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Bob Russell at PMQ's

  • Jul 22, 2014:
    • Parliament: Anniversaries | Education | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Education whether her Department is working with the History of Parliament Trust and the publishers St James's House on a publication to be published in 2015 to mark 750 years of Parliament; what reports she has received of schools being asked to contribute sponsorship towards that publication; and if she will make a statement.

    • Backbench Business - Summer Adjournment | Child Benefit Entitlement (Disqualification of Non-UK EU Nationals) | Commons debates

      Britain's road safety record is arguably the best of any industrial country in the world. The number of people who lose their lives on the road today is about a third of what it was almost 50 years ago. Great progress has been made, and successive Governments can take pride in that. It is in that context, therefore, that I draw the House's attention to the inexplicable possibility of a relaxation of certain aspects of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. This year, we commemorate the 40th anniversary of its passing in Parliament with the unanimous support of all political parties, which it has had over those years.

      Based on the figures of 40 years ago, it is estimated that 1,000 lives have been saved every year-40,000 lives have been saved. That is not to mention the injuries at work that have been prevented. We should think about the impact that such injuries have on the lives of people who are injured, their families and work colleagues, and the about impact on hospitals' accident and emergency departments, which hon. Members know are already overburdened. In that context, to even talk of or think about diluting something that saves lives and prevents injuries, and makes work a safe environment, is unbelievable. The fact that the Government and others are thinking about it is something that we should take very seriously.

      It is worth noting that the whole Olympic stadium was built without the loss of a single life. We should contrast that with the large number of deaths that occur in the building of World cup stadiums and Olympic stadiums elsewhere in the world. The 1974 Act was crucial in ensuring that safe environment in that flagship development, which we all enjoyed two years ago. We give praise in equal measure to employers organisations and trade unions, as well as Governments, for allowing that to happen.

      Into that great success story of safety and of lives being saved, it is being suggested that the approved code of practice in construction regulations should be diluted.

      I draw attention in particular to what is known as appendix 4. Many of us assume the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 applies only to dangerous occupations such as building, but it applies everywhere, including in our constituency offices. I was going to say it applies to the Houses of Parliament, but I have a feeling that they are exempt. I would like to think they follow the code of conduct. Health and safety accreditation schemes cover industries from A to Z, from air travel to zoos-just about everything.

      Appendix 4 is adopted by a whole range of organisations to ensure that their work force can work in a safe environment. It is simple to read; clear; easily understood and applied; relevant and applicable across a wide range of industry sectors, not just, as I said, in construction industries; and widely used and recognised because of its regulatory standing as part of an approved code of practice. I therefore hope in this very brief contribution-I want to keep it very tight-that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House will ensure that common sense breaks out. If 1,000 lives a year are being saved and people at work are being saved from serious injury-not to mention the impact that that would have on their place of work and on their employers' ability to do whatever that business is doing-why do away with it? If it is going to be done away with, what will the consequences be, purely in terms of injuries, on our accident and emergency departments?

      The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 has been a great success story. In the same way that we have made our roads safer, we should ensure that we do not make our workplaces less safe.

    • Israel/Palestine | Oral Answers to Questions - Foreign and Commonwealth Office | Commons debates

      Will the Minister confirm that if the Foreign Secretary last week, when he was Defence Secretary, had ordered British troops to fire on civilian communities in the way the Israelis have, he would be guilty of a war crime?

    • Israel/Palestine | Oral Answers to Questions - Foreign and Commonwealth Office | Commons debates

      What plans he has to visit Israel to discuss the current situation in that region.

  • Jul 21, 2014:
    • Ukraine (Flight MH17) and Gaza | Oral Answers to Questions - Education | Commons debates

      The Prime Minister is right to condemn Russia, but he was less than even-handed when it came to Israel. As he has ducked the questions asked by the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr Hain) and the hon. Members for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) and for Preston (Mark Hendrick), will he now confirm that the disproportionate action of Israel's political and military leaders constitutes war crimes and that, as with the downed aircraft, criminal sanctions should not be ruled out?

    • Sixth-form Colleges (Funding) | Oral Answers to Questions - Education | Commons debates

      The Minister is right to remind the Opposition that they had 13 years to put right the anomaly, but we have had four years. What is the justification for continuing for another year a funding formula under which sixth-form students at an 11-to-18 school have two thirds more funding than if they go to a sixth-form college?

