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However, although its evaluation has been lengthy and thorough, NICE has acknowledged that the appeal hearing against the recommendation, which took place
this week, could lead to further delays before guidance is finally issued. I would therefore ask the Deputy Leader of the House to have a word with the Minister of State, Department of Health, the right hon. Member for Bristol, South (Dawn Primarolo), to see whether something can be done to expedite matters.
My third point concerns people using mobile phones while driving cars. My view on mobile phones was shared by the late and much lamented Eric Forth. I have asked the Department for Transport a series of questions about the number of prosecutions of people using mobile phones. The answer, from the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle), was very instructive. I am absolutely baffled by the disparity between regions. The legislation was introduced in December 2003, but in some areas no prosecutions or proceedings have ever been instituted, so the law is simply not being enforced throughout the UK. I have lost count of the times I have been stuck behind a lorry whose driver is obviously involved in an interesting phone call and showing no regard for other road users. This is a serious problem, and I hope that we can start to take it a little more seriously than we seem to at the moment.
Dr. Vini Khurana, an eminent neurosurgeon in Australia, has just produced an interesting paper stating that there is a direct causal link between people using mobile phones and the incidence of brain tumours. Once upon a time, Members used to present petitions about mobile phone masts and similar issues. That all seems to have gone very quiet at the moment, but it has certainly not gone quiet as far as I am concerned.
I was honoured to be the only UK representative at the recent Taiwanese elections. Compared with what has been going on in Zimbabwe, it was a joy to go to Taiwan and to see people enthusiastically grasping the opportunity to vote in an election. The election was fought rigorously between the KMT and the ruling Democratic Progressive party, and the KMT won, receiving the largest percentage and number of votes in the history of Taiwan. I was also fortunate enough to meet the new President, Ma Ying-jeou, on the evening of his election. I was struck by his warmth and humanity, and by the clear vision that he had for the future of his country, given all the challenges of trying to work with China and of not becoming isolated.
I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will pass on my thanks to the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the right hon. Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton). In the Christmas Adjournment debate, I made a plea for money to help to tackle cliff slippage, and she listened to my plea. I was supported in my representations by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (James Duddridge), and we were delighted to receive the extra funding. It is being well used, but I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the House can guess what I am going to say next. Southend needs more money, because there is now further slippage closer to the town centre, so I hope that the hon. Lady will once again be able to work a charm offensive with her right hon. Friend.
Another issue that hon. Members are trying to deal with at the moment is that of hospital parking charges. I remember clearly when those charges were first introduced. Labour Members who were then in opposition protested about them, but they are now widely accepted. My
hospital in Southend is land-locked; there is no room for it to expand. My constituency has a huge number of elderly people. They are not lazy; they need their cars to get to the rheumatology clinic, for example. The parking charges can range from £2 to £4, and that can soon mount up for people visiting a loved one with cancer, for example. The hospital is now building a multi-storey car park, but that is causing further difficulties. Will the Deputy Leader of the House have a word with her ministerial colleagues to see whether they have a view on this matter?
Another issue that I have raised before in these Adjournment debates concerns a constituent named David Clark. Ten years ago he was working for Essex police as a police officer. He was forced to retire from his job on medical grounds, following bullying and harassment by senior officers. This is too complex a story to develop in just a minute, but it is all to do with whistleblowing. My constituent did a splendid job in his time with the police force. His maltreatment followed his managing an investigation into theft and stolen goods in 1997. He did the right thing and decided to pursue legal action against the chief constable of Essex in July 2006. In the recent High Court hearing, Mr. Justice Tugendhat ruled in my constituents favour and, nine months on, in June 2007, he received £93,000 in compensation from Essex police force in an out-of-court settlement. What is not acceptable is that the costs of the case£35,000have still not been paid, which is putting my constituent under a huge amount of strain.
During the High Court hearing, the judge condemned the detective sergeant involved as not capable of belief, and said that he could not be regarded as a candid witness. He made a number of criticisms of the organisation of the Essex police, which he said was in stark contrast to my constituent, whom he considered to be a careful and honest witness. Most frustrating of all, my constituent has tried over and over again to arrange a meeting with the chairman of Essex police authority, to absolutely no avail. I find that desperately disappointing.
The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid) raised an issue involving his local driving test centre. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East and I are confronting exactly the same issue, and we are very concerned about it. I will not be disloyal to my former constituency, Basildon. I will simply say that to relocate the entire test centre to Basildon will cause huge problems in Southend, because it means a journey of nearly 14 miles. I strongly support the efforts of the Southend and District Driving Instructors Association to save the Southend centre.
The penultimate issue that I wish to raise concerns Mr. and Mrs. Eeles, who came to my surgery recently. The couple, aged 71 and 76, took a one-day coach trip to Belgium to buy cheap tobacco. They acted within the law: they bought 3 kg. The Customs officer stopped Mrs. Eeles and detained heran elderly personfor two hours, confiscating her legal amount of tobacco. That was absolutely crazy. Mrs. Eeles is very upset, and I support her in all the representations that she is currently making.
