “Why are so many people on your wards black and minority ethnic? It’s way out of proportion even with the population of City and Hackney.” City and Hackney produced three very senior psychiatric doctors to talk to me about this. They turned to each other, paused, muttered, and one suggested that it might have something to do with “ganja psychosis”. Another then ventured the opinion that perhaps more mad people were migrating from the Caribbean. I had to say to him, “It’s hard enough to get into this country if you’re sane; it is to the highest degree unlikely that the authorities are allowing all these mad people to come into the country.” But the striking thing about that conversation was that it was not some casual conversation on a ward; the head of psychiatric services had marshalled the three most senior psychiatric doctors in City and Hackney, and the only explanation they could offer for their wards being full of black people was “ganja psychosis”. I was struck by how low the level of knowledge was and how low the level of interest was.

I also know from my years as a Member of Parliament how many black families are struggling with the consequences of the mental health system’s failure to offer the right support at the right time, and the help and services to which they are entitled. One of the saddest things I see in my work as a Member of Parliament is black mothers, single heads of household, struggling with black males in their household who clearly have chronic mental health problems. I have had women come to see me who have been assaulted by their own son. When they are told that they should go to a GP and that perhaps their son needs to be sectioned, they say,” No, no, no.” That is because there is a terrible fear in the black community of the mental health system. Some women would rather risk assault by their own son and live in fear than consign their son to the mental health system, because their understanding is that once that system gets their child, the child is pumped full of drugs and never comes out again or, if they do, they are not the same. So it is time this Government and any incoming Government give more attention to issues relating to black people and mental health.

Those issues have not altered in decades: there are disproportionate numbers of black people, particularly men, in the system; we are more likely to be labelled “schizophrenic”; we present later to the system, which makes matters worse; we are more likely to come to the mental health system through the criminal justice system, particularly by being picked up by the police on the street and finding ourselves sectioned; and we are less likely to be offered talking therapy. I remember going in the ’90s to a mental health therapy centre in west London that specialised in talking therapy and did excellent

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work. I noticed that there were no black and minority ethnic people there and when I asked about this I was told, “Oh, we find that black and minority ethnic people don’t benefit from talking therapy.” That is an extraordinary attitude. We need to do more to make talking therapy available across communities, including BME communities. Black people are also statistically more likely to be offered electroconvulsive therapy—in other words, they are more likely to be plugged into the mains. There is also a terrible history of deaths in mental health custody, which are often to do with the type of restraint used and a fear of a violent black male. There is a whole string of such cases, of which Sean Rigg’s is one of the most recent.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I appreciate that the hon. Lady is developing some very important points, but I should draw to her attention the fact that the allotted time for an introductory speech in a Backbench Business Committee debate is 20 minutes. I have allowed her well over half an hour, as I appreciate that not many people are making demands on the time in the House this afternoon and that she is addressing important issues. Even given all that, I trust that in the very near future she is likely to come to a conclusion.

Ms Abbott: I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, as you are so precise about order. I would not want to think that the length of my speech will prevent anyone else who wishes to speak from entering into the debate.

In conclusion, let me say that the issues I am raising about mental health in London—the cost of mental health to Londoners, and the effect of the under-provision of mental health services in London, not only to the individuals and families who suffer, but to London as a whole—are vital ones. I am glad I was able to bring them to the House and I am sorry if you feel I have gone on at too great a length, Madam Deputy Speaker. The issues associated with what is happening to black people and mental health include the lack of provision, the over-representation in the system and the fear that black families have of the mental health system. So this is a huge issue, and it is one that is not debated enough in this House. I am sorry that you felt I spent too long on the issue of black people in London and mental health. What is happening to our young people and children is a new crisis, which is definitely not being debated in this House, and I am glad to be able to draw it to the attention of the House.

Absolutely in conclusion, may I say that these are vital issues for Londoners. In the end, addressing health care is about addressing all the social determinants—the welfare system, housing, employment or education. I am glad to have had the opportunity to draw the House’s attention to how serious the crisis is, particularly in relation to our young people. I wait with interest to hear what the Minister has to say.

3.30 pm

Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con): I am pleased to speak on this subject, and congratulate the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) on securing the debate.

The hon. Lady went through a lot of statistics, which I do not intend to repeat, but I will touch on some of the areas that she did not cover. Briefly, I wish to look at

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what is already occurring in the capital city, the cost of mental health and the action that I would like the Minister to take.

It is unfortunate that the hon. Lady did not acknowledge the work that the Mayor of London is already doing on this issue. Indeed, he has assisted in several projects, including the Pan-London Dementia Action Alliance and the Local Authority Mental Health Challenge, and he has worked with a range of partners to influence people, including many Members in this House. He has also worked with NHS London and the boroughs to support young people. Importantly, he has used his own office, the Greater London authority, to look at the way that it treats staff with mental health issues.

Some time ago, I wondered whether I would employ someone with a mental health condition, and I concluded that I would. What pleased me about my own self-searching was that when I considered people with other handicaps, I realised that I would not be able to employ somebody with a physical handicap simply because of the layout of this building; they would not be able to get around the Palace estate. It did challenge me to think about myself and how I approached mental health within the workplace.

Let me raise a few points from the Mayor of London’s report, “London mental health: the invisible costs of mental ill health”, which the hon. Lady did not mention, although she did pick up on quite a few of its figures, including the £26 billion a year we spend on the economic and social costs of mental health issues in London. She also mentioned that one in 10 young children has a significant clinical mental health problem.

I am aware that the London boroughs—my borough of Barnet comes second in terms of spending—spend about £550 million in this area. When I was a councillor in the London borough of Barnet, as indeed the Minister was, we were keen to ensure that we not only cared for our looked-after children, but played our part as a health provider in spending on mental health disorders.

I am also aware—as I am sure other Members are—from looking around my surgery or meeting my constituents that a significant number of people in the capital suffer from depression. Indeed the Mayor’s report shows that just over 41% of people suffer from some kind of anxiety compared with 38% in other areas. What is concerning is that those figures are higher in inner London than in the outer-London boroughs. It would be interesting to find out why that is, because we could then direct resources as necessary. Indeed, we could look at local authority funding. We could lobby the Minister and the Department to ensure that out constituents were not losing out on necessary treatment because of the spending in local authorities.

I wish to make two other points. One relates to the criminal justice system. Back in the summer, I spent some time with a Barnet police team and Inspector Moseley. The biggest gripe they had related to their ability to address and to help people with mental health issues. One area where I diverge from the hon. Lady is this idea that because someone has a mental health illness they will be picked up by the police. The police will pick up people if they look like they are going to harm themselves or others, and then they will invoke section 136.

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Ms Abbott: I probably did not make myself clear. I was saying that people of colour—black and minority ethnic people—are far more likely to enter the mental health system as a result of being picked up by the police. That is all I was saying. I was not making a general point, but a specific point about that being one of the main ways we enter the mental health system.

Dr Offord: I am grateful for that clarification and I thank the hon. Lady for it.

Jeremy Corbyn: I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman was saying about his experience with the police in his borough of Barnet. I have similar discussions with the police in my borough and although many of them are well aware of the vulnerability of people with mental health issues, it seems that there is a lack of consistency in the Metropolitan police training and a lack of continual awareness-raising for police officers, before they attend the scene, on the need to look for a mental health condition when they find somebody behaving in an odd or strange manner on the street.

