All 41 Parliamentary debates on 7th Jun 2023

Wed 7th Jun 2023
Wed 7th Jun 2023
Wed 7th Jun 2023
Wed 7th Jun 2023
Wed 7th Jun 2023
Wed 7th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 1
Wed 7th Jun 2023
Wed 7th Jun 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 2

House of Commons

Wednesday 7th June 2023

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Wednesday 7 June 2023
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock

Prayers

Wednesday 7th June 2023

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Prayers mark the daily opening of Parliament. The occassion is used by MPs to reserve seats in the Commons Chamber with 'prayer cards'. Prayers are not televised on the official feed.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Wednesday 7th June 2023

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Minister for Women and Equalities was asked—
Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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1. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on the treatment of people with neurodivergent conditions in the criminal justice system.

Mike Freer Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mike Freer)
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The Lord Chancellor is settling into his new role and has not yet had a chance to speak to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, but I can reassure the hon. Lady that, at director level, cross-departmental working groups have been working hard. As she will know from the Ministry of Justice action plan, which was updated in January this year, significant progress has been made on neurodiversity.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
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I thank the Minister for his response, and for telephoning me yesterday. As I said during that conversation, it is estimated that one in four prisoners have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and screening prisoners for that condition at an early stage—within a week of their entering prison, say—would not only help to prevent prison suicides, but aid rehabilitation and eventual resettlement. Will the Minister undertake to talk to his colleagues, particularly those on the Back Benches who have been working on this, about the need for such cases to be identified as early as possible?

Mike Freer Portrait Mike Freer
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I can reassure the hon. Lady: I understand that prisoners are indeed screened in their first week, as are those on probation. However, there is more work to be done, and I am more than happy to arrange meetings with the hon. Lady and with any other colleague who wishes to pursue in more depth the work that we are doing in respect of both prisons and probation.

Robert Buckland Portrait Sir Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con)
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May I commend the work that the Government are doing in pursuance of the call for evidence on neurodiversity that I initiated when I was in office? I note that 80 neurodiversity support managers have been appointed, but what more can be done to ensure that all our prisons have neurodiversity officers who can train other staff as well as screening prisoners who come into the system for a range of neurodiverse conditions?

Mike Freer Portrait Mike Freer
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I pay tribute to the work that my right hon. and learned Friend has done in this regard. I know that he took it very seriously and was passionate about this issue. In fact, we now have 100 neurodiversity support managers rather than 80: we have made significant progress, but there are still have 22 vacancies. We have more work to do on the screening, and we have more work to do to ensure that the data collection is both consistent and robust.

John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
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2. What guidance her Department plans to provide to schools on supporting trans and non-binary children.

Ben Bradshaw Portrait Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)
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3. Whether it is her policy that schools should tell parents if their children are trans or non-binary.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for Schools (Nick Gibb)
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Our schools, colleges and teachers are committed to helping all pupils and students to thrive and achieve their potential in a safe and respectful environment. Gender can be a complex and sensitive matter for schools, which is why we are working with the Minister for Women and Equalities, my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Kemi Badenoch), to develop guidance for schools in relation to gender-questioning pupils. We will be finalising the draft guidance shortly, and will hold a full public consultation on it.

John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson
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The hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) appears to think that “drag story time” in Elgin is one of the most pressing issues facing the country today. What signal does the Minister think that sends to vulnerable and bullied trans and other LGBT children?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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We know that this is, as I said, a complex and sensitive matter. Many schools already deal with issues relating to gender-questioning children as well as the other issues to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but some schools feel a need for more support to enable them to help pupils and their parents and deal with concerns that are raised, which is why we are producing the draft guidance for schools. That guidance, which we will publish soon, will be followed by a public consultation.

Ben Bradshaw Portrait Mr Bradshaw
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In April The Sunday Times reported that the Government intended to instruct schools to tell parents if students were questioning their gender identity. Given that a third of LGBT young people would not feel confident about coming out to their parents, given that a quarter of homeless young people are LGBT young people who have been chucked out of their homes by their families, and given the statement by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children that no one should ever disclose someone’s gender identity or sexuality against their will, other than in exceptional circumstances involving safeguarding, does the Minister agree that to instruct schools to “out” pupils to their families would be totally outrageous?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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There is a difference between advice being given to a child by a particular teacher and decisions about children in which parental involvement is paramount, and it is crucial for schools to ensure that parents are involved in such decisions. As I have said, we will publish draft guidance shortly and there will be a full public consultation on our proposed approach.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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We need to trust parents, and we should tell children to trust parents. We are right not to confuse sexual orientation with gender confusion and other things. Schools really do need to say to children and to parents, “You can trust us as a school to let you know if your child is in distress.”

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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I agree with my hon. Friend. Parental involvement is important in all these matters, and they are sensitive matters, but there is a difference between what the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) spoke about, where a child who is confused about their sexual orientation or other personal problems has a confidential discussion with teacher, and big decisions about gender transitioning, for example, where parental involvement is important. Any decision about such matters needs to be taken with parental involvement.

Miriam Cates Portrait Miriam Cates (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Con)
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Last year, a YouGov poll found that around 80% of schools now have pupils who are trans identified, and Policy Exchange recently reported that four in 10 schools are operating policies of gender self-identification. Dr Hilary Cass has said that social transition is “not a neutral act” but a psychological intervention with unknown consequences for children’s welfare. Does the Minister agree that the new guidance for schools must make it clear that teachers are not qualified to make this psychological intervention and that the only safe approach is to protect children according to their biological sex?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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As my hon. Friend will know, we are now producing guidance for schools on this sensitive matter. Draft guidance will be available shortly and we will consult on it. In order to provide the clearest possible guidance, we intend to consider pieces of work such as Dr Hilary Cass’s independent review of gender identity services to children and young people, which is ongoing.

Angela Eagle Portrait Dame Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab)
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There is already very good guidance, written by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and I hope that the Minister will take account of that as he develops the Government’s guidance. Does he agree that this situation has now been highly politicised by particular people, to the detriment of those children and teachers who are trying to do their best in difficult circumstances? Will he explain why on earth it has taken the Government this long to publish the guidance, essentially leaving teachers without Government guidance in this very contested area? When will he support the work that teachers do?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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In drafting the guidance, we have taken into account advice from experts such as the NSPCC and Dr Hilary Cass, as I have just mentioned to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates), but we have to get this guidance right. This is a sensitive matter. The drafting is happening right now and the guidance will be published shortly in draft. There will then be a full public consultation to ensure that all views are taken into account.

Anna Firth Portrait Anna Firth (Southend West) (Con)
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Recent research by Policy Exchange suggests that more than 60% of schools do not reliably inform parents when their children express a wish to change gender. Many parents are concerned about schools keeping them in the dark about such important changes concerning their children, so can the Minister please confirm that parents must be kept informed of such an important change in behaviour in their child?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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As I have said, parental involvement is paramount in any decisions about children, and it is important that schools work to ensure that parents are consulted before any decisions are made regarding a child socially transitioning. These are issues that we are thinking about and discussing with experts as we draft the guidance, which will be published shortly and will then be available for public consultation.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op)
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Schools, parents and pupils who need guidance on these issues are sick and tired of reading conflicting rumours about the Government’s plans in the newspapers. Will the Minister confirm that the reason for the delay is that the Minister for Women and Equalities does not agree with the Education Secretary, who does not agree with the Minister for Children, who does not agree with the Prime Minister?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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No, we are working closely with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities. We are consulting experts on drafting comprehensive guidance on a very sensitive matter, and we need to get it right. Many schools are dealing with these issues very successfully, day in and day out, but some schools want advice. They want good-quality advice, and the guidance on that is being drafted right now. It will be published shortly and made available for public consultation.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds
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We have had noises off and rumours about this in the newspapers for over a year, and still no delivery. The sad truth is that schools are being left in limbo by a Government who are, yet again, focused on internal battles. Their LGBT action plan has collapsed, they are at war on banning conversion therapy and they are now squabbling over schools guidance too. Will the Minister apologise to the LGBT+ people who have been failed by this playground politics?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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There is a range of views, as we have seen in the newspapers, but the Government are united in our determination to have very high-quality guidance for schools. This guidance has been drafted and it is in a very good state. It is ready for publication, and it will be published shortly. There will then be a full public consultation to make sure that all the views expressed in the newspapers, by the hon. Lady and by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, can be taken into account as we finalise this important guidance for schools.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab)
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4. If she will make an assessment of the adequacy of Government communications during the covid-19 pandemic for people with disabilities.

Alex Burghart Portrait The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Alex Burghart)
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Throughout the pandemic, the Government took their responsibilities to people with disabilities extremely seriously. We all remember the daily press conferences, which almost always had signers present, but that was just one element of a much broader communications strategy that ensured guidance and information were provided in easy-read, large text, audio and many other formats.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist
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Many people with disabilities would disagree with the Minister’s assessment of the communications and feel that, throughout the pandemic, the Government often failed to provide specific communications to disabled people about their rights and access to support. What steps is he taking to ensure that public health announcements, public health information and daily briefings are accessible to and are reaching people with disabilities, particularly those with a learning disability?

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question. On covid, I understand that this is something the inquiry will be considering. On her broader point, she will know that the NHS and publicly funded social care in this country have a duty, under section 250 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, to ensure that patients and people in care receive information in formats appropriate for them. I know the NHS takes that responsibility extremely seriously.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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Research from Scope shows that, in the last four years, the cost of running a disabled household rose from £583 a month to £975 a month. The Conservative cost of living crisis has forced disabled people to choose between using life-saving equipment and food. After 13 years of this Government, there are now over 1 million disabled people living in poverty. What action has the Minister taken to support these people?

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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The hon. Lady will know the extraordinary lengths to which this Government have gone to support people through the cost of living crisis. Help has been extended to people of all means and abilities, including the people she is speaking about, and we will continue to do what is necessary to help them.

Nicola Richards Portrait Nicola Richards (West Bromwich East) (Con)
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5. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that the major conditions strategy improves health outcomes for women.

Tom Randall Portrait Tom Randall (Gedling) (Con)
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8. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that the major conditions strategy improves health outcomes for women.

Maria Caulfield Portrait The Minister for Women (Maria Caulfield)
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This Conservative Government are the first Government to produce a women’s health strategy, and in the first year we are already delivering on our eight key priorities, many of which are in the major conditions work, including dementia, which is the leading killer of women, and musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoporosis. This shows that this Government are prioritising the improvement of women’s health across the board.

Nicola Richards Portrait Nicola Richards
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It is essential that the major conditions strategy helps to improve the care offered by the NHS, especially to women suffering from breast cancer. I recently visited Chai Cancer Care with my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey) to see the blueprint it has developed for how best to support those affected by cancer. Will the Minister congratulate Chai Cancer Care on its dedication to patients and families? And will she ensure that the major conditions strategy goes as far as possible to offer better, more joined-up care to women across the country?

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
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I thank my hon. Friend for her work in this space. She is a vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on breast cancer, and she also has first-hand experience of the impact of breast cancer. I congratulate Chai Cancer Care and all the charities supporting women who are going through breast cancer. It is important that the major conditions strategy not only looks at improving clinical outcomes, which are important, but supports the care that women receive—women often undergo multiple treatments in different clinical settings. That is also a priority in the major conditions strategy.

Tom Randall Portrait Tom Randall
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Last week, I had a long conversation with a constituent who is caring for her husband, who has had dementia for the past decade. We all know that many people like her, mainly women, are quietly caring for loved ones who are battling diseases outlined in the major conditions strategy. Does my hon. Friend agree that the experiences of these people need to be heard? Will she encourage them to take part in the call for evidence on the strategy before it closes at the end of this month?

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
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My hon. Friend is right on this and I encourage everyone to go to the gov.uk website, because the consultation closes at the end of the month. I mentioned that dementia is the leading cause of death in women, but many women are also caring for loved ones who are battling the disease, not just for days or weeks, but for months and years. As I said, this is about improving not just outcomes on dementia, but access and the support we provide to those who care for those with dementia. Listening to experts and experience is a key priority.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
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We all welcome the major conditions strategy, but will the Minister reassure us about something? Women experience so many conditions differently from men, particularly in relation to heart attacks, and there is a lack of awareness about these things. Will the strategy examine how awareness of these differences and of symptoms to look for can be improved?

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
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The hon. Lady makes an excellent point, and one of our eight priorities in the first year is improving access to information. Later this summer, the NHS website will be launching a women’s information portal, which will be specifically about women’s health needs. So it will provide information on some of the key conditions that women suffer from, and it will be a go-to and reliable source for women on their health needs. She does well to raise this point.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I thank the Minister very much for that response and for the £10 million that the Department has set aside for the breast screening programme on the UK mainland. In Northern Ireland, the number of those with breast cancer is rising, which is concerning. What steps will she take to ensure that the devolved nations are not left behind on outcomes for women?

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He will know that health is a devolved issue, but we are working closely with all four nations, because we want to ensure that we have joined-up working, particularly in the screening programme, where we have some catching up to do post covid.

Chris Law Portrait Chris Law  (Dundee West) (SNP)
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T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Stuart Andrew Portrait The Minister for Equalities (Stuart Andrew)
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This is the first opportunity I have had to pay tribute to our former colleague, and one of my closest friends, Karen Lumley. It was a privilege for me to call her a friend for nearly 35 years. We all remember her amazing character, infectious laugh and ever-changing coloured hair, but she was also proud to represent Redditch, she was a passionate defender of its people, she campaigned hard for the local hospital and she had public service in her core. Knowing her as I did, I can say that she was an amazing friend. It was also a great privilege to know her family, and my thoughts are with Richard, Lizzie and Chris, who are touched by the messages they have received from those in all parts of the House. God bless you, Karen. Rest in peace. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

It is June, it is Pride Month and it is a time for us all to celebrate the LGBT community and all it has to offer. It is also an opportunity to reflect on many of the challenges that LGBT people face, and I look forward to seeing what more can be done on those. I also look forward to visiting many organisations that support that community.

Chris Law Portrait Chris Law
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Members on these Benches would like to share our sympathies as well.

It is simply not good enough for the UK Government to absolve themselves of responsibility for the abhorrent practice of forced adoption, which affected hundreds of thousands of families from the 1940s to the 1970s. Rather than apologise on behalf of society, will the Minister finally find a backbone, acknowledge that the state failed to protect those affected and commit to issuing a formal apology on behalf of the UK Government, as the Scottish and Welsh Governments have already done?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comment at the beginning there. He raises an important point. Obviously, that issue is not within my portfolio area, but I will certainly take it up with the Minister responsible and come back to him on it, if he will allow me to do so.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
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T2. Recently, residents of Hinckley and Bosworth raised with me their experiences as disabled travellers. I know the Government are concentrating on the inclusive transport strategy, but can they update me on what that will look like tangibly when it comes to public transport—flights, buses and so on—for the likes of my constituents?

Maria Caulfield Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Maria Caulfield)
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I thank my hon. Friend for campaigning on this issue. Having inclusive transport is important. He is right that the inclusive transport strategy is integral to our ambition to make transport fully accessible by 2030. My colleagues in the Department for Transport are committed to delivering that strategy to make real practical differences from accessible platforms through to accessible buses. We will be able to update him shortly with more progress.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
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The UK Government recently published statistics showing a 35% gender pension gap in private pensions, and recent research by the TUC suggests that more than one in 10 women are in jobs where their employers did not have to enter them into a workplace pension compared with fewer than one in 20 men. According to calculations from the Prospect union, the income gap between men and women in retirement is therefore now 40.5%, which is more than twice the level of the gender pay gap. What action is the Department taking with Cabinet colleagues to close that shameful gap?

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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I do understand the hon. Lady’s point. We remain committed to our ambition to remove the lower earnings limit, as we set out in 2017. That will proportionately benefit the lowest earners the most, including women working part-time.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
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T5. Last year, women established more than 150,000 new companies in the UK, which is twice as many as four years ago and the highest ever, yet the number of women founding businesses remains well below that of men. What steps are being taken to further support female entrepreneurs?