Finally, I want to say something about a young lady in my constituency called Felicia Cantone. Last week a local newspaper ran the headline Felicia loses leg but has just two days off. The story was about a 10-year-old
girl who returned to school two days after her leg was amputated. She had to have that horrific operation to prevent the spread of bone cancera rare type of cancer called Ewings sarcoma, which was first diagnosed when she was seven. She is an incredibly brave girl, and she returned to school in two days. Apparently, the operation increased her chance of survival from 20 per cent. to 40 per cent.
The point that I want to makeand I do not say this is a jokeis that Felicia needs a prosthetic leg, and cannot obtain one from the national health service. I am baffled by the reasons for that, but there are all sorts of problems: for instance, she is very young and is growing quickly. The family are fundraising locally in order to send her to America. It is an extraordinary case. I hope that after I have written to the Deputy Leader of the House with more details, she will ask the Department of Health to consider it.
Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess). I, too, send birthday greetings to the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac).
It is a year or so since I had an opportunity to speak in an Adjournment debate. Things have moved on quite well in Peterborough during that time, not least given the prospect that the Posh will be promoted to league division 1 for next season. They are currently top of the league.
Last September saw the opening of the Thomas Deacon academy, the largest academy in England and Wales. We have had the first tranche of city centre regeneration, and the planning application for the North Westgate development has been submitted to Peterborough city council. The super-hospital is about to enter a new stage of construction, and we hope it will be opened in 2011 or 2012, and we also have other interesting projects connected with the regeneration of Peterborough.
I shall now briefly raise some key issues. First, I beg the indulgence of the House as I wish to return to the matter of post offices. It is often forgotten that a reduction in the urban network is also a major issue. Under the rather Orwellian-sounding urban reinvention programme, my constituency has lost six post offices in the last six years, reducing the total from 23 to 17, and we fear that when in July the proposals are put out for consultation across Cambridgeshireand Northamptonshire, I believewe may lose another six to eight just in the Peterborough constituency. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara) is leading the campaign in his constituency against post office closures, and I pay tribute to Sir Peter Brown, the Cambridgeshire cabinet member for communities, who is co-ordinating all the local authorities and other key stakeholders in Cambridgeshire to put the case for keeping those post offices open. That is needed, not least in my constituency; I once described the Crown post office at Cowgate as resembling a Dickensian soup kitchen because it was completely overflowing with
people, and the queues can go out on to the street, particularly in the summer. The idea that we can lose another six to eight sub-post offices is barmy.
Flag Fen is one of the finest bronze age settlements in Europe, but it is desperately short of money. Sadly, its manager, Georgina Butters, recently left because there is insufficient funding. Although it has had some money remitted via English Heritage, there is not sufficient funding to develop both the artefacts and the tourism and leisure side of the site. It would be a great shame if Flag Fen were to be left to close, and its great attractions were to be lost to Cambridgeshire and the country as a whole.
Members will know of my consistent interest in the issue of the fortification of some foods with folic acid, which is mainly as a result of the fact that the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus is located at Park road in Peterborough. There is an unanswerable case that folic acid helps to reduce massively, if not completely eliminate, neural tube defects and appalling disabilities such as spina bifida and hydrocephalus, which afflict hundreds of families a year and cause hundreds of elective terminations. That can be ameliorated if folic acid is introduced into womens diets before they become pregnant. Last year, the Food Standards Agency cleared the way in making that case, but unfortunately there has been a delay in respect of a ministerial recommendation. I hope Ministers will look very favourably on the huge weight of scientific evidence, because this is about peoples livesit is about the quality of childrens and families lives. It is time that we followed the lead of the United States and 32 other countries across the world, and embraced the fortification of some foods with folic acid.
Another major health concern in my constituency is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In Peterborough, about 2,700 people suffer from the condition; it is the fifth biggest killer in the United Kingdom, and the people in my primary care trust area are 10 per cent more at risk of hospital admission than those elsewhere in the UKindeed, it is described as a COPD hot spot in the east of England. I was recently privileged to attend and speak at an event at the Thomas Walker medical centre in Huntly grove: a British Lung Foundation reception and launch for its Breathe Easy campaign. It is important that Government understand how important this issue is. We do not know why the condition particularly affects Peterborough. Long ago, Peterborough moved on from being a large industrial engineering city and a railway city, but agricultural materials are burnt in the area, and agriculture, food processing and packaging takes place across the area. The combination of those things might mean that our area is particularly afflicted by that condition, and, indeed, by asthma, which is also a significant problem. The last figures showed that my local Peterborough primary care trust was ranked 32nd highest for asthma admissions out of 300 trusts nationwide.
