HC Deb 20 May 1997 vol 294 cc525-620
Madam Speaker

I have selected the amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. I shall call the amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) for Division purposes, if that is required, at the end of the debate.

I must tell the House that many hon. Members will be disappointed today. I know that many wish to speak in the debate, so I ask for voluntary restraint in the length of speeches from those I call, so that I can call as many hon. Members as possible.

4.29 pm
Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)

I beg to move, as an amendment to the Address, at the end of the Question, to add: but humbly regret that there is no mention in the Gracious Speech of the healthy economic climate in the country with rising living standards, low inflation, public finances moving towards balance and further falls in unemployment; deplore the Government's granting of operational independence to the Bank of England without any Parliamentary debate or statement; and urge the Government not to sign the Social Chapter, introduce a minimum wage, or to damage the United Kingdom's flexible labour market in any way by adopting European labour and social legislation. I repeat my congratulations to the right hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) on his appointment and his Government's success. I also congratulate him on the fact that he has not lost his skill, which he polished so well during the election, in not answering questions, but we should consider the precipitate action that he has taken. He rather stands out in this new Government. He spends most of his time at the moment, in a slightly triumph list way, simply enjoying the Government's victory, and putting on something of a performance of victory gestures.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott)

Why not?

Mr. Clarke

I fear that when the Government get on to the serious business, we shall have more to worry about than being told that it is all Tony, Robin and Gordon at Cabinet meetings, that the Elgin marbles are safe with the nation and that the Chancellor will wear a grey suit at the Mansion House, and so on.

Mr. Giles Radice (North Durham)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clarke

No; I must move on to the serious discussion.

The Chancellor is made of sterner stuff. He has, as I just said, charged in and taken extremely serious decisions. I think that he will agree that, since moving from opposition to government, all the presentational stuff that so dominated Labour's activities before now has had to take its proper place. The secret of good government is to get the big decisions right, because one has to live with those decisions afterwards. The presentation should follow the correct decision, not come before it or instead of it, as so many of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues seem to believe.

The Chancellor has a serious job to do, with extremely big decisions to take on the economy and Europe, the subject matter of our debate today. He has started taking them, in rapid succession, while his colleagues are still whooping it up in their offices, celebrating their arrival. The problem is that those are big decisions, the effect of which we shall all appreciate in two years' time and more, although he has taken most of them in two short weeks. I admire his confidence to plunge into those big decisions, but I must warn him that it will be no good repeating his election slogans when he comes to defend the consequences in two years' time.

I have been in many Departments and in most, decisions—some one gets right and some one gets wrong—are usually a matter of opinion some years afterwards, and a defence can be mounted of most of the things that one has done. The trouble with being Chancellor is that figures come out remorselessly. Out come results. The impact of the economy on the men and women of this country is felt by every household in the land. Decisions will be judged by whether, in two years' time and more, unemployment is falling at anything like its present rate; whether inflation has indeed been kept down to its present level; whether our growth record is being improved, as the right hon. Gentleman constantly implied it would when he fought the election; whether public finances remain healthy; and whether he sticks to his tax pledges. That is the problem that he faces.

The secret is to get the big decisions right. My opinion is based on a short fortnight, but I shall be generous. I shall keep an open mind on the subject and congratulate the right hon. Gentleman if he has got it right, but he has made a dreadful start, and in his enthusiasm he is taking decisions that he will regret and which the public will bitterly regret as the mistakes unfold.

The right hon. Gentleman has made at least four big mistakes already. One of them we have just discussed. I shall not repeat the points that I made, not one of which was answered. There was no explanation as to why all of this was not said a fortnight ago; no explanation as to why he did not agree with the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, when he said that he believed in an independent central bank, when all three of us appeared together on the platform and on television programmes. That policy was not in the Labour party's manifesto. The right hon. Gentleman detached himself from the policy and within four days of taking office he actually carried it out.

However, the election is behind us, so let us move to what will happen. As I said, the starting point for the Chancellor's policy was an inflation figure for April bang on target—2.5 per cent. That inflation target has been inherited by the Government and they must deliver it. The main influences on that inflation rate were the decisions that I took as Chancellor, accountable to the House, 18 months to two years ago.

I do not criticise the Bank, Eddie George or Howard Davies, but it is a matter of history that the Chancellor's judgment about how far to go to bring inflation down was correct and that of the Bank and many other financial advisers was wrong. Without going into what happened before, I can remember at least one key decision where I could really only find two people remotely inside the system who agreed with what I was doing—my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), who will reply to the debate, and the former Minister for Trade, then the hon. Member for Chichester, Mr. Nelson, who has retired from the House.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is bound to defend his record, but does not he acknowledge that Britain paid a premium on long-term interest rates during that time for his right to interfere politically, a factor that put us at the top of the European league for the most expensive interest rates?

Mr. Clarke

The premium that we pay, which was referred to by the Chancellor, is what people must pay to protect themselves against the higher risk resulting from a good 30 or 40 years of being a more inflationary country than other western European countries or the United States, and our history of devaluation of our currency. To reduce that, we require a track record.

The French have proved that by bringing their long-term rates down by a 10-year record of low inflation. The Conservative Government achieved a four-year record in which inflation did not rise above 4 per cent. for 54 months. That was the best for 50 years. It takes time to win that. Short-term movements, as the hon. Gentleman knows only too well, are no judgment of a policy at all. Market reactions two days after a statement should not be taken as proving anything. What was needed was a consistent pursuit of the previous Government's successful policy.

The Chancellor has handed over responsibility to the Bank, which was wrong, before it had the track record, and at a time when it was publishing a quarterly report which, as I have said, was wrong. The Chancellor did not respond to that. It is inescapable that the report which was produced was making a wrong statement.

Let me move on from that, because we shall all judge how the new system works.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown)

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that the decision was wrong, will he give an undertaking that any future Conservative Government would repeal the legislation to give the Bank operational independence?

Mr. Clarke

To plan for government in five years' time will be a pleasure. The right hon. Gentleman would not reveal his intentions four days before he made his announcement, yet he expects me to say what we shall do five years ahead when we win back power, as we most surely will if he goes on making the mistakes that he is making.

Before moving on from monetary policy and inflation, I want to deal with the one decision that the Chancellor made himself—part of the mistake that he has made on monetary policy. He raised interest rates by a quarter of 1 per cent. He attended one meeting, of which the minutes were produced, of the traditional Gordon and Eddie show—as it was on that occasion. To try to make some machismo point with the City, to underline the confidence that he wished to establish, he raised interest rates by a quarter of 1 per cent.

The right hon. Gentleman had the nerve to say that he had to do that because of my record of political manipulation. He knows from the figures that there was no political manipulation. He may say that he saw forecasts, but while I was Chancellor, the Bank's forecasts were always wrong, as were most of the other inflation forecasts. The right hon. Gentleman did that as a gesture. In itself, a rise of one quarter of 1 per cent. creates no difficulty, but it makes a difference. It is well within the margin of error. The problem is the background. The Chancellor acted on the basis that inflationary pressures were building up. I believe that it was a mistake that, if interest rates had to move at all, he should increase them so quickly. The signal will have a lasting effect.

Let me explain why an interest rate rise of one quarter of 1 per cent. was a mistake and why I would not have taken that decision had I been Chancellor at that monetary meeting. Sterling remains extremely strong—some 20 per cent. higher against the deutschmark than it was 12 months ago—and the inflationary effects are still working their way into the economy. Factory gate prices remain dramatically low by historical standards and the growth of industrial production remains extremely subdued. Earnings increases remain low. All the pessimists in the Bank and in the outside world feared, as I was repeatedly told, that earnings would take off this spring, but all the figures show that they have not.

What will be the effect of the Chancellor's precipitate decision to raise interest rates immediately by one quarter of 1 per cent. and to give the Bank operational independence before it had gained the track record to which he had referred? Moving quickly triggers expectation of further interest rate rises and the markets will react accordingly. Moving too quickly when one has to raise interest rates will almost certainly mean that the eventual peak of interest rate levels will be higher than might otherwise have been the case. As I have said, there are figures by which one can judge what happens during a Chancellor's period of office of 18 months or two years and how decisions are taken. By moving too quickly, the Chancellor has probably ensured that the base rate will eventually rise too high and move above 6.75 per cent.—the highest figure during my four years in office.

Mr. Radice

I note the right hon. and learned Gentleman's confidence in his own judgment on interest rates. Has he noted that two of his predecessors, Nigel Lawson and Norman Lamont, now argue for operational independence of the Bank of England?

Mr. Clarke

That was always put to me before. I arrived at the Treasury with an open mind and I left it able to say that when we differed at key moments—and we did not always differ; we usually agreed—the Bank turned out to be wrong and my judgments turned out to be right. That has kept my mind open, at the very least. In five years' time, I might be asked to say what I would do, but now I can say only that I cannot understand why the Chancellor threw away his words about a track record and went ahead immediately.

Monetary policy and where one sets interest rates are matters of interest not just to City folk and the Treasury Committee. We all know that the Governor of a central bank with no track record will be ultra-prudent. There is a better track record in the Bundesbank and a long history in the Federal Reserve, but the danger of suddenly giving control to the Bank of England is that it will be ultra-prudent. The one thing that the Bank will have to prove to the Treasury Committee is that it can get inflation right. It will sure as hell make sure that it hits 2.5 per cent. It will set higher interest rates and it will get inflation down to that crucially important target.

Of course, interest rates have to be set high enough to achieve the inflation target, but they should also be kept as low as possible to achieve maximum growth, investment and employment. What will it mean for the man or woman in the street if my fears are right and the suddenly established independent operational committee in the Bank of England raises interest rates higher than would otherwise be necessary to hit the inflation target? For the man in the street, it will mean not only higher mortgage rates, but lost investments, lost jobs and lost consumer demand.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire)

It is estimated that every 1 per cent. rise in interest rates costs about 250,000 export jobs. If the Bank continued raising interest rates after the Chancellor's increase of one quarter of 1 per cent., has my right hon. and learned Friend made any estimate of how many export jobs would be lost?

Mr. Clarke

I cannot give an instant estimate, but the figures used by my hon. Friend have a great deal of common usage and credibility among financial commentators. It is inevitable that if interest rates are set higher than necessary to meet whatever inflation target one has, there will be a sacrifice and that must include jobs. If in the past two or three years we had had the system that the Chancellor is now recommending, interest rates would have been higher than 6.75 per cent. by at least 0.5 per cent., but as the momentum of policy was going in that direction, they would probably have gone higher still.

The Chancellor has made a serious mistake because he does not trust his own judgment. He believes that he will give way to political pressures from his colleagues, so it is essential for the Bank to have operational independence. I have some sympathy with him there. If I was driven to choose between the judgment of Eddie George and that of the Chancellor, I might even accept the judgment of Eddie George, but I should prefer above all the judgment of a Conservative Chancellor who truly understood market economics and got it right. That was the Chancellor's first big mistake.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is introducing a new doctrine that if one raises interest rates a little too early, the subsequent rates will always be too high. Most commentators say the opposite: if one fails to do it in time, the interest rates will be too high afterwards.

Mr. Clarke

Interest rates should rise according to the data. They vary from month to month in reaction to the latest information to hit the markets. When that information shows inflationary pressures building up, one has to react to the markets to get them under control. On this occasion, the Chancellor increased interest rates by a quarter of 1 per cent. when, in my opinion, nothing whatever in the data showed any necessity to do so. When inflationary pressures occur, as may well happen if the present rate of growth continues, interest rates will have to move from a higher base and will be carried by momentum too high. There is plenty of experience of that.

In any case, we shall see, but we shall not allow the Chancellor to say that that is no longer his responsibility. He will not be able to say, "I did not trust my own judgment and I handed it over to somebody else, so if things have gone wrong, don't blame me." We shall blame him all the time if interest rates become too high and we lose growth in the economy.

After my first criticism, let me now be magnanimous and offer the Chancellor a piece of advice. In my opinion, he should not make the second mistake that he is loudly trumpeting at the moment. He should not have a June Budget. My advice to the Chancellor is that he should not have a Budget before the ordinary time for one.

The British economy does not need an emergency Budget. For some reason, the Chancellor's people are leaking like mad about what might be in the Budget. I suspect that it is the result of his taking too many political appointees into his office, but I shall not make allegations unless and until they can be substantiated, or at least I shall not press them. If those leaks are accurate, we need the Chancellor's planned June Budget like we need a hole in the head.

As we all know, the Budget will begin with the fabled windfall tax. I shall debate that at length when we are finally told the truth about its contents and when we can see precisely where it falls. That debate is familiar to us all. At the election, the Labour party sold the idea to the general public as a tax that would affect only fat cats and raise billions of pounds that could be used to abolish unemployment among young people.

We challenge every bit of that shabby thesis. I pity the Government for having to put it into practice and then, in two or three years' time, having to argue that it worked. The tax will affect shareholders, employees and customers of every company affected. It will increase the total tax burden on the economy. It will cost us more economic growth, which is what happens when one raises the tax burden. Worst of all, the training and make-work schemes devised by Labour will not deliver the expectations on youth unemployment which it has so cruelly raised.

I am not an alien in this area. I have devised many employment-creating schemes over the years, and I do not oppose them all automatically. Together with my noble Friend Lord Young, I put together a package called "action for jobs" in the mid-1980s, when more than 3 million people were unemployed in this country. I introduced job clubs, which have proved the best of the methods that we put together to provide intensive support for job searching by the long-term unemployed.

In my second Budget, I improved family credit, extending the child care allowance. I experimented with national insurance holidays—NICs holidays—for employers who took on the long-term unemployed. But I do not believe—and I have the experience to challenge it—that a one-off levy of £3 billion can be used to abolish unemployment among a quarter of a million people, genuinely and permanently.

I doubt the validity of the estimates that the Chancellor has given, because I do not think that those estimates—made in opposition—take sufficient account of the displacement of other workers by subsidised workers, or the loss of jobs when a short-term subsidy ends and the employer lays someone off in order to take on someone else with a subsidy. That quarter of a million will melt away. I do not believe that the Chancellor's plan will achieve a permanent reduction in unemployment, thereby saving public money that can be spent elsewhere. I said that I would not debate the windfall tax for too long, but we shall see in due course whether the Chancellor can make his estimate stand up any better than any of the estimates that he used to give on unemployment when his party was in opposition.

Mr. Gordon Brown

The shadow Chancellor says that our promises to the unemployed are hollow. What is more hollow than the promise that he made in one of his previous Budgets that he would create 130,000 jobs for the long-term unemployed by means of a new measure, given that he then created only 5,000? What is worse than making promises, as he did, and failing to keep them? Should he not apologise to the long-term unemployed?

Mr. Clarke

The Chancellor's criticism of the NICs holiday to which he has referred was that I delayed it, and did not introduce it quickly enough. The NICs holiday was part of a package—the family credit package—which has been reduced since that time. Long-term unemployment, together with the generality of unemployment, has fallen. We are achieving that in this country; but, in the real world, these measures can do no more than back up the growth of real jobs in the real economy for as long as stable economic conditions are maintained.

The key in regard to jobs is to keep the present rate of growth, 2.5 per cent. or more, going. Raising billions of pounds in windfall tax will cost us some of that growth, just as higher interest rates will. As a result of my policies, growth in the economy has already reduced unemployment by 400,000 since the date when the Chancellor first announced his 250,000 jobs wheeze.

The key point is that unemployment will not fall so fast. That is the measure that we shall apply. It fell by 60,000 according to the last figures that we had, referring to the last month of the previous Government, only a few days ago. Unemployment will not fall so fast if the Chancellor damages growth by raising the tax burden in his June Budget. I should like to know just how far he intends to go in raising that tax burden. As I warned before the election, people will discover more than a windfall tax in the Budget.

Mr. Philip Hope (Corby)

How can the right hon. and learned Gentleman claim success for his policies to reduce unemployment when one person in five in households in this country—and in my constituency—is still out of work, and the thousands who do have jobs are enduring poverty wages?

Mr. Clarke

That includes disabled households, student households and all kinds of people. The key point is that, whichever measure of employment we use—the labour force survey, which the Government will stick to, or the claimant count, which I bet a pound to a penny that the Government will stick to—unemployment has fallen by more than 1 million since the recovery started, and, as I said, it is falling at an extremely rapid rate. It will not fall so quickly if the tax burden is raised on the scale that the leaks about the forthcoming Budget have revealed.

Sir Iain Valiance is one Labour voter who has already repented. I do not know why he took no notice when the Chancellor repeatedly refused to answer a direct question: "Will the tax apply to British Telecom?" With great respect to my friend Iain Valiance, I think that he was a little slow on the uptake in not realising that when he voted Labour, he would be voting for a massive tax hit on his company. It is, however, the other promises that we now hear about—changing the tax treatment of dividends for pension funds, changing the tax treatment of pension contributions by individuals and abolishing the tax relief on mortgage interest. All those have been floated.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

Does not the evidence to support my right hon. and learned Friend's claim lie in the latest unemployment figures, which have just come out and which cover his final term of office? May I say on behalf of my constituents how much they appreciate the fact that in the past year unemployment has fallen by 20 per cent. in my constituency? That is reflected throughout the west of England, and, indeed, in the national figures. Is that not the real, genuine way in which to achieve a lasting improvement in employment?

Mr. Clarke

My right hon. Friend is quite right: that was repeated throughout the country. The current Government will have to live with the test of whether that progress in reducing unemployment can be maintained from now on. I do not believe that it can.

In my anxiety to give way to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), I glossed over some of the leaks that we have seen in the newspapers about the further tax increases and tax changes that are forthcoming. I shall wait to see how many of those leaks turn out to be justified when the Chancellor comes to the House with his Budget in June, but he is obviously contemplating such changes. If he delivers measures such as those that have appeared in the press, we shall discover how many voters in middle England will soon feel betrayed by the smooth reassurances on tax that the Labour party gave them only a few weeks ago.

The tax raising that the Government are contemplating is so unnecessary. That is their next mistake. The Chancellor may find some friends out there at the Confederation of British Industry—he has taken over my speaking engagement there this evening—but if I were at the CBI, I would say that it is currently a populist fad among some commentators to claim that fiscal tightening is now needed. That is the kind of popular pressure that the Chancellor should resist, because it is usually wrong.

He should tell the CBI this evening that its members are mistaken if they believe that the Governor will not raise interest rates as fast so long as he tightens fiscal policy by raising taxation, because that is not the case. The public finances are on course for a balanced budget in three years at the most. Along with all the other good figures that we have seen recently, the public sector borrowing requirement figures are much better than I expected, and much better than the right hon. Gentleman deserves. The PSBR is falling faster than I forecast only last November.

Why on earth does the Chancellor wish to speed up fiscal consolidation when we are three years away from a balanced budget? I am not alone in saying that. Hon. Members should read an extremely good column by Anatole Kaletsky, which appeared this morning. Anatole Kaletsky is not a Conservative; hon. Members are wrong if they think that he always supported me. Sam Brittan is a Tory: I do not think that he has always voted Tory, but he is a Tory. I could quote him, but let me quote Mr. Kaletsky, who writes that it is simply untrue that the Tories have left a mess in the public finances", and goes on to give his reasons. It is absurd to go back to the argument that tax-raising fiscal measures are some kind of substitute for monetary tightening when a Government are hitting an inflation target.

At this stage, before the Budget, I can only guess at why the Chancellor is charging into all these tax-raising measures within a few weeks, at the expense of the corporate sector, pension funds and middle England, which is what he is doing if half the rumours are to be believed. The reason, presumably, is that he cannot deliver our public spending plans, and there again I have some sympathy with him. I gaze at the Benches behind him, and I know that he cannot deliver our public spending plans. He should never have promised to deliver our public spending plans.

This morning there was an amazing revelation, about which there is no point in saying, "We told you so." However, we warned about it before the election. The Chancellor is looking at the books and the National Audit Office is being brought in to look at the straightforward Treasury-produced figures for the national finances. The Chancellor hopes that the National Audit Office will say, "It is far worse than we expected; all bets are off." The Chancellor will say, "I am sorry I said that I would not have to increase taxes." I shall look with interest to see how such matters are presented in the Budget. The Chancellor is struggling to produce a tax-raising, promise-breaking Budget, and it will damage the economy.

I am taking too long, so I shall try to be brief—[Interruption] Hon. Members will hear more hereafter. Just wait. I am grateful to the new Labour Members for listening so attentively to my words, some of which will be burned upon them in two years as a result of the Government charging ahead with policies such as the independence of the Governor of the Bank of England, a tax-raising Budget and sticking to Tory spending plans, which I am sure does not fill every Labour Back Bencher with delight. The Chancellor is not even doing that correctly.

It is no good saying that there will not be a public spending round in the autumn. The Chancellor has repeated that since the election. I would have had a public spending round in the autumn. The key is that the right hon. Gentleman says that he will stick to the published total figure. I agree with that and I shall hold him to it. The acid test is whether he can deliver the total public spending figures. It is flattering that the Chancellor says that the figures that we set down for three years are right. If that means saying to every Department, "The previous Government got your figures right for each of the three years," he is heading for total disaster. That is not how it is done.

I delivered total public spending plans for four years. The art of public spending rounds is to deliver the total while responding to events and pressures that cannot be predicted for three years ahead by playing a zero sum game. Our Cabinet used to agree that we were sticking to the total and we delivered it. We had a lively public spending round, with cuts in allocation for some Departments to respond to pressures elsewhere. When I produced the Red Book, I did not say that it contained the precise figures for the next three years for every Department. Every year, I had to change.

I shall give an example. If it becomes obvious in the light of demand that the national health service needs more money next year than we allocated for it in last year's Red Book, I hope that the Chancellor will not expect me to support him and the Secretary of State for Health when they say, "These are the previous Government's figures. That is the full growth and we cannot adjust the totals." The Chancellor will need a public spending round if that occurs, because no one has ever succeeded in forecasting demand in the NHS three years ahead. My right hon. Friend the previous Secretary of State for Health would not have allowed me to make him stick to the figures and I would have had to go to people who are not currently on the Opposition Benches to find the money.

I hope that newly elected Members will forget what was said about health spending during the election. I regret that I missed my old friend the new Secretary of State for Health at the Dispatch Box. I hope that he did not repeat all the rubbish about £100 million to be taken from management to solve all the problems. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did."] I do not know where he thinks he will get the money, but if he does, it represents a quarter of 1 per cent. of total health spending. No doubt my hon. Friends told him that at Question Time. Neither he nor anyone else believes that that amount will solve the problems. If there are health pressures, there will have to be a public spending round, and I do not think that the Government will respond to them.

The Chancellor and the Chief Secretary have set themselves the task of doing what my Chief Secretary and I always achieved. They will have to have a public spending round this year and next year, and the Government will have to face whatever problems arise in health, education, further education, local government, the Prison Service or wherever they occur—and they will. The Government will have to account for delivering the total public spending totals and sorting them out, and they cannot do that. They know that they cannot, and that is why there will be a Budget in June to raise taxes, and the National Audit Office is looking at the figures because the Government never believed a word of what they said in the election. Within 10 weeks, they will try to wriggle out of that.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)

The shadow Chancellor may recall that I once called him the Michael Fish of financial forecasters, because he never got his figures right. Surely he must accept that because of his record, there is a £200 billion public sector national debt. According to him, there was supposed to be a deficit of £15 billion this year and now he says that it will be £23 billion. We on the Government Benches and the people of Britain welcome the discipline that the new Chancellor is exerting on public finances.

Mr. Clarke

Will the Chancellor improve the rate at which the public sector borrowing requirement is dropping while at the same time delivering public spending totals and perhaps keeping to just a fragment of his tax promises at the election? I do not believe he can do that; we shall see in the June Budget.

My final point on public spending is that at the start of the debate on the Gracious Speech, the Prime Minister responded to an intervention by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who is not in his place. The hon. Gentleman asked a killer question: "If all this fails and you need to find extra public money for the public services of health and education, what will you do?" The Prime Minister, in the first flush of his new power and with all the pomp of his new office, acted as he had been acting for years because he was totally unable to answer the question.

I emphasise the other mistake for which we shall hold the Government to account, and it takes me to Europe. [Interruption.] It is a decision and, as I said earlier, it means that the Government have at least given us substance for debate. The only decision that the new Government have so far taken in Europe is their acceptance of the social chapter. The one thing on which our industrial and commercial leaders have always agreed with the Conservative party is that the social chapter threatens jobs in a big way. I have already said that many other matters in the Government's programme threaten jobs.

The biggest problem on the continent is unemployment and, as long as we have 1.6 million unemployed, jobs should be at the centre of our debates. There is ever-widening agreement among business men and politicians throughout Europe that the main reason for unemployment remaining so high on the continent, even when the economies achieve growth, is that European countries do not have the flexible labour market of this country. At the moment, Government after Government on the continent are insisting on moving towards flexible labour markets. They intend to deregulate them and make structural reforms. Some are pressing on and doing something about it. The Prime Minister's hero Wim Kok in the Netherlands is deregulating on a grand scale and introducing much greater flexibility.

Common sense and experience show that if the cost of employing someone is raised and it is made more difficult to hire and fire, the chances are that employment will be damaged. The Government are moving directly in the opposite direction and the psychological effect of that in Europe will be bad. We were winning the argument in Europe simply by example, because falling unemployment in this country could not be mirrored there. Our opt-out from the social chapter stopped it growing. It has only two measures, the reason for which is that the other Governments all took to heart Jacques Delors's warning that all inward investment would come here if they continued in the same direction and we carried on with deregulation.

Unfortunately, Europe's left-wing Governments have been joined by the new British Government, who have thrown their weight on the wrong side of the argument. The Government's decision has caused dismay throughout the business and commercial world in western Europe and among all those who are working out how to compete globally. I expect that they will sign up to a new employment chapter at the Amsterdam summit as well. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Radice) is barracking me. He knows that for 10 years I have argued with him about flexible labour markets versus the labour legislation of western Europe. He and I agree on quite a lot about Europe, but the real divide between the right of centre and left of centre in Europe turns on the commercial climate and regulation of labour markets and industry that we ought to have.

The hon. Gentleman belongs to the Social Democrat tradition, which approves of the social chapter and believes that so-called "worker protection" legislation is right. He allies himself with those who seek to protect the acquis in the European Union in that area, whereas I belong with those on the centre right who say that that is a mistake, that the atlanticist model of free market economics is more attractive, that if Europe is to hold its own against the world, that is the direction in which the continent must go and that we should now deregulate those matters rather than go in the opposite direction.

The best Finance Ministers in Europe will be worrying about how to avoid their economies being carried back into history by our new Chancellor.

Mr. Radice

The shadow Chancellor and I do agree about many aspects of European policy, which, I am afraid, is not the case with his own party. He quoted Wim Kok. If the social chapter is so devastating, how could Wim Kok deregulate the Dutch economy within the framework of the social chapter?

Mr. Clarke

The social chapter contains two measures and Wim Kok is deregulating the rest. I have not asked him, but I am sure that he is happy with the fact that nobody is bringing forward fresh proposals. However, now that we have joined the social chapter, all those who want fresh proposals—that does not include the Dutch—will start to bring them forward. There is qualified majority voting. I do not have time to go into the Prime Minister's previous belief that he could pick and choose among all those matters. He will be voted down if changes in Government in Europe produce a majority that disagrees with the Labour party's approach to those issues.

What kind of negotiating will take place? An intergovernmental conference will shortly discuss the whole question of whether the treaties are to be amended. I have spent a great deal of time over the past five years—I shall no doubt do so in the next five years—discussing the importance of negotiating. If we are to keep our position in Europe, we must be involved in the events. We must negotiate if we are to get what we want and if our interests and the Union are to go in the right direction. I often say, "Never say never—but never say yes, of course." Before the Government have got near Amsterdam, they have signed up to the demand put by all their left-wing allies around the table in Europe. They have said, "It's yours." There has been no quid pro quo and, as far as I am aware, no commitment has been made that new proposals will not be made whereby they could be voted down. That is a foolish way to approach the matter.

