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General Practitioner Fundholding

20. Ms Drown: How much money his Department saved by not approving the eighth wave of applications for GP fundholding status. [13829]

Mr. Milburn: The deferment of the eighth wave of the general practitioner fundholding scheme led to £20 million from the inherited budget for general practitioner fundholders' management costs being immediately redeployed into patient care.

An additional £9 million has subsequently been released from further management efficiency savings nationally in the fundholding scheme.

Ms Drown: In the light of that answer, will my hon. Friend review the potential administrative savings that could be made from previous waves of GP fundholding, so that money could be redirected into basic NHS services, such as dentistry, in my constituency? Not only are no new adults in my constituency being accepted on NHS dentist lists, but a recent poll showed that one in three dentists were not accepting new children on NHS lists.

Mr. Milburn: I am aware of the concerns in the Swindon area about the availability of dental services. I shall see my right hon. Friend before long to discuss these. I can give my hon. Friend an assurance that the Government will do everything that we can to bear down on unnecessary bureaucracy costs wherever they arise in the national health service to ensure that there is adequate investment in front-line patient care.

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Points of Order

3.30 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will be aware that many millions of people this morning marked the Armistice day two-minute silence, to commemorate those who have fallen in trying to defeat some of the worst tyrannies that the world has ever seen. They did it to defeat tyranny and uphold democracy. The House is the fount of democracy.

Although I am aware that many Committees and many staff of the House marked the two-minute silence, it seems wholly appropriate that there should be a more official way of marking it in future. Will it be possible for hon. Members, on a purely voluntary basis, to come to the Chamber at 11 o'clock on the 11th hour of the 11th day to mark the silence? If that is not considered appropriate, perhaps there should be a two-minute silence in our normal 2.30 prayers in the House.

If you consider that appropriate, Madam Speaker, I ask you to refer it to the appropriate Committee.

Madam Speaker: I should be glad to give consideration to the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. I do not know whether he was in the House last Thursday when we had an exchange on this matter. I am pleased to tell hon. Members who are interested that all Committees that sat this morning observed the two-minute silence. As the hon. Gentleman will probably know, I sent suggestions to all the Departments of the House asking them to observe the silence, and I know that very many of them did. I looked through my kitchen window when I was observing the two-minute silence and was pleased to see that traffic on Westminster bridge came to a standstill, as did the pedestrians. The House has done an honour to the dead of two world wars, but I will be glad to look at suggestions for next year.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I apologise for trying to raise a point of order during Question Time. I should have known better.

We have a new Opposition, who are clearly young in their task of learning. Perhaps it could be pointed out to them that questions supplementary to those on the Order Paper are supposed to be relevant to the subject of the main question. We had example after example today where that did not happen. I noticed with considerable interest--this may be something that my own party will take on board--that even Liberal Democrats tried to join in that badly behaved, orchestrated insult to a very honourable Member of the House.

Madam Speaker: That is not a very complimentary comment to me, if I may say so, Mr. Bermingham. I watch the Order Paper very carefully, and I find that many hon. Members on both sides of the House do not follow substantive questions. I had to call to order Members on the Government side yesterday for not following the question. This is an opportunity for me to

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remind all hon. Members that the substantive question has to be followed in the supplementary. Thank you for raising that.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Some months ago, I tried to find out from the Registrar of Members' Interests--I have written to the people concerned, as you would wish--whether the use of a blind trust for financing the Leader of the Opposition's office would be acceptable. It was made very clear to me that that would not be acceptable under the existing rules. Therefore, I wrote to the Prime Minister's office, pointing out to him that Sir Trevor Chinn, Sir Emanuel Kay, Sir Alex Bernstein and Bob Gaveron were all named, known and admitted contributors to the Prime Minister's blind trust. This morning, it was suggested that Mr. Max Mosley and Mr. Bernie Ecclestone were also contributors to the blind trust.

My point of order is that I have written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, pointing out that all that information is available. I have had a letter from the Prime Minister's office saying that it knows about the information and that it had passed to the political honours scrutiny committee the names of those who had given money to the blind trust. Yet all that information--

Madam Speaker: Order. What is the point of order for me?

Mr. Bruce: The point of order concerns how we can get the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges to investigate what is clearly a breach of our rules. It brings the House into disrepute, because it is alleged that money is changing hands to gain the Prime Minister's influence.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Whatever you do in response to the request from the hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce), do not send the matter to the committee that I wanted to set up when the Tory party took £440,000 from that crook Asil Nadir. You know, Madam Speaker, that I raised that issue in the House 20 times. I wanted committees; I wanted investigations; I wanted the Tory Government to send the money back to all the shareholders in Mr. Nadir's company--but what happened? The Tories kept the money and used it in the general election campaign. The British people said, "That money stinks and we are going to kick the Tories out." My party sent the money back.

