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Mr. Anderson: My hon. Friend makes an apt point—that is exactly what I am talking about. We need input from people in different ways. The case for Nissan is different from the case for Honda or for Toyota. Right around the area, however, feeder factories may not be able to survive, unlike Nissan which, together with other big companies, can batten down the hatches. Companies that serve them, however, might not be able to do that. Part of our duty is to be the voice of people in Parliament, wherever we come from. If we believe that Ministers and the Chancellor are not doing their job or giving
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those people what they need, it is our job to come here, and bang on their doors and make sure that they know what we are saying.

To give a classic example, last week, a local business man asked me to go and see him. He is a successful man who wants to be even more successful. He has the opportunity to develop service stations up and down the motorway system. About nine months ago, he had the chance of a 100 per cent. loan from his bank. He is putting things in place, but it has now told him that it is giving him only 70 per cent., despite the fact that the businesses and the property that he owns would more than compensate if the business went belly-up, as the bank could claw all that back. At the same time, the bank told him that his overdraft charge would go from 13 per cent. to 17 per cent. That is a case that I shall certainly take up, on his behalf and on behalf of others like him. We must say to our Government, “You must put that right.”

Finally, I turn to the subject of housing. I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright) is on the Front Bench. The hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) spoke about social housing and a number of hon. Members who were present agreed in principle with what she said, although we may have party political differences on the matter. There is a need for social housing, but there is also a great opportunity to do what our parents and grandparents did in the 1950s by regenerating areas and building quality social housing, not rubbish like the housing that was built in the 1960s.

We must build social housing that people want to live in and make homes in. We should be clear that that housing is there for ever for people who cannot afford to buy their houses. If people want to buy their houses, they should buy on the open market. Let us build social housing and use the rents over the next 50 or 100 years, whatever it takes, to pay back the money put into them. It is a long-term investment that will provide work—

Kelvin Hopkins: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and I strongly agree with every word that he is saying. I am sure that his town is similar to mine, where tens of thousands of houses were built in 1930s. Does he agree that it was construction that helped bring Britain out of the 1930s recession and that we should do that again?

Mr. Anderson: My hon. Friend is right. That would be a new deal in the same sense as in the States in the 1930s, where public money was invested not just to get people through hard times, which is obviously the right thing to do, but to leave a legacy that lasts and meets a need. It is genuinely a win-win situation, as was said earlier by an Opposition Member. We should acknowledge that across the House and work together to take it forward. It would drive the economy, not just in construction—every house that was built would need to be fitted out with carpets, beds, settees and so on. The work is there for us to get stuck into, and I am keen to see that going forward. I hope that the Minister will give us some support in that respect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glenrothes said that doing nothing was not an option for the Opposition. I believe that it is an option and that they should stick to
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it. They are good at it and they should do it for the rest of time, so that the people of this country refuse to elect them ever again.

8.57 pm

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): May I, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) and the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Anderson), congratulate the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Lindsay Roy), who made his maiden speech this evening? It is a privilege, as he accepted, to be elected to the House, and I congratulate him on his election.

I join the hon. Gentleman in his praise for his predecessor, John MacDougall, whom I proudly claim to have been a friend of mine. We were colleagues on the Anglo-Netherlands all-party group. He was the chairman and I was the treasurer. We travelled to Holland and we met delegations from the Dutch Parliament here on a number of occasions over the past few years. I mourn with the hon. Gentleman and his constituents the loss of John MacDougall. He was a great man and a great servant of his constituency. The hon. Gentleman quite properly spoke of him this evening and I am delighted that he did so.

The hon. Gentleman said that he wanted to change the name of his constituency to Glenrothes County, I think. Perhaps I misunderstood him, in which case the remark that I am about to make will be even more laboured than the one I intended. Glen Roy might be the better name for his constituency, if the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr. Kennedy) would allow him to use the name of a place in his constituency near Roy Bridge, near Spean Bridge in north-west Scotland. I congratulate the hon. Member for Glenrothes and wish him well. I trust that his remarks about the Prime Minister propel him or project him into the place where he no doubt wishes to be. It was a fine speech and I look forward to hearing more from him.

