Monday, February 27, 2012


Blood test this morning at 08.40, followed by appointment with Dr L in Haematology Outpatients. Platelets slightly up at 532 compared with 526 last time, Neutrophils a bit better at 1.73, but no change in the Hydroxycarbamide medication is recommended, Dr L handed us a list of things to look out for and to be reported to the 24-hour chemotherapy advice service. Patients are supposed to have a 'Chemotherapy Alert Card, the first we had heard of this.

Dr L said he would remind Dr Harrison at St Thomas's, who is following up 24 patients with the C-MPL W515L from the May 2008 study published in the journal Blood, that she was going to see me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Emlyn Hooson

it was sad to learn of Emlyn Hooson's death this morning, and I have been thinking of him not only as a great figure in the politics of Wales and the UK, but as a great personal friend over half a century. One of the first engagements I undertook after my own by-election was to speak at Emlyn's by-election in Llanidloes, and we were close allies in the successful campaign to revive the Liberal Party in the sixties, We holidayed together in Brittany, where we spoke for devolution in the French political system, and Emlyn taught me the few sentences of Welsh that I have used whenever I have spoken in Wales. For years he was a brilliant performer in the Lords, and there he always spoke up for Wales. It is a privilege to have been a companion of Emlyn, one of the finest and truest Liberals of our generation.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Week in Parliament

Monday, my question about the drafting of the new constitution and progress towards a new electoral register,needed before the deadline of the elections in June 2013 []. By that time Mugabe will be 89 and it is becoming increasingly unrealistic for Zanu PF to say that he will be their Presidential candidate. That's why there is a faction within the party that wants elections by the end of 2012, even though many of the provisions of the Global Political Agreement remain unfulfilled. Free political activity, freedom of assembly, the rule of law, and impartiality of state institutions, for instance, are all absent, and it remains to be seen whether SADC, as the guarantors of the GPA, will step up the pressure.

Tuesday morning, I chaired and spoke at a seminar on Bahrain in Fielden House, one of the annexes of Parliament. For reasons that aren't clear of transparent, Black Rod won't allow TV cameras or even photography in the Committee Rooms of the main building, though unofficially I understand that its to avoid giving the impression that the views expresed are those of the House itself. I spoke about the failure to implement some of the most important recommendations of the Bassiouni Commission of Inquiry into the human rights violations that followed the start of the uprising in February 2011. None of the most important political prisoners have been released, nor have they been compensated for the torture an incommunicado detention they endured in the weeks after they were detained.

In the afternoon I listened to the debate on the Welfare Reform Bill, when the House considered amendments rejected by the Commons, and considered alternative amendments that were proposed in lieu of the rejected ones - which couldn't be tabled in their original form because the Commons asserted financial privilege. The Commons have exclusive and undisputed jurisdiction over taxation, but the principle has been widened so that it now covers any financial matter such as, in this case, benefits.

There was a three-line Whip but I voted against the Government on an amendment by Lord Best, a Crossbencher, dealing with the so-called 'bedroom tax', a provision that withdraws part of the housing benefit now paid to a family which occupies more than the number of rooms it is said to need. Thus for example if a member of the family dies, the benefit may be docked and they may be compelled to move or make do on income which is insufficient for their needs.

I disagree with the idea that in order to pay off the deficit we need to cut benefits from the poor and vulnerable, as in some parts of this Bill. There is plenty of scope for raising the money quicker and more effectively. For instance, the Daily Telegraph quoted Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP on February 11 2012 as saying that the better-off are receiving overly-generous tax relief when they invest money for their retirement. He said that removing the higher-rate tax relief would save the Exchequer more than £7 billion and make the system fairer.

Ending winter fuel allowance and free TV licences for higher rate taxpayers would be another way of increasing revenue.

Duties on alcohol sufficient to cause an all-round increase of 10% in retail prices would raise £1.5 billion, and at the same time yield large savings in health and criminal justice. Reggie Maudling told me, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he believed in taxing people’s vices rather than their virtues, and I agree. We should use fiscal means to deter the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and harmful things people eat such as salt.

Some of our leaders tell me they have read The Spirit Level on the correlation between inequality and a variety of social harms such as violent crime, physical and mental ill-health, educational under-achievement, obesity and lack of social mobility, but they say the authors’ evidence had been rebutted by some respectable academics. Actually, the authors have responded to their critics on The Equality Trust website [], and I think a dispassionate reader would agree the authors have won the argument. Their message was reinforced in a powerful New Statesman leader Too many feel that they have no stake in our unequal society [].

I recognise that Liberal Democrat Ministers have mitigated a great many of the harmful effects of Government Bills, and they are to be congratulated and thanked for those achievements; but it does seem to me utterly illiberal, politically unwise, and downright immoral to penalise those at the bottom end of the income scale for the economic crisis. My decision to vote against the Government wasn't the careless whim of a moment, and I have listened to, read and considered long and hard the debates on the relevant sections of the Welfare Reform and LASPO Bills we have been debating.

Wednesday morning, Subcommittee F considered the draft txt of our report on EU Drugs Policy, due to be published in the near future.

