Orders of the Day — The Economy

– in the House of Commons at 7:09 pm on 13th December 2000.

Alert me about debates like this

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 7:23 pm, 13th December 2000

I congratulate the hon. Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) on his speech. I particularly enjoyed the parts where he tried to represent the views of his constituents to the Government. Many of us think that that is a noble and important task. It is a privilege that we all share in the House and I hope that he will carry on doing it. He will discover that one of the problems of being a Back Bencher whose party is in government is that those on the Front Bench will expect him to agree with anything that they propose, even when it is not in the interests of his constituents. We look forward to his being a more robust contributor on behalf of his constituents than some of his right hon. and hon. Friends. If he proves to be so, we shall carry on giving him an easy ride. If he fails, some of my right hon. and hon. Friends may be a little less charitable than I have been on this delightful occasion, when he rightly spent most of his time on his constituency and its problems.

We had a ridiculous performance from a puffed-up Chancellor. This was the man who once admitted to the competition for new Labour soundbite of the month the extraordinary phrase, "endogenous growth theory". He did not win the soundbite prize with that. As Chancellor, he has been less good at soundbites. He has just come up with another absurd one, "No more boom and bust", while creating both at the same time. He would more successfully be dubbed "Mr. Endogenous Tax Chancellor" because he is the man who cannot resist taxing anything—any money that he sees straying around the economy in private pockets, purses, or bank accounts.

One of the most effective soundbites that was generated by someone other than Mr. Endogenous Growth Theory himself in the run-up to the general election even had a tune to go with it, which was quite catchy. It was, "Things can only get better." I have been out and about in my constituency, and travelling the length and breadth of our once fair and great country to see whether things are getting better now that we are more than three and a half years into a Labour Government and whether people think that things are getting better.

I began by talking to people in the textile industry. I asked them if they felt that the industry was stronger, bigger and more positive than it had been when the Labour party came to office. I discovered that those in the textile industry feel that they are being flattened by this Government's insouciance about manufacturing in general and textiles in particular.

Under this new Labour Government our biggest clothes retailer, Marks and Spencer, has had to announce that it will have to switch a large proportion of its purchasing from British to foreign-made textiles to stay in the very competitive market that Labour has helped to create by its clumsy, high-tax and high-regulation policies.

I have no direct interest in textiles—I have declared my interests in the Register of Members' Interests. I have talked to people with direct experience of the industries that I wish to discuss. I can assure the House that people in the textile industry believe that they are being sandbagged by regulations, taxes and a Government who do not seem to care when, week after week, mills and clothing factories close.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

Hansard will tell us exactly what the right hon. Gentleman said, but am I right in thinking that he just stated that Marks and Spencer suffered because of the highly competitive market created by the Labour Government? What is wrong with that?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I was saying that in a competitive marketplace the Labour Government have made it difficult for a retailer that wants to sell domestically produced clothes. The taxes, regulations, interventions and interference of this Government have meant that Marks and Spencer has had to switch. Under the Conservatives, it bought most of its clothes in Britain and was proud to do so. That happened year after year, whatever the conditions. Now that we have a Labour Government, the largest purchaser of our manufactured clothes that retails in this country has decided that it must slash dramatically the amount that it buys in Britain because the Government have made it too dear to make things in Britain.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Scottish National Party, Banff and Buchan

Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I have textile businesses in my constituency. When I speak to people in those businesses about the problems, which are substantial, the first thing that they tell me is that they are due to the exchange rate. Why has the right hon. Gentleman not mentioned that? Could it have anything to do with the fact that one of his colleagues was attacking the Liberal Democrats for proposing a devaluation? With all his experience of talking to all these companies, is the right hon. Gentleman trying to tell us that they did not talk to him about the sterling exchange rate?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

They talked about total costs against the revenue that they can earn from selling the product. The main problem is the cost of making things in Britain. Of course, the exchange rate is an important part of the equation when one considers whether to buy from France, Germany, the United States or Britain. If one combines an economic policy that deliberately drives the exchange rate and interest rates much higher than those of our partners and competitors with a policy that increases the taxes, costs and regulatory burden on British business, one ends up with an explosive mixture that does enormous damage to manufacturing.

I have issued warnings about this for many months and years. I was the one who forecast that we would have a manufacturing recession. I did not forecast a general recession, although that is what the Labour party would like people to believe. Hansard shows that I specifically forecast a manufacturing recession, which is exactly what we have had. It was foreseeable and avoidable. It was deliberately caused by the Government's macro-economic policy and other specific policies that they pursued on manufacturing.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

The right hon. Gentleman just suggested that the pound had been driven to higher levels by the policies pursued by the Government. Which Government policy does he believe has driven the pound to those heights?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

It is the combined impact of all the Government's policies—high tax, high interest rates and the semi-independent Bank of England. Had they had a different attitude towards tax and spend in the first couple of years, I suspect that the Bank of England would have set different interest rates and we might have had a more acceptable exchange rate. One can never prove those counter-factuals or hypotheticals. However, I remember making proposals on the general movement in economic and tax policy and regulation that would have produced a better mixture of the exchange rate and the interest rate, and would have kept some of those factories open.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office)

Since the right hon. Gentleman attributes the increase in the exchange rate to the Government's policies, will he explain why two thirds of that increase took place before we were elected to power?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

The important point is what has happened since 1997—[Interruption.] The right hon. Lady must start to take responsibility for what has been happening in the country under the Government who she supports and of whom she is a member. In 1995, when the Conservative Government were in power, BMW came to Britain and said that it was the best place in Europe bar none in whom to manufacture cars. It put a lot of money behind that judgment. Recently, unfortunately, it pulled out and said that Britain was now the worst place in western Europe in which to make cars. What had changed? We had a change of Government, and the Labour Government have presided over a sharp increase in the value of sterling against the European currencies.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I shall give way when I have finished my point. I am trying to deal with the serious point made by the Leader of the House. The Government have presided over a big increase in the value of the pound against continental currencies and a big increase in the margin of interest rates—we have much higher rates than continental countries in the euro bloc. There were bigger increases in regulation and taxation than competitor economies experienced, so it is no wonder that the Government got into an awful mess.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

The right hon. Gentleman wants to be careful when he talks about BMW, as there was a highly productive labour force at Rover. He is suggesting that it is something else, but everyone knows that there is overcapacity of 20 per cent. in the motor car industry.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

That does not mean that closures have to occur in Britain. As we heard earlier in the interesting exchanges on the sad events in the past two days at Luton, we do not make enough cars to meet all the domestic demand. The matter therefore has something to do with costs and competitiveness. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been puffing himself up for three and a half years with all sorts of competitiveness and productivity initiatives. However, the sad truth of life is that in this crucial manufacturing area, whether it concerns textiles, steel, cars or other activities, we are clearly less competitive—at these exchange and interest rates, with this regulatory burden and with these costs— than we were when the Chancellor began his initiatives three and a half years ago. That is why factories are closing and jobs are being lost under his watch. It is also why international investors in manufacturing are now saying that Britain is not the best place in western Europe bar none in which to make things, but the worst.

Photo of Matthew Taylor Matthew Taylor Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury)

The right hon. Gentleman and I appear to agree substantially on exchange rates, although we disagree entirely on at least some of the solutions. One of his colleagues asked me a question, so perhaps I can put the same question to him. What scale of devaluation of sterling would be appropriate? After all, it was 45 per cent. lower than the current level when it troughed after we came out of the exchange rate mechanism.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Exchange rates are determined by market forces. I am not in the business of predicting what I would like to see, as the rates will depend on the market judgment at the time. However, I have set out an alternative general strategy to costs.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Why does the hon. Gentleman not show a little humility and understand that Governments influence exchange rates, but do not control them? The Government have allowed a high exchange rate against the euro because of their mix of policies. I have just sketched a mix of policies that would produce a different level of exchange rate against the euro, but I am not in the business of predicting exactly what that level would be. That would depend on when the policies were introduced, how the markets reacted to them and other consequences.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Scottish National Party, Banff and Buchan

As a question of mine started this interesting debate, may I ask why, if the right hon. Gentleman believes that exchange rates are determined by market forces, he also believes that they are now too high? If he believes that they are too high—and I agree with him—he must have an idea of how high they are. Will he tell us, or do we have to persuade the right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell) to ask him a question if we are to get an answer?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Hon. Members are being rather obtuse. The combination of the level of the exchange rate and the costs imposed, partly by the Government, on British manufacturing mean that, in many areas, it cannot compete and is suffering deeply. It is crying out with anguish. I am suggesting ways in which the mix could be changed. Governments have power to influence the exchange rate, but cannot determine precisely what it will be from day to day, or even how it will end up once a policy is fully implemented. I am just urging the Government to try to do something. They must understand that if they do nothing about high tax, high regulatory costs and all the other things that they have imposed, as well as the high exchange rate, they will continue to preside over the collapse of British manufacturing.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

A few moments ago, my right hon. Friend referred to productivity. Is it any wonder that Government Back Benchers are so unaware of the decline in the productivity growth rate under their watch, given the ignorance that the Prime Minister displayed at Question Time last week, when he was challenged factually and in detail on that very point by my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Sir M. Spicer)?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. The Chancellor has never understood that he needs to do rather better on providing the conditions in which productivity increases. He must allow manufacturing to offset the massive devaluation of the euro and the big revaluation of the pound against European competitor currencies. The Chancellor has not taken part in that debate. Indeed, he has ignored it and pretended that it does not matter. He seems to have turned away from the problem of manufacturing industry being in a slump or recession in many areas.

The car industry is another subject on which I have spent a little time talking to people. There has been a litany of disasters. We know about Dagenham and the troubles there. Today, we have seen the sad closure of the Luton car plant. We have seen the retreat of BMW from Rover, and we know that there are several other large plants around the country where there are question marks or difficulties. We rarely get any attention or answers from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who just waits for the problem to grab the headlines. He just waits for closures and redundancies to be announced, and then comes in and says, "Don't blame me, everybody. I'll find a few pence from the taxpayers' coffers to send a grant and hope that all will be well." He offers Elastoplast when great limbs of the British economy are being cut off as a result of the policies that he pursues.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

How would the right hon. Gentleman reply to the chief executives of most motor car manufacturing enterprises, who would tell him that specifying a date on which we shall enter the European monetary union would bring great relief to their present position?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I should love to meet someone who said that about entering at the current exchange rate. I thought that until now we agreed that the combination of costs and the exchange rate is suicidal for a lot of manufacturing.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I know of no industrialists who are saying, "Please take us in now at the present exchange rate. We are suffering today, but we would love to guarantee that we suffer in perpetuity." Would the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Beard) like to explain to the House how big a devaluation he would like, how the Chancellor would secure it, how we could live in the ERM for two years at the new rate—as we would have to do at that new rate—and how that would make for prosperity in manufacturing? I should love to have an answer to those three crucial points.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

Companies can presume that we may well be in the ERM at some date in the future, having satisfied the conditions that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has laid down. That is very different from the position of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman, which would mean that we would never go in. Their position of "never, never, never" is disturbing many people for whom the right hon. Gentleman is expressing sympathy.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

It does not disturb them at all. Business men look at the bottom line—at the balance between costs and revenue, and whether they will make money. The simple truth now is that, unfortunately, because of the Government, too many do not think that they can make money here, so when they have the opportunity they shift their activities and production elsewhere. That is the simple truth of business life and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not know it.

I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman cannot answer my three rather important points on entering the euro, but most people who want to enter the euro agree with the Liberal Democrat position. They want to enter at 10, 15, 20 or 25 per cent. below the current rate, but they must explain how to get there. Should we slash interest rates, print so many fivers and set off huge inflation? That would bring the exchange rate down. Is that a good idea? Could that then be held for two years? Our partners and, I think, Mr. Prodi himself have said clearly that we would need to meet the requirement of being two years in the exchange rate mechanism. Would that do us good? I seem to remember that last time we were in it, it had cross-party agreement but it was a loathsome policy that worked extremely badly. One party has apologised and it is a pity that the other two have not, because they were extremely keen on it at the time.

Photo of Matthew Taylor Matthew Taylor Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury)

The document that we published set out a number of tools that might be used, but the most important is to set a target and make it clear that the Government are working towards that as part of an entry process. We know that that can be effective, although not necessarily, which is why we elaborated some other options. We know that that is likely to be effective because that is precisely what those candidate countries for euro membership did in the run up to the launch of the euro. Because the markets believed that they meant it, they were able to sustain those rates on entry. That is one reason why we have not ducked the question of the range needed by the Government. Any Government serious about entry have to be serious about setting out the range on entry that they believe would be appropriate.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I wish that the Chancellor would get as far in his thinking as the Liberal Democrat spokesman. The Liberal Democrats are trying to answer the question, but they have not succeeded. It is not enough simply to name a date and say where we would like to get to. Exchange rates often overshoot in both directions compared with where business men and certainly Governments would like them to be. To change the trend decisively, the policies that would have to be followed might have to be rather severe, and there might then be undershoot the other way, which would be difficult to handle. The Government need to take us into their thinking on that.

One of the scandals of the non-euro debate is that, from time to time, senior Government spokesmen tell the press that they will have a great national debate, or would like a great national debate, but they never appear. I have offered to debate with any member of the Government, high or low, bright or dull, in any studio, on any platform. They can chose the chairman or rig the audience, I do not mind; I just want to debate the matter with a Minister. Throughout the Government's lifetime, I have never had the chance to do so, which is a disgrace in a democracy.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I should like to debate the matter with a Minister. I know that the hon. Gentleman would love to be a Minister, but he is too candid to be made one. He occasionally tells us the truth, and the Government do not like that in their Back Benchers. They will not debate the issue.

When my right hon. and hon. Friends and I table questions on the five economic tests, we are always given stupid answers. We are not told exactly how the tests will be quantified; we do not know the period over which they are being measured; we do not know when we will have any kind of interim report or answer, and we have not had one so far. We cannot even be told whether the economic strategy that the Government are now following is designed to get us closer to passing the five economic tests. If we cannot be told exactly what the tests are, how they will be judged or scored, or when we will have a result, it is not surprising when our questions about whether we are getting any closer and whether the policies are designed to help us are blocked.

However, I am being distracted from what I wanted to do, which was to explore whether things are getting better rather than talking about the euro, which we clearly will not join. I am far more worried about the power that has been given away in the Nice treaty, which is real, rather than the euro, which the Government have no guts or courage to propose to the British people, and they are right not to do so.

