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Insight Radio provides a service in telling people that kind of information. Unfortunately, people have to have a computer, and blind people can have problems with computers, but the facilities and the technology are advancing and we hope that they will move further. I see part of my job as being to help Insight Radio get on to Sky radio services and freeview, so that it can deliver the service to approximately 2 million in this country who have such problems. That is one of the
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campaigns in which I hope to be involved when we return after the summer recess.

Another campaign that I took up some years ago was on ATMs. It was pleasing when the Select Committee on Treasury took it up and Ministers jumped onboard, too. That was great, but when I first raised the issue back in early 2005, I did so in connection with a constituent who had gone to the ATM to get some money out. He had £40 in his account. Unfortunately, the ATM charged him £1.75 to get his money out, which meant that he could get only £30 out. That meant that the rest of his money just had to sit there, and in Yoker, in my constituency, that extra £8.25 could have gone a long way. Unfortunately, if my constituent had wanted to go to a free ATM, he would have had to pay a bus fare, which would have cost him £1.50. That was totally unfair, so I took up the cause, along with many others. I worked closely with a newspaper in Glasgow called the Evening Times, which was helpful. The newspaper helped to broaden the campaign and the Committee took it up, too, which also helped.

I was pleased to receive a phone call last year—funnily enough, in the first week of the recess—from the Royal Bank of Scotland to say that the campaign had worked and that the bank was about to install 400 free ATMs throughout the UK. Since then, HBOS has also announced its intention to install 100 free cash machines in low-income areas in Scotland and the north of England; 74 have been installed so far, of which 38 are in Scotland. It is still looking for sites for the other 26, however, and if any hon. Members in those areas are looking for a free ATM, they should please get in touch either with me or with HBOS, which I am sure will try to install them in any deserving area. This campaign has given a lot of pleasure when things go right, and it is pleasing to know that I am now having difficulty in pinpointing sites for the other ATMs from HBOS that are not too close to other free ATMs.

The first that I know of was put into a credit union by the Royal Bank of Scotland, and I want to see the idea being taken up by other credit unions, so that people who are paying money into a credit union do not have to take it there from a bank and perhaps run the risk of being mugged or attacked on the way. The bank was very helpful. Nationwide must also be congratulated on the work that it has done. HBOS started the red and green notices on the ATMs, but Nationwide took that a step further. It did a lot of work on the red and green stickers, which show which ATMs are free to use and which involve paying a fee.

I hope that the Treasury Select Committee, the Government and hon. Members on both sides of the House will take note of this project. I believe that there is a case for taking it forward, particularly in rural areas, where people have been short-changed—no pun intended—by the banks. I do not live in a rural area, but I am quite happy to lend any assistance that hon. Members might require to contact the right people. This is certainly something that we, as Members of Parliament, should be doing to help our constituents.

I want to mention the communications allowance that has been given to Members of Parliament. I know that some Opposition Members did not think that it
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was a great idea, but let me tell them, it will allow me to contact every one of my constituents. I am going to do that this summer by putting out a questionnaire to ask them what they want and what they think are the most important issues. I, as their Member of Parliament, can then address the matters that they think are important. I can then go back to them and they will be able to tell me whether I have done my job or not. Come the next general election, whenever it might be, they will have the opportunity either to vote for me or to replace me, but at least I will not have had to say that I did not have the opportunity to contact them and to let them know what I was doing, or that they could not contact me to tell me about their issues.

I want to talk about the draft legislative programme and the Queen’s Speech. I have tried twice already—and I shall keep trying until I succeed—to introduce a Bill on employment retention and rehabilitation leave. People who become disabled or whose disability gets worse while they are in employment and who want to remain in employment should be given the opportunity to do so while being supported not only by the company but by the Government. They should be enabled to get back into work where they can pay their taxes, which will give money to the Treasury, and give valuable work to their employer, to whom they might feel that they owe something for having looked after them. I hope that hon. Members will support that measure when it comes back.

I want briefly to mention yesterday’s announcement about the ships to be built in Scotstoun in my constituency, which has secured the employment of 2,000 workers. I also want to reiterate my point to the Secretary of State that I am still looking for the seventh and eighth Type 45 destroyers, and I certainly want to take part in the debate on defence procurement on the second day after we come back from the recess, to talk about what we are going to do with the MARS—military afloat research and sustainability—ships and to ensure that shipbuilding in the United Kingdom is up and running and will continue for quite a few years to come.

