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The learning disability group has been helped considerably by Mencap. Today, I shall rely on its research and the many conclusions that it has reached. It published “Death by indifference” in 2007. Indeed, I had a debate in this Hall when the Labour Government were in power, so I hope that I will not be regarded as party political.

The report highlighted the tragic consequences of deep-rooted institutional discrimination in the NHS against people with a learning disability. In many cases, NHS staff did not know about the specific needs of people with a learning disability and did not take the time to understand and meet those needs. People with a learning disability are some of the most vulnerable members of society and have some of the most profound health care needs. Although the Government investigated the issue in the independent inquiry led by Sir Jonathan Michael, in a poll conducted on behalf of Mencap, almost one half of doctors, or 47%, and one third of nurses, or 37%, said that people with a learning disability received a poorer standard of health care than the rest of the population. In the same poll, 39% of doctors and 34% of nurses went as far as saying that people with a learning disability were discriminated against in the NHS.

I want to deal with the NHS complaints system. The unnecessary deaths—sadly, that has been the case—of people with a learning disability do nothing to increase public confidence in the ability of the NHS to give effective care to those vulnerable members of society who are most in need of it. However, that is compounded by the malfunctioning NHS complaints system which, as a result of being time-consuming, defensive and too heavily weighted in favour of health professionals, refuses to learn from previous mistakes in order to drive up standards and increase public confidence.

Following its “Death by indifference” report, Mencap has helped a number of families through the complaints system. It is revealing that not a single family has ever said they felt that justice had been achieved through the local complaints procedure. That is due to the overwhelming desire of NHS trusts to stand up for their staff, the potential conflicts of interest when NHS staff investigate complaints made about people working in the same trust, and a fundamental lack of understanding about what learning disability is.

The same issues are evident when the complaints are escalated to the parliamentary and health service ombudsman. NHS trusts have disproportionate access to support, in comparison with the families going through the complaints process. In addition, the time scales given for complaints to be dealt with are usually longer than expected and only succeed in drawing out a family’s grief.

I would like to conclude with a few comments on this theme. In light of tragic cases of misunderstanding in administering health care to vulnerable people, public confidence in the NHS understandably has been undermined. The defensive nature of the NHS complaints system, however, means that the NHS does not learn valuable lessons which could help prevent unnecessary deaths from occurring in the future. Public and patient confidence in the NHS will be improved only with greater accountability and transparency so that people can see that efforts are being made to drive up standards. The complaints process is central to that and therefore

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requires a fundamental overhaul to make it a more impartial and reflective system. That is necessary to drive up health outcomes across the NHS and to increase public confidence in it.

3.9 pm

John Pugh (Southport) (LD): Putting aside his conspiracy theory, I congratulate the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer) on initiating this important and timely event. I say that it is timely, but it is not timely for the poor Minister, who was unwell yesterday, and who does not look too good today. I understand that his colleague, the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), is now also smitten, so the casualties from the Committee considering the Health and Social Care Bill are on the increase.

There may be good reasons for substantial change in the NHS, and one of those that has been given is not that the public are not satisfied with the NHS, but that they should not be satisfied with it. It must be conceded, of course, that the case for radical change is lessened a little if the public are increasingly satisfied with what goes on. The hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to, and put beyond all doubt, the fact that the public are satisfied with the NHS, and we should have that important truth out in the open. Whatever we do in policy, it is important that we are evidence-led, and a wanton disregard for evidence when making policy is wicked and morally irresponsible.

If we ignore the conspiracy theory aspects of the hon. Gentleman’s contribution, it is clear that he has done the House a service by drawing attention to the truth that the public are broadly satisfied with the NHS. We cannot be as confident, however, about the explanations for that. It is most unlikely that public satisfaction is unconnected with things such as decreased waiting lists and increased investment. It is also most unlikely that it is unconnected with the dedication and skill of NHS staff, which remain no matter what politicians decide in this place.

However, satisfaction can be linked to other things, such as sentiment. Some years ago, research into the NHS produced some rather puzzling outcomes. If people in general were asked about the NHS, they had a fairly negative view, but if they were asked about their personal treatment at the hands of the NHS, they were thoroughly satisfied. That was explained by the way in which the media portrayed the NHS and the way in which stories about the NHS appeared in the media.

Another interesting bit of data, which the hon. Gentleman did not allude to, indicates that we are talking not just about a switch in what the media, and therefore the public, are saying. Reports about the NHS by NHS workers themselves have been increasingly positive. Worryingly, there was a stage when a lot of them would give a rather bad account of what was going on in the NHS when they were asked about it. Recently, the data have shown quite conclusively that people working in the NHS speak more positively about it. Such people are more immune to changes in media tone.

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The debate so far, however, has been not so much about whether people are satisfied, which we can all take as read, as about whether they should be satisfied. Clearly, that depends not on whether they are satisfied with the NHS, but on whether the NHS actually does its job, which is to make people more healthy, not more satisfied. To give an example, people often feel very satisfied and contented with small maternity units, but such units sometimes have higher infant mortality rates, and outcomes are actually less satisfactory.

Patient-reported outcome measures—PROMs—sometimes show a different picture from clinical outcomes. We have mentioned independent treatment centres, and a lot of evidence seems to show that people are very satisfied with them, although the satisfaction is more to do with the catering and reception arrangements than with the clinical outcomes.

The moot question, therefore, is whether patients have reasonable grounds for dissatisfaction or satisfaction with NHS, whether or not they actually express any—always bearing it in mind that what the public are reluctant to fund, they should not complain about. However, the real question, given the funding that the public have set aside for the NHS, is whether the NHS has delivered the outcomes that people could rationally expect.

When pressed on the issue, senior Government politicians, up to and including the Prime Minister, talk about three issues: cancer and heart disease outcomes, bureaucracy and unimpressive productivity, which are presented as legitimate gripes. It is sometimes tempting to believe that politicians need to find faults in public services because they like reforming them, and I am sometimes inclined to think that we should redefine public services as anything a politician wants to reform. However, there is a need to find out whether there are any real grounds for dissatisfaction with the service we currently have. Unless we can find genuine grounds for people to be dissatisfied, whether or not they are, we should not have overly radical disturbance or upheaval in the system.

Can we make a case for public dissatisfaction? Let me briefly take the three issues I mentioned in turn. We certainly should not bang on about the cardiovascular field. I had the unnerving experience the other day of listening to the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s questions tell the House how poor our outcomes were when set against those of comparable countries. Later, I attended an event organised by the British Heart Foundation to celebrate world-beating progress. That was a very puzzling experience. The King’s Fund has adequately exposed the myth about heart disease outcomes, and no one in the Department of Health should embarrass the Prime Minister any longer with briefings that disappoint and depress those who are better informed on this issue.

Last week, the Prime Minister notably stuck to the safer ground of cancer outcomes. To be fair, despite sharp falls in mortality among males and excellent progress on breast cancer treatment, we do not seem to excel our peers, and there is clearly work to be done. When looking at the issue, however, we should not use just the old research done by Professor Coleman 10 years ago, because the data on the issue is quite weak. If there are poor outcomes on cancer, however, it is not obvious why it therefore follows that structural and organisational upheaval is the solution, particularly as the prime cause of poor cancer outcomes, as far as I can tell, is late referral by GPs, and the prime solution is a more

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integrated service and strong regional clinical networks. It is a fact that we spend less on the treatment of cancer than the countries we compare ourselves with.

Turning to the other flaws, there are legitimate objects for criticism from time to time. On bureaucracy, I assume that everybody here understands that the administrative costs of running the NHS compare very favourably with those of running health systems in other parts of the world; that is not a debateable point. Even if those costs are higher than we would wish, they certainly compare favourably.

It is quite true, as the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) and the Public Accounts Committee have said, that productivity has not increased linearly or proportionally with investment, but that is true of business sectors, too. That is a common phenomenon; every extra pound does not give us the same amount in increased productivity. The wonder is that people expect life to be that simple. If that is a real problem, however, it is a poor argument for giving GPs all the money to spend, especially when the National Audit Office research, which has been quoted, shows that giving GPs extra money under the contract would not necessarily give us a vast increase in overall productivity. If we drew a graph showing the rise in income and the outcomes at GP surgeries—I can give hon. Members copies of the PAC report—we would find a phenomenon similar to that described by the hon. Member for Banbury with respect to hospitals. There does not, therefore, seem to be quite as clear-cut a case as one might wish to justify a case for public dissatisfaction, and the public might have a case for not being as dissatisfied as all that.

I want to refer Members to an excellent document from the Commonwealth Fund, which contains up-to-date research on many health systems across the world that are comparable to that in the UK. The research includes a number of indicators that are very favourable to our system, and this is copper-bottomed research. It shows that the UK has lower than average spending; that, according to UK citizens, our system needs less changing than those of our peers—that is what people in our country say and what people in other countries do not say to the same extent; that it inspires the greatest confidence in terms of effective treatment; that it requires the citizen to fork out the fewest additional payments; and that it is among the best for quick appointments, access and diagnosis. It is not perfect, and I have not undermined the case for all sorts of changes in the NHS, but as we say in Lancashire, “Mustn’t grumble.” There is a case for looking at what we have delivered and perhaps celebrating it.