I then visited a farm in my constituency. Thanks to the Government, I do not have many farmers left, but I do have one or two. The farmer I visited in the western part of my constituency told me a sad story. He said that, over many years, the farm had provided a good living for himself, his son and their families. However, in the past few months the son has had to seek employment elsewhere because there was no way in which the farm could sustain two of them. The farmer told me in confidence that, from time to time, he had difficult discussions with the bank manager, that matters are being watched week by week and that, if they continue much longer, he too will have to conclude that the farm that once sustained the two families can no longer sustain even him and his wife. That is a typical experience. Farmers are committing suicide because of the pressure. They are going out of business and their sons are leaving the land. We are in danger of no longer having people to farm Britain's beautiful farmland, yet the Government sit and watch but do nothing. Tell the farmers that things are getting better and they will only cry because they know that there is not a shred of truth in that for them.

I then visited the fishermen in the constituencies of a couple of my hon. Friends in Dorset. I chose Dorset because I do not think that any fishermen are left on the east coast where I went a few years ago. Most of them have been wiped out by a combination of the Government and the common fisheries policy. The few Dorset fishermen who turned up told me that there were not many others who could have turned up and that it was almost impossible to earn a decent living today. They also said that they did not think that their Government, their Chancellor and their fishing Ministers stood up for them, and they certainly have not brought anything back from Brussels for a long time.

When the Prime Minister went to Nice to give the country away in the draft treaty, why did he not even think about asking for a better deal for our fishermen or to get back our fishing policy? Does it not matter to him that a great maritime nation, which once had fishing boats stacked up in every port around its coasts, now has practically nothing left? When I was in Dorset, I was told of Spanish trawlers sighted off the coast with EU permission to research and investigate other types of fish that they had not yet taken away because they were clearly planning another pre-emptive strike on our fishing resources? The Government are a disgrace and the Chancellor should not say that the economy is doing well or things are getting better when he is wiping out the fishing industry.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

In the European debate two or three weeks ago, the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) announced that he was standing down at the next election because he felt that no party stood for the repatriation of the common fisheries policy. He was scandalised that no party would be standing for that, except perhaps the UK Independence party. In the light of the remarks that the right hon. Gentleman has just made, is he now saying that his personal policy is not that of the Conservative party, and that he is for the repatriation of the common fisheries policy?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Yes, of course I am saying that I support the repatriation of the common fisheries policy. I have a great respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill), but on this occasion I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend are a little behind events. If they care to read the Conservative party's draft manifesto and other documents, they will see that that has been adopted as official Conservative party policy. Had a Conservative Prime Minister gone off to Nice to negotiate a treaty, that would have been number one on his agenda. I am sure that we would have wanted something back before we thought of giving any power away. This Government give all the powers away then come home claiming triumph because they have not tried to do anything contentious.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the fishing industry's present parlous state is largely due to overfishing around these shores and in the North sea under the previous Conservative Government, who could have done something about it? Does he also recognise that, as that is the fundamental problem, to repatriate Britain's fishing policy will do nothing as fish do not happen to respect international boundaries?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

It so happens that we have potential control of the most important fishery in the EU, and I see no reason to have a common fisheries policy for the North sea when there is not one for the Mediterranean. That is not just, fair or balanced. Yes, of course, overfishing is the main problem. The overfishing is occurring now, the problem is getting worse and that is why I am holding the Government to account on it. 1 seem to remember occasionally making such points in the previous Conservative Administration, because it is true that the problem has not suddenly developed, but it is getting much worse.

What matters to the fishermen still left is what this Government are failing to do and the more severe quotas that have just been announced, which will further damage British fishermen. Many Spanish vessels have come in legally under the common fisheries policy, taken too many fish, left too little for our fishermen and caused the problem. That should be addressed and stopped. I do not know how the Government have the cheek to say that things are getting better when the textile industry is being flattened, the retail sector is in part being knocked sideways, the steel sector is being bulldozed, the car industry is being hit for six, farming is being smashed to pieces and fishing is being obliterated.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

On fishing, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that most of the issue could have been resolved in the Merchant Shipping Act 1988? The then Conservative Government were challenged over the Act in the European courts and merely rolled over and played dead. They then introduced new legislation that caused the current circumstances, in which ships can legally come in and take quotas. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, when his party was in government, it could have reached crunch time with the EU, but chickened out?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

As the hon. Lady implied, a court case went against us. However, the whole point of raising the issue of the Nice treaty is that the rules should be renegotiated in such a major treaty. As the Prime Minister wanted to give away such a lot to our Commission partners, why did he not bargain on that matter? They did not know at the beginning that he wanted to give those things away. Why did he not stick out for something before he made all his major concessions? He was a lousy negotiator who showed all his cards at the beginning and did not ask for anything back for Britain.

I am being much delayed, rather like my next subject—the trains. When I was asking whether things were getting better, I went to my local station, where 1 hoped to catch a train to London from Reading. I was, of course, too optimistic about the Labour Government. Under the Conservative Government, there was a service every 10 minutes from Reading to Paddington. Trains were occasionally late, but that did not matter because a previous train would probably have been delayed, ensuring a service every 10 minutes. One could live with that. It was not perfect, but it was okay.

When I went to the station the other day, a train limped in after I had waited on the platform for a quarter of an hour. Passengers were told that it was the 11.58 to Portsmouth. A few people cheered, as they wanted to catch that train. The time on the station clock was 12.59 when the 11.58 limped in. Another half hour passed and a train for London finally arrived. No indicator boards were working at the station, so it was an interesting game. We were all on one platform and had to listen to the gobbledegook coming through the loud hailer. Whether or not one could understand that, one had to run to the platform where the train was arriving and ask the driver where he was going. If one was lucky, the train was going to London.

Well, things have really got better if that is the position that has been reached after three and a half years of the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions messing around with the trains.

Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon

Did the right hon. Gentleman ask the other passengers on Reading station whether they voted for the Conservative party in 1992? If they did, they share with him responsibility for making such an appalling mess of rail privatisation.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

When the Conservatives left office, there were more trains, they were becoming more reliable and passenger numbers were rising. Three and a half years later, the service has fallen to a level that I cannot remember in my lifetime—indeed, I suspect that we have never seen it before. The public are aware of that and know who to blame. It has happened on this Government's watch, under the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, whose capricious and idiotic meddling has led directly to regulatory overload and a number of bad decisions. That is why the train system is now almost at a standstill and the roads are completely clogged.

In an economy debate, one of the few things that one would usually have assumed that the Government could sort out is transport. As the economy grew in 1997 and 1998, anybody could see that we needed more and more capacity. I do not believe that there was enough road or rail capacity when the Conservatives left office. Why, then, did the Government slash the road programme, mess up the railway system and over-regulate, instead of freeing the railway system to get on and do the job that it needed to do?

The other day, I tried to travel around the country by car, having given up on the railways—as, unfortunately, many of my constituents have done. I sat in one of those spectacular Labour traffic jams. Some traffic jams occurred in 1997. I remember them well and I knew the time that they took. They were a nuisance, but one could just about handle them. Traffic jams now are much better. I concede that some things have got better, as I recognise that the traffic jams are spectacularly better than they were in 1997. The journey from my constituency to the House used to take 55 minutes, if all was well, and an hour and a half if there were traffic jams. It now takes two and a half hours.

Some hon. Members now spend seven or eight hours travelling each way between their constituencies and the House. They lose more than a whole working day dealing with Labour's traffic jams. That is one day out of the three or four days which the Government sometimes allow us to be present in the House. The situation is spectacularly worse. The arrogant Chancellor said nothing to us tonight, and has said nothing at any other time, about how he will get Britain on the move. A first-rate economy cannot be achieved with third world-style transport. Indeed, on some of our systems, I would be pleased if we reached third-world levels. The third world has rather better trains than ours.

In pursuit of something that had got better, I went to see my local hospital. I was told that 10 per cent. of acute care beds are blocked. Their numbers have already been reduced by the Labour Government. They are blocked because the people in them want or need to go to a residential or nursing care home, but there are none at the price that the Government are prepared to match for those who need support and help from the state. That is another disgrace. The only thing that has got better in the health service is the length of the waiting lists, which are now much longer than when the Government came to power in 1997.

I went to my local schools and asked them how they were getting on. I asked whether things were getting better there. I was told that classes were definitely getting bigger and that teacher shortages were increasing. The schools cannot get teachers for love and they are not paying them enough money, so there is a simple impasse in my area, where many schools have large classes and an inability to recruit teachers. The same problem applies with regard to doctors and nurses.

A lot of money is being raised in tax. The boastful, arrogant Chancellor tells us that he is spending it all, but there is no money to buy the teachers, nurses, doctors and policemen that we want. That brings me to the local police meeting that I attended to hear the voters of Wokingham talking to the local police. The police told us that they were short of men and that trained policemen were leaving areas such as mine. We were told that 100 or 200 had gone north to find cheaper housing, as they could not afford that in my area. We are, therefore, short of policemen to do the work that we need to be done. I was interested to hear from the hon. Member for West Bromwich, West that the same has happened in his constituency. I was pleased to hear him make a plea for better policing and a clampdown on crime. He knows that the Home Secretary has not delivered.

So, this is a country in which things that people wanted to get better have not got better. There are longer waiting lists, fewer police, more crime, worse schools and bigger class sizes. All the problems which one thought Labour might have sorted out with the spending splurge that has been reannounced 16 times have not been sorted out. We are paying £670 a year in extra tax for the average family, but we are getting nothing for it. We all know that we are being sandbagged at the petrol pumps by the Chancellor with his huge tax rises, so why cannot we have the teachers? We all know that our pension funds are being robbed, so why cannot we have the nurses? We all know that we are being ripped off by the Chancellor's taxes if we travel or need insurance, so why cannot we have the policemen?

This failed Government are presiding over a boom-and-bust economy. They are so wooden that they cannot see the bust in manufacturing, fishing and farming. This Government are presiding over a wasteful splurge of public spending that is not being directed at the things that we want. We want teachers, nurses, doctors and policemen. We can have them and more besides for less than 40 per cent. of public spending—the area that the Government do not seem to know how to work. They waste millions and millions on spin doctors, over-administration, regional development agencies, domes and all the paraphernalia of new Labour nonsense: the things that people do not want. This was a vacuous Queen's Speech from a washed-up Government. They have deeply disappointed the British people and let them down. I hope that the British people will make their judgment clear come the election.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South 7:59 pm, 13th December 2000

The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who took us on a mystery tour, must have felt down when he made his visits. Most of the responsibilities for what he found rest at the doorstep of the previous Government. He was a member of that Government, who created the situation that he found when he went on his tour. We are not going to be brainwashed by him into blaming a Labour Government who are trying to improve the situation. He will not get away either with talking about the state of the railways, as it was his Government who privatised the railways and created 100-odd companies, which has caused utter confusion. Moreover, his Government ensured that there was a general lack of investment in the railways for nearly 20 years. It is interesting that he has adopted a Pontius Pilate routine tonight, which involves saying, "It wasn't me, guv'nor; it was everybody else. Not me." He will not get away with that. He even resigned from the previous Government.

I actually felt sorry for the shadow Chancellor tonight. He is trying to pursue an economic policy, but, with his colleagues divided 57 ways, how can he propose any economic alternatives?

On the positive side, I welcome the £21 billion that will be spent on the national health service, the £19 billion that will be spent on education and the £180 billion that will be used over the next 10 years to put right the transport system that was wrecked by the Tories' policies.

I also welcome the increase for pensioners, which was long overdue. I am glad that my colleagues recognised the need for that increase. Pensioners have told me that they are concerned about issues such as the means test, and they want something to be done about the link with earnings. We on the Labour Benches have to be constituency Members of Parliament and support the Government, and we represent our constituents at the same time.

People in Coventry and on its outskirts are concerned about the serious situation at Rolls-Royce Amsty. A few weeks ago, it said that it was moving some of its manufacturing facilities to Canada, with a loss of 500 or 600 jobs. One also has to consider the indirect effect on small suppliers. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will talk to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about what solutions can be found to deal with that problem.

Nissan was mentioned earlier. Some of us on the Trade and Industry Committee have visited that company. Part of the problem may be the exchange rate, but it has other problems, too, one of which is a general lack of investment. Jaguar has also been mentioned. It is doing very well—it is expanding in Coventry. That is a big turnaround from about 10 or 12 years ago, when people were desperately trying to keep Jaguar in Coventry.

Those are some of the good things that have happened under this Government. Those facts contrast with the doom and gloom that we have heard from Opposition Members.

One has to concede that there is a problem in the textile industry, although that is not the Government's fault and we should not be blamed for it. I have discussed it from time to time with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who has produced a range of proposals.

I welcome the measures that the Home Secretary has introduced to recruit more policemen and, more importantly, his approach to neighbourhood problems. People who live in neighbourhoods that have a yob culture feel under seige—they are terrorised and some, particularly the elderly, are frightened to go out. I welcome his approach to reducing crime.

I also welcome the fact that nationally 250,000 more young people have found jobs. Under the previous Government, many of those young people could not find jobs, and felt isolated and forgotten. While I am on the subject, I also welcome the fact that the present Government have been investing in the acquisition of skills, and will continue to invest in that. Industry badly needs skills. The previous Government did not do very much about that issue. We should remember how many companies took on young people as apprentices under the previous Government. If any were taken on, they had to be bribed for about six months, and then were let go. Under this Government, increasing numbers of young people are finding permanent employment and training.

I and, I am sure, many people up and down the country, welcome the fact that the Chancellor is encouraging other countries to do something about third world debt. Indeed, he is going further—he is trying to deal with the whole issue of the third world, and the role of skills, investment and training in that context. With that approach, we could develop new markets in the third world in the long term.

I was interested by the speech by the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). It was the first time that we have heard from the Tory Benches a cohesive idea about Europe, and it is now clear what his views on Europe are. For a Conservative, he spoke a lot of common sense on a number of issues, but especially on Europe. Interestingly, his position is no different from that of the present Government. However, his colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench are miles away from him.

The right hon. Member for Wokingham mentioned farmers and fisheries. I remember a heck of a lot of debates in the Chamber about fisheries and quotas, which were negotiated by the previous Government. I also remember the fishermen demonstrating. Some of them, especially those in Northern Ireland, burned their boats in response to the previous Government's policies. That Government let them down in Europe and failed to get them appropriate deals on quotas.

The present Government are putting money towards assisting farmers and they are trying to change the whole ethos of country life for those farmers who are considering doing something else. The Government have gone so far as to try to save country post offices—the right hon. Member for Wokingham did not mention that. The farming problem started with the BSE crisis.

The previous Government said that there was no such problem, but eventually said that there was. The present Government are suffering from a legacy that was left to them by the previous Government.

Members of the previous Government accuse us of arrogance and of using too many guillotines, but who was it who introduced the poll tax? The previous Government. I say to the shadow Chancellor that, whether we talk about cutting £16 billion or £8 billion, one thing is certain: the Opposition's intent to slash local government services. They use coded words when they talk about making savings by cutting bureaucracy. I wonder which bureaucracy they are talking about. When they define local government and local government employees, they normally mean the bureaucrats in local government. That could be a coded way for a Conservative Government to say to local government, "You are now going to be put to the axe."

