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Mr. Martlew: May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the previous Government knocked the project out of the roads programme? I was told by a senior member of the Highways Agency that the then Government considered that the road from Carlisle to the Scottish border was going nowhere. It was the right hon. Gentleman's Government who knocked it out of the roads programme.

Mr. Maclean: I entirely disagree with the hon. Gentleman. That is nonsense. Before the election, the project was signed up with PFI funding. If it was not, there was no point in the local Labour party saying that it would get the road built faster because it could arrange for PFI funding faster than the Tories. The funding agency made it clear that all the contracts were ready to be signed. Such contracts are never signed during an election period. However, what has happened to the project now?

Before the election, when Labour was in opposition, it promised that the Cumberland gap would be completed rapidly after the election. In fact, the project has been in limbo for the past two years. That is nonsensical. Everyone knows that this stretch of road must be built sooner rather than later. The Government should authorise the project to go ahead now. I am not calling for Government funding for it. Instead, I am calling for the PFI and the deal which is on the table to be given the go-ahead.

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Almost every week there is a fatal accident on the A66. The accident rate seems to have increased alarmingly in the past few months, and I suspect that it will get worse as traffic volumes increase and the pressures on that road get worse and worse. I argued with the previous Government, of whom I was a member, for dual carriageway along the whole length of the road. I have not changed my argument one iota and I am putting it to the present Government.

None of us is asking for the road to be completed immediately. We are not asking for miracles, but there is deep concern in Cumbria that the Government's road strategy does not contain a long-term plan for the road. We would have been satisfied if the Labour Government had said, "We can't build dual carriageway immediately, but, over the next 10 or 15 years, we will pick off the worst stretches and build a bit of dual carriageway here and another bit there. We can't go any faster than the last Tory Government." I could not have criticised the Government because I would not have had a leg to stand on, but that is not what they have done.

The Government seem to have adopted a ploy that my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley) has come across on her patch. The ploy for stalling work on the A66 is a safety study. We will, of course, co-operate with the safety study, but we do not need a safety study on the A66 to tell us that the bad stretches at Temple Sowerby and at Warcop are absolutely disastrous. The safety study is being used to kick the issue into the long grass. We need a long-term plan and the Government to say, "Yes, we will continue the slow progress of the last Government. We will continue as we can, picking off bits and building the dual carriageway sections." That is all we are asking for; we have not even got that.

I wish to touch on the deep concern in Cumbria about the continuing collapse of the rural economy. The £120 million announced by the Government for special aid for farmers is nothing compared with the billions being lost by the farming industries. In any case, in the near future, farmers will bear the cost of the cattle movement scheme, the specified risk material costs, the rocketing and out-of-control meat hygiene costs and possibly even a pesticides tax. Added together, those measures entirely wipe out the £120 million special aid package.

Although I am not calling for Government funding for the pig sector, it receives no aid at all. The situation is disastrous: 50 per cent. of our nation's herd could be wiped out by the end of the year, with up to 12,000 jobs being lost and more than £1 billion of pigmeat imports being sucked into this country to replace our home-produced pork and bacon. That foreign pigmeat--you will know this from your constituency experience, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and, if you could, you would support us in our plea--will be everything that the Government and consumers apparently detest.

That foreign pigmeat will be fed on the BSE bonemeal material, which is banned in this country. I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office nodding his head at that. The sows producing the pigs will be kept in stalls and tethers, which were banned on welfare grounds in this country. British pigmeat is the cleanest, most welfare-friendly product in the world, which the Government and the supermarkets apparently all want. In that case, the Government should support it

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and take action against inhumanely produced imports, which are killing off our welfare-friendly products. Time is not on the Government's side; they must act now, before it is too late.

I will say nothing about small abattoirs and local butchers. I could not match the eloquence or the knowledge of my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill), who spoke earlier.

The Government must also make sure that Milk Marque is not carved up in answer to the pleas of the big dairy companies. I know that the Department of Trade and Industry is looking at a Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on Milk Marque and I appeal to it not to listen to the siren voices of the dairy companies, which wish to destroy it. In European terms, Milk Marque is not large; nor is it a monopoly. If it is carved up, dairy farming in this country will be put back to the bad old days of the 1930s, when even the Milk Marketing Board was not invented. That would be a further tragedy for our hard-pressed rural industries.

