DCSIMG

Tom Richmond: Debate blocked after damning inquest verdict

HERE are details of one issue – one of many – that have been brushed aside by MPs as they devote their time to the police inquiry over documents leaked to the Shadow Immigration Minister.

Leeds MP Greg Mulholland quite legitimately sought to highlight a coroner's devastating verdict following the inquest into his constituent, Dr John Hubley, who died as a result of "a catalogue" of failures at the Eccleshill independent sector treatment centre in Bradford.

The procedures – which included emergency blood supplies being transported by taxi across Bradford – were described by the coroner

as "mickey mouse" and "a recipe for disaster".

Dr Hubley's family wants a wide-ranging inquiry – especially as these clinics are going to be increasingly used as the Government strives to keep hospital waiting times to a minimum. To his credit, Mr Mulholland urged Harriet Harman, the Leader of the Commons, to "find time for a debate on this to restore some confidence among my constituents, but also among the wider public, that it is appropriate to send NHS patients to that centre?"

The response? Ms Harman said she would bring the issue to the attention of Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary.

What she did not acknowledge, however, is that Mr Mulholland had already done so.

This is not the first time that Ms Harman has sought to block debate in Parliament. Nor will it be the last. But it brings me back to a recurring theme. Would such a debate be held if, heaven forbid, a MP, or one of their relatives, died as a result of shortcomings at a treatment centre like Eccleshill?

YOU have to feel sorry for John Healey – the Wentworth MP who also has

the misfortune of being the Floods Minister.

He could not have been more sincere when he said last week that he was "especially concerned" about those victims of the June 2007 floods who will, once again, still be stuck in caravans over the festive season.

Yet how does the Government respond? First, the Floods Bill was quietly slipped out of the final draft of the Queen's Speech – even though the legislation is crucial if local councils are to take responsibility for surface water flooding.

Second, the flood defence schemes brought forward by a year to help kickstart the economy appear to be predominantly located in London and the South-East, two regions that were least affected by the floods.

This area, which suffered more than most in the flooding disaster, has been allocated a handful of modest schemes that may or may not happen. Talk about the left hand not knowing what the right is doing.

IN recent times, the Parliamentary Labour Party has been professing loyalty to Gordon Brown.

Yet, as always, appearances are deceiving. According to research meticulously undertaken by Mark Stuart and Philip Cowley – regular contributors to these pages – the PLP has never been more mutinous.

Brown's government saw Labour MPs defy party whips on 103 occasions in its first full year – the highest number for 30 years. It also eclipsed the 96 rebellions recorded during the entirety of Tony Blair's first Parliament from 1997-2001.

One factor is Paul Truswell, the Pudsey MP. Having rebelled 12 times between 2005-07, the last two years of the Blair premiership, he defied Brown on 14 occasions in the past year. Has he calculated that the

best way to retain his marginal seat

is by distancing himself from the Brown regime?

IF Tory leader David Cameron wants evidence to reinforce his decision to freeze council tax increases by scaling back local authority propaganda exercises, he should read a copy of About Leeds.

It is a 16-page publication extolling the virtues of Leeds City Council, an authority that the Tories and Lib Dems jointly run, and which was delivered to householders as the worst of the big freeze ended.

Yet, while the town hall was putting the final touches to this shameless self-justification, the main A65 resembled an ice rink in the Leeds suburb where I live – in part because the council's gritting was perfunctory when the cold snap began.

Also, the bad weather provided a perfect excuse for the council to leave the bins unemptied.

I thought the council tax was intended to pay for a gritting service and a refuse collection service – and all those affected by this abdication of duty should be getting full refunds.

I won't be holding my breath, but I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall when Cameron takes his own Tory council to task and tells them to raise their game.

ED Balls, the Children's Secretary and Normanton MP, often does himself no favours. But he deserves tremendous credit on one issue – and it is this.

His scathing condemnation of Haringey Council following the Baby P tragedy forced the authority not to offer a severance package when it sacked its inept head of children's services Sharon Shoesmith.

This is almost unprecedented on New Labour's watch, where "reward for failure" has become commonplace.

Now that the principle has been established, let us hope that it

equally applies to other cases of misconduct or incompetence involving public officials.

 
 
 

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