We remember the 15 per cent. interest rate hikes under the previous Government, although the right hon. Member for Wokingham talked about interest rates under this Government. There were record levels of crime and hospital closures under that Government, but the right hon. Gentleman said that he visited hospitals in his constituency. There were also cuts in education. On the national health service, who remembers the number of people who could not get beds and found themselves on trollies outside wards?

We could go on about the Opposition's record. They failed tonight to put forward a cohesive alternative. It is no good their saying to us, "You must answer our questions and tell us what you are doing, but we do not want to tell you, and you have no right to ask us, about our policies."

The shadow Chancellor certainly has some major problems in his party, which is divided economically, over Europe and in other ways. I felt sorry for him. He tried to put on a brave face. He has obviously been taking acting lessons, but he could not convince us that his colleagues were united behind him.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross UUP, East Londonderry 8:08 pm, 13th December 2000

I listened to some hon. Members speaking at length today about whether we should go into the single currency. Those who make the excuse that the time is not right are simply refusing to take the political decision that has to be taken. That decision will not be taken on economic grounds, and every sensible body in this country knows that. It is a political decision.

Some say that the positions that they are currently adopting are temporary and that they are sitting on the fence to see whether things will improve. The plain truth is, of course, that that position has been temporary for so long that it is becoming permanent. That may be the best that we can hope for, until we have a Government who can make up their mind on that matter. Whether I will still be in the House at that time—it may be a few Parliaments down the way—I do not know. If I am not, I shall certainly encourage my successor to vote against any such foolishness—I have lived through and seen the consequences of the exchange rate mechanism.

However, I did not come here today to talk about that aspect of the Government's policy.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

The hon. Gentleman represents part of the United Kingdom, which has an interface with the eurozone countries. I hear endless complaints from the hon. Gentleman's colleagues in other Ulster parties about the difference between the pound sterling and the punt, which is now part of the eurozone. Does the hon. Gentleman see no advantage—no tiny advantage—in having the same currency for what is now, in effect, one economy in Ireland?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross UUP, East Londonderry

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is not one economy in Ireland. If he had tried to buy a house in Dublin over the past year or two, he might not be so accommodating about the euro. As it happens, I believe the fact that the economy in the Irish Republic is roaring ahead in this way—unsustainably in the long term, I think—is a clear indication of what can happen to any nation in the eurozone. But, as I have said, I did not come here to talk about that. It is a subject for debate on another day.

During the Chancellor's interesting speech, to which I listened carefully, I asked him about public sector debt in the context of his own remarks. He had spoken of the need for a sensible ratio between public sector debt and gross domestic product. I did not receive a very satisfactory answer; the Chancellor referred me to the Red Book.

Everyone has talked about the "economic cycle", not just in the present Administration but in earlier ones, but no one has ever told me how long the cycle will last. I think we should aim not just for what is described as a balanced budget, but for a budget that steadily reduces our public sector debt to nil. That would at least remove the need for high interest payments. I always think that borrowing money and paying interest at the end of the day costs the nation far more than taxing honestly to raise the money. If that were done, at least everyone would know where they stood—but I suppose that honesty is a bit too much to expect from any Chancellor when an election is approaching.

Some years ago, I raised in the House the question of science parks and Northern Ireland universities. I am glad to say that my approach eventually bore fruit, and that in the last week or so a science park has been launched in my constituency. It will deal with research and development. That is very praiseworthy, but if products emerge, how on earth are we to retain the factories in the United Kingdom that make those products unless, within the European system, we can match the tax rates applying in other countries?

I can see all the research and development work done in my constituency moving to Cork—or perhaps to Belgium or Turkey, where my local textile industry is going. It is going there for a variety of reasons—not all tax reasons, and not all the reasons cited by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was somewhat wide of the mark, in that he omitted the relative costs of wages involved in production. Hundreds of my constituents are employed in making goods for Marks and Spencer, and I took a keen interest in what the right hon. Gentleman was saying, but I thought a good deal of it was highly inaccurate. I wish he had remained to hear me say that.

My main reason for speaking in the debate, however, relates not to those matters but to the cost of road fuel in the United Kingdom. The House will recall the anger in the streets that spilled over into demonstrations in September—demonstrations that failed at the later attempt, or were defused to a minor extent, because of action taken by the Government in recent weeks.

It is, I think, well known that Northern Ireland fuel retailers suffer rather more grievously than retailers, and indeed consumers, in Great Britain. I know many Members are vaguely aware that there is a problem; but I do not think they realise how serious it is in Northern Ireland. I am sure that not many have read the report on the subject by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which was published last year, or the Government's response to it.

Members are probably even less aware of the Government's ignorance of the extent, the ramifications and the seriousness of the problem that confronts retailers of petrol and other fuels in Northern Ireland. At the end of last month, I asked the Chancellor for his estimate of the sums lost, and was referred yet again to the answer given to the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) on 20 March. That appears to be the standard answer: it has been given to me on a number of occasions. The hon. Gentleman asked whether the Chancellor would estimate the loss of revenue through the smuggling of petroleum products into Northern Ireland in each year since 1997. The Paymaster General replied: HM Customs and Excise assess the total revenue lost (excise duty and VAT) through cross-border shopping and smuggling of road fuels in Northern Ireland was about £100 million in 1998.—[Official Report, 20 March 2000; Vol. 346, c. 442W.] I did not want to know what the amount was in 1998; I wanted to find out what it was in 1999 and 2000. The Government do not appear to have upgraded their estimates of the loss of revenue during the intervening time.

I asked the Chancellor yet again what was his estimate of the quantity of petroleum products smuggled from the Irish Republic and other countries into Great Britain in each of the last five years up to the latest date for which information is available. I was told: No such estimates are available.—[Official Report, 29 November 2000; Vol. 357, c. 953W.] The Government do not really know whether any smuggling is taking place. They have no idea.

Why is that? Does the Treasury not think it worth while at least to put some inquiries in hand in an effort to find out what the loss of revenue is? Even if it is only £100 million, that is still a considerable sum. It would certainly take care of a lot of the public expenditure problems that we have in Northern Ireland—although that is not the way in which I view what I consider to be a loss to the whole United Kingdom economy. I prefer to look at such matters from a United Kingdom rather than a narrow Northern Ireland perspective. But I do not think that anyone in Northern Ireland believes that the estimate was accurate.

Times have moved on. There has been a change of duty in the Irish Republic only in the last week. There has been a 1 per cent. cut in VAT, a cut in excise duty on diesel fuel of 7.3 Irish pence a litre and 2.4 Irish pence on a litre of unleaded petrol, to take effect at midnight. That, of course, related to 7 December. If it was worth your while to drive a car across the frontier and fill it up with petrol or diesel in the Irish Republic—perfectly legally—last week or the week before, it is a sight better to do it this week, and an awful lot of people are doing that.

I hope to explain the ramifications and how serious the damage is to a huge chunk of the economy in Northern Ireland. At present, unleaded petrol in the Irish Republic costs a maximum of 62p a litre, and can be bought for a good deal less. Diesel fuel costs 53p a litre. I am talking not about Irish pence, but about pence sterling. There is a huge gap between one price and another that someone can pay simply by driving across the border. If a similar loss were being experienced anywhere else, I think the Government would try to do something about it, for reasons that I will give later.

Between 1995 and 1999—these are the latest figures I have—the number of vehicles in Northern Ireland rose by 108,900, an increase of 17.8 per cent. The number of heavy good vehicles rose by only 4.5 per cent.

Those statistics prove what some of us have suspected. People move their heavy goods vehicles across the frontier into a shell company in the Irish Republic because of the huge savings in vehicle excise duty. They also benefit from the cheaper fuel. Therefore, the number of heavy goods vehicles is up slightly, but the number of other vehicles has vastly increased.

The number of private light goods vehicles has increased by 16 per cent. and two-wheeled motor vehicles are up by 43 per cent. That is a large increase, but those vehicles do not use as much fuel as heavy goods vehicles. However, between 1995 and 1999, the consumption of diesel and petrol fell from 878,900 tonnes to 498,000 tonnes—a decrease of 380,000 tonnes, or 43 per cent. According to the Library, 100,000 tonnes of fuel contains approximately 1.36 million litres. I do not have the capacity to work out the exact loss, but the idea that the Treasury cannot work it out is ridiculous.

I hope that I get real answers to my questions because the response so far has been outrageous. The House cannot be satisfied with it. I hope that the Treasury will take on board what I am saying and give me a proper answer. According to my rough calculations, smuggling caused the loss of £220 million of revenue in 1999. The problem is worse now. The loss is huge and it accumulates over the years at about that rate. It does not take long until the immense sum of £1 billion is lost to the United Kingdom Exchequer.

Some of the activities are perfectly legal. People drive back and forth across the border to fill their vehicles. We can live with that, but we cannot live with smuggling. People who drive up to 40 miles to the border to fill their vehicles and return with two or three cans of fuel in the boot are able to run their vehicles for a week before they go back to fill up again. The trouble is, however, that they are not only filling up their vehicles with fuel, but doing their shopping. The economic loss to the whole retail sector in Northern Ireland is enormous. That problem has to be addressed.

Everyone buying in the Republic pays for their shopping by credit card and, because there are 1.28 Irish punts to the pound sterling, it is well worth doing. In Northern Ireland, Tesco and Sainsbury are dropping their price to 70p or 80p a litre, but that is squeezing smaller businesses in an unjustifiable way that I bitterly resent.

The Government announced in the Queen's Speech that they would introduce a raft of Bills to get tough on crime. Some hon. Members referred to the yob culture at which that legislation is aimed, but I am concerned about massive thuggery. Criminal activity in fuel smuggling occurs on a huge scale and it has not been tackled to any extent. The real beneficiaries of that smuggling operation, which accounts for perhaps £100 million a year in lost revenue, are the terrorist organisations, and it is being conducted almost exclusively by the Provisional IRA. Are the Government not tackling the problem because they do not want to annoy that organisation too much in case it does something nasty?

The Select Committee was perfectly clear on the matter last year. In its report, the Financial Secretary said that the problems were brought home to him on 7 October when I met the Petrol Retailers Association. He went on to say: The Institute of Petroleum has confirmed that it cannot provide sales data nor can this be obtained from the major oil companies. The Committee recommended that the Department of Economic Development should seek information and investigate the problem. Why has that not been done?

The Minister also agreed that there were strong signs of changes in purchasing behaviour because of the price differential. Time has moved on and it is clear that there is a real problem. There is a massive criminal operation and loss of revenue to the United Kingdom. That revenue fuels the activities of the terrorist organisations, principally the Provisional IRA. It is long past the time when the Government should have made a serious effort to destroy that criminal conspiracy and to overcome the real problem.

The Economic Secretary said in the Select Committee report that the loss of £100 million in the context of £21 billion overall from fuel duties as a whole is really a very, very small part of the overall picture. So it is of the overall picture for the UK, but it is not small for people who own filling stations or grocery shops, or who are retailers of almost any consumable good, within 20 or 30 miles of the frontier in Northern Ireland. It is a huge economic and social problem that has to be dealt with. I do not want the Government telling me what they have done to prevent the abuse; I just want it stopped. The Government have the resources of this powerful and wealthy nation to deal with the problem. Will they please get on with it before everyone who is affected by the criminal activity of massive fraud, which has been going on for far too long, is ruined by it.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston 8:27 pm, 13th December 2000

I have been listening to an extraordinary debate. The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) complained about the marketplace and demanded intervention on the price of housing and the shortage of public sector workers. He seemed to have forgotten that the Government have successfully reduced unemployment in his constituency to such an extent that there is a problem, which has been acknowledged, but that is what markets do. I would have thought that he, more than anyone, would have recognised that.

The right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) claimed to have fathered Prudence, and the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) waltzed us through the past and rewrote history. He failed to acknowledge that we have gone through the little gate—"portillo" is the only Spanish word I know; it means little gate—and entered a large room. In that room, which is a bit like the Tardis, we have discovered the truth of Conservative policies: massive under-investment, bigger debts, mass unemployment and national despair. He seemed to have forgotten that.

I do not want to approach matters in the same way. Instead, I want to look at the reality in my constituency. The principal actions of the Government have created economic stability by giving the Bank of England independence and implementing tough fiscal rules. In some respects, the first two years of this Administration were painful in my constituency, but we are now beginning to see real benefits as a result of falling unemployment and massive reductions in mortgage rates, and those benefits will be sustained. Employment for all is becoming a reality.

Ironically, as I said during the statement on the Vauxhall problem in Luton, it is not more than a handful of years ago that parts of my constituency suffered from mass unemployment. The figures in some wards were immoral and were in excess of 20 per cent. As a result of a partnership between local government, central Government and the private sector, we have seen significant investment that has brought about an economic revival. There are still some problems to which I will refer, and I should be grateful if those on the Treasury Bench would take note of some of my suggestions.

We have seen public service investment and, quite rightly, it has been focused on areas of great need such as health, education and law and order. However, for many of those projects, investment takes a long time to come through. It is not possible to build overnight the mental health hospital that has been so desperately needed in my constituency. We cannot refurbish overnight the accident and emergency unit at the Countess of Chester hospital, but it has now been done. We cannot re-establish overnight—and not at all under the previous Administration—the primary care surgery in the Westminster ward of my constituency. Under the previous Administration it was regarded as a no-hope area, a small backwater that did not really matter. That, coupled with the fact that it was a one-doctor practice, meant that it did not matter. That surgery is now working and is properly equipped to a high standard, but it has taken time.

We are now seeing significant reductions in child and pensioner poverty. Contrary to what was said by the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea, pensioners in my constituency positively welcomed the Chancellor's statement about pension changes. Many of my pensioners are on small occupational pensions. Many of those from the blue-collar sector only joined their schemes in the mid-1970s when the actions of a Labour Government made that possible. Consequently, they are retiring on the occupational pension of half a working life, so the amounts are fairly low. When they have that and their state benefits, it is positively to their advantage to receive additional payments such as the £200 winter fuel allowance, free television licences and free eye tests, all outside the tax regime. It more than compensates them for some of the rather silly ideas that we have heard from the Opposition this week.

I want to consider the attitude of pensioners. I have been talking to pensioners and they have said that they do not trust the Conservative party. I would be the first to admit that in my constituency, there was uproar at the impact of the first two years of inherited Tory spending plans and the figures that emerged as a result of relatively low inflation, but pensioners have said unequivocally that they do not want to go back to what they had in the 1980s under the previous Government.