3.34 pm

Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South) (LD): I endorse the final comments of the hon. Member for Glasgow, North-West (John Robertson). Like him, I would welcome an announcement on the seven and eight Type 45 destroyers. Both of our constituencies would benefit enormously from the shipbuilding capacity alone.

Let me deal with yesterday’s welcome announcement not only of the two aircraft carriers, but of the retention of the three naval base solution. It is the only option that does real credit to the Royal Navy and great service to the country. From Portsmouth’s point of view, I was particularly pleased at the Minister’s statement about what would happen in the future and about the need for the three communities—in Scotland, the west country and south Hampshire—to work together to find a system from which we can all benefit while the Royal Navy maintains its ships and looks after those craft. Further opportunities will undoubtedly come through the shipbuilding programme.

I would like to thank the team from Portsmouth for its magnificent efforts. There are far too many people
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to be thanked individually, but I would mention the local authority and Portsmouth city council’s lead officer, Barbara Thompson and her team; the team from the South East England Development Agency; and the Royal Navy base commander, David Steel, who did a magnificent job. He made a determined effort to stress to his senior officer colleagues the importance of Portsmouth in the overall concept of the Navy. That message was put out to the local media, including radio, television and the Portsmouth News, which led a great campaign to save the base. All those people really need to be congratulated. I hope that we can now all work together to make the building of the aircraft carriers successful while retaining the three bases. That really means something for our nation.

My next topic also relates to defence. Several Members have raised the matter of the reformed constitutional treaty, particularly aspects connected with defence. There are worrying consequences arising from it. The proposals on defence are extremely alarming because they give no indication of how European defence will be properly scrutinised in future. It is rightly suggested that national parliaments should have a major role, but the unified Europe approach to scrutiny is not at all clear. One suspects that most of the decisions will be taken in Lisbon towards the end of September—it could turn out to be a black day, because we will not have had an opportunity to debate them before they are signed up to. I regret that. I am with other Members who believe that we should have an opportunity to debate first what our position should be at Lisbon in September, but more importantly, whether or not we are going to trust the British people to take the decision. I, for one, wholeheartedly support the idea of having a referendum. I did at the outset of the process and I retain that view today.

Together with Labour and Conservative colleagues, I have already had a meeting with the Minister for Europe on the issue of how to deal with defence scrutiny through an amendment to existing treaties that would allow the current structure of the Western European Union to be broadened out to include all member states of the EU. In our case the delegation comprises 36 members—18 full and 18 substitute members. I believe that delegations should be responsible for national scrutiny— [Interruption.] The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) shakes his head, but had he been a member, it might be different. The current chair of the parliamentary Labour party is an enthusiastic member. The former Deputy Prime Minister is about to lead the British delegation to the Council of Europe— [Interruption.] That is a very interesting point. Perhaps we will know where he stands in the future. Undoubtedly, those Members are big supporters of that platform, as am I. I would hope that we could sensibly look to that as an alternative that would not require a major treaty to be put in place. Anything else will need a new treaty, as it will not be compatible with the treaties of Rome, Maastricht or Amsterdam. I urge Ministers to look carefully at what I have outlined as a viable alternative option.

My next point relates to the ongoing problem faced by women who marry UK citizens from abroad. They sometimes come to this country on a spousal, fiancée or visitor visa, believing that once they are married—
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this is what their partner has told them—they will automatically become British citizens. They get married and have children here. However, if for one reason or another the marriage breaks down, they can find that the partner who promised to “do everything” has done nothing. They may suddenly be confronted with a difficult situation. Two of my constituents—one a lady from Russia, the other from the Gambia, both with children—are in that position at the moment. They have been told that they now have to leave the UK, but that they can leave their children behind—not with their husbands, but in the care of the state. They cannot take the children with them because they are British citizens and their British fathers are refusing permission for the children to be taken out of the country. Those ladies cannot have legal aid for legal support to fight appeals. They came here with a status that did not allow them to claim benefits, and they have been totally abandoned by society and their partners. The Government must recognise that there is a real issue. I must have had at least a dozen similar cases in my constituency—the two that I have quoted are the ones with which I am currently dealing.