My last point on the rural economy is a simple reminder to the House that we still have the ridiculous beef on the bone ban, and the ban on beef exports has still not been lifted. We had a great fanfare announcement from the Government many months ago--it was like yesterday's announcement--that the beef export ban would be lifted and that they had achieved agreement because of their wonderful, cosy relationship with Europe. It is still in place and our beef farmers are no further on, after two years of the Government boasting that they could change things radically--faster than the previous Tory Government--because of their special relationship with Europe. All that that special relationship has brought us is more words, more spin, more glossy booklets and no real action.

I conclude on an issue of major concern for all the people of the United Kingdom, which has a different tone from the other points that I have raised--the wholesale release of terrorists without a single gun or bullet being handed in. When the legislation was rushed through the House, some of us warned the Government and appealed to them not to be so naive; but, of course, nothing must be allowed to stop the so-called peace process, which cannot be questioned. The evil Omagh bombing was swept under the carpet, almost as if it were a slight abberation, rather than a deliberate, cynical act by Sinn Fein-IRA to exact yet more concessions from a British Government who are willing to do anything to keep the peace process going, which is what it really was.

If the killings are all carried out by means other than the explosion of big bombs, they do not seem to be properly reported, in case that slows down the peace process. Some peace process; Sinn Fein-IRA have used it to regroup. After all, they do not have to rearm, do they? The Government have let them keep their weapons.

The figures released by the Northern Ireland Office and quoted in Hansard, which I have researched during the past few weeks, speak for themselves. These are the terms that the Northern Ireland Office uses:

There were 24 in 1996 and 72 last year. The Northern Ireland Office refers to

    "Deaths due to the security situation".--[Official Report, 4 February 1999; Vol. 324, c. 697-702.]

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    There were 14 such deaths in 1996 and 54 last year. It refers also to "Bombing incidents"--14 in 1996 and 117 in 1998. There were 84 "Shooting incidents" in 1996 and 132 in 1998.

That is the record of what the Government have achieved so far in the peace process. The knee-capping and bludgeoning rate is three times what it was, the murder rate is four times what it was, shooting incidents have almost doubled and there are eight times as many bombing incidents. There is not much peace there for the people of Northern Ireland, if I may say so. To add to their misery, the Government have released 248 of some of the worst terrorists and murderers that this country has ever seen--and we have had not a single gun or bullet in return. There will be a return--one in the back from Sinn Fein-IRA.

Last week, we saw the sorry spectacle of the Home Secretary--a man whom I respect--trying to stop the release of three terrorists from prison. That is a bit late from a Government who have already released early 245 pals of those terrorists. What other concessions to terrorism will the Government make this week, or even as we speak? I do not share the belief of some of my hon. Friends that this is the last day on which the House will sit before Easter. The House may not adjourn today and, if circumstances continue to deteriorate in Northern Ireland, I hope that we do not adjourn until we have had a proper discussion on what is happening and full statements from the Government.

It looks to me as though the IRA has been given everything that it has asked for from the Government. It is demanding that the current deadlock, which it has created, should be removed in its favour. Its members have been released from prison, without a single gun being handed in. They are permitted to be elected to a democratic Assembly, without a single gun being handed in. I am very much afraid that, soon, the Government may let them become Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive, without a single gun being handed in.

As we approach Easter Sunday, we will see one group of men, who are responsible for the deaths of thousands, being invited by the Government to sit round the Executive table in Northern Ireland, with a gun in one hand and the equivalent of a Red Box in the other. Some miles away, in Yugoslavia, other evil killers will be bombarded with all the bombs and missiles that we can throw at them. Slobodan Milosevic's big mistake was not employing Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein as his negotiators. If he had done so, perhaps American Senators might have wanted to rush over to keep the peace process going. Then, Milosevic could have continued to commit atrocities and kept his arsenal intact, just like Sinn Fein-IRA.

As a former Territorial Army officer, I totally and utterly support our armed forces whenever they are engaged in the service of this country. They always do their duty unquestioningly, and I give them my full support for the difficult task that they face in the Balkans.

The Government have adopted a high moral tone over Yugoslavia. As Easter approaches, I am reminded that their pronouncements on Milosevic sound like the denunciations of Christ by Caiaphas, the high priest, while their behaviour with Sinn Fein-IRA reminds one of

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Pontius Pilate washing his hands. Perhaps the only accurate description can be found in the words of Jesus himself:

    "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

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