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Column 17617th century procedure was revived whereby the Court of Appeal could sit also as the court of first instance, thereby knocking out the appeal to which those innocent people were entitled and the retrial to which they were entitled, at a single go in the absence of a jury.
That is an important point, because the Royal Commission on criminal justice is coming under a lot of pressure to blame it all on the juries. If it has succumbed to that pressure, it has been had. I will say only that. At every crucial stage in all such big cases steps have been taken to make sure that no jury is around. One cannot blame the jury. In this case, Lord Roskill, Lord Lawton, a former British Union of Fascists candidate for Hammersmith, and Mr. Justice Boreham presided. Even on the most generous interpretation, it is very hard to believe that they could not see what was going on and that the script was being rewritten from top to bottom.
Besides the distinguished people I have mentioned--Sir Peter Imbert, Commander Hucklesby, Commander Nevill, Lord Roskill, Lord Lawton, and Lord Donaldson--the Crown in all those cases was represented by the late Lord Havers, subsequently the Lord Chancellor. Now that we see the cast of characters involved it becomes clear, does it not, why we are never going to hear from Sir John May's inquiry? I have never believed that we would, and I now see reports saying that we are not going to. A decision has not yet been made, but it is about to be made. No doubt that will be when we are in recess. Perhaps it will take the form of a planted written answer to a tame member of the governing party.
I was invited, along with some other people, to submit evidence to Sir John May's inquiry. I did so and attempted to point out in words of one syllable where I thought that the responsibilities lay. I invited him to draw the appropriate conclusions.
When the royal commission was set up, after the release a year or two later of the Birmingham Six, to inquire into the criminal justice system in general, all those of us who had submitted evidence received a letter from the inquiry asking whether we would mind if our evidence was transferred to the royal commission--and no doubt subsumed into the enormous amount of evidence that it would receive. I wrote back and said no, I did not wish my evidence to be transferred. My evidence was specific to the Guildford and Woolwich inquiry. I wished it to go before Sir John May. I have heard nothing since that time. I knew from that moment on that the inquiry was doomed.
My purpose in raising this matter is to make only one point. When each of the great miscarriages of justice has occurred, the Home Secretary and occasionally the Attorney-General or someone else comes before the House and makes a statement. They say that everyone is upset about it, they hope that it will not happen again and they are determined to learn a few lessons from the case. I just hope that, if Sir John May's inquiry is to be abandoned--and it is--the Home Secretary will have the courage to come to the House and explain why it is to be abandoned. I hope that he will submit himself to questioning by the House and that we shall not one day find in Hansard some planted written answer telling us that it is all over. 5.30 pm
Column 177also congratulate the hon. Members who have made maiden speeches in today's debate. I can scarcely believe that five years ago I stood here in fear and trepidation doing much the same thing. It is clear from the quality of what we heard tonight that the new Members elected to Parliament in this latest election will grace our debates and will certainly be great ambassadors for the constituents whom they represent.
In my judgment, the House should not adjourn for the spring recess until it has considered and taken stock of the widespread opposition throughout North Yorkshire to the plans of the National Grid Company to construct a new overhead powerline from Teesside to Shipton in the Vale of York. It would go right through the Vale of York, running some 60 miles. The proposal is the subject of a public inquiry which began today in Northallerton. That inquiry is expected to last at least two months--a clear indication of both the serious nature of the proposal and the strength of opposition to it.
The proposed power line would pass through the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates) and for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who raised the issue in debate last April. My right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) and my hon. Friend the Member for Boothferry (Mr. Davis) have also received many representations on the matter. All my hon. Friends whom I have mentioned wish to be associated with my remarks this evening. It is the first time for almost a quarter of a century that a major extension to the national grid has been sought. The application arises out of the decision to construct a new gas-powered electricity generating station at the ICI complex at Wilton on Teesside. Neither I nor any of my hon. Friends have any objection to that splendid project in isolation, but we believe that there has been a clear failure of the planning procedures laid down in the Electricity Act 1989. It is a matter of great importance to the House that an amendment to those provisions be considered as a matter of urgency. It has been well established that, when permission was granted for the Teesside project, no consideration was given to the potential consequences for the national grid. None of the local authorities--in my constituency, North Yorkshire county council and Hambleton district council--none of the parish councils or residents and landowners who would be affected by the consequent power line were consulted about the power project application. Yet residents and landowners are told that the new power line is essential to transmit the electricity generated by the Teesside plant into the national grid.
