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Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.


That this House notes with concern that UK taxpayers are potentially being made liable for bail-outs of Eurozone countries when the UK opted to remain outside the Euro and, despite agreement in May 2010 that the EU-wide European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSM) of €60 billion would represent only 12 per cent. of the non-IMF contribution with the remaining €440 billion being borne by the Eurozone through the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), that the EFSM for which the UK may be held liable is in fact being drawn upon to the same or a greater extent than the EFSF; further notes that the European Scrutiny Committee has stated its view that the EFSM is legally unsound; urges the Government to raise the issue of the EFSM at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers or the European Council; and supports any measures which would lead to an agreement for a Eurozone-only arrangement.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. May I put it to you that the Backbench Business Committee is in fact not being allowed to operate as was clearly originally intended when it was established? Because the motion was amended, the Committee was unable to allow the House to vote on the motion that it had selected for debate. What advice can you give to the House on how that matter might be rectified so that in future, as on Opposition days, the motion is voted on before the amendment is taken? What advice can you give to enable that to happen in future?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I recognise that there is a lot of frustration at the way the motion was dealt with today. However, things have been carried out in order. I am sure that the Leader of the House will reflect on the hon. Gentleman’s comments and think about them, but I am also sure that he will speak to the Committee to see whether there is a way forward for everybody. Hopefully, some amiable agreement can be reached in future, if that is the desire of the Committee.

Mr Davidson: Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Does that not demonstrate quite clearly that this set of Government Whips is just as bad as the previous one?

Mr Deputy Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that non-point of order.

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Spring Adjournment

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I remind the House that we will now have a six-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches right across the piece.

4.8 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House has considered matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment.

I move the motion on behalf of the Backbench Business Committee. It uses the Hollobone method.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Before I call the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming), I have been asked by Mr Speaker to remind him of his ruling yesterday, when he said:

“I strongly deprecate the abuse of parliamentary privilege to flout an order or score a particular point…It is important…that we recognise the need to temper our privilege with responsibility.”—[Official Report, 23 May 2011; Vol. 528, c. 653-654.]

I trust the hon. Gentleman will not test the patience of the Chair today.


4.9 pm

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Hon. Members will be aware that I have a long-time concern about secrecy in court processes, which was highlighted in the story in The Guardian today. We have no true freedom of speech when people can be jailed for complaining about their problems. This country seems to have a penchant for covering up problems that would be discussed openly in others.

Florence Bellone, a Belgian journalist, recorded an interview with Carol Hughes and Lucille O’Regan in Ireland, which was broadcast on RTBF in Belgium. A copy was placed on YouTube, but access in the UK is now blocked as a result of what YouTube calls a “government request”. What can be so frightening about that interview that people in the UK are not allowed to see it, but it can be broadcast in Belgium?

The policy of international websites varies. The Twitter account containing the names of lots of people subject to super-injunctions is still there, and will remain there for some time, yet newspapers in the UK are not allowed to refer to it by name. It is clear that in the UK people are now recognising the oppressive nature of court secrecy in this country. For instance, I wrote and released a song about this in 2008, the lyrics of which would have been in contempt of court had they not already been spoken in the House. Since then, however, things have got even worse, with the force of money being used to prevent women from complaining about their ex-boyfriends. One woman who received a super-injunction said to me:

“The process is terrifying…For the first 2 months I shook! And I shake now when talking about it to someone”.

Questions have been raised about whether I should have discussed the row between Ryan Giggs and Twitter yesterday. I am not a party to the privacy case. I have not been served with the injunction. I have not actually seen the injunction and cannot guarantee that it actually

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exists. I have read his name in the

Sunday Herald

, and on Wikipedia and Twitter. I could obviously stand on a soapbox in Scotland and say what I said in the House of Commons. I believe I could probably say it on Hyde park corner, because it is in the public domain. For me to have abused parliamentary privilege, I would have had to use it in the first instance, but I do not think that the case has been made that it would have been contempt of court outside the House.

I remain concerned, however, that the process of issuing contempt of court proceedings has been kicked off against users of Twitter. Someone should not be able to hide behind anonymity to take action against others. I am completely unsure what the legal position is in respect of naming Giles Coren. I do not think it would be contempt of court to name him outside the House, yet The Times was worried enough yesterday not to identify him—and he is one of its journalists. I will not identify the footballer whom, it is rumoured, would like to see him prosecuted for tweeting.

Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): I fully approve of the hon. Gentleman’s campaign to ensure that injunctions and super-injunctions do not interfere with our constituents’ ability to contact us and speak to us about issues. However, will he explain to the House why he thinks he is judge and jury on whether certain people under court order should be named in this place? Why does he feel he has the right above anybody else? It seems very strange to use privilege in such a way.

John Hemming: I explained that those details were already in the public domain and accessible in Forbes Magazine, the Sunday Herald and many other places, so I do not think it would have been contempt of court outside the House. However, I accept the Speaker’s ruling on this issue.

I refer hon. Members to a story in The Guardian today relating to another injunction. I shall read out the first paragraph:

“A wealthy British financier is seeking to have his sister-in-law secretly jailed in a libel case, in the latest escalation of the controversy over superinjunctions and the internet, the Guardian can disclose.”

What we have here is true secret justice: somebody is being prosecuted in secret; they cannot be identified; and the person prosecuting them cannot be identified. As a rule, the Attorney-General does not prosecute civil cases, which the privacy cases are; one of the parties usually prosecutes.

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): That has nothing to do with what the hon. Gentleman did yesterday.

John Hemming: Actually, it has everything to do with what I did yesterday, because Giles Coren was subject to similar contempt proceedings. There is a great danger that a secret form of jurisprudence will develop that aims to jail people in secret and keep their identities out of the public domain for relatively trivial issues.

The law of confidentiality and privacy, as being developed by the courts, seems to be in opposition to the views of Parliament about whistleblowing. That is an important point. A number of the court orders in place act to prevent people from reporting issues, whether to the police, the General Medical Council, coastguards or

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whomever. The rule of law is undermined by the court orders preventing that information from being given. That is another important issue.

Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): Will my hon. Friend confirm that judges have also issued court orders naming Members of Parliament as people who cannot be spoken to?

John Hemming: Indeed. The issues of freedom of speech are not just about what goes in the newspapers; they are also about who communicates with whom and how tightly controlled things are. Some of the court orders issued prevent people from complaining to friends about what has been done to them; some prevent them from complaining to Members of Parliament; and others prevent them from going to the police with information. A dangerous system is developing. It is wrong to think that there is a difference between the ZAM case reported in The Guardian today and that of Giles Coren, because he could have faced exactly the same process.

John Cryer: What about Giggs?

John Hemming: The point I was making about Giggs was that his name was in the public domain already, so it would not have been contempt of court to name him outside the House. That is quite straightforward, and it does not, therefore, involve the use of privilege.

However, there is an argument about privilege where the legal position is uncertain, as it can be at times. We do not want to be unable to debate things because working out whether we can talk about them is so complex. Privilege is important and it needs to be used responsibly—there is no question about that—but my argument is straightforward. To have abused privilege, I would have to have used the name in the first instance, yet no one has evidenced to me the basis on which it would have been contempt of court for me to say outside the House what I said yesterday in it, and if it was not contempt of court outside, it cannot be an abuse of privilege within—

Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford) (Con): Why did you not say it outside then?

John Hemming: Because it would not have been reported.

Anyway, the accountability of judicial processes depends not only on there being a public judgment, but on people having the ability externally to challenge the evidence that the courts are using. The problem with secrecy is that this all breaks down. Indeed, the report in The Guardian today about the secret committal of the sister-in-law is an example of exactly that situation, where there is no possibility of checking externally the evidence for whether the assumptions are correct. There are great questions about the reliability of much of the expert evidence provided in the family courts. If we cannot rely on the expert evidence, we will have difficulty relying on the conclusions.

There are many, many problems, and I will obviously be submitting a detailed report to the Joint Committee on the difficulties with the various injunctions. We also have a difficult day today, so I will not use up all my time. The issue of secret jailing is one that we cannot drop. Obviously we cannot do much more about it over

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the recess, but we cannot allow a process to continue whereby attempts are made to commit more and more people in secret proceedings. This all arises from the objective of protecting relatively trivial secrets, but it is not even close to open justice. The balancing act has completely failed when we are trying to balance somebody’s liberty on one side against something relatively trivial on the other.

4.17 pm

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con): I am exceptionally grateful to you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I have perhaps rather better news—it is at least different news—than we heard in the previous speech. I would like to talk briefly about the outstanding work of magistrates and the invaluable role that they play in the criminal justice system.

Magistrates were created some 650 years ago—we are talking about a very long-standing office—and they are to be congratulated, as I am sure we would all agree. There are now 29,000 magistrates in England and Wales. Their minimum requirement is to sit for 26 half-days a year. Some 98% of all legal proceedings are conducted in magistrates courts, which perhaps puts into perspective the outstanding contribution that they regularly make to the justice system. Magistrates bring to bear their considerable experience, knowledge and wisdom to both criminal and family matters. It is perhaps a testament to their ability to dispense justice fairly and properly that they are so rarely challenged in any higher place. In the last 650 years, magistrates have faced many changes and challenges. Their outstanding chairman, Mr John Thornhill, whom I spoke to today, has told me that, notwithstanding all the changes, magistrates always bounce back.

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): On the subject of magistrates bouncing back, is my hon. Friend aware that magistrates’ allowances and subsistence fees are under review for a possible reduction to bring them in line with the rest of the civil service? However, there is a crucial difference: our magistrates are volunteers, not salaried staff.

Anna Soubry: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I am sure that everyone in this place would join me in congratulating him and his wife, who is sitting up in the Gallery, on celebrating their 25th—their silver—wedding anniversary.

Moving swiftly on to the important point that my hon. Friend makes, our magistrates are indeed volunteers. They receive a small subsistence allowance. I am sure that, like my hon. Friend, many hon. Members will have received letters and e-mails from magistrates in their constituencies who are concerned about plans to reduce their daily allowance and cut their mileage allowance.

Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): It is important to emphasise that the lay magistracy already makes our judiciary in England and Wales one of the cheapest in any comparable Council of Europe country. We would be cutting back a system that is already very efficient.

Anna Soubry: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Lay magistrates normally sit in threes, as opposed to the stipendiary district judges who sit alone. Despite that

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fact, lay magistrates are considerably cheaper than stipendiary judges. I am not suggesting that they do a lesser job, however. Both are integral to our criminal justice system.

Another great challenge that our magistrates face is the cutting of 93 magistrates courts. That has been debated at length in this place and in Westminster Hall, and it is a matter of great concern. I do not have much difficulty with the reduction in the number of magistrates courts, but I accept that many people are concerned about the ability to deliver local justice and about the extra strain that this will put on our lay magistrates, who are volunteers, through the extra mileage and work that they will have to do.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): My hon. Friend is entirely right in what she says about magistrates. She has mentioned court closures, and we are losing our magistrates court in Goole. When that happens, it will be quicker for some of my constituents to get to King’s Cross than to the replacement magistrates services in Beverley.

Anna Soubry: I take my hon. Friend’s point, and I am grateful for it. I would counter it, however, by saying that those of us who are familiar with the Crown courts will know that defendants and witnesses who appear in them make the effort and appear there without too much difficulty. I struggle to see how there will be much difference when a defendant or witness has to travel to a magistrates court that is further away following the closure of a more local one.

There are many myths surrounding our lay magistrates. The days of the stereotype of the middle-aged lady—not that there is anything wrong with middle-aged ladies—are long gone. The days are gone when women of a certain age and from a certain social class dispensed justice, usually wearing a hat—not that there is anything wrong with hats, I must also swiftly add. We now see magistrates drawn from all walks of life, and rightly so. Their experience and knowledge is also often brought to bear in the Crown court, when they sit with a Crown court judge to decide appeals. They perform an invaluable role there.

