§ Motion made and Question proposed,
§ That this House, at its rising on Thursday 16th July, do adjourn until Monday 19th October.—[Mr. Nicholas Baker.]
§ Madam Speaker
I have selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer).
§ 4.8 pm
§ Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)
I shall speak briefly on a subject which is of great importance. Before the House adjourns for the long recess, I want to refer to the serious problem of car crime in our community. Everyone is deeply concerned about the increase of crime, about which we have heard all too frequently. The figures show that the rise is almost entirely caused by the wholly unacceptable increase in crimes involving motor cars. In that respect we compare unfavourably with European and many other countries. It is a disgraceful stain on our reputation.
I should like to declare an interest in the matter. I have the honour to be the president of the Guild of Experienced Motorists, which represents about 70,000 motorists who are greatly concerned about road safety and have made many useful contributions. Car crime affects all parts of the country. It is especially worrying in my area of Cambridgeshire, where the level of general crime compares reasonably favourably with other parts of the country—but not in respect of crimes involving cars.
Not only does car crime affect the convenience and way of life of us all: it also leads to appalling incidents of what people foolishly call joyriding. I call it misery riding, because it leads to death and appalling maiming. The substantial increase in general crime is often facilitated by the use of motor vehicles which are used for burglary, attacking retail stores and bashing into premises and stealing from them.
The Government and responsible bodies should take every step to curb this menace in society. Motor manufacturers and insurers should accept responsibility. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, and certainly his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), met the motor manufacturers and endeavoured to persuade them of their responsibilities. I am not at all certain how successful they were. I do not necessarily expect the Leader of the House to tell me about that, but perhaps he would inquire of the Home Secretary.
My impression is that motor manufacturers are not over-keen to do anything other than making cars that will sell. They had to be persuaded by legislation to install safety belts, and other safety features in motor vehicles have emerged only because of Government action. I sometimes maintain that if it were not for the law, motor manufacturers would not bother to fit brakes. We must take a firm line with the manufacturers. It is essential for all new vehicles to be fitted with an alarm system or, better still, an immobilising system, because the only way to reduce car crime is to have vehicles properly immobilised.
I drew the Home Secretary's attention to advertise-ments for devices which could cancel car security systems. I wrote drawing his attention to devices called car grabbers. The Guild of Experienced Motorists and others have said that the device should be outlawed immediately. Apparently the grabbers can be used to open any vehicle 486 with impunity, even when a security device is used. The manufacturers of the device say that it is to be used only by car recovery people, whatever that means.
In reply to my letter, the Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), said that he appreciated concern about the matter but, speaking for the Home Office, he said:We do not…have any evidence that alarm deactivators arc in fact commercially available in this country".I alert him to the fact that they are available. I shall not mention the name of the firm, because I do not want to give it any publicity, but there is a firm in London which is producing leaflets about devices which can overcome any security system. They are called interceptors.
The publicity states:As more and more vehicles are … fitted with remote control alarm systems, recovery is often difficult".The interceptor can intercept any system. The splendid advertising also states that the devicehas the outstanding ability to disable any remote control alarm system. Specially designed to assist in the recovery of vehicles … simply prevents any remote control alarm system٭ from being armed during the recovery of the vehicle.After the asterisk, it is stated that the device is "DTI approved", which means that the Government know about the device and appear to have approved it. It strikes me that there is a serious lack of liaison between the Home Office and the Department of Trade and Industry.
The publicity warns:It is a criminal offence to use this device for vehicle theft.Ooh-er—thank you very much. I am sure that all potential burglars and car criminals will immediately desist when they have seen that notice.
The Home Secretary has been rather naive, and I ask him and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to put a bomb under the Home Office and try to get the problem sorted out. It is absolutely disgraceful that we are wringing our hands and saying how appalling it is that vehicles are stolen and used for serious crimes and that people are maimed, injured and killed, yet we do not seem to take the slightest interest in the highly skilled technological devices available to criminals—which are approved by the DTI, if you please. I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to consider the problem seriously—it is not a joke but a subject of immense importance.
Next door to me is the county of Bedfordshire, which has one of the best records for containing crime. As I represent a Cambridgeshire constituency, it sticks in the gullet to praise Bedfordshire, but Bedfordshire has been so successful because the police there took the problem of car crime very seriously.
I shall now sit down because many other hon. Members wish to participate in this short debate, but I ask my right hon. Friend and his ministerial colleagues to consider the issue seriously.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
This is the earliest summer Adjournment I can remember. It may well be the earliest that any present Member of the House can recall. Everyone knows the reason: in the last few weeks, Government business has collapsed in the shambles over the Maastricht Bill. Yet many important matters merit urgent consideration and at least an oral ministerial statement before the House goes into recess.
487 The first of the two matters I want briefly to raise is one to which it would be very appropriate for the Leader of the House to respond since, for much of the past 13 years, he has had some responsibility for social security, latterly as Secretary of State.
He will know from our debates last year that the Opposition viewed with considerable scepticism some of the Government's claims about the disability living allowance and the disability working allowance. We felt strongly that false hopes of new help were being raised among people who would not qualify for a single penny piece from the allowances, particularly large numbers of elderly disabled people, and that in consequence there would be not only widespread and bitter disappointment but very considerable delays in processing the applications of entitled claimants.
That is exactly what has happened. In fact, protests from disabled constituents speak of the collapse of the whole benefits apparatus since the turn of the year. They are complaints from people who know only too well that, whereas average earnings have increased by over 20 per cent. since 1979, disability benefits have risen by only 1 per cent.
After the election I had complaints from the Terrence Higgins Trust that applications for attendance allowance for the terminally ill were being delayed by two months or more. What use is that? The right hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton), who is now Leader of the House, took credit for introducing the special rules, but who takes the blame for the present chaos?
The Benefits Agency told me by letter that targets for delivering attendance allowance have not been met even, in many cases, to people in the final weeks of life. Failure to deliver benefits to the terminally ill must surely be a deeply serious matter. What good is financial help that comes posthumously? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many cases are still outstanding and how long applicants can expect it to take to process their claims?
On 12 May, in reply to a parliamentary question, I received a letter from Mr. Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency, giving details of the increase in claims. He told me that due tothe extraordinarily high but rewarding level of interest that has been shown in the benefits, prompted by a major publicity campaign and the surge of claims that has resulted, we naturally faced early problems.He added that it was not, therefore, surprising that the agency had been unable to meet the targets set for delivery of the attendance allowance. Rewarding to whom? It was not rewarding to disabled people, who now complain of trying over 20 times a day to phone the agency, without even being able to make contact.
I have been informed by the Terrence Higgins Trust —this was before raising the issue in the House—that the attendance allowance unit had been drained of staff and, in particular, of adjudication officers. This was glossed over in the letter to me, but in one to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths) on 13 June Mr. Bichard was more explicit. He wrote:The national publicity campaign has had a knock-on effect in generating new claims to attendance allowance, at a time when staff were being released for retraining on the new disability living allowance work.He added:I should explain that it was always expected that there would he a backlog of applications to deal with in the early months of operation as a result of the advertising campaign.488 I do not blame Mr. Bichard or the agency for the shambles and nor, to my knowledge, does any other right hon. or hon. Member.
Ministers must take responsibility for what has happened. That the shambles has taken so long to come to light is due to the ease with which Ministers are now able to hide behind the Benefits Agency. When the right hon. Member for Braintree set it up, he promised that information to Members and the responsibility of Ministers to the House would in no way diminish. Yet almost all the facts are hidden in the Library and parliamentary questions are answered by the standard rubric. It is hard at times fully to understand the system. I still occasionally receive substantive replies from the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott), the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People. As on the last occasion he had to apologise for giving me the wrong figures, I suspect that this courtesy may now cease entirely.
To test the availability of information to Members, I asked the Library to supply me with copies of all the replies from the Benefits Agency since the election. I was told:Unfortunately, owing to the large number of letters concerned, the Library is unable to supply photocopies of all the letters.I was sent the latest 15, of which seven concerned delays in the administration of the attendance allowance and the disability living allowance. I have no quarrel with the Library, but in previous years all the information would have been in Hansard. It was the right hon. Member for Braintree who changed the system, making it difficult for Members of Parliament, and almost impossible for outside agencies, to obtain data that previously had always been readily available to them.
Apart from two exchanges at Question Time, there have been no opportunities to call Ministers to account. Unquestionably, we should have the opportunity to do so before the summer recess. We should also be told before the debate concludes whether the Benefits Agency's responses to parliamentary questions are covered by parliamentary privilege. That is a deeply important question. At the same time, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would tell us how many people have now qualified for the disability working allowance. As he knows, the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People has disclosed that only 588 claimants were awarded disability working allowance up to 8 May. That is only 6.5 per cent. of the 9,107 who applied. I understand that, in all, there were no fewer than 295,000 inquiries about the allowance.
Another matter that needs clarification before the House rises is the Government's attitude to civil rights for people with disabilities. In a parliamentary reply on 29 June, the Prime Minister said:The Government's view was stated principally on 31 January during Second Reading of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People".—[Official Report, 29 June 1992; Vol. 210, c. 375.]The clearest statement by the Minister in that Second Reading debate was when he said:I remain unrepentantly and benevolently neutral in my attitude".—[Official Report, 31 January 1992; Vol. 202, c. 1252.]About that, one can only echo the Biblical words,He that is not with me is against me.Perhaps the true position was stated by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment at oral 489 questions on 10 March. In straight conflict with what had been said by the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People on 31 January, the hon. Gentleman said:I do not believe, and the Government do not believe, that such a legislative approach is the right way to deal with the problem."—[Official Report, 10 March 1992; Vol. 205, c. 735.]For further obfuscation of the Government's position, I turn to Lord Henley. On 15 June, during the debate on the Bill in another place—following its introduction by my noble Friend Baroness Lockwood—Lord Henley inter-vened in a speech by my noble Friend Lord Ennals and said:I did not oppose the Bill. I said that I could not offer the Government's support. There is a considerable difference between the two concepts."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 15 June 1992; Vol. 583, c. 86.]Perhaps the Leader of the House would explain the difference in practice and, at the same time, tell us how to reconcile the three ministerial versions of the Government's attitude to the Bill.
On 5 June, the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People sent me an extraordinary letter claiming that my proposed disablement commissionwould conflict with the work of advisory and enforcement bodies which already exist to oversee the implementation of legislation.What are those bodies? In a reply on 26 June, he revealed —in a bizarre attempt to explain his previous letter—that those bodies included the Social Security Advisory Committee and the Sports Council.
Can the right hon. Gentleman think of one way in which the work of those admirable bodies could be impeded to any extent by my Bill—or, indeed, the work of the British Standards Institution or the War Pensions Committee? Clearly, the strain of being "benevolently neutral" is beginning to tell.
The Leader of the House was, as I have recalled, a Social Security Minister for many years. Understandably, at that time he had to uphold the departmental view, right or wrong. Now that he is Leader of the House, he has a responsibility to Members of Parliament as a whole, irrespective of where they sit in the House. Since becoming Leader of the House, he must have learnt, merely from reading the Order Paper day by day, that there is strong and increasing support, not just on both sides of the House but in every party, large and small, for the enactment of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. For example, he must have seen the range of support from all parties for early-day motion 330 tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Dr. Berry), which states:That this House believes that anti-discrimination legislation is necessary to ensure equality of opportunity for people with disabilities; and calls for the early introduction of a Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.The support here for my Civil Rights Bill reflects closely the range of backing for it among the organisations of and for disabled people. They are utterly united in wanting the Bill enacted and nothing would give them more joy today than to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that the Government have now come down from the fence to help forward its enactment. I most strongly urge the right hon. Gentleman to do all that he can as Leader of the House to respond positively to their views before the recess. In so doing, he would be agreeing with colleagues in all parts of the House that this is not now a difference between right and left, but one between right and wrong.
§ Mr. Charles Hendry (High Peak)
I am most grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to make my maiden speech and, in advance of the summer recess, to raise matters of great concern to my constituents.
At the outset, however, I wish to pay a warm personal tribute to my predecessor, Christopher Hawkins, who served High Peak so well for the past nine years. He was a man of tremendous intelligence and many new and good ideas. Perhaps in a way that is less normal for a politician, he was much more interested in obtaining results than in obtaining publicity for them. He did an enormous amount for High Peak, which has earned him the great respect of people there and for which he will long be remembered. Fortunately, he is now enjoying much better health than when he decided to retire and I am delighted that his skills and talents will continue to be used as deputy chairman of the Black Country development corporation, continuing the good and important work of my noble Friend Baroness Denton.
