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I genuinely do not understand how the Conservatives propose to control immigration. What categories of people who come here now would
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not be allowed in by the Conservatives? We have different views about who to blame for illegal immigration, which we need to address, but the Conservative manifesto promised to control lawful immigration. Who will be excluded and how will they be selected?
Mr. Amess: If I were a clever Minister, I suppose I would say that I will write to the hon. Gentleman. The leader of my party made our policy clear during the general election; it would include a quota system, with points according to skills and there would be a much fairer system than we have at present. Furthermore, I deprecate the views that the leader of the Labour party expressed on the issue throughout the election campaign. It was right that my party had the guts and the courage to raise the issue and we were at one with the feelings of the general public about the huge injustice involved.
Too often on the Health Committee, we heard of cases such as that of Victoria Climbiéchildren suffering in terrible circumstances as a result of the failure of various organisations. I welcome legislation
I am concerned that the Government intend to press on with the measure on compulsory treatment of people with mental disorders. That is a difficult issue and my colleagues and I feel strongly about it.
The Government tell us that they will bring forward a measure to help reduce casualties on the road. For goodness sake! The Government made it illegal to drive a car while using a mobile phone, yet that law is not being enforced. Every day, people drive using mobile phones; they tuck the phone under their ear and do not concentrate on what they should be doing. Every day there are fatalities and accidents because people drive while using mobile phones. If the Government are serious about reducing road casualties, they should enforce that law. I asked Home Office Ministers how many extra police officers have been deployed to enforce the measure: none whatever.
As a member of the Health Committee in the last Parliament, does my hon. Friend think that corporate manslaughter could extend to the chief executives of hospitals where the cause of death was MRSA? Might it extend to the death of soldiers when the Secretary of State for Defence had not allowed proper equipment to be issued? Could the offence of corporate manslaughter extend to such cases? Will it be confined to the private sector or should it cover the public sector as well?
My hon. Friend makes a splendid point. If the Bill is not guillotined, we shall have great fun in
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Committee and on Report. The points that my hon. Friend articulated mean that we shall have to consider the measure very carefully indeed.
Mr. Robathan: Despite all the 40-odd measuresthin though they may bewould not it be better if we had fewer laws, but ones that were enforced, rather than lots of garbage legislation to which nobody pays the slightest attention, so that we have had to have five asylum and immigration Acts in eight years?
Mr. Amess: My hon. Friend reminds me of what I should have said at the start of my speech: we legislate too much and the laws are simply not enforced. That is why there is an enormous feeling of injustice in this country.
I am appalled that the Government are to continue with their so-called reform of the House of Lords. They have made an absolute mess of its reform so far. I should have thought that they would have learned by now that it does not matter how many Labour people they put in the House of Lords; at the end of the day, they will do their own thing. In my view, the House of Lords worked splendidly before the Government interfered with it. Since they started interfering with it, they have got their fingers well and truly burned.
The final point that I wish to make is on foreign affairs. It is very unfortunate that there has been a less than robust plan for the transitional Government in Iraq. Much more work needs to be done in that area. The Gracious Speech ends with a paragraph containing the words,
I do not know who put that paragraph in. It badly confused me. We will hold a referendum on the European constitution, but my party wants to be at the heart of Europe but not governed by Europe. Although we think that the United States of America is our greatest ally, we find the posture of the present Prime Minister, who on one day was totally enamoured of Bill Clinton and on the next totally enamoured of President Bush, somewhat confusing. My party intends to put Britain's interests first.
Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): I am greatly honoured to have obtained the first Adjournment debate of the new parliamentary Session, and I know that the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (James Duddridge) and my constituents of Southend, West are very pleased that I have had this opportunity to debate a number of issues with the Minister.
I congratulate the Minister on his well-deserved promotion. I always thought he did a splendid job when he replied to the Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and summer Adjournment debates, always conscientiously following up the different points that we had raised. I hope that if I continue to flatter him more, I will find that I get the right answers to the points that I wish to raise in this short debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East and I wanted to fight the general election campaign on national issues, but the reality was that for four weeks we fought it on local issues, and we fought it on the issue of the 20,000 people who were left off the national census. But I was shocked when, halfway through the general election campaign, the Chancellor of the Exchequer decided to make that matter a key point of the election.
"I understand that you have suggested today that I have committed my party to a further £14 million of spending in Southend. That is absolute nonsense. I am sure that you would not want to make a untruthful statement about what I have said and I can only assume that you have been badly briefed.
When the National Census was conducted in Southend, 20,000 people were left off it, with disastrous consequences. We have lost a huge amount of funding. I am meeting the National Office of Statistics on Monday 9th May and I will be presenting them with evidence that they have made a mistake. That matter has nothing whatsoever to do with the Conservative Party's spending plans.
I have not yet received the apologyperhaps it has been delayed in the postbut now that this will be reported in Hansard, I am sure that the Chancellor will wish to correct the statement that he made during the general election campaign.
The crux of the matter for the Minister is that, as a result of the national census, Southend has received funding for 20,000 fewer people than it should have. It is absolutely crazy for the Office for National Statistics to claim that the Southend's population has shrunk by 20,000 since 1990, when every other element of the Government has said exactly the opposite in parliamentary responses. In other wordsI shall come to the meeting on 9 May in a minuteaccording to the ONS, everyone is wrong, except it. That is simply not the case, and I shall tell the Minister about the result of the funding crisis in Southend.
The borough council originally expected to increase its council tax by 9 per cent. Thus the residents of Southend would have had to endure council tax
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increases in excess of 15 per cent. over two years. Obviously, that would have made things very difficult for many local residents. Given the original £5 million-worth of cuts, the council would have had to make savings of £12 million over two years. The £5 million cuts in social services have included 12 redundancies; efficiency restructuring; the withdrawal of free school transport to voluntary-aided schools, with the exception of disadvantaged children; a reduction in school uniform grants to children from disadvantaged families; the closure of the Palace theatre, community centres and a mobile library; reductions in the park ranger services and grounds maintenance; the withdrawal of all bus route subsidies; and a 3 per cent. increase in charges for Southend borough council services. Obviously, that has not been very popular with local residents, so my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East and I have done pretty well over the past four weeks to survive the sort of criticism that we have received on the doorstep as a result of the financial crisis. I certainly do not blame the Minister for that, but I simply ask him to listen to what I have got to say tonight and to give my hon. Friend and me some assistance.
The Minister's predecessor warned Southend that it could be capped, so we obviously found ourselves with an increase in council tax that would not lead to rate capping. In spite of that, I have been advised today by the treasury office in Southend that we have still had to take £800,000 from reserves and an additional £70,000 in rent income from beach huts. My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) is here, so I must be careful, especially as I lived there for three years, but my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East and I believe that Southend is the finest seaside resort along the Thames estuary. Some £20,000 less has had to be paid to the Essex police authority for police community support officers, and £1.1 million less provided for the cost
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