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Backbench Business Committee

Representations: Backbench Business

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Ordered by the House of Commons to be published on 19 April 2022.

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Members present: Ian Mearns (Chair); Bob Blackman; Chris Green; Jerome Mayhew; Nigel Mills.

Questions 1-16

Representations made

I: Kevin Hollinrake

II: Marion Fellows

III: Jim Shannon

Written evidence from witnesses:

– [Add names of witnesses and hyperlink to submissions]

Kevin Hollinrake made representations

Q1                Chair: Good afternoon and welcome, everyone, to the Backbench Business Committee. This will probably be the last Backbench Business Committee meeting in this Session. Since there is very little time to allocate, there hardly seems any merit in having a meeting next week to hear applications from people who then have to send their applications on a list to a successor Committee at some time in the future.

We have three applications in front of us this afternoon. The first is from Kevin Hollinrake—a very warm welcome to Kevin—on economic crime law enforcement resourcing.

              Kevin Hollinrake: Thanks very much, Ian. I am delighted to have this opportunity because this is such an important subject. I have been in business all my life prior to entering politics, and in business you tend to focus more on implementation than on innovation and new ideas. In this place, as we are all too aware, we focus a lot on legislation, but not always on the follow-through in terms of implementation, which leads to some very adverse consequences, and this is a good example.

We are legislating for economic crime with two new Bills. One has already passed through the House recently and a second one is due to come in the Queen’s Speech. The legislation is there, but the enforcement is absolutely not there, and it must be there.

When we talk about economic crime—I think the Secretary of State said something on TV one morning—it is not given the attention that we give to what we might consider traditional crime: burglaries, violent crime or whatever. It is seen as a white-collar crime, but I think we all have experience of constituents who are completely devastated by these crimes—people whose bank accounts are raided often by life-changing sums of money. So this is very much a crime that affects our constituents, and in other ways, too, of course. There are the people who sit behind it at an organised level—the gangsters and the terrorists who make their money out of drug dealing, people trafficking, extortion and theft, so it is vital that we clamp down on these areas.

The cost of this is £290 billion a year to the UK economy, according to the National Crime Agency. Yet we dedicate a tiny percentage of our resources to tackling the problem. Roughly 40% of all crimes are economic crimes, yet less than 1% of police resources goes to tackling them. The total budget of the National Crime Agency is £850 million. It is not clear how much of that money is spent on economic crime. It needs to be more visible and it needs to be increased.

The reality is that we are going backwards in terms of prosecutions. Overall prosecutions for money laundering have fallen by 35% since 2016. The FCA criminal investigations into money laundering have fallen from 14 in 2017 to eight in 2020. HMRC criminal and civil investigations into money laundering fell from 57 in 2017-18 to 22. The Serious Fraud Office, as I think we have probably all seen, has got a pretty poor track record in prosecuting crime, and its numbers are dropping significantly as well. It has had only five convictions a year for economic crime offences over the past five years, and the number of criminal cases has halved.

So the debate will be about the resources we need and the Government’s plan. In the forthcoming legislation, will that be properly articulated and ringfenced to tackle these problems? There are lots of other things we want to discuss as well—the various pieces that will be in the economic crime Bill, but we also want to make sure we have the proper resources. That is what it is all about.

Q2                Chair: Thank you very much, Kevin. Obviously, we are coming to the last throws of the dice in this Session. When would you like to have this debate?

              Kevin Hollinrake: As soon as possible. The sooner the Government are thinking about this—as you know, we have the Queen’s Speech coming up and we want the Government to set this out as part of that legislation. It is urgent and important, to ensure we do not just legislate but set aside resources. I do not know what your parliamentary diary is like, Chair, but I would be keen to get this in there. There is good cross-party support for it. I think in the debates on the economic crime Bill mark 1—the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022—the most commonly used word was “enforcement”.

