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Hospital discharge policy at start of Covid pandemic unlawful because of risk to care home residents, court rules – UK politics live | Politics

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Why high court concluded government’s hospital discharge policy at start of pandemic was unlawful

PA Media has filed more on the reasons given by the high court for ruling that the government’s hospital discharge policy at the start of the Covid pandemic was unlawful. (See 10.50am.) PA says:

In a ruling on Wednesday, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham concluded that policies contained in documents released in March and early April 2020 were unlawful because they failed to take into account the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission of the virus.

They said that, despite there being “growing awareness” of the risk of asymptomatic transmission throughout March 2020, there was no evidence that then health secretary, Matt Hancock, addressed the issue of the risk to care home residents of such transmission.

And in their ruling the judges said:

In our judgment, this was not a binary question, a choice between on the one hand doing nothing at all, and on the other hand requiring all newly admitted residents to be quarantined.

The document could, for example, have said that where an asymptomatic patient, other than one who has tested negative, is admitted to a care home, he or she should, so far as practicable, be kept apart from other residents for up to 14 days.

Since there is no evidence that this question was considered by the secretary of state, or that he was asked to consider it, it is not an example of a political judgment on a finely balanced issue. Nor is it a point on which any of the expert committees had advised that no guidance was required.

The drafters of the documents of March 17 and April 2 simply failed to take into account the highly relevant consideration of the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from asymptomatic transmission.

The judges said these issues were not addressed until a further document in mid-April 2020. They concluded:

The common law claim succeeds against the secretary of state and Public Health England in respect of both the March 17 and April 2 2020 documents to this extent: the policy set out in each document was irrational in failing to advise that where an asymptomatic patient, other than one who had tested negative, was admitted to a care home, he or she should, so far as practicable, be kept apart from other residents for 14 days.

Scottish government should publish legal advice about second independence referendum, information commissioner says

The Scottish government should publish legal advice it received about a second independence referendum, the information commissioner has ruled. PA Media says:

Daren Fitzhenry, the Scottish Information Commissioner, said disclosing some of the advice would “significantly enhance public debate on this issue”.

He said ministers’ decision to release legal advice they received around the Alex Salmond case had already affected the convention that such advice to ministers remained private.

It follows a Freedom of Information request from the Scotsman newspaper, which asked for any legal advice provided to ministers on the topic of a second independence referendum in 2020.

The government refused, saying doing so would breach legal professional privilege.

The case was appealed to the information commissioner in April 2021, who has now released his ruling.

Fitzhenry’s decision states: “The ministers also argued that a claim to confidentiality in legal proceedings could be maintained because the withheld information was only shared between the Scottish government and its legal advisers. Therefore, the information remained confidential at the time they responded to the applicant’s request and requirement for review and this remained the case.”

The newspaper argued, in recent months, the government had dispensed with the tradition of keeping legal advice private, releasing several pages of advice around the Alex Salmond harassment complaints scandal.

Fitzhenry continued: “While the ministers have expressed concern that disclosure of legal advice in this case would have the effect of future legal advice being more circumspect or less effective, the commissioner acknowledges the point made by the applicant that the ministers’ own decision to disclose legal advice relating to the Alex Salmond case has already created such an environment.”

Responding to the information commissioner’s decision, a spokesman for the government said:

We have received the decision from the Scottish Information Commissioner and are considering its terms. However, we are clear the Scottish government has acted lawfully in its application of freedom of information legislation.

There is a long-standing convention, observed by UK governments and Scottish governments, that government does not disclose legal advice, including whether law officers have, or have not, advised on any matter, except in exceptional circumstances.

The Scottish government can appeal against the decision to the court of session.

Here is my colleague Robert Booth’s story about the high court ruling on the government’s hospital discharge policy at the start of the pandemic.

This is from Rachel Harrison, national officer for care at the GMB union, on today’s high court ruling on the government’s hospital discharge policy at the start of the pandemic. She said:

Today’s judgment is a terrible reminder of callous disregard this government has shown for care home residents and workers.

Transferring untested hospital outpatients into enclosed facilities where carers were denied access to proper PPE and even sick pay was always going to have tragic consequences.

GMB members nursed much-loved residents as they died from this awful virus, while all the while worrying about their own safety and how they were going to pay the bills.

If any good is to come out of this pandemic then it must include urgent reform of the sector.

Why high court concluded government’s hospital discharge policy at start of pandemic was unlawful

PA Media has filed more on the reasons given by the high court for ruling that the government’s hospital discharge policy at the start of the Covid pandemic was unlawful. (See 10.50am.) PA says:

In a ruling on Wednesday, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham concluded that policies contained in documents released in March and early April 2020 were unlawful because they failed to take into account the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission of the virus.