I have only one complaint, and I am grateful to my constituent, Mr Roy Plumb, in this regard. He lives in Kimberley, and he served as a magistrate for many years. He performed the role admirably. However, at the age of 70, he was forced to retire. The irony of the situation is that he was born on the very same day in the very same ward of the very same hospital as our esteemed Lord Chancellor. It is somewhat ironic that, while our Lord Chancellor was being appointed to his role, in which I hope he serves for many years, Mr Plumb was being forced to retire, as are other magistrates who reach their 70th birthday.

I am against ageism—of course, I would say that as I get older. It is wrong to assume that, just because someone is of a certain age, they will perform in a certain way. Just because someone who is under 30 is appointed to serve as a lay magistrate, which Governments of all persuasions have sought to encourage, it does not mean that they will necessarily bring to the bench more youthful ideas or be able to identify more closely with

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young people. I subscribe to the notion that it does not matter what it says on someone’s birth certificate; the test is whether they are young at heart and fit in mind, and whether they have all the faculties to exercise sound judgment.

I know that the previous Government were questioned by people of all political persuasions—this is not an issue of party politics—on whether magistrates should have to retire at 70. Crown court judges can often sit until they are 73 and I believe High Court judges do not have to retire until they are 75, or at least they can sit in court until that age. I would suggest that this seems a little unfair to magistrates, especially, as I say, with our great Lord Chancellor being able to continue to serve for many years to come.

I am sure that all would agree with me in celebrating and thanking our lay magistrates. I urge the Government to view ageism as a thing of the past, so that our magistrates should not have to retire at 70. Mr Plumb might be able to return to the bench. We should certainly give great credit to his campaign and wish it well for the future.

4.25 pm

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I shall speak about the compensation scheme for the victims of overseas terrorism. Before I do so, I would like to pay tribute to a number of Members from different parties who have worked hard on this issue—not least the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Gregg McClymont), who would have spoken in this debate were it not for the fact that he thought he would have to be in the Finance Bill Committee. I thank him and his staff for the support they have given. I would also like to thank my Lincolnshire colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), who has secured meetings with Ministers, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood). I also thank the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) and the former Member for Makerfield, Lord McCartney, who have both worked hard on this issue over the years. Above all, I pay tribute to the families of the victims of terrorism who have also worked incredibly hard over a number of years and continue to campaign vigorously on it; some of them are present today. Let me outline some of the issues and problems connected with this matter, before looking at the history and putting some questions to the Minister.

Since the Bali bombings in 2002, there have been 58 deaths and 37 serious injuries arising from terror attacks against our citizens overseas. It is my view, and that of many Members, that the British Government continue to have a responsibility for their citizens even when they leave these shores. British victims of terrorism in the UK are eligible for compensation under the criminal injuries compensation scheme, but that does not extend to victims of terrorism overseas. Travel insurers do not normally pay out for death, injury or costs associated with terror attacks, as they do for death, injury and some costs associated with other violent crimes suffered abroad. Similarly, many foreign Governments do not compensate foreign nationals who are attacked on their territory. This is particularly true in countries such as Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey and India, where there are many Western tourists, including our own people, and multiple terror threats.

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The real issue is that this is not just about British citizens being caught up by accident in attacks while overseas, as many of them have been targeted precisely because they hold Her Majesty’s passport. In Mumbai, gunmen in the Taj Mahal hotel said, “We want US and British,” before inspecting passports, and they then targeted individuals. That is why it is not appropriate for Ministers back here in the UK to bracket terror attacks with other crimes in their correspondence with victims. Terrorism is of a totally different order to other violent crimes suffered abroad. Surely our Government should bear some responsibility for our citizens when they are attacked overseas for nothing more than being British.

Nick Boles: I congratulate my hon. Friend on raising this important issue, and also the hon. Gentleman—the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Gregg McClymont)—whose constituency I should not even venture to try to pronounce. I would like briefly to thank the Minister for agreeing to meet me, some victims and their parents. Does my hon. Friend agree that as people are targeted, as he suggests, simply because they are British citizens, our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was right to make a clear commitment to put in place compensation retrospectively for past victims, and a future scheme for any—God forbid—future victims of terrorism abroad? Does he agree that this clear commitment is based on a moral obligation that we all have to stand by our fellow citizens when they are caught up through no fault of their own in such attacks?

Andrew Percy: I entirely agree. We compensate people who are victims of terrorism on our own soil, but we do not compensate our own citizens when they are victims—simply because they are British—in other countries.

Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on raising this issue. Does he agree that, in a sense, if United Kingdom citizens are fearful of travelling abroad, the terrorists win? Government compensation will not remove that fear entirely, but a sense among British citizens that their Government will stand behind them when they leave these shores is an important part of the wider effort to combat terrorism wherever it occurs.

Andrew Percy: Absolutely. Again, I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the work that he has done in this regard. We certainly expect the British Government to stand behind our people wherever they are in the world, particularly if they are attacked, and it is true that if British citizens are put off the idea of travelling, the terrorists win. Many people travel to countries to which the Foreign Office has advised them not to travel. There is at least some implication that their travel is safe and that the British Government will support them if the need arises, as we do through our consulates, embassies and high commissions around the world.

Victims of the bombings in Sharm el Sheikh in 2005 were told by Ministers at the time that they should seek redress from the perpetrators of the attack. Given the time constraints, I cannot give all the details, but let me talk about one family in particular: the Bennett family from Durham, who were bombed on a minibus in Turkey in July 2005, suffering considerable injuries, and

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one of whose members, Helyn Bennett, was killed. The family pursued the Turkish authorities through the court system for six years following that advice, and it is only thanks to the generosity of the insurers and of Turkish courts that they have been protected from crippling legal costs. However, despite the award of £1 million reflecting the gravity of the injuries, the Turkish authorities have refused to pay out, and an appeal is in progress.

Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) (LD): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Andrew Percy: I will give way very briefly.

Stephen Lloyd: Does my hon. Friend agree that the coalition has a responsibility to deliver on the last Government’s commitment to pay compensation? British citizens who were victims of attacks from Bali to Sharm el Sheikh have yet to receive a penny, and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt), will soon put that dreadful injustice right.

Andrew Percy: Again, I entirely agree. Those three interventions illustrate the cross-party support for the campaign.

Although the award to the Bennett family was made 18 months ago in the Turkish courts, no funds have been made available to them. They are exceptional in pursuing international litigation, which, as we know, is incredibly complicated and beyond the means of most people. That is why victims were delighted when, in October 2005, the former Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House:

“officials are considering the possibility of introducing a scheme to provide compensation for…UK victims of terrorism”


“ wherever that may happen.”—[Official Report, 19 October 2005; Vol. 437, c. 839.]

It took a long time for that pledge to be fulfilled, and victims and their families continued to campaign. They worked successfully with some of the Members whom I named earlier to establish the humanitarian assistance scheme, and in 2010 the then Home Secretary and Justice Secretary provided for a statutory compensation scheme as part of the Crime and Security Act 2010. That would have enabled victims to be compensated with tariffs identical to those offered by the criminal injuries compensation scheme. Subsequently, 37 survivors of terrorist attacks abroad were written to and informed that they would be eligible to claim. Sadly, however, the change of Government has delayed the process somewhat, and the picture is a little unclear. Families are not sure where we are heading.

May I ask my hon. Friend the Minister what progress has been made with the review that was announced some time ago, whom is he consulting, and when he will make a statement to the House on the issue? Will the issue of the retrospective ex gratia payments promised to existing terror victims and their families be settled at the same time as the review of any future statutory compensation scheme? Will he confirm that the Government accept the principle that terrorism is distinct from other forms of crime, and that Her Majesty’s Government have a responsibility to our citizens who

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are attacked overseas on the basis of their nationality? Finally, may I urge the Minister to address this matter quickly, so that victims and their families receive the justice that they deserve?

4.35 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Crispin Blunt): I shall address each of the issues raised in turn. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) again raised an important issue that has featured prominently in the press in recent days and weeks. Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and it is of the greatest importance that people should be able to discuss and debate issues as freely and openly as possible—and as frequently as possible, I might add as I am returning to the Chamber to discuss this matter again following yesterday’s performance.

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General said in response to yesterday’s urgent question, there is a balance to be struck when the issues concerned relate to a person’s private life. That has always been the case, and now, in the current context, the European convention on human rights specifically establishes the article 8 right to respect for private and family life, alongside the right under article 10 to freedom of expression.

John Hemming: On the specific question, does the Minister agree that it is unreasonable for an anonymous person to apply to commit another anonymous person in a secret hearing?

Mr Blunt: I want to make sure that I approach this matter carefully.

In each individual case, the courts have to consider the balance between the two competing rights I have just mentioned. In addition, when considering whether to grant a civil remedy or order, such as an injunction, which affects the convention right to freedom of expression, the courts have to take into account section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which requires particular regard to be given to the importance of that right.

I should also explain that injunctions preventing reporting or disclosure of information may be granted for a number of reasons, and not just for the protection of privacy. They might, for instance, be granted for the following reasons: to protect documents subject to legal professional privilege or commercial secrets; to prevent the release of other information obtained by a party in confidence; to protect children or vulnerable people; or to prevent the release of information about an order freezing the assets of a person suspected of fraud where that might alert other participants in the fraud and lead to them disposing of assets or leaving the country.

The report of the Master of the Rolls’ committee on the procedural aspects of super-injunctions and anonymity injunctions published last Friday makes an important contribution to the debate on these issues, particularly in the context of the debate on privacy. The report reaffirms that open justice is a fundamental constitutional principle, and that exceptions to it are permissible only to the extent that they are strictly necessary in the interests of justice. Such decisions will necessarily be

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made in each particular case, dependent on the facts of that case. The report suggests that when that is necessary, the facts of the case and the reason for secrecy should be explained, as far as possible, in an openly available judgment. It also emphasises that super-injunctions—which is where the fact that there is an injunction has to be kept secret as well as the substantive issues—are now being granted only for very short periods where secrecy is necessary to ensure that the entire point of the order is not destroyed. That should help to allay concerns both that super-injunctions were being granted far too readily and about their potential open-endedness.

The Government welcome the report by the Master of the Rolls, which contains important recommendations that will ensure that injunctions are granted only where strictly necessary. We recognise the importance of striking the correct balance between individual rights to privacy on the one hand and rights to freedom of expression and transparency of official information on the other.

As the Attorney-General also said yesterday, the Prime Minister has written to the Chairmen of the Justice Committee and the Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommending that a Joint Committee of both Houses be established to consider how current arrangements might be improved. The Justice Secretary and the Culture Secretary will liaise with those Chairmen regarding the terms of reference of the Joint Committee. Such a Committee will be able to use representation from both Houses and the considerable expertise that Select Committees have, to examine the way in which the current arrangements are working and to consider whether we might make any changes to make things work better. That is where matters stand now.

I shall now discuss the welcome speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) on the importance of the magistracy. I wholly agreed with the general drive of it. This year sees the 650th anniversary of the enshrining in statute of the role of justice of the peace by King Edward III in Westminster Hall. The role has changed a great deal over time. Indeed, it was not until the first half of the 19th century that non-conformists and Roman Catholics could become magistrates, and not until the early 20th century that the property qualification for magistrates was removed. From its long and rich historical roots, the magistracy has developed into a fundamental civic institution at the heart of our criminal justice system, and there are 27,000 magistrates in England and Wales today.

Our magistrates are ordinary people from all walks of life who do extraordinary work on behalf of us all. As my hon. Friend said, they deal with the vast majority—95%—of criminal cases in England and substantial amounts of civil work. They are people who care passionately about their communities and the value of the rule of law. What makes magistrates all the more remarkable is that such a vital part of our justice system is composed of unpaid part-time volunteers. They are a very important part of the big society in action.

I wish briefly to discuss how the Government want to consider developing the role of magistrates further, not least in respect of restorative justice. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice has said,

“restorative justice is a reflection of what we are talking about when describing the Big Society....This is about taking justice out of the narrow confines of the courts and putting it into the community”.