In the few short weeks I have been in the House, I have already become extremely well aware of the immense affection also for Christopher Hawkins' predecessor, Spencer Le Marchant. None of us will ever forget that, in the early days of the broadcasting of proceedings of the House, it was Spencer's voice that told the world and a hushed and expectant nation the result of that important vote of confidence in 1979. It was those words which we now know spelt the end of socialism in Britain, which was so clearly confirmed by the results on 9 April this year. However, I must advise hon. Members not to expect from me the largesse of Spencer Le Marchant—obviously not in physical terms, nor also, for the sake of my bank manager, in terms of his legendary generosity.
I should like to express my thanks to two other people who, over the past couple of years, have given me a unique opportunity to see the workings of the House and Whitehall and to play an extremely small and minor part in the development of policy. They are my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and John Moore, who I am delighted is now rejoining Parliament in another place, to whom I was special adviser. At the risk of embarrassing my right hon. Friend, I could not have hoped to work for two more honourable, decent. far-sighted and fair men. I rather suspect that I learnt far more from them than they ever might have done from me.
That was certainly a far cry from the days when I first came to work in the House 10 years ago as a humble researcher for my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) in one of his many previous incarnations in the House. I am delighted to see my hon. Friend in the Chamber today. He paid me the princely sum—or whatever his equivalent would be of a princely sum—of £10 a week. I must have been one of the first people to realise, despite many other signs to the contrary, that my hon. Friend was already an ardent supporter of Thatcherite housekeeping principles. At that time I also worked for Peter Fraser—now my right hon., noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate—who paid me no money at all. Only in retrospect did I realise what sound judgment both must have had.
My first election campaign, in 1983, took place in Clackmannan. Contrary to the impression gained by some of my colleagues, I had not applied to stand at Clapham but, having stuttered, ended up 400 miles away in the 491 middle of Scotland! There I learned the importance of brevity. When I asked my agent why he had scheduled no public meetings for me, he said, "Well, Charles, it is better that people wonder why you do not speak than that they wonder why you do."
I want to draw attention to a number of issues relating to High Peak. Listening to the excellent maiden speeches by hon. Members on both sides of the House, I was slightly surprised to note how few of them had been there. If they had, they would have had to be satisfied with representing the second most beautiful constituency in the country.
High Peak is a constituency of unique and wonderful contrasts. It combines the rolling valleys of Hope Valley and the charming villages within it with the foreboding splendour and magnificence of Kinder Scout. It combines the majesty of Longden dale with the breathtaking beauty of the Derwent valley; and it incorporates towns such as Buxton—a magnificent Georgian town—with the industrial heritage of the manufacturing centres of New Mills and Glossop. It contains a variety of small towns such as Chapel-en-le-Frith, Whaley Bridge and Hayfield—delight-ful little places—and a host of small villages rejoicing in such names as Dove Holes, Sparrowpit and Wormhill. I have yet to find out why the birds in High Peak live underground while the worms apparently do not. Anyway, it is an area of tremendous contrasts, and it is a delight and a privilege to represent it.
High Peak, however, is not merely an area that people wish to visit; it is much more than that. In many ways, it provides the lungs—the breathing space—for Manchester and Sheffield, being less than a dozen miles from the centres of both those great cities. I simply do not believe that the people of a rural area such as High Peak can claim that the problems of those cities do not matter to them. We depend very much on them; many of my constituents work in them, and are making an important contribution to their revival.
High Peak contains problems as well as opportunities, and it is on those problems that I wish to comment. The first is the problem of access. In the past year, some 24 million people have visited the Peak district, which makes Blackpool seem like a minor resort. The road infrastructure that they have used has scarcely changed in the past 40 years, and we now experience tremendous problems of traffic clogging in places such as Glossop, and on the A628 to the north of that town. Those traffic problems urgently need relief: on weekday mornings the rush-hour traffic is as bad, as slow and as frustrating as it is in any city in the country. Towns such as Buxton also need a bypass if they are to enjoy the growth that they deserve. In places such as Dove Holes, a bypass could be built simply, cheaply and rapidly. I hope that the Government will consider the possibility of building roads in those areas.
Because High Peak is an area of such outstanding natural beauty, I hope that the Government will also pay particular attention to the environmental impact of those roads. The A6 badly needs relief as it is seriously clogged, but it would be a tragedy if that relief destroyed the environment that people wish to visit. I hope that the serious concern felt by people in New Mills will be taken into account.
I also wish to raise the general issue of conservation. Buxton is one of the brightest jewels in the shining crown of High Peak. It is a magnificent Georgian town, and we are fortunate enough to have one of the country's smallest 492 and most special opera houses. Owing to the diligence of those who run it, the opera house has one of the most successful records in the country: it manages to put on new productions that people actually want to see and, more important, it does so with a fraction of the subsidy given to other opera houses. Buxton's subsidy is 27p per seat; the average for similar theatres is more than £3. So, for less than 10 per cent. of the average, people are being looked after and have a tremendous asset.
Next week the international Buxton festival will open, which will bring people flooding into the town not only from the surrounding area but from all over the country and from overseas. Sadly, this year visitors will be shocked by the state of the magnificient Georgian crescent in the centre of the town. It is boarded up and derelict, posing an increasing danger to people passing through the town who visit it. I urge my right hon. Friend to contact his colleagues in Government to find out what can be done by bringing together people who could assist in the restoration of the crescent. I am encouraged by the way in which High Peak borough council, Derbyshire county council—it is rare for that council to be praised—and English Heritage are working constructively together to secure the future of the crescent. but I also urge the Government, through the Secretary of State for National Heritage, to do whatever they can to assist.
In spite of those few problems, we are fortunate to live in High Peak. I invite those who do not live there to come to the festival, or to see something else at the opera house. I consider myself the luckiest Member of the House, because I can be in Westminster during the week and in my constituency in the Peak district for the rest of the time. If some attention could be paid to the small matters that I have mentioned, High Peak would become an even more attractive place in which to live and work, and a more attractive place to visit.
§ Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)
I congratulate the hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) on his interesting maiden speech, which gave us a graphic picture of his constituency. Those of us who know Derbyshire know how beautiful his constituency is. The important issues that he raised about the environment, infrastructure and conservation are all germane to many of our constituencies; they are important matters and should be brought to the attention of the Government. I congratulate the hon. Member on his speech and hope that we shall hear many more contributions from him. When he listed his hobbies and recreations, I was struck by the contrast between his—he talks of skiing and tennis—and mine, which are beer drinking and all card games. I also appreciated his earlier contribution to public welfare when he told us about all the charity work that he did for his colleagues both inside and outside the House in the years before he entered this place.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in the debate and I shall make my points briefly as I am aware that many other hon. Members wish to speak. Earlier this week, we had an interesting and important debate on the recession. On Monday, particular mention was made of the continuing difficulties that we are experiencing in the west midlands. In my constituency in Wolverhampton there are continual job losses, company closures and bankruptcies. Unemployment is at a high level. In most 493 parts of my constituency and the rest of Wolverhampton, male unemployment is more than 20 per cent. That is a serious situation for many of my constituents, who are unable to make a contribution to our society and have no opportunity to live a decent life, because the standard of living on the dole is not, and should not be, acceptable to us.
A further blow to my community in Wolverhampton has been the recent hostile and unwelcome bid made by Kalon plc for the Manders paint works in Wolverhampton. We all understand that in the business world there are times when a merger or takeover is regarded as desirable and is accepted, when a company faces difficulties and needs assistance, but Manders is a company which has traded successfully for the past 200 years. It is the foremost company in Wolverhampton; it has first-rate industrial relations and a first-rate product, and we in Wolverhampton are all proud of it.
The hostile bid is a serious blow to the town, first, because of its effect on jobs. We may lose as many as 500 jobs in Wolverhampton and in a subsidiary company in Yorkshire which will be wiped out if the bid is successful. Furthermore, the company making the bid serves the own-brand paint market, and if it were successful it would control more than 70 per cent. of that market. A serious competition issue therefore arises. If the competition were taken out, the bidding company would be able to increase prices and act not in the interests of our economy or of consumers but against the public interest. Neither Manders and its workers nor our town accept that that bid is in any way helpful to the economy or to Wolverhampton.
The bid should be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. It is a classic case for the anti-competition rules. If it is not a classic case for reference to the MMC, that body and that method of dealing with such issues must be a complete waste of time, and the whole apparatus should be abandoned.
Having listened to my speech, will the Leader of the House be prepared at least to ask the President of the Board of Trade kindly to consider the matter? We are worried about the jobs, about lack of competition in that sector of the market, and about the future of a great company.
Manders was the first company to sign the 40-hour working week agreement with the trade unions back in 1927, and since then it has always operated a policy of good industrial relations. Manders has an excellent product; we in Wolverhampton are proud of the company and of its work force, and we need to keep it in our town. I therefore ask the Leader of the House kindly to refer the matter to the President of the Board of Trade so that justice can be done and we can continue to have that profitable and successful company in Wolverhampton.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
I join the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner) in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) on a confident and excellent maiden speech. I remember how nervous I was when I 494 made my own. I admire my hon. Friend for seeming not to have a care in the world, but no doubt a great deal of fluttering was going on inside.
I was grateful that my hon. Friend paid a particular tribute to Spencer Le Marchant, who was one of the most generous people ever to sit in the House. It was brave of my hon. Friend to reveal that he had worked for a pittance for one of my Scottish hon. Friends, and for nothing at all for my noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate. When we debate the subject of people living on small incomes, no doubt my hon. Friend will be able to speak with experience. The people of High Peak made a good choice when they elected him as their Member of Parliament in April. I am sure that he will receive congratulations from every right hon. and hon. Member who heard his maiden speech.
Ticket touting is a serious problem, which must be tackled sooner rather than later. Touts operate in various forms—as private individuals, as organised groups on the streets outside theatres and sports venues and masquerading as ticket agents by operating from apparently authentic premises. The latter present a particular danger in the west end. They have the semblance of respectability. By displaying publicity material for various shows, they give the impression that they are genuine agencies, such as the Keith Prowse chain which collapsed a few years ago. The public are taken in because they believe that they are using a respectable business.
All too often, however, an unsuspecting tourist will find that he has paid well over the odds. Touting can mislead and defraud the public, who may pay an extortionate price that is way above a ticket's face value. It often transpires that the seats purchased have a restricted view, contrary to assurances given at the time of purchase. If one goes to a theatre box office, one will be told if the seats offered are located behind a pillar or at the back of the stalls. It is disgraceful to pay an agency a great deal of money for a ticket, only to find that one's view of the stage is obstructed.
It has also been known for people arriving at a theatre to collect their pre-paid tickets to discover that they are not available because the agency has gone out of business or has moved to unknown premises.
The Society of West End Theatre produced a dossier of cases. Two German tourists paid £75 each to see "The Phantom of the Opera", when the ticket's face value was £8.50. Two Norwegian tourists paid £50 for tickets for "Starlight Express", only to find that their seats offered a restricted view from the back row. A tourist from Essex paid an agency £54 for a ticket that had a face value of £7.50. Tennis fans have paid as much as £650 for finals day tickets having a face value of £36. Football supporters have paid £250 for FA cup final tickets with a face value of £35. I can only imagine that they had more money than sense to pay such prices. Such practices do a great deal to harm the British tourist industry and to deter tourists from patronising certain events.
Touts also enjoy substantial profits without making any contribution to the state in the form of income tax or value added tax.
In February, my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) made a widely reported speech at Brunel university in his capacity as Under-Secretary of State for Consumer Affairs and Small Firms. He announced plans to give consumers more protection and greater redress, including a proposal to 495 ensure that when agencies resell tickets for theatres and other public events, they disclose the location, face value and other relevant information to the prospective buyer. I shall be grateful if my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will say when that commitment will be implemented.
Urgent action is needed if London is to avoid the description of ticket tout capital of the world. Of course we must acknowledge market principles, and I know that one of my hon. Friends is in favour of ticket touts. Everyone is entitled to his opinion—but the market mechanism is free and fair only if the buyer of goods or services has full knowledge of the proper market price and can be confident that the vendor is authorised to sell.
Why cannot the code of practice in the Consumer Protection Act 1987 be made statutory so that it becomes a definite offence to deface the face value of a ticket, and amended in such a way that it is legally clear and easier to enforce? Ticket agencies should also be licensed so that tickets can be bought only from authorised establish-ments. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment should have powers to make regulations allowing local authorities to license ticket sellers and third parties to sell tickets on closely controlled terms. All other sales to the public would become illegal. Licensing must be the ultimate long-term objective.
We can learn from the experience of another great theatre city—New York. There was a time when touting in that city was creating enormous problems, so the state legislature introduced laws forbidding it. New York ticket sellers are required to be licensed, submit a bond of $1,000, print the mark-up on the ticket, display their licence in a public place and keep a record of all their transactions. If such arrangements are possible in New York, why are they not in London and other parts of the United Kingdom?