As Government, as parties and as politicians in general, we can certainly make a case for reform, and that case can be made independently of this debate. What I cannot convince myself of at the moment—indeed, none of us can—is that the public are dissatisfied with the NHS. They are not. Nor can I convince myself that they have grounds for dissatisfaction that go beyond those one would find in any health service, anywhere in the world at any time.

Hugh Bayley (in the Chair): It might help Mr Anderson and Mr Morris if I say that the two Front Benchers have each agreed to speak for 10 minutes, which leaves a further 20 minutes for debate: 10 minutes for each of you. Mr Anderson.

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3.20 pm

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer) on getting this debate. Like the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), I stand here as the son of a nurse, though she stopped work before the NHS was created. Through her lifetime she saw the improvements in the NHS. I also stand as a man whose niece is fighting for her life in intensive care in the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle. She is a young girl of 40 years old. I call her a girl because from the day she was born she has been hit by muscular dystrophy. She has needed the NHS from the first minute of her life. It has been there for every moment, as it was for one of my sisters, who sadly died at 53 of the same disease. The NHS was always there for them, never perfect, but second to none when compared with health services around the world. Those of us fortunate to have better health have always been prepared to pay to ensure that those who need help were able to get it.

Due to my experience with muscular dystrophy, I have the privilege of being the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the subject. That group has shown what we as parliamentarians can do together. We have come together, across the parties, and made huge improvements in the past few years in ensuring that specialist commissioning groups have worked with the all-party group here and with PCTs on the ground, making real improvements in the lives of people suffering from muscular dystrophy. We had a meeting about a month ago in this House. People came from across the country and across the political spectrum, and there were also professionals in the health service. They were all concerned about the direction of travel on which the Government are bent. Their concerns are: will they still be able to access the things they need? Will specialised commissioning groups still be able to work together to deliver the services they want? They have genuine concerns that the all-party group will take forward with the Minister as the debate continues.

This debate is about satisfaction. Why is satisfaction up? There are a number of reasons. Although I have some issues with the hon. Member for Banbury, I agree with him in that I have campaigned against the private finance initiative since before the previous Government took office, since the early 1990s, when the idea was first floated by the former Secretary of State for Health and now Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). I opposed it back then, and I have thought it the wrong direction for my Government to take over the past 13 years. The truth is that my Government had to do something.

The hon. Member for Banbury hit the nail on the head when he said that spending on health was 3% of GDP in the 1980s. We know it was 3% because people were being looked after in Victorian hospitals. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) regularly says, in his area people were being looked after in an old workhouse. That was not good enough for the Labour party, and it was not good enough for the people of this country. That is why we decided that over the period we would increase investment in the NHS, and we increased it by 300%. The people of this country went along with that, including when we put 1% on national insurance contributions. People supported that

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move because they believed in the service that the NHS delivered. We should never forget that.

During discussions on developing a more capital-intensive NHS, into which a lot of money went, we saw real moves on staff harmonisation, recognising the roles of staff and increasing the responsibilities of people at different levels in the health service. A huge amount of work went into that. While that was happening, other work was being done on improving public health across the board.

The hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) raised the issue of productivity. It is strange how he defined productivity. I would be interested to read the report from the NAO on defining it, and I am glad that he has brought it to my attention. Productivity used to be measured in the health service by recording when an episode concluded. An episode could be concluded when someone died. A hospital where more people died was more successful in terms of productivity than one where somebody kept coming back and that episode was not concluded. That is a perverse way to look at productivity. The real measure of productivity is that there are twice as many people alive at 85 and over than there were 20 years ago. Should we not celebrate that? Is that not a productivity increase of which we can all be proud? That is the result of the work done.

I am not going to pretend the NHS is perfect. We know it is not perfect; every one of us as constituency MPs will have dealt with issues.

Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab): It is not a question of not thinking that it is perfect, but one of wanting constantly to improve it. The hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) offered a view, with which I concur, that an individual’s experience of the NHS is different from their broad view, based on what they read in the press. The personal experience of the vast majority of people is either positive or very positive. The broad view is less so, which is hardly surprising, since the vast majority of editors of news journals in this country do not regard good news as news at all. It is also true that many people have a positive view of services they perceive to be under threat. Take the example of a local school. There is always a more positive view if it is under threat. The problem in this country is that millions of people, sadly, believe the NHS to be under threat.

Mr Anderson: I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour: I will discuss that with him later.

As a constituency MP, I have had three cases over the past six years of supporting people making complaints against the NHS. We took them as far as we could, trying to raise resolutions. However, none of those people opposed the NHS as an organisation; it was the specific treatment they had received that they were complaining about. There have actually been hugely improved outcomes, as I know from talking to thousands of ordinary folk across the constituency. How happy they are that we built—thankfully, before this Government got in—a new health and leisure centre in Gateshead. Unlike the Building Schools for the Future money, that was not stopped. We got it built before 7 May last year: thank God for that. The real people who matter—the public—are concerned about where we are going.

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We should be thankful for the people who work in the NHS. I get really frustrated and annoyed when I hear coalition Members and the Secretary of State, who seems to take real pleasure in denigrating trade unionists, as if trade unionists were removed from this. The vast majority of trade unionists who represent health workers are hands-on professionals. They are not sitting in an office all day; they are at the coal face. They are not just talking about representing people; they are doing it, day in, day out. It is a disgrace that a party pretending to be the party of the big society should denigrate the people who are part of the largest voluntary group in the country. They stand up for people day in and day out. At the same time as standing up for their colleagues, they work in the service, they represent the service and they fight for the people they take care of. Their voice is important; their voice is informed and should not be ignored.

What do we see? We see Ministers refusing to listen to groups within the health service. I just picked up a report of the Second Reading, when I referred to one of those groups, the King’s Fund. Others include the Ministers’ own colleague, the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston); the British Medical Association, denigrated here by the hon. Member for Banbury; the Royal College of Physicians; the Royal College of Nursing and the head of Arthritis Care. Every one of those has been ignored by the Government, on the basis of “We know best.”

Most Conservative Members have had a degree of education way beyond mine. However, in this debate, the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) should be heeded, when he said that a lot of them have been “educated beyond their intelligence”. If this debate does not show that, nothing else does. The truth is that constantly over the past 13 years, health professionals have said to us, “Let us get on with the job.” The promise the Conservative party gave in opposition was that it would do exactly that; it would let them get on with the job, because there has been far too much meddling in the health service. I agree with that but, now, instead of letting them get on with the job, the Government are turning the health service upside down. Not only will it not work, it will make it much worse. It is a disgrace that it is happening.

3.29 pm

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bayley. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer) for securing this important debate on public satisfaction with the NHS. Some important issues have been raised by my right hon. and hon. Friends, but I will not rehearse them. Suffice it to say that we are having this debate because information has been released as the result of a debacle in the Department, and I am delighted that the information is now available. There may be a good reason for the Secretary of State wanting to keep the contents of the satisfaction report under wraps. It confirms the outstanding NHS legacy that Labour passed to the Health Secretary in 2010. He inherited a national health service that was rescued from 18 years of Tory mismanagement, and now enjoys the highest rate of public satisfaction in its history.

The Ipsos MORI survey, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead referred, states:

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“Public satisfaction with the running of the NHS remains very high at 72%. This high level of satisfaction has now been sustained for over a year making the public’s perception of the NHS a real success story.”

The real reason why the Health Secretary hoped that his Department had not published that report is that it shows him to be completely out of step with the British public. He cites his former boss, Lord Tebbit, as his political hero, but he does not understand what the public so value about the NHS. Instead, he is doing to it exactly what he did to the utilities in the 1980s, when he was working for his hero, Lord Tebbit, by applying 1980s privatisation principles and policies to the health service.

Current polls of public satisfaction with the NHS are all the more important when we consider that the revolution—that is what it is—now under way in the NHS was not described or set out for the British people until some months after the general election. The Conservative manifesto said the Conservatives would

“defend the NHS from Labour’s cuts and reorganisations”,

yet the Government are delivering a real-terms cut in spending, and a radical reorganisation that will undermine the NHS.

Nowhere did the Health Secretary explain his plan to apply 1980s-style privatisation mechanisms to the NHS; to create an economic regulator for health in the form of Monitor, costing upwards of £500 million over the lifetime of this parliament, an issue that was raised by the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) in respect of the Government’s commitment to reduce bureaucracy; to expose the NHS to European competition law, which also applies to our utilities; or to handing the £80 billion NHS budget to private bodies with GPs as figureheads, but to which freedom of information provisions will not apply.

Instead, the Health Secretary spent the previous six years as Opposition spokesman doing everything possible to avoid giving any indication of his plans for radical change for the NHS. I am sure that there was no mention of removing the private patient cap to allow uncontrolled focus on profit-making in hospital trusts, a mechanism that will push NHS patients to the back of the queue.

The Secretary of State’s coyness had paid off, because the public, who are overwhelmingly satisfied with the NHS service that Labour had rebuilt over 13 years in government, did not suspect a thing. Health was not raised once in the last prime ministerial debate before the general election.

