As I have said, the East Riding of Yorkshire, Hull city and North Lincolnshire are all providing the scheme as it should be run. It is a new scheme, but this is becoming a postcode lottery. Residents want action to be taken, and I am sorry that the council has not rethought what it has done to people. Will the Deputy Leader of the House speak to Transport Ministers to see whether there is anything they can do to force North East Lincolnshire council to look again at what it has done, and to do what everyone else in the area is doing?
It is grossly unfair that the pensioners and disabled people in the North East Lincolnshire council area should be discriminated against in that manner.
Another issue affecting my constituents at the moment is closures. I see some ears pricking up on the Conservative Benches, but I am referring not to post offices but to fire stations. The Humberside fire and rescue service completed a consultation about reorganisation on 31 March, and the fire authority is due to announce which stations will be closed on 11 April, in the middle of our recess.
A cross-party group of Members of Parliament representing the area, including the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), is objecting to the planned closures and cuts. Cross-party does not include Liberal Democrats, however. We have no Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament, although sadly we have a few Liberal Democrat councils, North East Lincolnshire being one of them. The message that I want to convey to the fire authority is that if all the local Members of Parliament are saying that its proposals are wrong, it ought to think again.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Mr. Cawsey), who was in the Chamber earlier, reported that one council, East Riding of Yorkshire, had voted in favour of the closures. I find it sad that a council so many miles from the part of my constituency where the closures will take place can affect what happens. I would be surprised if any of those councillors had ever crossed the notorious Humber bridge into Lincolnshire, and had even seen the fire stations for whose closure they voted last night.
Everyone seems to want to raise more than one issue today. The next issue that I want to raise is slightly nicer: it involves something called Pilgrim 400. The town of Immingham, which I mentioned earlier, has a connection with the history of the Pilgrim Fathers.
It is not a well-known fact in British history that the original point of departure of the separatists from Scrooby, Babworth and Gainsborough was the port of Immingham, although people associate them with Boston. They then went to the Netherlands; some of them stayed in Amsterdam for about a year before moving to Leiden. Finally, they made the journey to found the Plymouth plantation in what became the United States of America.
The separatists did try to leave from Boston in 1607, but were captured and imprisoned. Eventually they were released, and, wishing to escape religious persecution, managed to find a Dutch captain with a vessel in Hull who agreed to take them to the Netherlands. The women travelled by barque down the Trent and into the Humber to connect with the boat. The men travelled overland, and eventually managed to get on the boat and leave the country. Sadly, the women and children did not, because the barque ran aground. They were captured by soldiers and arrested. That caused something of an outcry, and they were finally released and allowed to join their families in the Netherlands.
Many of the street names in ImminghamClyfton, as in Clyfton crescent, Brewster, Allerton, Bradford, Winsloware the names of people who are still commemorated in the town today. This summer it will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims departure, and I pay tribute to those who are educating people in the area about its historical links. We have had some tremendous communications from various Mayflower societies in the United States.
Finally, let me wish everyone well for our April break, spring break, or whatever we want to call it; we cannot really call it an Easter break. Members are welcome to visit the wonderful resort of Cleethorpes, where my family will be descending on me to celebrate my birthdayin style, I hope. I also want Members to support my bank holiday Bill; I notice that the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) is present. It will come before the House after we return from the recess. I am calling for an extra bank holidayin the autumn, as the current time of year is a bit crowded with bank holidaysand I hope that all Members will support it.
Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): It is a pleasure to have been called to take part in this Adjournment debate. Although I shall address some local issues, as is the custom in such debates, I also wish briefly to touch upon a couple of events that have been reported in todays news media and which are far from constituency based.
I have read today that at the Bucharest NATO summit Macedonias application to join NATO has been turned down. Although Croatia and Albania have been asked whether they would like to join, Macedonia has not. That saddens me, as Macedonian forces have been fighting alongside our own and NATO forces in various theatres. It is openly acknowledged that its application has been turned down purely because Greece objects to Macedonia being called Macedonia; it wants to call it the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. That seems rather bizarre, particularly in the current age when we in Europe are all trying to get along together. The British Government must play their part in trying to resolve this matter. If we are trying to welcome countries in, we must reject the idea that their past somehow stays with them; such territorial disputes often go back a long way in history and are not really disputes at all any more but largely imagined, and they are no part of todays Europe.
The other event in todays news is particularly close to my heart: the Government have published their draft Marine Bill. That is much to be welcomedalthough judging by its size it will provide Members with a considerable amount of reading material in the coming weeks. I have been closely associated with this subject ever since I attempted to introduce my own Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill, which was reasonably successful as it got as far as the House of Lords before it was holed below the line.
