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Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): Before we adjourn and leave the House for the Easter recess, I want to ask Ministers to deal with an issue that is important to my constituents. It concerns the private finance initiative scheme for the Mid Essex Hospital Services trust, based on Broomfield hospital.

The scheme is a magnificent project worth over £100 million, and has been in hand for some years. The plan is to close an old Victorian hospital in the centre of Chelmsford and to move some of the facilities to the Broomfield hospital on the outskirts of the town. That will make it an even better local hospital, with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. We will see a rebuilt and regenerated accident and emergency department, a new pathology department, a new children's ward and improved maternity services. It is a scheme that is logical on health and patient care grounds as well as financial grounds. Everyone in the mid-Essex area supports it.

A great deal of work has been done by trust officials, consultants and medical practitioners to put the scheme in position. We have been awaiting the final approval of the PFI scheme. We were promised that the approval would be given in October last year. October became November, November became "before Christmas", Christmas came and went and the new year came and went and still delays through bureaucracy meant that we did not get our final approval.

We then discovered on 26 January that the Treasury had changed the ground rules and that a freeze was put on all PFI schemes subject to a reappraisal. The Minister of State, Department of Health, the right hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Jane Kennedy) told me in a written answer on 23 March:

and so on. I hope that you noted, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I emphasised the words "all schemes".

It is slightly surprising that a few weeks ago Barts and the London NHS Trust, which had been subject to the same freeze and the same reappraisal, was given
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approval. We are awaiting the guidelines from the Government for the basis of that reappraisal. We were promised that the instructions for the guidelines would be issued to the trusts by 31 March. That is tomorrow. As of this morning, the trusts had not received it. We have to wait for the guidelines for the reappraisal before we can comply. The House should remember that that applies to all trusts and all schemes.

About two or three weeks ago Barts managed to get its PFI scheme fast-tracked and approved. I am not the sort of evil person who would suggest that there was a correlation between that decision and the vote that was pending in the House of Commons on the Second Reading of the Education and Inspections Bill. I know that people such as the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson) and the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and others in the east end of London were causing the Government a degree of difficulty with regard to that vote, but I am not the sort of person who would suggest that the application was fast-tracked to try to ease the passage of the Bill, although I suspect that some less charitable hon. Friends of mine may have drawn that conclusion.

I do not begrudge Barts approval of its PFI scheme. What concerns me is that the Broomfield scheme has not been approved, given that it has been waiting since October for approval and it is not its fault that it did not get approval before 26 January when the Treasury issued new rules. It was due to slippage and bureaucracy that the trust did not manage to get it; the Department of Health could not find the time to approve it.

There is a knock-on effect. It will possibly take some considerable time to get that approval. I am heartened that in the same answer the Minister said:

about schemes such as those I mentioned, although it looks as though they will miss that deadline, which is hardly encouraging. She continued:

That is welcome news, although it is disappointing that the trust has been put in limbo due to the Treasury changes. However, given that the scheme was ready for approval last October, I do not understand why it has to go through all that rigmarole again.

There is another knock-on effect—the cost of the scheme. Delay has financial implications. I asked the Minister about that but the answer was somewhat disingenuous:

That is comforting, although most of us do not think that there is much to reappraise, because the scheme is reaching conclusion and is now awaiting approval.

Despite the Minister's golden words, there are considerable knock-on effects, but it is a sad fact of life that I cannot disclose them to the House because the information is commercially confidential. I have a vague idea about the cost, so it is slightly disingenuous for the Minister to gloss over it in a written answer by spinning the line that the reappraisal will ultimately bring financial benefits when everybody knows that there will
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be none at all. I only hope that the Minister's answer was not code and that it does not really mean that there will be a decision to cut part of the scheme after the reappraisal. That would be a saving, albeit in a narrow, legal sense; the scheme would cost less, because there would be less of it.

Will the Minister draw my concerns to the attention of the relevant Health Minister so that something can be done to fast-track a decision? The scheme is excellent and will benefit not only my constituents but those of my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) who has worked as hard, if not harder, than me to persuade the Department of Health to expedite the matter.

I want to raise another matter: an absolute scandal involving the use of stolen or false identity to avoid the consequences when people break the law, especially with regard to road traffic offences, something to which my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) alluded. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) has worked on the matter over a number of months and I pay tribute to him for his involvement.

In my constituency, we have a particular problem: 25 Duke street. It is an innocuous-looking building in the centre of Chelmsford, but in fact it is a mass-mailing address. It is notorious with Essex and Bedford police—people from south Bedfordshire are particularly attracted to the services offered by 25 Duke street—and with Hertfordshire police, as an address that people use to register vehicles. Mr. Smith at 25 Duke street looks perfectly viable. Who is to know that it is actually a convenience address? The advantage is that Mr. Smith can speed past safety cameras, jump red lights and commit with impunity other road traffic offences caught on camera. When a letter arrives at the address setting out the offence and demanding a fine, there is no one to collect it. Officials cannot speak to Mr. Smith if they call at 25 Duke street, because it is not a residential address; it is a mailbox address.

I have had the benefit of being shown photographs of young people joyriding past speed cameras, using the middle finger on their right hands with impunity to show what they think of the system. I have explained their way of avoiding paying any fine, getting any points and—ultimately, if they are convicted often enough—losing their licences. Like any so-called good little wheeze, most of those involved are serial offenders, and it is amazing how often people can run up speeding fines or jump red lights if they know that no one will identify them or their residence from the photograph that has been taken, or hold them to account for breaking the law.

To my mind, there is something very wrong with such behaviour, and we should consider not simply the morality of breaking the law by speeding or whatever with impunity, but the fact that local authorities are deprived of the money that they are owed because of the offences that have been caused. That money could be ploughed back into road safety measures. I cannot understand why such things are tolerated.

I have tabled questions to the relevant Minister in the past two weeks to ask how many road traffic offences have been caused in that manner by people who are
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registered at 25 Duke street. I was slighted surprised that he replied that he could not give me the information because of the Data Protection Act 1998. I was not asking for the names of the people who were committing those offences; I was simply asking for the number involved. When I asked other factual questions of that nature—not about the names of the individuals, but about the numbers of offences and the amount of money that may have been lost to the local authority and the state—I was also slightly surprised to be told that all that was covered by the Data Protection Act 1998. When I also asked what type of offence had been caused, I was also told that that was not something with which the Government could supply me.

I am slightly surprised. If one is an avid reader of Hansard and one reads the in-depth and knowledgeable speeches made by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire—I recommend those speeches to my hon. Friends—one finds that he has been given information for his constituency, not specifically for 25 Duke street, about the offences that have been picked up on camera that have not been pursued because the address given for the vehicle is a mailing address or bogus. Why can such information be given to my hon. Friend, who is a law-abiding colleague—for example, by Bedfordshire police, I assume—whereas the Government cannot give it to me, because they say that doing so would breach the Data Protection Act 1998?

I was horrified at the answer when I asked the relevant Minister in a written question how the Government proposed to change the law to block that loophole. I would have accepted it if they had said that it is a very difficult issue and they must consider how to draft legislation that would effectively deal with that specific problem, but not at all: they simply said that they had no plan to change the law. So the problem will continue, unless hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire and others, keep pressing the Government, because it is wrong and it is a scandal. Given the irresponsibility of the individuals involved, particularly the young people—they are speeding, jumping red lights and so on—they could well threaten their own lives or injure themselves. Equally important, if not more important to some people, they could threaten the lives of or injure innocent people who become caught up in their antisocial and illegal behaviour.

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