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There can be no better expression of justice grounded in the community than magistrates, who are the epitome of justice for the community by the community. As our recent Green Paper “Breaking the Cycle” set out, we are committed to increasing the range and availability of restorative justice approaches to support reparation in the adult and youth justice systems.

Neighbourhood justice panels bring together community volunteers, offenders and victims, harnessing restorative techniques to broker justice outcomes. I would very much welcome the greater involvement of the magistracy in institutions such as neighbourhood justice panels, but we can also successfully extend a role for the magistracy in the entire panoply of elements that deliver justice in the community.

My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe mentioned the retirement age. The Government recognise that at 70 the majority of judicial office holders will be mentally and physically equal to the demands of the work. However, following careful consideration, including discussion with the senior judiciary, it was decided that the current mandatory retirement age should remain. So I am afraid that I cannot offer any comfort for Mr Plumb, despite the date and the ward on which he was born.

The Government are reviewing the travel and subsistence allowances paid to magistrates, with the aim of ensuring that they are not disadvantaged financially because of their important public service while also getting the best and appropriate value for money for the taxpayer. The Courts and Tribunals Service will meet representatives of the Magistrates Association and the National Bench Chairmen’s Forum, and the senior presiding judge, on 15 June to discuss how to develop a new approach to magistrates allowances, and no decisions have yet been taken.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) on making his contribution about the victims of overseas terrorism. This is a difficult and emotive issue. I know that there is continuing interest in this area, to put it mildly, and several hon. Members have raised the matter recently. As my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) said, I recently met his constituent Trevor Lakin and Nigel and Will Pike with him. Mr Lakin lost his son Jeremy in the Sharm el Sheikh bombing in 2005 and Will Pike was paralysed as a result of injuries sustained following the attack on the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai in 2008. Through my hon. Friend, I heard first hand about the devastating impact that terrorism has had on them and continues to have on their lives and on the lives of their families. They shared with me their experiences of terrorism abroad and their frustration and disappointment at the lack of support available to victims after they return home.

Terrorist crime is usually indiscriminate and devastating and usually comes without warning. Its impact can be horrific, not just for the victim but for the victim’s family and loved ones. My deepest sympathies, and those of the whole Administration, go out to all those

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who have suffered in that way or who have lost loved ones through such tragedies.

Since the spending review settlement, the Ministry of Justice has been reviewing the services available to victims, witnesses and their families. We are also considering afresh proposals for the introduction of schemes to compensate eligible victims of terrorism overseas. We expect to be able to make an announcement before the summer recess.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole mentioned support for victims overseas, as did the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Gregg McClymont), who made an intervention on that point. Her Majesty’s Government stand behind our people overseas; for those who have not had dealings with the system, coming across it in the wake of an appalling experience is difficult and distressing. To alleviate some of this distress, we have revisited the support available to British victims caught up in terrorist attacks abroad. The exceptional assistance measures scheme run by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides immediate assistance with air fares, accommodation and repatriation for victims and their families. From 16 December last year that help has been available to all British victims regardless of their travel insurance arrangements.

Let me point out that according to the Association of British Insurers, 66% of existing policies cover such attacks, but are mostly limited to overseas medical expenses, repatriation costs and a lump sum for personal accident cover. Furthermore, the Red Cross relief fund for victims of terrorism abroad continues to provide emergency funds of up to £15,000 for those who suffer injury or are bereaved through terrorism and normally live in the UK. The fund was begun with £1 million of funding provided under the previous Administration.

Families bereaved as a result of overseas terrorism may also be assigned a specialist family liaison officer by the police. The officer is specially trained and acts as a single point of contact for bereaved families. The officer will answer questions, seek to obtain updates on case progress overseas and provide dedicated one-to-one support for the family.

I appreciate that dealing with the consequences of any crime is anything but easy. There are services on offer to help guide people through the justice process and to provide emotional support, but there is still more to do. There are challenges in the current system in ensuring that the support given is the right support, and that it is offered quickly and to the right people. That is why I and my colleagues in other Departments are working to improve the services that we can provide. We are working to ensure that central Government, local authorities, voluntary organisations and local communities link together to provide joined-up support to victims and families. I look forward to being able to give the House more details about the Government’s proposals soon, and I anticipate that that will be before the summer recess.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): We will now move on to debate issues that relate to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Two Members are listed to speak and when the Minister has replied to them, we will move on to the general debate. It might be helpful for hon. Members to know that those who wish to take part in the general debate should stay seated at present and once the Minister has spoken we will move on. I remind Members that we have a six-minute time limit and I remind the Minister of that, too, as Ministers are supposed to be as brief and succinct as we expect other Members to be.

4.49 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I note that the other subject in this small section is that of Christians in Iran. I was just reminiscing with my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) about how when we were born in Aden in Yemen we were Christians in an Arab country and how well we were treated by the people of South Yemen, as it then was.

It breaks my heart to come before the House yet again to talk about the crisis that is occurring in Yemen. I am pleased to see the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), on the Front Bench, because I want to pay tribute to him, to the Foreign Secretary and to the Government for the amount of face-time and focus that they have given to the situation in Yemen. I am very grateful for that, because the globe is very big and Yemen is a very small country. Ministers and the Government have spent an enormous amount of time in ensuring that this House, the rest of the country and, indeed, the world are focused on these issues.

As I speak, the crisis in Yemen is deepening. We have been told for a number of days that the President is about to sign an agreement, which has been brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council led by the Saudi Arabians, on his making a dignified exit so that a new Government consisting of members of the opposition, some of whom are not involved in politics—a kind of Government of national unity—can take power. Each time I meet Ministers in the Palace of Westminster they brief me on what is happening and tell me what they know, which is that the President is about to sign. We had thought that was the case just 24 hours ago, but then we heard that our ambassador John Wilks had been penned into the United Arab Emirates embassy in Sana’a as he and other dignitaries had been preparing to go to the presidential palace to witness the signature of the President, which did not happen. Now the crisis is getting deeper and deeper. We already have a political crisis that could well lead to civil war in Yemen, which we had before and which ended with the reunification of southern Yemen and northern Yemen to create the state that currently exists. We also have a humanitarian crisis: 40% of Yemenis live on less than £1.25 a day, there is 50% illiteracy and 7 million people do not have enough food to live and survive in Yemen every day. That is why this political crisis has become a military crisis and it is also a humanitarian crisis.

When the Prime Minister appeared before the Liaison Committee early last week, I asked him to do one thing: to see whether there is any way in which our country,

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which has an honourable record in such matters, could send an envoy to try to bring the sides together. What I have heard from my contacts in Yemen—I have visited Yemen almost every year since my family left in 1965 and certainly every year that I have been a Member of the House—is that Britain’s role is absolutely crucial. Whether it is through Britain working on its own, the UK working within the EU, or the United States of America working with EU partners and our country—whichever mechanism we have—we need to try to fill this vacuum, because if we do not there will be civil war in Yemen.

We are told that the death of Osama bin Laden has led to the appointment of a new person to run al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and we know that he, Anwar al-Awlaki, is in Yemen. There is a danger that unless we deal with this situation now, al-Qaeda will have an even greater hold on that country and will be part of the process by which it is driven into civil war.

Every time I have talked about Yemen, I have talked about a crisis and said that it is worsening. Every time that things get even worse, I think that they have reached a stage at which they will not get worse, but they do. My one plea to the Minister, therefore, is that he continues his efforts, for which I am very grateful, but looks carefully, as the Prime Minister promised to do when he answered my questions at the Liaison Committee last week, into appointing an envoy who can try to bring the sides together so that we can have peace in that very beautiful but very sad country.

4.54 pm

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz). I was particularly pleased to hear his comments about how well he was treated as a Christian growing up in an Arab country, which provide a sorry contrast with what I am about to say about Iran.

I am grateful to Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Elam Ministries for the briefing that they have given me in advance of today’s debate. I approach the subject with a degree of humility, conscious that this country has not always got right either the treatment of other faiths or the treatment of other Christian denominations, culminating in the Act of Toleration which we passed in 1689. We have made improvements since that time.

Yesterday in the House a famous footballer was named. In the course of my remarks I shall mention the names of eight Iranian Christians who are currently in prison for no reason other than their faith. Iran wants to persecute Christians in secret, but I believe the world should know and show its concern for what Iran is doing. Christianity has been present in Iran since the second century. We find crosses on coins from around 50 AD, and in the seventh century Iranian missionaries travelled to central Asia, India and China.

Christianity has been protected officially since the 1979 revolution. Article 23 of the Iranian constitution states: “The investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.” Iran claims that there is religious freedom, but the reality is very different. In spite of that, the Church has grown and there are possibly hundreds of thousands of Iranian Christians today. What we see is a lack of tolerance, oppression and persecution.

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Open Doors puts Iran at No. 2 on its world watch list of the most severely persecuted countries in which Christians live; North Korea is No. 1.

Christian leaders must report to the Ministry of Information, which demands lists of members of churches. There are regular threats and intimidation. It is illegal to distribute Bibles. The Bible Society was closed down by the Government in 1990. The Iranian authorities have burned Bibles that they have confiscated. In May 2010 they burned hundreds of Bibles and New Testaments intercepted on the Iraqi border. In October last year more than 300 New Testaments were taken and burned by security forces on the Turkish border. Only three months ago, on 7 February 2011, 300 New Testaments were seized by authorities in Salmas, in West Azerbaijan, and publicly burned. Many of us in the House and around the world rightly condemned the attempts by the Florida pastor, Terry Jones, to burn the Koran, but I am not aware of any political leader in Iran—Islamic or otherwise—who has condemned the burning of Bibles. I hope Muslim leaders in the UK will condemn the practice.

Since the mid-1980s Christians have faced arbitrary arrest and imprisonment for their faith. Mehdi Dibaj was in prison for nine years between 1984 and 1993, mostly in solitary confinement, before being sentenced to death for his faith in 1994. Later that year, he was murdered after his release from prison. There has been escalating persecution and an increase in arrests in 2010 and 2011, with 282 known arrests of Christians in 34 cities since June last year.

In prison, Christians are subject to solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, interrogation—particularly about the location of Christian leaders—threats of execution and harm to their family, verbal and physical torture, and lack of medical treatment, and they are called on to renounce their faith. Prisoners are often required to hand over large sums of money and surrender the deeds to their houses to try to get out of prison.

Mostafa Shokrollahi and Khalil Yar-Ali were imprisoned on 15 January 2011. Noorollah Ghabitizadeh was imprisoned in Dezfool on Christmas eve, 2010. Farshid Fathi was arrested on Boxing day 2010. Even though his family raised $200,000 in bail, he is still in prison. Vahik Abrahamian was imprisoned in Hamadan on 4 September 2010. Masoud Delijani was arrested on 17 March this year. Abrahim Firouzi was imprisoned in Robat-Karim on 11 January this year, and his family cannot afford the $40,000 in bail demanded of them. Yousef Nadarkhani was imprisoned in Rasht on October 2009 and sentenced in November to death by hanging. He is currently awaiting trial before the Supreme Court. If the sentence is upheld, that will be the first execution for apostasy in 20 years, a very worrying development.

Such treatment seems to be officially sanctioned. Ayatollah Khamenei has talked disparagingly about the spread of the network of house churches. On 4 January this year, the Governor of Tehran, Morteza Tamadon, announced the arrest of 39 evangelical Christians whom he described as “deviants”. Apostates can be referred to the revolutionary court.

I request the UK Government to be active in calling for the release of those in prison for their faith, to call for the investigation into how the Iranian Government use the death penalty for apostasy, to denounce the use of intimidation to curtail religious freedom, and to call on Iran to fulfil its constitutional provision for religious

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freedom and address its rhetoric and constitutional discrimination against religious minorities.

