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1.34 pm

Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green): I have just received word that the BBC made a live broadcast of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) in order to help him with future campaigns in his constituency.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon) on their maiden speeches. I remember my maiden speech. I had worked on it and written it out. When I was called to speak, I put my hand in my pocket for my glasses—and they were not there. Maiden speeches are difficult in any case, but I shall always remember that moment.

I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office on his promotion to the Front Bench, as I have not yet had a chance to do so.

I have a few things to say about Cyprus, so I declare an interest as a member of Friends of Cyprus and other Cypriot organisations. I am also a member of the Council of Europe, where we recently held a three-hour debate about Turkey. Because of its human rights record, Turkey is currently under review by representatives of the Council of Europe. That debate was not supposed to deal with Cyprus, but comments were made about Cyprus—especially the fact that the Turkish Government and military had occupied 37 per cent. of the island.

The issues raised in respect of Turkey were mainly to do with human rights violations by the Government, the military and police in Turkey against the Kurdish people. It is ironic that I am talking about the Kurds, given that Lord Archer was ennobled by the then Prime Minister, John Major, for spearheading a charity mission for the Kurds—as was noted in the Daily Express today. Obviously, Lord Archer cannot be all bad.

Issues were raised about the lack of free speech in Turkey and the use of military courts for civilian cases. The question of the Ilisu dam came up again. The imprisonment and even the murder of members of the opposition and of the media were discussed—as was the closing down of the Virtue party, which occurred only two months ago, and so on. I also thought that we should discuss Turkey's membership of the Council of Europe, which is after all a human rights organisation, and a good one, as human rights do not seem to be upheld in Turkey itself.

In my constituency, there are thousands and thousands of Greek-Cypriot people, as well as some Turkish-Cypriots. They get on well. Indeed, they have a greater affinity one with the other than do the Turkish-Cypriots with the Anatolians who have recently arrived in Cyprus.

In the Council of Europe debate, we spoke about the illegal invasion in 1974—exactly 27 years ago. We spoke of the fact that there is still no news of the missing people, and that there are more than 30,000 Turkish troops in the occupied part of the island. Greek-Cypriot people have been unable to return to their homes and their land, as they desperately want to do.

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More recently, the Loizidou case was heard at the European Court of Human Rights. Mrs. Loizidou has a home in the occupied territory which she has been unable to use for 27 years. Three years ago, she was awarded $900,000 in a judgment against the Turkish Government because she had not had the use of her home. The judgment was not against Mr. Denktash or against the putative rulers of the occupied territories, but against Turkey. Recently, there was the abduction of Mr. Tsiakourmas by the Turkish military from the British base of Dhekelia. He has now been freed, but that, too, was a human rights violation.

It is frightening that more Anatolians are now living in the occupied territory than Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots have left the occupied territory in their tens of thousands because they cannot stand the Turkish Government occupying their lands. On 10 May 2001, 14 violations were identified by the European Court of Human Rights. Six were well familiar and have been discussed for a long time, but eight were new.

I have, however, become more optimistic of late about the prospect of a unified and free Cyprus. There have been positive developments between Mr. Kasoulides, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Colin Powell, the Secretary of State in the United States. Positive discussions have taken place. The United Nations resolutions condemning Turkey for the occupation remain. Positive European Union negotiations are going on with Cyprus, and the economy of free Cyprus is healthy and doing rather well and will fulfil the EU criteria.

I thank the Leader of the House for his role when he was Foreign Secretary, for the extraordinary help that he has given people in Cyprus to achieve a united Cyprus, and for discussing with other EU Foreign Secretaries how to take the issue of Cyprus forward. Does the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office share my optimism about the likelihood of a free and united Cyprus in years to come—in perhaps two or three years? I ask him to ask the Leader of the House to pass on some good words to the new Foreign Secretary, so that the new Foreign Secretary can be as positive about Cyprus as the Leader of the House was when he held that job.

1.42 pm

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): I congratulate the two hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches during the debate: my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon). We enjoyed both speeches. It is a great tribute to the end-of-term debate that they chose to make their maiden speeches during it.

I mark the presence of the Leader of the House during part of our deliberations. We have always regarded this as a day for Back Benchers, and it is particularly important that the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office and the Leader of the House recognise how important it is to Back Benchers to use this opportunity to raise matters that are wide ranging, but predominantly of concern to their constituents.

