The Economy

Part of Orders of the Day — Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 9:06 pm on 14th November 1990.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East 9:06 pm, 14th November 1990

Labour Members are fed up with the debate on the Queen's Speech being turned into personal statements by Conservative Members about whom they support in the leadership election. We are simply not interested in the internal wrangling of the Conservative party or in Conservative Members washing their dirty linen in public. We are far more concerned about the facts about this debate and this Administration. The only thing on which I agree with the Prime Minister is her statement that the next few days and weeks should be conducted on the basis not of personalities but of the facts before the nation.

The facts show a nation in crisis and a party unfit to govern. The Queen's Speech provides no benefits for my constituents. For example, 1 million people are on the waiting list for operations. In the past 10 years, 300 hospitals have closed and 70,000 beds have been lost. If we are to believe newspaper reports, by March a further 4,500 beds will be lost on economic grounds. My constituent, Mr. Pemberton, who is 74 and who served in the second world war defending this country, has to wait 29 weeks for a hip replacement operation. He was told by the Leicester Royal Infirmary that he must wait in a queue of several hundred people. Within the Leicestershire health authority area, 9,600 people are on the waiting list for operations.

Tomorrow, in Leicester we shall welcome the shadow Secretary of State for Education, who will speak to local teachers and visit local schools. The bill for repairs to our schools is £3 billion, there are 10,000 teacher vacancies and more than half the profession has left in the past 11 years.

There are no solutions to the housing crisis in the Queen's Speech. More than 1·25 million people are on housing waiting lists, 11,000 of whom are in Leicester. People visit my surgery and those of other hon. Members asking for transfers and for homes because they want to begin a life on their own.

As for the crime figures, 4 million crimes were committed in Britain in the past year alone. By the time this last hour of the debate concludes, a further 10 crimes will have been committed in my county of Leicestershire. Then there are the overcrowded gaols. Young people in Armley prison committed suicide to escape the appalling conditions there.

The economy is in crisis. The trade deficit is so embarrassing that the Chancellor does not wish to mention it any more. The director general of the Confederation of British Industry, a friend of the Prime Minister, urges the right hon. Lady to get her act together. In the last month alone, 487 firms went bankrupt under this Government.

I wish to make a special plea in the closing minutes of the debate on the Loyal Address for the 1990–91 Session. It is a plea for the textile and footwear industries which have been devastated by the Government's policies over the past 11 years. High interest rates and the high level of imports are affecting the lives of ordinary people in my constituency. Two jobs are lost every hour in those two industries. Hon. Members are united on such issues as the multi-fibre arrangement. Both sides of the House agree that something must be done to protect those two vital industries. In one way or another, one third of my constituents depend on them for their livelihood. If this trend continues and nothing is done within the next year, I am afraid that those industries will cease to exist. They will go the same way as the textile and footwear industries in America, which have been destroyed by the high level of import penetration.

The problem of the way in which this country has been governed over the past 11 years cannot be solved by a leadership election. Nothing will change if the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), or the Leader of the House or the Foreign Secretary succeed the Prime Minister. It does not really matter. What matters is the election of a new Government with policies which will directly benefit the people of Britain.