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Casualty Units (London)

Q3. Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to pay an official visit to a London NHS hospital to discuss the operation of casualty units. [19193]

The Prime Minister: We have made an extensive investment in recent years in London's accident and emergency services as part of a £400 million capital investment to provide the highest-quality and up-to-date facilities. I hope to have the opportunity to see some of them before too long.

Mr. Corbyn: When the Prime Minister finally gets around to visiting a casualty unit in a London hospital, what answer will he give to staff who have seen one in seven of all the acute beds in London lost, 12 of the 46 casualty units closed, huge waiting lists, people waiting on trolleys, loss of morale among staff and the recent resignation of the consultant in charge of the casualty unit at Queen Mary's University hospital, Roehampton, who left because he could no longer run it within the budget provided and did not feel that he was giving people a decent service? Is that not the reason why nobody trusts him and his Government on the future of the national health service and will accordingly vote him out?

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The Prime Minister: I think that the first advice that I would give them is not to vote Labour, because they are getting more money from this Government than they would from any putative Labour Government. I would tell them that the number of consultants in A and E departments has risen dramatically by 40 per cent. I would tell them that the number of nurses appointed had risen by 21 per cent. I would tell them that more patients are being treated. I would tell them that the hon. Gentleman is living proof that old Labour lives, because, while the Labour Front Benchers are saying that they will not raise taxes, he is saying:

including the hon. Gentleman--

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    "have been talking about is the need to raise taxation for the above average income people in order to pay for the rest. I see a moral justification for that and I think it is the right thing to do."

That may be what he tells the consultants, but it is not what the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) tells the consultants.


Road Traffic Speed Limit Reduction

Mr. Chris Davies presented a Bill to amend section 81 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 so as to impose a speed limit of 20 miles per hour in built-up areas: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed [Bill 141].

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Points of Order

3.31 pm

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I hope that you will ask the Secretary of State for Transport to come here this afternoon to make an urgent statement about the allegation that Great Eastern Railways administration ordered 20 train drivers to drive over the body of a young woman on the railway track. I hope that the report of that barbarism is not correct, but it should be discussed by the House of Commons.

Madam Speaker: I had not heard of that incident, but I am not aware of a Minister coming to make a statement on such an issue today.

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will be aware that on 27 February I requested under Standing Order No. 20 an early debate on the future of the Building Research Establishment. On 27 February, 6 March and again on 13 March--on three successive occasions at business questions--my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) repeated that request. You will be aware that, despite the Leader of the House agreeing to draw the matter to the attention of relevant Ministers, no such debate has taken place and no effort has been made by Ministers to give this House the opportunity to discuss the many crucial issues that arise from the proposed privatisation.

Yesterday, the Minister for Construction, Planning and Energy Efficiency, in answer to a written question from the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), announced that his Department had entered into a contract to sell the Building Research Establishment. Is that not a flagrant abuse of ministerial power? Does it not demonstrate a deplorable failure to allow the House a proper opportunity to consider the matter before contracts are entered into? Would it not be right to require the Minister for Construction, Planning and Energy

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Efficiency to come to the House, make a statement and account for his actions in a matter that the House has had no opportunity to consider and debate?

Madam Speaker: As the hon. Gentleman and the House are aware, I have no authority to require a Minister to come here to make a statement at any time. Those sitting on the Treasury Bench will have heard the hon. Gentleman's remarks and the build-up to his point of order. No doubt they will take note of them.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will know that there is a digital terrestrial broadcasting application before the Independent Television Commission. One of the applicants is Mr. Murdoch. I ask for your ruling, Madam Speaker. We know of a private fund that was used to fund the Leader of the Opposition's office, although we have yet to discover who was providing that money. We also know that the Leader of the Opposition went to Australia to see Mr. Murdoch. I wonder whether that type of thing is proper, as we now know that The Sun newspaper--which is owned by Mr. Murdoch--has for some reason best known to itself decided to back the Leader of the Opposition. Do we know whether a deal has been done?

Madam Speaker: That was rather ingenious, but it was a long way from a point of order.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Transport Select Committee was due to meet tomorrow to interrogate South West Trains--the failed southern franchise. That meeting has now been aborted, without a decision by the Committee. Although we have not had a full business statement, I think that we should be entitled to the protection of the Chair and the House in ensuring that a hearing which is very important to people in 100 southern constituencies is not aborted for political reasons--to minimise the Tory party's acute embarrassment on rail privatisation.

