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In addition, as London Members know, there is the plan to transfer health treatment from hospitals to community care. Lord Darzi has brought forward that scheme for London. The problem in Bromley is, first, that we have all those brand-new facilities—two new hospitals—and the Government are telling us not to use them so much and to transfer treatment to the community. Secondly, we do not have very good community care facilities. In a recent survey the GP surgeries in Bromley are rated the fourth worst in the country. They are very old fashioned. Often a Victorian house has been used for many years by a single-handed or perhaps a two or three-handed GP practice and
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cannot take on board all the additional facilities and treatments that the primary care trust wishes it to offer.

The PCT says that it is still giving the hospitals trust the same amount of money. Indeed, it is, in theory, but it is asking for more treatments to be carried out in the community and fewer to be carried out by hospitals. In the end the hospital gets less money. That is also contributing to its cash crisis.

A bad financial situation was set up, to which poor resource planning contributed, and a blueprint for health care which is inappropriate to the circumstances of Bromley has been imposed. I shall be campaigning against that so that the situation does not affect my constituents adversely, and to retain the facilities that we greatly value in Bromley and Orpington. They are much loved by local people, who have received excellent health care there over the past few years, which I wish them to continue to receive. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will tell her colleagues in the House of Commons and in the Government that that is a perfect example of bungling incompetence ruining potentially good health care facilities, and I hope that she will do something about it.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I have an appalling confession: the assumptions on which the 12-minute time limit were based have proved to be over-optimistic. I want to try to accommodate every hon. Member who is here. I could do that by invoking the short speech rule at the appropriate time, which would mean a seven-minute limit for the remaining speakers, but if everyone adheres to a nine-minute limit from now on—I cannot compel that—it may be possible to avoid having to step down at 4.30 pm. I hope that that helps the House, and I am sorry that the difficulty may arise.

3.6 pm

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): In this debate, it is customary to raise constituency issues, but I do not want to do that this afternoon. I want to debate a Government Green Paper and a document that is not yet available, because this is the last opportunity before the summer recess to do so.

The Green Paper “The Governance of Britain” is excellent and I welcome it. In it, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House commit themselves to much greater involvement by the public and Parliament in our constitutional decisions. They state that they

The document briefly recounts how the British constitution evolved. It mentions at great length on a number of occasions the Council of Europe and the European convention on human rights. However, there is only one reference to the European Union, namely:

The document does not mention the Single European Act and the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties, which I think are extremely important in the evolution
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of our constitutional settlement. Page 19 briefly refers to the process of EU treaty ratification, but otherwise the EU is absent. For example, the document includes a list of public appointments that could be subject to affirmative hearings, but I think that European Commissioner is a classic example of an appointment that should be open to a scrutiny hearing.

The document encourages us to reinvigorate our democracy, and it mentions

It also discusses the youth citizenship commission and voting rights, but, again, there is no mention of the EU. We have a whole Green Paper on the governance of Britain that completely leaves out the source of some 60 per cent. of our domestic legislation in areas such as health and trade. When was the last time we saw Department of Trade and Industry legislation? There is no mention of the European Parliament, other than mentioning the change in voting rights, which is a sad omission in what is otherwise an exceptionally good document.

One part of the document attempts to define the values of Britain, and it considers with some envy the way in which the French or even the Americans have managed to do that. In the UK, we could make much more of the rule of law as one of the key values by which we define ourselves.

At least we can discuss that Green Paper, because we can read it. I think that the second document is called “The EU Reform Treaty”. I want to make it clear that I am not against the European Union—far from it; my whole life has been a product of its evolution. However, it is sometimes disheartening how those on the Treasury Bench manage to pigeonhole anybody who has anything even marginally critical to say about it as being completely antediluvian—to want to withdraw immediately and go back to being little Englanders saying, “Fog in the Channel: continent cut off.” That is not the point. I am in favour of the European Union, but I would like it to work properly. We should have the right to discuss this, and not pretend that the elephant in the room does not exist.

People say that the call for a referendum is an old Tory agenda, but I would have thought that it was a classic new Labour agenda. We are the party that has asked the people far more often than any other party has done before. The Conservatives never went to the people—they were afraid to do so. We have had local referendums and referendums on devolution. We had a referendum on whether Birmingham should have an elected mayor. I was absolutely delighted to go into the 2005 general election with a manifesto commitment that we would have a referendum on the then constitutional treaty, but it was extraordinary that the former Prime Minister did not give its constitutional implications as the reason for seeking the people’s opinion.

