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woolly words for a woolly investigation. Despite all the evidence that convinced the council, the planning inspector decided to allow the landlord to change the use of the
premises as he had requested. The appeal decision resulted in only a minor change to the original application.
I share Councillor Wards primary concern. The planning inspector showed total disregard for the negative impact his decision would make on the neighbouring community. I know that the situation has been replicated on the island, and I suspect that it occurs on the mainland, too. In my view, the end result is often an appeal decision based on inadequate information which is not in the publics interest. It means that many justifiable council decisions are overturned at great cost to the taxpayer by the planning inspectorate. Does the Minister agree that the planning inspectorate has failed the public in cases such as the one I have cited?
On a different issue, my constituent, Mr. Gower, is concerned that despite the availability of 03 telephone numbers, Her Majestys Revenue and Customs continues to use 0845 numbers, which, as they are not available as part of package deals, typically cost the consumer more than local calls. A complaints manager at HMRC has confirmed that it is looking into alternatives to the 0845 system that would offer benefits to users. As long ago as June 2007, the consumers organisation Which? found widespread confusion about the prices of these non-geographic calls and recommended that they be replaced with 03 numbers. Will the Minister ensure that work on looking at alternatives to the current system is prioritised?
To move on again, I am extremely concerned about the withdrawal of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs collection service for fallen cattle from January 2009, and I would add my support to the work carried out by the National Fallen Stock Company and the National Farmers Union to find a long-term solution to the particular problems faced by Isle of Wight farmers. Our farmers are in an invidious position in that they want to comply with requirements under the TSEtransmissible spongiform encephalopathiesand animal by-products regulations, but there is currently no infrastructure that enables them to do so.
I deplore the need to get permission from the EU to deal properly with fallen stock. I am grateful to the Minister for seeking derogation in relation to the TSE regulations, but we need a proper solution to these problems. Will the Minister support the provision of a bulking-up facility that would enable carcases to be collected in one place and then shipped off the island in bulk? Alternatively, will he work with local people to ensure that an incinerator facility is provided on the island, which would be a long-term solution to some of these problems?
Finally, it was brought to my attention earlier this month that an Isle of Wight bailiff had been ill and off work. It went on for some months, with the result that the Isle of Wight has had no bailiff service for law-abiding landlords. Bailiffs from Portsmouth county court were to provide cover in the meantime, but it seems they were unable to do so and, more importantly, the island authorities were not informed. Although the original bailiff has since returned to part-time duty, this is only on a part-time basis and the confusion has caused significant delays in carrying out the law.
On a related matter, I was informed that one of my constituents had been treated disgracefully by the Ministry of Justice. He had applied for the post of full-time replacement bailiff for the Isle of Wight in July this year and by August he had been offered a position. He was then made to wait 15 weeks, during which he was told that Criminal Records Bureau documentation had been lost, which he then had to replace at his own expense. He was finally told in November this year that the funding for the position had been withdrawn. He had been strung along by the Ministry of Justice HR department for 15 weeks before it informed him of the situation. Meanwhile, the patchy cover afforded by Portsmouth bailiffs put pressure on Portsmouths own resources. Not only did it cost the taxpayer additional ferry fares to ship them to and from the island, but there were periods when there was no one to act as bailiff.
Needless to say, the constituent in question is extremely angry. He has incurred personal expense in travelling to the mainland for interviews and providing paperwork. He had not applied for other posts over the previous four months because he had been told very clearly that he had a job with the Ministry of Justice. I ask the Minister why, if funding for a new bailiff for the island was available as late as October, it was withdrawn in November? Why was my constituent led on a wild goose chase for several months after August when he could have been seeking other employment? Will the Minister please look into those matters?
Those four items are causes of some concern and I am glad to have had the opportunity to bring them to the Ministers attention. For the most part, however, the Isle of Wight is a beautiful and well blessed place in which to live. I am grateful for the assistance that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have given to my constituents and I wish you a merry Christmas and a peaceful and happy new year.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner), who raised some important issues about the planning system, one of which I hope to take up in my small contribution to the debate.
I begin by joining the Conservative Chief Whip in praising my hon. Friend the new Deputy Leader of the House in advance of his maiden speech in these debates. I am sure it will be scintillating. He has been one of the usual suspects who have attended these debates in recent years, and it must be the nightmare of any usual suspect that they would end up having to answer the issues raised by hon. Members.
I know that we will get a wonderful contribution from the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Angela Browning), who in each of the Adjournment debates before a recess always invites hon. Members to visit her constituency. We have no statistics, though, showing how many take up her invitation .
