§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call those Members who are to propose and second the motion on the Loyal Address, it may be for the convenience of the House if I set out the subjects that are suggested for the various days' debates: Thursday 7 November—home affairs; Friday 8 November—foreign affairs and overseas development; Monday 11 November—social security and education issues; Tuesday 12 November—industry and employment issues; Wednesday 13 November—the economy.
§ Sir Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)
beg to move,
That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, as follows:Most Gracious Sovereign,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.Throughout my time as a Member of this honourable House—about 20 years—I have often felt that I have received in all quarters more kindnesses and consideration than anything I have deserved. The privilege that I have in moving the motion strengthens that feeling, and I am very conscious of the honour that is accorded to me, which my constituency and city share.
My constituency consists mainly of pleasant residential areas, including large housing estates, on the southern side of Birmingham. There are only small areas of industrial activity in Hall Green, where the successful production and export of wirework goods, handbag frames and specialised marble cladding are carried on. The great majority of my constituents follow their careers in the commercial, industrial, education and administrative areas of Birmingham.
The schools of the King Edward foundation continue to temper strenuous sons and daughters from all kinds of Birmingham homes. Camp Hill, my own school, stands at the edge of the constituency.
Hall Green claims two famous sons who, in their different ways, have contributed to the cultural life of Britain. One is J. R. R. Tolkien, author of "Lord of the Rings" and other books of huge appeal. The other is Tony Hancock who appeared to have emigrated to the southeast, where he took up residence at 23 Railway cuttings, East Cheam, but I always thought that his humour continued to have a strong Brummagem flavour, as was exemplified in the "Blood Donor", when he said, "It's only a drop of blood to you, but it's life or death to me."
I referred to the large council housing estates in my constituency. They include tower blocks. Despite repeated efforts to improve administration on council housing estates, complaints from tenants about inefficiencies in repairs and transfers of tenancies continued unabated. I hope that the proposals for change in the Gracious Speech will lead to the development of more humane and efficient services to the great benefit of council tenants in my constituency, in Birmingham and throughout the country. The measures to encourage the purchase of flats by tenants will also be welcomed.
7 History has decreed that we have a very diverse and varied society in Birmingham. As a native, every day I see examples of kindness, tolerance and understanding. How else could we put up with each other? People from all groups in the city play active parts in community affairs and become local government and parliamentary candidates. Membership of the city council includes councillors from the ethnic minorities representing six wards in the city, including Handsworth. At the same time, it is fair to emphasise that there is on all sides a strong desire for improving standards. The urban aid programme is much welcomed. Since the Birmingham inner city partnership began in 1978, the Government have provided £125 million in special funds for improvement in the inner areas, including substantial housing renewal projects.
Throughout the city there is clear evidence of the wish for a wider spread of personal independence by way of home and small business ownership. This is accompanied by a powerfully developing desire for an orderly and law-abiding society in which people can live their lives in peace—doing their jobs, developing their businesses and looking after their families in a stable and civilised atmosphere, safe in their streets and homes. That is why the deplorable events at Handsworth came as a great shock, and it is right to make it clear that the overwhelming mass of Birmingham people of all origins—Afro-Caribbean, Asian, other varied groups and the large indigenous population—shared a sense of revulsion against the criminality which was seen as a threat to their security. We want to put those events behind us as soon as possible and to move on to better things. It is essential now that people throughout the city are involved in co-operation with the police in a firm resolve to protect their own law-abiding society. I believe that the measures referred to in the Gracious Speech relating to public order will provide a strengthened framework for this vital purpose.
Perhaps surprisingly for a great inland city, Birmingham has been and still is one of the best recruiting centres for my former service, the Royal Navy. There are so many Navy and former Navy men in the city that, if Drake's drum were to be hung anywhere, there is a strong case for suspending it over spaghetti junction.
It has to be admitted that Birmingham's economy, which is so dependent on manufacturing and on metal bashing industries, was in increasing difficulty during the 1970s as the competitive thrust of world trade sharpened. The world recession of 1980–81 intensified those problems in all industrial centres and struck harshly at Birmingham and the west midlands conurbation. Our great concern about unemployment includes the apprehension that essential modernisation and the adoption of advanced technology in industry can reduce the demand for manpower at a time when the work force is growing.
There is a great realism in Birmingham industry, which knows that we must match world competition in design, quality and cost of production to safeguard existing jobs and to create new ones. Great efforts are being made to meet this challenge and to diversify the local economy, to strengthen existing companies and to encourage the formation of more small businesses and of new service industries so that they all, in their various ways, make the best possible contribution to job creation.
8 We should acknowledge that progress has been made. The motor industry, which is so important to us—and especially British Leyland which has had substantial Government support—is leaner and fitter, producing an attractive range of new models. The components manufacturers—GKN, Lucas, Wilmott Breeden—and large numbers of smaller suppliers are fighting hard and well to beat strong international competition. Everyone wishing to support the cause of job creation must remember the importance of buying British. The reference in the Gracious Speech to Spain's entry into full membership of the European Community will be welcomed in Birmingham. As a result, one source of unfair competition for our motor industry will be brought under control.
With regard to engineering and manufacturing more generally in the second city, the abolition of the damaging industrial development certificates and the changes in regional policy of 1983 have reduced the severe disadvantages from which Birmingham and the west midlands have suffered for many years. Now grants are available from the Government and the European regional development fund to assist large and small companies to modernise, diversify and to get started.
Under the new regional policy, 156 grants in the west midlands have so far been offered—a total of £17.5 million of approved grants. Most important, with the addition of private money, the total investment associated with the approved projects amounts to £155.7 million, with 11,617 jobs to be created or safeguarded as a result. Another 147 applications are under appraisal. The renewed jewellery and gunsmiths quarter, housing several thousand jobs as highly-skilled operations, was achieved by grants of £1.7 million, attracting over £5 million of private sector investment.
Both Birmingham and Aston universities are contributing high scientific and technological skills to new industrial projects in the city. Remembering its tradition as the city of a thousand trades, Birmingham is encouraging new entrepreneurs. The capacity of Birmingham's small manufacturers should never be underrated. In Tudor times they flooded the entire kingdom with counterfeit coins.
There is a proposition that I should like the Government to consider. The Home Secretary has stated that he wishes to examine ways of bringing together the means and funds available to assist inner areas and to ensure their best and most effective employment. I agree with him in this approach. I ask my right hon. Friend and also my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to consider in this connection one vital basic aspect—the availability of land. There are considerable areas of derelict land in inner Birmingham, as in other cities. Much of it is in public ownership and it is valued at unrealistically high figures.
I look with some envy at the successful policy pursued by the Government in the redevelopment of London's docklands. Could not some agency be set up to put more drive into the process of bringing this land into practical use? I should like to see an agency assembling parcels of land for development and thus attracting more private funds for investment, making sites available for small industrial and business premises, as demand grows, and also making sites available for small homes for sale and for housing associations to provide more sheltered accommodation for the elderly.
9 The simplified planning zones proposal and the modernised and liberalised law for building societies, referred to in the Gracious Speech, give us new hope for progress in this way. The positive use of inner area wastelands would help to ease the pressure for green belt development and would add to all the efforts to stimulate activity in the inner areas.
Let me describe briefly the other factors and projects, some of them very large indeed, which will help to build up the new Birmingham. The National Exhibition Centre is a product of civic and Birmingham chamber of industry and commerce initiative. It is huge, popular and expanding, attracting thousands of overseas visitors to trade exhibitions, conferences and sporting events of international standard, providing demand for hotels, entertainment and related service industries. It is upon that unrivalled centre that Birmingham's bid for the Olympic games is based. The city will combine with nearby Stoneleigh park to provide supremely attractive facilities.
An added attraction of the city will be the annual Birmingham road race, making use of our unique road formations near the city centre and featuring marching bands and other entertainments for families, making it a festive occasion in the city at the heart of the motor industry. We intend to add the jewel in the crown with the new Birmingham convention centre to foster business tourism. We appreciate Government support for our application for European Community funds.
We shall extend cultural facilities in the city by providing a home for the superb city of Birmingham symphony orchestra under its outstanding conductor Simon Rattle. That will supplement the attraction of a lively theatre world and the renowned Birmingham art gallery. All this will enhance Birmingham's position at the centre of one of the country's premier tourist areas, which includes Warwick, Stratford-on-Avon and the Cotswolds.
Britain's major concentration of manufacturing and commercial activity is in Birmingham. We are proud of that, and we have in the city the energy and will to go forward.
§ Mr. Gerald Malone (Aberdeen, South)
I second the motion.
I suppose that the first thought that always occurs to those of us who are given this task and honour is why the eyes of the Patronage Secretary should have turned on us.
As I contemplated that thought over the past few days, I concluded that the Patronage Secretary's decision must have had something to do with his reading matter during the recess. I believe that I was mentioned in only one book that was published during the recess, and I thought that my right hon. Friend might have read the flattering reference to me in that book.
I refer hon. Members on both sides of the House to the publication "Humming Birds and Hyenas". Of course, I maintain that the humming birds are on the Government side, and I shall say nothing about the hyenas. I was sure that the Patronage Secretary had read the reference to me, which started, rather flatteringly:No one should doubt Malone's profound commitment to getting on.So far, so good. It went on, rather strangely:Malone, though, is ill-served by his physical appearance"—[Laughter.] I am glad that the House contradicts that view— 10He has very small eyes that, as they constantly swivel for a better view of the main chance, seem to be operating independently of one another.It is one thing to be thought of as having an independent mind; it is quite another to have the fact testified to by one's eyeballs. The reference continued:He is also a hard, combative, aggressive man, temperamentally not equipped for the graceful side of politics.No wonder the Patronage Secretary chose me for this great honour.
However, the quality of the judgment of the author, who seems to be called Edward Pearce—obviously a nom de plume which must have caused great irritation to the sketch writer of the Daily Telegraph—can be assessed by the fact that, after saying all that, he concluded:
And I like him.I am deeply grateful for this honour, which I consider to be an honour not only for me, but for my constituency and for the city of Aberdeen, which is also represented by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), whom I congratulate on his success in achieving shadow Cabinet office. I do not intend to say more about that because I do not want to prejudice his chances on Thursday, when I understand that something else might or might not happen to him.
The hon. Gentleman and I are both proud to represent Aberdeen, It is a city of great contrasts. It is a city which has constantly played a part in Scotland's affairs, no more so than now, when it is actively involved in the oil industry. Oil is not all that Aberdeen has to offer. Unlike the constituency represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre), my constituency, although residential in part, is active industrially. It has a fishing industry, a fish processing industry and a shipbuilding industry, over which I regret there is some uncertainty, which I hope will be resolved. Aberdeen has a proud shipbuilding history.
A mark of the character of the people of Aberdeen is that the city has always met new industrial challenges. North sea oil was a great challenge, to which the city adapted. The city has changed with that challenge. For that reason, I am fortunate to represent an urban constituency where the unemployment rate is only 6 per cent. This is due mainly to the character of the people of Aberdeen.
Aberdeen has more than that. The House will know that it has a football club which has known some success, and I trust that it will continue to be successful in the coming season. The club is known for its success on the field, and the quality of its supporters is recognised throughout Europe. Aberdeen's supporters are an example to football club supporters throughout the United Kingdom. Other clubs should try to achieve a similar standard of behaviour.
I am pleased that the Gracious Speech refers to Scotland and particularly to public sector housing in Scotland. In my constituency, selling council houses has been successful, but only up to a point. I am pleased that the policy is now to be taken further. Expenditure on public sector housing in Scotland was successful in the 1930s, but not in the post-war period. It is significant that we have to knock down and rebuild council housing stock built in the 1950s and 1960s, whereas stock built in the 1930s is sought after avidly by council house tenants. Hon. Members on both sides of the House can learn a lesson from that—that the way in which we plan and run council housing stock is unacceptable.
We have taken some steps forward in selling off council housing stock to the private sector, but we must now go 11 further. It is up to the Government to adopt a more radical attitude to public sector housing. Selling it to the private sector is not the whole answer. There are many other options, such as housing co-operatives and other forms of co-ownership. It is crucial that we remove public sector housing stock from politicians' control. That should be our ultimate priority. I hope that the Gracious Speech will take us one step further in that direction.
The Gracious Speech will be judged by people outside the House on whether the Government continue with their policy to reform our industrial base. I believe that they are doing that, not by measures of the type that would be adopted by the Opposition, which would take us back to the evil days of the past, but by facing the challenges of the future.
Many have said that Governments half way through their second term begin to lose spirit and their radical edge. I am pleased to be able to say today that the Gracious Speech does not reveal that fault. This Government were elected to have a radical edge and to continue to try to bring about change in our society, and especially in our industry to make it competitive so that it will stand head and shoulders above our competitors in Europe and the world.
I regret having to say that in the days to come, when we debate the Gracious Speech, we shall probably hear the prescriptions of yesterday from Her Majesty's Opposition. We shall hear tales of more state controls, when we have pushed back the boundaries of such controls, tales of the undoing of the reforms of the trade unions which we have undertaken and which have been so successul, and a programme, in contrast with that put forward in the Gracious Speech, which would, quite simply, turn back the clock in Britain and stop our progress toward a more prosperous future.
I am pleased to note from the Gracious Speech that the Government will continue their efforts to reform our industry. I can take that back to the people of my constituency, who have taken on that challenge. It is my wish that the spirit be translated throughout the United Kingdom, so that the understanding that prosperity can be based only on industries that are truly competitive will at least be realised.
I believe that that is the message of the Gracious Speech. It is a message for the future.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that my apologies are due to the Prime Minister. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
§ 3.2 pm
§ Mr. Kinnock
I have long admired your perspicacity, Mr. Speaker, but never more than now.
I warmly compliment the hon. Members for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) and for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone), who moved and seconded the Loyal Address. I do so without reservation but with the merest twinge of anxiety. On this occasion last year I offered compliments to the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Loyal Address, and appealed to the Prime Minister that the hon. Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) be given a job. For once, the Prime Minister 12 agreed with me and the hon. Gentleman is now Under-Secretary of State for a part of the United Kingdom for which I know he has immense affection and strong commitment—Northern Ireland. I shall not be making recommendations this year—but who knows, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South might end up on some bed of thistles in the Scottish Office, and I know that he would find that very difficult.
The hon. Member for Hall Green is well known and respected as a senior Member of this House. Indeed, he will not take it amiss if I say that he even provokes affection in this place—something that has not a little to do with his personal appearance. He is one of the cherubs of the Conservative party, along with the seraphims, the hon. Members for Wokingham (Sir W. van Straubenzee) and for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels), who I am glad to see in his place.
One mystery has been dispelled for me this afternoon. Having discovered the connection between the hon. Member for Hall Green and J. R. Tolkien, through Camp Hill school, I now realise on whom the eminent author modelled Bilbo Baggins. That is a compliment to the hon. Gentleman, which I am sure he will accept.
As the hon. Gentleman reminded us, he has been in this place for 20 years, and there is not the merest blot on his escutcheon, nor on any other part of his apparel or weaponry. There has been not an intemperate word, not so much as an admonition from Mr. Speaker, not a bogus point of order, and not a single rebellion to his name in all those years.
The hon. Gentleman is a model to us all, and to some more than to others. He has a record of concern, of which we heard again this afternoon, for the inner cities. He has been a campaigner for open government and freedom of information, he is committed to the improvement and development of small businesses, and, unlike the Prime Minister, he does not wish to manifest that objective by seeing that all businesses are made small businesses.
Here, indeed, is a paragon, a blameless man—so blameless that that can be the only reason why he is not still a member of Her Majesty's Government. His speech delighted us. We compliment him strongly on it, and I am sure that the whole House is united in that sentiment.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, the junior member of the Loyal Address partnership today, also delighted us. After hearing of the attention that Mr. Edward Pearce—a rose by any other name—has drawn to the hon. Gentleman's oracular opportunism, I shall continue to think of him from now on as "Ayes to the right."
Hon. Members may recall that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South first became a household name, not as the Member for his present constituency, but as the Conservative candidate for Glasgow, Hillhead in 1982. There he gained fame, if not exactly fortune, and, through the medium of The Times, was able to tell us and an unsuspecting public:I have always wanted to be a Member of Parliament, the way that some people have always wanted to be engine drivers.In view of what the Government have done to engine drivers, I can only hope that, for the sake of us all, they do not have the same intentions for Members of Parliament.
It was a remarkable by-election, as hon. Members will recall. The hon. Gentleman was not, as we have been reminded, elected to represent Glasgow, Hillhead. That 13 seat was won by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), a Welshman, as everybody knows from his accent—[Interruption.] I do not know whether you heard, Mr. Speaker, but I heard an hon. Member comment, "Cheap." One thing that the accent certainly is not is cheap.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, meanwhile, was obliged to find another locomotive, and off he went to his present constituency. It was unexpected—indeed, some would say that it was even gallant—that he should have gone to Aberdeen, South and climbed aboard there, the then Member having decided that there were more comfortable and possibly safer political pastures.
The House will recall that that Member was Mr. Iain Sproat, affectionately known here sometimes as "Cutya" Sproat. He went off to seek his political fortune elsewhere—in Roxburgh and Berwickshire—and, as we know, he proved to be as good a judge of safe political pastures as he was of social security needs. He was defeated. I am informed by reliable witnesses that on the night of the general election, as Aberdeen, South's Conservatives joined together in the New Marcliffe hotel in celebratory mood to watch the results coming in, they naturally gave particular attention to the verdict of the electors of Roxburgh and Berwickshire. When the news of Mr. Sproat's defeat came through, the new Member for Aberdeen, South was observed in a corner to be whooping with uncontrollable grief. That is a testament, indeed, to his human nature, and we heard a testament to his considerable talent during his speech.
We feel some rather more genuine grief when we contemplate the Queen's Speech which the Government have offered us today. Parts of it will gain some support from the Opposition, although we shall want to scrutinise the details. The reference to Northern Ireland,to improve further their co-operation with the Government of the Irish Republicis to be commended, but we shall want methods and measures in Northern Ireland which will positively help people in both communities and improve the social environment and the political climate.
The proposals to combat the awful rise in drug selling, drug taking and drug-related crimes will gain support in principle and, depending upon the precise proposals, I suspect support in practice during their progress through the House.
We also welcome the proposals outlined to protect animals used for experiments and other scientific purposes.
A similar welcome cannot be extended to many of the other proposals in the Queen's Speech—proposals for further privatisation, the demolition of the wages councils and, most of all, for what the Government glibly and euphemistically describe as the reform of social security. They will receive no welcome for that from the Opposition. The Government are not interested in improving protection for the poor, the disabled and the old. They are intent upon removing that protection.
The Government are not reforming the social security system. They are intent upon deforming it. In the course of doing that, they will cause great chaos and cost, as well as greater injustice in our society as they take a lot from the needy, to give very little to the destitute. That will be the result of their income support scheme, their social 14 fund, their cuts in housing benefit and the abolition, or at least, as we are now led to expect, their grievous bodily harm to the state earnings-related pension scheme.
The measures that I have mentioned, and others, will meet with the strongest hostility from my right hon. and hon. Friends. Most of all, we shall be condemning the Government for their complete failure, yet again, to offer in this Queen's Speech any policies that will help the economy and the people to get work and get on.
On this occasion last year the Prime Minister opened her speech with the triumphant news:While the right hon. Gentleman"—that is me—was speaking, Barclays bank decided to cut by half a percentage point, from 10.5 per cent., the basic bank rate. That is a great tribute to my right hon. Friend"—the Chancellor of the Exchequer—for the firmness with which he has controlled the money supply. The money supply figures were published at 2.30 this afternoon, and the cut in interest rates came shortly thereafter."—[Official Report, 6 November 1984; Vol. 67, c. 21.]A year later, what do we find? Interest rates have, on average, been 3 per cent. higher this year than they were last, and at the moment interest rates are 1 per cent. higher than they were at this time last year. An average £21,000 mortgage now costs £40 a month more than it did at this time last year. Every business man and home buyer knows only too well what that means. Is that a testimony to the Chancellor's firmness in controlling the money supply? Of course it is not. It is a continuing record of flop and failure, so much so that the Chancellor had to go to the Mansion House last month and announce that the money supply figures, which have defined all that is good and bad in our economy for the past six years, suddenly do not matter any more.
There is no more talk about firmness in controlling, the money supply. No more claims will be made this afternoon that the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the Maginot of the money supply—can pull interest rates down. Graven images have gone and sacred cows are to be butchered. The sacred cows are now turning out to be old bull, as they were all the time. Everything now is ruled by interest rate rises and public expenditure cuts.
In a country where interest rate rises cripple small, medium and large businesses, where public expenditure cuts deprive communities and people of vital services, the Government's continuing strategy consists entirely of using higher interest rates and public spending cuts as the main weapons of economic policy. That is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Mansion House speech:Should it at any time become desirable to tighten monetary conditions, that would be achieved—and let there be no doubt about this—by bringing about a rise in short-term interest rates".The trouble is that hardly any of the Government's interest rate rises, on short-term money or long-term money, ever turn out to be short term, because the ending point of the interest rate cycle is always higher than the starting point of the cycle.
The strategy of shrinking our economy is obvious, too, in the Queen's Speech. Stripped of virile phrases about firm policies, we are left with a vacuous combination of higher interest rates and more public spending cuts. It is a sure recipe for a further rundown of our economy. I am not alone in knowing that, and neither are the Labour party and the Trades Union Congress. The Confederation of 15 British Industry, together with many others, acknowledges the rundown—and continuing rundown—without significant changes in policy. Indeed, many Conservative Members know it. There are members of the Cabinet who realise it.
I am not speaking only about the Secretary of State for Energy, who said at the Conservative party conference, in the understatement of the year:Many now find the Government remote, perhaps uncaring, about what concerns them".I am speaking much more of the Secretary of State for the Environment, who, we are repeatedly told, wants more money for housing, of the Secretary of State for Social Services, who wants more money to maintain the real value of child benefit, and of the Foreign Secretary, who wants more money to stop the lethal cuts that have been made in overseas aid to the Third world in recent years. They are the people who are looking for additional resources, and from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister, they meet resistance.
If the Prime Minister is asked whose side she is on—on the side of her Secretaries of State or on the side of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the reply is that she is on the side of the taxpayers. That takes some cheek when, in six years of the right hon. Lady's Government, the tax burden has gone up from 38 per cent. to 44.5 per cent. of the gross national product—an extra £18,000 million on the tax burden. It takes some nerve, too, when the taxpayers are all to pay higher charges for water and for gas than even the boards have been asking for, and when the taxpayers, as mortgage payers and rent payers, are all paying higher charges as a consequence of the Government's policies.
Audacity laced with mendacity is now the right hon. Lady's stock in trade. When the Prime Minister talks of taxpayers, she talks as if there are taxpayers who do nothing but pay, and old people, poor people, sick people, disabled people and homeless people who do nothing but make claims. There is, of course, no such division in our society. She talks as if starving people abroad want to sponge on the British taxpayers.
The truth is that the Prime Minister is getting the British taxpayers absolutely wrong. Does she not realise that the taxpayers are also the parents who are worried about the cuts in child benefit, and worried about the rundown in schools which Her Majesty's inspectors refer to as being inadequate, shabby, dilapidated and outdated? Does the Prime Minister not realise that the taxpayers are the same people who make up the families that are worried about the cuts in house building and the virtual abolition of house improvement grants? Does the Prime Minister not know that the taxpayers, in the most direct and practical way, have been telling the Government that they want their contributions to be used more generously to relieve suffering in the Third world? British taxpayers repeatedly demonstrate those views in every measure of opinion that is made.
It is not only the poor who want the relief of poverty in this decent country, the homeless who want the Government to commence a new house building programme or the jobless who want the Government to combat unemployment. Those are now national demands, and are the products of care, conscience and constructive attitudes. That is not bleeding-heart do-gooding, but the 16 realistic response of millions, who know that division and decay impoverish, demean and endanger the whole of our society. Yet the Prime Minister ignores them and tells the Conservative party conference:One thing we will not do. We will not reflate.The conference cheered that—the turkeys cheered for Christmas.
In reality, the Prime Minister was saying that the Government would not repair homes, hospitals, railways or roads, invest in modernising Britain's industries, educate and train our young people, retrain our adult workers, or expand research and development to give British industry an extra cutting edge in competitiveness. Most of all, the Prime Minister was saying that the Government would do nothing to build a strong, modern manufacturing base, which will be even more vital when the oil runs out. As the Government know. British chambers of commerce, the House of Lords Select Committee on Overseas Trade, and just about everyone outside this torpid Government, incessantly say that the Government have provided no answer to the question of what happens "when the oil runs out."
There is another question which the Government never answer. What will they do about unemployment? There are certainly no answers to that in the Queen's Speech. Perhaps we should follow Black Rod back up the corridor to the House of Peers and find the Secretary of State for Employment. Even on the Government's fiddled figures, 3.3 million people are unemployed, 1.25 million have been out of work for more than a year, and 1.5 million under 25 are unemployed. When we ask where the future lies and where jobs will come from, the Secretary of State for Employment says that the real hope for the future lies in tourism. [Interruption.] Only a few weeks ago that was in the newspapers, written in his own fair hand. [Interruption.]
If that spellbinding answer does not convince people, as it plainly does not convince Tory Members, the Secretary of State tries to take a second trick. He gets the statisticians and samplers of the Department of Employment to tell us that there is hardly any unemployment. Last week a headline in The Times read:940,000 on dole are not seeking work".The story that it headed began:Nearly one million—about a third—of the unemployed claiming benefit are not looking for work, according to the Department of Employment.Of those 940,000, 200,000 were in part-time, low-paid employment or had just commenced work, and the remaining 740,000 were described as "discouraged workers" who had given up—defeated people. Last Saturday night I met one of them after a meeting in my constituency. He came up to me and said, "Do you want to shake hands with a man in a million?" I asked what he meant, and he said, "I am one of those that the newspapers were writing about last week. I am one of the unemployed who has given up looking for work." He went on, "I have been looking for work since the factory closed in February 1983. I have been everywhere looking for work. I would do anything to get work, but in June this year I decided that I was going to stop. I have even stopped looking at the 'Jobs Vacant' pages in the newspapers."
There are hundreds of thousands of people like that in our country. They have been on courses, they have waited in queues, they have written scores of letters, and made dozens of phone calls. Eventually the day comes when 17 they just stop looking because they do not want the rising burden of repeated failure and refusal to be added to the basic misery of being without a job, without money, without independence and—this is what is beloved of the Prime Minister—without any choices.
Without any self-pity, the man said to me, "Fifty-four and finished." Then he said, "I saw herself on the telly telling the Tory party conference, 'Come to the 1990s when people can look forward to their retirement.'" He said, "She just doesn't know anything, does she?"
Minutes after meeting that fellow at that meeting in my constituency, I met a youngster who told me that he had stopped looking for work when the board and lodging regulations changed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes. That youngster came home to certain unemployment in an area where there is more than 20 per cent. male unemployment. Why? Because he was afraid of being stranded. He said, "I came home because I thought that it would be better to be unemployed at home than without a roof over my head. Of course, if they ask me, I shall say that I am looking for work, just like I am panning for gold and prospecting for oil as well." He reminded me of a friend of my father's, Mog Miles. Fifty years ago, when he went before the commissioners and was asked whether he was seeking work, he said, "Seeking work? See this whippet by the side of me? It was a racehorse when I started." The one thing that can save people from total despair is such an attitude.