The Prime Minister will have to go to Amsterdam as "demandeur". We need to make progress on fisheries; we may not need to change the voting system, but we need to change the weight of votes on agriculture and other matters. I hope that nothing else comes up at the IGC. We do not need an IGC at the moment. Consolidating our current position is far more important than any leaps forward at Amsterdam, but the Government will go there having thrown away their negotiating hand.

Those are the mistakes that have already been made in a fortnight. In rushing into those issues, the Government have shown all the signs of inexperienced men and women who are intoxicated with their new power. They are like 18-year-olds in a saloon bar trying out every bottle on the shelf. They are alcopop drinkers today; they will be absinthe addicts tomorrow unless we are very careful.

The Government have massive power. They have the biggest parliamentary majority since the second world war and they control the overwhelming majority of local authorities. They propose to create new Parliaments in Scotland and Wales, which they expect the Labour movement to dominate. Such power is dangerous in the wrong hands and the Government are concentrating it in so few hands. The Cabinet is weak, so there is an inner Cabinet of six people steering all that power. They surround themselves with far too many political and personal appointments. They have people who still act as if they were in opposition and they are charging into mistakes. The whole thing is bathed in the theatrical glow of a synthetic Camelot created by the party's media managers. We shall see how sinister the lighting becomes in the course of time.

The Prime Minister's change to parliamentary questions was a dangerous omen. The trouble is that no Government in modern times have inherited such a legacy of economic growth, improving public finances, low inflation, falling unemployment and healthy trade balances. If the new Government are irresponsible with their heritage and fritter it away, the British people will pay the price.

In opposition, we can only warn, advise and resist. The first quick errors of the new Administration show that we must be tough and resolute in each of those tasks in the interests of our nation if we are to stop the Labour party charging on and doing very great damage indeed.

5.15 pm
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown)

I do not want to be unkind to the shadow Chancellor, who was making his election speech in the Tory party leadership campaign, but I must ask him why, if things were so good under the previous Government, was the Conservative party so decisively rejected on 1 May? If Britain is doing as well as he says, why is manufacturing investment 8 per cent. less than last year? Why have we inherited manufacturing output that has risen by only 0.5 per cent? Why is a £90 million deficit predicted for this year? Why are we 21st in the world economic league? Why have we inherited a European policy that was so divided that we must, for the first time, begin leadership in Europe?

Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford)

Will the Chancellor give way?

Mr. Brown

I shall give way in a minute.

Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale)

The hon. Gentleman has only just come in.

Mr. Brown

I do not know when the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) came in, but he was lucky to get back.

Entertaining and wide ranging though the shadow Chancellor's speech was, the country has a right to expect the debate about the Queen's Speech not to be an election hustings for the Conservative leadership. It should be a debate in which we look forward, not backward, and address the long-term challenges of the future. If 1 May signalled anything, it was the British people's determination to move on and get beyond the sterile debates of the past, into which the shadow Chancellor now wants to enter, and to chart a new course for the long term. The electorate recognise that the economic challenges of the next five, 10 or 15 years are to achieve the twin objectives of high and stable growth levels, which were not achieved under the Conservative Government, and high and stable employment levels.

Those were the objectives of a Labour Government in 1945 and they are still the objectives of a Labour Government now. We must meet those objectives in the era of global, not national, markets, ever faster waves of technological innovation and increasingly intense worldwide competition. Whether it is our policies for education, employment or the future of the welfare state, the clear objective of the Government will be to ensure that everyone, not just a privileged few, is equipped to cope with, and reap, the benefits of change.

On 1 May, we inherited a society in which 600,000 young people were out of work and 800,000 men and women were long-term unemployed. That is why, in the first week of government, we authorised the biggest investment in an employment programme that the country has seen, with a new deal for the under-25s. We shall allocate £3 billion to get the young and the long-term unemployed back to work.

Because education is the cornerstone of modern economic success and because every child deserves the best possible start in life, on 15 May, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment announced the start of our education reforms—the Assisted Places Bill, which will redistribute resources in education so that, in future, those who benefit from lower class sizes will be not just the 7 per cent. who go to private schools, but the 93 per cent. who attend state schools, on whom our future depends.

Because our only future in a modern economy depends on high skills and high wages and because we have seen at first hand men and women earning £1, £1.50 and, in some cases, less than £1 per hour that they work, the President of the Board of Trade immediately signalled our intention to establish by law a low pay commission to ensure decency and dignity at work—the first national minimum wage in our country. Because fairness in the workplace demands a view of industrial relations not as a conflict between master and servant, as the Conservatives would have it, but as a partnership between employer and employee, the Foreign Secretary has informed Europe that we will sign the social chapter. I believe that that is right for the economy as well as for society.

Some people said that the new Government would make no difference. It is now 18 days since we took office and we have done more to restore faith in the view that the Government can advance opportunities for all in those 18 short days than the Conservatives achieved in 18 long years in government.

Those measures are not simply discrete and unconnected announcements, worthy as they are. Taken together with the new proposals that I have announced today, they represent the first steps in implementing a comprehensive strategy for our country with one aim—to equip men and women to meet the challenges of the future. They arise from an honest appraisal of where we are as an economy and a vision of where we want the economy to be in the years ahead.

Our analysis is that national economic capacity is as yet too small, too technologically unsophisticated and too narrowly based in our industries to meet the global competition in the years ahead. The root cause of that is under-investment in industry, in people and in our infrastructure over many years. That is why our non-oil growth rate under the previous Government was at more than a third less than it was in the 30 years after the war and why we slipped to 21st in the world economic league. From that analysis follows our strategy to build economic success in the future.

In place of short-termism, we have a long-term view—hence the reforms at the Bank of England. In place of stop-go, we have fiscal as well as monetary stability—hence our golden rule for public finances. Instead of the neglect of investment that we see in the figures for last year and every one of the past 18 years, we have a commitment to encourage investment for the long term, hence our new measures for education and training. Instead of the waste of educational talent right across the board, we have a commitment to make our work force the most skilled and educated in Europe. Instead of the old battle for territory between public and private sectors, we want a partnership between public and private to renew our social and economic infrastructure, hence the new boost already given to public-private partnerships.

Several hon.

Members rose

Mr. Brown

I shall give way in a moment.

We shall implement a clear and comprehensive strategy to make Britain a more dynamic economy, encouraging the talents that people have, extending education and employment opportunities for all and realising the potential of everyone in our society. Those are policies founded on our historic values, but they are more than ever relevant to a knowledge-based economy.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey)

The right hon. Gentleman was talking about the minimum wage. I now have in my constituency the halls of residence for the university of Southampton. Notwithstanding the fact that our students probably get more money from central Government and local government than any other students in the world, they are dependent upon part-time jobs during their vacations. What will he say to them about the part-time jobs that are currently available to them, admittedly at low rates per hour, which would all go under the minimum wage? What should I tell my students?

Mr. Brown

Those are precisely the issues that will be addressed by the low pay commission. The country will no longer support the philosophy that it is right and decent in a modern society for hundreds of thousands of people to work for £1, £1.50 or £1.75 an hour. The arguments that the hon. Gentleman uses against the minimum wage are exactly those that were used against equal pay for women and to defend child labour, and they were wrong on both occasions. The Conservative party should return to the situation when Winston Churchill, first a Liberal then a Conservative, supported minimum wages. It does the Conservative party no good to be seen to be identifying with exploitative employers who pay the lowest wages possible when we need a modern economy based on decent wages for all.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

The Labour party manifesto says: For the next two years Labour will work within the departmental ceilings for spending already announced. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House and to the country what will happen in education and health if that proves to be inadequate? Is he telling us that there will be no possibility of any transfer into those spending Departments from any savings achieved anywhere else in government?

Mr. Brown

Instead of the irresponsible policies of the Liberal Democrats who, up and down the country, have promised billions for this and hundreds of millions for that, with huge tax rises, we have taken the responsible decision that the first thing that our Ministers will do in health and education is look at how resources are being used currently. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he can defend a situation where hundreds of thousands of people are losing services in the health service because of the money being spent on administrators? Some £1.5 billion more is being spent on administration now than was being spent in 1990, when the internal market reforms were introduced.

The first thing to do is to scrap the Conservative internal market, which is what we are doing, to use resources now wasted on bureaucracy and put them back into patient care and to end a situation where 12 per cent. of the NHS budget is spent on administration, when it used to be 8 per cent. I would have thought that the Liberal Democrats would have supported our efforts to get greater value for money for patients in the health service.

The hon. Gentleman should also look at the assisted places scheme, where money is going to the few when it should be going to the many. Our reforms in education will change the youth training system. We shall change the student loans and grant system so that we get better value for money and provide better opportunities for students. We shall begin the process of government by looking at how we can better use available resources. The hon. Gentleman would be doing his cause a better service if he said that the first question must be how to get the best use of available resources.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Despite the length of the Chancellor's answer, the question is perfectly clear. The question was whether, within two years, he would increase the departmental spending totals when the Labour party manifesto said that he would not. Is his answer no?

Mr. Brown

That is quite amazing. The shadow Chancellor fought the election on his spending proposals and now, to win the leadership of the Conservative party, he is saying that there should be more health service spending. That is the irresponsibility of opposition. He has said that there should be more health service spending, that interest rates should come down and that he would deliver lower inflation. Those are exactly the sort of promises that the Conservatives made in 1992. The Conservative party is out of power because it makes promises and does not deliver them.

Several hon.

Members rose

Mr. Brown

I am happy to spend the whole evening giving way to the different sections of the Conservative party. I shall first take an intervention from a supporter of the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) because that right hon. Gentleman said that he would bring the fun back into politics. That was his selling point in the election. I shall then give way to a supporter of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague)—a man who is threatening to do for the electoral fortunes of the Conservative party in the United Kingdom what he succeeded in doing for the electoral fortunes of the Conservative party in Wales.

Mr. William Cash (Stone)

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the real reason why we are in this mess with regard to our future in the European Union is that he and some Conservative Members agreed to the ceilings imposed by the Maastricht criteria which prevent the Government from increasing the totals of public expenditure? Will he go to Amsterdam and renegotiate the treaty to get rid of the impossible situation with regard to the exchange rate mechanism and the movement towards monetary union? Will he also repudiate and resist the requirements of the new draft treaty, which has just been published, with regard to operational expenditure in relation to home affairs, judicial affairs and the common foreign and security policy so that we will not be saddled with the expenses under those pillars?

Mr. Brown

The most significant point made by the hon. Gentleman was that the economy had been left in a mess. Furthermore, his comment reveals that the Conservative Members will continue operating in opposition as they operated in government: divided, indisciplined, and disagreeing among themselves, particularly over the issue of Europe. I suggest that he might have asked the shadow Chancellor those questions on Europe. He might ask for the benefit of the shadow Chancellor's views on Europe before casting his vote in the Conservative leadership election.

The difference between the Conservative party and the Labour party is that Labour has been united in its position on Europe, whereas divisions on Europe are rife among those on the Opposition Front Bench. Those divisions will keep the Conservative party out of power for many years to come.

Mr. Cash

The Chancellor mentioned fun, but the only fun that we have had is watching him avoiding answering the questions that he should be answering. Perhaps he will answer one simple question. During the general election campaign, Labour made a single pledge on the health service—that waiting lists would be cut. If that is so, and given the Chancellor's commitment to departmental spending totals, which does he think is more important: that, in a year's time, waiting lists are not cut, or that spending levels in each Department remain exactly as set? Will he, please, tell us which one is more important?

Mr. Brown

The promise made in the manifesto—which I hope that the hon. Gentleman will read carefully—was that 100,000 extra patients will be treated, by cutting £100 million from national health service bureaucracy. I am pleased to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has already established measures to achieve those important cuts in bureaucracy and administration. I would think more of the hon. Gentleman if, as waiting lists climbed under the previous Conservative Government—to 900,000, to 950,000, to 1 million and beyond—he had complained to that Government's Health Ministers—something that he never did.

Mr. Quentin Davies

The Chancellor really had better decide today whether he wants to make evasiveness the hallmark of his tenure as Chancellor. He has twice been asked a question by Opposition Members that relates directly to his responsibilities—whether, in the next two years, he intends to keep public sector spending totals to the levels in the Red Book, or whether he intends to set and rigidly maintain each departmental total. That is a precise question, it falls directly within his responsibilities, and he cannot evade it. Will he give the House an honest answer?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman has obviously not read Labour's manifesto. I am also surprised that he has been re-elected to the House. We said very clearly in our manifesto that we shall stick to the departmental ceilings, and I say it again. It is interesting that the shadow Chancellor is more concerned about the windfall tax and protecting the utilities. I am therefore grateful to the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford for raising the issue of the health service. I also ask him which party is more likely to be capable of protecting the health service: the Conservative party, which imposed the internal market and started to ruin the NHS, or the Labour party, which created the NHS?

Four measures in the Queen's Speech affect Treasury responsibility, the first of which concerns work. One in five working-age households have no one earning a wage. The comparable figures are 11 per cent. in the United States, 15 per cent. in Germany and 16 per cent. in France. The figure that we have inherited in Britain is a shameful 19 per cent. How can the shadow Chancellor say that the UK unemployment record of the past 18 years should be used as a model for the future? We must face the fact that, in some inner-city areas, a third of young people are out of work. In some parts of inner London, 50 per cent. of young black men are unemployed, and, in some constituencies, 30 per cent. of households have no one earning a wage.

Those figures are the reason why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and I decided to visit, as one of our first visits as Ministers, the Foyer project in London. We wanted to see at first hand how local authorities and business can together tackle the problems of youth unemployment and youth homelessness. We want to build on such partnerships.

We must solve the unemployment problem in an entirely new labour market. The days of jobs for life—when most workers were men, manual jobs were the norm and good wages were earned without qualifications, skills or experience—are gone. With a new employment policy, we shall be the first British Government to recognise and act upon the new realities.

We have embarked on several tasks. The first is to move the long-term and young unemployed from welfare into work. The second is to make work pay in the labour market, so that it is worth while to find a job and to stay in one. The third is to establish a skills ladder, so that people out of work can learn skills, those in work can improve skills, and those who are ambitious can advance in new careers, to their own benefit and to the benefit of the economy.

Mr. Edward Gamier (Harborough)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brown

I shall not give way again.

We believe that those goals, which are central to our programme, can be achieved only by fundamental reform of our approach to welfare, employment and education. The Government will offer young people who have been unemployed for more than six months four options for work or training. The options include an incentive for employers in businesses across the UK to bring the young and long-term unemployed into work, which will be a partnership with business to tackle youth unemployment. There will be four options, but not a fifth option—staying at home on full benefit, doing nothing.

For the most vulnerable in our society—the homeless, the jobless young—we shall introduce proposals to deal with their problems of homelessness, unemployment and social vulnerability. We want to ensure that accommodation for the homeless young is matched by opportunities for them to acquire skills and to work, so that they are once again included in society. [Interruption.]

I should have thought that Conservative Members, instead of talking among themselves, would be more sensitive to the needs of the unemployed, especially now that some of their best friends are unemployed. I should have thought that Conservative Members who ask about extending employment pilot projects to communities that have suffered unexpected redundancies—such as Enfield, Southgate, for example, or Finchley, or all of Scotland and Wales—would be more sensitive. Now they know the meaning of their statement that unemployment is a price worth paying.

The second challenge of our welfare reform is to make work pay. Half the unemployed who find work become unemployed again within a year. Some of our lowest-paid workers face marginal tax rates of 80, 90 and, in some cases, 150 per cent. For every extra pound that they earn, they lose more than £1—in some cases £1.50—in tax and benefits. They are financially better off unemployed. An unskilled worker can work 40 hours a week instead of none, and, each week, will be pounds worse off. That absurdity must be tackled.

The current system keeps the poor unemployed and the unemployed poor. Willingness to work should never be financially penalised. Just as it is wrong that people at the top keep less because of penal marginal tax rates, it is iniquitous that those at the bottom, who cannot afford it, lose money because of penal marginal tax rates.

Such iniquities are why we want to take action. We shall deal with the benefit traps that lock thousands of men and women, many of whom have young families, into poverty. No longer should we have a Government who blame the unemployed for their poverty, and who simultaneously make those people even poorer if they work. That belief is why we have announced a comprehensive review of the tax and benefit system, to ensure that work can pay for all our citizens. We promised a review in our manifesto, and it will be chaired by Martin Taylor, chief executive of Barclays bank. He and I agree that we want to find a way in which to provide incentives for work, and to enable a change in the penal marginal rates of tax and benefit that hit working people.

Reform of the benefit system without implementation of a national minimum wage would be counterproductive. Without a minimum wage, Governments could waste billions of pounds subsidising employers who—in the sure knowledge that the taxpayer will bail them out—deliberately keep wages low. That is an additional, modern reason for a minimum wage. Only a minimum wage will provide the sure foundation for the tax and benefit reforms that we shall introduce to make work pay. Far from being a job-destroying measure, a minimum wage is an essential component of a constructive strategy to make work worth while and to create jobs.

The third element of our welfare reform is provision of a skills ladder. In 1945, the work force had a reasonable expectation of secure employment for a working life. In 1997, however, most people realise that a working life involves moving between jobs and acquiring new skills throughout that working life. The education legacy bequeathed by the previous Government must be judged against the challenges of the new economy.

In the number of teenagers in full-time education at 18, Britain, with Turkey, is at the bottom of the league of industrial countries. In the UK, 20 per cent. of young people leave school without essential literacy or numeracy skills. Half of the young unemployed do not have basic qualifications. Some 60 per cent. of the long-term unemployed are without skills. At a time when our economy relies more and more on education, there is a huge and growing deficit to make up with our competitors. With our initiatives on education, skills and training, millions of individuals will have new opportunities to participate in the challenges of a growing and changing economy.

All young people between 16 and 18 should be in education or training, whether part time or full time. We shall also make lifelong learning a reality with our proposals—which we want to advance as quickly as possible—for a new university of industry that will bring learning to the home, the workplace and the community. Our individual learning accounts will create the possibility of an improved partnership between individuals who want to learn and employers who want to improve skills. We shall replace the ineffective youth training scheme with two equally valid routes after the age of 16. There will be a college and schools-based route and a work-based apprenticeship and training route. On top of that, our welfare-to-work programme offers work and education opportunities to the young and long-term unemployed. For those reasons, we shall impose the windfall tax on the utilities. If anyone is in any doubt about its necessity, let me make it clear that it is necessary so that we can take action against the inequities that have been bequeathed to us.

The welfare reforms are an essential component of the growth strategy for our country, which needs a medium-term growth strategy. We have world-class firms, but not enough. In many areas we have modern capacity, but there is not enough of it. I want to nurture enterprise and potential productivity so that the good idea in innovation and research becomes the good product and eventually the good export. That is why we must identify and remove the barriers to growth and productivity. The new Minister with responsibility for European competitiveness will be involved in the completion of the single market. The public-private initiative will be given a new boost after the report by Malcolm Bates, formerly the deputy head of GEC.

Those higher levels of long-term investment can be delivered only from a platform of monetary and fiscal stability. Our aim must be never to return to the instability that characterised the Conservative stop-go economics of the past 18 years, causing so much harm to home owners and industry and blighting economic progress.

In order to meet our rules for borrowing, the Budget will establish a sound and long-term basis of public finance, and the foundation for that is honesty. That is why we have invited the head of the National Audit Office, the Comptroller and Auditor General, who is responsible to the House, to comment on some of the key assumptions and conventions that lie behind spending and borrowing estimates so that a truly independent assessment of the state of finances can be made. Before my first Budget, a report incorporating the National Audit Office's views will be published. I envisage that future Budgets will also have a continuing role for the National Audit Office in auditing the prospects for public finances through forecasting.

We have opened the books not only to provide the information that the country has a right to know, but because it is time to rebuild the public's trust about the uses of public money. From next year, we shall publish a Green Paper several months before the Budget containing all the information that the public need.

Together with that honesty in public finance, the Government offer another important change: clarity rather than division in our approach to Europe. When the shadow Chancellor introduced the debate, he talked about everything related to Europe except the issue that divides the Conservative party so completely: the single currency.

In their first week, the Government took positive steps in Europe to protect British interests. The Commission has now stated that it will not proceed with its objection to a cut in VAT on fuel.

The Government will fight for Britain's interests in Europe; we are also clear that there is no future for Britain outside Europe. I know that the shadow Chancellor agrees with me on that. He could not have been clearer in his letter to Conservative Members of Parliament. He said: The anti-European position of all the other rivals for the leadership will drive us to the political fringe. He even compared the directions in which the other five candidates wanted to go to the policies of Newt Gingrich. Conservative Members would be well advised to listen to what the shadow Chancellor said on "The Frost Programme" on Sunday 4 May. He said: If the party is led by a Europhile, he is not going to persuade the Eurosceptics to agree with him. If the party is led by a Eurosceptic, he is not going to persuade a Europhile to take a Whip on the big issues. It is a kind of cancer at the heart of the party. Some people are quite obsessed by it. They are quite incapable of agreeing about it at the moment. That was characteristically frank and an admission that, whoever wins the leadership election—whether a Europhile or a Eurosceptic—he will be unable to unite the Conservative party. Whatever happens, he will be faced with continuous division: a Conservative party that is incapable of being led and a country that would be ungovernable were that party ever to come back to power. Only a Labour Government can pursue our interests in Europe. The Conservative party has a lot of sorting out to do.

Not since 1945 have the British people stated so clearly the need for a change of direction. The last time the British people put their trust in the Labour party with such a powerful national mandate, we created the national health service, a new education service, the welfare state and full employment for a generation. Now, in 1997, as we embark on our task of national renewal, we are conscious of the trust placed in us by the British people—the responsibilities that are imposed upon us and the will of the British people for sensible change.

People voted for us because we were back again as the party of the people and this, the people's Government, will keep their promises. We shall keep our promises to build a stronger and more dynamic economy and to build a united society that deals with the real problems of unemployment, poverty and social division that the Conservative party ignored for too long. Most importantly, we shall restore trust between the people and their Government and restore people's trust in the power of Government to address the concerns that we must face together.

After 18 years, the people of this country now have a Government who are on their side. We have the people's mandate and, in government with the policies that I have suggested today, it is our determination—indeed, our task—to fulfil the people's mandate.

5.45 pm
Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

We have heard a Chancellor who, in some ways, is still in shadow Chancellor mode; we have certainly seen a shadow Chancellor who is still defending his record as Chancellor. The reality is that the Government have arrived here with the biggest majority and the smallest collection of policy commitments with which any Government have ever arrived.

The Chancellor has managed to get his team through the election with a remarkable degree of unanimity but with very little clarification on exactly what will happen. The first thing that happened was something that was not contained in the Labour manifesto, but was clearly stated in the Liberal Democrat manifesto. It is worth noting the difference between the two manifestos. The Liberal Democrat manifesto stated: We will turn the Bank of England into a UK Reserve Bank, free from political interference. We will charge the Bank with keeping inflation low and make it accountable to Parliament for achieving this goal. Lower inflation and greater exchange rate stability can better be secured by working with Britain's European partners. All the Labour party proposed was to reform the structure of the Bank of England; it gave no commitment as to its operational freedom. Therefore, I was not the only one to be surprised. In The Sunday Times of 11 May, David Smith said: To those who say that new Labour's plans were clear in the manifesto I say nonsense. On April 6, Peter Jay chaired a BBC2 debate between Gordon Brown, Kenneth Clarke and Malcolm Bruce, with the latter lambasting the other two for not having the guts to make the Bank independent. Did Brown put him right? He did not. On subsequent occasions during the election campaign, when the same debate took place, we had no indication from the then shadow Chancellor that he had any such intention.

I do not wish to be churlish—I welcome the decision and believe that it is in our best long-term interests. It was clearly something that enabled the Government to make a radical new announcement within only 48 hours or so of arriving in power. It slightly belies the Chancellor's claims that this will be a Government of openness, transparency and honesty, when such a major switch of policy is announced to our complete surprise.

It was also interesting to read in the Sunday newspapers that the Chancellor telephoned former Chancellors to inform them of his decision, but the one person whom, apparently, he did not telephone was his immediate predecessor. Perhaps that was because he knew his views already, but in the circumstances it might have been appropriate to contact him.

We have heard ex-Chancellors telling the House that they were in favour of independence for the Bank. At least the immediate ex-Chancellor has been consistent, in that he has not changed his mind yet, although he might have to do so in future as current circumstances continue to prevail. It is interesting that, in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, the views of the former Member for Kingston upon Thames, Mr. Norman Lamont, were solicited by the media. He was driven out of that seat by the local Conservative party because of boundary changes, and the constituency then had the wisdom to elect my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) to represent it. Mr. Lamont fled to Harrogate, where he was promptly defeated by a Liberal Democrat, so I was astonished that his opinions were as important to the media as they appeared to be.

It may be appropriate to warn the Chancellor that the Liberal Democrats now have a team, instead of only me, with whom to debate economic policy. I assure him that it is a team to be reckoned with. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton is a former economics adviser to our party and will be a formidable addition to our Treasury expertise in the House. In addition, my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) comes to us having been the chief economist of the Shell group, so he, too, has useful experience to contribute to our deliberations. I hope that their contributions will be listened to in a constructive and open manner by the members of the Treasury team. In passing, I should mention my hon. Friend the Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) who, while not a member of our Treasury team, has an expertise in social security and taxation that will be invaluable, both to us and, I submit, to the House.

The independence of the Bank is the most important issue emerging from the part of the Queen's Speech dealing with economic affairs. There is no question but that we shall support it. We shall, however, probe the Chancellor on several details that were revealed in his statement today. In response to questions from me and other hon. Members, the Chancellor was keen to say that the Court of the Bank of England would represent all sectors and all nations and geographical regions of the United Kingdom. He was equally clear in resisting suggestions that the policy body should be similarly constituted. I give the House notice that a policy body appointed for only three years, of which six members at least are to be appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, raises questions about how much freedom the Bank will have. Clearly, the Chancellor will retain control over the renewal of the contracts of those whom he appoints; no doubt, he will want to hold them to account for their adherence to his policy guidelines. The House might wish to consider whether longer terms would be more appropriate, if the operations of the Bank are to be genuinely independent.

It is also worth noting that the Chancellor probably forestalled making any announcement in advance because he anticipated the very intervention in his statement that he received from the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). It is clear that there are Labour Members who regard giving control over interest rates to the Bank of England as a major betrayal of socialist interference in the economic management of the country.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

I can speak for myself.

Mr. Bruce

The hon. Gentleman has already spoken for himself. The problem is that he may not be able to deliver enough votes to change the policy.

Mr. Skinner

I do not want the rag, tag and bobtails to speak for me.

Mr. Bruce

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly capable of making his own case and he has already done so. My point is that his intervention gives a clear explanation of why the Chancellor needed to keep this development a closely guarded secret until after the election.

The benefits that will accrue from this policy are fundamentally good. We wholly disagree with the arguments advanced by the shadow Chancellor. The Government will set the inflation target, but interest rates will be set for economic and not political reasons. That should result in lower inflation, lower interest rates and a more stable economy.

It is a fact—one that the shadow Chancellor rather underplayed—that there has been a 0.5 per cent. fall in long-term interest rates since the Chancellor took his decision. It is not good enough for the shadow Chancellor to say that we must not judge the markets' response on the actions of the first couple of days. Their decisions are taken on the basis of judgments on what the long-term underlying rate of interest will be, and it is clear that the markets' judgment is that it will be lower; that has been the experience of all countries that have an operationally independent central bank. The benefit of that approach is that the large national debt that has been bequeathed to the new Government by the outgoing Conservative Government will at least be cheaper to service if long-term interest rates are lower. That will help us to bring down public borrowing—;something that the Conservatives will eventually welcome.

