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We would not be revolutionising British law if we applied stricter liability in these cases because it is already part of our civil law on workplace health and safety incidents and on product liability. It is even in the field of motor insurance already, as it applies to car passengers. Extending it to protect cyclists and pedestrians makes sense and I urge the Government to give serious consideration to making the necessary changes even if the insurance industry does not happen to like the idea.

6.17 pm

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): I would like to make the case for including body image classes in schools. We already recognise the need for our schools to inform young people about a wide range of issues such as the dangers of drugs and alcohol misuse, how to have a healthy lifestyle, and basic financial literacy in relation to mortgages, interest rates and debt. I believe that these personal, social and health education classes should now include body image.

We live in a looks-obsessed society and huge commercial and social pressure is placed on young people to aspire to unachievable body “ideals”—so much so that half of young women aged between 16 and 21 say that they would consider cosmetic surgery to change the way they look, and half of young men feel bad about their body after reading men’s magazines. Eating disorders now affect 1.6 million people in this country. Most worryingly perhaps, the prevalence of eating disorders doubled between 1995 and 2005. Even when the situation is not as serious as a full-blown eating disorder, negative body image can have a real impact on educational achievement. A study in 2005 by Lovegrove and Rumsey found that 31% of teenagers—almost a third—say they do not engage in classroom debate for fear of drawing attention to their appearance and that one in five pupils reported staying away from school on days when they lacked confidence in their appearance.

Channel 4’s “How to Look Good Naked” is a fabulous example of what the media can do to play a positive role in developing body confidence. Its presenter, Gok Wan, has also championed the cause of body image classes in schools. In May, he brought a massive body confidence lesson to Parliament. There are lots of great examples up and down the country. Y Touring, the theatre arm of YMCA, has taken its discussion-provoking play “Beautiful” into schools, and the campaign group Body Gossip has developed “gossip school”, in which individuals who have recovered from eating disorders go into schools and lead discussions about body confidence. In the US, the body project, which got young people to critique the “thin ideal” in essays and role plays, was shown to reduce the risk of participants’ developing eating disorders by 61%.

The university of the West of England’s centre for appearance research will soon publish its evaluation of different types of body image lessons. It suggests that the technique of cognitive dissonance—putting young people in a position in which they challenge the stereotypical, ideal body themselves—is the most successful in changing attitudes, and can reduce body dissatisfaction and the likelihood of developing eating disorders.

What should the Government do? First, the issue needs to be examined in the context of the forthcoming review of personal, social and health education, and

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I hope that the Government will conclude that body image should be taught in all schools, just like education on drug abuse and safer sex. Secondly, the Government should work with various partners to develop a range of resources that teachers can use for those lessons. My hon. Friend the Minister for Equalities has entered into discussions with Media Smart to develop a media resilience and body image toolkit that can be offered to schools. It is a great start, and we should undertake more initiatives like that.

Thirdly, we need to encourage teachers and schools to use those resources by sharing best practice at education conferences, in teacher training colleges and by using the media to highlight successes. Setting time aside in the curriculum to develop teenagers’ body confidence makes sense for the sake of both the academic performance and the long-term health and well-being of our young people.

6.20 pm

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab): Defence is the first and most important duty of Government, and it demands particular responsibility when, as now, we face the need for significant reforms. If we do have to cut, we must do so with care. Instead, the Government are making changes that will greatly affect our capabilities and our role in the world without a proper assessment of our needs, without proper consultation, and without proper scrutiny in Parliament. It is unacceptable that the Secretary of State should have appeared in the House yesterday to announce major changes across four critical policy areas with less than an hour for the House to debate them. The British public, and our armed forces, deserve better.

The problems facing our armed forces have grown under successive Governments. Labour’s record included reducing the number of civil servants in the MOD by more than a third and by making reforms to the structure of the armed forces after we came to office. We recognised the need for further reform, which is why we commissioned the Gray report on defence acquisition. We could have done more, and we must take our share of responsibility, but we should not stand by and watch when the coalition Government get it wrong.

I accept that there are genuine challenges facing the Secretary of State, but it is increasingly clear that the strategic defence and security review was a rushed and compromised process, driven by a Treasury agenda and a Treasury timetable. That is not just my view but that of the Defence Secretary himself, who said that

“this process is looking less and less defensible as a proper SDSR and more like a ‘super CSR’.”

It is no wonder, that nine months on, the incoherence of the review has been exposed.

It is always difficult to second-guess military decisions in opposition. However, is the Prime Minister’s judgment not called into question, given that he argued that there are few circumstances in the short term in which the ability to deploy airpower from the sea is essential? Libya undermined that assertion after just five months, and it could be 2020 before we have full carrier capability again. The Royal Navy as a whole has been cut to the bone, even though it is important to the flexibility and reach set out by the national security strategy. At the same time, our island nation is eliminating our maritime

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patrol aircraft. We now know that there are more cuts to the Army to come. In reality, as Chatham House put it,

“the cuts are actually far greater than those that were imposed by any previous UK defence review.”

Finally, the SDSR fails to deal with the underlying problems in the way the military is structured and run. That is why more than two thirds of defence experts described it as a missed opportunity. It put in place a number of piecemeal reviews that will not deliver the structural and coherent changes needed to address the organisational problems at the Ministry of Defence. I do not believe that that is good enough, so once again I ask that the Prime Minister do the right thing for our armed forces and our country and order a new chapter to this outdated and inadequate review.

6.24 pm

Kris Hopkins (Keighley) (Con): May I first put on the record my disgust at the fact that this House, having summoned someone to appear before a Committee, has failed to protect them, and that they have been assaulted? Regardless of the politics and the accusations, we have a responsibility to look after them, and we failed.

Over the past year I have spent a long time talking about educational attainment, particularly the need to ensure that young people in my community speak English. If they are to reach their maximum potential and take advantage of all the opportunities life brings them, we must encourage them to speak English and reach the highest possible educational attainment. I would like to ask the Secretary of State for Education to go further than the response he has given so far and identify interventions that he will put in place to hold parents to their responsibility to ensure that their children reach their maximum potential. I would like him to respond in writing on how we will do that.

When we return after the recess, I hope that the Localism Bill will go through. There is a long-outstanding call in Keighley for independence, not from the rest of the world, but from Bradford council, and I hope that a referendum conducted under the Localism Bill will offer that opportunity. There is a strong call from the community I represent to break away from Bradford and ensure that they get value for money and local representation. I would like the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to outline clearly when such a referendum can be held and give an associated time line so that we can start to talk to the public about this issue.