Dr Offord: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point, which is certainly something that I would be willing to take up with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. That was not my experience, but as it has been the hon. Gentleman’s, I think it is a useful footnote for me to take back to show that the approach is not the same all over London. I am grateful for that.

I realise that the Minister is a public health Minister and not a Minister in the Home Office, but I am keen that police officers should not be delayed for up to eight hours of their shift by taking people to hospital to seek an assessment under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 only to find that a doctor is not available and no assessment can be made. I have spoken to several custody sergeants who have made the point that I will make again: a police cell is not a substitute for a place of safety in the form of a hospital. I am keen to take that up with the Home Office myself.

The Mayor’s report said that of every £8 spent on long-term health care, perhaps £1 is spent on people with mental health issues. I spent two hours this morning at the Whittington’s wonderful ambulatory care centre opened by the Government, and I congratulate them on that. It is easy to see people who clearly have long-term medical health problems, and one suspects that their mental health might be in the same fragile state as their physical health. If we include the £1 in every £8 spent on long-term health care, that adds another £2.6 billion to the £26 billion that we are spending on health care in London cited by hon. Lady. We certainly need to address that.

I am aware that in west London there has been an initiative as part of the London growth deal to help people to get into employment. Indeed, the local enterprise partnership has secured money from the Government’s transformation challenge award, and I congratulate the Government on that. I want to see more work going ahead.

It is not only people with long-term health conditions who are likely to suffer from mental health issues, but the long-term unemployed as well. I understand that approximately 46% of the people claiming employment and support allowance for more than two years have

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mental health issues. I speak not as someone judging those people but as someone who has experienced mental health issues in my family and have seen the consequences of that. Indeed, the

Daily Mirror

was kind enough to publish an article on me and the consequences of mental health issues in my family. Although most of it was wrong, I will put that to one side. I will not use the Chamber as a confessional, but the media have an obligation and a responsibility to report issues to do with mental health in a more positive and indeed less derogatory fashion than they have.

Finally, I pay tribute to colleagues who have worked hard on this issue. My hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris) was instrumental not only in securing a debate in this House to which I was able to contribute but in promoting mental health issues through some of us writing an article for a pamphlet he published. I am grateful to him for that. I also congratulate my Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell), who introduced a Bill to allow people with mental health disorders to stand in this place.

Although I am proud of this Parliament’s record, I would like Government action on the employment of people with mental health issues, and more Government action to provide people with a place of safety that is not a police cell. I would like the health service to ensure that its mental health professionals are always available, so that police officers do not spend their time waiting in accident and emergency departments for a professional to see a person who has been sectioned under section 136 of the Mental Health Act. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

3.40 pm

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) on obtaining the debate. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) and I am delighted that he had such a profitable morning at the Whittington hospital in my constituency. The ambulatory care centre is indeed excellent. It was a product of a community and all-party campaign to defend the A and E department some years ago. We won that campaign, and as a result we have a thriving A and E department and a new and very efficient ambulatory care centre. I attended its opening with colleagues. It is a great place and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman was well treated there. I hope he will write and tell the hospital so.

The point that the hon. Gentleman raised on policing, on which I intervened, is serious. I make no general criticism of the police force as a whole, but I do think that when the police are called to an incident in a shopping centre, or in the street or elsewhere, they need to be well aware that some of the people there may be suffering from a mental crisis, may be mental health patients, and need to be treated with some degree of care and understanding. Many police officers are very understanding and very careful about that; I am not trying to make any general criticism. I just think we need to send a gentle message to the Metropolitan police that within training, there should be as much awareness as possible of the mental health conditions that exist within the community.

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We have moved on a long way in debates on mental health in this House during the time that I have been here. When I was first elected, a person with a mental health condition was not allowed to stand for Parliament. The Speaker had the power to section Members of Parliament under the Mental Health Act—may still do, for all I know. Mental illness was generally the butt of humour—of universal jokes—so that people going through a crisis, perhaps depression, felt unable to talk about it and felt it would blight their career prospects in any walk of life if they did talk about it. Consequently, only if they had the money did they seek private help and private counselling; if they did not have the money, they suffered, and might lose their job and end up with a blighted career.

All of us can go through depression; all of us can go through those experiences. Every single one of us in this Chamber knows people who have gone through it, and has visited people who have been in institutions and have fully recovered and gone back to work and continued their normal life. I dream of the day when this country becomes as accepting of these problems as some Scandinavian countries are, where one Prime Minister was given six months off in order to recover from depression, rather than being hounded out of office as would have happened on so many other occasions.

The issues that I shall raise are much the same as those raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in opening the debate—on the disproportionate extent to which the people one finds in mental health institutions come from the black and minority ethnic communities, and the socio-economic imbalance on mental health issues. People who lead stressful lives, without housing security, without job security, without financial security, frightened about the consequences of what their children are up to or whether their children can get a job and so on, are sometimes affected by levels of stress that the rest of us would not even want to think about.

The access point to mental health services is usually the GP. That is the great thing about the national health service, although sometimes it is the problem of the national health service. A GP surgery at its best is brilliant, recognises the holistic needs of the patient and does its best to accommodate those holistic needs. The GP system at its worst is a single-handed GP who may have been there a very long time, become rather set in their ways, is not very interested in people coming to them with stress or other psychiatric-related problems, and does not refer them for any kind of therapy or counselling.

I am concerned about the length of time people wait for counselling or support. A report commissioned by the British Psychoanalytic Council and the UK Council for Psychotherapy, based on over 2,000 psychotherapists working across the NHS, the third sector and in private practice shows that in the NHS and the third sector

“57% of practitioners said client waiting times have increased over the last year, 52% report fewer psychotherapy services being commissioned in the last year, 77% report an increase in the number of complex cases they are expected to deal with.”

The report continues:

“The strain on publicly funded therapy services means that the private psychotherapy sector is increasingly ‘picking up the pieces’ with individuals who have been failed by the NHS. The vast

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majority of private therapists (94%) report they regularly see clients who feel let down by the NHS”.

I am absolutely not attacking the national health service. That is the last thing I want to do. I want the national health service to be there and available for all. I do not want it to so ration its services that those with fairly desperate needs are forced to suffer, seek voluntary help if they can get it or, if they can afford it, get private support.

There are excellent local organisations in my area, including iCope—Camden and Islington Psychological Therapies Service, and the Women’s Therapy Centre, which do a great deal to improve the local service and put a lot of pressure on the local health authority. An excellent report was produced by Louise Hamill and Monika Schwartz, who both work in my area and have done a great deal of work on the subject. I urge the Minister to have a look at that report and at the very serious proposals that they put forward.

The network for mental health did a survey which identified the 10 most important issues relating to mental health treatment. I will not list them all, but the most important seems to me to be access to timely and appropriate treatment. If someone going through a mental health crisis or depression cannot get seen by somebody, they become more and more agitated and stressful. If we have target times for cancer treatment, we ought to have target times for being seen and getting the necessary support at times of mental stress. Likewise, reducing stigma and discrimination is important, as is looking at the effects of benefit and welfare system reforms.