If the Conservatives persist in opposing this measure, they will make fools of themselves, because they will be putting themselves outside mainstream thinking in every advanced economic discipline in the world. There is no country among the major economies, other than Japan, that continues the role of political interference in its central bank. Indeed, if the Conservative party maintains its position—the Chancellor understandably pressed Conservative Members on that point—it could be that, in the approach to the next general election, the markets will get the jitters at the possibility of the election of a Conservative Government who could undermine the economy's stability. I hope that the Conservatives will come around to conventional wisdom and common sense.

The Gracious Speech contains a commitment to ensure that public borrowing is controlled. The Chancellor is aware of the huge debts amassed by his predecessors over the past decade and much was made of that problem during the election campaign. He is right to take action to bring down that deficit and he will have our support in doing so. He should not rush into reform of the personal taxation system so soon after the election, especially in light of the debate during the campaign and his own promises. He needs to allow time for proper consideration of such changes. Nevertheless, speedy action to reduce the deficit is necessary and will be welcome.

Recent figures suggest that public borrowing is falling rather faster than planned. It should be, because the economy is growing quite quickly and the public sector borrowing requirement is still far too high. The shadow Chancellor's claim that he got it right is open to question. Even if he did get it right, we have all paid a premium for his right to interfere. Now is the time for the Chancellor to try to resolve the problem of the deficit for good, while the economy is strong. He and I have both said that we basically support the golden rule as a principle of sound public sector finance, but to apply the golden rule one has to eliminate the short-term current account deficit. I hope that he agrees that that is an overriding priority.

We might even be able to reduce the deficit to as little as £10 billion within the next financial year. That would strengthen our ability to weather future economic storms and lower long-term interest rates still further. It would help to reduce the need to boost short-term interest rates in order to control inflation and offset upward pressures on the exchange rate. I suggest that the shadow Chancellor knows that to pray in aid the exchange rate is not an entirely honourable argument, when it is domestic pressures that are creating inflation within the economy.

One of the reasons why the exchange rate has risen is the markets' belief that, when he was Chancellor, he was operating an interest rate policy that would require further increases in future, in spite of his protests to the contrary.

We need to maintain strict financial discipline, which is why my intervention on the Chancellor, which was backed up by the shadow Chancellor, is so important. If the Chancellor—he clarified this point in the end—is to stick to his manifesto commitment to maintain spending for the next two years within the outgoing Government's departmental spending limits, he has given himself a straitjacket that will cause massive tensions within the Labour party and that has the potential to cause great disappointment among those who wanted real improvements in health and education spending. I have to tell him that, having made his position so abundantly clear, there is no going back.

I shall return to that subject, but first I shall dwell on what the Gracious Speech says about monetary union, which the Chancellor mentioned in passing, but not head-on. The speech says that the Government will play a full part in the debate about Economic and Monetary Union. That is a rather thin statement of the Government's position. Companies are waiting to take serious decisions on that matter, and they are entitled to hear more about the Government's policy. They are at least entitled to know when the Government intend to take a decision on first-wave entry.

The business community needs clarification of the Government's position on monetary union, not least because investment decisions on computers and cash machines must be taken now, and there is obviously growing demand from the business community for answers to such questions.

The Liberal Democrats' position is clear. We believe that, if monetary union goes ahead on time, if the founder countries meet the convergence criteria, if Britain meets those convergence criteria and if the decision to join is backed by a positive vote in a referendum of the British people, it is in the British national interest to be founder members of European monetary union.

The Government's position is much less clear. During the general election campaign, the present Chancellor refused to set out clearly the terms on which he would recommend entry into monetary union. Once, on "Channel 4 News", he and I got slightly physical about that matter, because he was anxious to challenge the then Chancellor but not to answer questions. That characteristic does not appear to have changed, despite his accession to office.

We need a clear steer now. Do the Government categorically rule out joining monetary union in 1999 under any circumstances? If that is the case, would they join in 2001, or would they join later? What policy will they pursue in the meantime? Will they shadow the euro? Will they strive to achieve criteria to allow early membership? If they will, what will those criteria be?

I hope that the Chancellor will accept that that is a matter of interest not only to Liberal Democrats. All the people engaged in business in this country need to know the answers to plan for the future. We need a clear statement whether, in principle, the Government believe that EMU can succeed, if and when Britain should be part of it and what conditions will need to be met. I hope that the Deputy Prime Minister can clarify matters when he replies to the debate.

It would be helpful to have an idea of when we may receive a statement on the Budget date. The widely canvassed date of 10 June would require an announcement before the recess, and sooner rather than later. The Chancellor owes us a clear indication on that matter.

I return briefly to the issue of tax and spending, because the Government must explain how they justify their ambitious aims for the education system, for our national health service, for welfare reform and to tackle poverty. The Government are making big claims. The language is robust, and many people are responding with enthusiasm to the Government's expressed aims, but how will those aims be achieved?

If the Government are determined to stay within departmental spending limits, their education policy and their claims and aspirations cannot be met. In our judgment, it is impossible to achieve class sizes of fewer than 30 for five, six and seven-year-olds by using the proceeds of abolishing the assisted places scheme: the figures do not add up. In fact, the time scale involved in introducing that scheme means that class sizes are likely to continue increasing before they can be reduced, and as there is no commitment to reducing class sizes for seven, eight, nine and 10-year-olds, those class sizes will continue to increase throughout the present Parliament.

Equally, it is difficult to believe that a serious reduction in NHS waiting lists can be achieved by saving £100 million on bureaucracy, even if that can be readily delivered, and in those circumstances it is difficult to envisage how the Government's claims on the NHS can be delivered. Despite the Government's manifesto pledges, class sizes will continue to increase, national health service waiting lists will continue to lengthen for the next two years and the rest of the Parliament will be spent on reversing the damage caused by the Government's inability to fund their promises in the first two years. That is a recipe for a betrayal of all those people who voted Labour at the general election because they believed that things would get better in our schools and hospitals. In those circumstances, those aims simply cannot be achieved.

If the Chancellor is going to spend the first half of the Parliament allowing the situation to deteriorate and the second half retrieving the damage, how, by the end of the Parliament, will he have delivered on his commitment to put education at the top of the priority list and to deliver a radically reformed national health service? No wonder the Secretary of State for Health has made such colourful comments about the inheritance that he has come into on arriving in his Department.

The Labour leadership—and the Chancellor in responding to my earlier intervention—made a similar response, denouncing the Liberal Democrats' manifesto position. In our manifesto, we stated clearly and categorically not only our priorities—which were much more ambitious on health and education than the Government's—but how they would be paid for, knowing that people wanted those improvements in public services and would not believe that they could be delivered without a clear commitment on where the money would come from. That is what we did, and that is what Labour did not do.

It is not good enough for the Chancellor—or the Prime Minister—to denounce irresponsibility by the Liberal Democrats, when he is unable to deliver, in significant terms, any serious improvement on health and education. On the first day of the debate on the Loyal Address, the Prime Minister accused the Liberal Democrats of an addiction to rather peculiar tax-raising powers".—[Official Report, 14 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 66.] I presume that by "peculiar tax-raising powers" he means our proposals to fund better education out of a small and targeted increase in income tax. Is income tax really such a "peculiar" tax-raising power? Do the Prime Minister and the Chancellor not know that £72 billion in income tax will be collected by the Government in the coming financial year, which, by a factor of almost 50 per cent., is the largest single source of Exchequer revenue? So what is so peculiar about that form of tax? Is it not a fair and progressive tax, and readily understood by all who pay it?

It is the Prime Minister who, with his Chancellor, is committed to peculiar taxation. They are committed to retrospective taxation that seeks to change the terms on which the Government struck a deal with the private sector: retrospective taxation that hits many of those who have not experienced the super-normal gains that the Exchequer seeks to tax; retrospective taxation on monopoly utilities which, in some cases, are neither utilities nor monopolies—no doubt Iain Valiance thought that he was heading up one of those when he voted Labour—retrospective taxation that pretends to tax windfalls gained by the few, but that actually taxes the pensions of the many; retrospective taxation that seeks to fund multi-year programmes with one-off revenue.

It is the Labour party that is addicted to "peculiar" tax-raising powers. If it is the "windfalls" of the utilities today, why are we to believe that it may not be the "windfalls" of other firms or individuals tomorrow? Liberal Democrats oppose dishonest and unfair taxation, so we oppose the windfall tax and we shall expose the cost of that tax on pensions and its opportunism.

The test of the Government will be, not the good intentions that they set out or the small measures that they can deliver, but the progress made in transforming our education system into a first-class state system of which we can all be proud, the measures taken to improve our public health provision and the concrete steps taken to make a reality of a society of opportunity for all.

The Labour Government have arrived in power saying that they will keep their promises, but they have made so few promises that they will not be able to fulfil the aspirations of people who want their services to be improved. We wish them well, but we have grave reservations as to whether they will be able to deliver.

6.9 pm

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) rightly welcomed the widening of interests of the members of the Court of the Bank of England. It does indeed have a very narrow base and it must be widened. I look forward to much greater representation from the different parts of the country and its industrial life.

The most important part of the Queen's Speech was the commitment to growth and employment. That was reinforced by what the Chancellor said today. The Queen's Speech stated: The central economic objectives of my Government are high and stable levels of economic growth and employment… They will aim to deliver high and sustainable levels of growth and employment by encouraging investment in industry, skills, infrastructure and new technologies". These are certainly the key issues facing the Government, and I am encouraged to find them given such prominence in the Queen's Speech.

The Chancellor's decision to grant some independence to the Bank of England is critical. I see that decision in the context of economic and monetary union. The problems of implementing EMU are great, and they are known. In particular, the harnessing together of widely differing economies and conditions would usually be regarded as an insuperable problem, but it is now clear that the will to succeed is so great that countries with respectable standards of economic integrity are proceeding to cook the books so as to meet the Maastricht criteria. We know that those criteria were arbitrary and were formed at a time when the economic problems of the past few years were not so clear as they have subsequently become.

Far from devising new and perhaps more sensible criteria, it seems that the forces of action in this area are now becoming unstoppable. That was highlighted by Germany's willingness to revalue its gold holding to meet the EMU criteria. We always knew that Italy would be the great book cooker. France, with its assets sale, has also affronted EMU principles. That did not greatly surprise us, but Germany—the protector of financial rectitude and integrity—has certainly surprised us by entering the murky world of financial compromise.

I have always been less than convinced that the Bundesbank had much to do with Germany's economic success. The cause of its success was always the industrial might of German industry, with its technically educated work force and highly qualified management. It was industry that made for success, and the Bundesbank merely followed in its wake. The Bundesbank was not the cause of Germany's economic success—it was the beneficiary of it. Nevertheless, it gained Germany a reputation for extreme financial prudence and the tarnishing of that reputation is highly significant. Those countries are determined to proceed with EMU, and on the timetable that has already been set.

The question for us, then, is to adjust to the clear expectation and determination of those countries which are throwing in their lot with EMU. On that basis, I understand the Government's decision to grant some sort of independence to the Bank of England. I do not believe that the Bank's record has been above criticism. In any discussions between the Governor and the Chancellor, their roles have always been clear: a Chancellor may underrate the threat of inflation for political purposes, but the Governor will always exaggerate it—so it has proved over the past few years, and it is always likely to remain so.

I should have liked EMU not to proceed—or if it did, to have a long delay to prepare for it as economies converge in the early years of the next century. Such delay now appears highly unlikely. What worries me is the prospect of Europe proceeding without Britain, making decisions that will greatly affect us without our being part of that decision making. Our economy is increasingly geared to Europe, so we must decide whether to throw in our lot with our partners or whether to stand aloof.

In this context, the decision to give the Bank its independence is understandable. There are a number of safeguards—particularly in the form of the possibility of reviewing the financial arrangements of the Bank. The letter from the Chancellor to the Governor stated: The Bank of England will make reports to and give evidence to the House of Commons, through the Treasury select committee, on an enhanced basis, and I will write to the chairman of the committee. I am not sure what that "enhanced basis" is. Perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister will give me an answer to that question.

I should like the Select Committees to be set up as soon as possible. In its last report at the end of the previous Parliament, the Liaison Committee asked that they be set up quickly, even if they are not complete in all respects. It is important not to wait several months, especially as so many of these matters need to be referred to the Committees.

I was interested to learn that the Public Accounts Commission is to have a role. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that the National Audit Office will report on the assumptions and conventions underlying the Treasury. I recall that in about 1984, after I had become Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the Treasury suggested that it might do an efficiency audit of the National Audit Office. I responded by saying that that was a good idea, but that perhaps the NAO should first do an efficiency audit of the Treasury. We never heard anything more.

Now the National Audit Office is being brought in to scrutinise the assumptions and conventions of Treasury forecasting. That is a sensible way to proceed. The National Audit Office has been one of the most successful parliamentary institutions of recent years and the Comptrollers and Auditors General—Sir Gordon Downey and later Sir John Bourn—have been enormously important in maintaining standards in the public service and accountability in public finances.

I am not sure what is to happen to the reports emanating from the National Audit Office questioning certain aspects of the Treasury's activities. Perhaps we shall hear Ministers' thoughts on that later.

The critical decision for entry to EMU will be the rate of the pound on entry. Exports are undoubtedly suffering, and the target of 2.5 per cent. for inflation has been met only because the cost of imports has fallen by about 15 per cent. in the past year. That has helped enormously to sustain the target of 2.5 per cent. If we get the entry rate for the pound too high, we may begin our membership at a severe disadvantage, leading to deflation at home while other countries begin their expansion under the new rules.

After Black Wednesday, the pound declined to DM2.30, with enormous consequential advantages to our exports. It is difficult to envisage a rate of that sort following entry into the European monetary union. I would hope for a rate of about DM2.50. I know that the negotiations will be difficult, but the Government's aim should be clear.

I was particularly encouraged by what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said about investment. There is undoubtedly an important role for the tax system in increasing investment opportunities. We have a system not of investment incentives, but of investment disincentives. If someone buys a capital product, for every £1,000 of that cost he receives £250 as his initial allowance. Few capital items are worth 75 per cent. of their initial value at the end of the first year, so the person loses money in the first year and is not compensated by the tax system. The allowance is not even set on the basis of equality: there is a loss.

I want an investment incentive that encourages people to invest more. I know the arguments that the best investment is based on the need to get something out of the article that the person is procuring, but even when that happens the investor should get some encouragement, which can come from the tax system.

Another matter that I feel should be raised, particularly at the beginning of a Parliament, is mortgage interest relief at source—MIRAS. During the campaign and in the weeks since then, we have heard of the need to plan for two Parliaments. I hope that we shall be able not only to plan for that, but to achieve it. The scope for effecting change during one Parliament is considerable, but it is not enough for certain areas in which we might wish to bring about change. Some planning decisions need longer time scales. That time is required to bed in the changes as well as to present certain programmes which require longer to introduce. Foremost among those must be the further reduction of mortgage interest relief.

Over several Governments, housing was turned into a national investment. People were led to believe that house investment was better than productive investment, and so it proved in those years—to our great disadvantage. Tax relief was handed out with serious consequences for stability in the housing market. Beyond a certain minimum level, housing should be regarded as an expenditure, not an investment. If we are able to enjoy the concept of planning for a long period ahead, as I hope that we may be able to do, we should consider mortgage interest relief. It should be phased out over a long enough period of years not to have too dramatic an effect on the expectations of people taking out mortgages. Lower interest rates will reduce the benefit in any case, so there is a possibility of phasing it out over a long enough period, which should not prove too painful.

We have all been impressed by the work of the Scottish and Welsh regional development agencies, which have been so successful that other parts of the country consider themselves disadvantaged. The main benefit lies in the responsibility that can be given to the regions in determining an important part of their industrial future. Bringing together people who have knowledge, interest and understanding has been valuable in Scotland and Wales and I expect to see similar benefits in the regions. However, the immediate event that we await is the first of what I am sure will be many Budgets from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The task that he will face is to reduce the public sector borrowing requirement as well as to provide some finance for some of the expenditures that he will need to prepare for in the second year of this Government. The role of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will be critical. His position is one of the most difficult of all. Following this initial period, I look forward to his preparing some transition from a hair shirt to one made of some serviceable calico.

The Government have made an energetic start. I think that we all appreciate that. Over the next few years, the tempo may be reduced a little, but I am confident that their vigour and vision will be maintained.

6.24 pm
Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling)

I should like to devote my remarks to the European affairs part of the debate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is no longer in his place, predictably had a limited amount of fun—no doubt he could not resist it—with the difference of view in the Conservative party in relation to the negotiating position on the single currency. However, on the issue immediately facing us, which is of the most profound significance—our negotiating position at the Amsterdam intergovernmental conference summit—the Conservative party is wholly united in its opposition to surrendering our opt-out from the social chapter, in not making further surrenders of our rights of veto, and in its overall approach to that critical conference.

As this Parliament evolves, and if we do get further European treaty legislation following the IGC, it will be interesting for us Conservative Members to see whether the Labour party in government is as seriously split on the new treaty legislation as it most certainly was in relation to the Maastricht legislation in the previous Parliament.

I wish to make this point on the European treaty. This is no reflection on either of the two Front-Bench teams; it is simply a matter of the conjunctions of timing. We are now less than four weeks away from the Amsterdam summit, when that profoundly important treaty will be decided. There has been inadequate parliamentary scrutiny and parliamentary accountability in advance of that critical summit.

No Select Committees of the House have been set up, the new draft of the intergovernmental conference treaty, which is about one inch thick in my estimate, was available only last Friday and with the best will in the world few, if any, hon. Members will have been able to give it the detailed and intense scrutiny that it most certainly requires. In this debate, important economic issues and equally important European issues are being dealt with simultaneously. In terms of parliamentary accountability, it is essential that before the Amsterdam summit there should be at least another full day's debate on the IGC summit so that hon. Members have the opportunity to put their views to the House before the summit takes place, particularly as Madam Speaker said at the start of this debate that, sadly, some Members who are seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may not be called.

The most critical issue in the new treaty, which contains some of the most far-reaching provisions, is the extent to which the British Government further surrender our rights of veto at the Amsterdam summit. I am not in any way detracting from the other critical issues in the treaty: the extent to which it proposes far-reaching new competences for the European Union; the proposals substantially to increase the powers given to the European Parliament; the extremely radical proposals for bringing about greater Community involvement in the foreign affairs and security pillar; and the even more radical proposals in the home affairs and administration of justice pillar. So far as this Parliament is concerned, however, I believe that the critical issue will be the extent to which the present Government do or do not sign up to further surrenders of our rights of veto, particularly in the areas at present covered by unanimity.

It cannot be stressed too strongly how crucial in constitutional, legal and policy terms a decision to surrender our right of veto in a given policy area is. It is crucial, first, because each surrender is irreversible in practice. There has been no case, to my knowledge, in which a move from unanimity to qualified majority voting has ever been reversed since the European Union came into being—and here I am going back to the formation of the EEC.

Once the right of unanimity is surrendered, in effect it takes away from the elected British Government the ability to say no to a particular policy area and framework of law which applies in that policy area. In addition, it opens up for the indefinite future the possibility of further directives which the elected British Government will have no powers to resist if they do not have the votes under the qualified majority voting system.

During the election campaign I listened extremely carefully to what the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) said about the circumstances in which a Labour Government, if elected, would further surrender our rights of veto. He said that he would not surrender the veto in a limited number of stated areas. He referred to tax, defence and security, immigration, EU budget contributions and treaty changes. That was clear. Important as they are, however, those five areas represent only a fraction of the total policy areas involved. All the rest was left open.

The right hon. Gentleman, now the Prime Minister, said that he would be prepared to surrender our rights of veto and move from unanimity to qualified majority voting if he believed that it was in our national interest to do so. Against the background that I have outlined, I find it difficult to believe that there can be any areas in which it could be in the British national interest to make further surrenders of our rights of veto, unless and until a very substantive concession was obtained in return; those are the only circumstances in which I believe that it could be justifiable to make a further surrender of rights of veto—hypothetically, at any rate.

I find it poor on the part of the new Government that on their first visit to the European institutions they have made a wholly unconditional surrender of our opt-out from the social chapter without getting anything whatever in exchange. That was negotiating naivety in the extreme.

I want to make three points about the social chapter. First, at no time in the election campaign or in the run-up to the election did I hear Labour Members explaining that their commitment to surrender the opt-out from the social chapter involved not merely one surrender, but two. First, obviously, by surrendering our opt-out we are bringing within the ambit of Community decision making and Community law an area of policy which is at present the exclusive preserve of the United Kingdom.

The second surrender arises because it is clear from protocol 14 of the social chapter that there are two types of procedure for different subject heads. One of those areas is covered already by qualified majority voting.

The process of surrendering our opt-out from the social chapter means not merely substituting Community law for what would effectively be an exclusive right of national law but at the same time surrendering our rights of direct control in those areas and replacing them by a qualified majority voting system.

I remind the House what those areas are in which the very act of surrendering the social chapter opt-out brings QMV into effect. Those areas are extremely wide-ranging and cover workers' health and safety; working conditions; the information and consultation of workers; equality between men and women with regard to labour market opportunities and treatment at work and the integration of persons excluded from the labour market which, I am told, is Euro speak for rights for the unemployed. I list those to indicate the breadth of the areas that the surrender of the opt-out from the social chapter already brings within the QMV system in which, of course, the British Government have no right of veto.

My second point relates to the other subjects in protocol 14—those which are subject to the decision-making process by unanimity. Do the Government intend to surrender to existing pressures and to exchange unanimity in that part of the social chapter for qualified majority voting? Will that be one of the areas in which they will surrender our rights of veto? Those areas, too, are profoundly significant and include social security and social protection of workers; protection of workers where their employment contract is terminated; representation and collective defence of the interests of workers and employers and financial contributions for promotion of employment and job creation". Those are enormously wide areas, which could be the subject of later directives. A critical policy issue, therefore, is whether the Government will end up, after the Amsterdam summit, having conceded not merely our opt-out from the social chapter, but qualified majority voting throughout protocol 14.

That brings me to the third point about the surrender of the social chapter opt-out: the implications for the future. It is true that so far only two directives have come into effect under the social chapter. One is the works councils directive; the other is the parental leave directive. I found the parental leave directive particularly interesting. Having taken advice on it, I wonder how many employers in the United Kingdom realise that under that directive, in the case of employees who have a child, employers will be under an obligation to allow both parents to have not less than three months leave from their place of work. That is a significant and interesting point.

Beyond that, there is the question of what further directives will be issued under the social chapter. A directive that is already considerably advanced will shift the burden of proof in sex discrimination cases so that it falls in part on the employer—requiring the employer to prove a negative in such cases. That has significant legal implications. Another directive that is quite far advanced deals with rights for part-time workers and temporary workers. That has the capacity to produce a serious loss of job opportunities among those currently in part-time or temporary work.

The issue is not whether those areas of legislation are desirable or not. They are all grounded in national legislation. The Government have decided that they no longer want to rely on national legislation in those areas. However, I put it to the House that national legislation can deal with those matters perfectly satisfactorily. By surrendering our opt-out, we are telling the EU that it may take over legislating in those areas—and, ultimately, the European Court of Justice rather than the British courts will be the determining body when directives are issued. That is why I believe that it is a profound change.

The issue of surrendering our right of veto applies not simply to the social chapter, but much more widely. There is no doubt that the Commission and some of our EU partners have substantial ambitions in that area. It is significant that in February this year the Commission published a paper entitled "Extension of Qualified Majority Voting", which listed 18 new areas where unanimity could be replaced by qualified majority voting. The Government have said that they might be willing to surrender unanimity and replace it with qualified majority voting in two of those 18 areas: the industrial and the environmental areas. Such a change to the industrial chapter would have profound implications for businesses in this country. The introduction of qualified majority voting would also have profound implications for certain parts of the environment chapter, which is currently subject in part to unanimity.

Article 130s lists the environmental articles that remain subject to unanimity, including town and country planning. If unanimity were surrendered in that area and replaced by qualified majority voting and the Commission agreed—possibly against the wishes of the elected British Government—to produce an EU directive on town and country planning which would bite in Labour Members' constituencies, I wonder how pleased they would be about the surrender of the veto undertaken by their Government at Amsterdam. That illustrates the scale and importance of the issues at stake.

The Government have said that they will support the proposed new employment chapter. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson), has set out clearly the Government's overall negotiating position. I refer to a Reuters press release issued after the Minister's first visit with his European colleagues. It said: Henderson said Labour would end the British opt-out from the EU's Social Chapter, agree to more qualified majority voting in some policy areas and support an employment chapter in a new EU treaty to be adopted in mid-June in Amsterdam. I put it to the House that the package of surrenders that the Government propose—surrendering our opt-out on the social chapter, replacing our existing rights of unanimity with qualified majority voting in key areas such as industry and environment, and accepting the existing employment chapter—has potentially damaging consequences for industry in this country, affecting investment, costs, labour market flexibility and competitiveness. If the Government go down that route, the British people will ultimately pay the price with their jobs.

6.44 pm
Ms Ruth Kelly (Bolton, West)

Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is a great privilege to have the opportunity to make my maiden speech so early in the parliamentary Session.

In speaking to the House for the first time, I am conscious of the honour bestowed upon me by the people of Bolton, West in electing me as their Member of Parliament. I am also proud to be joined in the House by two other new Members of Parliament, my hon. Friends the Members for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Crausby) and for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon). It is the first time since Bolton has been represented by three Members of Parliament that all three are Labour Members. It is now truly a Labour town, and I hope that it will stay that way for many years.

I begin by paying several tributes. I first pay tribute to my immediate predecessor, Mr. Tom Sackville. Hon. Members will undoubtedly remember him as a loyal and faithful servant of the House, who made his mark on his party and served as a Minister in more than one Department. He was also admired in Bolton for his attention to local issues, particularly his determination to pursue university status for Bolton institute of higher education—a cause with which I, too, hope to be associated; albeit with greater success. A university for Bolton would bring great honour to the town and its people.

I pay tribute also to Mr. Sackville's predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor). She was first elected as Labour Member of Parliament for Bolton, West in October 1974, and represented the area for nine years. She is remembered with great affection in Bolton as a good constituency Member, who was able to combine a high profile on the national scene with a readiness to deal with constituents' problems. I am delighted to see that, as the right hon. Member for Dewsbury, she has maintained a prominent position on the Labour Front Bench, and is now Leader of the House. I congratulate her on that appointment.

As well as being remembered fondly by her former constituents in Bolton, my right hon. Friend remains a great fan—and season ticket holder—of Bolton Wanderers football club. Having taken in one record-breaking landslide recently, hon. Members may have missed the result achieved by the Wanderers in gaining promotion to the Premier league, scoring 100 goals and narrowly missing 100 points. I take this opportunity to wish them every success next season.

Bolton, West is in many ways a misleading name for a constituency comprising mainly small towns and villages to the west of Bolton rather than the town itself. Deane-cum-Heaton ward around Bolton school and along the Chorley new road contains some fine residential areas. The 19th-century mansions of Bolton's textile magnates can still be seen—some of them still in use as family homes. Bolton was a mill town, and, like many parts of the United Kingdom, mirrored the west-east divide between those who profited from spinning cotton on Crompton's mule—a machine invented by one of Bolton's favoured sons—and those who formed the bulk of the work force.

The industrial and employment base of the constituency was broadened when parts of the old West Houghton constituency were incorporated into Bolton, West in the 1983 boundary changes. The town's top residential areas in Deane-cum-Heaton were joined by three small towns: Horwich, Blackrod and West Houghton. Horwich was renowned for its locomotive industry, and West Houghton and Blackrod for their textiles, mining and agricultural industries.