I want to focus my remarks on how public satisfaction, and in some areas dissatisfaction, might apply to the Health Secretary’s proposals in the Health and Social Care Bill. Now that the Ipsos MORI survey has found its way into the public domain, we may consider its implications for the current upheaval planned by the Secretary of State. Three specific polls in the survey give a clear indication of public preference for the future of the NHS, with between 63% and 65% agreeing with the following statements: first, the

“NHS provides good value for money to taxpayers”;

secondly, the

“NHS provides patients with the best treatment possible”,

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and thirdly,

“people are treated with dignity and respect when they use NHS services.”

In-house NHS provision of a high quality is favoured by the public, but the Tory-led proposals in the Health and Social Care Bill threaten that. Over time, as the private sector wins contracts from NHS bodies, the NHS provider that is displaced will have to close, and there is a risk that we will be left with private companies competing with one another for multi-million pound contracts. That is the Lansley vision of the NHS, and it is completely out of step with British public opinion.

John Pugh: People were asked whether major changes or only minor changes were needed in their local health system. The figures for the UK show that 62% believe that only minor changes are needed, which is by far the highest figure on the graph of most of the comparable systems.

Grahame M. Morris: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. His point is a good one, and was well made. There is no need for the revolutionary change that we are facing.

Time is limited, so I shall conclude. Without polling and without understanding the facts, the Government would take a reckless step in the dark. If they do not consider public opinion in their annual surveys, they may end up with a shock in the biggest survey of all—the one planned for May 2015.

Hugh Bayley (in the Chair): I shall call Mr Dromey to order at 3.40, so he has a few minutes in which to speak.

3.36 pm

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bayley. Unaccustomed as I am to being brief, the national health service is the jewel in the crown of public service provision. It was one of the greatest achievements of the post-war Labour Government. It has served this country well for two generations and, as with the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr Anderson), my mother was a nurse who came from County Tipperary to train in a hospital here in London.

The national health service was on its knees in 1997, and was proudly rebuilt by a Labour Government. I see the benefits of that in my constituency and Birmingham as a whole in the magnificent Queen Elizabeth hospital, the health centres such as that in Stockland Green, and the walk-in centres such as those in Kingstanding and Erdington high street. They are served by outstanding staff whom I cannot praise too highly. They range from Erdington consortium of 17 doctors who are deeply committed to the NHS—my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon is right—staff at all levels of the NHS who are a credit to this country

The problem is the Government’s two fundamental broken promises. They promised to protect spending on the NHS, but in fact there will be real-terms decreases in 143 of the 151 primary care trusts this year. The Government promised no more top-down reorganisation. Instead, they have embarked on the most radical and reckless reorganisation possible, which will have serious consequences for the NHS, and will inevitably see the

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national taken out of the national health service. The Government should think again about their friendless proposals, and I welcome the expressions of concern from both sides of the Chamber about the ill-thought-out, deeply damaging proposals.

It is not just the NHS that will suffer. So too will some of the most vulnerable groups in our society. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon, I have been a strong supporter of the muscular dystrophy campaign, one of many organisations which has pointed out that, at the moment, because of economies of scale organised through PCTs, we can count on specialist services that those who suffer from this dreadful wasting disease and their families badly need. It asks what will happen in future if we move to GP consortia and a complete change in the nature of the national health service. It believes that it is being let down by the Government, who are making a fundamental mistake, and I hope that they will think again.

3.39 pm

Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab): It is an essential truth that there is mounting satisfaction with the national health service, just as there was during the Labour Government’s entire period in office. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer) for securing a debate on this important subject. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bayley, for the first time.

It has been interesting to hear the different views expressed in this debate. We heard some interesting views from the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), and I am glad to hear that his GPs are still speaking to him. Perhaps he should listen to a larger group of people who work in the national health service, because he will find that at the moment it is the NHS versus the Government.

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh), and perhaps we should also put on the record the interest shown by Labour Members. Attending the debate are my hon. Friends the Members for Easington (Grahame M. Morris), for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds), for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), for Edmonton (Mr Love), for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), for Leyton and Wanstead, for Blaydon (Mr Anderson), for Bolton North East (Mr Crausby), and for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke). I shall give an honorary mention to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), too. I believe they would all speak with one voice: the national health service is popular. It is not perfect, but it is doing a good job. Leave it alone and do the right thing.

In 1997, only 35% of people were very satisfied with the national health service. According to the survey of British social attitudes, that figure rose to 60% under the Labour Government. The NHS became a non-political issue. The Ipsos MORI poll consistently showed that seven out of 10 people described the NHS as a key issue, but by 2009 only one in 10 people felt the NHS to be one of the most important issues for them. As a result, the Conservatives changed their strategy and tried to make the NHS a non-political issue. They tried

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to adopt it; I remember they did the same with green policies. I was working in the Department of Energy and Climate Change at the time, and for every new idea we thought of, the Conservatives would say, “That is a very good idea; we thought of it first.” They did practically the same thing with the health service.

The Prime Minister led the charge and spoke about the support that his family had received from front-line NHS staff. People wanted to believe him and felt sympathy for him. They understood what he was saying and wanted to believe his promise to protect the NHS. In fact, analysis has shown that attitudes to the Prime Minister changed fundamentally. He went from being seen as an ex-Bullingdon boy and a shadowy ex-adviser to Lord Lamont—

3.41 pm

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

3.54 pm

On resuming—

Emily Thornberry: Before the Division, I was talking about the way in which the former Bullingdon boy and shadowy ex-adviser to Lord Lamont was transformed by his seeming commitment to the national health service. People wanted to believe that he wanted to protect public services. When the Prime Minister summed up his priorities as N-H-S, people wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Before the last election, the Conservatives made two promises about the NHS. First, they promised to increase spending year on year. Secondly, in November 2009, the Prime Minister told the Royal College of Pathologists:

“With the Conservatives there will be no more of the tiresome, meddlesome, top-down re-structures that have dominated the last decade of the NHS.”

They have broken both those promises. Although we have heard them claim that the Secretary of State for Health talked about his proposals on a wet Wednesday afternoon in Wimbledon, the people do not believe it; they were not there to hear it, they do not believe that they voted for it, and they certainly did not vote for it when they voted for the Liberal Democrats, because they believed that they were voting for elected primary care trusts when they voted Lib Dem.

The Conservatives are taking a huge risk by undermining the NHS. Nigel Lawson has said that the NHS is

“the closest thing the English have to a religion”.

People meddle with it at their peril. Going into battle with it, as the Government have done, will be toxic for them.

The Conservatives are at long last realising that they have made a profound mistake, but it is too late, because people know that introducing competition into the heart of the national health service is completely at odds with the NHS ethos of equality and co-operation. That the Conservatives are doing all this without a mandate from the people makes it even worse. Their reforms are causing profound unease among health workers and the public.

The Conservatives are so desperate to cover up and to counter opposition that they have been trying to manipulate public opinion with false statistics. To hear the Prime Minister claim that we are behind the rest of

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Europe on heart disease and cancer was appalling. He was corrected by Professor John Appleby, who has already been quoted. It is simply inaccurate not to put into the mix the fact that the UK had the biggest fall in heart-attack deaths between 1980 and 2006 of any European country. At that rate, we will have one of the lowest death rates for heart disease. It is a similar story for lung cancer and breast cancer—two of the other main killers. That is, of course, as long as standards continue to improve and the NHS is not distracted by things such as a major reorganisation of the entire NHS.

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting on the record some of the real health outcomes in this country. The hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) summed it up when he said that even if those health outcomes were not improving, there is no causal link between that area and the reforms that the Government propose; does my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) agree?

Emily Thornberry: That is right. It is a little like saying, “There are some difficulties with the national health service, so let’s change it,” without looking to see whether those changes will actually attack the problems. None of us says that the national health service is perfect. More things need to be done, but instead of building on our achievements, the Government are undermining the national health service by taking it by the ankles, turning it upside down and shaking it hard. People do not support them in doing that. Some people even heard the Prime Minister say on the “Today” programme that the national health service was second-rate. However, the penny has finally dropped for the Conservatives and they realise that they are not bringing public opinion with them when they seek to undermine the national health service in this way, so instead they have tried to suppress the information that proves that there is huge public support for our NHS as it is now, fundamentally. That is the story of what has been happening in the last few days.

To begin with, we have the unedifying spectacle of the Secretary of State saying that he will not give out certain information about what the public feel about the national health service. Then he discovers that in fact it has been given out. It is wrong of the Conservatives to suppress information about what the public think about the national health service—information that the public have paid for. It shows what their views are, and gives us a baseline before this forthcoming major trauma for the NHS. Then the Secretary of State says, “Actually, I’ve made a mistake. I gave out the information in any event.” That is the other big concern about the present Government. Not only are their reforms fundamentally driven by their ideology, but they are incompetent. There is much criticism of that.

The bottom and top of it is this: the Conservative party can do whatever they want with statistics. They can spin as they wish with whatever they want. They can say black is white until they are red—or blue—in the face, but the truth will out. The truth is that the public love their NHS. Labour gave the Government the national health service on trust. They should work on what we have achieved and tackle any outstanding problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Easington

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gave me this quote because he did not have time to use it, but it needs to be said as often as possible. Bevan said:

“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

The NHS does have folk willing to fight for it.