My town is dominated by the petrochemical industry and, as is the pattern in virtually every petrochemical town throughout the western world, small pockets of housing were built in close proximity to the industry where the chemical workers originally lived. As the industry has become more prosperous, and as a function of technology there are fewer people, those pockets of housing are now areas of quite severe poverty. My constituency has five wards in the poorest 10 per cent. of household income category in the country. Some of the Government's programmes have helped to raise the base level for those families. The application of various phases of the single regeneration budget, under both this Government and the previous Administration, have been helpful. Neighbourhood renewal has been helpful, too. Recently, we have had some fantastic help as a result of the introduction of the education action zone in the constituency and a massive public-private partnership to redevelop five derelict schools. The development of sure start and other programmes has also been helpful.

I urge the Government to look at those programmes in a holistic manner, so that the formulae by which they are applied keep pushing up the levels in a particular community. It is difficult to attract new high-tech industries to move close to such areas. Realistically, they will go not there, but will go to locations a little further away. However, we have been able to bring up employment opportunities from a very low base. We are beginning to get closer to full employment than anyone ever envisaged, but we must keep pushing because simply leaving the market to run riot will not solve the problem.

I was therefore a little disappointed when SRB6 was refused, when the neighbourhood renewal fund formula was announced last fortnight and when a relatively low settlement was announced under the local government finance formula. When they consider such pockets of deprivation, I urge the Government to look at the problem in a holistic way, to ensure that projects that have been supported through the SRB and the neighbourhood renewal fund are not damaged, and that the progress that has been made over the years is not wasted. That is an important observation in the context of communities such as mine.

The other point that I want to make arose as a result of the earlier discussion on Vauxhall. We need some significant infrastructure investment. It is absurd that all the major chemical and vehicle manufacturing plants within the constituency are almost at the most congested part of the M6, with traffic going southwards to where the major markets are. As a result of the years of under-investment in rail freight by the previous Administration, none of the plants in that area has any resource to move goods and services by rail. That is crazy.

Vauxhall, Kemira, Shell and Associated Octel all have railway sidings leading into their plants, but as a result of under-investment in rail freight, more and more products have gradually shifted to the road. The effect is to create a bottleneck on the M6, which in turn blocks access to the market for many other businesses in the region. Again, a holistic approach is needed. I have made that point to my hon. Friends in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and through the regional development agency. We need to ensure that programmes in communities such as mine are supported from all angles. The Government can have an impact.

Fantastic progress has been made over the past few years. I did not believe that we would hit those unemployment figures as quickly as we have. I did not believe that we would see young single mothers reaching out for the new opportunities that have emerged as a result of investment by the private sector in partnership with the benefits that can be obtained through the working families tax credit.

We have had some exciting changes. There is some huge investment in training; work is done with colleges in the community and with local industry. Those changes need continued support so that pockets of poverty such as those I have described are not given money periodically and then ignored. There must be a sustained effort to support them until they can support themselves within the vibrant new economy that is developing as a result of the Government's efforts.

Photo of Stephen Dorrell Stephen Dorrell Conservative, Charnwood 8:40 pm, 13th December 2000

I begin by declaring an interest as a director and shareholder of a manufacturing business which has been the subject of some discussion during the debate. However, I shall not focus on that this evening.

I begin by reflecting on the fact that, as someone who has been in this place for more than 20 years, I find it slightly bizarre to see the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer parading not just around this country but around international meetings too, as though they were long-standing, experienced advocates of the merits of an open free enterprise economy.

I listened with respect, as I always do, and almost always in agreement to my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) who remarked on the irony of the fact that the Prime Minister now regularly reminds us of the benefits of a low-tax economy and a flexible labour market. The Chancellor of the Exchequer rarely loses an opportunity to lecture us on the benefits of monetary stability and his old friend fiscal prudence. Like my right hon. Friend, every time I hear that in this place and on television I wonder what those two estimable people were doing when those important ideas for the development of an open, competitive, liberal market economy were being fought through in the teeth of vehement opposition from Labour Members, including some who have attended today's debate.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

The right hon. Gentleman will recall the famous remark that was made in the 19th century about catching the Whigs bathing and walking away with their clothes. Is not the problem for the right hon. Gentleman's party that they have to find some new clothes that will once again attract the electorate?

Photo of Stephen Dorrell Stephen Dorrell Conservative, Charnwood

No. As I intend to argue, not least of the reasons why it is bizarre to hear Labour Ministers and Members arguing the case for a liberal, competitive, open market economy is that when one compares what they do in practice with what they advocate in theory one finds a significant divorce between their words and their actions. I shall go on to develop that argument. It is not so much that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have stolen the Whigs' clothes when they were bathing; it is that that they like disporting themselves in front of the mirror, but never actually go into the sea.

When the labour market was being liberalised and trade union reform was being fought through in the teeth of bitter opposition, where were the friends of labour market flexibility? When we were arguing the case, year by year, for reducing the direct tax burden on the wealth-creating sector—whether through income tax cuts or corporation tax cuts—where were those who now say that such cuts are important parts of British economic policy? Where were they when the Tory Governments of the 1980s and 1990s were arguing through those changes? As the House knows, they were in the No Lobby. Where were they when battles were being won against the inflationary pressures that we inherited in the late 1970s? Once again, they were in the No Lobby.

The first point to remember when we hear Ministers make the case about the importance of liberal market reform is that they are the Johnny-come-lately to the policy. They picked up the brief after the difficult case has been won.

It was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) say that he did not believe it was possible that a stable, successful, competitive economy might improve opportunities for his constituents in the way that it has. Of course, his bewilderment as economic success improves the life chances of his constituents was shared throughout his party when the reforms were being introduced.

However, that is history. It is more important, especially as we approach the next general election, to reflect on where those people were when the changes were being driven through. Moreover, how credible are they now as guardians of the economy? How credible are they as the people who should continue the process of improving economic competitiveness in the increasingly competitive global marketplace where Britain has to earn its living, now and in the future?

No Conservative Member should need any persuading when it comes to the importance of sound money and sound public finance, of low taxes and flexible markets. I suspect that the Chancellor thinks sometimes that we need to be persuaded, but we take the importance of those things as read. We want to know whether those on the present Treasury Bench believe the rhetoric that they use, and whether, when the tough choices have to be made, they will deliver the policy about which they are prone to wax so lyrical when no cost is attached.

I shall go through the four tests that the Government have specified; I do not think that those on the Treasury Bench will dissent when I list them. They are the tests of sound money, sound public finance, low taxes and flexible markets. I have heard those tests listed so often that I cannot believe that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will leap to the Dispatch Box and say, "No, that is not our policy." The right hon. Gentleman does not always speak with the full-throated admiration of all his Back-Bench Members, but what Minister ever does? I think that Ministers would seek to apply the four tests that I have listed to their policies.

First, I shall deal with what is, from the Government's point of view, the easy test—the test of sound money. In fact, I shall offer a degree of bipartisanship on that question. The Government are entitled to credit for having increased the independence of the Bank of England, and for entrenching the discipline of counter-inflationary policy.

I can see that the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) wants to leap to his feet and ask when I espoused a policy of sound money. Before he does, I must say that I think my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) would bear witness to the fact that I advocated that policy somewhat before some other members of my party did. However, I give credit to the Chancellor for his introduction of the policy.

I also give credit to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo), one of whose first actions when he became shadow Chancellor was to make it clear that the Conservative party did not wish to oppose the principle of sound money. It is a very important principle, and I offer considerable support to the Government for the fact that they have taken us down that road. Putting an end to the notion of political money was an important step forward in the delivery of a liberal and competitive economic environment. There is broad, all-party agreement that the five-decade experiment with political money was an abject failure.

In case it is thought that I am offering unqualified support for every aspect of this part of Government policy, I must say that the independence of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England would be significantly enhanced if almost all its members did not require the Chancellor's say-so before their appointment was agreed.

In addition, I think that the Monetary Policy Committee's independence, and the basis of knowledge on which it makes its decisions, would be substantially enhanced if we introduced into our structure something more closely akin to the American Federal Reserve or the old German Bundesbank. Those bodies sought to ensure that different interests from the real economy were represented in the monetary policy decision-making process. However, with those qualifications, I offer the Government reasonably high marks when it comes to the sound money test, the first of the four that I want to discuss.

The second test is the test of sound public finance, about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon had something to say. He reflected on the declining reputation of Prudence, and said that it had been substantially qualified by the way in which she has been misused by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is perfectly true that, in the early years of this Parliament, the Chancellor held the growth of public spending below the level of growth of the economy as a whole. The result was a significant improvement in the inherited fiscal deficit, to the extent that there is now a significant fiscal surplus. That is welcome. However, an election has now come into view, and what we now have is in no way consistent with the rhetoric on sound public finance and prudence of which the Chancellor is so fond.

The Government's figures show that their expectation for the years ahead is for 2.25 per cent. growth in the economy as a whole and 3.4 per cent. growth in public spending. One does not need a degree in mathematics to know that if the economy is growing at 2.25 per cent. and public spending is growing at 3.4 per cent., public spending will take a progressively larger share of the national income for as long as that policy continues. That can only result, either now or later, in an increase in the tax burden. Despite everything that the Government say about low taxes, they are committed to increasing the tax burden to deliver a policy in which public spending accounts for a rising share of national income. A commitment to a relentless rise in the tax burden is a huge disbenefit to this country's competitiveness in the global marketplace.

The case against the Government's policy is even more serious than that. What would happen to their plans if the economy did not grow by 2.25 per cent. as they assume that it will? The response to that question from Labour Members, and occasionally from some Ministers, is, "Well, this is a Labour Government. We can assume competence, and everything is going to be all right. Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. This Government will deliver 2.25 per cent. growth, and we do not need to worry." That is spellbindingly naive.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon observed, when one is planning a business or an economy in a global marketplace, one ought to allow for the possibility that there are other influences on how that business or economy might develop, besides the decisions taken in Great George street. I am a former incumbent of those offices, and I know the illusion of grandeur and power that goes with sitting in them.

I mean no disrespect to the Chancellor when I suggest that Mr. Alan Greenspan has at least as much influence over the world economy as the British Chancellor of the Exchequer does. Mr. Greenspan certainly does not believe that we can look forward with a totally sanguine view to stable growth in the next two or three years. He has been pursuing a tight money policy in the United States for the past few months, precisely because he is afraid that growth is running ahead too fast. Only last week, he signalled that that policy stance needed to change.

The Government's spending plans are wrong because, even if all their best assumptions are fulfilled, they will result in an increase in the tax burden. The plans are doubly wrong because they assume that the economy will continue on a stable path, despite the fact that virtually every post brings new concerns about a potential hard landing in the United States, that there has recently been an aggressive tightening of monetary policy in Japan, and that some, but not all, parts of the eurozone have serious inflationary problems.

I am not engaging in predictions about what will happen in 2001, but it is not difficult to find people who believe that we ought to be preparing—whether we run a Government or a business—for the possibility that markets in 2001 will be rather tougher than they have been for some years past. Wise businesses, like wise Governments, are preparing for the fact that next year will be less good than both 2000 and 1999. However, we have a Government who assume that next year will be better.

When I wonder about the Chancellor's present relationship with Prudence, I ask why, at a time when most economy policy makers throughout the world are assuming that circumstances are likely to become more hostile next year, we alone have a Government who think that things are going to get so much better that we can launch ourselves along a public expenditure growth path that they were not prepared to countenance as prudent during the much more favourable circumstances that prevailed—as we can see in retrospect—since 1997. Of course, perhaps I know the answer—perhaps this is an election year. That may be the full extent of the answer.

On the second test—that of sound public finance—the Government fail partly because they are planning for higher taxes and partly because they have forgotten about the need for a safety margin. No one ever plans for the crunches; if we look back at economic history, people did not seem them coming and plan accordingly. Uncertainty and the unknown derail Government spending plans; they have often done so in the past. By removing a safety margin, the Government are heightening the risk of derailment as a result of the unknown or even—as I am arguing—not the unknown but matters on which plenty of editorials are being written. If hon. Members want to read one, they need only turn to the centre pages of today's Financial Times.

So much for the second test; what about the third test of low taxes? It is much easier to produce an answer for that test, because the Government fail it completely. In the run-up to the previous general election, the Prime Minister repeatedly said that there was no need for tax increases; Labour were not planning tax increases and indeed, until March of this year, he said that there had been no tax increases. He appeared to be the last man in Britain who believed that to say that the tax burden had not increased under Labour was a sustainable line. However, even the Prime Minister has deserted that position; even he has been forced to admit that, under the Labour Government, the tax burden has increased, is increasing and will go on increasing.

That seemed to come as a late surprise to Members on the Treasury Bench. Long after everyone else in Britain—people who occasionally drive on to a garage forecourt, pay a council tax bill, know what their pension fund has to pay, or have seen what has happened to the climate change levy—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) points out that, even now, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury does not acknowledge that. The Chief Secretary is responsible for publishing the figures. If he is not yet convinced that the tax burden is increasing, he should read his own figures. I will give him credit if he reads the figures for which he is responsible.

As I have already noted, the Government's spending plans for the future are for a continuing increase in the tax burden. There may be political differences of view as to whether we want high or low tax and spend, but there can be no argument that at present, throughout the rest of the world, Governments are coming to the conclusion that, in order to create wealth in a competitive, global marketplace, they need to reduce the tax burdens on their wealth-creating sector.

In Germany, one of the British Government's political soul mates has introduced major tax reform. Chancellor Schröder is a more obvious political soul mate of the Labour Government than of my party; he is cutting taxes. The French Government are cutting taxes, as are the Italian and Spanish Governments. Against that background, what are the British Government doing? They are planning not merely to increase taxes, but to build a further increase in the tax burden on to the existing increase. At the same time as the British Government are using the rhetoric of market economics, they are resolutely marching in the opposite direction from the German, French and Italian Governments—all of whom realise that, if they are to compete successfully in today's marketplace, one of their key objectives must be to reduce the burden of taxation on their economy.

The third test is whether the Government believe their rhetoric about low taxes. We assume that they do not, because they are certainly not putting it into practice.

The fourth and final test applies to the Government's claim to be in favour of flexible markets. When I hear members of the present Government arguing the case for flexible markets, I do not believe that they understand what those words mean. Just as, with tax policy, they are marching in the opposite direction from our colleagues elsewhere in Europe, so with regulation and the way in which government impacts on business—what is known in shorthand as the red tape burden—the Government are resolutely increasing the burden on British business, while Governments elsewhere in the world are understanding the importance of reducing that burden.

The list is familiar, so it may be burdensome to hon. Members if I go through it again. There is the working time directive, the part-time workers directive and the parental leave directive—and today we have another: the information consultation directive. Sometimes all that is used to make a case against the European Union, but I make no secret of the fact—I imagine most people in the House are aware of it—that I am in favour of this country's active participation in the European Union. However, I am not in favour of British Governments who accept those regulatory burdens on our business, because they reduce the competitiveness of British business in an open marketplace.

