Conservatives step up campaign to protect green fields
Conservatives this week stepped up the pressure on the Government on its plans to bulldoze Oxfordshire’s greenfields, by publishing ‘Prescott’s Greenfield Hitlist’ – a comprehensive survey of the Government’s regional plans for new concrete development.
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The document highlights that in the South East alone, 39,000 houses are to be built every year, 2,430 of them in Oxfordshire with 40 per cent of these being constructed on Greenfield sites. Labour’s Housing Minister, Nick Raynsford, asserted that Labour would punish those councils failing to comply with these plans.
Boris Johnson said:
“Before Labour were elected, they pledged to defend our greens spaces from over-development. Tony Blair declared he ‘loved’ England’s countryside. Yet like on so many other issues, people in Oxfordshire have been let down by Labour.
“The Government are depriving local communities of their say on planning by transferring decision-making to unaccountable and distant regional bodies. Having silenced local opposition, John Prescott is planning to bulldoze Oxfordshire’s greenfields. I appreciate the very real need for more affordable housing in Oxfordshire, but it should be up to local people to decide responsibly where and how much. This Government patently does not trust them to do this, so these decisions are now being imposed from above.
It’s time to expose what the Government and their regional bureaucrats are planning – their concrete blueprints are bad for local democracy and bad for the environment.”
A copy of ‘Prescott’s greenfield hitlist’ is available at:
The last time this country was offered a referendum on Europe, I was one of four children under 10 lolling on the back seat of our Renault Four. It had a peculiar gearstick, and the driver could find reverse only after various undignified contortions – rather like Tony Blair. Those were the days before seatbelts in the back, and we used to bounce around so merrily that by the end of any long voyage our bench was a glorified vomitorium. We also had a bumper sticker, and it said “Yes to Europe!”
Of course it did. It was 1975, and those were the days when saying yes to Europe meant saying yes to so many things that were obviously good and civilised. It meant yes to tariff-free French wine; yes to your right to become a dentist in Brussels; yes to spaghetti al vongole; yes to selling life insurance to the Germans; yes to the high, happy, innocent ideals of free trade and co-operation with our friends and partners.
How changed, mes amis, is the modern European Union from that Common Market, and how it continues to octopus itself into every corner of our lives – including the back seats of our cars. Under Mr Blair’s amazing U-turn, the public will now be invited to support a new “constitution” for this country and the rest of the continent. The text contains various federalising advances that have been well-trailed, and which are likely to remain whatever is agreed in June: European presidents, European foreign policy supremos complete with European foreign policy, European judicial harmonisation, human rights charters and all the rest of it.
You may or may not think these things, on their own, are enough to deserve a No vote; but let us concentrate for now on the way the treaty extends the system of majority voting – by which national governments can be overruled – and which I believe to be deeply corrupting of democracy.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak about an excellent school. The debate is very much a two-handed affair: the European school at Culham is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), but is attended by the children of a number of my constituents in west Oxfordshire and of constituents throughout Oxfordshire. My hon. Friend and I had a pact to apply for an Adjournment debate in the hope that one of us would be successful, and it fell to me. We want to put on record the role of this school and our concerns about its future, and we want some quality time with the Minister, whom I am glad to see in her place.
A lot of debates in Westminster Hall bring forward problems, but we like to think that we are bringing forward an opportunity for Oxfordshire and the country at large. Culham is an excellent school – a little gem. All we are asking is that everyone who has a stake in the school – the local education authority, the European Commission, the Government and the teachers, parents and board of governors – play a constructive role in trying to secure its future. That is what today’s debate is about: an invitation to the Minister to consider the school and to do what she can to help.
Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) on securing the debate and putting the case as succinctly and comprehensively as he could have done. We are trying to stop a very good school being closed.
Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Does the Minister agree that there is no point whatsoever in sending the Parthenon marbles back to Athens, since there is no prospect of those sculptures ever being viewed in situ on the temple? To do so would be to rip the heart out of the British Museum, which is one of the great cultural landmarks of Europe, and whose defence ought to be a matter for the Minister and her Ministry.
The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): There are many facets to this debate, and I take the hon. Gentleman’s points. The British Museum contains world collections and receives more than 4.6 million visitors every year. People can see historic artefacts and heritage items gathered in one place. Although this is not quite to do with the hon. Gentleman’s point, the museum in Athens that could house the Parthenon sculptures, were they to be returned, is not yet ready, and we have no date for when it will be. In that respect, he was right. I am pleased that the sculptures are in the British Museum and part of a world collection. I am pleased that the number of people able to visit is increasing year by year.
I don’t know who handles the PR for these Canadian seal-clubbers, but it must be a hell of a job. Can there be any group, on the entire planet, that so excites the hatred of the British public? Not the Korean dog-eaters, nor the Italian butterfly-shooters, nor the Spanish goat-headyankers – no, not even the French, who, as we all know, eat our children’s ponies – no one can match the Canadian fisherman for provoking the Briton to tears of rage; and one can see why.
Here is a fellow who rises and puts on his great big waterproof boots and his great big waterproof hat. Then he picks up a horrible knobkerrie, studded with nails, gives his wife a loving kiss, and strides on to ice floes where he sets about him with a terrible Hutu-style slaughter. Bonk-bash-bonk he goes, like some demented axeman, and nothing will stop him. The telephoto lenses of the RSPCA cameras whirr and click.
Above him hover the helicopters chartered by the BBC, while live pictures of the horror are beamed into every living-room in this country. Does he care?
Does he hell. And it is not just any old beast that he brains, but a mammal, a creature like us that suckles its young; and it is a large, defenceless mammal, with both eyes in the front of its head, in that cute anthropomorphic way. It is a furry mammal, with a bark as winsome as any leal and faithful labrador.
One after another, biff-thunk-clunk, the Canadians are now beating these trusting little critters to death, thousands of them a day, until the snow runs red in that awful way we saw on the front of yesterday’s Independent newspaper.
Is there anyone who could possibly attempt to justify this kind of barbarity? Will anyone stand up for the seal cull? Well, ahem, at the risk of terminally alienating and offending animal-lovers across the country, it is the duty of this column – which ever puts logic above popularity – to have a go.
…”Hello,” says a voice you do not know. It is the voice of someone with a pen poised over your name on a list, ready to strike it off. It is the detached voice of the cold-call insurance salesperson, the double-glazing hawker, and the voice wants to know whether it is you speaking. Yes, you say, anxiety beginning to frost your heart, and you confirm that you are you. And then the voice wants to know whether you have an appointment for an operation on the coming Tuesday.
Yes, you say, and the chill of apprehension deepens. “I am sorry to inform you that your operation has been cancelled,” says the voice. “Please ring after 10am tomorrow.” And you slump back, exhausted and bewildered, facing another wait of unguessable duration, and the pain and the fear continue. That is how the NHS is treating patients every day across the country; and the doctors themselves believe it is a cruel and wanton waste of resources.