I raised during Prime Minister’s questions the VAT that the Sue Ryder Manorlands hospice has to pay and whether we should think about an exemption. There has been a long debate with the Treasury on how this problem could be solved. This is Government, and we need to have a can-do approach and to find a solution. I ask the Chancellor to write to me on the debate that has gone on so far, outlining clearly what is holding this back and how we can find a solution to the issue. I know that there is support from both sides of the House on the matter.

While many people have been damning the big society, the members of the Worth Valley young farmers club in my constituency have been rolling up their sleeves and getting on with it, with 80 young people aged 10 to

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26 out there in the parks, working for local groups and really making a difference. I want to celebrate that, as we are extremely proud of what they have done. Lots of people put their hands out and ask for something, but these young people are really making a contribution. I say well done to the leadership of the club, and the young farmers themselves have our support and are proud ambassadors for our town.

Worth Valley railway, Ilkley moor, the Brontë parsonage and the landscape of “Wuthering Heights” are great tourist attractions in my town. I would like to invite the Minister responsible for tourism to come up and talk with businesses in my constituency and listen to them about how we can make their business work better.

There is a large Kashmiri population in Keighley, and one of the big issues for them is independence and self-determination for Kashmir. My final point is to ask the Foreign Secretary to reiterate the Government’s position on self-determination and to write to me to let me know what we have done over the past year in government to address the issue.

6.28 pm

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): In 2010 more than 234,000 people were claiming employment support allowance for a mental or behavioural disorder, which is 40% of the total and by far the biggest single group. The figures are similar for other sickness benefits. The Department for Work and Pensions is now in the process of migrating all sickness benefit claimants to employment support allowance, which includes reassessing their fitness to work through a work capacity assessment, but there are huge doubts about the fitness of this work capacity assessment for people with mental or behavioural disorders. Over 40% of people who lost their benefit won again at appeal—that is, over 20,000 in 16 months, which is far more than for any other refused benefit. After waiting for many months they had their benefits reinstated, but they should not have had to suffer that wait. This number does not include the people who had a decision reversed at an earlier stage or who gave up their struggle to make a claim.

This is a benefit claim system that is not fit for purpose. I have heard numerous examples of people with very serious and apparent mental illness having been found to be “fit for work” because they do not happen to meet the descriptors used as part of the work capability assessment. I do not need to remind the House that many of these people are highly vulnerable. The heads of a number of leading mental health charities and the Royal College of Psychiatrists wrote to The Guardian following a poll which showed that over half of those surveyed reported suicidal thoughts as a result of the prospect of a work capability assessment, while 95% said that they did not think they would be believed at their assessment.

In recognition of this failure of the work capability assessment procedure for people with a mental illness, the Government are enacting Professor Harrington's recommendation for mental health “champions” in every assessment centre. Professor Harrington is also, at the request of the Government, working with leading mental health charities to review the mental, intellectual and

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cognitive descriptors used in the work capability assessment. Despite this, not all assessment centres yet have an assigned mental function champion, and where they do, they have not had the time to bed in and change practice in their centres.

The mental, intellectual and cognitive descriptors are recognised by the Government to be in need of review. In the meantime, tens of thousands of vulnerable people are being forced to undergo an assessment procedure that the Government acknowledge is failing them. I call on the Government to suspend all reassessments of those with a mental or behavioural illness until such time as Professor Harrington’s recommendations are fully implemented. The descriptors of mental, intellectual and cognitive impairment and the mental function champions need time to change working practices within the Department for Work and Pensions. We cannot allow hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people to undergo a process that we know to be flawed, risks suicide, causes huge distress, and is denying benefits to an unacceptably high proportion of those who are, in fact, entitled to them.

6.32 pm

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): Returning officers play a very important role in our democracy, notwithstanding some of the difficulties that we saw in 2010. They need the statutory protection of their appointment to make sure that they are not influenced by council groups or Members of Parliament at election time. The costs that they incur in running elections are fully justified, but it is my strong contention that the fees that they are paid personally for their services are not justified, and cannot be justified at this time, and that the continued payment of these massive fees to returning officers is wrong and must be stopped. At a time when there are cuts in mobile libraries, bus subsidies and some leisure services, we continue to pay these enormous fees.

Let me give some examples from seven different authorities. In Liverpool, the returning officer was entitled to £14,000 on top of a salary of £217,000. In Islington, there was an entitlement of £13,800 and the returning officer had a salary of £210,000. In Newcastle city, there was an entitlement of £9,880 on top of a salary of £150,000. In Manchester, there was an entitlement of £19,251 on top of a salary of £199,000. In Leeds, there was an entitlement of £27,654 on top of a £176,000 salary. In Bedford borough, there was an entitlement of £18,241 on top of a £170,000 salary. Lastly and most enormously, in Glasgow city there was an entitlement to a £44,000 fee on top of a salary of £170,000. How can we justify such payments? Those sums are many times the amount earned by many of my constituents.

If the Deputy Leader of the House is asked by the Leader of the House, the Deputy Prime Minister or the Prime Minister to do an extra job, he does not say, “I’ll do it for an extra £5,000 or £6,000.” He gets on and does it, because he is a public servant in a leadership position. Why should we have extra payments for returning officers? In my view, we need urgently to amend the relevant sections of the Representation of the People Act 1983.

These fees are a large, undeserved cherry on top of an already very well-iced cake, and it is time that they went. I look to the Deputy Leader of the House to do something about it.

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6.35 pm

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): Upon my re-election, I declared that the big issues for my constituency were investment and jobs. Unemployment in my constituency in June 2011 was 3,082, which is far too high—the 132nd highest in the UK. This Friday, I will attend a meeting with Department for Work and Pensions officials and other MPs where we will analyse in some detail the statistics and trends of what has happened in the last year. However, my constituents are not statistics. They are decent people, neighbours, friends and families who are worried about their future. My constituents want action from the coalition Government and the Scottish Government.

One example is the regeneration of Gartcosh. Starting in 1986, a multi-million pound investment of public money was spent on creating this new industrial park. For far too long, there has been a lot of huffing and puffing from the Scottish Government about planned jobs. This is turning into a national scandal. Massive public investment has not yielded one job. The Scottish Government and all the agencies accountable to them are in the dock. My constituents want answers, and they want them now.

