Sir David Amess Summer Adjournment

– in the House of Commons at 1:53 pm on 20 July 2023.

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Debate resumed

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 2:07, 20 July 2023

I begin by apologising to the House: as I have discussed with Madam Deputy Speaker and the Minister, I cannot remain until 5 o’clock. As a result of today’s train strikes, it will take me longer to get to the airport and then back to Scotland. I appreciate their understanding of that.

I will also begin by reflecting on our late, great colleague whom this debate is named after. I was with Sir David Amess on a foreign trip less than 48 hours before he was murdered, and in many of the discussions that we had throughout the days and in the evenings—during which he led the delegation with great skill, as he always did—he mentioned how much he enjoyed this Adjournment debate, raising issues on behalf of his constituents. We can see from his contributions over the years just how passionate he was about this place, this debating Chamber and the issues he was able to highlight. It is a fitting memory of Sir David that we hold this debate at the end of each term.

The first issue I would like to raise is a national issue, and then I want to go on to more local issues in my constituency of Moray. The national issue is the news that has broken in Scotland today about Viaplay withdrawing from the UK, as referenced by Gavin Newlands. That news has been met with a lot of concern. Understandably, people will be worried about their jobs, and they are in our thoughts at the moment—I should of course declare an interest as a football referee with the Scottish Football Association, including in the Scottish league cup this weekend, which is sponsored and broadcast by Viaplay. There are also concerns about the future of Viaplay’s coverage in Scotland—its coverage of the Scottish league cup and, of course, our national games.

Members who have already raised this issue have been right to highlight that the performance of Steve Clarke and his team in recent months has been something that all of us Scottish football fans have welcomed and celebrated. We are looking forward to the qualification campaign continuing after the incredible results that we have already seen. Although the news about Viaplay is concerning, I also think it is an opportunity because, like other Members across the House, I am concerned that we cannot watch our national team—the Scottish men’s team—on free-to-view TV. Despite the contract having recently been agreed between Viaplay, UEFA and the Scottish FA, there is an opportunity to review the model of delivering the national men’s football games on terrestrial TV. I hope that the BBC, STV and Channel 4 look again at the offer they can make in that regard, as getting those games on free-to-air TV would be welcomed by our fans across the country.

Let me turn to some local matters. First, I want to discuss some health-related issues. I understand that health is fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government, but I am in a fortunate position in that I sit in both our Parliaments, and given that I have raised both these health issues in the Scottish Parliament, I would like to reiterate them here in the UK Parliament. The first is about access to GP surgeries.

There has been a significant campaign in the villages of Burghead and Hopeman to retain the surgeries in those two coastal communities, as they are vital facilities for the people living there. The Save Our Surgeries campaign has done outstanding work to raise the issue—not just locally, but on national news too. There has been a strong outpouring of support for that campaign, with thousands signing the petition to maintain at least one of the surgeries, but the response from NHS Grampian and Health & Social Care Moray has been appalling and disgraceful, and disrespectful to the people campaigning for the surgeries’ continuation.

The chief executive of NHS Grampian recently wrote to me after I raised concerns with her. She told me that part of the consultation did not include the basic question of whether the surgeries could remain open. When I highlighted that in the press, the board told me that it had missed out a word in the letter to me, which should have stated that the question was not a “main” part of the consultation. This has led many people to believe that there was never a genuine consultation to keep the surgeries in Burghead and Hopeman open and that it had been agreed from the very beginning that they would close. However, NHS Grampian did not count on the outstanding support locally for a facility in either—but hopefully both—Burghead or Hopeman. I will continue to support the campaign in any way I can.

The other health issue I want to raise is the future of consultant-led maternity services at Dr Gray’s. It is coming up to five years since our community was told that there would be a temporary downgrade of that facility for one year. In that five-year period, my wife and I have welcomed two beautiful boys into the world, four-year-old Alistair and two-year-old James. Alistair was fortunately able to be born at Dr Gray’s, but due to complications when my wife Krystle went into labour, James had to be born in Aberdeen following a blue-light journey in the back of an ambulance from Elgin. Sadly, our story and experience is shared by far too many Moray mums and families.

We have been promised time and again that the facilities will be brought back, yet we are now five years on from the original decision to downgrade it temporarily for 12 months. I welcome the fact that the new Public Health Minister has agreed to meet me, local campaigners Keep MUM and others in Moray during the summer recess to discuss this issue and to come up and see the importance of getting that full consultant-led facility open again at Dr Gray’s. The situation has been going on for far too long, and I will continue to use opportunities such as this debate and others to highlight the importance of the full restoration of the service, so that we can ensure that the outstanding staff at Dr Gray’s can continue to provide that high level of care as locally as they would like.

The other issue I want to raise is that of infrastructure. We have heard from other contributors about infrastructure projects, and one that I would like to focus on is the dualling of the A9, which is a critical route in Scotland that goes from the central belt through Perthshire and up to the highlands. Many of my constituents use the A9 daily or weekly to get to and from the north of Scotland.

Back in 2007, the SNP promised to fully dual the A9, but that promise has not been delivered. Indeed, this week The Inverness Courier hosted a summit on the dualling of the A9 that was attended by the SNP Scottish Transport Minister. It was welcome that she travelled to Inverness to hear the concerns of local residents and campaigners, but many were left unhappy with the responses they heard. Among the comments were those of Laura Hansler, who said she does not believe that the A9 will be dualled in her lifetime. She has been campaigning because she sees daily how dangerous the road is but, given the delays we have seen under the SNP Scottish Government, she does not think the road will be fully dualled in her lifetime, despite the promise that had been made.

We also heard from Bill Lobban, the convenor of Highland Council and an independent councillor, who felt that there were no answers from the meeting. Crucially, we heard from Fergus Ewing, an SNP MSP and a former Cabinet Secretary, who said that he felt it was to his shame that there has not been enough progress on dualling the route in the time his party has been in government, and that the Minister had failed to answer the three main points and concerns that came out of the summit.

It is of real concern that although there has at least been more dialogue, there is no further action on dualling the route. We were told that when the A9 was fully dualled, the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen, which goes through my Moray constituency, would be fully dualled as well. We are no further on and, indeed, the future of the A96 dualling is now in far more doubt because the SNP brought into government the Scottish Greens, who are anti-car and anti-road building. That vital infrastructure upgrade is now under serious threat because of the Greens in government trying to stop critical networks being brought up to the level expected. Not only do my constituents want it, but businesses in Moray say that it is crucial for their future as well.

I want to stick to the time limit that has been imposed, because so many Members want to raise so many issues, but this has been a great opportunity to raise in Parliament just some of the crucial issues that I have been working on as MP for Moray and will continue to work on in the summer recess. Like others, Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish you and all Members and staff all the best for the summer recess.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton 2:17, 20 July 2023

I wish to speak about a number of constituency issues. First, I recently had the privilege of opening, on behalf of the company Brit European in Middlewich in my constituency, its new Vita Nova centre. Brit European started life in my constituency just under 100 years ago, with one horse-drawn milk tanker taking milk from local farms to dairy. Today, it is a leading transport logistics company with a fleet of hundreds of vehicles, provides transport solutions across the UK and into Europe, and has its own driver academy. I was so impressed with the innovative approach by Brit European—led by CEO Graham Lackey, who is supported by group sales director Rob McNinch, both of whom have travelled here to listen to this debate from the Gallery—that I want to take this opportunity to commend the company for the development of its new site. It has focused on a carbon-neutral build, working off grid and ensuring that the whole site is environmentally efficient.

Let me give some more detail. The new centre has repurposed an existing steel-frame building from elsewhere for the company’s modular building, while the driver welfare facilities, workshops, IT facilities and parts stores are all made from repurposed shipping containers. The entire site of 5.5 acres is built on a redesigned concrete slab that is 33% thinner than normal concrete foundations and has hugely reduced the carbon footprint for the whole build. Ground stabilisation techniques were used in construction to avoid digging into the ground, thereby avoiding the need to remove soil, dump it off site and replace it with quarried materials. This alone saved thousands of transported truckloads of materials.

Focusing on off grid, the Vita Nova site has a full solar array and battery power storage system, and innovative wind towers are planned that are quieter and less obtrusive than traditional large windmill turbines. Remarkably, they have been 3D-printed using recycled plastic on site, so again avoiding transport, and with no concrete foundations, they can easily be moved. They are the first of their kind in England.

Colloquially called “moo poo”, methane captured from dairy farms’ slurry pits is being used to charge Brit European’s vehicles. This is 84 times better than releasing a kilogram of methane into the atmosphere, and is another world first. The rainwater harvesting system provides 85% of the site’s total water needs and is used for flushing toilets and vehicle washing, and none of the water that falls within the site can run off to the surrounding environment without being cleaned via filter tanks. In a final stage of off-grid development, Brit European is developing software and a switching system to co-ordinate all power generation, so that at any point in time it is using the most environmentally beneficial energy source available. In other words, it links the solar, wind, moo poo and battery systems together and utilises the energy they produce before going to grid.

The whole build is on a brownfield area, so the company worked with environmental experts to come up with a planting scheme to restore the site to its pre-industrial state. It is believed the site was first industrialised in the late 1800s. Work includes carefully selected trees and shrubs, bat and bird boxes, and measures to encourage animals such as hedgehogs.

Even more admirable is Brit European’s generous offer through the Road Haulage Association to pass on this innovation to other transport or logistics businesses across the country. This exemplary innovation has not been easy, but when Graham Lackey is asked why he has done this, he replies, “To reach sustainability as a business is simply the right thing to do, for my children and their future.” It gives me great pleasure to commend Brit European’s innovative work today. I am very proud to have such a forward-looking company in my constituency.

Elsewhere in my constituency are the steep inclines of Mow Cop. Will the Government consider improving the guidance for local authorities on winter gritting? On Mow Cop, there are several rural roads that are not gritted in the winter and can therefore be impassable for vehicles in the winter months, leading to more traffic on the remaining open roads, preventing safe access by emergency services, stopping social care workers visiting elderly members of the rural population and children going to and from school on local authority transport, and cutting off those who live in our rural settlements. As Councillor Patrick Redstone, who has long been campaigning for better gritting on Mow Cop, says, these roads are not mere “rat runs”; they are, as one of my constituents called them, arteries of the rural community. Will the Government review the current guidance for local authorities on winter gritting, with a view to strengthening local council obligations?

Another company in my constituency is SpanSet Ltd, which has been manufacturing there for over 50 years. This progressive international company wants to invest in solar energy generation at its factory site, but its plans have been halved by the local electricity network’s operators restrictions. The issue relates to the capacity of network infrastructure to receive back any excess energy generated. SpanSet is asking why, at a time when renewable energy generation and reducing energy imports are so important, the system disincentivises local network operators supporting companies that want to invest in green energy and even forces them to reduce or vetoes schemes. As this is a technical question, I ask the Minister responding to today’s debate to support my request for a meeting between SpanSet and someone from the Department for Business and Trade to discuss the matter further.

Next, I join constituents in objecting to the proposed closure of Congleton station’s ticket office. As one constituent writes:

“The service provided for all customers, especially the disabled, is essential for the safety of all”.

Another says:

“This is unacceptable as the ticket office is always busy—at times the queue can be outside the door—and the staff are very helpful.”

Last but by no means least, I have campaigned in this House for many years on family hubs, and I was delighted when the Government provided money for them across the country. I commend New Life church in Congleton for the holistic support it offers individuals and families, young and old—including a food bank, running parenting courses, providing job and benefits support, offering mental health support and much more. In the light of these services, New Life church should be recognised as a family hub, or at the very least as a spoke of a family hub. Some time ago, I took representatives from Cheshire East Council to New Life, and no one could fail to be impressed by the work that is going on with families. Since then, discussions have been ongoing for some time between Cheshire East Council officers and others for New Life to be formally recognised as at least a family hub spoke. May I use this debate to urge Cheshire East Council to make a decision, award funding to New Life and grant it spoke status?

Before I close, may I just put on record my deepest thanks to my parliamentary assistant Chloe Black? She has worked for me for many years and provided exemplary service, and I wish her all the best as she embarks on her new career as a geography teacher.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee 2:26, 20 July 2023

As we all do today, I rise with Sir David Amess in my heart and in my thoughts. He was a great friend—a cheeky friend—and mentor to so many of us.

I am very fortunate to represent the amazing communities of Rutland and Melton, the Vale and Harborough villages, which cover 187 villages, three towns and 431 square miles. Within my constituency, we have the Hallaton hoard of Roman gold and the Stilton pork pie. I promised all Members that much would be heard of that during my time in Parliament, and I would say that I have lived up to that commitment. We also have Burrough on the Hill, where there was a great Roman fort. We have the Rutland sea dragon, otherwise known as the ichthyosaur. I put on record that it is not a dinosaur, but a marine animal of some sort. We also have the Belvoir elderflower cordial, the Rutland mosaic, which has changed our understanding of Roman history, and the beautiful Belvoir castle, where “The Crown” is filmed. This is an incredible group of communities to represent, and I am so pleased to be here and to speak about some of the campaigns on which I have been working on their behalf.

I am also delighted to see the Minister, the Vice-Chamberlain of His Majesty’s Household, on the Front Bench for this debate, and look forward to hearing her voice filling the Chamber once again.

Earlier this year—and I know that the world and the media were very keen to talk about this—we were successful in our bid to secure £23 million from the levelling-up fund for the communities of Rutland and Melton. Many asked, “Why did Rutland and Melton deserve those funds?” The answer is that we have two of the worst places in the country for social mobility. That means that when people have difficult lives, it is far more difficult for them to create the future that they and their family want—that most Conservative of values—with a determination to get better education and better opportunities. I am therefore incredibly excited that we are moving forward with this levelling-up funding.

The priority now is making sure that we can get everything in place to meet the deadlines we have set. As a result, we will build the Borough market of the midlands in Melton Mowbray, as well as an entire new tourism offer within Rutland. We will build a medical hub, which will design the technologies of the future to support our loved ones to live for longer. That includes informing people when their elderly loved ones are dehydrated and need to be given tablets to swallow, or if they have had a heart attack or fallen down the stairs. That will attract medical talent to Rutland and give us first access to those technologies. We will finally build an older people’s medical technology hub in the UK.

In the long term, we need more beyond this immediate cash injection. I am talking about fair funding. I have touched on the need to insert social mobility, a core Conservative value, into the way we fund local government. I know it is unlikely that the funding formulas will get the overhaul this country needs, but I met the Chancellor yesterday and am working to see if we can get social mobility included alongside deprivation in the funding formula. That would better recognise that sometimes, in the most deprived areas in our country, people still have access to a jobcentre or to employment or training opportunities within a 10-minute walk. When you see rural poverty, Mr Deputy Speaker, it stays with you and you do not forget it, because those individuals may not have access to buses or petrol for their cars, nor the ability to go to shops or medical care or anything else. That is why I am fighting to put social mobility into our funding formulas.

