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Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon) : I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this debate. I have an interest in this matter. The New Zealand dairy products that are imported are processed and prepared for sale at the Anchor Foods factory in Swindon. Some £25 million has been invested in a modern factory, providing excellent working conditions and employing 400 of my constituents. A substantial number of those jobs are for unskilled workers, and, as elsewhere, there is a diminishing number of such jobs in Swindon. There can be little doubt that a reduction of nearly 20,000 tonnes of New Zealand butter during the next four years would mean redundancies among those of my constituents who work for the Anchor Foods company. The loss of £40 million in turnover a year could not easily be replaced by diversification.
Of course, as has been said several times, this is not the final decision of the Community ; it is a proposal. Will the Minister give an undertaking that the Government will support this proposal to the full, without the possible consideration of any further concession? If my right hon. Friend is unable to give that commitment or unable to deliver in the negotiations, the viability of the factory in
Column 838my constituency will be at risk, 400 jobs will be on the line, and to what purpose? It has already been said many times tonight that nothing that happens as a result of the negotiations on New Zealand butter will affect the British farmer one iota. If the total imports of New Zealand butter were distributed throughout the Community, it would give each of our farmers only a couple of extra pints a year. The housewife has already been mentioned. We should consider what the consumer wants. A survey of more than 1,000 housewives who buy butter was conducted in March and April. It revealed that 84 per cent. of all respondents thought that New Zealand should be able to continue to sell butter in Britain ; 9 per cent. disagreed ; and 7 per cent. did not know. It revealed that 79 per cent. of all respondents thought the people of Britain should be allowed to buy as much Anchor butter as they want and 54 per cent. of that total expressed their favourable feelings strongly. Do my right hon. and hon. Friends believe in free trade? Do they believe in the consumer's right of free choice in our markets? The survey continued : "84 per cent. of all respondents said yes, they did think the British Government should continue to make sure people can buy New Zealand butter in Britain, while 7 per cent. said no and 10 per cent. did not know. Of those 84 per cent., 94 per cent. agreed that the British Government should insist that the Common Market continues to allow people to buy New Zealand butter in Britain. Of those, 30 per cent. expressed their agreement extremely strongly, 31 per cent. very strongly and 30 per cent. fairly strongly."
Is my right hon. Friend the housewife's friend? Will he stick out for the interests of our consumers?
The reduction in the New Zealand butter quota would not increase United Kingdom milk quotas one jot. When the national production levels were originally calculated and the quotas were set, they took no account of New Zealand butter. It is worth repeating what my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) told the Select Committee on Agriculture on 24 February 1987 :
"there is no question that if we did not have the New Zealand butter our quota would in some way be larger ; in fact it would not affect the production of farmers, because even if the whole of the New Zealand production was taken over by British butter, all it would mean would be that it would have to come out of our present quota." One cannot say plainer than that, and my right hon. Friend has repeated that message tonight. Those who believe that that is not the case should read this debate in Hansard and appreciate that crucial point.
The only cut in New Zealand dairy imports that could be justified is that which reflects the national, overall reduction in our consumption of butter. When I intervened in my right hon. Friend's speech, he said that, in the past three years, butter consumption had dropped between 5 and 7.5 per cent. We are being asked to contemplate a reduction, however, of more than 25 per cent. in the New Zealand butter import quota for the next four years. I do not believe that those figures are in phase. What we are being asked to agree tonight is in excess of what equity demands, let alone what our consumers require.
The Government should be prepared to return to the table in Brussels and argue for a better deal for New Zealand butter than that contained in the present proposal. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take note of my objections on behalf of my constituents.
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Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton) : This is a sad episode in a long and sorry story. Once again representatives of our Government--one devoted to principles of free trade abroad and non-intervention at home--have put before the House documents that do violence to both. That is a great shame. Earlier, it was pointed out that when we joined the Community in 1973, we entered into a compact on behalf of New Zealand whereby it would be limited in the amount of butter that it could send to Britain. However, in the Dublin declaration annexed to the protocol we agreed that the Community would not deprive New Zealand of essential outlets.