4 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr Simon Burns): As others have said today, Mr Bayley, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

We have had an interesting debate. Some speeches were a continuation of what has been said in the Health and Social Care Bill Committee, and they bordered on fantasy. Other speeches were extremely informative. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) was in the latter category, and my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (John Pugh) made a reflective and interesting speech. I listened with extreme interest, as I always do, to the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke), who made a typically thoughtful speech about an area of health and social care on which he is an acknowledged expert. I listened to the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris), as I often do these days, and to the hon. Members for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and for Blaydon (Mr Anderson). It was rather like a curate’s egg—parts of it, depending on which hon. Member was speaking, were all right, and other parts slightly broached on to fantasy island.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer) on securing this important debate. He may be surprised to hear that I am in considerable agreement with him on certain areas. I wish to clear up a number of his questions about the surveys. In an intervention on the hon. Gentleman, I alluded to the Ipsos MORI survey. There is something slightly ironic about claiming that we refused to publish it because of its content, given that the previous Government failed to publish similar surveys in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. To say that they did not publish it because the Opposition did not table parliamentary questions asking for it to be published shows breathtaking gall.

The fact is that we published the March 2010 survey following a written answer in December from the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), who is responsible for social care. It was placed in the Library, but it was not placed on the Department of Health website, for which I offer an apology. Some Members referred to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Those statements were made in good faith but he was given the wrong advice. That is unfortunate, but he made that statement some three months after the results of the survey had been published.

The hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead asked whether we will continue with the survey. I can tell him that a further survey has been done. It has not been completed, in so far as it has not yet been given to the Department, but that will happen in due course. What happens in future remains to be seen, as no decision has been taken on future exercises. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the general life-style survey. Again, no decision has been taken. In light of that information, it is incorrect to say that we will not allow it to proceed.

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On the question of the British social attitudes survey, things are a little more complex. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Department of Health is not the only Department involved; it is a cross-Government survey, and the Department of Health has some interest in it, but not exclusively so. Again, that is being considered, so I cannot give a definitive answer as to what will happen.

Many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead, pointed out that the last survey published by Ipsos MORI said that public satisfaction with the NHS was relatively high. That is self-evident, and I suspect that all hon. Members, as constituency MPs, will be aware of that from their constituents, their correspondence and just talking to people. As we heard, the most recent research puts overall satisfaction rates at 72%.

If we were discussing the future of any other public service, perhaps the debate would end there. However, we are not here today to discuss other public services, such as local bus services or rubbish collections, vital as they are. We are here to discuss the national health service, which for the public is literally a matter of life and death, and they have a high regard for it. People expect the NHS to be there when they are at their most vulnerable, or when their family members are in greatest need.

One cannot quantify what the NHS means to the people of this country with a smattering of national statistics, however comforting they might seem. The public have never been over-inclined to set great store by the pronouncements of politicians about the brilliance of the NHS, however familiar such pronouncements might be. However, people do not live their lives through the monochrome of MORI’s painstaking statistical analyses. They do not judge the NHS on the numbers. They judge the NHS on their experience of it; it is the NHS staff that they meet, and what they say and do, that ultimately informs their opinion.

The fact that satisfaction rates are relatively high is without doubt a tribute to the fact that those staff treat thousands of patients every day. I am sure that Members on both sides of the Chamber are united in their admiration for the work of staff across the board, and we should congratulate them on doing it day in, day out, when looking after our constituents, ourselves and our families. They do a fantastic job. We should never forget that we owe them a debt of honour and gratitude.

Mr Anderson: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Burns: No. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I do not have much time.

We should not kid ourselves that that is the whole story. Although some may be only too content with the fact that three quarters of people are happy with the NHS, I am not. High levels of public satisfaction are a genuine compliment to the work of NHS staff, but they do not undermine the case for modernisation or imply that the NHS is perfect or should never change. There is plenty of room for improvement, building on the high satisfaction rates that we already enjoy, as shown by the various surveys mentioned today.

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The House will know that although the money going into the NHS has dramatically increased over the last decade, which I welcome, productivity has not. In fact, it has fallen by 0.2% every year since 1997. In hospitals, it has fallen further—by 1.4% a year between 1997 and 2008. However, such statistics can sound quite abstract. We should think about what they actually mean for patients.

Some of the targets and incentives in the current system are simply perverse; far from promoting good-quality care, they encourage poor care. Take maternity services. With antenatal care, the more visits or scans providers can record, the more they are paid. It is in the financial interests of the hospital to provide care on a purely reactive basis, dealing with problems as they arise, rather than preventing them from happening.

The result is poorer health outcomes for the mother and child and a bigger bill for the taxpayer. No midwife or doctor would ever organise the system in such a way. No doctor or nurse working in acute care would design a system in which a hospital would be paid for a mistake rather than be penalised for it. For example, would they pay if a patient were discharged from hospital only to be bounced back into A and E a week or so later because they were not properly treated? No health professional would choose to work in an environment in which they and their colleagues are rewarded not for how well they treat patients, but for how well they process them through the health system.

Hon. Members claim that there is no rationale for our reforms, but they are wrong. I do not claim that the NHS is failing; there is much that is good about it, and much of what it does is internationally acclaimed. None the less, if hon. Members were honest they would accept that there is room for improvement, as was shown by the Ipsos MORI poll.

I do not think that it is right that pensioners over the age of 75 in the primary care trust that serves the constituency of the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead are almost twice as likely to be admitted to hospital in an emergency than those over the age of 75 in Devon or Cornwall. I do not think that it is right that, in some parts of the country, people are more than five times more likely to die of heart disease.

In its current form, the NHS cannot hope to cope with the rising demand from our ageing population and the relentless rise in the cost of drugs and treatment. Our health system is no longer battling with infectious disease. The typical patient is not a young man with TB or polio, as it might have been in the 1940s, but someone who is over 75 with probably two, if not more, long-term conditions and social care needs, too. It is a very different problem that requires a very different kind of health service.

Even more importantly, as a nation, we should be aspiring to be as healthy and to live as long as our European neighbours. A recent OECD report found that, if the NHS were to perform as well as the best-performing health systems, we could increase life expectancy by three years. The argument for change could not be clearer.

The ultimate objective of modernisation is to ensure that the quality of care that people receive is on a par with the best available anywhere in the world. To do

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that, we need to make fundamental changes to the NHS. For example, we need to ensure that it is the GP and not a manager or civil servant in Whitehall who determines the needs and requirements of their patients. A radical extension of patient choice would allow patients to choose not only where they are treated, but which consultant-led team will treat them. Patients could choose their GP and even, where appropriate, their treatment.

There should be greater accountability and transparency in the NHS to give patients the information that they need to make choices and to drive up quality. As the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery said only last week, publicly reporting on the performance of hospitals and surgeons treating patients with heart disease can improve mortality rates by 50%.

There should also be more independence and freedom for clinicians, so that if local health and social care professionals think that they can deliver better services to support stroke patients, they can set up a social enterprise that will do that. We will give genuine freedom to foundation trusts, so that they can strive to provide the best possible outcomes for patients.

In conclusion, there have been a lot of disingenuous statements about privatisation of the health service and the quality of care. If hon. Members are prepared to listen, I will assure them that we have no intention of privatising the health service. We just want to improve patient care.

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Foreign Fishermen (Visas)

4.14 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): This issue is important to my constituency and many other constituencies across the United Kingdom. Along with being in the armed forces, commercial sea fishing represents the most dangerous occupation in the United Kingdom—a fact that would be confirmed by our fishermen and those who represent them. The programme “Deadliest Catch” and the film “The Perfect Storm” illustrate very clearly the issues that fishermen face each and every day.

A combination of increasing regulatory burdens and decreasing financial returns, compounded by the antisocial nature of the job, has led to local UK share fishermen drifting away from the occupation. Although there is a method in place to address the problems, we need some help moving things along, which is why I sought this debate. Although the drifting away is not a universal trend within the industry, the larger part of the fleet, comprising those trawlers targeting certain species such as cod, haddock, whiting and nephrops, has been particularly vulnerable to the trend for the past decade and more.

The take-home wage is a key concern of the fishermen. It does not always reflect the nature of the work, which has been brought into our homes by the TV series “Trawlermen”. Figures from the Sea Fish Industry Authority’s regular economic surveys of the fleet show that the average gross annual wage for a Northern Ireland-based share fisherman works out at approximately £15,000, less their tax and stamp. Other hon. Members will speak on behalf of their areas, but I suspect that the wage will be similar. Given the salaries available in other sectors, it is no wonder that many share fishermen have chosen to leave the industry.

There is a perception that share fishermen are mainly unskilled or unqualified workers, but that is not the case. Regrettably, fishermen’s skills and the qualifications that they are required by law to possess go largely unrecognised outside the fishing sector. The sea fishing industry has changed dramatically over the past few years to become a multi-million-pound industry. Skippers and their crews work on modern, sophisticated vessels and are expected to be highly skilled technicians who are able to act as efficient harvesters of the seas and to operate a range of electronic instruments for safe navigation and for finding fish. Gone are the days of throwing a net over the side of a boat to catch fish; it is much more sophisticated now.

