First Day

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 4:03 pm on 6th May 1992.

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Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown Leader of the Liberal Democrats 4:03 pm, 6th May 1992

I take the point, but I make the opposite point to that made by the hon. Gentleman, whom I know to be a reasonable man. Does he recognise that, whereas every other advanced nation has increased the percentage of national wealth invested in education in the past 10 years, ours has been decreased? If the situation is as the hon. Gentleman describes it. how is it that council after council, including my own in Somerset which strives for the best education in the county that it can—I may disagree with its political colour, but I know that it genuinely strives for that—is having to leave teaching posts unfilled? How can that be so if the situation is as good as the hon. Gentleman suggests?

The immediate test that the Government face is the economic test. Some say that the economy is at last pulling out of recession. I hope so. I fear that that will not be of much comfort or immediate assistance to those who have lost their jobs or are in danger of losing them in the near future. Was the Prime Minister wise to sound quite so triumphalist about that in his recent speech to the Institute of Directors? The Prime Minister may deny that. As an event, the speech seemed to have all the razzmatazz of an election rally—a kind of rich man's Sheffield after the event. I believe that the Prime Minister's speech on that occasion will be a rich mine for quotations in the months and weeks ahead as we see how the economy develops. The Prime Minister has grabbed his success slightly before it is firm in his hands or established in recovery.