Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Luff: "Spot the endangered species."

Mr. Tyler: Indeed. I am grateful to my hon. Friend—he is an hon. Friend in this context. However, the animals, birds and bees depicted on our booklet are likely to have survived—indeed, they have survived—but the little bus in the picture has gone. Country buses have disappeared. In my constituency there are hardly any regular bus services to the outlying areas. Regular users of buses—or those who would like to be—are not the most articulate members of our communities. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Gedling for acting as the voice of bus users in his area. It may be a long way from Nottingham to North Cornwall, but I believe that we have a community of interests in that respect.

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) mentioned a very urgent issue. The so-called fridge mountain will affect every local authority in the country.

19 Dec 2001 : Column 379

It has come like an express train out of a tunnel at us in a matter of days. Local authority members all over the country simply do not know what has hit them, and the Government stand indicted for having failed to recognise the significance of something that they signed up to, which they certainly are not resourcing sufficiently. In those circumstances, the Local Government Association is right to warn local authorities of what will happen, and we in turn have a responsibility to our constituents.

I have mentioned the hon. Member for Islington, North. He was right to remind us what the situation in the middle east could be over the next few days, rather than weeks.

Like a Christmas tree, the hon. Member for Southend, West always manages to have a number of baubles to show off to us in the Christmas Adjournment debate, and tonight was no exception. I was particularly struck by an issue that he took up about the retention and recruitment back into the profession of teachers. If the crisis that our schools are facing is to be relieved in any way, it will be by bringing back into the profession people who have left, perhaps to have a family. I hope that Ministers will listen carefully on that issue; I believe that the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) also mentioned it.

I have a foyer project in my constituency, as does the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Dr. Vis); indeed I have several, in small market towns. It is interesting to reflect that in those two contrasting constituencies there will be a great opportunity to provide a support system to help young people with accommodation, training and employment.

The hon. Member for Fareham referred back to the public services issue, and I shall wait with interest over the next few weeks, if not months, to see how the Conservative party funds the various local constituency pleas for more resources and builds them into a national programme.

As I have a minute or two in hand, I shall do what every other contributor to the debate has done—jump on my own hobby-horse. I have in many previous such debates referred to a serious problem that affects anyone who flies. I do not mean deep-vein thrombosis, although I have, in the past two or three years, mentioned that. I refer to a problem concerning the way in which organophosphate lubricants are used in some jet engines, and in certain conditions can be, as it were, inhaled into the aircraft cabin.

There now exists a very effective group that is providing information on the subject. It is called the Aviation Organophosphate Information Site, and was set up by flight crews. We already know the harm that acute exposure to organophosphates can cause. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) has had ministerial experience of the way in which OPs are used, or have been used over the years, in the sheep industry, where they have had a devastating effect. Acute exposure to OPs, which are very dangerous chemicals, can be devastating. However, in the aviation industry, where these lubricants can leach into the cabin through ineffective seals and cause toxic fumes, there can be chronic exposure over a matter of years.

If any hon. Members are not coming to Cornwall this Christmas but are thinking of travelling abroad, I suggest that they look very carefully at the aircraft in which they are flying. It is usually short-haul aircraft that are affected,

19 Dec 2001 : Column 380

so hon. Members who are flying long-haul will be all right, but short-haul aircraft, particularly those used in Australia, have been shown to have a particular problem.

The BAe 146, for example, has caused immense problems and very dangerous and risky circumstances for flight crews and passengers alike. I have drawn attention to a number of incidents that have taken place all over the world over the past two years. If I tell you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the BAe 146 is used by the Queen's Flight, you will appreciate how serious the problems could be if those chemicals are not properly controlled.

I recently tabled questions to Ministers to try to obtain some information about the international investigation of those incidents. In a parliamentary answer last week, the Government said that they

My final words before I wish you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and all hon. Members a very happy Christmas, are that I hope that there will not be an incident that will force the Government to consider the problem at great speed; I hope that we can deal with it before a dangerous incident occurs.

9.30 pm

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): I am pleased to take part in responding to the Christmas Adjournment debate. I think that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the Parliamentary Secretary, who will reply to the debate for the Government, are aware that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) has some critical family matters to deal with this evening, so I am grateful to you for allowing me to fill the slot. I suppose that it is traditional at this time of year that we elderly aunties get trotted out and allowed to join in the family fun.

Having responded to such a debate before in a previous incarnation, I rather hoped that the Christmas Adjournment debate, of all end-of-term debates, would have a cheerful, seasonal feel to it, but there has not really been any "God rest ye merry gentlemen" about tonight's debate. We have heard from many hon. Members that crime is up, that the loutish behaviour on our streets is increasing, that those louts bomb this country's streets with incendiaries, that dogs are barking, that babies are yelling, that cats are racing up curtains and that there will now be horrible mountains of unwanted refrigerators covered in toxic ash. That is what we face in the coming year—not a very cheerful picture. None the less, we have had a variety of contributions, with some common themes.

I should like to tell the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) that, if there is such a terrible problem on the A30 in Cornwall, I urge all hon. Members who are travelling to the west country for their Christmas vacations to stop in God's own county of Devon before they get to Cornwall; they will be made most welcome there.