Now we have the new treaty. In the past two and a half hours I have managed to skim through the first 26 pages of the 118-page document, which is still so far an unofficial translation. We are leaving for the recess and will not come back until October, when all the negotiations and deals will have been done, yet the purpose of this new democratic settlement, which
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started five or six years ago, was to involve the people and national Parliaments more. I do not want to get into whether this document contains 90 or 95 per cent. of the old constitutional treaty; all I will say is that I can see, having skimmed through it, that all the big items are still in there. I do not want to fall into the trap whereby we assume that anything that has been taken out must therefore be good and anything that has been put in is bad. That is not true. People really need to read this properly. One of the things that I just spotted is on page 26, where, under the heading “Ordinary revision procedure”, it says that

can bring forward proposals that

That would be, for the first time, a mechanism for returning powers, which is extremely good.

The new treaty also claims to give more power to national Parliaments, but that is extremely misleading. What it does is extraordinary. For the first time, the Union tries to put a duty on national Parliaments to behave in a particular way. We do not bind our successor Parliaments, yet we are being asked to accept a document that says:

There is a whole list of ways in which we are supposed to fulfil that role—we will be informed, we will be seeing to things, we will be taking part, and we will be notified, but will have no teeth other than in facilitating the functioning of the Union. I am sorry, but I have never perceived having a duty to serve the Union to be my role as a national parliamentarian—I thought that it was supposed to be the other way round.

The document still contains the citizens initiative whereby more than 1 million people across a number of member states are being given the right to initiate legislation—something that national Parliaments have not done.

I suggest to the Deputy Leader of the House that the Government should stop going on about what percentage of the treaty is what it was before and look at it properly. The Government say that the red lines that we have secured mean that we do not need a referendum, but those matters were already protected in the constitutional treaty on which we were prepared to have a referendum—nothing has changed. Opt-outs are continually politically vulnerable to pressure every time a crisis occurs. This is now a question of trust. It is a question of having given a commitment to a referendum on a document that we say is good for Britain. We should ask the people to endorse that. If we are so confident that it is good, we should have the confidence to ask the people.

The Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Europe deny that the treaty is substantial enough for us to be bound by that promise. Are they being deliberately disingenuous or are they ill-informed? I suggest to them some light summer reading—read the treaty, in English or in French. They can then come back and we can decide which one of the two interpretations is correct.

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3.15 pm

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): Before the House adjourns for the summer recess, there are a number of points I wish to make. The theme of my speech is “Breakdown Britain: does anyone care who actually runs the country?” Under this dreadful Labour Government, this House has lost all its powers. We have become a glorified talking shop, and are simply ornaments. I absolutely deprecate that fact.

Last month, the occupant of No. 10 Downing street came to the Dispatch Box for Prime Minister’s Question Time, at the end of which Government Members stood up to applaud his performance. They might have, but I could not believe it when Members in my party joined in the applause. The noble Baroness Thatcher left the country and the world a better place, but the last Prime Minister certainly did not.

On the day that the last Prime Minister made that appearance at the Dispatch Box, the occupant of No. 11 Downing street moved into No. 10. He was elected in 1983, and the deputy leader of the Labour party was elected in 1982. Sir John Major became Prime Minister after just 11 years—he had not been a Member of Parliament for that long, really. The leader of the Labour party and his deputy have been Members of this House for a great length of time. During the premiership of the noble Baroness Thatcher, a number of Ministers left office and a number of people resigned. Under the stewardship of the last Prime Minister, no one ever got sacked or ever resigned. Things were handled in a quite different way.

Since the former Chancellor has become Prime Minister, we have had announcements about casinos, regional government, cannabis and the supremacy of Parliament. No doubt there will be an announcement on Iraq. But, excuse me, have not the new Prime Minister and the deputy leader been at the centre of Government since 1997? How brave they were to have expressed their concerns. Did they consider resignation? No they did not, but they are now presenting themselves as a new Government. This is not a new Government, and I hope that Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition will remind the public of that over and over and over again.

I have checked, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and it is in order to say that the former Prime Minister misled the House of Commons. He did, on many occasions. He misled the House of Commons on the war with Iraq—an absolute disgrace. I blame him for bringing terrorism to this country much sooner than would have otherwise been the case. We then had the sale of peerages. Was anyone surprised that there were no prosecutions? Again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have checked what I can and cannot say, and did anyone expect that the Crown Prosecution Service would go ahead with the prosecutions? The gentleman who is in charge of it happens to be a Labour supporter. For goodness’ sake—I say again that this is breakdown Britain. Does anyone care what is happening to our country at the moment?

