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The Prime Minister: I understand that the scheme is being reviewed by the local health economy to ensure that it is sustainable in the long term, but on any basis there will be a substantial investment in additional facilities.
The Prime Minister will know of the deficit at my local hospital, where 1,200 jobs are now at risk. The long-planned new hospital is desperately
19 Apr 2006 : Column 124
needed to tackle that deficit and the inefficiencies involved in working on a split-site old Victorian complex whose foundation stone was laid back in 1866. Having seen NHS managers last week, will the Prime Minister agree to meet Labour Members as well to ensure that any cuts in response to deficits, or any scaling down of new hospital plans, will not harm patient care?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the importance of the scheme, which is worth about £400 million. He is also absolutely right to draw attention to the need to end the arrangement with the split site. [Interruption.] Contrary to what Conservative Members are shouting, it is extremely important for us to make such changes in the national health service. Otherwise, as the chief executive of my hon. Friend's trust explained at the Downing street seminar 10 days ago, we will not be able to take the measures necessary to restore proper financial balance and accountability, and to provide a better service for my hon. Friend's constituents in the long run. Once this scheme goes ahead, there will be greatly improved facilities in north Staffordshire, which will benefit patients and the local health care system.
Q12.  Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): May I ask the Prime Minister to refocus on the middle east and Israel? According to all the United Nations resolutions and common opinion, a safe and secure Israel under a two-state solution must be based on the boundaries of the 1967 Israeli state. Will my right hon. Friend take this matter seriously and argue in his dealings with the Israeli Government that the only way to achieve a two-state solution is to give up land and to return to the boundaries that Israel secured in 1967, with UN support?
The Prime Minister: If negotiation proceeded, there would of course be a situation in which land was given up by Israel, and we have always stated our support for the basic UN framework for how that should be done. But I hope that my hon. Friend agrees with me that the killing of wholly innocent people in terrorist attacks in, for example, Tel Aviv a couple of days ago, sets back the chance of a proper negotiated solution. I say to the Hamas leadership very clearly that I believe that the whole of the international community stands ready and willing to take forward a negotiated solution on the basis of a fair deal that allows for an independent and viable Palestinian state, provided that, in turn, Hamas are prepared to recognise the state of Israel and to give up violence, which does nothing to make this process work and everything to harm it.
The United Kingdom overseas territories are extremely important, so I am extremely pleased that the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), is in his place to listen to me introduce this Bill. I am disappointed that the Prime Minister has left
This Bill is designed to raise the profile of the United Kingdom overseas territories and to modernise our relationship with them. They are unique and very special to us, so I will name them all: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St. Helena, Turk and Caicos Islands, Pitcairn Island, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, British Indian Ocean Territory, and British Antarctic Territory.
I remember looking at a map of the British empire as a boy and feeling extremely proud of our imperial history and of the achievement of this small island nation. Today, I am equally proud of those 14 remaining British overseas territories, which are important for two specific reasons. Thanks to the Labour Government, in 2002 the citizens of these areas were granted full British citizenship. So 220,000 British citizens live in these territories, and we have a duty and responsibility to look after their interests and to promote them here and in the European Union. We also derive tremendous military benefits from these territories. Their allowing us to use their territory and their surrounding waters gives us a huge military outreach that greatly exceeds the outreach that we would enjoy from our own country alone. We lease some of the land, of course, to our principal ally, the United States, and gain significant financial benefit from those leases, as well as good will from our number one ally.
We are not, however, the only European Union country that has overseas territories. The French and Dutch also have overseas territories and they do everything imaginable to help their overseas territories to battle within the EU to secure as much as possible for them
The French and Dutch allow their overseas territories to participate in the elections for their national assemblies and for the European Union Parliament, and provide every assistance for them to lobby effectively in Brussels. As a result, those overseas territories have far more recognition in the EU and secure far more financial assistance than do ours.
The Bill does not go as far as the French and Dutch models, but it would do two very important things. First, it would give our British overseas territories the ability to have representation here in Parliament in the House of Lords. The Prime Minister would be able to appoint two or three extra peers[Laughter.] I make no comment on that. Those extra peers would represent all 14 overseas territories. Secondly, the Bill would enable us to provide specific help for our overseas territories through UKRep, the United Kingdom Representative Office in Brussels, to overcome some of the hurdles, in the form of red tape and bureaucracy, that the European Union throws in their way in allocating money to them. The money is there, but every time that they want to draw money from their accounts, the EU throws more red tape at them. The special service from UKRep in Brussels would allow our 14 overseas territories to overcome those hurdles. The 14 overseas territories are affected increasingly by EU law and they need representation there. They cannot rely on second-hand information passed down from the Foreign Office.
I have met representatives from many of the overseas territories. In fact, this morning I met representatives from the Falkland Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands. I was greatly upset that some of them said that independence is "inevitable", because I would hate for us to lose any of the remaining 14 overseas territories. They are extremely important to us strategically and historically.
I hope that this Bill will reverse the dissatisfaction that some overseas territories feel towards the Foreign Office and how it ignores them and their concerns. We need to show more solidarity with our overseas territories and the Foreign Office needs to work more closely with them in the European Union to maximise their benefits. I ask for support for this Bill. If passed, it would show the UK overseas territories our determination to improve and modernise our relationship with them and keep them within the British family of nations.
Daniel Kawczynski accordingly presented a Bill to make provision about the representation of the British Overseas Territories in the European Union and in Parliament: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 12 May, and to be printed [Bill 168].
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