Charlie Elphicke: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to make my maiden speech, and to speak up for the people of Dover and of Deal. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) on his excellent maiden speech, and on his passionate and trenchant defence of the Dartford crossing. He and I share an interest in, and a concern about, the selling off of our nation's assets....
Charlie Elphicke: rose-
Charlie Elphicke: What recent assessment he has made of the level of growth in the UK economy compared with those of other OECD countries.
Charlie Elphicke: There is too much deprivation in Dover and Deal. We need more jobs and money locally. What action will the Government take to increase the trend growth rate of this nation, so that the people of Dover and Deal get more jobs and money, and Britain does better?
Charlie Elphicke: rose-
Charlie Elphicke: The shadow Chancellor says that Government Members are scaremongering by pointing out that the Budget deficit is 13%. We are not scaremongering; we are scared, as the position is extremely serious. The recession was so deep in the first place because the right hon. Gentleman's colleague, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown)-who has not been seen of late-ran things...
Charlie Elphicke: I, too, congratulate you on your illustrious elevation, Mr Deputy Speaker. In Dover, people are concerned that border security has been lax for years. Why did the right hon. Gentleman not put more energy into dealing with the security of our borders? If he had done that rather than dealing with ID cards, maybe we would have had less illegal immigration.
Charlie Elphicke: May I, too, congratulate you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on your recent elevation and successful election? May I also congratulate the hon. Member for Ashfield (Gloria De Piero), my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) and all other hon. Members who have made maiden speeches this day? Having done it so recently myself, I well recall how nerve-racking it is. I shall not...
Charlie Elphicke: In Dover and Deal, people tell me time and again that they want more jobs, more money and more economic growth, so it is a real shock to come to the House and see the table in today's report showing that economic growth has been revised downwards, by between 0.5% and 1%. How can that have happened in the three short months since the Budget? Were the Budget numbers fiddled? What has been going on?
Charlie Elphicke: A strong start can lead to the greatest of legacies. May I ask the Secretary of State whether the torch can come to Britain via Dover?
Charlie Elphicke: Once claiming to be the political arm of the British people, now Labour are the defenders of rotten boroughs and pocket boroughs under trade union sponsorship. Will the Deputy Prime Minister bring forward a great reform Bill so that we can have a people's Parliament fit for the new millennium?
Charlie Elphicke: In welcoming the Home Secretary's long overdue implementation of these measures, may I ask about her plans to crack down on the trafficking of people, weapons and drugs? In Dover, on Friday morning, 17 people of Afghan origin were found in the back of a lorry, of whom many were children and all were in a pretty bad way.
Charlie Elphicke: The lorry driver was Polish. It was a refrigerated lorry and many of the people were taken to hospital. It is important to have x-ray scanning on the French side of the border, for lorry cabs to be checked on the French side and for the French to be encouraged to do more as the first country of arrival. What measures might the Home Secretary take in that regard?
Charlie Elphicke: rose-
Charlie Elphicke: Does my hon. Friend also regret the fact that child poverty has increased by 300,000 since 2004-05? Does he welcome the fact that it should be frozen in the next two years?
Charlie Elphicke: The campaign of the right hon. Member for South Shields (David Miliband) is so confused these days that he is seeking support from Conservative MPs. He says that the Budget was avoidable. Can I ask the Prime Minister whether it was avoidable or- [ Interruption. ]
Charlie Elphicke: Will the Secretary of State consider fast-tracking academy status for outstanding schools that were hoping to benefit from the BSF programme? I particularly mention the case of Castle community college in Deal, which, seeing the writing on the wall, is now seeking to be an academy. It is an outstanding school, and I hope that the Secretary of State will give it full consideration.
Charlie Elphicke: What lessons for operations in Afghanistan may be learned from the case of Bill Shaw? I beg your indulgence, Mr Speaker, in paying the highest of tributes to the Minister responsible for the middle east and to Afghanistan and the FCO officials who worked so hard to ensure that justice was done in Afghanistan in that case.
Charlie Elphicke: Will the Chief Secretary give way?
Charlie Elphicke: I enjoy the right hon. Gentleman's thirst for talking down the economy, but how many independent economic forecasters are predicting the double-dip recession that the Labour party seems to constantly hope and pray for?