It may be thought ironic--or not, as the case may be--that that provision was contained in a Dublin declaration. During Question Time yesterday the Prime Minister said in respect of other Dublin declarations :
"although the Government of the Republic of Ireland make fine-sounding speeches and statements, they do not always seem to be backed up by the appropriate deeds."--[ Official Report, 29 November 1988 ; Vol. 142, c. 575.]
That accusation can also be made of the Community.
In 1973 we imported about 165,000 tonnes of New Zealand butter. Today the figure is less than half that. Earlier, my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who seems to be limiting his access to the Chamber--placing himself, unusually, under a voluntary restraint agreement- -asked how one could justify continuing New Zealand butter imports. They can be justified because no one is forced to buy New Zealand butter, and imports and sales are determined by consumers. If people did not buy New Zealand butter, not one ounce of it would be imported into this country. New Zealand butter's price is competitive, notwithstanding--and no one has pointed this out--the fact that it attracts a 25 per cent. tariff. Since 1970 New Zealand's market share has fallen from 33 to 27 per cent. I obtained that figure from a written answer to a question put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett), who asked earlier what the figure was. I know that my hon. Friend is a very busy chap and he may not have noticed that answer to his question.
The reduction in New Zealand butter imports over recent years is significant. I was surprised to hear one of my hon. Friends, who is keen that we should import coal into the United Kingdom from other countries to make our own industry more efficient, take a different line in respect of butter. In much the same way Opposition Members are not keen to see coal imports, but are keen to encourage butter imports. I am sure that that has nothing to do with the demographic and occupational make-up of their constituencies. However, as a representative of some of the finest dairying country in Britain, I can tell the House with complete consistency that, as a believer in free trade, I am convinced New Zealand should continue to enjoy the freest possible access to our markets.
I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who, in an otherwise lucid and realistic speech, remarked that the proposed cuts were not draconian, when they are the largest cuts yet advanced in relation to New Zealand's market, amounting to 25 per cent. over the four-year period, with a cut of 10,000 tonnes this year alone. Notwithstanding the fact that the levy will be reduced from 25 to 15 per cent. that will not compensate New Zealand for its losses on access, which will lead to an
Column 840overall fall in income of 16 per cent. It has been pointed out that the levy will lead to no compensating or countervailing benefit for British farmers.
Butter consumption is falling, and no doubt it will continue doing so. One reason is that consumers are having to pay many times more for butter than they would in a free market. In 1973, butter prices were the same as margarine. Today, butter is two and a half times more expensive. The reason is the protection racket that is the common agricultural policy. Farmers have done tremendous damage to their own interests by the vigour with which they have supported agricultural protection.
That has dawned on farmers in New Zealand. The New Zealand farmers union makes it clear that farmers there are not rattling the begging bowls as they are in this country. They are firmly committed to the principles of free trade, because they know that if they endorse protectionist policies other countries will do the same and agricultural markets will become organised as they are in the Community, to everyone's cost--consumers, taxpayers and producers alike.
As has been said many times this evening, the Community has not kept faith with New Zealand. Community dumping has disrupted New Zealand's markets all over the world, and, although we have reduced the accumulated surpluses that have so exacerbated the problem, there is still no guarantee that in the future the Community will not seek to invade the markets which it agreed in 1973 would be left to New Zealand.
The linking of the reduction in butter imports with the restraints on lamb imports does fundamental violence to our principles of free trade, not only in this country, but in the Community and the wider world, under the GATT negotiations. We agreed in the Uruguay round that we would not seek to increase protectionist barriers against third countries, yet that is precisely what we are seeking to do in the extension of voluntary restraint agreements on lamb. Under the GATT treaties, New Zealand should be able to export unlimited quantities of lamb to the Community at a tariff of 20 per cent., but that was limited by a voluntary restraint agreement in 1980--the kind of "voluntary agreement" that is reached when someone points a gun at a man's head and asks him to hand over his wallet--to 245,000 tonnes at a tariff of 10 per cent. It is now proposed to reduce that to 205, 000 tonnes, with further limits on chilled products.
