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Mr. Clifton-Brown: The hon. Gentleman will have heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) talking about the Government's targets for deliberate deaths and attacks on property being put back, while in New Zealand, such deaths have been halved in the past four years. How does he feel about the targets being put back when people's lives will be at risk?

Jim Knight: We could hold a long debate about targets and their usefulness. Clearly, they have an

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important function in the public services. However, we are going through a period of great change in the fire services. Introducing new flexible ways of working, new forms of risk management and a new emphasis on fire safety mean that setting targets would be arbitrary because of the extent of the change. We will have to reset the targets in the context of new working practices, but we must introduce the practices first.

I am a strong advocate of fire sprinklers—I am a patron of the National Fire Sprinkler Network. We should target prisons, hospitals and especially schools—I shall consider houses in multiple occupation later—so that we can reduce the risk of death. No one has ever died in this country in a building with a maintained fire sprinkler system. We could bear down on the issue that the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) rightly raised if we extended the use of fire sprinklers.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: The hon. Gentleman is talking about positive actions in respect of how we can reduce fire-related deaths. The precise measures that he describes have been adopted in New Zealand and fire-related deaths have halved there in four years, yet the Government have put back a target to five years hence. That is unsatisfactory and people's lives are at risk.

Jim Knight: The work that has gone on in New Zealand, Vancouver and parts of the United States, especially Scottsdale in Arizona, bears close scrutiny because it has led to good progress in cutting fire-related deaths. Other savings are being made in insurance loss, damage to the environment through fire and in a complete reconfiguration of the way in which firefighters work by turning them into advocates and inspectors of fire safety. We can agree about that, but on the hon. Gentleman's substantive point, I refer him to my answer to his previous intervention.

There is anxiety about automated fire alarms in the national health service. Nurses' toasters were confiscated during the fire dispute because they caused so many alarms to go off. We can make some good progress on that, especially on poor design of systems in NHS hospitals, with smoke detectors in stupid places. They should be replaced with heat detectors; that could make a considerable difference.

I welcome regionalisation and the joint procurement proposals for fire services because of the civil contingency issue to which I referred earlier. Many civil contingency arrangements are and should be organised regionally. It therefore makes sense for fire services to be able to respond in that way. The benefits and savings of joint procurement were apparent with Airwave, the emergency services radio system. I should like them to be rolled out further in the fire service.

Reorganising the fire service does not generate huge correspondence for me as a Member of Parliament—unlike traffic management. In Weymouth, we are waiting for the Department for Transport to reach a decision on the local transport plan for Dorset. That includes the important issue of finance approval for the Weymouth relief road. I recently conducted a survey among households affected by the Weymouth relief road proposal and the great congestion, especially along the Dorchester road. Some 90 per cent. of those who responded viewed congestion as their No. 1 political issue—higher than council tax rates, the future of the

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NHS and all the matters that we would normally expect to feature at the top of their lists. For 40 per cent., the reason was the health effects of living on such a busy road; another 40 per cent. were worried about the effects on the area's economic and business prospects.

In Weymouth, there is a united view that we need our relief road. I take the opportunity to encourage Transport Ministers to listen to local people in South Dorset rather than groups such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which is campaigning against the road and does not speak for local people on the issue. The environment is crucial to us in Weymouth; we have one of the most protected environments in the country. We depend on tourism and people who want to enjoy that environment. Local people are fully aware both of the need to protect it and to get visitors to and from the beach and the coast. I want the Department for Transport to hear that voice loud and clear.

I therefore welcome the traffic management Bill, which aims to tackle congestion with new powers for local authorities to deal with utilities. The Dorchester road has all the utilities running down the middle. It is almost the only way in and out of Weymouth and every time someone wants to carry out work on our sewers, as Wessex Water did last year, we undergo months of hideous disruption, with a journey up the road taking half an hour. That is intolerable for my constituents.

The Gracious Speech also covered finishing work on the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill. That excellent legislation looks to cut by a third the time taken for major infrastructure projects to go through the planning system. Again, that would be welcome for my constituents in Weymouth. The relief road project has already cost the council tax payers of Dorset £5 million over the past 30 years while we have been trying to achieve it.

That £5 million could have been far better spent elsewhere as we have been trying to line up simultaneously the three items that we need to get our road: the finance, the planning permission and the compulsory purchase orders. At any given time, we may have had one or even two of those, but never three simultaneously. For 30 years, we have thrown all that money down the drain. I have made my appeal for the finance and the local transport plan settlement, so I now urge the House to support the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, which could allow the planning and the compulsory purchase order public inquiries to be heard simultaneously as part of a single process, thus speeding up the way those issues go through the system. Crucially, the Bill would also improve community involvement, which I hope would thereby ensure that the community voice that I talked about earlier is not drowned out by organised lobbies such as the CPRE and Transport 2000 from outside the area.

Just as important in tackling congestion is school transport, which is why I am pleased to see a school transport draft Bill in the Gracious Speech. I have a constituent who lives in the village of Langton Matravers in the rural area of my constituency and who came to see me because he lives just over the 2-mile limit for free school transport. That means that his seven-year-old daughter has to walk down the unlit country

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road to the middle school in Swanage. He was on working families tax credit, but just failed on the income threshold to get free school transport, so he has to walk his daughter to and from school down that unlit country road, even on nights such as tonight, through the dark and in an unsafe environment for her.

In that context, I was appalled by the behaviour of the Conservatives on Purbeck district council and Dorset county council when they removed the subsidy for our bus service after 6 o'clock for all the people who live in my area of the Purbecks. I plead with the Tories on the Front Bench tonight to support the draft school transport Bill and to work with their colleagues in local government in Dorset to develop imaginative new schemes so that we can apply to pilot some of the opportunities created by the Bill, tackle the congestion created by the school run and improve access to facilities and services in rural areas such as mine.

I have gone to the local education authority with what I think is an imaginative idea in relation to the National Trust and its ownership of Studland beach, which is in the top 10 most visited attractions owned by the National Trust. Huge traffic movements are generated in the summer, but it would be perfectly possible for it to reuse a school bus fleet to cut the cost to the public purse. We need to achieve the transfer from private cars to public transport. In that, I agree with the CPRE and Transport 2000, which I was a little harsh on earlier.

On environmental protection, I must also welcome the energy Bill. We heard my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Mr. Challen) give his strong support to the Bill. I represent the area that contains the only de-licensed nuclear site in this country—at Winfrith—and it achieved its de-licensed certification from the nuclear inspections authority a year or so ago. That shows the House that it is possible to de-license nuclear sites and liberate the land, giving it back to the natural environment. The energy Bill will facilitate that process, and I hope that it will also clear up some of the issues relating to wind power. In an intervention on the hon. Member for Uxbridge, I mentioned the problems in clarifying who will give planning permission, as well as when and how, in respect of a wind farm proposal for Portland bill.

I also want to comment on the housing Bill. The lack of affordable housing is the biggest single issue affecting the rural part of my constituency.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): I thought that congestion was the top priority.


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