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The hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) spoke about her co-operative roots and the pride that she has in her community and, particularly, its multicultural
heritage. My hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin) paid tribute to Sir Michael Spicer, and I echo the tribute that she paid to a man who made a great contribution to the House. She also noted the damage that has been done to the pensions industry over the past decade, and I am sure that, with her considerable financial expertise, she will contribute to the coalition Government's work on that.
The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Gregg McClymont) has the prize for the constituency name that is most likely to stump Ministers, and he will forgive me if I did not pronounce it very well. My hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths) made a very humorous contribution to the debate and drew on the colourful characters who have previously represented his part of the country, as well as discussing its brewing heritage; I think that perhaps the two things are not unconnected.
I know how highly regarded my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) already is in her constituency, because I have been there and visited her local Sure Start centres. Its residents have a great Member of Parliament in her. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) spoke of famous past residents, including Lewis Carroll. He referred to Alice in his quote from Lewis Carroll's work. I would perhaps have referred to the Mad Hatter's tea party, because it can often feel like that in this place; he will know what I mean shortly, I am sure.
The contribution by the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer) challenged the House's tradition of listening in silence to maiden speeches. I apologise if I joined some other Members in exclaiming at some of the things that he said. I will not pick up on those points in detail now, but perhaps we can talk in the Tea Room.
My hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Ms Bagshawe) made a fluid and assured speech in which she drew the House's attention to the excellent support that forces families receive in the United States through the Veterans Administration. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends who deal with defence issues will study her comments closely. The hon. Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue) spoke of the grit and determination of her constituents. I am sure that the House will benefit from her 23 years' experience of working in a citizens advice bureau.
Turning to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), I clearly remember his moment of victory on general election night-it was something that stood out. In his maiden speech, the House caught a glimpse of the intellectual, analytical and, above all, compassionate approach that he will have to his job. The hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) reminded us that her constituency is the birthplace of the Arsenal football team. I will remind my sons of that, as they are great fans.
My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White) gave us a thoughtful account of his feelings about poverty and the fact that it affects all parts of the country in many different ways. The hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) spoke movingly about the working poor and the role of Sure Start. She also mentioned the future jobs fund. I would merely say to her that under that programme 100,000 jobs have been granted to the successful bidders.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) drew our attention to the fact that hers is a new constituency, and I know that it will benefit from her extensive experience. She spoke movingly about opening the eyes of the next generation in her constituency to poverty in Africa; that is something that will have helped them.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) talked about his bit of Swindon being the new Disneyland. He also said that Swindon is famous for roundabouts. Speaking as the Member of Parliament for Basingstoke, I think that we are more famous for roundabouts-I will challenge him on that one.
My hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker) spoke with pride and passion about the part of the country that he represents, and reminded the House that we all have to improve the life chances of looked-after children. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod) reminded us that her part of the world is the new silicon valley of west London. Importantly, she pointed out that she will put country before party, in the best spirit of this coalition Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) was getting us all booking our holidays to Bury this summer when he talked about the wonderful part of the country that he represents. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) reminded us that he represents the home town of the late Larry Grayson. He also spoke movingly about the role that inter-generational poverty can have in the context of this debate.
I very much welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry) to the House. I know that she will contribute greatly to the work of this place. She will be a dedicated and effective voice for us, drawing on her extensive experience before coming here.
My neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Meon Valley (George Hollingbery), reminded us where his constituency is and also of the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit in Hampshire, which is alive and well among the backyard brewers of his constituency. We were all pleased to hear that.
Last but absolutely by no means least, I think the House will agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Jessica Lee) spoke eloquently about the history and heritage of her constituency. I reassure her that football shorts would not really be in the dress code of this place-well, not at the moment. Maybe we are far too conservative in such things and should change that.
This has been an important debate. It was important that we put the issue of poverty before the House early on in this Parliament to explain how we as a Government will tackle it. Members have heard in the comments of the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell, and myself about this Government's commitment to tackling poverty throughout the country. Poverty comes with a host of other problems that have a visible and measurable effect on families across the country. If we fail to address those challenges, we will fail many of those families and their children.
Opposition Members who contributed to the debate of course tried to explain what they feel the previous Government achieved, but they also have to listen carefully to what is said about the areas in which they did not make progress. If we are trying to draw together a more consensual Government who build together for a future of success, we need to ensure that we work together on matters such as this. Through the newly established Cabinet Committee that will consider these issues, we will draw up a child poverty strategy in line with the Child Poverty Act 2010. I hope that Opposition Members will be able to contribute to that strategy so that it enjoys the support of all Members.
We must take steps to deal with the underlying problems that have made poverty such a corrosive issue in this country for too many years. Through radical welfare reform, we will reinforce fairness and encourage responsibility, and I believe that we will start to build a stronger community for a better Britain. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House can come together to deliver that.
That this House has considered the matter of tackling poverty in the UK.
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me this evening. May I congratulate you on your elevation to your rightful place in the Chair? I am pleased to say that I voted for you, but it actually made no difference because your victory was overwhelming.
I thank Mr Speaker for giving me permission to hold this debate on a topic of extreme importance to my constituency. In conducting research on the issue, I have found that it is a growing problem across the country and will affect the constituencies of many hon. Members up and down the land. If there are Members present who wish to give local examples of how it affects their constituencies, I will be very happy to take interventions at any point.
