The Telegraph 2024-03-21 01:00:36


Mental health culture has gone too far, says Mel Stride

Britain’s approach to mental health is in danger of having “gone too far” and “normal anxieties of life” are being labelled as an illness, the Work and Pensions Secretary has warned…

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Government suffers clean sweep of seven Rwanda defeats in House of Lords

Rwanda flights are set to be delayed as the Lords inflicted a series of heavy defeats on Rishi Sunak’s landmark legislation, pushing back the passage of his Bill until after Easter.

Peers refused to pass the legislation and voted by majorities of between 30 and 55 to reinstate seven amendments to the legislation. It will now have to be considered again by MPs when they return from their Easter recess on April 15. The Commons had rejected all 10 of the Lords’ previous amendments on Monday.

The delay of nearly a month in the legislation is likely to push back the first deportation flights from May into June although the Government insisted last night the plan remained “on track”. Ministers still hope to get the first flights off this spring, which technically ends on June 20.

Last night, James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, attacked Labour for trying to delay the Bill and called for an “end to the talking” so the lives of migrants could be saved. 

“While Labour and their allies try anything to delay, disrupt or destroy that plan, people are risking their lives in the hands of people who don’t care if they die as long as they pay. The talking needs to end so we can get on with the job of saving lives and stopping the boats,” he said.

The Bill is central to the Prime Minister’s pledge to stop the boats and his electoral fortunes by getting the first deportation flights off to Rwanda after almost two years’ delay from legal challenges. 

The Home Office has identified 150 migrants for the first two deportation flights who will be handed their deportation notices within days of the Bill gaining royal assent. They could be flown to Rwanda in six to 10 weeks following the appeals process required by law. Ministers are aiming to deport 5,000 in the first year.

Frustration

Tory MPs voiced frustration at the delay on Wednesday night. One senior backbencher said: “The Prime Minister called this emergency legislation almost four months ago. If this is what emergency legislation looks like, I’d hate to think what business as usual is.

“If the Government was serious it would keep the Lords up through the night and do continuous round upon round of ping pong. Going slow is a disgrace when the situation in the Channel is so bad.”

Another former minister said: “The Bill is now programmed to come back to us and be done and dusted by the end of the first week back after Easter. But I am surprised the Government didn’t quicken the pace to get it through before the Easter recess.”

One Tory critic of the Prime Minister suggested it was a deliberate tactic as Mr Sunak would not want his Rwanda policy to be seen to be failing in May at a time of maximum danger for his leadership following the local elections.

The Lords’ defeats provide the biggest confrontation between the Upper House and Commons since Mr Sunak became Prime Minister. Only one Tory peer rebelled – Lord Clarke, the former chancellor – but the Government failed to get enough of its peers out to beat off Labour, Lib Dem and crossbench lords.

It came as 450 migrants crossed the Channel on Wednesday, the highest number so far this year. It took the total this year to almost 4,000, similar to last year’s total at the same point.

Government sources indicated that ministers will resist the Lords’ proposed changes to the Bill after branding them “wrecking” amendments.

“The Government still believes the Bill is in the place it needs to be,” said a source. “Any amendments that delay, disrupt or sabotage the Bill are not going to fly and we want to fly.”

Bill is ‘on track’ for Royal Assent

A No 10 source said: “We’re very much on track with the timetable for Royal Assent and therefore delivery regardless of whether it wraps up before or after Easter.”

One set of amendments reinstated a requirement for the Bill to have “due regard” for international law and restored the jurisdiction of domestic courts and their ability to take into account the safety of Rwanda. 

A second set required Rwanda to be independently shown to be safe before flights can take off. A third set added protections for victims of modern slavery, children in disputed age cases and exempted Afghans who worked with the British from deportation to Rwanda.

Lord Coaker, Labour’s frontbench spokesman on home affairs, accused the Government of flouting constitutional convention in rejecting “carte blanche” changes made by the Lords to the Rwanda Bill.