Another man who was looking for work said to me, "Of course I want work. Of course I need work, and I am prepared to go anywhere, if only there is some work." There is no work to be had. This is the insecure society. This is the climate of caution and fear, of anxiety and aggression. Misery can produce tenacity, neighbourliness and humour, but it also spawns great evils, illness, despair and desperation. In some cases it pushes people into resigned aimlessness, and in others it pushes people into dumb resentment. In a few cases misery brings hatred, and that hatred generates its own greed and brutality. I am not saying, nor would I ever say, that unemployment, poverty or hopelessness is the sole cause of crime in our country, still less would I say that those things are excuses for crime. There can be no excuse for the pain, terror and loss that are inflicted increasingly on victims, whoever they are and wherever they live.
This question is asked repeatedly of every Member of the House. I am simply asking, can any rational person believe that a 40 per cent. rise in crime in six years at the same time as the obvious increase in hopelessness brought about by unemployment, deprivation, division and decay, is an accident? Is that a pure coincidence? I do not think that it is an accident. There have always been crimes for gain. Now we have crime for kicks. There has always been crime as an occupation. Now, in our times, we have crime as a brutal, vicious entertainment. That has been the awful change in our times.
The roots of crime have always been in malice and in greed, but a 40 per cent. increase in six years, especially in crimes of robbery and brutality, cannot be explained as a sudden surge of evil and depravity in our generation. It cannot be explained on such irrational grounds.
We want drug sellers to feel the full rigour and the heaviest penalties of the law. We want the law to embrace solvents, gases and all the other awful substances that are used. We want an orderly society, a just society and a secure society. That is fundamental to freedom. The 18 brutishness of crime makes us, like all other decent citizens, angry and vengeful. But anger is not enough. We need action. We need action to help the police to prevent and detect crime. We need action to make their task much easier in many ways. [Interruption.] Conservative Members can help in that, too. We want action to assist the police in catching and punishing criminals.
The orderly society, however, cannot and will not be gained merely by policing the problems or punishing the results of crime. The police know that. A fairly senior young officer recently said—[Interruption.] The whole country will note the amusement with which the Conservatives treat the dreadful problem of rising crime in their period of office. They should have the sense to listen to what the police say. That officer pointed out to me that society could not put all its problems in a dustbin and then ask the police to try to keep the lid on. He was absolutely right. We cannot treat the people or the problems with simplistic answers. We cannot go on making an ever bigger dustbin of decay and unemployment and asking the police to clean it up or to contain it. That is neither reasonable nor realistic. It simply ensures more crime, more criminals, more cruelty and more young people completely alienated and estranged from what the vast majority of our fellow citizens, including the great majority of young people, understand to be tolerable conduct in society.
Clearly, dealing with that problem is not just a matter for the Government. It is also a matter for teachers, for parents and for every responsible citizen in society, but the problem cannot be dealt with unless the Government try to meet it with methods that get at the roots of behaviour, rather than just trying to deal with the results. That is the Government's duty. A Government who destroy jobs, divide people and deny them homes and hope are not doing their duty by the people of this country. In trying to evade the truth that crime is logically, inevitably, historically and obviously rooted in part in social and economic conditions, the Government are deserting their duty.
It is obvious that the Government wish to dodge the obligations which stem from that truth about the roots of much, though not all, of the crime in our society, but that attempt to dodge will not work. The Government will not be acquitted of the guilt for deliberately worsening economic and social conditions in this country and for dividing and depressing both the economy and society. The Government cannot acquit themselves, and they will not be acquitted by the British people, who, when they get the chance, will throw this Government out.
§ The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
I begin by joining the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) in congratulating my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) and for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone), who moved and seconded the Loyal Address so eloquently.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green is, as he said, a Birmingham man through and through, devoted to the city and to all that it stands for. He said a good deal about the enterprise of Birmingham, its business, the co-operation between the universitis and industry and the importance of small businesses. Yes, Birmingham faces problems, and my hon. Friend did not attempt to dodge them. We were very interested in his constructive approach to the problems of Handsworth and in his 19 proposals to bring derelict land back into positive use. As he said, Birmingham has a great future and is now setting about trying to scoop some more firsts. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his speech and on his splendid record as a Birmingham Member of Parliament.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South is indeed lucky that Edward Pearce has appreciated his endearing diffidence. We appreciate it this afternoon, though I was convinced by his speech that he can still very much see straight. The transformation of the north of Scotland into a world centre for the offshore oil industry is one of the great technological advances of the post-war period, as my hon. Friend said. It has made the far north one of the most prosperous parts of the country by using and embracing change. [Interruption.]Its prosperity has been won at no little risk to the oilman, as we saw in the dangers that were described yesterday. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his speech and on the effective way in which he represents his constituents.
We have heard the views of the right hon. Member for Islwyn on the Gracious Speech. Whatever problems we have, he has no solutions for them. I noted that he said that our economy is shrinking, but the fact is that production is at an all-time high, as is investment. I also noticed that he referred to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy. I also should like to refer to my right hon. Friend's excellent speech. He said:We need to win the next general election because the alternative would create the most dangerous decade this century … a Labour party undoubtedly influenced and financed by the Marxist Left, a Labour party already propounding economic plans that would be deeply damaging to the free enterprise system and with defence policies that would delight Moscow and dismay Washington.I am pleased to have a chance to quote from my right hon. Friend's excellent speech.
I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman made considerable strictures about housing. The number of renovation grants paid in private sector housing has averaged 150,000 a year under this Government compared with fewer than 100,000 under Labour. In the public sector, the number of local authority renovations completed has run at 75,000 a year under this Government compared with 47,000 under Labour. We also have 1 million more houses and flats in the dwelling stock than there were under Labour. Labour could not hold a candle to our record on housing and many other issues.
The right hon. Gentleman gave us his views about public expenditure. I understand that not for him the firm control of public expenditure referred to in the Gracious Speech, although firm control of public expenditure is critical to confidence in any Government. We know his universal remedy—more spending, more taxation and more borrowing. If we had more borrowing, the interest rates to which the right hon. Gentleman referred would be infinitely higher, but he has not the wit to know it.
Since the right hon. Gentleman became the leader of his party, Labour has pledged to increase spending on transport and communications by £6 billion, on employment and training measures by £9 billion, on local government by £9 billion, on social security by £10 billion and on housing and health by £17 billion. Indeed, only a fortnight ago he promised to double the aid programme. These are the most reckless promises ever made.
20 As a former Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury said, the task of the last Labour Government wasrendered impossible by pledges foolishly made without any serious thought as to where the money would come from. You name it we were pledged to increase it".They are well on the way to doing the same.
Following enormous increases, the consequences were massive cuts—bigger than anything before or since. Indeed, that inveterate diarist, Mrs. Barbara Castle, has recorded that to while away the time in a Cabinet meeting—[Interruption.] Labour Members hate being reminded of their reckless stewardship of the economy of Britain. As Mrs. Castle said, one of her colleagues at a Cabinet meeting passed her a rhyme, which said:All things bring and beautifulAll projects great and smallAll things wise and wonderfulDenis Healey cuts them all.Healey cuts the old age pensionAlthough he cuts by stealthAnd when he looks for savingsHealey cuts the National Health.And he did, two years in succession.
It is because the Conservative Government have kept firm control of pubic spending that the Gracious Speech can go on to talk about further reductions in the burden of income tax. We must be firm on public spending to be fair to the taxpayer. I contrast the approach of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), who in recent months has described how he imagines Labour's fantasies would be paid for, including what he called,some increase in tax revenues."Some increase"? Labour's spending plans would require savage increases in taxation, and not just on those earning £20,000 a year, whom the right hon. Gentleman dismisses so contemptuously as rich. It would mean more tax for the primary school head teacher earning £200 a week, who already pays £60 in taxes and contributions. It would mean more tax for the nurse earning £140 a week, who already pays £40 in taxes and contributions. It would mean more tax for the metal worker earnings £185 a week, who already pays £52 a week in taxes and contributions.
It has been said that Socialism was founded to help the working man to keep more of the fruits of his labour. Today's Socialists want to take more. We Conservatives believe that people have a right to keep more of their earnings, as the Gracious Speech makes clear. Not only do they have a right; that is the way to an efficient, competitive and more prosperous economy.
The Gracious Speech continues our reforming approach with a considerable programme of legislation. It provides for measures to promote employment, especially among young people; measures to extend enterprise and increase competition by more privatisation and deregulation; measures to ensure that the social services are effectively managed and soundly financed; measures to strengthen the accountability of local government; and measures to reinforce the powers of the police and the courts in relation to public order and to drugs.
§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
Will the Prime Minister tell the House why, during the past six years under the Conservative Government, there has been a 40 per cent. increase in reported crime?
§ The Prime Minister
I will deal with public order later. Crime has increased in all Western industrial 21 countries and in other countries during the past few years. If the hon. Gentleman can explain that, he can explain the nature of evil.
The legislative programme will be carried forward within a framework described in the Gracious Speech asFirm monetary and fiscal policies designed to secure a continuing reduction in inflation.That is the important thing: a continuing reduction in inflation, which is what the Labour Government signally failed to achieve.
By contrast, the policies of the Leader of the Opposition would inevitably, or by design, lead to a return of rapid inflation, although I notice that he calls it "reflation". It is an insidious word, for it is a deliberate policy to increase prices faster all round—to the housewife and to the business man—and a deliberate policy to slash the value of savings to the pensioner and everyone who saves. It does not stop there. The previous Labour Prime Minister said:Higher inflation followed by higher unemployment is the history of the last 20 years.For that reason, we completely and utterly reject a policy of reflation. We want inflation down; the Labour party wants it up. As a result of our consistent and sound financial policies, this will be our fifth year of uninterrupted economic growth at an average of 3 per cent. a year. This is the first time since the war that we have had such a long period of growth coupled with both balance of payments surpluses and low inflation.
Opposition Members talk disparagingly of the performance of manufacturing industry, but last year British industry exported more manufactured goods than ever before in our history. It is to be congratulated and not criticised. [Interruption.] How Opposition Members hate it when manufacturing industry does well. How they hate success. What suits them is poverty and the sort of violence that we get in Socialist areas. Where we find Labour local authorities we find poverty of a deeper sort than anywhere else. Manufacturing investment was up last year by more than 14 per cent. Manufacturing output was 4 per cent. up last year, the biggest rise since 1973.
Yes, the numbers employed in manufacturing are still falling. Indeed, they have been falling since the mid-1960s—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition was given a fair hearing, and the Prime Minister should equally have a fair hearing.
§ The Prime Minister
I am trying to get a fair hearing for the performance of management and the work force in manufacturing industry. The Opposition do not want to hear it. The numbers employed in manufacturing industry have been falling since the mid-1960s. They have been falling in almost every Western industrialised economy. That is a consequence of changes in technology and of the fact that many goods are made more cheaply in the countries around the Pacific basin and in south-east Asia.
But British industry has become more efficient. Manufacturing productivity has increased dramatically, and last year profitability, the foundation of future growth, was at its highest since 1973. This was achieved by the new realism of industry itself, management and work force alike. It was not and could not be achieved by Government and Whitehall.
The duty of Governments is to create the conditions in which enterprise can expand and flourish, and to help in 22 educating and training a skilled work force. The Government have done more to train young people than any other in history. [Interruption.] That is the truth, and the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition does not falsify it by bellowing from the Opposition Front Bench. The Government have done more to train young people than any other in history. The millionth trainee will enter the Government's youth training scheme before Christmas. But for young people in general the evidence suggests that wage rates set artificially high are destroying their chances of a job. The OECD commented in a recent report thatminimum wages restrict employment openings and opportunities to upgrade skills, especially among the young.We agree. We are therefore introducing legislation to reform the wages councils. This will enable employers to offer the wage rate which they can afford and which young people can accept.
The measures that we have already taken have led to a rapid increase in the number of new jobs-675,000 in the past two years, more than in any other country in the European Community. Indeed, new jobs have been created in this country over the past two years at a faster rate than at any time since 1973, but then, of course, the working population has been rising even faster. Even so, the CBI still reports that its members cannot find suitably qualified people for some of the jobs that are available. It is a matter of getting the training right—a task for industry and education.
It is the wealth creators who are the job creators. All economic policies must be designed as a spur to the wealth creators, whether they are brilliant scientists, skilled tradesmen, talented designers, shrewd managers who know the market place or young people with the ideas and initiative to start up on their own. Those who set out to penalise wealth creators, whether by punitive taxation or by too much red tape, are really penalising those who are looking for jobs.
Industry performs much better when it has to compete for customers, when is has to give a reasonable return to the shareholders who invest in its future. Take Jaguar—profits have increased by 54 per cent. since privatisation and there are more than 500 more jobs. Take Amersham international—profits have increased fivefold and there are more than 200 more jobs. We have already transferred to the private sector 12 companies and 400,000 employees, the majority of whom have bought shares in their companies. That is real ownership by the public. That is why there will be a further assault this year on what used to be called the commanding heights of ownership by the state. Provision will be made to privatise the British Gas Corporation, and we hope that British Airways will be transferred to the private sector. Individual share ownership has already doubled under this Government, and we look forward to it doubling again. By the end of this Parliament we shall have reduced the share of our industry in state hands by 40 per cent. That is an excellent record.
§ Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)
The right hon. Lady has referred to jobs. How can she justify the decline of the British steel industry, especially in Scotland? How can she justify British Steel's intention, which was announced this week, to make men redundant in the tube industry in Lanarkshire at the same time as we are 23 importing from Italy, which has drawn a horse and cart through the quota system? Surely this is something that even the Prime Minister cannot justify.
§ The Prime Minister
As the Opposition are well aware, there is overproduction of steel and no amount of special pleading can keep steel plants open if their products cannot be sold. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) knows that full well. He could not keep the Ebbw Vale steel plant open. He said at a meeting of his constituents that if we dodge the truth the difficulties and complications will be even worse in the future. This Government have allocated £130 million to purchase part of the quota from the private sector steel industry to keep Ravenscraig going. That was the type of faith that the House showed in trying to keep steel making in Scotland going. In the end, it will depend upon how competitive we are and how much we can sell in co-operation with the European Coal and Steel Community.
It is only by continuing the economic policies that have already brought four years of sustained growth that we shall be able to pay for improved public services. They have improved under this Government. In the National Health Service, we have not only increased provision but achieved greater efficiency. More patients are being treated under a Conservative National Health Service. Waiting lists have been cut and more hospitals have been built.
In education, spending per pupil and pupil-teacher ratios are at their best ever levels, but the quality of education needs to be and must be improved. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is insisting on agreement to a new pay structure and conditions of service. Only then will he release the very substantial sums of money available to increase teachers' pay—£1.25 billion over the next four years. This Session's Education Bill will provide for a national system of appraisal to enable all teachers to improve their performance and to help the better teachers get more promotion and more pay.
This Session we shall introduce a Bill, which I understand the Leader of the Opposition will not support, to implement the most fundamental review of social security for 40 years. The Bill will help to create a modern, effective social security system which future generations can afford, a social security system which will direct resources to those most in need, be based on sound finance and not on hollow promises; and which will strengthen incentives to work, so that nobody is worse off by taking a job. There are too many cases, even at a time of high unemployment, of jobs remaining unfilled because potential applicants are better off not working.
Last session saw the successful passage of the Bill to abolish the Greater London Council and the Metropolitan county councils. The unscrupulous use of ratepayers' money by those councils to mount massive scare campaigns reinforced the case for their abolition. It also demonstrated clearly that we can no longer take for granted in some Labour councils the conventions of responsible public service which used to inspire councillors of all parties.
We are therefore introducing this Session a Bill along the lines proposed by the independent Widdicombe committee to ban the use of ratepayers' money to finance 24 political propaganda. The Bill will also lay a statutory duty on all rating authorities to make their rate by April every year. These measures will be an important check on abuses by some local authorities.
We shall also be publishing our proposals for a major reform of the rating system. We can no longer tolerate a system in which the burden of local taxation is so unfairly distributed, nor a system which permits extravagant local authorities to fleece the business ratepayer to finance excessive levels of spending. There is no surer way of driving jobs away from some of our inner cities.
The Home Office will be having its customary busy parliamentary Session. In addition to legislation on public order, to which I shall refer shortly, it will be introducing three major Bills. First, my right hon. Friend will be introducing shops legislation in line with the main recommendations of the Auld committee. I recognise the difficulty that this measure will cause to some of my hon. Friends. Indeed, many people, both customers and shopkeepers, will wish to preserve the traditional Sunday and will not take advantage of a change in the law. But I believe that it is absolutely right to give people the choice. The present state of the law is indefensible.
Second, my right hon. Friend will also be introducing the first reform for 109 years of the law on experiments on living animals. I believe that this will be widely welcomed throughout the House and outside, and I hope that it will secure a speedy passage.
Third, we shall be taking further action against drugs offenders. Following the excellent report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs last Session, we shall be introducing a Bill to provide wide new powers for tracing and confiscating the proceeds of drug trafficking. I believe that this measure, too, will be supported throughout the House: The war against the drugs trade is one in which all decent people will expect us to unite.
Before most of this legislation can be introduced, the historic meeting between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev, due two weeks from now, will have taken place. Both leaders have accepted the aim of reducing nuclear weapons. The United States has long had detailed proposals on the table for deep, balanced and verifiable reductions. Now it has responded promptly to the recent Soviet counter proposals and offered to build on the positive elements in them. The test of Soviet intentions will be Mr. Gorbachev's willingness to engage in real negotiations.
President Reagan has undertaken that the United States' strategic defence initiative research programme will remain clearly within the bounds of the ABM treaty. I hope that the Soviet Union's own very extensive programme will be similarly contained. Indeed, I believe that a reaffirmation and strengthening of the ABM treaty would be a positive and commendable outcome of the summit.
I hope, too, that the President and Mr. Gorbachev will commit themselves to make progress in other arms control negotiations, above all, the negotiations on chemical weapons and on mutually balanced force reductions in Europe, which, for more than 10 years, have made little progress. It has been NATO's strength and steadfastness which have brought us to the point where we can hope for real reductions in nuclear armaments on both sides.
When the Defence Ministers of the 16 NATO countries met last week, their communiqué said: 25We declare that the President goes to Geneva with the full support and solidarity of the Alliance.The Government side of the House is united in offering that support.
During the debate on the Gracious Speech last year I said that upholding the rule of law was the crucial issue facing this country. The disturbances that we have seen in a few of Britain's inner cities have made that all the more apparent. Indeed, it is the vast majority of people living there—the old, the families with young children, the small business men—who have most to lose from a breakdown of law and order. It is they—not the rioters—who have lost their homes, their shops and, most of all, their peace of mind.
Of course, there are very severe social problems in the inner city areas—problems of family breakdown, of racial tension, of drug abuse, of youth unemployment, of bad housing. In so far as money can help, those problems are taken into account in public expenditure, including the urban programme on which £1,900 million has been spent since 1979. Considerable sums had already been spent in the areas affected by riots.
But the kind of violence which took place on the streets of Brixton, Handsworth and Tottenham recently cannot and will not be eradicated by money. The solution must ultimately lie in a strengthening of our traditional sources of discipline and authority—the family, the Church, the school, responsible community and civic leadership and support for the police.
The Government have made it clear that the police will have the resouces that they need in the fight against crime. When this Session's public order Bill has become law, they will also have more powers to prevent and deal with violence and disorder. But those measures alone are not enough. If the rest of us fail to support the police, if we undermine by words or deeds the rule of law, the fight against lawlessness will be jeopardised.
It is not good enough for the Labour party to stand aside and tolerate Labour local authorities which harass and obstruct the police. It is not good enough for the Labour party to claim that it supports the police, while its conference is passing anti-police motions and cheering to the echo descriptions of the police as "the enemy". And it is not good enough for the right hon. Member for Islwyn to condemn the words of the leader of Haringey council against the police while continuing to endorse him as a Labour candidate for election to this House.
A party leadership which stands by while sections of its party undermine the police cannot be taken seriously when it talks of support for the law. Either it stands up for the law or it does not; it cannot have it both ways. The Government rest firmly on respect for the rule of law, and it is on that fundamental basis that I commend to the House the forward-looking programme set out in the Gracious speech.
§ 4.4 pm
§ Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
I happily join the other party leaders in congratulating the mover and seconder of the Loyal Address.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) is a respected senior colleague and a former Minister and we greatly enjoyed his references to his previous constituents. I noted with particular enjoyment his reference to Tony Hancock and the episode in the "Blood Donor". The hon. Gentleman might have regaled the 26 House with the line that I remember best from that episode. Tony Hancock was explaining to the attendant at the blood donor centre why he had been motivated to go to the centre. He said that he felt that he had to do something for his country and it was either giving blood or joining the Young Conservatives. I believe that Tony Hancock made the right choice, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Hall Green agrees.
On a more serious note, the hon. Member for Hall Green was surely right to make a plea to the Government to invest more in our decaying cities and less in the green belt. His view finds an echo on the Opposition side.
I have a warm affection for the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone). The leader of the Labour party gave a less than complete biography of the hon. Gentleman whose contribution to the alliance began not with his defeat in a by-election by my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), but in the 1979 election with his defeat by me at Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. The hon. Gentleman is a unique embodiment of how much the Liberal party and the SDP have in common.
Again on a serious note, we not only enjoy the hon. Gentleman's self-deprecating humour and appreciate his obviously genuine devotion to Aberdeen after sojourns in the Borders and Glasgow, but I strongly agree with him that the success of the Government will be judged by how they manage to reform our industrial base. On that proposition, we can rest content and we shall see what happens in the next year or two.
There is no doubt that the whole tone of the Queen's Speech follows closely the tone of the Conservative party conference. The whole emphasis was on the presentation of policies rather than on the policies themselves. Any criticism was of the presentation, not the substance.
Great emphasis is placed on presentation, so much so that, during the Conservative party conference, The Guardian reported:It is a week in which presentation … is the name of the game.It reported a particular and, I believe, significant episode:Mr. John Patten, the new Minister for the Environment, may have gone too far presentationwise. An advance handout of his speech winding up a local government debate began: 'This has been a marvellous debate.' It was distributed some two hours before the debate began.That is the sort of presentation that we are becoming used to and we find echoes of it in various phrases throughout the Gracious Speech. For example, we are told that theGovernment will continue to work for progress in arms control and disarmament negotiations".Continue to work? What efforts have the Government made in arms control negotiations? Not only did they refuse to count in the Polaris missile system during previous East-West discussions, despite almost semi-public prodding by Vice-President Bush to do so, but they have made a lukewarm response—to put it mildly—to Mr. Gorbachev's alternative suggestion that there could be direct discussions to see whether reductions on both sides could be achieved between Britain and the Soviet Union.
The House has debated many times the effect on the Budget in general and on conventional defence spending in particular of the Government's commitment to the Trident missile programme. We do not concentrate often enough on the fact that that commitment represents a major escalation of nuclear fire power by this country at a time when we hope for greater optimism in East-West 27 relations. An increase from a targeting capability of 64 to 896 is not working towards arms control and reductions; that is working positively for a major escalation of nuclear fire power. There is a gap between the presentation and the reality.
In the next paragraph of the Gracious Speech we are told that within the European Community the Governmentwill work for improved decision taking".They could have fooled me. Where have we found Britain in recent Community discussions? We have been in company with Denmark and Greece in resisting the political and constitutional reforms that are necessary to end stagnation within the Community. That will be an important issue as Spain and Portugal join the Community. I hope that it signals a major change in the Government's attitude to the Community.
The Queen's Speech states that the Governmentwill continue to seek more normal relations with Argentina.I hope that that will be so. I was glad to see published for the first time in yesterday's press a fact that I reported privately to the Foreign Office a couple of weeks ago following my discussions with President Alfonsin—that the Argentine Government are ready to join in a multilateral effort to secure agreements on fishing. It is a small step, but it is welcome, and I hope that the Government will build on it.
My basic quarrel is with the Government's negative stance on the future of the Falklands. We tend to forget that, proud though we all were of our great victory in the Falklands, we not only brought liberty to the Falkland Islands but we were also instrumental in bringing liberty and democracy to Argentina. We have not built upon that, nor have we built upon the good will generated there.
If the Government were willing to negotiate the future constitution of the Falkland Islands with a military dictatorship, it is not unreasonable to ask two democracies to come to an agreement on this long-standing dispute. We should be looking forward in this Session to the lifting of the protection zone, the cessation of hostilities, and a return to normal diplomatic relations. If no other argument appeals to the Prime Minister, she should listen to the many British business men who are complaining bitterly about the loss of trade and export potential.
The Queen's Speech continues:My Government will work for peaceful and fundamental change in South Africa with the European Community and the Commonwealth".I hope that the emphasis will be on work, not just hope, because "peaceful and fundamental change" is what we are after.
The Government's record is not good. At the European Community meeting the unfortunate Minister of State took a negative stance and, even in the tiny sanctions agreed by the other Community countries, following the Prime Minister's performance in the Bahamas, we held out to resist any international pressure on South Africa. That does not give us hope that the Government intend to work constructively to ensure a peaceful change.
I asked someone who was in the Bahamas at the time whether the atmosphere was as bad as it appeared to us at home, and I was told that it was worse. I was told, "You do not understand. Your Prime Minister treats other Heads of Government as if they were members of the Dorking Conservative association with the same narrow, blinkered view of the world perspective." I appreciate that a growing 28 part of Conservative philosophy is to believe that everyone else is wrong and that the Tory Government are right, but I hope that the Government really intend to work for that change and that it is not mere presentation.
The Government promise tomaintain a substantial aid programme.No one could honestly use the word "maintain" in relation to the Government's aid programme. Our contribution has never reached 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product—the United Nations target. When the Government took office our contribution was 0.52 per cent., and it is now only 0.33 per cent. Our contribution is in decline. When we came back after the summer recess we were treated to a warm demonstration from the World Development Movement. It was one of the most impressive demonstrations outside the House for many years. I remember asking the Leader of the House, who was standing in for the Prime Minister, why we gave only $25 a head to overseas aid when the Americans gave $37 per head and the French $47. He said that one had to consider the relative strength of resources. That is fair, but the Canadians gave $65 per head and the Danes and the Dutch $88. That has nothing to do with the strength of resources, but more to do with strength of will—or the lack of it. Maintaining "a substantial aid progamme" must be more than presentation; it must become a reality.
Similar phraseology is used in relation to domestic matters. We are told:Legislation will be introduced to facilitate funding by the industry of agricultural research, advice and related services".That is a euphemism for cutting agricultural research along with medical, scientific and engineering research. The words "facilitate funding" seem to bestow a benefit upon agricultural research, but no one in the farming world will believe that for a second.
The Gracious Speech says:Measures will be brought forward to reform the operation of Wages Councils".If the Government intend to make it easier to bring young people into the labour market without plunging straight in at adult wage rates, they will get some sympathy, but we suspect that this proposal might open the door to a return to sweatshops for young people because the Government intend to abandon the International Labour Organisation code. Why do they intend to do that if reform is their genuine aim?
In Scotland legislation is plannedto improve legal aid arrangements".The legal profession in Scotland knows what that means. It means cutting legal aid access; it has nothing to do with improving legal aid arrangements. That is another example of presentation which has nothing to do with reality.
The most brazen piece of presentation is contained in the paragraph which says:Legislation will be introduced … to promote the professional effectiveness of teachers.This Government have done more to undermine the professional effectiveness of teachers than any previous Government. I met union members yesterday, so I know what I am talking about. They reinforced my view that the issue is not just about the current pay dispute, but about the Government's attitude to education. We must take note of the Audit Commission report on the universities published yesterday. We must take into account what has happened to school books and buildings.
