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Mr. McCabe: I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman's last remarks. However, in view of those remarks, how does he justify the behaviour of his Liberal colleagues in the other place, who last night voted against the proposals on which he is commenting?

Mr. Sanders: I think that they were concerned with a different issue—that of giving certain powers of enforcement to those who would carry out that job. Their opinion was that the Government had not fully thought that through. In principle, the Liberal Democrats support community officers and community security forces.

We also need to bring more flexibility to the police force and to find alternative staffing options to help fill some of the gaps left by inadequate numbers of police officers. One idea is to introduce a new category of part-time community officers. That would help alleviate the pressure on full-time officers and lay the foundation for a network of named local police officers for every community.

Another option that has been successfully implemented by Liverpool city council is to rent extra police officers from the local police authority. Those extra officers have been used to reinforce the patrolling of Liverpool's busy city centre, and have had an impact on shoplifting and crime in that area. Such ideas should not be taken up by every local authority. Liberal Democrats sometimes take issue with the Government for saying that particular initiatives should be adopted everywhere—our view is that we should allow local areas to come up with the best ideas and let them flow from the grass roots rather than impose them from the top down.

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Islington council has recently achieved substantial results with its new acceptable behaviour contract initiative. In this programme, 10 to 18-year-olds sign contracts promising that certain standards of behaviour will be upheld. The contracts are administered by the council's housing department and the police, and a breach of the contract can jeopardise the family's tenancy if they are residents of council or housing association accommodation. So far, ABCs—as they are known—have proven very effective in reducing teenage antisocial behaviour, as linking behaviour standards to tenancy privileges has forced parents to take action to ensure that their children are better behaved. Of the original 60 contracts signed last year, only two were breached.

The most effective way to bring about an improvement in the quality of life in local communities is to involve the people of those communities. We should let the people determine what they need and want and involve them in the management of change. This task is best suited to the lowest level of government, which is closest to the people. A blanket approach to improving the quality of life in individual communities is doomed to fail. Rather than formulate a centralised plan to address this issue, it would be much more effective to empower local government to create plans that best meet local needs.

Often, the things that make the biggest difference to people's day-to-day quality of life are those that seem relatively insignificant. I am sure that hon. Members are aware of that from their mailbags or from the people who attend their surgeries. Discarded rubbish, cyclists riding on pavements, overgrown hedgerows, faulty street lamps and broken paving stones all come into that category. Despite the fact that local government is clearly the appropriate tier to deal with many issues affecting the quality of life in communities, it is often severely hampered by underfunding, by grant regimes that do not recognise local needs, or by spending requirements and targets handed down to them by a higher authority.

The report "Towards an Urban Renaissance", released by the urban taskforce in 1999, stated:

To do that, they must be given the proper fiscal tools, as well as be afforded more opportunity to use those tools as they see fit. We can protect, enhance and improve the quality of life in local communities only through powers exercised in the community, by the community and for the community. It is therefore no surprise that what the Government are attempting to do, often based on that report, is happening piecemeal. We need to free up local government completely, give it the competence to meet local government need, devolve finance-raising powers to the local level, and allow communities into the town halls to affect decisions and carry forward change together. That will give communities a sense of ownership about the improvements that they want to their quality of life to ensure that those improvements are sustainable and long-term.

12.14 pm

Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): It is always a pleasure to follow a fellow seaside Member in a debate. We have unique seaside communities around the country

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which, as I am sure the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders) will agree, reflect in microcosm the problems that we see nationally, as we find out on a weekly basis in our constituency surgeries.

The debate is very welcome. I am honoured to represent 74 parish councils in Scarborough and Whitby, which means that there are 74 distinct communities in my constituency. Two, obviously, are particularly significant: many hon. Members will recognise the pre-eminence of Scarborough as the first ever seaside resort and recall Whitby's historical importance, particularly to the Church of England.

The two towns have quite different and distinct communities. I want to reflect in my remarks the uniqueness of each community in my constituency, and to acknowledge the differences between Newby in Scarborough and Danby in the north York moors, and between the Eastfield housing estate and Scalby, a rich suburb of Scarborough. Each has a community forum. I look forward to the Government's policies renewing, reinvigorating and revitalising the grass roots of those communities.

As many hon. Members will know, I am one of only seven chartered engineers who are honoured to attend this Chamber. Our training means that for us the word "quality" has a meaning quite different from the standard dictionary definition. We have to be able to measure quality and refer to it in terms of yardsticks, specifications and standards. When I was designing bridges, I had to adhere rigorously to a code of practice known as BS 5400, which enables engineers to design bridges with a lifespan of at least 120 years. I hope that the policies that we are now implementing to improve the quality of our life in our local communities will have an equally long-term effect, benefiting generations to come.

In earlier interventions in the debate I tried to focus on the importance of young people and of the next generation. Their participation in, and contribution to, local life dictates the quality of life experienced by the rest of society. My constituency varies from typical seafront arcade areas to countryside in the national parks which is probably some of the most beautiful in England, and that variety leads to different problems in individual communities. Sometimes my constituents feel that visitors to the area are afforded a far greater welcome than people who live in the area all year round.

The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) spoke of the importance of clean streets and of dealing with litter. I am proud to say that my local authority has regularly won a "Keep Britain Tidy" award because of the cleanliness of its streets. However, the inspectors for the award were probably looking at the "front of house" parts of the constituency—the areas to which tourists come, such as well laid-out parks and gardens. I commend Scarborough council's parks department for its excellent work.