Thursday, I chipped in on Janet Whitaker's Question on the definition of Gypsies and Travellers []. There are two separate definitions in law, one for housing policy and the other for planning. The planning definition is based on lifestyle rather than ethnicity, and since Travellers are no longer nomadic because there are hardly any temporary stopping places, this has caused some problems in the courts. Ann Medhurst applied for planning permission to develop land she owns in Tonbridge, as a caravan site for her family, and the High Court decided that she was not a Gypsy for the purposes of planning Circular 1/2006, though it was common ground that she was an ethnic Gypsy []. This case is now going to the Court of Appeal.

Three written questions this week: on plans for Black history month, and the UK's attendance at the Bahrain International Airshow in January 2012 [],and on the number of Roma in England and Wales. They say there are no reliable estimates, but the Roma Support Group estimate the number as 500,000. Th 2011 Census won't help much either, because 'Roma' wasn't one of the ethnicities from which respondenrs were asked to choose.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Cobweb gets into his basket
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Bleak scene in the park
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Friday, a cliffhanger in the Lords, to see whether Davis Steel's House of Lords Reform Bil would get through report, in spite of the hundreds of amendments on the Order Paper. In the end he had to sacrifice the clause ending the perpetuation of the hereditaries by means of by-elections to replace any of the 91 who die, to placate the die-hards and save the pprovisions dealing with retirement and expulsion. There is now a chance that time will be found for Third Reading and a quick race through the Commons, to get the Bill through by the end of the Session.

In the evening, to the Queen Elizabeth Hall, to hear first a discussion between Chi-Chi Nwanoku MBE, the OAE's double bas player, and Sally Beamish, composer of Spinal Chords, the London premiere of which the OAE were to play. The composition is a recu=itation about what it's like to be a tetraplegic, based on the experience of Melanie Reid, the Olymic rider whose spine was broken in a fall from her horse. It was hard to think about the accompanying music when the words described such a catastrophic change in a young life.

There was sumptuous Handel, two cantatas from the Italian period, with the Italian soprano Roberta Invernizzi.

Afterwards we had a brief chat with Chi-Chi, and met the viola player Annette Isserlis.

Penelope's visit


After Cousin Penelope visited me for a cup of tea on Wednesday she went on to the Tent City at St Paul's, where she attended a discussion on the Welfare Reform Bill. The meeting decided to lobby Parliament next Wednesday, but unfortunately the Parliamentary proceedings are due to end on Tuesday, when finacial privilege will be invoked to stop the Lords discussing the amendments we had passed, and were rejected by the Commons - including the cap.


Is it safe to return failed asylum-seekers to the DRC? The UK Borders Agency thinks so, but an NGO has studied the situation and has serious doubts. We will be able to judge the position better when the Country of Origin Information Service publishes the first update of their analysis since 2009, see

Speaking at Emanuel School on Tuesday
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With some of the sixth-formers at Emanuel School, Tuesday February 7
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Dear old friend Addai Sebo, now growing hardwood trees in Ghana
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Thursday, February 09, 2012


The Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry into the gross and syatematic human rights violations committed in Bahrain following the uprising of February 2011 recommended that the sentences passed on political prisoners after they had been detained incommunicado and tortured for weeks should be 'reviewed'.

But the Commissioners made it clear that they intended the prisoners should be exonerated and released, and their records should be expunged of the charges, see

Cherif Bassiouni, head of the BICI, is in Bahrain now, seeing what progress is being made on implementing his recommendations, all of which the hereditary dictator said he accepted. We should be told when the victims of the military courts are to be released, and whether they will be compensated for their false imprisonment and injuries sustained under torture.

Ghana elections December 2012


Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will have discussions with the Government of Ghana, the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union, on the monitoring of the Ghanaian elections in December 2012.[HL15226]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK maintains close contact with the Government of Ghana on a wide range of issues. This will include the monitoring of this year's elections there. In addition, we regularly engage with ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) and the African Union about their election monitoring missions. Ghana's elections will form part of those discussions.

Sack paid advisers and get them to work for nothing

Education: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the equality impact assessment with regard to the ending of the two specialist consultancy services provided to the Department for Education by Arthur Ivatts OBE and Margaret Wood, on the education of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children.[HL15202]

7 Feb 2012 : Column WA37

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Department for Education advocates the use of equality impact assessments when developing new policies or making significant changes to existing ones, but would not routinely use them when ending consultancy contracts. No formal equality impact assessments were drawn up with regard to ending the contracts of Arthur Ivatts OBE and Margaret Wood 21 days earlier than originally planned.

The department is very grateful to Arthur Ivatts and Margaret Wood for the support which they have provided on the education of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils. The department continues to seek their advice on an informal basis, through its regular meetings with the Advisory Council on the Education of Romany and Other Travellers and through the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller education stakeholder group.

Monitored sobriety 24/7 for repeat alcohol-related offences?