I return to the Queen’s Speech. Although I shall concentrate on housing, I shall briefly mention another aspect that interests me, criminal justice policy. I want to discuss the way in which the Government are pushing their policy of building titan prisons—the large human warehouses that will incarcerate upwards of 2,500 inmates. They propose to build three of these, at the moment, in order to relieve prison overcrowding—a problem that they created and have made worse. Since they came to office in 1997, the prison population has risen from about 61,000 to some 83,500, and they have introduced a number of panic, reactive measures in order, as they see it, to deal with and mitigate the problems caused by prison overcrowding. Not one of them has worked. Since they introduced early release from custody on licence, far from the prison population going down, it has gone up. They have now come up with this hare-brained scheme to introduce titan prisons in Britain, which has been criticised right across the globe—in the United States and in Europe.

Today, Professor Bryan Stevenson of New York university gave a lecture in which he deprecated the Government’s policy of introducing titan prisons and urged this country to learn the lessons of what has gone wrong in the United States. The US has huge prisons containing not just 2,500 but many thousands of prisoners, and they are very dangerous places. One need only look
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to today’s experience at Her Majesty’s young offender institution, in Aylesbury. It houses only 435 young men, yet there was an incident there today that the Ministry of Justice described as the result of “concerted indiscipline”. That is probably new Labour-speak for “deep trouble”. I dare say that not all 435 inmates were responsible for the concerted indiscipline, but it does not take much to spark trouble in a prison, and crowding people into big prisons and simply controlling the perimeter is asking for trouble. I urge the Government to think very carefully in this debate about what they do to deal with our overcrowded prisons.

I intervened on the Secretary of State earlier to urge him to do rather more about education in prisons. Although he said that there have been improvements, he was candid enough to accept that there is a lot more to do. That, if I may say so, is the understatement of the evening. The current state of the management of the education system in our prisons is wholly inadequate not because the prison staff are not doing their best—they are—but because prisoners are “churned” from prison to prison to prison. They barely get on to a course when they have to move. They barely get into that new prison when they are moved again, and their educational records, curriculum vitae and medical records—their drug, health and rehabilitation records—follow behind, probably two or three prisons after the individual prisoner. We are building in and reinforcing failure, and it is high time that the Government got beyond the departmental silos, so that adult education Ministers speak to Ministry of Justice Ministers and we have a sensible way of educating prisoners.

We should bear it in mind that many prisoners go into prison unable to read and write, and come out unable to read and write. One has to have a reading age of about 14 in order to get a job of any description nowadays in this country. Those without such a reading age cannot read the safety notices in factories or the instruction leaflets that machinists are required to get their heads round. We continue to allow a system that breeds lack of achievement and an inability to get a job, and which is ultimately responsible for the high reoffending rates that we see in the adult cohort, but—even worse—in the teenage cohort, as well. The reoffending rate among those under 18 is in the high 80s; among those of between 18 and 21, it is in the mid 70s. The reoffending rate among those over 21 leaving custody is about 66 per cent. within two years. We should not be proud of those figures; apart from anything else, they represent a total waste of public money. It costs £50,000 a year to keep each adult prisoner, and if they reoffend within two years, that is a waste of public money. The Government need to apply themselves rather more vigorously to that issue.

David Taylor: A few weeks ago, I was critical of the lack of meaningful activities in many adult prisons. I said that in some respects the prisons were Dickensian and that the activities that there were would have been recognised by Dickens’s Magwitch. As a magistrate, I have visited the young offenders centre in Glen Parva, which is in the hon. and learned Gentleman’s constituency. Do the criticisms that he rightly levels against the education and training situation in prisons apply a fortiori in respect of the younger prisoners, who do not necessarily lack skills for work, but lack skills for life and basic education—reading, writing and so on?

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Mr. Garnier: The hon. Gentleman is right; the issue applies across the piece. Education, in its widest sense, is not being given in the secure estate. My constituents employed at Glen Parva work their socks off in very difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. Not so long ago, a young man committed suicide there by setting fire to his mattress. He died from the burns. He put in danger not only his own life, but those of the officers who tried to get in to rescue him. Sadly, they were unable to save his life.

