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I thank the hon. Lady for her question, which shows not only that matters European divide different parties, but that people within the same party take different attitudes. She assumes that opting in to the order will mean extra costs and extra burdens for UK police, but I repeat what I said in response to
my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood): we are talking about codifying arrangements that already exist. We are not suddenly being asked to sign up to something new that has just been plucked off the shelf. The suggestion is for practical co-operation that codifies and simplifies arrangements that already exist and that benefit police forces here in the UK.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): I welcome the statement. It is right that we should opt in to orders that slash bureaucracy, help us fight crime and do not infringe our sovereignty. Does the Home Secretary agree that it is important for her to work not just with her counterparts, but with Members of the European Parliament, to ensure that we strengthen the privacy and human rights safeguards in this order?
Mrs May: I thank my hon. Friend for his contribution, and I hope that we can all work with MEPs to ensure that the directive that we end up with as a result of the negotiations in the coming months does what he suggests-slashes bureaucracy and makes it simpler for our prosecutors and police to ensure that justice is done. In doing that, we are all of conscious of the need to protect civil liberties.
Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Can the Home Secretary confirm that the proposals that she has made today-which are welcome, and represent a move away from Europhobia-include provisions, in articles 23, 24 and 25 of the Council decision, for intervention on banking transactions? Contrary to what the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash) implied, that is important in order to stop international organised crime.
Mrs May: The hon. Gentleman makes the important point that the European investigation order will be a help to UK police forces and others across the European Union in tackling what we all agreed only yesterday is an important issue that should be given a greater focus-serious organised crime.
Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): May I urge my right hon. Friend, when she deals with the detail of these proposals, to ensure that these powers will apply only to common criminality between one country and another? For example, France has just banned the wearing of the burqa, which is a very un-British thing to do. Can she assure the House that if someone in this country used our freedom of speech to criticise that move, the French authorities would not be able to come here and arrest that person?
Mrs May: I think that my hon. Friend refers to the issue of dual criminality between member states, which is already provided for in relation to certain measures in the directive, especially coercive measures that might be taken as a result of the European investigation order. I can assure him that the issue of dual criminality is very much on our minds.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):
May I warmly thank the Home Secretary for adopting this sensible, pragmatic and pro-European policy? I look forward to sending her a membership form for the European Movement. One of the problems that many UK police forces have
had is tracking down child pornography and paedophile rings across Europe. Can she confirm that these proposals will go some way to helping police forces track down those people?
Detection of various crimes, and the tracking down of the perpetrators, relies on cross-border co-operation. The point of the EIO is that it will assist such co-operation and, crucially, it will enable evidence to be gathered in a timely fashion. We already have examples- not in the sort of cases to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but in drug trafficking-in which the evidence has arrived only after the end of the trial.
Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I thank the Home Secretary for her statement to the House-it is much appreciated. Does she share the concerns of some Back Benchers that during proceedings on the Lisbon treaty-when we were in opposition-loss of sovereignty was often described as just a "practical measure"? That phrase crept into her statement, too, and I would be grateful for reassurance that that is not the case.
Mrs May: I am trying not to make too much of a habit of making statements in the House-although there have been a few Home Office statements recently. I recognise my hon. Friend's concern about the use of that terminology. I have looked into this issue and it is indeed a very practical measure. It will simplify, codify and put some time limits on processes that already exist. The MLA agreements are already in existence and are followed up by police forces here requesting evidence from overseas and by police forces overseas requesting evidence from the UK. These proposals will make it much easier to undertake that process in a timely fashion so that the evidence is available for both prosecutors and defendants in their trials.
Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op): May I congratulate the Home Secretary on the bravery that she has shown in taking such a different stance from that of so many members of her party? There are clearly criminals who exploit loopholes across borders, so would she be able to find a way to report to Parliament periodically on any advantages or gains that flow from this collaboration?
Mrs May: Having had my statement welcomed both by the shadow Home Secretary and by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), and now being described as "brave" by the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie), I am not sure about this.
I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with some examples of the existing arrangements working, as well as examples of the problems caused for prosecutors and police by the lack of a timetable such as the one that will be introduced by the EIO.
Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con):
The Home Secretary's statement eloquently set out the reasons to welcome this process. However, the words "opt in" and "European directive" send shivers down many backbones in my constituency. Only today I heard from a constituent
about the 256 European arrest warrants referred for mediation last year, presumably at a cost of untold millions to European taxpayers. Can the Home Secretary assure us that she and her team will scrutinise the detail of this directive to ensure that it is operationally more effective than the European arrest warrant system?
Mrs May: I can indeed assure my hon. Friend that we will look closely at the detail of this. The intention is to make it easier for prosecutors and police-and the defence-to obtain the evidence necessary for trials. She mentions the European arrest warrant, but as I said earlier, the EIO is entirely separate.
Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): The problem with the argument that this is simply a simplification of existing arrangements is that that argument was put forward by Labour Ministers when they were pursuing the Lisbon treaty. That is why many of us are concerned about this and will continue to believe, as we said in opposition, that it demonstrates a relish for surveillance and a disdain for civil liberties. What impact will this order have on our DNA and fingerprint databases? Will forces from Europe be able to access those databases, and if so, what will happen if the person whose DNA they have accessed proves to be innocent? We would wipe that database after a period of time, but what would be our relationship with our partners in Europe?
Mrs May: I can, I hope, reassure my hon. Friend on his second point. Under the data protection arrangements in the European Union, DNA samples could be held by another member state only for the same time as they can be held here in the UK. That opens up another argument about why the Government intend to change the arrangements for the DNA database and do not want to hold the DNA of innocent people for significant periods, as the Labour Government did.
Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): My right hon. Friend talks about the proportionality test that will be applied, but who will write the rules of that test? Will it be by negotiation among EU countries or will it be the UK Government? And who will adjudicate that?
Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): As the final text will be determined by qualified majority vote, how may we be certain that we will not cede powers to Europe? Does the Home Secretary recall the words of a great and noble lady who, when Europe was trying to snatch powers, once said from that very Dispatch box, "No, no, no"? Is not that a much preferable way in which to approach a further European grab?
In the coming months we will be negotiating the final text of the directive with other member states. The early indications, from discussions with other member states,
are that our concerns about the parts of the directive where we think that the drafting is not perfect, and more can be done, are shared by other member states, which is why we are confident we can arrive at a text that meets all the requirements that we want to set out. But is my hon. Friend really saying that he wants us to hamper the efforts of our police to bring people to justice and fight crime? I sincerely hope not. This measure will help the police to ensure that justice is done and crime beaten.
Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for coming to the House, and I have been working hard to try to understand the Government's position on this matter. However, I did not understand fully, from her statement, whether European authorities will not be able to order an investigation. Surely, the EIO does what it says on the tin, and allows European prosecutors and police to order an investigation here.
Mrs May: I will try to explain it to my hon. Friend. We already have agreements-the mutual legal assistance agreements-that enable the police force in the UK to ask other police forces in European member states to gain evidence that will be of use and benefit in taking cases to court and in providing evidence. There is also a reciprocal arrangement for other member states to ask our UK police forces to undertake similar evidence gathering. The EIO will simply put that on a timetable and simplify the processes. Currently a number of instruments can be used, but they are complex and confusing to those who use them. The EIO will simplify them into a single instrument and put a timetable on the process, which is why it will be of benefit to the police and prosecutors.
Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con):
Does the Home Secretary agree with me, and with the police, that
the directive will serve to speed up complex investigations, and should therefore help to keep criminals off the streets? Does she also agree that to do so would benefit British society as well as European society?
Mrs May: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend's point. In response, I would simply cite a case of drugs trafficking that was drawn to my attention in which the failure to execute an MLA request resulted in a misleading picture being presented to the jury of the strength of the prosecution case. As a result, evidence that might have exculpated the UK defendant was not available in time for the trial. That case alone explains why we want to sign up to the EIO.
Mr James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on coming to the House to make this statement? It is no fault of her own, but nevertheless deeply unfortunate, that neither the European Scrutiny Committee nor the House of Commons has had the opportunity to consider this document. I urge her, when she comes to consider the detail of this proposal and future proposals of the same nature-which I believe may well appear-to be on her guard against the undoubted attempts of certain quarters in the European Union to build a common European judicial and legal system, and to use any means to hand as a building block towards that purpose. Will she be on her guard against that? In those circumstances, I believe that she would indeed be capable of saying, "No, no, no."
Mrs May: I can assure my hon. Friend that I will be on my guard, as will other members of the Government. We have made it clear that we are considering on a case-by-case basis all issues arising under the justice and home affairs remit of the EU. As I have said to the House, I believe that in this particular case it is in the national interest to opt in, but on other occasions we will opt out. So we take the issue that he raised very seriously.
Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice. Recently, I tabled a series of questions to the Home Secretary about the work of the UK Border Agency, and yesterday I got a reply from the Immigration Minister refusing to place in the Library of the House copies of the guidance and directions issued to UK Border Agency International Group staff about visit visas, on the basis that this information is "best viewed online". May I request, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you speak to the Home Office and instruct it to be more co-operative with Members, so that information can be made available in the Library?
The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green): Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I try as hard as I can to be as helpful as possible to the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) and others. He can, of course, go into the Library, go on to the net and view it online, if he wants to.
Mr Deputy Speaker: I thank the Minister for that reply, although I do not think it was quite what the hon. Gentleman wanted. However, it is now on the record. He feels that he should have been given the information directly, and I am sure that that can be looked at again.
Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD):
On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Yesterday, at questions to the
Leader of the House and to the House of Commons Commission, on the subject of early-day motions, the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), who is in his place-I advised him that I would be raising this point-gave a very helpful response on why early-day motions should be debated. However, he then observed that in 18 years he had not known an EDM to be debated. May I put it on the record that on 8 December 2009, as is recorded in column 154 of Hansard, early-day motion 1-an excellent motion in my name-was debated for nearly three and a half hours and voted on by 530 MPs? So EDMs do find their way on to the Floor of the House, although I agree with him that more should be debated.
Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You might recall that 20 years ago this week, the then hon. Member for Eastbourne, the late Ian Gow, was murdered by the Provisional IRA. He was a magnificent Member and somebody who, I believe, should be recognised permanently in the same way that Airey Neave is recognised. Mr Deputy Speaker, will you take that point back to Mr Speaker to see whether a permanent memorial can be granted in the memory of Ian Gow, the former Member for Eastbourne, who was murdered on 30 July 1990?
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991; to require the introduction of compulsory microchipping of dogs; to make provision relating to the welfare of dogs and public safety around dogs; and for connected purposes.
I have chosen to bring this subject before the House for three reasons: first, and perhaps most notably, because I am a passionate animal-lover. I feel very strongly that the animal kingdom, with which we share this planet, deserves the highest level of care and respect that we as human beings can give. Secondly, I believe that those who choose to own a pet have a certain responsibility that comes with that privilege. In the case of dogs, this responsibility is twofold-the welfare of the animal and the duty to ensure the safety of others through proper control. Finally, over the past three years, I was proud to serve on Her Majesty's Opposition Front Bench, in the Home Affairs team, as shadow Minister with responsibility for animal welfare. In that role, I had the opportunity to work closely with dog welfare organisations and people throughout the country who work, day in, day out, dealing with issues surrounding the control and welfare of dogs, and who have a real and genuine understanding of how we can help to solve some of the issues relating to dogs in society today.