Without question, those affected by the proposed new power line should have been consulted before the power station was approved because the power line has clear environmental impact. That impact should have been a relevant consideration in granting the power station consent.
Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) : Does my hon. Friend agree that in any case the National Grid Company has yet to demonstrate that there is a compelling and clear need to construct the lines, which makes the environmental cost of their construction even harder for local residents to bear?
Column 178Yorkshire county council that the National Grid Company has not demonstrated the need for the proposed power line, and that existing transmission lines are adequate for the current level of electricity which it is obliged to transmit through North Yorkshire, including the power generated by the Teesside plant. However, there is a strongly held belief that further gas-fired generating stations are planned and that the proposed new power line is largely anticipatory of the likely requirements for transmission capacity in future. The proposed power line should be a matter of grave concern to all right hon. and hon. Members for reasons that I shall explain in a moment. Privatisation of the electricity industry has brought many welcome benefits to both industry and domestic consumers and has introduced much-needed competition into power generation. The potential growth of cheaper and more cleanly generated capacity will bring environmental benefits in terms of reduced emissions. Those benefits are most welcome, but they should not be at the expense of the environmental impact of transmitting the new capacity through the national grid.
I make three points. First, this is the first major extension of the national grid for more than 20 years. What happens now will be a precedent for potential similar applications to extend the national grid in the years ahead. Secondly, as a result of the former point, the Electricity Act 1989 should be amended to require new generators, electricity boards and the National Grid Company to assess the implications for the national grid of any new power plants before permission is granted.
Thirdly, although in the past 20 years there have been many welcome advances in the technology of electricity generation--indeed, the Teesside project is one of the most advanced in Europe, if not the world--it appears that little if any advance in the technology of transmission has occurred in that time. We still have the same 150-ft-high pylons every 400 yd right across the country, of which there are already far too many in both my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague).
I am sure that many hon. Members often pass through North Yorkshire on holiday or en route to other destinations and will have observed the number of pylons there. They are a blot on the landscape. Their environmental impact is immense for the many people who live in their shadow. The National Grid Company claims that it can blend the pylons into the contours of the landscape. I fail to see how that can be achieved in the flat, open landscape of the Vale of York, especially at the southern end of the proposed line in my constituency. I have never known such outrage, anger, resentment and despair as has been aroused by the proposed power line. The healthy increased majorities enjoyed by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks and myself, as well as the return of the Langbaurgh constituency into Conservative hands at the general election demonstrates that the proposal is not seen as a party issue. Nor is it seen as a quarrel with the Government. My constituents see it as an issue of moral justice. They will gain nothing from the proposal, but they will lose a great deal if the proposal goes ahead.
Would my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House convey those concerns to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, in his new post, with his new responsibility for energy? Many of my constituents
Column 179looked to him to support their cause in his previous capacity as Secretary of State for the Environment. They now look to him to reject the National Grid Company's plans to review the provisions of the Electricity Act 1989, and to press the company to give the highest priority to the research and development of less environmentally damaging methods of electricity transmission. Until then, the National Grid Company's obligations to link any new generating capacity into the national grid should be ended, unless it can be shown that there will not be the sort of environmental damage that is likely to result in north Yorkshire.
I can think of no more important matter affecting my constituents on which to make my first speech in this new Parliament. However, this is not a NIMBY issue. It is not a local protest but a matter of the gravest national concern. Unless the provisions of the Electricity Act 1989
Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) : Thank you for calling me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I congratulate other new Members of Parliament who have gone through the nerve-racking process of making their maiden speeches and have acquitted themselves so well.
As a member, just, of the West Midlands police authority--a singularly ineffective body, for which I take no responsibility--I would like to use this opportunity to comment on the announcement by the Director of Public Prosecutions that there are to be no prosecutions as a result of the West Yorkshire police inquiry into the operation of the West Midlands serious crime squad.
Before I do so, I understand that it is traditional to pay tribute to one's predecessors and I do so willingly. I first became active in the Labour party just before Tom Litterick, the only former Labour Member for Selly Oak, was elected in 1974. Like my immediate predecessor, Tom Litterick was renowned for not always supporting the Government line. Unfortunately, I think that I am the first Member of Parliament for Selly Oak whose party is in opposition, and I shall not be faced with such difficult decisions.
