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2.42 pm

Mr. Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me an opportunity to contribute to the Christmas Adjournment debate, which gives a great chance to all Members to raise a multitude of local, national and international issues that are important to them and their constituents. I intend to take the opportunity to raise a number of concerns with which many of my constituents agree.

First, this is a Christmas Adjournment debate. Many people in my constituency, like many hon. Members, are concerned by ongoing efforts by some individuals and, I am sad to say, by Government Ministers to downgrade the importance of Christmas. A lot of people have expressed disgust at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which published a Christmas card that bears no relation to the celebration of the Christian festival of Christmas. Not so in Romford, where our schools, churches and community organisations have organised and hosted a range of magnificent Christian celebrations and activities over the past few weeks, welcoming people of all religions and including everybody in what is a Christian but also a national celebration for all British people.

I pay tribute to the schools that I have had the privilege of visiting over the past few days, which have organised concerts, nativity plays and similar activities. In particular, St. Mary's Hare Park Catholic primary school and St. Peter's Catholic primary school organised wonderful nativity plays and concerts only last week. My own ex-junior school, Rise Park, held a nativity concert involving many pupils, and I was privileged and proud to be present. Parklands infant school and St. Edward's Church of England primary also held events. Members will be pleased to hear that I have also been active on my recent Saturdays in visiting every school and church Christmas fair in the constituency. I have visited 21 Christmas fairs in the past month, including those at Crowlands school, Squirrels Heath school, Nelmes school, St. Alban's church, St. Andrew's church and, last but by no means least, Havering Road Methodist church. Christmas is a wonderful Christian festival, and I hope that hon. Members—indeed, Ministers—will remember that in future.

This has been a great year in many ways in Romford, but it has been the greatest in my memory because Her Majesty the Queen visited my constituency for the first time. She visited Romford market and my local church, St. Edward's, in the marketplace. The people of Romford are very proud of their heritage of being British. We uphold the traditions of our country with great pride, and we were very proud to welcome Her Majesty on 6 March.

Early-day motion 239 is about the national anthem. I hope that we will not be afraid of playing the national anthem more often, and I mean not just playing the national anthem of the United Kingdom, but, proudly, playing the anthems of the countries that make up the nation—England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We must be proud of the traditions of all parts

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of the United Kingdom, and that means being proud to fly the flag of our country, too, not hiding it away as if it is a shameful emblem. It is a flag of unity, and I hope that the British Parliament will follow the example of Her Majesty the Queen and fly the flag from Victoria Tower, just as the Queen does every day at Buckingham Palace, unless she is in residence, when the Royal Standard flies.

I hope that the Government will be proud of our traditions and fight to defend the rights and freedoms of this country and reject any reheated Brussels constitution that may come to us at a later date. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) will be at the forefront of opposition to any attempt to impose such a constitution on the British people, and he will have the support of my constituents and everyone on the Opposition side of the House in that.

I want to turn quickly to some local issues. Romford is in the London borough of Havering, and hon. Members will have heard me say before that the borough is terribly underfunded by the existing system of Government grant. We are not given a fair deal by central Government, whether Labour or Conservative. My constituents need a fair deal. How can it be right that neighbouring boroughs get vast extra resources although they have very similar populations? How can it be right that outer London boroughs such as Havering continue to subsidise inner London in a range of areas? My hon. Friends the Members for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) and for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), as outer London Members, will agree that outer London is fed up with subsidising inner London. We are tired of paying for the Greater London assembly, which has been a complete waste of money.

I hope that the Government will consider giving those in outer London boroughs the opportunity to vote in a referendum to opt out of the GLA, allowing us the chance to rekindle our historical links with the counties on the edge of London. I draw the House's attention to early-day motion 220, regarding the historic counties of our country. I hope that they are restored as soon as possible.

Policing in the London borough of Havering is under-resourced. Once again, we pay for police cover; we do not get it. The police are sent to inner London. I hope that the Government will find a fairer way to ensure that all boroughs are adequately covered by police resources.

