45 David Amess debates involving HM Treasury

Vaccine Passports

David Amess Excerpts
Monday 15th March 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

I remind hon. Members that there have been some changes to normal practice—that is an obvious fact—in order to support the new hybrid arrangements. The timings of debates have been amended to allow technical arrangements to be made for the next debate, which is why there will be a 15-minute interval, and there will be suspensions between debates.

I remind Members participating physically and virtually that they must arrive for the start of debates in Westminster Hall. Members are expected to remain for the entire debate. I also remind Members participating virtually that they are visible at all times, both to each other and to us in the Boothroyd Room, so no drinking tea or eating food. If Members attending virtually have any technical problems, they should email the Westminster Hall Clerks’ email address.

I ask Members attending physically to kindly clean their spaces before they use them and before they leave the room, if they would not mind. Members attending physically who are in the latter stages of the call list should use the seats in the Public Gallery and move on to the horseshoe when seats become available. Members may speak only from the horseshoe, which is where the microphones are.

To be helpful to colleagues, I have done the maths and am imposing a time limit of three and a half minutes on Back-Bench contributions. Obviously, Front Benchers will get the usual 10 minutes each.

Mike Hill Portrait Mike Hill (Hartlepool) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move,

That this House has considered e-petition 569957, relating to vaccine passports.

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I thank the petitioner, Mr David Nolan, and all the other signatories of the petition, which has reached 295,842 signatures. The wording of the petition is as follows:

“We want the Government to commit to not rolling out any e-vaccination status/immunity passport to the British public. Such passports could be used to restrict the rights of people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine, which would be unacceptable.”

The petitioner wants me to make it clear that they do not represent themselves as anti-vaccination. In their own words, “We believe anti-vaxx people are in an absolute minority in Britain.”

The petition is not exclusively about those worried about discrimination if they refuse vaccination; it is more about the implementation of vaccine passports and their technology for everyone in society. In comparison with yellow fever, the petitioner wants it to be known that “comparing this certification alongside any proposed covid status certification is not a viable argument, as we are dealing with very different viruses. Yellow fever certification is only required for up to 30 African and 13 Latin countries.”

The petition is not difficult to understand and stems from genuine concerns among many of the petitioners. I state clearly for the record my support for the vaccination programme, and I encourage everyone eligible for their vaccination to take it as soon as they are offered it by our national health service, which is working so hard to deliver the programme on time.

It is easy to understand why a vaccine passport may appear to be a perfect option for the Government, who are trying to ease the lockdown as quickly and safely as possible. The idea that we could allow events to start taking place at which people who have some immunity to the virus could return to some level of normality is attractive. Like everyone else in the country, I look forward to the day when such things can take place again safely, and something that could possibly speed us along to that point is a compelling suggestion.

After almost a year of lockdowns and social distancing restrictions, anything that can help to get people back out into the community, back into their workplaces, back into their businesses and back with their families is something that we cannot discount. However, we must also consider the possible drawbacks that come with such a proposal, and we must consider the concerns with fairness. There are concerns about vaccine passports that go beyond the pseudoscience of anti-vax protesters and Twitter trolls. I therefore urge hon. Members to be mindful of some of these arguments in their contributions.

To date, the Government have not brought forward any concrete plans on vaccine passports or how they could work. However, as some countries and travel companies are beginning to require proof of vaccination as a precondition of entering their territory without the need to quarantine or of booking travel, some form of proof may be necessary at least to relaunch our tourism sector. If British holidaymakers and travellers are required to have proof for international travel, it will be difficult not to have some kind of Government-issued certification to back that up. Even if the UK opts out and opts not to use vaccine passports in the same way as other states, we may be required to provide some proof for those wishing to go abroad if other states require proof prior to entry.

If that were to be the case, how it would work domestically is unknown. I invite the Minister present to shed some light on that in their summary of the debate, as the domestic and international situations are very different and, even if domestic requirements remain low, international requirements may not give us a great deal of choice. The concept of using vaccine passports in domestic settings is of concern to some people as we go forward.

As Members will be aware, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has published priority lists, which will work their way through the population from those most vulnerable to covid down to the least vulnerable. Although it is not always the case, often that involves going from the oldest groups in society to the youngest—again, I must stress that that is not always the case. Therefore, introducing vaccine passports at present would exclude those who have not yet had the opportunity to receive their vaccine. There is a genuine fear that younger people who do not have any characteristics that place them on the priority list could be prevented from taking part in events or from taking certain actions, for no reason other than age and lack of pre-existing health conditions. Similarly, many people are concerned about how a vaccine passport would be properly managed, as anything that required a smartphone, as the current covid another place does, could bar many elderly people or people living in poverty from accessing such a system.

I must also stress at this point that although I encourage everyone to get their vaccination when they are offered it, people do have the right to choose not to be vaccinated if they so wish. Nobody can currently be compelled to take the vaccination under the law, despite it being our best hope in this national fight. The number of people currently indicating that they will not take the vaccine when offered it is currently very low, and it is my sincere hope that it remains that way, for the chances of our recovery. Nevertheless, the question that we must ask ourselves is whether such a policy would be fair to people who have the right to make that choice, however we who support the vaccination programme might personally feel about their decision.

If, as much media speculation indicates, proposals about domestic usage of vaccine passports are under consideration, I invite the Minister to clarify any of those proposals in their summary at the end of the debate, in the interests of openness and of the petitioners. I invite Members to consider carefully some of the arguments that I have set out in their consideration of the petitioners’ request. Even those in favour of such a system cannot dismiss counterarguments without proper and fair consideration, especially when it comes to ensuring that everybody in the elderly and vulnerable groups will have access to a vaccine passport, and that those who have not been vaccinated because they are further down the list are not excluded because they have not yet had their turn.

Once again, I thank Mr Nolan and all the petitioners for raising this important issue.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Before I call the next speaker, I remind Members that, in line with Mr Speaker’s wishes—I am not being old-fashioned or stuffy—gentlemen, when addressing the House physically or virtually, must be properly attired with a jacket and tie.

--- Later in debate ---
Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) and the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Carla Lockhart). I thought that the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill) set out so many of the issues very well. It is a pleasure to speak in this e-petition debate on electronic vaccine passports, which is incredibly timely.

