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Geraint Davies rose

Mr. Moss: A survey by William M. Mercer found that London is the dirtiest capital in Europe.

Geraint Davies: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is the hon. Gentleman in order to make derogatory remarks about Croydon without accepting an intervention from a Member representing the area?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Whether to include such an intervention in the debate is at the discretion of the Member giving the speech.

Mr. Moss: I made no derogatory remarks about Croydon whatsoever. The hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Geraint Davies) just does not listen. I simply said that the Prime Minister had made a speech in Croydon; I made no remarks about urban decay in Croydon itself—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr. Moss: A survey by William M. Mercer found that London is the dirtiest capital in Europe, second only to Athens. Worldwide, London was ranked as low as 41st, a fall of six places from 2000, when it was 35th. The Government's second survey of national sustainable development indicators found that violent crime, traffic and waste problems were all worsening.

One key issue, as the Minister herself pointed out, is abandoned cars. The number of malicious vehicle fires has risen year on year, and by 68 per cent. in England since 1997—a key indicator quantifying the problem of burnt-out abandoned cars in local communities. The European Union end-of-life vehicles directive, which will come into effect in April, will mean that the cost of disposing of cars will soar. The Local Government Association estimates that it will now cost £200 to £300 to scrap a car, so most scrap yards will not accept cars without payment. The LGA says that it simply does not know how many more cars are going to be dumped in future.

Our debate on local communities should cover the new menace of fly-tipped fridges. New EU regulations on the disposal of refrigerators, which the Government signed

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without fully understanding the implications, have just come into effect, increasing the costs of disposal. Not only are there currently no facilities in the United Kingdom to dispose of fridges according to the new requirement, but the Government have imposed extra costs on councils that could run to more than £100 million a year. The whole debacle is down to ministerial incompetence; no doubt the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report on it will be devastating.

According to Audit Commission figures, local residents are more satisfied with waste collection services, street cleanliness and recycling facilities delivered by Conservative councils. For Members who take a keen interest in such things, I should explain that best value indicator 89 shows that residents in England whose services are provided by Conservative councils are more satisfied with the cleanliness of their streets and neighbourhoods: 68.4 per cent of residents in Conservative-controlled areas are content, compared with 56.9 per cent in Labour-controlled areas. Similarly, best value indicator 90a on waste collection shows that residents are more satisfied with waste collection services provided by Conservative councils: 86.3 per cent are satisfied, compared with 82 per cent. in Labour areas.

Mr. McCabe: Can the hon. Gentleman offer the House an explanation of why the Conservatives are so much better at dealing with rubbish?

Mr. Moss: I am talking about the best value indicators covering a range of council responsibilities, which were established by the Department and voted for in the House. I am simply demonstrating to hon. Members that all the indicators, as measured by the Audit Commission, show Conservative councils scoring better than Labour councils. That is what the hon. Gentleman does not like.

Mr. Sanders: Is it not the case that Liberal Democrat councils do better than Tory councils, which is why the hon. Gentleman has not mentioned them?

Mr. Moss: I am happy to give the figures for Liberal Democrat councils, which I omitted—[Interruption.] I was asked a question, and must endeavour to respond. On clean street satisfaction, Liberal Democrat councils scored 63 per cent., compared with 68 per cent. for Conservative councils; on waste collection satisfaction, Liberal Democrat councils scored 84 per cent., compared with 86 per cent. for Conservative councils; on recycling satisfaction, Liberal Democrat councils scored 66 per cent., compared with 70 per cent. for Conservative councils. Need I continue?

Mr. Sanders: No.

Mr. Moss: The hon. Gentleman has had enough; good.

To reduce graffiti and vandalism, Wandsworth borough council has expanded the use of closed circuit television and decoy sites to detect perpetrators, and is developing a voluntary code with retailers to stop the sale of spray cans and marker pens to juveniles. To tackle litter, it has doubled the number of litter bins on local streets to 1,400, all of which are emptied at least once a day.

I shall now turn to the subject of green spaces and the Green Paper. The Government are forcing local authorities to oversee the construction of millions of

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houses against local wishes. They have established a series of rigid national housebuilding targets across the country, which are then fed down via regional housebuilding targets to local authorities. Conservatives are opposed to excessive greenfield development. That is not nimbyism; we want to protect our green spaces in the north and the south, in our urban areas and in our countryside. We would abolish regional planning guidance and housebuilding targets, and give those powers back to local councils.

As for the planning Green Paper, local residents in London and the south-east are to be robbed of their say in local planning decisions. The consultation document outlines the Labour Government's desire to strip local communities of planning powers in a number of areas. We accept that the planning system needs to be reformed, but abolishing south-eastern residents' say in local planning is a retrograde step. Local people will be robbed of their say on large developments such as new airports, incinerators, pylons, large housing estates and power stations. Labour has also given the green light to greenfield destruction on a massive scale.

Mr. Betts: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Green Paper places great emphasis on the need for full and proper consultation, and that notices stuck on lamp posts by planning authorities should not be seen as a means of consulting the local community? There is also an emphasis on the need for prior consultation before the planning process begins, to make sure that that work goes on in a more relaxed and meaningful way, and to avoid confrontation when the local community suddenly sees a planning proposal at the last minute and rejects it.

Mr. Moss: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that more and better local consultation is necessary. That is what we propose. The opposition to the planning Green Paper has not come from the Conservative Benches alone: the Confederation of British Industry and other bodies, having studied it, are beginning to have serious doubts about it.

As for transport, we have more traffic and more congestion. Just days after the 1997 general election, the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions said:

We certainly intend to do so. Despite record fuel taxes, traffic on British motorways has risen by 11 per cent. since 1997, and by 5 per cent. across all roads.

There is also the problem of London Underground. Before Labour was elected, it promised

but delays on London Underground have almost doubled since Labour came to power. Delays have risen from 4.5 per cent. in 1997–98 to 8.4 per cent. in the last recorded period.

Mr. Syms: We spoke earlier about the press release from the Department, which mentions a 30 per cent. fall in public disturbances and street violence in a particular area of Newham. Will my hon. Friend take into account the fact that according to Metropolitan police figures in

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Newham over the past 12 months, street crime has gone up 21 per cent., possession of offensive weapons by 28 per cent., burglary by 12 per cent. and sexual offences by 30 per cent? The press release does not set the figure in context.

Mr. Moss: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. It seems that not only are the Government in breach of the code in terms of issuing press releases at this sensitive time, but they cannot even get their press releases accurate.

London Underground's most recent annual report revealed that the tube had failed on all seven of its performance targets. It failed to meet the required customer satisfaction standards for safety, security, information given to passengers, cleanliness of trains, the helpfulness and availability of station staff, number of train miles run, and the time taken for passengers to reach their destinations.

Not long after the 1997 election, the Prime Minister said:

That is from the record of a Cabinet meeting on 8 May 1997. Punctuality and reliability have declined under Labour. The percentage of trains arriving on time has declined from 89.7 per cent. in 1997–98 to 79.1 per cent. in 2000–01. The Minister for Europe, has admitted:

Since their election, the Labour Government have spent less in terms of both public investment and public expenditure than the last Conservative Administration. Total managed expenditure on transport as a proportion of gross domestic product totalled 1 per cent. on average between 1997 and 2001, 41 per cent. less than the under last Conservative Administration, who spent 1.7 per cent. of gross domestic product.

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