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
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We are committed to supporting female entrepreneurs, particularly in the high-growth sector. That is why we have launched the women-led high-growth enterprise taskforce, which has found that venture capital is a serious barrier. Currently, for every £1 of venture capital, 89p goes to companies led by men and only a penny to women. That is why getting access to venture capital and funding opportunities is a priority for female entrepreneurs.

Marion Fellows Portrait Marion Fellows (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
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T3. According to research from the Resolution Foundation, the disability income gap is still at 44%, leaving disabled people hugely exposed to the rising cost of essentials in the context of the cost of living crisis. What steps is the Department taking with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that work coaches and disability advisers understand the barriers to employment faced by disabled people? Will the Department urge DWP colleagues to consider what additional specialist support could be offered to disabled jobseekers?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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Our disability employment adviser is there to understand exactly those needs and support. I point people to the benefits calculator on gov.uk, and say that there will be further cost of living payment support. The House will be keen to know that the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work will be joining the conference of states parties to the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and focusing on how we can get more people into work and progressing and thriving.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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T7. What plans does my right hon. Friend have to amend the Equality Act 2010, which would give us the opportunity to remove caste as a protected characteristic?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
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At the moment, the Government have no plans to amend that Act. Obviously, we keep everything under further consideration.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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T4. The Chancellor’s spring Budget announced measures to get the over-50s to return or stay in work, but did not announce any support for those experiencing menopause. The UK Government have rejected most of the recommendations in the report on menopause by the Women and Equalities Committee, whose Chair has said that it is a missed opportunity to protect vast numbers of women from leaving the workforce. Why have the UK Government not followed the Committee’s recommendations?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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We have appointed a Government champion on menopause matters, Helen Tomlinson, who is doing sterling work. Our 50PLUS coaches in jobcentres are supporting women to progress, and I urge all employers to focus on supporting women, adjusting the workplace and listening to their needs so that 50-plus can be the most important, progressive and positive time of women’s working lives.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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Some 78% of top UK energy companies have no women in executive director positions, and 28% have no women on the board. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to do far more to help women into science, technology, engineering and maths jobs?

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
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My hon. Friend is correct. We have made great progress in getting young girls to take STEM subjects—the numbers are up 31%—but the challenge is to get them into work. The FTSE women leaders review has set a target of 40% of FTSE 350 companies having women on their board. The STEM Returners programme is key to getting experienced women back into the workplace and on to those boards.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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May I make an announcement? I want to tell the House about the success last night of the House of Commons teams in the tug-of-war. We beat the House of Lords 4-0.

The Prime Minister was asked—
David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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Q1. If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 7 June.

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister (Oliver Dowden)
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I have been asked to reply. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is in Washington at the invitation of President Biden. They will be discussing co-operation on a range of issues, including artificial intelligence and global trade, and of course continuing our leadership in galvanising international support for the people of Ukraine. This week is Carers Week, and I know colleagues across the House will wish to join me in paying tribute to the huge contribution that unpaid carers make to our society. This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston
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At the election, the Labour party committed to abolishing standard assessment tests, academy schools and Ofsted—three policies given to it by an education union that also opposed this Government’s use of phonics. Yet, thanks to this Government’s focus on phonics, English primary school children have just been ranked the best readers in Europe. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is another example of how, on the Conservative side, we have policy to meet the needs of children, rather than the demands of trade unionists?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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It will not surprise my hon. Friend to hear that I absolutely agree with him. Driving up literacy rates is central to our plan to grow the economy, so I am delighted at those latest figures showing that children in England are the best readers in the western world. Why is that? Because, since 2010, we have raised the number of schools rated good or outstanding by nearly 30%. The verdict is clear: only the Conservatives can be trusted with our children’s future.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Angela Rayner Portrait Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) (Lab)
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Speaking of the last election, the Tory manifesto promised to end the abuse of the judicial review. How is it going?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I welcome the much shorter question from the right hon. Lady. Let me remind her of a few facts about the covid inquiry. We set it up, we have provided it with more than 55,000 documents so far, and we have given it all the financial resources it needs so that we can learn the lessons from the pandemic. However, in Wales they also had a pandemic, and what have the Labour-run Wales authorities done there? No independent inquiry in Wales. As ever, it is one rule for Labour and another for everyone else.

Angela Rayner Portrait Angela Rayner
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The Deputy Prime Minister pretends that it is complicated, but it is simple: the Government set up the inquiry to get to the truth, then blocked that inquiry from getting the information that it asked for, and now they are taking it to court. I know that he considers himself a man of the people, so using his vast knowledge of working-class Britain, does he think that working people will thank him for spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of their money on loophole lawyers so that the Government can obstruct the covid inquiry?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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We will provide the inquiry with each and every document related to covid, including all internal discussions in any form, as requested, while, crucially, protecting what is wholly and unambiguously irrelevant. Essentially, the right hon. Lady is calling for years’ worth of documents and messages between named individuals to be in scope. That could cover anything from civil servants’ medical conditions to intimate details about their families.

I find it extraordinary that the right hon. Lady should lecture us on value for money for the taxpayer, when I understand that she has now purchased two pairs of noise-cancelling headphones on expenses. I will be fair to her: if I had to attend shadow Cabinet meetings, I think I would want to tune them out, too.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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The Deputy Prime Minister was very good in saying that he welcomed short questions. I would also welcome shorter answers.

Angela Rayner Portrait Angela Rayner
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All we are asking for is what the covid inquiry has asked for. Across the world, covid inquiries are well under way, while this Government hide information and shell out public money on legal bills for the Uxbridge One—the former Prime Minister is now demanding another £1 million to pay for his new lawyers. I know that the Deputy Prime Minister and his former boss have fallen out, and maybe he wants to patch things up, but can he seriously say that that is a good use of taxpayers’ money?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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If we want to talk about relationships between different people, I do not think that we need to search the right hon. Lady’s WhatsApp messages to know that there is no communication between her and the leader of her party. I will happily stand up for our record on covid. When she and her party were carping from the sidelines, calling for longer lockdowns, I was working as Culture Secretary to keep our football clubs running, protect our theatres and museums, and deliver the largest cultural recovery package in the western world. That is the difference between her and me: while she was collecting titles, I was getting on with the job.

Angela Rayner Portrait Angela Rayner
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I know that for the last couple of years the Deputy Prime Minister has been trying to prep Prime Ministers for PMQs, but these punchlines are dire—he really needs to go back to school himself. Speaking of school, thousands of children are missing from school; absence has nearly doubled since before the pandemic. The Prime Minister says that he has maxed out on his support for school pupils, but why did the Government abandon their plans for a register of missing children?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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On the specifics of the right hon. Lady’s question, that is not the case: we continue to keep the policy under review. I am very proud of this Government’s record on funding and support for schools: £4 billion more this year, £4 billion next year, and the result of all that investment is that we have the highest standards of reading in the entire western world. What a contrast from when the Labour party was in power.

Angela Rayner Portrait Angela Rayner
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There we have it: thousands of children missing; policy “under review” still. Let me ask the Deputy Prime Minister about something else that has gone missing. The Public Accounts Committee this week revealed that Government fraud has increased fourfold, with Ministers overseeing the loss of £21 billion of taxpayers’ money in the last two years. Can he tell us how much of our money they expect to recover?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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We are working tirelessly to recover those funds, and we have made huge progress already. The Labour party talks about good use of taxpayers’ money, but what do we have from it? Plans for an unfunded, £28 billion spending spree. What would that do? Drive up borrowing and push up interest rates, adding £1,000 to everyone’s mortgage. I know that the Opposition are out of touch, but even the right hon. Lady must realise that Britain cannot afford Labour.

Angela Rayner Portrait Angela Rayner
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Britain cannot afford any more of the Conservatives. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have lost count: the answer is that only a quarter of the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money lost to fraud is expected to be clawed back. If the Government cannot get that public money back, they cannot be trusted with anything else. It has become a pattern of behaviour from the Conservatives—an inquiry missing evidence, schools missing pupils, taxpayers missing money and Ministers missing in action. All the while, working people pay the price for their mistakes. This week, the Public Accounts Committee also warned that this epic fraud and waste could happen all over again because Ministers are living in denial of the facts. If the Government cannot admit the truth, how on earth can they learn the lessons?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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We are actually putting more resources in throughout this year to tackle fraud and error, and we continue to make real progress with it. This is quite extraordinary from the Labour party: while we work to drive down inflation and energy bills, the right hon. Lady is receiving £10,000 from Just Stop Oil backers, adopting their policies, backing protesters, blocking new production and forcing us to import more foreign oil and gas. For once, I find myself in agreement with the GMB union, which said that that is “naive”, has a “lack of intellectual rigour” and could decimate communities. Just like Labour.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
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Q4. The latest route update for East West Rail has recently been published and unfortunately the link to Aylesbury is still just a dotted line on the map. I have raised the need for this vital link on several occasions in the House, because it would cut congestion on our roads, stimulate the economy and reduce air pollution. Each time, I have been asked to work with stakeholders to reduce the cost, and I am pleased to say that we have managed to do that. A much cheaper proposal is now on the table, so can my right hon. Friend change that dotted line into a solid line and give my constituents the railway they want?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I know that my hon. Friend is a tireless campaigner for this project, and I can assure him that the Department for Transport is working with Network Rail and East West Rail to consider the feasibility of lower-cost railway links on the Aylesbury spur. I know that he will continue to make that case vigorously.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We come to the deputy leader of the SNP.

Mhairi Black Portrait Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
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When the Prime Minister took office, he said that he would put economic stability and confidence at the heart of the Government. Today, UK interest rates are among the highest in the G20, and mortgage rates are rising back to nearly where they were after the former Prime Minister crashed the economy. Is it not the case that the Government’s biggest achievement is that they are trashing the economy just a wee bit slower than their predecessor?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I do not know whether the hon. Lady has been following the news today, but the OECD has again upgraded our growth forecasts. A month ago, the whole nation came together to celebrate a wonderful moment of pomp, pageantry and pride in our nation. How did the hon. Lady describe it? She called it “a pantomime”. The real pantomime is the SNP in Scotland.

Mhairi Black Portrait Mhairi Black
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I do not know what question the Deputy Prime Minister was answering, but let me try another one. This Government plan to cut taxes for the richest and spend £6 billion imprisoning people fleeing war and persecution, and have lost £21 billion to Government fraud throughout this pandemic. Is the view from the Prime Minister’s luxury helicopter so skewed that during a cost of living crisis, he thinks that is what people’s priorities are?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I am going to take no lectures on profligacy from the SNP. Actually, what is it that this Government have done? We have provided record increases to the personal allowance, meaning that a person working full time on the minimum wage has seen a £1,000 reduction in their tax.

Mark Menzies Portrait Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con)
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Q5.   Fylde has many vibrant small shops at the beating heart of the economy, but although St Annes town centre has fantastic potential, its layout, quite frankly, is becoming tired. Investment is needed to reinvigorate the town centre, better connecting it to the seafront and reinvigorating the town. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to continue this Government’s levelling-up mission to deliver for towns such as St Annes?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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That is precisely why we have created the levelling-up fund. There is £3.6 billion within that in the towns fund to be invested in high streets up and down the country. We will be outlining the third round of submissions to that fund, and I am quite sure that my hon. Friend will make a very vigorous case for funding for his constituency during that round.

Ed Davey Portrait Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)
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Yesterday, I met Karen. Karen is a carer for her husband Alan, who has Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia. She told me how hard it is to get people with power just to listen to her. Like so many carers, Karen feels her caring work just is not valued; at times, she has wanted to give up, but knows she must carry on because of her husband. Remarkable carers such as Karen save the Government more than the entire NHS budget, so will the Government finally recognise the value of Britain’s family carers and not just pay tribute to them, but give them the financial and practical support they deserve?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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Of course, I would like to join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to Karen and to hard-working unpaid carers up and down the country. I know he speaks from personal experience about this issue as well. We have provided £2.3 billion of support for social care, with an additional £25 million committed to putting people at the heart of care in the “People at the Heart of Care” White Paper, and £327 million is also committed to the better care fund.

Alberto Costa Portrait Alberto Costa (South Leicestershire) (Con)
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Q6. Many of my constituents are deeply concerned about the proposals for the 440-acre Hinckley national rail freight interchange, and the impact that this proposed site will have on the environment and, for example, on infrastructure such as Narborough railway station. I know the Deputy Prime Minister cannot talk about an individual planning application—that decision is for central Government to make—but can he give an assurance to my South Leicestershire constituents and Blaby district councillors such as Ben Taylor, Maggie Wright, Terry Richardson, Mike Shirley and others that the voice of my constituents will be heard in that planning application?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I know from the vigorous campaigning of my hon. Friend that his constituents’ voice has been, and will be, heard. As he knows, I cannot comment on individual cases. What I can say is that I have experience of this in my own constituency, and I know what a blight can be created by those rail freight projects, so I do have every sympathy for the case that my hon. Friend is making.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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Q2.   This week, we heard plans for two universal basic income pilots in England. Similar schemes have been planned for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. With the progress of the gig economy and the acceleration of artificial intelligence, it is clear that the working environment will need to be drastically overhauled. Will this Government waken up to the reality of the situation and instruct both the Department for Work and Pensions and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to engage with those pilots, so that we can constructively assess their pros and cons and work to safeguard a less precarious future for the next generation?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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The Government and I have never been convinced by the case for a universal basic income. We are not alone in that; it is also the position of Paul Johnson at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. I think a much better solution is to create more jobs, which this Government have done, and to cut taxes on working people, which is what this Government have done. That is the route to prosperity for people up and down the country.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
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Q7. Revitalising Oldway, regenerating our town centres and helping Torbay’s high-tech sector to grow will deliver levelling up for Torbay. What expectations does the Deputy Prime Minister have of the new levelling-up partnership in focusing Government effort and resources on doing that?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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As I am sure my hon. Friend knows, levelling-up partnerships are committed to work hand in hand with 20 places across England in most need of that levelling up. They are backed by £400 million of investment, and I know that he will make the case most robustly for funding for his constituency.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
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Q3. After 13 years, the Government have repeatedly broken their promise to repair social care. Post-pandemic, I have been visiting sheltered housing schemes in Hornsey and Wood Green, and time after time, basic services, such as dentistry, podiatry and befriending, are all missing. Will the Government take urgent action and repair that mess, or will it be down to Labour again to pick up the pieces?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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For the NHS as a whole, the Government have provided record additional funding. Indeed, since we came to power in 2010, funding is up £70 billion. In addition, in respect of social care, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has provided a further £2.3 billion of support to that vital sector.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom (South Northampton-shire) (Con)
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Q8. I congratulate the Government on their determination to bring forward the roll-out of electronic patient records for everyone in England. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that that gives us a brilliant opportunity to roll out the digital version of the red book that is so transformational for every family in giving their baby the best start in life?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I totally agree with my right hon. Friend, and I know what a tireless campaigner she has been on this issue, both in and out of government. I am happy to confirm that the so-called digital red book will be rolled out, and we expect it to be delivered over the course of the next two years.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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Q12. The Deputy Prime Minister likes to call himself Mr Normal—he went to a normal school, and he understands normal people. We know that normal people are struggling in this Tory cost of living crisis, including nurses, for example, who he said had unreasonable wage demands. This is the same person who, on top of this £154,000 salary, charged two businesses more than £13,000 for just 20 hours’ work. That is £670 an hour. Does Mr Normal really think he is worth 65 times a band 2 nurse?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I am not quite sure what the question was aiming at, but I can say to the hon. Gentleman that this Government have provided more than £3,000 of support to help people with the cost of living. Why have we been able to do that? It is thanks to the strength of our economy and the strength of our Union. What is happening in Scotland? The SNP Government are putting taxes up on ordinary, hard- working people.