Last year, dogs overtook cats to become the most popular choice of pet in the United Kingdom. Before you call me to order and ask me to declare my interest in the matter, Mr Deputy Speaker, I should say that I am, of course, the owner of dog-a Staffordshire bull terrier called Buster. You will be relieved to know, Sir, that dangerous he is not, but microchipped he certainly is.
In recent years, the issue of dangerous dogs has taken on increasing significance. Inner-city areas in particular are being blighted by the intimidating sight of individuals and gangs brandishing dogs that have been deliberately trained to produce the most aggressive demeanour possible. Having dealt with the matter as the shadow Minister with responsibility for animal welfare, I fully appreciate the prevalence that the issue of dangerous dogs has with a disturbingly wide proportion of the general public. The number of complaints received by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals concerning "status" and dangerous dogs has increased twelvefold. On average, there are now 100 cases every week of people being admitted to hospital as a result of a dog attack. It would be no exaggeration to claim that what we are now seeing is a national calamity, in terms of both public safety and animal welfare. As a result, it is clear that the current legislation has failed on an epic scale. There is now a huge public desire for renewed laws that address the problem, with owners properly held to account.
The Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in 1991-yes, by a Conservative Government-but it has obviously failed adequately to achieve what it set out to do. A key feature of the Act, contained in section 1, is a ban on the breeding, sale and ownership of specific types of dogs. However, it is not good enough to select a handful
of breeds, based on their potential demeanour, and assume that simply eradicating them from society will dismantle the culture that they are bred from. That is an approach that takes no account of the behaviour or intentions of the criminals on the other end of the lead. Indeed, the real issue to be tackled is the behaviour of the owners. Any dog can be dangerous and cause harm; it is how the animal is reared and trained that matters most of all. That is why the current, breed-specific Dangerous Dogs Act does not work and should be repealed.
My Bill would shift the legislation towards acknowledging the concept of "deed, not the breed". By moving the focus to the specific actions of irresponsible owners, we will be able more effectively to identify and tackle the root causes of such criminal activity. In short, we should be scrapping the breed-specific approach and affording police or other authorised persons much greater discretionary powers in deciding whether a dog poses a threat to the public.
The other key failure of the current legislation relates to dogs that are dangerously out of control. As the legislation stands, such attacks are classified as criminal offences only if they occur either in a public place or where the dog is not permitted to be. However, the reality is that many attacks take place on private property. My Bill would extend the law to cover attacks on all property, allowing the police to investigate such offences and for prosecutions to be considered. I should also like to stress the failure of the current legislation in taking a preventive approach. We need to be able to deal with dogs suspected of being dangerous by imposing controls. My Bill would introduce a system of dog control orders where there is reasonable cause to believe that a dog is not under sufficient control and poses a potential threat to the public.
I am a fervent supporter of identification as a means of providing all dog owners with a simple, cheap and effective way of significantly enhancing both the safety and security of their dogs, and the legal accountability that they hold for their behaviour. Methods of permanent identification-most notably microchipping-are already exploited across the country by veterinary centres, charities and shelters, and, of course, individual owners and families. It is estimated that currently around a third of all dogs in the United Kingdom have been microchipped, which has contributed to a tremendous increase in the proportion of stray and stolen dogs being successfully identified and returned to their rightful owners.
My Bill would introduce permanent identification as a compulsory measure for all dogs bred in the United Kingdom. That would be phased in over a period of time and would apply only to new litters. Microchipping is a far cry from the old system of the dog licence, abolished in the 1980s, which required bureaucracy and the administration of excessive paperwork on the part of local authorities. The benefits of introducing compulsory identification-as a means of reducing everyday dog attacks, returning lost, stray or stolen dogs to their owners, and easing the burden on local authorities and dog wardens-are clear. Essentially, we would be dramatically enhancing the ability to make dog owners legally accountable for the actions and the welfare of their dogs. That alone would solve so many of the problems that we face in dealing with the control and welfare of dogs. However, I say this to the Government:
please do not allow concerns about databases and anti-ID card thinking to block what is a practical, common-sense solution. Linking a dog to its legal owner by using a microchip is not an infringement of civil liberties; it is simply the same as having a number plate on a car.
I would also like to take this opportunity to recognise the dedicated work undertaken on the issue by those organisations with which I have worked in recent years. Were it not for the invaluable research and campaigning of the Dogs Trust, the Kennel Club, the RSPCA, Blue Cross, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Vets Get Scanning, Speaking Out For Animals, the Retired Greyhound Trust and many others, these matters would not be receiving anything like the level of attention that they are receiving today. I pay tribute to them all.
Promoting and encouraging dog control and welfare is not simply about state intervention; it is about encouraging those who seek or hold ownership of dogs to do so responsibly, in such a way that benefits the welfare of the animal and continues to ensure maximum public safety. However, the law must underpin that, allowing an individual to own a dog while also making them responsible for its control and well-being. Freedom with responsibility is something that I as a Conservative believe in very strongly. The freedom to choose to own a dog must go hand in hand with the responsibility that goes with it. That must surely be the right approach of a Conservative-led Government. I commend my Bill to the House.
That Andrew Rosindell, Angie Bray, Mr Andrew Turner, Stephen Metcalfe, Martin Horwood, Glenda Jackson, Mr David Lammy, Angela Smith, Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson, Daniel Kawczynski, Zac Goldsmith and Dr Thérèse Coffey present the Bill.
That the draft Control of Donations and Regulation of Loans etc. (Extension of the Prescribed Period) (Northern Ireland) Order 2010, which was laid before this House on 30 June, be approved.- (Angela Watkinson .)
That the draft Electricity and Gas (Carbon Emissions Reduction) (Amendment) Order 2010, which was laid before this House on 14 July, be approved.- (Angela Watkinson .)
That this House has considered matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment.
This is the second time that we have had a debate on the Floor of the House that has been chosen by the Backbench Business Committee. We have chosen to keep the pre-recess Adjournment debate format, mainly because we have had so many insistent representations from colleagues to retain it. As Mr Speaker mentioned earlier, about 50 Members have put down their names to speak, and the Chamber is very full. This is a rare opportunity for Members to debate issues that they have not been able to raise elsewhere, either because they have not been called to speak in a debate or because they have been unsuccessful in securing an Adjournment debate.
The Backbench Business Committee believes that the pre-recess Adjournment debate could be improved, however, and we hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will commit to ensuring that those Members who want one will receive a substantive reply from the relevant Government Department. The Committee will also consider changes to the format of these debates, and we welcome any suggestions for improvement. With that, Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish you and everyone else in the House a relaxing and enjoyable recess.
Mr David Amess (Southend West) (Con): I should like to raise a number of points before the House rises for the summer recess. I should also like to congratulate the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel), on her wonderful decision.
I make my remarks against the background of an extraordinary general election result. There are not too many Members of Parliament left who were elected on the same day as Tony Blair and the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), and there are now 232 newly elected Members of Parliament. I want to say to colleagues in all parts of the House that I hold Tony Blair entirely responsible for the way in which this Parliament-the mother of all Parliaments-has been diminished, and for the way in which I believe he misled us over the war with Iraq. I hold the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath responsible for taking away the historic duty of the Bank of England to regulate the financial market. Against that difficult backdrop, I wish to raise a number of points.
The first is the plight of fishermen in Leigh-on-Sea, an historic fishing village in which 28 families are still involved in fishing. Sadly, because their boats are in the 10-metres-and-under category, they are experiencing a
crisis because their quota has been exhausted. They fish for cod, but I am advised that if negotiations were to lead to the granting of a quota of 0.5 tonnes per boat for sole, skate and cod from September until the end of the year, fishing would continue to thrive and prosper in Leigh-on-Sea. I am supported in this by my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) and my hon. Friends the Members for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge) and for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris).
My next point is about myalgic encephalopathy, or ME. This debilitating illness is very hard to diagnose, and a number of my constituents have found it difficult to get benefits following a diagnosis. Following their work capability assessment, ME patients are often described as ineligible for the correct benefit. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will have a conversation with the relevant Department to ensure that ME sufferers are not disadvantaged when claiming disability living allowance.
Last year, I raised with the then Prime Minister the plight of my constituent, Julie Ditchburn. She was living with a gentleman who was not treating her and the children terribly well, and she left the family home and brought the children to this country. Under the terms of the Hague convention, however, the children were ordered to be taken away from her. These were very distressing circumstances, and the children are now back in Spain. It would be wonderful if the Deputy Leader of the House could have a word with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to see whether our consulate there could be a bit more helpful than it is being at the moment, as I was told it would be some months ago.
I shall move on to the plight of my constituent, Tinashe Sahanga, who came to the United Kingdom from Zimbabwe with his mother, brothers and sisters in 2000 when he was 16 years old. Quite extraordinarily, he has still not been granted leave to remain here. Sad though some colleagues might consider it, I watch the BBC Parliament channel, and on it I saw the lady who is in charge of these matters, Lin Homer, saying that she was determined to be proactive in helping Members of Parliament whose constituents were experiencing difficulties such as these. I appeal again to the Deputy Leader of the House to pass on my concern about the plight of my constituent, Tinashe Sahanga.
My next point is about Southend airport. Under the present Government, this problem would probably not have arisen. Permission has been granted for the expansion of the airport, and that is upsetting a number of my constituents. I have now launched a petition to the European Parliament, and I hope that it will look carefully at my constituents' concerns about noise and pollution.
Many hon. Members receive complaints from their constituents about their cars being clamped. Certain organisations are clamping cars, and my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East has even been threatened by one of these enforcement companies. They impose fines of £400 or £500, which is just outrageous. These people seem to be outside the law. I ask the Deputy Leader of the House to have a word with the appropriate Minister, to see whether anything can be done about this.
A week ago, I visited the wonderful Southend campus of Essex university, which was opened by Princess Anne
in 2007. Student facilities will be opening there shortly, and 561 rooms for students will be available. I hope that, in these challenging times for seaside resorts, Southend will be seen as an attractive place in which people can advance their studies.
I was delighted to learn from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that she is looking at the issue of policing. It seems somewhat perverse that, according to a report published last week, front-line police officers spend more time off work than on duty.
I am also delighted that Eastwood school in my constituency has facilities that would very well suit one of the smaller visiting teams in the Olympic games. I had the great privilege of chairing the Committee proceedings of the Olympic games legislation. The games are now just two years away. I understand from friends in China that there is a wonderful exhibition in Shanghai at the moment. Perhaps in two years' time, a similar opportunity will arise for the new Olympic games centre.
First, I want to explain that the Bolsover constituency used to have 12 pits and about 20 textile factories. In the 1980s and 1990s, all those pits went. They were closed by the previous Tory Government. The textile factories, by and large, followed suit, mainly because Marks & Spencer and one or two other big stores decided to have all their goods made abroad. The net result was that unemployment in the Bolsover area, and in north Derbyshire generally, rose to more than 15% in the pit villages. We had a lot of work to do, and when the Labour Government came in-contrary to what the hon. Member for Southend West (Mr Amess) said-the truth is that we managed to start regenerating the area.
Instead of leaving the pit tips there, we cadged the money from the previous Prime Minister-then the Chancellor of Exchequer-to flatten them and turn them into areas where work could be provided. The factories were not the same and the money was not the same as it was when people were working in the pits. The truth is that we needed a lot of factories to make up for the several thousand miners and the many textile workers who had been thrown out of work. This was a deprived area without any doubt, so we had to do a lot of cadging of money in that context.
