Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I've not been keeping the blog up to date, but have entered several things on nTwitter, which must have a wider audience now that it has reached 300 followers. Just to catch up with Parliamentary activity, I spoke yesterday on David Alton's amendment to the Legal Aid etc Bill, dealing with the amounts that are to be deducted from damages awarded to victims of industrially related respiratory diseases. Mesothelioma, a painful cancer that kills patients on average within a year from diagnosis, accounts for the majority of these payments, and its unbelievable mean to take money from the terminally ill victims of this horrible disease. When they are told they will be fined in this way, many sufferers won't even bother to pursue their legitimate claims. See http://bit.ly/yE3g08

Today I voted against the Government on an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill dealing with payments to single mothers of disabled children who aren't in work. As I've said before, we shouldn't be making the poor and vulnerable contribute to paying off the debts left to us by Messrs Blair and Brown. There's plenty of scope for getting more from the rich, such as the mansion tax on houses worth more than £2 million or Supertax on incomes above £250k. It is said that if we tax the rich heavily they will emigrate to Geneva or Hong Kong, but I don't believe the top jobs couldn't be done just as well by the next rung down, for less money. But the risks could be managed by raising the % gradually over say ten years, so that individuals and companies would have time to adjust to the idea.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Blood test this morning, followed by an appointment with Dr L in Haematology Outpatients, not with Professor M as expected. We saw Dr L 50 minutes after the scheduled appointment time of 10.10, and this happens every time. There is something badly wrong with the way they schedule appointments.

Platelets were slightly up on laat time - 526 compared with 501 - but not enough to alter the dose of Hydroxycarbamide. WBC count was down (3.97) and there was no reading for Neutrophils, with which the PLT count has to be balanced. The risk is of thrombosis, but is not high as long as the platelets are under control. Longer term risks are bone marrow fibrosis and leukemia (< 1%), but Dr L is referring me to Dr Claire Harrison at St Thomas's, who is following up the survey of MPL mutations published in the journal Blood, and referred to in the previous post on this subject. This means she will have a better idea of what to expect, and in particular, how long I'm likely to be able to continue working normally. Dr L gives the impression, without actually saying so, that he thinks the original estimate of one year given to me off the cuff by Professor M last August was pessimistic, and at least Dr Harrison should be able to say what the mean experience was of the 24 patients with the MPL W515L mutation in the cohort she studied.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Somali pirates

Is it a good idea to offer space in Wormwood Scrubs for Somali pirates http://reut.rs/xXLrJi ? Or should they be tried, sentenced and imprisoned in the region, with international assistance? I'm only asking, but I do wonder whether Henry asked Ken Clarke?
This week I voted three times against our Government - twice on the benefits cap, and the third time, on charges to be imposed on a parent with care if she has to use the state to recover the contribution by the absent parent.

The cap if £500 a week, and that sound like a lot of money when many people in work aren't getting that much. But the limit applies everywhere, and in London a family with three or more children will be paying £350 a week in rent, leaving them with £150 to cover food and drink, clothing and shoes, transport, heat and light. Among those who objected to my interview on the World at One on this subject was an Australian banker, who disagreed when I told him that instead of making people on benefits contribute towards eliminating the deficit, I would like to see a 75% rate of income tax levied on income over £250k a year. He said this would drive the top earners abroad, to which my answer was that there would be many others ready to take their places at more reasonable salary levels. But yes, there ought to be international agreement on curbing top salaries if possible, to stop companies relocating in states wherte inequality is greatest, such as the UK and the US at present.