On the streets of Rutland and Melton, the most common issue raised with me is healthcare. I am therefore delighted that the £1.5 million refurbishment of Rutland Memorial Hospital was completed in March—it is looking wonderful—and that the £450 million for Leicester hospitals is going ahead, but there is more to be done. I have secured agreement for the first MRI scanner ever to be positioned in Rutland, and I am now working to get the final funding put in place by the Government, so I am grateful to them. As part of that, I am working to get Medbourne GP practice reopened. We need it up and running and in that community spoke—it is important.

A wider concern that I have about healthcare in our area is that I have recently identified that access to community paediatricians is far below what it should be. In Melton, the maximum wait is 102 weeks, and in Rutland it is 106 weeks for a child to see a paediatrician to get support. That is not good enough, and I will be working to see what we can do.

On national healthcare, I thank my hon. Friend Steve Brine for meeting my constituent Phil Newby, who went to the High Court for the right to end his own life because of the appalling conditions in which he has to live. I was grateful to my hon. Friend for ensuring that private meeting, so that Phil could give evidence before he potentially loses the ability to speak.

I am also delighted that working with Dan Carden, who has become a good friend across the aisle, we have secured a right to protect the rights of loved ones to have visitors when they are in hospital, following my campaign during the pandemic to make sure that partners are never locked out again. I am delighted that we have secured that national change.

As a rural constituency, travel continues to be a major issue in Rutland and Melton, but after 40 years—some say 50 or 60 years—I have finally delivered the Melton Mowbray distributor road. The bypass is in the ground, the spades are there and it is being built. We are meeting deadline after deadline. People said it would never happen, but it is happening and people can see it all around them. It is such good news.

I am still working to secure more progress on the A1. It has one of the worst accident records in the UK. I have secured six substantial safety upgrades to the A1, all of which are now complete. I, too, suffered the pain of driving up and down as it was closed over the past few months, but we got the security and safety upgrades that we needed. I have also noticed a big uptick in littering and fly-tipping along the A1, which is deeply disappointing. I am pleased that we have secured the increase in fly-tipping fines that many of us have been fighting for. I hope those fines start to be used.

Turning to Bottesford in the north of my constituency, we have made some progress at the A52 junction. I know it is not enough, but we will be getting vehicle-activated speed signs early next year, and that is progress. I brought National Highways to Bottesford. It met my constituents, and I am disappointed that it is still not willing to do the full junction renovations that we need, but we are making progress.

On education, it has been a big year for Rutland. We have secured regeneration funding for 11 schools across my constituency and, following the biggest increase in funding for education announced the other day by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, we will now see £75 million put into education across Rutland and Melton, and that is absolutely right. I pay tribute to the staff and, in particular, the headteacher, Carl, at Casterton College. They recently saw an appalling incident where, following storms, much of the building collapsed. We had fortunately already secured it a place in the school rebuilding programme, and following that incident we have a timeline with delivery in 2025, which is fantastic news.

I was pleased to host my first annual parish and town council summits over the past year. They were a chance to hear from local communities and local people who know what local people want. As part of that, we have been fighting for funds from the community ownership fund. I am delighted that four out of four applications were successful in Rutland and Melton: the Black Horse at Grimston, the Barrowden village hall, the Bell at Frisby, which is doing amazingly, and the hub at Thurnby, where we broke ground a few months ago. It is fantastic to see local communities getting the investment they need to build community spaces.

While I am on communities, I will mention the amazing charity For Rutland. It raises funds every year to fund specialist advisers for our citizens advice bureau. Elizabeth Mills and Trish Ruddle are sweethearts of Rutland and absolute heroes. People book tickets over a year in advance for the For Rutland charity clothes sale, travelling from as far as Edinburgh and Cornwall to take part, so I thank them for all they do.

I will move quickly through my final points. I am delighted that in the Oakham Heights estate, we have finally managed to get residents on the board, and there will be a full handover of the estate to residents. We fought to make sure that local people had a say.

I continue my campaign against the Mallard Pass solar plant in my constituency, and the Government know that I will be tabling two new clauses to the Energy Bill: the first is to rip out Uyghur slave labour solar panels, and the second is to ensure that we do not build on the best and most versatile land of grade 3a and above, and that 3b land continues to be seen as such.

I turn to casework and the silent victories MPs have that few people ever hear about. My team and I have supported almost 6,000 residents since last September, receiving a staggering 13,000 emails, and I am delighted that we continue to have wins for people who come to us in their darkest days, when every other door has been closed in their face. I pay tribute in particular to my extraordinary senior caseworker, Lisa, who will fight and fight until she gets people the outcomes they deserve and makes their voices heard, and to Emma, who supports her and ran an incredible matching service for Ukrainian refugees last year, through which we helped over 400 families find a home here in the UK.

I reiterate my thanks to the entire House for its support in electing me as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It has been an enormous privilege and joy. It is so important to have the opportunity to bring forward important pieces of work, such as our recent report on hostage taking. We will soon publish reports on the Wagner network and our Indo-Pacific inquiry. I thank the Clerks of the Committee, Chris, Medha, Johnny, Sasha, Ken, Ashlee, Daniela, Lucy, Hannah, Clare, Toni and those I may have forgotten, as well as David Clark in the Speaker’s Office, who has been a steadfast support to me.

I also pay tribute to Alison and Ted and all the security team of the House, who are often forgotten but who have been incredibly helpful to me over the last year in the face of significant challenges. I thank them for all they do to keep the House safe, as well as Mr Speaker and his family.

I will wrap up by saying an enormous thank you to my team. Without them, I would be lost and would not have the joy that we sometimes forget to find in this role. These are people who stand by and truly believe in the communities we fight for and communities around the world such as those in the Balkans, Ukraine and beyond. I thank Lisa, Emma, Alex, Amelia and Harry, and I wish everyone a wonderful summer recess.

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Conservative, Rayleigh and Wickford 2:37, 20 July 2023

I am honoured to speak in the Sir David Amess Adjournment debate, which the House kindly agreed some time ago to name in memory of our great friend. We still miss him, and I must confess that I do in particular —especially that famous cheeky Amess grin. I reassure the House that I am not going to try to emulate him and raise 20 different topics in half as many minutes. Nevertheless, there are five particular areas that I would like to touch on before the House adjourns for the summer.

First, as those who were here at Education questions on Monday may recall, I have launched a campaign for a new special needs school in south Essex. We already have a number of very good special needs schools in Essex, but they are now—almost without exception—heavily over-subscribed, and we simply do not have enough special needs places, particularly in the south of the county, to deal with ever increasing demand. As a result, many parents end up having to go through long appeals processes, desperately trying to get their children into an appropriate school. For those who are unsuccessful, their children are shoehorned into mainstream education, which sometimes leads to behavioural problems and even to mainstream schools themselves getting bad Ofsted reports as a result.

We need to cut through this Gordian knot and expand capacity. I am therefore talking to the cabinet member for education and lifelong learning in Essex County Council, Councillor Tony Ball, as well as Ministers at the Department for Education and a couple of local multi-academy trusts, to see whether we can find a suitable option to open a new school. I hope to have more to say about that by the time the House returns in the autumn, but for the moment I pledge to do my best on this. In that, I hope I will have the support of my constituents, especially parents with special needs children.

Secondly, we have had real problems at King Edmund School in Ashingdon, which suffered a triple whammy. First, it was closed like many other schools during covid, and secondly, it had to have a large block demolished because of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, or RAAC. The third whammy came when they demolished the building and found that it contained a large quantity of asbestos, which no one realised was there. The school had to be completely closed while the area was thoroughly decontaminated. I am glad to report to the House that the new block is now in the early stages of rising phoenix-like from the ashes. I thank the permanent secretary at the Department for Education, who at a recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee publicly apologised to me and my constituents who were adversely affected by this difficult situation. I am assured by the headteacher, Mr Jonathan Osborn, that the apology has gone down very well with staff, parents and pupils alike, so I want to register my thanks this afternoon on their behalf.

On a related matter, Hockley Primary School has also unfortunately been discovered to be suffering from RAAC. Having recently checked with the Academies Enterprise Trust, which runs the school, it is in the midst of a detailed engineering survey, assisted by the Department, to assess the extent of the problem. In the meantime, other AET schools in the Hockley area, including Plumberow and Greensward, have rallied round to provide alternative places for Hockley schoolchildren.

We await the results of the engineering survey with great interest, but I am doing everything I can in the meantime to facilitate the provision at least of temporary classrooms for the autumn term on the Hockley Primary School site itself. If that cannot be achieved—I very much hope it can—I will work with AET to ensure that there is some kind of plan B, perhaps continuing to use some of the nearby schools.

Thirdly, we have a very unfortunate situation in Wickford, whereby both the town’s main supermarkets are closed pending redevelopment, and the old market in Wickford High Street has had to close and is looking for an alternative venue. Many other Members wish to speak today, so to cut a very long story short, my Wickford constituents have been left facing something of a perfect storm regarding their ability to shop locally. I am doing everything I can to persuade Basildon Council to find a new site, even a temporary one, to allow Wickford market to reopen, and also to persuade Aldi, which is in the process of rebuilding and expanding its supermarket in Wickford, to keep to its ambitious timetable and make sure that the store is open before Christmas this year.

My Wickford constituents are also frustrated by the fact that Abellio Greater Anglia knocked down half their train station without having a proper plan to rebuild it. I have raised this issue with Abellio on multiple occasions, and I now understand it is close to submitting a planning application for a new station design to Basildon Council this summer, which would hopefully allow construction to begin sometime next year. It is important that Abellio keeps to that timetable, and I intend to remain very much on its case until it does so.

That leads me on to the related matter of ticket offices, not just in Wickford, but at all the other stations in my constituency. I fully intend to respond to the consultation about proposals to close ticket offices prior to the deadline next week, but suffice it to say at this juncture that I am opposed to the proposals, which are a mistake. The savings that might be generated from doing so are more than outweighed by the potential inconvenience for travellers, particularly those who are visually impaired or otherwise disabled. The other Monday morning when I was waiting on the platform at Rayleigh station, I even saw that—lo and behold—the ticket machine was not working. In short, I believe the game is not worth the candle. I very much hope that Ministers—including the rail Minister, who is a decent chap and to whom I spoke personally about this recently—and the train operators might yet be persuaded to reconsider.

Fourthly, I want to raise some issues relating to sheltered housing accommodation in my constituency. Some in the House with good memories might remember my previously referring to a sheltered housing scheme known as Sangster Court—also known as “Gangster Court”—in Rayleigh, run by Notting Hill Genesis. Such has been my frustration with NHG over the years that, in the last Sir David Amess summer Adjournment debate, on 21 July last year, I said in the House:

“I can only express the hope that Notting Hill Genesis will soon be overtaken by a larger and more professional housing association that will do a much better job for my constituents.”—[Official Report, 21 July 2022;
Vol. 718, c. 1178.]

I was therefore delighted to receive a letter only yesterday from Mr Matthew Cornwall-Jones, the group director of assets and sustainability for NHG, confirming that it now intends to sell on the sheltered accommodation it currently owns in Essex, including in my Rayleigh and Wickford constituency. I am not sure whether that will be met with joyous rejoicing in Sangster Court, but it was certainly met with approval in my office yesterday. I very much hope we will be able to find another major social housing provider, such as perhaps Sanctuary, which has had its own issues but is now gradually improving, to take over NHG’s properties in Essex and run them more successfully.

In addition, I have had some dreadful experiences with a property management company called FirstPort, which manages a number of privately run sheltered housing facilities in my constituency. Ironically, as part of its branding, it claims to “prioritise customer service”—well, you could have fooled me! For instance, at King Georges Court in Rayleigh it took FirstPort more than seven months to fix a lift. Partly as a result, some very ill elderly residents had to be carried down flights of steps by ambulance paramedics, who were doing their best, because the lift was not working. I am glad to report to the House that the lift is now finally functioning again, but FirstPort could hardly have made a worse job of it if it had tried. The concept of any sense of urgency seems totally alien to it.

Furthermore, FirstPort runs another facility called Oak Lodge in Hockley, which I visited recently at the invitation of the residents, only to see a number of maintenance defects, including a back fence that was effectively falling down and had not been repaired despite multiple complaints by the residents. Incidentally, they were also upset by increases in their bills, especially their energy bills, which they regarded as completely disproportionate. FirstPort is particularly poor at replying to correspondence, including from Members of Parliament. I put on record today that I very much hope it will follow Notting Hill Genesis’s example and hand its homes over to someone more competent to run them. I do not know what the non-executive directors of FirstPort do all day, but holding the company’s executive directors properly to account does not exactly seem to be their top priority.

Fifthly, everyone who knew Sir David is well aware that he was a great animal lover, so it is partly in his memory that I am supporting the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation’s “The Crate Escape” campaign to phase out the use of cruel farrowing crates for sows and their piglets—and the sooner the better. Sir David was very keen on this issue, and I hope and believe that we will get there in the end.

Lastly, Mr Deputy Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank you, all our colleagues, all the staff of the House, my excellent Westminster team, Adele, Oliver, Felix and Mellissa, and all my supporters in my constituency. I hope they all have a relaxing summer recess and that we can all reassemble safely in the autumn. I thank the House.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Conservative, Newbury 2:48, 20 July 2023

This is the second time I have spoken in this debate. The first time was two years ago, and I followed David Amess—I can even remember where he was sitting in the Chamber at the time. I have refreshed my memory on what I said in that debate. I raised for the first time the issue of improved public transport links north from Newbury up to Oxford, and specifically the need for a new bus route that would link Newbury to the towns and the science parks up what we call the “knowledge highway” of the A34. I am delighted that two years later, after countless surveys, leaflets, emails to constituents, meetings with Ministers, and meetings with Oxfordshire County Council, West Berkshire Council and various bus companies, the new X34 bus route will open on Monday. I want to say how grateful I am to the Government for the £2.6 million bus service improvement plan funding that was given to West Berkshire Council in recognition of the fact that rural areas are often not well connected, and I also want to put on record my thanks to Oxfordshire County Council, West Berkshire Council and Thames Travel for taking the rare and unusual step of creating a new bus route that crosses two counties.

Since it is perfectly obvious that this debate actually works, it seems as good a time as any for me to raise my next infrastructure campaign, which is for a bridge over the level crossing, or at least some part of the adjacent railway line, in Thatcham. That may sound like a small issue, but what is in fact a significant signalling problem causes residents of that town extensive delays at peak times every single day. Many of my constituents say that they wait between 45 minutes and an hour per journey when travelling to and from work. I dread to think how many hours are lost to them each day.

I have already met the Transport Secretary to discuss the problem, and I am grateful for his support so far —although I have not asked him for any money yet and I will visit the site and meet the signalling team tomorrow. My constituency predecessor, now Lord Benyon, made some initial efforts, and has told me that, if nothing else, he can explain to me where the plan to build a bridge went wrong in the past. However, I think that there are sensible, practical solutions to the infrastructure blockage problem, and I know that the magic of this debate means that the bridge will be built very soon.