I have had far too many anecdotal reports from constituents and others who go for a Department for Work and Pensions availability for work test. If they have a physical disability, it is usually fairly obvious and it can be quantified and, we hope, taken into account in how the interview and test are conducted. If somebody has a mental health condition, it is not so obvious and cannot be so easily quantified. There are far too many cases where the stress levels are unbelievable for people who have been forced into these tests. Their condition has not been taken into account, they have been declared fit for work, and they then go into a crisis of stress because they feel they simply cannot cope. It is place where we could all be, and we should have some respect for people in that situation and do our best as a society to help them get through it.

That leads me on to education and publicity and how these issues are dealt with. The media have got somewhat better. It is now not routine for TV and radio comedians always to make jokes about people being stressed out, mad, depressed and so on. Things have moved on a bit and I pay tribute to colleagues in all parts of the House who have stood up in the Chamber during the annual mental health debate and said exactly that about ending discrimination.

Ms Abbott: Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the worst examples of the way in which the media treat mental illness was The Sun which, when the well known boxer, Frank Bruno, had mental health issues, had a front page headline, “Bonkers Bruno”, for which it eventually had to apologise?

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Jeremy Corbyn: The Sun has had to apologise for many things, not least that. We need a process whereby we change the mood music still further on the treatment of people with mental health problems.

There is a local project in my constituency called IBUG—Islington borough user group—where people attend meetings to talk about the kinds of stress they go through and the support they get. It is very interesting to talk to those people, who are incredibly well informed and intelligent.

I say to the Minister that I understand all the demands and financial pressures that are placed on mental health trusts across London. I am pleased that the trust in my area, Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust, is much smaller than most. That is partly, I suspect, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) and I stressed strongly that we wanted to keep the service fairly small rather than go into a huge segment of London, as trusts in other areas have.

We have a number of very good walk-in places that those with a mental health problem can go to. Lunch is provided, or they can cook their own. Art therapy and various other forms of support are available. That is all good. However, if we turn those places into something over-formal where appointments and references are required, and people can go there only if they have been sent, that takes away the feeling of an oasis. I have met people who have recovered well from whatever they have been through, and are working, but sometimes they feel the need to unburden themselves with others who have been in the same situation. It is important to have that kind of walk-in facility. I hope that the Minister will take account of that in the planning of these issues in London.

A couple of days ago, INQUEST launched a report called, “Deaths in Mental Health Detention: An investigation framework fit for purpose?” I have a copy here. INQUEST is a national organisation that is based in my area. It deals with the issue of deaths in custody. It has been around for a long time, is very effective, and does very good work. The report states:

“The number of deaths in mental health detention is high in comparison with other forms of custody. The most recent IAP figures show that out of 7,630 custody deaths recorded between 2000-2013, 4,573 deaths were of detained patients—making up 60% of the total numbers of all deaths in custody.”

It then draws attention to the need for a genuinely independent investigation into these deaths. We have the Independent Police Complaints Commission, although it could perhaps be stronger, and the prison and probation ombudsman to deal with those two areas where deaths in custody take place, but, the report says,

“no such equivalent investigative mechanism exists to scrutinise deaths in mental health settings.”

We should look at that.

In 2003—quite a long time ago—INQUEST submitted evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into deaths in custody in which it noted:

“Of particular concern is the failure of government or any of its arms length bodies to even collate and publish annual statistical information about deaths of detained patients…we believe”

that as a result

“some contentious deaths could escape any public scrutiny”.

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I urge the Minister to look at the report, which is very serious, well prepared and well researched.

The report also expressed concern about the use of restraint methods in mental health institutions and the wholly

“disproportionate number of people from BAME”—

black and minority ethnic—

“communities and/or those with mental health problems”


“have died following the use of force, raising questions about discriminatory treatment and…attitudes”.

Very serious questions have been raised.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington has done the House a service by securing this debate. We need greater and more effective assessment of the needs of mental health services across London, because there is still a stigma in some areas. Some communities and families are more able to come forward than others. We need to create an atmosphere in which people understand that we can all experience stress and that we all need help at some time in our lives, and the NHS must and should be there to provide that help when it is needed.

3.55 pm

Sir John Randall (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con): First, I would like to apologise to the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), because I was not able to be here for her speech. I heard some of it upstairs, but I had been detained in my constituency and did not think the debate would start quite so early. My powers of being able to work out such things when I was a Whip are obviously diminishing fast with my impending retirement.

This is a very important subject and, unfortunately, it is not often tackled. As Members of Parliament we see a large number of people who suffer from some form of mental health issue, and I have to say that it is one of the things that I find most difficult to deal with. In the past 12 months, one of my constituents, Miss Deborah King, who is very active in making people aware of the problems, has drawn my attention to a mental health first aid course, but I regret that I have not had time to go on it. The course tells people not how to treat others, but how to recognise and deal with the issue. I have said that I have not had enough time, but I should have made time. It is rather like saying that I do not have time to exercise. Time should be made for such things and I urge those who will be Members after the general election to see whether such mental health first aid courses will be available. Mind organises them in our area, but there may be others, too.

I would also like to suggest some form of training for first-time MPs—perhaps the House authorities could lay something on—because this is one of the issues of most concern. As hon. Members have said, we now know that mental illness is much more common than we would have liked to have thought 20 to 30 years ago. We know the statistics of how many people will be touched by some form of mental illness—it could be a person’s close family member, for example, or that person themselves—but we do not know the reasons for it. We can think of obvious reasons, some of which have been mentioned. One example I have come across—and not

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just during my time as a Member of Parliament—involves people who come here from another country. Their spouse may not be too conversant with the language and find themselves incredibly isolated. They do not have the stress of unemployment, but a culture change can cause a lot of problems and that may explain why quite a lot of the people I see in this context were born abroad.

I am also worried that some families, for reasons that are human and understandable, do not want to believe there is a problem. We have to educate ourselves that mental illness should be treated in exactly the same way as physical illness. I might find it easier if my spouse or one of my children came to me with a physical complaint. I could cope with that and understand how we might be able to get treatment, but mental health is still incredibly stigmatised.

That leads on to what my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) and the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) said about jobs. Over the decades, Members of Parliament have had serious mental health issues, but they have been hushed up because it would not have been particularly good for their electoral chances; there also used to be a ruling on such matters. It is the same with other jobs. If someone came to us and said that they had a history of mental illness, we as employers would have to make a difficult decision. I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon say that he would take someone on; I hope that I would. It should not be a difficult decision, but something innate in us might give us concerns.

Ms Abbott: I am listening with great interest to the right hon. Gentleman’s very thoughtful speech. His earlier point about how people who come from abroad can feel isolated may account for the very disproportionate mental health figures for the black and minority ethnic community.

Sir John Randall: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making that very valid point. Anecdotally, I can bear that out from constituents I have seen, although not by any means exclusively.

Another issue I have come across is when someone desperately needs help—they need to see someone to try to sort things out and to get treatment—but, possibly because they are quite far down the line, they do not accept that they have a problem. I can think of several cases where a husband or a wife was so nervous that they looked at me and said with their eyes, “Can you please do something?” but when I said that they should perhaps go to see their GP because it was a very stressful time for them, the immediate reaction of the ill person was to say, “There’s nothing wrong with me—I’m not going.” I do not know how to get round that: we do not want to force people, but it is very difficult to help them if they will not accept that something is wrong.