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), who last night drew to the House’s attention all the announcements that have been made during the past two days. The Leader of the House—the boss of the Minister who will respond to
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the debate—wrote an article in The House Magazine last week about us losing our powers and how dreadful it was. Surely the deputy leader of the Labour party is responsible for that, yet she pretends that she believes that it is dreadful and that the Government will put it all right. We have found out that the former Prime Minister’s last tour, as he went around the country to sell his services, cost us nearly £2 million, and now he is a middle east peace envoy. I do not think that he will be successful there.

I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary directly whether she can find out for me what can be done when constituents feel that the police have not behaved properly. The Independent Police Complaints Commission’s powers appear to be blunt, and that also applies to police authorities’ powers. I have already mentioned the Crown Prosecution Service. Where does the power lie? At some point during the Parliament, I shall speak on my personal feelings about those different organs. The Labour Government have messed them all up, including the judiciary.

I told the House a few weeks ago that, when my elderly mother was burgled for the second time, the person responsible was eventually found. That person had committed 1,379 other crimes at the age of 19, yet it is glossed over as if it is the norm. My youngest child had her mobile phone stolen a few weeks ago. Nothing will happen, although one quickly gets a letter from Victim Support. I am in despair about powers and what we can do.

I recently introduced a ten-minute Bill about online copyright theft. Creative industries are becoming one of the UK’s most notable exports and need to be protected from the threat that the digital revolution poses to them. British music dominates the world. The then Minister agreed with the intention of my ten-minute Bill. I hope that whoever now has that job will support the Bill, which calls for a national enforcement agency to monitor and enforce copyright law on the internet in the way in which related industries do for themselves.

The Government have talked about a planning Bill. Planning in my constituency is a nightmare. I applaud my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), who introduced a private Member’s Bill to tackle land grab and building on gardens. Endlessly, old houses are acquired, then left to go to rack and ruin, and the next minute there is an application to build yet another block of flats on the site. I represent a tiny urban area, where such developments have huge adverse consequences on the local population.

I recently conducted a tour of schools in my constituency. I visited an excellent infant school, which gained first-class results. However, an Ofsted inspection in February led to school morale plummeting. It caused great distress to the headmistress and the teachers. Only one person conducted the inspection. The school, with the same headmistress, had previously been described as outstanding, but that did not happen in February. After the inspection, the inspector wrote letters to infant school children. I hope that we will consider carefully the way in which Ofsted inspections are conducted in future.

Lord Archer, a former Solicitor-General, is conducting an inquiry into contaminated blood. I was privileged to give evidence on behalf of the all-party
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hepatology group. I hope that the Government will examine the findings of that independent inquiry because there has been a delay in producing a comprehensive strategy to tackle hepatitis C, a failure to ensure that primary care trusts implement Government strategy, a lack of NHS investment in hepatology and a failure to prioritise the issue. The sum of £2.5 million has been spent on advertising the scheme and that is simply not enough.

I end by wishing everyone a truly happy and joyous summer recess. This is breakdown Britain. I ask again: does anyone care who runs the Government? I hope that my hon. Friends do. If they want to discuss it with me further, they are very welcome to spend the summer in Southend.

3.34 pm

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the positive contribution of the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess).

I had hoped to discuss several issues on a national and an international basis, but, given that other hon. Members have cut down their contributions, I shall do likewise. I will therefore concentrate on my constituency and the work done by the few to help the many. I want specifically to refer to those with disabilities and especially a radio station called Insight.

Insight Radio was once called VIP On Air and deals with people who are blind or partially sighted. The station delivers information, has music programmes, newspaper readings and book readings that people can tune into, and generally helps people who have a sight problem. Insight Radio is a community radio station and broadcasts via a mast in the centre of my constituency at Anniesland Cross to a radius of about 5 km. The station is also on the internet and broadcasts all over the world. It receives contributions from contacts in Australia and Canada, as well as other countries in Europe. The station does an excellent job, and I see my job here as being to try to assist it.

Let me tell a story about why Insight Radio came into existence and why it wants to give information to blind people. There was a train from Glasgow to Edinburgh. The Edinburgh station at the end of line is Waverly—the other of the two main stations is the stop before, at Haymarket. ScotRail, which was in charge of the service at that time, put notices on all the seats in the train to tell everybody that the train would not stop at Waverly, but that it would stop at Haymarket. That was really good for people who could read the signs and knew that they were there, but blind passengers would have known nothing about it. Needless to say, two blind people got off at Haymarket, but thought that they were in Waverly and did not know where to go.

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