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My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) spoke about the train line to Norwich, academies in his constituency and resources for children with special needs. I hope that he is aware of the review of special needs education that was announced as part
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of the children’s plan and the extra £18 million that will be spent on training teachers to help secure better support for children with special needs. I hope that he is also aware of the private Member’s Bill that is being promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson), which would enable better planning of local authority services for children with special needs.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Stewart Hosie) spoke about the Barnett formula and the private finance initiative, and I will pass his remarks to the Treasury. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) made a helpful intervention during that speech.

My hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) painted an extremely vivid picture of his European Member of Parliament and the unreliability of Sajjad Karim. I felt that it was a good job that the people of Pendle have a good Labour MP to look after them in such difficulties.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) spoke about identity fraud, the importance of raising people’s awareness of the problem and, in particular, the risks of giving information on the net that might lead to ID fraud. The issue is important, and I will draw his remarks to the attention of the Treasury and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. He also spoke about his desire for an extra debate on a Monday morning; I am not sure whether that was a serious suggestion. One of the things he said that he had read about in the Sunday papers and could not believe was true was the £4,000 payment for asylum seekers. I should like to read out the response made by my hon. Friend the Minister for Borders and Immigration:

I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman.

We should all be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Jon Cruddas), who has clearly done a great deal of work investigating the unpleasantness of the British National party. He described a number of extremely unpleasant criminal activities to which the leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, had admitted. They were in keeping with the horrible, racist politics that I am sure that the whole House would wish to condemn.

The hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes (Mr. Lancaster) spoke about schools in his constituency. I am not sure whether he is aware that spending per pupil has doubled in the past two years. He also talked about the Open university, whose headquarters are located in his constituency. I am sure that he knows that a former Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, described that as his greatest achievement. I think that the hon. Gentleman has had a meeting with Ministers in the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Mr. Lancaster rose—

Helen Goodman: Let me tell the hon. Gentleman one thing before he intervenes: I understand that £100 million is being redirected from people who would be getting second degrees through the Open university to people who would be acquiring their first degree.

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Mr. Lancaster: May I take the hon. Lady back to her comment that spending on education has doubled in recent years? That does not change the fact that £64.5 million will now not be spent in Milton Keynes over the next three years, so we will not build the 13 new schools that we desperately need to cope with the expansion of the population. What advice can she offer to parents in my constituency who will struggle to find a place for their children over the new few years in Milton Keynes?

Helen Goodman: I would advise them to vote Labour, because the fact is that the hon. Gentleman’s Front-Bench colleagues promise massive cuts to the building schools for the future programme, which will be far more serious than anything that he described this afternoon.

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Sarah McCarthy-Fry) gave a considered speech on the position of women in this country. She connected the way of life of many women, and their problems—low income, unequal entitlement to pensions, and domestic violence—with the need for political reform. She pointed out that it is important to have more women in political life, so that those issues get the proper attention that they deserve. Of course I will draw her remarks to the attention of colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government, and to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Women and Equality. I will also pass on her points about apprenticeships for young women to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) gave a wide-ranging speech, which covered the problems faced by the Fair Havens hospice. I hope that he heard the earlier intervention made by the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink). The hon. Member for Southend, West also mentioned Iran and the treatment of a particular group whose name I am not sure that I can pronounce. He mentioned African horse sickness, police pay, hepatology, Remploy and the Women’s Land Army medal. On police pay, he needs to take account of context, and the fact that crime is down 32 per cent. in the past 10 years. It is not right that, as I think one of his constituents suggested, we had destroyed law and order.

Keith Vaz: I find that an odd answer to the question of police pay. The reason why we are catching more criminals is that the police are working in partnership with the Government. The refusal to pay the police their full award breaches that trust. We would like to know whether the Minister will take that point back to the Home Secretary, and try to get the matter resolved.

Helen Goodman: Of course I will report to the Home Office what hon. Members have said. The point that I was making to the hon. Member for Southend, West is that the situation is not one of doom and gloom; crime is down in this country.