I want to raise, briefly, two further issues. Another campaign that I have been running for about two years involves the waiting times faced by families seeking a diagnosis of either autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder from the West Berkshire child and adolescent mental health service. When I became the local MP, the waiting time was frequently as long as three years, and I heard heartbreaking stories about children who were unable to access the curriculum, or were experiencing serious social difficulties and in some instances were not even at school.

I think that every family in my constituency who is affected by that is well aware that I have been campaigning to bring waiting times down to a 12-month maximum. We have had a great deal of support from the Government: in 2021, West Berkshire CAMHS received an additional £1.6 million to reduce waiting times and, as a result, it was able, over time, to recruit 27 more healthcare professionals. It set itself a firm target of seeing all children seeking an autism diagnosis within two years by March this year. It is currently 96% of the way towards meeting that: only a handful of cases are taking longer than that. However, in the most recent phone call I received from the service, I was told that the 12-month target was still a challenge because of an 84% increase in the number of children being referred for autism diagnoses. At this stage, it is not clear to the service or to me why that is the case, but it will obviously require more attention. The present approach is to triage the children with the highest need so that they do not wait any longer than a year, but I am determined to drive down overall waiting times to a year for all those families. I will continue my campaign to achieve that and will seek assistance from Ministers as to how it can be done.

Finally, I want to say something about water quality. My area is covered by Thames Water, which has, I have to say, been working with me constructively since the implementation of the Environment Act 2021. Three chalk streams run through my constituency, and Thames Water pledged that this summer it would produce a waste- water management plan setting out how it would achieve an 80% reduction in the use of storm overflows into the chalk streams by 2030. That was a firm commitment.

While I was keen to work with the water company, I also wrote to Ofwat on 25 May asking whether it would consider tying bonus payments and shareholder dividends to environmental performance. I did not mean that in a discretionary sense. I suggested that, if any water company is fined for illegal discharges, it should be mandated that it does not pay bonuses to senior managers or dividends to shareholders and that, given that bankers lose their bonuses if they break the law, so should water company executives. I received an encouraging response from Ofwat, but it is not really a matter of dispute that Thames Water is in a state of flux, with the resignation of its chief executive officer, and we do not know what its future holds. I put it on the record that when Parliament returns I hope that we will have much greater clarity on the future of Thames Water, and that we can continue to work constructively, both through what I hope will be the publication of its wastewater management plan and through tougher sanctions implemented by Ofwat to ensure that we get there.

Photo of Elliot Colburn Elliot Colburn Conservative, Carshalton and Wallington 2:55, 20 July 2023

I join colleagues in paying tribute to our late friend Sir David Amess. I was lucky enough to be put by the accommodation Whip on the same corridor as Sir David when I first arrived here as an MP. I will never forget the conversations that we used to have while waiting for the lifts in 1 Parliament Street, which never work. He was always interested in colleagues and what they were doing. He took a genuine interest in parliamentarians and this House. We really miss him and remember him in these times. On a happier note, I extend my good wishes to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and all the staff in the Houses of Parliament in advance of the summer recess, and wish them a very restful recess.

I am told by Hansard that today will be my 170th mention of Carshalton and Wallington, so no prizes for guessing the topic of my speech today. I will highlight a few things that my constituents are facing, which I hope that the Minister, who I am delighted is in her place, will take away to the relevant Government Departments to pursue over the summer. I do not think that it will come as any surprise that the No. 1 issue that I get from residents on the doorstep and in my postbag— I am sure it is the same for every Member of Parliament at the moment—is concern about cost of living pressures, such as meeting the mortgage, rent payments, energy bills and other bills. I warmly welcome not only all the initiatives that the Government have taken, including the energy bill relief scheme, the household support fund, and the uprating of benefits and pensions in line with inflation, but the way the Government have tried to promote those schemes.

I know so many people who have benefited from going on the Help for Households website. They have found support that they did not know was out there. I have been trying to work alongside local stakeholders to ensure that people are adequately signposted to the support available. Together with the Department for Work and Pensions and the local jobcentre, we have set up monthly drop-in cost of living advice sessions in Roundshaw and St Helier, and we are looking to expand that to other areas of Carshalton and Wallington, particularly areas of deprivation where the need for such support is acute. Those sessions have been so well received. Every month, more and more people come to those drop-in events. I hope that the Government can encourage the DWP to continue to do that in other constituencies, because it has worked particularly well in mine.

I move on to some news that I was sad to receive yesterday: the Environment Agency is about to issue an intention to approve the increase in the amount of waste that the incinerator in Beddington can burn. The incinerator was approved—championed, in fact—by the Liberal Democrats. I am not surprised that once again none of them could be bothered to turn up today. The Lib Dem-run council has again let down residents of Carshalton and Wallington regarding this monstrosity of an incinerator, which was forced on residents against their will. We were told at the time, “This will be it. No need to worry—of course it’s not going to burn more and more waste.” This extra capacity is not needed. It can burn the household waste from the four boroughs that it receives waste from at the moment absolutely fine without needing to increase capacity. I would like the Government to again look at the permit variation processes for incinerators. If the permitted amount of incineration in this country were built, we would have more than double the Government’s own estimated need for incineration. It is not conducive to our net zero ambitions. We need to look at why we have massive overcapacity in the planning system for incineration. I hope that the Government will continue to look at that in detail.

Next, I come to what is no doubt the issue of the hour in London, and in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election: ULEZ. We inner and outer London MPs bang on about ULEZ, but it is important to continue raising the issue. I cannot overstate the damage that ULEZ will do to businesses, to the poorest and to charities in my constituency, and across the whole of Greater London and outside it. I am thinking particularly of those constituencies in which people do not have the right to vote to get rid of the man who is imposing ULEZ on us: the Mayor of London. He has the audacity to say that people should get out of their cars and on to public transport, yet in my constituency he has scrapped the Go Sutton bus and the Tramlink extension. He has announced the new superloop—in my constituency, that is just a reannouncement of a bus route that has been there for over a decade. He has announced no new services whatsoever. There is nothing coming to help people make that transition to public transport; there is absolutely no support in place. In central London, he is cutting the historic No. 11 bus route, and the scrappage scheme has proved an absolute flop.

I welcome the fact that the Government have a very strong line on ULEZ, but we should continue to make it absolutely clear that it should not go ahead. I look forward to hearing the judgment of the judicial review, hopefully by the end of the month.

In the time left to me, I would quickly like to touch on education, an area of particular concern for my constituents. We have some of the best schools in the country; they feature in the top 10 schools for grade results every single year, and the teachers in my constituency do an absolutely fabulous job, day in, day out. I am absolutely thrilled that the Government have recognised that, and awarded a record funding increase of nearly £110 million to schools in Carshalton and Wallington. That is incredibly welcome.

In order to give all our young people the best start in life, could I encourage the Government to continue looking into the issue of childcare? The reforms that have been made are absolutely welcome, but there is certainly more to do. We on the Women and Equalities Committee can tell the Government that childcare issues adversely affect women in particular, as it is almost always women who bear the brunt of them. We hope that the Government will look to go further in their childcare reforms, but I welcome the efforts made so far.

I am delighted that my hon. Friend Laura Farris mentioned special educational needs in her speech. I join her in urging the Government to go further and faster with their ambitions to bring down waiting times for an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, because the waiting times are completely out of control. In my constituency, many families who cannot afford to are being forced to go private to get a diagnosis. Of course, under the Children and Families Act 2014, a diagnosis is supposedly not needed to get an education, health and care plan, but almost entirely, children are being refused EHCPs unless they have one. We are up against a brick wall, to be honest, when it comes to dealing with child and adolescent mental health services in my constituency. I am sure that it is the same across the country.

I know that the Government, and in particular the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend Maria Caulfield, are grasping the issue with both hands, and are very keen to get it sorted. I welcome that, and I wish the Under-Secretary every success, but I hope that the Government can come back to us in the autumn with a more fleshed-out action plan for getting waiting times down, and allowing children to fulfil their potential.

I want to touch on policing, as I am sure many colleagues will. Historically, my quiet corner of south London has been known as one of the safer boroughs of London. The London Boroughs of Sutton and of Richmond upon Thames are often in competition with each other to be the safest London borough to live in. However, post pandemic, there seems to have been a concerning increase in what some might view as low-level crime, but it is truly worrying to the people who experience it. I cannot begin to say how many times, as I am scrolling on Facebook or Nextdoor in particular, I see Ring doorbell footage of people going up and down residential streets at night, trying car doors and front doors—not always with success, but their doings are often linked to crimes elsewhere in the area.

I welcome that the Met has now changed its approach and agreed to attend every single call-out for burglary, for example. That has resulted in several thousand additional arrests in London for this crime and that is to be welcomed. I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to reiterate our ambition to bring down crime. I am very supportive of the Met’s action plan for London, but we do need a police and crime commissioner for London who gets that and wants to tackle that. We do not have that with our current Mayor, so I sincerely hope that Londoners will see fit to get rid of this failing Mayor in a year’s time.

Let me finish up on the NHS. As someone who has worked in the NHS, who was born at St Helier Hospital in south London, and whose life was saved not once but twice by the staff at St Helier, I thank the Government—truly—and say how grateful I am that they have listened to NHS staff and agreed that St Helier Hospital not only has to stay, but needs that additional investment to improve the hospital, because it is in a dire state of disrepair at the moment. That has now been delivered. On top of that, there is an agreement to deliver a second hospital in Sutton, to protect A&E and maternity in the London Borough of Sutton and also to increase the amount of services that our local NHS provides, including, importantly, introducing cancer surgery. This is as a result of a brand-new partnership with the Royal Marsden Hospital, which we are so lucky to have in Sutton. This means that cancer patients living in Sutton will no longer have to go to Chelsea to get their cancer surgery. This is fantastic news for local patients and I commend the Government for doing that. We look forward to seeing some enabling works taking place this year, and to getting spades in the ground very shortly.

Finally, I echo the calls to thank our staff who put up with so much. They are often on the frontline, dealing with all of the abuse and all of the casework that comes in. They truly are to be commended for what they do. I thank Andy, Harry, Dan, Erik, Jo, Lynne, Max and Archie, who are my amazing team and who do so much to support me. They are just as dedicated to Carshalton and Wallington, and I really want to wish them all the best for the summer recess as well. Thank you very much for your time, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I thank the staff of the House for everything they do for us. I wish everyone a happy summer.

Photo of Peter Gibson Peter Gibson Conservative, Darlington 3:07, 20 July 2023

I rise to pay tribute to Sir David, who was a good friend and a guiding hand to many of us elected in 2019.

As this debate is dedicated to Sir David Amess, who shared with me a deep love of animals, I want to put on the record my thanks to those thousands of people who voted for my Jack Russell, Clemmie, who secured second place in last year’s Westminster Dog of the Year competition. Now, Clemmie is going all out this year to secure the top dog title in the Sir David Amess public vote award, just as his beloved Vivienne did in 2021.

Let me turn now to serious matters. Darlington is at the forefront of our ambitious levelling up agenda and the past years have been hugely exciting for Darlington as we continue to go from strength to strength. Through covid and the current cost of living crisis, together with other funding, Darlington has received around £670 million in investment and support from the Government since I was elected in 2019. We are already seeing what that investment is delivering, such as the £23.3 million from the towns fund, which is improving our historic yards, Victoria Road and Northgate. Work has begun on the £139 million redevelopment of Bank Top Station. In that vein, I urge London North Eastern Railway not to close our ticket office in Darlington, which would hugely undermine this investment and make life more difficult for my disabled and elderly constituents.

As we approach the bicentenary of the passenger railway in 2025, Darlington’s rail heritage quarter is starting to take shape, with £35 million of investment from Ben Houchen and Darlington Borough Council. I am determined that our celebration of this significant milestone should be commensurate with its importance. The eyes of the world will be on Darlington and it is a perfect opportunity to showcase our nation’s rich rail heritage. I have already met Ministers and Network Rail to discuss the celebrations and I am looking forward to meeting Sir Peter Hendy to discuss how we can make them a real success.

I am delighted that a permanent location at Brunswick Street has been chosen for the Darlington economic campus, where more than 80% of the new jobs that have come to Darlington are going to local people from the region, allowing people to stay local but go far.

Connectivity in Darlington is not just about the railways, and I continue to press on several important transport issues for my constituents. Pushing for a northern link road between junction 59 on the A1 and Great Burdon on the A66 to alleviate the congestion faced by constituents in the north of Darlington is high on my agenda. I am delighted to see the Chamber so full for this debate, because immediately after it I will be presenting a petition on car parking charges in Darlington. I encourage Members to stay for that. We have also faced serious issues with buses, and I continue to press Arriva to maintain its current services in Darlington, on which some of the most vulnerable people in my community depend.

Everyone deserves to feel safe in their communities, and I have done much work in this place to ensure that is the case in Darlington. We have secured more than £1 million from the safer streets fund, which is having a huge impact on making our town centre safer. As a town with a thriving night time economy, that is of great importance. Part of that funding was used to open Number Forty, on Skinnergate, which provides a safe space for people on a night out.

Off-road bikes have long been a cause for concern in Darlington, and I have raised the issue many times in the House. I praise Durham constabulary’s Operation Endurance, which is focused on tackling the scourge of off-road bikes. I am pleased to say that it is starting to have an appreciable impact, but I will continue to campaign for further steps to tackle the problem in Darlington. As part of that we must improve 101 response times—something I am pleased that Rob Potts, the Conservative candidate for Durham police and crime commissioner, has committed to. I look forward to campaigning with him to help deliver vital improvements.

Education is our silver bullet to ensure that every child has the best start in life and is able to achieve their full potential. I welcome the Government’s decision to offer teachers a 6.5% pay rise. The announcement of a new special school for Darlington will be hugely beneficial. The additional provision of 48 places for children with special educational needs in Darlington is much needed.

My reading lobster, Seb, has had a busy year meeting many parliamentarians, including the Prime Minister and Mr Speaker himself. The Skerne Park Academy reading lobster scheme is hugely admirable, helping to inspire a lifelong love of reading in children.

Darlington College is now delivering T-levels, and I was delighted to be at the opening of the brand-new engineering block, the Ingenium centre, along with the Secretary of State for Education. The centre has been delivered with £2.96 million of funding that we secured from the towns fund. Such new opportunities for local people in Darlington will enable them to fully reach their potential and find good, well-paid and secure employment into the future.

I have almost completed at least one visit to every school in Darlington—I have visited some of them many times—and I look forward to visiting the last two remaining on the list in September. In a similar vein, I continue to make progress on my visits to all faith establishments across the town.

I have a long connection to the hospice sector— I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—having served as a trustee for a hospice in Northallerton for more than a decade. As co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on hospice and end of life care, I have had the platform to raise the concerns of this vital sector over the past few months. I have been pleased to bring together all the Tees valley MPs on a cross-party basis to stand up for our Tees valley hospices and call on our local integrated care board to properly fund them. I will always continue to push for further support and recognition of these important organisations, such as St Teresa’s in Darlington, which do so much good work.

