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Public Responsibility For Social Justice

Part of Orders of the Day — Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:36 pm on 10th March 1997.

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Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North 4:36 pm, 10th March 1997

It would have been more helpful if the parties that tabled the motion had made some suggestions on that subject. It is extraordinary that, since the previous general election, expenditure on social security, for example, has increased annually by £15 billion. That is astonishing. It would also be astonishing if an incoming Government could not produce a great deal of intelligent thought on how that money could be better spent, to create a successful economy rather than subsidised failure. Expenditure on subsidising low pay—for which the taxpayer pays—instead of providing a national minimum wage is one very obvious example of that.

The thrust of the comments made by the hon. Member for Moray is right. I also do not think that anyone needs to go further in politics, when looking for a big idea, than the eradication of poverty. The real debate is about the means of attaining that goal, about the speed at which it is possible to move in achieving it and about the priority that it should receive. Despite all the brickbats that are tossed and all the attempts to sap the morale of those looking forward with hope and optimism to the advent of a Labour Government, I have not the slightest doubt that, in the future, as in the past, eradicating poverty will be the priority of a Labour Government.

Perhaps the hon. Member for Moray should remember that Labour Governments delivered all the desirable features in society—such as the education system, which provided opportunity to her and me; and the national health service, which entitled us both to high-quality health care, to which we insist our children should be entitled—and the broad range of social reforms that have made the United Kingdom a civilised place in which to live. I have never heard much credit given to those Governments by the Scottish National party, but that goal is our hope and our inspiration—in which the public are now sharing. They look forward to the return of a Labour Government, to address the issues raised in today's motion.