We began with a veteran of these debates, the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen). He raised a matter on which there is some cross-party

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agreement: the need for a proper debate on the Floor of the House about the London underground, for which we have called. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will have noted that there is also a request now from the Labour Back Benches for such a debate. I hope that when the House returns that will be granted.

Another regular attendee of end-of-term debates is my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess), who I know has passed a note to both Front-Bench teams to say that, owing to a prior commitment, a constituency surgery, he has had to leave. He mentioned mobile phones and phone masts, a theme that was taken up by hon. Members on both sides of the House. He said that he hated mobile phones per se. I am not sure that I can agree with him totally on that. I tend to be rather fond of mine, and I hope that he has left his mobile phone number with the Whips so that he can be contacted during the summer recess.

My hon. Friend mentioned another matter that is of growing concern to people: the installation of cameras throughout the country. We all recognise that closed circuit television cameras have an important part to play in detecting and preventing crime and in controlling speed on roads. However, I had some sympathy with my hon. Friend when he was describing the prevalence of those cameras. Almost every motorway bridge now has an electronic eye, and we are told that those eyes will soon be able to track one's movements.

Some people argue that the number of cameras is increasing so greatly to enable the police to manage traffic and enforce the law on speed restrictions, and there is something in that argument, but there is clearly a balance to be struck. I think that we would all be rather concerned if we thought that the cameras were being used not only to control speed, but to monitor the free movement of people across the country. I think that the House will wish to address that issue in future.

We then heard the maiden speech by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington, and my heart warmed to him. I felt that he was so brave to tell the House how fascinated he was by Spaghetti Junction, interchanges and flyovers. My own experience of that particular section, where the M5 leads into the M6 junction, has not always been a happy one. If, as an hon. Member, he can do anything to improve that experience, I think that he would have great support on both sides of the House. I suggest that challenge to him as a goal to achieve in this Parliament.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the great British countryside—or even to represent God's own county, Devon—think that we live in beautiful a place. Today, however, through the eyes of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington we have been able to see beauty in concrete, interchanges and flyovers. There was a touch of the Betjeman about him when he was speaking—[Laughter.]—and I do not mean a view of Slough in the rear-view mirror. I hope that in future speeches the hon. Gentleman will continue so eloquently and attractively to promote the city that he represents.

I know that, in following a lady who is my next-door neighbour, Mrs. Teresa Gorman, my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay is only too well aware that his predecessor was a doughty fighter in this place, not only for her constituents but for the causes that she felt were very important. He mentioned some of those causes, including small businesses. In her political career, those

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causes were always at the forefront of her thoughts. I wonder whether my hon. Friend, too, will champion the case for hormone replacement therapy—a subject that he did not mention but is of great interest to some hon. Members. Can we look to him to pick up that particular baton and run with it? I would be interested to hear his representations if he does.

We wish both new hon. Members a happy and fruitful period in the House, and we hope that it lasts for a very long time.

I was very sorry that the Leader of the House was not in the Chamber to hear the representations of the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Linda Perham), who talked about the need for an all-weather racecourse. I had the feeling that, had the Leader of the House still been in the Chamber, she might have received a positive response almost immediately. However, perhaps he was watching her speech on a monitor and rushed to make a few telephone calls to ensure that her comments were noted by those who feel that that racecourse is so important.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) raised several issues regarding problems in the delivery of health services to his constituents. By raising those important issues, which affect all our constituents, he struck a chord with hon. Members on both sides the House. The case that he made for allowing the use of beta interferon was particularly strong. The delay in deciding that issue has gone on for a very long time and for far longer than can be justified by the need for NICE to investigate the issue. NICE has looked into it and then looked into it again. It keeps kicking the issue into the long grass.

As my right hon. and learned Friend said, absolutely rightly, if a consultant advises on the basis of his or her best clinical knowledge that beta interferon is the best drug for someone with multiple sclerosis, that is not something that we should try to second-guess. It is a matter for medical and clinical judgment. When we see it in writing from a consultant—as Members of Parliament often do—that this is the drug that somebody with multiple sclerosis needs, it seems criminal that the issue is not dealt with promptly, that clinical judgment is not respected, that it is a matter of pot luck determined by where one lives in the country, and that some people get the drug and others do not.

I commend my right hon. and learned Friend for raising this and other matters concerning the health service, particularly the long waiting lists for consultant neurologists which is a problem that we also experience in Devon. It is not just a one-off case and my right hon. and learned Friend has done the House a service by raising these important matters.