In many ways, the economy of Bolton, West is a microcosm of what has happened to the British economy in the past 18 years. Its great industrial heritage was wiped out in the booms and busts of the Thatcher years, while the service sector jobs that sprang up in its wake were mainly part-time, insecure and poorly paid.

Many of my constituents are employed in defence-related industries—and we are all aware of what is happening to them as a result of the end of the cold war. Their plight was made worse by the neglect of a Government who undertook no strategic review of Britain's defence needs, and had no policy of diversification to preserve much-needed skills. At the time of the last election in 1992, more than 1,600 people were employed at British Aerospace at Lostock; now there are only 500.

The problems of Bolton, West today are similar in many ways to those faced by the people who lived there a century ago: the divisions, inequality and social fragmentation remain. Unemployment, especially among young people, scars the landscape. The north-west of England has the highest level of youth unemployment in the country. In the west of Bolton, Horwich, West Houghton and Blackrod, over 1,500 young people under the age of 25 are neither in work, education nor training. That is one reason why I was delighted to see prominence given in the Gracious Speech to Labour's commitment to take 250,000 young people off welfare and return them to work.

The towns have also suffered as a result of the Conservative Government's courting of the fat cats, at the expense of ordinary people. Brian Staples, the chief executive of United Utilities, took home £405,000 last year, an 864 per cent. increase on his pre-privatisation salary. At the same time, an analysis of job vacancies advertised at jobcentres by the Greater Manchester low pay unit showed that 15 per cent. of all jobs advertised offered wages of less than £2.82 an hour; over 70 per cent. were offered at £3.58 an hour or less.

Last year, when the survey was undertaken, the national insurance threshold was reached only by those in four out of 10 jobs. Half of all jobs advertised paid below the single person's tax threshold. Indeed, last month, one job was advertised in Bolton at £70 a week as a general labourer—the hours, 42 a week. In other words, the rate was £1.67 an hour.

The Gracious Speech contains many proposals which, if implemented, will be of great benefit to my constituents. I am honoured to be part of a Government who are committed to introducing a national minimum wage that will end the exploitation of workers. Many of us in the House will recognise that employers have a responsibility to pay a just wage. Those employers who pay only the level of wages that the labour market demands, however low, are avoiding their moral responsibilities for the welfare of their employees. That effect was widely recognised in my constituency during the election campaign.

Labour's proposed low pay commission will bring together representatives from both sides of industry. It will make proposals to fix the level of a minimum wage, a wage that will enable many people to regain self-respect as they make a vital contribution to the health of the nation's economy.

There is a new mood in the country, and I am confident that the minimum wage will be accepted by employers as well as by the work force as a significant step in rendering our society a moral one, of which we can all be proud. The Government begin their administration with a determination to govern for the many, not just the few. It is now time to start rebuilding Britain as one nation. I look forward to playing my small part in the task that lies ahead.

6.52 pm
Mr. Martin Bell (Tatton)

I hope that it is appropriate for one new Member to pay tribute to a truly excellent speech by another, the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Ms Kelly).

I have had one or two semantic difficulties with one of the traditions of the House, but I think that I have resolved them. I wish to pay tribute to my predecessor for the work that he did on behalf of his constituents and for the effect that he had, whether deliberately or not, in reviving the spirit of democracy in Tatton, which has recently experienced a general election campaign unlike any other in its history, and a little unlike any other in the country.

My predecessor and I are very different people, but one thing that we have in common is a great love for a beautiful part of Cheshire. That love extends to its valleys, its villages and its landscape, which is now threatened in one part by the onward march of concrete.

One other thing that I have in common with my predecessor is that we both came to this beautiful place from somewhere else—he from Wales and I from Suffolk. We love this place with the zeal and attachment of a convert.

I am in this place for but one term. I am perhaps the least intentional Member, but not the least determined. It would seem to me appropriate if at one time it might be thought possible for the Cross Benches to be ruled to be a part of the full Chamber. Such a ruling would certainly give me somewhere appropriate to sit. I think that it would send a signal to those in the country who want less confrontational politics. In my time here, I wish to serve my constituents fully and to do something to bring to bear my experience from another world in rattling around the war zones and the lessons that that taught me.

There seems not much point in going through those ordeals unless one learns something from them. There are lessons such as the fact that good and evil are not abstractions, but are actual forces in the world, and that the difference that an individual can make is greater now than it was in the more predictable world of the old cold war. It is a difference that perhaps even a Member of this place can make.

How can that difference be made? Perhaps, for a start, it can be made by supporting the Government's initiative to end the curse and scourge of land mines throughout the world. Of all Members of this place, I am probably the one who has been closest to land mines in the past years. Indeed, I know much about them. I know that they are dismayingly easy to sow and to manufacture, and dismayingly difficult to find and disarm.

I know also that, of all weapons of war, land mines are the ones that do not observe the ceasefire, but continue to explode for generations afterward, killing and maiming the innocent. I know, in addition, that they are laid by soldiers against soldiers, but that their principal victims are nearly always civilians, and two categories of civilians—farmers and children.

It is a moral imperative that we cleanse the face of the earth of weapons that target children, and that we support the United Nations as the lead organisation that is trying to achieve that aim. The UN's new Secretary-General—I have spent much of the past three months with him—is active in this cause.

It is perhaps time to return to the politics and diplomacy of honour to help those whom we have it in our power to help. I see honour in that. I see honour also in trying to help those whom we have it in our power to help but only fail. As for not helping those whom we have it in our power to help, I see no honour in that. There is surely dishonour in walking away from those whom we are internationally obliged and mandated to help, as the United Nations faced in Srebrenica. Let that not happen again—not that or anything like it.

In the end, perhaps, it is a matter of drawing the distinction that was made a long time ago by Theodore Roosevelt: a distinction between those who are in the arena and are trying—sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing for daring too greatly—and others, the critics and the nay-sayers, whom Theodore Roosevelt described as "cold souls" who knew not victory or defeat. Let us not join the cold souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

6.58 pm
Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

It is an enormous privilege for me to take up the remarks of two outstanding maiden speakers. I admired the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell) greatly as a journalist, but I thought that he was making a huge mistake when he stood at Tatton. I thought that he would not win. But then, I have been wrong about everything else in the election. The hon. Gentleman struck an enormous blow for democracy and for cleaning up government and this place. We look forward greatly to his future contributions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ms Kelly) spoke movingly and knowledgeably about her constituency. She will make a great contribution in this place. It is an enormous pleasure to see so many young and energetic women sweeping through the Corridors. They will make a change. That sort of change is, of course, long overdue. We look forward very much to my hon. Friend's future contributions.

The winds of change are blowing throughout the length and breadth of the country. They were blowing so very strongly that they blew me out of Government after only two days, and on to what is called the "freedom of the Back Benches" for the first time in 16 years, but I shall not go into that; it is not my ambition to rival the drama of yesterday's events. Those winds of change, some of which were unleashed by the tremendous victory of the Prime Minister, will make this into a great, reforming Parliament. There will be constitutional and democratic renewal, which is long overdue.

There are changes at work, however, that are even more fundamental than that—globalisation, the challenges and opportunities of the information society, and the fierce international competition in which we, with all other countries, have to survive. One of the most exciting messages coming from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was that, not only as a party but as a people, we must embrace change.

Our country and, indeed, our party for far too long resisted change. We behaved like ostriches, putting our heads in the sand, and then complained that change had ridden roughshod over us and that we had no influence whatever in shaping it. My right hon. Friend has taught us that we must embrace change and allow the people to become partners in the management of that change, for the benefit of the many, not the few. Indeed, the most fundamental challenge facing the Government, and all Governments, will be the management of change.

My distinguished right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) mentioned development agencies. I am glad to see that both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister at the Departments of the Environment, Transport and the Regions are present, because they campaigned fiercely and successfully for development agencies for many years. I and my colleagues in the northern group of Labour Members of Parliament have campaigned, too, for some 20 or 25 years, for development agencies, so it was a great pleasure to all of us to see it in the Queen's Speech. We owe my colleagues on the Front Bench a great debt of gratitude that they managed to get it into the Queen's Speech.

Why do we want development agencies? My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne mentioned that they had worked so well in Scotland and Wales. Twenty-odd years ago, I was chairman of the North of England development council, and it was my job to try to win inward investment for my region, the northern region. I knew all too well the effectiveness of the Scottish and Welsh development agencies. I envied their effectiveness, their budget, their powers. I wanted that for my own region. Now we are on the threshold of getting it.

In the meantime, we have been extremely active in the northern region. We have the Northern Development Company, which has a tremendous track record in winning inward investment. I pay tribute to the chief executive, John Bridge, and the chairman, Sir George Russell, for the tremendous job that they have done. There we have an example of partnership at work.

It is a tripartite organisation, consisting of trade unions, business and local authorities. They have worked extremely successfully together for 10 years. If the Minister wants an example of how that can be achieved, he cannot do better than use the northern region as an example. We would volunteer ourselves for a pilot scheme if he has that in mind.

Not only do we have the opportunity to clean up this place, but we have the opportunity to clean up government and the quango state. I am glad that my right hon. Friends are embarking on that task. I should like the National Audit Office to have even greater powers. I want it to have the power to follow public money wherever it goes, even into the private sector, even following privatisations, even following contracts. Equally important, I want the National Audit Office to have the power to scrutinise all quangos. I want their number reduced. I want the appointment system put on a basis in which the public can have confidence.

I know that my right hon. Friends will not just sweep out all the Conservatives and put Labour people in their place. That would be unsustainable. As much as many of us on the Government Benches would love to see that, we have to exercise a restraining ordinance.

The public must be able to have confidence in the appointment system if we are to restore trust. The governance of quangos must be as rigorous as that of local government. They must hold more of their meetings in public. They must circulate more of their papers to the public and the press. The freedom of information Act, when it comes, must apply to quangos, as well as the National Audit Office powers to which I have referred.

My right hon. Friends in government have quite rightly moved quickly to strengthen the Executive. Government have been very bad at strategic thinking, and that has to be improved. Government—certainly the last Government—have been poor at strategic leadership. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is rather good at that. He has exercised strategic leadership in the way in which he has changed—or we have changed—the Labour party, and he will exercise the same strategic leadership in changing the country. It is right that the machinery of Government should be strengthened for that strategic leadership to be possible.

It is right, too, that the Government should speak with one voice. One of the most impressive things—as I observed as Opposition Chief Whip—about the Thatcher regime was the cogent and pungent message that went out from every Minister, led by the Prime Minister, who had a tremendous flair for direct communication. I hated what she said, but no one was under any doubt about what she said. I want my Government to speak with the same pungency and cogency, but in strengthening the Executive, it is equally important to strengthen this place.

I say as kindly as I can to my colleagues that the House of Commons must not become the Prime Minister's poodle—bulldog perhaps, rottweiler occasionally, and it was nice in opposition to be a rottweiler snapping at the heels of the Government. But there may be times when my hon. Friends need to be rottweilers snapping at the heels of their own Government, because this place—if we care about democracy, and following the hon. Member for Tatton, I must say this—works only if we speak the truth fearlessly, whatever the consequences.

I did not hear the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) yesterday, but she spoke the truth, without any fear of the consequences. That will probably be one of the Chamber's most memorable occasions. The most memorable occasions in this place have been when former members of the Government have spoken fiercely to their own Government.

We must remember that too much power concentrated in too few hands equals the poll tax, and no Government ever want to go down that road. Despite this House and the other place, despite all the warnings of the Cabinet to the then Prime Minister and of the then Chancellor to the Prime Minister, that foolish tax was imposed upon the British people, and resulted, eventually, in that Prime Minister's downfall.

Therefore, I just say as gently as I can to my colleagues that we must move quickly to strengthen this place. A freedom of information Act really should have been in this Queen's Speech; I hope that it will be in the next one.

We must also move quickly not only to set up but to strengthen the Select Committees. The Select Committees have been by far the best innovation in my 18 years in this place. They were introduced by a Tory Government, and they are by far the best way to bring the Government to account and to scrutinise them. I should like to see Select Committees given even greater powers than they have now, with more staff at their disposal—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)

Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but we are debating an amendment on the subject of the economy and the Bank of England, and Select Committees are rather outside its scope.

Mr. Foster

I comply with your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Forgive me for ranging a little too widely. I am advised that, to be in order, I should speak about the Select Committee on the Treasury, one of the most powerful and effective Committees within our system.

However, I shall bring my remarks to a close by urging my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to set up the Select Committees as quickly as is humanly possible and to give them more powers. Perhaps the Chairman of the Liaison Committee, when he or she is appointed, will revisit the Osmotherley rules. I should like those rules to be the possession of the House of Commons, not the Executive.

7.12 pm
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

In rising to make my maiden speech, I have the pleasure of paying tribute not just to one but to two simultaneous predecessors. The first, Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson, served briefly in the 1960s as a representative of Lewisham, West, but then became the Member of Parliament for the New Forest, which he represented with great diligence, efficiency, loyalty and faithfulness for nearly 30 years. His motto was, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That is why the 900-year-old New Forest, a hunting forest, founded by William the Conqueror, retains so much of its marvellous authenticity today.

The second person to whom I have the pleasure of paying tribute is my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey (Mr. Colvin) who, until the general election, represented 81 per cent. of the electorate of the new New Forest, East constituency. I, as an adopted candidate, could not have asked for a better and more encouraging mentor. I am delighted to think that the constituents of Romsey will continue to have the benefit of his care and attention, as did those constituents whom I have been fortunate enough to inherit from him.

I am glad that the debate has widened somewhat into the European sphere because I wish to go a little more generously wide in my remarks than my right hon. and learned Friend the shadow Chancellor did when he said that the only commitment that had been given by the Government in the Gracious Speech was to enter the social chapter.

There was something else in the Gracious Speech to which we should pay tribute and it concerned the peace of Europe. Before I develop that theme, I want to show how the peace of Europe has affected almost every part of the constituency that I am now privileged to represent.

The new constituency runs from Totton at the edge of Southampton to Calshot at the southern end of Southampton water. Totton has a large employer, Millbrook Furnishings, which should be of interest to Members of this House and another place because it is the firm that upholsters and maintains the Benches on which we are all so happy to sit.

Calshot has more of a military history. Calshot was where R. J. Mitchell developed much of his work on the Spitfire and the seaplanes. Many attempts were made on the air speed record, some with fatal consequences to the pilots who were pushing the technology to its limits. Between those two extremes there are many historically significant defence locations.

Marchwood has the great military port from which the forces set sail for the Gulf. Hythe was the home of the British Powerboat Company that pioneered the development of high-speed launches and motor torpedo boats which were so vital a component of our coastal forces during the second world war. I am sure that many hon. Members will have visited Beaulieu with great pleasure. It is sometimes startling to think that it was at Beaulieu that the Special Operations Executive agents were trained before they parachuted, often to a fatal end, into Nazi-occupied France. To go from that beauty into that danger, as Violette Szabo GC did, never to return, required a degree of courage that it is hard to envisage in today's times of peace.

Moving along, we have, near Lymington, Green Marine, which has manufactured the vast majority of Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboats during the past eight years. The Cadland Consortium has developed the Cadland concept of a new ship to replace the royal yacht Britannia, not a floating gin-palace but a sail training vessel which, if it were adopted—I commend it to the Government—would supply sail training experience for scores of young people in between its royal purposes.

Moving north, we come to Lyndhurst where is to be found the grave of Alice Hargreaves, who was born Alice Liddell, and was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland". Also in the parish church at Lyndhurst is a memorial tablet to two of her sons. One was a captain who won the DSO in the first world war, the other was a captain who won the MC in that same war. Both were killed in successive years on the Somme at the age of 33. So even Alice in Wonderland was touched by the tragedy of war in Europe.

Finally, at Fawley, which has the largest oil refinery in the country, there is a small church which unexpectedly among its plots has a small group of war graves from the Battle of Britain. Such sights are always moving, but I hope that the House will be as impressed as I was by the nobility of spirit of the parents of Flight Sergeant Burrow, who inscribed the following on his gravestone: Into the mosaic of victory we lay this priceless piece—our son". Even an area as known for happiness, tourism and relaxation as the New Forest has had the scars of war deeply imprinted upon it.

In making my maiden speech, I am in something of a dilemma. I know that it may be the only opportunity in my entire parliamentary career to get my message across uninterrupted. However, the reverse side of the bargain is that I have to be relatively non-controversial. That is why I should like to pay tribute to part of the Gracious Speech that my right hon. and learned Friend the shadow Chancellor overlooked—the section in which the Government intend to retain strong armed forces, including the nuclear deterrent. There are many issues on which the Government will not accept that they were ever wrong or that the Conservatives were ever right, but I am sure that the nuclear deterrent is one issue on which they accept that we were right all along. In 1982, the then hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central, now the Foreign Secretary, stood at the podium at the Labour party conference and said: I come to this rostrum to beg Conference, to ask Conference, to plead with Conference to vote for unilateral nuclear disarmament. I am happy to welcome the right hon. Gentleman and his Government back to the multilateralist camp.

Some may ask the purpose of worrying about the peace of Europe in the present context with no enemy on the horizon. In the 1980s, those of us who were fighting the battle for the nuclear deterrent often made comparisons with the 1930s and the arguments of peace through appeasement and disarmament versus those of peace through strength and deterrence. If the 1980s were parallel with the 1930s, I suggest that the 1990s are parallel with the 1920s.

In the 1920s, there was so little sign of an enemy on the horizon that each of the three armed services made its hypothetical plans against an entirely different country. Cuts in the armed forces were introduced through something called the 10-year no-war rule. The idea was that the Government would look ahead and ask themselves whether there was a danger of war in the following decade. If the answer was no, they would cut the forces. The following year, they would ask the question again, so they had a rolling 10-year rule. Yet when the danger arose, there was not sufficient warning to reverse those cuts.

That is why I strongly welcome the Government's decision—provided that they stick to it—to maintain strong armed forces, which are our insurance premium for peace in Europe. However, there is a danger that that new-found unanimity on the role of nuclear deterrence in keeping the peace could be undermined by the common defence policy that the European Union is threatening to foist on us.

Occasionally I have an open mind on European issues, and it certainly extended as far as visiting Brussels last September as the guest of a delegation of Members of the European Parliament. We were addressed by many representatives of different political parties from different member countries of the European Union. I was particularly struck by the following point, made by a German Member of the European Parliament: "What you really have to understand is that Europe is not mainly about economics; Europe is mainly about peace." I replied, "Excuse me, but if you mean that the EEC, the EC or the EU has played a key role in keeping the peace in Europe against Soviet aggression, that is clearly false, because the key role was played by NATO and the key component of NATO was the United States. Indeed, the lesson of the first world war, the second world war and the cold war was that, without American involvement, there is no security for peace in Europe. However, if what you mean about Europe being mainly about peace is peace between Germany and her neighbours"—and of course, that is what he meant—"I still don't think that the EC, or the EU, has made a decisive contribution. What has made a decisive contribution has been the fact that Germany and her neighbours are all parliamentary democracies."

When I ask people to give me examples of dictatorships going to war with other dictatorships, they can give me many. When I ask them for examples of dictatorships going to war against democracies or democracies such as Britain in 1939 going to war against dictatorships, they can give me many, but when I ask for examples of democracies going to war against other democracies, they can usually come up with nothing or their examples are so obscure as to be virtually meaningless.

When I put that question to the German Member of the European Parliament, he thought for a while and he did not give me the usual example of India and Pakistan. Instead, he referred to a war between Prussia and Bavaria in 1866. I thought that if he had to go back to 1866, my case must be pretty strong. When I looked into the matter, I found that one of those states was not a democracy even on paper until two years after the war had finished.

In conclusion, the key to keeping peace in Europe is to preserve our system of democratic states and to retain democratic control over our armed forces. That is why it is meaningless for the Government to say that they support the maintenance of an independent deterrent unless they can be sure that control of that deterrent will remain in British hands and that our veto will be used against any attempt to incorporate it into a common defence policy. This is not alarmism, because the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policies of the European Parliament has already said that a common defence policy would require a common deterrent, and that that would require Brussels having control of the British and French deterrents. So there we have it.

The Government have promised to maintain the deterrent, the armed forces and our allegiance to and involvement with NATO. They can count on the warmest, strongest and most full-hearted support from Conservative Members who are interested in defence if they fulfil those promises.

7.28 pm
Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale)

I begin in the same way as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ms Kelly), with a few congratulations. Let me say how delighted I am to be addressing you as Mr. Deputy Speaker, and how pleased I am with your promotion to that high and honoured office. I hope that you will pass my best wishes to your family and to your constituents, who must be as proud that you are sitting in the Chair as I am to be addressing you tonight.

The hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) has just made an interesting speech on defence that was obviously well researched; he was well briefed. He spoke without notes, and I congratulate him on that. I was reminded of the last maiden speech about defence that I heard from a Conservative Member who spoke without notes. That was the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe). I am not making a comparison, but both speakers were obviously well briefed on defence. I welcome the hon. Member for New Forest, East to the House; I am sure that we shall hear plenty from him in the years ahead.

Let me congratulate two other speakers. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West made an eloquent and passionate maiden speech. We are told that in a few weeks' time she might be celebrating another personal event, and we were particularly delighted to hear from her today. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell), who, unfortunately, is not present now but who made an interesting speech about his experiences over the past few weeks and what brought him here. He told the House that he would be here for only one term; we shall wait and see whether his appetite is whetted a little further. I am sure that we shall hear many expert contributions from him, relating to his experience in his private field as well as his dedication to representing his constituents.

I feel that, in a way, I too am making a maiden speech, as this is the first speech that I have made from the Government Benches. It is almost 10 years since I made my maiden speech—also on the Gracious Speech, and also on the economy—on 8 July 1987.

In the previous Parliament, I chaired the Select Committee on European Legislation, which has long been undervalued, overlooked and not appreciated in the House. It does excellent work on behalf of the House, as I think the House began to recognise towards the end of the previous Parliament. I am sure that the new Government will improve the way in which we deal with European affairs in the House during the current term.

I do not wish to delay the House, but I should like to raise a couple of issues related to the Committee's work, and to earlier speeches. We have made inquiries into the intergovernmental conference, and produced three reports. We produced an excellent report on the role of national Parliaments, which is an important issue, not just for our Parliament but for every Parliament in every member state. I am sure that some of our recommendations will be discussed at the IGC. Even the previous Government accepted our recommendations on scrutiny and the four-week rule, and we hope that they will be incorporated in the treaty.

Let me appeal to new Members to take the opportunity to avail themselves of the information about European affairs that is available to them, certainly from the Select Committee on European Legislation. Our Committee produces reports regularly. It was the first Select Committee—and is currently the only one—to put its reports on to the Internet. Two Standing Committees scrutinise directives and legislation passed to them by the Select Committee, and any hon. Member who is interested in a subject that one of them is scrutinising can question a Minister, make a speech and represent the interests of his constituents in the Committee. That is a good opportunity to gain expertise on important issues that will be discussed not just in our Parliament, but in every Parliament in Europe over the next few years.

Let me say something about monetary union. I agree that it is highly unlikely that the United Kingdom will join a single currency if and when it is embarked on in a couple of years, because of the weaknesses in the convergence criteria. The new Government have always taken that view. Once, however, my name was included in a leaflet listing 50 Labour Members of Parliament who were opposed to the single currency. I was a bit annoyed at the time, because I had not approved my inclusion in that list, and—although I have my concerns about how and when we would enter a single currency—I am not opposed to the single currency per se. I put that on record now.

I feel that it is the political classes in this country that are discussing the single currency. The views of the public—our constituents—are shaped by soundbites that they read and hear in the media; there is no real debate in the country about the issues that are involved, and it is vital for such a debate to take place. Obviously, there will be more debate if we have a referendum, but I do not think that we should wait that long.

The tragedy is that, although the European Commission provided every member state with information about the issues involved in the single currency, and about the pros and cons, the previous Government, to their shame, refused to accept that information because they did not want a general debate. I urge the new Labour Government to initiate such a debate, and to allow the information to be provided throughout the country.

To those who say that we should not enter a single currency at any price, I say this. The question will not be, "Should we go into a single currency?" It may well be, "What will happen if we do not go into a single currency?" Many questions must be answered by those who are against the idea. Are we seriously saying that, if a single currency is established and is joined by the vast majority of European countries, the three major currencies in the global economy being the dollar, the yen and the euro, sterling will be able to survive outside those three currencies without our economy being seriously damaged?

The Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), raised some of those issues today. He asked what the position was on the exchange rate mechanism, and what the value of sterling would be if we joined a single currency. If we did not do so, would the same happen as happened before? We all know the story, which was denied by the then Mrs. Thatcher when she was Prime Minister. When Mr. Lawson was Chancellor, he apparently shadowed the deutschmark without telling the Prime Minister. Would we shadow the euro and, if so, what would be the impact on our interest rates? Does anyone seriously suggest that the UK would have lower interest rates than the member states that were in a single currency?

People will have to do more than wrap themselves in the Union Jack to persuade me that not being in a single currency under such circumstances would be in our best interests. I raise those few points not only to provoke debate in the House, where we can always find reasons to debate the issue, but because I hope that sooner or later that debate will start in the country.

The speech by the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) has prompted me to speak about the issue of qualified majority voting. It is a bit rich to be lectured by Conservative Members on that subject. I do not have to remind Conservatives who took us into the single market and set us on a road on which the single currency would be inevitable. I should not have to persuade or inform Conservative Members that Lady Thatcher conceded to more qualified majority voting than any Prime Minister since we have been in Europe. All the hot air about qualified majority voting should be treated as such.

I am delighted and proud, as are all my hon. Friends, to take part in a debate on the Gracious Speech of a new Labour Government. It is a great honour for us, who have been fighting for so long to be where we are today, but one has to be out in the country to feel the warmth and the relief of the people over a change of Government. It can almost be tasted in the air. I have been involved in many interesting votes in the House, but I cannot imagine an occasion that I shall enjoy more than last night's Division, which resulted in 422 votes for the Labour Government and 151 for the Conservative Opposition. That was a delightful moment for me, and I look forward to more such delightful moments.

7.42 pm
Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to address the House, and I thank the people of Lagan Valley for electing me. My constituency has at its heart the River Lagan, which flows from its source on Slieve Croob through a lush and fertile valley to the sea at Belfast lough. Its main town is Lisburn, a friendly market town which is home to the Irish linen centre and Thiepval barracks, the headquarters of the Army in Northern Ireland. The borough of Lisburn is the second largest local authority in Northern Ireland and enjoys the reputation of being one of the most progressive areas in the Province. Lisburn is one of two cathedral towns in Lagan Valley, the other being Dromore, a traditional Ulster market town with strong connections to agriculture and textiles.

The historic village of Hillsborough has a long association with the royal family and has had many royal visits in recent years. My home village of Moira has gained the reputation of being one of the most colourful places in Northern Ireland and has won many awards for its floral displays. I could mention many other notable towns and villages in Lagan Valley, including Anahilt, Ballinderry, Dromara, Drumbo, Dunmurry, Glenavy, Maghaberry and the Maze. Suffice it to say that I count it a great honour to represent them all.

I pay a warm tribute to my predecessor, Sir James Molyneaux, who served in the House for more than 25 years. Sir James was first elected to represent the Antrim, South constituency in 1970 and to represent the new constituency of Lagan Valley in 1983. As a Member of Parliament and leader of the Ulster Unionist party, Sir James was one of the most respected political figures in Northern Ireland and in the House. His solid and determined leadership through some of the most difficult periods in Northern Ireland's history has enhanced the cause of the Union, a cause that he dearly loved, and has contributed to the prospect of a better future for all the people of Northern Ireland. His advice, support and friendship have been invaluable to me, and I welcome the fact that we shall continue to benefit from his wise counsels in another place.

