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9.10 pm

Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury): I believe that I am the last Back Bencher to speak before Christmas. Brevity is a virtue, and I shall endeavour to be brief.

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Christmas Adjournment debates are meant to be an opportunity to raise pressing constituency issues. The Government delivered a pretty rotten Christmas present to west Wiltshire last week. Two long-awaited road building and improvement schemes have been delayed, pending decisions on funding, as part of a cull of road projects across the south-west region.

I am pleased to be able to use this debate to highlight the disappointment felt by many of my west Wiltshire constituents with the Government's failure to commit funds to the construction of a bypass for Westbury and to urgent improvements on the A36 from Codford to Heytesbury. Westbury has awaited its bypass since the 1930s. Since then, through traffic has increased hugely—to the extent that air quality in the centre of an otherwise delightful market town is unacceptably poor by all recognised standards.

The A36 is notorious. It is known locally as "death valley", and rightly so. Indeed, one prominent local journalist turned to me in despair at the weekend and said, "I am just fed up with attending fatal traffic accidents along the A36." I myself recently attended a tragic accident on that road, in which a family of four was killed. Such an event certainly focuses the attention.

I regret to say that the Government's record on road building—indeed, on transport as a whole—is characterised by indecision. I suppose that in retrospect, my long-suffering constituents might have expected this outcome.

If the Government had a real alternative to road transport, we might not need our road improvements and I might not be standing here delivering this speech this evening, but they do not have an alternative. The Government's integrated transport policy seems to me to revolve around squeezing folk off the roads by making it sheer hell to drive. It simply is not working, particularly in rural areas where a car is no luxury.

The A3 Hindhead bypass is a textbook case of dither and delay, and one that will not give my constituents much cheer. The answer to a parliamentary question in May revealed that the Government did not intend to begin construction of the road—one of the most pressing schemes in the country—until at least 2008. The bypass was part of the roads programme of the previous Conservative Government, but Labour dithered for four years before enforcing another delaying order.

In addition, there is a hidden cost for those who live in the line of proposed roads. That cost is planning blight, and it causes huge misery. However, the dither and delay are not uniform. The Deputy Prime Minister's constituents got their improvements on the A1033 and the neighbouring A63. That was good news for those with Jaguars.

The self-styled party of constructive opposition, the Liberal Democratic party, is duplicitous. Across the country, road construction is certainly welcomed by many Liberal Democrats locally, usually with an eye to electoral advantage. However, before the election, the party's national message was very different indeed.

Thanks to the Government's house-building targets, we have seen concrete countryside all right, but not the transport infrastructure to support it. Given that this week's planning Green Paper is called, ominously, "Planning: Delivering a Fundamental Change", we can expect things to get worse. May I press the Government

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to make up their mind about how they are going to resolve the urgent congestion and safety issues faced by motorists, pedestrians and residents in west Wiltshire, and in the south-west region as a whole? On a happier note, I also wish them a very happy Christmas.

9.14 pm

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): I am delighted to contribute to the debate. I confess to the hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) that I drove through Westbury on Saturday to see my mother, and was surprised to find that there was no relief road or bypass, so I am afraid that I contributed to the congestion. Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman had been in the House longer, he would know that dither and delay is not something that this Government can lay unique claim to. We in Cornwall suffered for many years because the previous Conservative Government dithered and delayed over essential improvements to the A30. Although I extend to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to all Members of the House a warm invitation to come to the warmest part of the United Kingdom—Cornwall—for Christmas, I ask you not to use the A30 during daylight hours, to avoid getting stuck in a traffic jam.

It probably says in "Erskine May" that Adjournment debates must always be opened by the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox). I have attended many of these debates, but never have I attended one in which the hon. Gentleman has not made a very serious point, and I admire his consistency. All too often, we deny and ignore the serious problems of Cyprus, a Commonwealth country. I was a Member of the House when the invasion took place in 1974, and it was a horrendous experience for a number of my constituents who were there.

A number of important threads have run through this evening's contributions, and I hope to refer briefly to some of them. I was struck by the way in which Members on both sides of the House dealt with international as well as local issues. It was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) talk about the causes of terrorism, while later the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) referred, very properly, to the serious situation in the middle east. It is important at this time of year, when we approach a Christian festival, to remind ourselves that there are common roots for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Far more unites us than divides us. It may be important for us to remind our constituents of that when we go back for our Christmas celebrations.