Equally, the communities that I represent do not want jobs at any price. For example, the planned incinerator was rejected by North Lanarkshire council. In my view, Councillor Jim Brooks has skilfully exposed the Scottish Government’s role as pathetic and like that of Pontius Pilate.

I invite the First Minister, for the second time, to visit my constituency so that he can listen to the sincere views expressed by decent, hard-working people who value their health and that of their children.

I will make three quick points that are important to my constituents. I believe that the scandalous domestic energy prices should be subject to a full investigation by the Competition Commission, and I urge the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey) to order an inquiry.

Credit unions in my constituency perform an outstanding role in helping people with their finances. Because of their differing values, the banks have bombed and the credit unions have boomed.

Financial constraints led North Lanarkshire council to consider parking charges. I have recorded my view with the chief executive and I met the leadership of the council to explain that our economy is too fragile and our town centres too vulnerable, and that above all else our people are being hammered enough without the imposition of such charges.

I will end on a positive note. Jobs can come from superfast broadband in the future. Pauline and Robert Bell, the energetic owners of Skyline Installations, a burgeoning company based in my constituency, have a legitimate interest in the new infrastructure. On their behalf, I wrote to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and in all fairness, I have to say that the Secretary of State replied immediately. However, the response from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was less than satisfactory. As a consequence, and consistent with my support for small businesses, particularly in my constituency, I have decided to request a meeting

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with the appropriate Minister. As a former Minister in that Department, I do not think that that should be too difficult. My constituents would expect no less.

6.39 pm

Mr David Amess (Southend West) (Con): Before the House adjourns for the summer recess, there are a number of points that I wish to raise. Mrs and Mrs Tweed came to see me at my last surgery. Mr Tweed is 52, and he has terminal cancer of the bowel, liver and lymph nodes. He had disability living allowance turned down. It went to appeal, and that was turned down, and in October he was told, “Wait another year”. He has not got a year, so let the Department for Work and Pensions act now.

My constituent Jean Judge’s daughter suffers from severe dyslexia and Asperger’s. She gained a place at University college London as a mature student. I thought that people with special difficulties would be given extra help, but she has not been. I hope the relevant Department will see what it can do to help.

Brian West is one of the 10,000 people who took out an Equitable Life policy before the September 1992 cut-off date. I hope that the Government will look again at trying to help people in that situation.

Southend West, having the most centenarians in the country, depends on its bus services. Again, I ask the Government to see what they can do with subsidies. I have organised a public meeting for 5 August at 11 o’clock at Iveagh Hall, at which elderly people can tell us how urgently they need support for bus services.

Recently I went with the town clerk of Southend to see local businesses in the town. A number of business premises are empty, and we need to reconsider rate relief for empty business properties.

There was an increase of 3% in the number of animals used in experiments last year compared with 2009, and it is particularly worrying that there has been an increase of 10% in speculative research. As I served on the original Bill Committee on the matter, I am very disappointed with those figures. Perhaps the Deputy Leader of the House will pass that on to the appropriate Department.

There are between 250,000 and 466,000 people in the UK infected with hepatitis C. We could do far better in treating them, and I hope the Department of Health will consider that issue.

The Royal College of Midwives has said that there were 687,000 live births in England in 2010, a rise of 123,000 since 2001. I hope that we will do all we can to recruit more midwives.

Mrs Karen Glassborrow is looking to set up a free school in Southend, and I hope that the appropriate Department will help her.

On Parliament square, it is terribly sad about Brian Haw having died. He was the only person who was given permission to stay there, and I do not understand why on earth we have all those tents in a dangerous roundabout. Let us get on with it and do something about it instead of having the weasel words.

I end with phone hacking. I get on the tube at night listening to endless telephone conversations, which I find very boring indeed. Unfortunately no one has hacked my phone, so I am not entitled to any money.

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The Labour party raised this issue, but we had a rotten Labour Government from May 1997 until last year. When we have the inquiry, let us start by having the former Prime Minister Tony Blair give evidence. Secondly we should have the noble Lord who was his deputy for 10 years, and then we should have the last Prime Minister.

I hope everyone has a wonderful summer recess.

6.42 pm

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): I wish to raise two issues. The first involves a group of eight banks, particularly the Royal Bank of Scotland, which has lent money to Davenham Trust Ltd. Davenham intends on Thursday to seek the bankruptcy of my constituent Mr Mark White, having lent one of his businesses £1.7 million. He has repaid approximately £2.2 million, so that is Davenham’s capital plus interest, albeit not the full sum that Davenham is demanding.

I have written to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to raise concerns about other aspects of the case, but there are four questions that the Treasury should demand that the Royal Bank of Scotland answer, in its role as administrator of a £300 million lending facility to Davenham. What knowledge of Davenham’s financial problems has it had; how involved has it been in the effort to keep Davenham afloat; what knowledge has it had of efforts to replace Davenham’s board; and finally, what knowledge and scrutiny of Davenham’s business strategy did it have before granting it extended facilities earlier this year, and does it have now?

Bankruptcy would not only mean my constituent losing his home—a bad enough outcome and traumatic for him and his family—but would put at risk a separate company with 200 employees. At that company’s request I spoke to representatives of the Royal Bank of Scotland on Friday, and they made it clear that it is anything but their normal practice to intervene in such a situation. However, I repeat in the House today the request that I put to them on Friday. The times that we are in are tough enough, and RBS should recognise the opportunity to do the right thing and intervene to try to prevent bankruptcy. I hope the Treasury will encourage it in that view.

The second case that I wish to mention involves my constituent Mr Ashok Chatterjee, who was allowed to submit claims for overnight stays that he made while working at RAF Wyton, first at the Alconbury House hotel and later, after it closed, at the Alconbury motel. The Ministry of Defence for a long time believed that my constituent had falsified claims for the one hotel, long after it closed, when in actual fact he was claiming, as allowed, for a stay at a similarly named but different premises. My constituent’s nightmare began when he was formally interviewed concerning possible abuse of his monthly claims. Over the next two years, he was suspended from duty, then reinstated, and then threatened with criminal charges, which were dropped. He was eventually reprimanded, but at the end of the MOD’s appeal process, when the then Permanent Secretary at the Ministry, Sir Kevin Tebbit, revoked the charges against my constituent, he noted significant procedural flaws in how the MOD had handled the case. Sir Kevin

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also concluded that the personal record of my constituent in his time at the MOD should be restored to one of integrity and honesty.