The starting point is that it is fundamentally up to individual countries to make decisions for themselves, so it ought not to be, in that sense, for the United Kingdom to take a lead with regard to what Brazil, Italy or any other country chooses to do. We have to respect those countries and their decisions; it is not for us to determine what they do. I hope that all countries, including the United Kingdom, if we choose at some point to take this approach of vaccine passports for other countries’ foreign nationals coming here, will themselves consider what they should do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe captured the point about the effectiveness of the vaccination programme. It is remarkable. I had no anticipation that it would be as effective as it seems to be at the moment. We have to recognise that, and the protection that will give to so many people right around the world. Any question over certification for vaccinations or anything else therefore has to be proportionate to the threat of the disease itself, which at the moment is diminishing, so actually the need is diminishing. At the same time, there has been an escalation in concerns and expectation that the passports will be delivered for many countries. I am quite sympathetic to the sense of having vaccinations.

About 20 or so years ago, when I was in the Territorial Army, I went on an expedition to Ecuador—Cordilleran Enterprise—to climb Volcán Sangay. I had a yellow fever vaccination and got a certificate. There are minimal concerns about certification if someone has a piece of paper to demonstrate their vaccination status, and we do not need fancy electronic readers to read a certificate—we just need to be able to speak the language used on the certificate. I am pretty comfortable with vaccination certificates. If there were any questions about forgeries or anything else, companies such as De La Rue, which is based in my constituency, could make remarkable authentication devices to put on certificates and ensure that there were no concerns about authenticity.

If we moved from paper certificates to electronic, however, significant questions of civil liberty would arise. Who in the world would run that database? What data would go into it and who would determine that? Would it be an international body such as the United Nations, the EU or some other organisation? If we could not get an international organisation to take the lead, would a big corporate organisation do so? Would big tech in California have control over the database? In the light of what happened when the Australian national Government confronted a big tech company, giving such a company so much power would be a colossal problem. We need to be proportionate and cautious. We need to look to paper first and foremost, and there would need to be huge justification if we were to take the electronic route, which I would not welcome.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Our next speaker could not be here at the start of proceedings because he was in the main Chamber, so he might not have heard that there is a three-and-a-half minute limit on speeches. I call Mr Ian Paisley.

--- Later in debate ---
Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David.

Many of the arguments relevant to the debate have already been eloquently made, not least by my hon. Friends the Members for Wycombe (Mr Baker), for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg) and for Bolton West (Chris Green). I shall begin with the concept of international versus domestic. I am far less concerned with vaccine passports focused on opening up borders. It is not unusual to need a host of jabs to travel to certain places, and I have happily proven my vaccination status on, for example, yellow fever when visiting Tanzania. That is right and fair, but domestic covid certificates, whether used by public services or private businesses, would be intrusive, pointless and wrong. I fear they would be tantamount to moving vaccination on to a more mandatory footing.

The World Health Organisation released a statement only a couple of months ago, saying that it was opposed for the time being to the introduction of vaccine passports. That said, there does appear to be a global push towards these restrictions on individual liberty. In my opinion, the Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), was right when he stated that vaccine certificates would be “discriminatory”.

I want to be clear that, when my turn comes, I will be having my jab, and I encourage everybody to have their covid vaccination when offered it. However, the vaccine passport concept would have a disproportionate impact on groups in our society where vaccine hesitancy is at its highest. We cannot allow a position where significant numbers of Britons are turned away from jobs and services on the basis of their vaccination status.

Moreover, as other hon. Members have said, some people cannot be vaccinated. There are groups that are medically advised to avoid vaccination, from pregnant women, as the hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson) mentioned, to people with other health conditions, such as a young woman in my constituency who wrote to me, who suffers from epilepsy but is otherwise healthy. She is desperate to return to her university and continue her education. Should she not also be allowed to take part in our society?

The implication for young people at large would indeed be immense. At present, most young people have not been offered a vaccine. Vaccine certificates would result in young people facing more stringent social restrictions than others, all through no fault of their own.

Importantly, a vaccine certificate scheme may also be counterproductive, with research showing that compelling people to take vaccines does not necessarily result in the higher uptake that we all want to see. Individuals are best placed to make their own choices. I am incredibly proud of the progress the United Kingdom has made in vaccinating the population, but that should be used to set people free, not to restrict their freedoms further.

I close with this view: I fear that, should vaccine certificates become commonplace, they would inevitably expand and endure beyond the immediate challenges of this pandemic. I do not believe that should be allowed to happen.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Mr Paisley has had to temporarily leave our proceedings because he is on the call list in the main Chamber. I call Mr Alistair Carmichael.

Spending Review 2020 and OBR Forecast

David Amess Excerpts
Wednesday 25th November 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

All I would say is that our teams are hard at work, and I am very hopeful that we can reach a constructive agreement with our European friends and partners. Our wishes in this negotiation have always been consistent and transparent and are based entirely on the precedent of what other countries have achieved with the EU, so I am very much hopeful that, with good work and a constructive attitude, we can get there.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
- Hansard - -

In what must be the most challenging circumstances ever to deliver a spending review, I welcome the Restart scheme to help the unemployed. Last year, £500 million was announced to help youth services, and Southend YMCA greatly benefited from that. Will the Chancellor recommit to that £500 million, and will he set out a timeframe in which that can be delivered over the next five years?

Economic Outlook and Furlough Scheme Changes

David Amess Excerpts
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not agree with that characterisation of the Government at all. We have done an enormous amount to support the green economy, but I do agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this provides an opportunity for a big recalibration—a big opportunity for all people across the country to think about whether there is more we can do in terms of green. Those of us with responsibility for the national infrastructure strategy are thinking very hard with colleagues in the Treasury about how we can improve green infrastructure, to go alongside all the measures we have taken to improve and support green businesses.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Some 290,000 people in the theatre and performing arts are really struggling financially at the moment. Will the Treasury look at extending the job retention scheme at least until October, and at extending the self-employed income support scheme, which would particularly help those who have freelance work?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend will be aware that the job retention scheme runs until October and the self-employed scheme covers that period as well. This is a source of great concern to us, and the arts have been well supported by the schemes so far. There has also been a separate package through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport specifically targeted at supporting arts and other organisations. We have this issue very much in our minds.

