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What I am about to say is still very relevant, which is that I think the public of the United Kingdom, given the circumstances in which we find ourselves, expect the Opposition to be a bit more positive and co-operative in tackling their priorities. It is not the Government’s fault that we cannot resolve this problem, because the Government have put forward a very simple solution to it, which is to allow the public to choose a new Parliament, and I trust that they would then choose a majority Government. If we are not allowed to do that because the Opposition parties can agree on blocking a general election, surely it is incumbent on them to help us to use the time we have intelligently and productively, in the wider interests of the electorate of the nation.
I want our Parliament to be well thought of by as many voters as possible of all persuasions. This Parliament is doing itself grave further damage if it does not co-operate and use this time during which the Opposition wish us to be here to find things on which we agree, to make improvements for those we represent. Those who represent a part of the United Kingdom with devolved government will, of course, be mainly interested in what their devolved Government do in those chosen areas, but there are still Union elements in this programme, and that is no reason to get in the way of us in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where appropriate, doing what we need to do here. It would be good if the SNP said that they were happy for us to do the things we want to do in our part of the United Kingdom, where we do not have the advantage of devolved responsibilities in a separate English or Welsh Parliament.
That is my message—Parliament should think about this. Why should Opposition parties co-operate? Well, for the simple reason that when we get to the general election, the public will take a particularly dim view of any party or group of MPs who have deliberately been negative about everything and unwilling to use the time, money and powers that this place and Government can bring to try to solve some of the problems before us.
On public services, I very much welcome the loosening of the purse strings. In 2010, my party and I thought that the deficit was massively too high and that emergency action was needed—as did, incidentally, the outgoing Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was planning pretty draconian measures to correct the deficit that his Government had created by bad management—but in the past two or three years, I have felt strongly that some parts of the public service are not getting enough money, and I have also felt that we had enough flexibility economically to do something about it. I also have my own favourite way to pay some of the bills, which is to stop paying any money to the European Union. I look forward to the day when that comes to pass, but many Members of Parliament here are desperate to spend as much money in Europe as possible, which has made that more difficult.
Let us leave out that contentious issue and concentrate on the extra money we can afford. I welcome that money for two reasons: first, because my local schools, health facilities and police force need that extra money; and secondly, because our economy needs that money. The fiscal and monetary squeeze of the past three years has been too tight. I predicted that it would slow the economy, and that is exactly what it is doing. Superimposed on those domestic stresses, we now have a nasty world manufacturing recession and a general world economic slowdown. Policies in several of the great economies around the world have led to that slowdown and are taking time to correct. The United Kingdom needs to be part of the process of correcting that. We need looser fiscal and monetary policy to project a bit more growth and create a bit more prosperity.
I am pleased that the Secretary of State for Education is here, because along with other colleagues whose constituencies have seen schools and educational services deprived of adequate funding for some time, I strongly welcome the new minimum figures that will be given to my schools that have been below the minimum figures. But I do not think that my schools at or near the minimum figures are getting enough, and I look forward to future settlements dealing with that problem. It costs money to employ enough good teachers. In a part of the world such as mine, facilities and buildings are expensive, and that has to be reflected in the amount of money allocated.
I look forward to the 20,000 new police officers in the Thames valley, and I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary say that progress will be made on that soon, because we have a series of problems with drugs and violence that we need to tackle.