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Ross Cranston: I have no idea of the nature of the complaints that the hon. Lady raised with the Parliamentary Commissioner. Of course, they will not necessarily remain confidential because there might be a report. I was simply appealing to her as a leading member of the Conservative Front Bench. I make the same appeal to Labour Members. However, if I gave offence, I unreservedly withdraw my comments and apologise.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) mentioned parish polls in his constituency. It was rich of the hon. Member for North Cornwall to talk about distorting polls. If any party is the past master of distorting polls, it has got to be the Liberal Democrats. We could all learn a few tricks about distorted polls from them. My hon. Friend made a good point, however. We all appreciate that the consequences could be enormous if it takes just 10 voters to trigger a parish poll.
I do not know whether you would rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) as "petal", which is how he described himself. That is not how I have seen him in the past, but I think that he makes a rather nice petal.
My hon. Friend filled us with horror. I had not realised the scale of the imminent problem of second-hand and used fridges, both domestic and commercial. Apparently, there will not be a solution to that unless huge sums of money are spent, either by the Government or local authorities, or by the people who purchase the refrigeration units. Some 2.1 million fridges are replaced. I assume that is every year. There is nowhere for those fridges to go because the Government signed up to something and were not aware what it meant.
The problem is on such a scale that Ministers should stay behind during Christmas and sort it out. I represent a rural area and I am worried that every spare lay-by and ditch will, over the coming year, be filled with horrible old fridges, because people will dump them if there is nowhere to put them.
Mrs. Browning: Now I shall really disappoint the hon. Gentleman for Christmas. He said that peace should be at the forefront of the situation involving the Israelis and the Palestinians. He stressed the importance of the negotiating table and the need for the United Kingdom and the Americans to use their influence to get people round it.
Back in 1993, I visited Tunis with an all-party delegation, and we had a meeting with Yasser Arafat. His headquarters were then in Tunis and we met just before he moved out. Clearly, he has to take the initiative in dealing with many of the problems with Hamas. However, I do not underestimate the difficulty that he faces in doing that. Like all extremist terrorist groups, Hamas is pretty out of control; that does not let Arafat off the hook but, having met and talked to him, I can see the difficulty of the task that he still faces. There has to be a coming together in a season when we focus on what is going on in the middle east. I was at a carol service on Saturday night and we all sang "O little town of Bethlehem". It was poignant to think of Jerusalem now; the hon. Gentleman was right to raise the matter and express his views in the way that he did.
I shall be quick now because I am a minute over my allotted time. To my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West, I say, "Stick with it, my friend." If I am ever in this position on the Front Bench again, I hope to give him a prize for raising many issues, for which the people of Southend, West will be grateful. The hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Dr. Vis) said that he did not want a response, but he did Finchley and Golders Green proud this evening. My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) raised the serious problem of toxic ash. He is waiting for a response from the Home Secretary on a petition that he has lodged; I hope that the Minister will ensure that he gets one. My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) spoke about his local Queen Alexandra hospital and, again, problems with public services and care places for the elderly. My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) spoke about the roads and problems including Government cutbacks in the road-building programme and the disarray of the integrated transport policy.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Stephen Twigg): I shall attempt to match my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Dr. Vis), who represents a neighbouring constituency for speed. I shall try to reply to the 20 contributions to our debate in the 12 minutes or so that remain before 10 o'clock.
First, I praise all Members for their self-discipline in keeping to a time limit on speeches. In three hours today, we have managed to hear 21 speeches, whereas in five hours in July we heard 22 speeches. I therefore
Mr. Twigg: Well, it was not goodbye[Interruption.] It was au revoir, and I welcome her back. Our thoughts tonight will be with her colleague, the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight). We look forward to seeing him back in the House in the new year.
Our debate has been wide ranging, extending from Droitwich Spa to the Western Sahara. There have been contributions on national and international issues, as well as important local issues. I shall do my best to respond to the points that were made, but apologise if I do not cover everything. I shall ensure that Members to whom I do not reply get responses in due course.
I join the warm praise for the opening, and customary, speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox). My constituency has more people hailing from the island of Cyprus than any other parliamentary constituency; I represent both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. I particularly welcome the fact that my hon. Friend's speech enables me to say something about Cyprus. Like him, I welcome the progress on the European Union accession talks. I, too, would prefer the whole of Cyprus to join the EU. However, it is vital that we reaffirm, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe has done, the decision of the European Council at Helsinki that there should be no preconditions to the Republic of Cyprus joining the EU. I look forward to a day when we can once again see a united Cyprus with Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots living together side by side in peace, in the way they do in my constituency and in other parts of north London. Like my hon. Friend, I welcome the new discussions between President Clerides and Mr. Denktash, which I hope will bear fruit in the new year.
