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Mr. Hollobone: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I am genuinely pleased that the Government have introduced a Bill on animal welfare, but I hope that the limited provisions on greyhounds are applied.

Norman Baker: I wish to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman, so can he explain how clause 8, which deals with the duty of people responsible for animals to ensure their welfare, applies to greyhounds?

Mr. Hollobone: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, and I believe that clause 8 would be helpful. In the Bill, the Government are looking at draft codes of conduct, so at this late stage may I urge the Minister to consider introducing an early draft code of conduct on greyhounds? That would be very much appreciated in the greyhound industry, and I hope that the issue is debated further when the Bill proceeds to the other place.

11.13 pm

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone), with whom I very much agree.

I wish to stick to a specific matter in the Bill. I congratulate the Government on introducing a very good welfare Bill, but I should also like to comment on the fact that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Derek Conway) said, the RSPCA is not the only organisation that is worried about the welfare of animals. I have received a representation in my constituency from Mr. Andrew Meads, who runs Safe Wings. That unusual organisation protects wild birds, and injured birds are brought to the sanctuary from miles around. They are housed and rehabilitated before being released into the wild. Unfortunately, the Bill was not designed to take that unusual project into account, which may well have to close because of the licensing arrangements. Mr. Meads is concerned that unless there is a light regulatory touch that wonderful bird sanctuary will have to close. I hope that that will be considered in the other place.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With the leave of the House, I shall put together the two motions.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Disabled Persons

That the draft Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Gatwick Express Class 458 Vehicles) Exemption Order 2006, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved.

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That the draft Occupational Pension Schemes (Levies) (Amendment) Regulations 2006, which were laid before this House on 15th February, be approved.—[Mr. Dhanda.]

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(9) (European Standing Committees),

Air Traffic Management

That this House take note of European Union Document No. 15143/05 and Addendum 1, Commission Communication and draft Council Regulation on the establishment of a Joint Undertaking to develop the new generation European air traffic management system (SESAR); and endorses the Government's prudent approach to the Commission's proposals, as set out in the Explanatory Memorandum.—[Mr. Dhanda.]

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 25 (Periodic adjournments),

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 116 (Northern Ireland Grand Committee sittings)),

Question agreed to.

14 Mar 2006 : Column 1429


Sentencing Guidelines

11.15 pm

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to present a petition. It concerns the very serious issue of the deliberate manslaughter of Stuart McKibbin. I record my thanks and that of the McKibbin family for the support shown to them by the petitioners, the local press and Peter Lewis from Support After Murder and Manslaughter.

The petitioners declare that the sentence passed for the manslaughter of Stuart McKibbin is inadequate and further declare that, despite taking a life, the perpetrator could be freed after serving only three and a half years of a seven-year sentence.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Home Secretary to refer the sentencing guidelines for manslaughter to the Sentencing Guidelines Council.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.

To lie upon the Table.

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Wind Farms (Northumberland)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Dhanda.]

11.16 pm

Mr. Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): The House seems to be returning to its old ways. This is the second night running that I have taken part in an Adjournment debate after 11.15 pm, but I am nevertheless glad of the opportunity to raise the role of the Department of Trade and Industry in wind farm applications in Northumberland.

Northumberland is facing a massive wave of applications for wind farms, with a heavy concentration of applications in the stretch of beautiful open countryside that lies between Berwick and Alnwick, and further clusters of applications or potential applications around the boundaries of my constituency at Ellington, Lynemouth and Longhirst, around Longhorsley, and around Kirkwhelpington, which lies over the boundary in the neighbouring Hexham constituency. The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) is present tonight.

Those sites lie in the areas of four planning authorities. I have so far counted four actual and one potential application in Berwick borough, one actual and three potential applications in Alnwick district, one actual and seven potential applications in Castle Morpeth, and two over the border in Tynedale. A total of almost 200 turbines is in prospect in or alongside my constituency, with further applications over in the Kielder area. Even many constituents who are sympathetic to the development of wind power have found this a bewildering and daunting prospect.

The Department of Trade and Industry has several roles in relation to these applications. First, it takes to itself the decision on wind farms with an installed capacity of 50 MW or more. So far this includes the Middlemoor application, north of Alnwick, and the Ray estate proposal near Kirkwhelpington. Secondly, it has a role alongside the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister if an application below that size is the subject of an appeal against local authority refusal. Obviously, any of the sites may be the subject of such an appeal following a local planning authority refusal, and then the issue would be taken out of the hands of the local community.

Thirdly, the DTI is responsible for Government energy policy, for delivering on the Government's renewables targets, and indeed for the incentives that have encouraged so many companies to put in applications for wind farms, which many people would see as a conflict of interest with its role in the planning process. I shall consider each of those aspects of the Department's role.

A question ought to be raised about why the DTI is taking decisions at all in cases such as Middlemoor. The power under which this is happening was, I suspect, included in the Electricity Act 1989 to make it easier for major strategic power plants to get approval. Even if that could be justified—I served in Committee on the 1989 Act, where we sought to amend those provisions—it hardly seems appropriate to use the 1989 Act to separate a few wind farm applications from the rest for central consideration without a proper local planning
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decision. Because wind power is intermittent, the average output of a 50 MW wind farm is probably less than 20 MW. Why does the Minister not hand the planning responsibility for Middlemoor back to Alnwick district council, which is the local planning authority? Why not let local people decide?

If the DTI insists on making the decision, the local planning authority can insist on a public inquiry, but central Government will still make the decision, which seems completely inappropriate. Incidentally, I understand that this week the DTI asked Alnwick district council to defer consideration of its views on Middlemoor while further information is sought from the developer. Perhaps the Minister will tell me what that is all about.

When the DTI deals with an application, how does it assess local opinion? There are differing views on the various applications in Northumberland, but a number of them, including Middlemoor, have attracted vigorous opposition. The DTI's process of inviting comments by an early date has not left people with the feeling that they have had a fair hearing or that their views are being taken seriously. Furthermore, the Middlemoor and Ray applications need to be seen in the context that I have described, because so many applications are coming forward. How can the DTI rule on the Middlemoor application without knowing what Berwick borough council will decide on the nearby Wandylaw application or the three sites further north?

What frightens many people is the prospect of a chain of five or more sites with more than 60 turbines stretching through the countryside west of the A1 from Alnwick to Berwick, all visible from popular viewpoints such as Ros castle and the Cheviot hills. Tourism is now of crucial importance to jobs and businesses in Northumberland, and, although I do not accept the argument that every wind farm necessarily poses a threat to tourism, a development on anything like this scale would totally change the landscape and views that tourists come to enjoy. The Minister must tell us how he will prevent a situation in which he takes a decision on the Middlemoor site without regard to the risk of a ribbon development of wind farms.

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