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16 Dec 2009 : Column 1066

The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam) talked about a number of global issues, particularly the importance of the role of the EU in the world, and I will make sure his comments are passed on to Foreign Office Ministers. I hope he can make that point about the importance of the EU and our membership of it to his party colleagues as well, however. The hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Carswell) has today introduced a Bill questioning our membership of the EU and seeking a referendum on that, so the hon. Member for Orpington might want to do some proselytising on his own political side.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) raised a number of issues, in particular about the importance of education as the route out of poverty. I feel that strongly, too. When he was talking, I almost thought I was listening to events in parts of my constituency, such as schools getting more good GCSEs and more pupils going to university. These are all vital achievements. I was interested to hear about the successful mentoring scheme on the Tibbington estate in his constituency, and I hope it continues. I will certainly help to make the relevant Minister aware of it. It is also very good that schools are taking steps such as conducting the survey on local factors that my hon. Friend mentioned.

Finally, my hon. Friend complimented the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. My sister is a speech and language therapist, so I should probably not pass on without complimenting it, too. Speech and language therapists do a vital job, and there is great support in this House for the work they do.

The hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) began his speech rather amusingly by referring to the song, "The twelve days of Christmas", reflecting the musical theme we have had today. However, I am unsure where his series of complaints will take us. In fact, I am very glad that the Labour Government provided time to bring in the Hunting Act 2004; that was time well spent. I would like to pass on my sympathies to those affected by flooding, including those who were recently affected in Cumbria. Some streets in my constituency can flood when there is excess rain, and I know that we must keep thinking of the families and of the devastation that flooding causes. I am pleased that we are legislating to reduce the risks of serious flooding through the Flood and Water Management Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Colin Burgon) talked about the demise of neo-liberalism. What he said was very interesting and we will have to review that by re-reading Hansard. He will be glad to know that the Treasury said in the recent statement:

That ties in very well with what he said.

The hon. Members for Colchester (Bob Russell) and for Castle Point (Bob Spink) both raised the issue of school closures. I have found the schools adjudicator to be a useful stopping point, so it is a shame that the hon. Gentlemen cannot make the case there. However, we note and will pass on what they have said.

A number of hon. Members mentioned the Building Schools for the Future programme-that very large capital investment programme for the next 50 years,
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which will provide world-class teaching. Even though there are difficulties in some places, that programme is very worth while.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) talked about Gary McKinnon, and we shall pass on his comments to the Home Secretary. However, I understand that Mr. McKinnon's lawyers have applied for judicial review of the further decision. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East also talked about Yemen, and I can tell him that the UK has contributed an additional £2 million to the UN appeal for emergency aid. I should add that there is a Yemeni community of 600 to 700 people in Eccles, so Yemen is a concern to us in Salford, as it is to him.

The hon. Member for Southend, West who is the most regular attender of these debates, raised a number of points. I shall not deal with the political ones, but on his point about the scrutiny of senior public servant pay, he might wish to note the smarter Government initiative, which was announced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and the fact that there will be publication and scrutiny of those very high salaries that he mentioned-most of us think that it is about time. I wish to commend the work of the all-party group on drugs misuse-some of the House's all-party groups do very worthwhile work-and the mention of the importance of seatbelts and animal welfare at this time of year.

The contribution from the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) ranged across a number of topics, including the Royal British Legion-which had already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley-housing, the Navy and the Audit Commission. I was sorry to hear that Portsmouth was not chosen to be a host city for the 2018 World cup-if we get it-but as Plymouth was chosen we do not have to be too concerned.

I was also sorry to hear about the passing of the father of the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis). The hon. Gentleman went on to mention Afghanistan, the Royal Navy and the closure of hospital wards, and I shall write to him on those issues.

The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Jackson) raised the issue of the closure of the Land Registry office in his constituency, which he redefined as not being in the south-east but in the east midlands. We will take those representations forward for him. I am sure that everyone will be saddened to hear of the case that he mentioned; it is right that those who are exonerated should not be treated unfairly, and I shall write to him about the case.

The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Paul Holmes) raised a lot of issues relating to loca1 councils and bus fare funding, and I shall write to him about those.