I cannot understand how we can hold our heads high in the world while saying that we favour the reduction of trade barriers and then bring proposals such as this to the House. I appreciate the realism of the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon. I accept that the proposal is probably the best that we shall get. I am not trying to justify it ; I am merely being realistic. It is vital that we advertise to people, not only in this country, but elsewhere in the Community, that this is where the buck stops, that the New Zealand Government have reluctantly accepted that this is the best deal that they will get, and look to our Ministers to fight for them as they have in the past and as they have recently declared they will continue to do.
I urge my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to do just that--to stand up for New Zealand, for Britain and for British consumers.
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Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale) : I shall keep my remarks very brief, as the hour is late. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) made an excellent speech, and I hope one day to emulate his knowledge of these matters.
The debate has been interesting, and I have found it most informative. As my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) pointed out, we receive many briefs on these important issues, not least from our own Whips Office, and they help us to form a sensible judgment on what we should do. One element, however, has been lacking in the debate. We have concentrated entirely on circumstances relating to a particular Commission proposal. I should like my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us how he envisages the position in 1992. If, as my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon suggested, this is the best that we can expect, that will still leave 55,000 tonnes in 1992, when the single European market comes into being.
I take my right hon. Friend's point that any further reduction in New Zealand butter imports would not affect our dairy farmers' quota now. However, the quota arrangement is not permanent but temporary. By about 1992 the quota regime will have to be reconsidered. The House has shown tonight that it is committed to the moral obligation that was entered into in 1973 to allow access to New Zealand imports, but it is fair to place on record the fact that some hon. Members are equally concerned--in some cases more concerned--about farming interests in our own constituencies. Young dairy farmers, looking to the future, are asking, "What future is there for us in dairy farming, taking into account the present balance in the market place?" We must take their views into account.
I think that the House ought to accept the Commission's proposals, but we shall have to return to the problem. The conflicts that are emerging will have to be addressed. When the single market is in place, I believe that the other member states will resist the import of any New Zealand butter. Our farmers will then ask why all the New Zealand butter has to come to this country.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood) : My right hon. Friend the Minister has referred to the special regard that the United Kingdom has for New Zealand. He also pointed out that the treaty of Rome reflects that fact. The proposals that we are discussing are a further reflection of that relationship. The largest ANZAC ceremony outside Australasia is held every year on Cannock Chase. Therefore, the Cannock area has a special regard for New Zealand.
I am somewhat sceptical about the EEC. Its attitude towards New Zealand butter is most depressing. I have not participated in previous debates on EEC documents. The document that relates to this debate runs to about 60 pages. It is full of information and figures, and it has made most interesting reading. A most interesting fact is that the document contains scarcely any reference to the consumer. It is an entirely producer- dominated and orientated document. The omission of the consumer from the document confirms that the common agricultural policy has established completely wrong priorities.
Column 842Many hon. Members have referred to the arrangements that have been entered into to reduce the amount of New Zealand butter that is permitted to enter the United Kingdom. Imports have been reduced from 166,000 tonnes to 74,500 tonnes during last year. The New Zealand share of the market has not remained static : its share has fallen from 33 per cent. to 27 per cent. It has already suffered a cut. Tonight, New Zealand is being asked to take a further cut and to shoulder a further share of the burden.
Apart from having to accept quota restrictions, New Zealand has also had to pay the levy and compete against home-produced and EEC products. Notwithstanding those hurdles and the falling demand for butter, New Zealand managed to ensure that in 1987 the retail sale price of new Zealand butter in small packs was about 4.4 per cent. less than the price of equivalent United Kingdom butter.
Anchor butter remains the houswife's favourite butter. It has always been and it remains my favourite butter. When I was at school I took it home to Germany where I lived to ensure that I did not have to eat German butter. I have been consistent throughout.