I feel a deep sympathy for Mr Chatterjee and his family, for whom this has been a terrible experience. He has not been able to put it behind him and move on with his life, suffering considerable stress and illness as a result. I have written to a number of Secretaries of State for Defence, who have not been willing to consider the case for compensation. Mr Chatterjee could not afford to take the financial risk of court action, so I use this debate to ask the MOD to look at all the papers relating to the handling of the original disciplinary charge, in particular, and his appeal, one further time, and consider whether the handling of his case does not in fact merit some out-of-court compensation for the trauma he has gone through, and indeed is still going through.

6.46 pm

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): Before the House rises for the summer recess, there are a number of points that I would like to raise on behalf of my constituents with those on the Treasury Bench, none of which—the House may be pleased to learn—relates to News International.

Many of my constituents write to raise concerns about the Child Support Agency and its manifold failings. It is clear that the CSA is in need of reform, as is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, or CAFCASS, the dispute resolution mechanism. Parents in Tamworth tell me that communications from CAFCASS are often vague, sometimes complex and are almost always sent only in response to parents’ questions and complaints. CAFCASS, in my own experience of dealing with it, seems to be reactive and unhelpful. Yet day in and day out it is dealing with the some of the most upset, angry and worried parents. It seems clear that we need better dispute resolution procedures between parents so that fewer cases go to court and disputes are resolved more quickly. I would be grateful if the relevant Minister would write to me outlining any proposals that they may have for CAFCASS reform.

Additionally in connection with the CSA, my constituent Mr Paul Doxey, a CSA adviser from Tamworth, has raised a number of cases with me in which local parents, paying child support, are unfairly penalised by a quirk in the system and the whim of their variations officer. Parents who own properties and rent them out for income often find that CSA variation officers capitalise the value of those assets when assessing the child support payments they are required to make. The result of that capitalisation, in many cases, is that the parents are required to pay more in support than the rental income they receive from their properties, forcing them to liquidate their assets, which are their main or only form of income. Then, in logic of which Kafka would be proud, the CSA variations officer has to reduce the payment award because the parent’s income has reduced—because of the original capitalisation decision. I would be grateful if a Minister would look into that anomaly with HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions, and let me know of any action that they propose to remedy the situation.

During the next few weeks, scores of landlords of the Southern Cross care home company will be asked to nominate alternative operators who they wish to operate

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their properties following the failure of Southern Cross to meet its liabilities. In each case, any new operator will need to satisfy local authorities and regulators of their credentials before the transfer of any homes. Haunton Hall care home in my own constituency is one of those homes. I know that the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow) mentioned this earlier, but I would be grateful if he would write to me outlining any actions or guidance that he proposes to ensure that the transition to new landlords is as orderly and as transparent as possible.

As the fickle finger of time is against me, I shall conclude by reporting to the House that during the recess the magnificent Staffordshire hoard, the cache of beautiful carved gold objects that were buried for more than 1,000 years at Hammerwich on the border of the Tamworth and Lichfield constituencies, will be on show at Lichfield cathedral between 30 July and 21 August, and then at Tamworth castle between 27 August and 18 September. I encourage you, Mr Speaker, all Members and certainly all Ministers to pencil those dates into their diaries so that they can see the haul for themselves, and local trades people in Tamworth can see the colour of their wallets. They can even visit Drayton manor park on the way. It is great for the kids. I assure you, Mr Speaker, that the experience will be, as the young people say, golden.

6.50 pm

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Heath): I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to this debate, which I consider to be the anchor leg of the relay race that is the Hollobone pattern of pre-Adjournment debates. I shall have to sprint even to recognise all the Members who spoke, let alone to respond to them properly. As usual, however, I shall ensure that those to whom I, inevitably, will not be able to give an adequate answer will receive a substantive reply from colleagues in the relevant Departments.

I normally try to weave a connection between contributions, but that is impossible today—they were all on different subjects and there is no logical connection—so I shall simply deal with them as they came. The hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) talked about the importance of local radio stations, local newspapers and regional television. Of course, he is absolutely right. There is a saying that all news is local. It is essential that we maintain the local media that give people a sense of what is happening in their areas, and the issues that are important to them. I know that he has been a strong advocate of Radio Cumbria. He raised the threat that he perceives to its future, but which I do not think the BBC entirely accepts. I know that he will continue to argue for the existence of that station. I think that Members across the House will recognise the importance of BBC local radio.

The hon. Member for Gower (Martin Caton) raised a matter of particular relevance to myself and the Leader of the House, because we are both more often seen on our bicycles than in a ministerial car. Cycling safety is a crucial issue. I know that the Department for Transport has recently launched the strategic framework for road safety, and that it is particularly conscious of the dangers to cyclists as road users. It strongly encourages a wide

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range of measures that local authorities and others can take to make the roads safer for cyclists. He has raised a particular issue—that of stricter liability—and he knows that the Department does not currently accept that rationale for a change in the law, but I hope that he will accept that the Government are very aware of the dangers to cyclists and the need to provide better protection. He has raised an important point, which I shall make known to my ministerial colleagues.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) talked about something on which she has been campaigning very effectively—body confidence. It seems to me a basic tenet of education that we help young people to feel positive about who they are. That is essentially what she is saying. She knows about Reg Bailey’s review of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood. It has reported and the Government have accepted the recommendation that children should always be helped to develop their emotional resilience—the word that she, too, used—in the face of the pressures put on them by what are often impossible images propagated by the press and media. We should support those efforts, because it is important for kids to realise that we do not all have to look the same, and that there is not a “good” sort of person and a “bad” sort of person based on appearance. I hope that she will continue with her effective campaign.

The hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) has a great deal of experience in defence matters, and I listened carefully to what he said. I have to argue with him, however, when he says that it is a disgrace that my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary came to the House to make a statement yesterday. I think that it would have been a disgrace had he not done so, and not made the House aware of the Ministry of Defence’s current thinking. Let us be clear: the strategic defence and security review was a huge challenge, partly because it had not been done by the previous Government. If they had not failed to do what was necessary, perhaps it would have been easier to bring forward sensible planning for our military. However, the decision to take an adaptable posture with flexible forces was right, and has been proved right by subsequent events.