He said the Government was in “chaos” and “shambles” over the handling of its Rwanda policy after ditching plans to bring the Bill back next week instead of delaying it until after Easter. “That’s not our fault it’s coming back after Easter, it’s the Government’s own management of its own timetable,” he said.

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Three London Clinic staff members under investigation after Princess of Wales security breach

Three members of staff at the private clinic where the Princess of Wales was treated in January are being investigated for allegedly trying to access her medical records, it has been reported.

They face possible prosecution under data protection laws and could even be sued for damages by the Princess if the breach is proven.

On Wednesday, the boss of the London Clinic, which treated both the King and the Princess, said there was “no place” for staff who breached patients’ trust.

Al Russell, chief executive of the medical centre in Marylebone, said “all appropriate disciplinary steps will be taken” against anyone found to have breached patient confidentiality.

The clinic is facing an investigation after referring itself to the watchdog over concerns that an unauthorised attempt was made to view the Princess’s medical records following her abdominal surgery in January.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it had received a report of a breach and was “assessing the information provided”.

The King’s personal data was not compromised during the alleged data breach at the London Clinic.

Charles, who is undergoing treatment for a form of cancer, also spent three nights at the London Clinic during the same month receiving medical care following treatment for an enlarged prostate .

The King and the Princess of Wales were separately discharged from the clinic just hours apart on January 29.

On Wednesday, Downing Street urged the public to “get behind the Princess of Wales” as she continues her recovery, following months of speculation about her health.

Kensington Palace has released few details about the Princess’s treatment during her two-week stay at the clinic, and her absence from the public eye has fostered wild theories online about why she was in hospital, and even whether she is still alive.

As conspiracy theories swirled around the internet, an attempt appears to have been made to access the Princess’s medical notes.

The investigation is understood to be looking at three members of staff, according to ITV News.

Mr Russell said on Wednesday: “Everyone at the London Clinic is acutely aware of our individual, professional, ethical and legal duties with regards to patient confidentiality.

“We take enormous pride in the outstanding care and discretion we aim to deliver for all our patients that put their trust in us every day.

“We have systems in place to monitor management of patient information and, in the case of any breach, all appropriate investigatory, regulatory and disciplinary steps will be taken.

“There is no place at our hospital for those who intentionally breach the trust of any of our patients or colleagues.”

Regulators stress patient confidentiality

The professional bodies that regulate doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners all stressed the strict rules that are in place around patient confidentiality, without saying whether the alleged breach involved any of their members.

A spokesman for the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors, said: “Patients must have confidence that their personal information is protected at all times.

“Our guidance is clear: we expect doctors to make sure any personal information about patients is effectively protected at all times against improper access, disclosure or loss, and they must not access a patient’s personal information unless they have a legitimate reason to view it.”

The Prime Minister’s press secretary said: “As a general point, everyone in public life has a right to privacy when it comes to their private health records. Obviously we don’t comment on royal matters but that point stands.”

The spokesman added: “I think we all want to get behind the Princess of Wales, and indeed the Prince of Wales, and we obviously wish her the speediest of recoveries.”

‘Hefty implications’ for those responsible

Maria Caulfield, the health minister and a former NHS nurse, warned there would be “hefty implications” for anyone who had unlawfully accessed confidential patient records and said the police may be involved.

But a spokesman for Scotland Yard said they were not aware of any referral to the Metropolitan Police and data protection experts said the investigation was likely to be led by the ICO, which prosecutes such matters.

Jon Baines, senior data protection specialist at Mishcon de Reya, said: “Any investigation by the ICO is likely to consider whether a criminal offence might have been committed by an individual or individuals. Section 170 of the Data Protection Act 2018 says that a person commits an offence if they obtain or disclose personal data ‘without the consent of the controller’. 

“Here, the ‘controller’ will be the clinic itself. The ICO themselves have the power to bring prosecutions.”

The maximum sentence for someone convicted of a data protection offence is an unlimited fine and the clinic could also find itself in hot water if it failed to do enough to prevent the data breach taking place.

