Social and Economic Situation

Part of Orders of the Day — Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 7:14 pm on 29th June 1987.

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Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset 7:14 pm, 29th June 1987

I have the great honour of having been sent to this House by the electors of south Dorset to follow in the distinguished footsteps of Viscount Cranborne, known to all hon. Members as Robert, who is clearly a man of eloquence, intelligence and, perhaps more than any other, integrity. He has a love of south Dorset, and the constituents of south Dorset certainly have a great regard and love for him.

My constituency is an easy one about which to eulogise. Whereas other hon. Members may find some difficulty in saying what a wonderful place their constituency is, there is no one who could deny that south Dorset is a beautiful place in which to live. In case right hon. and hon. Members and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have not booked your holidays, perhaps I can tell you a little about south Dorset.

My constituency extends from Studland and Swanage to Weymouth and Portland, and to the north it goes as far as Bere Regis. We have some of the finest beaches, coves and cliffs in the whole of the country. Hon. Members will be well aware of Lulworth cove and the naked beauty of Studland. Perhaps that should be the naked beauties of Studland, where there is a nudist colony.

My constituency boasts the Purbeck hills and the white horse that people know so well as they travel in and out of Weymouth. Brownsea island nestles in Poole harbour. My hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) gives up most of the harbour area to my constituency. We have nature reserves in Arne, Lodmore and Radipole.

We are lucky to enjoy not only the beauties, but the natural resources of south Dorset. We possess the Purbeck stone and Portland stone that built most of London. We also possess ball clay and the Wytch farm oil wells. In fact, I probably represent the constituency with the largest amount of oil reserves. We play an enormous part in the defence of the realm. We are home to the Bovington and Lulworth camps; the tank firing ranges and training camps. We possess a naval dockyard and a naval helicopter station, where Prince Andrew is stationed. As regards law and order, the Dorset police headquarters are in my constituency. There is a prison on Portland, the Verne, as well as a youth custody centre.

Industry should not be neglected. Many people believe that among such beauty one would not find a thriving industrial sector that covers the electronics and service industries. The constituency houses the Underwater Weapons Research Establishment on Portland and the Nuclear Research Establishment at Winfrith Heath. South Dorset also has a working nuclear power station. Our farming community on the land covers sheep, cattle and corn. Fishing at sea is still a major industry in south Dorset.

Tradition says that, on these occasions, new Mernbers should be non-controversial. I had thought that with my name, Ian Cameron Bruce, I might be entitled, especially with my ancestry, to talk about Scotland. Obviously, Opposition Members would find that extremely controversial, given everything that they have said today. I thought that I might even talk about Wales, because I was born in Llantwit Fardre, in Glamorganshire. It was good to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths). However, to speak about Wales would have been controversial. There are some who would like to see schisms within the country. Perhaps they would like to split me into little pieces. I also thought that perhaps I might talk about Ireland, because I have an Irish mother, but I thought that that might be too controversial. Instead, I asked the permission of one of my hon. Friends, the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick), who has been elected to the House as the first Conservative Member for that worthy constituency in Yorkshire, to make some comparison between that constituency and the one that I have the honour to represent. Our constituencies illustrate the north-south divide.

For the past 12 years I have lived in Colne valley, which covers Huddersfield and the surrounding areas. I ran an employment agency that covered all sorts of people. from the unskilled labourer to the managing director. I have to spend a great deal of time canvassing in that area. One hears the attitudes that are often expressed, particularly by Labour Members who come from the north of England. They always say that on the doorstep the most important problem is unemployment. I agree with them. They tell us that there has been a terrible rundown in industry and that there is a lack of job opportunities. Again, I agree with them. They envy me my southern constituency, the land of milk, honey and jobs.

On the doorstep in Dorset, South, one hears a different story. People tell us, "We are OK. We can look after ourselves. We do not need extra jobs. We are really going places." Of course, there are not enough houses to go around. Everybody wants to get into Dorset, South. The people think that it must have been hell for me living in the north of England, with all the deprivation that they hear about, particularly from Opposition Members. They want to do more for the north. They were even foolish enough to select somebody who lived in the north, so that they could give a little extra help to the north of England.

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will think that those attitudes are typical, but when one gets at the facts, one finds the situation interesting. What are the facts? In Colne Valley, 3,679 people are unemployed. Incidentally, both constituencies have just over 70,000 voters. Clearly, that level of unemployment is much too high, and in my employment agency I did a great deal to try to put that right. But what of Dorset, South, the place with no unemployment problems! Are 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 people unemployed? It is none of those figures, but 3,968. We have 300 more people unemployed in Dorset, South than are unemployment in Colne Valley. The north-south divide exists, but it exists in people's minds and their attitude to whether they go out and help themselves or whether they do not.

We in the House need to deal with facts, not with myths. I should like to give a few other strange facts from my experience of running an employment agency. We did a great deal to try to get unskilled labourers into jobs—the young people who had great difficulty getting jobs. Let me give a straight statistic, which has no political significance. It is simply one that we used in the employment agency. If one wanted somebody to start work in the morning to do an unskilled labouring job, one had to phone seven people to find one person who would be available to start work in the morning. If one wanted somebody to do the night shift, the statistic was 12 people.

What about skilled building workers? We are constantly told about the half million people in the building industry who are unemployed. I suggest that hon. Members try to find some of those half million people to start work on a building site—people with skills. I am sorry, but they do not exist.

There is a myth that young people do not want to work. In fact, it is the married man with several children who is the most difficult person to persuade to take a job. There is a difficult problem with the over-50s. We as politicans constantly shout at the Government, "Let us spend more money," but unfortunately it is the employers who will not take people on, however well they have been retrained. It seems that they do not want to take on somebody over 50. We have to work at that, to get the employers to think otherwise.

Running an employment agency for a dozen years does not give me all the answers, but I think that I have some idea of what the questions should be.