Commons Gate

Speeches and parliamentary questions in the House of Commons 2005-6

While speaking in the chamber of the House is a high profile activity for an MP, much other work is done elsewhere, in committee, as well as a large casework load for constituents.
 

A backbencher speaks for his constituents

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In the House Current Session

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08/11/06 Seal Skins
08/11/06 Farepak
08/11/06 Concessionary Fare Scheme (Tyne and Wear)
08/11/06 St. Andrews Agreement
07/11/06 Digital Switchover
07/11/06 Housing (Gateshead)
06/11/06 UK - Burma Oil Trade
06/11/06 Seal Hunting
06/11/06 Energy Conservation
06/11/06 Regional News Programmes
06/11/06 Aung San Suu Kyi
01/11/06 Physiotherapy
30/10/06 Open Cast Mining
26/10/06 Iraq: Casualties
25/10/06 Iraqi Trade Unions PMQs
25/10/06 Trades Unions in Iraq
24/10/06 Management Consultants in the NHS
24/10/06 PFI in Schools
19/10/06 Policing - Northern Ireland
19/10/06 Temporary Agency Workers Directive
17/10/06 Private Finance Initiative
16/10/06 Agency Workers
12/10/06 Private Finance Initiative Hospital Schemes
11/10/06 Northern Ireland Assembly
10/10/06 Corporate Manslaughter
10/10/06 Corporation Tax
10/10/06 Decent Homes
18/07/06 Lebanon
17/07/06 Mesothelioma: damages
14/07/06 Infrastructure Audit (Housing Development) Bill
14/07/06 Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Bill
13/07/06 G8 meeting: Education
11/07/06 Mesothelioma
11/07/06 Transport: Concessionary Bus Travel Scheme
11/07/06 Northern Ireland: Financial Assistance (Political Parties)
10/07/06 Compensation
06/07/06 Armed Forces Personnel
06/07/06 Labour Rights in Iraq
29/06/06 Northern Ireland: Education
28/06/06 Northern Ireland: Post-Primary Education
26/06/06 Northern Ireland: Education
21/06/06 Northern Ireland: Grammar School Intake
19/06/06 Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill
08/06/06 Compensation Bill
07/06/06 Middle East
06/06/06 Junior Football Clubs
23/05/06 Education and Inspections Bill
17/05/06 Tourism (Northern Ireland)
16/05/06 Further Education and Adult Learning
16/05/06 NHS Nurses
12/05/06 Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill
03/05/06 Mesothelioma
26/04/06 Northern Ireland Bill
26/04/06 Decommissioning (Northern Ireland)
24/04/06 International Law
30/03/06 Small Claims (Courts)
23/03/06 National Strike
23/03/06 National Minimum Wage
16/03/06 Trust Schools
13/03/06 Pensioner Travel (Tyne and Wear)
13/03/06 Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill
08/02/06 Opposition Parties (Financial Assistance)
02/02/06 Smoking Ban (NI)
07/02/06 Coal Surface Workers (Compensation)
06/02/06 Travel talks stalled?
17/01/06 School Closures and Surplus Places
13/12/05 Birtley Community Partnership
23/11/05 Education Administration (Northern Ireland)
10/11/05 Terrorism Bill
10/11/05 Business of the House
07/11/05 Identity Cards - cost
03/11/05 Globalisation
26/10/05 Decommissioning of IRA weapons and explosives
13/10/05 Northern Ireland
12/10/05 Future of the Coal Industry
21/07/05 Derwent Valley (Open Cast Mining)
20/07/05 Council Housing
13/07/05 Unemployment (Northern Ireland)
30/06/05 Africa (Poverty)
29/06/05 Council Housing
25/05/05 The Economy and Welfare Reform (Maiden Speech)

In the House Current Session



 

Commons Hansard
Date

Seal Skins

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many seal skins were imported into the UK in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [99121]

Mr. McCartney: The importation of listed products of 'whitecoat' pups of harp seals and 'blueback' pups of hooded seals has been prohibited in this country and throughout the European Union for some 20 years. We are actively looking into the possibility of imposing a ban on the import of listed products of all harp and hooded seals.

Figures are not available for numbers of other seal skins which are imported. The Overseas Trade Statistics suggest impost in 2005 of about 4.1 tonnes of whole seal fur skins and pieces or cuttings.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
8 Nov 2006

Farepak

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made towards helping people affected by the collapse of Farepak. [97739]

Mr. McCartney: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Anne Snelgrove) today.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
8 Nov 2006

Concessionary Fare Scheme (Tyne and Wear)

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what arrangements are in place to avoid a repeat of the cuts made to bus services and the introduction of higher charges earlier this year to cover for the shortfall in implementing the concessionary fare scheme for elderly and disabled persons in the Tyne and Wear area. [91944]

Mr. Woolas: It is for local authorities to develop and implement affordable schemes with local bus providers which deliver effective concessionary travel to meet their statutory responsibilities, and also achieve the aims of those additional concessions which local people wish to see run in their areas. The Government has provided an overall increase in Government grant of 2.7 billion or 4.5 per cent. in 2006-07 and has committed to an increase of £3 billion or 5 per cent. in 2007-08 for all local services including local authorities' responsibilities for concessionary travel schemes, as part of the first two year settlement for authorities. Decisions on whether or not to subsidise particular local bus services are at the discretion of the relevant local authority. There are no specific arrangements in place to safeguard particular services.

Responsibility for policy on bus services is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
8 Nov 2006

St. Andrews Agreement

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in talks with political parties in Northern Ireland on restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly. [99542]

Mr. Hain: The Government are continuing to work closely with the Northern Ireland political parties and with the Irish Government towards restoration. The St Andrews Agreement opens the way to a new dawn for democracy in Northern Ireland based on the twin foundations of the rule of law and power sharing. The Government firmly believe the circumstances are right now to see a permanent political settlement in Northern Ireland, with the restoration and the full and effective operation of the political institutions.

Much progress was made at St Andrews. I look to the Northern Ireland parties to endorse the agreement by 10 November. There is a heavy responsibility on all the parties to move forward. The Government have set down a process and timetable which we believe offers the best opportunity for restoration of the devolved institutions.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
7 Nov 2006

Digital Switchover

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what powers Ofcom has to ensure that ITV will continue to produce local news programmes following the changeover from analogue to digital television. [99508]

Mr. Woodward: ITV1's public service broadcasting obligations relate to regional not local news.

The Communications Act tasks Ofcom to set appropriate targets for the provision of regional news programmes and will continue to do so after the switchover to digital television.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
6 Nov 2006

UK - Burma Oil Trade

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the value was of trade in oil between the UK and Burma in the most recent period for which figures are available. [99571]

Mr. McCartney: In 2005 there were about 22,000 of petroleum products exported from the UK to Burma. Up to August 2006 there were exports worth about £1,000. In the same periods there have been no recorded petroleum imports from Burma into the UK.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
6 Nov 2006

Seal Hunting

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to help stop the commercial hunting of seals by Canada. [99506]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government are opposed to the Canadian seal hunt and would prefer all seal hunting for commercial purposes to be banned. The Government are considering a possible extension of the current ban on the import of certain seal products and will make a statement to the House once the outcome of the review is known. However, the seal hunt does not break any current international agreements, and so this is ultimately a matter for the Canadian Government.

Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he has discussed the culling of seals in Canada with the Canadian Government. [99507]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government regularly makes their abhorrence of the Canadian seal hunt known to the Canadian authorities. On 27 February 2006 the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry raised the seal hunt with the Canadian Minister of International Trade during an introductory telephone call, and most recently my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs (Mr. McCartney) raised the issue with the new Canadian high commissioner to London during an introductory meeting on 11 October 2006.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
6 Nov 2006

Energy Conservation

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage retailers to reduce unnecessary energy use. [99541]

Ian Pearson: The Government provide the Carbon Trust, a not-for-profit company, with funding of around £80 million each year to work closely with businesses, including retailers, to encourage more sustainable use of energy and help to establish more energy efficient practices and systems.

The trust achieves this through the provision of free on-site energy-use assessments; identification of areas where savings could be made; and energy saving recommendations.

A small fraction of retailers are participants in the voluntary climate change agreements, which offer a fiscal incentive for achievement of energy or carbon targets. The recent Energy Review identified significant potential for further cost-effective carbon savings from the non-energy intensive business and public sectors, which would include retailers. We will shortly consult on options to achieve these reductions, including a new mandatory emissions trading scheme, alongside other options.

Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to encourage a reduction in energy usage in street lighting. [99610]

Ian Pearson: The Department for Transport has the policy responsibility for street lighting, while the provision and maintenance of street lighting is the responsibility of highway authorities. All authorities should be seeking to reduce energy usage both to cut costs and to help combat climate change. As street lighting accounts for a significant proportion of the energy used by authorities, it should be readily identified as an area that should be examined for potential efficiency savings.

It is for the authorities themselves to make decisions on the type and level of lighting required, taking into account local circumstances and in accordance with their general responsibilities and duties. In many cases, it may be possible to reduce the intensity of street lighting and as a result reduce the amount of energy used. But this must not be to the extent that the lighting fails to perform as intended in aiding movement for all road users, reducing accidents and helping to create an environment that is pleasant and safe.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
6 Nov 2006

Regional News Programmes

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): While my hon. Friend is having his discussions with Ofcom about the continuing dumbing down of ITV, will he take the opportunity to raise the real worry that digital switchover could well result in the end of regional news programmes on ITV?

Mr. Woodward: I am aware of my hon. Friend's concern about these issues; indeed, he has already written to me about them. We shall come to this subject later on in today's questions.

+++

Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what powers are available to her to regulate the production of regional news programmes by ITV after the switchover to digital television. [99157]

Mr. Woodward: Regulation of regional news resides with OFCOM. This framework will remain in place after switchover.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
6 Nov 2006

Aung San Suu Kyi

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether she has had any recent discussions with the Burmese government about Aung San Su Kyi; and if she will make a statement. [99572]

Mr. McCartney: We have repeatedly called for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners in Burma.

I raised Aung San Suu Kyi's continuing detention with the Burmese Ambassador on 15 June and in a letter to the Burmese Foreign Minister on 5 July.

I again raised the Governments concerns about the Burmese government's human rights record with the Burmese Ambassador at a meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Ambassadors on 18 September.

Most recently, our Permanent Representative to the UN called for Aung San Suu Kyi's release during discussions at the UN Security Council on 29 September in the presence of the Burmese Permanent Representative to the UN.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
1 Nov 2006

Physiotherapy

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many physiotherapist posts within the NHS have been withdrawn in the last two years. [98797]

Ms Rosie Winterton: This information is not collected centrally.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
30 Oct 2006

Open Cast Mining

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): My right hon. Friend referred to domestic action. Does he agree that it would simply be daft to reverse long-standing developments that are helping us to build a stable, green, environmentally sound economy, by allowing the short-term exploitation of open coal sites, as is being proposed in my constituency? That will have a drastic impact on an area that has been devastated by the coal industry and is trying to move forward.

David Miliband: My hon. Friend raises an important issue and, as a fellow North-East MP, I know that he has been campaigning on the subject in the region. I can tell him that my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy set up a coal forum to discuss issues of precisely that kind, and I hope that the subject will be on its agenda.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
26 Oct 2006

Iraq: Casualties

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has commissioned into the findings of the recent Lancet report on deaths in Iraq; and if she will make a statement. [97295]

Dr. Howells: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, in another place Official Report, columns 870-71.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
25 Oct 2006

Iraqi Trade Unions

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): What support the UK Government are giving to develop democratic, independent trade unions in Iraq.