Flick Drummond Portrait Mrs Flick Drummond (Meon Valley) (Con)
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Q9. We are all concerned about the 81,000 children who are not on the school register, but are under the term “home-educated”. No one—neither local authorities, nor schools—can honestly answer the question of how many children are not in school. Therefore, how can we know that every child is safe and suitably educated? These children are out of sight and out of mind. The Secretary of State for Education has said that this is one of her priorities, as has the Education Committee. Can I ask my right hon. Friend to expedite my ten-minute rule Bill to place a duty on local authorities to maintain a register of children who are not in school, so that we can ensure that every child is visible, safe, suitably educated and receiving the support to enable them to thrive?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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We want to ensure that all children are safe and have access to an excellent education. Of course, local authorities must seek to identify children missing in their area and ensure that they are safe. The Department for Education continues to undertake work to support swifter identification and greater support of children missing in education.

Nia Griffith Portrait Dame Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab)
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In spite of Government spin to the contrary, the backlog of undetermined initial asylum claims has risen even since December from 160,000 to 170,000-plus. Caseworker numbers are down, and returns are still down. So will the Deputy Prime Minister agree to meet me to hear my constituents’ concerns about the Home Secretary’s plans to commandeer yet another hotel, the Stradey Park in the village of Furnace, and explain what more he will do to speed up clearing the backlog so as to return people to safe countries, settle genuine refugees and avoid the need to use the Stradey Park hotel?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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This Government will take whatever action is necessary both to clear the backlog and to stop the boats. Actually, as the hon. Member may have heard from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, small boat arrivals to the UK are down 20% this year, our French deal has prevented 33,000 illegal crossings this year, Albanian arrivals are down 90%, we have removed 1,800 Albanians, we have increased the number of illegal working raids and the legacy asylum backlog is now down 20%.

Damien Moore Portrait Damien Moore (Southport) (Con)
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Q10. Semina Halliwell, a 12-year-old girl from my constituency, suffered an horrific ordeal, and she tragically then went on to take her own life. She was let down by the system. This week is the two-year anniversary of her death. Labour-controlled Sefton Council still has an inadequate rating from Ofsted for children’s social care. So will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss what further measures can be taken to better protect children in Southport and the wider council area?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on raising what I am sure Members on both sides of this House will agree is a heartbreaking case, and I know that all our thoughts will be with Semina’s family and her friends. All children of course have the right to be safe and protected. I understand that the Department for Education will shortly begin consulting on strengthening statutory guidance to ensure that health agencies, police forces and councils work together more collaboratively and end decisions that prevent putting children’s needs at the heart of their work. Of course, I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend and for Health Department Ministers to meet him also.

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab)
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Huntington’s disease eventually robs sufferers of their ability to walk, talk, eat, care for themselves and make decisions. It changes the person they were, and it has a 50% chance of being inherited by their children. Will the Government back the Huntington’s disease community’s call for better access to mental health services, a care co-ordinator in every area and specific National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance so that everyone affected by this devastating condition can get the help they need?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the devastating impact of this terrible disease. We have significantly increased investment in mental health. I am, of course, happy to arrange for Department of Health Ministers to meet him to discuss this further.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes (Clwyd South)  (Con)
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Q11.   Wales is the land of song, and there is no better example of this than Johns’ Boys Male Chorus from Rhos in Clwyd South, who have performed magnificently in the recent series of “Britain’s Got Talent”, moving Bruno Tonioli and the other judges to tears. Would the Deputy Prime Minister join me in congratulating the choir, and also the many other community choirs in Clwyd South and across the UK who bring such pleasure to the singers and audiences alike?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I would actually argue that choral music is possibly one of our greatest contributions to global culture. I really do join my hon. Friend in congratulating Johns’ Boys Male Chorus on their fantastic achievement in reaching the semi-final of “Britain’s Got Talent”, and I am sure that they will continue to entertain and engage communities for many years to come.

Paula Barker Portrait Paula Barker (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab)
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The Government post of anti-corruption champion has been vacant for over a year. Does the Deputy Prime Minister think that the vacancy increases or decreases the risk of corruption in Government?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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In my Department, the Cabinet Office, I am working very closely with my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General. We are taking extensive steps to ensure that we crack down on fraud and waste and that procurement is transparent. Of course, we will be filling that vacancy very shortly.

Gareth Bacon Portrait Gareth Bacon (Orpington) (Con)
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Q13.   The Government do not have any money of their own—every penny that they spend is taxpayers’ money, including money spent supporting the economy during the pandemic. In that light, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be disgraceful for a political party to accept huge donations from a company that was simultaneously claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds of public support during furlough?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The furlough scheme helped to protect about 14.6 million jobs during that terrible covid crisis. But what do we discover? Labour is taking £1.5 million from Just Stop Oil backers and adopting their policy to block new oil and gas. It is job-destroying recklessness, and unfortunately it is hard-working people who will be left paying the price.

Ashley Dalton Portrait Ashley Dalton (West Lancashire) (Lab)
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In West Lancashire, my constituents are concerned about their children’s education and specifically the ongoing long-term impact of covid-19 restrictions on their educational development. A Public Accounts Committee report out today finds that the Department for Education is failing to take fast and effective recovery action to close the attainment gap in schools, and the Department has admitted that it will take a decade—10 years—just to get the education attainment gap back to pre-pandemic levels. So when will the Government stop blaming everyone else and take responsibility for failing a generation of lost learners?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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Actually, before covid struck, the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers had narrowed in both primary and secondary schools under the Government. Since covid struck, we have provided almost £5 billion for education recovery. If the hon. Lady is that concerned about children’s education, she should be calling on the education unions to call off their damaging strikes.

Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley) (Con)
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Q14. Maltby Town Council and Maltby Main FC, who play at the Maltby Miners recreation ground, are fighting to ensure that the ground is financially sustainable and can stay open, but the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, which runs the ground and has a history of selling off unprofitable areas to developers, will not allow a full bar to be opened, which would provide much-needed capital and has the support of the council’s residents. Spaces like recreation grounds are important parts of our mining heritage. Can my right hon. Friend step in to help Maltby Main get the bar that it needs and to help secure the ground’s financial future so that it does not face the same grim fate as the Dinnington Miners Welfare recreation ground?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I offer my strongest support to my hon. Friend’s campaign; he is absolutely right to raise it. I question the extent of my powers to intervene on a bar closure in his constituency, but I will certainly examine what we can do further.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab)
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The East West Rail announcement proposes a six-track route that will impact at least 66 properties in Bedford, including the demolition of 37 homes. Will the Deputy Prime Minister tell me why residents’ concerns have been ignored? Will he give me a commitment today that, if the majority of residents are against the plan in the statutory consultation, his Government will not approve the proposal?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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Of course, we will engage with local communities, but I find it rather odd that the Labour party has been saying for the past few months that it wants to build more housing and more infrastructure and, as soon as there is a proposal to do so, which will enormously enrich the area, it is being opposed.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
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Q15. The Deputy Prime Minister will know that the calling of an early election in Spain has caused some concern about delay to achieving a treaty between the United Kingdom and the European Union in relation to Gibraltar. Will he confirm that it remains the policy of His Majesty’s Government to prioritise achieving such a treaty once the election’s outcome is known, and that the Government will do all that is necessary to secure that treaty for the benefit of Gibraltar and its Spanish neighbours, and give all the necessary support to Gibraltar and its British people for their future security and prosperity?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I assure my hon. Friend that the United Kingdom and His Majesty’s Government remain steadfast in their support for Gibraltar. We are working side by side with the Government of Gibraltar and we remain committed to concluding that UK-EU treaty as soon as possible.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
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Today, the OECD said that the UK is on course to have a higher rate of inflation than almost all other G20 countries. It is families in Putney and up and down the country who will be suffering because of that. Will the Deputy Prime Minister finally commit to introducing a proper windfall tax on the enormous profits of the oil and gas giants and take pressure off struggling households?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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We actually introduced a bigger windfall tax than the Labour party was proposing. Thanks to that 75% windfall tax, last winter, we paid half of people’s energy bills. The hon. Lady talked about the OECD. What she failed to mention is that the OECD today gave the highest upgrade of growth to the United Kingdom compared with any other country.

Bill Presented

Food Poverty Strategy Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to publish a strategy for ending the need for food banks by 2030; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time Friday 24 November, and to be printed (Bill 320).

Road Safety (Cycle Helmets)

1st reading
Wednesday 7th June 2023

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Road Safety (Cycle Helmets) Bill 2022-23 View all Road Safety (Cycle Helmets) Bill 2022-23 Debates Read Hansard Text Watch Debate

A Ten Minute Rule Bill is a First Reading of a Private Members Bill, but with the sponsor permitted to make a ten minute speech outlining the reasons for the proposed legislation.

There is little chance of the Bill proceeding further unless there is unanimous consent for the Bill or the Government elects to support the Bill directly.

For more information see: Ten Minute Bills

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
12:36
Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require a person riding a bicycle on the public highway to wear a safety helmet; and for connected purposes.

Back in November 2015, my then 15-year-old constituent, Oliver Dibsdale, was cycling along Hillmorton High Street in Rugby when his foot slipped off the pedal and he fell. He hit his head on the kerb and was left with a serious brain injury. He spent four weeks in critical care and a further 15 weeks at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the Central England Rehabilitation Unit in Leamington Spa.

Oliver had hoped to be in the Public Gallery here today, but because of the severity of his disability he would have needed two support staff to accompany him from Rugby and had to meet the significant cost of their travel expenses. Oliver was told by his doctor, Dr Badwan, that, had he been wearing a helmet, he may still have sustained an injury, but it would have been far less severe. When I met Oliver, he told me that he usually wore a helmet when cycling and that he bitterly regrets his decision on that occasion to ride without one. He spoke to me in a very moving way about the impact his injury has had on his family and the guilt he feels for the amount of time they have had to spend caring for him. He very much wants to help other families to avoid this fate. The Bill will achieve that aim.

The mandatory wearing of cycle helmets has been considered in Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) introduced the Bicycles (Children’s Safety Helmets) Bill as long ago as 2007. A broader debate took place on the topic of cycling safety in Westminster Hall on 21 November 2012, when nine Members took part. At a personal level, on a recent family holiday, we rented bikes. When the person serving us offered me a helmet, I initially declined. He then looked me in the eye and asked, “Just how many brains do you have, sir?” I took the hint and I took the helmet, but there is not always someone on hand to offer such advice and ensure a helmet is worn. And as anybody who has children will know, children do not always take that advice. Oliver makes the point that it will be far easier for parents to insist that their children wear a helmet if it becomes a legal requirement.

When Oliver first contacted me nearly two years ago, he asked whether the Government would consider making cycle helmets a legal requirement. He explained his circumstances: six years after his accident, he remains in a wheelchair and is likely to do so for the rest of his life; he has lost the use of his left arm; and he has missed so much that his peers have experienced. He finds it extremely frustrating whenever he sees cyclists on the road without helmets because, from his personal experience, he knows all too well the risk they are taking.

After my meeting with Oliver, I wrote on his behalf to the Department for Transport and received an explanation of the work undertaken as part of the cycling and walking investment strategy of 2017 and the subsequent consultation in 2018. The focus of this work has rightly been to increase levels of cycling and walking and to make the UK’s roads safer for vulnerable users, including cyclists. Following that work, the Department’s clear advice to all cyclists, as set out in rule 59 of the highway code, is that cyclists should wear helmets, but the Government do not intend to legislate. I shared the Government’s response with Oliver at my advice surgery. He continues to contest it and makes a compelling case from his own experience for helmets to be mandatory.

To take his case further, I arranged for Oliver to meet my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison), then Minister for Transport. Oliver was very pleased to have the opportunity to make his case here in Westminster to the Minister and I thank my hon. Friend for accommodating us. We had an excellent discussion but, to Oliver’s disappointment, the Government’s position remains unchanged—that the wearing of helmets should be a matter of choice, not compulsory.

Oliver continues to disagree and draws attention to a number of counts. He points out that it is illegal to drive a car without a seatbelt and that it is compulsory to wear a helmet on a motorcycle. To this, those who oppose mandatory wearing of cycle helmets respond that, unlike travelling by car and motorbike, there is a health benefit from using a bicycle, there should not be any discouragement of cycling and some people might be put off cycling, thereby reducing the wider health and environmental benefits. Oliver replies to this that, if people want to exercise, there are many ways of doing so that present less risk; he points out that people can walk, run, take up a sport or go to the gym.

A further line of argument cited by opponents to mandatory wearing of cycle helmets is that legislation would be difficult to enforce. While it would certainly create an additional burden on the police, it does not strike me as particularly difficult to enforce compared with other offences: it is easier to spot a cyclist without a helmet than to spot a driver using a mobile phone, or a car passenger without a seatbelt. No one here suggests that wearing seatbelts should be a matter of individual choice on the basis of difficulties in enforcing the current legislation.

In support of mandatory wearing of helmets, a 2016 review and analysis of previous research, undertaken by Jake Olivier and Prudence Creighton, drew on data from 64,000 injured cyclists. They found very large protective effects from helmets, estimating 85% and 88% reductions in head and brain injury respectively for helmeted cyclists relative to unhelmeted. The House of Commons Library notes that pedal cyclists are 23 times more likely to be a casualty and more likely to die on the road than a motorist. If mandatory safety measures are acceptable for car drivers, they should also be acceptable for cyclists.

Cyclists are the most vulnerable road users. Given all the data about how much safer cyclists are when they wear a helmet and the strong arguments from Oliver—a person who acknowledges that his life has been transformed by the simple failure to put on his helmet that fateful day in 2015—this Bill to mandate the wearing of helmets by cyclists is intended to ensure that far fewer cyclists have to suffer the experience that Oliver went through and has to live with every day of his life. I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Mark Pawsey, Judith Cummins, Dan Carden, Mr Peter Bone and Dr Luke Evans present the Bill.

Mark Pawsey accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 November, and to be printed (Bill 321).

Opposition Day

Wednesday 7th June 2023

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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[17th Allotted Day]

Mental Health Treatment and Support

Wednesday 7th June 2023

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

12:46
Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (Tooting) (Lab)
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I beg to move,

That this House notes with concern the scale of the mental health crisis facing the country with patients suffering with mental health issues waiting more than 5.4 million hours in accident and emergency last year; further notes with concern the mental health crisis facing young people with nearly 400,000 children currently waiting for treatment; recognises the health inequalities within the use of the Mental Health Act 1983; and calls on the Government to adopt Labour’s plan to recruit thousands of mental health staff to expand access to treatment, to provide access to specialist mental health support in every school, to establish open access mental health hubs for children and young people and to bring in the first ever long-term, whole-Government plan to improve outcomes for people with mental health needs.

After 13 years in office, this Government have delivered the worst mental health crisis in our history. We are becoming a brittle, anxious, fractious society, the very bonds of which are frayed and torn. The causes of mental ill health are complex: poverty, homelessness, neglect, loneliness, debt, bereavement, domestic violence and child and adult trauma. Our understanding of mental health is developing all the time. We have moved on in the years since I trained as a doctor. We can now see how interlinked and enmeshed the range of factors is: warm and safe homes, fulfilling work, strong relationships, safe streets, opportunities to learn, fresh air and green spaces are policies for good mental health.

Nye Bevan talked about the serenity in knowing that medical care is free at the point of need. After 13 years of Conservatives, we are far from serene. For many of the families I meet, the future is filled with dark clouds, fear of displacement and debt, and a sense that society is going to hell in a handcart—a Britain where nothing works, where everything is broken and where everything costs more than six months ago. Zero-hours contracts, boarded up high streets, rapacious landlords, rising lawlessness and antisocial behaviour and the long-term effects of covid—no wonder we are in the grip of a mental health crisis.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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I am very pleased with the way my hon. Friend has started her speech, because she is absolutely right. Alongside the additional healthcare staff needed and the many measures that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) and I have been spelling out for the health service, the society that has been created over the past 13 years of austerity has had massive impact on the mental health crisis. I am glad that my hon. Friend has focused on that. It will be the job of the entire future Labour Government to support her and her colleagues to reduce the mental health crisis.