Another group with which I have become connected, because I am interested in this area, involves victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. People who have been, as it were, freed we now call survivors. They have been taken away from the world in which they were working —forced labour or sexual exploitation—and outwardly they seem fine, but they do not appear to have any help. We have only to think of what they have been through to realise that they almost certainly have severe mental

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health issues, but there do not seem to be readily accessible services for them. In many cases, they are not EU citizens or have entered the country illegally, so they are concerned that if they present themselves to the immigration authorities, the first thing that will happen is that they are deported. That only makes the situation worse.

The hon. Member for Islington North made the very valid point that when we talk about health—a general election is coming, and there is lots of discussion and dispute about the health service, with figures and statistics bandied around—mental health statistics are hardly ever mentioned. As he said, we should have targets on how quickly people see successful outcomes, as far as they can, and on where resources are going, but we do not have them. As Members of Parliament, we are aware from our meetings about the various illnesses that people have, and we know that a lot of people feel like Cinderella because their illness is perhaps not as well known as cancer or something else. Mental health services, however, probably deserve the title of Cinderella services, because people do not recognise them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon spoke about a confessional, but I will say only that during my time in this House—particularly serving in the HR department in the Whips Office—I have seen people who suffer from extreme depression and stress caused by all sorts of things. The House authorities, to their credit, have improved mental health services and people can be referred to them, although often they do not want to be. We must be much more sympathetic. If such things happen here with the people we have in this place, goodness knows what it is like for people in the less affluent areas of our constituencies.

London has a problem because of the nature of big cities—I am sure that is the case. The title of this debate mentions the well-being of Londoners, and that is something we should consider. My personal therapy involves open spaces and bird watching, although I recognise that is not for everybody. Open space, a bit of exercise, walking around—that is good therapy, and we should ensure that those facilities are open to all.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington on securing this debate. I am sorry for my late arrival and also that—last thing on a Thursday and just before a recess—this debate has not attracted large numbers of people. That has allowed me to speak, for which I am grateful, and I wait to hear the Minister’s response.

4.6 pm

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and the other sponsors of this debate for ensuring that the House can discuss such an important issue. I also thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for their contributions, which are testament to how much mental health is a vital challenge, not just in London but across the country.

In recent years we have seen a growing appreciation that mental health is just as important as physical health in ensuring the well-being of the population. Almost three years ago my colleagues in the House of Lords tabled amendments to the Health and Social

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Care Bill on parity of esteem between mental and physical health. As this debate has shown, however, there are challenges in how that measure is put into practice.

Since then, mental health has risen up the agenda as more evidence emerges not only of the scale of mental health illness, which affects one in six of us at any one time, but of the huge costs involved. In London, meeting the mental health needs of the large and diverse population poses a challenge, and it is welcome that tackling the cost of mental illness has been identified as a priority by the London Health Board. Of course the challenges are significant. In London almost £7.5 billion is spent each year addressing mental illness, while the wider health, social and economic impacts of mental illness cost the capital an estimated £26 billion.

As we heard from my hon. Friend, the pressures that mental health services face across the country are being acutely felt in London. Last week the Care Quality Commission published a report that found that last year the mental health in-patient system was again running over capacity. By the last quarter of 2013-14, the number of available mental health NHS beds had decreased by almost 8% since the first quarter of 2010-11. That is putting mental health professionals under extreme pressure, and more vulnerable people have to travel hundreds of miles to get the treatment they need, or they are getting no treatment at all.

I have had the privilege of visiting many fantastic services across the country and in London, such as the Channi Kumar perinatal unit at Bethlem Royal hospital, the Camden psychotherapy unit, and most recently the mental health service users group, the Lancaster Centre in Enfield. In response to the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall), I should say that I have also visited Dagenham council, which is training 1,000 front-line workers in mental health first aid. That is an example we can all learn from.

I have seen at first hand the pressures our mental health professionals are experiencing. They are working extremely hard in very challenging circumstances. I would be very interested to hear the Minister’s immediate plans to ease the pressure on in-patient mental health services in London. I think the key question we should be asking is why so many people in London need in-patient mental health care in the first place. Could it have anything to do with the fact that mental health spending has been cut in real terms for the first time in a decade? There are thousands fewer mental health nurses and hundreds fewer mental health doctors now working in the NHS. Is it because of the fragmentation of commissioning across our health service since the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act 2012?

My hon. Friend rightly talked about the pressures on child and adolescent mental health services in London. The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip said that we do not talk about this issue, but I challenge that. In recent weeks, we have seen front pages of newspapers covering this specific issue. I echo the concerns raised by my hon. Friend that the CAMHS budget has been cut in real terms by £50 million a year since 2010. We have seen other false economies, such as: cuts to early intervention and psychosis services; a reduction in the number of social workers; and the decimation of the early intervention grant, which we know is putting so much pressure on in-patient services.

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Just today, I received a letter from the Danshell Group, an organisation that provides 20% of CAMHS provision across the country, including in London. It wrote to me because it is very concerned about the state of CAMHS, particularly in London. The contract they have been offered by NHS London for the next financial year will see a 40% reduction in the number of CAMHS beds it can offer, down from 26 to 16. NHS London has said this is because of its “financial envelope”. This reduction will have a very real impact on many young people. The provider is already forced to reject more than 30 patients every month. Its concern, which I share, is that these young people will end up in A and E, have to go to medium secure facilities if no low secure facilities are available, or be sent home because there is nothing or nowhere that can help them. This is simply unacceptable and cannot carry on.

In addition to the 50 extra beds NHS England has commissioned across the country for CAMHS, I am keen to know what steps the Minister is taking to address the bed shortage in London and across the country. The letter I received said that NHS London is going to reduce the number of beds even further. This is a very particular and significant concern. At least one in 10 children is thought to have a clinically significant mental health illness, which equates to 111,000 young people in London. The impacts of childhood psychiatric disorders cost London’s education system approximately £200 million a year. For people to be presenting at hospital, particularly to specialist mental health services, means their mental illness has usually become much more serious. Waiting until that point to address problems is not only worse but more expensive too, as it requires more specialist health care from other services.

We need more focus on prevention and promoting good mental health. The principle of prevention has long been the driving force behind public health policy for physical health, but there is no comparable body for public policy interventions for mental health. Will the Minister share with the House what actions she and her Department are taking to ensure we are doing everything we can to prevent mental illness in the first place?

My hon. Friend referred to the distinct challenges London faces, particularly in relation to mental health. I note that she uses “well-being” in the title of today’s debate. This is not all about mental illness. London has the UK’s highest proportion of the population with high levels of anxiety. Nearly half of Londoners are anxious, and almost a third report low levels of happiness. Life satisfaction and feelings of worth in London are lower than the national average.

Mental health is shaped by the environment in which we live our lives and for most people that is not in the NHS, but in our homes, communities, schools, colleges and workplaces. These institutions can help or harm mental health, sometimes quite profoundly, and this is particularly true for Londoners, who experience stark and unacceptable differences in well-being and length of life. If we can begin to address these basic and too-often-ignored problems in the capital, we can begin to unburden ourselves of both the moral and economic costs of mental ill health.

I want to deal with the issues raised by hon. Members. On poverty, insecurity and disadvantage, there is a social gradient for many types of mental health, such as depression, with those in lower income groups more

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likely to experience them than those in higher income groups. The incidence of mental illness varies sharply between boroughs in London, with some mental illnesses twice as common in deprived parts of London as in the least deprived. We have heard today how Government policy can be a major factor, and the National Housing Federation estimates that one in seven households affected by the bedroom tax is now at risk of eviction. Given the cross-cutting nature of these challenges, I am keen to hear what steps the Minister is taking to ensure that all Departments take mental health into account when developing policy. We are concerned that the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Public Health, which brought together all those cross-cutting Departments, no longer exists.