When Building Schools for the Future came along, we were naturally very pleased. We thought, "Here we are: we can get about four or five schools, some of them very old, rebuilt and provide some work for all those people". The private sector would have been involved as suppliers for Building Schools for the Future and other schools in Britain. When the public sector is culled, it creates misery for the private sector-that is roughly it.
Two or three schools were included in the programme, and Bolsover had its completion date only a fortnight ago.
When the Secretary of State made his statement to cancel 700 Building Schools for the Future projects, Members can imagine my horror when I heard that Tibshelf community school was not included in the list of projects that will go ahead. Looking at the website is enough to make you cry. I shall quote what came out in July 2010 on the Tory-controlled Derbyshire county council website. It is almost unbelievable:
"This is an immensely exciting time in the history of Tibshelf School. The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme for Derbyshire is arriving just as the school is preparing to celebrate its centenary... The plans for the new school are developing nicely"-
"and have been shared with the whole community. From September 2010 the Tibshelf family will grow to include not only the villages of Tibshelf, Newton, Blackwell, Westhouses and Hilcote, but also Holmewood, Heath, Morton and Pilsley"-
Why did it say all that? Because not only was Tibshelf going to have its brand-new school; it was to be even bigger than we originally thought because it was going to take over Deincourt school in North Wingfield in my hon. Friend's constituency. The result would have been that even more pupils could attend and a new Deincourt primary school would be built. The ripples were rolling right across to the county council, which was excited by it. The truth is that the Secretary of State kyboshed all that in a second when he decided that Tibshelf was not going ahead. There we are, then, for a school that is celebrating its centenary next year.
Tibshelf did not get on the first list; it did not get on the second list; it did not get on the third, fourth or fifth lists. I am pleading with the Secretary of State to make sure that this school is included-not only because of the deprivation in the area and because the project provides work, but because the educational facilities needed for this wonderful sports college are so important. What has happened not only affects Bolsover, but creates problems for the kids in Deincourt and elsewhere. Deincourt school is due to be demolished in the next few weeks. It was to have a complete rebuild. Those children will have no school to go to unless we can change this decision.
Let me finish the first part of what I want to say today by calling on the Secretary of State in respect of this matter. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire mentioned that we should get answers. I want to know whether the Secretary of State will meet us when we come back in September; then we can bring down to this place the headmaster, officers of the Derbyshire education authority and others to get this decision reversed.
The second issue I want to raise is Bolsover's prefabricated bungalows. Like many others up and down the country, they were built after the second world war. We did not have the materials or the money then-by God, we certainly did not have the money-so these prefabs were built. A lot of people thought they would not last very long, but they were wrong because the prefabs were built pretty well. Then we cladded around them in many constituencies up and down Britain and we managed to
give them a new lease of life. That is why houses built in about 1948 or 1949 were able to last right through to 2000 and beyond.
Sadly, however, in the past few years, the foundations have begun to collapse. In my constituency, there are 108 of these buildings, and pensioners are living in every one of them. They are in Bolsover, a deprived area, and in villages such as Langwith Junction and New Houghton. Pensioners in these areas are now living in fear, as some of these dwellings have been shut down. There are 40 in one village and about 15 have already been closed. Can Members imagine what the conditions are like for people when houses next door to them and peppered around them are closed?
Again, then, I am asking for a meeting with a Minister. When we met the Labour Housing Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey), he did not give us a letter saying that the money was all gone. My right hon. Friend said to us: "Here is the money. Start the programme of rebuilding the prefabricated houses. Give the pensioners a chance to live in some decent accommodation." So we took the money and we thought we were going to start after the election. Then, we got the response from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that he is not prepared to find that money any more. We are asking for a meeting with him in order to get those houses built to provide people with work and-
Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): May I say how delighted I am, having sat in the shadow of so many excellent maiden speeches over the past two and a half months, to have at long last the opportunity to make my own debut, my maiden speech, as a new Member of Parliament in this august House of Commons? I add that I am conscious of the significance and importance of today's Adjournment debate to all our colleagues in the Chamber, so I am grateful to have your indulgence, Mr Speaker, and that of the House and all colleagues this afternoon as I make my debut.
It brings me genuine joy to pay tribute to my four predecessors. Thanks to the creativity of the Boundary Commission, the new and unique Witham constituency comprises three very distinct areas of the county of Essex. It was represented in the previous Parliament by four most distinguished Members of Parliament. I forewarned them that I was making my debut and I suspect they felt that I might make them blush-hence their absence.
First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr Newmark). He has served the town of Witham, from which my constituency takes its name, and many of the surrounding communities with tremendous distinction and care. I also pay a personal tribute to my hon. Friend the outstanding Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), who has not only bequeathed me some of the most beautiful swathes of the Essex countryside, but served those parts of my constituency with enormous distinction and in a way that has won him many friends in the local area.
It is also an honour to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale). Mr Speaker, I was at one stage considered to be somewhat to the right of the political centre-until, that is, I inherited some of my hon. Friend's local Conservative party activists! My hon. Friend is nothing short of a colossus locally, and his advice and opinions are greatly sought. He has represented the local areas that now fall into my constituency with great gusto, forthright views and conviction, which I look forward to emulating.
Last but not least, I would like to pay a most sincere tribute to my coalition colleague, the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell). He has quite rightly developed a reputation as an assiduous constituency Member of Parliament and I am aware that the area I have inherited from him-the ward of Stanway-has come to expect a first-class service from their Member of Parliament, and I intend to keep it that way.
As I said earlier, my constituency is a new one. Standing at over 130 square miles, it covers areas from the districts of Braintree, Maldon and the borough of Colchester. In previous guises, the constituency has also been in part represented by a number of our most distinguished parliamentarians. The two most notable were Lord Newton of Braintree and Lord Wakeham. Speaking personally, I cannot pay sufficient tribute to Lord Newton, who, wherever I go in my constituency, is spoken of with such genuine warmth, affection and sincerity owing to his years of public service and dedication to what was then the Braintree constituency. It is fair to say that I have a truly tremendous local legacy.
At the heart of my new constituency is the historic market town of Witham, which is surrounded by a significant number of villages and hamlets. Witham's history and buildings date as far back as the Domesday book, and the town is well known for its wealth of 16th-century timber-frame buildings, for its distinctive town hall, and, now, for the more modern developments that define the town. My constituency is also home to well over 40 villages and hamlets, including Hatfield Peverel, Coggeshall, Wickham Bishops, Kelvedon, The Notleys, Woodham, Totham, Marks Tey, Tollesbury and the village of Tiptree. I should like to think that hon. Members have already familiarised themselves with Tiptree's most famous produce while having their morning tea and toast, as the village is home to the orchards and the factory producing the world-famous Wilkin and Sons Tiptree jam.
Witham is also a constituency where small businesses, enterprise and traditional high streets matter. Local entrepreneurs and businesses support 83% of jobs in Witham, compared with the national average of 68%, and 25,000 people and their families depend on the prosperity of those businesses. In my view-and as they tell me-those businesses need a fair and flexible labour market and a competitive and low-tax framework to provide jobs and prosperity.
My own deep and personal interest in what I call the economics of enterprise and small business stems from my family background. My parents arrived in Britain from Uganda with literally nothing, and, like the thousands of British Asians-and also the many Patels-who arrived in Britain in similar circumstances at that time, they relentlessly pursued the path of pure hard work in order to get on in life. By working long hours and by saving their hard-earned money, my parents were able
to buy their first business-what else but a newsagent's? As a result, my youth was literally spent sleeping above the shop and playing directly under the till, while watching my family-thanks to the free-market policies of Margaret Thatcher-thrive and grow. Wherever my parents set up shop, they employed local people, contributed to the local community, and made a substantial contribution to the local economy.
I speak from personal experience when I say that the impact of the last Government's policies on enterprise and small business was simply devastating. I saw at first hand the ever-growing burdens of the state encroach on our livelihood and sap our ability to function as a business, let alone support our local community by providing employment and much-valued local services. The excessive regulation from central Government stifled every ounce of the very entrepreneurial flair that once led Napoleon to describe our great country as a nation of shopkeepers.
I should like to think that the Witham constituency was a hotbed of Patels, but alas, not yet. None the less, I am proud to represent a constituency of entrepreneurs whose businesses create jobs and prosperity throughout our high streets, villages and towns. The Witham constituency is a place where the unique and unyielding ingenuity of the British people to create opportunities and prosperity is found in abundance. Nowhere is our reputation as a nation of shopkeepers and free-market entrepreneurs more apparent than in Witham, and while I am a Member of this House I will stand by the businesses on which my constituents depend and which, of course, make my constituency such a dynamic place to represent.
I believe that our country is at its strongest when it promotes the spirit of enterprise, the values of hope and aspiration, and the desire to get on in life. That is why I am certain that this Government's priority of lower corporation tax, providing incentives for small business, abolishing Labour's tax on jobs, and ending the over-zealous bureaucracy that has strangled our small businesses will enable this country to flourish again.
I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, and to the House for enabling me to make my maiden speech, but my greatest thanks go to the good-natured and hard-working people of Witham for electing me. I pledge that I will never shy away from representing them and being a strong voice for them in the House.
Mr David Crausby (Bolton North East) (Lab): I want to express my concern about the development of the Princess Anne maternity unit at Royal Bolton hospital. The creation of a new regional baby supercentre at the hospital was announced in August 2007. Construction work on the expansion began in September 2009, and is due to be completed by the end of 2011. Royal Bolton hospital won the bid in competition with other hospitals, and we were naturally delighted in Bolton.
The care that the NHS delivers throughout our lives and during the period that leads to our death is priceless, but nothing can be more important than the start that our children are given in life, and quality maternity services can make an important difference in that regard. The development was welcomed by the whole region
because it was designed to raise maternity services to another level. The state-of-the-art supercentre was designed to provide extra delivery rooms, new high-dependency beds, new intensive-care and high-dependency cots, new beds for antenatal and post-natal wards, new on-site overnight facilities for parents, and the best equipment possible to provide care for our sickest babies. Twenty million pounds were invested to make all that happen and 400 jobs were to be created in the town, not just for the benefit of Bolton but in the interests of parents and children throughout Greater Manchester.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but he may not have realised that the hon. Member who spoke before him was making a maiden speech. I am sure that he would like an opportunity to congratulate her on a very fine speech.
Mr Crausby: I am sorry, Mr Speaker. It is a real privilege to follow the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel). I am grateful to her for inciting that intervention, because it has given me another minute in which to speak, but I also congratulate her on what was indeed an excellent maiden speech.
The decision was made after the extensive making it better review of maternity services. Doctors, nurses, midwives and specialists were consulted throughout, and 12 primary care trusts, 12 hospitals and 12 local authorities were directly involved in the process. Thousands of information leaflets were distributed across the region. Workshops were held with members of the public, and a citizens' council, a maternity council, NHS managers, doctors and nurses were all involved. The level of public consultation was unprecedented, with more than 242,000 people sharing their views by means of formal responses, petitions and public meetings. At all stages, the focus was on making the necessary changes to provide the best possible care for patients.
It was decided to replace the 12 centres in Greater Manchester with eight centres of excellence, with three supercentres providing neonatal care. The higher standard of care provided by the new structure and concentrated resources would mean that more premature and sick babies would survive, and fewer parents would be turned away owing to staffing problems. It was estimated that between 30 and 50 lives a year would be saved. The move from 12 to eight centres was never going to be easy-it was bound to arouse strong and emotional local protest-but in this case it was the right thing to do, because it was in the interest of better-quality maternity services throughout Greater Manchester.