Financial and Social Emergency Support Package

David Amess Excerpts
Wednesday 25th March 2020

(4 years ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
- Hansard - -

We parliamentarians are assembled in this Chamber facing a crisis that none of our predecessors faced, because the crisis that we are dealing with is invisible. I have listened very carefully to the proceedings from the start of the House’s sitting this morning, and it is obvious that Members of Parliament are raising a huge number of issues. They are constantly changing, and Ministers are grappling to come up with the answers to them.

I would like to say to the Leader of the Opposition before he departs that, although I missed him, I had not realised that today was his last Front-Bench appearance. He, the Labour Chief Whip and I were all elected 37 years ago—I think only four or five of us from then have survived—and we were actually in the same queue, although they both happened to be ahead of me. Although the right hon. Gentleman and I do not share the same politics, I think we both are united in wanting the very best for our constituents and the country. I have seen a few Leaders of the Opposition over the years, and he has at all times done the very best he can to try to work with the Government and achieve the best endeavours. I wish him well in whatever he does in the future. As far as his football team is concerned, he will continue to support Arsenal and I will continue to support West Ham and Southend. I think his team is doing a little better than mine at the moment, but I wish him well.

Jeremy Corbyn Portrait Jeremy Corbyn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

And good luck to the city of Southend.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess
- Hansard - -

If there had been an opportunity, I would have mentioned that tomorrow, but I have decided that, in these unique times, it is best that I not mention that Southend should become a city. However, when we overcome this crisis, I will never forget that the Leader of the Opposition said to the Prime Minister that he very much supported the idea that Southend should become a city, and I am very grateful for what he said.

As far as this crisis is concerned, this is the first opportunity that I have had to comment on it. It occurs to me that we Members of Parliament are struggling to decide what our role should be. There is only one Member of Parliament in each constituency, we have a relatively small number of staff, and every Member is inundated with questions from constituents asking all manner of things. It occurred to me, following what the Leader of the House said this morning, that one of the most useful things that the Government could provide is a dedicated hotline. I know that we have four dedicated hotlines already, but if there was some way—perhaps through Zoom, which I am now using and finding pretty effective—to roll out dedicated hotlines to all Members of Parliament, particularly when all of us have constituents and their families stranded abroad, which is even more frightening, that would be very useful indeed.

I do not want any my parliamentary colleagues to take offence at this, but how are the Government dealing with this crisis? The jury is out: we do not know how well they are dealing with it at the moment. The overwhelming majority of my emails are from people who are quite satisfied with the leadership that our country is getting at the moment and are full of praise. That may change, but that seems to be the case at the moment; however, one thing has occurred to me. Not all parliamentarians are blessed with great oratorical skills because the way that we deal with matters in this House has changed dramatically. I do not offer my voice—it would be a big turn-off. The Dimbleby family had wonderful broadcasting voices, which reassured the general public. I think the message is getting through better—as I drove here this morning, I saw that people seem to be observing the distancing advice in the queues outside supermarkets and taking the advice about social gathering more seriously. However, if we intend to do a few public service broadcasts, I cannot think of anyone better to ask to do that than Sir David Attenborough or Dame Judi Dench, who are well respected and probably listened to in a way that does not apply to all politicians by young, old and middle-aged. I have not been in touch with them, but I assume that they would be only too delighted to help. I throw that in for what it is worth.

Essex Members of Parliament have by and large already returned to Essex. My constituency office is being set up as a centre now that we are leaving Westminster. Yesterday, we successfully video-conferenced our chief constable and the lady in charge of the fire service. In the context of the motion we are debating, all sorts of financial matters were mentioned then. At 3.30 this afternoon, I will take part in a video conference with all Essex Members of Parliament to talk to our health managers throughout Essex, specifically dealing with several points that the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, such as personal protective equipment. We are working together pretty well.

Before I comment briefly on the financial measures, like all Members of Parliament, I want to praise the way in which local residents are coming together. Southend council has set up a coronavirus action group, working with Southend Association of Voluntary Services, local charities and local Facebook groups, pairing volunteers with those who most need help in a safe and well organised way. Last night, I had a message from Southend scouts. Five hundred adult scouts in Southend have volunteered to assist with food deliveries. That is absolutely wonderful. They have buildings that can be used as delivery hubs and they will help pack and deliver food parcels.

This is not a party political point, and I will talk only about my party. Political parties employ staff to do politicking. There is no politicking happening at the moment. I hope that my party will give a lead. I have written to the chairman of the Conservative party to suggest that the people we employ throughout the country could do some sort of volunteering work. That would give a useful lead because there should be no party politicking at a time of national emergency.

HARP has set up an emergency taskforce along with the council and public health organisations to take rough sleepers off the streets and safeguard them and the wider public from the spread of coronavirus. On people’s health and mental wellbeing, the remarkable David Stanley of the Music Man Project has risen to the challenge of teaching during the lockdown and is personally calling every one of his students who has got learning disabilities and engaging with them through a video conference session. Another organisation that helps people with mental health problems is Growing Together, which, through its wonderful leadership, is bringing positive change to people who experience mental health problems and is messaging individuals to support them.

Earls Hall Baptist Church has said, “You can have our building. Do what you want with it.” Nazareth House, which I mentioned at Prime Minister’s Question Time, has been evacuated and offered to house doctors. Grosvenor House Hotel has offered its building. This morning, we phoned the Royal British Legion. Members who are under 70 are running errands for those unable to shop or collect prescriptions.

However, in the context of the crux of the Opposition motion, there are undoubtedly problems for charities. The British Legion has had to cancel fundraising activities, particularly for the 75th anniversary, and is worried about its finances. Age Concern Southend has seen the closure of shops and suspension of services, and is very worried about the situation as well.

The shadow Chancellor might have an answer to this, if he replies to the debate, but in simple economic terms we are all saying that we have to get financial help to the self-employed and to every facet of society. I am very much in favour of that, but if we keep giving more and more money, will the country go bust, meaning it will be very difficult to run a successful economy afterwards? Or will we all, throughout the world, have to reset the value of our currencies? Presumably, somewhere in the Treasury someone is working on this deep, deep problem.

