MP’s Friday “fun”

Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, spoke in confused, confabulatory, support for the Chris Heaton-Harris version of the Saatchi Bill – ‘Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill’. In doing so, he ensured that not only would the Bill – criticised by patient safety experts, Royal Colleges, doctors, medical research organisations and more- get through its second reading; but also bolstered his filibustering of the next item, the  Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) BillAfter all, who needs safe medical treatment, or a safe home to live in? 

Earning the accolade of ‘friend to rogue landlords’ last year by blocking the Tenancies (Reform) Bill to prevent eviction for asking for basic repairs in rented property, he’d been ‘unrepentant’ in the Independent:

“When I first got elected to Parliament my mentor was Eric Forth [the former Tory MP] and he really was the past master of talking out bills on a Friday… He did it for fun and he was brilliant at it. After he died I vowed I would do the same kind of work.”     …you can’t pass legislation on the whim of a worthy sentiment because it affects people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Soon after blocking Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill and endorsing the thoroughly terrible Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill, he spent 90 minutes blocking the Hospital Parking Charges Bill, which would have allowed free parking for carers in hospitals.  It’s not just Davies MP, but he certainly is the most prolific of the boys crowd who seem to get their kicks from this, without thought or care to the people who will be affected by their behaviour. 

 “To see the government playing games with it and to think that’s clever and funny is obscene.” – Labour MP Julie Bailey

Not content with voting through the very real risk of maiming individuals without consideration of their safety; and then increasing the financial burden on their carers, while they live in a home unfit for human habitation (which is alright, he’s a landlord so can’t be distracted from parliamentary duties by such matters as ensuring safe housing of tenants..) he turned his attention to what happens when one of them requires emergency life support – such as after a cardiac arrest, possibly brought on by exposure to toxic contaminants leaking into their rented house. Well, of course, why would those people be a priority? 

Presumably doing it “for fun” Davies MP and others set about blocking a backbench bill that had the support of the British Heart Foundation, St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross, as well as Resuscitation Council UK, the British Cardiovascular Society, PTA UK, the Royal College of Nursing, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, Heartsafe Leicestershire and more.  The Compulsory Emergency First Aid Education (State-funded Secondary Schools) Bill would have ensured that emergency first aid/life support skills were taught as part of the national curriculum in state secondary schools. 

The British Heart Foundation are clear in their call to create ‘A Nation of Lifesavers’: More than 30,000 people have a cardiac arrest each year outside of hospital. Fewer than one in ten survive (e.g. 8.6% survival in 2013). The BHF have produced ‘Call Push Rescue’ kits for schools to teach CPR, and kits for workplaces and community groups. They run ‘HeartStart’ training schemes, and provide equipment for emergency life saving training to be run in a scheme for schools and colleges backed by St John Ambulance, SJA LINKS, the London Ambulance Service and the London medical schools, Saving Londoners Lives’. The British Red Cross have excellent teaching resources

But not all children are taught CPR, let alone other emergency life support. These are voluntary schemes, requiring funding and well trained volunteers and their time. For something so vital, this patchwork, unsupported provision is not enough – it doesn’t reach everyone. The BHF estimate that, although many thousands of children receive training at secondary school through HeartStart, the reach is just not enough overall.  In 2013, 70,000 were trained: just 2% of the total number of secondary age children.  In countries and states where ELS is part of the curriculum, including France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden; survival rates for out of hospital cardiac arrests far outstrip those of the UK.   In the UK, people are more likely to look the other way in public, and be unable to help at home. It’s no exaggeration to say this is life or death, on a very far reaching scale. Every child deserves to know how to save the life of a friend, a sibling, a parent. 

Peter Aldous: When she was 14, Samantha saved her mother’s life.  She said: “It is horrible to think what could have happened if I had not known CPR.”  In those countries where CPR is taught in schools, survival rates are more than double those of the UK.  If we could match our survival rates with those of Norway we could save 5,000 lives each year.

“Why on earth would I allow a bill that principle of which I don’t like a second reading?”