I do not wish to make tiresome party political points, because that is tedious. However, we are looking at a situation in which the lives of 83,500 people are being wasted. They have committed crimes, and many of them need to go to prison to keep us safe and so that they learn to lead more responsible lives. However, we miss an opportunity in incarcerating people in huge numbers and doing little with them once they are inside. Whether those people are youngsters or adults, the Government have a duty to the public to repair them—and, of course, to look after the victims of their crimes.

Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) (LD): Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that there are prisoners who are unnecessarily retained in detention because the training courses that are a condition of their release are not available? That is another aspect that is feeding the spiral that he has been describing.

Mr. Garnier: That is not a controversial thing to say. Unfortunately, there have been cases at the High Court in which those on indeterminate sentences for public protection have been unable to satisfy the licensing or parole authorities that they are safe for release, because they cannot get on to the courses that, if completed by them, might give some indication of their fitness for release.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I recently spent a day at Shrewsbury prison, which is officially the most overcrowded prison in England. I saw the extraordinary work that the governor, Mr. Hendry, is doing to rehabilitate prisoners there. However, the sheer numbers at the prison make rehabilitation very difficult.

Mr. Garnier: I congratulate my hon. Friend on visiting the prison in his constituency. I always urge hon. Members to visit the prisons in their constituency—or, if there is none, the one nearest it. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) is a frequent visitor to Reading prison— [Interruption.] I am in danger of taking myself too seriously. However, it is important that constituency Members visit prisons in their own constituencies; otherwise, the issue becomes a closed book and we invent public policies on criminal justice that are wholly inept and incapable of dealing with the problems that we face. I have two prisons in my constituency. I want to solve the problems I have identified for the benefit of my constituents—as taxpayers, as victims of crime, and as human beings who want the condition of people to be improved, not depressed by how we conduct this aspect of public policy.

I want to turn to housing—in particular, an aspect that was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury. I can see that the Under-Secretary of State for
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Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright), is really looking forward to what I have to say, because he is a keen student of my criticism of how the Government have handled the vexed and vexing subject of eco-towns. I have in my constituency a site that has been earmarked to some extent by the Government, but certainly by the Co-operative Wholesale Society, for the building of a new town of approximately 40,000 residents—about twice the size of Market Harborough, the biggest town in my constituency. In order to achieve this, the CWS, which owns approximately 5,000 acres of prime farmland in my constituency, wishes to convert that farmland into an eco-town. “Eco-town” sounds so much more attractive than “new town”, but the fact is that the CWS would like to make a lot more money out of farming houses than it does out of farming crops. As a capitalist, I fully understand that it is entitled to make the best that it can out of its assets in order to return the money, if not to its shareholders, at least to its members. I know that Members of this House are members of the CWS and also members of its political branch, which I appreciate is a different organisation legally, although they are closely related.

In the city of Leicester and county of Leicestershire, there are about 10,000 empty dwellings, yet the Government seem backward in coming forward in encouraging the city council—most of the empty dwellings are in the city—to repair them to make them habitable. I am sure that financial and other instruments could be used to make it easier for private and public sector landlords in the city to bring those dwellings back into habitation. Equally, I am sure that the district councils that surround the city could be encouraged to bring back into habitation the lesser number of unused dwellings in the county. It is a waste of those 10,000 dwellings when there are, I am sure, plenty of people across the county and in the city who would like to go and live in them, particularly if they could be rented or bought at prices that they could afford. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be happening, and the CWS is crashing on like a bull in a china shop, demanding of the people in my constituency and that of my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan), that it should be entitled to build this vast new town all over a piece of agricultural scenery.

Let me give an idea of the problem that we are up against. As I have said before—possibly in a debate responded to by the Under-Secretary—extracting facts out of the CWS is rather like extracting teeth. It is very reluctant to tell us precisely what it wants to do. I thought that I might get something out of it when, during the course of the summer, it produced a document—its piece of propaganda, or sales sheet—on its latest design for this town of 40,000 people. It described its vision in this way:

That is total balderdash. It means nothing. It is sales-speak and it will not get to grips with the real issue that concerns my constituents—the wholly inappropriate siting of a new town of 40,000 people in the middle of rural Leicestershire, which will have the following adverse consequences. It will suck the regeneration budget out of the city of Leicester, and I know that the right hon.
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Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) and the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Sir Peter Soulsby), who are closest to my constituency, are concerned about that, and it will destroy the chance to give new life to the retail centre in Oadby, the part of my constituency closest to the city. Oadby lies directly between the new town and the city of Leicester. This town of 40,000 will knock out two perfectly good commercial centres: Oadby and the city of Leicester, as well as causing a massive drain of development money from those centres into the new town.