Most right hon. and hon. Members regard touting as morally reprehensible. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education, when Minister of State, Home Office, described the practice as obnoxious. I would never buy from a ticket tout. Some years ago, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr. and Liza Minnelli starred at a concert in the Royal Albert hall, for which tickets were at a premium. My wife and I very much wanted to attend the last night, but could not obtain tickets anywhere. Someone suggested that I should stand outside the hall with cash in my pocket, because the chances were that just as the show was due to start, the touts would sharply reduce their asking prices. I would rather that they burnt their fingers by being left with unsold tickets and making a loss on their transactions.
Tourism is important to our economy, and tourists are a particular target for the touts. A few years ago, Westminster city council—which covers most of the west end theatres—undertook an investigation that confirmed that foreign visitors were the most likely to be overcharged. The report stated:This has important implications for tourism. Why should tourists pay more for the same product?I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will inform the Department of Trade and Industry's consumer affairs division that many people, including myself, are impatient for the pledge that was given on 20 February by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle to be implemented. I hope that an announcement will be made before the summer recess.
§ Mr. Don Foster (Bath)
I congratulate the hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) on what I, too, thought was an excellent maiden speech. However, he suggested that many hon. Members had not visited High Peak. My parents lived and worked in his constituency for many years and I had the opportunity to visit it on many occasions. While I accept the way in which he extolled the beauty of his constituency, I am not prepared to relegate my constituency to second place behind his.
I want to raise an issue that is very important for people in my constituency and for those in the constituencies of many other hon. Members. It relates to a group of people who, if we are not careful, may become the forgotten victims of the Maxwell scandal. I gave the Leader of the House warning that I was going to raise the issue and I hope that I will, therefore, hear positive news when the right hon. Gentleman replies to the debate.
Hon. Members will be aware that a few weeks ago the Secretary of State for Social Security announced that he was making available a sum of £2.5 millionto provide temporary, emergency funding to help Maxwell schemes which are unable to maintain pension payments over the next few months."—[Official Report, 8 June 1992; Vol. 209, c. 20.]That announcement was warmly welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House and many people sighed with relief. For many Maxwell pensioners who already receive a pension, it provided some certainty that those pensions would continue for at least the next few months.
However, there remains a great deal of uncertainty for many other people affected by the Maxwell scandal. I particularly want to draw those people to the attention of the House and hope that before we go into recess we shall be able to resolve their anxieties and uncertainties.
As hon. Members will be aware, the winding-up arrangements of the Maxwell pension schemes mean that people who reach pensionable age after February of this year are still treated as deferred pensioners. In many cases, they will not receive a pension through a Maxwell pension scheme unless the Secretary of State for Social Security and his newly established Maxwell pension unit are prepared to arrange for that to happen.
I have spoken to the Maxwell pension unit and I am grateful for its help. However, it told me that, to date, no decision has been taken on whether that group of deferred pensioners will receive assistance from the £2.5 million fund. It is important that we are told, as a matter of urgency, whether they will be helped in that way.
Another group of victims of the Maxwell pension scandal have been affected in a more complicated way. They are victims of the Maxwell scandal, but they are not currently members of a Maxwell pension scheme. To illustrate the complexity and importance of the situation, I want to refer to a group of my constituents.
In the mid-1980s, Robert Maxwell acquired the Hollis Engineering Group of companies, which included Stothert and Pitt in my constituency and Floform in the constituency of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile). The companies that formed the Hollis Engineering Group each had their own, well-funded pension schemes. However, when Robert Maxwell took over the companies, they were brought together in a single, new pension scheme now known as AGB.
497 Subsequently, as a result of a management buy-out, yet another pension scheme—the Victoria Works pension scheme—was established. It was independent of AGB—the Maxwell scheme. An agreement was reached that a sum of about £4 million of transfer-valued assets would be transferred to the Victoria Works scheme. However, only about £1.3 million was transferred, leaving a shortfall of more than £2 million in the new Victoria Works scheme.
At that point, the Maxwell saga blew up. The scandal broke and we discovered that AGB was unable to transfer the remaining amount into the Victoria Works pension scheme. Because of the fraud, AGB cannot hand over money owed to the Victoria Works scheme which affects 70 of my constituents. As the scheme has no other source of funds, it will very shortly be insolvent.
In short, that means that 70 of my constituents belong to a pension scheme which, because of the Maxwell fraud, will become insolvent. They will stop receiving their pensions very soon. In a few months' time, more of the 250 deferred pensioners will not receive pensions. At the moment, they are not part of a Maxwell pension scheme. Therefore, they do not appear to fall within the remit of the £2.5 million fund. Can that £2.5 million emergency fund be extended to the Victoria Works pension scheme?
George Busby is 67 years old and he is one of those affected in my constituency. He paid into a pension scheme for 30 years and retired at the end of 1989. He told me today that he is now seriously considering selling his home and that, with the threat of the loss of pension hanging over him, he is unable to make plans for a holiday. He said:The strain of not knowing whether you're going to be able to provide for your wife and dependants is intolerable. All the years of planning for retirement are destroyed.Given that the Leader of the House has had notice of the matter, I hope that he will be able to assure me that active consideration is being given to the possibility of money from the £2.5 million fund being transferred to the Victoria Works pension scheme, which is not the only scheme affected. There are nine other schemes, with asset values close to £10 million, that still have not been transferred from AGB, and their pensioners are in a similar position. I understand that some other Maxwell pension schemes may also face similar problems.
The issue is complex and it will require a great deal of sorting out. However, I hope that that can be achieved very quickly because many people are affected.
§ 5.7 pm
§ Mr. David Willetts (Havant)
I am most grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye and so make my maiden speech. I follow the conspicuous and eloquent maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry). Mine is very much a valley after his great heights.
I have the honour of succeeding Sir Ian Lloyd, who was the Member for Havant for 25 years. He was a most assiduous and well-respected constituency Member and he was ably assisted by his wife Frances who made a particular contribution to the local work of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Ian was a most distinguished parliamentarian. He was never cramped by day-to-day political argument but always took the long view. In his maiden speech in 1965, 498 he reminded the House of an ancestor of his who successfully introduced a measure in 1693 to denationalise the mines—one of the preconditions for our industrial revolution. It is particularly apt, therefore, that we will be able to celebrate the 300th anniversary of that measure by setting the mines free once more.
Perhaps Ian's influence was strongest in science and technology. It is one of those ironies of political life that, within a few months of his taking his retirement, two measures for which he fought long and hard have finally been implemented. On 1 May, we saw created the Office of Science and Technology, falling within the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Ian had also fought for the creation of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. For a while, it was financed entirely through private spon-sorship, but again, only a few weeks ago, the House of Commons Commission finally voted public funds to support that office. I hope that both measures can be regarded as our tribute to Sir Ian Lloyd on his retirement.
Before the House adjourns, I should like to raise several matters that are of concern to my constituents. Havant stands literally at a crossroads and has done so since Roman times. It stands where the A3 from Portsmouth to London intersects the A27 coastal road. A new A27 was recently constructed. It was intended to bring relief to the area, but sadly it has blighted the lives of many people in Warblington and Emsworth. Its deeply ridged concrete surface produces the notorious A27 roar. When the road was opened, the Department of Transport described the surface as "experimental". It is an experiment which has failed. We in Havant are fighting a battle for bitumen. My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) and I look forward to meeting our hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic next week, when we will argue forcefully for resurfacing the A27.
Hon. Members have often referred in their maiden speeches to the sense of community in their constituencies. Havant has its sense of community, too—but perhaps that sounds a trifle worthy or even dull. I assure the House that it is not like that at all. The other week, I had the honour of taking part in the Havant annual town parade, and was preceded by giant Sooty and Sweep puppets, an array of teenage mutant ninja turtles and the south coast's finest Norman Wisdom impersonator. It was a most enjoyable event.
The borough of Havant comprises several distinct communities, and few issues arouse as much emotion as proposals to build on the remaining green land that survives between them. The last thing that we want Havant to become is one long anonymous urban agglomeration. Each part of the constituency, from Hartplain to Emsworth, values its own identity. Waterlooville, for example, is the place where British soldiers camped before embarking to defeat the forces of Napoleonic centralism at Waterloo, that famous battlefield 100 miles south-east of Maastricht. Napoleon, of course, had a notoriously limited grasp of the important idea of subsidiarity—it extended only as far as making his brother King of Spain.
Emsworth used to be famous for its oysters, until a most unfortunate incident at a banquet nearly 100 years ago, when civil dignitaries, local grandees and councillors became extremely ill on eating Emsworth oysters, and I am afraid that some died. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that that is no way to treat local councillors.
499 There are also the people of Hayling Island, who have taken the sensible precaution of preserving their distinct identity by arranging to be an island. It has rich agricultural land and a very fine beach—one of the 16 in the country to have been awarded the coveted blue flag. It was a Hayling islander who first had the idea of putting a mast on a surfboard, and thus windsurfing was created. I am pleased to say that Hayling remains one of the world centres for that sport.
The names of some parts of my constituency may ring a faint bell with hon. Members who have read their P. G. Wodehouse—Lord Emsworth, Lady Warblington, even the Duchess of Havant. P. G. Wodehouse lived in the area for a time, and parts of it are now immortalised as the titles of upper-class eccentrics in his novels. But my constituents are very far from being characters in a P. G. Wodehouse novel, because, above all, what we do in Havant is make things. We have a concentration of world-class manufacturing firms. We are therefore particularly concerned about the state of the economy.
There is no disguising the recession. Our firms in Havant are going through a difficult time, just like many firms around the country. It is no good gloating over the recession and taking a snapshot of the economy when it is at the bottom of an economic cycle. Instead, we have to compare the full economic cycle—the upswing and the downswing—with the previous economic cycle. That way, we can take a step back and measure the changes in the underlying performance of the economy. We find that a lot has changed for the better in the 1980s. During the full cycle from 1981 until now, the British economy has had an average growth rate of more than 2 per cent. a year. That compares with the previous economic cycle from 1975 until 1981, when we had an average growth rate of a little more than 1 per cent. per year. It is a measure of the conspicuous improvement in the underlying performance of our industry, and I see in Havant the practical evidence that lies behind those statistics.
IBM has a large factory in Havant. Its output has trebled in the past few years. Only the other week, an IBM manager was telling me how his Havant plant could compete with its rival IBM plant in Germany and outperform IBM's Japanese point in both quality and cost control. I asked him how that was achieved and he said that it was because ofour more flexible employment legislation.We are now beginning to gain back from the far east the technological lead in computer disc drives which was lost 10 or 20 years ago.
The other day, another Havant firm was floated on the stock exchange—Kenwood. It was created by Mr. Ken Wood, although he was not, as far as I know, a chef. That firm had languished in a large conglomerate, but, after a management buy-out a few years ago, its performance has been transformed. Kenwood's sales have been booming and it is now beating competition from France and Germany. There are many other such firms, such as De la Rue systems, Apollo fire detectors and Colt ventilation systems. They are all at the sharp end of British industry and they are exporting much of their output. The dynamism of such firms lies behind the transformation of our trade performance, with our share of world trade increasing in the past three years, having stablished during the 1980s, after years—decades—of decline.
Several of our exporters in Havant have criticised the performance of the Dutch firm that has taken over some 500 of the short-term insurance responsibilities of the Export Credits Guarantee Department. I have written to my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade about their concerns. Other firms still feel that they do not yet have completely open access to the European market and that we in Britain are more serious about free trade than some other member states of the EC. I therefore welcome the fact that the Government have made completion of the internal market one of their priorities for the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Community.
Havant is a young constituency, so we are very interested in the standards of our schools. Many were built during the 1960s and, sadly, are in need of repair or even complete rebuilding. We are worried that educational planners are so preoccupied with the decline in the number of secondary school pupils that they have lost sight of the baby boom and the increase in the number of very young children. We now have nearly 4 million under-fives, compared with a little more than 3 million in the early 1980s.
In 1998 there will be about 15 per cent. more primary school pupils than in 1984. Therefore, we need to be wary of closing infant and junior schools precisely when we can see an increase in the number of young infants who will soon join them. I shall fight to ensure that changes to our schools proposed by Hampshire county council take account of these trends and the clear wishes of parents and teachers.
Some people ask me why my constituency, which contains Leigh Park, one of the largest council estates in Britain, returns such a substantial Conservative majority. That is the old snobbish assumption that Conservatism is just for the upper crust. One of the best aspects of the count in Havant on 9 April was when the ballot boxes from Leigh Park were opened and we saw the voting papers pouring out, so many with a cross for the Conservatives. It was evidence that the modern Conservative party understands the aspirations of the people on the council estates as well the people on the Bovis estates.
They are people who have bought their council house thanks to Conservative policies. They are people who work in private firms and know that the success of those firms, their jobs and their prosperity depend on a healthy private sector. They are people who care about standards in their schools. They are people who try to bring up their children decently and have no truck with the sociological defences of the criminal. They are people who want more choice in health and education, who want to keep a greater share of their pay packets to spend in the way that they know best. The modern Conservative party speaks for them. I am proud to represent them.
§ Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)
It is with pleasure that I congratulate the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) on his maiden speech. He showed a great deal of self-confidence and a clear and intimate knowledge of his constituency. I am sure that his constituents will realise from what he said that he is keen to represent them. I am sure that they recognise that his voice will be heard on many occasions on their behalf in the House.
I listened to the hon. Gentleman's views on education with some interest. I also noted his comments about the state of the British economy. I know that it is a tradition 501 of the House that maiden speeches should not be controversial, so I wait for further comments from the hon. Gentleman on the state of the British economy. I wonder whether, in view of one of his previous incarnations and his close relationship with a new Member of the other place, he has read in tonight's Evening Standard the criticisms of the state of the British economy. But perhaps that debate is better left for a later occasion.
I also heard with interest and welcomed the comments that the hon. Gentleman made about his predecessor, Sir Ian Lloyd, who was well known and respected in the House. As the hon. Gentleman said, he was particularly respected for his work on science. It is appropriate that the issue that I wish to raise relates to science. It is one in which Sir Ian Lloyd would be particularly interested.
I wish to raise the case of Dr. Chris Chapman, who is faced with the sack from Leeds general infirmary. Dr. Chapman is, in the new journalistic jargon, a whistleblow-er. He is a man who has told the truth. In the new world of the national health service, he is about to lose his job because he has courage, integrity and a willingness to tell the truth. He will lose his job on the day before his 50th birthday, so he will not receive the enhanced pension to which he would be entitled 24 hours later.
So keen was the senior managment of Leeds general infirmary trust to ensure that Dr. Chapman lost his job on the last day of his 50th year that the notice of his dismissal was sent by a courier on a motorbike. There was no personal notice for Dr. Chapman, but simply a motorbike to ensure that the enhanced pension was lost.
Dr. Chapman has served our national health service for more than 20 years. He has given his life to the national health service; he has given considerably more years than those who wish to get rid of him; he has made a significant scientific contribution; he is respected widely as a scientist; he has saved the national health service an estimated millions of pounds.
According to one of Dr. Chapman's colleagues quoted in one of our national newspapers, Dr. Chapman isprobably the most competent scientist in the department, a good innovator and has an excellent relationship with his staff.One would think that those were good attributes which would allow someone to maintain his job. In the new national health service and the new Leeds general infirmary trust, that seems to be a condemnation.
Dr. Chapman is a man of service who has made a scientific contribution and, above all else, he is a man of integrity. He has played the game by the internal rules; he has never rushed to the papers; he has never uttered a word to the newspapers, television or radio. At all times he has raised issues internally within the national health service.
On three occasions, in 1987, 1989 and 1991, Dr. Chapman raised issues of substantial importance. Now we are told that he is to lose his job. The reason given is that he is redundant. I put it to the House that there are 200 people in the department and only one person is to be made redundant. The man to be made redundant is the one described by one of his senior colleagues as the best scientist in the department. Some of us have had experience of industrial relations in private industry. I have never come across a departmental reorganisation involving 200 people which has led to the sacking of only one person. It is a unique experience.
502 Who are the people who have made the judgment that Dr. Chapman, this able scientist, is no longer needed at Leeds general infirmary? Let me name them. They are Stuart Ingham, the chief executive, on £90,000 a year. He was charged by the statutory auditors in 1987 to have a more direct responsibility for what has happened in the department in which Dr. Chapman works. Ingham has failed to fulfil that responsibility. He survives, Chapman is sacked.
Professor John Whicher has been involved all the way through as head of department. He failed to fulfil his responsibility. Not only does he survive, he has been promoted. Dr. Ian Barnes was also involved in the decision about Chapman's redundancy. He survives despite his involvement, to which I shall refer later.
On the first of the three occasions, in 1987, Dr. Chapman raised issues about money and financial irregularities in Leeds general infirmary. Those allegations were proved correct by the statutory auditors, who said that various people—Ingham, Barnes and Whicher—had a managerial responsibility to ensure that there was no repeat of the events in that department. Yet we now know that they did not fulfil their responsibility and further transgressions took place. Dr. Chapman made two further allegations, both of which have sadly proved correct.
The first allegation involved Dr. Barnes, the head of the immediate unit in which Dr. Chapman works. Dr. Ian Barnes has worked for the Leeds general infirmary since 1987. He has had a consultancy contract with a Belgian firm called Medgenix. That firm, that contract and that consultancy have all operated against the NHS circular HS62/21 which, as hon. Members on both sides of the House will know, asks that consultancy arrangements between NHS staff and outside organisations should be clear and known and that the details of the financial transactions should be available. In Dr. Barnes's case, that simply does not seem to have happened. The substance of the evidence is that Dr. Ian Barnes was employed by the national health service and was also engaged as a consultant for the biochemical supply firm, Medgenix. That engagement has never been properly declared by Dr. Barnes and, in contravention of NHS procedures, he received payments from that firm.
Dr. Chapman made that allegation and it was subsequently substantiated. Dr. Barnes was on the committee that decided that Chapman should lose his job —that there is no causal relationship stretches belief.
The Leeds general infirmary management and senior executives of the trust argued that Dr. Barnes was not immediately in receipt of money and therefore the relationship with Medgenix did not exist. At the hearing on Dr. Chapman's appeal against the redundancy notice, Dr. Barnes confessed that he was a consultant with Medgenix and he pushed their products and science into the department, even though they did not stand up to examination, as Dr. Chapman rightly said.
Barnes is part of the group which sacked Chapman, who was the whistleblower and man of integrity. Barnes is the man who failed to disclose what was going on.
In 1991, Dr. Chapman made another serious allegation about a project headed by Professor Whicher and indirectly involving Dr. Barnes. He alleged that there had been scientific fraud and that, in essence, results were being fabricated. The project was called Interleukin 6—IL6— and it was crucial to the development of biochemistry. It was believed that the project would give the Leeds general 503 infirmary a head start over other organisations in a commercial world. The research findings and processes were fraudulent.
Chapman argued for an inquiry and, to its credit, the university of Leeds set up an internal inquiry. Sadly, although the inquiry came to a conclusion on 9 March 1992, its report was not published. Yet Dr. Chapman's allegations were proven to be correct. It is worth studying the panel of investigators, which comprised Professor Willoughby of the experimental medical college of St. Bartholomew's hospital in London, Professor Gowland of the immunology department of clinical medicine at the University of Leeds, and Professor Brown of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Leeds. They are three eminent people and not three junior scientists. They all came to the conclusion that the allegation of fraud against Dr. Evans had been proven. They said that the balance of evidence supported the view and that there had been fraud in so far as Dr. Evans has falsely claimed to have had bioassays performed on his putative IL6. That was the substance of the allegations and findings.
The management of Leeds general infirmary, under Mr. Stuart Ingham, said that it was not a matter for them, but it is, for two reasons. First, while a university employee committed the fraud, NHS moneys were involved. At least £100,000 of NHS money has been wasted on fabricated results. As taxpayers, we have a right to ask questions about the money. We also have the right to ask other questions. If scientific fraud has been committed in one of our great institutions, surely we should know what is going on. The results of the inquiry should be published.
Secondly, Professor Whicher was head of department. The university report criticised him for negligence. He was also a founder member of the hospital trust and a close friend of Ingham. Whicher was accused of negligence, and was promoted, and his friend Ingham is sacking Chapman. Only one conclusion can be drawn from that—the man of integrity goes down and the others survive.
The general infirmary management has an interest. It has been said that the matter solely concerned the university and that supervision of the project was nothing to do with the infirmary. Let us forget about the NHS money involved for the moment, although it is important. If a journalist fabricates stories for 12 months, one would expect him to be sacked and would ask questions about the editor of the journal. In the case of the Leeds general infirmary, the person who fabricated the story is still in a job and the editor's equivalent, Professor Whicher, has been promoted.
These are serious matters. We are dealing with an injustice against one person. I know that Conservative Members do not like it and I know why. We are talking about injustice and they are not bothered about people who suffer that sort of injustice. They are not bothered about the new-style management of the NHS, which has so little time for men of integrity. That is why it is prepared to sacrifice Dr. Chapman.
If Dr. Chapman is sacrificed next week, it will be a blow to the integrity of British science and a blow to the way in which we manage the NHS. Even at this late stage, the Government have a responsibility to intervene. I do not want a world or a national health service in which people are afraid to speak out and are not allowed to tell the truth because they fear for their jobs.
504 Since 9 April, health service trust managers have had a green light to sack whistleblowers. Dr. Chapman is one of a small and courageous group of people who want to defend the taxpayer and British science. The House has a responsibility to save that man's job, his future and the reputation of our science.
§ Mr. Michael Trend (Windsor and Maidenhead)
Before the House decides to adjourn for the summer, with its leave I shall bring some concerns of my constituents to its attention. I warmly congratulate the two other Conservative Members who have been called to address the House for the first time today—my hon. Friends the Members for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) and for Havant (Mr. Willetts).
Windsor and Maidenhead, the constituency that I am honoured to represent, unlike the pudding which so disagreed with Sir Winston Churchill, has a clear theme. It is provided by the silvery thread of the River Thames in its most appealing reaches. The Thames flows softly from one end of my constituency to the other. To the west lie the charming settlements of Hurley and Bisham, which were both originally monastic foundations, where the former ecclesiastical buildings tell a fascinating tale. The Cookhams come next. They are famous for swan-upping and were once the home of that very individual painter, Stanley Spencer. Then comes Maidenhead, which owes its local pre-eminence to the bridge which made it an important post town on the road from London to Bath. Originally sited some way from the river, in recent years it has grown substantially and was one of the many towns in southern England which flourished in the 1980s. That growth has led to problems in the more recent past. Boulters Lock is more popular with my constituents in Maidenhead than the too many office buildings which are standing empty.
Maidenhead is a purposeful and popular town. Nevertheless, it should strongly resist further domestic in-filling and should not encroach on precious green belt land that surrounds it. I am utterly opposed to further erosion of the green belt.
Further downstream is the village of Bray, which is famous for its remarkably flexible vicar. As those who know the old English song will recall, the vicar of Bray changed his heart to match the political conditions of the day. He did so fromGood King Charles's golden daysto whenGeorge in Pudding time came o'er".I dare say he is a model for some contemporary politicians.
On the north bank of the Thames we then come to Eton, except that one does not just "come to Eton"—not even the many former Prime Ministers who went to that school. Facing across the river is one of the jewels of our universal heritage: Windsor. I almost feel like apologising for this embarrassment of riches. That town was honoured when King George V took its name for that of his family.
My predecessor in this House, Sir Alan Glyn, represented the royal borough of the royal county for 22 years. His attendance in this House was praiseworthy and, almost uniquely among Back Benchers, he had a recognised place of his own in this Chamber. With his indefatigable wife, Lady Rosula, he served the people of Windsor and Maidenhead loyally and assiduously. My constituency association recently honoured Sir Alan and 505 his wife in Sir Christopher Wren's magnificent guildhall at Windsor. On that occasion we also welcomed Sir Alan's predecessor and his wife, Sir Charles and Lady Mott-Radclyffe. Sir Charles represented the constituency for 28 years, so between them they chalked up half a century of service. Some Members and Officers may well remember Sir Charles; he is certainly still a legend in cricketing circles in the House.
While on the subject of former Members, I might add that Sir Christopher Wren was once a Member for Windsor, but unfortunately, for a few days only, following which he was debarred from the House because of an "irregularity" in his campaign. He was obviously not the best architect of electioneering.
With its outstanding buildings and extensive parks, Windsor struck the poet Michael Drayton thus:Windsor, where abound All pleasures that in Paradise were found",Paradise or not, however, the problems brought by millions of visitors each year have to be paid for in financial and environmental terms by my constituents. It is a matter of some concern that the community charge raised by the royal borough contains a substantial element —about £10 per year each for the people of Windsor and Maidenhead—to cope with those problems. That is a full 10 per cent. of the borough's standard spending assessment.
The Department of the Environment insists that day tourism affects many parts of the country and that it is difficult to measure, and I accept that that is probably the case on a national scale, but the evidence of one's own eyes in Windsor is too strong to be denied. Every year some 4 million day tourists come to Windsor, which is not by any means a large town. It is not difficult to visualise what that means in terms of traffic management, litter disposal, and other amenities that visitors require, the cost of which falls directly on my constituents. It cannot be beyond the skill of Government to develop a formula that would recognise those specific financial strains. If ever there was a special case, this is it.
I am also disturbed by the effect that the all-ages social index has on the SSA. Again, I refer to the evidence of my own eyes. It is nonsense to suggest that the differences between my constituency and the neighbouring town of Slough are so great as to justify the £100 per capita difference in Government support. That decision is largely due to the social index.
