John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): I understand from Highland council this morning that 20,000 homes are without power in the area. Many of those homes are in my constituency, where there is no power from the south Sutherland border on the west coast across to Tongue on the north coast. Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to Highland council and to the valiant efforts by the utilities engineers to restore power as well as other services? What studies are being made of tidal action? I understand from a conversation this morning that we have the highest tides in living memory at Scrabster, and water is washing the bottom of my house in ThursoI certainly do not remember that happening before. What studies are being made of tidal movement, as opposed to flooding?
Again, I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's comments about the utility companies and their staff, who are working hard to reconnect the power. He is quite right about tidal action and the risk of floods. Following the 1953 disaster, this country probably has one of the most sophisticated tidal surge prediction and warning systems in the North sea, which we share with Holland and France. It enables us to predict tidal movements with some accuracy, and we also have warning systems and contingency plans. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, a surge is predicted
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in the North sea and on the west coast of Scotland. However, because of the nature of the tides at present, significant flooding is not expected.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Two significant rivers, the Clywedog and the Severn, originate in my constituency. Is the Minister aware of an experiment carried out over the past few years to drop the level of the reservoirs, thereby reducing flooding during periods of severe weather in the Severn valley and elsewhere? Would he look at that successful experiment, and consider rolling it out elsewhere? Does he accept that there is no doubt at all that much of the climate change that we are experiencing is a direct consequence of the polluting activities of human beings?
Mr. Morley: Yes, I am aware of work to lower the level of reservoirs in winter and possible storm periods so that there is capacity for a surge. Although that is useful, the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in a large-scale storm and extreme weather a reservoir is quickly overwhelmed. Although that practice has some benefit, it will not stop widespread flooding. Nevertheless, that possibility is being looked at. As for climate change, it is a fact and a reality, and there is no doubt that it is caused by the activities of humans. ??
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann) (UUP): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In his response to the urgent question, the Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment made it clear that the issues involved related to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It was painfully clear, howeverI am sure that it was not through any fault of his ownthat he was not briefed to answer questions on Northern Ireland and could not comment on an incident that led to a fatality there. Can you ensure, Mr. Speaker, that in future the Minister's officials supply him with the necessary information?
Mr. Speaker: It is not often that I defend Ministers, but I must defend this Minister. It must be pointed out that it was just before 10.30 am that I received the urgent question from the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart). Of course, it was my decision to make sure that a Minister came to the House. There was even a question of which Department would answer the urgent question, because it affected Scotland and, indeed, Northern Ireland. I thank the Minister for coming to the House. Members must realise that briefing depends on the length of time or warning that is given. I feel that the Minister did very well indeed.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you had any representations from the Secretary of State for Defence following discussions with the Americans in which opinion was voiced about the possibility, all too serious in Washington, of the use of assassination squads in Iraq, perhaps operating across frontiers?
Patrick Mercer, supported by David Davis, Mr. Frank Field, Mr. Roger Gale, Chris Grayling, Mr. Dominic Grieve, Mr. Mike Hancock, Lady Hermon, Mr. Humfrey Malins, Mr. Mark Prisk, Mr. Hugo Swire and Dr. Richard Taylor, presented a Bill to amend section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 in relation to the use of force in the prevention of crime or in the defence of persons or property: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February, and to be printed [Bill 20].
Mr. Nigel Evans, supported by Mr. Nigel Jones, Jane Griffiths, Mr. Cheryl Gillan, Kate Hoey, Mrs. Angela Browning, Dr. Julian Lewis, Bob Spink, Mr. Robert Syms, Mr. David Amess, Mr. Andrew Rosindell and Mr. Julian Brazier presented a Bill to make provision about sentencing for persons guilty of an offence in connection with the supply or an offer to supply Class A drugs; and to establish a commission of inquiry into the effects and classification of cannabis: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 25 February, and to be printed [Bill 21].
Mr. Stephen Hepburn, supported by Vera Baird, Tony Baldry, Mr. Nicholas Brown, Mr. Michael Clapham, Mr. Tony Clarke, Ross Cranston, Mr. Frank Dobson, Mrs. Joan Humble, Helen Jackson, Mr. Michael Meacher and Dr. Jenny Tonge, presented aBill to impose duties upon company directors in relation to health and safety; to give powers to the Health and Safety Commission to issue and approve codes of practice in connection with the performance of those duties; to require large companies to appoint a director as health and safety information director; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 4 March, and to be printed [Bill 22].
Julie Morgan, supported by Mr. Kevin Barron, Paul Flynn, Dr. Ian Gibson, Mr. Win Griffiths, Mr. David Hinchliffe, Dr. Doug Naysmith, David Taylor, Mrs. Betty Williams, Hywel Williams, Mr. Roger Williams and Sir George Young, presented a Bill to enable the National Assembly for Wales to prohibit or restrict the smoking of tobacco products by any person in a public place in Wales; to enable functions to be transferred to the National Assembly for Wales in that connection; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 18 March, and to be printed [Bill 23].
Mr. Kevin Barron, supported by Mr. Peter Ainsworth, Mr. Richard Allan, Mr. David Amess, Mr. John Battle, Mr. A. J. Beith, Sir Sidney Chapman, Mr. David Chaytor, Mr. David Drew, Mr. Neil Gerrard, Mr. Martin O'Neill and Brian White, presented a Bill to make provision for a lower rate of stamp duty land tax to be charged on residential properties where energy efficiency measures are undertaken by or on behalf of the purchaser: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 8 April, and to be printed [Bill 24].
Mr. Kevan Jones, supported by Ms Dari Taylor, Mark Tami, Mr. Liam Byrne, Iain Wright, Jon Cruddas, Helen Jones, Ann McKechin, Mr. George Howarth, Mrs. Joan Humble, Mr. Stephen Pound and Mr. Frank Roy, presented a Bill to amend the Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act 2002: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 15 April, and to be printed [Bill 25].
Sir Paul Beresford, supported by Vera Baird, Mr. Dominic Grieve, Mr. Humfrey Malins, Mr. John Randall, John Cryer and Mr. Neil Gerrard presented a Bill to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to give the police powers to enter specified premises in order to ascertain whether a person subject to the notification requirements of Part 2 of that Act is residing at or staying on those premises and to search those premises for information relevant to section 67 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, and to create offences in connection with the exercise of those powers:
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And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 4 March, and to be printed [Bill 26].
Mr. Michael Weir, supported by Hywel Williams, Annabelle Ewing, Pete Wishart, Mr. Andrew Stunell, Norman Baker, Paddy Tipping, Mr. David Chaytor, Brian White, Mr. Peter Ainsworth and Mr. Simon Thomas, presented a Bill to make provision to increase the proportion of heating fuel derived from renewable sources; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February, and to be printed [Bill 27].