Having reshaped his Cabinet substantially last summer - sacking two Cabinet Ministers in the process - David Cameron is unlikely to do so again during this one. This is because to do so would both risk destabilising his already fractious Parliamentary Party, and offend his instinct to keep changes to his front bench to a minimum. From the Prime Minister's point of view, it makes sense to delay a substantial Cabinet clearout until next summer, when a team can be put in place to fight the election in 2015.
Leaving the next big shuffle until later in the Parliament will also minimise any backlash from sacked Ministers, since they will rally round Cameron during the election run-up (that's the theory, at any rate). The claim that Sir George Young will stay in post for the time being would dovetail with such an approach. The Prime Minister's most likely reshuffle course, therefore, will be to restrict change to the lower ranks of the Government - but to promote to just below Cabinet level men and women who, in his view, are capable of making it to the top table next year.
By Matthew Barrett
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Following on from the last few days' rolling blogs, I have below a final list of the MPs (and Baroness Warsi) appointed as Ministers for each department. I have put new appointments in bold.
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Department for Communities and Local Government
By Joseph Willits
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In what has been a rather sensitive issue for the past 40 years, many will be relieved to hear the words "commitment" and "continuing", in response to a question about free milk for under 5-s. Health Minister Anne Milton reassured other MPs, responding to a question from Labour MP Nic Dakin, about the value of "free nursery milk in preparing young people for a good future and well-being in life".
The Mail on Sunday, used the headline: 'David Cameron the milk snatcher': Government plan to slash school milk budget', which quickly prompted comment from Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, with a reference to Thatcher:
"The Tories have form on this, from 'Thatcher the Milk Snatcher' to the botched attempt to make it an early victim of the spending cuts."
Sources close to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley offered a "cast iron guarantee" that free milk would stay, but a Department of Health spokesperson also said:
"We are looking at how the free nursery milk scheme can deliver better value for money, because we are very concerned about the escalating costs. One thing is clear, though, the scheme will continue and every child will receive free nursery milk."
By Jonathan Isaby
"All those countries with good informed consent legislation had significantly lower than average daily abortion rates than the countries that do not have such informed consent legislation. Although a causal link is impossible to prove, these figures suggest that informed consent legislation might prove a good way of reducing Britain's abortion figures. I think that all Members of all parties are agreed that we want to see that happen.
"In this country, if a woman requests a termination from her GP, no questions are asked. I have spoken to numerous GPs and posed this question to them: "When a woman sits in your surgery and asks for a termination, what do you say?" The answer I frequently receive is that the GP does not say anything, but writes a referral letter. That is the process at the GP stage. A referral is made to a hospital or clinic and the abortion is performed, for the woman's sake, as quickly as possible and without fuss.
"Minimal counselling or no counselling is provided in some NHS hospitals and some clinics. Minimal counselling is provided by BPAS-the British Pregnancy Advisory Service-which carries out a large number of abortions on behalf of the NHS. However, BPAS carries out some counselling, but also carries out the abortion, so there is a clear conflict of interest there."
"Does not the way in which abortions are carried out in this country today almost amount to abuse? We need to take lessons from our European neighbours. In Germany, women are offered counselling and a cooling-off period. That gives them a chance to breathe and think. It gives them support. They are informed about the procedure, and of the possible consequences. They are provided with alternative routes other than the surgical removal of a life. They are given information about adoption-and yes, I know that people throw up their hands in horror when that is mentioned, but it is not our pregnancy, and it is not our baby."
"Women are entitled to an option. They are entitled to give informed consent, which should be explicitly supported by pro-choice and pro-life campaigners. When it comes to a decision of such magnitude, it is vital for women to receive information that is absolutely accurate and is given calmly, without coercion or a principled bias and, in particular, without political ideology... I hope the Minister agrees that it is time that we took a little more care of women undergoing such a procedure. It is time that we introduced a statutory process of informed consent and a cooling-off period. The European evidence shows that that could provide us with a considerable reduction in the number of abortions, and everyone would surely welcome that."
In replying to the debate, Health Minister Anne Milton stated that reducing the abortion rate was "an absolute priority" for the Government:
I've developed an interest in the Government's inability to get its hands on health data. Guildford MP and Shadow Health Minister Anne Milton has uncovered another case with a written question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health on how many occasions electro-convulsive therapy was administered to a mental health patient (a) in total and (b) as part of compulsory treatment in each of the last five years. 
|Total and average number of procedures for electro convulsive treatment per patient where the relevant operative procedure code (OPCS-4 code= A83) recorded in either main or in any of the secondary operative procedure fields 2003-04 to 2007-08, England|
|Total Procedures||Patient count||Average procedures per patient|
Hospital Episode Statistics; Outpatients, The NHS Information Centre for health and social care
We do not have the data requested about ECT and compulsory treatment. However, patients who are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 cannot generally be given ECT without their consent, unless it is authorised by a Second Opinion Appointed Doctor (SOAD). The following table shows the number of second opinion requests in England and Wales for ECT received in each calendar year followed by the percentage of those requests that resulted in the Second Opinion Appointed Doctor issuing a statutory certificate authorising ECT.
The Care Quality Commission
There have been a couple of troubling written answers from Health ministers recently.
Shadow Health Minister Anne Milton asked about the availability of cognitive behavioural therapy, a crucial element in treating mental ill health:
"To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people received cognitive behavioural therapy in each of the last five years. 