The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) is a regular contributor to these debates, as has been said. Yet again, using his vast experience from the chairmanship of all-party Cyprus group, he referred, in a very conciliatory tone, to the need to bring together the Turkish and Greek

19 Dec 2001 : Column 381

sides in Cyprus. He looked to the future, which set us off with a constructive and topical theme for this evening's debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) touched on international terrorism, which, despite the festive season, is always on our minds. He considered the role of the Council of Europe and the case for an international criminal court, which was mentioned by other hon. Members. No doubt, we shall return to that subject, because international terrorism will clearly present the global community with many challenges, especially when the people involved are caught and brought to justice. He will use his membership of the Council of Europe to ensure that that debate stays at the forefront of our minds.

The hon. Member for Hornchurch (John Cryer) is another regular contributor to our end-of-term debates, and I thoroughly share his concern about Eaga. I have referred some terrible constituency cases from very elderly people to its chief executive. Regrettably, when warm homes week was recently celebrated at constituency level, taking part in a photo opportunity had been in my diary, but I felt so concerned about the experience of some of my constituents that I have said publicly that I will not take part in any photo opportunity until I am absolutely convinced that those elderly people are not still waiting for basic electrical work and plumbing to be properly completed to a proficient standard.

When we are satisfied that that work has been done, I will warmly welcome that initiative, as will the hon. Gentleman. That work has to be done to the right standard because those people will have great difficulty if the job is not done properly, and they will have to keep contacting Members of Parliament just to get their central heating systems to work. Clearly, that is his experience, and it is mine as well. Many Members appear to be nodding, and it is worrying to think that they share a common experience on this issue. The matter needs to be sorted out, because it is unacceptable that even Members of Parliament cannot obtain proper replies in good time.

The hon. Gentleman also touched on the issue of sexual offences against people with learning difficulties, which Mencap has placed at the forefront of our minds. I fully agree with him, but I am sorry that he was not at the Conservative party conference. He would probably have found that a strange experience, but the only fringe meeting at which I spoke was the one organised by Mencap on this subject. I share his concern.

My right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey (Virginia Bottomley) used her great experience as a former Secretary of State for Health to flag up regional disparities and the impact that they have on public services, such as health and the police force in her area. She provided great detail on how the people who work for such services or are recipients of them in areas such as Surrey are disadvantaged. She rightly said that the Government must be fair and that they have a responsibility to the whole country. Many of us think that it is an important issue and she used her great experience to make her points concisely. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will take them on board.

The hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) referred to the problems caused by fireworks. We have all received letters about them, but it is difficult to achieve a

19 Dec 2001 : Column 382

balance between people wanting to have genuine fun and people misusing fireworks so that they cause problems to the elderly, pet owners and others. I hope that we can have practical advice from the Government on the changes that they intend to introduce, because something needs to be done. The hon. Lady nods, and I hope that she accepts that I share her concern about the problem. We need to ensure that any proposals that the Government introduce are safe and fairly predictable. It is an offence to create disturbance at night whether through the use of fireworks or other means. Therefore, when people break the law and local authorities have sufficient evidence of that—that is part of the problem—they should be brought to account. Otherwise the word will get round and people will continue to break the law.

I have never seen the Royal Hospital Haslar or known anyone who has been in it. However, I know all about it, because of the work over many years of my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers). I remember seeing people outside the House with placards saying "Save the Royal Hospital Haslar" and my hon. Friend has raised the issue many times on the Floor of the House. Because of his efforts, he deserves to keep the hospital. I am not sure what will follow from the debate in the memorandum that the Parliamentary Secretary sends to his colleagues. I hope that it is not just a generalised round robin. In fact, I urge him to make clear in bold, large type the point about the deadline of 2007 for the Haslar hospital. As my hon. Friend has said, it justly deserves to have the word "indefinitely"—and not 2007—applied to it.

The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) touched briefly on modernisation, a subject on which he has gained quite a reputation in the House. He recommended that people speak for eight minutes and I timed his speech. He spoke for exactly eight minutes, which was first class. He takes the prize tonight for doing just that. I must say sorry to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess), because I want him to think that he would win the prize.

The hon. Member for Nottingham, North spoke with great knowledge and in great detail about the plight of people who suffer from strokes, the prevention that might be put in place to minimise their incidence and, in particular, about the need for specialist services. It has been promised that, by 2004, people who suffer a stroke will automatically be guaranteed specialist referrals and specialist treatment. We all know how much a difference the right follow-up treatment to help with mobility or speech problems can make to those who have had strokes. Such treatment is essential. He said that the two main risks were smoking and blood pressure. I do not smoke, but since the Government came to office in 1997 my blood pressure has been up. I hope that I am not at too much risk.

My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam) spoke about policing, as many hon. Members did. In particular, he flagged up the fact that crime was soaring in what he described as the leafy suburbs of Bromley. We often rightly focus on crime in inner cities, but leafy suburbs and rural areas have their share of crime, and that needs to be taken seriously. He said that as taxpayers we have higher bills, fewer police and more crime. The Government have to address that.

19 Dec 2001 : Column 383

The hon. and learned Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston) talked about the reform of public services, antisocial behaviour, community policing and antisocial behaviour orders, which we would all like to see applied in greater numbers. Not even the statutory agencies are aware of the opportunity to use them. If they are to be successful, we must use them. It will be interesting to discover whether there is a wider take-up of that vehicle if we talk about it more.

The hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned parliamentary standards. I have just realised why he referred to me in that context. I repeat to him—this is private between us—I have not made that information public.

Next Section

IndexHome Page