Chair: Our dilemma is that there is probably no time to allocate before Prorogation, if and when that happens. We could pass this on in a list to the Leader of the House, and the Government might want to table it before the Committee is re-established in the new Session, but the problem, from your perspective, is that if that happens and the Government timetable it, the Government will lead off on the debate. If you said, for instance, “before the end of May”, that might give the Government some time to allow the Committee to be re-established and for it to look at its list and try to put it into that context.

Kevin Hollinrake: If that is our option, Chair, I will be very happy to do that.

Chair: All we can do is try.

Q3                Bob Blackman: Obviously, if the Queen’s Speech does not include an economic crime Bill, it is probably apposite for the debate to come forward quite quickly, to encourage the Government to look at the subject after we complete deliberations on the Queen’s Speech.

Kevin Hollinrake: Very much so. Even if the Government decided not to legislate, which sounds unlikely, this is still relevant because even with our current legislation, we still need enforcement behind it. It does need to create that imperative, you are quite right.

Chair: And, as you say, Kevin, this might all have been done by people tapping on computers in darkened rooms, but it is not a victimless set of crimes. Thank you very much indeed.

Marion Fellows made representations

Q4                Chair: Marion, your application is about reforming the Child Maintenance Service.

              Marion Fellows: Indeed it is, Chair. Long-serving members of this Committee will have seen me come forward with this topic before. I make no apology for it. I think it is important that we debate this subject, especially in the light of the NAO report. Gingerbread has also done some more research and I am very much obliged to them for it.

With your forbearance, I would like to read out a piece from the NAO report, which says that “Government has succeeded in its goal of reducing both its involvement in child maintenance and the cost to the taxpayer, but its reforms have not increased the number of effective maintenance arrangements across society. Many separated parents are still left without the maintenance payments they are due.

I would add that it is not about the parents. For me, this has always been about the children involved. There are hundreds of thousands of children in poverty because they are not receiving their child maintenance payments, and the fact that the Government take 4% from any collect and pay arrangement that is made is quite galling. It is a huge issue. I get letters from people, not just my own constituents, but from across the country. I think it is really important that we keep hammering away at this. This is my effort to do so.

I am happy to take whatever the Committee wants to give me. I do not mean this to sound threatening in any way, but I’ll be back with this again anyway, because I feel it is so important.

Q5                Chair: You know the context of our work here from our exchange with Kevin, so you understand that. I take it that you want this debated as soon as possible.

Marion Fellows: Absolutely.

Q6                Bob Blackman: Generally speaking, is it fathers who are not funding their children?

Marion Fellows: Generally.

Q7                Bob Blackman: Is it that mothers are not reporting who the father is, and the fact that they are not paying, or is it a fault at the service itself?

              Marion Fellows: What tends to happen if there is an order—although you can make voluntary arrangements—and it goes to collect and pay, if the father pays £5 when it should be £500, then it is not pursued with the vigour that it might be. The CMS has powers that it has not actually used—withdrawing passports and all of that. As I say, I have been pursuing this for quite a long while and nothing seems to improve. It comes back to the children in poverty; if they got what was paid—I do not want to foretell my speech on this, but there is an interesting bit from the NAO, which says that the Government have no idea of the estimate of what is not paid, which is not good enough. The Government need to be hounded on this.

Q8                Jerome Mayhew: From what you have said, is reform of the legislation and powers required, or is it that the powers are in fact adequate but are not being used, so it is about reform of management and leadership?

Marion Fellows: It is definitely a bit of both. The CMS is the child of the CSA, which did not work. It is the amount of debt that is allowed to build up and the fact that the fraud unit does not really check, and there still does not seem to be proper synchronisation between the Child Maintenance Service and HMRC. A father, especially if he is self-employed—I am using “father” here because they are the majority—can say that he is only earning £20,000 a year but own and drive around in a large car and have three properties.

Q9                Jerome Mayhew: But all the examples you give are about implementation of existing rules.

Marion Fellows: Yes, a lot of it is about implementation, but some of the rules should be mandatory. There need to be more rules that have to be followed after a certain amount of time, because it is not time limited. If someone does not get child maintenance for six months, it is not as if they then look seriously into the case. It is just allowed to lie fallow, and it then becomes hugely difficult.