On the subject of the financial measures that the Opposition are worried about, I have four emails to touch on quickly. A lady has emailed me today saying that she is a self-employed sole trader. She is a seamstress and works regularly altering people’s clothes, especially for weddings and proms. Her husband is a key worker as a bus driver. He is okay—he can get money—but what is she going to do? Another person says that her husband is self-employed as a foot health practitioner. Of course, elderly people want podiatry to continue, but it cannot at the moment. She does not have any income, so what can we do to help? Another person has said that her partner works as a cook in a local private nursery. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and is concerned about her vulnerability to covid-19. What are she and her family going to do?

On a slightly different subject, the fourth email is from someone saying that she is diabetic and has her 74-year-old mother staying with her. They are following the Government’s advice on staying indoors, and they have tried all day to book a delivery slot. She has a three-year-old who needs feeding and everywhere is booked up, and those offering priority slots for vulnerable people are uncontactable. She says to me, quite rightly:

“How are we supposed to stay indoors with no food and no way of getting any!”

There are all types of lists. What about wedding planners? I have one daughter who was married last year, and another who is going to get married this year. People are dealing with the emotional stress of that, but the people who run these businesses and are self-employed are asking what they are going to do.

I could burden the Minister of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke), and the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a never-ending list of questions on which we need answers. Members of Parliament from all parties very much want the Government to get through this crisis and to succeed, and I think they are genuinely not being too critical of what is happening at the moment.

I was in business before I became an MP, and we as Members of Parliament do not need to worry about where our salaries will come from. We are paid from the public purse, and there are many other people in that situation. The risk of running a business is a huge one in itself, and when someone is self-employed and might not have put the money aside for their pension or all those other things, it is even more challenging. My hon. Friend the Minister was wonderful in what he did to help on caravans and motorhomes, which is only a drop in the ocean compared with what we are dealing with now, and I know that he and his team must be working on this problem. I share the frustration of Opposition Members, who obviously wanted to be in this place to question Ministers when the package is announced, and we obviously will not be here to do so. I do not know whether there can be some videoconferencing, but there will be many questions that Ministers and their advisers have not thought about. I say again that we as Members of Parliament, with our small teams, are expected to come up with the answers. People are very worried and very frightened at the moment, and it would be so helpful if we could somehow have an increased availability of hotlines to deal with all these issues.

Madam Deputy Speaker, we, of all nations, know more than most that by working together and supporting each other we will get through this national crisis.

Motorhomes and Vehicle Excise Duty

David Amess Excerpts
Tuesday 21st January 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Order. I call the Minister.

Simon Clarke Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Simon Clarke)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones) for bringing this topic to the House today. I am grateful to all Members who have taken the time to attend and intervene and who have taken the chance to stand up for their constituents. This debate makes it clear that while motorhomes may make up only a small proportion of the vehicle fleet on our roads, they play an important role.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Order. I sense that there is some confusion about this debate. It is a half-hour debate. The sponsor of the motion speaks and then the Minister replies. It is for other Members to intervene. Unless permission is obtained, the debate is not for other Members to make separate speeches. There are still many Members here who have attended because they are interested in the matter, but it is simply that they can make interventions.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will of course be happy to take such interventions if colleagues wish to make them. I may regret saying that in a moment, but I will take the chance for now.

As I was saying a moment ago, we recognise the importance of this sector for our tourism economy and that it supports thousands of skilled jobs right across the United Kingdom and, indeed, in certain clusters. Yorkshire is obviously one of those.

To recap the situation, the Government use the vehicle excise duty system to encourage the take-up of vehicles with low CO2 emissions to help meet our legally binding climate change targets. The new VED regulations were introduced in September to aid that, as motorhomes with higher emissions are liable to higher rates of VED than those with lower emissions. After all, transport is the largest sector for UK greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for some 27% of the total. Road transport makes up more than 90% of that.

Summer Adjournment

David Amess Excerpts
Thursday 25th July 2019

(4 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Before the House adjourns for the summer recess, there are a number of points I wish to make. It is really good to see so many colleagues recognising that this is such a valuable debate.

The all-party parliamentary fire safety and rescue group will not shut up until sprinklers are installed in all high-rise buildings and the cladding issue is dealt with following the disaster at Grenfell, just as I will not shut up about city status until it is awarded to Southend-on-Sea. I am glad that the new Prime Minister has said we are going to get it.

Two of my constituents, Stephen and Rosalind Clifton, have paid full contributions for 47 years and, extraordinarily, now find that they do not qualify for a full state pension, so I want an answer from the Treasury Bench on that.

Recently, Mrs Margaret Tothill came to my surgery and told me that in January this year, her granddaughter, Maisie, died in her sleep from a sudden epileptic seizure at the age of 22. The condition is called sudden unexpected death in epilepsy or SUDEP. The charity SUDEP Action has been helping the family with their loss and is calling on the Government to do more to prevent such incidents. Specifically, it is calling for a Government inquiry into avoidable epilepsy deaths and a funded annual risk check for people with epilepsy.

I am very concerned about the number of constituents whose visit visas are being turned down. There does not seem to be any fairness in this. An Australian constituent of mine signed up to an organisation called Sopra Steria and paid £2,400 to try to get a visa. It was a complete mess and now they find they have lost their money and they are having to pay for access again.

Carl Beech—I mean, for goodness’ sake! Harvey Proctor was my neighbour when I was Member of Parliament for Basildon. Leon Brittan died with his name being trashed, and there is Lord Bramall. The way the courts dealt with this matter just is not good enough. People can never restore their reputations, but there should be some compensation. My former colleague, Harvey Proctor, has lost everything, including his home and any future employment.

I recently had a meeting with the Schools Minister—I hope that he is still the Schools Minister—together with my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge) , regarding primary and secondary school funding in our area. We are losing out to London’s schools. Darlinghurst Academy has recently had a wonderful Ofsted report, and I congratulate Emma Nicholls, the executive head, and Mrs Beverley Williams, on all that they have achieved.