It is important that we defend community facilities and things that are for all our people to enjoy, such as local parks. I commend the Friends of Rise Park who have fought for a number of years to restore Rise park to the family-friendly place it used to be—equally so, the Friends of Cottons Park. Both parks are in my constituency and both groups are working very hard to try to get funding to ensure that those parks are restored, so that they become the places that we all remember as children. It is sad when parks turn into havens for vandals, thugs and people who take drugs, turning what should be places for families and communities to enjoy into unsavoury areas that people simply wish to avoid.

I also ask the Government to consider allowing much more local control over matters such as planning. We are fed up with Governments of all parties overruling local authorities, so that we end up changing the nature

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of our town centres. My constituency, Romford, has the second largest number of nightclubs in London. Well, we do not want any more nightclubs. We want to ensure that local communities are for the people of those communities and that we do not turn our towns and cities into mini Sohos.

On road safety, I am very sceptical about speed cameras. However, they have their use in certain places. One of those areas is Havering-atte-Bower—the historic village in the north of my constituency that overlooks greater London—where we need a speed camera, but rules dictate that the local council cannot install one. Once again, such things are decided on a London-wide basis, and I hope that local control can be given over them.

I pay tribute to a new local community organisation that has been established by Mrs. Cecilia Shoetan, whose daughter sadly died from a condition known as sickle cell disease, which will be familiar to many hon. Members. Mrs. Shoetan lives in my constituency. Not too many people in my borough suffer from that condition, but Mrs. Shoetan's daughter Lorraine died in tragic circumstances, and she is quite rightly fighting to ensure that we receive resources so that local people in my borough who suffer from that condition can obtain help. I pay tribute to her for fighting and working so hard to establish the sickle cell support group in the London borough of Havering.

Two days ago, I had the privilege to visit Clarence house, where His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales hosted a seminar for Members of Parliament to highlight the excellent work that he is doing with the Prince's Trust, the Prince of Wales's Foundation for Architecture and the Built Environment and the Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health, among a number of other charities and causes in which he is involved.

At that seminar, I was very pleased to meet a young person, Kevin Johnson, who spoke passionately about his life as a youngster growing up in Glasgow. He managed to get himself hooked on cannabis when he was eight. By the age of 12 or 13, he was on heroin. He told us how the Prince's Trust has helped him to get back into a way of living that we would all hope all our young people would enjoy. In front of the Prince of Wales, he asked all the Members of Parliament who were present at Clarence house, "How can you MPs even consider liberalising drugs of any sort? I know the devastation that they cause to people of my age and others. Please do not weaken the drug laws." I hope that Ministers will remember that plea in future.

I wish briefly to speak up for people who are not represented in Parliament—the people of the British overseas territories and the Crown dependencies. They have no Members of Parliament, despite the fact that we make laws that affect them. They have no representation on any Select Committee or in the House of Lords. Let us remember those people, particularly the people of Gibraltar, who next year will celebrate 300 years of being British. I hope that all hon. Members will celebrate that great occasion in the history not only of Gibraltar, but of the United Kingdom.

Let us remember the people of Montserrat, which has been devastated by a volcano and needs more help; the people of St. Helena who desperately need an airport;

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the people of the Falkland Islands who are still concerned about the renewed efforts by the Argentine Government to gain sovereignty; the people of the Cayman Islands who are fed up with the European Union interfering in their affairs when they are not part of the EU; and, similarly, those of the Isle of Man and the channel islands, in which the EU is also interfering. Let us also remember the British Indian Ocean Territory and its people who were shamefully ejected by the British Government in the 1960s. They have a right to return eventually to their homeland.

In wishing you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the staff of the Speaker's Office and the Officers of the House a very happy Christmas, I wish to make a final appeal as we approach Christmas: please read early-day motion 202, which I have submitted, regarding the importance of remembering that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas. I hope that all hon. Members will remind their constituents that if they purchase a dog for Christmas, it is a lifetime commitment, not a short-term one that leads up to Christmas and then gets forgotten about.

I hope that, in 2004, all of us can help to restore the bulldog spirit of this country that has been so lacking since 1 May 1997. I wish all hon. Members a happy Christmas and renewed confidence that, once again, our country will be proud, strong and remain free in 2004.

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