Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:27 pm on 6th July 2010.

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Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Labour, Scunthorpe 7:27 pm, 6th July 2010

I compliment Stephen Barclay on an excellent maiden speech, which gave us a clear vision of the opportunities and challenges of his fenland constituency. His contribution was clear and measured.

I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech just 23 years to the day after my predecessor, Elliot Morley, made his. What is more, 6 July appears to be a popular day for novice MPs from Scunthorpe-it was the day on which Michael Brown, who now scribbles so ably for The Independent, made his maiden speech. Elliot Morley served the constituency for nearly a quarter of a century as a respected, hard-working MP. He rightly gained a national and international reputation for his steadfast work on animal welfare and climate change. His record in helping to create a better world should not be lost in the wake of recent events.

I am the first MP for 80 years to represent the constituency after an adult lifetime of living and working in it. It is my adopted home town, and I love it. The first Labour MP for the area, David Quibell, was elected at the age of 50. He was born in Messingham, which still lies within the constituency boundary. A passionate early socialist who was active within the trade union movement and Independent Labour party, he, like me, knew the constituency inside out when he was elected in 1929 and took his place on the Labour Government Benches in an interlude between failing coalition Governments.

A contemporary of Quibell said:

"He was a revolutionary and a rough customer. If, at his meetings, anyone at the back interrupted, he would not think twice about getting down off the platform and thumping the interrupter."

You will be pleased to hear, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I do not plan to imitate Mr Quibell's style in that respect. My friends tell me that, if anything, I am too consensual in my approach. In that respect, I follow more in the footsteps of Ian Cawsey, who was the MP for Brigg and Goole until the election. Thanks to boundary changes, I inherited the village of Scawby from him. Ian demonstrated the power of cross-party working when he persuaded three other MPs-a Welsh Labour, a Scots Nat and a well spoken English Conservative-to join him in the band MP4. Out of those discordant political notes, musical harmony came forth, and I am told that their CD, "Cross Party", can be bought for just £10.99. It is still in stock in Oxford street's HMV, with all proceeds to Help for Heroes. I hope that hon. Members will not all rush off just yet.

I must also mention my friend, neighbour and mentor John Ellis, who represented Scunthorpe from 1974 to 1979. He does his level best to keep me on the straight and narrow, but has his work cut out, despairing from time to time at what he sees as my new Labour pragmatism.

The industrial garden town of Scunthorpe always surprises new visitors with its fine parks, green open spaces and magnificent floral displays. Its people are hard-working, neighbourly and welcoming. There is much to be proud of. It is home to the world-famous Corus steelworks, whose track record in producing high quality steel at competitive prices is second to none. There are vibrant businesses large and small, from the construction and logistics giant Clugstons to the organic farm shop, the Pink Pig, where you can buy, among other things, pink pigs-the soft, cuddly variety. All these businesses are witness to the innovation, hard work and enterprise of local people.

Scunthorpe boasts a Championship football team-up the Iron-and a rugby union team that achieved promotion to the national leagues this year, as well as a fine speedway outfit and a range of other great sports clubs. The area also has a vibrant arts, drama and musical community and is home to last year's BBC choir of the year, the Scunthorpe Junior Co-operative Choir. It has good schools and two high performing colleges, one of which, John Leggott, is renowned for the excellence of its education and which I have been privileged to lead as principal for the last four years.

In addition to those already mentioned, the constituency includes more fantastic towns and villages, Bottesford, Kirton, Redbourne, Hibaldstow, Gainsthorpe, Holme, Manton, Cadney and Howsham-all great places to live.

All of us, regardless of party or seniority, should have the humility to listen carefully to the people we seek to serve. The parties opposite are right when they say that Labour lost the election. We did, but let us be completely honest-no party won the election. Labour lost, the Conservatives lost and the Lib Dems lost. We all lost the election. Deals done behind closed doors put together the present ruling coalition, a coalition that-we were promised-would act in the national interest and be committed to protecting the vulnerable. Already, few believe that to be true. VAT destroyed that illusion. Stewart Hosie described the increase in VAT as "unforgivable" and has already mentioned the analysis of Save the Children. Only yesterday Flora Alexander of Save the Children said:

"VAT is a regressive tax, affecting those on low incomes disproportionately. The 2.5% increase will mean families living in poverty will be put under even more pressure."

Save the Children is calling for the poorest not to have to pay the price for the economic crisis.

Neither party opposite told the electorate, "Vote for us and we'll put up VAT to 20%, vote for us and we'll cut public spending by 25%, vote for us and we'll cancel Building Schools for the Future." My electorate in Scunthorpe was certainly not told this by my Conservative and Lib Dem opponents.

The argument that we need to cut fast and cut furiously, as if it were some virility test, does not have the support of the electorate. The electorate rejected this Conservative argument-which was well put by the Conservatives during the election-just two months ago, and instead supported proposals to tackle the deficit in a measured, proportionate way.

We should all have the humility to recognise that there is no mandate for the Budget proposals before us today, no mandate for fast and furious cuts and certainly no mandate for a huge rise in VAT or for the freezing of child benefit-measures at the heart of this unprincipled Government's approach. Both the Labour and Lib Dem parties made it clear-and the public agreed on 6 May-that the British economy is too fragile to bear these cuts without plunging us back into recession. That is why the electorate rejected the Tory offer at the polls. The public know full well that cuts in the public sector lead to job losses in the private sector. The public are not daft-they know that the private sector prospers when it is able to sell its goods and services. With Europe's economies contracting and the squeeze put on the UK economy, individuals and companies will stop spending and jobs will be lost in the private sector to add to job losses in the public sector. That is what the leaked Treasury papers said last week and that is what I fear-I hope that they and I am wrong. I would rather that the analysis of Mr Redwood were correct, but I fear that it will prove to be false and flawed.

There is no justification for what is about to happen. The well respected economist, David Blanchflower, has said:

"Economic policy in the UK is being run by a bunch of ideological amateurs who are destined to fail, at enormous cost to the British people."

The so-called black hole in our finances is an invented story to camouflage the truth and to wriggle out of promises made to the electorate at the election. It is a story that I have heard before. I heard it on North Lincolnshire council when the Conservatives briefly took control and went on about a black hole in its finances. It was not true then and it is not true now. It is a story, a figment, a fantasy. It is something to con themselves with-I think that they have achieved that-and then con everybody else. It cuts no ice with me, nor with the people of Scunthorpe. While at present it might resonate with some people, it will reverberate in a most hollow way if this Budget ends up devastating people's lives. I sincerely hope that it does not, because there is no mandate for this and there is no need for this.

I urge all Members of this House to vote in line with the manifestos on which they were elected just two short months ago. I urge all Members of this House to be true and faithful to their promises. I am immensely proud to have been chosen by the voters of Scunthorpe county constituency to represent them in this Parliament. I will carry out my duties in line with the promises that I made to them. To that end, I will vote against the measures in this Finance Bill and I call on all honourable Members to do the same.

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