The Prime Minister: My special envoy for human rights in Iraq recently met the Iraqi Minister for civil society and reiterated our full support for the right to form free and fair unions. She also made the same point when she met a group of Iraqi women trade unionists on international women's day. As my hon. Friend knows - I think that he was present at the launch - there is a TUC pamphlet celebrating the life of Hadi Saleh, the international secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, who was murdered in Iraq, almost certainly by former Saddamists, in January 2005. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend and those in the TUC on campaigning for free and fair trade unions in Iraq. I also congratulate all those who continue to strive for free and trade unions in difficult circumstances today.

Mr. Anderson: I welcome the Prime Minister's words, but is he aware of Iraqi Government decree 8750, which was issued last year and said that the Government of Iraq will

"take control of all moneys belonging to the trade unions and prevent them from dispensing any such moneys"?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is anti-democratic, and will he do everything in his power to convince the Iraqi Government to rescind that pernicious legislation?

The Prime Minister: We are indeed making those points to the Iraqi Government. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the fact that it is important that there are no inhibitions on free Iraqi trade unions. I know that he will join me in celebrating the publication of the pamphlet, which shows that despite all the problems in Iraq today, the position of trade unions in Iraq has been absolutely transformed compared with the conditions under Saddam Hussein. That is one of the most powerful things about the pamphlet, which I urge hon. Members to read, and it is a great antidote to all those who say that nothing has improved since the fall of Saddam. The pamphlet makes quite clear the appalling brutality to which people - especially trade unionists and others - were subjected under Saddam and shows how, despite the difficulties, that is changing in Iraq today.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
24 Oct 2006

Management Consultants in the NHS

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): How much was spent by the NHS on management consultants in the last year for which figures are available. [95972]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Ivan Lewis): The Department does not collect information from NHS organisations that would allow an analysis of the cost of management consultants.

Mr. Anderson: Perhaps I can help. Advice was given at the Mesothelioma UK patients and carers conference in Manchester on 5 October that £179 million was spent on management consultants. How can I explain that to my constituents who are waiting for Alimta, which will cost £5 million a year?

Mr. Lewis: I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that there is a role for management consultants, when they add value to the decisions and issues that managers in the national health service must address. We hope and expect managers to exercise proper judgement in deciding when to use management consultants. If management consultants add value and lead to an improvement in patient care, Government and Opposition Members would say that they have an important role to play. However, we also accept that good judgement must be exercised when consultants are used.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
24 Oct 2006

PFI in Schools

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills

  1. if he will list the owners of all private finance initiative schools; [91953]
  2. how much made from the private finance initiative consortium selling equity stakes has been passed on to the local education authorities from private finance initiative schools. [91954]

Jim Knight: Private finance initiative (PFI) projects for the provision of schools are delivered through contracts between local authorities and private sector contractors. There are currently 103 such projects with signed contracts covering over 800 schools. The names, locations and other details (including the names of the private sector contractors) of these schools are available in the House Library.

Under PFI, a private sector contractor will fund the construction or modernisation of a school or schools and then deliver a managed service based on them. The local authority will not make any payments until the facilities are available and thereafter payments are conditional on satisfactory availability and performance of the service. The contractor will deliver the managed service under the terms of a contract and will operate the assets under the terms of a lease or licence granted by the local authority; at the end of the contract the assets will revert to the local authority and must be fit for a period of further use. The local authority retains ownership of the freehold of the site throughout the contract.

A schools PFI consortium is a private company and parties investing in it initially can later sell their equity holding to a third party. Since any equity sold has previously been purchased by those investors the local authority would not be entitled to a share. The Department does not collect information about such private sector commercial transactions.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
19 Oct 2006

Policing - Northern Ireland

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in encouraging Sinn Fein to engage in the policing process in Northern Ireland. [92709]

Mr. Hain: As the Agreement reached in St. Andrews last week made clear, we want to see the support for policing and the rule of law extend to every part of the community. This includes endorsing fully the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the criminal justice system, actively encouraging everyone in the community to co-operate fully with the PSNI in tackling crime in all areas and actively supporting all the policing and criminal justice institutions, including the Policing Board. The political parties of Northern Ireland - including Sinn Fein - have until 10 November 2006 to confirm their endorsement of the St. Andrews Agreement. Based on intensive negotiations at St. Andrews, we believe that all parties should be able to endorse it and to implement it in good faith, building on the trust and confidence necessary for a stable and lasting settlement.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
19 Oct 2006

Temporary Agency Workers Directive

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to help make progress in the European Council on agreement on the draft Temporary Agency Workers Directive. [95041]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government continue to support the underlying principles of the draft directive and is committed to working with the European Commission to introduce appropriate rules to protect agency workers. It is not however for the UK to set the agenda in the EU. This is a matter for the EU presidency (currently held by Finland) and the European Commission. The DTI has made clear to its Finnish counterpart that it stands ready to assist the Finnish presidency in the matter of the draft directive.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
17 Oct 2006

Private Finance Initiative

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will publish the results of the checks made on the six hospital private finance initiative schemes announced on 19 August to ensure that each scheme offers value for money and is locally affordable. [91949]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): The six schemes that were announced on 19 August had been subjected to an in-depth review to ensure that they were configured in the most financially cost effective way possible; and that they were financially sustainable over the long-term. The review assessed each scheme on an individual basis and considered their financial viability, from the perspective both of their size and the financial position of the trusts concerned. In addition the review also focused on the capacity assumptions made by each trust in order to ascertain if these were realistic and properly suited to the needs of the local health economy.

Where it was felt that a scheme was neither configured in the most cost effective way or financially sustainable in the long-term, changes to the scheme that would improve its affordability and cost-effectiveness were discussed and worked through with the trust. Information on these changes has been published and is available locally from the trusts concerned. Before decisions were approved by Ministers all the local health economies confirmed that the schemes remained value for money and affordable.

Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the termination costs were before and after the refinancing of private finance initiative hospitals. [91952]

Andy Burnham: The compensation payable to the contractor on termination in a private finance initiative contract varies from scheme to scheme both before and after a refinancing depending on the amount and term of the senior debt and the reason for the termination. The amount payable per year under each termination scenario also differs. In the health sector there have been refinancings for the PFI schemes at:

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust;

Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust;

Bromley Hospitals NHS Trust;

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust; and

Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust.

Details on each refinancing are available locally.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
16 Oct 2006

Agency Workers

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government are taking to support the principle of the Temporary Agency Workers Directive. [92074]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government continue to support the underlying principles of the Directive and we are working with the European Commission to introduce appropriate rules to protect agency workers.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
12 Oct 2006

Private Finance Initiative Hospital Schemes

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list the owners of all private finance initiative hospitals. [91950]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): In a typical national health service private finance initiative contract, the NHS trust will grant a headlease or a license to its private sector partner under a PFI contract, but retain the freehold interest on the land to be developed. Ownership is a complex area in leased or licensed operations, but we interpret it to relate to the rights and responsibilities involved in providing services to the NHS trust over the concession period, not the underlying asset itself. Information on the private sector owners of the 83 PFI concessions signed with NHS trusts to date are held locally by each NHS trust; to collect this information centrally would incur disproportionate cost.

Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much made from private finance consortiums selling equity stakes has been passed on to public authorities in private finance initiative hospitals. [91951]

Andy Burnham: National health service trusts do not directly benefit from the sale of equity stakes in private finance initiative schemes by project companies, although any profits made by the private sector are subject to taxation.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
11 Oct 2006

Northern Ireland Assembly - Exiles

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): What progress has been made with the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly. [92591]

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): Substantial progress has been made in recent months, including a report of the Independent Monitoring Commission, which opens the way to a settlement at the summit at St. Andrews that will start later today.

Mr. Anderson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. The whole House should welcome the progress that has been made and hope that more progress will be made this week. Have any specific discussions taken place that will allow the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have been forced into exile over the past 30 years to return to their homes in safety?

Mr. Hain: As my hon. Friend knows, the security situation has been transformed these last years under this Government, with not one soldier on the streets on 12 July for the parading season for the first time in nearly 40 years, and with last week's IMC report confirming that the Provisional IRA no longer has a war machine and no longer poses a terrorist threat. That opens the way for delivering a political settlement, starting in St. Andrews today.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
10 Oct 2006

Corporate Manslaughter

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): I welcome the Bill and I am very proud to be associated with it, but surely the real meaning behind it is not that we want to punish those who have killed people, but that we want to prevent them from killing people in the first place. We believe very strongly that if individuals are not named, that will be hard to achieve.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. It is clear that there are issues that we need to debate further, and I look forward to discussing them in greater detail in Committee.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
10 Oct 2006

Corporation Tax

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much corporation tax was paid in each of the last five years by (a) Bank of Scotland Corporate, (b) Barclays Private Equity Ltd. (c) Innisfree Ltd. (d) Equion and (e) HSBC plc. [91955]

Dawn Primarolo: HM Revenue and Customs has a statutory duty to maintain taxpayer confidentiality and it is not therefore possible to disclose how much corporation tax is paid by particular companies.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
10 Oct 2006

Decent Homes

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): What progress has been made towards meeting the decent homes standard in the North-East of England; and if she will make a statement. [92550]

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Ruth Kelly): In the past four years, 57,000 homes in the North-East have been brought up to decent homes standards, with 48,000 new kitchens, 31,000 new bathrooms and 48,000 new central heating systems having been installed.

Mr. Anderson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Can she advise the House whether the principles enshrined in composite 10 at the recent Labour party conference will be used to ensure that the Government reach their aim of having decent homes for all, including those tenants and councils who rejected private finance initiatives, arm's length management organisations and stock transfers?

Ruth Kelly: I am aware of my hon. Friend's continued interest in these matters, and I respect his contribution to the debate on them. However, he knows, as do other Members who are present, that we have a pledge to try to meet the ambitions, right across the country, of every tenant in council or social housing to have a home of a decent standard. If we were to go down the route of not levering in the money from the private sector that we could through housing associations, that could cost the Exchequer an extra £12 billion. That is £12 billion that we could spend on more kitchens and more central heating - on homes of a decent standard - and my hon. Friend and other Members should agree that that money could be better spent.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
18 Jul 2006

Lebanon

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): I welcome the news about the education for Africa initiative. On the middle east, we learned yesterday that the intention of Israel is to create an unmanned buffer zone in southern Lebanon. Will that do anything other than bring more problems to that region? Will my right hon. Friend please make a case for not doing that?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend's comments underline the need at least to debate seriously the idea of an international force there.

House Speech Contents  Return to Homepage


 

Commons Hansard
17 Jul 2006

Mesothelioma: damages

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): May I add my thanks to the Minister and congratulate her on coming forward with a speedy response? I raised the issue on the day that the Barker result came out, when I asked the Prime Minister what he could do to give comfort to people suffering from the disease. He said that he was not quite aware of the decision, but that he would do anything in his power that he could. That is exactly what we are considering today.

The most common question that I have been asked since becoming a Member 14 months ago is, "Why on earth do you want to do that?" To be honest, events such as this make me know that I made the right decision in coming here. I am proud of what we are doing across the House to help people's day-to-day living.

The people whom we are talking about should never have been exposed to asbestos in the first place. Although the disease became recognised in 1965, people had known for at least 70 years before that time that asbestos was a substance that should not be messed about with or worked with. That long history shows that asbestos should have stopped being used years ago.