We are keenly aware that we are in the midst of a housing crisis, but this is particularly acute in London. In all but two of London’s 33 boroughs, at least one in 20 people are on council waiting lists, and across London as a whole more than one in 10 are on waiting lists. Behind these shocking statistics, however, are thousands of families living in overcrowded, temporary and often poor-quality private rented accommodation. The impact on family life, and the life opportunities particularly of children, is huge. My hon. Friend also referred to the spiralling costs of housing. The average rent in London is well over £1,000, which has a significant impact on many families. Poor housing, overcrowding, insecurity and lack of access to community facilities can have a harmful impact on mental health as well. Will the Minister tell us what actions she is taking nationally to ensure that health and housing needs are considered together by both service commissioners and providers?

My hon. Friend rightly raised the particular experience of the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in London. People from BAME communities in the UK are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness. For example, they have a threefold increased risk of psychosis, and for black African and black Caribbean groups, this rises to a sevenfold increase. It is completely unacceptable that people from BAME groups living with mental illness are more likely to experience poor outcomes from treatment. There is so much work to be done to tackle these inequalities, particularly in a city as culturally diverse as London. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that mental health services are culturally relevant to service users?

The previous Government’s action plan on BAME mental health, “Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care”, ended in 2010 and has not been renewed or replaced. We believe we need a renewed focus and leadership on tackling race inequality in our mental health services. Does the Minister have a plan for a new national strategy to tackle race inequality in our mental health services and to ensure improved outcomes for BAME communities? My hon. Friend also rightly raised the particular challenges of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in accessing mental health services, and I hope the Minister will address that too.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) raised the serious issue of the recent INQUEST report into the deaths of people in treatment or in-patient care. Anyone who saw the “Newsnight” report this week will have been very concerned, and again I would be interested to hear from the Minister about that.

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Jeremy Corbyn: Would my hon. Friend support an investigation, on the basis of the INQUEST report, with a view to changing the regime of inspection, inquiry and appeal where there are tragic deaths in custody? She must be aware, as must the rest of the House, that many people in mental health institutions are completely alone, never get any visitors or support and are at the mercy of what we, the state, are prepared to provide and do for them.

Luciana Berger: I thank my hon. Friend for his important intervention, and for raising the point earlier. It is right to look at this issue. It is very clear from the report that INQUEST has outlined and provided that many serious challenges have not been addressed. Part of the challenge is that people find themselves isolated because they are placed in care and treatment, which can be hundreds of miles away from their homes, families and support structures. This means they are less likely to have visitors. Seeing the footage of one family’s experience—of their child’s in-patient care and the quality of her surroundings—was frightening. I hope that the Minister will address this specific report and share with us what the Government intend to do to look at the issue a lot more closely.

We have heard today that mental health is one of the most unaddressed health challenges of our age. Mental health services across our country are increasingly facing significant challenges, and as we have heard today these pressures are being acutely felt in London. Meeting the mental health needs of London’s population is critical to ensuring the future health and economic sustainability of the capital. In order fully to tackle these pressures, we must end the false economies and the stripping back of preventive and early intervention services that we have seen under this Government, and achieve a new focus on prevention and early intervention. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

4.21 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison): We have, unsurprisingly, had a very thoughtful debate, and this has been a welcome opportunity to discuss such an important topic. I hope that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) will forgive me if I focus my response on Back-Bench contributions, given that this is a Backbench Business Committee debate. She regularly debates these issues with the Minister of State who leads on care issues.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) on securing this debate on an issue that is important to her and her constituents, and to me as a London MP and my constituents. It is good to see a broad cross-section of London colleagues in the Chamber.

The fact has been well established that at least one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. As others have said, that means an estimated 2 million Londoners, and we know that London has the highest rates of mental ill health in the country. Some Members spoke about the reasons for that—those things that we know are responsible—and others suggested alternative reasons. I would slightly guard against the over-use of the word “crisis” and exaggerating to make a political point. To prepare for this debate, as the House would expect, I met some of

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the leading mental health clinicians in London and put some searching questions to them. I did not gain a sense of crisis, although we all gain the sense that this area has not been given sufficient attention in the past and needs to be given far more attention in the future. We all agree on that, and I hope to outline some of the areas that the Government are paying attention to and working on.

The Government’s commitment to prioritising mental health is encapsulated in the principle of “parity of esteem”, which others have mentioned. This means equal priority for mental, as for physical, health. This commitment was set out in our mental health strategy, “No health without mental health”, in February 2011, and was made explicit in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Planned NHS spending on mental health is expected to grow by over £300 million in 2014-15, and in our five-year plan for mental health, “Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020”, we identified £40 million of additional spending for this year, and freed up a further £80 million for 2015-16. This will for the first time ever enable the setting of access and waiting time standards in mental health services, to which the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) alluded.

Looking at the constituency of the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, I am sure she would welcome the fact that the City and Hackney clinical commissioning group has increased spending on mental health services by almost 4% this year, and is investing almost £2 million in a range of new service alliances intended to reduce service variation, reduce inequalities, and improve access and recovery outcomes.

I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) refer to the Mayor’s London Health Commission and the work done by the Mayor’s office. The hon. Lady also referred to the work of the Greater London authority. The commission, led by the Mayor, has identified the mental health and well-being of Londoners as a key priority for the Mayor’s office. Indeed, the Mayor has said:

“Mental ill health is an issue that affects millions of Londoners, yet we are too often frightened to discuss it, worried about what people might think, or unaware of who to turn to.”

That very much captures what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall).

In a report on London mental health which was published in January last year, the Mayor made clear that mental health is an issue for everyone who lives and works in the capital. The report attempted to quantify, as far as possible, the impact of mental ill health on Londoners in order to gauge the scale of the problem. I shall not repeat the statistics, but they show that there is a considerable impact not only on individuals and their families, but on the economy of our city and everything that flows from it, and on the costs of care. However, despite those substantial costs, diagnosis and treatment rates for mental disorders have remained poorer than those for most physical health conditions. NHS England has worked with partner organisations to establish a strategic clinical network for London chaired by Matthew Patrick. The network’s members include MIND, Rethink and the National Survivor User Network.

Let me now deal with the important issue of race equality in mental health care, to which the hon. Lady

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devoted much of her speech. The issue is obviously of great concern to her, but it is of concern to all of us, because we all acknowledge London’s incredible diversity, although the degree of diversity in our constituencies varies. Our commitment to tackling inequalities in access to mental health services is set out in our mental health action plan “Closing the Gap”, which was also published in January last year. That plan recognises that people from black and minority ethnic communities are less likely to access psychological therapies. We are working with the sector to find out exactly why that is, and what can be done to change it. NHS England is also working with BME community leaders to encourage more people to use psychological therapies, and to establish the reason for those barriers. In 2012-13, as part of the Time to Change programme, the Department of Health funded a mental health anti-stigma and anti-discrimination project. It ring-fenced 25% of a fund amounting to up to £4 million for work with African and Caribbean communities, which involved building partnerships with trusted BME organisations in BME communities. I think that, to some extent, addresses the point made by the hon. Member for Islington North, who is no longer in the Chamber.