"To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average ratio of nurses to patients was at each hospital in (a) England, (b) the North East and (c) the Tees Valley in each of the last 10 years. 
I am staggered that the Government doesn't know these figures. And they are just two recent examples - I will be on the lookout for more.
How can ministers consider national health trends if they don't have the raw material to hand?
Health questions were put in the House of Commons yesterday.
The situation at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which has been slammed by the Healthcare Commission for "appalling" emergency care at Stafford Hospital, stood out. Between 2005 and 2008 about 400 more people died there than would ordinarily have been expected.
Stone MP Bill Cash expressed his profound concern:
"Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Will the Secretary of State take account of the fact that I am repeating my call for an inquiry into this whole matter under the Inquiries Act 2005? Will he also make it clear that all those in that trust who are culpable, as set out in the Healthcare Commission report—that includes other senior management besides the chairman and the chief executive at the time—must be removed and not merely suspended on full pay?
Alan Johnson: As I just said, the investigation will involve everyone who has any position of authority within that trust—the whole board and all the executive directors. It will be a proper investigation and it will be fair, and the action taken will result from that inquiry, not from any knee-jerk reaction by me or anyone else."
Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (above right) went on the same topic:
“we should be spotting these issues much earlier and getting rid of incompetent chief executives or chairpersons who, fortunately, are in the minority, rather than waiting for a report such as this, by which time, frankly, most of the damage has been done.”—[ Official Report, 15 October 2007; Vol. 464, c. 571.]
The Secretary of State knew about the failings at Stafford in May 2008, so why did he not intervene then and there?
Alan Johnson: I ask the hon. Gentleman to look at the Healthcare Commission’s report carefully. The difference between what happened in Stafford and in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, and the fact that the Healthcare Commission took into account those words and what others said at the time, is that as soon as commission staff went into Stafford and saw the problems—in May 2008—they immediately called the chief executive to a meeting, put their concerns to him, and started to see the process of improvement. That is the job of the Healthcare Commission while it carries out its inquiry. The staff cannot say at that stage that they have come to any conclusions, and it would be unfair, one day into an inquiry, to reach conclusions and say that heads must roll and recommendations must be made. We made that specific point to the Healthcare Commission at the time of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, so in Stafford staff immediately introduced measures to put things right, rather than wait for the end of the process and the report to be published—as I said they should do in that quote.
Yesterday the House of Commons had Work and Pensions questions.
Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans asked what can be done to make parents take responsibility for their children:
"Poverty for youngsters is often reinforced when a married couple separates by a missing parent who refuses to take their responsibility. The Child Support Agency is often deficient in chasing the missing parent. What action can the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the CSA takes to make sure that it tracks down missing parents, so that they pay for their own children?
James Purnell: In the past year, the CSA—now the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission—has collected an extra £156 million, but we agree that more needs to be done. That is why we are taking powers in the Welfare Reform Bill to be able to take away people’s passports or driving licences without a court process. That will make things much more speedy. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support that, unlike the Conservative party in the Lords the last time that that was proposed. That is also why we are saying that, where there is a payment, parents should be able to keep all of it and that there should be a complete disregard for child maintenance payments and benefits. We think that that could lift an extra 100,000 children out of poverty."
The new Shadow Secretary of State, Theresa May, put pressure on the Secretary of State over child poverty:
"According to a recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 15 indicators of poverty and social exclusion had worsened in the five years preceding the onset of the current economic downturn, more than double the number in the previous five years. That includes the number of people living in very low-income households. Perhaps it is little wonder that the number of children living in poverty has risen by 100,000 in the past two years. How does the Secretary of State explain the Government’s poor performance?
Mrs. May: Yet again, the Secretary of State is very complacent about his attitude to the issue. Another example of the Government’s complacency is their refusal to end the couple penalty in the tax credit system, which would lift 300,000 children out of poverty. Why will the Government not do that?
James Purnell: The right hon. Lady has no policy of that kind, because she has no way of funding it. The Conservatives used to say that they would fund it out of welfare reform, but now they are not prepared to do as much welfare reform as us. If the right hon. Lady wants to repeat that claim, she will have to find new resources. Hers is a policy without a budget, and I hope that she will not pretend to repeat it."
Debates in Westminster Hall are by no means universally popular. In 1999 MPs began sitting there, in what is a parallel chamber to the main one in the Commons. The building itself is steeped in history, however.
Yesterday Anne Milton, MP for Guildford and part of the Conservatives' Health Team, spoke in Westminster Hall about the South-east Plan. Tomorrow the consultation period for the Government's proposed amendments comes to an end. She highlighted the fact that:
"The publication of the plan was shrouded in secrecy. It was impossible to get an answer from the Minister about when it would be published even 12 hours beforehand. It was not widely available and is not accessible to people without the internet. If it had not been for the co-operation of my local newspaper, the Surrey Advertiser, and local radio station, 96.4 Eagle, I doubt whether anybody in Guildford without the support of the residents association would be aware of the plan’s existence, let alone its importance. Yet it will have a significant and irreversible impact not only on Guildford, but across the south-east.
I will mention the gross figures. The original plan proposed building 578,000 new homes. Despite the serious challenges of achieving that, the Government have returned with an increase of some 85,000, making the total 662,500 new homes. As the regional assembly has already made clear—and I am no fan of regional assemblies—Government proposals threaten to destroy an already delicate balance between housing growth on the one hand and providing decent infrastructure and protecting the environment on the other."
Several good points, and well-made. Does it matter that they weren't made in the main chamber?