Monday marked 10 years since we legalised same-sex marriages. We should be incredibly proud of the progress we have made and how far we have come on LGBT equality. I welcome the progress that we have been making towards our ambition to end new HIV transmissions by 2030. Rolling out opt-out testing to areas of high prevalence would be a huge boon in our fight against the virus, and I again call on the Government to make that happen. It would be a win-win—for public health and the public purse.

I very much welcome this week’s publication of the Etherton review and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s apology from the Dispatch Box yesterday. I also call on the Government to bring forward swiftly a trans-inclusive conversion therapy ban, for which we have been waiting far too long. We must stamp out this form of abuse.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

As my hon. Friend knows, I raised this issue at Prime Minister’s questions only yesterday. I have to admit that, to my great frustration, I was not particularly delighted by the Prime Minister’s answer. On 19 January on the Floor of this House, at the Dispatch Box, and again in a written ministerial statement, the Secretary of State confirmed that pre-legislative scrutiny would be completed by the end of this parliamentary Session; essentially, that means October or November this year. There is no way that that can now be met, so I am deeply disappointed that after the Government have missed their own deadline, we have not received any form of update. Does my hon. Friend agree that pre-legislative scrutiny would enable this House to come together, and that it is wrong that that scrutiny has not yet taken place?

Photo of Peter Gibson Peter Gibson Conservative, Darlington

Very sadly, what my hon. Friend says is correct. I pay tribute to her for her significant leadership on the issue. I have worked with her, alongside colleagues such as my hon. Friends the Members for West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards), for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) and for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan). Many of us have campaigned and pressed for a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy, and it is deeply saddening that we have not yet seen it.

Moving on, my constituents are still facing impossibly long waits for mental health treatment, particularly for children. I have spoken in this place many times on the need to bring down waiting times for child and adolescent mental health services. I know that Ministers are aware of the issue and working hard on it, but I again press them to do all they can to ensure that we leave no child behind. Ministers are also aware of the ongoing situation with the provision of mental health services in Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, and the recent rapid review. In recent weeks and months, we have seen continuing coverage of yet more alarming news about TEWV, particularly the work of the crisis team. I press Ministers to continue to work with me and others, and to do all they can to improve TEWV services so that my constituents can get the care they need and deserve.

Every week my team, led by the amazing Rachael Hughes Booth, handle hundreds of pieces of casework—in fact, some 31,537 since I was elected—and every day there are successes, from securing a passport so that a family can take a long-planned holiday, to getting people treatment for rare conditions or reimbursement of unpaid benefits. That, for me, is the most important part of this job.

Darlington has had a lot to celebrate over the last few years, although our community has, like everyone’s, faced significant challenges. Our town is truly on the cusp of something great. It is the honour of a lifetime to represent the people of Darlington in this place, and I will continue to work hard every day to repay the trust they have put in me.

Finally, I thank staff across the House and all my team for all that they do. I wish everyone a happy recess.

Photo of David Johnston David Johnston Conservative, Wantage 3:19, 20 July 2023

May I start by saying what a pleasure it is to see the Vice-Chamberlain of His Majesty’s Household on the Front Bench? She is my Whip, and a very good Whip she is too. I would say that in this House even if she was not a good Whip, because we must keep the Whips onside, but it happens to be true.

I will start with a number of thank yous. First, I thank my staff team: Maoliosa Smith, Jamie Carter, James Williams and Louise Brown. All of our staff make us look better than we are; mine are no different and I am very grateful to them. I also want to thank a number of organisations and individuals in the constituency and this place for helping with various things I have done in the past year. I have run quite a number of events and campaigns locally and could not have done so without the help of lots of different people.

I began a work experience campaign last year because I found—and I think most Members would find this if they checked—that work experience has dramatically declined in the post-covid period. With so many people working from home, it has been one of the things dropped, yet it is crucial for people in their school years and later teens to get experience of the workplace, understand how it works, make connections and observe how they should behave. I started the campaign because young people at local schools—I visit one almost every week—were telling me that it was very difficult to get work experience. I was really pleased with the response from companies such as Rebellion, Hachette and Newton Europe, which essentially said, “You know what, you’re right, we have dropped this and we are going to start doing it again.” They have provided really good opportunities for young people locally.

Most of those companies, along with other organisations such as the NHS, the Army, Elite Youth Sports, and so on, then supported an apprenticeship fair that I ran this year to try to widen knowledge of, and access to, the apprenticeships that we have locally. We have lots of great apprenticeship opportunities locally and lots of great organisations offering them, so I am very grateful to them.

I am also very grateful to Thames Valley Police which has run a couple of crime summits with me locally. They were organised after people had reported an increasing number of crime incidents, particularly antisocial behaviour and also business burglaries. The summits were very much for constituents to be able to raise their concerns directly with the police and find out what was going on, but I think it is fair to say that the police found from hearing from people locally that they could be doing better, particularly in the handling of antisocial behaviour, from the focus they give it locally when out and about to how people report it. People were saying, “When I want to report an incident it takes me 40 minutes online to do your form,” and the police were unaware it took that long and have gone away to address that.

I also want to thank a few colleagues on the Government Benches: the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation for taking part in my science and tech forum which he did with companies in Harwell and Milton Park so that they could talk about the challenges they were facing; the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero for taking part in my third annual climate summit a couple of weeks ago; and the Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries for meeting farmers just last week. We have lots of great farmers across my constituency, farming dairy, beef and arable and so on, and my right hon. Friend came to the constituency and sat there and spoke to them. As we know, farmers are a challenging bunch, but our farming Minister gives as good as he gets and I was very grateful to him for taking part in that forum.

I want to touch on three things and then give a special mention to someone. “Too many houses, not enough infrastructure”: I hear that every single day—since I was first elected, every week when I knock on doors and in every email I receive. I know my constituency is not the only one facing this challenge, but there is particularly an issue when it comes to health services. We all want Grove station reopened, better roads and so on, but we have not seen an increase in the number of GPs that we need for the people we have in the constituency.

A health survey I ran earlier in the year found that 97% of people felt we did not have enough GPs for the number of people we have locally. The Great Western Park estate has been waiting eight years for its promised surgery, and we have another estate being built right by it, Western Valley. These two estates alone will add 18,000 people to the area and there is not a single new doctor. Much as the Lib Dem-run council and local health leaders all say they are committed to trying to solve this problem, we are just not seeing any progress. I am going to keep banging on about this, because when people feel that an increased population affects their quality of life, it is no wonder that they do not want to see more people being added to their area. They become resistant to houses when they might not have been before, and we just have to bang people’s heads together and try to make some progress in this area.

My second issue is a more local one, which is the AEA Technology pension campaign. Part of AEA was privatised—transferred to a new company—in the 1990s, and the advice that employees received about their pensions at that time proved to be inaccurate and misleading. Lots of people transferred their pensions without knowing the increased risk that they would face, and that company went bust. Those people ended up in the Pension Protection Fund, and have pushed for 10 years to try to get someone to look at their case. Finally, this year, we got the National Audit Office to look at it, and the Public Accounts Committee has also looked at it. We now await the Government’s response, but I am very pleased that people are supporting our campaign. My hon. Friend Laura Farris is one of the people who has been supporting it, because those people have been trying for so long to get their case heard, and now it is finally being heard.

My third issue is the Local Electricity (No. 2) Bill. I am the lead sponsor of that Bill, and just under half of Members in this place now support it. It would remove the barriers for people who want to be able to generate energy locally through renewable sources. At the moment, the start-up costs are too high: it costs in the region of £1 million to get going, which is far too much for a village or a local organisation that wants to generate energy. We have been working on that Bill collectively—working closely with the Minister in charge, Andrew Bowie—and are just on the cusp of making progress. I cannot talk about that progress at the moment, but although the amendments were not accepted in the Lords, we have had a very constructive relationship with the Minister in the Commons. We are going to have some good news to announce on that front, which I think will make the Bill’s supporters very pleased.

My last thing, as I said, is just a special mention. I am a patron of a number of local charities that I have talked about in this place before, such as Play2Give and Secret Santa 365, but I am also patron of a charity called Team Mikayla—it is incredible how many of the charities in my local area were set up by children. This young lady, Mikayla Beames, had a brain tumour at the age of four, and as soon as she was able to, she decided that she wanted to help all the children who were suffering from cancer. She set up her own charity at a very young age; she is still a teenager, but for years now she has been supporting children in the local community who are facing cancer diagnoses. She is an incredibly inspirational young lady, and this year was chosen as one of the King’s coronation champions for the whole country. It was an incredibly proud moment for her—a deserved recognition. I just wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate her.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish you and everybody who works in Parliament a very restful recess.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield 3:27, 20 July 2023

As always, it is a privilege to follow my hon. Friend David Johnston. As many Members have already said, we all aspire to represent and promote our communities in the way Sir David Amess was famous for. Unlike him, I do not have a town that is big enough for me to campaign to make it into a city; however, I do have Newton Aycliffe, which has its 75th birthday this year. It is also the 75th birthday of its community newspaper, Newton News, and for Newton Press, it is 60 years—I got that wrong two weeks ago, so I needed to correct that detail.

At the start, I would like to commend Carolyn Harris for her work on the menopause and give a call-out to a constituent of mine, Kathrine Winter, who works very hard in that space as well. I also offer my support to Rob Potts in his campaign to be the police and crime commissioner for Durham and Darlington in the upcoming elections, and I encourage the current PCC to make sure that the community retains its complement of police officers, which is currently under threat because the facility is being challenged by having to share with the fire station. That needs to be sorted, in the short term and also, critically, in the long term. I do not want to have to wait for Rob to get elected before we get this sorted out—it needs to be done much earlier than that.

The main theme I want to talk about is opportunity through education. Education is a lifelong opportunity. I was elected on a manifesto that recognised and promised to address the need to equalise educational opportunities across our nations. Breaking for summer recess gives us an opportunity to look back on what we have done so far, and I will talk about the progress we are making in Sedgefield. It has always been accepted that the best way to improve your situation or to get out of poverty is through work, and the better your education, the better the chance to take work opportunities when they arise. It is important that the Government help to deliver the platforms and that students are able to make informed choices.

In 2019, 77% of the schools in my constituency were rated good or outstanding; now, 91% are. As the APPG for “left behind” neighbourhoods that I chair found, education is critical, even more so in left-behind neighbourhoods, so I thank local trusts for their support. I look to the dormant assets scheme to deliver a community wealth fund to help these communities.

Since 2019, the Government have committed to investing in a number of our local schools, including Woodham Academy, Ferryhill Station Primary School, Forest Park School and Greenfield Community College. I am thrilled at the work going on at Woodham Academy in Newton Aycliffe. The complete rebuild of this secondary school is expected to be finished in September next year, so we are one academic year away from its reopening. The development is funded through the Department for Education’s school rebuilding programme, and facilities include a swimming pool, a sports hall and a fitness studio. As well as benefiting students, it will be open to the community outside school hours.

Woodham Academy is doing everything it can to ensure that the building is green from the ground up, with heat pumps and photovoltaic panels to reduce the carbon impact. It will have electric vehicle charging facilities, but also cycle parking, and I think the Government need to continue their efforts to encourage our children to walk or cycle to school wherever possible.

Ferryhill Station is another local school benefiting from the rebuilding programme. Built in the 19th century, the school has been enjoyed by generations of students, but it is definitely showing its age. Although Ferryhill Station’s plans are at an earlier stage than Woodham’s, as a former chair of the governors at the primary school, I am confident that they will be just as ambitious and I look forward to seeing the outcome.

From next year, we will also have Forest Park School, a small special educational needs school for students aged 11 to 16 that is focused on enabling them to grow academically and socially. It plans to offer adapted extracurricular activities, so that students who find standard offerings difficult to access can still enjoy them. I have been to the school; the way it is developing is outstanding, and I really look forward to its delivery. Developments at Greenfield Community College in Aycliffe will also help to deliver improved provision, and I look forward to those concluding.

As we all know, though, schools are nothing without excellent teachers. I have visited many of the schools in Sedgefield and I applaud all the teachers, teaching assistants, kitchen staff and estate staff who deliver for our young people. All of them made fantastic efforts throughout the pandemic years, and many have made a huge difference, but our young people have still had the most disrupted education of any generation for many a year. I congratulate all those who persevered and have continued their education.

I call out in particular the Ferryhill ambassadors for their community engagement, Hardwick Primary in Sedgefield for being nominated as one of the top 10 schools worldwide for innovation, and Deaf Hill Primary for its success in the Kellogg’s Breakfast Club awards. When I call out some schools but miss out others, I know it is a risk, but from Welbeck in the north to Hurworth in the south, Bishopton in the east and Heighington in the west, and everywhere in the 250 square miles in between, there are examples of excellence.

As students progress, their opportunities come from having choices and applying themselves. It is crucial that their choices are informed and that they see options like University Technical College South Durham, rated third out of 4,518 schools in England for students entering an apprenticeship. Questions have been asked about some UTCs and T-levels, but the partnership UTC South Durham has with Hitachi and Gestamp means we have an outstanding facility in Newton Aycliffe.

As the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education have said, university choices need to be clear; students need to be very aware of the life options that will arise from their choices, and the universities have to provide courses that deliver full value. Sedgefield is not blessed with a university, but we are surrounded by them. We have Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Teesside and Sunderland, all of which give complementary opportunities for students to choose from. I am an alumnus of Durham, I studied night classes at Teesside, and I have been to the Newcastle and Northumbria campuses. While space must be left for those who want non-vocational study, it is imperative that universities engage with businesses to deliver the workforce of the future.

I have talked with many businesses about their needs and I have seen some fantastic engagement recently, particularly in Durham and Northumbria, in support of our growing space and semiconductor industries. Northumbria University recently received a £5 million award from the UK Space Agency to develop a new laser-based communication system.

A good public transport service is essential for our students to get to school or college, but such a service is not available for people in the Trimdons, Ferryhill, Cornforth, Fishburn and Sedgefield in particular. Just like my hon. Friend Peter Gibson, I believe it is imperative that Arriva and our local councils get together to solve the bus problems that exist in our area.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has said. I am a member of the Education Committee. In order for our students to get to colleges or apprenticeships, they need not only good public transport, but good quality, independent and impartial careers information, educational advice and guidance to direct them there in the first place and to show them what opportunities exist. I am afraid to say, however, that independent and impartial advice is not always available in many institutions that provide education to those below the age of 18.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

I can only agree about the need for that information. I drive around an industrial estate in Aycliffe that has 10,000 jobs and lots of boxes in it. Behind each one of those boxes, there are so many different careers and opportunities. Getting visibility of that is absolutely crucial.