5.1 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Alistair Burt): I thank my friends on both sides of the House, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) and my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), for raising these two subjects, which are difficult and disappointing for us all. Both speeches were a measure of how much the House depends on the good briefings that Ministers get in this place from colleagues whose knowledge of a subject can be deep and long lasting and which comes with great passion and from the heart. We could not talk about Yemen without being briefed by the right hon. Gentleman, whose contributions we are all fortunate to have.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about the difficulties of the current crisis in Yemen. I could have given nearly all of his speech from here, as his appreciation of the background to the current situation is entirely accurate. Yemen matters to the United Kingdom for a variety of reasons. It is a place of strategic importance, we have a history there and it faces a number of challenges with which this country, not alone but with others, has been engaged for some time. There are territorial disputes in the north and the south of the country and a chronic economic crisis that is being worsened by the political crisis currently besetting it. The security crisis very much relates to the presence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has a significant presence there, as the right hon. Gentleman said.

As a result of those various factors, the international community has supported Yemen in a variety of ways. The Friends of Yemen group was started towards the end of the previous Government’s period of office, and we have continued it. It is a group of international partners, including those in the Gulf, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as significant partners, that work together with the Government of Yemen to try to find a way through the various political, economic and security problems.

Much has hung on the individual character and personality of the President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in office for 32 years. As this year has gone on, it is clear that his legitimacy as President has been called into question. Protests from the people have mounted, opposition parties have expressed their concerns more volubly and the army has divided. Sadly, the protests, the aspirations for greater political freedom and the prospect of change to a more constitutionally based system of rule have been met with increasing violence and a number of deaths, the toll of which rises week by week.

The international community has reacted by working with those elements in the region to see whether there is any answer other than Ali Abdullah Saleh stepping down from power after so long. We all conclude that it is not possible to see an end to the problem without his leaving. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, attempts have been made to find a way for the President to leave that will allow a peaceful transition as part of a constitutional process. It will not be simple and lots of work will be needed with the various parties in the transitional process to work towards an expression of democratic freedom and the election of a new President and a new Government.

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Time after time, the President has come close to signifying his own support for such a system. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman was correct to say that the Gulf Co-operation Council and, in particular, its new general secretary, Dr al-Zayani, have been instrumental in putting together the most recent document, and significantly over the past few days every other possible signatory to such an agreement has signed it. The President’s own party, the Opposition parties and those who could play a part in the process have agreed to and signed the document. The last piece of the jigsaw was to have been put in place on Sunday, when the President was due to sign, but for the third time he came close to the wire and withdrew from it.

Keith Vaz: We have an opportunity, because the President of the United States is in the UK and meeting the Prime Minister. Indeed, I saw this morning that they had written a joint article for The Times. If there is a British-US initiative, perhaps there is a chance that on a conference call the President of Yemen will listen. Could we consider that?

Alistair Burt: May I give the idea some thought? I must reassure the right hon. Gentleman that the United States is clearly engaged in the situation, as are the rest of us, but the point is that the GCC and its general secretary came so close, and we should back them. The President of Yemen was almost there, and the signature was almost on the document. We believe that that is the best hope.

All the other parties seem to agree that the transitional process, which could be put in place by signing the document, allows for a 90-day transition period and offers guarantees to the family of Ali Abdullah Saleh, is the best hope for the future. It is also the President’s best hope and the best hope for the peace in the region. We are worried about reports that armed tribes are going into the capital, because that increases the risk of confrontation between the various bodies. The situation is absolutely immediate; it is ongoing as we speak.

The right hon. Gentleman was correct also to talk of the atrocious pressure put on ambassadors on Sunday, when the United Arab Emirates embassy was surrounded in a clear attempt to intimidate people and to prevent the President from signing.

So, we know where we are, and on the subject of the envoy the House should trust us. We are already heavily engaged, and our ambassadors to Yemen have repeatedly played a major role in working with others. For the time being, we will get behind the GCC and work with it to achieve a signing. We will continue to play a very important role, and I will continue to bring the House up to date as often as possible—and as needed. We all hope that sooner or later the saga will end, particularly for the good of the people of Yemen, who deserve to have the matter brought to a conclusion so that their country can enter a new chapter. If the President, by his own actions, leads a peaceful transition, he will have been of great service to his country at this time.

I turn briefly to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire, who rightly raised the difficulties of Christians in Iran and will have spoken for a variety of other minorities. We remain very concerned about the treatment of Christians and several other minorities—religious, ethnic and linguistic—in Iran. The

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ongoing systematic persecution of minorities contravenes all Iran’s most basic obligations to international human rights standards, and it deprives thousands of the chance to practise their faith without hindrance or fear.

I commend to the House the publication by Human Rights Watch, “World Report 2011”, which is the latest edition, in which there is good information about the human rights records of many countries. In that aspect of the regime, as in so many others, Iran makes depressing reading. The report states:

“Authorities announced that security forces had arrested more than 6,000 individuals after”—

the disputed elections of—

“June 2009. Hundreds—including lawyers, rights defenders, journalists, civil society activists, and opposition leaders—remain in detention without charge.”

The list of executions is longer than any other country’s except China’s.

Christians, as my hon. Friend said, are a minority protected by law in Iran, and in bilateral meetings in Tehran and in London we repeatedly call on Iran to respect the rights of all who choose their own faith and method of worship. We have also worked with our EU partners and through the UN to highlight those issues for the wider international community and to put pressure on Iran to fulfil its obligations to the Iranian people. We are aware of unconfirmed reports of the burning of Bibles in Iran. The UK wholly condemns the desecration of any spiritual or religious artefacts or symbols of faith, including scriptures. Given that Iran heavily criticised Terry Jones, the American pastor who planned to burn the Koran last year, we call on the Iranian Government to end the hypocrisy and religious intolerance.

The demanding of large bails in Iran is sadly a common problem shared by all who feel the persecution of the system, which is designed to put on pressure. We are aware of those mentioned by my hon. Friend who were victims of the round-up and the crackdown on house churches after Christmas last year. That increased policy of detention continues to be a cause of great concern. Although we understand that the majority of those detained have been released, a number remain in custody, and we continue to believe that there were no legal or moral grounds for their initial detention—a point that we have made repeatedly to the Iranian authorities. Such intimidation on the grounds of faith and practice of worship should stop immediately. We call on Iran to allow all members of all faiths freely to participate in open worship.

We continue to work for the betterment of human rights through international institutions. The EU recently agreed to sanction Iranian individuals for human rights abuses, and the UN Human Rights Council voted at the end of March to install a special rapporteur to report on the human rights situation in Iran and to make thorough recommendations to the Iranian authorities, the Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council.

The comments by my hon. Friend and the case histories that he has dealt with sadly give the lie to the Iranian regime’s claim to be the voice of a republic with moral underpinning. Hypocritical in its support of protests elsewhere and condemned by its execution policy, the regime remains a sad disappointment to millions of good Muslims everywhere and, in particular, to the Iranian people, who deserve rather better.

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General Matters

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): We now move on to the general debate. I inform Members that 17 speakers are listed to take part. I remind everybody that the time limit is six minutes; we will do our best to try to get everybody in. I call Eric Joyce.

5.12 pm

Eric Joyce (Falkirk) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will be very brief and make just one or two points. I can either speak very quickly or stick to the quality.

I want to speak about social media and the issues that have arisen in the past couple of days. Yesterday, the Attorney-General general said in answer to a question from my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for Justice that he would create a Committee. I presume that that would be a Committee of both Houses involving cross-party membership, but I am not yet sure how it is going to be put together. So far, the debate has had two primary variables at its heart. On the one hand, there has been the legal side, with much discussion among the usual lawyers. In fact, as far as I can see, there are only three or four lawyers in England, because they keep appearing on Channel 4 News, Newsnight and every other news programme. I will not name them, because that is not in vogue at the moment. I do not dispute that the law is a very important dimension. The other dimension is privacy, which people feel variously about. I know that some of my right hon. and hon. Friends are concerned about issues relating to a certain newspaper empire. To be honest, I have lesser, or different, concerns.

Both aspects are important, but what has not been aired is the issue of technology. At the moment, the court and legal system—and, indeed, Parliament—is finding itself in a tricky position over privacy, injunctions and so forth because of the way technology is racing ahead through social media applications such as Twitter, Facebook and many other platforms; I will not run through an advertisement for all the rivals. The fact is that they exist and that there is the potential for information to circulate with astonishing speed. As the Attorney-General and my right hon. Friend the shadow Justice Secretary said yesterday, it would be wrong for us in this place to say, “That’s the law, it can’t be enforced, so we just ignore it.”

Lord Neuberger’s report, which seemed a pretty reasonable effort, revealed some of the difficulties. Post that report, in the past couple of days, the Lord Chief Justice has tried to create some balance and reflected on the fact that some of the stuff that is said on the social media is taken pretty lightly. People gossip on the high street and at work, and that can sometimes have implications. Although I am not a lawyer, I understand that such gossip can have a legal status so that someone who took part could technically be taken to the civil courts for slander or, if they wrote it down, for libel. Social media merely—I say “merely”, but I know that there are significant implications—transfer that to the internet. One thing that the Lord Chief Justice said—I like to call him Judge Judge, because it is a great name, like the one in “Catch-22”—was that it is a simple fact that people do not give as much weight to information that they see on Twitter or wherever, because often it is

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wrong. It is patently obvious from recent cases in the media that some of the names that have come out have been wrong.

We might be tempted to say that one just has to accept that this is gossip on the internet, that that is life, and that there is nothing that the law can do about it. However, as the Attorney-General said yesterday, we cannot do that. There are many instances in which we could say that one should just accept that because we cannot implement a particular law in every case, it is not worth having. However, that is not a general position that we accept. We know that we cannot prosecute everyone who ever commits a crime. Nevertheless, it is important that the principle is there.

The argument about emerging technologies and what will come next is terribly important. I sat on the Standing Committee that considered the Communications Act 2003, which was the original Ofcom legislation. More recently, I took part in the debate in the House on the Digital Economy Act 2010. It is clear that it is difficult to legislate for new and emerging technologies, because one does not have the foggiest idea what will come next. Twitter is only two or three years old. We have no idea what there will be two or three years down the line. It is difficult to legislate for, or to take into account in the current debate, what will happen two or three years down the line. I want to emphasise that point, I hope it will be taken up by the Joint Committee when it comes into being and considers its position.

When I and other people say that we have to reflect on what is possible, we are not negating the actuality that there have to be laws under which people can be pursued if there is a particularly bad breach of an injunction, or whatever. The fact is that it is enormously difficult to close the stable door once the horse has bolted. That is not a statement of hopelessness. We have to think not just about Twitter, although that is what most of the debate has been about, but about the emerging technologies just down the road—there are many and I could bang on about them at great length, but I will not because my time is almost up—and they will inevitably impact on the deliberations of the Joint Committee and on the further discussions that will no doubt take place in this House.

5.17 pm

Mr David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): I am pleased to raise the general issue of tourism policy and some specific examples of places to visit in my London borough of Bexley.

The UK tourism industry contributes significantly to our economy. Large and small businesses, charities and other organisations play a part in generating interest in our villages, towns and cities, from bed-and-breakfast owners and walking tour operators to historic sites, museums and galleries. They directly provide some £52 billion of our GDP and 4.4% of our jobs. Tourism is one of our fastest growing sectors. It creates jobs across our country, from city centres to the most rural communities. Regrettably, tourism in suburbs such as Bexley is under-promoted and is not as successful as it could be. I believe that more can be done in that area.

We have tremendous opportunities to promote England as a place to visit. The recent royal wedding highlighted London’s attractions, including Buckingham palace, the

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Houses of Parliament and Westminster abbey. Those who watched it on televisions around the world or within this country will have seen our historic streets. It was an excellent advert for London, which in my opinion is still the greatest city in the world. The London Olympics and Paralympics next year will be not just a month-long festival of sport, but an opportunity to encourage more people to visit London.

Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a powerful case for tourism in our country. Does he agree that we should look at the VAT rate that is applied to accommodation? In this country, it is the same as the general rate, whereas in our competitor countries, it is far lower.

Mr Evennett: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the House will note it and take it back to the Chancellor and other Treasury Ministers.

The Government’s tourism policy is an important long-term strategy that will help the tourism industry to develop further and capitalise on its strengths. I welcome the establishment of the £100 million marketing fund and its ambitious aim of attracting 4 million extra visitors to the UK over the next four years. If that can be achieved, there could be substantial economic benefits of some £2 billion, with the possibility of some 50,000 new jobs being created. That is an excellent example of how Government and the private sector can work together for the benefit of our whole country.

I was rather disappointed to learn that only one fifth of the population take breaks of four nights or more in this country. If more people could be encouraged to go on holiday in the UK, to match the number holidaying abroad, £2 billion more could be generated for the tourist industry, and some 37,000 more jobs could be created. That would be a real benefit to our economy, and I believe it would be enjoyable for all those taking part. I still think that Britain is best for tourists and for holidays.

I hope that Government policy is not just about bigger towns and cities. I should like to encourage more domestic and international visitors to come to my borough of Bexley, to enjoy our historic, cultural and entertainment facilities. For a start, there is Danson House, in my constituency, a grade I listed Georgian building that was purchased by Sir John Boyd in 1753 but not completed until 1766. The principal architect was the highly regarded Sir Robert Taylor, who was involved in the design of many significant buildings, such as the Bank of England. The site was landscaped by Nathaniel Richmond, who was once Capability Brown’s assistant.

When the house was purchased by English Heritage in 1995, it was in a dilapidated state, as it had regrettably been allowed to deteriorate. English Heritage’s investment, in partnership with the Bexley Heritage Trust, has been invaluable, and both must be commended for their work to enable the house to be opened to the public. Visiting it is a fantastic experience, and I recommend it.

I also recommend that visitors walk around the magnificent Danson park grounds. With the lake, the conversion of the stables into a pub, the investment in new play facilities and the refurbishment of the Boathouse

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restaurant, it has won multiple awards, and I believe it is the best park in London. In fact, it recently received the gold award for safety.

A short walk from there will take visitors to the Red House, the one-time home of the artist, textile designer and writer William Morris.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): A socialist.

Mr Evennett: He was, but he did good work as well in a different area.

The Red House was Philip Webb’s first building as an independent architect, and it was completed in 1860. It featured ceiling paintings and wall hangings by Morris and furniture painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and it is a fantastic experience. It was purchased by the National Trust in 2003, and I recently had the pleasure of touring the house with its new manager, James Breslin. I am confident that the National Trust will ensure that it remains open for people to enjoy for years to come. It is another gem in suburban Bexleyheath.

Another historic property in my constituency that is open to the public is a grade I listed building and former stately home called Hall Place, which is part-Tudor and part-Jacobean and has fantastic gardens. Extensive work has recently been undertaken to ensure that it can be open for all to enjoy. I have been to a number of functions there, and the sense of history is incredible and the mixed architecture impressive and interesting.

There is also the beautiful and historic church of St Paulinus in Crayford. It was built in the 12th century, but there is evidence that there has been a church there for more than 1,000 years. It is located at the top of Crayford hill, on the mediaeval route to the continent, and pilgrims stopped there on the way to Canterbury for respite and care. The church is the burial place of Elizabeth Shovell, the former wife of Sir Cloudesley Shovell, who was Admiral of the Fleet during the reign of Queen Anne. The former Surrey and England cricketer John Shuter is also buried there. Shuter once opened an innings with the legendary W. G. Grace, and his grave has recently been restored and rededicated with the help of the Friends of St Paulinus Church, Bexley cricket club and Surrey county cricket club. The living churchyard is a place of peace and tranquillity among the bustle of suburban Crayford.

In the same century in which St Paulinus was built, Lesnes abbey, in the north of our borough, was founded by Richard de Luci. It has been suggested that it was built as penance for the murder of Thomas à Becket, in which de Luci was involved. The abbey ruins are located in Lesnes abbey woods and are worth a visit.

Bexley has an awful lot to offer tourists both domestic and from abroad. I have highlighted just a few reasons for a visit, and I believe that we should develop tourism in the suburbs. It is also one of the greenest boroughs in London, with many small parks and green spaces such as Martens Grove and Bursted woods. The Erith marshes and the Crayford marshlands can be used for birdwatching, and people can walk along the River Cray. Bexleyheath Broadway offers civilised shopping, and there are quality hotels, such as the Marriott, restaurants—Assos in Crayford is a particular favourite of mine—and pubs. We have small theatres, popular sports clubs such as Welling United football club, the Europa gym and Crayford

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greyhound track. It is a great place to come, and I urge my colleagues and friends in the House to visit.

There is much to do in my constituency and my borough, but importantly, I welcome what the Government are doing to encourage tourism nationally. It is a very important industry, but it is also an important facility for creating jobs—and for having a good time. I welcome what the Government are doing, but I urge them to consider the suburbs, because there is a lot going on there that is worth visiting as a tourist.

5.25 pm

Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr Evennett), who takes great pride in his suburb. In the same way, people in Manchester have enormous pride in what our city is all about. That is why I wanted to raise two important local issues today.

First, the Edale unit, which is a secure mental health unit, is currently located in the central Manchester hospital. Manchester Mental Health and Social Care trust specifically had the unit designed only a few years ago as part of a private finance initiative in that hospital. The strategic health authority gifted the trust some £16 million for the project, but only four years on, the trust has decided that it wants to abandon the unit and move its facilities elsewhere.

The trust proposes to move the unit to Park House—the site of the North Manchester hospital. By all accounts, that decision is perplexing. Patients, user groups, families and those involved in mental health delivery tell me that the facilities in Park House are less adequate than those in the Edale unit, particularly because the new facility will have mixed-sex wards and the accommodation will be dormitory-style, with six beds to a unit, and therefore less secure. Because the therapy provision in Park House is worse than that in the Edale unit, those people, who have very serious mental health conditions, will receive inferior treatment.

Three options were examined and appraised before the change was announced, and the move to Park House was judged to be the worst of them. In health terms, therefore, the decision is perplexing, but it might be explicable if it saves the mental health trust £1.7 million a year, as the trust says it will. Money could drive the trust’s decision because of the cost pressures in the NHS, but the decision is still unacceptable, because although the move saves the mental health trust £1.7 million a year, it will cost the wider NHS economy an extra £1.9 million a year. The economics therefore do not add up. It might be good for the bookkeeping of the mental health trust, but it is bad for the health economy.

The difficulty I have had throughout the process is that both the mental health trust and the SHA have not been open with the public. All Members of the House would regard that situation as unacceptable. Bureaucrats cannot hide important decisions behind faceless decision-making processes. No Member of Parliament would accept that for their community, and I certainly do not accept it for mine. People in my community suffer from extraordinarily high levels of mental illness, and we need the provision of a facility that is in keeping with the very best, and not simply with the second-best, as driven by narrow financial needs.

I have asked to meet the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam

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(Paul Burstow), and I hope that happens before final decisions are made. However, I want to emphasise that the process has been inadequate and unacceptable to local people.

The second issue is on another, very different, NHS facility: the Ancoats walk-in centre. Hon. Members often use superlatives, but my constituents in that area have some of the worst health of any people anywhere in the country. The area needs first-class health facilities. The walk-in centre was finally delivered to the Ancoats community when the former Ancoats hospital closed, which was quite a number of years ago now. There was a commitment to making health provision available for the non-chronic conditions that are so common in such areas. The health planners now intend to close this facility, thereby breaking the promise made when the Ancoats health facility was closed. That is particularly galling because the decisions were made long before any public consultation. I have a copy of the in-house magazine in February telling staff that the decision to close had been taken, yet the public consultation only began last week, on 16 May. That is unacceptable.

I repeat that the people in the Ancoats area have some of the worst health indicators not just in Manchester but across the country. The proposed relocated unit—in fact, they are closing the unit and claiming it is a relocation—is more than four miles away, which, for people with no access to a car or other private transport, means a journey by public transport or walking. However, of the three bus services available, one requires an 18-minute walk and the other two require bus changes. For those who need health care they can walk to, which they have come to expect in recent years, the alternative unit simply is not adequate. I appeal to the Minister to tell Health Ministers that bureaucrats cannot do this to communities. Bureaucrats need to answer properly to communities.

5.31 pm

Mr David Amess (Southend West) (Con): Before the House adjourns for the Whitsun recess, I wish to raise several points. The “Panorama” programme last night reinforced my view of FIFA. It is a totally corrupt organisation. We were humiliated in the bid for the world cup. I hope that our representatives will not vote for either of the two candidates, and that we will withdraw from FIFA. I am a lifelong supporter of West Ham and am delighted that we have got the Olympic stadium, but I feel badly let down, along with other supporters, by the management. It is very sad indeed. I have come to the conclusion that some footballers are overpaid, some are oversexed and others underperform, unlike hon. Members.

The winner of the Eurovision song contest, Azerbaijan, was a lot of rubbish. I think that Blue had the best record, and that Eurovision has become totally farcical. We should withdraw from the Eurovision song contest and have a proper contest between members of the G20 instead.

I am looking forward to the Olympic games. As hon. Members know, Southend has the longest pier in the world and a wonderful athlete, Mark Foster, whom I hope will be allowed to run down the pier with the torch. It is all very well that the torch will be going to the constituency of the Minister of State, Department

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of Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), but we want the flame to be shown in all its glory in Southend too.

We recently held the Southend version of the Essex Factor. A young lady called Lucy Urquhart won the contest, and I have no doubt that she will become an international celebrity. Last week, I had the honour to be nominated by Naturewatch for an animal charity champion award. I pay tribute to Naturewatch. It is a wonderful organisation, and it brought to my attention the problem of puppy farming. A quarter of the British people own dogs, and it is a disgrace that we have these puppy farms churning out five or six litters each year. We should do something about it. The current law is not being enforced. It is no good having a review or putting in place a code of practice. We want the current law enforced.

Last week, I think, the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, came to the Dispatch Box to make a statement about using live animals in circuses. He was given a bit of a rough time. It is completely unacceptable that wild animals are used for circuses. I hope that the Minister here today will take that point back to the Department to ensure that we do not use live animals in circuses anymore.

I was totally dissatisfied with the 2001 census in Southend, which left off 20,000 people—we have been paying for it for the past 10 years—and I am unhappy to tell the House that I do not believe that the present census was conducted satisfactorily in Southend either. The local authority, which has done a fantastic job, has assured me that it has not been well-handled by the Office for National Statistics, which seems to be in complete denial. Our Minister—the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd)—has done a wonderful job, but I fear that we shall be going to appeal on the census.

We have the highest number of centenarians in the country, and buses are very important for elderly people. Sadly, we depend on subsidies to run certain bus routes, and we have just had the First bus company cut the No. 24 bus. I very much hope that the Minister responding to this debate will have a word with that organisation so that the No. 24 can be restored.

I had the great honour of being the chairman of the all-party small business group. Small businesses throughout the country are struggling at the moment, particularly in Leigh-on-Sea. More publicity should be given to the reduction of rates for small businesses. We also need to do something about the empty property relief that we used to have.

I welcome the English baccalaureate. It is good that we are concentrating on core subjects, but it is not acceptable that religious education is not included in the English baccalaureate. I have received representations from St Thomas More high school, St Bernard’s high school and Westcliff high school for boys, and I hope that we can have that restored.

Jo-Jo Cranfield is a very talented athlete who was born with one arm. Hopefully she will be representing us in the Paralympics, but it is absolutely disgraceful that disability living allowance has been withdrawn from her, and it has also been suggested that she have a

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further part of her arm amputated. I hope that the Minister can do something about that.

I am receiving increasing complaints about the Child Support Agency. It seems to be for ever blaming things on the computer—always a good excuse when things go wrong—so I hope that the Minister will have a word with the appropriate Department.