Tom Litterick was one of the first to speak out in support of Mrs. Maguire and the other people whom we now know were the subject of miscarriages of justice. He did so at a time when that was very unpopular. I am proud of Tom Litterick's record for speaking out. I know that he would have been as concerned as I am about today's announcement.
Anthony Beaumont-Dark also had a reputation for being something of a rebel. Who am I to disagree with him about the poll tax? He has said that at times he was even paired with a Member from his own party. Hon. Members may be interested to hear that Mr. Beaumont-Dark recently confessed that there had been occasions when he was glad that he was not in the majority on a certain issue.
Anthony Beaumont-Dark had voted to restore capital punishment. During the election campaign, he told a public meeting how relieved he was that other hon. Members had not agreed with him and had voted consistently against bringing back the death penalty. In making that change of heart, I think that his mind was on the evidence of miscarriages of justice that has emerged in the past few years. The case of the Birmingham Six is
Column 180especially relevant to the area that I represent. I am pleased that Mr. Beaumont-Dark has recognised that we should never restore capital punishment.
The West Yorkshire police inquiry was mostly concerned with events which have taken place more recently. However, I am worried that two officers involved in the interrogation of the Birmingham Six were still in the serious crime squad when it was disbanded in 1989. Early cases, such as that of the Birmingham Six and of Keith Twitchell--who, after six months, is still awaiting the result of his petition to the Home Secretary--took place before the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. That Act, which was supposed to put right some of the previous problems with police operations, has been routinely ignored by the serious crime squad, who continued to behave arrogantly and ruthlessly. At least 20 cases have gone to court, and to the Court of Appeal, where there has been evidence--most noteworthy is the ESDA evidence--to show that confessions and forensic evidence have been fabricated.
The police have not dealt with the use of supergrasses in the way that one would expect, and plenty of the evidence in court has given us cause for concern. Today we have heard the outcome of the inquiry into those cases.
When the Police Complaints Authority summary was sent to the West Midlands police authority, it expressed concern about a report in 1985 by Commander Hay of the Metropolitan police, which made various recommendations. The most noteworthy recommendation was that officers should not spend more than two years, or a short time, in squads such as the serious crime squad. Those recommendations were completely ignored.
I have been trying to get to the bottom of the matter and to find out who saw the recommendations and why they were not acted upon. I have written to Geoffrey Dear, the chief constable at the time. He denies seeing the report, even though the Police Complaints Authority stated that several chief officers within the West Midlands police saw it. I then wrote to Les Sharpe, his deputy at the time, who is now chief constable in Strathclyde.
He could not help me, and it is still impossible to find out who saw the report, why it was not acted upon, why officers involved with the Birmingham Six case were still serving in the serious crime squad in 1989, and why so many of them had served for more than five years in the squad and had created a culture in the squad which has resulted in many people in the west midlands being deeply troubled by the operation of their police service.
We need to be concerned not merely about members of the serious crime squad but about the management structure of the West Midlands police and the way in which the culture of the serious crime squad was allowed to continue.
It is to be regretted that the inquiry has taken two years and nine months to come to its conclusions. Although the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department gave assurances last December to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) that there would be absolutely no cover- up in the investigation into the serious crime squad, the public in my constituency and in the west midlands, who want absolute confidence in their police force, will be deeply troubled by today's new announcement.
The chief superintendent in charge of the West Midlands police division that covers my constituency had direct line management for the serious crime squad. I am
Column 181concerned that the role of those police officers will not come to light and that we shall not find out who was responsible for the fabrications and the activities which have led to such public concern.
My constituents want a police force that they can trust and the House should not adjourn until the matter has been discussed adequately.
Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton) : I follow in the footsteps of the new hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Ms. Jones) and congratulate her on a fluent maiden speech, in which she expressed very positive views. I am sure that the House will hear from her on many future occasions. I was pleased that the hon. Lady conformed to tradition, at least at the beginning of her speech, by paying tribute to her predecessor, Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark. However, I was a little saddened that she did not continue with the tradition that the House has kept for some years, that a maiden speech should not cover matters that are controversial. However, the hon. Lady is of her own mind, and no doubt we shall hear a lot more from her in the future. I congratulate her and all the other hon. Members who have made maiden speeches today.