NHS England has worked with Black Mental Health UK, and has established a leadership programme for GP mental health leads for London. A BME taskforce is undertaking a root-and-branch review of mental health services in London, to ensure that they are equitable and free of ethnic bias. I am not sure whether the hon. Lady is in touch with the taskforce, but I am sure that she would want to be. I shall ensure that she is given details of who is leading it, and I should be happy to put other Members in touch with it if they want to know more.

I must put on record that the hon. Member for Islington North is now present. He may not be in the place where he was before, but he is here.

The mental health trust in east London is strengthening families, with a focus on support for BME groups, by helping the families of patients with serious mental health issues, using an approach that treats the condition as being similar to any other long-term chronic illness and providing positive support and advice. That, I think, addresses a question raised by a number of Members: why, in many instances, are such different approaches taken to physical and mental illness?

Members rightly expressed concerns about child and adolescent mental health services. It is estimated that 50% of mental illness in adult life begins before the age of 15 and that 75% of mental illness in adults starts before the age of 18, so—as others have pointed out—early intervention is key. Over the next five years, we will invest £30 million a year in improving services for young people with mental health problems, with a particular emphasis on eating disorders, which were also mentioned. We are investing £54 million between 2011 and 2015-16 in the children and young people’s IAPT—improving access to psychological therapies—programme to transform child and adolescent mental health services. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon mentioned that. Let me also draw attention to his distinguished record in respect of looked-after children; I was very aware of his work when we were both on Barnet council.

Public Health England also plays a role in addressing the mental health needs of Londoners and is engaging

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with schools, teachers and pupils to promote and build resilience among young people through the London grid for learning. As a partnership, City and Hackney, about which I was briefed in anticipation of the debate, has one of the highest spends in London and England on CAMHS—close to £5 million.

I want to pick up a point that the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington mentioned with regard to BME children being recorded in prevalence data. I want to give her some assurance on that. The commissioning of a new prevalence survey on children and young people and mental health is a priority for the Department. Our chief medical officer has identified the need for prevalence data on the mental health of BME children and young people. Therefore, we anticipate that the new survey will look at the prevalence of issues in those groups and we hope to announce the procurement process in the near future.

More than £400 million is being invested over the spending review period to make a choice of psychological therapies available in all parts of England for those who need them. We all acknowledge that we are not there yet, but it is important that as part of the “Five Year Forward View”, NHS England has committed that, by April 2016, 75% of people referred to the IAPT programme will be treated within six weeks of referral and 95% will be treated within 18 weeks of referral; and that more than 50% of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis will be treated with a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence-approved care package within two weeks of referral. Those are important and ambitious targets to secure improvement in this area.

Data on mental health bed occupancy has not been routinely collected across the NHS London region, but NHS London has initiated a process to do that to allow year-on-year comparisons to be made. The first year of the initiative was 2014. The results of that suggested that across the different types of mental health in-patient facilities occupancy rates ranged from 78% to 100% during the period the audit was undertaken, which was September to November 2014.

London’s CCGs are committed to delivering the IAPT access and recovery targets for 2014-15. Additionally, the hon. Lady’s CCG, City and Hackney, is using a range of alliances—I was interested to hear about this—across CAMHS, psychological therapies, dementia, primary care and crisis services to improve the integration of service partners, with a clear focus on involving voluntary sector and social enterprise groups. I am sure that that is mirrored in other parts of London.

The hon. Lady raised the challenges facing LGBT people. The National Institute for Mental Health in England carried out a review that showed that LGB people are at greater risk of suicidal behaviour and self-harm, as others have said, and that the risk of suicide is four times more likely in gay and bisexual men, while the risk of depression and anxiety is one and half times higher in LGB people. I was interested to hear what she said—it mirrors my experience—highlighting the concerns of young gay people from BME communities. I have experienced that too as a constituency MP. Interestingly, some of those people said that the worst prejudice they experienced was from within their community. In that regard, London’s diversity also poses us a challenge sometimes. We as constituency MPs, and in other roles we have in our communities, must try as

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much as possible to stand up to and challenge that when we acknowledge London’s diversity.

West London mental health trust has a specialised gender dysphoria service, the largest in the country, which is accessed following GP referral to general mental health services with a question as to whether the patient has gender dysphoria. The total annual value of that service is £9.9 million. The London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard provides national information and a listening service over the phone and by e-mail and instant messaging. The helpline operates from 10 am to 11 pm, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. It is based in London but takes calls from the whole of the UK. I thank all local LGBT support groups. They do such a great job. I look forward to spending this evening with the Wandsworth LGBT forum at one of its film nights. We will watch a new film that addresses issues of particular concern. That organisation provides a great service in my community. I am sure other people have the same experience.

As we have heard, mental health crisis care is crucial. The first national crisis care concordat was published in February last year to improve service responses to people in mental health crisis, and in particular to keep people in mental distress, who have committed no crime, out of police cells. NHS England has signed up to the mental health crisis concordat and is in active partnership in London with the police, the ambulance service, the mental health trusts, CCGs, local government and the voluntary sector, as we would expect. Huge progress has been made in London in reducing the number of people taken to police cells for assessment after they have been detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act. I am pleased to tell the House that this number has reduced from several hundred a year to less than 20. That is a very welcome process.

Interesting contributions were made by Members on both sides of the House about the conversations we have had with our local police agencies. I, too, had an interesting experience when I went out with two very impressive young officers as part of my rapid response unit locally. They showed great understanding of the challenges they met. It was nice that that was acknowledged in all parts of the House, while also recognising the very considerable concern that the hon. Member for Islington North raised about deaths in custody.

Jeremy Corbyn: I am sorry that I was out for a couple of minutes during the Minister’s concluding remarks. The point about deaths in custody is essentially about the powers of investigation—the powers of inquiry. In my experience, too often it is left to the randomness of whether there is a family and community support network or not. If there is not one, absolutely nothing happens; if there is one, something might happen. I am sure the Minister is aware of this, and I would be grateful if she would have a good look at the INQUEST report on this subject. Perhaps her Department might like to study it and come up with some proposals in relation to its very sensible suggestions.

Jane Ellison: I will of course bring that report to the attention of the right Minister in our Department, and the hon. Gentleman is correct to highlight it.

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I want to give a note of assurance on street triage, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon. The DOH has funded nine street triage pilots, with police and mental health professionals working together to support people in crisis. In the areas where the pilots are operating, the number of people being detained under section 136 has dropped by an average of 20%. There are some encouraging results.

On the points made only by the hon. Member for Islington North, we are obviously concerned about the reports of high levels of physical restraint. Restraint should only ever be used as a last resort, and we think that the transfer of police custody health to the NHS and commissioning to a standard specification, together with liaison and diversion services being available in every police station, will help to improve that situation and the care and advice available to people in police custody.

I am proud of the Government’s record on mental health, but we have always acknowledged that there is more to be done, and I would not want to suggest any complacency on the part of Government on this vital issue. I will certainly draw to the attention of my DOH colleague the Minister of State who has responsibility for care, all the issues raised by Members on both sides of the House in this very thoughtful debate. I end by thanking all the people in our constituencies—whether within the NHS, the voluntary sector or all the community groups that Members have acknowledged—who provide care to those experiencing mental ill health. We are grateful to them all for what they do to keep Londoners well.

