Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Angry leaders clash over Baby P

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Leaders clash in Commons over Baby P's case review

David Cameron and Gordon Brown have clashed angrily over the inquiry into a baby who died after months of abuse.

The Commons Speaker was forced to step in to tell MPs to "stop shouting across the chamber" and remember the issue was "a little child who has gone".

The row was prompted by the PM accusing the Tory leader of "making a party political issue" of it. Mr Cameron called that "frankly cheap".

Minister Ed Balls has ordered a review into Haringey's childrens' services.

Baby P, a 17-month-old boy, died in August 2007 after months of abuse.

On Tuesday two men were found guilty of causing his death in Haringey, north London - the same borough in which eight-year-old Victoria Climbie was murdered in 2000 by her great aunt and the woman's boyfriend. Baby P's mother had already admitted causing his death.

'No resignations'

In the Commons earlier Mr Cameron had urged the government to intervene saying it was "completely unacceptable" that an internal review into Baby P's death had been undertaken by the council's own children's services director.

He said "nobody is taking responsibility, nobody has resigned" and added of the woman in charge of the review: "She cannot possibly investigate the failure of her own department."

The prime minister said people had been "horrified and angered" by the story of Baby P's death, but the government would decide what action to take having just received the full report from Haringey on Wednesday morning.

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David Cameron
Watch the entire Commons session and read BBC political correspondent Iain Watson's verdict on "the most ill-tempered" PMQs clash he's seen

An independent review would be undertaken by Lord Laming, who chaired the inquiry into Victoria Climbie's death, to see what progress had been made around the country, he said.

But the exchange became more heated after the prime minister told Mr Cameron: "I do regret making a party political issue of this."

Mr Cameron said that was a "frankly cheap" response to "perfectly reasonable questions" and demanded he withdraw the comment.

He also said it was "shameful" that Labour MPs were trying to shout him down and urged Mr Brown to consider taking over Haringey social services "and put someone in charge who can run it properly".

'Terrible news'

Mr Brown did not withdraw the comment, telling MPs: "There is common ground on both sides of the House and we should maximise our agreement on these issues about this very sad and tragic case."

Speaker Michael Martin had to intervene several times, amid rowdy scenes in the Commons he warned MPs about shouting after "this terrible news".

But later he had to tell them again: "It is not a good thing at this time when we heard this news about a little child who has gone before us that we should be shouting across the chamber."

Baby P, had been on an at-risk register and had been seen about 60 times by social workers, doctors and welfare groups.

Baby P's clothes
Baby P's clothes. He died after months of abuse.

On Tuesday two men were found guilty of causing his death in Haringey, north London - the same borough in which eight-year-old Victoria Climbie was murdered in 2000 by her great aunt and the woman's boyfriend.

Baby P's mother had already admitted causing her son's death.

An internal inquiry by Haringey's Local Safeguarding Children Board blamed legal advice taken a week before the baby's death for the decision not to take him into care. The board's chair, Sharon Shoesmith, is also head of child services at Haringey social services.

The government argued the review was carried out by "independent people" and Ms Shoesmith commissioned, but did not author it - which they say is in line with guidance from the Victoria Climbie inquiry.

The Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone, who was leader of the opposition in Haringey during the Victoria Climbie case, said the measures outlined by the prime minister were welcome but did not go far enough for Haringey.

She urged him to call an independent public inquiry.

Later Ed Balls, the children's secretary, announced that Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and the Chief Inspector of Constabulary would carry out an "urgent" review of services involved in child welfare in Haringey.

He said the review indicated there were "a number of failings of practice and management by the agencies involved" in Baby P's case and said he needed to ensure that "such a tragedy doesn't happen again, that lessons are learned and that children in Haringey are safe".

The Conservatives said the announcement of an independent review was a "vindication of what we have been saying all day - that Haringey Council should not be judge and jury in any inquiry into what led to the death of Baby P".

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said it was "crucial" lessons were learnt from the "tragedy" and said he hoped the review would "draw a line" under the political row.

The Lib Dems also welcomed the move.

Labour backbencher Jon Cruddas told BBC Two's Daily Politics the case of Baby P was "beyond politics".

He said Labour backbenchers had been expecting questions on the economy and as a result "the response was not helpful, it did not shine a positive light on my own party - that is part of the culture within the House of Commons chamber".

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