I am glad to have the chance to speak in this brief debate and raise an issue which affects my constituency. The subject was touched upon earlier in a powerful maiden speech from the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms. Lynne). I relates to the decisions and funding requirements of regional and district health authorities as they affect two of the most vulnerable sectors of the community--the elderly and the mentally and physically handicapped. Such decisions are crucial to the provision of community and residential care for the mentally and physically handicapped.
In the previous Parliament, my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) served as Chairman of the Select Committee on Health. He said :
"As a result of the policies of community care pursued by successive Governments, too many patients are being discharged too soon, for the wrong reasons, and without adequate support into communities which are unwilling, or unable to accept them." I agree with that.
The announcement made on Thursday of last week by Crewe health authority that Cranage Hall hospital is to be closed in March 1995 falls into that category of closure, although the health authority added the rider that the decision will be subject to available resources being in place. Although some mentally and
physicallyhandicapped people belong in the community, when the necessary support structures are in place, individuals remain who, for whatever reason, require the security and stability of long-term hospitals-- hospitals, which, in many cases, have been their homes for many years or decades. Those people cannot be expected to leave them without being caused considerable distress.
There are 255 residents in Cranage Hall hospital, and they are described by the health authority, with a glib attempt at semantic subversion, as "individuals with learning difficulties". Such a categorisation serves simply to distract attention from the real medical and social needs of many severely handicapped patients. In Cranage Hall hospital, there is a hard core of severely mentally and
Column 182physically handicapped people. I have argued for the retention of a facility for them on that site since I was first elected to Parliament nine years ago.
I must put on record my appreciation of the efforts of Mr. Richard Jackson of RESCARE, who has done so much to represent the best interests of patients, and of Mr. Derek Stubbs, the present chairman of the Cranage Hall parents and residents welfare society, who has also played a key role. I have worked closely with those two groups to further their proposed alternative concept for the future of the site--a future which involves the creation of a village community, with full medical and social support for those patients who require an institutional or semi-institutional setting and who quite simply could not survive the harsh realities of life beyond its boundaries. The regional and district health authorities, in their wisdom, have totally rejected a plan by the Bradford and Northern housing association, which is a non-profit-making body. It envisaged a brand-new facility on part of the Cranage Hall site, which would have been funded by the sale and development of the rest of the buildings and grounds. The plan provided hotel and leisure facilities, and housing of different categories for the local community. It was an imaginative plan that deserved consideration, but sadly it did not receive it. One had hoped that the plan would have had some appeal because it would have transferred the patients-- and the costs of treating them--from the health service budget. They would have become tenants of the Bradford and Northern housing association. The number of mentally ill and mentally handicapped people in our prisons, and sleeping rough on the streets, not just of our capital city but throughout our country, is a testament to the failure of the speed at which the policy of community care is being implemented. However, there have been successes in community care where committed and experienced staff have established close inter-agency links, and have been given adequate funding and resources. They have made a real go of things. I have visited such facilities and have been much impressed by what I have seen. None the less, the costs of running them are extremely high. Community care can only work if it is given adequate funding and has a high priority on the agenda of those authorities responsible for health, social and community services provision.
I must admit that I am appalled by the discourtesy of the chairman and chief executive of Crewe health authority in not informing me, as the local Member of Parliament, of the decision until after the public announcement of the closure had been made. It is not acceptable that hon. Members who have been actively involved in an issue of such importance which directly affects their constituency should be left to hear of such a decision through a telephone call from a local radio station which had already been given a full statement--albeit a statement which misled the media and the public about the practical effect of the proposals and the type of patients involved.
An added dimension to the decision to "fast-track" the closure of Cranage hall hospital is the problem of capital resources and how that will impact upon the care of the elderly who also live within the Crewe health authority. Three years ago, the health authority's elderly bed strategy went to consultation. It proposed that both Barony and Arclid hospitals would close in September 1993 and that new homes for elderly persons would be built, one of
Column 183which would be located in Sandbach to cover my constituents' needs. The acute and rehabilitation service would be relocated at Leighton hospital in two or three brand-new wards. In the meantime, following on from the health service reforms, Leighton became the mid-Cheshire trust hospital and separate from the health authority.