Nor am I in favour of an interpretation of the role of the EU that sees such regulation as part of its function. What the working time directive has to do with the completion of the single market has always been a mystery to me. Some of the regulations come from the European institutions, but not all of them; some of them are home grown.

The British Government must be the only Government in the world who think that the way to improve competitiveness and our opportunity to create wealth in a global marketplace is to introduce compulsory recognition of trade unions. I know of no other Government who think that that is the way to sharpen the competitive edge of their industrial base. Yet that is the policy of our Government. Only the British could take seriously a Government who say that they are in favour both of liberal market reform and of compulsory recognition of trade unions.

I freely concede that Ministers use the rhetoric of liberal economics, but at the same time they pursue policies that increase the burden of public spending, which can only increase the tax burden on the economy—all at a time when our competitors are doing precisely the opposite.

We are often asked to believe that there is now bipartisan agreement on the idea of a liberal competitive economy, and that the transformation undertaken—against vehement Labour opposition—by the Conservative Governments of 1979 to 1997 is now the subject of a broad bipartisan consensus. That view is often repeated, but it is totally wrong, and mere repetition does not make it true.

It is true that in 1997 this country had an important competitive advantage over its major international competitors. Our economy was more liberal and flexible than those of most of our competitors, especially those in Europe. However, the present Government have sown complacency by resting on their laurels, believing that the problem has been solved, and that there is no need to invigorate the economy further or ask how to make it more competitive and flexible, because the issue has been dealt with.

The hon. Member for Rotherham said that the Tories had stolen the Whigs' clothing while they were away bathing—but it is our competitors who have stolen our clothing while we were bathing. Our competitive advantage is being squandered by a Government who do not believe their own rhetoric. That is the case that we will take to the country. I believe that, in many ways, that case is the most important difference between the parties. As people come increasingly to understand that case, they will understand that it is a reason to throw out a Government who have squandered such an important national advantage.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North 9:05 pm, 13th December 2000

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey), in his absence, on his maiden speech. I was particularly interested in and appreciated his description of his constituency. In the 1980s, it witnessed the collapse of its heavy industry, which was one of my formative political experiences. His description also reminded me of the difference between the previous Conservative Government's response to that collapse—when they turned their back on unemployed people in the west midlands—and the current Government's action to tackle unemployment and get people back to work. The Government intervened at Longbridge, and they have responded positively to events in Luton.

In many parts of the country, the Government have almost made unemployment disappear as an issue. That is down entirely to their management of the economy, and I am sure that it will probably be the single most important factor in ensuring the Government's re-election in the forthcoming general election. The Government's economic policy is the most important factor for my constituents, who have benefited from it in many ways, particularly in financial stability.

I tell the right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell) that protecting financial stability is not a question of resting on our laurels or ensuring that we do not meddle and intervene, but of providing positive support where improvement is needed, particularly in productivity.

Financial stability—particularly low interest rates—is desperately important for hard-working families in my constituency. Now, not only are interest rates at half the peak level reached under the Tories, but, according to a recent report in The Economist, they are at their most stable for the past 10 years. That is good news for business, and it is exceptionally good news for people in my constituency, three quarters of whom are home owners and carry substantial debt.

Low interest rates have saved the average home owner about £800 annually and made it possible to abolish the last of mortgage interest relief at source. All serious political parties realise that MIRAS abolition—which Conservatives Members have tried to dress up as a tax increase—was important for the long-term health of the housing market.

Low inflation has also benefited my constituents. The fact that inflation, too, has almost disappeared from the public consciousness as a financial problem is another tribute to the Government's successful management of the economy. We are in the happy situation of enjoying a consumer boom and low inflation. It is a particularly happy economic climate for those of us who like consumer booms.

In his speech, the shadow Chancellor said that the Government have no vision at all. Such a claim is extraordinary. Our Chancellor has relentlessly pursued the creation of a secure economy, which allows us to address all the pressing social issues.

The shadow Chancellor also outlined his five financial disciplines. Before coming into the Chamber, I quite carefully read, in one of his recent speeches, his description of the disciplines. I had thought that two of them were new. However, as the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) devised the committee of wise men, only one proposal is new. How can one present a vision for the future by proposing a series of old measures and U-turns? The Chancellor has offered a vision of economic stability, financial security and the tackling of social issues, which is important for the families in my constituency.

I especially welcome the children's tax credit, which comes into effect in April. It is true that some of the people who have lost their married couples allowance will not be entitled to the children's tax credit, but if we are to have a mature political debate, we must consider what the Government's priorities should be. All the evidence suggests that the financial pressures are on families with children. That is why I support the Government's policy of giving them the lion's share of the financial benefits.

I wanted to make sure that the Conservative party had nothing to say about children, so I looked up the policy section on its website. When we tapped in "Children", the message was, "Sorry, your search terms has found no matches. Please try a broader term." We tapped in "Human being", but we found nothing on that either.

I can assure my right hon. Friend the Chancellor that among my constituents, particularly among the women, there is a high level of knowledge about the children's tax credit and the income level needed to qualify. With an average income of £19,600, people in my constituency tend to know what benefits they will receive. In addition to the extra almost £5 a week in child benefit, many people in my constituency with children will get at least £10 a week extra, and there is more for people on modest incomes. About 3,000 families in Northampton get the working families tax credit.

On unemployment and the working families tax credit, one of the reasons why the old family credit would not deal with all the problems caused by unemployment is that it does not include the child care tax credit. The Conservative party has given no assurances on that. I assure the shadow Chancellor, in case he does not realise it, that lone parents can get out to work only if their child care is paid for. The child care tax credit has been essential for that, as has the availability of personal advisers on the new deal scheme, which has made it possible for women who have not worked for many years to get advice, help and access to child care, and to get it paid for.

In my constituency, unemployment has been mercifully low for a long time, but lone parents have always found it hard to get work. That situation is changing. I have spoken to lone parents who have not been out to work for 10 or 15 years, and who are now £60 to £65 a week better off because of the combined effect of the working families tax credit, the child care tax credit and the new deal.

I welcome the measures in the Queen's Speech that will help home buyers. I hope that there will be more legislation in future to protect home buyers from the kind of problems associated with endowment mortgages, and to make the capital invested in their home more accessible to home owners during retirement, when basic maintenance can become a problem. I assure my right hon. Friend the Chancellor that my constituents take up such concessions to home owners. Many of them have spoken to me about taking advantage of the VAT reduction to insulate their homes.

I recognise that time is short, but I shall mention a couple more points. The first concerns savings. The Opposition made much of the changes to the savings ratio, but all the projections from the Treasury suggest that it will increase. I pay tribute to the work done to develop individual savings accounts, which all the reports from the industry suggest have not merely served as a replacement for PEPs and TESSAs, but have encouraged more people to save. It is clear that in future the savings habit will become more important, especially in relation to pensions. Of course, families that have savings have some protection against the problems that people run into when they get into debt or when a cash crisis arises.

Barclays home loans division has done a huge amount of work on this subject. Family breakdown is one of the main problems that gives rise to debt. The work that the Government have done to support families, for example, by sharing family tax credits between parents and recognising the work of step-parents, is extremely important. It is helping to ensure that families can deal with some of these problems.

On debt and savings, we need to get people into the habit of saving for their pensions. The shadow Chancellor mentioned that, and said that the Conservatives intended to let young people opt out of paying national insurance. In doing so, they would ignore two difficulties. One is the loss of money to the national insurance fund, which would amount to about £2 billion, I think. The other difficulty is what will happen to people who pull out of national insurance, but then pull out of the alternative. The Financial Services Authority report suggests that, over 10 years, that will happen to about 5 per cent. of the people.

How would the Conservatives deal with those people who ended up with no provision? Would they compel people to take out alternative pensions? If people did not end up with a pension, would the Conservatives say, "Right. You won't have anything." Would they leave such people out completely, which would result in acute pensioner poverty for future generations? The industry recognises that issue. It opposes compulsion and recognises the need for a safety net.

In conclusion, I congratulate the Government on the Queen's Speech, in particular, the financial provisions. They will be extremely successful. They are part of a continuing trend, which is providing increased economic well-being and financial security for the many families in my constituency and throughout the country.

Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon 9:17 pm, 13th December 2000

I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) on his excellent maiden speech. I was reminded as he spoke of the time just before the general election when I addressed my constituents and gave them an account of why support for the Tory party there, which had historically been strong, was slipping away so quickly. What was eating away at that support in 1996–97 was the great perception among Tory voters of the social and economic costs of Tory mismanagement of the economy; Tory disdain for public services; and the failure to put in place any effective measures to enable people who had been damaged by the deep Tory recessions to rebuild their lives and reconnect themselves with the world of work.

I pointed out that the cost of the social security budget had soared from £50 billion to more than £90 billion. I could have added comments about the soaring levels of public debt, records levels of interest rates and inflation. I asked the voters of Wimbledon to trust Labour to do better. They put their trust in us in May 1997 and Labour has delivered—it has delivered in Britain and in Wimbledon.

On jobs, 325 young people in my constituency have started work thanks to the new deal. On class sizes, no five, six or seven-year-olds are taught in classes of more than 30 in Merton schools. This year, Merton local education authority was among the five most improved education authorities in Britain on educational standards thanks to the local literacy and numeracy strategies.

Hospital waiting lists at St. George's hospital and St Helier hospital are coming down. We have new accident and emergency units and we have a walk-in centre in Tooting. On crime, we have new closed circuit television in Wimbledon town centre. On transport, we have seen the refurbishment of the Northern line. On a recent visit to the magistrates courts I found out that the time between arrest and sentencing is coming down.

On the economy, interest rates and inflation are at all time lows. The economy is the key to these successes and will be the key to doing more in the future. That strong and stable economy, which acts as a platform for our investment in public services' has not come about by chance, it is the result of the economic policies put in place by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The independence of the Bank of England, new fiscal rules, prudence in public finances and borrowing only to invest are the golden rules. Some of those issues are complex and technical, but everyone in Wimbledon will understand the difference in the results. They will remember, with fear and bitterness, the Tory legacy of boom and bust, record levels of bankruptcies and the fact that no community was untouched by the scourge or effects of unemployment. They will also remember record levels of interest and mortgage rates, house repossessions, negative equity and rising crime.

That is what we mean by the Tory legacy of boom and bust. The damage to individual lives brought with it the collapse of investment in public services and the infrastructure, which has harmed all of us. In 1996–97, 42p in every £1 was spent on servicing debt and social security payments; the corresponding figure now is 17p. Money is going into the health service. Investment in the health service fell by 0.4 per cent. in 1996–97, but it is 17 per cent. higher in real terms today, and went up by 7.5 per cent. last year.

In education, capital funding for schools has improved. In my constituency, £230 per pupil is provided for capital spending on repairing leaky roofs and windows and decrepit infrastructure, compared with £15 per pupil for capital investment in schools in Merton in 1996–97. I could go on: 16,000 pensioners have been helped by the winter fuel allowance; 500 working families have been helped by the working families tax credit; 11,500 children in Wimbledon have been helped by record increases in child benefit.

In 1996, I asked my constituents what kind of society we wanted to live in. I will be asking them that question again, nearer the election. We have a vision of a strong society, backed by a strong economy. The Tories have no positive vision of the future; Labour does. The Queen's Speech includes further measures that will become fundamental steps towards realising that vision, and I commend it to the House.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 9:21 pm, 13th December 2000

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition opened the debate on the Gracious Speech on 6 December. Nothing that we have heard from Ministers in the past week has in any way altered our first impression that the Queen's Speech is all spin and no delivery.

The Government are clearing the decks for an early election. Like the Titanic, new and big, new Labour is now sinking on its maiden voyage. All our major public services are in crisis; in rural areas, farm income is at the lowest level since the 1930s; White Papers are catalogued on both urban and rural problems; but nothing appears in the Gracious Speech. The speech is as interesting for what it omits as for what has been prioritised.

Under errors and omissions, we must look at the dear, departed Bills that are a ghost of Government promises, such as the promised consumer Bill. The Government published a White Paper entitled "Modern Markets: Confident Consumers" in July 1999. Launching it, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said: I am also proposing new legislation to take tough action against fraudsters and powers to deal with new scams quickly. However, there is no consumer Bill in the Queen's Speech. Labour published a White Paper on licensing reform on 10 April this year, an advance copy of which was briefed to The Times on 13 March, where it appeared as the lead front page story. Again, no legislation was introduced. On urban renewal, there is clearly no sign of a Bill to introduce the policies in the urban White Paper.

What happened to the voting systems? Before the election, the Prime Minister said: We have made it clear all the way through that we are committed to a referendum and we are committed to it as part of our programme for the next Parliament. That was in the Financial Times in February 1997, but there is not a word about it in what is likely to be the last Session of this Parliament.

There is no Bill on housing. The Government published a Green Paper on housing in April 2000 but, again, they have failed to deliver on their promises. The House will therefore not be surprised that we are somewhat sceptical of the papers that the Government produce in the hope that people will read them and be encouraged to take action. The Government print them, but they do not take any action.

Interestingly, something which we might have expected because it would undoubtedly not have taken up much time in the House, almost certainly having cross-party support, would have been a law on vaccine damage payments. On 27 June 2000, the Secretary of State for Social Security said: We shall legislate at the earliest available opportunity.—[Official Report, 27 June 2000; Vol. 352, c. 719.] Again, that is a glaring omission from the Gracious Speech.

With regard to the rights of victims, new Labour, on page 23 of their document "Because Britain Deserves Better"—that has a somewhat hollow ring four years later—states: We will ensure that victims are kept fully informed of the progress of their case, and why charges may have to be downgraded or dropped. The Prime Minister, in his conference speech this year, said: victims should get full information about the progress of their case … another big project for the second term of a Labour government. Promises, promises. Unfortunately for new Labour, that second term looks less likely than it might have done four years ago.

Throughout the debate on the Queen's Speech, not just Conservative Members but Labour Members have expressed disappointment at the errors and omissions. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) was disappointed that the civil service had no statutory code under which to operate. The right hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) pleaded with the Government on behalf of the steel industry, but his pleas, too, have been ignored by the Government.

The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) said: Sadly, there has been no continuation of the bonfire of the quangos and agencies.—[Official Report, 6 December 2000; Vol. 359, c. 57.] If this had been a Conservative Queen's Speech, there would have been a jolly big bonfire of quangos and agencies.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) said: I am merely reminding the Government that we have to keep in touch with our electorate and with reality.—[Official Report, 6 December 2000; Vol. 359, c. 69][Interruption.] Labour Members seem to regard the words of their colleagues as a joke. I am quoting from Hansard.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) said: The Queen's Speech does not contain a commitment to legislate on housing, transfer of stock and arm's-length companies.—[Official Report, 6 December 2000; Vol. 359, c. 78.] In other words, there is great disappointment among those on the Government Benches as well as in the country at the Government's omissions. Those expressions of disappointment from Labour Members come simply from the first day of the debate on the Queen's Speech. Had I ploughed through Hansard I could doubtless have found four or five more pages of such expressions of disappointment, but 1 think that we have the message from Labour Members. They are disappointed by the Gracious Speech, but, however disappointed they are, they are not half as disappointed as those outside the House are with the Government.