29 Of course, a problem is caused by falling school rolls, but the Government have given the figures as expenditure per head, which conceals the decline in morale in the classrooms.
The Prime Minister referrred to the powers of the police in combating disorder. We shall give our constructive support to any legislation designed to combat public disorder. However, we must be careful that we do not turn our police into a buffer to deal with problems which politicians and society have failed to tackle. I say that retrospectively with reference to the miners' dispute and to the inner city problems. It is no use piling all the responsibility on to the police if we have not tackled the root of the problem.
The crime record under the present Government is appalling. It reveals a glaring gap between presentation and image and reality. The Government claim to be the Government of law and order. The people believe it because Conservatives constantly make speeches about it, but their record reveals something different.
All reported crimes are up 40 per cent. Crimes of violence are up 20 per cent., robberies have doubled, and burglaries have nearly doubled since the Government came to power. Crimes against property have increased, and I believe unemployment to be the root cause. People who are not part of the criminal fraternity are turning to crime almost as a way of life. We must tackle that problem immediately.
We shall support any Government moves to tackle drug addiction. The increase in drug addiction is also related to some extent to the feeling of helplessness in our inner cities—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Hon. Members may doubt that, but one of the most depressing conversations that I had during the summer was when I spent a week in Liverpool. I met members of the Merseyside drug council and talked to drug addicts. One addict commented to me, "What is the point of coming off drugs? What is it for?" When there is that feeling of frustration, helplessness and hopelessness among some of our young people, we have an obligation to be aware that it exists. We must tackle that as well as the problem of drug trafficking, although I welcome what the Prime Minister had to say about that. To ignore that atmosphere, to say that it is all a question of going after the pushers, is to ignore what life is really like in our inner cities.
I am sorry that the Prime Minister did not have time to see the Rev. Jesse Jackson when he was here, although I do not criticise her. He saw the other party leaders individually and voiced important opinions about the effect of black consciousness in the inner cities and the American experience. He gave one very good piece of advice to the black community in this country, which deserves wider attention, about recruitment to the police force. It is undoubtedly true that while only 300 of our 20,000 Metropolitan police are black, the tensions that Lord Scarman highlighted in his 1981 report will continue. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said that the attitude of blacks boycotting entrance into the police was wrong, and we must all endorse what he said. We must try to recruit more black people into the police and integrate them—[Interruption.] I wish that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) would not interrupt from a sedentary position and make such ludicrous remarks. I object to those who, on political grounds, say that they are 30 not interested in entering the police force. I am not saying that there should be different qualifications for different people; only that we should recruit more black people.
Surely we want people to help themselves. I say to the leader of the Labour party that one of the problems of the Labour council in Liverpool is that it believes that it can find the people to do for Liverpool people what they should be doing for themselves. It appointed as a race relations officer a member of Militant Tendency—a surveyor in London. Yet there is a perfectly good black consciousness movement in the city capable of generating its own leadership, and it should be encouraged to do so.
This summer I also visited Handsworth, some time after the riots had occurred. Again, there is a lesson to be learned. The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary—
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
The right hon. Gentleman is telling the Labour party what it should be doing, yet the Liberal party was in control of the city of Liverpool for 10 years, during which time it stopped the building of council houses, slashed student grants, sacked 4,000 workers from the Liverpool corporation and refused a grant to Toxteth community council almost immediately after the riots so that the bill had to be met by the Labour-controlled Merseyside county council. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks are rich indeed.
§ Mr. Steel
I shall happily send the hon. Gentleman the 66-page document that we have prepared showing how false are the statements being made by the hon. Gentleman, Mr. Hatton and others—[Interruption .] I am sorry that I have been diverted from my speech, but I wish to deal with this point. During the Liberal party's period of control in Liverpool, there was a switch from council housing to co-operative and other forms of low-cost housing. In a city that has thousands of empty council houses, to talk about building more and giving people what the Labour party thinks is best for them is quite the wrong attitude. If the hon. Gentleman had dared to talk to the Eldon housing co-operative, which has many good Labour party members, he would have learned a great deal about what should be done for housing in the city, and at much less public expense than the Labour party's proposals.
Birmingham gives us an important lesson in the way in which money has been spent in the cities. The Prime Minister was right to say that a great deal of money has been spent in those areas—
§ Mr. Steel
I shall not give way. Although I am usually willing to give way, I have now moved from Liverpool to Birmingham. This will not be the last time that we discuss the problems of Liverpool, and I look forward to returning to them in future.
There is an important lesson to be learned from Handsworth. I accept that money has been spent there, but one of the complaints of the people of Handsworth is that it has gone to outside national contractors which have brought in outside labour, carried out the work, and taken away the profits. We must look for better ways to spend the money.
A specific complaint is that projects put forward by the community following the 1981 experience have not yet been processed. I could not believe that and asked that the details be sent to me. The other day I forwarded to the 31 Home Secretary one specific example of this problem. A self-help project was proposed by the Afro-Caribbean group. It was dated 11 September 1981, but has still not been processed by the city council and the Manpower Services Commission. The project would involve young, unemployed blacks in restoring and repairing houses in the area. Surely that is the sort of project that we should be encouraging. Rather than throw money at the problem, we should use money to help people to help themselves.
What I have said about the inner cities is true of the general housing position. The Government's house-building record is appalling. We hope that the Secretary of State for the Environment will succeed in persuading his Cabinet colleagues that the house repair problem is serious. It must be tackled more imaginatively. More could be done by turning local authority estates and new council housing into housing co-operatives. That is the way for the future, and it is one means of building communities rather than simply building houses. The Government should concentrate on that.
Finally, and most important of all, my quarrel with the tone of the Gracious Speech is that it offers nothing towards changing the Government's economic direction. It refers toimproving the efficiency of industriesand to certain privatisation measures. Some of those measures may be acceptable, but we will have to wait to see the legislation. However, none of that is relevant to the central issues. The sale of assets, whatever the merit in spreading share ownership, is simply Treasury creative accounting. What will the Government do after the next election when there is nothing left to sell? What will they do in five years when there is no oil revenue? They have raised billions of pounds of capital from the sale of public assets, but pumped nothing back into the investment and infrastructure of our country.
It is significant that during the past few weeks other people—usually sympathetic to the Conservative party—have made that same criticism. Reference has already been made to the House of Lords Select Committee report. Not only was the report all-party, which is unusual; it was signed by people who are not theoretical economists, but have major experience of the industrial and commercial life of our country. In the report they said:Unless the climate is changed so that steps can be taken to enlarge the manufacturing base, combat import penetration and stimulate the export of manufactured goods, as oil revenues diminish the country will experience adverse effects which … constitute a grave threat to the standard of living and to the economic and political stability of the nation … Urgent action is required.The Association of British Chambers of Commerce said that there should be a much more positive Government approach to manufacturing industry and that the Government's decision to reject the House of Lords report had been "rash and unwise".
The Confederation of British Industry spoke about the Chancellortying British industry's shoelaces togetherwith a combination of high interest rates and an overvalued pound.
The president of the Chartered Institute of Building said that the Government must act; they have got it wrong. He said that the Government seemed devoid of meaningful ideas, yet rejected serious initiatives from industry. He 32 said that the harsh, unpalatable fact was that Britain was spending a much lower proportion of GNP on superstructure and infrastructure.
This autumn the alliance published its detailed budget proposals, designed to stimulate the economy, to obtain some growth and to create jobs. They were tested on the Treasury model. The Government may disagree with them, but they cannot doubt their validity. We should concentrate hard on improving our manufacturing and economic base.
This is fundamentally a tinkering Gracious Speech; it does not go to the heart of the problem. It is all presentation. The Government, in rejecting all those other people's views, remind me a little of a Victorian embroidery that I recall seeing on a wall in the home of an elderly couple in my constituency. I can imagine the Prime Minister saying to the Chancellor of the Exchequer,All the world's a little wrong save thee and me, and even thee's a little wrong.That sort of attitude will not carry the Government through. The editor of the Spectator was correct in his view of the Government's presentation when he commented:it is a waste of time for anyone to try to alter the Prime Minister's political persona. You may be able to persuade her to raise her voice or lower it, but it will still say the same things.That is true, and, because of it, the Government refuse to listen and to change and they are leading us to disaster in the long run. Because the Government will not change, we must change the Government.
§ Mr. John Spence (Ryedale)
Despite what Opposition Members have said, many on these Benches, and the majority of people in the country, will welcome the provisions in the Queen's Speech and the programme to which we are looking forward.
I am happy to see an undertaking:A Bill will be brought beforeParliamentto make new provision for the protection of animals used for experimental or other scientific purposes.I am glad to note that this issue is now regarded as one of extreme importance. For far too long we have been dragging our feet on animal protection, and I am glad that that measure will be introduced.
A related matter which I hope can be latched on to that provision is the need to broaden the general base of animal welfare. The enforcement of animal welfare laws depends largely on codes which have a legislative base. The time has come for those codes to be reviewed and farmers and producers would particularly welcome such a revision if it dealt with factory farming methods for the production of pigs, poultry and veal calves. It would be a great help if, when the new measure is introduced, it could be expanded to include a revision of the codes to enable stricter rules to be enforced.
It would be wise for the Government to consider the time scale within which experimentation and, in particular, animal welfare provisions are implemented. Many millions of pounds are invested in my constituency in factory farming, particularly in the three areas to which I have referred. Any provisions that are made should recognise the time scale in which the investment might have to be altered or written off. The obvious one is battery poultry, where the investment is considerable. I am sure that agreement could be reached with the Community and 33 consumer interests on such matters as cage sizes. The whole issue is enormously important to the welfare and employment of many people in my constituency.
I welcome the undertaking on the common agricultural policy. Surpluses are becoming an embarrassment, and something must be done about them quickly. We either use them, or we do not produce them. The answer is as simple as that.
The Leader of the Opposition intended, I believe, to convey less than hearty support, and even a measure of contempt, for the tourist industry. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that, at any rate in the part of the country that I represent, the industry is primarily in the hands of small business people and that it is a major contributor to the economy of the area. It was disgraceful of the Leader of the Opposition to imply such an attitude towards an important source of livelihood for many of my constituents, who have skill and training in tourism.
Let us not forget that the tourist and leisure industries have increased fifteenfold in the last 20 years and now employ 1.3 million people. In the Yorkshire and Humberside region alone, those industries have expanded by 25 per cent. in the last four years and now employ up to 65,000 people. By any standard, that has been a major industrial achievement. In my constituency alone—I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Sir. M. Shaw) will give the figures for his constituency—the increase has been phenomenal, rising by one third in four years and now employing over 2,000 people, bringing tremendous income to that part of the country. It was, therefore, unfair and unreasonable for the Leader of the Opposition to have spoken in those terms.
We must also bear in mind the industries ancillary to tourism, such as construction, food manufacturing, transport and consumer spending generally associated with holiday areas. It all adds up to make tourism a major national and regional industry. Accordingly, it is a move in the right direction to have brought tourism under the responsibility of the Department of Employment. I hope that that means that the Government recognise the employment potential of this important industry.
The whole question of shop opening hours must be related to the tourist and leisure industries. Not just holidaymakers, but people generally, want to be able to shop more or less as and when they like. They want to be able to purchase a meal or drink not necessarily in accordance with the present opening hours. Thus, the proposal to revise shop opening hours will be welcome—[Interruption.]—especially in areas which cater for holidaymakers.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
In view of some of the comments that were made by Opposition Members when my hon. Friend said that the proposal to revise shop opening hours would be welcome, may I remind him that in Scotland, where Sunday trading is the norm, people tend to have a stronger faith, in that the rate of churchgoing is higher than it is in England?
§ Mr. Spence
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for making that point. There will be adequate opportunity for hon. Members to develop that and similar arguments, in relation not only to Scotland but to other parts of the United Kingdom.
I welcome the new signposting experiments that are being conducted in two areas. That, too, will be of 34 importance to the tourist industry—an an industry which the Leader of the Opposition does not particularly like. When one speaks of the signposting of facilities in holiday and recreational areas, one is immediately accused of being a Philistine, of wanting to see whole areas covered in garish signs, whereas nothing could be further from the truth.
Elsewhere in Europe, in sensitive areas such as national parks, signposting is done in such a way as to complement both the area and the investment that people have made in the facilities being provided. I hope that the results of the experiments being conducted in this country will enable us to extend signposting in that way.
As I pointed out, the tourist industry is largely in the hands of moderately small employers. A factor which they find difficult when extending or expanding their business—this applies particularly to one-man concerns—is the incidence of VAT. I am not referring to the payment of the tax, because we must all pay it. In the early days of a business, the VAT threshold is far too low. I welcome the proposal that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, with the European Community, will endeavour to increase that base. That will be a major help to our small businesses and to people starting a business. It is a major inhibiting factor.
I compliment the tourist boards in the northern region on their initiative in forming a consortium with Manchester airport. The consortium is embarking upon a substantial overseas promotion of the north of England. The project is being financed largely by northern gateway sea and airports. It is a positive effort by the consortium to persuade overseas visitors that there is more to England than London. The promotion will consist of special brochures and an extensive programme of exhibitions in north America and northern Europe during the next six months.
The opening of the British Travel Centre in London, to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment referred recently, is intended as a practical service to overseas visitors. It will advise them on the attractions of the rest of Great Britain and enable them to make travel and accommodation arrangements for the further exploration of the country. It is a mark of the confidence and energy of the industry in our regions.
The measures in the Gracious Speech are much wider than those to which I have referred. I have mentioned some of the vital issues that affect my constituency and those who work and try to achieve greater wealth and prosperity for our country.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)
The hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Spence) will not expect me to follow him on the subject of Sunday trading hours. He will not expect me to support what he said. I imagine that we shall find ourselves in opposite Division Lobbies in the coming Session.
I make no complaint against the Prime Minister for her omission of any reference to that section of the Gracious Speech which mentioned Northen Ireland, because I appreciate that she would not wish to go beyond what is carefully set out in the Gracious Speech. I trust that her silence and failure to refer to that section—again I am not blaming her—is a sign that she does not have a closed mind, especially on the outcome of the Anglo-Irish talks. The Leader of the Opposition and I are in the same 35 position in one regard: we are not in the know about those talks. I trust that the Prime Minister will not disregard our views, or those of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), who I hope will catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or any advice that we may give in the coming critical days.
We welcome the sentence in the Gracious Speech at the opening of the paragraph on Northern Ireland which pledges the Government's support for the security forces. There is a matching statement in the international section of the Gracious Speech, in which the Government promise tomake vigorous efforts to combat international terrorism.As terrorism in Northern Ireland is plainly one element in the international terrorist scene, Her Majesty's Government have a right to expect unconditional support for their efforts from all civilised nations without price tags being attached.
We trust that there is no truth in the report that during the Anglo-Irish discussions earlier—I emphasise "earlier"—the two Governments considered a barter arrangement under which the quid pro quo for the United Kingdom would be the promise of some co-operation from the Government of the Irish Republic in return for significant concessions at the expense of the people of Northern Ireland.
I repeat that that may have been discussed earlier, but it can hardly be a factor in the light of the known assessment by the Army and the police that any such undertaking by the British Government would be worthless and meaningless. That is not intended to be a hostile comment. I say that because one of the obvious defects in any such undertaking—and only one—is the obstacle to effective joint action between the Irish army and the Irish police, because the Irish army does not have powers which would make co-operation with the Gardai effective, nor does it want those powers.
People talk glibly about effective co-operation between the security forces on either side of the frontier. It is nonsense which no one should attempt to deny because of the defect I have mentioned. It is sheer folly to imagine that any Dublin Government could deliver on anti-terrorist promises. That is now recognised by all involved, because, given the proportional representation electoral system in Dublin, no Government have a stable base in the Parliament of the Irish Republic.
The Gracious Speech says that the Governmentwill seek to improve further their co-operation with the Government of the Irish Republic.We assume that that means bringing up to a level which would be regarded as normal relations between two neighbouring sovereign, friendly nations. If that is what is meant by that phrase, Ulster Unionists will agree, and the hon. Member for Antrim, North and I said so in a document which we delivered to the Prime Minister. We recognise the enormity of the task of bringing relations between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic up to what we, and I believe all civilised nations, would regard as the norm.
It might be prudent to take as a guide an earlier phrase from the Gracious Speech, because it is a more modest suggestion. The phrase is contained in the international section and it talks about trying to establish "more normal relations" with another foreign sovereign state. That more 36 modest objective would be prudent, because there are so many obstacles to remove before we can have a normal relationship with the Irish Republic. I shall list some of the problems. The first is the territorial claim by one neighbouring friendly state which is unique in western Europe and the Western world. The second is the habit and practice of the Irish Republic consorting with unaligned states on, for example, major international issues such as the Falklands war. The third is a regrettable tendency to drag Her Majesty's Government, whether it be Labour or Conservative, before international courts, usually on trumped-up charges. The fourth is the fact, which makes some of us despair, that they make rather hysterical protests over accidental, minor frontier infringements.
Those are but a few of the obstacles to the normal relationship, which must be removed before we can start to talk about the unique relationship beloved by Mr. Haughey. We are prepared to support Her Majesty's Government in removing those road blocks, and removed they must be before anyone can contemplate a degree of interference or influence in another's internal affairs.
We have never sought to interfere in the internal affairs of the Irish Republic. Criticisms are made by others, but we have taken the view—I think that I speak for Unionist parties, in the plural—that whatever is decided by the people of the Irish Republic is good enough for us, that it is a matter for them, that they are free to make their choice, and that we respect their freedom to do so.
Internal affairs are mentioned in the phrase of the Gracious Speech to which I previously referred. The words used are:widely acceptable arrangements for the devolution of power".It is abvious that all democratic arrangements and structures have to be acceptable to a given majority, or, to put it in another way, to the greater number of people. But I trust that we can assume that the words "widely acceptable" do not in any way imply or suggest that any relatively small group or party has the right to veto the granting to the people of Northern Ireland of the same rights as are enjoyed by their fellow citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom. Who could object to that proposition? Were Her Majesty's Government to concentrate on that laudable objective, and were they to step off the treadmill of initiative after initiative, much good would follow.
The latest example of what not to do is the current Anglo-Irish discussions. It has been one of the longest running ventures. Although it is believed by some that the talks began about 10 months ago, the initiative dates back to at least early 1982. In that year, one of the designers of the project was good enough to reveal that the next time they would have to be much more devious—that was the word used by a person in high places—than in certain other ill-fated experiments, in the hope that the majority of people in Northern Ireland would not spot the hidden traps. I am not quite as naive as that person would appear to think.
The initiative, dating from January 1982, was interrupted for six short weeks after the Prime Minister's realistic response to questions on the evening of the last Anglo-Irish summit in November 1984. Much criticism has already been heaped on the head of the Prime Minister by some speakers in the debate. She has been accused of choosing presentational options rather than solid proposals for legislation. I would not fault the Prime Minister on her 37 presentation in November 1984, because it achieved something that was very important—stability in Northern Ireland.
Unionists, Nationalists, Catholics and Protestants said to themselves, "At least we now know where we stand. There is no point in haggling and squabbling over something that is not going to happen. Let us get on with working together and living together." That was one of the great achievements of the Prime Minister's presentation, and if she would keep up that good work I would find no fault with her. But there were those, even at that time, in the governmental machine—I use that term deliberately—who resented her words to a greater extent than they were resented by the Dublin Government. By the end of the six weeks the tram had been put back on the rails, and it has trundled along ever since, jumping the points occasionally, but still lurching in the same general direction.
It would be a gross understatement to say that all the attendant suspense and suspicion have seriously damaged confidence, and nowhere is that truth more evident than in the economic and employment fields. The Gracious Speech concludes its reference to Northern Ireland with the stated intentionto create and sustain employment".The present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has rightly declared that those aims can be achieved only if stability is restored. Only yesterday the Northern Ireland Economic Council advised, or warned, him that on present form the situation will get worse, not better, in an economic sense. What else could one expect, given the present political and constitutional uncertainty?
That uncertainty will be increased if Her Majesty's Government yield to the pressure to establish a structure to give any foreign nation a role in administering or governing Northern Ireland—a device which would demolish completely any written or verbal assurance that the status of Northern Ireland would not be affected. It would be clear to anyone with any common sense that the act of setting up a structure, with a permanent secretariat, was a clear contradiction of all the earlier assurances. Any such device would have a disastrous effect on the Northern Ireland economy, on security and, worst of all, on relations between the two sides of the Northern Ireland community. The effect, dare I say, would be utterly devastating for the political parties upon which so much will depend in the future.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
I should like to follow the lines on which the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), the leader of the Official Unionist party, has spoken.
I say to the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Spence), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Agriculture, of which I am also a member, that I, too, will not be in the same Lobby as him when we vote on the Bill dealing with Sunday trading. The laws for the protection of employees, and for those who have religious convictions, should not be swept away. They should be retained for the people who need protection and the benefit of one day's rest in the week, whatever their religious persuasions may be. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) that Scotland has altogether apostasised. In the land of John Knox there are still some who respect, honour and attend the kirk.
38 My purpose in speaking is to tell the House what the majority of the people of Northern Ireland are thinking at this time. It is as well that this House should know what they are thinking. As we meet here, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic are locked in talks with representatives of Her Majesty's Government. Talks between Governments are supposed to be confidential, and everyone recognises that they should be, but the present talks are confidential only in relation to the majority population in Northern Ireland. The spokesman of the SDLP—which is represented in this House by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume)—said that the Dublin Government were having consultations with leaders of his party at every stage of the negotiations. Therefore, one section of the population of Northern Ireland knows exactly what is taking place and is making recommendations accordingly.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary of the Republic of Ireland have been making tours to various foreign places. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has been briefed, as has the President of the United States, and Mr. Barry even went to the Vatican to let the Pope know what was happening. Yet the majority of the population of Northern Ireland, who will be most concerned with the outcome of the talks, have not been told what is happening. For that reason, a serious position is developing in Northern Ireland.
I hope that the long-awaited summit will soon take place and that matters will then be out in the open, as far as that is possible. I do not believe that the people of Northern Ireland will hear everything that has taken place. I do not believe that the declaration will tell us everything that has been agreed. But at least we shall see the tip of the iceberg and know what is to take place.
One point has been established through Dublin—that the aim of the Government of the Irish Republic is to set up a permanent joint secretariat, chaired by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with a co-chairman, the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic. It has been suggested that, because he will be answerable in the Dail for what takes place in the joint secretariat, the Dublin Government may appoint a Minister for Northern Ireland to answer the deliberations, recommendations, discussions and actions of that joint secretariat. I ask the House to note the effects of that. At present, when legislation is proposed for Northern Ireland, the elected representatives of both sections of the people make their wishes known at Council level and in the House. Ordinary lobbying takes place, the views of each section of the community are made known to the Government, and the appropriate Minister then takes his decision. Although both sections of the community in Northern Ireland have clearly elected representatives to do the job for them, it appears that in future all legislation and administration will be referred to a new body, and that, after that body has had its say, the proposals will come to the House.
No one doubts—the Government have reiterated this—that the House will continue to deal with legislation for Northern Ireland. But how will legislation be produced? Will it be produced as all legislation in the House is produced, or will it be referred to the joint secretariat, in which we will have representations from a foreign Government who have not looked in a friendly way on the people of Northern Ireland or their wish to remain 39 part and parcel of the United Kingdom? It should also be emphasised that article 2 of the constitution of the Republic of Ireland reads:The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and territorial sea.That is a strong claim. That foreign Government, through their new role, will have a definite input in all laws, administration and jurisdiction over part of the United Kingdom. The way in which Northern Ireland is governed will therefore be radically changed, and the constitutional structures of government in Northern Ireland will be changed. If that is so, the people of Northern Ireland have a right to decide on the matter. The House will know that in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 the law of the land states that if there is to be a change, it cannot be made without the people of Northern Ireland expressing a wish for that change.
Hon. Members will remember what happened in the House when the constitutional arrangemens of Scotland and Wales were to be changed. The people of those two parts of the United Kingdom had an opportunity through a referendum to express their wishes. We are telling the Government today, as the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley and I told the Prime Minister recently, that, because of their proposed change and the different way in which the constitutional structures of Northern Ireland will work, the people of Northern Ireland must have an opportunity to express their wishes. If we do not have such a constitutional expression of view and the rule of the ballot, we shall find ourselves in serious difficulties—and let no hon. Member think that those difficulties can be overcome, because they cannot.
Many years ago, when I first came to the House, hon. Members thought that in doing away with the old Stormont all would be well, but I warned them that the House would have to reap what it had sown. Today the House should think carefully about putting its hands to creating a structure in Northern Ireland in which the Irish Republic will have a genuine say—a consultative role and a right to be consulted about the affairs of the people of Northern Ireland.
The House should consider the record of the South. If there is one body in Northern Ireland that should be commended, it is the judiciary. Our judges and magistrates have stood the test. They come from both sides of the community, and some from both sides have been slaughtered. Indeed, one magistrate saw his daughter murdered beside him as he left his Roman Catholic place of worship after attending mass. The members of the judiciary have carried out the administration of the laws passed by the House in the face of great danger to themselves and their families. Yet no body has been more savagely attacked by the Foreign Secretary of the Government in the South than the Northern Ireland judiciary. He has said that the judiciary must be changed and that people cannot give their consent to it. Yet the only failure of those men was faithfully to administer the laws passed by the House. Will those attacks be considered by a structure, in which the South will have a legislative role, under the new proposals? Will the South be able to attack the judiciary of the North through that structure?
What about the security forces in Northern Ireland, who bear the brunt and heat of the battle? When members of the IRA, who rebel, murder and carry out crimes, are 40 about to be arrested by the Army, they stretch out their hands and say that they would rather be arrested by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. They plead not to be arrested by the British Army. Yet the RUC has come under serious criticism and denunciation. We all know that in any body of men some will deviate from the rule, but that does not mean that the whole body should be condemned.
Today the Prime Minister read a homily to the Opposition about supporting law and order, and Opposition spokesmen said that her accusations were groundless and should not be made. But in Northern Ireland the SDLP openly declares that it will not associate with the police force or invite its people to join the police or any of the security forces. That is what we are up against. The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) said that if certain people were recruited into the police force, many problems would be cured. The old RUC allocated one third of its places to the Roman Catholic commumity, and many Roman Catholics were members of it, but that did not alter the antagonism that the force faced while it tried to keep the writ of the Queen's peace.
The suggestion that is being made is creating a serious situation in Northern Ireland. I do not know what the Government's other policies will be. I can only learn from what is leaked from Dublin and said by those who are party to the discussions. Like all free peoples, the people of Northern Ireland claim the right to declare their wishes about a change in the constitutional structure of government. That right, as I have already mentioned, has been upheld by the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. That Act purports to guarantee Northern Ireland's place within this kingdom, and permits change only with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland by voting in a poll.
When the miners' strike was taking place, the Prime Minister was adamant in saying that Mr. Scargill should hold a poll. We heard that continually. The Prime Minister should hold a poll in Northern Ireland. The people should have a right to say whether they are to be governed in this manner. It is entirely different from any other part of the United Kingdom.
I shall give an example. If France claimed Cornwall, what would the House think if the Government said that they would set up a secretariat and run Cornwall as a condominium, as a covert joint authority? There would be a great outcry in the House. If there was a group of determined terrorists in Cornwall who were bombing, killing and maiming, the outcry in the House would be even greater. Yet in Northern Ireland the bombing and the maiming of our citizens go on and the Government are negotiating with the Republic along those lines.