Mesothelioma first came to my attention when a member of my trade union passed out in a bar. That is not uncommon in our area, but it is usually due to alcoholism, rather than mesothelioma. The guy did not know what was wrong with him. He had thought nothing of riding 50 miles a day on his bike and was much fitter than most of his colleagues. He had contracted the disease at least 30 years before while he was working in the shipyards. One fibre, which had probably lain there for those 30 years, came back to claim his life in nine months. Through the work of his widow and other supportive groups in the north-east as part of an organisation called the Chris Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, we have managed to raise something like £100,000 to undertake research on trying to combat the disease. I suggest that we should support such groups and give them what help we can from the health service to try to combat the disease, or at least ameliorate its effects.

I want to be clear on my last point. I have read the explanatory note that the Minister has given us today - I thank her for that. It says that subsections (7) to (11) of new clause 13 will mean that responsible persons will be able to claim money back when a liable employer and insurer are both insolvent. Can the Minister help me with the case of my constituent,Mr. Siddoway? He cannot get recompense because his employer and insurer have not only become insolvent, but effectively disappeared off the face of the earth. Will I be able to tell him anything tonight to give him some reassurance that the Bill might help him?

Bridget Prentice (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs): ... In the Barker case, the House of Lords did not make any ruling on costs - possibly because such costs had not been decided. The cases were to be sent back to the law courts for apportionment. Therefore, we do not really know what the costs would have been. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Doran) said, Miss Barker's case was supported by the GMB and therefore the fact that it was brought in her name does not necessarily mean that costs would be paid by her. However, if she were to pay costs, she would be able to apply to vary the order and how damages should be apportioned, although that might not go back to court anyway because it is very likely that the parties would settle on the basis of the legislation that I hope we shall shortly pass.

I was asked whether the rules of court would have to underpin subsection (4). The civil procedure rule committee will be asked to consider the employment exposure history of a claimant. I hope that that reassures the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald). However, as I have said, the apportionment of contributions is already established in the presumption in the clause, and that should enable insurers to resolve those issues without further court involvement.

...

My hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Anderson) raised a particular constituency issue and I am happy to discuss that with him at the end of the debate to see whether there is anything we can do to reassure him and his constituent.

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Commons Hansard
14 Jul 2006

Infrastructure Audit (Housing Development) Bill

2.20 p.m.

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): As an MP from the North-East of England, I wish that we had some of the problems that have been identified in the south-east - too much work, too many people wanting to live in the area, too much investment. If we had some of those problems, I might share some of the views that have been expressed today.

I live in a village that was the epitome of a sustainable community. It was a mining community that was first developed in the early 1820s, when a local colliery was sunk. They started building houses in 1832: the houses were part and parcel of the job of the miners and remained so for the next 150 years, becoming part of the village scene. Not only were there houses that working people lived in, but the miners union developed houses for retired miners who had been thrown out on the streets when they finished working so that they could remain in the community. The people developed parks, sanatoriums, welfare systems, football fields, cricket clubs and brass bands. It was the epitome of a sustainable economy - sorry, a sustainable community; it was anything but a sustainable economy.

Unfortunately, everything changed when the Thatcher Government, in their wisdom, decided that it was a good idea to do away with this country's indigenous coal industry. As a direct consequence, they destroyed thousands of homes and hundreds of communities throughout the country - homes that were valuable to the people who lived in them but that, unfortunately, had no real value on the property market. They were in areas where there was no work and people had no interest in moving there; they continued to be lived in by people who could not afford to move out because the houses had no market value. Eventually people did move out, or elderly people moved into homes or, sadly, died in their home, and the local authorities brought in people that they could not house elsewhere. That led to a spiral of despair: drugs, burglary, petty crime and violence sucked the life out of the communities.

Now, houses are being pulled down and we need new ones. We need new houses in a way that we have not needed them before. We do not need restrictions or any form of nimbyism to prevent the development that we need. We want high-quality, environmentally sound houses that our young people can afford to buy and live in. We do not want obstacles such as the ones that we faced when we were younger put in the way of positive, quality developments for the people of the future.

We in the North-East do not have some of the other problems that have been identified today. We have a plentiful water supply, mainly because we developed resources such as the Kielder reservoir. It was created to help the steel industry and the coal industry in the North-East, but in the 1980s, the Tory Government decided that they did not want to use British coal to keep the steel industry going; they bought Polish coal instead. As a result, we have a reservoir with underground links to three main rivers, but the water is not needed except for public consumption. We do not have the problem that affects the south-east, so why should we in the North-East be subjected to the limitations that the Bill would impose?

We do need infrastructure development. We need investment in new roads, we need our railways infrastructure to be built up and we need more and better housing. We are seeing quality development in houses and businesses across the North-East, but we want more. Obstacles are being thrown up in certain areas, with people saying that they do not want building in their area because they think that they have enough. That is nimbyism and it is not helpful. What my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) said was nimbyism, clearly is. It may be a sophisticated term and I am not the man to ask about sophistication, but it is clear that, if the Bill goes through as it stands, we will have a situation in which a private company can say, "We aren't satisfied that we can deliver in the way that you are asking us to." To me, that is a built-in veto.

If private companies such as Thames Water cannot produce enough water for the people of the area to use, why should we allow them to dictate the system and stop development? I have just moved into this area. I have bought a flat in Wandsworth common. I am told that I need to go carefully with my water. I am paying for it, so why should I go carefully with it? Twenty years ago, those people were allowed to take control of our public water supply - helped by investment from the Government. We were told that part of the deal - the reason we were giving control to the private companies - was that those people would develop the infrastructure, look after us and make sure that we had water, without any problems. That is not the case.

What is Thames Water doing to improve my water supply? Is it fixing the leaks? Is it employing mechanics and engineers to dig the roads up and put the leaks right? It has put adverts in the newspapers and on billboards to say, "This is how much more water we will provide for the next 10 years." There are adverts featuring Battersea power station and other buildings in London. Those adverts say, "This is how much water we will save." Instead of talking about it, Thames Water should get on with it. It has had 20 years to get on with it and unfortunately it has not succeeded.

It is clear that one of the drives behind water privatisation was that promise and that promise is not being delivered. Why, then, should we allow those people to say to us, "We aren't satisfied that we can deliver. Therefore we will block what has been suggested." Those involved in running the sewage system can do the same, as can the Environment Agency and the people who get rid of our waste. In the area where I live, there are massive issues about waste disposal. There are already big planning arguments involving companies such as Sita which have long-standing contracts in our area to fill up old quarries and mine shafts. They are having massive planning arguments under present legislation. Why should we give them another veto so that they can say, "We are not satisfied, therefore this cannot go forward."? That is not right or proper. That may not be the intention of the Bill, but I am convinced that it is how some people will use it.

The difference between what happens now and what is proposed is that, at present, any developer has to consult certain bodies. It has to say to people who provide waste systems, sewerage, water and power, "Can you deliver for us?" and they can say yea or nay. What they cannot do, and what the Bill will mean they can do, is say, "We aren't satisfied we can do it, therefore you can't move forward." That is what we will end up with. Lectures from the Conservatives, who sold off social housing and then refused to build more houses to replace it, do not in any way enamour me of taking lessons from them on providing sustainable communities and decent-quality affordable housing for our young people. That is what this is about.

Mr. Soames: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Anderson: No, I will not, because you would not give way to me.

One of the questions that the hon. Gentleman raised was, how can we save water? Well, we could say to some of the millionaires in the south-east, "Why don't you turn your swimming pool into a sandpit?" That could go a long way towards saving some of the water that we need. The clear intention in the Bill is nimbyism. The intention is to stop things moving forward and to block the development of quality housing in a particular area. That will have a massive impact on the rest of the country and that should not be allowed.

2.28 p.m.

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Commons Hansard
14 Jul 2006

Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Bill

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): The serious problem that my hon. Friend describes [attacks on emergency services] is a long way away from young people acting out of order. Does she agree that instead of hugging a hoodie, we should perhaps hug a firefighter?

Lyn Brown: My hon. Friend gives me the opportunity to say that I have taken a leaf out of the book of the experiences of my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Lynda Waltho) over the past year. I have been out for an eight-hour shift with my local police force. I am in the midst of arranging a similar night out - if one can call it that - with my firefighters and ambulance crew. I look forward to seeing their experiences at first hand, although I am not sure that I will go as far as hugging them, unless, of course, they wish that to happen.

+++

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): The experience that my hon. Friend describes is seen in my constituency, too. The community in the old mining village of Chopwell was being destroyed by drugs and lack of investment. The retained service there has a young firefighters club where young people go to work with the fire brigade. They learn how to respect their homes and each other. The service also holds open days and public days, so it is a real community initiative.

+++

Alan Williams (Swansea West, Labour): It would be invidious to pick out one speech, but I shall pick out one comment, which I commend to the House as the quote of the day: my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Anderson) intervened to suggest, "Hug a firefighter". I am not sure whether that would create a sense of neglect among the other services - but I do worry that our poor firemen will be afraid to go out in daylight.

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Commons Hansard
13 Jul 2006

G8 meeting: Education

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): What progress he expects to be made at the forthcoming G8 meeting in St. Petersburg towards agreement on education provision for every child; and if he will make a statement. [84763]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): We call on all G8 and other countries to join us, and the fast-track initiative of the World Bank, in 10-year plans to expand education so that, instead of the situation today in which 100 million children are denied schooling, all children throughout the world will have the right to education.

Mr. Anderson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Yesterday, 10 children from St. Joseph's primary school, in my constituency, met the Prime Minister and pressed him on this very issue. One read a poem, which included the following words:

"Education is the key,
Look how it's helped you and me,
Help them to feel safe and secure,
Knowledge unlocks the door for the poor."

How can my right hon. Friend help to ensure that those children's words and efforts are not in vain, especially if other countries renege on their commitments?

Mr. Brown: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He has led a campaign in his constituency, and I hope that there are many Members in all parts of the House who are able work with schoolchildren and teachers in their constituencies, so that the "education for all" initiative gains support throughout the country, and schools in Britain can link up with schools in Africa. Two thirds of the 100 million children who do not receive education are girls. Many are at school, but the pupil:teacher ratios are anything from 100:1 to 150:1. Britain has set aside £8.5 billion over the next 10 years - the Secretary of State for International Development will make a statement later today on future plans - so that we can lead the way in providing education for all. That is the most cost-effective and beneficial investment that the world could ever make, and I hope that all Members can join together to support it.

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Commons Hansard
11 Jul 2006

Mesothelioma

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): I congratulate the Minister on the great work that has been done. As one of the people who raised this issue when it first became clear how bad the problem was, I am very proud and pleased that my party and my Government have put it right. But can we go a step further by introducing what I, as somebody who always wants more, shall call the Oliver Twist clause? Will the Minister ask the Secretary of State for Health to request that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence lift the limits on the use of the drug Alimta, so that people can have not only proper financial compensation but their lives extended?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Bridget Prentice): I again congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that he has done in this area. I will of course express his concerns relating to the drug and NICE to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, and if his suggestion is a suitable and helpful solution, I hope that it will be progressed.

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Commons Hansard
11 Jul 2006

Transport: Concessionary Bus Travel Scheme

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his plans are for implementing the proposed free national concessionary bus travel. [83857]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: From April 2008 persons aged 60 and over and disabled people will be entitled to free off-peak local bus travel anywhere in the country. We will be consulting authorities, bus operators and other interested parties on the best framework for delivering the improved concessionary fares entitlement.

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Commons Hansard
11 Jul 2006

Northern Ireland: Financial Assistance (Political Parties)

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much has been paid per year to each political party in Northern Ireland under the financial assistance to political parties scheme; and whether this funding will end if there is no agreement for a power-sharing Executive by 24 November. [81486]

Mr. Hanson: The amount paid per year to each political party under the Financial Assistance to Political Parties Scheme as operated by the Northern Ireland Assembly is set out as follows.

