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Dee Estuary

6. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with English local authorities and environmental bodies regarding dredging in the Dee estuary. [201782]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): Consideration of the port of Mostyn's dredging proposals is a matter for the National Assembly, the Environment Agency and the Department for Transport. As my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have taken a close interest in this matter.
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Mr. Chapman: Does my hon. Friend agree that given the environmental importance of the estuary, the habitats directive demands full consideration of the alternatives to dredging? Does he share my hope that when the Environment Agency Wales reaches a "minded to" position, it will take full and balanced account both of realistic commercial, but perhaps temporary, considerations and of the permanent need to protect the ecology of the estuary?

Mr. Touhig: I know that my hon. Friend has been a strong advocate for his constituents on this issue. The Environment Agency recently submitted an application for a regulating order to manage the cockle beds in the estuary. The area concerned covers both England and Wales, although of course the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is in the lead in this case. DEFRA and my colleagues in the Welsh Assembly are preparing a draft order, which should be ready for public consultation in the new year. I know that my hon. Friend will want to be kept closely informed of developments.

Small Businesses

7. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): What representations he has received from small business organisations on central Government regulation of small firms in Wales. [201783]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and I have regular meetings with representatives of the business community to discuss issues that concern them.

Mr. Bellingham: Does the Minister agree that the European Union agency workers directive will be highly damaging for small firms in Wales? What is his view of it, and what advice has he given Welsh Labour MEPs?

Mr. Hain: As the hon. Gentleman knows, last week the Chancellor announced new measures to ensure that small businesses are not affected by over-burdensome EU regulations. He may also know that the small business sector has had a very successful record in Wales recently. The Welsh business survival rate is higher than the United Kingdom average. We had 7,000 business start-ups funded by the Assembly in the last financial year, and in October we had the 19th consecutive month of business growth.

As the Leader of the Opposition is now present, may I ask him whether he cleared the fact that the ring-fenced Welsh budget will not—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I call Mr. Rosindell.

NHS Dentistry

8. Mr. Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): What discussions he has had with the National Assembly for Wales on improving the provision of NHS dentistry in Wales. [201784]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): I shall be having a bilateral meeting on Monday.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Member for Romford is allowed a supplementary question, but he appears not to want to ask one.
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Antisocial Behaviour

11. Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): What discussions he has had with the First Minister on combating antisocial behaviour in Wales. [201787]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with the First Minister about matters affecting Wales.

Following the Government's lead, the police, community safety partnerships and others in Wales are increasingly using the wide range of powers to tackle antisocial behaviour.

Mark Tami: I welcome the many moves that have been made to deal with antisocial behaviour, but does my hon. Friend agree that there is still progress to be made, and that we can learn from the success of many areas, including Manchester, in making the legislation more effective?

Mr. Touhig: I certainly agree with the point that my hon. Friend makes. The important message to get across is that this Government are tackling the problems of antisocial behaviour in our communities. We are putting in the resources and funding, providing extra police officers and community support officers, and introducing the appropriate legislation. That should be contrasted with the policy of the Conservatives, who are committed to £35 billion-worth of cuts, which would wreck our public services and destroy all that we are doing to combat antisocial behaviour. Of course, the Liberal Democrats campaign against antisocial behaviour in the constituencies, but vote against every such measure that we bring before the House.


The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [202998] Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) (Lab): what plans he has to visit Indonesia in the next three months to meet President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono to discuss British support for, and co-operation with, Indonesia in the campaign against the threat of terrorism.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I have no current plans to meet the President of Indonesia. However, senior officials have been to Indonesia for discussions with the new Government on a range of issues, including co-operation on counter-terrorism. A Foreign Office Minister will attend the European Union and Association of South East Asian Nations meeting in Indonesia in March 2005.

