Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 1:52 pm on 3rd July 1987.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alan Meale Alan Meale , Mansfield 1:52 pm, 3rd July 1987

As the son of a disabled ex-miner and engineering factory worker, and having been born in a Durham mining village, I take great pride in the fact that I have the privilege of representing the constituency of Mansfield, with its similar mining traditions and people. I give notice to all in the House that I intend to work assiduously on behalf of my constituency and the people I represent. In that respect I note the promises made by the Minister in relation to future employment prospects for disabled people in the tourism industry.

As a newly elected Member, but not one unaware of the proceedings of the House, my understanding of parliamentary tradition is that I should mention my predecessor in my first speech in the Chamber. I do that willingly, reminding the House that I have succeeded Don Concannon, who served the Mansfield constituency for over 20 years and to whom I wish a long and healthy retirement. I shall also mention his predecessor, Bernard Taylor, now Lord Taylor of Mansfield, who will celebrate his 93rd birthday during the summer recess. He served the people of Mansfield in one distinguished capacity or another for more than 45 years, and I offer him my sincere thanks and best wishes.

Some people may wonder why I have chosen to make my first speech today during a debate on tourism. They might say to themselves, "What has Mansfield got to offer tourism and why should tourists go there?" The truth is that I have not chosen the topic, but the topic has chosen me, in the same way as 12 months ago, following my selection as the Labour candidate for Mansfield, the press and media chose wrongly to promote Mansfield in the public eye as a divided community. I am happy to report that, because of the intensity of their coverage, tourism developed considerably during that period, particularly among journalists. Much publicity was given to the area, and on one or two occasions even leading figures, mostly Government politicians, managed to find time to visit the constituency.

I thank the right hon. Members for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), the leaders of the minority alliance parties, for finding time to visit my constituency and, indeed, for once being as one on their commitment to, and argument about, holding a ballot in the area. I must admit that at the time I was not so sure whether it was altogether for the good, but, looking on the bright side, I managed to increase the Labour vote at the election. Indeed, the visit was so successful that my constituency Labour party general management committee asked me to write to the other political parties and ask them to book the same people again, especially the new Secretary of State for Energy, who had not been appointed at that time.

I am sure that we won the election because those visits enabled the Labour party to expose the real divisions that exist in the Mansfield community, its poverty and lack of provision, opportunity and services, especially among its old, very young and disadvantaged. In particular, I feel obliged to draw attention to the way in which the majority of people in the Mansfield community—its women—are discriminated against intolerably because of the Government's fiscal policies.

Of a population of 100,000, about 52,000 are female. Similar or worse figures apply in all the following areas: 5,500 are registered unemployed, which is triple the 1979 figure when the Conservatives came to office; 10 per cent. of men and 44 per cent. of women are employed in work classified as low-paid; more than 13,000 adults depend on social security benefit payments from the local office area more than 12,000 pensioners live in the community. more than half of whom depend on some form of state aid; 2,000 people are severely disabled; about 5,000 full-time, unpaid carers, mainly women, live at home; there are more than 2,500 single parents; and the growing list of homeless people, particularly the young, stands at more than 1,500.

Because of further Government cuts, the local authority in Mansfield has a repair bill on its council houses of more than £12 million, while local industry has lost more than 1,000 jobs in the past 12 months, with fewer than 200 jobs, mainly in retailing, being created.

I pay tribute to the workers, again mainly women, of the William Hollins factory, situated in Plessley vale, Mansfield, who are losing their jobs today because of closure. Their only crime was to make excellent goods while on low pay for the Vyella company. They made shirts, suits, dresses, ties and other clothing which was sold profitably in places such as Harrods in London and major stores in Paris, New York and San Francisco. The firm closes today because it has been asset-stripped by a company which wants its name and reputation, but not the workers qualities.

During my present and future terms as the representative for Mansfield I shall strive to combat the inequality that exists in the community. I recognise that with the deindustrialisation of Britain by the Tories tourism may play a part in the employment prospects for my area. My constituency and the surrounding areas certainly have the history, the rural settings, with Sherwood forest nearby, and, above all, a warm and friendly population, but I warn any unscrupulous profiteers to keep away. Any developments will need real, protective controls to ensure against unnecessary, predominantly commercial experiments of little use to the area or the workers, both men and women, within it.

My message should be taken seriously when one recalls the history in days gone by of another representative of the poor from my area who, although not born of my class, used his influence to take from the rich to redistribute to the poor. Therefore my ideals are contrary to the objectives of the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason), who put everything on being first. I believe that it is better that we should get the right result, as indeed do the people of Mansfield, who returned a Labour Member of Parliament who is not a tourist to this Chamber.