4.38 pm

Ms Abbott: I listened with care to the Minister’s speech and she can be sure I will be returning to many of these issues in the coming months. I was particularly glad to be able to put issues relating to London’s LGBT and black and minority ethnic communities on the record, because they are rarely discussed.

I beg, in the gentlest way possible, to differ with the Minister on the issue of whether there is a crisis in respect of mental health and young people. The correspondence that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) explained to the House about the cut in beds is very worrying. This is an important issue all over the country, but particularly in London. In a city that is so fast-moving and with individuals subject to so many pressures, it behoves the House to pay constant attention.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered mental health and wellbeing of Londoners.


Stance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Hamas

4.39 pm

Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con): I am honoured to present a petition that has been signed by a number of Jewish people who live in my constituency. It was handed to me by a constituent, Mr Lewis Herlitz, on behalf of Fair Reporting. My constituency has a wonderful Jewish community, who are very concerned about the

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anti-Semitic sentiments that they believe are being fuelled by events in the middle east, and about the lack of clarity in the language being used by the Foreign Office regarding those events.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents in the Southend West constituency,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the Foreign Office view Hamas as a plausible negotiating partner for creating a peace agreement with Israel; further that the Petitioners believe that such a view is incorrect as Hamas’s own political charter clearly states that it seeks nothing less than the destruction of Israel; further that the Petitioners believe that the Foreign Office is unwilling to clearly declare that it deplores the use of civilians and civilian buildings by Hamas as part of Hamas’s warfare strategy; Hamas’s consequential abuse of civilian properties as places from which to launch attacks on Israel, and its abuse of civilians as human shields resulting in a disproportionate loss of life; further that the Petitioners believe that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and is the only place in the Middle East where Christianity and other faiths can co-exist peacefully and thrive; further that a lack of clarity in support of Israel contributes to anti-Jewish sentiment; further that the Petitioners recognise the need for, and the rights of, the civilians of Gaza and other Arabs who live within and around Israel for a peaceable existence; and further that the Petitioners believe that the lack of demonstrable public clarity by the Foreign Office to support Israel and to deplore Hamas is deeply concerning.

The Petitioners therefore urges the House of Commons to request that the Foreign Office explains its actions and views on Israel, and clarifies its view of and position on Hamas.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Closure of Barclays Bank in St Agnes

4.40 pm

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): I rise to present a petition on behalf of residents of St Agnes relating to the closure of the Barclays bank branch there. It is the last bank in that thriving community. A local petition on this issue has received 2,827 signatures.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of St Agnes,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the plans to close the St Agnes branch of Barclays Bank; further that the Petitioners feel that the branch is a vital element of their community; and further that a local Petition on this matter has been signed by 2,827 individuals.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage Barclays to reverse their decision to close the branch in St Agnes or to postpone the closure to enable the Petitioners to work with the bank to make it more viable for it to be kept open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


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Scotch Whisky Industry

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

4.41 pm

Mr Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): I should like to start by thanking Mr Speaker very much for granting this important debate.

With 14 distilleries, the whisky industry is an important employer in my constituency. It provides jobs in remote communities where alternative work would be hard to find. With eight distilleries, whisky is clearly important to the economy of Islay. On Jura, with its small population, the island’s distillery is a vital part of the local economy. There are also distilleries in Campbeltown, Oban and Tobermory which contribute significantly to the economies of those communities. In addition, many of my constituents are employed in the whisky industry or its supply chain in neighbouring West Dunbartonshire and elsewhere in Scotland.

My reason for seeking today’s debate is to draw the House’s attention to the important contribution that Scotch whisky makes to the United Kingdom economy. Whisky distilling began as a cottage industry in Scotland, but its success has meant that it has grown enormously and now contributes significantly to employment and the economy throughout the whole UK. Scotch whisky is the UK’s largest food and drink sector, accounting for a quarter of the UK’s food and drink exports. Scotch whisky adds £3.3 billion directly to UK GDP and, once indirect jobs are taken into account, its total impact is to add almost £5 billion to the UK economy. Every £1 of value added in the industry produces an additional 52p of value in the wider economy.

I should like to give the House an idea of the scale of the Scotch whisky industry in terms of the value added to the UK economy. The industry is bigger than the UK’s iron and steel, textiles, shipbuilding or computer industries, about half the size of our pharmaceutical or aerospace industries and about a third the size of the entire UK car industry. That should give Members an idea of the scale of employment in the industry.

The Scotch whisky industry spends £1.6 billion annually on supplies from within Britain, ranging from cereals and glass to machinery. That economic impact is felt throughout the UK, with 90% of the industry’s operating expenditure being spent with UK suppliers. I am thinking, for example, of packaging from Wales, yeast from Staffordshire, glass from Yorkshire and logistics from Essex. As a result, Scotch whisky supports more than 40,000 jobs directly and indirectly across the UK, many of which are highly skilled. As proof of that, Scotch whisky workers are the third best paid in Scotland, only behind workers in energy and life sciences. Many of those jobs are in rural communities where alternative employment would be hard to find—about 7,400 jobs are in Scotland’s rural communities.

In terms of production, Scotch whisky workers comprise the second most productive sector in Scotland, behind only energy. Scotch whisky exports are worth more than £4 billion annually. Scotch whisky is the second strongest contributor to the UK national trade performance. The 2013 trade deficit would have been 16% higher without the Scotch whisky contribution. As well as those raw statistics, Scotch whisky makes other contributions which

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cannot be quantified. As an iconic Scottish industry, it helps to put Scotland on the world map and plays a major role in attracting foreign tourists to Scotland. I have reeled off all those statistics to show just what a high-value, high-quality product Scotch whisky is and the very important contribution the industry makes to the whole UK economy.

I also want to put on the record the industry’s thanks to the Government for the great back-up it receives from them on efforts to break down trade barriers throughout the world. Those Government efforts have helped whisky exports enormously and are a very good reason for Scotland to remain in the UK. Having the resources of the UK Government behind the industry results in breaking down trade barriers far more effectively than would be the case were the back-up from a much smaller Scottish Government.

Having praised the Government for the help they give to the industry’s export drive, I have to draw attention to what has become a significant barrier to the industry’s success in the UK market: the level of taxation. A bottle of whisky is taxed at almost 80%. Most people are shocked when they become aware of that statistic and agree that it is far too high. It is important to bear in mind that the UK is the third largest market for Scotch whisky, yet the domestic trade has been in decline in recent years. The taxation is a particular obstacle for the new and small-scale distillers, who rely on a thriving domestic market to grow, and they say that the current duty regime is damaging their prospects. It is important to bear in mind that the cash flow in the whisky industry is very unusual; whisky has to mature in a cask for many years before it can be bottled, so investors in a distillery have to wait for many years to get their money back and must have confidence in the future before they will invest. The many years of the alcohol duty escalator have been very damaging to the Scotch whisky industry. Excise duty on Scottish whisky is now 44% higher than in 2008, and, as a result, the domestic trade declined in recent years.

For reasons lost in the mists of time, whisky is taxed unfairly compared with beers and wines—the tax per unit of alcohol on whisky is far higher. I fail to see the logic in that. Surely a tax in proportion to the amount of alcohol in the drink would be much fairer. The Scotch whisky industry deserves a level playing field. It is important to note that the unfair taxation does not just have an impact on the Scotch whisky industry in the domestic market; the Scotch Whisky Association tells me that when it tries to convince other countries to reduce unfair tax barriers, those countries often highlight the UK’s taxation regime. They say that the UK taxes whisky at a much higher rate than other drinks and use that as a justification for doing the same thing in their own country.