Share fishermen in the UK are self-employed, so they have the option of looking for alternative employment in either the marine or onshore sectors. Trawler owners, on the other hand, still have a business to manage and bank loans to repay. They have a choice. Of course they will pursue every opportunity available to them to enhance the value of their catch or reduce their overheads so that the profit and consequently the crew share can be maximised. I can cite several examples from my constituency of Strangford where trawler owners are working collectively to bulk-purchase fuel and promote the local consumption of their catch. They are doing everything practically and physically possible to improve their profit margins. Despite taking such actions, crewing problems persist. Consequently, trawler owners are forced to look for alternative crewing arrangements.

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The European Union and its common fisheries policy possess few positive aspects for our fishing fleet. One such aspect has been to increase the labour pool. With the expansion of the EU eastwards, many citizens of the independent Baltic states have found their way to the periphery of the Union and have been able to secure positions as crew members on board UK-based trawlers. Many of the new recruits to the UK’s fishing industry had previous fishing industry and merchant navy experience. However, they lacked the recognised qualifications required by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. That obstacle, compounded by language difficulties, was largely overcome. None the less, significant investment was required on the part of the trawler owners, as interpreters were drafted in to assist tutors in delivering the courses that resulted in the mandatory qualifications.

Let me set out where we are, and then I will outline how we can move forward.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): The hon. Gentleman has laid out very well the situation of the share fishermen. People come in from other countries to do the work of a share fisherman, and there are many jobs onshore that are dependent on their work. Barratlantic in my constituency has told me that if it loses its three overseas fishermen, it will have to lay off members of staff at its fish factory, because fewer fish will be landed. That underlines how important it is that we manage to keep those skilled men working on our boats in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. The wonderful thing about being an MP—apart from the privilege of being here—is that the issues that are prevalent in the area that I represent are the same as those in Scotland, England and Wales. They are not specific to my constituency alone, which is why we need the help of Westminster, the Government and the Minister.

Despite the difficulties, the first wave of immigrant fishermen addressed many of the crewing problems. However, the economic factors, which are well known to many of us across the UK, meant that many of the immigrants began to return home. UK trawler owners almost found themselves in chapter two of the crewing crisis, and that is where we are today. Consequently, trawler owners and their agents began to look further afield. In 2006, the first Filipino fishermen began to appear in fishing communities around the UK, and particularly in Scotland. The trend started in Scotland and then made its way across the rest of the UK, to England and Northern Ireland.

Filipino fishermen are different from their UK colleagues, in that they tend to be employed. In addition, as the Philippines, like the UK, is surrounded by sea, all the new recruits who came over to the UK tended to have seagoing experience, and indeed fishing experience, with qualifications that on the most part were recognised by the UK, including by the MCA. Furthermore, as I have heard for myself, their knowledge of the English language is impressive. I have spoken to some of these Filipino fishermen in the port of Portavogie, and I must say that they are very clear in what they are telling me.

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The first Filipino fishermen arrived in Northern Ireland in 2007 and their numbers in the three ports along the County Down coast increased quickly. They filled, and continue to fill, an important void in trawler crews at a critical time for the industry. Access to the UK was achieved through transit visas, an important condition of which is the requirement that the vessel to which they are attached spend the majority of its fishing time outside UK territorial waters. In fact, these fishermen were not permitted to live on shore. That was probably quite a strict condition, but they none the less tried to keep to it.

As I have mentioned, the primary difference between the Filipino fishermen and other immigrant fishermen from outside the European economic area on the one hand, and UK share fishermen on the other, is that the former group are employed. As such, they have a contract of employment with the trawler owners, and those contracts carry with them obligations for the owners—obligations to do with pay, insurance cover and travel costs. The take-home pay of a British share fisherman varies from trawler to trawler and from week to week, depending on the weather and the danger that they face. Their pay is based on a share of the trawlerman’s profits. If a trawler makes no profit, then the crewmen get no salary, so it is clear that the Filipino fisherman has an advantage that the share fisherman does not. Employed crew members’ contracts stipulate a minimum weekly wage, and bonuses are then paid, which differ from trawler to trawler. Overall, however, when all the costs are accumulated, the share of the profit and the salary paid to any crew member are very similar.

However, a big difference is the fact that, from the outset, the transit visa required non-EEA fishermen to live on board the trawlers. Although their living conditions are no different from those of UK fishermen, the non-EEA fishermen do not get a break from those conditions during their contracts, which can last for several months.

In many of the ports where the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen has a presence, immigrant fishermen have availed themselves of the mission’s facilities. Indeed, in some ports, such as Troon and Kilkeel, the mission opened mini-centres to provide rest and relaxation facilities for visiting UK fishermen and immigrant fishermen alike. As always, the mission needs to be commended for the Christian service that it provides, and the Christian witness that it bears to fishermen all over the UK. I pay tribute to it.

Unfortunately, there have been occasions when owners have been accused of abusing crew members. I will put this on record: some crew members have made certain claims. However, I met Filipino fishermen no more than a month ago in Portavogie and spoke to them, basically through an interpreter. I know that some people in this Chamber have difficulty following my accent, so I suspect that the Filipinos in Portavogie probably had even more difficulty. Fortunately, however, we had a translator, and I was able to convey to them that I would be bringing this matter to the House within a short time.

Mr MacNeil: As somebody else who causes some difficulties for Hansard—I am quite proud of that fact—I would like to back up what the hon. Gentleman is saying and talk about another aspect of the issue. In my experience, fishermen who have lost a man because he has returned to the Philippines have not sought to

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replace him with another Filipino. They have been quite specific in wanting to get the man who they have got to know to come back and work with them. That shows the building of personal relationships, and indeed friendships of a certain kind, between men when they are out fishing together. I find that quite heartening, and it is quite the opposite of some of the scare stories. That has been my experience in this field.

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Gentleman again for his contribution. There is a very strong bond of friendship, loyalty, togetherness and comradeship that comes from being together on a small boat. I do not know if other Members have ever had the chance to get out on a fishing boat. If they have not, they should take the opportunity to go out in one. They would see the small section of the boat that the fishermen sleep in. If they were not claustrophobic before, they certainly would be afterwards, because it is almost incredibly small.

Whenever I have met the Filipino fishermen in Portavogie, an area that I represent back home, I have seen their commitment. When they were wanted at 4 am down in the harbour, they were there. In fact, they were there perhaps half an hour before they were going out on the boats. They were always on time and they worked hard all day. That is how they did things. As the hon. Gentleman has said very clearly, the Filipino fishermen have a strong commitment to work.

Mr Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. To back up what he has just said, one fishing boat skipper told me that if he goes to sleep at night, he wants to be sure that the person at the wheel is somebody in whom he has complete trust. The bond and the trust that are built up over a number of years are very important, and that is why there is a desire to retain these employees.

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, which highlights the fact that, right across the UK, the same issues apply to us all. It also highlights our knowledge as elected representatives of immigrant fishermen, and Filipino fishermen in particular, and the need to have them retained in the fishing industry in the areas that we represent.

Mr MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman has been very kind in giving way and sharing his time. One of the difficulties that the people and the companies that want these men to return have raised with me is the cost involved. There are legal fees of £1,250 plus VAT; there are the Home Office fees of £1,000; and there is a further fee of £170 for every sponsor’s certificate issued. Does the hon. Gentleman feel that, especially at this time, those are costs that businesses should not really be facing on an almost continual or cyclical basis? Perhaps the Migration Advisory Council should seek to reclassify these fishermen and put them into the specialisms that they are quite clearly and patently qualified for.

Jim Shannon: I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Gentleman about the costs involved. Those costs seem to increase every year, and continuously throughout the year. I am also concerned about them.

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Filipino fishermen have had Filipino consular staff down to see them and speak to them about the matters that affect them. I have discussed the issue of the Filipino fishermen with the UK Border Agency on two occasions, and I had occasion to table a question for the Minister for Immigration on the subject just last year. These are important matters for us as representatives of the fishing industry, but I must say that they are even more important for the Filipino fishermen and the trawler skippers for whom they work.

During 2008 and 2009, there were extensive consultations between the UK Border Agency, industrial representatives and others. The UK Border Agency became aware of just how valuable both the non-UK fishermen and the non-EEA fishermen were to the continued safe operation of the fishing industry. That point about safety backs up the points that the hon. Members for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil), and for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid), have made about the safe operation of boats. Whenever the skipper goes to sleep at night, he wants to be sure that the person in charge of the boat knows what they are doing. That is exactly the issue that we are discussing.

The transit visas that I mentioned were due to last some 18 months, expiring in September 2011. That is why we are having this debate in Westminster Hall today. Perhaps we can get an extension to those visas, or some concession or help from the Minister’s Department.