On the third vote, moved by the former Conservative Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the question was about the payment of fees to the Child Suppport Agency where the two parents in dispute are unable to reach agreement on the contributions each should make to the maintenance of their dependent children. Almost invariably in these cases its the mother who is left to look after the children while the father absconds and shirks his responsibilities, refusing to cooperate. Why on earth the mother should have to pay a fee to recover her rightful due was not explained satisfactorily by the Government. The Minister said it was to persuade the parties to cooperate, but its never the 'parent with care' who is obstructive.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Travellers and legal aid

The Legal Aid Bill prevents Gypsies and Travellers from getting legal aid in circumstances where they may lose their homes. With 2,000 Gypsies living in caravans on unauthorised sites from which the landlords are being given stronger powers to evict them. they will not qualify for legal advice on how to contest orders for their removal when they are trespassers, as so many of them are when it is made as difficult as possible for them to acquire land of their own, and there are no spare pitches for rent. But we did get assurances from the Minister who replied,Jim Wallace, that injunctions under S 187B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and orders under Sections 289 and 290 of that Act, which lead towards the loss of a Traveller's home, would still be subject to legal aid.

The amendments attracted a gratifying number of supporters and I think we have the ammunition to ask for discussions with Ministers before the Bill gets to its final stage of Third Reading.

At the end of his speech, Jim Wallace took credit for the recent Government annoiuncement that £60 million was being made available for local authorities and registered social landlords to provide Traveller sites for some 600 caravans. I happened to have telephoned five of the successful applicants for this money and was able to point out that none of them had even identified the necessary land, let alone applied for planning permission. And if by some miracle all of the planned schemes were implemented overnight, they would still cover only a third of the technically homelss Travellers.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Immigration regulations

All immigrants here for more than 6 months must now have biometric identity documents. We don't object to this per se, but with the UK Borders Agency incapable of dealing with its existing workload, to complete the rollout at the end of February is not good timing. http://bit.ly/wR9woo

There are more fundamental questions about whether the UKBA should continue to be a separate agency,rather than transferring its functions back to the Home Office where they belonged originally.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Blood test Jan 16

Platelets should be within normal range when I see Professor M on January 30 if they continue to reduce at the same rate as they have since the previous reading<

WBC 4.79 [4.00-11.00 10^9/L]
RBC 2.97 L [4.5-5.8 10^12/L]
Hb 10.4 L [13.0-16.5 g/dL]
PCV 0.310 L [0.400-0.540 L/L]
MCV 103.2 H [77.0-95.0 fL]
MCH 35.0 [20.0-36.0 pg]
MCHC 33.9 [32.0-37.0 g/dL]
RDW 18.4 H [11.0-15.0 %]
PLT 501 H [150-450 10^9/L]
MPV 10.7 H [7.4-10.4 fL]
Neutrophils 2.33 [2.2-6.3 10^9/L]
Lymphocytes 1.30 [1.3-4.0 10^9/L]
Monocytes 0.44 [0.2-1.0 10^9/L]
Eosinophils 0.06 [0-0.4 10^9/L]
Basophils 0.04 [0-0.1 10^9/L]
NRBC 6.1 H [< 1.0 /100 Wbc]
% Hypo 5.3

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Yesterday in Parliament

In the morning, SubCommittee E which is coming towards the end of its inquiry into EU drugs strategy. At the end of the session in May I will be rotated off the SubCommittee, having done a four-year stint, and I shall be quite sorry.

Lunch with Shadia Syed, and a good chat about all things Bangladeshi.

At 16.00, meeting of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group: discussion of future programme, and funding.

18.00, a meeting chaired by Ilora Finlay to discuss 'compulsory sobriety', a system allowing courts to make orders that defendants convicted of repeat offences of violence or drink driving triggered by alcohol would be required to abstain totally for a fixed period of months, during which they would be regularly monitored, and any lapse would be punished by immediate 24-hours imprisonment. Schemes based on this principle had been highhly effective in Hawaii and South Dakota, andwere to be trialled in Strathclyde. The Mayor of London was keen to try it in the capital, but that would need primary legislation. The Government had rejected amendments for the purpose in the debates o the Police and Social Responsibility Bill, but the amendments had been retabled for the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, and I added my name to the sponsors.