What is more, I find it difficult to understand why yesterday, when addressing the East Belfast rotary club, the Secretary of State spoke about the minority and its fears. I know what the fears of the minority are. I represent a sizeable section of the minority in my constituency. Anybody who looks at the figures will see the swing that has taken place in the vote since I went to that constituency. There are real fears not only in the minority community but in the majority population. The Secretary of State sneered at those fears yesterday and talked about phobias and things brought out of the cupboard. He should recognise that a serious state of affairs is developing in Northern Ireland, and the sooner it comes to a head the better it will be for everyone.
41 I trust that when the House hears those proposals and the representations that will be made by members of the Unionist parties in the House, it will know exactly what the majority of the people are thinking. We in Northern Ireland are thinking of our founding father, who was a very eminent Member of this House. He served in the British Government and also in the inner Cabinet of the world war 1 Government with the Liberals. Many years ago, in a statement that sums up what Ulster is saying today, he said:Our demand is a very simple one. We ask for no privileges, but we are determined that no one shall have privileges over us. We ask for no special rights, but we claim the same rights from the same Government as every other part of the United Kingdom. We ask for nothing more; we will take nothing less. It is our inalienable right as citizens of the United Kingdom, and heaven help the man who tries to take it from us".That is the determination of the people of Northern Ireland. They want to maintain and have equal rights for every citizen in the land firmly within this kingdom.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)
There is one respect in which I would confirm the statement made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), and that is that Sunday opening in Scotland, certainly in my constituency, does not stop either Catholics or Protestants from going to church, and I do not think anything would. I would not presume to dictate to the rest of the United Kingdom what it should do, and it is up to the House to consider carefully any proposals that would undermine the working practices and rights of shop workers. The Queen's Speech shows little of what is happening in the real world, out of sight of the glitter from the crown, and still less what the Government propose to do about it.
During the recess we witnessed remarkable developments in the Government's economic and industrial policy. First, the crest of the wave of destruction of Britain's manufacturing capacity has threatened to sweep away more of the steel industry, in particular Gartcosh works, with the threat that that carries to the viability of the great Ravenscraig works in my constituency, marking a further stepwise reduction in Britain's manufacturing capacity across the whole of the steel, motor, engineering and construction industries.
If that course of events unfolds it will end the steel industry in Scotland and wreak immense damage to present and prospective employment. There will be immense social distress, with the immediate loss of 10,000 or more jobs, coming on top of 25 per cent. male unemployment and 50 per cent. youth unemployment. That will be devastating and unthinkable. Secondly, while the crest of that wave of destruction has crashed on its destructive course, it has hit the beach, and a sharp undertow has reversed the underlying direction of Government policy.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Mansion House speech, announced—or rather confirmed, because his actions had already spoken for him—that money supply was no longer to be the holy grail that will bring down inflation. The attempt to hit money supply targets has had a disastrous effect since 1980 and 1981. The excessively tight monetary policy that we have suffered, and the change in expectations that that engendered have forced up the exchange rate and destroyed Britain's industrial competitiveness by a rise of 42 40 per cent. in United Kingdom manufacturing unit labour costs relative to Germany. The money supply targets were missed, and inflation fell no lower than that of our industrial competitors, but the damage had already been done to industry.
Having inadvertently flattened manufacturing industry, the Government have now turned their attention to the indicator which warned of the real trouble—the exchange rate. The Chancellor told us in his Mansion House speech that that is now to be the principal intermediate target. It is an intellectual volte face and an admission of political failure of quite staggering proportions, the more dangerous to the Government because it is hidden in the mists of economic principle which the Government are meant to understand. Is the exchange rate to be treated as the warning light to keep industry and inflation flat, or is it to be treated as a beacon that will allow industry to pick itself up and advance again?
Unit labour costs in the United Kingdom relative to Germany stand almost at their 1981 peak. If the deutschmark is kept at around its present level, industry will continue to suffer. Is the intention of the Group of Five simply to bring down the dollar relative to the yen, to relieve the trade imbalance between the United States and Japan, with Britain and Europe left in the middle? Or is the Chancellor intending to bring down the pound, at least part of the way with the dollar, to make it more competitive with the deutschmark? On such questions hangs the industrial future of this country. There is nothing about that in the Queen's Speech.
The Chancellor wants to hold down inflation and appears to believe that it will be best achieved by holding the exchange rate index for sterling at its present level. So the implications for the deutschmark depend on what happens to the dollar and the yen. That is not good enough. But at least at the macro-economic level the Government are now talking about the factors that do influence competitiveness.
The full arguments on the future of Gartcosh must be deployed when we have all the evidence available, when we have the report of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, with a full debate on Gartcosh on a motion on which the House will be required to vote. The shop stewards, the work force, and everyone concerned with the future of the steel industry in Scotland—that is just about everybody north of the border—have been vocal and articulate in putting forward the case against closure. That case should be fully tested against the facts, which we have not been told. It is essential that the full case that the British Steel Corporation is seeking to make should be presented to this House.
The sea change to which I referred in the underlying principles of the Government's economic policy has not yet sunk in at the industrial level, up to and including the meeting of the Steel Council last week. European steel policy has not even questioned the effects of exchange rates on United Kingdom competitiveness and the prospects for United Kingdom industrial recovery. The defeatism and pessimism so evident at the top levels in the British Steel Corporation are spread far wider throughout British industry. BSC has no difficulty in obtaining pessimistic views from its customers on the prospects for industrial recovery in general and on steel demand in particular.
43 The European Commission strategy document "General Objectives Steel 1990" offers just one economic scenario—a macro-economic forecast presented from its Comet models. The assumptions about United Kingdom competitiveness and exchange rates are not stated, but they are broadly that the present exchange rate with the deutschmark and relative competitiveness with Germany should continue. The officials who prepared that forecast were not even asked to examine the effects of different sterling-deutschmark exchange rates. They told me last week that the Comet models which they used would have shown, as one might expect, increased United Kingdom production and exports and reduced imports from a lower pound with slightly higher inflation in a reasonably harmonious scenario with lower United Kingdom interest rates.
There was no such testing of the scenario against which the whole future of the steel industry in Britain, and particularly in Scotland, is being judged. None of this was examined or questioned by the British Steel Corporation or by the Department of Trade and Industry. The practical effect is that the opportunities and prospects for recovery in British manufacturing industry and in steel and steel-using industries are being gravely underestimated by the Government and by the British Steel Corporation.
The cold rolling and finishing mill for the Ravenscraig works is at Gartcosh. The BSC case for closing Gartcosh is based on demand forecasts consistent with the pessimistic scenario painted by the European Commission. Short-term cost savings are claimed from the closure of Gartcosh and the diversion of its order book to Port Talbot, Llanwern and Shotton.
In the assumed scenario, the coporation as a whole becomes more profitable. The Government have insisted that Ravenscraig should remain open for three years, which will take us past the next general election. The widely held view in Scotland is that Ravenscraig is being set up for closure. The only investment that it is receiving is the cheapest way of keeping it going for three years, whereas Port Talbot and Llanwern are rightly getting long-term investment. If the Government's intentions towards Ravenscraig are to be tested, we must see whether in three years' time Ravenscraig has a better or worse chance of being viable without Gartcosh.
Under the British Steel Corporation's chosen scenario, the cold mills in the corporation will be more heavily loaded than the upstream steel-making and hot mills. Substantial reserve steel-making capacity at Port Talbot and Llanwern can be brought into production with relatively little further investment. As the closure of Gartcosh tilts the imbalance of investment still more heavily towards the heavy steel-making end rather than the finishing end, the prima facie judgment must be that the future of Ravenscraig is being severely prejudiced, if not foreclosed, by the proposal to close Gartcosh. The BSC has presented no evidence or argument to the contary.
Political statements from the corporation that even to ask questions about the future of Ravenscraig is to undermine its chances of survival are obscurantist rubbish. When I drafted a detailed questionnaire to the corporation seeking the information necessary to form a judgment about the future of Ravenscraig with and without Gartcosh, the chairman of the corporation refused to reply to it, on the ground that it raised questions about strip 44 product group strategy in the corporation generally and not just about Gartcosh works. As Gartcosh produces the same products and sells in the same markets as other cold strip mills and the BSC has repeatedly emphasised that none of these works can be seen in isolation, it is precisely the product group strategy that must be questioned.
The Select Committee on Scottish Affairs has now required the BSC to reply to that questionnaire, so we should get the necessary facts on costs, capacities and efficiencies. These will then have to be analysed in the light of alternative demand scenarios. There are plainly scenarios which would justify the retention of Gartcosh and of a viable steel industry in Scotland. Ultimately, it will be a matter of judgment as to the balance of probabilities, and of the policies required. That is a judgment which this House must make after the Government have carried full responsibility for ensuring that the House is fully informed of the arguments and their implications.
If manufacturing industry is to make its essential contribution to the future of Britain, industries such as electronics and biotechnology are essential, but they can play only a relatively small part by comparison with the established industries. Engineering, vehicles and steel still have an essential part to play in Britain's industrial recovery. The House of Lords Select Committee on Overseas Trade and the recent analysis in the Bank of England quarterly bulletin show the very limited contribution that can be made by services either to employment or to the balance of payments as North sea oil runs out. The way ahead for economic recovery in this country must be found in manufacturing industry. We are witnessing within manufacturing industry a crucial test of the Government's self-confidence in whether or not they will allow the closure of Gartcosh to go ahead.
§ Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)
I welcome many parts of the Queen's Speech and especially endorse the proposals for tougher legislation against riotous assemblies. The powers of the police need to be strengthened. I was delighted at the way in which the Prime Minister called on the nation to stand four square behind our police forces in the difficult role that they have had to play in recent months, particularly in the inner city riots.
I am encouraged by the presence of the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer), to say how glad I am that the Government are apparently going ahead with the Okehampton bypass Bill. I believe that it is an open secret in the House that the Government intend to introduce such a measure, and I hope that it will have the backing not just of this House but of another place, in view of the importance of that bypass to the south-west of England, to west Devon and to the whole of Cornwall. One of the problems faced by the county of Cornwall is the communications bottleneck caused by the awful state of the A30. If ever a road needed to be built quickly, it is the Okehampton bypass. I ask hon. Members in this House and in another place who have sincere doubts, based on a misconception of the facts about that Bill and the effects of the proposed road on the Dartmoor national park, to look at the map and see how the proposed bypass will just clip the edge of Dartmoor national park. It is the best route in environmental terms.
45 I have reservations about one aspect of the Queen's Speech which has already been mentioned today—the Government's intention to legislate on Sunday shopping hours. This will come as no surprise to the Whips, because I was one of those Conservative Members who voted against the proposals that were put to the House earlier in the year. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister rightly spoke of the importance of choice. Choice is important. I do not see why we necessarily need a uniform approach to the subject. What might be right in the suburbs of Greater London or the midlands could be wrong in areas such as the far west of Cornwall which I represent. I do not see anything wrong with letting localities decide whether they want shops open. I urge my right hon. Friend to look again at this proposal. The arguments that I have heard developed since the House debated this subject have not changed my views.
I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the crisis which is facing Cornwall and, indeed, the whole of the tin industry. Thirteen days ago trading in tin on the London metal exchange was suddenly suspended. The decision cast a long shadow over the Cornish economy, especially those parts of Cornwall which still have tin mines, one of which, Geevor, is in my constituency. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade for seeing me about this issue. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) also attended that meeting. We urged my right hon. Friend to do everything he could to ensure that Britain took the lead in reopening talks in the International Tin Council. Those talks had already started when we met the Minister, but it was clear that they would not end in agreement. I am pleased to say that since then, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has taken the lead in reconvening the International Tin Council, and a meeting started earlier today. I hope that, at that meeting, there will be an attempt to achieve some stability in what is an international crisis.
However, what disturbs me is that, up to now, comment has been chiefly concerned with the consequences for the City and for the London metal exchange. These are extremely important matters, and I would not wish to belittle them, but what concerns me is the plight of the tin mines in Cornwall. I fear that their plight has been overlooked because of major financial considerations. My simple plea to the Government is not to overlook the tin industry in Cornwall. Ministers might be tempted to think that it is a somewhat insignificant industry in United Kingdom terms. It employs just over 1,500 people directly in Cornwall and the same again indirectly. It is vital to certain parts of Cornwall.
Geevor mine is a few miles from Land's End on the north coast of Cornwall. The remote area of St. Just and Pendeen is absolutely dependent on that tin mine, which employs over 300 people. It would be devastating for that area if that or any other tin mine in Cornwall were to close. Closure would have a serious impact on a region which already has very high unemployment.
I believe that tin mines have a strategic importance, because they are the only ones of their type in the whole of the European Community. If the talks in the International Tin Council do not stabilise the situation, the Government would be justified in giving special temporary assistance to enable them to withstand this temporary crisis. I am convinced that it is a temporary crisis brought about by the fluctuation in currencies and other factors which have complicated the international situation. Only 46 a few months ago, the trading price of tin was over £10.000 a tonne. When trading was suspended, it was £8,000 and falling. Unless something is done, the price could drop to £4,000 a tonne. I hope that that never happens, because it would cast serious doubts on the viability of the mines in the short term. I am prepared to wager, however, that after a reasonable period the price of tin will go up again. It would be ridiculous if in the meantime, tin mines were to close, never to reopen. That must not be allowed to happen. I am aware of the difficulties facing the Government, but my hon. Friends and I will do everything in our power to ensure that those mines have a chance to survive and that the mining communities are saved.
§ Mr. Gregor MacKenzie (Glasgow, Rutherlen)
I also congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion. I do so heartily, because as you may recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had the privilege of moving a similar motion more than 20 years ago. I feel for those who are given this responsibility, which they have discharged more than adequately today.
I was particularly interested in the comments of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre). He and I have served in this House for a long time and it was interesting to hear him say that there is very little industry in his constituency. We do not have very much in common but, sad to say, that is one thing that we have in common today. When I came to this House more than 20 years ago we had a great deal of industry in my constituency, but week by week, month by month, over the past few years the numbers of people in gainful employment have been dropping tragically.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone). We in Scotland have special problems and it is his responsibility, with other Scottish Conservative Members, to put Scotland's case, just as the Opposition do.
The most disappointing aspect of the Queen's Speech concerns employment. The Prime Minister and her colleagues have made a great deal of the fact that inflation is going down, but we must ask ourselves, "At what cost?" For the people of Scotland, the cost has meant that 400,000 of them are unemployed today—7,000 of them in my constituency.
One paragraph of the Queen's Speech was devoted to Scottish interests, and one half of that paragraph was devoted to salmon fishing. The House will not be surprised that, when I go back and tell my constituents that, there will not be any dancing in the streets of Rutherglen on Friday night. They will be very disappointed because they looked to the Gracious Speech to give them some hope.
The figures that I have quoted tell only half the story. We must look behind the figures which are quoted so readily to find the real evils of unemployment. In my constituency, scores of people over 40 years of age believe that they will never get a job again. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said tht people reach a point at which they stop wanting to look for a job. Hundreds of people believe that, although they stand in queues and write letters, it is all to no purpose. If that is true of the over-forties, it is more so of the young in my constituency.
I have spoken before in the House about my youngsters in their twenties and their friends, who write letter after letter. Nothing is more soul-destroying than negative 47 replies to young people looking for a job. They seek decent trades, decent apprenticeships and proper training. I was astonished, as I am sure were my Scottish colleagues, that a main point in the Prime Minister's speech today was that there had been so much training for young people. I do not know where that training is taking place, but it is certainly not in the west of Scotland. There is a crying demand for apprenticeships and proper training. It is a disgrace that young people are denied them.
Instead, we are chided by the Prime Minister. When we make speeches like this, we are told that we are moaning minnies. Such a description should not apply to hon. Members who complain or to the people whom they represent. It is our duty and obligation to come to the House and tell the Government what our constitutents think. They are angry with the Government because of unemployment and all the evils that go with it.
The people of Scotland and of other parts of the United Kingdom are a proud people. All that they ask is to be allowed to use their skills, talent and craftsmanship. They want to look after their families, to provide decent homes for them, to give their children a decent education and to look after their elderly relatives. However, they do not want to do that on a state handout. They want to care for them out of their earnings. They bitterly resent the fact that money coming into the country and oil revenues from the North sea are spent on supplementary benefit when they should be spent on regenerating industry in Scotland.
During the past three years, our older traditional industries have been almost decimated. Thousands of jobs have been lost in coal mining, steel making, shipbuilding and heavy engineering. In the past few years some of the newer industries such as car plants, aluminium smelting plants and paper mills have closed. Now we are saying that enough is enough. Even if private interests and nationalised industries are prepared to scuttle Scottish industry, we are not. We do not accept their attitude. We beg the Government to intervene in such malpractices.
Nowhere is the concern of Scottish people clearer than in the case of Gartcosh. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) outlined our concern about Gartcosh, Ravenscraig and steel making in Scotland. No doubt during the next few days my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) and my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) will likewise put their case. In the years that I have been in the House, I cannot think of an issue which has so united the people of Scotland. The trade unions, the chambers of commerce, regional councils, district councils and hon. Members of all parties are agreed. Only one Conservative Member, who is regarded as an eccentric, disagrees with the rest of us. The Government must pay attention, because in Scotland even the Tory party says that something must be done about steel making.
I was fascinated to read the other day that a lady Tory councillor in Stirlingshire advocated that Scottish Conservative ladies should come to London and chain themselves to the railings outside the British Steel Corporation's headquarters. When the Tory party ladies in Scotland tell the Government that they will chain themselves to the railings of the BSC, the Government should sit up and pay a wee bit of attention to their demands. To the people of Scotland—my hon. Friend 48 the Member for Motherwell, South agrees with thisGartcosh has become a symbol. The earnestness of the Government to regenerate Scottish industry will be judged by their approach to this issue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, South, my right and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East and others have been told that this is a matter for the day-to-day management of the British Steel Corporation. I have been an industrial Minister and I have no desire to interfere with the day-to-day management of the BSC or any other nationalised industry. However, this is not a day-to-day matter. The whole social and economic structure of Scotland is affected. It is too important a matter to be left to the chairman of the BSC and his colleagues on the board. They do not govern the country. They do not have the responsibility for regenerating industry or reducing unemployment and finding jobs for the people. This is a matter for Ministers. I hope that Ministers will not shuffle off their responsibility to the chairman of the BSC and others like him.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, South said, there has already been far too much uncertainty about the future of the steel industry in Scotland. It is time for the uncertainty to be ended and to have a proper approach from the Government to get on with the business of making steel so that Scottish products can be sold in the United Kingdom and in Europe.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Motherwell, North)
Further decimation of the steel industry is taking place in my constituency. At the Clydesdale tube works the workers are working short time. On present reckoning, they will be idle for the three weeks before Christmas. At the same time, 7,000 tonnes of steel have come in from Italy to the Clydesdale works. The workers believe that management cannot forecast accurately; only a short time ago the workers were told that the order book was filled to capacity. We are now in a sad position.
§ Mr. MacKenzie
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I attended a meeting with my hon. Friend and others at which we were told that that works was an example to us all, that it had a full order book and that it was one of the best hopes for the future of the steel industry in Scotland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, South properly raised what is not just a constituency matter but a matter of national importance for Scotland—the future of Ravenscraig. I mentioned earlier that I believed it to be improper for Governments to shuffle off their responsibilities and put them on to the shoulders of the chairmen of boards of nationalised industries. It is within the recollection of all hon. Members that it was a political decision to establish Ravenscraig. It was set up by a Government headed by Harold Macmillan who, with his colleagues, realised the importance of the decision to establish Ravenscraig.
We are not only concerned about Ravenscraig, although, with Gartcosh, it is one of our major concerns. Whole communities in Glasgow and Lanarkshire will be affected. In moving the motion, the hon. Member for Hall Green stressed the importance of small firms in his constituency. Not dozens but scores of small firms depend heavily for their orders upon Gartcosh, Ravenscraig and the other steel plants in Scotland. If the Government are sincere about their small firms policy, I hope that Lord Young, the Secretary of State for Employment, will take 49 a personal interest in it and will discover the extent to which small firms are affected by the closure of steelworks throughout the United Kingdom.
I have stressed that Ravenscraig, Gartcosh and the associated small and medium-sized firms are our main concern, but we want Scotland to have its share of the newer industries. During the past 15 years we have had a fair share of the new electronic industries. I hope that we shall continue to attract them to all parts of the United Kingdom, not just to Scotland. I want these new industries to compete on equal terms with the Japanese and our European partners. To do so successfully, men and women need to be properly trained in these new and sophisticated skills. Their education and training start in our schools, universities and other centres of higher education.
That brings me to another major area of concern in Scotland—schooling. Tomorrow many teachers will be coming to Parliament from Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom to express their concern about education. They will tell us about their conditions of service and about the conditions in their schools. I cannot think of a time when they have come to Parliament to tell right hon. and hon. Members not only about their pay and conditions but about the unprecedented action that they have been obliged to take. Later this month university teachers will be coming to tell us much the same story.
I have been a town councillor and a Member of Parliament for about 33 years. During that time I have been closely associated with education in the west of Scotland. I cannot easily think of a time when morale in the Scottish teaching profession has been as low as it is now. I hope that the Government will take seriously education and training. If, as we are told constantly, there is to be an upturn in trade and United Kingdom industries are to take off in the same way as those of some of our European partners, we shall need skilled young people. If we are to maintain our place as an industrial nation, that will have to happen. I hope that these matters will be considered seriously by the Scottish Office and by other Ministers. If they are not, we shall be unable to maintain our place as a great industrial nation.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
I agree with the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. MacKenzie) that this country is in the middle of a third industrial revolution and that the pattern of industry is changing. As he said, we are moving towards microchip technology, and people must be trained to undertake that kind of work. It is no use trying to shore up old-fashioned industries such as steel. There is a world surplus of steel. It is difficult to estimate how much will be required. It is that kind of challenge with which we are faced. I agree with the right hon. Member for Rutherglen that unemployment is a source of concern for all hon. Members, but the Government are trying to reduce it.
It is quite right that the Gracious Speech should put defence first. I note that it says that the Governmentwill continue to play a full and active part in the Atlantic Alliance and to enhance the United Kingdom's own defences.This point was very well made in a recent debate, and I shall not bore the House with it. However, it is essential for this country to have adequate defences if an attack should be made upon it, and there must be sufficient 50 personnel to man those key installations and to ensure that the enemy cannot infiltrate. Paragraph 4 of the Gracious Speech says:My Government will continue to work for progress in arms control".Of course they must. However, that progress must be mutual and balanced, and provision must be made for full and comprehensive mutual inspection. That is very important.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister mentioned gas. One cannot, of course, provide for mutual inspection of gas, because this country does not have gas; only the Soviet Union has a stock of gas.
The Gracious Speech also refers to the Falkland islands and to the honouring of the undertakings given to the people of the Falkland islands. However, it does not mention sovereignty. This is a very important point. It must not be forgotten that there may be vast reserves in the whole of the south Atlantic which could be exploited.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that in most cases privatisation has been not only economic but has enabled this country to become a nation of shareholders. People have a share in the industries in which they work. This is just as important as being a householder. If people have a share in the industries in which they work, they realise that if those industries make a profit they will benefit. This is important not only from the national point of view but from the point of view of encouraging a sense of responsibility in individuals and a desire to co-operate with management in order to make industry profitable.
Napoleon said that we were a nation of shopkeepers, and he was right. Our small businesses must be given more freedom. One of my hon. Friends complained earlier about the burden of VAT, but the main problem facing small businesses is the innumerable number of forms that have to be filled in. A small business man finishes his week's work and then has to fill in all these forms. We need a simplified form of accounting, whether for income tax, VAT or anything else, which everybody can understand and deal with quickly so that valuable time is not wasted.
Reference is made in the Gracious Speech to social security. There is a crying need for legislation, because our social security system is so confused that no one knows who to go to and people do not know their rights. We need the new legislation that the Government are to introduce. The emphasis should be on the needy, and our NHS should not be in conflict with private practice, but should work in partnership for the good of the nation.
The two great issues facing the country are unemployment and law and order. We must consider the three important aspects of law and order—the law, its enforcement, and the punishment for breaking it. I have taken up the case of a woman constituent who has suffered because Hell's Angels have moved in next door to her. I will not describe what goes on in that house; hon. Members can imagine what happens. There is no law that can touch them.
We must support the police. Discipline starts in the school and the home and it must continue into respect for the police. If the police have to be given more powers, that must be accepted. I do not mind the police having water cannon. As long as they are given sufficient power and are not continually criticised, we shall be able to make progress.
51 Where is the punishment? People go before the courts and get practically no punishment. The law, its enforcement and punishment must be looked at carefully.
When the Hell's Angels moved into my constituency, we examined the law carefully because they were making life hell for Mrs. McSorley. We could find no way of catching them. If we go on like this, we shall find that the incidents that have occurred in various cities will get worse and will eventually spread. Now is the time to stamp out crime and violence. We must not wait until it overcomes us.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is to tackle drug abuse and drug trafficking, and I am sure that she will also tackle crime. If we do not tackle the problems of unemployment and crime, we shall be criticised heavily at the next election.
§ 6.4 pm
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)
I motored up from south Wales this morning, and as I crossed the Severn bridge at about 9 o'clock I noticed a tailback of about one mile on the Bristol side. I could see no impediment, apart from the hundreds of bollards to which we have grown accustomed over the years, and it seemed that the sole reason for the build-up of traffic was the fact that drivers had to queue to pay toll charges. That is inefficiency by any standards, because the Severn bridge is merely a stretch of the M4 and I believe that toll charges should be abolished on all our estuarial crossings. There is nothing about that in the Queen's Speech, but I hope that such a proposal will appear in a future Gracious Speech.
The Queen's Speech says:A Bill will be introduced to remove statutory restrictions on shop opening hours.I do not wish to appear sanctimonious, but we have all been brought up in a country with a Christian tradition and we all understand that Sunday is essentially different. Apart from any moral considerations, I believe that we all benefit mentally and physically because Sunday is different from the other six days of the week.
Some tidying up of the law may be required, but I do not wish to see anything more drastic. I would not complain if small food shops were allowed to open until midday; there is an abvious need to be able to buy newspapers on Sunday; and perhaps people could visit garden centres. However, I feel that only such minor modifications should be made.
I do not wish to go into Newport on a Sunday and find all the chain stores open in the main street. Apart from being an infringement of the tradition of Sunday, it is likely to lead to further exploitation of labour. We know that wages in the retail trade are already notoriously low. I hope that the Government will reconsider their proposal.
The Queen's Speech says:Measures will be introduced to permit the transfer of the assets of the British Gas Corporation to the private sector".The gas industry is a highly profitable, publicly owned industry and it should remain so. Last year it contributed to the Exchequer £350 million in profits and the same amount in taxation. That is a substantial sum.
The Government allegedly oppose Government interference in industry, but they have imposed gas price increases of 10 per cent. more than the rate of inflation over the past three years. They have added £4 billion to 52 the nation's gas bills. Many less well-off families are being badly hit by those unnecessary, Government-imposed increases.
British Gas is a monopoly, and that is a vital reason why it should remain in public hands.
In the last week we have witnessed events at British Telecom, also a monopoly service supplier and now in private hands. Despite the astronomical profits, savage increases have been imposed upon ordinary domestic users. There is no evidence that gas consumers will be better off as a result of the sale of the British Gas Corporation.
Selling British Gas is equivalent to selling the silver: it can be done only once. Fantastic amounts of revenue will be raised. Estimates range from £5 billion to £8 billion. We all criticise British Gas from time to time—I have done so myself—but it has an unrivalled record for safely and for efficiently providing the nation with heat and energy.