The hon. Member for Keighley (Kris Hopkins) raised an important point about what happened this afternoon. I am not aware of the circumstances, so I make no judgment. I simply say this: it is absolutely and wholly wrong that a witness before a Select Committee should be assaulted in this House. Let us be in no doubt about that. That is a shameful act, and cannot be acceptable in any circumstances.

The hon. Gentleman then raised a number of other issues, which he asked me to pass on to the relevant Secretaries of State, and of course I shall do so. He talked about the teaching of English, and about independence for Keighley from Bradford. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government knows a thing or two about Bradford, and he may have some opinions on that subject. The hon. Gentleman also talked about tax exemption for charities, and Worth Valley young farmers club. I used to be on the executive of a young farmers club in Somerset, and I know the value of the work done by young farmers. The hon. Gentleman also talked about

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tourism in his constituency, and about Kashmir. He knows that I cannot respond to all those points adequately, but I will ensure that he receives appropriate answers.

The hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) raised work capacity assessments, with which there has been a continuing problem—I remember raising it under the previous Government—and the inability to deal with mental health issues effectively. She knows about Professor Harrington’s review, because she talked about it. That review is an important step forward on the part of this Government.

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) talked about returning officers. He engendered great sympathy from me—as a Minister without salary in this Government—when he talked about having additional responsibilities without any additional salary. He will be aware that the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 allows the Electoral Commission to withhold all or part of the fee available to counting officers. The Government are considering whether that should apply to returning officers as well. However, on the other hand, returning officers have considerable responsibilities and they have them—to coin a phrase—all the year round, not just at elections.

The right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) talked about a number of issues in his constituency. Many of them are devolved issues, as he understands, and are the responsibility of the Scottish Government. However, he made a specific request for a meeting with colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. I will pass that request on, and hopefully that can be arranged.

The hon. Member for Southend West (Mr Amess), as always, put in a wonderful performance, in which he managed to include more subjects than I can possibly respond to: constituents with a number of problems, buses—I am afraid that I cannot guarantee that I will attend his public meeting—rate relief for empty properties, animal testing, hepatitis C, midwives, free schools, Parliament square and phone hacking. He knows—because he has enough experience to know—that I will ensure that he receives replies to his queries from the relevant Departments.

The hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) raised some important points about Davenham Trust Ltd. I do not know the answers to those, but I shall pass them to the Treasury to reply to him directly. He also raised an important issue—on which it sounds as if he has been fighting on behalf of his constituent Mr Chatterjee for some years—concerning the Ministry of Defence. Again, I will pass that on to the MOD.

Last but not least, the hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) raised the CSA and CAFCASS. I take careful note of what he said. As for the particular circumstances involving the CSA to which he referred, I will read out the note that I have here: “In short, the situation described can arise only where the income a non-resident parent derives from a property—which must be a second property and not their home—is not declared as part of the non-resident parent’s net income, and if the parent with care of the child believes the non-resident parent has undeclared income and asks the agency to include any such income in the maintenance

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liability.” I have no idea whether that satisfactorily answers the hon. Gentleman’s point, but if it does not, I will ensure that he receives a more satisfactory response in due course.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the Staffordshire hoard. In return, I shall ask him to come and see the Frome hoard, found in my own village, which is on display in Taunton castle.

Mr Speaker, may I wish you and your colleagues, and all Members of the House, a very positive and valuable recess? I also thank all the Officers of the House for all the hard work that they do on our behalf.

7 pm

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3).

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the rather unusual circumstances of the debate tomorrow, we have not yet had notice of the motion or the terms of the debate. However, the 17 Select Committee Chairmen, plus the chairman of the parliamentary Labour party and the chairman of the 1922 committee, and representatives of the four leaders of the devolved Administrations, have all expressed their concerns about the terms of the inquiry. I simply ask you whether it will be possible for us to table a manuscript amendment tomorrow, in the event that the motion requires amendment to satisfy the terms of early-day motion 2088.

Mr Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He is even further ahead of the game than usual. As he has acknowledged, there is, as yet, no formal recall tomorrow, as the Standing Order does not operate until this sitting is adjourned. I can assure him and the House, however, that shortly thereafter, I shall sign the necessary order. Only after that will we know the form of the motion for tomorrow. So his point is hypothetical at the moment, but I have noted his words, as I invariably do. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Gentleman and to the House.



That Cathy Jamieson be added to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)


Bridgwater By-pass

7.2 pm

Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset) (Con): The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Bridgwater,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that EDF Energy should not be granted permission to proceed with the Hinckley Point C Nuclear Development without first constructing a northern bypass for Bridgwater from Junction 23 of the M5 to connect with the A39 west of Cannington; that such a bypass would ensure that construction traffic would avoid Bridgwater’s already over-congested roads and leave the whole area a worthwhile legacy after the construction of the Hinckley Point C Nuclear Development is complete; and that the Petitioners believe that a bypass would

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render an EDF facility and the Bridgwater Gateway Development an unnecessary and unjustifiable intrusion on farmland close to the residential area of North Petherton.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to ensure that permission for EDF Energy to proceed with the Hinckley Point C Nuclear Development should be conditional on the construction of a northern bypass for Bridgwater from Junction 23 of the M5 to connect with the A39 west of Cannington.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Abuse of Adults in Residential Care

7.3 pm

John Pugh (Southport) (LD): I beg leave to present to the House a petition signed by Mark Lever, the chief executive of the National Autistic Society, together with some 10,000 other signatories from across the United Kingdom gathered by the society. They are concerned about the appalling treatment of those with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders, as shown on the “Panorama” programme “Undercover Care: the Abuse Exposed”, which was televised on Tuesday 31 May 2011.

The petition states:

The petition of supporters of The National Autistic Society,

Declares that the petitioners believe that the Secretary of State for Health should take urgent action to prevent abuse in residential care settings and work with commissioners, providers, individuals receiving support and their families to ensure that vulnerable adults are treated in a dignified, safe, enabling and respectful way.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department of Health to urgently review the work of the Care Quality Commission and the appropriateness of the inspection regime for protecting vulnerable adults in out-of-area residential accommodation.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


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Living Wage (Royal Household)

7.5 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): This petition calls for a living wage to be paid to all those employed by the royal household. It is part of the decade-long campaign by London citizens to ensure that all Londoners are paid the London living wage. The petition, signed by more than 2,000 people, reads as follows:

To the House of Commons.