I have done debates in the past on the arrears that have built up, and it is mind-boggling. I come back to my main priority: the children involved in these cases, who are not getting what they are entitled to, and as a result, they are living in poverty.

Chair: Marion, thank you very much indeed.

Jim Shannon made representations.

Q10            Chair: Last but certainly not least—and how appropriate as the last applicant to the Committee in this Session of Parliament—we have none other than our season-ticket holder Mr Jim Shannon. Jim, your application is about improving dialysis care outcomes.

Jim Shannon: First, Chair, I thank you and the Committee for the opportunity to come and ask for the debate. I declare an interest in this area because I have a nephew who was born with a kidney the size of a peanut. All his life, he had to suffer treatment, but—as I was saying to Marion outside—he was ultimately very fortunate to have a transplant at the age of 16, which saved and changed his life. Until then, the dialysis care and treatment had been a massive issue.

It has also been a massive issue for me personally through others whom I have known. I have had the chance as health spokesperson and through an interest in health back home to visit the dialysis centre at the Ulster Hospital. That probably created my interest in this issue. Whenever I was approached about the debate, I was very pleased to look at it, and even more pleased because, at the end of the day, the outcomes here on the mainland are not anywhere near where they should be, and they are probably somewhere similar over in Northern Ireland as well.

The debate is about dialysis, obviously, and that is my relevant interest in it. We could probably have got more Members to speak, but to be truthful with you, my girls in the office have done this over the last two weeks. Marion has added her name to it. Just for the record, Margaret Ferrier is an Independent, not SNP. She very much wants to join the SNP again—just to let you know that, Marion—but there you are. However, I digress.

Dialysis care is delivered in-centre, with patients required to travel to hospital three times a week for four hours of treatment. I have seen it myself; it is a chunk of your life every week. It is rigid and restrictive. It can prevent people from getting a job—I’ve noticed that in all the people I have seen. It is about family as well—not seeing family because you’ve got a certain time to be there—enjoying a quality of life. It is also very much more costly for the NHS, as demonstrated by a recent cost-effectiveness study.

By comparison, home dialysis therapies—I have met some of the people involved in these—offer flexibility and thorough, longer, or more frequent treatment. They have been shown to have a transformative effect on a patient’s health, and—this is quite something—a 13% lower risk of death compared with in-centre dialysis. That significant effect also drove me to ask for this debate. Home dialysis can also have a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing, with studies showing that in home dialysis treatment mental health issues are reduced by a massive 80%. I know what people always say about statistics, but you can’t ignore them.

In 2021, NHS England’s “Getting It Right First Time” report recommended that every dialysis centre reach a minimum prevalence rate of 20% of patients on home dialysis. However, 33 out of 52 centres in England have yet to meet that goal, which is quite worrying, only 5.3% of haemodialysis patients currently dialyse at home, and there is widespread variation across the country. So we would like very much to have a debate on this.

There was a parliamentary roundtable in November 2021, and we had different people there. Some of the names are quite hard to get your tongue around, but they were all there—people in the business, patients, charities and with politicians—to better understand the barriers that prevent patients from being able to choose or access the care they want at every stage of dialysis treatment. You may not have visited or done that journey with dialysis people, Mr Chairman and Committee members, but it really leaves a lasting impression on you. That being the case, when they approached me I was very happy to ask for this debate.

It would have been perfect to get this in time to mark World Kidney Day, but life is never perfect, or very rarely so. It was perfect for you on Sunday, Mr Chairman; it was not perfect for me as a Leicester City man, but that is by the way. It would have been nice, but that cannot happen. I understand that, and they understand that as well. Whenever you can have it for us, we will be more than pleased to do that.

Q11            Chair: I take it, Jim, you would be happy for this debate to take place in Westminster Hall, if it was available.

Jim Shannon: Absolutely, yes. Again, thank you for the opportunity. I feel quite passionate about this; I am interested in this subject matter, and it would be incredibly opportune and helpful to all those people who want to see better treatment. Obviously, I am not out to catch anybody out—it is not my form—but I am quite sure that the Minister will do the preparation in advance and be able to give us some encouragement, which is what we want to hear.

