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31 Oct 2002 : Column 1012continued
Mr. Cook: I do not want to pursue the hon. Gentleman down an individual planning decision. I fear that I would quickly end up in difficulty on what is proper and on what may be appropriate for the local community to comment on, but on the generality of the principle that he raises I remind him that this Government have increased the green belt rather than reduced it and that the thrust of the policy of the Deputy Prime Minister is to ensure that as much building as possible takes place on brownfield land, not on green land. We will continue to pursue that policy.
Of course, it is important that customers experiencing severe disruption to their supply should be able to get guidance, satisfaction and reassurance from the power authorities. I know that the Minister for Energy and Construction has been pursuing the power authorities to ensure that they respond well. Possibly after this week, when power has been restored to all consumers, it will be important that we sit down and learn the lessons of how the system operated this time.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland): May I ask the Leader of the House to make time available soon for a debate on the recent spate of job losses in the offshore oil and gas industry? In my constituency there have already been job losses at Sullom Voe oil terminal, and more are threatened. Those losses are all part of a process that started with the tax changes that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made in the Budget, without any warning to the industry. It is surely right and proper that he should come to the House to explain away the fruits of his labours.
Mr. Cook: To be fair, the Chancellor answers questions in the House regularly and there will be an opportunity for extended questioning to him on the pre-Budget report. Indeed, I anticipate that some of those issues will be relevant to whatever topics are nominated by the Opposition for debate following the Queen's Speech. There will be a number of opportunities for the hon. Gentleman to pursue those matters.
I deeply sympathise with the distress that will be caused to the constituents of any hon. Member who face redundancy and change. However, we must view that in the context of the fact that, in Britain, 1.5 million more people are at work than when we came to office.
Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): May I ask for an early statement or debate on the increasing problems of violence in cities? If the Leader of the House saw last week's television programme about violence in Nottingham, he will have been as struck as I was by the incidence of violent crime that is alcohol related and the incredible problems that both licensing justices and local authorities now have in managing social movements of people around watering hole establishments; it is on a scale and density that they no longer have the power to refuse. Can the House and the Government take the opportunity to look again at the
Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend raises the issue of the link between violence and alcohol which is clear and borne out by the evidence and statistics. The House will have the opportunity to explore those matters in the event of legislation on alcohol licensing in the next Session. The important considerations that my hon. Friend has outlined need to be heard in those debates.
My own local authority has made substantial progress in reducing violence from alcohol, not so much by controlling the licences of outlets of alcohol but by ensuring that the fast food outlets shut at the same time as the pubs, a move which has dramatically reduced the number of fights in the fast food outlets.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the role and terms of reference of what is now known as the British Board of Film Classification? I would then have the opportunity to question her about an important article by the veteran film commentator and analyst, Christopher Tookey, in the Daily Mail on 24 October, when he pointed out that
Mr. Cook: The mind boggles at what the hon. Gentleman hints at and I fear that anything I say will be an understatement. I will of course report his remarks to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and arrange to have a clarification of the point he raised sent to him.
David Burnside (South Antrim): You will correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Speaker, but I believe that Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday was the first occasion since I was elected to the House last June when you did not call an elected Member from Northern Ireland. That follows
Mr. Cook: I will certainly raise with my right hon. Friend the interest that has been expressed in the consultation on airports policy. On the hon. Gentleman's point about the number of responses, I am not in a position to confirm or deny what he says, but it is a frequent experience during consultation periods that many responses are received as the rush of the deadline approaches.
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge): The Leader of the House may be aware that tonight is Halloween. If he has any doubt, and if he looks through the papers today, he will see the witches looking into their cauldron and predicting the death of a Duncan. Will he ask the Home Secretary to make a statement next week, reviewing any extra police activity tonight, particularly to do with trick or treating? An extra police burden is created by children who terrorise older people by ringing their doorbells and throwing eggs. There is also a risk to young children who wander round the streets knocking on the doors of strangers. Will the Home Secretary look at Government policy on that? What advice is given to the police and to schools?
Mr. Cook: I must confess that it had slipped my mind that tonight was Halloween, or I would have worked it into a reply earlier on. Halloween is an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children up and down the country to indulge in innocent and friendly behaviour[Interruption.] Perhaps even more innocent than the Whips. I would very much deprecate the action of a small number of children who, by behaving in an irresponsible and intimidating way, bring everybody under suspicion and make a wonderful occasion for children to enjoy into one of suspicion and anxiety in future years. I would appeal to all those going out tonight to enjoy themselves in such a way that those on whose doors they knock can enjoy the experience too.
[That this House notes with concern the recent publication by Britain in Europe which equates opposition to the euro with opposition to Labour; notes that Britain in Europe is itself a multi-party organisation which contains