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention; he is right. I will talk about the need for mental health not to exist in a silo later in my remarks. Frankly, it is the problem of every single Government Department.

One in four people experiences a problem with their mental health each year in England. One in six people experiences a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, each week. Three in four people with mental ill health in England receive little or no treatment for their condition. And people with the most severe mental illnesses die up to 20 years sooner than the general population. I ask the House to reflect on that for a moment. Tragically, in 2021, over 5,000 suicides were registered, up by 300 on the previous year. The Government should wear these statistics like a badge of shame.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Reclaim)
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The shadow Minister makes an accurate assessment of the size of the mental health crisis facing our nation, but her words would have more resonance if she and her party had not voted in lockstep with the Government for the disastrous lockdowns that damaged mental health, especially that of our young people. Will she apologise?

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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I will take no lectures from the hon. Member, because he proudly sat as a Member of a Government who oversaw hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths. Families are still feeling the ongoing mental effects of losing loved ones because of the mishandling of the pandemic by his then Government.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), the Leader of the Opposition, launched Labour’s mission for health in May. He said:

“Suicide is the biggest killer of young lives in this country, the biggest killer. That statistic should haunt us, and the rate is going up. Our mission—must be and will be—to get it down.”

He is right. Across the House, we are increasingly hearing brave, moving and revealing testimonies about our own experiences and struggles. It is vital that we challenge the stigma and talk openly about mental health.

Dan Carden Portrait Dan Carden (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab)
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My hon. Friend and I have worked on these issues over the last couple of years. She knows that 70% of people who enter treatment for alcohol issues also experience trouble with their mental health. The Public Accounts Committee recently released a report on alcohol treatment services, and recommendation 4 called on the Government to set out, without delay

“what it is doing to help improve integrated care for people with co-occurring alcohol and mental health problems.”

Will she use her position today to encourage the Government to act on that recommendation?

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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I could not be more proud to work with my hon. Friend in this space. He is a powerful advocate and I wholeheartedly support all his efforts, and those of Members across the House, to support people who are living with alcoholism, and their families. I thank him; we will continue to support his work.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I commend the shadow Minister and the Labour party for bringing this issue forward. Support for mental health across this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a massive issue, including in my constituency. For example, one of my constituents told me they finally found the courage to seek help for their mental health, only to be told by health professionals, “We can’t do anything for you just now as your condition is not severe enough yet—you have no thoughts of suicide.” Does the hon. Lady agree that supporting those with mental health issues at the earliest stage—right away—is more beneficial, instead of forcing them to wait until it may be too late? At that stage, the situation cannot be turned back.

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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I thank the hon. Member; it has been a pleasure to work with him in every single debate about mental health that I have held in the past three years, since I started my role. He speaks to the important point that prevention is the watchword that counts when it comes to mental health.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab)
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My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Does she agree that the Government are failing people who are experiencing mental ill health, or even a mental health crisis? Psychiatrists are leaving the country because they are finding jobs overseas more accessible. People experiencing mental health crises are having to wait in A&E departments for too long; they waited for a total of 5.4 million hours during 2021, which is entirely unacceptable. Things need to change.

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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I thank my hon. Friend for assisting me in writing my speech; she has pre-empted much of what is to come. She is a powerful advocate for her community and I am proud to share the Opposition Benches with her.

Laura Farris Portrait Laura Farris (Newbury) (Con)
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On that point, will the shadow Minister give way?

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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I will make some progress, but I would be happy to take further interventions after that.

Amid all the anguish and pain, one thing comes through: people cannot access the mental health services they need. The stark fact is that the way the UK’s mental health services are funded and distributed can exacerbate the problem, so instead of making people better, they are making them worse.

The current reality is that 1.6 million people are waiting for treatment. More than 1 million people had their referral closed without receiving any help in the last year alone. Last year, children in mental health crisis spent more than 900,000 hours in A&E and almost 400,000 children are on waiting lists. In the same period, adults experiencing a mental health crisis spent over 5.4 million hours in A&E. Black people are five times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 than white people. People with eating disorders are being put on a palliative care pathway.

Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con)
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Will the shadow Minister join me in welcoming the work the Government have done to bring forward the draft Mental Health Bill? We both sat on the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee. Hopefully, the Bill will right some of those wrongs.

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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It has been a pleasure to work with the hon. Member on the draft Mental Health Bill. However, as I will say later in my speech, I have little confidence that the draft Mental Health Bill will move beyond the draft stage. We need to debate the issues in the House, to ensure that what we know needs to be fixed is actually fixed, so that we can help people in our communities, including black people, who are more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act, and people with autism and neurodiversity, who are mistreated simply as a result of having that diagnosis, so that their lives can be better lived. We need these issues to come before the House, so that we can debate them and move forward.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
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My hon. Friend is making an important point about the demand on A&E, but there is demand on other public services as well. When I have been out with the police in south Manchester, I have been shocked by the sheer amount of time they spend dealing with people in mental health crisis. I am sure we all know the amount of time our staff spend dealing with people in mental health crisis. Does she agree that it is a false economy not to invest properly in mental health services, because of the impact on other public services?

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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My hon. Friend makes a powerful point; he is right. It is also a false economy because of the impact mental ill health has on families. Not investing in one person’s mental ill health not only has an impact on their working and earning potential, but has a knock-on impact on that of their parents, siblings and other family members. People are currently sitting at home on suicide watch for their children because they cannot get access to the timely help and treatment they need. This is Tory Britain.

What has been the response from the Government to these alarming facts? Ministers have junked the 10-year mental health plan and binned thousands of responses to the consultation. Seni’s law, set out in a private Member’s Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Steve Reed), passed unanimously, but it has not been fully implemented. It was passed almost five years ago and there have been three subsequent Ministers, and yet we are in the highly unusual situation where it has not been commenced in full. Who exactly is against the monitoring of the disproportionate use of force? The House certainly was not against it when the Bill was passed.

The Government have announced plans for new mental health hospitals, but those new hospitals are not new. The hospitals announced on 25 May—Surrey and Borders, Derbyshire and Merseycare—were already in the pipeline.

Let us talk about the Minister’s own patch, to really see the scale of the issue. At his closest hospital, adults experiencing a mental health crisis waited 11,000 hours in A&E last year. There are over 5,000 children and 40,000 adults stuck on mental health waiting lists across his integrated care board. Thousands of local people were turned away from services before treatment; I am sure the Minister will agree that that is unacceptable. As ever, we have smoke and mirrors when we need bricks and mortar. If this seems bleak, that is because it is.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab)
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My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech about a very important issue. One of my constituents who works in psychiatric care has talked of staff having to deal with violence, verbal abuse, being swilled with boiling water and more. He says that they are under extreme pressure, which is causing some to leave and putting more pressure on those who remain. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a shocking and unsustainable state of affairs, and that we need a Labour Government who will invest in mental health services?

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, who works tirelessly on this issue.

After more than a decade of Tory Governments, if people need help, all too often no one is there. Last year, emergency service workers took more than a million sick days because of stress. NHS staff are at the sharp end of this mental health crisis. I know them, I work with them, and I see what they are coping with daily. They are heroes, but they simply do not have the resources, the staff or the leadership from Ministers that would enable them to do their jobs. They themselves suffer exhaustion, depression, stress and anxiety. About 17,000 staff—12% of the mental health workforce—left last year.

You will be pleased to know that I have had a look at the Government’s amendment, Mr Speaker—I do my homework. There is the tired old £2.3 billion figure. How many times have we heard that trotted out? Actually, I can tell the House that it has been used more than 90 times over five years, and it has been spent in myriad different ways. Then there is the £150 million for mental health crisis units. But the amendment fails to mention the serious patient safety concerns that doctors have raised, and it is clear that the pressure on A&E remains as fierce as ever. There is also nothing about the recent announcement from the Metropolitan police that they will not help people in a mental health crisis.

Ministers need to get out of Whitehall and see what is really happening in our mental health service. If they did so, they would see what I have seen in recent months. They would see the junior psychiatrists whom I met recently—junior doctors who have devoted all their training to this profession, and half of whom plan to leave the NHS at the end of their training. They would see the doctor who told me of an incident in which six police officers were in A&E for 18 hours with a patient detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. They would see a child arriving at A&E after self-harming, having been referred by the GP a long time ago but not been seen for weeks, which led to an escalation point and a crisis in A&E. We are seeing a system in crisis, people in pain and families in distress.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
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The shadow Minister has referred several times to children’s mental health and the crisis that often occurs when they present at A&E departments. Does she agree that schools have an important role to play when children have moderate mental health conditions, before those conditions escalate? The role of mental health support teams in schools is critical, but their funding is due to end abruptly next year, with only about half the programme complete. Will she join me in asking the Minister to commit himself to funding the full roll-out of mental health support teams or, better still, to back the Liberal Democrats’ plan to provide a qualified mental health practitioner in every school?

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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I invite the hon. Member to have a look at the plans we already have in place. She will be pleased to learn that one of our pledges is the provision of a mental health specialist in every school. I invite her to support those Labour plans—and to come and join us over here if she feels like it.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
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Young people are bearing the brunt of the mental health crisis, and parents are worried sick. I see evidence of that every day in my inbox, and it is getting worse. When so little money is being spent on young people’s mental health, even though we know that the vast majority of mental health conditions appear in people under the age of 18, is the balance right between the money spent on adult mental health and that spent on young people’s mental health? If we want a preventive system that helps to cut costs for the taxpayer and helps people as well, is not investing early in young people the best way to achieve that?

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Allin-Khan
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My hon. Friend is spot on in making the point, very articulately, that prevention is our watchword. It is vital that we have mental health access hubs in every community to give people the support that they need; it is essential that we have mental health specialist support in every school; and it is essential that mental health does not operate in a Health silo, because when it comes to improving adverse childhood experiences that can lead to poor mental health in later life, that is every Department’s issue.

I have asked Ministers six times to tell us of their meetings with mental health trusts where there are reported abuse scandals, but they have failed to respond. In-patient services across England must be reviewed, with patients’ voices at the centre. After a series of allegations in different settings, the Government have dragged their feet, and we are still waiting for the findings of their data exercise, in which no one even spoke to families or patients. They could start by giving statutory powers to the inquiry into deaths in Essex mental health units.

What else needs to change? First, we need to speed up diagnosis and treatment. The longer we leave a mental health disorder untreated, the worse it gets—just like cancer, sepsis and heart conditions. Delays cost patients their wellbeing and their families their peace of mind, and of course it costs the taxpayer more to treat a patient who is more acutely unwell after months and years of delay. The argument for prevention, early intervention, speedy diagnosis and timely treatment is clear. Labour will guarantee treatment within a month for all who need it, which will be better for patients and better for the NHS.

Secondly, we need a tough new target for delivery—something for the whole system to drive for, and something for the voters to judge us on. Labour will recruit 8,500 new staff, so that 1 million more people can access treatment every year by the end of Labour’s first term in office.

Thirdly, we will reach out to our young people, and give the next generation the support that they desperately need. This is the generation who have known little or no security: children who have gone through the great financial crash, austerity and covid, robbed of their future and dismissed as snowflakes. We will open a mental health access hub for children and young people in every community, providing early intervention and drop-in services, and we will provide access to a mental health professional in every school. This is a true community, preventive approach in action.

Fourthly, we will stop mental health policy being placed in a silo. As I said at the beginning of my speech, mental health policy cannot be disentangled from social and economic policy. A decision on Bank of England interest rates takes its toll on the mental health of a family in Tooting. We are all interconnected. The economy is not an abstract concept; it is people. The next Labour Government will present a long-term, whole-Government plan to improve mental health outcomes—mental health in all policies.

Fifthly, Labour Ministers will allocate to mental health its fair share of funding, as the economy grows and as resources allow. For starters, we will close tax loopholes, putting the country’s mental health first. That is our plan and, crucially, it will not be solely the responsibility of the incoming new mental health Minister; it will be the responsibility of the whole Cabinet and the whole Government.

We have seen enough plans, we have heard enough announcements, and we have watched enough Ministers pass in and out of the revolving doors of 39 Victoria Street. Let us have no more Tory sticking plasters. Labour’s health mission, guided by prevention and anchored in community, gives children the best start and boosts the economy, with more people in better health. With a clear plan, with clear costings and with resolute leadership, we will deliver the world-class health system that our society truly deserves.

13:09
Neil O'Brien Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Neil O’Brien)
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I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “House” to the end of the Question and add:

“notes the increased burden on mental health following the pandemic, including on young people and those with severe mental illness; recognises the historic levels of investment being delivered by this Government into services, with an increase of £2.3 billion per year in front-line mental health funding over the past four years; notes that current NHS targets around access to talking therapies and intervention in psychosis are being met due to the efforts of NHS staff; and acknowledges the investment in mental health teams in schools, as well as the ongoing investment into open access mental health helplines in the 111 service and into the estate, including three new mental health hospitals to be opened in the next two years accompanied by a further £150 million in investment in new mental health ambulances and the development of better alternatives to accident and emergency services, including crisis houses, safe havens and step-down services.”

Improving mental health is a top priority for this Government. We can all agree that in the past it was not given the priority it deserves, and was seen as something to be ashamed of and not spoken about. Thankfully, we are changing that. We are working to achieve parity of esteem between physical health and mental health, with record amounts of investment going into NHS mental health services in England, and the stigma surrounding mental health is being reduced.

“The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health”, which was published in 2016, was a major step forward and secured an additional £1 billion in funding for mental health, so that an additional 1 million people could access high-quality services by 2020-21. It was followed by the NHS long-term plan in 2019, which committed an additional £2.3 billion a year for the expansion and transformation of mental health services in England by 2024, so that an additional 2 million people could get the NHS-funded mental health support that they need. It is also funding the increase in the frontline mental health workforce to meet the plan’s ambition for 27,000 additional mental health staff by 2023-24. There were 138,610 full-time equivalent mental health staff at the end of 2022, an increase of 8,900 on the previous year and of 20,700 on December 2010, so the mental health workforce in the NHS is radically bigger. In total, we spent around £3 billion more on mental health last year compared with four years ago. That is an increase of a quarter.

Backed by this huge investment, we are expanding access to NHS talking therapies for adults to meet the long-term plan’s ambition for an additional 1.9 million people to access National Institute for Health and Care Excellence-approved treatments for conditions such as anxiety and depression. From starting small in 2008, around 1.2 million people are now accessing NHS talking therapies every year, with 98% waiting less than 18 weeks for their treatment and 90% waiting less than six weeks. This means that we are delivering well over our national waiting time targets of 95% and 75% respectively.

Local mental health services are transforming community mental health care to give 370,000 adults and older adults with severe mental illnesses greater choice and control over their care and to support them to live well in their communities. We recognise that poor mental health is a major cause of sickness absence in the workplace and we are providing support to employees and employers on mental health in the workplace. We have announced additional measures to support workplace mental health, including a package to support the long-term sick and disabled to remain in or return to work. This includes £200 million for digital mental health to modernise NHS talking therapies, to provide free access to wellness and clinical mental health apps for the population, and to pilot cutting-edge digital therapeutics. There will be around £75 million to expand individual placement and support services to help more people with severe mental health illnesses into employment.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I will make a little progress first.

We know that the number of children and young people experiencing mental ill health is rising, and that many of them will continue to experience mental health problems later in life. Spending on children and young people’s mental health continues to grow, from £841 million in 2019-20 to £995 million a year later, and now to £1.1 billion in 2022-23. This means that we are helping more children and young people than ever before. In 2021-22, there were over 743,000 new referrals to children’s and young people’s mental health services, which is 41% higher than the year before.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I will make a bit of progress before I give way.

The long-term plan will ensure that 345,000 more children and young people can get the mental health support they need when they need it.