They said that, despite there being “growing awareness” of the risk of asymptomatic transmission throughout March 2020, there was no evidence that then health secretary, Matt Hancock, addressed the issue of the risk to care home residents of such transmission.

And in their ruling the judges said:

In our judgment, this was not a binary question, a choice between on the one hand doing nothing at all, and on the other hand requiring all newly admitted residents to be quarantined.

The document could, for example, have said that where an asymptomatic patient, other than one who has tested negative, is admitted to a care home, he or she should, so far as practicable, be kept apart from other residents for up to 14 days.

Since there is no evidence that this question was considered by the secretary of state, or that he was asked to consider it, it is not an example of a political judgment on a finely balanced issue. Nor is it a point on which any of the expert committees had advised that no guidance was required.

The drafters of the documents of March 17 and April 2 simply failed to take into account the highly relevant consideration of the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from asymptomatic transmission.

The judges said these issues were not addressed until a further document in mid-April 2020. They concluded:

The common law claim succeeds against the secretary of state and Public Health England in respect of both the March 17 and April 2 2020 documents to this extent: the policy set out in each document was irrational in failing to advise that where an asymptomatic patient, other than one who had tested negative, was admitted to a care home, he or she should, so far as practicable, be kept apart from other residents for 14 days.

In an interview with Sky News this morning Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy PM, claimed that Labour’s proposed windfall tax on energy companies (its key proposal to address the cost of living crisis) would be “disastrous”. He said:

If you look at Labour’s policy, you asked about it – of a windfall tax – that would damage investment in energy supplies we need and hike bills. It’s disastrous. It’s not serious.

What this shows is they’re coming up with frankly ill-thought through policies, but we have got a plan, a concerted plan, and I think that’s what voters want to see.

There will be two urgent questions in the Commons later after PMQs. First Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, will ask about backlogs at the Passport Office, and after that Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, will ask about the plans to privatise Channel 4.

Hospital discharge policy at start of pandemic unlawful because of risk to care home residents, court rules

The government’s policy of discharging patients from hospitals into care homes at the start of the Covid pandemic in 2020 was unlawful because it failed to take into account the risk to residents from coronavirus infection, the high court has ruled. Sky’s Tom Gillespie has more on the story here.

Raab says government ‘neutral’ on whether or not to privatise Passport Office

In interviews this morning Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy PM, said that the government had not ruled out privatisting the Passport Office as a means of ensuring it delivers a better service. Asked if that was an option, he said:

I think the point the prime minister made, and he made it again last night, is that we’re neutral on the question of who does the provision; what we’re not neutral on – and what we want to see – is the service to the taxpayer and to the public being the very best value for money.

Therefore, if we need to consider changing the controller of a particular service, that’s something that we’re willing to do. But I don’t think a decision has been taken either way on it.

Yesterday it emerged that Johnson told cabinet he was prepared to “privatise the arse” off the Passport Office if necessary. When asked about this in an interview last night with Tom Newton Dunn on Talk TV, Johnson said:

I don’t care whether an institution is in the private or the public sector, I just want it to deliver value. I want it to deliver value and a good service. I’m not, on your august show, going to rule anything out. What I want is for it to deliver value for money and help keep people’s cost down.

Raab under pressure over lack of action on cost of living crisis

As my colleague Rowena Mason reports, in his morning interview round Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy PM, came under pressure when forced to explain why yesterday’s cabinet meeting on the cost of living crisis did not generate any firm policy initiatives.

This is from the i’s Paul Waugh on Angela Rayner.

.@AngelaRayner is accused today of being “a tiny bit disingenuous in her outrage” over what Tory MPs said about her.
But why can’t she both ridicule the original false accusation levelled at her AND be outraged Tory MPs would weaponise that accusation by claiming it was true?🧵

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) April 27, 2022

And this is from my colleague Jessica Elgot.

It wouldn’t be the first time a woman has chuckled along with or even made a joke when a group of men is saying deeply inappropriate things about her. It happens all the time. Especially on the terrace.

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) April 27, 2022

Rayner says she wants Johnson to say at PMQs what he will do about ‘vile sexism’ in Tory party

Angela Rayner has been tweeting this morning about the revelations in today’s Mail (see 9.27am) about her previous remarks about a meme comparing her at PMQs to Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. She says the Mail has ignored her objections to this presentation.

She also says she wants Boris Johnson to explain at PMQs what he will be doing about “vile sexism” in his party.