The bid by Sainsbury's for the site at Barony hospital was accepted by the health authority ; a contract was signed between the two parties, and an agreement was reached to clear the site in a set period, because the supermarket was to be built and opened by the end of 1993. It was intended and understood that health authority money would build new acute rehabilitation wards at Leighton hospital and that the trust would run them. The capital cost of the building would go via the region to the trust as an external financing limit allocation. The trust has a satisfactory capital plan--although it is not perfect--and it has much to renew in the way of equipment, some of which is many years old.
It is my understanding that the region is now saying that the district health authority cannot have the so-called Sainsbury's money, and that the trust must build the needed acute and rehabilitation beds at a cost of £2 million out of its present external financing limit. At the moment, the region is not committed to the building of those wards, but building must start in September of this year, for occupation in September of 1993. Therefore, contracts will have to be entered into without certain knowledge of where the huge capital sum is to come from.
The region cannot continue to step back from the problem. The real fear is that it is planning to rob Peter to pay Paul by using the proceeds of the sale of Barony hospital to Sainsburys to fast-track the closure of Cranage Hall hospital for the mentally handicapped. The Mid-Cheshire hospital trust at Leighton would be left in some financial uncertainty unless a clear commitment were given by the region now, as a matter of urgency, that the £2 million extra capital funding for the acute geriatric and rehabilitation beds will be forthcoming, as was previously understood to be the case by all the parties concerned.
I appreciate that I have dealt with detailed matters, but they are vital to my constituents. I call on the regional health authority and Crewe health authority to come clean with the people of my constituency, to tell them what the plans are and from where the money will come. Having done that, they should announce that the fast-track closure of Cranage Hall hospital will be put back by at least a decade, during which time other valid plans can be fully and properly researched.
Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) : I wish at the outset, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to congratulate you on your appointment and to add my voice to those who have congratulated other maiden speakers. I particularly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Ms. Jones). Many, especially on these Benches, appreciated her comments.
Three new seats were won in Birmingham by Labour at the general election. We had spent the previous two years being told that they were barometer seats. We gathered that whichever party won Northfield, Selly Oak and Yardley would go on to form the Government. It seems
Column 184that something went wrong with the barometer. I am convinced that in four or five years from now, we will be concerned not simply with so called barometer seats in Birmingham but with constituencies throughout the country, and that Labour will form the next Government.
Of course, one cannot be certain that there will not be any by-elections between now and then. I and my two colleagues from Birmingham--my hon. Friends the Members for Selly Oak and for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms. Morris)- -have been allocated offices across the adjoining main road. We are worrying already about the problems that we might face as we cross the road together, perhaps coming to vote in a Division.
It is customary in a maiden speech to speak of one's predecessor. In Northfield, I succeed Roger King, who represented the constituency for nine years. He thrived on the reputation of being the motor industry Member. One of his claims to fame was to have won the first House of Commons versus House of Lords motor race. I think that if he wanted to be remembered for anything--he referred to the subject even in his own maiden speech--it was his campaign against the special car tax. No one could mistake the delight on his face when finally that tax was reduced by half in the last Budget. His only regret must have been that it was the party that he supported that introduced the special car tax in the first place in the 1970s. The recent reduction is welcomed by many of us on the Labour Benches. I add my congratulations to Roger King on his new appointment. He is not leaving the motor industry, for he has been appointed director of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Northfield is synonymous with the motor industry. It lies to the south-west of Birmingham and contains the giant Longbridge car plant. Many of my constituents work there or in the associated component supply industry. The work force at Longbridge has contributed to the success of Rover in recent years, yet the car industry, like manufacturing as a whole, which is so vital to the Midlands, has been hit hard by the recession. Sales of new cars were down by 20 per cent. in the last year alone.
Those points are not simply of academic significance. Northfield's unemployment rate increased by 36 per cent. in the last year, but that bald figure hides a story of human misery and deprivation. The problems of poverty in Birmingham's inner city are reasonably well known. Though faltering and incomplete, some resources have been put into such areas and are beginning to tackle the problems of poverty in the inner cities. Far more invisible is the issue of outer ring poverty, in particular the poverty on our outer ring estates. I might mention the estates at Bartley green, Weoley, Longbridge and Northfield itself. There are pockets of unemployment in those areas of between 70 and 80 per cent. They contain a high proportion of older people with a high dependency on benefits. There are also growing numbers of lone parents. In addition, startling poverty and deprivation results from the spiralling problem of debt which affects many of our constituents.