I went to the immigration court of appeal with one of those constituents, only to be told by the judge that, as a Member of Parliament, I had no right to be there. The judge all but ordered me from the court. My constituent, a Russian citizen, had no legal representation and no one to present her case or speak up for her. Of course, her case failed, because she had been seen not to have done the things that we demanded of her. Her husband will be in court in the near future on a case of domestic violence against the woman, but she had no help whatever from anyone—no lawyer or immigration adviser would touch her.

It was news to me that Members of Parliament were prohibited from representing our constituents in immigration courts, and it must have been news as well to part of the immigration service, because when it asked whom the lady’s representative was and I was identified—and I wrote to the court to ask for the date to be changed so that I could attend in the afternoon, not the morning—it readily agreed. It was only the judge who suddenly presented us with the fact that Members of Parliament are particularly excluded from representing constituents in such immigration cases, which is an absolute nonsense.

We must do something about the rights of such women. It is simply ridiculous to say to them that they cannot stay in a women’s refuge for more than three weeks because no local authority will fund them, but that they can have their children taken into care, and they can go on the street, or they can go home and leave their children here at a cost of probably £1,000 a month. I urge the Government quickly to consider the case of ladies who, in one way or another, have been misled by their British citizen husbands who bring them into the country and then all but abandon them. Those men should be made to support them.

My final point is on housing, which many Members have said is important, and it certainly is in my constituency. I cannot wait for us to have the courage again to say that we are proud to build council houses, to call them council houses, and to say that they should be available to people who would not get on to the housing ladder
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otherwise. Portsmouth has more people waiting to be re-housed now than it did just after the second world war, when nearly 50 per cent. of all properties in the city were either damaged or completely destroyed by the effects of the blitz. The current situation will not easily be remedied. If the Prime Minister is as good as his word and genuinely wants housing back on the agenda—housing that local authorities can control and build according to need, rather than according to a developer’s requirement—we might be in for a surprise, and many more people might live in houses that are fit for them to live in.

3.43 pm

Ms Celia Barlow (Hove) (Lab): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) and his comments about immigration and asylum and housing. Bearing in mind that many Members wish to speak, however, I will not follow that track.

I am privileged to represent a constituency with a strong community spirit. The demographic make-up of Hove and Portslade has evolved over the years, and now encompasses people from all backgrounds and nationalities. The area has mosques, temples and churches all within yards of each other. Throughout the recent national and international tensions, the people of Hove and Portslade have been proud to recognise that our community is stronger when we work together. As the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South mentioned, in our globalised society, many choose to marry partners from different countries and cultures. In those circumstances, where a couple have made a genuine commitment to each other, the bureaucracy and at times frustrating approach by the foreign countries and our own immigration service can place a great strain on individuals, their families and friends.

I would like to mention my constituent, Abdullah Al-Shimmeri. Mr. Al-Shimmeri is a Bidoon from Kuwait. The state of Kuwait does not recognise such people as their citizens. In an article in April last year, the Gulf States Newsletter stated that Bidoons in Kuwait have been given more rights but that Kuwaiti citizenship was still far off. Last October, the United Arab Emirates announced plans to naturalise around 10,000 Bidoons—people who have been living without citizenship for more than three decades in their country. However, that has not happened in Kuwait. Therefore, Kuwait will not allow Mr. Al-Shimmeri to return, and as such the Home Office has been unable to arrange a travel document for him. That situation is particularly difficult in light of the fact that he is married to a British citizen. They have a small child together. I have taken over that case from my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt). Mr. Al-Shimmeri first came into my surgery two years ago, and the matter is still dragging on. Throughout that time, his family has had no security and he has been unable to support his young child.

Mr. Al-Shimmeri is liable for removal to Kuwait. The Home Office has attempted to remove him on one occasion. However, it was unable to: as he had nowhere to go to, he does not possess travel documents. As a
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result, Mr. Al-Shimmeri was detained for a number of months by the Home Office at taxpayers’ expense. Ideally, if he were able to return to Kuwait and apply for entry into the United Kingdom in the correct manner, he would be entitled to remain here. Indeed, he would like to do exactly that, but like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal”, which was based on a true story, he is trapped, stateless and unable fully to participate in either his country of origin or the country in which he lives and where his wife and child are British citizens.