There were some thoughtful contributions on international issues. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson), who I believe celebrates his 25th anniversary in the House next year, referredI agree with himto the brilliant Dimbleby lecture by former President Clinton of the United States. He raised several extremely important issues about Africa, the middle east and other parts of the world and the powers of the International Criminal Court, which I am pleased to undertake to draw to the attention of my colleagues, especially those in the Foreign Office.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (John Cryer) said that the debate had been described by one of our hon. Friends as whingeing gits' day. Perhaps that is not the case today. As I have said, we have had some thoughtful contributions. Like my hon. Friend and other hon. Members, I have experience of some of the difficulties of the Eaga Partnerships scheme. I have had a number of constituency cases, and clearly it is something that the Government should address.
The right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Virginia Bottomley) contrasted private affluence with public squalor. She rightly talked about the situation in her constituency. All of us want what is best for our constituency. However, in addressing the issue of inequalities in health, Labour Members at least might have a different view about the scale and nature of the challenge that we are facing from that of the right hon. Lady.
I note the recent budget allocations for the right hon. Lady's health authority, the West Surrey health authority. The figures before me show that in the last two years of the Conservative Government the real-terms increases were 0.5 per cent. and 1.4 per cent., whereas this year and next year those increases will be 6.3 per cent. and 6.9 per cent. I do not deny that there are many issues and challenges in the health service across the country, but we are seeing a real and sustained effort to get extra investment into the service.
A number of Members, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac), mentioned fireworks. I think that all of us receive correspondence from constituents setting out the sort of concerns that have been expressed this evening. I shall ensure that these concerns are drawn to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for consumer affairs. Enforcement of fireworks regulations is the responsibility of local authority trading standards departments. However, my hon. Friend has recently sought feedback from those departments on levels of compliance and enforcement issues following this year's fireworks season.
I know that my neighbour and my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan) raised the issue in a debate in Westminster Hall this year. I look forward to the ten-minute Bill that will be presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) in January.
The hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) raised the case of the Royal hospital, Haslar, as he has done on a number of occasions. I congratulate him on his consistency in raising the issue and I pay tribute to his work. I understandhe said thisthat the integration process between Haslar and the Portsmouth hospital trust is going well. I am sure that he will keep us informed of progress in the months and years ahead.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen), who has now been out of purdah for six months and able to address the Chamber, has apologised for not being able to remain in his place for the closing speeches. I thank him for the tribute he paid to the progress that is being made on modernisation. I shall be very careful in responding to his suggestion that mandatory time limits be introduced for speeches. I know that that is a matter for Mr. Speaker and his deputies, but the debate tonight demonstrated that with self-discipline, we can enable all hon. Members who wish to take part in a debate to do so.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam), like me, represents an outer-London suburban constituency. I recognised some of the topics and challenges that he described in his contribution. I will pass on his kind words about my right hon. Friend the new Home Secretary, who I am sure will appreciate them, and I will ensure that the various matters mentioned by the hon. Gentleman are passed on.
Several hon. Members acknowledged the fact that police numbers are rising. We are witnessing a change nationwide, but there is still an enormous amount to do. All hon. Members are acutely aware of crime and the fear of crime. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston) raised important issues relating to the police, antisocial behaviour and the Government's proposals for reform of the police service. I endorse his remarks about the lost opportunity to take action to deal with incitement to religious hatred. It is sad that that opportunity was lost. That has caused hurt in many parts of our country, particularly to Muslim communities. The House will have to return to the matter.
The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) focused on important issues concerning his constituency. The Government attach great importance to the country's built heritage. Today a new document entitled "The Historic Environment: a Force for our Future" was launched. It sets out how we intend to move forward. I am not aware of the detail of all the hon. Gentleman's specific suggestions, but I will draw his remarks on behalf of his constituency to the attention of appropriate colleagues in the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) spoke about various topics, most importantly the future of buses. There has been an increase in bus services nationwide, but a huge amount needs to be done. I endorse my hon. Friend's observation that improving the bus network is a vital way of providing for greater social inclusion.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) spoke about the alleged fridge mountain. He will be aware that the Government have secured money through the new opportunities fund for a recycling programme. Constructive discussions are taking place between Government, retailers, other companies and contractors responsible for disposal to agree a revised timetable so that the directive can be implemented properly. As a result, I hope that we will not see the fridge mountains to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) is, in his inimitable way, a regular at pre-recess Adjournment debates. He raised a series of concerns, many relating to his constituency, including a bid for city status. I will do my best to ensure that he gets appropriate responses from the relevant Departments. My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green said that he did not require a reply. As I have only a minute left, he will not get one.
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) spoke about the Pitsea tip and about correspondence and parliamentary questions. I hope that he will not be disappointed if I say that I cannot explain why his letters regarding the Pitsea tip have not yet been answered, but I will draw his concerns to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and encourage him to write fully to the hon. Gentleman.