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Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): He probably wrote it.

Mr. Luff: It certainly reads as if he might have written it.

The document says:

That paragraph should be the obituary for the whole wretched concept of regional development agencies.

9.26 pm

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I wish to refer to a constituency case, which has implications for the whole Kingdom. It concerns the winter fuel grant to pensioners of £100. One of my constituents is a carer who is looking after her mother, who will be 95 next month. She received notification that she would receive £50 because there were two pensioners in the one household. She then discovered that there was no £50 for her mother. When she inquired, she was told that the dateline for allocation was September, during which time the care manager had arranged respite care in a residential home to allow my constituent and her husband to have a break. As the mother--who receives care and attention at home--was in a respite home for three weeks starting in September, when the weather is fairly decent, she was not permitted to have her £50 winter fuel allowance.

It so happens that, on appeal, my constituent will get the money. However, she asked me to raise the matter of the interpretation of the law. When she went to the citizens advice bureau for guidance, she was told that

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there had been a mistake. The CAB got in touch with the office at Newcastle, to be told that the law was being administered correctly. I ask the Minister to make sure that no other citizens are deprived of their genuine entitlement because they are in respite care during the application period.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) referred to the millennium, and we heard from the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) that he has had difficulty with The Sunday Telegraph. We realise that those in the media and broadcasting have their own forms of censorship. I wish to put on record our congratulations to Sir Cliff Richard, who--despite the attention of those who, because of jealousy or other philosophical or irreligious reasons, were not prepared to allow him to have the best lyric of all, the Lord's prayer, set to a well-known tune in the tradition of Luther, Wesley and Booth--demonstrated that the devil does not get the best tunes. He has topped the pops and we congratulate him on celebrating the millennium and the year of our Lord, 2000.

9.30 pm

Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport): The House knows that overwhelmingly the most important issue in my constituency is the proposed closure of the Royal Hospital Haslar. In 1994, the previous Government decided, after careful consideration, that Haslar should be the tri-service hospital. Since then, matters have gone well, so we in the Gosport area were devastated a year and three days ago when we heard, in December 1998, that the present Government intended to change the structure of defence medical services.

There were three elements in that decision. First, the Government intended to place more emphasis on Ministry of Defence hospital units. Secondly, they intended to open a centre of defence medicine in Birmingham; that announcement was made today. Thirdly, they intended to close Haslar.

After several discussions with defence medical services staff, I am convinced that, although the MOD hospital units may have some merit in medical terms, they are a disaster in terms of the retention of the military ethos and morale. As for the centre of defence medicine, I cannot believe that its location in Birmingham will attract people and make them want to study and practise medicine as part of the Army, Navy or Air Force to the same extent that a location in the south would. Haslar is fairly adjacent to a wide range of naval facilities, for example, and the Army facilities at Aldershot, Salisbury plain and Warminster are nearby, as are the Royal Air Force bases at Brize Norton and Lyneham.

I am therefore convinced that Haslar would be a better location for the defence medicine centre, and that Ministry of Defence medical services will lose personnel as a result of placing the centre in Birmingham. I plead with the Government even now to reconsider the matter. Defence medical services are crumbling, and we are losing doctors and nurses at an increasing rate. I have described to the House before the difficulties experienced by orthopaedic surgeons at Haslar. There should be eight such surgeons in the establishment there; the hospital in fact has six, and five have resigned.

From a military point of view, there is everything to be said for retaining Haslar. The development of the Birmingham centre would make matters worse, as it will

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take doctors and nurses away from Gosport. Moreover, people who moved to Gosport in the past five years will not be prepared to move again to Birmingham.

There are also persuasive civilian arguments for the retention of the hospital at Haslar. The Portsmouth and South East Hampshire health authority and the Portsmouth hospitals trust realise that the retention of at least part of the Haslar facility is crucial for the provision of civilian medical care in Gosport and the rest of south Hampshire. The authority already has a waiting list of more than 15 months for all operations, and the waiting time at the accident and emergency unit at theQueen Alexandra hospital at Cosham is a completely unacceptable five hours. Haslar already provides significant resources to assist the hospital trust and health authority to provide medical care for people in south Hampshire.

It is extremely important that the Haslar facilities, on which £35 million has been spent in the past 10 years, should not be closed. About 10 days ago, I wrote to the Prime Minister with the following plea. I asked that he or an appropriate Minister intervene to make the Ministry of Defence and the national health service display a co-operation that has not been greatly evident so far and ensure that medical facilities at Haslar can remain available to the local civilian community in the longer term.

