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Amendment of the Law

Part of Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 21st March 2000.

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Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones Labour, Alyn and Deeside 5:02 pm, 21st March 2000

No, I will not at this stage. The Leader of the Opposition did not give way, and I want to make a brief speech.

For certain, our children require more teachers. We need more teachers to guarantee the right of every child to achieve his or her potential.

None of our constituents should be sick with worry while waiting and waiting for the consultation and examination that will tell them the significance of their symptoms, which in themselves create fear and anxiety in patients.

If we are to put people into productive work, we need to secure our manufacturing industries. I remain anxious about an industry that I know well—the British steel industry. I am anxious after the merger of British Steel and the Dutch company, which overnight formed the new company, Corus. I do not want the closure of any steel plant in our nation. I do not want a programme of redundancies, whether voluntary or compulsory. I do not want dumping—which has taken place—by ruthless, cheating competitor companies from abroad.

In my own country, Wales, we have magnificent steel plants such as Port Talbot, Llanwern and the Shotton works in my constituency. I do not want them to lose jobs. I do not want any steelworks in Britain to be mothballed or closed.

A complicating factor in the continuing struggle of the United Kingdom's steel industry is the strength of the pound. Those are the matters about which the union leaders and their managers on the Shotton steelworks committee tell me. They tell me that the situation is worrying.

I know that a strong United Kingdom manufacturing base requires a powerful, stable seedcorn industry such as steel. There is no wealth in our nation without powerful seedcorn foundation manufacturing industries. I shall look closely at the Budget in the weeks and months ahead to see how it might further assist our manufacturing, as the Chancellor has done before.

I thank the Government, specifically my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Secretary of State for Wales. They have delivered for my constituency some £530 million of repayable loan investments for the A3XX airbus project. My constituency will be the project's principal beneficiary, to the tune, at the very least, of 1,400 new jobs, and that is in addition to the existing 4,200-strong Broughton works in my constituency.

The good news is that, thanks to the action of the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Welsh Office, that factory now faces a generation of prosperity. Already, ahead of the £530 million, it has had a £123 million repayable launch investment for the A340 aircraft, which is now flying, and has also recently seen an on-site investment of some £230 million. That is a massive injection of about £883 million.

I can only thank Her Majesty's Government for that input, and tell this honourable House that my constituents are more than pleased. Here is a world-beating, world-class, high-tech success story in my constituency on Deeside. The Government have backed us all the way. The Treasury has been the fulcrum, but I cannot praise too highly the work of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Secretary of State for Wales in the Cabinet Committee system.

I am proud of the campaign for that £530 million, led by the convenor at the Airbus works, John Hamilton, and his senior stewards. They collaborated successfully with, first, the now ex-works director, Mr. Bill Travis, and then with the current works director, Mr. Brian Fleet. That collaboration has been superb. Again, I put on record my thanks to my right hon. Friends.

I now ask the Welsh Assembly to contribute to the A3XX project by giving that mighty aerospace project a £25 million regional grant. I have given the First Secretary a petition of more than 1,000 names which was prepared by the works convenor, John Hamilton, at the Airbus factory. Deeside, and all of north Wales, refused to vote for an Assembly at the time of the ballot. The electorate was questioning and sceptical. This is the first big decision for the Welsh Assembly in its short life, and that big decision just happens to reflect life, industry, the hopes and the future in Alyn and Deeside in north-east Wales.

I cannot overestimate the negative reaction that there would be to a refusal to give the £25 million grant following the £530 million signalled by the Government. Not to have that regional grant from Cardiff would give rise to the belief that the fledgling Assembly was indifferent to the hopes of those in the north of Wales, particularly on Deeside. However, I thank the First Secretary for his courteous and positive response to the petition that I gave him, and the helpful and positive letter that he sent me this very week. I know that in all this the Secretary of State for Wales has been a powerful advocate of my constituents' interests.

Does the Budget contain measures to enable a county authority such as Flintshire—my authority—to tackle the problems of modernising and maintaining our large and ageing post-war council estates?

My councillors, who are Labour and of whom there are many, work hard. They want only the best for their tenants. They want to install central heating, new doors and windows in hundreds of decaying streets. They want to improve and modernise pensioners' accommodation and they want the urgent and generous release of council house sale receipts. I support their objective. I hope that Ministers will be able to say at the end of the debate that the objective will be achieved.

Accepting the specific requests on housing that I have made on behalf of my county authority members is a means of helping the poor, the unhealthy, one-parent families, the unemployed and those without hope. I should like to believe that we can renew the fabric of decaying social housing, and that that has the potential to increase the sum of human happiness. I hope that the detail of the Budget will provide a positive answer. At this stage, I do not know, but it is my duty to speak up for those of my constituents who are trapped on ageing, decaying, post-war council estates.

No. 10 Downing street is tenanted by arguably the most powerful premier in the history of the office. He established the social exclusion unit because he means to change society. For example, he made more than £800 million available to enhance the toughest council estates. I want social justice; it is my priority. The Budget points to social justice, and I believe that the Prime Minister is committed to it.

No. 11 Downing street is tenanted by arguably the most successful Chancellor in the history of Labour Governments; possibly the best Chancellor of modern times. That impression was given this afternoon, when a man, a Chancellor, a Minister in his prime delivered a Budget that he said would unite the nation.

I support full employment. The Chancellor seeks high and stable employment levels. That Attlee-esque phrase encapsulates my hopes for a society where there is work for all and health and security for the retired. For as long as the Prime Minister and the Chancellor collaborate positively, the Government are impregnable and re-electable. The signs for that are more than good.

I renew the call for a stronger manufacturing base. Without strong steel and aerospace industries, Britain will not generate sufficient wealth. If Britain allows the so-called underclass—the underprivileged and the dispossessed—to continue to grow, our nation will not be united and cohesive. Our social problems will increase, and we will need many more positive Budgets such as today's. Social justice and high and stable employment remain my priorities. Today, the Government have decided that those objectives are their priorities.

The Budget delivers. Her Majesty's Government have invested well and generously in my constituency of Alyn and Deeside. For the sake of the nation and my community, there is no room for complacency while the dispossessed are measured in many millions. The Budget is a fine one; it is a Budget for social justice, and I commend it.