It is ironic to realise that a standard indicator of deprivation is lack of access to a motor car. A report by the director of public health in south Birmingham revealed that the area with the lowest access by families to a motor car was the ward of Longbridge. They make motor cars there, but they cannot afford to own them. Where there is poverty, ill health soon follows. In south Birmingham, the area that I represent, along with my hon.
Column 185Friends who represent Selly Oak and Yardley, one clearly sees the problem of ill health. There is a high proportion of low-birthweight babies and stress-related illness is common, with people having a high dependence on tranquillisers.
If the Government are serious about tackling the problems of ill health in society, they must begin seriously to tackle the problems of poverty, bad housing and environmental deprivation. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms. Squire) that it also means tackling the scourge of poverty pay. Unless and until we tackle the problem of poverty in our outer ring estates, we shall have increasing problems with racism. We must reject any attempt to stir up resentment against people who live in the outer ring or inner ring. We shall not achieve anything until we address the problem of poverty in the outer ring and empower the people who live there to contribute to their own destinies.
An example in my constituency is the possible development of about 200 acres of land currently occupied by the psychiatric hospitals on what is called the Rubery and Hollymoor hospital site. It is due to be closed and redeveloped. That raises large issues about the kind of care in the community that will follow. If that land is redeveloped--it is being sold off by the regional health authority, to be developed, we understand, by a firm called Charters, which has had an involvement in Docklands--there must be choices about the type of development that will take place.
Will that development provide offices but few jobs for local people and will it provide housing that local people cannont afford? In other words, will commercial considerations be paramount, and will the local community merely be consulted and the real decisions be taken elsewhere? There is an alternative to that. Real jobs could be provided in that development, along with the necessary training. Housing could be provided in a way that is affordable for local people. It could also be constructed to protect the environment. In other words, the local community should be partners in the whole process and be given a say in the decision making.
As their representative in this place, I know which choice I shall make. It will be for the regional health authority and the developers to choose, but I shall be returning to the whole issue time and again, because the whole community deserves no less.
For the Government, there is the challenge of deciding whether they are prepared to face up to the problems of poverty and deprivation on our outer ring estates. Are they prepared to devote the necessary resources to improve housing conditions, protect the environment, provide adequate levels of benefit and abolish low pay?
Much has been said recently about citizens charters and the rights of citizenship. Those rights will mean little if they are not accompanied by the right to have decent living standards and to live in a pollution-free environment--in other words, to have a decent home. I, and my hon. Friends from Selly Oak and Yardley, will be bringing that issue before the House time and again because it greatly concerns the people we represent.
I am grateful to have had this opportunity to address the House.
Column 1866.9 pm
Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan) : I am honoured to have been elected to represent the Vale of Glamorgan and should like to thank the 24,220 people who voted for me, particularly the 19 people who wavered most before putting a cross next to my name.
I am honoured because I follow in the footsteps of Sir Raymond Gower, one of the most distinguished Back Benchers. He acquired a reputation as the most prolific letter writer in the House. He also had a reputation for turning up on people's doorsteps at the most unexpected moment. It is said, no doubt anecdotally, that many of his constituents would hear a light tap on the door and would arrive at the door just in time to see him disappearing down the path. However, he was an assiduous Member of Parliament. He represented the Vale of Glamorgan--previously the old seat of Barry--for 38 years.
Sir Raymond's death in 1989 led to the famous by-election victory of my immediate predecessor, Mr. John P. Smith, who won by 6,000 votes. I pay tribute to John Smith for his extremely hard work as MP for the Vale of Glamorgan. He established himself as a popular Member of Parliament and very nearly pulled off the virtually impossible task of holding on to a seat won by Labour from the Conservatives in a by-election.
The Vale of Glamorgan is a beautiful constituency. If anyone is considering taking a holiday within the United Kingdom, I recommend it. It has about 20 miles of coastline and some attractive inlying areas, and so far, the countryside is relatively unspoiled. We have also benefited from the highest level of inward investment of any constituency in Wales, so there is much prosperity in the vale. One sad thing blights that picture : the breakdown of law and order, which has been widely experienced by my constituents.