The Humble Petition of residents of London and others,

Declares that cleaners working for the Royal Households in London are paid £6.45 per hour even though the London Living Wage was set at £7.85 until April 2011—

you will know, Mr Speaker, that it has now been increased to £8.30—

declares that cleaners in the House of Commons and House of Lords are paid at the rate of the London Living wage; further declares that the Petitioners believe that as £30 million of taxpayers’ money is paid to the Royal family annually for the upkeep of the Royal Households it is clear that the London living wage of £7.85—

that should now read £8.30—

is affordable.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to encourage the Royal Households to ensure that all cleaners working within the Royal Households are paid the London living wage of £8.30 per hour, a rate that is supported by the Mayor of London.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.,


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Urban Planting

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Dunne.)

7.7 pm

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Last Thursday, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government visited Colchester, at my invitation, to see for himself the wonderful open setting of fields to the west of Mile End, which have been earmarked for a huge housing development of in excess of 2,200 dwellings. If it goes ahead, it will be a planning and environmental disaster. No amount of green planting in the urban environment to replace this natural area of great beauty could compensate for what mother nature and good agricultural husbandry over the centuries have created.

After visiting the north of the town, I took the Secretary of State to a big brownfield development at the former Colchester garrison on the site of the Victorian Cavalry barracks, a short distance to the south of the town centre. It is an excellent development, but it could have been even better with more green planting and fewer areas of hard paving. I would like to see some of the latter ripped up and replaced with trees, shrubs and flowers. The Minister responding to my debate this evening has also indicated an interest in visiting the development, so I look forward to showing him around in due course. Before referring further to it, I wish to conclude my remarks about the planning disaster that confronts the people of Mile End and to ask the Minister to discuss with his boss and departmental officials how it can be stopped—or, at the very least, greatly reduced so as to minimise the environmental loss of an attractive part of the north Essex countryside. In my opinion, it matches the area of outstanding natural beauty—the designation given to Constable country, Dedham Vale—only a few miles away.

The problem goes back to the policies of the last Labour Government: core strategies, regional spatial strategies, local development frameworks and so forth. Local democracy never had a look in. Although there has been a change of Government, Colchester borough council is proceeding with the policies of the last Government rather than adapting to those of the new coalition Government. There is huge local opposition from the community of Mile End and its elected representatives. That is particularly true of Myland community council, a grass-roots council that represents an area in the north of Colchester whose population is set to quadruple over a very few years.

Mile End, the correct geographic name for this part of my constituency where I grew up, has already experienced huge development in recent years, with another 2,000-plus homes already agreed on the former Severalls hospital site—and that is before another 2,200 on the fields that the Secretary of State viewed last week from the upstairs window of a couple whose home overlooks the national award-winning Cants of Colchester rose gardens, which faces being submerged under a sea of concrete.

If “localism” is to mean what it says, I implore the Minister to do what he can to retrieve the situation. It is a huge mystery to the local community how the developers, Mersea Homes, have managed to get this project so far forward. As I have said in the House previously, it is not

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just that council officers and the company are singing from the same song sheet; they are the joint composers of the song.

Today's Colchester Daily Gazette reports that the population of the borough grew by 4,000 last year. It is the fourth fastest-growing borough in the country, and the population has now topped 181,000. Last year, an average of nearly two new homes were completed every day. In the last nine years the population of Colchester has grown by 25,000, at a rate twice the national average. It cannot go on like this. We need our green lungs, our green open spaces. Brownfield sites must take precedence over greenfield sites, and our existing urban areas need green planting, not just new developments.

I am grateful to the Horticultural Trades Association—through its backing of the Greening the UK campaign—for helping me with my speech. Further thanks go to Keep Britain Tidy and the Woodland Trust, which also contacted me to make helpful points.

Quite simply, planting and green spaces are not only beneficial but vital for the urban environment where the majority of this country's population live, but there are problems. Evidence shows that over the last 10 years the level of planting and green landscaping proposed for new developments has decreased by up to 50%. Moreover, the amount of planting delivered on new developments is substantially less than that promised during the planning process. It is well documented that a decline in planting leads to increased environmental problems, such as more flooding as rainwater runs off rather than being absorbed and more CO2 emissions. That trend must be reversed.

Research shows that building projects with high levels of planting involve 52% fewer crimes, that hospital recovery rates can improve when planting is visible, and that workplace productivity can increase where there is visible greenery. The former Trebor sweet factory in Colchester was designed to enable members of the work force to look out on greenery.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): The hon. Gentleman has referred to the Woodland Trust. In my constituency, the trust has been involved in a project with local schools. Children at the schools planted trees and then became their custodians, looking after them. There had been vandalism in the past, but there was no more after that, because those responsible became part of the community. Does the hon. Gentleman think that something similar could be done in his area?

Bob Russell: The hon. Gentleman has made a good point. The Woodland Trust does good work throughout the United Kingdom, and it is important for communities, especially young people, to be involved in it.

Planting and soft landscaping help to provide cleaner air for often busy and polluted urban environments, and maintain vital habitats for endangered or rare species. A good example is the Laban dance centre in Greenwich, whose green “rubble” roof has led to the return of the black redstart to the area. Colchester’s new magistrates court should be mentioned in this context. It is an ugly building, but its ugliness will hopefully be masked by plants growing over it.

Plants help to mitigate climate change by absorbing CO2 and PM10 emissions. Planting helps communities to adapt to climate change by directing excess rainwater

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into the ground rather than diverting it into overworked drainage systems, thus reducing the surface water flooding which is a particular problem for our larger towns and cities. An example is the use of rain gardens advocated by Snohomish County in the state of Washington in the United States, where there is a very high level of rainfall. Acting like a native forest, a rain garden collects, absorbs and filters storm water run-off from roof tops, driveways, streets and other impervious surfaces. Planting helps to prevent river flooding by reducing soil erosion and stabilising river banks.

Many of those facts were recognised in the natural environment White Paper that the Government published last month. The White Paper highlights the benefits of urban green space, which provides links with the national ecological framework, and leads to reductions in crime and to social and health benefits. It states that decision makers neither understand nor take into account the economic and social values of nature in an urban environment because of concerns about management costs and risks, and that a green infrastructure partnership will be established to support the development of green infrastructure in England.