Mr MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman has made a very good point about safety. Earlier, I talked about people getting to know each other and forming a bond. I have been told that one of the reasons why the trawler owners do not want just anybody is that it takes a person time to get used to each individual boat and to know exactly where certain ropes, anchors, grappling hooks and other pieces of equipment are, or where the hauler is controlled, on each individual boat. That is a genuine reason for keeping a man who has experience of a particular boat on that boat, rather than just seeking anybody. I have had fishing employers come to me to ensure that an individual who is skilled and trained on their boat remains on their boat. I wonder if the hon. Gentleman finds exactly the same thing in his area.

Jim Shannon: The area that I represent is exactly the same. The knowledge that is earned on one boat is perhaps slightly different to the knowledge earned on another. It takes time to get used to a boat. I mentioned that earlier, when I said that today’s fisherman has so much more to learn than his predecessors of 10, 15 or 20 years ago.

Mr Reid: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for being so generous in giving way. I want to back up the point that he made. This is a highly skilled job, and it should be put on the list of occupations for which employers should be able to get work permits, as long as employers can demonstrate that they have made every effort to recruit fishermen from within the EU. In those circumstances, they should be allowed to obtain visas, particularly to retain the staff whom they already have and in whom they have trust and confidence.

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point, because it is the crux of the issue, and of our requests to the Minister and the Department.

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Of the 1,500 visas that were allocated, only 70 were taken up. That might prompt the question, “If only 70 people took them up, do we really need them?” but the fact is we do. It was not that the interest was not there. The key experience and skills of the people involved is very important, and those who were able to fill the void before the Filipino fishermen came have now, by and large, gone back to eastern Europe. There have been, and still are, experienced and qualified fishermen working on the trawlers, and the issue today is that fishermen and employers do not want to lose that expertise come September 2011, which is what they say will happen.

Mr MacNeil: On a point of information, the period when only 70 applications were taken up was before the last election, when the hon. Gentleman was not in the House. I can remember it clearly, and people came to see me on the subject. The problems were those of bureaucracy, often in Manila. What with the employment agencies and the visa-issuing authorities in Manila, it was difficult to get people out and across. Had it not been for those bureaucratic hurdles, a lot more than 70 people would have arrived.

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. Yes, that was before my time. He is absolutely right that there was a pervasive level of bureaucracy that prevented people from applying.

I am conscious of the time, and intend to bring my speech to a conclusion. It remains the case that most people signing on for the dole are dissuaded from seeking a job in the commercial fishing fleet because of the long hours, the low wages, the uncertainties of the weather and the dangers of the job. There is also the question of the investment that trawler owners need to make to train fishermen who might then choose not to stay in the job. Consequently, there is a need for non-EEA or immigrant workers to fill the gaps in onshore occupations, and a clear need for us to retain the fishermen, particularly the Filipinos.

The Migration Advisory Committee recently launched a consultation to update its shortage occupation list, and I encourage the UK fishing industry’s representatives to make representations as part of that process. That would, in basic terms, entail the monetary reward that is available to share fishermen reflecting the sacrifices they make and the skills they have. We need a long-term solution to the crewing problems that the fishing fleets face, and I encourage the UK Border Agency, together with the other agencies involved, to instigate discussions with fishing industry representatives soon. I also call on the Home Office and the UK Border Agency to review the situation regarding the temporary visas that they issued early last year. I am aware that the non-EEA fishermen to whom the visas were issued, together with the trawler owners who employ them, have acted responsibly and sensibly, and I suggest that that could and should be reflected in an extension to the September 2011 expiry date.

In Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the UK, commercial sea fishing is a valuable industry, often based in remote coastal communities. It employs highly qualified technicians, whose skill, and indeed bravery and courage, in harvesting

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the seas around our islands must be acknowledged. Many of our fishermen’s management responsibilities have been mistakenly surrendered to the EU, but that is a different debate for a different day. Assisting with employment in the sector is, I suggest, a small but very important way in which the House can help the industry.

4.33 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lynne Featherstone): It is a pleasure to be before you this afternoon, Mr Bayley. I congratulate the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on securing the debate, and on drawing our attention to what is a very important issue in an industry that is very important to the nations represented by Members at the other end of this room. I know that he has tabled many questions, had many meetings, and has an honourable track record in raising the issue of staff who work on these boats, and in presenting the problems that he has encountered.

The fishing industry has had to face many challenges over the years, and those challenges will continue. Non-EEA ship crews travelling to UK ports to join vessels sailing into international waters do not fall within the normal immigration rules. They enter on “to join ship” visas, which allow fresh crews to arrive in the UK and leave on the ship. As many international-going vessels may leave port with no stated destination, awaiting orders to pick up new cargo, “leaving the UK” is defined as sailing beyond the 12-mile territorial limit, and that has been exploited by the fishing industry.

In some instances such exploitation has been permissible when the vessels involved are those that traditionally fish outside the limit—the deep sea fleet. However, inshore fleet vessel owners, who fish within the 12-mile limit, have wrongly taken advantage of the loophole to illegally employ the same cheap foreign labour as their deep sea fleet counterparts, resulting in many of the 1,000 to 1,500 non-EEA fishermen in the UK fishing fleets being employed illegally on very low wages and accommodated in unacceptable conditions while in port. That led to the tragic death of two Filipinos and one Latvian in a fire on a fishing boat in 2008. Although it is right to highlight the pressures on owners in finding crews to operate their vessels, it is simply not acceptable for there to be a race to the bottom, in terms of pay and conditions for those working in the industry.

The previous Government introduced a concession to address the situation with the inshore fleet, agreeing to a quota of up to 1,500 non-renewable fisher visas, to allow the industry time to adjust. There was an 18-month period, which comes to an end in September. Visas were issued on the condition that non-EEA fishermen were paid the minimum wage, and suitable onshore accommodation was provided while they were in port. As has been mentioned, fewer than 70 applications were received before the concession closed, and I note what the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) said about that being due to bureaucracy in the country of origin.

Both Her Majesty’s Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly Government are clear that people who come from overseas to work within UK territorial waters must enjoy the protections of the national minimum wage, and safe and proper accommodation.

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The minimum level of pay for skilled workers is £20,000. The minimum wage is circa £13,000. From what has been said, the industry believes that £13,000 is too high. In terms of having a certain standard of living and proper accommodation, the view of the Philippines Government in respect—

Mr MacNeil: I do not think that anyone is saying that it is too high. What we are saying is that there are a number of jobs on land that depend on these people. I know of some men in the Philippines who have been almost in tears on the phone saying that they cannot go back to Scotland because they missed the date on the paperwork. They have lost quite a lot of money. They have been saving up and sending money to their families. They have missed an opportunity. It is a double hit for individual human beings: the people who work ashore in processing factories when product is not landed, and the individuals in the Philippines who are not getting the standard of employment that they might otherwise get.

Lynne Featherstone: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I also heard the hon. Member for Strangford praise the work and the ability of the Filipino workers. I understand that, but it has been said that, were it not for the concession, applications would be made under tier 3 of the points-based system for non-skilled workers. There are high unemployment levels in those areas, and the hope and expectation was that, during the 18-month concession period, work would be done to encourage—

Mr MacNeil rose—

Lynne Featherstone: Time is short, and I need to make a bit of progress in addressing some of the points raised.

The hon. Member for Strangford raised the issue of the Home Office fees being set at £1,000. The Home Office visa fees were £470, and the legal fees were a decision for the owners themselves. Holders of concessionary visas are not required to sleep onboard the fishing boats, and should be accommodated safely onshore. The concessionary visas would not be allowed under the points-based system. As I said, they fall under tier 3 for non-skilled workers, which is now closed as a point of entry due to the situation in the local area. The Migration Advisory Committee determines the levels and advises Her Majesty’s Government. If there are skills arguments to be made, as hon. Members know, they must be made to the committee, as fishing and skills are devolved to Northern Ireland and Scotland. One key issue is that unemployment remains high across the United Kingdom and in fishing communities. It is for the industry, not Government, to work with the devolved Administrations to increase local engagement in the industry.

Mr MacNeil: Those arguments were outlined by the Minister for Immigration in the previous Government. However, on reflection, he saw that the numbers were

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small and that the potential loss of employment onshore was great, so he reconsidered and introduced the 18-month intermediate scheme. I make a plea to the Minister to understand that the situation is, unfortunately, still with us. If we lose those men, unemployment on land will increase. As the Member of Parliament for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, the outer Hebrides, I know that it will happen. That is why I make the plea to her to reflect as much, and have as much understanding as the previous Minister for Immigration, who certainly surprised me by changing his opinion remarkably quickly to be practical and sensible. I praise him for that, as I did at the time.

Lynne Featherstone: I give way to the hon. Member for Strangford.

Jim Shannon: I am conscious of the time. What we have is a skilled work force. We need a concession for them, and we are asking the Minister to use her position within the Department to ensure that we get it. People have tried hard to get workers to take those places. It has not worked, but we have a skilled work force. There is a spin-off onshore. If we do not catch fish at sea, we cannot do further processing on land, and that is what leads to job losses.

