Kelvin Hopkins: I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) on raising this important subject. I would also echo many of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), who speaks so much sense. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor takes his advice to heart. I was encouraged by the...
Kelvin Hopkins: I understand that our Government, and many others, argue that there will be no single taxation system. Only this week, my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary said that we would not harmonise duties, let alone income tax or other forms of taxation, and I support her argument. Even if taxes were harmonised, that would not necessarily provide scope for the vast fiscal transfers that would also be...
Kelvin Hopkins: The strongest economies in the European Union at present are Denmark, Sweden and Britain. Is it a coincidence that they are all outside the euro?
Kelvin Hopkins: My hon. Friend has at least one supporter in the Chamber—me. Does he agree that the speeches made today make our case even stronger than it was before?
Kelvin Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list the local authorities in (a) England, by region, (b) Scotland and (c) Wales that own housing stock indicating in each case (i) how many properties they manage, (ii) how much debt they have in their housing revenue account and (iii) what plans they have to deal with their investment and repair backlogs.
Kelvin Hopkins: My hon. Friend the Minister says, understandably, that we cannot reach our targets overnight. Does she accept that we have an enormous distance to go, given that the difference between spending on health in France and spending on health in Britain is the equivalent of £40 million for each constituency every year?
Kelvin Hopkins: My hon. Friend mentioned Luton and Dunstable hospital. I support his excellent speech by pointing out that the problems in Bedfordshire are not caused by the inefficiency or the lack of dedication of the staff. On the contrary, they have done a tremendous job, as is demonstrated by the fact that Luton and Dunstable hospital obtained a three-star rating—it is, I understand, the 11th best...
Kelvin Hopkins: I am interested in our trade relations with the euro zone countries. Currently, a significant trade deficit arises from the overvaluation of our currency in relation to the euro, or the undervaluation of the euro in relation to sterling. If no reference is made to an appropriate parity during our entry discussions, there might be serious dangers. If there is overvaluation, it will leave us at...
Kelvin Hopkins: Will my hon. Friend give way?
Kelvin Hopkins: How would my hon. Friend's system work if there were significant fluctuations in the exchange rate between the euro and sterling? If he proposes a rigid, fixed exchange rate, will that put us back into the exchange rate mechanism and effectively inside the euro?
Kelvin Hopkins: Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that doing something to help the peace process just before Christmas is a very good thing?
Kelvin Hopkins: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way again. Does not he agree that the process has undergone a quantum leap that should be welcomed in the interests of peace throughout Ireland?
Kelvin Hopkins: I was interested in my right hon. Friend's last answer. May I go on from that to suggest that we look at continental railway systems, which are much more successful than ours—indeed, light years ahead? Those systems are generally state owned, coherent and integrated with other forms of transport.
Kelvin Hopkins: Will my hon. Friend not concede that she is confusing ethnicity, which we cannot change, and belief, which we choose? I cannot escape from being a middle-aged white English person, but I choose my socialist beliefs and I want them to be challenged and open to discussion.
Kelvin Hopkins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will include the achievement of a competitive and sustainable final exchange rate of the pound against the euro in his assessment of the economic tests for UK membership of the euro.
Kelvin Hopkins: As we all know, the problem is underfinancing. Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that French compulsory insurance, which makes a larger contribution to public services than direct taxation, is little different from British national insurance contributions? Compulsory insurance is less progressive than income tax, but because of France's more equal income structure, that is less of a problem....
Kelvin Hopkins: The hon. Gentleman mentioned my speech in passing and talked generally about the success of the private sector in public services without giving specific examples. I have dozens of examples of the failure of the private sector in public services. Will he tell me about the successes?
Kelvin Hopkins: I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) on securing this debate and on her excellent speech, in which she spoke passionately about the magnificent public services in Britain and the workers who are employed in them. My hon. Friends the Members for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) and for Dunfermline, West (Rachel Squire) also made admirable speeches. I...
Kelvin Hopkins: Does my hon. Friend agree that there is something very precious about the public services to which he has referred? The public service ethos cannot be bought. People have a real commitment to those for whom they care, which goes beyond mere payment. It is not only about remuneration. It would be bad to lose that ethos.
Kelvin Hopkins: My hon. Friend has made my point for me. Nevertheless, does he agree that this constant bluster from Conservative Members is simply a grotesque attempt to shift the blame from them to us for the mess that they created?