The new town will also cause the most appalling problems for transport infrastructure. If it goes through, the 40,000 people who will live there will need public transport and access to private vehicles, but both public and private vehicles need something to drive on. At the moment, the roads are already crowded, particularly during rush hour. The Co-op says, “Don’t worry. Nobody will move out of this new town. They will all be so excited about living there that they will want to stay there. Indeed, all the jobs that we will create will encourage them to stay there.” That is a nice thought, but I do not think that it will happen. The Co-op is also going to ensure that there is only one car park space for every two houses. That is wholly unrealistic, and it will cause trouble.

The Co-op hopes to persuade the Government to give it permission to push on with its ludicrous plan on the basis that it will build a tramway between the site of the eco-town and the city centre of Leicester. It has not been candid enough to tell us what the precise cost of that will be. Calculations vary between £1 million and £2 million per inch of tramway—that is an awful lot of money. I am not sure whether the Government will come up with the money to make the difference between the few hundreds of thousands of pounds that the Co-op says that it is prepared to give and the total cost. We will end up with a transport mess.

Of that 40,000 population, how will the adults who have to work get out of that new town to get to the main centres of business in the east midlands where jobs are to be found? Those 12,000 jobs will not arrive in this new eco-town just because the Co-op says it wants them. There will be massive overcrowding on the already overcrowded road system. It is 30 to 45 minutes from the site of the eco-town to the site of the most vibrant economic and job-creating development in Leicestershire by junction 21 of the M1, just south of the constituency of the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor), which is right on the boundary of the junction with the M69 and the M21. Only 300 jobs a year have been created in that area. On those figures, it will take about 50 years to create the new jobs needed in Pennbury; we are going to have to wait an awfully long time for those jobs.

I am concerned that the Government and the Co-op have been very unclear about the public sector funding needed to bridge the gap between what the Co-op says it will put in—in so far as it has given us any detail—and what will have to come from local and central Government. The section 106 agreements simply cannot be written, because we do not know what the Co-op will provide or what central and local government will be required to provide. We need detail if we are to engage sensibly and rationally with the bullying, which is what I call it, that we have seen from the Co-op.

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Finally, I should like the Minister to give some indications in respect of the judicial review that has been granted in relation to the site at Middle Quinton in Warwickshire, just south of Stratford-on-Avon. In my area, the campaign against the Stoughton Co-op eco-town, or CASCET, is chaired by county councillor Dr. Kevin Feltham, who has been waging a highly effective and rational campaign against the Co-op and its madcap scheme. CASCET has sent a letter of formal support to the court in relation to the Middle Quinton review. Mr. Justice Collins granted that judicial review in September last year and I believe that the Government have granted a six-week extension, from February 2009, for responses to the latest consultation on the eco-town at Middle Quinton. That extension should apply to all the other applicant sites currently under discussion. If it does not apply to them all, let me urge the Minister to ensure that it should at least apply to the Co-op site in my constituency.

I apologise for speaking for so long, but in the Co-op application for a so-called eco-town—the misuse of language is just appalling, as one sees from the propaganda piece that I quoted a moment ago—the poverty of the language reflects the poverty of the case. None the less, my constituents’ concern grows by the day, as the Government and the Co-op fail to understand the terrible threat that we face. I am grateful to the new Minister for Housing, who has agreed to meet me and my neighbouring parliamentarians at her Department, I believe on 20 January. I hope that we can persuade her that the scheme proposed by the Co-op is not just silly, but highly damaging and will destroy the economy and the environment of Leicester and Leicestershire. When the Minister who is here responds to this debate, I urge him not simply to say, “I’m thinking about it and we’ll do something next week,” or the week after that, but to come up with some firm proposals that would put the Co-op back in its box.

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