I said to @mattforde in January that the sexist film parody about me was misogynistic and it still is now.

As women we sometimes try to brush aside the sexism we face, but that doesn’t make it ok.

— Angela Rayner 🌹 (@AngelaRayner) April 27, 2022

The Mail implies today that I somehow enjoy being subjected to sexist slurs.

I don’t.

They are mortifying and deeply hurtful.

— Angela Rayner 🌹 (@AngelaRayner) April 27, 2022

‘She loves it really’ is a typical excuse so many women are familiar with.

But it can’t be women’s responsibility to call it out every time.

I don’t need anyone to explain sexism to me – I experience it every day.

— Angela Rayner 🌹 (@AngelaRayner) April 27, 2022

Boris Johnson gave assurances he would unleash ‘the terrors of the earth’ on the Tory MPs spreading this vile sexism.

I hope to hear what he’ll be doing about it today.

— Angela Rayner 🌹 (@AngelaRayner) April 27, 2022

Peers concede to Commons on police and health bills, but fight on on nationality and borders bill

MPs and peers are engaged in parliamentary “ping pong” this week on a clutch of bills that are very close to getting royal assent, but that cannot clear parliament until the two chambers resolve any outstanding differences. The process is called “ping pong” because at this point bills shuttle back and forth between the two houses – sometimes on the same day – until one side backs down. Last night peers were sitting until almost midnight dealing with outstanding bills.

Normally the Lords eventually gives in to the elected house, and last night peers gave up their struggle to ditch a provision in the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill giving the police new powers to limit protests on the grounds of noise. This is from PA Media.

Powers allowing a clampdown on noisy protests are set to become law after peers ended their stand-off at Westminster.

The House of Lords voted by 180 to 113, majority 67, against a Labour move to again strip from legislation the controversial curbs relating to marches.

The upper chamber also rejected an opposition bid to remove the noise trigger for demonstrations by 169 to 113, majority 56.

It comes after the Commons supported restoring the restrictions to the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill for a third time.

The legislation contains a wide-ranging raft of measures aimed at overhauling the criminal justice system.

Peers also backed down on a remaining sticking point in the health and social care bill. PA reports:

A planned £86,000 cap on care costs is set to be introduced after peers backed down over their demand for a government rethink, amid concerns it is unfair to poorer people.

The House of Lords voted by 196 to 160, majority 36, against a renewed Labour move to amend the proposed reform aimed at sending it back to the Commons again for further consideration.

A fresh bid in the upper chamber to improve workforce planning in health and social care in England also failed.

Peers rejected by 204 votes to 169, majority 35, a move to force ministers to publish a report every three years on staffing needs, aimed at tackling shortages.

Both issues had been key areas of contention during the passage of the health and care bill through the Lords.

But the peers are still fighting over key aspects of the nationality and borders bill. PA says:

Defiant peers have dug in their heels by inflicting further defeats against the government’s controversial asylum and immigration reforms.

The House of Lords is maintaining its stand-off despite the Tory-dominated Commons rejecting previous changes made by the unelected chamber to the flagship nationality and borders bill.

Peers again backed steps aimed at preventing asylum seekers being treated differently based on how they reached the UK, and renewed their demand that applicants be allowed to work if no decision had been taken on their claim after six months.

The Lords also supported measures to ensure provisions on asylum in the bill comply with the UK’s international commitments to refugees.

The latest government setbacks mean a continuation of the legislative tussle between the two houses over the bill, known as parliamentary ping pong, as the end of the parliamentary session looms.

However, the Conservative frontbench did see off attempts to secure further significant changes to the bill, including a fresh bid to strip out a broad provision making it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission and a move to impose strict conditions on offshoring asylum.

Speaker says he wanted to meet editor not to threaten press freedom, but to just ask ‘that we are all a little kinder’

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, has insisted his decision to invite the Mail on Sunday editor to a meeting to discuss the Angela Rayner article was not a threat to press freedom. In a statement last night, after David Dillon, the editor, said he would not be attending, Hoyle said:

I am a staunch believer and protector of press freedom, which is why when an MP asked me to remove the pass of a sketch writer last week for something he had written, I said ‘no’.

I firmly believe in the duty of reporters to cover parliament, but I would also make a plea – nothing more – for the feelings of all MPs and their families to be considered, and the impact on their safety, when articles are written. I would just ask that we are all a little kinder.