We welcome the Prime Minister's visit to Northern Ireland last week and trust that it is a sign of the new Government's priority in tackling our many problems; not the least of those is the need to reinvigorate the Northern Ireland economy. We continue to have one of the highest levels of long-term unemployment in the United Kingdom. Therefore, we welcome the Government's commitment in the Gracious Speech to deliver high and sustainable growth and employment by encouraging investment in growth, skills, infrastructure and new technologies. We in Northern Ireland desperately need such investment, and although we have made much progress in attracting inward investment, much more needs to be done.

It is essential for such investment to be spread much more equitably than in the past. My constituency has not benefited as much as some others from inward investment in Northern Ireland. The neighbouring constituency of Belfast, West has enjoyed much higher investment, and I urge the Government to be more equitable in treating the various areas of Northern Ireland. I shall certainly put the case for more investment in constituencies such as mine.

There is also a need for better co-ordination of economic development agencies in Northern Ireland and for better co-operation between them and Northern Ireland's political representatives. For far too long, those agencies have gone about their business without involving political representatives in the way they should. It should be the Government's priority to give Northern Ireland Members a greater role in economic development in the Province.

Our largest indigenous industry is agriculture, and Lagan Valley contains many farmers and has a long tradition of farming. The industry has suffered greatly in recent years, most recently because of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis, which has affected our beef industry. I urge the Government to give priority to the lifting of the ban on the export of Northern Ireland beef. It is widely accepted that Northern Ireland can meet the criteria that were laid down at the intergovernmental conference in Florence. It is unjust that the previous Government were not prepared to allow Northern Ireland to take the lead towards the lifting of the export ban. I hope that the new Government will end that injustice and will give Northern Ireland agriculture the confidence that it so badly needs by urging Europe to lift the export ban on Northern Ireland beef as soon as possible.

I was privileged to work for another illustrious Member of the House, the right hon. Enoch Powell, who represented the constituency of South Down, part of which is now included in my constituency. I pay tribute to Mr. Powell, to the manner in which he represented the people of Northern Ireland and to his contribution to the House during his time as a Member of Parliament.

One of my illustrious predecessors was Sir Richard Wallace, who bequeathed the famous Wallace art collection to the British nation. Sir Richard was Member of Parliament for Lisburn from 1873 to 1885, so it was appropriate that staff and pupils from the Wallace school in Lisburn were the first constituents to meet me in the precincts of the House. Wallace school's motto is "esperance", which means hope. That is what the House must offer the people of Northern Ireland—hope for a future free from the scourge of terrorism, where our people can enjoy full equality of citizenship within the United Kingdom.

Some people are cynical and say that great aspirations always come to a hopeless end. I rather like to think that great aspirations bring not a hopeless end but an endless hope. Hope is not just a nice option; it is essential to survival. It lifts our spirits and helps us to keep going. According to Solomon's ancient proverb, it tells us to Trust in the Lord with all our heart, to lean not to our own understanding. It tells us to In all our ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct our paths". When William Wilberforce addressed the House 207 years ago this month for three and a half hours with what the great orator Edmund Burke called the greatest speech that he had ever heard, he had an aspiration to see the practice of slavery banished from the British dominions. He faced incredible opposition and his aspirations seemed hopeless, yet Wilberforce was drawn by hope based on his Christian convictions and he campaigned on until the House passed the Slavery Abolition Bill 44 years later.

Northern Ireland, too, faces great problems. Its divisions have defied some of the greatest political minds in the world, but the problem is not hopeless. We, too, have a dream that peace may come and that all our citizens may learn to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God. We shall seek with all our heart and strength to bring about such a peace. I urge the Government to work towards that end in Northern Ireland—a fair and just peace, a real peace that recognises the rights of the people of Northern Ireland to determine their own political future, free from the threat of terrorist violence and political interference. That is the way to ensure that the hope for which the people of Northern Ireland yearn will not be snuffed out.

7.52 pm
Ms Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) on his interesting and fluent speech about his constituency and Northern Ireland. We wish all the Northern Ireland Members well in their aspirations for the peace for which we are all looking.

First, may I publicly thank the voters of Amber Valley for electing me as their Member of Parliament? I feel honoured and humbled to have received the votes of nearly 30,000 people—55 per cent. of the local electorate—and, incidentally, against a Treasury Minister who was fighting on the failed policies that were put forward again this afternoon by the shadow Chancellor.

I enjoyed talking to a lady in Hedge church last Sunday. She said, "I didn't vote for you; I'd never vote Labour, but isn't it exciting?" That is exactly my mood and that of the nation—it is exciting to be carrying out the change for which people have been yearning. It is exciting to be here discussing a Queen's Speech that implements our promises to the voters: our pledge to govern for the many, not the few; and our programme to build a dynamic economy with opportunity for all.

One of my first objectives is to put Amber Valley on the map. Most non-locals could not even guess where it is—braver people usually congratulate me on my beautiful Welsh constituency. Much of Amber Valley is beautiful, as those who have visited the National Tramway museum or who watch "Peak Practice", set in Crich, alias Cardale, will know. However, Amber Valley is in golden Derbyshire. If people want to remember that, they should imagine canvassing in one of my towns, Alfreton, and finding that they are building up further the massive majority of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), whose voters shop in our towns. He is a Derbyshire man through and through and he is my neighbour. I must put Amber Valley on the map.

I pledge not to follow the example of the former hon. Member for Basildon and mention my constituency in every sentence, but I am acutely aware of the problems of anonymity. Those were identified in an analysis by the Amber Valley Partnership, which brings together local businesses, councils, the police and other agencies within Amber Valley. Our good communications in the heart of England are not sufficient to attract the businesses and tourists we should like. The outside world needs to know who and where we are. We are north of Derby, south of Chesterfield and we are a gateway to the Peak District national park. Our main towns are Ripley, Heanor and Alfreton, and there are a number of smaller towns and villages. Since the closure of the last pit at the end of the 1960s, the economy has developed a diverse industrial base, with headquarters of a number of famous organisations, such as Thorntons chocolates, Denby pottery, Bowmer and Kirkland, the Derbyshire building society and substantial textile and tourism industries. We need the encouragement to industry and help for our small firms, fairness at work, job opportunities and new skills that Labour's economic policies will bring.

A national minimum wage is a central part of our economic strategy if we are to move to a high-skill, competitive economy. Incidentally, it is an issue on which I campaigned for many years and it was one of the great divides between me and my predecessor. Phillip Oppenheim served the constituents of Amber Valley from the constituency's foundation in 1983 for 14 years. He freely admits that he was surprised to have been there for that length of time. He will be remembered in the House not just as an Employment, Trade and Industry, and then Treasury Minister but as captain of the parliamentary rugby XV and the owner of Vom, parliamentary dog of the year. Unfortunately, Vom scooped far more than his fair share of my local television coverage. People are warned never to compete for air time with children or animals and I certainly came second best to Vom.

One of the few issues on which I agreed with my predecessor was animal welfare. Our agreement was a source of relief to me during my election campaign, because it was the only subject on which I received an antagonistic postbag—it was from the pro-fox hunters. I hope that it is of some comfort to Phillip Oppenheim that the defeat of his party has almost certainly paved the way for the abolition of hunting. I think that he will feel pleased about that.

I also pay tribute to my predecessor's new-found talent as a newspaper diarist since the election. I have some dispute with him about his description of our meeting in the pub, but I have been fascinated by his insights in The Sunday Times into the difficulties faced by his party in recent months. I look forward enormously to the publication of his parliamentary novel. I understand that it is in the hands of the publisher of the former hon. Member for South Derbyshire so I can only assume that it is a political bonk buster. As a new girl, I am not sure whether that counts as unparliamentarily language. My predecessor has thus provided me with some entertainment, even if I have usually disagreed with him.

I am proud to be the first woman Labour Member of Parliament to represent my area and to be here with so many good women Members as part of a dramatic shift in the gender imbalance in public life. I hope that we shall have an impact on the welcome review of parliamentary procedure announced in the Queen's Speech.

I have a number of distinguished male Labour predecessors. The Amber Valley constituency was formed out of parts of the old Ilkeston and Belper constituencies. Ilkeston was well served for many decades by George Oliver and Ray Fletcher, who, in his retirement, was still campaigning in his wheelchair to save Heanor memorial hospital. I am sure that some hon. Members will remember him.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd), I also lay claim to part of the seat held by one of Belper's most famous sons, George Brown. I do not intend to dwell on his more colourful side but will merely refer to his maiden speech, made during the debate on the Bill to nationalise the mines. He spoke of the problems with the private mining industry. That argument continues today after the closure of most of the pits.

As I look around my constituency, I sometimes feel as if someone is trying to scoop off the surface of Derbyshire and despoil its natural beauty. I was heartened by the commitment made in yesterday's Adjournment debate on opencast mining by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Departments of the Environment, Transport and the Regions that he would review the current guidelines in line with our party's policy to ensure that the burden of proof was placed clearly on the contractors to show that opencasting was of clear benefit. I hope that the review will take place quickly, as Derbyshire county council has a number of outstanding applications for opencasting before it and there are more in the pipeline.

Some applications can be of benefit in restoring contaminated land, but I do not wish to do again as I did a few weeks ago and stand in a place like Stanley village in my constituency with a man in his 60s who showed me the unspoilt green views which he had looked at since his childhood but which are soon to be torn up for the sake of an amount of coal equivalent to what would have been extracted in just a few weeks from one of the old deep pits. Let us take more rational economic decisions than that in the future, because the decisions on mining have created such problems in my area.

We have a fine heritage on which to build. The men of Ripley at Butterley Engineering in Amber Valley built the steel structures for the wonderful St. Pancras station from which I travel to Derby. There is a virtually identical building in Bombay. It is a magnificent building. That firm is still going strong, but it desperately needs help with our European market and it needs a stable economy to secure its orders.

The traditional skills learned over many years in firms such as Butterley are no longer learned on the job in the same way. In South-East Derbyshire college we have one of the most extensive modern apprenticeship schemes in the country. The RightTrak scheme, sponsored by Amber Valley borough council and the training and enterprise council, provides opportunities for learning for many more people. The Government's emphasis, as reflected in the Queen's Speech, on using new and imaginative ways for reskilling throughout life must be the way forward. As an adviser to the Northern college in Barnsley, which has pioneered methods of attracting adult learners from deprived communities, I am delighted at the inspired choice of that college's principal, Bob Fryer, to chair the Secretary of State for Education and Employment's advisory group on encouraging access to lifelong learning.

The most inspiring part of the election campaign for me was the enthusiasm of some of the youngest members of our society. The toughest questioning sessions that I found were those held in our sixth forms, from an environmental forum with teenagers and, above all, in the junior schools which ran mock elections. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor may like to know that at least one of our junior schools had its own budget for each campaign team. He will like this—it consisted of 25 sheets of paper, because they went a bit mad with their posters on the copying machine.

If the Secretary of State for Education and Employment has any problems answering questions on how to cut class sizes, on why children should do more homework and on what is wrong with selection at 11, I can introduce him to primary school election candidates who can answer those questions for him fluently. Some of them were far more on message than most of us candidates.

If a school of five to 11-year-olds can discuss those questions and run an election campaign with only three spoilt ballot papers, we should never underestimate their potential; they are our future and our hope. We have a responsibility to put our policies, stated in this Queen's Speech, into practice. We cannot afford to let their enthusiasm fade as they turn into teenagers. We cannot afford to let their hopes die if they see that there is no work and no opportunity. We cannot be diverted by privatised utilities which cannot bear to see a dent in their fat profits. We must stick to our economic policies which are based on fairness, stability and equipping the country for the new millennium.

On 8 June in Amber Valley we will be commemorating the 180th anniversary of what has been called the last revolution in England when half-starved working folk from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire marched to overthrow the Government. Unfortunately, the Pentrich rebellion ended in a rout after just 12 hours and its leaders were executed or transported. We have managed a peaceful change of Government by peaceful means, but the pace of change over our first 12 days, rather than 12 hours, has been exhilarating. I will be commemorating the Pentrich rebels by celebrating the change that we will bring to improve the lives of my constituents and others dramatically. Let us keep up that change, implement the Queen's Speech and prepare the next steps that will take us into the 21st century secure in the knowledge that we will not let down the younger generation.

8.6 pm

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)

Today's maiden speeches—not least that made by the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Ms Mallaber), who made an extremely interesting and amusing speech—have given us some interesting tours around the country. We all welcome the hon. Lady to the House, although we are sad to see not only Phillip Oppenheim but his dog depart. The hon. Lady paid a fair tribute to Phillip Oppenheim and referred to his great contribution to the House and on the rugger pitch, where I am glad that I did not encounter him or Vom.

We had a fine maiden speech from my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis). He was extremely assured and self-confident and was a great tribute to his constituents. His reference to the Government's acceptance of the nuclear deterrent owes something in part to his personal commitment and crusade to bring about a public understanding of the need for an independent British nuclear deterrent, through his work for the Coalition for Peace through Security. I am sure that all hon. Members will have been impressed.

I want to add only one discordant note on the maiden speeches. In his maiden speech, the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell) was unfairly ungracious to his predecessor, Neil Hamilton. I am sure that many hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that Neil Hamilton, as well as introducing a degree of colour and wit, made a significant contribution to the quality of our debates. He was The Spectator parliamentary wit of the year and it was unfortunate that that was not mentioned.

I agree with most hon. Members that the hon. Member for Tatton has made a contribution on our television screens and we look forward to his contribution here. I hope that he will follow professional journalistic principles, which he did not do during the campaign—I am sorry that he is not in his place to hear this. The hon. Gentleman should have examined the evidence as he was invited to do and awaited the report of the Downey committee. Having said that, I shall pass on, because we have enjoyed some other interesting speeches.

I am tempted to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) who, on his return as a retread, began his resumed career with the words, "As I was saying before I was interrupted". I am delighted to be back but my pleasure is tempered by the novel experience of occupying the unfamiliar Opposition Benches and by the loss of so many able men and women who contributed so much to making socialism in Britain unelectable.

The Tea Room atmosphere last week was as sombre as I imagine it must have been at those wartime bomber command bases as surviving crews surveyed the empty seats of those who failed to return from their missions. I shall not press the analogy too far because, while politics may be war by other means, unlike war, it does at least carry the prospect of reincarnation. I await with enthusiasm the reincarnation of some of my right hon. Friends, former giants of our party in the House, such as Michael Portillo, Michael Forsyth, Malcolm Rifkind, Ian Lang and a host of others who have made such an enormous contribution during the past 18 years to restoring this country's place in the world.

Although other parts of Britain may have decided to risk a five-year flirt with new Labour, I am delighted to say that Aldershot has remained true. I am immensely privileged to continue the constituency's record of Conservative representation, which has been unbroken since its creation in 1918. I am, moreover, only the fifth hon. Member to have the privilege of serving Aldershot since 1918.

As hon. Members may know, my immediate predecessor was Sir Julian Critchley, who served in the House for 27 years. It may not necessarily be a compliment, but he was described by Andrew Marr as one of the brightest Conservatives never to have achieved even the most minor office". Sir Julian was renowned for his wit—which was sometimes more acid than was good for him—and provided some very welcome colour to the House. I shall be cautious in my remarks about him because, although he may have retired from the House, his pen shows no sign of running out of ink.

Sir Julian—whose distaste for Baroness Thatcher was as intense as is my admiration for her—and I are testimony that the Tory party is a broad church. For the past five years, he has borne an illness with characteristic courage and good humour, and I am sure that the House wishes him well.

I shall spare the House a Cook's tour of Aldershot. Since 1954, however, there have been only two other maiden speeches—all of which have been made by retreads—by Aldershot Members, and I should therefore like to remind the House of the contribution to our national life that has been made by the constituency's two principal towns: Aldershot and Farnborough.

In 1855, Aldershot was only a retired and scattered village of 900 souls. By 1860, however, the barren heath land between Aldershot and Farnborough had been transformed into a major military area, providing space for 20,000 troops to exercise. Today, signs on the A325 proclaim that Aldershot remains the home of the British Army—to the Parachute Regiment, which I know has a very special place in the heart of the Minister for the Armed Forces, and to the headquarters of 5 Airborne Brigade. Some hon. Members may remember that Aldershot was also the home of John Betjeman's beloved Joan Hunter Dunn, furnished and burnished by Aldershot sun". Farnborough comprises the other part of the constituency. Its name is synonymous with aviation and is renowned around the world. Farnborough is the birthplace of British aviation, for it was from Laffan's plain that, on 16 October 1908, Samuel Cody became the first man to fly in the United Kingdom. Its splendid Royal Aircraft Establishment—which has now been rather unattractively renamed the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency—is renowned as a centre of excellence for research into aerodynamics and control, structures, power plants, radio, and in navigation, flight and weapon systems. The Department of Transport's air accidents investigation branch enjoys international acclaim for its work to promote air safety, particularly in dealing with terrorism. Farnborough also provides the headquarters for one of the world's leading companies, British Aerospace.

For most people, however, Farnborough is most famous. as the venue for the Society of British Aerospace Companies air show, which is the prestigious show window for Britain's most successful manufacturing industry. As the holder of a pilot's licence since I was 17, I am very proud to be the first pilot to represent Farnborough—the birthplace of British aviation—in the House.

It will be clear to the House that my constituency has strong connections with Her Majesty's services. The peace dividend has already incurred a cost to Aldershot, which is now the subject of a major regeneration—spearheaded by Rushmore borough council and English Partnerships—in which I hope that we can expect support from the Government, to ensure that the rundown and service reductions that have occurred as part of the peace dividend are made good.

It will come as no surprise that I shall be monitoring extremely careful the Government's defence review, which was foreshadowed in the general election campaign and contained in the Gracious Speech. I shall also be asking for a reaffirmation of Alder shot's continuing military importance and of the commitment given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), to ensure that, in the sale of Farnborough aerodrome, any new owner will have to guarantee a secure future for the air show. I am pleased to note that the shadow spokesman, my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), turned around at that point in my speech. He was once the Secretary of State for Transport, and was only too familiar with the problems of sustaining the airshow.

In a defeat of the magnitude of that suffered by the Conservatives this month, it behaves Conservative Members to exercise some humility and to wish the new Administration well. They won the general election partly by claiming to adopt all those Conservative policies that they have opposed tooth and nail on the Floor of the House. "Keep the show, just change the cast" was the essence of that part of their message. Now that they are in government, however, they can no longer soothe the public with fine-sounding rhetoric, because they will have to take decisions. They are now, however, on unfamiliar territory, as was only too apparent during the general election campaign, when the Treasury's "black hole" was to be filled by selling National Air Traffic Services. That scheme was then said to be off, but then it was on again.

New Labour may have its adherents on the Treasury Bench, but—as we heard on Friday, in the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Horn church (Mr. Cryer)— red-blooded socialism is alive and well and sitting right behind Ministers. Labour's long march to embracing capitalism has only begun, and it will be sorely tested in office.

Mr. Skinner

And here.

Mr. Howarth

As the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) rightly says, full-blooded socialism is alive and beating below the Gangway, too.

In the mid-1980s, Labour accused Conservatives of arrogance, but already some new Ministers have shown signs of a chilling arrogance. Despite today's presentation by the Chancellor on his proposals for the Bank of England, there is a general feeling among hon. Members that those proposals should have been presented first in the House and not announced in the immediate aftermath of the election. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) said, the Government have gained absolutely nothing by making that pronouncement before presenting it to the House. The major powers that are being handed to the Governor of the Bank should first have been announced in the House.

The Prime Minister has demonstrated a rather cavalier attitude in rearranging Question Time, which is one of the key mechanisms by which the House can hold the Executive to account. Even more ominous was the reaction of the Minister without Portfolio—who clearly is much dreaded among Labour Members—to a legal challenge to the windfall profits tax that may be mounted by British Telecom and BAA. Telling those companies to hand over the money, especially if the Government have no lawful authority to demand them to do so, amounts to highway robbery, or to what Professor David Myddelton called the rule of the threat of law.

Such behaviour, and disgraceful warnings to Labour Back Benchers that they risk expulsion if they campaign against breaking up the United Kingdom, will fuel the public's fear that Labour cannot be trusted to act in a responsible fashion. It was marvellous to hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster)—whom I had not heard speak before, because, when I was previously an hon. Member, he was a Whip and had taken a Trappist vow of silence. He was absolutely right. Hon. Members must have the freedom to speak their minds. It is no good having a Minister without Portfolio telling Labour Members that they will be silenced and cannot speak their mind, because their duty when elected is to speak their mind.

Mr. Skinner

The hon. Gentleman was one of Thatcher's stooges.

Mr. Howarth

I was, indeed, one of the noble Lady's supporters, but I spoke my mind, as I will continue to do.

As today's report from Switzerland reminds us, the Government have inherited an unrivalled economic situation, in which Britain is performing better than our European partners. Primarily because—under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major)—we rejected the European social chapter, a golden inheritance means that the new Government will not be able to blame their predecessors for deterioration in the United Kingdom's economic position. They are now in charge and will have to take the decisions, and the Opposition will hold them to account for their stewardship.

8.18 pm
Miss Melanie Johnson (Welwyn Hatfield)

I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to make my maiden speech. I also thank the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) for his comments on Aldershot and Farnborough—I know the area a little. I shall not, however, debate the more controversial comments in his speech. As a retread, he can risk making such comments, but, as a new Member, I do not think that I can risk doing the same.

Hon. Members will readily remember my predecessor in Welwyn Hatfield—David Evans. He was widely renowned for his plain speaking, and for the prominence that he gave to it. He often sought and quoted the advice of his wife Janice and it is sad in some ways, although not of course in others, that he is not still here for we could have had the benefit of his plain-spoken advice on the contenders for the leadership of the Opposition—a subject on which he certainly would have had firm views.

Mr. Evans could be personally very charming. I saw that for myself on election night when he congratulated me on my victory in Welwyn Hatfield and recorded how much he had enjoyed being a Member of Parliament—he will miss that. I am already obeying his injunction to enjoy being a Member of the House. I am a firm believer in diversity and my own style will be a little different from his. As a mother of three, I can assure the House that my children will help to keep my feet on the ground. Along with my constituents, my children will want to know what I have been doing here and what benefits it will bring. I hope that I shall never have any difficulty accounting for my time here. They can all be critical and exacting commentators.

One of my earlier predecessors as Member of Parliament for Welwyn Hatfield was Helen Hayman, now Baroness Hayman, an Environment Minister. Baroness Hayman was very young when she became a Member of Parliament in 1974, 23 years before I did. Indeed, she is only a few years older than I am. As a young Member of Parliament with children, she will be remembered for her protest about the problems of breast feeding in the House of Commons. Women now have further problems of a day-to-day kind, notably the lack of toilets for them. I share the enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Ms Mallaber) for the fact that there are so many more women in the Chamber. In a way, we are lucky to have the problem of the lack of facilities available to us. It is right that there should be a better balance of women in the House. I was fortunate to have Helen's support and help throughout my campaign. She is still fondly remembered by many in the constituency for a particular virtue that I can only hope to emulate in time: great effectiveness as a local Member of Parliament.

Welwyn Hatfield has made at least two notable contributions to areas of our life as a nation. Welwyn Garden City recently celebrated, in 1995, its 75th anniversary. The garden city is a vision of how towns could and should be. As the second garden city, it was built with the needs of the people in mind—that they should be able to work and live close by, that their homes should be generous and good to live in, that there should be green spaces, shops and a strong sense of community.

The garden city concept still has a huge amount to recommend it. In Welwyn Garden City, that concept was impressively realised and the homes and environment that it provides are still much treasured. It provides a great example of what the effective implementation of a long-term plan can achieve in terms of enhancing the quality of life in following decades.

The other main town in the constituency is Hatfield, which was perhaps best known in historical times as one of the first watering holes north of London along the Great North road. Hatfield has links with the Salisbury family that go back many centuries. More recently, the Commission for the New Towns has had a hand in the development of the town.

Welwyn Hatfield has many successful businesses and many of the small and medium businesses on which the country's wealth will depend. It could also claim to be the pharmaceutical capital of the United Kingdom, with Roche, SmithKline Beecham, Schering Plough and Serono all situated in Welwyn Garden City itself. The pharmaceutical industry is a major contributor to our economy. My constituency is also home to the university of Hertfordshire, a place of learning where business and research are productively brought together.

Hatfield has played a crucial role in British aviation—home of de Havilland, the Hawker Siddeley and the 146, which was partly the subject of Helen Hayman's maiden speech. It was the place where the world's first jet airliner—the Comet—was designed and tested. I hope that it will be possible to keep the last flying Comet in the United Kingdom for the de Havilland museum—a matter currently in the hands of the Ministry of Defence.

At its peak, British Aerospace, as it became, employed about 10,000 people and many others worked in local allied businesses. In the late 1980s, jobs were lost and finally the works closed. It is a story with which many will be familiar. Aviation was Hatfield's business and the closure of British Aerospace was a cruel blow. It hit the local economy at the same time as the recession, which was exacerbated by Tory policies. The centre of Hatfield was badly hit and still suffers from the effects. Many of the workers took retirement and others moved to find work, often only to be made redundant again. Some took insecure and low-paid work, becoming part of Major's 11 million who have experienced at least one period of unemployment over the past five years.

As is always the case, in security and unemployment are scourges of family life: they uproot people, create poverty and chaos and shatter expectations. The problems particularly hurt young people who would otherwise have joined the works and become apprentices. Unemployment for 16 to 19-year-olds is now twice as high and nearly one quarter of unemployed people are under 25. One third of manufacturing jobs in Hertfordshire have gone over the past decade. Welwyn Hatfield's sometimes apparent prosperity hides great variations—the massive changes that it has undergone, the uncertainty, the insecurity and the lack of a sense of future under the last Government.

The people have made a decisive choice, which is why we now have a Labour Government. The sense of hope and opportunity, of change for the better, is almost tangible—a taxi driver said that it was like a breath of fresh air. As I talk to my constituents, I know that what they want us to build is an inclusive society in which people have a place.

The measures in the Queen's Speech are crucial. It is essential to give young people opportunities for work, training and education and to ensure that no one is without for too long. Young people gain much more than a job or a course; they gain a senses of belonging, of being part of something and of being able to contribute—of being a stakeholder. The measures will give young people security, dignity and optimism; they will use resources, not waste them, and we shall all reap the benefits.

We also need the stability that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is working to establish; it will help my constituency a great deal. The British Aerospace site in Hatfield is still the key to its future and the future of business and investment in the area. A huge site now awaits development. The confidence and interest of business has been lacking over recent years. Long-termism, investment and stability will form the base on which Labour's partnership and dialogue with business will build prosperity in constituencies such as mine. Welwyn Hatfield has a high proportion of people with professional and managerial qualifications. It also has many people who need the opportunity to update their skills. Flexible welfare-to-work programmes, including training, will be very welcome.

In conclusion, let me say that Welwyn Hatfield has played a prominent part in a number of areas of national life; it has also suffered much over recent years. It has much to offer and is delighted now to have new hope for its future under a new Government. The people of Welwyn Hatfield have done me a great honour. As their Member of Parliament, I intend to devote much of my energy to living up to the standards which, I am sure, they will expect of me.

8.28 pm
Mr. Damian Green (Ashford)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to join the throng of those making their maiden speeches this evening. I congratulate the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Miss Johnson) on jumping that particular hurdle shortly before me.