In terms of future funding, I would refer my hon. Friend to the work plan published with the joint statement made by the Prime Minster and Taoiseach on 29 June 2006, which stated that salaries and allowances for MLAs and financial assistance to parties would stop from 24 November if restoration does not occur by that date.

£1998-991999-002000-012001-022002-032003-042004-05
Alliance22,50035,00032,00032,00066,00059,37266,000
Democratic Unionist Party45,00060,20060,09060,000123,877154,230187,264
Northern Ireland Unionist Party3,83329,50027,40026,00027,00020,192(1)n/a
Progressive Unionist Party16,00024,00024,00024,00054,00043,0002,077
Social Democratic and Labour Party51,00069,50068,10068,000102,00084,000102,000
Sinn Fein42,00057,49056,07656,000105,549126,32251,403
United Kingdom Unionist Party22,50031,50022,00022,00027,00024,90027,000
Ulster Unionist Party57,00077,10073,11072,000121,269127,222168,385
United Unionist Assembly Party11,33327,50026,01626,00052,50035,000(1)n/a
Northern Ireland Women's Coalition18,00025,50024,00024,00054,00034,000(1)n/a
(1) These parties did not continue operating following the 2003 NI Assembly election.

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Commons Hansard
10 Jul 2006

Compensation

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the average damages recovered by the 10 law firms with the greatest volume of claims were in the vibration white finger and chronic bronchitis and emphysema schemes. [83122]

Malcolm Wicks: The average damages recovered by the 10 solicitors with the most claims submitted for each scheme are set out in the following tables:

Vibration white finger scheme
SolicitorClaims submittedAverage damages paid (£)
Thompsons21,05012,322
Browell Smith and Co.16,4679,236
Beresfords11,6328,469
Union of Democratic Mineworkers11,5379,354
Raleys11,2809,232
Hugh James10,6389,035
Graysons8,69910,400
Moss7,2958,641
Watson Burton5,93611,197
AMS Law5,3838,547

Respiratory disease scheme
SolicitorClaims submittedAverage damages paid (£)
Beresfords80,9152,302
Thompsons57,7948,763
Hugh James56,4838,349
Raleys47,7486,833
Browell Smith and Co.32,6496,879
Avalon30,6381,822
Mark Gilbert Morse25,6826,281
Union of Democratic Mineworkers16,7393,261
Barber and Co.14,1062,560
Watson Burton14,0744,151

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Commons Hansard
6 Jul 2006

Armed Forces Personnel

3.33 p.m.

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): The debate about armed forces personnel is about real people. Like most other hon. Members, the real people that I knew in the armed forces were my relations, although I did not know my grandfather, who sadly died at the age of only 32 as a direct result of being poisoned with mustard gas in the Somme. I had two uncles, one of whom was a prisoner of war in Burma and made to work on the Burma railroad and another who, ironically, left the coal mines in 1928 because he hated working in them. He joined the Army and was taken prisoner at Dunkirk, fighting the rearguard action there. He ended up working in a Polish coal mine for four years. My father joined the RAF, but he was sent home after three days because, he was told, "You'll do more important work back home digging coal, Geordie, than flying aeroplanes."

I do not have any personal or professional experience in the forces, but in a debate about armed forces personnel, I have relevant recent experience of the impact that our forces are having on the lives of ordinary people facing massive, extraordinary problems in Iraq. We have not just sent our forces to Iraq to fight a battle for us and then leave. Would that we had done that - it might have been a different story.

Our armed forces personnel in Iraq have a very difficult job, as the local people recognise. In March, I was fortunate enough to lead a delegation of Labour movement people to Iraq. Most of us had been against the war, and I still believe that the debate on weapons of mass destruction was not a fair one. However, the people whom we met said that they did not want to talk about WMD, because they were worried about GRT - getting rid of a tyrant.

The Iraqis saw our Government and armed forces as forces for good, and we must listen to them. It is easy for us to be critical and to point the finger, but our armed forces went into Iraq to get rid of a tyrant who had spent the best part of 20 years trying to wipe out an entire race of people - the Kurds. In Sulaimaniya, we saw examples of the torture that had been inflicted. In a matter-of-fact building about the size of a supermarket, on the main street in the middle of town, people had been hung in chains and subjected to electric shocks. They had suffered almost every horror that one could imagine.

Thanks to the action taken by the British Government and their coalition partners in 1991 to establish the no-fly zone, and thanks also to the work that still goes on, the people in the Kurdistan area of Iraq have been able to build a fledgling democracy. They have a Parliament with 111 Members, and the fact that 29 of them are women puts our institution to shame. Without our intervention, that would not have happened: instead, 200,000 more people would have been killed, many thousands more would have been buried alive, tortured and persecuted, and many more villages would have been wiped off the face of the earth. That is what was happening, yet many in the world community were turning a blind eye.

I still have concerns about how we went to war, but people in the area believe that we did the right thing on their behalf. We must listen to what they say, and we should continue to do the right thing, which means that we should remain there.

The people of Kurdistan are very keen to develop links with the UK. They see us as their liberators and -

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I have allowed a degree of latitude in the debate, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will now relate his remarks to armed forces personnel.

Mr. Anderson: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. My point is that, without the continued involvement of our armed forces in Iraq, the situation there would not be starting to improve. The real-life experience is that our troops are having a huge impact on people's lives.

The people of Kurdistan want the UK to invest in their country. That is not happening yet, but we could use our military presence in a positive way. Our armed forces could protect UK businesses and investors, and provide security for people willing to put money into Kurdistan and work with the Government there. In that way, we could help spread democracy across the rest of Iraq. Our troops could play a very positive role in that respect. They could also help in our work with Kurds in this country, and thus provide more support for people in Iraq.

I have criticised Iraq's Government in the past, and I remain critical of the fact that trade union rights are still denied to Kurds and Iraqis. However, if our troops had not gone into Iraq, the debate about trade union rights would not be taking place at all. There was no such thing as a trade union movement in that country before our troops gave people there the scope to develop democratic institutions and have legitimate democratic arguments. The continuing presence of our troops in Iraq is allowing that process to go on.

There has been much discussion about whether our armed forces should stay in Iraq. Last night, the general secretary of the Kurdistan workers syndicate spoke at a meeting in this House. He was asked whether the time had come to withdraw British troops from Iraq, but his unequivocal answer was that that would be a catastrophe. Although he wants our troops to leave Iraq at the earliest possible moment, he made it clear that that moment has not arrived. The time to leave will come when the job is done. We should recognise that and continue to support the work of our troops.

We should help all the peoples of Iraq to rebuild their country, so that they can play their part in bringing peace and stability to the wider middle east. We must continue to protect them and their families from those who would destroy them or halt their progress along the road to democracy and the creation of genuine democratic structures. I did not see one British soldier when I was in Kurdistan, but their work and effort and their impact on the country was clear for all to see. It could be seen in people's confidence in the way forward.

My words are in no way an apology for the Government nor for the bad behaviour of individual members of the armed forces. We - the House - asked the armed forces to do a job on our behalf and on behalf of other people in the world. We should be proud of the job they are doing and support them in doing it.

3.40 p.m.

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Commons Hansard
6 Jul 2006

Labour Rights in Iraq

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 2145, which is in my name, on labour rights in Iraq?

[That this House applauds the recent Labour Friends of Iraq (LFIQ) delegation to Erbil and Sulamaniyah to meet unions, parties, and ministers from Iraqi Kurdistan as well as 22 union leaders from Baghdad, Basra and Babel; is concerned that Iraqi Ministers, through Decree 8750 of August 2005, have frozen the monies of unions including those affiliated to the Iraqi Workers' Federation, leaving organisations which represent up to a million Iraqis and which are the bedrock of a non-sectarian civil society unable to organise and play a positive role in both the workplace and in wider society; fears that some may create sectarian client unions; urges the British Government to make representations to the Iraqi government to lift Decree 8750 and the continuing ban, first introduced in 1987 by Saddam Hussein, on public sector trade union organisation; is concerned that this ban is the basis of hostile actions against the Port Workers' Union in Khour Al-Zubeir; further notes that the LFIQ delegation was told repeatedly by union leaders and others of the potential of private foreign investment in Iraqi Kurdistan, whose Parliament is keen to encourage investment, not least in tourism and mineral extraction; and believes that those concerned for Iraqi democracy should heed the call of the Iraqi unions for urgent assistance to retrieve their independence and to increase their power as a social partner in reconstructing Iraq, which has long been isolated from modern thinking and must contend with the enormous physical and psychological legacy of dictatorship, sanctions and war.]

May we have a debate about the ongoing injustice in Iraq of the so-called democratic Government continuing to deny rights to trade unions and to hold all trade union assets, in direct contravention of International Labour Organisation conventions?

Nigel Griffiths (Parliamentary Secretary, House of Commons): The Government have made direct representations on the position of Iraqi trade unions and voiced similar concerns to those expressed by my hon. Friend. I know that he visited Iraq as part of a delegation and met Iraqi trade union leaders. I understand that that has been reciprocated and that they are here today - I hope to meet them later on with him. I hope to be able to assure them that we will continue to make representations on this issue. We firmly believe in the value of trade unions.

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Commons Hansard
29 Jun 2006

Northern Ireland: Education

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland why special schools in Northern Ireland are not permitted to move to integrated status. [78979]

Maria Eagle (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office): Article 90 (2) of the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 as amended by the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1993 and The Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 prohibits special schools from attaining controlled integrated status. While it is accepted that most special schools have both Protestant and Roman Catholic children, Integrated status is not appropriate for the special school sector, where developmental needs are necessarily assessed on the basis of specialised criteria, related to the individual special educational needs of the child.

Mr. Dave Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many schools in Northern Ireland, apart from integrated schools, have 10 per cent. or more of the minority tradition enrolled; and what the figures were in each of the preceding 10 years. [78983]

Maria Eagle: The requested information is as follows.

Number of schools
 NurseryPrimaryPost primarySpecial
1995-96222617n/a
1996-97262918n/a
1997-98253119n/a
1998-99212816n/a
1999-2000232315n/a
2000-01212816n/a
2001-02232816n/a
2002-03202912n/a
2003-0423251434
2004-0525271424
2005-0625251228
Note: The answer is based on those schools with over 50 per cent. Protestant pupils and 10 per cent. or more Catholic pupils, and those schools with over 50 per cent. Catholic pupils and 10 per cent. or more Protestant pupils. Source: NI school census

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Commons Hansard
28 Jun 2006

Northern Ireland: Post-Primary Education

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): If he will make a statement on the review of post-primary education in Northern Ireland. [79735]

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): The Government believe that significant reforms are needed to ensure that every young person is equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to make a positive contribution to society and the economy in the 21st century. The vital changes required are included in the draft Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, which will be debated in Committee later today.

Mr. Anderson: What impact will the full reinstatement of the Northern Ireland Assembly, or not as the case may be, have on the review and its subsequent implementation?

Mr. Hain: As my hon. Friend knows, the order will put an end to the transfer test - the 11-plus - and introduce new admission arrangements that will preserve academic excellence but also give an opportunity that is currently denied to others to raise their skills and improve their opportunities. The article on academic selection in the order will come into effect after midnight on 24 November if restoration of the Assembly and devolved Government has not occurred. If it has occurred, it will be for the Assembly to decide what policy will follow the end of the transfer test that the order will otherwise bring into effect.