I have no quarries or incinerators to speak about, but I start by thanking the Home Secretary for a decision that she took yesterday, I think, which was obvious in the published version of the Policing and Crime Bill, which received its First Reading in the House today. On Tuesday the Home Affairs Committee took evidence from the Local Government Association and the
Association of Police Authorities, and I wrote to the Home Secretary telling her that the Governments proposals for directly elected members of police authorities were fundamentally flawed. Forty-eight hours later, the proposals have been withdrawn. The Home Affairs Committee, of course, takes credit for that decision.
The Home Secretary chose, unfortunately, not to make a statement to the House, but instead to announce her changes to Patrick Wintour of The Guardian. Nevertheless, we are grateful for what the Government have done. It surely would have been wrong to give single-interest or extremist groups the chance to get elected to police authorities, thereby aiding the politicisation of the police. There is always politics in policing, clearly, because we have a Home Secretary who is about to choose the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner, but what we were concerned about, and what every group that wrote to the Select Committee was concerned about, was the fact that if we have those elections, there is a danger that the whole police agenda could be hijacked in a particular direction. I thank the Government for what they have done.
I am not quite so keen on the statement that the Government put out today concerning the review of the rights of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens to come to work in the United Kingdom. I declare my interest as a former Minister for Europe with responsibility for enlargement. I have always felt that the citizens of countries that join the European Union should be treated as equal citizens, and I could never understand why Romania and Bulgaria were singled out among the 27 for their citizens not to be given full and equal rights to come to work in the United Kingdom.
The Government review the decision every year and have just put before the House a written statement indicating that they are not changing their position, and that those who come to work from Romania and Bulgaria will have to continue to work as self-employed people. That is the wrong decision because it results in even greater difficulty in dealing with employment issues, though I welcome the Governments decision to expand one of the tiers to allow more agricultural workers, which will benefit people such as my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) and others who represent rural constituencies and have been complaining of the lack of people applying for such jobs.
I shall raise three brief points concerning a number of matters which I hoped the Government would have allowed more time to discuss before the House adjourned. The first is a matter that I have raised on a number of occasionsdiabetes. I declare my interest as someone who has type 2 diabetes. I suppose it is the way I discovered that I have type 2 diabetes that encourages me to raise the matter in the House at every opportunity, especially as we arrive at the Christmas season.
The chairman of the all-party beer group is encouraging Members to visit pubs over the Christmas periodnot something that many Members will feel reluctant to do. However, I caution Members who have not had a diabetes test. I do not want to embarrass Members over whether or not they have been tested for diabetes, but as they enter the Christmas spirit and are given boxes of chocolates and sweets and consume a lot of sweet foods and carbohydrates over the next four weeks, they should pause, especially if they are slightly overweightagain, I am not looking at any right hon. or hon. Members in
particular. If they have that slight problem, it is vital that over the Christmas period they have a diabetes test. The test takes only a few seconds, and they will then know whether they should consult their GP in order to have further treatment.
That is how I discovered I had type 2 diabetes just a few years ago. I am not saying that as a result I am not as overweight as I was five years ago, but that discovery enabled me to take my medication. There are 2.2 million people in the United Kingdom who are diagnosed with diabetes, but 750,000 people are unaware that they have the disease. One of the problems facing us as legislators is that it is costing the Government £1 million an hour to treat people for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It accounts for approximately one tenth10 per cent.of the entire NHS budget.
Let me issue a plea to Ministers, and indeed other Members, to raise this issue in their constituencies. We hear fantastic statistics about the amount of money that the Government have put into the health servicemore money than has been invested in it at any time before. I should like that money to be spent on preventive medicineon screening people and making sure that they are healthyrather than its being spent on them when they go into hospital, which, of course, is much more expensive. This also applies to young people. Nearly one in four children aged four or five in English primary schools are overweight or obese, and there are approximately 1,400 children who have type 2 diabetessome as young as sevenas a result of being overweight. Some have inherited their condition from their parents. I inherited mine from my mother, who sadly died of diabetes complications.
I also want to talk about mobile phone masts, which touches on the subject raised by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight: the planning system. We all use mobile phones, or most of us do. There are 65 million mobile phone handsets in the United Kingdom. There must, therefore, be mobile phone masts; otherwise we would not be able to communicate with each other through our mobile phones.
I am constantly reminded by constituents of the problems that they experience when mobile phone companies erect mobile phone masts without consultation and without taking the views of local people into consideration. If a mast is less than 15 m high, companies do not have to apply for full planning permission; they can make a prior approval application to the local planning authority, which has only eight weeks in which to object. If it does not object, there is deemed planning consent. Leicesters planning department is, I suppose, as busy as any of the other planning departments in Members constituencies, and because it is so busy, it is difficult for it to adhere to its timetable. As a result, masts are being erected without the support or co-operation of local people. If a mast is over 15 m high, of course, a planning application must be made.