We are committed to ensuring that children and young people can access mental health support in school, so that they can access help with anxiety and depression and other common mental health services before problems become more serious. In that way, we can prevent—in exactly the way we all agree on—the problems from becoming more serious. That includes continuing to roll out mental health support teams to schools and colleges in England.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
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The picture that the Minister is painting does not quite tally with the experience that I am seeing in families, many of whom are watching with a feeling of helplessness as their children’s mental health deteriorates while they are on long waiting lists. In the NHS South West London ICB area, there are over 10,000 young people on waiting lists, and many have their cases closed without even getting the support they need. That leaves them with deteriorating mental health and it leaves their families in despair. How is it that the money the Minister is talking about does not seem to get through to the young people who need help?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I will come to the point about waiting lists in a moment.

Let me complete my thoughts on prevention, which I think we all agree is important. There are 3.4 million pupils covered by mental health support teams in 2022-23, which equates to about 35% coverage of pupils in schools and learners in further education in England. We expect around 500 teams to be up and running by 2024, covering around 44% of pupils and learners, so it will be up from 35% to 44%. Over 10,000 schools and colleges now have a trained senior mental health lead, including more than six in 10 state-funded secondary schools in England. On prevention, the Government are also providing £150 million of capital investment in NHS mental health urgent and emergency care infrastructure over the next two years.

Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab)
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While the Minister is addressing the issue of young people, can I say that I have yet to hear any news from the Department as to whether there will be a public inquiry into the deaths of the three young women who died under the care of the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation NHS Trust. Can he enlighten me on that?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is an extremely important issue that the hon. Gentleman is quite right to raise. We will be producing the results of the rapid review in the coming weeks, so he will not have to wait very long.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson
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Like other colleagues, I see many children in my constituency waiting well over a year, sometimes two years, to access child and adolescent mental health services, so I was alarmed when NHS England recently told me that, on the latest modelling, the number of NHS-commissioned training posts in London for child and adolescent psychiatry will halve by 2031. I have no idea what is driving this modelling, but given that one in six seven to 16-year-olds have a probable mental health disorder, will the Minister at least look into these figures and undertake to write to me to explain why we are seeing such a drop in the number of training places?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Those are not figures that I am familiar with or recognise, but I will certainly take this up with the London commissioners because it sounds like an important issue. I have talked about the dramatic increase we have already seen in the mental health workforce, and we are setting out further steps in our long-term workforce plan, but I will take that away and look at it closely with other Ministers.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins
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One of the issues here is that the demand for mental health services has gone through the roof, from 3.6 million in 2020-21 to 4.5 million in 2021-22. My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) was clear in her view, which I share, that the policies of this Government have been a factor in driving up the mental health demand. Does the Minister accept that? If not, what does he put it down to?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I was just coming to that, but on the point about prevention and the social origins of these things, we are in agreement about tackling the origins of these things. In terms of financial security, that is why we are providing financial help worth £3,300 per household, one of the most dramatically generous packages anywhere in Europe. The question of good housing was raised earlier. We have the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill and we are taking action to extend the decent homes standard to the private rented sector.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
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Is it not the case that we have to be really careful about what we are talking about? There is a difference between mental wellbeing and mental health. We all suffer with our mental wellbeing but we do not all suffer with our mental health, and we therefore need to have the support that is appropriate. Social prescribing, for example, has a fundamental ability to help people who suffer with their mental wellbeing. Are the Government doing anything more to drive up social prescribing, so that GPs and allied professions can get the support from the third sector and other voluntary organisations that people so desperately need for their mental wellbeing?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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My hon. Friend, as an experienced clinician, makes an important and thoughtful point. This is exactly why we have so dramatically increased the number of social prescribers in primary care. An example in Britain is the parkrun practices initiative, which is connecting people to sporting and cultural activities that can improve mental wellbeing as well as mental health. My hon. Friend is completely right, and that is why this is a priority for us.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen
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The suicide rate in North West Leicestershire increased by more than 300% during the lockdown. Does the Minister know what the increase was in his constituency?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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It is just not true there was an increase in suicides because of the lockdowns. There have been a whole series of careful studies of this and that is just not the case. I am afraid that my hon. Friend is not correct about this.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
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Eating disorders are a national scandal and have reached epidemic proportions. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder and a third of people with binge eating disorders are at suicide risk. With at least 125 million people suffering from eating disorders and with soaring waiting lists, is it not time that the Government appointed something like an eating disorder prevention champion to tackle this incredibly difficult but rising crisis?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I completely agree about its tremendous importance, and I take this opportunity to mention the incredible work on this hugely important issue by brilliant charities such as Beat. I will outline some of the general things we are doing to increase capacity further.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby
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Only a few weeks ago, I met a constituent who endured an awful kidnapping and rape. She had some initial counselling and therapy from specialist services, but she has now been on the waiting list for more than a year and a half. What would the Minister say to my constituent, who desperately needs therapy?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I am terribly sorry to hear about the hon. Lady’s constituent’s case, which I will look at extremely closely. This is why we are putting in extra investment and tackling waiting lists.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I should make a little progress before taking further interventions.

The Government are providing £150 million of capital investment in the NHS’s urgent and emergency care infrastructure for mental health over the next two years. Those interventions include £7 million for 90 new mental health ambulances, with the remaining £143 million going to more than 160 capital projects with a preventive focus. These include new urgent assessment and care centres, crisis cafés and crisis houses, health-based places of safety for people detained by the police and improvements to the NHS 111 and urgent mental health helplines. The hon. Member for Tooting talked about creating such facilities in the community, and we are already doing that. We are also investing £400 million between 2020-21 and 2023-24 to eradicate mental health dormitory accommodation, improving safety and dignity for patients. Twenty-nine projects have already been completed since the programme commenced in 2020-21, eradicating over 500 dormitory beds.

Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Ben Spencer
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Will the Minister join me in welcoming the construction of the new Abraham Cowley unit, which will eradicate the dormitories that were in my constituency?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I join my hon. Friend in celebrating that unit and his advocacy for people affected by mental health.

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op)
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I thank the Minister for giving way, as I appreciate that he is trying to make progress. On the capital programme, one of the issues that my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) highlighted is Seni’s law, which will look at the treatment that patients receive in mental health units, where, sadly, restraint has led to deaths. The Minister talks about prevention, and we need to make sure that Seni’s law, which was enacted in November 2018, comes forward now. Does he agree?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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The remaining provisions will be commenced as soon as possible.

We are working with the NHS towards implementing new waiting time standards for people requiring urgent and emergency mental healthcare, in both A&E and the community, to ensure timely access to the most appropriate high-quality support. We also recognise that there is much more to be done to improve people’s experience in in-patient mental health facilities. The Minister with responsibility for mental health, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield), has spoken to many Members following reports of abuse and care failings at a number of NHS and independent providers. We have been clear that anyone receiving treatment in an in-patient mental health facility deserves to receive safe, high-quality care and to be looked after with dignity and respect.

It is vital that, where care falls short, we learn from any mistakes to improve care across the NHS and to protect patients. That is why we have conducted a rapid review of mental health in-patient settings, with a specific focus on how we use data and evidence, including from complaints, feedback and whistleblowing reports, to identify risks to safety.

Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab)
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The Minister wants to talk about data and evidence. We know that, within the mental health crisis, there are huge, long-established racial disparities, with young black men disproportionately being sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983. The draft mental health Bill is still in train, and I would like to know exactly when the Government will table the Bill, which might stop these racial disparities and stop young black men dispro-portionately being sectioned.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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We are currently responding to pre-legislative scrutiny, so we are on the case. We are not just waiting, of course, and we are already doing things on these points, including through the culturally appropriate advocacy pilots for those at risk of detention and on the patient and carer race equality framework to avoid and prevent detention in the first place.

The rapid review’s report will be published very shortly. NHS England has also established a three-year quality transformation programme that seeks to tackle the root causes of unsafe, poor-quality in-patient care, including sexual safety, in mental health, learning disability and autism settings.

Our draft mental health Bill, which has been mentioned a few times in this debate, is intended to modernise the Mental Health Act so that it is fit for the 21st century and works better for people with serious mental illness. The draft Bill has completed its pre-legislative scrutiny, and we will respond to the Joint Committee’s recommendations very shortly.

In a world of increasing rates of multiple morbidity and diseases of increasing complexity, it is crucial that we continue our progress towards more person-centred, holistic care that considers a patient’s physical and mental health needs together. That is why we announced in January that we will be producing a major conditions strategy to tackle the conditions that contribute most to morbidity and mortality across the population of England, including mental health. The call for evidence is now open, and I encourage everyone to make their views known before it closes.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab)
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The Minister is talking about the mental health strategy now being part of the major conditions strategy. Is he aware that many mental health organisations see it as a retrograde step that, having conducted an extensive consultation and invited views, the strategy will now be put back even further?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I assure the hon. Lady that all contributions were fed into the major conditions strategy process. The reason why we are making the mental health strategy part of the major conditions strategy, and why we are looking at co-morbidities, is because, as the hon. Member for Tooting mentioned, people with mental health conditions have a shorter lifespan and, in general, the cause is typically a physical co-morbidity. It is essential that we look at these things together if we are to make progress on tackling disparities.

We have committed to publishing a new national suicide prevention strategy later this year, and we are engaging widely across the sector to understand what further action we can take to reduce cases of suicide. The new strategy will reflect new evidence and the national priority for preventing suicide across England, including action to tackle known risk factors and targeted action for groups of concern. We are also providing an extra £10 million over the next two years for a suicide prevention voluntary, community and social enterprise grant fund. This competitive grant fund will help to support the sector to deliver activity that can help to sustain services to help meet increased demand for support and to embed preventive activity that can help to prevent suicide and stem the flow into crisis services.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist
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Of course it is good that we will have a refreshed national suicide prevention strategy, and of course £10 million is welcome, but it is not out there yet. In the meantime, the £57 million that was earmarked for local work on suicide prevention has run out. Will the Minister consider making urgent interim arrangements to ensure that this vital work can continue until the strategy is published?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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I am conscious that we need to help the sector to maintain and grow its levels of service.

I finish by paying tribute to all those who do so much to support people’s mental health: frontline NHS staff, those working in the voluntary community and social enterprises, and all those who are quietly supporting a family member or loved one.

13:29
Jon Trickett Portrait Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab)
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I think the whole House agrees that there is a mental health crisis, but the Minister’s presentation simply will not do. It was like a series of numbers read from a brief prepared by somebody who is remote from the reality of life in our country. It sounded complacent and like it was coming from on high, rather than from real experience.

I hope the House will not mind if I illustrate the general points I want to make by referring to my own area, as the experiences I am going to relate have a general significance for the country as a whole. First, let me agree with my Front-Bench colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan), that the seed beds that are creating the great demand for mental health services lie in the social and economic conditions that have been created following 13 years of failed government. My constituency is 529th out of 533 English seats in social mobility—it is one of the most immobile socially. A child who is born today in the local hospital will die younger than those elsewhere in the country if they are in deprivation; there is no chance whatsoever of getting out of the crisis that so many families face, given the absence of social mobility across the country, but especially in areas such as mine. I am talking about deprivation where, in a constituency such as mine, access to a house, green space, healthy living and all the things one should expect to be able to achieve as a human being in one of the richest countries in the world are simply not available. That is the seed bed for the mental health crisis. I speak about my area, but this is a generic problem, as we all know. Even the Minister seemed to concede that in one of his responses, although the idea that the Government will somehow address the problems they have created after 13 years is preposterous.

The Minister talks a good talk on the Government’s intentions, but under his Government NHS staff wages have fallen, and nursing bursaries have been cut, as have mental health beds. In my area of Yorkshire we have lost a quarter of our mental health beds since 2010—since the Conservatives came into power and Labour was last in government. The loss of a bed may not sound much, but if we think about it, we see that dozens and perhaps hundreds of people would use that bed in a year. Every bed lost has a huge impact on a series of individuals, families and even communities. The same applies to the loss of nurses and other qualified staff; these things are in decline. So it is no good the Minister standing there and repeating stuff that has been provided to him by the civil service.

It is scandalous that in my area of West Yorkshire 10,000 people in a single year were released from acute hospital with a recommendation that they receive mental health treatment and all of them failed to get a mental health appointment. They were then removed from the list without any opportunity to receive even the basic courtesy of a single half-hour meeting. Beyond that, in the same year, 60,000 patients in Yorkshire had to be referred to a provider outside their area. Let us just think about this: we are talking about people with mental health problems being sent to an area that is unfamiliar to them, miles away from anywhere they know or feel comfortable and loved in, in order to receive basic treatment. It is not acceptable that that is happening in Yorkshire.

Suicide has been mentioned by a number of colleagues, from all parts of the House. In West Yorkshire, the figure for men committing suicide is over 20 per 100,000, whereas the figure for the country as a whole is 16 per 100,000. Let us just think about that. It is because of the deprivation and the problems we face in our area. Why should we put up with a postcode lottery that fails to address the mental health needs of young people, with the result that we have a quarter more suicides in West Yorkshire than in the rest of the country? That is shocking, but this is the kind of society that the Government have created and they have then cut the services that would provide the basic support that a civilised society should provide.

Let me refer to two profoundly shocking cases, which I am sure are reproduced everywhere in the country. The first involves a family who have an 18-year-old daughter. She has a mental health issue and it has led to her becoming immobilised physically. She was admitted to an acute hospital over the weekend—she is unable to move. The hospital insisted that she left yesterday, but there is no care package and no assistance for her. The doctor said, “My advice to you is to get some treatment, but you won’t get it on the NHS because you’ll wait for years. Your need is urgent. Go to a private practitioner.” That was what he recommended. We looked it up and found it will be £3,000 per month to get the treatment. This is treatment that should be provided by a civilised Government, but we do not have a civilised Government—it is shocking. This morning, that young woman of 18 was left on her own on a sofa—not even with a commode provided—with two glasses of water and a bloomin’ sandwich while the family went off to work to try to earn the money to pay. It is a disgrace that that happens in our society.

Finally, I come to the issue of people with mental health issues in care homes. These care homes are in some ways very good, but in other ways this is a racket. We have a care home in my area that the Care Quality Commission condemned in 2020. Nothing was done by the owners to improve the situation but the CQC did not go back, presumably because of covid, until November. It then said, “This home isn’t working, so you’ve got to move everybody out.” There are people there who are close to the end of life and others who have serious mental health issues. Closing that home is going to kill some people: let us be honest and blunt about it. It appears that its private owners are removing all the people in there with these mental health issues and putting them somewhere else, with no reference whatsoever and no care for people who have basically been commodities for them to use—but they are investing in the home. I have spoken to the CQC and asked: are those fit and proper persons to run such a home to care for people with mental health crises? My argument is that they are not and they have proved the point. They did not even go to appeal and the staff are being left on the scrapheap.

We have had a Government who, through austerity and the particular form of economic society they have created, have developed a major mental health crisis and then cut the required services. There is no prospect of their doing anything else to improve the situation. This is a serious problem. We must imagine ourselves in the situation of the family in the case I illustrated. This is a crisis that echoes throughout the land and it is not acceptable.

I finish on this point. We do need money putting into our mental health services, as everyone would agree. But why do the Government not start by saying that the staff—the carers, cleaners and all the clinical staff—get a proper rise? That would at least be a decent way to try to retain some of those people in house for now.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I ought to have said after the Minister had spoken that the original Question was as on the Order Paper, since when an amendment has been proposed as on the Order Paper, and the Question is that the original words stand part of the Question. I do not think that my putting that to the Chamber after the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Jon Trickett) has spoken will have made any difference to his speech—I do hope not. I prefer to get procedure absolutely correct. It will be obvious that a great many people wish to speak this afternoon and we have limited time. Therefore, we must have an immediate time limit of five minutes, which is quite generous really. We begin with Dean Russell.

13:38
Dean Russell Portrait Dean Russell (Watford) (Con)
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Before I begin, I will rip up my unwritten 50-minute speech.