Several local authorities have excellent records on improving planting and protecting green spaces, and are working hard to protect and enhance the extent of green spaces and planting in their towns and cities. One example is the restoration by Devon county council of the main square in Barnstaple, with grassed areas, semi-mature trees and planting, making the most of the local mild micro-climate as part of the scheme. I should remind the House of my wild flower meadows debate on 18 May 2005, and specifically the new wild flower meadows at Cymbeline meadows and High Woods country parks in Colchester. High Woods has been awarded a green flag by Keep Britain Tidy.

Many councils feel powerless to enforce green planting regimes that have been promised by developers. That could be as much a result of lack of resources in the local authority as it is of not being aware of the issues involved in the problem. However, with a valuation of £2.3 billion placed on urban green spaces by the national ecosystem assessment report, it is crucial for developers to be obliged to provide more natural areas in new housing developments. With cuts to spending at local level becoming increasingly obvious, it is feared that planting could fall to the bottom of a local authority’s priorities.

The Local Government Group’s report published earlier this month on health and spatial planning states that planting is important, as good green space helps to improve social interaction, mental health and social behaviours. Planting in the urban environment is important not just because it is nice to look at, however, but because it can help both local authorities and developers achieve Government targets. Research by the Building Research Establishment backs that up. It has shown that in order for developers to reach level 6 of the code for sustainable homes, which is important in reaching the Government’s 2016 target of zero-carbon homes, it will be important to involve landscaping and planting.

The Greening the UK campaign told me that research at the university of Reading’s school of horticulture has demonstrated how plants help keep buildings cool in hot weather and insulate them against cold weather,

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thereby reducing the need for internal heating. I therefore urge the Government to include planting as part of the code for sustainable homes.

I commend the coalition Government on various programmes they are undertaking, such as the big tree plant. By the way, I grow trees. I have grown several hundred over the years. In 2009, I planted a young oak sapling at the Eden project from an acorn from Gilwell park, the headquarters of Scouting, to mark the centenary of Scouting in 2007.

For all the images of a green and pleasant land, the UK remains one of the least wooded countries in Europe, with only 13% woodland cover compared with the European average of 44%. The Woodland Trust told me:

“We need more native trees and woods in urban areas for a variety of reasons encompassing public health, flood alleviation, reduction of the ‘urban heat island effect’, increased wildlife and the creation of a more attractive environment within which to live, work and spend leisure time, thereby creating an environment which is also attractive for inward investment.”

Urban planting is not just a “nice to have”. We need a more systematic approach to the issue. That was enshrined in Liberal Democrat party policy in 2009, when during the autumn conference I moved an amendment calling for an increase in the provision of urban planting and green spaces in all new developments through better use of the planning system, including increased powers for planning authorities and improved guidance to local authorities. I urge the coalition Government to embrace that policy. This approach would allow systemic measures to be put in place through the planning system. It would also help local authorities monitor the creation of those promised new green spaces and planting that we all value so highly, while ensuring that planning agreements are fully enforced.

I also want new greening to be introduced into existing urban communities. The Greening the UK campaign has been working closely for several years with local authorities to raise the profile of urban planting. About 10 local authorities, including Liverpool, Boston and Lambeth, have adopted a motion to this effect, adapted to the needs of their own area. I hope my own town of Colchester will do so as well. In order to make a real difference around the country, I would like the coalition Government to be even more supportive of urban planting. A tree that I and my two councillor ward colleagues planted outside the Artilleryman public house in Artillery street, Colchester, in 1973-74 is flourishing.

The Minister is very supportive of urban planting. Indeed, he wrote the following in the foreword to the Greening the UK campaign’s report in 2010:

“Urban green spaces provide much needed oases in the midst of developed areas—and can greatly improve the quality of town and city life. When planned and delivered properly, they can enhance biodiversity, reduce overheating, increase energy and help to prevent flooding. But more importantly than that, they can bring people together in a pleasant environment. Good planting and landscaping have the power to transform the way we feel about ourselves, our neighbours and the places in which we live and work.”

I commend him for those wise words. Can he tell the House this evening how planting will be included in the national planning framework? Will he recognise the importance of planting and landscaping when allowing

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developers to achieve level 6 of the code for sustainable homes? Will planting be included as a requirement in the code?

As a slight diversion I wish to make it clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that I am opposed to the new generation of nuclear power stations, particularly the one at Bradwell-on-Sea, in Essex.

In conclusion, I hope that this final Adjournment debate before the summer recess will not be ignored and that we will be able to leave the House this evening with a commitment from the Minister to take forward a programme of policies for green planting in the urban environment.

7.21 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): It is a delight to be able to respond to the debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Bob Russell), and I congratulate him on securing it. He spoke with the characteristic passion that he brings to this subject. I am immensely flattered that he not only reads my forewords, but brings them to the House to quote from them: if I may say so, I could not have put it better myself.

My hon. Friend will know that the issue of greening has been close to my heart for many a long year. When I was a new Back Bencher, I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill, which became a private Member’s Bill, to change the designation of back gardens as brownfield sites in order to allow local authorities to protect them. I did not want local authorities to be obliged to allow their redevelopment because they were in the same planning category as genuinely derelict industrial land, old railway sidings and gas works. That designation was having huge unintended consequences across the country—I say “unintended” but I fear that perhaps it did have a purpose in the minds of the Ministers who introduced it. Local people were certainly mystified that the environment in their local area that they cherish most, and which is greener than many other areas that enjoy green protection, was ripe for development and had no protection. One of the great pleasures for me of coming into government in the coalition Government was being able, as Minister, to change the national planning guidance to reclassify gardens in order to make it clear that they are not brownfield sites. I wanted the determination on gardens to be made by local people, through their local councillors, and I wanted gardens to be protected, if necessary.

The reasons for taking that approach were absolutely the ones that my hon. Friend set out. Green urban spaces, including private gardens, parks and places where trees and other greenery are planted in towns, make a disproportionate contribution to our ecology. The opportunity to preserve and, indeed, enhance bird life in our urban areas is advantaged by the pockets of green space that we have in what otherwise would be concrete deserts for wildlife. It is therefore especially important that we examine our urban environment and, first, stop, as we have, the depressing trend to concrete over back gardens and front gardens—we need to call a halt to that. I completely agree with him that we should

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seek not only to arrest the decline, but to repopulate our city centres with greenery so that they can, once again, be the areas of delight that have attracted people to live there over the years.