Finally, as far as fisheries and fish discards are concerned, the common fisheries policy needs to be reformed urgently. It is an absolute disgrace that Leigh fishermen are being penalised by quotas and having to throw away far too many fish.

I wish everyone a very happy Whitsun.

5.37 pm

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Southend West (Mr Amess) and his skip around his constituency, which has left us all exhausted.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing time for this debate, which I secured to draw attention to concerns raised by a number of my constituents—residents and business owners alike—in Walsall South. Many are finding the council’s approach to parking restrictions and enforcement extremely stressful. They are effectively being harassed as they go about their daily lawful business. I want to cover three areas: fines and enforcement; the council’s attitude; and the case of Cyril Randle.

The story starts on 7 March, with parking charges being introduced on Ablewell street, Lichfield street and Station street. The restrictions cover a total of 310 parking spaces. Previously, people had been able to park free for two hours while they used local businesses on those streets and in the surrounding area. However, under the new rules, drivers are charged 20p for every 10 minutes, up to a maximum of two hours with no return. The charges are in force from Monday to Saturday between 8.30 am and 6.30 pm, excluding bank holidays. For now, there is nowhere free to park in town. There are fines of £50—they are reduced if paid before a certain time—yet the notices on the parking meters do not specify the amount. The restrictions and charges are very rigorously enforced. Several wardens walk down the affected streets each hour. Anyone late by one minute may be liable for a fine of £50. Some 670 drivers were issued with tickets within the first eight days of the charges being introduced, which equates to almost £3,500. Over the month from 7 March to 7 April, 1,700 parking tickets were issued. That equates to £18,000 of parking fines.

Local businesses are suffering and have reported losses as a result of the new restrictions. I have received a petition, which I will present at the end of today’s debate, supported by more than 700 signatories who oppose the new rules from NE Sandwiches, Smart Cut, Super Car, Ablewell Fish Bar, Pure Therapy, Hair of the Dog, News and Booze, and Traditional Settings. Some have already experienced a drop in trade of up to 30%, and others as much as 50%. The owner of News and Booze said:

“Nobody is going to come here and pay an extra 20p every ten minutes to buy a chocolate bar, a sandwich, or get a haircut.”

The GP’s surgery on Lichfield street is also being affected, with one of my constituents given a fine even though

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he had an appointment there. There are a number of residential properties on Station street. No exemption is made for residents to park their cars or for people making deliveries. Life in Walsall town centre is getting difficult. Mr Papanicodemou told me:

“If no action is taken, we feel that it will lead to the collapse of many established businesses, which would result in numerous empty shop premises. The eventual outcome of this will mean a loss of business rates to the council and also increased unemployment in the area.”

What does the council say? Its justification is that it is looking at the competing demands and the current arrangements to deliver the maximum wider benefit, while also contributing to the cost of providing and maintaining parking facilities, but that is not what the businesses have asked for. Balancing the need to pay for and maintaining parking facilities is not a relevant consideration in making the decision on this scheme. There has been no consultation or justification for the scheme. The council accepts that there has been a decrease in the number of people using town centre car parks. Of course there has! Businesses have said so, and trading figures suggest that people are abandoning the town centre. Now the new art gallery is closed on Sundays. What incentive is there to go into the town centre?

The case of Cyril Randle involves the salutary tale of an over-zealous enforcement officer and a council that would not back down until the court hearing, in the face of no evidence. Mr Randle came to my surgery to ask me to warn my constituents of what could happen to them if Ministers extend the powers of traffic wardens to cover offences such as littering or to stop moving vehicles involved in motoring offences. In 2006, Cyril, then aged 75, was apparently spotted spitting chewing gum from the window of a white Golf. The council had many of its facts wrong—not least that Mr Randle had not done the thing of which he was accused. On the day of the hearing, the council offered not to prosecute, on the grounds of Mr Randle’s age and ill health, but he wanted it on the record that he was innocent. Representatives of the council did not turn up. His solicitor asked that all charges be dropped, and the magistrate agreed that Mr Randle was innocent. Throughout the whole process, the council never issued a fine. It had no evidence. Indeed, the driver’s side window of Mr Randle’s car was broken and would not open.

In conclusion, what is required is, first, public information about ending littering, rather than making vehicle owners responsible for litter thrown out of a car. Secondly, the council must not use car parking and enforcement for raising revenue. The Department for Transport’s operational guidance states:

“The objective of civil parking enforcement should be 100 per cent compliance, with no penalty charges”.

This was revised in November 2010. Instead, the council should allow people to pay for the time used, just as they do in large shopping malls, rather than giving them a short amount of time and penalising them for being one minute late. I have already written to the Government’s new high street tsar, Mary Portas, and invited her to visit the Walsall high streets. On behalf of my constituents, I say: give the highway back to the residents who pay their council tax, and give the high street back to the residents, so that they can linger, shop and visit the new art gallery.

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5.42 pm

Jonathan Lord (Woking) (Con): In the Backbench Business debate before the Christmas recess, I spoke about magistrates court closures, and about how the Government, instead of following their localism agenda, were unjustly moving services away from some local communities in the name of efficiency and effectiveness. I firmly believe that delivering services locally can enhance efficiency and effectiveness rather than being their antithesis. So, as the Government, the regions, and those who commission and provide health services grapple with difficult budgets and soaring demands, I urge the Government, and particularly the key health stakeholders in my county of Surrey, really to think through how community hospitals could help to deliver improved health care at a local and accessible level and in a cost-efficient way.

My constituents in Woking, Pirbright and Normandy are generally well served when they travel out to the two acute hospitals located on either side of the constituency—St Peter’s in Ashford and the Royal Surrey in Guildford—but I am particularly fortunate to have Woking community hospital at the very heart of my constituency. It is an excellent local facility, receiving 110,000 visits each year. It provides assessment and rehabilitation, audiology, ophthalmology, physiotherapy and X-rays, and the nationally respected Bradley unit offers a neuro-rehabilitation service for patients with multiple sclerosis and other disorders.

The doctors, nurses and staff are incredibly dedicated, and the hospital is also supported by the Friends of Woking Community Hospital, whose 350 members have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to fund additional improvements and projects. These have included diagnostic equipment for the early detection of glaucoma, electronically operated beds and the construction of two conservatories that provide patients with a quiet, light-filled space. They even provide newspapers for long-stay patients of the Bradley neuro-rehabilitation ward. A major legacy has recently been bequeathed by Sir Alec Bedser, a long-term Woking resident, and I am sure his generosity will be put to good use. This amazing level of dedication and support is difficult, though not impossible, to replicate at the larger institutions and provides a real catalyst for future success.

I would argue that community hospitals such as the one in Woking that already have a certain size and critical mass and already have the experience, the space, the good buildings and infrastructure to offer a broad range of services to a reasonably large local population—even though they are not immediately adjacent to a main acute hospital—have enormous potential to expand their existing offerings and deliver excellent health care right in the heart of their communities.

What I am championing is the idea of a lead or a hub community hospital that offers a wider range of truly local health care, which could help to take some of the pressure off our over-burdened acute hospitals. For example, with the right medical staff on hand and good co-ordination with the ambulance service, most low-acuity ambulance calls could be dealt with at hub community hospitals. There could be an extension of medical cover at the hubs, including into the evenings and weekends, so that a wider range of sicker patients could be seen there. What about a rapid access centre, where a consultant would see and assess elderly people within one or two

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days to save them being sent to A and E or a busy acute hospital? Perhaps there is scope at one or two of our larger community hospitals for a temporary intoxication and related minor injuries unit. I believe that community health services can play a leading role in developing home nursing services to complement local hospitals so that patients can be released quicker to be supported at home, thus releasing hospital beds for new patients.

To its credit, NHS Surrey has held discussions about the future for community health. Let us be clear, however: over the next few weeks or months, I would like to see three things. First, I want a firm commitment that Woking community hospital will be a lead or hub hospital, albeit initially on a pilot basis. Secondly, I want some details on the service provision that is going to be enhanced and how it can be integrated with other local services. Finally, I want a commitment to funding that recognises the important future role that community health services and key community hospitals should have in Surrey.

The Government have increased the primary care trust’s baseline budget by over £30 million for this year, so the plan to reduce spending on community health services by 1.5% is worrying and difficult to justify. I believe that moving more activity to community settings has a major role to play in the future clinical and financial sustainability of the Surrey health system—a view that seems to be shared by NHS Surrey—but the rhetoric about treating more patients in the community must be backed by action and by funding.

In the Woking community hospital, I have a very fine local facility. I want to see it enhanced over the coming years and I believe that NHS Surrey should support me in that endeavour. I believe that the Government and health authorities generally should also look at supporting community health right in the heart of their communities.

5.49 pm

Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on what I see as a key public health issue. I shall consider the health impact of cold homes and fuel poverty. Parts of my constituency are more than 1,200 feet above sea level; our winters can be icy and our houses chilly. We wrap up warm in the valleys, but this is no substitute for a snug energy-efficient home.

People know that cold homes are bad for our health, but cold can also kill. Michael Marmot, our pre-eminent public health expert has said

“A winter death certificate may say ‘death due to heart attack’, but very often cold was a key factor.”

This truth must be addressed to tackle the health impacts of cold homes. The most recent figures from the Welsh Assembly Government show that 25% of households in Wales are in fuel poverty, which means they have to spend 10% or more of their net income to heat their homes adequately.

I recently attended the launch of the Marmot review of the health impacts of fuel poverty, and I want to highlight some of its findings. It found that fuel poverty

“negatively affects children's educational attainment, emotional well-being and resilience.”

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It also found that

“More than 1 in 4 adolescents living in cold housing are at risk of multiple mental health problems compared to 1 in 20”

young people in warm housing. Sadly, at the most extreme end of the spectrum, there were 25,000 excess deaths due to cold in England and Wales in the winter of 2009-2010. Our rates are higher than those of many other European countries, including the most northerly Scandinavian countries. Poor heating is leading to poorer lives for far too many people. As Sir Michael Marmot says,

“Inequalities that are avoidable are fundamentally unfair—fuel poverty is avoidable and it contributes to social and health inequalities.”

Our challenge is to align our health and environmental agendas, and to create jobs as well. A Shelter Cymru report estimates the total cost of bringing all poor housing in Wales to an acceptable standard at around £1.5 billion, half of which is needed to deal with cold homes.

Maximising take-up is an absolute must. National Government, the devolved Assembly, local authorities and health workers all have a role to play, and Members of Parliament can help with publicity. The coalition Government have said that they will deliver their green deal and the energy company obligation in the autumn of 2012, and the Minister confirmed to me last week that the ECO would be focused on fuel poverty and hard-to-treat homes. I think that the ECO should target a reduction in excess winter deaths, and in particular ensure that private sector tenants benefit from investment in energy-saving measures.

UK-wide schemes will be important in helping Wales to meet its ambitious targets. The Welsh Assembly Government already give a high priority to fuel poverty reduction. Its strategy was launched at the Coed Cae estate in Nantyglo in my constituency. There, social and private housing is being retro-fitted with external cladding to make homes more fuel-efficient. I want the Government to work with the Welsh Assembly to deliver for the people of Wales. In Blaenau Gwent, Tai Calon, our largest provider of social housing, is spending £9 million on updating heating systems and working with E.ON to invest up to £10 million in energy efficiency, and 1,000 homes will be given new double-glazed windows. In an area of high unemployment, it is important to ensure that local companies are used for those upgrades.

According to my local newspaper, the Gwent Gazette,

“the Valleys consistently come top of the leagues that no one wants to win”,

which include those for rates of heart disease and premature death. If the area is to move down those league tables, tackling fuel poverty must be an obligation. We must ensure that people take up what is on offer. I was appalled when National Energy Action told me that 10,000 households, a third of the Blaenau Gwent total, were missing out on their entitlement. That is the highest percentage in any constituency in Great Britain.