  • Jul 17, 2014:
  • Jul 14, 2014:
  • Jul 10, 2014:
    • Local Enterprise Partnerships | Deputy Prime Minister | Written Answers

      To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what guidance the Minister of State for Cities and Constitution has given to local enterprise partnerships on informing (a) district councils and (b) hon. Members about Growth Deal schemes before briefing the media; and if he will make a statement.

  • Jul 9, 2014:
    • [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair] - Local Plans (Public Consent) | Westminster Hall debates

      Whatever it is, the general public are not exactly dancing in the streets. The public consent for local plans is the issue we are debating, and the Minister is personally culpable for what he approved in north Colchester not that long ago. He approved it despite the fact that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government personally visited the area to see it for himself. I got a Transport Minister to come down and see the existing congestion in the North Station road area, and despite that this Minister rubber-stamped a plan, knowing full well that the land had never previously been zoned for housing. How the plan came through the system is one of those great mysteries of life, but it did. Myland community council, the only parish council area in my constituency, was opposed to it.

      Councillors across the borough ganged up and shoved the housing allocation on one area, so it could be argued that the public consent came from the democratically elected local borough council, but there was not public consent in the area affected. It is an area that has had

      massive new development, and it now faces the prospect of having an additional 3,000-plus houses on a roundabout that is already a quart in a pint pot. I have to tell the Minister that the situation is not resolved by adding another pint or two.

      Indeed, only this Monday the Colchester Daily Gazette reported that around £2 million of public money will go towards a project to encourage commuters to car-share, use public transport, or cycle or walk to work instead of driving through the North Station road roundabout. Even before a brick is laid, public money is having to be spent and it will not sort out the mess that is already there, let alone the problems caused by having the additional housing on two sites, one the site of a former psychiatric hospital-allegedly, it is a brownfield site, but some brownfield-and the other on virgin open countryside. All that will come into this area.

      There is another problem. Because the section 106 agreement did not produce sufficient funds for a primary school in that area, the local authority is now going to expand a proposed school that is yet to be built, over and above what was originally intended. Far from it being a community school, it will become a destination school.

      Those are two direct results, Minister, of a decision made by you, for which you are culpable as the Minister responsible.

      I now move on to a second development, which is causing great worry. A local authority wants to build all its housing allocation, or a large part of it, on the border of another local authority area. I will end my remarks by asking the Minister and his officials to investigate urgently what Tendring district council is playing at in wanting to build a large proportion of its housing allocation immediately on the eastern border of urban Colchester, which will create an urban sprawl going eastwards. I urge the Minister and his officials to look at that urgently, because Tendring district council is putting its housing allocation where the local people in Colchester do not want it. The people in Colchester will have no say on Tendring district council's housing allocation.

    • [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair] - Local Plans (Public Consent) | Westminster Hall debates

      I congratulate the hon. Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) on setting out the case. The Minister will have noticed that there are a dozen or more Conservative MPs here, and it will be interesting to see how many of them speak in support of his policies, because in the last debate that we had here on this subject not one Conservative MP did.

      The simple fact is that, as the hon. Member for Wycombe has pointed out, the Government are not delivering what the Conservative party said in opposition, and I will cite-

  • Jul 3, 2014:
  • Jun 30, 2014:
  • Jun 26, 2014:
    • First World War (Commemoration) | Bill Presented | Commons debates

      Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

    • First World War (Commemoration) | Bill Presented | Commons debates

      I congratulate the Minister and the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis), on two excellent speeches setting the tone of the debate. As has been said, this is the second debate that we have had on the subject, and we have not yet started the four years of commemoration of the great war. I suspect there will be more debates to come. I, too, pay tribute to everybody who has been involved in preparing the ground, notably the Imperial War museum and the BBC. Both those organisations are keen, as are the Government and Members across the House, that those should be commemorations, not celebrations, and that wherever possible they should be local commemorations.