I have previously said in this Chamber that, if suicide were a virus, we would be on the hunt for a vaccine; if loneliness were a disease, we would be looking for a cure. I welcome the debate today. I know that it is politically charged, but that is the nature of this Chamber. Any opportunity that we have to talk about mental health and to tackle the stigma around mental health must be welcome.

Of course, we are talking today about the support that is available to people, but one area on which I wish to focus is mental health in the workplace, which is a passion. We spend most of our lives in the workplace; we spend time with colleagues. We are perhaps not always truthful to ourselves about how we feel. Engagement in the workplace is essential to prevent mental ill health. One challenge is to ensure that there is parity across physical and mental health. I have argued about that in this place before, and received support from all parts of the House. I welcome parity around things such as first aid; that is essential.

I have been very pleased with the engagement that I have had with Ministers, especially the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Mims Davies), the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove), and the Minister on the Front Bench today. I have also engaged with other Ministers in the Departments of Health and Social Care and for Work and Pensions. They have all been open to looking at how we can get better services and better support for colleagues in the workplace.

One challenge we face is stigma. I say gently and respectfully to Members in the Chamber today that, while of course these issues are politically charged and that we will all have a very strong view on this and on the need to make sure that services are in place, we are careful about the words that we use. When we talk about people not being able to get support, it might put off somebody from seeking and getting support. When we talk about some of the statistics, I ask Members to please be mindful about how they are used. We could deter a person in crisis from seeking help, because they might think that that help is not there, which could be dangerous.

I appreciate that we have a long way to go with mental health, but we have come quite a way. The support over the past few years and the change in stigma around mental health have been transformative, but we still have a way to go for the situation to be transformed. That means that, as politicians, chief executives of businesses and community leaders, we must ask ourselves whether we are doing enough. Are we talking about this enough? Are we looking at those solutions enough?

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Evans
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My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech about raising awareness. Yesterday, I hosted members from the NFU, who candidly said that, a few years ago, they would never have been speaking about these kinds of issues. We know that rural communities and farmers in particular suffer when it comes to asking for help. Is it not exactly those organisations coming forward and speaking about the problem that allows us to have this debate?

Dean Russell Portrait Dean Russell
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I thank my hon. Friend for his important intervention. This morning, I was fortunate to host the Royal College of Psychiatrists. We had a roundtable discussion with different charities, organisations and leaders in this space about what we need to do and what that looks like. It looks like more funding—there is always an argument for that and rightly so; it means ensuring that we support people who have gone through crises, and that we look at that long-term support; but it is also about how we shift the conversation. For me, it must be about parity between physical and mental health. A few years ago, an amendment was tabled that would have introduced more parity of funding. As a Government, we need to look again at that amendment. Other important steps would include a mental health Bill. I appreciate that we need to move forward with that as soon as possible, and I echo the calls for such legislation, but we should not be damning everything that has been done so far, because huge strides have been made, especially in relation to extra funding.

When I was a councillor many years ago, I worked with local schools to look at what support was in place. I wanted to know whether the children as well as the teachers were aware of the support that was available. If we were to do the same survey today, we would find that the situation is far better than it was 10 or 15 years ago, but, as I have said, there is still a way to go.

I want to finish on a few brief points. When we consider the challenges around mental health, we must understand that the problem is not mental health alone. There is always some sort of comorbidity and there is always some impact on physical health. When we talk about parity, we are not just saying, “one person with mental ill health and one person with physical ill health must be seen equally”. That, of course, is important, but we must also be mindful of the fact that if somebody has a mental health condition it may affect their ability to work. On the flipside, a physical health condition may impact a person’s ability to get out of bed in the morning and their ability to do exercise. All those things are essential.

I hope that my words, from the Conservative Back Benches, will echo across the House: we want to get to a position where mental health is a priority across all of society. Both the Government and our communities play a part in that, and how we talk about this matters. I hope that we can talk civilly about the opportunities that are available. I urge colleagues to talk about what support is out there as much as, quite rightly, challenging Government and all of us to do more.

13:45
Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab)
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I also wish to speak civilly. For me, this is fundamentally a debate about mum. My mum was diagnosed with schizophrenia before I started primary school, so I have been talking about mental ill health all my life. Growing up, we saw on a weekly basis the inadequacies in support, the rough treatment from mental health services and the results of poor medication. We cannot ignore the fact that there have been some improvements, but some of the worst of the ‘80s appears to be returning after 13 years of Tory Government. Governments have failed to improve the system, which is described as the Cinderella service, since before Cinderella was written, which apparently was as long ago as 1697—I discovered that only today.

This crisis is exposed in that lack of access to support, lack of outreach, lack of choice, lack of control over support being received even where it is received, lack of genuine community care and lack of priority being given to mental healthcare overall. It is also exposed through an overuse of detention. Detention is necessary when people cannot manage their own safety, but it is the most costly end of mental health treatment when all else has failed. It is more expensive than sending people to prison in this country, but it is over-relied on by a failing Government who are unable to see long-term needs and the means of saving funds as well as saving people.

As has been mentioned, this is also a crisis exposed by a rising inability to meet need, as demonstrated by the size of, and time spent on, waiting lists. The shadow Minister mentioned 400,000 children. I bumped into Karen, my constituent, on the bus this morning. She finally has an appointment for counselling after three years of waiting in Southwark. Therefore I speak today from personal experience and as an MP representing a community with a high prevalence of mental health conditions, including some of the highest levels of psychosis anywhere in the country. However, I am privileged to speak as MP of an area where there is greater support for some people.

Southwark’s Labour council has been at the forefront of instigating measures, including online support, the Quality Indicator for Rehabilitative Care, the Nest system for the under-25s and an equivalent wellbeing hub for the over-25s, which helped more than 2,000 people last year. I am talking here about fast access, professional support that does not require a GP referral or a long wait of time. This is vital support on the frontline delivered by a Labour council and an integrated care board, which are prioritising correctly.

We are also a community served by South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. SLAM staff do their best to meet needs, but, sadly, I see people and their families who are not best served. I know that SLAM wants to do more—I speak to the staff and I met the chief executive last week—but it is limited by a Government who lack ambition and intent. The Government are not just ignoring the crisis, but contributing to it through things such as benefit cuts, and allowing food bank dependency and debt in a way that contributes to mental ill health. This is also a Government who are cutting capacity. The Minister made some claims about figures at the Dispatch Box just now, but SLAM told me last week that, despite the level of the crisis, it is cutting £45 million this year. What that means in practice is horrible.

I wish to talk about the human impact. I met Stephen Crawford through the Walworth community council. I have known him since 2010. To be clear from the start, this was a man who was known to the local community and known to council care workers and local mental health services. He had severe anxiety. He was a sweet, gentle soul, but he was a target for those seeking to misuse him and his home with criminal intent. Understandably, he became very agitated about his home following break-in attempts and thefts. He was ultimately sectioned and detained for his own wellbeing, but then discharged to the unsafe home that he had told everyone he was unable to live in. He called the London Ambulance Service daily. He and others called the police. The police told me they had visited and intervened 56 times in recent months due to his behaviour. It was a crisis for him, for his neighbours in the street, including Norma and the Groombridges, who were trying to help him, for the London Ambulance Service, which is already overstretched and struggling, and for the police, who now say they may have to stop responding to mental health call-outs.

Stephen was discharged and did not get sufficient support. On Wednesday 19 April, just three days later, he climbed through the window frame on the top floor of a Browning Street building. He told everyone he would take his own life. The police attended, but he fell and was pronounced dead the following week.

That is what the mental health crisis means in practice—the loss of life, the human tragedy. Stephen deserved better, and if individuals like him, whole communities such as mine and multiple public services are not to face similar situations, with the avoidable costs and loss of human life, mental health reform must deliver better. I hope we see a serious case review and I look forward to that coming forward.

13:50
Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Neil Hudson (Penrith and The Border) (Con)
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I very much welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate on a crucial issue. We have heard already about the importance of parity of esteem between physical and mental health, something I have been speaking about since my maiden speech. I am passionate that we achieve that parity.

I welcome the Government’s announcements over many months, the actions and contributions of Ministers and the £3 billion a year increase in funding. The £10 million in the Budget for suicide prevention was especially welcome, as was the £150 million for mental health facilities. I particularly welcome the £3 million for the mental health crisis centre at the Carleton Clinic in Carlisle.

As we have already heard across the House, prevention is important in mental health. We have heard a lot about young people, and we know that, sadly, suicide is the biggest killer of people under 35. I pay tribute again to 3 Dads Walking; I have been privileged and humbled to work with the three dads, Andy, Mike and Tim, who tragically lost their precious daughters Sophie, Beth and Emily to suicide. They have been able to channel their personal tragedy into trying to help people and raise awareness about suicide prevention. We are working hard to get age-appropriate suicide prevention into the school curriculum. The Prime Minister and the Education Secretary have met us and we are making significant progress on that.

I think this is an area that really unites us in humanity across the House. I very much respect the shadow Minister and her clinical expertise in this area, and it is crucial that we talk about prevention. I am grateful to the 41 hon. Members who signed my early-day motion on suicide prevention in the school curriculum and increasing mental health first aid provision.

My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Dean Russell) has been a passionate champion for mental health first aid training. I have had mental health first aid training during my career in higher education. I have also had ASIST, or applied suicide intervention skills training, and I can tell hon. Members that it is very important. It does not make someone a consultant in mental health, but it helps them to have those discussions and be able to signpost people to the help they need.

I have put that training into practice with people I have worked with, and a great sense of relief has welled up in some of these people, who have said, “Oh my goodness, Neil, you understand.” I could then have discussions with them about seeking the support that they need. I passionately advocate that the Government work to increase mental health first aid training in educational settings and in the workplace. The more people we have on the frontline who can signpost people who need help, the better.

I also want to talk about rural mental health. Two or three weeks ago, our Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published a report on rural mental health. I pay tribute to those who provide so much support to people out in rural communities, including charities such as the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, You Are Not Alone, the Farming Community Network, Farmerados and, more broadly, the Samaritans, Vetlife, Mind, PAPYRUS and Every Life Matters. Rural mental health is a critical issue.

The EFRA Committee has made strong recommendations to the Government. I was pleased to attend the NFU reception yesterday, which had rural mental health at its heart. Our inquiry covered some of the issues around stigma that we have talked about in this debate. People are reluctant to put their hand up and say that they are struggling, including farmers and vets—as a vet, my profession is sadly over-represented in mental health issues and incidents of suicide. It is important that the stigma is broken down and mechanisms put in place so that people can seek out support.

In rural communities there are also acute stress events such as animal disease outbreaks. I witnessed the trauma from foot and mouth disease in 2001, and those ripples still affect rural communities today. The mental health trauma on people when avian influenza comes and their animals or birds are culled out is significant.

Our inquiry has made recommendations and, as we have heard from those on the Opposition Benches, we need cross-Government working on the problem, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs working with the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Education and the Department for Transport to mitigate issues such rural isolation, connectivity, broadband and transport. It is so important.

This is an area that unites us in humanity across the House. I firmly believe that debates such as this can really help the Government to develop their policies and support people’s mental health.

13:55
Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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At 11.33 yesterday morning, this House finished Prayers and the first questions to the Health Secretary began. Disgracefully, two hours and five minutes later, the Government’s business was done and hon. Members were told that, if they had no further meetings, they could go home. This exhausted Government had literally nothing left to say or do.

It is therefore hugely welcome that my hon. Friends the Members for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) and for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) have stepped forward on behalf of the Government-in-waiting to ensure that today there is a debate on a matter of considerable importance. Every week in my constituency surgeries I meet parents exasperated that the treatment and support that they know their children need is not available. That can lead to the unchecked exacerbation of problems and children missing school—not the odd day, but months at a time. Whole years of their schooling are lost and family routines decimated as the entire family steps in to provide the support that an earlier intervention could have prevented.

Mental health is not a minority issue. Every year, one in four people will experience a common mental health problem. This Government are guilty of both underfunding mental health services and, through their actions, causing the number of people with mental health problems to rise. We all know that the Government have allowed our country’s economy to end up in a terrible mess and that money is short, but it is welcome and right that the Labour party and my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North have been able to secure a commitment for additional funding from shadow Treasury colleagues—all of us who sit in Front Bench positions will know that is very difficult—to pursue the plans that are so desperately needed.

I want to talk about access to services locally. Stephen Jones in my constituency had a child with a mental health crisis that required in-patient treatment. The child was moved to Stoke-on-Trent, 70 miles away, because there are no child in-patient beds available in the whole of Derbyshire. The isolation that Stephen’s child experienced exacerbated their problems and made it harder for the family to support them. I stress to my Front-Bench colleagues that, while we realise that specialist staff will not be based in every single village and town, we need to give real consideration to providing those specialist services close enough that families can easily play their part in supporting patients, particularly children, in their treatment and recovery.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting focused on some of the causes of the mental health crisis. The Government are quick to talk about the increased amounts they are spending, but they are forced to spend more because there are more and more patients coming forward. If we had a huge expansion in the number of people with cancer, we would have to increase the number of cancer doctors, and yet we have far more people with mental health crises. The Government need to stop for a minute and think about the role they have played in causing that increase.

From the start in 2010, the Government’s pursuit of people on benefits, their targeting of the unemployed and the mentally ill, their approach to work capability assessments and the reduction in housing benefit, leading to record levels of poverty and homelessness, have all played a part in increasing the pressures on people and have in themselves added to the mental health crisis. No one is suggesting that those are the only causes—of course, very successful people can have mental health crises, too—but the Government should take that expansion in the numbers seriously.

The pressures on children in that period have exacerbated the problems. Between 2017 and 2022 alone, the number of children aged between seven and 16 with a probable mental health disorder rose from 12% to 18%. Shockingly, among those aged between 17 and 19, the figure more than doubled, from 10% to 25.7%.

Finally, let me turn to the Government’s disappointing, inadequate and defensive amendment to the motion. It says everything about their complacency and lack of ideas that they should try to convince the House that they have already acted to reduce A&E stays. Last year in Chesterfield alone, people suffering a mental health crisis spent 5,254 hours in A&E. It is clear from the debate that our nation’s mental health patients are being let down and the Government have neither the wit nor the will to fix it. I am pleased that Labour will prioritise this crucial area of health and I endorse the motion.

14:00
Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con)
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As you and my hon. Friend the Minister are aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, there has been a tragic, historic issue of in-patient mental health deaths in Essex—it goes back to 2000—over a 20-year period. Roughly 2,000 people have lost their lives. An inquiry has been going on, but, as I said in the House in January, there has been deep concern about the lack of progress and the low level of engagement between Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust and the inquiry. I also pointed out that families who have lost loved ones want to know that lessons have been learned, they want accountability, and, most important, they want to know that patients are not suffering the same today.

At the time, the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Neil O’Brien), said that unless there was a

“quantum leap in the level of co-operation”—[Official Report, 31 January 2023; Vol. 727, c. 51WH.]

with the inquiry, it would move to a statutory basis. I know that the Secretary of State treats the matter seriously—he met Essex MPs recently and is close to making a decision—but it has now been four months since that debate, so may we please have a decision soon?

In the meantime, I recently met EPUT to find out what is happening with its service. I will tell some positive stories. In March, EPUT announced that it was going to launch a mental health urgent care unit in Basildon. We have all heard stories of people in mental health crisis going to A&E, waiting hours and hours, and then not getting the specialist service that they need, but that new specialist 24/7 centre saw 200 people in its first month. Instead of what happened historically in A&E—90% of people waiting a long time before being sent home without a care plan—90% of people see the experts within four hours and leave with a care plan. That is transformational. The unit is also piloting a 24-hour paramedic.

Demand in Essex is settling down. It rushed through the roof during covid but is now increasing in line with population growth. Complexity also rose during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, about 30% of those going into in-patient units needed to be detained. At the peak of the pandemic and post pandemic, that figure was 70%. It is now down to 60%. Our waiting time to see a psychologist, which rose to a year, is now down to 29 weeks. Vacancies for all positions have been filled, so the trust will be fully staffed from September and expects the waiting list to drop to zero.