I cannot help feeling that the social index is an anachronistic way in which to judge local expenditure and that it has not kept pace with changing times. I hope that the Department of the Environment will be prepared to look at this matter afresh before entrenching the present arrangements in the new council tax.
I have endeavoured to take the House on a brief cruise down our great River Thames and to describe some of the riparian delights of my constituency. I recommend that as a form of leisure for all under pressure and in need of relaxation. In this House we are familiar with our own historic part of the Thames. I hope that others will share my discovery of another more gentle stretch which commends itself unselfishly to all.
I have covered the water and the land, and now I want to turn my attention to the skies. Maidenhead, and particularly Windsor, are continually affected by aircraft 506 on their way to or from Heathrow airport. From living in Windsor, I know that the horrendous noise of aircraft coming in to land can shatter the good night's sleep to which my constituents and I are entitled. I am conscious of the many benefits brought to the area by the airport and of the important part it plays in the local economy, but I believe that more can and should be done to control aircraft noise. In particular, I should like a total ban on night flights, much closer monitoring of the decibel levels produced by individual aircraft, and fines for irresponsible carriers.
My constituents share anxieties common to people in other parts of the country. In Windsor and Maidenhead, there are a number of victims of the criminal acts of Mr. Robert Maxwell. Many angry dentists come to see me in my surgeries. Other people are unhappy about the fate of whales which are slaughtered for commercial gain and of the distressing circumstances in which battery hens are kept. I would not be honest if I did not add that there is concern about the proposed combining of the two Household Cavalry regiments—the Lifeguards and the Blues and Royals. Hon. Members may know that Combermere barracks in Windsor is the present home of the Blues and Royals.
In common with other Members, since I was elected to the House I have been impressed by the amount of correspondence which comes our way. It has been instructive to see which public services have been most responsive and helpful. I have been pleasantly surprised at the speed and sensitivity with which local hospitals and doctors deal with complaints. Other letters, however, betray what I regard as a potentially dangerous development which faces parliamentary democracy in all parts of the developed world—the current tendency to blame Governments and legislatures for all life's ills. Such writers are often encouraged—irresponsibly, in my view—by insidious single-issue lobby groups. I believe that we are heading for troubled times unless we can be more precise in the limitations of government and the obligations of people.
Some years ago we talked of the nanny state. It is time that the influence of such a state was further curtailed. The Governments of the 1980s achieved much in that regard, but more needs to be done. Many different people have a part to play in that—the Government, Ministers, Members of Parliament, religious leaders, teachers, judges, parents and others with influence.
The essential order which lies at the heart of civil life is based on simple courtesies which must be transmitted from generation to generation. The spiritual element of life must also be given prominence in an increasingly materialistic world.
On the domestic side of politics, I warmly welcome the great education reforms introduced in the past 10 years. My constituency is blessed with excellent maintained schools, and the pupils are intensely proud of them and of their teachers. That represents best practice and the best guarantee for the future.
On foreign affairs, I believe that our country still has many important responsibilities throughout the world. In particular, we should never cease to speak up for the human rights of those unable to do so for themselves. I have a particular interest in the people of Tibet and on future occasions I may bring their plight to the attention of the House.
507 Like many colleagues on both sides of the House, I have now fulfilled a long-standing ambition to become an elected Member of the Chamber. I am not in the least bothered by the fact that for a number of weeks I lived out of a locker, nor that I have now acquired one desk, alongside many others, and one telephone, nor that I am not provided with hordes of researchers and that I have to spend long hours in this beautiful building when I could be spending more time with my family—as they say.
I do not believe that having to rough it slightly, compared with being de luxe middle management of a company or a pampered shop steward of a union, calls for any complaint. I am honoured, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and indeed humbled to be a Member of this great House of Commons. It is, I may say, an added bonus to be sitting on the Government side.
I also regard it as a privilege to have the opportunity to follow on the service of distinguished predecessors for my constituents of Windsor and Maidenhead, on whose behalf it is my intention to work to represent their interests. I intend to support the policies on which I was elected and the principles in which I believe.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
It is my pleasure to speak following the able maiden speech made by the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Mr. Trend). I trust that he will not suffer the fate of Sir Christopher Wren but will join his two immediate predecessors, who gave long and distinguished service in the House on behalf of their constituencies.
We have enjoyed three excellent maiden speeches today. I appreciated the humour of the hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry), who commented on the poor salaries that he had received from his employers. As an Ulster Scot, I appreciated his humour, but I know that he was not suggesting that the Scots were niggardly. Indeed, I am sure he knows that they are warm-hearted.
The hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) paid an excellent tribute to his predecessor, but I particularly appreciated his tribute to Lady Lloyd. Let us not forget that the spouses of hon. Members contribute much, and Lady Lloyd has served the community at large in her own right. I feel that we sometimes take for granted the services that our spouses provide to our constituencies and to the country in general.
I wish there had been time before the recess to deal with a number of other major issues, especially as we have gone astray with Masstricht. I should have liked time for the House to examine the whole question of constitutional and political reform. With the fervour in that direction that is evident in the country, it is a pity that the Prime Minister has not been able to express in the House his views about how the constituent parts of the nation should be governed as one part. I believe that in the onward evolution of democracy there is a place for a federal system, even in our nation.
I wish today to probe the role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, particularly in its dealings with a part of the nation: Northern Ireland. I do not object to the Foreign Office representing us internationally. My gripe at times is that it does not represent us internationally as eloquently and efficiently as it should.
I have been puzzled at having received in June, and again this month, background briefs from the Foreign 508 Office, one entitled "Northern Ireland: The Economy and Employment" and the other entitled "Education in Northern Ireland: A New Direction." I wonder whether the Foreign Office gives the same service to the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office. Does it all mean that, despite the tributes paid to the Northern Ireland education service, there is a lack of education and ability in the Northern Ireland Office? Or is it simply that the Foreign Office is playing the same role as it has played on those issues over the years?
The briefs are helpful and interesting and I do not intend today to analyse or criticise them: I am simply probing them. Does the Leader of the House agree that it should be the role of the Northern Ireland Office, rather than of the Foreign Office, to explain the policies, economic issues, matters affecting tourism and the development of education in the Province? Are such briefs provided for all Government Departments for the benefit of people overseas who wish to know what is happening, for example, in the Department of Trade and Industry, in the Scottish Office and in the Department of the Environment?
To ask the question in a more sinister way, is it the continuing policy of Her Majesty's Government to keep Northern Ireland as a satellite in orbit, controlled by Foreign Office computers looking after international affairs rather than representing the rights of British citizens in Northern Ireland? Is it, as some have feared for a long time, part of a process of seeking to break up the Union? When talking to a distinguished servant of the British Government yesterday, I discovered again that there is speculation that the way forward might involve an independent Northern Ireland.
I wish to place on record the fact that if Northern Ireland—little Scotland, the Ulster Scots—goes, we would like to think that the House would go on to consider where Scotland goes in future. Lest some do not understand the analogy and relationship, Scotland means the land of the Scoti—the land of the Irish. We believe that we are part of that nation, where the O'Donnells of the glens of Antrim are similar to the O'Donnells of the glens of Scotland. Some relationships are conveniently forgotten.
Some of us wonder why the Foreign Office, in supplying talent on a regular basis to the Northern Ireland Office, including writing briefs, seems to be acting in a contrary manner in Yugoslavia. There, I gather, the Department believes that small groups who were part of other groups have a right to self-determination. Apparently a British warship is to be deployed off the coast of Yugoslavia. Does that suggest that one should be deployed off Dundalk bay because a Government there are giving, directly or indirectly, sustenance to those who seek the break-up of the United Kingdom and who act against the democratically declared wishes of the people of Northern Ireland?
As many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, I shall not deal with other issues that I would otherwise raise. Recently the Prime Minister went to Czechoslovakia —among other places, to Prague, the home of Jan Huss, an outstanding reformer of an earlier day—and I sympathised and empathised with the right hon. Gentleman as he apologised on behalf of our people to the Czech people for the actions of a previous British Prime Minister who returned to Britain with a piece of paper proclaiming, "Peace in our time."
509 Can we look forward to the Prime Minister coming to Northern Ireland in the near future to apologise on behalf of another British Prime Minister who signed a piece of paper that was supposed to lead to peace, stability and reconciliation? While I have empathy with the former Prime Minister, who is now in another place, in some of her thinking, I have been amused by the fact that she now wants a referendum when she refused to accept the will of the people of Northern Ireland, democratically expressed at the ballot box, and imposed on Northern Ireland a programme which had the effect of taking us out of the normal role of government in this place. That is why I ask whether Northern Ireland is now being ruled by the Foreign Office rather than being accountable to the House of Commons through the Northern Ireland Office.
§ Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton)
I wish at the outset to congratulate warmly my three hon. Friends who have made maiden speeches. My hon. Friends the Members for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) and for Havant (Mr. Willetts) are both well known on these Benches for their previous service, before arriving here, to the Government—to the Leader of the House in one respect—and to the Conservative party. Their speeches were elegant, witty and effective, and we have high hopes of them. My hon. Friend the Member for Havant was the author of a pamphlet on the Government's national health service reforms which was the only presentation at the time that I found comprehensible in explaining those reforms.
My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Mr. Trend) raised in his maiden speech a number of matters of interest to all hon. Members, such as whales, battery hens and low-flying aircraft. He also, justifiably, criticised in part the way in which Government grant to local government is assessed and the standard spending assessment arrangements, and many of my hon. Friends will appreciate those remarks.
All three maiden speakers showed great interest in raising problems affecting their constituencies. I shall raise three matters affecting my constituency, all of which have wider implications. Two of them have been long-standing matters of concern.
The first issue involves the problems faced by a number of my constituents in a part of Taunton called Galmington. They are owner-occupiers, and living in Woolaway homes that were constructed in the early 1950s. There was a public sector connection at the time, as almost all the people who originally lived in the homes were public servants of one sort or another, but they were ineligible for specific grants for repairs or improvements by virtue of the original arrangements drawn up by the company that built the homes.
The problem is that those homes are non-traditional build. They do not have faults now, but their owners are finding it extraordinarily difficult to sell them. I believe that there are 29 such homes involved: they are three and four-bedroomed houses. Ten of them are occupied by elderly people, several of whom want to sell them to move to smaller residential accommodation, and six are occupied by single people. Therefore, there is this unused housing space in Taunton, but people cannot move due to the problems associated with non-traditional build houses.
510 An estate agent wrote to one of the couples stating that last year,there were a number of viewings, ranging between 25 and 30 applicants, although for one reason or another none of these applicants wished to proceed further. Some of these applicants, as you know, were concerned that the property was not of traditional construction.The estate agent spoke of another applicant who had discussions with a surveyor and builder. He said that, while they did not inspect the property, they said:the type of construction may prove to have problems in the future and … there was some doubt with regard to the saleability of properties of this type.Last year, another couple with a similar residence found that several sales fell through once purchasers discovered the nature of the construction. An estate agent from a different firm told them:I entirely concur with your views regarding the saleability of the properties you occupy in that the construction of the properties is deemed by Building Societies and other lending Institutions to be of a standard which is unacceptable to them as a security, unless, of course, remedial works"—which would cost large sums of money—have been carried out to the main structure and a certificate to that effect presented. It would, therefore, not be unreasonable to state that the properties. in their present condition and at this time, are unmortgageable.Those are the problems that my constituents face. Due to various rules on the use of its resources, the local authority cannot take over those properties, although a number of the occupiers wish it to do so. I have been in correspondence with my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for housing construction, but we are faced with a growing dilemma, which has existed since before I was elected to the House.
The second problem I wish to raise has also existed for some time. I spoke about it just before Christmas, when we discussed the Competition and Service (Utilities) Bill in Committee. As Mr. Moynihan, then the Minister with responsibility for energy, confirmed in Committee, 2,400 properties in the United Kingdom are not connected to the electricity grid. Quite a concentration of those properties exist in the south-west, including some dozen or more on the edge of Exmoor in my constituency.
Since I raised the matter before Christmas and it attracted publicity, South West Electricity has offered to connect those properties to the grid. However, in return, it requires an extraordinarily rigorous mortgage, which is unattractive to those involved. The cost required by SWEB is far too high for my constituents to contemplate, and I fear that there may be no likelihood that their properties or others in the south-west will be linked to the grid. I know that my hon. Friends who represent constituencies with the same problem are trying to pursue the matter. In the year of grace 1992, I think that properties—apart from those that are very remote, and those involved in this case are not—should he connected to the electricity grid.
The third problem has recently developed and typifies debates that we have had, and will have, in the House on the future arrangements of the railway system. particularly freight transport. I think that many hon. Members will have heard of Taunton Cider. A day or so ago, Taunton Cider floated its shares on the market after a successful management buy-out last year. But it faces problems in transporting its excellent—and in summer, very popular—goods about the country by rail freight.