The Ministry of Defence has made available several redundant military sites in my constituency, among them the HMS Daedalus site at Lee-on-the-Solent. What happens is that, years after closure, the MOD remains the owner while the local community waits for a developer to emerge who will acquire the site. When that finally happens, the developer then sells part of the site off to an authority or institution.

That would not be acceptable in the case of Haslar which, as I said, has had £35 million spent predominantly on the centre or cross block which contains the operating theatres. That would ideally suit the national health service as a facility to supplement those in the rest of south Hampshire and specifically to provide out-patient or other care in the Gosport peninsula.

My plea today is for the Government to practise what they are proud to call joined-up government. The Ministry of Defence must not be allowed to walk away from Haslar without providing facilities for civilians in the Gosport area. I plead that this be done urgently so that we can plan ahead for health care in the area.

9.36 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): We have had an extremely good debate in the past two hours. I congratulate all those who have taken part on responding to pleas from the Chair and, in some cases, cutting down their remarks. That has meant that for the first time since I have been replying to this debate, since July 1997, everyone who has wanted to speak has spoken. That, in the last of these debates to take place in the 1900s, is very appropriate.

I think that there is a real affection throughout the House for this debate. I am delighted that when the Modernisation Committee made its recommendations for Westminster Hall, it specifically excepted this debate and said that it should continue to take place on the Floor of the House. Whatever the future of what I like to call the

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"Grand Parliamentary Committee" in Westminster Hall, I hope that this debate will always remain on the Floor of the House.

Hon. Members can use this debate to air grievances and hold the Government to account--the two prime responsibilities of any hon. Member. We have ranged tonight from the individual to the international. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) who, sadly, is no longer in his place, quite rightly decided to use this opportunity to highlight the case of a constituent who he believes is being victimised. I can make no comment on that, but it was an entirely proper use of the hon. Gentleman's time. Similarly, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) used part of his speech to raise the case of a constituent baffled by regulation, and sought clarification for her. Although the Minister will not necessarily be able to provide that in his reply, I am sure that he will ensure that it is done, so far as it lies within his power.

Then there was the great international issue of Cyprus, raised at the beginning of the debate by one of the most familiar participants in these Adjournment debates, the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox). He has used this opportunity before, and he rightly used it again. I hope that, in due course, his remarks will be drawn to the attention of the Foreign Secretary and that he will receive a detailed and satisfactory reply. There is no more potentially explosive situation in our continent than that of Cyprus. We would all like to see true peace and justice return to that island.

The hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Dr. Vis) also used the opportunity, in an admirably brief four-minute speech, to raise that subject and also the position of Turkey, which many of us are glad to see accepted as a proper aspirant for membership of the European Union. Nevertheless, there are problems to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) went nuclear in a very literal sense. He talked about the dangers of nuclear terrorism, giving a chilling account of the consequences of the disintegration of a great super-power. Again, he brought to the attention of the House matters which we would all do right to ponder.

Then we had what I would call the classic speech. For seven minutes, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Ms Jones) talked about a local issue. I have some knowledge of the Royal hospital in Wolverhampton because it served many of my constituents for many years. She rightly indicated that the hospital was endowed and supported, as it had been created, by local people. She made a plea that the accountants' formula should not be forced into play to deprive local people of a new amenity on the site of a service that has served them so well for so long.

We heard next the bravura performance of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess), who was sadly deprived of an opportunity to speak in the last of these debates. He brought us the glad tidings that the Palace theatre is no longer dark, and urged us all to go to see "A Christmas Carol" there. Indeed, he said that he was missing the gala performance tonight, but I should

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think that it is him who is being missed as he would have been the star turn. Instead, he used his not inconsiderable vituperative talents to berate the Government.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) did likewise, although he did not aim his remarks directly at the Government. He used the rapier of wit to puncture the balloon of bureaucracy. I am afraid that I did not read the dreadful document to which he referred. All of us were sent it, but I had a brief look, saw some of the perversions of the English language that so disfigured it and tossed it into the relevant filing cabinet, which was on the floor. I now rather regret having done so, as the document would doubtless have enlivened many an occasion on which I have been bored. My hon. Friend was right to draw attention to the utter pretentiousness of that sort of verbiage.

One thing that has shone through the debate is the concern on both sides of the House about rural communities. My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey (Mr. Colvin) talked about the police. Anyone who sits for a rural constituency, as I do, knows that the situation described by my hon. Friend is by no means unique. We all see real pressure on the police in rural areas. My hon. Friend's concern was adequately and properly expressed, and he made some positive suggestions that I hope the Home Secretary will take to heart.

My hon. Friend was echoed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hykeham and Stroud--

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