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Commons Hansard
26 Jun 2006

Northern Ireland: Education

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

(1) what steps (a) education and library boards and (b) the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools are taking in their rationalisation plans to ensure that the principles of the Policy and Strategic Framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland: A Shared Future are delivered; [78978]

(2) what the timescale is for the strategic review of the schools estate; and whether it will consider how promoting cross-community and cross-sectoral sharing can be incorporated into rationalisation of schools. [78980]

Maria Eagle (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office): The independent Strategic Review of Education will consider how strategic planning and rationalisation of the schools' estate can best encourage and support cross-community and cross-sector collaboration and models of schooling that promote greater integrating of education. It is due to be completed by November 2006. In line with the First Triennial Action Plan for A Shared Future, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and the Education and Library Boards will be required to demonstrate that options for collaboration/sharing on a cross-community basis have been considered and fully explored in developing their plans for reorganisation/rationalisation of the schools' estate. The outcome of the strategic review of education may lead to further refinement of the commitments and detailed actions in the Action Plan.

Mr. Dave Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what role the new district councils will have in planning for educational choice in Northern Ireland following the Review of Public Administration. [78981]

David Cairns: As part of the implementation of the Review of Public Administration, district councils will be given community planning powers. The Department of Environment (DoE) is currently developing proposals to inform the necessary legislation. The community planning process will afford local government the opportunity to influence the planning for educational choice

Mr. Dave Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

(1) who will be responsible for ensuring that actions to support greater sharing in education under the Triennial Action Plan for A Shared Future are monitored; [78984]

(2) what powers he has to ensure that all educational partners in Northern Ireland meet the requirements of the Policy and Strategic Framework for Good Relations: A Shared Future? [78985]

Mr. Hanson (Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office): The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister is responsible for monitoring the actions flowing from the Triennial Action Plan of A Shared Future.

The Shared Future Triennial Action Plan, published on 27 April 2006, sets out ministerial commitments and actions in relation to A Shared Future. Specific actions are set out to promote greater sharing in education.

The commitments and actions are underpinned by existing duties and obligations under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 as amended.

Mr. Dave Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps teacher training colleges in Northern Ireland have taken to develop sharing in teacher education as set out in the Policy and Strategic Framework for Good Relations: A Shared Future. [78977]

Maria Eagle: Since 2005, the Northern Ireland University Colleges have jointly delivered, an "Inter-College Programme for Diversity and Mutual Understanding", as an essential aspect of study for all student teachers. The programme is designed and organised by the college's joint liaison group comprised of members of academic staff and students who work alongside the Nation Union of Students - Union of Students of Ireland (NUS-USI) to deal with issued such as racism, sectarianism and development of positive community relations.

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Commons Hansard
21 Jun 2006

Northern Ireland: Grammar School Intake

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many grammar schools had exclusively A grade pupils in the September 2005 intake. [78982]

Maria Eagle (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office): Only one grammar school in Northern Ireland admitted exclusively Grade A applicants to Year 8 in September 2005. This school was Lumen Christi College, Londonderry.

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Commons Hansard
19 Jun 2006

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Has my right hon. Friend considered the impact of implementing these proposals on the recruitment timetable? When people leave work, how long will it take to replace them? That is a problem at the moment, but if we rightly and properly extend the vetting procedure what will be the impact on staff, children and vulnerable adults?

Beverley Hughes (Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills): I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. When the scheme is fully implemented and when employers have the ability to make checks online, it might take less time than it does at the moment to obtain the information required to make a safe judgment about people's criminal convictions, about their behaviour and about any concerns that there may be. I know that there are stories of some problems in some areas but, by and large, the CRB is meeting high standards in terms of the turnaround times for both standard disclosures and enhanced disclosures. I am sure that that process will continue.

My hon. Friend is right to make that point. It reminds us that nothing can take away the responsibility of employers at that point to be assured themselves that they have all the information they require to make a safe appointment, and the information that they need to make a judgment.

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Commons Hansard
8 Jun 2006

Compensation Bill

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Does my hon. Friend agree that the main drive from trade unions is against a compensation culture? What we want is a culture at work in which people do not get killed, maimed or damaged for life. Trade unions want to stop that happening, which is the opposite of claims farmers, whose purpose is to prey on people who have been through those experiences.

Dr. Blackman-Woods: I thank my hon. Friend and agree that, of course, the primary activity of trade unions is to provide services for their members, not to pursue frivolous claims.

+++

5:40 p.m.

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): It is a long time since we came in here. I was going to mention part 1, but I will not now, except to say that the phrase "desirable activity" could well include playing croquet, so a lot of issues need to clarified there. Indeed, it is a thriving sport in my area. I will focus very much on part 2 and want to say up front that I am proud and pleased to be standing here as someone who has been a member of the National Union of Mineworkers for 20 years . [ Interruption. ] Yes, hon. Members can cheer - I do not mind. I am also an honorary life member of Unison.

I welcome the fact that the Minister recognises that there is a serious difference between genuine trade unions doing their jobs for their members and claim farmers. To treat them the same would be little short of an insult, because the work done by trade unions in supporting their members in legal cases is in many ways the best example of voluntary work in this country.

The vast majority of cases - believe you me, I have been involved in literally hundreds of individual cases and thousands on a collective basis - are begun by shop stewards or other local officials who carry out their roles professionally, without payment or reward, and they do so by being properly trained and accredited. Without their knowledge and skills, they could not do that job. Their work is part and parcel of the day in, day out work of representing their colleagues at work to the best of their ability. Most of them would be over the moon if they did not have to do that work, because that would mean that their members were not getting killed, maimed, injured or stressed out. Their members would not face a life of penury, illness and injustice Those people would not have to worry about how they will provide for their partners and children, about how they will pay their mortgages or about what the future would bring.

As was said earlier, more than 64,000 new claims were laid through trade unions - that is 64,000 men and women who face an uncertain future, and 64,000 cases that may not have been taken up, for the reasons given earlier by my hon. and good Friend the Member for City of Durham (Dr. Blackman-Woods), if local trade unions had not supported those people through those very traumatic times.

I am certainly not suggesting that those claims should go through a system with no control - I would never suggest that. Indeed, I believe that the present trade union legislation strictly controls the behaviour of trade unions in many ways. That is exactly what we are trying to do today. In those claim cases it is clearly necessary to use the legal profession. Those legal people are controlled by their professional society. If their society is not doing its business, as has been said today, perhaps that is the real issue that we should be debating in the House, not what trade unions are doing.

There is a fundamental difference between people whose job in life is to rip people off and other people whose job in life is to represent people. Trade unions do not want to be involved in rip-off work; they do not want their members to be treated negligently or their lives to be ruined. Genuine trade unions do not want to play any part in the get-rich-quick operations that some of the rip-off merchants engage in. That is why trade unions put so much emphasis on health and safety legislation - red tape as it is often disparagingly called in the House - and why they campaign long and hard to get proper protection for their members at work.

Trade unions do not want to such work on behalf of their members - to be honest, they do not really need it - but they will keep on doing it to defend their members as long as they are being abused at work. Legal cases are time-consuming, usually costly and drain resources, and they are in many ways a sign of failure - the failure of the employer to look after the worker properly, the failure of the unions to negotiate proper health and safety legislation and the failure of hon. Members to ensure that we provide a safe working environment for people.

Union reps could spend their time and effort on much more productive and rewarding work, but they accept their responsibility and they do whatever it takes to help their members. There is no pleasure in winning compensation cases for members, except the knowledge that those members should be financially secure for the rest of their lives. But all the money in the world will not give workers their lives back.

People who have lost limbs, people who have suffered from asbestos-related diseases or people burnt out with stress and workers with back problems or any of the multitude of problems that are dealt with day in, day out by trade union reps cannot turn back the clock just because a cheque drops through their letterbox.

Unions are representatives acting for the collective good. They are a world away from get-rich-quick cowboys who are little better than ambulance chasers. They have experience in the workplace where their members work that lawyers will never be able to replicate. They know first hand what life in the workplace is like. They do not have to be drawn a map or told what is going on. They know. If we insist on lumping trade unions into the legislation, that knowledge will be lost. It will give greater clarity if the clear exemption for trade unions is built into the Bill as laid out. They are not claims farmers in any way.

The Barker ruling is a disgrace to the House. Trade unions and their legal services teams should be able to work through us in this House to overturn that disgraceful decision taken in the other place. It is about real people. I support our work with the asbestos mesothelioma support groups. It is a disease that lies dormant for 30 years and then sparks off. People suffer horribly and then die - nothing else, that is the story. Okay, drugs like Alimta may help and let us hope that we can make progress with that, but if we do not overturn the Barker decision, the reality will be that of a man facing a firing squad armed with five guns. A bullet pierces his heart. Nobody knows which gun fired the bullet, so nobody is found guilty, but the truth is that they should all be found guilty.

5.46 p.m.

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Commons Hansard
7 Jun 2006

Middle East

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Does my hon. Friend agree that both the Labour party and the trade union movement in Israel have taken the clear view that, for reasons of security, the wall should stay, albeit that they want it within pre-1967 borders?

Mr. Wright (PPS (Ms Rosie Winterton, Minister of State), Department of Health): My hon. Friend and I went on the same visit and saw together, at first hand, the wall and its ugliness - in all senses of the word, but we also saw how it provides security and reassurance to Israelis. I certainly accept my hon. Friend's point.

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Commons Hansard
23 May 2006

Education and Inspections Bill

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): On the day after Second Reading, the previous Secretary of State confirmed that schools choosing not to go down the trust route would not be disadvantaged in any way. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that and tell me exactly where in the Bill that is made clear?

Alan Johnson: I can confirm that. Perhaps my hon. Friend and I could have a chat afterwards, so I could point to the various clauses that insist that local authority maintained schools receive their funding on exactly the same basis, with the same pay and conditions for teachers, as other schools. There are several additional safeguards. I can happily give my hon. Friend the affirmation that he seeks.

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Commons Hansard
16 May 2006

Further Education and Adult Learning

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): My hon. Friend has talked a lot about adult courses being lost, and that is a concern for a college that I represent in Gateshead, but there is a further point that she has not picked up on; I do not know whether it applies only to Gateshead - perhaps the Minister can help on that. It is the loss of dedicated courses for people with learning difficulties. Rightly, the learning opportunities for people such as bin men, who I have had the privilege of representing for many years, are about much more than just what they do at work. However, for people with learning disabilities, the issue is actually about their whole life; not just education but what they do if they are not in education. What do they do with their lives during the day?

Helen Jones: My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Clearly, in some areas there is a difficulty for colleges and social services about what should be provided for people with learning difficulties and where that should be provided. We see that in my area, too.

+++

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): I made the point earlier about what happened at Gateshead. There is an economic impact as 30 jobs might go among the teaching staff because of the decisions that have been made, but there is also an economic impact on other public bodies. If disabled people are not in the classroom learning, they will probably have to go to day centres or hospitals, where they do not necessarily need to be. That will be the upshot of a policy that is not at all welcome in our area.

Bill Rammell: I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. I actually signed a letter to him last night about the situation at Gateshead college. One of the points I made is that the Learning and Skills Council has gone through a very elongated process during the current allocation round in order to allocate funds to colleges. That happens at various stages. I ask my hon. Friend to wait until the end of the allocation round before passing judgement about the end game. I am reasonably confident that once we reach that stage the picture of overall funding for FE colleges will be very different from the one suggested by some. Regarding his second point, which he made earlier, the LSC has made it clear, as have the Government, that people with learning difficulties remain a priority. The figures that I have seen suggest that an overall cut is not taking place, but we undoubtedly need to keep the issue closely under review.

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Commons Hansard
16 May 2006

NHS Nurses

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): What we just heard was good news, but is it good news if people looking for jobs do not have access to the benefits of "Agenda for Change"? Has the Minister had any discussions with the unions or the employers about the possibility of setting up a national redeployment, training and relocation scheme? Hopefully, that would address the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) and mean that no one who wants to stay in the NHS has to leave it.