I am pleased to say that a north-east mayoralty has been created, covering the area from Newton Aycliffe, in my Sedgefield constituency, all the way through Northumberland to the Scottish border. The area has been allocated one of the investment zones, and I hope it will position itself as an arc from Sedgefield to Blyth, recognising innovation and science throughout the north-east. Attracting the right prime to support that should be a critical part of the role of the new metro Mayor, when they are appointed. That prime could then be a key platform for building career paths and educational pathways for the north-east’s students.

Students need to know about how such pathways can lead to great careers. When it comes to communicating opportunity, role models are a great tool. One of the best role models I have come across is our new chancellor of Durham University, Dr Fiona Hill. With her story, from the back streets of Bishop Auckland to Washington DC, or, as she calls it,

“from the coal house to the White House,”

Fiona is committed to supporting social mobility and I could not be more supportive of what she is trying to achieve.

While highlighting extraordinary stories like Fiona’s, we need the breadth of opportunities to be visible too. We need to shine a light on and support the extraordinary businesses and research in our area, because that will inspire people to apply. It is through personal application that opportunities arise. In my youth, there was a golfer called Gary Player, who said:

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

We need to inspire our young people to work hard and get lucky.

I conclude, as most Members have done, by thanking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the members of Mr Speaker’s team for their service, and I thank the people around this great place for everything they have done to make our lives easier. I thank my team—David, Maggie, Doug, Hannah and Jonathan—and, as always, my family and friends. My wife is in the Gallery; the biggest thanks go up there. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I wish everybody a happy recess.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

Thank you, Mrs Howell. I intend to do the wind-ups no later than 4.30 pm, and they will be eight minutes, 10 minutes and 10 minutes, followed by two minutes for Mr Mearns to wash up completely. Members can do the maths themselves as to how much time they will leave for the person who is last.

Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Conservative, Aberconwy 3:39, 20 July 2023

Tempting as it is to add to the thanks from colleagues who have spoken already or to respond to the many interesting points that have been raised, I will not do that, nor will I make lengthy reference to my constituency. Instead, I would like to offer some hope. I would like to counter the declinist narrative that says the UK is in a bad way, that our prospects are poor, that this Government are doing the wrong things to the wrong people, making ill-advised decisions about the company we keep, all for the wrong motives, and that things will continue to go downhill. I disagree. I think that that is selective at best, and misrepresentation and falsehood at worst.

The fact is that the UK has a great past and prospects of a greater future—incidentally, points with which I know Sir David would have agreed wholeheartedly. The evidence is that we are doing many of the right things. We are building important links for the best of reasons from strong foundations. The world is increasingly unstable—a point the Defence Secretary himself made recently—and yet our system has outlasted others and adapted to worse. This speech is about the importance of our Union—the most successful political union in history—and why it has worked, why it matters now and why it is the foundation for our future.

Let us consider these foundations. We benefit from a helpful geography, temperate climate and strategic location. The seas have acted as both barrier and connector to the rest of the globe. Internally, connections and infrastructure of canals, road and rail have made us stronger as we have traded among one another. Our system of common law offers an unparalleled environment for the flourishing, testing and implementation of ideas. Contrast that with restrictive regulatory approaches that seek to predict and control.

We still have in our society a culture of policing by consent, albeit a much tested one. We enjoy safety in our streets and, of course, the security and fiscal firepower that comes with being the fifth or sixth—depending on who we believe—largest economy in the world. We stand here today as inheritors of these great assets of a system that is stable and provides for smooth transition of power, despite considerable test from without and within. What part of us could have endured what we have been through as a whole on its own or achieved what we have together on its own?

Of course, these foundations include our identity—who we are and what we think. Values are not a recipe or menu, and truth is not some kind of sushi bar conveyor of ever changing delicacies that pass before us. Truth, too, does not change. What, then, have we struggled for and fought over? Are these not the things we value? Where have been the acts of courage, beauty, genius and tragedy to secure our freedoms, establish democracy, promote fairness, inspire hope and vision and protect our borders, for without them, what are we? We have built institutions on these things. A cenotaph in every village speaks of the ultimate sacrifice paid for shared endeavours.

I am conscious that by-elections are happening today. They speak to the great system of checks and balances we have put in place to secure the things that we value. Here I note the big-heartedness of Union thinking. It has to make room for those who do not want to be part of it. Contrast that with the self-diminishing purity spiral of other ways of thinking. The Union must embrace the difficulties that come with that sense of inclusion. To exclude is to deny itself.

Is our story not one of different parts coming together at different times, for different reasons and in different ways? Do our own personal stories not also reflect this? Is this Britishness we have by merit of being thrown together on a small set of rocks on the periphery of Europe? The stories we each carry speak of this. My mother was a naturalised British citizen; I was born in Wales, and I am a proud Welshman and proud to be British. When we look at the demographics, we find that one in eight Scottish, one in five Welsh and one in nine Northern Irish people live in another part of the UK. Is not the story of the Union simply a collection and weaving together of our own stories—a cord of many, many strands that is not easily broken and with a strength that cares?

When covid fell, 14.6 million jobs were saved through vital furlough and self-employment support. This Government acted. Two million people—I repeat, 2 million —were added to universal credit in seven days. Nothing else like that has been seen on earth. We now have energy support, tailored and with a price cap, estimated at £78 billion.

What then for those links? Where do they take us? Here I confess a concern, because I support our democratically established devolution and institutions, but our Union is no federal construct. The unintended consequence of devolution has been to replace covenants with contracts, trust with transactions and nurturing relationships with burgeoning regulation. Who of us would manage our own relationships in the way we approach devolution? Sadly, it has facilitated institutional capture. Devolution has become for some a tower that must be built ever stronger and ever higher. That does allow us to see further, but it takes the occupants no closer to the promised land they seek.

Looking outwards beyond our shores, we have proved, for example in the Commonwealth, our ability to form, deepen and maintain working relationships. Countries seek our help and heed our advice, and today we are respected around the world. We have the world’s fourth-largest diplomatic network, with 281 posts in 178 countries; we are a member of the United Nations Security Council and the G7. Our system of common law, which I have already mentioned, is emulated and is being implemented around the world. Now, as a result of this Government, we are the only country on Earth to have free trade deals with the two biggest trading blocs: the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership and the European economic area.

Of course, we are also standing up to Russia. I did not want to lead on this, but we have the fourth best-funded military and we lead a coalition of 38 countries in the Gulf, ensuring the safe passage of goods and fuel through that stretch of water. In time of domestic crisis, we mobilised 23,000 members of our armed forces for the covid support force in every part of the UK.

Such foundations have built strong relationships for us, and what have we done with them? A favourable environment has helped us to establish a history and tradition of manufacturing and innovation. The connections that are around us have made us a force in international trade, delivered one of the world’s largest economies and established London as a leading global city.

In my recent speech on artificial intelligence in this Chamber, I highlighted the risk of a regulatory reproach to that industry. UK common law, by contrast, fosters immense opportunity. The right environment for the most exciting technologies is here. In the life sciences, we have again seen that a regulatory approach has a chilling effect: the EU clinical trials directive stopped 25% of trials and doubled approval times, and the European Medicines Agency takes twice as long to approve cancer drugs as the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Instead, in this country, because of the actions of this Government, we are seeing pharmacology investments through the likes BioNTech and Grail, and the potential to unleash UK Biobank and the 100,000 Genomes Project. Through genetic engineering, the potential productivity gains for farmers within a generation are staggering. In fact, when it comes to research and development, four of the top 10 world universities are here in the UK. Unencumbered by a €2 trillion EU bail-out, we have been able to invest a further third in our own R&D, raising it to a record £39.8 billion.

I have been deliberately provocative in some of those illustrations, Mr Deputy Speaker, and some of them are contested, but that makes my next point: the opportunity—

Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Conservative, Aberconwy

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was going to say that the opportunity to contest those ideas and the crucible for doing so is here in the UK.

What then of the future? Leadership is looking within, looking up and looking ahead. We have done that through the darkness of world wars, conflict and suffering. We have responded to the threats of a pandemic and war in Ukraine. We have led. We have seen beyond the boundaries of the EU that we were constrained by.

The first part of any plan for this country must therefore be a collective response, together as a United Kingdom. We are not preparing for the last war or for old customers; AUKUS and the CPTPP are all about responding to the future and the opportunities and threats there. What better testimony is there than the fact that we are the most attractive country in the G20 amongst 18 to 24-year-olds?

A nation does not define itself through introspection, but through action. As we emerge from the storms of recent years, we British find ourselves once again the authors of our own distinctive story. As with the Britain of previous ages, the story is likely to offer fresh sources of collective pride, beauty and dismay. We will write this together with the values we defend and the words that we speak. I will finish by calling on the Minister to bring the Minister for the Union—the Prime Minister—to this House to lead a debate on the state of the Union, a story that is important for us all to hear.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West 3:50, 20 July 2023

I begin by thanking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and Mr Speaker’s whole team for all your support this year. It has been much appreciated. Speaking in the second Sir David Amess summer Adjournment debate is a huge privilege for me. It is wonderful to hear so many warm wishes and memories, which I know are of great comfort to Lady Amess and the whole family.

Many people have said to me, “When is a plaque going to go up in this Chamber to commemorate Sir David?”. I am delighted to tell the House that that plaque has now been designed. It is nearly ready. I know we are not allowed to use props, and I will not, but I want to tell the House that if anyone wants to come and see the plaque, it is extremely beautiful. I have a copy on the Bench here. The motto says, “His light remains”, which I think is incredibly apt. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

I must start by saying how delighted Sir David would have been that the Boundary Commission has decided not to break up his beloved Southend West constituency, and I am delighted that I will continue to represent the people of the Eastwood and St Laurence wards. I look forward to adding the people from St Lukes ward.

Our new outstanding sports reporter at the Echo, Chris Phillips, recently played tennis for 11 hours non-stop to raise money for South East and Central Essex Mind, raising £12,000. That takes his total fundraising to more than £100,000. He is a community hero.

It is also wonderful to know that Leigh-on-Sea will be recognised in our constituency name. It was, after all, named in the Domesday Book. I must declare an interest, because it is where I was born.

Next, I must highlight our great success in the May elections. Sir David would have loved the fact that we now have 14 Conservative town councillors—a comfortable majority on Leigh-on-Sea Town Council—and that we took back control of Southend-on-Sea City Council with two new Conservative councillors, including the excellent Owen Cartey in West Leigh, who happens to be my councillor.

I am also delighted this year to welcome as mayor Councillor Stephen Habermel of Chalkwell, with his chosen charities Havens Hospices and the incredible, awe-inspiring Music Man Project, which some Members heard playing brilliantly again last night in College Green. They recently played at No. 10, and there was not a dry eye in the house. They are soon to come to Parliament.

People often ask me, “What have you been doing for our constituency? What are your priorities?”. My first priority this last year has been to make Southend West safer. I am delighted that we now have 83 more police officers, three new sets of knife detection poles and new CCTV cameras in Old Leigh. Our pioneering Operation Union is not only being repeated this summer, but being rolled out nationwide. Thanks to the inspirational Julie Taylor, we have bleed kits available in ever more pubs and clubs.

I am particularly delighted that by working with the brilliant local policeman, Inspector Paul Hogben, our Conservative police and crime commissioner, Roger Hirst, and the Home Office, we are soon to ban nitrous oxide, and zombie knives in all their forms will soon be completely outlawed in private places. That will make Southend safer, and that is much to be commended. I must also commend Eastwood Academy which, through me, fed into the recent Home Office consultation.

That is not all. Making Southend West healthier has also been a top priority, and with the support of this Conservative Government, my hon. Friend Sir James Duddridge and my right hon. Friend Mr Francois, we have secured the delivery of more than £8 million for a reconfigured A&E department at Southend University Hospital, more than £1 million for a new active discharge lounge, 11 new ambulances and 111 new ambulance staff. With other south Essex colleagues, we have finally secured from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care an absolute promise that the remaining £110 million pledged to improve our local hospitals is secure, and we await an updated in-scope business plan.

I pay tribute to the work of those from the Lady McAdden Breast Cancer Trust who, with their knitted knockers, will be returning to Parliament during Breast Cancer Awareness Week this autumn. Thanks to the work of Sam Batstone, we now have free suncream dispensers along some of our beaches. Working with Chalkwell Lifeguards, I have sponsored one of them myself, and I thank Philip Miller, the CEO of Adventure Island, for sponsoring another.

I thank everybody who works so hard in our NHS in Southend West for the incredible work that they do. That is one of the reasons I am campaigning for a dedicated NHS medal to recognise their outstanding service, just as we already have for the police, the Army, the Post Office and the fire service.

Of course, that is not all. My third priority has been to make Southend West wealthier, so I am delighted we kicked of the year by being given the pier of the year award. I know the pier is not in Southend West, but as many Members know, Sir David strayed right across Southend in this place and in his patch. Southend is already home to incredible music, theatre and arts, which is why I want to see us finally become a city of culture in 2029. I have been to at least 50 productions in the past year alone, including by the brilliant Love2Sign choir, the Southend Operatic and Dramatic Society, Leigh Orpheus, Cantare, the Show Choir and the Eastwood Chorale, to name but a few. We have an incredible seaside and underwater heritage, including the London shipwreck. We have five blue flag beaches—the most anywhere in the east of England—and the biggest ferris wheel in the south-east. We have had eight seaside awards, and we have a growing number of octopuses, dolphins, porpoises and seals.

Of course, no city can prosper without a thriving local economy, which is why I was delighted to spearhead a new banking hub at Leigh Broadway, and to help our fishermen—Osborne’s, Deal’s and Fruits of the Sea—to negotiate their new fishing licences. We must have a transport system fit for a city, and with this Conservative Government, that is exactly what we are going to get. We now have a new bus route, 12 new state-of-the-art trains, with contactless ticketing coming, and upgrades to the A13. I have been very clear that we must not lose any of our ticketing staff at any of the stations in my patch.

There are heroes everywhere in Southend West, which is why I have had to launch a community heroes scheme, alongside my local papers, the Echo and the Leigh-on-Sea News. I thank and pay tribute to their editors, Chris Hatton and Mike Guy, for their support in making this happen. Already nominated by the community, we have had community heroes Jill Allen-King, Chalkwell Lifeguards, the Love2Sign choir, Anne Thurgood, Sharon Gatland, Brenda Barnes, Claire Harper, Steve Ellis, Jack Venturini, David Dutton, Bob Hazell and 14-year-old Maryse Fisher, with many others to come.

Of course, that is not all. In time-honoured fashion, I must also recognise the work of the Bluetits, Southend Against Sewage and all 29 of our local headteachers. With 28 of our 29 schools being good or outstanding, I welcome wholeheartedly the £78.6 billion of record funding for our schools.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

Order. Sorry, but we have to leave it there. Thank you very much, but in Sir David’s inimitable style, you got a lot in there.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 3:58, 20 July 2023

On 1 March this year, the Home Office stated that within four months—that is now—RAF Scampton would be up and running to its full capacity of 2,000 illegal migrants. It is now the end of July, and as of today there are zero migrants housed at Scampton.