Most of this evening's contributions have been concerned with matters closer to home. The right hon. Member for South–West Surrey (Virginia Bottomley) is not in her place at the moment, but it is striking how the delivery of public services, to which she referred, has become the big issue of 2001. Although many thought that the general election would be fought on the euro, that was not the issue for the electorate. I find it interesting that Conservative Members who were Ministers just a few years ago seem now to have adopted a completely different attitude to the necessary level of investment in public services—so long as their constituency is at the front of the queue.

The right hon. Lady's references to public services were echoed by the hon. Members for Orpington (Mr. Horam) and for Billericay (Mr. Baron) and the hon.

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and learned Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston), particularly in relation to the police. I was a member of a police authority for many years before I came here—when I had a real job, in fact. I found that the police service was often ignored by London because it was thought that it could manage on its own and would always attract the support and resources that it required. We have learned the hard way over the past 20 years that that is not the case. The recruitment and retention of police officers is extremely important and requires greater attention. We are only just now pulling out of the funding trough of the 1980s and 1990s.

The right hon. Member for South-West Surrey has touching faith in the value of ministerial visits. Frankly, I could do without them—so long as they just send the cheque.

Shona McIsaac: They clog up the A30.

Mr. Tyler: The hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) has a great deal of support across the House for the concern that she has expressed on a number of occasions about the way in which fireworks are sold and used. We all know from constituency experience that the manufacture of fireworks has reached such pyrotechnic heights that putting them in the hands of amateurs, let alone children, is dangerous. I hope that her message, which was backed up by the hon. Members for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) and for Southend, West (Mr. Amess), and is now backed up by me, too, will be heard by Ministers. Something must be done—things cannot continue as they are.

The hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), who is not in his place at the moment, is also a regular. One day he will get up and tell us that the Royal Hospital Haslar is okay, and sit down again. We should all be so amazed that we would think that something had gone wrong with the normal conventions of the House.

There has been concern about the police in several constituencies for very many months—indeed, for many years. However, we should all appreciate the point made by the hon. Member for Orpington about the degree to which there is fear of crime. Perception is as important as reality in politics. Fear of crime is extremely important.

Although I cannot comment on the particular circumstances in the borough of Bromley to which the hon. Gentleman referred, I can assure him that we all recognise our responsibility to ensure that in addressing crime prevention, detection and clear-up, we also pay attention to the effect of crime on public perception all over the country. Fear of crime is a real problem among all age groups.

The hon. and learned Member for Dudley, North uncharacteristically attacked Members of the other House. He referred to the loss of an opportunity to deal with the blasphemy laws. The hon. and learned Gentleman was, until a few months ago, a Minister. As far as I am aware, he made no proposals then to deal with the unfortunate situation as regards blasphemy, but now he blames his colleagues. The victories in the House of Lords on that issue were achieved not merely by Cross-Benchers, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but with the support of Labour peers, because it was felt that not

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enough preparation had gone into the clauses on blasphemy. They were inserted at the last minute and had nothing to do with the emergency situation dealt with by the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

Those provisions were rejected because they were not good enough. That is what this whole place is about—scrutiny of legislation. If the hon. and learned Gentleman, who is an experienced Member, does not recognise that the value of the other place is—and, under the proposals that he will no doubt support, will continue to be—that it acts as a revising Chamber, providing proper scrutiny of the law and preventing Ministers from bludgeoning their way through this building with Bills that are not properly prepared, he has lost his opportunity, and I am sad for him. I agree, however, with his concerns about partisan tit-for-tat and the parliamentary commissioner. That is a serious issue.

The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) raised some interesting issues that have more than local significance. Parish pump politics concern all of us. They are important; they are the basic building blocks of our whole democracy. For example, if the circumstances of the parish poll that he described were replicated all over the country, we should all feel that democracy was suffering—not only from the apparent distortion of that result by commercial interests but also by the fact that an issue could be triggered by a small but perhaps fanatical group. As a result, democratic representatives at every level of government, all the way up to this place, might be undermined. That is not merely a Droitwich Spa problem—it is genuinely national, as the House will realise.

I was especially struck by the contribution of the hon. Member for Gedling, because so many of our communities are dependent on diminishing bus services. Again I shall refer to my experience before I was elected to this place. I was an adviser to the then Bus and Coach Council when the Conservative Government were threatening the deregulation and privatisation of the whole control system for bus services. This country lost something during that process.

The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire was a colleague at that time, and will recall that we published a booklet called, "The country will miss the bus". The drawing on the front echoed Shell's advertisements about the loss of some of our natural species. The slogan was "Spot the dwindling—

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