Mr. Griffiths: I thank my right hon. Friend for that positive response. He doubtless does not need to be told that if terrorism is to be defeated in Indonesia and the wider world, it is vital that the newly elected President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono be given our full support
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in his efforts to continue the reform process, to develop good governance and justice, to fight corruption and to promote sustainable economic prosperity. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that his Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office work closely to encourage trade missions and British investment in Indonesia?

The Prime Minister: Well, we will give the President—[Interruption]—every support. In particular, we welcome and applaud Indonesia's counter-terrorism efforts, including the detention of more than 100 members of the Jemaah Islamiyah organisation, the arrest of some of the perpetrators of the Marriott attacks in Bali, and the investigation into the attack on the Australian embassy. The point that my hon. Friend makes is absolutely right: it is important that we intensify counter-terrorism efforts, since Indonesia, as well as many other countries, faces the threat of terrorism. But I also agree that it is when we tackle poverty and economic development in Indonesia that we will also make an impact on the underlying causes of terrorism.


Q2. [202999] Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 8 December.

The Prime Minister: This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I will have further such meetings later today.

Mr. Swayne: At the beginning of this week, Jonathan Baume, the leader of the First Division Association—the mandarins' union—was quoted on Radio 5 as saying that, at times, No. 10 and the Chancellor's office have competing and conflicting agendas, and that civil servants and Ministers are having to make sense of this battle. Why did he say that?

The Prime Minister: I cannot answer why he said it, but what I can say is that I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has given me the opportunity to point out that under this Government and this Chancellor, we have had 2 million extra jobs; the lowest levels of inflation, unemployment and mortgage rates for 30 years; a strong economy; investment in health and education; and falling crime. That is surely enough to please even the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Mike Wood (Batley and Spen) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will know that PC Ian Broadhurst, a constituent of mine, was shot dead in Leeds on Boxing day last year. It now transpires that the bullets used in that killing and in the attempted murder of two of his colleagues were home-made. The components and the machine necessary to produce that ammunition were bought over the counter, with no questions, no vetting and apparently no checks whatever. Will my right hon. Friend pledge his and his Government's support for the campaign—launched by PC Broadhurst's mother, Cindy Eaton—to have this loophole in the law closed quickly?
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The Prime Minister: Once again I extend my sympathy to the family of my hon. Friend's constituent and say how sorry I am for the situation in which they find themselves after a tragic and brutal murder. We are studying carefully the facts of the particular case and are aware of the campaign on behalf of the family. We hope to make a response shortly. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the way in which these items are sold over the counter is a very important issue, and we need to ensure that the law is tough enough to deal with that problem.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Yesterday, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner said that he totally supports the private Member's Bill to change the law on self-defence against burglars. Will the Government support it too?

The Prime Minister: What we have said is that we will consult chief police officers, the Crown Prosecution Service and, indeed, the Attorney-General. I entirely understand the concern about this particular issue and I share the general view of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. If we get the right response from those people, we will, of course, support a change in the law. As I understand it, the particular private Member's Bill has not yet been published. We will have to consider the best way to take it forward, but I entirely share and understand the concern and hope that we can reach agreement on it.

Mr. Howard: I am very glad to hear that, once again, where we lead, the Prime Minister follows. Can the Prime Minister tell us why the Lord Chancellor said this week that the law did not need to be changed?

The Prime Minister: First, let me deal with the issue of the right hon. and learned Gentleman leading and us following. The Home Secretary said that he was prepared to review the law on this matter a couple of months ago, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman jumped on the bandwagon only when he thought that there was something in it for him. I would have thought that we could deal with this issue perfectly sensibly. I entirely understand the concern. The Law Commission looked into it and said that the law did not need changing. I believe that the number of circumstances in which someone was convicted after taking on a burglar in their home would be very limited. None the less, in the light of recent concern, it is worth looking into whether we need to clarify the law in order to send a clear signal to people that we are on the side of the victim, not the offender.

