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I move on to deal with the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), whose contributions to these debates are always greatly valued. I must say that his is the most
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memorable contribution to the debate and it will be referred to in the months to come. Indeed, it will play a part in the election campaign, because he made it quite clear that he does not believe that we should go ahead with the programme for the 65,000-tonnes carriers.

That is a pretty dramatic statement to make, but it was even more dramatic in so far as it was supported by quite a number of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues: the hon. Members for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) and for Congleton (Ann Winterton), as well as, slightly more subtly, the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin). It is quite clear to me that there is a hidden agenda emerging in the Tory party to cancel those carriers. That is a dramatic fact on which the people of this country will need to focus. I can see a clear issue between us at the general election, directly on defence procurement on that particular subject.

Mr. Soames: The hon. Gentleman has a reputation in the House for perhaps not telling things exactly as they are. I said that I do not think that we should go ahead with the big carriers and that we need to have smaller carriers such as HMS Ocean—probably three or four of them. That is not the same as saying we should not have carriers.

While the hon. Gentleman is sitting in his place, may I please ask him about the JSF—a point that I raised earlier? What about the weapons load? Is it correct that there will have to be a separate armament load for the Tornado and the Typhoon legacy aircraft and a different weapons load for the JSF?

Mr. Davies: The hon. Gentleman is right on the latter point in that the integration of some of our weapons, particularly Meteor, is being actively pursued. I have been pursuing it myself with Lockheed Martin and we will find a solution, although I cannot say exactly what the technical solution will be.

At the beginning of the intervention, the hon. Gentleman gave me the point. He may want to build more HMS Oceans, but he says he wants to cancel the 65,000-tonnes carriers—that is the point. Those are the carriers that we are building and the effect of cancelling them would be dramatic for the Navy and dramatic for our ability to deploy around the world. Far from this being a horse, as he implied—or a cold war project, as I think he said—it is the absolute opposite. It is a means to transport our airfields around the world wherever we need them, and of applying power wherever we need to do so in the modern world. That is a long way from the fixed front line of the cold war; it could not be further away from it.

The hon. Member for Congleton made a number of points. She talked about the interesting issue of the lessons of the Rhodesian insurgency, which I took note of. The hon. Member for North Essex said that standardisation of equipment is hopeless. I do not agree with him about that. NATO tried to standardise equipment for 40 years and failed, so one has to be sceptical about it. Nevertheless, the effort continues to be made and the extent to which we can make small progress is extremely useful.

The hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) asked a number of questions about our spending in Scotland. I have to tell him that those are matters that I
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have never concerned myself with, because at the moment, I am delighted to say, Scotland is part of this country. Therefore, I do not go round worrying about that sort of thing.

I put this question to the hon. Gentleman: what future does he think there would be for the Scottish defence industry, which he rightly praised, and I totally agree with him about that, if Scotland became independent? Why would the companies I visited—Thales in Glasgow, Selex in Edinburgh and subsidiaries of major foreign multinationals—put their facilities in Scotland? They would be outside the defence industrial strategy and we would not be allowed, under the European rules, to discriminate in favour of them as against French, German or Italian-based industries. The investment in the defence industry in Scotland would rapidly disappear.

The hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) did not, to the great disappointment of the House, talk about RAF Lyneham, other than to mention it in passing, although he made an important point in a good humoured speech. I agree with that point, which is that we should not be spending defence pounds on the defence industry for industrial reasons. We should be spending defence pounds for defence reasons alone. Of course it is important to have a defence industry, but that is for military reasons—not just reasons of security of supply, but the fact that we need to upgrade, integrate new technology in the future and be in control of the technology we have now.

I would add an important point, which I have come across very much during my experience in this job: it is a great mistake to be a demander, and purely a demander, with any other country, however strong an ally or partner it might be. We always have to have something to offer—some area of technology where we are up with or ahead of the game. We cannot be completely naked when we go into such negotiations.

The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) spoke of the need for helicopters, and I agreed with him. We are trying to do everything possible to get new platforms into theatre, and to improve training so that we can use the platforms that we have—to improve the use of our assets. I consider our present record to be pretty creditable, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give us credit for it. We are re-engining the Lynxes, and they will be deployable in time for next year’s “hot and high” season in the summer of 2010. We will deploy the Merlins from Iraq later this year in Afghanistan, and the new Mark 3 Chinooks will be available for operational deployment within the next few months. There are a lot of good stories about helicopters, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman at least will give the Government some credit where it is due.

The hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) always distorts everything that I say. What I said in connection with the European Union and Transylvania—I think I cited Alte Adige, Alsace-Lorraine and several other areas—was that one of the great achievements of the European Union had been to dissolve the centuries-long ethnic and national conflicts that had shed so much blood in the past.

Dr. Murrison rose—

Mr. Davies: I will not give way now, because I have too little time.

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I am sorry to say that the debate began with a personal attack on me, and an attack on the Government’s record. It was a bit rich for the Conservatives to start talking about the apparent failures of this Government in the field of defence procurement, given that we have an extremely proud record and have done so much in relation to armoured vehicles, naval systems and air power—to which I have just referred—and given their dismal record when they were last in power. They presided over some of the greatest procurement disasters incurred not just in this country but, probably, anywhere. What about Annington Homes? What about the Chinook? How utterly incompetent it was to place that contract without asking where the airworthiness certificates would come from! What about Nimrod? In every business school it is cited as an example of a bad procurement contract. The Tory party was responsible for those failures. It is a bit rich! We have had to clear up the mess; we have inherited the legacy of Tory incompetence.

It was claimed that I did not say the same when I was a Tory myself—sadly and mistakenly. I am proud to have changed my coat now, by the way, and if the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) calls me a turncoat every day, I shall be delighted. I am wearing the right coat. I am wearing the coat of the party that now represents all the things that I have believed in for as long as I have been in politics. [Interruption.] Oh, yes.

What is more, I did say the same about defence. Not only did I say the same about defence, but I wrote the same about defence during the period of the last Tory Government. I have been able to put my hand on a pamphlet that I co-authored with a number of colleagues in 1995. It deals with the Tory Government’s record, and it proves that I was saying the same things then. It is an interesting pamphlet. Let me read out the names of the colleagues who co-authored it. There is the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier), who, then as now, was acknowledged to be a great expert in military matters. He was the guy who conceived the project and chaired our meetings. There is Davies: he is number two on the list, because he drafted most of the material. There are Allison, Duncan Smith, Fishburn, Garnier, Goodson-Wickes, Hargreaves, Mans, Robathan—it is an interesting group of characters—Taylor and Riddick. And what did we say in 1995? We said that a vacuum in strategic policy, combined with large reductions in defence spending, had led to severe overstretch and to a fall in morale in our armed forces. We went on to say that morale was at an historic low point, and that defence procurement was thoroughly inadequate.

All that was said in 1995. The hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) made the disgraceful suggestion that I was talking rubbish—or, he implied, uttering an untruth—when I said what I had said at that time was exactly what I am saying now about the Tory party, and I think that he should apologise.

Mr. Soames: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to speak such utter rubbish at the end of an important debate?

Mr. Speaker: It is in order for hon. Members to stay in order, and the hon. Gentleman concerned was in order.

10 pm

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

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Business without Debate




Tax (Alcohol)

10 pm

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): This petition, with 1,628 signatures from customers of pubs such as the Clipper, the Maritime, the Fresher, the Varsity and the Swallow, and others including Wyndham square in my constituency, backs a great British tradition: the British pub and specifically the drinking of beer, both of which are under pressure from a variety of sources, including the decision in last year’s Budget that, in order to ensure that prices keep pace with rising incomes, alcohol duty will increase by 2 per cent. above the rate of inflation in future years. Incomes are no longer increasing, however.

The petition states:


Care Services (Essex)

10.1 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): The measure of our society is how we care for our vulnerable people. Wardens for residents in elderly people’s residential homes are not a disposable luxury. They are essential to residents’ well-being and quality of life. I have successfully fought councillors previously to keep our wardens, and I hope to win again this time. Castle Point councillors should not be chopping wardens and hanging the elderly people out to dry. Perhaps if councillors had not massively increased the pay of their officers and spent so much on outside consultants on a variety of projects the council would have the money to keep wardens in residential homes, and I congratulate everyone who signed this excellent petition.

The petition states:

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Pain Management Services (England)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —(Mr. Ian Austin.)

