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In Hackney, in the aftermath of the stabbing of Robert Levy, the police and community made a tremendous effort to address the situation. The police went into schools to teach young people about the dangers of knives and set up all kinds of mentoring schemes to give young people alternatives to their malign role models on the street. Very often, young teenagers are mentored in the ways of violence and crime by older men, so the police in Hackney are targeting those people so that they can get them behind
bars. Meanwhile, the police are trying to work with young people and support their parents so that they can be given a different value system from that of the street, violence and MTV. The Government need to address the problem through not only law enforcement measures, but resources for such long-term work with young people and parents, whether that is done through local authorities, or through partnerships among the police, local authorities and the voluntary sector.
It is easy for hon. Members from other parts of the country to say, We dont have the problem in my constituency. It is a localised thing in the inner city, so why should I concern myself with it?. I would say to that that we are seeing the type of gun crime that was once a feature of areas such as Brixton and Hackney in Nottingham, Yorkshire and as far afield as Aberdeen, so what those hon. Members see in the city of London today, they will see in other urban areas tomorrow.
Some of the wards in London with the most serious problems relating to gun and knife-related crime are on the edge of what will be the footprint of the Olympic park. The idea that we will bring millions of people in 2012 into an area that has systemic problems with gun, knife and gang-related crime on its fringes couldI say only couldprove embarrassing to all of us. For the sake of the mother of Kiyan Prince, the parents of Robert Levy, a whole generation of young people growing up in our city and this countrys reputation, we cannot afford to let gun and knife-related crime be only the stuff of a few days headlines before we all move on. We need sustainable workboth law enforcement and community workthat will help to save a generation of young boys who are being sucked up into a malign, lawless and violent culture.
I want to raise the international issue of Guantanamo Bay. Hon. Members might say, Its been there since 2002, so why should we talk about it again? However, it is important to put it on record that, in the past week, important benchmarks have been set relating to the debate on Guantanamo Bay. First, the UN Committee against Torture has investigated Guantanamo Bay and concluded that the conditions there constitute torture. The Committee has also called for the camp to be closed down as soon as possible. We have also heard in the past few days that four detainees at Guantanamo have attempted to commit suicide, which gives the lie to the notion that there is nothing wrong with the regime there. Last but not least, our Attorney-General has taken the serious step of making a public speech saying that Guantanamo Bay should be closed as a matter of principle. Lord Goldsmith was swift to say that he was speaking in a personal capacity, and we must accept that, but when someone in his position with such a distinguished legal career steps up to condemn what is happening in Guantanamo, the House must listen. The Attorney-General is not the only person who has called for the closure of Guantanamo. The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has called for that, as have Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The problem with Guantanamo is partly what happens inside it, partly the dubious legal basis on which the Americans are holding the people and, finally, the negative effect that its very existence has on the war against terror. The Americans would argue that
they are entitled to hold the people indefinitely without due process, as that would be internationally recognised, because they are at war. When it is suggested that, if the people are prisoners of war, they should be subject to the Geneva convention, the Americans refuse to accept that, but they cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that they are holding the people because they are at war, yet refuse to accept that the Geneva convention applies.
The Americans try to say that the conditions are fine and that the complaints of ex-detainees are unfounded, yet even the UN officials were not allowed to meet detainees without signing confidentiality agreements. Once the detainees actually leave Guantanamoas did the British detainees, thankfully, due to the hard work of Lord Goldsmith and othersthe stories that we hear about the treatment that they have endured are horrifying.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) said earlier this week, the Government should facilitate a visit to Guantanamo by a delegation of British MPs. The Government should also do more for British residents who are not necessarily British nationals who find themselves interned in Guantanamo. I know that it is not the practice of Britain to offer consular services to people who are just British residents, but it is also not the practice of Britain to stand on the side while people are undergoing torture. International institution after international institution, culminating in the UN Committee against Torture, have said that conditions in Guantanamo are tantamount to torture.
The Prime Minister should take advantage of his special relationship with George W. Bush to raise the issue of Guantanamo in more emphatic and public terms than he has hitherto. The House recently debated the report on the 7/7 bombings in this country. As a House of Commons, we talk about anti-terrorism measures and legislation, policing, enforcement and law and order to ward off the threat of terrorism. However, as long as young Muslim men and women, wherever they might be, including in this country, see the camp at Guantanamo and people held outside the law, and hear the allegations of torture, it undermines both our fight to get community cohesion and the war against terror. We need to demonstrate that when we talk about civil liberties, freedom and enduring international values, it is not just talk but something that we mean. There is much more that our Government and Prime Minister can do to close down Guantanamo once and for all. That would represent an advance in the war against terror.