Caroline Flint: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. He is absolutely right. I am pleased to say that NHS Jobs, which acts as a billboard for vacancies in the health service - a couple of hundred jobs for nurses are on the board currently - will provide exactly what he says, which is a redeployment service for those who may find themselves without a job as changes take place in hospitals. I reassure him that, where trusts talk about job changes or losses, there might be some compulsory redundancies, but that would be a last resort and kept to a minimum. It will mostly be a case of freezing posts and making less use of agency and temporary staff. I am pleased to say that NHS Jobs will look at redeployment opportunities.

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Commons Hansard
3 May 2006

Mesothelioma

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Is my right hon. Friend aware of the decision handed down from the House of Lords relating to mesothelioma sufferers who were injured at work through being illegally exposed to asbestos? Is he also aware of the devastating impact that that will have on thousands of workers and their families, and can he give them some comfort today?

The Prime Minister: I understand the problem that my hon. Friend raises about injury through asbestos. Perhaps the best thing is for me to find out from the Department of Trade and Industry what the up-to-date position is and write to him about it.

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Commons Hansard
26 Apr 2006

Decommissioning (Northern Ireland)

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the IMC [Independent Monitoring Commission] report on criminality is a step in the right direction? When he comes to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, will he discuss with us information that we have received about some worrying concerns that have been expressed by senior members of the security forces?

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): Of course. I take heart not only from the direction that the IMC reports today about an end to criminality by members of the Provisional IRA, but from a very significant statement issued by the IRA over Easter, in which it says:

"The IRA has no responsibility for the tiny number of former republicans who have embraced criminal activity. They do so for self-gain. We repudiate this activity and denounce those involved."

That is an important statement and we will make sure that everybody is held to it.

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Commons Hansard
24 Apr 2006

International Law

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Does my hon. Friend agree that the Iraqi Government are in breach of international law by the way in which they have implemented decree 8750? They have also reinstated decree 150, which attacks the country's free and independent trade union movement. Trade union assets have been seized and public sector workers denied the right to join trade unions. Will he agree to meet Iraq's trade union representatives in this country to try and resolve these matters?

Dr. Howells: I have certainly met trade unionists from Iraq, and would be only too glad them again. I am not aware of the case that my hon. Friend has presented to the House.

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Commons Hansard
30 Mar 2006

Small Claims (Courts)

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Is my hon. Friend aware that, in a survey carried out by Unison last year, 63 per cent. of people who were supported through the legal system said that if they had not been represented they would not have gone forward with their case as they would not have felt confident in representing themselves before a judge?

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) : My hon. Friend makes an entirely apposite point. I was about to deal with it, but I did not have those figures, and I am grateful to hear about the Unison survey. That is undoubtedly a deterrent to claims being brought in the first place, which is illustrated in a vast quantity of research.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers conducted a poll - it was done through MORI, so that it was properly validated - showing that about two thirds of those who suffered injury would not pursue their cases through the small claims court without the help of an independent solicitor. If 64 per cent. of people will not bring a claim without independent legal help, it means that two thirds will fail to get justice.

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Commons Hansard
23 Mar 2006

National Strike

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): The Leader of the House will be aware that, next Tuesday, this country could be hit by the biggest strike since 1926 - in fact, the biggest strike ever of women workers. Can he arrange for the Deputy Prime Minister to make a statement to the House on what he, as the regulator of the local government pension scheme, intends to do to resolve this issue? The trade union has proposed positive changes, but the management is refusing to negotiate, even if there are no financial implications.

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has rightly identified that the Government's responsibility in this matter is as the regulator of the pension fund, which means that we are obliged to ensure, on behalf of those who benefit from the fund, that it is properly funded. The issue between the trade union and the employers is one for them to negotiate, and we encourage negotiation rather than resorting to strike action.

I should emphasise to my hon. Friend the importance of ensuring that this pension fund is properly funded; if it is not, the very people who are contemplating strike action will lose out because their pensions will not be payable at the rates they are expecting. I repeat: I urge all those involved to negotiate instead of resorting to strike action, and I hope that my hon. Friend will join me in that call.

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Commons Hansard
23 Mar 2006

National Minimum Wage

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): What assessment he has made of the impact of the national minimum wage since its introduction; and if he will make a statement. [60673]

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Alan Johnson): The minimum wage has made a real difference to around 1 million low-paid workers each year, particularly women, who make up two thirds of those benefiting. The latest increases, which we announced on Monday, will benefit 1.3 million workers from October 2006. The adult rate will increase by 6 per cent. to £5.35 per hour.

Mr. Anderson: I welcome this news from my right hon. Friend. As someone who originally gave oral evidence to the Low Pay Commission, I am filled with pride at what my party has done. When I recently visited Israel, its Labour party asked me whether we could inform it of our progress with the national minimum wage, because it wants to use our success as a model for Israel. Will my right hon. Friend help me to provide that information?

Alan Johnson: I certainly can help my hon. Friend. A number of countries are interested in our experience, and it has to be recognised that when we proposed the national minimum wage, there were predictions of doom and gloom not just from the Conservatives, but from the Liberal Democrats, who advocated a regional minimum wage. Incidentally, as recently as 2003, they were saying, in the person of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable), that

"Making a commitment to a two-year deal, at levels significantly above inflation and at nearly double the current level of average earnings growth, sets a dangerous precedent at a time of almost unparalleled uncertainty".

Now, all the parties agree with the national minimum wage, but every time that we propose increasing it, we once again get these doom-mongers. The way in which the Low Pay Commission has approached the national minimum wage has led to its success - one that countries such as Israel wish to replicate.

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Commons Hansard
16 Mar 2006

Trust Schools

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Will my right hon. Friend clarify the position with regard to schools that choose not to go down the trust route? Can she give us an assurance that they will not be disadvantaged in any way? She said that the private sector would support schools. Will she state that legislation will be drawn up to ensure that that will not be used to privatise schools?

Ruth Kelly: I can certainly give my hon. Friend those assurances. It will be laid down in legislation that trusts must be charities operating on a not-for-profit basis and overseen by the Charity Commission, as well as the local authority. In no sense will schools outside the trust school regime be disadvantaged by not being trust schools. They will be funded on exactly the same basis as any other local school, in both revenue and capital terms - yet again, a sharp contrast with the GM school policy operated by the Conservatives when they were in government.

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Care Bus
Care Bus

Commons Hansard
13 Mar 2006

Pensioner Travel (Tyne and Wear)

11.27 p.m.

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): I will try to be even more concise. My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East and Wallsend (Mr. Brown) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) did not talk about the way in which the scheme applies to disabled people. It is perverse that the impact of free travel for disabled people, which was in the Budget, might well be that we find that the care bus service will be withdrawn from Tyne and Wear.

Let me read from an e-mail that I received from a man living in my constituency who has severe problems due to muscular sclerosis. He wrote:

"No-one I speak to on the bus can actually believe that it will be stopped . . . as threatened - they cannot contemplate their lives without it. It is a mental torture for them to be worrying about losing their independence, when many already have enough to worry about with illness and disabilities . . . As our MP I hope you can let those with the power to solve this realise that they are not playing with pound signs, they are playing with the independence of already vulnerable people who deserve to be treated with respect & dignity - not left hanging on a thread of threats!"

That is what we are talking about with this cock up. We are talking about bus services that should be a real bonus for our people actually becoming a detriment.

11.28 p.m.

+++

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Phil Woolas): .... Funding on concessionary fares is supported by the formula grant. My right hon. Friend is aware that the Chancellor added an additional £350 million in formula grant in 2006-07 in order to support the move from the statutory half-fare scheme to a free-fare scheme for all pensioners and disabled people. The funding for those new responsibilities has been added to formula grant in line with a commitment to provide authorities with continued flexibility on the use of their resources.



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Commons Hansard
8 Feb 2006

Smoking Ban (NI)

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the response from the people in Northern Ireland has been to the proposed smoking ban in public places. [48313]

Mr. Woodward: My announcement on 17 October was widely welcomed by a broad spectrum of public opinion, including health professionals, trades' unions and the main political parties. A recent survey commissioned by Action Cancer and Action on Smoking and Health found that 78 percent. of Northern Ireland respondents support laws to make all workplaces, including pubs and restaurants, smoke-free.

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Commons Hansard
6 Feb 2006

Travel talks stalled?

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): On Wednesday, during Deputy Prime Minister's Question Time, my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) specifically asked whether discussions were ongoing about free travel in Tyne and Wear. We were told on Wednesday that those discussions were still ongoing. Unless I have got it wrong, my hon. Friend now suggests that they are not. Can he please advise us?

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Phil Woolas): Discussions are still going on with the passenger transport executive and other authorities. My remarks relate to the funding formula distribution. My hon. Friend's area faces the problem because it involves a cluster of five local authorities with a passenger transport executive, and discussions are taking place there. We have been able to find £1.7 million for the metro in Newcastle upon Tyne, but that is a separate subject.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) (Lab): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Woolas: I shall give way briefly on that point. I think that you would want me to conclude my remarks, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so that hon. Members on both sides of the House can have a chance to contribute.

Mr. Clelland: The £1.7 million that the Minister mentions came from the Department for Transport, not from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. On the point that he makes about ongoing discussions, that is not my impression, having spoken to the director of the passenger transport executive only an hour ago. There have been no further discussions since the meeting that he had with the Minister last week.

Mr. Woolas: Let me be very clear, to help my hon. Friend and the House, and repeat what I have said about the settlement. Of course my remarks relate to the distribution of the formula grant. I have not found that the proposals were particularly unfair to any type of authority, nor that the extra cost of free fares, in so far as they can be estimated at this stage, place a burden out of proportion to existing public transport on any authority.

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Commons Hansard
17 Jan 2006

School Closures and Surplus Places

11.29 am

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Thank you, Sir Nicholas. It is a pleasure to appear in front of you again.

I want to speak about my part of the world, Blaydon, which is part of the Gateshead local authority area to which the hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh) referred. We have no debate in Blaydon about governance, letting private companies run our schools or the failure of the LEA because we have good shared governance. We have accepted a local academy that has produced some good results. We have a well-respected, well-run LEA that has helped us to deliver good services to the children of Blaydon with good standards and improved results against any check list. The real educational debate is about two issues, particularly in Blaydon - the need for additional money to upgrade the buildings at some of our schools and the future of our primary schools in a time of falling numbers, which is the subject of today's debate.

In Gateshead as a whole there has been a review of primary provision, and the figures speak for themselves. People have taken lifestyle choices, and responsibilities come with those choices. Between 1995 and 2005, 1,991 fewer children went to school across Gateshead. Without any changes, the figure of at least 847 fewer has been projected for the next five years. At a time when the aim of the LEA is to have no more than 10 per cent. surplus capacity, 35 schools have between 10 per cent. and 25 per cent. surplus places. Without a change, that will increase by 23 more schools by 2010. At the moment, 17 schools have more than 25 per cent. surplus places and without a change there will be 26 such schools by 2010.

The local authority has taken a positive view of the problem within the parameters laid down by central Government and sees it as an opportunity rather than a problem. It is trying to improve the quality of children's education and wants to improve the learning environment and accessibility. It wants to develop and extend community use of schools and to make best use of the limited resources, but it also has no choice but to reduce the capacity by 2,000 places.

Stakeholders across the community have been involved. During the summer there was a general consultation and awareness-raising exercise with people in the schools and parents. In November and December there were consultations on detailed options, area by area, and every home in the area was given leaflets about what was going on. This month formal proposals will be brought forward and statutory consultations will take place.