In May, I tabled a written question asking when works would begin. All the Home Office basically said in the ministerial reply was “shortly” and “as soon as possible”. The Home Office has not even taken control of the site from the Ministry of Defence. It has not commenced the survey work needed even to establish an implementation plan. It has not done an airwaves control plan, and it has not developed a mitigation strategy for safe entry to and exit from the site. It has not made any proposals regarding how to manage the wide-ranging contamination on the site. We know there is certainly asbestos on the site. Unfortunately, despite my requests, the Home Office refuses to release the material safety data sheets for Scampton.

Earlier this month, I tabled a written question asking what assessment the Home Office had made of the potential radioactivity levels at Scampton. I received an email from a cold war RAF veteran, who spent nine years at Scampton servicing Vulcan B.2 bombers. He reported:

“During that time the RAF ensured that our working clothing was regularly laundered to ensure complete removal of all ‘Radiation’ particles in the interest of our health and safety…The Vulcan aircraft were covered in Radiation particles particularly during high level sorties and we were tasked to wash them down on a regular basis at a specially prepared area on the airfield…The Wash Teams were supplied with special protective clothing to undertake this task.”

I am afraid that the Home Office’s reply was less than reassuring. It merely asserted that it will

“ensure that all accommodation is safe, habitable, fit for purpose, and meets all regulatory requirements”.

The Government have utilised class Q emergency powers for their plans. They notified West Lindsey District Council of that on 17 April 2023, so their emergency powers will expire on 16 April 2024. Under class Q, any and all development related to those powers must be removed from the site by 16 April 2024. That is under eight months from the actual date illegal migrants are expected to arrive at the site. West Lindsey applied to get the former officers’ mess listed on 24 March. It has chased that up and understands that it will be presented to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport imminently, but we are still waiting.

Perhaps the Home Office should accept our advice that Scampton is far more complicated a site than it anticipated at the beginning of this saga. Any temporary housing of migrants there risks being so temporary as to be useless and ineffective. Meanwhile, we have a £300 million regeneration package signed, sealed and champing at the bit for delivery. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We can transform Scampton into a mixed-use site, protecting the history of the base while opening up commercial, aerospace, defence, hospitality and educational opportunities. There will be a Red Arrows visitors centre. The runway will be kept open for use, and the skies will still be used for Red Arrows training and practice flights. Business jets will be able to use Scampton, opening up opportunities for enterprise across West Lindsey. A space innovation business park would bring research and development to Lincolnshire. Drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles can be developed at Scampton.

The A46 midlands aerospace corridor can be an engine for growth. There are plans for a business incubator to help small businesses to grow into larger ones. Scampton Holdings wants to promote small businesses even beyond the business incubator zone by creating a number of low-cost live work units to help microbusinesses. The protection of RAF Scampton’s history is at the heart of the regeneration package. It would see historic buildings used by the Dambusters restored and utilised for educational, informational and touristic purposes. Scampton will become a centre for aviation heritage and the maintenance of historic aircraft. A conference centre will link it with hotel and hospitality facilities, but Scampton’s aviation history would not be dead. The runway would be kept operational and licensed under the Civil Aviation Authority. EGR313, the restricted flying zone above and around Scampton, would be maintained. It could still be used by the Red Arrows. The last time the Red Arrows left Scampton, they came back because the airspace was ideal. Even though they will not be based on the ground, they will still be able to use the skies. The longer-term hope, as I said, is for Scampton to be developed as a spaceport. There is potential for horizontal launches of small satellites.

Since RAF Scampton’s closure was announced in 2018, West Lindsey District Council has moved heaven and earth to try to come up with a good regeneration bid. My fellow Lincolnshire MPs and I know how badly things can go when surplus Ministry of Defence properties are just dumped on the open market: no consultation with locals, no discussions about local needs or priorities, and no crafting of investment or creation of economic opportunities—just flog it off and it is no longer the MOD’s responsibility. That is what we saw with previous disposals. I was determined, and West Lindsey was determined, that we must not let that happen this time. Here is an ideal site, just miles from Lincoln, and precisely where our economy could use a shot in the arm.

West Lindsey District Council engaged with local people and communities, and consulted and listened to stakeholders, businesses and partners. The simple goal was to create a sustainable future for RAF Scampton that unlocked the fullest potential of the site. The plan that West Lindsey and Scampton Holdings came up with was funded, commercially viable and deliverable. It would keep the airfield open, creating a cascade of further opportunities. It would protect the important heritage of the base, and add amenities for people around West Lindsey, Lincolnshire and the whole country to make use of. Meanwhile, the Home Office plans throw a spanner in the works. As we have seen, its proposed timeline has been wildly off course. The investment opportunities that we want to unlock require immediate access to the site in order to kick-start delivery.

Key features of the site, such as the runway and its associated operational functions, are being neglected. Even the grass is growing, and 100 buildings, many of them listed, are at risk. If the restricted airspace is permanently stood down, it would negate many of the air, space and satellite investments that we want to deliver. West Lindsey has brought a legal challenge to the Home Office’s plans that is proceeding at pace. My understanding is that, if the environmental impact assessment is found to be flawed, the class Q emergency powers may be rendered invalid.

We seek assurance from the Secretary of State that Scampton will not be used to accommodate illegal immigrants until a final resolution is reached, after the judicial review. We in West Lindsey in Lincolnshire are part of the great United Kingdom. Time and again, this proposal has been announced. We have stated that we are willing to do our bit, but all the Home Office seems to need is a bit of hard standing somewhere—anywhere—in which to temporarily house these economic migrants in portacabin accommodation. Choosing Scampton of all places, which is on the cusp of remarkable, game-changing regeneration, is the height of folly. It is mind-numbingly unwise. It shows that any claim of the Government’s to joined-up thinking is totally divorced from reality.

All is not lost; there is still time for Ministers to drop these plans. I have shown how much trouble they cause, and how little reward is to be gained from carrying them through. If our court case fails, and somehow the Home Office is allowed to advance with its proposals, we will need to see how much of the site can be freed up as soon as possible. The Home Office wants to use only 8% of the footprint. Surely the majority of the site can be handed over to West Lindsey and Scampton Holdings, so that they can crack on with the regeneration that is so dearly needed. Let them get on and finish the job.

I apologise for having to speak so quickly, but this is an incredibly important issue. There is an impending court case, and a lot to say, and everything must be put on the record in this House.

Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art 4:06, 20 July 2023

First, may I align myself with all the tributes to Sir David Amess? His was a life unfairly cut short, but his memory will live on forever. Through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank all the staff: the Clerks, the Doorkeepers, the Speaker’s team—everyone who keeps democracy alive behind the scenes; it is hugely appreciated.

Thanks is the theme of my speech, which I will do my best to give as quickly as possible. When I stood for election in 2019, I had a series of key pledges, and I am pleased to say that, this year, I will deliver on every single one of them. While many politicians like to take all the credit for themselves, I know that this has been done through teamwork, and with the support of others. That is why I want to spend my time thanking the people who made fulfilling the pledges possible.

The first pledge was perhaps the most prominent: securing the funding for Watford General Hospital. My thanks go to the leadership team at West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, including—but not exclusively—Matthew Coats and Phil Townsend, who have been phenomenal in making sure that the plans were achievable and ambitious, and that we secured the funding. They have helped me be an absolute pain in the neck to Ministers, from the Prime Minister down, every single day, so that they knew what we wanted, and we were able to achieve it.

I came into Parliament with a challenge to tackle the stigma around mental ill health. I launched an initiative to train 1,000 people in mental health first aid awareness; I would love to go into much more detail on that, and the work that I am doing. I give particular thanks to the team at Watford and West Herts chamber of commerce, especially Chris, Saffron and Lee, who have been phenomenal in making sure that we are hitting that target. I have good news coming on that later in the year, but I do not want to jump too far ahead on that.

On the national scale, there is my work on the First-Aid (Mental Health) Bill. I am also trying to encourage the Government to look at how we could change the rules to ensure better parity between physical and mental health in the Health and Safety Executive guidelines. I have been very grateful to the Ministers who have met me to discuss that; to those across the UK who are tackling suicide prevention; to the team behind Baton of Hope; to the team who worked with me on the “Where’s your head at?” campaign, for which I am proud to be an ambassador; and to Dr Alex George and Chris Murray, who have been phenomenal this year. They have really helped and supported me, and driven me forward to deliver on my promises.

I said that I wanted to tackle rough sleeping. I am pleased to say that, over the past three and a half years, I think around £5 million—possibly a bit less or a bit more—for this issue has gone to Watford. I have really fought for that and worked with Government to achieve it. It meant that, in Watford, we went from having 70 to 80 people on the streets every night over decades, to zero at one point in the past couple of years. I think we are at around five to 10 people now; one person on the streets is too many, so we need to make sure that we support them.

Yes, I could get the Government funding; I could get support for the issue, and push and champion it; but really, this action was sparked by a gentleman called Matthew Heasman at New Hope UK, a fantastic local charity, and Rob Edmonds. Matthew got me involved from day one of the pandemic. He helped me to get the Government to make sure that we could get everyone in and that has continued. The team at One YMCA have been phenomenal in making sure that we deliver on that and have a process that really supports people; Guy Foxell and Mark Turner enabled that.

Outside Watford, there are, sadly, still more rough sleepers. So I am working with Hand on Heart, which is a fantastic charity that works from Watford, to support others in other constituencies. On business, I would love to go more into the list of businesses that I have visited, but the big one for me was making sure that we supported our hospitality sector. Last year, there was a risk to Pryzm nightclub, which I held a debate on in this Chamber and I also presented a petition on it. The nightclub was saved, thanks to the work that I did with the team there, who were phenomenal, especially David Vickery; they were incredible. The reason that work was so important is that it supported our night-time economy. It protected our taxi drivers, making sure that they had people to drive home every night. We have about 1,500 to 3,000 people coming into Watford just to use the night-time economy, and Pryzm nightclub is at the heart of that. Even one of our own Doorkeepers met his wife there, so there is definitely a Westminster link there. Also challenging from a business perspective was making sure that we continued to fight the nonsense from the Mayor of London around ULEZ, because that will cost my constituents a lot of money, especially those who are struggling.

On tackling crime, I am pleased to say that, thanks to the work with the local police and our police and crime commissioner, we have a new police station coming later in the year, which is fantastic news. Our current police station is in a place called Shady Lane, so I am a bit upset that we are losing the Shady Lane police station, but the new one will be much more modern and suitable for our fantastic new police officers and our fantastic team.

I would also like to formally welcome our new police chief inspector, Andy Wiseman, and all of the new police officers who were secured across Hertfordshire—more than 300 extra police officers, I think, which is fantastic. I also thank them for the support that they have given me when I have been out on dawn raids. There is always a bit of a panic when they say the address that the police are going to raid, because there is the worry that your house will be mentioned. Thankfully, that has not happened so far. It has been phenomenal going out with the police, often in the middle of the night, to see what they do to keep us safe and to make sure that, behind the scenes, the bad people do not get away with what they want to do. It is incredible work.

I wish to thank everyone, including students from various schools, who have been part of Dean’s green team, working on the environment. One of the big pledges that was made during the election was to end the use of single-use plastic. I know that that is coming through later this year, which is phenomenal. The Environment Act 2021 and all the work that was done at COP26 have been so important for all of us around the world, but especially for my constituents in Watford, who are very caring about our local environment.

I have previously talked a lot about our local community and the charities that do so much. They include One Vision, Watford Workshop, Community Connect, Step2Skills, Alternatives, the Random Café, Watford Women’s Centre and Watford Interfaith Association. There are so many I could list. They are all phenomenal, but what they are really good at is working together. That is what is so important. As we look at community, it is about the threads that combine us into a tapestry of the story of our town and our community. We also have every religion in Watford—it is one of the wonderful things about our interfaith community. I will not mention any of the faiths now, because I know that I will miss out about five as I try to rush through my points.

If I may, I will encourage all to watch “Mission Impossible”. It is a bit of a turn-off, but I said at the start that this was an impossible mission for me. During the pandemic, I was very proud that “Mission Impossible”, which is in cinemas now, was partly filmed in Leavesden. I helped to change the rules with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office to make sure that film doubles could change, so that Tom Cruise could go around the world and get the rest of the world to follow our rules, which meant that the film could be filmed and be in our cinemas today. That was a massive change, and I thank the team in Government at the time for enabling that to happen.

As with everyone else, I could not do this job without my team. We have worked on more than 20,000 cases. I thank Tori, Michelle, Jayne, Abbie, Imogen and now Jonathan for all their hard work. The surgeries that we hold and the work that we do behind the scenes are just phenomenal.

My final thanks go to two people, without whom I could not do this speech: my parents. It is their emerald anniversary today—55 years. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Sara Britcliffe Sara Britcliffe Conservative, Hyndburn 4:14, 20 July 2023

I start by remembering our dear friend, Sir David Amess, who was a personal family friend as well. He took a day trip to Hyndburn just after I was elected to visit the grave of my predecessor, Ken Hargreaves. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, we are not always blessed with beautiful weather in east Lancashire. However, Sir David turned up with a bag of 15 candles for us to light at Ken Hargreaves’ grave. After about 15 minutes of attempting to light the candles in the pouring rain, Members can imagine that it was becoming rather frustrating that Sir David was not giving up. Eventually, though, he did, and we ended up at the pub and getting his dog of the day captured from the Ossy Con club in Oswaldtwistle.

Our duty in this place is to our constituents who elect us. For some, the cut and thrust of parliamentary politics seems alien. The atmosphere can sometimes be fraught and the debate is always robust. But as I prepare to return to my constituency of Hyndburn and Haslingden, I am reminded of all the good work that we can do in our privileged position as Members of Parliament for our constituencies and our constituents. In that spirit, I wish briefly to mention the debate I led in Westminster Hall yesterday on hyperemesis gravidarum, a cruel condition that affects pregnant women, including a constituent of mine, Jessica Cronshaw, who sadly passed away after suffering with HG at 28 weeks pregnant with her beautiful baby Elsie. It reminded me of the vital work that we do here and will hopefully be the starting point for change for all HG sufferers.

When I was elected in 2019, I was 24 years of age and suddenly found myself representing my home town here in this place. People often told me that I was fighting an uphill battle and that our area was down and out after a decade of managed decline at a local level. I wanted to change that perception and to provide people who had given me so much during my upbringing with some hope for the future. Now we see the wheels of change in motion in Hyndburn and Haslingden. Although there will always be merchants of doom who trade in complaining but provide no solutions, progress has indeed been made. Earlier this year, we received the news that we had been successful in securing £38 million of levelling-up funding. This historic investment will go a long way to rejuvenating Accrington and incorporates a vision to create more social, cultural, heritage and work space, linked up with our railway station to provide an economic jumpstart for our town. We have also seen investments such as the Clayton community hub and shared prosperity funding to create a vibrant space in Haslingden market.

