Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Q5. [112959] Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): What instructions coalition forces have received about seizing documents in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry and secret police headquarters that are likely to form the basis of legal action.

The Prime Minister: As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence indicated on 6 May, UK commanders have been told that evidence believed to be linked to war crimes or crimes against humanity is to be secured so that it may be examined by investigating authorities. I understand that similar instructions have been issued to US forces in Baghdad. Now that the security environment in areas of Baghdad is more

14 May 2003 : Column 311

permissive, efforts are under way by the coalition to secure and assess the kind of documents to which my hon. Friend referred. However, at the time of entry into Baghdad, coalition forces were naturally engaged in other priority tasks, in particular seeking to stabilise the security situation and minimise loss of life.

Mr. Dalyell : Pertinent to the Prime Minister's opening statement on the dreadful events in Saudi Arabia yesterday is the question of why there was no proper custody of documents of such potential importance that they could have thrown light on the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction or possible links with al-Qaeda. What does that say about the priority, or lack of it, accorded to intelligence?

The Prime Minister: The instructions issued to both UK and US coalition forces were to attempt to secure any documents that might be in the possession of the Iraqi authorities. However, when they were first going into Baghdad, their priority was obviously winning the conflict, and they had to pay close attention to the security of their own forces.

Now that the situation has cleared somewhat, we are trying to make sure that we gather up all the documentation in relation to weapons of mass destruction and in relation to appalling crimes, the like of which we are now seeing. We will obviously want to use those documents in order to show people exactly what happened.

The premise of my hon. Friend's question is not right. It is not that we did not bother about documents. As the coalition forces were going into Baghdad, the priority was winning the conflict. Now that the situation has cleared somewhat, we are, of course, doing everything we can to gather up the documentation. It is in our interest to do so.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): The Prime Minister's explanation is inadequate. On Monday the Defence Secretary told the House, in answer to a similar question, that the reason why The Daily Telegraph got its hands on the documents before the coalition forces was that it had journalists on the spot. The true situation is that The Daily Telegraph journalist returned by land to Baghdad from Jordan on 11 April, two days after the fall of Baghdad. He did not go into the Foreign Ministry headquarters where he got the documents until the following Saturday. On the following Tuesday—that is, 13 days after the fall of Baghdad—he told the BBC that

The Prime Minister: I cannot comment on what the hon. Gentleman knows—[Hon. Members: "Why not?"] about The Daily Telegraph, as I suspect that his sources

14 May 2003 : Column 312

in The Daily Telegraph are better than mine. In relation to the documents, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the building in Baghdad was not in the British area of control, but the instructions given to coalition forces from the US and the UK were identical. As far as I am aware, every effort was made to secure the documentation and to secure those buildings. Even two days after the fall of Baghdad—[Interruption.]—even a few days after the fall of Baghdad, there was a desperately difficult security situation, and it is not surprising if the commanders on the ground were paying attention first to the security of their own forces. However, I have no doubt that any documentation that we have managed to secure will be extremely helpful, both in respect of the crimes against humanity and in respect of weapons of mass destruction.


Q6. [112960] Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South): Has there been any progress in the implementation of the road map for peace in the middle east between the Palestinians and the Israelis?

The Prime Minister: Yes. The road map has been published and the priority must be the implementation of phase 1. That means improved security from the Palestinians, a freeze on settlement activity, and continuing assistance by the international community for reform and humanitarian assistance. I hope that we now have a situation where, for the first time in many, many months—indeed, for the first time in a couple of years—there is the real prospect of progress on the Palestinian issue. I very much welcome the attempts of Secretary Colin Powell and the American Government, working in concert with other Governments, to push the matter forward. We will continue to play our full part in that.

Q7. [112961] Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury): Is it right that foundation hospitals should be based on a discredited star rating system that completely ignores whether or not sick patients get better?

The Prime Minister: It is nonsense that the star system does not take account of sick patients and whether they get better. It is based on 10 different elements to the star rating. No star rating system is perfect, but that star rating has enabled us for the first time to make a comparison of hospitals across the board. It is interesting that the Conservative party is not just opposed to the extra investment in the health service; it is now opposed to reform in the health service, as well.

Jim Knight (South Dorset): In October last year, a 15-year-old constituent of mine, Anthony Waklin, was killed by a speeding motorist while cycling through his home village, Wool. The 18-year-old driver concerned already owed £1,400 in driving fines and had no licence or insurance. Last week magistrates sentenced him to a paltry £200 fine and a two-year driving ban. Can my right hon. Friend please assure my upset and concerned

14 May 2003 : Column 313

constituents in Wool that amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill will prevent such injustices in sentencing from happening again?

The Prime Minister: I totally understand the concern of my hon. Friend and his constituents. I should say to them that we have tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to increase the maximum penalty to 14 years' imprisonment for the three offences of causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs and aggravated vehicle taking where death results. The actions of dangerous and irresponsible drivers can be devastating not only for victims and their families, but

14 May 2003 : Column 314

for whole communities. That is why I think that it is entirely appropriate that we increase the penalties for such offences. I hope very much that the amendment will receive the support of the whole House.

Q8. [112962] Mr. Mark Oaten (Winchester): Can the Prime Minister explain why inward investment is falling in this country, but increasing in countries that are part of the eurozone?