In the review, a number of options have been suggested. First, the size of schools could be reduced and alternative uses could be found for the buildings. Secondly, the schools could be reorganised and amalgamated with other schools. In most instances, two schools would become one. Thirdly, schools could be developed or replaced altogether and existing schools could be improved.

The review also considered alternative uses such as expanding children's centres, extending activities within the school, developing more special educational needs provision and allowing more use by the community and by health services - a key area of expansion. Other people were asked whether there were other ways in which their school could be better used in out-of-school hours. Finally, people are being asked to give other options and say what they think. Nothing has been set in stone, except that the capacity has to be reduced by 2,000 places.

As the hon. Member for Southport said, there are issues raised in the wider education debate that come out in the White Paper. I know that the White Paper is specifically about secondary education, but the people concerned with primary education are asking where their role is. How do we square the foreword in the White Paper, which is written by the Prime Minister and states:

"Parent choice can be a powerful driver of improved standards",

and the Secretary of State's statement that we will deliver

"a system driven by parents doing their best for their children"

with the fact that the parents affected by the proposals in Blaydon tell me that their choice would be "Leave our schools alone"? They want the schools developed on site, not closed. I realise that that option is probably obvious to parents, and that it may be costly, but if the Government are serious and want to respond in a positive way to parental choice, they should address the key issues.

We could reduce class sizes at primary level. That would be the radical choice for education in this country and would give young people in their formative years the opportunity to develop in the way provided by private education, which would be a step change in people's lives. It would make them much better equipped to go into the secondary system and help to fulfil the diktat of Government in a way that is both radical and bold. To quote someone not many miles away, we are best when we are bold. My Government proved that in the first term and when they reduced class sizes to under 30, despite howls of protest from some people. Reducing class sizes would also provide parental choice, removing the confusion between the rhetoric and the reality of education policy.

The local authority in Gateshead will do its best to square the circle within the parameters in which it has to work. Those parameters will, inevitably, leave some parents less than happy. If we as a Government are serious about parental choice, about improving children's education and about being radical, we should seize the opportunity.

Dr. Pugh : I asked the previous Minister of State, the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Miliband), a direct question and he replied that he would not consider lowering class sizes. Does the hon. Gentleman think that a firm presentation of the evidence is required in order to show that smaller class sizes get results, particularly in deprived areas?

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): It is quite clear that they do get results. It is obvious. One of the things argued for in the White Paper is more personalised individual learning. If a classroom is full of too many people, children will not get that. I accept that we should consider the matter and take on board what the hon. Gentleman said about the previous Minister. Rather than a problem, there is an opportunity that we should grasp with both hands. We should commit ourselves to small class sizes with more personalised learning and provide a real base for the next generation to move on from.

11.37 am

+++

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): The Minister has laid out exactly what we in Gateshead are trying to do. The options include extra community use and use by the health service. Reality clashes with parental choice, however. The parents do not want to see the schools close, and the only way around that is not to close them, and to reduce class sizes and provide a better education. That would be a win-win for everyone.

Maria Eagle : It is tremendously important that in such debates, all local implications are thoroughly discussed.

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Commons Hansard
23 Nov 2005

Education Administration

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): What steps he is taking to reduce administrative costs in education in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [29666]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Angela E. Smith): The Government are determined to focus resources on front-line services, not bureaucracy. Yesterday's announcement on the review of public administration included a new Education Authority replacing the functions of the five education and library boards and other support bodies. Through these fundamental changes, along with the existing measures to cut administration costs, I am determined to ensure that our children and schools see tangible benefits.

Mary Creagh: How will the organisation reforms that my hon. Friend sets out help to deal with the impact of falling pupil numbers in schools in Northern Ireland?

Angela E. Smith: My hon. Friend is right to highlight the issue of falling pupil rolls. There are about 47,000 empty desks in Northern Ireland's schools, and if no action is taken that figure could rise to 80,000 over the next 10 years. The new structures that I announced yesterday will ensure that we can be more responsive in dealing with that while placing a greater emphasis on strategic planning across Northern Ireland's schools estate. A failure to tackle the issue would put unacceptable pressure on school budgets. The measures announced yesterday will ensure that we go a long way towards tackling it.

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): The administrative changes may well result in people losing their jobs. Will my hon. Friend assure me that the work force will be taken care of, with, if possible, an agreement on no compulsory redundancies? Can the review look into the cost of duplication through segregated services? We should move much more towards an integrated education system so that we can save money and provide a better service.

Angela E. Smith: It is too early to talk about possible job losses, because current functions still need to be carried out, but I assure my hon. Friend that we will do everything possible to ensure that any redundancies are voluntary. As the Secretary of State announced yesterday, we are establishing a Public Service Commission to ensure that the work force are fully engaged and involved in the decisions.

My hon. Friend asked about duplication in the schools estate, which has been highlighted. The Good Friday agreement includes a commitment to integrated education. I have also given a commitment that parents' wishes will be adhered to.

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Commons Hansard
10 Nov 2005

Terrorism Bill

3.40 pm

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): May I first thank the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael)? As a lifelong fan of Sunderland football club, I am over the moon to hear that anybody follows Sunderland because we are desperate for support wherever we can get it.

I welcome the concern and interest with which the Government have listened to the voice of public servants in this debate and the time and energy that they have put into letting us know what the police know. I hope that that bodes well for the future and that we listen to public servants and the organisations that represent them when we are dealing with health and education reforms.

No one is unaware of the importance of this legislation. Despite the long, sad history of terrorism that these islands have been subjected to over the past 35 years, we face a situation that, for many reasons that have been well rehearsed in this Chamber over the past few days, is unprecedented. I will not rehearse those reasons again. We have had masses of information - whether it has been good, bad or indifferent, we have had lots of it from many sources - particularly from those to whom we turn when we want them to look after us and our people. They believe that this unprecedented threat warrants draconian measures that have no parallel in any period of our history. We decided, in our wisdom, not to give them the powers that they sought, but whether we agree with 28 days, 90 days or something in between, we must not let the situation that we face prevent us from looking at this law in the same way as any other. We have to be convinced that although it might be right and proper to use strong measures to counter this very real threat, we have constructed the law so that it cannot be perverted or misused in future.

Earlier this week, I raised with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and with chief police officers - the personnel concerned with security in this country - the way in which most right-minded people viewed existing laws as being abused during the miners strike in 1984-85. At that time, police were using Road Traffic Acts and section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936 to halt miners at the Dartford tunnel and tell them that they were not allowed to travel the 200 miles to Nottingham, even though people were trying to enjoy their legal right to picket. We had exclusion orders given as bail conditions, which meant that miners were separated from their families and communities, sometimes for months on end. Perhaps most seriously of all, we saw the use of the Riot Act at Mansfield and Orgreave, out of which, ultimately, no cases were proven. The impact of the application of those laws had the desired effect sought by the Government of the day, who, after all, believed that the people concerned were the enemy within. Miners and their union were prevented from using their right to picket and convince others to support them; the misuse of those laws took them out of the game. We hope that these laws will not be used in that way.

I have been advised, and I accept, that the situation is not the same as in 1984. If the Bill had been tightly drawn, so that it could never be used against anyone other than those we are facing today, I would have felt more comfortable with the proposals right from the start. I also have to face up to the fact that our job is not just to prevent innocent people from being locked up, it is also to prevent innocent people from being blown up. Like everyone in the House, I hope that I do not have to visit a mother or father in the next few years and say, "I'm very sorry that your son or your daughter was locked up when they should not have been." Bad as that would be, surely it would be worse to go and see a mother and father and say, "Sorry your son, your daughter, has been blown up. That should not have happened and I might have been able to stop it."

That is the real challenge that has faced the House over the past month. We must face up to our responsibilities. I believe that hon. Members have acted in good faith and shown good judgement. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Bill Etherington) is a good friend of mine, but he was also my leader and mentor for many years in my previous existence. I respect what he said today and I hope that he reciprocates my feelings.

I believe that we should have given the police the 90 days for which they asked. I accept that what we have given them represents an extraordinary step, and I look forward to the day when we are able to take it back because they do not need it any more. That day should be the real goal for all of us in the House.

John Hemming : The argument used for detention pre-charge is that questioning cannot occur after charge. What is there in law to prevent that?

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): I have listened to all sides of the argument. I took umbrage about the lack of respect shown to Gareth Peirce, but I have also listened to the Home Secretary and the police chiefs. As the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) said, some of us have had the privilege to listen to Sir Hugh Orde. It is pity that most hon. Members did not have the opportunity to do that, as I think that he is in a unique position to offer advice. We have to live with the version of Bill that we have arrived at, and I hope that the outcome will be positive.

I return to the lessons that we can learn from 1984. We can debate the rights and wrongs of what happened forever, but the actions of the Government at the time, and of the police and the judiciary, led to a massive feeling of disillusion in the mining communities. People came to mistrust the police, and many still do. In addition, 11,000 people were arrested in the dispute. Most were regarded as heroes in the mining communities. If the Bill causes the same thing to happen in Muslim communities, we will have a big problem. The Government therefore must make sure that the legislation is as tight as possible. It must be applied fairly, and it must not be abused.

The legislation must be monitored properly - that is vital. I am not sure what the impact of the sunset clause will be, but the law must be used very sparingly. It must be subject to the closest possible scrutiny and applied very tightly. We cannot return to what happened in 1984, when so much mistrust was caused. If that happens, the problems that we face could become a great deal worse.

3.48 p.m.

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Commons Hansard
10 Nov 2005

Business of the House

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Does my right hon. Friend share the sense of shame that Members across the House feel about the way in which we treat the cleaners in this building? Again yesterday they felt it necessary to go on strike to make us aware of what is happening. There is also a sense of frustration when we try to find a way forward, but are told that it has nothing to do with us. Can the Leader of the House please organise a debate or statement so that we can discuss how we treat the people who look after us?

Mr. Hoon: This issue has been raised with me on a number of previous occasions. In the past the two specific points raised were, first, the provision of accommodation for cleaners and, secondly, the level of remuneration. I have looked at both matters. As I understand it, accommodation has now been provided for cleaning staff and I hope that my hon. Friend accepts that that is a significant improvement. An offer of 15 per cent. extra remuneration has been made to cleaning staff. I understand that that offer has not yet been accepted by their trade union. I have made it clear to the Transport and General Workers Union that I would be willing to meet its representatives to discuss the problem, but a significant offer of 15 per cent. has been made.

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Commons Hansard
7 Nov 2005

Identity Cards - cost

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Part of the response in countering terrorism is the introduction of identity cards. Will the Home Secretary comment on this weekend's London School of Economics report, which states that the cost of ID cards will rocket even higher than the figure predicted before the recess?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): I have a simple, one-word comment on the LSE report, and it is the same as that on its previous report: nonsense - a load of nonsense. We have set out the figures very clearly, and ID cards contribute to our ability to defend ourselves against terrorism and serious and organised crime. That is one reason why we are promoting the Bill currently before the House of Lords.

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Commons Hansard
3 Nov 2005

Globalisation

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): This country will always have problems when we are competing with countries such as Bangladesh, where, as has been reported this week, 5 million children are working for 35p an hour. In 1999, the Government went to the World Trade Organisation in Seattle very committed to negotiating a labour scheme. Will we have that sort of debate at the WTO in Hong Kong, or are we to let this situation continue?

The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Alun Michael): My hon. Friend points to exploitation, which is unacceptable. That is why we strongly support the approach through the International Labour Organisation to deal with such issues. He is right to highlight the situation, which is an international scandal and this country is at the forefront of seeking international action to tackle those problems.