Furthermore, EPUT is trying new technologies such as the new and innovative neuromodulation centre, which opened six months ago in Brentwood and is having great success. The trust is also encouraged by the Government’s announcements on electronic patient records. Enabling hospitals and mental health services to share patient records easily between them will make a huge difference. It is great news that the Government are behind that, but we need the funding for it.

Colleagues have mentioned eating disorders. Some may be aware that I suffered from anorexia when I was a teenager. It is still very difficult to talk about one’s own mental health. I encourage everyone in the Chamber to please be mindful of the language that they use; I have found some of the language used so far in the debate very upsetting. I completely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Dean Russell) about being mindful of the tone that we use, because there will be people watching who are suffering with mental ill health, and we must not scare them away from getting treatment.

I am particularly concerned that what is being seen on social media today fuels eating disorders. The speed at which young girls in particular are shown eating-disorder content on social media by platforms such as TikTok is outrageous. I am glad that the Government are tackling that.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to mention social media, particularly in relation to teenage girls and eating disorders. I praise her for bringing her own experience to the Chamber. Another major contributor to the rise in mental ill health among young people in the last decade has been the isolation that social media can cause through bullying and so on.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford
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My hon. Friend is completely right about online bullying. It is so important therefore that we get the Online Safety Bill through—it must not be delayed too much, although there are still issues to be looked at in the Lords.

I am very pleased that Ministers have announced that they will criminalise the intentional encouragement of serious self-harm, including eating disorders. I would like them to look again at the toggle on/toggle off issue that I mentioned last time we debated this, and—on another issue that is having an impact on children—to take seriously the need to prevent children from accessing online pornography, which is of an increasingly violent nature. Those matters are all related to the mental health of the nation.

14:06
Kim Leadbeater Portrait Kim Leadbeater (Batley and Spen) (Lab)
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“We should be frank. We have not done enough to end the stigma of mental health. We have focused a lot on physical health and we haven’t as a country focused enough on mental health.”

Those are not my words, although I agree with them wholeheartedly. They were spoken in 2016 by the then Prime Minister, David Cameron. He went on to say that if we

“intervene much earlier with those suffering from poor mental health…we can stop problems escalating… By breaking the mental health taboo, by working with businesses and charities…I believe we can lead a revolution in mental health treatment in Britain.”

Yes, yes and yes. My question is: why, seven-and-a-half years and four Tory Prime Ministers later, are we still waiting? Mr Cameron has long departed these Benches. This is not the occasion to lament the mess that he left behind, but the experience in my constituency—and, I respectfully suggest, in the constituencies of many, if not all, hon. Members—is that the Government’s approach to mental health remains, all these years later, wholly inadequate.

We have heard a lot of statistics in the debate. The numbers matter, because they show the overwhelming scale of the problem that we are facing. Every one of those numbers is an individual, and around them is a network of family and friends whose lives are impacted day in, day out by the very real challenges of confronting mental illness. I have met many such individuals and families in my constituency. Just last week, I hosted a roundtable at which I heard heartbreaking stories of such daily struggles, many of which involve children and young people.

Amelia is now 16. She was diagnosed with autism at the age of seven. For the past nine years, her mum, Anna, and her family have been trying to get help and support, and they are on their knees with exhaustion. Amelia has attempted to take her own life several times, and has been so let down by the system that she says that she just does not trust it anymore. It feels to her that she only gets any kind of support when there is an absolute crisis. I believe that, if she had got the support that she needed a long time ago, she and her family would be in a much better place today.

Eli is 10. He has been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. He has various tics affecting his eyes, face, neck, back, hands and feet. He is a fantastic young man, but he is regularly in pain, which affects his ability to cope with days at school and has a huge effect on his mental health. Until recently, he was told that he just had conjunctivitis. His mum, Natalie, told me that she has struggled to find the psychiatric support Eli needs, and every time she calls CAMHS she is passed from person to person. She has been told that there are no NICE guidelines on Tourette’s and the best they have been offered to date has been worry management.

Those are just two examples, but they reflect a much bigger problem across society and in all our communities. I have meetings regularly with teachers across Batley and Spen, but we spend far more time discussing the mental health needs of their pupils and their families than we do the many other challenges faced in education—another sector that is underfunded and under-resourced. We cannot keep pushing this issue back on schools. Teachers do an amazing job, but we cannot expect them to take on responsibility for what is a widespread societal health issue because of more than a decade of lack of focus and national leadership on mental health.

It is not just teachers. Because we do not have the mental health experts and provision that we need in the places where we need them, it falls to others in the community to pick up the pieces. In Batley and Spen, I am incredibly proud of the many voluntary organisations, sports clubs and charities that do a magnificent job week in and week out under huge pressure. I pay tribute to groups such as Andy’s Man Club, Game Changerz, Blue Tulips, Team Daniel and Luke’s Lads, but the voluntary sector is propping up the NHS and society as a whole. That is not sustainable and it is simply not right. We would not expect teachers, sports coaches, voluntary groups and others to deal with a burst appendix, a broken leg or an ear infection, so why are we asking them to deal with the mental health crisis? They are, of course, part of a wider, holistic solution, but they should not be the only solution. That is not the parity of esteem between mental health and physical health that David Cameron spoke of. While I am hugely optimistic about the excellent plans Labour has to address the mental health crisis, people such as Natalie, Eli, Anna and Amelia cannot wait any longer, which is why today’s debate is so important.

14:11
Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con)
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As a now non-practising former consultant psychiatrist, I have a host of declarations I should make in terms of speaking in this debate. For the sake of brevity, I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and my declarations as part of my work on the pre-legislative scrutiny Joint Committee, which list them in full.

This is an important debate and I shall focus on two angles. One is the delivery of mental health care and treatment and the other is the framework for that. I want to celebrate today the rebuild of the Abraham Cowley unit in my constituency. It gets rid of the awful dormitories that have plagued mental health care and treatment for some time. They are now gone, and we will have a brand new, rebuilt mental hospital. In fact, tomorrow, I am going to the topping out ceremony on the site to see the progress in delivering that. It will make a huge difference to the delivery of mental health care.

I used to work as an in-patient consultant psychiatrist. When people come into hospital for in-patient psychiatric treatment, it is often at the most difficult times of their lives. It is critically important that our mental health estate is fit for purpose and is a therapeutic environment. For too long, the mental health hospital estate has been the second cousin to acute physical health care and I am delighted that we are driving change forward in my patch. If people need in-patient care and treatment, they will get it in a new hospital that is fit for purpose. I just want to celebrate that and thank everyone who has been involved in getting it over the line, as well as all the people who work in that sector, including those who are looking after the patients who would have been in the old hospital, which is now a building site, and going through a stressful period of transition while the new hospital is set up.

My second point is about the draft Mental Health Bill. A few years ago, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), the former Prime Minister, suggested that we should review the legal framework we use when we treat people who are unable to consent or do not consent to treatment. Around every 20 years or so, we go through this process. We should be proud as a country that we have always been at the forefront of driving forward legislation and legal frameworks for dealing with people who cannot consent to treatment, the law of best interests and capacity. I was fortunate to be a panel member of the Simon Wessely review. I did that as part of my previous academic life, so Members can imagine my pride and delight in being part of the pre-legislative scrutiny Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill.

I am slightly saddened by the debate today, because mental health—especially the frameworks we use to treat people who are severely unwell—needs to be above party politics. We are discussing the most invasive thing we do in medicine—detaining and treating people in hospital, sometimes for a substantial time. We need to think carefully about the right balance between choice, freedom and autonomy and making sure that people get the care that they need at the right time and under the right framework. I am glad that the Government have done pre-legislative scrutiny and we have worked on a cross-party basis to get this issue over the line. I hope that we will see the mental health Bill very soon.

My final point is about psychosis. The Government’s amendment mentions the treatment of psychosis, which I know is often missed out in these debates and when people talk about mental health. Psychosis is one of the most disabling mental disorders and far and away the most costly and impactful, because it can affect people when they are quite young—

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford
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It is incredibly helpful to have my hon. Friend’s detailed experience in this debate. Why does psychosis get missed out?

Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Spencer
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It is simply because of advocacy; the conditions debated tend to be mental health conditions for which people can advocate. We talk a lot about dementia, and the children of those suffering tend to advocate for them. For CAMHS, it is the parents who advocate. For common mental disorder, people are able to advocate for themselves, but psychosis can be—I do not want to make a broad generalisation—disabling and isolating, and can limit people’s ability to advocate for themselves. From my research, I know that psychosis can break down family relations and alienate people. I am nervous about broad generalisations, and for the most part people can get better and do very well, but in some cases psychosis can be very disabling and limit advocacy.

14:18
Daisy Cooper Portrait Daisy Cooper (St Albans) (LD)
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I welcome this debate because, like every other Member, my inbox is often full of cries for help from people who are suffering mental ill health or from family and friends trying to help them. Looking through recent cases I have had in St Albans, I see a litany of problems with the system. Many constituents have told me that they have had to wait for more than a year for diagnosis. Some have needed an urgent medication review. One parent told me they feared for their and their child’s safety while the child was on a particular medication. They sought an urgent medication review, had an urgent referral from their GP, but the matter then sat with the psychiatrist for weeks and weeks. They were terrified during that time, waiting for a decision.

Other constituents have told me of their relief when they finally secured a mental health care package, only to find that it takes many weeks or months before the package can be put in place in practice. Those who have mental ill health and are also neurodiverse or have learning difficulties have told me about the hoops that they have to jump through. In some cases they have been told, “We can offer you mental health support, but it is not tailored or suitable for you because of your neurodiversity or your learning difficulties.” I have heard about the frustration that those individuals feel because those services are not tailored to them as a person.

Then we have the emergency A&E admissions. Again, just a couple of weeks ago, I had a parent email me in total desperation from a hospital corridor because one of their children had attempted suicide and had been rushed to A&E. They were not safe to be left unsupervised, but they were supervised by somebody who was inappropriate to supervise them. The family were desperate to get their child to a safe place, but that did not happen for days and days—it was only with my intervention that it happened. As I am sure many Members know, it is really pleasing to be able to make a difference in those cases, but it is worrying to think about all those families who have not got in contact—others out there who are struggling alone.

There are real problems with A&E pathways and with children’s mental health services. I hope that the Government will focus on those areas, but from speaking to my local mental health trust and hearing about the pressures that it is facing, is it really any wonder that we are having these issues? There were warnings at the start of the pandemic of an explosion of mental ill health, and I believe that the Government could have done a lot more to get ahead of that problem. For example, my local mental health trust has told me that there is not only an increased number of people looking for help but higher acuity. Therefore, instead of having a 2:1 staff-patient ratio, it often has to be 3:1. So even with the same staff headcount, there is less staff time for more people seeking help.

Those who work for the trust tell me of their frustration that the waiting lists are getting too long. They accept that medication reviews are often delayed because of staffing and resourcing issues, and there are huge pressures on the trust’s budget. Not only is there the demand; there is the cost of out-of-area placements, having to pay for private beds where none are available in the NHS, and paying for agency staff to cover vacancies that are not filled. Our mental health trust in Hertfordshire is the smallest bedded mental health trust in the country. We have huge ambition to open a new bed unit in the west part of the county, but we need the Government and the NHS to get behind that ambition.

So what do we need to see? We need to see prevention, and we need to see it early. Research from New Zealand, which is often cited here in the UK, indicates that three in four people with mental health problems show symptoms before the age of 25. That reinforces the need for prevention and the need to see it early, so I would like there to be a qualified practitioner in every single school. We need mental health community hubs in every community. We need to empower the charity sector—a sector that has barely been mentioned today. In St Albans, we have Time To Talk, Youth Talk and the OLLIE Foundation, which are all fantastic mental health charities that are working on tiny budgets. In Hertfordshire, we need support for mental health beds and, of course, we need to tackle the workforce problem. Until the Government publish their workforce plan, the lack of a workforce remains the biggest risk to service delivery in mental health in every single part of the country. I urge the Government to take action on those points.

14:23
Miriam Cates Portrait Miriam Cates (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Con)
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It is well reported that mental health difficulties have become both more prevalent and more talked about in recent years. Lockdown has certainly had a detrimental impact on the mental health of the nation, which is completely unsurprising. Isolation and loneliness are significant contributors to poor mental health. We have also had the economic consequences of inflation putting pressure on people’s personal finances, and the consequences of the NHS backlogs that have been referred to in this debate, but I particularly want to focus on children’s mental health.

As has already been mentioned by other hon. Members, we have had a rise in diagnosable mental health conditions among children since before lockdown. We have gone from about one in nine children having potentially diagnosable mental health conditions to one in six. I am sure we have all had cases in our constituencies—tragic stories of children who no longer leave home because they are too anxious, who are not able to go to school. We have seen a rise in the number of ghost children, many of whom are not turning up at school because of anxiety and mental health issues.

The Opposition have talked a lot about all the money that needs to be spent. The Government are spending money, boosting mental health spending by at least £2.3 billion by 2024. The motion calls for improved outcomes for people with mental health needs. We all want that, but prevention is better than cure, and it is simply not sufficient to call for ever more money to expand remedial capacity without addressing the root cause of the problem. It is a bit like having a leaky roof and calling for ever larger buckets to catch the drips: we need to fix the roof. Many will cite poverty, poor housing and not enough youth services as the causes. All are contributing factors, I have no doubt, but there are two less well understood, less talked about, and potentially more significant factors contributing to poor child mental health.

The first, which has been mentioned already, is the clear correlation between the rise of smartphones and social media and deteriorating mental health in young people. The extent of online harms cannot be overstated. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) mentioned pornography. Violent pornography is now routinely encountered by children on the internet, with 1.3 million visits a month by UK children to adult sites. There is also eating disorder and suicide content—again, as my right hon. Friend so articulately mentioned —and child sexual abuse material and exploitation. Anxiety issues are compounded by social media platforms. Children stay up all night waiting for likes on their social media profiles. There is clearly a relationship between more time spent on screens and less outdoor activity, which is another good indicator for poor mental health.

There seems to be a relationship between children spending more hours on social media and worse mental health. The Online Safety Bill, which is going through the other place at the moment, will deal with some of those issues, but I urge Ministers to encourage their colleagues in Government to accept some of the amendments that their lordships have tabled to strengthen the age verification provisions, to make it absolutely watertight that children cannot access some of the worst of those harms. However, we urgently need some proper research into whether it is safe for teens to have smartphones or to go on social media at all. Some have said that their smartphones are as addictive as cigarettes—that they are the opiate trade of the 21st century. I applaud the campaign group UsforThem and its “Safe Screens for Teens” campaign, which is calling for proper research into the health impact of smartphones on teens and whether, like tobacco and alcohol, it is necessary for there to be a legal age limit for accessing some of these platforms, or indeed having a smartphone at all.

A second, under-discussed contributing factor to poor child mental health is family breakdown. We are not talking about a small number of children affected: the UK has the highest rate of family breakdown in the OECD and in the western world. Some 44% of our children will not spend their childhood living with both of their biological parents. There is not enough recent data on this issue, but Office for National Statistics studies from 2010 suggest that back then, 3 million children did not live with their father and 1 million had no meaningful contact with their father. Given those figures, a mental health crisis among children and young people is absolutely no surprise.

Of course, family breakdown leads to other factors that contribute to poor mental health, such as poverty and low income. Some 80% of single-parent households are on universal credit, I think. That is no surprise at all, as there is only one adult in the house to fulfil all the roles and responsibilities of a parent. It puts pressure on housing costs, as one adult is supporting the household—of course there are going to be pressures on housing costs. Single parents are absolute heroes, and I take my hat off to them. Being a parent is an incredibly difficult job when there are two adults in the house. Single parents are heroes, but few would say that it is an ideal situation.

Family breakdown is far worse for the poor, which of course is closely linked to marriage rates. Married relationships are statistically less likely to break down than cohabiting ones, and marriage rates have remained very high in high-income groups, but have collapsed in low-income groups.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. The hon. Lady has exceeded her time.