I do not want to be churlish, but it has taken a long time for this draft Marine Bill to be brought forward, yet it was part of all three major parties manifesto commitments in the 2005 election. After the draft Bill has been subjected to the scrutiny that it is designed to
receive, I urge the Government to introduce a Bill before the House as soon as possible, because urgent action is needed as there is very little protection for the marine environment. Members know from the reaction not only to my Bill, but to various organisations campaigns, that this subject is very dear to the hearts of most of our constituents, regardless of whether we represent inland or coastal seats.
I shall now turn to my Uxbridge constituency. Like many other MPs, I have been taking up the issue of the closure of post offices. As the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) said, the consultation closed yesterday, and I have made representations for the Moorfield Road and Uxbridge Common Park Road sub-post offices to remain open. When Members look into this matter, all of us realiseeven those whose wish to save their post offices does not always translate into votes in the Househow much these post offices are valued, particularly by the elderly and the vulnerable. That is to do with so much more than just the services they provide, such as selling stamps or foreign currency. The sub-postmasters and mistresses are still in that great breed of retailers who want to give service and who are part of the community, and the loss of that would be the most tragic loss of all.
I still think that the Post Office has not examined how it could provide that sort of service, because not all the requirements are necessary. Members of the community who want to renew their road tax can do so online or they can use their car to go to the next sub-post office, but people who want to collect a pension or to post a parcel may not have such accessa bus does not even go nearby the Moorfield Road post office. As I mentioned in the debate a couple of weeks ago, a system of services must be put in place. My retail outlet sells stamps, but it is not allowed to do anything more than that. I cannot help feeling that it would not be beyond the Post Offices wit to supply the weighing machines that produce the stampsnot the ones that people put on things, but the labelsso that some of that service could be provided by other outlets. It is a great shame that the Post Office is rushing ahead with this whole closure programme without thinking about how to improve its serviceit just keeps cutting back all the time.
Simon Hughes: The hon. Gentleman prompts me to respond on that point. One frustration is that offices that say that they would happily deal with tax discs or passports, that to do so would make the difference and that people keep asking for that service only to be told that it cannot be provided are being turned down by the Post Office when they request to provide them. Their opportunity to be more profitable is hindered from upstairs by Post Office management, although it would help everybody on the ground.
Mr. Randall: The hon. Gentleman is right. One of the things that I find most frustrating in todays world is that the Post Office seems to be cutting its own throat. It should be able to provide the things that people want in more outlets rather than restricting them.
I was interested to hear the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) about the Crown post office in Chelmsford having already moved into WH Smith. I believe that on 17 April, the Uxbridge Crown post office will move to the local
WH Smith. Although I made representations, met representatives of the Post Office and was given various assurances about the services that would be provided to ensure that there would be no difficulties in respect of access and the number of windows open, his experience fills me with dread. I try to be positiveI am not someone who always objects to change for the sake of itbut I have heard about several of my hon. Friends experiences with these transfers of Crown post offices to WH Smith and I am concerned. I can tell the Post Office and WH Smith that I shall make several wanders down the high street in Uxbridge in the coming weeks to see for myself exactly whether they have lived up to their promises or whether a terminal 5 is taking place in a mini world in Uxbridge. I am concerned about that.
Another local issue of great concern that is constantly being raised with me is what is these days called garden grabbing. It occurs when family homes in suburban streets are destroyed or knocked down as developers put up flats, when gardens disappear through infilling and so on. That practice, which is destroying the character of many of our roads and communities, is happening in many areas of my constituency, but it is at its worst in Fairfield road, Uxbridge, where 35 per cent. of the properties have some sort of application lodged or an appeal going on. The poor residents of that road say, We are going to stick it here, as we have lived here all our lives, but they see another development going up and another being granted on appeal. That is one of the most frustrating thingsthe local authority understood exactly what the application would mean and therefore rejected it, but it was then granted on appeal.
One of the problems is that the inspectorate considers the individual planning application rather than looking at the area in a street or a road, which would make a lot of difference. The London borough of Hillingdon planning department is as frustrated as anyone else and it is trying to look at the strategy to see whether it can change it, but it is frustrated at every level.
I have raised the subject before and the Government must look hard at it. Uxbridge is a pretty pleasant place to be, although it has its problems, but many of the ills of our society emerge as we destroy the fabric of our communities and of community life. If we destroy that community feeling, that will only bring more problems. We have seen that happen elsewhere, and it is about time that such things were regulated in a much fairer and better way. We should put the residents interests first.
The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey made a plea about the parliamentary holidays and for us to be able to spend time with our children. I agree that it is incredibly important for all families to spend as much time together as they can. My childrens holidays have not on this occasion matched the parliamentary recess, but I was able to spend the weekend away on a rugby tour with my daughter, who is the only girl in the boys team. It will be her last tour away because once players get past the under-12s, they are not allowed to play mixed rugby any more.