Since the withdrawal of British Rail's Speedlink, which served Taunton Cider well, and the collapse of Tiger Rail. Taunton Cider is allowed to move by rail one full train 511 load a week. That is adequate for its purposes in winter, but inadequate in the summer months. Only this Monday, my wife and I were driving through the village of Norton Fitzwarren, where Taunton Cider is based, when we passed in the space of four or five minutes three large lorries transporting the company's products. The village has a winding main street and those large lorries will pound up and down it, clogging up the roads of Taunton as they pass to the motorway.
As the Government consider the future of British Rail, particularly its freight as the channel tunnel conies on stream, I am anxious that we should find a way of servicing not only Taunton Cider in my constituency but the many other companies in the south-west that face similar difficulties transporting their goods by British Rail. I was informed of the wider scope of the problem by Taunton Cider this week. I hope that those problems will be addressed.
§ 6.6 pm
§ Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)
I am grateful for the opportunity to make a pressing case to the Leader of the House on a constituency matter. I have made the right hon. Gentleman aware of my intention to speak today. The Government plan to introduce privatisation measures that will affect the Clyde submarine base and the Royal Naval armament depot at Coulport—two of the most sensitive military establishments in the United Kingdom. Trident submarines are berthed at the Clyde submarine base.
The Ministry intends to introduce market testing and privatisation measures into the base. That fact came to our attention through a report in one of the Scottish newspapers last week when we discovered that, despite ministerial agreement to the contrary, the Ministry was to go ahead with the plans. Alarm and concern was expressed not least by the unions at the base, and by the national organiser, Jack Dromey. He was quoted as saying that the privatisation of the support services could lead to the handling of the nuclear warhead being transferred to private contractors. The security implications of that would be considerable. Indeed, one commentator referred to the policy as a potential backdoor to nuclear terrorism.
Our concerns are threefold. The first involves the ministerial guarantee. I have a statement made by the Commodore Clyde in 1989 stating:The Ministry of Defence at the highest level are prepared to exempt the Clyde submarine base work force and the rest of the base from contractorisation for the foreseeable future providing a package of sensible economic measures can be introduced within a realistic timetable.Those economic measures have been introduced to the satisfaction of both management and unions at the base. However, although the issue was not raised in the Conservative manifesto, we find that, post-election, the Government intend to go ahead with the privatisation measures.
The ministerial guarantee was given on the grounds of security implications—on which I shall elaborate later—and operational considerations. The naval authorities do not want the work force to be privatised or contractorised, since it wishes to have direct control over it for the operational viability of Polaris and Trident submarines. That guarantee was given in 1989. Why does it now seem to be in jeopardy? That is the core of my case.
512 About 2,000 jobs could be in jeopardy in the constituency. That is bad enough in itself, but the security implications are the overriding concern on this occasion. As a member of the Select Committee on Defence in the previous Parliament, I am aware of the security implications. I was one of the members of that Committee who looked at privatisation measures and our sixth report in the 1989–90 Session examined the physical security of military installations in the United Kingdom. The report states:With the trend of privatisation and contractorisation the MOD's responsibility for security cannot be diluted.We were supported by the Public Accounts Committee which said that, in considering how to provide security services for departmental and service establishments, the Department's prime considerations must be the safety of the service and the people employed in it.
Our report on physical security highlighted some of the horrendous consequences of privatisation. There have been violations of security at the Clyde submarine base in the recent past. On 30 January 1989 three protesters forced their way into the base and entered the control house of HMS Repulse. No one stopped them. In October 1988 five protesters were taken into police custody for disrupting a major exercise designed to test emergency procedures in the event of a nuclear accident. In January 1986 the Ministry of Defence ordered a full inquiry into an incident in which three people dressed as Santa Claus walked on to two submarines at the base. If three people dressed like that can enter a nuclear submarine at Christmas without being stopped, sophisticated terrorists can do it without dressing up. The Leader of the House must address that issue.
The Select Committee on Defence investigation into physical security at military installations revealed some horrendous incidents. In one such incident the Ministry of Defence took on a private contractor and subsequently found that the base on which the contractor was working had been vandalised. An investigation revealed that it had been vandalised by the contractor's employees. Such are the dangers of privatisation and contracterisation without due regard to security and control.
The Select Committee on Defence said that the controller of naval security should conduct a searching investigation into all such aspects before further privatisation measures were undertaken. However, less than two years after that report I have to plead with the Leader of the House not to proceed with privatisation in the No. 1 military installation in the United Kingdom. There are lessons to be drawn form the report of the Select Committee on Defence and the incidents at the base. First, security does not come cheap. Secondly, Ministers are not always told about lapses in security and about the effect of their policies.
Mr. Hastie Smith, the under-secretary for civilian management, appeared before the Select Committee on Defence on 31 January 1990. A former right hon. Member, Sir Barney Hayhoe, asked him about reporting to Ministers and Mr. Hastie Smith said:I am trying to phrase the answer as delicately as possible. Ministers who are told by officials that their policies are not working very well are inclined to doubt the enthusiasm of the officials for the policy.That is to say, Ministers are not told because civil servants are scared to tell them that the policy is not working. A reckless policy of privatisation for the Clyde submarine base may not work, but perhaps in the light of Mr. Hastie 513 Smith's comments Ministers will not know that. The Leader of the House should communicate that information to his ministerial colleagues.
I spoke about the unions. They tell me that their members will not accept the abrogation of the exemption clause, which was freely given by ministerial directive. But that does not mean that unions have not been working alongside management. First, they have accepted and welcomed the implementation of the MOD's guard force. Secondly, they have openly said that they do not like market testing but realise that the Government have a mandate because the White Paper "Competing for Quality" and the citizens charter were put before the people in the election on 9 April.
However, the ending of the ministerial exemption on privatisation measures in the Clyde submarine base was not put before the electorate. Naval personnel and unions do not want it and it is incumbent on Ministers to heed that and not to accede to any decisions that may have been taken by civil servants.
In The Sunday Telegraph on 22 January 1989 the late Simon O'Dwyer Russell wrote about the three protesters who entered the control room of HMS Repulse. He stated:Defence ministry officials told me that the armed forces Minister, Archie Hamilton, was 'absolutely hopping bloody mad' at this particular incident.I share the Minister's sentiments, but, in addition, I am fearful of the future if privatisation proceeds and if the Government sacrifice quality and security to their obsession with what is cheapest but perhaps more dangerous.
As I said, security is not cheap. Will the Leader of the House arrange a meeting with the Minister of State so that we can look at the ministerial agreement and so that I can reassure my constituents and workers that the Government continue to consider the Clyde submarine base and the Royal Naval armament depot at Coulport to be the most sensitive security installations in the United Kingdom? I should like an assurance that security considerations will continue to be paramount in the eyes of the Ministry of Defence. In order to maintain such security, market testing must be rejected, and the Government must adhere to the line that was agreed as late as January 1989.
§ Mrs. Angela Knight (Erewash)
I add my congratulations to those that have been expressed to my hon. Friends the Members for High Peak (Mr. Hendry), for Havant (Mr. Willetts), and for Windsor and Maidenhead (Mr. Trend) on their elegant and interesting maiden speeches.
I should like to discuss a matter of considerable concern to most of my constituents. On 23 June, Her Majesty's inspector of constabulary published a report on policing in Derbyshire. It was the final report of a series and, uniquely for this country, a certificate of efficiency was not given to Derbyshire constabulary. That is in no way a reflection on that force or on the policemen and women who do an excellent job in the county. However, it is a reflection on the county council, which for some years has consistently failed to ensure that the police force was adequately funded to police the county satisfactorily.
514 While police numbers have risen elsewhere, numbers in Derbyshire have fallen and the force is now 140 below strength. The county has the worst police-to-population ratio of any force in England and Wales.
One of the conclusions of HMI's report was:The Council allowed the manpower situation to become progressively worse.That situation has been developing for some time. In debates last year, my hon. Friends the Members for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) and for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) raised some of these issues, which I know are also of great concern to my hon. Friends the Members for Derby, North (Mr. Knight), for Derby, West (Mr. McLoughlin) and for High Peak (Mr. Hendry).
Some of the recommendations in the report of 23 June make extraordinary reading. They state that the police force should be brought up to establishment level, as should civilian support.
§ Mrs. Knight
I shall give way in a moment. The report's conclusions talk about training being reinstated and more resources being directed to tackling the record increases in burglary and crime. They might be obvious recommendations, but the fact that they have to be made is an example of how the police force has had to cut vital parts of its work because of the constraints put on it by the county council.
§ Mr. Barnes
The money that the chief constable asked Derbyshire county council for is the money which has been granted by the council for improvements in provision. The Government are asking that the improvements should be made in 10 months' time and the awarding of a certificate should then be re-examined. What difference will it make to the current position? There would be only three monthly reports and then an acceptance of a certificate on the basis on which the county council is already acting.
§ Mrs. Knight
The hon. Member has been too hasty. I shall come to that matter in a moment. I am sorry that he is not supporting the other hon. Members who represent Derbyshire constituencies in trying to ensure that there is adequate policing in the county.
I deal now with the police authority. As with other county forces, the police authority is a committee of the county council. The inspector of constabulary last year informed the chairman of the police authority, who is, incidentally, a Labour county councillor, that he considered the force inadequately resourced to provide an efficient service. The county council then requested an increase in the standard spending assessment, which it got.
At the end of last year, it emerged that in recent years the Derbyshire constabulary had not been allowed to submit a budget for consideration by the police authority. No other police authority is treated in that way. In the end, the chairman of the police authority agreed that the chief constable could submit a budget in February but, long before that date, the chairman said openly that he would not allow the police force a budget that was up to SSA level—the new SSA level which the county council had asked for. However, I am glad that the police authority took a different view, and granted a budget which was up to SSA level. The county council then overturned that decision. That is an appalling case of mismanagement of the police by the county council.
515 I make three further points. First, the recommendations of the inspector of constabulary's report should be implemented to ensure effective policing for my constituents in Erewash and for the residents of Derbyshire. To do that, the Home Office must continue to put pressure on the county council as that is the only way of ensuring that it discharges its duties. Although I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary for his persistence in seeking regular progress reports, there is, sadly, no evidence whatsoever of the county council having a real determination to deal with the issue properly.
Secondly, in former metropolitan counties such as South Yorkshire, the police force is allowed to precept separately, to raise its money separately from the local authority. That means that it has greater financial independence and is not dependent on the whim of a local county council and its spending plans. The police authority is still there, but it is able to discharge its duties more effectively because its financial decisions cannot be overturned, as happened in Derbyshire. Consideration should be given to that proposal for county forces so that they are allowed to precept independently.
Thirdly, few people doubt that today's police have a tough job, as increasingly violent crimes are committed on people and property. The police have an unenviable job, because we expect them to protect us. We should do all we can to support them, but that has not happened in Derbyshire.
For those reasons, I believe that the House should not adjourn until it has discussed the matter more fully.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
I beg to move, as an amendment to the motion, to leave out '16th July' and insert 30th July'.
I am delighted to move the amendment and to provide an opportunity for the hon. Member for Erewash (Mrs. Knight) to engage in a wider debate. The three hon. Members who have today made their maiden speeches said that they were lucky to be here. We are all lucky to be here, but I suspect that they will be tumbling into the Lobby to vote for the House to rise on 16 July instead of voting for my amendment which would extend Parliament's sitting until 30 July.
Such an extension would enable my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), who has gone into the subject of the policing of Derbyshire in great detail, to deploy the arguments necessary to destroy the speech made by the hon. Member for Erewash, who criticised the county council.
§ Mr. Barnes
§ Mr. Cryer
I shall not give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East because we are so short of time.
It is not a good sign when there is consensus between the two Front Benches, as there is about the date of the Adjournment. We have a three-hour debate because there was a consensus in 1981 that the Adjournment debate should be so limited. If the same rules applied now as applied in 1980, the debate would be open-ended and everyone who has been here today, hoping to participate, would have had the opportunity to do so. However, several hon. Members have now left the Chamber because 516 they would have been unable to speak due to the three-hour time limit. I hope that they will vote for my amendment.
If the Government are short of subjects for debate, I can give them a string of subjects that we could debate in the extra fortnight between 16 July and 30 July. I shall be brief, because other hon. Members want to speak, but I shall mention two of those subjects, which are linked.