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Commons Hansard
26 Oct 2005

Decommissioning of IRA weapons and explosives

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): Will my right hon. Friend expand on a statement that he made the other week about on-the-runs legislation, which is obviously about people who have committed crimes, but, at least as important, what will be done about people being forced by terrorists to leave their homes - people who are exiled and have been for many years?

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): When we are ready to bring proposals for dealing with on-the-run suspects to the House, we will do so in the usual way, and we will have a chance to discuss them then. Exiling and punishments must stop. The IMC report showed that such activity had largely died out, but we are keeping a beady eye on it, because exiling is a pernicious practice, and if the IRA meets the terms of its commitments made on 28 July, exiling should stop, just as much as punishment beatings, targeting, intelligence gathering, and all the rest of it.

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Commons Hansard
13 Oct 2005

Northern Ireland

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): In welcoming the statement, may I echo the comments made about Mo Mowlam? I worked with Mo Mowlam for more than 20 years, first on trying to get justice for miners who were sacked and sometimes jailed during the 1984-85 strike, and then as a national official with Unison during her work in Northern Ireland. The people over there made us both realise that the biggest mistake that can be made in Northern Ireland is to leave a vacuum. Over the past few months, we have seen the opportunity to come out of the vacuum that we have been in for several months and years.

The point that has been made today about political leadership should be taken on board by everyone in the Chamber. I am proud that I am now a member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack). We have taken the decision to work together in a non-partisan way to try to help to move things forward. Does the Secretary of State agree that political leadership will take us to a position where, instead of taking risks for peace, which Mo used to speak about, we can now start taking decisions for peace?

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): I certainly hope so. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is dangerous to leave a political vacuum, so his points are apposite - as are his comments about Mo Mowlam, who reached parts of the community that no politician normally reaches, whether in Northern Ireland or anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

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Commons Hansard
12 Oct 2005

Future of the Coal Industry

10.18 am

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): This debate is long overdue; I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) for securing it.

It is 30 years since we seriously debated energy in the House in anything like a structured way. The past debate resulted in the plan for coal. Sadly, however, that plan was consigned to the dustbin of history within five short years. The deliberate industrial sabotage of the Tory years of the 1980s and 1990s left us with an industry that is a pale shadow of that envisaged in 1975.

Some argued, with amazing short-sightedness, that the loss of our indigenous fuel supply was a price worth paying to defeat organised labour in this country. We are now entering a period when the real cost of destroying our coal industry is becoming evident in the real world.

We have been benighted by short-termism in this country. If we are serious about our energy needs, we cannot go on like this. We need to work out a genuinely sustainable, diverse energy plan for our country. We should be confident in ourselves and in our people's ability to rise to that challenge. While some developed and developing countries are producing more coal as a bulwark against soaring oil prices, we, as was said earlier, are importing twice as much coal as we produce. We are paying through the nose for oil and gas from some of the most unstable parts of the world.

We face the reality of having to reconsider reopening the nuclear option, despite the concerns of people in this country about that proposal. Let us not pretend that the nuclear option, even when it operates safely, does not contribute to global warming. The construction, decommissioning costs and processes of nuclear stations are massive contributors to the factors that produce greenhouse gases.

We also face the continuing advance of open-cast coal mining. I spoke in this House before the recess about the massive opposition to a proposed open-cast site in my constituency. That opposition has hardened over the summer months and if, as I fervently hope, we develop our coal industry again, we must not do it in a way that destroys the local environment for thousands of people, ruins some of the most beautiful country in our land, goes against the development plans in our areas and risks the lives of our families due to increased traffic. That faces us in my constituency and we will fight to stop that devastation.

Later today, Gateshead council's planning committee will discuss the proposals against the backdrop of three petitions, signed by almost 13,000 people, and 800 individual letters and formal objections from national, regional and local bodies. If there is any justice, that debate will end today. If it does not, the people in the area are committed to raising their game, and we will continue to fight those crazy proposals.

A reinvigorated coal industry must have a place alongside the drive to develop new technologies and exploit the existing ones to the fullest. That could well be the issue facing us in the next decade. I mentioned earlier the plan for coal. Fifty years before that in a report to the House entitled "Coal and Power", based on an inquiry led by David Lloyd George, the following conclusion was made:

"Today we find ourselves in the early stages of a second industrial revolution. Whether we make the right use of this heaven sent opportunity for redeeming the mistakes of the past depends on whether we use wise methods of regulation and control."

The report concluded:

"In all of the recommendations we have been thinking not only of the immediate and material advantages, but also of the chance to lay the foundations of a social system that shall satisfy all the aspirations of a great, intelligent and educated people."

Perhaps our ambitions are not as great as those of David Lloyd George; then again, perhaps they should be.

In conclusion, I want to mention Rossington colliery, where I worked. The truth is that unless it has changed since I left, if it is mothballed it can be forgotten about, because it will burn itself out.

10.22 am

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Commons Hansard
20 Jul 2005

Council Housing

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): May I ask the Prime Minister to take the good wishes of this House back to the good people of Sedgefield, who have had the common sense to vote to retain their council housing in-house? Will he have a word in the ear of the Deputy Prime Minister and say that that is another reason why we should support the fourth option for council housing, which is, after all, Labour party policy?

The Prime Minister: No, but I think that the case - even if I do not agree with the decision - shows the benefits of choice.

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Commons Hansard
13 Jul 2005

Unemployment (Northern Ireland)

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): If he will make a statement on levels of unemployment in Northern Ireland. [10658]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Angela E. Smith): A strong and stable economy and policies such as the new deal have led to unemployment falling by more than 50 per cent. Seasonally adjusted figures from the labour force survey for the period March to May 2005 estimate that 38,000 people are unemployed in Northern Ireland and that the unemployment rate is 4.9 per cent.

Mr. Anderson: I thank the Minister for that positive response. Does she agree that the proposals for public service reform could have an impact on the level and conditions of employment in Northern Ireland? Does she agree that early and positive meetings with trade unions in Northern Ireland would commit to full implementation of the Warwick agreement, as agreed in the manifesto, in Northern Ireland?

Angela E. Smith: My hon. Friend has considerable experience and a good track record on these issues. I assure him that I regularly meet the trade unions, particularly on areas of public service reform. The Warwick agreement was very wide and there are different legislation issues in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. However, I give him an absolute commitment that as we take forward matters that impact on public sector employees we will want to ensure that workers in Northern Ireland are not left behind. I guarantee that I will meet the trade unions on this issue.

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Commons Hansard
30 Jun 2005

Africa (Poverty)

4.56 p.m.

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): I thank the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) for giving me such an easy act to follow - I don't think.

This House has a proud history of fighting for social and economic justice, and today we have the chance to write another chapter in that history. We must support the Make Poverty History campaign for trade justice, full debt cancellation and more and better aid. As the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) said, if we can do it on the basis of consensus, then so much the better. It is a disgrace that in 2005 the world's poorest countries are still forced to pay millions of pounds a year to the rich world in debt repayments. It is a further disgrace that rich countries agreed to give 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product as long ago as 1970, yet so far only five countries have managed to reach that target. It is a disgrace that sadly our Government and our country are yet not one of them. It is an injustice that the poorest 49 countries on this planet make up 10 per cent. of the world's population but their share of international trade is under 0.5 per cent.

Nearly 500 trade unions, campaign organisations, development agencies and faith groups in the United Kingdom have come together in an unprecedented coalition to say to us and to our Government that it is time to bring about progress on trade, aid and debt. The people are not just with us on this - they are ahead of us.

This year is a unique opportunity. Our Government have the presidency of the G8 and the EU. It is only 10 years until the world is meant to meet the millennium development goals. Poverty is supposed to be halved by 2015, yet it is 20 long years since the world called for change at Live Aid. Today, we must persuade the world to choose the right policies on trade, aid and debt. We really do have a chance, if we choose, to make poverty history.

Late last year, I had the privilege of leading a delegation of public service workers to a conference in Johannesburg organised by my trade union, Unison, where 70 delegates from 10 southern African countries met to plan their response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic that is sweeping sub-Saharan Africa. The whole conference was paid for by Unison. It was money well spent on behalf of ordinary men and women - people who, as the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) said, had quite likely been killing each other previously, but had decided, in southern Africa as in Northern Ireland, that the only way to achieve genuine reconciliation is to work together.

Workers came from Angola, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and South Africa. They worked in different public services, under different political regimes, and faced different cultural systems. Three things united them, however. They all wanted to deliver world-class public services for their people. They all wanted to develop a role for working people and their organisations to beat the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. Most crucially, they realised that the key driver of the pandemic is poverty. It is a poverty that does not cause AIDS but helps to spread it. It is a poverty that makes people live in houses unfit for animals. It denies human beings the right to good, clean water. It prevents men, women and children from being properly educated. It breeds on ignorance and allows cultural exploitation, especially of women and young girls. Above all, it is a poverty that does not have to exist, which is what we should be arguing.

We live in a world that spends more on obesity, erectile dysfunction and pet medicines than on the so-called neglected diseases of Africa. We live in a world in which the most powerful nation tells the weakest ones that the real cure for AIDS is abstention. What an attitude - when all else has fallen around one, even the comfort of the person one loves would be denied by those of us in the west who know better. We also live in a world in which more money is spent on protecting the monopoly of drug corporations than on alleviating the needs of sick and dying children. That must be wrong.

There is a shift in attitude and in world opinion. Employers in southern Africa have realised that HIV/AIDS is their business as well as the workers' business. If workers are sick, dying or off work because they are burying their relatives, they are not producing the goods for their employers. That might be sustained for a while, but not when millions are sick and dying, and definitely not when, as in the case of Africa, more than 70 per cent. of those with HIV/AIDS are in the work force.

For example, mining companies have come to realise that it is ridiculous to retrain, employ and recruit people and then see them fall away from the work force. They are therefore implementing programmes that help people to take time away from work. They are introducing sex education lessons. It is sad that in much of southern Africa, public services are not reflecting the work that private companies are doing - that comes from someone who does not often sing the praises of private services over public ones.

The resolution of the situation is a win-win for all of us. It is not just a way for us to be do-gooders and spread largesse. If we do not attack poverty, its causes and its symptoms, we all become weaker in every way. That is why the events of this coming period are so important.

Most of us in the Chamber probably came into politics to change the world. Before too long, we realised that we had problems changing our socks. Now is our chance - our generation's chance. Many of us are diametrically opposed to other parties in this place, and sometimes even to our own. Many of us have concerns about our relationships with various nations on this issue. My advice is simple. For this period, let us put aside our differences and unite with each other. Let us follow the lead that the people of our country and the world are giving us. Let us say enough is enough. Let us accept our responsibility. Let us acknowledge that poverty is not inevitable. Let us believe that poverty is a human creation that humans can change. Let us put our money where the starving mouths of the world are. Let us make a difference. For once, let us make our kids proud of us. Let us make poverty history, and let us do it now.

5.03 p.m.

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Commons Hansard
29 Jun 2005

Council Housing

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): It seems to me that the debate is more about democracy than about housing. What message I should take back to the 400 members of the GMB, Unison and Amicus who work for the repairs and maintenance department of Gateshead borough council? On Monday morning, they were told that their jobs will be privatised or they will have to go on the dole. They have no choice. Also, what message do I give to the councillors in Gateshead who were told that they have no vote on the matter?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Jim Fitzpatrick): I cannot say what the message should be because I am not familiar with what is happening in Gateshead and with the details of negotiations between trade unions and the local authority. I will look into the matter and write to my hon. Friend to let him know what my opinion is after I have had a chance to study the situation.

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Reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO

Promoted by Chris McHugh on behalf of Dave Anderson, both of St Cuthbert's Community Hall, Shibdon Road, Blaydon, NE21 5PT