IN PARLIAMENT: Blasphemy laws in Pakistan / Affordable Housing / Children with mental health problems / NHS workforce

Steve Reed Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Civil Society):

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the effect of blasphemy laws on religious minorities in Pakistan.

Mark Field Minister of State: We remain deeply concerned by the misuse of the blasphemy laws and the treatment of minority religious communities in Pakistan. The blasphemy laws are used against people of all faiths although minority communities are disproportionately affected. This is particularly concerning given the harsh penalties for blasphemy, including the death penalty.

We regularly raise our concerns about the protection of minority communities and misuse of the blasphemy laws with the Government of Pakistan at a senior level, most recently during my visit to Pakistan in November 2017


Helen Hayes Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood:

The previous Conservative Mayor of London set up the London housing bank, a loan scheme so restrictive that housing providers could not borrow from it. Will the Secretary of State explain why, instead of responding to requests from the current Mayor of London over the past 18 months to remove some of the restrictions on this scheme to enable much-needed affordable homes to be built, he has decided to withdraw the funding for affordable homes altogether? Will he also explain how it is that the first the Mayor’s office heard of this was via an article in The Huffington Post?

Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government: We all want more affordable homes, including of course in our capital city, and that is why over £3 billion was given to London for affordable housing in the spring Budget. It was the biggest ever settlement, and it was welcomed by the Mayor. Yet despite that, we have seen a fall in affordable housing delivery under Sadiq Khan. That is not acceptable: he needs to do much better.


Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effect on delays to court proceedings of the increase in the number of litigants in person during the last five years.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what estimate his Department has made of the costs to the public purse arising from changes in the number of litigants in person in the last two years.

Lucy Frazer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice: As the Government announced in October 2017, we are undertaking a review of the legal aid changes made as a result of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. The review is expected to conclude by summer recess 2018.

Unrepresented parties have always been a feature of the civil and family justice system. Since 2015, the Government has invested £5 million of funding to support litigants in person through a range of measures designed to provide additional information, support and guidance.


Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

The Care Quality Commission’s review found that children were waiting up to 18 months to receive treatment for their mental health conditions. In Lewisham, the Government are cutting the budget for child and adolescent mental health services by 5%. The Green Paper will not help children currently waiting. What will the Government do to address this?

Steve Brine The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care: We will put the money in, publish a sensible strategy in a Green Paper, consider the responses and then take it forward, backed by the investment we think we need to deliver the strategy. That will be the same in Lewisham as in Winchester.

(Note: Green Papers are consultation documents produced by the Government. The aim of this document is to allow people both inside and outside Parliament to  give the department feedback on its policy or legislative proposals.Mr Brine is MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford – Ed.)Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

Mental health issues affect one in 10 children, who on average have to see their GP three times before a referral, with many waiting up to 18 months for treatment. I acknowledge the Green Paper on this issue, but at a time when national funding in this area is being constantly cut, including a five per cent reduction in funding to Lewisham child and adolescent mental health services, is this not another example of the Government saying one thing but doing another with our NHS?

Theresa May The Prime Minister: The Government are putting more funding into mental health provision. We have already committed to making available an additional £1.4 billion to improve children and young people’s mental health services, and we have committed that, by 2020-21, 70,000 more children and young people each year will have access to high-quality NHS mental health care. The hon. Lady rightly raises mental health as an important issue for us to deal with, and particularly the mental health of children and young people, but across the board we need to give more attention to mental health. We are putting money into it, and we are clear that we want to see parity of esteem between mental health and physical health in the national health service. That is something the Labour party in 13 years of government failed to do.


Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

The NHS is now short of 100,000 staff because of the Government’s neglect of the NHS workforce. When the Government scrapped the nursing bursary, they said that that would lead to the training of more nurses, but UCAS data shows that since then the number of applications has fallen by 15,000. Will the Government now commit themselves to reintroducing the bursary?

Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Health and Social Care: What the hon. Lady chose not to tell the House was that since the time of the last Labour Government, we now have 5,500 more nurses and 15,000 more doctors in the NHS, and there has been a 9 pc rise in NHS funding. [Interruption.] I hear the shadow Secretary of State talking about vacancies from a sedentary position. I hope that he will also welcome the 25pc increase in the number of doctors and nurses whom we are training precisely so that we can fill those vacancies. (Source:TheyWorkForYou)


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