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Adjournment (Easter)

Motion made, and Question proposed,

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Before I call the first speaker, I remind the House that there is a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches in this debate.

4 pm

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting): I wish to raise the issue of Cyprus. As hon. Members know, Cyprus is often discussed in the House, and rightly so. I declare an interest at the outset. I chair the all-party Cyprus group, to which members of all the major political parties belong.

Britain is one of the guarantor powers for the island of Cyprus, along with Greece and Turkey. Following the invasion of Cyprus in 1974 by the Turkish military forces, Cyprus has remained a divided country. The south of the country is under the control of the democratically elected Government of the Republic of Cyprus; the north of the island, with the support of the Turkish army, has now become the supposedly independent state of northern Cyprus. I say "supposedly independent state" because, after many years, that state is recognised only by Turkey. It is not recognised by the United Nations, the European Union or the Council of Europe, and it is most certainly not recognised by the Government of the United Kingdom.

Since the events of 1974, many attempts have been made to find a solution that would safeguard the interests and security of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. There are without doubt Turkish Cypriots who want a settlement. They see that, in the years since 1974, nothing has taken place that has led to any meaningful development in the economy or in the day-to-day lives of the people who live in northern Cyprus.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), visited Cyprus last month. He sent me a letter following that visit, in which he told me of the people whom he had met. What he did not say and what I have not seen in any official statement is what discussions he had with the leading politicians in the north and south of the island. That is one of the reasons why I have sought a debate in the House this afternoon.

Since 1974, repeated attempts have been made to find a settlement. Many organisations, countries and politicians have been involved in discussions. There have been many opportunities to obtain a settlement. The real issue for many hon. Members has been and still is Mr. Denktash, who has only one objective--recognition of the state that he has created in northern Cyprus.

Over the years, the United Nations has passed many major resolutions on Cyprus. All have clearly set out the type of settlement that the United Nations wishes to see in place to protect Greek and Turkish Cypriots, to rebuild the economy of the north, and to bring meaningful peace and prosperity to the whole of the island. After all the attempts that have been made, one has to ask why it has not been possible to reach a settlement. I suggest that one can sum up the reason in a few words: Mr. Denktash and his friends and supporters in Turkey are the reason why there has not been the progress that one would have liked.

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One could give many examples of the promises and the actions of Mr. Denktash that have caused the despair that now prevails in Cyprus. My hon. Friend the Minister will be aware of the United Nations proximity talks. Many of us thought that they could be the breakthrough to meaningful discussions on the future of Cyprus. No one has done more in recent years than President Clerides of Cyprus to show a willingness to involve Turkish Cypriots in discussions and to show how those in northern Cyprus can be part of the discussion of the future of Cyprus--by which I mean all aspects of its future.

Cyprus has applied for membership of the European Union. President Clerides has repeatedly called on Mr. Denktash to join him in the talks on Cyprus' application, but Mr. Denktash has always refused to take part. I ask the Minister to outline the present position regarding the proximity talks. Are they still on? Do they still have any real meaning? What is the British Government's position on those talks?

I have already spoken of Turkey's role in northern Cyprus. The statements that Turkish politicians make on northern Cyprus and their visits to it are hardly the actions of politicians who believe that northern Cyprus has nothing whatever to do with Turkey and is solely the responsibility of Mr. Denktash. I do not think that anyone anywhere in the world believes that. I make those comments because everyone in the House knows that Turkey's great wish is to join the European Union. If it really wants that, does it have no role to play in ensuring that the proximity talks take place and real progress is made in them?

I have already talked of the so-called state of northern Cyprus and the views and demands of Mr. Denktash that his state be recognised before he will enter into any real discussion on the future of Cyprus. As he knows, because he has been told repeatedly, that recognition will not take place. There will be no recognition of the state that he created.

Cyprus is important to Britain because both countries are members of the Commonwealth. After almost 27 years of occupation and countless talks and discussions, what real progress has been made towards a meaningful settlement? One has only to read the statements and views of the United Nations on why there has been no development that could lead to a settlement. In a word, the reason is Mr. Denktash. He is the reason why there has been no progress. What is the United Kingdom's position on the proximity talks? I accept that we support them, but are we doing enough to ensure that they are on the road to meaningful discussions? What is the EU doing? What is the United States of America doing?

Richard Holbrooke, former US permanent representative at the United Nations under the Clinton Administration, said in a television interview on 1 March this year:

Could anything be clearer? Could there be a greater indictment by a senior world politician of Mr. Denktash than that statement?