In Rishton and in Haslingden, two secondary schools are being rebuilt through the schools rebuilding programme, and our further education college is now an institute of technology rolling out T-levels for young people. Such seven-figure investments will ensure that families in Hyndburn and Haslingden can rest assured that their children and grandchildren will be given the best possible start in life. Coupled with the news earlier this week that Hyndburn and Haslingden will receive its highest ever amount of education funding through the national funding formula, it is fair to say that our children and young people will be equipped with the skills they need for the future.

To capitalise on greater investment in our economy and in education, we need jobs. I have been working with great local companies and business groups on increasing the number of apprenticeships in Hyndburn and Haslingden so that we have more high-skilled and well-paid jobs in our area. But life is not just work. Hyndburn and Haslingden is a beautiful constituency with rolling green fields and many active grassroots sports clubs.

I have been working to improve our parks and green spaces so that everyone can enjoy them, and yet again we have received Government support for that. The news that incidents of fly-tipping are coming down is welcome, and the fact that our council now has increased powers to fine fly-tippers up to £1,000 means we can do more to deter those who would harm our environment. Whether it is cricket, football, rugby, boxing or tennis, I have been working to support my local grassroots clubs so that they can improve their facilities and widen participation, because sports are so important not just for mental and physical health but in providing people, young or old, with a social opportunity.

I return to the point that I made at the start of my speech: in this place we can push for positive change, which is what I try to do here every day for my home because, after all, I have lived there all my life and I want to see the place thrive. There is always more to do and more that I want to do to ensure that we can continue to make strides forward across all towns and villages in Hyndburn and Haslingden.

Finally, I reassure my constituents in Oswaldtwistle and beyond that, as their local MP, I will do everything in my power to make sure that the Civic theatre is reopened after the parent company recently went into liquidation. As many know in Hyndburn and Haslingden, I am an Ossy girl born above the lamp—a Gobbiner—and much of my love for musical theatre started on that very stage, through Moor End Primary School choir and the youth drama group Sparks.

I pay tribute to my fantastic team in Hyndburn and Haslingden and here in Westminster: Alex, Caroline, Stacey, Jo, Steven and James—who is graduating today, so a huge congratulations to James on graduating. Sadly for those on the Front Bench, I will return in September more determined than ever to bring more investment and to deliver more reforms for my Hyndburn and Haslingden constituency. I am sure Ministers are happy they will have a break from my East Lancs accent pushing for change, but I urge them to keep pushing forward with the levelling-up agenda that this Government promised to deliver, so that constituencies like mine that were long forgotten can build on the progress we have made. I thank everybody in the House and hope everybody has a lovely summer recess.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes 4:20, 20 July 2023

It is a pleasure to take part in the David Amess debate yet again.

It is about 10 or 11 years since the Humber was christened the energy estuary, and we have extensive schemes in development. If the country is to achieve its reductions in CO2 emissions, it has to focus on the Humber, which apparently is the densest cluster in the UK. Zero Carbon Humber is a consortium of major companies that are working towards carbon capture and hydrogen projects. We also have a project for sustainable aviation fuel and a green energy terminal at the port of Immingham, which, as I have said many times, by tonnage is the largest port in the UK.

I was privileged last Friday to go to the official launch of the Humber freeport. It is about seven years since I went to the launch of the freeport project here in Parliament, when a young thrusting Member of Parliament —who happens now to be the Prime Minister—presented a report with the idea of developing freeports. I saw the advantage of that to my constituency and established the freeports all-party parliamentary group to push the Government in that direction. I am delighted that that policy was adopted, and the freeport in the Humber is now established and open for business.

Another thing that would make the area even more attractive to potential investment is the conclusion of the Greater Lincolnshire devolution deal, which has been in and out of various Ministers’ files for a number of years. It is crucial if we are to get the best advantage, particularly for the north of Lincolnshire, but the benefits will spread throughout the county.

We were fortunate to have been successful with two levelling-up bids. One was for the Cleethorpes masterplan, which details the further regeneration of what I have said many times is the premier resort of the east coast. The other was for various projects surrounding transport in Barton-upon-Humber, particularly the crucial Barton relief road. Barton has benefited greatly from the reduction in the Humber bridge tolls—an early campaign by myself and my hon. Friend Andrew Percy—but Barton is expanding and, like most market towns and villages, has had to take far too many housing developments without the associated public services to support the new residents. I urge the Government, as other Members have this afternoon, to focus on planning system reform so that development runs in tandem with the extension of public services, which are so essential to any community.

As I turn to my final topic, I am delighted that the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend Huw Merriman, has entered the Chamber. As he might expect, I am going to talk, as others have today, about ticket office closures, which is one of those issues that has come to the fore. Every now and again, all Governments and councils make what seems like a routine decision and then it suddenly comes back to bite them. I suggest to the Minister that this might be one of them and that it needs some further consideration.

The rail sector has done much in recent years to assist, in particular, blind and disabled people, and it is those people who are most up in arms about this project. Compromises are surely available. May I suggest one? Perhaps, before implementation—and I hope that implementation is delayed, preferably long delayed—we could at least know where the staff will be redeployed and the hours for which they will available at the station. There are 10 railway stations in my constituency, and only one, at Cleethorpes, has a ticket office. The objection from North Lincolnshire Council, which has been sent to the Secretary of State, says:

The Council has previously worked in partnership with TransPennine Express to refurbish and upgrade the ticket offices at Cleethorpes and Grimsby Town train stations. The Council’s financial contribution was made through the Local Transport Plan Capital Programme. If the ticket offices are closed… North East Lincolnshire will not experience the anticipated benefits from the Council’s …contribution.”

Yet again, public money has gone into improving a facility that, only a short time later, is closed. This is economic madness. I urge the Minister to reconsider and to take particular note of the objections that are coming from disabled groups, who are passionately opposed to these developments, and I urge the Government to delay their implementation.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows Scottish National Party, Motherwell and Wishaw 4:26, 20 July 2023

I thank all Members for their contributions, many of which I agreed with, surprisingly.

I want first to pay my own tribute to Sir David Amess. He was so kind to me. True to his character, he was the first person to come and speak to me when I returned to the House after the death of my husband in 2018. Sir David was a great parliamentarian and one of the most decent human beings I have known.

It may surprise you to know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I made my maiden speech in this place on 16 July 2015. My, how time flies. In that speech, I referred to answers given by constituents to my question, “What’s great about Motherwell and Wishaw?” I was able to confirm my own view that folk in Motherwell and Wishaw have a real sense of social justice, and want a fairer and more equal society—which, under continuous Tory Governments since 2015, has not happened. We have the heinous two-child benefit cap, we have been taken out of Europe against our will, and we have been subjected to increasing austerity and a huge increase in the cost of living, especially through the increase in energy costs. Unfortunately, the official Opposition do not propose to immediately reverse the two-child benefit cap, and they have no intention of taking us back to Europe, which will be of no benefit to my constituents.

Shortly after my maiden speech, I established the Poverty Action Network to bring together organisations based in or working in my constituency. It is still going strong, and it is a huge help to me and to my constituents. I want to pay tribute to some of those organisations for all that they do, and I want—in the spirit of Sir David—to mention as many as I can. I will certainly miss some out, but I am going to give it a bash.

Those organisations include Made 4 U in ML2, Motherwell & Wishaw citizens advice bureau, Routes to Work, Christians Against Poverty, the Baptist Church, the National Lottery Community Fund, Lanarkshire Community Food & Health Partnership, North Lanarkshire Disability Forum, the Voice of Experience Forum, Motherwell Football Club Community Trust, North Lanarkshire Carers Together, Befriend Motherwell, Wishaw South Parish Church, the Miracle Foundation, Lanarkshire Baby Bank, One Parent Families Scotland, North Lanarkshire Council’s tackling poverty team, Social Security Scotland, Veterans Community Hub, Autism Take 5, Dallies Community Larder, Lanarkshire Association of Mental Health, and Remploy. That is not all of them; I cut it down quite a bit. Most of the organisations come regularly and they all benefit, and I benefit, particularly from their networking. My constituents are grateful to all of those organisations and I will be visiting many of them during the recess.

To add a wee note, I had scarcely sat down after business questions when I received an email from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities—the Leader of the House’s pointy sword has truly a fabulous reach, as I have been trying to get something done on redundancy modification orders since 2016 and I have got the offer of a meeting with a Minister! [Hon. Members: “Yay!”]

I have been privileged to chair the all-party group on post offices and I want to thank all its members across the House, but I particularly thank Lord Arbuthnot and Mr Jones for their wise counsel. The fight for fairness and justice for sub-postmasters and for proper compensation for them after the Horizon scandal is the focus of what we are doing. The continuation of the network is vital for all of us and all our constituents. If and when we continue the network and it continues to grow, we must pay sub-postmasters a decent wage for all that they do in our communities.

I also have had the huge privilege of becoming the Scottish National party Westminster group spokesperson on disabilities. This has been life changing for me: listening to stories of lived experience from constituents and others has sometimes driven me to a mixture of tears and fury at how a country and society as rich as ours treats disabled people. I have heard many Members today talk about what is going to happen if ticket offices close and that is just a small part of this. We should all remember that 20% of the population of this country have a disability, often invisible. The benefits regime is failing those who are unable to work. The cost of living crisis and high energy costs have led to horrendous challenges for disabled people and their families. The Government and we as parliamentarians must continue to fight for our disabled constituents. Disability can come to any of us; we must bear that in mind. Not everyone with a disability was born that way.

I also want to pay tribute to carers who help disabled people, especially the army of unpaid carers who save the economy billions of pounds because of the care they provide to their loved ones on our behalf. I thank all disabled and carers organisations who have helped me raise issues on behalf of constituents and others. Bless them for everything they do.

I also want to thank all the House staff. I am especially grateful to them: they look after me and go way above their job roles. So many times in the last few years I have been so grateful to them for everything they do.

I also want to thank my own team. They have a lot to put up with. [[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I thank my hon. Friend Gavin Newlands behind me, chuntering from a sedentary position! My constituents are served by some of the best caseworkers and best staff in this place; I will challenge anybody on that.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows Scottish National Party, Motherwell and Wishaw

No, I will not. [Laughter.]

I thank my staff for putting up with me and my demands on them, but most of all I thank them for the work they do for folk in Motherwell and Wishaw. We all know in this place that we are only as good as those who work for us, and I am quite good—in fact I think I am very good—because of the work they do for me.

Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you for your forbearance and for allowing me to talk about the best place and the best constituency across the UK, Motherwell and Wishaw.

Photo of Jessica Morden Jessica Morden Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Shadow Vice Chamberlain of HM Household (Whip), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 4:35, 20 July 2023

It is an immense pleasure to follow Marion Fellows, who made a very good speech.

I join other Members in paying tribute to our late colleague Sir David Amess, who is rightly honoured in the title of the debate. He remains much missed in these debates, in which he was such a fixture—he really did own them—and in the day-to-day life of Parliament. I heard what Anna Firth said about the plaque that will be appearing in this Chamber, which we look forward to seeing. I also want to remember Jo Cox, who was honoured in the Jubilee Room just a few months ago at an event organised by her sister, my hon. Friend Kim Leadbeater, with her parents in attendance. Our thoughts very much stay with her, too, at these times when we remember colleagues.

On the Opposition Benches, we send our best wishes today to the family of Margaret McDonagh, Baroness McDonagh of Mitcham and Morden, following her funeral yesterday. Margaret was Labour’s first general secretary and later a much respected peer. She was an exceptional general secretary, organising Labour to victory in 1997, and she was an inspirational boss to me and taught me so much as a young election organiser. She set the standard—a very high and exacting standard—for us, to which we still aspire today. She was a Labour organiser’s organiser. I know she will be missed by everyone, especially her sister, my hon. Friend Siobhain McDonagh; our heart goes out to her. I know that today she would be urging us hard to get out the vote in the by-elections, so we wish good luck to all our candidates and teams who are working so hard. Please vote Labour today!

I apologise to the graduates of the University of South Wales in Newport, who I was meant to be joining this evening to celebrate their graduation. I am sorry I cannot be with them, but I send them huge congratulations.

It is a pleasure to respond to this debate for the Opposition. These debates are always a great opportunity for MPs to raise a whole range of issues that matter to their constituents, demonstrated most ably by the Father of the House, Sir Peter Bottomley, in his speech about his constituent, and repeated by many others. It is too difficult to mention all the points raised by so many Members today, so I would like to use this opportunity to raise some issues close to my constituents’ hearts.

I was struck by the reflection of Margaret Ferrier on the emotional attachment that we often feel to individual constituents’ cases. In my case, it would be the Smith family, who I met many years ago and who were hugely impacted by the contaminated blood scandal. More recently, my constituent Mike Hermanis, a Falklands veteran, brought colleagues to the House to talk to me and other MPs about their pleas to have documents from the inquiry into the bombing of the Sir Galahad unsealed. I was deeply moved by his story—that of a young man of 19 from Newport East who has spent most of his life seeking answers to what happened in the days leading up to that bombing. The story of what happened is documented in Crispin Black’s book “Too Thin for a Shroud”, which sheds new light on the events of 8 June 1982, and I would recommend that book to all Members. I look forward to working with colleagues across the House—there is much interest in this—to support him in achieving the closure he seeks, alongside other Falklands veterans.

As the first Member to hold a debate on e-scooters and e-bikes, and on behalf of my constituents and those who raise their antisocial use constantly, may I urge the Government to bring forward a transport Bill or some other legislation to update the law properly to regulate their use? This has been drawn out for far too long. The legislation is clearly lagging behind both their sales and use.

I also offer my massive congratulations to Maindee Primary School, Positive Futures, Community Youth Project Newport and other partners who work with young people in Newport East and across our city on winning the national partnership of the year award at the Levelling the Playing Field scheme awards earlier this week. They are a group of incredible community volunteers, teachers and role models who are a force of nature and deserve every recognition.

This debate is also a chance to reflect on the Government’s record this term. I will just say a few things—there is certainly a lot of material to go on. This is the Government of economic mismanagement, a Government of low growth and high taxes who have failed our industries and our constituents. From the Tory mortgage bombshell that is hitting so many of our constituents hard—[Interruption.] It is true, including those 8,500 residents in Newport East who will be paying around £2,300 more on their mortgages, and the hundreds of thousands of others across the country who are struggling due to this Government’s disastrous mini-Budget last autumn. I would just like to quote a youngster from Somerton Primary who wrote to me:

“I’ve been trying to think of ways to help my mum, but she tells me not to. She works extra hours. I am terrified. I get really worried we might lose our house.”

There is no hope with the Conservative party, and while I could go on, in reality, we just need a general election.

Excellent contributions have been made by Members from across the House today, including those made by the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, my hon. Friend Ian Mearns—we thank him for his work. He packed a lot into his speech, above all his love of Gateshead and the importance of strong trade unions, and quite rightly highlighted the Government’s woeful record on the asylum system. Ten years ago, 90% of asylum cases were decided in six months; that figure is now 10%. The backlog was 19,000 under the last Labour Government; it is now estimated to be 166,000.

