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9.50 am

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen). He and I became Members on the same day. We have nothing whatever in common politically, but he has always been a very straightforward politician.

Before the House adjourns for the summer recess, I wish to raise a number of points, the first of which concerns mobile phones. I am sick to death of them. The

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nation is obsessed with mobile phones. As I drove here this morning, there seemed to be a mass of people walking along the embankment with bits of plastic stuck to their ears. Worse than that, everyone seemed to be on the mobile phone in their cars, completely oblivious to the fact that that represents a danger to other people.

During the general election campaign, the issue of mobile phones was raised continually on the doorstep. I am sure other hon. Members found the same thing. I found myself scaling great heights to look at some of the very ugly antennae that are stuck on top of buildings. I would be grateful if the Government would get their act together when we return in the autumn, and tell the House what they intend to do about the Stewart report. My constituents still have doubts about the danger of radiation and cancer. We want a lead from this rotten Government. We want to hear what they intend to do about the planning laws; local authorities and the Government cannot bounce responsibility back and forth. Someone must take responsibility.

Jeremy Corbyn: I hesitate to hold up the hon. Gentleman in full flight, but is he aware that there is provision for local authorities not to grant planning permission for mobile phone masts, and certainly not to allow them to be placed on council buildings? Many local authorities—perhaps even the hon. Gentleman's own—are trying to make a great deal of money out of putting them on local authority buildings.

Mr. Amess: This is the joy of the summer Adjournment debates. I am delighted to take an intervention from another straightforward politician. The hon. Gentleman is entirely right in part of what he says, but my local authority would say that if it turned down an application, a huge amount of money would be expended when the case went to appeal and that it would get absolutely nowhere. I want the Government to give us some straight answers on this matter.

A few weeks ago, a huge articulated lorry went into the side of the vehicle that I was driving, which had my children in it. The lorry driver was completely unaware that he had gone into the side of the vehicle, because he was on the phone. I gave chase when I eventually recovered. The lorry was so filthy that I could hardly read the registration plate, but it was from somewhere in the north of England. We need some leadership from the Government about the dangers of people driving vehicles while talking on their mobile phones.

My second point is on education.

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North): I am reluctant, as are most people, to interrupt the hon. Gentleman as he races through the streets of Basildon, or wherever, in pursuit of northern lorries. Will he remind the House of the fact that the last Conservative Government, of whom he was such a distinguished supporter, so deregulated the planning process in relation to mobile phone masts that they were allowed under permitted development without a smidgen of public consultation? Did the hon. Gentleman vote for or against those measures?

Mr. Amess: I am delighted to take an intervention from my fellow co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary scout group, who is another straightforward politician.

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However, I have to ask Labour Members to get a life. This is their second term in office and if they do not like the law, they have a huge majority with which to change it. We heard nothing in the Queen's Speech about changing the law on that issue.

Before I was interrupted, I was about to talk about education. Last night, I had the privilege to be at a presentation to the deputy head teacher of Eastwood school who was retiring after 37 years. I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, who gave me a hand-written note to give to Mrs. Jackie Howarth. When it was presented to her, it meant a great deal. In years to come, such occasions will no longer arise, because no one will serve as a teacher for 37 years.

There is a crisis in the teaching profession. In Southend, we have 22 vacancies in our secondary schools, and 14 in our primary schools. I am advised by Essex county council that there were 318 vacancies in January; the figure has now risen to 388. There is an absolute crisis in education, as hon. Members will know from having canvassed in the dreadful general election campaign. Will the Leader of the House or his deputy tell us what the Government are going to do about it?

The graduate training programme has been a success, but I want to ask the Government to look at the minimum age for the programme, which I think is currently 24. When I met teachers last night, I could not believe what they told me: 16 teachers were leaving from one school, and 25 from another. This is a crisis. Will the Government reconsider the minimum age, and perhaps reduce it from 24 to 22? Will they also consider reducing the time that classroom assistants have to spend training from three years to two?

On law and order, all hon. Members know from the dreadful general election campaign that their constituents are disappointed with the way in which crime is being fought. Policewomen and policemen in my constituency do a fantastic job, but they are under establishment. We have all these cameras up and down the country. I do not know whether they have films in them.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): They have.

Mr. Amess: My hon. Friend says that they have. We now have a wheeze involving unmarked cars with lights flashing at us. That is all wonderful, but my constituents think that there are not enough police. What is the good of us meeting here in Parliament and making laws, if there is no one to enforce them? It is a complete waste of time. Look at all the laws we have. This morning, people were riding their bikes on the pavements, dogs were fouling the footpaths and people were dropping litter. There is not a chance of the law being enforced.

Chief constables might say that they are going to have a purge on a particular issue, but if someone gets caught, they say that it is unfair and that they were jolly unlucky. Since 1997, when this rotten Government came to power, police morale has sunk to rock bottom. In 1979, the Conservatives had to sort out the mess left by Labour and we implemented the Edmund-Davies report. This is all about pay and conditions.

If any Member of Parliament feels that the health service is delivering a satisfactory level of service to their constituents, I do not know who they are talking to.

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There has been a huge drop in morale in the health service throughout the country. We do not have enough nurses. For the first time, general practitioners will be going on strike. During the election campaign there was a meeting of GPs who have small surgeries. They are up in arms about what is happening. In our area, there has been a complete breakdown of the mental health service and two centres are closing. We are left with only one consultant psychiatrist who is looking for a job elsewhere. There is an absolute crisis.

Last night, I asked one of the graduate teachers, who is 27, what he did before going on the programme. He was a paramedic, so I asked why he had left the job. He said, "Because the pay was absolutely appalling." According to him, paramedics start on one level and 25 years later, apparently, they receive the same pay. [Interruption.] That is what the chap said last night and I do not think that he is a liar. I am a member of the Health Committee and I hope that it will consider the issue. There is an absolute crisis in our health service and the Government must address it.

A constituent has written to me about the amount of credit being advertised, and I hope that we address that.

I also hope that the Government do something about care homes. Morale has broken down because of all the different regulations and homes are closing right, left and centre even though we have an ageing population.

The Government must also do something about the community health councils; that issue will not go away.

I love Parliament and the new Leader of the House tells us that he loves Parliament, but if Members want to know why only one person in four voted for the Government, I shall tell them—Parliament has been completely diminished. There is a great cry for modernisation, but modernisation has not encouraged people to come out and vote. What happened with the Select Committees is an absolute disgrace and if the stories in the newspapers about my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) not being approved as Chairman of the International Development Committee because he is a Catholic—[Interruption.] The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office shakes his head. I am saying that if that is true, it is an absolute disgrace and Members should be ashamed if they took that decision.

I hope that when the new Leader of the House considers reforms, he will bring power back to this place. General elections are all about voting for people who can produce good law, so it is outrageous that spin doctors who no one voted for have been given power even though they were never entrusted with it by the British people. It is also outrageous that the media continue to hear about matters before the House does.

We have a rotten Government. There are good women and good men in that Government but overall, they have no strategy and half the time we debate a lot of rubbish. During the long summer recess, I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends reflect on our position and that we get away from the obsession of having a career in Parliament, because Members should concentrate on their job as constituency representatives. We must unite and fire all our guns on the Labour and Liberal parties.

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Whether Members spend their summer recess in Mexico, Scarborough or Southend, West, I wish them, Mr. Speaker, his three deputies, the Leader of the House and officers of the House a happy time and I hope that we return reinvigorated.

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