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Public Responsibility For Social Justice

Part of Orders of the Day — Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 10th March 1997.

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Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray 3:33 pm, 10th March 1997

The hon. Lady has raised a genuine point that I shall address later in my speech. We all, as individuals, have a responsibility to contribute to society and the values and visions that we hold dear.

I studied history at university and it is clear from our history books that many social reforms would not have occurred without representation. One such example is slavery. People were told that black people could not be freed from slavery as they would not cope with society. I pay tribute to those who argued against that in Parliament and, with great difficulty, achieved the abolition of slavery.

Representation helped to remove the horrendous attitudes that allowed small boys and girls to work as chimney sweeps and stopped them being sent up chimneys to clear out the soot. I do not believe that the welfare state would have been established without representation. Those fundamental issues should underpin every aspect of our work as Members of Parliament, councillors, Members of the European Parliament, members of community councils or any organisation that works for society.

One reason why the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) and I tabled today's motion is that there seems to be a lull in politics. We no longer talk about visions and values. Perhaps it is the immediacy of having microphones stuck under our noses and having to make comments to journalists.