      I am delighted to say that in Colchester, local military historian Jess Jephcott has set up a Facebook page for this purpose with just one line: "Colchester Remembers 1914-1918". On other webpages he kindly mentions a public meeting that I convened in March this year

      "to explore ways in which Colchester could commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Those persons who attended gave a positive response and comprised members from the armed forces, the Royal British Legion, youth organisations and private individuals. It was agreed that a vigil should be held on the evening of the centenary of the first day of war being declared",

      so at 7 pm on 4 August, just a few hours before the midnight deadline in Berlin was reached, we will gather for a few minutes for a silent vigil-no banners, no great speeches, just a silent vigil-because, of course, it was all going to be over by Christmas.

      We anticipate that there will be further commemorative events over the next four years, culminating in a celebration to mark the end of hostilities on 7 November 1918. There are those who believe that the war ended in 1919, as I mentioned in the previous debate; some communities believe that the war ended with the treaty of Versailles in 1919, which is the date one sometimes sees on war memorials. The aim of the Colchester group is to welcome others to join them in creating appropriate events to commemorate the various happenings, and to link up with others who are planning similar events within the town and the local community. The idea is not to have a formal committee or a big group, but to bring in individuals and groups such as the scouts, the guides or the Royal British Legion to organise their own events, using a central webpage in the hope of avoiding clashes. The opening page concludes:

      "Does your locality's war memorial need sprucing up? Has anybody done a transcription of your war memorial? Do you have pictures of these men and women who served during WW1 and stories to go with them?"

      In the summer of 2001, I had the great honour of visiting the battlefields when I accompanied the Colchester sea cadet band, which played at the great ceremony that

      takes place every night at dusk at the Menin Gate. The next day at Tyne Cot cemetery, I made a point of going to look at the names of the fallen of the 1st Battalion the Essex Regiment, to see whether there were any with the name of Russell. There was Private J. Russell. A few months earlier, my first grandson, Joseph Russell, had been born. Following on from what the shadow Minister said, it was a poignant moment to see on a war memorial the name of my first grandson. Joseph Russell, who will shortly be 13, will go later this year to the fields where so much loss of life occurred, on a battlefields tour for students.

      It is important that we bring to today's generation what happened 100 years ago. I am delighted that the women of the war are to be featured. The poppy fields is an excellent addition, which I hope will be featured. We had a bombing raid in Colchester in the great war, which needs to be recognised and remembered. There are photographs showing the damage.

      On 5 and 6 July, the Colchester military festival will take place, in aid of ABF The Soldiers Charity-formerly the Army Benevolent Fund. Although the aim is to show how important our armed forces are in the 21st century, particularly in the garrison town of Colchester, I think that it will set the scene for what happens from 4 August onwards. In the autumn, Colchester Military Wives Choir will sing in the town's Mercury theatre. Again, that is not a direct first world war commemoration, but there is clearly a link.

      It is also worth mentioning that on 19 July the transformed Imperial War museum in London will reopen to the public, revealing its brand-new first world war galleries, which will be free to the public. They will allow audiences young and old to explore what the first world war was like, and to learn how terrible it was for the hundreds of thousands of young men who came from around the world to fight. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) mentioned some of the countries that sent their young people to fight. One of them was Canada. The Imperial War museum features an exhibit on the Canadian expeditionary force.

      We are talking today about a war that commenced 100 years ago; 100 years ago, it was the 100th anniversary of another war-one that has been airbrushed out of this nation's history. Those Members who have read yesterday's Hansard will have seen that yesterday I had a debate in Westminster Hall-it begins at column 88-on "History Curriculum: North American War, 1812-14". Had the Americans won that war-we won it-Canada would not have existed, and there would have been no Canadian expeditionary force in 1914, because the United States did not join the war until 1917. Who knows whether the war would still have been raging in 1917 had it not been for the Canadians and others from the empire who took part?

      I welcome this debate. It is important that we remember the history of 100 years ago, but we must also remember history prior to that.

    • First World War (Commemoration) | Bill Presented | Commons debates

      Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware of the marvellous memorial in the offices of the Select Committee on Defence to the secretariat and people from that defence Department who lost their lives in the great war?

  • Jun 25, 2014:
    • Private Rented Sector | Opposition Day - [2nd Allotted Day] | Commons debates

      Will the hon. Lady accept that in 13 years the last Labour Government built fewer council houses than even the Thatcher Government? One of the reasons for the housing crisis, including in the private rented sector, is that the last Labour Government did not build council houses; the coalition Government are starting to build them.