First, I hope that we have the opportunity—hence my amendment—to debate the vexed question of Menwith Hill near Harrogate where there was a demonstration last Saturday. About 150 people turned up to demonstrate against the listening base—or spy base—of the National Security Agency of the United States. I have here a copy of the New Statesman dated 16 July 1980. It contains an article headed "Phone tapping—America's big ear on Europe." The article reads as follows:'Tinkerbell'—the national phone-tap centre which the New Statesman revealed in February—is only one part of a massive exercise in spying on civil and commercial communications. A much bigger role is played by America's highly secretive National Security Agency … operating from a remarkable base at Menwith Hill, eight miles west of Harrogate in Yorkshire.Menwith Hill—unless the KGB has something even bigger —appears to be the biggest tapping centre in the world. From its heavily guarded operations room a special high-capacity cable runs underground to the Post Office microwave tower at Hunters Stones five miles away: this provides an umbilical cord link into the national telephone and telex system running through Britain. A direct tap which is placed on lines to France and elsewhere in Europe has been in operation for more than 15 years.Phone tapping is being carried out in this country by the National Security Agency of a foreign power without any authority. Indeed, the agency does not even have Home Office warrants for tapping.
It can be argued—the Government advance the argument when they choose to release a few closely guarded words about Menwith Hill—that the facility can be used to tap into potential terrorist activity or other potential illegal activity. It may be that the Government had information about the Maxwell scandal through eavesdropping in this way, but they never used it.
The demonstrators at Menwith Hill found on Saturday that the station has grown instead of being reduced at the end of the cold war. It is becoming larger. There are eight radons instead of the two that were there when Duncan Campbell's article was written. Duncan Campbell was at the spy station addressing the demonstrators, as I was, and we intend to maintain the vigil against a foreign presence that is breaking United Kingdom law by tapping into the British Telecom network. There is a cable linking Hunters Stones tower and Menwith Hill that can carry 24,000 conversations simultaneously. It does not go into Menwith Hill to serve the telephone kiosks and the telephones of the 1,000 or more people who live there. Instead, its purpose is to ensure that the station at Menwith Hill can spy.
It is part of a system of intelligence eavesdropping. It is maintained by the National Security Agency of the United States, which was carrying out illegal activities in the United States. It was revealed to have been doing so in the immediate post-war period by the United States Congress. It is acting with impunity and the Government do not exercise control. That is why we should have some time over the next fortnight to go into all the details. There are 517 not many opportunities to go into the sort of detail that is necessary and to put the facts on the Hansard record so that those outside know what is going on.
It is a scandal that the House is proposing to wrap up on 16 July when there are so many issues to be debated. It is in a lacklustre position because the Government have abandoned, thank God, the Maastricht Bill. They are short of material to put before the House, but there are many issues that need to be discussed. That is why my amendment is necessary.
Secondly, there has been a parliamentary question and a written answer about the extraordinary decision to order a fourth Trident. There should have been a statement followed by a debate. I am all for keeping people's jobs going, but surely we should investigate the lack of a diversification programme as we move from the cold war to peace. There are many things that people need and there are many in manufacturing industry who could undertake the necessary activity to meet their needs. We do not have to go to war; we do not have to spend the huge amount of money on the programme that the Government have decided to embark upon.
Why is it so difficult to obtain £30 million for the rolling stock for the electrification scheme from Leeds to Bradford, with crazy arrangements for leasing this, that and the other? The Industrial Bank of Scotland says that it cannot grant the leasing money because it is frightened of privatisation and the Toms, Dicks and Harrys are dubious organisations who will take over railway services. When it comes to mass extermination, however, by means of Trident nuclear warheads, the money is available. There is no question of going to the Industrial Bank of Scotland and asking for a leasing arrangement to reduce the public sector borrowing requirement—that is what it is all about.
How much money is involved? Greenpeace has produced a document entitled "The Rising Cost of Trident". I do not have time to go into it in great detail, but I shall refer to a few salient points. The Government's estimate is slightly more than £10 billion while Greenpeace claims that that is an underestimate by £22 billion. It states that only £52 million of a £1 billion construction programme at the atomic weapons research establishment at Aldermaston is officially attributed to Trident. Yet under the construction programme it will not be possible, unless it is completed, to produce the full complement of warheads for Trident.
If we did not go ahead with the fourth submarine, we would save £1.3 billion. According to Greenpeace, if we cancelled the entire Trident programme, we would save £16 billion. We are, of course, crying out for money for the national health service, for local authority housing and for other vital needs. Against that background we should be aware of the money that could be saved if we cancelled the Trident programme.
I am a long-standing member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and I shall not leave it. It is a principled campaign and we should sustain the argument. I say that Trident is a waste of money; it is a costly exercise in futility. That is why I want to deploy the relative arguments, but unfortunately there is not sufficient time to do so because other Members want to speak. The debate demonstrates the great need for Parliament to extend its 518 sitting by a fortnight so that we can debate important issues before we get our buckets and spades and go on holiday.
§ Mr. David Porter (Waveney)
I am sure, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you are looking forward to a break. Some press hacks have described the Session as a very boring Parliament so far, but only you and the other occupants of the Chair can judge whether that is so. I certainly shall not oppose the motion for the Adjournment of the House for the summer recess. However, if the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) had sought to bring the House back in September, he would have carried me with him.
Many of us will be looking forward to spending a little extra time with our families while we and our fellow citizens become tourists. The help that the tourist industry will receive will be concentrated in large part on rural Britain. It is on rural Britain that I ask the House to focus before we adjourn, tempting though other matters are, such as the late and unlamented treaty of Maastricht.
I put in a bid for a timed Consolidated Fund debate, which will follow this debate. I drew 27th position with a debate entitled "Quality of Life in the Rural Areas". I gather that there was some discussion between the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, neither of which thought that it should send a Minister to reply to my debate. That illustrates admirably the point that I wish to make. I want to know who is responsible for rural areas within the Government.
The traveller who fills his car with petrol may catch a whiff of country air and be under the impression that he has contracted the rural experience. The InterCity rail traveller may notice cattle in a field between housing estates and do-it-yourself stores as he travels from city to city. The name InterCity highlights a real divide, the rural-urban divide. It is what I call another divide, another country. It may not have the great appeal of the north-south divide, but it is real.
Just over five years ago, I made my maiden speech in the House. Describing my constituency, I said that support for inner-city priorities could be forthcoming from rural areas, but only up to a point. Most of my constituents live in or around Lowestoft, but more than 20,000 live in the market towns of Beccles, Bungay, Southwold and Halesworth or in the major villages and small villages. I am talking not about people who know that milk does not grow in bottles and packets but about those who make up the rural economy, those who are the rural community that so enriches our nation. Unfortunately, this community is easily forgotten. Few members of it can talk about being on the soil man and boy, but one in five people in England lives in a rural area.
Most hon. Members recognise that farmers in England have been going through a difficult period lately, but if we take any other issue—cottage hospitals, emergency services, prescriptions, village schools, housing, transport, planning, waste disposal, food-related industries, local services such as shops and pubs, the uniform business rate, the aging population or the shortage of youngsters—we find that there is a rural angle to it.
A million-member alliance of 10 national countryside organisations—as diverse as the Council for the Protection 519 of Rural England, the Country Landowners Association, the National Association of Local Councils and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations—has overcome tensions within its membership to speak with what it calls the rural voice. The members agree that it is essential to face and not conceal the tensions that often exist between different rural interests as well as the natural tensions between town and country. They seek from the Government a considered rural policy, wide in scope and as integrated as possible, which automatically considers the effects on the countryside of proposed legislation and spending programmes.
In the past, it has been suggested that there should be a House of Commons Select Committee for the rural areas. Of course, that is not feasible, but a rural audit of all policies would help a great deal. While rural residents do not expect special privileges just because they live in rural areas, they expect a recognition of the special needs and problems unique to rural areas. Their manifesto for rural England in the 1990s summarises the problems superbly and makes suggestions for overcoming them. That could form the basis for a rural audit for all Departments of Government, national and local. We already accept cost-benefit audits, a citizens' audit—which, in effect, is the citizens charter—environmental audits, which are becoming more popular, and even family audits. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider introducing a rural audit.
I had intended to raise two other points, but I am conscious of the time. I shall seek to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, at a future date.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Porter) for shortening his speech so that I can say a few words before my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) replies to the debate on behalf of the Opposition.
I checked with the Library and, going back to 1950, there is no record of the House rising as early as it will rise this year. There should be no illusion about this—it is not happening for the benefit of hon. Members on either side of the House. It is entirely due to the good people of Denmark, who made a good and correct decision in their referendum. Had it not been for that referendum result, the House would he sitting well into July and perhaps into August. There would have been a tremendous amount of arm twisting by the Government Whips to ensure that their people went into the Lobby to vote for the Maastricht treaty. When the House returns, we shall know whether Conservative Members who hold critical views on that matter will have the courage of their convictions and vote as their consciences and principles dictate.
Before I discuss the position in my area. I want to say that I fully agree with those of my hon. Friends who have said that if there is to be any further military development relating to the former Yugoslavia, the House should be recalled. I have taken note of what the Prime Minister and other Ministers have said, including what the Leader of the House has said today. If circumstances change or if the Government's policy changes, it is only right and proper that the House be recalled and its authority sought for any further military developments in that terrible civil war. I hope that that point is well taken by the Cabinet.
520 We shall be breaking for the long summer recess when there is little sign of any economic recovery in the west midlands and the black country. Far too many people in my area are unemployed. Far too many of them, having been made redundant, have not been able to find jobs. Far too many young people cannot find jobs after leaving school. I have said before, and I shall continue to say, that it is disgraceful that so many of our fellow citizens in their 40s and 50s—the same age group as many Members of Parliament—have been made redundant and day after day, week after week, month after month, try desperately to find work. It is a lie that unemployed people are work shy and do not want to work. A large majority of my unemployed constituents are only too willing to work, but they are denied that opportunity.
It was recently announced that 170 jobs would be lost at three lock factories in Willenhall and surrounding areas. Willenhall, which is in my constituency, is the home of the lock industry. Unfortunately and sadly, it is likely that during the summer recess more jobs than those that I have already mentioned will be lost in that industry locally.
Treasury Ministers and the Leader of the House may make optimistic noises, but the local chamber of commerce in my borough—I do not suppose that it has many Labour supporters—published a survey only yesterday showing little activity in the job market, with 64 per cent. of firms surveyed saying that they were not recruiting labour. All in all, it was not an optimistic survey of what is likely to happen in the borough and in the black country.
The talk of economic recovery that we heard repeatedly during the general election has come to nothing. Ministers kept saying that if the Government were returned to office there would soon be signs of recovery, but I am afraid that there are little or no such signs. Indeed, there appears to be a correlation—the more that Ministers talk of economic recovery, the more the economy takes a nose dive. If that connection is right, if Ministers started talking pessimistic-ally about the economy, there might be some small sign of recovery.
Due to the local election results on 7 May, the Tories, with Liberal support, now run my council—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Those shouts of "Hear, hear" from Conservative Members will not be echoed by the 68 gardeners employed by the council who have been given the sack. They will not be echoed by the council's direct service organisation, whose workers face redundancy because of the determination of the Tories, with Liberal support, to break up the organisation. A great deal of maintenance and repair work will go elsewhere—[Interruption.] I make no apology for saying that that is disgraceful. Tory Members can mutter, but it is indeed disgraceful to add to the unemployment in my borough and the black country, which have gone through two major recessions since the Government took office.
Now in addition to all the redundancies and job losses, the Tory council is doing its utmost to sack its employees. The Tories on the council gloat about that, which is disgraceful. I shall take every opportunity in the House and outside it to make my views known, no matter how many supporters the Tories who now control the council, with Liberal support, find on the Conservative Benches in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)
During recent years, it has often fallen to me to round up these debates. I have always tried in vain to find a general theme running through the speeches, because they are extraordinarily difficult debates to respond to. Today, I almost feel that I could say "Eureka", because a theme has run through virtually all the speeches from both sides of the House —that an enormous amount needs to be done, but little is being done by the Government. That theme was clear even in a number of speeches by Conservative Members.
I want to refer to the maiden speeches of Conservative Members. Even they unfailingly referred to the need for more Government action and often more Government expenditure. They were good speeches, and no doubt those who made them will return to the theme in future debates.
The hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) made a speech of considerable wit, but he also called for more expenditure on roads in his constituency. The hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) likewise made a witty speech, but he also called for, among other things, expenditure on the resurfacing of roads in his constituency. He was concerned about school closures and other matters that involve Government action and expenditure.
The hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Mr. Trend), in an affectionate speech about his constituency, called for a rescheduling of grants and the reallocation of local government expenditure. In particular, he wanted more Government regulation of aircraft noise.
Those were all very good maiden speeches, and I look forward to hearing those hon. Members again. It was interesting that they all asked the Government to do more and to spend more.
The speeches by Labour Members were more modest. Most did not call upon the Government to spend more money, because we all know the difficulty in approaching the Government on that matter. Instead, most called for the Government to recognise existing problems, where intervention is extremely important.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) called for a much more effective system of payment of disability benefits and a speeding up of the Government's administrative machine. I hope that the Leader of the House has noted that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner), who has had to leave, had a particularly pressing constituency problem, in which I can declare some interest, having a nearby constituency, affecting some 500 jobs and requiring referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. He urged the Leader of the House to draw that matter to the attention of his Cabinet colleagues, and I reiterate that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), again not calling for great Government expenditure but in a speech which demanded a response from the Leader of the House, requested a proper inquiry into some unpleasant-sounding activities in the operation of the health authority in his part of the country. That was a reasonable request, to which I hope the Leader of the House will respond.