I was once a paid advocate for the Caravan Club, although I am not any more. It has advised me that two motor homes that are identical in almost every way can be charged either £265 or £2,135 in vehicle excise duty. This really needs to be looked at by the Treasury, and these vehicles should be classified as commercial vehicles. Recently, I parked my car on a meter but did not have my mobile phone—

Lord Walney Portrait John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Ind)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess
- Hansard - -

Yes, but I just want to point out that the clock has not stopped. Okay—it has now.

Lord Walney Portrait John Woodcock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman is making a really important point. Is he aware that many manufacturers around the country, including Forge Europa in Ulverston, which makes lights for many motor homes, are deeply concerned by this proposed tax change?

John Bercow Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the clock was not functioning, it must have been because it was smiling on the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), perhaps because it approves of his views on Southend city status. Who knows?

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess
- Hansard - -

You are too generous, Mr Speaker. I did not want to deprive other colleagues of their time, but I thank the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) for making that point.

Prost8 tells us that 12,000 chaps lose their lives as a result of prostate cancer every year. I congratulate Paul Sayer, a local constituent, on his work on this. We had a reception in the Jubilee Room that was attended by colleagues, and a new non-invasive treatment is now available.

Last weekend, I was in Albania supporting the National Council of Resistance in Iran and visiting the home of Mother Teresa, but I could not see a statute of Norman Wisdom. We really need to do more to support those people, and it was great to visit Ashraf-3 camp.

On ending the debt trap, I absolutely support The Sun newspaper’s “Stop the credit rip-off” campaign. So many of our constituents are being tempted to get even further into debt, which is not satisfactory.

All colleagues apparently love Southend airport, but the residents of Wells Avenue are not too keen on the huge jets that are now are pouring fumes into their back gardens. I am meeting them on Friday, when I hope we can deal with that matter.

I recently attended the Tamil sports day. They are wonderful people, but there is still concern about the people lost in Jaffna, and we need some reconciliation there.

The Smart Energy Partnership showcase is doing its best to help blind and partially sighted people to switch suppliers.

A local constituent called Kelly Swain is an absolute inspiration for what she has done for Young Minds to show how beneficial alternative therapies can support people with their various challenges.

Recently, I attended the hearing loss action day—I think I am beginning to need help with that myself—in Southend, and it was very good indeed in the way it was run.

Mrs Sharon Williams and the N-Act Theatre Company are touring Essex with shows that are trying to encourage young people to turn away from crime.

South Essex College has built a new facility in Stephenson Road, and it is doing a wonderful job with apprenticeships. Westcliff High School for Girls is now the computer hub for the whole of Essex, which is a wonderful achievement. It is a marvellous school.

The Lighthouse care home is a wonderful care home that is helping people with learning difficulties.

I recently visited the Refill Room, where Gemma and Alan are recycling products, and I support them.

I recently hosted the Bengal Pride awards in the House of Commons.

Jota Aviation is giving all sorts of opportunities to young people to go into the aviation industry.

Figure of Eight is helping people with learning difficulties, and we saw the unveiling of pictures by some of its pupils.

The South East Essex Schools Music Association festival was a wonderful celebration of musical talent at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend.

The 150th anniversary of St Helen’s Church was led by the Philippine community and was a wonderful day of celebration. The mosque open day in Southend was a great success.

Armed Forces Day was on 29 June, but it is so sad that Charles Benford has died today at the age of 100 before he could be awarded the freedom of Southend. That is such a shame.

Leigh Town Council’s community day was a wonderful event.

I wish all colleagues, the Speaker, the Deputy Speakers, and all the servants of the House a very happy summer. I am looking forward to returning on 3 September and getting Brexit done.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill

David Amess Excerpts
2nd reading: House of Commons & Programme motion: House of Commons
Wednesday 10th July 2019

(4 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2017-19 View all Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2017-19 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith), who has been a consistent champion of animal welfare since the moment she was elected to this House.

Hooray—Parliament is doing something! At long last we are making it worth while to come here. Colleagues should recognise that this is a broken Parliament. Why is it broken? Because we had an ill-advised general election, which my party obviously decided to hold. It was a disastrous result from my party’s point of view. We lost our majority and cobbled together some sort of alliance with the Democratic Unionist party. It has taken the business managers, who have come and gone over the past two years, a long time to get a grip on what to do in this sort of Parliament. At long last, they seem to have realised that there are things we can do. The Chief Whip has just disappeared, but one of his colleagues is on the Treasury Bench. I say to the business managers: if my party is struggling with a legislative programme for the new Queen’s Speech, why not consult the hon. Member for Southend West? I have a whole range of measures on which I think we could get some sort of cross-party support. Our constituents are very frustrated about the situation. If we are not going to have a general election, we cannot just keep on discussing meaningless motions. We have to get on and do something, and we could do a whole raft of things that could improve the quality of life in this country.

There is no point in our legislating on anything unless we enforce the legislation, so I was puzzled by the exchange earlier when my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) challenged my hon. Friend the Minister about cruelty to tethered horses. I listened to an Adjournment debate led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) on that very same issue. It is a puzzle to me, because in 1988, through a ten-minute rule Bill that became an Act of Parliament—the noble Lord Hogg was the Minister at the time—we got on to the statute book an Act to stop horses, ponies and donkeys being cruelly tethered and to make sure that they were properly watered and fed. For goodness’ sake, what has happened to that Act of Parliament? I realise that the longer we are here —I will come to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin) in a moment—the more we are forgotten, but that is an Act of Parliament. If we have the law already, it is no good people jumping up with suggestions; we need to do something. We need to enforce the law that already exists, so I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will do something about that.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does this measure not try to address that very point? We are all extremely frustrated that a good law is not being properly enforced; this measure might help.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess
- Hansard - -

My right hon. Friend, who has years of wisdom and experience, is yet again absolutely right. My hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin) mentioned the fact that had he been listened to in 2006, the measure we are discussing would have already happened.

I am not going to fall out with the Opposition, but the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) has heard me say before that when the new Labour leader became Prime Minister in 1997, he and his team consulted a huge range of animal charities, and there was, over Labour’s 13 years in government, some disappointment about the failure to deliver. That is except for one issue, on which I might fall out with one or two colleagues, and that is foxhunting. I have always felt—in those days, there were just four or five of us—that the Labour party did a good thing on foxhunting. However, I absolutely empathise with my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire in respect of those 13 years.