The problems started when the general election campaign arrived. Along came the then shadow Secretary of State for Health-the current Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr Lansley)-campaigning in Bury, Rochdale and other Greater Manchester constituencies. He was clearly a man in pursuit of votes and popularity, and he was going to get what he wanted by promising to keep all the maternity units open. In doing so, however, he was completely undermining the making it better scheme in a naked attempt to win Conservative target seats in Greater Manchester. He must have known-if he did not, he certainly should have known-that this money was
being provided to fund the supercentres and the improved facilities for the benefit of everyone only because the available resources were being sensibly concentrated. What he said in one town alongside a prospective Conservative candidate was being denied in other towns. Eventually, however, under pressure, the then shadow Secretary of State for Health was forced to claim publicly that the Conservatives would keep all the maternity units open and at the same time ensure that Bolton's development and other supercentres would be unaffected.
Things have changed now, of course. The former shadow Secretary of State has lost the shadow part of his title and reality is setting in, but he still provides no explanation as to where the money will come from or what other services will have to be cut as a result of, effectively, his commitment to increase spending on Greater Manchester maternity services. He no doubt hopes that his general election promises will fade into the distance, and in order to try to wriggle out of them he has called for a review of Greater Manchester's maternity facilities. He does so even though the making it better programme had already involved an enormous review and public consultation, so he is simply playing for time. The major question that the Secretary of State must answer is if the centres that were previously due to close are now set to continue, where will the extra funding come from for the centres of excellence and the supercentres?
As a result of my concerns, I raised this issue in a recent Prime Minister's Question Time and the Prime Minister assured me that there were no plans to cancel the improvements to Bolton's maternity unit, but just one week later health bosses were told by the Government that they would have to, again, prove that the improvements are necessary in order to secure the investment.
The Secretary of State for Health and the Prime Minister need to be clear with the people of Bolton and Greater Manchester. The consultation work has already been completed and the most efficient plan put in place with construction and recruitment in Bolton already under way. After more than six years of preparation and investment the entire process is almost complete. Will the Government support the improvement plans as they did during the general election campaign? If not, what alternative do they propose, and how will services be affected and funded?
I have fought hard throughout my political life, but I would never dream of sinking so low as to put at risk the health and well-being of mothers and children for electoral advantage. The Secretary of State for Health has no honourable alternative now but to come clean and stump up the money to deliver what he promised to the people of Bolton and Greater Manchester by fully funding Bolton's maternity supercentre as he said he would.
Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): First, may I say what a pleasure it is to follow so shortly after my hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel)? It is a delight to be speaking in the same debate in which she made her maiden speech. I am sure some of us can remember how terrifying that is, and my hon. Friend did amazingly well.
I want to use this opportunity to highlight the unusual case of an institution that fails people who look to it for protection and help when situations go wrong. I shall mention the names of a number of people and organisations, but there is no court case pending so that is not sub judice.
Many people work hard all their lives, and save hard. Some people may run corner shops or work as self-employed plumbers and save a deal of money, and a time comes in their life when they realise that they want to use that money for their pension or to help them through their later years, so they look to make investments with that money. Some people will use organisations such as investment banks and stockbroker firms, and I want to talk about a particular stockbroking firm with which, in 2007, a number of people decided to invest their life savings. This story is also about the Financial Services Authority. The company took these people's life savings-a number of people's livelihoods were also involved-and within weeks it had all gone.
A trader by the name of Stuart Waldron handled the accounts of these people. He asked all of them to set up a separate e-mail account that he could use for trades only. He then rang particular people and said that the e-mail account was not working and asked for their password. The investors thought that there was nothing unusual in that, because the account was just for trading, so they gave the trader their password. He then proceeded to send messages to and from himself giving instructions on buys and sells. When that became apparent, the FSA became involved and I sent a number of documents to the authority. That was a considerable time ago and I have not yet had a response from it. I e-mailed the relevant inspector at the FSA, Margaret Cole, three weeks ago because I knew I was going to speak about this matter today, but I have not had a reply.
The stockbroking firm is called WorldSpreads, and it operates outside the City of London-surprise, surprise. Therefore, it does not come under the jurisdiction of the City of London police. It appears that the people who run WorldSpreads used to run a stockbroking firm called Square Mile Securities, which was inspected and closed down, although because of its financial situation at the time, it paid a reduced penalty. Those people from SMS who were closed down and had to pay that fine then went on to set up WorldSpreads. The inspector who closed down SMS was Margaret Cole.
WorldSpreads held up its hands and said Stuart Waldron was a rogue trader. My investors decided not to believe that and chose instead to take the case further. They had a meeting with the directors of WorldSpreads, which was recorded. On the recording it is made very clear that Stuart Waldron was not a rogue trader but that the operation was planned-indeed, it was a procedure that the company appeared to carry out regularly.
One key point is that the FSA has so far failed to represent the individuals who have lost their life savings, but there is also a bigger point. I am aware of this group of individuals-I know what has happened to them in their particular case-but how many more stockbroking firms are operating in such a way? How many more individuals are the FSA failing to protect? How many people are walking into a stockbroking firm with their life savings-even as I am giving this speech today-trusting that firm and hoping that there is a procedure behind them and an organisation such as the FSA that will
regulate and monitor events and protect them should something go wrong and their life savings are taken away?
I am not being naive in making this speech, and I am aware that financial journalists might want to pick up on this story. If they do so, we would love to know whether Stuart Waldron, who disappeared overnight, is still trading somewhere in the City of London. We have a barrister's statement of case that analysed the whole situation. Unfortunately the case cannot be taken on any further because there is no money left to do so; the people involved cannot fight their corner. If any financial journalist would like a copy of the barrister's statement of case they would be very welcome to it.
It is amazing that an organisation such as the FSA, which is supposed to protect the interests of ordinary hard-working people, should have let people down so spectacularly. It will not be the stockbrokers, the City bankers or the huge institutions that bring about the upturn in this country; it will be the hard-working individuals who set up their own businesses, go to work every day, save as hard as they can and hope that, with those savings, they can look after themselves and their families and see the rewards of their labour. It is an absolute disgrace when organisations such as WorldSpreads try to blame their own misdemeanours, corrupt dealings and failings on one individual, Stuart Waldron, who disappears overnight-paid, we believe.
I hope that while I am giving this speech there is not someone sat in the WorldSpreads offices handing over their life savings, because we will know what will happen to them. We know the pattern: over a number of weeks, those savings will dwindle and suddenly, a situation will occur-perhaps like that involving BP-and the explanation given will be, "We are so sorry your savings have disappeared, but the markets were badly affected by the current situation". That provides the smokescreen for such activities. We know the corrupt e-mails that such organisations send. They depend on the naivety and inexperience of those who do not have the educational background in, or experience of, the financial markets.
I am sorry to have taken the House's time up with this case. I hope that, as a result of highlighting it today, some steps might be taken towards providing justice and to returning some of those people's money to them.
It is an honour and a humbling privilege to represent Haslingden and Hyndburn in this House. It is a constituency that sits in the impoverished east Lancashire corridor, with its companion constituencies of Blackburn, Burnley and Pendle, some 18 miles north of Manchester. It is a valley littered with the history of a bygone industrial heritage: mill towns that earned Britain great wealth. The demise of "king cotton" has run in parallel with economic difficulty.
My grandfather and grandmother, whom I owe so much and who now reside in a far greater place, would be beaming with pride today. It was family-along with
the lack of prosperity in the Thatcherite '80s that capped people's aspirations and life chances-who determined my political persuasions. It is the strength and courage of party colleagues that has brought me to this place, and I am eternally grateful for that.
The local government area of Hyndburn was formed in 1974 and makes up six sevenths of the constituency. It constitutes the borough of Accrington and the old urban districts of Church, Clayton-le-Moors, Rishton, Altham, Great Harwood and Oswaldtwistle. Haslingden sits in the Rossendale valley and is a proud market town famous for cotton and textile manufacturing, and for the 19th-century Irish republican leader and parliamentarian Michael Davitt.
My constituency stretches to the rural north, to the place I understand to be a one-party state, known as the Ribble Valley. Parliamentary boundaries do throw up odd surprises. While canvassing the borders of this iron curtain of political difference, I discovered the annexation of several farms whose cherished Ribble Valley postal address-BB7, Clitheroe-now falls within Hyndburn. My predecessor, Greg Pope, still maintains with great certainty that his defeat by a margin of 22,000 in the Ribble Valley constituency in 1987 was all down to rain on the day affecting the Labour turnout.
Having heard the laudable but extravagant claims that were made in the House about the industrial revolution, I feel duty bound to honour the history of my constituency by wresting away the title of the birthplace of the industrial revolution from my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt)-he made that claim in his maiden speech; he has a keen eye for history-and from my hon. Friend the Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson).
As we all know, James Hargreaves-a "gobbiner" from Oswaldtwistle-invented in 1764 the spinning jenny, which revolutionised the manufacture and mass production of cotton. By the 1830s, approximately 85% of all cotton manufactured worldwide was processed in Lancashire.
Many maiden speeches-I have listened to a few-shamelessly act as a tourist bulletin for their constituency, and I intend in mine to follow that trend. My constituency is famous for Accrington "NORI" brick-the word "IRON" was painted upwards on the chimneys when it was supposed to be painted downwards; educational standards have obviously gone up since then-which was used in the construction of the empire state building and Blackpool tower. Europe's largest collection of Tiffany glass is also in the constituency.
Of course, there is also Accrington Stanley. The club has risen from bankruptcy and I can inform the House that it is on an assured footing under the stewardship of my friend Ilyas Khan, whose commitment to the club, passion for the area and dedication to the Leonard Cheshire disability charity I must commend.
One cannot mention the constituency without honouring the 11th East Lancashire Regiment, known as Accrington pals. The pals' first day of action was on the battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, at Serre in the north of France. Within half an hour of their advance into fierce resistance, 235 men were killed and a further 350 wounded-more than half the battalion. Whole families were devastated, and it was said then that not a single street was unaffected.
At this point I would like to say a few words about my predecessor, Greg Pope, as is an honoured tradition in this place. Before I do so, however, I would like to place on the record a word of thanks to his predecessor. Greg Pope, in his maiden speech 18 years ago, said of Ken Hargreaves that it is
"no overstatement to say that he has devoted his life to representing the people of the area"-[ Official Report, 20 May 1992; Vol. 208, c. 322.]
of Hyndburn. I can only report to the House that that remains true 18 years later. It is fair to say that Greg was everyone's friend. Articulate and thoughtful, he cared about his constituents, bequeathing a constituency office that in my opinion provides a service to constituents that is second to none.
Greg, like me, traversed a local path to Parliament, beginning his political life in his home town of Great Harwood as a councillor back in 1984, under the wings of George Slynn. Rainy days in the Ribble Valley did not deter his determination, and he was rewarded on a sunny day in 1992, when the Labour vote did come out in Hyndburn. He secured four terms of office as the Member of Parliament for Hyndburn. His vast experience as a Member of this House will be missed by those in all parts of it, as will his pleasant demeanour, honesty and sincerity, and particularly his expertise in foreign affairs.
"he is thought to be the only Member of Parliament to have invaded the stage during a gig by The Clash in 1978".