Mr Baines added: “Individuals, such as – in this case – the Princess of Wales, can also bring claims for compensation under the UK GDPR, and for ‘misuse of private information’, where their data protection and privacy rights have been infringed.”

While the ICO would not be drawn on exactly when the alleged data breach occurred, it is thought it was reported several weeks ago.

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Police accused of parodying JK Rowling with ‘Jo’, who thinks trans people should go to gas chambers

Scottish police have been accused of targeting JK Rowling by inventing a fictional character called “Jo” who thinks that sex is binary and bizarrely calls for transgender people to be sent to gas chambers…

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Esther McVey claims thousands for London rent despite MP husband owning flat one mile away

The minister for common sense has claimed tens of thousands of pounds in Parliamentary expenses for renting a flat in London, despite her husband owning a property a mile away.

Esther McVey, who became a minister again last year and has committed to tackling Whitehall waste, has received financial support for renting a property in the capital that she shares with her husband, fellow Tory MP Philip Davies.

The minister has appeared on official records for the flat in Westminster for the last two years. During this period, she received £39,000. However, it is understood that the couple have been claiming expenses on the property since 2017, which means they could have received as much as £250,000 from the taxpayer.

While the arrangement is not against the rules, questions have been raised about whether the claims represent value for money because Mr Davies owns a flat in Waterloo, which is about a 25-minute walk from the other property and is rented out.

Following the 2009 expenses scandal, rules were changed so that MPs cannot claim mortgage costs back. Therefore, Mr Davies could not claim any mortgage interest on the Waterloo property, even if the couple lived there.

Last night he criticised the rules, saying that the arrangement had been “forced” on him by the body which was set up in the wake of the expenses scandal.

He said that he would have been “happy” to continue claiming mortgage interest on the flat he owns, “but that option was removed from me”.

Political campaign group Led by Donkeys has been examining claims made by several Parliamentarians who receive rent from properties they own, but claim expenses for flats in the capital.

At least another eight MPs have been identified as claiming rent in London while also registering income from renting out their own properties in the city, claiming more than £1 million in rental expenses since 2017.

Ms McVey was first elected as a Conservative MP in 2010. In 2015, she lost her seat in Wirral West, but two years later, became the MP for Tatton. She has held a number of ministerial positions, with Rishi Sunak appointing her Cabinet Office minister in November last year.

Since becoming the minister for common sense, Ms McVey has declared “war” on waste in the public sector, last year writing that the Government did not “want you to see a single penny of your hard-earned cash wasted on unnecessary public spending”.

She married Mr Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, in 2020. According to data released by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which was formed after the expenses scandal, both MPs claim rent for a property in London.

Mr Davies’s name has appeared on official records in relation to the property in Westminster for seven years.

Since Ms McVey was re-elected in 2017, they have both claimed £1,625 a month in rental expenses, with their combined accommodation expenses since 2017 amounting to close to a quarter of a million pounds.

According to the register of interests, Mr Davies has declared an income in excess of £10,000 for a property in London. It is understood that this relates to a flat in Waterloo, which he has owned since 2005.

Ms McVey did not respond to questions. Mr Davies told Led by Donkeys: “If I owned the flat outright and I could stay there without incurring any cost then I would agree that I should do that, but that doesn’t remotely apply in my case.

“As far as I am aware, all workplaces cover the accommodation costs of people working away from home, and I am surprised…[you]…think that should no longer be the case.  

“That, of course, will lead to only the wealthiest people in the country being able to become MPs.”


EXCLUSIVE
The real story of MPs’ expenses


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Investigation launched into King’s Cross Ramadan messages

Rail bosses have launched an investigation into how controversial Ramadan messages were shown on departure boards at King’s Cross station…

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‘Woke’ London is most anti-Semitic city in the West, says Israeli minister

London is the most anti-Semitic place in the West, Israel’s diaspora minister said on Wednesday as he warned about the dangers of open immigration allowing extremism to grow…

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