After that I was in the chamber for the rest of the evening until 23.45 on the LASPO Bill, moving an amendment to restore legal aid for persons detained under the Immigration Act not only to challenge the detention itself, but the underlying reason for the detention, see http://bit.ly/A7xO5F. It would be impossible to separate the two, and I gave several examples of cases where the two were closely intertwined. PS January 21 The Independent complains that the LibDems are almost entirely silent on immigration, see today's leading article http://ind.pn/zlTsFH I can only say that in the Lords we do our best, and its disappointing to be ignored by the media.

Spoke also on amendments to restore legal aid for victims of trafficking, and dependants of refugees still in the countries of origin.

Home just after midnight and straight to bed!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

An appalling story from Bahrain

Badriya Ali is a 59 year old woman from the village of Sanabis. In April security forces raided her home to arrest her son, Ahmed Mushaima, who is 25 years old. They beat him severely in front of her, banging his head against the corner of an air conditioner repeatedly. Badriya screamed at them to stop beating her son, and an officer responded "shut up, we arrest women too". They then pulled her old sick husband from bed to arrest him, but he was so weak and collapsed to the ground, where they left him. Badriya fainted after watching her son being severely beaten. Before leaving, the officers wrote "long live Khalifa (the king's family name) " on the walls of her home.

Some of those officers were: Faisal Bakhsh, Khalid and Taher AlAlawi. They stole 4,500 BD (about £7,800), 3 phones, a laptop and Ahmed's wallet.

Since that raid, according to her daughter Zahra, Badriya went into deep depression.For a week she cried continuously, after which she fell completely silent. When Badriya's son was released she got a bit better, but a couple of weeks ago their village which is constantly under attacks by the security forces was invaded yetagain, and Badriya saw an old woman being chased by security forces in the street. Since that day she was terrified, and her family had to watch her constantly. She was afraid of any small sound, convinced they would come back for her children. She told her children that she couldn't take it anymore, and to let her go to the riot police so she can be killed.

Zahra says she was busy with her daughter for five minutes, only to find her mother had set herself on fire on the roof. She died of her burns today.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Traveller Pitch Funding

The Communities and Local Government Department has announced new funding of £47 million for new and refurbished Traveller sites, said to provide 617 new and 167 refurbished pitches over an unspecified period [http://bit.ly/zBjDjv]. Forty of the pitches classed a 'New', in Bolton and Bassetlaw, are actually refurbishments, so the actual total of new pitches is 577, compared with the shortfall as indicated by the number of caravans on unauthorised sites enumerated in the count undertaken for the CLG in July 2011. At the end of the day there would still be 3,420 families legally homeless [http://bit.ly/wLNbOU], and that's not taking into account any increase in the caravan-dwelling Traveller population over the years covered by this programme.

Yet at the same time as marginally reducing the number of homeless, the Government are making it harder for Travellers themselves to get planning permission, and giving councils draconian powers to evict them from the 4,000 pitches they occupy without planning permission, even where they own the land as at Dale Farm and now Meriden. Kicking these people off onto the roadside without having any plans to provide them with alternative sites is an inhuman policy, the result of which is certain to be that the severe deprivation suffered by the Gypsy and Traveller communities will persist down the generations. It is a recipe for particularly severe harm to the children, whose education will be interrupted, in many cases permanently, and whose health, already the worst of any ethnic minority in this country, will be vdamaged still further.

Calls to five of the providers listed as receiving the CLG grants revealed last week that in only one instance had a funded site yet been identified, and none had been the subjects of planning applications. The providers all acknowledged that it would be a long and controversial process getting to the stage where a single pitch had been added to the total.


Dr L tells me that the particular mutation I have is C-MPL W515L, not the K variant. The only recent paper on MPL mutations is from the journal Blood for July 1, 2008, see http://bit.ly/xV1wI3. This describes 44 patients with MPL mutations of all kinds, doubling the number reported to that date in peer-reviewed journals.

MPL, found at chromosome 1p34, encodes the thrombopoietin receptor that works in concert with thrombopoietin [http://bit.ly/xIsa7] for platelet production. Acquired MPL mutations eg, W515L and W515K are associated with severe anemia. [http://bit.ly/yN3G1w]

Monday, January 02, 2012