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If the House is able to end the business of having to report separately to the Registrar of Members Interests and the Electoral Commission, the Government stand
ready to commence section 59 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 so that we, as parliamentarians, have to report to only one place.
Several hon. Members referred to the matter of whether we should elect all members of Select Committees and whether we should elect the Chairmen of Select Committees by secret ballot. Although that sometimes seems an attractive option, there is a danger that if the majority vote were always to carry the decision on the membership and Chairman of every Committee, we would not have the independent Committees that we need. The minor parties would suffer most.
I say to those who call for a business Committee of the House that they fail to understand the major and significant difference between this House, in which the Government are constituted solely by virtue of their majority, and other Parliaments that operate differently, in which Ministers are often precluded from being members of the legislature. To those who believe that a nirvana might come if we were to have a business Committee, I say that other Parliaments that have such committees have precisely the same complaints about whether there is the right allocation of time and whether individual Back Benchers have their interests met and can make speeches.
Some hon. Members suggested that this Government have not been radical enough on constitutional reform. All that I would say is that when the Liberals were in power, they never managed to reform the House of Lords in any way at all. The Conservatives never had any desire to do so, and it is only this Government who have managed to remove the majority of the hereditary peers. It is only by virtue of our work that the Law Lords have been reformed. We are proud to be a Government who have brought forward devolution and freedom of information.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) demanded that I agree with every single thing that he said, but I am afraid that I am unable to do that. He said that I have fallen among thieves by virtue of my membership of the Government. Well, there is honour among thieves, and the truth is that this Government are committed to the reform of Parliament. Nobody should have a job for life, we should have a smaller Chamber and we have laid out a clear path to reform.
I am glad to have my right hon. Friends the Leader of the House and the Lord Chancellor by my side as I point out to hon. Members who have said that we are not being diligent enough in bringing forward constitutional reform that we committed ourselves in the Queens Speech to introducing a constitutional renewal Bill later this year. I believe that the whole House is united in wanting to protect its reputation and in its determination to do everything necessary to ensure that that happens.
That this House believes that all Members of both Houses of Parliament should uphold the highest standards in public life, should be UK residents for tax purposes and should face the toughest sanctions if they undermine Parliaments reputation; notes that the Government has taken significant steps to strengthen probity in the political system, including the revised Ministerial Code in July 2007 and the appointment of an independent adviser on Ministerial interests and the creation of the independent Electoral Commission; notes the inquiries established by the Leader of the House of Lords; further notes that this House has a clear code of conduct governing hon. Members and has adopted tough new rules on Members allowances, a new requirement to declare and register any family members employed by hon. Members, a robust new audit system which will see the independent National Audit Office carrying out a full-scope audit of Members expenditure and a transparent system of publication of details of their expenses; supports the Prime Ministers commitment to further constitutional reform as outlined in the Governance of Britain, including the dissolution and recall of Parliament and the power to declare war and to ratify treaties; notes the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill by the Joint Committee; notes that the Political Parties and Elections Bill proposes to restrict political spending, bring greater transparency to political funding and strengthen the Electoral Commission as an effective regulator; and hopes that all parties engage constructively in developing a consensual approach to political party finance..
That the Employment and Support Allowance (Up-rating Modification) (Transitional) Regulations 2008 (S.I., 2008, No. 3270), dated 18 December 2008, be referred to a Delegated Legislation Committee. (Chris Mole.)
The borough and county councillors have known of, but ignored, the poor junction design at Climmen road, resulting in numerous accidents and, we now hear, injuries. Borough Councillor Alan Partridge says he was aware of visibility problems, but that is simply not good enough. I demand action from those councillors and I congratulate Samantha Mitchell and her superb fellow residents on producing this petition. It states:
The Petition of Samantha Mitchell and local residents,
Declares that residents are deeply concerned about the safety of the road design at the junction of Climmen Road and Central Wall Road and have noted many accidents at this roundabout junction including injury accidents involving children, and therefore call on the Borough and County councillors to listen to residents and improve the road design in consultation with residents.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to review its guidance to local councils on the design of road junctions where mini roundabouts are used and to ask the local authority to investigate this particular junction and to implement a new and safer scheme after full and detailed consultation with residents.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab): I am delighted to have secured this debate about Eastham, as I feel strongly that it has been dealt a series of unfair blows recently, and I am pleased to have so many colleagues around to support me. Every community needs to retain certain basic facilities, which need to be preserved and protected from planning and other decisions that threaten to damage them. Any community needs an essential core. Eastham is characterised by being a pleasant and normal English community. It is not an inner city area. It is not rural. It does not depend on any one industry. In many respects, it is a microcosm of our society. My central motivation in leading this debate tonight is to challenge decisions that have been taken and to try to ensure that Eastham and other communities like it do not continue to be the victims of chance.
Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Like my hon. Friend, I am a great fan of Eastham. As a boy, I used to cycle down by the locks there. Will he tells us a little about the general environment, because I do not think that people understand what a picturesque place Eastham is?
Local authorities should have a vision for the protection and preservation of and comprehensive development strategies for communities such as Eastham. Decisions that do not act to Easthams advantage should be taken within a framework of detailed local knowledge and in accordance with the needs of local people, rather than by dint of the vagaries of chance, ad hoc actions and the whims of others, without heeding the consequences.
As my hon. Friend suggested, it might be useful to provide an overview of Easthams place in Wirral and its history. It has a population of about 12,000. Much of it is a green belt area, stretching from the border of the Bromborough industrial estate to the historic Manchester ship canal, the entrance to which is in Eastham at Queen Elizabeth dock. The original village of Eastham, around which more modern housing has been developed, is one of the oldest villages on the Wirral peninsula. It has been inhabited since Anglo-Saxon times and was mentioned in the Domesday Book. St. Marys church, which is at the heart of the village, is still active today, of course. The closure of its primary school some while ago, however, did not augur well for the sort of development of which I will speak.
the finest old English village I have ever seen, with rural aspect, utterly unlike anything in America, in its midst a venerable church with a most venerable air.
Eastham village conservation area was designated in April 1974, and Wirral metropolitan borough council has specific policy objectives for it: to maintain the sense of separation from the surrounding built-up area through the retention of open spaces around the village core; to preserve the setting and sense of enclosure afforded by boundary walls, hedges and mature landscaping; and to preserve the visual setting of the village cross, war memorial and the church of St. Mary, with its yard and lichgate. Although I welcome that limited protection for the historic village, what is needed is a comprehensive policy framework for development in the whole area.
Eastham, like many other communities, has a small number of the key facilities that make it up. There is a much-valued day centre, which provides vital facilities for adults with learning and physical disabilities, and the excellent Lyndale school, which specialises in the education of children with profound and multiple learning difficulties. It is a centre of excellence. Last October, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, I saw the admirable work carried out by its talented and committed teaches.
Other local amenities include the usual selection of cafés and shops. A new medical centre is being developed, and there are facilities such as a rugby club, an Air Training Corps site and allotments. One of Easthams most treasured aspects is its country park, which is central to its character and a popular attraction. Home to a huge range of wildlife, it is a local treasure. It is also an important educational resource. Every year, park rangers lead more than 3,000 schoolchildren on activities, thus nurturing an interest in and understanding of nature and their environment that will stay with them into their adult life. Despite the loss of the Church primary school, good mainstream schooling is provided at Heygarth, Millfields, Mendell and Raeburn primary schools. South Wirral high school provides excellent secondary education.
But there are problems. Eastham gets little by way of funding. It suffers, like other areas that are neither rural nor inner city, from a lack of funding streams. My constituency as a whole and Eastham in particular is heterogeneous, rather than uniform in character. Notwithstanding the Governments investment in communities that has surpassed that of any other Government, areas that may be classified as suburbanalthough Eastham would not see itself in that lightare in danger of falling between two stools and thus missing out on the resources that they need. Urban and rural areas benefit from policies, lobbies and organisations adept at getting the most out of the bidding system. Areas such as Eastham suffer as a result and do not benefit greatly from, for example, neighbourhood renewal, Sure Start or other such improvement funds. It is also a long way, and is seen as such, from the town hall in Wallasey.
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