Orders of the Day — Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 7th July 1997.

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Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis Labour, Bury South 7:30 pm, 7th July 1997

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this historic Budget debate—the first Budget by a Labour Chancellor for nearly 20 years.

It feels especially appropriate that I am making my maiden speech in this debate, because 12 years ago, at the age of 18, I began my working life on a work and training programme for Outreach—a voluntary organisation in my constituency—working with people with learning disabilities. Many of my colleagues, who, at that time, were young or long-term unemployed people, went on to take university degrees or gain responsible positions in the public and private sectors.

I went on to found and work for a local voluntary organisation, Contact Community Care, before becoming chief executive of the Manchester Jewish Federation in 1992 and remaining in that post until my election. I, therefore, know more than most about the benefits of the sort of opportunity that the Government seek to extend to all today's young and long-term unemployed people.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor and the Treasury team are to be congratulated on an excellent Budget, which gives practical effect to our fundamental belief that social justice and economic prosperity are inextricably linked. The Budget lays the foundations for a radical reforming Government, who will rebuild Britain as one nation—a Government who recognise that improved public services cannot be delivered without sound and prudent economic management, but that sound economic management can never include spending millions on welfare and not work, or on the national health service internal market rather than patient care.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor is to be congratulated, not only on the Budget, but on his first nine weeks of bold and much-needed reform. One measure on which I want to focus is his decision to end self-regulation of the banks and financial institutions. My local authority, Bury, lost £6.5 million in perhaps the greatest banking scandal of all time—the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. It is reasonable to believe that, had the new system of regulation been in place, that scandal would have been uncovered at a far earlier stage and who knows how many investors would have been saved from ruin? My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) deserves much credit for his work to date on that issue.

Equally important to me, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on his appointment of Mr. Howard Davies to head the new regulatory body. Any man who, like me, has suffered a life-long, passionate and traumatic relationship with Manchester City football club deserves recognition for staying power and stress-management skills, if for nothing else. Following the election, Mr. Davies will be reassured that sometimes years in the wilderness do have a happy ending.

The Budget will make a real difference to the lives of my constituents, especially young people, pensioners and lone parents. Approximately 500 under 25-year-olds will be given the chance to earn and the chance to learn—young people rescued from the futility and alienation of unemployment and given the chance to become stakeholders in our society.

A country that claims to be decent and civilised and seeks economic competitiveness cannot afford any more lost generations. Of course, it is right that the welfare-to-work programme is paid for by the windfall tax on the excess profits of the privatised utilities—resources taken from the few and provided for the benefit of the many. Corporate freedom must also mean corporate responsibility.

The reduction of value added tax on fuel will also be welcomed by my constituents, especially the 15,000 pensioners who suffered more than most when that unjustifiable warmth tax was introduced by the previous Government. Lone parents are at last to be assisted, not scapegoated. The proposals to expand child care places are especially welcome. As a patron of my local Kids Club Network out-of-school child care clubs, I am particularly pleased with the emphasis on that form of child care and the recognition given to the excellent work of Kids Club Network throughout the country. The extra resources for health will help my local providers plan on a long-term basis and replace competition by collaboration and co-operation—patient care, not bureaucracy, will once again top the national health service's agenda.

Bury, South is the constituency where I was born and where I have lived all my life, which is why I am especially proud to be standing here today, delivering my maiden speech. The constituency is situated to the north of Manchester, in the valley of the River Irwell, in the shadows of the Pennines, at the edge of the east Lancashire plain. It comprises three distinct communities—Radcliffe, Whitefield and Prestwich, all of which, given their acute sense of identity, would like their own referendum on the devolution of power from Bury.

Radcliffe is an old Lancashire mill town, famous for its paper-making industry. Like many similar towns, it has suffered from the devastation of manufacturing industry in the 1980s, although some paper mills have survived and remain an important source of local employment.

A fine example of a thriving and successful British company in Radcliffe is Fragrance Oils Ltd., which sells its perfumes successfully on the world market. The Under-Secretary of State for Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), and I had some difficulty explaining to our wives the pleasant odour that stuck following our visit to the perfume plant during the general election. Radcliffe has been designated a regeneration area and its residents look with optimism and hope to the new Government to create economic conditions that encourage long-term investment and partnership.