Despite high butter stocks in the United Kingdom, the consumer is clearly exercising his or her choice and preference for New Zealand butter. I am distressed that the Commission is proposing yet more reductions in New Zealand butter quotas. By 1992, they will have fallen to 55,000 tonnes, which is precisely one third of the 1973 quota. The House has to consider how far the Commission may press us in the future. Presumably, it wants ultimately to reduce the figure to zero.
I believe that the interests of the consumer in this matter are paramount, but there are other considerations such as historical association and the fact that New Zealand has tried, with great success, to restructure and liberalise its enonomy. Moreover, we earn more money from our trade with New Zealand than it earns from us. I hope that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will take heart from the message given by the House that they should go out and fight for the interests of the British consumer and our friends and allies in New Zealand.
Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : This has been one of the most realistic and agreeable debates on EEC affairs for many months, probably because of the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body). I want to speak for only one minute.
I hope that the Government will accept that what they are proposing is a reduction in consumer choice. The House should face that fact. The Government may take the view that the proposed reduction of one quarter is consistent with what they think will be the reduction in butter consumption, but nobody can argue that butter consumption will decrease by one quarter during the next five years.
I hope that the most recent activity of the European Commission--it banned imported apples so that housewives had less choice--will get across to the Government the fact that we must ensure that the housewife can buy what she wants, not just what the Common Market has in surplus.
Column 843Bearing in mind New Zealand's problems, is there anything that we can do about butter dumping? There is talk of what might happen next year, but we know that dumping has been extraordinarily high during the past 12 months--to the extent of butter being dumped at 2.72p per pound, which is outrageous. Can the Government persuade the Council to ensure that housewives can buy what they want and that dumping is reduced?
Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly) : The Minister will take away tonight the united view of the House of Commons. All who have spoken have been supportive of New Zealand. I have found the debate instructive and constructive, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will draw strength from it. When he negotiates in Europe, I hope that he will remember the message that my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) delivered : that he should fight the case for New Zealand. I am sure that he will have the good will and support of the House when he does that.
I am glad that all hon. Members who have been rising in their places have been called. The case was put admirably by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body), who brings a distinctive view to these matters. He was supported with great authority by the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). If he were present, I would take issue with my hon. Friend as he made a passing reference to the Minister's predecessor but one. He did the Minister a disservice when he compared him unfavourably with the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker). In previous debates, we have all omitted to observe that, 12 months before milk quotas were introduced, the right hon. Gentleman was stamping round the country telling farmers to produce. If I were offered a choice between the present Minister and the right hon. Member for Worcester, I would settle for them both remaining in their present jobs.
The hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) did the House a service by drawing attention to the fact that the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) had not bothered to read the answer to his parliamentary question, tabled earlier this year. I should like to correct the hon. Member for Tatton, as 26 per cent., not 27 per cent., of the United Kingdom butter market is taken by New Zealand imports. That is the 1987 figure, not the rather dated one that the hon. Gentleman used. I am sure that he will update his records and use the former figure in future.
The hon. Member for Tatton did New Zealand a disservice when he mentioned our opposition to imported coal. Our opposition is not to imported coal per se, but to imported coal that is produced under slave labour conditions in South Africa. To attempt to draw a comparison--as the hon. Gentleman did-- between the dairy industry in New Zealand and the coal mining industry operating under slave labour conditions in South Africa does a grave disservice to the people of New Zealand, who are our historic friends and allies. The case tonight has been overwhelming. Imports of New Zealand butter provide consumer choice. It is a wholesome product, and is sold at a competitive price. It is part of a trade relationship that is best described by a statement by the New Zealand high commissioner earlier this year :
Column 844"The visible and invisible trade in each direction is now worth nearly £1 billion a year--though Britain still earns rather more from New Zealand than New Zealand does from Britain. The remitted profits of British investment in New Zealand alone exceed the receipts from New Zealand's dairy export to Britain."
