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Mr. Andrew Mitchell: I was a soldier in Cyprus serving in the United Nations force about 25 years ago, in 1975. Does the hon. Gentleman share my deep depression about how little has changed on that beautiful but benighted island?
Mr. Dismore: That is a simplistic analysis. Mr. Denktash's position has not changed, but many other things have, especially over the past few months and years as a result of the EU acting as a powerful catalyst to unlock the long-standing problems on the island, as the opening of the green line has shown. People now travel north and south across the green line, albeit with the production of passports, with no incidents or confrontations, just good old-fashioned Cypriot hospitality and friendship demonstrated even by those who occupy houses owned by people on the other side of the green line. The only problems are those caused by people euphemistically referred to as the ancient Britons, who bought houses in northern Cyprus with dubious titles and who, when the Greek Cypriots return to visit them, run them off the land by hurling the ironic insult, "Have you no respect for private property?"
Mr. Dismore: The Annan plan deals with those issues. The question is whether the plan is acceptable. There are serious reservations about it. This year's Cyprus report recently published by the Friends of Cyprus contains a flow chart of the processes through which property issues have to be processed. It is complicated and the prospects of getting land back at the end of it are slim. One of the big concerns of many in the Greek Cypriot community is that the acquis communautaire will not apply in the north and human rights will not be respected. The issue needs to be re-examined, as does the compensation for those who want to accept it. It is doubtful whether settlers in the north would have the resources to pay compensation. The Turkish Cypriots who occupy land in the north that belongs to Greek Cypriots may have properties in the south that they could use as collateral, but settlers from mainland Turkey will have no assets other than the property they occupy.
It has been estimated that if the settlers were to return, the compensation costs would be 5 billion to 7 billion Cyprus pounds, but if they do not, the costs would be 17 billion Cyprus pounds. The Cyprus pound is worth rather more than the sterling pound, so the numbers are serious. There are also concerns about whether the Republic can afford the costs of the Annan plan. The report produced by former President Vassiliou, their former EU negotiator, says that the plan is workable, but the Cyprus Government are doubtful. The Central Bank of Cyprus is working on that.
It has been suggested that the Republic of Cyprus Government are happy to sit back and wait for EU accession without a settlement, thinking that their position will be strengthened once accession is complete. That does not recognise the serious pressures building up within the Greek Cypriot community. If Cyprus accedes as a divided island without a settlement, there is a strong risk that Turkish Cypriots, who are entitled to Republic citizenshipindeed, many have Republic passportswill become EU citizens and come south, with a view either to moving to other parts of the EU, perhaps to Britain, or to reclaiming the properties occupied by Greek Cypriots in the south. The latter is the more worrying for the Republic. It involves 200,000 properties. In practice, those people would be entitled to that property even without a settlement. That would create serious problems for the Republic, which would have to rehouse the individuals concerned.
There is a greater minefield to consider. If a sufficiently large Turkish Cypriot community moves south, it could claim its rights under the failed 1960 constitution to the vice-presidency and seats in the House of Representatives. The risk is that those people who migrate south would be replaced by settlers from mainland Turkey, making a solution even more difficult to achieve. The Republic also thinks there is a prospect of a Schengen frontier within the middle of
There are also issues about the extent to which Turkish Cypriots will vote in the European Union elections in June. The Republic is keen to ensure that they can exercise their democratic rights, but whether they can do so without harassment and victimisation by the Denktash regime remains to be seen. I am pleased that Turkish Cypriots, in particular Mr. Shener Levent, have made moves to stand as candidates in the EU elections. Shener Levent is the editor of a newspaper, Afrika. He has been imprisoned and his newspaper offices have been firebombed, so it shows a great deal of courage on his part to stand. AKEL, one of the Greek Cypriot coalition parties in government, also says that it will have Turkish Cypriots on its list. The election will be by open party list, with cross-community voting possible, which gives Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots the opportunity to come together.
On Turkey, there are still doubts whether it gets the message that it will not get a date to start accession negotiations without a Cyprus settlement. It wants the world to be as it sees it rather than as it is. That is evidenced by its approach to the Loizidou case. It is still to pay compensation several years after the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. However, Turkey has paid compensation to a Turkish Cypriot, Mr. Cavit An, in respect of his human rights case over freedom of association. He insisted on payment in euros rather than Turkish lira.
We must do all that we can to get the message over to Turkey that a Cyprus settlement is essential if Turkey is to join the EU. It was an interesting time to visit Cyprus. Important issues are arising that, over the next six months to a year, will be critical. This is the best time that there has ever been for a settlement, but the prospects of a settlement with Mr. Denktash in power remain very difficult. I believe, with the Turkish Cypriot Opposition, that we must do all that we can to make sure that the elections are fair. Let us hope that they are able to succeed and to unlock a long-standing and difficult problem so that when we talk about Cyprus the next word is not "problem" in future.
Sarah Teather (Brent, East) (LD): It is with great pleasure that I rise to make my maiden speech, especially as I follow the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), who is almost a parliamentary neighbour of mine. As I speak for the first time in the Chamber, I am reminded of election night. I have the same sense of awe and honour that I had that evening.
