First Day

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 9:06 pm on 6th May 1992.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon 9:06 pm, 6th May 1992

Very shortly, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I am grateful to each and every one of those who campaigned in my constituency. I am also grateful to the Leader of the House of Commons, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), my hon. Friends the Members for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and for Rochford (Dr. Clark), Sir Bernard Braine and my hon. Friends the Members for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) and for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman), all of whom brought teams over to help me.

There is no secret about how we won the seat in Basildon. I campaigned on the contents of the Gracious Speech that we heard today, all of which was contained in our election manifesto, "The Best Future for Britain". I campaigned on my record as a constituency Member for the past nine years and on the Government's record. On both counts, my constituents decided to send me back to Westminster and our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Downing street, once again to form a Conservative Government. That is how we won locally and nationally.

In going through the Gracious Speech, I was particularly drawn to the sentence that says: Britain's minimum nuclear deterrent will be maintained. How often we listened to lectures from Opposition Members about the defence of this country. At one time, they were against us defending ourselves, and the next minute they wanted us to defend ourselves. GEC Avionics was in my constituency. Naturally we were glad when perestroika and glasnost led to eastern bloc countries being freed to enjoy democracy, but, as we said time and again, there was a real downside to that for those of us with defence establishments in our constituencies. Therefore, it was a real disgrace when during the general election Conservatives were lectured about job losses in those defence establishments. We were the ones who warned about that at the time. All along we said what the downside would he. I am delighted that we have reaffirmed in the Gracious Speech that we shall maintain strong defences because at the moment the world is less certain than it has ever been.

In the Gracious Speech, we mention that we shall lay before Parliament the treaty of Maastricht and introduce a Bill to implement it. I was delighted with the agreement that our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister brought back from Maastricht. I believe, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister shares my view, that this Parliament is sovereign and it is fundamental that it should retain its powers of taxation. It is our privilege to have the presidency of the Community in July and I hope that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will ensure that we have a strong voice in the next six months.

The Government have said all along that it is essential to retain low inflation and low interest rates. As a result of our membership of the European exchange rate mechanism, those twin goals could be won for ever, so that we shall no longer have to suffer the cyclical development of boom and recession. I was delighted at the interest rate cut that we announced yesterday.

The Gracious Speech also says that the Government are committed to increasing the role of the railways in meeting the country's transport needs. Legislation will he introduced to enable the private sector to operate rail services. The House has sometimes heard my hon. Friends and me talk about the Fenchurch Street line. About six months ago we invited the chairman of British Rail to travel with us on that line because the service is disgraceful. My long-suffering constituents have faith that the Government will ensure that, if the management of British Rail cannot provide a good service to the three railway stations in my constituency—Basildon, Pitsea and Laindon—they will jolly well give the opportunity to others to see whether they can better manage that service. I am delighted that we are now joined by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, a fellow Essex Member who shares my concern about the Fenchurch Street line.

I am also delighted that the Gracious Speech says that Action will he taken to combat crime and promote law and order. As I said a few months ago, I was delighted that one of the few constituencies to see a fall in crime over the past year was Basildon. It is my great pleasure to congratulate our local police and the community on their good work in the past year, which has resulted in that reduction of crime.

I was disappointed in the remarks by the Leader of the Opposition, who was most disparaging about the excellent work done by the former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), on the national lottery. It is a splendid scheme, welcomed throughout the country, and I have no doubt that it will be a great success. I gently warn the Government that Basildon will put in a bid to have the national headquarters in our town. I hope that we shall have national draws on television, with someone like Joan Collins to pull the winning ticket out of the hat.

The Gracious Speech also says that the Government will continue to improve the quality of the national health service and community care and their responsiveness to patients' needs. How sad that, throughout the four weeks of the general election campaign, the Opposition Front Bench spokesmen sought to run down the national health service. We shall never forget their disgraceful party political broadcast. We have an excellent health service, particularly in Basildon. On 1 April, our hospital achieved trust status and the men and women who work there look forward to the successes that we shall enjoy in health care.

I note the sentence stating: A Bill will be presented to promote the Welsh language." Of course, we Conservatives welcome and support that, but I am gently beginning to wonder if it might not be a good idea to promote the English language. Just before the Prime Minister decided to hold the general election, I noticed a tendency among Opposition Members. When Conservative Members representing marginal constituencies rose to make speeches in the Chamber, some Opposition Members waved their arms, said "Goodbye" and mentioned that there would be a Labour gain. I make no complaint as I was not subjected to that, but I wonder if I may be given the opportunity, on behalf of my colleagues with marginal constituencies who were re-elected, to say, "Hello, it's nice to be back." I look forward to the next five years in the knowledge that my constituents decided that their best future would be to keep a Conservative Government and a Conservative Member of Parliament for Basildon. I am immodest enough to say that, on both counts, I believe that they have made the right decision.

Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Arbuthnot]

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.