Unlike the makers of some of the previous maiden speeches, I am in the happy position of being able to pay a warm tribute to my predecessor with no ambiguity at all. For more than 20 years, Sir Keith Speed gave valuable and diligent service to the House, to the then Government when he was a Minister, and to the people of Ashford. He served with great distinction in the Conservative Government but, as some hon. Members will remember, he resigned on a point of principle relating to cuts in the Royal Navy. The Navy, in which he was proud to serve, was one of his great lifelong loves. It was a brave decision and one for which many in Ashford hold him in the highest regard.

Sir Keith has the advantage of having not only the respect and affection of the people of Ashford, but a physical monument in the shape of the Ashford International rail station—the first stop on the channel tunnel link after emerging from the tunnel. He fought long and hard to have the station placed not in the middle of nowhere but in the middle of the town of Ashford, and it now provides a springboard on which the future prosperity and growth of the town will be built. That one decision, largely the result of Sir Keith's tenacity, will provide a strong base for the area's future growth and I am sure that the whole House wishes him a long and happy retirement.

I should add that Ashford International station provides what may be one of the more vivid illustrations of a key economic fact in this debate. By catching a train there, one can be in Paris in two hours. Those considering siting their businesses in Ashford should know that one can put in most of a morning's work there and still get to Paris in time for lunch. Even in the era of the new puritanism, I hope that that will act as an attraction for some inward investors.

I shall break with tradition at this point by paying tribute to my predecessor's predecessor, now the noble Lord Deedes, who is a revered local resident. As I take my first faltering steps as Member of Parliament for Ashford, I am conscious of having not just one but two pairs of beady eyes watching my every move.

In many ways, Ashford is a suitable symbol for the two strands of this debate, because its economic health depends on its excellent links with Europe. Indeed, the importance of maintaining a consistent and friendly relationship with the other countries in the European Union is visibly expressed every week by a column entitled "Bonjour Europe" in our local paper, the Kentish Express. I am aware that some hon. Members, even on the Conservative Benches, might regard such a column as somewhat suspicious, but it expresses a reality—that jobs, prosperity and investment are all more likely when we are part of a large free trading area and when we run a free enterprise, low-interference economy.

From my constituency, I can produce not just a living example of that, but a living French example. Two weeks ago, Mr. Olivier Cadic moved his business from France to Ashford. His reasons, as quoted in the local paper, were that he moved his printed circuit board and computer software company from Paris to Ashford to escape crippling taxes and employment laws. He believes the other EU countries will face economic disaster if"— they— do not alter their taxation and employment laws in line with Britain's. If they do not their firms will want to move to Britain. That is a lesson for us all: do not watch what they say, watch what they do. French businesses are -moving to this country—not, in Mr. Cadic's case, because he is targeting the British market, but because it is easier for him to sell to France from Britain than to sell to France from France.

We all know about the big multinational companies that have moved to this country because they have found it such a congenial place for inward investment over the past 18 years. What is significant is that small business men with no immediate ambitions to become Europe wide or global players are now moving to Britain because of the employment and taxation laws that have been established over the past 18 years. I would argue that that is more convincing than the various league tables and comparative economic statistics with which we can all have fun. The case that I have cited is that of a real business man taking a real decision and—most importantly—creating real jobs in this country, in Ashford rather than in Paris.

That is surely the heart of the economic debate that we as a country need to have. How can we best create more jobs? We all know that prosperity is not only a goal in itself, but that jobs are the best welfare policy that one can have. A party which poses as compassionate while organising the economy in a way that will make job creation more difficult will not only disappoint its supporters but let down the country.

In the spirit of non-controversy that one is expected to observe in a maiden speech, however, I will merely ask the Government to apply a simple test to each of the measures in the Chancellor's forthcoming Budget and ask, "Does this measure make it easier to create jobs?"

I ask the Government to apply that test to the minimum wage, about which we have heard a great deal in today's debate. If it means anything and is set at a realistic level, it will make it more difficult for unskilled people to find work and it will make it especially difficult for young people to find the first jobs which are vital to getting them into lifetime employment.

I ask the Government to apply that test to the windfall tax. However and to whomsoever it is applied, it is designed to take money away from companies. Some of that money might have gone on dividends, and a small proportion might even have gone to fat cats, but the vast bulk would have been spent on investment which would have created jobs. A windfall tax will make it more difficult to create jobs.

It is important for Conservative Members to recognise the mandate that the Government have been given, at least for those policies in their manifesto. However, I would argue that it is even more important for the Government to recognise that they have gained such an enviable economic inheritance that they should pause to consider what is going right in this country before rushing to change everything.

On Europe, it is clear that we should engage in constructive dialogue and preserve a full trading relationship, but it would be mad to say that being positive about Europe means being positive about the unemployment levels prevalent in too many continental countries and even madder to sign up to the very policies that have made their unemployment higher than ours.

I hope fervently that the new-found prosperity, both in my constituency and in the country as a whole, will not be put at risk. As a country we have huge potential, symbolised by the opportunities available to the people of Ashford. As a patriot, I hope that the new Government will not throw away those opportunities. This House and the British people will judge whether or not they do so.

8.37 pm
Mr. Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale, East)

I am grateful and deeply proud to have this early opportunity to make my maiden speech in the House as Member of Parliament for Wythenshawe and Sale, East. I am full of admiration for all my hon. Friends who, having unseated their Conservative opponents, have none the less made generous remarks about their opponents' contributions as Conservative Members of Parliament. Like the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green), whom I congratulate on making his maiden speech, I face no such challenge because my predecessor as Member of Parliament for Wythenshawe since 1964 was Alf Morris.

Before speaking of the quality of Alf Morris's political career, I first wish to note its quantity: he served his constituency and the House for a total of 33 years. Although I am 20 years older than the youngest Member of this Parliament, I was still at primary school when Alf Morris was first elected to Parliament. In October last year, The Times contrasted Alf Morris's Quiet altruism and dogged persistence with the Sharp young blades at the Labour Party Conference. Members on both sides of the House would agree that Alf Morris is in every sense a gentle man, but he is also a considerable blade in his own right. In 1969, he won first place in the ballot for private Members' Bills and, famously, introduced the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill. The then Labour Secretary of State for Social Services is reported initially to have "hit the roof' when he heard about the Bill. However, the measure soon commanded all-party support and it received Royal Assent just days before the 1970 general election.

Later, Alf Morris became the first Minister for Disabled People. He has always been a tireless campaigner for disability rights and equality and, indeed, for all his constituents.

In Wythenshawe, Alf Morris is respected for his political contribution. Above all, people there love him as their friend and champion, and it is my privilege—indeed, my challenge—to seek to fill the void that he leaves.

Northenden and Baguley, two of the nine wards which make up the constituency, are recorded in the Domesday book of 1086, but the modern story of Wythenshawe began in 1926, when Manchester council took over the Tatton estate and started to make plans for the first municipal garden city in Great Britain. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Miss Johnson) spoke eloquently of the vision which lay behind garden cities.

As the result of an ambitious pre-war and post-war house-building programme, the local population grew to 100,000 by 1964, when most households had members employed in local industry and in the public services. More recently, however, the area has suffered the effects of mass unemployment and it now has levels of social and economic deprivation equalling those of any inner-city area. Nevertheless, I know that the strong local pride, spirit and common sense will ensure the regeneration of Wythenshawe and the creation of a sustainable future for the local community.

The eastern part of Sale is also now part of my constituency. Indeed, I am the first ever Labour Member of Parliament to represent the people of Sale in the House. Sale has much to be proud of. It has a vibrant and improving town centre. It has access to the Metro link tram system, which is revolutionising the public transport system in Greater Manchester. It also has a top-class rugby union team, which was narrowly beaten by Leicester in this year's cup final at Twickenham.

My constituency is also the location of the brightest hope of the north-west region—Manchester international airport, which was much in the news today. In 1929, Manchester was granted a licence to create the first municipal airport in Britain. In 1933, by the narrowest of margins—56 votes to 55—Manchester council voted to borrow £179,000 to finance the building of a runway and associated services at Ring way. Much has happened since. This year will be the start of a £172 million investment programme, which will include the construction of a second runway and lead to the creation of 50,000 new jobs in the local economy—including 15,000 on the site of the airport.

My primary goal as Member of Parliament for Wythenshawe and Sale, East will be to do all that I can—in partnership with the airport, other local businesses, the local authority, the training and enterprise council, schools and colleges—to ensure that as many of those new jobs as possible go to local people.

As for the runway protesters, suffice it to say that the legal and democratic process has been followed and the inevitable evictions have begun. In short, it is time for them to go home. As they leave, perhaps they will reflect with me on the airport's £17 million environmental package, which will ensure mitigation of the environmental impact of the second runway and will create, among other things, new hedgerows, ponds, woodlands and wildlife.

My constituency will benefit greatly from the economic policies outlined in the Gracious Speech. They are realistic, but capable of creating the real change that Britain needs. They will encourage a stable framework of low interest rates and low inflation while promoting long-term investment and sustainable growth. Most important they will bring practical benefits to my constituents, to the many thousands who have experienced redundancy and feel insecure in their present jobs, and to the thousands more who feel excluded from the workplace altogether.

The policies outlined in the Gracious Speech leave behind the hands-off deregulated free market dogma that has characterised economic policy for the past 18 years. That dogma is replaced by policies which link prosperity with fairness, encouraging improvement in skills and education, to make the United Kingdom economy more competitive. They include a minimum wage guarantee to help the low-paid and a programme of training and job creation that will end long-term unemployment among the under-25s. Most important, Britain's economic future will be one in which everyone can contribute—our collective skills, imagination and energy combining to create a better future for all our families and communities.

Talking recently to people in my constituency, I have encountered two specific frustrations. First, there is undeniable evidence of a skills gap. There are skilled jobs to be done in the area, but too few people with the skills to do them. The second frustration is low aspirations among those without work. Young people, often in families in which there have been two or three generations without work, have given up looking, given up hoping. On both counts, we must wage a constant campaign to improve skills training and educational standards, and to encourage a sense of self-worth and confidence among those who have been excluded from the jobs market.

I welcome today's statement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and especially his decision to strengthen the regulatory powers of the Securities and Investments Board. I congratulate him on his wisdom in appointing Howard Davies as the new chairman, as in addition to his undoubted financial skill and other experience he is, like me, a devoted supporter of Manchester City.

For the past eight years, before my election to the House, I have been the national director of Church Action on Poverty—an ecumenical charity working and campaigning alongside people in poverty. In that role, I have learnt much about the causes of poverty and inequality in Britain and their impact on the health, education, family life and social fabric of our country. Yet in all that time I have never heard anyone living in poverty argue that all their problems would be solved merely by increasing benefits. More money would help many of them, but what people in poverty want above all is recognition, dignity, respect and a chance to make a contribution—to be heard, to be taken seriously and to be included in.

The late John Smith spoke much about re-connecting our divided society. The Prime Minister argues passionately that progress and justice should stand together. I agree strongly with both of them. The general election result confirms that the British people also want a cohesive society and that they believe that Labour is the only party that can deliver it.

On the morning of Friday 2 May, my constituents woke up to a new era, a new hope and a realisation that things could be changed for the better. They want to be part of that process of change and the policies outlined in the Gracious Speech will provide the opportunity for them to do so.

8.48 pm
Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough)

First, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Mr. Goggins). I greatly enjoyed his speech and I share many of his aspirations. I certainly look forward to Ministers of his party keeping the promises that have been so carefully put together.

I am delighted to have been called to make my maiden speech in such an important debate. It has been a humbling experience today to listen to so many good speakers. There have been many splendid speeches, particularly by Labour women Members—I know that my wife would have been pleased to be here tonight.

I am delighted to be the first Liberal Democrat to represent Harrogate since 1906. The voters of the new constituency of Harrogate and Knaresborough have put a great deal of trust in me; I trust that I shall not let them down.

It is the custom in maiden speeches to pay tribute to retiring Members of Parliament. My constituency has two of them. Robert Banks represented the former constituency of Harrogate for about 23 years. He brought great dignity to the job and displayed immense integrity. He was immensely loyal to his party, and he was charming and personable—if at times somewhat distant from the constituency. I am extremely grateful to him for sending me today a letter of congratulations on my election, wishing me well in the new Parliament.

For the past 16 months, however, there has been a second Member of Parliament for Harrogate and Knaresborough: Norman Lamont became the adopted or locum Member. He offered us the experience of his time as Chancellor, to the benefit of the constituency. I pay tribute to him for lending us his talents over these 16 months.

Another custom of maiden speeches is to quote the maiden speeches of predecessors. I could not find much in Robert Banks's maiden speech, but I was intrigued by the speech of the former Chancellor. It may interest hon. Members to hear some of it: Another convention governing a speech such as mine is that one should be as non-controversial as possible. I have to admit that for some years I have been strongly pro-European. I think it stems from being converted by a speech I heard in 1961 at Cambridge made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). So persuasive was it that I have continued to believe in the idea ever since. As the policy of entry into the Common Market is officially the policy of both political parties, I hope that everyone will agree that by making an uncompromisingly European speech I am being as non-controversial as it is possible to be."— [Official Report, 13 July 1972; Vol. 840, c. 1887–88.]

Funny how the years change people in this House—perhaps it is something in the water. Or perhaps there is truth in the idea that there are creatures of the night that change people's views over time.

I have listened to other hon. Members extolling the virtues of their constituencies, many of which are extremely fine. I can understand why two people wanted to represent my constituency. God first created Yorkshire; then, at its heart, he placed Harrogate and Knaresborough. Knaresborough is a beautiful and ancient town with a great history. It had one of the great hunting forests of the middle ages. It has a beautiful castle and the magnificent River Nidd runs through it. It is, in short, a vibrant market town.

Knaresborough has two problems, however. The first is the town centre: the uniform business rate has annihilated the small shops there. I hope that the Chancellor will reform the UBR to make it easier for small businesses to establish themselves in our town centers. Knaresborough is no exception in that respect.

Earlier today, a Conservative Member extolled the virtues of low pay and said that a minimum wage would mean the end of jobs. I reject that view. A number of companies in Knaresborough sell products competitively right across the world. They do so not by paying slave rates but by paying the highest wages to be found anywhere in the constituency. One of those firms buys chipboards from Japan and then re-exports them to Japan to be put in Japanese motor cars. It is an extremely competitive business and it pays very high wages.

Harrogate needs no introduction—its reputation precedes it. The splendour of its Victorian buildings, its parks and gardens, its 200 acres of stray surrounding and inside the town, its magnificent floral displays and its year-round attractions make it a must for visitors to Yorkshire.

Since 1926, Harrogate has been a spa town, and thousands of people have come to take the waters there. At one time, five crowned heads of Europe were taking the waters in the town. Generations of British aristocrats have visited it, too. Today, Harrogate is a different place. It has a vibrant economy and unemployment stands at 3.5 per cent. But it was devastated by the recession. It was a devastating blow when the Ministry of Defence pulled out and RAF logistics relocated to the former Prime Minister's constituency. It was also a terrible blow when ICI, National Power and many other large corporations pulled out, leaving thousands of unemployed people in their wake.

We have recovered, but let no one think that places such as my constituency do not need the same care and attention as other parts of the United Kingdom merit.

Today, crowned heads of Europe no longer come. Indeed, if they read the British press, they would feel themselves unwelcome. But hundreds of other people do come. They come not to take the waters but to sample one of Europe's finest conference and exhibition centers. I am fairly sure that there can be few Members present this evening who have not visited Harrogate for a conference or an exhibition. Last year, the Harrogate international centre, which is wholly owned by the borough council, brought more than £100 million into the local economy and underpinned some 7,500 jobs.

That brings me to the main issue to which I wish to draw attention. I listened carefully to the Gracious Speech, for proposals that might right the 18 years of Conservative attacks on local government. Sadly, there was little evidence, especially in terms of spending commitments and capital commitments. Much of local government has been devastated in that time.

Over the past 18 years, local government has been all but dismantled by neutering its ability to raise revenue and to invest in capital projects, be they infrastructure, inward investment or economic regeneration. Since 1979, local government capital spending has been cut more savagely than revenue or anything else in Parliament's history. Between 1979 and 1995, while prices went up by 145 per cent., local authority capped spend went up by 64 per cent. The net revenue rise over the same period was 183 per cent. and, in the past two years, basic credit approvals to local authorities declined by 40 per cent. Even if we include the iniquitous capital challenge, which I hope the new Government will get rid of, there has still been a cut of 30 per cent. in basic credit approvals to local authorities over the past two years.

Reduced capital spending is short-termism and leads to inefficiency and poor provision of services in local authorities. No private sector business could survive, given the previous Government's approach to accounting. As a party, we believe in investing in the nation's future and applying the golden rule, which is simply: we should borrow only to invest; we should not borrow to support revenue spending.

To invest in the future of my constituency, by the millennium, we must build a new exhibition hall. It is the biggest business that underpins our economy and we need that facility. We have planning permission—the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions granted it only last week. We have a revenue stream generated by a successful business to fund the £7 million required, but we cannot borrow and the private finance initiative does not work for us.

We have no objection in principle to private sector investment or to private sector operation if it is in the public interest, but there are many examples of where public investment and public operation are in the best interest of local communities, and that should not be denied on dogma.

The previous Government's obsession with the PFI has had a serious impact on local authority investment projects. Why is it right that the private sector, which would have to charge some 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. more in terms of interest rates, should be given jobs, when the public sector could do the work itself? Why should that cost be passed on to charge payers?

I should like to present some challenges to the new Government. Central Government must allow and promote increased capital investment in the whole of the public sector and in particular in local government, which has been harshly dealt with in recent years. A long-term view is essential. Local authorities should also have the ability to ensure that there is local accountability for investment and that that is not wholly reliant on Whitehall or Brussels. Priority must be given not only to obvious social and customer demands, but to investment that yields a financial return and that can ultimately reduce public spending. Local authorities must have some ability to make proper business investment decisions and to finance through borrowing where the additional revenue earned or cost savings more than match the cost of borrowing.

There are increasing opportunities for local authorities to attract external funds, often capital grants from central bodies or Europe, but there is often a requirement for matching funds and for relevant facilities to be publicly owned. That is right, but local authorities should be less reliant on external "lotteries" for grants and have the ability to access borrowing on a self-financing basis. Government policy should help local authorities to attract such grants. Surely it is a disgrace that, at the end of this century, we ask some of the poorest people in Britain to pay a lottery tax to repair, maintain and provide public facilities.

Where services in the public arena are better provided by the private sector, for example, the development of town centers or of other local authority buildings for commercial retail uses, improvements in current PFI rules to allow private sector-led development are required. I welcome the review that is in hand and, in particular, the Paymaster General's recent statement: Departments should not spend time and money trying to develop models for private finance where these will not work. We have all wasted millions of hours on getting PFI projects together. Sadly, however, the Paymaster General also said that Departments should not expect any increase in their capital budgets. If that is the case, local authorities are lost. If they are not allowed to borrow, and if there is to be no change in the current rules, investment in capital projects in constituencies such as mine will simply stop. That is a major task, which I hope that Ministers will tackle.

Being the Member for the new Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency is a great honour. The previous Member was somewhat silent, but over the next five years I aim to draw to the attention of the House the needs of my constituents.

9.5 pm

Ms Helen Brinton (Peterborough)

I am pleased to make my first speech in this important debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis), for whose constituency I have great affection, as I lived there for six years. Indeed, I joined the Labour party when I was in Harrogate and Knaresborough. I send my good wishes to the constituency, and I am sure that we shall hear more sterling speeches from the hon. Gentleman.

I am proud to be the first woman Labour Member of Parliament for Peterborough, although there have been some distinguished women candidates before, including Madam Speaker. The last Labour Member of Parliament for Peterborough was Mr. Michael Ward, who made his maiden speech in 1974 and referred to his failure to win the seat in 1966 by three votes. Conservative Members may consider that relevant to their present situation. On that occasion, he quoted an earlier distinguished Member, who said, "One is enough." I am sure that the House knows to whom I refer.

Within different boundaries, I have been fortunate to be returned with a very different result—a somewhat larger majority—7,223, to be precise, which I believe at least partly reflects the deeply felt desire in the whole country not just for change, in which case anything different would do, but for an urgently needed improvement in the quality of national life, which the Government will carry out.

However, anyone who values democracy in our land should be glad that individuals and groups not based in Westminster or even in London have not waited for our Government's election victory to take action to make their communities better places. I am proud to say that the people of Peterborough who have chosen me to represent them in Westminster are outstanding in that respect.

Of course, the people were ably represented by my immediate predecessor, who now represents the neighbouring constituency—the right hon. Member for North—West Cambridge shire (Dr. Mawhinney), to whom I pay tribute for his part in many of the initiatives about which I shall speak. He has coped nobly with the most impossible black-spot job in politics—being chairman of the Conservative party.

Peterborough is one of only four cities in the United Kingdom to be chosen to be an environment city. It received that honour not because it has an inherently better environment than other cities, but because its people have worked together in partnership to make their city—and, in a small way, the world and the planet—a better place to live in.

We all know that during the 1970s and 1980s, evidence began to confirm that ozone depletion, global warming and pollution are threats to personal health and the stability and prosperity of developed and developing nations. In 1987, the concept of sustainable development was put forward. That means that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

In 1992, the Rio earth summit of the world's Governments considered how to put that sensible concept into practice. The resulting plan, agenda 21, included a crucial point: the recognition that actions at central Government level cannot provide all the solutions, and that we must have action at a local level by local government, businesses and individuals. That view was echoed by the European Commission in its fifth action programme, which strongly encourages towns and cities throughout the Union, such as Peterborough, to respond to the Rio declaration. Those local responses are called local agenda 21s.

Peterborough quickly took up the challenge. In 1990, before the Rio summit, Peterborough city council produced an environmental charter and established several working groups. On the basis of those initiatives, our city was granted the status of environment city—to which I referred earlier—together with only three others: Leeds, Middlesbrough and Leicester. Peterborough's work on environmental issues has been reported as far away as Los Angeles.

In 1993, Peterborough environment city trust—or PECT—was established by the local council, the business sector, voluntary organisations, and interested and committed individuals. PECT has a board of management representing both large and crucial small businesses, local authorities and other public organisations, and local charitable trusts. It has seven specialist working groups, SWGs, which deal with issues such as transport, the natural environment, the built environment, education—which the Prime Minister has said will be his Government's passion—recycling and waste management, energy conservation, and business and the environment because we believe that they are linked. More than 150 organisations are represented through those working groups, so a wide range of community skills and interests are co-ordinated.

Peterborough environment city trust has already had many successes, to which I shall refer. First, the energy advice centre in Peterborough is one of only 31 in the nation. It has provided free and impartial advice to almost 8,000 householders and small businesses, and has reduced CO, emissions by almost 1 tone per household, per annum. Peterborough energy advice centre has been independently judged to be the United Kingdom's most cost-efficient and environmentally effective energy advice centre. However, it requires a secure funding future—with whatever balance of private and public money is deemed appropriate—if it is to continue to operate beyond the end of June this year. I shall fight for that cause.

Secondly, the "eco house"—the Peterborough environment centre and energy show home—was opened by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in 1996. The facility is used by schools, local business groups and public organisations, and is a focus for voluntary environmental work and concern.

Thirdly, the £11.5 million Green Wheel millennium project consists of a network of pedestrian walks and cycle ways encircling the city. It will be landscaped, providing a green setting for our city, and will physically link many of the city's main tourist facilities, creating important new business opportunities. It will include three new heritage centers and areas that will function as permanent outdoor classrooms.

Fourthly, the material reclamation facility—which my colleagues tell me is called an MRF—is an immense achievement. Its £2.5 million cost is shared by the Department of the Environment, Peterborough city council and Shanks and McEwan, and it is situated on land provided under the Commission for the New Towns' Invest in Success scheme. By September this year, 55,000 households in Peterborough will have a refuse collection system using separate green boxes for paper, plastics and cans. Local businesses will also be able to use the facilities, and jobs will be created. By 2000, we shall provide a service for the adjoining counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Cambridge shire. The facility will open in late June or early July, and I am delighted to announce that I hope to persuade my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister—if time and his commitments allow—to come to Peterborough and preside at that opening.

Next month, there is to be a business forum on the environment, at which an agenda for green business is to be discussed and set out. I have been invited to speak.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to pay tribute to the outstanding achievements of PECT and other groups and of individuals in the constituency, in an important area. I look forward to being able to use my new role in this Parliament to further that work in a spirit of partnership and optimism, on which tide of feeling the Government have been brought to power.

9.15 pm
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire)

Let me make it clear at the outset of this Front-Bench contribution that my speech is not a veiled bid for the leadership of the Conservative party. I make my speech in the absence of Tony Newton, who was a good House of Commons man who held a series of the most difficult jobs in Government. Tony introduced a number of welcome reforms to our proceedings. I think that he will be genuinely missed by his many friends on both sides of the House.

I am sad personally to lose my two hard-working junior Ministers, John Bowis and John Watts. I suppose that it is a small compensation that they are not in the House to make informed criticism of my management style.

We have heard many outstanding maiden speeches during the debate. The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Ms Kelly) paid a gracious tribute to Tom Sackville. She spoke movingly about youth unemployment and the minimum wage in her constituency. We wish her well in her quest for university status for her college. I think that the House will be more cautious about her aspirations for Bolton Wanderers. The hon. Lady can have a new university without the rest of us suffering, but her football team can flourish only at our expense.

I compliment the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell), who was confronted with an unusually difficult task in paying tribute to his predecessor. I think that he managed it with the right balance of tact and sincerity. He then went on to speak with insight and with feeling about land mines and the role of the United Nations. The hon. Gentleman made it clear that he was in this place for only one Parliament. It may be that others who made their maiden speeches will be here for only one Parliament, but they did not make such a ringing declaration at the beginning of their contributions.

My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) spoke without notes and in a rather ingenious way linked the theme of peace in Europe with a number of cities, towns and villages in his constituency. I compliment the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) on his maiden speech, in which he paid a warm tribute to Jim Molyneaux. The hon. Gentleman made a plea for the Government to make Northern Ireland a special case and allow the lifting of the export ban.

I compliment the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Ms Mallaber) and congratulate her on her maiden speech. It is clear that she will not replace Phillip Oppenheim as captain of the rugger XV of the House of Commons. The hon. Lady made a moving speech about opencast mining in her constituency. It was good to hear that at least one new Member will take a particular interest in parliamentary procedure.

I compliment also the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Miss Johnson). She clearly has a forgiving nature, given what David Evans is alleged to have said about her. I think that the House recognises the generosity of her tribute. David Evans could certainly cause us on the Conservative Benches quite some grief.

I was pleased especially to see my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) in the Chamber. He is a former constituent of mine with whom I worked well in government. My hon. Friend paid a glowing tribute to Keith Speed. The new Ashford International station, whose formal opening I attended, is indeed a good monument to Sir Keith. I am sure that by the time my hon. Friend has finished in Kent there will be similar monuments littering the countryside in tribute to his hard work. My hon. Friend paid also a compliment to Bill Deedes, who still writes a fairly useful column in a much-read newspaper. That was a useful precaution on my hon. Friend's part.

The hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Mr. Goggins) represents a constituency that was one of the more optimistic destinations to which the Conservative party chairman sent me during the general election campaign. If the hon. Gentleman does as well as Alf Morris did in representing his constituents, he will have done very well indeed. I hope that I played a small part in promoting more jobs in his constituency by giving the go-ahead for the second runway at Manchester airport earlier this year. I very much hope that the protesters take on board the robust message that he gave them in his speech: it is time to go home. If they do go home, I hope that they do so above ground rather than below it.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) is obviously proud of his constituency. He has a tradition of good service in local government. Again, the House will appreciate what he said about Robert Banks.

I commend the hon. Member for Peterborough (Ms Brinton), who had a very long wait for her maiden speech and made some charitable comments about the chairman of the Conservative party. Again, she has a deep pride in her constituency.