The real reason for the Government's proposal is a little sordid. For a long time the Government have been half promising tax handouts. Because of the failure of the Government's economic policies, they have not been able to deliver. With the sale of British Gas, the Chancellor will be able to make tax concessions which will benefit the better-off. One could say that the Government are attempting to buy the result of the next general election.
The billions of pounds raised to purchase British Gas will detract from the vast sums which should be going into British manufacturing industry. Only through investment in existing industry and the creation of new industries will we be able to put our people back to work. For the millions who now stand in the dole queues there seems to be no hope. The House of Lords Select Committee realised that in its report. The Committee investigated the deteriorating balance of trade in manufacturing industry. It is a doom-laden report which points to a further contraction of manufacturing industry. It says that there will be a deterioration in the balance of payments and that deflationary measures will be needed. When deflationary measures are taken by any Government, ordinary families suffer most.
The report says that higher unemployment is likely as the oil resources run out. Heaven knows, the unemployment figures are horrific enough. The report predicts economic stagnation and inflation and a decline in the exchange rate when North sea oil runs out. It states:
The effect will be to pose a grave threat to the standard of living and to the economic and political stability of the nation.The Government should be seriously concerned about that report. In a nutshell, it says that the economic policies pursued over the last six and a half years have failed catastrophically. The Conservatives should make way for a Government who are prepared to make putting Britain back to work their central objective.
§ Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson (New Forest)
I was delighted that the Gracious Speech began with a welcome to the Amir of Qatar who will be coming here shortly. In an all-party delegation I had the privilege of visiting Qatar last month. The visit was relevant to some of the speeches made today. One of the reasons for the visit was to study industrial development in that Gulf state. I had an unpleasant shock when we visited the Qatar steel plant, an exact copy of the Hunterston plant. The plant was hardly 53 operating because of a glut of product and was making only reinforcing material. The steel industry is relevant to everything in the Gracious Speech.
I welcome the Gracious Speech warmly, particularly after listening to the Prime Minister's speech. When I first read the speech, I was worried that we were perhaps allowing a reform of the rating system to slip out of sight. I was delighted that the Prime Minister corrected that omission.
I was sorry to find no mention of any legislative response to the Warnock report. I had hoped that something would be done in this Session to put some teeth into that report.
On a minor issue, I am delighted that the speech contains no reference to dog licences. I hope that they will disappear for ever. The best thing that the Government can do is to abolish the whole nonsense of dog licences. Perhaps I shall have an opportunity on another occasion of arguing that case with my right hon. and hon. Friends.
Unlike the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), I welcome the moves towards privatisation. I remember well my maiden speech in the House almost exactly 21 years ago. I was fresh from Steel house and the Iron and Steel Federation. I spoke on the Queen's Speech which carried proposals to nationalise the steel industry. Labour Members cheerfully believed that that was a commanding height and that all British industry's problems would evaporate once Ministers had control over that great industry. The story of the steel industry's nationalisation is not happy.
I recall when in 1972 the Secretary of State proposed investment plans for a greatly enhanced industry. People questioned whether 35 million tonnes would be enough. We now know the facts—and what a sad and sorry state the industry is in.
I am glad that we are moving away from the belief that political control of an industry is a panacea and a cure-all for problems. If my arithmetic is correct, by the time that this Parliament draws to an end about 40 per cent. of the state assets which existed in 1979 will have been returned to private ownership. The ratchet will be in the opposite direction.
I am concerned about that section of the Gracious Speech which states:Within the framework of firm monetary and fiscal policies designed to secure a continuing reduction in inflation, my Government will do all in their power to encourage the growth of new jobs.Everyone in the House will agree with that objective. There is no doubt that for the sixth year the economy is continuing to grow, but it is not growing in an even pattern. Many areas of the economy are still deep in recession or falling behind.
I listened with interest to the speeches of the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) and the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. MacKenzie), who spoke about the sterling exchange rate as though it was some piece of arithmetic that could be thrown to one side while we got on with the real job of running Britain's economy. I do not share that attitude. I regard the exchange rate as absolutely essential to the battle against inflation. If the exchange rate ever got into the situation that faced us a year ago, inflation would climb to record levels even higher than those under the Labour Government. We could then say goodbye to Britain as a 54 nation able to compete anywhere in the world. I do not regard the exchange rate as a trifle which we can dispense with.
§ Dr. Bray
I am delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman's sentiments, but I think that he must have misunderstood the Chancellor for the past six years. It is the Chancellor who has ignored the exchange rate but who has now undergone a Damascene conversion and is saying that it must be his principal target.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
We must beg to differ. I hold the view—whether or not the Chancellor does—that the exchange rate is central to our economic performance. Although I understand the desire of the CBI and others for lower interest rates, I recognise that, against the background of a falling oil price, and with Britain, for whatever reason, regarded as having a petrocurrency, if interest rates were precipitously reduced there would be a substantial fall in the exchange rate, resulting in an increase in inflation. While I have sympathy with the CBI, I ask it to bear in mind the fact that without interest rates, and against a falling oil price, we have nothing with which to underpin our currency, and that creates problems for expanding the economy.
While encouraging the growth of new jobs, we must ask how that should be done. It is essential to analyse the causes of unemployment and what it is about. It is not a simple position that can be described in one or two words. Unemployment is the product of three factors: first, the world recession, from which some industries are emerging, while others are still in its depths; secondly, the advance of technology; thirdly, and inevitably, the fact that many trade union leaders have priced their members out of jobs by asking for unreasonable wage settlements. There have been examples of that during the past few years, but also a recognition by some union members that they were being led by false prophets.
We want the unemployment figures to come down. We want to ensure that young people have an opportunity of job experience so that they can build a life for themselves where work is not, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested, something that they are no longer interested in seeking. I make a plea to my right hon. Friends to ensure that the youth training scheme does not suffer from lack of funds. In Hampshire, the YTS relies on a number of resources from different quarters. I urge my right hon. Friends to ensure that, when approached by county councils for funds to operate the scheme effectively, they do not deny them those funds. The scheme is efficient and good and those taking part in it obtain genuine benefits. It would be a tragedy if it had to be curtailed as a result of a Treasury diktat that rendered funds unavailable.
I hope that the Government will reconsider their attitude towards local authorities spending their own money. That is not an extension of public borrowing; it is an extension of good infrastructure. To pennypinch today is to ensure disaster tomorrow; to spend wisely today is to be sure of a good infrastructure tomorrow. We must differentiate between the councils that have funds from the sale of council houses and those with funds from other sources. It is absolutely essential that some freeing of those funds is introduced quickly. In the absence of that, we are building up real trouble for ourselves in the future and the job of reconstruction will be that much harder.
I am not one of those who believe that the future of Britain lies on the back of a microchip. I am quite 55 convinced that the microchip and all advancing technology are of the greatest importance. I also recognise that if we want to create more employment on the British Leyland Metro line, we must take out all the robot welders and put back the workers with torches. I ask the Government seriously to consider the problem that many heavy industries are now not only in recession, but are being competed against unfairly by some of our so-called colleagues within the European Community.
The right hon. Member for Rutherglen mentioned Italy. The Italians are a good example of unfair competition. They tinker with their energy costs in an unacceptable manner. They allow the British steel industry to be cut to pieces, yet do not take the same action with their own. We have heard examples tonight of products being imported at prices that we cannot match. Yet we have one advantage not held by any other European country, not even Japan: we have a four-fuel economy in abundance. We have coal, gas, oil and nuclear—the whole spread of cards. If the Government fail in their objectives, the blame can be laid at the feet of the accountants. Instead of playing those four cards and ensuring that energy is at the right price for our manufacturing industry, they are trying to balance each of the four and make the bottom line attractive.
I declare an interest because I work for a large user of electricity in Sheffield, making melting electrodes for the steel industry. Ringing in our ears still are the comments of the former chairman of the steel industry, Mr. MacGregor, that electric melting in this country will never make sense because of the cost of electricity. Having switched from steel to coal, he still recognises that problem.
The plant in Sheffield spends £6 million on electricity. It makes products identical to those made by a similar plant in Calais, on the other side of the Channel, where the cost of electricity is 50 per cent. less. I know all the reasons for that, and my hon. Friends can, if they wish, explain about nuclear power in France and so on. I understand all that. We must introduce real differentials for the big electricity users. I know that there is talk between the Department of Energy and others about bulk tariffs, but if that means differentials in price on an interruptible basis that will not be acceptable. We have had that before—indeed, we have it now. To put it simply, it means that when cooking in an oven we are at risk not only of damaging what we are cooking but of damaging the oven. I want a real differential, and that can be brought about only by Government action. Under the statute of nationalisation, the CEGB and Electricity Council must supply all customers on an even-handed basis. Until that statute is changed, we shall be having these arguments time and again and no fundamental action will be taken.
Imagine that we were able to get the real differentials that I have in mind. Then we would see auto strip produced more cheaply, slabs and billets, better car business and, dare we hope, better shipbuilding business, and other areas of manufacturing industry would benefit. If we do not do something along those lines, we shall sink.
I support what the Prime Minister said when addressing the Conservative party conference. Across-the-board random reflation would lead us back into the problems of a weak exchange rate, increasing inflation and the other difficulties to which I have referred. However, in my view, that does not mean that we should do nothing and 56 sit on our hands, watching other countries taking us to the cleaners. It means that we must use the cards in our hand and play them really strongly, and energy is the best of those cards.
It is a tragedy that, although we are one of the biggest oil producers in the world—a miracle resource which those coming into the House with me in 1964 never even believed would exist; people said that there was no oil in the North Sea, and we were getting excited about the availability of gas—we are being beaten to the post by countries which have no energy resources of their own. That must be wrong.
If the Queen's Speech means what it says, as I pray it does, it must also mean that the Government will use the selective encouragements, the innovation, available to us to get manufacturing industry in Britain going again.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)
It is a pleasure to speak following the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), particularly as I share some of the views that he expressed. Certainly I share the view of the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn), who is not at present in his place, that two major problems facing the nation are unemployment and crime.
The Gracious Speech says that theGovernment will do all in their power to encourage the growth of new jobs.I hope that those are not just words, and that the Government proposal is not designed to relate only to the southern half of the country. As hon. Members are aware, I am familiar with west Yorkshire, which has always been coal mining dominated. Indeed, that industry has in the past created a significant proportion of the economy of west Yorkshire. Two decades ago there were 40,000 miners in west Yorkshire. By 1984, there were fewer than 20,000.
As the rundown of the coal industry took place over those years most of the people were able to be transferred into jobs in other sectors, but the position has changed greatly of late. Now, in west Yorkshire alone, 5,000 jobs have been lost since the end of the miners' strike and it is expected that, with the introduction of new technolgy, the present number of mining jobs in west Yorkshire will be reduced by 74 per cent.
The problem is not confined to west Yorkshire generally, but is spread among black spots in the mining communities. For example, the Castleford travel-to-work area is at present showing an unemployment rate of 14.2 per cent., but, as I shall show, that figure is a fiddle. There are 8,247 people unemployed in the Castleford travel-to-work area, with only 291 vacancies being shown. The unemployment total, however, is incorrect, because miners who have been redundant for more than 12 months are not shown on the unemployment register.
Those men are nevertheless unemployed. I concede that they are protected by redundancy payments, but it is not satisfactory to tell a man aged, say, 50, "We do not expect you to be employed again, so you will not be able to sign for the dole between the ages of 50 and 65." Although it is perhaps incorrect to say that they cannot register, they feel that there is no point—as they are receiving redundancy payments—after 12 months in continuing to register, because there will be no possibility of a job for them.
57 The situation in Castleford is fogged by the Government's policy of creating boundaries of travel-to-work areas in such a way as to provide either grant entitlement or no entitlement under the intermediate area status. Although I do not have the figures broken down for Castleford—because they are not available—it is clear that in that area alone there are black spots with unemployment reaching 20 to 22 per cent. However, 42 per cent. of those people are under 24 years old. Despite that, not one youth under 18 is on any of the collieries' books and, apart from the odd apprentice here or there, no youths under 18 have been employed by collieries in my constituency since 1983.
As a result of pits closing, partially closing or being threatened with closure, the local economy has lost £43.5 million a year in wages. Such a loss to a small community such as Castleford has had enormous repercussions. Collieries such as Ackton Hall—that was not on the hit list before the strike—Savile, Ledston, Glasshoughton and Fryston are, I understand, due to be hit shortly.
In addition, there have been other job losses in the last three years, including in the glass and container industries and confectionery. They have mounted up to represent a loss in wages to the local economy of £87 million. Reduce that by £24 million paid in unemployment benefit, and Castleford has suffered a total loss of £63 million in wages.
The local chamber of trade said during the miners' strike that if the strike continued the area would have lost 25 per cent. of its businesses. We are now reaching a point in Castleford's economy that is similar to that which existed when the strike was at its height, for the pits that were then on strike are now to be wiped out. This state of affairs cannot go on.
To my amazement, only last week the Pontefract health authority, carrying out Government policy, decided to privatise its domestic services. That will create 307 job losses among women domestics. To be fair, I blame not only the Government for that, because while that authority has been carrying out the Government's policy, it had no need to take the action in such great haste. Indeed, I do not excuse some colleague of my political persuasion on that authority for the action that has been taken. It is scandalous that in such an area we should decide to cut 307 jobs, mainly among ladies who are earning a pittance of £1.81 an hour for a 20-hour week. I deplore the action of the Pontefract area health authority.
I urge the Government to support a comprehensive package of measures for areas such as mine. They should include a long-term strategy for coal, and a decision to maintain the coal industry's share of electricity generation rather than to increase the costly bias towards nuclear power. The Government should support the CEGB to ensure that jobs are available in the coalfields. The Government, Mr. MacGregor and the coal board may feel at present:To the victor belong the spoils.I believe that the pits are being run down too rapidly, causing great misery and upset in mining areas.
That is not causing misery at present for the men who have taken redundancy, because they are cushioned. It is causing misery to the young people who would normally have gone into the pit, but who now have no hope of doing so. The programme should be slowed down until alternative employment can be found for those youngsters.
Law and order has been mentioned. I have a report from the chairman-elect of the West Yorkshire police authority 58 joint board. It states that there will be a reduction of £6.3 million in the amount of money allowed under the Home Office formula for standard requirements. That will mean a reduction in the West Yorkshire police force, which controls the big cities of Bradford and Leeds, of 430 police officers, 100 civilian staff and 15 per cent. of the vehicle fleet. If the authority has to follow the guidelines set down by the Department of the Environment, that reduction will be 1,300 police officers, 30 civilian staff and 50 per cent. in the number of police vehicles.
It appears that there are different standards. The authority is given a figure by the Home Office, but it is also told by the Department of the Environment that that figure must be much lower. If the authority exceeds the figure laid down by the Department of the Environment, it will be penalised in accordance with the Department's standards. The authority must reduce the services, or the Yorkshire ratepayers can expect a 70 per cent rate increase in its precept for the police authority.
What are the authorities to do? Are we going to maintain law and order? Young people in the mining communities are not militant, whatever anyone may think. There is no hope for those mining communities. If the young people can see no hope, there will be social unrest. A few weeks ago the Pontefract and Castleford Express had headlines about a battle between youngsters in their early teens armed with knives and petrol bombs, on a local estate. If that type of behaviour develops, we shall need the police force to maintain law and order. The present formula for the financing of the police authority does not allow it to build up the force to the extent required by the Home Office, as the authority wants to do and is expected to do.
Finally, on the subject of housing, the Gracious Speech states:Legislation will be introduced to encourage the sale of public sector flats to their tenants, and wider private sector involvement in the ownership and management of council housing".I do not know what that means, and I do not know whether anyone in the House does. I have always thought that council house tenants should have the right to buy their homes if they wish. Does that proposal mean that those council house tenants who have not bought their tenancies, for whatever reason—they could not afford to or did not want to—may have their tenancies sold to private landlords? Do the Government intend to solve the problem of the shocking conditions of some of the houses by throwing them to the private sector? The House will want to know the answers to those questions. The statement in the Gracious Speech leads us to believe that council houses that have not been sold to tenants will be sold to private landlords.
§ Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)
I wish to deal with four topics—one general and three specific. I welcome the Government's consistent policy of remaining firmly committed to squeezing down inflation. We have the continuing human and social problem of those who seek work but cannot find it. Many hon. Members have spoken this afternoon about that problem from intimate knowledge and personal experience. It is a cancer, but the difficulty is not necessarily the same size as that shown by the present unemployment figures. I therefore welcome the more detailed analyses now under way, which are designed to show the varying categories of those on the 59 unemployment register and to differentiate between those actively seeking jobs from those who, for a variety of reasons, are not.
I appreciate that some people will call that massaging the figures. The Leader of the Opposition had much to say on that subject. If such an analysis is done accurately, I believe that it is an entirely right and proper thing to do. An essential step towards finding a solution is to be certain of the problem. However, even when narrowed to a hard-core problem, unemployment is a social scourge of major proportions. Keynesian economics may be out of fashion, but I suggest to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench that the theories may not have been wrong; it was rather what politicians did with them for over 30 years that caused the problem.
Labour market rigidity, resistance to change, uncontrolled subsidies, neglect of the consumer and the market place, coupled with a continuing high level of Government spending, in boom as well as in recession, was where the theory and the practice fell apart.
The Government's continuing assault on those labour market rigidities, the privatisation programme and the emphasis on value for money in the Government's activities are having a profound effect. Privatisation increases consumer clout.
I ask the House to consider the change that has already taken place in British Telecom services. We probably all suffered from the new system here, but, in fairness, that appears to be sorting itself out, and overall the services of British Telecom are much more consumer-responsive than they were before privatisation or the threat of it.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
Can the hon. Gentleman explain why this month there have been substantial price increases for the ordinary telephone subscriber? The commercial user, the big business with the big profits and the big reserves, will in large measure get the benefits. For most people who need the telephone as a service, the cost will be about 10 per cent. more. Is that a great and immediate benefit from privatisation for those such as myself who have no shares in British Telecom?
§ Mr. Wolfson
Like the hon. Gentleman, I have no shares in British Telecom, but the individual consumer is still getting a good service and proper value from British Telecom.
Deregulation, in addition, makes manufacturers and services respond to the market place, and I cite here the ending of the opticians' monopoly. That was an outstanding example of how new ranges and services immediately develop to meet consumer needs.
This is the fifth year of steady growth in the economy, and well above the European average, but that growth must be sustained. Without it, the new jobs will not develop, nor can the social services be properly financed. Therefore, I expected and welcomed the reference in the Gracious Speech to the intention of the Government to do all in their power to encourage the growth of new jobs.
There is the nub. There is some scope—more than is apparently accepted by Ministers—for public spending initiatives to stimulate job creation, not in the free-spending policies of the Labour Opposition, which can lead only to roaring inflation, higher taxation and unproductive industry all over again, but in strategically 60 placed Government funding, which, in partnership with the private sector, can provide the impetus for further growth.
I argue that, in the freer labour market that we now have, and in the present context of far more realistic trade union membership—thanks to action taken by the Government—and with the Government committed to careful financial management, a larger public sector borrowing requirement need not necessarily lead to renewed inflation. After all, interest rates in Britain are more directly and immediately affected by United States interest rates than by the size of our own PSBR—provided that that PSBR remains within reasonable limits.
That brings me to my first specific point, which relates to expenditure on housing needs. If reports are true that the Secretary of State for the Environment is seeking to increase his budget for housing capital expenditure by £600 million, I wish to record my support for that priority. Housing improvement expenditure is of especial value. It provides jobs, it directly improves the lives of individuals, it is visible, and it is heartening. Under a Conservative Administration, it increasingly gives more and more people a stake in their own country and in their own local community through home ownership.
Improved housing and increased home ownership lie also at the core of our inner city problems. Those problems have to be tackled at three levels: policing, to protect the law-abiding and to apprehend the criminal; the creation of local jobs for local people; and the improvement of the whole inner city environment to make it a better place in which to live. I welcome the references in the Gracious Speech to those issues.
In Britain, in contrast to countries on the continent, the idealised home has often been a rural one. Over the years we have never paid enough attention to making city living as attractive as it can and should be. Planners and politicians alike have made appalling mistakes over the past 30 years, particularly in the building of tower blocks and soulless estates.
The first elderly lady housed in a tower block in the east end 25 or more years ago had her own view. She did not like where she was housed. She was lonely. She did not feel part of the community any more. But the planners did not listen and the politicians did not really listen. People said, "You have got modern amenities, you have got a fine view," but they did not listen to the cry of people that they felt isolated. Only now are we finally seeing sense as the worst blocks are demolished and people can live again in homes at or near ground level.
The housing disrepair problem is still large. The Government have taken active steps to deal with it, but 20 per cent. of the housing stock still needs substantial improvement. The Department of the Environment survey spells out the need to spend a great deal of money on council house repairs. The Audit Commission highlights a backlog of routine council house maintenance that has been building up over the past few years, at about £900 million per annum. Even allowing for exaggeration and for the style of surveyors—we perhaps know from personal experience how they put the fear of God into potential house purchasers—action is needed.
In particular, the Government's creation of the urban housing renewal unit is to be commended. Its range of housing initiatives, marrying public and private sector funds, is proving highly successful in exactly the ways that I outlined earlier—creating jobs, improving the lives of 61 individuals, providing the opportunity for home ownership, and making communities better places in which to live. That is why I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ensure that expenditure on housing matches the commitment on jobs, on inner city life and on home ownership. It is socially necessary and will also prove good politics.
My second specific point relates to overseas aid. In the past year the British public has demonstrated its readiness to give for famine relief. That may be an emotional response to a horrifying problem, but it is no less real for that. The problem and that response have raised the level of public awareness and desire for action to a new and higher level. That has been manifest in many ways over the past 12 months, most recently here at Westminster by the lobby on world development. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House will have been impressed by the organisation, the interest and the knowledge of the lobby as a whole. They were not just well-intentioned amateurs, out to do good at all costs. They reflected the much wider public appreciation of what needs to be done, what is possible, and what the public now expects from the British Government.
Any cut in the aid budget for next year would be wrong, and I hope that it has now been avoided. What is needed is a minimum increase of 5 per cent. to meet inflation, and a further 2 to 3 per cent. to recover the squeeze of the current year.
Britain's record of delivering aid when and where it is needed is excellent. Our emphasis on the longer-term solutions of enabling local people to feed themselves is the effective way forward. With our living standards, our history and our expertise, surely we cannot lessen our present contribution to a world problem of massive proportions. I welcome the references to the aid programme in the Gracious Speech.
Finally, I turn to a national project of major local interest to Kent and my constituency of Sevenoaks—the projected Channel fixed link. I welcome the project in principle, as do many of the population, but I wish to warn Ministers of the special anxieties of Kent. For all those who live in that county a fixed link may well appear not a benefit, but an unwelcome intrusion into our green and pleasant land. Whatever link is chosen, the funnel effect will and must bring increased development pressures on an area already affected by the M25, M26 and M20 motorways.
I wish to alert Ministers to the fact that environmental anxieties will be of major importance to all my constituents. We want assurances that the county structure plans and green belt policies will be strictly adhered to, and not eroded by new and much stronger pressures. The Channel fixed link can and should benefit the whole of Britain. That gain in economic activity countrywide should not be at the expense of life in the county of Kent.
I welcome the Gracious Speech and the programme it sets out. I have anxieties on the margin and with one or two specifics, but I have confidence in and give support to the total thrust of the Government's policies.
§ 7.1 pm
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)
I do not usually go to the House of Lords to listen to the Queen's Speech because I do not like being summoned by a messenger from an undemocratic institution such as the House of Lords, and because recently the contents of the Queen's 62 Speech have been predictable. However, this morning I made an exception and went to the other place to keep a check on what was going on. It never ceases to amaze me, and I wonder whether we are living in the same world. The complacent attitude of the majority of Members of both Houses seems to show a lack of communication between the people in Parliament and the real people with real problems in the real world outside the Palace of Westminster.
That attitude of complacency and being out of touch is reflected in the Queen's Speech. This is the seventh Queen's Speech since the Government took office, and each one has outstripped its predecessor as a recipe for unprecedented conflict, record unemployment and deepening divisions in society.
Despite the cooked statistics and downright lies, at least 4 million people in this country are unemployed. More than 40 per cent. of them have been out of work for more than a year. Every hon. Member who is anxious to speak the truth on behalf of his or her constituents can describe the devastating effect that that is having in almost every constituency. The Falkirk travel-to-work area, for example, has an unemployment rate of 18 per cent. and contains places such as Denny, where unemployment is more than 30 per cent. That was even before the crisis over the proposed closure of the Cruickshanks iron foundry.
In such circumstances it would make sense for the Government to consider upgrading the development area status of the Falkirk district, and to use public investment to stimulate the construction industry, for example, and to attract new industries, such as a coal liquefaction plant. Instead, the Government downgrade the development area status, introduce a Transport Bill which presents a serious threat to the local coachbuilding industry, and impose on the local authorities massive cuts in necessary expenditure, such as that on housing construction and modernisation programmes. The Government seem hell-bent on a doctrinaire worship of free market forces, and on a privatisation programme to sell some of the nation's most valuable assets. Since the Government took office they have privatised oil, gas, aerospace, shipbuilding, forestry, transport and telecommunications. In the Queen's Speech, even the management of the royal dockyards is up for privatisation.
I almost felt sorry for the Queen who had to read:My Government will bring forward legislation to introduce commercial management to my naval dockyards.Where will it all end? If this goes on, the Government will soon be selling off the British Army to Securicor, and will force the Queen to read out a speech which states. "My Government will be introducing legislation to sell my Crown jewels." The Government have already sold many of the Crown jewels of British industry, and now they are threatening the very existence of others.
Other Scottish hon. Members have mentioned the steel industry, particularly Gartcosh. If it is closed, the effects of the closure will not only be felt in Lanarkshire and the immediate area, but there will be a crashing domino effect throughout the Scottish economy. It will affect job prospects for my constituents who may be employed, for example, at the port in Grangemouth, which handles more than 80,000 tonnes of finished steel a year. It is little wonder, therefore, that even some Scottish Tory Members are beginning to criticise the Government and British Steel's proposals, despite a circular from one of the "high heid yins" in the Scottish Tory party who told them to shut 63 up. I hope that they will not shut up but will speak up and, more important, that when we vote on the future of Gartcosh, they will put their country before their party.
The internal tensions and divisions within the Scottish Tory party are the result of the Government breaking the consensus approach to politics of previous Tory leaders such as Harold Macmillan. It was based on a consensus for regional development, relatively full employment, improving the National Health Service, and a welfare state. That consensus has now been broken. We have for example, the Fowler proposals which will increase the gap between rich and poor, and which, combined with the continuing mass unemployment resulting from the Government's economic policies, will increase the possibility of social conflict.
It is sad that some Government Members and their supporters seem to relish the possibility of conflict. They certainly used the conflict in the south Atlantic to help them win the 1983 general election, and I suspect that some of them, including some Ministers, would like to use conflict on our streets to win the next general election.
Instead of offering constructive proposals to deal with deprivation in our inner cities and elsewhere, and instead of offering constructive proposals to improve job, education and housing opportunities, the Government are responding with more police powers, more truncheons, more riot shields and possibly more tear gas and plastic bullets.