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping), the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office, will clearly convey to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary the dismay of many Members of Parliament, and the need both for much greater effort to restart the talks and for Mr. Denktash, and especially

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Turkey, fully to understand the role that they must play in seeking meaningful progress for the benefit of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

4.9 pm

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): I am grateful to be called in the Easter recess Adjournment debate. I wish to raise three issues of concern to my constituents and then to comment on foot and mouth disease.

The first issue relates to crime and police manpower in the borough of Barnet. We all know that, for decades, until the beginning of the 1990s, the number of recorded crimes soared. From about 1992, there was a gentle reduction--perhaps the adjective is not appropriate--in the Metropolitan police area until about two or three years ago, when there was suddenly a significant upswing of 8.7 per cent. in recorded crimes. That coincided--I am sure it was not coincidental--with quite a significant fall in the number of police.

The point to be made about police manpower in the Metropolitan area is that it is not only a question of putting in place policies and incentives to recruit people to the force. It is particularly necessary to try to keep them, because there is a well above average number of early retirements, retirements or transfers to other police forces.

Barnet was dealt with disproportionately badly for two or three years, although I recognise that that changed very recently. Five years or so ago, manpower stood at over 700 officers. The difficulty is that, since 1997--I think that it was in 1998 or 1999--that part of Hertsmere has, rightly, been removed from the Metropolitan area; the Metropolitan police area is now within the confines of the Greater London area. However, I cannot believe that 150 or so officers should have been transferred from my borough to Borehamwood. The total fell about 18 months ago to only 479 police officers, serving a borough with a population of 320,000. The minimum shift strength in the borough was 32, but only 22 were available. Even the Labour/Liberal Democrat council was moved to condemn the Government for not providing the resources and to express concern about the increase in crime.

We now know that there is to be an increase--we hope to get about 64 of the 1,050 extra police that have been promised for the Metropolitan police area. Who is providing the extra 1,050? Is it the Government, or is it Mayor Ken Livingstone? What I do know is that, in order to provide the extra 64 officers in Barnet, this year, the Greater London Authority precept on council tax payers has risen by no less than 22 per cent.

The second issue that I wish to raise concerns the NHS in the borough. I have never had so many complaints not only about waiting list times, but about waiting to get on waiting lists, postponed operations, and facilities in the local hospital. Despite the fact that phase 1A of Barnet general hospital's redevelopment was completed in April 1997--we are looking forward to the completion of phase 1B, hopefully in a year's time--the facilities in many respects still leave much to be desired. I hope that the Government will deal with that problem.

It is not just a question of increasing resources, which have certainly increased in the past four years, as they did in the previous 18 years. It is almost incredible that,

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in 1979, expenditure on the NHS throughout the United Kingdom was only £8 billion. It had risen to £42 billion 18 years later, in 1997, but to listen to the criticisms levelled at it before 1997, one would not have known that. I concede the point to Labour Members: they have increased the resources for the NHS, but there are still valid criticisms to be made, and shortages and unfairnesses to be tackled.

The third issue is the appalling state of the London underground. My constituency, unfortunately in this respect, nestles at the end of the Northern and Piccadilly lines. Again, I have never had so many complaints about the service before. I believe that my constituents are pragmatic people. They do not much care who runs the London underground or, indeed, other public services. What they want is a reliable and efficient service at a reasonable cost and to be able to travel in reasonable comfort. Since the Government came to power, despite their promises, not a penny's extra private investment--or any private investment--has gone into the London underground. I do not want to take sides between the Government on the one hand and Mayor Livingstone and Bob Kiley on the other, but I wish the Government would get their act together and get on with devising a structure that will lead to the necessary investment going into our tube system.

I finish with a comment on the dreadful foot and mouth disease. That issue is of concern in our towns, as it is in our countryside. We in Chipping Barnet, in the very north of London--we do not nestle in the Cotswolds--are perhaps well placed because we are where the metropolis meets the countryside. London Members in particular will know that there are thousands of acres of green belt within the Greater London area and that, on many of them, there are farms with livestock.

The point that is repeatedly driven home to me and to my constituents is that town and countryside are interdependent. That very interdependence strengthens the fabric and unity of our nation. I hope that the Government will respect and recognise that, as they seek to tackle this dreadful disease which is affecting an industry that was already suffering very badly.

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