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Barry Gardiner: Would my hon. Friend accept that it is not simply a matter of bailiffs being out of control, but a matter of councils-in this case Brent council-not communicating effectively when they have come to an agreement with the debtor on how to pay over a period
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of time, and then allowing the bailiffs to continue with the process of distraint, which causes enormous distress to constituents?

Barbara Keeley: Yes, indeed. I know from my own experience when I was a local government councillor the great distress that bailiffs can cause. It behoves the council to take my hon. Friend's points on board.

Let me add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and his wife Alison on the birth of their daughter Ella. I thank him for his praise of nurses and midwives. I will also take up the issues that he raised about the textile industry.

The contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) highlighted the benefit of these Adjournment debates. I commend her on the persistence that she has shown in raising the issues concerning trawlermen, who will now receive the compensation that they deserve. She has fought for that. She also mentioned her campaign, which she is persisting with, to reduce the tolls on the Humber bridge, with which most of us would agree. It is vital to make crossing backwards and forwards affordable.

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): The Deputy Leader of the House has just said that most of us would agree with the campaign of her hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) to reduce the tolls on the Humber bridge-certainly I agree with her-so is this a Government commitment?

Barbara Keeley: No, it is an expression of the solidarity of the pre-recess Adjournment debate more than anything else.

Let me deal with the serious comments made by the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard)- [ Interruption. ] He is over there. People have moved around; it is very confusing. I join him in paying tribute to all the men and women in our armed forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I pass on our condolences to the families of those who have been lost-another serviceman has been lost today. I am sure that other hon. Members know that this is also a question of providing support and solidarity for the families of those who have been injured. I have a constituent whose son was terribly injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, and that is a loss for the family, too.

Alison Seabeck: Would my hon. Friend be willing to commend the rehabilitation work that is carried out in a range of places around the country, including the naval base in Plymouth, particularly for people who have lost limbs?

Barbara Keeley: Yes, indeed. My constituent and his son had a very useful meeting with me and the Minister responsible for veterans, and the support that the young man is now getting in the rehabilitation phase is very important to him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) joined in the tribute to the armed forces. She is a member of the armed forces scheme, which is another useful parliamentary scheme. She said that she supported the armed forces and their mission. She also raised a number of quite serious-sounding issues about planning policy. Several Members have mentioned planning
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policy issues related to their local council. Such issues can be difficult. The plan that my hon. Friend mentioned-the major emerging plan to turn Northampton from a town into a city-is a plan of a different order, so I will pass her comments on.

Ms Keeble: Does my hon. Friend really think that six weeks, starting on 28 July, is sufficient time for the local community to be consulted on those major plans?

Barbara Keeley: No, I do not. If my hon. Friend looks at the Cabinet Office policy on consultation, she will see that a six-week period that takes no account of a holiday season would in no sense be regarded as acceptable. She could remind her local council of the Cabinet Office's good practice guidance on consultation, and suggest that it starts to stick to it. She also mentioned the scale of the planning developments in her constituency.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter) is not in his place-[Hon. Members: "Yes, he is! He's behind you!"] I should say that it is very confusing when Members move around the Chamber, because I tend to fix them in my mind. My hon. Friend highlighted what seemed to be a really disgraceful example of a council-Hammersmith and Fulham council-carrying out a very difficult-sounding scheme that is putting people out of the estates where they have lived since the 1950s and 1960s and moving a different type of person in. We have come across this before in this country, and it is a serious matter. My hon. Friend has invited other Members to dissociate themselves from such actions, and it is open to them to do so.

Mr. Slaughter: I apologise to my hon. Friend for confusing her, and for being slightly late for her speech. I blame the dodgy telly in the Adjournment restaurant, rather than not wanting to hear the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman. However, I understand that the hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara) did not mention several of the contributions to the debate. I wonder whether his failure to mention my speech illustrates his embarrassment that senior politicians in the Conservative party are describing council estates in my constituency as "ghettoes", and that, over wine and canapés, they are-

Mr. Speaker: Order. The enthusiasm of the hon. Gentleman's intervention is equalled only by its length.

Barbara Keeley: My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) raised a serious issue about the funding for further and higher education. He asked me to pass his comments on to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and I am happy to do that.

Jeremy Corbyn: I thank the Minister for mentioning that, and for giving way. This is a very serious issue. Will she impress on the Secretary of State that he needs to intervene personally to save those jobs and student places? In no way should the people who are responsible for this mess get off scot-free, yet it is the staff and students who are losing their jobs and courses because of those people's incompetence in the past.

Barbara Keeley: Yes, indeed.

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My hon. Friend also raised the issue of step-free access at stations such as Finsbury Park. Transport is also a serious issue in my constituency. I have two very useful friends of station groups-one is Friends of Walkden Station-and I have to say that the notion of moving to step-free access at our station is a dream. I can understand why, if the dream was promised and then taken away, many people would be disappointed. My hon. Friend also raised spoke about the electrification of the Barking-Gospel Oak railway line.