I want to pay tribute to all sports that get our kids actively involved. I am sure that the hon. Ladies on the Labour Benches will be delighted to hear that I am an advocate of womens sport. That has probably come from having a daughter who is keen on sport. I have seen its benefits. Sports are incredibly important for both boys and girls, especially team sports, because of
their fitness levels and also to help them to bond together. Although such activity is mainly for the kids, the parents can find some diversions here and there. I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have no idea what goes on on such occasions, but they are very civilised. In fact, it is akin to what goes on in the Opposition Whips Office, as far as I can see.
As it is the last season for my daughter, I want to thank Ruislip rugby club and those involved with the under-12s, especially the coaches, Mr. Terry Russell, Phil Skelton and Robin Nelson. They have done so much. At least 40 kids turn up on a Sunday morning to play in all weathers, which is a tribute to the coaches.
I shall be doing my own bit for fitness in the weeks of the recess, as I shall be walking the streets of Hillingdon as a part-time postman for my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) and his ambitions to become London Mayor. All of us who love this great city of ours realise that that gentleman will keep it a great city. I hope that when I return hon. Members will see a slimmer, fitter Member for Uxbridge.
Finally, I cannot not mention the most pressing issue for most of my constituents, which is the proposed third runway at Heathrow. We had a debate on the subject yesterday during the Liberal Democrats Opposition time, when I was disappointed that the debate turned into a party political one. It is a very serious matter and people from all parties have views on the subject. I find it particularly sad that on that matter, and incidentally on an inquiry into the war in Iraq, the Liberal Democrats do not seem to like anybody else to agree with them. They seem to think that it is their own particular thing, and they are rather sad if anybody dares to agree with them. [Laughter.] Liberal Democrat Members laugh, but such things are very serious. When I have spoken to many Liberal Democrat Members at public meetings there has been no difference between us, but they suddenly seem to turn on those of us on the Conservative Benches who share their views when they are in the glare here. I find that particularly worrying. It is a different matter in Westminster Hall, which speaks volumes for that chamber.
I have been discussing with my hon. Friends some of the things that people do not understand. One of my hon. Friends said to me, But theyre not going to increase flights, are they? I have been told by BAA that it is not going to increase flightsit is just to make the capacity a bit bigger so that there is more space. But 220,000 extra flights a year is, I think, an increase.
There is another thing that is incredibly important for all Members to understand, which Members who do not live nearby or have not taken a special interest do not realise. When we talk of a third runway, one could almost say, Well, what are they worried about? It is a bit of tarmac. Its just going to go down the road a bit, its not really a problem. In fact, there are a couple of Labour wards that I could put a bit of tarmac through quite happily, but it does not work like that. It will not just be a third runway and a sixth terminal; what is proposed is a whole new airport the size of Gatwick being put alongside Heathrow. That is what people do not understand.
Simon Hughes: I was not able to be at yesterdays debate. I have it to read, but I have yet to do so. I share the hon. Gentlemans view that if there can be cross-party agreement on such issues, we all benefit. Although I am not a west London MP, having been to see colleagues and friends in west London and beyond, it seems to me that he and his constituents are right to seek support from others on what is not just a little expansion but a transformation that will go far beyond the inconvenience and environmental pollution that they already suffer from.
Mr. Randall: I thank the hon. Gentleman. In the London borough of Hillingdon and the neighbourhood, the matter is completely cross-party, and long will it be so, I am sure. I regret the fact that the hon. Gentleman was not at the debate, because perhaps his reasonableness might have prevailed and the debate might have been different. There might not have been time for many other speakers, though.
Finally, I wish a pleasant recess to Members of the House, and particularly to Officers of the House and all those hard-working people who have to put up with us day in, day out. I know that some of them will still be working, because when we go to our constituencies it is not all holiday, whatever those in the Press Gallery might say. Far from it. It is important that we recognise that this place is a community in itself, and we must thank those who work so hard on our behalf.
Mr. Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): I endorse and echo the good wishes of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) to all Members of the House and to all those who help and service the House. For their patience and kindness, often to a very new Member, I am deeply grateful.
I do not propose to detain the House for long, but I want to draw attention to a number of matters that deeply affect the constituents whom I have the honour to represent. My constituency is profoundly rural, encompassing a large part of the north Devonshire coast. It contains a number of coastal communities, which are particularly affected by factors such as seasonal work, coastal erosion, outward migration and deprivation. In fact, it is not widely known that Torridge and West Devon contains two of the most deprived wards in England. People are often surprised to learn thatincluding a Minister whom I and a number of constituents from the town of Bideford met yesterday.
My constituency includes part of the north Devon coast, and in the south it embraces a large part of Dartmoor. The moor is characterised by hill farming, but it also has a considerable amount of deprivation and rural isolation. Today, I want to speak specifically about the matters that affect people living in its fragile rural communities. I have been aware for some time that people in my constituency feel a sense of helplessness that arises from their belief that they are no longer able to affect the fate, future and destiny of their communities. Increasingly, that power is being removed to a remote and unaccountable quangocracy that includes the regional development agencies and regional assemblies, as well as bodies such as Natural England.