In addition to the many maiden speeches, we had a resignation speech, from the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster), who must have created some record as being a ministerial office holder for the shortest time in the history of the Government. He made an interesting speech. He was Chief Whip of the Labour party only two months ago—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Two years!"] He obviously made a deep impact.

When the right hon. Gentleman was Chief Whip, he gave a clear incitement to new Labour Members to rebel. I suggest that the new Chief Whip has some quiet words, on Whips' terms, with his predecessor. The right hon. Gentleman also warned the Prime Minister not to treat the House of Commons as his poodle. Those were wise words, if I may say so.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) made a speech that is required reading for those who do not fully understand the consequences of signing up to the social chapter.

It was also good to see again my former parliamentary private secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth), who paid a glowing tribute to Sir Julian Critchley.

Perhaps I will be allowed to make a small maiden speech myself, as this is the first time that I speak as the Member for North-West Hampshire. The boundary commission effectively abolished my former constituency of Ealing, Acton by dividing it into three and then attaching each part to a neighbouring constituency. I was very cross at the time, but by 2 May, with a majority of 11,500 in North-West Hampshire, the anger had subsided.

I pay tribute to my popular predecessor, Sir David Mitchell, who represented the area for some 30 years and will be a hard act to follow. He helped to convert me from an urban Member of 23 years to a rural one of nearly 23 days. A large part of that scenic constituency is owned by the 7th Earl of Carnarvon, and another large part by the 1st Baron Lloyd-Webber, who, Labour Members will be pleased to know, is still in residence. Both are good landowners and they mark the blend of the old and the new that is north-west Hampshire, where unemployment is, mercifully, lower than anywhere else in the country and still falling.

A number of hon. Members referred to the issue of the procedures of the House. I genuinely believe that the Government made an unnecessary error of judgment about the arrangements for Prime Minister's questions that betrays a dangerous streak of authoritarianism. One reason why the Jopling reforms took root is that they were extensively discussed and agreed first. The ground was cleared before the shrub was planted. There was no reason for the Government to rush ahead with the new arrangements for Prime Minister's questions, and the Prime Minister would gain much credit from the House if he conceded that he acted precipitately and reverted to the original arrangements while the House quickly reflected on the proposed changes.

Nor did we find out from the Chancellor exactly why he made his announcement about the Bank of England when he did instead of waiting some 14 days, with the statement then being subjected to the normal parliamentary scrutiny that we would expect for a statement of such magnitude.

There is, of course, a risk that any speech from the Opposition Benches will sound like the Black Fairy in "Sleeping Beauty", making tactless and unpopular predictions in the middle of a rather good party. I shall try to avoid that, but I want to put some questions to the Deputy Prime Minister and then outline some strategic issues that I believe confront the new Administration.

The Deputy Prime Minister has responsibility for transport. He is now well qualified, as he seemed to spend the whole of the election campaign cocooned in a bus from which he was allowed out from time to time for short natural breaks of oratory. One of the most breathtaking moments of impudence during the campaign was when the now Prime Minister annexed a privatised train operator for a photo opportunity.

No one is more in favour of people travelling by train than I am. In fact, Conservative policies helped to reverse decades of decline in travel by rail. But no group of individuals fought harder to prevent Richard Branson from having an opportunity to run that train than the parliamentary Labour party. Given all its predictions of the injury that the private sector would do to the railways, the country was slightly surprised to see Labour Members enjoying Mr. Branson's hospitality at Euston station.

The Deputy Prime Minister can do two things to atone for that behaviour. First, he can admit that he was wrong to deny Branson and others the opportunity to invest in and improve our railways. Secondly, he can confirm that he personally will oppose any windfall tax on Railtrack that will put back the improvements on the west coast main line, the upgrading of our mainline stations and the building of Thameslink 2000—all improvements that we want to see.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister also tell the House whether the windfall tax will fall on the privatised bus companies? It is common ground that we all want to promote travel by bus. The companies are now investing substantially in new buses, improved ticketing, better information and quality partnerships with local authorities. A windfall tax would be paid for either by higher fares or by less investment, in conflict with any sensible balanced transport policy.

Let me say a word about the logic of the windfall tax itself, which looks as if it contains more wind than fall. Labour Members seem to think that one can extract billions of pounds from companies without there being any adverse consequence. The fact that the share price may discount the tax does not alter the impact of the tax on resources. The money extracted from the companies will be made good by higher prices, reduced services, less investment or reduced dividends—reduced dividends not to the original shareholders, but to the current holders who are largely institutional investors paying today's pensioners.

I suspect that the money will come from reduced investment, in which case, jobs will be lost in one sector of the economy—core permanent jobs, modernising and improving our infrastructure—to create temporary and more marginal jobs in another sector. It is by no means clear to me that that interventionist and rather arbitrary switch of resources will leave us all better off.

At some point, the Deputy Prime Minister should tell us his plans for London Transport. The Labour party made it clear that the Conservative Government's provision for London Transport was inadequate. On 8 January, in a Labour party press release, the now Minister for Employment and Disability Rights, the right hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith), said: It is clear that LT no longer has the resources to undertake even the most routine of maintenance work. We had clear proposals to put LT in the private sector, to reinvest the proceeds and to cap the fares. Clearly, we cannot do that. But what will the Labour party do? If Labour Members are proud to ride on privatised trains above the ground, why not below the ground? If old Labour councils can voluntarily privatise their bus companies and airports—and they have—why cannot a new Labour Government privatise the underground?

Introducing the debate on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that his Government's job was to modernise by the best means available irrespective of dogma or doctrine".—[Official Report, 14 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 61.] The truth is that the Deputy Prime Minister does not accept that. Not all the dogma has been flushed out of his system. It is no good trotting out waffle about private finance. The chairman of London Transport made it clear that that would not do the trick. If the right hon. Gentleman rejects our option, he owes it to Londoners to come up with another one that is at least as good, or the words of his fellow Ministers will simply be hollow rhetoric.

On local government, another area for which the right hon. Gentleman has responsibility, the Government propose to permit the phased release of capital receipts. It is worth just reminding the House that, had we heeded the Labour party's advice, there would be no capital receipts to talk about, because the Labour party opposed the policy that generated them. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us by how much that increases the PSBR—which the Chancellor wishes to reduce? When the receipts accrued, they were set aside and the PSBR fell. If they are spent, it goes up. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do about the fact that the receipts tend to be in the wrong places and the authorities with the greatest need are not those with the highest receipts? Our policy, which he proposes to jettison, had the merits of targeting the funds on areas of greatest need. What will he do about authorities that used the proceeds to reduce debt and do not have the cash? Will they be penalised for their prudence?

One of the few moments during the campaign that the Labour party might prefer to forget involved the privatisation of National Air Traffic Services. If I had been told before the election campaign that an obscure part of the Civil Aviation Authority would dominate the campaign for two days, I would not have believed it. However, we will all remember the pictures of the right hon. Member for Oxford, East speaking without restraint at the last party conference, describing what fate awaited anyone who tried to privatise NATS. It then transpired that it was exactly what Labour would consider if elected. Can the Deputy Prime Minister now confirm that his Department will proceed with enthusiasm to privatise NATS, as we planned, so that the sums begin to balance? If not, which part of his Department's programme will be cut?

I turn finally to some of the strategic issues that confront the new Administration. The Chancellor has appointed Martin Taylor to bring together the tax and benefit systems. I personally support any reform that simplifies and rationalises the financial interface between the individual and the state. However, the Chancellor will need to surmount two hurdles. First, we now have independent taxation of husband and wife—a reform which we introduced which gives fiscal independence to women and which the Chancellor would be ill advised to reverse. The social security system, however, aggregates the resources of husbands and wives, or indeed of partners, for wholly understandable reasons. Measures to knock the two systems together will somehow have to overcome that diversity of structure.

The second issue is as follows. Either the two systems can be put together on a nil cost basis so that the benefits are paid by a number of losers—that would be prudent, but unpopular—or there can be a safety net, in which case there is quite a big hit on public expenditure, which the Chancellor is trying to control. I wish the right hon. Gentleman well. The House will be interested to learn how he proposes to clear those two hurdles.

On a more critical note, to get elected, Labour Members had to match our commitments on public expenditure, but to remain in office, I believe that they will be unable to keep them. They will be unable to reconcile the constraints of Conservative public expenditure targets with the political imperatives that rule the Labour party. There is not enough petrol in the tank to drive the Deputy Prime Minister's Jaguar as far and as fast as he wants. I do not think that Labour Members joined their party to spend no more on public services than the Conservatives did, but when they break the clear undertakings they have given on public expenditure, they will begin to lose public confidence, not least because they have insisted on being judged on keeping their word.

Let me give an example. This year's local government settlement was a tough one. Many new Labour Members come from local government, and I doubt whether they would dissent from that assertion. Indeed, I expect that they complained bitterly about it at the time, but bit the bullet in response to some gentle coaxing from the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and some murmured words about not rocking the boat.

Next year's figure for aggregate external finance for local government in London, to which the Labour party is committed, is £35.96 billion—an increase of 0.53 per cent. over this year's figure. I am confident that, had we won, we could have delivered such a settlement. But will Labour Members vote in the Lobbies for central Government support that is as tough as our settlement in January? How will that go down with the public sector trade unions, whose settlements have been restrained in recent years, but whose ambitions have not? Did the unions support Labour's election campaign, to be rewarded with the same settlement that the Conservatives gave them?

How will such a settlement go down with Labour Members' colleagues who are running local government services, who genuinely believed that a Labour Government would mark the end of the period of restraint? What will their supporters in the constituencies make of it when the alibi of a Conservative Government is no longer there to blame? How will Labour Members react, torn between the iron discipline imposed by men in goggles and hard hats in the Whips Office to conform and the pressures from their local parties to rebel? Similar dilemmas will confront Labour Members with teachers and nurses when the consequences of agreeing to our expenditure totals in other areas dawn on them.

After a major defeat, it is wholly understandable that there is some turbulence in my party; but no one should be lulled into thinking that there are no tensions, no instability and no conflict in the Labour party. Indeed, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister personify those tensions, that conflict and that instability. It is a party that is embarrassed about its past, and equivocal about its future. It clearly had a successful strategy for winning an election, but it is not clear that it has a successful strategy for running the country.

Finally, I come to a paradox that has featured throughout our five-day debate. Labour Members have criticised our record on health and education, but their Government have accepted our financial framework for the next two years without demur. They have criticised a polarised society, but have abandoned their proposals to redistribute wealth. They have criticised privatisations, both past and proposed, but they will not buy back so much as a British Rail sandwich, and they are considering privatizing air traffic control. They have, in effect, criticised the foundations that we have laid over the past 18 years, but they are now perfectly happy to build on those foundations.

Along with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), I speak as one of the few Conservative Members who were Ministers both when we started in 1979 and when we finished in 1997. No one could seriously deny that we have left the country in far better condition than when we inherited it. Labour Members' assertions during the debate of poor financial management, wrong priorities, under-resourcing of public services and social incohesion are wholly undermined by their decisions to leave so much intact.

In partnership with the British people, we achieved much of which we can be proud, but people now want something different. We will encourage the Government to build on our achievements; but we will oppose those of their proposals that will damage our country with all the vigour that we can command.

9.37 pm
The Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott)

The debate has been almost a maiden speech on the Queen's Speech. We have heard 10 excellent maiden speeches, which have reflected the local knowledge and varied experiences of hon. Members—quite a few of them women—who will begin to change the House considerably in many ways. I must advise them, however, that the relief that they may now feel after making their maiden speeches is no guarantee that they will not feel the same tensions as they approach their second speech.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ms Kelly) is a doughty fighter, who will ensure that the views of her constituency are properly reflected here. As has been mentioned, I visited the constituency on the Prescott Express during the election campaign. Indeed, I am proud to claim that every constituency that I visited—there were more than 100—went Labour. Next time, I shall take two Prescott buses to ensure that we secure a bigger majority. My hon. Friend brings with her experience of the Bank of England, which will certainly play a part in debates in the House.

The House will have listened attentively to the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell), who made a controversial speech but undoubtedly conveyed a powerful message—as, indeed, did his election. I am sorry that he is not present: perhaps the first lesson that he should learn is that, after making a speech, an hon. Member should listen to the responses. Perhaps that, too, is controversial, but the point needs to be made. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman's election was an historic decision, and he was the first hon. Member whom I have heard announce his resignation at the next general election.

The hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) gave us a colourful view of life in his constituency. He reminded us that the upholstering of the Benches in the Chamber was done by a company in that constituency. He spoke from what we know as the rebellion Bench from below the Gangway. No doubt, he will contribute to the many discussions within the Opposition, especially on Europe.

The speech by the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) reminded us of the beautiful parts of Northern Ireland, and we listened carefully to his comments about the troubles in the Province. I am sure that all hon. Members share his desire to see a just peace free from terrorist violence in Northern Ireland. We shall debate that in the months ahead.

My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Ms Mallaber)—who represents one of the constituencies that I visited—spoke with knowledge and with more than a hint of humour, which is always useful in our debates. No doubt, she will do as she said and put her constituency on the map.

I remember with pleasure my visit to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Miss Johnson). She will represent the area in a way that the previous Member did not. She has three wonderful children and is clearly a different voice for that area, whose constituents will be represented with charm and commitment. She will certainly make her mark in our debates and I sincerely hope that she will represent the constituency for a long time.

The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) reminded us of the more positive effect of European discussions and their consequences for our economy. The hon. Member whom he replaces argued well about European developments and about Ashford station, about which the hon. Gentleman also spoke. I welcome his statement that, as a confirmed patriot, he thinks that there is something to be gained from Europe. No doubt, we shall hear more from him in future debates on that subject.

In his maiden speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Mr. Goggins) reminded us of the previous right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe, Alf Morris. That voice for Manchester has been replaced by another authoritative voice and my hon. Friend will clearly play his part in the debate that was always at the heart of discussions with Alf Morris. My hon. Friend reminded us of the controversy over Manchester airport. The rightful pride of his constituents in that airport is being undermined by Swampy's brigade, and we hope that a settlement can soon be achieved there.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) made a detailed contribution, especially in the context of the private finance initiative proposals, based on his local authority experience. Obviously, those proposals will be the subject of considerable debate. He was certainly informed about the matter, and the House will be the better for his detailed knowledge. Our only common feature is that we both defeated Mr. Norman Lamont, I at the beginning of his career and the hon. Gentleman at the end of it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Ms Brinton) clearly showed her vigorous approach to matters about which she feels strongly, especially in relation to the environment, which will play an important part in our future debates. I am reminded that her majority was about 7,000 although, in the past, majorities in Peterborough were small and subject to many recounts. The House congratulates all hon. Members on their speeches and wishes them well in future debates.

I thank all those who have contributed to the debate on the Gracious Speech. It marks the start of a Labour Government who were given unprecedented support by the British people. It has been an important debate and the Queen's Speech heralds a fresh beginning for the economy and the British people. It marks a new direction and is the start towards fulfilling the contract into which we entered with the electorate on 1 May. The new Government have got off to the flying, fresh start that the electorate demanded and are getting in the Gracious Speech.

We have already taken the first steps towards delivering our election pledges. Promises that were made in the election will be delivered, and, at the end of the five-year period, we shall go the electorate saying, "We have delivered what we promised," and we shall ask them for the second period that we intend to have. The Gracious Speech is the first step in that direction.

We have set out an ambitious programme of legislation. The shadow Chancellor spoke about the remarkable economy that he had left us. However, the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) talked about the mess that we were in. It was hard to bring those two statements together.

The Government believe that we have inherited an economy with a fundamental weakness. The Chancellor has shown that he is concerned to create an economy with a long-term record. He is concerned about slow growth and too much economic instability, high unemployment alongside skill shortages, and inadequate investment in education, infrastructure and new technologies.

The previous Government's record of 18 years included two of the longest and deepest recessions that this country has ever experienced. Good businesses went bankrupt, good jobs were destroyed and homes were repossessed in a rollercoaster ride of boom and bust. The electorate have made their judgment on the two different versions about which the House heard during the Queen's Speech debate—whether the economy was successful or whether it had the long-term fundamental problems pointed out by the Chancellor and every Labour Member who contributed to the debate.

We do not see the strongest economy in Europe, as described by the Leader of the Opposition when he opened the debate. Government figures show that, of the 15 countries in Europe, Britain comes ninth on unemployment, 1 the on interest rates, 13th on growth, 14th on trade balance, and bottom of the list at 15th on investment, which is crucial for any developing economy. I hear today that another international report says that Britain's prosperity has improved. We could argue about that, but Britain has simply risen from 19th to 11th place in the league table, which means that we are still in the bottom half of the table of the major economies in Europe. We are not in the top half, never mind being a successful economy.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle)

The right hon. Gentleman referred to an independent report published today, which points out that the British economy is more competitive now than the economies of Germany, France or Italy. When did Britain last have unemployment at less than 6 per cent. and inflation at less than 2.5 per cent?

Mr. Prescott

It had unemployment at less than that under a Labour Government. That still does not counter the argument that, in all the tables of major economies that we are discussing, Britain is in the bottom half and it has not improved its position a great deal. It has risen only two or three places in a number of the tables and remains in the bottom half.

I find it a bit much when I hear the Government talk about unemployment—[Hon. MEMBERS: "You are the Government."] Yes, it has been one of those days.

The Opposition inherited unemployment at below 1 million and took it to nearer 4 million. Even if we take today's figures and allow for the 1 million who are not accounted for in the register of claimants, there is mass unemployment after 18 years, quite apart from all the other indices that I mentioned.

The Chancellor said in his speech today that we intend to restore stability in economic management. That means being tough on inflation and giving immediate priority to seeing how public expenditure can be made more effective. Where appropriate, we shall use public and private partnerships, which we are now reforming. It means switching spending from economic failure to investment and the beginning of the long task of re-equipping the British economy, reforming the welfare state and getting the unemployed back to work. The Chancellor will introduce a number of those measures in the forthcoming Budget. They will be our first steps towards making long-term changes to the economy so that it produces more of the wealth that is necessary to provide the services to which we are committed.

We said that we would waste no time in taking steps to unravel the country's economic problems. That is why, within days of taking office, the Chancellor took the actions that he did. There can be no clearer signal of our determination to fight inflation than to give the Bank of England operational independence to set interest rates while increasing the accountability of the Bank's decision making, as the Chancellor made clear in his statement. The fact that there was an immediate fall in long-term interest rates shows the wisdom of that decision. I have not heard that argument contested by the Opposition. They have not said that it is not to the advantage of the country to reduce the long-term interest rates, and that was one of the immediate effects of my right hon. Friend's courageous decision.

It is important to recognise that the aim of a high and stable level of employment is part of our central economic objective. That condition has not been laid down before, but it has been brought about in the recent changes made by the Chancellor.

Today, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has taken further positive steps. In his statement, he announced further changes to the structure of the Bank and the regulation of the City. That should have been done some time ago, but was funked by the Conservative party and is now being carried out by my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend also announced that he has invited the National Audit Office to comment on the assumptions and conventions that lie behind the current forecasts and to make a report before the forthcoming Budget. That will add to openness, credibility and stability in economic decision making and will underline our fresh approach to economic policy.

We want to make a fresh start on Britain's relationship with the rest of the European Union. We want to draw a line under the recent past. Within days, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary signalled that we will sign up to the social chapter—now known as the social agreement—and end the British opt-out. The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) made a great deal about the opt-out provision undermining Britain's sovereignty. It is difficult to listen to Opposition Members finding their voice on the opt-out clauses and the reduction of the vetoes on many of the measures in Europe. Those things happened under a Tory Government.

We were taken in to the Common Market by a Tory Government—[Interruption.] Yes, it was a bit of a surprise. We gave up the veto under the fishing agreement negotiated by the Tory Government, and, on the single market agreement, the Tories introduced a considerable amount of qualified majority voting. I was curious to see whether the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing voted for those measures. On the Second Reading of the Single European Act, he voted for all the changes to qualified majority voting.

Sir John Stanley

The key point is that, when those changes were conceded in the Single European Act—that did take place as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out—it was done in return for real gains in completing the single market. The right hon. Gentleman has made the concessions on the social chapter and got absolutely nothing in return.

Mr. Prescott

It is more to do with the fact that the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister in the Government at the time and he could not vote against the Second Reading. Knowing how he voted, I had to treat his speech about qualified majority voting with a certain amount of contempt.

We want a fresh start in Britain's relationship with the rest of the European Union. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did that when he signalled that he wanted a sensible balance between social responsibility and economic efficiency. There are crucial issues in that.

Too much has been made of the threat of the social agreement. It does not constitute a threat to jobs. It means that social justice should be seen alongside economic prosperity. I have never been able to understand why the British owners of a Europe-based company in Hull will not allow the British seamen to take part in discussions on conditions of work while the Belgian and German seamen in the same company can take part. Is it right that British seafarers have to ask the Belgians and the Germans to take up their case with the company? That is wrong and stupid and should not apply. With the signing of the social agreement, we shall get a little more justice on consultation within that firm. That is just one example.

I was curious when the shadow Chancellor said that the Netherlands was beginning to adopt our successful economic formula and deregulation. He argued that the social chapter would contribute to higher levels of unemployment and inflation, but I wondered about the position in the Netherlands. I asked for the information from the Library and discovered that the Netherlands has a lower inflation rate and a lower unemployment rate than Britain. Holland has achieved that, although it has signed up to the social chapter and provided decent working conditions. Conservative Members' argument on the social agreement is a load of nonsense. We have no hesitations about implementing it. We believe that a successful economy has as much to do with social justice as it has to do with economic prosperity, and that the two objectives should be combined, as Holland has managed to do.

Our European policy priorities were stated in Labour's election manifesto and in the Prime Minister's speech in Manchester on 21 April 1997. Those key priorities, which have been reiterated in this debate, are: to complete the single market, to encourage considerable enlargement of it, to reform the common agricultural policy, to tackle unemployment and to ensure effective co-operation in foreign policy. Those are proper objectives for the Government to pursue, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, with considerable panache, has been doing just that in Europe. A co-operative attitude—instead of constant threats of retaliation—has already made a difference in negotiations on fish and beef.

The Government believe that substantial progress can be made by a common approach to transport and environment issues. We shall embrace change when it is in Britain's interests to do so, but we shall stand firm when the national interest demands it. That is our position. We have stated clearly the matters in which we shall retain the veto: frontier controls, taxation, social security, defence decisions, the budget and treaty changes. Those are essential issues in which the national interest is involved.

The United Kingdom, like other member states, is committed to completion of the intergovernmental conference at the Amsterdam European Council, which will meet in a few weeks. We think that the IGC will present an opportunity to make Europe more relevant to ordinary men and women and to prepare for enlargement.

The shadow Chancellor emphasised the importance of unemployment in the European Union—but so do we, because it is right that the European Union should play its part in tackling unemployment. Therefore, we shall join our partners in supporting the employment chapter in the new treaty, because we believe that economic prosperity and social justice can be combined, helping us to reduce unemployment levels in Europe.

On 1 January 1998, Britain will hold the presidency of the European Union, which will provide us with an excellent opportunity to lead from the front in making progress on the business of the European Union. We want Britain to be one of the leading countries in Europe and not one that is lagging behind. We can do much more—it is in Britain's interest to do so—by building a supportive majority among our partners than we can by shouting from the sidelines.

I said that the Government have made a flying start in foreign policy, and that sentiment applies also to other spheres, such as education, employment, health, social security and home affairs. There is a new spirit of aspiration and achievement throughout the Government. That spirit is evident also in the legislation proposed by my own Department, which I shall be proud to introduce.

I listened to the comments on transport made by the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young). He has, however, left us in a situation in which our roads are collapsing, our buses are older and our services are declining. I have had to call in representatives from South West Trains to talk about service cuts, and the rail services regulator has said that he has insufficient powers to ensure that investment is made in rail. That is not the transport system that the right hon. Gentleman described in his speech, but it is the one that I have seen. People have been coming to my door to complain about the privatisation of a transport system with which he was involved.

Let us be clear about it. I am proud that the programme that the Government will introduce will involve co-ordination of regional economic development and regional development agencies. Over 18 years, I fought hard for that principle, and I am now proud to find myself in a position in which I can provide the English regions with English regional development agencies that have power that is equal to that of agencies in Scotland and Wales. Those regions will gain advantages that they were denied by the Conservative party when it was in government. It is an important issue, and there will be a great debate on it.

The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire mentioned capital receipts. The Government plan to introduce a Bill dealing with local authority capital receipts, and he said that we can do so only because the previous Government left us the money to do so. The previous Government, however, did not build houses with that money—they denied the public 100,000 houses. At Christmas, he made much of homelessness. At the same time, however, he was denying an opportunity to build new houses. That is the difference between the two parties and the two Governments. We shall get on with getting people back to work and building houses for people. It is a scandal that the situation has been allowed to continue.

We are delighted to introduce legislation to give London a government that will make decisions for it and be accountable to Londoners. It is a disgrace that there has been no strategic authority for London during the past two decades and our legislation will put that right.

The debate has reflected the differences between the two parties, but it has also reflected something else. While we have been debating with the Opposition our different views on the Queen's Speech, they have been conducting a debate among themselves about who will be their next Leader. The Conservatives will have to make the sort of changes that the Labour party did. It took us 18 years; some Conservatives say that it will take them twice as long, which will be 36 years. I wish them well in that process and I look forward to them making the sort of radical democratic changes that the Labour party did. The electorate recognised those changes and elected us on a different set of values, which we shall present to the country in the next five years.

In contrast to the Opposition, we have a Prime Minister who has the demonstrable support of his party. This is a Government with a clear economic agenda.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. If a speech has continued past 10 o'clock, what happens to the Loyal Address?

Madam Speaker

I shall put the Question on the Loyal Address.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division—

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon)

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. How is it that, when the motion on the Loyal Address falls at 10 o'clock, you put the motion to the House at 20 seconds past 10? The motion should have fallen, because the Government failed to decide whether they wished to have a vote on it. The Division should not be allowed now, because the motion fell at 10 o'clock, not 20 seconds past 10.

Madam Speaker

As a former member of the Procedure Committee, the right hon. Gentleman should understand the answer to his question. Will hon. Members now proceed to vote? I am in a hurry to get the vote through.

Sir Peter Emery

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry, but I do not understand what you have said to me. Are you trying to say to the House that you may put a motion 20 seconds after it has fallen? If that is so, it is entirely contrary to both "Erskine May" and the normal procedure of the House.

Madam Speaker

I am saying to the right hon. Member clearly that, had not a Conservative Member put a point of order, I would have put the Question immediately, at 10 o'clock. Now, will hon. Members go through and vote?

Sir Peter Emery

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. As the hon. Member who rose—my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley)—did so to point out to you that it was past 10 o'clock, it cannot be right to suggest that he was doing other than that. Therefore, to put the motion when you did was quite illegal.

Madam Speaker

I put the motion quite correctly and at the appropriate time. The Division has now been called, and I invite hon. Members to divide the House.

The House having divided: Ayes 156, Noes 446.