My hon. Friend Carolyn Harris, who is fiercely passionate about Swansea East and the communities beyond, is a force of nature on the menopause. I particularly praise her for the Everyone Deserves campaign, which targets holiday hunger during this cost of living crisis. That gives me the opportunity to give a shout-out to parliamentary friendships, which sustain us all in our role. I am lucky enough to have her as one of mine.

I sympathised with the arguments that Gavin Newlands made about secondary ticketing. He makes very good points—I say that as the mother of a Swiftie who has been through various traumatic times.

I thank Bob Stewart for making some really important points about Bosnia. It is important to highlight that topic, and I hope his arguments were well heeded: he speaks from a position of deep knowledge and experience.

The speech of Holly Mumby-Croft, in which she mentioned steel, allows me to say yet again in this place—as the hon. Lady did—that we need our steel. We need this Government to step in and do what they can, as other countries are doing across Europe, working in partnership to transition that vital industry and to do so swiftly.

Da iawn, as we say in Wales, to my hon. Friend Fleur Anderson for giving a traditional David Amess speech by ably demonstrating her love of her constituency, and by making some really important points about the need to protect private renters and her campaign to ban plastic in wet wipes.

Elliot Colburn mentioned policing, which allows me the opportunity to reiterate how important community policing is, how we are still suffering from the cuts that the Government brought in—some 40% was cut from the budget in Gwent under Tory Home Secretaries—and why we really need Labour’s neighbourhood policing plan.

Finally, the hon. Members for Wantage (David Johnston) and for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) mentioned work experience. I have had the huge pleasure of welcoming Bryn, Rachel, Amanda and Tom this summer; I do not know whether I put them off politics at all, but I have really enjoyed having them.

I thank everyone who has participated in today’s debate—I think we are all still recovering from the shock- horror moment when Jim Shannon revealed that he would be intervening, rather than taking part. Like other hon. Members, I take this opportunity to wish everyone who works in this place a happy and restful summer recess. There are too many roles to mention here, but I am going to make the mistake of mentioning just one by saying a particular thank you to our Doorkeepers, whose random acts of kindness—they know who they are—sustain many of us who spend a lot of time in this Chamber.

I would also like to thank all those staff who work tirelessly in our constituency offices up and down the country, including my own team. Like Marion Fellows, I am so grateful to them for putting up with me—not least Dan and Elaine, who have moved on to more exciting things, but also Kath, Sarah, Emma, Gardha and Poppy. Poppy has been lent to us this summer by Yale; she has worked very closely with the Sutton Trust, which I think we should praise in this place, to be able to go to Yale, and she is back helping out in Newport East, which is wonderful.

To all Members of this House, happy working recess—for it is indeed a working recess. Diolch yn fawr, and hwyl fawr, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Vice-Chamberlain of HM Household 4:45, 20 July 2023

It is a pleasure to sum up this important debate, which is one of the few occasions when Members from across the House can raise any issue they wish. First, I wish to follow others in paying tribute to Sir David Amess, who was such a kind man. His passion for animals, cheeky smile and love of his constituency and his family are all things that we remember of him, and the tributes today have been incredibly touching, particularly those from my right hon. Friend Mr Francois and my hon. Friend Anna Firth, who knew him best.

It has been a wonderful debate and we have been listening to fantastic contributions from Members from across our country. We have heard from my hon. Friend Douglas Ross, the hon. Members for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows), for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier), for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) and for North Antrim (Ian Paisley), my hon. Friend Robin Millar, the hon. Members for Newport East (Jessica Morden) and for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), and my hon. Friends the Members for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) and for Darlington (Peter Gibson). We heard a speech from Lincolnshire, from my right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh—a happy birthday, Sir Edward! We heard from those with constituencies nearby, my hon. Friends the Members for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns) and for Scunthorpe (Holly Mumby-Croft), and from my right hon. Friend Bob Stewart, my hon. Friends the Members for Watford (Dean Russell), for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), for Sedgefield (Paul Howell) and for Wantage (David Johnston), Fleur Anderson, and my hon. Friends the Members for Newbury (Laura Farris) and for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn). Towards the end, we heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Southend West, for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) and for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers).

Our United Kingdom is the most successful political and economic union the world has ever seen. It makes us safer, stronger and more prosperous. It makes us better able to share the skills of great institutions that we have heard about today, such as the armed forces, NHS and civil service. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy for mentioning much of that. I apologise if I do not get to respond to everybody, but there was a lot to get through. Mostly, people highlighted how important our work is in changing lives and how we are helped in that work by the teams who support us every day. Charities, councillors and others help to drive and sustain us in helping constituents. That was a theme from north to south, from east to west.

We also heard a little about the ticket offices. Members will know that the Adjournment debate is on that subject, so I will leave those comments in the tender care of the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend Huw Merriman, whom I see to my right. Key themes we heard about were health, mental health in children, education and transport—the things that make our community function. We heard of much investment that is driving prosperity and jobs, and about our police now being at a record 149,500 in England and Wales. We have had a wonderful journey around the country this afternoon. I have a lot of it still to see, but much of it gives me hope, in terms of the investment and the progress we are making, helping people’s lives.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Vice-Chamberlain of HM Household

I am sorry but I have so little time and I will not give way.

I should mention Ian Mearns and all the work he does as Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, for which I thank him. I did note what he said about Gibside School and the pilot for the visually impaired children. I heard him championing that being rolled out and I will make sure that that Department knows.

The Father of the House, my hon. Friend Sir Peter Bottomley, is no longer in his place, but I took note of his request for a meeting with the police, the CPS and Ministers, and I will make sure that the Department is aware of it.

The doughty hon. Member for Swansea East came next into our lives with all her colourfulness and her work to help women through that different stage of life, the menopause, which was also mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield. We thank her for her work highlighting it, and the Government have made sure that prepayment certificates have been brought in to make that journey easier for women. I also noted her football tribute to Gareth Bale, which landed well with my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East. He pointed out how expanding ULEZ will hit about 200,000 Londoners, when money is tight, how it will go right out to Uxbridge and South Ruislip and how facing charges of £12.50 a day—up to £4,500 a year—is a tough thing for people to afford. I join him in urging the Mayor to step back.

I also join my hon. Friend in wishing success for the Smokefree 2030 ambition—he knows I am keen on that and would love to see us achieve it too. I look forward to his work experience photos. I have had many young people in my office—Teddy came only this week. It is brilliant that they come and see how our democracy works.

We were then taken to the constituency of Margaret Ferrier. I thank her for praising the Home Office, saying that the situation has improved markedly. I am sure everyone will join me in wishing the young lady who has just arrived from Afghanistan well in her new life in Scotland. Please pass on those wishes from us all.

My right hon. and gallant Friend Bob Stewart, who is no longer in his place, asked us not to forget the people of Bosnia and the 57 of our men and women who lost their lives. Speeches are always more powerful when they come from a place of personal knowledge, and I am sure that colleagues in the Foreign Office and the MOD heard his remarks, and his shout-out to our hon. Friend Martin Vickers, whom he praised for his good work as trade envoy.

We went over to the constituency of Gavin Newlands, where, I agree, violence against women and girls is completely unacceptable, and then scooted down to Scunthorpe, where my hon. Friend Holly Mumby-Croft welcomed the £19.4 million funding for one of 111 diagnostic centres that we have created. My hon. Friend is known as “Mrs Steel”, and we know that steel is vital to the UK. Ministers are engaging to make sure it has a positive and sustainable future, and I thank her for all the work she does.

We then went over the water to South Antrim. Our focus remains on delivering for the people of Northern Ireland. I am pleased that Ian Paisley welcomes the moves to restore the Executive in Stormont; it is our top priority. I know he has regular dialogue with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

We then went to the beautiful Cotswolds. The issue of GL43 and SPA is quite complex, so if my hon. Friend Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown will forgive me, I will say only that I noted his comments and they will have been heard by the Department. DEFRA may decide to modify the GL should the situation change. We are aware of some technical changes to the higher level stewardship and have put support in place, but I have asked the Department to look at extending the deadline as my hon. Friend requested.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds

I thank my hon. Friend on behalf of my farmers, who are very troubled by this, as are farmers up and down the country. It would be really welcome if that were to be put back, even by a few weeks.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Vice-Chamberlain of HM Household

I note my hon. Friend’s comments.

We then heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Moray, whom I congratulate on his refereeing skills. He gave a shout-out to Steve Clarke and wished his team well. I noted his comments about Viaplay. I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, our right hon. Friend Stuart Andrew, is keen to engage with him. Of course, that will be easier if the SNP Government give him the money for the A9. [Laughter.]

Anyway, we move on to Congleton, where we heard about the firm Brit European, whose site is powered by solar, wind and methane from moo poo—that is what I wrote, but I added something in brackets to remind myself what it is. The firm has used those and other innovative solutions to create a sustainable site—it sounds absolutely fantastic, and all power to them. My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton asked for a meeting between the Department for Business and Trade and the company SpanSet, and I will make sure the Department hears that request, but I point out that questions to that Department take place on 14 September.

We whizz to Rutland and Melton, where I am excited about visiting the food market when it is established. I was interested to hear about the medi-hub and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton on securing the MRI scanner. We know how much early diagnoses helps us to change the trajectory of these diseases. I also note that she is glad that we have increased fines for fly tipping in rural areas. It is a blight, so doubling the fines to £1,000 is really welcome. She also welcomed the biggest ever funding for education, and I am sure Sir David would have been warmed by the way she trotted us around what I think was about 32 subjects. I am sure that the Ministers in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero heard her comments.

That brings us to Rayleigh and Wickford. All I can say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford is that friends are so important, and this place is no different. He misses his friend, and we heard that today. I thank him for his kind words. Moving on, I wish him enormous luck with securing his special school. Education for those with particular needs is incredibly important. Every child has the right to a good education. That is why the high needs funding increasing by more than £10 billion, an increase of some 10.6%, is really welcome. I also have a RAAC school and hospital in Bury St Edmunds, so I know some of the challenges involved; I wish him well with that and with his work with his sheltered housing community.

Off we trotted then to my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury; she has got herself a knowledge highway bus and now she is cheekily asking for a bridge before she comes back in two years’ time. I am sure the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle, heard her. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury really saved her passion for her comments on CAMHS and children’s mental health and the two-year wait for a diagnosis. We all know how vital it is to have a timely diagnosis and the Government are committed to reducing the delays for those children. It is really important to get a quick diagnosis so that we can help to give children the best education.

I also congratulate my hon. Friend on her comments about chalk streams. They are an incredibly important and special habitat. I know the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend Rebecca Pow, makes a particular play in the chalk stream strategy to ensure that we look after that vital part of nature.

Next, we went to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington, who thanked the Government for the energy bill relief scheme, the household support fund and the uprating of benefits in line with inflation. He painted a very different story from the one we heard from the hon. Member for Newport East, but he did bring up the issue of incineration, and I will ensure that DEFRA hears those comments. He also welcomed the police and the improvements to his St Helier Hospital and the new work—with the Royal Marsden Hospital, I think he said—to see and treat more people suffering from cancer.

Then we went to my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington and his celebrations on rail, with £239 million for Bank Top station

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Vice-Chamberlain of HM Household

I gave my hon. Friend an extra £100 million, with the Rail Minister sitting here; I could not have timed that more perfectly.

My hon. Friend also mentioned the Brunswick Street campus, where 80% of the jobs are driven by Government funding, helping people to drive prosperity. We all know that work is the way to do that. I thank him for all the work he does on the APPG for hospice and end of life care. The Government recognise the importance of access to high-quality, personalised palliative and end of life care, which means so much to families and patients. I was pleased to see that, as part of the Health and Care Act 2022, palliative care services were added to integrated care boards to help to drive better regional services. [Interruption.] I am being chivvied to hurry up and shut up—

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Vice-Chamberlain of HM Household

Yes—I usually do this bit to other people! I thank those hon. Members to whom I did not get, who all had the same theme of working for their constituencies, driving results, helping people to prosper and making sure that when lives go wrong, they and their teams deliver.

As we rise for summer recess at the close of business, I offer my thanks to all the staff throughout the House, our own staff, the Doorkeepers, the cleaners, the staff in the Tea Room who keep us fed and watered, the Clerks, the catering staff, the police, the security staff, Broadcasting and Hansard, who all show amazing commitment and dedication to us, and of course to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the rest of Mr Speaker’s team. I wish everybody, including my own team, one of whom has worked here for more than four decades—not continuously for me, I would add—and another of whom came here with me in 2015, a happy, peaceful, safe recess, whether they are at work or play. Let us just remember that Sir David’s light remains.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee 4:59, 20 July 2023

I think I am subject to another Government cut here, Mr Deputy Speaker. [Laughter.] This has been a wide-ranging and well-supported parliamentary event, with an oft-repeated theme of ticket office closures, and I am glad that the rail Minister has been here to reflect on some of that. It has been a fitting tribute to the memory of Sir David Amess, and I also need to mention the Member who was not here but who was—Jim Shannon.

Mr Deputy Speaker, to you, right hon. and hon. Members across the House, and all the staff who work tirelessly to support the functions of the House and keep us safe, I wish a fantastic and well-deserved summer recess. I wish Members safe journeys back to their constituencies, homes and loved ones.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House
has considered matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

Before everybody disappears, I just want to say that the spirit of Sir David Amess and his light absolutely shine bright on our proceedings. We all miss him greatly. We all have great memories of Sir David, and his spirit remains here.

I thank all my staff, because they at the frontline and take a lot of the flak before it gets anywhere near us, so we are grateful for them. All the staff who work here, from the Clerks to the cleaners, from the secretaries to the security, make sure that our democracy works as well as it does.

I want you all to have a superb recess. As president of the Royal Lancashire Agricultural Show, I look forward to welcoming thousands of visitors to the Ribble Valley tomorrow and over the weekend, demonstrating how important rural agriculture is to this country. Have a great recess everybody.

Photo of Natalie Elphicke Natalie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Today, by written ministerial statement, the Government made their response to the Kirkup inquiry into avoidable baby deaths in East Kent. The work on that matter in this place has been led by my right hon. Friend Sir Roger Gale, so I want to put on the record, on behalf of the whole east Kent community, our thanks to him for everything he has done to drive this important issue forward. I also thank the Richford family and all those who have shared their grief and their loss so that other families may not be affected by such a tragedy.

As the announcement was by written statement, I would be grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you could advise whether the Government have indicated their intention to bring to the House the matters included in that statement, including a new national body for maternity safety, which I think would be of great interest to the whole House.

I also add to your comments, Mr Deputy Speaker, and thank you, the other deputies, Mr Speaker, the Speaker’s team and the House staff for looking after us all so well this parliamentary term.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. I have not been notified that there will be any further statements today, and we have fairly well run out of time. However, I am sure that there will be many more opportunities for this and other issues to be raised when we get back in September.