The Prime Minister: Issues to do with trade and investment will of course form part of the assessment, but we still get a very substantial amount of inward investment in this country, I am delighted to say.

14 May 2003 : Column 315

Point of Order

12.31 pm

Pete Wishart (North Tayside): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, the Paymaster General made much of the fact that the amendments selected for debate in respect of the Finance Bill had been tabled by Opposition parties, but the impact of the programming has been such that the sheer number of clauses to be debated and the amount of amendments tabled by the Conservatives mean that we will have no opportunity this evening to discuss the amendments tabled by the Scottish National party. We will not, therefore, have an opportunity to discuss issues that are fundamental to the Scottish economy, such as oil and whisky revenue. What should we in the minority Opposition parties do to ensure that our amendments are debated? What can you do to ensure that minority parties' amendments are debated?

Mr. Speaker: Like other hon. Members, the hon. Gentleman is bound by the programme motion, which has been decided. Of course, the Finance Bill will also be dealt with in Committee, and it is up to him and his hon. Friends to seek opportunities to raise the matters about which he is so concerned.

14 May 2003 : Column 316

Telecommunications Masts (Railways)

12.32 pm

Mrs. Patsy Calton (Cheadle): I beg to move,

The restriction would have the effect of requiring rail undertakings, including Network Rail, to seek full planning permission before erecting masts more than 15 m high, in common with other companies erecting masts. That would enable proper democratic scrutiny and give time for local people to engage in the process.

The masts are required to relay data and voice communications. The work includes the installation of a new signalling system known as the train control system and will allow the introduction of automatic train protection—the highest level of rail safety available. Clearly, I do not argue with that, but I do argue that a failure to require full planning permission means that Network Rail can site masts of any height anywhere it likes on rail land, with consequent loss of public confidence and, indeed, public outrage when inappropriate siting leads to loss of visual amenity and loss in the value of homes.

Network Rail currently engages in a notification process for masts higher than 15 m and, I understand, up to 33 m. The consultation that takes place is very limited; even precise locations are made available to the public only on application to the appropriate body—that is, if they can find out in the available time which body that is.

In Cheadle, the first mast, at Ravenoak road in Cheadle Hulme, was notified to residents on 16 December 2002—not a good time for most families. At least one of the most affected families was missed out. The notification was headed "West Coast Modernisation, Notice of Forthcoming Works—Carr Wood Park".

Carr Wood park is some half a mile away. It turns out that it had been the preferred location, as it is screened by trees. In fact, the mast has been put next to a railway bridge where the arrangement of housing is such that about 100 homes have a direct view of the 20 m height of the towering monstrosity. The worst-affected residents' home is 16 m from the base of the 20 m high mast, with no screening whatsoever. That is roughly 65 ft of mast—twice the height of an ordinary house. Network Rail could not have chosen a worse site.

In another case in my constituency, at Smithy Green, the notification letters were delivered to households only after work had begun. It was a mistake, but that is in no sense consultation. Under the law as it stands, however, Network Rail does not have to notify residents at all, so mistakes do not count. I now understand that Network Rail has plans for 33 m high masts in national parks and open countryside, and plans to bring in more than 5,000 in total.

I have been in communication with Network Rail, the local authority and the Department of Transport, and I have written to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. A very unsatisfactory situation emerges. Network Rail claims that its permitted development rights when notifying the local planning

14 May 2003 : Column 317

authority come from part 11 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. The Minister of State, Department of Transport, the right hon. Member for Warley (Mr. Spellar), indicated in a reply to me that part 17 of the order was the relevant part. A more recent letter from him said that either might be relevant. I quote:

My Bill would amend both parts 11 and 17 for the avoidance of doubt.

Guidelines about masts and their erection published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs make it clear that visual amenity is to be the major factor in determining the position of masts. When the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) was a planning Minister at that Department, he said:

he was talking about other telecommunications companies—

I understand from the Department for Transport that those guidelines, which apply to every other mast company, do not apply to Network Rail. That is extraordinary—all the more so, given that the design of masts that are being erected makes the structure appropriate for additional operators. In addition, prior to its demise, Railtrack entered into contracts with various telecommunications companies to provide them with sites. Should Network Rail wish to provide sites for

14 May 2003 : Column 318

other operators, full planning permission will be necessary. However, the whole world knows that it would be almost impossible to say no once the mast has been there for some time.

The Minister of State has been helpful in suggesting that local authorities can apply for

However, my local authority in Stockport points out that Network Rail would contest that on a case-by-case basis and that the local authority would have to demonstrate why the location should be treated differently from elsewhere. The procedure would prove to be lengthy and expensive, and is expected to be used only in exceptional circumstances.

My argument is that we have a loophole in the law that requires closing. The public deserve better than this, and at the very least should be enabled to see that their local elected representatives and the local planning authority can protect their amenity in the same way as is expected with all other telecommunications companies.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mrs. Patsy Calton, Vera Baird, Norman Baker, Tom Brake, Mrs. Annette L. Brooke, Sue Doughty, Mr. Don Foster, Paul Holmes, Julie Morgan, Mr. Andrew Stunell, Ann Winterton and Mr. Crispin Blunt.

Next Section

IndexHome Page