I understand that the deputy chairman of the Tory party is a master of fiction, and by heavens the Tories will need one, and he seems to be the Goebbels of the Tory party. Mr. Archer is on record as telling young unemployed people to get off their backsides and look for work. That is the Tory party contribution to International Youth Year. I understand that Jeffrey Archer has since been told to apologise—no wonder, when one looks at the lack of job opportunities for young people.
In my area, Central region, the number of job vacancies for unemployed youngsters under the age of 18 is as follows: in Falkirk, seven; Stirling, four; Denny, no vacancies; Grangemouth, no vacancies; Bo'ness, no vacancies; and Alloa, no vacancies. That makes a total of 11 job vacancies in the whole of Central region, where more than 2,000 young people under the age of 18 are unemployed and more than 2,000 on youth training schemes face the possibility of not having a job at the end of their training. It is Jeffrey Archer who should get off his backside and go to places such as Denny, Falkirk and Bonnybridge and talk to some of the young unemployed people who have been deprived of work because of his party's doctrinaire policies.
It is not just the lack of employment opportunities but the lack of educational opportunities that is affecting young people. The Government must face up to their responsibilities in this matter, too. During the summer recess I went to several schools in my constituency and saw at first hand what can only be described as a grave crisis in Scottish education. The crisis has been precipitated by the Government's intransigence in refusing to meet the teachers' reasonable demands for an independent pay review. The dispute has been dragging on in Scotland for well over a year. Tomorrow there will be a lobby of Parliament by the Scottish teachers and their 64 colleagues south of the border. I hope that the result of that lobby will be that the Government will offer a more constructive response.
So far, the Government have used their usual tactics. They have tried to divide and rule. They have tried to divide the head teachers from the teachers, and the parents from the teachers. So far, their tactics have failed. In my experience, the vast majority of parents, although seriously worried about the effect of the strike on their children's education, are very supportive of the teachers in their demand for an independent pay review. Most parents were incensed, just as most teachers were incensed, when just a few months ago the Government handed out increases of 17 per cent. or more to the top brass such as admirals, judges and generals, none of whom does a day's work as valuable as that of a teacher.
Most of the people of Scotland support the Scottish teachers. I remind the Government that the vast majority of Scottish people rejected the Government at the general election. Therefore, the Government cannot argue that they received a mandate from the people of Scotland to destroy the Scottish education system. Similarly, the Government received no mandate to destroy the Scottish steel industry; they received no mandate to destroy the welfare state; and they received no mandate to destroy what vestige of local democracy is still left in Scotland.
The sad fact is that Scotland is being ruled by a Secretary of State for Scotland who is increasingly out of touch with the people's real needs and aspirations. He is being increasingly rejected and discredited. He has his head in the sand. Not long ago he said that there was no demand by the people for a Scottish assembly, yet opinion poll after opinion poll shows not just that the Scottish Tory party is being reduced to an almost irrelevant rump, but a growing demand for meaningful devolution of power to the people by the setting up of a Scottish assembly. The Secretary of State may say that there is no demand for a Scottish assembly, but I tell him that there is no demand for him, the Prime Minister or the policies that they are trying to foist on the people of Scotland.
If the Government and Parliament continue to respond stubbornly to the legitimate demands of the people outside this place, this Parliament will fall increasingly into disrepute. Many of those who pretend to uphold parliamentary democracy and traditions, and all the related institutions, will be responsible for decreasing respect for Parliament among a growing number of people, who will see through the facade, despite all the pomp and ceremony of the State opening, the horses and carriages, Black Rod, the tiaras, coronets and the ermine robes, and a Queen's Speech that will do virtually nothing to help the vast majority of real people in the real world outside the Palace of Westminster.
§ Mr. W. Benyon (Milton Keynes)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) found so little to enjoy in the opening ceremony, with its pageantry and historical significance. He conjures up a terrible picture of stomping up the Corridor, glaring at Her Majesty, and coming back again. However, most people will find quite a lot in the Queen's Speech.
I do not think that anybody can take exception to what is said in the Queen's Speech about Northern Ireland, that the Government 65will seek widely acceptable arrangements for the devolution of power. They will seek to improve further their co-operation with the Government of the Irish Republic.I do not know whether an arrangement with the Irish Republic will be possible and, even if it is, I do not know what will be in it, but we are right to try. When I listened to the speeches by two Northern Ireland Members, which were moderate and sensible, I wished sometimes that people who represent Northern Ireland would accept that the poor old British Government are not trying to trample anybody underfoot, except the terrorists. We are trying to find a solution to a very difficult problem, and the Government should be given every support for trying to reach an agreement with a sovereign power, without which we do not stand a chance of solving the problem.
I warmly welcome the measures to strengthen the powers of the police, which are greatly needed. I shall refer to that later.
I should like to refer to the removal of statutory restrictions on shop opening hours. My position on shop opening hours is well known. I have taken an unequivocal stance about the proposed measures. My only plea to the Government is that we should get together on this and that if there is whipping on the main question, there should at least be some means to amend the Bill in Committee, which I hope will be on the Floor of the House.
I wish to concentrate on the statement in the Gracious Speech that the Government will take measures to facilitatefurther reductions in the burden of income tax.Consideration of the Gracious Speech allows us to look ahead to the parliamentary year and to consider what should be done in the programme for that period. By far the most crucial event will be the Budget next spring. The Queen's Speech obviously makes no reference to what we may expect from the Budget other than the words that I have quoted, but now is the time for hon. Members to make their views known—at the start of the new Session. It is no good waiting until all the deliberations have taken place and this major event stares us in the face next spring.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has made it clear that his purpose is to make cuts in the rates of direct taxation, which he sees as a further stimulus to the economy, with consequent effects on unemployment. The Government have had considerable success with the economy. We have heard about some of these already today—the reduction in inflation, the new realism between employer and employee, the improvement in the performance of nationalised industries and more recently, as was revealed so rightly and cogently by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the upturn in economic activity generally.
For me, the key is to build on those successes in a constructive way. If any surplus available next spring is used to reduce direct taxation across the board and the pound remains high, a great deal of the extra spending will go on imports. In view of our strong balance of payments at present this might be acceptable if the incentive effect was strong, but I do not believe that it is. I do not believe that people work harder or start businesses just because two or three pence are taken off income tax. The exception to this is the lower paid. If the reliefs were concentrated there, well and good. To be truly an incentive the reliefs must be dramatic, but to be dramatic they must necessarily 66 be expensive. That is the problem. We cannot do that without a much higher surplus than we are likely to have next spring.
We are a mixed economy, like every other Western country, all of which have varying degrees of Government intervention. The greatest measure of Government intervention occurs in the United States of America, and people tend to forget that. Government intervention in this country varies from sector to session, but overall it is very strong, although Socialists would like it to be much stronger. I see it as essentially a pump-priming operation, initiating improvements and fading out when the private sector can take over.
I do not conceal the fact that I am enormously influenced by the success of Milton Keynes, my own constituency, where the state has provided a framework for a burgeoning development of commerce and industry—an example which has been followed in the urban development corporations. That example should also be followed in the depressed parts of the inner cities. No one has been a stronger supporter of local government independence than I have, but I accept that people such as Mr. Grant have driven business and commerce away from those areas. If we really want to revitalise those areas and encourage employment, it must be done by an agency which knows what it is about and has the commercial expertise to do it.
I want the Government to achieve the triple goal of social progress, reduction of unemployment and revitalisation of British industry. Hon. Members have already mentioned the very cogent report that was produced by the Lords. That report should not be swept under the carpet. It bears a great deal of reading because it was written by people with experience on the ground in British industry, and that is extremely important.
People today are very aware that so much in our country is second rate. They want to see better housing, because they know how much of our housing is bad. They want better education and better health care, although we have already done a great deal in that area. They want clean streets, clean air and clean water. They want an efficient transport system of which we can be proud. Many more people, too, want a stronger effort to be made to help the Third world. That pressing need has already been stressed in the debate and we must take note of it.
When the Government took office in 1979. it was accepted on all sides that the rates of taxation were far too high and that it was quite right to bring them down. The position is different now. Faced with the choice of even lower taxes or improved services and infrastructure, I believe that most people would choose the latter. It is generally accepted that a great deal needs to be done and must be done. It must be done efficiently, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson) said, it will be far more difficult and expensive to do if we wait. If the additional expenditure is administered wisely, the money will be spent in this country, not on imports. There will be a direct effect on employment, and the additional advantage that carefully controlled inflation of this kind can be met by the existing resources of British industry.
Nothing can excuse the recent violence in Birmingham and London, and the first absolute priority is that the law must be upheld. Nevertheless, something must be done about the environment in those very bad areas, and that means spending money. If we do not tackle those and 67 similar tasks, the situation will become far worse. The inequalities between those who have jobs and those who do not, and between one part of the country and another, will become worse and the ideal of one nation, which has inspired moderate politicians for more than a century, although many have expressed it in different words, will recede further into the future.
We have so much to do. If people want these things to happen, they must will the means. That is the message for this Session, and now is the time to make it clear, as Ministers decide what will be in the Budget next spring. My message is simple—do not cut taxes, build a better Britain.
§ Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)
The hon. Member for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon) has raised some very important issues with a clarity that we do not always hear from Ministers. When the Prime Minister was jibing at certain Opposition policies, it struck me that the Queen's Speech showed that in their seventh year of office the Government have lost their way. The programme outlined as a prospectus for tackling some of our economic problems and soothing some of our social ills is to be more of the same quack medicine as we had in the previous six Queen's Speeches. There is the same reliance on privatisation, there is only token language about the problems of unemployment and there are to be further cuts in public expenditure and services, despite all that the hon. Member for Milton Keynes has just said.
Having been employed by the Scottish gas board, when it really was a gas board, I am sorry that the Government propose to privatise that unique public asset. The implication of privatisation for safety or, for that matter, the rich pickings that will go with the privatisation of British Gas, have not been mentioned. It was all wrapped up in a great haze and suggested that, somehow, privatisation will be beneficial to the great British public. It will certainly be beneficial to the stockbroker belt, because there have already been a lot of rich pickings from the sale of public assets. Many stockbrokers have got fat at the public's—indeed, the taxpayer's—expense from share flotations.
When the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) referred to British Telecom, I noticed that he did not spend too much time giving all the reasons why it was such a good thing. We have received letters from old-age pensioners and other organisations who are concerned about the latest increases in telephone charges and rentals. We should not forget that prices went up before British Telecom was floated — no doubt to boost its attractiveness on the stock exchange. We have simply replaced a public monopoly with a private monopoly which Members of Parliament are less able to influence.
Scottish housing has been mentioned. I am concerned about tomorrow's Cabinet meeting. I understand that the Secretary of State for the Environment is to speak up for more resources to tackle the terrible problems in council housing in England. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will speak up about the even greater problems in the Scottish public sector housing.
§ Mr. Craigen
It is true that the Secretary of State for Scotland is a Mackintosh man. He gives the impression of being so reasonable and of almost being a wet, but when he goes into the Cabinet room he is bone dry. He never speaks up for the kind of public expenditure initiatives that are required.
I am apprehensive about the mention of more privatisation of council housing estates. Does that mean that the Government intend to drive a coach and four through the legislation on tenants' rights? There is already one consultative document, issued by the Scottish Office, which hints that if a local authority is coerced into privatisation—as has happened in some parts of the country—and a tenant is evicted for that purpose, the local authority will have to find alternative accommodation for him.
We are told that there will be legislation on the sale of housing association houses. It will create enormous difficulties for many of the voluntary housing associations which have developed in the last decade or more. The Government should have relied more heavily on the code of practice that was drawn up some time ago with the Housing Corporation in Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. The proposal to legislate makes nonsense of the fact that the Scottish housing associations are the main providers of special needs rented accommodation for the elderly and for single persons. By forcing housing associations into sales, the Government will complicate tenement rehabilitation exercises in Glasgow and greatly affect work being done by housing associations.
§ Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston)
Does my hon. Friend agree that, far from doing what he has described, the Government should consider means to tighten up on private landlords who conduct their business disgracefully? Does he remember a Bill promoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Milian), which he and I supported, which concerned the extortionate rents charged by some private landlords? Does he agree that the Government would do far better to tackle that problem?
§ Mr. Craigen
I entirely agree. I am not unmindful of the efforts that my hon. Friend has made behind the scenes on this matter. If there is an easy way in which to do things, the Government will find it, just as long as it does not complicate matters for their vested interests.
Scottish education was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) mentioned the dispute which is dragging on. There seems to be no prospect of it being resolved in the near future. The Government's inflexible sitting on the sidelines is a source of great anxiety to parents, considerable frustration to teachers and demoralisation for pupils. The dispute has dragged on for more than one year. The Government are seriously undermining the Scottish education system and there will be a heavy price to pay for this festering sore. The Government must come off their pedestal and do something to resolve the impasse.
There is not much about employment in the Queen's speech, but several hon. Members have referred to the importance of manufacturing. There is something seriously wrong when the replacement engines for the QE2, which was built on the Clyde, are to be built in West Germany. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for 69 Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) has a close interest in this matter. The prospect of that happening is a terrible indictment of the Government's industrial policies.
I watched—only a little—the Conservative party conference at Blackpool. We had information technology and science exhibits cluttering up the corridors. However, we will need steel and other manufacturing assets to push the science revolution forward. As for what my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. MacKenzie) said, although Scotland has done fairly well in attracting microchip jobs, during the past couple of years areas in the south of England have done proportionately better in attracting such jobs.
They are fears about the closure of Gartcosh, anxieties about Dalziel and continuing worries about Ravenscraig. Steel is crucial to Scotland. The steel industry in Scotland must not be extinguished; it must continue to play an important part in the provision of manufacturing jobs there.
The only light on the horizon is through the Channel tunnel. I confess that I warmed to the prospect of a Channel tunnel only when I thought that it would benefit the steel industry. However, the more one reads about the possible extinction of Scottish steel and the demise of much of the steel industry elsewhere, the more one comes to the conclusion that the main beneficiaries of the Channel tunnel in manufacturing terms will be on the continent. The matter is caught up with the problems of being in the European Community.
I am sorry that there was so little in the Queen's Speech about arms control and disarmament negotiations and trying to reduce tension in the world. There is little evidence of ministerial activity in these matters. We seem to rely heavily on President Reagan and to go out of our way to take part in his plans for star wars. It is sad that the main opportunity for growth in employment is likely to come from the defence industry and its research side.
§ Dr. Godman
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government could display their concern for the problems faced in the west of Scotland by placing defence orders for surface vessels and submarines with the Yarrow and Scott Lithgow shipyards, which are in desperate need of orders?
§ Mr. Craigen
That would have a considerable effect on the employment fortunes of the Clyde. I hope that Ministers will take note of what my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow said. My hon. Friend, who has been a Member of the House for a few years, must recognise that the Government's greatest fault is that they do not listen to anybody. I will leave the matter at that.
I conclude on the issue that will be most bitterly fought out during the next 12 months following the Fowler review—the Government's plans to reform the social security system. I am sure that William Beveridge would turn in his grave if he saw some of the proposals emanating from the Elephant and Castle. I have had correspondence with DHSS Ministers about the proposals for the social fund. I have not yet had a clear answer about the Government's intention to replace certain supplementary benefits by the new social fund. It sounds like something invented in Brussels. The proposal cash-limits the proper needs of individuals. More insidious than that, the applicant will have to be first in the queue before he gets anything from 70 the fund. If he comes late in the calendar year, when the social fund allocations of the Maryhill or Springburn offices have been spent, he will be told, "You are entitled, but you are not getting anything because we have nothing left in the kitty." Ministers still have not told me how the social fund will be allocated to different areas—whether areas with more unemployment and more people on low incomes than others will receive more money.
We know the Prime Minister's view on many aspects of the social services. Recent Government proposals would have led to the closure of some small chemists' shops in my area. I received a two-page letter from the Prime Minister, which I can sum up by saying that the Prime Minister's prescription for helping small businesses is to close them. Yet the Government have relentlessly uprated prescription charges since they came to office. It is ridiculous that nearly 4 million people now qualify for free prescriptions, whether they know it or not, because their incomes are so low, and that nearly 2 million of them are members of families where the head of the household is employed. What an indictment of the Government's approach.
The Gracious Speech is more significant for what it does not say than for what it says. It shows that the Government are completely at sea in terms of remedying the terrible destruction that they have engineered in our economy during the past six years, or over the mending of our social cohesion, which was once the proud boast of Great Britain throughout the world.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill, (Mr. Craigen). I welcome the commitment in the Queen's Speech to the sale of housing association homes, because many housing association tenants in my constituency would welcome the right to purchase their homes at a discount, as happens elsewhere in Britain.
I, too, wish to mention education. It is especially worrying that 87 per cent. of members of the Educational Institute of Scotland—the largest teachers' union—have voted to boycott all examinations next summer. The idea of an entire generation of schoolchildren having their education prospects blighted causes great concern to their parents. The examination board will have special problems. First, there is the problem of sending in the examination candidate forms, although it appears that that hurdle has been surmounted. Secondly, and of far greater importance, in many practical and technical subjects a teacher input is essential. In craft and design, 70 per cent. of the assessment must be completed within the schools, and in O-grade home economics about 50 per cent. of the marks are awarded internally. If those marks are not forwarded to the examination board there will be substantial problems, because no awards could be given. Teacher input is also vital where safety at work is involved, including work with a lathe. It is also extremely important in music and in modern languages.
The third problem occurs with the central team of examiners, who are usually experienced teachers at principal teacher level. They are employed by the board to mark and organise their subjects, and they are vital to the system. Even if they were willing to co-operate, their 71 colleagues might not cover their work. Even if they came forward to organise examinations, it is unlikely in the present climate that their jobs would be covered.
Fourthly, even if pupils sit exams, there may not be enough teachers available to mark the papers. The Association of University Teachers might express solidarity with the schoolteaching profession, and it might become difficult to persuade university teachers to mark papers. There are the problems of the marking of practical subjects, the provision of a central team of markers and the supply of sufficient markers. These are very serious matters for examinations.
In Scotland, markers are required to satisfy a higher standard than in the rest of Britain. They must have three years of teaching experience at the level at which they will mark. At the same time, the Scottish examinations board does not normally take markers from the rest of Britain, because the syllabuses are different.
I have in my hand a letter from the Prime Minister which I received a few hours ago. It says:At a meeting with George Younger on 27 September, the representatives of the Teachers' Side suggested that if substantially more money were offered—without preconditions—the teachers would then be prepared to discuss conditions of service and curricular development.The letter continues:Scottish Office officials are now exploring aspects of these proposals with representatives of the Teachers' Side to see if a basis can be found for negotiations which might lead to a settlement.I very much hope that every attempt will be made to reach a settlement, if only for a first phase. The teachers' dispute has lasted longer than any other teachers' dispute.
The teachers' unions claim that the teachers are more poorly paid than in other European Community countries. However, in other European Community countries the conditions of service may be more clearly defined. I am making inquiries into that point.
What gives cause for encouragement is that the Secretary of State replied to me recently on the Floor of the House and said that not only has an additional offer of £125 million been made available and that negotiations are on offer, but that the £125 million is over and above normal pay rises and that the normal pay rises are a matter for negotiation. It seems that an enormous percentage of parents throughout the land hope that this dispute can be settled reasonably and fairly and that the educational system can be geared to providing pupils with the training requirements that are needed to take advantage of the opportunities of the future. This can be done effectively only if the teachers are fully involved in working with and helping pupils to achieve their aim.
It is recognised that many of those who enter industry at the outset of their careers may have to undertake a retraining programme at some time in the course of their careers. I was interested to read in today's edition of the Glasgow Herald an article which deals with this point. It says:The problem in 10 years' time, when demographic studies suggest that the end of the sixties baby boom will result in a Scottish population of 16-year-olds only 60 per cent. of what it is today, could be frightening unless we lay the basis for a revolution of training and industry related education now … Experts and Government Ministers say that education and training is not given the respect it deserves by society. It does not acquire the status here that it does abroad, and even in many third world countries.72 That is why it is extremely important that everything possible should be done to bring the dispute to a satisfactory and reasonable conclusion.
§ Mr. Canavan
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that to reach a reasonable and fair settlement, and an end to the dispute and the crisis facing children in our schools, the Secretary of State for Scotland should set up an independent review for Scottish teachers?
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his contribution, but I am suggesting that we have moved on from that stage, and I shall say why. The day after the meeting between the Secretary of State and the teachers' representatives in September, The Scotsman published a report which said:The four Scottish teaching unions want more money from the Government now, with no preconditions. If this is forthcoming, they would be prepared to talk about conditions of service, based on the report on workload agreed between management and unions last November … Mr. Pollock said: 'We put this forward as an alternative to an independent review. They will now have to look at what we are suggesting.I believe strongly that the overwhelming majority of my constituents consider negotiations should take place with a view to reaching a settlement. However, targeting is not the way to achieve the purposes which the teachers would like to achieve.
It is understandable that teachers want to raise the stature of their profession. They want it to have the same stature as that enjoyed by doctors, lawyers, accountants and ministers of the Church. That is an altogether worthy aim, but the way to achieve it is through negotiations. On 14 June the Glasgow Herald wrote:Ministers cannot be seen to give in to targeted strike action in schools, or they risk similar attention from any other public sector union with a claim to present.My belief is that the way forward is through negotiations. I very much hope that flexibility will be shown by the negotiators on both sides and by those who influence the negotiations.
Teachers work far more than 32 hours a week. They have nothing to lose from the full facts being made absolutely clear. They should surely be paid for what they do. There is an overwhelming case for a first phase agreement. If there are other much more complex issues, they should be negotiated later.
I hope that those who are directly involved will do everything possible to try to obtain an early, just and honourable settlement, in the interests of pupils, parents, teachers and the country at large. Our children are our country's future, and we must not fail them.
§ Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)
I cannot claim to be able to comment on what was said by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) about Scottish education. However, I agree with him that this damaging dispute must be settled soon in the interests of children's education. The way to settle it is by proper and meaningful negotiations. The Secretary of State should understand this and allow the negotiations to proceed unfettered.
The Gracious Speech says:A Bill will be introduced to remove statutory restrictions on shop opening hours.A number of hon. Members have alluded to this subject. From a sedentary position, my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) said that it would be 73 a charter for heathens. I cannot entirely agree with him. Why blame the heathens? They do not know any better. This is a charter for the greedy.
A recent HTV television programme dealt with the future of trading and referred to the establishment of hypermarkets on the periphery of our towns. The forthcoming legislation will facilitate that kind of trading. It will not cover the shop on the street corner. If this measure becomes law, the multiple store, not the small shop, will benefit, so that this will be a charter for the greedy.
I am glad that a Minister from the Welsh Office is sitting on the Government Front Bench. He knows as well as I do that countless people in Wales, England and Scotland want Sunday to be preserved as a time for refreshment. They want to have time to be with their families and to enjoy family life—the kind of thing which, apparently, appeals to the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister. I suggest to Conservative Members, many of whom have alluded to this subject in their speeches, that they should make it clear to the Government that they have no intention of allowing the Government to destroy something which is part and parcel of the heritage of this country.
The leader of the Liberal party reminded us of what was said at the Tory party conference about the presentation of policy. If the Gracious Speech is an example of that presentation, I am not impressed by the presentation or by what is presented. The Government's programme will do little to deal with the problem of unemployment which afflicts so many of our people so sorely.
How can the Government say that privatisation of the assets of the British Gas Corporation will advance employment prospects? How can they say that introducing commercial management into the naval dockyards will produce better employment results? The Prime Minister says that we should buy British, but she does not seem to be worried about flogging off what is Britain's. We have seen that when other national assets have been sold, and we cannot say that the service from those industries has been improved.
Not everything in the Gracious Speech is objectionable. I welcome wholeheartedly the fact that we are to have legislation to protect animals being used for experimental or other scientific purposes. That will meet a wish in many quarters. I am also glad that we shall have legislation to deal with the vile creatures who traffic in drugs. Their behaviour has been the means of the destruction of much of the flower of our nation. We can gladly give our assent to those measures.
The Government will obviously make great play of law and order. We have been told that that is the battleground on which the Prime Minister will pitch her next election campaign. No Opposition Member denies that there must be a determined effort to preserve law and order. If there is no law and order, there will be no future for any of us.
However, the Government must not think that the police are an instrument for resolving problems that have been created by the neglect of our social conditions. An increase in the number of police is no substitute for better housing, for finding employment, for ensuring that our people get the best possible education or for a proper social security system.
The Gracious Speech says that a Bill will be introduced to reform the social security system. It would be far better if the Government told us that they were setting up an 74 independent inquiry into our social provision, as happened when William Beveridge carried out his momentous inquiry which resulted in our present social security system. In the 40 years since then, changes have occurred in our society and in the nature of that society. A full independent investigation of what is required would be much more profitable than legislation which may be ill founded because it is based on a prejudiced view.
One of my hon. Friends concluded his speech by saying that, unless the Government take notice of what people outside are telling us, we shall become irrelevant. If that happens, it will be a sad and sorry day. This nation will disappear. The Government must take notice of what is being said in the House and of what people outside are asking us to tell the Government.
§ 8.6 pm
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)
I welcome many parts of the Gracious Speech, and I join the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) in welcoming particularly the proposals to limit severely the use of animals for medical experiments and the Government's determination to find a way of depriving drug traffickers of their ill-gotten gains, although I have a nasty feeling that that will prove to be a lot more difficult than seems likely at first sight.
I also welcome the Government's intention to seek to normalise our relations with democratic Argentina and what they say about the European Community. However, I warn them that if, as they say and as I hope, we are seeking to achieve a true unified internal market, we shall have to be prepared to dismantle the non-tariff obstacles to trade that we expect the rest of the Community to abolish urgently.
The Gracious Speech mentions the reform of the social security system and the planning system and the ending of restrictions on Sunday trading. In those matters, the Government are broadly right in their aim, but sadly astray in their timing. Such reforms should be brought in at the beginning of a Parliament and not towards the end of one.
The purpose of my speech is to express concern about some of the Government's deeper purposes. That concern goes far deeper than mere electoral anxiety, because I am fairly certain that the Conservatives will win the next election. My concern is about what sort of country we shall be trying to govern after that. That concern is shared by a number of my hon. Friends and was eloquently expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon).
The three great achievements of the Government since 1979—the curbing of inflation, the restoration of respect, if not affection, for Britain overseas, and the humbling of the intolerable pretensions of trade union godfathers such as Mr. Scargill—are beyond price and would not have been won by a Government of any other party, self-evidently not by a Labour Government and not by an alliance Government, who would have been obliged to compromise on issues where it was essential to have a clear-cut result.
Furthermore, I am certain that the Government desperately want to bring down unemployment—and not merely for electoral purposes.
I am certain that the Government intend to preserve and improve social services and to safeguard the environment. What is more, when Ministers say that the best way to cut unemployment and to finance better social services is to 75 create more national wealth, and that the best way to create more national wealth is to cut all forms of taxation, especially personal taxation, they are totally sincere. They might also be right, although the evidence to support them is slow to appear.
The Government mix of higher incentives for the successful and less featherbedding for the unsuccessful might be the shortest route to a better future for all, but it is also the bumpiest. Unless we arrive at some recognisable destination much sooner than seems likely, the strains imposed upon the car of state may cause it to fly apart.
In other words, like a number of my hon. Friends, I am becoming worried about national unity. The Prime Minister does not like the word "consensus". She is right to dislike the consensus of acquiesence in inexorable national decline. But in chucking out the soapy bath water of that consensus she might be chucking out a very delicate baby.