The Labour party supports our historic and traditional relationship with New Zealand. In the light of arguments such as the one that I have just quoted, I fail to see how a Conservative House of Commons can do other than support these proposals.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Donald Thompson) : The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) started, as he ended, by saying that the House supported these proposals. Brevity will mean no discourtesy, as I have only four minutes in which to reply to the debate. So that the record need not be changed, let me correct my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs), who quoted figures per year, giving a total of 23 per cent., not in toto. That is just to keep that part of the record straight. Those who read Hansard will understand that.
I must start by reminding the House that this agreement must find unanimity in Brussels--and it will be a difficult unanimity to find. My right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) will not mind my saying that he is an old hand at this game. He highlighted the difficulties of France and Ireland. I repeat that unanimity will be difficult to find. I should like to start where my right hon. Friend ended by saying that the Government believe that the Commission's proposals represent a reasonable balance between the many interests involved.
The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) made the point, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body), that it is not the Government who buy butter. It is the housewife who does that. The hon. Member for South Shields fully supported advertising, which is unusual for the Opposition. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston, the hon. Gentleman spoke about the value of generic advertising. He also emphasised that the Labour party wanted to fight for the New Zealanders. The hon. Member for Caerphilly also made that point.
In his delightful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston pointed out the difficulties that New Zealanders have faced in finding other markets. However, despite those difficulties--I do not quarrel at this late hour with his specific examples--they have found other markets. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon will discover that Anchor butter will find other markets, that New Zealanders will continue to find markets abroad to meet their requirements and that they will continue to sell their butter here. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) was not fair to my right hon. Friend the Minister.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) should read the excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), because it encapsulated many things that needed to be said. My hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) was gracious enough to mention that speech. I assure him that the matter will be renegotiated and that we will again discuss the matter in the House. He spoke
Column 845specifically about 1992. The Community decision on the future level of New Zealand imports took into account a wide range of often conflicting factors.
It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business), to put the Questions necessary to dispose of the proceedings.
Question , That the amendment be made put and negatived. Main Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 8961/88 on New Zealand butter and of the Government's intention to pursue agreement to these proposals which meet the aim of establishing arrangements for the continued access of New Zealand butter on special terms for the period 1989 -92 in a way which represents a reasonable balance between the interests of those involved.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : It has been a long night, but I have been very willing to stay here until nearly 1 o'clock to present this petition on behalf of 2,000 people, many of them my constituents, to preserve the Settle-Carlisle railway as part of the national network.
As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Transport Users Consultative Committee is sending reports to the Minister, and British Rail has produced new figures to show that revenue on passenger traffic on the line has increased from £1 million to £1.7 million. Examination of the Ribblehead viaduct has demonstrated that the repair costs will be halved from the £5 million that British Rail claimed. The course is set fair for the retention of this beautiful railway which is useful not only for scenic visits by tourists but also as an important lifeline for people who live in the area.
I hope that, when the Minister sees on the Order Paper the 29 petitions with more than 80,000 signatures that were presented this week, he will recognise the strength of opinion about keeping this excellent lifeline, link, main-line route and beautiful engineering achievement as part of the national network. It gives me great pleasure to read the petition. It says :
To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.
The Humble petition of the supporters of the Settle to Carlisle railway sheweth that the outstandingly beautiful and historic Settle-Carlisle railway provides an essential transport system for the people who live in the area ; for people wishing to visit the area ; for people travelling between the Midlands, Yorkshire and Scotland ; for British Rail as a diversionary route ; for British Rail to use as a potentially important freight route ; and for hundreds of thousands of people who wish to enjoy the scenery near the line and the engineering heritage of the line itself. Wherefore your petitioners pray that the Settle-Carlisle railway and the associated Blackburn-Hellifield railway, will be retained as an integral part of the national railway network.
And so say all of us.
To lie upon the Table.
Sir Richard Body (Holland with Boston) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I have your guidance? I too came with a petition in the same terms as that presented by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). I took the liberty of putting it in the bag to make sure that it reached the appropriate place as speedily as possible. I hope that I am in order when I say that I wholeheartedly support the petition and the hundreds of people who have signed it.