The final health issue that I wish to discuss is teenage pregnancy, which is a major problem. It is a badge of dishonour that my constituency and the city of Peterborough is the teenage pregnancy capital of the east of England, and that, regrettably, the trend in my area is either stable or rising, rather than reducing, as it is in so many other parts of both the east of England and the country as a whole. That is particularly the case given that some 43 per cent. of the 190 young women
between the ages of 15 and 17 who fell pregnant in 2006 in my area chose to have an elective abortionthat is a tragedy and social catastrophe. We must do more. We must not just repeat the mantra of sex education and more access to contraception. Although it may be unfashionable, there must be a moral aspect to this issue, and girls and young women should be given different paths to go along. This is not just about sex education.
The main substance of my remarks will not be about that issue, but about the report produced earlier this week by the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs entitled The Economic Impact of Immigration. It is timely that we debate that report, albeit during the debate on the April adjournment. I hope that Ministers will find Government time in the next Session to debate the issue, because I believe that unfettered, unrestricted and uncontrolled immigration has, in many respects, been a social disaster for this country in terms of social cohesion, community relations and the economic situation in many towns and cities, particularly in the east of England.
Immigration has had a massive impact in a small number of areas, not only Peterborough, but Breckland, Kings Lynn, Boston and other parts of both the east of England and the rest of the country. It has had a big impact on the delivery of housing and health servicesindeed, I was advised only today of a big increase in tuberculosis in the Peterborough city council area. That is just one of the side effects of large-scale, unfettered immigration. It also has an impact in respect of policing, the issue of people trafficking and the sex trade, adult social care and, in particular, education.
The issue that I would like to discuss most is the entrenching of welfare dependency, particularly in the host community. Who would have believed that a Labour Government would have allowed such uncontrolled immigration as to leave us nationally with a situation where 5.2 million people are on benefits, where we have to recruit low-skill, low-wage people to do jobs that our own people should be doing and where we tolerate slum housing, low wages and poor working conditions because we are told spuriously the Governments bogus argument, advanced by the Minister for Borders and Immigration, the Home Secretary and others, that immigration has produced benefits to the value of £6 billion a year? That argument has been conclusively demolished by the report produced earlier this week. I feel vindicated by that cross-party report, which has been produced by experts and has rubbished the Governments campaign of misinformation on unprecedented and uncontrolled immigration. Sadly, it is five years too late. I feel that I have ploughed a lonely furrow on this issue. If one ever mentioned the subject hitherto, one was inevitably accused of racism even though it is incumbent on every Member to judge the situation in their constituency and to speak up for their constituents, irrespective of their race, religion, creed or colour. I have done that.
I have never taken the view that immigration per se is a bad thingI believe that controlled immigration is a good thing. Such massive economic and social change has come at a high price, with a massive strain on community resources, the delivery of public services, resentment between communities irrespective of racial group and, in particular, the embedding of a low-wage, low-skill economy and the pricing out of many people onto jobseekers allowance and other benefits.
If we consider the situation in Peterborough over the past few years, we see that the number of those on active jobseekers allowance rose from 1,640 to 2,280 between 2001 and 2007. The median gross weekly rate wages have declined from £447.10 to £421.90 over the past two years. The number of NEETsthose not in employment, education or traininghas risen. In fact, there was no change overall in the five years between 2002 and 2007. Some 4,500 people in Peterborough have been on benefits for more than five years.
Did no one think that this would happen? When the Government told us that between 8,000 and 15,000 people would come from the European Union countries in 2004, did they consider what the impact would be on a constituency such as mine? In my constituency, 49 per cent. of pupils achieve five GCSE grades from A to E, the lowest in the east of England. We have the third lowest proportion of adults with degree-level qualifications and the third highest with no qualifications. We have 10 super output areas of the most deprived 5 per cent. of the region. One in 14 of my constituents is on incapacity benefit and 24 per cent. of jobseekers allowance claimants are in the 16 to 24 age group. Self-employment levels are low and the resident earning figures reduced over the past few years.
We were told that mass immigration was a panacea, and the Government told us that it was a good thing. There was no proper methodology or analysis and no economic study was undertaken to see the impact on a low-skilled, low-waged, low educational attainment constituency such as mine, which is moving from a heavy industry, railway-focused economy to a more service-based economy.
It could be said that Peterborough is the victim of its geographical circumstances. It is on the A1 and the A47. It is a transport hub and naturally the sort of place where businesses would consider developing the service industry, the food processing and packaging industry, transportation and logistics. It is at the centre of a rural area near south Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and the rest of Cambridgeshire. However, no thought was given to the impact of 20,000 EU migrants coming to the city and what would happen to primary care, primary schools, transportation, policing and other services.
It has been lonely to put this case. It has not always been fashionable to make the arguments that I have made today. I have held two Adjournment debates on the subject over the past two years, one last June and one the year before that. I feel vindicated by the report. I feel that I have done my duty to my constituents. I welcome those who want to make a better life for themselves and their families and contribute to my community, but the Government have failed dismally in their responsibility to have regard to social and community cohesion, a good balance and proper controlled migration. When I talk to my constituents I find that when the election comes, this Government will be driven from office.
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Jackson). I shall allude to some of the issues that he raised, because I share some of his concerns and views.
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