British society has been admired for its highly developed sense of solidarity or, at the least, for a respect and tolerance between different classes, regions and races. We do not, outside Northern Ireland, hate one another for our beliefs, as do the French, or despise one another because we are northerners or southerners, as do the Italians. We do not, thank God, despite the malign efforts of the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell), seek scapegoats among the minorities in our midst for our own failings, as the Germans once so dreadfully did.
Southern Britain, with its labour shortages, is properly worried that people in northern Britain, in Wales and in Scotland who want to work cannot find jobs. Those of us who live in safe, white, middle class areas are worried about what is happening in our big cities. We want to do something about it, even if it will cost us money. Most of those who have done very well, thank you, under this Government still want to maintain public health, public education and public pension provision even if it costs them more in rates and taxes than they get out of those services.
Many of us would like Britain to make a much more generous response not just to short-term crises of starvation in Africa, but to long-term projects for putting the developing countries on the path to sustainable growth.
I must say frankly that some of the Government's policies as they seem to emerge from the sparse language of the Queen's Speech, could only too easily damage the sense of national solidarity. Of course we all want tax cuts if that means that people with barely enough to live on will no longer have to pay tax or that people on low wages or training allowances will no longer be worse off than they would be on social security. Across-the-board tax cuts could widen still further the gap between those who have much more money than they can want and those who are in real need—unless of course tax concessions at the bottom of the scale are paid for by higher taxes at the top. However, that does not seem to be how the Chancellor of the Exchequer's mind is working.
I am not entirely happy about the Government's approach to the all-important unemployment issue. I welcome Lord Young's appointment, and still more do I welcome the wide powers that he has been given. However, I am none too happy about all the talk about the number of new jobs being created. I do not mind that many 76 of them are part-time jobs because I am sure that that is the work pattern for the future. How are the part-time jobs being shared? Many seem to be going to married women whose husbands are already at work, and some of them seem to be going to people who already have a job. The impact of such new jobs on the total unemployed is worryingly small.
It is not helpful to say that many people, especially the young unemployed, do not want a job. That is untrue, at least in Wales and in the north. Young people finishing the admirable youth training scheme and middle-aged workers thrown on the scrap heap of redundancy are desperately, pathetically anxious to find work. Even if in such places as London it were partly true, that does not diminish the danger to our social fabric represented by so many thousands of unemployed, particularly young unemployed, and more particularly young black unemployed in our big cities.
That brings me to the last and deepest of my anxieties. Voices are beginning to be raised from Right-wing press commentators urging the Government to exploit the law and order issue to its utmost. I am sure that the new Home Secretary, who is widely admired on both sides of the House, will have no truck with any attempt to extract party political advantage from the natural worry that people experience at the spectacle of the police facing armed riot in our big cities or mobs of stone-throwing pickets. This is material far too explosive and volatile to be safely used for party political purposes.
Of course this Government—any Government—must give unwavering support to the police. Of course no Government can condone crime or permit no-go areas. The reaction of some local community leaders who appear to condone violence, even murder, is intolerable. But I warn the Government that, if we are seen to be trying to make party political capital out of the issue and to make it the "Falklands factor" of the next election, it will blow up in our faces. Even if that helped us to win—I do not believe that it would—we would be left with a country which was ungovernable.
§ Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Clywd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer). Many hon. Members have a great respect for him. It is sad that his relevant comments are not heard more often from Ministers. I hope that his comments will be noted by Ministers.
I welcome one reference in the Gracious Speech. I refer to the Government's pledge to support United Nations' efforts to secure a settlement in Cyprus. Britain is one of the guarantor powers for Cyprus. Since the brutal invasion 11 years ago, many hon. Members have genuinely tried to bring the two sides together. Many of us deeply regret the lack of any meaningful progress over the years.
Talks went on for many years and we hoped that they would result in a meaningful and acceptable settlement, but they came to nothing. As much as I and many others want a settlement, no progress will be made until we see evidence that Mr. Denktash, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, is prepared to discuss with Greek Cypriot leaders proposals for an acceptable agreement and an acceptance that more difficult issues will be fully discussed.
There must be two major areas of understanding. I am sure that Mr. Denktash is in no doubt about them, but I 77 wonder whether the Government fully understand them. They should try to do so. First, until there is a complete removal of Turkish troops from northern Cyprus, there will be little willingness by the Greek Cypriot leaders and their communities to hold discussions with Mr. Denktash. It is hard to establish how many Turkish troops are in northern Cyprus, but we know that they run into many thousands. Many people are amazed that they are still there. Until they are removed—even if it is a phased removal—there will be problems in achieving any agreement.
The second area, which is closely allied with the first, relates to those in Cyprus who were forced out of their homes and their lands 11 years ago, and who have never been allowed to return. Until the displaced can return in complete safety, there cannot be agreement. I know that Mr. Denktash is not unaware of that, as it has been put to him many times.
Until those two basic issues are resolved, there will be a long struggle to try to reach a settlement. I know that some Conservative Members are as committed as I am to seeking a settlement in Cyprus, under which both Greek and Turkish Cypriots can live and work together. Anything that the Government can do to speed up such a settlement will be welcomed.
On a different topic, as I represent an inner London borough I feel that the omission from the Gracious Speech of any reference to the problems of the inner cities is a disgrace. Many hon. Members, to their credit, have referred to these problems, and having known those hon. Members for many years, I readily accept their genuine commitment to solving them. However, I regret that we do not have a similar understanding from the Government.
In recent weeks there have disorders in our inner cities. Had the Prime Minister and the Government been concerned about the problems and committed to helping to alleviate them, they would have included a reference in the Gracious Speech. Various hon. Members could speak for Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester; I speak for a London borough. We could all refer to the main problems—mass unemployment, housing in urgent need of repair, the rundown of our hospital services and the lack of facilities for people of all ages. My constituents repeatedly say, "We do not want handouts. We want genuine help so that we can begin to rebuild our communities."
I listened to the many debates on the abolition of the Greater London council during our last Session. The GLC was subjected to great criticism of how it spent its money. Yet it was only GLC involvement in many projects in London that led to hope for the many people who are out of work, yet want work—the elderly, the disabled and the one-parent families. Those are the people living in inner city areas who have problems and must be helped to exist week by week with them. Often it is left solely to the GLC to finance the urgently needed projects.
We often hear of the divide between the north and the south, yet there is also a divide within the south. There are areas in Wandsworth whose residents have no idea of the problems in Balham and Tooting, the area that I represent. Those people may live in Putney, and never go to Balham. They have no idea of the needs of the area.
The Gracious Speech says:Measures will be introduced to strengthen the powers of the police in combating disorder".78 We must assume that that refers to the unrest in our inner cities in recent weeks. I and other hon. Members representing such areas try to play a constructive part in helping to alleviate problems. When we meet youngsters, whether black or white, do we now say, "You start watching it, because the Government will give the police extra powers to combat problems that you might create?" Their instant response will be, "You go back and tell the Prime Minister that if she is going to spend money, not to spend it on the police force or on trying to frighten us, but on something that will give us hope in our communities." That is what we really need.
In all our multiracial communities, whether white, black or Asian, the theme is always the same: "This is our home. This is where our youngsters were born. We are as British as anyone living in the community." Sometimes hon. Members say that certain people want to create disorder. I tell them that thay do not want to create disorder in my community; they want to live together and to work with the police. What they really want is respect and help with their problems. Until that happens, the Prime Minister may threaten the communities, but it will have no effect.
If only the Government showed such a commitment, we could begin to alleviate the problems. I wish that Ministers would not pay fleeting five or 10-minute visits and say, "How terrible. We must try to help you." They should go into the areas and try to understand the people's feelings and aspirations. If they did that, not only would the change of attitude that we all want occur quickly, but there would be a rebuilding of the confidence that is needed in the inner cities.
We must in the coming months have a response from the Government on issues such as these. They can spend as much as they like on the police, but as sure as night follows day—I take no pleasure in saying this, but it is a fact of life—if they continue to neglect the problems of the people of the inner city areas, as those people believe they have been neglected, we shall see further problems, and no hon. Member in any part of the House wants to see further problems.
The initiative now rests with the Government. I beg them to listen to what decent and honourable people who live in the inner cities are saying. They are pleading, "Help us and we will respond and show the pride that deep down we have in our homes and the communities in which we live." That is the real test for the Government.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox). I agreed with much of what he said. I often visit his constituency, which has some beautiful parts. Indeed, it has some of the best parts. His aim, which we all share, of seeking equality before the law for people of all colours and creeds is crucial to the successful future of the nation.
I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I depart shortly after completing my remarks. Bishop David Shepherd is in my constituency this evening and I hope to have the opportunity to talk to him about some of these issues on a national basis and in relation to Southall, where, as the hon. Member for Tooting will be aware, these matters are of great importance.
I support hon. Members who have said that they have worries about a measure to remove restrictions on Sunday trading. I am a firm opponent of unlicensed Sunday 79 trading. I fear that the removal of those restrictions will damage our whole way of life. The move is offensive to the religious feelings of large numbers of people in the community. I am sure that there could be a compromise. I would be prepared to go along with a 2 o'clock start, leaving Sunday mornings for worship. That would at least ensure that those who worked on Sundays were secure in their rights and would not be liable to pressure—and pressure being brought to bear on people is a worry that many of us have. I am not particularly happy to go that far, but it is a compromise solution which I would be willing to accept.
§ Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that he will not give way to pressure from Whips or anyone else to conform in the matter, but will exercise his personal judgment on the Sunday trading issue, which is an extremely important issue and one of conscience?
§ Mr. Greenway
It is indeed a matter of conscience, and at the conclusion of the debate I voted against the Auld report. I had hoped that there might be a free vote on the subject. I have made my position clear, and I must stand by that.
I also welcome the promise in the Queen's Speech to give protection to animals, particularly at the time of slaughter. Every year 135 million chickens are slaughtered. They are picked up like bunches of grapes and carried about struggling and suffering before being slaughtered. That will not do. About 70 million animals, pigs and cattle, are also slaughtered, and they are not always stunned properly before slaughter. I warmly welcome the promise in the Gracious Speech to do something about that.
I am particularly delighted with the paragraph that says:Legislation will be introduced for England and Wales to improve the management of schools and to promote the professional effectiveness of teachers.I must upset the unity that has existed across the Floor of the House by deploring some of the sanctimonious remarks that have been made by hon. Members representing Scottish and other constituencies about the present teachers' dispute. I remind hon. Members that I was paid the Houghton award in 1974, but its value, 34 per cent., was eroded by 1977, and by 1979—the time of the general election—we were worse off under the then Lib-Lab Administration than we had been in 1974. Now teachers are 9 per cent. better off.
I agree that teachers must be better paid. I remind hon. Members—I have not before mentioned it in the House—of what happened when there was a previous teachers' dispute. A Labour Government were in power at the time and some of us went to lobby Anthony Crosland. In the process we met Mrs. Barbara Castle, the then Secretary of State for Employment. We had a chat with her, and she could not have been nicer. At the conclusion of our talk she said, "Good luck boys. I hope you win." Then she went off to the Cabinet and voted against us. We got nothing from that Labour Administration, so let us not have too much sanctimony from Opposition Members on this issue. Their remarks do not ring true to those of us who have been through disputes of this kind.
§ Mr. Greenway
I will not give way again because time is running short.
In relation to the whole question of the management of schools, those who are genuinely concerned about the issue have reason to be worried by the tremendous pressure from large numbers of parents who want to get their children into independent schools. They want to do it by way of assisted places schemes, by working overtime or by doing two or three jobs to pay their children's fees, simply because they are worried about the condition of state education, particularly in comprehensive schools.
The time has come for a full inquiry to be conducted into comprehensive schools. There has never been such an inquiry. Let me make it clear that I have given my life to comprehensive schools, having worked in them for over 20 years. Thus, I am not knocking them when I say that we must inquire fully into their organisation with a view to trying to achieve better management and teaching.
A clear look must be taken at discipline and at the attendance of children. In some schools in some years there is 50 per cent. truancy, and that will not do. The children's attitude to work needs to be examined, and the same goes for the attitude to work of some of the staff. The comprehensives need to be looked at academically and in terms of their pastoral organisation. We must see whether we are giving a fair deal to children with difficulties, to under-achievers and to gifted children. Many gifted children and under-achievers are not getting a fair deal, and something must be done about that.
Perhaps the time has come to consider whether teachers should be paid on a regional basis. I am not sure of the cost of property in, say, Scotland, but in some parts of England, particularly London, houses of two or three storeys cost about £250,000. The hon. Member for Tooting will support me in saying that. In Parsons Green, Pimlico and other areas where teachers have to live, houses are fetching enormous sums. Houses in Wandsworth fetch £100,000, £150,000, £200,000 and even more. Housing in, say, the west country is much cheaper; one can buy a house there for perhaps £35,000,
Is it reasonable, therefore, to say that there should be one scale of pay for teachers applicable wherever they live? I appreciate that in inner London teachers get an allowance of £1,044, but nobody will argue that that covers the cost of housing, let alone other costs of living which are more expensive than elsewhere in the country.
Other areas of schooling need to be examined because of serious decline. In inner London, children are no longer taught competitive games. The ILEA says that the competitive instinct must be curbed. How does it do that? It has stopped team games. Girls do not play netball because boys cannot. There must only be games that boys and girls can play together. In various comprehensive schools boys and girls are diving on to mats and shinning up and down ropes, but they are never allowed to compete. Children want team games. It is a serious problem. I am building up to have a little talk to Frances Morrell and her accolytes to see what can be done, because they are out of touch with reality. They have no idea what motivates children.
Another worry is the attitude of some teachers towards the police. It is serious, because the Inner London Teachers Association has said that it will do all that it can to stop policemen entering schools. The police must go into schools. They should go to schools at least once a year to tell children, whatever their ages, about their job and 81 the service that they offer to the community. The police may also have to go into schools to deal with child molesters and other problems. The idea of some teachers that the police should be kept out is worrying and bad.
In primary education, insufficient emphasis is given to all types of basic needs, such as discipline and the factors that motivate children. Children want to know, to understand and to strive. We have forgotten those matters. I hope that the Bill will inspire their restoration.
The Select Committee on Education will be reporting soon on primary schools and achievements in them. It will be a valuable report. After travelling around the world a little and this country a great deal, the Committee has seen that the curriculum needs attention and that teaching methods need studying. Teachers should not fear to be formal as well as relaxed and helpful to children. Teachers have lost their self-confidence because there is no security in the methods of education. In Germany last week, I saw teachers who were secure in their attitude because they have that self-confidence.
We must accept the assessment of teachers. It is likely to be part of the Bill. I should like to see much more discussion of how the assessment should be made and who should do it. In the Select Committee I said that we did not want a creeps' charter. In my early days in teaching, I remember people who sought to obtain promotion by ingratiating themselves with their headmaster or headmistress. We do not want that. Teachers must be assessed by head teachers, by their professional peers, heads of department and possibly local inspectors. There should be much more discussion about the matter. I hope and believe that the Bill will inspire such discussion and that children will benefit.
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), and especially his comments on Sunday opening. Although there is need to get rid of the anomalies of the present Sunday trading law, a free-for-all would hurt and insult many people and organisations. When the Prime Minister spoke today about choice, she did not take into consideration all the people who would have to work in the shops, sweep the streets run the transport facilities to take people to the shops, or the police. What choice will they have? If we were to make Sunday a normal trading day, all the facilities would have to be available on a Sunday.
There is a limit to how much people can spend. There is only so much money to go round, whether it is spent during the week or on a Sunday. More money will be needed to service the facilities, so unit costs and the cost of living are bound to increase. We must study people's choices before we introduce insulting legislation. I hope that when the Government introduce the legislation they will give Conservative Members the opportunity to vote according to their consciences and their constituents' wishes.
There is a great deal in the Queen's Speech that I can support. The Queen's Speech states:My Government will continue to work for progress in arms control and disarmament negotiations".It would have been better had the word "negotiations" been left out. It would then have referred to "arms control and disarmament". That would have shown a more positive attitude, because negotiations can go on for ever.
I support the proposition:
82My Government will give full support to the Commonwealth, and play a constructive role at the United Nations.In relation to famine and other disasters, it would be better if the Government put their money where their mouth is. We should increase our overseas aid to the amount of GNP that we promised years ago to the United Nations. There are many ways of providing overseas aid. I have spoken to people from overseas who said that we should not send them grain or food but should buy goods from them to create a flow of money in their area. In return, they would buy from us and pay back their debts. There is a case for rescheduling their debts so that they can provide facilities. We should buy their commodities.
We must seriously consider wiping out some of the debts owed to the world banking system. That does not mean rescheduling the debts and lending more money, because that merely increases the interest payments that they have to make. The United Nations must seriously consider wiping out some of the debts so that those countries can start again. I was always told when I made bad mistakes that I should rub them out and start again to see what I could come up with the next time.
I also support the protection of environmental sensitivity. We made mistakes with the Wildlife and Countryside Bill by passing it too quickly. Some of the environmental provisions need strengthening. I live in a rural area and appreciate what could be done for rural areas.
The protection of animals used for scientific purposes is an admirable proposal. I hope that when the Bill is introduced the issue will not be fudged and that there will be no covering up of the subject of animal experiments to get it out of the way and off the Government's back for a while. It is a matter to which Governments will have to return time and again, because there is a massive lobby outside the House. People have a conscience about what is happening now that it has been brought to their attention. The Government should take the issue on board and not fudge it.
There is no mention of an energy policy in the Bill. Why not? It is time that we had an energy policy. It is suggested that, at the present rate of usage, oil and North sea gas will run out by about 2010. I have recently spoken to the chairman of British Gas. He recognised that by about 2010 the Gas Corporation would have to produce an alternative system for making gas from coal. It perfected the lurgi system. It is a modified form of the old German system and I believe is working and sells to some American states and Scandinavian countries. To supply the amount of gas that is consumed at present through the use of coal, 100 million tonnes will be needed, yet the NCB is suggesting that the industry will be geared to produce only 90 million tonnes. Indeed, Ian MacGregor is on record as suggesting that 71 million tonnes may be the figure to aim at.
In a talk with us, the chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board gave notice that within the next eight years he will be wanting decisions or advice from the Government as to what he should do about the replacement of the present coal-burning power stations. Those stations will need to be replaced in 12 to 15 years.
Is the decision to be in favour of nuclear fuel? As I have already said, it will take 100 million tonnes of coal to produce the gas that is at present consumed, and the coal industry is now geared to produce only 90 million tonnes. 83 In those circumstances, where will the coal come from? Who is to supply the CEGB? If the coal is not available, it will have to be nuclear fuel. Have the Government an energy policy that they have not yet told us about? Is it their intention to go flat out for a nuclear energy policy? The Government should come clean on that issue.
If there is to be a solid fuel programme, are we to have the fluidised bed system? If so, decisions will have to be made in the next few years. I suggest that, because of the environmental issues, we shall have to adopt the fluidised bed system. Are the Government prepared to tell the House what type of energy policy they intend to adopt after the next eight years? It is ridiculous that the NCB, the CEGB and the gas industry should not be able to come together to produce a formalised and proper energy policy.
With regard to unemployment in my constituency, the area used to depend upon the main manufacturing industries which made Britian rich for many years—fishing and textiles and, in my area in particular, steel and coal. Those industries formed the basis of the wealth of the Yorkshire and Humberside region, which is now suffering.
The closure programme in the mining industry has already cost Yorkshire and Humberside 18,500 jobs. In my constituency, 1,800 jobs are scheduled to go. That is in addition to the problems that we shall have as a result of the control of public expenditure, which the Prime Minister mentioned.
We already have the abolition of the South Yorkshire county council. Barnsley, as the county town, will suffer the greatest, after the four south Yorkshire authorities. Not only has Barnsley lost 1,800 men from the mining industry; it will lose hundreds more because of the abolition of the county. The spending power that has existed in the township of Barnsley will also be lost, because the people working for the county will no longer be there. Either they will have lost their jobs or they will have been dispersed among the four other authorities. The township will be left with all the county buildings, for which it used to get rates, but those rates will no longer be available because the buildings will be empty.
There is another problem on the horizon resulting from the miners' strike. The NCB pays its rates not on buildings but on production. There will be no money next year from that source because there was no production. It is all very well for the Government or the Minister to say that there will be compensation; but the compensation comes a year after the event. Therefore, there will be a great dip in the amount of rates that Barnsley will receive until the next year arrives.
The Government need to show a flexible approach to the problem so that the financial problems can be equalised over two years. It can be done, because farmers have that facility, but no one in industry has the facility of equalising tax returns over two years. What is to stop the local authorities having their financial problems equalised over two years? Controls on public expenditure will mean cuts in education, hospitals and health facilities.
There are also problems with the restricted drug list. I was very disappointed to receive a letter from the Secretary of State for Social Services stating that the drug Mukodyne will not be put back on the restricted list. The Secretary of State says that he has a number of advisers, but they are surgeons and people from universities. Have 84 they ever worked in a mining or heavy industrial area? Have they ever encountered the problems that are caused by chest diseases arising from the mining industry? Only the drug Mukodyne can give relief. My father died of pneumoconiosis, and for many years the only drug that would ease it was Mukodyne. In some cases there is no other choice than to buy the drug, and it now costs about £10 every time. It has to be paid by people who cannot afford it.
Housing problems in my area have been caused by Government legislation. No new houses have been built. Repairs and modernisation have been carried out to a limited extent, but it is ridiculous that there are unemployed building workers in the private sector of the building industry and that the council has £21 million in the bank, in capital receipts, which cannot be touched. We have many houses in need of modernisation and repair, we have builders who are fully capable of doing the work, and we have the money with which to do it. Unfortunately, we have not the will of the Government to allow the work to be done.
I am not against council house sales. I like people to buy houses that they can afford to buy, but there are times when people should not be able to do it. When people come to me and ask what they should do about buying a council house, I may say, "I will tell you why you should not," or I may say, "You will be a fool if you do not buy."
The problem has arisen because of the sale of the middle band of the best of the housing stock—the prewar council houses that were solidly built and modernised later. It is those that have gone from the housing stock. They were the seedcorn of the housing investment programme. They would have been paid for in the next five or six years, and all that revenue would have gone into the housing revenue account to provide the means of building and maintaining the next generation of houses. Selling them at a discount has cost the authority £21 million. Taking the £21 million lost on council house sales and adding to that the £21 million in the bank that cannot be touched, a total of £42 million would have been available to continue the local housing programme.
The authority has a special problem resulting from Government legislation. The National Coal Board owns vast housing estates which it would like to sell. They are in various states of repair, and the council or local authority is obliged to buy them. However, it has not sufficient funds to buy them, and even if it could buy them it could not repair them. That should be investigated.
Abolition will also affect the cheap bus fare system around which the area has been structured. If hon. Members consider what is happening in the area, they will understand why I am asking for special assistance through the rate support grant. The sports centres were built where they are because one could reach them by bus and because the bus fare was relatively cheap. Because of cheap bus fares people went to town to shop, and local shops closed. Suddenly that will be reversed. People will have to pay higher bus fares, and although it will not be impossible to get into town, they will have less to spend because they will spend more on bus fares. Moreover, the sports centres which belong to the local authority will not pay their way because people will not be able to afford the bus fare to them and the entrance fee. That problem must be considered carefully and speedily.
My local authority was led to believe that it would receive about £91 million in GREA, but it received only 85 £88 million. Nobody can tell the authority how much of that relates to the abolition of the county council, because the Secretary of State for the Environment has decided to use a new target system. While authorities could aim at a target and be penalised for spending above it, they are now penalised from the start. Therefore, as soon as the authority spends above the £88 million, although it is under target, it will be penalised. That could cause rate increases. Therefore, there will be increases in rates, rents, and bus fares, and no income from the NCB and other industries.
Another omission from the Queen's Speech relates to problems regarding the DHSS. We will fight a bonny battle for many weeks when the Fowler report appears as a Bill, and is debated in the House and in Committee. If anything in the Queen's Speech is distasteful, it is the decision to interfere with—not reform—welfare benefits. Housing benefits, which are paid to thousands of people, will no longer be paid, and thousands will have it reduced. Family income supplement will be altered, and family benefit, which is now paid to the wife, will be paid to the husband. We shall examine that Bill closely and fight it tooth and nail because it is so distasteful.
There is yet another omission from the Queen's Speech which I shall again try to introduce in my own way—concessionary television licences for old-age pensioners. It is time that provision for that appeared in a Queen's Speech. It is unfair that some old-age pensioners get a coloured television licence for 5p while the majority must pay the full licence fee. Old-age people's organisations are willing to have the subsidy equalised, and that should be considered. I hope that that will he included in the next Queen's Speech, if the Government have not gone to the country by then. I give my colleagues notice that when they come to power that should be part of the legislative programme in their first Queen's Speech.
§ 9.3 pm
§ Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn Hatfield)
In assessing the overall impact of the Gracious Speech, one is drawn to two significant phrases—to protect areas of particular environmental sensitivityandFirm control of public expenditure.I pay particular attention to them because they are of considerable importance to my constituents and the nation.
In the past I have referred to the green belt and National Health Service provision in so far as they especially relate to Hertfordshire. I do so again today in the context of the Queen's Speech because I recognise them as providing the markers for the coming year's events. Therefore, the debate is the opportunity to discuss their exact location.
The value of the green belt is already well understood and, any action that may allow it to become muddied by the developers' boots and threadbare in consequence must be opposed vigorously. It is a concept not to be taken in or let out a few notches at the behest of Government or local authority.
There is a belief that expansion plans for a county such as Hertfordshire should be agreed, whether or not the area in question can really be expected to absorb additional development. That is currently the case in the parish of North Mymms close to the soon-to-be-completed M25. I speak as its elected representative, although I should perhaps declare an interest as a local resident. However, such an example is by no means isolated, and the other 86 parishes of my constituency, as I have brought to the attention of the House before, also suffer incursions of the green belt. Conservation and conservatism should be linked as one, not to be put asunder.
The considerable rise in finance for the National Health Service should also be well understood, so it is against such a background that I make a plea for a transfer of resources. The safety of the National Health Service with us should not be in doubt, but, for that safety to be complete, the changing patterns of need must be more readily considered and acted upon.
The growth in population of a county such as Hertfordshire, in part a consequence of new towns such as the two that I represent, and the expansion of villages, of which there are many in my constituency, mean that traditional patterns of spending are now outmoded. We have seen the outward movement of population from London, but it has not been matched by the outward movement of available cash.
Hon. Members have heard me speak before of the need for improved geriatric and psychogeriatric provision among other requirements. I can now report plans to expand the Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Welwyn Garden City and the redevelopment of Weltield hospital in Hatfield, which are extremely encouraging signs, as long as the necessary money is forthcoming. Caring and conservatism should also be linked as one—again, not to be rent asunder.
It is my intention to interpretto protect areas of particular environmental sensitivityin part as meaning that the green belt will remain just that. It is also my intention to interpretFirm control of public expenditurein part as meaning that NHS provision will be directed where it is most in demand. I support the Loyal Address in the sincere hope that I shall not be disappointed in those aspirations.
§ 9.7 pm
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I welcome the opportunity to make a brief intervention on a matter of great importance to my constituency.
I appreciate the way in which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone) seconded the Loyal Address. It was done wittily, with self-mockery and modesty, and it was extremely well put. I think that it was a slip of the tongue when the hon. Gentleman said that in Aberdeen the rate of unemployment was "only 6 per cent." Six per cent. represents nearly 8,000 people, and it shows how bad the economic problem is when "only 6 per cent." is regarded as tolerable.