I could talk about many Bills, but I will not do so tonight. However, it is worth mentioning those in the Gracious Speech which are recycled, not least a regulatory reform Bill, one of our little regulars which pops up in each Queen's Speech and nothing is done about it, but here it is again this year. It would be interesting to see whether, in the confines of what we anticipate will be rather a short Session, the Bill will have sufficient priority to complete all its stages before the general election.

The Government flagged up law and order in the Queen's Speech as an important issue. They pledged to introduce a Bill to tackle anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related crime by giving the police power to impose fixed penalty fines. That is yet another pledge that will not be met. The Government said that they would tackle anti-social behaviour and youth crime, but young people are still committing large numbers of criminal offences and communities are terrorised by persistent young offenders. Again, it is all spin and no delivery.

We have seen in previous Sessions of this Parliament the Government's rather paltry attempts to act on that matter, about which there is great concern throughout the country, but under the Government crime rose last year by 190,000 offences, the first rise in six years. In addition, there was a large increase in the number of robberies, despite the Government's promise to reduce them, and the pledge to be tough on crime has been nothing but spin.

The Government have done nothing to increase the number of police officers on the street. There are now 3,000 fewer police officers than when they came to office in 1997. How hollow it seems to say that police officers will apprehend criminals if they are not around when the pubs turn out to deal with the people causing problems.

As I said, we are discussing a recycled issue. Curfew orders were introduced in January 1999, although none have been issued. Only 130 anti-social behaviour orders have been issued. It was interesting to hear one hon. Member say that nine orders had been issued in his constituency. I am sure that he is grateful for that, but the level of crime and people's anxieties warrant more than merely the 130 anti-social behaviour orders that have been issued. The Government have not given the police the support that they deserve. Not only have police numbers been reduced, special constables are also down by 10,000, which puts more strain on people in regular service.

My right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor opened today's debate on the economy, which is an appropriate subject with which to conclude consideration of the Queen's Speech. We have demonstrated clearly that the Government are all spin and no delivery. They have no vision for the next Parliament and can campaign only on their record, which is poor. As we have heard—I know that Labour Members do not like to be reminded of this—the Prime Minister said that he had no plans to increase tax at all. However, under the Government the tax burden has risen to 37.8 per cent. of national income—an increase since the election of 2.6 per cent. That is the equivalent of an extra lop in the pound on income tax, which is a tax increase by anybody's standards.

The Government also say that they are committed to increasing spending during the next three years at a much faster rate than the growth of the economy. My hon. Friends have referred to that commitment during today's debate, but it does not seem to matter to the Government, especially the Chancellor, who seems to think that the Government can fall in behind the spin that they have put on our national economy, and believe their own figures.

Additional taxes have been imposed on business, as well a greater burden through the cost of red tape. In today's debate, many hon. Members from all parties have spoken about the economy, different sectors of manufacturing industry and businesses throughout the country. It is, therefore, interesting that Labour Members merely dismiss the extra regulatory and taxation burden that has been imposed on business and its consequences—of course, there are, ultimately, consequences.

The savings ratio is now 3 per cent., which is its lowest level since 1963. I should point out something for the benefit of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Beard), who said that the savings ratio is not much talked about in the pubs in his constituency. His constituents should know, even if he does not, that when the savings ratio drops, it means that they have lost all incentive to put money aside for a rainy day, retirement or ill health. That has an effect on their day-to-day lives.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

That may not be the explanation at all. Those people may be content and confident of the future, and might not feel the need to lay down savings.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I suspect that, as they are paying more taxes, they have less money in their pockets on a Friday night. When deciding what to do with their residual income, they have too little to think of popping into the building society and putting a bit away on a Saturday morning. That is the reality of life in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and especially in mine, which has a high population of elderly people who are prudent and cautious.

On the subject of prudence, what a marvellous service my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) rendered the House by exposing the fact that Prudence is a fallen woman. We shall all remember his words, and it is up to the Chancellor to save Prudence and restore her reputation because, under his care and patronage, Prudence is in the gutter.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) outlined the chaos in the public services and the manufacturing sector, speaking particularly about many organisations and businesses in his constituency that he has visited. On hearing his words, we all reflected on the fact that the same remarks could be made about all our constituencies, no matter which side of the House we sit on.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell) spoke not only with the benefit of his experience as a former Treasury and Cabinet Minister, but as a person with experience at the sharp end—working in and representing manufacturing industries. He spoke about the way that the Government have changed the flexibility of our labour markets, mentioning in particular the fact that not only has the social chapter been introduced under this Government, but that trade unions have received statutory recognition. I can assure him and the House that, when we come to office next year, we shall abolish the statutory recognition of trade unions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!] Labour Members say "Oh!", but that announcement has been made many times and met with acclaim out there in the real world.

I pay tribute to the contribution of the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross), who spelled out the problem of fuel prices in Northern Ireland and people whizzing to and fro across the border with the Republic to buy petrol because of the pressure that those prices put on them. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) and take great pleasure in welcoming him to his place. I congratulate him on his maiden speech, which I hope will be the first of many other speeches, and look forward to engaging with him on some of the more contentious issues that he mentioned. However, I am generous enough to overlook them tonight.

During the debates on the Queen's Speech, Labour Members have flattered us by being more interested in discussing Conservative policies than the Government's legislative programme. It is no surprise that first out of the traps is the Hunting Bill. That shows how the Government prioritise the matters that they think are important to the country: not the big law and order issues or the Children's Commissioner for Wales—[Interruption.] The Leader of the House shakes her head. I have made those remarks publicly several times this week, so has she been shamed into changing the batting order? I would be pleased to hear that she has changed her mind.

The Government have shown their instinct by what they have put at the top of their list in what is probably the last Session of this Parliament: not children, not law and order and not the yob culture, but foxes. That says all that there is to say about the priorities and values of this Administration. Hunting and the gerrymandering of the procedures of the House are, apparently, their only true objectives. The country is six days closer to an election than when the Queen's Speech debate began. I am delighted to have wound-up the debate—I hope without winding up the Government too much—and all I can say to Labour Members is, "Tally ho!"

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office) 9:38 pm, 13th December 2000

We have had a useful series of debates in which many and varied contributions have been made. Given that we are looking back over six days, I cannot mention every Member who has spoken, and I apologise for that, but it is right to refer at once to my three hon. Friends who made maiden speeches. As the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) was gracious enough to say, each contributed extremely well and I am sure that we shall hear from them again, and often. The whole House welcomes them to our proceedings. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) pointed out, the presence of my hon. Friends may be a clear signal of people's concern about the £24 million of cuts that the Conservative party seeks to inflict on every constituency in the country. That message deserves—and, I assure the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton, it will receive—much wider circulation.

Inevitably, the background to the six days of debate has been the condition of our country; the specific focus has been on the proposals in the Queen's Speech. One thing that is clear from the past six days, without any shadow of doubt, is that the Conservative party's briefing is headlined "All spin and no delivery".

The Leader of the Opposition—he was the first to use the phrase, but I think that every Conservative Member has used it at some point—chose to describe some of my hon. Friends as Lobby fodder. As I watched Opposition Members line up to be mown down by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I thought "cannon fodder" might be the right term for them.

Today's proceedings started with an extraordinary speech from the shadow Chancellor. He began by saying that the number of Bills included in the Queen's Speech showed the Government to be devoid of ideas, a point echoed by the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). A number of Opposition Members wanted to add more. Over the past few days they have cited measures which they claim the Government promised to introduce but which are not included, and—somehow—a further list of measures which they say they would themselves introduce. The hon. Member for Southend, as we must now learn to call him—[HON. MEMBERS: "Southend, West."] I beg his pardon; I mean the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess). I am so used to referring to him as the hon. Member for Basildon, which he was until he thought better of it.

Anyway, the hon. Gentleman called for more or less a whole legislative programme of his very own. By a remarkable coincidence, his hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Mr. Loughton) called for the very same programme. Perhaps that too was in the Conservative party briefing.

Having spent all last year criticising us for producing too much legislation, and for the fact that too much was mentioned in the Queen's Speech, this year the Conservative party has criticised us for the opposite. Of course one can never win with the Tories, but that shows why we must all hope that they never do. It would be unwise to expect consistency from a party that, on the one hand, criticises us for investing too much in public services and, on the other—in every speech and in every constituency—demands more.

Both the shadow Chancellor and the right hon. Member for Huntingdon overlooked an inconvenient fact. Fifteen Bills are mentioned in the Queen's Speech; both of them have clearly forgotten that only 15 were mentioned in the 1992 Queen's Speech. That was a post-election Queen's Speech, relating to an 18-month parliamentary term. Thirteen Bills were included in the 1994 Queen's Speech, and 16 in that of 1995. I do not think we need to hear any more rubbish about the length of the Queen's Speech being an indication of the Government's having run out of steam.

The Queen's Speech conveys a strategic framework—the legislative spine—beyond which there is a full programme of delivery. Given the context, and given many of the speeches we have heard, I think it right to contrast that with the proposals of the Conservative party. It was, after all, only a year or so ago that they announced their five guarantees. There was the patients guarantee, the parents guarantee, the sterling guarantee, the "can work, must work" guarantee and, of course, the tax guarantee.

A year later, how many of those guarantees survive? As I understand it, none—not one. They all seem to have gone. To lose one guarantee may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two certainly looks like carelessness; but to lose three looks like Conservative party policy. What was that about "all spin and no delivery"? With the Tories, it is all guesswork and no guarantees.

But of course the Tories have always been like it. The shadow Chancellor and the right hon. Member for Huntingdon both looked back to the golden age when they were so successfully in power. The shadow Chancellor told us that the Tories would increase investment and cut taxes; the right hon. Member for Huntingdon talked of what they did in the 1980s and 1990s. Let me remind the Tories of what they did in the 1980s and 1990s in regard to investment and tax cuts. Yes, there were occasional years in which, on a one-off basis, spending on public services rose; but was there a consistent combination of investment and tax cuts? I do not think so. That did not happen, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Beard) ably demonstrated.

The shadow Chancellor said that his party's policy was based on honesty and transparency. In 1983, which was a general election year, the Conservatives cut taxes a month before the election. They cut spending the month after. Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that equally well? In 1987, they cut taxes before the election, but the spending that they promised during the election failed to materialise. In 1992, they told us that they could improve public services and cut taxes, but then they gave us 22 tax increases because of the black hole in their finances, to which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred. Because they had boom and bust in the economy, they delivered boom and bust in public services.

The right hon. Member for Huntingdon claimed credit for our inheritance. What about theirs? What about the windfall benefits of North sea oil?

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office)

I am so pleased to have upset the shadow Chancellor. He will be even more upset in a second. By 1997, the Tory Government had had the equivalent in today's money of £35 million every single day of the week for a solid 17 years. I shall say that again in case the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten: £35 million every single day for 17 solid years. That was the opportunity given to the Conservatives, but they never delivered a sustained and stable programme of long-term investment in Britain.

When faced with such unpalatable facts, the Opposition cannon fodder abdicate the debate and vaguely claim that it is all spin. It is the argument of a party that has no argument. Neither is their claim borne out by the facts or by the experience of millions of people throughout the country who, under this Government, have witnessed significant change for the better in many things that matter in their lives. They have seen much done, although we all recognise that there is much more still to do.

The shadow Chancellor went even further than saying that it was all spin: he claimed that the Government had failed utterly to improve the position that we inherited or to perform what we promised. Let us examine that contention. We said that we would restore the public finances. We inherited annual borrowing of £28 billion, and we shall deliver a £6 billion surplus in 2001. We said that we would tackle inflation, and it is now the lowest in the European Union, with the lowest underlying inflation rate in this country since records began in 1975. We said that we would try to tackle unemployment, and it is lower now than it has been for 25 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber) quoted a reduction in unemployment in her constituency of 40 per cent., and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Sir J. Morris) cited a reduction in youth unemployment in his constituency of 86 per cent.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Will the right hon. Lady tell the House why there are now fewer policemen, fewer hospital beds, fewer trains, fewer trains that run on time, and a far worse mess in manufacturing, farming and fishing than there were in 1997?

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office)

I did not quite catch the tail end of the right hon. Gentleman's list, but I assure him that we are conscious of the fact that, in the opening years of this Government, we needed to deal with the debt that we inherited from the Tories. Thus we were unable to put investment into public services as speedily as we had hoped. The right hon. Gentleman talked about fewer hospital beds and fewer nurses, but there would have been a lot more if the Conservative party had not cut the training programmes. We are doing our best to turn the situation around, but it takes three years to train a nurse, seven to train a doctor, and 10 years to provide a road building programme.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office)

Oh, I am so grateful to the hon. Lady for reminding me. Yes, indeed, for years we told the Conservatives when they were in government that the health service would suffer as a result of the cuts in beds that they introduced in every specialty. They did not listen then, and they are clearly not listening now.

I shall return to the issue of delivery. We said that we would introduce a national minimum wage, and the Conservative party said that it would cost 2 million jobs. The Liberal Democrats said that it should be a regional minimum wage, because they wanted it to be lower in the south-west. I am not sure how often they remind their constituents of that, but there you go.

The latest figures for the new deal show that more than our target of 250,000 young people have successfully been helped. The new deal and the windfall tax were opposed by both Opposition parties. We said that we would seek economic stability. Interest rates have varied by no more than 2.5 percentage points since May 1997, and now stand at 6 per cent., as they have for the past 10 months. We are now spending an extra £4.5 billion in real terms on pensioners, with more to come, and we have introduced the biggest ever increase in child benefit. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) reminded us how important that is and the fact that the Conservative party website does not recognise the word "children". Perhaps that is why no Conservative Members mentioned it.

The shadow Chancellor talked about class sizes. He knows that our pledge was to reduce infant class sizes, and that it is being kept. On school standards, this year 75 per cent. of 11-year-olds achieved the literacy standard for their age—up 10 per cent.—and 72 per cent. of 11-year-olds achieved the expected numeracy standard for their age—up 13 per cent.

The in-patient waiting list is, as promised, below the level we inherited—126,000 below—and free eye tests for pensioners have been restored. All those points were made forcefully by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale). I recommend to the cannon fodder on the Opposition Benches that, next time the words "all spin and no substance" rise to their lips, they reflect for a second on what the Government have already achieved and compare it with their own dismal record.