Madam Speaker: Order. These are not points of order. I recognise them only too well as political point scoring, and I will have no more of them. The hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) knows that we have procedures to deal with the matter he raised. He should raise it with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and not on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Ian Bruce: But Madam Speaker--

Madam Speaker: Order. I have had enough.

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Regulation of Wet Bikes

3.36 pm

Mr. Gareth Thomas: I beg to move,


I shall begin by defining the term "wet bikes", which has caused some confusion, and then refer to the nature and scale of the problem caused by these machines and the mischief that the Bill is intended to address. I shall also outline how my Bill will achieve its objectives.

I shall relieve the suspense of many hon. Members and explain that the term wet bikes is interchangeable with jet skis and personal water craft. Jet skis are a proprietary name for a well-known brand of wet bike. Suffice it to say that these craft--we all know what they are because they are an increasingly visible and, I am afraid, audible feature of our coasts--are equipped with very powerful petrol-driven engines. They suck in water and blow it out in the form of a jet at the rear; hence the name jet skis. They are capable of generating up to 135 brake horsepower and great acceleration up to 65 mph. They also generate a great deal of noise.

A particular feature of wet bikes, of which there are about 15,000 in this country, is the ease with which they can be used, which means that many users do not always acquire a sense of the danger inherent in the machines. Kawasaki's top-selling bike costs £7,500, and there is a significant and increasing market in used machines.

It is a surprising fact that, at present, there is no age restriction for the use of the machines. There is nothing to stop a five-year-old using one; there is no national requirement for insurance; there is no national proficiency test; and there is no system of national registration, either of the machines or of their users. In short, there is a glaring absence of consistent and rational regulation, and the danger posed by these machines calls for such regulation.

Wet bikes are a potential danger to all other water users--bathers, yachtsmen, water skiers, surfers, canoeists and children at play--in both coastal and inland waters. The bikes are also a danger to their riders.

Accidents have occurred across the country. This summer, there were two tragic fatal accidents. On the weekend of 10 August, Fay Grundy, aged 17, was fatally injured at Queensford lake, Oxfordshire. She was riding as the pillion passenger on a wet bike that strayed into the path of a boat pulling a water skier. Two weeks later--off the north Wales coast, in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley)--a 25-year-old nurse from Rochdale died after her Kawasaki wet bike was involved in a head-on collision with another bike.

Wet bikes are very noisy, and they can ruin people's enjoyment of our coastline and inland waters. In the wrong hands, they pose a threat also to the balanced environment of our estuaries and to the feeding grounds of rare birds.

Furthermore, a significant delinquent element uses the bikes. A police constable from the Essex police force marine unit was recently quoted as saying:


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There is an increasing body of opinion among local authorities, police forces and those involved in the activity that the public interest now demands that there should be national regulation of wet bikes. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, is in the Chamber, and I am very grateful to her for coming to hear my speech. Although I know that her Department is working on solutions, it is time to grasp the nettle and to regulate.

In the United Kingdom--as a reflection of our long nautical history--there is a tradition of minimal regulation of private pleasure craft. Nevertheless, under the various public health Acts, harbourmasters and local authorities can introduce byelaws to prevent danger, obstruction and annoyance of bathers. Moreover, the approach of the Government, and of their predecessor, has been to be sceptical of national regulation; Governments generally have tended to rely on byelaws. There are, however, problems with byelaws.

As those who have been involved in local government well know, the process of enacting byelaws is lengthy, complicated and expensive. Byelaws are difficult to enforce and, significantly, they will do nothing to deal with the real problem of non-registration, making it very difficult to ascertain the identity of culprits or transgressors when they misbehave on bikes.

The byelaw system has produced an inconsistent pattern of regulation in an area where consistent statutory standards are essential. Despite the lightness of the legislative approach in this sphere, I propose that a special case should be made for wet bikes--because of their speed, the ease with which they can be used and the injury and damage that they can cause.

I propose, first, establishing a national registration system and requiring that every machine prominently displays its registration number, thereby dealing with the problem of locating the delinquent element.

Secondly, there should be a compulsory system of third-party insurance. Thirdly, there should be a compulsory national training scheme and a licence system for users, which I hope would be self-financing. Fourthly, there needs to be a minimum age requirement of 16. Fifthly, there should be a ban on the use of wet bikes on environmentally sensitive areas of our coast and on beaches traditionally used for bathing, as well as on rivers, reservoirs and lakes within our national parks that are subject to the right of navigation.

I commend the Bill to the House. It would make a modest but much-needed change to the law and would be manifestly in the public interest.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gareth Thomas, Mr. Dafydd Wigley, Mr. Martin Caton, Dr. Peter Brand, Mr. Gordon Marsden, Mr. Gwyn Prosser, Mr. Ronnie Fearn, Mrs. Betty Williams, Mr. Chris Ruane, Mr. John Gummer, Mr. David Hanson and Mr. Andrew Mackinlay.


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