I am proud to be the first woman to represent Brent, East or, as it used to be known, Willesden, East. I am also the first Liberal Democrat Member to represent the seat, though it has a proud Liberal history. Gladstone used to stay at Dollis Hill house, which is in a park that was renamed in his honour. It is in the centre of my constituency.
As a young woman, I am often asked about the problem of the lack of women in this place and what we should do about it. I have always been interested in the idea of all-women shortlists. That is probably because as
Right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that I stand here today only because of the sad and tragic death of my predecessor, Paul Daisley. I never met Paul, but he was widely liked by my colleagues on Brent council and by politicians across the political divide at all levels. Those who knew him spoke of him as a giant of a man. They said that his determination and courage were matched only by his compassion and his concern for others. He made a huge contribution to Brent. His national political career was cut short but his local legacy lives on. As leader of the council he worked tirelessly to turn round a failing authority, which at that stage was pilloried by Private Eye. He is rather flippantly said to have put back the "r" into Brent. He will be a tough act to follow. I hope that in time I may be able to prove myself to be a worthy successor to him.
I wish LesleyPaul's wifewell. She has launched the Paul Daisley memorial trust in his memory, and I think that it will do great work in trying to improve the quality of life of people suffering from cancer and to raise awareness of that illness, which affects so many people and kills an enormous number.
As I speak about my predecessors, perhaps right hon. and hon. Members will remember that a well-known political refugee lives in my constituency. I am terribly concerned about that constituent because I understand that he has some serious money worries ahead in the new financial year. He has real problems with housing, transport and even crime. I say to him, as I would say to all constituents, that should he ever want any advice from his local Member, he is welcome to pop into one of my local advice surgeries. As a Liberal Democrat, I am always willing to see any of my constituents, regardless of the party to which they may be affiliated.
It is conventional on these occasions to speak a little about one's constituency. I am lucky because most Members of this place went canvassing in my constituency during the summer, so I know that many Members are familiar with italmost too familiar. It is said that there was a veritable economic boom at Willesden high road and Walm lane among the restaurateurs and fast-food outlets. It worried me that one shop took on extra staff to cope with the load; I hope that it does not now fear a recession.
Those Members who visited my constituency will know a little of it. It is a constituency of great vibrancy and diversity but also one of great need. The wealthiest and the poorest live side by side in some of the most densely populated areas in the country. The crime rate
It is said that 130 languages are spoken in Brent schools. There is a kaleidoscope of religionsChristian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Jewish. There is a large Irish population. The ethnic minority community is about 50 per cent. of the local community. It is perhaps fitting, therefore, that I should speak in a debate that has the theme of international affairs. I often comment that when I visit local community groups, I am as likely to be berated on international issuesbe it Kashmir, the middle east, Iraq or the Eritrean-Ethiopian situationas I am to be asked about local issues. Today, however, I want to talk about other things.
Despite the debate to which I have referred, which is often heated and controversial, the different communities co-exist happily. The constituency is a model of tolerance and acceptance. I shall never forget my experience only last month during the Diwali procession in the borough. I watched young children from a local primary school, who were dressed in the most beautiful costumes. They were proud to wear them. There was lots of bustling and excitement. Nor was it only the Hindu children who took part in the procession: all the children from the local community took partwhite, black and Asian. To me, that is a model of multiculturalism.
I hope to champion many issues during my time in Parliament, which I hope will be very long. Among them are the closure of local post offices, funding for local schools, the need for more police and general practitioners, and the need to campaign to ensure that councils are more responsive to local need.
I shall touch on another issue that is of huge importance in Brentit was raised with me regularly on the doorstepand that is tuition fees and top-up fees. I hope that hon. Members will not think that I am being too controversial in raising that issue in my maiden speech. The Opposition side of the Chamber may be united on it, but as there is a huge debate throughout the House, I feel that it is not strictly a party political issue. The matter is dear to my heart. As the youngest Member, I dare say that I am the only Member still paying back a student loan. However, I am aware that I am extremely lucky. When I went to university, I received a full grant. Tuition fees had not been introduced. Students who are studying for GCSEs and hoping to go on to university face extraordinary levels of debt. The Barclays bank survey shows that the debt per student will be £33,000 by 2010. That is more than my parents' mortgage; it is more than the mortgage of most students' parents. It is a huge amount.
I feel immense frustration when I hear talk about widening participation while we are debating the introduction of a policy that will deter the very students we are trying to attract. Fear of debt is just as real as debt, and that is why this is such an issue in my constituency. It is likely to deter students from lower-income backgrounds and ethnic minority
My concern is that this debate is really about whether we want a world-class education system or whether we are looking to move back to a class-based education system, in which students choose universities according to their ability to pay, and universities are judged on the level of their fees. That is not a system that I would look forward to, and I hope that Members from all parties will unite in opposing it when the time comes.
In conclusion, I hope that I have convinced the House of the uniqueness of my constituency, and of not only its wealth of diversity but its social need. There is much work to be done, and I look forward, now that I have made my maiden speech, to being able to raise the issues in Parliament. I thank the House for welcoming its newest Member.