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Geraint Davies: My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) mentioned the problem of witness intimidation. The statute book provides opportunities to protect the victims of rape as well as juvenile victims. Will my hon. Friend the Minister talk to her colleagues about the possibility of providing anonymity for those who have been subjected to violent crimes on estates and are in fear of coming forward as witnesses?

Ms Keeble: I shall certainly take up that point with my colleagues in the Home Office.

The hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) talked about the distance between local councils and the local community. He also talked about rural problems. We recognise those issues, which is why funding has been provided for rural policing and bus services. I understand that the funding for those bus services has produced an extra 4 million passenger journeys—a remarkable increase.

The hon. Gentleman rightly said that small pockets of disadvantage are often found in affluent areas. The aim of our proposals on the local strategic partnership and

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neighbourhood renewal—I agree that the jargon is often absolutely appalling—is to ensure that those involved in all local services sit down to address the problems that occur in all areas, not just those that are most disadvantaged. Problems must be properly identified and targeted, even in affluent areas—his constituency is fairly affluent—so that we can end the disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged areas.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is a hard act to follow—and an even harder act to comment on—but he is absolutely right to say that the No. 1 issue is the economy. The economy determines our quality of life to a very basic degree. I thought that it would probably be helpful to try to limit this debate a bit, which is why I did not talk about the NHS, schools, employment, mortgage rates and all the other issues on which the Government have an outstanding track record. Obviously, those factors and services also dictate a person's quality of life.

My hon. Friend was absolutely right to refer to the work being done in the coalfields and to the investment in the economy, transport infrastructure, roads and motorways and in regenerating the former colliery sites. In his area, the investment has gone into an industrial park. Elsewhere, it has gone into leisure parks and nice green spaces, as well as into housing regeneration. In place of the dereliction of the Tory years, the Government have rebuilt.

The work in the coalfields shows perhaps one of the starkest contrasts between this Government's approach and that of the Conservatives. There are 13 or 14 villages in the Eden valley, and it is extremely important that we see that project through, because it can provide us with a model of how to deal with some of the problems found elsewhere in the country.

It is essential that we ensure that all sections of our society benefit from the strong economy. In addition to economic growth, we need to spread that development throughout our society. Again, one of the big differences between the Conservatives and Labour is the fact that we have put in place the mechanisms to ensure that, at the grassroots level, people can feel the benefit of our economic strength and progress.

The fact that those mechanisms did not exist previously is best summed up by what happened in London during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Canary Wharf was developed while some of the most disadvantaged communities nestled around it. We need to ensure that those disparities are ended and that all sections of society feel the benefits. That is what much of this debate has been about.

Mr. Skinner: Notwithstanding the success that I mentioned, I have about another 10 projects lined up, so I hope that they will not be disadvantaged. The job is only half done; there is a lot more to do.

Ms Keeble: "A lot done, a lot more to do" is a slogan that I have heard somewhere else, and I agree with it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. McCabe) was right about the cynicism and despair engendered by Opposition Members. Telling

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people that they can do nothing about anything and that nothing will make a difference only days before local authority elections—

Mr. Moss: I did not say that.

Ms Keeble: Actually, the hon. Gentleman did. It is tantamount to putting out a notice saying, "Don't bother to vote." In fact, all the evidence shows that people can make a difference. They can reduce crime and improve their estates and schools. How—and, indeed, whether—people vote does make a difference and does count.

The biggest antidote to the cynicism and despair that the hon. Gentleman encouraged and engendered is to go to one of the new deal for communities areas, such as the one in Tottenham that I visited recently, to see the difference that people have made by taking control of their own communities and saying what they want out of local services. It is not only a question of how much money is spent; what ultimately makes the difference is the way in which it is spent and the involvement of the community.

Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green, mentioned what happened on the North Peckham estate. As a former leader of Southwark council—I see that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) is now here—and a former governor of Oliver Goldsmith school, I think that we should be cautious before we leap to conclusions. I am sure that the whole House would want to extend great sympathy to the family of Damilola Taylor. His loss was a complete tragedy, and recent events must make things infinitely worse for them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Geraint Davies) made direct links between micro-actions at community level and the big picture. If we are serious about achieving urban renaissance and regenerating our towns, cities and rural communities, and about ending the disadvantage that has been a scar on many parts of the country, we must deal with the day-to-day and street-level problems that make a substantial difference to people's experiences and chances in life. As my hon. Friend said, we should celebrate what our local communities and local councils are doing. The changes that they can deliver will improve people's quality of life in their local communities and help to transform our society very much for the better.

Mr. Nick Ainger (West Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire): I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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Direct Telephone Marketing

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ainger.]

2.24 pm

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West): I am delighted to have secured this debate on the regulation of telephone marketing. I am also delighted that it will be an all-Celtic exchange with my hon. Friend the Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness. Many of our Anglo-Saxon colleagues will be engaged elsewhere, probably in nuisance telephone calls to members of the public on behalf of political parties. I know that this is not always the most popular slot for Members or Ministers, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for coming to reply on behalf of the Government.

This Adjournment debate, like many others, arose directly from constituency casework. A constituent contacted me to complain that she was receiving marketing calls despite being registered with the telephone preference scheme, which should prevent that from happening. She even went to the additional trouble of going ex-directory, but continued to receive such calls. Apparently, the problem has become worse because of the introduction and more frequent use by tele-sales companies of automated dialling equipment. Many people are not aware of that technology; it involves computers that randomly generate telephone numbers and call people to sell them things. It is sometimes known as power dialling.

I wrote to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who confirmed that this practice could occur, and I received a written reply from the Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness, because the matter fell under his responsibilities. With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to quote from some documents as I go along, to tell the story of how the matter developed. In the Minister's reply, he confirmed that

by a customer

I believe that most people would be surprised to find out that registering one's number as ex-directory does not provide protection against calls from direct marketers. To achieve that it is necessary to register actively with the telephone preference scheme, but, in fact, that scheme in itself does not protect the customer from market surveys by companies. I shall return to that point towards the end of my remarks, with some suggestions for the Minister.

Two more constituents then contacted me to draw my attention to an even more worrying aspect of the technology and practice of power dialling. The first, Gill, contacted me because she had been receiving silent phone calls—very worrying and disturbing—and, not being a vulnerable person but someone who was active and was worried that she might be being stalked, she contacted the nuisance calls bureau. She discovered that the silent calls

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were emanating not from someone who was stalking her or trying to frighten her, but from a commercial organisation, and were being produced by power-dialling equipment.

The second constituent, Simon, contacted me because he had been receiving phone calls at regular two-hourly intervals. When he picked up the receiver, a silent call resulted, follow some time later by a click. He investigated and, interestingly, when he contacted the nuisance call bureau of his telephone provider, NTL, was told that if it was a nuisance phone call that might result in criminal action—that is, from someone with malicious intent—the bureau staff would contact the police, but if a commercial operator was responsible NTL would contact the commercial operator but would not tell Simon who had been calling him.

The problem with such calls is that when the recipient tries to discover who is behind the phone call by dialling 1471, he hears the message:

which makes it very difficult indeed to discover what is going on, and very worrying.

On 31 August 2001, I wrote to the Minister about that problem. On 1 October I received a reply, in which my hon. Friend confirmed that power dialling silent calls did occur.

It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ainger.]

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