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Mr. Viggers: I hope that the hon. Lady will forgive me, but even though the debate will probably continue until about midnight, I am conscious that we are short of time and many colleagues still wish to speak.
Some years ago, split-site working was not thought acceptable for doctors and nurses. There was a belief that all facilities should be concentrated in super-hospitals. However, there has since been a relaxation of views and now the feeling is very much that local hospitalsespecially diagnostic and treatment centres that can provide a production line for surgical casesprovide excellent places in which to train doctors, nurses and other medical staff, and that split-site working is not at all unacceptable.
The concept of telemedicine has been gaining currency, and Haslar is a world leader in telemedicine, using its radio and television links to provide telemedical advice to UK civilian facilities. It is, moreover, the centre of the telemedicine world, so that patients, whether they are in Haslar or Sierra Leone, can benefit from Haslar advice.
It is admitted that defence medical services are in crisis. I submit, as I did last Thursday to the Secretary of State for Defence, that if we wait for a major crisis in defence medicinefor the armed forces to face a large number of casualtiesbefore we act, we will be too late. The Secretaries of State for Defence and for Health should work together, provide some of that much-vaunted joined-up government, recognise that their plans to close Haslar are wrong, change course and retain Royal Hospital, Haslar within the national health service.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): By definition, mine is not a winding-up speech because several colleagues have yet to speak, but I wanted to respond to some of the points that have been made before making my own contribution.
I recall during the last Adjournment debate, before the Whit recess, commenting that we had not had the pleasure of the company of the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers). I assumed that that meant that the Royal Hospital Haslar had been reprieved, given a full new status and a fresh lease of life. Sadly, that is obviously not the case, and we wish the hon. Gentleman well in his continuing campaign.
Several themes have run through this evening's debate. We often raise individually matters of constituency concern that are echoed in other parts of the country. That is surely the proper role for Parliament. We are of course here as representatives of our constituency, but we are also here to try to ensure that issues of national interest that override constituency concerns receive the attention of the national Parliament. I wanted to spend some time trying to draw out some of those themes and to add to them from my point of view.
A number of Members have referred to the local government settlement. It would be remiss of me if I did not put it on record that Cornwall would suffer if the options currently proposed were put into effect without dramatic reform. It is interesting to hear Members who represent constituencies in places such as Buckinghamshire and south-west Surrey complain that they have been short-changed. We in the more remote and peripheral parts of the United Kingdom think that it is we who have been short-changed. Other Members from all parties who are present would agree with that.
I was particularly struck by the speech of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) on empty homes. That problem is not exclusive to the major cities of the north; it can be found in many other parts of the country. From his description, it is obvious that his town has a deep-seated problem. It will be important to see whether the Deputy Prime Minister's proposals, which were put before the House last week, will address the problems of lack of take-up of accommodation and lack of investment in housing stock in areas such as the hon. Gentleman'sas well as my own. In my area, we have suffered from the Ministry of Defence deliberately keeping properties empty for long periods, and then from those properties not being made available to the local authority but being handed instead to an arm's-length private company that does not make them available for local needs.
I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) concern about the A303. I spent quite a lot of time in a traffic jam on that road while coming in this direction on Saturday. I was amazed to find that people seemed to be leaving Cornwall as well as going to it at this time of year. Why should anybody want to leave Cornwall, which is of course the most beautiful place in the UK to spend July or August?
Mr. Tyler: Before my hon. Friend gets excited, it must be said that many more people were on the other carriageway heading west. Even so, I entirely endorse what he said about that particularly dangerous stretch of road. Any Government who put the issue of increasing the speed by which people can travel on the road on the same basis as a safety issue are clearly missing the point.
The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer) made an important point not just about the Commonwealth games but about Britain's international reputation for attracting such a major sporting event and taking full advantage of it.
In my more responsible past before I fell into the deep trough of parliamentary representation, I was vice- chairman of a national park committee. I therefore very much share the view of the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) that we must ensure that the management of the national parks retains a local as well as a regional and national element. If we do not do so, the people who live in the national parks will not feel that they have proper influence over planning.
