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Waste Refrigeration Equipment

Q6. [25662] Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): What action he has taken to co-ordinate the work of Government Departments in connection with the (a) disposal, (b) recycling and (c) re-use of refrigerators.

The Prime Minister: A number of Departments, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury, have been working closely together to devise the most efficient means of recycling old refrigerators, with the overall aim of reducing damage to the environment.

Mr. Sayeed: About time too. In 1998, the Government signed up to a directive about the disposal of fridges without understanding the implications of that directive. It was a further two years before they understood what they had agreed to. They then faffed around for some 18 months and failed to request a delay in implementing the directive. Will the Prime Minister tell me why we are in the ludicrous position of having 3 million fridges to dispose of, without having a single plant in the United Kingdom capable of doing the job? Who is going to pay for this fiasco? If ministerial responsibility is to mean anything—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I call the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister: It is not correct to say that no preparations have been made. Indeed, we have recently announced some £6 million-worth of extra funding—as the hon. Gentleman may know—precisely to help with the issue of recycling that he raises.


Q7. [25663] Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East): Is the Prime Minister aware that many people—I would say the majority of the British people—believe that his efforts and those of his Government on foreign and defence policy since 11 September are exemplary? May I seek an assurance from him that he and his Government will not lose sight of the fact that the treatment of the Palestinian people by Israel is perceived to lie at the heart of the problems of the Islamic world? Will he do everything in

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his power to ensure a peaceful and equitable solution to the problems in the middle east, based on United Nations resolutions?

The Prime Minister: We will certainly do what we can to assist the parties to make progress in the middle east. As I have said many times before, that must be based on two very secure principles. The first is a 100 per cent. effort by the Palestinian Authority to crack down on the violence and terrorism that are causing such destruction and misery in Israel, and—in my view—a guarantee from the Arab world about the security of the state of Israel. The second is a proper, viable Palestinian state in which Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in justice together. We will certainly do all that we can to make progress on this issue.

Q8. [25664] Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon): Many hundreds of my constituents working at Huntingdon Life Sciences, its shareholders and funders are being subjected to a massive campaign of intimidation from animal rights terrorists. Like other terrorists, they organise internationally and use extreme violence to further their views. Does the worldwide international fight against terrorism extend to Huntingdon and what does the Prime Minister intend to do to stop the violence against my constituents?

The Prime Minister: First, let me say to the hon. Gentleman that the violence against his constituents and

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against Huntingdon Life Sciences is totally and utterly beyond the pale. It is totally wrong. Those are criminal acts. For that very reason, we are tightening the law to ensure that we deal with these people in a more satisfactory and quicker way. Through the hon. Gentleman, I want to say to his constituents and to Huntingdon Life Sciences that one of the proud traditions of this country is that of scientific inquiry. People are perfectly entitled to their strong views on animal welfare, but it would be deeply regrettable if we lost any part of scientific endeavour in this country. The hon. Gentleman's constituents and that company will have our full support in making sure that the actions of these people do not succeed.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister has just told the House that the cost of the Saville inquiry is £52 million. As he ought to know—the House has already been furnished with written answers—that is only the cost to the Northern Ireland Office. The cost is already more than £14.5 million to the Ministry of Defence and the estimate of costs to the Northern Ireland Office is £100 million. That does not include costs to other Departments such as that which pays Lord Saville's salary. What opportunity is there for the Prime Minister to return to the House to correct the record?

Mr. Speaker: Why does not the hon. Gentleman try next Wednesday?

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Travel Concessions (Young Persons)

3.32 pm

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West): I beg to move,

The city that I represent, Milton Keynes, has a young population and the highest number of under-25s per 1,000 people of any city in Europe. The figures for 2000 show that 75,000 of the 209,000 population are under 25 and that there are 24,000 young people aged between 17 and 24. Whenever I speak to them about what affects their lives, the issue that is always top of their list is transport, and more specifically, the cost of public transport and how that reduces their access to training, employment, leisure and other services.

Young people rely on public transport. A recent survey by Milton Keynes Community Foundation shows that whereas an average of only 43 per cent. of city residents use public transport, the figure increases to 57 per cent. for 16 to 24-year-olds. The national travel survey shows that 17 to 20-year-olds use buses twice as much as the rest of the population. They make 13 per cent. of all journeys by bus compared with only 6 per cent. for all ages. That reflects the absence of alternatives for most young people. Only 41 per cent. of 17 to 20-year-olds hold a driving licence compared with 71 per cent. of adults.

In relying on public transport, young people are very similar to the over-65s and, like pensioners, they tend to have lower incomes than other adults. Unlike pensioners, however, they are not offered travel concessions unless they fall into certain restricted groups.