My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Linda Gilroy) talked about the deeply shocking case in her constituency, which has provoked revulsion across the country. I know that she found it difficult not being able to talk about the case in this place as it was progressing. It is a very good thing that Plymouth city council has been able to support that community and the families. I expect that serious case review to be completed as soon as possible, and I am glad that my hon. Friend recognises the need for that. I shall ensure that I write to her about any other issues that she raised.

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The hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Dr. Taylor) discussed inspirational teachers, and a very good thing that is too. I will have to move over all the other things that were mentioned, as I must come to the end of my contribution, but I shall write to hon. Members about those.

We have much work to do when we return to the House after the Christmas recess. I should like to wish, as other hon. Members have done, a relaxing Christmas and a happy new year to all the staff who provide so much support to us throughout the year, particularly the staff of Hansard, the staff in the Library, everyone in the Tea Room, the other catering staff, the cleaners, the Clerks of the Committee, the police, the Serjeant at Arms and her team, and the doorkeepers. We really appreciate the work that they all do to ensure that this place runs as smoothly as possible. A number of Members were successful in obtaining Royal Assent for their private Members' Bill last year, and we hope that many more will be. I also want to wish a merry Christmas and a happy new year to Members on both sides of the House, despite the political point scoring that we had, and finally to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker-

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think that we have heard sufficient from the hon. Lady to get her drift. Her remarks are appreciated.

7 pm

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

Business without Debate

Sittings of the house

Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.


Badman Report (Tiverton and Honiton)

7 pm

Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): The House has received many petitions on the Badman report and I would like to present one tonight on behalf of my constituents.

The petition states:


Equitable Life (Reading East)

7.2 pm

Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): I want to present this petition from 20 residents of my constituency on the Government's response to the parliamentary ombudsman's report on Equitable Life.

The petition states that

It further states


in full

Following is the full text of the petition:

[ The Petition of residents of the constituency of Reading East in the Berkshire region of the U.K. regarding the Government's response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman's reports on Equitable Life,

Declares that the Petitioners either are or they represent or support members, former members or personal representatives of deceased members of the Equitable Life Assurance Society who have suffered maladministration leading to injustice, as found by the Parliamentary Ombudsman in her report upon Equitable Life, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on 16 July 2008 and bearing reference number HC 815; and further declares that the Petitioners or those whom they represent or support have suffered regulatory failure on the part of the public bodies responsible from the year 1992 onwards, but have not received compensation for the resulting losses and outrage.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to uphold the constitutional standing of the Parliamentary Ombudsman by complying with the findings and recommendations of her Report upon Equitable Life.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. ]


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Badman Report (Sutton/Cheam)

7.3 pm

Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): I am presenting this petition on behalf of Samia Tossio and a group of home educators in my constituency of Sutton and Cheam and in Worcester Park. It is one of a number of petitions to be presented to the House over the past few weeks that address the issue of the Government's plans dramatically to extend the state's power over family life, calling into question the freedom of parents responsibly to choose what is best for their children. The proposal would effectively nationalise home education, requiring all parents who choose to home educate to seek permission every year to do so. I believe that that is a disproportionate, ill-conceived and illiberal measure. I shall not read the text of the petition as other Members have already done so.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[ The Petition of persons resident in the Sutton/Cheam parliamentary constitution,

Declares that they are concerned about the recommendations of the Badman Report, which suggests closer monitoring of home educators, including a compulsory annual registration scheme and right of access to people ' s homes for local authority officials; further declares that the Petitioners believe the recommendations are based on a review that was extremely rushed, failed to give due consideration to the evidence, failed to ensure that the data it collected were sufficiently robust, and failed to take proper account of the existing legislative framework.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families either not to bring forward, or to withdraw, proposed legislative measures providing for tighter registration and monitoring of children educated at home in the absence of a thorough independent inquiry into the condition and future of elective home education in England; but instead to take the steps necessary to ensure that the existing Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities are properly implemented, learning from current best practice, in all local authorities in England.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. ]


Bristol Refugee Rights

7.3 pm

Stephen Williams (Bristol, West) (LD): I want to present a petition that is signed by 845 people, mainly residents of my Bristol, West constituency, who have signed a petition gathered by the Bristol refugee rights campaign.

The petition states:

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