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Mr. Skinner: I thought that a level playing field meant harmonisation--the hon. Gentleman can twist the words as much as he likes, but that is what it sounds like to me. He was followed by another Tory who wanted, among other things, a lot more money. Of course, the same fellow walked through the Lobby in the debates on the Budget, saying that the Labour Government were taxing too heavily. He voted God knows how many times against spending money.

We then heard from the representative from Surrey who also wanted a lot more money, not for just anyone but for Hindhead and her constituency, and for the Isle of Wight where she spends her holidays.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley: The right hon. Member for South-West Surrey said that she wanted assistance for Portsmouth and Southampton, but above all she wants a straight answer to a straight question. She wants to avoid evasiveness.

Mr. Skinner: Now that the right hon. Lady can no longer resort to talking about the grand business of

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government--she was involved for the best part of 18 years--she has to talk about the blockage in Hindhead. She has raised the issue several times. Had she asked me for advice when we were voting on the Budget, I would have told her: "For God's sake, don't vote against tax increases because you'll need that money for Hindhead." If we sit here long enough, we see and hear all the contradictions.

Mr. McLoughlin: The hon. Gentleman says that if we sit here long enough, we see all the contradictions. Does he accept that I saw the contradiction when he voted to cap Derbyshire county council last year?

Mr. Skinner: As a matter of fact, I feel quite happy about that. We asked for an extra £3.9 million from the Government. Ours was the only county that made it. Because I am a good old-fashioned trade union negotiator, I managed to persuade my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister to come up with £2.9 million. I thought, "Get the cash." So everybody in Derbyshire, including the hon. Gentleman's constituents, is deliriously happy that Skinner and his mates--not the hon. Gentleman--decided to get an extra £2.9 million for Derbyshire. To get £2.9 million more than the original settlement is not a bad day's work.

My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) raised the important issue of breast cancer operations at the Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal hospital in the light of a tragedy involving one of my hon. Friend's constituents, who unnecessarily had a breast removed. To compound the tragedy, we now know that there was a recent case of unnecessary breast removal in Bolsover, which apparently was not known about until further investigations took place. It happened a short time ago. That tragedy has now been revealed and we suspect there might be others.

I am calling upon my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, in his inquiry, to require that the records be examined of all cases of breast cancer over the past 10 years at the Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal hospital, with a view to ensuring that there are no more of these tragic cases. This would put the minds of many people at rest.

Secondly, there is the white finger issue and the chronic bronchitis and emphysema settlements. As a good trade union negotiator, I think that we have pulled off £2 billion for the chronic bronchitis and emphysema payments, not £2.9 million, for up to about 100,000 miners. I asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister a few weeks ago at Question Time to give us a chuck on. I was not too sure whether he understood my language, but 2 billion quid ain't a bad figure.

We have secured another £500 million for the white finger settlement, which will affect another 30,000 claimants. That must be good.

My hon. Friend the Minister knows a bit about this subject and he will understand that the lawyers will be taking a slice of the money. I want him to help me and others to ensure that they do not get their hands on too much of it. The money should go to those who need it, such as retired miners who are coughing up their lungs. Where husbands have died, the widows should receive their entitlements.

Medicals will be taking place, and we do not want to spoil the ship for a hap'orth of tar. Let us not have stories coming out from the coalfields that doctors and other

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medical people are telling various claimants who are on the borderline that they will not be getting the money. Let us err on the side of the claimant so that a great achievement, which we worked on for seven years, is not made less good. After seven years of struggle, the Labour Government inherited the problem in January 1998, and they have managed to settle the issue within about 15 months. That is not bad. We do not want some of the doctors and lawyers to spoil what is an extremely good achievement.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will hear many more complaints during this three-hour debate. I am sure also that many of them will be contradictory. However, will he pass on all relevant information to ensure that we can resolve the problem of the breast cancer business at the Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal hospital? Will he ensure also that the 2.5 billion quid that is going out to former miners will be paid in full?

10.54 am

Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border): Before the House rises for the summer recess--

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley: The Easter recess.

Mr. Maclean: Yes, the Easter recess. We have a modernising new Government and I am very progressive. I went ahead of my time.

Before we rise for the Easter recess, like my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess), I have a number of issues to bring to the Minister's attention. Like my hon. Friend, I find this three-hour Adjournment debate to be one of the most important features of our parliamentary calendar. Given the way in which the Government are sidelining, ignoring, bypassing and diminishing the status of the House, this debate, which may be of amusement to those outside the House who do not understand our procedures, is one of the few and vital opportunities that we have to present certain issues to the House.

I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) is no longer in his place. I listened with fascination to his plea that action should be taken against 30 ft leylandii hedges. I can tell Labour Members that, as a deregulator, I do not think that we knew that we needed new Government powers to control these hedges; we merely need to deregulate pesticide legislation to some extent. I can tell the House that I had a springer spaniel who could kill a 30 ft high leylandii hedge within two days of adequate watering. That may be a solution that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals may approve of.

I wish to bring to the attention of the House the effect of the Budget on our constituents. The past week in my constituency was very interesting. The constituents whom I met and the letters in the constituency postbag suggested that people were beginning to fume about the Budget. It seems that only now have people become aware of some of the details, and they do not like them very much. They believed the Chancellor's wonderful spin on Budget day and the gullible news reports on it afterwards. However, the pensioners with savings have now discovered how

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they will be fleeced. Married couples have now spotted the Chancellor's rip-off, in that the married couple's allowance ends one year before the tax credit comes in.

Motorists have spotted the extra 17p per gallon of petrol. No wonder our hauliers are planning to register in France when we consider the punitive rates for diesel and vehicle registration that the Chancellor has imposed on them. Every commodity will rise in price as transport costs for British lorries rocket. Alternatively, we shall find that foreign hauliers will take over goods haulage traffic in this country. I am certain that that will be of great benefit to our environment!

My constituency postbag has been inundated with complaints from parents who are concerned that the Government are destroying local playgroups. Of course they are destroying them. Playgroups just do not fit the Government's dogmatic model of council-funded nursery education and their minimum wage proposals. It is rather a fitting memorial to this touchy-feely Government, who assure everyone that they share their pain, that among the first victims of the minimum wage will be young women who are looking after children.

Everyone in my constituency and throughout Cumbria is deeply concerned about roads in the area. We are concerned at the Government's destruction of the roads programme. Roads are essential to us up in Cumbria because an integrated transport network is, and always will be, just a fantasy. If we do not have good motorway links with the M6, the M74, the A66 and the A69, the region's economy will die. I appeal to the Government to press ahead immediately with completion of the so-called Cumberland gap, the last remaining stretch of dual carriageway between the M74 in Scotland and the M6 in England. The project was signed up with private finance initiative funding before the general election. Indeed, the Labour party in Cumbria was boasting that, after the election, it would get the link built faster than the Tories because it could run PFI better than the Tories.


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