As such, his musical nobility was assured when my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Mr Woolas) was drawn to commend him in a Westminster Hall debate, saying that this was in his mind a badge of honour.
Finally, let me speak briefly of the challenges facing my constituency in the coming years. Despite investment by the previous Government, which has led to significant improvements in some areas, much still needs to be done. Some 40% of privately owned residential properties in the constituency are not up to the decent homes standard, and more than 10% are unfit for human habitation. There are some 2,500 empty properties, including in the Rossendale town of Haslingden, and today some wards in Accrington rank amongst the most deprived in the country in terms of health care, life expectancy and other such indicators.
The Government's housing market renewal programme is attempting to remedy those problems, but it goes without saying that the huge cuts in funding handed out so far-particularly to my area, which is one of the most affected-will blight the local economy for perhaps the second time following 18 years of Thatcherism. Hyndburn has one of the lowest rates of participation in adult sports and recreation in Lancashire, and is the third lowest in the country. In my constituency it is not possible to create opportunities for the private sector to deal with those fundamental issues without public sector support, and I intend to be a fierce and vocal supporter of my constituents' interests in this House.
Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) on his eloquent and passionate maiden speech; I wish him every success representing his constituents.
Localism, we are told, is very important and I agree with that concept. We need to have more powers for local councils in Shropshire-for Shropshire unitary authority and Shrewsbury town council-moving away from Westminster and from regional quangos, so that those who take the decisions can be accountable to local people in Shropshire.
Shrewsbury town council is the largest town council in the United Kingdom. Following the reorganisation of local councils in Shropshire, I very much hope that we can evaluate how more power can be devolved to Shrewsbury town council, but one area in which I think a greater lead, and certainly more advice, is needed from government is waste management. There are proposals for an incinerator to be built in Harlescott, which is a highly residential part of Shrewsbury. The Minister will know that Shrewsbury is an extremely beautiful mediaeval town. The No. 1 income generator for our community is tourism, so local residents are extremely concerned at the prospect of the incinerator being built. As the local MP, I have received many petitions on the matter and have attended many public meetings about it.
Hon. Members will be interested to hear that the issue involves the French operator Veolia, which its chief executive told me when I met him in the House of Commons was originally set up by Napoleon Bonaparte. That company is like an octopus with its tentacles all over the UK. How will the Minister regulate and control that ever-growing, powerful company in its quest to build more and more incinerators throughout the UK? What checks, balances and supervision are the national Government going to put in place? What co-ordination from Government will there be regarding where such incinerators are placed?
Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): Is my hon. Friend aware that we, too, have an application for an incinerator in my constituency and that many such incinerators are to be funded through the private finance initiative project? Does he agree that it is tremendously dangerous to fund technology projects with PFI on a potential 25-year payback given that the technology could be out of date within five or 10 years?
Daniel Kawczynski: Yes; I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I was just about to talk about concerns that the technology will be antiquated by the end of the contract. I want to press the Minister for greater national co-ordination. Councils up and down the country are looking separately, in silos, at incinerators with little regard to national co-ordination in their placement. My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. In our case, the contract would last for 29 years, but the polluting technology involved is already antiquated and should be avoided. Why cannot we have more efficient carbon dioxide-neutral methods of waste disposal? There are many examples in Sweden and other European Union countries that use the most modern and pioneering technology for their waste. Please will the Minister look at them and try to give a greater lead and incentive to councils such as Shropshire not to go with antiquated technology that pollutes our atmosphere? Will he explain the policy and advise that there should be greater co-ordination between councils and more assistance to help them evaluate the best solutions?
I want to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that Shropshire has exceeded the national recycling targets and is massively ahead of other suggested targets. I am greatly worried that we will be importing waste from other parts of the UK to be incinerated in Shropshire. In the last Parliament, we had many debates in this Chamber and Westminster Hall about incinerators. Labour and Conservative Ministers always come back with the same response on this issue. They say, "This is a local matter and you should take it up with your local council," but I do not believe that the Minister can wash his hands of this issue, because there needs to be direct Government intervention. For the record, I am extremely upset that the council-a Conservative council, I hasten to add-is proceeding with the incinerator.
My next point to the Minister is that I would like the council to receive greater clarification about house building targets. The previous Labour Administration wanted to foist huge house building targets on Shropshire-almost concreting over it-leading to great concern among villagers, including those in Cressage and Pontesbury, who love their rural way of life. I should like the Minister to clarify the matter and to assure us that local councils will have greater responsibility to decide house building programmes rather than their being imposed by central Government.
Lastly, I shall address my pet subject, about which, as chairman of the all-party group for the continuation of first past the post, I feel passionately. The only three countries around the world that use the alternative vote system are Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. I do not believe that the United Kingdom should be using a voting system that is predominantly used in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that first past the post is so called for a reason, because it rightly suggests that the horse that wins the race deserves to get the prize? To carry on the analogy, does he agree that the alternative vote means that the backers of the horses that came third, fourth or even worse decide whether the horse that came first or the horse that came second ought to get the prize?
Daniel Kawczynski: I absolutely concur with my hon. Friend on that point. The referendum will cost the United Kingdom millions of pounds. In five years of being a Member of Parliament, I have received only one letter-and only then because I went on the "Today" programme and said that I had not received any on this issue, after which I received one-from one constituent saying, "Dear Mr Kawczynski, could you please support a change in the voting system?" My constituents come to see me about pensions, child tax credits and Child Support Agency payments-all the things that affect their day-to-day lives. All Members in the Chamber will know some of the terrible difficulties that our constituents are going through and will go through in coming years as a result of the fiscal mess that we have inherited. For us to be distracting ourselves on 6 September with deliberations about a referendum on a change to the voting system when we have one of the best voting systems in the world is a great travesty. I, for one, as chairman of the all-party group, encourage all Members to join the group and to keep up the pressure on our Government to ditch these ludicrous proposals.
Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech on the last day before the House rises for the summer recess. May I congratulate all those who have made their maiden speeches to date? I congratulate in particular the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones), who painted very attractive pictures of their constituencies, albeit with different political landscapes.
You might be aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I am unique in this House in that there are two of me-at least, I am one of two Members with the same name. I share my name with my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris), albeit with a different spelling. Some might say-my apologies to Oscar Wilde-that to have one Graeme Morrice in the House of Commons may be regarded as a misfortune, but to have two looks like carelessness. Like all new Members, I am absolutely delighted to have been elected to Parliament to serve my constituents and the community in which I have lived for most of my life. It is a great honour and privilege to have the trust of my constituents placed in me, and I pledge to serve them faithfully in the years to come.
It is customary during a maiden speech to pay tribute to one's predecessor and I want to thank Jim Devine for his work during his four and a half years as an MP. Jim campaigned on many issues, most notably on the collapse of Farepak, and the issue of Greenbelt. Jim Devine became a Member of the House following the untimely death of the late Robin Cook in 2005, and he would often say that it was a place he did not want to be in those sad circumstances. I understand and share those sentiments. Much has been said and written about Robin Cook's outstanding contribution to national politics and world events, and I am sure that will be the case for many years to come. However, I knew Robin as the local, hard-working and caring constituency MP who gave22 years of dedicated service to the people of his community. Robin was my friend, and I miss him deeply to this day, as I am sure many hon. Members do.
My constituency has one of the biggest populations among Scotland's constituencies, with about 77,000 electors. It stretches 16 miles from the Edinburgh boundary in the east to the Lanarkshire boundary in the west, and 14 miles from the Pentland hills and Scottish borders in the south to the constituency of Linlithgow and East Falkirk in the north, beyond which is the firth of Forth and Fife. The constituency is strategically located within the central belt of Scotland, situated as it is within the local authority area of West Lothian.
Although the name of my constituency is Livingston, as it takes in the new town of Livingston, it also covers many of the more traditional towns and villages of West Lothian, some of which have such delightful sounding names as Breich, Dechmont, Ecclesmachan and Faucheldean. The constituency itself was created only in 1983. It was a new seat created to reflect the growth of Livingston new town, as well as taking in parts of the former West Lothian and Midlothian constituencies. It therefore boasts of such historic and eminent figures as Manny Shinwell, William Gladstone, the Liberal Prime Minister, and of course my friend Tam Dalyell, a former Father-and indeed favourite-of the House, who will always be remembered with immeasurable
affection for his independence of thought, integrity and immense tenacity, much to the annoyance of many a premier.
My constituency is a very diverse area including, as I mentioned, the new town of Livingston, which is one of Scotland's five new towns created in the 1960s. Livingston is the biggest town in the Lothians outside Edinburgh. Over the years it has become a major hub in Scotland's silicon glen. BSkyB has its main call centre in Livingston, and is the largest private sector employer in West Lothian. The Livingston designer outlet centre, which is one of the biggest in Britain, attracts 6 million shoppers annually. The town is also home to West Lothian's only senior football team, which came third in the Scottish premier league in 2002 and qualified for the UEFA cup-a remarkable achievement for such a new club. My constituency also takes in numerous other communities of a more post-industrial and rural nature, covering the Almond and Breich valleys and Strathbrock.
Historically, West Lothian was dominated by both oil-shale mining in the eastern part of the county and coal mining in the west, as is evident from the bings that still exist on the landscape. In the 1850s West Lothian was home to the first truly commercial oil works in the world, thanks to the eminent chemist James "Paraffin" Young. The Union canal and railways, with their stunning aqueducts and viaducts that were built during that era-they are still standing to this day-facilitated the economic success of the area.
Unfortunately, West Lothian's proud heritage of mineral extraction ended in the mid-1980s with the enforced closure of the Polkemmet pit. That, along with the loss of British Leyland in Bathgate and numerous other factory closures, meant that unemployment in the county rose to an unprecedented 25%. That was the legacy left in my constituency by the Conservative Governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and it took more than a decade of the interventionist policies and public service investment programme of the incoming Labour Government before the tide was eventually turned. I do not want a return to the days of laissez-faire economics, wholesale privatisation and the decimation of public services that I remember only too well, as do the people and communities that I represent.
My background is in local government. I have been a councillor in my constituency for the past 23 years, serving the community of Broxburn and Uphall, which was the birthplace of my mother, and where I lived from the age of 12. I had been council leader for 12 years when, in 2006, West Lothian became the first Scottish local authority to be honoured with the prestigious accolade of UK council of the year. Indeed, in this very House Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, commended myself and the council's chief executive, Alex Linkston, on that remarkable achievement.
If I may, I wish to congratulate Alex Linkston on his 45 years' service in local government, during which he has worked continually for West Lothian council and its predecessors. He is retiring in September, and he was awarded a CBE in 2007 for his services to local government. I am sure that the whole House would like to join me in thanking him for his long and distinguished public service and wishing him well for the future.
Gavin Williamson (South Staffordshire) (Con): I pay tribute to the excellent maiden speeches made by the hon. Members for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) and for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel); they sold their constituencies very well.
As a reasonably new Member of Parliament-I have been a Member for only a few weeks-I have quickly discovered that one of the joys of the role is the enormous range of issues that one reads about in each day's postbag. Some of them are very easy to deal with and can lead to good resolutions, but others are more complex. I therefore welcome the opportunity to bring some of those issues to the Floor of the House.