Harry Cohen rose-

Mr. Slaughter rose-

Barbara Keeley: I want to make progress and see if I can finish, as it is right for me to try to refer to all the contributions.

The next contribution came from the hon. Member for New Forest, East, who referred to the death of Cat Hickman; she was killed in the Camberwell fire and our thoughts and prayers are with her family on their terrible loss. The constituency of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House is, of course, Camberwell and Peckham, and I know how much she has done-even bearing in mind the pressure at the end of this parliamentary Session-to support her constituents over that incident. I will pass on the hon. Gentleman's comments to her.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) spoke about Heathrow expansion and particularly the bond scheme. He talked about people and families being trapped in blighted properties. We will try to take that issue forward for him.

John McDonnell: I say this more in sadness than in anger-although my Mace days may not be completely over-that, despite my raising the issue for three or four years, neither the Secretary of State nor any other Transport Minister has visited my constituency to meet the people who will lose their homes. Will my hon. Friend yet again take back to the Transport Department the request for a Minister to visit the people whose homes are under threat?

Barbara Keeley: I certainly will.

Several hon. Members rose -

Barbara Keeley: I need to move on.

The hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) raised the importance of twinning for church groups and others who want to entertain visitors from such a twinned area. I will make the necessary representations to the Minister for Borders and Immigration on the hon. Gentleman's behalf. In common with him, I know how much churches and communities gain from those visits.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) raised a number of different issues, including rural communities. He also spoke about violence in a constituency pub that involved the British National party member, Nick Griffin. That is a serious matter. The north-west, particularly Wigan, which adjoins my constituency, has also seen violence around BNP meetings. When it happens, it reveals a very reprehensible aspect of BNP politics; we just cannot have that at all. My hon. Friend also
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made representations on behalf of a head teacher and other senior school staff against whom allegations have been made. We are keenly aware of the effect that such allegations can have on a person's health, family and career. I think it is a matter of working to ensure that the systems for dealing with such allegations are fair and capable of resolving the issues quickly. I know that my hon. Friend has made the same representations on previous occasions, and I am sure that it has been helpful for him to have made them again tonight. He also referred to two Bills that he had introduced.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) gave another plug to the all-party beer group, which I suppose we can expect at this time of year. I will refer on his key point about representatives of the emergency services forum wanting to speak to people in government. It is concerning when so many people lose their lives on holiday. It should be a happy time of year and people should not come back from holidays, particularly in Spain, having lost loved ones.

The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Greg Mulholland)- [Interruption.] He is not in his place; he has obviously decided to go and sample the beer. Perhaps colleagues could pass on to him my response to the issues he raised about the north and the north-west. Leeds was the town I grew up in. The hon. Gentleman said that Leeds needs an arena, but wants Sheffield MPs to keep out of the debate. I should perhaps remind him about a casino in Manchester, in respect of which Leeds got heavily involved. It seems that, over there in Leeds, they need to take their own advice.

I believe that I have touched on most of the issues raised in the debate. If I have missed any out, I will make the necessary representations on behalf of hon. Members.

As we reflect on spending some 68 days working in our constituencies, as well as having the odd fortnight for a summer holiday, I would like to end by thanking all House staff, particularly the Hansard writers who make sense of our contributions. If they can make some sense of the debate that we have had tonight, that clearly shows their talent. I also thank the staff of the Tea Room, who keep us all going-

10 pm

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No 9(3).

Business without Debate


Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.

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Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.


Surface Mining (Shropshire)

10.1 pm

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I wish to raise an important issue in my constituency-[ Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. While I realise that there is a certain joie de vivre among Members-which is much to be appreciated-may I gently ask them to leave quietly? May I also say, by way of a gentle request to the Deputy Chief Whip, that it is a little unkind to intervene from a sedentary position, wittering to a colleague, when the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) is addressing the House?

Mark Pritchard: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wish to raise a matter that is of great importance to my constituents in The Wrekin in Shropshire. I am presenting this petition now because this is my last opportunity to do so before the Secretary of State is likely to make a decision. The petition, signed by 500 people, reads as follows:


21 July 2009 : Column 855

Decent Homes Programme (Funding)

10.2 pm

Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): Before we break for the summer, I want to raise a matter that requires action by the Government before the end of the recess.

I wish to present a petition on behalf of thousands of tenants in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), and, indeed, thousands of tenants well beyond the confines of the London borough of Sutton. It relates to the shocking news that decent housing funding, which is there to pay for major renovation and other works, is to be redirected to the construction of new buildings, including new homes.

There should not be a choice between renovation and new build. In the case of Sutton, where £112 million was expected to be available to pay for the replacement of more than 800 antiquated box bathrooms, insulation and other energy efficiency work, and much-needed improvements to plumbing and electricity in many developments, it is really disturbing to learn that the money is to be siphoned off. It comes as a blow to the morale of staff in Sutton Housing Partnership who have been working hard to draw up the plans and prepare for the Audit Commission's inspection this autumn, and has caused a sense of betrayal among the tenants.

The petition reads as follows:

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