Bernard Jenkin weekly: No.4

by Ben D-T

This edition of Bernard Jenkin is a week late. It should have been published on Sunday 6 November but, to be honest, I just forgot to do it. 

Week 31 October – 6 November

In a week when the High Court ruled that Parliament must vote on triggering Article 50 to begin the process of Brexit, the government confirmed it would appeal the High Court decision at the Supreme Court, and Conservative MP Stephen Philips, who voted Leave, resigned in protest of the government’s approach to Parliament’s role in Brexit, what did Bernard Jenkin do?

Speeches and written questions

Mr Jenkin spoke once in Parliament this week, asking for an update from Ben Gummer, Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether the government is undertaking a suggestion made by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which the MP for Harwich and North Essex chairs, that the government “conduct a review of civil service capacity in view of the extra workload being piled on Whitehall” following the EU referendum.

Voting record

Bernard Jenkin voted in three divisions this week on three separate issues.

On 1 November he voted once on the Investigatory Powers Bill. He voted: for rejecting a proposed Lords amendment that would have required major news publishers who aren’t members of an approved regulator to pay the costs of any court cases in relation to claims of unlawful interception.

On 2 November Mr Jenkin cast his other two votes. He voted: against an Opposition motion that would have called on the government to rethink its plans to change funding for community pharmacies; and against an Opposition motion that would have called on the government to accurately record the number of assaults on police officers and ensure officer numbers and funding are not reduced further.

Mr Jenkin voted with the majority and was loyal to the government on all three votes this week.

Select committees

Mr Jenkin was involved in three select committee oral evidence sessions this week, one for the Liaison Committee and two as chair for the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

The first hearing he sat in was on 2 November when the Liaison Committee questioned Sir John Chilcot over his inquiry into the Iraq War. Mr Jenkin spoke at length at several points during the session, but his opening question asked Sir John directly whether the then Prime Minister Tony Blair had made his decision to go to war regardless of what the evidence said.

” Which do you think was more at the forefront of the Prime Minister’s mind: was it to evaluate the evidence that was put in front of him or was it to make the case for a decision that, in his mind, he had already made?”

Sir John replied by saying clearly that in his opinion the Prime Minister was focused on making the evidence fit his decision to go to war, which he had already made, “It was the second and not the first. There was no attempt to challenge or seek re-evaluation of the intelligence advice.”

On 4 November Mr Jenkin chaired two sessions for the Public Administration and Public Affairs Committee, one questioning former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell on the Civil Service and the other on a report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman into how the NHS failed to prevent the death of three year old Sam Morrish.

During the first session with Lord O’Donnell Mr Jenkin remained quiet for the most part and mediated as the other members of the committee asked questions to the former Cabinet Secretary. At one point during the session Mr Jenkin interjected to seek clarification on what Lord O’Donnell was saying about moving away from being “process driven to being outcome driven.”

He asked “How does focusing on outcomes make an official more empathetic, more sympathetic, more understanding? Isn’t that about attitude and rather than about focusing on outcomes?”

Lord O’Donnell replied by saying that focusing on outcomes will in turn make an official more empathetic and sympathetic. He used the example of helping someone get a job, “[It requires you] to not say ‘fill in all of these forms’, it’s actually to have that empathy with the person and say ‘my job is to get you a job. If that works it’s success for both of us.'”

Following the session with Lord O’Donnell, the committee moved onto holding its session for the report into the death of Sam Morrish and how the NHS can learn from its mistakes. Present at the hearing was Sam Morrish’s father Scott. Mr Jenkin made it clear from the beginning of the session that he wanted to allow the witnesses present at the session to say what they needed to say rather than being asked a series of questions as though they were being held to account.

He asked Mr Morrish “you asked the PHSO to undertake a second investigation into your case because you thought its first report in 2014 did not deal sufficiently with the systemic issues underlying the mistakes that you felt led to Sam’s death. How satisfied are you now that the report has got to the bottom of these issues?”

Mr Morrish replied by saying he though the report represented a huge step forward. He added “It’s probably as much as we could hope for from a complaints system. It gives you a glimpse of what could be delivered through learning investigations.”

When asked what he thought the key reasons that led to the organisations investigating Sam’s death to do their job ineffectively, Mr Morrish said “The main reason that they failed would be put down to a combination of just basic human responses in tragic circumstances which would be effected by fear of having failed in some way and being responsible.”

“And then it was compounded by very poor governance and in the end a system that really has no checks and balances unless they come from the family.”

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