I have written to the Kuwaiti embassy, requesting travel documents for Mr. Al-Shimmeri, but that was refused on the grounds that he is not a Kuwaiti citizen. I have also written to the Minister for Borders and Immigration, trying to find a solution to this seemingly intractable problem. The Home Office felt unable to provide a short-term solution on a discretionary basis, as it was argued that there are additional avenues which could be taken to verify Mr. Al-Shimmeri's status as a Bidoon. However, I would like to know what those are, since the Kuwaiti embassy still refuses to discuss that issue.

After two years, Mr. Al-Shimmeri and his family are still trapped in this Catch-22 situation: he is due to be removed from the country and would indeed like to be removed, were he able to return to Kuwait in order legitimately to re-enter the UK. It seems morally wrong to me that somebody who is clearly part of a loving family, who has contributed to his local community and who is longing to work and support his family financially should have to put his life at a halt for more than two years—indeed, for the foreseeable future—due to nothing more than a procedural point.

I appreciate that this is not at all a Home Office failure, but a decision taken by the state of Kuwait. However, may I ask my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House, whom I welcome to her first debate on the motion for the Adjournment of the House, to ask the Home Office to take a pragmatic approach in this matter, making sure that Mr. Al-Shimmeri can legally settle and work in the UK, where his family are. I also ask her to ask the Foreign Office to impress upon Kuwait that its policy on Bidoons is creating misery for many people such as Abdullah Al-Shimmeri. The UAE’s decision to naturalise Bidoons living in that country is a good example of how to address that problem. It is couples such as Mr. and Mrs. Al-Shimmeri who often contribute so much, and we should be grateful for the contribution that they make to the fabric of our society. We should apply common sense where it is needed; indeed, it is essential in this case.

Our communities are strengthened not only by individuals, but by so many of our local institutions. From banks sponsoring the painting of our schools to our local football team providing a platform for education for those who might otherwise feel disconnected from learning and skills, we owe a debt of gratitude to so many. That is why I am particularly delighted that after much deliberation and consultation the prospect of a wonderful new community stadium for Brighton and Hove Albion is finally on the horizon. I use the phrase “community stadium” as it best describes the immense benefits that the new development will have for all who live in the immediate
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area. The new stadium will have positive effects that will extend far beyond providing a permanent home for our city’s football team.

Brighton and Hove Albion has always prided itself on its community work. Ever since it was founded in 1901 it has been at the heart of community projects, contributing on a practical level in both sports and general education. Building on its already established adult education programmes, the Albion’s “Playing for Success” programme makes a real and measurable difference to educational opportunities for hundreds of children in Brighton and Hove. Run by a centre manager and supported by other teachers and tutor mentors, it focuses on raising standards of literacy, numeracy and ICT among key stage 2 and 3 pupils and adults in my community.

The Albion understands the impact and influence that football has on the lives of so many in the community of Brighton and Hove—a community that has supported the club through good times and bad. By working with the Government, the local authority, local and national businesses and the many schools in the area, the club is able to provide an educational programme throughout the area. As the community of Brighton and Hove has sustained the club through good times and, unfortunately in the past decade, through bad, so the club aims to sustain the community.

On behalf of so many of my constituents and supporters of the Albion across Sussex, Britain and even the world, I wish to thank the Government and in particular my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government—and I ask my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House to do the same—for taking that decision. Based in an area of the city that houses some of our poorer constituents, Falmer stadium will be a wonderful community facility and it will provide a real and measurable difference for generations to come.

As we look to regenerate our most deprived areas, it is essential that we continue to realise and to acknowledge the true value of community. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-West (John Robertson) for the free ATM machines throughout my constituency, and I hope that there will soon be more of them. The former home of the Albion, the Goldstone ground, has an ATM machine and that resource was used by many in the local community. I hope that the new ground will also have that facility and I urge the Deputy Leader of the House to ask those few remaining opponents of the ground to accept the Secretary of State’s decision. After 10 years, the community deserves the new stadium. The Government have taken several important steps to ensure that we as individuals recognise that our spirit of community is something that we should cherish, and I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for her decision.

I wish you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and all other hon. Members a very happy summer recess.

3.53 pm

Mr. Dai Davies (Blaenau Gwent) (Ind): I have three issues to raise and I hope that other hon. Members will recognise them, because after devolution it is often difficult to tell where one part of the UK starts and another ends.

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