Like many other hon. Members, I too was disappointed by the speech from the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman), which seemed full of rhetoric and devoid of new ideas. However, I agree entirely with the part of his speech that had to do with the absence of the Deputy Prime Minister from the Chamber today.
The Minister said in response to the comments of the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells that the Deputy Prime Minister was engaged this afternoon in meetings about the closure of the west coast main line. I was advised two days ago that the Deputy Prime Minister would not attend this debate, so one of two inferences can be drawn: either the Deputy Prime Minister knew two days ago that the closures were going to happen, and therefore should have informed the House about them in his statement yesterday; or the meetings were arranged more recently, in which case time could have been set aside to enable the Deputy Prime Minister to be here for this debate.
Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister told the House that safety was his guiding principle. I have no doubt that, notwithstanding the arguments on either side of the fuel crisis, safety was an important feature of that crisis. If lives were not lost because of the blockades, they were certainly put at risk. If safety is the Deputy Prime Minister's top priority, he should have been here to tell the House what action the Government intended to take to ensure that lives would not be put at risk if similar blockades were imposed.