Traveller sites represent a great problem facing much of South Staffordshire. Of all the west midlands constituencies, we have one of the largest numbers of Traveller sites. Under the previous Labour Government there were proposals to double the number of such sites in my constituency, but that would put great pressure on our communities. It is somewhat unfair that a constituency with a large number of Traveller sites should also have to deal with many new sites. It is particularly unfair that the proposed location of many of the sites is green belt land. The previous Government's rules allowed sites to be placed on such land because of the exemptions that they enjoyed, so I hope that the coalition Government will change that.
Later today I will present to the House a petition with more than 2,100 signatories. It has been signed by South Staffordshire constituents as well as a few others who have visited South Staffordshire and enjoyed the pleasures of its beautiful countryside. I hope that the Government will change the law. Most importantly, however, there is something that they can do during the recess: get rid of circular ODPM 01/06. That would make a major difference to the planning system straight away, and change the way in which faceless bureaucrats in Bristol can force on my constituents, as well as those of many hon. Members, Traveller sites that are not wanted, and should not be built on green belt land. I hope that my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House will pass that message on to Ministers.
Daniel Kawczynski: Does my hon. Friend agree that the problem relates not just to Gypsy sites? The Bristol office can exert a lot of influence over all sorts of planning applications in our communities, but its right to do so should be abolished, with the power devolved back to local councils.
Gavin Williamson: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. If Members of Parliament had as much power as the inspectors in Bristol, we would truly appreciate it. We need the power to be devolved because the process has a great impact on local communities, and local voices are not being heard. Local councillors can say no to something, yet inspectors in Bristol will say yes. That cannot be allowed to continue.
A further problem affecting South Staffordshire is car boot sales. When hon. Members think of car boot sales, they probably imagine pleasant events involving 20 or 30 cars that might be raising money for a local hospital, church or school, but South Staffordshire is blighted by industrial car boot sales involving many hundreds of traders descending on our rural villages. There is no regulation or control by the district council, and the events bring misery to many areas. I invite Members to visit the villages of Featherstone or Himley on a Sunday to see the blight that the car boot sales bring- [ Interruption. ] Members are probably booking their train tickets right away. The villagers are not able to leave their homes because of the traffic chaos inflicted on them. I am asking not for a vast amount of legislation, but simply for South Staffordshire district council to be able to impose the same regulations as many London boroughs, so that we can control those industrial car boot sales and my constituents can go about their daily lives without this terrible affliction.
My final point touches many hon. Members' constituents; it is about cancer drugs. I welcome the Government's moves to take decision making on need away from primary care trusts and give it to clinicians. I hope that that will benefit one of my constituents, a brave young woman with a young family, who, with immense courage and incredible bravery that would humble anyone, is battling lung cancer, for which her clinician has advised that she needs a course of Taxol and Pemetrexed. This has been declined by South Staffordshire primary care trust, which is an utter disgrace. I hope that the changes to PCTs, and to the making of decisions on whether patients are allowed to have certain medicines, will benefit my constituent, but I fear that they will not come in time for her. I urge the Deputy Leader of the House to do everything within his powers to put pressure on anyone, whether at Cabinet level or in the Department of Health, as I have tried to do, who could do anything to help my constituent to have a chance at life and to be able to enjoy her family. If my hon. Friend can do that, I am sure that my constituent would be incredibly grateful, as would many of our constituents.
This coalition Government have made some positive changes and a positive start, but so much more is needed, and requires to be done. I urge my hon. Friends to keep pushing those on the Treasury Bench to ensure that that change is delivered.
Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): I start by paying tribute to the maiden speakers this afternoon: the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) and my hon. Friends the Members for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) and for Livingston (Graeme Morrice). I have a particular affection for Livingston because my father was head teacher of one of the very first primary schools there in the mid-1960s.
In my maiden speech I spoke about my constituency, its people, their ambitions for their families and their care for their community, and the dignity of work. Stretford and Urmston is not the most deprived of constituencies in the country. We do not have the highest levels of unemployment or the worst poverty rates, but many families are very worried about the future and their local community. My constituency sits in the northern part of the borough of Trafford, Conservative-controlled since 2004. In that time my constituents have come to feel that they are very much the poor relations, as they watch funds flow to the leafier, more prosperous south of the borough. One trivial but telling example is that in January, when we suffered the heavy snowfalls, it did not escape notice that the council's snowplough was seen almost immediately in Hale, in the south of the borough, whereas in Stretford and Urmston we waited weeks. In fact we never saw the snowplough at all; we had to wait for the thaw.
My constituency also loses out in much more serious ways. Unemployment is twice the level in the wealthier next-door constituency of Altrincham and Sale West. Inequalities in health mean a difference in male life expectancy of 11 years between the poorest wards in my constituency and the richest in the south. Investment in our town centres, parks and youth facilities has all too often seen my constituency at the back of the queue.
Last week Trafford metropolitan borough council announced cuts of £70 million in public spending over the next few years. It made that announcement at a press conference: it took a leaf out of Ministers' books, because councillors were not the first to hear. We do not have all the details of the cuts, but we already know that 81 more jobs will be lost this year and an elderly people's home will close, and that social care, libraries, education, play facilities and parks are all likely to be hit.
That is the reality of spending cuts. It is no use seeking to suggest that they are the result of local decisions alone, because the £6 billion of Ministers' so-called efficiency savings will have a direct effect on education and youth facilities in my constituency, on community cohesion programmes and on programmes to address health and the quality of life. It is Ministers who have frozen the playbuilder scheme in my constituency. Last week I asked the Leader of the House about that, and he said that it was a local decision, but I have since learned that it was an instruction from the Department for Education. Do not tell me that Labour had put in place spending plans that could not be afforded, because in Trafford a choice is being made about what to spend money on, and to cut front-line services first. Trafford council has still been able to find the money for consultancies and senior director posts, and to refurbish the town hall.
It is the public services on which my constituents rely-services that are popular, accessible and good quality-that face the first of the threats. Those are the services that bind society more closely together, and legitimise the right to social support. Now, under the guise of the big society, we see many of them picked apart. I am all in favour of people acting together to improve and strengthen their communities, and we have many examples of that in my constituency, from Positive Partington to Trafford peace week, the 60-plus action group, the companions and carers lunch club, and the Urmston partnership. Those and many other groups do tremendous work in the community. They enrich people's lives. But let us be absolutely honest: they can in no way replace the public infrastructure. Their role is not, and should not be, the strategy or stewardship of public resources, or securing universal access. For that we need the state. That role has been fulfilled by Government offices for the regions, primary care trusts and local authorities-all now being airbrushed out, or seeing their roles minimised as part of the Government's local delivery plans.
Volunteers do great work in our community, but they volunteer: they do what they want, when they can. That is why a local police inspector told me the other day that although special constables make a great contribution, they can in no way replace police community support officers. We cannot insist on where or when specials work, and we cannot secure a critical police presence from special constables at the visible policing level that the public want and expect.
Let us think about relying on volunteers to run our local library or swimming baths. Those roles require skilled, qualified and paid staff, guaranteed to maintain minimum standards of access, quality and safety. Let us also consider the Sure Start centres that support young families, or the carer who goes every evening to help an older person to get to bed. Those are core services that cannot be left to the chance of voluntary provision, yet I fear that the direction of the big society will be a cover for reducing investment, and that the result will be patchy unreliable provision.
I want Ministers to come to the House and tell us what the big society really means for public service quality, public sector employees, the voluntary and community sectors, communities, individuals and families. I want for every one of my constituents a guarantee that open, accessible and quality provision will be maintained in the services on which they rely. I want assurances for my local voluntary sector that it is not expected to become a cheap substitute for proper public provision. And I want to hear from Ministers, from the Prime Minister downwards, that the big society will be truly fair to us all.
Mr Edward Timpson (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con): It is a pleasure to be called in this end-of-season debate, in which we all have an opportunity to talk about subjects that perhaps the parliamentary time we have been afforded so far has not allowed us to discuss. In the short time I have, I shall bring to the House's attention three or four areas of interest in my constituency and generally, the first of which is the decline in competitive sport.
I welcome the Government's plans to revive competitive games in schools and reverse the decline in competitive sport, when there are no winners and no losers. Those
of us who have been through not only a general election campaign recently but through polls when we might not have been successful know what it is to like to win and what it is to like to lose, and we are all the better for it. However, fewer than one third of our schools take part in regular competitive sport, and fewer than one fifth compete against other schools. In Crewe and Nantwich, I have seen for myself the huge importance of, and appetite for, competitive sport, and its huge impact on many young people's lives.
Crewe and Nantwich athletics club has been phenomenally successful and is top of the men's, women's and under-11s' leagues. I congratulate the young athletes who have been promoted to the premier north-west league, especially Liam Clowes, who has been selected to run for Great Britain at the world junior championships. None of that would have been possible unless Steve Walker, the head coach, had believed in the importance of competitive sport as a way to energise young people, and in their ability.
Crewe and Nantwich gymnastics club and the Cheshire academy of integrated sports and arts have sent many young adults with disabilities to the Special Olympics, which will take place again next year in Athens, where they have won countless gold medals. That is all down to the hard work and dedication of the coaches, who believe that competitive sport plays a vital part in encouraging young people to learn to deal with success and failure and to reach their potential. Many young people have a real passion for sport and can see through the façade of receiving a medal just for taking part; they want to believe that what they have done has meaning and will help them to strive for greater things.
I therefore welcome this Government's attitude in trying to reintroduce competitive sport throughout our schools and within our communities, because I enjoy watching my daughter and son taking part in the egg and spoon race. I enjoy seeing not only the tears of joy when they win, but the tears of disappointment when they do not. That is not because I am a competitive dad, but because I like to see them engage in competitive sport that will help enliven and enrich their understanding of what sport can bring to their school and community.
The previous Government introduced a directive under which schools were asked to replace competitive races on sports days with so-called problem solving exercises. There is some debate about whether egg and spoon races can be described as problem solving exercises, but I know what I would prefer my son and daughter to be doing.
I shall not try to link all my subjects together, but simply move on. My next topic is the plight of looked-after children in our society-a serious issue in which I have been involved for a long time. I am keen that the new, reconstituted all-party groups on adoption and fostering and on looked-after children and care leavers should try to encourage Members of Parliament to go into their constituencies and meet some of the young people in care, or those who have experience of the care system. Members can thereby discover for themselves exactly what is going on and how looked-after children are faring.
We need to take up so many issues in the House on behalf of the many children in the care system who do not have a voice. I am delighted that the Government have seen fit to ensure that looked-after children will benefit from the pupil premium, and I would have been surprised if they had not taken that step. Another issue
is the provision of mental health services for children and the need for the child and adolescent mental health service-CAMS-to be far more rigorous and available to all children when it is required. Furthermore, children need support when they leave care; we had a lengthy debate on that during discussion of the Children and Young Persons Bill in the previous Parliament.
A disproportionate number of children in custody have been in the care system or are in it. I will continue to press for one anomaly to be addressed: the fact that children in voluntary care who find themselves in custody lose their status as looked-after children-all the support mechanisms fall away. Why should that happen? I shall return to the subject throughout this Parliament.
My third issue is one that many older constituents have raised with me-the switchover to digital radio. Approximately 100 million analogue radios are still being used in the UK and 20 million car radios can receive only AM and FM radio. The previous Government were going to press ahead with the fairly arbitrary date of 2015 for the switchover, yet only 24% of radio listening is done through digital channels. We have to question the reliability of DAB radio; I still believe that the coverage is patchy. Furthermore, what are we going to do with all the old analogue radios? Who has given thought to that?
