I congratulate you on your election, Madam Deputy Speaker. You and I have known each other for many years, and it is, to say the least, a pleasure to serve under your stewardship.
A number of Members have quoted Disraeli in the context of “one nation”, but Disraeli had something else to say. He said that if the Tory party was nothing else, it was “organised hypocrisy”. We did not hear that quotation today.
When the Chancellor opened the debate, he did not explain to us where exactly the Government would make the £12 billion of welfare cuts. I think that they owe us an answer to that question, and I hope that we shall hear one from whoever winds up the debate. They are also going to try to make tax cuts amounting to £7 billion. We are all for tax cuts, but the needy should not suffer as a result.
Someone said earlier that one of the growing industries in this country was the food bank industry, and there is a lot of truth in that. I was amazed to discover recently that some 18,000 people in Coventry are using food banks. Moreover, many people are on low and, it might be argued, poverty wages, and rely on benefits. That is quite an indictment, quite apart from what was said in the last Parliament about zero-hours contracts. That is another scandal. Those contracts might suit some people but they do not suit the majority of people who want to own their own homes. This Government talk about a property-owning democracy, but what chance do those people have of getting on to the housing ladder when they cannot get a mortgage because they are earning poverty wages on zero-hours contracts? That is another thing that this Government should answer for.
We have rehearsed the argument many times about who was responsible for the deficit. The thinking public, and the world at large, know that the economic crisis started in America with Lehman Brothers. Someone mentioned Lehman Brothers earlier, so I shall not rehearse that argument further. It has also been claimed that the manufacturing recovery in the west midlands somehow just happened under this Government. I sometimes wonder about this Government, when they say that all the bad things happened under Labour and the good things happened under them. It sounds like Pol Pot,
35 years ago in Cambodia. He claimed that all the bad things happened before his time, and all the good things happened when he came to power. We all know what Pol Pot was like, and where he ended up.
When we talk about the economic recovery and about Coventry, we must remember that the buy-out involving Tata and Jaguar Land Rover took place before this Government came to power. Let us be quite clear about that when we remember the jobs that were created as a result. Similarly, Advantage West Midlands created the infrastructure for Ansty Park, but Government Ministers are now rushing up to Ansty Park because a lot of industries are relocating there. The latest to do so is the London Taxi Company.
Local government has also been involved in the experimental stages. Let us remember that a previous Conservative Government abolished the rating system and introduced the poll tax. They also introduced metropolitan authorities, but the next Conservative Government came into power and abolished them. Local authority leaders, certainly in the west midlands, have been involved in negotiations with the Chancellor to create a greater authority in the west midlands with an elected mayor. Most people in the west midlands would object to having an elected mayor. I am not involved in the negotiations with the Chancellor, but he seems to be claiming that he got a mandate in the general election to make those changes. I for one will be watching the situation very carefully.
It is very important that Coventry does not lose its identity, although we would obviously co-operate in an economic sense if that were beneficial to the city. I suspect, however, that this is a smokescreen for further local government cuts and that when things do not work out, local government will be blamed again. The Government are not taking democracy back to local government; they are taking it away, just as they did in the past when they created metropolitan councils. I know that a lot of people want to speak in the debate; they have been here all day and I am nearly at the end of my allotted time.