The second international issue that I want to raise is the situation in Nigeria. It is a special country to me. I have one of the largest Nigerian communities in London and I have been privileged to visit it twice
within the past 12 months. A horrible disaster took place in Nigeria in the past few days that was not been as well reported as it might have been. A pipeline explosion killed more than 200 people on the outskirts of Lagos. More than 100 blackened corpses were strewn on the waters edge. The Lagos state police commissioner said:
You can see the corpses. Some are burnt to ash. Others are remnants. We estimate
that more than 200 people died. Those people died not as a result of a natural disaster, but because they were tapping into a pipeline that runs close to Lagos to take away petroleum in jerry cans to sell. No more dangerous activity can be imagined, but the idea that there are people who are desperate enough to make money from such an activity points to some of the social and economic dislocation in Nigeria.
Oil has been both a blessing and a curse. It has been a blessing because it could make Nigeria a prosperous country, but it has been a curse because, as is the case in so many oil-producing countries, it has brought with it corruption and an undue reliance on the oil production sector. It is not just that people die from tapping into pipelines. One of the other tragedies of oil production in Nigeria is that, although the Niger delta produces some of the highest quality oil in the world and makes billions, the Nigerians who live there exist not only in the most abject poverty, but in an area that has terrible oil pollution. The water is polluted. They cannot fish or farm, and they do not have access to fresh water. The situation has been going on for years. The huge profits made in Nigeria have not helped the people of the delta.
Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) (LD): Does the hon. Lady agree that there needs to be far greater transparency in the payments made by extraction companies to developing countries? The brutal truth is that most of the money does not go to benefit the general population, but enriches a small elite.
The natural gas from oil extraction is flared night and day, which means that villages are illuminated night and day. That shows the crudeness of the oil industry. It does not bother to use the natural gas as a resource in itself because the profits to be made from oil are so vast. Who benefits from that? As the hon. Gentleman said, there is no transparency in the payments made.
The last time I was in Nigeria, we had a meeting with Shell. When I asked about oil pollution, the senior person in the company said that it was all caused by people tapping into its pipelines. I said, Are you saying that there was never any oil pollution in the delta until people started tapping into pipelines? She said, No. I then asked, Does Shell take no responsibility for the lack of infrastructure and schools, and the desperate plight of the people? She said, Well, no. We give money to the federal Government and local politicians. Our responsibility ends there. It is not good enough for a company with such strong British links to have that attitude to the environment and poverty reduction.
We have worked with Nigeria on debt relief and governance and we all welcome the return to democratic elections. However, we need to work with Shell and other oil extraction companies to tell them that it is not enough for them to wash their hands and to say, in effect, We have paid off federal and local officials. What more do you expect us to do? Shell bears a big responsibility for the plight of ordinary people in the delta. It is time it faced up to that responsibility. Anything Her Majestys Government can do to help them do that will be important.
When I was in Nigeria, we heard about attempts by President Obasanjo, who is in his second term in officein fact, he did another term as general in the long period when Nigeria was under military ruleto change the constitution so that he could have a third term. Fortunately, the Nigerian Senate debated that and voted his proposal down. That is a victory for democracy in Nigeria.
This Government have a proud record on raising concerns about Africa and trying to work with it on debt reduction, most notably with Nigeria itself, but we need to go further. The Chancellor recently made a speech on corruption, but we need to go further still. We need to impress on a country such as Nigeria, which has the potential to be very wealthy, that there are still outstanding problems with governance, transparency, and the fact that the people of the Niger delta and across the country live in such poverty when the region is Shells most profitable area for oil production.
I make no apologies for raising Nigeria in the Chamber. Africa has so much potential. To visit Africa and see its raw materials and the potential of its people being wasted because of governance problems is tragic. I am grateful for the opportunity to draw those things to the attention of the House.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): For me, this is undoubtedly the blackest day since I came into the House 23 years ago. Today, the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust announced the loss of 600 NHS posts. One of the consequences of that is that it will almost certainly undermine for ever the viability of the Horton general hospital in my constituency to perform the role of general hospital. The posts have been lost because the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust had a £33 million cut imposed on it at the beginning of the year. It was told at the outset of the financial year that it had to make savings of some £33 million.
The House should pause for a second, as that means that 600 people have lost their jobs. Some of those posts will be lost as a result of natural wastage, but there will be 300 to 350 redundancies, affecting consultants, nurses from the Royal College of Nursing, ancillary workers, professionals allied to medicine, clerical staff, administrators and receptionists. They will lose their job because the way in which NHS funding works is desperately unfair to Oxfordshire and the Thames valley.
NHS reference costs for 2005, which were published by the Department of Health in April 2006, provide an
efficiency profile for hospitals, and they show that the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust is the most efficient general hospital trust in England, with a turnover of more than £300 million. However, it has to abolish more than 600 NHS posts, largely because of the way in which funding is allocated. Thames Valley strategic health authority receives the lowest allocation of any SHA in the country: each person in my constituency receives an average of £1,125, while the English average is £1,138 a head. That difference may not appear to be very great, but the overall difference between Thames Valley SHA and the next SHA on the list is £120 million. If we moved closer to the national average, that would remove the need for the £33 million cut imposed on the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Everyone in the House will sympathise with my hon. Friends constituents. Is he aware that in west Norfolk my local hospital has just announced a major redundancy package? Does he agree that that flies in the face of the Secretary of States recent statement that all redundancies would be achieved by natural wastage or by delaying appointments? She has some explaining to do, as there is mayhem in some hospitals and PCTs.