My solicitor's office, which lies in the heart of Barry, was burgled five times in a few months, and I decided to conduct a survey on what was happening elsewhere in Holton road, which is the second largest shopping street in south Wales. The results of my survey made grim reading. One retail business has been burgled more than 200 times in two years. That reflects a national problem : last year, 5.3 million crimes were reported in Britain.
Before adjourning the House, we need to send strong messages to certain people. I welcome the announcement of a victims charter, but it does not go far enough. The main message that must go forth from this House is that we care far more about the interests of victims than those of villains. We need to send a message to the police, criminals, the motor industry, the courts, solicitors, victims and the public.
The message to the police should be that we support them in their tremendous endeavours to protect us. In return, we look for increased efficiency from them. We need to back up the police. If a police officer is assaulted in the course of his duty, we need to be able to rely on the courts to hand out tough penalties to his assailants. If a police officer or member of the armed forces is murdered in the course of his duty, the death penalty should be reintroduced. On the whole, the police force are marvellous but, as in any profession, there are a few rotten apples. Where those rotten apples cause miscarriages of justice through tampering with evidence, the courts should fall on them like a ton of bricks, and long prison sentences should be imposed.
Column 187The main message for criminals must be that crime does not pay. Offenders who reoffend while on bail should know that they will be automatically remanded in custody and not given a chance to commit further offences. They should also know that, if they commit a string of offences and are eventually brought to justice, they cannot expect a string of concurrent sentences. The more offences they commit, the heavier should be the punishment. They should be made aware that, except in the most exceptional circumstances, they must pay full compensation to the victims of their crimes.
Our message to the courts should be that they should order full compensation, fines and prosecution costs. It is a disgrace that the Barry magistrates court does not normally award prosecution costs against defendants. When I put that to clerks of the court, I was advised that it was difficult to get blood out of a stone--most of the criminals are unemployed. If people are unable or unwilling to pay the orders made by the court, they should be set to work in a new scheme analogous to community service. They should be paid for that work but the money they earn should go first to the victims of their crime, secondly to the court in payment of their financial penalties, and thirdly to the prosecution in payment of costs.
The House should also send a message to solicitors, and I call on the Lord Chancellor to review the operation of the courts. I understand the Lord Chancellor's reasoning in trying to control the ever-burgeoning costs of legal aid by introducing standard fees for criminal legal aid work in the magistrates courts. I declare an interest, having practised for many years as a solicitor in courts. The Lord Chancellor has failed to take account of one of the main reasons why the cost of legal aid has gone up.
With the increased number of defendants appearing in court, there is far more waiting time, for which solicitors get paid at an uneconomic rate. They need to be able to charge for that waiting time if their bills are to reflect the amount of time devoted to the cases in question. Although I do not object to fixed fees for legal aid, the legal profession should, in return, have a reform of the courts' system. Such a reform should get rid of unnecessary adjournments, which are not the fault of solicitors acting for defendants, and reduce waiting time--for example, by introducing a staggered listing system similar to that which already exists in county courts. The next message is to the motor industry. I want the House to legislate to make the installation of deadlocks on motor cars compulsory at the manufacturing stage. No new car should be sold in this country today unless it is fitted with a satisfactory lock. We have already legislated to make seat belts compulsory : why should not deadlocks also become compulsory? That would save an enormous amount of money in insurance claims, and young people driving high-powered cars would no longer be penalised because their cars were more likely to be stolen. It would be much cheaper to install those locks at the manufacturing stage than to add them later as accessories.
The most important message is to the victims of crimes. They should be allowed to use force to protect their personal property, provided they give full notice to the malefactors of the risks that they run by proceeding with their criminal actions. It is no good victims relying on the
Column 188police. A report in the Financial Times today said that a police constable on the beat in London is likely to come within 100 yards of a burglary being carried out only every eight years. We cannot rely exclusively on the police, and must allow the victims to help themselves. I should also like victims to be invited to attend court so that they have the opportunity to make representations on compensation. Courts should make apologies to victims if full compensation is not granted, and explain why it has not been awarded.
The message from the House to the public should be that the House will not rest until the citizens of Barry and every other city, town and village are safe to go about their business in peace.
In rising to make my maiden speech I confess to feeling "ever so 'umble". I am aware of the great traditions of this, the mother of Parliaments. I cannot deny the contribution made by the Chamber to the history of the British Isles. The irony is that I stood for election to the Westminster Parliament to secure my release from it, and the return of my nation to the full nation status that is richly and rightly deserved.