So many older people in my constituency believe that the FM service is more than adequate for their needs. If the switchover is rushed, the impact on the commercial radio sector could well be highly damaging. I am pleased that the Government view the issue as more of an aspiration-that a 50% threshold of DAB users is to be required and that the FM service will continue even if the DAB service is brought in as the preference for radio stations.
Those three subjects were completely unrelated, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am sure that you found them fascinating. They all concern my constituents, from the very young to the very old, and I hope that they will be taken seriously by hon. Members on both sides of the House as we progress through this Parliament.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker; this is the first time I have spoken while you have been in the Chair. I congratulate you belatedly on your election.
I compliment the three Members who made their maiden speeches today. I was disappointed that in her excellent description of the free market of Witham, the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) did not get round to mentioning the 14th century peasants' revolt, which originated in her constituency and offered a rather different take on how an economy can be developed.
In his excellent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) described the origins of the industrial revolution, and just about everybody north of Watford can claim that their area had a part in that. I grew up in Shropshire, and we are absolutely convinced that the industrial revolution began there. We will have to continue that debate.
The summer Adjournment debate, as it used to be called, is a good institution, but a limited one, because until now there has been no facility for reply other than the hapless Deputy Leader of the House having to sit through several hours of speeches on a convoluted range of subjects-from local issues, to FM radio, to, probably, space travel some time later this afternoon-and being expected to respond to them all but, in reality, not being able to respond to any of them. If our procedures are to mean anything, there must be some facility, at the very least, for Ministers to reply to points made during these debates by letter or by statement. Alternatively, we could go back to what used to be known as the Consolidated Fund debates, when Members could raise any specific issue and a Minister was forced to reply to them-in effect, a series of all-night Adjournment debates that we used to enjoy in the mid-1980s. I recall talking about the London ambulance service from 4 am until 5.30 am, and in the end an ambulance came and took us all away out of sheer exhaustion.
I want to raise an absolutely crucial issue concerning the health service in my constituency. In the past few months, there has been enormous discussion and debate about the configuration of health services in north London. Something called the north central London health service configuration-a conglomeration of the primary care trusts for the whole of north London-concocted a substantial report, a vintage photocopied version of which I have here, which made several proposals, including the closure of the accident and emergency department at my local hospital, the Whittington, with an implied and very obvious threat to A and E departments elsewhere.
That provoked consternation locally, as it would anywhere else, as well as an interesting public discussion and debate about the nature of the national health service, issues of poverty and need, and the value of a local hospital in addressing those issues. All Members will be familiar with such discussions. Several public meetings were held. For the first one I called, I was reluctant to get a large room because I was not sure how many people would turn up. However, 350 people turned up to ask questions, and even more came to another meeting that was held a short time later. A feeling of democratic deficit within the NHS was very obvious throughout all those discussions. We then organised a local march along the Holloway road in defence of Whittington hospital, which 5,000 people attended.
As a result, the leaderships of the three main political parties started to vie with each other to support the demands to keep the local hospital. During the general election campaign, we had one of those strange moments that occurs at such times when the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition called a demonstration outside the hospital and were overwhelmed with speakers, including Labour candidates such as me, my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), and a number of Liberal Democrat candidates. The future Secretary of State for Health, the right hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr Lansley), turned up and was immediately given a place on the platform alongside this strange conglomeration of people. All of us, including the right hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire, now
the Secretary of State for Health, pledged to do everything we could to save Whittington A and E department, and thus the hospital with it. I was not aware of this, but apparently he toured the whole country making such pledges and promises, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton North East (Mr Crausby) said.
We are now concerned about what is going to be the future of health services in north London and the Islington area. Although Islington has an urban chic, cappuccino society image, with rather strange restaurants on Upper street where various arrangements were made between previous Labour leaders, in reality it is a borough of huge disparities in wealth and poverty. All the health indices-I have with me an excellent publication by the local primary care trust and the council, the health profile for Islington for 2010-indicate that there are high levels of health deficiency, obesity, cancer, heart conditions and a number of other problems. Interestingly, that publication also shows that the health condition of the borough has improved considerably over the past 10 years. Life expectancy has increased, infant mortality has declined, and all health indices have improved considerably, although they are still below the regional and national average.
I was very pleased that Islington council and the NHS produced an excellent document entitled "Closing the Gap-Tackling Health Inequalities in Islington", a copy of which I have with me. It indicates that one of the major problems is the lack of affordable housing and emphasises the need for people not to grow up in overcrowded accommodation that damages their health.
The reason I mention all that is that, with some concern, I recently received a letter from the apparently soon to be redundant primary care trust, stating that there was to be a stocktake of stakeholders' views on the future configuration of the health service in my borough. It provoked an immediate response from the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, which stated:
"We note that in this letter you"-
"give notice of a meeting to discuss with GPs from across North Central London commissioners the results of the stocktake on 15th July".
"This local stock take will help inform how we involve people in the review which will not start before September."
The authority's letter then immediately goes into a long paragraph about the need to be aware of the health White Paper, and concludes that the previous review has been halted, that the stocktake is reviewing the process undertaken, and that there will be a discussion with GPs in anticipation of their new role. It is time to stop messing with the NHS, return it to local democratic accountability and save the Whittington hospital.
Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con):
I first congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) and the hon. Members for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) and for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) on their maiden speeches. The hon. Member for Hyndburn's constituency adjoins mine, and in what I hope will be an
afternoon of agreement I agree with him that the industrial revolution started in east Lancashire. In fact, I will refer to that later in my speech.
I believe that it is the duty of every Member of this House, whatever their political persuasion, to try to reduce poverty and inequality wherever they find it. That is why I am determined that vital community resources in deprived areas of my constituency should not fall victim to the enormous public debt and recession that we inherited from the previous Government.
Community centres in Darwen were recently threatened by Blackburn with Darwen council as it began tightening its belt to deal with our deficit problems. The people of Darwen have always been radical and innovative, and they did not take that lying down. They will not let Sudellside community centre close, and they are looking at community ownership. When the issue was raised, some people in the area were sceptical. I was not. It is patronising, and simply not true, to suggest that passion for community ownership cannot be found in deprived areas. The big society is an idea not for middle-class do-gooders but for all of us. Sudellside community centre is vital to the community in which it is situated, and I will do all I can to ensure a bright and vibrant future for it.
Rossendale and Darwen is a very special part of the world. Not only is it picturesque, but it was the cradle of the industrial revolution. Its innovation continues today through its manufacturing prowess on both the national and international stage. As its Member of Parliament, I am focused on the future prosperity of my area and believe that if that is to be achieved we must address urgently the issue of building new infrastructure to support business and create new jobs.
Manchester is the economic capital of the north-west-I was brought up in Liverpool, which makes that very difficult to say, but it is unfortunately none the less true-and Rossendale must look to Manchester for its future prosperity. If the valley is to prosper, we must improve our transport links. That is why we must urgently proceed with the rail link from Rossendale to Manchester. The proposed scheme would mean a commuter train running on east Lancashire heritage railway-an example of commercial and conservation rail running on the same track.
The link would be of enormous benefit to Greater Manchester and provide easy access to Rossendale's highly skilled work force. Rossendale's manufacturing base and our spectacular open spaces would also be made accessible to all. Housing is inexpensive in my constituency, and a rail link would provide high-quality, affordable homes to BBC workers who move to the new media city in Salford. I am sure that they would flee the urban humdrum of London and Manchester.
In addition to improving transport links, the railway would drive regeneration of our town centres. For too long, shoppers in Rawtenstall have had to suffer the sight of the Valley centre at the bottom of Bank street. That festering sore on an otherwise attractive shopping street must be redeveloped, and I applaud the local Conservative council's action to proceed with a compulsory purchase order of the site. I hope over the next few months that I can assist in creating a vibrant and historically sensitive new plan for that area. This is a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity completely to redevelop a large portion of Rawtenstall town centre, and it must not be squandered.
The case for the rail link is compelling, and linked to the wider redevelopment of the Rossendale valley. I therefore hope that the Government look favourably on future efforts to secure funding for those schemes.
The town of Darwen on the other side of my constituency is undergoing a renaissance with the redevelopment of the town hall, Holker House, and the continuing success of Darwen market. I hope that the town continues to thrive. We have a superb new leisure centre, and in September our new academy school will open. I pay tribute to the contribution that teachers and other education professionals make to our society and to every young person in the country. I am sure that hon. Members will join me in wishing the pupils and staff of the Rod Aldridge academy good luck in their new school building in September.
Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel), and my hon. Friends the Members for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) and for Livingston (Graeme Morrice). They say that all good things are worth waiting for, which is certainly true on the occasion of their maiden speeches.
I have been amazed in the past two months by the efforts of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to mislead the public by saying that there is no alternative to the vandalism that they are inflicting on public services in Bolton West and throughout the country, and by the fact that they seem not to know that there is a global recession or that if Britain and the rest of the world had taken no action, we would now be in a global depression. Had they been in government, would they have taken no action? Would they have let the banks collapse, taking with them our savings, mortgages, pensions and businesses? Would they have allowed twice as many houses to be repossessed and twice as many people to be unemployed?
I was shocked that no Education Ministers would meet the pupils of Westhoughton high school to explain why they are not getting a new school when they visited the Palace a fortnight ago. I was also shocked that they cancelled the Building Schools for the Future projects in both Bolton and Wigan, even though those authorities had reached financial close, even though the money was in the budget to pay for them, and even though BSF would provide much-needed jobs and apprenticeships.
Government is about choices. This Government are making the choice to pay back the deficit by cutting vital services to the most vulnerable in society. They are also choosing to pay back the deficit quickly, and to privatise health and education, but those are not the only choices, and they are not the choices that Labour would have made.
With that in mind, will the Government tell me and my constituents whether the electrification of the Manchester to Preston railway line will go ahead? It was announced last year and would mean more trains, fewer emissions, cheaper running costs and better journey times. As part of the electrification, we would get new-to-us trains. Currently, passengers on our services play sardines every morning and evening. People are often left on the
platform because nobody else can squeeze into the carriages. In fact, the engineers for Northern Rail should get medals. I do not know how they keep some of those trains running. Whether or not electrification happens, will we get new rolling stock? Good public transport is vital to economic growth, but the bottleneck in the rail network in Manchester is a hindrance to growth. Will we get the northern hub, so that there are more trains to and through Manchester?
As part of national pubs week, I visited the Red Lion pub in Westhoughton in my constituency to talk about the problems that the licence trade faces. This is a well run pub which is rooted in the community and used by a whole variety of groups, but I left fearful about its future. Of course the licensees mentioned the smoking ban, but their biggest concern was their inability to compete with the large chain pubs because of the brewery tie and other related costs. They told me about the extortionate costs of Sky and about the cost of business rates, compounded by having to pay council tax for their accommodation in the pub-paying twice for the same services, an issue that affects all business people who live over the shop. They told me about the cost of heat and light and their fears for increases in VAT. They told me about the cost of their performing rights licence-they have even had to remove the jukebox because they could not afford a full licence.
Six pubs close every day. The last Government were committed to introducing a "guest beer right" for tied tenants, which would allow them the freedom to make a fair profit. Will the current Government go ahead with those plans? The Government have pledged to introduce a community right-to-buy scheme so that communities can take over their local pub, but will they provide the £3.3 million funding that was committed by the last Government? Will they close the loophole in the planning law that allows pubs to be demolished or changed into shops or restaurants without the need to seek planning permission? Will they also look at other costs associated with running a pub to see if any other help can be given?