Raab refuses to criticise Mail on Sunday editor for refusing to meet Commons Speaker over Angela Rayner story

Good morning. In his classic book about journalism, My Trade, Andrew Marr says of journalism that “outside organised crime, it is the most powerful and enjoyable of the anti-professions”. One characteristic of anti-professions is that they don’t like being bossed around by officialdom, and we have seen a good example of that this morning in the declaration from the Mail on Sunday editor, David Dillon, that he will not attend a meeting with the Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, to discuss its article about Angela Rayner widely denounced as sexist.

My colleague Tom Ambrose has written our story about the Mail on Sunday’s snub to the Speaker. The Daily Mail has reported it as its splash.

It was not entirely clear what Hoyle was planning to say to Dillon at the meeting, which had originally been scheduled for today. At least one MP has called for Glen Owen, the Mail on Sunday political editor, to have his parliamentary pass removed, but Hoyle gave no indication that he planned to impose this sanction (which would have triggered widespread protests from other journalists). However, Hoyle’s statement on Monday implied that what he had in mind was not a cosy chat about journalistic standards, but something more akin to what is sometimes called in Whitehall an interview without coffee.

In his statement in today’s Mail explaining his decision to refuse Hoyle’s invitation, Dillon presents this as a matter of press freedom. He says:

Britain rightly prides itself on its free Press. That freedom will not last if journalists have to take instruction from officials of the House of Commons, however august they may be, on what they can report and not report. I am afraid I and Glen Owen must now decline your invitation.

Dillon also offers two other reasons for staying away. He says Hoyle’s comment to MPs on Monday implied he had already taken a decision on the merits of the article, without having heard the paper’s side of the story. And he says new evidence has come to light to show that Rayner herself was the original source of the story, because she had been joking about the notion of using Basic Instinct tactics at PMQs in a conversation with Tory MPs on the Commons terrace. Dillon says:

Following investigations by the Conservative party, three other MPs who were part of the group on the House of Commons terrace, one of them a woman, have come forward to corroborate the account of Angela Rayner’s remarks given to us by the MP who was the source of last Sunday’s story.

The original story implied that Rayner herself had discussed the comparison with Tories (it quoted an unnamed Tory saying “[Rayner] admitted as much when enjoying drinks with us on the [Commons] terrace”) but it was not explicit about this. Today’s Mail also says that, when she was recording an interview in January with the comedian Matt Forde for his Political Party podcast, Rayner discussed a meme suggesting she used Basic Instinct tactics at PMQs. Rayner said in the interview she was “mortified” by the comparison – but she could clearly see the funny side too.

(Quite what Rayner may have said to MPs on the Commons terrace remains unclear, but it seems probable that the story is a good example of how journalism goes wrong when a comment made in jest ends up being reported seriously.)

While it was easy for MPs from all parties to condemn the sexism of the original article, today’s framing of the debate means they are now being invited to take sides, and choose between the Mail on Sunday or the Speaker, press freedom or responsible, respectful journalism. This issue is very likely to come up at PMQs.

Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, was doing the morning interview round this morning, and he tried to avoid taking sides. But he would not criticise the Mail on Sunday for boycotting the meeting with the Speaker.

Speaking about the original article, he said it was “terrible”. He said he had faced Rayner in the Commons in his capacity as deputy PM and she was “a formidable opponent”. Speaking about the story published on Sunday, he said: “I can’t stand this kind of thing.”

Asked about the paper’s refusal to meet the Speaker, Raab said:

Whether it’s the Speaker or the newspaper editors, we all believe in two things: one, the power and the importance of free speech, but, secondly, the importance of not allowing that to be abused and used to spread sexism in any shape or form …

I’m not going to second guess the decisions of editors …

I think it was a legitimate thing for Lindsay Hoyle do to invite to him [Dillon] and of course it’s the prerogative of any editor to decide how they treat that invitation.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Lord Blunkett, the former Labour education secretary, and Lord Willetts, the former Conservative universities minister, give evidence to the Commons education committee about post-16 qualifications.

9.30am: Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, gives evidence to the Commons transport committee.

9.45am: The supreme court rules on a claim that pilot voter ID schemes used in the May 2019 local elections were unlawful.

10am: Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, gives evidence to the Commons international trade committee.

10.15am: Lord Keen of Elie, who resigned as advocate general of Scotland over the internal market bill in 2020, gives evidence to the Lords constitution committee about the role of government law officers.

12pm: Boris Johnson faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

12.30pm: Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, gives a speech on the Northern Ireland protocol.

After 12.45pm: MPs debate Lords amendments to the elections bill.

2.15pm: Sir Tom Scholar, permanent secretary at the Treasury, and other officials give evidence to the Commons Treasury committee on combating fraud.

Afternoon: Peers consider Commons amendments to the judicial review and courts bill, to the nationality and borders bill and to the elections bill.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com.





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