Behind the front of house, however, we have housing estates such as Eastfield, Barrowcliff and Edgehill in Scarborough and Strenshoelh in Whitby. Those are areas of long-term decline and, for the communities, failure. In the northern end of my constituency is the picturesque little seaside village of Staithes, which is a real treat. It should be regarded as a wonderful world heritage site

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because of its position on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast. Behind that, however, is a housing estate that has suffered from long-term unemployment, and a failure to renew housing stock and the basic infrastructure available to the people who live there year round.

The Minister is welcome to visit any part of my constituency whenever she likes. I know that she did a great deal of work on the fishing communities regeneration initiative. Former fishing communities are starting to benefit from the Government's policies. In Staithes, £19 million is being focused on rebuilding a community of several hundred people in the terms unique to that community and linked with it.

In an intervention, I asked the Minister what importance she attached to the contribution of local people to the design and content of the built environment. I am pleased to report that this very weekend Scarborough borough council is to engage in the sort of dialogue that I want to take place throughout the country. Scarborough's community planning weekend is being held to enable the people of Scarborough—not the visitors, but the regular residents—to say how they want their community to develop.

I shall participate tomorrow, although the events start this afternoon. In addition to important issues of economic development and tourism, which are standard fare to anyone who represents a seaside community, the arts, entertainment and culture are to be considered, not only for visitors—for example, those who flood in from northern Europe to see Sir Alan Ayckbourn's latest play at the Stephen Joseph theatre—but for the people who live in the town and want to improve their lives and participate in local activities. A significant part of the time available to local people will be devoted to children, and to young people who are at that crucial age when they are trying to find their way in the world, take on citizenship and make a contribution to local society.

Such initiatives sound like acts of optimism, but the ability to take them has been hard won. It is only because of Government policy that the necessary resources have become available to us. I lobbied the Minister's predecessor, who is now the Minister for Sport, hard to get objective 2 status for my area. I am pleased to say that all but one of the wards in my constituency now have that status.

The possibility of investment and spending forces us to focus. I hope that others share my view that we should not fall into the trap of engaging the usual suspects—the highly paid consultants who trek over from Leeds or up from London and mop up vital capital investment. At the earliest opportunity we must engage in the type of work embodied in this weekend's events, which are taking place under the title, "A Vision for Scarborough". People have to be involved if they are to be able to specify the quality they want in their various and diverse communities.

Scarborough and Whitby contain a crucial group of people who should never be overlooked. I think that we stand 26th in the league table in terms of our population of over-55s. Many seaside constituencies have similar demographics. People come to our part of the world to retire, but the facilities that older people need—especially when couples move to the seaside and one partner dies a few years later—are often under great pressure. We need

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to plan our health and social services provision in the light of the inevitability that that large age group will increase in number.

The Government listened to the many older people who demanded that provision be made for concessionary bus passes to improve their mobility. Scarborough and Whitby was one of 12 communities in the country that did not recognise those needs. I am proud that I participated in the passage of what became the Transport Act 2000, which resulted in older people and disabled people having that facility nationally. Great work is done for local people in both Scarborough and Whitby by action groups for disabled people. They nag, encourage and try to ensure that the council does not forget that if we make public places and facilities in a town convenient and accessible for disabled people, we shall achieve greater access for many more people within society.

As an engineer, I had often to design footbridges over railway lines. It was a common phenomenon that, as I designed to a standard that allowed people with wheelchairs and other disabled people to have access to a bridge, it gave young mums and people who were not so badly disabled but a bit slow in their movements that access too.

I welcome the statement about bus stops and public transport facilities. To make them more accessible for local people improves the quality of life considerably, and the accessibility improves the environment, too. If buses and trains can be used more easily because of better design that takes into account the views of the local community, that will be good both for people and for the budgets of bus companies and train operators. In the end, it will be better for the public purse.

Quality matters, given the perceptions and daily experiences of local people, especially those who think that the visitors who come to my constituency over a 20-week period during the summer—there are about 20 million of them—are afforded a better quality of experience than they are. Quality matters for everyone, all the time.

We now have a global media frenzy, and the internet is accessible to anyone in the world. Local people's perceptions of quality affect the perceptions of potential visitors—potential tourist customers—who are considering whether to come to places such as Scarborough and Whitby.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) referred to the pressures on London. Let us get some of the many visitors who come to places such as London away from those pressures. Let us have infrastructure available in places such as Scarborough and Whitby that will encourage them to have a different experience. Let them experience the special quality of life that we want to encourage.

We have touched on the importance of transport. I know that the Minister is aware of the importance of the A64 corridor because she has answered questions on the subject. Her departmental colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), who has responsibilities for transport, is also aware of the importance of the corridor. It brings 20 million tourists to the Yorkshire coast every year, and it is a lifeline for the rest of the community—for the manufacturers and for the people who live and work in Scarborough all the time.

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I urge my hon. Friend's Department to give even more emphasis to the developments that I hope will flow from the recent study commissioned by the Highways Agency to improve the quality of life and experience for people travelling to Scarborough. People become frustrated, turn off the A64 and go down to Bridlington, and that is no good for my constituents. They want people to come all the way to Scarborough.

We have a serious problem with people waiting for social housing provision. Like all seaside towns, we have a large private tenant sector, which is a consequence of changes in the tourism industry and the move away from bed-and-breakfast accommodation. As part of Lord Falconer's planning consultation, officials are considering having discrete areas for residential accommodation and hotel and bed-and-breakfast accommodation. Huge tension can be created when people are moved into to private sector accommodation next door to high quality hotel or bed-and-breakfast accommodation. They do not live in our community or respect its values and, frankly, they cause a nuisance and make life hell for some visitors and other people in the sector. I shall stress those points to Lord Falconer in due course.

I am pleased to have been able to participate in our debate, and I hope that the Minister will pass my messages on to her colleagues in the Department. I trust that she will reply from the Dispatch Box to some of my points, particularly those concerning younger people.

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