Lynne Featherstone: In my understanding, the reason that that is not possible is that the work force are designated as non-skilled. I understand what the hon. Gentleman says about the skill of the Filipinos, who are seafaring folk and understand the business, but in terms of the normal visa applications, they would be made under tier 3. The reason that people do not want to do the job is that it is cold, wet and nasty and does not pay brilliantly, not that they cannot learn the skills needed. I assure hon. Members that I am listening to their passionate pleas. I am not standing here like a stone wall; I hear the case being made. Nevertheless, I must push back a bit because of the levels of unemployment in those areas and because there has been the need for a concession.

The UK Border Agency is considering ways to ensure that all UK-based crew, including those whose journeys take them beyond the 12-mile territorial limit but not to foreign ports on a routine basis, will be properly paid and accommodated. Tier 3 of the points-based system for low-skilled labour remains closed, however. As I said, the case for changing that must be made to the Migration Advisory Committee. It is important that that case is made, as the Government can go only so far.

I recognise that the requirements of the concession may have created anomalies between the levels of payment of different fishing fleets and contracted foreign fishing workers working on the same vessels. Foreign fishers have a defined income, as was described, and certainty about income for the period of their contracts, which was obviously a difficulty, but that is coming to an end. The Government’s job—

Hugh Bayley (in the Chair): Order. We must move on to the next debate.

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Motor Sport (Public Highways)

4.44 pm

Mr Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North) (Con): I am delighted to see you in the Chair, Mr Bayley. British motor sport is Britain’s great sport success story. We often hear much about football and other sports, but British motor sport undoubtedly leads the world. One need only look at the first round of this year’s Formula 1 championship to see that although a German driver crossed the finish line in the fastest car, the car was managed, designed and built in Britain, and the team was based here. Eight out of 12 Formula 1 teams are British, as are most F1 drivers and designers. Even some of the lead designers for Ferrari, the bastion of Italian motor sport, are more often than not British.

Our great teams—Williams, McLaren and now Red Bull—have proved on the world stage not only to be forerunners of new technologies and innovators in motoring but developers of British talent. Other companies such as M-Sport and Prodrive support not only Formula 1 but rallies and many other types of sporting activity on the road. Britain is and has been a world leader in motor sport, and I hope that it will continue to be one.

Motor sport is often left behind in the great sports debate. The first few sports pages of our newspapers are often taken up by football, even when the teams are full of overseas players, managed by overseas managers, owned by overseas owners and, often, languishing in the bottom of divisions after millions of pounds spent. I hope that the Government will consider my proposal to help motor sport build on its success and go forward.

We should not forget that 95% of most motor sport is amateur and consists of people participating. It is not just about the glamour and glitz of F1 or world rallying; it is about normal rallying, hill climbing, classic cars, trailing and historical cars. Anyone who lives near or visits a motor race circuit will see that sports go on there all year round, from karting to high-performance sports. Hundreds of thousands of people enjoy motor sport in Britain.

The governing body of motor sport is the Motor Sports Association, the successor to RAC MSA. It has 200,000 members and 750 affiliated motor clubs, and every year it hosts 4,500 events. The industry that feeds into that motor sport has an amazing record, with a turnover of £6 billion a year, only £2.6 billion of which is exported. Some 4,500 companies support the sport. The research and development spend—the spend for the future that trains tomorrow’s engineers and scientists—is 30% of turnover. The aerospace industry, from which I come, would be proud of such a figure, and we should do more to encourage that.

The industries on the back of motor sport—public relations, marketing, sports industry, event management—employ 38,000 people, create another £1.7 billion in turnover and involve 25,000 engineers. That is an incredible asset for this country. Some of those engineers come from my constituency, having gone to Myerscough college, which has its own team and trains young men and women to support motor teams. Some of them have gone on to work in the top flight of world motor sport.

What is wrong with motor sport? Nothing, except that we could do more for it. We could do more to allow events to take place. The problem in England and Wales

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is that if we want more events, and more diverse events, to take place, we cannot use the roads and highways in the same way as the Isle of Man or Northern Ireland. To do so would mean suspending numerous provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1988. We have a midway point. Something called a traffic regulation order allows access to a road to be suspended, but the provisions of the Highways Acts still apply. Drivers must still average 30 mph on the area of road closed to the public, and rights of way still exist, meaning that unless a uniformed police officer is there to prevent Mr and Mrs Smith from carrying on their business, no one is empowered to prevent them from using it.

That is why we cannot have a Grand Prix in London or a circuit around Birmingham, although other countries can. We should do something about it. That is also why, when Birmingham did have an event, sponsored by the noble Lord Rooker, it took an Act of Parliament to suspend some of the relevant provisions. Amending the 1998 Act or building on a traffic regulation order would fit with the Government’s agenda of empowering local authorities, encouraging tourism and events and putting people in charge of their communities. Perhaps we should look at something along the lines of a traffic suspension order or something that devolves the powers to a local authority.

I am not here to ask that motor sport be allowed to impose itself on communities that do not want it or that the Government give power to an unelected governing body to decide that it wants motor sport when the local community does not. I am here to ask the Government to devolve power to local authorities, so that they can decide whether they want to host an event. That could be in Brecon, north Lancashire, where I am, or north Yorkshire—anywhere they want a rally. It is about places with rarely used lanes and roads, which desperately need inward investment, tourism or to kick-start the season, perhaps, at unfashionable times of the year. Let us empower our local authorities to do that.

I hope that local authorities will realise that they are not on their own. The governing body, the MSA, issues licences for events. In motor sport, one cannot have a race without a licence from the governing body. Along with that licence comes liability cover and all the protection from being sued or from worry about not being experts in the field that my constituents and the local authority would need. I want the Government to empower local authorities to seek events when they want to and to be able to suspend aspects of the 1988 Act, but to do so in conjunction with the people who know about motor sport. I want them to be guided and provided with liability cover, so that we can, perhaps, reap the benefits.

A change would apply not only to motor sport, but to cycling. It is bizarre that some stages of the Tour de France could not happen here if the bikes averaged more than 30 miles an hour. One might deliberately create a race on a road and that in itself could break the current highways law. Therefore, a change is also about empowering local authorities to give cycling events a proper go and getting Britain to the forefront of that sport. We need only go out on a Sunday to realise how big cycling has become. I took a Boris bike out for the first time yesterday, which is the closest I get to it, but I could not find a rack when I got to the other end, so it was a bit of disaster—I digress.

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We should seek a change. It is easy and the benefits are clear. On tourism, as we can see with the Jim Clark rally in Scotland and motor sport all over the country, if we bring thousands of tourists into parts of the country that do not normally get them, it is a great thing. On the spend, Lancashire has a great link to the Isle of Man and the tourist trophy—TT—race. Every summer thousands of people pour over to the Isle of Man to see that great, historic race, and they help that island with its tourism very much. We could really benefit from that.

On promoting motor sport, we have to keep recruiting the engineers and drivers of the future. We have to remind people that motor sport is not only about Formula 1, but about local teams, local rallying and local engineering. It reminds people what can be done with engineering. People do not just have to build bridges, but can invent some of the very best in motor sport, materials and so on. It is also about community involvement, such as marshalling, and people getting involved in their area and taking part in a great event. We should not forget the circus coming to town. It is a great unifier in parts of the country.

I understand that people have sought this power since 1928. If the Government support them, and I hope they will, it will have been a long time coming. The previous Labour Government were supportive and never objected in any of my discussions with Labour Ministers, but we have not finally done the deed. I hope that we will. The First Minister of Scotland has spoken up in support of the change—no doubt eying the potential opportunities for the forests in Aberdeenshire and the Western Isles. We cannot take current venues for granted. Forestry Commission charges have a prohibitive effect on some rallying. The British leg of the world rally series is under threat due to some very prohibitive charges. We need to ensure that we are always able to offer alternatives.

I hope that the Minister gives us some good news and realises that the House has been supportive of a change, so it has cross-party support. It is a simple issue and would require bureaucratic measures. It is not a great ideological argument about policy and it is not about imposing our will on different communities. It is about giving power to local authorities, where it suits them, to engage with a successful British sport, promote it and allow all those followers of motor sport and cycling up and down the country to finally get out and race. If they cannot afford a Formula 1 car, they can still get out and race.

Let us not forget education. We can teach young men and women to drive responsibly and learn to drive high-speed performance cars, while teaching them that there is a time for racing and a time for driving on a normal road. That will have a lot of benefits. Perhaps we can divert some of the boy racers away from racing though my village at 2 am and away from tragic accidents, and encourage them to get involved in a motor sport that perhaps becomes more affordable and accessible to a lot of them. They could all play a part in it.

I look forward to the Minister’s response. I have spoken to him in the past about a change, and the Government have been supportive. It would fit with our localism agenda, the big society and with rewarding one of Britain’s great sports and industries.

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4.56 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): I believe that this is the first time I have served under your chairmanship, Mr Bayley, since I became a Minister of the Crown, and it is a pleasure to do so this afternoon. I congratulate my hon. Friend and former colleague from the Household Division, the Member for Wear and Preston. I am disappointed that he is not wearing his regimental tie today. [ Interruption. ] I am sorry, I am not used to his new constituency name. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace) on securing the debate and on the lobbying he has done for several months on behalf of the industry and his constituents. I hope that I have come to the debate with good news on how we can progress an issue from 1928 into legislation as soon as possible. We can tinker around the edges, but this will require primary legislation.