10.3 pm

Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South) (Lab): In the United Kingdom, 7.8 million people live with pain, day in and day out; that is the equivalent of about one in seven people in every single parliamentary constituency. I have asked for this debate in order to draw attention both to their problems and, more importantly, to some solutions that would not only improve the quality of life of so many of our constituents, but reduce public expenditure on health, social care and incapacity benefits. If anyone is wondering why I, as a Scottish MP, am raising the issue of pain management services in England when health is a devolved issue, it is because I am the chairman of the recently set up all-party group on chronic pain. I suppose I should also declare an interest: I am one of the 7.8 million people in the UK who live with chronic pain.

There could not be a better opportunity to consider the problem and suggest solutions. People in pain and the health professionals helping them have been pushing at a closed door for many years now. They have argued for early recognition of the needs of people in pain, early access to expert advice and treatment, and referral to a specialist pain clinic when necessary. That door was closed until recently; suddenly, it looks as though it is opening, and I am grateful to the chief medical officer for beginning that process. His latest annual report, only just published, includes a chapter called “Pain: breaking through the barrier”. Sir Liam Donaldson looks at the issue of people living with pain in a sensitive and comprehensive way, and concludes with this statement:

The all-party group that I chair and voluntary and professional groups represented on the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition agree with that conclusion and are committed to ensuring that the vision set out in the CMO’s report moves from recommendation to practical implementation. That means making improving pain services a priority for the Department of Health, and for every strategic health authority, primary care trust and provider to NHS trusts. That is because pain is part of a patient’s experience, in GP surgeries as well as in acute hospital wards and in operating theatres. Patients may discuss their pain and its management with any number of health professionals, including a pharmacist, a nurse, a physiotherapist or their GP, yet effective co-ordinated services are few and far between.

The evidence suggests that although pain services do exist in most secondary care NHS trusts, they are patchy, and variable in their resources and in the services that they provide. Crucially, the CMO’s report makes this point: each year, more than 5 million people in the United Kingdom develop chronic pain, but only two thirds will recover. Clearly, much more needs to be done to improve outcomes for patients. He reminds us that pain affects 7.8 million people, and that more than a third of households have someone in pain at any given time. Those figures are rising. Indeed, recent surveys suggest that chronic pain is more common now than it was 40 years ago.

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Pain is becoming more common, but the effect that it has on individual lives is immense. The CMO highlights the fact that pain has a major impact on people’s lives, causing sleeplessness and depression, and interfering with normal physical and social functioning. That often leads to unemployment. He points out how it affects all age groups. Perhaps most worryingly, he states that 8 per cent. of children experience severe pain, that back pain alone costs the economy £12.3 billion per year and that early intervention may prevent pain from becoming persistent. In fact, it has been shown that the cost of chronic pain is greater than that of heart disease or diabetes.

Looking at the limited number of specialist pain clinics, the CMO points out that systems and infrastructure do not meet need or demand, and that better co-ordination of services, and services designed around patients’ needs, are essential. Pain needs to be considered in its own right, because it is often the pain that dominates the patient’s life, not the illness or condition that causes the pain. As one patient has said:

Another said:

Clearly, we have a duty to ensure that the individual has access to the right treatment as early as possible. That treatment has to come from a properly trained professional, and a multidisciplinary team if needed.

I was surprised by the amount of interest that this debate has generated. I have been contacted by a number of organisations wishing me to raise their concerns. Age Concern and Help the Aged have particular issues relating to the elderly. They say that pain is not a normal part of the ageing process, and we should not accept it as such. We should challenge discrimination and ageist attitudes with regard to pain in older people. They say that constant pain can lead to a loss of dignity. Some 90 per cent. of calls to Arthritis Care’s helpline concern pain, most of them from people in severe pain. In the UK, pain crises account for 60 to 80 per cent. of emergency presentations in hospital admissions for sickle cell disorder.

This is not the first time I have had an Adjournment debate on the issue of pain. Ever since the Government first indicated that they intended to withdraw the analgesic co-proxamol, I have been trying to persuade Ministers that it should not be completely withdrawn as a small group of people still has not been able to find an alternative and certainly not anything so effective. These are all people who suffer chronic pain, who are saying that only co-proxamol works not because they want to be awkward but because it allows them to carry on with their life. One person in that position has said:

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