Tony Baldry: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The Secretary of State said that last year was the best year ever for the NHS, but her words ring hollow for people in Oxfordshire. Sadly, the fact that an acute hospital trust has lost 600 posts does not merit a single mention in any of todays national newspapers. Such is the loss of NHS jobs in recent months that it is regarded as commonplace. That is what the Government have managed to do to the NHS.
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con): My hon. Friend and I share the Horton hospital, which is part of the Oxford Radcliffe complex. Does he not agree that the cuts are worrying? Given the proven efficiency of that hospital grouping and the fact that, as he said, the fundamental problem is its overall unit funding compared with that for other bodies, what hope is there for the others?
Tony Baldry: Indeed. My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. I still believe in democratic principles, so perhaps public pressure and the petitioning of Parliament and the Government will have an impact. Ministers appear to live in a parallel universe, as they do not understand that NHS performance will be ratcheted down, year on year. The £33 million that Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust must find is additional to the £17.3 savings that the primary care trusteffectively, there is a single PCT in Oxfordshiremust find. Services in Oxfordshire are being squeezed in two ways: the acute hospital trust must make cuts, and the commissioning authority cannot provide as much money.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Witney(Mr. Cameron), my hon. Friends the Members for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey) and for Henley (Mr. Johnson), and I have written to the Prime Minister. We sought to summarise our concerns:
These cuts are the result of a staggering £33 million debt in the areas NHS. The debt crippling our health services could be wiped out if Oxfordshires NHS were funded at the national average. It is not. Instead it is underfunded by twenty per cent. No NHS Trust in Oxfordshire was to be funded at the national average this year. The Governments own figures reveal that Oxfordshire receives the lowest funding per patient in the whole country. The Governments own audit shows that the Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust is the most efficient hospital Trust in the whole of England and Wales. These are not our figures, they are not the Trusts; they are the Department of Healths own. This blatant bias is reinforced by the fact that your constituency
is funded per patient above the national average by almost the same amount Oxfordshire is underfunded. NHS staff should not pay for the Governments unfair funding system and nor should patients. Job losses will set back mental health services including Witney and Banbury, witness the loss of community hospital beds across South Oxfordshire, and leave the John Radcliffe struggling to deliver operations. Oxfordshire now has fewer qualified nurses than we did four years ago.
Mr. Michael Wills (North Swindon) (Lab): I accept that these are difficult issues, and the hon. Gentleman is making the case for his constituency extremely well. However, can he remind the House of how much funding his area received in 1997, and how much it receives today?
Tony Baldry: The hon. Gentleman is welcome to come to my constituency. On 19 June we are holding a public meeting in Banbury, which he is welcome to attend. Indeed, I would invite any Minister to visit Oxford or Oxfordshire, as they are notable by their absence. It is a great pity that when the Prime Minister summoned NHS chief executives to Downing street to talk about the crisis in the NHS he deliberately excluded Trevor Campbell Davis, the very competent chief executive of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust. There is no way in Gods creation that the hon. Gentleman or his ministerial colleagues can persuade my constituents or the people of Oxfordshire that a service lacerated by cuts is better than the service that the Government inherited in 1997, when the Horton was a vibrant general hospital.
Let me explain the impact of the cuts. As my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) can confirm, it is not just a matter of losing a general hospital. Banbury has for a long time been at the centre of a catchment area called Banburyshire. It includes most of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry and a large part of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples). Those villages and market towns have looked to Banbury as their natural centre for facilities such as medical services. Indeed, the general practitioner of my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry is a Banbury GP.
For over a century we have had a general hospital serving that community, and it has been part of the identity of Banbury and the surrounding area. With the loss of the general hospital, we will be forced to look to Oxford, over an hour away, for many services. The loss of the general hospital will have a serious impact on the sense of identity of the area. From villages north of Banbury, such as Boddington, Oxford is a very considerable distance away.
Among the services that will be lost are the 24/7 childrens services. To take up the point made by the hon. Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills), the reason why we have 24/7 paediatric care at the Horton is a consequence of the tragic death, way back in the mid-1970s, of a little boy called Ian Luckett. As a result, the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, Barbara Castle, set up a public inquiry, which deemed that there should be 24/7 paediatric services at the Horton hospital. Opening the inquiry, the chairman said:
The reason there has been this third enquiry is because it is recognised by the Department . . . that there should be the fullest enquiry to ensure such a thing
does not happen again.
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