The Government are willing to pilot the use of court orders imposed on offenders who undertake to comply with them, requiring 24/7 sobriety, remotely monitored. Schemes based on this principle have worked in the US, cutting recidivism in half. See Column 90,

DfID's assistance for Dalit girls' education


Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the debate on international development policy on 1 December 2011, what initiatives they have taken in connection with the Secretary of State for International Development's recent visit to India concerning the Dalit communities there, particularly with a view to ensuring that Dalit girls enter and remain in education.[HL15174]

Baroness Northover: We are pressing ahead with the design of a stipend scheme benefiting over 200,000 tribal and Dalit girls in Orissa, conditional on their enrolment and regular attendance at secondary school. In addition we will continue to support free schooling and residential hostels for some of the poorest Dalit, tribal and Muslim girls across India as part of our

7 Feb 2012 : Column WA49

contribution to the Indian Government's Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (basic education) and Mahila Samakhiva (women's empowerment scheme) programmes.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Blood test Jan 30

King's College Hospital
Patient Results
All results -Performed since 30-Jan-12
Avebury, Eric
M83y Haematology OPD
D442931 / V6938322 29-Sep-1928
de Lavallade, Hugu
30-Jan-12 08:10 Renal/Liver/Bone/Urea

Sodium 141 [135-145 mmol/L]
Potassium 4.9 [3.5-5.0 mmol/L]
Urea 7.2 H [3.3-6.7 mmol/L]
Creatinine 114 [45-120 umol/L]
Estimated GFR 53 [mL/min]
Calcium 2.27 [mmol/L]
Corrected Calcium 2.17 [2.15-2.6 mmol/L]
Phosphate 1.11 [0.80-1.40 mmol/L]
Total Protein 77 [60-80 g/L]
Albumin 45 [35-50 g/L]
Globulin 32 [25-35 g/L]
Bilirubin (Total) 7 [3-20 umol/L]
Alkaline Phosphatase 87 [30-130 IU/L]
Aspartate Transaminase 27 [10-50 IU/L]
Gamma-glutamyl 20 [1-55 IU/L]

30-Jan-12 08:10 Full Blood Count

WBC 3.97 L [4.00-11.00 10^9/L]
RBC 3.16 L [4.5-5.8 10^12/L]
Hb 10.2 L [13.0-16.5 g/dL]
PCV 0.329 L [0.400-0.540 L/L]
MCV 103.9 H [77.0-95.0 fL]
MCH 32.2 [20.0-36.0 pg]
MCHC 31.0 L [32.0-37.0 g/dL]
RDW 17.8 H [11.0-15.0 %]
PLT 526 H [150-450 10^9/L]
MPV 11.2 H [7.4-10.4 fL]
Neutrophils 1.27 L [2.2-6.3 10^9/L]
Lymphocytes 1.71 [1.3-4.0 10^9/L]
Monocytes 0.87 [0.2-1.0 10^9/L]
Eosinophils 0.08 [0-0.4 10^9/L]
% Hypo 31.7
White Cell Morphology MANUAL DIFF
Platelet Morphology NORMAL MORPHOLOGY,

Requested by: Van-der-velde-Ong, Geke (Specialist Nurse) Printed from: King's College Hospital
02-Feb-12 09:19 End of Report Page: 1 of 1

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Life Saving Vaccines Reach the World’s Largest Refugee Camp

23 January 2012 – I am delighted to note that the Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunisation (GAVI) has announced plans to provide life saving rotavirus vaccines for children in the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya.
The Dadaab complex is the world’s largest refugee camp and plays host to approximately 500,000 inhabitants, a population centre roughly the same size as Manchester. The camp was established in 1991 as a temporary measure to shelter refugees fleeing violence in areas of Somalia but it has grown dramatically since and now ranks as the third largest population centre in Kenya, behind the capital Nairobi and the port of Mombasa.
The camp is estimated to grow at a rate of 1,300 new inhabitants every day and presents a number of healthcare challenges, with malnutrition, respiratory tract infections and diarrhoea particularly rife.
The announcement by GAVI is extremely welcome and has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives. Rotavirus is the single largest cause of diarrheal disease amongst children and infants, accounting for nearly half a million deaths worldwide. Alongside pneumonia this makes rotavirus one of the leading killers of children in the developing world.
The agreement between GAVI and the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation will see GAVI provide a regular supply of the rotavirus vaccine for use in the Dadaab camp. The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation had already planned to roll-out the rotavirus vaccine for the rest of the country in 2013 and this announcement will mean that children in the Dadaab camp will not be missed out.
In my capacity as Co-Chair of the APPG for Global Action Against Childhood Pneumonia I worked for many year to champion the roll-out of vaccines globally. Last year I met and liaised with representatives from DFID, GAVI and UNICEF to discuss the issue of vaccination in the Dadaab camp. I also discussed the matter with Baroness Northover, the Department for International Development Spokesperson in the Lords, who promised to look into the issue.
Until now the key focus of the APPG has been on pneumonia, however in 2012 we intend to expand our work to include rotavirus and diarrhoeal disease. Following visits to Kenya and Bangladesh group members were dismayed to see firsthand the terrible impact that rotavirus and diarrheal disease was having on child mortality rates in both countries.
I am extremely proud of the UK’s continued commitment to helping to fund life saving vaccines for children in the developing world. The key role that DFID have played in helping to bring about this new agreement with GAVI is further proof that the UK remains a leading force for change in international development policy.