Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate. I add my support for the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee), who raised the issue of the plane being shot down over Ukraine and the problems that has caused, with all those people, from the Netherlands in particular but also from this country, being killed. We
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must send a message that that must not happen again and we must do much more about it, so I endorse his comments.
I want to refer first to the A303/A30. As we leave here for our recess, many people from all over the country will be moving down to the west country for the holidays. If they come from Birmingham, they will come down the M5 all the way to Exeter and will then get on the A30 down into Devon and Cornwall. That is great, but then we have all the traffic that comes from London. We want to see as many visitors as possible, because as my suntan shows—it has all come from Devon, not from foreign parts—we have wonderful weather. Everybody is most welcome. However, as visitors come from London, they come down the M4 and must also join the M5, so when the Birmingham traffic meets the London traffic there is absolute chaos. As you represent one of the Bristol seats, Madam Deputy Speaker, you will know that.
I am delighted that we will have a statement in the autumn, all being well, from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury giving money towards dualling the A303/A30, because it is essential that we have a second route in the west country. The traffic from London would then go down the M3, pick up the A303 and go on into Devon and Cornwall through Somerset and Wiltshire, and we would split the traffic between the midlands and London. At the moment, when the M5 or M4 is blocked, there is absolute chaos and hours and hours of traffic jam. The whole length of the A303/A30 needs to be dualled. There are five sections that need doing. The first is in Wiltshire at Stonehenge. It is extremely expensive because the powers that be seem to believe that we need a tunnel. I will not comment on the merits of that one way or the other, but it is expensive. The end that I represent, going into the Blackdown hills, is also expensive. I do not want to see the Government go shooting down the A303 and then shoot off on the A358 up to Taunton, because that road should be complementary. I am happy to have the A358 dualled, but we need the A303/A30 dualled all the way into Honiton to provide that second arterial route into the west country. Otherwise, if people join at Taunton, everything will be mixed back up on to the M5 and there will be complete chaos. That is why it is essential to dual the A303/A30. We can find a way to dual the route through the Blackdown hills without damaging the environment; we just have to be imaginative and make sure that we do it.
I welcomed the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), to my constituency. He drove the route with me to see where the problems are, and I look forward to the Government doing something about it in the very near future.
As we move into the 21st century, the one thing that matters to most, if not all, our constituents is access to fast broadband. Some of my constituents cannot even get snail’s pace broadband, let alone anything that is fast. There are huge problems even now in getting broadband into the Blackdown hills area, and places such as Upottery. I have an awful lot of farmers in my constituency who want to claim their single farm payments online. It is almost impossible to get access in some areas, so we really need to do something about it. I welcome
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what the Government have done already. Devon and Somerset county councils, along with BT, have put more than £100 million into delivering broadband, and Government money has been put in too. We have to make sure that it happens.
We have had a problem in the past—I think it is getting better—in that BT seemed a little secretive about where it was going next. It is all very well to be secretive about these matters, but of course people on the ground see the BT vans turn up and have a rough idea who is going to be connected and who is not, even if it does not appear on a BT map. That is where I hope that we are learning the lessons. I look forward to having broadband throughout the constituency. Unfortunately, a lot of spots are hard to reach. We are raising money in Devon and Somerset to deal with that, but Government money is necessary. It could be done by BT, or perhaps there could be some competition from other companies to deliver broadband to the hardest-to-reach areas. A little more competition might be a good thing. I have worked with the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), on broadband.
My constituency also has a lot of beef cattle and a lot of sheep. Recently we have seen the price of beef drop significantly, as has the price that farmers receive from cattle. One of the most worrying things is that a year ago 57% of the value of a beef animal went directly to the farmer, whereas now it is 53%. The processors, retailers or whoever are taking too much money out of the market. It is expensive to raise beef cattle, and not only are the cattle very good to eat but they look after the wonderful countryside that everyone is going to drive down the A303 to see. We look forward to people eating those animals when they get there, but we need to make sure that farmers get a decent price for them so that they can carry on producing this excellent meat.
When you come to Devon, you can also have some great lamb, Madam Deputy Speaker, if that is what you like to eat. I am not sure whether you do, but if you do you are most welcome to come to Devon and eat some of it. Again, it is a case of making sure that the farmers who produce that food get a fair market price because they are the ones who look after the countryside.
I have been delighted, Madam Deputy Speaker, to be able to speak in this pre-recess debate. I look forward to coming back in September. In the meantime, I say to you, the Speaker’s Office and all the staff of Parliament, thank you very much for looking after us so well, and we look forward to returning in the future.