Anna Turley Portrait Anna Turley (Redcar) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I just want to add to the debate something that has not really been discussed. The most recent Labour Government introduced the Animal Welfare Act 2006, under which provision was made to increase sentencing to imprisonment of up to 51 weeks and a fine not exceeding £20,000. We did amend the law, but it never got enacted, which was bizarre. It is important to recognise that we did try to take steps. I do not know why that was not enacted.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess
- Hansard - -

I do not think we can have an intervention on an intervention, but the hon. Lady makes a good and valid point that it seems my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire is going to deny.

Bill Wiggin Portrait Bill Wiggin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid I am. I urge the House also to consider the case of lost dogs, which are now returned to councils rather than to the police. The criminal justice legislation that would have changed sentencing in the way the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley) just mentioned was never brought forward by that Labour Government, so I am afraid the buck stopped very much with the Labour Government of the time. Indeed, the Minister concerned subsequently served at Her Majesty’s pleasure himself.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess
- Hansard - -

Madam Deputy Speaker, I have already been speaking for six minutes and I have not even started my speech, so I need to move on quickly. We want to get this legislation on to the statute book quickly, and people will be frustrated.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald) mentioned Finn’s law. Given that you are a fellow Essex Member of Parliament, Madam Deputy Speaker, and that my hon. Friend the Member for Clacton (Giles Watling) was interested in the matter, I should say that I was privileged to be at the event at which Paul Nicholls, together with the chief of police, unveiled the monument to police dogs. I met Finn and the whole thing was just a tear-jerker. My right hon. and learned Friend spoke about the dog barking when the legislation went through the House of Lords, and I can testify to that.

Now to my brief speech. It is true that a dog is a man’s best friend but, as we have heard already, there are too many examples of cruelty. There is a danger that we will talk about more and more horrific things, such as dogs being forced to fight against each other and the latest thing, which is sport trophy hunting. How is it that companies can be trying to attract Brits to go abroad, where these magnificent animals are enclosed, so that they can cut off their tusks and heads and so on? It is absolutely barbaric. Shame on anyone who goes on one of those holidays.

I am told that 26% of households in the United Kingdom own a dog and 18% own a cat. The vast majority of British people look after their pets well. We have one or two farmers present; introducing children to animals at an early age is a good way to get them to treat animals well. I know that not all children can necessarily empathise with animals, but I think that that would help. I join others in saying I am so glad that, as a developed country renowned for its historical championing of animal welfare, we are to have this legislation.

In 2017, the RSPCA investigated 141,760 complaints. That is a huge number. In 2018, the RSPCA phone line received 1.1 million calls. I am sure that none of them was made from the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois), but an awful lot were certainly made in Essex. The way in which the animals are protected is the first vital part of the Bill. The second important part is that it will act as a deterrent. The Bill recognises that the root of the problem is really with animal abusers, and although it may take a few months to kick in, all the literature that I have read agrees that this legislation will act as a meaningful deterrent.

There are too many examples of animal cruelty. Recently, in a national newspaper, we heard about a French bulldog that had just had puppies. How could someone have chained that dog to a car—we all saw it—and dragged it along the road? That is just horrendous, and the person responsible has still not been caught. I am glad to say that the RSPCA is on the case.

Just last week, The Independent reported that a driver in Somerset was luring birds on to a road with chips before mowing them down. That is sick behaviour beyond belief. In another shocking example, which took place at the end of last year, a man in the UK hit a dog with a hammer and strangled it with a washing line just because it was getting on his nerves—perhaps he had mental health problems. None the less, these are absolutely despicable incidents, and they are happening in our country.

Mark Francois Portrait Mr Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend mentioned dogs. He will recall that, seven years ago, he and I helped to co-open the Dogs Trust Rehoming Centre at Nevendon in my constituency. I visited it again last week. Will he join me in commending the superb work that it does, rehoming nearly 900 dogs a year? If he wants to talk about compassionate, loving and focused animal welfare, the Dogs Trust is about as good as it gets, and Lisa Cooper and all her staff there are a living embodiment of that.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess
- Hansard - -

And the Dogs Trust will be very pleased with that plug that my right hon. Friend has given it. I was there. It is a magnificent Dogs Trust, and my own family has had two rescue pugs from it over the years. It is absolutely fantastic.

My right hon. Friend has just reminded me that, when I entered this place for the first time, animal welfare did not have the high priority that it does today. That is not criticising the background of colleagues; it is just saying that we did not give the matter as high a profile as we do today. I do remember, though, that when my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire had a wonderful debate on monkeys, the House was absolutely packed—but that was quite a rarity.

Greg Knight Portrait Sir Greg Knight
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for all the work that he has done on this subject during his parliamentary career; he is really committed to the issue of animal welfare. I hope, therefore, that he will be prepared to volunteer to be a member of the Committee on this Bill, to see that the Minister does indeed look at the important issue of enforcement.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess
- Hansard - -

Embarrassingly, my right hon. Friend recognises that I am susceptible to flattery, but as I am on the Panel of Chairs, I do not think that I can also serve on the Committee, much as I would like to.

Let me go back to the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act 1988. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford was a councillor in Basildon, we opened the horse and pony sanctuary in Pitsea. It is tragic that this big event has been completely whitewashed and here we have legislation and it is not even being enforced. That is very disappointing.

Controversial lady though my good friend Ann Widdecombe is, she and I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill for endangered species some time ago. I am very glad that the Animal Welfare Act 2006—she was still here then—has been as effective as it has.

In 2017, the RSPCA investigated all these complaints. My final point is that there have been only 1,492 prosecutions, so we have a huge number of complaints—more than 1 million phone calls—but very few prosecutions. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will address that. It is very good that we are increasing sentences from six months to over two years, but is there a problem with resources? Do we not have the enforcement officers with local authorities? I am told that the cost of everything that we are putting in place today is about £500,000, which I realise is an awful lot of money.