Mine is a particular privilege and honour as I represent the constituency of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, where I was born and bred. I have the pleasure of representing my people, among them family, friends and innumerable acquaintances. Meirionnydd Nant Conwy is a geographically large constituency, although it is sparsely populated. My constituents have traditionally been staunchly independent--a tradition that, thankfully, persists.
In 1974, my predecessor, Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas, was elected to represent the constituency--one of the first real breakthroughs for Plaid Cymru. He held the seat with distinction until his decision last year to resign and make another career move. He was well known in the House as possessing a supreme intellect, and his contributions to debates are legendary. He also set the scene for a debate on the proper place for Wales in the European scenario. A committed European, he typically foresaw the proposed integration of the states of the European Community well before others. Many of his early speeches of 10 or 12 years ago still find favour today.
We in Wales, particularly Plaid Cymru, have always been comfortable with the concept of further integration, while preserving one's identity to the full. As well as being committed to Europe, my predecessor worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy and the people of Wales. He served on the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs and the Standing Committee that debated the Broadcasting Bill. He was a former president of Plaid Cymru and had a keen interest in regional and countryside policy, as well as cultural and educational policy. Last year he served on the Standing Committee on the Further and Higher Education Bill. He is a hard act to follow and I am mindful of the presssure.
I emanate from a professional stable once occupied by another Welsh wizard, Mr. David Lloyd George. I served my articles at the firm of Lloyd George and George, and
Column 189was articled to Lloyd George's nephew, Dr. William Lloyd George. My father knew Lloyd George--actually, he did not, but I thought that I would say so, anyway.
Welsh is the first language for the vast majority of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, a constituency of breathtaking scenic beauty, and an amalgam of rural hill farms, slate mining towns and villages, coastal holiday resorts and traditional county councils. There is a saying in Welsh, "Tra Mor, Tra Meirion". For those who do not speak the language of heaven, I shall paraphrase the saying : Meirionnydd will last as long as the sea lasts. That is a romantic concept, but one which could soon be evidenced by local government reorganisation. Meirionnydd Nant Conwy has everything that one could ask for, including gold mines. It could be argued that the monarchy might be in difficulty were it not for the reserves of high-quality gold in the hills of my constituency. I have to be careful not to romanticise overmuch--a temptation when one is describing something that one dearly loves. However, we do have problems--problems which may threaten the very existence of my constituency. They include high unemployment and chronic youth unemployment. There is a housing crisis of staggering proportions and crises in agriculture brought about largely by the Government's laissez- faire attitude to the common agricultural policy reform proposals. Such an approach appears typical when one considers the depth of Euro-cynicism among Government ranks.
Nothing that I have heard in the Chamber gives me comfort or reassurance that the serious problems are being effectively addressed--in fact, the contrary is true. Urgent initiatives must be taken if we are to combat the chronic youth unemployment. Is it not possible to re-evaluate the youth training schemes to make them more attractive to the young and to prospective employers? Would it not be possible to set a mandatory longer term for employment to qualify for the scheme?
We must try to regenerate the economy of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, particularly as the Trawsfynydd power station is soon to be decommissioned. During a recent visit to the European Community headquarters in Brussels, I canvassed the possibility of funding for the future in the event of the station's closure, and was staggered that the subject had not previously been discussed.
We need inward investment, and to ensure that, we need a transport infrastructure that will attract jobs and job creators to Meirionnydd Nant Conwy. I referred to the crisis in housing. In the public sector, 1,100 people are on the local authority waiting lists. That figure is creeping upward daily. If there is to be a serious reorganisation of local government in Wales, it provides the opportunity to bring responsibility back to the local authorities, where it should be. The right-to-buy legislation had benefits for individuals, but wrought havoc on the public housing stock. The Government should be urged to fund Tai Cymru properly and so assist enthusiastic housing associations in their vital role. The problem is sufficiently acute to merit an attack on both fronts.
Planning legislation should be introduced in the private sector to minimise the detrimental socio-economic effect of second homes and the consequent harm to the constituency's intrinsic culture. It is well know that a small amendment to the Use Classes Order could readily address that problem. That would involve minimal legislation, but could have a major effect.