Q12            Chair: Obviously, you’ve got a co-conspirator in terms of another application that you have before the Committee: Fiona Bruce. I think you have been offered time in Westminster Hall on 28 April for that other application. The thing is, it seems to me that if you could agree with Fiona to pull that one, the 28th would be the day after World Dialysis Day for the debate you have just requested.

Jim Shannon: When would you need to know that, Mr Chairman?

Chair: ASAP, really.

Jim Shannon: I need to speak to Fiona.

Chair: By tomorrow lunchtime?

Jim Shannon: I know Fiona is here. She was doing a tour.

Q13            Chair: If you could let us know by tomorrow lunchtime, it would be a possibility. Having said that, it depends on the Government not proroguing Parliament early on the Thursday. We just do not know. We might schedule the debate and then it gets pulled because of an early Prorogation. If it does happen on that day, it could happen at any time on that day once the Government have concluded their business in the Chamber.

Jim Shannon: I will speak to Fiona. I will text her now to see if that is possible, but I am very conscious that it is not just me asking for it. It is also her, and I’ve got to be respectful.

Chair: As I say, you have provisionally been offered that session, but you and Fiona have not yet accepted it.

Jim Shannon: I do not recall seeing it. I am always happy to accept debates, whenever they may be, but I do not recall getting that. That could have happened over the last two weeks. I have been on the campaign trail the last two weeks, therefore there are lots of other things that I have perhaps been focusing on. It is not an excuse; it is just a fact.

Q14            Chair: Okay. It is just a consideration. It might just be that the timeliness of this debate that you have applied for this afternoon would work for that particular session on 28 April, if it were to happen, okay?

Jim Shannon: Okay, I will come back to you tomorrow.

Q15            Chris Green: There are three broad areas that, hopefully, you can give a little bit more detail to. The first question is about the technology and whether it is the technology itself or particular techniques that might be used. Is one of the concerns about the availability of the technology and the different types of equipment required if you are in a hospital or a centre as opposed to at home? Is there a postcode lottery in that sense, in that some areas have it more available than others? Secondly, is there a particular concern that some centres are more flexible? For example, if you are working 9 to 5, the centre will open so you can go in at six o’clock for your dialysis; or are they being inflexible so that it is difficult for people to take up a job because of the inflexibility? Thirdly, on customer demand, is there a significant desire that home dialysis is taken up or are people broadly comfortable with the position at the moment?

Jim Shannon: I think if you depend on dialysis, Mr Chairman and Committee members, you will take a dialysis treatment whenever it is available, because that is why you are alive. It is as simple as that, as black and white as that. This system of home dialysis, we believe, is an alternative. It still keeps people alive but it is a much more flexible system. The fact that 19 of the centres in England meet their targets while 33 do not tells us why it is important. We hope this debate will raise the issues and give us a chance to have the Minister come back and tell us what steps will be taken to address the shortcoming.

Is it a postcode lottery? I hate to say this, but it probably is. I am not here to criticise people; it is not about that. It is about getting it right. I always hope that through debate we can highlight the issue and bring it to the Minister’s attention; in that way, hopefully, the Minister will see our concerns and make it her or his business to change that. That is how I see it.

Q16            Chris Green: I am involved with APPGs on medical research and medical devices. I get a strong sense from the sector that some areas adopt early and other areas are far slower at adopting new techniques and technologies. I was just wondering whether this is one of those areas, but thank you.

Jim Shannon: I suspect that it is. I think covid has changed the focus and the direction a wee bit. It is nobody’s fault; it is the nature of where we are. But it is sometimes good to have these debates to focus the Minister’s attention on something that she or he may not be fully aware of and thereby ensure that there is a focus. If there is a focus, then we can address the shortcomings.

Chair: Thank you very much indeed. That brings our public deliberations to an end for this week. I thank everyone for their attendance. We now go into closed session.