I would like to touch on the background. My hon. Friend is right to say that motor sport in this country has a proud history. At a recent event, which my hon. Friend attended, I had the honour and privilege to sit next to Nigel Mansell. He is a great hero in our country, who people look up to and aspire to be like. We saw what can be done in the grand prix this weekend. I was proud to be listening to the commentary of a constituent of mine, Anthony Davidson, the former driver. He is still racing, but not in Formula 1 now. It was good to hear him on the radio.

As my hon. Friend said, looking at the history, it is not only about winning, but about the teams that put together the technology and about where that technology is often applied after its use in Formula 1 and the other types of racing around the world. We talked about disc brakes and the anti-lock braking system, both of which come from Formula 1, and were not used in modern vehicles before that. The many safety features that have stemmed from Formula 1 have led to this country having the safest roads in the world.

I am very proud to be the Minister responsible for road safety, as well as for motor sport, and to be able to say in 2011 that we have the safest roads in the world. We will not be complacent, but will continue to drive down the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads, because 2,222 deaths, by the last count, are too many. At the same time, I am proud to represent this country at road safety meetings I attend around the world, where often people want to know how they can achieve the same safety record. They look up to our record, some of which is due to the excellent education work we have done over the years on drink-driving and the wearing of seatbelts—we need to work on drug-driving—but a huge amount of it is down to technology. Many of the safety features in the vehicles we drive on the roads today come from racing and the investment made in research and development by the great manufactures of this country. That is particularly true of cars, but also of motor cycles, for which, sadly, the safety trends are going in the wrong direction.

My hon. Friend is right to touch on the fact that this is a deregulation issue. I am also Minister responsible for deregulation for the Department for Transport, as well as being the shipping Minister, the devolution Minister, the roads Minister and the roads safety Minister—I could go on. We are trying to empower local communities, not just councils, so that they can

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say to their council, “Look, we would like to have some sort of event in our patch next year or next week.” It is not all about having Formula 1. That event took place in Birmingham and it had to go through a complicated process, because every time such an event is proposed, an Act of Parliament has to be passed to allow it to proceed. That may have been right and proper in 1928—although I doubt it—but it certainly is not right in 2011.

Let us consider some of the events that could take place. My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North talked about rallying as well as cars and Formula 1. When one of my constituents heard that I was responding to this debate, they reminded me that they want to have kart racing in my constituency on an empty industrial estate that has very little traffic at the weekend. We are world leaders in karting—in fact, this year’s runner-up in the British karting championship lives in my constituency. We can also consider other things, such as rallying.

I will speak to my colleagues in other Departments about why we have so much difficulty with regards state ownership—as is the case with the Forestry Commission, before it moves into whatever its future capacity will be in terms of charitable status. State ownership is impairing investment and competition in the UK. The MSA is not proposing that our streets are closed down every weekend in every town, but we have to make sure that there is confidence out there that that will not happen. We are world leaders in motor sports and in cycling. Indeed, the cycling world championships have just taken place. We might not have done as well at those as we did in the Olympics, but I am sure we will do well in 2012.

We should not create a bureaucratic hold-up for such things; instead, we need to ask how we can empower local communities to go forward. With that in mind, I am today announcing a public consultation on how we will amend the legislation, in which we want as many people as possible to participate, so that we can establish how we can deregulate the matter from central Government bureaucratic control, while ensuring that local communities do not have such things imposed on them. Those involved can perhaps come together in a consortium with the MSA, which will issue the licence for any motor sport activity. We are in a very exciting situation. The consultation, which will last for three months, will proceed from today, and I hope that many different people from across the motor sport and other racing industries come forward with innovative ideas. This country is fantastic at innovation, not just in manufacturing but in terms of ideas about how the exciting events that we see around the world can take place in this country.

I spoke to former Ministers for transport about the matter, who said that they would have liked to have dealt with the issue. I think it was on their agenda towards the end of their Administration. It is not a difficult matter, but I have to be honest and say that it will not get into this year’s legislative programme. By the time I have finished consulting, we will have to ensure that we do not interfere with local election issues or with the associated purdah. I am sure that that will not happen because it is not a party political issue; it is simply a case of how we empower local communities to do something that they want to do.

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Although I wish it could be a one-clause Bill, some technical issues surround the legislation. My hon. Friend knows, because he has done his homework, that there is no point deregulating to allow races to be held when a 30 mph speed limit is still in place and so on. The right of way issue has been touched on, but, sadly, there are several other issues to consider. In such a positive debate, I do not want to bring up a load of negatives about why such races cannot take place, and I have asked my officials to consult on how we can do it. That is the reverse of what has happened since 1928.

Such an approach will be popular in some areas, but the road safety community has some proper concerns, and I understand that. All events based around racing will be licensed by the MSA, which has a fantastic track record in making sure that such events take place efficiently and safely. If what we are doing is a success—and I am sure that it will be—the biggest thing I need to convince people about is having a structured programme, so that one community that agrees early on does not have a disproportionate number of events imposed on it. We also need to ensure that the motorist, who predominantly pays for our roads, is not inconvenienced too much. That balance is something the Isle of Man has addressed very well. I have been invited to the Isle of Man TT this year but, sadly, family commitments mean that I cannot be there. I would have liked to take my Triumph across the water and, if not raced on the circuit, perhaps been pro enough to drive it, even if I would have been somewhat slower than the racers.

There are some strange legal anomalies regarding motor sport. Technically, the London to Brighton rally is not a race. If it were, we would have to pass an Act of Parliament every year so that it can take place in November. When we are proud of our heritage, that is a ludicrous situation to be in. I have not discovered why, over the years, subsequent Parliaments of all political persuasions have not dealt with the matter. I use this terminology all too often, but doing so is a no-brainer. As long as we have control and are happy that the community is the driver for this, why should Government hinder such an event? With that in mind, as I say, the consultation will last for three months.

Karl McCartney (Lincoln) (Con): I welcome the consultation and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace) on securing the debate. I am very interested in classic cars. From a historical vehicle point of view, will the Minister look at examples overseas? A great historical vehicle event called the grand prix of the ramparts takes place in Angoulême, France. Although our villages might not look exactly the same as those involved with that race, there are areas where similar events could take place. That would be a great bonus to the historical vehicle owners who would enjoy such an event.

Mike Penning: My hon. Friend makes a sensible point. This is not about one type of vehicle; it could involve any type of vehicle. It would be up to the MSA and the local community to decide to go ahead. I have already announced that a consultation will take place on whether we can remove classic and vintage vehicles up to a certain age group from the MOT test. The MOT testers do not want to deal with such vehicles because they are trying to test modern vehicles. However, under

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law, they have to do an MOT test. I was in a 1911 Rolls-Royce the other day that belongs to Lord Montagu. How on earth could an ordinary MOT station dream of doing an MOT on such a vehicle? I have had the honour of being invited to drive the Mille Miglia in Italy this year, which I have to do in a British Jaguar XK150.

Karl McCartney: Is there any chance that the Minister might need someone to join him and carry his bags because my name is at the top of that list.

Mike Penning: I am afraid that my hon. Friend might have to speak to my wife, who has very kindly allowed me to go as long as she is with me.

On a serious note, the debate has been very useful. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North not just for securing the debate, but for being informative before it took place. That meant I had the chance to do my homework and listen to representations from the MSA and many people in my constituency. I represent one of the most socially deprived wards and one of the most affluent villages, so there is a good spectrum in terms of the excitement about such an event taking place.

Mr Wallace: Does my hon. Friend agree that what is amazing about motor sport is that the supporters are often low profile? It is only when there is an event such as this, that one receives dozens of e-mails from constituents who come out of woodwork and who one never knew were keen supporters of the sport. Such people take part in club events every weekend.

Mike Penning: I never cease to be fascinated by how many people get up in the very early hours of the morning on a weekend to watch Formula 1, like we all

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did last weekend. We were even up for the practice sessions, which I am sure makes us complete anoraks, but we were up and so were millions and millions of other people. This is not a class issue. This is not about the affluent. One of the reasons why the younger chaps in my constituency tell me that they are always out and about in their go-faster cars is that they do not feel that they have an outlet. I am not saying that they are bad guys—they are not. They are just frustrated. They would like to have an outlet to give them an opportunity. This measure, especially if it is done properly—

Hugh Bayley (in the Chair): Order. There is a Division in the House. If the Minister feels that he can finish in two minutes, I think we could run on. If he wants his full four remaining minutes, we should adjourn.

Mike Penning: Mr Bayley, I can always take a hint, so in the space of 90 seconds I will sum up.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North yet again on securing the debate and giving me an opportunity, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, to wipe out, in a short period of time—a bit of patience will be needed to get the legislation right—the anomaly that has existed for so many years, since 1928. I hope that local communities will take the opportunity to work with the MSA as a licensing authority to come forward with plans. If they do not, I think everybody would understand, but I suspect that this will be a very popular measure throughout the country. I hope that we can introduce the legislation that will enable local authorities to exercise those controls.

Question put and agreed to.

5.11 pm

Sitting adjourned.