MPs must play their part. I saw the benefits for pensioners recently when I visited Margaret Jones in Ebbw Vale, whose new central heating system had been installed under the Welsh Assembly’s scheme. NEA has a fuel poverty action guide that MPs can use to help constituents. I have written to the chief medical officer for Wales to ask what action is being taken, and whether the Aneurin Bevan Health Board is playing a referral role to help local people with home heating problems.

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Ambitious targets are critically important. The investment in public health, a priority for the 21st century, is as important as clean water and clean air were in the 20th century. I want the Government to be active and drive the agenda very strongly, and to work in partnership to make a massive improvement in the health and quality of life of the young, the chronically ill, the disabled and the elderly.

5.54 pm

Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con): Working with the British Heart Foundation as part of the Heartstart UK campaign, I am calling for every child in the UK to be taught extended life support, so that when they leave school they are capable of saving a life. I want every child, and eventually every adult, in the UK to be able to do the following: recognise an emergency; contact the ambulance service immediately; administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation; and use an automated defibrillator. This campaign has received overwhelming support from across the medical, teaching and charitable communities, including from the following organisations: the British Medical Association, Research Councils UK, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Nursing, the Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee, the PSHE Association, SAD.org.uk, and Cardiac Risk in the Young—CRY.

I am passionate about the issue of extended life support—ELS—because as a teenager I found my father following his heart attack, so I know just how essential it is to have these skills. I am far from alone, as there are 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year. Currently, only about one in 12 sufferers will survive; that means 27,500 people are dying in the community, some of whom could have been saved. On average, it takes about six to 12 minutes for an emergency ambulance to reach a critically ill patient. For every minute that passes in cardiac arrest, the patient’s chance of survival falls by 10%. However, if immediate CPR—cardiopulmonary resuscitation—is given, survival rates increase threefold.

The great shame is that most people are simply not able to help individuals in cardiac arrest. All too often, passers-by simply hope that someone else will act. By training and educating individuals we can radically alter this situation. I have heard horrific stories of crowds gathering around with no one willing to step in. Thankfully, the evidence clearly shows that with training, lay people can overcome the psychological barriers and manage the patient until more advanced and experienced personnel arrive.

What I am asking for will take only 0.2% of the school year. It takes less than two hours fully to train a young person in ELS; that is the equivalent of just one physical education lesson. The training is straightforward. The recent meeting of the all-party group on heart disease, even I managed to breeze through it, as did my staff. The training can be broken into three levels, and even the most basic form of training can make a difference. For example, the body has enough oxygen in the blood so that even basic-compression CPR would be sufficient for 15 minutes, which is longer than the average ambulance response time. These skills will remain with people for the rest of their lives. We will instantly create a new generation of life savers, and they can pass their skills on, so it is a win-win situation. We have the evidence

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that this will work. It will allow us to change the prognosis for this devastating condition, saving thousands of lives a year.

My request is not new. Norway, Denmark and France already have this as part of their national curricula. The American Heart Association has decreed that no child who is non-proficient in CPR should be able to graduate from secondary school. The British Heart Foundation already has more than 900 schools actively engaged in the Heartstart campaign, helping train thousands of children in these essential skills. This campaign needs to be extended to every school, and with that in mind I have already met Dr Peter Crouch of the Taw Hill medical practice, and Swindon borough council, to look at ways to ensure that it is extended to all the schools in my North Swindon constituency. I urge all MPs to do the same.

Chris Kelly (Dudley South) (Con): My hon. Friend may be interested to learn that I recently visited the St John Ambulance team in Brierley hill in my constituency to see the fantastic work that it does with schoolchildren on this very subject. Will he join me in congratulating that organisation on its work?

Justin Tomlinson: Absolutely; it serves as an excellent example and it should be encouraged. All MPs have a role to play in encouraging such work.

Life support makes a real difference to survival rates. Training takes less than two hours, with the skills remaining for life. Through education and empowerment a new generation of life savers will be created, saving thousands of lives a year. I very much hope we can now ensure that this is made a compulsory element of a child’s education, and thereby create an army of life savers with the confidence and skills to save many lives.

5.59 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I wish to discuss the threat to heritage buildings in my constituency. Two months ago, a planning application to build a large hotel development encompassing a 500-year-old listed building, the Dower house, in the village of Harlington, was refused by the London borough of Hillingdon’s planning committee. Two weeks ago, the Dower house was consumed by fire and the police are investigating a suspected arson attack. This is just another example of what feels like the almost industrial-scale destruction of heritage buildings in my constituency.

We all value a sense of community where we live and a sense of belonging, and part of that sense of community is about valuing our local heritage. Local buildings all tell their story of how our communities developed, and are cherished for their architectural beauty and histories— the stories they tell us. This country has a proud history of protecting its national heritage buildings and sites, and I pay tribute to the work of English Heritage and bodies such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and the National Trust. But the battle to save our heritage is now being fought out ferociously in the suburbs of our cities and towns; it is the battle for local heritage buildings. These buildings are often unheralded and unsung wonders that lift our hearts when we discover them and their histories.

Although valued by local people, local heritage buildings, especially those in London suburbs such as mine, are being hit by a tsunami of urban sprawl and intensive pressure from property development. In my area, many

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of those buildings are still just about standing as beacons of beauty and historical interest, but they are at severe risk, as listed by English Heritage, from developers and neglect by their owners, and they are vulnerable to council asset-stripping sales or a lack of public investment.

I wish to cite three examples, in addition to Dower house, the first of which is the Harmondsworth great barn. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings described it as perhaps the greatest surviving mediaeval barn in the country, and John Betjeman dubbed it the “cathedral of Middlesex”. When its owner went into administration a number of years ago, the local council unfortunately failed to purchase it for £1 and it passed into the ownership of a Mr Robert Noonan. He owns it through a company called Harmondsworth Barn Ltd, based in Gibraltar. Under his ownership the barn has been neglected, and English Heritage now judges it to be in a poor condition. We have established the Friends of Harmondsworth Barn, and as a result of much effort and lobbying by local people, English Heritage has undertaken basic works to protect the barn, but is seeking a refund in the courts from its existing owners. English Heritage has put the barn on its at-risk register and we fear that, having saved the barn from a third runway, we could lose it as a result of neglect by its owner.

My second example is Benlow works, a beautiful building visible from the railway in Hayes. It is the symbol of our local industrial heritage. It was the place where the Orchestrelle factory was; this is where people built the “Aeolian” organ players. It is a grade II listed building but it is in a sorry state of neglect and English Heritage has listed it as at risk. Our only information on the owner is that the building belongs to the Freshwater Group of Companies in Shaftesbury avenue, London, but the council and English Heritage have failed to get any response from the owners to a request to improve the building, despite offers of support, including an offer of a significant grant to refurbish the building.

My third example is Golden Crescent library, a lovely building originally built by Mrs Emily Shackle in the late 19th century as a mission hall in memory of her late husband. Middlesex county council opened it as a local library in 1933 and it served generations of my constituents until last year, when Hillingdon borough council closed the library and opened a new one. Despite promises to preserve the older, listed building for community use, it is now to be sold off for development as flats and most of the building is to be demolished. The façade may remain but we will, unfortunately, lose the cherished building.

I have given just a few examples of heritage buildings at risk in my area. Our community has tried everything to protect our heritage. Working with the excellent council officers Charmian Baker, Sarah Harper and Nairita Chakraborty, two years ago I convened a local community conference to discuss our local heritage. Local residents have gone out to map and research the buildings and sites to update the council’s heritage list. We have set up the Hayes and Harlington Conservation Panel, as well as friends groups for each of the buildings under threat. But despite all this we are still under attack, and I fear that we are, at times, fighting a losing battle.

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My appeal is therefore for assistance at all levels of government and from other agencies that could become involved. First, I appeal to the Minister for an urgent meeting to discuss the heritage sites in my constituency, because I fear that without urgent intervention we may lose some wonderful buildings. I fear the cuts of 30% that English Heritage faces, given that more than 400 buildings are at risk in London, but I appeal to English Heritage to refocus on the London suburbs such as Hayes and Harlington. My appeal to the local council is for it to stop asset stripping and to work with the local community to protect our heritage buildings. My appeal to the owners of these buildings, particularly those I have named, is for them to contact me and work with our local community to preserve these buildings. We need powers, resources and co-operation from all levels of government and society if we are to preserve our local heritage. Once demolished, such buildings are lost for ever for future generations. We cannot let this happen.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. The time limit is six minutes, but I emphasise that the wind-ups will begin at 6.40 and eight Members are seeking to catch my eye. Hon. Members can do the arithmetic for themselves, and a certain self-denying ordinance would be helpful.

6.5 pm

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), who is not the only one who has difficulty protecting his local heritage. We have that difficulty in rural areas too. Indeed, I rise tonight to express the deep anger, disappointment and dismay across my constituency that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has approved a mass burn incinerator for the village of St Dennis in the heart of the constituency.

There is anger because a Government who make much of their localism agenda have overruled the wishes of the local parish council, the former district council and the former county council’s planning committee, and ignored representations from Cornwall’s six MPs. There is disappointment because the Government have fundamentally undermined their claims to be the greenest Government ever. There is dismay because the incinerator is the wrong solution to Cornwall’s waste problems and might dominate the small village of St Dennis for four decades to come.

Let me put the incinerator in context. At 120 metres, its stack is twice the height of this building’s famous Clock Tower, which houses Big Ben, and taller than the Statue of Liberty. It will dominate a small Cornish village and will be seen from many of Cornwall’s beauty spots. As we enter an era of global warming, Cornwall’s incinerator will belch out thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions and other harmful particulates.

We know that inefficient incineration, in which the energy is not used, does not move waste up the waste hierarchy. It remains a disposal in the same category as landfill. It is therefore out of step with Government policy, but that is what is happening in Cornwall, and that is what the Secretary of State has approved. The incinerator will generate more than 200 extra fuel-guzzling lorry movements on Cornwall’s lanes and roads each and every day. It will depress reuse and recycling rates.

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Incineration has never been the right solution for Cornwall, only the quick fix for a council caught in a blind panic.

The difficult circumstances in St Dennis mask the great strength of the people. They have put up a tremendous fight against the plans in what has always been a David and Goliath situation. They are not nimbys and since 2005 they have only ever wanted a modern solution to a modern problem. They have fought with only half the information that other sides in the dispute have.

May I ask my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House directly whether waste private finance initiative contracts and the potential liabilities to which they expose local authorities will now be material considerations in planning policy, as the inspector’s report suggests? Does that not fundamentally undermine the plan-led approach that the Government want to adopt? How can development be plan-led if local people who have no control over the contracts signed by a local authority will always be trumped by the provisions of that contract? How can it be right for a document for use in a public inquiry to be redacted? There should be no document needed for a public inquiry that is not available in full to all participants. I would appreciate it if my hon. Friend asked his colleagues in the Department to write to me on those points.

The community in mid-Cornwall is angry. Our faith in the democratic process has been shaken to its core. How can it be, when we have won our case every time we have put it to local decision makers, that our Secretary of State, who is responsible for localism, has overruled the local decision makers whom he says he seeks to empower? There is no doubt that Friday was a sad day for democracy in Cornwall, for Cornwall’s beautiful environment, and for future generations who will look back, bemused, at the folly that has been imposed on them.

6.9 pm

Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con): I, too, would like to thank the Backbench Business Committee for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I apologise to any Members who were present when I spoke in the pre-recess debate last month, as I must return to the issue of antisocial behaviour which I raised on that occasion. After I last spoke on the topic, I received a full and considered response from the Minister with responsibility for crime prevention, for which I thank him. I am glad that he agreed that

“Much of what is described as ‘anti-social behaviour’ is actually crime, and it has a huge impact on the quality of life of millions of decent people


The Government are on the right track in recognising that the current measures for dealing with antisocial behaviour are bureaucratic and ineffective and that the solution lies in giving the police and local agencies more effective powers to deal with the problem at a much more local level.