Speaking for 50 minutes to crash it into the rocks, his reasoning included that he simply did not agree with the principle of it. Other things I gather Davies MP doesn’t like in principle include gay marriage, international aid, international women’s day.  He’d been taught first aid and had forgotten what he was taught, he said. 

“I remember doing a first aid course at school, but I have to admit that if I were faced with a medical emergency, I would struggle to remember all the training I received. In that sense it would be rendered completely useless. That would apply to many of those who would go through first aid training at school, particularly if they were not paying attention because they did not want to be there in the first place.”

His failure to keep his first aid skills up to date, or indeed to pay attention in the first place, perhaps reinforced his conviction that it’s a waste of time. 

“If this Bill is so easy for schools to implement—it is said that it will save time, save money and save lives—then there is absolutely nothing to stop them from introducing first aid courses now as part of the existing curriculum….My point, which is very relevant to the Bill, is that all these things, very worthy in themselves, are like a salami slicer.   A serious effect of the Bill is that it will take up time in the curriculum… it is perfectly clear that spending extra time on English would be far more beneficial than a two-hour course in first aid, regardless of whether that is worth while.”

“I do not think first aid is worth teaching in schools”      The apparently more pressing concern was that people wouldn’t join the scouts.

Sir Roger Gale: I understand what my hon. Friend is saying… but the bottom line, as my hon. Friend knows and as I know, is that the overwhelming majority of children, for whatever reason, do not take advantage of any of those schemes. We are talking about life and death, and he ought to consider that very seriously indeed.

Philip Davies: I take my hon. Friend’s point, but I will explain why I do not think first aid is worth teaching in schools. My fear is if we start doing in school all the things that happen at the scouts, the guides and the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, there will be no point in people joining them, and these very worthy organisations—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. We are not debating what is provided by the scouts, the guides or anyone else. This is about the provision of first aid training. We do not want to get into all the activities those organisations do or try to compare the two. You understand that, Mr Davies. You are very good.

Philip Davies: The point I am trying to make, Mr Deputy Speaker—I apologise if I am making it in a ham-fisted way—is why the Bill is unnecessary. We are discussing whether the Bill should be enacted, and I am making the point—I apologise if I appear to be doing it in a deviant manner, but I assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not doing so intentionally—that the Bill is unnecessary, for the reasons I am giving. I hope that is well within the scope of the debate.

Teresa Pearce: Surely the Bill would be unnecessary only if everybody was trained in first aid? We know clearly that only a very small proportion of people in this country are.

Philip Davies: It would be very worth while if everybody joined the scouts.

In dismissing its inclusion, Davies entirely missed what’s in the National Curriculum – which is firmly supported by first aid training – (and was also wrong when he claimed it does not include sex education)

firstaidAnd despite the evident lack of expertise, he was happy to assert how teachers would feel  and leapt in to refute some of the arguments used  to support Chris Heaton-Harris MP’s widely condemned Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill. 

Philip Davies: I am very sorry that people seem to think they can come here with a worthy sentiment and expect it just to be nodded through because it is a worthy sentiment. That is not the purpose of this House; the purpose is to try to scrutinise legislation, and some of us take that seriously. 

Sir Roger Gale: I have been in this House for 32 years, and I think I know my way around the Bill procedures. I think I am right in saying that if a Bill has a Second Reading, it usually then goes into Committee, where it can be studied line by line and, if necessary, amended line by line. I would like to think that given that this is a matter of life and death, my hon. Friend might allow this Bill to have a Second Reading and then allow it to be dissected, if necessary, in Committee.

Philip Davies: It is not often that my hon. Friend makes a ludicrous argument, but I am afraid he has just done so. That would be like saying that any Bill should automatically be nodded through on its Second Reading because then we can amend it to how we would like it in Committee. That is not how this place works… I do not agree with the principle of compulsory emergency first aid education in schools, so why on earth would I want to allow such a Bill a Second Reading, any more than he would vote for the Second Reading of a Bill whose principle he disagrees with? That is how this place works.

The debate was adjourned to Friday 29 January 2016, while Sam Gyimah MP continued reading lists. 

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