Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 3rd March 2014.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Labour, Worsley and Eccles South 3:35 pm, 3rd March 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week we learned that insurance actuaries had been able to obtain 13 years of hospital medical records on every NHS patient in the country. A report on the use of the data said that the 188 million records were at individual episode level, and the hospital data obtained had many identifiers, including diagnosis, age, gender, area where the patient lived, date of admission and discharge. On Thursday, in a debate in Westminster Hall, the public health Minister, who is in her place, said that she wanted to put it on the record that the data released to the insurance actuaries were publicly available, non-identifiable and in aggregate form. The Minister’s comments on the data released are at complete variance with the reported facts, which were also discussed extensively at the Health Committee last week. There is now a further damaging story in the news that that released patient data were made available online. I understand that the Health and Social Care Information Centre has today had to ask a company to take down a tool that used that hospital patient data online.

May I ask you, Mr Speaker, whether the public health Minister has sought your permission to correct the record from Thursday’s debate. Furthermore, has the Health Secretary asked to make a statement about NHS patient data being made available online?

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond directly. In responding to the Westminster Hall debate on Thursday 27 February and in relation to the points made by Mr Mudie concerning the release of information to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, I did say that the data that were used were

“publicly available, non-identifiable and in aggregate form.”—[Hansard, 27 February 2014; Vol. 576, c. 212WH.]

I was made aware on Friday 28 February that the information I had to hand during the debate did not include the latest clarification received from the Health and Social Care Information Centre. I therefore wrote to the Chair of the debate, my hon. Friend Mr Amess, on Friday to inform him of that. I have today formally written to him and the Members who were present at the debate to correct the statement, and I have copied that to the House of Commons Library.

The correct position was that the faculty requested pseudo-anonymised information and said it would publish it only as anonymous information with all identifiers stripped out. My assertion that the data provided to the faculty were anonymised and publicly available was therefore incorrect, for which I offer my apologies to the House, the shadow Minister, who is in his place, and Members who attended the debate. In handling this request, the NHS information centre did not treat this as a request for sensitive information.

Once again, I thank you, Mr Speaker, for affording me this opportunity and I apologise for the fact that my comments during the debate provided an incorrect impression of the actual events.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I am extremely grateful to the Minister for what she said. It does seem to constitute a most full apology to and an explanation for the benefit of the House. We will leave the matter there. [Interruption.] We will not have a “further to” I am afraid. This matter has been fully addressed. If Members have totally unrelated points of order on completely different subjects, we will hear from them—in other words, for the avoidance of doubt, on matters not appertaining to that which has just been said. Mr Sheerman intends to embark on entirely new terrain.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour, Huddersfield

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you know, I have been in this House a reasonable length of time, but something happened to me last Thursday that I do not recall having experienced before. I tabled a question, which in the preliminary agenda was signified as being question No. 7 for the next day. It was a question about my calling for the setting up of a royal commission on the link between climate change and flooding. By the time I got here on Thursday, the full agenda for the day—the Order Paper—had eliminated that question, and transferred it elsewhere. It was clearly a question to a climate change Minister. Why did it disappear and who allowed it to disappear?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

What I would say to the hon. Gentleman, who has indeed been in the House for a goodly number of years—it will be 35, to be precise, on 4 May this year—is as follows, and I hope that he will take it in the appropriate spirit. It is entirely a matter for Ministers as to whether they make transfers. The transfer that took place, though immensely disagreeable to the hon. Gentleman, was entirely orderly, and I conclude by saying in the friendliest possible way to him that there are Members who do have something about which to complain but are disinclined to do so and there are Members who sometimes have very little about which to complain but make a very considerable meal out of doing so. It is my firm conviction that the hon. Gentleman has precious little about which to complain, and he is doing his best to make a very large mountain out of an extremely small molehill. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is chuntering from a sedentary position about what I did when I was a Back Bencher, but that was then and this is now.