I have also had a meeting with one of my constituents, Komal Adris, a British citizen, who recently went on holiday to Israel and the west bank. At passport control in Tel Aviv, Komal was asked what her father's name was. When she answered "Mohammed", she was taken out of the queue and into a separate room for questioning. She was told that this was routine procedure, but she was the only person from the whole flight who was taken aside. She was also the only person with a brown face. She was kept from 8 pm to 7 am with a number of different Israeli officials interrogating her. No one would tell her how long she would be held or why she was being kept. She was asked why she was visiting Israel and Palestine and she explained where she was intending to go.
As the night went on, the questioning became more aggressive. In the early hours Komal was given a Government document to sign that would have allowed her to enter Israel, but prevented her from entering Palestinian territories. She was told that if she attempted to visit any Palestinian town or city she would be arrested and put in prison, even if it was just a visit to Bethlehem. She refused to sign, as she did on the two
further occasions she was asked. This document appears to have no legal basis and the Israelis should not prevent movement to and through the Palestinian territories.
At 6 am, Komal was told that she had been refused entry and would be sent back to the UK. The reason she was given was "security". She asked if the officers were saying that she was a security threat and they said, "No, of course we aren't implying that you are a terror threat." But if security was the real reason, why would they have let her into Israel? She was then taken away for searching. All her bags and personal belongings were thoroughly searched and she was strip searched. At about 7 am, she was taken away from the airport and put in a prison cell. She had no access to her belongings or her phone so she could not tell her family or friends what had happened to her. She was kept in a cell until 8.30 pm, having been held for more than 24 hours, unable to communicate with anyone and given just one cold packed meal. This was a frightening, disturbing and degrading episode for a young Muslim woman.
Komal could have signed the document and been allowed into Israel, so security cannot have been the real concern. Does this therefore mean that the Gaza blockade has now been extended to the west bank? Please can the Government tell me what action they have taken to uphold the freedom of travel for British citizens and to ensure that the Israeli authorities are not discriminating against British citizens on the grounds of their ethnicity or religious beliefs? Can they tell me how many British citizens have been denied entry to the west bank, and can they investigate why my constituent was treated in this discriminatory and degrading fashion?
Finally, as hon. Members may know, I have spent most of my life as a youth and community worker, and I am worried about what is happening to youth work now that the cuts are starting to bite. Youth and community work goes to the core of the big society, but groups are already concerned that they will not be able to survive. Do the Government not realise the importance of the area-based grant and regional bodies, such as the regional development agencies and the Government office for the north-west, to the voluntary and community sector? Without the support of funding streams to support and attract funding, groups will not survive. As in the '80s and '90s, we run the risk of both local authority and voluntary sector youth projects closing-young people with nowhere to go and nothing to do. How can the local authorities and youth services fulfil their obligation that 25% of young people have contact with youth workers, and 25% of those achieve accredited outcomes? I am scared for the future in Bolton West, and I hope that I will get reassurance that the future is not as bleak as I fear.
Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): I, too, congratulate the hon. Members for Witham (Priti Patel), for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) and for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) on their maiden speeches. In particular, I appreciated the opportunity to recollect the role in the House of a previous Member for Livingston-a friend, at the time, of the current Member-who gave such a wonderful example to new Members of the importance of being independently minded, through his principled opposition to the Iraq war.
I wrote to Mr Speaker to let him know of my interest in taking part in this debate, because I wanted to speak about the situation affecting the railways in my constituency. However, I hope that I will be forgiven for first following up on a matter I have raised several times in the House since I arrived relating to the exploitation of the energy in our rivers, particularly the River Avon at Avoncliff in my constituency. I wish to do so because it is becoming a formative part of my initial understanding of the role and privileges-or otherwise-of hon. Members. I was approached by constituents who have done a remarkable job of renovating a derelict mill on the side of the river, and who were keen to establish a renewable energy project-a hydro scheme-on the river, which is something that the country needs us to do more often.
In September last year, my constituents made an application for a river abstraction licence from the Environment Agency, and by the end of March this year, they had been provided with a draft agreement from the agency indicating the terms under which they might be successful in receiving such a licence. Strangely, they then heard nothing for quite a period, and so came to me at one of my surgeries. It seemed necessary to get the agency to give them some clarity on the future prospects for this application, because the delay was blighting the development, so I wrote to the agency on behalf of my constituents. I also started to make inquiries in this place, not specifically into that case, but into the nature of the policy relating to the role of the agency. After all, why should we need abstraction licences for renewable energy projects that only momentarily use the water as it passes through the devices that generate the energy from the river?
I had only just begun to make inquiries when my constituents made further approaches to the agency about their application. I learned at my surgery this weekend that the applicant had mentioned to the staff at the agency that, because of the problems that the delays were causing them, they had enlisted the support of their Member of Parliament. To my shock, it was alleged by the applicant when he met me this weekend that he had received a response from that public servant to the effect that he was being told: "Yes, and I can assure you that if there are any more speeches in Parliament about this situation, your application will go to the back of the queue." That is quite a serious matter, as I am sure you will agree, Madam Deputy Speaker, and one that has caused me great concern.
Hon. Members might feel that going to the back of the queue is not the most serious of consequences, given that we all have to develop some patience when seeking permissions from regulatory authorities. However, what is alleged to have been said is relevant in this case, because I received a reply to my letter to the Environment Agency dated 29 June in which I was told that the agency had failed to reach a determination on the application. However, a letter dated the very next day was sent to the applicants advising them that their application had been unsuccessful-something that I find hard to believe those replying to my original letter would not have been aware was in the pipeline.
A delay to my constituents' application is significant, because the reason given for the refusal was that another application, on the other side of the river, had already been granted permission ahead of theirs, yet that application had not been granted when my constituents first approached
me. Indeed, that other application was not officially submitted with the agency before my constituents submitted their application; rather, conversations with the agency had, as they were told, merely begun. It is therefore with great concern that I hear of allegations that an assessment of my constituents' application was delayed because of the interest that I have taken in their case and because of the questions-essentially policy questions-that I have raised in the House.
I would therefore be grateful if the Deputy Leader of the House, who has answered one of those questions-in fact, the question that I asked of him was the most ably answered of those on the subject that I have asked in the House so far-would raise the matter with his ministerial colleagues, because I have grave reservations about what has been happening in this instance.
I originally wanted to speak in this debate on the subject of railways, and as time is short, I will focus on one particular aspect of rail services in my constituency. At the start of the current franchise, which is operated by First Great Western, the new franchise agreement withdrew the requirement to provide a number of services on the line between Chippenham and Trowbridge in my constituency which called at Melksham. Those were the only services calling at that station. As a result, a popular and well used service has been reduced to one that now does only two round trips a day-round trips that are 12 hours apart and therefore of much less value to my constituents. Great efforts have continued to be made throughout to restore that service. I am looking forward to a meeting with First Great Western next week, at the start of the recess, at which I might pursue that pressing issue. Melksham is the fifth largest settlement in Wiltshire, yet it currently has a minimal train service.
I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the campaign for improved services at Melksham station which has been run by the now chair of the local chamber of commerce, Mr Graham Ellis, and to all those in the "Save the train" campaign and those who continue to pursue the matter through the Wiltshire community rail partnership. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, in that there is another operator that would like to run services on the line. I would therefore be grateful if the Deputy Leader of the House could raise with colleagues in the Department for Transport the need to be open and flexible about open access agreements, so that in these more straitened times we might make better use of the track that we actually have. I hope that, in the spirit of the big society, the Go! co-operative, which is looking to embark on an open access agreement, might be given every opportunity to improve the services available to my constituents.
Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) (Lab): I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) and my hon. Friends the Members for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) and for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) on their maiden speeches. Good things are indeed worth waiting for.
I would like to raise an issue that is important to many of my constituents and that has been highlighted by two announcements this week-namely, employment in the Wigan borough. The first announcement was made by the hard-pressed Wigan council, which confirmed
that more than 800 jobs were at risk due to the huge scale of the coalition's proposed cuts of more than £55 million in Wigan.
The second blow to my constituents in Makerfield was the loss of 100 jobs and the possible closure of the Ingersoll Rand factory in Hindley Green. Time and again, I have heard Members on the coalition Front Bench state that public sector job losses will be mitigated by the growth of the private sector. Well, in my constituency, there appears to be a contraction of both sectors, and that is a blow that my constituents can ill afford.
Since last summer, the fall in unemployment in Wigan has been nearly 8%, due in part to the policies of the previous Labour Government and Wigan council of investing in businesses via the working neighbourhood fund, and investing in our young people, with more than 200 young people employed in the future jobs fund programme last year. They gained valuable skills and supported organisations such as Age Concern and the Wigan borough veterans council. Some of those young people, despite subsequently gaining paid work, have continued to volunteer with their placement organisations -the big society in action!
All this has been taken away by this Government, with no regard to the success of the scheme in my borough. The local authority intensive support start-up service, funded by the working neighbourhood fund and the Northwest Regional Development Agency, has been creating an average of one new business every day since the start of 2010. However, the axing of the RDA and the slashing of the working neighbourhood fund budget will leave the future growth of new businesses gravely in doubt in my constituency.
The coalfield communities regeneration programme has also supported new businesses in my area. Will the Minister commit to continuing to fund that vital programme, which supports the business and voluntary sectors in Makerfield? What support will he give to ensure that this and other funding streams continue to nurture new businesses in my constituency?
Another blow to the Wigan borough was the loss of our new schools under the Building Schools for the Future programme. That announcement was all the more devastating as Wigan council had received a letter from the Minister only the day before the cuts were announced, stating that where a local educational partnership had reached financial closure, as ours had, the schemes were to be allowed to proceed. Not only were the hopes of our young people, parents and teaching staff cruelly dashed, but many people-including many young people who believed that they could gain apprenticeships in the construction industry, building local schools-now have no hope of work.
I ask the Secretary of State for Education to look again at that decision, and to come to Wigan and speak to the parents, teachers and pupils there, particularly those in Hindley, the area already devastated by the job losses at Ingersoll Rand. In a visit to my local authority, he would see at first hand the impact of his decision on pupils and teachers seeking to achieve excellence in a building that is no longer fit for purpose, where teachers have to stick the tiles back on the walls before commencing lessons.
Another organisation employing many of my constituents who are living with daily uncertainty over their future is the Tote, which has its headquarters in the borough and employs some 600 people. I note early-day motion 578, tabled by the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson) and sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), and I ask the Minister to commit to retaining the Tote's headquarters in Wigan. This would protect the employment of its staff and the acknowledged expertise and professionalism that they possess.
Some of my constituents travel out of the Wigan borough to work, and I must mention the overcrowding on the trains to Liverpool and Manchester. The Greater Manchester chamber of commerce has rightly pointed out the significance of the rail network to the future economic success of the Greater Manchester area. I would welcome an indication from the Minister that investment in the northern hub, in electrification and in the commissioning of rolling stock to ease overcrowding will be forthcoming.
This Government seem determined to silence all the voices that speak for our region. They have already axed the regional development agency and abolished the Government office for the north-west. However, as one of my new Labour party members said, we have seen both parties in this coalition Government go through the Lobby and vote for measures that will disadvantage the poor and vulnerable, including introducing selective education and increasing VAT. They are standing up to be counted, and it is time for us to do the same.
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