The Sketch: Hoyle may suffer a lingering political death after complaints of rude health

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The Independent Online

Lindsay Hoyle. Rich, regional accent. Voice like a drain clearing. Has declared a sort of moral independence from his government and is quite likely to berate his parliamentary superiors (in the course of their answer they become his parliamentary inferiors).

Last month, he'd been promised a meeting with the minister about his local NHS Direct. The meeting hadn't happened. He'd written to the CEO of the health service who hadn't even replied. He was furious. "It's time we got this department into some sort of order!" He didn't conceal his feelings. I thought he must have got a terminal disease and had to tell the truth about everything. I am delighted to say his health is fine (the investigative sketch rang up).

It was Health questions and it was the same as every other Health questions. Andrew Lansley denounced the Government for things he'd be doing in their place. If he ever becomes Health Secretary, he'll be defending the government exactly as Patricia Hewitt is now. He's a Widow Twanky in a parliamentary pantomime. "Twelve bedpans in Stroud have not been properly cleaned?" he declares. "And the reduced target for reducing targets has not been benchmarked for best practice!" You know I'm exaggerating for effect? I don't think I am, but the lawyer disagrees.

We had a statement on the failure of schools to keep records of how many active paedophiles they were employing. The minister is the attractive and amiable Alan Johnson.

He had a perfectly reasonable exchange of views with David Willetts, very much in the manner of grown-ups. He made a number of undertakings, none of which will matter much as he won't be minister for long enough to follow them up.

Now then: how to explain why the department has done nothing about the Bichard report. You may have forgotten about Bichard. So has the Government. This is where Beverley Hughes comes in handy. She was running the Immigration and Nationality Directorate when the numbers of asylum-seekers were dramatically cut. By redefining them as something else.

She got caught out and was forced to resign but you can't waste a talent like hers so she's back. Her time is coming round again.

Every school now has to have a central record of every staff member's criminal record. Earlier guidance had advised schools that they didn't have to check (it would have paralysed the system). But that was before the headlines. Now failing to check for paedophiles will be a crime, like raping children.

Here's a prediction. If they get ID cards up and running, the logic of putting a teacher's "clearance to work with children" on the card will be irresistible.

"We need eternal vigilance to protect children from those who would manipulate and deceive them," Alan Johnson told the House. It sounded like an open attack on the Prime Minister himself. Lindsay Hoyle couldn't have put it better.

sketch@simoncarr.co.uk

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