Economy and Trade and Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:25 pm on 18th November 2002.

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Photo of Ms Linda Perham Ms Linda Perham Labour, Ilford North 7:25 pm, 18th November 2002

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support on that matter. There have been a number of briefings from those companies, and they are certainly on the defensive. They know that local people should be kept informed, and I hope that we shall make some progress on that. I am sure that many other hon. Members have been lobbied about this; it is a serious matter, about which people care very much.

The second recommendation of the Select Committee stated:

XChanges in the planning regime fail to address the main problem, which is that objection to base stations comes not from local authorities but from individuals who suffer from loss of amenity or fear of ill-effects for themselves and their families. Unless it is clear that the planning system has a robust way of dealing with health fears expressed by people, the results of the changes will be yet more frustration."

Speed of decision making is another cause for concern addressed by the planning Green Paper. A planning application to build a racecourse in my constituency took more than a year to be decided. We must do better. There is also concern that planning reform will be focused too closely on the needs of corporations and may fail to protect the interests of vulnerable individuals. I envisage planning reform providing opportunities for innovation that will finally turn the tide of the housing crisis in London. I dearly hope that the Government will be radical—and, dare I say, bold—in their plans to help the homeless, key workers and, in London, anyone whose salary is less than #30,000 a year, as people in those circumstances have very little chance of getting on the housing ladder. There are 190 families with children currently accommodated in bed and breakfast by my borough of Redbridge. Unfortunately, at the same time, the Tory council is proposing to reduce drastically the density of future residential developments, at a time when homes are most urgently needed.

The Trade and Industry Committee has looked at the matter of Britain's nuclear liabilities, and I am pleased that the Government are taking seriously the need for a resolution to this issue. Nevertheless, I stand by the Committee's recommendation that there needs to be an independent inquiry into the value for money for the taxpayer in transferring those liabilities. Nuclear power is expensive and dangerous, and I am concerned that we may be asked to bail out this industry with many billions of pounds of taxpayers' money. Perhaps we should consider what would be the relative benefit if that money were invested instead in the production of renewable energy or in energy conservation. I look forward to the publication of the energy White Paper next year, and I hope that it will include non-nuclear options.

I welcome the announcement of legislation to enable Parliament to reach a conclusion on hunting with dogs. I share the opinion of more than 300 of my constituents who have contacted me on the issue since my hon. Friend Mr. Foster introduced his Bill in 1997; the only conclusion is a complete ban. Four hundred and eleven hon. Members voted in favour of that Bill. There could have been no clearer statement of the will of this House than that, and we should have concluded the issue in the last Parliament. I hope that we shall at last, and not before time, end this monstrous, barbarous and cruel practice, which masquerades as a sport.

I support the Queen's Speech and the Chancellor's robust statement of the Government's achievements and future programme. In the absence of any policies being put forward by the shadow Chancellor, the public will judge which party can best be trusted with the future of the country.