Mr. Andy Stewart (Sherwood) : I wish to present a petition in the name of Mr. Robin Stewart Smith, 3 St Mary's drive, Edwinstowe and 1, 000 other signatories in support of the retention of the Settle-Carlisle railway line.
The history of Sherwood forest is legendary, and my constituents share the views of the local people and others nationwide who want to protect this line for future generations. Like the petitioners, I hope that the railway line can be saved, and will join Sherwood forest as part of our famous heritage.
To lie upon the Table.
Council House Sales (Torbay)
Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro) : I wish to present a petition signed by more than half the council tenants of Torbay council--2,634 people--who are horrified by the undemocratic decision of the councillors to sell off their homes, despite an overwhelming vote against such a move by the tenants. The tenants point out :
"after a vote of all Council tenants monitored by the Electoral Reform Society and where a majority of three to one tenants elected against the sale of their houses to a private landlord, the Torbay Borough Council chose to ignore that majority by inclusion of abstentions and non-voters as signifying acceptance."
This petition is signed by more than half the tenants because they want the House to be aware of the wishes of the majority. The petition ends :
Wherefore your petitioners pray that your honourable House ask the Secretary of State for the Environment to (1) accept the straight majority vote, as is traditional in this land, and (2) maintain the Council's Housing Stock in the hands of the Torbay Borough Council as is the wish of the majority of tenants.
To lie upon the Table.
Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro) : I present a second petition, which is signed by 2,771 people, who are horrified by the plans to sell off or close the Settle to Carlisle railway. The petitioners and I believe that this outstandingly beautiful and historic line provides an essential local transport link for the people who live there and for the people who are visiting the area. The livelihoods of some people depend upon it, and it is an essential and under-developed part of this nation's rail network. The finances are increasingly showing the viability of this railway line. The petition ends :
Column 847Wherefore your Petitioners pray that the Settle-Carlisle railway, and the associated Blackburn-Hellifield railway, will be retained as an integral part of the national railway network.
To lie upon the Table.
Mr. Garry Waller (Keighley) : I wish to present a petition on behalf of 4,000 people living in or near the Keighley constituency, which calls for the retention of the Settle-Carlisle railway. The signatories of the petition, with whom I strongly identify, believe that it is vital that the line should be retained for generations to come. I am proud to be a vice- president of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line Association. Whether the future of the railway lies in the private or the public sector, we would not easily be forgiven if we allowed the commission of that act of vandalism that closure would constitute. The petition ends :
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that the Settle-Carlisle railway, and the associated Blackburn-Hellifield railway, will be retained as an integral part of the railway network.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
To lie upon the Table.
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe) : I have two petitions to present. The first has over 1,000 signatures of supporters of the Settle -Carlisle railway. The fact that so many people in my constituency have signed the petition shows how important this railway is as part of a national rail network. These petitioners are calling for the Settle- Carlisle line to remain part of the network. It is a particularly beautiful railway, and is used and admired by many people from all parts of the country. It is because of
Column 848that that many people want to see that line remain as a functioning part of the rail network, and of our public transport system. To lie upon the Table.
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe) : The second petition I wish to present is from the children of the Rochdale road junior school, and has over 150 names. They have signed a petition to show their concern about the fate of the seals in the North sea. It is a matter of great pride to me that the children of a school should show so much concern, and such organisation to send in this petition, signed by them and the staff of the school. The petition is a great credit to the children, and it is creditable that they have this concern about the environment, and that they know how to organise themselves and express themselves to the House, which has the ultimate power to do something about the matter.
The petition states :
To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom and Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the children of Rochdale Road Junior School, Scunthorpe in the constituency of Glanford and Scunthorpe, showeth that they are greatly concerned about the virus that has been decimating the seal population of the North Sea, particularly along the coast of the United Kingdom.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House will urge the government to do all in its power to support research and provide resources to combat this virus and protect the seals. And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray &c. To lie upon the Table.