Bill Wiggin Portrait Bill Wiggin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think that my hon. Friend is suggesting that he would like to see the number of convictions going up. Actually, I would like to see the number of convictions going down, because people who are committing acts of hideous cruelty are going to prison for a lot longer and are therefore less likely to do the same thing again and are less likely to involve an animal. We should judge this not by the number of convictions, but by the success with which the Bill delivers proper justice for those creatures.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend articulates the point that, hopefully, this sentencing will be an effective deterrent, so we will not have the same number of complaints.

On 23 May, I asked a question in this House about the lack of animal welfare officers in local authorities. I hope that the Minister might have some news on that, because, possibly, 440 RSPCA inspectors and 50 welfare officers are not enough to tackle this problem.

I repeat: this is a broken Parliament; but in a perverse way, I am glad that animals have benefited from the legislative opportunity that has arisen because it is broken. May we, in the weeks and months ahead, pass much more legislation such as this.

IR35 Tax Reforms

David Amess Excerpts
Thursday 4th April 2019

(5 years ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Ged Killen) for securing the debate—I am sorry, I should have done that earlier. I was in the loan charge debate, which has been suspended because rain is penetrating the main Chamber, so I came over to this debate. I want to add something now that I said in the other debate. Until the past three or four years, many of the early adopters of the loan charge were doing so with the strong advice of chartered accountants. In my earlier speech, I included at least two pieces of evidence to show that there was no uncertainty about the loan charge—it was legitimate. One was a memo written by an HMRC staff member in 2006 about loan arrangements being legitimate, fine and approved; the other was the Rangers case.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Order. I am not sure whether the hon. Lady is making an intervention or a separate speech.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope that the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) will have a look at some of the contributions made during the other debate. Having done so, he will be able to agree with me that there is a lot of confusion and that people were not behaving illegally.

--- Later in debate ---
David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Colleagues will have noticed that the House has adjourned because of a water leak. However, that does not affect these proceedings, which can continue until 4.30 pm. I call the Minister.

Puppy Smuggling

David Amess Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd April 2019

(5 years ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
- Hansard - -

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston) on introducing this debate, but we have discussed this issue so many times and now we need action. I rather agree with the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith), in that I look to my hon. Friend the Minister to do something about this issue.

I have had two rescued pugs—a difficult breed. At the moment, we have a French bulldog; my daughter has it at the weekends, and my wife and I have it during the week, so we have the best of both worlds. Of course, puppies are very cute, but looking after them is a huge responsibility.

As we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire, an unintended consequence of the pet travel scheme and the relaxation of EU legislation has been an increase of smuggled puppies into the UK. It appears that those smugglers have easily been able to falsify pet passports and vaccine documentation, because enforcement at the borders is simply not good enough. It would be wonderful if my hon. Friend the Minister could explain how he and the Department intend to deal with the issues we face at those borders.

In 2012, when the rules were relaxed, the number of dogs entering the UK under PETS increased by 61%, and the age at which they could be imported was reduced from about 10 months to just 15 weeks. That has made it easier for smugglers to flout the rules and bring in unvaccinated puppies who are too young to travel.

As we have already heard, we are a nation of animal lovers; let us prove it. Through a simple Bill, we could change the way in which puppies are treated, and dealing with the wicked online behaviour of these crooks and criminals is key to that. We need to hear a strong message from the Minister.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Westminster Hall would not be complete without Jim Shannon.

Christmas Adjournment

David Amess Excerpts
Thursday 20th December 2018

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Before the House adjourns for the Christmas recess, there are a number of points that I wish to raise. I will not sulk at this wonderful debate being downgraded—some might say—to Westminster Hall. It is not quite like having it in the Chamber; it is cosy and intimate, and we will just have to see how it develops.

I recently met Chris Green, director of the Summer Camps Trust. Thousands of children benefit every year from the experience of summer camp, learning new skills, meeting new friends and enjoying the countryside. Many young people are also trained to be team leaders, giving them valuable skills for the future. I urge the Government to look into the wider provision of summer camps.

My local football team, Southend United, have broken their losing run. I am glad to say that, under their excellent owner and manager, we are now looking perhaps to reach the play-offs and have a stadium. I visited them in August, when they hosted the Community and Education Trust, which involved three teams of young people who were planning a social action project. I commend the National Citizen Service for providing opportunities for young people to give something back to the community in which they live.

Earlier this year I visited Heycroft Primary, an excellent local school, for a fundraising event in aid of mental health charities Young Minds and Mind. The wonderful organiser, Kelly Swain, educated herself about self-help wellbeing therapies, and her aim is to make a difference to families who suffer from mental health issues. The day was a great success, and I look forward to working with her in the future.

My constituent Mark Rice recently drove over a faulty manhole cover and sustained significant damage to his car. Apparently the local council are not responsible for this, and neither is the water company. So who is responsible for this? Mr Rice has had to pay for the repairs, and he is rightly concerned that this will affect his future insurance premiums. I encourage the Government and the water company to look into this case and see if we can get an answer.

Another of my constituents, Ms Pauline Morris, recently met me to discuss non-invasive prenatal testing. Such a test can provide the parents with indicators on the presence of Down’s syndrome. I thought that the usual amniocentesis test was enough, but apparently it is not any more. Too many women have to go through the old-style test, which can, depending on the results, necessitate further and potentially dangerous tests. The solution is non-invasive prenatal testing. The chairman of the Southend clinical commissioning group has informed me that the test will be rolled out over three years. That is not soon enough, and I call again on the Government to see whether they can speed up this non-invasive testing.

A Southend lady called Sue Lesser launched a book called “Take a Poem with Breakfast”. The collection, written by her, is dedicated to all people living with dementia—it is really in honour of her mother, who suffers from it—and any profit will go to the Alzheimer’s Society. I hope that she sells out of copies of her book.

I spoke in a recent debate in Westminster Hall, when it was a pleasure for me to congratulate all the staff and volunteers at Southend University Hospital on the wonderful work they do. Del and Lindsay Rudd contacted me earlier this year to tell me about their personal experiences. I was not surprised to learn that the renal unit is, in the words of Del and Lindsay,

“a credit to the Hospital, the Town and the NHS.”