All those things are the fruits of previous legislative and non-legislative change. When we measure that record against the Opposition's charge of no delivery, we know who is really in a flat spin to know what to say and how much notice to take of what they say about the Queen' s Speech.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I keep the Labour party's pledge card close to my heart. The right hon. Lady has referred to many pledges and prayed in aid the delivery of the pledges that the Government made nearly four years ago. However, is it not true that somebody else has paid the price for the delivery of the pledges that she has mentioned today? When the Government cut the class size for children under seven, children over seven pay with larger classes. When they cut the waiting lists in order to get through a lot of operations in one day, it is not the urgent or ill patients who are treated. The cardiac and cancer patients have to wait their turn while the Government deliver their pledge. That is not delivery; it is cynical, political electioneering. It is cynicism at the expense of—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The hon. Lady should be brief.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office)

What a lot of nonsense. The hon. Lady talks about cardiac and cancer patients, but I remind her that the principal reason why those patients have to wait is that we do not have enough consultants in those specialties. It takes seven years to train a consultant. The hon. Lady said—it is one of the most stupid points made by Opposition Members—that we have lower class sizes, but that it is paid for by increases in class size elsewhere. That is absolute rubbish. However, at least she conceded that we have lower class sizes. The shadow Chancellor said that none of our pledges had been met. Secondary school class sizes have been rising for 10 years. I do not think that Opposition Members know anything about teaching primary-age children. The notion that somebody who would be teaching Latin, maths or geography in a secondary school will go and teach reading to infant school children just shows how out of touch they are with the real world.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Why, since January 1999, have 3,000 people, typically sentenced to 20 months' imprisonment, been released after only eight? I am referring to the 3,000 drug dealers on whom the Government have gone soft.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office)

The hon. Gentleman was here to contribute to the Home Office debate. He will have heard my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary deal with those points, as he does whenever Opposition Members raise them.

The hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Mr. Taylor) made an interesting speech, not least when he called for a 20 per cent. devaluation of the pound. Yet again, he pretended that the Liberal Democrats' 1p on tax would have exceeded our investment record. He must know that that is nonsense. In almost every area, the Government have already delivered more than the Liberal Democrats even dared to offer.

Alongside increased investment, the Government will go forward in the Session with a programme of work centred on improving public services and tackling crime—central not just to our programme, but to the concerns of the people of this country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) chairs the crime community partnership in Barnsley. He told us of the success that it had already achieved, with reported crime down by 35 or 36 per cent. in one area. In the Queen's Speech, we are bringing forward a range of measures that are aimed at combating different aspects of crime. They include crime in the streets, cracking down on the yob culture that is defacing and shaming Britain; crime on the roads, with stolen or bodged-up vehicles; crime and drugs; and crime and profits. Too many criminals are big-time professionals living high on the hog on the profits of crime, so there will be draft legislation to ensure that we confiscate their capital and that crime does not pay.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) drew attention to the need to tackle rogue companies in the private security industry. The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) confirmed that reputable companies will welcome that.

Some large-scale crime operates through social security fraud. We have already seen a significant drop in fraud of 6.5 per cent., but, again, we will step up action on that front.

Safety and security are about not just combating crime, but knowing that there is a proper health service for people when they need it. Our Health plan—a plan for the crown jewel of our public services—must deliver the modernisation and reform that can make best use of the unprecedented investment that we are committed to provide. It is the centrepiece of our legislative programme. It will demonstrate the stark choice before the country: that jewel re-cut, gleaming in a modern setting, providing health care for all; or what the Shadow Chancellor called a "mixed economy" health system under the Conservatives, a two-tier health service. Long-term care will be free. I note that the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) welcomed that.

We have too often overlooked the need to tackle the causes of ill health. That is why we will bring forward legislation to help to tackle smoking, which kills 120,000 people every year in this country. It is a huge charge on us all, as well as a huge waste of life. With some defined exceptions, tobacco advertising will be banned. Tobacco promotion will be banned. Over time, tobacco sponsorship will be banned.

Although crime and health are the key priorities for the Government, the speech and the programme contain much else: measures for children with special educational and care needs; measures on housing; and an early chance to give a view on the different approaches to hunting with hounds. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton referred to the Regulatory Reform Bill, which will give us the power to remove regulation that is accepted to be out of date and unnecessary, but that until now we needed primary legislation to replace.

The Opposition are in theory committed to deregulation, although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) told us, in practice, Conservative participation in the Deregulation Committee is almost nil … on many occasions not a single Conservative Member is present.—[Official Report, 6 December 2000; Vol. 359, c. 39.] Yet again, the theoretical commitment is there, but the practice is absent.

Whatever the Opposition's inadequacies, the key elements in our programme underline the major choices facing Britain: the choice between economic stability and boom and bust; the choice between investment in our public services, including investment over the long term, and cuts in those services; the choice between strong communities and the idea that there is no such thing as society; the choice between leadership and isolation, as we have seen with the Conservative party's policies on Europe. What the Queen's Speech and our programme show above all is that the choice is between a Government who are about investment and planning for the long term and for the whole country, and a party that is hooked on opportunistic bandwagoning and campaigning for cuts in our public services, and is for the few rather than the many.

Those are the choices that lie behind the legislative programme in the Gracious Speech. Those are the choices that face the people of this country and the Members of the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 178, Noes 326.

Division No. 6][10 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Blunt, Crispin
Allan, RichardBody, Sir Richard
Amess, DavidBoswell, Tim
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelBottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon JamesBottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyBrady, Graham
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Brake, Tom
Baker, NormanBrand, Dr Peter
Baldry, TonyBreed, Colin
Ballard, JackieBrooke, Rt Hon Peter
Beggs, RoyBrowning, Mrs Angela
Beith, Rt Hon A JBruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Burnett, John
Bercow, JohnBurns, Simon
Beresford, Sir PaulBurstow, Paul
Butterfill, JohnLaing, Mrs Eleanor
Cable, Dr VincentLait, Mrs Jacqui
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Letwin, Oliver
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Chidgey, DavidLivsey, Richard
Chope, ChristopherLoughton, Tim
Clappison, JamesLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)McIntosh, Miss Anne
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
Collins, TimMaclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Cotter, BrianMcLoughlin, Patrick
Cran, JamesMadel, Sir David
Curry, Rt Hon DavidMajor, Rt Hon John
Davey, Edward (Kingston)Malins, Humfrey
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)Maples, John
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Mates, Michael
Day, StephenMaude, Rt Hon Francis
Donaldson, JeffreyMawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenMay, Mrs Theresa
Duncan, AlanMichie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Duncan Smith, IainMoore, Michael
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterMoss, Malcolm
Evans, NigelNicholls, Patrick
Faber, DavidNorman, Archie
Fabricant, MichaelOaten, Mark
Fallon, MichaelO'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Fearn, RonnieOttaway, Richard
Flight, HowardPage, Richard
Forth, Rt Hon EricPaice, James
Foster, Don (Bath)Pickles, Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanPortillo, Rt Hon Michael
Fox, Dr LiamPrior, David
Gale, RogerRandall, John
Garnier, EdwardRedwood, Rt Hon John
George, Andrew (St Ives)Rendel, David
Gibb, NickRobathan, Andrew
Gidley, SandraRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Gill, ChristopherRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Gillan, Mrs CherylRoss, William (E Lond'y)
Gorman, Mrs TeresaRowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Gray, JamesRussell, Bob (Colchester)
Green, DamianSt Aubyn, Nick
Greenway, JohnSanders, Adrian
Grieve, DominicSayeed, Jonathan
Gummer, Rt Hon JohnShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Hague, Rt Hon WilliamShepherd, Richard
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchieSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Hammond, PhilipSmith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Harris, Dr EvanSoames, Nicholas
Harvey, NickSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Hawkins, NickSpring, Richard
Hayes, JohnStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Heald, OliverSteen, Anthony
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)Streeter, Gary
Heath, Rt Hon Sir EdwardStunell, Andrew
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon DavidSwayne, Desmond
Hogg, Rt Hon DouglasSyms, Robert
Horam, JohnTapsell, Sir Peter
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelTaylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hunter, AndrewTonge, Dr Jenny
Jack, Rt Hon MichaelTownend, John
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Tredinnick, David
Jenkin, BernardTrend, Michael
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Tyler, Paul
Keetch, PaulTyrie, Andrew
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Key, RobertWaterson, Nigel
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)Webb, Steve
Kirkbride, Miss JulieWells, Bowen
Kirkwood, ArchyWhitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, JohnWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss AnnYeo, Tim
Wilkinson, JohnYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Willetts, David
Willis, PhilTellers for the Ayes:
Wilshire, DavidMr. Peter Luff and
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Corbyn, Jeremy
Ainger, NickCorston, Jean
Alexander, DouglasCousins, Jim
Allen, GrahamCox, Tom
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Cranston, Ross
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Crausby, David
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryCryer, John (Hornchurch)
Atkins, CharlotteCummings, John
Austin, JohnCunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, TonyCunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Barnes, HarryCurtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Barron, KevinDarling, Rt Hon Alistair
Bayley, HughDarvill, Keith
Beard, NigelDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretDavidson, Ian
Begg, Miss AnneDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)Dawson, Hilton
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Dean, Mrs Janet
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)Denham, John
Bennett, Andrew FDismore, Andrew
Benton, JoeDobbin, Jim
Bermingham, GeraldDobson, Rt Hon Frank
Berry, RogerDonohoe, Brian H
Best, HaroldDoran, Frank
Betts, CliveDowd, Jim
Blackman, LizDrew, David
Blears, Ms HazelDunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Boateng, Rt Hon PaulEagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Borrow, DavidEdwards, Huw
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Efford, Clive
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bradshaw, BenEnnis, Jeff
Brinton, Mrs HelenEtherington, Bill
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E)Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)Fitzpatrick, Jim
Browne, DesmondFitzsimons, Mrs Loma
Buck, Ms KarenFlint, Caroline
Burgon, ColinFlynn, Paul
Butler, Mrs ChristineFollett, Barbara
Byers, Rt Hon StephenFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Campbell-Savours, DaleFoulkes, George
Caplin, IvorGalloway, George
Casale, RogerGardiner, Barry
Caton, MartinGerrard, Neil
Cawsey, IanGibson, Dr Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Chaytor, DavidGodman, Dr Norman A
Clapham, MichaelGodsrff, Roger
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Golding, Mrs Llin
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Grocott, Bruce
Clelland, DavidGrogan, John
Clwyd, AnnHall, Patrick (Bedford)
Coffey, Ms AnnHamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Cohen, HarryHanson, David
Coleman, IainHarman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Colman, TonyHealey, John
Corbett, RobinHenderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Martlew, Eric
Hendrick, MarkMaxton, John
Heppell, JohnMeale, Alan
Hewitt, Ms PatriciaMerron, Gillian
Hill, KeithMichael, Rt Hon Alun
Hinchliffe, DavidMichie, Bill (Shefld Heeley)
Hodge, Ms MargaretMilburn, Rt Hon Alan
Hoey, KateMiller, Andrew
Hope, PhilMitchell, Austin
Hopkins, KelvinMoonie, Dr Lewis
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Howells, Dr KimMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hoyle, LindsayMorgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, AlanMorris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr BrianMudie, George
Illsley, EricMullin, Chris
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Jamieson, DavidMurphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Jenkins, BrianNaysmith, Dr Doug
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)Norris, Dan
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)O'Hara, Eddie
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)Olner, Bill
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)O'Neill, Martin
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)Organ, Mrs Diana
Palmer, Dr Nick
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Pearson, Ian
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Pendry, Tom
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Perham, Ms Linda
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms TessaPickthall, Colin
Keeble, Ms SallyPike, Peter L
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)Plaskitt, James
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)Pollard, Kerry
Kemp, FraserPond, Chris
Khabra, Piara SPope, Greg
Kidney, DavidPound, Stephen
Kilfoyle, PeterPowell, Sir Raymond
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Kumar, Dr AshokPrescott, Rt Hon John
Ladyman, Dr StephenPrimarolo, Dawn
Laxton, BobProsser, Gwyn
Lepper, DavidPurchase, Ken
Levitt, TomQuinn, Lawrie
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)Rammell, Bill
Linton, MartinRaynsford, Nick
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Llwyd, ElfynRobertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Lock, David
Love, AndrewRobinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
McAvoy, ThomasRogers, Allan
McCabe, SteveRooker, Rt Hon Jeff
McCafferty, Ms ChrisRooney, Terry
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
McDonagh, SiobhainRoy, Frank
McDonnell, JohnRuddock, Joan
McIsaac, ShonaRussell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McKenna, Mrs RosemaryRyan, Ms Joan
Mackinlay, AndrewSalmond, Alex
MacShane, DenisSalter, Martin
Mactaggart, FionaSarwar, Mohammad
McWalter, TonySavidge, Malcolm
McWilliam, JohnSawford, Phil
Mahon, Mrs AliceSedgemore, Brian
Mallaber, JudyShaw, Jonathan
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Sheerman, Barry
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Short, Rt Hon Clare
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Marshall-Andrews, RobertSingh, Marsha
Skinner, DennisTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)Walley, Ms Joan
Soley, CliveWard, Ms Claire
Spellar, JohnWareing, Robert N
Starkey, Dr PhyllisWhite, Brian
Steinberg, GerryWhitehead, Dr Alan
Stevenson, GeorgeWicks, Malcolm
Stinchcombe, PaulWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr GavinWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Sutcliffe, GerryWilliams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)Wood, Mike
Temple-Morris, PeterWoolas, Phil
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)Worthington, Tony
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Timms, StephenWright, Tony (Cannock)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, MarkTellers for the Noes:
Touhig, DonMr. Mike Hall and
Truswell, PaulMr. Robert Ainsworth.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed, at the end of the question, to add:'But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech fails to address the urgent need to protect the rights of the individual, reinforce communities and promote enterprise through increased liberalisation, decentralisation and deregulation; call for measures to reduce bureaucracy in schools and in the NHS, and increase professional recruitment and retention; call for a reforming agenda including the prevention of discrimination on grounds of age, disability, religion, sex and sexual orientation; urge the introduction of measures to increase the accountability of the police, promote crime prevention and victims' rights, rehabilitate offenders in the community, and establish a Royal Commission to examine the misuse of all drugs; regret the continued failure of the Government to provide for referendums on a fair voting system for the House of Commons and the European Single Currency; deplore the Government's continued neglect of rural occupations and communities; and regret that the timidity of the other measures in the Gracious Speech will do little to assist those who are worst off in society.'.—[Mr. Tyler.]

Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Calling of amendments at end of debate), That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 46, Noes 322.