One of our national characteristics is that our towns and cities are greener than most of those in continental countries, which often have a much denser urban design scheme imposed. If one thinks of an English town—or, I dare say, one in any part of the United Kingdom—one thinks of greenery, especially at this time of year. I fully support the purpose of what my hon. Friend is seeking to bring to the attention of the House.

My hon. Friend is right that the planning system is integral. The purpose of planning is to help to achieve sustainable development, and he alluded to the fact that the question of sustainability obviously has not only an environmental aspect but an economic and social aspect. Our cities and towns will not only be more beautiful but are liable to be more prosperous if they are places where people can live comfortably and in which, if they work there, their health, happiness and well-being are enhanced. On the social aspects of sustainability, if people live and work in areas that are beautiful and green and in which there are places where they can take their leisure, the antisocial behaviour that is too often characterised by a hyper-urban un-green environment is less prevalent. The research to which my hon. Friend referred bears that out.

Our ambition is the same and we share the view that our environment can be better than it is. My hon. Friend mentioned the White Paper on the natural environment that the Department produced recently, and it is a groundbreaking paper in the sense that it moves beyond taking simply a defensive view of the natural environment that states that we should try to halt its destruction. The White Paper makes it very clear that this Government’s ambition should be to enhance our environment, because, frankly, it could be better looked after than it is. Paragraph 2 states:

“The Government wants this to be the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than it inherited.”

That is a theme that should run through all Government policy and nothing would achieve that more than the points that my hon. Friend makes.

Let me say a little about what can be done to achieve such improvements. The planning system can play a very important role. My hon. Friend mentioned the fact that the planning system we have inherited has taken us away from sustainability, and we have mentioned the inclusion of gardens in the definition of brownfield sites. In general, however, the top-down approach with tightly imposed housing targets that were not set by local people who have knowledge of the local area but handed down by unelected regional bodies so that democratically elected bodies, such as district councils, had simply either to accommodate them or to have their plans rewritten by inspectors, resulted in people fearing, quite reasonably, that their local environment, which they cherished, was being changed without any involvement on their part and by people with no knowledge of it.

Bob Russell: The views of the people of Mile End, whose area is being ravaged by massive development, are being ignored, in effect. I was hoping that the Minister might be able to address that, because councillors

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across the borough have ganged up, as one could say, and put all the borough’s housing in one location, which is not fair on that community.

Greg Clark: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. I was going to say that he knows that the Localism Bill, which was debated extensively in this House and is now with their lordships, makes wholesale changes to the planning system, the purpose of which is to give local neighbourhoods the right to have their say and not to be set aside. That is the heart of localism—that local people should be involved from the outset in such decisions, as is common on the continent. In my experience, the best developments and the best authorities are those that take into account the views of the local population.

However, there is a constraint. Until a new law is passed, the old law remains in effect. Tempting though it might be to rule by decree from day one of taking office, we have been advised—and on occasion the courts have required us—to complete the passage through Parliament of the Localism Bill before, for example, we can revoke finally the regional spatial strategies that are part of the problem and which contain the imposed numbers that local communities find alien to them.

We are making all haste with the Bill. As my hon. Friend knows, it was one of the earliest Bills that was introduced. It is a substantial Bill. We moved heaven and earth to make sure that it was part of the Government’s early package of legislation. It is making good progress. Its intentions have enjoyed a degree of consensus in the House. Even the official Opposition now recognise that the regional apparatus and the regional strategies are not the way forward, so there is a strong consensus in favour of a more localist approach. Unless and until the Bill is enacted, which I hope will not take too long, the frustrations that my hon. Friend describes will continue for what I hope will be just a few more months.

I hope local people are already preparing for the new world that is about to dawn. The Bill includes neighbourhood planning. On the possibility of projecting a vision for the future in their communities, the Bill gives every neighbourhood the chance to put together a local plan which for the first time will have teeth. It will become part of the development plan if a majority of the local population in that neighbourhood vote for it and it is found to be a sound and reasonable plan. The ability to adopt a neighbourhood plan will come with the Localism Bill and its commencement.

I hope communities such as the one in Mile End described by my hon. Friend are already thinking about the shape of their neighbourhood plan and beginning to do some of the research and the consultations. I am looking forward to my visit to Colchester, and after the debate I will be happy to get in touch with my hon. Friend to see whether some of the communities in his constituency might want to work with my Department and become front runners for some of the neighbourhood planning provisions so that they can have a head start

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and other communities around the country can learn from that. I hope they will be on the starting grid, ready to move as soon as the powers come in.

As my hon. Friend knows, there was a commitment, which was initially promoted by our hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), to introduce a designation for valued community green space that should be available to communities to protect. There have been some problems with the village green procedures and definitions, but we have made a commitment to consult on a designation that can be part of local and neighbourhood plans, and we will be consulting on that shortly. We know that green spaces are incredibly important to local life. We are committed to protecting them, but the people who can best identify them are not Ministers or officials in central Government but the people living in those communities who know what is needed there.

Given the importance of green spaces to the health and happiness of local communities, I hope my hon. Friend’s communities are already thinking about the green spaces that they may want to avail themselves of the opportunity to list, to give them greater confidence in the future. There are various other rights in the Localism Bill, including the right to identify land that is of community value, so that if it is ever sold and has been in community use, the community will have the chance to make a bid to take it over and keep it in community use.

My hon. Friend mentioned the big tree plant campaign, and I am glad that he personally takes part in it. As ever with these things, he has pre-empted what has become coalition policy by having his own personal commitment to it. Significant progress has been made: 100,000 trees have been planted in the first six months and we know, here in central London, how tree planting softens the urban environment.

Many steps are being taken. Planning is key, but I hope that some of the reforms I have mentioned and some of the approaches that we are taking to protect green space, to empower communities and to make better use of that green space will encourage my hon. Friend and his constituents and show that we have already made some progress. The change regarding gardens is a big step in that direction and the tree planting is another. With the enactment of the Localism Bill will come new rights that cannot be taken away from local communities.

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to speak on a subject that I feel as passionately about as my hon. Friend, and I take this opportunity to wish you, Mr Speaker, and all Officers of the House, as well as our colleagues, a very happy and enjoyable summer break.

Question put and agreed to.

7.36 pm

House adjourned.