Madam Speaker: As the hon. Gentleman is fully aware, that is not a matter for the Speaker; it is entirely at the discretion of the Chairman of the Select Committee.

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House Numbering and Home Delivery

3.35 pm

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South): I beg to move,

Not so long ago, I found myself in a street in Merseyside. The road name-plate had been removed by some helpful person, and eight out of the 10 houses in that road had no number visible on any part of the property. The two numbers that were on display--numbers one and eight--were in a cul-de-sac, and the numbers could therefore have been displayed either consecutively or as odds and evens. In the coming weeks, thousands of people delivering millions of items will be able to savour the frustrations that postmen suffer daily. They will learn about the amazing ability of Englishmen in their castles, Scots in their keeps and Welshmen in their valleys to conceal from the outside world exactly where they live.

Personally, I love the individuality and eccentricity of the British character and the humour of calling the canal-side cottage "Riversley house" or the upstairs maisonette "Homlea", "Dunrovin" or even "Dun Inn". I like the ancient names of Rookery Nook, Falcons Crest, Hatters End and Mon Repos. In my constituency, there are names such as Corail de Neige, Shiehallion, Ryedale and Far End cottage. I live next to a house called Stingamires, and, in a street in Stockton-on-Tees, I have seen "Hers n Mine". However, I think that the best name is one in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes), in Burneston road, called "This'll Do".

Some houses have a name as well as a number, but some have only names. Most of my constituency is urban. Moreover, most of the urban growth in Stockton-on-Tees is in my constituency. In many cases, houses have names and numbers, although the name but not the number is prominently on display. Although none of us wants to be treated as a number, if the proper address is a number, it would be better for the convenience of others if it were on display. Many people go looking for individuals at their addresses to ask them questions or to see them for many good reasons, only to find that the house is unmarked. I understand that Michael Levy, who funds the Leader of the Opposition's blind trust, lives in a house that has no name and no number. I shall leave hon. Members to draw their own conclusions from that.

There is a fantastic variety of letter boxes in the United Kingdom, and--as we shall discovering in the next few weeks--they come in all shapes and sizes. There is the tiny vertical letter box, in which only very small cards will fit. There is also the famous horizontal flap, which comes in many sizes and varieties, such as the spring-loaded type. Others include those located at the door base, the rear-flap variety, the one with the front sub-flap and--perhaps the one that we all hate the most--the type with the brushes and the dog behind it, ready to take our fingers off when we try to push some mail through the brushes.

Worst of all, I suppose, are the houses with no bells, no knockers and sometimes even no doors. As we all become increasingly aware of energy efficiency, and as more people succumb to the amazing offers of double glazing

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salesmen, the situation seems to go from bad to worse. Every day we find some new type of devilment apparently designed to catch fingers, crunch letters and generally offer cruel and unusual punishment to the deliverer.

Given the amount of junk mail that some people receive, I can readily understand the desire to maim or frustrate the sender, but all too often it is the messenger or postman, not the sender, who pays the price.

Let us find a practical new way of designing doors and property fronts so that deliveries can be made easily and conveniently. I notice that, in France, since the time of Napoleon every separate dwelling has had to have a number clearly on display. In the United States, every house has to have a number and a registered size of post box. Let us therefore mark each house so that not just the Member of Parliament but the emergency services, the doctor, the gas or water company and others can find it in a hurry--and so that everyone gets his own junk mail, not someone else's.

This Bill will not become law, but it will serve to highlight a problem that we vow to solve at every general election. It would provide that every separate dwelling be clearly marked with a name or number at the principal entrance, and that an adequate or separate delivery opening be provided as well. It would be phased in over five years, so that by the year 2002 the postman's lot will be a happy one.

Before long the European Union will turn its attention to this amazing diversity and, as with so many other things, it will seek to end that diversity by regulation. The time to act has therefore come. Our legislators are about to spend the next six weeks hunting for numbers and door bells--sometimes even for doors--and certainly for letter boxes. Let us all consider during this time the size and shape of the letter box to take us into the new millennium. Even though in 50 years' time all our important mail may be electronic, there will still be a market for tangible leaflets, magazines, and papers that can be picked up, pored over, carried about and shown to others. How they will be delivered to a nation in which an ever increasing number of people have double glazing I do not know.

Let us leap in before Europe does and design a great British letter box as distinct as the K3 telephone box, the Brigade of Guards and the policeman's helmet. The time to act is now, and I place this Bill before the House in a spirit of good will before the general election begins.

Question put and agreed to.

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