I am saddened to report to the House that the constituents I mentioned in my last speech on this topic are still suffering at the hands of a few thugs who believe that they can do as they please and that they are above the law in waging their campaigns of intimidation and abuse. Just last week a crowd of about 20 were involved in intimidating a resident who said, “I have lived here all my life and this has got to stop!” The crowd followed my constituent down the road to his home where more youths arrived in two cars. Neighbours

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called the police who, instead of dispersing the crowd or, heaven forbid, making arrests for disturbance of the peace at the very least, simply chatted with the crowd in a manner that my constituent described as jolly and friendly. My constituent reported the matter to the district chief superintendent, who replied that he had asked a colleague to respond, but no response has been received so far. I am hopeful that when a copy of


arrives on his desk, sent from my office, the response will be forthcoming more quickly.

I look forward to the Home Office’s response to the public consultation, but in the interim I expect the local police and local agencies to make full use of the current powers for tackling antisocial behaviour and to offer the most effective means available of protecting victims and communities. It is easy to see why there is a perception in some quarters that nothing can be done about this sort of crime, but something can be done, as it was done in New York by Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In one of the most crime-infested cities in the world, he achieved real success. He realised that

“Reducing the number of crimes wouldn’t be enough: people had to see improvement, not just hear about it. If crime went down but the existing amount of pushing and shoving, urinating on the streets, and other quality-of-life issues remained the same, we would never have a convincing case that life was better. We had to get people to be safe and to feel safe.”

When people feel safe, antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated by the community. Only when the local police achieve that will we see the trends of antisocial behaviour begin to reverse. I have more to say but I know we are stuck for time so I shall finish.

6.12 pm

Jesse Norman (Hereford and South Herefordshire) (Con): I would like to update the House about the progress on a subject that has become something of a preoccupation of mine of late: the private finance initiative. Members will be familiar with the details of the PFI, including its cost, complexity and lack of transparency and the level of advisory fees involved. The issue affects almost every constituency in the land and therefore almost every Member of the House.

As hon. Members will be aware, there have been far too many scandals for comfort over the years. Let me refresh our collective memory with a few choice examples. The Ministry of Defence pays £22 for each of its 100 W light bulbs. The Public Accounts Committee recently found that the project to widen the M25 took nine years simply to procure, that the cost was likely to be in the region of £1 billion too much and that the advisory fees alone were in the order of £80 million. It is an interesting fact that under the Building Schools for the Future programme, secondary schools were required to have atriums, as though they were multinational corporations, at colossal cost. One might ask why that should be so, but so it was.

Members can take their pick as to their preferred PFI scandal, so it is little wonder that the campaign to secure savings on the PFI now has 70 Members from across all major parties in the House. The campaign is not about tearing up contracts, but about renegotiating them, locating savings without a loss of services and sharing future rewards more equally with the taxpayer. Since the campaign was launched last year, we have made huge progress. The Department of Health is looking very hard, through what it has referred to as its

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“deep dive”, at its costs at Romford hospital, from which it hopes to infer a programme of cost savings that can run across the entire PFI hospital network. The MOD has reopened contracts at Corsham and two other facilities. The Public Accounts Committee is holding a hearing next month with key players in the industry to find out what has gone wrong, and I am pleased to say that the Treasury Committee—my own Committee—has held an inquiry and is holding a hearing on that inquiry’s findings, focusing on alternatives to the PFI.

In recent months I have had extensive meetings with industry, with Ministers and officials at the Treasury and Cabinet Office, and with the National Audit Office. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) for his intervention in that regard. I have had meetings extensively with the different players in the industry—the contractors, the developers, the banks, the service providers and the advisers—and I have been surprised by the positive response from those organisations. There is clearly a high level of interest in working with the Government to remedy some of the evils of PFI over recent years and setting the stage for the much improved use of private finance in the future.

However, it is important for colleagues to note that some firms remain outside the process. I will mention some in particular. Innisfree, which has been a very big PFI provider, has decided to bury its head in the sand. That organisation has been associated with some of the most lucrative deals for the private sector. It had a profit last year of 53% of its turnover. Sodexho is a very large national service provider, whose exorbitant costs I drew to the attention of the House last year, in relation to Hereford hospital in my constituency.

I draw the attention of the House to the performance of the advisers as a group—the law and accountancy firms, which have not participated so far in the process. It is striking that no matter how many transactions are done, the advisory fees on PFI deals have not fallen at all over the past 15 years.

I shall be approaching the Backbench Business Committee on 7 June for a full debate on the subject of PFI. I very much hope that as many Members as possible will join the campaign if they have not already done so, support my approach to the Committee, and speak in that debate.

6.17 pm

Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con): Two weeks ago the Danish company Vestas announced that it had signed an option for 70 hectares of land at the port of Sheerness. That option opens up the possibility of Vestas setting up a factory in my constituency to manufacture its next generation wind turbine, the V164-7.0. Vestas is considering locating in the UK because of the immense growth prospects for offshore wind-generated energy in this country, but let us not be under any illusions: Vestas has plenty of alternative options on the continent.

Vestas has already made a substantial investment just to secure the land option in Sheerness, and I am convinced that it is ready to move that option to a full lease as long as it sees firm commitments from customers. Of course, potential customers will not be willing to provide those buying commitments unless there is sufficient market

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and regulatory certainty to ensure a long-term viable business case. I am calling on the Government to provide that certainty and to create the conditions that would enable Vestas to secure the orders for the V164, which would give it the confidence to turn the option for land at Sheerness into a full lease, start building its factory and create much needed jobs in my constituency.

I have already discussed the situation with Vestas and it is looking for a number of assurances from the Government before sealing the deal. It wants to see a support mechanism that is specifically adapted to the needs of the wind industry, as opposed to trying to make wind fit within a one-size-fits-all solution. Such a support mechanism is key to making offshore wind a long-term, cost-competitive component of the energy mix, and needs to be designed very quickly and set at a level that drives continued investment from Vestas customers. In addition, Vestas need reassurances that the UK’s offshore wind ambitions will not be moderated. It wants to see mechanisms in place to avoid any prolonged hiatus in investments as a result of the electricity market reform proposals. It wants the Government to set firm and ambitious targets, specifically for offshore wind generation, and not only to 2020, but beyond to 2030. Finally, it wants timely decisions on planning applications not only for offshore projects but for the enabling infrastructure, such as grid connections and substations, which would provide more market certainty and increase investor confidence.

If Vestas sets up its factory on Sheppey, an estimated 2,000 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs will be created. On behalf of all those in my constituency who would benefit from those jobs, I would like to ask several questions. First, how do the Government plan to provide Vestas with the necessary conditions that would encourage it to make that major investment in the UK? Secondly, what are they doing to overcome the obstacles that the offshore wind industry faces? Thirdly, what are they doing to ensure that investment like that proposed by Vestas comes to the UK and does not go to countries such as Germany or France, which no doubt would welcome it with open arms? Fourthly, how can the UK maintain its position as global leader in offshore wind energy and secure the jobs and economic benefits that go with it?

Fifthly, why are the Government opting for an electricity market reform package that appears to be focused on getting new nuclear power stations off the ground, rather than putting more emphasis on getting investment into renewables? Sixthly, given that the Government’s £60 million so-called ports fund, which is supposed to help upgrade port infrastructure to meet the needs of the offshore wind industry, applies only to areas with assisted status, how do the Government intend to create a level playing field so that we in Sittingbourne and Sheppey can secure Vestas investment for an area of high deprivation that just happens to be located in the so-called wealthy south-east? Finally, what can the Government do to help de-risk the potential investment by Vestas? I appreciate that those are not questions to which my right hon. Friend the Minister has ready answers, but I very much hope that he will ensure that the relevant Minister provides a response as a matter of urgency.

6.22 pm

Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) (Con): In my first year in this place I have often boasted of Portsmouth’s

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assets: its superb natural harbour, which will soon host our magnificent aircraft carriers; its heritage; its high-tech industries; its entrepreneurial and hard-working people; and its remarkable natural history—after all, a third of the world’s migrating Brent geese cannot all be wrong.

Given those advantages, one wonders why we have not made more progress in regenerating parts of the city. In fact, there have been serious obstacles to growth in Portsmouth, but happily they are not insurmountable. However, we might need the Treasury to give us a leg up. We have suffered from the lack of a clear and articulated vision, which is unforgivable when one considers the heritage on which we can build a strong narrative for future development.

Portsmouth is the maritime heart of this country. We have the wonderful historic dockyard and the recent developments at Gunwharf and the Spinnaker Tower, but that cannot be the limit of our aspirations. We must think about the whole area; not only Portsmouth, but Fareham and Gosport. What do we want the harbour to become? We should aim high, because with the list of assets I have mentioned we could be one of the world’s premier destinations for historical tourism and maritime pursuits. I believe that the key to unlocking the potential of the harbour and to achieving a step change in regeneration for our city lies in the various surplus defence estates in Portsmouth and the surrounding areas.

One of the challenges we face is the cost of maintaining the number of historic and often listed buildings in the dockyard. That is necessary but expensive work. Pleasingly, the Government have reiterated their commitment to all three naval bases, which strategically is the right thing to do, but it is vital that those defence assets have the financial wherewithal to “wash their faces”, as the burden of heritage maintenance is an unwelcome expense when the Royal Navy has so many other commitments. Those wonderful buildings should be preserved, used and enjoyed, and there is the commercial interest and the willingness of the Ministry of Defence to make that happen locally. Alas, rules designed to ensure fair competition demand such a huge investment from would-be developers, without any guarantee of success, that Portsmouth’s historical dockyard continues to stand empty. Local residents and tourists lose out, as they cannot enjoy beautifully restored historic buildings, facilities—homes, hotels, shops and museums—or the jobs that would be created; the city loses out, as it is denied the economic growth and investment that would obviously result; the MOD and the Royal Navy lose out, as millions that might have been spent on the naval dockyard are being spent on the historic estate; and English Heritage loses out as precious listed buildings drift into decay.

I am sure that Portsmouth will not be an isolated case, and the Treasury needs to realise that investors will not hold their millions in reserve, waiting for the day when common sense prevails. They will take their money elsewhere, and not necessarily in Britain. We must make investment easier, and that will require a strategic alliance of industry, civic authorities, the Royal Navy, the MOD, the heritage sites and other organisations. On the current rules of engagement, however, such a vision and alliance is not possible.

A full competitive tendering process for such developments is not practical: the costs would be prohibitive, because it is so complex, and it would require the

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co-ordination of many stakeholders. It is not realistic for such a chain of contributors to commit themselves without any assurance of success, and the project stands a much better chance of being delivered successfully if, from the start, a close relationship can be established between the stakeholders and such a strategic alliance.

To insist on the full competitive tendering process would inevitably mean the project being broken down into smaller schemes, and that would be the death knell for integrated regeneration in the north and south of the city and through to Gosport. It would certainly remove any hope of coherent integration between military and civil needs. That is an important part of the regeneration programmes for cities and towns where the Royal Navy is the central employer, estate owner and provider of further employment and opportunity. Development needs to be undertaken on such a scale to achieve the necessary regeneration that will drive changes in residential and visitor perceptions.

Today, I ask the Treasury to consider increasing the geographical scope of the national insurance contribution holiday to some areas of the south-east, where extra help is needed and the potential for growth is considerable. In my view, Portsmouth is top of the list. I ask the Treasury also to recognise the damage that out-of-control business rates are doing in Portsmouth and elsewhere, and to work to provide incentives for local authorities to address the problem; to work with the MOD to ensure that bureaucracy and costs are reduced for potential development of surplus MOD estates; to examine how it can support the emergence of strategic alliances throughout all sectors in order to make such regeneration affordable and achievable; and finally to meet me and potential partners in such an alliance in Portsmouth to discuss those issues in more detail. I hope that that meeting can take place in Portsmouth, so that the Treasury can see the energy, drive, vision and potential of our city.