Division No. 2] [10pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Amess, David Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Horam, John
Arbuthnot, James Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Hunter, Andrew
Baldry, Tony Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Bercow, John Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Beresford, Sir Paul Jenkin, Bernard (N Essex)
Blunt, Crispin Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim Key, Robert
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Brady, Graham Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Brazier, Julian Lansley, Andrew
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Leigh, Edward
Browning, Mrs Angela Letwin, Oliver
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Burns, Simon Lidington, David
Butterfill, John Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Cash, William Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Chope, Christopher Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Clappison, James MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington) McIntosh, Miss Anne
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) MacKay, Andrew
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Madel, Sir David
Collins, Tim Major, Rt Hon John
Colvin, Michael Malins, Humfrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick Maples, John
Cran, James Mates, Michael
Curry, Rt Hon David Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) May, Mrs Theresa
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford) Merchant, Piers
Moss, Malcolm
Day, Stephen Nicholls, Patrick
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Norman, Archie
Duncan, Alan Page, Richard
Duncan Smith, Iain Paice, James
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Paterson, Owen
Evans, Nigel Pickles, Eric
Faber, David Prior, David
Fabricant, Michael Redwood, Rt Hon John
Fallon, Michael Robathan, Andrew
Flight, Howard Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Forth, Eric Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Fox, Dr Liam Ruffley, David
Fraser, Christopher St Aubyn, Nick
Gale, Roger Sayeed, Jonathan
Garnier, Edward Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Gibb, Nick Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gill, Christopher Soames, Nicholas
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Spicer, Sir Michael
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Spring, Richard
Gray, James Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Green, Damian Steen, Anthony
Greenway, John Streeter, Gary
Grieve, Dominic Swayne, Desmond
Gummer, Rt Hon John Syms, Robert
Hague, Rt Hon William Tapsell, Sir Peter
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Hammond, Philip Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hawkins, Nick Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hayes, John Temple-Morris, Peter
Heald, Oliver Townend, John
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward (Old Bexley & Sidcup) Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew Willetts, David
Viggers, Peter Wilshire, David
Walter, Robert Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Wardle, Charles Woodward, Shaun
Waterson, Nigel Yeo, Tim
Whitney, Sir Raymond Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Whittingdale, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann Mr. Richard Ottaway and
Wilkinson, John Mr. Bowen Wells.
Abbott, Ms Diane Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Campbell-Savours, D N
Ainger, Nick Canavan, Dennis
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cann, Jamie
Allan, Richard (Shef'ld Hallam) Caplin, Ivor
Allen, Graham (Nottingham N) Casale, Roger
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Caton, Martin
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Cawsey, Ian
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Chaytor, David
Ashton, Joseph Chidgey, David
Atherton, Ms Candy Clapham, Michael
Atkins, Ms Charlotte Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Austin, John Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Portlands)
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Mrs Jackie Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Banks, Tony Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Barnes, Harry Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Barron, Kevin Clarke, Tom (Coatbridge)
Bayley, Hugh Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Beard, Nigel Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Begg, Ms Anne (Aberd'n S) Coaker, Vernon
Beith, Rt Hon A J Coffey, Ms Ann
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Cohen, Harry
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Coleman, Iain
Bennett, Andrew F Colman, Anthony
Benton, Joe Connarty, Michael
Bermingham, Gerald Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Berry, Roger Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Best, Harold Cooper, Ms Yvette
Betts, Clive Corbett, Robin
Blackman, Ms Elizabeth Corbyn, Jeremy
Blair, Rt Hon Tony Corston, Ms Jean
Blears, Ms Hazel Cotter, Brian
Blizzard, Robert Cousins, Jim
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Cox, Tom
Boateng, Paul Cranston, Ross
Borrow, David Crausby, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Bradshaw, Ben Cummings, John
Brake, Thomas Cunliffe, Lawrence
Brand, Dr Peter Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Breed, Colin Cunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth)
Brinton, Ms Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) Curtis-Thomas, Ms Clare
Dafis, Cynog
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas (Newcastle E & Wallsend) Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock) Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Buck, Ms Karen Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Burden, Richard Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Burgon, Colin Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Burnett, John Dawson, Hilton
Burstow, Paul Dean, Ms Janet
Butler, Christine Denham, John
Byers, Stephen Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Cable, Dr Vincent Dismore, Andrew
Caborn, Richard Dobbin, Jim
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Donohoe, Brian H
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife) Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Drew, David Howells, Dr Kim
Drown, Ms Julia Hoyle, Lindsay
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Eagle, Ms Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Edwards, Huw Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Efford, Clive Humble, Mrs Joan
Ellman, Ms Louise Hurst, Alan
Ennis, Jeff Hutton, John
Etherington, Bill Iddon, Brian
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Illsley, Eric
Fatchett, Derek Ingram, Adam
Fearn, Ronnie Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)
Field, Frank Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)
Fisher, Mark Jamieson, David
Fitzpatrick, Jim Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth)
Fitzsimons, Ms Lorna Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Flint, Ms Caroline Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Ms Barbara Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Jones, Ms Fiona (Newark)
Foster, Don (Bath) Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Foster, Michael John (Worcester) Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Fyfe, Maria
Galbraith, Sam Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Galloway, George Jones, Dr Lynne (Setty Oak)
Gapes, Mike Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Gardiner, Barry Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
George, Andrew (St Ives) Jowell, Ms Tessa
George, Bruce (Walsall S) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Gerrard, Neil Keeble, Ms Sally
Gibson, Dr Ian Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford)
Godman, Dr Norman A Keetch, Paul
Godsiff, Roger Kelly, Ms Ruth
Goggins, Paul Kemp, Fraser
Golding, Mrs Llin Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald Khabra, Piara S
Graham, Thomas Kidney, David
Grant, Bernie Kilfoyle, Peter
Griffiths, Ms Jane (Reading E) King, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Kingham, Tessa
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Kirkwood, Archy
Grocott, Bruce Kumar, Dr Ashok
Grogan, John Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Gunnell, John Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Hain, Peter Laxton, Bob
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Lepper, David
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Leslie, Christopher
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Levitt, Tom
Hancock, Mike Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Hanson, David Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet Liddell, Mrs Helen
Harris, Dr Evan Linton, Martin
Harvey, Nick Livingstone, Ken
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Livsey, Richard
Heath, David (Somerton) Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Llwyd, Elfyn
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Lock, David
Hepburn, Stephen Love, Andy
Heppell, John McAllion, John
Hesford, Stephen McAvoy, Thomas
Hewitt, Ms Patricia McCabe, Stephen
Hill, Keith McCafferty, Ms Christine
Hinchliffe, David McDonagh, Ms Siobhain
Hodge, Ms Margaret Macdonald, Calum
Hoey, Kate McDonnell, John
Home Robertson, John McFall, John
Hood, Jimmy McGuire, Mrs Anne
Hoon, Geoffrey McIsaac, Ms Shona
Hope, Philip McKenna, Ms Rosemary
Hopkins, Kelvin Mackinlay, Andrew
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) McLeish, Henry
Maclennan, Robert Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
McMaster, Gordon Roche, Mrs Barbara
McNulty, Tony Rogers, Allan
MacShane, Denis Rooker, Jeff
Mactaggart, Fiona Rooney, Terry
McWalter, Tony Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McWilliam, John Rowlands, Ted
Mahon, Mrs Alice Roy, Frank
Mallaber, Ms Judy Ruane, Chris
Mandelson, Peter Ruddock, Ms Joan
Marek, Dr John Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Ryan, Ms Joan
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Salmond, Alex
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Salter, Martin
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Sanders, Adrian
Martlew, Eric Savidge, Malcolm
Maxton, John Sawford, Philip
Meacher, Michael Sedgemore, Brian
Meale, Alan Shaw, Jonathan
Michael, Alun Sheerman, Barry
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Milburn, Alan Shipley, Ms Debra
Miller, Andrew Short, Rt Hon Clare
Mitchell, Austin Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Moffatt, Laura Singh, Marsha
Moonie, Dr Lewis Skinner, Dennis
Moore, Michael Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Moran, Ms Margaret Smith, Ms Angela (Basildon)
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway) Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Smith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W) Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Morley, Elliot Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Mounttord, Ms Kali Snape, Peter
Mudie, George Soley, Clive
Mullin, Chris Southworth, Ms Helen
Murphy, Dennis (Wansbeck) Spellar, John
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Squire, Ms Rachel
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen) Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Naysmith, Dr Doug Steinberg, Gerry
Norris, Dan Stevenson, George
Oaten, Mark Stewart, David (Inverness E)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Stinchcombe, Paul
O'Hara, Edward Stoate, Dr Howard
Olner, Bill Stott, Roger
Opik, Lembit Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Organ, Mrs Diana Stringer, Graham
Osborne, Mrs Sandra Stuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)
Palmer, Nick Stunell, Andrew
Pearson, Ian Sutcliffe, Gerry
Pendry, Tom Swinney, John
Perham, Ms Linda Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Plaskitt, James Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Pollard, Kerry Taylor, Matthew (Truro & St Austell)
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Pound, Stephen Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Powell, Sir Raymond Timms, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Tipping, Paddy
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Todd, Mark
Prescott, Rt Hon John Tonge, Dr Jenny
Primarolo, Dawn Touhig, Don
Prosser, Gwyn Trickett, Jon
Purchase, Ken Truswell, Paul
Quin, Ms Joyce (Gateshead E) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Quinn, Lawrie (Scarborough) Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Radice, Giles Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Rammell, Bill Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Rapson, Syd Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Raynsford, Nick Tyler, Paul
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Vaz, Keith
Rendel, David Vis, Rudolf
Wallace, James Wills, Michael
Walley, Ms Joan Winnick, David
Wareing, Robert N Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Watts, David Wise, Audrey
Webb, Steven Wood, Mike
Welsh Andrew Woolas, Phil
Whitehead, Alan Worthington, Tony
Wicks, Malcolm Wray, James
Wigley, Dafydd Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W) Wright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)
Wyatt, Derek
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen) Tellers for the Noes:
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy) Jane Kennedy and
Willis, Phil Mr. David Clelland.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add, but, while welcoming the inclusion in the Gracious Speech of reforming measures such as the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into United Kingdom law, the granting of autonomy in setting interest rates to the Bank of England, the introduction of regional development agencies and the proposals to grant devolution for Scotland and Wales, humbly regret the absence of any commitment to provide sufficient resources to raise standards in education and resolve the funding crisis in the National Health Service; further regret the absence of any stated timetable for the introduction of electoral reform for elections to the European Parliament and a Freedom of Information Act; are concerned by the absence of measures which will protect the environment, and the lack of urgency in the introduction of measures to redress the reduction of responsibility which has been suffered by local authorities; and believe that the retrospective and regressive windfall tax is an inadequate means of funding the necessary programmes to get the young unemployed back to work."— [Mr. Malcolm Bruce.]

Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Calling of amendments at end of debate), That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 54, Noes 380.

Division No. 3] [10.24 pm
Allan, Richard (Shef'id Hallam) Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Baker, Norman Keetch, Paul
Ballard, Mrs Jackie Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Brake, Thomas
Brand, Dr Peter Kirkwood, Archy
Breed, Colin Livsey, Richard
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Llwyd, Elfyn
Burnett, John Maclennan, Robert
Burstow, Paul Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Cable, Dr Vincent Moore, Michael
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife) Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Chidgey, David Oaten, Mark
Cotter, Brian Opik, Lembit
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth) Rendel, David
Russel, Bob (Colchester)
Dafis, Cynog Rendel, David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fearn, Ronnie Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives) Swinney, John
Gorrie, Donald
Hancock, Mike Taylor, Matthew (Truro & St Austell)
Harris, Dr Evan Sanders, Adrian
Harvey, Nick Tonge, Jenny Dr
Heath, David (Somerton) Wallace, James
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Webb, Steven
Welsh, Andrew Tellers for the Ayes:
Wigley, Dafydd Mr. Paul Tyler and
Willis, Phil Mr. Andrew Stunell.
Abbott, Ms Diane Cohen, Harry
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Coleman, Iain
Ainger, Nick Colman, Anthony
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Connarty, Michael
Allen, Graham (Nottingham N) Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Cooper, Ms Yvette
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Corbett, Robin
Ashton, Joseph Corbyn, Jeremy
Atherton, Ms Candy Corston, Ms Jean
Atkins, Ms Charlotte Cousins, Jim
Austin, John Cox, Tom
Banks, Tony Cranston, Ross
Barnes, Harry Crausby, David
Barron, Kevin Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Bayley, Hugh Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Beard, Nigel Cummings, John
Begg, Ms Anne (Aberd'n S) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Curtis-Thomas, Ms Clare
Bennett, Andrew F Dalyell, Tam
Benton, Joe Darvill, Keith
Bermingham, Gerald Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Berry, Roger Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Best, Harold Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Belts, Clive Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Blackman, Ms Elizabeth Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Blears, Ms Hazel Dawson, Hilton
Blizzard, Robert Dean, Ms Janet
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Denham, John
Boateng, Paul Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Borrow, David Dismore, Andrew
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Dobbin, Jim
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Bradshaw, Ben Donohoe, Brian H
Brinton, Ms Helen Doran, Frank
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas (Newcastle E & Wallsend) Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Drown, Ms Julia
Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock) Eagle, Ms Angela (Wallasey)
Buck, Ms Karen Eagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)
Burden, Richard Edwards, Huw
Burgon, Colin Efford, Clive
Butler, Christine Ellman, Ms Louise
Byers, Stephen Ennis, Jeff
Caborn, Richard Etherington, Bill
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Fatchett, Derek
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Field, Frank
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Fisher, Mark
Campbell-Savours, D N Fitzpatrick, Jim
Canavan, Dennis Fitzsimons, Ms Lorna
Cann, Jamie Flint, Ms Caroline
Caplin, Ivor Flynn, Paul
Casale, Roger Follett, Ms Barbara
Caton, Martin Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Cawsey, Ian Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Foster, Michael John (Worcester)
Chaytor, David Fyfe, Maria
Clapham, Michael Galbraith, Sam
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Galloway, George
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Gerrard, Neil
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Gibson, Dr Ian
Clarke, Tom (Coatbridge) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Godman, Dr Norman A
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Godsiff, Roger
Coaker, Vernon Goggins, Paul
Coffey, Ms Ann Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen Leslie, Christopher
Graham, Thomas Levitt, Tom
Grant, Bernie Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Griffiths, Ms Jane (Reading E) Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Linton, Martin
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Livingstone, Ken
Grocott, Bruce Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Grogan, John Lock, David
Gunnell, John Love, Andy
Hain, Peter McAllion, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) McAvoy, Thomas
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) McCabe, Stephen
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) McCafferty, Ms Christine
Hanson, David McDonagh, Ms Siobhain
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet Macdonald, Calum
Heal, Mrs Sylvia McDonnell, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) McFall, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) McGuire, Mrs Anne
Hepburn, Stephen McIsaac, Ms Shona
Heppell, John McKenna, Ms Rosemary
Hesford, Stephen Mackinlay, Andrew
Hewitt, Ms Patricia McLeish, Henry
Hill, Keith McMaster, Gordon
Hinchliffe, David McNulty, Tony
Hodge, Ms Margaret MacShane, Denis
Hoey, Kate Mactaggart, Fiona
Home Robertson, John McWalter, Tony
Hood, Jimmy McWilliam, John
Hoon, Geoffrey Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hope, Philip Mallaber, Ms Judy
Hopkins, Kelvin Mandelson, Peter
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) Marek, Dr John
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Howells, Dr Kim Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Hoyle, Lindsay Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford & Urmston) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Martlew, Eric
Humble, Mrs Joan Maxton, John
Hurst, Alan Meacher, Michael
Hutton, John Meale, Alan
Iddon, Brian Michael, Alun
Illsley, Eric Milburn, Alan
Ingram, Adam Miller, Andrew
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough) Moran, Ms Margaret
Jamieson, David Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth) Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Johnson, Alan (Hull W) Morley, Elliot
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Ms Kali
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Mudie, George
Jones, Ms Fiona (Newark) Mullin, Chris
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Murphy, Dennis (Wansbeck)
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW) Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Naysmith, Dr Doug
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Norris, Dan
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Jowell, Ms Tessa O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald O'Hara, Edward
Keeble, Ms Sally Olner, Bill
Keen, Alan (Feltham) Organ, Mrs Diana
Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford) Osborne, Mrs Sandra
Kelly, Ms Ruth Palmer, Nick
Kemp, Fraser Pearson, Ian
Khabra, Piara S Pendry, Tom
Kidney, David Perham, Ms Linda
Kilfoyle, Peter Pickthall, Colin
King, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green) Pike, Peter L
Kingham, Tessa Plaskitt, James
Kumar, Dr Ashok Pollard, Kerry
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Pond, Chris
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Pope, Greg
Laxton, Bob Pound, Stephen
Lepper, David Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Stevenson, George
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Prescott, Rt Hon John Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Primarolo, Dawn Stinchcombe, Paul
Prosser, Gwyn Stoate, Dr Howard
Purchase, Ken Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Quin, Ms Joyce (Gateshead E) Stringer, Graham
Quinn, Lawrie (Scarborough) Stuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)
Radice, Giles Sutcliffe, Gerry
Rammell, Bill Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Rogers, Allan Timms, Stephen
Rooker, Jeff Tipping, Paddy
Rooney, Terry Todd, Mark
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Touhig, Don
Rowlands, Ted Trickett, Jon
Roy, Frank Truswell, Paul
Ruane, Chris Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Ruddock, Ms Joan Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Ryan, Ms Joan Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Salter, Martin Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Savidge, Malcolm Vaz Keith
Sawford, Philip Vis, Rudolf
Sedgemore, Brian Walley, Ms Joan
Shaw, Jonathan Wareing, Robert N
Sheerman, Barry Watts, David
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Whitehead, Alan
Shipley, Ms Debra Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Short, Rt Hon Clare Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Singh, Marsha Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Skinner, Dennis Winnick, David
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Smith, Ms Angela (Basildon) Wise, Audrey
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S) Wood, Mike
Smith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch) Woolas, Phil
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Worthington, Tony
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Wray, James
Snape, Peter Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Southworth, Ms Helen Wyatt, Derek
Spellar, John Wright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)
Squire, Ms Rachel Tellers for the Noes:
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Mr. David Clelland and
Steinberg, Gerry Jane Kennedy.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 421, Noes 151.

Division No. 4] [10.42 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Barron, Kevin
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Bayley, Hugh
Ainger, Nick Beard, Nigel
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Begg, Ms Anne (Aberd'n S)
Allan, Richard (Shef'ld Hallam) Beith, Rt Hon A J
Allen, Graham (Nottingham N) Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Bennett, Andrew F
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Benton, Joe
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Bermingham, Gerald
Atherton, Ms Candy Berry, Roger
Atkins, Ms Charlotte Best, Harold
Austin, John Betts, Clive
Baker, Norman Blackman, Ms Elizabeth
Ballard, Mrs Jackie Blears, Ms Hazel
Banks, Tony Blizzard, Robert
Barnes, Harry Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David Dean, Ms Janet
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Denham, John
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Bradshaw, Ben Dismore, Andrew
Brake, Thomas Dobbin, Jim
Brand, Dr Peter Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Brinton, Ms Helen Donohoe, Brian H
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas (Newcastle E & Wallsend) Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Drew, David
Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock) Drown, Ms Julia
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Eagle, Ms Angela (Wallasey)
Buck, Ms Karen Eagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)
Burden, Richard Edwards, Huw
Burgon, Colin Efford, Clive
Burnett, John Ellman, Ms Louise
Burstow, Paul Ennis, Jeff
Butler, Christine Etherington, Bill
Byers, Stephen Fatchett, Derek
Caborn, Richard Fearn, Ronnie
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Field, Frank
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Fisher, Mark
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife) Fitzpatrick, Jim
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Fitzsimons, Ms Lorna
Campbell-Savours, D N Flint, Ms Caroline
Canavan, Dennis Flynn, Paul
Cann, Jamie Follett, Ms Barbara
Caplin, Ivor Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Casale, Roger Foster, Don (Bath)
Caton, Martin Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Cawsey, Ian Foster, Michael John (Worcester)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Fyfe, Maria
Chaytor, David Galbraith, Sam
Chidgey, David Galloway, George
Clapham, Michael Gapes, Mike
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Gardiner, Barry
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Gerrard, Neil
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Gibson, Dr Ian
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Clarke, Tom (Coatbridge) Godman, Dr Norman A
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Godsiff, Roger
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Goggins, Paul
Coaker, Vernon Golding, Mrs Llin
Coffey, Ms Ann Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Cohen, Harry Gorrie, Donald
Coleman, Iain Graham, Thomas
Colman, Anthony Grant, Bernie
Connarty, Michael Griffiths, Ms Jane (Reading E)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cooper, Ms Yvette Grocott, Bruce
Corbett, Robin Grogan, John
Corbyn, Jeremy Gunnell, John
Corston, Ms Jean Hain, Peter
Cotter, Brian Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Cousins, Jim Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Cox, Tom Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Cranston, Ross Hancock, Mike
Crausby, David Hanson, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Harris, Dr Evan
Cummings, John Harvey, Nick
Cunliffe, Lawrence Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Heath, David (Somerton)
Curtis-Thomas, Ms Clare Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Dalyell, Tam Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Darvill, Keith Hepburn, Stephen
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Heppell, John
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Hesford, Stephen
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Hill, Keith
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly) Hinchliffe, David
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Hodge, Ms Margaret
Dawson, Hilton Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John Mackinlay, Andrew
Hood, Jimmy McLeish, Henry
Hoon, Geoffrey Maclennan, Robert
Hope, Philip McMaster, Gordon
Hopkins, Kelvin McNulty, Tony
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) MacShane, Denis
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Mactaggart, Fiona
Howells, Dr Kim McWalter, Tony
Hoyle, Lindsay McWilliam, John
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford & Urmston) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Ms Judy
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Mandelson, Peter
Humble, Mrs Joan Marek, Dr John
Hurst, Alan Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hutton, John Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Iddon, Brian Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Illsley, Eric Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Ingram, Adam Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd) Martlew, Eric
Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough) Maxton, John
Jamieson, David Meacher, Michael
Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth) Meale, Alan
Johnson, Alan (Hull W) Michael, Alun
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Milburn, Alan
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Miller, Andrew
Jones, Ms Fiona (Newark) Moffatt, Laura
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW) Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Morley, Elliot
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Jowell, Ms Tessa Mountford, Ms Kali
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Mudie, George
Keeble, Ms Sally Mullin, Chris
Keen, Alan (Feltham) Murphy, Dennis (Wansbeck)
Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford) Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Keetch, Paul Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Kelly, Ms Ruth Naysmith, Dr Doug
Kemp, Fraser Norris, Dan
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W) Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Khabra, Piara S O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Kidney, David O'Hara, Edward
Kilfoyle, Peter Olner, Bill
King, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green) Opik, Lembit
Kingham, Tessa Organ, Mrs Diana
Kirkwood, Archy Osborne, Mrs Sandra
Kumar, Dr Ashok Palmer, Nick
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Pearson, Ian
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Pendry, Tom
Laxton, Bob Perham, Ms Linda
Lepper, David Pickthall, Colin
Leslie, Christopher Pike, Peter L
Levitt, Tom Plaskitt, James
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Pollard, Kerry
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Pond, Chris
Linton, Martin Pope, Greg
Livingstone, Ken Pound, Stephen
Livsey, Richard Powell, Sir Raymond
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Lock, David Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Love, Andy Prescott, Rt Hon John
McAllion, John Primarolo, Dawn
McAvoy, Thomas Prosser, Gwyn
McCabe, Stephen Purchase, Ken
McCafferty, Ms Christine Quin, Ms Joyce (Gateshead E)
McDonagh, Ms Siobhain Quinn, Lawrie (Scarborough)
Macdonald, Calum Radice, Giles
McDonnell, John Rammell, Bill
McFall, John Rapson, Syd
McGuire, Mrs Anne Raynsford, Nick
McIsaac, Ms Shona Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
McKenna, Ms Rosemary Rendel, David
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Rooker, Jeff Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Rooney, Terry Taylor, Matthew (Truro & St Austell)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Roy, Frank Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Ruane, Chris Timms, Stephen
Ruddock, Ms Joan Tipping, Paddy
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Todd, Mark
Ryan, Ms Joan Tonge, Dr Jenny
Salter, Martin Touhig, Don
Sanders, Adrian Trickett, Jon
Savidge, Malcolm Truswell, Paul
Sawford, Philip Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Sedgemore, Brian Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Shaw, Jonathan Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Sheerman, Barry Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Shipley, Ms Debra Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Short, Rt Hon Clare Tyler, Paul
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Vaz, Keith
Singh, Marsha Vis, Rudolf
Skinner, Dennis Wallace, James
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Walley, Ms Joan
Smith, Ms Angela (Basildon) Wareing, Robert N
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S) Watts, David
Smith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch) Webb, Steven
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Whitehead, Alan
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Wicks, Malcolm
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Spellar, John Willis, Phil
Squire, Ms Rachel Winnick, David
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Steinberg, Gerry Wise, Audrey
Stevenson, George Wood, Mike
Stewart, David (Inverness E) Woolas, Phil
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Worthington, Tony
Stinchcombe, Paul Wray, James
Stoate, Dr Howard Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Stott, Roger Wright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin Wyatt, Derek
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston) Tellers for the Ayes:
Stunell, Andrew Mr. David Clelland and
Sutcliffe, Gerry Jane Kennedy.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Amess, David Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Atkinson, David (Bour"mth E) Collins, Tim
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Colvin, Michael
Baldry, Tony Cormack, Sir Patrick
Bercow, John Cran, James
Beresford, Sir Paul Curry, Rt Hon David
Blunt, Crispin Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Body, Sir Richard Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Day, Stephen
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Brady, Graham Duncan, Alan
Brazier, Julian Duncan Smith, Iain
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela Evans, Nigel
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Faber, David
Burns, Simon Fabricant, Michael
Butterfill, John Fallen, Michael
Cash, William Flight, Howard
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Forth, Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Chope, Christopher Fox, Dr Liam
Clappison, James Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger Merchant, Piers
Garnier, Edward Moss, Malcolm
Gibb, Nick Nicholls, Patrick
Gill, Christopher Norman, Archie
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Page, Richard
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Paice, James
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Paterson, Owen
Gray, James Pickles, Eric
Green, Damian Prior, David
Greenway, John Redwood, Rt Hon John
Grieve, Dominic Robathan, Andrew
Gummer, Rt Hon John Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Hague, Rt Hon William Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hammond, Philip Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Hawkins, Nick Ruffley, David
Hayes, John St Aubyn, Nick
Heald, Oliver Sayeed, Jonathan
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Heselttne, Rt Hon Michael Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Horam, John Soames, Nicholas
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Spicer, Sir Michael
Hunter, Andrew Spring, Richard
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Steen, Anthony
Jenkin, Bernard (N Essex) Streeter, Gary
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Swayne, Desmond
Key, Robert Syms, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Lansley, Andrew Temple-Morris, Peter
Leigh, Edward Townend, John
Letwin, Oliver Tredinnick, David
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Trend, Michael
Lidington, David Tyrie, Andrew
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Viggers, Peter
Uoyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Walter, Robert
Loughton, Tim Wardte, Charles
Luff, Peter Waterson, Nigel
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Whitney, Sir Raymond
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Whittingdale, John
McIntosh, Miss Anne Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
MacKay, Andrew Wilkinson, John
Maclean, Rt Hon David Willetts, David
McLoughlin, Patrick Wilshire, David
Madel, Sir David Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Major, Rt Hon John Woodward, Shaun
Malins, Humfrey Yeo, Tim
Maples, John
Mates, Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Mr. Bowen Wells and
May, Mrs Theresa Mr.Richard Ottaway.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:— Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

Sir Peter Emery

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I refer you to paragraph 9(3) of the new Standing Orders, which states: At ten o'clock on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the proceedings on any business then under consideration"— there follow a number of exceptions which do not apply in this case— shall lapse. Has the interpretation of that Standing Order been altered by your ruling of just over an hour ago? If it has not, perhaps you would remind the Government Chief Whip and those in his office to be a little more alert, so that the Deputy Prime Minister and other Ministers do not overrun their time again.

Madam Speaker

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Technically, he is quite right. The Deputy Prime Minister overran by about five seconds, but in this early stage of a new Parliament, I was prepared to exercise a little latitude. Therefore, the overrun is my fault. I shall not allow that to happen in future, and I know that the Whips in all parties will follow the rules with complete precision.

I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman has spelt out the rules, so that the Whips may pay attention to them. I am sure that the House will understand the position and will make itself aware of the rule about which the right hon. Gentleman has reminded us.