The hon. Member for Southend, West also talked about the seriousness of liver disease. I can only assume that unlike the rest of the country, he has not recently heard the public health Minister talking about the dangers of drinking too much alcohol. I hope that he is aware of the fact that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has undertaken a further review of
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Remploy factories and has reprieved many of them. I am sorry if the one in his constituency is not among them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes, an extremely hard-working Member of Parliament, demonstrated in her speech that she understands and cares about her constituents. She spoke about the Post Office and police pay, but mostly about the fire stations in Waltham and Immingham. She was concerned by proposals to downgrade the fire stations. She pointed out that good fire stations are particularly important because of the heavy industry nearby. I will draw her remarks to the attention of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) spoke about the financial effectiveness of the London borough of Havering. She felt that Havering has been treated unfairly by the Department for Communities and Local Government in respect of the application of the grant formula. I am sure that Havering has had its proper allocation according to the formula. I am quite sure that there is in no sense any campaign against Havering, but I will draw her remarks to the attention of the DCLG, and I will draw her concern about postcodes to the attention of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

The hon. Member for Guildford (Anne Milton) told us a story about her mother taking her clothes off in the Mall when she was a member of the land army. I can only say that the hon. Lady is obviously a chip off the old block—although I hope that she is not going to do that in the Chamber now. She spoke of her concerns about overdevelopment in her constituency. I understand that the matter is fraught, since my mother-in-law is one of her constituents. Nevertheless, I remind the hon. Lady that 10 years ago the amount of development on brownfield sites was 56 per cent., and it is now up to 74 per cent.

The hon. Lady also spoke about her local hospital trust and said how much she wanted to see her local hospital become a foundation trust. She has written to the Department of Health to seek a meeting. We will follow that up on her behalf. She, too, was concerned about the local authority grant settlement in Surrey. Local authority grant settlements are the result of a sort of Heath Robinson formula that takes account of not only income, of which she made much, but needs.

The hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) spoke about children with special needs at the Sun club in his constituency. He raised the issue of gaps in provision once children reach 16 or 18. He was pointing to the important contribution that the voluntary sector can make in supporting those families. He told the House an alarming story about the death by drowning of a young man, Tyson Brown. That sounded very serious, and I will pass those concerns on to the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. Finally, the hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara) gave a typically polished and witty performance.

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I hope that people will be able to get new jobs. The closure programme is phased over some time, and there is a partnership of the County Durham Development Company, the local skills council and the local authority that will provide training for people.

I would not want people to think that that was the total sum of my constituency. It is an extremely nice place to spend Christmas, whether that involves joining in with traditional carols played by brass bands at one end of the constituency or going for walks in the area of outstanding natural beauty at the other. I wish all hon. Members a happy Christmas. I hope that they will have as pleasant and restful a time as I intend to. I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the other Deputy Speakers, Mr. Speaker and all staff who work for us in the Palace of Westminster for everything that you and they have done for us in the past year.

Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury (Mr. Alan Campbell): I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


Mr. Deputy Speaker: With the leave of the House, I shall put motions 5 and 6 together.


Environmental Audit

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


Mail Centre (Coventry)

6.54 pm

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): I have two petitions to present tonight, and a combination of the signatures on both gives a total of nearly 26,000 people who are protesting about post office closures in Coventry. The two petitions are interrelated. There is concern about the job losses involved, and about the possibility of a poorer quality of service. We have already noticed that the service has deteriorated. The method of consultation used by the Post Office has been very much in the manner of saying, “This is what we’re going to do. Either accept it or leave it.” We cannot submit any other proposals to the Post Office, because it will not listen. These petitions have been organised by the Communication Workers Union, and they have received widespread support across Coventry and across the parties. The first petition, which has 17,657 signatories, states:


Post Office Restructuring (Coventry)

The second petition, which has 8,752 signatories, states:


Post Office Closures (Leicester)

6.57 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I too have a petition relating to post office closures, to which I referred in my speech earlier. I am pleased to see the Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. McFadden), on the Front Bench, because I have invited him to visit Leicester over the recess, as Wolverhampton is very close to my constituency. This is the petition of Mr. Shah of Willowbrook Road and Bushby Road post office, which is due to close. I accepted the petition last Friday from a lot of elderly people, lone parents and others who will really miss the post office. I hope that it can remain open, and I hope that the Minister will be able to visit my constituency over the recess.


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6.58 pm

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I am pleased to present the petition of my constituent, Ellen Pisolkar, which is supported by 295 other people. It draws attention to the huge contribution that the destruction of the rain forest makes to climate change. It points out that, in the next 24 hours, deforestation will cause as much carbon to be released as 8 million people flying between London and New York. The petitioners request the adoption of a number of policies to halt the deforestation in the tropics, and they will no doubt be very pleased by the agreement in Bali, which will pave the way for incentives to reduce wholesale deforestation and more gradual damage.


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Debt Collection Agencies (Mrs. Beryl Brazier)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —[Mr. Alan Campbell.]

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