The Transport Act 1985, which applies to local authorities in England outside London and to Scotland and Wales, allows councils to provide travel concessions for elderly people, the blind and the disabled, and children under 16 or those between 16 and 18 in full-time education. My Bill would amend the Transport Act to permit local authorities to provide concessions for under-25s so that all young people were covered, whether in full-time education or not. Similar changes would be required to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to give the same powers to London boroughs.

My experiences talking to my young constituents in Milton Keynes have highlighted to me the barrier that is placed before them by the current cost of public transport. Of course there are some young people who are employed in well paid jobs, but I suspect that most of them will own a car and will be among the minority of young people who do not use public transport at all.

The majority of young people are on low incomes. The national minimum wage levels for 18 to 21-year-olds is only £3.50 an hour. Young people under 25 receive lower levels of housing benefit, income support and jobseeker's allowance. Wage levels in general are often lower for young people, reflecting their lack of experience. Students at further education colleges get little or no financial support, although I am pleased that this Government have begun to recognise the needs of this previously neglected group of students. Unemployed young people are in an even worse position. For all these young people, the cost of public transport is a major problem.

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I am indebted to the YMCA, which works with young people across the country, for evidence that shows that the problems identified by my young constituents in Milton Keynes are shared by young people throughout the country. In 2001, the YMCA responded to the consultation by the social exclusion unit on "Transport and Social Exclusion". Questionnaires were sent out to all 160 local YMCAs, working in 230 communities. The responses from young people and youth workers showed the ways in which lack of affordable public transport affects the ability of young people to make the most of the opportunities available to them.

In Nottingham, a YMCA resident—a trained joiner and cabinet maker on jobseeker's allowance—is faced with fares of nearly £4 return to travel to job interviews in nearby Ilkeston. The YMCA had to lend him the money, but the youth workers have commented that they do not publicise the YMCA fund because demand would then exceed supply. Chester YMCA echoes the point that

In Romford, the YMCA often has to make up the shortfall in people's travel costs; otherwise they cannot travel to job interviews or training further afield.

A worker at Bishop's Stortford YMCA highlighted the additional problem of the penalty in fare costs of changing from one bus to another:

Mendip YMCA in Wells drew attention to the problems in more rural areas where support services are widely based. Young people from Wells have to travel to Glastonbury or Frome—over an hour's bus journey—or even to Yeovil to obtain a crisis loan. In urban areas, the probation service, the benefit office and the Employment Service may all be on different bus routes.

If young people find employment, particularly if they are on the youth rate of national minimum wage, the added costs of travel can often more than cancel out the financial benefit of working. Romford YMCA often has to fund travelcards for young people on the new deal when they first start work, or they would be unable to afford transport to work. The lower rate of housing benefit for those under 25 means that they often cannot afford to live in the more expensive areas near their work or training, thus adding to transport costs.

A resident of Milton Keynes YMCA signed off benefits to work for the Post Office over Christmas but could not afford to pay transport costs before his wages were due at the end of December. He had to stop work and go back on benefits. Colchester YMCA highlighted the further education students who face costs of up to £15 a week to get to courses.

The examples collected by the YMCA mostly concern relatively disadvantaged groups of young people, but although the majority of young people may not face severe problems in transport to their education or training, most still find the cost of transport limits their access to sporting and leisure facilities. This has two worrying side effects. The first is that young people may be tempted to accept lifts from people they do not know, or to walk home alone late at night because they cannot pay the transport costs. The second is that young people, unable to afford the transport to city centre activities, tend to congregate aimlessly around suburban shopping centres, drifting into vandalism through boredom.

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It has long been accepted that local councils should have the powers to offer travel concessions to pensioners, because access to affordable public transport is seen as crucial to allowing pensioners to lead full lives. Indeed the Transport Act 2000 gave elderly people an entitlement to a half-fare concession on local bus travel. As I pointed out earlier, young people are similar to pensioners in being very reliant on public transport, having low access to private cars and being on lower than average incomes. My Bill recognises that young people, too, need access to affordable public transport to lead full lives. By encouraging young people to use public transport we may also be helping the environment in which we all live, by building a habit that carries through into later life—the habit of using public transport more and the private car less.

I would ask hon. Members to think of the experiences of young people in their constituencies, and to listen to the views collected by the YMCA and echoed by young people all over the country. I ask hon. Members to support my Bill and help our young people to gain a greater freedom of movement and ability to lead fuller lives through access to affordable transport.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Dr. Phyllis Starkey, Charlotte Atkins, Richard Burden, Mrs. Anne Campbell, Vernon Coaker, Phil Hope, Helen Jackson, Mr. David Lammy, Margaret Moran, Mr. Martin Salter and Ms Claire Ward.

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