14:28
Lyn Brown Portrait Ms Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab)
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Can I tell Members on the Government Benches a little bit about the mental health crisis in Newham? We have a rocketing population that is young, with no commitment from this Government that health funding will rise to match it. We have almost 41,000 children living in poverty. We have the highest proportion in the country of people living in damp, mouldy, overcrowded temporary accommodation. All of these people have no sense of security in their home at all: they do not know when their local ties will be shattered yet again by a forced move.

As we know, all of this impacts on mental health, and particularly on the mental health of children. I see that constantly in my casework, and local health leaders tell me exactly the same thing. It can hardly be a surprise to the Government that the number of young people being referred to mental health services is 30% up in Newham alone. Cases are increasingly more complex, more urgent and more in danger of spiralling into deep crisis.

Newham is the most diverse borough in the country, with the second highest rate of GP registrations by migrants. Our diversity has massive benefits, and I love it, but it requires clinicians to adapt their way of caring for people with different cultural backgrounds and languages. Despite all that, Newham’s mental health spend is the lowest in London. With all those challenges, our clinicians and our health leaders are obviously struggling to meet their targets. Average waits in Newham between referral, assessment and treatment were at 12 weeks in 2021. Some patients are waiting for as long as a year, and that is after they have had a referral, which as we know is terribly difficult to access.

Our local mental health unit, which deals with only the most severe needs, is at 98% occupancy—far in excess of the clinical standard. Quality of care and patient care and safety are suffering. There is a dire shortage of specialist mental health beds for our older adults. We have older people waiting for long periods on utterly inappropriate wards and in beds that are no doubt sorely needed for those waiting for other hospital treatments. Many patients with mental health crises are waiting in emergency departments for more than 12 hours, and local health leaders are worried that those numbers will increase. Our mental health services are struggling even to react to some of the most dire situations, let alone being able to offer proactive support that prevents mental illnesses getting worse.

We are creating even more problems—greater problems for the future, greater costs for the Government, greater costs for the NHS, more antisocial behaviour, more homelessness and rough sleeping, and massive wasted economic and social potential. People’s lives are being devastated by treatable ill health and completely avoidable misery. If we are not sitting in this place to avoid that, why are we here?

Labour’s plan to transform mental health treatment is desperately needed in Newham, along with thousands more mental health staff and professionals in every school and accessible mental health hubs in every community. We sorely need a preventive approach so that we can bring this crisis to an end, and we need it now. Can I use my last 30 seconds to look at the Minister and ask whether she will meet me and my health providers and health leaders in Newham to talk about the massive underfunding that our borough and my community face?

14:33
Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)
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It is with some trepidation that I rise to speak in this debate, given the expertise and experience we have heard from all parts of the Chamber so far. I draw particular attention to the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Dr Spencer), who is no longer in his place but who shared his personal expertise as a clinician, and my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Dean Russell), who kicked off the Back-Bench speeches from the Government Benches. He made a well-constructed speech that spoke to his expertise in campaigning for mental health so assiduously in this place. I pay tribute to everyone on both sides of the Chamber who has brought forward their own personal experience, their family experiences and their constituency experiences of mental health.

I will not reiterate everything that the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Watford said, but the parity of esteem we are working towards in this country is vital, as are the record investment of £2.3 billion that this Government have put into mental health and the extra doctors and nurses who will support people. Most of all, it is about reducing stigma in mental health. It is not unfortunate that we are doing so, but it does create more demand.

The shadow Minister said that the causes of poor mental health were complex, and they are, but she then went on to basically try to lay it all at the door of the Government. That is not remotely fair or accurate, because the statistics are complex too. We should welcome more demand from people who were previously undiagnosed, and we should recognise, as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates) did a moment ago, that there have been societal changes, particularly with social media, which I referred to in my intervention.

At the very youngest ages, we are seeing an explosion in autism cases. I speak to the excellent Peter Pan Centre in my constituency, which deals with pre-school children with some of the most severe forms of autism, including those who are non-verbal. Next door is the excellent Merryfields special school, where a number of them end up going. Increasingly, those organisations are saying that the majority of their pupils are those with autism or autism spectrum disorder, and that simply was not the case 10 years ago. Again, that is probably because of better diagnosis—we do not fully understand the explosion in autism—but we must not assume that everything is to do with money being spent on things; it is to do with better understanding of mental health, more awareness and less stigma.

The pandemic affected the mental health of the entire nation, and I recognise that that has put a lot of pressure on young people in schools and universities, which I will talk briefly about as the Member who represents Keele University. On schools, I speak frequently with my heads and with parents who come to me trying to get statements for their kids. As we get a greater understanding of neurodiversity, there is obviously a real interaction between special educational needs and poor mental health. I was speaking to my county council yesterday, and the big issue is the availability of educational psychologists. My county council, Staffordshire, is doing a great job of training more of them itself, but that is a problem across the country, and we need to address it so that we can get children the help that they need with their education and their mental health earlier.

We have heard about the Department for Education funding and the training of senior mental health leads, with 400 already supporting more than 3 million children. There will be up to 500 next year, and more than 60% of state secondaries have a mental health lead. I want to see that get to 100% as soon as possible.

In my final couple of minutes, I will speak a little about universities, as the Member who represents Keele, which has 12,500 students. I am pleased that Keele has, as many universities do, a professional counselling and mental health team to support its students. More generally, the Higher Education Statistics Agency collects data from students on any disability that they have, including mental health conditions. In 2021-22, 416,000 UK students said they had a disability of some kind—that is 19% of UK students—and within that, 119,500 said they had a mental health condition, which is 5.5% of all UK students. That number is three and a half times higher than it was in 2014-15. Higher rates are found among women, undergraduates, full-time students and those in their second or later years. There is an issue here that we have to address, and I am pleased that the Government are doing so.

The covid pandemic fell heavily on students at university, particularly during the lockdowns and associated restrictions. At the height of the pandemic, many students, including those at Keele, struggled with the measures employed to prevent the spread of covid, particularly in university settings. Some had to socially isolate regularly and could not go home to see their parents. They were essentially locked in their room with nobody else there for a long time. Nightline, which co-ordinates student-run listening and information services, reported in November 2022 that it had recorded a 51% increase in calls in 2020-21. Numbers for the next year were 30% higher than that, which indicates that the pandemic has had a continuing effect on universities. I welcome that the Department for Education has asked the Office for Students to distribute £15 million for transition into university.

I am pleased with everything that the Minister said about what we are doing, and I end on the point that there is less stigma, which is a good thing, and if there are more people coming forward, that is a good thing too.

14:38
Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
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As we have heard from colleagues from all parts of the Chamber, we are in a mental health crisis. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly endemic. I pay tribute to the work of our offices, including my own team, who regularly deal with critical cases of mental ill health, including suicide calls, for which we have had to put on special training. That was happening before the pandemic too, and we need to recognise that.

Recent figures show that seven out of 10 secondary school children are expressing mental health distress. That should worry us. It has already been mentioned, but we know that there are risk factors and risk conditions that can contribute to the onset of a mental health problem. I will speak about the importance of early intervention a little later.

Oldham has the 37th highest prevalence of mental health disorders in the country. That puts it in the highest 20% in the UK; for reference, the Prime Minister’s constituency is in the lowest 6%. On the other side of the coin to this higher prevalence is our reduced funding. Research from the Children’s Commissioner found that child and adolescent mental health services in Oldham received over £100 less in spending per child from the Government than those on the Isle of Wight. Similarly, in 2019 The Guardian reported that London had nearly double the number of psychiatrists in the north of England. As I have mentioned, it is true that things have got worse since the pandemic, but that is not just a consequence of the pandemic.

I want to focus on what needs to happen, because we need a serious plan, and I am not from the Minister’s speech that the Government recognise that. The Opposition want to recruit thousands of new mental health professionals, which will go some way to addressing the lack of parity of esteem between mental and physical health services. That needs to be reflected in the Government’s NHS workforce plan. We have waited ages for the Government to produce that and it makes the partygate report look quite prompt. As the Government sit on their hands and fail to produce a plan, the crisis continues to get worse. That is why we will commit to the biggest expansion of the NHS workforce in history. We must also look at the metrics we use. For example, we would guarantee treatment within a month. That would make such a big difference to all those people stuck on what feel like endless waiting lists in Oldham, Saddleworth and across the country.

Finally, I am pleased to see our party committing to a paradigm shift from the medical to the social model of health, focusing on prevention in communities as well as treatment. The Leader of the Opposition has committed himself to that in Labour’s health mission, and we have also pledged that there will be a mental health hub in every community. We will go further than that: our commitment to addressing the rampant health inequalities across our country includes tackling the inequity in mental health. As we develop national policy from education to transport and finance, we will consider the impacts on health and health inequalities, including mental health. This is the difference a Labour Government will make. The next Labour Government have a plan that is both radical and credible, and for my constituency and for our country, it is long overdue.

David Davis Portrait Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con)
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will be well aware, because you have chaired many of the debates, that there has been a campaign in this House for over a year to stop SLAPPs—strategic lawsuits against public participation—which are used by very rich men to oppress free speech in this country. Just in the last hour or so, the High Court has ruled one of those SLAPPs cases out of order: the case of Mr Mohamed Amersi against the ex-Member of this House Charlotte Leslie has been struck down. In my view, that is a great victory for free speech. Because it is so important, I give notice that I will be raising the matter on the Adjournment.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. It of course needs no comment from the Chair, except to say that I think the whole House will agree with him that this is a good judgment and an important step forward. I do indeed recall chairing many debates on the matter, and I am sure the whole House will look forward to his raising it on the Adjournment. We will recommence the debate with Danny Kruger.

14:43
Danny Kruger Portrait Danny Kruger (Devizes) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), who is a great champion of this cause. I am very proud to work with her on the all-party parliamentary group for prescribed drug dependence, which, after this debate, I am going to ask her to co-chair with me.

I want to call the House’s attention and that of Hansard to the speech made by the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle). The distressing and powerful story he told of a constituent of his will remain with me as a terrible example of the state of so many of our constituents and of mental health services that do not work properly.

I welcome this debate, and I am afraid to say that I do recognise many of the descriptions given by Members on both sides. I want to call attention to the excellent services provided in my constituency of Devizes by the Green Lane Hospital, a mental health hospital that has been there for many years. However, even there we have many cases of constituents feeling that they have been let down and of genuine difficulty in accessing the services that are needed in time. Despite the good efforts made from the top of the system to the bottom, we simply are not doing well enough, so I welcome the debate, and I recognise the general point being made.

Of course, I agree with the argument put forward by the Opposition that we need more mental health services. The question is what those services should be, how they are organised and, indeed, whether we should use services as the frame for this whole debate. I wonder whether the term “services and relationships” would be more appropriate, and Members have mentioned the primacy of relationships. The fact is that we do not fully understand all the neurological origins of mental health conditions, but we do know that they are exacerbated by social circumstances, and that while medical treatment can help, what really helps is good relationships.

I know this from my own experience. For many years, I ran a project working in prisons and with ex-offenders, and we saw so clearly that, while of course the official and the essential responsibility for crime and criminality rests with the individual, it is usually relationships and relational skills or the lack of them that lead somebody into crime and into prison, and it is relationships and relational capacity and skills that help people to get out of an offending lifestyle. We also know this very well from all the evidence in studies of addiction, which is very closely correlated to mental health.

What do we do? There is consensus that we need more services and better services, but my concern is that we will end up focusing the system’s efforts on quantifiable measures or quantifiable inputs—most of all, the prescription of pills and pharmaceutical treatments—so we will end up medicalising mental health, just as we medicalise so much physical health. I chair the APPG on prescribed drug dependence, as I have mentioned. The research that the APPG has supported, particularly by Dr James Davies of Oxford University, shows that a fifth of adults are on antidepressants, many of them because they cannot get off these pills, even though they are only supposed to be prescribed for a certain time. We spend £500 million a year on prescriptions for medication that people should not be on, according to the guidance for those pills.

I worry about the trend towards the medicalisation of mental health, and I particularly worry about the Government’s major conditions strategy, which I welcome. We cannot have a focus just on pharmaceuticals; we have to make it much wider. It should not just be about services, but about the relationships that support good mental health. I am pleased there is a strategy on mental health and there does need to be top-down action, but I would like it also to focus on undoing this over-medicalised model. We need more training for GPs to understand the social relationships at the heart of mental health, including how to support people who have acute conditions. We need more funding for social prescribing—that has been mentioned—which is a tremendous initiative. We need support for withdrawal services and a helpline for people who are addicted to prescribed drugs.

Overall, however, we need a bottom-up approach. I respect Labour’s plan for more access hubs for mental health, more school mental health workers and more staff, but really we need system reform. The hon. Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) mentioned the community mental health approach, and I like that phrase, but I think it includes much more than just more hubs and more staff. We need a whole system reform that prioritises the civil society organisations, families and community groups that have such a powerful role to play in supporting people with mental health.

Lastly, I draw attention to the new developing model called outcomes partnerships, whereby the public sector pays for results—not for inputs and not even for outputs, but for actual demonstrable improvement, whether it is in healthcare or mental health. It brings together all the different providers from civil society, the public sector and, indeed, businesses—we have mentioned the importance of workplace training—so that we get all the different players involved in a person’s life, and so that the funding is more local and can be used on the preventive agenda, which is so important. Rather than just trying to pour more money into the top of the NHS and thinking that is going to work, we need to fund it from the bottom up.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. I need to reduce the time limit to four minutes with immediate effect.

14:48
Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)
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I want to highlight the crisis faced by families dealing with mental health issues, particularly those with children.

The crisis has been brought to my attention by many constituents over the time I have been an MP, but today I would like to raise the issue of my constituent Stephanie, whose son is autistic, non-verbal, and has complex developmental and communication delays. Stephanie knew that her son needed an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis from an early age, but was told that he could not be diagnosed until he was seven. When her son did receive a diagnosis, Stephanie was told by the doctor that it was obvious how much he was struggling to cope with his life due to his ADHD. He is suffering from elevated levels of distress and unable to sleep through the night due to his inability to sit still for long.

Sadly, Stephanie was informed that there would be an 18 to 24-month wait for the community service MindMate to sign off the diagnosis and to be referred to child and adolescent mental health services, along with the medication plan. The CAMHS wait would mean a further 18 to 24 months to receive medication, so if they hit the longest waiting times at both services, her son would have been told that he needed medication at the age of seven and only receive his prescription at 11. Long wait times for diagnosis and medication mean that families across the country are turning for help to charities and support groups such as ZigZag, a Leeds autism support group based in my constituency that offers essential advice and support to thousands of families across Leeds. Stephanie has expressed her concerns and garnered support from other families with similar experiences.

The situation is at crisis point and requires immediate attention from the Government. We cannot ignore the struggles faced by families across the country dealing with the complexities of mental health issues. It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens have access to prompt and proper care. Those issues are just the start. For instance, Leeds University reports that it has seen an about 60% increase in demand for mental health services and that the issues are a lot more complex than they were before covid. It says that many students are arriving at university with anxiety and mental health issues as the support they needed in their formative years was simply not available. Huge pressure is being built up, like a dam that is going to burst.

Adult ADHD services in Leeds currently have 3,300 people on their diagnostic waiting list—that does not include all the people who cannot be bothered to see their GP because of the length of the waiting list—and they are receiving more than 170 referrals a month, which far exceeds their capacity. The waiting list is currently upwards of three years, with an added wait for medication after having received a diagnosis. Similarly, the adult autism diagnostic service in Leeds currently receives more than 100 referrals a month, but it has the resources to complete only 40 assessments a month.

The current situation is completely unacceptable. We need the Government to create a more effective and efficient mental health care system that is responsive to the needs of communities. We cannot continue to let down families like Stephanie’s at every turn. It is crucial that we invest in the mental health sector and prioritise the wellbeing of all our young people.

14:51