I was delighted when in last year’s Budget the Chancellor announced the abolition of the alcohol duty escalator and froze the duty on whisky—that was a help to the industry, which was seen in a small boost to the volumes of single malt sold at the end of last year. That suggests that the duty freeze resulted in growth in the industry. I hope that the Chancellor will recognise that duty on whisky is too high and will cut it in the Budget. A 2% cut would help to boost the industry and allow it to create more jobs.

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As I have set out in this debate, Scotch whisky is a British success story. This industry and its supply chain provide highly skilled jobs throughout the UK and make a significant contribution to reducing our trade deficit. Continuing to tax this industry at 80% will not bring in extra revenue to the Treasury. In fact, it will probably see revenue decline. Such a high level of taxation risks killing the goose that is laying the golden eggs, and will result in lower revenue to the Treasury in the future.

I hope that this afternoon’s debate has shone a light on the unfair treatment of an iconic Scottish and British product and its vital contribution to our economy. I hope that I have convinced the Exchequer Secretary that a 2% cut in the duty on whisky would boost the British economy. I do not expect an announcement this afternoon—that would be a bit much to hope for—but I do hope that, after the debate, she will rush round to No. 11 and convince the Chancellor of the need for a cut in taxation for this British success story. A cut in taxes would boost the industry and help the wider British economy.

Madam Deputy Speaker, the Exchequer Secretary and everyone else present, I say slàinte mhath—good health.

4.50 pm

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid) on securing this extremely important debate. Like him, I have many constituents who work in the whisky industry and who benefit from it. I emphasise that the whisky industry is not just a Scottish industry; it is very much a UK industry, and UK workers enjoy quality jobs, permanent jobs and quality pay as a result of the whisky industry.

I also genuinely congratulate the Minister on her work. She has been extremely generous with her time, as she has met the representatives from the Scotch whisky industry. There is all-party support for a tax cut for the industry.

I will not repeat all the statistics around the Scotch whisky industry; I am sure that the Minister is well aware of them. I am not doing a disservice to the people who work in the industry, but we have rehearsed all the arguments with the Minister, and she knows what they are. The only brief comment I wish to make is to reflect what the whisky industry is saying. David Frost, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, met the Minister recently. He said :

“We had a warm and constructive discussion with the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury…The Minister clearly understands Scotch Whisky’s economic importance and we welcome her interest in the industry. In the UK, Scotch Whisky is under sustained pressure from taxation. 80% of the price of an average bottle of Scotch Whisky is taxation and we hope the government will take on board our concerns about the negative impact of this onerous tax burden.”

He went on to say:

“In last year’s Budget, the Chancellor highlighted Scotch Whisky as a ‘huge British success story’. We hope this year too he will show his support for this world-class manufacturing industry, which adds £5 billion to the UK economy and £4 billion net to the UK trade performance every year. We hope the Government will back us by cutting duty by 2% for Scotch Whisky this year. This would be fair to consumers, send a powerful signal to export markets, support public finances, and most of all promote investment and jobs.”

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We hope that the Government can see clearly where they are going with this and I look forward to the day of the Budget when the Chancellor will have a dram at the Dispatch Box as a way of promoting good Scotch whisky.

4.53 pm

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Priti Patel): I congratulate the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid) on securing this debate, and I thank him for the constructive points he has raised today. Anyone who has enjoyed a dram will recognise the historic whisky producing names in his constituency. Islay and Jura in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency has some of the finest malt whiskies in the world, and that is something that we should all commend, celebrate and be proud of. The world-famous whiskies and distillery experiences on offer are also key contributors to the tens of thousands of visitors who come over every year. I absolutely understand the significance of tourism in his constituency thanks to the whisky industry, which translates into jobs.

There is no doubt, as we have heard from both the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute and the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Jim Sheridan), about the wider economic benefits of Scotch whisky to the Scottish and British economy. They are significant and have also been highlighted in the report by the Scotch Whisky Association. It is only fair and right that I should pay tribute to everybody who has spent time engaging with me, including all hon. Members in the Chamber this afternoon and the all-party group. In particular, I thank them for highlighting that Scotch whisky is the biggest food and drink sector in the United Kingdom, representing nearly a quarter of our food and drink exports.

The industry supports, both directly and indirectly, more than 40,000 jobs, 92% of which are in Scotland. The significance of the industry is phenomenal, with a contribution of in excess of £3 billion directly to UK GDP, and an overall impact of £5 billion.

Distilleries and visitor centres add an additional £30 million to the Scottish tourism industry every year. Of course, this is also about the tremendous image that the industry presents of both Scotland and the United Kingdom across the world. The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute talked about the export markets, and in particular the work of UK Trade & Investment, the work we do across Government to ensure that Scotch whisky is a major economic asset to Scotland and the UK, and why it is important that we keep it in its unique position.

For example, we have introduced the spirits verification scheme to protect the integrity and high reputation of Scotch whisky brands in the export market, which is where 90% of Scotch whisky ends up. It is about having high standards and setting standards on production and labelling for producers to sign up to. That particularly

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helps with non-compliance in the industry, ensuring that those who buy Scotch get the real deal. That is of course a step change and we have worked in conjunction with the SWA. The hon. Gentlemen will be very familiar with that work. Of course, UKTI has an important role to play in supporting Scotch whisky across our worldwide network of embassies and in bringing it to new and emerging markets, from Lebanon to India to Taiwan, all of which have seen exports increase by more than a quarter in the past year alone.

The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute was right to talk about the lobbying on the abolition of the hated duty escalator in the Budget last year. I campaigned for that myself, so I am familiar with the campaign. Of course, it demonstrates that we should not punish a successful, world-famous industry with excessive taxation. The all-party group on Scotch whisky and spirits has been very good in its representations and I thank it for that. It is fair to say that although I am naturally not in a position to discuss anything to do with the Budget at this stage, I have heard clearly from all Members this afternoon the arguments that have been made about the level of taxation on whisky, particularly when compared with other alcoholic drinks. Those points have come out in my meetings with stakeholders and the industry, too.

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con): I speak not as a producer but as a drinker of whisky, as are many of my constituents. The archivists at HMRC and the Treasury might be able to dig out the meetings some of us had with the then Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), back about 19 years ago, when he was convinced that it was better not to increase and to drop the whisky duty. That led to an increase in revenue, so was fair to drinkers, to producers and to the Revenue, which seems to be a sensible thing to do, and we look forward with confidence to the Budget.

Priti Patel: I thank my hon. Friend for his recommendations and advice to go back and look in the archives. I shall certainly do that.

I need no persuading of the considerable impact that the industry brings to Scotland and the United Kingdom. Obviously, all decisions on taxation are under constant review, and we are particularly receptive to helping industries flourish in some of our most remote regions. As I have said, decisions on the duty will be made by the Chancellor at the Budget, and I do not wish to pre-empt anything in relation to the Budget. We want to ensure that Scotch whisky continues to be enjoyed around the world for many years to come, and we want Scotch whisky to continue to be a great flagship brand.

Question put and agreed to.

5 pm

House adjourned.