In my past, as well as being a councillor, I was a part-time beekeeper, although I had to give it up when the bees stung me. I am a sensitive soul and they managed to close both my eyes completely so that I looked like a Mongolian baby. After that, I kept well clear of bees. However, the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), who is not in his place at present, made an important point about the beekeeping community and the difficulties that it experiences with insurance.
In a curious way, that linked to the next speech: the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) also described how insurance companies have an extraordinary hold on all sorts of activities. In his case, it was a colliery. It surely cannot be right that when we as a nation invest large sums to maintainin that casea colliery, although it could be any business, it should be put on the rack by the failure of insurance brokers to find cover for the business. It is absurd that public money invested in an operation can be put at risk by the private company that provides insurance and by the insurance market.
I confess that I did not hear the whole of the speech made by the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) as I had left the Chamber for a restorative banana. He deployed an extremely good argument about the enormous number of telecommunication masts that are apparently being permittedit must be saidby a fast-track procedure introduced by the Conservative Government.
One of the most absurd situations that has ever occurred in planning was when that Government, who had an opportunity to do so, did not tell telecommunications companies, "Yes, you may have a mast, but you can have only one mast in an area for all the operators". However, once the Government had given consent to one operator, it was difficult to resist applications from others. It would have been perfectly possible to insist that all operators use the same mast. I am given to understand that there would be no technical problems; indeed, there would be real cost savings. The hon. Member for West Chelmsford said that there were 29 applications in his constituency. The position is similar in my constituency and I very much regret that the then Secretary of State did not insist on joint use of masts.
I wanted especially to refer to the support expressed by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) for the parliamentary education unit. A number of us are working hard in various ways to try to make this place more than an interesting historical monument, although I am very fond of it. This is a great building; it is an interesting example of the results of an architectural competition. Indeed, the architects who won that competition were ahead of their time in many, many ways.
What is most important for visitors to this place, however, is that they see a working democracy. That is what it should be all about. The hon. Member for Burnley and I sit on the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons and one of our most important functions is to try to ensure that Parliament is seen to be modern, working for the community and the nation, rather
The parliamentary education unit is a critical part of the way in which we deploy our resources to ensure that people better understand what we do. I hope that it will reduce the extent to which people feel detached from, and unable to contribute to, the political process.
It was interesting to discover that Members throughout the United Kingdom have so much in common. The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) complained about policing in rural areas. Her area is not as rural as mine, so I can claim that we have an even greater crisisas other hon. Members might do, too. The problem is more about retention than recruitment, however. Retention of police officers is a major problem, not only in the south-east but in many parts of the country.
We have lost a large number of specials. Having been a member of a police authority, I know of the important role that specials can play. Of course, many of them go on to become full-time police officers, so the number of specials who have been recruited or retained may not be really indicative of the problem. The important point is whether total police manpower is sufficient for a particular area.
The hon. Member for South Swindon (Ms Drown) raised two issues that are important to our communitiesI know that many other hon. Members have similar viewsthe danger, inconvenience and disturbance caused by fireworks and more seriously by airguns. There cannot be a single Member who has not had complaints from individuals or communities about the increased use of airguns, which can be incredibly dangerous, by all ages, not simply teenagers or youths. The hon. Lady rightly pointed to the additional problem of police officers believing them to be real firearms, from which they must protect the community.
I fear that I do not follow the hon. Member for Strangford (Mrs. Robinson) in her depressing analysis of what she termed the failure of the peace process and the Good Friday agreement. Members on both sides of the House may share her concern about the future in Northern Ireland, but they have yet to see any new proposals that they would wish to support to try to make the existing peace process work.
Before I come to my own contribution, I want to refer briefly to the speech of the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen). I do not know the details of the case in Colombia to which he referred, but it is important that we have accurate information on such issues, because BP, a major international company, is based in Britain.