Ainsworth is a small, picturesque and beautiful village on the edge of Radcliffe. Its community association is a fine example in modern times of community pride and shared responsibility in action. Whitefield and Prestwich are commuter-belt communities, each with a proud history. In recent years, Whitefield has sadly become synonymous with the M62 relief road—a proposed widening of the M62 motorway, which was subsequently abandoned by the previous Government. To date, that abandoned road scheme has cost £25 million to £30 million of taxpayers' money, blighted a once-pleasant residential area and exposed incompetence of the highest order in both the Department of Transport and the Highways Agency. Not only do my constituents deserve redress for their suffering, but they, more than most, will welcome the Government's determination to end the love affair with road building and seek a truly integrated public transport system.

The third community is Prestwich, which is known for its great municipal park, Heaton park, which also straddles the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer). Prestwich was home to a significant nationally known psychiatric hospital until recently, when, like many similar institutions, most of its services were removed and the land sold for use as a superstore.

I have been a long-time strong and passionate supporter of community care and an opponent of the institutionalisation of people with mental health problems and learning disabilities, but there is much local evidence that community care sometimes fails society's most vulnerable members because of a lack of co-ordination between social and health care providers. That is an issue which the Government must address. Prestwich is also proud to have a new partnership between business, the voluntary sector and the local authority, which is working hard to regenerate the locality.

Another distinctive element in my constituency is harmony and mutual respect between the different faith communities. Bury, South has one of the most vibrant and thriving Jewish communities in Britain. I am proud to be a member of that community, with its impressive myriad learning establishments and charitable organisations.

Bury, South is part of a metropolitan borough that also incorporates the constituency of Bury, North. Bury is especially proud of its family of schools, and the partnership between the local education authority, parents, teachers and governors has been the springboard to high standards of education achievement. In 1996, Bury LEA was second nationally in the league tables covering GCSEs with five or more grades A to G and fifth in the key stage 2 tables.

The Labour local authority is also proud of its community safety and environmental partnerships, which are models of good practice. Bury has achieved national acclaim for its innovative work involving young people in decisions that affect their lives. Sadly, over a number of years, that imaginative and innovative work has been undermined by budget cuts far worse than those in similar local authorities. I cannot overstate the importance of creating a local government funding regime that is fair and rational, but I am delighted by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's announcement of increased revenue and capital investment in our schools.

We are realistic about public spending constraints, but simply request that we receive our fair share of the existing cake. The quality of local children's education now depends on it.

In a maiden speech, it is customary to pay tribute to one's predecessor. In my case, that is not difficult, as our differences were always political and never personal. David Sumberg was regarded as a decent parliamentarian by Members on both sides of the House. Many will remember him as a Ronnie Corbett lookalike. Indeed, his visual place in history will be preserved for ever as he sat immediately behind Sir Geoffrey Howe—now the noble Lord Howe—during his historic statement which led to the fall of the then Prime Minister in 1990.

As well as being PPS to the then Attorney-General, David Sumberg will also be remembered as an effective and independent member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. His questioning of Ministers during the Pergau dam and arms to Iraq affairs demonstrated his sharp brain and strong commitment to the integrity of the Select Committee process. He was also given the honour of seconding the Loyal Address in November 1989.

David Sumberg had a high regard for his predecessors and Members representing parts of the constituency when the boundaries were changed. I mention in particular Frank White, Jim Callaghan and the late Michael Fidler, who were excellent constituency Members who were respected in the House. I suspect that they would have found the new Parliament quite a culture shock with many more women and young people making us a truly representative people's Parliament.

The Budget that we have discussed in the past few days not only makes good the Government's election pledges, but reflects the people's priorities. It stands for work not welfare, patient care not bureaucracy, stability not boom and bust, long-term investment not short-term exploitation. The people of Bury, South have welcomed the Budget and the foundation it lays for the economic and social regeneration of our country.