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Beverley Hughes: I shall have to return to the points made by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) tomorrow. I commit myself to providing him with details then. I can tell him now, however, that Lords amendment No. 37 is technical. Its aim is to ensure that Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man will be able to use the aviation security powers, and it was specifically requested by Jersey and Guernsey.
The hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) raised another technical question. Lords amendment No. 70 removes white pox from the list of viruses because it is regarded as a form of smallpox and, like smallpox, is covered by the "Variola virus" entry in schedule 5.
Simon Hughes: I am grateful for the Minister's helpful answer about aviation powers, but is the provision limited to the three places that she mentioned? If so, that is perfectly acceptable. May I also ask whether it is the only provision in the Bill that extends to those places, and whether they had to legislate as well?
Beverley Hughes: According to my recollection it is the only provision that extends to those places, but by tomorrow I shall have established whether the information that I have given off the top of my head is correct.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the hour that we will be given tomorrow, in the first instance, to receive the Lords' response to our messages. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mrs. McGuire), the Whip who has been dealing with the Bill, tells me that that was discussed with him, and that it was not questioned by him or his colleagues during the discussions between the usual channels. I am surprised that he raised the matter, because we have tried to respond not just to the substance of many Members' concerns about various parts of the Bill but to Opposition requests about how the Bill should be managed, within the limitations imposed on us. I know that my hon. Friend has tried to do that. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to explain now, I should be pleased to hear his explanation.
The hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) and I were indeed consulted. We presented a counter- proposition relating to all the other matters, which the Government accepted; but we had to take into account the fact that we had already passed a business motion committing us to finishing on Thursday. It is because of that constraint, on which the House had already voted, that we tried to be practical and arrange for time to be provided. We do not like it, but we put our hands up because we were against the "end-stop".
Let me make a general point. The time scale applying to the Bill is by no means out of kilter with time scales applied by past Governments to similar emergency legislation. If anything, the time has been more generous than that provided for other emergency legislation.
Norman Baker: Does the Minister accept that on previous occasions emergency legislation has been far narrower and tightly defined, and has not included a lot of other stuff that is not much to do with terrorism?
Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of their amendments to the Bill: Paul Goggins, Mr. Dominic Grieve, Beverley Hughes, Simon Hughes and Mrs. Anne McGuire; Beverley Hughes to be the Chairman of the Committee; Three to be the quorum of the Committee[Mrs. McGuire.]
Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster): It gives me great pleasure to present this petition, particularly as the travellers concerned have now moved to Withington, a village that is deeply distressed by that development.
The Humble Petition of the concerned residents of Leominster sheweth
That the travellers currently residing in Leominster and Withington should be removed to one of the sites in Herefordshire that is specifically dedicated to travellers where they will be welcome and safe, as Leominster residents have been caused considerable distress. Also that the Government considers releasing funds in order to increase police numbers in Herefordshire to protect citizens of that county from crime,
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House will urge the Herefordshire council to relocate the travellers in Leominster to a dedicated travellers site and increase police funding.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Declares that police staffing levels in the area are numerically inadequate given rising crime levels
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for the Home Department to take such action as lies within his power to increase the number of bobbies on the beat in the southern sector of the borough of Rugby.
Bob Russell (Colchester): The petition of Margaret Edgington of Colchester, schoolteachers and parents and others from many parts of the country deals with the introduction of the foundation stage of the national curriculum. The petitioners are concerned that some practitioners are being hindered in their attempts to implement the principles of the foundation stage. They feel that there is a lack of continuity of approach and of expectation from the new foundation stage to key stage 1; and that the expectation for children's achievements in years 1 and 2 are incompatible with the early learning goals set for children at the end of the foundation stage.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire): I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce this debate on what I believe to be the issue of greatest concern in local authority funding. So great is my concern that I count it small cost to have waited here until 1.50 am last Thursday and to be here at six minutes past 12 this morning for the debate. I wish to consider the problems and the consequences of, and the solutions to, the issue of social services. I am keen to draw attention to that issue in Bedfordshire, but it is a national issue and the problems are no worse in my area than in the rest of the UK, and are probably better because of the careful financial management of the council over the past few years.
Social services spending has not been the political priority that it should have been under both Labour and Conservative Governments. There has been a long history of local authorities spending over their standard spending assessments. This year, Bedfordshire will spend 15 per cent. more, or £7.8 million, than the sum that the Government say we should spend, according to our SSA. That is in line with the average overspend of all counties in the south-east of England. Nationally, the overspend above SSA is £916 million, or 10.2 per cent. In addition, local authorities spend a further £200 million over and above those budgets to meet the demands placed upon them.
The publicity that the issue receives is usually in connection with the care of the elderly, but the greatest financial pressures relate to children's services. The Association of Directors of Social Services estimates that 64 per cent. of the total overspend will be a result of the increased demand for children's services. Between 1997 and 2000, the number of children in need nationally rose by 6.8 per cent. to 381,000. The number of children in care has increased from 49,300 in 1994 to 58,100 in 2000. The number of children looked after under court orders has doubled since 1993.
In adult services, reduced infant mortality and enhanced survival rates for children with disabilities impact on parents and siblings and on carers' ability to provide care as the carers themselves get older. In elderly care, we know that by 2007 the number of pensioners will have overtaken the number of children under 16. In the 12 months to June 2001, Bedfordshire social services received 5,969 referrals of older people in need. Many of those related to patients who should be discharged from hospital, but cannot be. In some cases, clients have died in distressingly inappropriate care.
It is time that the recruitment for the 2,000 vacancies in child protection units nationally had the same national prominence as recruiting teachers and nurses currently receives. The 50 per cent. reduction in students applying to join the social work profession is also deeply worrying.
Nationally, we know that we have lost 46,000 residential care beds over the past four years, and the Care Standards Act 2000 has hastened that decline, because it requires modifications to create larger room sizes and places new restrictions on room sharing. The quality of care and not the dimensions of the room should be what matters.
There is also a lack of flexibility of funding between the NHS and social services. The close connection between the work of social services departments and the NHS means that there should be greater flexibility to spend the money between the two. The NHS has passed the lead responsibility for many services over to social services. For example, it has removed itself from the disability care field, leaving provision to be met through personal social services.