The issue that I wish to raise is the adoption of local residential roads. In most of our constituencies, most residential roads are adopted by the local highways authority. In counties such as Northamptonshire, that is the local county council. However, when roads are built on new housing estates, they are in the ownership of the developers until they are handed over to the county council at some point. An adopted road is maintainable at public expense, but if a road has not been handed over to the local highways authority, it is the responsibility of the developer or, more worryingly, of the owners of properties with frontages in that road. Indeed, the Transport Minister in the previous Government wrote to me on this issue and confirmed that the local authority, as the highway authority, is responsible for maintaining those streets that have been adopted by it or its predecessor authorities-
Mr Hollobone: If the street has not been adopted, the responsibility for maintenance rests with the owner or, more usually, the frontages-the owners of the properties that front on to or abut the streets concerned. Those purchasing a property in an unadopted street should be advised of its status and the implications by their solicitor. I fear that in all too many cases people who purchase properties in unadopted streets are not being advised of the potential liability that they face. My first request tonight to those on the Treasury Bench would be to look at ways in which the estate agents code or the solicitors code could be revised so that purchasers of property in such roads are advised of their potential liabilities. I know that that is not the direct responsibility of the Minister who is being kind enough to reply to the debate, but I would be grateful if he passed it on to the relevant Minister or Ministers with responsibility.
This issue is important for places such as Kettering, because we are experiencing rapid housing growth. Under the present housing targets-they could be revised, and I hope that they are-the number of houses in my constituency is set to increase from 36,000 at present to
49,000 by 2021. That is an increase of one third. Potentially, in the next 11 years, one third of the residential roads in my constituency could be unadopted.
If a road is not adopted, there are lots of potential problems. For a start, almost by definition, the standard of the road surface and the pavement treatment are not up to the requisite Highways Authority standard. In the sort of estates concerned, the size of the kerb between the pavement and the road surface is often far bigger than normal, and represents a major trip hazard, especially for elderly residents, and many difficulties for young mums with pushchairs. I have had representations from local residents of Mawsley, a village in my constituency, on that very issue.
Developers are also responsible for the street lighting in those roads until they are handed over, and it is often substandard. Other issues include local authority access. There are places where local authorities will not send in rubbish carts to collect rubbish because of the lack of suitable access. Furthermore, speeding and parking enforcement cannot take place because the roads are not adopted. The Poppy Fields development in Kettering, close to Kettering general hospital, frequently experiences nuisance parking, but the county and borough councils can do nothing to address it. They cannot put in yellow lines or residents' parking, because the highway is not adopted and is therefore not the responsibility of either local authority.
When I looked into this issue, I was staggered to learn that the Government have no idea how many unadopted roads there are in this country. I pointed this out to the Minister's predecessor and he did not seem very concerned. However, I am hugely concerned, because the available figures suggest that there are some 40,000 unadopted roads with a total length of 4,000 miles. However, those statistics come from 1972, and no attempt has since been made to revise them. One of my requests to a previous Transport Minister was that the Government try to collect more up-to-date data on the extent of the problem, and I pass that request on to the new Transport Minister. I would think that a basic requirement to establish the full extent of the problem.
The difficulty is that there is in law no effective mechanism for the local highways authorities to force developers to get the roads up to the requisite standard so that they can be handed over to public authorities for adoption. Various mechanisms are in place, but when it comes to the crunch, they are effectively toothless. The main problem is section 38 of the Highways Act 1980. Following the debate I secured on this subject, with the permission of the Speaker, on 11 November last year, a previous Transport Minister made one concession: I could meet his officials to talk about the matter. I am pleased to say that, after much effort on my part to hold him to that kind offer, a meeting took place in March this year.
I and senior representatives from Kettering borough council and Northamptonshire county council met in the Department for Transport with some extremely helpful officials, and we made quite a lot of progress. A number of suggestions were made, not least that we find out the extent of the problem around the country. I am pleased to say that Northamptonshire county council contacted its colleagues around the country and was overwhelmed by the response. I shall read out some of those responses. Hampshire country council said:
"We have had our fair share too".
"We certainly had issues with developments where progress has been slow and sewers hadn't been adopted."
"This as you would expect is also a fairly major irritation in Worcestershire."
"I can confirm that we certainly have such problems in Devon, most notably relating to delayed adoption of sewers".
"Very much an issue here in Herts."
Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): My hon. Friend is listing the areas of the country where this is a concern, but he has not mentioned-he might not know about it, of course-the situation in the East Riding of Yorkshire, in my constituency, particularly in Hook and the small town of Snaith, where there are several examples of developments where this has happened. This is, indeed, a national problem. As he has intimated, people look to their local authorities for support on this matter, and they ask, "Why are we continuing to pay council tax when we are not getting the same access to services as other council tax payers?" The local authorities are in a difficult position, and this is a big issue in the East Riding of Yorkshire and throughout my constituency. As he said, we need national and Government leadership, because it is not acceptable for his and my constituents to be left in limbo as they are now.
Mr Hollobone: My hon. Friend is spot on. He is absolutely right, and I am grateful to him for adding the East Riding of Yorkshire to my list. If he will encourage his colleagues there to reply to Tony Ciaburro at Northamptonshire county council, we can complete this list and send it to the Government. That was a most helpful intervention.
"We have had some problems over the years."
"Confirm this is an issue in Dorset".
"NCC and most other Highway Authorities experience exactly the same difficulties."
"we certainly have our fair share of these in Essex."
"It is certainly a problem in Cambridgeshire."
"The Highways Act is out of date."
"Similar problems in Staffs together with another issue related to roads constructed by developers that are not intended for adoption."
"Wiltshire certainly has its share of problems."
"I agree that the legislation as currently set out is well out of date and needs to be re-written".
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