At the start of 2008, there were about 50,300 base station sites in the United Kingdom. Two-thirds are on existing structures and buildings. There are now nearly 74 million mobile connections in the United Kingdom, and the number is increasing every day. I am sure that other Members, including the Deputy Leader of the House, have had representations about it. We need to review the regulations very carefully, and stop the mobile
phone companies automatically being given permission just because the local authority is not able to reply in time. I urge the Government to look into the issue.
The latest such proposal affects a road at the heart of my constituency, the Melton road, which is frequently visited by the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara), when he comes to see his relatives in Leicester and goes out to buy his bhajiasnot budgerigars, as I have been misquoted as sayingin the Belgrave road. When he goes there, he will observe the ambience of the Belgrave and Melton roads. The latest proposal by Vodafone is to erect a huge mast on the pavement of the Melton road, one of the busiest roads in the country. That would spoil the local environment and upset local residentsand, of course, their Member of Parliament and local councillors. It is decisions of that kind that cause so much upset. Representatives of Vodafone came to see me last week, and I told them that I would oppose the proposal. I think it extremely important for us to take account of the detrimental effect that such decisions made by companies have on the appearance of an area.
Sadly, I do not have a list of constituents that I can read out at the end of my speech to thank them for all their workthose who have distributed leaflets for me, or who have been particularly kind, or to whom I have forgotten to send Christmas cards. I think, however, that we ought to have a debate about changing the procedures of the House. Perhaps at the end of each days sitting, when petitions are presented, Members can present lists of constituents who are local heroes and heroines, so that we need not necessarily do so during the Christmas Adjournment debate.
May I take this opportunity to wish everyone who works in the Housethe staff and Officers of the House, and my own staff in particulara wonderful Christmas break? We look forward to seeing everyone again in January.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): As this is the season of good will, let me join the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) in congratulating the Deputy Leader of the House on his speech in advance. I think that that is a very good practice, and it is probably the safest way to move forward. May I also associate myself with the right hon. Gentlemans remarks on mobile phone masts? They were well made, and there must be similar problems in almost all our constituencies.
As this is the season of good will and also because I shall perhaps say a few harsh things later on, may I commend some of the speeches of Labour Members? On the contribution of the hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan), let me be the first to volunteer: yes, I will be visiting a pub over the Christmas period and I will think of him when I do so.
I thought the right hon. Gentleman was going to spoil my next remarks by drawing Members attention to the fact that President-elect Obama visited a pub in our country. He did so while visiting relatives in
Bracknell, but unfortunately he chose to go to a pub in the neighbouring Wokingham constituency. That was a mistake, but I am sure it can be put right.
It was refreshing to hear the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall) admit that he got something wrong. Would it not be wonderful if a few more of us Members did that a little more often? May I associate myself with his remarks on what seem to be the sometimes excessive salaries of chief executives and other senior officers of local authorities? That point becomes even more valid and relevant as the current economic recession bites even harder for many of our constituents.
Finally, while I am trying to be nice to Labour Members, let me commend the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Meg Munn). Although she is for the moment absent from the Chamber, let me also sayI think I speak for many Members on both sides of the House in doing sothat I was both surprised and disappointed when she was removed from the Government Front Bench. There would be a long list of Government Members whom I would have removed first. As was made clear by her speech, we in this House will benefit from her being on the Back Benches, and that will be a loss to the Government.
I wish to raise four issues that I believe the House should have addressed more fully before the Christmas recess. The first is the arrest of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) and the raiding of his offices and homes. I wish initially to discuss the issue of the police involvement. I was rather surprised yesterday that the internal inquiry was partially leaked by the police. It seems to me that either the internal inquiry should remain internal until the case has been concludedI would accept thator it ought to be published in full so we can see its findings. For it to be selectively leaked by the Metropolitan police is another example of crassness by the current senior officers in that force. All I can say is that it is a merciful relief for my constituents that they live in the Thames Valley police force area, rather than here in London.
Questions need to be raised if not now then in the near futureit is possible that they were raised in this internal reviewas to why 20 anti-terrorist police officers were needed to raid the four separate offices, and why they took away computers and mobile phones, which must have affected my hon. Friends work and was in breach of data protection and of the very special relationship we all have with our constituents. This was most unsatisfactory.
Keith Vaz: The right hon. Gentleman is right to raise these points. May I tell him that both the Home Secretary and the Metropolitan police have agreed to give evidence to the Home Affairs Committees inquiry into this matter, which will start on 20 January?
Mr. Mackay: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that. We will all follow his inquiry very closely.
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