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31 Oct 2002 : Column 1012—continued

Mr. Cook: I do not want to pursue the hon. Gentleman down an individual planning decision. I fear that I would quickly end up in difficulty on what is proper and on what may be appropriate for the local community to comment on, but on the generality of the principle that he raises I remind him that this Government have increased the green belt rather than reduced it and that the thrust of the policy of the Deputy Prime Minister is to ensure that as much building as possible takes place on brownfield land, not on green land. We will continue to pursue that policy.

John Cryer (Hornchurch): Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman

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Lamb), after the storms at the weekend a number of my constituents experienced power cuts. When they tried to contact the power supply companies, they were treated to a series of electronic voices followed by silence. I was under the impression that after the Tories pushed through privatisation attention to customer problems would be the top priority—in the marvellous new world of liberalisation, all that would be attended to. When will the Minister for Energy and Construction come to the House to tell us when the power industry will be renationalised and taken back into public hands—without compensation—or failing that, can we have a debate on the problems experienced in the supply of power to constituents such as mine?

Mr. Cook: I do not anticipate such a statement next week.

Of course, it is important that customers experiencing severe disruption to their supply should be able to get guidance, satisfaction and reassurance from the power authorities. I know that the Minister for Energy and Construction has been pursuing the power authorities to ensure that they respond well. Possibly after this week, when power has been restored to all consumers, it will be important that we sit down and learn the lessons of how the system operated this time.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland): May I ask the Leader of the House to make time available soon for a debate on the recent spate of job losses in the offshore oil and gas industry? In my constituency there have already been job losses at Sullom Voe oil terminal, and more are threatened. Those losses are all part of a process that started with the tax changes that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made in the Budget, without any warning to the industry. It is surely right and proper that he should come to the House to explain away the fruits of his labours.

Mr. Cook: To be fair, the Chancellor answers questions in the House regularly and there will be an opportunity for extended questioning to him on the pre-Budget report. Indeed, I anticipate that some of those issues will be relevant to whatever topics are nominated by the Opposition for debate following the Queen's Speech. There will be a number of opportunities for the hon. Gentleman to pursue those matters.

I deeply sympathise with the distress that will be caused to the constituents of any hon. Member who face redundancy and change. However, we must view that in the context of the fact that, in Britain, 1.5 million more people are at work than when we came to office.

Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): May I ask for an early statement or debate on the increasing problems of violence in cities? If the Leader of the House saw last week's television programme about violence in Nottingham, he will have been as struck as I was by the incidence of violent crime that is alcohol related and the incredible problems that both licensing justices and local authorities now have in managing social movements of people around watering hole establishments; it is on a scale and density that they no longer have the power to refuse. Can the House and the Government take the opportunity to look again at the

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powers that we need to restore to local authorities and licensing justices just to be able to say no to some of these developments?

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend raises the issue of the link between violence and alcohol which is clear and borne out by the evidence and statistics. The House will have the opportunity to explore those matters in the event of legislation on alcohol licensing in the next Session. The important considerations that my hon. Friend has outlined need to be heard in those debates.

My own local authority has made substantial progress in reducing violence from alcohol, not so much by controlling the licences of outlets of alcohol but by ensuring that the fast food outlets shut at the same time as the pubs, a move which has dramatically reduced the number of fights in the fast food outlets.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the role and terms of reference of what is now known as the British Board of Film Classification? I would then have the opportunity to question her about an important article by the veteran film commentator and analyst, Christopher Tookey, in the Daily Mail on 24 October, when he pointed out that

This change of role appears to mean that no violence or violent pornography, no matter how extreme, can ever be stopped or censored, but merely graded and classified. I should say, by way of declaring an interest, that when Chris Tookey, as he then was, was president of the Oxford Union some 30 years ago, he gave me my first paper speech to that assembly, so he could hardly be accused of being afraid to inflict gruesome and traumatic experiences on an unwary audience.

Mr. Cook: The mind boggles at what the hon. Gentleman hints at and I fear that anything I say will be an understatement. I will of course report his remarks to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and arrange to have a clarification of the point he raised sent to him.

David Burnside (South Antrim): You will correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Speaker, but I believe that Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday was the first occasion since I was elected to the House last June when you did not call an elected Member from Northern Ireland. That follows—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman will not discuss what I do or do not do at Prime Minister's Question Time.

David Burnside rose—

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. [Interruption.] It is not for the Leader of the House to decide whom I call at Prime Minister's Question Time.

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West): Tomorrow the consultation process on the future of air transport enters

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its final month. For the consultation to be meaningful, there has to be a large number of responses. Many consultation documents have gone out, but very few have been returned. Will the Leader of the House raise the issue with the Secretary of State for Transport to encourage as much response as possible in the final month of the consultation?

Mr. Cook: I will certainly raise with my right hon. Friend the interest that has been expressed in the consultation on airports policy. On the hon. Gentleman's point about the number of responses, I am not in a position to confirm or deny what he says, but it is a frequent experience during consultation periods that many responses are received as the rush of the deadline approaches.

Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge): The Leader of the House may be aware that tonight is Halloween. If he has any doubt, and if he looks through the papers today, he will see the witches looking into their cauldron and predicting the death of a Duncan. Will he ask the Home Secretary to make a statement next week, reviewing any extra police activity tonight, particularly to do with trick or treating? An extra police burden is created by children who terrorise older people by ringing their doorbells and throwing eggs. There is also a risk to young children who wander round the streets knocking on the doors of strangers. Will the Home Secretary look at Government policy on that? What advice is given to the police and to schools?

Hon. Members: Answer!

Mr. Cook: I must confess that it had slipped my mind that tonight was Halloween, or I would have worked it into a reply earlier on. Halloween is an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children up and down the country to indulge in innocent and friendly behaviour—[Interruption.] Perhaps even more innocent than the Whips. I would very much deprecate the action of a small number of children who, by behaving in an irresponsible and intimidating way, bring everybody under suspicion and make a wonderful occasion for children to enjoy into one of suspicion and anxiety in future years. I would appeal to all those going out tonight to enjoy themselves in such a way that those on whose doors they knock can enjoy the experience too.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): May we have a debate entitled XThe Enemy Within" and address it to political parties? Does the Leader of the House agree with early-day motion 1835?

[That this House notes with concern the recent publication by Britain in Europe which equates opposition to the euro with opposition to Labour; notes that Britain in Europe is itself a multi-party organisation which contains

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opponents of a Labour Government; further notes that the use of the term 'enemies' to describe opponents of either Labour or the euro is extreme, likely to discourage reasonable debate and is a reversion to the tribalism so often condemned by the Prime Minister; further notes, with pleasure, the establishment of Labour Against the Euro as a growing group of Labour parliamentarians who are opposed to Britain seeking to join the euro before the General Election, recognises that LATE represents the views of the majority of Labour voters and a growing number of Party members and trade unionists; further notes, with concern, that this Britain in Europe publication was circulated to all Labour Party members by the Labour Party itself; believes that allowing an outside organisation which contains known and prominent opponents to attack members of the Labour Party in a Labour Party mailing is a novel method of encouraging internal discussion; and further believes that if the House is to have a debate on the euro then it should have argument, passion and humour but no distortion, personal abuse or dubious pamphlets from Britain in Europe.]

Will he join his right hon. and hon. Friends who signed early-day motion 1835, pointing out the schisms in the Labour party?

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