I want to raise the problem of Hall Russell shipyard in my constituency, which is imperilled by the Government 's privatisation plans. The Government decided some time ago to privatise the naval shipyards. That was a euphemism for privatising the profitable yards. The game plan was perfectly clear and had two purposes. The first was to make sure that private enterprise got its hands on the profits from shipyards, and the second was to have a core of naval shipyards outside British Shipbuilders making profits, with secure orders from the Ministry of Defence. That was to be contrasted with the yards of British Shipbuilders facing many difficulties over their order books. In that way, the Government could show that private enterprise works, while public enterprise fails.
87 That was a beautifully conceived package, neatly tied up, and one might say brilliantly conceived, but for Hall Russell in my constituency it was abysmally carried out. Nobody bothered to tell the Secretary of State for Defence what the game was. In April of this year the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South and I took a deputation to the Ministry of Defence to get tenders for the Navy released so that orders for the so-called OPVII, which the Navy wants, could come on stream. Two vessels were expected to be ordered this year, but we were told that the OPVII had been withdrawn from the programme because there was no money in the defence budget. Furthermore, we were told that the development of the next class of vessel, the OPVIII, could not go ahead because there would not be any money to develop it, even though it has export potential.
When the order was withdrawn from the programme, British Aerospace was negotiating with British Shipbuilders to buy Hall Russell. I do not have time to go into all the ins and outs of the different buyers who appeared on the scene and those who dropped out, but the fact is that when the prospectus for sale was issued, it looked as if there would be security of orders and employment, and reasonable prospects for profit. Without orders, there is no prospect of selling that yard. It is like a newspaper selling itself on the market and saying, "There is only one small snag—all the advertising revenue ends at the end of the month." No one can sell a shipyard or any business in such circumstances.
The problem is compounded by the fact that the Government have decided that naval yards should not have access to the shipbuilding intervention fund to help them get merchant shipping orders, except in exceptional circumstances. I can understand that. The problem is that, with no defence orders, and no access to the intervention fund for merchant shipbuilding, the yard's future looks bleak. The Government are solely responsible for Hall Russell's present predicament. That is not a political statement, but a statement of fact.
The only people who can remedy the problem are the Government themselves. I have never hidden my antogonism towards privatisation, and many shop stewards do not like it. We have set that aside. The Government have made up their mind, and we shall not quarrel about that. Our primary concern is security of employment. If we can set aside dogma, surely the Government can. Surely they can say that when they wanted to privatise the yard the situation was different, but that now neither a buyer nor orders can be found. Last week Graham Day, the chairman of British Shipbuilders, wrote to the shop stewards and said that neither British Shipbuilders nor the Government will give Hall Russell special consideration. If there is no buyer by 31 March next year, which is the final deadline for the sale, and there are no orders, British Shipbuilders will move to close the yard, and 650 people who have given loyal service to the shipyard and the nation will be thrown on the scrap heap.
We are not asking for something that the Navy does not want. It wants the ships. Therefore, in a sense I am throwing the Government a lifeline and giving them the chance to get off the hook. There are two ways in which the Government could help. They could decide to retain the yard in Bitish Shipbuilders, allow it access to the intervention fund and push hard to get orders to keep it 88 going. Alternatively, they could release two or even one OPVII. That would let them off the hook and give them the opportunity to decide what to do about the sale. Above all, it would result in secure employment.
Last Friday, 1 November, there was a meeting in the Cowdray hall in Aberdeen, packed with over 700 people. On the platform were representatives of all shades of political and commercial opinion—the chamber of commerce, the convenor of Grampian region, Mr. John Sorrie, a stalwart Conservative, the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), a Liberal, myself and various others, including the Scottish Trades Union Congress. We were united in one demand—that the shipyard must be saved and have security of employment. The Government must act. This message came from every person, whatever his political opinion: if the Government fail Hall Russell, having put it in this peril, they will reap the whirlwind at the next election.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
In searching for that elusive ideal of beauty through brevity, I recall the remarks of one of your predecessors, Mr. Speaker: that speeches, to be immortal, need not be eternal.
I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will not mind if I do not refer to his speech. Instead, I wish to refer to the subject of some of his recent speeches outside the House. I wish to pick up the reference in the Gracious Speech to South Africa. During our summer recess there has been a trickle, turning into a flood, of international support for economic sanctions against South Africa. We must remember that we already have military sanctions against that country which, incidentally, have led to South Africa arriving in the top 10 in the world's league of arms manufacturers.
I doubt whether those who are calling for total economic sanctions against South Africa have really thought their plans through. It is extremely dangerous to single out one country to bear the world's wrath. We should remember in this Parliament that many of the 160 countries represented in the United Nations are opposed to our form of political life. It is also worth remembering that only about 30 countries have a system for changing their Governments that would reach the high standards and gain the approval of this House.
If we are to concentrate on South Africa, we should be clear what we have in mind. We should consider the economic and military strength of that country. Not only does South Africa have its own food supplies, but it exports food to the rest of southern Africa. It has vast mineral wealth which is of crucial importance to many industries in this country, particularly the aircraft industry. If we are not merely indulging in blah, blather and bluster—and many diplomats would say privately that that is what they are doing—we must realise that if one grips a man by his windpipe he will struggle. If one tries to grip South Africa through economic sanctions and threatens the very survival of an independent country, it will fight. It will become a matter of shot and shell with lives being lost. Are we proposing, in the long run, that it should be the Soviet navy, the United States navy or the Royal Navy that will carry out the task of rigorously enforcing sanctions against South Africa? There will doubtless be people who will point to Britain because we have ties with the Cape and the hinterland going back for centuries and 89 generations. What will be the feeling in our constituencies if British sailors lose their lives carrying out this international obligation?
I visited the complex country of South Africa for the first time in the spring, and I believe the Achilles' heel of its system is that it wishes to be a competitive industrial country. That means that it wants more qualified workers to deal with the new technology. To achieve that, it must educate its people. If we compete with South Africa as one industrial country with another it seems to me that we shall blow apart the very regime that we despise. I ask Opposition Members who call for total sanctions against South Africa whether we are more likely to end up with Left and liberal regime or a Right-wing reactionary Fascist regime in South Africa if we destroy the present state President. Who opposed the South African Government in the recent by-elections with most success? The strength of the opposition faced by that democratic President came from the Right wing, not from the Left.
In conclusion, if we in this country combine with other countries in the United Nations to impose full and rigorous economic sanctions on South Africa, we could conceivably be adding to greater repression, degradation, bitterness and bloodshed. It is just conceivable that through well-meaning idealism we would postpone the dawn of that new era in South Africa for which we yearn, hope and strive.
§ Mr. Michael Meadowcroft (Leeds, West)
I should dearly like to follow the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) on the subject of South Africa, but in view of the hour I shall make a brief contribution on the subject of the inner cities and public order.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) is no longer here as I wished to compliment him on his sensitive and civilised contribution on this topic. In relation to his colleagues on the Conservative Benches the hon. Gentleman often seems to play the role of the pianist in the house of ill repute. Certainly he made a most helpful contribution today, and I hope that he will read my comments in the Official Report.
On public order, the Gracious Speech mentions especially the strengthening of police powers in combating disorder and also the creation of a new offence in relation to public order. I doubt whether anyone in the House would dissent from the need to assist the police effectively to police those parts of our cities which are in severe danger of falling into grave instability and insecurity. We must be careful, however, to ensure that things do not become one-sided. There can be no excuse whatever and I hope that no hon. Member will seek to produce any reason or defence for the hacking to death on the floor of an unarmed policeman—indeed, a community councillor—as occurred in Tottenham. On the other hand, attempting to support the police simply by giving them all that they ask for in a given situation may not be the best way to help them in the inner cities.
Mr. John Alderson, a political colleague of mine and a former chief constable, wrote in his recent book that the 1981 riots may well have been caused by social conditions, but they were ignited by police practice. It is to the credit of the police that they learned a great many lessons from the 1981 riots and altered their practice considerably, thus buying time until 1985. The problem is that if we simply 90 strengthen the police in the ways that the Gracious Speech suggests without making any mention of the other side of the coin—the need to change and improve social conditions—we may be throwing away the time that has been bought by improved police practice in Brixton and elsewhere. The lessons that should have been learnt from the Scarman report after the Brixton riots were not learnt, the recommendations were not put into practice, and there is a great danger that if we emphasise just one side of the equation we shall not solve the problems of the inner cities.
After the 1981 riots, Professor Donnison predicted in an article in The Observer entitled "The Fire Next Time" that if we were not aware of what was happening in our inner cities riots would not necessarily be in cosmopolitan areas of the inner cities but would be in the dreadful estates that we have created, sometimes on the outskirts of our cities. That is exactly what happened four years later in Tottenham, where there are so many of the awful deck access flats which have been demolished in large numbers in Leeds, leaving us with another 45 years of debt payments on those properties.
There is a lack of understanding in the Government about the nature and feelings of inner city communities. It is not essentially a matter of throwing money at the physical fabric to change the situation. The fact that the areas concerned have bad housing, schools and hospitals does not mean that the situation would be changed overnight if we could find the money to transform the fabric.
One of the shrewdest and most aware comments on the 1981 riots appeared in The Economist. There was no byline to the article, but is worth noting that the author was Nick Harman. He pointed out that some of the 1981 riots occurred in areas which had the most rather than the least money poured into them. Despite all that money, those areas proved to be volatile, and they exploded. He drew attention to the fact that in many cases there was a lack of leadership in those areas because as they began to run down and the fabric started to deteriorate those in a position to do so got out. Many, however, to their everlasting credit, chose not to join the trend but stayed to give what leadership they could and to combat the conditions that those areas face.
On Monday, I had the privilege to take a German journalist around my own inner city area and to introduce him to some of the West Indian leaders at the West Indian centre. He was struck by the difference between those parts of the inner city which have retained their urban village and those which have not. Some still have the old town street and all the old choice of shops—the tailor, the watchmaker, the wet fish shop and the greengrocer. Because the area has not been demolished and rebuilt, the rents have not gone up out of all proportion. The tailor told him that he has been 41 years in business and that he has been able to carry on a small business because the area has maintained its old street, which is the focal point of the neighbourhood. The neighbouring district has been demolished and a new district centre planted there. After 6 o'clock it is dead. It is an area of insecurity and instability. The comparison was vivid.
It was interesting that the West Indian leaders told the journalist that the problems are often caused by people coming into the area from outside and encouraging an anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment view among the young people. Once this happened, their own young people 91 would join in—it had a dynamic of its own. The parents were determined that the area would not be destroyed again and wished to avoid the problems of four years ago, even if it meant reporting their own children.
We must encourage and sustain leadership. We must identify the community, but not necessarily in terms merely of bricks and mortar. We must also consider the accountability of the control of the neighbourhood. It is a matter not simply of spreading administration down to the areas, but of who controls and whether people see that they have some decision-making process of their own and that they have a say in what happens in their own neighbourhood. Without such a say, as one person said, "We simply find out quicker that we cannot get our repairs done."
There is a great danger that the boiling kettle, bubbling away dangerously on the stove, will explode if the lid is pushed more and more firmly down. I beg the Government to realise that, although we must support the police, and buy time by encouraging the best kind of police, it is also vital in so many of our cities and in my area, that we restore a community spirit. That would take the heat out of the situation. It is the only hope in the future for stable and secure communities.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
I believe that most Members of the House and the majority of the nation will welcome the intention, as expressed in the Gracious Speech, to strengthen the powers of the police in order to combat the growth of violence in our streets and other major crimes, such as traffic in drugs.
However, there is one serious gap in this important part of the Gracious Speech—there is no mention of the growing and systematic abuse of the right to challenge jury-men and women. Trial by jury in criminal courts is now being disrupted so that there are far too many acquittals. This is undermining the work of the police in the promotion of law and order. The Government and Parliament must grasp this nettle, and grasp it soon.
In Crown courts, each defendant can challenge three jurors without giving any reason. This is called the right to peremptory challenge. Thus, in a multiple trial with four defendants there can be 12 challenges, and with eight defendants there can be 24 challenges. Several defence counsel continue to challenge and remove jurors until they get a jury broadly to their liking. The Times, in a notable leading article on 13 June, stated:A pin-striped suit, an old school or regimental tie, a prominently displayed copy of the Daily Telegraph seem to provide virtual guarantee that the bearer will be excluded from the jury …Today peremptory challenge seems to be used by defence counsel in an endeavour to achieve as far as possible a jury composed of people believed by the defence to be likely to be hostile to the prosecution and sympathetic to the defendant.The article concluded:the right to peremptory challenge … ought now to be abolished.What is now going on makes a mockery of the concept of fair trial in a Crown court. Juries are supposed to be selected at random. Historically, the right to peremptory challenge exists to remove bias. It now does the opposite, as it is used to introduce bias—a bias towards acquittal. It is therefore a distortion of the legal process.
92 In his book, "What Next in the Law?", Lord Denning wrote:What is the justification today of the right of the accused to 'peremptory' challenges? Should we any longer permit the accused to exclude a juror simply because of his looks?He also wrote:It is now becoming apparent that the accused, by using the 'peremptory' challenge, may seek to 'pack' the jury-box with jurors who are sympathetic to his side.That occurred most recently in the trial of the airmen accused of spying in Cyprus. The third jury was subject to 12 challenges. It was reported that the average age of the eventual jury was 24. Nobody was more than 40 and not one wore a tie when they came in to give their verdict of acquittal. I do not blame defence counsel—they do their best for their clients within the rules. The rules are wrong, and it is up to us to change them. Lord Denning would abolish the peremptory challenge, as would The Times. Others would not abolish it, but drastically curtail the number of such challenges allowed, especially in multiple cases.
What is clear is that we cannot continue as we are. Until the matter is dealt with, it is as if the police are fighting vicious and serious crime with one hand tied behind their backs. The need is urgent. We should not wait until next Session's Criminal Justice Bill as it would then be the best part of two years before the necessary changes were made. The Gracious Speech says that, in the current Session,Other measures will be laid before you.I hope that swift action will now be taken.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
I approach with mixed feelings, the Government's proposals to remove statutory restrictions on shop opening hours. Although I am aware that there is no great public demand for wholesale deregulation—the Auld report mentioned that in paragraph 66—I have always supported private Members' Bills on the subject during the past eight years because present circumstances are full of unacceptable anomalies—hypocritical, unworkable, unenforceable and unfair in many ways to our non-Christian ethnic minorities and to tourist areas, such as mine, where trading and job opportunities are being missed.
I am a regular church attender and I appreciate the Church's worries about Sunday trading. However, I have to recognise that, despite legislation in support of Sunday observance, church attendances are falling. I understand that about 10 per cent. of the population attend. It appears that compulsion has bred complacency. In Scotland, where there is no compulsion and where what the Government propose has long been the norm, churchgoing is higher, faith is stronger and the character of the traditional Sunday is no different from that in England and Wales. We heard confirmation of that earlier from the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray).
As a Christian, I believe that the state should not impose Sunday observance. It should be a matter of personal conviction. It worries me and many of my constituents who have written to me that jobs and prospects will be put at risk if people, when asked whether they are prepared to work on Sunday, refuse on religious or family grounds. I shall have to be satisfied that our employment protection legislation will be more than adequate and on the side of people who place the fourth commandment—the fifth in the Roman Catholic Church—before their job.
§ Mr. Mike Woodcock (Ellesmere Port and Neston)
I welcome the commitment in the Queen's Speech to continue to encourage the growth of new jobs. The Government's present policies are the only means of creating real and lasting jobs. Moreover, free trade is in the interests of Britain and the developing world.
I wish the Government to consider more closely the activities of our multinational companies, which could create more jobs in the United Kingdom. The Government should consider the amount of imports by United Kingdom domiciled car manufacturers. Together with many of my constituents, I am concerned at the level of imports by General Motors. In the past 12 months that company has imported into Britain over 120,000 vehicles under the Vauxhall badge—many of them from Spain. Those vehicles are sold to the public, who largely believe them to be British-made, which they are not. Many of the vehicles could be produced in the United Kingdom in the capacity available at the company's Ellesmere Port plant. That could provide hundreds of new jobs. I am suspicious that General Motors is not playing fair. I suggest that the Government take a long hard look and introduce the necessary fiscal measures.
I wish the Government to consider oil refining in the United Kingdom. We all agree that North sea oil has been a major success story. It has given us great national advantages. The oil industry is a fine example of efficiency, entrepreneurial drive and achievement, and it deserves encouragement, but there is a danger that those who take oil from the North sea may not be making the investment required to ensure that United Kingdom refining capacity matches production. I hope that the Government will become more interested than they appear to be and that they will take action to ensure that those who share in the North sea oil upstream bonanza will play their part in creating jobs in the downstream part of the industry.
I welcome the proposed legislation to encourage private sector involvement in the ownership and management of council housing estates and to improve the planning system. These have not been mentioned so far in the debate. Successive Governments have discouraged the private rented sector by more Rent Act protectection and rent controls. The result is that investment in the private rented sector has almost dried up. The sector continues to decline as prudent landlords realise that the only option open to them when a property falls vacant is to sell, and would-be tennants find it increasingly difficult to find a home.
Although a property-owning democracy should be the cornerstone of housing policy, many people—young single persons, students and temporary residents—need rented accommodation. Many people are prepared to invest in the provision of that accommodation. These two groups should come together for mutual benefit. They could make a significant contribution to solving the nation's housing shortage. However, the Rent Acts prevent this from happening. I hope that the proposed legislation will not only encourage private investment in council housing, but that it heralds the long overdue reform of the Rent Acts.
It is clear that the bureaucracy of the planning process and the attitude of some local authorities are unfair burdens on business. They discourage enterprise and the 94 creation of new jobs. Therefore, I hope that the proposed improvements to the planning system will be fundamental and orientated towards enterprise and job creation.
I welcome the intention to improve the management of our schools and to promote the increased effectiveness of our teachers. Parents in Britain are increasingly concerned about what is happening in our schools. Education costs £10 billion a year, half of which is spent on teachers' salaries. Education is an investment in the future, but value for money is required.
Most of our teachers are excellent, but much in society works against them. Many have been deprived of the sanction of corporal punishment. They are not always supported by education authorities when they take a firm stand on discipline. Some are even accused of racism when they say what they genuinely believe about education standards in multiracial schools. But teachers have no right to use pupils as pawns in an industrial dispute, especially where action is intended to cause the maximum disruption to the education of our children, at minimum cost to those taking part.
We need a clearer definition of teachers' professional responsibilities, a curriculum that is more relevant to the needs of industry and commerce and more accountability from teachers, with regular assessment of performance. In almost all successful commercial organisations, those in responsible positions have long accepted the need for performance review. Pay, promotion and even job security should be based on performance. No one in the public sector has a right to a job for life, with regular pay increases and promotion, irrespective of performance. I hope that the legislation that is introduced will deal with those points.
Finally, I welcome the measures intended to strengthen police power to combat public disorder and modernise the law on public order offences. During the past months the nation has been shocked by scenes of violence on our streets. Some say that this results from divisions in society, from unemployment, from the drug problem, from the alienation of young coloureds or even from police methods and attitudes. But no amount of alienation can justify what we have seen—a policeman killed, children below working age committing vicious attacks on those who are trying to restore order, and businesses, homes and cars set ablaze. Petrol bombs, acid and knives have no part in peaceful protest and no place on the streets of a democratic nation. Such behaviour demands swift and firm responses. It does not demand soft policing. It does not demand the creation of no-go areas. It demands firm policing, a stiffening of the law and a firm response by the courts. My constituents want a firmer approach to law and order. I hope that the measures mentioned in the Gracious Speech will provide that firm response.
§ Mr. David Amess (Basildon)
The Gracious Speech is a lesson to us all in being succinct and brief, and I shall endeavour to be so tonight. However, some of my colleagues may wish to take up some of the points that I shall make. I was relieved to hear that the Gracious Speech was not tainted by the suggestion that we should televise the proceedings of the House of Commons. That is the silliest suggestion I have heard since I have been privileged to be a Member of the House. However, I am sure that the subject will be debated later in the Session.
95 With hon. Members, I listened to the Gracious Speech to learn of matters that would benefit the country and my constituency, and in both considerations I was not disappointed. The most important part of the speech dealt with economic policy and the battle to create more jobs for those who wish to work. I welcome the Government's commitment to continue their economic policies: the defeat of inflation, lower taxation and the encouragement of enterprise. They are right to continue their policy of privatisation, which has already proved to be extremely successful.
§ Mr. Murphy
Does my hon. Friend agree that the new towns in the south-east have been noticeably successful in attracting new businesses, which has had the benefit of creating jobs for our constituents? Will he comment on that with regard to Basildon?
§ Mr. Amess
My hon. Friend and I both represent new towns. In my constituency, I am privileged to work with an extremely dynamic development corporation, which has done a magnificent job, since it was set up in 1948, of attracting new businesses to the area. I am privileged to represent a constituency that has the largest covered shopping centre in Europe. Many new businesses, including Alders and Toys 'R' Us have come to Basildon, and there is no doubt that the efforts of the development corporation have produced many new jobs. Great credit should go to that organisation. My constituency has enjoyed great success in the development of small businesses.
Every hon. Member is rightly concerned about unemployment. However, Basildon has enjoyed considerable success. A survey conducted by the Department of Employment shows that in my constituency unemployment has fallen by 5.8 per cent. during the last year. I pay tribute to all those who have contributed so magnificently to the creation of new businesses and therefore more jobs in the area.
§ Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important to create new businesses in order to generate more employment, but that communications are also very important in East Anglian constituencies? Therefore, we must do more to encourage road building and increased airport facilities. More employment opportunities could be created in Norwich if communications were improved.
§ Mr. Amess
My hon. Friend makes a valuable point. Both he and my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Powley) enjoyed the benefit of an Adjournment debate in the autumn of 1984 on precisely that point.
We must concentrate upon developing better communications. My constituency has benefited from the extension of the M25 motorway. Furthermore, a Channel tunnel would create many more new jobs. My constituents would benefit from the construction of a Channel tunnel.
I had hoped that the Gracious Speech would refer to legislation to prevent political propaganda from being a burden on ratepayers. Both my constituents and I feel strongly about this issue. The Socialist district council is faced with self-inflicted rate capping. There are other projects upon which that money could be better spent.
§ Mr. Murphy
Does my hon. Friend agree that a number of Socialist councils, his as well as mine, are wrong to spend ratepayers' money on advertising campaigns that attack proposed Government legislation and on promoting such fanciful and useless ideas as nuclear-free zones? Ratepayers' money could be far better used for the benefit of the people these councils seek to represent. Alternatively, such high rates might not have to be levied upon ratepayers.
§ Mr. Amess
My hon. Friend raises a number of interesting points. My constituency is a nuclear-free zone. The leader of the local authority must originally have had a telephone conversation with Mr. Chernenko and ultimately with Mr. Gorbachev to arrange, in the event of a nuclear attack, for those weapons to be directed in such a way as to avoid Basildon—a ridiculous suggestion. My local authority wasted £5,000 on that propaganda exercise.
My most serious concern is that the local authority has employed a communications organisation which has budgeted to spend £150,000 on political propaganda. Through our doors in Basildon we receive an information sheet which tells the good residents what the local authority is up to, but when I won the Basildon seat it did not even mention that I had been elected as the Member for the constituency.
§ Mr. Allen McKay
The hon. Gentleman is talking about political propaganda paid for out of the 2p rate under section 137, but authorities such as mine spend that 2p rate on employment strategy. When the metropolitan county councils are abolished, the 2p rate will not be available and there will be no money for the employment strategy. Is there not room for manoeuvre there?
§ Mr. Amess
The hon. Member makes a sharp point. I sat with him for 150 hours in the Committee on the Rates Bill in the previous Session and I know that he is an expert on that subject. However, his intervention does not detract from the fact that many of my constituents feel that the money spent on propaganda could be better spent in other areas of great need in Basildon.
Morning, noon and night, I meet business men who say that the rates that they pay are critical in their survival. The smaller the unit, the more important rates become. Business men in Basildon tell me that they are extremely worried about the high rates.
§ Mr. Patrick Thompson
Does my hon. Friend agree that business men in Norwich and Basildon are upset not only about high rates imposed by Labour authorities, but about the forms that they have to fill in when they hope to undertake work for their local councils?
I have recently been shown forms produced by Norwich city council that run to five or six foolscap pages. The business people have to fill in detail after detail which has nothing to do with the contract in question. I cannot imagine why councils should want that information. Perhaps my hon. Friend knows why councils are collecting all that information from business people.
§ Mr. Amess
I find all that rather sinister. Such practices were being carried out by the GLC, but, as that council is to be abolished next year, we need not worry about that. Business men with small work forces find it difficult to cope with the extra burdens on their time that are imposed when they have to fill in very long forms. Half 97 the time, the information is of no value and I wonder to what end it is used. Perhaps Labour Members can tell us whether that information is stored in their central buildings. Will it be unleashed before the next general election?
Many of my constituents and people throughout the country will welcome the measures to strengthen the powers of the police in combating disorder—balancing freedom of speech and the right to protest with effective police powers. We in Essex are particularly delighted that the Government are to legislate against the drugs menace which confronts our society. I am also delighted that the Government are to take powers to trace and confiscate the proceeds of drug traffickers. It is a serious problem which worries many of my constituents.
The Still Waters centre for the rehabilitation of drug users in Basildon is under threat of closure. I send a gentle message to the Minister concerned that the centre urgently needs extra funds. It does a valuable job for my constituents.
§ Mr. Jessel
What did my hon. Friend mean by the right to protest? Freedom of speech, the freedom to try to persuade people to one's view and to hire a hall in which to do that is a right which one should expect in a free society, but surely it is a different matter for people to hold up the traffic and to cause a nuisance to thousands of others who have the right to move about freely. Why should the right to freedom of speech imply a right to cause disruption?
§ Mr. Amess
That is a telling point. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) has a legal expertise which I do not have at my fingertips. We all know in our hearts of hearts what is meant by sensible protest. The disgraceful scenes of the last few weeks and months should certainly not be condoned.
Britain is a nation of animal lovers. Many animal lovers live in Basildon. I look forward to the Government 98 introducing a Bill to protect animals used for experimental or other scientific purposes. Hon. Members regularly receive postcards from constituents who are worried about tests on animals. I hope that the Government's proposed legislation will outlaw many cruel practices and certainly the disgraceful placing of gas masks on dogs' faces to discover the effect of smoke on their lungs. I hope that legislation will cover that disgraceful practice.
All that glitters is not gold. To emphasise that, I express my grave reservations about the proposed Bill to remove statutory restrictions on shop opening hours. I realise that I must wait to see precisely what is proposed, but I and many of my constituents do not want legislation to destroy our traditional Sunday. I am particularly worried about the added strains upon shop workers to compete. I represent a constituency with the largest covered shopping centre in Europe, so that the issue is of great concern.
I also regret that the Government seem unable to find time to promote legislation to protect the unborn child. It was clear by the vote last year that the country believes that we need such legislation. If this House cannot protect the unborn child, it is sad for democracy. If an hon. Member who wishes to promote such legislation is lucky in the ballot, I hope that the Government will not be obstructive.
I have attempted to introduce Bills to protect horses, ponies and donkeys and to reduce the minimum age at which a person can stand for Parliament from 21 years to 18. I hoped that my attempts would have encouraged the Government to promote similar proposals, but obviously I shall have to be more persistent and persuasive.
I was surprised by the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition of certain aspects of the Gracious Speech. However, I suspect that much of that criticism was offered without conviction. The legislation to which we can look forward in the coming Session will be good for the country and for my constituents.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjoured.
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.