The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) is a veteran of and a regular attender at these long Adjournment debates and said that he was pleased that they have survived. I share his pleasure in that—long may they continue. In these days of modernising the House, it is still important for hon. Members to know that even if they are not successful in the ballot for Adjournment debates—and it is a ballot—there is always an opportunity to raise important matters as very few hon. Members are denied the opportunity to make a speech during these end-of-term debates. The hon. Gentleman raised important matters about the Prison Service and Wandsworth prison. Let me

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assure him that if ever these Adjournment debates are threatened, we will all champion the cause and raise the vigilantes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam) spoke about the safety of the railways and how that impacts on commuters in his constituency. Like many other hon. Members, he drew attention to the fact that the Liberal Democrat Benches are empty. One or two hon. Members said, "Does that matter?" Indeed, the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) even considered making a Liberal Democrat speech. I am delighted that he did not, as I do not think that it would have suited him. I have never regarded the hon. Gentleman as wishy-washy or sitting on the fence and I think that he would have struggled to put that across with any conviction. The so-called self-appointed Opposition are not here and we hope that they are enjoying whatever beach they are sitting on, making their sandcastles.

The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) characteristically made an informed and passionate speech about matters that are important to him, particularly whaling. Had he not drawn to the House's attention what is clearly a most outrageous abuse on the part of the organisation that appears to have made allegations with no foundation against him and other hon. Members, many of us would not even have been aware of it. The hon. Gentleman did not simply put the record right on his behalf and that of others who were maligned in that way, but ensured that the matter was brought to wider public attention. All too often, Members of Parliament are accused of making allegations, but we also deserve the opportunity to be treated fairly and when we are not it is only right that it is brought to the attention of the House, and the hon. Gentleman has done that today. I hope that his words will not just have been noted, but will result in action being taken to put the matter right.

The hon. Gentleman also raised other matters that are close to his heart concerning sport, the Olympic games and Wembley. I know that it will not have been the last time that we will have heard from him on those subjects.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip–Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) raised matters involving his constituency, but they were not simply local matters as they involve the future of two very important hospitals, the Harefield hospital and Mount Vernon hospital, which serve people from all around the country. He spoke about the quality of life and he was absolutely right. We all welcome new hospitals and capital investment into our health service. I know that the Minister will have noted his concerns because those two hospitals are specialist hospitals, not just run-of-the-mill general hospitals. They are important to our national life and to health services in both transplantation and cancer care.

The hon. Member for Hornchurch (John Cryer), another regular at these occasions, spoke about mobile phone masts and about the tube. I hope that the Minister will have heard the request from his own side for the House to have an opportunity to consider matters relating to the tube in more detail.

My hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) spoke about teacher shortages, to the point at which he believes that part-time education will become a reality in his constituency unless something is done urgently. He gave us notice that he would have to

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disappear early, as—[Hon. Members: "He is here."] Oh yes, so he is. I am delighted. Obviously, the problem with his four-year-old is sorted out.

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East (Dr. Kumar) raised a complex constituency matter concerning a councillor involved in a planning application. I am sure that the Minister will have taken note of what is a specific case but could have a read-across to councillors throughout the country.

I am very pleased officially to welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) back to the House. I have not had an opportunity to do so before. He spoke about Cyprus and about beta interferon—issues that have been a running theme in this debate. When he says that he raises matters within an hour of being re-elected, it shows that he has not lost his zest for prompt action on behalf of his constituents, something with which we were all familiar in the 1992-97 Parliament.

The hon. Member for North–East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) is another veteran of these occasions—I shall be speaking about ageism shortly. He spoke about extending the franchise. Personally, I could not agree with all his points, but he is absolutely right that, now that we have easier rules for proxy and postal voting, returning officers at the general election may not have taken as seriously as they should the issue of access for wheelchair users and people with disabilities.

I remember writing to my returning officer before the 1997 general election to check that access arrangements had been thought through and ramps were available, especially at our rural polling stations where access might not be all that easy. It is terribly undignified—and quite unnecessary, if some forethought is given—for wheelchair users to have to be carried in to vote. We should all remind our returning officers that they should do a proper audit of all their polling stations well before election day and ensure that satisfactory access arrangements are made for people with a range of disabilities. Sometimes, people with little or no sight need some help with ballot papers and so on.

I warmed to the speech of the hon. Member for Elmet (Colin Burgon). He made some serious points about pensions, and admitted that he was the wrong side of 53. I have to join him in that.

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