My hon. Friend the Member or Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) spoke for many hon. Members. It will be interesting to see how many Conservative Members raise such themes in the months ahead if the Government 522 persist with present policies. I echo my hon. Friend's concern about the effects of privatisation on Ministry of Defence depots, again a matter on which I can speak with feeling with regard to my constituency. He made a case that needed a response.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) was particularly concerned about phone tapping and possible intrusions into privacy. That again is a matter which requires a response from the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), another nearby west midlands constituency, effectively pointed out the continuing effects of the recession.
There was a collection of requests from both sides of the House. I have mentioned only those of Conservative Members who made maiden speeches, but there were many more requests for Government intervention, Government activity and very often Government expenditure as well.
What sort of response are such requests receiving from the Government? I do not anticipate any great responses. We have not been receiving any responses in recent debates of this sort. Can it be that the Government cannot respond to such requests because they are short of money? It is difficult for Labour Members to believe that, because for six years Ministers have been lecturing us on the Conservative economic miracle.
I recommend hon. Members to start re-reading the Conservative election manifesto. I found one phrase which has particular resonance in the light of today's debate. Under the section headed "Your choice at this election", it says:We know how tough it has been for many but we are poised to move forward again, lacking only the spark of confidence with which a Conservative victory would ignite recovery.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Tory Members respond predictably. If they are waiting for ignition, my advice to them is not to hold their breath. We have seen no sign whatever of any economic ignition or recovery since the general election. There has been precious little in the constituencies that Labour Members have the honour to represent.
According to the Government's election manifesto, it cannot be a shortage of money which prevents the Government from responding to all the requests that have been made, so is it a shortage of parliamentary time? Governments are always complaining that there is no time to do all the things they want to do, so I thought that it was worth checking what sort of hours we have been sitting since we returned after the general election.
In the last year of the previous Parliament, the average daily sitting was eight hours 23 minutes. We all know—even the Government admit it privately—that the Government did not really know what to do for the last year of the previous Parliament. They were simply waiting for the general election and filling time as best they could. Since the general election, the average daily sitting has gone down to eight hours and 10 minutes. This is a Government whom one would expect and assume to be enthusiastic following the election, wanting to do all sorts of things. But there is no indication that that is the case.
We face a most bizarre political situation, which the Lobby correspondents recognise well enough and which the Government can barely recognise but which they know in private to be true. Just three months—that is all it is —after the general election, the Government are calling 523 for an early recess, the earliest that anyone can remember, as many of my hon. Friends have said, and they are having tremendous difficulty filling parliamentary time. with shorter sittings than we have been accustomed to.
The truth is that the Government have lost their way almost before they have begun. They are wondering how to fill the next four years—if they survive that long. We shall do our best at by-elections and by other means to prevent their survival. The Government must be wondering how on earth to pass the time. They have shown no evidence of any enthusiasm or vision—not that we often look to Conservatives for vision—in the three months since the general election.
What will the Government excite us with in the months that lie ahead? I am always trying to be charitable to the Government in circumstances such as this, but I looked in vain for any source of inspiration for them. It so happens that this week is the first anniversary of what the Government claim to be their bible, the citizens charter. I decided that we should monitor the citizens charter, particularly a nice little section—I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North for drawing one of the key elements in it to my attention in a timely way—entitled "A charter for job seekers". I am sure that Conservative Members carry a copy of the citizens charter around with them, but I shall remind them of that paragraph. It says:The Citizens Charter will reinforce the Employment Service's aim of giving unemployed people, and others who use its services such as employees and those changing jobs, the individual approach that they need".I want to let the Government share an insight which they seem woefully incapable of understanding. Unemployed people seek not an individual approach or a nice office in which to be told that there are no jobs, but jobs. That is clearly not understood by the Government. Since the Government published the citizens charter 12 months ago, the total number of unemployed in Britain has risen from 2,213,784 in May 1991 to 2,707,892, and that despite the charter for job seekers and the individual attention that they have all been guaranteed. That is an increase of 500,000.
We approach the summer recess with a Government who, in three short months, have managed to lose their way. They never had any vision, but now, particularly in the aftermath of Maastricht, they do not even know how to pass the time. They have no philosophy other than the hope that something will turn up, and no policies which will ensure that something does. They are deaf, as I am sure the Leader of the House will shortly demonstrate, to the pleas for more expenditure from their own Back Benchers and, I am sure, deaf also to my hon. Friends. The Government, three months on, are, unbelievably, past their sell-by date.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)
Perhaps it is an interesting illustration of my deafness, but I entirely failed to hear the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) offer the House any advice about whether to vote for the amendment. I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), and the pleasure of listening to it almost tempted me—but not quite—to advise the House to accept his amendment. I shudder to think of the response that I would receive from my hon. Friends and, 524 indeed, his hon. Friends if I gave such advice, but it struck me as notable that the hon. Member for The Wrekin refrained from doing so. My only other thought about his speech was that he appeared to be complaining about what amounted to the advance implementation of the. Jopling report—I think that he referred to shorter hours and longer holidays—on which I was pressed to make progress by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) earlier today.
As ever, the debate has been interesting. This is the second occasion on which I have had the privilege of being asked to wind it up. We heard three elegant and attractive maiden speeches from Conservative Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Mr. Trend) took us on what he described as a cruise around the riparian delights of the Thames. Given some of what has been written about our rivers in recent weeks when we have been short of rain, I was pleased to hear that the Thames was still flowing through my hon. Friend's constituency. He paid charming tributes to his predecessors, whom we remember well—Dr. Alan Glyn and, before him, Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe. I had not realised that Sir Christopher Wren was another of my hon. Friend's predecessors, albeit rather briefly.
My hon. Friend's speech was remarkable in two respects. First, he almost tempted a Government Whip to break his normal vow of silence. My hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay)—who is, I believe, my hon. Friend's neighbour—was making distinct murmuring noises of approval in response to some of his remarks about aircraft noise; indeed, he is doing the same now. Secondly, by mentioning a number of issues on which he had been lobbied by his constituents, my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead managed to perform the equivalent of signing about 25 early-day motions in 30 seconds. I am sure that he will be duly noticed as a result.
I was greatly struck by the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts), whose path has crossed mine many times. He, too, made a charming and attractive speech—an appropriate maiden speech. I can only say that my hon. Friend can hardly cause me more difficulty in the House than he occasionally caused me outside it. He was a frequent and thoughtful writer on social security matters, but I was not always able to respond to each and every one of his thoughts, and we had our differences of opinion. I well remember appointing him to the Social Security Advisory Committee, from which—unhappily—he has had to resign, but to which he made a distinguished contribution. He paid tribute to his predecessor, Sir Ian Lloyd: I am certain that Sir Ian would have been fighting for a place on the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which we are about to establish, and that he would have made an important contribution.
I do not know what to say about my hon.Friend's reference to the works of P. G. Wodehouse. My knowledge of the novels is not as extensive as it might be, although I remember reading a number of them in my youth. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend that I do not see him as the Jeeves of the House.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry), I remember his predecessor, Chris Hawkins—another man with plenty of ideas, who nobbled me with a new one almost every time I passed through the Tea Room, and who made a lively contribution to all our proceedings. As my hon. Friend says, he and I had the 525 pleasure of working together closely when he was my special adviser, both at the Department of Trade and Industry and later at the Department of Social Security.
I endorse all that my hon. Friend said about the beauties of his constituency, although I had better not endorse his claim that it is the most beautiful in the country. That would upset every other hon. Member—which I do not wish to do—and might even upset some of my constituents, because my constituency contains some pretty nice areas too. I can support what he said about the attractions of his constituency, however, having had the advantage of staying with him after the Conservative party conference the year before last, visiting the Buxton opera house with him and seeing the beauties of the Georgian crescent to which he referred. I shall draw his remarks to the attention of the Ministers whom they concern.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) made a number of comments about disability benefits and the legislation on disabled people's rights that he feels should be enacted. Some of what he said about disability benefits sits rather ill with the criticisms that he advanced when we introduced those benefits, claiming that few people would benefit and that they would gain very little.
We always expected that a major effort would be required to introduce disability living allowance, but there was an even larger surge of claims than we had anticipated. My hon. Friends do not consider the position acceptable, and—as I believe the right hon. Gentleman knows—they are taking firm action to try to accelerate the handling of cases. Nearly 400 extra staff have been added to the 2,000 already employed in disability living allowance and attendance allowance work, and I hope that that will contribute to the improvement that both the right hon. Gentleman and I want. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will understand if I rattle on, because I have only three minutes left.
The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) courteously informed me before making his speech that he would seek to raise the question of the Victoria Works Engineering Services pension scheme. He may know that, when I was Secretary of State for Social Security, I met some representatives of the scheme—along with his predecessor, who is now Governor of Hong Kong. The Government are well aware of the problems faced by the 73 pensioners to whom he referred, and, as the hon. Gentleman may know, officials are already in touch with the scheme's trustees to see what can be done to help. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security will pay close attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant) made a number of points about car crime, and spoke of Minister's efforts to persuade motor manufacturers to improve the security of vehicles. My hon. Friend is entirely right in thinking that my right hon. and hon. Friends continue to press the matter. The motor manufacturers have undoubtedly made good progress in some respects, but more action is needed, and the effort to introduce greater vehicle security will certainly continue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) referred to the problem of ticket 526 touting. As he knows, we have an outstanding commitment to legislate on ticket touting in respect of football matches when parliamentary time allows. I am afraid that I cannot predict exactly when that will be.
Let me tell the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner)—who, I understand, has had to leave—that the takeover that caused him concern is now being considered by the Director General of Fair Trading. He will be aware that it would be inappropriate for me to comment further. As for the speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), I think that I would be wise not to enter into the details of the case that he raised.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 32, Noes 157.527
|Division No. 60]||[7.08 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||McFall, John|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Ainger, Nick||Madden, Max|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Meale, Alan|
|Barnes, Harry||Morley, Elliot|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Raynsford, Nick|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Reid, Dr John|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||Tyler, Paul|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Wareing, Robert N|
|Flynn, Paul||Welsh, Andrew|
|Foster, Donald (Bath)||Winnick, David|
|Gerrard, Neil||Wise. Audrey|
|Harvey, Nick||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Hoyle. Doug||Mr. Bob Cryer and|
|Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)||Mr. Dennis Skinner.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Duncan, Alan|
|Amess, David||Duncan-Smith, Iain|
|Arbuthnot, James||Elletson, Harold|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Evans, Roger (Monmouth)|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Faber, David|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Fabricant, Michael|
|Baldry, Tony||Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas|
|Bates, Michael||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Bellingham, Henry||Forman, Nigel|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)|
|Booth, Hartley||Freeman, Roger|
|Boswell, Tim||French, Douglas|
|Bottomley. Peter (Eltham)||Fry, Peter|
|Bowis, John||Gallie. Phil|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Gill, Christopher|
|Brazier, Julian||Gillan, Ms Cheryl|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Gorst, John|
|Burns, Simon||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)|
|Burt, Alistair||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Butler, Peter||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)||Hawkins, Nicholas|
|Cash, William||Heald, Oliver|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Chaplin, Mrs Judith||Hendry, Charles|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Home Robertson, John|
|Coe, Sebastian||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Congdon, David||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Jack, Michael|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jessel, Toby|
|Couchman, James||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)|
|Dixon, Don||Jones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Shersby, Michael|
|Kynoch, George (Kincardine)||Sims, Roger|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Speed, Sir Keith|
|Lawrence, Sir Ivan||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Legg, Barry||Sproat, Iain|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Lidington, David||Steen, Anthony|
|Lightbown, David||Stephen, Michael|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Stewart, Allan|
|Luff, Peter||Streeter, Gary|
|MacKay, Andrew||Sweeney, Walter|
|Maitland, Lady Olga||Sykes, John|
|Malone, Gerald||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Mans, Keith||Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Str'gf'd)|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Taylor, John M. (Solihull)|
|Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Thomason, Roy|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Merchant, Piers||Trend, Michael|
|Milligan, Stephen||Trotter, Neville|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Moate, Roger||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Wallace, James|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Watts, John|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Page, Richard||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Paice, James||Willetts, David|
|Patnick, Irvine||Wilshire, David|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Rathbone, Tim||Wood, Timothy|
|Richards, Rod||Yeo, Tim|
|Riddick, Graham||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|Robinson, Mark (Somerton)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Mr. Sydney Chapman and|
|Ryder, Rt Hon Richard||Mr. Robert G. Hughes.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ That this House, at its rising on Thursday 16th July, do adjourn until Monday 19th October.