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Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): May I first, uncharacteristically, agree with the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)? In my constituency, the overwhelming majority of council tenants would much rather be tenants of the excellent Conservative-controlled borough council. Tenants who unfortunately come under housing associations get a much worse deal. All that they want is a level playing field on finance when a decision is made, and we are doubtful that we will achieve that.

There are three reasons why I believe that the House should not adjourn immediately. One is a local issue, one is a regional issue and the third is an international issue. I should like to take up the local issue first. A month ago, a mother of a young constituent of mine, Alistair aged 10, approached me. She said that, for six years, medical opinion had said that her son should have occupational therapy, yet he had had it for only six months in that period. I thought that that was amazing and disgraceful. I did not even necessarily believe it to be true at the time.

I made representations to the chief executive of Bracknell primary care trust. I should like to quote from   the letter that Ms Diane Hedges sent to me on 8 December. She said:

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In other words, the situation is every bit as bad as the mother said. Here is a child in real need who is not getting the attention that he deserves.

I have written to the Secretary of State for Health to draw the matter to his attention. I have yet to receive a reply, but I would appreciate it if the Minister in his summing up assured me that there would be a proper reply. It is not good enough to say, "Perhaps you Tories when you were in Government should have trained more therapists." I remind the Minister that he has been in office for seven and a half years, and the situation has steadily deteriorated. No action seems to have been taken to put matters right. I need to have undertakings that my constituents' children will have proper therapy when it is clear that that is what is required.

The second issue is the regional one. We in the south-east were naturally delighted at the result of the referendum in the north-east. The people of the north-east did the right thing. In all my experience in elected office, I have never come across members of the public or constituents who wanted more politicians, more bureaucrats and more layers of Government.

We in Berkshire got it just right a few years ago. We abolished the county council and we now have excellent unitary authorities run by three different political parties from time to time, although increasingly by the Conservative party. As they are unitary authorities, they deliver and the buck stops with them, so the idea of Berkshire, which got rid of the county council some years ago, wanting a regional assembly is wrong. It is the last thing that we want.

I hope that the Government will seriously consider abolishing the dreadful South East England regional assembly—SEERA. It serves no useful purpose; the people who are members of it are not directly elected and are answerable to no one. There is a bunch of bureaucrats, a bunch of hangers-on from various quangos, one or two semi-out-of-work business men and trade unionists, and one or two councillors with nothing better to do. They cost us a lot of money. Worse still, recently they tried to foist huge numbers of extra houses on the south-east, which was deeply unwelcome. A combination of Conservative councillors on SEERA and environmental groups managed on 29 November to reverse the decision.

We need to have planning matters decided by the local planning authority—in my case, Bracknell Forest borough council or Wokingham unitary authority. If the decision is not satisfactory, there is an opportunity to appeal to the Secretary of State. That is the right way
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to proceed. We do not want planning decisions made through some unelected regional body. SEERA is costing a lot of money and is unnecessary. I should like the Minister to assure me that the Government are seriously considering, in the light of the referendum result, abolishing such quangocracies.

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Mackay: Quickly.

Mr. Arbuthnot: Is my right hon. Friend aware that SEERA has not even enabled the A3 redevelopment at Hindhead to go ahead, and it has been pushed off into the distant future? Is there any point in SEERA whatever?

Mr. Mackay: I apologise to my right hon. Friend for saying, "Quickly." I have just noticed that I get an extra minute. Knowing that he is one of the most concise Members of the House, I should have realised that he would not take a full minute.

No one in the south-east sees any point in SEERA. It is wasting our money. If Mr. Gershon wants to find some savings, I recommend that he looks at such bodies.

The final, international point that I wish to raise concerns Africa. My hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House has been pressing the Leader of the House week after week for a debate on Africa and the middle east. The Leader of the House has appeared sympathetic to that request, but has not delivered. When his deputy sums up, I hope that he will be able to assure us that sometime in early January we will have a debate on those two separate and important areas.

I shall restrict myself to Africa and the urgent need for a debate on that subject. The Minister will be aware that, only today, Save the Children has had to pull out of Darfur, which will have dire consequences. He may have heard the organisation's director on the "Today" programme this morning rightly castigating the United Nations for not delivering the number of troops and observers necessary to police properly a vast area that is virtually the size of France. Urgent action is needed in Sudan.

I know that I do not have to underline to the Minister and to the House that the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate under the revolting Mugabe regime. I concede that Zimbabwe requires a largely African solution, but we could put more pressure on the African Union and, more importantly, on the regional superpower, South Africa, to ensure that peace, stability and democracy are returned to Zimbabwe. I emphasise again that smart sanctions should be introduced against the Mugabe regime and its financial backers. That would have a positive effect without in any way harming the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, who have suffered too much.

The final reason for an urgent debate on Africa is to clarify the British Government's position in relation to   Equatorial Guinea and, in particular, the failed coup, which nearly took place earlier this year. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Devizes
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(Mr. Ancram), the shadow Foreign Secretary, has rightly asked several questions of the Foreign Secretary and it has become clear that, at the least, mistakes have been made and, possibly, a cover-up attempted. Initially, the Foreign Secretary and the Government maintained that they knew nothing about the abortive coup in advance. It has become clear that a security analyst—an ex-member of the South African intelligence service named Johann Smith—sent a detailed email to the Foreign Office in December last year, informing it that he believed that a coup was planned for Equatorial Guinea. That was denied by the Foreign Secretary, but has now been admitted. Why was it initially denied? It looks as if the Government wanted regime change by proxy. In some ways, I would not oppose that, because Equatorial Guinea has a revolting dictatorship, but the Government had a duty under international law to report the possibility of a coup to the UN and to that country. We know that the Government took the report seriously, because they advised British citizens in Equatorial Guinea of the need to leave. There is a nasty smell from somewhere and there may have been a cover-up. It is vital that the Foreign Secretary takes part in the debate on Africa, answers questions about Equatorial Guinea and puts the record straight.

1.34 pm

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