I could not agree more. Another constituent, Helen Prince, came to my surgery. She is an ambassador for the 70/30 Campaign, which is working towards a 70% reduction in child abuse and neglect by 2030. As a parent myself, I absolutely support her campaign and I hope that everyone in the House will sign up to it as well.

I have been trying to get some answers on behalf of my constituent, Carolyn Mason. Anyone can set up an employment agency—indeed, I used to run one before I became a Member of Parliament. I think the regulations are too lax at the moment. Ms Mason is a reputable owner, but there is some sharp practice going on in the industry generally.

Last week I asked the Leader of the House for a debate on the stress and anxiety caused by scam telephone calls and emails. All of us, as Members of Parliament, receive them all the time. Sadly, my constituent Ben Giles recently lost half of his savings as a result of such a call—this is a highly intelligent gentleman. I cannot stress enough the importance of stopping this wicked practice.

I dread to think how many accidents happen when pedestrians cross busy roads. Another constituent, Cliff Short, is better placed than most to comment on the situation, as he has been a police officer and a taxi driver for some 30 years. After identifying zebra crossings as a point of danger—extraordinarily—Mr Short created “red zebra”. When pedestrians approach a crossing, the flashing beacon switches from yellow to red, alerting drivers of the presence of a pedestrian. It is a simple but potentially life-saving idea, so I hope the Department for Transport will look at it.

I am proud to be the president of the Leigh Orpheus male voice choir, which sang in the Palace of Westminster earlier this year. This is its 50th anniversary.

Recently, a number of my Essex colleagues went on a boat trip down the River Thames. A number of people might say that it was a pity it did not sink, but we successfully negotiated the way from Tilbury to Southend pier. The trip was to support Essex Port of London Authority, to learn more about planned infrastructure projects, and to look at the Thames crossing and a potential new Thames barrier. We heard about opportunities for the expansion of the port of Tilbury and the benefits to the economies of both Essex and Kent. I support both those projects. Essex PLA is looking at providing a commuter service from the end of Southend pier into the City of London.

Hippo Cabs is a wonderful organisation that ensures that elderly residents who are disabled actually have a life. It offers a first-class service. I very much support Mr and Mrs Biswas, who run that wonderful service.

We yet again had our annual centenarian tea party in October. I have worked out that, in 34 years, I will qualify for one myself if I am around then. It would perhaps be unique for a Member of Parliament to do that. The pupils of Westcliff High School for Boys did a splendid job of engaging with those centenarians.

At long last, at Fair Havens, our wonderful new hospice, we had a sod-turning ceremony in October. We are about £850,000 short, but it will be opened in February 2020.

Like the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), Southend had a visit from the Taiwanese ambassador recently. It was a wonderful visit, and he said that he enjoyed it more than Cleethorpes. [Laughter.] He didn’t actually. He was shown the Forum, the Focal Point gallery, South Essex College and Ventrica, a local company. I hope there will be some trading opportunities opened up into the future.

We have a wonderful jazz centre in Southend. Digby Fairweather welcomed Sir Michael Parkinson to open it. I hope that people throughout the United Kingdom and the wider world will visit it.

Last month, I visited the local watch station of the National Coastwatch Institution, which provides a vital service in monitoring the coastal waters and keeping watch for emergencies such as overturned boats or fishermen in trouble—I do not know whether it would have helped the Essex Members if our boat turned over. Other activities such as surfing, diving and canoeing are also monitored. We should not take its service for granted.

We had a wonderful active ageing day in Southend. It reinforced the idea that if people keep active as they age, they will live longer.

Earlier, the House paid tribute to Les and his two colleagues, who have a combined 120 years of service to this House—absolutely fantastic. We are very grateful to all the people who help us go about our business in the House. They are wonderful.

I recently hosted a reception for the National Association of Boys and Girls Clubs. I was once patron of Basildon Boys Club, which does a fantastic job. Belonging to a club gives young people a great start in life, a place to go, things to do, and helps them develop positive relationships, so I really do commend them.

This November was complex regional pain syndrome awareness month. I met the charity Burning Nights and CRPS patients to hear about what more can be done to support those living with the painful condition. We laugh about people who have got a back problem, but it is not very funny to have one. The problem cannot be seen. In the UK, an estimated 15,000 people are diagnosed with the condition each year. There is some lack of awareness among GPs and others, so we need to do more to raise awareness about it.

I have been honoured to be the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on endometriosis. I would like to give a special mention to a local constituent, Carla Cressy, who has been instrumental in forming the group, which has a wonderful make-up. Through her charity, she has been campaigning for greater support for the 1.5 million women in the UK living with that dreadful condition. Raising awareness of endometriosis in schools and among healthcare professionals and employers is critical to ensuring patients get the right treatment and support. I look forward to the meeting next month with the Under-Secretary.

We were all invited to the reception in the House of Commons organised by the British Toy and Hobby Association, which does a very good job in raising awareness of unsafe and dangerous toys. Local charities in Southend were very grateful for the toys it donated.

Hollie Gemmell is a parish nurse and fitness consultant in Southend. She organises dance shows designed to help the elderly reminisce, exercise and have fun. Her shows are very popular. She really does a wonderful job for elderly people.

Last week, Southend Borough Council approved ambitious plans for building an exciting and prosperous future for the town. Looking forward to 2050, the plans set out a vision for Southend that will create a place to live, work and visit that we can all be proud of. It includes investment in our roads, regeneration for our High Street, which my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) mentioned this morning, and open spaces to help us flourish as a digital city. I welcome this opportunity.

I make no apology for thinking that it is obviously an oversight that Southend is not already a city. I will not desist from raising this issue in the House at every opportunity until we become a city.

In the Amess household on 25 December, the word “Brexit” is banned. Every time I leave my house, someone stops me and wants to talk about Brexit. When I go shopping, everyone wants to talk about Brexit. When I am on the train, they want to talk about Brexit. I am sick to death of hearing the word “Brexit”, so on 25 December, it will not be mentioned in our house. Regardless of what the House decides, I will be leaving the European Union at 11 o’clock on 29 March next year. I wish all colleagues a very happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous new year.

David Hanson Portrait David Hanson (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call Siobhain McDonagh.