Division No. 7][10.15 pm
Allan, RichardCotter, Brian
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyDavey, Edward (Kingston)
Baker, NormanFearn, Ronnie
Ballard, JackieFoster, Don (Bath)
Beggs, RoyGeorge, Andrew (St Ives)
Beith, Rt Hon A JGidley, Sandra
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Harris, Dr Evan
Brake, TomHarvey, Nick
Brand, Dr PeterHeath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Burnett, JohnHughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Burstow, PaulJones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Cable, Dr VincentKeetch, Paul
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Chidgey, DavidKirkwood, Archy
Livsey, RichardTaylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Llwyd, ElfynTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Maclennan, Rt Hon RobertThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)Tonge, Dr Jenny
Moore, MichaelTyler, Paul
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)Webb, Steve
Oaten, MarkWillis, Phil
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)Tellers for the Ayes:
Salmond, AlexMr. Andrew Stunell and
Sanders, AdrianSir Robert Smith.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Cohen, Harry
Ainger, NickColeman, Iain
Alexander, DouglasColman, Tony
Allen, GrahamCorbett, Robin
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Corbyn, Jeremy
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Corston, Jean
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryCousins, Jim
Atkins, CharlotteCox, Tom
Austin, JohnCranston, Ross
Bailey, AdrianCrausby, David
Banks, TonyCryer, John (Hornchurch)
Barnes, HarryCummings, John
Barron, KevinCunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, NigelCunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretCurtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Begg, Miss AnneDarling, Rt Hon Alistair
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Darvill, Keith
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Davidson, Ian
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bennett, Andrew FDavies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Benton, JoeDawson, Hilton
Bermingham, GeraldDean, Mrs Janet
Berry, RogerDenham, John
Best, HaroldDismore, Andrew
Betts, CliveDobbin, Jim
Blackman, LizDobson, Rt Hon Frank
Blears, Ms HazelDonaldson, Jeffrey
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidDonohoe, Brian H
Boateng, Rt Hon PaulDoran, Frank
Borrow, DavidDowd, Jim
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Drew, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bradshaw, BenEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Brinton, Mrs HelenEagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E)Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)Ellman, Mrs Louise
Browne, DesmondEnnis, Jeff
Buck, Ms KarenEtherington, Bill
Burgon, ColinField, Rt Hon Frank
Butler, Mrs ChristineFisher, Mark
Byers, Rt Hon StephenFitzpatrick, Jim
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Flint, Caroline
Campbell-Savours, DaleFlynn, Paul
Caplin, IvorFollett, Barbara
Casale, RogerFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Caton, MartinFoster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Cawsey, IanFoster, Michael J (Worcester)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Foulkes, George
Chaytor, DavidGalloway, George
Clapham, MichaelGardiner, Barry
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Gerrard, Neil
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Godman, Dr Norman A
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Godsiff, Roger
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Golding, Mrs Llin
Clelland, DavidGordon, Mrs Eileen
Clwyd, AnnGriffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Coffey, Ms AnnGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Mahon, Mrs Alice
Grocott, BruceMallaber, Judy
Grogan, JohnMarsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Hanson, DavidMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Harman, Rt Hon Ms HarrietMarshall-Andrews, Robert
Healey, JohnMartlew, Eric
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)Maxton, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Meale, Alan
Hendrick, MarkMerron, Gillian
Heppell, JohnMichael, Rt Hon Alun
Hewitt, Ms PatriciaMichie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Hill, KeithMilburn, Rt Hon Alan
Hinchliffe, DavidMiller, Andrew
Hodge, Ms MargaretMitchell, Austin
Hoey, KateMoonie, Dr Lewis
Hope, PhilMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hopkins, KelvinMorgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, LindsayMorris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Humble, Mrs JoanMudie, George
Hurst, AlanMullin, Chris
Hutton, JohnMurphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Iddon, Dr BrianMurphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Illsley, EricNaysmith, Dr Doug
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Norris, Dan
Jamieson, DavidO'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Jenkins, BrianO'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)O'Hara, Eddie
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)Organ, Mrs Diana
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)Palmer, Dr Nick
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Pearson, Ian
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Pickthall, Colin
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Pike, Peter L
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Plaskitt, James
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms TessaPollard, Kerry
Keeble, Ms SallyPond, Chris
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)Pope, Greg
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)Pound, Stephen
Kemp, FraserPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Khabra, Piara SPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Kidney, DavidPrescott, Rt Hon John
Kilfoyle, PeterPrimarolo, Dawn
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)Prosser, Gwyn
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)Purchase, Ken
Kumar, Dr AshokQuinn, Lawrie
Ladyman, Dr StephenRadice, Rt Hon Giles
Laxton, BobRammell, Bill
Lepper, DavidRaynsford, Nick
Levitt, TomReed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, MartinRobinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)Rogers, Allan
Lock, DavidRooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Love, AndrewRooney, Terry
McAvoy, ThomasRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
McCabe, SteveRoss, William (E Lond'y)
McCafferty, Ms ChrisRowlands, Ted
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
McDonagh, SiobhainRussell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McDonnell, JohnRyan, Ms Joan
McIsaac, ShonaSalter, Martin
McKenna, Mrs RosemarySarwar, Mohammad
Mackinlay, AndrewSavidge, Malcolm
MacShane, DenisSawford, Phil
Mactaggart, FionaSedgemore, Brian
McWalter, TonyShaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, BarryTouhig, Don
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertTruswell, Paul
Short, Rt Hon ClareTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Singh, MarshaTurner, Neil (Wigan)
Skinner, DennisTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)Vaz, Keith
Smith, Angela (Basildon)Vis, Dr Rudi
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)Walley, Ms Joan
Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)White, Brian
Soley, CliveWhitehead, Dr Alan
Spellar, JohnWicks, Malcolm
Starkey, Dr PhyllisWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Steinberg, GerryWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Stevenson, GeorgeWilliams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Stoate, Dr HowardWills, Michael
Strang, Rt Hon Dr GavinWinnick, David
Sutcliffe, GerryWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)Worthington, Tony
Taylor, David (NW Leics)Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Temple-Morris, PeterWright, Tony (Cannock)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, StephenTellers for the Noes:
Tipping, PaddyMr. Robert Ainsworth and
Todd, MarkMr. Mike Hall.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main question put:

The house divided: Ayes 317, Noes 183.

Division No. 8][10.28 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Ainger, Nick
Alexander, DouglasBrown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Allen, GrahamBrowne, Desmond
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Buck, Ms Karen
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Burgon, Colin
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryButler, Mrs Christine
Atkins, CharlotteByers, Rt Hon Stephen
Austin, JohnCampbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Bailey, AdrianCampbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Banks, TonyCampbell-Savours, Dale
Barnes, HarryCaplin, Ivor
Barron, KevinCasale, Roger
Bayley, HughCaton, Martin
Beard, NigelCawsey, Ian
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Begg, Miss AnneClapham, Michael
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Bennett, Andrew FClarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Benton, JoeClarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Bermingham, GeraldClelland, David
Berry, RogerClwyd, Ann
Best, HaroldCoffey, Ms Ann
Betts, CliveCohen, Harry
Blackman, LizColeman, Iain
Blears, Ms HazelColman, Tony
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidCorbett, Robin
Boateng, Rt Hon PaulCorbyn, Jeremy
Borrow, DavidCorston, Jean
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Cousins, Jim
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Cox, Tom
Bradshaw, BenCranston, Ross
Brinton, Mrs HelenCrausby, David
Cryer, John (Homchunch)Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cummings, JohnHumble, Mrs Joan
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Iddon, Dr Brian
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs ClaireIllsley, Eric
Darling, Rt Hon AlistairJackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Darvill, KeithJamieson, David
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Jenkins, Brian
Davidson, IanJohnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Dawson, HiltonJones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Dean, Mrs JanetJones, Helen (Warnington N)
Denham, JohnJones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, JimJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dobson, Rt Hon FrankJones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Donohoe, Brian HJones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Doran, FrankJowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Dowd, JimKeeble, Ms Sally
Drew, DavidKeen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Kemp, Fraser
Edwards, HuwKhabra, Piara S
Efford, CliveKidney, David
Ellman, Mrs LouiseKilfoyle, Peter
Etherington, BillKing, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Field, Rt Hon FrankKing, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Fisher, MarkKumar, Dr Ashok
Fitzpatrick, JimLadyman, Dr Stephen
Fitzsimons, Mrs LornaLaxton, Bob
Flint, CarolineLepper, David
Flynn, PaulLevitt, Tom
Follett, BarbaraLewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Foster, Rt Hon DerekLewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)Llwyd, Elfyn
Foulkes, GeorgeLock, David
Galloway, GeorgeLove, Andrew
Gardiner, BarryMcAvoy, Thomas
Gerrard, NeilMcCabe, Steve
Gibson, Dr IanMcCafferty, Ms Chris
Gilroy, Mrs LindaMcCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, RogerMcDonagh, Siobhain
Golding, Mrs LlinMcDonnell, John
Gordon, Mrs EileenMcIsaac, Shona
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Mackinlay, Andrew
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)MacShane, Denis
Grocott, BruceMactaggart, Fiona
Grogan, JohnMcWalter, Tony
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)McWilliam, John
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hanson, DavidMallaber, Judy
Harman, Rt Hon Ms HarrietMarsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Healey JohnMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)Marshall, David (SheWeston)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Hendrick, MarkMarshall-Andrews, Robert
Heppell, JohnMartlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Hewitt, Ms PatriciaMeale, Alan
Hill, KeithMerron, Gillian
Hinchliffe, DavidMichael, Rt Hon Alun
Hodge, Ms MargaretMichie, Bill (Shefld Heeley)
Hoey, KateMilburn, Rt Hon Alan
Hope, PhilMiller, Andrew
Hopkins, KelvinMitchell, Austin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)Moonie, Dr Lewis
Howells, Dr KimMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hoyle, LindsayMorgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Mudie, GeorgeSmith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Mullin, ChrisSmith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Naysmith, Dr DougSoley, Clive
Norris, DanSpellar, John
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)Starkey, Dr Phyllis
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Steinberg, Gerry
O'Hara, EddieStevenson, George
Olner, BillStinchcombe, Paul
O'Neill, MartinStoate, Dr Howard
Organ, Mrs DianaStrang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Palmer, Dr NickSutcliffe, Gerry
Pearson, IanTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms LindaTaylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Pickthall, ColinTaylor, David (NW Leics)
Pike, Peter LTemple-Morris, Peter
Plaskitt, JamesThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Pollard, KerryThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Pond, ChrisTimms, Stephen
Pope, GregTipping, Paddy
Pound, StephenTodd, Mark
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Touhig, Don
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Truswell, Paul
Prescott, Rt Hon JohnTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Primarolo DawnTurner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Prosser, GwynTurner, Neil (Wigan)
Purchase, KenTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Quinn, LawrieVis, Dr Rudi
Radice, Rt Hon GilesWalley, Ms Joan
Rammell, BillWard, Ms Claire
Raynsford, NickWareing, Robert N
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)White, Brian
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, TerryWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Rowlands, TedWilliams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Roy, FrankWills, Michael
Ruddock, JoanWinnick, David
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Ryan, Ms JoanWood, Mike
Salter, MartinWoolas, Phil
Sarwar, MohammadWorthington, Tony
Savidge, MalcolmWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Sawford, PhilWright, Tony (Cannock)
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, JonathanTellers for the Ayes:
Sheerman, BarryMr. Mike Hall and
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Mr. Robert Ainsworth.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Allan, RichardBottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Amess, DavidBrady, Graham
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelBrake, Tom
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon JamesBrand, Dr Peter
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyBrooke, Rt Hon Peter
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Browning, Mrs Angela
Baker, NormanBruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Ballard, JackieBurnett, John
Beggs, RoyBurns, Simon
Beith, Rt Hon A JBurstow, Paul
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Butterfill, John
Bercow, JohnCable, Dr Vincent
Beresford, Sir PaulCampbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir RichardChapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Boswell, Tim
Chidgey, DavidLivsey, Richard
Chope, ChristopherLoughton, Tim
Clappison, JamesLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)McIntosh, Miss Anne
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
Collins, TimMaclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Cotter, BrianMcLoughlin, Patrick
Cran, JamesMadel, Sir David
Curry, Rt Hon DavidMajor, Rt Hon John
Davey, Edward (Kingston)Malins, Humfrey
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)Maples, John
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Day, StephenMawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Donaldson, JeffreyMay, Mrs Theresa
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenMichie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Duncan, AlanMoore, Michael
Duncan Smith, IainMorgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Evans, NigelMoss, Malcolm
Faber, DavidNicholls, Patrick
Fallon, MichaelNorman, Archie
Fearn, RonnieOaten, Mark
Flight, HowardO'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Forth, Rt Hon EricOttaway, Richard
Foster, Don (Bath)Page, Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanPaice, James
Fox, Dr LiamPickles, Eric
Gale, RogerPortillo, Rt Hon Michael
Garnier, EdwardPrior, David
George, Andrew (St Ives)Randall, John
Gibb, NickRedwood, Rt Hon John
Gidley, SandraRendel, David
Gill, ChristopherRobathan, Andrew
Gillan, Mrs CherylRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Gorman, Mrs TeresaRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Gray, JamesRoss, William (E Lond'y)
Green, DamianRowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Greenway, JohnRussell, Bob (Colchester)
Grieve, DominicSt Aubyn, Nick
Salmond, Alex
Gummer, Rt Hon JohnSanders, Adrian
Hague, Rt Hon WilliamSayeed, Jonathan
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchieShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Hammond, PhilipShepherd, Richard
Harris, Dr EvanSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Harvey, NickSmith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Hawkins, NickSoames, Nicholas
Hayes, JohnSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Heald, OliverSpring, Richard
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Heath, Rt Hon Sir EdwardSteen, Anthony
Hogg, Rt Hon DouglasStreeter, Gary
Horam, JohnStunell, Andrew
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelSwayne, Desmond
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Syms, Robert
Hughes, Simon (Southward N)Tapsell, Sir Peter
Hunter, AndrewTaylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Jack, Rt Hon MichaelTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Tonge, Dr Jenny
Jenkin, BernardTownend, John
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Tredinnick, David
Keetch, PaulTrend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)Tyrie, Andrew
Walter, Robert
Key, RobertWaterson, Nigel
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)Webb, Steve
Kirkbride, Miss JulieWells, Bowen
Kirkwood, ArchyWhitney, Sir Raymond
Laing, Mrs EleanorWhittingdale, John
Lait, Mrs JacquiWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Lansley, AndrewWilkinson, John
Leigh, EdwardWilletts, David
Letwin, OliverWillis, Phil
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterWilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)Tellers for the Noes:
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, TimMr. Peter Luff and
Young, Rt Hon Sir GeorgeMr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:Most Gracious Sovereign,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.