Mr. Howard: The right hon. Gentleman talks about bandwagons, so I will tell him about bandwagons. This is the man who joined Michael Foot's bandwagon to get into the Labour party; joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament bandwagon to get on in the Labour party; and did over his Chancellor's bandwagon to take over the leadership of the Labour party. He is Mr. Bandwagon. Now let us get back to the question, which the Prime Minister manifestly did not answer. The Lord Chancellor said this week that the law did not need to be changed. Why do his Government say one thing one day, and something else the next?
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The Prime Minister: What discomfited the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that I gave him an answer that he did not expect in reply to his first question. There is genuine public concern about this matter and we want to meet it. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does as well, so rather than engaging in rather absurd point scoring across the Dispatch Box, why not simply agree that, on the basis of advice from chief police officers, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Attorney-General, we will bring forward proposals, consult the other parties in the House and try to reach a sensible agreement on this matter?

Let me make one thing perfectly clear to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is as a result of the measures taken by the Government that crime is down, burglary is down and extra numbers of police are on our streets. If we took the measures that he and his shadow Chancellor are going to implement, we would be cutting the number of police officers on our streets.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the hand of history now rests on the shoulders of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley)? Does he further agree that that hon. Gentleman should accept the leadership that the people of Northern Ireland have placed in his hands and say yes?

The Prime Minister: I think that the issue will be very clear once we publish the documents and proposals that we have been working on in the past few weeks. As the House will understand, we have worked extremely hard over the past seven years to secure peace in Northern Ireland, with power shared between all parts of the community and all parties, based on a commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means. The essence of that agreement is now in place, but the question is whether it can be implemented in such a way that it gains sufficient confidence on both sides of the community. We will carry on doing everything that we possibly can to bring that about.

I pay tribute to everyone who has been engaged in this process over the past few months. I think that people will see later today that we have made immense progress, and what I have learned above all else in respect of Northern Ireland over the past few years is that any setback—in any shape or form—should simply be a reason for us to redouble our efforts and carry on trying.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West) (LD): Given that the Prime Minister has admitted that the Government will fail to meet their climate change targets, how does he expect the British public to have faith in his declared ambition to lead the industrialised world—including President Bush—in tackling the climate change issue successfully, once and for all?

The Prime Minister: First, I want to make it clear that there are two targets, both of which relate to 1990. The Kyoto targets are our international obligation, and we will meet them—indeed, we have met them already. We are one of the very few countries in the world that will meet those targets, and we can be proud of that. It is true that we set an even tougher target for ourselves
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on CO 2 emissions. Instead of a 20 per cent. reduction, we will achieve one of 14 per cent., but there are years to go before we must reach the higher target. As we say today, we do not accept that we will not meet that target, but again, we must make sure that we take the measures necessary to meet it.

Mr. Kennedy: The problem is that all the plans and strategies that the Prime Minister has reiterated this morning would have sounded great in the first seven days of a newly elected Labour Government, but we are now in the seventh year of this Labour Government. What practical and effective steps does the Prime Minister propose to take on issues such as tackling aircraft pollution, reforming the climate change levy successfully, and achieving a reduction in domestic energy consumption? Is not this yet another example of the Prime Minister talking a very good game and persuading himself, but failing to deliver in the end?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman has rather glossed over what I actually said, which is that we will meet our Kyoto targets. On CO 2 reduction, we have set a target of 20 per cent. and are on track to achieve a reduction of 14 per cent. We must do even more, but I shall list some of the things that we are doing. We have set a target for renewable energy levels by 2010. We are putting an obligation on energy suppliers to produce an increasing proportion of energy from renewables. We have the climate change levy, and I hope that the whole House will support us in maintaining that, but I remind the right hon. Gentleman that we had to force it through when we introduced it. We have the emissions trading agreement, which is also extremely important, and the measures announced in the pre-Budget report for energy efficiency innovation, on which we are spending hundreds of millions of pounds. It is not true that we will fail to meet our international target: we will meet it. We have more to do to meet our domestic UK targets, but we are taking the measures necessary to do that.

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